Blog .:. May 2009 9 Entries

Status Check

29 May 2009 Comments

I’ve heard from many, many sources that if you are in a self-defense situation and need to kick or punch someone, you always aim beyond where you think you want to hit. That is, if you’re going to kick the side of the knee (an excellent choice), you kick as though your real goal is to stomp on the pavement. It’s instinctive to pull back a little at the moment of impact, and by aiming beyond the actual point of impact you avoid that.

This public service announcement was brought to you by the Bureau of Random Connections.

Last week, in riding, I realized that I need to be thinking about the next transition while I’m riding the current one.

I tend to focus so hard on the current transition that I just can’t adjust in time for what comes next.

For example, we were leg yielding in a stride or two at the canter, then leg yielding back out. I focused so hard on ‘in’ that I was never prepared for the switch; even if I managed to switch my aids, I was so discombobulated that I lost the canter. Similarly, I had some decent transitions into the canter, without setting them up for six thousand strides, but no plan once I got the canter. By the time my body caught up with what was happening, we’d lost any quality in the canter and I then had to spend time trying to get a decent canter back.

My trainer also discovered my mental block with the trot-to-halt transitions. Consequently, we spent some time working on working trot - collected trot - working trot. I think trot-halt; she had me thinking trot-collected trot-trot. We didn’t actually halt because I like to drop my aids when I am going to halt. This way, I had to keep them on in order to get the upward transition. Again, it’s that need to think ahead and not just ride the immediate transition.

At one point, we tested a trot-halt transition, and it was not pretty. A few minutes later, however, we had a very respectable trot-halt transition. I can’t really articulate it, but I felt the difference in the collected trot that said “halt now.”

Perhaps what I need is a “true” freestyle test: go out in the ring and ride whatever is going to work for me right this moment, instead of demanding I be ready at X.

Just kidding. Last week’s lesson was actually very good for showing me where I have made progress (my trot work has improved greatly, and is finally becoming consistent. The extended trot and stretchy circle we rode were the highlights of the lesson) and where I need to keep working (my canter work in general, those evil halt transitions, and the canter. Did I say canter twice? It needs a lot of work.)

Tagged: Horses, Riding - Lessons

Your opinions on some equine management quotes wanted

26 May 2009 Comments

These quotes are all taken from the same article. I am very, very curious to know your reactions to these—what you think the author’s general stance towards horsemanship is, when the article was written, how applicable his thoughts are in a practical sense, whether you agree/disagree, etc. It would also be interesting to know where you stand in the general spectrum of “Natural” vs. “Classical” horsemanship—pro one side or the other, somewhere in between, somewhere off in another room entirely because the whole debate annoys you, etc.

I am going to come back in a day or two with the article source and my comments, but as I said—I am really intrigued to see how you respond to these quotes first.

There is no doubt that the example furnished by the over-fattened horses in the show ring has given us an erroneous impression as to the bodily condition suitable for the really hard-working harness or saddle horse, and that we err in principle and practice by trying to attain or to preserve by means of heavy feeding the gently flowing contours of such animals. The work-a-day steed is bound to be much lighter in flesh and to be all the better for it, and a certain amount of angularity may be pardoned in view of the increased efficiency it is likely to bring.

Any method that visibly annoys a horse (in any connection) is wrong all through and should never be allowed in use.

Like all inventions, these articles [bandages] are most valuable at certain times, in certain conditions and in experienced hands, but if left to the judgment of the average stableman, they are very dangerous and prolific of detrimental after-effects.

The fit of the harness, saddle, bits, etc., has much to do with condition. If the horse must always work in discomfort he suffers mentally and physically, which reacts directly upon his condition.

Given two horses having the same care, food, etc., both physically able and performing identical tasks, yet driven by two different men—one is always fat, composed, and tranquil; the other nervous, agitated, anxious, and in consequence thin and out of condition. What is the reason? Nothing but the different handling—lack of sympathy, of any horse sense or horseman’s instinct in the driver of the latter.

Perfect condition is not a mere matter of so much food, so much water, a warm bed, a tight roof. It depends, as does everything else in life and in our relations with other men and all beasts, upon the little things, the unconsidered trifles— and lucky is he who has the interest, the patience, the intuition to investigate closely, to discern clearly, and to apply intelligently, for he shall reap his reward in countless ways, and in various associations.

Tagged: Horse Care, Horses, Learning Education & Research

Snippets on the Hobby Horse

24 May 2009 Comments

You’ll be relieved to know that today’s dive into history is more obviously horse related than yesterday’s.

This time, I was looking for some bio information on one Lord Sherbrooke. One of the first articles to pop up (again from “Talk of the Times”) is titled “Lord Sherbrooke’s Race.” The 1885 article discusses stages in the development of the bicycle, and you will be fascinated to know, I am sure, that the original nick-name of the bicycle appears to have been “the bone-shaker” and that initially the weight of the bicycle itself meant that they could not be ridden for long distances. However, the invention of the suspension wheel and certain other improvements meant that “a racing bicycle for a man of 11 stone need not weight more than 27 pounds.”

Vast improvement!

However, before the article ever dives into the dramatic advances in bicycle technology, it pauses to recount the race of Lord Sherbrooke, on a hobby horse, against a horse-drawn carriage:

He [Lord Sherbrooke] tells the story of his race with the Oxford coach, in which for a mile he kept ahead of the mail. The driver put his horses into a gallop, but did not catch him till a rise in the ground proved too much for his wind. I asked him the other day whether I might tell the story, and he said, “Perhaps to be strictly accurate you ought to add that I was careful to choose ground that was just a leetle downhill.”

The article author (Viscount Bury) goes on to say that Sherbrooke could certainly reproduce this feat (outracing a mail coach) on a modern bicycle. Which made me curious: if Sherbrooke was not on a bicycle in 1830, when he raced the mail coach, what was he riding? What, exactly, was a hobby horse?

Call me naive, but I thought a hobby horse was a stick with a horse’s head on it, but clearly, from the context of this article, it wasn’t.

So far as I can tell, “hobby horse” is what they called early bicycles. Also note in the following images that the contraptions had no pedals, and would have been pushed along with the rider’s legs. No wonder the weight of the invention mattered so much: think how unwieldy it is to scoot along on a modern bike like that, and then think that a 27-pound bicycle some forty years later would be hailed as “light”!

For some images (some pretty amusing), visit “Velocipede Mania”. (Note: site appears to be selling prints; I’ve never heard of them and have no comment on/experience with their services.)

Having seen the images, and realizing the hobby-horse Lord Sherbrooke rode on when he raced the mail coach probably had no pedals, I have to say that it is a pretty cool achievement. Well, depending on how downhill “just a leetle downhill” really is…

Tagged: Learning Education & Research, Lord Sherbrooke, Viscount Bury

Apparently, even in 1901 they had problems with alters

23 May 2009 Comments

What we (I?) sometimes forget is that alters were not created with the internet. Writers have been using alters for centuries. Even the ancient Roman poets… well, ok, in all fairness the lyric poets used alters for their lovers rather than themselves, and, actually, some of them (*cough* Catullus *cough*) went to great lengths to insert their own names into their poems so that, 2,000 years later, we may still be debating whether “Lesbia” does or does not refer to Clodia—but we are crystal clear on the fact that Catullus was the one stalking her.

The point is: for centuries people have been perfecting the art of alters, for various reasons. Despite this, I find the following excerpt from a 1901 “Topics of the Times” article (Source: The New York Times) unaccountably amusing:

A Chicago poet, Bertrand Shadwell by name—at least he signs himself that way, but it is hard to believe Bertrand and Shadwell go together in real life—has written a poem. [...] While he was about it, Bertrand Shadwell—how on earth did those two names come together?—might just as well have listed a few more cases of antagonism. [...] Why didn’t Bertrand Shadwell—queer combination, that—mention the one flight as well as the other?

It’s not just the fact that the author is so confounded by Shadwell’s name that s/he draws attention to it three times—it’s that the entire article is perhaps 400 words long, and even under the pressure of space and word count the author still had to toss in those three comments. And an editor let them stay!

At least these days we can be nearly positive that “PurpleZephyrUnicorn” is an alter (although, given the, uh, “creative” liberties parents are increasingly taking when naming their kids, I’m no longer prepared to bet on that). Poor Bertrand Shadwell. Either his (her?) attempt to create an alter failed miserably, to where the writer of a brief review felt compelled to draw attention to the unlikely name three times… or else Shadwell was living proof that today’s parents don’t have a patent on bad names.

There is a sweeping statement that could be made here, re: alters, names, authenticity, and the necessity to develop credibility in writing, but I’m not sure how much weight anyone could give such a statement coming from me. Can you imagine? “A blogger, Halt Near X by name—at least, it signs itself that way, but it is hard to believe anyone could be so incompetent as to fail to find X—has written an article…”

Tagged: Bertrand Shadwell, Learning Education & Research, PurpleZephyrUnicorn

Basics Boot Camp

19 May 2009 Comments

After nearly two months off riding, I’m finally back.

I had my first lesson two weeks ago. We started with a lunge lesson. Oh, I know—you’re nodding wisely and thinking what a great idea: put me on a lunge line for fifteen minutes and let me regain some of my balance and position with some intense, focus-on-me time.

Yeah, good idea, but no.

It was a “how to lunge” lesson.

Somehow, I never learned to lunge. The Super Saint didn’t need it, and although I did lunge the Horse of Many Names a time or two, it was more about calming my show nerves than because he needed it. He was very well trained, and trotted and cantered politely when asked, while I held the lunge line and pretended I knew what I was doing.

But in college, alas, I discovered this gaping hole in my education when a rainy day caused three lessons to share the indoor and my group got demoted to the in-gate area, where there was just room for two of us to ride and the other two to lunge (swapping out periodically). When I was lunging… I mean, holding the lunge line, the horse went around in squares and ovals and stars and a few geometric shapes that I never knew existed. I got yelled at for not keeping him “out there” on the circle so the rider could do her thing, and no one ever wanted to partner with me in similar exercises ever again. Well, can you blame them?

Since the horse I’m riding now benefits from a quick lunge, I thought I’d take advantage of the fact and get some lessons in how to lunge. He’s a good guy and knows his job. Eventually, I am sure, I will figure out how to hold the whip and the lunge line while turning in circles and not go cross-eyed. I now suspect lunging was actually invented by a barn that wanted to edge out their competition, so they started lunging their horses and speaking loudly about all the benefits of it. Their competition also began lunging, and became too dizzy to ride properly, securing those all-important blue ribbons for the sneaky first barn.

Just kidding. Even I knew you watch the horse and then you don’t get dizzy.

For those of you rolling your eyes and thinking “Lunging’s easy! What is wrong with this woman?”—all I can say is that you didn’t see the shapes that college lesson horse was making. I swear he was accessing some fourth dimension and/or attempting to create a wicked cat’s cradle using me and the lunge line.

Ah well. I won’t be in boot camp for long. I have my eye on long lining/ground driving—now that looks like fun.

Tagged: Horses, Riding - Lessons

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