April 26, 2009

I am on a Quest

I am fed up.
With my lousy posture.
I recently saw a video of myself, and I did not like what I saw.
I round my shoulders, and wiggle in the middle.
No matter how much time and effort I have put in this over the years it seems like it is never enough.
A never ending quest.
But I am not giving up. Even if your bad habits are kinda good friends with your body when you are 46. My abdominal muscles have to step up a bit, I am afraid.
Problem is that I slouch when I sit, always have. I have a long body and short legs and arms (sigh again) and unfortunately this invites me to round my shoulders to “improve” the length of my arms.
But I am not letting such trivial things stop me.
I have given my instructor strict instructions to nag as much as possible on me.
All you others out there feel free to chime in. Like ending all comments “How’s your posture doing?” or something like that.
I am stubborn as hell, so I am gonna make this quest a successful one. .. It can’t be much worse *mutters*

I love this picture.
I believe it is taken some 10 years ago.
I am on my old gelding, Amigo, and it is my daughter standing beside us. I guess she is about 4-5 years old here, she is 14 now.
I loved this horse.
He was with me until he was 20, and got retired a couple of years before that due to bone spavin. He was such a sweet horse. A bit anxious, but with a large heart.
I thought it would be difficult to get another horse that would mean as much to me as he did, but I feel I have a worthy candidate in Fame.

My daughter has a very good posture.
She has been lucky to both get a pony and qualified instruction in early years.
(I was very anxious when I was pregnant that I would get a child that was interested in something weird, like football, but luckily a little Horsaii came out.)

Elin with her first pony Felix, at her first show.

I grew up at the local riding school, trying to get as much riding I could, but not owing a horse of my own.
You just don't get as much attention being 8 off at an hour of instruction on a riding school horse as you get when you are one or two...I am just a produce of my past, I guess.
And then a heartfelt sigh.
Why do so many instructors overlook the work with seat and posture? I know there are many instructors out there really doing a good job, but sometimes I wonder if the seat/posture is overlooked because it is tedious work? They don't want to nag? throw boring lessons? or do they really not see the vital importance of this?
If someone out there had corrected me in my early years my work later in life would have been so much easier.

Tomorrow I am off to Paris with a bunch of old friends.
We started up a "club" close to 20 years ago, where we meet regularily at each other's home over dinner. We also collect some money when we meet, so every second or third year we take an extended weekend off from our families.
We always have a good time, so I am looking forward to go.
So, a bit in advance - have a nice weekend everybody!
I am going to....

Buds are bursting

Taking on a young horse is a time consuming project.
It requires a lot of dedicated work and patience.
I bought Fame when she was three, she is six now.
It has been a long road of establishing the basics, not only when it comes to the dressage work - but with everything else that is included in the day-to-day life of a horse that has to behave among humans.

I had a dressage lesson on Friday, and after we had finished I went through in my mind what we have been working with the last half year.
In the autumn/beginning of the winter I was working with her contact and engagement.
I had to get her better engaged over her back and in her hind legs, and thus establishing a better contact on the bit. When asked to work more, she wanted to increase speed instead, and tense up in the neck and back.

This improved over time.
Entering 2009 she put in the necessary energy, but the problem was instead that she turned a bit deaf when I asked her to slow down, or make a half halt.
She still tensed up sometimes in the neck.

Now I feel that things are falling into place.
The last weeks she has been a pleasure to ride.
Soft and through in her body, and listening to the aids.
I want her to relax and be so submissive that she goes a bit jelly-like in the crest of her neck, and she has been working really good right from the start of the lessons lately.
I feel that after that dedicated session with the canter diagonals where she took off, something happened.
Her canter work has improved, not only in the arena but also out hacking.
She is definately getting stronger, and of course that helps.

But in a way, I feel that all that earlier work we have been doing, all those hours in all weathers, finally is paying off.
My little pony bud is bursting into a dressage horse.

And it is just wonderful.

Today we took a day off from dressage work and went trail riding again.
I decided to ride her bareback out on trail for the first time.
The last months I've been riding her bareback in the arena in average once a week, and taken some small trips in the forest just to cool off, but we have never taken a long trip.
But today was the day.
When we came down to the creek, the water level was quite high.

I just placed my legs as high up the sides of Fame as I managed, and out we went.
She almost had to swim, and before we reached the other side I was wet both on my legs and on my bum , the water flowed up along her back...
It looked suspiscius if you get my meaning. Hehum. Luckily we started out early, so there were few people out.
When we got to the other side Fame got a little wild, being proud of herself and letting the tension go. I told her to behave and she did. At least a bit.

We rode up a small gravel road, Heikampen - a very nice riding road, no cars - but we cannot use it in winter time as it is ski paths there then.
People don't get very happy if you ride in them, to put it mildly.
It winds up a about 3 kms, with a steady climb.
During WWII they dropped supplies to the resistance on the top.

Along the way, we have some waterfalls.
Depending on how much water there is further up, they are either small or more powerful.
Can be interesting as it is a steep drop on the other side.
If the horse shies, you might suddenly find yourself uncomfortably close to that side.

Fame used to be quite tense when passing them earlier, but today it was not a problem.
Nice, as I was riding bareback!
We had some canter sessions on the way up.
She was really a good girl, no shying, no speed increase, just working in a nice outline and ready to take a transistion down whenever asked.
When we got to the top, I jumped off and walked down beside her.

Then it's party time for Fame.
We take poo-smelling stops, and grass-eating-stops when there is grass available.
A bit early in the season, but she tried her best!

The snow is almost gone now, and the springflowers are coming up, one by one.
And the trees are soon to burst out too - the buds are swelling.
Springtime is lovely!

April 24, 2009

Today's entertainment: Husbands Vs. Horses, Author unknown

Good Things About Husbands:

Husbands are less expensive to shoe.

Feeding a husband doesn't require anything that even mildly compares with the hassle of putting up hay.

A lame husband can still work.

A husband with a belly-ache doesn't have to be walked.

Husbands don't try to scratch their heads on your back.

They're better able to understand puns.

If they're playing hard to catch you *may* be able to run them down on foot.

They know their name.

They pay their own bills.

They apologize when they step on your toes.

They seldom refuse to get in the vehicle.

They don't panic, yelling and running all through the house when you leave them alone. (unless you left the kids too)

For a nominal fee you can hire someone else to clip them.

The Horse's Advantage:

If they don't work out you can sell them.

They don't come with in-laws.

You don't have to worry about your children looking like them.

You never have to iron their saddle pads.

If you get too fat for one you can shop for a bigger one.

They smell good when they sweat.

You can repair their "clothes" with duct tape.

It's possible to keep them from "jumping the fence".

You can force them to stay in good physical condition...with a whip if necessary.

They don't want their turn at the computer.

They turn white with age, but not bald.

They learn to accept restraint.

They don't care what you look like, as long as you have a carrot.

Have a nice weekend everyone!
I don't know how much I will be able to be on net during the weekend, the internet connection is giving us some trouble....

April 20, 2009

One of the world's most beautiful railroads

Bergensbanen is one of the highest placed main railroads in Europe, and also one of the most spectacular.
It was in 2005 awarded as one of the “Top 10 finest railroads in the world” (by the American travel expert Gary Warner).

Bergensbanen celebrates a 100 years jubilee this year.
When built, it was characterised as:

“The monumental work of our generation” (King Haakon VII at the opening in 1909)

And it was.
The cost equalled a whole year’s national budget.
It posed enormous challenges in engineering and in handling the tough climatic environment passing through the mountains.

Norway was separated from the union with Sweden in 1905.
It was a poor country, with a long rugged coastline and a lot of mountains.
The capital Oslo (Kristiania) is in the East, separated from the second largest city, Bergen, in the West through high mountains.

Somwhere through those mountains the railroad had to go.
This poor country used a whole national budget on a project that no-one believed in.
It was to think the impossible, and then to do it.
I doubt that the politicians today would have the guts!

To build the railroad in the beginning of the century was a challenging task.
They had to decide where to put the track through tunnels (to be chiseled by hand, expensive and time consuming) and where to put it in the open.
How would it be possible to protect the track from wind and snow?
Shields? Would they stand for the harsh weather?
Where would avalanches be a risk?

Still in our days, the train might stop due to too much snow (latest March 31st this year).
And the roads between Oslo and Bergen might also be closed in the winter due to strong wind and snow.
But when the railroad was planned, cars and aeroplanes were not an alternative.
People had to go by boat along the coastline. The weather could be harsh there too.

So I took Bergensbanen (in a more up-to-date execution) to Voss, to meet my friend Ann-Carin and to throw some lessons.
I enjoyed the train ride; beautiful scenery outside the window, and a crime book in my ears through my mp3-player.
Unfortunately my camera did not work, so all I had was the camera on my cell phone – but I was lucky I had that!
The train worked its way up through the mountains.
The spring down in the lower areas was gradually replaced with snow.

The highest placed train station is Finse, 1222 m above sea level.
It is the highest placed train station in Northern Europe.

In the old days this was a place for the rich and famous.
Still in the 70'ies it was black tie for dinner.
Not any more though! Now it is a place for winter sports enthusiasts.

Finally I arrived in Voss, and was met at the station by Ann-Carin.
Next day I met some nice people and horses in Voss.

Here we are having lunch outside the stable.
It was nice spring weather the whole weekend.
Below you can see the view just further on behind us.

I had anticipated quite a few Fjord horses, but it turned out to be only one, and the schedule was a bit hectic, so all I managed was to take a picture of the horses out after work…(sorry OnceUpon and RuckusButt!)

I arrived home late Sunday evening.
I was happy to my own horse again, and I think Fame was happy to see me too.
Our outdoor arena had dried up, so it was possible to work on it again, and yesterday we had a nice session.
We worked with canter-walk transitions, counter canter, shoulder-in in trot and canter and also some extensions. Fame worked well, and I feel that things are coming along nicely.
AND she remembered to stop quietly after the canter extensions on the diagonal. Good girl!
We also did some turn on the haunches. I have forgotten to train on them lately, having focused more on the work with canter-walk-counter canter, so they could have been better. Have to put in some effort there.
But all in all, she did well.
Now we have to find some shows!

April 16, 2009

Home of the Fjords

Voss, Raundalen (Picture from Visit Voss)

I am going to Voss for the weekend, to meet a friend and to throw some lessons.
Voss is on the west coast of Norway, home of the Fjord horses and with a breathtaking scenery.
I am looking forward to it; I have never been there before.
It is a 6 hrs train ride, single way, over the mountains that separates the west and the east side of Norway.
It will be a couple of hours with daylight and much to look at.
I've loaded my mp3-player and also brought a book.
Will write more when I come home!
Have a nice weekend, everybody!

April 14, 2009

Easter update

The very first ones. Happy spring everybody! Hope you have had a nice Easter!

My husband and daughter left me to take care of the animals and took off for Gran Canary to get some extra sun, so I spent Easter on my own.
I waved them goodbye, and smiled smugly to myself.
Don’t remember when I was on my own last time, and I actually enjoy that.
So I had a marvellous, egoistic Easter, with horses, cats and food after my own mind.
I read books, and watched what I wanted on TV.
Had some girl friends over for dinner too.
And the weather was lovely - spring weather with quite a lot of sun.
I decided to enjoy the sun even if I wasn't at Canary Islands.

I trudged through the snow to our outside sitting place, and shovelled it bare from snow.

Then I thought that I would get something to sit on.

The chairs are inside this door.
After more shovelling, and some head scratching while trying to shrink the chair two sizes smaller to get it out of the door, I finally managed to get it through.
(I dropped a table. )
The cats were enjoying themselves.

Fame was basking in the sun.

On Thursday, I hacked out with Fame.
We had quite an eventful trip.

We discovered a deer that probably had drowned.

The water level in the creek was higher, due to all the melting snow.
A crow was taking a bath at the shore. He really did a good job with it, dipping the body over and over, and shaking the feathers afterwards. Get rid of all the winter dust. Drown those bugs.

We took one of the gravel roads, and a bit up the road I heard a large vehicle approaching from behind.
They have been cutting down the forest in the area during the winter, and I knew that there were lumber trucks working to bring it out.
The road was rather small unfortunately, so there was very little room left for me and Fame if it really was one of those trucks.
I knew there was a road leading down to a house further on, so I just had to put her in a (fresh) canter to reach it in time.
And yes, it was a lumber truck.
We barely made it. Phiew.

Further on I was walking Fame on loose reins and my mind was elsewhere (that's when it happens you know!).
Suddenly some snow falls from a high mountain side in front of us and Fame is the next second galloping down the slope that we just had been riding up.
Luckily I had tightened the girth this time, lol!
I got hold of the reins and managed to stop her without any more fuzz.
We had some more canter intervals up, and she felt fine.
She can be eager in the canter, but this time she was just softly rolling on in a round, deep outline, and listened to my aids. I wondered if the canter training from the week before still was in the back of her head, or if she was a bit out of form due to the hair shedding season.
On the way back I jumped off her, and walked by her side.
I like doing that.
I feel closer to her when I walk by her head and am not just sitting in the saddle, and I also feel that I can do with the extra exercise.
After a while we heard some noise.
Fame stopped and listened, and I heard it too.
It sounded like…. a lumber truck loading lumber.
On our way home. Sigh.
We couldn't see anything yet, and in any case we just had to walk on to get home.
A few curves further down, we saw the truck. He had parked as far to the side as possible, and luckily it seemed as if he had just finished loading.

The truck still had the engine running, and the driver was securing the load by throwing ropes over the load.
Fame was on red alert.
Trucks are one thing, but ropes and climbing men on trucks, that’s something completely different.
She snorted and grew to twice her normal size, muscles bulging, ready to explode.
I told her she was one silly horse, and kept moving.
We passed the truck, greeted the driver who smiled and said that large trucks are dangerous, nodding at Fame who was tip-toeing behind, eyes bulging.
Fame danced a bit after we had passed, but that was that.
And then I just had to get up in the saddle and get going before we got the same truck coming up from behind again.
We managed to get off the road before the truck came.
On the way home we had that long, nice stretch of road in the sun.
It looks inviting, doesn't it?

And so thought Fame.
Suddenly she was not well behaved at all, but decided to get rid of that truck tension and work the body a bit.
I got the racehorse-wannabe back.
I had to get firm with her to get her to calm down, stupid thing.
At least I could conclude that she was not feeling out of form due to the hair shedding.
On the way back, Fame decided to trot through the water when we crossed the creek, in spite of my protests. She had lot of fun, and I got all wet.
(Frankly, I had a bit of fun too.)

April 12, 2009

It's never too late

Oh ladies, this one is for us all.
Go Susan! You bring tears to my eyes...
And Simon, I don't believe you one instant.

Please click at the link (embedding not possible):

Susan, 47, is living alone with her cat Pebbles, 10.
Life has not always been easy it seems.
Read more here .

April 11, 2009

Explosive youngster in the traffic - Fame part 2

Fame on pasture as 3 yo

I bought my present horse Fame when she was three years old.
You can read more about it here.
At that point she had been living outdoors 24/7 at her breeder's and had not been much handled.

After I bought her I agreed with her breeder that she should start some initial work with her in familiar surroundings. She was worked in the longe line, eventually also with a saddle and had a couple of loose jumping sessions.
During the summer she was turned out on pasture.
In mid August I sent her to a dressage rider for a month, well known to do a good job with young horses.
She was to start her under rider.
I wanted her to get a good start with someone that had more experience than me, and I felt it was a good investment.
When I got her back they had done a very good job with her.
Now the work had to start for me and my new horse.
To be able to ride her for the first time was a fantastic experience!
I still smile when I think about it now.
She is under the pony limit (still, I hope), but it felt like sitting on a WB. She was quite balanced to be so young.
It felt good up there!
I was very happy with my crazy investment.

In the autumn that year I entered her into the Quality Test for 3 yo, held by the Norwegian Pony Association. She was to be showed in hand and loose jumped over hinder, but not presented under rider.
To get her prepared to the test I had to lead her along a road to practise loose jumping at a neighbour facility that had an indoor arena .
It is a small road, with buses and lorries passing by. She was not used to traffic.
And I had a lively 3 yo just waiting for an excuse to explode. I did not want neither her, nor me, injured.

So how was I to manage it?
This is where the treat thing got started, folks.

I needed her to focus on ME when something passed us, instead of exploding.
So I filled my pockets with treats.
And the plan worked!
She could jump around me and play up (no, she was not very lead trained) and when there were no cars, I could discipline her.
But I couldn't do it when the vehicles came - there simply was not room enough.
So every time a vehicle advanced I put my hand in my pocket, and Fame soon got the picture and hung on that pocket. The cars were not of interest any more.

Yes, I got a pickpocketer for a while.
But I also got a horse with very positive experiences of vehicles!
And traffic has never been a problem since.

Springtime, Fame and Nesprinten on pasture that summer

April 03, 2009

How do you ride - mentally?

I read something interesting by Mary Wanless yesterday, and it has been playing around in the back of my head since.
I will write more about Mary Wanless and her thoughts about riding in a separate post. It will be a long one as she is my favourite author when it comes to riding…

Anyway, the basic question is – what goes on in your mind when you are riding?

Are you riding with your left brain (analysing) or your right brain (feel)?
Are you talking to yourself when you are riding?
What do you remember after your riding session - your good moments, or the bad ones?
Mary Wanless compared the thought processes of the “normal” rider with the “elite” riders, and found some things that differed.
She also found differences between the dressage rider and the showjumping/eventing rider.

In her findings, some riders often silently talked to themselves when they rode, others seldom did this.
Some riders focused on what went well, and did not dwell much on the things that did not work out as planned, while other riders often got mentally stuck in the bad parts.
Who do you believe were the elite ones? The normal ones?

Dressage riders had a very strong internal focus, while show jumpers/eventers had an external focus (logically when you have all those obstacles in your way).
She mentioned one example of a successful event rider that had problems to readjust and focus in the dressage test. This rider was too aware of the surroundings and got disturbed by them, and as a result the horse also had concentration problems.

Interesting thoughts.

It made me think about how I function when I ride.
How do you function?

I kind of get into a mental yoga-state when I ride, very much a "feel"-rider I believe. The result is that I sometimes am a bit passive.
And maybe this is the reason that I am not a good show jumper. I kind of go with the flow, and then all these obstacles get in the way, and afterwards I am a bit dazed and kind of have the feeling “what happened??”.
Not very “pro-active”, lol!
Maybe if I jumped more I would improve, but as I am so happy with my dressage I don’t believe I will reach that stage…

The dressage riding is a mental time-out from everything for me.
I can be stressed or feeling down before I start the riding, but seldom afterwards. I get totally absorbed by the task at hands, and forget about everything else.
It’s my lucky pill, haha.
And I don’t get depressed if things don’t work out as planned. I believe that is a consequence of riding for so long; I don’t feel that I need to prove anything. I ride for fun. I know it goes up and down. You might seem stuck for a while, but there are always plateaus and it is just to put your mind and body to work and one day the problem will be solved. In a way that is intriguing in itself.
And when riding a young horse where things can happen fast, you have to watch out so you don’t limit yourself.
I am very grateful for my instructor who pushes me. I am afraid I otherwise would go into a Happy Hippie-state and have these pleasurable yoga-sessions and the progress would take twice as much time as necessary, lol!

I cherish those prescious moments when things work really well.
The very best ones are when my horse is really through and soft in the body, and it feels like I just have to think what we are to do, and we do it. Together.
It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it is magic!
And when it happens, I go over it over and over again in my mind for several days, and keep the happy feeling inside.
I know that for people watching, dressage may seem as interesting as watching paint dry.
But it is so absolutely enthralling when you are up in the saddle yourself.
For me, I believe it is the feeling of being one with my horse that really gives me the kick.
The search for the magic moments, and the happiness when I find them.

What are your happy moments on horse back?

April 02, 2009

The Sofa Princess on Adventures

Finally our Sofa Princess has woken up from her winter sleep, and is shamelessly calling for male company.
She has totally ignored the outside world for the whole winter, but now she sits ready for take off as soon as anybody approaches the front door.

But outside nasty surprises are lurching.....

Eeeeeh, HELP! Me gets DIRTY out here!

Boyz can wait. I'm going IN.

HELP! Damsel in distress. Open door pleeeeaase.

Oh, what has happened here? New toyz for ME? Oh, how sweet...

Telltale picture....