Monthly Archives: February 2012

Terrific ride on Sunday

My ride on Sunday started out super right from the first. I was concerned Fling might be a bit sore as she worked really hard on Saturday. She was super sweaty – lathered where the reins moved across her neck even.

But she warmed up very quickly and felt great and very supple for so early in the ride. Debbie pronounced our trot a 7 and then had me work to make it an 8.

Debbie immediately targed our half pass work both in trot and canter. First she had us work on the trot half pass counter changes of hand. I had been doing a bit of this on my own, but as usual I was doing it all wrong. LOL! I was letting her shoulders ‘slide’ over and fall on the new shoulder instead of keeping her “standing up.”  The transition in the counter change determines the quality of the half pass to the new direction. We did that a few times and the counter changes got much better. Debbie showed me that the key to making a seamless, good change of bend is to really exaggerate my new inside hip position – ‘scissoring’ my hips/legs’ as I changed the directions – always thinking about ‘pointing’ to the new direction with the new inside hip.

Then we moved to the canter half pass. In addition to really making her ‘wait’ for me, again, Debbie had me really sit deeply on my new inside seatbone, and keeping her firmly on my seat, while asking for ever more increased bend. The strides got shorter but more active and I could feel her come up in her shoulders and I really could ride each stride – and also could see that this is where the canter pirouette comes from – because a CP is really just a series of single half pass strides! It was an incredible feeling  – half pass at an entirely new level.

We finished with working on the medium trot across the diagonal with the 5-7 collected trot steps across X. I was thinking make the trot smaller as I tried to collect over X and I should be thinking about making the trot actually bigger but cover less ground. I found the right buttons and Fling and I danced from medium to collected effortlessly! i think Debbie was very pleased with our progress. I was ecstatic and so, so, grateful for  my wonderful, hardworking horse. Debbie even commented that she thrives on hard work.

A ride on Faxx and Debbie Bowman clinic today

Even though I haven’t ridden as much as I would like, I rode Fling in the Debbie Bowman clinic today and probably will ride her again tomorrow. We worked on flying changes with some success, got some really good half pass and finished with half steps.

The flying changes are always going to be my ‘Achilles Heel” it seems. Part of the trouble is that I have sacriced straightness for way too long in order to just get a flying change. So now I am haviing to go back and attempt to convince Fling that she CAN do a flying change without going crooked or diving to the new canter lead direction. We worked along the fence and she did not even want to change if she had to stay straight, but part of the trouble is that _I_ am looking down right at the moment I ask her to change. There was some of that ‘not pretty’ work that sometimes happens when you are trying to teach the horse something, but there was progress made.

Her canter half passes were good, and she was good with the half pass to the rail and then counter canter to C/A and then doing a flying change.

We finished with working on half steps and I finally got the feeling of a real piaffe step. Debbie had me go about it differently this time. Instead of trying to collect her ‘down’ to shorter/more active steps, she first had me do several very active walk to trot transitions. And then she had me do walk to trot transitions that were active but more collected. Toward the end, suddenly I could feel Fling really come UP in front and SIT behind. Debbie said, “did you feel that?” And I said, YES – and I told her it felt like that moment when you are on the plane hurtling down the runway and you feel the wheels in front first leave the ground. She was stunned because she said that was always the description she had used to explain to students. I had never read that or seen it described that way – it was just immediately the first thing that came to my mind. Weird,  huh?

I rode Faxx this morning before the clinic and it has been more than two weeks since I rode him last. I just hate that ‘life’ – along with the weather –  has gotten in the way. He was a good boy, though and I HOPE as summer approaches, with more daylight and hopefully a finished arena within the next month or two, that we can get back on track. My goal for Faxx this year is to show him first level at recognized shows and second level at schooling shows and qualify him for the USDF/GAIC regional championships and show him at the championships in November.

I have signed up Fling to show her Fourth level test 1 at a schooling show next weekend and I am eyeing a show in May as her recognized Fourth level debut.

Tomorrow I will ride Fling with Debbie again.

New job trumps riding

I started my new job Feb. 13. I am Associate Marketing Manager at NCI Building Services. I was lucky to find a job after only 4 months of being unemployed. Actually, my first interview with them was 3 months into my unemployment, but the interiewing/hiring process took another month. So far I really like it even though it is 53 miles from my house. Yes, you read that right. However, I work 7-4 and can take the Beltway so I do not get into stop and go traffic. It takes me just a few minutes over an hour to get there. Further than the Chronicle, and about 10 minutes longer commute, but a less stressful commute as there, so far, have been almost NO slowdowns. It is a huge learning curve starting a new job after 21 years at your previous one. I am learning a lot and will have the opportunity to do a lot more hands on marketing than i did at the Chronicle. Here they have an actual plan for each building brand (there are about 7 in our division) and I will get to oversee much more of the creative process and also working with the brand managers, doing budgeting and a little bit of PR. And I also have two coordinators to manage. So riding has taken a backseat for now. Plus it’s rained a lot this month and it’s often been too wet to ride. And my arena is still unfinished since last spring, first due to the drought (I needed some good hard rain to let the base ‘settle’ before putting the sand back on it) and now unfinished because it just won’t stop raining long enough to dry out enough to do any dirt work. But I cannot complain – and we are still in a rainfall deficit.

So, all that said, the horses have had light duty, but I have made one discovery. I have been asking Fling to start the journey toward piaffe with half steps – but I don’t reallly even think you could call them half steps yet. It is more like a few steps at a time of super collected trot with energy, as slow as I can get her to go. And guess what? Doing that has really improved her canter.

Faxx has grown a brain

Last year, Faxx would often have mental meltdowns when asked to do something new. I really was starting to think he was really not bright. Fast forward to this year, and he is almost a different horse. For one thing, I discovered he had the herpes virus, which made him super sensitive to touch. Poor guy. A few months on lysine and he is much improved and seems much ‘quiter’ mentally. And I do not know if it is related, but he is really “getting” stuff much quicker. My last ride, I started asking him to do baby half pass at the walk. No problem. Today I asked him to do them at the trot. Again, no problem. Now, the one to the left was actually quite good. the one to the right is still a work in progress, but that is quite normal. I am also seeing improvement in his downward from canter to walk — it is _almost_ there. Last month that seemed like a distant goal.

He is still a ways from being ready to show second level, but we’re not in any hurry. Since he barely competed last year, I am going to show him at recognized shows at first level again this year, with the goal of qualifying him and competing at the championships. Since Faeryn showed a lot last year, this will be her ‘off’ year. She will school some more and get confirmed at second level and school more of third level. And later this year we will probably start flying changes.

The road to fourth level

I am trying to decide when Fling and I will make our Fourth level debut at a recognized show. There is a show St. Patrick’s Day weekend but the entry due date is next week and I am starting my new job (more about that in a future post) most likely Feb. 13. Fourth level is as much mental work as it is physical work and I do not want to go to a show when I have too much going else going on in my life and in in my head. On top of starting the job, my master bath/bedroom construction project is probably not going to be finished by the time I start the job, so I will be juggling parts of that as well.But, I do not want to mess around with this and let time slip away without getting out there and taking a run at fourth level. It has been more than a year since I showed her last. And I tell myself Fling is not going to live forever. If I have learned anything from having horses, it’s that they can break your heart nine ways to Sunday. And you cannot always count on being able to do something ‘next week’, ‘next month’ or even ‘tomorrow.’ For all their power, they are fragile creatures. And I have one that is flirting with FEI level work, and who loves the hard work – in fact, thrives on it. This is a gift and I need to, as the move line goes, “Seize the day.”

Today I took a lesson at Marie’s. The arena had tons of standing water but we found space to work on our canter, and piaffe half steps. I have found that doing the  half steps greatly improves the collection in her canter. We also worked on schooling canter pirouettes. I have to fix MY position before we can really do a half one. I keep thinking piro, but what happens is a small circle. Marie says I really need to think more about pushing her shoulders around the circle and sit more to the outside. Normally you would sit to the inside but I am sitting too much to the inside and looking too much to the inside. Marie and friends watching today all said Fling will totally be a canter pirouette machine when I ‘get it.’