Monday, January 23, 2017

Caution to the Wind

I've been pretty conservative with bringing Indy back from her injury. According to the rehab protocol, we could have started cantering a couple of weeks ago. Giving her an extra month didn't seem like such a horrible idea, so I was going to wait until early February before getting back to any canter work. How silly of me to think that I could stick to anyone's time schedule but Indy's.

What more could I possibly need?

At our lesson the week before, Indy had gone FANTASTIC and my trainer said that if she was going like that again, it probably wouldn't hurt to do a small amount of canter work. You know, because it's the elephant horse and any time she is doing things correctly and willingly, you might as well take the opportunity to do a bit more.

Blurry screenshots because YouTube hates me. I'll edit this with video if it ever uploads.

*Before anyone starts wondering why I'm taking lessons on a horse being rehabbed, you should know that the lessons are aligned with the rehab protocol. They aren't ultra long lessons and have been just walk-trot up to this point. Basically, my trainer is just helping me with managing and getting quality work from Indy through the process of building her up to full work.

A couple of days after my lesson, Indy had a ton of energy. She wasn't doing anything bad, but I could feel her just wanting to go. I'd go as far to say that she was trying really hard to be good, yet was begging to be able to get some of that energy out. I mumbled something to myself about how she damn well better not buck me off and asked her to canter.

She doesn't do resting bitchface anymore!

Much to my surprise, she gave me a gorgeous transition and went on with a lovely, balanced canter. It shocked me so much that I just sat there like a dumbfounded sack of potatoes, being nothing but a passenger, and she STILL cantered around like a pro. On a circle. This mare can canter balanced for days in a straight line, yet 20 meter circles have always been a challenge for her.

I don't know how much I've talked about this, but I've gone through HELL with this horse and her canter work. Seriously, everything. All of it. I've had to make her gallop very FORWARD to get in front of my legs, which wasn't all that fun at the time since her steering wasn't the greatest and if I used too much hand her head would be in my face, which led to having to galloping even more forward. If we weren't forward enough, I had her ears up my nose. Then SHE decided that forward wasn't forward enough and that the thoroughbred side of her needed to be shown off. After that we went through a cantering sideways stage, which involved kicking at my leg every time I tried to get her in front of it. That was followed by drama llama canter transitions. Oh, and let's not forget the stage where she thought charging at other horses would be fun. There's more, but you get the general idea of her masterful evasions. Submission has definitely not come easily with this horse.

Hopefully, I can get some canter pictures soon. Until then you're stuck with boring trot pictures.

Back to the present, Indy gave me three good circles to the left and I asked her for a downward, which she did flawlessly. Obviously, I had to canter her to the right too. The transition was decent enough. She was a little fussy and wanted to drift over her left shoulder. We went back to the trot. I let her settle and reminded myself that I might actually have to ride her instead of just sitting there. I asked again and it was better. It took a circle to get everything togther, then she gave me the same beautiful canter that she had given to the left, which was followed by another beautiful downward. What the holy hell?! 


So we cantered. In a respectable manner. After not cantering for almost eight months. It wasn't 100% under the terms that I had originally wanted, but maybe it was good for me to be reminded that waiting for near perfection isn't always ideal. I would love to say that we're over the hump and we'll continue to get this quality of work that we can really begin to build on. However, it's day by day with horses. With Indy, it can be minute by minute. We'll still have our good and bad days, like anyone. I'm very glad for the good moments I get from her because they bring promise to the worse ones. They remind my of why I've stuck it out with Indy for as long as I have, of why I've always maintained hope for us. And the bad moments; I know we will get through them in time. Stride by stride.

Most importantly, I'm having fun with her.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Blog Hop: Training Excercise of Death

I have one dreaded excercise when it comes to dressage (or riding in general): turns on the forehand.

That moment when you ask for a turn on the forehand and your horse finds attempting to piaffe backwards easier. I can't even blame her, it sounds easier to me too.

Yes, I understand the purpose and how to ride them and how a correctly done turn on the forehand should feel. That doesn't make them any easier or enjoyable to me. I try and do them a lot with in-hand work and Indy understands them from the ground. In the saddle it's a completely different story and absolutely the best way to piss her off. They're getting better and help with the rest of our ride IF we can get them right. I still don't get any enjoyment out of doing them. 

So what are the excercises you would prefer to avoid in your lessons and daily riding? I'd love to hear about them.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Piss Off

No, this post isn't based on an angry rant. At least not one coming from me. Indy, on the other hand, decided to dub "Piss Off" as her own personal anthem for the Tracey Lert clinic this weekend. 


Saturday went fairly decent. Indy was a little fussy and distracted. It wasn't horrible though and I wouldn't want her to be perfect because it's the times that her attitude pops out that I need the most help. Some days she's very good. Others, not so much. Some are in the middle. Yes, this is pretty much typical of all horses, I fully understand that. However, Indy is much more extreme. One day she is a cute and furry little Mogwai that is oh, so lovable and the next I'm wondering what asshole decided to feed her after midnight (these are references from the book and movie Gremlins in case you weren't born between the 40s when the book was written and the 80s when the movie was made). Some days it's like someone threw water on my little darling and all her alter egos morph from her.

Oh yeah, back to the clinic.

Anyway, Sunday, was not a pleasant experience, which made it a very good learning experience. It was pretty obvious from the beginning that Indy wasn't in the mood to play. Everything I asked was answered with a huge "GO AWAY!" followed by grabbing the bit and pulling it in directions that I'm still a little surprised a horse's head can go. At least she's flexible. 

This is pretty much how it went:

I put my leg on.

Indy- "Take that leg and shove it. I don't want to go forward. I think I prefer shuffling. Actually, maybe any lateral direction sounds more fun."

I pick up the contact. 

Indy- "OH HELL NO! You did not just touch the reins that touch the bit that is in my mouth! How's my head feel in your face?!" *flips me off*

Tracey tells me to halt.

Indy-"You can't make me! Haha!" *flips me off again*

Tracey has me try a turn on the forehand.

Indy-"HORSE ABUSE! CRUELTY TO ELEPHANTS! I will not stand for this! I shall fight until it stops by moving my body in every other direction than the one you want. Backwards and upwards or stomping/kicking sounds like a good defense to ward off this evil attack from your leg." *flip off number three*

We eventually get to trot.

"Look at me, I'm going so pretty! JUST KIDDING!!! Since you want me to bend left, I'm just going to lean against all things left and start head banging!" *insert the double bird*

I wish that this conversation was a dramatized version of the story, but it's really pretty accurate.

That moment when she finally started thinking things through.

 I like riding with Tracey. She's fair and she's not mean, but she also isn't going to take "almost there" as being good enough. Once you get one thing fixed she will immediately go to the next thing (and you're doing well if it is only one thing instead of two or three or ten) that isn't correct. She will push hard. She will call it like it is and draw attention to every mistake you're making in the present, but also the ones that you probably made in the past that have led to the issues now. She will adjust every flaw in your position, you will learn to post perfectly, the basics will be hammered into your brain until you get it. She will not baby you. 

It's worth it though. If you can handle all that she throws at you, you WILL come out better. So far it seems like I did. I tried hard, I drew a line, I didn't lose my composure during the lesson. I learned to be tougher, to disconnect from the personal aspect (she's a horse being a horse, her problem, not mine, etc.), to make sure that I didn't go away no matter what fuss Indy put up. 

We made it through alive. I was actually happy with what I learned. I didn't mind Tracey pushing for more or calling me on everything that I was doing wrong. It would have been way more insulting to have her think that my horse and I aren't capable of more. 

That didn't keep me from leading Indy out of the barn and bursting into tears. I don't know why. Mental and physical exhaustion? Release of tension? I can't remember the last time Indy made me cry. I vowed a long time ago not to, no matter what, because owning and riding her is an opportunity and that's enough to be grateful for, I'm not entitled to have good rides every time. We'll just call Sunday an exception and move on.

I gave Indy Monday off, we both needed it. After having a day to process everything I learned, I was able to apply it better. We've had nothing but good rides since and my lesson today was full of very excellent quality work from Indy.

Back when I played basketball my friend would always say, "You're the only person I know that can be upside down, backwards, and surrounded by players and you'll usually make the shot, but when you're open and in the clear, you miss it almost every time." The fact is that this really relates to my riding. I needed to be pushed, to get knocked around, to have to perform better. I needed the extra pressure that day. It might not have come easily, but what I learned in that clinic will stick with me always. Like The Fiancé said, it needed to happen. It did and Indy and I are that much better because of it.

That being said, that's what clinicians are paid for. They come, they push, they leave. I sure as hell wouldn't want that type of intensity every single lesson, just like I wouldn't have  wanted that kind of pressure every time I shot a basketball in practice. Getting back to the normal grind with my trainer in my lesson today was a very refreshing experience. She still pushes me, but I get a little more time to take all that she is telling me in. Riding with her is very calming, yet still challenging, to me and that is more what I need on a regular basis. Especially with Indy. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Almost Famous

The lighted horse with the dark background has always been an attractive picture to me. When a friend told me that a photographer was coming to Scottsdale that does this type of photography, I couldn't turn down the opportunity. After all, when you have a horse that is as much of a diva as Indy, professional portraits are a must.

Indy in her dramatic diva pose.

The Portraitures were done by Giana Terranova Photography and she is fantastic! She is very patient with the horses (Indy wouldn't be a true diva if she didn't make getting a good shot at least a little bit difficult) and professional. Giana made the trip to Scottsdale, but she is in the Orange County, CA area. Her prices are very good and she does a great job. If you live in that area, I'd highly recommend her. Even if you don't, it'd be worth looking into getting enough people together to pay for her trip to come to you. Check out her website to see all of the services that she offers. I plan on doing a photo session of Indy and I with her next time as well as another Portraiture session. I want one of Winn too.. I am also considering booking her to do some of the horses at the track as a gift for owners. I almost did it this time and am really regretting that I didn't now.

Love this one!

My pretty girl!

Also, it's a pleasure to introduce Indy's boyfriend, Stewart, to all of you. And what better way to introduce him than through the the beautiful portraits done by Giana

Indy definitely has good taste! She LOVES Stewart and is SO much nicer to ride when he is around.

Seriously though, isn't he beautiful? A huge thanks to his owner, Jill, for letting me post some of Stewart's portraits!

I'm so happy to have these pictures of Indy! Next time I will probably braid and, if she needs it, body clip. I like that I went with keeping it simple in these first ones though. She looks how I know her and there are no words that I can use to describe Indy that will sum her up as well as these photographs do. They capture everything about her. Thank you so much Giana!

I'm going to order a canvas of one of the portraits. Which one do you guys like?

Friday, December 4, 2015

November Ramblings

Key- Shapes in the left hand corner are days that I rode. I'm using the vet symbol for lessons. The ribbons are shows. I haven't quite figured out what combo of symbols to use for clinics yet. The app I am using is okay, but has a lot of room for improvement.


11/1-Arrived home late in the evening from our trip to the Breeder's Cup sick.

We flew in and out of Louisville because it was way cheaper than flying to Lexington. Can you see Churchill Downs in the picture? Seeing it made me want to go to the Derby again.

11/2-11/7- Full-fledged death flu. Every time I fly, I pick up some form of illness. EVERY. TIME.

11/8- Wherein I drug my sick self out to the barn because I had a show coming up. Indy rewarded me for her nice vacation by having a tantrum and acting like she was going to throw herself on the ground. Over walk/halt, halt/walk transitions. 

11/9- Repeat of the day before.

11/10- A much needed lesson. After the previous two days, I had abandoned all hope that it would go well. Indy suddenly decided to act all angelic right after I told my trainer how big of a hag she had been for the previous two rides. 

11/12- Another lesson, this time in the arena on the hill, where Indy decided to behave.

11/13- Indy had filling in her left ankle, but was sound on it. We had a very light, quick ride.

11/14- Her first show. Not great, but not a disaster. She was calm and behaved for the most part.

My trainer taking pics because getting Indy to that first show took a hell of a lot of time and effort.

11/15-11/18- I didn't ride in hopes that the flu from Hell would finally go away.

11/19- Another lesson. I didn't lunge and Indy was fresh from the four days off, but settled down fairly quick for her. We ended up having another good lesson.

11/20-11/21- Two more good rides.

11/23-11/24-Two VERY good rides.

11/25-The lesson where Indy tried to buck me off.

11/27-An okay ride.

11/28-Light ride.

11/29-Tracey Lert Clinic. No serious mishaps, learned a lot. Loved riding with her (post coming soon)!

If you take out the days I was sick, I actually rode 15/20 days and Indy only had one day off between rides otherwise. Obviously, 15 rides a month isn't going to be enough, but I'll give myself a pass considering the ten days that I felt like I was dying. I would have liked to have gotten a lesson or two more in, four of them still helped a lot though. Add the show and the clinic to those and this turned out to be a pretty good month when it comes to learning.

I liked the three days of being ridden/one day off schedule for Indy. For the most part, it seemed to work well.

This is Aggie, one of the horses in training at the track, who Indy seems to be the dressage version of. Aggie ended up being worth all of the extra time and effort, hopefully Indy will too. 

Plans for December riding-

I'd like to get on a four days on, one off, three days on, one off schedule since she is getting more fit and stronger. There are no shows or clinics that I know of yet, so I'm going to try to get as many lessons in as possible.

Indy is getting laser therapy and a chiro adjustment on Saturday. We will do thermal imaging too, so it will be interesting to see what that shows. 

On Sunday, she has a Portraiture session that I'm super excited about! I was going to body clip her, but she is already starting to shed out and one of my rules is to never body clip after they start shedding because it always seems to make their coats look nasty once it starts growing again. Of course I would own an elephant that hairs up in 100°+ weather in September and starts shedding when the low gets down to 35° in December.

What's it like to have a normal, predictable horse? I've forgotten.