Sigh, There is Work To Be Done

Photo by High Time Photography

Photo by High Time Photography

I think that we have recovered after our second show of the season – all the laundry is finally done and the trailer is cleaned up and organized.  Ms. C has studied my scores and the accompanying comments and come up with a game plan to help me understand how to better ride the new movements when we head back out in August.  Needless to say, this show was not quite what we had at our first show.  If that show was a peak, we have now fallen into the deepest crevasse.  There is a lot of homework to be done to claw our way out of scores in the high 50%’s for First Level Test 3 and into scores that are ribbon-worthy.  Yes, that is right, the pair that kicked butt at the last show struggled to even ride a straight centerline…

These are my takeaways from this past weekend – perhaps someone will benefit from our misfortune and avoid the same mistakes:

1) Ike does not like sloppy footing.  There were multiple storms at the show grounds on Friday and the sand/felt footing was well saturated come Saturday morning.  Big Boy did not want to show any real spark in our morning test.  No lengthenings to speak of for the trot or canter.  He wiggled down centerline.  Perhaps he didn’t like the sand splashing on his belly.  Now we can’t really control the weather, but at least I will know what I am up against next time.

2) You’d better make sure that you have the correct flexion and body alignment for the canter before you start your shallow canter loop.  Even more important, make sure you maintain it.  End.Of.Discussion.  Do you know what happens if you get grabby with the reins or shift your weight/legs the wrong way?  Your horse will demonstrate his flying lead change ability.  Do you know what score you get for that even if you quickly fix the lead?  You get a 4…F-O-U-R.  How about if your horse falls out of the canter because you failed to maintain the correct alignment as you head back to the rail?  You get a 4…F-O-U-R.

3) Just because you are trotting faster does not mean you have lengthened the stride.  In my less than knowledgeable mind, it sure did feel like it was a lengthening.  Come to find out, I let Ike flatten and end up on the forehand.  Ah, no push from behind.  Ike did lengthen his neck, but that will only get you a 5.5 from the judge.   All the power originates from the hind end; I need to find a reliable way to harness that power without goosing Ike into a canter.

4) Learn the proper size of a 15 meter circle and make my horse stay on that circle.  How crazy that I managed to give away points because of my poor geometry skills.  I watched the video – one would think that I believed an oval is equivalent to a circle.  Someone needs to make sure that her horse doesn’t drift on the second half of the circle.  That person also needs to make sure that her 15 meter circle doesn’t get flat at the rail.  Remember: circles only have a bending line.  I need to remember to look where I am going and ride every quarter.  Turn the front of the horse first.  If you forget to turn the front of your horse, you get comments about your “haunches in on circle.”

5) Sometimes you can surprise yourself and pull off some good scores when you least expect it.  The high point of my Test 3 ride was the leg yield, circle, circle, leg yield.  Ike and I pulled 7’s for our leg yields and 6-6.5 for the circles.  He is not as supple on the right circle, so our score reflected that.  But, overall, I am pleased with how we rode this portion of the test.  I am capable of maintaining the proper rein length to better steer my horse!

6) Finally, on a non-riding note, I discovered a new item for my show wardrobe – the vest.  Coats were waived for the entire show.  Even though they were waived, I typically still wear mine since I like the way the coat completes the picture, and the coat hides a multitude of middle-aged woman sins (sagging body parts, a larger than desired abdominal area, above-the-bra bulge).  On Saturday I noticed a number of riders wearing black, navy or grey vests over their show shirts in lieu of coats.  Oooh, I like that.  Cooler than a show coat, but still provides the much desired coverage.  To my delight and my wallet’s dismay, the vendors at the show had some for sale.  I selected the Arista Modern Dressage Vest (https://aristaequestrian.com/shop/arista-modern-dressage-vest/ ) in black.  The bit detail on the back is particularly pretty.  Romfh has a pretty one with bling on the lapel that is reasonably priced – if you are a bling person, this is the one for you.  Pikeur also makes a lovely one that is well out of my price range.

So there you have it.  We only came home with one third place ribbon for our First Level Test 1.  Would have had a sixth place ribbon for our Training Level Test 3 test, but the show only gave out ribbons to fifth place.  Chalk up our two First Level Test 3 tests to experience.  The show was still great fun.  We are better for the experience and will be stronger in our next show.

 

Digesting What Was Served by Hilda

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Holy Moly.  What an amazing, overwhelming, humbling, inspiring weekend.  I am not even certain where to start to capture all the details.  Amazing to have met one of the legends of dressage.  Overwhelming to have been selected even though Ike and I were the least experienced of the rider group.  Humbling in so far as I realized that I know next to nothing about dressage.  Inspiring to see the upper level riders and their talented mounts.

If you want to know what I looked like, feel free to ask any of the 200 auditors.  Yes, 2-0-0.  I have never ridden in front of that many pairs of eyes; not even at the Region 1 championship last year.  I unfortunately cannot publicize the videos of my ride, but suffice to say that Hilda pretty much pegged me after about a minute.  Now, so can the 200 auditors.  They will now have no fear when they see the name spastic rider getting hauled around by her larger than average pony when they are in one of my classes.  “Don’t be afraid to use your hands.” “Relax your back.” “You are not sitting.” “Move your legs back.” “Where were you to help your horse?” “You forgot your corner.”  She said nothing that Ms. C hasn’t told me before, and that I haven’t been working on for the past two years.  I’m back to feeling like a beginner rider entering the arena for the first time.

The nice thing is that I have learned that I’m not alone with my struggles to grasp the intricacies of this sport.  So many of the auditors approached me after my ride to share with me their impressions of my lesson.  Many said that they thought I handled it wonderfully and that it was great to see someone working at their level bravely attempting to follow Hilda’s instructions.  I don’t know the names of these kind souls, but they helped me to rally and do it again on Sunday.  My fabulous friends from my local chapter also gave me a shot in the arm to bolster my confidence to face the crowd for a second day.

Sunrise over Wyndham Oaks Farm.

Sunrise over Wyndham Oaks Farm.

Sunday dawned a gorgeous spring day.  My dear friend Ms. L again made certain that Ike and I were impeccably turned out.  What we lacked in dressage knowledge and skills, we made up for by looking marvelous.  Ike and I were definitely more relaxed – not surprising given that we worked our butts off the day before.  We’d each had a chance to dwell on what we’d learned the day before and hopefully improve our performance.

I think I can confidently say that we showed improvement in our second lesson.  Can I give myself a pat on the back that Hilda complemented me on being a good student?  Awesome!  She was a special education teacher for 14 years, so she knows a thing or two about teaching.  Ike showed clear improvement in his right lead canter – he was kind enough to not lean so much on my inside leg.  I demonstrated better following hands at the walk and canter.  I did some passable sitting trot work.  We even attempted some centerlines and leg yield.  Our turns onto centerline were squirrely, but Ike was supple and responsive in his lateral work.

The videos Ms. L recorded will help me to see for myself my errant ways (eek, what a funny face I make while concentrating and will you please stop doing THAT with your hands!).  They confirmed with Ms. C that we are on the right track and that I need to be a better leader/rider in order for Ike to progress.  The clinic helped me to realize that I should not be afraid to take chances.  Yes, you will make mistakes when you take yourself outside of your comfort zone, but it is at that point that you will grow as a rider and the path up the levels will become just that more clear.

alison

Look Out Hilda, Here Comes Ike

"Don't worry Mom, I'm going to be awesome."

“Don’t worry Mom, I’m going to be awesome.”

Well, the time has finally come; we leave tomorrow for our first outing of the year.  And did we pick a schooling show, a local clinic, or just a ride to another farm?  Heck no, we are headed up to Boyds, Maryland to the scenic Wyndham Oaks Farm for the USDF/Nutrena Region 1 Hilda Gurney clinic.  I must have lost my mind when I sent my application.  I’ve seen the list of other riders.  We are the pair that was selected to represent the beginning of the journey up the training scale.  I can only hope that I make Ms. C, my husband, and my parents proud.  I can only hope that Ike is the gentleman we know he can be rather than the spooky goof who runs from birds.

We had one last tune up with Ms. C today.  She put us through our paces.  We are as healthy as we can be and as fit as we can be after the wretched winter we endured.  We focused on the proper bending on circles; I’m still bad at letting Ike’s outside shoulder head in the opposite direction we are traveling.  Unconsciously my outside hand and rein creep over Ike’s topline to try to fix the problem.  Bad rider, Bad Alison.  I have to constantly remind myself not to do that and to use my outside leg.  My inner thighs are still protesting as I write this. [Note to self – remember to pack the Advil.]

Ike still has not finished shedding and the temperatures just aren’t quite warm enough for a full bath.  I’ve done my best to make him look more presentable and less like a wooly mammoth.  The bridle path still needs some final prep, but my arms ached from trying to reach the necessary height to get the job completed.  Could someone please tell Ike to stop growing?

The trailer is packed, the tack is clean, and my new boots are polished.  A few hours of work in the morning and then let the adventure begin!!

Monkey See, Monkey Do

"Oh, hello.  Were you hoping to ride today?"

“Oh, hello. Were you hoping to ride today?”

It can be said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; however, when your role model isn’t exactly clean-cut and at the top of the honor roll, you worry about his influence on a younger generation…yes, I’m talking about the less than stellar guidance that Cigar is providing to Ike.  I worry that Ike has been led astray by his older brother.

Even Ms. C has commented that perhaps putting Ike in the paddock adjacent to his brother wasn’t our best decision.  Ike used to quietly graze or eat hay in his paddock.  If he was startled, the worst he would do was stand at the gate and stare at the house until someone came to rescue him.  Since moving in next door to his brother, he now takes flight around his paddock, bucking like a banshee and sliding up to the gate like a reining horse.  The boys also think it is fun to casually walk to the far end of their paddocks, turn, and gallop to the other end.  It doesn’t seem to matter who wins as the game is repeated over and over and over until it is time to get funky.

Ike used to be a neat horse.  Rarely did I have to remove much dirt and his coat was always shiny and his mane tidy.  Well, those days are O-V-E-R.  As you can see in today’s photo, he has been taking his brother’s advice and spends his time wallowing in the mud.  Today, it took me more than 30 minutes to remove enough dirt to ride without embarrassment.  Once mounted, I found some funk I missed up behind Ike’s ears.  Thankfully, no one but me would notice it at that height.  Now that the temperatures have risen, wearing a blanket is out, so mud removal is a daily activity.  All this dirt makes me miss my polo wraps with the pig faces on them; they’d be quite appropriate these days.

Luckily for me, Cigar has yet to influence Ike as far as his training.  For that, I am eternally grateful.  It took 7 years for Cigar’s “meteoric” rise to First Level.  Ike’s progression has been just a wee bit faster as he has reached First Level after only 2 years.  His work as of late has been stellar.  Perhaps it is the fact that his rider has finally caught a clue coupled with the fact that Ike has gained muscles in all the right places.  We have been working hard to get ourselves ready for our first outing of the year which is now a little over a week away.  Our lessons with Ms. C are very focused.  “Where is your outside shoulder going?”  “Is it going where your horse is going?”  “Half halt!”  “Again!  He didn’t hear you.”  When I ride on my own, I try to replay the lesson in my head to replicate the correct positioning.  Where is my pocket-sized Ms. C to carry with me?

Our riding isn’t the only thing getting prepped for next weekend.  The trailer was inspected, and the short in the braking system was fixed.  I finally replaced my stirrup leathers; the ones I purchased in 2006 were starting to show their age.  New polo wraps have been purchased.  Ike has his stall reservations made and has his health certificate.    My new DerDau’s made their first appearance at the barn.  I still walk like Frankenstein in them, but they were comfortable to ride in from the very first ride.   They have a spiffy new bag to protect them.  My new Ecogold saddle pad (http://ecogold.ca/) arrived.  It is lovely.  I now want a whole stack of them.

The weekend promises to be a nice one.  We can only hope next weekend is as well.

 

 

Ride Every Stride

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Ike and I had an incredible lesson with Ms. C yesterday.  The weather cooperated.  Ike cooperated.  The evil vulture flock was nowhere to be seen.  My body cooperated, i.e., the ankle pain was almost nonexistent.  And the new DerDau’s made their first appearance at the barn and made it home with no hoof impressions or other permanent damage.

As Ike and I are getting back into regular work, I’m realizing my biggest problem…not my only problem…..but the one that plagues me and many other average riders.  We do not ride every stride.  People like me ask their horse for a particular gait, and then we become passengers.  Here comes a corner, but at the last minute, we move our hand and hope that our horse is wise enough to know to turn rather than jumping over the dressage arena.  If you ask a professional, they will tell you that they give a small half halt a stride or two before the corner and then again coming out of the corner.  Those pros are always planning ahead and staying 5-6 strides in front of their current position.  I, on the other hand, hit cruise control, get distracted by a butterfly/bird/cat, and then realize Ike has flattened and fallen on the forehand.  If I were a dog, I’d be the one who……………..Squirrel!!!………………..you get the idea.

During my lessons, Ms. C keeps me on task and focused on the exercise.  This spring we are working on transitioning to First Level.  In order to do that, we need to achieve a consistent connection at the walk and trot.  If I can’t keep it in those gaits, the canter will be darn near impossible, but ultimately we need it in the canter as well.  Ms. C has us working on a 15 meter circle with numerous transitions.  No longer will a half-ass transition be accepted.  Do it again until you get it right.  To not repeat it only tells Ike that what he did is acceptable.  But for full disclosure, sometimes the mistakes are on my side of the equation.  My aids were too loud which caused Ike to misinterpret my request.  Do it again Alison.  Be a little more subtle.

Bending is the other important skill that we are trying to improve.  I was thrilled yesterday when Ms. C noted that Ike was bending much more consistently.  Interesting, Ike has been out of work for the better part of two months…how is it that we are better?  Ah, his rider has a purchased a vowel and is now understanding how to properly bend her horse while on a circle.  Yes, I occasionally over bend Ike’s body or let the outside shoulder lead us astray, but I can keep all of Ike’s body parts working as one more often than not.  We were doing so well yesterday that we even attempted the canter.  The best we could do was 5 or 6 strides before Ike said, “too hard to maintain.”  Five or 6 strides is still better than no strides or looking like Scooby Doo.  Even harder to achieve was the canter to trot transition with Ike in the proper bend – someone still allows her reins to get a bit long while cantering so that there is no connection in the down transition.  Add that to the list of problems to fix.

When our lesson was done, I could not have been more pleased with Ike’s work.  Grumpy horse is being pushed out by happy horse; it doesn’t hurt that Ms. C gives Ike a goodie during the breaks in our work.  Still trying to figure out why the rider doesn’t get a goodie as well.  It might help with my focus on the lesson and not on the squirrels. 🙂

Back to Work – Hilda and the First Show of the Season Await!

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This has been one of those winters – one of those that the cold seems colder, the sky more grey than blue, and riding seems like a distant dream.  Mother Nature dropped another 6 inches of snow on the region yesterday.  The only upside is that when it snows in March in the mid-Atlantic region, it usually doesn’t stick around for long.  In fact, by Friday, temperatures should be in the 60s – much more spring like.  Given the fact that spring starts on Thursday, I’d say that we are due some 60 degree days.  The boys would agree – they are tired of eating hay and would like some lush spring grass for grazing.

I did luck out last week and managed to ride FIVE times with two of them being excellent lessons with Ms. C.  I haven’t ridden that many times in a week since last December.  It felt good to mount up and begin to re-establish our rhythm.  It is amazing how rusty you become.  It takes forever to find the training sweet spot and yet within a few weeks, you lose months and months of stamina and training.

Ms. C asked me an interesting question at the start of one of my lessons, “If you are asked at the clinic with Hilda what you need her to help you with, what will you tell her?”  [Insert sound of crickets chirping.]  Umm, well, ah, yeah, I dunno…guess I need to give that some thought.  Perhaps I need to refer back to George Morris’ commandments and just pick one of those.  Ms. C suggested that I let her know that we are beginning our first year of showing First Level, so perhaps we should tell her that we need help becoming a First Level team.  No more plodding around on the forehand or racing around like Scooby Doo.  No longer is Ike allowed to ride a circle with a stiff and straight body; a circle needs to be more of a circle than a decagon.  Guess whose job it is to make sure that he moves correctly?  No more cruise control for this girl…one must ride every stride and plan for the movements to come.  I suppose that means that my half halt timing will be closely scrutinized.  And if my two lessons last week are any indication, my timing definitely still needs improvement!

And speaking of close scrutiny, I have to admit, that while I am thrilled at the opportunity to be a demonstration rider at the Hilda Gurney clinic, I’m also a bit nervous.  I am imagining hundreds of auditor eyeballs staring at my every move and looking for any and every mistake.  That is more attention than I had at the regional finals!  Yikes!  “How did she get selected for this?  Did you see her blow that half halt?!  Look at her hand position!  Ike’s head is so big and the ears belong on a mule.  That poor horse could be great if his rider was more talented.”  Yes, this is what loops through my head when I’m not busy with work or other tasks.  I know that I need to stop the madness, but that is easier said than done.

The money has been sent for our first show of the season as well.  Our first show will be the first weekend of May.  While there are shows in March and April, I knew that there was no way we were going to enter them.  It is no wonder they call the show at the end of the month March Madness.  You have got to be darn near insane to enter it since ride time has been steady practically nonexistent this winter.  There is also an outlay of cash for the April clinic, so since there are not unlimited funds, the first show needed to wait.  Call me insane, but I signed up for a couple of First Level tests.  I guess if the one on Saturday is a complete disaster, I can always scratch my Sunday ride.  I also signed up for a couple of Training Level tests just so that we have two rides that we can feel confident about as we head down centerline.

Fingers crossed for great things for our third show season!  Hope you stick around for the ride,

Alison and Ike

Help Wanted

help wanted

The sign is perpetually up for every horse organization, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  There is always something that needs to be done or that we’d like to have done, but the question remains, “Who is going to do it?!”  We all look around the room at each other, names are bantered about, and then reluctantly, one of those present in the room agrees to take on the task on top of everything else they’ve agreed to do.  The Pareto Principle is in full bloom; the principle that says that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people.

Yes, yes, everyone knows all about the frontline volunteers at the shows.  The scribes, the runners, the stewards, and even the scorers who are tucked away in some windowless room.  We need those volunteers for certain, but I am going to ask that you consider volunteering on the other side of the organization as well.  If you are a competitor who maintains a busy show schedule, then this will be right up your alley.  You can get in your volunteer time in the dead of winter when the rings are frozen or at night after dinner when your horse(s) are tucked away for the evening.

How you ask?  I will share with you how your talents can shine at both the local and state levels.

I’ve just completed my first year and beginning my second year as a chapter representative for the Virginia Dressage Association.   When I began my dressage obsession, I had no clue about the intensive volunteer need for the sport.  I have a new found respect for those people who work tirelessly year round to keep the organization running smoothly.  The Board (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and all the chapter representatives) meets via conference call once a month.  Don’t worry, the calls start at 8:00 p.m., so most horse tasks for the day are done.

I’m also gearing up for my first full term as my chapter’s secretary.  I pinch hit for the end of last year after our secretary moved out of state.  Our meetings are once a month also in the evening to accommodate those who work, go to school, and have families to feed.  It is a smaller chapter, so there are times we do struggle to fill the empty spots and most of us tend to wear more than one hat.

Are you a type-A personality with good organizational skills?  Then we want you to help organize clinics – potential clinicians need to be contacted (this is your chance to get your favorite clinician lined up), a host facility found, rider application reviewed, schedules made, travel arrangements completed…You can also consider being the membership chairperson and keep all the member information organized.

Are you a people person and can you herd cats?  Volunteer Coordinator is right up your alley!   Help rally the troops to fill all those vital positions at the shows and clinics.  Don’t limit yourself to just club members.  I found that horse friends from other disciplines were more than willing to help out in a pinch.  Sometimes they became dressage devotees after spending the day watching talented horses and riders perform their tests.

Are you a legal type?  You can put that legal mind to work to draft contracts for judges, clinicians, and venues.  You can review insurance documents (sadly, no show or clinic can be held without it these days) to insure that the club has adequate coverage.  How about helping your club become a 501(c)3 organization or updating their bylaws?

Can you summarize the conversations of 10 people all talking at the same time?  Come be a secretary with me!  You attend monthly meetings and then type up the meeting notes for the newsletter.  You will need to summon all those skills you learned in elementary school on how to write a summary.

Do you have marketing skills?  Licensed shows and the big regional competitions are not inexpensive endeavors.  Show fees just scratch the surface at covering the costs.  Sponsorships help clubs make a profit for all their hard work.  There are all the usual suspects of big equine supply companies, but don’t be afraid to approach non-traditional sponsors.  But many local businesses that you frequent will sponsor a class.  VADA was able to get Lladro (http://www.lladro.com/) to sponsor some FEI high point awards at our fall show last year.  All it takes is the time to write the emails or make the phone calls.

Do you like to be in the driver’s seat?  How about being the President of your club?  You can help revitalize the club and decide where the group should be headed for the future.

Are you an English major with wicked good language skills?  Newsletter editor is the position for you.   Or if you prefer something without a monthly deadline, how about updating the club’s handbook?  You know you like looking for misspellings and typos…just admit it.

Are you a good writer?  The newsletter isn’t going to write itself. 🙂  Consider writing a witty piece about your horse or share some show results with fellow club members.  We can all find our tiny voice inside that has something to say.  (Some of us have voices that are a bit more boisterous than others.)

Can you balance your checkbook to the penny every month?  Then you are the chosen one to manage the club’s money as the treasurer.  You can also insure that your club doesn’t end up on the wrong side of the IRS.

Are you the hostess with the “mostest”?  That annual club awards banquet needs you to insure that we have more than 20 bags of chips and a 2 liter of soda as refreshments.

Calling all shoppers!  Clubs need someone to select the ribbons and prizes for shows and year-end awards.  You can spend hours browsing online to find the best deal and the coolest stuff that club members will squeal over when they receive it.  Best of all, you get to spend money that isn’t coming out of your pocket.

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Phew!  Who knew that there was so much to do to keep an all volunteer organization running smoothly.  Like I said, I honestly had no idea when I began my dressage hobby in 2005 that things could be so involved.  I was too worried about understanding what a half halt was and not knocking over the arena rails.  I have come to believe that it is our obligation as competitors and enthusiasts to give back to the sport we love.  We would not have places to go and things to do without dedicated volunteers.  Even events like the World Equestrian Games rely on volunteers to pull off the biggest equestrian event on the planet.  Equestrian sports can’t grow without people stepping up to keep things running.  So the only question that remains is, what will you do for the sport that you love?

Reasons to Hate Winter and Be a Snow Bird in Welliworld

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In case you have been wondering why things have been so silent about Ike’s adventures, it is because we have not had any saddle time since January 1.  Yes, that is right, the 1st.  “But why Alison, why have you been so unproductive?  You have to master the Ten Commandments According to George before show season.”

Well, let me fill you in on the past nine days…which will clearly explain why I hate winter and why I need to win the lottery so that I can afford to flee to Welliworld and warmer temperatures. [In case you aren’t aware, Wellington, Florida is like Disney World for dressage lovers in the winter.]

Ike had his teeth floated on January 2nd.  They had last been done in May 2012.  Now before you accuse me of being negligent, he had not needed them done until now.  Yes, I got lucky with a horse who does not need dental work every 6 months.  That same day, since he was sedated, he also got his sheath cleaned…he frowns upon any attempts at touching the area without the help of drugs.  I gave him the rest of the day off to chill since I know how my mouth feels after the hygienist has been scraping and probing around my gumline.

Anyhoo, January 3rd brought snow and ice to the mid-Atlantic region – not any appreciable snow amounts, but enough to send Virginians into a blind panic to buy bread and milk and toilet paper in large quantities (those in the north must get a good chuckle out of us.).  Those of us without indoor arenas stare out the window and frown.  January 4th and 5th were saddle-free days because the chilly temperatures froze the arena to the hardness of concrete and prevented any snow melt.  January 5th also brought in some more rain.  Why not?!  More insult to injury.

January 6th dawned with another morning of rain.  Seriously??  Luckily by afternoon when I was done working, the rain had stopped.  Finally, I thought, I can hop on Ike for a ride.  Even if the footing was a little sloppy, I could at least do walk and some trot….or so I thought.  Got Ike tacked up quickly and headed to the arena while there was still daylight.  We started walking to warm up and all felt fine.  I knew something was off as soon as Ike made half a stride of trot.  Almost felt like he hopped with the hind end, like a runner pulling up with a strained hamstring.  Luckily, Ms. C was jin the barn and she came out to watch.  There were some good strides tracking right, but left was definitely off.  Ike went back in his stall where he had some Surpass rubbed on his hamstring and some Bute added to dinner.  Since Ike was sound on January 1st for my last ride, that leaves cavorting with his brother as the number one suspected reason that he was off.  Rumor has it that they can cause quite the commotion when they start the gelding play over the hotwire fencing.  I perish to think about the damage to themselves and the farm that they could cause if they were to share a paddock.

Well since Ike was having some rest time, I wasn’t too upset about the whole Polar Vortex/record-setting cold that settled into the area January 7th and 8th and re-froze the ground  It also turned my hands into white, bloodless extremities.  Can’t really half halt, groom, secure buckles, or pick hooves efficiently when you can’t move or feel your fingers.  It was definitely cold here, but after seeing some of the negative temperature values around the country, I don’t feel that we have too much to complain about.

January 9th – Ike was still not quite right.  Vet has been called and scheduled.  Thankfully he just had his routine adjustment, so we have an excellent baseline for reference.  So much for my goal of saving some cash; we can start next month.

January 10th – freezing rain in the morning followed by more rain in the afternoon.  Small pools have formed in the far end of the arena.  I managed to find the only patch of ice in the area and had the sidewalk viciously attacked my knee.  My knee is a wimp.  Tylenol is a good thing.  Where is the leftover ice melt?

Looks like more rain for tomorrow the 11th.  We can start working next week.

Wish me luck with the lottery.  I just know that my numbers are going to come in!

The Ten Commandments According to George

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George Morris that is.  His status in the horse world is such that he can almost be referenced by only his first name…much like Beyoncé or Madonna.  I was able to watch about 30 minutes of the George Morris Horsemaster Training Session Day 2 video on the USEF Network this morning.  In that short time span, I was able to glean the 10 commandments according to George.  They are true no matter what discipline to want to claim allegiance to – dressage, eventing, hunters, jumpers, western, or happy horse owner/rider.

1) Half halt, half halt.

2) The horse must travel and stop uphill.

3) Inside Leg to Outside Rein.

4) Invite the horse to self carriage.

5) Keep contact and ride it from behind.

6) The horse must listen to the hand.

7) The rider must give a little.

8) The horse must stretch over the back.

9) Half Halt.  Yes, it is that important.

10) Regulation of stride and straightness of the horse is the responsibility of the hands.

So there you have it.  When I read this list, I see Charlotte riding Valegro in their stunning musical freestyle.  They make it look effortless even though we all know it is not.  They are the embodiment of these concepts and what we should all strive to achieve.  This could also be my list of goals for the new year.  If I can master these skills, everything else will fall into place:  qualifying for the Region 1 BLM Championships at First Level, qualifying for the USDF Region 1 Championships at First Level, and earning my First Level scores needed towards my USDF Bronze Medal.

So I’ve got 364 more days this year.  Time to get started!

Happy New Year!

Blinded By The Light aka The Sun

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The holiday respite is over, and Ike and I hit the saddle with a lesson with Ms. C on Friday after Christmas.  Headed out to the barn after my work day was over, which meant that I only had about two hours of sunlight to work with before the sun made its decent below the horizon.  The sun sat low in the sky for most of the lesson which made for rather blinding moments when you headed towards the west end of the arena.  The inability to see frazzled Ike a bit – I suppose the natural instinct of a prey animal is to be cautious in situations where the predator could be lurking.  When I say that Ike was frazzled, I mean that he was wound up like a wind-up toy ready to “boing” at any moment.

To try and get some quality work in spite of the blinding conditions, we first avoided the far end of the arena and then worked on some lateral exercises.  Why fight a battle that wasn’t necessary?  The lateral exercises helped to diffuse the tenseness by forcing Ike and I to concentrate.  Since the lateral work is still relatively new to Ike’s repertoire, I still have to think about what aides to give and when to give them.  Big boy has to focus on what I’m asking and then attempt to comply with my request.  If you saw our video from our last lesson, you know that we still have alignment issues with leg yield.  We also struggle with our shoulder in position…too much neck bend, shoulders too straight, hind end not stepping up and under enough…the usual issues everyone has.

In our lesson this week, the exercise was to leg yield nose-to-rail, straighten across the arena, and then perform shoulder in down the other long side.  Thank goodness that we had Ms. C there to remind me when we were headed out of alignment.  Sometimes I can tell, but other times, I’m a bit clueless.  I also had to be willing to trust Ike and push my hands forward – challenging to do when you are riding a very large, very tense horse who is ready to exhibit his best flight reflex.  But wow, when I did trust Ike and allow Ike to move, Ike’s leg yield was dynamite.  Ms. C said to remember that feeling since that movement will earn us an 8 from any judge.  Awesome.  Our shoulder in was adequate, but still not show worthy.

After our successful lateral work, we decided to give canter a go.  Yikes!  I was riding Scooby Doo.  Ms. C hollered as a careened past her that Ike was running through my hands and asked if I could slow him down.  Umm, no, I cannot.  I tried my best to sit back, sit deep, and half halt, but Ike just scoffed at me.  When I finally gained control, Ms. C had us halt and try some halt-canter transitions.  So, Ike, if you insist on this crazy forward canter work, then we will redirect your focus and make you use the power for good.  Big boy did surprisingly well at this exercise even though this was his first go at these transitions.  Our canter-halt transitions were not as successful as the up transitions, but thankfully we did not fall flat on our faces.

We ended our lesson with a feeble attempt at a stretch down trot.  Not a big surprise that there was not much stretch and Ike was a bit too quick.  By this time, the sun was almost down behind the trees and his buddy was calling for him from the barn.  Time to call it quits for the day.  While the sun was setting on our lesson, the future is looking bright for Ike!