Impatiently Patient

Photo by Pics of You

Photo by Pics of You

Is it just me or have we become a society of “now?”  We no longer wish to wait for anything.  Everyone needs the answer now and will call you repeatedly until you pick up the phone out of frustration to make the ringing stop.  No one wants to take the time to do real research that would take you to the library to find an actual book or peer-reviewed journal to find correct answers…just Google what you want to know and hope the first website to pop up has an accurate answer.  No need to spend all day in the kitchen measuring wet and dry ingredients for cookies, just tear open a package and chomp away.  Why wait for the evening news when you can check your phone 100 times a day to learn that your friend just ate waffles for brunch?

I will admit that I am not the most patient person.  I have been this way since I was young.  My mother will attest to that fact.  I will scream at the slow person in the left hand lane of the highway.  I will roll  my eyes when the person in front of me at the store waits until after everything is bagged to try to find their wallet at the bottom of their suitcase-sized purse.  I will shudder and weep for the future of our country when the cashier tries to figure out how to make change when I give them $10.01 for a $5.26 purchase.

My horses are doing their best to teach me to be patient.  It. Is. Not. Easy.  I watch as fellow riders seem to sail up the levels with ease while I continue to struggle with the correct alignment for a leg yield or keeping Ike’s haunches from drifting in at the canter.  This may well be the first year ever that we aren’t starting with Intro or Training Level tests.  Ten years is a long time to ride those same 20 meter circles.  I’m sure there are ways to cheat time and get things done faster in our training.  I don’t know how, but I’m sure someone, somewhere, has come up with some tricks.  This impatiently patient person is going to do things the right way.  My ego will just have to take a deep breath and enjoy the slow ride.  Yes, we have used a double bridle in our training, but it is done under adult supervision.  It will not become a crutch.  Most days I ride in my snaffle.

The funny thing is that I can actually see and feel a change in Ike and I even since the championship show.  We can now ride the First Level shallow canter loop with ease.  The canter-trot-canter transition actually occurs right around X.  Our 10 meter trot circles are round with Ike’s outside shoulder pointing the right way; those 10 meter canter circles for Second Level are still a work in progress.  Our leg yields are more fluid and Ike is going to rock shoulder in and haunches in when the time comes.  Ike’s medium trot finally has some power from behind and I am gradually able to sit his trot for longer and longer periods.

What is the difference?  Time, time, and more time.  We patiently school on a regular basis under Ms. C’s eagle eye.  I ride after work most days trying to replicate what we had in our lessons.  I read online articles and my Dressage Today regularly to better understand the theory.  I get back in the saddle and practice some more.  Will we be ready for Second Level in April?  Only time will tell, but when we do, I am certain that my impatient patience will have paid off.

 

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How to (Kind Of) Assemble a Double Bridle

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So this winter means that Ike and I are beginning our introduction to the double bridle. Yep, I have never used one before. It was debated and discussed for a number of months before we decided that it could be helpful. I struggle due to lack of experience with dressage beyond First Level, and I lack the physical strength to half halt effectively in certain situations.  There are also Carpal tunnel in both wrists and my fibromyalgia that can make riding a struggle some days. My drive to learn and to escape the lower levels keeps me going, and the double bridle can hopefully give me just a little bit of extra oomph to teach Ike the skills to progress beyond First Level.  I will still ride in my normal bridle most days, but will use the double bridle during some of my lessons. [read – under the eagle eye of Ms. C so I don’t do anything stupid inappropriate.]

I found a very nice double bridle (it can convert to a snaffle bridle if necessary) and inexpensive bradoon and Weymouth bits through Schneider Saddlery (http://www.sstack.com/English_Bridles/Dress-Conv-Bridle-W-pat-Bead/$%7B(%20%20)#32871%20FS%20BK}) for a very reasonable price. Of course, assembling the pieces was not quite as easy as clicking “purchase” on the website. So, without further ado, I present to you “How to assemble a double bridle.”

  1. Stupidly smile at box when it arrives because it makes you feel like a big kid rather than a beginner.
  2. Open box. Remove the packaging and sniff the new leather.
  3. Lay out the various pieces on the counter to make sure all parts are present and accounted for.bridle on counter
  4. Look in box for some Ikea-style pictogram assembly instructions. Grimace and then mutter expletives when you realize there are none.  my look of horror
  5. Pour a large glass of wine.
  6. Retrieve laptop so that you can find a photo of the assembled bridle on the website.
  7. Attach the bradoon and Weymouth bits and admire your handywork.
  8. Remove the bits when you realize you forgot to attach the browband.
  9. Curse your ineptitude and take a big swig of the wine.
  10. Slide browband into place.
  11. Reattach both bits.
  12. Realize that the headstall is backwards because the throatlatch is in the front.
  13. Mutter more expletives as you remove both bits for the second time and then the browband.
  14. Have another large sip of wine.
  15. Curse the inventor of the double bridle.
  16. Pour more wine.
  17. Yet again study the photo of the assembled bridle and reattach the browband first and then the bits.
  18. Attach the noseband.
  19. Breathe sigh of relief when you realize you finally attached everything correctly.
  20. Attach the reins to the bits.
  21. Call your trainer to confirm each set of reins are attached to the correct bit.
  22. Admire fully assembled bridle.
  23. Find a keeper on the floor. Pick up before it is consumed by a curious canine.
  24. Scratch your head when you realize you cannot figure out where it goes.
  25. Shrug and put it in your wallet just in case you have an epiphany.
  26. Admire your accomplishment again as you envision riding down centerline with your horse wearing the bridle…one day….
  27. Finish the bottle of wine.

I am happy to report that Ms. C gave my efforts a passing grade.  Ike was a sport as we adjusted the fit.  And I have to say (please pardon my proud horse mom moment), that I think my boy looked pretty smart wearing this new bridle.  Wish us luck!

alison

 

Anticipation

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To this day, I can still (poorly) sing along to Carly Simon’s 1971 top twenty song “Anticipation.”  My singing is not fit for public consumption – just ask my husband who is subjected to it in the car…That aside, things are gearing up for our show in two weeks.  Anticipation is building and hopes are high that we will do well.  My riding has come along way the past few years and is finally fit for public viewing.

With the seasonable temperatures, we have been able to ride and not finish looking like drowned rats.  Although the region could use some more rain, I am not complaining that the sun is out more often than not.   We have been able to school 4 or 5 days a week.  Ike had his pedicure last week as well as an acupuncture and chiropractic session.  My extensive packing lists are on my desk as well as the lists of stuff that I need to get done at home and work before we leave.  The dog sitter has been hired.  Ike has attempted to grow back some mane.  We have about 1.5 inches of spikey growth in the “bald zone.”  I am hopeful that there might be enough hair to fake some sort of braid.  Still praying that roached manes will surge into popularity with dressage riders in the next 10 days.

Our lessons have been intensive.  A lot of discussions about keeping Ike up in his bridle and not letting him dive into the connection.  My whip has been taken away since it not allowed in the championship classes.  I’ve played with a longer spur so that I can speak to the other time zone that is Ike’s hind end.  A few test movements are interspersed in the lessons, but we continue to focus on me understanding when I am connected and through and when Ike’s stride is too short/tight/quick/choppy.  Once the problem is identified (if I am successful at the identification) then we work on what I need to do to fix the problem.  Thankfully, I’m now better able to fix the problems.  Could it be that I might have discovered the secret language of the half halt?!  I’m still waiting to be taught the secret handshake, but that can wait until after the show.

Of course, anticipation can be a bad thing when your horse has ridden the dressage tests enough that he begins to anticipate the next move.  I finally realized that Ike was anticipating the up and down transitions in my Training Level Test 2 rides.  When I sat back and looked at my score sheets from this year, I saw that we quite frequently jig right before our trot transitions.  We also got hit a number of times for trotting before we finished our right lead canter circle.  While practicing my tests at home, sure enough, Ike is jigging and trotting too early.  Hmm.  Guess I need to change up my preparatory methods.  Part of it is that I might be on cruise control myself.  I should know better by now, but some habits are hard to break.

Back in the saddle again tomorrow and then a break on Wednesday.  Thanks for checking in on Ike and I!

alison

More From Ike’s World

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Hello Friends!

I’ve decided to not give up control of Mom’s blog.  Still trying to figure out how to change the password so she can’t use the blog, but I guess that would be easier if I knew what a password was.

Do you know that Mom and Dad left me behind again when they went on vacation?  Can you believe that?!  Mom said that they were visiting islands on a boat and that there was no room for me or my brother.  Must have been a very small boat if we couldn’t fit on it.  If that is the case, I doubt that they had a good time.  I know that things here weren’t all sun and fun while they were gone.

While they were on the boat, we had to endure another snow storm.  I again tried to eat it, but this stuff was as bland as the other stuff.  White grass is worthless.  My brother tells me that he is certain that the green grass will be back soon.  The good side of having white grass is that I didn’t have to do any work while it covered the ground.  Word around the barn is that Mom told Ms. C to ride me two or three times while she was away.  As it was, Ms. C did make me do stuff twice, but I did my best to let her know that I wasn’t thrilled with this plan.

The first time was before the storm.  Ms. C put me on a really long lead rope and made me go in circles around her.  Hmm, just because my legs are longer than hers, why do I have to do all the work?  She also had a really long stick with a rope attached.  I tried to ignore what she was saying and do whatever I wanted, but that made her shake that stick at me.  If I ignored the stick, she would shake the stick so the rope wiggled like a snake.  Meanie.  I showed her by taking off so fast that she dropped the rope.  I ran to the far end of the arena, but thought I saw that scary bird hiding in the bushes, so I ran back to Ms. C.  She was less scary than the prehistoric bird.  Along with learning what a password is, I’m planning to learn how to use that stick thing.

Then right before Mom came home, Ms. C put on my saddle to ride me.  I am usually tacked in my stall, so I cleverly walked too close to the stall door and managed to pull the stirrup away from the saddle.  Ms. C couldn’t get it reattached.  Yea!  Awesome, I thought, no work for me!  But she then put her saddle on my back.  Wait a minute, how uncool is this.  Did she really think that I was going to wear a strange saddle?  No way.  I let her know right away that I thought her saddle was a bad idea.  She mumbled something about a fairy tale called The Princess and the Pea, but I’m still not clear how that relates to me and her saddle.

The highlight of my week was the warm weather on Saturday which meant that my blanket had to come off.  Heehee.  When all the white snow went away, it left behind some gooey mud.  My brother has shared with me his mud application techniques to get full body coverage.  You first need to work the mud with your hooves to make sure that there are no dry spots that would keep parts of your body mud-free.  One also must make sure that your rolling method allows you to get full coverage on your sides as well as where the saddle goes.  Cigar says that the saddle area is the most important, but also make every effort to coat your neck and face as well.

I think I did a good job because I stopped Mom in her tracks when she came to the barn on Sunday.  I’m pretty sure she almost gave up the thought of riding, but then a determined look swept over her face and she pulled out the curry.  I made her chase me around my stall a few times too, but she stuck with it.  She worked hard enough to clean off the saddle, girth and bridle spots, but she did leave a significant amount of mud on my legs, my butt, and in my mane and tail.  She won’t win any grooming contests anytime soon.

Even though I was mad at her for leaving me, I was glad to see her especially since she brought juicy apples from her travels.  At least I’d like to think she brought them home from vacation.  It is the least she could do.  We had a good time on Sunday and a lesson with Ms. C on Monday.  They gave me a lot of praise and Stud Muffins.  Guess I will try to be good under saddle since I like getting treats.  Can’t make any promises about staying clean.

Ike

Red Light, Green Light

Where is all the grass?!?

Where is all the grass?!?

So here we are at the end of the last weekend of February, but with the temperatures that we had, it felt more like early April.  Had a to-do list a mile long, but I did manage to get to the barn Saturday morning and Sunday morning.  There was no way my ankle or my list were going to keep me from the saddle.  I also managed to sneak in a lesson with Ms. C for the first time in over a month.

Has it really been that long?  Sadly, yes.  Trying to ride this winter has been like a game of Red Light, Green Light.  Oh, the sun is out and the temperature is above freezing!  Quickly tack up and ride before the rain/sleet/snow/sub-freezing temperatures return.  Bummer – Put on those brakes boys and girls, because it is time to stop and stare wistfully out the window as the snow obliterates any view.  Sigh, just as the snow melts, you get catapulted off your horse…more red light time.  About the time the body heals, Mother Nature dumps another 10 inches of the white stuff.  Ugh!  Then as temperatures warm up, the snow turns the ground into boot-sucking mud and slick riding rings.  Then, a glimmer of hope appears on the horizon and Mother M graces us with two gorgeous 60+ degree days!  Green light!  Burn some rubber and get to the barn as soon as possible.

As excited as I was about getting back in the saddle, I knew better than go with a full head of steam.  Ike has had limited work; I’ve been out of the saddle.  And as much as I’d like to say that I’m better from the fall, I must admit that my ankle is still not 100%.  Still has pain and swelling.  Grrr.  So we tacked up and met Ms. C in the ring.  Since Ike has just been decorating his paddock, we knew that his topline would not be as strong as it needs to be.  What did that mean for our lesson?  A lot of long and low work getting him to stretch over his topline.  Well, that was the game plan once we got through the initial crankiness…I think someone has been enjoying his winter vacation a bit too much.  The boy finally decided to be cooperative and our lesson was very productive.  Could not trot for as long as I would have liked and had to stop and relax the ankle from time to time, but some saddle time was just what I needed.  By the end of the lesson, Ike gave us some excellent stretch down trot, fluid walk/trot and trot/walk transitions, and a pleasant attitude.  Canter work would have to wait for another day.

I’m a bit achy today and walking like a cowboy that just finished a seven day cattle drive.  The hip flexors hate me, but I’m happy as a clam.

Can’t wait to keep building our strength and filling out the entries for our first show of the season.  Barn time is good for the soul.  🙂

Eighteen Days Later…

Yes, that is a bridle on Ike!  You know what that means!!

Yes, that is a bridle on Ike! You know what that means!!

Today was the day I have been waiting for since my acrobatic separation from my horse…today I finally swung my leg up and over and made contact with my saddle again for the first time in 18 days.  It is the longest I’ve been out of the saddle since Ike joined the family.  It felt like an eternity.

It was a very low-key session with both Ms. C and Mr. D on hand to make sure that there weren’t any vultures lurking on the fences, or that I wasn’t going to crumple over in pain and slide off because it was too soon after the thud.  I have to admit that I was a bit apprehensive as I stood on the mounting block.  My fall was the worst I’ve ever had and the only one that I was unable to get right back on the horse to finish my ride.  I know that my ankle isn’t 100%, but the physical therapist who I saw today is a rider and said that I would be fine to do some walking (she cautioned against any rising trot for a bit longer).  The spasms in my back and hip are gone, so I saw this as my opportunity to test the waters.

Breathe in, breathe out.  Left foot in the stirrup and there I was, back on my big man.  Breathe again and give Ike his peppermint.  Ms. C had me stay in a third of the arena and just maintain steady contact at the walk.  Just relax and let the back swing.  Let the reins out and let Ike stretch over his back.  Change direction.  Collect the reins and halt.  Flex right…or try to flex right without Ike moving his legs.  Ha – easier said than done.  It took a few tries for him to understand that exercise.  Walk on and halt and flex to the left.  No Ike, do not jut out that jaw and resist.  Resistance is futile.  Good boy.  Now how about a turn on the haunches.  Can you see the smile on my face?  Just because we were only walking doesn’t mean that we couldn’t accomplish something.

And then it happened, Ike offered me a lovely collected trot.  I relaxed and went with it for 20 meters.  No searing pain anywhere; my ankle was aching, but it was like that after my therapy this morning.  Tried two more short trot lines and then called it quits.

Then it was time to come down from the heights.  Luckily Ike is a cooperative fellow and stood quietly at the mounting block so that I could dismount onto the top step rather than having to drop to the ground and risk re-injuring my ankle.  Thank you Ike for being such a good boy.

Day one is behind us, we are back on centerline, and ready to move onwards and upwards.

Life is good.

How To Take a Holiday Photo of Your Horse

Santa hat success!

Santa hat success!

Supplies Needed:  One Santa hat, One pound of peppermints – wrappers removed, One camera, Infinite patience.

Step One, Day One – Locate the Santa hat.  If you are anything like me, you stuffed it into a box/bag/tack box after Christmas last year and swore that you would remember where you put it.  Ha ha.  Finally find said Santa hat and realize that it is now too dark outside for photos.  Put Santa hat back in tack box for another day.

Step One, Day Two – Arrive at barn earlier prepared to take photos.  Remove wrappers from the peppermints and stuff them into your pocket.  Grab Santa hat and camera and head out to retrieve horse.

Step Two, Day Two- Give horse a peppermint to gain trust.  Show Santa hat to horse.

"Hmm, this is an unimpressive treat."

“You want me to do ‘what’ with this thing?”

Step Three, Day Two – Let horse grab hat.  Watch Santa hat fall into the mud.

"You really don't expect me to wear this, do you?"

“You really don’t expect me to wear this, do you?”

Step Four, Day Two – Retrieve hat from mud.  Mutter expletives under breath while trying to clean Santa hat and spy horse passing judgment on this holiday activity.

"Don't you have anything better to do with your time?"

“Don’t you have anything better to do with your time?”

Step Five, Day Two – Attempt to place Santa hat on horse’s head with one hand while holding camera with the other.  Horse transforms into a giraffe.  Growl at horse and wish you had a third hand to grab a peppermint from your pocket.

Step Six, Day Two – Put Santa hat and camera in one hand and grab a peppermint with the other.  Get horse to lower head by offering peppermint and quickly shuffle hat into the same hand for second attempt at placing over horse’s ear.  Hat falls to ground.  Return to barn defeated.

Poor Santa hat, no love from Ike.

Poor Santa hat, no love from Ike.

Step One, Day Three – Reach into pocket and remove one large sticky, lint-covered glob of peppermints that you forgot were there.  Remove wrappers from new handful of mints and retrieve horse.  Groom and tack horse.  Grab Santa hat and camera and bring horse outside.

Step Two, Day Three – Attempt to place Santa hat on horse’s head; the giraffe returns.  Bribe horse with a large handful of mints and sneak Santa hat over ear.

Step Three, Day Three – Quickly grab camera and ask horse to look at you.  Horse blatantly ignores your request.  Take a photo anyway.

"I refuse to acknowledge you.  This is mortifying."

“I refuse to acknowledge you. This is mortifying.”

Step Four, Day Three – Pick Santa hat up from ground when horse flicks ear.  Give up any further photo attempts in order to ride.  Give horse remaining mints to prevent further pocket stickiness.  Remind yourself to wash your jacket.

Step One, Day Four – Wear dirty jacket to barn.  Place mints in other pocket since the first pocket is now stuck closed.

Step Two, Day Four – Groom horse and put saddle on.

Step Three, Day Four – Grab bridle and Santa hat in one hand.  Place 10 mints in the other hand.  While horse is munching, sneak bit into mouth and Santa hat on ear under the bridle.

Step Four, Day Four – Squeal with excitement that the Santa hat is on horse’s head.

Step Five, Day Four – Grab camera and walk outside with horse.  When horse is distracted by a bird, take photos as quickly as possible praying that one is blog worthy.

Step Six, Day Four – Put camera away and ride horse while he is wearing Santa hat and you wear a silly grin.

Step Seven, Day Four – Give horse big hug and remaining peppermints and thank him for not killing you.

"You will pay dearly for this embarrassment."

“You will pay dearly for this embarrassment.”