Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ride the horse you're on...or not.

I have heard that saying many times, "to ride the horse you are on".  I completely agree with it.  Sometimes we get on with our 'agenda' and sometimes it goes how we want it to but many times we realize that the lovely little dressage pony we were expecting to ride has turned more into an exhuberant fire breathing dragon.  So our 'agenda' must go out the window or we will at best end up frustrated, mad and riding a mad frustrated fire breathing dragon.  But I have to say there should be an optional ending to that saying, "ride the horse you're on, and if all else fails, get the hell off!'  Because sometimes you can take that fire breathing dragon and channel that energy into, galloping work, poles, trotting their butts off or even jumping and other times every avenue you attempt just takes that fire breathing dragon and makes him flip his head repeatedly in the air, or give you his best impression of a giraffe, or he is looking in every direction but where he is going, your best attempts to balance 'his craziness' just makes for more head flipping and falling out through which ever shoulder is not being blocked.  So you try trotting his butt off and there is incredible resistance to every request.  As a last ditch effort you resort to jumping because EVERY fire breathing dragon LOVES to jump.  Which results in run outs.  And that my friends is when I decided that maybe riding was not in the cards, hopped off and called it quits.  So most of the time you should 'ride the horse you are on'  but there are those times that you should, 'get the hell off'.

But of course just getting off and letting it go is beyond my minds ability.  I cannot just forget that every single ride we have had in the last month has blown my mind.  We have had more progress in the last month than I over the past 6, or at least it seems that way.  And now all of the sudden I find myself atop this hot mess of a horse that seems to lost even the ability to trot in a straight line.  So I started thinking and thinking and thinking and a light bulb went on.  I thought this has happened before.  Where?  At event camp.  If you watched the videos of our first lesson at camp with Peter Atkins you can clearly see a happy content horse.  Happy to do his job and working to do as I ask.  Standing patiently as Peter talks and is even is unphased when Peter smacks him on the butt or grabs his head and swings it back and forth.  Then 3 short days later I am riding what feels like one of those flatbed carts at the big hardware stores or they even have them at the feed stores.  You know the ones that have four wheels all on a swivel?  The ones that every attempt to make it go in one direction it inevitably heads in another and then when correcting the problem you end up running into the nearest shelving knocking down the display(not that that has ever happened to me ;).  Yup PITA.  Except this isn't a little cart I am talking about.  I am speaking of an 1100 lb 17 hh horse out in an open field and plenty of energy to take us to timbucktoo.  Who seems like he has no controls installed,  Steering:fail, brakes:fail, giraffe impression:flawless, head flipping:success, rushing off:perfected and a rider clearing not equiped to handle such situations.  See the difference between the first lesson and this one?  Be kind because I am posting a video of work that is NOT pretty but it is reality of training an OTTB in combination with a green rider.(BTW when he is yelling at Amy it is not always me.  there is also another Amy in our lesson)  You wouldn't believe how hard it was to simply hold him back let alone have any control.  I have progressed leaps and bounds from this video and am WAY more equipped to handle this situation than I was then but it took all of that for me to finally 'get it'.  For one I know now when things are that out of control to 'get the hell off'.  See progress :)! 
So if this has happened more than once what is the common denominator?

Also the rest of the XC lesson videos are to come!  Spoiler alert!  There is video of Peter skipping...hehe.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Free lesson!

There is so much great information packed into these videos it's like taking a lesson of your own.  I already posted the first video of this lesson here is several short clips from the same lesson. And youget to watch me and Steady fumble around in front of Peter.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Grids with Peter Atkins. Video, FINALLY!!!!

I took a long break from trying to upload any video from camp because of all the fits it was giving me.  I have been bummed about it because the amount of information that is in the lessons is something worth watching.  You get to see the real Peter in a lesson.  I went back and watched again today and I was amazed at how much I not only retained from it but have put it into practice and have made huge strides toward the exact things he was touching on.  I had so many light bulb moments during camp that I think that was the reason I was less than thrilled after leaving.  I was completely overwhelmed with information which in turn made me feel like a freaking idiot that probably didn't belong in the sport of eventing.  But I have moved on since then.  After a few weeks of  wallowing in the mire and tretcherous summer heat we started back at it.  And one day at a time have really made huge improvement in a small time. 

It seems from the get go Peter started "picking" on me be I just kept a sense of humor about it.  This was the first lesson on the first day. So without further ado this is the first of many videos of lessons from event camp.  This one is about 17 minutes long so if you want to watch the entire thing that gives you an idea.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

One mans trash is another woman's treasure. Salvaging an old flowerbox jump and putting spare lumber to good use.

Months ago our 4-H leader asked if I had any use for some old beat up jumps.   I of course couldn't pass up the offer even if there was a small chance they were at all usable.  One was an old flower box jump and the other and old jump standard.  The standard appears to not be savable but the flowerbox had a little potential.  So with some extra wood pieces laying around that I had saved, I grabbed some power tools and had at it.

Here is what I started with, it's not pretty but a poor resourceful eventer can see the potential.

Pull out old rusty nails.

Sand down old boards and the new boards that will be used as legs.

Grab eight star bit screws.

Star bit screws are a gals best friend.  It eliminates stripping the threads on screws like I have never done of course.

A girl with power tools!  Oh and black pants that may not have been the best choice of apprearal when sanding down old boards.

The almost finished product!  Just needs a new coat of paint and viola and lovely 2ft jump!

Now with my new standards and flower box jump I must decide what colors to paint them.  I think I will go with white with the flower box but the standards and poles I am thinking orange and yellow.  Simply because that color is the ONLY jump Steady has ever refused.  Thoughts?

On another note, our rides just get better and better.  I am madly in love with my horse and though it has taken us a while to feel like we have made any progress I can start to see how far we have come.  He has completely changed as a horse, in a good way.  After a great ride in gorgeous weather this evening I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude especially toward my husband for providing me with this dream.  This is actually far beyond what I have ever dreamed.  I wanted to run inside and give him a big kiss and tell him thank for how hard he works to make all this happen for me and my family but when I came inside I found him sleeping on the couch after a long day at work.  So I instead said thank you by keeping the kids quiet and finishing up all the evening duties so he can get some much needed sleep.  As for my ride tonight I set up a two stride line with the flower box 2' and a cross rail just to get the strides and timing right.  Then I raised the second jump to 2'6" and he rocked it.  BTW finally at 2'6" he finally has to jump a little.  His fitness is really improving and he can comfortably do 20 meter canter circles again.  I am working to still improve balance/moving off my leg/lateral and trot/canter transitions and balance.  With fitness they are getting better and better.  Most impressive is his 'try'.  He gives his all for me every ride.  After what felt like a train wreck at event camp with our balance and steering some things have finally clicked for me.  Peter explained a few times about how when you ask a horse to canter then ask him to bend to the inside you are taking away the horses natrual 'counter balance' by taking his head to the inside.  Though I did not pick it up at camp and never got it then I happy to say I finally got what he was trying to get me to do.  He kept telling me to shift my weight from one foot to the other.  Which I would do but at the time I was only doing it because he was telling me to.  Not because I really got what he was telling me to do.  I cannot say exactly when but at some point over the past two months I finally felt 'it'.  I can now feel mine and Steady's balance and when it is off, my body almost involuntarily corrects our balance by shifting weight.  It is amazing the difference it has made and I can tell Steady is very appreciative because things seem to just come easier for him.  It is amazing to me that one simple thing, balance, can make such massive improvements in every area of our rides.  I now find myself chanting "balance, balance, balance" with each canter stride.  I want it to become second nature to feel that balance so that in the moment on course I can think of other things and that vital balance just becomes natural.  The chanting helps keep my rythym and keeps my mind and body in the moment.  Now that I think of it I am really starting to talk to myself alot while riding...hmmm...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jump fun!!! Standard assembly and video.

Jumps have been a priority to me around here.  Making the move to beginner novice and only having 18" to 2 ft jumps to practice at my house and needing to add height to our work finding ways to do so have been on my brain.  I 'like' on facebook and this link was posted for a video on how to make jump standards.  After watching it I realized I already have everything I needed to make two jump standards.  All except the jump cups.  So I ordered some cheapo jump cups that cost me a whopping $18.00 for 4 including shipping.  So if you watch the jump making video just insert this guys 

 cute face and that is how my new jumps came about.  Yippee!!!   Here are some photos. 

Here is video of our first jumps over them.  I just 'love' my husband and daughter's vote of confidence in our abilities over a little 2'1" jump.  Gotta love them!

We started at 18" an moved them up to only  2'4" and clearly that height is just not a big deal to the big guy.  He just kinda hops over them.  But I am sooooo happy with the change in my jumping position, and my approach,again thank you Peter!  I no longer climb his neck and my leg is solid and no sliding back!!  On approach I sit back, plant my legs, push him forward and wait for him to find his spot.  Yay!  Also I am always open to critiquing, not that I am saying I will do what you say but I don't mind knowing what others see in our work.  In other words poor girl riding lessons :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Video finally. dressage practice test, take 1!

I finally got a video of Steady and I working.  (disclaimer: if you are easily sea sick this video was taken my eight year old.  So watch at your own risk.  There you have been warned so no need to complain about the quality.  She did a pretty good job though.)  I am so so so happy with the progress we have made.  I feel I have event camp to thank for all of it.  So I would say it was definitely worth the money.  In all the lessons I have taken I don't feel like I have gotten more out all of them combined as I did camp.  I have Dorothy Crowell to thank for the lovely improvement in my ability to get Steady to work better, stepping under himself and starting to do 'real' dressage.  And Peter Atkins to thank for the 100% improvement in my jumping position(that to come in the next video post.)  I would like more stretching up and over and having a more rounded movement but one step at a time.  We have really focused on him reaching under himself in our training as of late and from this video you can see some of that put to work in our practice run of BN test B.  The test we will do at the Octoberfest charity schooling show in almost exactly one month.  Keep in mind this is our first run through the test so it needs plenty of work but I am very confindent we will have it down pat by next month.  It starts out nicely with decent trot work.  I spaced the place we were supposed to walk, oops.  Then we got the wrong lead both directions but this I am not too worried about, he gets the correct leads most of the time and of course he has to wait until the video is going to get it  He needs much more fitness and that will be in our plans over the next month.  I kinda drug him through that 10 meter half circle at the end.   And at the end I love after I salute(to no one mind you) he just sticks there.  You can see me kick him on a few times and he finally moves, haha, goof ball.  All in all I am happy and confident that Octoberfest is going to go very well.  Will we be bringing home blue?  Probably not but it will be challanging yet within our abilities so it will be a good confidence builder for both of us.  And that is exactly what I want it to be. 

P.S.   I hate having to do this but I always feel with the blog world and posting video I always must put disclaimers because with many people viewing everyone seems able to pick out every thing wrong in it.  But I don't want to hold out on video just because that annoys me.  Don't get me wrong I have NO problem with people critiquing me and my riding so go right ahead.  But it is stuff like the fact that some areas of my pasture is over grown.  Yes I understand it is over grown and that my facility is not perfect but I do have happy, healthy horses and that is all that matters to me.  In other words I was mowing the pasture unknowingly as it was low on oil and a piston ended up jammed in the engine and now we are trying to scrape together a measely $1000 bucks to get it fixed.  Blech!  It is always something right?  Thus half mowed pasture. 

Also I must warn you I have 2 more posts already typed up and ready to post and I am excited about them so I probably won't be able to seperate them.  So sorry for the post over load ;)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Watch if you want to smile today.

This is pretty much an overload in pure adorableness.  I cannot explain the joy of sitting in my back yard and seeing and hearing these four have such fun.  If you don't smile watching this then you are just a big grump!

Monday, September 12, 2011

I just have to say this...

I have been waiting to post about this because I really wanted to have video to add in with this post but not having someone at my beg and call to be my personal videographer I have yet to get any taken.  I promise to keep on working on getting a video but I cannot wait any longer to tell you how pleased I have been with my Steady lately.  Our work has been enjoyable and effective.  I think some of it has to do with the fact that there is little to no pressure ever since I have resolved to take it back a notch in lessons and competing to not drive us further into financial issues.  And a I think I have figured out why Steady has at times opposed to work.  After hundreds in useless injections I have determined that his legs are amazingly and wonderfully perfect just the way they are.  I feel now his objections are coming from his back :( His lumbar has continually gone out since I have known the big guy.  I have had it corrected through chiropractic but even the chiro said that she is not sure why she cannot get it to stay put.

It does bother him some here and there but over all he seems to be happy in work.  I am keeping a close eye on him and will decide the next plan of action.  I am considering trying acupuncture.  Anyways I am here to talk about how well Steady is coming back into work after a nice break when the unrelenting heat took over this summer.  We are slowly taking what we learned at event camp and putting it into practice in a no pressure environment and it has been one good ride after another.  After what seemed like a bad start to the year with one frustrating thing after another everthing has really come full circle and I am very grateful for the progress and I am mostly grateful for the enjoyble time I have had with my horse in the last month.  Event camp finally broke my fear of galloping a very good race horse and since I have been enlightened to the thrill of galloping!  And ohhh do I love to go fast and of course Steady does, I mean of course!  Our work has consisted of galloping, steering, lateral, moving off my leg, jumping and some great trail rides.  Well rounded and balanced training program to hopefully yield a well rounded balanced horse.  Taking on the tedious task that Dorothy gave us of getting him to 'get' moving off of leg pressure has made a huge difference in every aspect our work.  It has made his steering better, lateral work better.  Things are just going good.

Tonight, I rode kinda late and I could tell that when I came out with tack in hand that Steady was hoping that instead of a saddle I would have his dinner.  So I gave him a kiss and promised him that I would make it short and sweet.  I made up my mind to just get some very simple lateral movement and get him moving off my leg(most of which all our rides consist of).  He obliged with my requests so trot, leg yeilds and 20 meter canter circles, a straight centerline halt and viola, done!  Easy peasy.   He was quickly rewarded with his dinner.  He is starting to use his hind end a little better.  I am asking for small improvements, taking it slow to make sure he is comfortable and fit enough to do anything I am asking and it is working great!  He is enjoying work more and so am I.  Win win!  I hope to have video evidence soon.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Kids and horses.

Kids and horses together are many many things.  They are cute.  They are brave.  They have bonds.  They teach life lessons.  They give responsibility.  All of those things are great reasons to have my kids grow up with horses.  But my mind often wanders far far into the future.  I think that just happens as a parent.  I don't plan to or want to push my children in any one direction in their interests and passions.  I try to keep an open mind and if at some point any of my children say they do not want to do the horse thing any more.  Though I will be saddened some for my loss of my riding buddies I will give them freedom to pursue their own interests.

Though young, my now 8 year old daughters life goal is to become a trainer.  Idealistically I love this for her but realisitcally I know how hard it is to make any money in the horse industry.  So I wonder about how will she afford to not only keep up with her passion but also make a living off of it.  I cannot help but think about how hard it is for me to make it work in my 30's and wonder how she will do it.  These are all things I cannot control.  I cannot make her future all sushine and roses.  But I do feel it is our responsibilty as her parents to spend these years preparing her the absolute best we can.  To make her future better.
My mind goes to college equestrian teams and barn managment courses and those things will hopefully come some day if that is what she chooses.  It also goes to The college prep invitaional horse show!   Oh would this be fun and exciting to do with my girls.  But today, right now what are the steps I need to take now to keep her on the right track of some day fullfilling her dreams and goals.  Day to day they seem like baby steps but in the big picture they are stepping stones to her next phase in life.  Up until now I have taught her all of her riding skills.  I am her instructor and at this point I am still confident I can continue to do so at the level she is at.  So I feel no tug to put her into private lessons.  She started riding at age 5 and for the first 3 years we have worked on mostly confidence, balanced seat, treatment of the horse, safety and all the basics in grooming, care and horsemanship.  And her foundation is incredibly strong.  She can tend to be on the shy side but if you give her a horse she comes flying out of her shell and is a safe, confident and independent horseman. We have been in 4-h for 3 years just to add a little expereince in 'show' type atmosphere.  But truely 4-h can only take you so far.  It is a great program but always stays at the very basic level of horse expereince.  I feel she has 'outgrown' it.  Not to mention there are MANY things that have gone on within our 4-h that I disagree with on so many levels. 

I feel now our next step would either be private lessons or pony club.  If I were rich I think I could go a little on the crazy Mom side and have her in with the best trainers on the best horses and pushing her as high and as far and as fast as she could.  But then I wake up and remember there must be a very good reason that I am not rich.  Sometimes I think about the fact that I want to encourage her but at the same time do not feel I should push her too much.  But then I see Eventing Nation posts like this.  About a 10 year old girl riding in her first AEC and I think "oh crap I am running out of time!"  But then I come back to my senses and remember it is about the baby steps and if some day that is where she gets then great but until then, chill out!

So the only obvious next step for her is pony club.  I have never heard a bad word uttered about pony club and it sounds like an amazingly educational program for the young equestrian.  It is very well rounded in teaching horse care, riding and even anatomy.  I want these things for my girls.  I want them to be as educated as they possibly can and this seems a fantastic way to do it.  So I am doing my research on the local clubs have even attended a meeting of one of them.  I ask any pony clubber I ever come in contact with what they think about pony club.  I have been holding off on actually joining for a while now because I wasn't sure it was the right time.  But now I am confident that this is the right time and I cannot help but be excited for her.  Well and the fact that I will also be joining horsemasters ;)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Readers and commenters

I just wanted to give a shout out to all of you that read my blog.  I know that my posts can't be that exciting but you keep coming back and for that I am grateful.  I try to make it interesting enough but I am not a writer and know that between my grammatical errors and lack of writing skills is enough to drive some crazy.  So thank you for putting up with me and all my 'issues' in order to read my blog.  Steady appreciates too.  We all know he is the reason you keep coming back.  But I do not want to tell him that because I know it will go straight to his head.

Also for those of you who take the time to comment I am especially grateful.  It lets me know that you really are out there.  I would like to say I only do this for my own benefit and comments and readers don't matter but if that was the honest truth I would not be posting all of it on the internet and just have an offline diary.  You all do matter to me and I love hearing from you here on my blog and reading your blogs.  So call me what you may narcissist, egotistical, but I love having readers and love the comments.  I also love the 'relationships' I have developed with other bloggers and love to read your blogs.  So a huge thank you to all of my readers!

All 30 of you!!!!

I have a couple fun posts I am working on but am trying to get some video and other things together to complete the posts.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sadness in the horse blogging world.

Many of us, I am sure, have read about Gogo and the very sad and unfourtunate diagnosis and the heart wrenching decisions Andrea has to make.  She is surely making the best of the time she has left with her beloved mare and there is also opportunity to help out and do something for Andrea, that you can find out more about here, to show her that she is not alone in her pain and that the blogger world supports her.

But unfortunately Andrea is not alone in this heart breaking decision.  Lex a lovely young horseman has been given a grim diagnosis on her beloved Hennessey.  Her along with her families support has had to make the decision on what is best for her best friend.  You can read the diagonosis here on her Mom's blog.  Lex also had a working student postion over the summer and had a blog updating her work and relationship with Henny and you can follow her blog here.  I think it a great thing for some of us 'veteran' horseman (women) to come along side of her and give her the strength and support that we all hope to have in that dark time of saying good-bye to a best friend.

It is a sad time and I wish that things did not have to happen this way.  But it does not take long in horse ownership before one of these amazing beasts owns our heart and along with that comes that pain and heart ache that comes along with loving anything or anyone more than ourselves.  We undoubtably take a risk in letting them into our lives.  Well it is not a risk it is more of a guarantee that they will break our hearts at some point in our lives.  But we do it anyway knowing that somewhere along the way we will have to say good bye and possibly even be the one to have to make a life or death decision for them.

Why?  Because they joy, enrichment, strength, charachter, maturity and relationship with them is worth all the possible heart ache they can bring.  The saying "It is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all" is the epitome of why we take that guarantee of pain.  Because to have not only known a horse but to have had an intimate relationship with one will change you for the better.  A Buck Brennaman quote, "Horses will make you better in areas you never knew related to horses".  Hug your horse today!  And go ahead and give them an extra one because one day you may not be able to hang on that neck.  Don't take today with them for granted, I am sure Andrea and Lex are not.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"White Pants, Big Withers And Thoroughbreds Are All The Rage At Burghley"

I LOVE this article!  Not only is it hailing the big withered but proves that OTTB's are amazing beasts and not a thing of eventing past.  That they are very much a part of eventings future!  And I haven't been able to get the image of the photo of Sinead and 'Tate' out of my head.   Tate's body type looks insanely like Steady's.  It has given me a huge sense of relief that even this amazingly fit 4* horse who got 3rd in Rolex and had a very respectable run at Burghley at 15th place can still have not only shark withers but completely hollow behind and even a dip at the base of his neck.  And not veiwable in this photo but if you watch anyh other videos of them he also has large proturding hip bones that Steady also has.  Tate is as healthy as a horse can be and that is just 'him'.  It made me realize that a horse can just be made that way.  I have always felt by people's comments and standards that Steady was lacking something if he was not filled in behind his withers.  And that if he had the slightest dip in his neck then he could not be fit.  I would look at him and his boney withers every day and think I wasn't doing something right for him.  Not true.  It is his body type and so everyone else can kiss our healthy butts!

Now I am going on the hunt of Sineads saddle choices for such a saddle fitting nightmare.  I mean people can give me all the advice in the world but unless you have ever owned a horse and tried to fit a horse with such dramatic fitting issues you could not possibly understand.  It is not your run of the mill big withered TB it is much more extreme than that and it can cause many, many headaches.  But I got some peace of mind seeing that photo.