Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is probably my favorite holiday.  I just love dressing up and carving pumpkins and humiliating my pets....


"Jack" O' Lantern.  Get it?
This didn't last long, as shortly after I finished it Jack decided to show me exactly what he thought of my art work by rolling in the dirt:

And that was the end of that.



Spider went with a more understated, but still festive, look.

Classy



Vinny was supposed to be a zebra, but as soon as he saw me coming with the paint and stencils he took off in the opposite direction.  I guess he still remembers what I did to him last year:


Halloween 2012.  I used Kool-Aid, and he was orange until spring.
Despite wanting no part of having his costume painted on, he did come back around long enough to photo-bomb my Jack O' Lantern:
"Boo!"

Happy Halloween!!!!!!!!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Welcome Back, Left Leg

As most of you already know from following this blog, 8 years ago I broke my back in a riding accident.  The accident left me with a weak left leg that didn't always do what I told it to and was mostly numb (which is a plus when your horse stands on your foot, but not so much when you need to know whether or not your leg is on your horse).  And then I have other complications on top of that that aren't helping matters.  I had pretty much given up on ever getting much use back and have mostly just been trying to figure out how to work around it.

On Tuesday, I decided to have a late night ride under the full moon.  I love riding at night when the moon is full, especially in the fall. It's so nice and crisp out, but not cold yet. Just right.

I didn't run this through any filters or photo editing.  It just came out like this on it's own.  Kinda neat.

On this particular evening, Spider was being rather crappy about bending left and that was severely disrupting my enjoyment of our moonlight ride. I got annoyed, and when that didn't help, I got mad.

I've been practicing being better balanced in the saddle, keeping my weight squarely over both seat bones and my hands balanced on either side of my horse, even though that makes it harder for me to use my left leg.  Since my accident, the only way for me to get my left leg on is if I sort of contort and lean off to the left.  But, contorting and leaning off to the left side leaves my right side wide open, allowing Spider to slip out the side door and making my half halts non-existant. I need my outside aids for collected work, so I've been trying to stop leaning, even if it means giving up my left leg.  I figured if people can ride with no legs, then I can do it with just one and I'd make up for it some other way.  I've also been working more on strength training out of the saddle in the hope that it would help me compensate.

I guess all that work on balance and strength is working.  On Tuesday evening I got mad and, without even thinking about it, I put my my left leg on my horse.  And I did it without compromising the rest of my position. I put my left leg on him, and closed him in with my outside aids so that he had no choice but to suck it up and bend.  I didn't do it on purpose, it was just an instinct.  I guess I was mad enough that the part of my brain that knows how to ride over-rode the part that remembers that my left leg doesn't work.  And, "Surprise!", my leg works again!

I'm not sure who was more surprised, me or him.  In the entire time I have owned Spider, I have never put my left leg on him like that.  I've never been able to, as I bought him after my accident.  I do know that I was a lot happier about it than he was.  No more half-assing it for Spider, now he actually has to bend left and I can do something about it when he doesn't.

Now, I'm still not at 100%.  Far from it.  My left leg is still much weaker than my right, but it's gaining strength.  I know that because I have muscles in my back and hip that are really, really sore right now, but that's a good sign!  I'll take it!





Saturday, October 12, 2013

Water-proofing

New Jersey has been inundated with wind and rain for the last few days.  Hopefully, this isn't a preview of what winter will be like.  I prefer my winters like my wines: dry.

When we have this type of weather, I'm always surprised at my horses' reactions.  Well, I guess after four years I'm not really "surprised", anymore.  Just annoyed. Before coming to live here they were all kept in stalls, either in show barns or racing barns.  My set up here is that they can come and go as they please.  I have two shed row barns, 5 stalls total, that I leave open for them to come and go as they need.  Before a storm, I always bed the stalls as deep as I can with nice fresh straw so they'll have a nice and cozy respite from the weather. They mostly view my efforts as snack time.

"Check it out, you guys.  She totally left food in here again!"

They'll stand in their stalls, happily munching on my straw bedding, until the actual storm hits.  Then they all go outside, butts into the wind and heads down, until the storm has passed.

They've even convinced poor, innocent little Jack that this is a good idea.


This wet weather has motivated me to start water-proofing my leather goods for winter.  For most of the year, I'm rather hands-off with my leather.  I have a dry cloth that I use to wipe the dirt and sweat off after every use and I oil it if it looks dry, but other than that I don't do much with it. Some people think you should wash leather goods frequently, but I disagree.  Water rots the leather and stitching, and if you wipe it down every use it doesn't accumulate enough grime to need much washing anyway.

But, in the wet and yucky winters of New Jersey, I do find that leather needs a bit more protection.  It needs some water-proofing.  So, come fall I start coating all my leather in beeswax.  Why beeswax?  Because it's it's inert, it's water-resistant, it won't rot leather or stitching, and several years ago a very attractive man with a sexy Australian accent sold me a tub of it at a Horse Expo.

Water-proofing supplies.  The margarita is optional, but very helpful.  



You could also use mink oil.  I used to use mink oil, and it worked perfectly, but it isn't sold by attractive men.  However, I'm almost out of my beeswax, so if you know of any leather water-proofing products sold by attractive men, I'm all ears.




Monday, October 7, 2013

Kindergarten

My daughter started Kindergarten a couple weeks ago, which has made our life a little hectic, but in a good way.  She's very excited to be going to school and meeting new friends.  Every day she brings home a folder full of her daily projects so that we can see she what she's doing and supplement it at home.  At first I was a bit concerned, because the material they were covering seemed pretty basic. They're covering the alphabet and numbers, things my daughter already knows.  I was worried she might get bored and start acting up or zone out.  But, she attacks all her projects with all the enthusiasm of a Thoroughbred.  I suppose she's learned from the best.

Spider and I have gone back to Kindergarten, too.  I've been having issues with some of the "tricks", the half passes and flying changes.  Working on them wasn't helping, nor was practicing suppling exercises like shoulder-in and haunches in.  Spider was in and out of the contact and I was getting frustrated.  It was time to go back to basics.


The real Training Scale, courtesy of Hillbilly Farms.

I took Spider onto a 20m circle and really concentrated on what I was doing and feeling.  And I noticed  that, no matter which direction the rest of my body is pointing, my pelvis is always pointing left.  It's subtle, I bet it can't even be seen from the ground.  Actually, I know it can't be seen from the ground, because I've seen pictures of myself riding and didn't notice it.  I'm my own worst critic, so if it was obvious, I would have noticed.  It also explains why Spider does better at half pass left and right lead to left lead changes, I'm always subconsciously cuing for them.

For several rides I just took up a 20m circle and concentrated on pointing my pelvis in the correct direction.  We did transitions between and within gaits and shoulder and haunches-in on the circle, but all I focused on was pointing my pelvis in the right direction and keeping it there.  The difference was amazing.  No more coming in and out of the contact, he was steady.  After several rides of just concentrating on training me, we tried the half passes and changes again. Suddenly, Spider understood what I wanted.  He wasn't trying to sort out my conflicting cues and we were back in business.

Our next show is November 3rd, and this will be the last time we show 3rd level, because we're going to nail it.  Maybe...







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