Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Dressage/Jumping Lesson...

On Wednesday I had a lesson with Allison. I felt like it was a good lesson, we really worked on getting Jackson on the bit and the impulsion from behind. We achieved this perhaps 1/2 of the time, I'd say. I love having lessons. It is so great to get the advice and hear if you are doing something correctly, or if you are just a sack of potatoes riding in circles making no progress.... At times I do get frustrated though! Allison is tough! But she does manage to get the best out of my riding, as rusty as it may be after our SOGGY, cold winter here in South Texas. South. Right. After we worked for at least 45 minutes on dressage, Allison had us work on ground poles, and she found no faults with my position or my handling of Jackson. The new jumps were (kind of) set up, as we only have it up to 12 inches until we get a new drill bit to move the jump cups around. The other day I had taken Jackson over that tiny 12" jump, and he kept bonking the poles. I was anxious to see if Allison had advice on this, because frankly, my fear was that he didn't have the interest or ability to jump anything higher! (OK...the mind does tend to go to extremes, because he has easily taken a 2 foot jump with nary a bump!) But I was concerned. Why was he dragging his feet on this tiny NOTHING of a jump? He does fabulous on cavaletti or a set of 4 ground poles, so what???? After he did the EXACT same thing with Allison I looked to her for advice. And she gave it! "My dear," she drolls. "He is simply SCOFFING at this jump. He is quite bored and wonders why you are insulting him with a mere 12 inches." "We need to start at 2'6 to get any sort of REAL jump practice going for him." Well hog my hooter, as they say! I broke out into a grin accompanied by a huge sigh of relief. She also went on to tell me that this actually shows a great potential for his jumping ability. He isn't doing any more than he has to over what he consider a jump that is BORRRING, but were he overjumping it she would suggest another career for him. Apparently, if a horse jumps three feet over a 12 inch jump you have an over-excitable horse with no mind for jumping. At 80 years old and having extensive eventing and training of horses under her belt, I believe her! Of course, I am sure there are exceptions and I hope I am not offending anyone, because this is certainly not true for every horse, I'm sure! She has promised to ride Jackson during my next lesson, and I look forward to see how he goes for her. Perfectly, I have no doubt. I hope I am riding horses when I'm 80! I did ask Allison if I should send him out to a trainer for training. The answer was an emphatic "NO!" She told me that if I put the work into him, I will get the results without a trainer. According to her, he has my number, so even if a trainer could get him going totally correctly, when I got him back, I would have the same horse whenever I rode him. I agree, but I had to ask! I want us to learn it all together, even if he is at superstar status and I am somewhere lying in the mud!! So, riding, more riding, and then riding some more! And drilling holes at least to 2'3-2'6 into the jump standards ASAP!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Building JUMPS!! and New Spring Babies!

Spring babies have arrived! On Sat. and then on Monday, Linda's two goats Sheba and Gertie gave birth! FINALLY! What a long wait! The two littles I'm holding are less than 24 hours old in this picture. Finn, pictured with Miles is also not quite 24 hours old in that pic, taken on Sun., as it was taken before the one's I am holding, (as of now) no-names. They were born late Monday night at 2am-ish.If you check out the size of my hands compared to them, you can see how tiny they are. I have medium sized hands and bone structure, so go from there... As you peruse further you will see me with Sheba's babes Bethany (Linda's pick) and Finnigan (Finn) my pick cause he was "almost" a St. Patty's Day Baby. Oh. And I'm Irish so I like the name....:) Then you can see our jump building endeavor further down, which I will get more into there....
On Sunday, when we went out to see the babies, as Linda had just gotten home from Boston on Sat, where she had been visiting her mom and dad. The very next day was her Birthday, so I was surprised (yet totally thrilled) when she told me that in lieu of riding we would be working on building JUMPS! She told me to meet her at Home Depot the next morning, and I was NOT late! We had talked about building jumps, but I had figured that I was going to have to do it myself. Linda has a lot on her plate, and jumping is more my obsession, not hers. It was only while we getting the jump standards cut to 5 feet instead of 10, that I looked at her and realized what was going on. (YES, I can be an idiot at times, but I do eventually get it..:)
Linda has a slight interest in jumping, but she doesn't even have a horse that she can jump at the current time. She brought me back a beautiful padded bridle bag to match the padded saddle bag she got me for Christmas, as a belated Birthday present. When she gave me that, and told me it was "part" of my present. I didn't expect more and told her so. She takes wonderful care of my horse (some months for free) and the amount I do pay her is, well, let me put it this way, NOT MUCH! So I just looked at her as the cute guy was sawing our wood, and got it. "Oh my God, you are doing this for me aren't you?" (Totally didn't even get it until that moment...) I was like, "You don't even have a horse to jump, and well, WOW!" She just looked at me and said, "Yep, Happy Birthday!" I was really touched. She figured out the PERFECT THING as a gift, and she proceeded to help me build jumps on HER birthday! We got it all home, and since she had purchased jump cups while in Boston, she proceeded to drill, and I made stripes! The standards in the pic are going to be painted white, and they have a 3'9 foot height max. Of course, that is down the road, but I believe in goals, and why not do them right while building, eh? We purchased enough for three jumps and finished part of one, at the lowest (12 inches) due to the fact that we decided we needed a super long drill bit to go all the way through the standard. Once we finished up, after commenting that we would rather be building jumps and teaching baby goats how to nurse ANY day over our jobs as RN's, Linda left to go help some folks move mulch, and I set out on a SOLO endeavor. I don't like riding alone. Since I broke my shoulder it has just been something I avoid. Yep. Fraidy pants. And sick of that baloney! I have decided that since Linda is so busy these days, that is just NOT GOING TO FLY! So I rode alone. And we jumped our new jump, and took lots of ground poles that we also bought for beginner practice. I took Jackson up to the new jump--just to sniff and get acquainted--and instead of looking at it, he proceeded to walk over it. I cracked up. We enjoyed our practice and worked on rounding his back and impulsion from behind, as well as our jumping. He was AWESOME! I could feel it, (head down, and on the bit with impulsion from behind!), but I dare not get too big-headed. Next ride is another challenge. I know just because I get something once there are no guarantees that our next ride (lesson on Wed.) will necessarily pan out! Humble is what a good ride makes me.  A great ride is great. But don't count on it being the norm. JOURNEY with no destination but work and more work! BUT!!!! He loves jumping so far!!! Thanks Linda, for making me feel special and helping me build my dream (literally and figuratively)! 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reflections on Riding and Jumping....

You know that saying everything has a time and a place? Well, it is certainly true. This book has been sitting in my horse library (which is HUGE!) for seven years! It accompanied me on a difficult trip with the military to San Diego for six months where I would occasionally thumb through to glance at pics now and then, but never read the book. At the time, owning my own horse, let alone jumping again seemed unobtainable. A dream. But somehow, having it there in my line of sight gave me hope... Just that picture on the cover. A determined man taking a beautiful horse over a fence. Now, that dream is starting to be what I make of it. My dream is obtainable if I want it to be. :) The other day I glanced at this book as I was purusing my horse shelf, and went, "Hmmm. Let's see what this book has to say."  After all, since it helped me in my time of hardship, didn't I owe this book a gander? Definitely. Especially now that I am actually starting to jump my OWN horse. I want to share this book with you. Now STOP. Even if you don't jump (and I currently would put myself--even with experience-- as a wanna be jumper :), please read on because there are some fabulous pearls of wisdom I wish to share with you that this five time Olympian can't be wrong about. William Steinkraus has ridden in five Olympics and took the first individual equestrian gold ever won by an American rider in 1968 in Mexico City. He took along a few more team medals, has ridden on thrity-nine winning Nations Cups teams (usually as anchor) and has won over one hundred individual international competitions. He has been elected to FOUR Halls of Fame. He has numerous other standings under his belt, really quite too much to add here. But I think you get the point that the man has some horse sense. Before my dressage lesson yesterday I pulled out the book to show Allison who is eighty years old, and was quite the eventer in her time. "Ahh. Mindy," she drolls in her english accent, "Now that man is a legend. I own that book. Isn't it great?" She could even name the horse on the cover. Another crazy, but oh so cool thing. She teaches what I am reading. Almost to the word. Bizzarre? Dunno. She is also very Walter Zettl like, I am inclined to think she is just one HELL of a horsewoman and I am a very lucky student! So, on with the pearls of wisdom. They are straight out of the book. Stick around for his epilogue after the aphorisms. Trust me.
Thank you for this informative book Mr. William Steinkraus. I hope to shake your hand one day.....

Two Dozen Useful Aphorisms by William Steinkraus
1. Get your tack and equipment just right, and then forget about it and concentrate on your horse.
2. The horse is bigger than you are, and it should carry you. The quieter you sit, the easier this will be for your horse.
3. The horse's engine is in the rear. Thus you must ride your horse from behind, and not focus on the forehand simply because you can see it.
4. It takes two to pull. Don't pull--push.
5. For your horse to be keen but submissive, it must be calm, straight and forward.
6. When the horse isn't straight, the hollow side is the difficult side.
7. The inside rein controls the bending, the outside rein regulates the speed.
8. Never rest your hands on the horse's mouth. You make a contact with it: you carry your head and I'll carry my hands.
9. If the horse can't learn to accept what you're doing, it isn't any good.
10. Once you've used an aid, put it back.
11. You can exaggerate every virtue into a defect.
12. Always carry a stick (crop); then you will seldom need it.
13. If you've given something a fair trial, and it still doesn't work, try something else--even the opposite.
14. Know when to start and when to stop. Know when to resist and when to reward.
15. If you're going to have a fight, YOU pick the time and the place.
16. What you can't accomplish in an hour should usually be put off until tomorrow.
17. You can think your way out of many problems faster than you can ride your way out of them.
18. When the horse jumps, you go with it, not the other way around.
19. Don't let over-jumping or dull routine erode the horse's desire to jump cleanly. It's hard to jump clear rounds if the horse isn't trying.
20. Never give up until the rail hits the ground.
21. Young horses are like children--give them a lot of love, but don't let them get away with anything.
22. In practice, do things as perfectly as you can: in competition, do what you have to do.
23. NEVER fight the oats.
24. The harder you work, the luckier you get.

And now to his Epilogue which I simply loved.

"A few final words. Taking things for granted is all too easy. But we must never forget, every time we sit on a horse, what an extraordinary privilege it is: to be able to unite one's body with that of another sentient being, one that is stronger, faster and more agile by far than we are, and at the same time, brave, generous and uncommonly forgiving. (How much poorer our lives would be if all our riding experiences were restricted to mechanized transport!)
Only as riders can we achieve some measure of eternal youth, since we can exchange, old, tired bodies for younger, more vigourous ones as easily as changing horses. Luckily, however, there is no surer antidote for the arrogance this circumstance might engender than the horse itself, for no poorer respecter of personages has ever existed. The horse doesn't know or care if you are a prince or a pauper, only whether you can ride with skill and justness. No throne can compare with the back of a horse, and there is no way man can come closer to nature than by becoming one with a horse. Truly, as the French like to say, "L'homme se complete par le cheval," "Man completes himself through the horse." Nobody has every understood or articulated this better than Shakespeare:
When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk;
He trots the air, the earth sings when he touches it.....
                                                          ----Henry V, Act II

I can't put it any better than that folks, so I end here for now......