Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Giving thanks - (better late than never...)

Thankful for...

such a fine equine partner. Val's tolerance of my inexperience, impatience and insecurity is apparently boundless. His sweet nature and sense of humor are utterly endearing. I can't say how far we will go in our dressage journey, but I know it will be together. (The other animal companions who share the farmette get a fraction of the airtime that Val does. ♡♡♡ to Q, Seven and Lucky Barnette!)

every inch of my little piece of this fragile, precarious sandbar, where I am slowly but surely, putting down roots. There couldn't be a place better suited to teaching the lesson of living in the moment, where at any time our past and our future may be blown away or washed into the sea...

you - my dear fellow bloggers. You are a steady source of inspiration, support, knowledge and friendship. Thank you for helping to open up the world of horsemanship for me - I am eternally grateful.

not cooking an entire Thanksgiving meal for the first time in decades - went visiting instead. So relaxing... who knew?! ;D

(image found online with no credit info available)

Monday, November 19, 2012

In the Arena #133 - The swing of things...

A pair of pretty days magically appeared in the midst of our current storm fest (more on that later) so Val and I got back to work in the arena, freshly leveled and dragged.

We warmed up on the buckle using the full arena with zero balky steering moments. A first! All the bareback work must be paying off - keeping me more centered, even and balanced. I know I'll have to bring the saddle back, but for now the bareback pad is my good friend. My frequent uneven / off-to-one-sided-ness usually reflects itself in steering glitches. It feels good to be conquering this posture problem.

We picked up contact smoothly. I focused on keeping my seat bones plugged in, maintaining elastic rein contact through my elbows, supporting Val with inside leg / outside rein and looking up and through his ears. Val listened to my leg, without needing the whip, when I asked for more energy. I engaged my core to ask for the halt.

We utilized the cones, leg yielding through and turning on the forehand around them. The leg yields worked well as long as I remembered to make space for Val to move into with the inside leg and rein. Basically our ride approached softness. I think Val was glad to be back to work. I was thrilled and couldn't wipe the smile off of my face. Dressage!!

The next day was more of the same - and equally successful. We even got the beginnings of some bend. I often have a tendency to throw away the inside rein, but with the correct amount of contact we achieved deep corners and lovely accurate circles. My favorite moment was when asking for a more energetic walk, Val offered me a lovely trot transition, (once again) confirming when I don't block my horse with hands or seat he is happy and willing to be forward.

After a scary fall during our work on the canter this spring, I think am sure I've been guilty of giving Val mixed messages - saying one thing with my voice, legs and whip but the opposite with my hands and seat. Hopefully we're turning that around now. The plan is to get our fitness back plus keep moving toward softness, flow and forward.


So far we've kept up our new five day a week schedule. We've practiced grooming and clipping while ground tied. Clicker trained playing touch-it with scary windy stuff, and even done trail walks combined with patience while clearing away fallen limbs. Challenging in light of this crazy weather...

...because, we're on our third nor'easter since the hurricane. It's been blowing 20 - 30 mph for most of the last three weeks. It seems we're paying for the heavenly fall we had prior to Sandy. Latest word is the (paved) road may not be ready until March. Although we can brave driving during low tide only, daylight only, 4WD only - on the sand, if we don't mind driving through some sea water sometimes... when the road is open. I kid you not.

Taken this morning

Coming soon - tour of the farmette + meet the other residents, the long ago promised trim post, updates on the nutrition / medical front... how not to lose your marbles when you're stuck on the island and the wind won't stop blowing...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

In the Arena #132 - Snapping out of it...


The longer between posts, the more stuff there is to post about. Not to mention the photo backlog... it gets overwhelming pretty quickly. Best efforts made to edit this down. :D

 An overdose of emotional turmoil (or please indulge me while I whine):

Let's see... there was putting my dog to sleep + kicking out the disrespectful boarders, both of which starred in previous posts. A few days later, a close relative drove all the way here for a last minute visit. We hadn't been in the same room for six years. I tried not to be suspicious. I thought it might be progress toward reconciliation...

...but it was an ambush. Endless ranting about how I was the worst close relative ever, and endless examples detailing why. In public at a restaurant where I know everyone. *bummer*

Not too long after that fun time, my body rebelled and I succumbed to a case of shingles. Stress induced I am sure. Takeaway message - in the future, if I have second thoughts about anything, I go with my gut. No more Ms. Nice Guy.

Aaaaand my arena was out of commission most of the summer due to extreme footing depth - no support for horse or human. I could barely push the wheelbarrow and Val's feet slid and sank to the fetlock. Just like last year. That coupled with the fact that we're navigating dressage on our own, with miniscule budget for instruction and no suitable instructor closer than a five hour drive, had me questioning why I was bothering with this dressage dream... it was a pretty discouraging time.

Let's just say I wallowed. (wallowed my way to the grocery store for Haagen Daz)

Getting a grip:

The third week of October brought my staycation. Finally!

A week away from business to relax. A week devoted to catching up on my responsibilities at the farmette. A week to play with my pony. And what a week it was. Epically beautiful. Cloudless skies, slight breeze, 80 degrees day after day, the ocean still warm enough to swim.

During the wallowfest I had taken an objective look at my dedication  / commitment to riding, and came to the conclusion that despite all the excuses I could come up with, the reality was I hadn't been putting in the hours needed to get the results I desired. I tried not to beat myself up too much, and instead came up with a plan.

Time with my horse - deep grooming / massage, groundwork and / or riding five days a week. Period. So far our schedule has only been interrupted by Sandy's visit.


Val has been treated to several thorough massages which he loves. He stays put without haltering or tying, and is sure to let me know when I find a good spot. Occasionally I'll groom him equine style, on the withers and neck using my hands like some big horsey teeth. He loves that!

Groundwork has been mostly trail walks off property - about a dozen so far - and twice we've even made it fifteen minutes down the trail to the beach. Val has let his natural curiosity gradually override his vigilance. He seems to enjoy the change of scenery, and his trust in me is growing.

The rides have mostly been out in the open, no ring or fences. (and all bareback - haven't used the saddle in months) The first time I promptly lost steering and brakes, crawling up Val's neck instead of staying on my seat when he started feeling too light in the front end. I hopped off and did focused groundwork until he started listening to me. Round two = 50% steering / brakes recovered. One more round on the ground and then we went to work in the virtual ring. I have been told many times that I should resolve situations like this mounted, but I did what felt right in that moment. I'm prouder of working through that issue than most anything that's happened since I got Val. I was by myself, scared and wanted to quit, but persevered. It paid off.

♬ ♪ You are, like a hurricane... ♫♪

Super Storm Sandy was only an anxiety filled inconvenience compared to what happened to those poor folks in the north east. Though once again, had she been a direct hit, we would likely have gotten wiped off the map.

Val handled it beautifully. I kept his regular routine as far as feeding and mucking, and switched out his sheets to keep him dry. His appetite never faltered, but he did sidle up to me and grab my sleeve most every visit. He found it as tiresome as the humans I suspect.

I'm very thankful. The Shimmy Shack is intact, we have power, and there is fuel to purchase without standing in line. What we don't have however, is a road off the island. Again. We may get it back by Thanksgiving. While I don't have an imminent need to leave, (unlike my friend who was due to deliver her (breech) baby this week), the prospect of a multi-hour wait for a two plus hour ferry ride does weigh.

Tying up the loose ends...

Everything happens for a reason. My time of too many objectionable feelings did provide valuable insight. Emotional equilibrium is indispensable in horsemanship. It doesn't come naturally to me, so I am on a mission to cultivate it. When I can achieve that state, Val rewards me beyond all expectations. (Like he did today! More on that in the next post...)

As of this week, I've gotten my arena back. (!) I've also inherited my old Kubota, minus the deck and other unnecessary parts, for full time harrowing duties, so the arena should be in good shape until next summer.

My goals for the winter are to regain the ground we lost over the summer - smooth, forward trot work and hopefully back to the canter, plus to reintroduce the saddle. Additionally to get out on the trails again. We've made great strides the last few months. I'm really proud of Val.

To that end, I had a fortuitous visit today from a woman I used to ride with at the trail barn, whose horsemanship I respect. She's recently returned to riding after dealing with back issues, and has offered to ride out with us for trail schooling. I'm cautiously optimistic, in an even keeled kind of way. ;D

For your viewing pleasure... 

big snoozle the morning after the (four day) storm - this is the only dry ground in the paddock

"What's up there?"

"You didn't tell me there was so much grass..."

trail sparkles


back in the arena

cookies coming soon

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