Blog .:. February 2011 15 Entries

Fieldtrip!

27 February 2011 Comments

Considering that I just said I wasn’t taking Ro anywhere for a week or two, this was all sort of a spur of the moment decision, but Ro went down to my trainer’s today for our lesson.

She was fabulous - the whole trip went smoothly, and although she was excited about the new place, she kept her brains between her ears.

She was a little more ZOMG! about this barn than she was about the other two places I’ve taken her, so for the lesson all we worked on was focusing and relaxing. She wasn’t bad—she was actually very well behaved—but she was a little… ZOMG!

Ponies! Jumps! Yellow jumps! Flower boxes! Roll tops! ZOMG!

But she was good—just excited and interested and not sure what to make of all the stuff.

The only things it really took her a while to get over were the flower boxes. I’d walked her past those before getting on, but the first time I rode her past them, she turned her head, looked at them, and twisted her head as far away from them as she could get it. Then on the next step, she bowed out her neck while bringing her head back in line… then her shoulder… then her barrel… then her hip.

It was the weirdest thing I have ever seen. She did not want her body near those boxes, but she wasn’t spooking away from them… just… bending. Individual body parts. Selectively. As she passed the boxes.

Once we started working instead of just meandering around, she got over the boxes and went past them like a normal horse.

The trip home also went well. She did object to loading onto the trailer, but I don’t think it was the loading, exactly. She’d get both front feet on, stare at her poop piles, and then back off and look at me. Like I was supposed to fix it for her? There wasn’t really anything I could do about it—I wasn’t going to leave her tied to the trailer and go hunting for a wheelbarrow. A few false starts later and she loaded just fine.

All told, it was a complete success. And the thing that makes me very, very happy indeed—and that sets this trip apart from the two previous ones we’ve done—is that she came off the trailer blowing and snorting, obviously very excited. But despite the ZOMG! factor, she kept her brains, remembered her manners (no squishing the two-legged creature holding the lead rope, thanks), and never got stupid. Her confidence and her coping skills have come so far in the past year; it’s just amazing. I am so, so pleased with how she handled today.

Tagged: Horses, Horses - Ro, Riding, Riding - Lessons, Trailering

Fortune Favors the Gluttonous

26 February 2011 Comments

Today, I ordered Chinese for lunch.

The Chinese place won’t deliver without a minimum order, which means I got enough food to get me through the weekend. I also got multiple fortune cookies.

Fortune cookies are fun. Fortune cookies from this particular restaurant, however, have historically proven themselves to be less “fortune” and more “non-specific platitudes carefully crafted to avoid all legal liability whatsoever.” They are the equivalent of a luke-warm bath.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the first cookie and it said: “An unexpected windfall will be yours.”

Really? That’s like an actual fortune. Someone was feeling bold at the fortune writing factory.

I already got my tax refund. Any relatives likely to bequeath me anything are already dead. I don’t play the lottery. The only windfall I can envision, frankly, is the wind rushing through the trees while I’m riding, Ro spooking, and me falling.

Not really the fortune I want.

But I had more cookies to check, so maybe they would invalidate the first one. Or counteract it. Or something.

Next cookie: “You have a charming way with words. Write a letter this week.”

Do you see what I mean? That’s not a fortune. On the other hand, maybe writing the letter will secure that windfall for me. Who do I know that reads letters and has extra money hanging around? This requires some thought.

Opening the last fortune cookie, however, requires no thought at all. It’s Friday; who wants to think, anyway?

“Don’t worry about the stock market. Invest in family.”

What? Really? A fortune cookie is advising me about the stock market? That’s more economic awareness than I’ve seen in many living, breathing people. I’m amused. And a little frightened. How did society reach a point where fortune cookies are giving financial advice?

On the other hand, the combination of fortunes suddenly makes sense:

My family can provide me with my unexpected windfall, as long as I write a charming letter.

It’s a nice thought, except that my family is rather large. Figuring out who to send this charming letter to will be a challenge.

Darn it. I knew I should have ordered a fourth dish. I do not have enough information here. I need more. More information. More fortunes. More paper-tasting but strangely addictive cookies.

More cookies. Mmm. Cookies.

I bet I could get a relative to send me cookies, if I wrote a letter. That’s close enough to a windfall for me.

Tagged: Cooking Eating & Food

Moving Forward

24 February 2011 Comments

Ro’s recheck went well. We’re going to finish the antibiotics and then monitor and see how things go. It’ll probably be a couple weeks before I take her off the property—she still gets a little snotty after exercise, and I want to make sure she is 100% cleared up and staying cleared up before we go anywhere. She’s not contagious, but I’d be mortified if I took her somewhere and she was snotty there. Some things just should not be done.

Although she’s in good spirits, her endurance in general has been poor. So has her recovery time. I’ve been working our rides around that—trying to plan things to work smarter, not harder, and using the long walk breaks she needs between trot or canter sets to work on other things. I’m actually really pleased, because all things considered, we’ve had a good week.

Her trot is much steadier, and she’s gaining the strength to maintain a longer stride more consistently, instead of falling into the quick pony trot. I’ve incorporated more pole work to help with that. She’s still not sure that a single pole on the ground is worth her time (or attention), but she respects a line of trot poles. The first time I sent her through one, I had it set for a regular horse stride without thinking about it. She made it—with a ton of suspension—but she stopped at the end and stared at me: Srsly?

Erm… yes, we’re probably not ready for that. Duly noticed and adjusted.

Her stretchy trot is really coming along. I think if we ever make it to a schooling show, that is going to be one of our strong points.

At the walk, we’ve played with leg yields. Unsurprisingly, if we are leg yielding away from the scary ditch, she’s fabulous. She thinks that’s an awesome idea. She would like to leg yield away from the ditch all the time, please. If we are leg yielding away from the turnout paddock, she’s not so convinced that’s a good idea. Her friends are over there, you know. She’s happy hanging on that rail, thank you very much.

At the walk, we’ve also been playing around with moving her haunches in or out, staying very straight between the aids (on straight lines and on circles), and turns on the forehand. Her free walk is not as nice as her stretchy circle at the trot; she stretches down if I throw the reins away, but she doesn’t take the contact down and out the way she does at the trot. I have a couple ideas for that, so we’ll see how that goes in the next couple weeks.

We’ve done very little canter work, just due to her general condition. As she keeps feeling better, we’ll build more of that in. What we have done is promising; I think a lot of the improvements I’ve been seeing in the trot will also be in the canter as her condition comes back.

And she’s happy. She’s happy, I’m happy.

Tagged: Horses - Ro, Injury & Illness, Riding, Riding - Dressage

Sometimes, I think I can ride

21 February 2011 Comments

I get strange ideas sometimes, and they have unintended consequences.

Once, someone commented on how bad my dad’s signature was. I looked at it and thought I could do worse. Now I do. My signature is so bad, I would be better off making an X. At least an X would be legible.

And, once, I heard that people who stand with their toes pointed out have dominant personalities. Since I am… less than dominant… I thought I should try that. I will walk like a duck, I thought, And all shall admire my forceful personality.

Well, it’s true: now my toes tend to point out. I haven’t noticed any magical confidence increase from this, or any difference in the way people treat me, but I have noticed that now I walk and ride like a duck.

So, that worked out well, wouldn’t you say?

With Ro at 50-75% capability right now, I’ve decided to work on my position. No leaning forward like a hunter rider. No tightening of the thighs. No raising the calf; my weight is going down, down, down to my stirrup. Toes to point forward, not out. (These last are things my hunter trainer would have crucified me for; I am not sure where these habits came from.)

It works. For two or three strides. If we’re going straight and I’m not applying any aids.

But today, with Ro at closer to 80%, we added in some canter. And as we went, I reverted back a little more to my hunter days than usual—past “half seat” and into “equitate.”

As a teen… no, I’ll spare you the teen envy, politics, and drama. Suffice it to say that I wanted to succeed in the equitation division more than anything, and that I worked my pants off to become competitive. I know some people equate equitation divisions with posing but for me, at least, it was the opposite: the more I thought about my equitation, the more effective I was as a rider.

Today, as I was cantering Ro around, something of that feeling came back to me. I realized what I’ve been missing with my position: I’ve been thinking position, in all its bits and pieces. I need to think “equitate.” I need to rediscover that confidence and security in my overall position/riding, and adjust it to dressage.

It’s not about trying to keep everything aligned just right; it’s about knowing everything is aligned just right and being confident that we can deal with anything that might come up: a single skinny oxer on the short side, a bending triple… um… a leg yield, a free walk, whatever.

I need to pursue dressage equitation with the same stubbornness I pursued hunter equitation. And while Ro is getting better every day, she’s still not 100%, so this is a very good time to focus on me. No more parts: time to go back to the whole.

And perhaps to start walking with my feet pointing straight ahead. No more duck feet. They aren’t helping.

The signature stays, though. I’m kind of proud of its total illegibility.

Tagged: Horses, Horses - Ro, Injury & Illness, Riding - Dressage, Riding - HunterJumper

Things you don’t want to hear your vet say #24

17 February 2011 Comments

“If the antibiotics don’t work, we’ll drill a hole in her head.”

Apparently, sinus infections don’t always respond well to antibiotics, and sometimes they do have to put in a drainage hole and flush things out.

Let’s hope the antibiotics work.

Ro, despite the sinus infection, is happy as a clam. In fact, when I showed up at the barn tonight, she was in her run. As soon as I came into the barn, she called out to me and came trotting from her run into her stall. It was a beautiful trot: uphill, powering from behind, the sort of trot you want to ride down the centerline. She did a perfect square halt at the stall door.

I’d say she was happy to see me, but the reality is that her buddies had just been turned outside and she could hear their feed being prepped. She thought it was her turn, thank you very much, and next time I should show up on time so she’s not left standing in her stall while they are getting fed.

She was decidedly less enthusiastic when she realized we were headed out to the arena and not the paddocks. I thought I’d hand walk her for a bit; we could both use the exercise. She thinks hand walking is nearly as stupid as walking through puddles, unless we are out on the grass where she can snatch bites to eat. In the arena, hand walking is apparently a form of torture.

Fine, then. The vet okayed her for light work, so tomorrow we go back to work. With any luck, going back into work will actually keep things draining and help things along, so the antibiotics can do their thing and we don’t have to go to more aggressive treatment.

Tagged: Groundwork, Horses - Ro, Injury & Illness

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