Sunday, February 26, 2012

Need A Happy Post!

I don't know about you but I could use something happy to read, watch or do. So, just in case there is someone who doesn't read Eventing Nation like every day (is that possible?) I thought I'd share this video that was up on their site this morning. This has got to be the best helmet cam video I've ever seen! Enjoy!

(Michael Ryan and Ballylynch Adventure as they tackle the CIC*** course at Ballindenisk)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sad News

My lesson was cancelled today when my instructor called to let me know they had to put one of the horses down. This was not a horse that I ever had any direct interaction with as he hasn't been really usable for a while but still it's been a sad day. My trainer sent out this email to the students:

"Bounce had a wonderful life at MHC.  He has been teaching children and adults to ride here for the past 16 years and before that had a dressage career on mainland.  We estimate that Bounce was anywhere from 23 to 26 years old.  I know everyone had wonderful memories of Bounce and many of you had your very first canter strides on him.   He was a wonderful horse that has touched so many hearts."

R.I.P. Bounce:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Choices We Make; a Book Review (sort of)

I got this book last night via amazon. It is the first and perhaps the only self-help book I have or will ever read (not to include training and horse care books). I'm just not really a self-help reader. Having said that, though, I have to admit I tore through this book, literally finishing it in just a few hours. I guess you could say I enjoyed it. I plan on going back through a few parts of it later but I wanted to write down my first impressions first. Overall I thought the book was good and helpful. Most of what the author has to say I consider to just be common sense but that doesn't mean reading it doesn't have worth. Sometimes things that should be common sense elude us for one reason or another. Having it written down to examine makes you really think about things you might normally shrug off.

One thing I appreciated about the book, in particular, is the author, Denny Emerson, doesn't gloss over anything. We are all born in circumstances that we have no control over. There are things that happen around us that we can't control but that shouldn't keep us from making good choices. A lot of times it is so easy to get in that mind set of "I can't do anything about it anyways" so we do nothing. Doing nothing is a choice in and of itself. I know I have fallen in that category more times than I can count.

I really wish I had had something like this book oh about 15 years ago. I wouldn't change anything in my life now b/c I have three wonderful children that I love very much, not to mention an amazing husband, however, I think if my 18 year old self had known the things I know now she would have made several different choices.

I have a friend who is a dentist. When asked about it he said that he always wanted to be a dentist. I don't know about you but I don't really know that many people who have just always known what they wanted to do when they grew up. In fact I can only think of two one is the dentist and one is a vet. Why is that I wonder? The first thing I remember wanting to be as a kid was a jockey. I also remember being asked, "yes, but what do you really want to do?" Because being a jockey was just not an acceptable or appropriate desire/goal (ironically at 5' tall I might have had a chance at being a jockey). I can't even remember who it was that asked me that but I also remember them saying, "well, maybe you'd like to be a vet." (Obviously if you love animals being a vet is an acceptable choice.) I remember for quite a while after that wanting to be a vet. But of course that never happened b/c really I've never wanted to be a vet. I've just never been interested in it. So I wonder if people who have always known what they wanted to be are people whose parents enthusiastically supported their dreams. I mean if your kid tells you he wants to be a dentist well that's awesome. Dentists are doctors with good hours and they make good money. Sounds good to most of us. The thing that I take away from this is I want to make sure that I support my kids in what they want to do even if at the time it seems crazy. When my husband first went to college he wanted to be a youth pastor. His parents made sure that he double majored in math as a "back-up" visions of him living in poverty, I think. I can't say that they were wrong in making him do that (in fact I think most people would say that it was the smart thing to do) but my husband never did become a youth pastor. I wonder what would have happened if his parents had had more faith in him? (Oh and this is not to make them feel guilty! just something I think about when I think about how I want to raise my own kids.)

Denny also writes about the really tough choices. An especially hard choice for us women is whether or not to have children. I know that there are a lot of people who feel very strongly about this one way or another but honestly I don't think there is a right or wrong choice here I just think there is the right choice for you. Obviously I've already made this choice and I refuse to regret it but that doesn't mean it is always easy or I don't have times when I wish things could be a little different. Likewise I am sure that there are women out there who put off having children until it was too late that don't regret it but may have those wistful times when they wish things could have been different too. Choices like this almost always come with compromises and sacrifices. You just have to accept that and make the choice. Don't let the choice be made for you by doing nothing.

This book comes at an interesting time in my life. Right now I have the choice to go home this summer and stay there for the year while my husband stays here to finish up his tour. Even saying it out loud, admitting that I'm thinking about it makes me feel incredibly guilty! (Like I want to go hide under a rock in shame, guilty) How could I possibly think about keeping my husband and kids apart for a year just so that I can go home and ride! Now, if I were going home to go to Nursing school or do something productive it would be understandable. I mean even to myself it would be more acceptable but I simply just want to go home and take advantage of being near my trainer with three kids finally all in school so that I can ride every day for several hours a day. Simply put, I want to be a better rider! maybe even a good rider! But what is the end result of that? a job? money? something worthwhile? Not very likely. And here is one of those choices that could put me on two very different paths or maybe it will end up not mattering at all. If only I had that crystal ball!

If you haven't already you should definitely consider reading How Good Riders Get Good. It is definitely a worthwhile read. I may have more to say about it later!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How YOU TOO can be a celebrity in Okinawa

The family and I headed out to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium for President's Day. This is our second visit. The first time we went it was hot, rainy and super crowded so not the best experience. This time it was cool, dry and much, much less crowded. We had a really nice time. On the way home we stopped at a McDonald's to eat. (Not something we do very often as we spent well over $40 for the five of us to eat!) There was a group of school girls there who absolutely went crazy over the kids. Seriously if you have blond hair and blue eyes you can feel just like a celebrity in Okinawa. The girls must have come back to us four or five times to get pictures and to play with the kids. It was pretty funny if just a little weird towards the end. This is really the first time this has happened to us although I've heard it can be pretty common. I'm hoping it doesn't happen to often, though, by the way my oldest daughter was eating it up I'm afraid I could end up with a little diva on my hands!
Evie and her admirers
Peace signs seemed to be the theme of the night
Speaking of aquariums I am starting to feel like quite the aquarium snob. We have now been to the two biggest aquariums in the world. The Atlanta Aquarium is newer but both are very impressive. There is just something amazing about seeing a whale shark so close up. We've also been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium which honestly pales in comparison but is still pretty well known. The funny thing is I am actually terrified of the Ocean. My husband would love to learn how to scuba dive while we are here. I guess some of the best places in the world to do it are right here on this little island but the thought of being under that much water with all those creatures is just paralyzing to me! It doesn't help when a lot of the exhibits show how dangerous some of even the most innocuous-looking creatures can be!

Here are a few pictures of the day. (Unfortunately my husband had the settings on his camera messed up so some of the pictures are pretty washed out and don't come close to showing how beautiful it really was.)
The flower exhibits outside were absolutely amazing

Make like an Octopus!
Flower Mansion
Mansion close-up
My husband just loved the "owl eating lizard" exhibit, men!

I'm a big baby and refuse to touch any of the fish but luckily the kids don't let that stop them.
I really think the Sea Turtles are beautiful

There was also a dolphin show we got to watch. I remember going to Sea World a looooong time ago as a kid but I had forgotten how impressive these animals are. I've heard a lot of people complain about it being cruel but it really makes me wonder. It's hard not to put human emotions on animals b/c they certainly seem to be having a lot of fun.
We ended up our visit by playing at the aquarium park. I have to tell you that the Japanese are truly inventive when it comes to parks. The space is really limited here but they know how to make good use of it. This park was basically just nets that the kids could climb all over.
It was definitely a great day. I think/hope our next outing will be to Shuri (not sure of the spelling) castle. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Wait. Wait. Wait!

Turns out I had a really great lesson on Saturday. We started out with lots of transitions for our warm-up. It was walk-trot-walk-trot-halt-trot-canter-trot-canter-walk-halt-canter-walk... well, you get the idea. The reason for doing this was first and foremost to get Mocha thinking and jumping off my leg. We didn't quite ever make it to the jumping off my leg part but he did become way more responsive and being a school pony with a slight attitude I guess that is pretty good. Next we set up a cross rail and trotted it with a halt about five strides before the jump. We did the same thing at canter and at this point Mocha was really listening ten times better than he ever had before.

Finally we set the jump up to a vertical and instead of halting my instructor had me sit up and just "think" about halting. I have to admit I was pretty excited by the results. I can't say that every single jump was perfect but it was a huge improvement. We ended working on a couple of 2'6" vertical combinations on a bending line. The first time over the bigger jump I realized how much better Mocha was listening to my leg as I got a little enthusiastic right before the jump and he ended up taking a pretty long spot. My instructor put a pole down to help me see my spot better and we had two or three excellent rounds. Over all I was pretty happy and my instructor also reminded me that things like learning not to lean take time. I'm not going to get it 100% of the time at first but as I start to see my spot better and learn to wait I will get better.

On another note did you see this article on COTH? I was looking through the photos and I find myself feeling very surprised. It seems like in the vast majority of the jumping photos the riders all have the same faults. At least I think of them as faults but with so many different riders riding the same way I can't help but wonder if they are being trained to ride this way on purpose. What struck me the most was the location of a lot of these riders' feet, way, way behind the girth and the extreme duck in their posture as if they are just laying on their horse. The very first photo of Way Cool I can't help but wonder what is that rider doing up there? And John French on Good Humor seriously looks like he is about to hit the ground head first. Now, don't get me wrong here. I know I have lots and lots to work on in my own form so I'm not trying to "look down my nose" and say I'm better or anything like that but I'm just genuinely surprised. The article makes it seem as though these are some of the top riders so I would just expect them to look, I don't know more like this, I guess:
to borrow from one of my previous trainers again
 I know that they are only judging the horse and not the rider so it doesn't really matter as far as the competition goes but when I look at a lot of those photos I find myself going "eek! that looks a little scary!" Is it just me?

This is not intended to be offensive to hunter riders out there. But I am genuinely curious since I really don't know much about the hunter world. Is this the norm? Or did the photographer just happen to catch these riders at bad moments or have I simply lost touch with what hunt seat equitation is supposed to look like?

Friday, February 17, 2012

I Look Like A Horse Rider!

A couple of nights ago it was "Bring your Valentine Night" at my kickboxing class. My husband obligingly came with me to work out. It was quite crowded but we had a good time. At the end of the class we got to talking with another girl in my class and she said to me, "you know the first time I saw you I thought you looked like someone who rides horses."


"How's that?" I asked. She said she didn't know but for some reason she just thought I looked like a horse rider. Perhaps one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me? I got so excited I said, "yes, I am an eventer!"

*Blank Stare*

"Uhm, yes I ride horses." 

In other news I participated in a "jumper clinic" put on by the riding stables here. It basically consisted of riding through three stations. At the first station we worked on lengthening and shortening our horses trot strides through some ground poles. This was a little challenging for Mocha and me as we were riding with another girl on a much larger horse but we did okay.

The second station was a basic gymnastic of three jumps. We started on the left lead and jumped a cross rail, one stride, cross rail, two strides and a final cross rail. Eventually we raised all the jumps to maybe about 2'3" and we jumped it on the right lead in the other direction as well. The third station was working on riding bending lines.

I felt mostly good about my riding. My only complaint is I'm still leaning at the jumps about 50% of the time (if I had to guess). This is so frustrating! Perhaps I should consider it an improvement that I can now completely tell when I do it? Whereas before I only realized it after looking at photos. But I'm not catching myself fast enough. About halfway over the jump my brain goes "you totally leaned at this jump!" I have another lesson today so maybe I'll see some more improvement.

Have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Okinawa In Pictures

Okinawa can be very beautiful, fun and sometimes funny. I thought I'd share a little of each.

First the beautiful:

These are from Araha Beach. It is maybe about a mile or less from our house and when the weather is nice sometimes the girls and I walk all the way there and then along the sea wall. 

Safety is a big concern while at the beach:

Right by the beach is this fun park:
This is my kids favorite park to play. The pirate ship is very authentic looking and who wouldn't enjoy sliding along on a zip line?

For some more "fun" I go to my kickboxing class three nights a week. It's located on this street:
This also gives you a good idea of what a typical street looks like
And our favorite local place to eat:
Mike's Tex Mex (The little blue building, not the yellow one.)

Mike's Tex Mex is the only "Mexican" Restaurant we've found out here that is somewhat authentic. Their chips and salsa are really good, unlike the other Mexican places in the area, the salsa does not taste like marinara sauce.

And for the funny:

Unfortunately I don't drink coffee so I've never tried this place to find out if their coffee is truly climactic but every time I pass I do have to giggle a little. It's silly I know but I just can't help myself!

One of these things is not like the other:

And finally:

When I first saw this sign I tried to figure out what it meant and what I came up with is if you are mean to a dog the sea monster will come and get you. My husband pointed out that it probably has something to do with tsunami warnings which isn't that funny but really what would you think this sign mean without any context?

Well, that's it for now. We are hopefully going to be taking a trip to the aquarium next week and maybe a visit to the zoo so I might have more to share later. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

On Being Color Blind

I recently came across some old photos. Two of them really brought back some memories and made me realize something I've always known but sort of kept from myself. I have a serious problem.

This is/was Kharisma. (There's a reason her name isn't spelled with a C. She was seriously not charismatic but instead had the personality of a young boy with ADHD wired on sugar.) And I looooooved her. She was the first lesson "pony" I ever fell in love with. I was the only student who ever wanted to ride her. (I have no idea why.) I remember asking my then instructor to please please please let me buy her but sadly (probably fortunately looking back on it) she was not for sale. 

Can't believe I was allowed to ride without a helmet!! (I do NOT endorse that!)
He seriously was the most gorgeous horse I'd ever laid eyes on!
Flash forward a few years and I guess I'm not too surprised I bought Bugs. I know that serious horsemen and women should be color blind. That is, the last thing to be considered when buying a horse is its color but I guess it is time to admit to myself that when I see a bay with spots (preferably minimal white) I get all gooey inside. I sort of thought all the drama/trauma with Bugs would have cured me of this but then along came Chief the horse I leased who just happened to also be a paint/tb cross. A really really nice paint.

So when perusing the horse ads a while back (something I do pretty often and find that it is seriously addicting!) I came across this:

Flashy & Fun Jumper - Negotiable $2,800

Now I'd like to think that I've learned my lesson. I have told myself over and over I WILL NOT buy another horse without my trainer's full approval but I can't help but wonder if I were in any position to buy a horse right now how tempted would I be to buy this horse? Certainly enough that I'd want to look at him. I'm not stupid! I noticed the rather impressive elevator bit in the one picture and the lack of anything resembling a dressage moment. Not to mention the fact that this guy is advertised as an American Saddlebred/Arabian cross. (Did I mention that Kharisma was also a Saddlebred/Arab cross?) Not really two breeds you here much about in eventing.

But I hear this little voice in my head. "He looks like a cute jumper and he's only 15.3 so not too tall. What could it hurt to just look at him? He's in my price range..."

[SIGH] I guess it is a good thing I'm in no position to buy a horse right now! Don't get me wrong. He could actually be a nice horse I just seriously doubt my power to be objective.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

That Horse Gene

Last night we received a package from my mother-in-law. Her love language is gift giving and she loves nothing more than to give my kids gifts. Sometimes this drives me crazy but mostly I'm very appreciative to have such a loving, wonderful mom-in-law.

The Princess and The Horse
My kids love to play dress-up so in this box were a couple of costumes. There of course were the requisite purple and pink princess costumes for the girls but this time there was also a horse costume. I really didn't expect any of my kids to be interested in it but surprisingly they all wanted to try it on. This got me to thinking, so far none of my kids have shown any real interest in horses. Granted they haven't really been excessively exposed to horses so far. This is because of two main reasons. 1. Barn time is MY time. I am very selfish about this I know but when I go to the barn I want to focus on me and not necessarily play herd the children. 2. I've never been entirely sure if I want my kids to be horse crazy. I mean let's face it, horses are expensive, time consuming and entirely inconvenient. I couldn't imagine my life without them but I can't help but wonder how much easier my kids' lives would be if they didn't fall in love with horses. How much easier it would be to have a hobby like art or music or just something that is a) easily transportable and b) has more general acceptance and understanding by the world around us.

My husband says he understands my obsession passion but sometimes I'm not sure I believe him. I don't see how anyone else could understand who hasn't been struck by horse fever. I mean anyone who can look at a horse and not immediately be overcome by it's beauty and power and spirit, well, how could they possibly understand the overwhelming desire to be close to such amazing creatures. Living out here on this rock tropical island is sort of like living under water not knowing when you will have a chance to breath again. Sure there is stuff to do and things to see and I know I am lucky to have this experience but always in the back of my mind (actually usually pretty close to the front) is the thought of horses and riding and when will I be able to ride (my own horse) again. I'm just not always sure that sharing this passion would be a good thing.

On the other hand I can't deny that part of me that gets just a little jealous when the kids want to play video games with Dad. There is part of me that hopes at least one of my kids will share my passion but if they do it won't be because I pushed them into it. BUT, if they do end up loving horses I will certainly make sure they have every opportunity to learn horsemanship and equitation the right way and that is a very fun thought.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Product Recommendation

Wow, this week has flown by! I just wanted to mention my favorite pair of riding tights that I found at Equine Affaire a few years ago. I don't know about you but paying $200+ for some of these breeches is just painful and often not in my budget. These pants are generally half the cost but still high quality. The brand is Sticky Seat. These are pull-on breeches that come in a couple of different styles. They are hands down the most comfortable pair of riding tights I own. I've had one pair for at least three years maybe longer and other than a little saddle stain they still look practically new. The "sticky seat" part of them really does help you stick to the saddle but I haven't found it to interfere. The only thing I don't know is how they would do if combined with some kind of sticky spray.

From the website:
This Patent Pending Grip Seat may come in
different shapes or patterns depending on the style
of leggings, breeches, tights or jodhpurs selected
We have tested the pants with the Grip Seat in the
Saddle (and Bareback!) of Dressage, Hunter-Jumper,
Western, English, Pleasure and Casual Riders

The Grip offers just the right amount of "Stick"
without glueing you in and getting you into trouble!

The Grip doesn't impede the wicking or venting properties
of the technical fabrics that we have chosen - so no soggy bottom

For me the biggest factor is fit. Because I am so short I have a horrid time finding breeches that fit properly and these fit me great. So if you are looking for a less expensive alternative for riding breeches I highly recommend these. And yes, I do show in mine.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

That Ounce Of Prevention

I just want to start this post with the caveat that I am not in any way an expert on this subject. These are just my own personal observations and experiences.

One of the things I've found that helps with my anxiety is my level of fitness. When you think about it it makes perfect sense that you are a lot less likely to stress out about riding a cross country course if you know that you are physically capable of riding correctly the entire time without tiring. When you start huffing and puffing less than halfway through that only adds to your stress. This applies to all three phases of course.

As a society we are entirely focused on the wrong thing; that is being thin or skinny. It amazes me how we often hear in the news about our unhealthy obsession with weight and yet nothing ever changes. Magazines continue to Photoshop women into completely absurd shapes; Hollywood continues to glorify being waif-like and the sad thing is we often fall for the lie.

I personally think that focusing on getting thin is what makes losing weight so difficult. Instead of focusing on losing weight or some magical number on the scale we need to focus on getting STRONG and healthy. Focusing on getting fit gives you a goal that is obtainable and measurable getting skinny is subjective and therefor elusive.

This is not to say that getting fit is easy. There are tons of blogs and self-help sites, etc out there so I'm not going to write an entire blog on how to get fit or anything but I did want to mention a couple of things that help me.

1. Don't focus just on cardio. Come on girls don't be afraid to lift some weights! You don't have to be a body builder but if your biceps are the same size as your forearms you might want to consider investing in some dumb bells or something. Just my personal opinion. This will help you with your riding and believe it or not if you do it long enough you won't just see more muscle but also less fat.

2. If you get bored with exercise that is not directly horse related (like me) then consider joining a fitness class of some sort or find a fitness buddy. I am currently in a ladies only kickboxing class and I LOVE IT! It is a great work out and it is incredibly motivating.

3. Don't forget about flexibility. This is probably one of the areas I struggle with the most and yet it really is one of the most important aspects to being fit. Being flexible will help prevent a lot of injuries and there are a number of ways it will directly help your riding such as helping you get your leg longer on your horse for dressage. Take a few minutes every day to do some stretching. You won't regret it.

Of course none of this beats time in the saddle but being fit out of the saddle really is just as important as being fit in the saddle. And for those of us who just don't have the option of spending hours a day in the saddle it is a must.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Magical Moments

I know if you've ridden for any real length of time you've had one of those magical moments. Moments when the light bulb came on and you "got it" or when you just "clicked" with your horse. I had a magical moment during my lesson today. I got a "perfect" trot to canter transition. I did not lose the contact. I did not stiffen up but followed with my seat. Sky stayed nice and round and forward, coming through and bent around our circle. It was ahh-MA-zing! I was feeling quite euphoric as I left the barn. I don't know when I'll repeat that moment but it will happen and I'm just hoping that feeling can sustain me for the rest of this week until my next lesson.

I don't think I really got it when I was kid. I think I took a lot of these magical moments for granted. When I was younger I just wasn't really interested in the process or how I got there I just wanted to get there. I probably would have viewed this lesson as meaning I'd regressed or something because I haven't jumped in the past two lessons. As an adult (Thank God there are some good things about getting older!) I realize that it isn't a matter of regressing but more of finessing. I'm going back to fill in some of the holes in my equitation education and suddenly I am LOVING the process and the learning. I know there will be more magical moments on my riding journey and I am not going to take any more for granted! :D

By the way, this is Sky. He is being ridden by Japanese Olympic rider, Shigeyuki Hosono who was at the barn a while back to do Japanese instructor certification.

Have a nice weekend everybody!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Morning Knots and Awards

Good morning! (for me anyways--most of you are probably just heading to bed) I just thought I'd share what I wake up to every morning over here in Japan. My youngest daughter is already a professional at something at the amazing age of 3.

We call her Knot Head
Yes, that's right my 3 year old is a champion knot tier. Every single morning since she's had hair long enough to twist together I have had at least one or two or three and every once in a while four knots to pry out of her hair. How many times have I been tempted to simply shave her head! I don't know. But I got to thinking yesterday what if... just what if someday all that knot tying practice came in use someday. Maybe, just maybe she will be my professional horse braider when she gets older. It could be a silver lining after all.

I got to have my extra lesson yesterday and it was great. We just worked on the flat and on those dreaded transitions which I am getting better at already. I even had three strides of the most amazing canter ever until I spoiled it with a heel into Sky's side. Ugh! After a few small bucks we got back together and ended on a good note. My trainer wants to do a lunge lesson soon without stirrups which I wholeheartedly support! I woke up this morning with a few knots (of another kind) myself.

And finally I won an AWARD!!! Wow! I am completely surprised and very thankful to L. Williams over at Viva Carlos for considering my blog for an award. Thanks so much!

Liebster means “dearest” in German, and the award is intended to help up-and-coming blogs get the attention they deserve. Here are the rules: 

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

2. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award

3. Pick your five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.

4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs!

I'm really new to this whole blogging thing and I'm amazed at how many talented riders and writers there are blogging these days. Here are some of the ones I really enjoy (in no particular order):

1. PonyEventer: She hasn't written a whole lot yet but I'm very interested in hearing more about the redheaded pony's adventures in eventing and hopefully she'll continue to write more in the future.

2. Lyndz Ridez: I am always amazed at people who can balance their love for all things equine with "real" life such as going to law school. Lyndz is hoping to compete in her first event this summer and I'm excited to hear how it goes. I'm pretty sure she'll love it!

3. Confessions of an AA Event Rider and Convicted Over Thinker: I am pretty sure that Suzanne has probably already won a blog award before but I'm really enjoying her blog. I think pretty much any adult amateur who is balancing riding with family can relate to this blog.

4. Tales From a Bad Eventer: I wouldn't be surprised if Bad Eventer has already won a blog award as well but seriously this blog is a must read. The writer definitely has a way with words and the ability to make you laugh your butt off.

5. Mad for Smarty: This is Madison's blog about the retraining of her new OTTB Mad for Smarty. Their story is a little like a fairy tale and I can't wait to hear how they progress together.

I also want to mention two other blogs really quick. Team Flying Solo is the first blog I ever started reading and if you are at all interested in the sport of Eventing I highly suggest this blog. The author is insightful and a very good writer. You will learn a lot and have fun along the way.

Musingly Mindee is not a horse related blog but well, she's my little sister so I of course have to give her a shout out. She is an up and coming young adult author. Her book The Nightmare Affair is due out sometime in the winter of 2013 (I believe). If you are ever interested in learning about the writing process then I think you would enjoy her blog.

Okay, that's all for today. Thanks for reading!

NEW EDIT: Okay so two of the blogs I selected had just received awards between the time I wrote this and published it, go figure! Since that is the case I wanted to award or at least tell you about one other blog that I think you might enjoy: I'm All Ears is the blog of Hannah and her horse Tucker. I really enjoy reading about other AA riders on the eventing scene. There are so many things you can learn through others' experiences even though sometimes I really feel like I'm behind the 8 ball when I read them.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Heels, Hips and Hands

What do you struggle with when you ride and what are you doing to get better? When I was younger I just used to ride for the sheer joy of it. My sister and I spent the vast majority of our riding time out on the trails and riding in an arena was "boring." But now that I'm older and have gotten hit with this whole eventing bug thing I have this overwhelming desire to improve my riding. To put it in the most basic way possible I want to go from looking like this:
to looking like this. (I borrowed this photo from one of my previous trainers):
I'm seriously not sure how her from could be better.
Needless to say I don't want to just improve my equitation over fences I also want to improve my equitation on the flat. This is not just so I can look "pretty" but mostly so I can be safe and my horse can be happier. In order to work towards this goal I've identified the three things that need the most work. (I'm sure there are more but these are the ones that stand out to me.)

HEELS: I have a huge problem with turning my toe out and using my heel to grip and also as a means to make my horse go forward. The lesson horse that I am riding right now has a real problem with this. He lets me know right away if I use my heel for forward instead of my whole calf/leg. He lets me know by pinning his ears and making as though he is going to buck. So far we haven't had any bucking but it has helped me tremendously to be aware of what my foot is doing and I think if I can keep riding Sky I might actually be able to break this bad habit.

HIPS: I already mentioned briefly in the previous post the problem I'm having with relaxing my hips to follow my horse's motion at the canter. My instructor is helping me to see how this is carrying over to the jumping. I'm getting so far ahead of my horse when we jump because I am not following my horse at the canter. I'm relying on strength more than balance. If I can improve my canter work by allowing my hips to relax and simply follow the motion I should see improvements in my form over jumps. I'm sure there is a much more technical way to say all this but it totally makes sense in my mind.

HANDS: I don't think my hands are terrible I would just like them to be more consistent. At my last lesson my instructor was reiterating the fact that your reins are like phone lines. If you don't keep a consistent contact it can be like static in the lines. I would like to have soft hands that are also effective.

Of course the biggest key to any improvements is just time in that saddle and practice and lots and lots of lessons. I'm super excited because as long as the weather holds for tomorrow I'm going to get an extra lesson in this week. Yay!