Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

At the barn #14 - Finally


Super dry here for months... then today there were ominous sky,
                     torrential downpour, tornado warning kind of storms!!

                                             Did I hear thunder????

                                                     Oh yes I did...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In the Arena #18 - Easier said than done

The success of our leadership lies in always listening to the horses as to how to lead them. Eric Herbermann

A long summer evening at the barn, filled with accomplishments. Tack room swept, this week's hay delivered and stacked - usually a challenge as Val feels compelled to taste (knock over) any new hay arrival before I can get it all in the door - a thorough, very hairy grooming, and finishing with a hot, sticky, buggy but satisfying ride.

We worked on our weak side turning by using the halt/angle/flow method. Sort of a more fluid turn on the forehand that helps to maintain momentum. Eventually I got prompt responses to my leg, and was able to stay very light in my rein aides. I also dropped the reins entirely for a while to see what kind of steering and stopping I could get off of my legs and seat alone.

I think Val appreciates variety, as do I. It is too easy (for me) to fall into a rut and become frustrated. The trick is to achieve balance between goals/plans and being in the moment. To stay creative, to be responsive to the unforeseen opportunities that arise each and every ride.

Friday, June 25, 2010

In the Arena #17 - You could say we have a "confirmed" turn on the forehand

Some of the feedback I got from Val's massage therapist last weekend was that he needed to build up the muscles in his haunches and his topline, which I knew, but that his shoulders looked in good shape. In fact, she said, "It looks like he's been doing a lot of turns on the forehand." This made my trainer BUST out laughing, and me feel just a tad embarrassed. You see, turn on the forehand is our go-to maneuver when we're having communication breakdowns. Apparently a pretty common occurance. In fact, on a few occasions Val has offered 360's of turns on the forehand - we looked like we were working on our reining moves... time to diversify :)

I headed down to the barn yesterday evening with the intention of doing some kind of work with Val, even if it wasn't going to be a ride. I cleaned up and got his dinner ready, and then pulled out the lunge line. This would be the first time we've lunged on our own in a while. I attempted to clear my mind of the numerous times we had less than successful lungeing sessions and imagine everything going smoothly.

It was still super hot (6pm in the shade)...

                                                                                         ... but work we did.
Val tried his patented crazy eye run off bucking manuever, but I kept hold of him and continued to drive him forward. Soon enough we got some nice work in both directions. Next came a cool rinse, some grazing and a big bucket of mash. What a good boy!

                  Look out Val, there's a lot more lungeing in your future...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

At the barn #13 - It's HOT, HOT, HOT!

So refreshing :)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

In the Arena #16 - The hurrier I go, the behinder I get

 First I must say that it is such a pleasure to spend time with my horse. Whether it's stiflingly hot trailer rides, putting up with changes of venue and schedule, or being asked to focus and work a little (much) harder than usual... Val faces most everything with a calm, relaxed attitude. He is the definition of easy going. I am so very fortunate to be his partner, and I resolve to treasure every minute that we have together. My trainer's not half bad either - thanks Erin!

What we need to work on:
 - Be in the moment - Val deserves / needs me to be 100% there to help him... everything I do while riding must come from a place of assisting my horse
 - Allowing Val to reach and go forward while still maintaining contact - through the elbow (not hand)
 - Gently keeping the neck straight... this is about finesse, not strength
 - Fluidity
 - I have ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD to resolve issues (and I should spend it discovering the holes in my aiding)

 When I did my part,  I was rewarded with some lovely work at the walk and the trot. I could feel Val using his back, lengthening his stride and reaching under himself. Val was rewarded with a massage. The therapist left me with stretches and exercises to support and strengthen Val's core, lower back and hips. I'm certain our dressage habit will only benefit Val's (and my) physical and mental well being :)

In addition to lessons, there was a hay run, trip to the feed store and some socializing. We had intended to go to a rodeo too, (cowboys!) but a colic emergency - not one of ours thank goodness - cancelled those plans. I wasn't too bummed, the extra sleep time was welcome. Another action packed weekend with my trainer has come to an end. We have plenty to work on until next time.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

At the barn #12 - Bugging out

Not too much to report this week. We rode in our improved "arena". It's great, well worth the hard work. Much more comfortable for both of us. Enough room to canter when we work up to it :)

Super hot all week and the flies are over the top... targeting humans as well as equines. A relentless greenhead rode home with me from the barn, repeatedly biting my accelerator foot. It takes some coordination to swat (kill) and drive safely - multi-tasking lol...

I have been contemplating how much fly spray is too much. As someone who works outside, I try to minimize applying pesticides to myself. I cannot believe that putting poison on your largest organ on a daily basis isn't harmful, therefore I only spray myself up when it's physically impossible to work without it.

On the flip side, the non / less toxic pesticides also seem less than effective. I can't bear to watch my horse stomping and agitated. It's been so hot he's likely sweating away much of the benefit he's getting from the spray. We may have to try out fly sheets. Will be shopping around and getting recommendations.

Spent this evening preparing to travel to my trainers for lessons over the weekend. After packing the trailer, (don't forget the treat bucket please!) Val got a thorough grooming - he shared some grooming with me too. Oh, and he's getting a massage on Saturday - lucky boy! Off to bed so I can get on the road at a decent hour.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

In the Arena #15 - All's well that ends well...

Our "arena" is finally done. Finished just before dark last night. It seems like projects usually take twice as long as you think they will lol. The new shape of the space is much more inviting and open, with room for larger circles and no tight corners. There are some new grazing opportunities and shady areas. I installed safety caps on the t-posts as well. Thanks so much to my dad who came up to look after Val while I had the fence down, but who ended up pulling out all the old fence posts for me. Val got to play "find the treat" in his slow feed hay bag while we were working so he was satisfied. I believe he enjoyed the company, and seemed especially attracted to my dad - which makes me happy. First ride tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

At the barn #11 - Big doings and living vicariously...

You need to live your intentions, you need to live what you know.  It is not enough just to have good intentions or to know it.
Erik Herbermann

On Saturday morning we had another great ride. I am thinking now that every ride is a great ride... it's kind of a chicken / egg thing. It's a great ride no matter what happens on horseback... it's how you frame it in your mind.

Today the weather was perfect for strenuous barn work, cool north breezes - a nice contrast to the weekend which brought the first hot, sticky days of the season. We are within hours of the paddock expansion being completed. The posts have all been set so what's left is to restring the hot wire (braided rope). This will require the help of someone to keep Val occupied while the wire is down. If today is any indication, he couldn't care less what is happening in his area. He laid down next to my truck while I worked and took a long nap, stretched out and actively dreaming. It makes me happy to see that he is getting his restorative sleep.

This evening I had a sit down with the owner of the property that I keep Val on. It's 2.7 acres, a huge parcel for the overpriced "resort area" real estate market I live in. This is likely my best shot at affordable land that I'd be able to keep a horse on. Heck - there's room for a sizable arena, nice little barn and a even modest house. The sucky economy is the biggest element in my favor, go figure :)

My trainer is away at an Erik Herbermann clinic this week and she has been kind enough to post some notes on her blog. Val and I attended a clinic with Erik last September. Actually, we left for Maryland 2 days after I bought him. I had sent in my deposit for the clinic in the spring, before even looking at Val, assuming at the time that I would borrow a school horse. Was it wise to combine a brand new horse, the first trailer trip (6 1/2 hour drive) and a serious clinic? I had ridden Val exactly twice by the morning of my first session - while I got him ready I was so nervous I thought I would throw up. As it turned out, it was the best possible way to start out our relationship - although a bit of a trial by fire. Erik is a fair and kind instructor, but make no mistake... you had better be paying attention and fully committed to the learning process. Anything less is disrespectful. We're signed up for the clinic in October... I'm so looking forward to the trip!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

At the Barn #10 - Life is good

It's been a great week at the barn. We had another lovely relaxed ride on Monday... I'm so glad Val is more comfortable since our tack upgrade. I'm checking out Thinline saddle pads now :)

Spent some time just observing my horse this week. He rewarded me with an athletic two tempi, one tempi combo during a run down the fence line... impressive! And his dapples are showing - not the dark grey ones but the ones that you need to see from just the right angle when you have a grey horse.

The farrier came yesterday and really liked how Val's bare feet are looking. He's getting good heel on the back feet and his sole is increasing and getting nice and tough. Will asked me if I had filed his feet since the last visit (no) because they were so even and unchipped. Val was so relaxed during the trim he nearly fell asleep. Our neighbor Cowboy had no desire to be caught for his trim. Will threw some horse whispering a la Monty Roberts on him. A much better outcome than the dentist and vet visits.

And today we had a breakthrough. We walked over to the other (empty) barn near the dreaded trail head. The last time we tried to do this there was a major meltdown. The pasture there is full of grass which needs some taming. I wanted to really clean and wet down Val's stall and didn't need his "help".

Although there was a saber toothed deer and death dealing baby rabbit to overcome, our mission was successful. I think Val was more worried about not being able to see anyone, and did run himself into a lather. I led him back over after the cleaning was finished and we ended the evening with a cooling rinse, some drinks from the hose and lots of love + cookies. What a good boy :)

Hoping to complete our paddock expansion this weekend - hello post hole digger!
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