Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Attitude is Everything

SmartPak sends out more than just catalogs. They also send out a guide for horse care. This guide has little articles in it, most include why adding supplements to your horses feed is important, but sometimes they are just good common sense. In the winter 2011 issue there is an interesting article on attitude, "Attitude Do's and Don't". Read my blog for very long and you know how important attitude is to me. Attitude is everything!
The main points of the article are:
*Do focus on the ride, Don't focus on the result.
*Do challenge yourself, Don't get discouraged.
*Do plan ahead, Don't worry if things change.

Nothing Earth shattering there really. Sometimes hard to follow for sure, but most certainly doable.

On Monday I had to put these in to practice. Corrie was not her nice calm self. It was the "other" mare. I am not sure what to call Corrie's alter ego, but she most certainly has one. Oh yeah, that face looks it can give you tooth decay, but she can be spooky when she wants to be. Corrie has been under saddle for about 2 years now, and honestly she was broke to saddle and then more miles were put on her to drive, so her riding experience is rather limited. She has always been an outdoor horse for the most part too. Noises on the roof or outside the arena are scary. On Monday it was water dripping off the roof, normally Corrie is not that sensitive, but on Monday she was.

She started out just being a tad spooky, but it built up. That end of the arena was off limit according to Corrie. She made that point very clear by backing all the way across the arena, ignoring my leg the whole time. I love that completely out of control feeling, don't you? That feeling when your horse is not listening to anything you have to say. Yeah that is how the ride started out. After getting a little compliance from Corrie, I hopped off.

Let me take a moment here to just talk about my feelings. I was not scared. At least not scared of coming off. That thought did go through my mind and I was a little nervous about that but honestly not shaking in my boots like I would have been a year ago. I was more nervous that I would create a bigger problem. I knew that this was a very important moment in my relationship with Corrie. I would either be teaching her how to get out of work or reinforcing that we have a partnership and need to work through these problems together. That is why I hopped off and called Sensei.

I asked Sensei to come out to the barn; I love having my trainer on site! After being called on no brainer things, such as, why are you still riding in a rope halter when you know that your horse is having issues. Oops. He just said those things that I know but help to have someone call me on. Like relax, which I did as soon as he was in the arena; or at least relaxed some. The problem with getting nervous is that my brain stops functioning as well as it should. I forget some basic things like breathing. Or that it is important to focus on what you want not what you don't want.

Riding around the arena I was called on that right away. Sensei pointed out that both Corrie and I were riding around waiting for an explosion to occur. We, and by "we" I mean "I," needed to just ride her through our fear. I am the leader and she needs me to tell her that it is okay by just riding her like I expect her to respond like she normally does. Of course that sounds all sunshine and rainbows, which we know is not always the case.

The second thing Sensei reminded me to do is to have a "plan B." What would I do if she did spook. In this case, as I was riding her in figure 8's around the I would pick up on the side rein. NOT pull back with both which would she would, or could, just run through if she was really scared. Plan B would change as I moved around, not the actual plan, just which rein I would use. Having a plan helped me to relax also. I knew what I would do if my plan to just keep her moving and working normally failed.

The ride ended with her working nicely off my leg at the end of the arena that made her nervous. She was responding like I would expect her to, nothing that would an observer would point out as being a stellar ride. But the ride ended with a calm rider and a calm horse, working together and listening to each other. That was a good ride.

Monday, February 7, 2011


We are about to have another cold snap. I wanted to get out to see Corrie before that happened. When it is really cold I just don't want to be out in it. If it hard for me to breath, I figure it really isn't all that great for Corrie to try and breath harder either. So before that snap came, I managed to get a little ground work and spend some time riding her, bare back again.

As I have my pony time, I like to think. I was was not working on anything difficult, but I was having a difficult time walking around a barrel. The barrel was in a corner and I would push her into the corner and around the barrel. Once through the corner and pasted the barrel, she would want to drift to the side again. I had to work really hard to keep her on a line. We did several other line across the arena too. Always a having to ride every stride. Aways her wanting to drift and needed support.

My mind wandered back to Hope. How I would just think about where I wanted to go and that is where we would go. I had owned Hope for several years and we had been through a lot together. It is a was not that way in the beginning. My first ride on Hope left me in the middle of a field with my left stirrup as she ran back to the barn. It looks a lot of time, a lot of fall, a lot of fights, and just general discussions, before we were able to reach the point that we were just comfortable being with each other.

When I first had Corrie enter my life, about a year ago actually, she was just a horse I used in lessons. When she became mine there was such a feeling of joy. The new part of a relationship where all things seem possible. I had grand ideas of driving her around my neighborhood and up and down the trails. I had a lot to over come but I had my new pony and that was going to make all things possible. It's the the most wonderful part of a relationship, isn't it? When it is all still so new. I decided I don't think so.

It is like planing a seed in the spring. The thought of how that plant is going to grow and give us tomatoes in a few months. All a gardener thinks of as she waters and tends that little seed is what it is going to be. Then come the weeding, which really rather sucks. The work that goes into the tending of that plant over shadows the thoughts of the ripe tomato that will make the most perfect salad complete. Sometimes the gardener may wonder if it is all worth it. Then one day the signs of fruit appear. The little tomatoes and again we are excited of the prospect of the fruits of our labor. Then the day comes and we pick the most perfect tomato, and it tastes so good. Of course so much can go wrong between the planting of the seed and the final harvest of the fruit.

Reflecting on new relationships vs. old ones, remembering Hope, I realized how valuable the old relationships are. We can't just jump to the old comfortable partnership though. We must go through all the work. We must make that connection to our partner, fall off a few times, deal with the disappointments of dreams changing or even redefining our goals wot match our abilities. It is all part of growing together and to reach that point were we are just comfortable.

Corrie and I are in that work part now. We are learning about each other. We are finding out what makes each other tick, and although sometimes that is fun, sometimes it is not. But the work is worth it in the end. So although I had to keep after her, in my mind I was thinking ahead to the time when we will just be old friends.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Years Resolutions

Okay so it is not the first of the year, but it is close enough. Closer to the front of the year than the back right?

Anyway, I had an awesome year last year. Going from being terrified to ride to riding my own pony bare back in a halter and lead. I also got out on the trail and actually had some pretty big spooks, ones that almost dismounted me actually. But we handled them and it didn't stop me from riding. Also learned to drive, a solid beginner, but still I am a driver. In fact there is only one goal that I did not meet last year, canter. It was not for lack of trying either. We almost got there but then had those lameness issues.

So for the new year I have some more practical goals.
1) Ride at least 3 times a week. For Corrie and for me. She is going to be 12 this year. For her own health I need to keep her moving. I also need to keep riding her. I love to ride as you all know but it is the getting out there and doing it sometimes, especially when it is blustery outside and I am trying to accomplish other things in my life. Even still this is an important goal to me.

2) That damn canter. Oh yeah, 2011 is the year to canter. I am going to do this barring any physical issues on Corrie's apart. There is no reason that I should not be back to cantering again.

3) Get that balance back baby! Okay, so this should before the canter phase but I really want to work on my balance. I have lost a lot of balance over the years but I want it back damn it! Riding Corrie bare back is one way, using a halter is my way of being kind to mouth. I am not know to use the reins for balance at all, but even still, don't want to start jerking on her poor mouth. Am also taking classes at the YMCA. These are helping a lot with my balance and general core strength. So this is more a feel and hard to define as a goal, but I think I will see improvements as they are made.

4) Rhythm. Some where over the years my rhythm has suffered too. Not just in keeping it but damn if I can get my correct diagonal without looking. How embarrassing it that at this stage of the game! I have noticed riding that I don't have that natural flow the way I used to with the gaits, the ones that comes from being in complete sync with the horse. Another one that will be hard to define, but I think once I can start keeping a track of the foot falls and maintaining a steady rhythm I will count this one as a complete. Or at least it will be time to set a new goal for rhythm.

5) Drive independently in my own space. Meaning in my own yard or in my little area around home. I want to harness and drive Corrie on my own. I had difficulties with this last year. I could do it at Sensai's but after a good spook that left me a little shaken in my skills I got nervous and didn't want to try.

6) Go on a group trail ride. I will have to bum a ride with someone but I hope that I can find some local people to go on a trail ride with and head out with them at least once this summer.

7) Not really a goal for me or for Corrie, but I would really like to get my city slicker friend up on Corrie. Why? because I want to share this thing that is so important to me with him. It is a totally selfish goal, but I hope I can pull it off.

Not sure these are the best goals this year. Little vague for my liking and so I might tweak them over the next few weeks. Still a good place to start, like seeing her at least three times a week. Of course the next time I have scheduled to see her is tomorrow morning and we are expecting a blizzard tonight. Guess I am just going to have see how that goes. If I can get out of the drive way though I will be at the barn!