In which we rise from the dead

8 July 2015 Comments

You might have heard that we had a wee bit of rain.

That, plus work, has meant that we haven’t ridden a lot over the past few months. However, I am happy to say that the rides we have had have been outstanding. Fin and I are really coming together as a pair; he’s past the green-green stage and feels much more confident in himself and his job; at the same time, I have become much more confident and comfortable riding him. It’s all good stuff.

In part, this is because I’ve really started to believe (and not just pay lip service) to the fact that while he may be like a four year old boy who wants to explore EVERYTHING. ALL. THE. TIME., there’s not a mean bone in his body.

Foal is in the paddock next to the ring, running around? Fin may twist his neck around in ways physics rightly shouldn’t allow so he can watch the foal, but he’s not going to pull anything besides some ADD moments that I am more than capable of riding through. And, at this point, laughing through.

Or take the day I hopped on bareback, while wearing my work clothes and rubber wellies. I’d had a bad day at work and just wanted to toodle around for ten minutes. Fin hadn’t been ridden in a week. The fact that I knew I could do that? Awesome. The fact that he marched around for five minutes checking everything out, then lurched to a halt, peered around at me, and gave me a dubious look that very clearly said “This is not how we roll when we ride. You forgot your saddle, your clothes are inappropriate, and those boots. I can’t even talk about those boots. You go sort yourself out; I’ll wait here. Or maybe over there, eating some grass. I’ll wait near here, ok? Trust me. You need help. Go find it.”

Or the day I led him out for a lesson to find that they were mowing/weed whacking the ditches by the ring. I know at some barns that would never be done, but at this barn… we all pretty much agree that horses and riders need to learn to cope with these things and not be isolated from them. So it’s not like he is spooky about that stuff… it’s just something for him to look at. And look at. And look at some more. Did I mention he can contort his neck in ways that defy physics?

But if that weren’t enough, a small Working Equitation course had been set up next to the ring as well. There was new STUFF to look at, and some of it had waving flags at the top. I figured I’d have to work hard to keep him between my aids, but it turned out that he was completely unfazed by all the new stuff. If anything, he was disappointed that I wouldn’t let him eat the flags.

I’ll take a gumby neck and a desire to walk up and eat new, “scary” things any day over a horse that wants to exit stage left. He finds the world horribly exciting and wants to check EVERYTHING out, and who can blame him for that?

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Snippets from the clinic this weekend

19 March 2015 Comments

Our riding clinic this weekend went well, overall.

We spent the first day establishing some baseline exercises and responses with the clinician. As mentioned, some of the highlights were some steps of collected walk. And marching around a water-covered arena like a champ. Small victories.

The second day we really went to work, with a little more lateral work and changes within the gaits.

We played a little with shoulder in and haunches in at the walk. Or, more correctly, with moving his shoulders and haunches independently. We weren’t connected or consistent enough to really call it a shoulder in/haunches in. We also did some leg yields along the wall and “half pass”—more like a leg yield with flexion in the direction we were going, but he did start thinking a little bit more about where his body was.

We also some collected walk, trot, walk transitions, working towards shortening the number of trot steps between transitions. The ultimate goal with this exercise, as other riders were able to accomplish over the weekend, was just one step of trot—which in turn led to better hind end engagement and some very nice half step trot work for some of the more advanced riders. With Fin, who hasn’t had to do quick/repeated transitions at all, I was happy just to see them become progressively more relaxed as he started to figure out how to step into the trot without it being A Big Deal, and then back down to a relaxed walk.

We also did a little bit of lengthening at the trot, although my balance fell apart a little bit just as he was starting to really lengthen.

We did a tiny bit of canter, but honestly it was just a mess. We’ve been cantering in the other arena, which allows for bigger circles, and we hadn’t been able to ride much—or canter at all—for the week leading up to the clinic. And our transitions aren’t sharp on the best of days. Everything together just made for a mess at the canter, and after a couple attempts we abandoned that idea because it wasn’t going to be productive.

The third day was a little rough because Fin was pretty much over the whole clinic thing by that point and I was having some difficulties as well. The clinician stepped the intensity down quite a bit, and we had some really good moments in there, so it was still helpful—but I probably should have just signed up for two days.

Overall, he was really, really good. We asked him to do more than he has done, and some of the exercises were entirely new for him. Transitions between exercises also came much more rapidly than he’s used to doing. He tried really hard to understand and deliver whatever was being asked, even when he didn’t entirely understand it.

The video below is from the second day of the clinic and has a few snippets of some of the walk/trot work. We’ve come a long way in the past few months, and I really am very happy with him.

We’re spending this week just hacking out in the pasture for a little bit of a change of pace and to relax a little bit after the hard work (mental and physical) of the clinic. Then it’s back to work—if we can get our canter transitions sharper and the canter a little more balanced in the dressage arena, we might shoot for a schooling show in April or May.

 

 

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All the pretty ponies

18 March 2015 Comments

Well, one pony. Technical a horse. Whatever.

A few weeks ago, Bob Langrish did a photography clinic and Fin was one of the model horses. The clinic participants (and Bob!) were kind enough to send some of their photos to those of us whose horses were used during the clinic, so I got some pretty awesome pictures of Fin—and permission to share them.

Photo by Bob Langrish:

Photo by Lisa Harding:

Photo by JD Waterhouse:

Photo by Jos Mottershead:

I was helping out a little during the clinic, and it was a fun day. I even learned a little, but since what I know about photography could fit on one side of an index card with room left over for a recipe, I’m really grateful they sent photos back to us. I don’t often get to have professional-quality photos of my horse, and I really love these!

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Progress Check

14 March 2015 Comments

Fin and I are participating in a clinic this weekend.

We had a few inches of rain dumped on us last weekend, and just as the arena was starting to dry out a second round of rain came through, so things are a bit soggy. And by soggy, I mean I may have seen a snorkel or two at the barn.

However, the arena has an excellent base and was very rideable. Just wet.

So we had our first ride today.

It was good. Fin was a little up and never quite relaxed and stretched into the contact, but we had some really good moments—particularly some collected walk entirely off the seat and with a few strides of self carriage in it as well.

Fin also proved, once again, just how responsive he is and how willing to try.

And for the record, he marched around happily in the mud and puddles at the walk, and practically floated through them at the trot. This is the horse who thinks he would rather die than go through water on a trail ride. Apparently, it’s not water that he objects to. It’s other places’ water. It’s not like our water and must be shunned.

Or something.

Just for fun, I pulled a screen shot of the trot off the video to compare to a screen shot from our first show last year. The top is from today’s video (sorry about the quality—the video is in hidef, so I’m not sure why it’s showing up so poorly on my computer) and the bottom from last year:

Even allowing for the extra impulsion he was offering because of the mud, look at how much his hind end has improved.

Some of that is that (despite what that top picture might suggest) I have gotten much better about opening up my torso and sitting back, meaning I am using my core better and riding with a much better base. I am also much more comfortable riding his more expressive gaits, where last spring I was shutting them down entirely. I still have a ways to go on both of these fronts, but there is definite progress.

The other factor is that he’s just all around stronger. Even with my trainer last spring he was not reaching this far underneath himself or able to sustain any sort of impulsion.

I’ve been feeling/seeing the difference progressively over the past year, but this is the first time I put some pictures/videos side by side. I’m pretty happy with what the comparison shows!

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What it’s like owning a delicate flower

6 March 2015 Comments

Fin is a Texan through and through. If he were a person, the mere rumor of temperatures dropping below 50 degrees would send him running to the store in a panic, where he would buy bread, milk, butter, a 10-pound bag or Oreos, all the buttered popcorn everywherez, and nachos.

Then he would run back home and burrow into his bed and refuse to come out until Spring.

As it is, he gets a blanket thrown on him and a total lack of sympathy about having to deal with cold mud.

I don’t remember him being this much of a wimp last year, so I was a little slow to catch on this year and he dropped a little too much weight. Consequently, in addition to blanketing him at temperatures that I wouldn’t normally dream of blanketing a non-clipped horse, I’ve been bringing him to the barn in the evenings and giving him extra hay and grain.

This is how Fin discovered stalls. Actually, I’m sure he was stalled before. This is how he was reminded that they still exist and sometimes they are for him.

Fin loves stalls. Fin thinks stalls are the bomb. Fin thinks that being kicked back outside after spending an hour in a stall is cruelty to horses. Or to him, anyway.

Given all of that, after I brought him in and fed him his extra hay/grain, and groomed a few horses while he leisurely chomped on the hay and kept coming over to the door to see what I was doing, and didn’t I want to groom him instead?, I decided to throw an extra blanket on him for tonight.

Because he is a delicate flower, and a hard freeze is a distinct possibility. If he wilts when the temperatures hit 40, he’ll probably implode when it drops below freezing.

I threw the second blanket on his back, and he pulled it off.

I threw it back on and tried to explain that he was going back outside and he should trust me on wanting the extra blanket. I started fastening the front straps.

He gave me a disbelieving look, like he couldn’t believe I’d contemplate putting him back outside. Then he turned his attention to the straps and started trying to unfasten them. You pull this strap here, right? This one that your hand is on? You’re doing it wrong. You’re buckling it up and you need to take it off. Just let me do it. Srsly. Let go. I got this.

Some five minutes later the blanket was finally on, despite all his “help.”

Then I put his halter on, and he gave me the most disgusted look he could possibly manage. He balked at the idea of leaving the stall, and the entire walk back to his field he kept nudging my elbow and then swinging his head around to look longingly at the barn. In case I had, you know, not realized that he wanted to spend the night inside and not go back out.

I can’t wait until warmer weather gets here and we can dispense with the blankets altogether. Although it may not solve his love affair with stalls; I bet he knows about fans, too.

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