Horses, Life, A Touch of Geek

Archive for the ‘Riding’ Category

Rodney Lately

Here we stand. Literally.

Rodney’s trailer kerfuffle was five weeks ago [Dubious Future]. He injured his right hind leg above his ankle. It was never very bad & gets better every day [Rodney’s Feet]. But slowly. Oh, so slowly.

We’ve been doing stand lessons at the mounting block. If I sit on the block, he will stand next to it forever. If I mount up, he feels the need to move off. This tells me he is not at peace with having a rider on his back. So, I sit on the block. I stand on the block. I lean on the saddle. I get on. We stand. I get off. I sit, stand, lean, get on. And so on. And so on. It’s good for his mind and it’s something we can do while his ankle deflates.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Getting a Grip, Proof of Concept

Saddle Seat Wednesday

The situation is not as dire as I thought. Big surprise. It’s not that I don’t know how to ride the front end of a horse [Getting a Grip, or Not]. It’s that I forget.

I finally had a saddle seat lesson, after several weeks of schedule mis-match. When I kept my concentration, I found that I could feel – and fix! – when the horse dropped out of gear. I think I have been letting this happen way too often, which is a) bad riding and b) upsets the ASBs because they are not used to it. As a side benefit, thinking about keeping the horse in the correct position kept me in the correct position.

I was riding Sam, so it was a soft test. Still, it was nice to see that I could accomplish what I had been pondering.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Milton’s Delayed Future as a Riding Horse

Riding Milton is on hold while he is learning to drive.

Getting used to pulling appears to be the big step in teaching a driving horse. Once we have that, we will get back to the riding question.

One can never know the counterfactuals. Doing both at the same time would probably be okay. Probably. This way, if he declines to drive, it won’t be because he was confused by conflicting demands.

We’re talking several weeks, or a few months at most. We’ve waited this long.

Sigh.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Getting a Grip, or Not

Saddle Seat Wednesday

Originally I had planned to hold off pontificating on this subject. I’ve had so many theories; I wanted to see if this had any bearing in reality first. Unfortunately, recent show schedules have sent Coach Courtney and us out of town on alternating weeks over the last month & a half. No lessons means no current saddle seat news. So, here we go.

Theory
I have no idea how to use my reins.

I’m clever. I can make it look good. Hands generally where they are supposed to be. No slack in the reins, most of the time. However, it is all facade. There is no true communication with the horse’s mouth.

My default rein mode is non-existent. Even with reins at the proper length, my fingers hang at the end of my hands like dead worms. I decide that I should pick up a contact, so I do. Then I don’t let go. Once you pick something up, you are supposed to hold onto it, right? It would be as if I picked up a telephone but either stood there doing nothing, or pushed one button continuously. Neither leads to a successful phone call.

I go a long way by compensating with my seat, legs, and weight. My legs are so reliable that I sold my previous saddle seat saddle because I couldn’t get my legs to behave. That never happens. I’ve had a judge compliment my leg position, while placing me last in the class. (BTW, current owner of saddle is doing fabulously with it. Go figure.)

I am not without good points. I don’t balance myself off the horse’s mouth. My hands are stiff rather than heavy, think cardboard instead of brick. Light but inflexible. When I’m doing anything with them at all.

It works most of the time. The horse goes where I want, when I want. The problem is that when it doesn’t work, I don’t know why. Therefore I can’t fix it. Nor can I predict problems. This allows for a certain amount of uncertainly to creep in.

Of course, no one cares what a rider does with the reins, per se. It’s all about organizing and influencing the horse. The legs of the rider motivate the legs of the horse. Got that. The horse pushes off from his hind legs delivering energy forward. Yeah, okay. The rider then gathers the energy so that the horse is ready to jump, half-pass, or do a flashy show trot down the long side. This is where it breaks down for me. What do with the front end of a horse remains a complete mystery.

How The Horses Feel About It
This is why I am able to hit myself over the head with the thought that

Turns out there are two horses* in the world I can ride, and one of them is dead. [Anatomy of a Snit]

To some extent this is true.

Horses who are islands unto themselves, such as Sam & Previous Horse, don’t care if they are suddenly bereft of rider support. ‘You saying anything I can use? Okay, I’m listening. You got nothing? Okay, fine. I’ll toodle along until you sort yourself out.’

Horses of a more sensitive disposition – Trump [Show Report] and Desi [Show Report] – stress when the rider does not offer sufficient guidance.

School horses who have to deal with heavy-handed beginners – Bingo [Snit] and Annie (But the kids ride her!) – get pissed when I hang on their face.

Pushy horses – Robert [Show Report] and Iggie [Lengthen Your Reins, Show Report] – use my stiff reins to pull me around, or my loose reins as an excuse to cavort – Robert [Show Report, Show Photo].

What It Explains
Why I get so nervous. Imagine you were driving a car. Most of the time, everything is fine. Then 1%, or even 0.1%, of the time, the steering goes wonky. Things are out of your control. You have no idea why. Most importantly, you have no tools to address the problem. Even if it doesn’t happen very often, the thought that it might would make you jittery whenever you go to sit behind the wheel.

Why I can’t drag my ass out of the basement. I can pick up lower-level anything: beginner hunter/jumper, beginner dressage, beginner eventing (back in the day I could kick just about any horse around baby novice), and beginner saddle seat. I suspect I would have done beginner western if I had ended up there [Checklist]. Yet, historically, I’ve had no luck getting past intro level: three-foot hunter/jumper, Training-level dressage, Novice eventing. At some point, one has to stop thundering around on the forehand.

Why it’s harder on Saddlebreds, One. I can’t compensate with my lower leg. The saddle seat position takes away the strongest weapon in my arsenal.

Why it’s harder on Saddlebreds, Two. I’m doing okay when my butt is in the saddle: at home at a walk, in dressage lessons at a sitting trot, and in saddle seat at a canter. My saddle seat canter is poetry. Alas, no one cares. Saddle seat is all about the posting trot. The movement of posting means your hands must have a mind of their own. They can’t simply be an extension of what you do with your upper body.

Why It’s a Good Thing
I’m excited. It explains so much. I’m more able to cope if I know WHY.

If I can get my hands to match my legs, watch out world.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Group Ride

We have a new feature. We worked both horses in the ring at the same time: Greg, ground-driving/long-lining; me, riding. After warming up at a walk together, Rodney would park and watch Milton, then vice versa. Lather, rinse, repeat.

From a work point of view, not much happened. We milled around, did a few figures, stood.

From a mental point of view, it was a huge success. Rodney was as relaxed as he’s been outside of a dressage lesson (Rodney loves Mr. E.). He’d work quietly, then stand around yawning. For those who don’t speak horse, yawning is a release rather than a sign of boredom.

Demo from a previous session.

It’s good thing. I think Rodney liked the company.

Milton didn’t seem to care one way or the other.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Milton & Me

Still waiting. So, a thoughty post.

All the physical parts are in place: trailer, truck, Coggins. Now we need to have all the people in town at the same time. Our most recent random gesture [Sand Colic?] seems to be working. Milton seems to be settling. I would almost … almost … be willing to try him in the enclosed ring myself. But we’ve waited this long for someone else to get on him first. Might as well stick with the plan.

I can’t envision riding Milton on a regular basis. Seriously, my imagination fails. Is he not the horse for me? Proof that one has to ultimately pick one’s own horses? Or am I so discouraged that I am unwilling to hope? Or am I grouchy bitch who enjoys wallowing in negativity? No idea.

Last weekend, Milton got away from Greg on the long lines. On his way back to the barn, Milton neatly jumped the ring tape [Spooked]. Not what you want to see in a driving horse, but encouraging for a jumping horse. (A storm blew. Greg halted so they could quit. Not fast enough. When we got to the barn, Milton was waiting for us in the aisle, giving us a look that said, ‘Didn’t you people realize it was raining?’)

Although Milton jumped 3′ with his front feet, the trailing lines took the tape down mid-body. Unknown whether his hinds would have gone clear.

What happens if Milton turns in a riding horse and a driving horse? How’s that going to work?

Despite living together for almost 30 (!) years, Greg and I don’t actually share that well. HIS dogs; MY cats. He helps me with MY riding; I help him with HIS driving. Mathilda was HIS horse; Caesar (aka Previous Horse) was MY horse.

What happens when we both have an equal claim on the same horse?

How do we settle show conflicts? Lesson conflicts? How does the level of the show/lesson factor in?

If we haul to Stepping Stone, does Milton drive or ride?

If Greg has a lesson, does he get the days beforehand to prepare? No point in wasting lesson money.

What if driving requires different shoes? Can one jump in those?

What if driving/riding training develops the horse in a way not suitable for riding/driving?

Or do I think too much? This has been mentioned in the past.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Rodney Recap

Some positives, one major negative.

🙂
Strolling – Rodney and I went for a mounted stroll in the pasture. Although we only went as far as the water trough, it was a wonderful, relaxed beginning.

The single stress came from me. When we turned to go back, he swung his head a little too near our no-climb mesh fence. I had just read a cautionary post, Saddle Seeks Horse: Avoid This Dangerous Donut in the Saddle. Horses getting entangled was on my mind. I thought ‘Eeek, he’s going to get his bit caught and freak’. He didn’t. I eventually calmed down.

Later we went for a group hand-walk all the way around the field, twice: me, Rodney, Milton, and the dog. It was chaotic. I told him to deal. He did.

Standing – I got on near the barn (another new trick) walked to the middle of the ring and stood. Like a statue. Compare this to our less successful attempt in May [It Takes A Village]. He was so completely locked into park that I quit after a few minutes. Nothing more to prove.

Shipping – Rodney took a drive to Stepping Stone Farm. His first time off the property since he arrived. WHAT’S THAT? Oh, okay. WHAT’S THAT? Oh, okay. WHAT’S THAT? Oh, okay. And so on. He’s the sort of horse who would like to show at the same facility several times a season, year after year. Fortunately, this seems to be the paradigm these days.

Rodney at SSF

😦
Jumping – I got cocky and trotted a jump. It. Was. Awful. He zoomed. I grabbed. He hurtled over. We landed in a heap. He bucked. All of these are fixable, except the last. Bucking after jumps is where the rot set in 7 years ago. First a tiny hop after a jump. Then, bigger crow-hops after smaller jumps. Then bucking and spinning without jumps. That one tiny buck tells me that, despite the small victories, nothing has changed.

Full disclosure. My groundcrew, i.e. Greg, thinks my horrendous riding made Rodney feel restricted. Could be. Being the optimistic ray of sunshine that I am about my horse career, I have to take it further. What if all this work amounts to nothing? What if there is no miracle ending? What if buying Rodney was just stupid mistake?

So, I’m back in a funk.

This version lacks toxic self-hate of Snit the First [Anatomy]. Instead I have creeping discouragement & disappointment. I have a horse that didn’t work out. Oh, well. Dreams die every day. My mood is not as deep, but is proving harder to shake. The beige plane is back.

“… the future stretches in front of me as a comfortable, featureless, beige plane filled with an endless repetition of ‘petty tasks and worthless jobs’*, occasionally to be interrupted by tragedy, and gradually descending into terminal rot.”
[For the Record] 2013
(*Terrible Trivium, demon of petty tasks and worthless jobs, ogre of wasted effort, and monster of habit, from the Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster)

I know I should be grateful for beige. In many life siutations, beige would be a vast improvement. But it’s so … beige.

In the time between the up of the dressage lesson and the down of the jump, I had a handful of great days. The work-both-horses, get-to-the-gym, cross-everything-off-my-to-do-list kind of days. I felt as if I had taken the motivation pill from Limitless, only without the morally questionable side effects.

I’m trying to model that behavior even though I no longer feel energized.

When you are so excited by the new place that you forget to chew.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott