Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Sunday, March 31, 2013

At the Barn - #65 - Cleanliness is next to...


So what? I slept on the poo pillow...

...again.  (now it's a poo pancake)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In the Arena #143 - A Horseman's Heart and Mind...

While emailing back and forth about not being able (once again) to attend the April clinic, I found out that Erik Herbermann has written a new article for the March issue of USDF Connection, titled The Art of Tuning. (page 24) Next best thing to riding with Erik is reading about his thoughtful, horse-centered philosophy of dressage.

A well timed read for me. Generating forward and maintaining tactful contact are consistently the focus of my rides, and progress has been slow. Lacking trainer input for so long now (yes - whining about this again!), I am super ready for some inspiration. Suffice it to say I could use a tune up on tuning up.

Below is an excerpt - and above a link back to the entire article. Enjoy!

"High-quality horsemanship requires of us sound mind and absolute integrity - the engagement of all that is good and worthy in us. Through daily practice, we need to learn to master ourselves, especially the quality of our hearts and the merit of our thoughts; that is we need to learn to control our "inner horses." The better we are at that, the sooner our "outer horses" will, like magic, become easier and more enjoyable to work with. In this way, the delight of finding true harmony with our four-legged friends will have an ever-greater chance of occurring.

Animate thoughtfully and have a wonderful ride!"

"Who among us hasn't smiled in amazement watching horses out in pasture strutting their brilliant motion - and wished we could recreate such grandeur while riding?" 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

At the Barn #64 - New toy (turning that frown upside down)...

Nothing much to report in the riding department. When the weather was fit this week, I spent my time off working for two private clients. I like to call them hay bill and vet bill.

Thanks for the helpful and supportive comments on the last post. I hope I didn't give the impression of being overly hard on myself. Trust me, that's the opposite of true. Having the objective observer video + slow motion allowed me to see the reality of our rides rather than the happy place memories I've been relying on. It's all good. ;D

(If anyone knows why sometimes iphone video sometimes uploads full screen and sometimes not - please share!)


That was then...

This is now...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

In the Arena #142 - Threw me for a loop...

(warning - long catch-up post ahead)

I am so not good with control issues. No - really. Not good. Another in your face horsemanship lesson. Lame horse + lame weather really got me down. I couldn't fix Val - I couldn't pinpoint what was wrong - and I was mostly stuck in the Shimmy Shack worrying - for a flipping month. There certainly was plenty of time for blogging, but my heart was not in it. All better now.

During the incarceration, there was also plenty of time to review video of our last few rides before Val went off. Who knew you could obsess over look at video frame by frame? I should have explored my editing software a long time ago. Initially there was the lure of lifting stills, but soon I realized how the technology could fill the gap of my current lack of instructor.

Biggest revelation *eye roll* - my contact was not steady... not consistent. The tension on the reins came and went. Bouncy. At times I had so much contact on the outside rein that I pulled the bit through Val's mouth. This tells me that in my efforts not to pull him around, I am (still) abdicating contact on the inside rein. Classic over-compensator. Not a new issue for me, but one I must figure out how to conquer.

A good thing - the absolute instant that I looked up, asked for more energy and felt the reins through my bent, point, heavy elbows Val's back came up and he reached into the contact. The bad thing - it literally only happened for an instant at a time. (at least I'm not totally imagining it lol)

Slack in reins, sticking out butt and leg turned out
Chair seat, piano hands
Better, but leg too far back
New header pic!

It is really helpful to be able to isolate moments in time and then have continuity also. I usually know what I should be doing, but have struggled with position issues that are hard to nail down without eyes on the ground. I think I am asking one thing, but my pesky body puts it's two cents in. Poor Val. Now I am hopeful that I can close the feedback loop occasionally.

We've begun a rehab program consisting of weekly mini trims (by me) and working on the nearby paved road to ramp up the circulation in Val's feet. Life in the sand paddock + arena hasn't done him any favors. I want the landing toe first business to end. The beginning of the walk is over some gravel, and on our first trip he buckled when we hit that stretch. Definitely ouchy. This week he seems more comfortable, and very happy to be out and about. Licking and chewing while clip clopping alongside of me. The occasional patch of tasty greens doesn't hurt either.

On the training front, there is some hopeful news. My friend N (we studied with the same trainer for years) has found a woman who teaches in the style of Mary Wanless - biomechanics and position oriented. My plans to try her out were foiled this month, so we'll try again in April. It's a bit of a road trip, but should be fun with company, and doable on a monthly basis. Fingers crossed...

We've had a few decent rides despite the weather and Val's feet. One was a bareback in the halter with exceptional steerablilty - first time that's happened. And yesterday we had a full length schooling session, bareback again. I focused on being consistent with the contact, and ended up working on no stirrup posting. (sore today) The solid month of no work has done a number on Val's topline, affecting his comfort under saddle, so for the time being we'll be barebacking. Fine with me - my seat is so much better without the saddle.

Spring is here :D
*Thanks to our new followers - there have been a number of you lately. I have tried to locate and visit everyone whose blog I can find. If I haven't found your blog, please leave a link in the comments. :D

Sunday, March 10, 2013

In the Arena #141 - I'm on the pavement, thinkin' 'bout the government...

Today is the first day in over a month that life has felt remotely normal.

Twenty four straight hours without extreme, catastrophic or just plain crappy weather will do that for you. A full day of sunshine with nearly no wind and a sound horse to ride will put a smile on your face. A sound horse who's been ridden exactly twice since February 10th.

Just wait... in a few minutes she's forcing Panacur down my throat!

We were on a roll until the series of misfortunes arrived, logging three to four rides a week with progress on forward into contact. Then came a turn on the mystery lameness carousel. Round and round between abscess or shoulder. Soak or no, bute or no. Sound or no. Nothing looked conclusive for over three weeks. Three weeks that insisted on raining (hard) and blowing (super hard) most of the time which made foot soaking and duct tape booting even funner than usual.

My farrier W finally made it out a week ago Friday - eight weeks since the last trim. I walked and trotted Val out for him before the trim. When we got to the LF, the situation became clearer. Under the considerable toe callus was a slim but nasty looking moon shaped bruise just along the white line.

Too long between trims left too long toes, white line stretching and flare. Perhaps the major sh*t fit (that occurred just prior to the lameness) resulted in the bad bruise. Persistently wet conditions didn't help anything. This scenario would explain why the soaking + poulticing + booting lessened the gimping but never produced the pu$$y hole I kept expecting to see.


From here on out, I will be touching up Val's feet every week or ten days. That way I can do it with the rasp only, and the adjustments will be so minor I won't be freaking out about upsetting the balance or screwing up too bad. W spent an hour with us going over Val's trim with me, and I made myself a cheat sheet from this great barefoot trimming site that It's Quarter's for Me and Memoir's of a Horse Girl have both recommended.

Friday was my first try and I felt good about the results. Val licked and chewed his approval. I will also be taking him out the the paved road for walks on a hard surface several times weekly. The sand arena is doing his feet no good either I'm afraid. At least now we have a plan.

Now, on to the other ongoing misfortunes.


The accessibility of our little island has been severely compromised. Repeatedly. There have been numerous days every week this past month where the road north has been closed. Until two weeks ago the ferry off the south end hadn't run for months as the channel filled in. In other words, we can't reliably come and go. Neither can the mail, delivery trucks, tourists, the farrier...

I have had plans for a month to get my first lesson in over a year and a half today... There were technically a few windows this weekend where you could drive through ocean tide between waves. We're calling it the Soundside 500. So not funny.

Next post will positively highlight our most recent rides and my discovery of viewing ride videos frame by frame (!)  In the meantime the struggle to maintain a positive attitude continues...

[P.S. - Full disclosure - in the last post, the photos of the out of control horse were not of Val, they were lifted from google images. I was far too busy hanging on to him to whip out the iphone that day]
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