Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lesson #15: Bad Habits

This was my make-up lessons and guess what? The weather sucked even MORE than last Friday. So, while the drive already put a good deal of stress on me, when I arrived, they gave the horse I was intending to ride, away! I had looked forward to riding this boy for the last few days. So, to make the best of a crappy situation, I checked out another horse that I was inquiring to ride: Atlas. He's another fuzzy silver pony who's half brother to Indy.

He's not a big boy but I already sensed some sort of tension between he and I. I tacked him up quickly and we skated (literally :( ) to the lesson arena. Sheri isn't teaching tonight and we are introduced to a new instructor, Kim.

Kim has a different style than Sheri does and I feel that she's more technical than Sheri is right from the get-go. Likely a good match for adult students. At the mounting block, I try to mount Atlas and he starts wandering away from me! It's pointed out to me that I need to shorten his reins so that he is told not to move anywhere. To be honest, I haven't had that issue with any of the other horses I've ridden... but safe horsemanship is key.

We work on posting trot and some seated trot. Atlas is pretty slow and it takes a lot to get him to move. I get the impression that he doesn't really enjoy moving as much as his brother Indy does. There is ground pole work and figure 8's where we need to remember to change our diagonals at the center. Balance is also worked on through 2-point during trotting. I still have to work on my balance as well as the position of my reins. Kim points out that I give too much rein to Atlas and I have to pull too far to get him to do things. It seems that the intention is to appear to actually move as little as possible relative to what people can see. I will be working on keeping my hands as quiet as possible next lesson.

I didn't realize that I had so many "bad habits" as it were until Kim pointed them out to me. Things that I should be focusing on, in order to look put together and to ride properly. With that, my goals for the next few lessons is to keep in mind:
- quiet hands
- heels down--long legs
- controlled reins.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cookie Monster

My mom has been on this save-money-by-going-by-the-electricity-peaks-and-lows. That means she won't cook until at least 7pm on a week night and I won't eat until 7:30pm, at least. I get home at 6pm and am usually famished already. And, during times of weakness (like today), my alter ego took advantage of the situation...


My favourite Mr. Christie cookies are, by a mile, the Chips Ahoy Rainbow. And now I've eaten 1/3 of the bag. I'm afraid to look at the nutritional value chart on the side of the bag to see if I should even be eating dinner tonight...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Desitnation Next: Iceland

If you've been following my blog recently, you'll notice that since I've started riding, I've been journalling each lesson and anything else that relates to riding. That's because I'm hooked and it's one of the things that help get me through the oh-so-exciting corporate world that I otherwise reside. One of the other things that keeps me going is traveling. That's probably not a surprise as many people list traveling as one of their "hobbies". Life is too short to return to the same places that we've already been, or not to explore the rest of the world. In high school, in a class I can't recollect, the teacher polled the class to see who's been where. More than 75% of the class had only been to one or two other countries in their entire lives; and many of those students have never traveled to other areas of Canada, despite being Canadians??!!

That memory has never left me and I will continue to be astonished by the number of people who do not seem remotely interested in visiting the rest of our world; or even their own countries of residence. All-inclusive vacations and Las Vegas or New York seem the norm for young people in their 20s and even 30s. Even the people at work always give me surprised looks when I tell them about my travels to Calgary or Peru. Some understand why I went to Peru but couldn't fathom why anyone would visit Calgary/Banff.

Since Peru was particularly heavy on the wallet, I didn't plan on going anywhere that might be as costly. Afterall, traveling abroad usually costs a considerable amount for a corporate "bottom-of-the-totem-pole" type so I was prepared to head to Las Vegas with ADW when there was a good deal. But, an amazing deal came through a few weeks ago, on TravelZoo and we couldn't pass it up.

In March, we're going to Iceland for a week at the cost of a "really good all-inclusive". The plans include whale watching, glacier walking, visiting the original Gysir, a full day riding Icelandic ponies and some down time at the Blue Lagoon. To get prepared for what to expect, my brother sent us a video featuring Iceland (and the Faroe Islands) with the two guys of Departures, a traveling reality show. If you've got the time and the patience to watch two douchey guys have possibly the best job in the world (jealous yet? I am), then check out their trip to Iceland:

Having endured the video above, I am pretty pumped for Iceland and am going to be working on getting suited up appropriately since the weather will likely be the most challenging thing for us to endure.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


I've learned long ago that if there is anything you do in your life, you should have purpose to do it; otherwise it's just a waste of your time. So, I've been pondering my riding "goals" for some while. I mean let's face it, learning to ride to swing a sword or shoot an arrow can only really be handy in a few situations: zombie apocalypse or medieval battle field/tournament. Over the holidays, I was watching a lot of Heartland and the first episode of season 4 (Homecoming) inspired me to do more research about the various equine sporting events in existence.

I was 8 or so, when my parents sent me to riding camp at Claireville Ranch over a few summers. I learned to ride western on an Appaloosa horse. I rode independently at the lope, trot and turning, stopping etc. Since it was a day camp, we also had regular trail rides that were typical trail rides where no rider experience is necessary and the horses are happy to follow their buddy in front. It's like getting into a car with a mind of its own; and you'll probably spend more time trying to stop him from eating, than going anywhere. I don't have any appetite for this type of riding anymore.

While the Heartland episode featured Cross Country (which I also find incredibly exhilerating), I stumbled across another equine sport: endurance riding; and came to realize that it tests rider and horse teams on many levels. You must know how to ride at varying gaits for extended periods of time while evaluating terrain and your horse's endurance levels throughout the course, to be successful. Endurance riding is a timed event where the primary measurement for success is a fast time; it's like a running marathon on horse-back.

The history surrounding the development of endurance riding as a competitive sport started in the United States based on European cavalry and breeding program tests. It became a formal sport in 1955, organized by Wendel Robie and a group of equestrian riders who rode from the Lake Tahoe area across the Sierra Nevada Range, to Auburn in less than 24 hours; following the historic Western States Trail. This is currently known as the Tevis Cup and is the most difficult of any 100-mile ride in the world because of the terrain, altitude and temperatures.

I found this video online which gives you an idea about what this mighty sport would entail for its athletes: both rider and horse.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Goal: Classical Seat

I watch this video again and again, to remind myself about the classical seat I should be aiming for, when I ride. It's like studying before the actual test!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Something Old Becomes New, Again

Since moving my lessons to Fridays, I feel like there's a big void during my week. It makes the work week seem even longer than it usually is. When I had lessons on Wednesdays, it was getting me through the week since I already look forward to Fridays (who doesn't?).

While I was browsing through my Netflix library, I saw the Star Trek: the Next Generation series. In May, I went to Calgary to check out the 25th anniversary for TNG. I've watched episodes upon episodes of TNG but never in order and always through the eyes of a youth. I felt compelled to check out the first episode and see why trekkies are so taken with TNG. Not to say I don't love watching TNG, but I've never held the same type of appreciation for the series as AW and GM.

Everyone knows that Sir Patrick is a stage actor first; and that stage actors are usually particularly intensely skilled actors. And it makes total sense since they only ever get 1 take at their lines. As I was watching the first episode where Sir Patrick embodies Captain Jean-Luc Picard, I understood how fans become so enamored with his acting prowess. He's powerful, inspiring and convincing when he speaks. It's impressive because he morphs into the character in every aspect. I think that I gained this appreciation after seeing him on stage with his comrades of TNG at Calgary. His real life persona appears very relaxed, easy going and full of life. Not that Jean-Luc was by any means not passionate about life, but the fact that Jean-Luc is more militant, commanding and formal because of his character's station, I wouldn't have believed that his real life persona is not similar to his on-screen character was a real wake-up.

Just watch some highlights from episode 1 (Encounter at Farpoint):


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lesson #14: Back to Basics

This lesson had a variety of exercises that we worked on.

As usual, we start with a posting trot to get warmed up but both NR and I moved into the seated trot quickly. This is still not something I enjoy doing. Aspen seemed to be of a normal energy level. I didn't have to try too many times to get him going and he was happy to get moving quickly: this is good news.

I haven't done any stretches this week and I feel it when I try to lengthen my legs down--my heels just aren't going down like they were, last week, and the "stance" in the stirrups didn't feel comfortable either. This affected my balance and I found it more difficult to do what I needed to. We continue to work on alternating posting trot with seated trot and I try to remember to engage my abs, relax my hips, check my diagonals and stretch my heels down; as if wrapping my legs around Aspens belly. Thankfully, Aspen's belly isn't like Rock's.

Sheri has NR and I work on the Cavaletti jump again with the 2-point as well as our canter. This time, my canter isn't as fluid. Aspen was far more responsive and didn't require Sheri to stand in the corner with a lunging crop. I'm starting to give the aids correctly and he's responding in turn. It's satisfying when it comes together. But, there are moments where I'm just not getting it and all that's happening is a really fast trot with me bouncing around a lot.

I haven't even started to work on counting Aspen's pace, leading up to the Cavaletti and over the ground poles. That's going to help with change-ups and getting the most from aids. But for now, I'm going to continue to work on the basics.

My goals for this week include:
- daily stretching
- sleeping appropriately
- reviewing the classical seat position

I have to perfect these fundamental things so that as things come together, I will be assured that I don't need to fuss about fundamental things which should be second nature.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Lesson #13: Beyond Words

Friday seemed like it would never come.

AW joined me for his first lesson. We left from downtown and who knew that it would add another 30 minutes to my normal commute :( The normal rush hour really gets in the way! The weather was by no means a help to the situation since it was so foggy that you couldn't see 10 feet in front of you. The drive was rather stressful since I thought we were going to be late.

But, we made it in, just in time. I'm riding Aspen today and for some reason, he's not where he usually is. I wasn't even sure where he was until the stable girl tells me that he's not being ridden and that someone turned him out.... in the dark! Ugh. Thankfully I didn't have to go look for him but would you believe that they found him in his old stall? So now I have less time to tack than usual...

AW is riding Bud today and Bud's already in the arena. We start with the walk and then move into the posting trot once some of the preliminary items (like safety etc) were reviewed with AW. Today is going to be a struggle with my legs today. I notice I'm just not able to get my heels down where they need to be. We do alternating of seated and posting trot. I am just miserable at the seated trot! There really is no saving me with this one... I really am just not enjoying myself up there.

We work on some pole work and Sheri puts the poles out in a varied spacing and we're asked to trot over them while posting. The thing about this exercise is that the posting needs to be higher than normal. It's an interesting exercise to try since it forces you out of the rhythm I was doing at the normal trot since Aspen is forced to extend or shorten his strides. We continue on this exercise several more laps while Kent and AW work on their posting trot etc. Now, Sheri moves the Cavaletti jump to the end of the poles and we're now working on 2-point position over the jump.

It's as if I'm starting over again with the whole anticipation fear thing. I look down at the jump when Aspen and I approach and I over-think it and it's as if I'm not sure what to do next so I either end up delaying the 2-point or I don't quite get into it. It doesn't matter how many times we go over it... but nothing is coming together right tonight.

It isn't one of my better nights but that's ok. I know what I have to work on and it's mostly my mind-set with things. I need to forget what's going to happen and just do things. Like Sheri keeps telling us; horse back riding isn't something someone can tell you how to do. Someone like Sheri might be able to give us the technical breakdown but to actually do it? Well that's up to feel and our bodies being able to pick up on what it is that we need to do. It goes beyond comprehending the words.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pre-lesson Anxiety

I haven't blogged this week at all. Partially because I've been busy but mostly because I've been completely and totally consumed with pre-lesson anxiety.

My lessons have moved from Wednesday to Friday and AW is joining me tomorrow!!! This is going to be fantastic because now any trips we go on, we can actually do equine related activities! WOOPIE! Can you tell I'm grinning ear to ear all week long?

I'm determined to be the best darned classmate ever and get him caught up as soon as possible. We've gone over the process of pre-tack and tacking to some of the basic seat and balance positions he needs to keep mindful of. I've even scheduled in daily stretching sessions so that he's nice and limber in time for tomorrow. But, with all this good news brimming out of every orifice, this first full week has been incredibly taxing on the psyche. Literally, every waking second I'm just excited anticipating Friday!

To get ready, we've gotten AW suited up (yay for Greenhawk January sale!) and we've bought a 3 lbs of carrots.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lesson #12: everything's coming up Milhouse!

It's the first week back from the holidays and I expected most people to be back to the things they normally do too but I got lucky again and I had the opportunity to have another private lesson. What luck!

In the previous post, I mentioned that I set goals for this lesson: 1. to initiate canter; 2. canter without holding onto the saddle; 3. ensure I'm not balancing through the reins/my hands. Documenting my lessons has been helpful to pinpoint things that went well and things that I need to work on. I'm determined to continually move forward so I can improve. I only ride 1 hour a week right now so it's important that I put in the appropriate effort. But "shhh!!" don't tell my parents! They would wish me to have put in this much effort into my school work.

When I go and find Aspen from his stall, he's come forth and sticks his head over the stall door. To my surprise, his neighbour Morty sticks his head up over too and they start a silent disagreement. Ears go back and head throwing and nodding ensue. Good thing I didn't unlatch anything yet. I break up their little disagreement and latch Aspen to get tacked up. Things go well and I'm ready to get going.

When we get into the ring, Sheri wastes no time and gets me into the posting trot. Immediately, I remind myself to check the posting diagonal and then look up at the next letter, heels down with long legs, and to maintain balance in my stirrups--not my hands. Suddenly, things come together and I feel exactly what needs to be felt during a proper posting trot. We move onto alternating posting and seated trot around the ring and I learn to change directions properly by turning inside and continuing on a diagonal direction into the corner and turn the opposite way I would have turned:
(courtesy of Present Tense's post)
In addition, I also work on asymmetrical figure 8s in a posting trot where I have to turn my head and look where I want to go before I actually turn Aspen. This exercise is new to me because it didn't hit me that I would be able to stay balanced if I did that. Instead, it did wonders for my balance and I was able to keep Aspen going, rather than slow down like what's happened in the past. We continue to work on a lot of flat work over poles and turning.

The last thing we worked on was the canter. Dreaded canter? Perhaps. But like I said in my last lesson post, I was holding onto the past and anticipating something that wasn't guaranteed to happen. I threw out the idea of falling off and took a deep breath and just concentrated on what was happening in the moment. What was I going to be doing? Where was I going? There were a few times that I had gotten distracted with applying the aids and maintaining my seat (in the seated trot) as well as keeping my eyes up and at the next letter. But, at some point, something just clicked and the canter took off and I made the decision to let go of the pommel. I was flying. It was an amazing feeling for everything to come together so well today. Sure, there were moments when I lost focus but at least the canter was happening and I didn't need to hold onto anything to stay in it.

My next lesson goals to add?
1. initiate the canter while keeping myself together
2. keep my eyes up so that the canter is something I stop, not because I have to stop
3. continue working on keeping my heels down and legs long, during seated trot

Lessons also move from Wednesday nights to Fridays next week.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Goal Setting

I was chatting with Dave at work today. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: I'm riding tonight.
Dave: yea? that's cool.
Me: I have goals tonight. I"m going to attempt: 1. to initiate canter; 2. canter without holding onto the saddle; 3. ensure I'm not balancing through the reins/my hands
Dave: oh cool. So you can ride while shooting a bow and arrow. Like Legolas.

Leave it to Dave to see the real goals of doing anything.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Serendipitous Outcome

The final grades are up... and I passed! I didn't think I would pass and already prepared myself to get the permission slip to retake the course. But what do you know! I don't need it anymore. Mind you, it's not that I did exceptionally well... I got through it by the skin of my teeth. But, this means that my winter will be more relaxed unless I can find that stats course offered by someone else. I have more time to do some me stuff... Like plan the garden in the coming season and work towards improving my fitness level so that I can become a better rider. Things are coming up Milhouse this new year :)