February 28, 2009

Light therapy

It was marvellous weather today.
It's getting lighter for each and every day, and you can feel that the sun starts to warm again.
It so nice; I feel like I'm awakening after the long winter.
Today Fame and I went trail riding again.
We had a clear blue sky and sunshine, and we were just as eager both of us to get going.
The fastest way for us to get to the forest trails is to cross a creek, which can be a bit exciting during winter time as it might/might not be ice. The horses don't like the in-between part.
Open, it's OK, frozen it's OK - but the rest, uhuh.
It was fairly OK, mostly open with some ice in between, and Fame was a good girl and went over without fuzz.
Just before crossing we passed two moose under the trees just some 8-10 m away from us.

As Fame wanted to stop and stare anyway, I took a photo with my mobile. Not a very good quality as it was dark between the trees, but maybe you can see them anyway. One is lying down and the other one has its butt towards us, but has turned the head looking at us over the shoulder.
I can assure you I saw them much better in reality!
We are lucky as we have a lot of possibilities to choose between when deciding where to ride.
Today we took one of the favourites, a road that has a steady climb up to approx 750 m height, with some 3 km length.
It is a good choice if you want to do some intervall training as there is no traffic.

I felt the steam pressure in Fame was building up , so we trotted a bit first, and the went into canter.
And I just felt that turbo motor kick in...
Now, I should have reined her in, and kept her a bit more short out of educational purposes.
But you know, the day was beautiful, the surface was good and we were feeling FINE, so I just let her get rid of that surplus energy and enjoy herself.
After a while, I slowed her down to a walk and let her regain her breath.
I normally take the rest of the way up in two canter sessions with a walk between, but today she was eager to go, and as she is in good shape I let her go all the way up in one session.
When reaching the top she was blowing a bit, but did not seem very tired.
I jumped off, loosened the girth and walked her down.
We just had to stop to enjoy the sun on the way.

The sun was slightly warm and we almost dozed for a bit, both of us.
They are cutting down the wood in the area, rendering it less beautiful than when the trees were there, but it definately opens up for some more sun.
As the weather was so nice, I just couldn't ride straight home, so we made a detour - I believe we were out 2.5 hrs in total.

On the way back, we passed one of Fame's favourite spooking places. There are two concrete blocks there, to prevent people from driving into a small path. She always spooks there, just to entertain herself.
But now they were buried under the snow.
She really was bewildered, I just burst out laughing. Imagine a small child, promised a candy bag and someone just snatches it straight under the child's nose and you get the picture...
Aaah, our horses are great!
So we happily cantered a bit instead.
Returning home to the stables we were content both of us, it was a lovely ride.

February 26, 2009

Today's entertainment

I found something to share on the net the other day:

Dear Tech Support,
Recently I purchased and installed Horse 1.0.
I soon noticed that this program appears to have numerous glitches. For instance, every time my computer boots up, I have to run Feed 5.3 and Water 7.1.
Many times I've been in the middle of writing an important document, and a window will flash telling me to run Clean Stall 2.0.
This program also contained applications I did not wish to install, such as Manure 8.5, however they auto-installed with Horse 1.0.
Applications such as Vacation 2.7 and Free Time 10.1 can no longer run, crashing whenever selected.
Possibly the worst is that Horse 1.0 has attached itself to programs like Finance Manager and MS Money, with folders added such as "Monthly Shoeing" and "Winter Blanket". Periodically, I'll get a reminder telling me to send a check to the manufacturer of Horse 1.0 for the aforementioned items.
I have tried to uninstall Horse 1.0 numerous times, but when I try to run the uninstall program, I get warning messages telling me that a deadly virus known as "Withdrawal" will infect my system.
Please Help!!!!!

Dear User,
Your complaint is not unusual.
A common misconception among users is that Horse 1.0 is a mere "utilities and entertainment program."
It is not - it is an OPERATING SYSTEM and is designed by its' creator to run everything!
A warning will soon be imprinted on the box.
Since you have already installed Horse 1.0, here are a few tips on how to make it run better.
If you are annoyed by the applications Feed 5.3 and Water 7.1, you may run C: \HIRE HELP, however this will cause another folder to be added to financial applications, labeled "Staff". Failure to send payment to "Staff" will result in Feed 5.3 and Water 7.1 being run again on startup.
A note of caution: NOT booting up your computer for several days isn't the solution to avoiding Feed 5.3 and Water 7.1. You will find that, when you boot up your computer again, a nasty virus called "Colic 4.2" will have attached itself to important documents and the only way to rid your computer of Colic 4.2 is by purchasing and installing "Vet 10.1", which we admit is extremely expensive, but crucial. Otherwise, Colic 4.2 will cause irreversible damage to the operating system.
Finally, it is important that you run C:\Carrots and C:\Scratch Ears on a fairly regular basis to keep the application running smoothly. If you have any more questions, please call our toll free number.
Tech Support

February 23, 2009

A Swedish candybag

What a weekend…
Swedish riders won the world cup classes both in dressage and show jumping in Gothenburg.
There was one happy crowd in there I can tell you, I turned both deaf and had no feeling left in my hands after all the clapping.

First, the dressage - and what warms my heart the most: Briar and Jan Brink.
Their last show on Swedish soil together. And they won!

Jan Brink gave a very touching interview at the prize ceremony.
He said it had not been easy for him to keep his thoughts concentrated, knowing that this was their last show together in Sweden, and it was so marvellous to win just because of this.
When asked how he had been able to keep Briar at the top for so long, he said “keeping him happy. Letting him have time off, varying the work including hacking out, and daily turn-outs.”
I can buy that.
What also warmed my heart was that the loyal owner AND breeder of Briar, Hans-Yngve Göransson, also was called out to the prize ceremony.
He has turned down some impressive amounts of money, folks. There are not many breeders that still are owners when a world star is retired.
Way to go, Hans-Yngve!
When asked what Briar is going to do when he retires, Jan answered. “Oh, he is going to spend some time on his favourite hobby, breeding”. (Laughter roars through the arena)

And what a cool horse.
When turning up the centre line at the end of the program, the spectators couldn’t keep from clapping to the music. It turns somewhat out of rhythm. Briar not only stays calm, but keeps HIS rhythm in the passage. Wow.
And walking out of the arena, when 11.200 people in the audience is standing up clapping, yelling and cheering and the noise is overwhelming, Briar stops at the tightest spot close to the audience to rub his nose on the leg. Totally relaxed.
I will always remember that.
My eyes were wet, but I don’t believe they were the only ones…

We also saw an upcoming dressage equipage, which might keep Sweden at the top; Minna Telde and Don Charly.

They came second.
I really liked what I saw here, guys.
Talented dressage riders live dangerously if they don't have loads of money themselves.
They spend 4-5 years educating the horse to GP-level, but at that time the horse is worth a lot, and of course it is tempting for the owner to sell.
Minna experienced this situation around Christmas. When she warmed up before the WC class in Stockholm in December, several potential buyers were watching. In spite of that she went out there, and came very close to beat Anky/Painted Black. Some nerves!
She managed with the help of good friends to raise a loan and purchased Don Charly herself a short time after that.
What a marvellous feeling it must have been then on Friday to come second in the WC.
Both she and the horse have had health problems, so it is so nice to see them at the top.
I will follow closely in the time to come…

The WC-class in show jumping was really, really tough.
All the best riders were there, but out of the starting field of 36 riders, only four qualified for jump off, two of them Swedish (which of course was very popular).

All riders gave their best, but this time Svante Johansson/ Saint Amour did a super round, and won the class. Svante was very happy a year ago when the stallion was bought and placed with him. This was their best result ever, so it was one very happy rider at the prize ceremony on Sunday.
Thomas Velin came second, Rolf Göran Bengtsson 3rd and Alvaro Miranda 4th. So none of the top ranked made it.

Most charming?

The Shetlands pony Fonzie, his buddy the dog Mango and their owner Inger Hillskog Roth.
Fonzie does piaffe, passage, canter pirouttes and Spanish walk in addition to a lot of other tricks. I just love to see two animals working together, and they really loved to perform in front of the audience, no doubt about it.
I almost laughed my head off at the dog, he was as hyper as a five-year-old child just before Santa arrives...

As the whole exhibition centre is filled with horse equipment during GHS it is very easy to empty your wallet. (Funny how I always manage to squeeze in another saddle pad. Or two.)

A princess wagon, anyone?

But it was not only the show that was fun. The socialising part was just as good.
I met a childhood friend over lunch, whom I have not met for 20 years. We had a lot of fun in our early teens, also with horses.
It was so nice to see her again, and we had a lot of laughs together now too, but also some more serious moments. Time went fast, so we scheduled a new meeting for the summer, I’m looking forward to that.
We were a total of 11 horse crazy people that travelled from Oslo, staying at the same hotel.
We had a very nice dinner together at a Thai restaurant on Saturday evening, but otherwise just met at the hotel bar in the evening and spent the rest of the time as each and everyone thought best.

It was a relaxed and fun weekend, so we have already decided a rerun next year.

February 19, 2009

Triple fun

Tonight I’m off to Sweden and Gothenburg to watch the World Cup in dressage, show jumping and driving.
As I’m off with a bunch of friends, I guess we will have three FUN days.
Won’t be much blogging here though…
I am really looking forward to the trip. I’m just hoping that it stops to snow soon. It has been snowing the whole day and tonight I’ll drive on some smaller roads to get to my parents, where I’ll stay the night. The smaller roads are not ploughed that often so it might be some difficult driving.
Have a nice weekend everyone, I certainly will!

February 17, 2009

The dark side of the moon

Björsells Briar and Jan Brink

I'm a softie.
I suppose you have already guessed that.
I plod along in my little world, trying to make progress and trying to make the training enjoyable to my horse as well.
Trying to do my best, but not letting the ambitions take the fun out of the training, which I love.
I read a few blogs. Try to get some insight in other parts of the horse world
My nice little horse-y world got rocked a bit.
On one of the blogs I’m following, Mugwump Chronicles, there have been discussions about horse abuse in shows, and abusive trainings methods.
Important theme, but not the most pleasant. You can read the first post here.
Some of the stories have made me nauseous; I have had problems to get them out of my head. As I know zilch about horse life in the US (apart from what I read in the horse blogs) I have not the overall picture of what is going on. I assume the worst examples are just that. I know USA is a huge country.
It's just that I have never experienced something similar, and the stories really makes me upset.
And I wonder, have I led a sheltered horse life?
Is it not possible to get a horse to the top witout abuse?

So what have I seen? How does it work here?
OK. First my background:
I have never been working with horses professionally.
I have never had the talent or the means to make it to the top.
I have been riding for my whole life though, and have spent a considerable amount of time in a number of stables both in Sweden and Norway.

Scandinavia is a small corner of the world, I know that, but:
I have been fortunate as an adult to be instructed by GP-riders, including national team members.
I’ve watched them train.
I watch every clinic that I can.
I’ve attended clinics with several of the top riders in the dressage world.
I try and watch trainings when we have profiled trainers coming over.
Yes, I am a dressage nerd :-)

What I’ve seen in the form of abuse is yanking on the reins, some spur use and a few whip lashes, but I would not go as far as to put it in the real abuse category.
I can’t remember to have seen a horse with scarred mouth (at least on the outside, can’t say that I’ve looked inside), or with spur scars.
The shows/competitions here are regulated by FEI’s “Code of conduct”. It states in the first chapter that “In all equestrian sports the consideration to the horse comes first, and has never to step aside for commercial or competitional aspects”.
On all shows above local level there has to be – apart from the judges - a steward present.
The steward is to watch the warm-up pen and the facilities, and make sure that everyone behaves.
On shows at national level there is in addition a veterinary inspection before start.
The horses are not allowed to participate in shows/competitions until the age of 5 or 4 (the lowest classes existing)
I have never ever seen any abuse on shows apart from overuse of the whip, which has been addressed. And frankly, it has not been bad.

I have not seen what goes on "behind the scenes" at home with professional riders apart from the ones I know, but I have a good friend that has.
She has been working at one of the very top dressage stables in Germany.
I asked her for her story as well.
She said that in Germany she had experienced a couple of hard training sessions where the whip had been used more than she was comfortable with, but that was it.
No rollkur and almost no use of draw reins either.

So maybe I’ve not seen it all, but as there are dressage horses working on world top level until they are 17-18 years old, I would say that there are some people out there doing a good job.
I don’t believe you can keep your top-athlete performing at the top for so long if you don’t take good care of it.
An example of this is the best dressage horse in Sweden, Björsells Briar, who participated in the Olympics and is now turning 18.
Parallel to competing he has been in stud use, an extra strain.
This horse has been participating in three Olympics, numerous WC and has been the highest placed breeding sire for six years in a row in the World Breeding Ranking for Sport Horses, managed by WBFSH (World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses).
A beautiful horse.
And sound.

Say that there is a difference.
Then I wonder why?
It is because of money?
As top horses and top results represent money in both sports, that should not make a difference.
Has it to do with traditions and culture?
Has it to do with what kind of tasks the horse has to perform in the different sports?
Is the male/female attitude towards horses making a difference? (As many female riders are into dressage I mean).
I wonder.

There are very few horses, talented enough to handle the demands on the top, when it comes to ability, health and mental attitude.
To have the horse working out of comfort zones is one thing, I agree that we sometimes have to do that.
Resorting to violence is another.
If the rider feels a need to resort to violence then I’d say it’s time to take a deep breath and control the frustration and anger.
I have always been told that “the fault lies above the saddle”.
So maybe it’s time to look at the exercise at hand and find out if the input above the saddle is causing the output below the saddle.
Maybe the rider hasn’t explained the task clear enough for the horse.
Maybe the horse is not strong enough.
Maybe the rider has to improve his/her skills.
Maybe neither the horse nor the rider is ready for the task on hands.
“Where the violence starts, the art ends”
I still believe this should be valid.
And remember; we are not speaking about problem horses here, we are speaking about horses in the top. Talented ones.
As well as talented riders.
Maybe that is the worst of it.

I just wanted to say, from my small corner of the world, that I believe that it should be possible to reach the top without abuse.
If not, we have gone astray.

February 15, 2009

Jimmi-training, part two

She did well.
We worked on the same things as yesterday, but she was much more relaxed, and as a result the counter canter was more balanced.
Still she gets a bit strong and partly deaf sometimes when I ask her to slow down and stay with me.
Anyway, now she is working better with an improved hind activity and contact to the bit, so I can live with the fact that the motor is in turbo mode sometimes. We just have to have a session with adjusting the brakes one of the days coming.
Always something to work on...

February 14, 2009

Training with a Danish twist

We have a guest trainer visiting us this week, Jimmi T Sørensen from Denmark.
He has been on the Danish national equestrian team in both dressage, show jumping and eventing.
Impressive, don't you think?
When meeting new trainers I am both curious and a bit apprehensive. I like to get new input, but I also have a clear picture of what I want from the trainer. I think I will blog about that in a separate post.

Anyway, I liked Jimmi.
He had a postitive approach.
Hey, he even wanted to buy my horse!
I instantly declined and turned into the Cheshire cat again.

As my daughter got a new camera for her birthday, I am finally able to add some photos, too.
Thanks Elin :-)

We started to work on a circle.
As she had free yesterday, Fame decided that the short side of the arena contained ghosts, and tensed up every time we passed, interspersed with some extra jumps to the side, just to add some spice to the stew *sigh*
So we worked on getting her to relax, and stayed on the circle to make some transistions trot/canter.

After she had calmed down some, we worked with shoulder-in (trot) along the long sides of the arena, turned up the centerline with leg-yield out to the track again.

She was more relaxed, but still a bit steamed up, so energy was no problem; I just had to concentrate on keeping the rythm and not tensing in my hands.
We had a short break, and then started with some canter work.
Shoulder-in along the longsides, turn up the center line, back to the track and continue in counter canter.
In the last canter she was really fine, so then we just rounded up with some streching work in trot, and called it a day.
New possibilities tomorrow.

February 13, 2009

Spooky horses

In the wild it was the “spooky” or watchful horses that survived, the ancestors to the horses we have today.
The others were eaten.
So even if it is irritating for us, it makes sense to the horse.

Spooking can be difficult to generalize, but I believe that there are two main categories.

First category is spooking as a result of how the horse is managed.
The risk of spooking increases with too much grain feed for the work to be done, too little exercise or turnout, or too little stimuli.
If the horse has had a day or two off, then I’m not surprised if I experience some surplus energy. If it’s a windy or cold day in addition, well. A horse is a horse.
I believe we are not dealing with an anxious horse in this case, this is more a way for the horse to let the excess steam off and saying “ Oh I feel GOOOD today”, flexing the muscles and feeling fine. And not listening enough.
So I would put this horse to some mind consuming up-tempo work. And look into my routines, if I feel that spooking is a problem with my horse.
My present horse Fame falls into this category.
She is a well-muscled “teenager” (6 yrs) with a high opinion of herself, looking for entertainment whenever the opportunity comes along.
Her favourite trick when we canter on trail is to pretend to get scared, instantly jump a meter or two to the side and grab the opportunity to take off. Haha.

But the second category, those are the born spooky ones.
I believe that a born spooker dies a spooker. Maybe a bit improved through patience and training, but they are anxious and spooks to be on the safe side.
I believe that the rider has to be really patient and build confidence over time to minimize the problem. The safer the horse feels with his rider, the less spooking problem she’ll have. But there will definitely be some seat training along the road.
I have had two of these. One of them grew old with me, the other we sold as he didn’t function well in competitions.
My dear Amigo. The first month after I got him, he was snorting (and spooking) all the time when out on trail. We renamed him Piglet.
My tactics with the anxious horses is to ignore the problem.
Don’t fight, don’t “go looking” .
If it is one part of the arena that is scary, don't look up the problem. Get the horse to concentrate on the work away from the scary things, and expand the area that you are working in bit by bit. Usually they forget that it was scary after a while.
If it is a scary horse-leg-eater out on trail, don’t look at the stone yourself. If the horse freezes, let him stand a moment and look, and then ask him to go. Keep the reins long. Try not to tense up, and don’t get angry. Let him dance a couple of steps when passing, if necessary.
Out in the traffic it is more tricky.
Here you have to plan the strategy before your horse reacts.
If I have cars coming from behind when I am to pass something that might be “dangerous” I halt and let the cars pass first. Or I give a sign, ride out in the road so the cars have to stay behind us until we have passed the scary object.

Apart from the main categories there's all the other situations, normal horses spooking in situations that “need” spooking to, from the horse’s point of view.
A horse out alone spooks more as he has to be on watch. Horse logic.
A horse that goes first out on trail together with others also spooks more than the ones that follows. The first horse has to deal with the leg-eating monsters in the bushes, the others can safely pass. Horse logic.

My spooky horses have trained me well.
As long as I have remembered to tighten the girth I stay in the saddle.
It is a bit more difficult to stay on with your saddle hanging on the side, lol.
Which has happened...

February 10, 2009


Kiss, kiss. Amigo, 20 years and Elin, 10.

My animals mean a lot to me.
There are people out there that claim they can communicate with animals. I must confess that I am fascinated by the possibility, but at the same time quite sceptical.
I cannot speak to my animals, but I can quite often guess what kind of mood they are in, and putting words on it makes my daughter and me laugh, often.
I suppose it’s all down to body language, and how you interpret that after many years spent together with that species.
I’m not bad with cats and horses; I’m rusty with dogs and completely at loss with other species. Cows, as an example. Totally unknown territory. Have no idea what they are thinking about.

I envy those who work with horses full time. They have so much more opportunity to learn. I love to read books from people working with horses and solving behaviour problems; Henry Blake, Mark Rashid.
Solving the problems using brain and knowledge of horses, and not resorting to sheer force and violence.
In the riding hall in one of the old equestrian centres in Sweden, a place that has been used for training of horses for centuries, they have a large sign saying:
"Where the violence starts, the art ends".

The German training scale has relaxation at the very base of the training.
To make a dressage horse work correctly, it is imperative that the horse relaxes. He otherwise tenses up, in the neck, or in an inverted form with a hollow back, bracing against the bit with choppy strides.
The horse is exposed to the rider's moods. An anxious horse is a tense horse.
Now which rider has the most relaxed horse, do you think?
- One that praises the horse at an attempt to make it right, even if the attempt was not perfect
- A rider that punishes the horse as long as the response is not correct?
Yes. I want to make a point.
I know that there are many shades of gray between those two.
Think about it. Which horse learns fastest? Which one enjoys the work?

I believe that a horse that feels appreciated, feels it can master the tasks given and is not punished if there are misunderstandings, works with joy and heart.
And don't you think that this horse goes just that extra mile for his partner compared to the one that has only learnt to obey because otherwise it gets unpleasant?

I love well formulated words from others.
Let me quote Charles de Kunffy once again:
"We must deserve our horse's attention. We cannot take it for granted. It grows through acts of kindness and rewards. Slow in motion, soft in speech, and soothing in manner, the rider becomes a respected, reliable partner and a source of pleasure to the herd-bound horse"
Ah. Beautiful.

Being kind and sympathetic to the horse doesn't mean you let the horse walk over you.
It doesn't mean you're dumb, or walk around with pink, fluffy stuff between your ears.
Horses that don't behave are potentially dangerous.
We have to correct the horse along the way. But we need to stay calm when we do it.
We have to give clear instructions. Go means go, stop means stop.
I also believe that as a rider I have to strive to improve myself. A good seat and posture give clearer signals, and interfere less with the horse.
But why not have fun along the way?
I believe that when you actively seek to praise your horse, you feel good yourself. Your team of two has achieved something.

Yesterday I heard a comment from someone that considered dogs more intelligent than horses.
How do you measure that?
And what is the reason for drawing such a conclusion?
If you are a dog owner, you spend most of the time you are awake in the company of your dog. You learn to know him well. Your dog is very focused on you as a person, and your family is his pack. He has a very clear and easy understandable body language.
Now take the horse.
If you spent the same amount of time with your horse, I bet you would get a larger insight into what your horse thinks. The normal horse spends most of the time together with other horses (should do at least). How much time does the normal horse owner spend to get insight into his horse’s world? or thoughts?

The dog is a predator, just as man.
The horse is a herd living prey animal.
How does that affect the way the animal acts?

I believe it’s a premature conclusion to state that the dog is more intelligent than the horse.
Horses don’t wag the tail. They are large animals, but speak with small letters and soft voices. They evaluate situations from a prey animal’s point of view.
It’s up to us to tune in and receive the message.
We are supposed to be the intelligent ones, remember?
I don't believe that comment was very intelligent.

February 08, 2009

Inspiration, and the good things in life

"Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working" Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973)
"The wonders of riding are many, but perhaps the most important is an awareness of never-ending discovery" (Charles de Kunffy)

A few days ago I attended a clinic with Kyra Kyrklund.
I have been lucky enough to listen to her on a couple of earlier occasions as well. I admire her; not only for her results, which are impressive - but also as a person and an instructor.
She is a very down-to-earth and humoristic person.

On the seminar she emphasised the significance of the rider's balance, and how important it is for the output from the horse. She illustrated her thoughts with the help of two pony riders followed by two GP-riders, one of them on a younger and very talented horse.
By the way she explained thing I'm pretty sure that she was influenced by one of my favourite authors when it comes to riding; Mary Wanless. I believe Mary Wanless has some very good thoughts and explanations about the interaction of the horse and rider, and I enjoyed the fact that Kyra obviously thought so too.

I try to attend as many seminars and clinics as I can.
I always get a lot of inspiration, and return home ready to try out new things.
Problem is that until the next day I've forgotten most of it.
But I have a secret weapon; my good friend Anne, who brings her video camera along.
Unfortunately Anne has moved to Hannover, Germany to become a vet.
Impressive, in my opinion. Studying to be a vet is tough enough, but to study it in german?
Bordering to crazy, if you ask me.
The good thing is that she's situated in Hannover. In the middle of Horse-land.
Bad thing is that she has to study so hard so she hasn't had a chance to SEE a horse. Bwahahaha.
When she moved to Hannover, she gave me a whole map with DVDs from the different seminars we had attended.
We’re talking about MAJOR sweet bag here, guys.
You can guess where I spent my spare time the following days…
But I made it Anne, I remembered the camera!

The clinic with Kyra was just a part of a larger 12 day’s show called Arctic Equestrian Games, AEG.
I had travelled down to watch the show with a bunch of old friends.
After her clinic came a GP Kür, so we watched that as well.
It was OK, but I find that watching competitions isn't that fun any longer, whether it’s dressage or jumping. Maybe I'm turning into an old bore.
After the Kür was finished, we went to eat tapas at a restaurant in the nearby town, Tønsberg.
And that was the best of all.
You know, us horse people don’t have much time for social activities.
We rush through our jobs, rush home, rush to the stables, muck out (in a rush as the horses are hungry) rush out to get the said horses in – and try to relax to get some quality time with your horse.
And we chat with other people in the stable of course.
But I find that my time is not sufficient to keep up contact with my friends to the extent that I would like to, which I regret.
Now, the horse-crazy bunch that was with me to the restaurant isn’t in the same stable as me anymore, but some of them I’ve known for 10-15 years.
And you know, eating good food, having a good laugh or two and chatting horse with old friends, that’s the very best.
Even better than Kyra.

February 05, 2009

The air is thin up here...

"Riding is a quest, not a conquest" (Charles de Kunffy)
"Pleasure is the beginning and the end of living happily" (Epicurus, 341 BC - 270 BC)

...as my head is up in the skies today :-)
After the racing attempts on Saturday, Fame has worked well the last three days.
Today my instructor Ingrid was here.
After warming up, Fame felt good so we decided to work a bit on half-pass in trot and shoulder-in in canter.
Shoulder-in in trot is starting to come around now, but we have not worked with it in canter and not much with the half-pass either, so it was interesting to see how Fame would handle it.
She is clearly getting stronger, and Ingrid who has been sick for over two months and just came back teaching said she thought Fame looked a year older, which of course was very nice to hear (I instantly turned into the Cheshire cat again).
Now Ingrid is a very nice person who says kind things, so I keep that in mind - but it warms the heart to hear anyway.
The autumn has been tough as the surface has made it difficult to work, and as Ingrid has been absent I've been without someone to help me too.
So it's good to get a confirmation that we're on the right track.

The movements were not perfect, but Fame did a good job and kept the rythm and the contact, which made me happy.
We also did some work with the counter canter, and that worked out well today too. We lack the consistency though; if she gets distracted or a bit tense she is prone to increase the speed.
But we're working on it.
So now it's just to prepare for the downfall. We are having a dressage training in the week-end with two unknown instructors, so I assume the time is right. Huh.

Olympic dressage.

Now here's a special version of "Isabelle Werth& Satchmo".
This one's for you Anne, being without a horse in Germany, Bwa-Ha-Ha.

February 02, 2009

Life is...

...what's happening to you when you're busy making other plans

Since Fame had worked really well all the week, I was inspired to get to work on Saturday.
The surface of the riding arenas was good, my head was full of input from Kyra Kyrklund’s seminar on Wednesday (more of that another day), and so I was READY.
The plan was to work more with the counter canter, as well as with transitions canter-walk-canter.
It’s just that my plans didn’t equal Fame’s plans.
My little dressage princess had the day off Friday.
So when we started to work, she was ever so nice.
In about 3 minutes.
Then she pretended to get scared of something, took off and after that she started the turbo.
You know the one where the passenger says “slow down, slow down” and the driver just pretends not to hear, smugly smiles and increases the speed. Hehe.
Well, the passenger then turned a bit grumpy, took over the steering and made the former racing driver concentrate on some canter work. When both participants had lost most of the excess energy we called it a day. The end was better than the beginning, but the agenda of the day had to be continued in the next session.
You can make as many plans as you like, but since we are dealing with horses and not footballs you have unknown X-factors in the equation.
It can be a stiff muscle, a cold or strong wind, or a day or two off.
So maybe you have to change your plans that day.
If your horse is out of tune, take him on a trail ride that day instead.
If he's full of excess energy, let him have a lot of canter work to let the steam off.
Don't make your plans so important that they ruin the joy for you that day. It will come a day tomorrow!
And if your best friend over time goes grumpy or acts out of the normal, consider calling the vet. Might be something there. It often is. Have a check before it turns into a major problem.

My daughter Elin was not well, so after riding my racing-wannabe/former dressage princess, I had to ride her horse as well.
He is a 13-years-old FEI pony, and can charm a stone.
He is such a sweet guy, always happy.
He was soft and nice.
We danced through shoulder-in and travers in trot and canter, and he just stayed on the aids and did his work. Transitions, counter canter, tempo changes, I just had to sit and enjoy.
Ah, well, maybe check the activity in the hind legs from time to time, but he is not more than a horse…
After riding only younger horses for the last four years it’s so nice to sit on a horse that knows the exercises, and that is balanced. I can check that I'm on the right track with my dear little rascal . And it’s great fun.

After that I tidied up in the cupboard where Elin keeps Charlie’s tack.
It looked about the same as it does in her room (she’s 14) .
Then I was done in.
So I went home, found my cat (the one that stays put and sleeps on my stomach) and my mp3-player, levelled out on the kitchen sofa and listened to "Agatha Raisin and The Quiche of Death & The Vicious Vet".
With Penelope Keith, which is a perfect match IMO.
Nodded off a bit.

Elin and Mac Gyver (aka Charlie)