Friday, August 22, 2008

Three-Horse Riding
I tried it. I think rhythmically, I have the tendency to want to rise on the wrong diagonal. Or maybe not. I couldn't tell. Cheerios kept veering off the circle the minute I tried to sense which leg I was rising with, which threw off the circular pattern. *sigh*

Our last session wasn't anything like the first attempt with Patterns. In hindsight, I know why. On Patterns Day One, I was focused on the PROCESS. On Day Two, I was focused on the RESULT. Having recommitted to my long-term PNH goals, I found myself too goal-oriented. Not good. Plus, it didn't help that I was tired by the time I got to Cheerios.

First, I finally got Shaveya to catch me. She has developed terrible sunburn on her nose. I promised to be very careful to avoid letting the halter scrape the sore area as I put it on. Yes, we got haltered. Then she got a dose of salve all over her nose like a lifeguard. Then we played.

If she could just be 100% sound, if I could trust that, she'd make a perfect partner. Once she calms down out of RBE, she's LB and obedient all the way. I tested to make sure she was responding rather than escaping.

Responding. Good.

I even got a L2 Sideways out of HER. Cool.

Because I'm trying to get her leased out, I had to make sure she was still a rideable beastie. Yes. She has lameness. But the consensus is that she'd be all right for light riding and a lighter (than me) rider. I've got a line on someone whose 10-year-old daughter needs a new partner and only walks and trots, and only weighs about 100 lbs. I also have a very skinny friend who I might cajole into a part-lease, muwahahaha.

But I had to test her. So, I gently mounted bareback after laying on her a few times. I'd say we walked about 12 feet total. Yes, she's rideable. She's responsive. But she doesn't want to walk. I was afraid to push and I had nothing to use to apply rhythmic pressure other than my hands because duh I left the carrot stick on the ground and duh I was riding with my 12' line tied into reins. No tail.

Oh, well. I was only on for a few minutes, but she wasn't too bothered.

Cheerios was just blah. Though I did get a nice canter on the 22' going left, he balked at the right. I did it this time w/o any saddle on in case it was a saddling issue. Nope. He just doesn't want to canter to the right. He is getting much better at reading my energy, though. I must be getting better at projecting it.

It's a challenge! My energy is low-level but always "on", or so I'm told from simulations at the last clinic. My challenge is to learn to raise it appropriately, then shut it COMPLETELY off when needed.

We played with:
  • Cantering on the 22' (OL)

  • Figure 8 around barrels (OL)

  • Change of direction 22' (OL)

  • Jumping a 6-inch high pole (OL)

  • Question Box (FS)

  • Follow the Rail (FS)

Follow the Rail went surprisingly well, given that he actually STAYED on the rail and listened, rather than diverting and heading towards the gate as usual. But the trot on QBox? Choppy, out of balance, bouncy—welcome back, Pogo Stick! Like I said, I was feeling pretty direct-line about then, and maybe I was being too critical. Oh, well, there is always tomorrow.

I also learned something truly disgusting about horse flies. If one lands on the horse's back along the spine, and you tap (not whack) it with the handle end of the carrot stick to kill it, not only does it die, but it severs in half.

And it's hollow inside.

Scuse me whilst I hurleth.

So. Onward. That was Tuesday when I rode two horses in one day. Wednesday, I took said skinny friend who might work for Shaveya up to the old barn where I first started riding eight years ago and we went on a trail ride. Yes. I have two horses of my own, yet I shelled out $35 for a nose-to-tail/group lesson. I had my reasons.

  1. secretly assess said friend's horse savvy and riding ability

  2. get out on an actual trail for a change

  3. ride a horse as a confidence builder at the canter

It was awesome. I had my choice of two horses chosen for my purpose (I'd called ahead and explained my needs). Ranger, a black & white Paint, and Spot, a sorrel Appaloosa. I did the sniff test with each to choose. Ranger sniffed, laid his ears back (unconfidently, not aggressively), turned his head away and would not look at me. Spot sniffed politely, pricked up his ears, and let me pet him.

I chose Spot. All 16.1 hands of him.

He was just right. Listened well, decent trot, easygoing, felt very safe with him. My friend rode Ranger. They had a few minor issues. But they did all right. She's got some natural savvy and she listens to me, which is good. We trotted a lot, and then we tried the canter. Spot eased into a beautiful canter. But Ranger, ahead of him, didn't want to go. Spot decided to Porcupine his butt as encouragement (bite), which invoked Ranger to Porcupine back (kick) which lead to my friend thinking he was bucking. She freaked, pulled up short, and that was the end of the cantering for the day.

Oh, well. I got in a few strides, it felt natural, and we're going to do it again soon. I might just go up on my own and do a private "lesson" which basically means I'd be leasing Spot for an hour or so to practice on. It's that or try it with one of the barn manager's horses. Thing is, horses are horses, but those trail string rent-a-horses tend to be quiet enough for stuff like this moreso than "real" horses.

All I want to do is KNOW that I can still ride a canter before I attempt to ride Cheerios and work out his issues and since it's been oh, three years since I last cantered—I need help.

Spot's for sale, too. $1,200. WHEN I win the lottery...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Perhaps this is redundant. And, it's possible I heard this somewhere and it just now registered... or it might be my very own insight.

Having never taken many formal equitation lessons, and being a wearer of the Western costume, the concept of posting to the trot is rather foreign to me. Posting to the correct diagonal? Big head scratcher. Many people have tried to explain it. The least confusing explanation I've heard was to "rise with the outside leg when it is fully extended".

Well, that's a lot of thinkity-think to be doing during a ride.

I did recall that during one PNH clinic, we "rehearsed" riding in circles without our horses on the ground for the canter to learn how to pick up leads and what those meant. I decided to take that approach with trotting and "trotted" a circle in my kitchen. I "rose" with my outside leg when I picked it up.

But... what was my other leg doing?

It was the one carrying my weight. It was firmly planted. I was pivoting on it.


A circle is just a very wide pivot. If the circle is narrowed to a smaller and smaller diameter, eventually it turns into a spin. You—or the horse—will pivot on the INSIDE leg. For a horse, if he is moving FORWARD (this is very important because he has two legs per side), his FRONT leg is his pivot leg for the turns. (If we're talking reining spins, that's pivoting on the hind foot which doesn't apply here.)

It makes absolute sense to POST TO THE PIVOT, does it not?

Especially if you're riding with Fluidity, which means you are actively riding, not just sitting like a sack of potatoes. When you're actively riding, your feet are pedaling in harmony with him. You're trotting (or walking or cantering) in your body. When you do this, the posting occurs almost naturally.

I played with the concepts in my kitchen. PLEASE TRY THIS AT HOME! :-) You'll see what I saw—that it is uncomfortable to rise when the outside leg is planted because it causes you to want to turn in that direction. Try it.

I "trotted" (in slo-mo) a circle going to the left. My left foot is the pivot. Going left, left foot pivots, rise when he plants his left front hoof which you'll sense if you're pedaling and actively riding with him. When I rose with the pivoting foot, it felt fine.

When I tried to rise with the outside leg planted, it felt "off".

Left circle, left leg. Right circle, right leg.

OK, NOW the concept of "inside leg" makes sense.

But I like mine better. POST TO THE PIVOT. Think I'll go give it a whirl.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Right. So I've been Official Level One for awhile now, playing in L2 first with Wildflower, now with Cheerios, and I've been boring my horse. Since I'm not beginning at the beginning, and since I've played around with some of the FreeStyle patterns in previous clinics, I decided to delve right into one of my favorites. (Can I just say, driving with two reins in Zone 5—that's Level FOUR?!? Wildflower and I experimented with that at our last clinic together. Blimey!)

I went to the barn. We have toys. LOTS of toys. We have loads of barrels (marked for Dressage patterns with letters), cones, poles, log-like poles, jumps, and a tarp. The only things "missing" are a proper pedestal, a carwash, a bridge, the Big Green Ball, and the two tires buried in the sand. All of those I'm planning to make/acquire in the coming months because I'm not the only one who likes to play with stuff.

I set up two barrels for Figure 8 and then I set up the Question Box. (This is the diagram I drew after the clinic in 2004, NOT the official PNH Patterns version.)

Corners QBox Diagram REV

I also laid out the tarp. Well, this took me a good half hour or so, then I loaded up the gear—22' line, hackamore, saddle, saddle pad, bareback pad (depending on how I felt)—and wheelbarrowed it out to the paddock. Then I went to collect my horse.

First, I chased Shaveya around for awhile. I say "chase" but I mean play the Catching Game. She's being evasive again, probably because I haven't been out much this summer. She finally caught me and let me pet her. We had a nice calm thing going on. The thought crossed my mind, "Now would be a good time to walk away and prove to her you won't always ensnare her". I thought, "Sure, just a sec" because I wanted to enjoy it a little longer.


Or, another horse bit her on the butt.

Either way, in the next moment, she'd thrown up her head and bolted, convinced that I was the source of it.


So I caught Cheerios. Played online. Skipped the whole preflight the seven games in order routine so I wouldn't bore him. Well, that may not have been the best idea. Nothing happened. Not nothing bad, just—nothing. Apparently the routine is his cue that playtime is about to begin. Otherwise, he was unfocused, wandering around, not really paying attention. Needless to say, the online stuff wasn't stellar. The Figure 8 went well going left, badly going right. Huh.

Because of the heat and all the physical effort of setting up stuff, and because I didn't eat a big enough breakfast, I was feeling off by then. A slight headache was forming and I felt worn out, hot, thirsty, hungry, and whiny. But I stuck with it. He was relaxed, so I saddled up.

The QBox was AMAZING. The objective is, the center of the box is where the horse asks the question, “what do I do next”. Do I stop? Go right? Go left? Do I go out at a walk, trot, or canter? Do we go near or wide? Do I stop this time or go through and do another circle and stop next time?

It was FUN. It got his brain working. He’s responding to my energy and focus better now. I realized something huge. If it works online... it works riding. If he can pick up a nice trot online and balance it, he can do it while I’m riding. His trot yesterday was UNBELIEVABLE. He responded to my lifting my energy, he lifted into exactly the level of speed I wanted, it was smooth, I could ride it, and he slowed down better, too. Wow. This, from the horse I’d nicknamed the pogo stick. It almost felt like I was riding Wildflower. So cool. I can’t believe we’ve made it this far. There was a time I wasn’t sure we’d ever get it together.

Towards the end, he must've sensed that I was ready to be done (mentally) because he started flying off the circle when trotting to the left and heading towards the gate. I missed it the first time and had to break pattern. Next time, I was ready. Hackamore lead in my right hand, I trotted him out of the box off to the left wide circle on a casual rein. He tried to break pattern. I jiggled the lead in his Zone 2. He kept to pattern. Rode through the center, still trotting. Same thing—break, correct, ride through. Third time—trotting along... get to the break... his attitude changes to one of determination—as if he said "I'm doing it this time!" and he completed the circle without a correction. I slowed to a stop and praised him.

Then I noticed the reason his breathing had sped up. Kudos to Cheerios—he'd kept his head AND stayed on task despite an enormous horsefly sucking on his butt! SWAT! Dead. Rub rub rub. Good boy.

I almost went for a canter on the way to the saddle drop off ponit... but I’m not quite ready yet. I'd circled him on the 22’ line at the canter and he’s still a bit punky. I think, though, if I make a program of transitions to canter (walk-trot-canter, trot-canter-trot, walk-canter-walk) for a week or so, that’ll go away. Once he loses the jerky launch and the need to put his head down like he wants to buck, THEN I can ride him with confidence.

It looks like I’m going to another clinic in October, it’s a solid L2 with Jesse. I had forgotten I’d signed up for it—it’s 2.5 hours away, just above Detroit—and just got reminded that fees are due. If I drop out, I have to pay half the fee! (Not every clinic does that. Oops. Next time I’ll read the fine print.) Unless I find a replacement. Or use it as a deposit for a clinic next year. Trouble is, trailering him. I don’t know that I can ask my current barn manager for that kind of a favor, unless she’d be willing to take the weekend off and audit it (I’d pay her auditing fees). I’m the only Ohioan going, everyone else lives in Michigan. I’m working on attracting a ride, since that would be less expensive than paying for a clinic I wouldn’t be at. OY! Does God want me to go into PNH? Gee. What do YOU think?