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We Are Flying Solo

June 23, 2010

I Iz Not A Skool Horse

I iz a gallopy jumpy horse.  I iz a shiny shiny athleet.  Athleets do not do mundane things.  If'n you make me go round & round on the torture string, I will do my best impreshun of the Hunter Under Saddle shuffle. 

If'n you make me canter on the torture string, I will run back to my stall as fast as I can.  After all, there are treets & a nice wind-maker there.  NO torture strings to be found at all.


(Me back in)  Solo did in fact survive his school horse stint.  You see, since mum & I are going on our Grand Ecuador Adventure in September, mum has to get back in the practice of the whole sitting on the horse thing.  So Solo was assigned the simple task of complying with a longe lesson.  His most favouritest thing (insert sarcasm here). 

Despite his best shuffling, mum still managed to pull off a quite good demonstration of how to post properly (your hands don't keep you on the horse, people, don't post with them!).  I let her keep her stirrups, but I did take away the reins, so there was no temptation to balance on them.

Solo also wanted to make sure I did not forget how much he hates cantering on the longe line.  However, he did not succeed in escaping his duties & mum rode it out like a champ & proceeded to demonstrate that it IS like riding a bike -- once you're up there, it all comes back.

June 19, 2010

How To Beat Summer Heat

It's all about positioning yourself to make the most of your surroundings.  Solo says, "Ahhhhhh....."

June 17, 2010

A Bun In The Oven

HA!  It's not what you think.  I am a vehement non-breeder (both pet and human) -- I just happen to feel like a bun sitting in an oven because it's SO DAMN HOT outside.  Hence why I have been remiss in providing you with endlessly entertaining posts (just lie and say they are, it makes me feel better).

Solo is on his post-spring-event-season break, which perfectly coincided with when it got hot anyway, so my motivation plummeted. I got on him Tuesday night just to do a little bit of arena work -- he's pretty much had a week and a half off except for one short trail ride. Before the break, Solo just felt tired in the back end and was schlumping around. Tuesday, he felt great, much looser and more forward after having time to just chill. Seems like Dr. Bob was right yet again.

I don't think we'll really hit training full on for a bit still. Our next event is...I'm not sure when. There's a possibility of one in August but it would entail a drive I'm not keen on. We are DEFINITELY hitting Virginia Horse Trials in October. Perhaps we'll just hit the local dressage series a few time until then...

When we do resume training, I think we'll go for a slower, steadier approach. Solo really seems to do better with days of hacking or just chilling between each real work session. I will just have to really make sure I focus on keeping him fit with that stuff.

So our fall target, instead of the ATC's (sigh) will be Virginia. This will be when I will shoot to have Solo at his apex of fitness, yet rested and bright eyed. Then he can trickle off after that at a couple of schooling trials we have planned for November. It seems so far away, but summer's already in full swing; I have a feeling it will pounce on me quite unawares.

June 6, 2010

The Rider Has To Bend Too

On this lovely, steamy, simmering morning, I met with P for a longe lesson.  Or rather a lesson in which the horse mostly walked around while I did goofy things.  One of the BO's horses, Jeff, obliged to humour my floppings-about.  You can see how excited he was about this when I showed up (left).  He at least managed to feign half an expression of interest in the peppermint wrapper noise (right).  Solo gets reprieve from longe lessons since no one can longe him except me due to his longeing baggage.

P's tasks for us today: make eventer79 do lots of stretches in attempt to loosen up her perennially stiff body parts. We mixed equal parts putting Jeff on the longe and just letting him wander about. Nearly all work was done at the walk, after first demonstrating it at the halt. Stirrups were removed from saddle so leg could drape loosely around the horse and the rein was only held at the buckle, it could also have been looped through the bridle if the horse was on the longe the whole time (note: please keep a horse's longe sessions no longer than 20 minutes for the sake of joints). I believe I succeeded in demonstrating a good proportion of failure.

Challenge 1: Sitting up straight, legs long and soft, raise left arm and hold out with fingers extended in front of you perpendicular to your body. Bend at the waist/hips, stretching your lower back, keeping your eyes UP AND AHEAD and touch your toes on the left side. Or if you are me, touch your knee. Which you have lifted so you can reach it (it made me feel great when P says, "OMG, how does someone so young get so stiff and messed up?"). Then slowly sit back up. Repeat three times than switch to right side. The key: your lower leg CAN NOT MOVE.

Challenge 2: Sit up straight and extend both arms out to the side like airplane arms. Again, keeping eyes up, twist the torso so your arms go in front of and behind you and then touch the left knee with the right hand. Repeat three times in each direction, on the other side, touch the right hand to the left knee. Again, lower leg must remain stable. (P again offers the kind observation, "Geez, it hurts to even watch how locked up your body is!" That's me, 31 going on 60.)

Challenge 3: Extend your left arm out in front of you and point off into the distance. Lock your eyes onto your finger. Now rotate your arm slowly around your shoulder so your finger moves up above your head and then behind you, letting your eye follow your finger so your head and neck roll around and stretch with it. Again, 3x both sides. Still keeping that lower leg still?

Challenge 4: You can rest your hands on the pommel for this one, but don't use them to support yourself. Lean your upper body forward over the horse's neck, keeping the eyes up again, until your seat just comes out of the saddle. You know what to do with that lower leg. Then return to neutral. Now lie back until your head is resting on the horse's bum, letting your back stretch and relax. Use your abs to sit back up. Repeat 3x.

Challenge 5: Roll your head around on your neck. Be careful to go slow and let things stretch gently. At the same time, roll your feet/ankles in nice stretchy circles.

Challenge 6: Lift both legs at the same time from the hip out away from the saddle and hold for as many strides as you can. Don't push it -- if the hip muscles start to cramp, stop. Really feel your seatbones and keep the lower back soft and moving with the horse.

Challenge 7: Hold the pommel with one hand. Lift both legs slightly in front of the saddle, lift your knees and pedal like you are on a bicycle. Feel like an idiot yet? Then you're doing it right.

All of these exercises aim to stretch and loosen the lower back and hips so you can develop a loose and following seat. And I have a sneaking suspicion they also provide great entertainment for one's instructor.

When you have done these, there are two more you can do at faster gaits. You still have no stirrups.

Challenge 8: Hold the pommel with one hand and the cantle with the other hand. Pick up a quiet sitting trot. Use your arms to pull yourself down into the saddle while keep your leg as loose as possible without falling off the horse. Can you lift both legs off the side of the horse? This is your goal -- as it is should be your seat and your balance keeping you on.

Challenge 9: This one is easiest for me at the canter (and Jeff, he hates trotting). We just did two laps around the arena in each direction, really focusing on having the hips and lower back unlock and be soft and following. I accomplished this for, um, one stride at a time. My brain said soft, but my hip muscles said no way. This will be big project for me!

All in all, you want to spend no more than 20 minutes doing no stirrups work, whatever gait you are working it. This is the optimal time for strength and flexibility building. More than this and you are just fatiguing your muscles and creating soreness and tightness. Pain is a sign that you are pushing it too far and being counterproductive.

So, try the challenges and tell me how you do!

June 5, 2010


It looks like the ATC's won't be held at Waredaca at the end of the summer after all.  The facility has conflicting scheduling.  Dammit, don't the organizers know that they are supposed to stick to what I have planned my year around??  (Just kidding, Gretchen, you are awesome -- but I still think you should kick the kids out and have a horse trial instead!)

The ATC's (Adult Team Challenge -- there's an east coast one and a west coast one) will now be opened up for bid to other locations.  Which may or may not be within reasonable shipping distance for me.  Which means I probably need to plan for a different recognized trial for the fall.  But it won't be the destination event that our ATC's are.  Waaahhh!  I'm going to go pout for a while.  Then I'm sure I'll get over it.  Eventually.