Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Back soon...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In the Arena # 126 - No time left for you + words to live by

" important it is to build softness of intent and feel, and correct breathing, and good posture, into your life, every day and in every circumstance.  

Horsemanship cannot be separated from your life - it's all the same thing - and you can't be and act and hold yourself differently in only your horsemanship and expect it to be effective.  

If you build it into your whole life, it'll then be there and available in your horsemanship without your even having to think about it."

Apologies - for the long post + photo spam. I've had little time to blog. It's taken me days to finish this.

So I looked up from the grindstone to see that half of 2012 is already gone. A good time to assess, and revisit the game plan... (was there ever a game plan - my head is spinning)

There have been many ups and downs for Val and I so far this year:

Tangible progress over the winter - establishing connection and contact. Followed by saddle fit issues which stopped forward in it's tracks. Then months of bareback rides while I played the saddle search game. More improvement! Saddle success - new saddle bliss carries us into experimenting with the canter. (!) Gradually we find ourselves in all canter / all the time mode... aaaaand it's just a matter of time before I hit the dirt. (insert needle scratches the record sound effect here)

I know that my dressage struggles go deeper than physical limitations, constant delays in setting up our new arena and lack of proper any instruction other than books and the internet for several years now. Practicing is great, but it needs to be correct practice. Not trying to sound whiny. I am so thankful for what I have, but I feel stuck and a little bit frustrated.

Riding well / being a good horseman is something I want to achieve more than just about anything. Sadly, I do not have natural talent at horsemanship and riding. Believe me, I wish I did. A good work ethic, enthusiasm, and a tendency toward perfectionism are what I have an abundance of.


Val and I have worked four times this week.

One ride, which started off with a 180 spinning spook. Stayed with him, ignored the scary area, and continued the ride. Position - sitting in the saddle and loosening my hips, steering - not with the inside rein,  and contact - more and consistent, were the focus. Val came back to me,  even clowning around picking up and swinging the cones when we halted at them. It ended up as a productive ride.

We also lunged for the first time in ages. Not traditional lunging standing still in the middle of a circle, but lunging where I moved with Val. He was very attentive, gave me some lovely big walk and volunteered the trot work. Glad I tried this method. Very satisfying.

Finally, we went on two trail walks off property. Down the road to the woods trail, and then over next door where there is some good grazing as a reward for bravery.

The first walk went very well, just a little looky. Yesterday though, we had to have a come to jesus meeting on our way out the front gate. My dog Sweetpea jumped up suddenly as we passed by the trailer, and Val overreacted, stomping on the back of my barn shoe, tearing it, and glancing off of my foot. He needs to be aware of my location in every situation - no excuses.

Val still isn't 100% about my leadership. He still doesn't trust me completely when the chips are down. Death dealing noises from next door... geriatric dog behind a sturdy gate... leaving your buddy in the next door paddock for any reason at all...


The quote above is from Kate's blog A Year with Horses. She recently attended another clinic with Mark Rashid. I don't know how she manages to ride two horses in a clinic, and finds the time to capture the essence of the experience and share it, but she does. Thank you Kate.

I believe it pretty much sums up what is lacking in my dressage efforts, and is also a road map to my goals.

And now on to the photo dump...

They are well overhead now, a few days later. Yep - I planted way to close together. I will never learn.

First full sized tomato. What does it remind you of?

Porch garden is in full bloom

Sweetpea eats a sweetpea

Maybe I see why Val was scared...

The land of plenty...


Sunday, June 3, 2012

In the Arena # 125 - We shall overcome...

Our big excitement this week was the first tropical system of the season - Beryl. Say what?! No, not even kidding.

The beginning wasn't too bad - several hours of blustery winds and torrential rain. Eventually the eye / center of circulation passed directly over us. The moment it cleared us the winds went from 0 to gusts of 70. Tide came roaring out of the sound, and up the streets. People were scrambling to move vehicles to higher ground and attend to their boats. As usual the forecast hadn't called for any of the drastic-ness...

All I can say is if my tomato plants had gotten killed I would have kicked that storm's ass! (I parked my truck to block the main winds from the garden, and it worked.) Actually, all I can say is that if this had been August instead of May, I dread even to imagine the destruction we would have suffered. Island life can be dicey.


Weather and subsequent footing issues kept us out of the arena until this weekend. Yesterday afternoon I dragged the arena, groomed and tacked up for our first ride in a week. Val tried to convince me that the part of the arena beside Captain Outburst's property was a no-fly zone. I persuaded him differently by practicing leg yields into the area in question. I concentrated on my position, namely opening up my hip angle and getting my leg more underneath me, as well as all the usual non stop self reminders and adjustments.

This morning dawned with bright sunshine and cool breezes. After morning chores and the usual preparations, with extra attention to repelling flies, we got to work. Again, I paid attention to my alignment - ears, shoulders, hips, heels, as well as keeping my elbows at my sides and my eyes straight through Val's ears. As I have no one on the ground and no mirrors, I must rely on Val to let me know when I've got things right (or wrong!), which he gladly does.

Also, I put the cones back into the arena. They really help me to focus on keeping the school figures accurate. After picking up contact and achieving a nicely forward walk, we worked on trot transitions. There was a halfhearted canter stride the first ask, and after that I got the trot when I asked. Once again feeling the rhythm of the new gait was the first go at the transition - leg and crop only if necessary. Overall I think we gained some ground. Apparently it's going to take a while to restore confidence - mine and Val's. We'll chip away at it.

Afterwords Val got a scrubby bath plus a relaxing pick of grass. Then he helped me reinstall the stall awning that got trashed in the storm. He oversaw handling of the tarp, inspected the tools and licked my legs while I was on the ladder. It was a perfectly lovely day with my horse.

If you turn up the volume, you can hear Val happily snatching away at mouthsful of grass right in front of poor, poor Cowboy...

 and groaning with pleasure - there's nothing like a good roll in the sand.

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