Sunday, December 1, 2013

The 5-Day Challenge, Day 2 with EXTRA FEATURES

Day 2 of the challenge I'm stealing from Lauren, and a lesson recap at the end!

6. Favorite equestrian book and movie
Oh jeez. When I was a kid I tore through the entire Saddle Club series multiple times (and had a total crush on Carol).

Now, I think my favorite horse books are nonfiction, like William Steinkrauss's Riding and Jumping and Vladimir Littauer's Commonsense Horsemanship.
My favorite horse movie is, without a doubt, National Velvet. It's got an unlikely horse winning the world's most impressive jumping competition and Elizabeth Taylor in drag, so what more could I possibly want?

7. Most common riding misconception

I'm not sure if this means other peoples' misconceptions or mine. I think non-riders think that riding is easy, and they are obviously wrong. A lot of my students have misconceptions that it doesn't matter if they can feel what lead they're on because they can always look, or that it's fine to post around all day on the wrong diagonal, or that posting harder makes the horse go faster. It's a work in progress. I'm not sure I can identify my own misconceptions because if I know they're wrong then it isn't a misconception, right? I mean, sometimes I think my shoulders are more back than they are and that can get me into trouble. My trainer would probably cheerfully supply you with a long list of my misconceptions, though.  

8. 2 riding strengths and 1 riding weakness

I have very good feel for the horse in general. I can tell when the horse is too tired, mentally or physically, to keep working productively. I also have no trouble telling where any given part of the horse's body is at the moment, including the hooves, which makes timing of the aids easier. My other strength is that I work my ass off, in and out of the saddle. My biggest weakness by far is that I get ahead of myself. My trainer recognizes this and works hard on it with me, getting me to stop jumping from A to D without passing through B and C. Yesterday, in fact, he repeatedly reminded me to take small bites and savor them, as it were, instead of throwing new stuff at Lex all at once and expecting her to keep up.

Sometimes we just gotta be happy to be standing still.

9. Least favorite thing about horses and/or riding

I'm with Lauren on this one - the money. It is INSANE. Insane how much this sport costs in this country. If I was going to commit myself to this as my profession for life, I'd move to England, no doubt.

10. What do you feed your horse?

Lex gets 1.5 quarts of Wellness Compete Safe twice a day.
In the morning she also gets two quarts of timothy and alfalfa cubes, soaked. She has free choice coastal hay from round bales (I HATE COASTAL AAAAAAUGH, and I also hate that we feed off round bales in the stalls instead of square bales). In the evening she has a Smartpak added to her grain which consists of Cosequin (the only feed-through joint supplement with research backing), Smart Dark and Handsome (that stuff WORKS), and Pro-Viable (an excellent probiotic that I'm not convinced she needs now, but was great when she was on stall rest and on antibiotics and stuff).

And now, the recap from the lesson I finally took on Lex with Chris.

Like I said before, Chris hadn't really seen Lex go since April, when we did our first lesson together. After that, she started acting weird (turns out it was the OCD lesion on her stifle) and also she almost destroyed her eye. I was extraordinarily depressed all summer, and even my vet wasn't sure she'd be a sport horse, but now we're all on the right track, it seems. Chris thinks the summer off did Lex good, and that she's mellower than she was then. She definitely looks A TON better.

As for the ride itself, it went quite well. The standing martingale proved useful, and one time she had a legit temper fit about it, but otherwise it did its job of restricting her ability to jam her ears up my nose. We got some nice trot work mixed in with a lot of rougher stuff, but once again she showed that she is willing to stretch down into contact and relax. We worked a little bit on doing the things she will need to accept in jumping that are different from flatwork: two point position, a release, and a small press forward with the legs (as most green horses do, when confronted with a crossrail and they're unsure whether to stop or keep going or what). I've never ridden her in two point, and a crest release is a tough thing on a little baby TB who wants to gogogo a lot of the time. So Chris had me break it down into bits. Release for a couple of steps, then reestablish the trot. Two point for a stride or two, then back to normal. Press forward a tad, ask her to come back. Of course, me being me, I started to do too much of it at once, and was duly chastised. But now we have homework to do, and that's excellent.

I told Chris that I felt how stiff she was in her back laterally and how it's tough to get her to bend, and he was like, "Eh, Rome wasn't built in a day. You have longitudinal control and that's a big improvement." That made me feel better, but I do have a dressage background, so I'm going to keep slowly chipping away at it.

A couple of takeaways:
1. Chris really likes Lex a lot. I think he thinks she'll be cool one day.
2. He wants me to feed her treats while I put the girth on to see if it gets her over her girthy behavior. I wish I had an extra hand to do this with.
3. We must never, ever rush her. I've had this as my philosophy all along, on the ground and under saddle. I never rush while grooming her or rubbing her down after the ride, never hurry to get warmed up, nothing. Everything around her is calm all the time. This means that now she will stand on the crossties all day if I want; she'll park herself in the middle of the ring and snooze while I sit on her and chat with someone, even if other horses are galloping around or jumping and knocking rails; she is getting much better about standing for the farrier.
4. Lex is a sensitive lady. This is not news. If she doesn't understand something or it's uncomfortable for her, she won't be all stoic and deal with it like some horses. She's going to have a reaction. It's my job to make things as easy and clear as I can while proceeding with her training, and not punishing her for not understanding.
5. There is every reason to feel good about where we are right now. Whew.

Soooooo anyway, patience is my friend at the moment. It's a good thing I enjoy this process, and I hope the mare is a good jumper when we get there.

Touch of Class is Lex's fairy godmare.


  1. There is nothing like a good lesson to keep you on track. :-) Glad Chris likes Lex.

    1. I know! I LOVE LESSONS. I would take one a day if I could afford it.

  2. Sounds like you are doing a fab job :)

    1. Thanks! Just doing my best, and I have quite a few limitations, but we'll get our act together eventually.

  3. Love saddle club, love National velvet!

    1. Dude, the Saddle Club books raised me. I re-read the series like three times at least. I kind of feel like reading them now and I'm 32.

  4. I love the point about knowing she's not going to take something well all the time and doing what you can to make it easiest. I think we could all stand to do a little more of that with/for our horses!

    1. Indeed! My trainer is a very smart man. Breaking down the things she'll need to be familiar with while jumping made a lot of sense to me.