Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

It's been hotter and dryer than usual for at least a month now and the song Mad Dogs and Englishmen by Noel Coward has been going through my head a lot.  I haven't been good about remembering to water my garden frequently so the sunflowers aren't doing as well as I think they otherwise would and I lost some spinach.  Luckily, the pumpkins are doing great and have so far (knock on wood) not succumbed to powdery mildew this year.  Which is a huge accomplishment for me!  Third year growing them here and this is the first one where powdery mildew did not take over.  I had been wondering if it was because it was so uncharacteristically warm and dry but the other day my next door neighbor asked why my pumpkins were doing great and his squash had been destroyed already by powdery mildew.  So yay! The horticultural oil spray mix actually did work as a preventative!  A couple people told me it wouldn't but I'm happy to say it did.

We watched an excellent movie last night that my dad recommended.  I expected when it started to not be interested but it turned out to be surprisingly good.  I want to watch it again just to listen to the music.  I need to get the piano sheet music for some of it because I was inspired to learn some of the pieces.  Something I might actually have time to do over the next couple weeks.


I'm done with working at pony camp for a couple weeks which means I can get out to ride my horse in the morning before it gets too hot.  She's doing well despite not being ridden very much the last couple weeks.  By the time I get off work at pony camp and get to the barn it's usually in the upper-80's which means the arena is in the upper 90's and it's just too hot everywhere to ride.  I finally had time to have a lesson on Friday afternoon (and it wasn't terribly hot).  It was too hot to wear my eventing/ninja turtle vest but I'm not quite as scared to not wear it now because for one my back and sacrum should be fully healed by now and two, there is new footing in the arena so it's cushier.  It's not professional footing by any mean, it's just mulch that's free from a tree cutting company, but I'll take that any day over nothing at all.  It will break down to dirt and hopefully not get too packed down.  So, I decided to overcome my fear for sake of not making myself sick from getting overheated.

I wasn't feeling very well though from sinus problems and (ahem) that peri-menopause crap (aaargh) so we started out stopping and starting because it wasn't too much exertion for me.  Also good for poor Maiden when it's hot out.   After the second stop Trainer K. asked "What are you doing with your legs when you stop?" and I said, "Nothing? I thought was supposed to use my seat to stop and relax my legs?" and she said she wanted me to apply some leg when I ask for a stop which of course made me worried and I asked, "Was I always supposed to be doing that? How come I did not know that?" and she explained that I just hadn't been ready to learn it and Maiden hadn't been ready to learn it yet.  Apparently, when we stop now I'm supposed to apply a little bit of leg aid to help her stop so that she is already squared up and ready to walk again, so that as soon as I let up on my seat she will walk forward.  I was pretty excited about this new development because it is totally new to me and although it sounds great in my head it's hard to do with my body.

The other thing we worked on which is a lot harder than it sounds is my timing for transitions.  Our goal with Maiden right now since she's working on training level and strengthening her back, is to keep her "long and low" where she is stretching her neck and most importantly engaging her core and back and getting her propulsion from her hindquarters.  So, what I had been doing (which is one of those intuitive things one does when they don't know better - like when a horse goes fast and one thinks it is a good idea to lean forward in the fetal position) - anyway, what I'd been doing was waiting until Maiden had her neck stretched and had engaged her back and then I ask for a transition from walk to trot, but then what happens is that her head pops back up as soon as she starts to trot, then she has to go through the stretching and such all over again to engage her back to trot.  But if I ask her as she is stretching down there's more of a chance she will make the transition while engaging her core/back which is what we want.  Sounds easy, huh?  Ask her to stretch, as soon as she starts to ask her trot - much easier said than done!  We tried it over and over again until I thought poor Maiden's head was going to explode and I never did achieve it.  But I'm pretty excited to have something new to work on.

I went to a dressage show with Trainer K. and a couple of our other friends yesterday.  I spent a lot of time staring at horses and when someone would mention a saddle of piece of clothing I would find myself saying "What? They have a two-toned saddle?" because I was so busy watching the horse's movements.  I wanted to ask Trainer K. a million questions like "Are they supposed to be doing that?" but there were usually too many people around and it is bad for another trainer to be pointing out movement/training flaws in another person's horse.  I also wanted to ask about the riding but had few opportunities.  One of our friends and I did get chastised for muttering too much about a woman's hands that were see-sawing a lot (pulling one then the other on the reins to force the horse to tuck their chin into their chest because it hurts so much they are trying to escape the bit) and we were reminded that she might have friends sitting near us.  It's a good point.  I would be very upset if someone put down Trainer K's or one of her students riding within my earshot.

So, I didn't get as much feedback as I would've liked but I got to watch a lot of horse movements.  What was cool was that there were plenty of upper level tests (ie: FEI level or Prix St. George, Intermeidary 1 through 3 and Grand Prix tests) and that was OK for me to ask about what they were doing - half passes, piaffe, collected canter, medium canter, etc. and what the differences are between the different types of trots and canters and actually getting to watch the horses movements during those different moves.

It was a very pleasant day up until we were packing up to come home (an hour drive) and got a call from the barn that one of our friend's horse had a bad colic and she might need a ride to Pilchuck our local horse hospital.  We got back to the barn and her horse had been heavily medicated by the vet so that he wasn't as uncomfortable, and Trainer K whisked them off to Pilchuck.  I stayed and helped another boarder clean stalls so that Trainer K. wouldn't have to come back and do it herself (that was fun - cleaning stalls in a dress with a clunky necklace that all the horses had to gnaw on because they were sure it was a bunch of tasty berries wrapped around my neck).  Last I heard the horse had gone into surgery and that's all I know.  I'm thinking hopeful thoughts for them though!

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