May 28, 2009

Apple blossoms

I am travelling to one of my favourite places this evening.
The world's best parents are living in the house in the picture above.
(Now, some of you might disagree with me on that one, but I can live with that.)

When I was a child, the house above used to be our summer house.
We moved out there each summer, the car packed to the brim with three children, two dogs, an array of other different animals ranging from desert rats to budgerigars (with cages of course) and all the rest of the luggage. To say it was a bit cramped is an understatement. The car was almost running on the rubber flaps all the way, LOL!
When we arrived us kids and the dogs spilled out of the car with that wonderful feeling that we had all summer in front of us. An endless long string of days with sun, bathing and fun.

We couldn't afford a horse in the family when I grew up.
But our farm neighbour had a horse - Blenda, an Ardenner (Belgian breed, much used in the farms in Sweden before the tractors came).
You can see her in the black and white photo in the very right part of the blog.
She was a BIG horse. The few times she cantered out on pasture, you could feel vibrations in the earth. When I got to ride her (kind neighbour, kind horse, happy child!) I felt like my legs were placed straight out, she was so broad over her back. I never got her to canter (there was a limit to her patience with me) but we trotted. It was a feel of heavy mass in motion...
Later we got to take the Fjord that I took care of at the local riding school with us for the summer. That was great.

So going over to my parent's place this evening makes me happy.

I might even throw in the season's first outdoor bath.
The weather forcast says it will be summer temperatures, 20-25 centigrades. It will not be warm in the water though...
Thing is to bake in the sun until you feel you are cooked. Then the water feels "refreshing". Hehum.
And we'll take Mum's cinnamom buns, and squash in a bottle with us down to the landing stage. And when we are to eat, the sugar on the buns has melted slightly in the sun, and the squash is luke warm and has a slight plastic tinge from the bottle.
Just as it should be in summer!

I like houses built in the old traditional style, like my parent's house.
This is another example from when I was out driving yesterday:

Even if my parent's house is in Sweden, it is located near the border to Norway.
As you can see, much of the building details are the same. I would guess that these two houses were built at the same period, last half of the 19th century.
The red colour is the traditional colouring of wooden houses in Sweden.
It is pigment slurry that came as a by-product from the copper mines of Falun, so it is named after that (Falu rödfärg).
The earliest traces of the red paint come from the 16th century, and in the 17th and 18th century a red painted house was a sign of wealth as most houses were not painted at all.
Since the paint also preserved the house it was a good investment.
Later the paint got cheaper and at that time the main buildings on the larger farms were instead painted white, or yellow - again to show off from the rest!

It is so beautiful outside now - I believe this is the best period of the year.
Apple blossoms, lilacs and lily-of-the-valleys. And the lush, fresh green.
The nights are still getting lighter. Around midsummer, it is light almost the whole night. Just a bit of dusk at midnight.
Wonderful, but difficult to sleep sometimes.

I am a bit worried though.
I had the vet to float the horses' teeth yesterday, and give the flue shots.
One of Fame's teeth is cracked. She has had the occasional snot coming from one of the nostrils, and the vet is worried that there is an infection up behind the tooth as we had a (not so nice) smell there as well...
I have to take her down to the hospital for x-rays, and maybe the tooth has to be removed.
Not good.

May 24, 2009

Busy weekend

Our local riding club arranged a show this weekend, show jumping Saturday, and dressage Sunday.
Lots of work in advance to register participants and plan taks, and early start and hectic days in the weekend.
Above you see Nessprinten. He is my husband's horse, and is turning 24 this year.
He is the sweetest, kindest horse you can imagine. He is still doing his job as a riding school horse, taking care of the insecure. He might not be the most beautiful on the outside, but he is good as gold on the inside.
Here he is recieving his price from the judge for a clear round in one of the lower classes .

Above is a picture from the price round in one of the dressage classes.
The horse in front is a cross Fjord/arab. She is 25, and did a good round both in the show jumping Saturday and in the dressage Sunday.
I love to see sound and happy oldies, taking care of new riders and giving them good experiences.

In the middle of the dressage show, we had some extra "entertainment".
The Icelandic horses from the neighbouring stable had escaped, and came running in full speed alongside our arena.
The poor horse that was in the arena doing the program got scared and bolted out of the arena completely with her rider.
It took some time to get things sorted out so the show could go on.
Here two of the "locals" are entertained by the visitors...

Hey, whazzup? Are you moving in with us?

Now here are two of my favourites: Hjalmar and Tarzan.

Tarzan is a cross Fjord/Oldenburger, but as you can see the Fjord got most of the cake.
Both on the inside and outside!
Tarzan came to the stable with Hjalmar's girlfriend, Siri.
She took care of Tarzan at the local riding school when he was a young horse, 13-14 years ago. Then she moved, and lost contact with him.
Two years ago she tried to find him again, succeeded, and also bought him. He is 18 now.
Her boyfriend Hjalmar found out through Siri that riding was fun, and one horse on two persons was not enough - I am sure we all can agree on that?
So they bought another horse, and Tarzan and Hjalmar have become real buddies.
I just love this horse. He is a real rascal and won't let an opportunity pass by, but he is charming too. Always in a good mood. The eternal optimist!
Now look at the photos below:

Here Tarzan has found a new, much better way beside the jump.
Look at his smug and content expression!
Hjalmar is not equally content with Tarzan's "improvement".

Here we go again!
This time Hjalmar got to decide which way to go.
As you can see, Tarzan loves to jump. He just couldn't help himself when the opportunity came up...

And on Sunday the two buddies started again.
Look at the dressage guys, Hjalmar in riding coat and Tarzan with a braided mane.
This was Hjalmar's first start ever in dressage.
Here he is letting out a sigh of relief after finishing the program.
Yeah Tarzan, we made it!
Tarzan is wondering what the fuzz is about.
And here, look at the concentration in the ride, in both horse and rider:

And the result?
Yes, they made it!
In spite of deciding to enter the day before, and just having ridden through the program after the show jumping yesterday....
Way to go, Tarzan and Hjalmar! Congratulations!

May 19, 2009

It doesn't always turn out as planned...

I had a little mishap Saturday...
While cutting potatoes, I also cut some finger.
Suddenly there was a bit of the finger tip lying on the chopping board.
I acted quite irrational, and threw the finger tip bit in the kitchen bin before going out to my husband and telling him what had happened.
We tried to (yes, I know it sounds macabre) locate the finger tip in between everything else that was lying in the garbage, but we couldn't see it. No, it wasn't that big! It was a bit of the fleshy, rounded part on the top...
So if there was nothing to sew on, I concluded that we could just as well bandage up the finger at home.

But I had my dressage lesson booked for Jimmi on Sunday morning.
And I couldn't ride with that finger.

Me was sad.

And Fame and me were to have half an hour session all by ourselves, and continue to train on those flying changes.
The other two lessons we had shared with another rider.

Me was really sad. Like someone-snatched-a-candy-bag-on-a-five-year’s-old – sad.

Well, not much to do.
I sent a message to tell I wouldn’t be able to ride after all.
But then I got a message back where Jimmi suggested he could ride Fame instead.
Now that was a good idea!
I instantly turned a bit happier, even if I really wanted to ride myself that session. But this could get interesting!
So on Sunday morning Fame got to work while I was just standing by, watching.

Jimmi used the time to check out what worked, and what we needed to train more.
When he was finished, we discussed things through.
Jimmi wanted Fame more flexible and active behind, things that I agreed upon. I would also like that.
He also said that she can be a bit strong on the bit sometimes instead of accepting the halfhalt. I agreed on that too.
It is so nice to get feedback from someone else, it is very easy to get “home blind” when you ride the same horse all the time.
I was also relieved that his “map” over Fame wasn’t all that different from mine. Then I feel that we can get to work and not be quite lost on the way.
Jimmi will come back in a month.
He advised us to work on haunches-in/half pass until next time.
We worked with that on Saturday, but as we hadn’t trained much on it on beforehand the result was a bit so-so.
But it is a good exercise to improve both flexibility and hind leg activity.
I am very motivated to get to work, so I really hope that finger won’t bother me too much!

Outside it is getting greener and greener.
I enclose some photos....

Three weeks ago I took the ferry from Oslo over to Copenhagen with my job.

Here we are just going out of Oslo harbour.
If you ever are to visit Oslo, try and come from the sea, by the ferry from Denmark - that is definetely the most beautiful way to arrive.
The ferry is going up the Oslofjord which is rather narrow. You sail close to the islands and the shores, and you are sailing at breakfast time too, so it is nice to sit and sip your coffee and look at the scenery outside the window.

Last weekend (a week ago) I took my daughter downtown Oslo to do some shopping. She has grown a lot and we needed some new spring and summer clothes.

When the temperature goes up and the sun is shining, suddenly there are people everywhere....

And in last week I was out in an area southwest of Oslo, Telemark.
I believe this is a beautiful part of Norway, with narrow valleys and high mountains. They have some apple farms there as well, and the trees were in bloom. Marvellous.

During WWII one of the most spectacular actions by the resistance
was the sabotage of the heavy water production site in Rjukan, Telemark.
This was "Mission Impossible" in reality, but they managed in spite of all odds to destroy the factory, and thereby delay Hitler's atomic bomb project.
If they had not made it, the outcome of the war could have been completely different.
This is worth a blog post on its own, because the real story beats fiction.
I will come back to it another time.

May 17, 2009

Welcome to the world, Little One!

We got a new little one born in the stable yesterday.
It was the stable owner's race brood mare that gave birth.
I am always so happy when everything goes well with mare and foal.
It was a beautiful little baby stallion that was born, brown as his mother.
Isn't he adorable?

Just look at those legs!
Isn't it amazing that they can balance, and even canter on those long, thin sticks so close after birth?


Pit stop

I'm gonna be a race horse, see

May 15, 2009

First flying change!

Once again the Danish trainer Jimmi Sørensen is here, and I have booked three lessons with him.

He came 10 minutes early, so I got a bit stressed as I felt I hadn't had enough time to warm up Fame, but we just went ahead with some supplying work.

I asked Jimmi if he could help me with my walk piroutttes, and he asked if he could sit up and feel a bit on Fame first, which I of course agreed to.

Here Jimmi and Fame are doing some walk piouettes.

While he was sitting on her, I asked him if he could try some flying changes on her as well.

Riding flying changes requires feel and timing, and I feel so rusty as I haven't done them for 6-7 years.
I haven't tried since last time a couple of weeks ago.
I feel Fame is ready for it though.
And Jimmi and Fame did som nice flying changes. Three or four off actually.
I was proud of my horse. Jimmi liked her too.

If you ride your flying change by shifting the direction (like you do on a show jumper), most horses finds that logical.
But in dressage, the horse is not to change on a change of direction; that is why we learn them counter canter. They are to change on the aid, and the change is to be straight, balanced and uphill. A bit more difficult for the horse to understand.
In the beginning you just want them to change on the aid, and to make a correct change (not change one stride afterwards with the hindlegs).

Then it was my turn.
Here we go.

We first started out to get a good, collected canter.
Then Jimmi wanted us to change on a soft serpentine along the longside.
Didn't work out too good, Fame got a bit strong and rushed off.
So we changed tactics and took a short diagonal instead - and we made it!!
A clear change, and a good one too! Yippeee!!

I am patting Fame's neck off right after the change.

Treat time. She had earned that one!

May 14, 2009

Today's entertainment

Fame together with her mother, Electric Angel (left)

All I have learnt in life, I learnt from my horse (author unknown):

When in doubt, run far, far away.
You can never have too many treats.
Passing gas in public is nothing to be ashamed of.
New shoes are an absolute necessity every 6 weeks.
Ignore cues. They're just a prompt to do more work.
Everyone loves a good, wet, slobbery kiss.
Never run when you can jog. Never jog when you can walk. And never walk when you can stand still.
Heaven is eating at least 10 hours a day... and then sleeping the rest.
Eat plenty of roughage.
Great legs and a nice rear will get you anywhere. Big, brown eyes help too.
When you want your way, stomp hard on the nearest foot.
In times of crisis, take a poop.
Act dumb when faced with a task you don't want to do.
Follow the herd. That way, you can't be singled out to take the blame.
A swift kick in the butt will get anyone's attention.
Love those who love you back, especially if they have something good to eat.

Elin with her first pony, Felix

This weekend I will have three training sessions with the Danish trainer I wrote about a while ago. As I love my trainings I am really looking forward to it!
I will be happy, tired and poor after the weekend has ended :-)

On Sunday it is Norway's National Holiday, the 17th of May, so it's a day of celebration.

Have a nice weekend everybody - I will!

May 08, 2009

Counter canter


Travelling is nice, but I believe it is time to get back to horse once again.

One of the things Fame and I have been working hard on to get in place during the winter was the counter canter, to enable us to step up a class in the shows when spring came.
I thought I would post on that.
Both what we have been doing, and some general info.

First some general info:
Counter canter is a useful exercise to straighten the horse and to improve balance and strength in the canter work, and to make the horse obedient to the aids. It is also one of the steps towards simple changes.
Normally you start the work with counter canter when the horse has achieved a good balance in the normal canter, and where he can keep balance and rythm when doing changes in stride length.

So what did we do?

First steps:
We started the early work with making a single serpentine in "normal" canter, a soft turn off the track from the long side into the second track (inside and parallell to the track along the arena) and back again while trying to keep the balance and the rythm. While riding the serpentine the horse is working in counter canter even if it is a small, soft and long turn.
I focused on keeping my weight to the inside (canter side), and to support Fame with my outside leg and make the turn soft and smooth.
When this was working OK, we proceeded to the next step which was to give the aids for counter canter from walk (or trot) on the long side, along the track.

Sometimes the horse has problems to take the counter canter lead in the beginning.
Not surprising as most of us have trained hard to get the right canter lead before this stage!
This might be caused by the position of the rider, or that the horse needs a bit more room on the canter side in the depart in the beginning.

Following might help:
(imagine that we ride on the left rein, and are to ask for a right canter depart)
- after the second corner on the short side, ride the horse into the second track, flex it slightly to the right, sit to the right and ask for a right canter depart.
- after the second corner on the short side make a soft leg yield to the second track, flex the horse slightly to the right, sit to the right and ask for a right canter depart.
These two exercises makes the depart easier for the horse as he gets more room for the right-hand side.

When this is working ok, ask for a depart on the track.
Before asking for the counter canter depart, make sure that you weigh the right seatbone and that your left shoulder and hip are slightly behind the right ones.
Flex the horse to the right, but not too much, keep the left rein soft as too much flexion will lessen the quality of the canter.
If I imagine that I am to ride out through the wall it makes the exercise easier for me.

In the beginning make a transistion to walk or trot before reaching the corner at the end of the longside.

This is all and well.

In theory.

Problem was that at the time Fame and I started this work we were in the beginning of the winter. Outside the ground was frozen and uneven, and we only had access to the indoor arena 1-2 times a week.

So every time we were to canter on the track, Fame got very happy, and took off.
There was just too much unused surplus energy.
And counter canter needs to be controlled and with some collection, otherwise it is almost impossible for the horse to keep the balance.


So what to do?

To keep the speed down in the canter I tried to make the transition to counter canter closer to the short side, and tried to keep the counter canter through both corners even if this was a more difficult exercise.
You have to round off the corners to make the task easier.
Often the first corner goes well, but when you get to the second one the horse can change or disunite because he has lost balance and impulsion.

The indoor arena that we use also houses a riding school.
The result is that when we get access to the arena late in the evening, there is always a rather deep track along the wall.

Fame kept a more controlled tempo and actually did well in keeping the balance, but the problem was the deep track approaching the second corner.
She didn't listen enough to my leg, so we drifted outwards after the first corner and hit the "railroad"-track along the wall, or the edge of it, which both made her unbalanced and the corner too deep.
*sigh again*

By this time I was waiting impatiently for the snow to come, so we could get better training conditions. And hopefully Fame could get rid of that surplus energy outdoors without me, and concentrate more when it was time to work.

And finally the snow came. Life got brighter in many aspects.

Fame still got a bit on the forehand and increased the tempo, but it was easier to correct it when we had more room and a good surface to work on.

One exercise that worked well for us was establishing a good (normal) canter, and turning up at the center line on either A or C, and then making a half diagonal back to the long side where we came from, keeping the counter canter through the short side.
In this exercise Fame had to collect through the rather sharp turn up the center line, and we could play a bit with a slightly travers position riding back to the long side, again to keep her collected and avoid her running on and getting strong.

Then we started working with counter canter on a 20 m circle.
The advantage working on a circle is that you don't have to negotiate changes in direction, so it is easier to keep the rhythm even if it requires some more balance in the horse.
In this exercise we also played a bit with flexing Fame in the neck towards the inside of the circle, to increase her flexibility and balance.
Normal (and also shown in dressage tests) is to keep the horse flexed to the canter side.

Next step was to work with changes in direction in the arena, so Fame worked canter - counter canter - canter.
Easiest done by riding straight over the arena somewhere in the middle from one long side to the other. Keeping the counter canter on the short side, and then ride over the arena again and into normal canter lead.
In the beginning we made it easier by going slightly on a diagonal and not straight over, to make the turns larger and easier to handle, or worked on a large figure of eight, with two 20 m circles.

Working with counter canter is a good exercise. Fame has gotten stronger and more balanced.

May 07, 2009

Today's entertainment

I love youtube.
I find all kinds of old things there. Things I haven't seen for two or three decades.

When I went to university, the British comical series "Not the nine o'clock news" was running.
Rowan Atkinson made his debut there.
It was really, really good, and one of my class mates had a video tape recorder.
In the beginning of the 80ies this was heavy stuff, in particular for us poor students.
He taped all the episodes, so I have many good memories watching them (and also Bond films), cramped in a sofa or on the floor with many others and some beer before or after taking a trip to a party somewhere.
One of my favourites was the McEnroe breakfast.
In the end of the 70ies, beginning of the 80ies, the tennis world was dominated by two players; Björn Borg and John McEnroe.
It was extra fun to watch tennis at that time due to McEnroe's temperament.
Borg was cool and concentrated, but McEnroe went bananas. Over everything.
And lo and behold; what did I find on youtube?
The very same episode!
So here it is; The McEnroe breakfast.
I hope there are some more than me out there that remember this guy ;-) because they imitate his behaviour really good in this scene...
Hope you enjoy, and have a nice weekend everybody!

May 04, 2009

Paris in spring

Still sounds good, that.
And there were flowers everywhere. Beautiful.

But it started a bit...awkward.

Paris, here we come!
On our way from the airport our driver got some serious trouble with the car.
First the gearbox didn't work properly.
Then it started to smell funny and smoke from the engine.
So we had to stop right in the motorway with heavy weekend traffic.
As the engine still was smoking we didn't mind getting out. At all.
We managed to haul another taxi, and this one got us safely to the hotel in Montparnasse.

We stayed at the hotel Lenox Montparnasse, and it was a very nice hotel.
They helped us with recommendations on restaurants twice and both suggestions were very good. The rooms were rather small (as normal in France) but nicely decorated.
We got a good price on the rooms through
We packed up, changed clothes and out we went for dinner.
Around the corner we had a renown seafood restaurant, so to Le Dome we went.

Le Dome is an Art Deco brasserie, which opened in 1898.
It later became the gathering place of the American literary colony and a focal point for artists residing in Paris' Left bank.
The interior still is 1930's Art Déco period, beautiful, and it creates that special atmosphere.
(Unfortunately I forgot to bring my Marlene Dietrich outfit)

Many of the French seafood restaurants have a display of the goods outside, kind of like a candy shelf for grown ups...

Nice, huh?
We had oysters as a starter. We really had to feel that we were in France.
I had a fantastic main course: Coquilles Saint Jacques, risotto avec truffles blancs
(Yes, I am a foodie. I still get happy when I think of it!)

After a dessert and some coffee we rolled the 50 m to the hotel.
The following two days we walked all over Paris from early morning to evening, so even if I had my share of food & wine, I believe that I could eat with a good conscience.
(Bah, would have done anyway!)

Latin quarter

The medieval museum, a 15th century Gothic mansion

Yes, there are still some of them left!


Hey Quasimodo, where are you?
He had a lot to climb on, that guy...

Inside Notre-Dame there is a miniature so you can see the whole church and its proportions.
During the French revolution many of its treasures disappeared.
When Victor Hugo wrote the "Hunchback of Notre-Dame" the church was in a tragic condition, and it was contemplated to tear it down completely. (What a tradgedy that would have been!)
Hugo's book sparked a renewed interest in the church, and a restoration project was started in 1845.

The church is as beautiful inside as it is on the outside.
Construction begun in 1163, and was completed in 1345.
What a project, and what an achievement taken into consideration what tools and instruments that were available!
I find it a paradox that in those days, when the life span of people were shorter, they took on such a gigantic project. Could you imagine something similar nowadays?
Come to think of it, there is actually an ongoing project in "La Sagrada Familia" in Barcelone.
Construction started in 1882 by Antoni Gaudí, but the fantastic church is still not finished (planned to be in 2026).

Notre Dame is placed on one of the two isles in Seine, Île de-la-cité.
The other one is the
smaller Île Saint-Louis.
Passing the small bridge between the two, a jazz band was playing. They played well too!

The Louvre.
We did not enter - huge queues...
The building is incredably large, you just see one side of it here.

The assortment in French boulangeries is REALLY mouthwatering!

Aux Champs-Elysées, aux Champs-Elysées
Au soleil, sous la pluie, à midi ou à minuit
Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Elysées

(Joe Dassin)
Want a touch of Paris? Listen to the real thing here

Yes, it is huge!

And even more impressive as you get closer.
I feel the Eiffel tower is really the quintessence of Paris.
It was marvellous to see it in real life.

Saturday evening we ate at "La closerie des Lilas"
And it was a marvellous meal!
I can highly recommend this restaurant.
It has since the late 19th century been the home to many artists and authors.
The interior, the service and the food & wine made this a memorable evening.

“The only decent café in our neighborhood was La Closerie des Lilas, and it was one of the best cafés in Paris. It was warm in the winter and the terrace was lovely in the spring and fall…” (Hemingway)

Saturday morning started out with a visit to Sacre Coeur.
It was Sunday Mass, and it was beautiful to hear the chorus and the organ.

The view from Sacre-Coeur over Paris - c'est magnifique!

Bye Paris!
I hope I will return some day!

We will watch over the city until you return...whenever that will be