Friday, February 28, 2014

Day after Tomorrow

As a birthday present for myself I bought tickets for our family to go see Cavalia Odysseo.  I'm wondering now if I should've just bought two tickets for myself and my daughter because my husband is not very interested.  He said he'd go but it was more of a he'd go to hang out with us and put up with the show.



He really has no interest in horses.  It's funny because when I meet people and they hear what I do for a living one of the first questions they ask is "Does your husband like horses?" and they always look surprised when I said "No. Not at all."  I've pretty much had to force myself to accept that he will never have any interest in horses at all.  A little like me and comic books.  Although outside of the actual comic books I've managed to get interested in the comic book movies - like all the Avenger movies that we see all of them now as a family (now that our daughter is old enough - yay!).  And I look forward to watching Agents of Shield.  It's just the actual comic books themselves I'm not that interested in.  So, maybe that's not the same because I would be sad if Agents of Shield was never on again but I think my husband could happily never see or hear stories about horses ever again.  So, therefor I'm wondering why I bought three tickets to Odysseo when it probably would've made everyone happier if I'd only bought two.   So, yeah. Hopefully, it will be fun for us and better than just gritted teeth bareable for the hubby.  Unlike last Christmas before last when I dragged him to church with me and he was truly miserable.  Won't be doing that again.

I think it's because he's never had a horse friend like in the video below.  Which is weird to me because he's so in tune with cats and a joke in the family is that he likes the cats better than us.  Having had that experience of having a horse interact with me like in this video, I know it is from a real connection and communication and that's a pretty amazing thing.  Cynics might say "Oh, he's got food on his shirt or sugar in his pocket" but that wouldn't look like that.  There's an actual relationship between the two.



Speaking of horses, Geir is doing well.  He is getting stronger and starting to move forward a little better.    He still gets a little winded trotting around the big outside arena twice (just cause he's been a bit of a couch potato the last year or so) and he's still not very strong with lateral bending, but he's trying and giving it a good Fjord effort (which is a pretty hefty effort!).  Today we worked a little on side pass, and he was bound and determined not to do it to the left, but he finally did and I was very proud of him!

Last night after lessons I stayed and rode Beetle in the "leader ride". That's one of the times when the volunteer kids get to ride horses as a show of appreciation for their working student hours.  There were only two kids able to ride so Miss T. asked if I wanted to ride Beetle.  He is so different from Geir because he has so much energy and when she had us doing "catch up trots" (where the three of us go in a circle and then the person in front trots to catch up to the person at the end of the line) whenever the horse in front of me would trot he would bolt after them at a fast trot and I'd have to quietly convince him it wasn't his turn yet.  He was just so happy and wanted to trot along with the other horses.  About the third time he did that and he came so close to cantering I had to use all my willpower not to just canter him around the arena once because that wouldn't be appropriate.  But he's got such smooth gaits.  It was really fun to get to ride him.  Once I actually allowed him to trot on his terms he would match his pace to the pace of my posting and stretch his neck and engage his back and just was all sorts of fun.  He was for sale because he's a little too advanced for our beginner students but thankfully, he's not anymore.  He's completely safe, it's just that his happy energy can be intimidating to the more timid or nervous beginner.  But for the older teens and us instructors he's wonderful!

Maiden was supposed to move to Montana in March (that would be what starts tomorrow) but I'm glad to say we've put it off for a month while my friend gets transportation set up and while we wait for it to get a little warmer out there. The temperatures are still below freezing and she won't be wearing a blanket out there so since she's been wearing a blanket all this year.  That gives me more time to work with her before she goes now that it's nicer out and warm enough I can take her out to the front pasture to lunge her and get her back on track with some training.

Off to finish watching The Hobbit.  I must've read that book at least five times when I was my daughter's age, but I can't remember much of it except for little bits and pieces.  The part I did remember was when the big eagles come and carry them away.



Monday, February 24, 2014

The hamster in my head

I woke up from the strangest dream this morning and what's weirder is I realized it's not the first time I've had it.  I was away somewhere at a conference for my work (my random dream-related work) and someone asked me when I'd last fed the hamster.  I realized I had completely forgotten I was in charge of someone's hamster because I'd put it in our amoire and shut the door and then forgotten about it.  Then I realized I'd done this before with someone else's hamster and it had almost died had they not come back to get it.  We tracked down the person who had the hamster in their head (???) and my friend opened up a door in the back of his head and said the hamster was severely dehydrated and almost dead.  I explained she didn't have to open the full back of his head, just the side so we could get to the water bottle and fill it, plus opening the full back of his head exposed his whole brain and that could lead to infection and blood loss.  Then the hamster was inside my head.  I have no idea what that means and it could mean absolutely nothing except that my subconscious was thinking of the scene in Agents of Shield where they take off the top of Coulson's head to use fancy electronic probes to bring him back to life.  And how I almost forgot to go feed my horses yesterday.  Although, I have had dreams before where I forgot to take care of a hamster and suddenly remembered right before the hamster died.

I'm really struggling with Maiden's front feet right now.  Specifically her right one.  She has an open crack all the way down the back of her frog to her coronet band which is problematic because one, it is sore, two it gets rocks and twigs stuck in there and hurts to walk and three sets her up to get another abscess.  It is the same thing as if your cuticle next to your toenail cracked wide open - imagine how that would feel while you're walking? Then imagine getting a pebble stuck in it and having to walk.  Aaargh.  It was doing better when I filled it with Epsom salt and wrapped it and put a boot over it the week I was gone at school.   Then it started to come back so I packed it with Epsom salt, wrapped it, put her turn-out boot on it and two days later she had somehow managed to destroy her turn-out boot.  So, I've been using Thrush Buster on it to dry it out and at least keep it from getting an infection but that appears to be doing no good.  So, I either have to get another turn-out boot of the same kind or find a better one.  Although my vet said that is the best one there is.  Gah.  Pasture horses are hard.  This is where she needs to be for her mental health because she hated living in a stall, but at the same time when it's raining every day and night for days on end there is no dry place to put her because even the non-muddy grass areas don't dry out.  I just need to find the ultimate turn-out boot that she can't destroy.  Or buy a whole stack of them to keep replacing them.

After our week on the magical island my husband was ever so slightly interested in looking at farms out there.  But right now he is so overloaded by work that he says he doesn't have time to think about anything as big (and traumatic) as buying/selling houses or moving.  Which has not stopped me from researching the area and looking at properties for sale.  I never know whether or not to believe these tugs in my heart that tell me to do stuff but so far they've not led me astray.  It's just a matter of listening to it.  And right now my heart says I feel very at home on the magical island and if we're going to sell our current house (which I love - but unfortunately it has no land to keep our horses at home) I want to buy a farm there.  Even though in my head everything says we should stay in this neighborhood because this is where all my connections for horses are and it would technically be easier to start my equine massage business with connection - at least you would think.  But I've found if I follow the tug in my heart more than the logical part of my brain, I end up much happier in a better place all around.   My commute to pony school would be horrible but my husbands commute would be great because it'd basically just be get to the ferry, ride the ferry, be at work.  Maybe see a couple whales along the way.  So, logically that's a big factor for me too is that by summer I'm only working two days a week at pony school but he's working five days a week at his job and deserves a better commute.   We will see.  It is all on hold until things at work calm down but I do find myself daydreaming about it and trying to think of it in a realistic light - not just the happy fantasy light of not really living there yet.  And I still feel like it's the place to be even if logic says otherwise.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

You gotta wonder

Social media is such a strange thing because it now has the ability to show you who is still thinking about you even if you're no longer involved in their lives at all.  Most of the people I still think of I am either still in touch with or have made effort to be back in touch with again, and the folks I don't want to think about anymore I'm not and I don't bother trying to figure out what they're doing because honestly, I could care less.   So, I always wonder why people who I've had a falling out with would bother to look up what I'm doing?  It'd be one thing if they wanted to be friends but the two (past employers) I'm thinking of who were checking up on me on social media recently definitely don't want to be friends.  Which makes me wonder why bother?  Some sort of masochism to find out what people who think badly of you are doing?  I think life felt a lot less "heavy" when we didn't know this kind of stuff.  And isn't it creepy too that people can tell when you're checking up on them on social media?

I was talking to my neighborhood BFF yesterday and she said that her kids were having a melt down because they were having trouble with their new DS game.  When their dad offered to help, they eschewed his offer and went straight to Google.  That made me laugh and I said I was trying to imagine me telling my parents I didn't want them to help me figure something out, no, I was going to ride my bike to library and look it up myself, damnit!  In a way it's good because it is teaching kids at a young age to learn how to do their own research, but at the same time to old folks like me it is just weird.

I have a new favorite show, Sherlock on BBC.  I'm enamored with the strange relationship between modern day Sherlock and Watson, but now after the third episode of the first season (I'm a little behind so I'm catching up on Netflix) I'm enamored with the actor who plays Moriarty because he plays it so creepy and evil.  It is inspiring me to write some characters that creepy into some fiction writing like in my first three novels.  (My fourth being YA fiction about a girl and her horse and no serial killers or demons or psychotic stalkers).  Of course, this comes right on the heels of watching a really good documentary on Salinger.  And one of the most disturbing things in the documentary, that I had not realized, was that three different people have attributed their inspiration for murder being Catcher in the Rye.   Now, I don't believe that book did drive anyone to murder, I think they just had it in them and they would've done something like that even if the book hadn't been written.  But would I want three different crazed killers to be carrying a copy of a book I wrote when they killed someone? So, it brings up that issue, do I want to create something that will speak to the darkness in people so that they don't feel alone in that darkness, or do I want to create something that encourages a light that is always there?  Maybe I could pull off both.  Good lord - that would be a challenge.

The horses are all doing well.   I am far too excited about having access to all the ponies at pony school to practice my new massage skills on.  One of our horses has been on break at a friend's farm the last four months because he'd been having a stiff neck and he just came back and I was asked to check him out.  I released what I believe were a couple of stress points yesterday but he still has a lot of work to be done to really loosen up.  Horses are so genuine and open with how they feel without any of those "what will people think of me" inhibitions (ah - lack of frontal lobe ...) so they're so fun to give massages to.  When I was standing in front of Dually with my arms on either side of his neck, working on some stuck fascia on the right side (and stabilizing with my other hand on the left side) it started to work to loosen things up, and he let out a big sigh and just let his head drop down over my shoulder and started drooling on my back! It was so sweet!  (although I'd never seen a horse drool before).

Classes have been going well too which is nice.  I'm finding a groove with all the different personalities of my students and having a lot of fun sharing information with them.  Yesterday I amused myself because about the only thing that drove me nuts about Trainer K. was she was such a stickler for semantics and she was always correcting the way I expressed things.  Then yesterday with one of my teens I wanted to work with her on her use of leg aids and I asked her to explain to me the difference in a leg aid for leg yielding vs. turning in English riding.   She said in the leg yield you are pushing the horse over with the opposite leg and I said, "Stop! We don't push the horse over, we direct the horse's movement as to how we want him to move.  We don't push ..."  then I had to stop and laugh and explain how Trainer K. used to always do that with me and it drove me nuts, but it was so important to understand the meaning behind the words and using incorrect words either meant you didn't understand the true meaning, or you weren't realizing the importance of the distinction.  Ha! That really did amuse me to no end.

I thought I'd like working with "the babies" (the tiny little four year olds that come in) but I actually like working with the tween, teen, adult beginners more because I get to explain why they're doing things a certain way.  My new Trainer KL is a lot like Trainer K in that probably 60% of my lesson is physically working and having her coach me on how to do what I'm doing and 40% is walking around the arena while she's explaining to me why she's telling me to do what she's telling me.  And I'd much rather be doing that than just being coached the whole time on what to do while riding.  I don't want someone to tell me to slightly lift my outside rein, I want someone to tell me to do that and then tell me why I'm doing it.  I find it hard to believe that there are people who have been taught like that (there really are - I've seen them try to teach and it's not pretty)  but apparently there are.  I guess that's ok if you're always riding a Prix St George horse who just needs their buttons pushed, but what would be the point if you wanted to ride just any ole horse or wanted to teach?  Luckily, the couple of my friends who are seriously into learning to ride are also apparently taking from instructors who not only tell them 'what buttons to push' but also why they are doing what they're doing.  I always want to ask instructors who are super focused on "heels down" and nothing else regarding a good, balanced seat what they are trying to achieve with heels down - like seriously explain to me what they are trying to achieve in the physics of movements between the human body and horse's body when they ask the student to put their heel down.  If they were to say "with this student it seems to be the one component that will bring them up off the back of their butt and into an upright position that will bring them in alignment so their center of gravity isn't falling in front or behind the vertical, they're not falling in on themselves in their core and they are more easily able to move in synch with the horse's movement"  - that would be ok.  But it's frustrating there are people out there teaching who would only be able to say "Because they're supposed to have their heels down".  I'm very lucky to have instructors in my life who are the former.   And I really do mean lucky because when I came back to riding after twenty years off several years ago I didn't remember anything and I could just have easily ended up with someone who just told me to put my heels down cause "that's what you do" because I wouldn't have known any better.  That's why it's so important to me when parents bring me their little kids and neither the parents nor kids know a thing about horses I really want to educate them if nothing else on how to achieve a good education.

Random video that has nothing to do with what I was just writing about.  My daughter and I really like this song and I was thrilled to see that they'd done a video in the spirit of the movie Omega Man! I also like that lead singer looks like a conglomeration of my boyfriends from the early 90's.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why did I do that?

My daughter asked me to download a song for her that I hadn't heard so I went and looked it up on Youtube, watched the video and it literally made me cry.  So, because I am cruel and want ya'll to share in my misery I'm going to post it at the end of this post.  Then I'll post a  link to a comedian or something so my little group of friends and I don't just sit around crying this morning.

Anyhoo.  My daughter is sick so all plans are off and I'm hanging out at home all day - possibly finding the motivation to start watching the videos for my animal accupressure class I just signed up for.   And cleaning my office which is a castrophe area.  Yesterday (because it's mid-winter break) I took my daughter and real estate agent over to Vashon Island to look at houses for sale.  There were two contenders and one "wishful thinking" house.  If my husband decides he likes either of the contenders that means we'll really have to get off our butts and get our house picked up.  I'm not sure how in a little under four years we've managed to amass as much clutter as we had in our old house of eleven years, but we have.  Part of it (bless his heart) is my husband is a pack-rat totally in denial.  So, I have to sneak away junk he swears he's going to use/fix after he's not used/fixed it for two years.  Then five years later he asks where it is and gets upset that I threw it away half a decade ago.  But I love him.  And I've got my quirks too so there ya go.

It was really windy on Monday when I went to work early to ride.  Geir was being used in a lesson that day and had been stiffer than usual on Sunday when I lunged him so I didn't want to overwork him, so I rode Pal for the third time.  Each time I ride him it seems to go even better!  We started out just doing basic walk, trot and working on steering,  then we did some leg yeilds and serpentines and he is so sweet and smooth (except at his trot which when it's fast is like a jackhammer) but I was barely using any aids and just the simplest pressure from my leg or turn of my body and he responded perfectly.  Then D. who was cleaning pony paddocks walked through the arena and Pal turned and walked up to her for pets even though I didn't ask him (in his defense we were just standing and I was talking to D. and I wasn't paying attention to him - and he needs his rider to always be telling him what to do even when standing still or he will do what he wants which in this case was see if D. would pet him).  I asked her not to reward him for that (petting him) and asked him to back up and he rounded his back and framed up and graceful stepped backwards with just the lightest of aids.  Even D. commented how beautiful that was.  =swoon=   And Geir ended up doing fine in his lesson.  I gave him his adequan Sunday afternoon so that may have been all he needed.  Well and some more massage from me.  He had some trigger points in his back that I worked out, but he still has some stress points and restricted fascia I want to work on.

Vashon was fun yesterday.  It's so beautiful there and I'm so enamored with the community there.  I took my daughter and real estate agent to The Hardware Store for lunch which was really good but expensive for lunch.  It was pouring down rain and really windy so I was dreading the ferry ride, but despite the white caps it wasn't too bad.  I don't know where I got this idea I get seasick because apparently I never had.  I just figured my whole life that I do.  Maybe because I get car sick if I read in the car? But to be fair, when I've gone on long road trips, like from the West to East Coast, after three days of riding in a car all day I can do anything in the car without getting car sick - read, write, take lots of pictures and smoke a pack a day (ok - to be fair that was 18 years ago and I have since learned that smoking is horrible and don't do it anymore - besides supporting an evil, corrupt industry, and wasting way too much money, it is gross and really awful for you and not even fun unless you're addicted to it - so kids, don't ever smoke! It's stupid. Use more common sense than I did when I was young.)  What was I talking about?

Oh yeah, apparently, I don't get seasick as quickly as I think because though I haven't really tested it, it does not bother me to be on ferries in windy weather and it's never bothered me to be in a row boat or kayak in waves in the Puget Sound.  Really, the worst thing about being in waves in a kayak in Puget Sound is not seasickness (as I feared) with the rocking and up and down thunking of the kayak - it's making sure the kayak is pointed into the waves so I don't tip over.  And run into one of these guys.  Ok, I know they only eat algae but they can get to 40 feet and they're creepy looking.  So that getting seasick thing apparently is some untrue idea I got as a kid like the idea I was frail.  That has proved over the years to be anything but true.  Who knew.

My husband is still on the fence with Vashon.  It was suggested by our good friends who live there to get an on-island agent to look for a house there because they know everything, her examples being "what are the water restrictions? What are the land restrictions? Is there a meth house nearby? Is your next door neighbor a crazy goat lady?"  I like that last one and she said the last one was true for them and they love their "crazy goat lady" next door neighbor so it worked for them.  I'm hoping a local agent will appease my husband's fears that we buy a place and then have problems with a neighbor or city ordinances and then we're so isolated on this island that no one can get to except by boat, and then we're trapped.  I of course am so hard to pin down I just think we can always "run away" from the situation (although in a grown up, responsible way) but I think he's a bit more like my horses, that he is afraid of being trapped.

Speaking of which, I have been reading a book about horse neurology and once thing they talk about is how a horse freeze up when terrified and do not have the conscience ability to override this instinctual reaction (the barely having a frontal lobe issue).  I had that exact experience with Maiden the other day.   It was really windy and there was a piece of metal barrier that had blown into the pasture and uncoiled and the wind was blowing it enough so it waved a little.  I had Maiden in the cross-ties to put epson salt in a big crack in her frog and wrapping it.  But that stupid piece of metal barrier was freaking her out every time a gust of wind went by.  Thinking it was safe to keep her in the cross-ties because they are quick release and if she spooked they'd just let go and she could run off - I went over to retrieve the metal barrier and roll it up and throw it over the fence so it wouldn't roll back into the pasture.  But right when I picked it up to roll it up, the wind blew really hard and picked up the other end and Girl bolted across the pasture and Maiden jumped and twirled and instead of those quick release actually *releasing* she ended up backwards in the cross ties - outside the shed with her halter twisted and pulling really hard on her face. 

I rushed over and unclipped one end of the cross ties but the other was pulled so hard that I couldn't unclip it.  I tried to unclip it from the wall but she had pulled so hard it was twisted around her head so it was too tight to unclip it.  I tried to take her halter off, but it was stuck on her nose by the twisted cross ties.  So I tried to move her over closer to the shed to give it some slack so I could get it off and she was literally frozen.  I pushed as hard as I could to get her to listen to me but she was like a concrete statue.  I tried to calm her down, but she was still like a statue.  I remembered what I'd read and realized she would remain in that state until either her muscles gave out from fatigue (that is bad) or I managed to get the cross tie off somehow.  There was no way I could get it off the halter so I went over the wall and I pulled as hard as I could, which meant making it tighten on her face but I had no choice, and I was able to get just enough slack that if I used all my strength I could get the clip off the wall.  Thankfully I was able to do it, pulled the halter off her nose and she took off.   Thankfully, the next day she was scared to go into the cross ties but after a few minutes in them she was fine.

Hey - look at that. You can't embed the video for the song that made me cry this morning.  You lucked out!  Now you just get the comedian to cheer you up!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I'm not your ghost anymore

That subject line doesn't have anything to do with this blog post, I just couldn't think of a subject line and I'm listening to Pandora and a Christina Perry song came on.  I am fighting off a cold and have enough of a earache I'm actually going to drag my sorry butt to the doctor today.  You would think that a person such as myself who is unashamed to admit that I'm a germaphobe would be just fine with going to the doctor but it is such a pain in the butt!  So for the past couple weeks I've been thinking, "Surely this will go away" about the on/off earache and putting off the disruption to my life of having to actually going to sit in the waiting room, then wait in the room, and answer the nurse's questions then repeat it all the doctor and then have her tell me it's just a virus and then have to drive home and have just wasted a couple hours to find out what I already know ... see? I'm starting to sound like my husband who drives me crazy because he never goes to the doctor even when I'm sure he strep throat or some sort of "you need medication" issue.  So, I made an appointment with the doctor this afternoon because I don't want to feel this way when I have to go to work tomorrow.  And like a dork I went to the Mayo Clinic website and saw that untreated ear infections could move into and cause permanent damage to nerves or the brain.  Nice.  Ok, I'm going to the doctor.

In other news I went to pilates yesterday and felt awful half way through but stuck it out (yay?) but it wiped me out for the rest of the day.  I went in to work in early afternoon because I told Miss T.  I'd ride with her but Miss C. was there so she didn't need me for company and I rode Geir in a mounted lesson the evening before so I said I would ride Chip if he needed it because the night before he'd seemed high strung and unhappy in our lesson and maybe he needed some work?  But he had two rides that day with Miss C. so I said I'd just massage some ponies instead while they rode (since I was feeling "off" anyway).  Then Miss C. said that Pal needed to be ridden because he wasn't getting any work at all.  So, I rode Pal.

Pal is a beautiful Palomina who used to be a reining horse and I adore him because of his sweet temperament and impeccable ground manners.  But I'd heard he is difficult to ride because he's very "push button" and sensitive.  And the one time I tried riding him it was a catastrophe.  Miss C.'s advice was that I let him know where to set his head and help him frame up and he'll be fine.  That sounded like stuff I was used to doing.  But when I got on him another person who was out there said not to have any contact with the reins, so that threw the idea of setting his head and helping him frame up out the window.  Well, I could see if my seat and leg cues alone would help him frame up, but in Dressage we use both our seat, leg and rein aids to help frame up.  And when I say rein aids I mean that we communicate through the reins where we'd like their head to be.  We do that by very gentle pressure and release - much like gently reaching up and placing someone's arm in the position you want - you aren't hurting the person at all and your touch and movement is gentle and the the person lets go of their arm and lets you move it where you want and it feels fine to them and they know exactly where you want their arm and it's a win-win.  That's what Dressage reins are like - you NEVER yank, jerk or pull on a horse's face.   A lot of people who don't know how to ride (especially English) don't know that's how you do it and just because we have contact with the horse's mouth with our reins they assume we are pulling and manhandling them.

So, let me tell you what happens when you manhandle any horse's face like that.  They don't like it.  And only a rare horse will put up with it.  At the least they will make faces, hang their mouth open to escape the pain of the bit and move in jerky, tense and unhappy movements and eventually kick out or buck or the like.  More often they will throw their head over and over again, or spin in circles or buck or rear.  People who don't know any better will try harder ways to tie the horse's head down or overpower them so they can't resist if you pull on their face with their reins - and those people are just evil (or very destructive idiots).  But if you put a horse in a plain old snaffle and start pulling on his face he will react and let you know and it won't be pretty and you won't be able to overpower him with just a regular snaffle.  So, those short reins you see in Dressage (unless the horse is tied down or Rolkured ... ugh) are when used correctly just communication and a feel between the horse and rider and there is no "forcing" going on.

Anyway, the other person told me not to have any contact with the reins and whenever I did pick up a gentle contact she'd tell me to lengthen my reins.  Pal wasn't listening to my body cues very well so I assumed it was because I wasn't balanced.  I was advised to correct him which I had to do with kicks because he's not trained to be ridden with a dressage whip and it seemed like I had to correct him every two seconds.  Eventually we figured it out but I felt awful for kicking him so much and I felt really embarrassed that I was not able to ride him ... really at all.  We ended on a good note where he was listening to me enough to walk around the arena and not spin or run in to his friends.  And though I wanted to try riding him again I was afraid it would be a terribly humbling experience again and I hated to do that to him anyway - the being confused and having me kick him so much was not fun at all for him I'm sure.

But yesterday I thought I'd try Miss C.'s advice and ride him the way I would a Dressage horse - use a light, yielding contact and set his head.  What was the worst that would happen? It'd be exactly the same thing - we'd spin to the left a bunch and I'd end up sitting in the middle of the arena so he wouldn't run into Miss. C. or Miss T.'s horses.  It wasn't like they hadn't already seen that happen.

On the ground he was perfect as usual - came right up to me in the field, put his face right into his halter and followed me to the barn like he was so grateful I'd picked him to work.  Grooming and getting tacked up he was so sweet and patient and he just has the nicest expression on his face all the time.  Then we went out to the arena where Miss C. and Miss T. were already warmed up and doing some trot work and Pal looked happy to see his friends were there.  I hopped on and he started to walk away as soon as my foot was in the stirrup so I had to stop him mid-mount (which I haven't had to do since the days of riding Girlfriend - it's a "hot" horse thing).  I thought "this is going to be embarrassing" and picked up the reins, asked him to walk on, and we had just a moment of me telling him (just by using my fingers on the rein without moving my hands) where I'd like his head to be, he rounded his back and started walking where I asked him, totally relaxed and happy.  I thought that might just be a fluke and maybe he was just following Beetle because they're friends?  So, I changed direction and he happily went everywhere I asked him.  And my asking was typical Dressage (and maybe typical Reining? I've heard they're very similar) - a slight turn of my body, no reins except to keep that gentle contact.  The only time I had to even give him a tap with my ankle was to ask him to trot but really all I needed to do was use a forward seat aid and click and he'd trot.  He was such a joy to ride!  He reminded a lot of Girlfriend who I just had to look to the right and she'd turn right and I just had to think "trot" or "canter" and she was so sensitive that she would do it to just the slightest movement of my body.

But I think the issue with him is that he needs that gentle contact with the reins as I kind of "I'm here, I know what I'm doing and I won't hurt your face."  He appears to be one of those horses that being able to feel the rider's hands makes him feel secure and bonded with you.  He can be ridden without rein contact but with it he's amazing.  The problem is though for teaching beginners is that having a light, yielding contact is not something you can just tell someone to do and they will instantly be able to.  You need a lot of physical practice to be able to achieve the ability and "feel" (oh god - now I sound like one of the Natural Horsemanship marketing guys - but it's true, you can't intellectually learn how to "feel" this stuff - you have to do it over and over again until it clicks).    I can fully appreciate that even eight years ago when I hadn't been actively riding for twenty years - I would not have been able to achieve that light contact because it had been too long and I was too out of practice.
But I do have one student who I think is far enough along in her riding that I want her to try riding him now with a light contact.  She struggled with riding him without any rein contact but if she can achieve this light contact I think it will be completely different for her.  So, I'm excited to see how he does with her.   She's balanced enough and doesn't use her reins for anything but communication so I think she'll do ok.  It's when kids are still beginning and not confident in their seat yet and pull on the reins to feel "control" and balance themselves with the reins - that's when it doesn't work anymore and hurts the horse's mouth.  But with Pal, his willingness and ability to listen to your body cues goes up a thousand times once you have that light contact and tell him "this is where I'd like you to set your head" and "I'm always here with you and there will be nothing surprising with your mouth - I will not suddenly pull on your face and I still have the reins up here.  It is all consistent and safe."

That was pretty cool to discover what a wonderful horse he is!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

and my toes are cold ...

I woke up this morning and it had finally snowed a couple inches! It's so pretty and my daughter is bouncing off the walls and my first thought was, "No way am I going out in that!" I spent all of last week at equine massage school in unusually cold temperatures which made standing outside to watch demos semi-unbearable.  We all wore several layers and passed around hand warmers like candy but it was still hard to stand for an hour or more and watch gait evaluations and myofascial release demos when it was 23 degrees out.  It was much easier when we were actually practicing on the horses because we were moving and having worked outside for so long I knew if I was moving I would instantly warm up and would find myself during the demos looking around wondering if they'd let me listen to them while I picked a stall or two.  I didn't want to jump up and down too much and spook horses so I did as much kinetic stuff (rocking, wiggling my toes, bouncing) as I could without moving much.  Despite my lifestyle I am a huge cold wimp.  I don't think people realize that about me but I hate being cold and in my head I'm a huge baby about it.  I just don't get cold as long as I keep moving when I'm out in cold temperatures.

As it is once my daughter had downed half the pancakes she had made before her dad and I got up, and had bundled up in her snow pants, I felt inclined to take the pitbull out with her while she went sledding with other neighborhood kids.  The pitbull loves snow and loves playing with groups of kids so she was in heaven.  Her job during sledding is watch with an enormous amount of concern for anybody who crashes or falls off their sled, so she can run over and lick them in the face. 

After a bit I left them to their chaos and my husband and I walked up to the pasture to feed Girl and Maiden.  I hadn't seen them since before going to Vashon since I had to go to work yesterday so I was going through some horse-withdrawal for them.  Part of their pasture comes up to the road that I drive up to get to their pasture, but the driveway to the property is another eighth of a mile or so up the hill, but since we were walking we cut through the yard of the pasture owner's in-laws so we had to walk quite a ways next to the fence to get to the gate and Maiden let out a loud squeal/whinny and ran over to the fence and hopped and danced along side me until I got to the gate and then she reared, jumped and spung and bucked, then came and stood practically on top of me.  Wow!  That made me feel so good!  How am I going to possibly say good-bye to her at the end of month? Aaaaargh! Taryn will never forgive me if I change my mind.  But I'll be crying for awhile saying good-bye to her. Aaargh.

So, despite that it was unusually cold for my week at school it was SO AWESOME! (in the words of the tweens I am surrounded by).  We learned three really powerful massage modalities that feel like they bring really noticeable results as opposed to gradual results which for a worrier like me who wonders if I'm doing any good, is very exciting.  Also, just learning more about equine massage is fun for me.  I'm already looking forward to Level 300 but I'm going to force myself to just gel with what I've learned from this last course for at least a month or so and focus on practicing these techniques.  That and I already signed up for an online acupressure course which I'll need to finish before taking on anything else.  And I'm excited that the school is offering a Manual Ligament Therapy class soon that I want to take.  And I need to study for and take the National Exam so I can start charging - oh yeah, there is that.

I had the opportunity to work on one of the older, retired Hunter/Jumper horses and I got to practice Stress Point Therapy on a Stress Point in her bicep femoris (one of her hamstrings).  When I palpated that area I noticed a difference in tone that was almost exactly what I'd felt in Clovi, the little Fjord I worked on last weekend before heading out to school.  It felt like her bicep femoris was atrophied and lacked any muscle tone but then the muscle caudal (behind) - semimembronosus and semimembronosus - felt rock hard.  After working out the Stress Point the tone throughout the muscles felt much more even and when she went out on the lunge line she actually moved much more smoothly.  Well, I was lunging her so it was a little different perspective because when I watched her before working on her my classmate had lunged her, but I wanted to give her a break.  But I heard my classmates exclaim that there was a big difference and even from my new perspective I could see a difference  So, now I'm excited to try that on Clovi and see if it helps.  Clovi is an older horse and has been on and off lame for quite some time so I'm hoping with these new techniques and the good chiropractor that his owners have that he can make some improvements.  The owner even said when he's sound my daughter can ride him since her daughters are too big for him now that they've grown-up, which is totally not necessary but is very sweet of her.

This is the second week in a row that I've gotten up to my daughter playing music and dancing around the kitchen making chocolate chip pancakes.  This morning I came down and thought "This is pleasant music" and was horrified to find out it was one of her boy bands she loves.  Oh well.  These guys aren't so bad.  They have a tv show that I hated at first until I realized they were trying to remake The Monkees show and suddenly it all made sense and now I don't mind watching it when my daughter watches it.   Still, the old punk rock goth in me still mutters in a surly voice with a nasty sneer, "How do these guys ever get dates?"  Ah, my younger self.  If I met my younger self now she would be horrified by me and I would be endlessly amused by her.