Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How wet was it?

No horses since Christmas Eve. I have had my family here for the holidays. Everyone went home last night and I was exhausted, but I knew before my head hit the pillow that I would be headed to the barn today come rain or come shine. As it turns out it was wet. How wet was it? I have never seen so much standing water around the barn. One side of the mares pasture was flooded and water was running across the entrance to the facility and into a field on the other side of the road. On the drive out I passed through instances of water on the roadway to numerous to count. On the drive back the water was even higher.
Boo's pasture was pretty muddy, but at least the horses were standing on high enough ground that they weren't sinking up to their fetlocks. Of course Boo wouldn't come to me at the gate. No, I had to hike all the way to the back of the pasture to get him. Once I had him inside and had his blanket off I was relieved to see that even with all the wind and blowing rain he was relatively dry. We were cleaned up and tacked up in no time. I had cleaned his feet by leading him through every mud puddle I could find on my way into the barn. It made short work of the mud on his hooves and my boots too.
Trainer Tracey was there as usual working all the horses she normally rides. I think there are 6 of them that she rides most days of the week. That's not counting when she has to get on one of the horses belonging to her lessoners. Like Baythoven. Some of the other boarders were there too. Still there was plenty of room in the arena to ride Boo. We are still working on connection...sigh...I think we might be working on connection forever. It did end up well though, and we did work in walk, trot, and canter. I have fleeting moments where I am doing something right and Boo responds to that and it feels beautiful. At the end of today's ride I tried to do some work without stirrups. It is evident that I NEED to be doing this kind of work. I was unsteady and unbalanced. Especially in the stops. By the end I finally got ONE stop where I didn't pitch forward in the saddle. Geez! How long have I been riding? This stuff should be old hat by now.
I am going to work 2-point and without stirrups every ride until I am secure with both. Assuming I don't fall of first and break something.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sunday Stills

Now that's a big Santa!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Pineapple Express strikes again

We bought this house brand new 15 years ago. My husband fell in love with the space, and I fell in love with the light. I thrive on light...you might even say I need all this light. I have floor to ceiling windows on 3 walls in the family room...oh heck, every room has great windows. The house also has 5 skylights. One in the entry, one in the family room, one in my art room, and one in both bathrooms upstairs. Last winter the skylight in the family room sprung a leak. I noticed it when the wet stain ran out of the skylight box onto the ceiling. I had someone come out and they recommended replacing the skylight, which we did. I had never had a skylight replaced before, so I was not aware that once they pulled it out and replaced it with a new one there would be trim work to be done. The company that replaced the skylight didn't bother to tell me this either. It wasn't so noticeable standing under it and looking up, but from the landing at the top of the stairs it was obvious that trim work needed to be done. For the past year I have looked at that unfinished trim work and water stain on my family room ceiling, and it has always upset me that the job was never finished.

The pineapple express has brought me full circle. I have two more leaking skylights and two more water stains on my ceiling. I noticed them almost immediately. I spent Friday doing research because I was not about to call the company that had replaced the first skylight. On Friday afternoon I had 3 people come out and give me their opinions on what needed to be done. The consensus was replace the skylights. After talking it over with the DH and having the integrity of the remaining two skylights checked, we decided to replace all the old skylights with new energy efficient ones. I'd much rather be putting in new flooring, counter tops, or having my cabinets refaced, but I'm not. I'm doing the expedient thing and saving the structural integrity of my humble abode. Drats!!!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Lesson With Tracey

I got to the barn in plenty of time to bring Boo in, clean him up, and get some warm up time before my lesson. I'm not a big fan of starting a lesson without warming up the horse, and I'm also not a big fan of using precious lesson time to do the basic work of warming up. I need the warm up at least as badly as the horse does anyway.

It had started raining about the time I left home to drive out to the barn. The rain was making quite a bit of noise on the metal roof by the time I was in the saddle. Trainer Tracey would have to speak up if I was going to hear anything she had to say. I told her what I had been working on and what my successes were as well as my struggles. We talked about what I had been doing to supple Boo in previous rides. She cautioned me to be careful of just following a formula for suppling. She reminded me that riding is all about communicating with the horse. Getting lost in my own rigid ideas about how to go about that communication was interfering with what I was trying to do. I needed to focus less on getting to the end result and more on the process.

We started just standing in the arena while she had me gently flex Boo from side to side while watching for the flip at the poll that comes each time I changed directions. I had read about this before, and I got pretty excited to see it in action. We started walking in a circle and I flexed Boo to the inside by softly sponging on the inside rein. She had me open the inside rein at the same time. I can't really explain this. I just know that what I was doing was inviting Boo to soften and chew on the inside rein, which he did. All the while I had to ask him to keep moving forward at a rhythmic walk with my legs. In the beginning he would try to ignore my leg and I would lift it off and give him a kick to say "pay attention." Other times I would give him a light tap with the whip. I think the tap with the whip works better, so that is what I intend to use from now on. We eventually went from a walk that felt a bit sticky to one that felt like it was rolling underneath me.

Once we started the trot work keeping him from slowing down on the circle was key, keeping my seat in even contact was key, keeping myself from contorting my body was key, not looking into the circle was key, and trying to stabilize my lower leg was key. There were so many key issues!!! It was very apparent that I was especially weak on my right side. I don't know exactly what I need to do in order to strengthen and open that hip. Maybe some of you can give me advice? Tracey did say I should do more work without stirrups, which I will do. I had a paradigm shift during this lesson. My new goal is not to focus so much on what I want the end result of my riding to be. Instead the goal will be to relax, learn, and let us both enjoy the process.

I have a lot of work to do. Boo has a lot of work to do, but I have more. He is perfectly capable of performing exactly as I want him to as long as I give him a clear understanding of what it is I am asking and get out of his way.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Things to consider

Great ride on Sunday. I got out to the barn around noon. It was sunny but windy when I left home. East wind. COLD wind. At the barn I was far enough from the gorge that there was no east wind, so it was warmer. I was amazed to see that I was the only one there! I had thought for sure the place would be crawling with people taking advantage of the good weather.

It didn't bother me at all to be the only one there. While most times I love the camaraderie at the barn it is also nice to have the quiet to concentrate on what Boo and I need to work on. Boo was perfectly willing to come to me in the pasture (he knows I always have treats). There hadn't been any rain in a few days so mud was at a minimum. Boo's lightweight rain sheet was enough to keep him relatively clean. I am so glad I got one with a neck cover because it helps to keep his mane clean too.

It didn't take long to clean him up and tack him up. I have to admit I wasn't wasting any time either, as I was sure I wouldn't be alone for long. We started out with our requisite 10 minute walk, quickly put him in front of my leg, and started suppling shortly thereafter. I'm not going to tell you he went right into it, but I did discover that riding the suppling like I had baby birds in my hands (from Sally Swift's "Centered Riding") worked better for me than what I had been doing. Before, I would squeeze the inside rein 3 times and then close my hand on the outside rein and then relax to see if he gave to the bit. If he didn't I did it again. The longer I had to do it the stronger my hands got. Not on Sunday. I just concentrated on asking but keeping my hands soft. He gave to me sooner than he had been and for more strides. "Okay," I thought, "there's one hurdle accomplished."

One of the things Bernadine told me at my last clinic was to sit back on my pockets more. In schooling sessions since then the DH has told me the same thing. He watched my clinic and he is trying to help me. Sometimes I like that and sometimes I don't. Sunday, without him there, I consciously tried to remember to sit back on my pockets more. I found that if I teetered forward at all Boo would try to slow down and even come to a stop. His head would also come up of course. If I stayed back on my pockets no problem!

Finally, I was reading blogs earlier in the week and Annette over at http://www.newsfromaspenmeadows.blogspot.com/ had discussed how she had trouble keeping her thighs rolled in. She knew this because when her thighs weren't rolled in her boot zipper would slide down due to the back of her calves rubbing on her horse. I got to thinking that I don't even consider whether or not my thighs are rolled in. I guess I figured if they were I'd just be using them to hold on during the canter. Instead, when I tried it I found my contact was better, my legs stayed quieter, and my foot was forward instead of turned out. So, now I have another thing to think about ;)

I have a lesson with Trainer Tracey tomorrow. I know I'll have a LOT more to consider by tomorrow night!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Stills

Took this at night. Hand held. Would have been better if I'd had a tripod. My neighbor decorates the tree in his front yard like this every year. You either love it or you hate it. It's growing on me. As my grandson said, "it's unique."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Thank you."

It was raining at the barn when I got out there. I am a really lucky woman to have a dry place to ride all winter long. Boo was in a cooperative mood. It took almost no time at all to get him forward, and the suppling went well too. He had more good moments this time than he did on Sunday, and he had more good moments on Sunday than he did the time before that...so progress. I'll take it.

I tried to stay conscious of my position and my aids. I found myself tensing up at times and when that happened my legs would creep up and my toes would point downward. When I noticed this I would consciously relax. I also found myself turning my right hand down into what trainers have called piano hands, and I had them lower than they should have been. When I noticed this I consciously raised them into my work space and turned my thumbs up.

We did more canter work than I usually do. I actually had one brief wonderful moment when I was able to get a more collected canter using nothing but my seat. I just hope I can repeat that. I think I am finally getting the concept of riding the horse from back to front. No, scratch that! I understand the concept of riding the horse from back to front. What I am finally getting is fleeting moments of understanding how that feels. It's going to take a lot of practice and a lot of hard work. It's going to take getting myself much stronger in my own body. Don't let anyone ever tell you that riding doesn't take fitness. It so does! It's all good though because I love riding enough to do the work.

After the ride I got off, leaned my head against his furry neck, breathed in his horsey smell, and whispered "thank you."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010