Monday, March 31, 2014

Commence Cold Hosing

I am seriously bummed you all. I went to the barn today. It's supposed to be in the 60s all week including a possible jaunt into the seventies tomorrow. I got Loki out, no big deal, started grooming him when I noticed a new splint on his left front. :( It's not really big and the swelling is minimal but there is a little heat to it. He is completely sound on it and doesn't seem sensitive to me touching it but it's there. So I cold hosed him and put some liniment on him (the only thing I had available).

I added a little arrow in case it isn't as obvious as I think.
 I don't know how much this will affect our spring plans. For now I'll be cold hosing and giving him some time off. But, really couldn't this have happened sometime when it was snowing???

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What's Different

Over the past week or so I've had a series of really good rides and a couple of not so great ones (not horrible but just not as great.) Our biggest struggle is still rushing when we jump but we've had a couple of days including today where Loki was actually somewhat soft and rideable. So I've been trying to figure out what is different on the days that we have good rides versus the days we have bad rides. I know at least some of it is just having a bad day for no tangible reason but surely there are some things that do make a difference. Here is a list of things I've noticed:
  1. Start with the walk. On the days we have had good rides I have started off with really pushing Loki to give me a correct walk. It's easy to be lazy at the walk, for me at least, but when I ask Loki to soften and give and reach and all that good stuff at the walk before we even do anything else I am finding that he tends to be softer at the trot and canter later and I think that is even translating to softer when we jump.
  2. Give the benefit of the doubt the first time.  This maybe doesn't make total sense but I've found that the days we have a good jump session I start out being extra soft as we start jumping. I let Loki pick his own pace over the first fence even if it is a little fast. This is really hard for me to do sometimes because I am always expecting him to get super fast. But, when I stick to this our sessions go so much better. Today we just warmed up over a cross rail on a circle and we just stayed on the circle until we were able to keep the same rhythm through the entire circle. What a great feeling!
Okay so this isn't a really long list but these are the two things I've noticed so far. Today we jumped around just a small course of low jumps and Loki stayed very soft and rideable the entire time and he was just in his Myler comfort snaffle. Having rides like this are both hopeful and slightly frustrating. Hopeful because I know it is possible, we can do it. But it's frustrating because I can't get the results on demand, yet. But when I look back over everything we have accomplished I think we are doing okay and I just need to remind myself to be patient.

Sweaty after our ride.
 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

April Showers

It's technically not quite April yet but today is the first real"shower" we've had thus far for Spring. It's one of those rainy days that make you want to curl up with a good book and not venture outside for the day. Hey, I'm not complaining, I've heard it's still snowing in other parts of the country!

I'm just hanging out with my cuddle bug!

In other news my trainer is gone to Florida to ride with Joe Meyer for the next week. I'm going to try and just work on some homework while she's gone. Probably starting tomorrow. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

TBT

What girl wouldn't want horses to be a part of her wedding day?
I had a very traditional wedding and having my own horse as a part of my wedding never even occurred to me but I still wanted horses involved somehow so my Mom rented this team of Percherons to drive us from the church to the banquet hall.
It was a very humid August day and we were a little worried we were going to be caught in a storm but it was totally worth it. Just for the pictures alone.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The In Between

After our very beautiful weather of last week it snowed today. :(  But, I rode anyways. I've ridden every day this week. Loki and I had two really nice rides yesterday and the day before. Just flat work but it was soft and still forward, so nice that I cut our rides pretty short as a reward. I'm finally starting to get more pieces to the riding puzzle. Part of finding certain pieces is being able to separate your body parts and that is always a challenge. When I loosen my joints and stop gripping with my knees amazingly my hands get softer and Loki's canter gets tons better but I have to keep my joints loose without completely losing my leg, something about not riding like a monkey I think.

As for jumping I'm still looking for that elusive in-between. If I try to hold Loki too much he grabs the bit and charges but if I'm too loose and don't ride at all he gets flat and behind my leg. Somewhere right in the middle is that sweet spot. We hit it on occasion. We'll have a line that rides nearly perfect and it's because I've found that middle ground of riding but not over riding. Why oh why is that in-between so hard to find? I tell you this horse, this horse is going to make me a better rider... eventually. In an ideal world I would have another year or two of riding a made horse over jumps to really solidify my knowledge and confidence but this isn't an ideal world and Loki and I just have to make do. I do feel like we are making progress but it definitely isn't always linear.

I don't know when I will have a chance to get action photos so until then here are a couple of confo shots I tried to get. I really can't wait until we lose the last of this winter coat!

Pre-bath. The ground slants slightly.
After bath and some mane pulling. It's starting to shape up.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Still Working on Slow But Forward

Loki and I did some jumping yesterday and while it wasn't terrible it still isn't where we want it to be. On the plus side we raised the jumps to at least 2'6" maybe even 2'9" and the height didn't bother me at all. I was way too busy trying to contain my charging freight train. I kept telling him "hey there was another stride in there somewhere!" My trainer mentioned that every time we make things a little harder or push him a little more he responds with getting heavy and wanting to run. It's like his default answer. By the end of our lesson he was much better and we were even able to add a stride instead of leave one out. So I am hopeful that we are still heading in the right direction but we still have our work cut out for us.

Today I got on and rode for just a short time and got very nice trot and canter work from him. We were joking that a dressage test is just about three minutes. Just three minutes, buddy, can you give me just three minutes? :)

It was very warm after our jump lesson (nearly 70!) and Loki was a super sweaty mess so he got a quick bath. It's nice to have a semi-clean horse again. He's still losing that winter coat but the shininess of summer is coming. I'm not sure how obvious it is from these photos but his neck is super dark right now as he is losing his winter coat.
Drying out after his bath. (His mane is still staying to the right.)
You got cookie, Mom?


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Holy Soreness Batman!

Not Loki, me. I've been a good girl and gone to the gym every day except Monday this week. I've run and been on the elliptical and since I've been going with my husband I've also done some lifting; chest, shoulders, back and arms. Add all that to riding (two horses today!) and all the sudden I am feeling very sore! It's a good soreness, though and I'm feeling pretty good, other than the soreness.

I had a lesson today and it went pretty well. Loki and I were able to put an entire course together today and we raised a few of the fences up to 2'3" all without rushing which I will be happy to call progress. Our trouble is not the actual jumping it is everything that happens before and after we jump. Again, when our turns are good our line is generally good when I don't ride the turns well, i.e., lean in or let Loki get too bent then our line is not so good because he comes in unbalanced.

We also worked on walk to canter transitions, before we jumped. My trainer suggested that this exercise would serve us better than worrying about our leads. According to her 99% of our issues come from Loki being on his forehand and unbalanced so exercises that make him have to rock back and use his hind end are really good for us.

And in a moment of double awesomeness it worked out that I was able to ride my trainer's horse (and Loki's half-brother) Monte. It was a great learning experience. At first I rode him without my trainer present and I was having a hard time putting him together. It was very frustrating! Then when my trainer showed up she talked me through it and just like that I put him together in less than a few minutes. This is both great and annoying. On the one hand I was able to do it on the other hand I'm disappointed that I needed to be talked through it. But, oh well it was a very good learning experience anyways.

And sorry no pictures. :(

But I took Loki's braids out. So far his mane is staying on the right but it isn't laying as flat as I would like so I'm going to give it a few days and see if it stays put.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

20 Questions From The Daily Horse

(thanks to She Moved to Texas for posting these questions first.)

My life has really gotten busy as of late. Keeping up with blogging, my part time job, my kids, volunteering at schools and riding my horse has left me wanting a few more hours in the day. I spent a lot of the day today cleaning and doing laundry because it is wet and ick outside so I figure I might as well take advantage of it. I have a lesson scheduled for tomorrow, though, so yay!

1) What discipline do you ride? Eventing! but I dabble in hunter schooling shows, dressage shows and trail riding.

2) If you had to switch your discipline which one would you choose? This is a tough question because the answer, I think, wouldn't be just one. I would love to get better at hunters. I know there are skills in that discipline that I lack that would really make me a better rider. But it would also be fun to learn something completely different like barrel racing or something so I don't know for sure but I am sure that I would still find plenty to do with my horse.

3) Who is your equestrian idol? I can't say I really have an idol. I of course look up to George Morris, Jimmy Wofford & Denny Emerson but I would be very happy to just be able to ride like my current trainer or my trainer from Washington.

4) Who is your least favorite equestrian? I don't have a specific answer but certainly anyone who uses abusive methods as short cuts to success or anyone who is simply a poor sportsman or lady.

5) Describe your dream horse (breed, color, markings). When I was younger I used to really think that having the right colored or bred horse would make me happier and then I bought a horse that really was what I thought of at the time as my dream horse. His name was Bugs and he was a minimal white paint with a lot of thoroughbred in him. Just flashy enough to be noticed without being glaring. Unfortunately that partnership did not work out well for us and now after having Loki who is about as plain a bay as you can get I've realized that the outwards stuff doesn't matter nearly as much as the horse's attitude, personality and to some extent ability.
Bugs sure was a beautiful creature

6) Post a picture of the horse you ride.
 
Loki isn't as flashy but he is better (for me) in every way possible.

7) What would you do if you were forced to stop riding? I don't know. I would spend more time with my family, maybe pick up painting again and continue to find ways to keep horses in my life even if I couldn't ride, but it would be tough.

8) What was your best score at a show? I don't remember exactly but I know I've scored in the very low 30s before which is okay for eventing. I'm hoping to do at least that well this summer with Loki.

9) What is your favorite horse blog? You can look at my sidebar for a list of the blogs I currently read. I enjoy each of them. Overall for the news and other items I would probably rank Eventing Nation at the top.

10) Group lesson or private? Both! I learn a lot by watching other riders so if I have a group lesson I try to learn from each other rider as much as I can even if what I'm learning is sometimes what not to do. But private lessons are nice as well for that individual attention.

11) How high do you jump? We are going to start at beginner novice this spring (2'6") and with any luck be at novice by the fall (2'9") I'm pretty sure we've jumped as high as 3' maybe even 3'3" but not regularly. For Loki it isn't about the size of the jump it is all about the quality of our canter and the ridability on the flat. Once we get all that down pat the size will come.

12) What level of dressage do you do? If we rode straight dressage we would still be at the training level but hopefully we will make some more progress this summer and start schooling some 1st level movements. That would be awesome!

13) What level eventing do you do? Beginner novice right now hopefully novice by the end of the year and if things work out perfectly training by next spring.

14) Cross Country colors, what are they? Black and red

15) What colors look good on your horse? Black and blues look best. Red really only works as an accent but we use it anyways.

16) Opinion on rolkur? Idiotic, abusive, retarded, etc, etc, etc

17) Last time you rode? Was it great? I rode on Monday and we had a wonderful ride working on picking up our canter leads on the straight way and just tweaking things for once instead of working on major stuff. It was a blast.

18) If you could spend a day with any equestrian who would it be? This is tough because I really don't know for sure but maybe someone like Laine Ashker. She rides a lot of OTTBs and she just seems like a very fun person.

19) Helmet or no helmet? opinion? Helmet, every time every ride. I am a Mom and I will do everything in my power to stay as safe as possible for my family. In my opinion it is very selfish to do otherwise. Yes, you can get hurt on horses in many other ways that don't involve your head but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do everything you can to protect yourself. I can live with broken bones, I could even learn to live in a wheel chair but I don't ever want to subject my family to have to take care of me as a vegetable. Use your heads people!

20) Who was/is your first horse? Ghazal, zelly, zelly-belly!
The one and only

Monday, March 17, 2014

Moving On

First of all thanks for the many supportive comments about our new bit. I am feeling much better about it. It is amazing how we can get ourselves "stuck" about some things. You hear things like "every horse should be able to go in a snaffle" and it can make you feel bad when you don't meet that expectation. But, I realized I've got to give myself some slack. I am an amateur rider with limited time and experience to draw upon. I am doing the best I can and I always have my horse's comfort and safety at heart.
Limited horse photos to share but Pixel Pictures are always fun!
So we've moved on and the best thing is I gave Loki two days off and then we rode in the outdoor again and we had an amazing ride with just our simple snaffle and not even our running martingale! We kept a good rhythm and jumped a whole course of cross rails with very minimum speeding up. My long term goal is to get back in the simple snaffle for all phases and I think it is totally doable. We just need more time and experience. And now I can be super excited about our progress without the guilt!!

Now that our canter is getting a million times better I'm finding other little things to work on as well. For instance we really need to practice picking up our leads on a straight way. I've been a little lazy, I guess, and have relied on the corners or turns to pick up the canter and when we were jumping it really showed that getting the correct lead was an issue. So today we simply practiced picking up the lead I asked for. We had some trouble with the left lead but mainly that was because the barn was to the right and I didn't quite have Loki's 100% focus. It took 7 or 8 tries but we finally got the correct lead twice in a row on the straight way and then called it a day. It's fun to have these kinds of things to work on instead of the big, overall "our canter is all over the place and needs work" work to do.

And our other project for right now is taming the mane!
Loki looking less than thrilled with his new do.
I got the inspiration from Viva Carlos when she reviewed the book Grooming to Win. Loki's mane has always fallen on the wrong side (the left) and I haven't cared too much before because we weren't doing any showing that really required much braiding but if things go according to plan this summer we will have to be doing some braiding. After reading Viva Carlos post and seeing the very nice braids she did on Ramone I figured I had no excuse especially since I've owned that book for a few years now!

So for the next two weeks Loki's mane is going to be braided. You can tell that the braids don't even want to lay flat on this side. I'm hoping this will work but Loki's mane is so thick and so determined to fall on the left that I'm not sure if it will be a success or not but I guess we'll see!

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Bit Of A Difference

I've really had trouble composing this post which is why it has taken me so long. Cross country schooling on Monday was absolutely the best time I've had riding my horse XC ever. It is amazing what having reliable brakes can do! But, I have very mixed feelings right now about those brakes... because I finally broke down and tried a new bit.
Thanks to my sister for letting me borrow her trailer for the summer!
What I am struggling with is I sort of feel like a failure. We had such a great school! We didn't get into arguments in front of the jumps, I actually had adjustability in the canter!! I had 100 times more confidence than I've ever had XC schooling before but because I used a "harsher" bit it feels like I cheated.

Ed's Ears (FFI horse) on the way home. (He ended up getting adopted that day!)
But, but, but Loki was 100 times more relaxed than he has ever been XC schooling. I was able to walk him around on the buckle in between jumps--that has NEVER happened before. And it wasn't like he sucked back and got behind my leg. When I remembered to put my leg on he was right there, accepting the contact and moving forward. The only difference was he wasn't plowing through my hands and/or the jumps which is just not a fun feeling!

And another thing I discovered. When we didn't get in arguments running to a fence I was able to keep my hands light over the fence. Before Loki would see a jump and just charge for it like his tail was on fire. I would half-halt and he would charge harder and we would just argue back and forth so that basically half the time we would still be arguing over the fence which often resulted in me catching him in the mouth (or I would just throw the reins at him let him have his way and pray we made it over.) This whole time I thought my hands were just bad but what I discovered was that when I was able to half halt and actually get a response my hands really can be light!
Loki and Monty cooling out and getting ready to head back home.
Anyways, the bit we tried was a Myler combination bit. It has the leather noseband and not the rawhide and it was still the comfort snaffle mouthpiece. From what I understand it distributes pressure between the poll, nose and mouth instead of just all in the mouth. For whatever reason Loki just seemed to respond very well to it. I've read a lot of differing opinions on it but it is hard to ignore the evidence I felt in front of me which was how happy both Loki and I seemed after our school. It's definitely something I'm going to have to think about a lot. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Blog Hop: Whats In A Name (and enter this contest)

I know I know I was supposed to write about our XC schooling day... but... I'm still tired and more importantly I want to participate in another fun blog hop courtesy of Viva Carlos. :)

Everyone has a story to tell and in blog land, most of us have stumbled upon each other mid-sentence, so-to-speak.  
What is the story behind your blogname/url?

I started this blog in the beginning of 2012. I was in Japan, horseless and not so happy. I had started off casually reading a few blogs a few years before the first one of those being Flying Solo. But when I moved to Japan the blogs I read were like lifelines to another world that seemed so far away and that I was desperately missing. Pretty soon just reading and commenting on blogs wasn't enough. I wanted to "talk" about horses. My husband tried to be a good listener but it still just wasn't enough. So I finally decided to stake my own little place on blogger. (I never dreamed anyone aside from a few close friends and family would ever come here and the purpose was truly just an outlet for me to "talk" horses as if to an invisible friend.)

My blog, Keep It Low Key is not actually named after my horse even though my blog and Loki's show name are the same. The blog had the name first which maybe makes me a little weird, I don't know. How it happened was I had no horse but I had lots of time to daydream about my future horse and part of that dreaming was coming up with the "perfect" name.

Something I've always struggled with is my nerves be they show nerves or just the nerves that come from doing something outside my comfort zone. I had watched a Daniel Stewart clinic the summer before and he talked about how words have power and we need to try to use words that will get us closer to where we want to be instead of words that will impact us negatively. Well I wanted to be calm, cool and collected every time I rode. I wanted to keep things "low key" and fun and relaxed and laid back like a night out with good friends. And just like that I found the "perfect" name, for me anyways.

When I bought Loki his barn name was Frankie and his JC name was/is Too Many Whyz and I did feel some pressure to not change his name. Some folks consider it bad luck to change a horse's name but in the end I stuck with my plan and as for the barn names I thought Loki and Frankie are not all that different surely it will be easy enough for him and everybody else to get used to. And I loved the idea of playing with the words low key and Loki the god of mischief. It was just fun and I am really glad I stuck to it because at this point Loki is Loki as if he's always been and I feel like that makes him more mine somehow. Probably a little silly but there you have it. :)
For better or worse we are a team.
Also I keep forgetting to share this really cool contest from She Moved to Texas. Win a free one month to Equestrian Coach. And if you aren't reading She Moved to Texas yet you really should be!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Perfection (and another contest!)

Here’s the thing: Horses aren’t perfect, just like you and me. But this is where the beauty of imperfection exists, in the reality that while none of us are perfect, there is still the chance that somewhere, someday, you’ll find “the one” that will match all of your imperfections, and you will fit together like a puzzle piece.   ~Kate Samuels (Eventing Nation)
I was reading this article on Eventing Nation today and the above quote really resonated with me.  I don't know that Loki and I are there yet. There are still some pieces that need reshaping for both me and him but over the last couple of days things have been feeling a heck of a lot smoother and more peaceful when we ride. I have always loved this horse, honestly from the first time I rode him I liked him a ton but that doesn't mean everything has always come easily or that he fit like the proverbial glove.

But one of the most fun things about riding and working with horses is figuring out how to fit and how to make things work smoothly like a well oiled machine. I love watching certain dressage riders because they make everything look so effortless but I am finally understanding that beyond what we see in the arena are hours and weeks and months and even years in some cases of sweat and work and truly the joy comes in the journey rather than the destination.

We rode again on Sunday and this time we put a few jumps together, nothing big just all cross rails. And of course things were not as buttery soft as they were the day before but still a bit of an improvement. I HAVE TO LEARN TO RIDE EVERY STRIDE! That is one of my biggest takeaways. I would literally lose him in the turn and everything else was crap afterwards but when I rode the turns correctly making him stay straight and not get so bent to the inside (You are not riding a noodle! shouts my trainer) then we would have 100% better results. But still there is always the increase in speed between one jump and the next. Sometimes it is barely perceptible but I can always feel it and if I dare ask for a half halt of any kind that often results in Loki just taking the bit and going his merry way, and f.y.i. his merry way is full speed ahead. I probably make it sound worse than it is but I hate that feeling of not being able to ask him to sit back and wait. I've tried raising my reins when I ask for the half halt and that has helped but not enough. And the thing is he does NOT do this on the flat. It is only when jumps are involved. I rode in my neck strap and made sure to grab it so I was definitely not getting in his mouth so there were no excuses this time. As he got tired towards the end he got a lot better but I definitely don't want to have to make my horse tired every time we go to jump a round. That does NOT sound like a good idea!

But here is the good news the next day we went XC schooling and I had brakes!! I'll have to tell you about it in my next post because this time change is seriously kicking my butt!! and I've actually been super busy with my part time job too. But just know I had the most fun ever! but I have a lot to think about and consider. All I know for now is that when my horse has brakes he is really, really fun to ride and we are able to go "jump all the things" and I am happy and he is CALM and even, dare I say, relaxed! It was really wonderful.

In the meantime be sure to check out this contest over at A Gift Horse. Happy Birthday O!
Cooling down after a wonderful XC school. (Monty in the background.)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Blog Hop: 7 Deadly Sins

I am late to this party I know but better late than never. Thanks to L. Williams from Viva Carlos for making and hosting this blog hop.
Pride
Seven great things/strengths in your riding life
  1. The fact that I've had horses in my life for over 20 years makes me feel pretty lucky.
  2. Ghazal
  3. Loki
  4. Being physically fit.
  5. Supportive family and friends
  6. A good amount of time to ride, usually.
  7. The drive to get better. 
Envy
Seven things you lack or covet for you or your horse.
  1. A trailer. I miss the freedom of having my own trailer!
  2. Unlimited funds for training/showing and horse care.
  3. A saddle that fits me and my horse.
  4. Property and the ability to keep my horses at home. 
  5. Height! What I wouldn't give for an extra 5 or 6 inches!
  6. To be a great rider. Not winning competitions so much as just a really great rider.
  7. I really just can't think of anything else. I have a lot to be grateful for.
Wrath
Seven things that make you angry.
  1. Abuse & neglect not limited to just horses but all animals and children
  2. When I lose my balance and let my passion take over too much of my life
  3. Rude or ill mannered people
  4. When I continually make the same mistakes
  5. Fear
  6. Rulkur and any abusive kind of training
  7. People who judge others especially without knowing all the facts 
Sloth
Seven things you neglect to do or cut corners on. 
  1. Picking out hooves after we ride
  2. Working in two point or without stirrups
  3. Spending time reading training/horse care books to improve my riding and knowledge
  4. Pulling Loki's mane. 
  5. Lately my downfall has been keeping up with the housework!
  6. Getting out to see Ghazal as often as I should
  7. Keeping track of farrier and vet dates :(
Greed
Seven most expensive things you own for your horses/riding. 
  1. Loki 
  2. Ghazal
  3. Big rolling tack trunk
  4. Saddle
  5. Show coat
  6. Nice riding breeches
  7. Ariat Volants
Gluttony
Seven guilty pleasures or favorite items.
  1. Loki (duh!)
  2. Ghazal (duh!)
  3. Every time I get to spend in the saddle or with my horses
  4. Trail riding
  5. Having a good trainer/instructor that is pushing me to be a better rider
  6. The facilities that allow me to ride all year long
  7. The time I have to spend at home with family (I know not entirely horse related but so true!)
Lust
Seven things you love about horses and riding.
  1. Barn smells
  2. The peace I get from a good ride
  3. Facing fears and pushing through them
  4. The friendships (There are no friends quite like horse friends, on and off line!)
  5. The fact that I can tell my horses anything and I always feel better afterwards
  6. That moment when something clicks and your ride gets noticeably better
  7. Horses are the most beautiful creatures and I love to simply look at them.
Just beautiful

Friday, March 7, 2014

Rainbows and Butterflies

I have too many things I want to write about right now. I want to share about our ski trip. It was a blast! and my husband had all kinds of cute quips comparing skiing to riding in order to help me ski better. I also want to participate in the blog hop created by L. Williams from Viva Carlos. But before I can do either of those things I have to write about my lesson today because it was AWESOME!
The weather today was in the mid-fifties which right now feels pretty close to perfect. I had to go out to my sister's place first as Ghazal and his buddies had a meeting with the farrier. I think I might need to start giving Ghazal a little bute before the farrier comes or something to help him. He behaves very well but he is having a hard time standing on three feet for any length of time. The old man is 25 years old this year.

After that I headed on over to see Loki and got saddled up. The first part of our ride was pretty uneventful other than we were riding outside for the first time in weeks(!). I sort of expected him to be pretty up but he was no more so than usual. As we warmed up Lori reminded me to do lots of changes of direction and to keep his mind focused on me. (I needed to be his birdie - Thanks for that one Cob Jockey) The more I got him focused on me and what we were doing the more he slowed his rhythm down and paid attention.

Next we worked on leg yields. First I need to make sure that Loki is straight and then ask him to move over then I had to ask him to go forward again. When we first started Loki moved over right away but that was more because Loki was happy to simply drift back to the rail and wasn't truly listening to my leg so that is why I had to make sure he only moved over a little and then forward again. It got better and better each time.

Finally from the leg yield we worked on canter and all I can say is that I have never ever felt this canter before. It was soft... it was magical. We worked both leads and to the right was not quite as soft but still much better than ever before. To the right has always been the harder direction for us.

After that we did do some jumping. At first Loki did get a little "fresh" and tried to rush, not a lot, but a noticeable amount. I had put a neck strap on and I made myself use it so after a few times over, once Loki realized I was NOT going to pull back on him he did start to settle and we moved on.

Finally we moved to a small vertical (about 2'3") and we trotted over it a few times. And this was another truly magical moment because we trotted the jump one last time and right after Loki was absolutely the softest I've ever felt. I wish I could explain the feeling but after we landed from the jump it was as if Loki paused and said "okay, what next, Mom" and I asked him to just canter a small circle and we ended on that very positive note. Our intern was watching and she commented that she had never seen Loki and I look so in sync before. Truly I was on cloud 9.

I know I'm not doing justice in my description. I don't feel like I rode any differently than normal other than using the neck strap when we jumped. It was just like something clicked into place. I hope we are able to build on it and that it isn't just a fluke of the moment!

Of course there are still plenty of things to work on. For one thing we only jumped single fences and I know that we will struggle again once we start putting courses together again. I also need to work on keeping my joints loose. Apparently I listened a little too well to the "keep your heels down" mantra. I tend to jam my heels down and lock my ankles which makes them pretty useless as shock absorbers.

I know there is so much more but this is already way too long. I just had to get it down so I can remember it. This is why I ride and why I love it so much, these moments when things just come together and as our intern said you get "in sync" with your horse. There is just something magical about it. (I've used that word a lot!) And I really wish I had gotten some pictures even though Loki was a sweaty stinky mess by the end. I am starting to wish I'd gone ahead and clipped him now that the weather is finally nice!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

'Tis The Season For Keeping Your Mouth Shut

That's right ladies and gentleman hair is a flying everywhere right now so unless you want to eat it keep your mouth closed while grooming!

The road trip was a lot of fun yesterday saw lots of nice things but managed to stay strong and not buy anything except some used paddock boots for my daughter that ended up not fitting. Oops!

I rode today and Loki was so good. Definitely it was one of those rides that just leave you feeling like rainbows and roses. I do believe my horse is finally learning how to soften, especially his jaw which means less stiffness in his back. Certainly lots more work to be done and we aren't consistent yet by any stretch but truly some moments of connection that just feel amazing. And even at the canter a couple of times I felt him soften for a bit. This is by far his hardest gate and all the cantering and transitions we've been doing are finally starting to pay off I think. I should actually get a lesson this week and I'm really looking forward to it.

I'm also very excited about the 10 day forecast at the moment. It looks like there might be some outdoor riding in our near future!

Tomorrow we might go skiing, though. Not entirely sure but that's what we are thinking so we'll see how that goes. No photos of the hairy, dirty beast today but I did find this old gem. This was my very first time ever schooling cross country and I ended up taking a bath right after this photo was snapped. The horse I was riding, Bugs leaped into the water when I was totally not expecting it. This was in Washington state and it was VERY cold water, lol. And this is also part of the reason why I get so worried about any kind of down banks!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Road Trip

Some of the girls from my barn are going on a road trip tomorrow because it is still so cold and we're just tired of it. So we are going up to Columbus to Equus Now. It's a decent sized tack store I've only been to one other time. I don't really need anything at the moment and will hopefully only be window shopping but it will be fun to just hang out with some horse people and look at all the fun stuff.

Looking ahead at the 10 day forecast and I'm actually pretty excited. Nothing below 35 degrees after tomorrow. In the past that might have sounded depressing but right now that is really exciting! It will be above freezing for at least 9 days in a row!! That means maybe things will start thawing and hopefully before we know it we'll be riding outside!!

Looking even further ahead and we are about 5 weeks away from Equine Affair and about 7 weeks from Rolex! I always think of these two things as the true start of spring. I haven't been to Equine Affair in 2 years (maybe 3) and I am really looking forward to it this year. My trainer and our intern may be riding in one or two of the clinics. We're just waiting to find out. And of course going to Rolex is one of the highlights of the year for me. This year they are letting military and their families get in free on both Thursday and Friday so I will be going down at least two days.

I guess that is about it for now. I've been getting some work done around the house as it is freezing today but come Wednesday I'm hoping to get a much more regular barn schedule going.

Loki wants to know if it's Spring outside yet???

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Flexibility

I took a weight lifting class when I first started college and one of the things we discussed was the three types of fitness; strength, endurance and flexibility. While there are many people who do not get enough exercise to maintain a good level of strength and endurance it is actually flexibility fitness that seems to be the most often neglected. I am writing this as I'm sitting in a bit of pain from my IT band most likely from not properly stretching it after I run so believe me when I say I am just as guilty as the next person.

Flexibility is really important. Flexibility is what helps keep you from injury and it will help keep you young longer. I worked in a nursing home when I was in high school and I will never forget one particular lady who had been a professional dancer. Physically she was leaps and bounds ahead of the other residents simply because her body was so flexible. Believe me when I tell you that if you want to keep riding when you are 60, 70 or older that one of the most important things you can do to ensure that you get there is to maintain your flexibility! As equestrians we really need to spend the five to ten minutes a day to properly stretch and work on our own flexibility. I've noticed for me that my hamstrings and calves get especially tight when I'm doing a lot of riding.

I do believe that being more flexible will also make you a little stronger by giving you the maximum range of motion for your joints. Overall flexibility really is important.

And of course going beyond the physical being flexible mentally is equally important. As equestrians there are certain hard and fast "rules" but there is also a lot of gray area. One horse may react wonderfully to a certain training method while another horse won't. I learned when I was teaching in Okinawa that I had to change my approach for certain students because they learned differently. If you are having a problem in your training and you feel like you are just beating your head against a wall then it is probably a good time to look for alternative ways to train or get your point across.

Anyways, that is my thought for the day. I took some Advil and hopefully my IT band will settle down and I'm going to do my best to stretch at least once a day.

On the horse front I was going to ride today but we are getting hit by this latest winter storm. I sure hope it is the last. I'm really tired of snow and cold! I most likely won't ride until Wednesday at this point.

Loki enjoying some breakfast this morning, nice & dry in his stall
Ghazal, Zahir and Sharea wondering when will this snow end???