Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Shining at Lengthenings, Meltdowns on Leg Yields

For two weeks, my riding has been slowed considerably while I rehab a tendon...my own damn tendon. You see, after a week of riding the sitting trot and gearing up my running mileage, I managed to strain the hip flexor on my left side. It's excruciating, persistent and incredibly frustrating. I'm the queen of powering through injuries, so a week+ of mandated rest/slow down time feels like an eternity.

Don't feel too sorry for me, though. I've been perfecting my pizza dough, keeping my house clean, and eating way too much delicious food for my own good. Plus? I've been experimenting with interesting ways to walk my dogs and try to keep Guinness in some sort of work.
Yes, that's my notorious run-away dog clipped to my saddle D-ring by way of an extendable leash. While I don't recommend anyone else try this, Guinness is really well behaved with stupid dogs and my little dog (despite her escape artist tendencies) is trained to absolutely (no excuses) stay to the left of me. I bike with Lyra regularly, and run with her daily, this is drilled into her brain. Do not attempt unless you are confident in your training, even then be aware of all the things that could go horribly wrong. (This has been a "The More You Know" moment.) My other dog was busy being his awesome off-leash safe, avoiding cars like a badass self. 
Besides stupid tricks with animals, I have been able to do a little bit of light schooling. I even managed to catch some of it on video. I'm really excited to share these videos with you as they show glimpses of the work I've been getting (and some of the work I'd like to get less of ...).

Let's start with the end of my ride last Saturday. Here Guinness and I are working on trot lengthenings. They are really starting to come around, but Guinness and I are having communication problems and sometimes it takes awhile to get to the really good work. My sore hips blocking the movement isn't really helping. Despite this, I think we ended up with some solid work. I'd be happy to get that last lengthen in a test! Of special note to me is the consistency I have in the bridle. Our work on relaxation has clearly been paying off. Anyway, enough blabbering ... check out the video!
Of course, our schooling session wasn't all this mannerly! I managed to catch one of Pig's famous tantrums on video. Pig was taking extreme offense to being asked to move laterally to the right with his haunches. This response is pretty typically of Pig. I'll get this when he doesn't really want to play. It's not impossible to deal with, but can be frustrating. The only way to get him to go forward is to completely release all aids and walk it off for a bit. Here you go!
Ever had a ride with meltdowns and fancy moments all mixed together? It's pretty typical for us ... 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Liebster Award

A big thanks to Karen over at Bakersfield Dressage for nominating me for the Liebster Award. I've been enjoying reading the Liebster posts that have been making the rounds, and I'm happy to include my own here.

For those of you new to the award: The Liebster Blog Award recognizes the small fish in the blogging pond (bloggers with less than 200 followers). My background in German tells me that "lieben" is the verb for "love" and I know that "liebster" is a way of saying "darling," or "beloved." As such, this is not so much an "award" as a recognition by fellow bloggers in your community. I think that's pretty fun, especially in the close-knit world of equine bloggers! 

Here are the rules: 
* Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog.
* List 11 random facts about yourself.
* Answer the 11 questions given to you.
* Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
* Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or fewer followers to nominate and include links to their blogs.
* Go to each blogger's page and let them know you have nominated them. 
I'm going to do this a little differently, since most bloggers I know have pretty much been nominated. Instead, I'm going to link to some of my favorite blogs to read or some of my good friends with equine blogs to spread the love. But, they don't have to fill out the whole award thing again. 

My 11 Random Facts:
1. I have a degree in theatre and graphic design, which I used to get a job doing marketing for a college entertainment venue. It's a blast, but often interferes with my schedule in pretty unique ways. However, I do get to take pretty neat event photos (great practice for low-light/high speed situations...), keep my graphic design skills honed, and get my friends free tickets. Pretty worth it. 
Rascal Flatts 2013
2. I don't really have much of a sweet tooth. In fact, I almost never crave candy or chocolate. My one major weakness though? Licorice. Black or red, I don't care. I'm only insistent that it be real Australian-style, none of that Red Vines stuff will do. It's a serious addiction. I'm usually toting a couple of bags to every horse show, just to get me through.

3. I started riding at the age of six, at an eventing barn. We could never afford to own or lease horses, so instead I would barter in depth grooming and stall cleaning for more lessons or half-leases. I was always the kid put on the tough horses because I wasn't afraid of their crazy antics, and refused to fall off or be afraid if I did.

4. I've had two concussions, both fair severe and related to horse accidents. I sustained my first when I was kicked in the clavicle while grazing my horse after a lesson. I was twelve. The second was a couple of years later, and I was thrown from a pretty bratty gelding. The second concussion was really bad, and I actually lost about three days of memory. I was wearing a helmet for this injury, and actually didn't land on my head. Instead, we think the whiplash of the fall is what did the most damage. These head injuries are why I'm really insistent on wearing a helmet while riding or doing anything dangerous around horses (like loading an unpredictable horse!). I can't imagine what that second injury might have been if I hadn't been wearing my helmet!

5. When I was doing eventing growing up, I was terrified of any cross country jump bigger than a log. After my second concussion (which wasn't related to jumping at all), I actually gave up jumping for good. I didn't jump again until IHSA in college. It was then that I realized I wasn't afraid of jumping any more. In fact, even though Guinness and I are focused on dressage, I'd like to get back into eventing some day and do something bigger than beginner novice!

6. During college, I helped a friend train one of her family's horses. The mare's name was Sydney and she was a massive Belgian draft mare with the athelectism of a thoroughbred. This mare was known as a local escape artist, capable of easily jumping a 5ft property fence to flirt with the Arabians next door. She and I jumped under saddle too, including a massive ditch. While a complete brat, I loved her and wish we'd been able to keep her! 
Sydney-Mare!
7. One of my major life goals is to graduate with a Ph.D. in Art History. I'm a helpless history nerd (especially Early Greek - late Renaissance Mediterranean and European), and want to put my research skills back to use!

8. I am obsessed with architecture and home design. On slow days at work, I've been known to stream episodes of This Old House in the background while cleaning out my emails, and I'm completely addicted to Apartment Therapy

9. I'm a pretty OCD person, and I have perfectionist tendencies. This causes no end of frustration for my bosses, who are constantly telling me my designs are fine. Meanwhile, I'm usually stressing out over a single pixel that's just slightly out of order. I often think that perfectionists find a lot of enjoyment in dressage, and I'd be interested in seeing that others find that true.

10. I used to be a fairly avid runner, averaging 25-30 miles a week. Recently, I've started on the path back to that by training for a local half marathon. I'd forgotten how much I missed having running goals, and how much my running goals help keep me on track with all my other goals. Funny how that works!

11. I have two large hairy rescue dogs, one purebred Siberian husky and one sibe-shepherd cross. While they are a handful, I have a big problem passing up any German shepherd or Siberian I see posted at an animal shelter. So far, the sheer amount of hair I vacuum up weekly reminds me that I better keep my dog quota to two hairy creatures!

11 Questions Answered:
Q: Where did you meet the love of your life?
 A: I met the love of my life on Craigslist. Wait? No? You didn't mean my horse? Oh! I met my husband in college. I was stage managing A Midsummer Night's Dream at my tiny women's college, and we were desperate for men to audition for the play. Christian showed up to audition, and the rest, they say, is history.

Q: You've just won the lottery. Would you quit your job?
A: I would probably quit my job, but just so that I could use some of the money to go back to school for my art history degree. I like work!

Q: Black tack, or brown?
A: I love brown tack, and think there's nothing prettier than a lovely chestnut brown saddle on a liver chestnut horse, and I drool over some saddles at big shows. However, I own a bright chestnut and black tack looks really classy on him!

Q: What is one place you wouldn't want  to visit?
A: I absolutely have no desire to travel anywhere really hot. Florida, South America, and anywhere near the equator just do not make my list. 

Q: What's your favorite horse book?
A: Oh, this is a tough one. I'd have to say my favorite book isn't a single story, instead it's a collection of horse stories and poems given to me one year. The poems are haunting, and the stories are from all different eras. It's certainly not a children's book, and one I still treasure to this day.

Q: How many riding disciplines have you tried?
A: I've done eventing, hunt seat equitation, and dressage. The only other discipline I'd like to try is endurance!

Q: Is there something you won't do with your horse?
A: I'm lucky. My horse is a model citizen, and we know each other like an old married couple. There isn't much I wouldn't do with him. The only things I absolutely wouldn't attempt with him is jumping at a high level, due to his arthritis. That's just not fair for him.

Q: Favorite barn snack?
A: Licorice! Seriously, though. I've been known to bring a whole bag of licorice and a thermos of tea to sit and audit clinics. Otherwise? String cheese and an apple to split with Pig.

Q: Do you have a guilty pleasure?
A: Oooh boy. My guilty pleasure? Watching the Biggest Loser and eating ice cream/popcorn/mac and cheese. It's delightful ... and makes me a terrible person, I'm sure.

Q: What's your favorite brand of potato chips?
A: Huh, I don't actually eat potato chips enough to answer this. I can tell you that my favorite brand of black licorice is Rj's, and my favorite strawberry licorice is Darell Lee. Does that count? If not, whatever brand of chip makes a salt and vinegar chip.

Q: Do you prefer "fancy" breeches, or just plain jane?
A: I know I've mentioned my frugality before, so I'm sure it won't come as a surprise that I'm a connoisseur of the clearance section breech. I'm a fan of a full seat breech, but that's about where my preference ends. If it's cheap and in my size, I'll probably buy it!

Now, some of my favorite blogs!
1. Jen of Cobjockey
4. Katherine of Greybrook Eventing
5. Kelly of Dressage Pony
7. Andrea of Project Runaway (formerly Eventing-a-Gogo)
10. Finally, Victoria who is completely hilariously Restoring her 1890's Victorian, no horses involved.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Unemployment's a B*tch (for horses, too!)

This isn't a typical post for me, instead this is a bit of an advertisement post. I know I have a handful of readers who are involved in eventing in the Indiana area, and I'm calling out to you.

My dear friend is going through a bit of a transition period (new job, new home, new town, no money -- you know). Unfortunately, the free-lease situation she placed her horse in for the summer has fallen through, and she's looking for someone else who is looking for an experienced jumper.

So, anyone out there looking for a confident and experienced jumper/eventer who LOVES his job? He's perfect for someone looking to develop confidence over larger fences, or make a move up to novice or training level eventing.

Meet Teagan's Glass: You guys might recognize Teagan as Guinness' favorite hacking buddy. He's been pictured on this blog before, and Cheerful Chestnut Horse and Gallant Gray have spent many, many miles trotting and galloping happily along together. Right now, Teagan is discovering that unemployment papers are difficult to fill out when you have hooves. He'd be much happier leaping large jumps and galloping through water.
Jumper show from 2012
Teagan is a 15 yr old gray Thoroughbred gelding. He's been evented (find record here), and also some jumper shows with success. He's rather opinionated in dressage, so I wouldn't recommend him as a straight dressage horse (I'm actually laughing aloud as I imagine this fate for him...).

My name is Teagan. I am amazing.  
He's kind of a big deal.
At a USEA show
Teagan eats water jumps for breakfast!
"I'm Teagan. My favorite part of dressage is when it's over!"

If you're interested in Teagan, please email Hannah at hannahreeley@gmail.com or comment below. I'll be happy to answer any questions!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Challenges of Being Upright and Balanced

Last Sunday I dragged myself out to the barn to ride. Despite being exhausted from three full days of volunteering at IEA (fun moments included writing so many comments on dressage tests that I lost feeling in my fingers, getting trapped in the judges box while rising flood waters attempted to drown the dressage competitors, and attempting to collect the "Muddiest Golf Cart" award), I was determined to have a good, but short, ride. Honestly, I was pretty surprised at how good the ride ended up being. And, I had another breakthrough.

You know once you focus intently on one thing, you seem to forget all about/lose control of something else? Well, that's been happening with me in regards to contact. I've been obsessing about my upper body, and the way I've been interacting with the reins. That's fine, as it was pretty needed focus. But, I'm better there now, and my lower body has been suffering from the lack of attention.

Guinness started letting me know that maybe I should focus on my seat and legs when he refused to go forward on Sunday. He wasn't bad, or rearing or anything, just insistent that I wasn't doing it right. So, I started looking for the reasons. Hmm...
1: Lack of a driving aid from the seat
2: No support from my legs, causing me to pinch at my knee and pivot forward, destroying any drive I actually had from the seat.
3. Constantly shifting my weight with the bend, forgetting that sometimes there's this magic thing called "straight"

Whoops! So, now I'm in seat bootcamp. This has meant lots of sitting trot, as I can feel and control my seat more. I tend to perch in the posting trot (damn you IHSA hunters!), and it's nearly impossible for me to fix. Sitting makes it much easier to keep my legs on. I have to sit at the upper levels anyway, might as well get better now. Guinness has offered greater levels of relaxation, bend and bouncy neckism, and I'm pleased to say that my contact has remained steady while I do this - so far.
Check out our new (to us) bridle! No more too-big-for-Pig burgundy/black! Please ignore Captain SnarkyPants and his pained expression. Working wasn't his thing that day...

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Little Improvements

Here's a quick and dirty post (keep your minds out of the gutter!) to keep you entertained while I'm away!

The last few rides I've had have all been focused on making little improvements. More straightness here, longer legs, steadier hands ... etc. I know better contact is something everyone is always working on, so I thought I'd share my thoughts over the last week!

A Better Seat = Better Hands, or The Draped Leg
In my quest to improve my seat, I've been working on getting my legs to drape quietly down my horse's sides, with gentle pressure at the calf, and toes forward. This is pretty tough for me, as I'm naturally inclined to be a toe-out rider with a deep heel (should'a done jumpers). When forcing my heel down, I tend to a chair seat. As a result, I swing my legs unnaturally backwards when pushing my horse forward. Can you say "awkward?"
What have I been doing to help with this? Well, Nancy gave me a great tip: "Think about weighting the big toe." This pulls your toe forward and rotates the leg straight under you with the calf on. It's brilliant. It's amazing. It only works when your stirrup isn't jammed on your foot like you're trying to shove your whole leg through.
Try it.

Contact Comes Through an Elastic Elbow, or Stop Riding Like a Chicken
I ride like a chicken. My elbows shoot away from my body and bob up an down like I'm reenacting this famous scene from Arrested Development:
 Or maybe doing my own interpretive chicken dance. Let's just say my German heritage is coming out, in a very flapping way. Of course, I don't have feathers, and this isn't good. Flapping elbows tends to exaggerate my imbalances and Guinness (surprise!) hates this.
What have I been working on? Keeping my damn elbows in, obviously! One tip I read recently suggested trying to hold gloves between your elbows and your hips. The suggester (is that a word?) mentioned tying the gloves to your waist with twine, as you will lose them. Probably a lot. I haven't done this humiliating thing yet (Be surprised. I am the girl whose instructor tied her feet together under her pony so she'd stop winging her legs out. Yep. Totally safe, that one.), but I might. So far, just imagining this has been working solidly for me.

That's all, folks! Just two things. Get out there! Report back to me! Do these work for you? Are you too awesome to use my tips? Are you currently at IEA complaining about my handwriting?

(One last note: Read this article. It's an amazing write up on balancing real life with horses, whether a pro or an amateur. Really a must read.)