26 December, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas everyone. Had a lovely low key weekend at the barn, Reto and I took Aston and Regal on a stroll through the woods and then caught “Girl with a Dragon a Tattoo” in the evening.  Everyone gearing up for 2012, thinking about riding goals and show schedules? Penwick may be welcoming a new addition to the fold, will know more later this week, stay tuned!

18 December, 2011

Bareback riding is for everyone!

Saturday I only had time for a quick ride between lessons. So I decided to ride Regal bareback. It was Regal’s first bareback ride and he was not so sure at first, rounded his back a bit like he was going to buck then settled in well. We worked a good 20-30 minutes on our dressage and low and behold, today I am a bit sore! Abs and legs thank you very much. Some things I liked about the experience: You can really feel the horse, especially their back muscles. It was very interesting to feel when Regal was tight and relaxed through his back and how his muscles reacted to my own movements, I know it is the same with the saddle, based on his behavior but it was great to feel so close contact. Bareback made me very focused on my bad habit of lightening my right seat bone too much and low and behold when I had my weight correct we could do just about anything – go figure. When I got Regal really through and his back was up and he was over reaching man oh man, that is not easy to sit, I then really thought about soft elbows and hands so he would not be punished for doing his job. Cantering bareback is fun, probably my favorite part! We even did a bit of hand gallop as well, it felt like a million bucks and because we were both feeling each other better than ever it took only a subtle shift of should to come back. I want that in the saddle. Regal tends to downshift too much when I want to collect, he wants to down shift to the next gear or sometimes two gears, rather than collect, he always tries to be one step ahead of me, it’s not mean or naughty he just tries very hard. His sensitivity is really nice but also makes you have to ride all downwards very forward, while bareback that was ever so slightly less.

So based on my fun, I am going to try and make Saturday my bareback day through the winter and I am very much looking forward to making my students do the same!

14 December, 2011

How to select a horse that has a complimentary personality for a successful partnership with you

There are lots of factors that go into choosing a horse, whether you are leasing or buying. Today, I will explore personality. Much like finding a partner to share your life with, not only do you want to have things in common (i.e both horse and rider want to do the same sport, cross country is not fun on a horse that doesn't like it!) but you must also have a personality match. Horses, like humans have their own characteristics and mannerisms. Some typical classifications:

- Hot: This is a horse that is naturally forward and can easily get "wound up", takes a tactful calm rider to get the most out of this horse.

- Lazy: This is a horse that needs to be encouraged to go forward and do just about anything. This horse can do really well with a more nervous rider.

- Alpha: This is a leader, a horse that likes to be in charge and will be in charge of any horse he/she comes in contact with and will often fight to show it. When you ride them you have to have a delicate balance of being in charge but in a partnership. These personalities are usually best suited for professionals, or a tactful amateur.

- Follower: This is a horse that is a bit more submissive; he/she will join the herd and go with the flow without too much fight. This type of horses enjoys a rider that can be their leader; they will relax and bloom when they are not stressed about being in charge.

- Looky/Spooky: Some horses just notice all the little things going on in life and are more reactive to them. They usually need a rider that can ignore their behaviors and can get on with the ride and someone that has patience and won’t get mad at a horse for their insecurities.

- Sensitive: This horse usually listens the first time or already thinks they know what you are going to ask. They will often get flustered when you use large aids, they want to be asked not told that to do.

None of the above traits are good or bad per say and you will come across all sorts of crosses of the above. One of my favorite horses, Spiderman a Thoroughbred, was a hot but lazy horse. In his case that meant I needed to motivate and engage him even when he felt forward and working, as he was often faking it. Regal on the other hand is more sensitive but mellow and very smart with an inclination to get bored quickly.

Another aspect that will prevent or make a partnership between horse and rider is work ethic. This needs to be examined from both the rider and horse's side. Some horses have great work ethic, they want and are willing to try new things; they learn quickly and do not get too frustrated. Others are a bit slower to learn or quickly get overwhelmed when something new is introduced. I once had a horse in training that would close his eyes and try to lie down when he felt overwhelmed, in his case it was learning to canter. He went on to be a great horse after some more maturing. This I found frustrating as I like a horse that will at least try even if it means fail, rather than an outright "no". But that is My personal preference. The latter horse is best matched with a rider that doesn't mind being a motivator, nearly all the time. Typically some of the draft crosses or Warmbloods (there are several breeds of Warmbloods that are considered more “hot”) fall into this category. The first type of horse can really be matched with nearly everyone, though you have to watch, if the rider is not up for keeping the horses, engaged and interested this horse can quickly get bored and look for fun and exciting ways to spice their rides or barn life up, this is usually in the form of some sort of misbehavior.

So what does this mean to you as the rider? Whenever you meet a new horse, try to take a quick inventory of their traits. Do they come up to you when they are at liberty in their stall or field? Do they make grumpy faces to try and intimidate you? Does the horse require a spur or stick to get forward? Do they spook if anything changes in their daily surroundings? Ask if the horse minds multiple riders or prefers a single rider. Note: A horse that prefers a single rider is usually more sensitive or an alpha personality. Take notes and don’t rely on breed generalizations, horse are individuals too.

When horse shopping or trying a horse for a lease, make a list of what type of horse you like to ride. Make a list of your own characteristics. Then decided what you must have and what secondary requirements are. For example a timid rider should have a bold horse, where as a more aggressive or bold rider can encourage a more timid horse. I often find less mature riders who do not have total control over their emotions do better with a lazier/mellow horse, they often get the more sensitive horses jazzed up with their own emotions. BE HONEST with yourself, if you aren’t, you and the horses will suffer in the end. Your goals will not be reached and frustration will rule.

Lastly, have someone that knows either the horse really well or you as a rider give you an outside opinion. There are so many wonderful horses out there, don't get matched up with the wrong one!

One of my favorite young horses for sale right now:


13 December, 2011

One door closes and another will open

Today I made arrangements for Dubai to go to his new home with Dineen. Dineen was the person who graciously connected him to me in the first place, so it only seems fitting! After chatting we discovered that she was very smitten with him (and missed him) and was interested in having him back in her fold. After a few weeks with me, I had decided he was probably not going to be my next upper level eventer, though I am sure he is going to be awesome at whatever job he heads for as he is VERY smart and learns very quickly. His sweetness factor ranks right up there with Regal. So in the next few weeks we will arrange for him to head home to her and I will be on the lookout for my next partner.  Happy and sad decisions, which seem to accompany all horse decisions…

07 December, 2011

Under the weather

Today was a quick trip to the barn for a dressage lesson and a hello to the horses. I am still sick and feeling miserable. While improved from over the weekend, I will skip tomorrow and then full steam ahead come Friday.

I am feeling a bit guilty about not riding Regal since Saturday. I am sure he doesn't really mind but his belly is a bit round these days, insert guilty face here. With weather still looking decent I am going to add in an extra jump school each week before we are forced to the indoor for the winter as our dressage is doing well. I am going to keep Dubai on his break, as his feet are still adjusting to being without shoes and I will resume riding him come January, hopefully enough time for his feet to toughen up! Friday will also become an additional Aston schooling day, will work on keeping a steadier pace around a course of jumps.

06 December, 2011

When it rains, it pours

When I get sick, do I ever. It started off as the sniffles and progressed to a sore throat, by the time I was teaching my last weekend lessons on Sunday, I sounded like Darth Vader, sipping hot chocolate of course! I am still not back to normal after hours of sleep and missed work, but I will be heading to the barn tomorrow.

This past weekend was a mixed bag for both horses and riders. The long run of crazy progress seems to have come to an end (it was a good run). As students work at their new harder levels, some frustrations flared up, for the most part we were able to work through it but it can be hard succeeding constantly at a lower level then in the move up find a little wall that must be worked through on the way to advancement. I was not the only one sick over the weekend and this played a part for sure.

A theme for the weekend was forward and straight, let the jump hold the horse. I set up several canter poles in a row, up to 5 at one point, that had guiding poles to keep the horse and rider straight. Success was only found with a good turn keeping the outside shoulder straight, pace held so the canter hit the poles and the horse gave a little jump over each in rhythm. Much harder than you would think. Was surprised to see how hard Spiderman was working on this exercise, it also showed how every little move of our body changes the horse both positive and negative.

A recent change to a higher protein grain left my two steady boys wild and galloping around the farm, luckily no one was hurt and the boys are back on a lower protein grain and their lovely personalities have resumed. Knock on wood everyone else seems to be fine on the new grain, but I will be keeping a close watch!
I have been enjoying the weather, if only every December could be like this! The horses spent a few nights outside this past weekend, even with mid-20 temperatures they were happy to munch on their hay snug in their blankets. Now that the rain is upon us everyone is back inside at night, but it looks like another glorious weekend. How long will it last, I can only hope. I have started to think about what we will work on over the winter, once we are forced inside. There will be a lot of position work in dressage, lunge lessons with no stirrups and trotting single fences to work on rider form and recognizing the “right” pace.

I am starting to think about my 2012 goals both for the horses and personally, stay tuned as I find making these things public adds some accountability to the mix that I think many miss when they make these silent pacts with themselves.