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We Are Flying Solo

January 30, 2011

Back To Basics

I was hard at work last night, whining about how I couldn't ride my horse and throwing myself about the house in true adult fashion.  Lifeshighway had the audacity (the nerve!) to break into said whining fit and suggest just doing something fun with Solo on the ground so at least I wouldn't just be staring at him with sad puppy eyes.

She is a very smart friend.

Add to that it was 60 degrees and sunny; it was simply not possible to stay in the house and pout, so I rolled over to the farm and decided to blow the dust off our groundwork, something I'd not done for probably two years.

Ground exercises are so very simple, yet they can be vital underpinnings to not only our relationship with our horses, but our ability to handle them safely. But in their very simplicity lies the ease with which we neglect them. I believe it is vital that every horse we own should have these basic cues thoughtfully installed for two reasons: (1) It allows us to control their body movements from the ground. (2) It helps to establish our role as a leader in our horses' mind. (3 - ok, I thought of another one) It lets our horses engage their minds through communication in a language they understand: pressure/release and body language.

Here is what I consider the basics:

-Yield the hindquarters to pressure behind the girth area on both sides. This includes a proper cross-over step with the hind legs.

-Step back from pressure either on the bridge of the nose or the chest.

-Lower the head from pressure on the poll.

-Walk in a circle around me in both directions, maintaining the motion unprompted until I say whoa.

-Lead quietly next to me. Stop when I stop. Back up when I back up. Wait patiently when we are standing still.

It's not rocket science. I use a rope halter from our good friends at Sunset Halters (Solo is even on their photo page in his halter/bridle they made for him!), a 10' lead rope, and a dressage whip. Solo models his custom halter, below. And as a side note, these halters are fantastic; it still looks as great as it did five years ago and you can wash it in your washing machine! They never fade, stretch, or break.

This picture is so old, Solo has a mane!

I use the butt of the dressage whip to give pressure cues on the chest and rib cage. I use my fingers for pressure on the poll or nose. I use body language to control the whoa and backing up at a distance. And I ALWAYS maintain a relaxed, calm, patient demeanor so that Solo is at ease too.

It usually works like this:

I hold the lead rope in one hand and standing next to Solo's left shoulder, I ask him to yield his hindquarters to right using the butt of my whip against his ribs. I use the lightest pressure possible, only increasing if he does not respond and releasing as soon as he does. I repeat three times. I have no idea why three. It feels good. I repeat standing on his right side.

I place the fingers of one hand on the bridge of his nose and ask him to back four or five steps. I then put three fingers on his poll and ask him to lower his head.

Next, I ask him to walk three circles around me in each direction. I just like three, ok. After three circles, I lean slightly to one side, fix my eyes on his hip and ask him to swing around and face me squarely at the halt. Eyes are powerful, so he does.

I walk up, pat him, then tie the lead rope around his neck, so he is now at liberty. I walk off, he follows with his nose at my elbow. We circle and loop at the walk, turning both directions, some big loops, some smaller. Then I stop. He stops. I take four deliberate steps backwards. So does he. I have not touched him since tying up the lead. I start forwards again and now I trot. He trots. I stop and back up quickly and he does the same.

Now, I turn and face him straight on and raise my arms above my head, square my chest and ask him to back up two steps. He does and I lower my arms and relax. I count to ten, then move into him and rub his forehead, he licks and chews and we are done. Maybe fifteen minutes has elapsed.

He is now re-tuned into my body and my energy, he is attentive to me and when I untie the lead from his neck, he follows me quietly back to the barn. Even though it's been a while, he remembers his exercises well and I am satisfied.

So, fellow horse-folks, how are your basics? Rusty? Polished to a spit-shine? Not yet installed?  Can you complete each task on the list?  Do you have other favourites that you insist your horses know?  Do share!

January 29, 2011

Despondency Is No Fun At All

All bummed out and nowhere to go.

Solo did not feel any better on our test ride today. Which means our problems are probably not inflammation, since the bute had little to no effect. He still won't lift his back and push from behind. He still locks down the left side of his jaw HARD. So I am still miserable.

Next step: he is due for a chiropractic adjustment anyway, so I'll call the vet on Monday. If I'm lucky, they can adjust and inspect our mysterious problem.  If I'm really lucky, that will SOLVE our problem.  The hard part will be detecting something that causes no limping, swelling, or heat.

Till then, Mr. Shiny will be hanging out with his buddy, Pete, waiting for dinner and getting fat. *sniff*

January 28, 2011

Me So Handy

I am hoping the warming weekends mean that winter is moving on out. If it's not, I may use the pitchfork in a forceful manner to encourage it to do so.

Solo is finishing up his bute regimen and I will attempt to get on him tomorrow to see what I have under me. Keep your hooves crossed please!

Since one must keep oneself busy in winter to avoid assuming the shape of an eggplant, I decided to load all my power tools in the truck last weekend and attack some crippled jump standards we'd been storing. Yay, power tools! Music to a girl's ears...

There were four gate wing standards.  Two had legs rotted off and several of the middle boards were, well, held together by duct tape.

I'm on it!! Just give me an extension cord and I'm entertained for hours! Ok, at least an hour till I get impatient and figure out some shortcut that won't look quite as good but hey, it's fixed! Check out the prowess in action! Thank god I am better at building things than I am at dressage.

I know, it's amazing I didn't saw a finger off. Solo and I share accident-prone genes. We make up for it with, uh, our charmingness, of course!

Voila! One of my newly patched masterpieces. Mad skillz, baby, mad skillz.

January 26, 2011

Big Red Fire

I spoke to Dr. Bob again on Tuesday.  We agreed given the sudden onset of Solo's discomfort and the fact that he wasn't "warming up out of it," he's probably tweaked something while leaping around in the pasture on the crappy winter ground.  So now it's a week of bute and no work for him and a week of staring despondently for me, while I hope fervently every day that this is just a passing ache and that I'll soon have my horse back.

As a consolation prize, I had the DVD release of the 2010 film "Secretariat" in hand, eager to revisit the magnificent horse I met long ago (left). Since it was the Disney version, I braced myself for historical inaccuracy and cheesiness. Turns out, they should have named it "The Penny Chenery Story," as Secretariat seemed to play a minor supporting role. And the horse who played Red could not capture the legend's incredibly regal eye and proud soul. But it was a fair introduction to this mind-blowing athlete for people who may not have grown up with his story and included Big Red's bitter rivalry with Sham, a brave bay (ironically, bred and owned by Claiborne farm, where Secretariat retired) who never raced again after his defeat in the 1973 Belmont Stakes.

But the redemption of the film is in watching beautiful horses run; it never fails to make me catch my breath and go still. Because I know how it feels to sit on top of 1200 pounds of red fire. I know the sound of each foot as it hits the ground and pushes off, propelling a chestnut rocket to ever greater speed. I know the chug of air that rushes into two flared nostrils to fuel the flame stoked within. I know the incredible surge of muscle as a burnished copper back and hindquarter coils and releases immense energy in the name of the gallop. And I know the electricity of sitting on top of the unadulterated joy of running, the flaming of a soul who lives to stretch out well-muscled legs and eat up the earth in quickening strides.

I have been lucky. I have been blessed. And I will never forget it.


January 23, 2011

Hamsters On Drugs

This is how my brain operates: (1) Imagine a hamster's feet while he is running on a wheel. (2) Put that hamster on speed. (3) Now put him in a hurricane.  And the hamster may at any time leap completely off that wheel and shoot into a different one that you didn't even know was there.

That's the general idea. Fast and crazed and completely unpredictable. 

There's a lot going on. I spoke with Dr. Bob as I mentioned in my previous post. Ok, by "spoke," I may mean "I called and blabbered my general freaked-out state in some nutty horse-woman fashion, convinced that I had ruined my horse forever." He says I am a crazy person (well, I don't see how that is relevant!). But he feels that Solo's stiffness is rather due to the prolonged and bitter cold and the frozen ground (Mr. Shiny does enjoy airs above the ground in his pasture on a regular basis), not any changes in management. However, since he is the lovely Dr. Bob, he had already faxed in a new Adequan Rx for us and hoped that I was right anyway and after a few shots, I'd have my horse back. Otherwise, I just have to wait for it to get warmer and hopefully, the stiffness will subside. It better, because wouldn't you know I just planned out our spring season...

On Saturday, I also attended the USEA Area II Annual Meeting in Leesburg, VA. A whole day of sitting around just talking about horses and eventing -- what could be better than that (aside from actually riding said horses)? It was a great time with some really well-done presentations (and OMG, Eventing Nation actually reported on something I went to!!). We have a new Adult Rider chairperson and she has loads of fantastic ideas. A local physical therapist talked to us about human biomechanics in relation to riding and how we should shape our fitness accordingly (this one had a lot of surprises). John DeSilva of Ecogold gave a hilarious and informative presentation on their boots and saddle pads. He just made me want to buy his stuff because he was awesome! A geneticist/breeder also talked about equine conformation on a skeletal level and had quite a few fascinating illustrations. It was well worth the drive north (and freezing my ass off up there)!

Today, BO and I took our boys out XC schooling. It was her young TB's first time out, so Solo was needed for "lead" duty. Solo was still stiff so we didn't do as much as I would have liked, but we did tackle a few of the big things out there and, though he wavered a bit, I kept my leg on, DIDN'T CHICKEN OUT, and we had ZERO refusals, which is a big BIG step up for us in the "Quest To Jump Big Scary Jumps." You might remember this giant (2010 photo below) from last year. Last February, it took me three tries and some serious gulping to get over it. Today, I sat down, wrapped my legs around that horse, and we leaped it (not pretty, but hey, it was clean) in one go.


January 20, 2011


I think I found our problem. We have been trying a new joint support program as per Dr. Bob: a monthly IM injection and an IV shot of polyglycan every 3 months. He thought it might be more affordable and offer similar or better results than our Adequan regime. We're about a month and half in.

And I don't think it's doing a damn thing.

Solo was rushing and on his forehand. He could not step up under himself and was bearing down on the bridle. The whole left side of his body is locked tighter than it has been in a long time.

I know this horse. After almost five years, I know how he feels, I know his mind and body inside and out. And I know that I should listen to my gut, which is telling me we should go back to the Adequan.

I'll chat with Dr. Bob tomorrow and see what his thoughts are...

January 19, 2011

Gritted Teeth

It's always been a problem.  Solo locks the left side of his jaw and just. won't. let. go.  Meanwhile I descend into frustration and the whole left side of my body takes on the approximate suppleness of an I-beam.


So, not the best ride tonight. I'm not sure why. I've been working hard with the chiro and feel much MUCH better in my own vertebral sections. Solo is muscle-y and had been going along nicely.

Could it be the cut on his jaw is irritated despite the super-fabulous horsey band-aid I made to protect it from bit rubbing?

Exhibit A at left.

Could it be he's still a bit stiff from the 3 hour ride in the woods on Sunday picking our way through ankle-grabbing, bent over pine yearlings that exasperated the both of us? I gave him Monday and Tuesday off to rest...

It could be both. It could be neither. It could be something else entirely among the 1,208 variables I can think of off the top of my head. I don't suppose it matters too much -- although perhaps just knowing could abate my own knotted jaw muscles. The jaw thing is something that's always been an issue: he clenches, I clench back, then we both just hang there and growl at each other. So when it rears its (ugly ugly) head, I get mad that I have not yet defeated this persistent monster.

I need to let go, take a deep breath, keep the frustration locked in its closet, and use the lateral work to soften him back up. Of course, remembering to do that AT THE TIME is the challenge I continue to fail. Grrr.

Focus on the positive: after every crap ride comes a good ride. I will be eagerly awaiting its appearance tomorrow. I need someone standing next to the arena just chanting, "Supple the horse, supple the horse, supple the horse..." Maybe then I will get it through my thick, thick skull.

January 17, 2011

Solo Makes A Friend

Back in November, I promised you some pictures.  Pictures of Solo greeting Mr. Glowy, a fantastic prize that you helped me win for creating the most amazing yard art imaginable!

I always follow through! Eventually.

Solo greets Mr. Glowy in the customary equine fashion.

Oh, great Solo, I prostrate myself before thee! Thy greatness is even greatness-er (what can I say, flamingos don't have great grammar) than I could have imagined. Oh, please, won't you honour me with your acceptance of my humble pink self? I glow in the dark!!

Uh, ok, lighten up, lil pink dude. It's not a big deal, sure we can hang out. And my prostate is fine, thanks for asking though. 

And so it was that two great creatures came to befriend one another. Forever united in crime awesomeness, they survey a better world.

January 15, 2011

There Is No "I" In Team

But there is a "me" which is practically the same as a Solo! Hey, it makes sense in my head.

Who makes up our team? I have talked about them before, but I wanted to take a moment to recognize the core members -- without whom we would be unable to accomplish any of this crazy adventure.

Each one is "mission critical" & I am indebted to them all. There are, of course, others who have touched our lives along the way, but if I write them ALL down, I fear you'd be stuck reading for days.  So, in no particular order, on the short list, I introduce to you --

Team Flying Solo:

Dr. Bob: Our vet & answerer of all my 1,001 questions. A former eventer himself, he always has a ready smile & an apparently boundless store of information about the needs & management of the sporthorse. He always answers the phone with a "So, how's my buddy doing?" & never fails to consider what is best for Solo over what is best for his checking account.

Johnathan: Our wonderful farrier. He always takes his time, never brushes off my inquiries (Dr. Bob is not alone in being subjected to my barrage of questions on regular basis), & is always working to further his own education & broaden his skillset. He can also simultaneously discuss the latest triumph or flop on American Idol.

Priscilla: Magical dressage trainer. Capable of sneaking progress up on us when we thought we weren't doing all that much. Generous, encouraging, & creative when it comes to doing an end run around Solo's dressage tantrums. She can also keep you entertained for several hours at a time with horse stories.

David: (right) Oh-so-patient jumping trainer. Since he has completed the "big boys" of Burghley & Rolex, I never fail to be intimidated when I walk in the ring. But he is unfailingly kind, generous with his time, & extremely talented at bringing out the best in horse & rider. He doesn't even yell at me when I do something stupid -- I believe he has noticed that I tend to beat myself up plenty, no use kicking a girl while she's down.

Mum: What can you say about mum? Not only a cheerleader, but taker of great pictures & the one who makes it possible for us to even attend competitions. We'd be stuck bored to death at home without her support!

Jim: (left, with Smokey the wonderdog) Do I even need to list why? I will anyway. Not only did he make a gift of Solo, he supplied us with our rig & other goodies, including more than a few great photographs of his own. His unfailing love & support in this great passion of mine was a true & rare gift & one which I will always treasure no matter what.

lifeshighway: Our BFF & conditioning partner. She & her horse, Pete, are endurance racers & have taught me so much about conditioning & managing the equine athlete. She has also, for some nutty reason, listened to all the intricacies of the ups & downs of our journey with never a complaint as I flounder my way along, thinking out loud.

All of you:  That's right, my fellow horse junkies.  Your kind words & support mean the world to me & are a bolster to my courage when progress stalls or motivation lags.  The fact that you take the time to read & contribute is a great & thoughtful thing.  Thank you!

January 13, 2011

Raise Your Hand If You Have Arthritic Changes!

Mine's up.  Solo raised his hoof too.

The chill outside doesn't help. It's a sharp, clear cold. The stars are harsh pinpricks in the ink black sky and Orion hovers in sharp focus in the southern sky above the barn. A biting wind cuts through every doorjamb and under every wall to pierce the back of your collar with its icy fangs.

I've spent all week bouncing around doctor's offices; my neck and back have been locked up for ages and I'm sick of just tolerating the pain. My physical therapist dude has been working on it, but we both can tell the problem is deeper. The chiro studies the xrays and says my neck is permanently screwed, there's no curve left in it at all. "But," he says, "we can keep it mobile and at least all your discs look good." Then he cancels out that by pointing out the arthritic changes along the processes of my lumbar spine. Damn. But hey, the discs are good!

Then this afternoon, it's the eye doctor's turn to crush my world a little more. My eyes have decided to be even lazier than they were before and I've moved from a 6 to a 7.7. Ouch. That was unexpected.

"So, I know that's way too high for Lasik to fix; are there any options for repair at this level of myopia?" I hold my breath, hoping for an impossible affirmative answer.

"Nope," he replies, "not till you're 60 and you get cataracts, then we can just give you a new lens."

"Oh. So you're saying that I should basically try to give myself cataracts."

"Yeah!" (He seems a little too enthusiastic about this...) "Just take your sunglasses off and let the UV do its thing. Well, no, on second thought, then you'll get macular degeneration, so never mind. Nope, you just have to wait."

Then he finishes me off with the old "but, hey, you never know what scientific advances they'll make in the next ten years!" *sigh* Yeah, sure.

By the time I got home, I was thoroughly discouraged. It's not all bad though -- the chiro reckons we can keep things moving and manage the pain back down to human levels and physical therapist reckons he can help keep everything suppler, if that's a word. I can't see worth a crap, but at least I have finally found contacts I love and stay comfy even in the dustiest, most hay-filled sheds.

Then there are irreplacable friends -- lifeshighway generously offered to be my seeing eye old lady when my eyeballs rotted at age 40 and even offered to hit people with her cane when they got in the way. Now THAT'S a true friend right there!

Nonetheless, I maintain, aging is a bitch and I highly recommend avoidance at all cost. And insurance is a joke -- this shit is still ridiculously expensive, even just in co-pays, how the heck are people supposed to take care of themselves if they want to buy groceries too???

And that is the end of my whining for now. Back next time with horse stuff. Because horse stuff is way better.

January 10, 2011

A Day With David

Saturday was jump lesson day.  Blowing snow be damned.

Solo is not an easy horse to jump, or should I say, jump well at height; he does not have a naturally uphill balance, so his preferred method of jumping is to dive at the base of the jump and then hurl himself over.

However, if you use a combination of 47 different muscles, perfectly timed aids, and stick your tongue out a bit, you can get him to jump with a lovely, smooth bascule.

I know, what's the holdup, right? I, unfortunately, seem to only be able to occasionally coordinate about 12 of the 27.5 required things to get him straight, balanced, uphill, and round.  About every jump out of 8, I can pull it together.  The odds are getting better, but it's still frustrating when I can't get in "the flow."

I will not admit how much time I spend mulling it all over in my head.  A constant refrain from David is "lift his poll." At the same time, I am supposed to keep my reins short, but not lift my hand.

Thus far, I have failed to work out how to achieve these two seemingly contradictory things.  Or, to be more accurate, I understand how to do them in theory, but fail to get my body to perform said theory.

Join us, then, for parts of a lesson with our jump coach, eventer David O'Brien; he is unbelievably patient with my blundering and has played no small part in bringing Team Flying Solo along.  Apologies for shaky video -- the wind was blowing hard and cold and our dear friend/videographer, Cindy, was shivering!

Part I: We've done our flat warmup of bendy death circles and now we do some small jumps and combinations.

Part II: Moving on to courses and some great Solo tips from David.

I have a lot to work on.

Solo was busy trying to figure out where his friends were and OH SOMETHING MOVED OVER THERE! so he never really softened and focused.  I am still riding too defensively in the stadium ring (being flipped over a pair of ears will do that to you) and I need to allow myself to be a bit more forward coming to the jump and stay softer in my waist.

Before each jump, I need to be more focused on my body in general and remember to use my thigh and core to lift my horse's shoulder as he prepares to pat the ground for takeoff.  My legs are slipping back and getting sloppy.  And I need to have a firm discussion with my arms so they figure out what to do!

January 9, 2011

This Is How We Roll: Dressage Saddles

For quite some time, Solo and I played in the sandbox in a Wintec Dressage Pro. However, it was no longer fitting for us, so it was time to find its replacement. For my funky-shaped horse. And funky-shaped me. Yay. Cause we've had such fun with saddle fitting in the past.

But then, for a brief instant, the universe smiled upon us. Because I was out of cash, I thought my search was doomed. But then the SO stepped in. Yes, the same wonderful one who made my one life dream come true five years ago. He was probably sick of listening to me whine incessantly about the horror that is saddle shopping. So he did himself a favour and shut me up by funding My Precious.

And by My Precious, I mean our new dressage saddle. 17.5 inches of black beauty.

I like to pet it and stare at it...oh, sorry, you want details! It is a Black Country Eden, chosen because, of their two dressage trees, this one has a little more scoop to it and sat on Solo beautifully. These saddles are hand built in England -- you pick the tree (or they can build one off of your wither tracing) and then you pick all the options (for no extra charge!).

So I spec'd it out:

Grippy heritage leather
Wither gussets to fill those hollows behind Solo's withers
Thigh blocks that were not too big
A flap angled slightly forward to accomodate my freaky long thighs
Dropped panels to spread weight over a wider surface area on Solo's back

Here's an example of dropped panels on a jumping saddle, they fit in behind the shoulder:

End result: awesomeness. You sit in it and it's like sliding into a glove. Gorgeous balance and oh so comfortable, it's like an easy chair. I have mad, mad love for it and will never let it go.

Thank you, darlin'.

January 7, 2011

Down Time

I hate winter. I may have mentioned that a time or two before.

It makes me feel like a prisoner: footing sucks, it's dark every day after work, and it's so damn cold I spend half my time putting on or taking off layers of strategically arranged clothing. I long for the day when I can walk outside with one shirt on. Just one. Sheer bliss, that is.

Solo seems to be taking it lying down.  With his eyes closed.  On a bed of sun-warmed hay. At least one of us is comfortable.

It is then left to us sun-starved and shivering riders to come up with tasks to fill our barn time when the ground is slop. Or frozen. Or covered in a lethal mix of ice and snowpack. Because I am freaking tired of riding around in circles in the stupid arena. And so is my horse.

As a result, my trailer dressing room is organized with new and OCD-appropriate containers. Including a, get this....wait for it....magnetic paper towel holder. I consider it my crowning achievement in trailer pimped-out-ness.

I have also mended Solo's blanket linings with my dazzling seamstress skills.

Do try to restrain your awe and envy. I am sure Hollywood costume designers are already googling my number.

I have also reorganized my tack room corner, devised a way to store my extra baling twine, invented a saddle pad hanging system, cleaned the feed room, and cleaned all my buckets.

Now what?

January 3, 2011

I Didn't Think We Could

I was cleaning up some draft posts today -- I store snippits of thoughts and ideas for later pondering.  At the top of the sorting list was this one, from late in March of this past year, 2010:

Can Solo even make it to Training Level? Can he take me to my goal? Have I aimed higher than his body can accomodate? Perhaps I am being too ambitious and we won't be able to get there.

I remember well the grave and lingering doubt. The spring season was almost over and we had not completed one event and finished in 18th with a pulled back muscle at another. My horse felt tired and I wondered if we would ever be able to conquer Novice level.

We did another HT that weekend following my troubled thoughts. I believe I recall flying jump rails, although I also recall a thrilling dressage score.

But the flickering wings of doubt still hovered around mental corners and I studied my horse with many a furrowed brow.

And then there was summer and field season and me working myself to death and then there was heat and more heat and still more heat and Solo's summer break.

And then there was fall.

I studied my goal and I got back on my horse. Vitamins had brought his body back in balance. A vacation had pricked his ears. Hmmm....

Then I had a conversation with Becky Holder. I asked (trying not to appear tipsy and idiotic even though I'd already thrown back a wee bit of barn aisle wine...) if I was perhaps a moron for wanting to take a horse to a classic 3-day when he would be 16. Becky had just taken Comet to WEG at 14 and I wanted her insight. I believe her words were Absolutely not. And we talked about management and fitness and timing and all of a sudden, I found myself able to believe again.

Two days later, my horse hopped up and down double steps on the cross country field and popped through combinations without blinking. And my goal was resuscitated, the doubt shoved back into its cage, and I knew we could do it.

The point of all this rambling, you patient readers, you, is that sometimes, yes, this whole crazy journey seems impossible. There have been times and probably will again be times where my willpower staggers in the face of uncountable variables. And the place I am in today, the place that Solo and I are in right now, is not one that I expected. It was beyond my visible horizon, and yet, here we are, getting ready to embark on Training Level and storm the barricades around our 3-Day goal.

Which brings me to you: all of you out there who have some thing you want to do with your horses. When we start out, sometimes it seems too big or too hard, but I am standing here today and telling you -- just because you can't see it on your horizon, doesn't mean it's not waiting just beyond the curvature of the earth. Just because you can't see the entirety of the road that takes you there, doesn't mean that path doesn't exist. All it requires of you is that you keep putting one foot, one hoof in front of the other and that you keep trying.

Because before you know it, my friends, you will wake up one day and, surprise, you will be there. Maybe not along the route you thought, and maybe not at the time you planned, but progress will indeed have found its way to you.

Solo and I still have a long way to go. It means a great deal to me that you've participated in our journey thus far. We really have come to a place that I wasn't sure we could make and I am stunned and thrilled to be here. We're going to keep on trying and keep our eyes on the track ahead. And the message that I want all of you to hang on to, even when you feel discouraged or too far behind or too tired, is that, whatever your goal is, whether it's running at Prelim or jumping a crossrail or going on your first trail ride, if you keep at it, you can do it.

January 2, 2011

They Deserve A Round Of Applause

This year, our Area II (DE, MD, NC, NJ, PA, VA) Adult Rider coordinator came up with the idea of contacting eventing instructors and asking if they would give a 10% discount to Adult Rider members. The sad part: mine doesn't. The really great part: many of them said yes.

I want to say thank you to these people for their support. It is hard to squeeze the money for lessons out of one's budget. It means a lot to us when you cut us a break and help us out. So thank you, thank you, thank you for this gesture and for all of you out there contemplating lessons, if one of these folks is in your area, give them a call! You, of course, need to be a paid Adult Rider member ($20, I think) and have your membership number to qualify for a special rate.

The winners (I have added locations where I could):

Allison Springer (VA)
Jane Sleeper (PA)
Bobby Costello (NC)
Mark Weissbecker (NC)
Carol Kozlowski
Mogie Bearden-Muller (MD)
Christopher Hitchcock (VA)
Molly Bull (VA)
Courtney Cooper (PA)
Phyllis Dawson (VA)
Doug Payne (NJ/SC)
Holly Payne (NJ/SC)
Sally Cousins (PA/SC)
Gretchen Butts (MD)
Stephen Bradley (VA)
Yvonne Lucas (VA)
Jan Byyny (VA/SC)
Lynn Symansky (VA)

Dude, I should move to Virginia, sheesh. There are probably others on that list who winter in Aiken (SC) but you can inquire if you contact. Pretty much all of them have contact information available on a quick google search.

January 1, 2011

Splish Splash, We're Taking A...Lesson

P came out yesterday to check on our dressage progress. Neither of us can stop remarking how different he is than the horse I sat on a year ago. With more spring in his trot and a lovely new ability to carry his weight on his hind end while cantering (WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THIS POSSIBLE??!), he is becoming a real pleasure to ride.

Of course, not all is sunshine and rainbows -- for nearly the entirety of the lesson, Mr. I-Woke-Up-On-The-Wrong-Side-Of-The-Pasture reminded us that the footing was sloppy and he was still a redhead after all and therefore still possessing of strong opinions about when one should (never) and should not (always) do dressage. I did my best to swallow my frustration, take deep breaths and work calmly through his fussing instead of resorting to my instinctual tactic to grit my teeth and fight him (ah yes, which always works out SO well).

We focused on using shoulder-in and leg yield to keep encouraging His Fussiness to engage his inside hind and step into the outside rein. Then we combined this with changes within the trot: compress to collected trot, quietly expand to medium trot, back to collected trot, then medium trot, then collected, then ask for some extended steps. As you can see, occasionally my requests get a wee bit overenthusiastic -- on our first attempt to extend down the long side, he goes all right, just not quite in the right gait... (I recommend full-screening it if you wan to see anything. Sorry the corners are cut off, the camera doesn't do wide-angle.)

So our homework: keep using the lateral work in the walk and trot to strengthen. He is only strong enough to carry his canter for about a lap and a half so far, so it's better to let him return to trot to rest, then do a bit more canter work, rather than try to force a tired canter. Start adding leg yields at the canter more often, then if we feel we have suppleness, canter some shoulder-in.