Monday, September 29, 2014

JK Presents Fall Festival 1 - Getting Tango to the showgrounds

Preparation for this show started on Thursday with this beast:

I volunteered to pull his mane, thinking that either his owners didn't really know how, or he was antsy, or something.

Antsy was an understatement. He leapt, cavorted, and tried to kick me. He shook his head everywhere. He bit at me. Thank goodness I had help, otherwise I never would have gotten him under control. I managed the whip for when he kicked me, and my student offered the "GOOD BOY"'s and cookies. All the cookies. 

Stuff his face with cookies. 


The video pretty much sums it up. Ugh. Horses.

Tango decided that the standards in the corner of the 'dressage court' were terrifying and therefore he had to scoot his silly little butt sideways and leap about like an idiot. Love you too, derpface.


I had the students bathe Tango, clean the tack, and pack the trunk. I loaded Felix and Leo up into the trailer and took them to the showgrounds, unloaded them in the dark, and then took the rig home because I'd lent my car to the people who own the truck and trailer. 

I then played a game called "where shouldn't you park a truck and trailer?"

What about outside of a burger king?
How about in a business park?

Close up on the crummy parking job


Sunday morning rolled around bright and early. I was still pretty ecstatic to be hauling this rig around. I love the freedom of putting my horse in a trailer and just going places.

I got to pick one of my working students (E) up and I for whatever reason thought it'd be a good idea to drive this whole pile of metal up a hill with no real knowledge of whether I could turn around or not. I managed to back the trailer down a side street and then turn around, but E was bothered enough to comment "man, I'm glad I can't drive yet."

We arrived at the farm and I started to wonder where the kid who was riding Andy was. I mean, I don't mind throwing the horse in the trailer and going, but I had no idea how to get in touch with kid&parental units about the fact that horse and I were gone. Turns out that kids parents had just dropped her off and figured that I'd bring her along with the horse to the showgrounds. Thanks for the heads up, parents.

Andy loaded without fuss. The only fuss was getting him to take a step forward so that his big ol' quarter horse butt fit behind the divider in the trailer, thinking that Tango would prefer to have a little more room in the back of the trailer.

Tango disagreed. He happily put half his lanky self into the trailer, then stepped his hind feet up and balanced like a silly bird. I hooked him up, pull his lead line off, and go to get out of the trailer so we can close the door. It is at this moment that Tango realizes he doesn't have the whole of the trailer to swing around in, and he decides it's time to get out... only he's attached to the trailer. He panicked, scrambling backwards and pulling against the halter. I start shouting at him nonsensically because the best way to calm an uptight creature down is to shout at them, right? In pulling the quick release under his chin, I get my thumb stuck in his halter and he rips my thumbnail in half as he gallops off.

Bye-bye, pony.

I was pissed, bleeding, and trying to ascertain if anyone was going to get my horse. I mean, I had four kids standing there. I honestly don't know who got him, but I wrapped my thumb in a towel and tried to get him into the trailer again. He seemed very peaceful, but he was also refusing to get his happy self in the trailer. Then he stepped on me. I was wearing my converse, and those things don't really protect your feet. I started crying.

The kids stood by, feeling vaguely helpless, trying to offer me advice.

I finally decided to leave Tango because I needed to get Andy and rider to the showgrounds by 9:30 and Tango's first ride wasn't until 12:24. I was feeling really down, still bleeding, and my hand was pulsing. It's not a bad injury by any stretch of the imagination, but holy cow! There are a lot of nerve endings in your fingers and I was hurting.

I arrived at the showgrounds, parked, unloaded Andy, and spotted Beth longing one of the other horses. I went over to let her know her student and horse had just unloaded, and got over to her just in time for her longe line to break and the silly pony to go a'galloping away, through the warm up ring. Luckily there were people on the ground to stop him. Crisis averted.

Not so gallop-y at home, hey?
Later, Leo leapt out of the dressage ring and then also went BOLTING down the diagonal with his rider. Oops. But the student did really well, held on, and stayed calm. Boom. Can't ask for more from a kid than that.

I left working student #2 at the show to help Beth with anything she might need assistance for. I drove back to the farm. I parked in front of the barn, opened the trailer, and put Tango in the trailer. There were zero theatrics. He acted like and old pro and settled into his hay.

I repeat: horses are silly.

I'll post the rest of the days adventures tomorrow. Until then, do any of my blog-friends know how to interpret the comment "Ag. hands"? It appeared on two of my tests and I don't know what it means.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Book Review: The Riding Doctor

This was a bit of an impulse buy for me, but I read it in 2.5 sittings over the course of a single day. I did not glean everything there was to glean from it, as sometimes I fear is the case with books. It's so easy to publish, and so many things are merely rehashed versions of what other people are saying... which is fine. But I find that too few books are firmly rooted in personal experiences, and that makes for shallow books, especially as I can connect ideas well enough to think, "Ah! I've read this before." and then pass it by.

Not this one. Dr. Glosten does a fabulous job in this book.

She goes over her riding fundamentals: mental focus, proper posture, leg control, arm control, and understanding movement. These function as the structure of the book, and she explores each section in depth. They're supported with exercises designed to help elucidate concepts, and although I've done like... two at this point, they seem pretty solid.

Many of the topics I feel I've read a great deal about before, but I like the accompanying exercises as I can see prescribing many of them to clients when they're struggling with an issue.

A big thing for me was her discussion of core -- Mary Wanless speaks of building a wall of muscle and pushing your 'guts' out against the wall, Dr. Glosten recomments tightening the inner 'corset' of muscles (the transversus abdominus) against your spine rather than pushing out with your core. This opposes what I teach, but she claims that "this position is hard to maintain for long, and rigidity of the spine is not ideal in riding." I can attest to the first, and I'm not certain that this posture has ever maintained 'rigidity' in my spine. She also says, "I personally have explored both methods of stabilizing torso position in the saddle. I find the inward corset approach logical, doable, and effective. What's more, this technique of core stability and support is what you see in any sport or activity that requires balance and movement. After all, you don't see ballerinas pushing out their bellies, right?"

So that's going to require some more research, experimentation, and thought on my part. Engaging a wall of muscle and pushing my guts against it doesn't appear to result in me "pushing my belly our" nor does it have me "hang my belly out in front of me." When I try to "tighten the corset" I find my rib cage drifting upwards, away from my pubic bone. Maybe it's a vernacular thing and they're both talking about the same thing (I find this the most likely answer.)

Dr. Glosten emphasizes often the importance of soft gluteal muscles throughout the course of the book (always a good reminder.)

This ball migrates about the apartment, making random appearances when I get inspired...
The first exercise I tried from the book involved sitting on the ball, setting a metronome, and matching my bouncing on the ball to the metronome's beat. This is to improve focus on rhythm, as well as to get a sense for organizing my whole body into maintaining a tempo. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, but that might be because in the past few weeks I've been torturing students and myself with a metronome in your boot.

There are a bunch of exercises in the book. The cover says more than 50. Many of them are staples - planks, side planks, bird dogs, etc - but many of them are slow-motion exercises with specific things to think about during the motion. The idea is to increase body awareness and tone in order to ride pain free. I look forward to doing more of them in order to be familar enough with the exercises to recommend a few to students. 

I thought I'd try to post a picture/video of me trying a few of the exercises, but this was the first one I picked and it's hard. Maybe not...

Anyhow, keep an eye out for quotes from Dr. Glosten populating this blog in the future. I liked the book, found it informative and useful, and look forward to applying more of the information. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A map for assessing basic reponses

I'm starting a horsemanship program this winter (hopefully...) for my more advanced students wherein we'll be retraining my lesson horses' basic responses. So I made a chart, for myself mostly. But I think it's kind of fun to think about where my horse is on a day to day basis.

We'll post some of the scored sheets of the lesson horses when we get them! Where are your horses on this list, if you were to judge them thus?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Viva Carlos' Ten Questions for September

  • Is there something you don't like about your riding? I wish I could solve my too-light rein issue overnight. I know it's holding me back in terms of connection with my horse. I need to stop 'hanging up' on my horse, so to speak. I harrass students about this CONSTANTLY, and they're pretty good about it. Me, however? Ugh.

  • Does your horse buck? I mean... does "porpoise through the air" equate to bucking?

  • Is your horse head shy? When it comes to washing his face, he's instantly a girraffe. An unhappy one, at that.  

  • Favorite barn chore to do? I love feeding! At my current barn I never get to feed the beasts but I used to love it so much. 
  • How many times do you ride a week? Uh... 7 on average? I dunno, let's think about it. I ride Tango 5 days a week, I ride Camou 3 days a week, I generally ride Danny 2-3 days a week, Jimmy at least once a week, Bert twice a week (I've been getting better about it!) and if we put all the random "here let me show you what I means" together and call it one additional ride... I put in 13 rides a week. Not shabby! I might have a few horses entering training this fall so it'll bump that number back up. 
  • Who is your favorite pro rider? Heather Blitz or Ingrid Klimke. 
  • If one pro rider could train you for one day who would it be? Oh jeez. I read a lot of stuff from the old classical masters, but I don't think Baucher's gonna be giving me any lessons anytime soon. Honestly if I could spend an entire day with Anne and have her just teach me ALL DAY that'd be amazing. I'm lucky she's my trainer. 
  • Favorite Facial Marking? I'm in love with that little nose-strip that some horses have. 
  • Leg Markings or No Leg Markings? I currently have no leg markings to care for, though I definitely used to... I kind of miss the OCD pain-in-the-buttness of getting them ready for shows. 
  • Ever broken anything falling off?  Uhm. Yes. Let's recall that time I broke my jaw, hip, and cracked a few ribs coming off a horse.
  • Wednesday, September 24, 2014

    FMNM Blog Hop: Theme Song

    Okay. So I think about this a lot. Like... a LOT. You'd think I've been preparing for this my whole life. However, when confronted with an excuse to share my thoughts, I find that I can't really come up with anything off the top of my head. Alas.

    Tango's theme song:

    Or alternatively...

    Camou's theme song:

    Jimmy's theme song:

    Danny's theme song:

    "There are so many dumb ways to die!" Danny's subtext being that all of them will kill him.

    Bert's theme song:

    "I'm doing the crab walk, doing the crab walk! We're doing the crab walk for all to see!"

    That's a thinly veiled comment on how crooked he is these days.

    I have another like 15 horses at my farm, but these are the only ones I'm inspired to find songs for at the moment. 

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014

    Tango's first AH lesson

    I hauled Tango out to Anne’s yesterday, and I had so much fun! It was really nice to see that Tango doesn’t totally lose his brain in a new location, and I learned a lot of exercises to help gain better control over those silly footsies of his. He was also easy to trailer (what a nice change from some horses I’ve owned... I’m looking at you, Stork.)

    The first thing that Anne really emphasized for me was that I have got to stop throwing him away from me with my hands. I’m riding well through my seat, but then I have this tendency to say ‘reins? what reins?’ and then let six inches slip through my fingers and all of a sudden Tango’s leaning on absolutely nothing and trailing his butt around like a goober. So HOLD THOSE REINS! She also encouraged me to become more comfortable with him when he leans on me because if I hold on, he’ll start to lift his back and then soften the contact. If I drop the contact (my go-to) he’ll just stick his nose out and camel around. 

    Oh hai guys.
    Yes. To camel is totally a verb. Especially in dressage.

    She was encouraging about training level, skeptical about first, and chortled when I said I wanted to ride 2.1. Ahh well, I knew she wouldn’t necessarily approve but I’m going to forge ahead with my silly plan anyhow. 

    She introduced something that she refers to as “the twister” to help him stretch into my outside rein, particularly traveling to the left. Open your inside rein, apply leg, and ask him to kick his hindquarters out for a stride or so, then straighten him back out and allow him to stretch through the outside rein WITHOUT LETTING GO. Good god that was hard for me. Then I started pulling on the outside rein (what? I’m left-handed, that right-hand does what it wants?) 

    Then we worked on what she calls “the creep”, but resonated pretty strongly with the idea of a counted walk, as per Jean-Claude Racinet. Basically she wanted me to walk as slowly as I possibly could without letting him stop. To quote her, “he either has to use his abdomen or fall over.” She wants me to get to the point where I have more gears in the walk, particularly the ability to ride walk-creep-halt-creep-halt-rein back-walk. Tango pretty much said no to the whole ‘halt-creep’ thing. His stride kept getting longer and longer at the walk, but he’d come back to the creep pretty quickly... Argh! Why is riding so hard?

    I have to keep checking our bend on circles, and make sure his outside ear is further forward than his outside ear. She also had me go straight from cantering to the twister. Lo and behold, the horse DOES go straight from cantering to trotting like a gentleman... except that when we execute that movement smoothly I feel like he’s going to wrench my arms out of my shoulders. She reminded me to just hang on and ask for more compression and he’d lighten up. 

    I'll break up the text with my dog.
    Anne wants me to improve our 3/4ths halt, as she called it. I’m pretty crummy about my half-halt usage to begin with. We’ll trot aimlessly about and then I’ll decide we’re going too fast and we’ll slow down.... and I’ll go right back to ignoring him. I need to have an ongoing conversation with him through the reins, and eventually that conversation will stop resulting in this cattywompus wiggling nonsense that felt impossible to control. 

    I was also reminded that if I cannot shape him at the walk (creep, walk, sideways, please do not camel) there’s no point in moving to the trot or the canter. Bah. Trotting is so much easier to manage for me, but she’s absolutely right. I commit to spending more time at the walk. I can’t remember who instilled such a fear of messing with the walk in me, but Tango’s walk is very pure, strongly 4-beats, and messy as all get out because his neck is as long as a giraffe’s. Yes. Yes. I know. 

    Today I rode Tango for like... 20 minutes. I was short on time (oops.) I got pretty much everything except for our cool-out on video:

    But there’s no need to watch all 16 minutes of work. I’ve cut out my favorite moments to highlight them here: 

    I’d like to note the “I refuse to trot, but I will give you a very little canter” the “I’m a real horse!” trot, and the “look at my creep!” moments. 

    I also rode Camou! I hoped for better video of this as well, but... well... you’ll see:

    I had two barrels laid down with poles on either side to try to work on his fear of abnormal looking jumps, and as suspected the first time I brought him around to it he slammed on the brakes with a good old fashioned “hell no.” I socked him in the ribs and he popped over it. I kept better leg on the next time around and he took it. 

    This horse represents a huge challenge to me because of how weird he is to ride. He has this itty bitty neck and weirdly giant gaits, which only encourages my biggest issue of “contact? What contact?” He goes around on a loose rein way too much with both me and his owner. So with the reins newly adjusted, the contact thing went better. 

    He’ll start getting some trail time soon so that I can work on fitness in a different environment than the arena. 

    He still doesn’t leg yield. 

    What if I give up and never teach him how to leg yield?

    I’m not sure that’s allowed. Oh well. 

    Watching the video now, we have some serious lead+straightness issues. At least he has two leads now instead of our previous one lead. 

    Monday, September 15, 2014

    How to ride like a total moron

    As demonstrated by myself.

    I've been battling a bout of pretty severe depression, and nothing makes me giggle like my own crappy riding.

    I think I was trying to demonstrate something here?

    okay, listen. I swear I wear helmets. 

    I do. I honestly just am so used to wearing a helmet that I ride better with one?

    Thursday, September 11, 2014

    Tango wants to be a jumping horse

    Well... not exactly a 'jumping horse', but he did jump some baby cross rails for me, so that's super fun.

    Please forgive my weird giggles. It's just I never really expected Tango to jump and there he was, taking itty bitty cross rails like it's his job or something.

    And then yesterday... ugh. Yesterday didn't go so well.

    First, I had a lesson scheduled at 10am. By 10:30, I had the horse tacked up. By 10:45 I was wondering... if I warm him up, does that still count as a lesson? By 11am:

    Trying to get him to smell my foot.

    Hi Farm Dog!

    And then my 12:30 was late, so we rushed through all that, and then she had to leave at 1:30, which left me with a sweaty (albeit ADORABLE):


    And then I put her saddle away, oiled it, cleaned the bit, swept the aisle, put the dog in the car, and spotted pony in my rear view mirror. "Huh," I thought, "I wonder who's going to ride Skipper now."

    I got onto 17 and then it dawned on me... I was supposed to put her away.


    So I got back to the farm, put the pony away, and called it a day.

    I left my tall boots at my other job last night, so I just rode in paddock boots today, sans half-chaps. I don't even think I own half-chaps anymore... I'm remembering why they're helpful. There is definitely some helpful friction against the saddle. I also put a new saddle on Tango because he's lost some weight and my favorite saddle doesn't fit him anymore, but I hated it. It fit him well, but I felt gigantic in it.

    I loathe saddle hunts.

    Despite my riding like a sloppy bag of potatoes, he was pretty good today. Actually quite excellent. I'm tempted to enter him in 2-1 at the show just for giggles. Heh. Heh. The judge won't appreciate it at all, but I think I might do it anyway. Tango's shoulder-in is just gorgeous and amazing to the right, and when he comes out of it his trot is always extra floaty and dreamy. To the left? I mean... he does it. It's not good, but he does it.

    I thought, "Introduce: Collected trot." So I sat him back and we trotted slowly. That's collection at it's finest, you know.

    "Introduce: Collected Canter." So I asked for a canter out of our slow trot and I got... a canter. Welllll if you make working canter just look INSANE, then normal canter is totally a collected canter. CHECK.

    "10 meter circle at canter." Dude we've totally got this. What are the directive ideas? Shape and size of the circle? NAILED IT. Bend? Uhm. Maybe the judge won't notice.

    "Medium gaits." I'll refer to my thought process for collected canter.

    "Shoulder-in." Boom. We'll just work on the left one a little more.

    "Simple change." .... Okay, so he pretty much hates simple changes. He thinks it'd be WAAYYY easier just to do a flying change. A crazy one where he throws his body around like a jackass. But I bet we could fake it.

    "Rein-back." We've been schooling this since day one because it helps the whole non-existent brake thing!

    Boom. An easy 45% right there.

    That's what schooling shows are for, right?

    "I got my face washed, and I soaked my person in the process! I'm totally a second level horse ;) " -Tango
     Alright, I hear you. We'll stick to training and first.

    Monday, September 8, 2014

    September goals

    Thanks to my lovely working student for acquiring these photos for me. I have meant to... I just don't ever seem to get to it when I've got tack flying everywhere and students to shout at and whatnot.


    • Reinstall longing
    • Help his regular rider get him to stretch at the trot a bit more


    • Lots of transitions between gaits and some trail walks to assist in building muscle
    • Extra food. He looks skinny to me. 


    • Camou is visiting his first ever show in about three weeks. Ohmygod all the things need improvement....
    •  Courses. Above the height we'll be jumping at the show. With weird fillers, and stuff.
    • Can someone PLEASE help me figure out why it's taking me weeks to install leg yields? I sense a master-post on leg yielding coming up....


    • More oxers. 
    • More dieting. 
    • He's going on his cross country adventure in a few weeks, so hopefully he'll be ready!


    • Tango is also visiting a show this month, so let's just keep refining those brakes and never take him off his SmartCalm supplements ever again (that's a story for another post)
    •  Continue to introduce trail walks for the hilly aspect
    • Hopefully trailer him to someone else's barn so I can get a sense of what I should expect at the show?

    As for August's goals? I was over-ambitious. That's all I have to say at this point. Tonight I had a splendid ride with Tango where we really sat at the canter and I just felt so on top of the world. It's amazing when a horse comes underneath you and even though you're moving much more slowly it's so much power and movement that it feels just as thrilling as a great course or crazy trail ride. 

    Why is it dark out here?
    I fell off Camou last week because the bugger decided that he was going to feel 100% straight and then suddenly change directions. I guess that's good that he threw me because I'd literally just been thinking "man, I could really fall in love with riding this horse." Introducing the indirect rein with Camou turned into an argument. I'll approach it from a different method later. Right now I need to focus on rideability and straightness. 

    The harvest moon was beautiful tonight
    I'm pretty blessed. I've got great students who work hard, some pretty silly ponies to ride, and an accommodating facility to play around at. 

    Maybe I misjudged Danny

    Alright -- so he'll never win a hunter class, but a mere two weeks of show-jumping boot camp, and he can JUMP. Check it out:

    We also jumped Bert some:

    Apparently the secret is to warm up in spurs and do a metric f*** ton of leg yields, and then pull the spurs. The fool then jumps! Nicely!

    And I fell off Camou. We'll be resuming our regular posts shortly, what with September's goals and a show coming up and all that.