December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Yesterday I drove to Sweden to get our daughter who had been staying on with my parents.
She both has a good camera, and knows how to use it (with a little help from my Dad) so here it comes - some Magical Moonlight Pictures!

Isn't it magical?
It's incredible it is at night time.
The world turns into shimmering white and sharp black.
And it is so silent.

Below is the small house that we live in when visiting.

And below is the house where the world's best parents live.
Daytime now.

When we drove home earlier today, the scenery was fantastic.
What a last day of the year!
We are going to round it up with another moonlight ride tonight, my daughter and I.
Tomorrow more snow is going to fall, and on the following days there will be skies. So maybe it is the last opportunity tonight, or even this winter.

I will leave you with the pictures from the ride home this time, but if you want to read some horse stuff, pop over to my friends Siri's blog.
She has gone English, and have put down some interesting posts about her weekend training just before Christmas.

Once again - A Happy New Year to you all!
May it come with many happy horse-y moments, wonderful rides and may it keep you safe and sound.
All the best!

Thanks to my daughter for all the pictures.

December 29, 2009

A Magical Moonlight Ride

I got a very special Christmas gift this year; lots of snow, clear weather and a full moon.

I wish I could teleport all my blog friends, to accompany me on a Magical Moonlight Ride.
It is my favourite riding experience, and I am so happy if I get such a ride during the winter.
It is not easy to get it all at the same time - it has to be new snow, so the trees are heavy, a full moon and clear weather so you can see the moon.
Yesterday it was.

Come with me!

Even if it to my eyes is almost as light as in the day, it is too dark to take pictures, so you have to imagine it all...

First, it is evening.

It is very cold outside, -20C/-4F.
We have put on wool underwear, nice warm boots, chaps and our best winter jackets.
We can feel the cold in our faces, it is biting in our noses and chins, but we are comfortable in our warm clothes. For now.
We bring out the horses.
Today we ride bareback, with bitless bridles. It is better in the cold.

It is completely still outside.
No sounds can be heard.
The moon is shining bright, and it is a clear, starry sky.
The breath from us and the horses are clearly visible in the moonlight as we sit up.
In the air you can see tiny, tiny chrystals that shimmer. The air is letting go of surplus moisture in a wonderful way. Even the air is glittering.

The horses are eager to go, and we cross the road and ride into the small path on the other side.
As we have had much snow the last days, the path is narrow and with much snow, but the horses are walking energetically down the slope.
My horse suddenly jumps as one of the trees beside the path click in the cold. Another tree further down clicks higher, it sounds almost like a gun shot.

As the trees closes in, the lights from the stable gradually fades away, and we are left with the moonlight.
It shines brightly, so brightly that it makes the shadows from the trees turns black and crisp against the snow, and the snow on the heavy laden spruce branches glitters like diamonds.
We can see the path clearly as it winds between the trees.
The only sounds we hear are from the soft footfall from our horses, and the sounds from our coats where the outer layers feels brittle like paper in the low temperature.
As we approach the field in front of us, we can see the cold mist closing in on us. Suddenly the cold can be felt even more, it bites in our brows, noses and chins.

We gather the reins, we have to get a bit warmer by trotting.
Our horses are lifting the legs high in the snow, and I can feel Fame increasing the stride length, eager to go.
Suddenly she stops.
In front of us two moose are crossing the path, majestically moving over to the open field.
After a while they stop and turn their heads to look at us.
Their shapes are almost black against the glittering snow.
We watch them slowly continuing their way over the field, and the horses relax and we resume the trot.

I can feel Fame wanting to go, and I ease up a bit on the reins and let her turn into canter.
I grab hold of her mane as her whole back is moving under me through her forceful strides in the snow.

We slow down as some smaller trees and branches in front of us are almost blocking the path as they are low, burdened with snow.
I can feel my fingers slowly getting colder.
My eyelashes and eyebrows are full of frost, and Fame has got small icecles around her nose.
We decide to turn around, and head for home again.

Summer is nice, but winter too.
In spite of the cold.

Midvinternattens köld är hård,
stjärnorna gnistra och glimma.
Alla sova i enslig gård
djupt under midnattstimma.
Månen vandrar sin tysta ban,
snön lyser vit på fur och gran,
snön lyser vit på taken.
Endast tomten är vaken.

(Hard is the cold of the midwinter night
the stars glitter and shine
Everyone sleeps on the lonely farm
deep into the midnight hour
The moon silently follows his path
The snow shines white on pine and spruce
The snow shines white on the roofs
Only the "tomten" is awake)

Viktor Rydberg:Tomten, illustrations by Jenny Nyström
(Click the link in the poem to see what Tomten is.)
Astrid Lindgren made a children's book out of the poem, "The tomten" a beautiful book.

December 23, 2009

A Merry Christmas, To Each And Every One

Life has been very, very busy lately - so I have had no time for the PC....and worse, I have not been riding either!
Back to normal once Christmas is over, I hope :-)

Once all presents are bought, the food is prepared and the house is clean(er), it's time to relax and enjoy.
To have some time to read, and to watch movies.
What's your favourite Christmas movies?
Mine are:

A Christmas Carol (of course) with George C Scott. No Christmas without Scrooge.
Christmas? Puh-humbug!

And another one, ageing with beauty:
The bishop's wife from 1947 with Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven.
So sweet.
I love old movies.

As you might know, the big day is tomorrow here in Scandinavia.
On Christmas Eve, people get together with family to share Christmas dinner, and after that it is presents for children of all ages.

Christmas food in Norway and Sweden differ some.
In Norway you have one main dish, in Sweden you have a kind of smörgåsbord with many different dishes.
Herring, salmon (smoked and gravad), different kinds of sausages, pork ribs, christmas ham,and my favourite - Janssons frestelse.

Here's how you do it:

You need
6-8 potatoes, depending on size
1 large onion
2-3 dl cream
1 box of anchovies, 125 g

Peel the potatoes and the onion.
Chop the onion.
The potatoes are to be sliced in juliennes, but not too thin.
I cheat and use a hand held slicer, my mother's really but she has given it to me. Thanks Mum!

Then you put the first layer in the form.
Potatoes in first, then spread the chopped onions and spread half of the anchovies over.

Another layer of potatoes, onions and anchovies.

Top with potatoes.
Pour the liquid from the anchovies box over it all, and add the cream too.
Begin with 2 dl on a form like this, and add more while it's in the oven if necessary. It should be creamy, not dry.

Then in to the oven for about an hour, 200 centigrades.
Check with a fork in the middle, taste one of the potatoe pieces. It should be soft and cooked. If the gratin get's too dark before it's ready, cover with some tin foil.

Doesn't look much, but tastes very good!

And even better with a beer and some aquavite!

Enjoy your Christmas all!

December 10, 2009

Tour de Norvège

I have been out and about in Norway, visiting branch offices in my new job.
This week it was Tromsø and Bergen, next week it will be Stavanger.

Tromsø is situated north of the polar circle, and at this time of the year the sun never rises.
This is taken outside the airport when I arrived, 11ish am.

It is however a lighter period around the middle of the day, like twilight.
Tromsø is famous for its Northern lights (aurora borealis) at winter time, unfortunately I did not see any during my stay.

The lifeline of the coast in earlier days, Hurtigruten, lays to quay in Tromsø.
It is a coastal cruise line that still is important for transportation of goods and people (and quite many tourists), and is called the "Worlds most beautiful sea voyage" as it also enters the fjords on the scenic west coast.
The Norwegian coastline has the Atlantic winds and water coming straight at it, so weather can really be harsh.
Even so, it has been easier to transport goods and people by the sea than through the mountains.
Hurtigruten sails along the coast, starting from Bergen and ending at Kirkenes at the Russian border. It takes a week.

In the picture above and below we are looking back towards the city.
Tromsø has about 65.000 inhabitants, and is the 7th largest town in Norway.

At the right hand side of the picture, where the bridge ends, you can see one of the famous landmarks, the Arctic Cathedral (upside down V-shape).
Even if Tromsø is situated far north it is not so cold due to the Gulf stream.
It was just below freezing point during my stay.

Travelling in Norway is not easy.
The country is long and it is mainly mountains, so you have to fly.
Going from Tromsø to Bergen I got the "slow train" by air, going down in Bodø and Trondheim before arriving in Bergen.
It took close to four hours.

Bergen is the second largest town in Norway, and was the largest in Scandinavia until the 17th century.
In the middle ages it was an important Hanseatic city, and Bryggen in Bergen is on UNESCO's World Heritage list. You can see it above and below.

The second night I had some more time on my hands, so I decided to take a stroll over to Bryggen, and try to find a restaurant as there were some in the old buildings.

Here you can see what they look like.
Bryggen was founded around 1070, and was from 1360 to 1754 the site for the Hanseatic trading in Norway.

After trying two restuarants that were full, I was finally lucky with the third!
There is a lot of people dining out before Christmas.
Below is the entrance to the restaurant, Bryggen Tracteursted.

I got the last table!
Even if I was the first to arrive, the room was full after 20 mins.

To visit the toilets you had to go outside the restaurant (below).

It rained when I was there (as it often does in Bergen) so it was nice to walk along the old passages with some roof over my head.

As I was in meetings during the daytime, unfortunately all pictures had to be taken in the dark - sorry for that!
Now we're back at the hotel.
Thanks for accompaning me!

December 05, 2009

What kind of student are you?

I just love these discussions.
So many good thoughts and comments - thank you guys!

stillearning had an interesting comment on the last post which moves the topic from instructors to students.
I believe that is a good start of a separate post, and hope that my other blog friends also may comment...
She has no blog of her own (as yet) but I would very much like her to get one.

She wrote:

Here's another question: Are you a good student?

I know that I'm a royal pain to my instructors in many ways. Despite knowing the dressage is a lifelong pursuit I get impatient and discouraged when progress is slow. Despite having a strong commitment and desire to learn I am constantly short on funds to invest in lessons so I want each one to be wonderful. Despite seeking out lessons I sometimes think I know best (altho I USUALLY manage to keep that to myself...). Because I read constantly and audit whenever I can, I am full of ideas, and some are conflicting; this leads to mixed signals to my horse because if one thing doesn't work I'll quickly try another. Because of the same budget constraints, my horse projects are OTTBs or greenies or some other inappropriate learning partner. And worst of all: I'm so passionate about seeking perfection that my sympathetic teachers must cringe at times.

So...I'm now working with a good trainer on an occasional basis. I board at her barn, and can ask for help as needed. Her teaching style often frustrates me, but I also realize that it's a good one for me. She observes. She comments. Then she goes away and gives me time to work it out. Repeat. She doesn't often discuss things; more often she'll tell me the right way as she knows it. End of discussion. If I disagree with her idea/method to fix it (which is often drilling IMO), it's up to me to find another way to fix what she's observed (i.e., "your horse isn't using his hind end enough" or "he's not even in the contact" or "you're not staying straight on the line of travel"). I work on it, then ask her to watch again. She comments and goes away again.

It's a good system for me right now. If I had a bigger budget I'd be tempted to invest in a more traditional training program; I'm not sure I'd progress any faster.

So, what kind of student are you?

Now, I honestly must confess that I had to think quite a bit on that one.
I had not thought about it at all before, lol!

I am also impatient by nature, and my husband has wondered more than once about how come I am so hooked on dressage.
On the same time I have a large need for peace, quiet surroundings and balance, and that is what the riding gives me.
But it is the partnership with the horse that is driving me.
And I think that when you shift the focus from results to instead focus on the partnership with the horse, it is easier to be patient.
As long as my horse is sound, I am happy.
I know the work will take time.
This autumn, I have had to rearrange my plans because Fame has been tense.
Without relaxation, no real work can be done so ...the rest has had to wait.

Sometimes I think that (dressage) riding is close to eastern philosophies.
The more you learn, the more you see what you lack, and that you never, ever will be the rider in your dreams. At least not me. I want much more than I ever will be able to accomplish.
But I cannot let that stop me, or spoil the joy I have in the riding.
It is all about the road, and enjoing the scenery as you travel.
And the more I am working with horses, the more fascinated I get with them.
And the more I want to learn.
But I also see that to be able to do that I need a large portion of patience, to calm down and to try and listen to my horse in the process.

So I am the eternal student, with an insatiable need to learn more (I envy you your blog name, stillearning!)

As a student, I try to stay concentrated on the tasks.
I try to give it my best, but if I am totally done I ask for a breathe.
I ask if I do not understand, but I don't argue.
If I do not agree, I keep it to myself.
I try not to get impatient with my horse (I can tell you it has been a toll this autumn).
I try to praise her at an attempt to make it right, it doesn't have to be perfect.
If I am satisified with the help I get, I tell my instructor so. They also need to hear that they have done a good job.
I might be a bit reserved with new instructors, but once I get to know them I am very grateful if we can have a more ongoing talk during the lesson about what happens, and why.
I often stay on and watch others ride. I believe watching others train for a good instructor is a very good help to my own riding, and it doesn't cost me a thing (more than time).

So how about you?

December 03, 2009

What makes a good trainer?

On my post two days ago, I got an interesting comment from Wiola.
She wrote:
"Someone told me this clever thing a couple of days ago: "Horses always do what they did".
If they come to the arena each day and are allowed to buck that's what they will do next day. If they spend 30 minutes a day fussing with the bit that what they will do next day again.
If you want to break a habit either in yourself or a horse you need to make a proper change, do something different.
Experimenting and trying different approaches is good."

Wiola's comment got me to think of another saying: "If you do what you've always done, you get what you've always got".
That is, if you want to break an undesirable pattern, you have to do something different.

Through the years, I have been riding for many trainers.
Some good, some less so.

One show jumping instructor was very nice, but when a horse and rider had problems with an obstacle, he did not make the exercise easier.
Did not lower the obstacle, did not frame it to avoid the horse running out etc.
So often the result was that the rider kept banging his/her head in the same brick wall without being able to solve the task.
Resulting in repeating the bad behaviour in the horse thus learning him to do things wrong, and getting the rider frustrated.
Not a very good tactic, if you ask me.

I have also found out that a good rider does not necessarily make a good trainer.

So what does?

If I am to improve myself, I have to change things.

I need an instructor who helps me to see what is most important to address.
I want my instructor to have many tools in her tool box, and also to be able to use them at the right time.
I want him/her to be verbal, to be able to interpret a feel into words.
To have an analyzing skill, so she/he can dissect the problem and find the underlying cause.
To be encouraging, but at the same time come with (contructive) critisism, as I know that the only way to improve myself is to do things differently/better.
I want him/her to have a sympathetic approach towards my horse.
I want him/her to look both at me as a rider, as well as to the performance of my horse.

What do you think guys?
How is your ideal trainer/instructor?

The other thing that Wiola's comment got me to think about is the excellent memory our horses have.
I have a vague memory of having mentioned this before - but if I have, you'll have to excuse me.

When Fame was three yo we met a small pig from one of the other stables when out trail riding. It was moving in the undergrowth, hidden behind some bushes.
She got absolutely terrified.
Thing is that every time we pass that place she still gets very alert and tense, three and a half years later.
There is no doubt in my mind that she still relates to that single incident.
Nothing happened, she was just very scared.
And remembers it well.

So we have a large responsibility when training horses, especially young ones.
We have to be very careful about what kind of experiences we give them.
They remember well, both the good and the bad.

December 02, 2009

Winter wonderland

After the rain and the mud, this is just heaven.
Thanks to my daughter for the lovely pictures.
Thanks to the Weather Dep. above for the lovely sun and the snow.