Sorry for the extended absence. I missed posting to our blog, but I really needed the break. It's been dreadfully hot here, the humid air thick with flies and mosquitoes. Not inviting riding conditions for horse or human. Once you've spent most of the day working outdoors, it's hard to get excited about riding in the hot sun. Wedging the riding pants on in the sweltering tack room holds zero appeal.
The lack of rain has made our arena footing super deep. Val's feet slide down to the coronets with every step, and I can barely push the wheelbarrow through. To compound the situation there was no air conditioning in the Shimmy Shack until about a week ago. Cold well water rinses and watermelon in the afternoons have helped us get through.
Then there was a little problem with my ego. I'd been reading too many glowing posts about show successes, excellent test scores, informative clinics and began to obsess about the blog-ability of my riding. Instead of my priority being what's the right decision for Val in this training situation, it sometimes became I have a plan to accomplish this particular thing - canter departs, x amount of trot work, incorporating ground poles... I wasn't in the moment with my horse, making decisions based on how I could help him. I was concerned with the end result, but not always focused on the process or what was best for my horse. And where did that get me? Sitting on my butt in the dirt - that's where.
Despite the weather, we have had a few decent rides, mostly bareback. One was in order to try out a new bit. I found a really good source for plus sized bits - after an exhaustive search. We had been riding in a 5 3/4" french link eggbutt, rather than the 6" he really needs. There seemed to be no options for larger sizes in the style I wanted, other than KK Ultras special ordered, and custom bits. I now have a curvy copper french link eggbutt, much like the KKs, but reasonably priced. Val loves it. He eagerly accepts it, and mouths it as I remove his bridle - taking his time letting it go. Wishing I had done this much sooner. And if anyone sees a 6" eggbutt french link with a copper half moon (more room for big ol' tongues) please let me know, as that bit I think would be ideal.
Our most recent ride was wonderful. High points were - staying focused on correcting my position, and Val offering forward, reaching into the bridle, and using his back. Captain Outburst was going to town next door with loud machinery punctuated by curses, and it didn't even phase us.
We've also done quite a bit of ground work, especially revisiting longeing and yielding the hindquarters. I've kept the sessions very brief and outside the arena on firmer ground. I used a rope halter, which gave me the leverage I needed when Val tested me. I refined my position, aiming my body more toward his shoulder than his head. I knew that once he got his head pointed to the outside of the circle I could lose him. Off he would go, bucking and rearing, tearing the line out of my hand. Instead of feeling him looking out of the circle, I had been watching his head. Now I'm concentrating on feeling through the contact of the line, and watching his movement instead.
It's been a good time to lay still and read in the heat of the afternoons. Mary Wanless' Ride With Your Mind - An Illustrated Masterclass in Right Brain Riding has been absolutely blowing my mind. It is the most inspiring, uplifting writing about riding I've read to date, besides Erik Herbermann, whom Ms. Wanless quotes several times. Think classical ideals conveyed through the prism of biomechanics, with an emphasis on acknowledging different learning / thinking styles, and written with a thorough understanding of the physics of riding. I will be doing a series of posts about this book.
Upcoming blog topics: Val self loads, trailer 101 with Cowboy, garden update, deer + gardens, fence building, tomatoes - why must they all come at once, tomato recipes, wasps in the laundry, wasp stings, snakes, snakebites...