Archive for the 'Riding at midlife' Category

Graduation!

amywink June 10th, 2012

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Last week, after my tough lesson with Dol —leg yield!!– and my wonderful drive with Blessing, I hung out a little at Francine’s watching the gorgeous horses get worked. I also watched Dol find a new home. I knew it was always a possibility, since it is a training barn and Francine and Malen’s business is training and selling horses. The person who came out to ride her had already fallen for her earlier in the year and so I was not surprised when I returned this week to find that Dol had indeed found a new home. I wish her all happiness–and her new owner too! I learned so much from Dol after 2 years of driving lessons and 6 months of riding lessons and there were MANY times when I was astounded at my good fortune to be able to drive and ride the top Andalusian mare in the country.

I did wonder at who I might be riding next, though I also wondered if I’d get a riding lesson this week at all. And really, it would have been fine to take a week out and just drive my own mare and relax from the week. I did get to drive Blessing and she was more mature in her work ethic this week and we had a nice drive with only a few comments about my driving from her ears. We even got to drive alone while Malen set up cones and all went very well. I believe she’ll be able to come home midsummer and we’ll commence on our adventure of home driving. Blessing is a gorgeous mare but she does have a bit of ‘tude and we’ll be working on that together. It is really interesting to see the differences between her and Will and to learn to drive her. She is fortunate that I am a much better driver now and I am fortunate because I understand things much better now than when I started with Will–my Good Will Driving. We shall have to see what transpires in the next year as I work with her and proceed with putting the two together as a pair.

As I said, I would have been perfectly fine with a driving lesson alone yesterday but once we were done, Malen asked “Do you think you’re ready to ride BB?”

My response: “Do *you* think I am ready to ride BB??” even while my heart sang at the chance.

I had driven BB once and he was the most wonderful driving experience and like this very moment about riding, it had signified a leap in my driving skills and the respect of my trainer.

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I knew I’d really have come a long way if I ever had the chance to ride BB.

And yes, Malen thought so. Of course, BB thought he’d see if I was brave enough and as Malen lounged him, he performed his best Airs Above the Ground and Nose to Ground and Bucking Bronc imitations while she laughed. I was not really deterred by his antics though it did seem he might have to have quite the workout before I got on him. And so he did. And really, watching him was enjoyable and I didn’t feel any signs of apprehension or the ticking of unexploded bombs and I was ready once he was ready.

Now, if I was writing a children’s book, this would have been the moment at which I discovered by wonderfully natural ease in the saddle and I would be able to ride as exquisitely as my trainer and my natural gifts would have blossomed in the moment and my natural path toward Olympic Gold would be revealed–all to the sounds of soaring violins.

Ah, that it were so….

Instead I performed as a poorly balanced sack of potatoes!! Dol’s width (and I mean that in the kindest way, Dol) had helped me balance in one way, but BB is a more slender and sensitive horse so finding my balance on him was Entirely New!! And as I tensed in weird places, he moved as if that was what I was asking him to do–clearly thinking “well, okay, that’s weird, but okay”. I was almost back to square one in my riding!! And it was hilarious. Even as I wobbled, my heart laughed and I laughed and I worked to get everything in gear and get us moving in the semblance of any particular direction, instead of our drunken path around the arena. I am certainly glad I was not using my GPS device during that lesson!!

But Triumph did arrive when I was finally able to ride the perimeter of the arena *relatively* straight and in both directions! What glory, what triumph! But no Olympic Gold….except in the contest of drunken riding.

But with BB, I am moving up in my riding and developing new skills and just as driving BB helped me drive Will better, so will riding BB. I am sure Will will appreciate all of the improvements once I get back on him later this summer. For now, I will be riding the beautiful Bay Boy Joyante.

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Puppies and Ponies

amywink May 28th, 2012

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Happy Memorial Day. It’s been a great summer week as far as puppies and ponies go.

This week, one giant duck , my summer teaching schedule, landed and settled herself into the row and the Great American Dog Trip is on! There’s one more duck out there but it won’t land until we actually leave, so I’m just going ahead as if it will land and I really think it will. Meanwhile, we are planning and scheduling getting ready for the trip–all very exciting. We are hoping to be under a pile of puppies some times the weekend of June 16-17. Our commitment gets stronger when we see these faces:

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Sweet puppies, we are coming!!

Home preparations also continue and I am cleaning the giant dog crate Lady used and getting it prepped to come inside. It’s a lot larger than I actually need but it seemed silly to buy a new crate when I had a perfectly good one sitting in the garage. It is going to get a good cleaning and possible, if my test works, a nice new paint job. I’ve been checking out Rustoleum options and prepping slowly and carefully. We’ll see how it goes!

I think Lady would approve too as her memorial “Dark Lady” rose suggests:
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With all the puppy excitement, I also have the ponies to play with. I had a really great riding lesson Saturday morning, working specifically on my hand position and making my hands lighter. After riding Will last weekend, I also had some questions regarding him and my saddle position–the answers to which i was able to apply when I rode Will on Sunday (more on that in a minute). It is warming up in the morning so next week, we’ll move to the Summer program and start earlier in the day, driving Blessing before the riding lesson starts. I’m ready for it as the sun does beat down after 10 these days.

Blessing, as wonderful as she was last week, decided to be a total SmartyPants this week and ignore the bit, toss her head, and speed around the arena as if she were Formula 1 Morgan. So, I didn’t drive her, just rode along and watched her antics. I also got off and took some video, which I will be working to improve on doing so no one gets seasick watching them! I also need to figure out how to post them.

Still, I got this nice shot of her and it’s a good thing you can’t see how mad her face looked. She was NOT happy.

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She’ll probably think about the difficult lesson and do much better next week.

So that was the Bad Pony. I saw Good Pony on Sunday when i went to visit Will and try another ride. Malen had suggested trying a thinner saddle pad to improve saddle fit so I pulled out my blue dressage pad and dusted it off for our ride. I also placed the saddle a bit better, further forward than I had last week. Both those changes made a positive difference in our ride, which went very very well. We worked on steering since I wanted to get more balanced in the saddle and make sure he knew what I was asking–and that I was actually asking for what he was doing, not just wobbling about and sending mixed signals! We did pretty well and he is very comfortable to ride–as I recall from our beginnings. I was also able to mount quietly, which had been, a long time ago, a problem. But he is older now, I am better, he is calmer, and we did well from the start. While Blessing has his harness, and soon his carriage, I will be riding Will and hope to keep improving our work together. We will be working up to a trot as soon as I feel confident in my ability to give him the correct signals.

He was my very very good and handsome boy yesterday.

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Summertime

amywink May 20th, 2012

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Ah, summertime. The spring semester ended this week and I fell happily into my summer. Yes, I know it’s really spring and summer will be in June but for now, I am not in school and that’s summer time. Besides, starting next week, I’ll be back to teaching in the summer session so I’m enjoying my summer as I can.

It has been a big week. I drove Blessing again Friday, our third drive, and it was quite an enjoyable experience (no photos, I was driving!). She’s a character for sure and it’s very interesting to drive her after driving Will for so long. She’s very light and responsive, except when she decides not to respond, particularly when I ask her to turn. We’ve moved to a french link snaffle and she’s doing very well with it. I will have to spend some time with some catalogs and see about getting another so I can have my riding bridle back for use–and all of this bit talk has led to some ideas for changing Will’s driving bit as well, as I discovered it was actually far larger than he needs.

I will have to learn Blessing’s style, so to speak, since some of the things I do with Will do not work the same for her yet. She does wiggle about in the harness still and it is hard to keep her going straight as she positions her body oddly while moving forward. She also likes to look about a bit and survey the scenery while we trot around the dressage arena and if she doesn’t exactly like what you’ve suggested, she has a little huffy snit which involves a bit of ear twitching, tail swishing and some head tossing…..it’s very reminiscent of a teenage girl. Her downward transitions are still a work in progress as she rather likes to jam on the brakes when you ask, sitting back fairly hard on the breeching, but she does stop when I ask her to and starts up again nicely, and stops again. This was Will’s challenge so it’s good to have a horse who is more enthusiastic about braking than he was at this stage of the game. It will be very interesting to drive them as a pair. Very very interesting.

Since the barn was closed Saturday for a Andalusian event elsewhere, I took my riding lesson on Sunday. A self-study at home, so to speak.
I rode Will, for the first time in about 6 years. Since my riding lessons started, I’ve been gaining confidence and ability and I thought it might be a good time to try things out and see how far I had come in my Do-Over.

All went very well. Very well. No fireworks (not really expected) on his part, and no unexploded bombs on mine (which was possible), so whew. We spent all of our time walking and working on turning and getting comfortable with me in the saddle. And yes, Lisa took photos.

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We look quite respectable, I think. My lessons will continue and so will my homework but for now, I’m very pleased about my own progress.

On other fronts, the Great American Dog Trip edges closer, less than 4 weeks, and I am making more and more plans. The puppies hit their 4 week birthday this week and the photos I’m getting are heartache-ingly enticing. I just have to hope those last two ducks get on board with this trip and soon.

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Wow Oh Wow: Part 1

amywink April 30th, 2012

What a fantastic weekend I have had.

First of all, after dragging myself out of bed and getting a very very slow start on Saturday morning (school finishes next week….I hope I make it), I headed down for my 12th riding lesson. Really, I was so tired that if Malen had said “no riding today.” I’d have said “Great!” but in the way of things, that was not to be and I am so glad! As hard as it is to believe that exercise is a cure for exhaustion, time and again, I find this to be true and Saturday was no exception. Once I was mounted, I did find a supply of energy for the day’s lesson and boy, what a great lesson it was.

Since Steven sent me a link about bicyclists using their GPS to create “drawings”, I made sure my GPS was strapped to my leg. Since we have no street maps, I prefer to think of our “work” as abstract instead of realistic, as you can see from this rendering of the entire riding lesson:

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And yet there is a sense of design once we move toward the dressage fieldpicture-4.jpg Something reminiscent of Van Gogh’s swirling paint strokes perhaps? Perhaps not.

There are elements of our design which I was very very proud, however, as proud as I was of my ridden circle (and also done at a posting trot!). Here is our small serpentine, ridden in the middle of the 20 meter cone markers, so like a weaving….or perhaps a knitting (Steven?)

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Then the broader serpentine which involved straight lines and quarter turns

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And on to the Figure 8, which I bobbled a bit on at the intersection circles:

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Of course we also worked on the straight line here, which I was very proud of–straight lines being difficult to execute.

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But here is my favorite part. This drawing represents yet another major accomplishment in my Riding Recovery.

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Just like my first ride back to the barn alone, this is the map of my first “trail” ride off the dressage field. It might look pretty simple but this involved going up and down slopes and riding along the edge of two separate stock tanks–one side water (no big deal) the other…..drop off (giant big hairy scary deal). And yet, it turned out to be also No Big Deal. Mission Accomplished.

All of that would have been enough to call the day a great one but it was only the Tip of the Iceberg!!…..to be continued….

Will Remembers

amywink April 23rd, 2012

Will is not getting ignored during this time. Sunday, I saddled him up for the second time to check his memory again. He remembers just fine.

And isn’t he cute?

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