Blog .:. June 2008 3 Entries

Life is better when you’re forward

20 June 2008 Comments

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but there is nothing like the feeling of riding a truly forward horse.

The horse is straight because he’s thinking about where he’s going, not that inviting patch of grass over there. The stride is longer and more elastic, making it easier to feel what is happening, since the horse is relaxed and not resisting. There’s energy to work with and, most importantly, that energy can be directed into an exercise instead of being directed to fix whatever problems have cropped up with a non-forward horse (crookedness, stiffness and resistance to the aids, etc.)

If you’ve felt it, you already know what I mean. It’s one of those feelings you never forget. Except for me, because it surprises me every. single. time.

You know, some higher life forms have the ability to abstract concepts and apply them to multiple situations without requiring proof. Me, I’m like a kid with a jack-in-the-box. “So… if I make the horse go forward at the trot, is it easier to sit? It is! Oh my god! And what if I go forward at the walk, will our leg yields improve? They do! Oh my god! And if we are forward in the canter and then ask for a simple change? Wow! Does the little clown pop up every time I turn the handle? Are you sure? What happens if I go forward into a shoulder-in? Can we try it and see?”

Yeah, I’m not so bright sometimes.

Self-directed sarcasm aside, what a feeling it is. Everything comes together, and suddenly there is all the time in the world to make the next movement. And like a rider who can see the distances on a jump course, I can suddenly “see” where every footfall is going to go, and feel exactly what I need to do to get us to the spot we need to be. Riding is easy in those moments. I love those moments. Wanting more of those moments, quite honestly, is why I ride at all.

Tagged: Horses

This was inevitable

12 June 2008 Comments

I got a second cat.

I know, not nearly as exciting as a horse.

My excuse is that Pookie needed a companion, because she’s become super clingy when I’m at home. This is justification speak for “I wanted a kitten and I got one,” because Pookie is as unimpressed with the new arrival as only a 12-year old cat can be.

Because I’m not totally heartless, the new cat is about nine months old—young enough to let me enjoy some of the kitten-ish moments, old enough to understand that Pookie is the boss and Pookie Does. Not. Play.

They seem to have sorted each other out, and the new girl does indeed leave Pookie alone. She plays with my hair ties instead. Typical cat.

This also blows all credibility out of my “Pookie needs a friend” excuse, but that’s fine. Pookie HAS stopped clinging to me. She now glares at me from across the room. This is probably an improvement.

The little one doesn’t have a name yet; the one she had from the shelter is just awful. After three days, it’s also clear that she is not impressed with Rilla as an alternative. I’m trying Onyx now.

We’ll see. It probably doesn’t matter, anyway. I don’t think she’s the type to come when she’s called, regardless.

Tagged: Cats, Cats - Onyx, Cats - Pookie

Speaking of Balance

7 June 2008 Comments

As I was driving home from work earlier this week, I realized I was sitting with all my weight shifted right. I think we can only blame the accelerator so much; even when shifting gears, I was still camped out to the right.

Similarly, I have a lot of tension in my arms from the elbow to the wrist when driving. Again, I can only blame so much of it on traffic—I notice dthe same sort of tension when there weren’t a lot of drivers around.

I do know that tension in my arm is sometimes an issue for me, although I can’t remember that having too much weight to the right is. Hmm. Maybe. If I lose a stirrup, I think it’s the left, which would make sense if my weight is to the right. It’s hard to remember because with one thing and another, I’m sort of sidelined from riding again.

But the real question is: if I worked on these two issues in the car, would it translate to riding?

Probably. I know one trainer who is insistent on having all the horses stand square whenever they are being worked with. In that barn, if the horse shifted their weight or camped a leg out behind in the cross ties, it was second nature to ask them to step up underneath themselves. And when we went into the arena to mount, if the horse halted by the mounting block with a leg camped out behind, yup, that was fixed before mounting. I think the logic came from several directions:

One, that the horse has 22 hours of the day to loaf around, so they can work for an hour lesson and stand square while they are being groomed and tacked. It sets the tone for the lesson from the beginning: the rider is in charge. (If you don’t think this is possible, have me tell you about the chestnut mare some day. She knew the game, and she tested her rider every. step. of. the. way. Greatest sense of humor, ever, in a horse. I cannot tell you how many times she would park a leg out behind just as I was getting ready to mount, and then look at me as if to ask whether I cared enough to ask her to fix it, or if I didn’t want to just give up the game and mount? The lesson took its tone from my choice.)

Second, that if we are going to ask the horse to halt square in a dressage test, we need to ensure the horse has the right muscles to really do this. Obviously a lot of this muscle habit will develop from riding itself, but there’s no reason not to take advantage of every moment you have. The horse gets to loaf around 22 hours of the day; for one hour while riding and an hour before and after for grooming, they can stand square. I don’t know how much of a difference it made in muscle development, but I would be it made some.

Third, and possibly the most important, is that both horses and riders develop habits. So by asking the horse to always stand square, the idea is that the horse learns that when working, every halt should be square. Always. It’s not negotiable, or something worked on every couple of lessons. It should happen every time.

Did it? Oh no. Go read some of my old posts to see how much trouble I had getting the Schoolmeister to halt square when riding. But it worked with the chestnut mare, who sometimes finished up a halt on her own when I dropped a leg too soon, before it had stepped up underneath her.

All of which goes back to my original thought: if I can train myself to keep my forearm relaxed when driving, and can sit evenly in the seat, theoretically that should transfer to being able to keep my forearm relaxed when riding and to sit more evenly in the saddle, right? Different contexts, different situations feeding the unbalance and the tension, but muscle memory is muscle memory.


If nothing else, it’ll give me something to think about while driving besides the number of truly awful songs I have on my iPod.

Tagged: Horses, Riding - Lessons

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