Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Throbbing Heart of News

On Wednesday the vet came out to vet the horses--the usual shots, Coggins, teeth, etc. He also gave us some very bad news. Two months ago Linda had had a mass removed from Shorty's sheath and we had hoped that this would take care of it. The mass has come back, and the vet says it is a very aggressive melanoma; Shorty has six months to a year to live.

I am so saddened by this news, it is not describable. Shorty is such a special guy. I call him Spotty (my affectionate special name for him, that only I am allowed to call him :). Not only is he a cool looking Leopard Appy with an awesome personality, he is gaited. Smooth rocking gaits, you don't even need to post to his trot, just sit back and enjoy. Another special advantage is that he performs to the level of his rider with nary a complaint. My son has been learning to ride on him, and he is the horse I rode frequently when I was getting my nerve back after my broken shoulder on Jackson. Recently, I have been working on my canter with him to get my aids down (and my confidence up!) before I attempt my green guy.

Linda has raised Shorty, now sixteen, since he was foaled from her red roan. She had no idea her roan threw Leopard apps. so she says she was quite surprised to see him appear! She has gone through times (when he was younger) when he was totally unsafe to ride--even she wouldn't ride him (and she'll usually ride anything)--but he has turned into a steady, reliable mount and it has been wonderful!

He is currently not symptomatic other than the fact that he doesn't run in from the field anymore at feeding time. He still enjoys trail rides and lessons. This is the life he knows, and he will be lightly ridden until he shows that he can't be anymore. Obviously, knowing Linda like I do, she will do everything and then some to keep him as comfortable as possible and then let him go when it is time.

Oh, Spotty, I do love you. We will make the most out of the time we have left. Of course we will see you again in heaven, waiting at the pump--Linda and I already have sent early requests to be in the horse and dog department.....

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Professional Pic of Me and "The Master" and a SICK story....

Walter Zettl and I

Well, I know it's been awhile, but whatever vile organism that has decided to invade my body has done quite the number. Of course, having been exposed to the H1N1 virus via a patient I was convinced that that was what I had. All flu tests have come back el negativo. I feel a bit better than I did, just fatigued and overall not feeling good. BUT, going on 14 days later, I am still spiking temperatures of 99.0 to 100.4. The Dr. was thinking it was pneumonia yesterday, but I have absolutely NO symptoms of that, AND I've had it before. It doesn't go under the radar in my experience! So she put me on a Z-pack as we both are now convinced it MUST be bacterial somewhere-- hoping is more like it. I've lost 8 lbs. due to lack of appetite, but I am TIRED of being an invalid. I rode Jackson on Wed. thinking that would make me feel better. I had convinced myself I was malingering and a shot of horse therapy would help. I guess it did, but I also threw up, got a sunburn (duh, sunblock....), and spiked the usual temperature the next AM! Probably sooner, but I thought the hot feeling was from the burn....So the next AM I was sent home from work (after hearing how BAD I looked) and hearing from the Dr's secretary (MISTAKENLY) that I was positive for Influenza A AND H1N1! That was OK, the fever was back and I was ready to just lie down anyway. SO---enough of my woes! All you guys doing OK out there? Flu anyone? I sure hope not!

Wanna ride, wanna ride, wanna ride.......

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Girl On Her Horse

Someone asked me the other day what I was putting into practice as a result of Walter Zettl's clinic. I learned so much,(much was beyond me), but I did absorb some things to add to the arsenal of things I am ALREADY working on. In fact, I got some great tips, but I mostly work from what my instructor teaches. The clinic just helped me with the bigger picture I guess you could say. It also helped to see SO many riders having to work at their canter, I got tons of great info. and feel that cantering is now so close I can taste it. Hopefully, not because I go off and have blood in my mouth along with broken bones! :)

We are working on transitions (of course) with lengthenings; one really good thing to practice that we learned from the clinic is to have the person you are with shout rapid fire transition commands at you. "Walk, trot, walk." etc, really quick. It does serve to wake Jackson up although we are not fast at them at all.

We have been studying turns on the forehand and leg yields at the quarter line...we do NOT get them right a lot of the time. This is my fault of course, because my horse does them perfectly if they are set up right!!! I should say our turns on the forehand are a lot better than our leg yields with the back legs crossing from the quarter line to the track...and that looks so darn cool too!

Also working on straightness while working and backing. We do really awesome backing--look ma I didn't use my reins. Did you notice that I didn't use them to stop that time either? MOM, you obviously just weren't watching the paint dry!!! LOL!

In my last lesson Allison and I began working on shoulder fore in preparaton for shoulder in, which she said was coming very soon. Sholder fore is simply aligning the horses inside shoulder with his inside hip. I can feel when we do it, but when I asked Allison HOW I would know I was doing it right, she said, "When I tell you you are." Obviously a LONG ways to go on that bit just yet. That's OK. I must have been truly awful at it because usually I can at least practice what I've learned....

Also doing TONS of circles, serpentines and ssssnakes (my terminology)....working on initiating turns with the inside leg and then capturing the increase in impulsion with my outside rein while opening the inside rein to indicate direction. The idea is that Jackson will then respond by bending around the inside leg and shifting the balance back. You then GIVE on the inside rein and DRIVE, not pull him around the turn. The rider's outside leg must be slightly back to avoid the horse's hind leg stepping out. Luckily Jackson is a very bendy horse :), but learning dressage and teaching my green horse too is HARD AS, I will not lie.
But when I can float to a fence, take it like a pro, and then float away, I will have my success.
And GOD willing, success I will taste!

Must go now, was exposed to H1N1 and the fever feels like it's back, I had a little bit of energy and instead of getting dog hair up off of the floor I posted... ugh, I am a horrid sick sad soul.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Walter Zettl Dressage Clinic-Kerrville, Texas

Walter Zettl and moi


Scott and his Perch/Andalusian cross Sky High Scotty

Caren with Walter getting wired for sound....

Cindy on Unity- Dutch Warmblood

Jackie riding Caesar

On Tuesday I had the wonderful opportunity to go to a Walter Zettl dressage clinic and get some learnin' in! Since Kerrville is only about 45 minutes from my house and the price was right, my friend Linda and I were quite thrilled to get the opportunity to see a master at work. Above are only a few of the riders (there were 7 total) and I learned from each one. As we arrived, craning our necks, to see if we were in the right place (only seven cars?), we went to check it out. And let me tell you. This was spot on cool to see this guy teach. As soon as I arrived and placed my chair ringside (2 chairs down from Walter) beside a to DIE FOR covered arena with MIRRORS (OH!!! I dream of having mirrors...) and incredible footing with tire entrails and sandy loam, Walter took a moment to come up and give me a HUGE bear hug! This was one of about three or four I received that day, and I tell you, you GOTTA LOVE a German hug!!! :) And folks, this was a more private clinic, or not advertised, or well, lets face it, dressage riders in Texas are just not as common as the cactus we grow! The entire day there were never more than 20 folks watching, and this included the seven riders who were participating in the clinic.

Linda tried to get us spots as riders (without my knowledge) and when I heard that I almost died! HELL NO!!! I have had exactly 10 dressage lessons in MY LIFE (as I used to equate dressage to watching paint dry at the lower levels, but as I see what it does for your overall riding, I am HOOKED!)
Only 6 of these lessons have been on Jackson, my own horse. We will be considered for next year apparently, and that would suit me much better, because my horse and I are doing SO well with only six lessons under our girths!

The wonderful thing about watching these riders was that no MATTER how accomplished many of them were, I could see them working at the exact same stuff that I do. At a bit of a higher level perhaps, but the same issues still arose. I would lean over and say to my friend, "she is riding really forward", or,"watch, he's going to tell her to increase her contact", and lo and behold, Walter would be right there with me giving the same advice!

Most of the rider's were working at late first to somewhere in the second level, with one by the name of Sandy Whistler (who BLEW us all away with her horse Papillion that she has trained and started herself as a 3 yr. old and is now ONLY 7!), and is in LATE 2nd level, easily to be 3rd very soon. She got so much applause (hardly anyone else did until the end!), b/c Walter pushed her to do more and she did it flawlessly with things she had never even attempted before. She doesn't want to compete, she does it all for her own rewards, and sadly I did not get a pic due to battery issues, but she sat beside me after she rode and I got TONS of great advice from her. She asked what my riding background had been before I started dressage, and when I said strictly jumpers, she had all kinds of great tips and advice. SHE was awesome!!! I tend to ride quite forward while keeping my lower legs rock steady(as I noticed some of the riders with jumping and eventing experience tended to), and she gave me easy tips to put into practice. (And they WORK oh, so well, as I found out while riding the next day!)....

A BIG thing I realized is that we will all ALWAYS be working on our weak spots. I had always thought that at a higher level of dressage and with tons of practice these would just magically go away. Stupid, I know. But after seeing these ACCOMPLISHED riders still making MY mistakes, well... It helped. The forwardness and my lower legs will improve, but will they always be my nemesis? It appears that this is very possible. Or my wonky left hand and bat wing shoulder that never want to behave?.... :)

Walter talked to me about how he used to ride 8 horses a day, all having to be immaculately groomed and turned out for presentation, clean the stalls, and then, only then, he MAY have had time to watch his instructor ride and teach. Being German-- at the top in most world competition--he most likely did have it very hard. MUCH harder than any working student today in the U.S. It was almost like hearing how our parents had to trudge 6 miles each way in the snow, right? NOT. I told Walter I would take that over my current job ANY day, any time. He chuckled and seemed to give that some thought. He also told me that he is having an ABSOLUTE ball touring with the Parelli's and that Linda P. is really coming along as a student.

I was happy to see and learn at this clinic, but honestly, since my own trainer is VERY Europeon, it wasn't that different from her teaching AT ALL. In fact, it was a mirror image in many ways. They are both the same age, from Europe (she from England) and teach dressage with the same mind set; at times even the SAME sayings. OPEN THE DOOR. That's a big one. This was great because now I KNOW I am learning from the right instructor, the RIGHT WAY!! Parallel teaching. Almost, if not better than taking lessons from Walter. AND, Allison's accent is much easier to understand! LOL!

We felt SO compelled to put into practice ALL that we had learned, we didn't attend Day 2. It was going to be the same riders and I was itching to get my butt on my own mighty Jackson. Walter asked if we were coming back, and I said, "I would love to Walter, but I feel like I need to ride tomorrow. Priorities you know." His blue eyes lit up, and he said, "Oh, yes my love, I DO understand...."

What an awesome experience.