Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

In the Arena #137 - Tack, tackless, and what's in a name....

Saturday arrived, chilly and windy, but still pretty enough. I traded (a steaming bowl of homemade tomato soup + grilled cheese sandwiches with avocado) for another set of pictures of Val and I working.

Val was much better about not locking on to the photographer magnet this time. Again, I let him tell me when he was warmed up. We worked on contact and some baby lateral work.

For the lateral work I aimed for zigzags down the long side - four strides lateral, two strides straight, four strides the other direction. I aimed to  influence Val's shoulders with my arms / the reins, and his haunches with my legs. I focused on making space - with the rein and my leg - on the side we were moving into, equal to if not more that asking him to move off the rein and leg we moving away from. Val was relaxed, seemed to enjoy doing something different and felt like he stepped over (or under) more than in the past. We finished off with some 15m circles, and trot transitions.

While there was improvement in the consistency of the contact, many pictures indicate no straight line from mouth to elbow - broken at wrist, as well as the ever present too long reins. And there are many shots which show me off to one side (left) in the saddle, but overall it was a very positive ride, and Val had some foamy lipstick when he received his post ride cookies.

Yesterday lucky Val got an extensive massage. He really leaned into the shoulder work, stretching his neck out, yawning, chewing and licking. I followed his long back muscles down to his favorite region, the haunches, which he presents to me almost daily for rubs and scratches, then down the backs of his legs. I needed a massage to recover from his massage (those are some big muscles!) but hopped on for an impromptu ride instead. I attached the clip on reins to the chin loop on his rope halter. This arrangement was less than ideal judging from the head tossing, so I put the reins on his neck, and worked from my seat. So - much - FUN!


I have been meaning to post the story of Val's name. Today Kate at A Year with Horses and Annette from News from Aspen Meadows both posted about horse names and nicknames, so I'll gladly jump on that bandwagon.

Val's registered name is Sinister Wind. While I hate the sound of that name, it is very appropriate for where we live. Hurricanes... nor'easters, etc. I remember thinking it was a bit of a cosmic sign when deciding whether to purchase him. 

His former owner recently mentioned that his barn name when they met him as a three year old was Marty. (thumbs down) His next name was Augustus, Gus for short. Changing Val's name felt wrong to me, but the only Gus I knew at the time was a big 'ol drunk who hangs out down at the docks muttering incoherently (when he isn't already passed out). A no go. 

A deposit held Val for me over the summer after I tried him out - to let his girl ride him until she left for college, and to let me finish the preparations for first time horse ownership. I pondered the name change - uninspired - until a late night cable rerun...

Three words. Tombstone, Doc Holliday, Val Kilmer. 

Val Kilmer from twenty years ago. Hot Val Kilmer. Just sayin'. 

Upon reflection, I was thoroughly embarrassed about naming my horse after an actor crush. After a drug addicted, gambling addicted, tubercular gunslinger. Draw your own conclusions, but I'm guessing I'm attracted to the bad boys. ;D

It took me about two weeks to hit upon the (clever) idea of naming him Valentino, which would then allow me to call him ♡♡♡ VAL ♡♡♡ to my heart's content, and think secretly "I'm your huckleberry..." *sigh*

Turns out it was the perfect name...


  1. Sounds like you had a lovely ride! That sort of thing seems to be going around the blogosphere, and that's a good thing!

    I'm totally with you on the Val Kilmer Tombstone thing. Not sure what happened to ol' Val (yikes) but he used to be something back in the day! ;)

  2. Love the name explanation!

    Wish I had a regular photographer - how nice . . .

  3. Your trade of homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese sounds good to me! Thanks for sharing the story about Val, I love hearing the stories behind the name. Val looks like a Val - definitely not Gus.

  4. Love the trade for photos! I have the opposite here - there are photographers clamoring to take pictures while I ride and I send them away! :)

  5. Love all your pictures. A good trade for the photographer too. I loved Tombstone, great movie! Val Kilmer was perfect in it. He had so many good lines too. Val is definitely not a Gus or a Marty.

    Don't be embarrassed at all about naming him after a celebrity. I sort of named my Erik after Clapton because I just love his music. I did change the spelling though. That way I could say he was like Erik the Viking, you know big and strong. Does that make it less embarrassing?

  6. LOVE the trade.. i would totally take your pic for that meal lol!

    Soudns like a great right!

  7. Tomato Soup and Grilled cheese is one of my favorite meals! Love the story behind his name!

  8. The photos are wonderful. You are so lucky to have someone capture all this time with your boy for you for all time!

    The last photo is my favorite!

    Val's name is perfect especially because it means something special to you.

  9. love the pictures, it was deffo a good trade for the photographs.

    I love how you get to his name, I don't think naming a horse after a celebrity is that embarrassing :)

  10. Love the story of the evolving name. Val fits.

  11. Loved this C!
    You are so amazingly straight forward and blunt with yourself.If we honestly look we see truth. When ever I have sis take shots of me riding, check, check, check all the above
    Mentioned. A life long dream get it right! Riding!
    Val...he's a lover his namesake!

  12. Haha! I loved reading about how Val got his name! And honestly, I think it's perfect for him, no matter where it came from.
    Joey and I have not done much lateral work ever; but we're hoping to figure it all out just as soon as he's supple enough to move off of my leg. I feel like we're getting a late start; but at least we're starting. That to say that it was nice reading about your lateral work with Val. :)

  13. That was fun to learn how Val came to be Val!

  14. lol! I renamed a horse Maverick for my crush on Tom Cruise in Top Gun. The horse's original name was Cinnamon. Who names a horse Cinnamon?

  15. First, I squeal with delight over Val's name! I rather enjoy Val Kilmer too-he was in that crazy movie Top Secret, right? Do you know he is related to Joyce Kilmer who wrote the poem, I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree.... That poem is actually quite beautiful if you read the whole thing.
    I wanted to ask you about your ring work: do you have a plan in mind before you go down to the ring? Or do you just do what comes naturally when you are there? I ask because I have a terrible time staying focused while doing ring work.

  16. You have a real gift for self analysis through pictures. You pick up things I'd never think about. I'm sure this is really helping your riding improve. Keep those reins shortened :) Ha ha - I feel entitiled to say this because it's my riding mantra - mine seem to grow in length by the second, with a mind of their own.
    Home made tomato soup with grilled cheese and avacado sandwich - heaven.
    Love the naming story and love old westerns.

  17. I love how you came up with his name and completely agree about younger Val Kilmer!


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