Wednesday, March 27, 2013

On Loss and Riding

I had a fantastic lesson with LAZ last Sunday and another one coming this Sunday but for a moment I want to talk about the subject of loss and riding.

On the 16th of March my younger and only brother died.  It was certainly not unexpected but was still a shock, my brother had struggled with drugs for several years and it was his inability to acknowledge his need for help that was his own undoing.  The way that a single addict can effect everyone around them is astounding.  Last week was filled with speaking to the police, making memorial plans, contacting friends and relatives and trying to cope as a family that wasn't always as close as other families. 

I tend to be an emotional person but in emergency situations I can be relied on to be the level headed thinker who does what needs to be done and I focused on being there for my family and doing what needed to be done.   I mostly saved my tears for in private on my way home from my mom's house.  Last week was filled with making memorial plans, contacting friends and relatives and trying to cope as a family that wasn't always as close as other families.

One of my favorite television shows on air right now is Justified, Timothy Olphant plays U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens with that "this isn't acting" ease that makes it a fixture in my que.  A few episodes back he lost his father, and while their relationship was a difficult one to say the least the loss obviously effected him.  There is a moment, shortly after learning of his father's death while at the same time coolly handling his job, that he gets up to leave.  On his way to the elevator he becomes frozen in time for a moment, slightly bent over with one hand involuntarily moving up toward his face.  It's in that moment that he actually thinks about IT, and it's a moment I find myself mimicking. 

I've been able to find some peace and a welcome distraction at the barn.  On another blog, cob jockey speaks about how she handles bad days and anger, she finds herself hitting the gym so she can pound out her anger and frustration on a set of weights.  I find myself with the opposite opinion, riding works for me because I CAN'T pound it out.  I have to let go of everything that is troubling me, everything that makes me want to scream as loud as possible or hit a wall and focus on being a rider.  Am I posting too fast or too high?  Is my horse bent in the right direction?  Is she moving smartly off my leg?  How is her contact at the canter?  Annie helped me out last week by being fresh and spooky, hard to think about your week when you're hanging on for dear life!  While riding all I have time to think about is riding, because that's what is fair to my horse. 

I was able to go to a difficult but good jumping lesson with LAZ the Sunday after the memorial which not only served to take my mind off things but also helped me sleep well that night!  I'll be sure to post video and comments about my lesson in another blog post but for now I wanted to talk about how I deal with loss and riding.

Thanks for listening.!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Brrrriest March on record

I seem to remember last March being in the 60s - 80s, maybe that's why I was stoked for a March show coming up this weekend.  I ended up deciding not to go due to my lack of riding and lack of lessons, mostly due to the sucky weather and being unable to get lessons scheduled in.  With temps this weekend in the teens, only one lesson before the show, and a death in my family I think it was a wise decision.

Annie has been waving back and forth between being a good horse and being a spooky balky squirty horse, often in the same ride.  I do kind of like that Annie is feeling comfortable enough with me to show me her true feelings, but I did kind of like blah pokey Annie from last year who was too depressed and worried under saddle to think about being bad.

On Thursday I was able to get a jumping lesson in with Rachel.  I noticed right off the bad that pokey pony was not anywhere in sight, and the issues I've been having again with our right lead canter making it around the scary door seemed to be non existent with Aunty Rachel setting up fences while we flatted. We decided to do course work and after we warmed up Rachel added "scary" things under the fences.  We had a liverpool made out of a green indoor/outdoor carpet that also serves as a rolltop, a bucket under part of a one stride, and the mounting block under the out of the one stride.  One of the things Rachel mentioned was to "flat" in between the fences.  Ask her for more of a connection and contact, and make sure that she's bent in the right direction. 

We also had a swedish oxer thing.  Sometimes Annie gets quick and flat and leaves from further away then she should so at the end of the lesson we set up an exercise for Annie.  Since it was our Swedish oxer now not only bigger but also WIDE and with two canter poles leading up to it this was also a Sabrina exercise, not that Rachel mentioned it! 

Annie ended up doing really well and after I started grabbing chunks of mane I did well too!  Annie was certainly having some fun over the oxer finally putting in a little bit of effort. You can't see it in the picture, but the oxer is 2 feet wide which might be nothing to some people but was something to me.

I also let Rachel know that I am comfortable with her raising the fences behind my back after I've warmed up over them!  We also discussed my goals. 

Entering Leg Up at Starter in July would be fantastic, that will be my "big" show for the season.   I initially wanted to do Dan Hobyn at BN in May because I could always bypass anything out of my element but sadly Dan Hobyn (who changed their name to School of horse Engineering after a management change) is not doing any shows.  They've been a fixture in the community for decades and are a great friendly place to show at so I hope they come back in the future. 

I'd love to make the HT's at Come Again Farms but I think that Cathy is out of town for both of them so that's a bummer. 
I would like to be jumping BN on Annie by summer, and I'd really love to do Novice.  Definitely not Novice XC this year but I think I can handle Novice stadium. 

Maybe I can enter Leg Up at BN but I'd probably have a stroke if I did so we'll see!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Pint Sized Eventers, who said bigger was better?

I thought I'd make a blog post featuring diminuative eventers.  While I doubt that I'll ever reach the upper levels (and don't have a problem with it!) I love small horses and I love watching them do big horse things. 

Here is a 14.3 hand New Forest Pony going Prelim.  This pony flunked out of a dressage barn due to her bad attitude and ended up taking her new owner who had never evented before from BN to Training in just 2 years.  Owner handed over the reins to her trainer who moved her up to Prelim and is now looking at a CCI* in a short while.  Super pony indeed!

Here is a Connemara pony stallion called Wil Ya Love Me doing Advanced

Here is a mare named Little Tiger doing a **** at the age of 15! 
Last but not least, the unforgettable pony Theodore O Connor, ridden by Karen at Rolex in 2008

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A BIT of an experiment

Points for being clever with my title! 

I've been kicking around the idea of trying out new bits on Annie to see if I can get her to be more accepting of a firmer contact.  She has such a light mouth that we get into "discussions" about taking contact period and I thought a different bit might help. 

This is my current bit, pretty standard in the dressage world I think.  I like the three piece action because I think it's a more mild bit that has less of a nutcracker action. I think the bean is even more mild then a regular french link.

This is the bit I got to try out on Annie

It's made out of rubber but it's extra bendy and soft, I think it's a Nathe bit.  I actually picked it up several years ago for $5 at a tack sale because it was odd looking.  I tried it out on Nikki who HATED it.  As in put her head in my face and refused to remove it until I removed the bit.  I've heard a lot on COTH about Nathe bits and how sensitive mouthed OTTBs seem to enjoy the mullen mouth and soft action.  I was contemplating buying one but then I remembered I had this one in my trunk.

It seems to fit Annie pretty well

I've ridden her in it all week and I still can't make up my mind.  It's no miracle for sure, but the circumstances have not exactly been ideal.  Monday Annie had been off for a few days and she's always a bit fresh.  Tuesday and Wednesday the horses stayed in all day due to crappy February weather (rain, snow, rain, snow, etc) so while I rode on both those days I wasn't exactly expecting a relaxed horse.  Thursday they had the day off because I was catching up on stalls and it started raining so the horses were wet and muddy.  Friday I decided to jump but for some reason Annie was wired and I could hardly get her to walk let alone relax on the bit. 

She seems to not mind taking a firmer contact with this bit, but she wasn't as bendy.  I had a harder time getting her to flex to the side or to go round.  I am not quite sure if it's because the mullen mouth construction makes it harder to manipulate one side of the horse's mouth or because she wasn't in the mood.

I might try it out for a few days next week and see if there is any improvement. 


 Hello all,  Life has been busy and I have not felt I've had anything worth blogging about.  Or that my blog is particularly interestin...