Tuesday, December 8, 2015

10 Ways to Prepare for Horse Ownership

 1. Drop a heavy steel object on your foot. Don’t pick it up right away. Shout “Get off, stupid! Get off!”

2. Leap out of a moving vehicle and practice ‘relaxing into the fall.’ Roll lithely into a ball, and spring to your feet!

3. Learn to grab your checkbook out of your purse or pocket and write a $200 check without even looking down.

4. Jog long distances, carrying a halter & lead rope and holding out a carrot. (Go ahead and tell your friends what you’re doing--they might as well know now).

5. Affix a set of reins to a moving freight train and practice pulling it to a halt. And smile as if you are really having fun.

6. Practice your fibbing skills, like, “I’m glad your lucky performance and million dollar horse won you first place--I’m just thankful that my hard work and actual riding ability won me second place.”

7. Practice speed dialing your chiropractor’s number with both arms paralyzed to the shoulder, and one foot anchoring the lead rope of a frisky horse.

8. Borrows the US Army slogan: “Be all that you can be”..(add to it) bitten, thrown, kicked, slimed, trampled.”

9. Lie face down in the mud in your most expensive riding clothes and repeat to yourself: “This is a learning experience, this is a learning experience...”

10. Marry money.

I don't know where this originated but it nearly made me cry I was laughing so hard so I had to share it with you guys!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Auditing George Morris

Thanks to the wonderful L. Williams I knew that George Morris was going to be giving a clinic here in California... after sussing out costs & where it was, I knew I had to attend to watch! I stole several of my students from school and we made the 2.5 hour drive to Penryn, CA which was a really good time.

Now, George Morris. Famous for many things: the author of Hunter Seat Equitation, chef d'equipe, rider in the 1960 Olympics, and master of the acerbic quote. This man is fastidious and careful. He has a methodology that he wholeheartedly believes in. He is intimidating. He is also very good.

I got a TON out of watching and listening. In no real order, here are my transcribed notes from the day:
  • Soften on the horse's mouth while making final turn to approach the fence in order to better see a distance
  • Teach your students about tack - why this bit, why this saddle, why this bridle, why these stirrup irons
  • Always (always always) lengthen stirrups after jumping
  • Stay with the horse in a light seat unless the horse is squirrely or untrustworthy before fences.
  • An exercise: 8-10 strides canter, walk, 8-10 strides counter canter, etc. Then reduce to 6-8 strides. 
  • Teach the half turn and the half turn in reverse - 1/2 turn in reverse can be developed into a turn on the forehand in motion to get the horse obedient to the outside leg
  • Boldness combats stiffness
  • An exercise: poles on the ground | <-- 4 short strides --> | (8 ft short bounce) | <-- 4 short strides --> |
    This can be trotted and cantered through - the horse doesn't change canter from rail to over the poles, is simply a collected canter
  • An exercise: from the halt, facing a fence squarely, leg go and gallop to fence (for developing an eye) "Letting go takes courage."
  • Stiffness affects timing
  • Keep your elbows close to your hips
  • Inside leg always more than outside leg, you need more inside leg in shortenings than in lengthenings
  • Mobilize haunches in/out -- in a greener horse it will resemble a leg yield with little body bend
  • An 'ordinary trot' is quiet and rhythmic
  • The hind legs must come under in downward transition to prevent falling on forehand
  • Ask 'shorter' in every stride of counter canter
  • True straightness is almost a shoulder fore
  • "You can't know it on talent" -- referring to the hours and the tuning-fork quality of the rider to develop correct gaits
  • "I don't care if you're strong - you have to get it done. But I don't want to smell any frustration. Keep your cool."
What's going to change in my teaching? The biggest and most fundamental thing GM emphasized was repetition of very basic, very quiet things. Keep your foot in the correct place of the stirrup. Keep rechecking your upper body (rein length, angle of upper body for your current task, etc). Be fanatic about these tiny things that take very little talent and many repetitions to learn. There's no excuse for sloppiness in these small things.

And I agree - I'm guilty of letting some of these things slide because I've already said them 100 times, dammit, or perhaps I'm focused on something else. But seeing how GM layers and knowing his end goal sort of drove home that I cannot allow these little things to just sort of be 'ok'.

Did my kids get this much out of it? I honestly don't know. I know that seeing the next levels of riding, that seeing impeccable turnout, that seeing the quality of ring, that seeing the inside of such a gorgeous barn, these were all excellent learning experiences. I'm excited to see how listening to a master teach for six hours will impact these kids. 

Friday, December 4, 2015


C putting him through a grid

I do not believe I have written very much about this incredibly sweet boy, primarily because he's a saint and whatever minor training issues he have will sort of even out in good time. But I wanted to at least mention him and tell his story.

After the purchase of Fynn fell apart, I kept my ears to the ground for the next lesson-horse-prospect. I saw an ad for Chente on Craigslist and thought, "that's pretty close by! How cute!" So I went out and I rode him. And I had so much fun. He is just the definition of sweet and well broke. Not a ton of balance, but he also doesn't have a ton of muscle. But he's obedient to the leg and to the hand and completely unflappable.

Partway through riding him at this place, some dude released several sheep into the arena. At one point, we ended up with a sheep sort of wedged under us, and Chente's expression didn't even change.

My first ride on him at home (8/21/2015 since I couldn't seem to remember)

He's always giving off this totally chill vibe, and he's uber patient with pretty much any rider I put on him.

The photo on the craigslist ad hahaha

Even the tiny ones below! He's sensitive enough to the aids that you never have to get after him but he's quiet enough that I can trust him with anyone. I sort of hit the lesson-horse jackpot.

He's a very honest and sweet jumper, though I don't see him having a ton of scope. But he's still got a LONG way to go strength and muscle-wise, so perhaps that will change. 

Oh, and Alyssa did the most amazing drawing for me of Chente! She really captured his sweetness.

We are currently preparing him to compete in a intro-level three day in March, so if I write further about him on the blog, we've got some background now!