Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I had an angel by my side

So many things in life are overdone. "My horse is an angel". "I'm so beautiful" "-insert thing here- is perfect". Most things rarely are all we talk about. Nothing is perfect. Step away from the ego. Step away from the self importance and the ethnocentrism and see-not just look, at everything that's in front of your eyes.

Lately I've been feeling shoddy. I've had trouble with people I thought were friends, and rumors. Gossip is a part of the world we live in, but that doesn't make it any easier to accept. The horses we work with on a daily basis might be lovely, but they're hardly the angels we'd like to believe.

I'll be the first to say it. Eagle is a nice horse. He's talented and flashy. But he's green, pushy, and has his bad habits. As a rider, so do I.

But last night, amidst memories of gossip, fights with my parents and a date gone wrong, something clicked.

I had a lesson with Diane-an hour private. And let me tell you, being the sole focus of an instructor with 30x60m space to work with, and all these poles? It's intimidating. And painful!

For the longest time, we were on a circle. A freakin' half an hour on a circle. And we were doing shoulders in, haunches in, counter bending and spiraling in. I'm not a rider that's good at bending-and while Eagle's fairly flexible, he'd rather not do anything that makes him work. Changing bends, outside reins and legs, hurt.
A lot.

But that wasn't even 'it'. Things started working, certainly. (Though you could always tell when I changed my leg! Eagle's tail went swish every time I did. Little brat rats me out..) Haunches in are easier for me, on principle. I can hold the shoulders on the outside circle and push his butt in.

Shoulders in, I have to hold his butt while letting his shoulders move without letting him follow through in steps. My head was hurting! But it worked.
Probably the true measure of success came when counterbending came into play. Going left is his good direction. Getting him to bend right while circling left, was not fun. Getting him to spiral in while going left while bending right.. Oh, man, that was so, so difficult.
But it worked. His head came down and his nose was out and he was really reaching through, even as he was bent around my leg. I was impressed.

I still have trouble with canter work. Not gonna lie. I have a bad habit of locking my back. I have scoliosis-but not in the way many people think of, in 'side to side'. Mine is actually front to back-so when I sit 'straight', the curve of my back is very dramatic and my butt is almost behind me. I have to work at straightening my spine, not my back, and tuck my butt under, and turn my pelvis up.

The canter work was bleh. We got a few good steps which lately is all I can erally ask for. So that all happened and we started on poles and fences.

Diane is a Polemaster. And she's evil with it.
The torment of the day last night were four poles, room for one canter stride and then a fifth pole. However, next to the pole (to the left) was a fence set up at an angle. You could go over the four poles to the fifth, or make an awkward turn to the angle.
When I say awkward? I mean very, VERY awkward.

And then other fences involved: If one stands at C in the arena, looking at the letter A, the poles are on the right quarterline. On the left quarterline there's a one-stride. The angle next to the fifth pole is a bit right of center line, and then next to the first of the four poles is an angle (oxer) set up headed towards the right wall. (Convoluted? Hopefully further explanation later helps).

So we start out trotting the poles both directions. Going to the right, she puts up a fence (three trot pole and the fourth made into a vertical). And takes it away, and just adjusts it randomly. Pole, 18', pole, pole, 2'6, pole, 2'0. You get the point. Keep Eagle thinking and paying attention to me.
During this My personal goal was to keep a consistent trot without whittling it away too much. And then stay with him/release over fences.
It worked, mostly.
Then things got evil. Going to the left, she had me trot over the first four poles-and alternately take the fifth pole, or the vertical. Awkward turn right there!!
And then we did this several times, every time after the fence we turned left, trotted, made a good walk transition, then went back to trot and did it again. (Softening his neck/responsiveness to downward transitional cues). Then she made us turn right. That was not so fun. In the corner we were jumping 'into' (room for two canter strides then sharp turn, if you didn't get the downward trot transition ASAP) there was a pile of shavings. Erg, which made turning to the right much tighter.

And then we popped over the one-stride line a few times, fairly 'meh'. Nothing spectacular, but he didn't take off at the fence which made me happy. (While tracking right)

So then we did a little course.
Go over the four trot poles, take the vertical, turn right, go all the way around to the outside line with the one-stride, and then come all the way around (still tracking right) to the oxer. You pass the four trot poles, end up at "A", come off the wall at around center line and then do a half circle to approach the oxer-and then jump, headed towards the wall (About "B") and then change rein, tracking left.

It was.. an experience. I'm still working on getting Eagle back after fences.
However, the one thing I really took away from this ride was a good half halt. It's hard for me-I have to consciously soften my back, tuck my butt and tilt my pelvis, but once I soften and relax-then I tighten my lower back in time with a hard, quick halfhalt on the outside rein. He comes down-and is balanced while doing it!

No tug of war, no bracing or leaning, no coming behind the vertical. Just a downward transition! Joy.

So, the jumping got kind of scrappy sometimes-but I stayed with him and never caught him in the mouth (one of my oooold habits. I had trouble releasing.) So for next week, I'm going to work on a consistent, forward trot that doesn't get fast or rushy, to the base of a fence.

But after the ride, I really spent time with him.
It was a long lesson, he was hot-I was tired, I just wanted to go to sleep.

But I started currying him and the hair was just rolling off... So, he and I had a grooming session. And I had untacked him and whatnot, but I didn't bother with a halter. First I had just stripped his saddle, expecting it to be a quick session, and then I'd just pull off the bridle, rub down his face and then put him away.

By the time I realized there was no such luck, Eagle had been super good just standing in the aisle. So I took off his bridle and he just stood, while I groomed him. And then when I hit "the spots" (under the mane on the right side, under the neck, where neck meets shoulder on the left side) he was just so happy.

And he actually started grooming me, in return.
It was peaceful.
I enjoyed it.

Because, for as much of a jerk as he can be, and the bad habits both of us have-at that point, I had an angel by my side.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's better that we keep this close

Well I went out to the barn after work, again. I picked up a friend-Natalie-from the train station at around five or so. It was kind of trying to rain, spit, sprinkle, and then sun. Really, I was hoping it didn't downpour. We had the clouds for it, frankly.
So we drive out and I pull into our local tack shop. There are two I go to, "Saddlers' Row" which is super big, it's out in barrington-about a 40 minute drive for me. I'll go there for tack and whatnot because of the variety. They also have some fun bits.
She, unfortunately, didn't purchase anything. I got a new pair of gloves. I go through them like no one's business. It's a bit unfortunate, really. But I wear through the fingertips, either because there are no gloves that really fit me, or my nails just grow and I'm too lazy to cut them. Probably the second, but still.

By the time I get that picked out it's actually sunny outside! Gasp. So I hightailed it to the barn and she met Eagle! Unfortunately, the ponything was not on his best behavior. I'm slightly embarassed about it. I think he, for one, was partly irritated with the fact that I was back again.
"What are you doing here?"

We shined him up (Not too difficult-there wasn't any excessive mud, considering I had fun with that earlier. Ugh. My horse loves to roll just a little too much.) and then took him out. Walked him around a bit and let him graze, and then I opted to walk down the driveway and turn him out in one of the pastures.
He always kicks up his heels a bit, I think in token protest to being so mistreated and being kept in a stall. Yeah. Right. Hard life there, kid. I don't buy it.
However, most of my pictures of him are of standing and grazing. There's a reason for that. Once he runs a lap or two, we're done. And down to gra-uh, I mean business. One and the same, really. I sincerely hope she got some decent pictures there, because I think that's about the only moment where there were some truly beautiful moments.

Long story short, brought him back up to the barn. tacked up.
She expierenced the wonderful "Horse does not stand for mounting block' phenomena. (Mounting outside-his first time in a year or so. I'll give him a pass on that.) Spun him around. Stood him again. Got on. It only took once. So at least he's getting better, eh? Though now he's not really thrilled to walk up to the mounting block.
I may have to do something about that in the near future if it isn't something that he was just doing today.

Annd, instead of riding indoors-it was nice enough, and still light enough at this point, to go to the outdoor. It's not in the best of shape, I don't even know the last time it was grated or anything, but it was good footing. Soft and damp but not wet, and not too dry.

This is the first time I've ridden him outside since early october, I believe. The last set of pictures in my facebook of me riding, "fall break". That was the last day I rode outside. So it's been a while. A long while. And I don't actually think I've ever taken Eagle out to the sand ring at Fox Meadow, so that was another first.

Looking back, I can't say I should have expected him to be 'good'. But damn, I was disappointed that he wasn't better, I guess. We had some good trot work, but he was very, very forward and very much ignoring the bit when I said stop. I may have to switch it up jut to get a little bit of 'kick' outside, anyway.
I don't know. He needs, regardless, to be better about stopping because when I say stop? I mean it. I don't give a damn what's going on, when I want him to slow down-he had better slow down. End of story.
I'm beginning to get annoyed with it not happening. I might need to do a session back in my dutch gag. I hate it because he comes down behind the vertical, but it does get him to stop. Maybe reminding him in a "Hey. You. IDIOT STOP DAMNIT." will freshen him to the cues and I can go back to a D. Worth a try, I suppose.

As it stands, I'm actually surprised it went as well as it did. I looked at some of the pictures and I think I had a case of being my own worst critic. Certainly there were ugly moments-I had a wonderful 'chair seat' going at some points, and one of my huge flaws-locking my back-showed itself particularly in the canter. It makes it harder for me to stay in the saddle.

Despite that, though, there were really quite a few 'good' moments to the ride. Looking at the pictures, I'm actually quite surprised. Eagle was moving forward and through, and so I suppose I'll take what I can get, eh?

Unfortunately I haven't been out to the barn much, since. My 'monthly affliction' has shown up in full force and, beyond being overly emotional and sensitive (and hyper-aware of every single slightly awkward situation) I also am hurting beyond belief. It's rather difficult to ride when you can't even sit up straight, eh?

Yesterday, I turned him out in the cross country field and dozed in the sun. He, as per normal, was stuffing his face, quite happily. But he kept me company-and there's nothing quite like waking up to a big, black muzzle right near your head. I suppose someone would be disconcerted by the proximity of hooves to them, but.. really, maybe it's foolish-but I trust him.
He knew I was there, and he came to me.
So Eagle's been spoiled and has spent six hours outside today (as per a friend of mine helping me out). I'm really quite blessed, I guess. Either for my horse's charisma in getting people to want to be involved with him, or the fact that people are willing to help me out..
It's both, really.

So he's had playtime out in the fields, and apparently he's behaving himself.
I'll go out there tomorrow, regardless of how I feel.
I just wish things, for once, would start looking up.

So for now, I guess it's better that I keep this close, keep him close to me.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

He knows how to love you without being told

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I was seriously considering selling my horse. We had been in the riding program but things 'weren't working out'. Everyone was telling me that. "You're a good rider, but maybe he's not the horse for you". "He's too much, he needs something better. You're good, but not enough to get him to where he can go".

Even when I took the semester off and he and I were tooling around in a barn in the middle of farmland and no one else was around but us-I still had a hell of a time. I still thought that selling him might, just might, be my best option.

And even now, at home, with people who know him and I both-sometimes there's a niggling thought in the back of my brain saying "Sell him. You know you'll never amount to anything unless you do".

Today, I remembered why I love my horse. It's not about the ride. It's not about the work, it's not about talent. He doesn't care if he lives up to expectations or not. All he wants is to be taken care of.
And me? He, as much as any animal can, 'loves' me.

He won't do it for anyone else, but when I come up the aisle, he'll nicker at me. And no, I don't give him treats and fluffy pats every time I see him. Sometimes he gets nothing after a ride. Horrible, I know.

But I took him out today and was grooming him before a ride and.. he did a very 'Eagle' thing to do-only to me, though. Only, ever, to me. I was facing his right shoulder currying the mud out (aaah, the mud-lover. Every day.) and his neck curves around my left shoulder. His nose is nearly on his own shoulder, as he just wrapped around me. And 'held' or 'hugged' me.
He does that, you know.

But it was a rough day at my therapist's, and I had gone straight out to the barn to make my mother's lesson time, so I could watch her ride while I rode. So I'm a bit emotionally raw. I hate baring my emotions, my heart and my soul. My therapist is very good at picking down to the bones of the matter.

And I'm left, raw.

Eagle, for all he's a 'Ican'tstandstill!' kind of guy, will do things like this out of nowhere. He'll groom me, 'pet' me with his upper lip, 'hug' and 'hold' me. So here I am, hormonal (Yay PMS and cramps!) and emotional.. and he just held me. And I started to cry.

It's rather embarassing, really, but for all the things in the world, I wouldn't trade any of it for my horse. They know how to love you without being told, without being prompted. Nothing else matters.
And that's why I won't sell him, not now, at least. He's the rock to my tempest. As much of a mess as I can be, and he is-we work. I sit down and focus and he comes up under me and gets serious.
Because it matters to me, I will give everything I am to make it work. And so long as it does, Eagle will be mine. My horse, my partner, my team.
And my heart.

Regardless, today's the first day I've ridden him since my lesson. He was better at the mounting block-I only had 'one' failed attempt with him. Well, really, two-but one 'turning' session and he was good. Mom got on him after I rode and I 'held' him and he didn't even think about moving-and when I got on after she got off, just to 'see' how he'd be, he didn't require any turning.
He still moved away, but not far enough to prevent me from getting on-and when I got on he stood! Yay, progress!!

I've decided that, since I have a hard time remembering so many things at once (Outside rein steady, 'leave him alone' when he's good, shoulder back, weight up) ect, I need to pick one thing or two, to focus on.
Today was 'leaving him alone when he's good' (and just getting him to "Be good") and short, quick halfhalts. (along with my posture.)

He was, all in all, pretty good. My trouble is that I get tight in my arms and then 'short quick halfhalts' get harder, when I can't move my wrist that quickly. We're working though! He was carrying himself very well, and we went over poles-and he loves to 'rush' or just get so quick and unbalanced over them.
Poles and Eagle are not friendly.

However, he was fairly consistant-and he never broke into the canter, which is definite progress even from last week. His canter still wanted to get quick, but going to the right he was very, very good.
It wasn't a 'phenomenal' ride, but it was good.

The real fun part of this was that when I was done, I hopped off and set my mom on him. She, I suspect, has some ambition to ride him in a dressage show or two over the summer. A re-rider, she stopped at the age of eighteen. She used to be a catch-rider on the hunter circut up in Michigan, and she was good at what she did.
But she stopped at the beginning of college and hasn't been on a horse more than five times in the past thirty-two years. Watching her take lessons again has been remarkable. She's been riding a big grey thoroughbred by the name of Gus-I'm familiar with him, actually. I helped bring him into the lesson program.
He's honest enough, stiff to the right. Lazy, quiet. He's good for her.

But we're now gonna have her up on Eagle to cool him down for me. Today was the first day and I stuck around to see how it'd go (and for damage control if it was needed) and just see. So I held him when she got on, and the first thing she does is shove him with her leg-she's used to a pokey, school horse.
Eagle launches forward, trying to trot. And she gets him down to a walk and all, but she looks at me and goes "Wow, he's sensitive!". I was laughing.

She looked tiny on him. She was tight and he was nervous. The "mommy complex" showed up again. He kept trying to get back to me, which I thought was adorable. When he relaxed though, it was really a sight to see. Mom doesn't fit in my saddle, but I had shortened the stirrups. And she's not the best rider now, not having the muscle or the experience.
But really, it was a pretty sight to see him reaching down into the bridle and overstepping the way he was.
Still a bit nervous about it all though, and he wanted nothing really, to do with it. He is, apparently, a Momma's boy-and will suffer my instructor, as she bribes him shamelessly.
Mom is just the 'cookie lady'. He had no clue what to make of her actually riding him.

Nothing 'technichal' came up, but it's a start.

Tonight I'll go out again with a friend, and her camera. Hopefully he and I are better this evening-but if we're not, there's no real loss. He and I are coming along.
It's progress-and I'll take that, over anything.

"Now there's an aching in my back,
A stabbing pain that says I lack
The common sense and confidence,
To bring an end to promises".

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Don't wake me if I'm dreaming

Well, as of Monday Eagle and I are both back into lessons, together. It goes without saying that the prospect of being back in a lesson program was enough to scare me senseless. Look at it this way. My horse? He hasn't jumped since just after thanksgiving break. Late november, early december. I haven't had a lesson since the week before winter break. Which would be the week after thanksgiving, really.

I've ridden, yes, and I've gotten into some colossal fights with the ponyface, too. We've gotten some success and no small measure of failure in that time. The one thing I can take away from the past few months though, is that I am a far more confident rider.

I don't need someone to tell me what I can handle. I know that, if I can take Eagle at his worst there isn't much I can't manage. Seventeen hands of rearing horse is nothing I ever want to have to deal with again. But I have the skills, the instinct and I think most importantly, the mind, to deal with it.

So I suppose these past few months of 'investigation' have been important. That doesn't mean it's not feeling good to have someone else tell me what to do for once!

I'm a decent rider. I'm not the best, I've long since called myself "Functional". And as many people know, form does not always follow function. I know what I need to do to get a response but oftentimes, I lack the ability to know when the best time is to ask. Timing has long since been one of my greatest flaws.
And, unfortunately in some aspects, I'm big enough to halfway bully/coerce most horses into doing it without the proper timing, so it takes a back seat.

The other 'problem' I definitely had coming into my lesson last night were gaits. Eagle is by no means a small horse-and for all of his large size, he has even larger gaits.
Oh, goodie.

His 'natural' gaits sometimes feel too forward to me, almost as if he's ready to run off or take off. What 'feels' right is in fact, a very cute, very nice, collected trot or canter.

Last night really worked on many of my problems. In addition to jumping and poles. I was mildly surprised at how quickly we moved through things, but I guess I haven't, contrary to popular belief, screwed up my horse as much as I had thought.

I have a propensity for getting to lessons early. Always have. I'm the first one on and the last one off. I can warm up on my own given the chance, I can work on 'long and low', or just relaxing and rhythm. However yesterday, I had playtime with the mounting block.
As per what Diane did on wed (Ponyface had the weekend off) he got spun around and around. And actually it didn't take that long for him to shape up and stand. I was moderately surprised. No doubt he'll still be a jerk about it today when I go out, and tomorrow-but it seems that as the days go by, it's more of a 'token protest' than a true attempt at disobedience.

Hopefully, it will end completely sooner, rather than later.

Much of the first half of my ride was focused at getting a 'good' gait and for me, being quiet when he's being good. I have trouble simply relaxing and stopping aids when Eagle is in a 'good' spot-and Eagle, being so sensitive, seems to view most aids as 'punishment'. So I need to really work on just letting him go when he's being good. And last night, sure, he'd rush after a half a circle, but each time he came back better and better.

Beyond just 'chilling' when he was good, there's the infernal bending. Left? No problem. I have trouble to the left, as a result of a bad back. But he's really good. Which helps out. To the right? Oh, hell, no. We're all crooked and there's no way in hell, he says, that I'm going to get him bending and his haunches engaged.
(I say "Oh yes there is".)

The first excersize we really worked on was a 20m circle between two sets of empty jump standards directly opposing eachother on the circle. Once we got a good bend and consistent rhythm, she would add a pole in between one of the empty standards. Once he was relaxed over the first pole, another would be added on the opposing side of the circle.

Eventually we would trot over one pole, walk on the backside of it, walk over the other pole and then get a quiet trot transition and remain composed and rhythmic over the first pole again, while after, getting a soft downwards transition.
Eagle has trouble with upward transitions. He wants to throw his head up into the air and take off, helter skelter. However, last night the term was "Think of coming down into the up". Take my time. There's no need to rush, don't ask just because I have to ask. So I worked on getting him to come down into the bridle before asking him to go-which worked very well.

The other trouble is downward transitions. We do not like them.
Ponyface thinks that walking is st00p:d. And that he should not have to do it. So half halts and blah. Though the memo last night seemed to be "Use your seat to ask for the halt".

That's all very well and good, but how do I do that?
I'm still fuzzy, there.

Regardless, the circle/pole excersize went all very well after a point and then we cantered. Blech. I have absolutely zero seat for a canter. Let's be upfront-months under hunter instructors has taught me to perch on my crotch in a light seat/faux two-point. I do not know how to be in the saddle anymore.
I suspect much of that has to do with me tightening my lower back. But that will be revisited, later.

The right has traditionally always been Eagle's "bad" direction. He will stick to the wall, collapse through his shoulders or swing his butt every which way to sunday. Surprisingly, it went very well yesterday. I got a good transition (And I nearly always do. It's one of the things I'm proud of in my riding. No rushing into the canter, no skippy trot or obnoxiousness, here!) and a few good steps.

Sounds good, right?
Theeeen the 'fun' happened. Eagle gets long and low and ducks behind the bit and just goes. It's remarkably obnoxious. However, one of Diane's 'old' tricks is she'll say "Annnd half halt to a trot, or prepare to halt" and then once you get balanced and your horse is balanced she's all "Just kidding. Keep going in the rhythm you have, now". That happened last night.

Note to self. To get *good* canter, pretend to be transitioning down. Old trick, but it works. And then other note, "Long" halfhalts do not work with Eagle. If I give him anything to lean against, he leans. Or pulls. Short, quick halfhalts are yay.

So we eventually came to be cantering on that circle without poles.. and then she put one up.
And we called it at that, and went to the left and repeated.
He was slightly less responsive in that direction, but I suspect he was already in the "Canter? Canter!? I canter now?!" mood. He gets that way.
Poor guy has fuzz in his brain, apparently.


Beyond that, of all the instructors at my barn (There are five or so of them) Diane has the reputation for being the "evil" one. Not that she's mean. She's remarkably nice, actually, if you sit down shut up and ride. No excuses, no blaming the horse, no begging off for some stupid reason.
But: She has this thing for poles.

And, unfortunately, Eagle and I are of the "Anti-pole" club. Cavaletti suck. Period. The end.

Going to the left, she started with four poles spaced nine feet apart. This has always been the 'least' evil for me. He'll fit two feet inbetween each pole at some point in time. He doesn't scramble over them.

And so once she beamed it into my head how to maintain a good trot with balance through poles, whammo! A fence went up!
And it was a speedbump. Or a little itty bitty zit? Regardless. The horse popped over it. A little eighteen inch vertical. Unremarkable, really.

However, now is the point where I state the obvious (Behond: This post is freakin' long..). My horse is no idiot. Unfortunately. Sometimes I think I wish he was. However, he anticipates and plans, with or without my help.

To screw him up, Diane kept taking the fence away and putting it back. The instant he wanted to get fast and rush the fence it was.. not there!
The other thing she changed was the height. It was eighteen inches, no, it's 2'6! Now it's two foot, hey, where'd it go, oh, it's 2'9!
(Jumping + long stirrups = painful. I didn't know I still had those musclse left..)

And then we did the same thing going to the right (I've always traditionally been better at timing/balance in this direction. I might 'write' with my right hand, but I'm a stronger rider when my left hand is on the outside rein.) barring one smalllll difference.
And by small, I mean tiny.
Trot poles were four feet apart.
That's never fun for eagle + me.
We get tight, I start to whittle away his trot, he gets annoyed and jiggy, we rush through poles.

Cycle: repeat.

Cue, disaster. It's just a pain in the ass on any level, really. I could do without trot poles being that close together. Please?

eventually we got it, and the same "Here it is, it's gone?? ohshitit'sbig, little fence cuuute!" cycle was used.

He actually trotted to the base of the fence. This is a huge deal. Even in the fall, when we were 'on' our game, we could not trot to fences. Like, ever. No amount of half-halts, hauling, collection-ANYTHING could keep him at a trot.
I was very proud of him. And of myself. There was only one jumping screwup where I got left behind. The rest of the time I was very much with him and off his face, which is another one of 'my' issues. I don't release well when I jump Eagle.

So. At the end of the lesson, the successes were:
Trotting to a fence.
Good jumps
Rhythm at all gaits
A 'good' frame, where he is not leaning on my hands or behind the vertical.

Things to work on:
short, quick half halts.
Moving, relaxed hands. I lock in my elbow/forearm area.
Relaxed back and a following seat
Outside leg, BACK (Particularly at the right)

Halfhalt with seat-how does one do it?

I consider it a success, all in all.
So please. Don't wake me if I'm dreaming, I really don't want to know.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The day of Reckoning

Well, Eagle had his first (But not last) runin with an instructor in the saddle, today.

Diane was scheduled to ride him at 10 this morning, I managed to make it out at about 10:10. She was running late (dealing with a colicing horse) so I just had bonding time. It's been a long tiem since I just took the time to fuss over him.

Of course, he got remarkably shiny in the process. We've also relearned that we don't have to be clipped into the cross-ties, but if Momma is working on him, he will stand still. Really nice, actually. I never have had to tie him, but lately I've been doing it out of force of habit.

So Diane shows up and tacks him up at about 10:30, gets on.

The mounting block. Dundundun...!

He was (predictably) a jerk. He also got his ass handed to him. Eagle's MO is that at the block he'll swing his butt to the right. Step under himself-he does a very fancy pivot, I might add. But the instant you take contact with the right rein to turn his nose to the right to prevent his butt going that way-he hauls into reverse.
Contact + mounting block = backing up.
No contact + mounting block = horse's butt going to the right.

The first time around, she shoved him into reverse and represented it. He said 'mmm fuck you. No." So she spun him around (clockwise). And around and around and around. and then represented it and he stood there.
Personally I think he was dizzy.

So the ride went well. She recovered the mounting block issue twice after that and he settled down. Ish.
I think that will be a WIP.

Today was more of a "ride and see what we're working with".

He leans on the right rein. Sticks on the left leg. Pops his butt left when you ask him to halt. Comes behind the vertical when he's asked to engage, and rushes poles if you don't half halt regularly.

It was productive.
He cantered a few lines (just poles) and did fairly well at it. He looked nice at the canter, too. Carried a frame most of the time she was on him.

Pony was livid, though. When she set her leg on him and said "Sorry. It's there. Get used to it" (He would rather you not ride touching his sides-which I do most of the time anyway because my leg doesn't fall well on his barrel. They're too long...) his ears disappeared into his fluffy little mane, they were flat against his head.


Poor boy. Eagle'll get over it, I'm sure. He and I walked out after-I cooled him off and put him away for her. I think the two of us have 'reconciled' this betrayal. We'll see (tomorrow, maybe?) how mounting goes.

The key to this, I think, is consistency. More than anything, my horse is a creature of habit. I have to remember that, and I have to remember that as forward as he is, he still gets nervvy and tense. I need to keep that in mind and relax myself, to relax him.
It's only a fight if I make it one.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I hear you think I'm crazy

The small successes seem to make riding, as a sport. It's not about huge strides. We can't measure them, unless we really look at videos of our riding progression. Or maybe that's just me as a rider. I don't really feel 'progress' through time.

One day, it isn't there.
The next, it is.

Today, 'it was there'. Eagle's been at FMF (Fox Meadow Farms) for a week, now. He got his feet done (yayyy!) on monday, he (and I) have yet to have any lessons.

But today, we took the first step.

Yes, we're still a dickhead at the mounting block. Surprise surprise. I'm hoping that will come 'sooner' rather than 'later', though. I'm getting tired of looking like an idiot, there.

But our real progress was at the canter, today. Disregarding the softening and flexing (I consider that a part of him settling down again)... we had it.

Eagle's canter, previously, has been like.. skipping. Horrible. Awful! Impossible. Fast, he leans and braces on my hands and is just overall unpleasent. It's uncomfortable, disjointed and just impossible.

But today? I asked him to canter to the right-his hard direction-and did a circle and ended it. That's what I've been doing, just to say "I've done it". But then I went to the left.. and I let him go. That's when I looked up at the mirror on the wall we were heading towards.
I halfhalted, and even though it didn't feel like much, I saw his front end lift and settle back.

So, like any teenager intrigued by something?

I did it again.

and again and again and again.

He was coming up under himself and rocking back, collecting and actually responding.

Our first triumph.
Yeah, you may think I'm crazy. It's a canter, whoppee.
But this? This goes right next to 'steady trot rhythm' for achievements.

I'm stoked.
(And tomorrow? mwahaha. Tomorrow, 10 AM central, Eagle gets his ass handed to him by Diane*).

*Refer to "The People Involved".

The Background

As a pair, Eagle and I have been up and down all across the board. We've never gone to registered shows. Our 'first' shows were small, unregistered dressage schooling shows. It didn't seem to agree with either of us.

Eagle is, in many ways, 'made' for dressage. Everything is there.
Well, except his mind. Once we get that lined up, we should be ready to go.

Until then, eventing is our comprimse. I love to jump, he's good at dressage, we both enjoy the thrill of cross country.

Standing in our way?

Several seemingly insignificant issues.
Well, except the lack of brakes. I like those.

Our two 'events' from last year were small, and we did well. In the first, we took a fifth. The second, we took third.

However, in the beginning of the school year I took Eagle to college with me, to the University of Findlay.
Major issue.

He isn't, will not, nor ever will be, a hunter. The knees, the attitude, the personality-he simply isn't a hunter 'type', even if he can look like it from a stand still. Being bullied, pushed, and shoved to achieve that has set both of us back.

Me? I can't sit a canter for the life of me.
Him? Contact on the bit is taboo. Balancing himself is also foriegn.

Don't get me wrong. We made some huge strides in improvement. He and I worked out that "Thou shalt not rush after fences" is indeed, a commandment of riding.

However, at the beginning of second semester I did what was right by my horse and took him out of the program. They were asking too much of a greenie.

Eagle was brought into work in 2007. He was six. He was bred for racing, but deemed too big. So after being 'track broken' he was retired to pasture with all the other kidlets. He was, however, gelded in may of 2007, and brought into work by the farm's owner's wife. Shortly thereafter sold to delightful trainer by the name of Fiona.

She started him in cross country, brought him into work. Didn't encourage brakes, but really-he had a sound start. I got him in February. So, he had been under saddle since July. A grand total of, what, eight months?
So. Yes. My horse is(/was?) green. Inexperienced.

Point made.

So I took him to a quiet barn on the outskirts of the college town. Personal life disregarded (It was, let me say, 'interesting'.) Eagle was thriving there. The barn was small, not even a 'boarding' barn. The arena had about 20x35 of workable space. Tiny, particularly for a horse with a 14 foot canter stride.
Therein lay our difficulty in canter. Canter issues: explained.

But now, as of march 2009, he's back in Illinois, with the trainers that know me-and him-like the back of their hands.
Hopefully this will clear up our issues and, dare I say it - make presentable individuals of the both of us?

The Conception of this Blog

Eagle? "Training"? As an eight year old, any horse, logically, should be a well-behaved citizen of whatever discipline's society they partake in.
Of course, if we all existed in such a pleasent eutopia, trainers would be out of business everywhere.

The victim:
An eight year old thoroughbred, seventeen hands.

The problems:
Something like that, anyway. A notorious rusher, running at fences and taking off after them. Coming behind the bit, sticking on the left leg. Becoming unbalanced at the canter. Rooting for the reins. Lack of standing at the mounting block.

The people:
Elle. The owner. Me.
Eighteen, soon to be nineteen (June 2). I've owned Eagle since February of 2008. He was my valentine. I've ridden on and off since the age of eight, seriously since the age of twelve and leased a horse from 15-17. I stopped leasing just after my seventeenth birthday. Six(ish) months later, I got Eagle.

Diane. The trainer.
A twenty-odd (Twenty six? twenty seven?) former eventer, she specializes in dressage. And in beating me up.
And in just being an amazing rider, all together.

Molly. The mother.
Or the 'cool down' chick. She aspires to hop on Eagle once we're all done riding him to cool him off. My own personal groom!

Mary Rad.
Eagle is her "God horse". She spoils him. Relentlessly. Someday, I will see her on him. I will. Just you wait.

The "omgwtf" dude. Freaky good at dressage. He gives Diane her dressage lessons. Is notoriously in love with Eagle, has attempted to buy him before. Hopefully will be involved in this process. (???)

Also one of Diane's coaches, she's the barn's main 'event' coach. I school with her when Diane doesn't feel like coming out all over northern illinois with the other event kids. I'm one of her only showing students.

And hopefully, between all of these veritable forces of nature:
A star (or at least, a proper citizen) shall be born.

Me? I'm not willing to bet on it.