Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Monday, March 7, 2011

In the Arena #60 - Hooked on a feeling, good things coming in threes and laissez les bon temps rouler!

Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday - so happy mardi gras everyone, especially the residents of New Orleans. You can't keep a great city down! Is anyone giving up something for lent? I'm not catholic but do think the idea of bringing awareness and focus to your blessings with symbolic deprivation is actually a beneficial practice. I'm officially giving up complaining for lent. (Please feel free to bust me on that here on the blog if necessary) ;)

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Three times in less than twenty four hours I've been very, very lucky. Last night, in a pouring rainstorm, I narrowly avoided squashing the most humongous snapping turtle ever - over two feet long I reckon. The driver behind saw him just in time as well. I stopped the car, found a suitably long stick and shepherded (prodded) him the rest of the way across the road. He was less than appreciative.

This morning on my way up the road to exchange the needle hay, two puppies chased each other right in front of my truck (towing the horse trailer). I locked up the wheels, managed to stop, and the pups arrived safely on the other side. They never even saw me.

This evening at dusk, I was once again in the front of a line of traffic when two deer ambled across the highway. I was going 65 mph (at least). Somehow in the dim light I saw the deer, slowed down and signaled the other drivers behind me by flashing my brights. Third time's a charm :)


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Since the feed store is not that far from my trainer, I swung by her farm on my way home today, and got a lesson. I haven't been able to get out of town for a lesson since a clinic I did with her in late November. Either weather, finances or both have prevented me from making the trip off island (three plus hours).

Today was well worth the wait. First of all, I haven't ridden another horse besides my own in about a year and a half. (Valentino - I cheated on you!) I got to work with Bud, a statuesque 17.3 saddlebred schoolhorse. What a treat. :) Bud is a total clown. He loves to show off his (way more than adequate) neck by reaching over the stall divider and drinking from his neighbors automatic waterer, all the while checking out of the corner of his eye to make sure you notice his trick - I mean talent.

We worked exclusively on contact, specifically on my getting the feel of contact. Bud is a great choice for this work, as he needs a lot of help keeping his neck stable, and will either be above the bit with a stiff high neck, or diving, unless you provide him with even, steady, elastic contact through your elbows. You have to have a soft following but steady two sided contact for him to move well and work over his back. It was a struggle, but we did have some very nice work.

My trainer reminded me that it's not enough to stay out of the way / not interfere with the horse. And it's not enough to be neutral. I have to be active in the sense of figuring out what the best way to help my horse is, and how to respond to the feedback he is giving me in a timely manner. My legs tell him to go, and the contact gives him a place to go to. Oh - and ride both sides of the horse.

I realize now that in my work with Val, I must shorten the reins, and increase the contact. Our driving has improved, but he needs somewhere to reach to. That's my job :)


Upside down.
Better...
Almost - wait for it...
And we have contact :)
Love that Bud man

18 comments:

Grey Horse Matters said...

Great lesson on the Bud man. I think a following elastic contact is one of the hardest things to master. You should try Dusty sometime, she has always had an active head and mouth. It's tough but we get it right occasionally. Glad you had a lesson and bet you can't wait to ride Val.

Wow, you really did have three near misses. Those snapping turtles have pretty long necks and can reach pretty far around to get you. Surprised he/she didn't snap that shepherding stick in two!

Carol said...

You were very lucky and so were the animals!
Sounds like a great lesson. I can't wait to get back to working on contact too. I also need to shorten the reins and take more.

Annette said...

I hit a deer once coming down our mountain. I'm glad you avoided all those critters!
It sounds like your lesson was much like mine. I'm learning that I need to be proactive - thinking one step ahead of Jackson and feeling when he is going to avoid/lose contact so I can immediately close my fingers and say "stay here." It's hard!

billie said...

So glad you stayed safe while providing safety to all those animals!!

Amy said...

Yay for saving the turtle. I have done that before myself. Out in the road with a stick getting the turtle to safety..lol.

Ok I am going to ask a question here because I am so new to dressage and don't understand it all that much yet. I was under the impression that the entire basis behind dressage is contact? That is THE only thing I was taught from day one in my lessons. How can you practice dressage without contact? Also please understand I have ONLY ever riden Steady while learning dressage and teaching him at the same time so maybe it is a difference in horses too. I swear we spend 95% of our time on contact and or working to get it. Am I going about this all wrong?
thanks,
Amy

Dom said...

That is quite a run of luck! Glad you managed not to hit any of them!

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Annette-

That's exactly what my trainer was telling me yesterday. You have to think but you also have to feel - it is hard to do correctly :)

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Carol-

I'm visualizing your snow just melting away :)

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Amy-

I can only speak to my own experience with my horse and
trainer... but I think it's all about the quality of the contact.

My issue with contact is keeping it even, neutral, continuous, elastic and living.

So far it's been hit or miss with my horse, as we're both just starting our dressage journey. Half the contact is from me, and half is from him. I'm better with my trainer's schoolhorses and am aiming to be consistent.

I believe it's an ongoing process, not a destination. :)

Amy said...

I guess I am aiming for contact and once in a while I feel like there are moments we get it and are progressing but then there are times that I don't know if I even know what I am looking/feeling for. It is defintely a process but at some point I would think that the contact would be not perfect but consistent. Man I need a lesson...lol. It seems to help me refocus and build where I guess I feel a bit stuck in the striving for the perfect contact(ok not perfect but consistent). I would love to know what it feels like to ride a horse that knows what he is doing. For me and Steady it is the blind leading the blind.

baystatebrumby said...

You sure seem to enjoy blogging! I love reading what you have to say. I also think the sequence of your horse shots are just great. I was practically holding my breathe as I looked at them, and then with contact, I relaxed. Whew! I'm right there with ya!

And thank GAWD you saved all those creatures! Snappers are not easy to assist!!

smazourek said...

Well even Jane Savoie agrees that contact is difficult to learn ;) I have huge issues with contact, and wiggling my fingers too much. Maybe I can come over and borrow the Bud man.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

baystatebrumby-

I'm so happy to have a venue to obsess about dressage. Eyes glaze over around here. Plus the training log part is very motivational :)

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

smazourek-

Bud would love to take you for a ride - he's very accommodating. He really has the most heart and try of any horse I've ever met.

Melissa-ParadigmFarms said...

Love your descritions of your work in the arena. Contact is one of those things that once you finally feel that elastic, following contact you go WOW and you can't wait to get to that place again! Bud looks like a fabulous horse.

And good on you for saving all of the critters, including the turtle!

Jessie McCandless said...

If I gave up complaining I'd be busted all the time. It's a great thought though--good luck!! I bet you can do it. You seem like a very positive person.

Good job avoiding all the critters that have tried to wear out your brakes! Good grief!

Bud sounds like such a cool horse. It's nice to get to ride another horse to strengthen your skills. I can't wait until I can get up on another one of mine--hopefully soon!

juliette said...

Great saves while driving. This is our duty as drivers I think.

I love the photos - the last one in the series is perfect - Bud looks so much happier than in the first one.

BrazenKing said...

You didn't tell me you were coming out. I could of ridden with you.(;

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