Hang On A Second..It Is Just About Time

Ike - May 2015 - Photo by K. Childers

Ike – May 2015 – Photo by K. Childers

Well, it is just about here…our Second Level debut.  To say that I am excited about it would be an understatement.  It has only taken me 10 years to finally get to this point in my dressage journey.  Yes, that is not a typo – 10 years.  Go ahead and make fun if you must, but I believe that all things and events come into our lives when we are ready for them.

My first years of dressage training were a challenge since 1) I had no clue what a half halt was, and then 2) once I did, I had a horse who thumbed his nose at the concept.  God bless Ms. C for her patience with the two of us.  How challenging it must be to try to teach a concept to a student with a horse that fought every step of the way.  No wonder progress moved slower than a snail’s pace.  Cigar and I were at odds for 6 years before his knee fracture forced his retirement.

If I wanted to get to Second Level sooner, an experienced mount would have been a wise option when shopping for Cigar’s replacement…but those experienced horses were well outside my budget and unfortunately, no one was offering to syndicate a horse for me.  Buying a green horse was my best and only option.  All I could do was hope that my two test rides on Ike were a good indication that we could form a partnership.

Thus far, I have been very fortunate with my green horse gamble.  Ike has very few foibles under saddle and truly does try his best to understand what we ask him to do.  I still clearly recall that steering was optional at the canter and that I nearly lost a knee cap on more than one occasion.  There was no half halting of the outside rein to stop the outward spiral towards the fence.  The inside rein and a prayer were all I had some days.  Poor Ike also had to finish growing before he could finally operate all body parts in a synchronous way.  Truth be told, I didn’t think he was ever going to stop growing!  Thankfully, it appears that he has finally reached maximum height and length.

And, if I am being completely honest, I needed to learn some new skills before we were ready to move beyond First Level.  Moving to Second is like jumping from elementary school to graduate school in one leap.  You can muddle through Training and First Levels with a basic knowledge  of dressage, but you had better put on your big kid boots after that.  Yikes!  The sh#% gets real…real collection, real medium gaits, real transitions in and out of those medium gaits, 10 meter canter circles, simple changes…there is no way you can fake your way through a Second Level test.  I think I can finally identify a collected trot versus a short, choppy trot.  I can finally ask for a simple change and get it most of the time.  I can finally position my horse in a correct shoulder in rather than a “neck in.”  It just took me a little longer since we were also teaching Ike at the same time.  Again, I think I got very lucky when I picked Ike.  Not every horse is so tolerant of learning new skills from a green rider.

So here we are, just a few months shy of our 4 year “gotcha day” and we are preparing for our first centerline at collected trot.  Hoping for the best and trying to remember to breathe.

Alison

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Extracurricular Activities (or Why Ike Needed to Get Back to Work Sooner Rather Than Later)

"Who wants to play with me?"

“Who wants to play with me?”

The month of February was not a good month for making forward progress to our goal of showing Second Level in April.  We had a solid lesson on February 9th, and then Mother Nature decided to be persnickety and throw every type of frozen precipitation at us for days on end.  I tried riding one other day, but that ended with Ike’s hind end slipping out from under us and me almost sliding off with thoughts of broken bones and torn tendons flashing through my brain. So I hung up our bridle and hunkered down until Mother Nature’s mood improved.  Unfortunately it took her almost 4 weeks to come to her senses as our next lesson just happened today, March 10th .  Grrr, not amused.

Ike on the other hand, took the time off to engage in some extracurricular activities.  The more bored he became, the more the extracurricular activities escalated.  I thought I would share with you some of the activities in case your horse is still out of work and you need some ideas to keep him occupied.

  1. Halter Removal – This game only works when at least one horse is wearing a halter.  The object of the game is to get the noseband of the halter into the mouth of the horse wearing the halter without the halter breaking.  I guess it goes without saying that it is also better if nothing breaks on any of the participants.  Of course, this game is hard on the halter, so buy cheap ones since they will eventually fray and break.
  2. Snow Angel – You try and make the most elaborate snow angel.  This game requires some agility skills and the ability to completely roll over to obtain the full angel wing span.  Ike, sadly, usually made a one-winged angel.  This was his least favorite game and soon fell out of favor.
  3. I’ve Got Your Water – This game involves trying to steal the water from your brother’s paddock.  Each day, repurposed muck buckets of fresh water were set out in the paddocks in the morning.  We came to realize that Mr. Giraffe could grab the handle of his brother’s bucket if it was set too close to the fence.  Ike thought it was great fun to grab it and try to put it in his paddock.  “Ha, ha, I now have two and you have none.”
  4. Play With Me Now – The instigator stands at the fence line and must make mean faces at the other participant until the other participant relents and finally plays with the instigator.  It also helps to stomp the ground and kick out your hind leg in disgust.  Once both participants are engaged, both must show off their rearing skills in the icy footing.  The first one to fall is the loser.
  5. The Tree Removal Game– You find the one and only tree near your paddock and pull on the trunk of the tree to see how much of an angle you can obtain before the tree splits in two.  So far a 30-35 degree angle is the record.  Ike plans to parlay this game into some side work this summer working for a tree company.
  6. Paddock Redesign – This is an advanced game that requires some knowledge of electric fences and how to test whether or not they are working.  Beginners will need help from more advanced players to hone their fence testing skills.  Once the basics are established, the object of the game is to remove a section of the paddock fence to create a “door” into the adjacent paddock.  If the “door” is not fully open, you also test your jumping skills to avoid the “trip wire” still blocking the “door.”  Once in the adjacent paddock, this opens up a whole new array of game opportunities…until of course you get caught by the warden…
  7. Spring Fling – This is a bonus game if you master Paddock Redesign.  It is also a boy/girl game.  The object is to see how long you can play with the girls over their fence line until you get caught by the warden or you piss them off enough that they no longer want to play with you.  Bonus points are given if you can avoid shocking yourself on their hotwire while you engage them in play or if you can create a “door” into their paddocks.

Phew, we went back to work just in the nick of time.  I would hate to think what was next in line for equine activities…Trailer Pulling Contests or Hide and Seek anyone?