Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Some Pictures

I haven't ridden lately, because I'm lazy. Well, actually, it rained Saturday night and was still too wet on Sunday. Then it rained Monday night. Last night I was just being lazy.

Sunday was a beautiful day, aside from being too soggy to ride, so I took the opportunity to take some pictures:

Spider standing in the field. The grass isn't really that high, I squatted down to take the picture. He was standing in a mud puddle and I didn't want that in the shot. I like the effect, though.











Here's another shot of Spider in a different light. I like how he looks like he's a completely different color in this light. I think he's technically a "seal bay". During summer his coat is reddish with black points, but when his winter coat comes in he's nearly black.














Here's a lovely one of Spider's free walk. Now if only he would do that under saddle!

Just ignore the over-turned feed tub, I couldn't figure out how to photoshop it out. I tried photoshopping one of the weeds in the background over it, but that just looked silly.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Changes

No, not lead changes.......Blog Changes! I'm feeling artistically inspired (Thanks to Kate of A Year With Horses). So, for a little while my blog might look like a hot mess. Let me know if it's better or worse. Don't worry about critiquing me, I have very thick skin. I'm actually one of those weirdos who thrives on critisism. After all, my favorite saying is: You'll never learn anything until you screw it up real good!

I just re-read those last three sentences and I realized that thriving on critisism and learning everything through screwing it up pretty much defines the sport of dressage. Psychologists should define a new neurosis based on the minds of dressage riders..... It's half sado-masochism, 1/4 low self esteem, and 1/4 delusions of grandeur!

I Need a Warm-up Rider

Yesterday was beautiful, perfect temperature, no flies....just lovely! My trainer wanted to use Spider in a lesson in the morning, just light work to help someone find their seat, so I planned on popping over after the lesson to ride him when she was done. It was a perfect plan, by the time I got there he was tacked up and warmed up. I felt like a professional! I was able to get on and immediately start working on the things I wanted to work on, without having to be bothered with that pesky warm-up.

Spider is no spring chicken. It takes a good 20-30 minutes to get his joints moving. Unfortunately, I'm not in that great of shape myself. Which means that by the time I get him warmed up I'm far too pooped to actually work on anything. It's a vicious cycle that has resulted in, well...nothing.

But yesterday after the lesson Spider was already mostly warmed up, thanks to the lovely young lady who took a lesson on him (and did a great job on him, also). All I had to do was some lateral work and he was ready to go. We worked on some lengthenings, since lengthenings are usually a disaster because I'm too tired to keep him together. But since I was fresh they came out very nicely. Well, on the first canter lengthening it took me half the arena to get him back, but it was still a good lengthening (and fun!) I tried a few simple changes, but he still doesn't really have the fitness to do them, and I don't have the timing down well enough to try to force it. The lengthenings were enough of a workout for one day, anyway. I'm a little sore this morning from them, I'm sure Spider is, too.

If we get a break in the rain I'll be out again today. I won't have a warm-up rider, though. Bummer.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lateral Work and Slacking


I've been slacking a little this week, I've only ridden 3 times. Right now the biggest roadblock in my pursuit of perfection is my horse's fitness level. I know he is capable of doing most of the 3rd level work, but with him (and me) being out of shape the finesse just isn't there and the work is inconsistent. I really need to work harder on getting out and riding. I know he has issues with his hocks and stifles, and I know the best thing for his issues is consistent exercise. What I need is a 36 hour day. And some sort of IV caffeine delivery system!


I've been doing a ton of lateral work lately. I like lateral work because A) it helps with suppleness, B) it helps with collection and C) I think it's really fun to say "renvers" and "travers". I've also found that with the older fellows (Spider is 14) a simple walk-trot-canter warm-up just doesn't get their creaky joints flowing anymore.

So we've been doing travers, renvers, shoulder in and leg yields pretty consistently. Half pass is still hit or miss. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don't. It all depends on whether or not he's really in front of my leg...... Doesn't everything?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Straightness

I've been slacking on posting here, but I have been riding.

And I had another epiphany last week....

Spider often has difficulty getting into the outside rein when tracking left, which then causes all kinds of problems with steering and lateral work. The fix for this is to use more inside leg pressure to drive the horse into the outside rein, but for some reason this doesn't always work for Spider. It's pretty much been the bane of my existence as a rider. I mean, I've had Spider for three years and I still haven't managed to fix this. Fail!

But I digress, back to my epiphany. As I was riding an incredibly crappy 20 meter circle left I was becoming more and more frustrated with myself and my horse. He was falling in onto his left shoulder, my outside rein was flapping in the breeze and my circle was becoming an egg. Ordinarily when this happens, I stop what I'm doing and do a few turns on the haunches, then return to the exercise. But this time I was determined to get this straightened out properly. After all, I can't stop and do a turn on the haunches every single time I lose the connection. I'd never get anything done.

So we continued around as I applied my left leg to get him to take the contact (inside leg to outside rein and all that). I put my leg on harder and harder, no result. I tapped him with my leg to wake him up, no result. I used my spur, he went sideways (at least it was a result!) But he was still in and out of the contact. Eventually I did what I always do when I get frustrated and can't figure something out: I stopped what I was doing to re-evaluate the situation.

I, of course, was doing everything right. He just wasn't listening to what I was telling him. Or was he? When I'm having trouble I like to go back to the basics: my position. I ran through all the beginner exercises to put myself back in the proper dressage posture and started again. I put my left leg on and he went sideways....again. And that's when I noticed something very interesting: Every time I put my left leg on, my right seat bone comes completely out of the saddle. All this time I've been trying to get him into the right rein, but I've been leaving a door wide open to allow him to escape the contact! So I tried again, being sure not to let my right seat bone come out of the saddle. Wonder of wonders, it worked! His inside leg came up and my right seat bone was there to catch the movement and squeeze it up through his back and right into the outside rein.

Now why did it take three years to figure that out?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Another Good Ride

And a beatiful day, too. Well, it was overcast....but the temperature was nice. Spider barely even broke a sweat.

He was definitely calmer today. We did a nice long warm-up free walk, then I put him together and warmed up at the trot and canter. He was a bit resistant in the contact today, rooting and coming up above the bit. I may have been a little too hard on his mouth yesterday. Spider tends to get offended easily, so much so that I call him "the little Princess". We worked through it, though. I made sure to keep my hands light and give on the inside when he took the contact and he soon forgave me. That's the nice thing about Spider, he never holds a grudge.

He and I are both woefully out of shape, so we didn't get much accomplished. His canter and walk were good, so I left them alone for now. We did a lot of shoulder in and haunches in and a few leg yields at the trot to loosen him up and get those hind legs moving. In the end I got a really lovely trot out of him, so we called it a day.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Reunited!

I finally got a chance to ride this evening. I think that the most sublime feeling in the world is to be in the saddle.

It wasn't our best work. I haven't ridden in nearly two weeks, so Spider was a bit "rusty". But still, I couldn't help but smile the whole time.

He started out quite fresh. Spider is a very enthusiastic horse, and the combination of time off and cool weather made him full of excess energy. After a few failed attempts to put him together at the walk and trot I decided to just let him canter a bit to blow off some steam. His canter work was suprisingly good. He settled into a good rythm and went nice and round with very little input from me. If only his walk and trot were the same!

I eventually decided to just go with the energy.....I shortened my reins, planted myself in the saddle and pushed him up into the contact. He looked and felt great, so long as we didn't try to do anything tricky like change direction! Unfortunately I've also had two weeks off, so my fitness level was not quite up to directing all that energy. Basically I just sort of sat up there and half-halted to keep him off his forehand while he blew off energy.

In the end I got some good transtitions, a couple good leg yields and had a blast doing it. Tomorrow I'll try to keep the idea of all that forward energy, while directing it where I want it to go.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sacrifices

I haven't gotten much riding done lately. Clarification: I haven't gotten any riding done lately. By the time I'm done with work I'm exhausted, but I still have to go home, cook dinner, play with my daughter a bit, then go to bed because I'm too pooped to do anything else. And the weather's been beautiful, of course.......just to mock me. Needless to say, I am miserable.

On these beautiful days when I'm cooped up in my office, or in my house, I find my mind wandering. It's always the same thought. "What am I doing?"

Years ago, I knew exactly what I was doing. I was riding horses. My work and my passion were the same. I was going to be a professional trainer and live my life doing the one thing I loved more than anything. Then I was injured, so I turned to other pursuits. I went back to school for my Master's degree and got a job at the University.

When my daughter was born, I once again had to re-evaluate my life. I had the choice of either staying home with her, or returning to work. I thought long and hard about the mother I wanted to be, the person I wanted to be and what would be best for my daughter. I decided that I wanted to go back to work. Although, I must admit that the decision may have been made in a bit of a panic. I was a first time mother with a colicky newborn, work was actually a welcome break! But, I also wanted something to show for all the hard work I had put into my degrees. Plus, I thought it would be nice to have extra money to spend on my horse.

I have extra money to spend on my horse, but no time to spend on him. I spend eight hours at work, then an hour commute home, chores, dinner, squeeze in a ride if there's time, bed, rinse and repeat. I ride less now than I did when I was dead broke, trying to train myself and begging not to be thrown out of the barn I was at because "I swear I'll have the rest of the money next week!"

So here I sit, in my office, on a beautiful day when the only thing I want in the world is to be riding my horse or playing with my daughter. And I'm thinking again about the kind of mother I want to be, the kind of person I want to be, and what is best for my daughter.

What am I doing?

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