Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Stills

The assignment for this week was texture. I had fun with this one!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saddle Success

Much better ride on Boo today!!! That is the beauty of riding. One day it's frustrating and feels difficult and the next it's completely different. This was my first ride since I had the shims put in my saddle. I worried it was going to feel wrong, but it never did...and the best part? No backache. Now things weren't perfect. We had to work at round but we did have some nice moments and I felt much more patient. That's always a good thing. I think some of my problem is my inconsistency with working Boo. I let the summer and how busy we were interfere and I still haven't gotten back to my old routine. I need to commit! I have a clinic with Trainer Tracey in a couple of weeks and another clinic with Bernadine at the end of February. I'm committing myself to working hard between now and those clinics. I want them to see progress! I'm going to sit down tomorrow and outline a plan for my rides this coming week. I want to get in at least 4 rides a week with the hope that I'll get in 5. I'm going to work on specific things each ride and use all those lovely books I have on my bookshelf to help me decide what exercises will help me accomplish my goals for each day. My ultimate goal is to increase the communication and harmony between myself and Boo to the extent that I can start riding in some dressage schooling shows. I am scared to death of showing, so that will be a bit of a challenge for me which I think is a good thing.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I went to Hillsboro today to have the shims put into my saddle which Bernadine recommended at our last clinic. I'm looking forward to riding in the saddle to see how it works for me. It will probably feel wrong at first, but I am sure I will get use to it. While I was there I looked for a loose-ring snaffle bit also recommended by Bernadine. Since they didn't have one in my size I ended up ordering one. I got a KK Herm Sprenger Aurigan. Spendy bit, but I think it's going to work out well. I ended up getting a new pair of black reins too. Tack shops are dangerous places for me to be spending my time as you can see.

Tuesday I had the equine chiropractor come out to work on both horses. I use to be a bit of a sceptic when it came to chiropractors. A few years ago Bay had some problems and our trainer at the time recommended Mark. That man worked wonders with Bay. I'm not kidding. I have been a believer ever since. I don't have Boo worked on as often as I'd like, but he gets a couple of spa days a year and Tuesday was the first one for 2010.

Before Mark got there I had a ride on Boo. We were working on our homework from the Bernadine clinic. Sigh...sometimes it just seems so hard. My legs were so tired from asking. We finally got the forward I needed but only after I had to smack him with my dressage whip (He bucked. He always bucks when I have to use the dressage whip for more than just a tap tap tap). Once he did what I'd been asking him to do I called it a day and took him outside to walk through the big puddle. We warmed up on a couple of small ones first. I walked over to the big puddle. He stopped. I gave him a long rein. He sniffed at the water. I gave him a nudge with my overly tired legs. He walked through the water like it was no big deal!!! I don't know if he's finally getting over his resistance to water or if the memory of the dressage whip was still fresh in his mind. I don't care. I'm just glad we didn't have to fight about it. It's not always like this. In fact most of the time we really have fun. Maybe we're coming up on a break through. Yeah! That's it! We are gonna take a giant leap in our riding relationship any day now. I just know it ;)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bernadine Clinic Part II

Once I had all my tack adjusted properly I was asked to take Boo on a circle at the walk to see how he would behave with the martingale adjustment...we then went into a trot. He seemed to be okay with it. No head in the rafters like I usually get, but then again he wasn't entirely martingale free either. Boo is essentially a lazy boy, and going forward in a relaxed frame is something that takes a lot of work to get him to do. Sometimes it feels like he's just chugging along and other times it takes a lot of leg to get him there. It's exhausting! Bernadine told me not to nag. I'm to ask once with a light leg aide. If he does not respond with a surge of energy into what I'm asking for, be it a lengthening or a gait change, I am to kick him hard enough to put him into the next gait up then bring him back down and ask again. I'm to keep doing this until he is awake, listening, and responsive to my cues. I could use a dressage whip if I didn't want to kick but I have found that whip equals buck, so I usually opt for the kick. Of course when I kicked him he would jump into the next gait with his head in the air and trot or canter around indignantly. I praised him for the attention I was being given and brought him back and asked again with a light leg aid. He's a quick study and it didn't take him long to figure out that he should not tune me out.

Once we had him tuned in to me on the circle at trot and canter we went on to lateral work. I would trot around the arena turn up the quarter line and ask for a leg yield to the wall. We found that Boo was ignoring me in this movement too. Bernadine had me stop each time I asked for leg yield but didn't get it and sidepass him to the wall. I was essentially saying to him rather forcefully "I said go sideways!" This took a bit longer than the work on the circle but eventually Boo started moving over at a crisp pace without lollygagging around. One thing he did try to do before we got to that point was try to speed up rather than go sideways. When he did that we stopped and sidepassed again. After all Bernadine had said to leg yield not go faster.

It was one of those lightbulb moments for me. I realized that I had to know exactly what I was asking for when I asked my horse to do something. I had to know exactly how to ask him, and I had to know exactly what I was going to do if he didn't respond in the way I wanted him to. In other words if I wanted an obedient, light, responsive horse I had to ride with a plan and be consistent. I had been saying Boo was lazy and that was true, but apparently so was I. When I bought Boo he was a well-trained horse. I had inadvertantly retrained him through my inexperience. I had retrained him not to stay attentive and respond on a dime. I had deprived him of a leader. No wonder I he acted like a spooky pony.

I know this won't be easy (retraining myself) but I at least recognize now that I need to do it. I am going to be a horse trainer. Something I should have been all along.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Busy Weekend

Rode Boo on Thursday after cleaning off all the mud. He likes to roll in the mud...a lot! The weather was mild and it was not raining, so the barn was a very pleasant place to be. I thought I was going to be all by myself, but Gen showed up to ride Zorro and a bit later Tracey showed up to ride Chynna. I was glad to have the company. My ride was just okay. We've been having issues with Boo leaning on the bit. I struggled with that some. I can usually get him to start holding himself up and get him forward and round, but it takes some time to do it. I figured I would work on that in my next lesson which happened to be the coming Saturday with Bernadine at Crosby Creek. After my ride and while I was cleaning up Tracey and Gen showed off by showing me how easily they could get their horses to not only cross but stand in the water. Bah! Humbug!

My sister Chele came over from Central Oregon on Thursday night. There was a Gem Faire in Hillsboro at the Washington county fairgrounds over the weekend, and we planned on being there bright and early on Friday. After stopping at Starbucks and then picking up our jewelery designer buddy Rhonda, we headed out for some expensive kind of fun. Whoo Hoo! Bead show!!
With the farrier, worming, and the equine chiropractor coming in the next week, I had to be a bit more conservative than I would have liked. I did manage to get the beads I needed to finish a necklace I have been planning and I bought some gorgeous shimmery red and orange beads that kept catching my eye. Don't know what I will do with them yet, but I will figure something out. The red beads really do shimmer and they are a bit deeper red than they look. My flash has washed them out.
Saturday I attended a clinic with Bernadine Diers out at Crosby Creek Stables. I love going to her clinics because they are low-key and I always come away feeling like I have learned something. This time was no exception. My warm up went smoothly. Boo didn't do any "BOO" kind of things. We walked, trotted, and cantered. All was well...I thought.
When the lesson began Bernadine asked me what I wanted to work on, and I told her about Boo leaning on the bit and feeling heavy in my hands. In the dressage world it does seem like you are suppose to feel some weight in your hands when the horse is on the bit. I told her that sometimes my shoulders and neck hurt when I was finish with my ride. She came over to me and took hold of the reins just above the bit and started pulling on them and asked me to tell her when the weight in my hands felt about the same as when I rode. She agreed that Boo wasn't being honest and carrying himself. She asked me about my martingale, and I told her it was it was probably not really needed, but it was a crutch for me (I have some fear issues after my accidents plus I don't call him Boo for nothing) and that whenever I tried to ride without it Boo immediately started going around the ring with his nose in the air. Bernadine said that was a sure sign that he had gotten into the habit of using the martingale to rest on while he was traveling around instead of carrying himself.
Bernadine decided my martingale wasn't adjusted properly and she adjusted it for me. This way there would be better alignment and Boo would not be able to use it as a crutch so easily. She counseled me to work on weaning myself from it :) While doing this she noticed that I had a D ring snaffle and told me to try to find a loose-ring snaffle instead. This also makes it more difficult for the horse to lean on the bit. "Oh, and by the way did you know that you have your stirrup leathers are attached backwards and your knee blocks are upside down?" Okay, now I'm thinking what the heck? I feel like crawling into a hole!!! She also told me I lean forward just a tad and it's not me it's my I need to go get some wedges that can be inserted into my saddle to level it. I have to tell ya ladies, I have been riding in this saddle exactly the way it was for the past 5 years. The last thing she noticed was I have snaps attached to my reins and I use the snaps to attach the reins to the bit. She asked me if I changed reins a lot. When I told her I did'nt she said she thought I would feel Boo's mouth better and it would be less jarring on him if I attached the leather to the bit instead, so we've changed that too.
Now, finally, we start the actual lesson but I think I will leave that for the next post ;)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Book for the Horse Lover

I am one of those people who has be reading something all the time. I normally have more than one book going at a time. Usually there will be a novel or mystery by my bedside along with something from the nonfiction genre. A lot of the time it's something to do with horses. One of my Christmas presents this year was a book about rescuing Thoroughbred racehorses. An excellent book written by Anne Reardon, it tells the story of a woman who changed her life completely. She moved from an office job in Washington D.C. to Texas and started an adoption program that has given second chances to racehorses through both her LOPE ranch and a website listing service that she maintains.

The author describes her experience with horses as those of an adult beginner. It was easy to relate to her dreams and to be interested in her struggles and the colorful people she met along the way. She told the reader the stories of the horses. She recognized the personality behind each horse, and by the time I finished reading about each one I felt I knew them and rooted for them...even the ones I would have been overwhelmed by.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Riding lessons

Does anyone else love their lesson and yet dread their lesson at the same time? I mean sometimes it just seems like so much work!!! I bought Boo back in 2004. I had been taking weekly riding lessons for about 2 years. I had never really ridden before beginning the lessons. As a matter of fact I basically knew nothing at all about horses other than I was drawn to them. I started out on a pretty much bombproof grade mare. I think she was about 24 years old. I took lessons on her for a year, and then I decided to sponsor her and continue taking lessons on her for another year. Sponsoring just meant that in return for paying a monthly fee towards her keep I could ride her anytime she wasn't being used for a lesson.

On the day of my very first lesson I never even made it onto the horse. The lesson was all about grooming and tacking up. The next week I made it onto her back but I couldn't steer worth beans. Pretty humiliating stuff. Eventually I got to where I could steer at the walk but not the trot, and then I could steer at the trot but not at the canter. Heck, I couldn't even keep the horse in the canter more than a few strides at a time. I didn't give up, although I can't say I didn't think about it. Sometimes as I was driving down the freeway toward the barn I would feel sick to my stomach with a lowgrade fear about what was about to happen. What kept me going back was the way I felt on the drive home. After the lesson I would be on top of the world! I did it! I survived another lesson and I had fun!

Eventually I got good enough to start to specialize a bit in a riding discipline. It wasn't just about not falling off anymore. That's when I began to take lessons in dressage. I liked the concept of harmony between horse and rider. Little did I know what a complicated and difficult discipline it is. All those wonderful riders and wonderful horses in the show ring make it look so easy. It is not easy. It is complicated and detailed and often confusing. It's a very physical discipline. It takes strength and control from both horse and rider. Contemplating a lesson when I am warm and cozy and comfortable at home definitely seems like more work than fun. That drive to the barn still generates apphrehension. What if I'm asked to do something and I am not up to the task. What if my horse is having a bad day and I get dumped. What if...what if... what if... but that drive home has never failed me. I'm on top of the world! I did it! I survived another lesson, and it was fun.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hard -headed gelding

I woke up this morning and the sun was shining. Now that's motivating. DH and I took the dogs for a walk up to Starbucks where he got his tall "shot in the dark," and I warmed up (it was colder out than it looked) with a skinny cinnamon dolce latte. As soon as we got back we changed into barn clothes and headed out to take advantage of a dry day in the Pacific Northwest.

On the way out the DH asked me if I might want to go on a trail ride around the place rather than riding in the arena as I usually do. My first inclination was to say no...Boo gives me a lot of attitude when we get outside his comfort zone. I've been injured enough times to have "attitude" be outside MY comfort zone. Still, I thought about it for a few minutes and decided to cowgirl up and keep the DH company. We had been having a pretty companionable weekend, and I wasn't quite ready for it to end as we went our separate ways.

When we trail ride around the barn we ride in the neigboring farmer's fields unless they're planted, and then we have to ride around the outside edges of the fields. We work really hard to be good neighbors about this. Otherwise we might lose the privilege and then we'd have to trailer out to ride anywhere outside the arena. Both horses were a little hyped up today as we headed out. There was a lot of standing water and a LOT of mud. Neither horse was particularly happy about slip-sliding along. Still we managed to get in about an hour of riding. I didn't even try to get Boo to cross a mud puddle out there. I knew it would either be futile, or I would be out there for hours trying to cajole him across. We had to turn away from the barn a couple of times as the horses were doing a bit of rushing when they thought they were gonna get to go home. In the end it worked out well, although I think I'll wait for it to dry out a bit before I head out there again.

Once we got back to the barn and Boo was back in familiar surroundings, I decided to go ahead with the attempt to cross the water. Our little mud puddle lake was somewhat smaller than it had been, but it's still big enough to cause Boo to balk at crossing it. I had DH go get my camera out of the truck to record my success. Boo had crossed the puddle Saturday numerous times, so I proceeded to head for the water. Boo stopped at the edge...put his head down...snorted...and backed up away from the edge. " Nope" , he seemed to be saying. "Not doing that today." He proceeded to spend the next 15 minutes refusing to go forward across the puddle. We backed up. We sidepassed. We circled. We trotted away. I could feel myself tensing up...getting irritated. DH called me on it and told me I needed to not escalate the situation. Instead I took a deep breath and continued to ask with nudges with my seat and legs. I kept at it and kept at it and kept at it...until... Boo crossed the water. No lead horse necessary. I just out stubborned him. VICTORY... today...

Sunday Stills

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Years Day at the barn

Today the North Valley Chapter of the Oregon Dressage Society and the Canby Equestrian Center hosted a playday at CEC. I couldn't think of a better way to start out 2010 than with our horses and horse people. In spite of the rainy and windy weather, people trailored in and brought food for a potluck. The day started with a Ride-A-Test. Riders chose which dressage test they wanted to ride, and our judge made helpful comments for future use. There was also a walk/trot ring class which was a hoot being it was filled with both western and english-type riders. After the walk/trot class we went into our nice warm rider's lounge and shared a meal.

After lunch it was all about the games! There was a ride-a-buck, musical stalls (a variation on musical chairs), a potato race relay, a water relay, a game called clotheshorse where teams of three competed against one another by racing from one end of the arena to the other and putting on articles of clothing. A great time was had by all!

Even my DH got into the act. He rode the walk/trot class in western gear and he played a few of the games. Between classes he went outside and showed up Boo and I (see my previous post) by riding Bay through the water over and over again.

You may have noticed I said nothing about riding myself. That would be because I didn't ride. I am only just now getting over the stiffness caused by Boo's and my run-in over the water. I thought it the better part of valor to not push things today. I will go out tomorrow and get on for some walk/trot just to see how I do. It's the pits getting older. Pulling muscles is PAINFUL!