Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

In the Arena # 107 - The wa-ai-ting is the hardest part...

We have achieved tracking info. The Neidersuss is on it's way. Fed-Ex says eta is Friday. *jumping up and down clapping*

Val says, "Saddle - schmaddle. If you really want me to be happy, just keep putting things in my mouth - NOW! (I mean please...)"

Sunday, February 26, 2012

In the Arena # 106 - Bareback dressage - it was fun while it lasted + chores get done...

Amidst all of the saddle shopping excitement, we managed to fit a couple more rides in this week.

Wednesday, we worked on building up our fitness with more trot work. I am finding leg aids tricky to apply effectively and consistently (half halts especially) without stirrups. This resulted in petering out / unbalanced corners. I also suffered (worse than usual) from inside rein-itis, which skewed our steering. My big clue was how I kept swinging Val's rump almost into the electric fence. I guess admitting you have a problem is half the battle...  almost getting shocked helps too. Yes - I forgot to turn the fence off before our ride. As per usual, once we got some forward action, the other issues were easier to resolve. We ended the ride on a good note with a series of crisp transitions.

On Thursday I set up a cone course. Time for remedial steering class. Let me tell you, steering works waaaay better when you keep the outside rein contact steady. Being a classic over compensator, when I get rattled and have to think about handling the reins, I tend to abdicate inside rein contact entirely, before (eventually) finding balance. Once I got it together, Val appreciated my efforts and rewarded me by reaching for the bit and smoothly motoring around the cones. For a few minutes there,  I would think and Val would do. Sublime. Then we commenced to do an excellent imitation of a barrel pattern - extreme slow motion style.

Theoretically, we only have one more week of mandatory bareback rides. I'm awaiting, dare I say anxiously, the tracking number of my new Sattermeister saddle. Yes - Sattermeister. Haven't you heard of them? Ummm - me neither. While compulsively checking each and every dressage saddle available on ebay one night, I ran across a pretty saddle with an unrecognizable name. I emailed for extra pictures and asked if there might be another name stamped on the flap. Could Sattermeister actually be Sattlermeister - master saddler in Austrian -  maybe? Email came back with happy gullet pix, and the words Karl Neidersuss 17 W Symphonie. After mulling over it for a day or two, I emailed back offering something between the starting bid, and the buy it now price. They said yes. Who knew you could do that? I'm just not cut out for the stress of ebay auctions.


Other goings on... I began unpacking and organizing my jewelry studio - finally. And, the seemingly endless search (over a year) for an electrician to run power to my tack room, studio and light pole may be over. Cool - next winter I won't have to shine my car headlights on the paddock to pick poop in the morning. Equally as stressful as the saddle search, and oddly enough equally expensive.

one side hay barn...
one side studio...
piled high...
oh - it exploded!
Made me tired just watching..
us too...


Thursday, February 23, 2012

In the Arena #105 - Saddle search update mini post, (squeeeeee!)

My saddle search may be over. Will post the full story later...

I have made an offer that has been accepted on this saddle - a nearly new Neidersuss Symphonie. Nice saddle at a great price. Should have all the details sewn up this evening. This was my number two saddle choice, but I hadn't run across a properly sized + priced specimen. These saddles hold their value. SO happy. :)

Hello Neidersuss Symphonie
(fat enough for Val, flat enough for me)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

In the Arena # 104 - Hope springs eternal II...

Firstly - we've gotten a number of new followers recently. I've tried to stop by each of your blogs, but if I missed anyone, thank you so much for visiting!

Don't know about you all, but when I go for too long between rides, I tend to get anxious. I worry over losing ground in our training, losing fitness - both Val and I - and losing my confidence too. It's so ridiculous really. We're not planning a bid for the Olympics after all. At this point, if we ever even get to halt at X, I'll be amazed. We haven't made it inland for lessons in ages. I had maybe four lessons in all of 2011. Now my trainer has moved away. And I don't have a saddle.

Nonetheless, I am determined to continue with the pursuit of dressage, no matter what the obstacles. I'm stubborn like that. (my fellow riders around here would say foolish I think) Days like yesterday are exactly the reason why.


After leaving Val with his head in the breakfast bucket, I came back to the Shimmy Shack for coffee and a quick look at the computer. I checked one of my new favorite blogs, SchoolYourHorse. The several posts I read precisely addressed our issues of late; forward, energy, lightness of aids and how my position affects each. I was filled with inspiration.

SYH's first good advice recommended energizing a sluggish horse even from the grooming and tacking phase. I realized that I had been purposefully lowering my energy level while preparing to ride - usually to appear calm. This recalled my former trainer's energy equation - your energy plus your horses energy should add up to ten. If your horse is a two, you must be an eight. Your horse is nine, you must be a one. Too right!

I walked Val briskly out to the mounting block, head up, shoulders back. I hopped on - still polishing up that graceful bareback mount - and low and behold there was an energetic horse under me. Next task was light aids. If my calves weren't answered immediately, next came my heels, followed by the whip if necessary. I realized that I have been inconsistent, lacking intention, and frankly a bit lazy with my aiding.

I only had to resort to the heels and whip once each. Soon we were marching around the arena. Then the very best thing happened. I asked for our walk to get a little bigger, and Val reached into the bit and offered me the trot, off of the very lightest aid. I felt as if I could have gotten the canter just as easily. Such a lovely feeling. It's amazing what our horses will do when we don't block them. Yay - forward!!!

We kept things interesting doing some cone work, with Val moving off my leg beautifully. I focused on sitting in the deepest part of my horse, head and shoulders up and back, looking through his ears towards my destination. All these things are such basics, but apparently I need near constant reminding.


After our ride came a walk around the property. Val followed at my shoulder, head down, super calm, even in the v-e-r-y s-c-a-r-y areas. There wasn't much grass to be found, so next we headed out the front gate, past the construction site next door, the formerly death dealing row of trash bins, and down the road towards the highway. The last time we ventured out was a year ago. I usually only go during school hours to avoid traffic and kids on four wheelers. A motorbike zoomed by and Val didn't even blink. We had a nice pick of grass, and returned home to take a few conformation pictures for saddle fitting. Lastly there was another picnic in the paddock. Val tried to steal my sandwich, my hat, my book. When all that failed - he licked my arm for half an hour. I love my great goofball of a horse.

On the saddle front - I've contacted Trumble Mountain about assessing Val. I'm planning to list my old saddle - first on ebay - then consigned if that doesn't work. I'm looking at a Sommer Egon von Neindorff close contact saddle at the moment. I really like this saddle - it's a demo model, so almost new, and reasonably priced. My trainer used to ride in one and loved it. No thigh blocks, mono flap. She said they fit the horse a bit wider, which will be better for us. Learning not to get my hopes up... well - not too much anyway.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

At the Barn # 55 - Easy like Sunday morning...

All good things must come to an end... such as the unseasonably warm weather that I like to call "June-uary". Thursday night we had our first light freeze. And this weekend it has gotten into the mid twenties overnight, with big winds. I know this is no big deal for you hardy northerners, but after extended temps in the sixties and even seventies, it comes as a shock to the system. I'm super glad I resisted the temptation to plant anything just yet - it was hard - spring fever was duking it out with common sense every warm day.

I have also resisted blanketing unless it is cold + raining, or very cold + windy. This is made a little much harder because Cowboy's people have kept him blanketed nightly (and often daily) for months, despite the mild temperatures, i.e. he has definitely been sweating under there some days. Part of me wants to bring up the topic of "piloerection", but it would likely fall on deaf ears. I believe that Cowboy's girl is trying to avoid dealing with shedding and a dirty horse, even though until he will actually get into a trailer - glamming him up for shows is uneccesary.... just sayin'. (Probably best that I don't bring it up.)

"I got my pilo workin"...

What - another picture of me eating out of the manure bucket?!

When I can overcome my ocd, I realize that Val seems perfectly comfortable, warm chest and cool but not cold ear tips. He has a run in stuffed with hay and evidence suggests he takes advantage of it overnight. Plus - sometimes he bites at the blankets as I'm putting them on, in an irritated way. I know they must not be totally comfortable - one cannot roll with abandon while blanketed. And it's a known fact that blankets can stifle a good bucking fit.

No riding reports this week. I've been working on the property, getting rid of manure and sorting out electrical issues. Finally got an electrician out to figure a quote for running power to my studio / hay barn. It has taken a year, and many broken promises. Fingers crossed Mr. B. calls me with a quote this week. I flirted a bit, but my offer to dig the extensive trench brightened his outlook on the job considerably. No sweat for me, I dig for a living. I can do a lot of things, but electricity I leave to the pros.

Val and I did some good ground work - leading around the property (searching for fresh grass) and staying calm while Cowboy acted like a total idiot. He repeatedly jumped out from behind his sheds just as we came around the corners - this is his patented move - so I was prepared, but it often catches Val by surprise. At one point Val jumped straight up, all four feet off the ground, but kept a respectful distance. I had to give him a few strong corrections, until he was following just behind my shoulder, halting promptly and ignoring Cowboy - who got the finger pointed as well as some curse laced instructions.

There were also extended groomings where we practiced our ground tying, and we had several massage / scratching sessions. After a particularly satisfying total ear scratch I was given a lingering horse hug. *sigh*. Val is well into shedding mode - yesterday we made six hair waffles. I hope he keeps some coat in case winter hangs around. (Please don't hang around!)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

In the Arena # 103 - Getting ahead of myself...

A super busy week. The continuing stretch of great weather has compelled me to clear out some vegetation and begin building the new garden beds. A bit sooner than I had planned, in case this fine spell lasts and planting time comes early. Separate farmette post coming on this topic...

I also repaired and restrung the electric fence next door for the boarding operation. Time consuming as well as strenuous. There was a lot of damage from hurricane Irene and a subsequent nor'easter - mostly fallen trees. I had to put in a dozen new posts (time to get my phd again - (post hole digger)) as the original "builder" had screwed insulators directly into trees. The dead trees fell, and the live ones grew over the insulators. Once the wire was all strung and connected, I switched the solar panel on - both Lucky Barnett and I discovered that it doesn't take too long to charge the fence...

Between rounds of chores, Val and I had time for two bareback rides. In some ways I can't even believe that I'm this comfortable without a saddle, and doing lots of trot work no less. The bareback posting is coming along well. Most of the action is provided by Val, with me stabilizing with my core, and activating my thighs. Relaxed knees and lightly hugging lower legs. It's interesting that giving up the stirrups as a place to brace, also helps to focus on maintaining steady contact while not balancing on your hands. So far, my lack of a saddle has proven an opportunity to improve my seat rather than an inconvenience.

Last Thursday was so frigging beautiful - sunny, 75 degrees and no wind. I came home intending to ride, then decided to choose the completely stress free option. I took my lawn chair, a picnic lunch and a stack of  horse magazines out to the paddock . Me and Val were just hanging out. After he finished freaking out on the zero gravity chair - "why are you riding that?!" - he set out to investigate the picnic. Apparently crinkly white plastic trash bags are no longer a threat once they contain edibles. I offered him salad, but dressing didn't suit him so he spit that out. Then he really wanted my sandwich, but it was loaded with mustard, and I was hungry. We split the oatmeal cookies. He alternated between chewing on the chair, nosing for more edibles, and "helping" me read my magazines. What fun I had with my horse that day!


Saddle shopping and ebay - a cautionary tale...

On the saddle search front - I believe I'm over my infatuation with ebay. Actually, ebay broke my heart. I spent nearly a week watching a brand new, vintage Klimke Miller 17 1/2, MW dressage saddle - (it was p-e-r-f-e-c-t, it was beautiful, it was likely to be affordable) - consulting ebay "experts" and formulating my plans.

For most of the week, the bids hovered around two hundred dollars. I figured out what I thought I was willing to pay. With just over an hour left, I took my position in front of the computer, opened two windows, and placed my first bid. For exactly fifty eight minutes, I had the top bid.

Hey, this ebay thing isn't that hard! Maybe no one knew what a great deal this saddle was! Maybe I was going to get a gorgeous saddle for four hundred dollars! The adrenalin kicked in.

So did my ocd / adhd tendencies. I couldn't handle just waiting, so I started screen shotting the various pix of the saddle, to place into my "new saddle" file. I needed to be able to brag on my awesome deal here on the blog after all...

Suddenly - while filling my file with the screen shots - with thirty seconds left - I was outbid, by ten dollars. Between my not speedy enough internet connection, my inability to do the math needed for my next bid, and total shock, I spazzed out and lost the saddle.

Holy crap - super disappointing - no excellent new saddle, and adrenalin poisoning to deal with as well. I had to go sleep it off with a pity nap. (time to call the waaaaambulance)

All the obsessing I did on ebay was actually a good thing, as it turns out. I came across another saddle option - Duett Fidelio - that after researching extensively I believe may be a great saddle to satisfy Val's shape, and my preferences as well.

The new plan is to put my saddle on the market, and depending on how that goes, keep looking for a used Fidelio to come up for auction. If my Beval does sell, I may be able to swing a new saddle, with tracings and fitting going on before rather than after the saddle purchase. Lots of lessons in this story.
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