Monday, February 28, 2011

Quote of the Day - Doug Payne

"It's very easy to come up with 10,000 reasons why your horse isn't performing to his potential. About 9,997 of those excuses are just that, excuses without solid backing. You have to treat your horse the way you want him to be. Ninety-nine percent of horses are born to please. They want to do things right, they want to please. Make it possible for them to do just that.... Don't get caught up in thinking, "he's young and inexperienced," or "he's never seen this before," or "he used to race, drive, was ridden by a poor rider, mistreated, etc...." You don't have control of where he's been, but you certainly have control of the future, so change it!"

-Doug Payne, 3-day Eventer

Payne, Doug. "Improve your Performance with Sports Psychology." Warmbloods Today, March/April 2011 pg. 73-74

I will admit I'm guilty of doing this. But I've learned that those excuses usually have a one-time use and then both horse and rider need to move on! The first time Greta spooks at something, I can use that excuse "Oh, that scared her (and I wasn't paying close enough attention)" but I have to prepare myself and Greta next time that might happens and try our best to do better! It's inexcusable after that. It might happen, but I can't complain or worry. Even after that first spook, I shouldn't shut down my ride because of it, but move on. Live in the present, like horses!

I will initially think "Oh, it's windy, the metal roof of the hay shed is making weird noises, and now she's getting a little flighty here", but instead of becoming tense and thinking, "I wish the wind wasn't howling, I wish Greta was bomb-proof, I wish for this, I wish for that, etcetera", I will think "start preoccupying her now, put some leg on, keep the shoulders straight, mess with the reins, ask for a little shoulder/haunches in/out, leg yield, turns on the forehand/haunches, something, but whatever I do, don't think 'She's gonna freak out, she's gonna freak out, she's gonna freak out!'"

She wants to try for me, she's not spooking on purpose, she's not being dastardly, she wants to please me so I have to give her an opportunity to please me by chaneling that energy into something productive, because then it will make both of us feel good!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Riding 2-24-2011

LOOK AT HER!!!! It makes me happy.

Video from bareback work a few days ago. You can tell in the last two clips that she's starting to get tired because she was dragging those back feet haha! And she was hanging on my hands. The camera ran out of battery before we cantered, but that's okay because she was hanging on my hands so that made her a bit downhill. I just need to do all that before she gets tired next time LOL. I always get so nit-picky at the trot that I forget about the canter until the end of the ride, and of course she's tired so of course it's going to be icky, and that's really not fair to her, because the canter is not a confirmed movement. So, I shall be fair and refrain from doing that anymore! What a good girl!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bareback photos

Firstly, I think I almost have a Prestige saddle in the works, but I need to ride in it more to see. I'm so used the Wintec's massive 18" seat (I need that size for the flaps, not the bum haha) that being in a seat that is smaller feels incredibly weird. I hope it's something I can work around. If not, the search continues (the best saddle so far has been a Spirig saddle, just lovely for both of us, but as you can imagine, it was incredibly out of the price range!)

Oh, and the Prestige is brown (Carol the saddle fitter is awesome, especially with my noobish saddle buyer antics) :)

Anyway, some bareback riding pictures from Thursday night. Greta is definitely picking up her back feet (Joe the farrier will love to hear and see that!) and her back was super swingy in the video (she had a little puppydog tail going swoosh-swoosh-swoosh back and forth for most of it!) While she was definitely trying to hang on my hands for much of the ride, I finally got some nice, light, self-carried half-halts and steps of trot towards the end, and that's when I said "NOW you can rest".

While this ride certainly wasn't the best, I compare the video to the one from November and I see a great deal of improvement as fas as picking up her back feet and quite quickly coming to the bit once I start to pick it up (it's a lovely feeling). Her ears are starting to do that wonderful, floppy, relaxed pose as well.

The three pictures before the last picture are of us doing turns on the forehand (turns on the forehand and haunches are also something we have been working on) and the third picture and the very last picture are my favourites :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

WARNING: Embarrassingly artsy nonsense ahead....

For my AP English IV class. This is the first "write your own" thing we've done throughout the year. Fun, but hard. And I was not anticipating that I would get this artsy. Oh well, I just want a passing grade :)

Ode to Greta

Fair as a pearl

Junoesque and defiant.

Forthcoming talent yet slow to unfurl,

Always when I bestride you I struggle to find it.

Firstly I only catch a glance

Leading to many strides;

Floating, dancing, très Ballet Blanc

Together in trance

Regardless of our personal prides.

Now we are cast away, far away, not in arena, not on fine dirt, for once nothing is of want.

First a feeling

A moment of suspension building

Hearts racing, minds reeling

Am I the passenger, or am I wielding?

Both, for I see your moment as you now see mine

Leather-bound calf against barrel

All four feet, and mine, now alight like a Christened fire in the air.

This moment; so wonderful it must be sinful, so beautiful it must be divine

So calculated it must be tame, so much of your own accord it must be feral

The barrier between beast and artful equal through which now you tear.

The first strike, a sprinkle of dust flies

A hoof against the ground.

Success! Now we are beyond tries

The moment has been found.

We are now art, unconventional dancers

I do not control you, I simply asked

You did it of your own accord.

But this is only part of the answers

With which we are unknowingly tasked

To why riding strikes a chord.

Is it that moment of dance?

Is it that moment of galore?

Or is it outside that trance,

Is it something more?

Greta, Promethean equine, tell me now

Out of the saddle, out of the arena

Out of our stage

As you so fondly do, put your forelock to my brow

Inspire me like an Athena

Release me, enlighten me, make human want for selfish, useless glory no more my cage.

And you, my Halcyon, my soul you breath into,

“Now you see clearly. It is not blue silk nor silver trophies. Thus, I do know this

We fulfill one another, we give one another purpose, and for all you have taught me even as I teach you,

The least I can give you is that bliss.”

Riding is not for riding’s sake,

Riding is for the horse,

It is simply a job among and between those moments of love and understanding two species make,

It is purpose, and even with all the trials and tribulations, never once shall I feel regret nor remorse.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cross-post: new Totilas and Mathias video (my thoughts)

Cross-post from Behind the Bit.

I had too much to say to simply comment.

The first thing that came to my mind when watching this was something Edward Gal said in a Dressage Today article about the first time he sat on Totilas. He said he felt so powerful beneath him, that it almost felt dangerous to even be on, "frightening" as he put it, because there was so much power in that horse, and he got off very quickly. He gave him another go, it went better, and so on and so forth.

So that was the big thing I thought of when I saw how held-back Totilas seemed to be, and how less-fluid his movement was, if you could call his movements under Gal as truly fluid (I'll touch on that in a few). Mathias is holding that pony back because A) he's on a horse that probably feels unlike any horse anyone had ridden before, and B) he's got all the pressure upon him to be like Totilas' former rider, Edward Gal, and do as well with the horse as Gal did.

Yeah, I'd be scared poopoo-less as well, and I'd for sure be holding on to the bit a little more than I should have.

(Also, ENOUGH with the Pirates of the Caribbean music! It's been overused! I could tell right away where that music was from!)

And lastly, I still am iffy about Totilas. While I will say his gaits are extraordinarily unusual, and quite attractive to a non-horse person (and even so to a horse person, myself included upon initially seeing him go) the more and more I see them, the more and more they simply bother me.

I have yet to see him do a normal trot, and even then what I suppose is his normal trot seems to be a faster-paced passage. His extended trots and passages have little difference, almost the same tempo, and he doesn't glide in the extended trot like I've seen most Grand Prix horses do, and from what I understand are supposed to look like. His hind end does not match up to his front, he does not step as much underneath himself like a dressage horse is supposed to do. He never looks relaxed, he never looks loose and free, like he could hold his position on a simple snaffle or even a loose rein. He doesn't look like he really enjoys his work, like it's been thrust upon him because of his talent (story of many an Olympic horse's life, no?)

It doesn't look natural to me, and isn't dressage supposed to be a horse's natural movements exemplified? Totilas' movements, for the most part, seem to be just beyond natural, somewhat unhealthy, and I don't know if that's necessarily a good thing for the dressage world to progress towards, as impressive as the gaits are.

This looks relaxed and follows my purist ideals of a horse's natural movements exemplified. Did I mention this mare is full blood stock QH? Look at that hind end reaching, and matching the front end! And look at how relaxed BOTH of the reins are! A horse, if trained well, does not have to be held into a position, as show here, in Exhibit A.

(This also looks like Greta's little Quarter Horse butt when she gets really engaged. It gives me hope! If this pony can do it, why not Miss Golightly?)

This looks relaxed as well, and natural, and Ravel is a modern warmblood. Steffen, at the clinic I went to in October, was very adamant about NOT holding a horse or forcing a horse into a postion. Because the biggest culprit was the host of the clinic, Steffen didn't get after him as much I thought he perhaps might have wanted to, seeing how he kindly reminded other riders to never allow their horses to hang on the bit or to force a horse into a position, which will also cause the horse to hang on the bit (among other things). He was very much a proponent for self-carraige, which is what much of the clinic focused on. And, as we can see in the above picture, his ideas certainly work, even at the Olympic level, and Ravel always looks so relaxed and happy, even when Steffen does have to snatch a bit more rein in electric situations like the WEG or Olympic arena.

All in all, while Totilas' movements are impressive to a certain degree, they are also bothersome to a certain degree. Those are just my opinions ;)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Major Cuteness and Tack

Firstly, I want to say that my favorite pictures are the first and last ones. ADORO!! Secondly, I'm letting her whiskers grow out because she needs them, but I do clip her ears and jaw and all for neatness sake. They also look quite cute. Thirdly, I want to say that I roached the girl's mane. Long story why, just go with it. She has a lovely neck, it keeps the mane out of the way, and if I decide to let it grow back out, then I will actually train it this time to lie flat on one side. She doesn't seem to mind, although I saw when she was sniffing her clumps of mane I so neatly bundled as I cut them off (I'll find a way to use them somehow!) she seemed to be forlornly sniffing it. Maybe I was imagining it, but geez! Way to make me feel guilty now, Greta! Peppermints and apples seem to take her mind off it though.

Secondly, I want to say that riding has been going very well lately. We had a lesson Saturday, and got a few steps of amazing "graceful bounciness" as I so descriptively put it. It was not that bounciness of when one is first learning to sit the trot, it was the most amazingly controlled and most wonderful to sit bounciness, like I was riding a piaffe or something. And I felt Greta's hind end surge underneath her and my reins go a bit loose as she held her head all by herself! I asked for a half-halt to keep that energy for a few more steps, and she kept them for a few more steps until she thought, "DAMN THAT WAS HARD!" I also fell off on this lesson: I got so focused on my position, and Greta did a spooking-side-shuffle, and I just kind of slid off. Laura said she heard me utter a squeak as I lost my breath haha! But I got back on quickly and continued our sitting trot work. We had a lesson to do, afterall!

Yesterday, and I feel this was because I didn't warm her up a much as I could have, Greta felt very tense and I could tell because of this she was worried about stuff, and very fussy about our surroundings. It was just one of those things that we focused more on our turns on the forehand and haunches to get her mind off things, and do some spiraling in and out, all of which engaged everything that could be engaged so she looked and felt lovely. Mostly walk work. She was tense enough it felt like I was riding an oak barrel and I had tough time keep my seat balanced as I tried to compensate for that!

Today went much better, as I learned my lesson and warmed her up longer and bit more extensively. And then we topped it off with some straightness work. I would have her come off the rail and down the centerline and try and keep her as straight as possible by controlling her shoulders. We did this on the quarter lines and diagonals and along the rail as well, just keeping her straight without tilting her head one way or another or floating off one way or another! Bless her, she did well. Then I threw in some halts and half-halts to change things up a bit, and to stimulate what would happen in a test. We ended on a nice halt, a big pat, and then I walked around the arena while she followed me, ears forward, eyes bright. I then tried a halter class pattern, for grins and giggles, and she did well.

Now, sometimes I feel like perhaps I focus too much on riding sometimes. As much as we're progressing, Greta is not a robot and certainly not a means to the end, so I don't want to treat her that way. She is does like her job, though, and I can tell she gets into it and likes to work and likes to save the snuggles for later, but she still does need to be allowed snuggle room. I want to do more bonding stuff with her. Seeing how she followed me around everywhere today, I don't feel that she doesn't think I'm her girl or anything, but I do wonder if I get a bit too workmanlike for her sometimes, y'know? I want to try out sport massage on her (I'm sure she'll appreciate that) work on loading, and maybe teach her some tricks? I dunno, more bonding stuff. She lets me hold her head when she's lying down and napping, and she comes to me when I go to catch her, she doesn't really try and test me on the ground or under saddle for the most part, so I will say that I've got it very well with her. She's quite a gem, I just want to make sure she sparkles as bright as possible.

Capstone Saddlery is coming out Saturday morning to fit Miss Greta! And I've decided that, if the Wintec is no longer right, and if it is possible, I want to go for some brown tack! Yes, it is legal in dressage, I have amazingly been able to find some wonderful deals on girths and bridles, and I think it would look lovely on Greta, plus no black dye to rub off my pantalones! So, why not?

Really, we just need a saddle that fits and is within price range. Color and snazzy-ness will come second.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Horses make ads better...

... especially when the whole horse is shown :( I really do want to see the rest of that pony, though, it looks like a nice, GREY, chunky-monkey kind of horse (I love those kinds). I don't even wanna buy the perfume, I just want to see the rest of that pretty horse.