And the Winner is…..

It’s always exciting when I receive feedback from readers of the blog.  Today’s comments brought an extra-special surprise….. An Award!!!!  Yes, a fellow blogger, The Literary Horse, has bestowed upon me the coveted “Beautiful Blogger Award”!!  I’m very flattered as her blog is brilliant!  If you haven’t already started following her blog it is linked under my blogroll on every post.  Why she is doing her blog for free when I would gladly buy her writings if they were published is beyond me, but I’ll take it while I can!   There are fifteen other recipients of the award listed on her site, some of them I have read previously and some I have just found today but will be following from now on.

The award comes with two stipulations.  I must list seven things my readers may not know about me (hmmm..scary!)  and I must choose fifteen blogs in which to bestow the award.  The seven things I can manage.  The fifteen blogs will be a little trickier, as I have only been blogging a couple of months and haven’t had time to build a large base of other blogs to follow.  In order to provide the links I will post the links of the other recipients, as I have previewed them all tonight and they are all great.  As a matter of fact they are so good I am afraid I will lose my readers to them, but I greedily want to post my award so I will do it, and add one that I like as well!

OK.  Seven things nobody knows (or not many people anyway!)

1.  I have a tattoo of my late Malamute, Samson’s, paw print and name on my leg.

2.  I went to bartending school, but never tended bar.

3.  My Mom washes my show clothes and mails them back to me because she gets them the whitest.

4.  I don’t own a television- hence the blog!

5.  I still think I’m a teenager, but my license says I’m 42.

6.  I once hiked 300 miles on the Appalachian Trail.

7.  I tilt my head at a ridiculous angle when I teach and can’t stop no matter how hard I try!  (What’s the deal with trainers and head tilting?)

The Literary Horse’s Beautiful Blogger Award Recipients:

In addition to Jane’s blog I would add Retired Racehorse as a recipient.  Natalie is a frequent blogger with a great site heralding the Thoroughbred.  Her posts and her comments on other’s posts are always insightful and funny.  I will post more recipients as I commit to reading more blogs.

Sincere thanks to Jane at The Literary Horse for reading and acknowledging my blog and congratulations to the other award recipients!  I consider myself in fine company.   I encourage everyone to check out the links to the other award winners that Jane honored.  There is a lot of pertinent information and positive energy being exchanged on these forums.  If you are so inclined you may want to start a blog of your own.  Everyone’s point of view is important and you never know, you might even win an award!!!

Uh…what was I saying again?

"It's a bear!"

As in my lessons, it is easy to get sidetracked in these blogs.  Yesterday, I had originally intended to use my video clip with Scott Hassler to stress how valuable it is to videotape lessons, shows, and practice rides.  It is difficult to override my admiration for trainers I deeply respect.  Now that I got that over with there is another theme to explore in the same clip.  If you didn’t see the clip, it is located at the bottom of the last post.

A common theme, especially with adult amateur riders, is how to handle a situation when a horse gets tense or spooks.  It is not uncommon for a student to give me a list of the items or situations that cause their horse to spook.  It is sometimes difficult for me to get the student to override their concern for these particular scenarios, and instead focus on the behaviour the horse is exhibiting when it encounters the fearful object or situation.  An example would be, fear of a mounting block in the corner of the arena.  The horse shies and runs sideways each time it approaches the mounting block.   Here it comes….”He’s afraid of the dang mounting block!”,  followed by kicking and fussing.

The mounting block, in this case, is immaterial…it could be a dog, a bucket, a plant, anything… the focus should be the loss of rhythm, and the falling in on the inside leg.  This is something that can be corrected.  You cannot predict every object you may come across in your horse’s life and train him not to be afraid of it.  You can instead, train him to move correctly on your aids, and soon his trust will build when he realizes that your decisions have kept him safe.  Having a conversation with your trainer about why he doesn’t like mounting blocks, hats, etc. is nice, but not conducive to fixing the problem. 

This is more aptly stated by Scott, in the video when an unseen person drops some folding chairs while I am cantering Lucy.  There is a sudden “Bang” and Lucy immediately tenses up (she doesn’t look that tense but she felt it!)  He calmly reassures me “There are no noises…just her body- if her body gets nervous, ride the body”.  He offers the disclaimer “This sounds so easy from the ground.”  But this is what we must aspire to.  Ignoring the stimulus, controlling our adrenalin and riding the horse’s body.  If the horse’s body is stiff (from fear) ride it the way you would ride a stiff horse.  Don’t add in the element of panic.  Nobody’s saying it will be easy.  It will take time, but the first step is visualizing.  Then practicing……then one day….Bang!!!!…Nothing.

That kind of Hassler I can deal with…..

Rainy day again…  Good day to look over earlier videos and try to learn something.  For the thousandth time I watch my videos of previous lessons and clinics to refresh my memory.  For the thousandth time I find something that I didn’t notice before and seems suddenly profound.  I am never sure if these revelations become clear because of recent events, but that’s immaterial anyway, might as well just take it like it comes. 

This particular instance comes in a lesson I had two years ago at Hassler Dressage, with the King of young horses, Scott Hassler.  I believe Scott is the future of dressage.  I spent a week in Maryland at his beautiful facility and have never ridden with anyone more positive and encouraging than Scott.  It is no wonder he is so successful with the young horses, they are such willing partners as he is extremely knowledgeable, and incredibly respectful, patient, and kind to every horse he trains.

I have attached a clip of my lesson on Lucy, a very lovely, but quite hot, little Oldenburg mare that belongs to my friend Kimberly Vernachio.  I have included this piece of video, as the explanation Scott gives about “coaching” her through her tension, especially when there are loud noises in the unfamiliar arena, are of particular interest to me.  At the time this video was taken I had not been riding very long after a bad fall and was quite reactionary to loud noises.  Scott’s advice, riding the horse’s body and not the noise, was, to me, a very meaningful analogy.  I have watched this video time and time again and have never before caught the quick explanation. 

I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to ride with a trainer I respect as much as Scott.  And very glad to have gotten it all on video, as I will continue to learn from it years after the experience!

Don’t let your jacket kill you

Here we go again with the knee therepy…RICE…rest, ice, compress, elevate.  For the second time I have fallen victim to the swishy jacket.  Yes, it is important to test the sensitivity of the noise of a swishy jacket on the horse you have only known through hot weather.  My first encounter was with a Morgan that had been broke by an apparently incompetent cowboy that tied a tarp to the horse in order to “desensitize him”.  Worked like a dream…the first coldsnap we had I pulled out my windbreaker only to be left crunching arena sand between my teeth when the rustling sound of the fabric caused a tarp session flashback.

Deja vu on the day of the barn Christmas Party.  My mad dressage skills were very impressive to the boarders and their families while snacking on appetizers at the annual Christmas party.  That is until I started trotting and the swishy jacket struck again.  Rodeo bucks were more than I had planned on exhibiting but my flying dismount was impressive.  If you bought your horse in the heat of summer in the South be sure and check the impulsion and engagement of your dressage horse from the ground by crinkling your slickest windbreaker to gage a response.  It might save you a lot in knee braces.