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

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Giant Leap

There comes a point - well, truthfully, it happens several times along the journey - where you experience a quantum leap.  Something shifts, something changes and nothing is the same ever again.

I believe I have experienced one of those moments.  Whether it is just a crack in the damn or the opening of the floodgates, only time will tell.

I cantered Cricket bareback.

Each word of that statement is so significant.  It is almost magical just to consider the impact of what happened.

For the past several sessions, I've ridden Cricket bareback.  It started with a quick ride right before camp.  I just wanted to put my leg over a horse.  I slapped the bareback pad on Cricket and we had one of the best rides ever.  Since then, I've just been riding the wave, so to speak.  Taking it while it's good and enjoying each moment.

Yesterday I met Becky out at the barn.  We groomed the girls, played a little and then hopped on bareback.  Before I even got on, I had a feeling.  Just a little inkling that maybe, just maybe.

Cricket was a little forward and a little snarky and I decided that now wasn't the time.  No worries.  And then it just sort of happened.

Circling a barrel at the end of the arena, she stepped up into the canter for a few strides.  The next time around, I opened the door for her to canter.  Just a few strides.  And then, as we came around the circle (which was rather tight), I just straightened her out and we went about five strides across the arena.

Just like that.

And things will never be the same again.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Back from Camp

So I'm back from camp.  Well, I've been back for a few days but it's taking some time to settle back into the real world.

I took Bleu to camp.  My intent was to spend four days getting to know her and building a relationship with her.  That was just the tip of the iceberg.

What I discovered is a great deal of buried angst about having two horses.  For the first two days I was just so so.  Bleu was doing well but I'd find myself getting frustrated or angry with her.  I kept thinking, "this is not that difficult, what is the problem?"  Monday it boiled over.  I second-guessed my decision to keep Bleu and I just kept wondering if this whole idea wasn't a big mistake.

Towards the end of the riding session things calmed down a little.  Tuesday morning I used my private session to talk things over with Carol.  Carol gave me some good perspective and I realized my feelings of doubt and confusion were perfectly natural.  So I spent Tuesday being more present to Bleu and we had an awesome day.

In truth, all of camp was wonderful.  Bleu tried her heart out, despite the garbage I kept offering her.  Carol told me, on several occasions, that she was a good horse.  She was so right.

The camp was a L2/3 when we started but mid-way through Sunday, Carol changed it to a L3/4.  Wow!  What a compliment to all of us.

I cannot remember everything we did.  I know it pushed my envelope on several levels.  I'm proud that I tried more things that I normally would have - especially considering that I've done little with Bleu since the early days of our relationship.

On the ground we worked on snappy departures - with backwards and towards; from Zone 3 all the way out to behind Zone 5.  We did sideways without a fence; from Zone 1; away and towards.  We did backing from Zone 3 and by the tail.  We played at liberty each day, beginning with simple stick to me, progressing to circle at liberty and finishing with "can you" challenges.

Under saddle we rode more in four days than I probably have in the past four months!  Carol numbered us off and while we took turns doing certain maneuvers or patterns in the center, the rest of us rode the rail working on lots of different things.

We did a lot of carrot stick riding.  I had never ridden Bleu with a stick and was pretty pleased with how she responded.  We stayed in the hackamore and didn't go above the trot but we tried just about everything the rest of the class did.

I don't have detailed notes from the clinic.  I find that I just get on overload and cannot take notes like I once did.  I'm also finding that it's just a few little things that seem to make the biggest impact.

Here's what I'm taking from camp this year:
  • Before you can really engage the HQ, you need to own them through disengagement.  Without this, you're creating a more powerful runaway.
  • Snappy is not about moving fast - it's an attitude, it's the "yes, ma'am."
  • Commotion doesn't always produce motion; focus and clear intent have more to do with producing what you want than flapping ropes and sticks.
  • It's time to get down to feel - technique only gets you so far.
  • If you're having issues with the Figure 8, try it without markers - get your drive and draw flowing.
  • Planting the seeds of L4 early give you an idea of where you might be going.
  • If your leg = forward, spend time getting your yields isolated.
  • Build in relaxation by addressing brace the moment you notice it.
I'm sure there's more but it's not coming to me right now.  I have a greater appreciation for my skill and how far I've come over the years.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Light as a Feather

Despite all I have to do to get ready for camp, I squeezed in a little time to ride last night.

I'm introducing new feeders to Bleu and Cricket and it's taking some time to rework the routine and figure out how much to feed and how to incorporate their supplements.  Last night I decided to feed Bleu and, while she was eating, monkey about with Cricket.

In her stall, at liberty (while Bleu and Dillon were eating), I put my bareback pad on and then slipped the halter on.  I grabbed a CS as we entered the arena.  Our warm-up consisted of 2 HQ yields, 2 FQ yields, 2 back-ups and handful of circles in each direction, a little at the walk and a little at the trot.

I tied the 12' into reins and got on.  And I had one of the best rides.

Cricket was amazing.  She was soft in her trot and so responsive to my focus and leg.  I used the rein - light contact through the weight of the rein/snap - to shape her a little.  We had beautiful turns, relaxed forward and just general lightness.

She got a little forward and Ed helped me use some lateral work to soften and slow her.  It took me out of my comfort zone - allowing her to be forward and shaping it rather than shutting her down.  On the curves, I pushed her ribs so she floated out on the curve, taking her inside hind and stepping deeper.  I could really feel her power up from the back but at the same time, she took that energy over her back and softened through her neck.

Almost all of our "work" was at the trot.  I don't usually trot turns bareback.  But last night, I just let go.  And it was fun.  I was relaxed; Cricket was relaxed.

Standing still, I did some isolation yields, mainly the HQ, and with no input from me (i.e. totally slack rein) she responded with no forward motion.

I am so pleased with Cricket and with myself.  It's time I stopped being so critical - of myself, of Cricket of everything.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Best Laid Plans

We all know how the saying goes . . .  Apparently this is yet another rule to which I am not an exception.

Work is still a bit of a mess.  It eased up for awhile.  Just enough to make me think there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

The good news is that I still get my vacation time to go to camp.  This will be an opportunity to spend dedicated time with Bleu.  I really like this horse.  But it's hard, especially for me, to move out of my comfort zone.  And in this case, my comfort zone is dun and slightly chubby and answers to anything when there's a cookie involved.

It's been a bit hectic, the last two weeks.  The latest drama has been the mysterious leg swelling.  On my two horses.  Go figure.  My farrier came out Wednesday to put shoes on Bleu and trim Cricket.  I received multiple phone calls from Robin - my good friend and stand-in horse handler - saying that both Bleu and Cricket were warm to the touch and swollen on their back legs and that Bleu was uncooperative with handling their back legs.  Unable to reach me, Robin and my farrier decided to trim Bleu and post-pone shoeing just in case this was something serious.  By the time I got there, the swelling was only obvious if you were looking for it and their legs were warm but not hot.  Great!

We changed their pasture and that didn't solve the problem.  But we did notice that their legs were fine when they came in but puffy and warm by afternoon/evening.  We changed the hay and the problem disappeared.  The weird thing - all the hay is the same (just different cutting) and it's all been baled from the property.

So now Bleu has an appointment to get shoes the day before we leave for camp.  Please, dear Lord, let this be okay!

In the midst of things just not quite going right, I've done little - if anything - to get ready for camp.  Bleu got a bath yesterday but I have no illusions that my grey horse will remain clean for five days.  I'm going to wipe down my saddle to get the surface dust off, but that's about it.  Oh well . . .

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fun Stuff, New Stuff

At the end of my lesson on Wednesday, my instructor mentioned that she was going to see a vaulting demonstration this weekend.  As it turns out, a few of the vaulting teams going to the WEG are training in Tennessee, just outside Nashville.  This Saturday, they are putting on a free demonstration before heading to Lexington for the competition.

I am so there.

What an opportunity to see such an amazing sport.

In searching for information about the demonstration, I browsed through the Central Tennessee Dressage Association website.  There I found out about a Mary Wanless clinic that will be held in December.  I've been intrigued by what I've read about her approach of riding with your mind and it would be fun to see her in person.  I'm waiting to hear back from the clinic organizer to get more details on auditing.

I'm also starting to make serious inquiries about learning to drive.  I want to train Cricket to drive and I want to learn how to drive.

It's about having fun.  And if it's not fun, what's the point?  It doesn't mean every moment will be fun but if I'm not enjoying what I'm doing and learning, why on earth am I spending the time and money to keep my horses?