Monthly Archives: June 2012

Rethinking riding

Lately things just had not been working with Fling. She was getting more resistant and it seemed all we did during our warm-up was a tug of war. I had switched her snaffle bit to a baucher to try and get her to quit pulling, and it worked somewhat, but made her more resistant and she just wasn’t as supple and through as i knew she could be.

I started trying to analyze what had gone wrong. At one point in our ‘relationship,’ she was super off my seat and responsive. Now it seems she just blows through even my biggest aids and ignores my more subtle aids, so I end up pulling on the reins a lot more than I like or it seems like I should need to.

I finally realized it seems I am bracing my seat and also bracing against my stirrups,mostly at the canter. Really it’s the canter that is always the issue. So, for the past few rides I’ve made it a point to ride without stirrups most of the time. What I discovered was that a longer leg, with my calf lower on her sides, gave me more contact with her sides and gave more ‘leverage’ to my leg aids. In addition, when she chose to ignore my leg, it put my spur in a much better position to enforce my leg aid. As a result, she got much quicker off my aids. Also, I realized with no stirrups I could not brace and also realize I was tensing my butt and thigh muscles, which probably served to just push her onto her forehand, making it much more difficult for her to ‘come back’ from my aids. That is always the issue – her ‘coming back’ – especially at the canter. Fling is a powerful package in a small horse – Marie often comments on how strong she is in the canter pirouettes – but that strength also is used against me. She starts out good at the canter, but the longer we canter the less she obeys my ‘come back’ aids.And we end up in a tug of war.

She also was not straight enough, which was making it even more difficult to get her through and listening to my aids. She had developed a bad habit of swinging her haunches out to avoid taking weight on her inside hind. With my longer, stronger leg, accompanied by the spur when necessary, I worked on breaking that bad habit. Once she was straight, it was amazing how much better the canter was and just how much more responsive to my aids she was.

After riding with no stirrups for awhile, when I picked them back up, they seemed too short, so I lengthened my stirrups and put her back in the snaffle. What a change. I am feeling a throughness in her canter that’s been missing for quite a while. Hopefully next time we wander ‘off the path,’ it won’t take this long to find it again!

Finally – new trailer on the way!

My current horse trailer is a 1993 Featherlite which I purchased new in 1992 from D&D Farm and Ranch in Seguin. I can remember the day and the drive up there like it was yesterday.I still had my black and silver 1992 Chevy Silverado and was playing a John Anderson CD on the way up and singing along to Seminole Wind.

Over the years the old trailer and I have been through a lot – and I think about all the horses I’ve had – who are no longer with me – that have been hauled safely in it – Sonnys Mona Lisa, Domineaux, Nanja, Muscatyr.

The huge dressing room really came in handy during my endurance ride phase, when Mike and I – or later, my friend Margaret and I – would go to rides in the middle of nowhere. We had to take all our food, water and camping gear with us and we managed to stuff it all in the dressing room.

For the past few years I’ve always looked at new trailers when they’ve been at shows, or at the rodeos. But none of the ‘off the shelf’ trailers have what I want. Due to Faxx’s size, I definitely need a straight load versus a slant load. (Slant load trailers are a lot shorter than straight loads – that’s why they’re much cheaper.)  I also did not want a ramp, and it seems that’s all you can find these days. And I really do not like the wedge nose that they all have now – you lose a lot of space in the dressing area due to that. I understand it’s more aerodynamic, but dressing room space is more important to me than gas mileage!

So it became apparent to me I was going to have to order one to get exactly what I wanted. I was going to order one last fall – but waffled around, and then I got laid off and that idea definitely got put on hold.

But now I’ve been at my new job for four months, things are going well, I still have a lot of my Chronicle severance pay left, so I decided the timing was right. So after many alterations, discussions and calculations – I finally drove to the 4Star dealer in Willis and sat down and ordered one a few weeks ago. The down side is that I have to wait until mid-September for it – that’s how long it will take to get built and delivered.

In the meantime I’m getting a bit sad about parting with my faithful Featherlite (but I know soince they got bought out by a mega trailer mft – they are no longer made the way mine was.)  It will be a bittersweet day when the old girl goes to a new owner. Great to be getting a new trailer, but sad to say goodbye to an inanimate object that was part of my life for so long – and to realize this new trailer will probably be the last trailer I ever buy.

Super ride on Faeryn

The new job has been kicking my butt – 53 mile commute EACH way – but I think I am finally settling in, it’s getting easier and I have enough energy (mental and physical!) to get back into the swing of riding every day – and riding two horses Mon/Wed/Fri when I have barn help, and on the weekends.

I put in three rides on Faern last week and the first ride she was a bit rusty, but by Ride #3 she was almost back in form. Doing a lot of half steps (precursor to piaffe and a great strengthening exercise) and I think she is going to have more of a talent for it than either of the other two. Her canter was super wonky the first day, but it’s gotten progressively better. She’s 7 now and it’s about time to really start flying changes, but considering that hasn’t gone so well with Fling I may send her to someone to start them. Her lateral work has improved immensely and she has such a happy bounce to her trot she always makes me smile. Heck, she even makes me smile just sitting on her and walking around. She has a huge walk – I call it the Marilyn Monroe walk (and she has earned 9s for it in recognized shows.) it also is like physical therapy for me whenever my back hurts! Now I understand why hippotherapy is so beneficial to some people. I also really appreciate my ten-acre field. Some days it’s fun to just meander around, through the trees, around the pond, etc. I always say when I am old, if all I can do is drag my butt on a horse and plod along at the walk, I could be satisfied with that. 🙂

Debbie Bowman Clinic with Faxx

I usually take Fling to one or both clinic days, but this time, I decided to focus on Faxx. I know that Debbie really likes him, and he’s had too little riding and training for the past six months. Also, his reluctance to take contact has reared its ugly head again, so to speak, and I needed some professional help to solve it. It is really time to step up his work to get him ready to show second level. We’ve got many of the pieces, but until he can accept steady contact, be connected and stay relatively through, he cannot really advance. He is a wonderful mover, has a great brain, but he is a bit tricky. He seems very laid back to the casual observer, but he can suffer from tension which he internalizes. He also cannot be ‘drilled’ and can’t take a lot of new things thrown at him at once.

The clinic was great. Debbie showed me how many of the things I was interpreting as his unwillingness to do what I asked was often because he just couldn’t because he was not warmed up properly. I tend to go right to lateral work – probably because to me, it’s a lot more fun, but Debbie pointed out that he needs to be bending FIRST to be able to get connected and through, which makes it possible for him to do the other work. Another big thing was controlling his shoulder – which has been a problem in the past, but it has crept up on us again. And the third part of the puzzle is to get him ‘packaged’ better. He is a big boy and a big mover, and it’s easier to let his hind legs get out behind him. They are not super quick to begin with – so part of the warm up is to make sure he is active enough behind. He felt great, and once he was warmed up properly he did very good shoulder-in. Even better, when I showed Debbie (apologetically) what I considered his very ‘iffy’ an crude half pass – she pronounced it much more correct than I was giving us credit for. In fact, she aid half pass was pretty easy for him.

My plan for him was to qualify him for USDF Regionals at First level. I don’t think he is ready to show yet, but we are aiming for the HDS labor Day show.