Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Practically Famous!

Turns out, Louie and I are practically famous!  Well, maybe not famous, but this is pretty cool- check out Cordia Pearson's website!  For those of you who do not know who she is, she is one of 15 Society of Master Saddle Fitters certified saddle fitters in the US, who helped us to find our new saddle, a few months back.  She was so pleased with our show photos that she asked to use one on her website.  Thank you to Courtney Church and of course to Cordia for making it possible! 

http://www.saddlefitter.com/berlin.htm

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Interval Training

Tonight was a beautiful evening for a drive.  About 60 degrees, sunny, with a slight breeze.  The sun was setting behind the barn and there was hardly a fly around the place.  Great jeans and sweatshirt weather.  So, I harnessed Louie up to enjoy a very nice drive in the outdoor arena.  The heavy rain that we had recently has just finally dried up enough so that the footing was perfect in the large outdoor arena today.  Plus, it was recently dragged, so it was super smooth for my cart. 

We tried a little bit different tactic today while driving, since it was mostly for conditioning, I thought I would pay close attention to how much we were driving in each direction, since most of the time I just kindof willy nilly choose which way I'm going to go and when I'm going to turn, how long we're going to continue, at what speed, etc.  So tonight, we did intervals.  I started with 3 laps of a nice medium trot in each direction.  Then we walked a lap after the warm-up to sort of change gears.  I planned a variable rate work out consisting of 3 speeds of trot in each direction, with no walk in between.  We started off tracking to the right, with a slow jog (think western pleasure, very primpy and floaty) for 1 lap, a medium trot for 1 lap, then a fast trot for 1 lap (I don't say extended because the gait wasn't truly extended- that, along with blinders, is our winter project).  Then we decreased back down to a medium trot, then a jog, then switched directions and completed the same build up-build down type of routine.  I did have to change up my transition point a little bit as we went along as I figured Louie would catch on to that rather quickly, being as smart as he is. 

After our intervals, we walked for a cool out- remember, our outdoor arena is like a football field, or maybe even bigger. Anyhow, it's huge and just those few laps, when I actually counted, really added up to quite a long drive.  Louie wasn't sweaty and was really hardly breathing fast when we finished, but we had a nice drive and got some good conditioning in.  A nice way to work, as his back has been a little bit sore again lately- too much riding and not enough driving. . . bad mom!

I also figured out something else tonight.  We tend to have a problem while driving, in that Louie wants to keep his nose bent to the inside all the time (man, I wish we had that problem when riding!).  It's really better than the opposite, in my mind, but at times it does get a little scary for me, as when I ask him to come in off the rail, he just bends more- and the cart and the rail can get a little close for comfort at times.  So I figured out tonight that when I ask him to turn to the inside, I usually take up the slack with my inside rein and use my whip on the outside of his barrel.  Well, when I do that I totally throw away my contact on the outside rein, allowing him to keep bending and bending and bending.  So, I paid attention to my hands and held contact on the outside rein tonight when I asked him to turn into the middle a little bit and come off of of the rail.  It worked pretty well and for the most part he turned much easier, without excessive bending. Yay!  I hope that method continues to work for us.

All in all, Louie was a very good boy tonight and I really enjoyed spending time with my beautiful horse on such a beautiful evening!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away

The cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis are in the midst of a monsoon, huge amounts of rainfall accumulated in the past 24 hours and more to come. . . needless to say this makes life with horses not quite so merry.  I don't think Louie minds so much, he enjoys rolling in the mud and splashing through puddles.  But me?  I don't care much for spending half my ride time cleaning the mud off of his legs and just trying to get him clean enough to work. 

We just had a short ride tonight, all of this rain has made the arena rather wet so not too much work to be done until it dries up some.  We worked on various speeds at the walk and trot, as well as our sitting trot, which is really coming along nicely.  We worked a little bit on some half-passing and full-passing, which Louie is starting to grasp.  I think this will be helpful to keep working on the lateral movements too so that he will truly understand that one leg on his belly means move laterally, not forward faster! 

I was thinking while I was riding that perhaps I would be interested in taking some more formal dressage lessons this winter.  The challenge with this is finding the right person who will understand that I do not want to compete in high level dressage and completely commit to riding a new discipline (at least not right now), but moreso want to incorporate dressage training into Louie's hunter training.  I would think that perhaps a trainer who works with eventers could grasp this concept, even though their riders actually do compete in pure "dressage," but I can't imagine that they ride terribly differently when jumping or hacking.  Anyhow, I am looking forward to possibly persuing this further over the winter, but for now, we have to focus on our next objective:  Octoberfest horse show in 2 weeks!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Free Time!

Louie is enjoying his time hanging out with his buddies while our other 4-year-old, Jackson, is spending a lot of time working at field trials this fall.  Thanks Laura for the fun photo of Louie (above)! 

Jackson, having fun (well I'm not sure if he thought it was so fun, but I sure did!) riding at our trial last weekend, thus giving Louie the weekend off (below):

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Long-Needed Riding Lesson For Me

This afternoon we had a riding lesson with a new instructor, Julie, who teaches at our barn.  The lesson was rather spur of the moment and we hadn't really worked on much lately with Louie being sore (which, now he seems to have recovered from fully).  I didn't really have anything in particular I was working on or wanted to emphasize, but moreso I wanted to get a fresh set of eyes to watch us and tell us how we were doing and what we can work on to improve.  I hadn't had a formal riding lesson in hunt seat in probably 10 years, which is way too long for any one person to go along not having his or her equitation picked on. 

In the past 5 years, I've had only "project horses," in which the focus of our work and lessons has always been on improving and training the horse.  Naturally, when training a horse, whether teaching a new skill, breaking, or riding through a difficult situation, a person rides in a functional form of equitation, and you can't expect them to ride in perfect form all the time when training.  Well, 5 years of riding like that and not being reminded to do such things as hold your wrists flexed, fingers closed and keep your toes in will do strange things to a person's form.  So we worked some on that.  For me, none of the things I heard today were things I'd never heard before- toes forward, shoulders back, flex the wrists, look up, etc.  I just need the reminder- over and over and over again at nauseum to get it to sink in.  And I can pretty much guarantee I'll need it again next time as it slips from my brain. . .

We also worked quite a bit on canter transitions, which honestly Louie and I haven't worked on since our show a month ago.  We worked mostly on trot-canter transitions (which we all together stopped doing a few months ago when we had so much trouble with Louie's right lead), and a lot of circles and figure 8's, which was great in getting Louie to take his leads as I asked for them rather than relying on the rail to tell him which lead to take.  He wasn't perfect in his leads, he probably got the correct lead 70% of the time, but he did pretty decent overall and didn't really show a huge preference for one lead vs the other, which made me happy.  We also worked on the sitting trot (which is a fairly new thing for us, though Louie does know how to jog thanks to all of our work on the jog in long lines and in the cart), and I got quite the ab/back workout in sitting the jog!  I think I must have sat the jog alright considering Julie didn't pick on my form that much with that at all.

We also learned one other new skill that I am really excited to keep working on- feeling our diagonals and picking up the correct diagonal without looking.  I can do this now from the walk and the sitting trot, it's a matter of feeling which hind leg is moving underneath you and posting off of that movement.  By the end of the lesson I was getting it probably 90-95% of the time.  Also, picking up the correct diagonal in a downward transition from the canter without looking- this one is a little more challenging, I think because I am never really sure *when* Louie is going to break from the canter to the trot.  But the goal is post on the very first trot stride after the transition.  It worked most of the time, but it is a little tricky sometimes to get this one right.  I think with more practice and getting Louie and I in sync, we'll get the hang of it. 

Overall, it was a pretty good lesson- a nice refresher on some equitation things I need to work on and really a good "change it up" workout for Louie, proving to me that he really CAN canter in a smallish circle and actually has decent balance.  Louie and I got our butts worked and will probably both be sore tomorrow- in a good way.  Julie and I disagreed on a few points such as what a half halt is and where my toes should be facing, but overall I definately gained some new knowledge from her and think I can learn more as she teaches so many different disciplines- next plan will be to hopefully take a jumping lesson- something rather foreign to me (at least jumping in proper form lol).  We shall see- the way I figure, only good things can come from new ideas and things to work on from another set of eyes.