Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Finding Center

What do the words Balanced, Centered mean to you?  They have been on my mind quite a bit lately.  To me they mean to me is when life is changing, the world changing, gravity, obligations, reality pulling at you. That you being so centered, focused and balanced that nothing moves you.  That your strength is so concentrated in the right areas that you don't start to shift, and change with your surroundings.  You don't have to reach for something to grab on to.  You just stay.  You cannot be moved.  It is beautiful.  It is strong.  It is healthy.  It is comfort. It is happiness, peace, contentment, progress, evolving, forward.  Pretty much everything.  There is so much changing around me.  My entire world for the most part is moving shifting and going in many directions that are new.  That can be unnerving and uneasy.  My time, my schedule, where I live, what I do, when I do it.  All of this can shift my feelings but they do not shake my center.  I am kept together and remain in balance.  In life I have my center, my core kept in balance with God, my husband, my children, my animals.

Balance in riding is equally as important.  I don't just mean being able to stay balanced on a horse.  I have had that skill honed since I was a 10 year old kid.  But I mean both sides of your body weighted perfectly even.  Your weight evenly distributed across the entire surface area that touches the horse.  Your seat bones both with the same amount of pressure in your seat.  Your shoulders even.  Solid through your rib cage and equal on both sides.  No collapsing one way or another.

Having a long riding break can be discouraging but it can also be like pressing the rest button on your position.  When you start to fall into your bad habits and old muscle memory it can mean a world of difference.  I have been starting back slow this year.  And by slow I mean slower than you are probably thinking, nope even slower than that.  Although I have been frustrated by that I have also been using that to my advantage.  We work slow and I have just been paying attention to the small things.  I have been haunted by going to the right for so long now. Every time we go to the right we struggled.  He would fall to the inside, bulge his shoulder in, turning that direction was no fun when you are at full jumping speed on a tight course and in a dressage test it meant we always lacked right bend.  I have done it all to try to fix it.  I have been frustrated because I thought there was something wrong with my horse, that he was crooked and I need to fix it.  I have had instructor after instructor try to help me with this in a hundred different ways.  Finally after a culmination of all of the things I had an eye opening ride a few weeks back and have been progressing in that direction. I realized it was not my horse.  Ha go figure right. Don't get me wrong he is not perfect and has his issues but the going to the right thing was all me.  What was the aha moment you ask?  Finding my right seat bone and concentrating reeeaaally hard to not lose it.  Really, it's life changing those little bones.  Other things go along with this in finding the seat bone but with me essentially what was happening is when I would go right I would tighten up my right side in attempt to use my right leg.  Unintentionally scrunching up my leg, weighting my left seat bone and collapsing my rib cage to the right.  But in finding that seat bone and letting my weight down through it is has a chain reaction where my leg becomes longer, my rib cage opens back up and you see this instant change.  You have a horse moving braced, with his right shoulder bulging and having to steer to the right, I all the sudden see a change, his shoulder moves over, his neck becomes supple and you add leg and the bend around your leg happens.  In reality my horse was crooked but I needed not to fix him but fix me.  He was crooked because I was crooked.  So what does balance mean to me?  Everything.

Ride with Your Mind is life changing people and addicting.
I have heard a million times, "core, core, core, core, core" and while yes core is important you can have a very muscular core and all your muscles in your core tightened and still be completely crooked and sending your horse the complete wrong message.  You need so much more then "core" strength and all the sit ups in the world are not going to fix unevenness.

Balance has much to do with why I am starting school tomorrow morning.  I truly believe that the things I am going to school to learn about human and equine anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, are key in understanding how evenness in your body and your horses body will keep both horse and rider at their best.  Staying centered in your body will help keep you centered in your mind and it will help your riding in ways you never realized it could, it will help your horses comfort, soundness and over all health.  I am excited yet apprehensive.  This process is going to be a big sacrifice for myself and my family for the next 13 months.  If I didn't believe whole heartedly that it was that important and life changing for people then I wouldn't be doing it. I know I will have to remind myself many times over the next year about how important it is and not to get discouraged.

Here's to the world spinning around us but us being so balanced that we keep moving forward and not be lost in the unbalance of uncertainty.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Spinning

I feel like my head spins with all the info I want to share on here, but then there is too much that I don't post.  I want the posts to be interesting and not a ramble of all the things.  That is the reason I am so sporadic on here.  Here is me doing my best not to ramble. 

Remember that last post that I said something like, "Oh Novice, shmovice, yaaaawwwnn."?  Yeah well apparently cross rails are cause for melt downs so I may have gotten a bit ahead of myself.  Things this spring have gotten off to such a good start and silly me kind of expected them to keep heading in that direction.  I mean I jumped the Haffie pony the other day and she was kick ass awesome and sooooo fun!  Now I am thinking I should trade in my 17 hh fancy pants for a 14 hh tank of a pony.  Haffie jumped everything I pointed her at with excitement.  Fancy Pants  hemmed hawed and melted down about poles on the ground.  Stumbling over trot poles, planting his feet and flipping his head on the landing side of a cross rail.  For goodness sake!  I was going to jump a baby grid with a couple 2'3"-2'6" jumps but noooooo.  We never got passed lets get over one cross rail at time with out bolting off or spazzing out.  So that is what we did.  Jumped cross rails until Sir FP could jump them quietly and land in a nice collected, manageable canter.  Sheesh.  So we are going to be going back down to Green as Grass division this year and deferring back to I am 14 but act like I am 3 so I can't do big pony stuffs any more.  Kidding.  Kind of.  Dingus.

Here are some videos of adorbs pony jumping like it was what she was born to do.  (trying to get media ready for a sale ad for her :( )  Seriously, if I could just shrink or she could just grow about 1 more hand I would take her eventing, fox hunting, dressage shows, jumpers, hunters, everything!  She is so uncomplicated and  I mean she can literally do it all.  She loves jumping, she is super brave XC, she has won trophies in Western Pleasure, Hunters, she drives, I could seriously do combined driving on her in a heart beat and she is so darn cute. Le sigh, but she is not 1 hand taller and I don't plan on shrinking any time soon and she is not the best fit for an 11 year old kid so I must sell her.  So for now, enjoy the cuteness.
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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Spring is for blooming

I feel like life has been breathed back into me.  My horses are slowly but surely loosing their winter coats and there is short shiny coats on the way!  Grass is growning, trees are turning green and I rode in a tank top today!  All the horses/ponies are getting worked.  This has been the first year since I have owned him that Steady has felt like he was a bonafide trained horse after so many months off.  I got on  and he got to work.  Doing the whole dressagey thing.  His canter is lovely but it has always been an issue when he is not super fit. I love that he comes back into fitness so quickly.  I swear I looked at him yesterday and I felt like he was an overweight middle aged hippy and today he is looking like a stud in his prime.

My 11 year old daughter has been having a blast on the little pony we are leasing.  And it has made her realize that riding is more fun when you don't have to fight a green pony every ride.  It has also made her agree that selling Lily is what is best for her right now.  So we will be getting Lily back into working mode then getting a sale ad together.  She WILL make a great pony for someone.  I jumped her today for the first time in over 7 months and it was like she never skipped a beat.  She loves jumping and her canter has improve SO much over this winter it is like riding a different animal.  She has amazing uphill transitions.  Like more uphill than I have ever felt on Steady.  She can still get down hill during the canter but for a pony that was incapable of cantering on a circle just months ago it is a whole new world.

I have my therapy back, being back on a horses back so all is right in my world.  I fear that competing, clinics and even lessons will suffer this year.  I start massage therapy school in just two weeks and I have no idea what to expect and how I am going to balance it all.  Also I will be paying a school bill each month which will mean less excess money for non essentials.  Though I tend to believe me competing is actually an essential expense, Ryan does not agree and I can see where he is coming from.  But what this does mean that in just over a year I will be making money and then this money issue will not stand in my way of getting where I want to go!

We will still get out this year you can be sure of that.  It just may not bet the 4-5 recognized events that I would love to do if life, money and responsibilities were not an issue.  And though it seems a bit strange the idea of competing Novice this year actually sound a bit boring.  Strange right!?  So we will be stepping up our game this year and move ourselves along.  Steady is game.  I am game.  Why not?!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Real Rolex Rockstar

I am telling you I am obsessed. 
When the obsession started: Nearly the end of the cross country day at Rolex. I had spent hours upon hours walking miles and miles.  Watching horse after horse, jump, jump after jump.  I saw great ones, scary ones, beautiful ones.   There really is nothing like XC day at Rolex.  And the weather, oh my lovely!  The day was nearly over.  Just two horses still on course and the day was over too soon.  My two wonderful daughters and my new super cool Rolex buddy M had migrated our way to jump 25,  The Kentucky Cabins.  I saw about 3 horses come through and each one though they made it through looked like they were happy to be closing in on the finish line. Two even giving the question a second look but in the end were obedient and cleared the combination.  Then there was Rocky!  Before this moment knew nothing of this horse and the only thing I knew of the rider was that her number was 74 and it was the girl that was surely just 12 years old that we noticed as we were at the Hollow earlier in the day, walking the course.  I think the conversation with M went something like, "Who is that walking on course?".  "Is she a competitor?".  "I don't know she looks like she is all of 12 years old."  "I guess she is since she is wearing a number."  "That is insane, she looks so young!".

As I watched the duo near the jump I saw something I hadn't yet seen this far into the course.  The horse fighting his rider to let him run faster.  Libby was obviously trying to set her horse up well to the combination. Others had come through and I had heard grunting.  Seen whips swatting but none having to say, hey dude chill out.  He flew over them just 2 question from the end of a 4* XC course.  Not to mention he was a little dude.  The next words out of my mouth after I picked up my jaw off the ground was, "That HAS to be a thoroughbred!"  That's it I was officially obsessed.

Fly little guy, fly!!


On the way to the vet box we were scouring the program to learn more of this tiny but mighty horse.  He was indeed a thoroughbred.  Only 15.1 hands, the shortest horse out there, 16 years old and his first Rolex.  The rider Libby Head was not 12 but was just 22 and her first 4* as well and she the youngest rider out there!  At the vet box the little guy stood next the great Arthur which made him look even smaller.  Though Arthur is truly a beautiful specimen I could not take my eyes off this amazing little ball of fire that was still doing a bit of dancing post Rolex XC run.  After Libby had taken Sir Rockstar back to the barns I asked the grooms if Libby owned him and they said  yes.

I have been searching the internet since and have found all I can on the feisty pair.  I have friended Libby on facebook and put in a request to Eventing Nation to interview Libby.  They told me they are "on it" so I am excited to see what they learn.  I have looked up his race record and have read and watched all I can find on them.

Rolex is amazing!  The riders are world class.  But so many at the top of the list are, yes, the best riders in the world but they have their pick of the litter.  Money, though often times not their own, to spare when it comes to what they ride and how they are brought along.  I do not mean to discount these riders because I too am in awe of them.  But when a story like Libby and Rocky comes along I think it gives hope that the sport, while an expensive one, is not entirely ruled by the one with the fattest checking account.  But a 22 year old with a rescued OTTB can bring her horse up the levels.  Surely a horse no one else ever saw 4* potential in and completely WOW a crowd of people with their presence and shine like stars. Proving to the world that they belong at the top!

They were one of only a small handful of people with a double clear show jumping round and ended their first Rolex experience 19th amidst some famous names.  They, in my eyes, were the true rock stars of Rolex 2014.  I am sure it is not the last we have heard of this dynamic duo!

If you, like me, love the thoroughbred and like to research stuffs like this here is his race record and pedigree.
USEA article about their run at Fair Hill
EN Intercollegiate article
EN Rolex Rookies article
Their XC at Rolex