SUBSCRIBE TODAY Smiley face  Get updates via email! 

We Are Flying Solo

August 18, 2012

Make Your Horse Kinetic

Encore had an excellent lesson with our beloved David O. this morning and I am busy downloading and uploading and sideloading our videos!  Thank you to the most awesome Sue for not only organizing the lesson series, but letting Encore and I come up and have a mini-vacation at her beautiful farm.  We hit the galloping lanes on Friday to take the edge off, explored the XC fields, and then got to leap (sometimes more enthusiastically then others) over her lovely show jumps.

I can't wait any longer, though, to post a remarkable summary of horse training that David gave during one of Sue's lessons (the woman has THREE horses going right now, I have to nap just thinking about it).  Meditate upon it and make it your zen:

Forward is not fast.
Forward is creating the energy.
Collection is harnessing the energy.
Extension is releasing the energy.

August 10, 2012

Stormy Surprises

Lightning snapped as the stormfront wind brushed, refreshingly cool, across both our bodies.  Encore & I, both tired of sweating, welcomed a chance where time & bearable weather finally intersected.

Despite the flashing bolts of electricity, there was no rain, just the breeze, & Encore was bothered by neither.  On Monday, Dr. Bob visited to dispense spring shots & had given Encore his first chiro adjustment post-injections.  His thoracic spine felt great, he just had some rotation in his sacrum & hips that was easily restored to proper order.

As I tacked up, I felt his left hip muscle & hamstring, both usually tight & in need of stretching.  Today, though, both were soft & matched the right side; money well spent.

It was just a short school in the dressage area, but it restored my hope & was not what expected that day.  I've been struggling to snatch riding time from our field schedule, so consistency has not been involved in our training much.  There has been much sweating & llama-riding & more energy than we know what to do with.

But this time, Encore stepped into the bridle easily, working gorgeously round over his back.  I concentrated on not locking my left arm & shoulder -- if I lost my focus tracking left, his head would tilt askew to the inside, reminding me to BE SOFT.  Then I would consciously relax every muscle from shoulder to wrist, without losing the contact, & he would quietly move forward, straight & strong.

We only did left lead canter, his weak side (Mr. Anticipation doesn't get to assume we do both leads every time, he's too smart!).  I let him warm up his back in two point, then I sat down as much as I could in the jumping saddle & rode with my seat & core.  Suddenly there appeared steps of a round dressage canter & Encore flicked an ear as I laughed with glee.

Spring 2012.  You won't believe the new body he has now...
The session finished with just three jumps.  We trotted back & forth over a 2' crossrail -- he can be quite strong & pasture sour at home so we have been working on that.  Today, he stayed in a rhythm & didn't race to the jump.

I decided to go ahead & canter around to a last jump -- about a 3'1" double rail vertical I set up to come off a bend.  As he came to the base & I kept my leg on, he curled up & over the jump so carefully, I could feel his front legs not daring to touch wood.

Our entry show of the  fall is a schooling jumper show in town in two weeks.  Then our first horse trial will take us back the Carolina Horse Park for Five Points HT in September.

I have a good feeling & hopefully this time, it won't be a prelude to disaster...

July 28, 2012

Can I Make The Impossible Possible?

This is how it goes:

Monday I am getting ready for field work, fixing the stuff broken in last week's field work, or driving to field work.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I am usually DOING field work on travel status, which means I am in a hotel somewhere in the economic wasteland (but gorgeous rivers) that is the coastal plain of our state.

Friday, I'm fixing the stuff we broke this week and planning and coordinating staff for the next week.

Saturday, I am exhausted and it is 102 degrees, but I stuff myself into the truck and drive north to ride Encore.  Since he hasn't been ridden in a week, I have to somehow wear him out before I can do anything focused (I have discovered the round pen is very helpful because he HAS to balance or he will fall). 

Sunday, he is much more rideable but I am tired of sweating, even though the temperature has dropped to a balmy 99.  Nevertheless, I truck up and try to do something worthwhile.

I ache to ride Solo too, but what little time I have must be devoted to the youngster.

Because we WILL have a fall season, SO HELP ME COD, because my knee surgery (thank YOU, VA Horse Trials 2011) is scheduled for November 16th (just after the Adult Team Challenge in VA, how fitting) and after that I will not be able to walk until mid-January and it will be 8 months to full recovery if I don't explode first.

Encore needs a schedule (which I can't give him) and I need to build his hind end, especially his left hind, which is still a bit weaker and tight from his pre-injection body habits.  We've made some progress; our dressage lesson today "showed a nice Second Level trot" and because the arena had not been mowed, Mr. Finicky Legs passaged over the 10 inch tall weeds while I laughed at him.  I guess that's one way to get hock action...

Blogging:  EPIC FAIL.  Unless you want to hear about all the fish I can't find because they have somehow vanished.  Who would have thought that the rivers had changed since the last records of the species 50 years ago?  Oh wait...

On the plus side, in November I will have time to write the series I have been saving in my head that I think you will enjoy.  Since I will not be able to do anything else.  Although I have already decided that sitting on a lazy, retired horse is a non-weight bearing activity....

July 7, 2012

On Again, Off Again

Summers are frustrating for me.  It's field season at work, which means I am doing this...

...while losing my body weight in sweat every day.  It is fun and I love the wildlife, but trust me, it's not as easy as it looks!  It also means I have no consistent schedule.  I am often on travel status as my territory covers 1/3 of the state.  Horse training and article writing does not seem to be a priority of my agency for some reason.

So I am left to piecemeal it as best I can.  I make plans and change them and then change those.  Sometimes I have to wait until the heat breaks or until it's raining so field work is canceled or we have meetings so I get to stay home.

Yeah, your clinic scheduled on a Wednesday?  Please stop complaining that it won't fill, we can't all be kept women...

However, since I spend many MANY hours behind the wheel of the work truck, I contemplate.  What do I want from Encore's round pen work?  With Solo, I needed to earn his trust, so my approach was to calm him and reassure him as much as possible.  But with Encore, I think I want to leave a little raw edge.  He is appropriately obedient, but has a little fire, a little pushback, and I don't think I want to take that away.  I WANT a little badass-ery in my eventer and to know that he is self-confident enough to attack new challenges and move boldly forward even if I falter.  Solo became bold and confident because I showed him he could be, but Encore already has his own core to build on. 

This is my working theory.  In the meantime, what riding time we get is spent on building his hind end and back on trails and in transitions in hopes that our fall season will see everything bumped up a notch!

July 1, 2012

When Baby Says No: Encore Vs. Round Pen Pt II

The helmet cam is so much more than XC courses!  I put it on a week or so ago to tape Encore in the round pen, where I was briefly going to work him before riding him.  However, someone had had the audacity (according to Encore) to place a bright blue bottomless pit harboring zombie cows right next to the round pen.  End result:  no riding, but a repeat of our last round pen escapades with a twist of anxiety which melted in the heat into stubbornness.

I first led him around the pen and let him stare at the Blue Pit for a few moments, giving him a fair look at it and leading him back and forth by it a few times.  Then I turned him loose and said, "Ok, buddy, you're own your own to work this out.  Go."  He then goes to what is becoming his textbook response of (a) rush through thing I don't want to do and pinning my ears, (b) pulling out all evasion tricks to avoid said thing, (c) finally, unable to think of any other ways out, giving in.  For today.

Ridiculous commentary in my horrible video voice provided free of charge, as I walk you through my approach, although you will have to turn your volume all the way up.  I'm still working on finding the perfect mic settings for the camera.

When he is still in the "no" phase, but he is getting hot and tired, watch him hunt for the stop near the gate opposite the Blue Pit.  It it critical that I do NOT let him stop here in a place HE has decided is safe.  He may only stop or relax when he enters the space which I insist is safe, despite any zombie, real or imagined.  You can see, it's like a switch flipping, when he decides it is too much work saying no, so he might as well just play along.

This second video is the last two minutes of our work in the other direction before my battery died.  He was much more difficult to the right and threw out every evasion he could come up with multiple times, which are caught here, including turning his butt to me, shoving his head over the fence, looking away, trying to switch directions, backing up and so forth.  LITERALLY ten seconds after the battery died, he dropped to a walk, dropped his head licked his lips, sighed, and said, fine, you win.  Of course.  You can see that moment begin right as the video stops.

*SAFETY FIRST.  At all times, I am conscious of his body language, just how belligerent he is feeling, where his body and feet can go, and where my feet and body are.  I stay focused and on my toes and am ready in a moment to drop or back off should feet start to fly.  I would like to say he is too kind to go for that option, but a horse is a horse, so if you engage in asserting your leadership, BE CAREFUL and be sure of your plan before you walk in the pen.  And plans B, C, and D.

You are now free to discuss at will...