Saturday, December 12, 2009

Welcome to the Great COLD White North...

As I sit up in Grande Prairie waiting for the rig I am to be responsible for (medically speaking) to start -38 weather (day temps including windchill - brrrr!)...I thought I'd spin a quick update.

Koolaid - has been leased out for certain. I had one individual willing to lease him, but a couple of hours north of us. The girl did not get back to me before I had to leave for work either, so we weren't sure if she agreed to the lease terms and thus opted to allow someone else to lease Koolaid instead (someone who was super serious and got the lease in to me asap). This woman, A, is doing a long-term lease on him and will be using him not only for pleasure riding and lessons for her boyfriend and their kids, but also as a dressage mount for herself until she eventually purchases something Grand Prix worthy. So I will keep you, my friends, updated as I check in on him or am updated myself. I think this will be a good temporary home for him where he will be loved and enjoyed! I am also concerned enough about the potential for arthritis in that previously-injured leg in the future that I want him used regularly, which he will be here.

Link - has an official rider now (she signed the waiver and it now sits in my hot little paws, so I consider her "official" now, haha), so, same as Koolaid, I wil update as I am updated. JM, as I will refer to her, is going to ride Link some but also take lessons on him with K, my instructor, which is bonus fantastic because then I know he is ridden well (though obviously I think he will be anyway!). I think Link will be happy with my choice :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Negotiations...and back-tracking

Link's lesson didn't go all that well today unfortunately - he was tense and anxious almost the entire time! ARG! My instructor K attributed it to his being ridden by two different riders this past week. I agree that it was partially that and I think also that the fact I didn't get a good session in on him to really work on suppling the left side contributed as well. Also, he is getting fitter and thus more energetic. He was quite tense on the left rein and heavy and leaning on that side. We tried everything and although some of it worked some of the time, we couldn't fully fix it. We got some good canter on the correct lead on either rein though! He was okay over the trot poles, but didn't do as well as he had last lesson. Some tracking up, some good work in general, but he just wasn't there and making the progress he has been the last few sessions. Ah well, next time. I will try to ride him Sunday but will for sure ride Monday and perhaps have a lesson Tuesday.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


First half of my afternoon was spent showing Koolaid to an instructor interested in leasing him (we'll call her CS). She would like him for herself - just for pleasure riding, some trail riding, and low jumping, as well as for some of her students if possible. She really treated Koolaid well and rode well on him, so I did not feel I would have any problem with her allowing students up there - I am sure she will ensure her students show the same respect and appreciation towards Koolaid that she did. She would also take over all expenses, it would be a long-term lease (say a year or more), and she is fine with not being able to use any training aids on him. The only thing is that he would be going approx. 2 hours north of here, but I think I can live with that since I work out of that area and he is going to a good home where he will be used and loved. So fingers crossed it works out for everyone then!

The latter part of my afternoon was spent riding Link and allowing a rider interested in riding him for the winter to try him out. I showed her (we'll refer to her as JM) a little of the groundwork we usually do, warmed him up under-saddle, and showed her what he was capable of (well, some of it). He was a little stiff yet to his left, but almost has it sorted out. He was quite relaxed, tracked up quite nicely on several occasions (I felt some fab extended trot, with none of his running away from the extension!!), and was giving me not only excellent leg yields, but also some very quality changes in bend along a straight line. I did ask him to canter before we had really done sufficient preparation, but he did well anyhow (though he was a little excited and quite hollow through the trot leading into the canter after the first shot at a canter to the right). Second try he picked up the correct lead to the right and first try he picked up the correct lead to the left. He was a little quick around the arena and not quite as collected as I would have liked, however it was fine given the situation and such. JM then took him and just did a little walk and trot on him to try him out. She seemed to treat him well also and to dote on him, which is what he deserves :) I think Link fell in love with her after she brought and gave him an apple, haha. So, good workout today, and perhaps we have also found a good rider for Link! Fingers crossed again. Lesson (Link and I) tomorrow, JM returning Friday (provided she decides to ride him for the winter) to try Link out once more.

Dressage in jeans and a minus something

I did not get the chance to ride Link over the weekend unfortunately, and S (potential lessee) came out to ride Link again Monday. Her ideas and thoughts on training dressage definitely differ from mine, but I did not, at the time, feel I had the experience or knowledge to speak up on some of it. Plus, I usually have to mull things over initially (I guess mostly due to my lack of dressage experience) to see how or if it fits in with my overall ideas. For example, S mentioned that Link is quite crooked and that he needs to learn to be straight and thus she was going to work on straightening him out. She started by asking him to straighten out on the longeline, commenting after awhile that he "wouldn't do it". I looked at him and just noted confusion in his expression. He wasn't sure what she was asking. And of course he wouldn't do it, he needs to be relaxed to do it (to start), and he is not relaxed yet when he is confused and working with someone new. Furthermore, straightness occurs later on the training scale - after relaxation, suppleness, contact, and impulsion. It comes as a result of progression along the training scale and is not something that is forced. I told her that he seems stiff and asked her if he wouldn't just straighten out as he relaxed? She responded with a "yes", which made me wonder why she was working on the little things that are a result of his tension: not yet on the bit, being crooked, not fully tracking up consistently, etc?? Why would we not simply focus on relaxing Link? Seems to me like all the "problems" would disappear then as the root issue is solved. I posed the same dilemna to my instructor in my lesson today then and she agreed that I was correct and pointed out that there was already evidence of the smaller issues disappearing as Link's tension disappears within our sessions. Each session Link stays straighter for longer, reaches for the bit more often, tracks up more consistently - everything improves. So we do not have to work on straightness, being on the bit, or Link tracking up - directly. Instead, if we keep plugging away at relaxing him (and of course progression along the training scale), then we will see a general improvement everywhere else. So anyway... S has a lot of different ideas such as the one mentioned, however I do not think that her riding Link is going to hurt him nor that I will have to undo much (if anything) when I return. She did ask though if she could use spurs. When I replied no, she later asked me if I was against spurs? Again I replied no, that I wasn't against spurs, but that I thought they should be used as an extension of the heel - not to back up an aid. Particularly on a highly-sensitive horse like Link. S said that she was having trouble having Link respond to her leg directionally; I simply responded that he can be excruciatingly light to your leg and brought up the fact that I ride this horse bridleless regularly, something I could not do if he did not respond to directional leg cues. I think she missed my point though. K, my instructor, replied in response today that S simply does not have Link's respect. I guess I did not want to admit it and then have to say it to S (who treats me like I have little idea as to what I am doing), but K is right; respect toward the rider will translate to respect toward that rider's aids. That is not to say there are not days even I do not have Link's respect. However I either work on that directly, or I earn his respect indirectly through exercises. It is usually pretty simply obtained and once it is, it is there to stay throughout the session. So I have asked S to refrain from using spurs then as well as most other training aids.

It is a tough decision deciding whether or not someone can ride your horse, and balancing benefit to the horse versus possible harm to the horse. I want Link to be loved and exercised while I am gone, yet I do not want him to be unhappy nor do I want to have to undo any "training" someone has put on him. I am not sure if Link will be happy under S - she is pretty good with him however there were some times I sensed some frustration in her voice (frustration I picked up on easily and had to be careful not to relay to Link - it's funny how that can work, how sensitive we can be to others' states of minds and emotions!) and there were times I did not exactly approve of how she handled him, such as disciplining him for misbehaving while tied. It is not that my horses do not have boundaries, they do. However I do not discipline them for something specific - I instead address and solve the root issue. After all, they are just behaving like horses. Who's to say they should do what we want? For example, of course Link wants to move his feet while he is tied - he is a high-energy prey animal who feels compelled to move his feet. Rather than disciplining him, I can work on relaxing him - body and mind - through different exercises, and thus he stands tied as a result of said relaxation. You solve the root issue. On the other hand, S never did hurt Link and he should be exercised this winter while I am gone. I sort of decided though to see if it works out (S still has to agree to sign a couple waivers - from me and from the barn) - if it does, it does, if it does not, it does not. I also have someone interested in Link coming out tomorrow who sounds promising. Despite the rush (I leave Saturday and essentially will not be home the next few months), she still wants to see and ride Link.

Anyway! I am prattling on a bit.

Today's lesson on Link went quite well, and I was quite pleased for Link to do a number of things S had said (after her first ride on him, before he was warmed up or working up to his full potential) he would not be able to do yet due to where he was at and the type of bit I use (Myler/Parelli C3 Cradle bit). Link was a little sluggish in our lesson at first, but K had me do a number of transitions. It only took a couple before Link was raring to go and was tearing up the rail, lol. We actually succeeded at almost really revving him up too much, just through the use of transitions! Haha. What a sensitive horse! We did some work that involved directional leg cues as well, such as spiraling in and out on a circle at the trot - he was very very light and responded with barely a brush of my leg. On the rail I asked for some extension at the trot and got a lot of controlled power! I could feel his hips and shoulders swinging and the push from behind as he pushed forward - it was fantastic!! It was like sitting on a powerful bike and revving the engine, lol. He was very forward, very on the bit (he just grabbed the contact, but without leaning), and tracking up! K put us over some trot poles, which Link definitely seemed to enjoy. Contrary to what we thought, he was completely calm with the poles - no shying whatsoever. I thought he would be okay but wasn't quite sure. I could feel him questioning me a little here and there as we approached the trotting poles however I gave him his head and he was reaching down, lengthening, adjusting his stride as appropriate (especially if he made a mistake - he made sure to correct it next time over the rails), and was rhythmic! He was fantastic - I think he even surprised K a little, hehehe. We did a little work on canter, but after a couple tries he was just too revved up to do more, so we called it a day there. He tried to counter-canter on both leads today - HAH! We picked up the correct lead to the left and quit while we're ahead. I think tomorrow I'll work a little on suppling as well, as much as I can. I have someone else interested in riding Link coming out tomorrow afternoon, so we'll see how that goes and how much I can get in! Although our canter was not the greatest today, I was SO proud of Link today - it was our best session yet in many respects and he seemed to really enjoy it too. SO! Riding tomorrow, another lesson Thursday, and then I will see if I can ride him Friday or not (though if possible and if things turn out that way, I will just get the new rider to ride Link that day so that I can watch them work). Wish us luck ;)

I also have someone coming out to ride Koolaid tomorrow, and another asking to come out Friday (we'll see). I think I might still have someone to lease him come January if I do not find anyone this usual, we'll see. Hopefully everything falls into place to both ours and the horses' benefits.

Silver and Cody, poor guys, are going to have to sit on the back-burner over the winter - come spring I will make a point of riding both of them more (Cody especially). I love those guys and cannot wait to have our own property so that I have more time to at least just dote on my boys. I miss my boys and feel bad I do not have all the time in the world for them at the moment. So now let me go on about another horse I wish to add to my herd. I know, I am crazy, and I do realise how this sounds! But things will be better time-wise when we have our horses at home and right now it feels right to concentrate on my riding career and thus the horses who will take me there, at this time.