Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Tweet, therefore... I have too much time on my hands

I know, I know. How long has it been since my last post? Too long! Just busy as the school year winds down, work gears up, summer plans need to get in motion and horse continually puzzles and amazes me.

I got myself back to Tweeting again to keep something fresh on the page in between posts. So if you like to read about my progress or regress with Rugby check the Twitter widget on my blog page.

Hope the rain has stayed away from whereever you are (because all it seems to do here IS rain!) and you are ready for a good summer!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Trainers, Coaches, Instructors - Oh My!

We all need a trainer, coach or instructor...whatever you choose to call them. So bear with my thoughts about this topic, then let's hear your take on it.

Of course in the very beginning you must have an instructor, that's obvious. You need someone who knows more than you to teach you what to do so you can at least do it safely and humanely, if not perfectly. Even as we gain skills and independence and perhaps don't need as many lessons as before, at some time or another, we all need another person to call us on our mistakes or bad habits. Even the most experienced riders have a ground man to catch these things and refine their skills.

Sometimes you can be an accomplished rider and very capable of doing things by yourself. You've ridden quite a few different kinds of horses through the years with good levels of success. Then you meet a situation where what you knew before doesn't solve the problem with this particular horse. One thing experience partnered with a modest ego will get you is knowing the right moment to seek the help of someone who has more experience in a particular field than you. Instead of forging ahead and tackling the problem yourself, the plan should include a competent trainer to help you see your mistakes and move you forward with a different path.

Now, to define a competent trainer may take a lot of time or be as easy as 1 phone call. I always suggest watching a trainer do 2 things before seeking their guidance, watch them ride and work with a horse and watch their students ride and work with a horse. Watching the trainer should inspire you and when watching their students at work the key is to study how they solve the problems presented by the exercise they are performing. If the trainer is competent, the students will have a confidence to work through issues that may arise with a good success rate. That is a clue that how the education is being presented is having the desired effect.

The next step is to agree with the ethics of the trainer - are they overly rough or too easy-going with either the horses or the students? Someone too accomodating probably won't have students who are polished (because they are rewarded for any effort instead of mainly being rewarded for a successful effort). I have seen trainers stand around and watch their students ride with the occasional command to "put your heels down" or "shorten the reins" but they are not really teaching anything. They will "babysit" the rider while in the saddle but not ask them to grow and challenge them. I've seen lots of little kids posting around in a "chair seat" and not being taught to keep their heels down and their knees bent. Yet the trainers tell them they are doing great and the kids think it's all great - until they go to a show and don't understand why they didn't win a prize when they were doing so "great".

There are instructors who push too hard and intimidate the student. Their students often are afraid to make a mistake for fear of more reprisals and it becomes an escalating series of dependancy (which guarantees the student will keep paying for the lessons because they are afraid to ride without someone watching their every move).

A good trainer is firm and will work you, challenge your skills and make you step occasionally outside your comfort zone. I also like to see or hear of a trainer who will be honest and tell you they can't take you any further and that you need to move on to someone with those skills. (When I taught years ago, I was given the rank beginners as the Master didn't have time to start riders from scratch. I made it clear to my students all I would teach were the basics. I'd work on a good seat, independant and soft hands, mastering the 4 gaits W/T/C/G and transitions and start jumping. If the rider wanted to move up or start going to shows I would then pass them on to the Master.)

I like trainers who are totally focused on you and your ride or on your horse and teaching it as they ride. If they are teaching you as you ride, often their commands come at you in furious bursts. It's as if they are right there in the saddle with you, catching the movement just before you make it and helping you to feel it as it happens. I would rather have a trainer who is focused on me and me alone (LOL, yes, it's all about ME) like this for the duration of our session. And I have found, for me, the best trainers are those who are like this.

In some ways it's like the quality of a stallion is shown in the quality of his offspring - the quality of a trainer is in the quality of the riders and horses they work with.

How did you find your trainer? Or are you looking for one you respect? What are your thoughts on trainer/instructors/coaches? Are you currently a trainer, yourself? I'm sure anyone who's been at this awhile has stories of a few stinkers they've met along the way but let's try to keep this mainly constructive!

Horsey Hide and Seek

This was too cute! Last night I stopped by the barn and did a short groundwork/grooming session with Rugby. We've been having a whole bunch of rain lately and I figured we'd do what we could before it started in again.

All went quite well considering we only did about 20 minutes or so of actual groundwork on the lunge line. I finished up and returned him to his stall. I went out to put some gear away in my locker and when I came back I proceeded to clean up the hair on the floor (he's been a doll about having his mane pulled but I do it in increments so it doesn't become too much with all the tugging. So each night we remove a little more hair). As I'm doing this I see he's standing right at the stall door, watching my every move (waiting for his end of work treat, no doubt).

So when I went out the side aisle to dump the rake full of mane hair, on the way back I stopped and hid behind the wall. I then peeked around and saw him still watching where I'd gone. I quickly ducked back then slowly peeked around at him again. I ducked back again and was immediately rewarded with a deep nicker from Rugby! It sounded like either, "dude, what's UP with you?" or "cut the crap, lady and give me the treats".

Who cares, It was cute to get a response like that. I laughed and put the treats in his pail. I tried it again, this time mimicking his deep nicker as best I could (humans just can't do a perfect horse sound) as soon as I was out of his sight, and he answered me in the same tone! For that he got rewarded with a horse kiss by me blowing softly in his nostrils. He loves that. This is fun.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rugby's Progress

So Rugby and I have been working along, getting to know each other through our groundwork. T.S. came for another session last week. There was a bit of a scheduling mix-up and I had to leave work early to meet him at the barn. So, I wasn't dressed to participate in the groundwork but since he was going to be gone for the rest of the month of June, I told him to do the work with him anyway and I would observe. I didn't want to miss the chance for another training lesson and then have to wait a month before he returned.

Rugby did very well, even with the barn workers doing some construction just outside the arena, he kept his mind on his work and was surprisingly settled even moving past it.

T.S. told me that he wanted me to call him before the month was over to schedule as soon as he comes back because he books up quickly when he returns. He felt, based on what he has seen from us that if all continues well, in our next session he will work with Rugby, then he'll get on and ride, then have me do so. Cool, I am working for that goal!

And I have been trying to continue the exercises and work him with the same direction on my own. It's not easy. I find I walk away from a groundwork session even more exhausted than when I ride! I don't know if it's more physical or mental as I try to stay a step ahead and do each movement with the proper response! I may not be perfect but I never quit until I get what I need from him and everything has been ending well.

I'm very, very pleased with his manners on the crossties. He will now move over from the slightest touch and asking "Over". He picks up all four feet for you as soon as he's asked and does not lean when you hold them up to clean them. He had his hooves trimmed this past Sunday and was just super for the trimmer. He didn't lean or wobble this time and kept each of his hooves on the stand for as long as the trimmer needed him to. His hooves are the best I have ever seen on a horse. In three trimmings they have gone from just okay to perfect for him. No cracks, no thrush and very strong. I am impressed. My trimmer is lovin' it! He's my first completely barefoot horse and I like what I see!

We have ended one of my personal favorite bonding moves and that's hand feeding of treats. I was very quick to just do what I did with Monty and hand him snacks without him needing to earn them. That stopped as soon as I got disrespected and bucked off. Once again, I had to get my head out of my "Monty" mindset and do what needed to be done to properly train Rugby. With several weeks of this I see another change. He looks to me for attention and what are we going to do next, and not just because he wants to check my pockets for treats. I've even had him nicker at me if I'm standing outside his stall talking to someone else because he wants me to take him out and fuss with him. He knows by now I have no snacks for him. That's pretty cool.

I will still place one or two treats in his bucket after we've completely finished our work and he's back in the stall. He knows then he's done and can relax. And he'll always put his nose up to the open feed door to have his nostril blown into softly and get a horse smooch before I go home.

So I'm not back in the saddle yet but I'm ready. I'm going to keep up the groundwork and have no problem waiting for T.S. to return before I get there. The most important thing is Rugby and I continue to bond and know what's expected of each other.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Pictures of Rugby

Finally! I brought the camera and took some nice pictures of Rugby! I had already finished my groundwork session, showered him and let him have some grazing time. I figured the least he could do was pose for me in his hunt bridle.

One of the girls at the barn was nice enough to man the camera while I positioned the big moose. So, without further ado - here is my journey horse!

Good thing he's cute XD

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Top 10 Exercises to Become a Better Equestrian

Straight from today's website and too good not to share:

Top 10 Exercises to Become A Better Equestrian

10. Drop a heavy steel object on your foot. Don't pick it up right away. Shout, "Get off, Stupid, GET OFF!"

9. Leap out of a moving vehicle and practice "relaxing into the fall." Roll lithely into a ball and spring to your feet.

8. Learn to grab your checkbook out of your purse and write out a $200 check without even looking down.

7. Jog long distances carrying a halter and a carrot. Go ahead and tell the neighbors what you are doing - they might as well know now.

6. Affix a pair of reins to a moving freight train and practice pulling to a halt. Smile as if you are having fun.

5. Hone your fibbing skills: "See hon, moving hay bales is FUN!" and "No, really, I'm glad your lucky performance and multimillion dollar horse won the blue ribbon. I am just thankful that my hard work and actual ability won me second place."

4. Practice dialing your chiropractor's number with both arms paralyzed to the shoulder and one foot anchoring the lead rope of a frisky horse.

3. Borrow the US Army's slogan: Be All That You Can Be -- bitten, thrown, kicked, bucked, slimed, trampled, frozen...

2. Lie face down in a puddle of mud in your most expensive riding clothes and repeat to yourself, "This is a learning experience, this is a learning experience, this is ..."


Zombie Chicken Award!

Coolness! I was bestowed with the Zombie Chicken Award by English Rider from her great blog, Where's My Effing Pony?. She gave me the award awhile ago and I hope she knows I'm not ungrateful as I'm only just picking it up now. Just too dang busy and can't keep it all together lately!

The Blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the Zombie Chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all...

And with that, I send the Zombie Chicken award to:

Tacky Tack of the Day
I Hate Your Horse
A Horse and a Half
Riding Aside

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

License to Chill or - I'd Lick This!

Ah, Daniel Craig, my ideal of hotness. I loved his portrayal of Bond in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Well, it now seems Del Monte has created a limited edition of Mr. Craig in an ice pop form just in time for those hot summer days! Unfortunately it's only available to the lucky lolly lovers in the UK so if any of you have had the chance to try these pops, please share if they were as yummy as they look!

For the full story - read here:
License to Chill