Monthly Archives: October 2011

Fabulous Fling

It was super windy today, but cooler and beautiful.   If you could ignore the hoardes of tiny but ferocious mosquitoes who somehow defied aerodynamics and managed to still fly in the gale force winds.

I’ve been trying to ride through parts of Fourth level test 1 to see how Fling handles it. So far, so good. There is plenty of room for improvement, but it’s not completely out of the question that she could be ready to show this level in a few months. The working canter pirouettes on the short diagonal were better than I thought they would be. The medium trot , with six to seven strides of collected trot over X was not ‘pretty’ but will get better. As soon as Fling understands ‘the program’ it will get better on its own. Fling is a go go go go horse, but as soon as she figures out that when we do this, there will collected work in the middle, she will listen to me better and do it. In some respects, for her, learning a new test isn’t always just about the work being ‘good enough.’ She needs to learn the ‘choreography’ as well. In most instances, she does not anticipate or try to do things earlier. For as smart as she is, that is unusual. The only movement that elicits definite anticipation for her are the flying changes – but even those – once she learne she MUST wait – she does. A fair amount of training Fling is just a matter of convincing her to WAIT FOR ME. 😉

She was exceptionally good today, tho. Really on my seat in most of the canter work – I always thought about the hardest thing about the upper levels was cantering down the center line and coming to a halt! So we’ve been working on that too. We are following Marie’s prescription for a million and one canter/walk transitions. I am also doing turn on the haunches (or walk pirouette) and then ask for canter, and go straight into a canter piro. That helps Fling understand that the walk piro and the canter piro are essentially the same – just at different gaits.

It was one of those days when I just wanted to get off and wrap my arms around her neck and hug her and I felt so lucky and blessed to have such a generous, fabulous, fun, smart dance partner. She got many peppermints today – but not nearly as many as she deserved!


Back to work for Faxx!

Faxx has had a bit of a ‘mini vacation’ the last four weeks. Once he bucked me off, my back hurt too much to ride anything for nine days. And then I knew I could not really ride his trot with a sore back – he is the biggest mover – even at the rising trot. But I got back on him once before I went to Kentucky, and then ‘life’ got in the way. Mike was out of town over the weekend and I did not feel comfortable riding him with no one home. So last night, the stars were aligned for me to get back on Faxx. I don’t really have the anxiety I did the last time he bucked me off. Last time, he reared straight up in the air and then started bucking – it turned out he ws cold backed and I just had been lucky every other time. So for awhile, I had anxiety about just getting on him. In this instance, I knew he was not trying to be naughty when he dumped me- Faeryn charged him when I was riding him in the field and he flew sideways and then started bucking. The thing that bothers me is that now  know I am “0 for 2” on sticking Faxx’s bucking. Fortunately, he really is not a bucker – it is not his first ‘go to’ move when he spooks…which he rarely does.

I did, however, buy him a breastplate for a sturdier ‘sos’ strap – and this one will pull up on HIM when I pull up on IT. Not that I even had time to grab any kind of strap last time.

So, I rode him in the arena and he was Mr. Ho Hum as usual. We ran through the basics and I rode him about 20 minutes. He is very unfit. He had foam between his legs when we finished. Now, it is hotter than usual (so what else is new?) and they already have their winter coats – not that they’re that heavy, but they definitely have more hair than they had two months ago. So I will take it slow and easy and try to ride him 4x a week and gradually get him fit. I do not want to make him sore and make him resent the work.

The short term plan is to get him going well enough to perhaps show first level at the HDS Schooling Show Championships in December. The long term plan is to show him first and second level at the Arabian/Half Arabian Sport Horse National Championships in Kentucky next year.

I write my horse goals down every year. Now is the time to start thinking for goals for next year for each horse.

A beautiful day!

I took Fling for a lesson. It’s been awhile since Marie has seen her. We worked on getting her canter more collected and getting her to ‘sit’ more – to improve the changes. Then we actually worked on changes. At home she’s been doing much better – but she is always tougher away from home. So we quit and went back to getting her to really collect and listen to my aids. And then I put her on a 20 meter circle in counter canter and worked on changes that way and it went much better. I showed Marie the beginnings of our half pass zig zag (at the trot) and I got advice on how to make the change from one direction to another. Marie advised me to take 2-3 strides to change the bend and direction at first. And then I showed Marie how I was working on the beginnings of piaffe. Marie thougth I was doing better than I did. LOL. But at one point I felt two strides of real piaffe! So now I know what I am going for. Marie suggested that since Fling wants to ‘levade’ when I restrict her forward movement, to start doing walk ‘jog’ transitions. She said most of the time that is not the way you want to start – but with a horse who stops going forward and wants to levade, that’s the better way to get some piaffe steps.

It was a great session and I was very happy with her. A local farm is having a ‘ride a test’ schooling show in November and I may take her and ride Fourth 1. There are no multiple changes in it, and she can do everything else. And that will give me a better idea of how close she is to being ready to show at a recognized show – like maybe the January HDS show. 🙂

More Faeryn naughtiness and other stuff

I scheduled a lesson for myself DURING the week on Thursday. A first! Marie was at a show last weekend, and the Championships are right around the corner. Faeryn is entered in the SWDC and USDF GAIC First level championship classes. I think there are 30 horses in each of our classes. I had not had a lesson on her since Debbie was here last time, and I was not 100% due to my vertebrae fracture.

I had trouble leading her ifrom the barn again on the way to Marie’s. She ALMOST got away from me, even with the chain, but I was close to the fence, and threw my arm around that to stabilize myself so she could not pull away from me. As soon as I got her loaded in the trailer, I called a friend of mine who has dealt with stallions on a regular basis for advice on headgear for Faeryn that I can use to break her of this nasty habit.She suggested a vinyl covered cable, with a clip to permanently attach it to the halter. You then attach the lead rope to a loop in the back of the cable noseband. Like a ‘warning beep’ on an invisible dog fence, she said to give Faeryn a few sharp tugs to let her know what the noseband felt like before she had a chance to try and get away from me. I have not had time to try it yet. I spent more than half the day today working at my condo. I have new tenants moving in tomorrow, and the last tenant just moved out Tuesday. A record turnaround. but I am whooped and did not even have time to ride today.

Anyway, at the last recognized show, I got comments about her being out the shoulder from one judge, and she’s also not as ‘uphill’ at the canter as she can be. The two are related! So we worked on that, and some of the moves from first level just to check where the weak spots are. She worked very well, and I think she will really be ready to show second level at recognized shows next year.

Fling is going for a lesson tomorrow. Her flying changes are getting better. I have not yet managed to get multiple changes on a diagonal yet – but I think it i sjust around the corner. I looked at Fourth Level test 1 and it does not have multiple changes  – just a change at C once you’ve done a canter half pass from centerline to the rail. I am going to ride her through the test and see how it goes. A local barn is having a ‘ride a test’ in November and we will aim for that. If that goes well, I may try and show her at the January HDS show.

Faeryn is naughty and Fling is good

Faeryn is never naughty under saddle. She saves her naughtiness for on the ground. And she has a special kind of naughty. She is terribly herd-bound and has learned when I am leading her, if she can whip her head around to the farrrr right, I lose any leverage I might have on her and she can just run off. The horses got all wound up yesterday just as I was going to get her and it took me 20 minutes just to get her in the barn. She got away from me TWICE before I finallly gave up and went and got the chain for her nose. She only got away from me in the small fenced area in front of the barn, so it as not hard to catch her, but very aggravating. Even after I put the chain over her nose, she still got away from me once. I finally figured out that if I led her from the RIGHT side instead of the left, it confused her and she did not try it. But every time she did get away taught her a bad lesson. From now on I am going to have to put the chain over her nose and be very careful. It is not that she does not want to WORK. It is that she does not want to lead her HERD. I have the same trouble loading her in the trailer to go somewhere. Of course, once I got on her, she was perfect. It was the first time we’d had a big rain on my arena since I had work done on it in APRIL. It was amazing what the rain did that the dozer could not. The big ‘lumps’ that were left at one end were completely flattened out, and I could see where I needed more dirt in low spots. I could ride in it – but there were places that were squishy where it was low. It still does not have sand on it, and that will help a lot. I am wondering if I might be able to finish the arena myself, just by working a bit at a time. But, to make it really right, I have to have a good rain to ‘check’ my work. They are saying despite the nice rain we had, that this drought may go on for several years.

When I got laid off, I promised myself I would get on a schedule and get up and ride in the morning. What I did not count on was how late the sun rises. I cannot reallly ride until 7 or so. Today was the first day I did not have something first thing to do. I rode Fling and she was SUPER. At one point I did a canter half pass and then just went straight, and then, on a whim, I asked for a change, and got a calm, clean, straight one!  And got two others the same way during my ride. I gave her a peppermint, praised her highly and quit, ready to tackle another day working on the monumental task of organizing my home office, making contacts and reworking my resume.



Rain, beautiful rain!

We have been in a record drought – the worst EVER single year drought in our history. Our pond has been dry for months and the grass in our pasture was almost gone. Finally, yesterday and today it rained. And rained. And rained. Nice steady drizzle for hours and hours. I have no idea how much we got, but I do know it’s the first time we’ve gotten more than 1 inche of rain since last winter.

Before the downpour this afternoon, I rode Fling and got some valuable insights on our flying changes. She was changing late in general, or not at all, and getting very crooked. I realized she needs clearer aids from me, and they need to be the same every single time. So, the aids that worked seemed to be keeping her very straight across the short diagonal, half halt, and then carefully bend her to the new direction, and think ‘leg yield’ with my ‘new’ inside leg and swing my new outside leg a bit further back than I had.. The subtle leg yield cue was what was I was missing. I learned to do this a few years ago from Pam Grace and had gotten out of he habit of it. This one small step gets them off their shoulder in the direction of the new lead just enough to be able to lift the shoulder and change easier. I got two prompt, clean changes across the diagonal and quit for the day, a happy camper. And even happier when the skies opened up and it poured, then drizzled all day long.

It’s been a perfect day for trying to bring some order of the chaos in my home office – sorting through all the stuff I brought home from my office of 21 years, and trying to get organized enough to think straight and rewrite my resume and put together a portfolio web site.

Tomorrow I am going to a 2-hour class on my semi-new Droid phone. It’s a sad state of affairs when you have to go to a class t learn to use a phone, but I know it does much more than I realize and I know there are tons of shortcuts I do not know about.

Hopefully my arena will be dry enough to ride Faxx in tomorrow.

Big changes outside of the horse stuff

I have worked at the same company for 21 years.  I think I went through 11 layoffs/staff reductions during my tenure. There have been no raises for probably 4 years now. And on Sept. 25, two days before I was scheduled to leave for my much-anticipated and long overdue vacation, I was laid off.

I have been working since I was 16 years old and I am now 54. I got a summer job as soon as my parents would let me and worked Christmas vacations and summers throughout my latter years of high school and all the way through college. I had a job waiting for me when I graduated from college. And other than about 3 weeks when I was in my early 20s and quit a job that I loathed – and had two job offers within those 3 weeks – I have been employed. It has been very difficult, having no place to GO in the morning. I have plenty to keep me busy – just trying to finish all the house projects is almost a full time job in itself. Plus my aging parents are requring more and more of my time. So I guess if I had to lose my job, it’s better to lose it when you are so overwhelmed with projects that can fill up that time you used to spend working and commuting. 

I knew I would not be able to work at my current job until I retired. I knew I would get laid off before then. I have thought about the ‘what ifs’ for awhile now.  I had considered going back to school to do something else, but by the time I got out and entered the job market in a brand new field, I would be pushing 57. I really thought I wanted to completely leave my current field and do something new.

I am blessed in that I received a good compensation package. And thanks to my husband’s income, our debt-free lifestyle and our frugality in all areas EXCEPT horses, me being without a job for awhile will not constitute a crisis.

Now that I have had almost two weeks off, and a very nice vacation (more about that later) during that time, I am realizing that what I was burnt out about was the place where I worked, and not the actual career itself. I did not realize the full impact of working in a place where good friends and co-workers were often being laid off. And how much stress it was to constantly be hearing rumors of cuts, and wondering when I would be next.

Emotionally, I have been on a rollercoaster ride. Depressed sometimes, and then sometimes almost mild euphoria over having time to see friends and to finish all my unfinished projects. And then guilt over feeling even the least bit relieved to have more time for myself for the first time in 30 years.

Part of my compensation package included the services of a ‘career coach’ and we have met once. I really like her, and she gave me ‘homework’ to do. I am so grateful that I have the luxury of time to think about what I want to do next. I do need to work – not only due to the finances (and mostly due to the high cost of health insurance) but also just because I like working, need ‘structure’ in my life and reallly need to feel financially independent. Stay tuned.

As for Kentucky, my friend Margaret and I went to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington to watch the Arabian/Half Arabian Sport Horse Championships. We are both thinking about taking our own horses next year and this was a ‘fact-finding’ mission. We had a great time, watched dressage, in hand and sport horse classes, took a tour of horse farms, found some great restaurants and historic spots and enjoyed the beautiful cool weather.

My back is slowly improving. I had pain rain my SI joint that I thought was from the fall, so the ortho sent me to a physical therapist, who determined it really was not my SI joint that was hurting, but nerve pain radiating from my back to the SI joint. She gave me some exercises to do and it helped a lot even after the first session.

Riding will now become a priority again, now that I have more time and the weather has gotten better. I am trying to put myself on a schedule – riding/stall cleaning from 6-9 a.m., then job searching/career coaching/portfolio and resume building from 9-5, and horses again after 5.

I am also making what I jokingly call ‘play dates’ for myself with friends. I need social interaction, especially now, and I have seen way too little of my friends due to my 11-hour days for the past 20 years. I am trying to set up two lunches a week with friends. I am terrified of becoming a ‘slug’ – sleeping too late, staying up too late, etc. I am also making myself go to bed no later than 11. We’ll see how well I do. 😉

In horse news, I entered Faeryn in the Region 9 Championships scheduled for the first weekend in November. Faxx has had entirely too much time off, so he goes back to work tomorrow. I rode him once before I went to KY. Fling is getting better with her flying changes and I think she’s close to being able to do multiple changes.

And I hope to start posting on this blog on a more regular basis again.