Plotting Horse


Lady in green
June 6, 2009, 09:36
Filed under: Riding

This week I got just what I needed at the barn: trail-ride!

We took the whole hour walking, trotting and galloping through the trails in the woods. When I got to the barn on my bike (it’s a 35 minute ride to get there – and for this reason I am looking into switching riding schools – more to come about that later) there were dark clouds gathering overhead. In addition to that, there was some sort of EU election party going on, very close to the barn, with really loud music, so I didn’t think we were really going to ride out. Therefore, I chose a horse that I hadn’t ridden before; she was on the list and I was first to chose, so I figured this was my chance. I rode Lady:

Lady

Lady

I’m not sure how old she is, but I’d guess something like 10 or 12. She’s quite tall and with my dummy method of measuring in comparison to my forehead, that’s 16.3 hands. As you can see, Lady is very elegant, with those long legs, and if I may say so myself, I looked rather fetching on top of her! I had no idea what she would be like to ride, especially on the trails, so was really hoping for an arena hour. Last time we rode out Pia explained to us  that this was what horses were really like! – All wild and spooky and wanting to gallop! (:o oh my!)

That’s probably why  Pia  insisted that we ride out and claimed that it wouldn’t be her fault if we got wet.

Anyway, everything was fine! It was a blast! Lady is one of the smoothest riding horses I’ve ever ridden! Her trot, canter and gallop were all smo-oth, her back hardly moving. She was very comfortable. And for such a big horse!

Also, she was very calm. What she was most interested in was yanking off leaves from the trees and bushes and munching. The trails are so lush right now that most of the time there was green right in front of her face and so I couldn’t stop her.

Just what I needed! This week I have been doing the final read-through of my novel before I pass it off to two trusted readers. My baby going out into the world and all that. Sink or swim. I’m nervous!

A quick update on last week’s riding class, which I didn’t have time to blog about.

I rode one of my favourite horses (like: if I could, I would buy this horse. If he was for sale, if I could afford a horse, if I was experienced enough to own a horse, etc etc.) Varo:

Varo

Varo

He’s 7 years old. Spunky, fun, thinks he’s a rock-star, but is scared silly by an awful lot of stuff. I’ve ridden him before when he’s been really spooky and once when he bucked and tried to take off repeatedly, but now I know that it’s all just for fun. And, he never got me off. He really doesn’t jump very high and he takes short steps, so it’s easy to stay with him when he lurches to the side.

Most memorable moment from last week’s ride: inside leg to outside rein!

I got it! It worked! Bent horse around my inside leg, flexed head/neck a bit to the inside, pushed him out with inside leg, felt him fill out the outside rein (while keeping flexion to inside), instantly followed him down with the outside rein and voila! He was on the bit! He lifted his back!

I lost it in the trot because I can’t sit and apparently even my posting is not too smooth. But I got it back in the canter!

He is a superstar! In my book at least (well, he’s not actually in the book, silly).

Only thing is that he totally loses forwardness when he’s collected. I know, that doesn’t sound right to me either. But he does. He’s lovely, but he could canter in the spot. Guess I should have attempted a pirouette! It’s like, as soon as he’s pushed on, he resists. Like collection is not so much about strutting for him, but that rather, he just feels really good! Does that make sense?

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FEI World Cup Eventing Qualifier in Malmö
May 25, 2009, 17:24
Filed under: Eventing

I spent all weekend down by the beach watching horses and riders doing their best; it was fantastic!

Now knowing much about eventing, I had no idea who to watch and film, so at first I figured just to catch last years winners. Therefore, in the dressage I mostly have footage of the Swede Viktoria Carlerbäck; unfortunately she ended up in 9th. place this year…

After watching so many pro dressage films on tv and youtube, my vision has definitely been sharpened and I was somewhat snobbishly appalled at all the head-bobbing going on during the sitting trot! Also, canter changes were either flat or entirely out of control. But, this is eventing and really, these horses and riders do an amazing job balancing the three disciplines.

Here is Anna Nilsson on Luron, who I thought had a wonderful neck arching from the whithers.

On the Cross Country course, again Viktoria Carlerbäck on Moustic de Canta

And one more

I’ve got some more video, of the winners too, but that’ll have to wait until tomorrow.



Frisky Business (but alas, the Prince of Darkness was a no-show)
May 22, 2009, 10:25
Filed under: Riding

Yesterday I rode one of my favourites at the riding school, Ozzie:

Ozzie

Ozzie

He’s 7 years old, as far I can remember, and he’s so cute! He’s very cuddly – after our ride when I had dismounted, he put his muzzle to my cheek and blew hot air into my ear! No violent wiping of drool on my shirt like the other horses do: no, he is just a gentleman (I always thought that his namesake was too, though he might have done the drool thing…). He likes to get down to work: struts his stuff, but at the same time, when he gets in the zone, he likes to be by himself: curls behind the bit. This is pretty frustrating, especially because when he’s there it seems like he’s oblivious to the leg aids as well. So, it’s difficult to ‘push him into the bridle.’

We rode half the class inside and half in the outdoors jumping ring, like around and between the jumps. Don’t know why. The dressage ring is right beside it and was unused.

Inside we did some nice leg yielding work, if I may say so myself. My instructor said “That’s how it’s supposed to feel!” and I couldn’t stop smiling. I really do prefer these younger horses, because they are so much more supple. Also, they try to do what you ask them to do, without just doing the exercise automatically because they’ve been doing it for a million years. I feel like with a more inexperienced horse, he will actually tell you when you are doing it right, rather than ‘sort of right’. About six months ago I rode a wonderful old horse, named Sammy. He does it all; and so, when we were riding squares, turning on the forehand in the corners, and I needed to relax for one corner and just sort of wanted to turn normally, he totally took over and did a perfect turn on the forehand all by himself. I just sat there!

Mechanical Horse

Mechanical Horse

Now, I was very impressed, but it also left me feeling pretty useless and like I was likely quite insufficient in my technique. It was just obvious that Sammy would never have told me what I was doing wrong, as long as he knew what
he was supposed to be doing.

Outside we cantered one way and then the other. I was a bit nervous because Ozzie, while not spooky at all, really loves to give a good buck-of-joy when he’s having fun. He’s having fun when he’s outside! I rode him a few weeks ago on the first trailride of the season and I knew there was a reason all the other riders had left him for me, last on the list. I have seen him buck 3 people off – he just does one really big one and that’s it, like a bronco. Pia adviced me to keep his head up and push him forward if I should feel him getting frisky, so I spent the whole lovely trailride scutinizing and correcting my horse’s head-height. He gave me 2 small bucks and I managed to stay on, but if he had done a row, I would have been laying in the stream beside the trail! At the end he also tried to take off, racing up on the side of the leader horse at a gallop like we were shot out of a canon! All was good…

But yesterday he was a champ – or just tired – and he didn’t do anything out of line. I kept him cantering forwards and not getting too deep with his head and neck (sure sign that he’s about to buck, and also just kind of scary to feel the whole front of the  horse drop away in front of you. You know he can’t see, and the balance is totally f****d!).

It was really really fun and afterward we all loved on the horses like they were our own.

Some things I have to work on: sitting trot! It can’t get any worse, seriously! And you can’t do a good canter depart without it! I tend to lock my hips, which I think is the biggest problem, but there are plenty to get started on!

Not engaging my core – getting better, but my instinct is still to lean forward and slump when things aren’t going my way.

Hands and arms. I’ve been working on this one for just a little while, a few months, and I’m now at the point where I try to focus on feeling the contact in my elbows and my hands are really just a more complicated connection in the line between the bit and those elbows. Class starts out okay, walk is good, but then trot gets difficult and canter too; for some reason I seem to think, at those higher speeds, that I have more control if I lose most of the bend in my arms… Explain it to me! To be fair, I’ve never used my elbows for anything before;)

FYI: This weekend in Malmö, at Ribersborg (the beach, 5 minute walk from where I live) there is the Malmö Horse Show. All kinds of stuff, including an HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing Qualifier! I don’t know much about eventing, but it’s going to be so exciting! I will definitely take pics and try to get the names straight, and report back to you!

Holy exclamations Batman!



Desperately Seeking Stirrup
May 17, 2009, 17:01
Filed under: Jumping

Jumping lesson.

I picked Juvel again (see her photo in previous post) and she was great. She does get a bit excited, but is such a good girl that she listens to legs and reins no matter what. She just goes kind of crooked and wants to GO.

Twice she ran out. Caught me totally unsuspecting! I’m still not sure why she was doing that – her ears were pricked at the jumps, she was charging… My instructor said later that the second time Juvel was surprised by the jump, but I had a good line to it and plenty of time, so I’m not too sure. Because I couldn’t predict when she would suddenly lurch to the side, my instructor (Pia) told me to keep legs on and at the same time control her speed with the reins, right up until one stride from the jump. It worked, but felt a bit like I was getting in the way of her canter rhythm. I think she has a really nice rhythm on her own (with much less rider control), but of course we can’t have her running out and me barely hanging on, one foot desperately seeking stirrup.

Like I talked about last week, she is difficult to get on the bit. Thursday was much the same, if a little better – and atleast she had good chance to look at the jumps 😉 The way it’s supposed to be! And, she was Forward!

Powerful Rocket!

Powerful Rocket!

It was great to feel all that power, that potential pushing from behind. When she accepted the bit in momentary instances, she definitely felt much more connected – like compact and flowing.

The jumps were barely 2 feet tall, cross rails, and we just did 2 at a time with a 115 degree angle between. Ooh, I can’t wait til the jumps start rising higher and higher in jumping lessons! And courses! Actually, I talked to Pia afterwards about the difficulty of improving, at jumping in particular, when you only get to do it every 5 weeks. She agreed that it is a problem and that it gets complicated when it’s a different horse every time. When you know how the horse is going to react and what you need to do to get them jumping the best they can, then you can start focusing more on your position.

Right now we are getting really focused on control, and that is so important! That you can control the horse’s speed with your legs and reins (seat ideally, but for the most part we’re not that skilled) means that you can eventually reach collection. So, I can see the logic in starting now. Also, it is elementary – I mean, half of the school horses are generally bored and evade running around all charged up, but that’s what you want – Forward! You want a lot of energy – so you can work on focusing it.

That’s all for riding this week, except to say that I dream vividly of the day that I can go to the barn and ride whenever I want.



The riding school
May 11, 2009, 16:53
Filed under: Riding

Thursday I had a riding lesson. I have been going once a week for two years now. We are ten adults (all women) and every week our list of names rotates and a new person picks her horse first.

I got second pick and chose Juvel (Jewel in english)

Juvel

Juvel

She is from 2000 and measures approximately 15.5 hands (as far as I can figure in comparing her wither height to the height of my nose…) She is very sweet, but at the same time the sort of horse that isn’t obvious to read. All of a sudden she can turn to you in the stall and look absolutely scarily pissed off – ears back, nose flattened and pointed and all the veins popping out in her head! She does nothing and it’s in response to nothing in particular, but after a second she seems to just forget about it and give you a little loving nudge. (Weird, maybe a mare thing?)

I am not sure how long she has been at the riding school, but she is starting to get somewhat resistant to the bit. I wish that the management would retrain the horses when they get like this; I know it’s probably mostly behaviour chosen by the horse as a response to pain or irritation at bad rein handling, but for me as a beginner it is rather impossible to learn to put the horse on the bit (which I think I am now ready for) when the horse has taken the bit and holds it with an iron grip in an iron mouth on an iron neck! Also, it is very bad for the poor horse to be holding itself in such a stressful and painful position.

I must admit that I see it as a problem, this learning to ride thing. I am learning: I am going to make mistakes. These mistakes will damage the horse somehow. If only I could feel sure that my instruction was the most effective possible and that my learning curve had the smallest possible impact on the horse. I cannot! Oh, lunge line, come to me!

This is surely a failing of these types of riding schools – with their business plan and organization they cannot possibly do the best for rider or horse. By the way here it is if you’d like to check it out: Örestads Ryttaresällskap

While I am being critical of the riding school, I also would like to state that it would probably be impossible for me to learn somewhere better, due to financial constraints. And, I really do like the school, the owners and instructors care very much for the horses and they do the best they can in the circumstances.

That is all besides the point. I would like to learn how to put the horse on the bit (consistently) so that my aids will come through. I know that it is all about the hind end – riding the horse into the contact – getting ‘forward’. Jane Savoie has a great clip about the connecting half halt, which puts the horse on the bit. Also in written form. I am still unsure about how much weight to take in the reins though. When the horse is stiffly above the bit (which seems to be the most prominent form of bit resistance in older riding school horses) how do you get it to give in the correct way?

Here is a good ‘lesson’ from Classicaldressage.net. It talks about not messing around too much with the bit, in experimenting. I totally agree! It also talks about the use of lateral work and circles to get the horse bending around the inside leg and into the outside rein. Keeping a steady tempo. Imagining a box around your hands, so that the horse will be blocked from lifting his head when you do get him to accept the bit – while urging him forward with you leg when he tries to evade by going above the bit. A lot of good information!

I think I have some of the puzzle figured out. I did get Juvel to relax some; she was chewing the bit and getting a nice white mustache. She sort of swung her head around a bit – not tossing – when I did momentarily convince her that she would want contact with the bit. She was trying, I think, to get me to maintain the connection, but I didn’t really know what to do.

I guess next week I will work on:

  1. Getting forward – driving the hindlegs under
  2. keeping a steady contact until the horse starts to flex the poll
  3. Keeping my hands in the box when I get the connection.

However, next week we are jumping! Yay! And then all the dressage aspirations go out the window…