Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Arcs and Straight Lines

Take a dressage whip and curve it, making an arc.  The arc is strong and flexible.  It can bear pressure without collapsing.  Straighten the whip and discover that the straight line is flexible but weak.  It cannot bear pressure without collapsing.

Now consider your horse's back.  Something I was given to ponder while watching some demos at the WEG.

The desire to have the horse in a natural posture is only good when his back is in a natural state, unencumbered by the weight of a rider.

No matter how natural we want to be, the act of riding a horse is unnatural.  They are designed to pull, not carry.

To effectively carry a rider, a horse must lower his croup, step under with his hind legs, lift his abdomen and round over the neck, flex at the poll and bring his head just in front of the vertical.

In this position the horse is rounded from croup to poll and his back lifts to carry the weight of his rider.

This is not a forced position.  It's not about pulling in the head and driving up the hindquarters.

The clinician we saw was riding a gorgeous Andalusian stallion.  He had a double bridle and was being ridden on contact.  Yet when the rider moved his hands forward, the horse maintained his frame and his cadence.  A beautiful example of self carriage.

I don't know that I have what it takes - either by my skill or the ability of my horses - to achieve such magnificence.  But more and more I'm convinced that ignoring the physical - failure to help the horse move in a bio-mechanically correct manner - is just as detrimental as ignoring the mental and emotional.

Getting Connection

I am going to try and be more active in updating my blog.  It seems to help me be active with my horses.

Last night I had my third centered riding lesson.  The first was way back in the spring and at the beginning of September we started a regular engagement at my boarding barn.

I've ridden Bleu in the last two lessons and I'm beginning to make some connections.  Literally.

For the first time I felt what contact means.  I wish I could come up with the right word to describe it.  It was strong without force, firm without grip and solid without being rigid.  It was soft without being weak and relaxed without being floppy.  It was perfect . . . and fleeting.

Bleu is wonderful for learning.  She has none of the assumptions I've built into Cricket.  She is looking for leadership so she appreciates all my efforts.  She is willing and honest.  Not that Cricket isn't.  But I've long since learned Cricket is not the appropriate horse for my learning journey.  Especially when it comes to concepts that result in smoke coming from my ears.

Things we worked on: seat connection, rein connection, the proper way to turn my horse, speeds within the walk and fluidity in two-point.

It was a great lesson and I'm looking forward to my next adventure.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Back from the World Equestrian Games

So I'm back from my weekend at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington.  We didn't see any of the competition - we went for the shopping.  And to soak in the atmosphere.  This is the first time the Games have been on US soil and even if they come back, who's to say they'd be close enough to visit.

The vendors and exhibitors were amazing.  I learned quite a bit and I saw more than I could have imagined.  And I spent more than I had planned.  But oh well . . .

One of my highlights was the opportunity to Ride a Reiner.  Yep, I can honestly say I rode at the World Equestrian Games!  As we were walking around on Saturday, we came past a pen where they had kids on some horses.  At first I thought it was cute that they had pony rides.  Then we found out it was the chance to ride a Reining horse.  Three of us signed up.

When we entered the pen, they asked us how much riding experience we had.  I knew the three of us could ride and the fourth girl was a rider as well.  So after we mounted up, they sort of turned us loose. 

I had a sweet buckskin gelding named Nugget.  At first he was pretty annoyed and swished his tail a lot.  I tried to ride as confidently and securely as I could and soon he settled.  He picked up a little jog and and I eased him back down, thinking we weren't supposed to go above a walk.  But when the other girl rode by at a jog, the announcer said that since this group was more advanced, we'd be doing a little more.

And we did.  After jogging around the arena, the other girl came by at a lope and off we went.  I had a blast.  We walked, jogged and loped around that entire arena.  Both directions, both leads.  It was amazing.

So it begs the question: why can I get on a horse I've never met, wearing the wrong shoes and no helmet and canter like I've done it all my life?  It's worth pondering

More Odds and Ends

Time just keeps slipping away from me.  Work remains busy but it seems to be tapering off.  My partner in pricing has returned, though not full strength.

Of course now that work is slowing down, everything else is ramping up.

This coming weekend I'm taking a chic-trip to Lexington to soak in the atmosphere of the World Equestrian Games.  We aren't going to see any of the competition, at least not really.  Sunday the Endurance ride will cover the whole park and our tickets include that but what we're really there for is . . . the shopping.

Since my Centered Riding lesson earlier this month, I've done nothing with Bleu.  After I come back from the WEG I'm going to get more time with her.  When things are rushed I just default to my Cricket.  Not for any other reason than I know her.

And not that Bleu is missing out on anything - I think I've played with Cricket twice since my last blog post.  Our constant Achilles heel is CS riding and I'm going to make a better attempt to help her understand what I want and why I carry the stick.  The other night I did tons of friendly - just rubbing her with the stick while she walked around.  Then I used leg and rein and a light stick and she seemed more accepting (i.e. she didn't reach around and BITE the stick).  I think this is going to be our program for the times that I do ride.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Life Intervening

I'm not dead, I promise.

Life is currently haywire.  I work in the defense industry as a pricing analyst (it sounds much fancier than it really is, trust me).  In my company there are two pricing analysts.  One went to Vegas and ended up in the emergency room with a perforated colon.  One stayed home and now has to do all the work.  Guess which one is me?

I've been spending a little time with the ponies.

Last week I finally did some work on shimming my saddle - got in just under the wire on that part of my August goals!  It's not perfect but I think it lifts my saddle more off Bleu's shoulder.  My saddle is build for my brick-house QH mare.  While the spring of Bleu's ribs is enough to support the middle and back, her narrow, rotated shoulders are trapped by the super-wide gullet that fits Cricket's linebacker build.

I took a Centered Riding lesson on Bleu last week.  She did fantastic.  It was only the third time I'd ridden her in a bit and the first time I'd done anything with real contact.  I think she liked it . . . a lot.  We worked on balancing Bleu and getting her to move her body with more nose-to-tail connection.  She is very strung out and Mimi gave me some ideas for helping her use her body better.

I've not been following a regimented clicker program with Cricket.  I'm just not focused enough.  But I have been playing with it.  We've been doing some liberty in the arena and having a blast.  The other night, I had Cricket in a lovely canter circle game - all her idea.  Did I mention the arena gate was open?  And that she actually spiraled in towards me rather than heading for the great wide open?  Love that mare!  She tried to give me a FLC on a change of direction but got tangled up (she made the choice too late) and ended up bucking up to sort out her feet.  She also did some lovely trot sideways towards.

So for now it's hit or miss with getting horse time and, unfortunately, hit or miss with getting to blog about it.  Maybe in the coming weeks it will settle down.  As it's Government Fiscal Year end, I highly doubt it.