Sunday, February 28, 2010

I knew I wouldn't forget you

Despite the slow weather, the blog and the pony have gained more recognition in the community. Good Karma is always fun and the pony enjoys her fans. 

First, Horse and Wildlife Gifts emailed with super complements and praise about the blog and the contents. They frequently feature good reads on their own, and picked up a few more things to read in the off hours.

Secondly, I was tagged by frequent commenter Golden the Pony Girl.

I've been following her stuff between rounds, and like the way she engages her readership and her approach to riding as an academic. 

I'm also flattered about the award.

It's the second award that the blog has been awarded and by the comments and attention it's received over a few short years that we've been here, the attention always comes as a pleasant surprise.

I don't count myself in any inner circle, or anything special in the dressage world, just another Adult Ammie making her way through the levels with a nice pair of ponies. 

Part of the award is I divulge seven things about myself:

1) I used to do combined training. I would like to think I did it pretty well, but honestly, I was a cheeky child who probably didn't deserve to be out there. I still love the sport, and condition to many of the principles, but can't bring myself to go back to it.

2) Before anything begins for the day, I must, must, must have coffee. I've been an addict since my short stint at Starbucks. Same goes with email. Otherwise, I'm fairly grouchy throughout the day.

3) I co-own a company. Team EnGaged Clinics. There's a good history-story behind it, but, the goal is to bring equestrian education to anyone who wants to learn. If you're in the area, do attend. Would love to meet everyone.

4) I never started with the intent of being so involved with the internet. But circumstances and apparently random ability to work it, has placed me in an IT role more than once.

5) I don't like drama. I prefer keeping a good personal house, and I really don't have time for the extra stupid stuff that we all went through in highschool.

6) I'm persnickity about design. I despise poorly designed, impractical stuff. It bothers me that I have to deal with much of it.

7) I'm competitive, but not compeitition driven. I like competing, but not as frequently as many of my peers. I feel that compeitition should be used as a proving ground for what we're striving for, not a means to chase awards.

Also apart of the award, I have to tag 15 (?! [I don't have 15!]) blogs (the links can be found in my profile):
Mary's Daily Dish
She Rides, I Pay
The Pariah Pony
Sofie Learns Dressage
Little Sora Story
Java's Barn
Oliver- KWPN stallion
Watermark Farm Happenings
Grey Brook Eventing
Eventing A Go-Go
Opening up the Chord and Counting Strides
Standardbred Excellence
Defying Gravity Eventing
The Sandpiper Diary
Journey in Bringing our Horses Home

(alright I had 15).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

101 Things: Number 96: Braiding

There is nothing more beautiful than the topline of an upper level horse.

Since, as dressage riders, we spend most of our time developing those and other muscles, it seems natural that we would want to accentuate it in performance.

Braiding is a fundamental grooming technique that shows off a topline. It also shows respect for the sport, the judge and the effort you prepared for the five to seven minutes in the ring.

It's something that everyone should try to pick up along the way. No, you don't need to be artistically inclined or have magic fingers to produce super braids.

You do need to practice.

A lot. Preferably once to twice a week. Of the guides how to do it, the visual learners would like Lucky Braid's guide, the reading group: Grooming to Win and the Pony Club D and C manuals.

The mane types of braids are: button, running, macrame and scalloped.

Buttons are the most traditional. Called for their button size and their four spot center, they are the hallmark of dressage riders. Visually, these are tricky, done well they show a full topline steadily pushing into the bit. Done badly well...

Running or french braid is traditional for breeds that naturally have longer, thicker manes and for owners who don't wish to part with them.

These are becoming more in style lately with the influx of baroque horses. It's an incredibly easy braid to achieve with practice. And while a good running braid can visually add length to the neck, a short chunky one can only detract.

Despite the long nature of the main, it's has to be thin enough to twist and work around, otherwise you will have to either shave half the crest off or do one on each side.

Personally, I prefer the long french braid, which I use every day in schooling (I braid every day). It's thrown together in about five minutes and suits Sinari's neck. Sincere will probably go in buttons (above style).

Macrame also known as the basket weave or the diamond pattern is not frequently seen in the dressage world.

You see it again in long mane breeds whose manes are too thick to do the running braid. It's achieved by pairing sections up and usually ends at the bottom of the neck. The sections are taped in the mane color (black, chestnut, white, ect) 

It's pretty neat to look at, but annoying to ride in.

The scalloped braid is also not as common. It was most popular in the early modern history of the sport, and was used extensively on a few horses in the 80's and 90's.

The braids start out like normal button braids, except instead of doubling under and banding they loop them under each other. It's almost a hybrid of running and button. It produces a neat style for a horse that has a thicker neck, shorter mane but still thick hair type.

Finally, a note about forelocks. Forelocks can be done several ways (a mini french braid or just a braid and ball). Traditionally, they should follow the sex of the horse to whether they should be braided or not. Unbraided forelocks are mature stallions. Braided forelocks are for mares and geldings.

There are different braids for different mane types, lengths and preferences. But for whatever your preference do it well. All good braids have these qualities in common: are tight, they emphasize the outline of the neck, braid sections are evenly proportioned over the space and they never interfere with riding. If you cannot do them well on the day you need to braid, find a braider.

Good Day Sunshine

After two weeks of not riding, hiking a couple of times through the tundra to get to the barn, nearly getting the truck stuck in the snow drifts, and facing icy paths with a hot bucket of mash, we're back.

At least temporarily.

Sinari, who hasn't been out consistently since the weather, rediscovered the joys of turnout. She also discovered the joys of giving me a few gray hairs as well.

The snow was actually a help for collected after most of the ice cleared out.

As a person who was used to having a body of water (the Atlantic) to work in occasionally, the snow makes the nice seasonal substitution to teach a pony to flex hocks and make the trot more passage-y. Lacking an ocean, we worked passage in the snow drifts. Fantastic cardo workout (for her, I just had to occasionally get her forward to leave her alone) and the desired side effect. Wish it would snow like this a bit more to get the work in.

We returned to our regular work on Friday, under lunge to get her back in shape. We got to try out a Christmas purchase which worked out well for what we're trying to accomplish (uphill balance, fitness and relaxation). We're far from competitive at the moment, but everything is still there.

We hope to be under saddle by midweek next week and back to the full work by week three. Barring the return of snowmageddon.

They call him flipper

Today, it dawned clear.

It wasn't the first day. But today, it felt good to be outside in the warmth with just a pullover,  regular layers and none of the winter wear.

The snow is nearly gone, and it's cousin, mud, has taken up residence in my paddocks and various high-traffic spots. I don't expect it to stay away for too long, but it's a nice reprieve.

It also gave a chance to actually go work with Sincere.

Since it was nice, Sincere's blanket was cast aside. His yak self came in, ate and I marveled at the hair, the mound of whithers appearing and the giant chip that he had developed in his right front.

Like a bad hang nail, I felt guilty for not being able to spend too much time with him. I added him to the farrier list and went about the business of currying off all the skin funk that developed in the nasty weather. 

During this time I tied him to the wall and he stood up and still. Not expecting a mature response, I called for the measuring stick to see where we're going in the height department. Stood for that as well. Sticking 12.2 at nine months, he's by no means the class shrimp, but not a giant.

And how the opinion has changed about the barn. He's now attatched. What used to be a mad dash back to the paddock now has turned into a slow drag. Food and attention do that I suppose.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Amateur Hour

Not too long ago on a forum, a fellow Adult Amateur was lamenting hitting a training and financial plateau. 

Now that it's winter and life is in perma frost, that plateau seems more like the great plains.

I don't blame the lament, I, and possible the rest of the USDF AA population has been there, this is nothing new in the sport.

Amateur isn't a dirty word. We are a hard working bunch who do love their horses and are passionate about the sport. We are also the ambitious sort as well.

What annoys me is that despite the lament, the person isn't doing anything about the situation.

This isn't a sport that will be learned or perfected by osmosis. This isn't a sport where just watching will automatically grant you a shadbelly and a double bridle.

This is a sport where dues need to be paid. Hourly.

The old masters weren't kidding that you need to ride five to six days a week. They weren't kidding either about opportunity costs either. If you want to show every weekend now at training level, what are you sacrificing later on?

If you're young, broke and eager, then be prepared to eat more crow, be prepared to do a little wheeling, and a little dealing.

Ambition is great to have, but if you want to compete FEI, without the funds,you have to be even more resourceful and pennywise.

But above all, work your butt off. Because as mom used to say: if you're hungry enough, you'll find a way.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I'm coming out

We're looking down the barrel of another show season. While I don't want to bring Sinari out until FEI (even then we're debating about this for just one show), I really want to bring the young man out to the arena to get his feet wet.

Normally there are two USDF breeders shows in Lexington, the first being in May and the other being in September. However, the one in May has been canceled because it lost money and population last year. The other was canceled due to World Equestrian Games.

It's pesky having that in your backyard occasionally.

The nearest one, with a frequent series is in Wilmington, Ohio. About three hours away. I don't want to haul him that far for the first season.

So I've turned my eye more towards a local level. I've begun to look around for local fun halter shows that are cheap to enter and don't count towards lifetime records. The arabian shows definitely hold an option, there are three local club shows this year in Frankfort. There's potenially the Maker's Mark show.

If we don't show, it wouldn't be any skin off of my nose or his. But I would still like to get him out and about and used to the idea that life goes beyond the barn.

Ven you got it, flaunt it.

You know, I'm getting rather tired of frozen buckets, creaky joints, and the general feeling that we will never warm up in.
I stop riding when it's below 30, and even when the weather peaked to 31, it was only briefly between snow and ice. Not that Sinari doesn't mind having the time off, I think she's more perturbed over not getting her turnout time. 

But the inconsistency of having a week on and week off is driving me nuts.I don't feel like I've accomplished much of anything this month because of it.

For every bit of wait to get back into the saddle, there's always a silver lining.

As most people know, I pimp SmartPak. I love the company and the service. Recently, we were featured in their magazine/catalog (with this photo, thankfully cropped to remove my less than stellar ass). While it's no the front cover, Page 46 is an excellent place to be.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

101 Things: Number 97: The Human Element

On a cold snowy Saturday, I packed my equipment up and headed over to the annual GMO Gala.

The annual speaker this year was the USEF long-listed, Heather Blitz, someone who I've long admired for her ability and personality.

In the hour and a half long speech on her life, her horses, rider bio mechanics and her methods, she mentioned one thing that struck me the most:

"There is not enough concentration by riders on themselves. What feels normal is usually is not correct. What feels correct is interpreted as weird. That the correct place is only "weird" feeling when its new and you make changes to get here, until you do enough repetitions so that it becomes normal feeling. And that it's hard to go for the weird feelings and believing in the beginning that they're right.It's not until we look at ourselves in the mirror we figure out what we've been compensating in."

At that moment, I really felt like standing up and cheering.

As riders, we concentrate so much on the horse's athletic potential that riders forget themselves. Riding is not only a mental game, but a physical one as well. While the average rider doesn't need the physical fitness of top riders or the mental fitness of Einstein, they do need to sit straight, sit in balance and be able to work effectively for at least 30 minutes in the saddle. They need to know theory and practice, be able to mentally condition themselves to the sport and form positive habits that will influence their riding correctly.

We, as humans naturally accept our physical and mental compensations. It's discovering them, accepting them, and then changing them to make the partnership better is vital. Accepting your personal faults is never easy. Changing them is harder.

To become an athletic partner that we intent on being- we need to be aware of what we are doing in and out of the tack, and create a personal system that encourages that correction and development.

(photo credit: Horse Radio Network)

Friday, February 5, 2010

And I say it's all right.

I have not seen much of my little boy lately. I blame the weather and my other line of work (clinic organizer) for temporarily taking over my life.

The little boy, I'm sure is not missing me much with the all you can eat buffet in front of him.

I think he is looking little less like a yak since he started shedding out a few weeks ago and is still wimpy about in the cold.

For what we have done, he has progressed and improved upon since December.He leads confidently, pretty much goes where-ever, and is coming into his own.

January's goals were more or less met:

Achieved. We started tying him with a double ended rubber tie. Aside from fiddling like an ADD student in English Lit, he took it alright.

ADD student all he way. He likes testing boundaries. He has improved to how long he'll stand and where (stall and outside, but not grooming stall), but still has a long way to go.

He's getting there through Endo Tapping. He's more self assured as well.

Stall time
Goes in and out every day now, twice daily. Usually it's short trips in and out to eat, but they are becoming longer. 

So February's goals?

-Standing for the farrier.
-In and out of the arena

Looks like we're in for nasty weather

It has been a week I wish I could have forgotten.

Technical difficulties at work, plus a few difficult days in the saddle made for a very long, drawn-out week. I'm happy much of it has passed and we're back to our regularly scheduled program. One more challenge to face down (annual awards banquet) and we'll be home free.

Sinari worked hard this week, however, conditioning to FEI is not easy for her. Especially with a new saddle fit and coming in to first season.It's also the first week of regular work out of a long spotty period.

The problem with the pony isn't physical limitation, once fully conditioned, she'll be able to do all of it. It's getting her mentally phased into it. She wants to work, and she wants to please, so for me, the issue is myself. I need to keep her mind mentally relaxed and push when necessary.

I backed off of much of the exercises that were mind-benders and began to work more towards a relaxed state of mind.

Most of the week was spent in deep bending and loosening exercises, getting her mentally back to the point where we could tackle the extreme part of work. I also added back her sheepskin pad with the extra shoulder shims. It seem to make life a bit easier. Her conditioning also has come along as well.

Yesterday and today we broached the subject again in the double and she was much happier in the work. We'll continue on this path but first January's goals.

Medium/Extended work
Achieved. She showed 10 to 12 steps of extended in the ultra-deep footing. Now it's a matter of quickening the reactions in and out of them. 

Achieved, but needs more refining. Somedays she's truly off the seat and leg and others, it feels like I have to encourage her inner Trigger.

3 very collected steps of canter
Achieved. More than achieved. She produces 10 meters worth of very collected steps. I love this feeling of her being that through and collected, like a carousel horse. She needs to become stronger to carry the feeling longer and not have her mind totally warped from getting it. Normally what I would do is bring her out on the fields to go and gallop and collect from that. But the weather has put a huge stop to going outdoors.

Lateral work
Lateral work fell by the wayside.Will resume in February.

The adjustable outline/ accordion
Began working more on this towards the later half of the month working towards the idea I can ride her up, I can ride her down, I can ride her deep, long, collected, wherever at whatever gait. Of course she prefers the long and low and down, round and deep. Good at the trot, needs more work at the canter.

Seemed to be the theme this month. She is far more flexible, especially through the neck and ribs. However, the difficulty isn't keeping her flexible, it's keeping my legs in place. The saddle is more accommodating for her than it is for me.

February's Goals:
The adjustable outline/ the accordion
Lateral work, specifically half pass. Needs more flow, and of course, the zig-zags.
Pirouettes, canter and walk
Transitions out of the halt to canter. She gets jiggy (not that I mind, it will come in handy for piaffe), and becomes stoppy at the up transition (resists contact). I want her to become comfortable with the transition itself.
Tempi Changes (at least green ones) and regular uphill, straight changes.
If the weather will allow- conditioning.