Monday, May 31, 2010


I rode Rol today. I probably should have ridden yesterday but the heat whipped me. So today I rode right after feeding and turning out. It was threatening to sprinkle rain and completely overcast and still cool and very very nice. We went out and walked the hill. We trotted maybe less that usual and cantered maybe a bit more than usual, trying to get her to relax into that left lead, not lean. She started out funny on that side (we’d cantered right first then took a walk break then trotted some more) in that as soon as I slid my right leg back, she sorta kicked at the leg and sorta bucked and as she usually does tried to turn inside out. I get the lead so long as I don’t let her turn inside out. But she was all funny about everything by that time so I just tried to bump her a little with the inside leg, remembering Andre talking about not bullying with it, guiding with outside rein, up off her back, trying to get her to relax, and when she did relax just barely ask for the idea of inside bend. That one little sequence was really the only thing out of the ordinary. We took it easy but we did walk the hill.

I was bad in that I could have ridden Bart too, in that I had permission and time, but when I had time the sun was shining and it was hot and I just didn’t want to make myself sick from the heat.

The latest thinking on Rol's soundness is the possibility of a stifle issue, which makes some sense since several of her offspring have stifle issues and her stifle is pretty straight. But she’s always, since Lisa has had her, been sound in the stifle. They may ex-ray it but I think that might require a clinic trip.

I’m tentatively scheduled to ride Rolinette for you, Mr. not Pierre, Saturday. I’m looking forward to it. It also scares me although scare is not really the right word. I want, you know, to be a brilliant rider. I am, you know, not. Not exactly. I guess I still harbor the belief that I can be. Maybe not brilliant but good in my own right, with my own special strengths. You will help me in that and this little lesson is a step in that journey. And I would give anything to see me with your eyes. At the same time, it unnerves me to be seen by those eyes. I would like to know what Lisa sees too and at the same time the thought that she would see me clearly unnerves me. I’m not expressing this well because it is all smushed up like a balled up piece of white bread inside me. I always want more. I think I have things to offer in many directions. I always enjoy the stretch. I need the stretch too because without it cleaning stalls just isn’t that much fun. It isn’t bad but it isn’t the thing. I like taking care of the horses, I like noticing stuff, I like reading them, knowing what is going on, I like trying to communicate what I think is going on and what I think will help, I like riding and whenever I’m on a horse I’m pretty much having fun, I like watching people ride (even if I try to keep my mouth shut when I want to say, try this, or, I think this is what is happening), I like the intellectual challenges, I like the camaraderie, I like pretty much everything but I need the stability and the change too.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lesson with the Ladies

Before I left the barn Monday, I asked the ladies if they were taking a lesson this week, mentioning that I'd be in town Thursday . . . .

And so a lesson was kindly scheduled for the three of us for Thursday afternoon. That means this week I rode Monday, harrowed Tuesday and Wednesday, and had a riding lesson Thursday. That is a very good week.

So, in the lesson we did a lot of neat and cool things. Two poles on the ground, walking then trotting over them. Rol has some issues with her hind end: pushed a bit she has no trouble not adding a step in the trot poles with her front end but the hind end is pushing it to make it. Once she stepped ON the pole and just darn near fell completely down. That made her less bold, more cautious on her next attempts but that is a good thing. She was still able to make the striding when both of us were concentrating on it.

Then we did turns on the forehand and I got kudos for that! It is always nice to get kudos. I got them because I didn't get her excited doing the turn -- I'd ask for a movement and give when she gave it to me. She did it very well.

Then we tried something I'd not been introduced to, at least not in this way, before. The ladies and Cheri had tried to explain it to me last year I think but I didn't understand from the explanations: Square corners. What it really is is the beginning of pirouette: Keep the bend, collect a bit, ask for the turn with the outside leg so that the forehand comes around. We were doing 90 degree turns, which reminds me humorously of quarter turns in beauty pageants. Maybe it was the squares we rode that did that reminding. Anyway, Rol and I didn't have any problem getting this or doing this. My main thing was to take my outside leg off BEFORE we were finished with the turn and add more inside leg for forward at that point so that we didn't lose momentum and rhythm in the walk.

Next was one at a time work: trot in a large circle a good forward working trot, sit and collect for a few strides, post and working again, several times, then when that felt a little developed change the rein across the diagonal asking for lengthening in the trot, then repeat in other direction. First of all, Rolinette is not the easiest horse in the world to sit, and second of all, I haven't really practiced sitting trot in, say, 30 years? And third, I tend to tilt forward; I'd say that is probably my worst form fault. So it was sit back sit back sit BACK and it was good in that when I really did get back far enough, I could feel the difference. I couldn't necessarily hold it for long but you got the momentary feel and if you could do that enough, you could have it. I'm not sure her stride changed much though, not in the collection. I don't think she's really strong enough yet to really do much in collection. Every time I sat her head came up which concerned me some that my poor sitting was hurting her but Lisa said that that too was just her lack of strength.

The lengthening, though, that was nice. I had asked her for a bit of that in some of our other rides which probably helped some. You know, a horse can't really collect until he is going forward and she is certainly willing to. Her lengthening wasn't brilliant (and it isn't likely to be brilliant) but it was there, and if it is there, more collection can be there too, eventually. It all goes together.

We repeated the sit/collect exercise adding asking for canter on the circle, then a nice downward transition, important for Rol since she can get excited about cantering. Ah, but her first downward transition was beautiful into a relaxed trot so we went into the lengthening then repeating all on the other end. It took me twice on both sides to get the canter so for some reason (thinking too much? afraid of making a mistake?) I seem to have more problems with that in a lesson than riding on my own. We're still really just playing with bend -- if I ask for bend too much, she gets fussy and curly with her head, so with her on a whole lot of issues there is very light give and take and let alone.

I had a whole lot of fun in this lesson. The vet is looking at her again Friday to see if they can figure out if something is truly wrong with her hind end or not.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday ride

The ladies came by, plus LB, and we all rode. I concentrated mostly on forward and for the majority of the ride my impression was that she was in front of the bit rather than curled; I left her there. Tried to ask for little bits of bend. We walked, we trotted, we did lots of transitions, we cantered a bit. She laughed with me at the canter depart (enthusiastic). She even stretched at the trot more than she ever has with me. Ever.

Then we walked the hill once.

Then we came in and she had a mini-bath.

I think she missed riding honestly.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

‘til the river runs dry

Rol did not trot off crippled from her flexions. Everyone agreed she wasn’t quite right but no idea what was wrong. X-rays of her hocks were amazingly clear. So I have tentative riding privileges again.

Except I didn’t ride today. I don’t change horses in midstream well. It really threw me to be thrown off of her last week (literally just told plz don’t ride this week until we get flexions done not actually thrown off except internally). I’m glad she isn’t crippled but then, I didn’t think she was to begin with. So, if I ride her this week, what about next week? I suppose I shouldn’t need that continuity. And truthfully I’m pretty sure I’ll ride tomorrow without that continuity. But that’s how I am and I think a bias toward stability is a good thing generally.

I didn’t say it out loud, ever, that her back wasn’t even a little sore so I didn’t think her hocks would be bad. Every time someone said, “She’s getting her hocks injected next week; she’ll be a lot better,” I just said, “mmmm,” or “Which day is the vet coming?” or something else non-committal. But I have consistently said, “I think when she is fitter, she’ll feel better.” I truly think she is an old mare who has had a lot of babies and not ever been really riding fit, and I think she gets stiff sometimes like many of us older folks do, and I think moving is better than not moving just about 100% of the time.

Now, if I can just have the latitude to get her fitter. Or not. I wouldn’t mind getting Gabby going. Or about a hundred thousand other possibilities out there somewhere.

Or maybe there is nothing.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

change o' plans

I about cried when I walked into the barn ready to work and ride four days in a row and found a note telling me to not ride. "Rolinette is stiffer."

It is not that I doubt she is more stiff. It is that I think the very thing that will be most helpful is more work and more fitness. A vet will examine her for soundness later in the week, which mostly means flexion tests and maybe ex-rays. It is expected that she will show hock lameness and get her hocks injected. And she very well may. But her back isn't sore and hock and back problems almost always go together.

I don't know . . . It isn't that I doubt that she is sore, or that I wouldn't if it were within my power mitigate that soreness with injections or anything else that worked. I don't want her to hurt, and I certainly don't want to hurt her.

Every now and again "you need your own damn horse" (to do with as you please and quite possibly show what I can do) screams at me. But it also screams at me that I don't have the financial resources to do any of the stuff I get to do now, even if I had my own horse. Whatever I get to do is a gift, and everything that I don't get to do is my own damn fault. And there ya go; that's where I live.

It has been a real honor and privilege to get to largely be responsible for Rolinette for this time. It is very different from just catching a ride on whoever you can and it has done wonders for my confidence in myself. I hope we get to keep going but if we don't, she's still the most beautiful and deep horse ever.

So today I did get to ride Bart. It has been a long time since I've been on him. Rolinette's son but very different. First, lots more movement, but mostly waaaay heavier. Not a light horse in any way whatsoever. So heavy in the hands that I, well, I was very much wanting a lesson because I felt like I could not see what he looked like. I didn't do a whole heck of a lot with him. Leg yields at walk (he's also a much more lateral horse than Rol). Trot trying to ask him to be forward, circles, serpentines, transitions. He was very willing. He very willingly picked up canter, almost too willingly, like doing it on cue instead of from aids. But I did not get a single decent downward transition from canter.

Cathy and I were riding together so we started playing with riding pas de deux. Couldn't be on two more different horses! We did some side by side and some mirror, at trot and walk, having fun. The we walked the hill once . . . or Bart and I walk while Star cantered up!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday ride

Nice day all in all at the barn. Rode in the afternoon, after chores and before starting dinner chores. She was really very good. I'm thinking her head is a bit more stable but she is still curling some of course. I think she was motoring for the most part pretty well. We cantered a couple times in both directions, not too long but I want to work in more transitions there. Thought a lot about outside rein, inside bend.

Then went to back field and did, by ourselves, down and up the hill twice. I think I'll be sore from it so I told Rolinette not to worry too much if she was a little sore from it. She's very careful downhill, a bit more willing uphill; a little uncomfortable with the whole idea of being out of the arena but I think she'll learn to enjoy it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

first hill

Rode Rolinette today, with Cathy and Star. Thought some about more uphill and her not curling and I think it improved but really not for sure. She was nicely forward and probably a bit quick which is the way Andre rode her. But she even started today very forward in her walk (for her). I worked in a few slightly smaller circles at trot and asked for some lengthening on the long sides interspersed with a big circle sometimes (and lengthening some on the diagonals too sometimes, and sometimes a downward transition there -- that is the trick to NOT always do the same thing). We cantered big (not circling) then asked for a big circle after a bit. Transitions. Thought shoulder fore a lot but most of the time it doesn't feel right. Did some leg yields at walk of course but none at trot. Serpentines to play with bend. Not too much of any one thing but a decent workout for both of us on this nice cool day.

Then we all went to the gently sloping back field and walked down and back up one time. She was beautiful doing this. Brave, went first. Very cautious downhill but stretched that neck and engaged her back very nicely coming back uphill. I think this work may be exactly what she needs. Her mom is concerned that she may have hock problems and if she doesn't pass her flexion tests she may get hock injections. And you know what? She very well may. She's old, she's not been fit in many years, she's never been ridden much, and she's had umpteen babies pass through that pelvis. No wonder her back legs are a little strung out behind her. And if she doesn't pass her flexion tests, injections just may help her (oh man, they made a huge difference in Star and Romeo). But I think fitness will help her a lot too. And that part is my job which I love! I think the hills, walking the hills, will help a lot.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Not Pierre Himself

I watched Lisa take a lesson on Rolinette on Friday, and Andre ride Rol on Saturday. I was proud that Andre hit every point I did in helping to develop Rolinette -- circles, forward, hills, relaxed canter. Add that he rides her more uphill and considers her curling behind the bridle to be her biggest fault, or the fault that must be corrected before other good stuff can truly come to the fore. Also he observed that fitness, and muscling in her back, were just long term things in a horse that old. Strong outside rein, should fore when she curls (because she can't shoulder fore and curl at the same time).

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

dressage means training

Dressage can improve every horse.

So I went over my test with Lisa today, then climbed on my steed, and listened hard to my gut. She needs to increase her step length and step up under herself in walk and trot. Now, part of that is who she is, her conformation, and that she's had lots of babies and is old. But it doesn't have to just stay there.

We spent a good amount of time walking. Circles make the inside hind come up under, so she needs to circle, and circle smaller to step under more. Then come off the circle and increase step length. And the combination of that just might help those things. And of course, I need to ride her ever more forward and keep her in rhythm. Also leg yields, shoulder fores, shoulder ins. I need some lessons there. And of course lots of transitions.

At canter it is different. I think she needs to relax. Up to this point in our canter work we've concentrated on just getting the canter, and pretty much just holding it although some on not falling inside. Well, we've got that fairly well and now we need to improve the canter work. I think riding her not on a circle at all for that but just asking her to go forward and enjoy it, and then working in a big circle with some bend and all without that blowing the relaxation . . . it doesn't sound to me like I'm describing this very well, but this is what I'm thinking. And more transitions into and out of canter too, but probably somewhat after working on the relaxation.

I also badly want to take her out and walk her up and down hills in the fields. I have to ask her mom if I can do this. This would help her fitness and her step under greatly. Walk for muscle.

I also need to work on getting her steady in the bridle and I don't really have a lot of ideas for that. Solid outside rein, and improve my position. Improve my position, improve my position, improve my position.

We had a great and fun ride. She was very forward and very willing, and we worked on some smaller circles and transitions and cantered big and I got the distinct feeling from her today that she likes this. It is rather new to her but she likes it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

the sound I had to follow

Lovely show. Lovely ride. Lovely horse. Lovely day.

Yeah, sure, we got busted by the judge for a number of things and only scored a 54 point something and placed fourth out of five. It was still good. And some of the things we got busted on can be improved by improving fitness. And some can be improved by improving riding. And some of those things are just who that horse is as a 21 year old retired broodmare who has had a lot of babies in her life (I know personally five of those babies).

I wish we had done better. I wish I could score 70! Laughing, but, sure, wouldn't that be grand.

But I also think we did really well. She *was* much more forward, the transitions weren't bad (except that last canter was sticky), and while her head is unsteady, it was much better than the last show. And while we've cantered better, we got it and we held it and that was our goal. Our walk was not good but our transition into it was very good. The judge was pretty critical in her comments, a tough cookie as it were. In watching the video I think there were lots of positive things she didn't happen to mention. And I think she was judging on the horse's raw talent a lot.

Of course, the whole show is a lot more of an experience than just the ride. Barry showed up, and took me to dinner. That was especially nice. Rowan stayed with me all day and helped whenever needed. Leafy won two duels at Yu-Gi-Oh. I had so much help all day in running the barn and getting ready and having fun. And Rolinette was extraordinary. The Moody Blues' "Wildest Dreams" played on the ipod as I pulled into the barn, my number was 21 (also the age of my horse), and a great blue heron flew low over as we watched the early part of the show.

Barry made a comment to husband as I rode my test: "She's really at home in the saddle." Husband countered: "The saddle is the only place she is at home." And that one has me thinking.

Skipping back to the ride, when we decided to ride T2 and I thought about what score was likely, I thought that 55 would probably be good for us at this point. That's what we scored. The winner of the class scored 61 and the next three were within a point of 55.