Monday, November 30, 2009

Tis' The Season

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I had the chance to go to Boston Mass. with my parents and visit some family there for the day. It's a 3 hr ride one way so I spent 6 hrs in the car with the rents which was interesting. I had a great time laughing with my cousins and telling stories with the rest of my family. The food was exellent and I was lucky enough to be able to bring home a plate. After dinner and before dessert we took a 2 mile walk around their neighborhood which was good because I was literally stuffed. It was nice to get away for the day but on the ride back home I was anxious to go home to my doggies.

Possum has also been doing pretty well lately. We had visiting hrs here on Friday for 5 hrs and I couldn't come back home until after 8p. It was a yucky and rainy day and the dogs and I spent most of it huddled in the tack room of the barn staying dry and warm. I did manage to run down to the indoor with Possum and just rode around bareback not working on anything in particular. Yesterday was a gorgeous late fall day with the temps maybe touching 50. It was bright and all the rain we got on Friday was starting to dry up. The barn was busy and I took my time getting Possum ready. I let him pick scraps of hay outside of his paddock while I brushed him. Because it was so busy in the outdoor ring I warmed up out there and then went down to the indoor to work. We started jumping in the indoor just trotting and then cantering low fences and gradually making them higher. Then I got down to the meat of the workout. I set up two fences at about 3 ft with two strides in between. My goal was to 1. get good distances to the first fence, and 2. get him so that right after he lands to then pick himself back up and prepare for the next fence. My goal for the next ride is to then turn it into a one stride.

Possum did pretty well and I was able to navigate him to pretty good spots for the most part. I did notice as we went to the right that he was drifting towards the rail and kind of twisting in mid air. The next time around I made sure to have a strong left leg and also making sure that I had equal weight in both stirrups since the left is my weaker leg. It got a lot better after that. Then we cooled down and went for a walk around the farm and watched the end of a jumping lesson that was going on in the outdoor ring. So my goal for the next ride is to turn that line into a one stride to get him to really lift himself up on the landing of the first jump and then get ready for the next, especially with it being of good height at 3ft.

I've still been running and walking. This past week obviously was hard because of the holiday weekend, but I did manage to ride my horse twice and then run/walk 3 times. This week I hope to get back in the swing of things again. The weather has turned rainy and raw again and I hope that by tonight it lets up so I can go for my run. I'm not really sure what I'm going to do in the winter. I've even thought of going to the barn and running in the indoor at night which could work. The college I work at obviously has a gym and fitness center and I'm hoping that I can talk to the dean and have access to the facilities so that I can continue to work out and stay in shape. The trust of the matter is that even though I hate running and working out, it does make me feel better after I do it so I just need to suck it up.

Well I think that's about it. Just trying to budget now and save money and pay bills and with Christmas seson coming. I've been saving money by cooking more and eating out less which is a huge savings, but it seems that whenever I seem to get ahead on bills other things come up, like our rent just increased by $100, I just paid car insurance, Possum gets his winter shoes on this week which is over $200 and I also need to get my winter tires and an oil change on my car. Again, these are all issues that everyone deals with, but man it just makes me want to be a kid again for a few days.... OK, promise, the next post will be the book review that I have been talking about for a while now. Have a great day!

P.S.- Minnesota dude is good. We still talk on a daily basis and he is also working on things in his own life. We hope to have a visit planned for January, I'm crossing my fingers, I really wanna see him!!!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Quick Check-in

Hey guys! Long time no chat. Things have been crazy busy for me lately. Work is going great but still very busy, but also rewarding. I have been teaching a lot more this year so far as opposed to last year so that's awesome. I have only been riding Possum about 3 days a week and for 6 days a week I have been running. That's right, you heard me right. I have decided to get fit and maybe lose a few lbs so I have been taking the two bigger dogs out for runs after dark at night. I find that when I ride after dark it seems like you go faster than in the day light, and plus I never get home until after dark most of the time anyways. I have been doing really well with keeping up with it and am up to running 4 miles at a time. I am toning up a lot but have only lose like 4 lbs. I have a feeling that once my muscles are more fit that they will start to burn more off.

Possum has been doing really for the most part. We have been taking this time to really get back to the basics andn work a lot on our flat. We do jump, but our focus has been on the dressage basics and really working on using less noticeable aids. We did have a kinda crappy ride last Friday. He was really stiff and not using his back hardly at all. I just chalked it up to a bad day and tried not to get frustrated with it.

Yesterday I had plans of going out on the trail since it's Sunday and there is no hunting on Sundays in Maine, but my roomie had set up some big jumps in the outdoor and they looked really fun. I decided to have a "goof off" day and not do anything really serious. I didn't even work on collection. I basically let him pick his frame and only asked that he be forward and not behind my leg. Even though he was a little strung out and flat, he felt comfortable and was not rushing and took everything in stride. We did a flat warm-up and then started jumping small jumps. When he felt stretched and warm we decided to approach a large 4ft vertical. I didn't worry about his head and just kept the steady rhythmn. He was even a little slow, but we got a great spot and he hopped right over it. I was thrilled!!! There was no rush to the jump or throwing his head up in anticipation. It was like it wasn't anything and just up and over and onto the next. SO played around with that jump and then there was another 4ft vertical on the diagonal and we hopped right over that one too. Then m,y roomie set up a stone wall (fake ofcourse) it's was about 2 and a half ft in length and 3ft high with no standards or anything, so really the epitome of a skinny. I thought Possum might look at it some because it was kinda strange looking. He cantered right up to it and popped over. He did give it a little look as he was going over it, but cleared it nicely. I really was on cloud 9. He was doing so perfectly. It also really made me proud because my roomie's horse had a hell of a time going over the stone wall. She would spook and stop short or jump off to the side. It just goes to show me that my horse and I have a great relationship based on trust and when I ask him to do something he rarely protests in terms of bravery. I need to remember this o nthe days he is really frustrating me.

SO it was a good boost to the day since I was kinda feeling down. Minnesota guy and I still talk a lot, and I'm really liking him, but I just don't know if anything will come of it and it's kinda making me sad. I've been hanging out with a couple other guys and their nice and all, but I just don't get that feeling. My mind always keeps wandering to MN guy. I guess I just need to have faith that if it' s supposed to happen that it will and I can't always make things happen the way I want them to in my life. Last night I was kinda bored and Nick texted me out of the blue. Yes, remember him, good ole Nick. He wanted to know if I wanted to come over and chill since I told him I was bored. I said what the hell and went to visit for about 2 hrs to pass the time. We laughed a lot as usual and things were cool, strictly on the friend level. I'm willing to let by gones be by gones and turn the page to a new chapter. Anyways, I think that's about all that's new. Staying busy as the weather turns colder and colder. Almost every morning I have a nice layer of frost on my car. That means Possum is in a mid weight blanket until he gets clipped which will then turn into a heavy weight with a hood in about a month.
Next time I post I promise I will have that book review. It's definately a good book to talk about and especially ponder the early stages of hunt seat riding and proper equitation.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Little of this Little of that

Wednesday I managed to get out to the barn after getting out of work early and ride my horse. The weather has definately taken a deeper turn into fall and is now fast approaching winter. It was only in the 30's even in the dim sun light that was fading fast. I had high hopes of having a good ride out in the outdoor. But due to a minor crisis with a boarder that involved her dog and about 30 porcupine quills, my game plan was shot. Possum also knew that I was distracted and modeled his mood after mine. Basically the ride just turned into a leisure energy burning ride. We did manage to jump a few lines but he was heavy on my hands and slow to come back and collect himself. I then turned my focus to working on sicrles at both the trot and then the canter. I focused on keeping him soft and round and listening to my half halts. It is when I'm doing circle work that I really try and oay attention to my body. I was having a really hard time keeping equal weight in oth stirrups. I felt my weight tilting to the outside slightly. No matter how I tried and shifter my weight it just wasn't working. Plus with this uneven distribution of weight I could feel him tilting to the inside to overcompensate. I then decided to drop the stirrups completely. As we cantered aroung again I felt him become more even and balanced.

It's amazing what we learn from horses. When we think a lot of the problem lie with them, it turns out to be something that we're doing or not doing and didn't even know it. As we cantered around the 20m circle I really kept an inventory on what exactly my body was doing every stride. My upper body was good for the most part. My head was up and shoulders square. My elbows had a soft give to them every stride with thumbs up and hands about 5 in apart. I then focused on keeping my butt muscles soft and not flexed with more give to my hips. My legs were tight with toe slightly out and contact with both calf and thigh. It was a lot to think about, but it's something that I need to think more about.

I have to admit that I was browsing through RFD TV the other day but came across a great clinic by Lucinda Green, an olympic event rider for the British team. She had a lot of great things to say about body position and feeling the horse. Learning to listen to when they ask you questions. I also learned that your legs can also be TOO tight. That there is a time and place for tight legs and also a time to slightly relax them. Now I realize that eventing is not exactly equatition but it's great advice and good riding is universal and applicable I believe. I really liked her teaching style and everything she said made sense.

One of the other things I took away was her talking about the riders position and weight while jumping. She talked about the horse being like a teeter tooter and how when you jump ahead of the horse or are leaning too far forward it puts added weight on the horse therefore making it harder to lift their shoulders to jump. When a horse jumps they lift their shoulders and front end and are then propelled by their hind end. This got me thinking to the the now known "classic" hunter position of riders basically laying on the horses necks with a too long stirrup. See pics below:

This added weight can put the horse off balace and make it even harder to have a nice jump over a fence. Now, in hunters jumping the fences shouldn't be a huge strain for them since it is not about height but about manners and way of going, but still it makes the horses job that much harder. A lot of riders say that with a riding a hunter it's harder to keep proper equitation because the horse has such a big and rounded jump. I don't believe this is true. I think that too many riders in the hunt and even in the eq ring are trying too hard. I know I am also guilty of this. I find myself jumping for myself instead of just sitting "chilly" and letting the horses motion fold my hips and following with my hand. Many times I will force myself to ride fences as of late and just keep a steady rhythm and pace and let the jump come to me instead of calculating take offs etc. When you let go of many of the technical things it suprised me of how it just happends naturally.

Stay tuned, I am re-reading a good book that I wanted to do a post on , it's called Renegade Champion, the unlikely rise of Fizrada, written by Richard R. Rust. It's a wonderful book written about his mother Jane Pohl who rode on the show circuit with her runt of a TB gelding in the hunters and jumpers classes of the 40's and 50's and breaking gender barriers along the way. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ode to Dressage

I thought I would do a little post about the benefits of dressage in all seats of riding. Before I started jumping and doing all that stuff I rode dressage for 8 years. Sometimes reluctantly because the barn I learned to ride at did not like jumping and it was rarely allowed, but it was very beneficial for me. I am not a huge fan of just riding in 20 meter circles and doing things like shoulder in and haunches in and blah blah blah, but I think dressage for me is like eating your vegetables, it's good for ya. My adrenaline junkie nature is always looking for the newest thrill and exciting death defying trick. Dressage makes me slow down and really focus on the details of my riding and getting the best out of my horse.

Through the eight years that I rode dressage I feel like I have gained a lot. I first learned to ride in a dressage saddle. I remember holding onto the grab strap when I trotted for the first time in the old County saddle. That was a thrill. I learned to have an independent seat. To not only figure out where my seat bones were but to use them as an aid as well. I learned how to make a horse soften to your hands and push up through the bridle and really engage their hind end while slowly shifting weight from their forehand to the hind. But most importantly I learned to feel. I was able to open the line of communication from horse to rider through just feeling.

My opinion is that dressage basics are the foundation of all kinds of riding; be that western pleasure, saddle seat, hunters and equitation, and any other kinds you can think of. Dressage is based on control and balance and strength. Being able to have the horse move in any direction at any speed at any moment. Isn't this the ultimate form of riding? I think so. If your moving cows or running barrels you need clean flying changes based on balance. If your jumping a course you certainly need the basics of dressage. The horse needs to be listening to all of your aids, you need to be able to shorten and lengthen strides, collect and just about everything else you can think of. Even if your just a trail rider it's important that your horse has proper balance and can move off your seat and legs. You need a horse that has good transitions, what if you are cantering along and all of a sudden the foot drops out and you need to stop short??

So I just wanted this post to pay tribute to the great art of riding that is dressage. I am super grateful for the fundamentals and basics that I have learned with having regular dressage lessons. I was showing first level and schooling second level movements when I decided that I really needed to either get serious about it or branch off into another area of riding. It was then that I went to college and was able to have my first instruction in jumping and all I can say is man I'm glad I had my dressage background! I think every rider should be able to ride a training or even first level test with their horse. Dressage is great for the horse. When done correctly it creates a nice top line, strengthens your horse, gets them used to using the powerhouse that is their hind end and increases communication between the rider. It's kinda like stretching every morning before you work out or even start your day, it's good for everyone involved. Remember, it's like eating your vegetables, It's good for you!!!