Friday, July 31, 2009

It's a love story....

Greta was moved to another pasture today, along with her boyfriend, Mr. Sneaky, one of the lesson horses. They are inseperable: mostly. I can take her away from him, but I can't take him away from her without her throwing something of a royal tantrum. We need to work on that. But otherwise, she is very nice to him, only mildly bossy when food is introduced into the mix. She protects him from the other horses.

It is really cute. At the boarding stable Sneaky used to be kept at, all the horses picked on him, so we got him with some bites here and there. He was still picked on by our "big boys" - the three geldings who have a pasture all to themselves - so we moved him with Greta, thinking he'd get along with the two elderly geldings that Greta was being kept with. Instead he and Greta hooked up. The bites and picking on suddenly stopped, because ain't nobody messes with Greta or anyone affiliated with her. What a mare.

And then Greta met the donkeys, who are in her new pasture. These are the same two donkeys that helped to "tame" my other wild child mare, Claudia. They are very no-nonsense. Their names are Captain Jack Sparrow and Tess: Jack is Tess's son, Jack is 4 and Tess is 8. Jack is quite the character, and Tess just puts up with his antics. Jack can be ridden, but the two are best at keeping the coyote at bay. But both, particularly Jack, are very no-nonsense.

Sneaky decided he'd get down for a roll the minute we put hi in the pasture. Greta wanted to sniff everything in sight, like she likes to do in new situations (wow, shows are going to be a blast!) all the while glancing back over to Sneaky here and there. And then jack thought he'd introduce himself. Senaky was still rolling, and Jack got so close that Sneaky almost whacked him in the head with his back hooves. Jack let out a little "haw!" and backed up. Greta walked over. Sneaky casually got up. Greta stood between Sneaky and Jack. I was thinking "Oh God, don't fight!" but Greta sniffed Jack, let out a mare-ish squeal, and left him. Sneaky followed.

When I came out later in the day, Greta and Jack and Sneaky and Tess were all getting along like old friends. Impressive, Greta. Very impressive.

ILY Greta!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Is this why they don't put dressage on TV anymore?

I AM NO PROFESSIONAL, but this is something that really bothers me and is totally my personal opinion. As the cool kids would say, "don't be a hater":

This is why you don't see dressage on TV unless it's the Rolex on Animal Planet (and even then that's not Grand Prix dressage) or the Dressage Finals on NBC during the Olympics. A lot of these routines are mechanically picture-perfect, but artistically they are boring as hell to watch. Nobody seems find classical music or cheap karaoke-sounding music exciting anymore. I don't blame them. It isn't!

While I'm not saying they should all do a routine to hardcore gangster rap - though that would be hilarious and cool to watch if it was done nicely - or screamo rock, something a bit more modern and more appealing to the masses might be nice. The following performance by Edward Gal, which was performed very recently (July 26, 2009) hit a world record with a STUNNING score of 89.40. Almost a 90. Almost a perfect score! When somebody reaches that, I think I will hyperventilate, though I came pretty close with this one.

Totilas' movement is nothing but gorgeous. It is probably the most beautiful, extravagent, and boldest I have ever seen a horse perform. His extended trots looked like a fast pace version of the Spanish Walk. He didn't look held back or choppy, the best words I can find to describe it, like other Grand Prix horses I have seen. It is just.... breathtaking.

The rider's aids are not even noticeable. Usually an educated eye can see the dramatic seat shift that tells the horse to do a flying lead change. Gal stayed the same position throughout the entire performance, not in a stiff way, just in a perfect way. One might think that every part of him that touches the saddle is superglued to it. It's incredible.

But alas, I must now unfortunately give my grievances: what the heck does this song do to compliment the bold and extrvagent movements of the horse? The music hardly ever changes tone. It's monochromatic! If I was some average Joe watching this who didn't really know the difference between a good piaffe and a piaffe, I'd flip the channel in an instance because the music just seems dull compared to the beauty of horse and rider. The music I could picture with this is something exotic, like Indian banghra or African flutes and bongo drums.

I admit, though, that once the rider starts cantering and pirouetting, the music becomes more dramatic and seems to make more sense.

And now, I contradict my previous statements! Though the music is not something appealing to the masses, I can see some sense to it. It is so dull that the beautiful movements of the horse and the perfection of the rider is more apparent. One does not want to focus on the music, so they focus on the horse and rider. Anything equally extravagant (I like using that word today, don't I?) would take away from the performance. It is genius!

But I still don't like it.

Now this performance by Marlies van Baalen, one of my favorite riders, is entertaining. The riding is far from Edward Gal's (it almost looked like the horse was dragging her along she was leaning so far back!) but I like the idea. It is different than what you see out there. It is up-to-date. It grabs your attention because it sticks out from the masses of classical and karaoke music! Enjoy it!

Meanwhile, Greta and I can only hope to get to do a Level 1 or 2 freestyle. Yay for noobs!

Oh, and of course I had to include one of my favorite freestyles. Jolanda Adelaar - who is training under Marlies van Baalen - and her fjord horse wonder Guusje did this as a special exhibition at the FEI World Cup in 2007. The music fits. It may not be bold and catchy, but it's pretty. You rock, Jolanda and Guus!

Friday, July 24, 2009

No jumps, no glory?

Next door to the facility I board and ride Greta at is a very nice showjumping barn owned and run by the head instructor, a very nice lady. The arena is very large and covered, with half of it being open on the sides and the other half closed and encircled by stalls, each with their own fan, blanket rack, white board to write the horse's name/registered name/show name/parents and any changes or special instructions. The stalls, I think there are around 30 or so, are maintained by the very nice workers who have a house on the property. There are also around six nicely sized pasture (about the same size as ours) around the arena/barn.

Every morning that I ride, I pull Greta out of the pasture with her nylon halter (it was the most expensive one at the tack shop, but also the prettiest with it being purple and having a purple paisley pattern strip down the sides and across the noseband, didn't know you could get a nylon halter like that, did ya?) and I then I tack her up under the tree that we drilled a sturdy metal ring to the top of it and tied a sturdy nylon rope so we could tack up horses there in the shade. No fancy hitching posts, just a very big tree surrounded by other trees that provide lots of shade.

I groom Greta (I bought my very own fine and coarse curry comb btw, and a hoof pick with a brush!) thoroughly and tack her up, all while listening to the sounds of lessons at the jumping barn next door. I look over there occasionally, and see some nice examples of schooling and color-coordinated jumpers doing their thing that is jumping.

Meanwhile, Greta and I head over to our grassy, uncovered arena (which is why I try to ride as early or as late as possible) around the same time that the classes are switching out next door. There is a gap in the treeline that lines the arena where the gate adjoining the properties is. It is where the students like to go and let their horses graze while their parents or their own cars are parked: this is because that is the shady side of the arena. They see me riding Greta, and a few even bother to wave or smile at me if I happen to look their way.

One day a girl came over and asked me about my horse:


I steered Greta towards that side of the arena, a bit unsure. "Hi."

"That's a really pretty horse you got there. What breed is he?" Greta liked the first comment.

"Oh, thank you! Actually, she's a mare, she's a Swedish Warmblood Quarter Horse cross. She is a wonderful horse."

"What's her name?"


"Do y'all show? It looks like you're doing equitation on the flat, right?"

"Naw, we're not showing yet, I've only had her since the beginning of the summer. She's still getting used to come things, but otherwise she takes everything like a champ. We actually are attempting dressage." I laugh, she laughs lightly too.

"Attempting? So are you going to go for eventing?"

I laugh again. "I can't jump for beans, and neither of us really have an interest in that. Greta is really good at dressage, and I love the sport, so we're just going to go for straight-up dressage." Yes, I used 'straight up' and 'dressage' in the same sentence. I'm so 'down with it'.

She looked surprised. The conversation continued on a little more, not going south at all or anything, and then she had to go and I rode for another hour until the heat wave started to come along.

I could see where the girl was coming from. Usually when people say they ride English, they mean some form of jumping, usually hunter or eventing. I've seen showjumping usually come after they get established with hunter jumping, so they know how to jump a course nicely. Dressage is not as common.

While I don't think it is a dying or lost art, in fact the FEI says it's starting to gain international popularity as more and more people use it to improve in other disciplines and end up actually liking it, dressage is just not the first thing one would think of when it comes to horseback riding. It's jumping or rodeo sports, right? Oh, wait, what's dressage? That's a sport? But the horse is doing all the work, right? I would like to see one of them hop on a horse and make it go without shaking the reins like their driving a cart or kicking the horse like the "cowboys" in the movies or plow-reining all over the place like a bad barrel racer. Regardless...

It is just not thought of as an exciting sport. I can see that. At first glance, unless you're watching a Grand Prix freestyle put to good music and not classical music or that cheap-karaoke-program-sounding stuff, it will look interesting. But if you're watching a regular test, one that is judged solely on how you ride without any music or choreography, it doesn't seem all that interesting. Though I have had some friends comment that it is very appealing to the eye to watch a good dressage rider do something as basic as sitting the trot well.

Jumping is seen as exciting to watch, and I love to watch it myself. The wipeouts (admit it, everyone loves to watch the wipeouts) and successes... and riding it is just as much fun (I have done some jumping before, very little though). To soar over fences or fly across and open field and leap into the water and then plunge out and over a hedge does sound like quite the trip to me, and to many others as well. Jumping is the horse-world version of motorcross or snowboarding or BMX or any other extreme sport you can think of. It is fun!

But here is where jumping disinterests me. Sure, you can build your way up fences, however high your horse can safely jump, but then you have to stop. Really, about eight feet is as high as I've seen most serious showjumpers go, not counting a puissance aka OMG HOLY CHEESE BIG MOTHER MONSTER JUMPS!!!! The higher you progess, usually you have to replace horses, as you wouldn't put a hot TB meant for big jumps in the baby amatuer ring, nor would you put a fat little pony in the Rolex (though that would be a sight to see!)

That is one part that bothers me.

An even bigger thing that bothers me, though I mean nothing derogatory of jumpers out of this (I really do admire the big guns, that takes guts and a horse as tough as nails) is the lack of expressions. Everyone does the same course. Everyone has a similar horse. Yes, this is true of a dressage test, but that test is followed by expressive freestyles later one.

Greta can jump, yes. She went over a sand mound at one end of the arena while I was loungeing her, and it scared the crap out of me, as I'd never seen her jump nor had I ever seen her jump two feet. But she cleared it. Not nicely, but she cleared it. She was meant for dressage though, clear and simple. We like dressage. We like the challenge. Dressage can never be mastered, only improved.

Jumping is exciting, yes, but you can only go so far. With dressage, I could be an old woman who's up with the classical masters and have my own training facility in Germany (a little fantasy of mine haha!) and still continue to learn, to have my "aha!" moments. I would never get bored, only continue on.

Dressage is very rich with history and tradition, something that I've always had a fondness for (for God's sake I'm taking two college-level history classes next year just for fun!) It is a beautiful and expressive art form as much as it is a competitive and international-level sport. Art is also something I'm very into, well, 2d artwork that is. I can't dance for beans, but Greta can!

Dressage incorporates several things that I love all into one activity: history, art, and horses. I can work at it until the day I croak over. That is why, though I admire it, I say "phooey!" to jumping, and dance around in an arena all day instead.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Greta is so much hotter!

We're both still here! The summer heat hasn't fried us entirely, yet......

I was going to say 'Greta is so much cooler' but seeing how it is still in the 100s here in central Texas, "cooler" would be a lovely but inaccurate term.

She is one hot tamale though. She knows she is.

Anyway, we are rejoicing! I am started to get the hang of sitting the trot. Attractively - as in my elbows don't flap around like a chicken - and correctly - as in my elbows don't flap around like a chicken and my heel is aligned with my pelvis is aligned with my shoulder is aligned with the back of my head. Mostly.

I am so proud of my Greta for helping me along the way - as in if I was not sitting correctly, she would not get on the bit and move nicely. She's also learned that I'm not as padded around the haunches as she would like me be for comfort reasons, so she's adapting to that I'm figuring out how to sit in such a way that my aids are still effective, but my butt is still comfortable for both Greta and I. Gosh, it's all so complicated.

To show just how proud I am: I made a video! *applause*

Enjoy. It's even set to the music of the best Bollywood flick ever (I love it because there is no cheezy dance scenes, save during the credits, but even then it's not that bad) Slumdog Millionaire!

I call this video Bre + Greta's "Slumdog Dressagonaire" *groaner*

Oh, and ignore the goofy intro..... it's there for YouTube reasons......

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Well everyone else is talking about her!

Article from Telegraph
Post about her from Behind the Bit
Here she is mentioned in Fugly Horse of the Day
And she even performed at UKs prestigious HOYS show!

Yes, I'm talking about Miss Katie Price, or "Jordan" or whatever she wants to be called. My opinion:

Let her go to the Olympics! I'm sick and tired of hearing "dressage is a stupid sport" or that "it's only for Europeans / Grandmas / The Filthy Rich" (though Katie would fall under that last category, but that is regardless...) and having the Paris Hilton of Great Britain go to the Olympics would bring some much-needed attention to this amazing and artistic sport (at least she's not the real Paris, because then I'd say "forget it" and go back to western. Heck, Anky's doing reining! Not like that's a bad thing...).

But to be honestly honest, were Miss Price actually to go to the Olympics, I would not expect her to get a gold in the Grand Prix Freestyle finals. If she did, I'd be questioning the system - then again, I already am since Isabel Werth won a gold even after her horse reared on her and then spooked during the same freestyle, and isn't it ironic that there was a majority of German judges in there? Hmm? She is a good rider, though, I will say that, just not stunning.

And, if she were to go to the Olympics, she better realize that can't get away with the hair left down or in pigtails and the heavy eyeliner - well, I guess the eyeliner could stay, but my God that has got to be uncomfortable when you're sweating and getting dirt and what-not flown up into your eyes as well. I'm uncomfortable with just having light eyeshadow and mascara on! I wouldn't dream of doing it while sweating and riding a horse! If we have to all follow the rules of dress, so should she.

As for her openly saying that "if you put your mind to it anything is possible" thoughts about the Olympics - saying that if you have the right horse and the right time (she forgot to mention the right amount of money, too!) and the drive that anyone could make it to the Olympics. I agree! Though I'm not driving to be an Olympian, I say damn-skippy if you have the right horse and the right aspirations that you could go for the Olympics! Hilda Gurney got her Olympian equine, and her first horse, as a fall-through-the-cracks Thoroughbred at a shoddy racehorse auction for $1000. Um, what place did she earn at the Olympics again? Oh yeah, that's right, a friggin' bronze! Out of the over-a-hundred competitors that tried for the top-three places in dressage, most of whom probably had far more expensive horses than Miss Gurney's, her off-the-track Thoroughbred got it! She had the right horse and the right drive to get to her goal, and she definitely got it and deserved it!

So, for all of you "hating" on Katie, I can reason with some of your statements, but I do feel that if she wants to try and kick some butt at the Olympics, let her! I know I would if I didn't want to be a stem-cell veterinarian! Plus her line of horse-clothing is kinda cute!

Sweet Seat!

Poor Greta has probably been horribly confused by my seat ever since I got her. The last two or three times I've rode her, though, I've realized that maybe my seat (among many other things to work on shared between Greta and I) might have something to do with improving the quality of our riding and I've tried working on it. Initially, I just tried to keep my legs straighter - lining up my heels with my butt with my shoulder blades with the back of my head, so I've been told - and fix my chair seat, but I didn't pay attention to the fact that my back was either too far back or slouched a bit.

After doing a daily browsing through YouTube last night at around 10:00 (I was tired of Neil Diamond and the Boston Pops, too family friendly haha, though I did watch a bit of the fireworks: oooooh, ahhhh!) I found Jane Savoie's YouTube channel. I wasn't totally shocked, for God's sake the Vatican has a YouTube - no pun intended - and so I was glad to see that a favorite rider of mine who I've yet to have been able to attend a clinic taught by her did in fact have a YouTube channel. Now, I don't have to go out and buy all of her books and videos. She has a YouTube channel.

Did I mention that she has a YouTube channel?

For curiousity's sake, I looked through the videos as I always do, to see if I could find something applicable to an extreme-novice-amatuer-beginner-newbie rider. I think I got the half-halt thing down, the leg yield I'm holding off on until I can actually sit right.... wait, a video on how to improve your seat! And then the Hallelujah choir sang and I spun around in my chair.... and then I proceeded to watch the video:

Good stuff, huh? Mrs. Savoie makes it so easy for my easily-distracted-and-confoozulled teenage mind to comprehend! Although, I thought it was kind of funny when she felt the need to explain to the rider what FYI was: the rider didn't ask by the way, and hopefully she should know by now...

But anyway, I tried the hand-behind-my-back exercise today to straighten my back. My legs seem to go back, my seat deepened, and my arms actually made that almost-90-degree-angle that both my instructors have always tried to get me to perfect (before I got Greta I took my initial dressage lessons on an Appendix gelding named Southern Slugger who was amazingly sweet, there's a video of he and I at my first show, which was his last before retirement and boy did he go out of showing with a bang! and I was initially taught dressage by his long-time owner and rider, who was totally awesome and gave me some very good foundations). Afterall, with long stick arms like mine, it shouldn't be too hard to get the position right and it definitely wouldn't be too hard for judges to notice if my arms were straighter than they were supposed to be!

So, in other words, the exercise seems to have helped significantly. And Greta seemed to get my aids a lot better. We still have a ways to go, and I need to continue this exercise even after I have gotten my seat correct, but I feel like we've gotten over one speedbump.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Overthinking about horses and relationships...

You all may laugh at this post. It is humorous, I will say that. But it's just something I've overthought, that's all!

Well, now that Greta is out of super heat, she is going back and forth between her beau Sneaky and her BF Phoebe. Phoebe's not so jealous anymore. She's also a lot easier for me to handle. So much drama.

But it got me to thinking the past few days though, on how horses handle relationships. People could learn a few things as well, both on what and what not to do when pursuing a relationship. I'm mostly referring to romantics, but you might be able to abstractly apply it to just a regular social relationship. If you warp it the right way. So, onto "pursuing romantic relationships" in accordance to BreUndGreta.

The most prominent thing I've learned is that it doesn't really come naturally. It's something you learn, and master, and develop your own style of. You learn how to ask for what you want, and how to get along with different types of people. Your style should be a good reflection of how you really are: i.e. don't act flaunty when you really want a guy who likes you for you, otherwise you might attract guys (or girls... or whoever you date) who are interested in other aspects of you. I like to establish with my boyfriends that we're just really good friends more than anything now, and we're not a mushy-lovey-dovey couple. I'm way too independent for that kind of stuff. I don't want them to hang all over me, and I don't want to hold hands all of the time. Perhaps I want too much time away from them (another thing: recognize your faults!)

Greta, though she is new to the barn, she seems to know what she is doing (though I'm sure if she got a stud, she wouldn't know what the heck to do with him). She has her own style: she's very picky. She flirts with, but doesn't get atached to, the boys that are "all up in her business" and likes the more sensible ones that let her do her own thing. Sneaky is like that, he follows her and eats with her and everything, but he can give her some space. He also likes his own space, too. He is the only boy that Greta actually gets a bit frantic about when he's put in the barn to eat! It's pathetically adorable.

Another thing: space! I've noticed, though I'm sure this may be a horrible generalization, that the couples who obsess over each other tend not to last very long. They get sick and tired of obsessing after a while! It's a lot of work.

And then some things not to do:

Like I said, don't obsess. I hate it when guys call me constantly, and from I've heard from friends and family, I'm not the only one. Greta hates it when the boys are constantly tagging behind, sniffing at her butt and trying to nuzzle. Let everyone have some privacy, please!

Try and share the bond. I have a horrible habit of trying to be the one in control, and it really can get annoying. It's good to have a guy who can remind you that he would like some control too. This kinda falls under the obsession, except this would be more one-sided. Just be sure to actually listen and change when you're reminded!


So, just actually like being around each other. Occasional reminders are always appreciated, and are very special when they're occasional, not every minute: don't be the boy who cried 'wolf!' (or perhaps the boy who cried 'I love you!'). You'll have to make time for each other. Don't expect things to happen instantly. And don't expect to be knowing what you're doing instantly. I don't know what I'm doing half the time (so why am I writing this, then?)

Learn from the horseys: take your time, don't be hasty and don't obsess (Claudia was notorious about that, she'd rush into a relationship and obsess, and after a few weeks things ended up in a dust of kicking and pinned ears). You'll get the hang of it. Develop a style and be honest about your expectations, just to narrow out your choices on who you can get a long with.

And most importantly, don't totally rely on a blog posting from a sixteen-year-old about relationships and horses. Just consider my overthinking, that's all.

And check out this blog I've found. Really good stuff. Well, at least it's what I'm interested in!
"Behind the Bit" by Stacey Kimmel

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"The Horse will respond if your aids are feather-light"

The following is just something cool I've noticed through pictures, and through actually riding Greta as well! I'm leaning a bit too far back in the last picture, but still, check out that extended trot! Greta is starting to remember everything since I've been improving my seat, my hands, and I'm working on not getting so frustrated so easily....... Also, one thing I really need to work on is getting my legs back. I have a horrible chair seat. Nonetheless....

In Dressage Today, Charles de Knuffy wrote a beautiful article entitled "The Amplification of the Gaits". Really is helping to answer a lot of my problems. Some of my favorite excerpts:

"I couldn't make [my instrutor's] horse trot or canter! I couldn't understand why my riding skills failed me. 'Shouting' my aids to this horse provoked him to act 'deaf' and sullen. I was thinking, My teacher must have the strength of Hercules. But, he just stood there seemingly calm and disinterested and didn't say a word - no instruction, nothing, and it was devastating.

Finally, my teacher said, 'The only way this horse will respond to you is if your aids are feather-light. If you walk and think 'now canter,' he will canter. Your aids have to be whispered, and my horse will answer.

As my aids became coordinated and light, the horse responded as his rider had predicted. He carried me off in a candenced, suspended trot in metronomic perfection....

I use the analogy of a concert pianist's fingers on the keys. They cajole a melody with light and nimble use of the finger with virtuosic variety, touching the keyboard in many places with infinite facility for differentiations. Riding with skill involves a similarly sophisticated development of riding aids to charm horses into those magical displays of their educated gaits. Riding is, indeed, a musical art..."

And it was musical, indeed, when Greta began to get on the bit and amplify her gaits, which was more of a consequence of my seat-and-hand-eureka-moment. I could feel a much more different trot beneath me, something much more acceptable to my bony seat, and my hands felt more in control. The other day I experimented once again with collection and extension. Now, that Greta and I were on better terms with my seat and hands, I could feel a beautiful collected trot gathering and then when I let her go and pushed her into a more extended trot, it felt so smooth. Pardon the cliche, but it felt like I was gliding! So I did that same exercise - collection in the corners and extensions along the fence - for the rest of the way around the arena. She responded every time and to reward her I let her slow down and free-walk for two laps. I was impressed with my smart girl!

On to non-riding topics, we finally have had rain here in central Texas! It felt like we were in God's frying pan for the past two weeks, with highs nearing 110-degrees! Today it rained and the temperature went down to a surprisingly comfortable 95-degrees, though the humidty was fabulous out at the barn. Amazingly, the only horse to stay clean was Greta. It was very ironic, as she is usually the first to roll in the dirt after a bath. I found her munching on some good, green coastal with her new boyfriend, Sneaky. She greeted me with a look and a nudge, and continued eating while I stroked and chattered on. I love having somebody I can ramble on to!

~ And Greta with Sneaky ~