Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Friday, February 1, 2013

In the Arena # 139 - When the cat's away, the mouse will play...

The weather has gone to crazy town.

January in a nutshell:
Several days of 70's - perfect, springlike, must ride, followed by some 50 mph winds and temps suddenly dropping into the twenties. Rinse and repeat. Not complaining about the June-uary days, or even January appropriate weather, but the ping-ponging makes for scary horse-keeping.

I've upped Val's salt ration overnight (when I can dole it out into his mash) to keep him drinking. He's been shedding up a storm (no lip gloss, no fleece, no lip gloss, no fleece...) for the last two weeks, so blankets must come out during the cold spells. It's easy to tell when he agrees with the choice to wear his clothing, because he puts his head through the neck hole voluntarily, and even cooperates when his head gets stuck because it's dark and I'm fumbling.


So - there was this Jane Savoie online clinic a while back. I might have mentioned planning on posting about it.. a few times. I took pages of notes. Full of great suggestions about how to structure your schooling sessions - checking your position, confirming go and whoa, and connecting the training scale to the tests. All info especially helpful when you are without a trainer. Too bad I (apparently) threw away my copious notes in a 70 degree day springlike cleaning frenzy. Even dug through the trash to salvage them - no dice.

Instead I'll share these nuggets from her monthly email -

  • Discipline is the bridge between dreams and success.
  • It’s always about connection, and it’s never NOT about connection.
  • First and foremost the horse must be in front of the aids. Then always analyze the quality of the connection.
  • There are no problems. Only training for more understanding, more strength, more connection, more collection, or more suppleness.
  • Think of “cooperation” rather than “submission”.

These thoughts dovetail rather handily into this week's ride reports. Both days it was possible to ride this week I rode. Since the boss dad was out of town, I naturally appointed myself the replacement boss. "RP" thought it a fine idea to get the crew started and head back up to the barn. ("RP" rocks)

Ride one:
After a lengthy warmup on the buckle while breathing deeply and rhythmically, the focus was on keeping eyes up and body even. Val started snorting from the beginning of the ride - first time that's ever happened, so I felt I was on the right track.

Once I took up contact, I tried to keep it as light as possible - giving the driving aid when it started to feel heavy. Thumbs on top of the reins. Straight line from the bit to my bent, pointy, heavy, elbows. This must become second nature. My former trainer probably said it to me 175,000 times...

The idea of practicing an actual test has begun to feel possible lately, so there are cones around the perimeter of the arena now. We traveled around doing circles, half circles changing direction or transitions at every cone. By the end of the ride Val gave me turns on the forehand on the buckle, and halts off engaging my core only. Then came the deluge of treats.

Ride two:
Another long warmup. A big shy / duck / scoot over something visible only to non humans got me off center for a bit, but we worked through it pretty quick. I continued asking for things and didn't acknowledge the cause of the incident - easy because it was a mystery.

This ride's focus was a repeat of the previous, but with special attention to getting an immediate response to my leg, backing up with the whip when I didn't. Lots of asking for the trot - wait - no, I changed my mind - got us a bigger, swingier walk and Val paying more attention to me.

We finished off with trotting figure eights and a lengthy cool out as work + unclipped pony = sweatmeister. Two point is definitely on the agenda next ride for sure as my ankles weren't feeling flexible enough for effective posting.

Another something only visible to non-humans moment

Something great has begun to happen over the the past month. My pre-ride anxiety is fading. Or maybe evolving. It seems I'm beginning to navigate the tricky path between fear, caution, anticipation, judgement and accomplishment. Thanks Val!


  1. Good for you and Val! Sounds like your rides were very productive.

    Crazy weather extremes is right. As I sit here the sun is shining it's 30 degrees and it's also snowing! Our horses have started to shed too.

  2. Sounds like two great rides!
    I can't believe he's shedding already though, my two are a long way from that yer.

  3. How lovely. My instructor tells me to have heavy elbows, too. It's a great image.

    Shedding, really? I feel like winter just got started here. There are a couple inches of snow on the ground.

  4. This weather is definitely crazy... I like it a lot better when it feel like June-ary, though! The wind today was just awful!!

    I'm so glad to hear about the progress you're making with Val, and with yourself! Love the pictures too. :)

  5. That's great all the way around (except the shedding, lip gloss, fleece part). The other day I was riding Winston at canter and he wouldn't go forward. I kicked him hard without even thinking about it which shocked me. I've been scared to push him at canter for fear he'd buck me off. I guess I got over that. :)

  6. Salina is shedding mightily too - she is always the first one, and it seems early this year.

    Crazy same weather here. 70 a couple of days ago, 14 degrees this a.m. Plus terrible wind that knocked down (or scared a horse into knocking down) a section of fencing two nights ago. We were going to replace it anyway, but this notched that little to do list item up to the top of the list!

    Looking forward to some "regular" winter - I can deal with the cold if there is no ice and no huge wind!

  7. I love that line "There are no problems"! Sounds like you and Val are following that philosophy with good success. And this weather is really exhausting. Tonight we're getting snow again. Spring come quick!!

  8. Feel your pain about the nutty weather - sixty degrees here and mud and then eight degrees and sharp, icy mud knifes. Hard to take.

    I am so happy to hear that your pre-ride anxiety is softening. Val must feel that too and is enjoying the lightening of the weight of worry on your shoulders. Val is the boy to take you there!

  9. Our horses have started to shed and it's still -20C here!!

    "Think of cooperation rather than submission." I believe that statement and I am always surprised with I see others that see submission as the only way to "connect" with their horse.

    So glad to hear that your pre-ride anxiety is disappearing!! Your bond is getting stronger and stronger. Yay!

  10. I'm with you on the weather swings being scary. And I give extra salt in mashes too. That kind of weather is hard on horses.

    Congratulations on your progress! Way to go.

  11. We have barely begun the Great Shed Out in my neck of the woods..can't wait!


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