Tuesday, March 30, 2010

101 Things: Number 94: The heart of volunteers

"Service to others is the payment you make for your space here on earth." Muhammad Ali

The man on the left, was known for throwing punches, and not mincing words. While Ali's body may have left him, his service to the nation, particularly my state, is still felt every time he graces us with his presence.
Every year with the warmer weather, horse shows and events seemingly spring up everywhere almost overnight. My once empty mailbox is jammed full with show fliers, clinic, and event announcements from around the universe. 

My company, Team EnGaged is also busy putting the roster together for their annual events.

Unlike the weather, these events don't crop up overnight. They are the brainchildren of committees, business owners and several individuals who feel that the community should benefit from their multiple-day soirees.  

But planning only goes far, to have a successful event it takes man power. Lots of it. 

Without volunteers who give up their time, their weekends and sometimes their sanity to support the sport there wouldn't be events to feature our pride and joys at or venues to learn from. 

If you have shown, cliniced or gone anywhere with your horse in tow, you've seen them, and for the most part, relied on them. These weekend warriors endure the elements, packed warm up arenas, multiple schedule sheets and changes and the occasional ill-tempered horse and human to help progress and see the sport continue.

It's time to return the favor. 

For every day of showing, clinicing, symposium, or convention-ing you plan on doing or going to, donate on hour to the sport that is allowing the habit. 

If you don't know where or how to begin, contact your local General Member Organization. Many of which sponsor volunteer training and give several avenues for participation. 

It will not only make you far more appreciative of the regulars standing out in the hot, sandy arena checking bits or behind the desk scribing or scoring, but will open up different avenues of opportunity. 

Also don't forget to say thank you, without them, you don't have a show, or an event to bring your horse to.  

Monday, March 29, 2010

Space the final frontier

Once upon a time, leading Sincere was fairly easy. The emphasis then was go forward and stop. It didn't really matter that he crowded, or pulled or a number of other things, the important part was he lead where I needed him to go.

Yesterday, he began to encounter what's to be expected on the triangle.

I haven't done basic triangle work in about six years, let alone with a foal. I'm lucky that he sets up perfectly every time, if he doesn't he's easy to get into position.

But there are a few issues as well, he's now using his size to barge past me, and because he's forward and big, he can now move quicker than my butt can move. Because he's young, he's also excitable and because he's friendly he wants to crowd. And turning? Non existent.

So we spent the majority of an afternoon correcting the barging issue. Rule one: don't lean on the halter. Rule two: stop when I stop, go when I go, turn when I turn. Rule three: I control the pace.

It took a little while, but when rule one was figured out, rules two and three were easy. By the end of it, he got the concept. We may have an in hand pony yet.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

We'll work to work it out

I get to drive a lot around town.

My little red truck is my mobile office, I keep copies of the files I need, my giant, ever changing to-do list and stuff that is being trucked back and forth to the barns.

The nice part about a mobile office is the scenery, never gets dull especially in spring.

The never dull scenario is also applying itself to the riding end of life.

Sinari, while trying her heart out to accept the lateral work (which she's picking back up) is sore from a number of different things. I'm sure being in raging heat, and being subsequently teased by the colt next door doesn't help.

But the main culprit is the saddle (again). Even after the re-flock and riding in the sheepskin with shims to help out, she's still not feeling hot in the back. I had her adjusted yesterday and even the massage therapist said she was not feeling hot in the ribs, the back or the right side in general.

She left a list of instructions, stretches. Farrier came by and rebalanced her long over due hooves. Then we took a few days off. Lunged out today, she felt pretty good.

So, in about a year we've gone through this one. I guess the Christmas wish for the pony is coming true, I'm going to get a custom. I've contacted a few friends to give me an idea of price, estimate and payment schedules. I have my eye on one in particular, but we'll see.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Oh peace

Hello spring, good bye baby yak!

Sincere has been shedding out fistfuls of hair and is growing more mane and tail. While he's already flashy enough, his mane and have a gorgeous color, nothing to rival Sinari's, but still very, very pretty. I'm debating about what to do with his mane as he grows older, I don't want to leave it long, but at the same time, I suck at button braids.

It's hard to think in two months the little goose will be a yearling. Time flies way too fast.

There really hasn't been much to update, Sincere has been doing well. We've started a pony palates program to start making him flexible and more handy. This will probably bite me on the bum later, but right now, I'm looking to maximize his gaits. Also for all the awkwardness, he still remains incredibly balanced and very, obedient. 

The long road back

It seems hard to believe that we past 20 days of continuous work today, with today being the first full gale force week. But we did.

While the weather has been perfectly good, schooling after the second week hasn't really been great.

Like eating too much fresh grass, Sinari has begun to feel the glut of work. I think we both hit the end of our spring fever run.

While the changes, some collection and extensions are still easy for her, she's taken to running through my half halt and lateral work is harder for her. Possibly because she has come in raging heat, and possibly twenty days in the arena is twenty days way too long.

Thankfully the fields dried out just enough to go hacking about in during the last bit of the week this week. 

Either way, she's due for some body work, and a day off. Day off tomorrow, body work sometime, hopefully this week.

My position has very well suffered from the time off. I tend to pitch forward now in quasi-half seat to keep off of a fresh back, and I tend to treat the pony, who is working the FEI well, as a second level horse. I now have to get it through my skull that what worked then, cannot work now. Sinari is wonderfully and adept at telling me that I'm dong it wrong. Especially in the pirouette and the half pass.

While I have to work on my position itself, I want to at least go out and try different saddles again. I hate saddle shopping. 

But overall physically, we're capable, conceptually we're still addressing a few leftovers.

Rolex is coming up fast too (about a month), and since I volunteer, I usually get a pass into the park for all four days. I'm going to use this time to sit in a few new saddles (although I have a feeling of what I want), and try on some shadbellies.

Meanwhile, since spring has sprung, my house windows are open and spring cleaning has in earnestly started. I managed the living room, the dining area and the bathroom. But have so much more to go. 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It all comes at once

After a few rains the world has become green again. Kentucky grass is amazing and resilient stuff. Two rains and the fields are back.

Spring has allowed many things to begin growing again, including Sincere who is in his second growth spurt this year. Gone is the balanced six month old, replaced is the goosey ten month old baby with the sparkling, confident personality.

He is preferring human company to his herd at the moment and does come to the fence when called.  

Watching him come to the fence today, his movement, despite becoming conformationally unbalanced, is starting to develop more. I'm excited to see him go, I just hope he likes dressage.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

All the right moves in all the wrong places

Spring is finally here, however timing, if anything isn't.

After working for five straight weeks on a varied schedule, I finally, at least temporarily, get to return to a normal work week.

Sinari and I returned to normal work in the outdoor.

Capitalizing on the come-back lessons from the prior weeks, we split the work down into segments. Somedays we would work on solidifying bend, flexibility and lateral work, the experimental stuff and the others working, insistently, on the consistency of the work at hand.

Returning to work is never easy.

To get to the goal of FEI, we have to address a few issues that are currently popping up. In reality they aren't really issues, but a contract negotiation for the upcoming work. But, she is coming back, improving from prior work and has becoming all much more stronger.

This week she achieved bigger, more educated, flying changes. We reconfirmed the shoulder-in to half pass to shoulder in work, and sharpened the half halt. As for myself, I need to learn to sit back again.

101 Things: Number 95 Many roads of Rome

I had the pleasure of sitting down to dinner about a week ago with a few USEF official-friends who were in town on business. Collectively sitting at the table was at least 80 years of dressage experience.

These individuals saw the foundation (and actively participated in founding) of the USDF, the L Program, were active FEI riders, still active coaches, and have brought along the best and brightest the industry has to offer. While the conversations ran many directions, it inevitably led to the state of the union of dressage stateside.

The individuals at the table have seen many forms of dressage, good, bad and every shade in between. They have seen abuse, and riding at it's finest. It was a hugely enjoyable experience listening to them.

One of them had the pleasure of seeing the major schools train on a tour of Europe. The Portuguese, Vienna, Samure, Jerez, German, Swedish and Dutch/Netherlands schools, all very different, with different individuals, styles, and different methods to achieve their goals. But all producing the same product: the Grand Prix horse.

Lately, the word 'classical' has become a blanket term in dressage. You frequently hear classically-bred, classically trained, classically-rode, classical-this or that when you frequent forums, conversations or dressage circles. Classical in America, has taken a life of it's own. It's become a selling point without a basic understanding of what it is.

Due to that lack of understanding, many tout one school of thought or method over another, sometimes ad nauseum.

As a dressage rider, disregard the labels.

Any method, wonderful, good, bad or horrible is something you can learn from. Look at it, look at what individuals it is used with, how it is used, digest it and move with it. Learn what and why it works for an individual, take it, and use it. Or don't.

All roads, no matter how long, lead to Rome. There is no main one that is ultimately correct for everyone, but, because the end is just the same, we, as riders must learn to accept and utilize .  It is this understanding that breaks down barriers and creates a richer, more diverse community of riders and teachers and only seeks to better the sport in the long run.

Oh horsefeathers!

I had the opportunity last week to go out and ride a friend's four year old Fell. What a fantastic pony. Moved just like a little Friesian with three times more hair and attitude. He was a good sport throughout my fiddling and asking for new things that he's never been asked for (half steps).

Here he is in the warm up gallop:

Just darling isn't he?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Time is on my side

February, in all it's polarizing glory is gone!

I'm happy to see the sun, and be back in the outdoor where the footing is a little thinner and the area a little bigger.

Sinari, who has been languishing because of the weather, is not as eager to see the return of spring or warm weather. We hit our full stride this week, returning under saddle to some fantastic early work. By fantastic, I mean a hattrick of days where she showed her stripes for FEI work. Piaffe, tempi changes, the zig-zag and the super collection.

It was fantastic, but unexpected. I was hoping for a non-pressured week of transitions, bend and cleaning up a few things along the way. But, in this case, you get and enjoy it while you get the freebie work.

After all this fabulous work Saturday, she became frustrated at not being able to do the changes and started to buck. Amusing, and something I can't punish, we changed subjects and had a lovely school with deep bends and pushing the balance more up and out.

It doesn't seem like much, but recapping 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.

Weren't met due to weather, but were somewhat met this week.

So March's goals?

The above in addition to consistency.  I would like to get back into the double at the end of the month, but it depends on how the weather holds out.

Shameless self-promotion

I mentioned in a prior post that I co-own a company, I've had a few questions thrown around about it, and I'd be more than happy to answer here.

My company's name is Team EnGaged Clinics.

We host educational clinics (and soon to expand to symposiums, camps) for the equestrian population. 

The idea of it was initially started in 2008, where my partner started hosting dressage events semi-regularly, and I helping out, with a few clinicians. We weren't particularly serious at the time because of our time commitments. I was busy with work, and riding and she was busy doing her thing as well.

So while we were mildly successful- we had shelved the possibility of expanding or devoting seriousness.

2009 rolls around and the educational scene in the area becomes comatose for a variety of reasons.

In short, the area was being stunted by a lack of variety, and a lack of availability.

This, we felt was incredibly wrong.

As someone who has been at the bottom of the pole, I recognize the need for people to feel included within the community. Not just specific people, or circles, the community. I also recognize the need for transparency within an organization.

So, my partner and myself formed Team EnGaged on these core tenements:

First, it's our opinion that education is and should be accessible to everyone. Whether it be an equestrian education or a regular education, it should be available. If you're a serious equestrian, you are always, continuously learning. To progress, you must learn, you must seek help from a higher source.

Secondly, we believe to progress an area, region, or even neighborhood, you must look outside for help. The United States has a bevy of international riders, trainers and speakers. Europe is a power house. We need these people here to help bring new ideas. We also believe in looking at unusual sources for information, people who wouldn't normally be affiliated with the equine world, but still have a lot to contribute. 

Continuing in that same vein, we believe it takes more than a village to raise us. The concept of a team provides resources not just from a wellspring, but again, the community that chooses to participate with us. 

Third, we believe in honest customer service. I personally work for the company that puts customers beyond first and I believe that the horse industry itself can benefit from this. We also believe in treating the people that work for the common goal with love and respect. We are our volunteers' biggest fan.

Fourth, and finally, Kentucky IS horses. It should be, that in Horsey Town USA every weekend you should be able to attend something horse-related.

It is our hope that we not only provide the opportunity to learn, but help the community grow as a whole.

We hope you'll join us for the ride.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Rumble young man rumble

February, in all it's slothful glory, is finally over.

I'm never happier to see the ugly stepsister month go away. 

It was the month that left most of us homebound in the south. One minute it would be clear, next, it there would be two feet of snow and ice.

For those of you who don't live below the Mason-Dixon, two inches closes schools for about three days. Two feet puts an entire towns in to a catatonic state.

Kentucky is no exception, and to add to our lack of weather awareness, we add narrow, twisty roads flagged by Irish stone walls.

It's sad and amusing at the same time.

My time with the young man was trunkated at best. I felt bad just removing the blanket somedays.

But March's luck is already rubbing off. We've had a series of warm days, several events have conspired in just the first week alone to make up for 28 days of misery.

Despite the in and out status, he did meet most of his goals for February.

 -Standing for the farrier. 
Tony came by the other week. He stood up without pulling or fussing for twenty or twenty five minutes while his feet were trimmed and reshaped. 

Couldn't do that this month, just couldn't find a free plug due to the defrosters.

-In and out of the arena
Success! He goes in and out of the arena, leads and turns left and right. 

He does this oh so well to begin with, so it really was a gimme goal.

March's goals?:
-Clippers (I would really like to get rid of the full Manchu)
-Work on the triangle. Namely setting him up, he already knows how to trot in hand.
-Teaching him independently to pick up his feet by the touch of a whip (comes in handy later).