Monday, January 30, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

I am very humbled and honored to receive my first blogging award!

Thank you very much to Karen of Karen's Dressage Blog for awarding the Liebster Blog Award to Eventing In Color - it warms my heart and is so encouraging!  Karen's blog is one of several that I follow quite regularly - her journey from endurance to dressage is very interesting, especially considering that her Arabian horses are along for the ride as well! I love to see horse breeds that are atypical for any given discipline - horses are amazing creatures who too often get pigeonholed into certain riding styles...but I digress. Karen's blog is not only witty and relatable, but she posts all the time so there's always something new to read, and she includes tons of pictures which is awesome. Plus she is in Bakersfield - just a hop, skip, and a jump away from me here in Ventura California. One of these days I hope to bump into her a show! Note to self: sign up for more dressage shows.

Official Rules of the Liebster Blog Award:

  1. Copy and paste the award on this blog.
  2. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award.
  3. Pick your 5 favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award. 
  4. Hope that the 5 blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to 5 more blogs.
Liebster means "dearest" in German. And presumably this blog award originated there. 

Here are my 5 favorite blogs with less than 200 followers (in no particular order):

1.  The Polka Dot Periodical is written by Nicku up in northern California about her young Appaloosa horse Pongo and their emerging career in eventing! Nicku is about my age, has a young horse, that horse happens to be a breed not often seen in eventing, and also has incredible coloring - dare I say this sounds familiar to my own situation? Nicku has a compassionate soul and I really enjoy reading her blog. Her insights into what works with Pongo reminds me to go back to the basics to find what works with Spirit.

2. The Grey Horse is a blog written from the perspective of William Pendleton, an American Saddlebred horse who lives in New York. He's got a great, feisty Saddlebred attitude. And his human, SmartAlex, gives him an amazing life filled with apples, pleasure riding, and photo shoots!

3. Sprinkler Bandits is an awesome blog and needs to be on everyone's follow list/RSS feed/Google reader/whatever. I couldn't find out how many followers it has - so it is conceivable that I am violating Rule #3. But oh well. It's one of my favorites so it made the list anyway. SprinklerBandit is witty and sassy and sarcastic, yet optimistic and a hard worker. She has awesome insight on shopping (her posts on how to shop are GOLD) and isn't afraid to talk about her fears and frustrations.

4. Wylie Eventing follows Leslie Wylie in Tennessee, who is an up-and-coming eventing trainer with her own gaggle of little girl riding students, multiple competition horses, and a really cute bunny. She is also a journalist so she definitely is a stylish writer.  Like myself, she is presently enjoying an engagement - balancing wedding planning with riding. Her horses are definitely sassy - which I find soooooo relatable. CoughSpiritCough.

5. Boots and Saddles is the blog of an endurance rider, Mel, who has an awesome sense of humor. She's also a vet student (read: *smart* and *overworked*). She and her horse Farley overcome life's many obstacles together, and relate the good, the bad, the ugly, and the funny along the way!

Again, my sincerest gratitude to Karen of Karen's Dressage Blog for following my blog and finding it worthwhile - the sentiments are completely mutual! You inspire me to be a better blogger.

Off to complete the second half of rule #3...and catch up on my blog reading! Happy Monday everyone!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Officially Unofficial Secretary

Allow me to present to you, the officially unofficial secretary for the distinguished Greater Los Angeles Paint Horse Club - *moi*. That's right, after about 2 years of attending monthly meetings (and the occasional social outing and group event), yours truly  now has the honor and privilege to write down the goings-ons at those meetings, type them up on a fancy template, and do other extremely important secretarial duties (which are unknown at present, but I'm sure they're important. And secretarial).

In point of fact, I am taking the liberty of adding the subtitle of "Social Media Director" as I have singlehandedly created a Facebook page for the club. Am I talented or what? Please feel free to visit and adore:

It turns out the in order to be the official secretary, I would have to be an American Paint Horse Association member since the GLAPHC is an APHA regional charter club. Well, I'm not a member, and I'm not going to become one. It costs money and doesn't have any benefits that I want. So I get to be unofficially the secretary. But it got group approval and is in the minutes. Which means its official. Oh yeah.

Club plug: If you've got a registered Paint horse and you're in the greater LA area, come join us! We are a fun eclectic group of paint owners and lovers (and a few spouses dragged along) who get together to eat, talk, plan events, etc. Message me for more info, or stop by our FB page! =D

Monday, January 23, 2012 least I had a nice trail ride

Unfortunately, Spirit and I did not get to participate in the Jil Walton clinic at the Galway Downs fundraiser in Temecula this weekend. There was a series of misfortunes with the other members of my barn who were going to go down, plus rain and some concern over the current virus going around southern California. I'll be honest - I was disappointed. I was ready to get out there on the cross country course and see how far we've come since last October. But my wonderful trainer has come up with a new game plan: we'll be XC schooling at The Meadows in two weeks.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, the rings were flooded Saturday. By Sunday they had improved, but not enough for a lesson. So we went out on a lovely trail ride. Since its raining again right now, its possible that this week's evening lesson may not be able to happen. So, I'll be continuing with my book and hopefully have lots to work on as soon as the rings permit.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Riding Studies

This coming Sunday, I have the incredible privilege to be heading down to Temecula to participate in the Galway Downs Fundraiser Clinic that helps support that wonderful venue. I have signed up to ride with Jil Walton, an Olympic rider who is known for starting young horses and taking them all the way up through the levels. She operates JARBA Farms in Montana, but then moves her training practice to Galway Downs for a few months during the winter. Laurie Canty Training Stables has clinic'd with Jil at this fundraiser for several years, and I am very pleased that I can join the group this year. Spirit and I are ready to get back out on the cross country course!

In the meantime, I have been reading Riding Logic by Wilhelm Museler. This is one of several books from the Laurie's collection that is now in my apartment, collecting less dust than it would at the barn.

Here's the link to Amazon if you want more info on it. It was translated into English from German, and while some of the language is formal and a bit old-fashioned (it was originally written in the 1930s!), I find that I actually like that a lot. Somehow that style reminds me that riding is an art form, elevated from merely a hobby.

Partway through the first chapter, I realized I needed to stop reading. I needed to ride my horse, implementing the book's ideas, before I could go on reading and collecting more ideas. Specifically, I knew that I needed to ride without stirrups. Balance from the seat, without the legs, is something Wilhelm Museler puts lots of emphasis on. And interestingly enough, he is reluctant to give any specific description (or diagrams) on where your body positioning should be; he is adamant that proper rider positioning is based on the feel of the horse, especially as developed when riding without stirrups.

Now, I do quite a bit of bareback riding. But riding in a saddle without stirrups is a whole different beast to me - and not one that I had ever been particularly interested in taming. The idea of stirrup-less riding was giving me a little twinge of anxiety/fear in my gut - the tell-tale sign that I needed to take action and conquer this twinge before it can grow! Reading this book made me realize that I need to ensure I am riding correctly, from the seat rather than from my legs.

So last night I did several minutes of work at the trot and canter where I dropped my stirrups. Both directions of course. Spirit was a little confused, and really thought that we should bypass the trot and go straight to canter (that's what I get for always sitting the trot for a beat or two before asking for the upward transition into canter). Posting at the trot without stirrups was challenging for me - I blame my saddleseat past where you posted from the knees. I literally couldn't post from the knees in my dressage saddle due to the ginormous knee rolls; rather, I guess I posted from my upper calves and upper-upper thighs. I gave up on that pretty quick and opted for seated trot, which I need to work on anyway. Spirit was good, and had a lovely slow canter. She knew something was up with my position.

Now, this was NOT mentioned by the book at all, but I have made it a habit that when I drop my stirrups and leave them hanging down next to my feet, I tap them with my ankle so that they bounce against the horse's body. I've done this with Spirit since I first started riding her, in order to de-sensitize her to that sensation should I ever drop a stirrup in a show or competition setting. At this point all she does when I do that is flick an ear. Such a good girl.

I've decided to make sure I add some stirrup-less work more frequently to my rides. I still have more hours of stirrupless riding to put under my belt before I will have reached Mr. Museler's reccomendation, but already I'm feeling more confident about my position.

I've got a lesson with Laurie tonight, and I am incredibly excited for it!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Weekend at Windwalker

This past weekend Spirit and Storm got to do a horsie sleepover at Windwalker Ranch, where Laurie currently operates her training stables. We had a fantastic jumping lesson on Saturday followed by a trail ride, and a jumping play day on Sunday.

This first picture is a demonstration of my unique way of mounting. I do NOT put a foot in the stirrup first (unless I'm mounting from the ground) - I hop on without in case of situations like the below. Spirit was excited and did not want to stand still. Had I had a food in the stirrup, that could have ended badly. We took a few moments to work on patience and obedience, then we were on our way to jumping fun.

Overall Spirit was really fantastic for our jumping lesson on Saturday. She only looked at one jump funny but we got no stops.

Partway during the lesson she starting doing this funny thing by sticking her nose to the right, so I had to hold a lot on the left. It turned out that by not allowing bend in the corner before the jumping line did the trick. Gotta put that in the pocket for future reference!

Spirit got a deluxe stall for the night inside the barn.

Its nice to have your horse perk her ears when she hears you pull up in the morning. :)

State of the Spirit Address

January is a great time for reflection and positive forward thinking. So, I've decided it's time to spend a few moments defining exactly where we are now so we can know where to go from here.

We are competing Beginner Novice, and schooling Novice, taking the occasional Training level height jump as well. In practice at home she is a dream - light and airy and uphill towards the jump, occasionally getting heavy on the landing but lightening right up when I sit up and ask her to. She simply loves to jump so she tries to be on her best behavior whenever she knows that's what we're doing. She jumps straight most of the time. Her form is fantastic, especially when we raise the height of the jumps. She likes jumping the bigger jumps and using herself more - cracking her back and getting those knees way up. However, she's also happy to careen around like a motorcycle if I let her - she needs me to remind her to relax and wait. As to my position, I get overly defensive with my leg position if she is bright, and I need to still work on picking up my upper body faster after landing jumps. I'm comfortable using leg now much more than before, and I've picked up the magical art of bridging reins and wither pressure. Out at shows/schoolings, however, we are still battling our stopping issue at new jumps. When she halts and dances towards one side, I need to focus on turning her the opposite way she dances. It's getting better, but we're not "fixed" quite yet. Straightness is also more of an issue at new jumps. 

We are competing at Training Level, and schooling a few more advanced moves but not quite everything required at First Level. Half-pass and shoulder-ins, stretchy trot, and extending and collecting the gaits is the "extra" stuff we work on. We have finally established a nice rhythm together at the trot, and a healthy impulsive walk (as opposed to the puttering around kind). The canter we are still figuring out. We get it together for short bits at a time. She is hollow on the right side (does not want to take my right rein down, nor move off my left leg - she has a hard time crossing her left legs over her right ones). We're improving, but still needs lots more work. Spirit does not have the same passion for dressage that she has for jumping, but by and large she is very willing and eager to please, so she tries to figure it out. 

The Year Ahead
I'm getting married in March and honeymooning for a full 2 weeks, so competing beforehand is probably not a reality. After I come back, I'm severely limited in the amount of time off of work I will be able to get, so only weekend shows for me. Given those limitations, I know I wont be showing as much as I would like. However, I still think that 2012 is the year for Spirit and I to get through a full BN event, with a score. No eliminations on any round.  I want us to conquer the stopping issue, and I want Spirit to willingly accept the right rein. I want to improve my position, and I also would like to start riding more horses to make me a better rider. With a great horse, supportive family and friends, and an amazing trainer I am happy with where we are and with where we are going!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Green Face

I know I may be biased, but I truly believe that Spirit is a very attractive horse. She's got incredible coloring, loving eyes, and a powerful yet feminine build.

But wait...there's something not quite right. Something not so attractive...

Don't let her distract you with those large loving eyes... take a look at the side of her face.

Green. Gross. Face. Of greenness. Its been building up for quite some time. Since I normally ride her in the evenings, I just brush her face. It helps a tad, but it's still green. On the weekends I have to scrub it with a soapy towel (which she hates, of course). It used to be just a small little green patch, under the halter noseband and not very noticeable. But it started to widen and expand. Now it is crawling up her face and around her entire muzzle. I think this weekend its going to be extra scrubby time.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cheers to 2012

2011 ended on a relaxed note for Spirit and I. We have been enjoying the holidays and competition off-season. She got turned out more and ridden less. I did more cuddling and less canoodling. My trainer went off on a much deserved vacation. Life has been relaxed.

But its back to business now. 2012 is going to bring my first fully successful, completed horse trails competition.

Cheers to us and to all eventers ready to get back into the swing of things now that the holidays are over and springtime is coming up!