August 26, 2009

Dressage show with a redneck twist

The pony girls from our club at the show, excluding the geriatric, overaged one

My goal for this spring was to start one class higher than last year, which here is called class LA.
(I am sorry but I do not know what the English/American equivalent is called, but the program contains exercises as canter-walk-canter transitions, walk pirouettes, leg yields, medium and extended walk/trot/canter and counter canter.)

My daughter's pony Charlie was diagnosed with a minor tendon problem at Easter time, so he has had free from shows and training since then, just slowly building him up again until he was cleared by the vet beginning of June.
I could not start when my daughter had an injured pony, so I waited with shows until they were fit for fight again.
The D-day was this Saturday, and I was happy to see that Fame's cut on the back had healed nicely so I could put on a saddle again.
I came home on Friday afternoon, only to find new wounds at the same place, right where the back of the saddle should lie *sigh*
My daughter's pony who is as kind as can be to us, is definitely not kind to Fame.

What to do?

I had postponed the start for so long, and this Regional show was at a neighbour stable too, so we could just ride over.
I really wanted to ride that program to get a check that we are on the right track, and Fame needed the training of a show atmosphere - she has only started 3 dressage shows outside our own stable in her whole life.
(Yes, I am a training nerd, not a show nerd!)
The new cuts were also behind my seat if I rode her bareback...
I called the judge and asked for permission to start without a saddle, outside competition.
Which I got!

So comes Saturday morning, I happily start to braid my horse and prepare for show.
When ready I overviewed the result.
It was not that bad? I thought when my daughter came round and commented:
"That wasn't too smart"
"What?" I said.
"Braiding when riding bareback?"
Hadn't thought about that. Nothing to hold on to.
But what the heck, should I ride bareback in the show at least I could do it with style.

A year ago, last time we participated in a show outside the stable, I had a fast and tense giraffe horse in the warm up, totally unconcentrated on me to begin with. I had to ride her a bit tired to get her to settle down and concentrate some. As a consequence she was somewhat pluggy when riding the program.
I was happy to see that this time - even if initially a bit tense and looking around - she concentrated on the work and kept her focus on me. She was a little bit strong, so we worked with leg-yields, transitions and circles to improve things. After a while I could also introduce some supplying work in a longer and deeper frame to loosen her back.
As I had helped my daughter at her warm-up, our time was a bit short, and suddenly it was time for us to enter the arena.

Every time when I am to participate in a show, I curse myself for not starting the show training earlier, as all the flaws become very visible when I two days beforehand try to ride through the program *headdesk*
We did not do well enough on the walk piruettes, halts and rein-backs.
Totally my fault, we should have trained more.
I had to laugh at myself on Sunday as I read Carl Hester's book of dressage where he commented something like "the dressage rider always has to train on square halts, rein-back and walk piruettes."

Look! No saddle!

How it went?
We placed 5th out of 17 riders.
Had the geriatric rider remembered the program we would have placed 3rd...

I was very happy with my horse.
She tensed up a bit when entering the arena and saw some ghosts at two places - but relaxed when I spoke to her and did a good job.

The canter work went well, we got nice marks for the counter canter (which we have been training on).
She got a bit strong and slightly deaf when I tried to get the half halts through (probably due to a bit of tension being on the show), and it is more difficult to use my seat to get her back to me when riding bareback.
Due to this I safed a bit when it came to riding some more engagement into her; I was afraid she would get too strong.
But all in all I was happy that we did not make a total fool of ourselves, my buddy Fame and me.
Hey, I even stayed on the horse!
I must confess that I had dreaded the Very Tense Zigzaging and Jumping Giraffe, but luckily it did not show up today.

My daughter?
She did a very nice round and placed 3rd in the same class.
Rode better than me, as usual.
(But we are catching up... Beware of the evil Bareback-rider sneaking up from behind, Bwa-ha-ha-ha! long as we can remember the program, that is.)

My concentrated daugher on her lovely pony Charlie, who is now out by himself during daytime.
He can munch on hay instead of on Fame, evil thing.
As you can see he doesn't need any extra proteins.

August 23, 2009

Fame's tale

I am Fame.
Today, it is my turn to tell.

I've been on summer camp for a long time.
It has been great!
Lots of green grass to eat whenever we wanted.
I was very popular because I was the only girl.

But the other day, My Twolegs came to take me home.
It was starting to get boring at summer camp, but I miss the green grass.
Yesterday I went out into the forest with My Twolegs.
I like that.

There are lots of things to see.
My Twolegs thought that I could choose what to do, but I did not know that.
It smelled fresh, sweet green everywhere and I just had to get some along the way even if I know I'm not supposed to.
It is not easy to pass something so delicious when it is right under my nose.

We took the path along the wide stretch, and when we came to the Muddy Part I slowed down so My Twolegs should now that I really did not want to get my feet all muddy. It is rather deep and the legs kind of get stuck and it is not a pleasant feeling.
But she spoke with that voice that means I am a Brave Girl and can do it, and I had just forgotten myself a little you know. I am very brave and I can do a lot of stuff, so I marched through that mud.
And afterwards I hesitated a little bit so I could remind her of that Good Girl snack if she had forgotten.

Then we came to The Wet.
I was surprised because there was much more Wet than it usually is.
It was running so fast that I got dizzy.
I just had to stop and watch it.
My Twolegs wanted me to cross. I hesitated a bit because I was really dizzy looking at the Wet.
I felt as if it would unbalance me.
But as I am a Brave Girl I marched out. It was not very deep but it tugged at my feet, lifting them to the side when I moved them. It felt strange, and when I looked at the water, it felt as if I was flowing together with it sideways.
When we came to the other side, the path was also in water.

When the water was gone, My Twolegs asked me to run a bit.
But I discovered Something Unusual a bit further on.
I did not know what it was, and I have to watch out for both of us when we are out.
(My Twolegs is not very good at watching out. Sometimes I believe she is close to deaf.)
Something was hanging from a bush at one side of the path. I could not run until I had checked out what it was.
It might be attacking.

When we came closer I saw that it was those things that Twolegs use on their hands to keep them warm.
Alarm off, I started trotting.
It felt good.
I like to move my body.
I increased the speed a bit.
My Twolegs let me, so I kept trotting until we came to the end of the path.

We passed the large road, and when we had done that, I wanted to run again. So I just took a few steps to check out, and My Twolegs said go ahead.
First I trotted.
Then I took looong strides, and my coat shone in the sunlight and my mane flowed in the wind and I started to canter up the slope, because my legs wanted to. I Felt Good.
When I came to the top I stopped to look out over the surroundings.

One always has to be On Watch.
The coast was clear.

When the road turned into two, I felt that My Twolegs wanted to go to the right.
But I wanted to go straight on.
That path went over the meadow and it looked very inviting. Just look!
So I hesistated a bit, you know - just to show her.
We took my way instead. I liked that.
It was very inviting to run again, so I asked if I could and My Twolegs let me.
I wanted to run in the high grass at the side of the path, but I wasn't allowed to. On the path there were some stones, and it would have been much better in the high grass. Sometimes the Twolegs just don't get it!
I did not forget to be On Watch though, and suddenly I heard a Strange Sound, so I had to stop.
Right away.

I stretched my neck as far as I could and snorted, so My Twolegs also would get the message.
Danger Ahead.
(I have to be very clear, otherwise they don't understand, poor things. )
It was a high, noisy sound, so I decided it was time to turn around and go home.
No need to investigate.
But My Twolegs did not let me. (And I thought I was the one to decide today?)
Did she not understand that it might be HorseLegEaters in front of us?
As she insisted I continued forward I went, but I was On Guard.
I kept my head high and was on alert to run away quickly if necessary.
We went through a small wood and up a hill, and the Noise was getting higher and higher.
When we reached the top we saw a couple of Twolegs working with something Super Noisy on some trees a bit off the path, but we just passed.
I am Very Brave.

After we had passed some houses where I always have to walk, I wanted to run again.
Doesn't it look inviting? Wouldn't you like to run too?

I started off politely in a nice trot, but my body really felt fine, and the stretch in front of us called on me.
I increased my trot.
I cantered.
The hill stretched up in front of us, and I just had to Go Fast, just as fast as those Race Horses. To entertain My Twolegs I also jumped a bit sideways from time to time, pretending to be scared of some stones and other stuff.
We had great fun.

When we came to the top, we slowed down and stopped.
I had run for a long time and I was warm, but not very tired. But I appreciated a stop to eat some and cool down.
The sweet grass tastes very good after running.

I kept being On Watch though.

Then we started to walk down.
My Twolegs walked beside me, and we had many stops to eat on the way down.
She ate the red stuff and tried to give me too.
Stupid really, as I had grass which tastes much better.

When we came home, I got a shower.
I get very warm when running, so I like very much to be cool again.
On our way out we passed the Race Horses.
But I had run as fast as them today.

Some water, and then a roll.
I get all itchy after the shower.
It was a nice trip.

My Twolegs had to clean out for me.
I am very particular with my home.
I place all my doings in the corner.

August 22, 2009

Musical entertainment

Thanks to Trudi on Lionheart horses, I can't get this melody out of my system.
She posted about it being going on repeat in her brain - now we are two, Trudi!
I just love it, and I have to share.
So here it is, Charlie Winston: Like a Hobo
He is English, but from what Trudi wrote he is popular in France. I have never heard of him before.

I have been to a two days clinic with Cristoph Hess Thursday and Friday.
Very, very good - will write a post about it.
Have a nice weekend all!

August 18, 2009

Wildlife action

I was to have a dressage lesson yesterday evening, but as it had been raining the whole afternoon the outdoor arena was deep and muddy.
I checked if our neighbour’s indoor arena was free. Since it was a bit late in the evening, it was.

My session was to start 8.45 pm.
When I was making Fame ready, I thought of getting some reflexes. The evenings are getting darker *sigh*. I had stored away the reflexes for the season in the spring, and as I was both pressed on time and really not ready to mentally accept that the summer was over, I let the reflexes be.
I could always take the path through the forest home.

I still have to ride bareback.
I was a bit apprehensive when entering the road. Fame normally behaves well in traffic but the problem is when it’s been raining and there is water on the road, the cars sometimes shower you and the horse. The horse can get a bit skittish.
We luckily had an uneventful way to the arena, and the training went well.
I still struggle with the walk pirouettes though.
I say “I” and not “we”, because I clearly feel that the fault lies above the saddle here. I have lost the feeling for how it feels when it is correct.
After riding youngsters for several years I have gotten rusty. I will ask my daughter if I can lend her pony Charlie one day, to get some refill.
It is a great advantage to have a horse in the family who knows the exercises.

When we got out of the arena, it had turned dark, so taking the road home was out of the question.
I rode Fame towards the Bogey Place where she has to pass in a tight spot between the stable and some houses, and emerged on the other side still on the back on what in the meantime had turned into a slightly kneeling, zigzag-ing and snorting giraffe.
After riding down a small slope we came to the path leading home, winding along the creek.
I gave Fame a pat, and was turning my thoughts to whether there were any sausages left at home, as I was getting hungry.
Fame was probably thinking of her pellets.
Right in the middle of these relaxing thoughts, there is a crash in the wood right in front of us, and out bursts a moose cow with her calf.

They run a short distance down the path, and then stop to look at us.
Fame takes the opportunity to eat some grass. Thanks to some intensive training she has a pretty relaxed attitude towards moose.
So there we stand.
The moose cow is inspired by Fame, and starts to eat from some branches. The smaller calf I cannot see anymore, it is getting too dark.
They are completely blocking our way home.

I start to speak.
No reaction.
I try to get a bit louder.
The moose cow moves a bit further on.
I start to follow the path a bit, but I have difficulties to see where the cow is, and I for sure have no idea where the calf is.
It might be between us and the cow as it was running after its mother.
I am riding bareback.
After a small brainstorm with myself, I find out that I am not interested in laying left in the grass as an overripe plum in front of the moose if she makes a go at us, if I cannot remain seated on Fame through the turmoil.

So we turn.
I cannot ride along the road without reflexes.
The only option left was to cross the creek twice in the dark, where the water level is high due to the rain. We have to ride on a bad, muddy forest path after crossing the water, and also some distance along a gravel road but as there are not many cars there that was a better choice.

So we turned around, and started out.
When we came down to the water, it was dark and flowing fast.
At this passage the ground below the water is not even, there are large stones and it can sometimes be difficult for the horses to keep the balance when passing, so normally we do not ride over there. This time we had no choice.
Fame hesitated slightly, but then marched on out. She was also eager to get home.
I am so grateful for all the trail riding we have done, which makes it easier to handle a situation like this.
Fame was careful where she put her feet, she swayed twice due to the current and the stones, but we got over OK.
After some minutes on a small path on the other side, we came up to the gravel road.
We trotted. As my horse was very eager to get home we had a session with extended trot on a tense horse and some seat training for the rider, lol!
Then it was time to cross the creek again. This passage was easier, with a better ground and a lower water level.
We entered the forest again, and now it was pitch dark. And very muddy. To avoid the worst mud, we had to take a detour with a steep climb through the forest without a path. I just had to give her the reins, grab on to Fame's mane and trust her to find the way.
I couldn’t see where to get down to the path again, so I steered her wrong and we had a large drop down in the dark.
But she carried us both safely through, and home.
Fame was a very good and very brave girl. She dealt with everything that came up, taking care of me along the way.
I was very proud of her.

August 15, 2009

Fat burning sessions

The Danish trainer Jimmi has been here again, and I had training for him both Friday evening and Saturday morning.
I had my first training for him in February, and have had two more since.
I like to train for Jimmi. He comes here in average once a month, the training is a bit expensive though good.
He is knowledgeable and has a positive approach, and I feel that he focuses on the important things.
We had a shared lesson with another rider on Friday, and had one all by ourselves this morning.

After being on summer vacation, it is both fun and also a bit tough to get going again.
Fame feels like she is in good shape, even if she has had vacation.
I am trying to get there.

We worked mainly on basics; on Fames form and hind leg activity, using transitions within gaits and between gaits, leg yields and shoulder in.
Due to the cut on Fame's back, I had to ride bareback.
I felt we still got some nice work out of it, and Fame felt good.

She actually was considerate and took care of her rider; they let the race horses out in the paddock at the side of the arena, and they instantly started to race.
And buck. And snort.
And do most of the things horses do to entertain themselves.
But Fame concentrated on the work, good girl. A bit tense, but no extra entertainment.
Maybe she is growing up?
On the other hand, we still have ghosts in the judge hut at the short side of the arena...

She enjoyed her shower.
I enjoyed mine too!

August 13, 2009

New tools in the toolbox

My small guineapig

I just love to get new, useful exercises to play around with together with my horse.
Everything that is useful I stock in my toolbox like a squirrel stores nuts before winter.
Unfortunately, like a squirrel, I also forget some of them.
But as these are shining new, I remember them at least for now.

So I will generously share my stolen goods with you guys, and hope you can have some fun out of it like me!

After walking Fame on loose reins for 10 min, I pick up the reins and use Trudi's Giravolta.
It is like a turn on the forehand, but you let the frontlegs move in a small circle.
If you click the link, Trudi was nice to explain it in detail on her blog, and adding a video too!
Thanks Trudi!
I have used it to loosen Fame up, and activate her hindlegs.
When she starts to work proper, lifting her back and using her abdominal muscles I get those lovely grunts. Yes!
When I feel she is responding well to lateral aids on both sides and also thinking forward, I start to work with shoulder in on half circles in trot - similar exercise. Shifting over from half circle right to half circle left, and so on.
Again, I want her to respond to the lateral aids and engage behind, be a bit quick in her reactions and flexible in her sides.

Then we start with the David Oliveira work.
Leg yield in canter along the longside, haunches in.
When approaching the corner I place her in a slightly travers position, to prepare her for a volte.
I shift my weight towards the inside, turn my upper body into the turn and raise the outer hand slightly going into the volte with the outside rein resting on the neck. The inside hand opens the rein slightly, just to guide her in the turn, but with an immidiate release (placing the volte close to the corner towards the inside of the arena).
The volte is small, and she has to find the balance by herself by engaging behind. I keep a soft contact on the outside rein (still placed on the neck) but my inside rein is loose to facilitate this. My inner leg activates her inner hind and helps her to balance.

After the volte, a transition to walk, 4-5 steps, and then new canter, new lead. Again leg yield, volte. We play around with this for a while, and combine the walk with some rein back.
I don't bother much about the form, I just want her to work with me and to be quick in the reactions. We ride a bit like Ben Cartwright, as Mugs would say!
She finds the work fun, and I have a nice way of getting her quicker in her reactions and giving her a good workout too.

She had somehow managed to get a cut on her back being out the other day, just where the back of the saddle is laying (of course), so I have been riding bareback since.
Today she was full of pep and saw ghosts everywhere, so I just put her to work on the Oliveira-exercises and let her work off that surplus energy. Bwa-ha-ha!
She got nice and warm.
Me too.
Then we rounded off with some normal dressage work.
She could concentrate a bit more on the work after this, and she felt fine.
I ride bareback about once a week otherwise too, now when she is a bit more adult than she was a year or two ago. Earlier it would have been a bit too exciting.
It is good for my balance, and I can feel Fame's back better than with a saddle. And it is quicker, on those days that I am lazy...

Tomorrow Jimmi, the Danish trainer, is coming again. I will probably have to work bareback tomorrow too.

Fitness and horses on pasture, part 2

As a funny coincidence to my last post, I got the Swedish equestrian magazine “Ridsport” in my post box yesterday (thanks Mum & Dad!) and they had an article around the same subject.

It referred to a study made by Patricia Graham-Tiers in Virginia.
She had looked at the general condition of horses on pasture compared to stabled horses with or without light training.

Before the study started, each horse’s general fitness was assessed and the horses were divided into three groups.
All were adult horses.

Group 1: Out on 100 acres (0.4 km2) hilly pasture 24/7. No training.
Group 2: In stable during day, out during night in a 0.05 acres paddock(240 sq yards/2000 m2). Light training 5 days a week.
Group 2: In stable during day, out during night in a 0.05 acres paddock. No training.

After two weeks they measured the heart rate, blood sugar values, temperature and fitness after work test.
Group 1 and group 2 showed similar values re fitness, but group 1 (pasture) showed in addition increased bone density (strengthened skeleton).

So the conclusion was that a large, hilly pasture keeps the horses sound and fit!
Nice huh?

Source: Pastured horses more fit, Virginia Intermont College.
Publiced by Patricia Graham-Tiers, PhD, of Virginia Intermont College, Bristol, Va

August 10, 2009

Assessing fitness

When we take the horses home from the pasture, we have to check what form they are in so we know how to plan the work ahead.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I like the pasture where we have our horses very much.
It is natural meadowland, so they have a wide menu of grass and other green plants to choose from, and they don’t put on too much weight.
In addition it is hilly, stony and full of trees. They have to move around and watch where they are going to get the belly full. Nice, huh?

When we get them home they are normally in a pretty good shape.
They have lost a bit of top line and you cannot ask for too much of the more collected work, but the ground condition is there.
And you can tell they think it is fun to get to work again, just like us!

What I notice when we get them back is that they are used to think for themselves, so they show their own opinions a bit more.
Not getting opinionated, but you get a slight hesitation sometimes. I don’t mind that communication. They are also bit more watchful of things and sounds in the surroundings.

I believe the break does a lot of good, both mentally and physically.
Many people keep the horses going through the show season during the summer, and then give them free a month in Nov/Dec.
Not much grass then, but if the horses have been working hard during the summer it does them good to get some time off anyway.

So back to the work at hand.
Fame had now had free from training for six weeks, so when I took her out to the arena I had planned to keep the session short but a bit up in tempo, to check out how much energy she had.
I decided to work a bit on the David Oliveira exercises.

The day was warm, so before we started the work, I gave her a shower to cool down.
She loves that, and moves around a bit like they do when you scratch them...a bit up to the left, please! And now on the other side?
I then walked off and mounted her from the mounting block, which I always use to spare her back and mine (and the saddle).
When she walked past the shower she stopped.
I put my leg on, and she took two more steps and stopped again.
I just had to laugh. She was clearly showing me that she wanted to be hosed down some more. As I wasn’t pressed on time, I jumped off, and gave her another shower.
She enjoyed it very much, and when I mounted her again she was ready to go to work.
(Aren’t our horses wonderful?)

After warming up in walk and posting trot, I started to canter her, just getting a nice forward canter in a light seat around the arena first.
Then we started with the exercises.
Leg yield in canter along the long side, moving into a small volte at the end. Transition to walk. Canter again, other lead, needed a quick reaction. Leg yield, small volte, transition to walk. Rein back, and new canter.
As I would like Fame to be a bit quicker in her reactions and in the hind legs, this is very good training for her – in particular now when she is returning from the pasture and I can feel a small delay in responding to the aids.
She has a good canter and lateral movements, but we have not been working with leg yield along the long sides before, just along the diagonal.
When David worked he asked for much sideways movement, almost keeping the horse to a 90 degree angle to the wall.
We worked with a smaller angle, to make it easier and to keep the forward movement, but steep enough to get a good workout.
Once Fame got the hang of it, she thought it great fun!
So we just played around for a bit, checking things out. I kept the session short but I actually felt I had a tougher time returning to work after a lazy summer than she did, lol!
When I trotted her to round off at the end, she offered extended trot by herself. A good sign that she had worked well with the collected work, and that she was feeling fine and in good shape.

We finished with a new shower and some green grass ;)

August 04, 2009

Virtual trail ride - riding the horses home

Kate at A year with horses had a virtual trail ride as a post a while ago.
Such a good idea, so here I invite you to come along as we ride our horses home from summer pasture!
This is the farm where the horses have been during the summer. It is further into the valley where we live, about a 10 min drive from home.

In the wood surrounding the farm there are sheep grazing during summer.
Today they were on a visit.

On the farm lays what most probably is one of the oldest houses in the valley.
It dates back to the 17th century.

So who is participating?
My daughter with her horse Charlie.
My horse Fame and me.
First we must get the gear and the saddles.
My daughter is on her way into the stable to get hers.

There we are!
I wouldn't say the tack is neatly stacked, but it is on place!
Now we can get the horses.

The horses were faaaar away.
We tried calling.
Helloooooo, where are you?
Charlie? Fame?
And guess who's coming? Full speed ahead. Sweethearts!

Fame tries to get first.
Competing with a (harnessed) race horse that has grown up in this terrain is not easy, but she managed in the end!

Charlie comes third!
The rest of the guys are trailing after.
What's the fuzz about?

On with halters, and up to the farm to tack up.

And off we go.

I usually start out/finish by leading Fame so she can get warmed up and cooled down without any weight on the back.

Futher down the neighbour is fetching his horses too.
Time to work!

Not easy to get clear pictures while on horse-back!

We turn off the gravel road into a path...

...and after some minutes we get out on the main road leading through the valley.

Here we have busses....

...and bikers, and also people on roller skis. But that's OK.
The really scary stuff is:

....water drains!

All houses are red!

Fame and Charlie really like photography stops.
Feed time!
(they haven't had ANY grass this summer. Hmmm.)

We have to watch out!

Mooses are everywhere!

And we have to keep the speed limit...

Now we are approaching the crossroad, where the shop, the school and the church is.

This is our shop. It is also a small café. Nice place to meet your horsey friends.

They even have a parking place for horses - isn't that nice!

Here is the school.
It is Oslo's smallest school, just around 80 pupils in total.
My daughter went here from 1st to 7th grade.

Here is our neighbor stable, and their indoor arena where we have some access during winter time.

Now we are getting close to home.
The little red brick house is called "The Bath".
In the old days, when people had no bathing facilities at home, they came here.
There were also quite a lot of men living and working in the forest with timber, who definetely needed a bath before returning to civilization.....
Now my friend Berith is living there. She is running the neighbor stable.

Passing the last bridge before we come home.
Heavy rainfall has resulted in much water everywhere.
Normally we would have used a path from the school to the stables, but it is so muddy everywhere, so the road is better.

Almost at home we meet Siri on Zan-Day from our stable.
Fame is very interested.
Hello, where have you been all summer? Done something interesting?
The stables are in the background, where the road makes a turn.

Taking up the stirrups before entering...

And finally...
FOOD, yeaahh!

Thanks for accompanying us!