Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 21: Maintain Your Posture

I didn’t need DT to remind me of this little nugget of wisdom, the Ponies did that for me.

Now, for those who don’t know, there are two basic rules for riding the ponies:

One: Don’t lean forward. Ever. A whoastorm will ruin whatever good work you had going up until that point and the pony will then be primed for more whoastorms in response to poor riding.

Two: Don’t clamp your legs. It doesn’t matter if it’s a spook/spin/buck/fart maneuver. Clamping your legs will make the spook-spin-buck-fart  ten times worse, because then the ponies will follow it up with more athletic bucking. And if there is one thing I don’t want to encourage in my ponies, it’s athletic bucking.

But Alison”, you say, “Surely by now you’ve mastered the art of draping your legs to keep your seat.”

Surely, indeed.

As it turns out,  I still need a reminder or two to keep my legs where they need to be. Now, I’ve gotten much better with Delight. We’re turning into quite the dressage duo. Today we got leg yields in and out to both directions and seem to have mastered the extreme one sidedness that plagues us after the Christmas break.  I can remind myself to keep my legs back and I’m working on my toes issue (it’s just so hard!) while on Deli… Tilly is still another story.
On Tilly, I tend to revert back to my defensive young-horse leg, with the toes turned out and the whole back of my calf in contact with her little pony sides. It’s not pretty, but it’s super secure- not that I really need security, since Tilly is usually quite well behaved. Usually.

Today, however, was a different story. I was trying to fix my legs, and encourage her to yield into the corners instead of dropping her shoulder and cutting to the inside. I was actually being pretty successful, working in big looping figure eights at the trot, encouraging Tilly to give to the inside, when it happened. 

Back story: We’ve had 18” of snow in the last ten days. It’s been under 20 degrees that while time. Today it’s supposed to get to the mid-to-upper 30s.

What was It? It was a good 10” of snow sliding down the roof of the arena. For those of you who haven’t heard the sound of snow falling off a roof, it sounds a bit like an avalanche. Rumbling and scraping for 40 feet of rooftop, gaining momentum as it goes.  Of course, I didn’t hear it start because I was jamming out to Lady Gaga on my MP3 player (hey, don'judge. It could have been Abba, or Bon Jovi had this episode happened later). I noticed something was up when Tilly coiled like a spring and leapt to the middle of the arena like a deer on crack. Of course, my first (and wrong) instinct was to grip with my legs to keep from hitting her mouth and being left behind like a rag doll. Tilly responded to this last assault on her pony-ness by leaping straight up in the air and expressing her displeasure with a very loud:

“SQUEEE!” (there really is no written equivalent for the angry pony sound she made)

Of course, once you assault the pony dignity, the resentment is there for the rest of the ride. Close the legs to ask for a canter? “FU”, says the pony. Ask for a step sideways with the inside leg? Pony answers with a resounding “NO!”

By the end of the ride, I got some grudging canter work, and some very nice turns on the forehand, so all in all I’d call it a good day.  Delight still wins the Good Pony Award for the day though. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 20: Is Your Horse Happy?

Ah, this ‘challenge’ recommended a shatterproof mirror to keep the stall bound horse entertained. While good advice, the question posed is actually more thought provoking than the advice given.

I would say that Tilly is happy. She’s turned out with two other ponies, and they have come to a truce as far as pecking order goes (Tilly’s last). She has a three acre pasture with two run ins in case of bad weather. Sure the ponies might run her off the last few straws of hay, but she’s in good weight and content. She’s working well and happy to see me.

I would say that Delight could be happier. Her turnout situation is not ideal. I think she’d be happier turned out with Tilly and the ponies, unfortunately, that’s not possible since they technically are at different facilities and Tilly’s barn is “full-up”. Delight is in good weight, shiny, and working pretty well ever since we switched feeds (either that or I’m getting better. One can only hope…). She’s just not as happy to see everyone as she was when at home. She didn’t do well when turned out with RC as he’s a jerk and the pens aren’t big enough to offer her any escape from his pestering, so that’s out. I suppose there’s only so much I can do until they come home.

RC isn’t happy in his turnout situation either. The pen is too small for running and bucking, which means that he has yet to lose a shoe, but on the other hand, he’s also go so much pent up energy that he can be quite a handful. He’s happy to work, and he’s looking good on his bale-a-day diet, I just wish he could have a little more ‘romping room’. Even if he was nicer to Delight, they would have to just share a pen and we all know how RC is about personal space… Just until spring. Then I’ll have my happy herd in a better turnout situation. 

Winter is hard on all of us....

Day 19: Take Time to Prepare

Another tip urging taking these slow winter months to do all those little jobs that need to get done before the show season hits full swing.

My trailer is still neat. My horses are boarded until spring. Tack is clean, and no shows are in the immediate future.
So what jobs could I possibly have?

Plenty, trust me on that one.

I need to finish clearing out the horse part of my barn, moving the big boards up to the hay loft probably, just to keep them from getting in the way (nothing is more irritating that having to trip over things or move them several times). Then there’s the old gardening stuff that’s jammed into the corner that I need to go through and either pitch or keep somewhere less in the way.

I need to build a shavings/saw dust containment area. To do so, I need to move the boards that are leaning against the side of my barn and rake up all the loose hay. Then I need to get to designing a good ‘shavings bay’ before I head out and buy supplies to build.

I’d like (maybe not need) to get my plans for a ‘real dressage arena up and running. I’ll need to make letters and design corners. It’s just so different practicing in an ‘arena verses “oh, this is probably 20 m”.

I need to finish the design for my tack boxes. Construction can’t begin until the barn is cleared out, but this way I can plan for everything that I’ll need before the last possible second.

Obviously, I’ll need to put up my electric fence again before the ponies come home. I’d like at least two pastures again, if not to let the grass grow, than in case RC decides not to play well with Tilly.
If I have spare time, I’d like to move the hay out of the hayloft, but I’m having a hard time getting the initiative to shovel 30 year old hay into a sled/wheelbarrow then pulling each load through the thigh deep snow to dump it in the back field. That might have to be a fall project when I can drive a truckload out at a time.

See? So much to do, so little time. And its hard to get excited about these things when its 4 degrees out… (I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….)

Day 18: Healthy Hearty Soups

Now this tip just made me hungry. Admittedly Pumpkin black-bean and corn soup doesn’t appeal to me, personally, the thought of having a nice hot bowl of split pea soup sounds wonderful… especially since it was under 10 degrees when I went for a ride this morning.
Maybe, with this motivation, I’ll actually look up a pea soup recipe to try this week. That sounds like an admirable goal for this chilly week to come. 

Day 17: Mounted Exercise: Turn both ends

Today’s advice comes at a good time for me.

1.    Begin at K in a Medium Walk.
2.    At E, halt quietly.
3.    Ride a 180 degree Turn on Haunches.
4.    Ride straight ahead in Medium Walk, bending nicely through the corner.
5.    At A, halt.
6.    Ride a 180 degree Turn on Forehand.
7.    Repeat pattern in both directions.

Yes, RC’s a pro at turning both on the forehand and on the haunches, so it’s not for him (ok, it’s good practice, but more useful on the other ponies). Delight had the turn on the forehand down pat, and we’re starting the walk pirouette now, so this is a timely reminder to get after it. Tilly needs help yielding from the leg on both sides and both turning the forehand and haunches – so this exercise is a little too advanced for her, at the moment. 

Over the weekend, I did work on turns on the forehand with Tilly. She thinks that the answer to all leg aids is “forward”, and while that’s not a bad answer, it’s not entirely correct either. I introduced the concept of yielding her haunches out while I was on the ground and touched her side with my whip to urge her to step over sideways, first to the right, then to the left. After a few repetitions, I got on and we carried on with our normal warmup at the trot. During our walk breaks, I asked her to halt, then take one step over sideways with her haunches before walking off again. After two or three tries, she was moving sideways readily enough, that I called it a win and let her walk on a loose rein. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 16: Stay Loose

Today's advice comes from Cesar Parra with advice on how to stay relaxed and not get tight between rides when taking time off for work/travel/etc. Too bad I didn't have this last week when I spent hours crammed in coach with 300 of my new closest friends. Those lucky first class fly-ers don't know how good they have it...

Anyway, Dr. Parra had a few exercises to work out the knots using- of all things- a tennis ball.
Think Tempi would lend me hers?

Anyway, after what seems like forever, I made it back in the saddle(s) today. Worked all three ponies... none of whom seem to remember a thing after nearly a week off. Delight was super stiff to the left (bend, what bend?), so we got straight then left it alone. She was surprisingly relaxed, though. Very little teleporting sideways, which is a welcome change.

Next up was RC. I was going to offer him a nice light day to stretch out and just move out, but no, he had other plans. He was lookey at the barrels in the corner, he snorted at the snow by the doorway, he spooked at the jump poles piled up on the short side, so real work it was. We did w/t transitions, then trot/halt transitions, then (AT's favorite) Trot-halt-back-trot transitions. And RC was great. Even his canter - which usually takes some tuning up- was good. He still tried to look at the 'scary' stuff lying around, but he was so responsive that it just made me ride with a smile.
Half steps? Got 'em.
Lengthening? Check.
Canter-trot transitions? Right with the seat.
Halt? Perfectly square.

Gosh, I love this horse sometimes.

Last on the docket was Tilly. She always gets picked last so that she has time to finish her breakfast hay before the other two ponies in her turnout finish it all off. Tilly was about as good as I have a right to expect after a week off (and another rider in the arena). She was a little lookey and not connected to the bit at all, but she moved off nicely when I asked for a trot and came back nicely when I asked for the walk. Changes in direction were hard with another horse in the arena (how is it possible to always be right where I'm planning on turning?), but all in all, the Tillner was a good pony.
Now I need to get started on teaching her to yield off the leg; turn on the forehand, leg yield, etc. We've got a ways to go.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 15: Keep colic at bay

More sound advice to help prevent a winter colic.
  • ·         Make sure the horses are drinking
  • ·         Keep them eating
  • ·         Keep them active

As three easy ways to prevent colic in the winter. Now, I know that breaking ice off of buckets is not fun. No one wants to pull ice chunks out of that freezing cold water, but it’s better than having to hold a horse to tube their GI tract. As for eating: the more hay the better. Three small meals throughout the day is not nearly the same as grazing all day. I know that it makes a huge difference in the attitude and comfort of my guys to have nearly free choice hay in front of them. It’s better than stuffing the ponies with grain (because sitting on a hot hot hot pony isn’t the most fun thing I’ve ever done), and this way I don’t have to put RC in layer after layer of blankets.
The activity part is the easiest of the three. I own horses to be able to ride them. It makes them happy, it makes me happy. Even when it’s cold/wet/miserable… I’m always happier after a ride. Of course, some days I need the motivation (see day 1) to break the inertia and actually get out there, but I never regret going out to ride. Now I cet to tell myself that I’m preventing colic as well? Win-win-win.

Before I close the topic of colic, I do wish that every horse owner was aware of the symptoms. I value my time as a large animal vet tech because I realize exactly how much more I am comfortable with dealing with than the average horse owner. I can recognize when there’s a problem, and know enough to help before the vet arrives, how to help when the vet is there, and be able to handle my own after care. Thanks again, Waller Equine!

Day 14: Track your progress

This is a tip I can get behind. I mean, I like watching the old videos of horse shows with Arlberg and London from back in the day. Sure, it’s painful to watch me struggling to figure out how to ride, but the difference between then and now is astonishing. Now, I’m not saying that I’m some kind of fantastic rider… But I’ve made leaps and bounds in the last ten years…

I think it’s important to keep a record of progress. Let’s face it, advancement in this sport is glacial; we can measure training in years, not days or weeks. Obviously, I can look back through this blog and get an idea of where I’ve been, if I’ve strayed from the right path, what’s worked and what hasn’t. This helps me immensely, even if it can be kind of boring to read. It keeps me honest (oh, I haven’t ridden in 3 days? I have just poked around the field, not actually ridden? Whoops), it reminds me of how much I have progressed (whoa, I used to ride like that?!?!), and it lets me share my journey with others… Even if they don’t care. 

So here’s the quick Delight version… (the long version is this last hundred posts, if you’d care for the complete trip…)
The day I bought her, as a nearly-two-year-old

Me teaching Delight to lunge. She was the first horse I taught to lunge and started under saddle.

Me and Delight, after 8 months of "growing up" while I finished school.

Delight's temper tantrum, when I started pushing her. Also, her first time to a new place... Pony says NO!
Delight's first schooling show, fall 2010

Clinic June 2011, after my knee injury

Same clinic as above.

Delight's first recognized show. Boy, was I tense. 

Delight on the trail during my move to the UP....

Of course, movies are scattered throughout this blog... and stay tuned for our next big stepping stones!

Day 13: New Year New-trition

Now, I'm all in favor of a good pun or two, but day 13's advice was another swing and a miss. Now, I realize that the New Year New You Dressage Today is a promotion for SmartPack... But come on.

I love the training tips, but this seems like a wasted tip to promote the use of vitamin and mineral supplements. Thanks, Smart pack, but this kind of advertising turns me off. I might use supplements, but not from you guys. Sorry...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 10: Always Be Ready To Ride

Todays DT: NYNY advice is to always have riding essentials in the car, just in case work gets out early, or the stars align to allow that few hours of uninterrupted riding time. This is great advice...

As of this second, I have one pair of winter riding cover up pants, one pair of low rise winter boots, two winter jackets, a chook and two pairs of winter riding gloves. That's almost enough for an unplanned riding adventure should I so choose.

Now, since I am supposed to be out of town right now, leaving my truck in an airport parking lot, I did remove most of the big horse stuff from the car. Usually I would also have two dressage saddles, a helmet and an extra saddle pad in my truck as well. Needless to say, my whole car smells faintly of horse.

Then again, usually so do I. It's the risk you run when riding before work, I suppose. Good thing my job is relaxed enough that my normal dress is winter riding breeches, winter tall boots, sweater/jacket combo (usually with RC or Delight drool somewhere on the sleeve) and helmet hair.

Only in the UP would this ever be acceptable.

Day 9: Pelvic Rocking for Body Awareness

Perfect! Now this is advice I can really get behind!
Especially since it can be one while sitting on my exercise ball in my nice warm living room!

I know, I know Day 1's advice is nagging the back of my mind, but it's 2 degrees outside at 2 pm today. I am not riding. I will go out, pet and dispense treats to my ponies, but no riding will take place. I declare it a snow day.

So, what can I do to improve my riding on a day like this? I work on body awareness, just like the advice says. I can do it while watching an old Olympic games or WEG on dvd while wearing flannel jammies, with the poodles looking on from the couch. I can get back in the swing of my pilates and yoga tapes...

I'll at least try....

No promises. Days like this exist so that we can cuddle up with a loved one and hide from the world under down comforters. In my case, the loved ones happen to be mini poodles, but really, what's the difference?

Day 8: Winter Warm Up

OK, I'll admit that in trying to make a blog post for each bit of advice, there is going to be a deluge of posts some days, and none for a few days. It would be easier if I had the internet at home... But I don't, and I kinda like it that way.

Anyway, day 8's advice is a warm up to help keep the hyper winter ponies in control using frequent transitions. I'll admit that I have used this exercise with Delight and RC in the past, but it seems - like so many things- that I tend to get lax about transitions over time. Nothing like a nice little reminder to get my ponies back to work.

Not that they will be working anytime soon, as I was supposed to leave on a business trip earlier this week, only to be blizzard'd out.... Flights were delayed, I got to spend a lot of time sitting in the local one terminal airport with 50 of my new best friends... Also, there is no restroom after the security check point. And no place to get coffee while everyone is waiting, though come to think of it, that might be due to that lack of restroom. After a 4 hour delay, we made it on to the plane. The plane taxied down the runway... and sat there. Then we taxied back to the terminal, deplaned, and waited for another hour and a half. By noon, my 6am flight was canceled. As were the next three flights out... So looks like my business trip has been postponed til Sunday, when I'll try all this again.

Needless to say after 7 hours with no food or coffee and a painfully slow rebooking process, the only ones who were in a good mood were the poodles. I picked them up from their pet sitters, and went home and napped.

The warm up advice- good though it is- will have to keep for another day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day 7: Make a smoothie

OK, I'll admit today's email advice was a miss.

A smoothie? While it sounds delightful and tasty, it's 11 degrees here and dropping. Anything that requires ice, has fallen off of my menu until summer.

Oh, and this is my 101st post! Even if this post is going to be a little lack luster, it feels like that should be a mile marker, some how. I'm gonna celebrate with ramen. That's right. I live on the edge.

He's figured out which end to point at the snow...

Day 6: In Hand Exercise; Small Circle Left

Well, there’s a tip I should have used today. The tip I received yesterday explained how to work your horse in hand while leg yielding your horse out. If I had planned better, instead of thinking “oh, I don’t need in hand work, we’re doing just fine under saddle”, I might have had a better ride.

Snow Ponies look innocent....
My ride wasn’t bad, per se. I just had a few communication issues with Delight today. At the advice of my sister, I’ve been working on turning her spooking energy up and forward instead of spinning like a top under me. It’s been going pretty well. So well, in fact, I started getting cocky about how well La Ponita was going. First level, here we come, I smugly thought to myself.
Then La Ponita laid a smack down on those 70% tests I had swirling around in my head.
We didn’t whoa storm, but she tried. When I was able to prevent the third whoastorm in the terrifying corner, she upped her game. And promptly told me “up yours”.

She tried to stop.
I pushed her forward.

She tried to zig.
I made her zag.

She tried to spook down and out.
I made her go up and forward.

And she took that last request and ran with it. Literally. We’ve all seen those rodeo broncs who do more running than bucking, but still manage to get quite a bit of air time. My pony was obviously auditioning for that role.


Shoulder fore on the short side, ask for leg yield on the long side BRONCING FIT.
So we got a few good canter transitions, and ended the ride both sweating and steaming in the 11 degree arena.
How I know that I'm becoming a better trainer? I was able to smile and pet La Ponita because other than the PCRA bronc impressions, we had a darn good ride. 

Tilly, on the other hand, was a champ. 
The Tillner willing to brave blowing snow for food.
Tilly and I are working on canter transitions. While they may not be our strong suit yet, we’re starting to come together. Now I have on the bit trot work, including through the turns, wonderful walk work and now we’re going to tackle the canter. Plenty of time….

Ponies lurk. It's what they do...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 5: Layer Up!

Excellent advice. It was cold, cold, cold for the 4H demonstrations. I wore a long sleeve shirt, a wool shirt, an athletic form fitting jacket, and my big heavy Carhart on top of it all… Oh and winter breeches, with winter cover up type pants over boos and all. I was maybe not as stylish as the advice given, but it worked.

Ashley Perry, founder of the blog thehorseandhabit.com—a guide to the equestrian life and style—offers her tip on staying warm while riding and working outdoors during the winter months.

My tip for staying warm while maintaining a fashion-forward look is to wear layers. Dressing in layers will keep you warm without looking large and bulky. I usually wear base layers with a fuzzy vest on warmer winter days and I add a zip fleece on colder days. I also always wear gloves to keep my hands and nails in good shape.

Really? Gloves to keep my nail polish from chipping not to keep me from losing a digit due to the cold? Methinks that Ms Perry is from a slightly different climate with very different priorities....

That's right. NEGATIVE Seven.
And back to the story...

After I set up my little table with a WEG video playing, issues of Dressage Today displayed and a few old dressage tests laying around amid various tricolored ribbons, I sat out in the cold arena to watch the reining demo. I’m pretty sure that I lost feeling below my waist at some point before I threw in the towel and went to go ready RC for his moment in the lime light.

While everyone was eating the potluck in the only marginally warmer unfinished tack room, I told everyone to take a look at the tests, and watch the video etc etc. Then on to the arena with me and Mr WonderPony.

I had originally planned to braid and polo wrap RC to make a wonderful first impression. I just couldn’t do it. There was no way that I could muster the fine motor control needed to even tie up rubber band braids. So I just brushed him and called it close.

Now, RC is at least as sensitive to cold as I am, if not more so. His tail had all but disappeared into his muscle-ly haunches. On with our new Schneider’s tack quarter sheet… which didn’t come off all through our demo.

Of course, one I actually began to ride, I warmed up quite nicely. RC was wonderful; he was light and responsive and willing. I’m sure that our demo was kind of a scattershot of information, since there is just so much to cover in so little time, not to mention how difficult it is to demonstrate the moves correctly while narrating my own ride. Next time I’ll ask for volunteer riders… It’s easier to give explanations while someone else is riding.

The best part of the whole demo: Afterwards I had an older woman come up to me to tell me that watching me ride RC just made her “cry, it was so beautiful’. I'll count this day as a success.

+1 for RC's followers...

Day 4: Organize then Relax

Well, this advice was pretty good. After three excellent rides, I got my stuff all organized and ready to go for the Dressage Demo that I was going to be doing the next day, then I relaxed at home, curled up on my couch watching old WEG videos for inspiration.

Now, the 31 days: New year, New You advice might have been slightly different than I chose to interpret it, as it was referring to organizing a tack room/barn/whatever, then relaxing in a nice hot Epsom salt bath. I just can’t see myself adding Epsom salts to my bath at the end of the day. Bubbles, maybe, Epsom salts? Nope. RC might need them for an abscess in the future.

Now, as for organizing my barn… Let’s just say that it’s a work in progress. The new stalls are in, and the lights are up and working (thanks to Dad), now I just have to finish moving or getting rid of 30 years of accumulated junk to finish turning it in to a horse barn. Dreams of tack boxes and grass riding arenas are already bouncing around in my head. Don’t worry. At some point I’m sure that I’ll have an Extreme Makeover: Barn Edition post. You guys will just have to be patient and wait for it, though.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 3: Water

Ok, so after two days of enlightening encouragement, today's New Year New You advice was a little underwhelming; the gist of which is that horses need to drink, even in winter.
While it is important to monitor their water intake, I knew this already. And I don't feel the inspiration from the last two days to get off my can and go ride.
Oh well, they can't all be winners....

So I took today's advice, though probably not in the spirit intended. I'm sitting in the nice warm office drinking tea. Hydration is just as important for me as it is for those ponies, don't you think?
And since it was 2 degrees out this morning, I gave the ponies the morning off and played in the snow with the dogs instead. Lucky them!
Obviously Bacon is psyched about wearing his jacket. Look at those ears!
Not related to anything, but kind of a cool shot, dontcha think?
You can't tell, but both Tempi and Bacon disappeared in the snow bank  by the barn...

Bacon, striking a pose in the snow. He fell through the ice crust.

Looks like it's going to be a cold couple of days... Guess RC'll wear his new fleece liner!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 2: Stick With It!

Today's advice was from Heather Blitz. Another deceptively simple yet very true nugget of wisdom.
"Ride the same no matter what your show schedule is."


While I have no idea when my next show will be, let alone my next 'real' dressage show, I have to be hypervigilant to keep pushing myself and my horses to progress (hey, third level isn't just handed out on a silver platter). It's easy to say "Oh, I have three months, why not just take it easy, not push the envelope and ride well within my comfort zone". It's easier to stay in that comfort zone (the dreaded plateau!), so why not?

I had a trainer who used to say that dressage is for the crazy or neurotic. Who else would go out in hot/cold/sun/rain/wind and continually keep asking for the best that they and their horse can produce on that day?
9 out of 10 riders might say "see that leg yield? It went sideways, right? Done."
The dressage rider should say "We got sideways and forward, now we need more suspension (connection, sitting, push from behind, etc, etc, etc)" and move on to fill the holes in the ride.

And are there ever holes in my rides.

Now that I have today's advice, I can think about how much my rides change based on the atmosphere of the barn and arena. Take yesterday, for instance. I only worked Tilly at the walk and trot when her canter is really her weakest link. I can rationalize by saying that first we need to work on strengthening before getting in to transitions, but honestly, I just didn't want to work on the harder stuff in front of a crowd.
As for RC, I feel like I've been pushing to maintain but not pushing to progress. I mean, we could probably lay down a beautiful first level test, while a second level test would be beyond what I would be willing to show (hey, I want those high scores). He hasn't lost anything with my knee injury and the move in the last year, but he also hasn't progressed.
Delight is my problem child. Her training progression looks like a little bit of a sine curve. Wonderful and obedient, than the whoastorm, then obedient, then the hissy fits... Now we're starting to crawl back up to a showable horse. For her, my biggest problem is not pushing her far enough. I tend to treat her with kid gloves, but if I'm honest with myself, I wont 'ruin' her by asking for more.
Hindsight is 20/20, and all of that....

Now I just have to suck it up to go riding this evening. It's in the mid teens and has been snowing for the past 24 hours... It's only going to get colder. I would say that maybe I'll give them a day off tomorrow, but with yesterday's advice fresh in mind... Move it!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 1: Move it, move it!

OK, so the title is because I signed up for the New Year New You challenge: 31 days to wellness sponsred by Dressage Today and SmartPack. The whole idea is that they will email you a tip per day to get off to a good start in the new year.
Then, if I've learned anything in the end, I can write about my experiences and maybe get them published. Worth a shot, right? Just imagine, more than my three faithful readers can share my experiences.

Anyway, back on topic. Day 1: Move it, Move it!
(annnnd now that song is stuck in my head. You know the one... I like to move it, move it... )
The tip is to just get in gear and go out to the barn, no matter the weather or temperature outside. HAH! already on it. Check. Done.
While that's easy to say when it's been hovering above freezing for a week, I'll try to keep this in mind when it's 11 degrees and whiteout conditions tomorrow.
(Winter storm warning for my area from now til friday night. Goodie!)

Ok, I may jest, but really, breaking the inertia barrier is one of the hardest steps to improvement. Yes it's cold, yes it's still dark out when I head out to the barn... But I'll never be the rider that I want to be if I stay curled up in my nice warm bed instead of braving the weather or curled up on the couch reading about riding young horses rather than actually riding my young horses. I've heard that it takes 10,000 hours to become proficient at a skill... well, those hours aren't gonna happen if I'm wrapped in a blanket watching Disney movies.

In the spirit of Day 1's goals... I went out and rode- actually rode- to improve myself and my horse not just sit on my horses and amble around. And do you know what? I actually had a pretty good day. Sure RC wants to leap out of his skin everytime he passes H, but we did get some good canter work. Delight was the real star today. She wants to counterbend through the corners to get high and 'look-y' and throw her haunches to the left so that she doesnt have to step fully under herself. Today, I had moments where I fixed both issues. One of these days her leg yield right will be as good as her leg yield left....

Hey, I can dream.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Cinderella's Slipper

Have you guys ever noticed how finding that just right saddle is something akin to Goldilocks (this one is too wide, that one is too narrow!) or Cinderella's slipper (though statistically speaking, how many chicks do you think would have fit that shoe? Must have been more than one...)? I mean, how different types of backs can a horse have? What ever happened to narrow, medium and wide? Now we have saddles that are too long, have the wrong twist in the tree, too long of flaps, too narrow over the spine, and on and on.... Not to mention personal comfort... I mean some saddles ride like mideval torture devices and others feel like your floating on a cloud miles above the horse, then some dressage saddles have flaps that go to my ankles (side note: if there are spur marks on the flaps of your saddle, it might not fit you).

I remember that blissful ignorance when a saddle was 'good enough' because it didn't rub the hair out of Opie's withers or perch on the top of her broad back. Oh, those were the days... And we thought that bucking was only a behavioral problem. Though, to be honest, it might have been as far as Opie was concerned....

Now, because I know better, I have 5 saddles. For three horses. To be fair, they aren't all dressage saddles, so it could be worse.

RC has his super custom dressage saddle (with banana panels) that only fits when wearing a fuzzy half pad that also gets shared with Delight (oh, saddle fitter, where art thou?).
Then I have a Stubben jumping saddle for each Delight and RC... because Delight has a much wider back than RC, and you never know when I'll want to try jumping.
And RC's western saddle, for those pattern classes and drill team stuff. Or when I don't feel like working.
And now that I have Tilly, she has her very own dressage saddle (thank you, Santa!), which is a definint improvement over having to wear RC's Stubben (I have three girths, and none were quite right... Young horse, loose saddle... yikes).

First of all, I finally got my brown dressage saddle (honestly, who hasn't lusted after the brown saddle/chestnut horse combo?)! And it looks so handsome on Tilly! Now, I had my reservations upon actually seeing the saddle up on Tilly. The seat looked awfully small and the saddle was awfully light after hauling that Schleese around for so long... This saddle didn't extend as far back over her ribs (which is good) and that seat looked awfully small (especially after the holiday binge eating...).
Turns out I worried for naught.
The saddle fit both me and Tilly very well (though I did have to lengthen the stirrups... Which were uneven to start with), but has no knee rolls and the flattest seat I've ever felt in a dressage saddle. This saddle is on the total other end of the spectrum from my banana panel saddle. But I love it!

I know, I know... Pictures will have to come later, when all three of my horses aren't so worked up with the nice weather and a week off of work.

By the way, it was 40 degrees outside this morning! In the UP! In January! Global warming? I'll take it!

Also, in an effort to prompt comments or prove that anyone at all reads this blog, I have volunteered to give a Dressage demo to the local 4H kids. What would you want to learn about dressage? What do you wish people had told you before you got started? And I don't have a GP horse to show off, so the piaffe/passage and one tempis are right out.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


When I was younger, I used to think that it would have been the coolest thing ever to actually be twins with my sister. I mean, then we could go to the same classes, and do twin things!
See? Twin things... Like dressing alike.
Of course by high school, I wanted to go out and be my own person, do my own things...
What are the odds we both pick up Dressage? Seriously!

It occurs to me that my sister and I are actually much closer than normal sisters, which an inordinate number of people find shocking (you guys actually like each other? You show together?) . Our list of stats would read eerily similar. We have the same degree (different schools), the same tenancies to do silly things, the same truck and now the same horses. And the same haircut (which she totally stole from me) As it was we were referred to as a unit on the local show scene (thank goodness we are a thousand miles apart now).
Team McDougal... At least our horses don't match.

Now, I'm not just rambling on and on about how cool my sister and I are as people (let's face it, all we do is win, win, win), but by how shockingly similar our horses are, which, of course I noticed while visiting and riding her horses over Christmas.

Of course you'r horses are similar! They are related! Duh!

While, yes, we do each have a Black Delight GRP, they are not the same horse... er, pony.
Delight rides just like Bucky, without all the passaging/piaffing BS. She's highly reactive and needs the harder work to maintain focus otherwise we have an OMG what the HECK is that in the corner?!?!?! type moment. While that requires a more focused ride, its also a blast riding a reactive, responsve horse.
The Tillner rides just like Kiwi. They have the same 'feel'. Yes, Tilly is a 'people' pony who would rather stand and let you brush her for hours while Kiwi plainly doesn't have time for that BS and rules all she sees with an iron fist... hoof. Whatever. BUT the way those two cover the ground while working... Could be the same horse. Weird.

And no, no one else is comparable to RC. He's a one of a kind kinda guy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy New Year!!

Ah, it's that time again. The time when we should look back over the past year and reevaluate our goals and values for the new year. Time for that New Years Resolutions. Anyone with facebook has been bombarded with 'friends' resolutions over the last week.
There are the trite ones...
"This year I'm going to be a better person!" (I may have to slap you)
"My resolution is to have more smiles than tears in the coming year!" (friendship blocked)
"My goal is to surround myself with positive energy" (Seriously?)

Complete and total bull. These are only posted for that their mom/aunt/grandmother will comment "You're such a treasure in my life" and everyone will know how wonderful you are.

Then there are the show off ones..
"I'm going to get my beach body back!" from the 90 pound girl
"I'm going to save money for future investments" Dude, we're 20-somethings. We don't care about your stock portfolio.

Blah, blah, blah.

There are the funny ones
"My resolution is to spend more time on my horse, less time in the dirt" (which is just tempting fate, isnt it?)

And so what's mine?
Hell if I know. I guess I'll just have to wing it in 2012, just like I did in 2011. It seemed to work out alright.

By the way, Have to send out a huge THANK YOU to Patty Pendergast for this wonderful christmas ornament! It is just wonderful (though I'll have to make you sign it next time I'm in town)!