Blinded By The Light aka The Sun

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The holiday respite is over, and Ike and I hit the saddle with a lesson with Ms. C on Friday after Christmas.  Headed out to the barn after my work day was over, which meant that I only had about two hours of sunlight to work with before the sun made its decent below the horizon.  The sun sat low in the sky for most of the lesson which made for rather blinding moments when you headed towards the west end of the arena.  The inability to see frazzled Ike a bit – I suppose the natural instinct of a prey animal is to be cautious in situations where the predator could be lurking.  When I say that Ike was frazzled, I mean that he was wound up like a wind-up toy ready to “boing” at any moment.

To try and get some quality work in spite of the blinding conditions, we first avoided the far end of the arena and then worked on some lateral exercises.  Why fight a battle that wasn’t necessary?  The lateral exercises helped to diffuse the tenseness by forcing Ike and I to concentrate.  Since the lateral work is still relatively new to Ike’s repertoire, I still have to think about what aides to give and when to give them.  Big boy has to focus on what I’m asking and then attempt to comply with my request.  If you saw our video from our last lesson, you know that we still have alignment issues with leg yield.  We also struggle with our shoulder in position…too much neck bend, shoulders too straight, hind end not stepping up and under enough…the usual issues everyone has.

In our lesson this week, the exercise was to leg yield nose-to-rail, straighten across the arena, and then perform shoulder in down the other long side.  Thank goodness that we had Ms. C there to remind me when we were headed out of alignment.  Sometimes I can tell, but other times, I’m a bit clueless.  I also had to be willing to trust Ike and push my hands forward – challenging to do when you are riding a very large, very tense horse who is ready to exhibit his best flight reflex.  But wow, when I did trust Ike and allow Ike to move, Ike’s leg yield was dynamite.  Ms. C said to remember that feeling since that movement will earn us an 8 from any judge.  Awesome.  Our shoulder in was adequate, but still not show worthy.

After our successful lateral work, we decided to give canter a go.  Yikes!  I was riding Scooby Doo.  Ms. C hollered as a careened past her that Ike was running through my hands and asked if I could slow him down.  Umm, no, I cannot.  I tried my best to sit back, sit deep, and half halt, but Ike just scoffed at me.  When I finally gained control, Ms. C had us halt and try some halt-canter transitions.  So, Ike, if you insist on this crazy forward canter work, then we will redirect your focus and make you use the power for good.  Big boy did surprisingly well at this exercise even though this was his first go at these transitions.  Our canter-halt transitions were not as successful as the up transitions, but thankfully we did not fall flat on our faces.

We ended our lesson with a feeble attempt at a stretch down trot.  Not a big surprise that there was not much stretch and Ike was a bit too quick.  By this time, the sun was almost down behind the trees and his buddy was calling for him from the barn.  Time to call it quits for the day.  While the sun was setting on our lesson, the future is looking bright for Ike!

A Spring-like Lesson in December

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Here we are 5 days away from Christmas, but it sure doesn’t feel like it outside.  Heat Miser has decided to push his brother Cold Miser out of the state for the time being.  By the end of the weekend, temperatures will be close to the 70-degree mark.  Crazy!  If we were further south, I’d buy it, but I was enjoying some riding without the sweaty hair and smelly riding helmet.

My fabulous husband gave me a very nice video camera and tripod for my birthday a few weeks ago.  For years I have been trying to use my Flip Video Camera or the video option on my digital camera to capture video of my rides.  These required Ms. C to hold them, follow my movement, and keep Ike and I in the frame all while trying to instruct.  We had some limited success, but it really wasn’t the best solution.  This new video camera mounts to the tripod and it will actually stay ON and continue recording until Ms. C turns it off.  [My camera was notorious for turning itself off after two or three minutes of recording, so we really didn’t get to see much of the lesson.]  Ms. C is actually able to watch Ike and I and instruct and it is all captured on video.  🙂  I reviewed the lesson this evening and seeing what was happening while Ms. C provided input was definitely helpful to this visual learner.

Today’s lesson was tough.  I spent most of the lesson in sit trot while trying to follow Ms. C’s detailed instructions on riding Ike with the proper flexion and body alignment while on a circle.  The concept sounds so simple, but in practice it is very technical and challenging…plus trying to maintain my seat in sit trot just added to the ongoing conversation with myself (relax your butt, shoulders down and back, long leg, stop pinching with your knees, fingers closed, breathe, half halt, oops too late on that half halt…) all while trying to execute Ms. C’s instructions.  Ike is still young and trying to learn where all his body parts are supposed to be at any given moment.  He might know what I want him to do, but that doesn’t mean that his hulking body cooperates all the time.  Perhaps it is also my lack of eye/hand coordination that contributes to the challenge.  Watching the video was a definite plus in cementing what the proper movement should look like.  The true test will come tomorrow when I try to reproduce what we achieved today.

We also worked on some walk-canter transitions which were not as crisp as I would like.  Since it has been a while since we schooled them, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that they need some work.  Note to self to add that to our wintertime homework list.

After our canter work, it was time for leg yield and some trot lengthening.  Ike and I had laid off the schooling of lengthenings in recent weeks due to the slippery footing.  Before this odd heat wave, we had some very cold nights, some light snow, some ice and rain which made the arena footing a bit slick.  You know it is bad when your horse loses his hind end while just doing your trot warm up on light contact.  Today the footing was just right, so we took advantage of the day and schooled our lateral work and our trot lengthenings.  I’m sharing with you a snippet of today’s video footage.  Yes, I know that we are not always perfectly aligned with our leg yields – the hind end gets ahead of the rest of the body and sometimes it gets left behind.    Yes, I know we still need better push over Ike’s back for our lengthenings.  I need to do a better job with my half halts to rebalance Ike, but I thought I’d let you see where we are with our schooling.  Are we perfect?  Nope, but I’m perfectly happy with where we are and where we are going!

Enjoy the show:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0ttSZnl1Ik

alison

How To Take a Holiday Photo of Your Horse

Santa hat success!

Santa hat success!

Supplies Needed:  One Santa hat, One pound of peppermints – wrappers removed, One camera, Infinite patience.

Step One, Day One – Locate the Santa hat.  If you are anything like me, you stuffed it into a box/bag/tack box after Christmas last year and swore that you would remember where you put it.  Ha ha.  Finally find said Santa hat and realize that it is now too dark outside for photos.  Put Santa hat back in tack box for another day.

Step One, Day Two – Arrive at barn earlier prepared to take photos.  Remove wrappers from the peppermints and stuff them into your pocket.  Grab Santa hat and camera and head out to retrieve horse.

Step Two, Day Two- Give horse a peppermint to gain trust.  Show Santa hat to horse.

"Hmm, this is an unimpressive treat."

“You want me to do ‘what’ with this thing?”

Step Three, Day Two – Let horse grab hat.  Watch Santa hat fall into the mud.

"You really don't expect me to wear this, do you?"

“You really don’t expect me to wear this, do you?”

Step Four, Day Two – Retrieve hat from mud.  Mutter expletives under breath while trying to clean Santa hat and spy horse passing judgment on this holiday activity.

"Don't you have anything better to do with your time?"

“Don’t you have anything better to do with your time?”

Step Five, Day Two – Attempt to place Santa hat on horse’s head with one hand while holding camera with the other.  Horse transforms into a giraffe.  Growl at horse and wish you had a third hand to grab a peppermint from your pocket.

Step Six, Day Two – Put Santa hat and camera in one hand and grab a peppermint with the other.  Get horse to lower head by offering peppermint and quickly shuffle hat into the same hand for second attempt at placing over horse’s ear.  Hat falls to ground.  Return to barn defeated.

Poor Santa hat, no love from Ike.

Poor Santa hat, no love from Ike.

Step One, Day Three – Reach into pocket and remove one large sticky, lint-covered glob of peppermints that you forgot were there.  Remove wrappers from new handful of mints and retrieve horse.  Groom and tack horse.  Grab Santa hat and camera and bring horse outside.

Step Two, Day Three – Attempt to place Santa hat on horse’s head; the giraffe returns.  Bribe horse with a large handful of mints and sneak Santa hat over ear.

Step Three, Day Three – Quickly grab camera and ask horse to look at you.  Horse blatantly ignores your request.  Take a photo anyway.

"I refuse to acknowledge you.  This is mortifying."

“I refuse to acknowledge you. This is mortifying.”

Step Four, Day Three – Pick Santa hat up from ground when horse flicks ear.  Give up any further photo attempts in order to ride.  Give horse remaining mints to prevent further pocket stickiness.  Remind yourself to wash your jacket.

Step One, Day Four – Wear dirty jacket to barn.  Place mints in other pocket since the first pocket is now stuck closed.

Step Two, Day Four – Groom horse and put saddle on.

Step Three, Day Four – Grab bridle and Santa hat in one hand.  Place 10 mints in the other hand.  While horse is munching, sneak bit into mouth and Santa hat on ear under the bridle.

Step Four, Day Four – Squeal with excitement that the Santa hat is on horse’s head.

Step Five, Day Four – Grab camera and walk outside with horse.  When horse is distracted by a bird, take photos as quickly as possible praying that one is blog worthy.

Step Six, Day Four – Put camera away and ride horse while he is wearing Santa hat and you wear a silly grin.

Step Seven, Day Four – Give horse big hug and remaining peppermints and thank him for not killing you.

"You will pay dearly for this embarrassment."

“You will pay dearly for this embarrassment.”

Ike Has a Few Things To Say

Sporting my new blanket!

Sporting my new blanket!

Howdy Everyone!  Mom has a lot going on right now, so I thought I’d step up and fill you in on how things are going at the barn in recent days.  You might as well hear things directly from the horse’s mouth rather than Mom’s sanitized version with her slanted point of view.

I have to say that I am liking the weather of late.  All this cold wind and cold temperatures and rain and ice mean that I don’t have to do much except be a horse and play with my brother.  Mom is a weather wimp.  She says that I am one too, but I would like it to be known that I was out in the sleet this morning while she hid in the house.  Oh, yeah, wait, she made it out to the barn long enough to pat my head and give me two Stud Muffins.  Only two?!!  Doesn’t she know that two is really nothing more than an amuse-bouche?  Not amused, but I did forgive her because when I did return to the barn, she had put an Uncle Jimmy’s Licky Snack in the holder.  Clever woman remembered to put the top on the holder this time.  Darn her!  It takes a lot more work to eat it with the lid.  I can finish it off in about two nights without the lid…

As you can see, I managed to get a new blanket for the winter.  I told her in the spring that she should go ahead and order me a new one, but, Noooooo, silly woman waited until the cold weather had already arrived this winter.  She actually tried to convince me and herself that I could get by with the 84 inch size.  I quickly pointed out that it wasn’t going to work and the blanket would look more like a scarf all scrunched up above my shoulders.  I hear they went to a happy home so I won’t have to suffer the embarrassment of wearing too small clothing.

I’ve been working hard under saddle to learn what I need to know to be a dressage horse.  There are all sorts of new words and movements they are making me do.  I even tried a walk pirouette last week.  Mom and Ms. C are also teaching me how to move sideways and forward at the same time.  Phew, it is hard to move that way.  They have had me do it at the walk and trot and even a little in canter.  I am very tired after those lessons.  Ms. C told me that I’m starting to look like a horse.  What?  What did I look like before?  A big dog?  Maybe it has something to do with my old blankets no longer fitting.

This growing stuff is awesome.  I keep growing and working hard; Ms. C keeps handing me treats while Mom keeps buying me new stuff.  Score!  So far I have amassed a new bridle, a couple of new bits, a turnout sheet, a medium weight blanket, new saddle pads, and some new polo wraps this year.  Best part is that Christmas is just a few weeks away!  I’m hoping for a new saddle (Humph, I have to use my brother’s stinky old saddle!) and a new boot to hang in my stall.  I like to play with the boot at night and it is the penthouse suite for the local mouse population.  It is close by my feed bowl, so it is convenient to dining.  Had to interview some new tenants recently though, since the old one went on a date with the barn cat and never came home.

I’m still very happy in Virginia with my family.  I am very thankful that I have the family that I do and have a nice barn to call my home.  Mom takes very good care of me even if she is stingy with treats sometimes.  I get to go to a bunch of new places during the warmer months where I’ve overheard people tell Dad how happy they are that Mom has a horse like me to ride.  That makes me try really hard to be good, but I still get scared sometimes at the new places.  I hope that doesn’t make me get in trouble.  I asked my older brother about that to see if he had any insight.  He told me not to worry; he says that Mom will be our Mom forever.  I think knowing that is the best Christmas gift of all.

Ike