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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Random thoughts

I have some great posts coming up, including a book review and a product review on a dead animal cart. However, at work I've been in crisis mode this week so in my unable-to-focus-state-of-mind, I don't feel like posting a comprehensive post on ANY subject. I'm also feeling remarkably uncreative and un-funny.

Random Thought #1 - I love National Velvet

Last night I watched National Velvet. For the very first time. It was WONDERFUL. This was probably the only horse book I did not read as a child. I tried once, in elementary school (4th or 5th grade) and could not get into it. I went back to my Zane Grey, Black Stallion, and Black Beauty and haven't thought of it since. I also, as a rule do NOT watch horse movies based on books. I've never seen Black Beauty, I've never seen Black Stallion. I picked it up on impulse from the library and sat down for a movie and knitting last night. I don't even know what to say - the believable characters, how it's free of contrived romances, how I put down my knitting to watch one of the most realistic/raw/incredible horse performance scenes I've ever seen in a film production......if you haven't seen it, it is a must see.

I even gave myself permission to cry from happiness/elation if my little heart so desired during the horse competition scenes (what is it with horses and how they can play with my emotions so?). THAT'S how good this movie was (and no - I was not moved to tears).

Random Thought #2 - Doing my homework

My trainer always remarks every week how much Farley improves from the previous week. She'll usually ask me to do something we worked on last week and then says "Wow - that was really good!" My response is always "I do my homework!". Because seriously, when you pay a lot of $$$ for weekly lessons for anything, you should PRACTICE. I taught beginner violin lessons for a while in college. Trust me - I can tell when you practice or not, even if you are talented and improve without it. I promised myself that if I ever took lessons for anything, I would put in the time.

Maybe it's rare thing to be able to put in as much time during the week to practice dressage as I do? Because my trainer always seems so surprised at the improvement. Seriously - if you work on trot-walk-trot transitions in the lesson, it only makes sense to practice it during the next week. Because I don't want to spend 3 straight lessons on the same thing. I want to progress! My horse wants to progress!

Random Thought #3 - Cantering lessons

This is related to thought #2. Last week at the lesson, we worked a bit on the canter. Farley had a very difficult time with picking up the left lead, and the transitions both up and down on both leads was VERY rough. I was told practice makes perfect.

I decided during the week that the arena was NOT the place to get both of us comfortable. For a horse that's trying to learn balance at the canter, having to turn all the time in an arena seemed like a cruel joke. So I started doing 5 mile canters on the canal banks. Twice during the week we set out. After warming up at the walk, I asked for the canter. After a quarter mile, I asked for the other lead. And repeated for 5 miles. The canals are straightaways, so she had to learn to read my cues for what lead I wanted. Five miles was just enough to get her warm, but not sweaty.

When I arrived at my lesson today, I told my trainer what I had done. She seemed a bit dubious. But I know my horse! After working at the trot, my trainer asked for a right lead canter. Usually the first transition to a gait is complete crap. I took a deep breath, set up my cues for the right lead. Farley flicked a ear, and rose into the canter. I think my trainer was a bit shocked. :) She said it was beautiful 6 (mean judge) or 7 (nice judge) canter transition. Uphill, round, obedient, were her exact words. :) Then we tried the left lead. My trainer was saying something about grabbing the saddle blanket so that I did not push my weight the wrong way, when I gave a small smile and asked for the canter. Not as beautiful, a bit rushed, not round, but gosh-darn-it! We did it! Left lead on the very first try. She broke gait/we repeated 3 times. Each time she picked up the correct lead.

Good Pony! :)

My trainer was a bit ecstatic. Another month of work on that canter and I'll be at show-ready training level. (My trainer doesn't let her student show until they are doing solid 70's in schooling, and will probably show in the solid 60's).

Random Thought #4 - a Cantering tip

I'm going to be working on canter halt transitions to improve the canter-trot downward transition. I thought I would share! To do a canter-halt effectively, I'm suppose to drop my stirrups at the exact time I ask for the halt. That will bring my leg down, instead of forward and make the cue very clear. Just thought I would share in case it helps anyone else.

Random Thought #5 - Toklat woolback

On a whim I dragged out my woolback pad this week for the first time since I purchased my skito and haf pad. I've been using it for the canal rides. It's still too thick to school or do dressage in, but it's OK for trail work. I think it works better with the Solstice saddle, than it did with the wide-twist Duett. I think I wouldn't buy a new one, but I would buy another used one, if it was a good deal. I like the skito for arena work because it's close contact while still providing more protection than a square pad, but I probably wouldn't purchase one for endurance again. I would buy my haf pad a million time over. I'm strictly using it for trail work and I LOVE it. I think it wears out faster than the wool underside pads, but it's still worth it. I'm trying to decide if flat bumps underneath the saddle area means I need to replace it???? (the underside of haf pads are little synthetic bumps....) At the very least I would like a newer haf pad for rides and to use this one for conditioning...


  1. Your so lucky that you have somewhere to practice at! I might have miles of trails at my house, but I don't have anywhere to do arena work, which I am missing more and more. Taking lessons would be pointless without someplace at home to work, plus I am not much into taking lessons currently.

    Its interesting how much more you talk about dressage then endurance, or at least right now. I think there is more to talk about with a sport like dressage verses endurance.

  2. This is a "down time" for endurance for me. She basically has December and January off, so it's time to focus on dressage for now.

    The nice thing about endurance is that it "sustains" itself. ie, once you get to a certain fitness level and the gear is working, you only need to *tweak* stuff here and there. In the beginning is a HUGE learning curve, but once you are competing in rides every 4-8 weeks and there are no equipment issues, it's more about the little stuff. Dressage is TOTALLY not like that. that's one reason I really appreciate dressage - it keeps both me and Farley engaged.

  3. But starting endurance is Very VERY intense. HUGE learning curve to get to that first 50, or start your first 100 (or even finish first 100! I don't know since I'm not there yet).

    My next 100 is Feb 27th, so all of February will probably be devoted to making that happen!

  4. I agree: practicing dressage between lessons --and on the trail!-- is essential.

    I'm going to try your canter advice; our cantering is dismal. OTOH, our trot is magnificent and used to be dismal, so I am not discouraged!

  5. Do NOT be discouraged!!!! Considering I could not name ONE THING we did well in the arena when we started the lessons, there has been a LOT of improvement. Her gaits are a 7 at training level now! (walk and trot).

    I NEVER thought there would be a day where she would pick up the correct lead on the left on the first try - let alone 3 times in a row!

    Right now I cannot dream of having a collected canter going to the left...

    Off to go bargin with God.... (just kidding - we have a GREAT relationship, and although we talk about my cantering issues, he mostly helps me with patience, anger management - goes back to patience - and did I mention patience? Which in turn helps me with cantering.)

    My instructor said that of all the lessons she keeps saying she wishes we had video tape of (so I can see how awful I used to be) she REALLY wishes she video'ed this lesson because we have improved SO MUCH.

  6. #1 - I read National Velvet as a kid, and I was just entranced with all the crazy British horse terms. Hey, I have a Pie now! Never seen the movie, but I bet it's good.

    #4 - When you say "drop your stirrups" do you mean kick your feet out of the stirrups?! Aaaaaah! I did some stirrupless work with Champ, but he was so very safe.

    JB - I'm jealous of her arena too! I kind of hate arena riding, but there is nowhere on our miles and miles of trails to do a 20 meter circle at the trot/rack/canter, so we can't do much bending work at all.

    Mel - you promise if I keep at the LSD and then gradually increase stuff that one day my horse can canter for five miles straight too? Wow.

  7. This was a really great post. Yes, national Velvet was awesome. It was my favorite horse movie as a kid. I recently saw international velvet. The character connections and relationships are not as good, it is cheesy, but I loved it too!

    I am hoping to take a few dressage lessons over the winter as well. I have never taken dressage lessons and I know it could be a real learning experience for us.

    Our canter has a long ways to go. Boomer has always gotten his leads. When we first started cantering under saddle I just asked him to canter on a circle and asked for the lead as if he already knew and he has always given me the correct lead. However, if is frequently at high speeds with his head in the air. Interestingly, we did a bit of cantering on out first endurance ride and I was able to let him on a loose rein and I think that time spent cantering out in the open really helped me get over the fear of losing control.

    Canter to halt transition tip sounds harsh! I'm sure that is a really good one once you get it down! Boomer's transitions are always so downhill, he just slams down in the front. I really would like to work with an instructor on getting him to keep moving forward when we slow down.

    Anyhow, keep your dressage updates coming!

  8. Also, I have a Toklat Coolback pad that is the 'round arabian' shape and I really like it. It is a little too small for my saddle, I could use an extra 2 inches in each direction and I wish it had wear leathers, but otherwise I love how well it wicks moisture. Plus, you can throw it in the washing machine AND the dryer and nothing gets damaged (pad or machines!)!!!

  9. Heather - I LOVE pads I can throw in the wash - that's one reason (of very few) that I like the skito. The woolback is a pain to clean. I bought a dog slicker brush last night - I've heard that's the best way.

    My trainer said that the canter-halt transition is actually EASIER than the canter-trot. In the canter-halt you are asking them to slow down and stop (while still being forward in the bridle, which is easy because there's a lot of momentum). There's less to think about AND the horse is usually "sitting down" better in the canter anyways - good for a stop.

    In the canter-trot transition you are asking them to slow down AT THE SAME TIME you are asking for a forward, round trot. It's tough.

    Funder - YES, take your feet OUT of the stirrups. LOL. It's really not that big a deal because you are asking for a halt and the mechanics just *work*. I swear!

    Farley has been mine for 2 years now. Up until this point I've only asked for walk/trot and distance, I've never asked her to canter more than a little and only when she really really wanted to.

    I figure I have enough miles on her it won't hurt to ask for the canter during our coniditioning rides. She's so much stronger because of dressage that's she capable of it. I'll still keep our endruance rides slow and steady but I always end up cantering a bit in rides and it will be nice to have the peace of mind that we've done it in practice.

  10. Mel, I just wanted to let you know I got the bunny! He's adorable. I can't wait until Estes comes home in the spring - I'll put him in my horn bag and take him for a ride or two. It should be fun.

  11. Great! Thanks for letting me know. Glad you like him.

  12. OMG! Zane Grey! I read those books too! Loved them. Sorry, trying to catch up on my blog reading. Very neglected of late.


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