Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lesson #63: It's What You Do In your Off Time

The objective is to make it look effortless.

This goes for so many things, especially when there is an element of performance involved. Typically, I've found that many competitive athletic activities require the athlete's expression to embody the immense amount of effort that they are putting into their actions. This isn't the case with certain other performance derived activities. Two come to mind: dance and horse back riding. Just look at your prima ballerina spinning on her toes and leaping into the air in a sudden burst of energy. It's like watching hunter-jumpers sail over 4ft+ jumps and dressage riders 'dance' with their horses in the ring. In all cases, these fine athletes make it look like there is absolutely no effort exerted to accomplish those moves. "That's easy", is what I hear some people comment when they see these performances. Or, they don't make any specific comment at all. But, anyone who has done a form of dance or learned to ride will know that many of these feats are not innate for the doer and often take hours of repetitive practice of the same move(s) and many additional hours to condition those muscles to be able to work up to accomplishing those moves.

Today, I realize I am not doing enough to look effortless. Aside from seriously lacking sleep, I don't have anything else that really compliments the lessons I take once a week. This has become more evident since I realize progress is only going to progress at the rate I put effort into it. I stopped yoga and changed stables as well as only ride once a week and no longer have biweekly lessons too. My hands are all over the place and my balance for the 2 point is not where it should be when I'm going over low jumps. We did some patterns today with trot poles, an x-jump, canter, trot and 2point. All this was incorporated into a single round with 3 horses and riders moving through it sequentially. When I couldn't get Ariel to canter, I fell behind the rhythm. When I caught her in the mouth at the jump, I lost focus and similarly, couldn't catch up.

Like Sheri's said about riding... that it's about saddle time and actually riding. At this time, it's not something I can add to my schedule/life so I"ll have to find other ways to physically condition myself so I am better prepared for my lessons. Time to bring back yoga to loosen stuff and strengthen core--all things that deteriorate from 8+ hours at a computer. I'll need to get on that bike trainer to increase my cardio fitness too. I'll add a daily walk during the work week to keep me limber and arresting my developing Mr. Monty Burns posture

Mr. Burns "corrected" Bart's posture to emulate his, with forming clothes...

My schedule is going to incorporate a daily minimum 30-45 minute exercise of some sort and who knows, maybe I'll lose a couple inches and enhance my girly figure!

Posting Diagonal Jar Tally: 2 x $2.00 = $4.00
To date: $29.00

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lesson #62: Ride Each Stride

I don't know if it's just the stress of work and everything else that's going on but I woke up in a cold sweat on Sunday morning at 4AM thinking I had missed my lesson. As if I need one more pain in the bum, eh? I've been a little MIA, I'm sorry. It's been completely stupid at work though. But, enough about work! This is my little space for things that I enjoy doing and those which make me happy. Lately, work isn't one of them so it's going straight out the window in this post!

This is my second lesson at Gosling Stables and I'm really having a good time. Though, this was not one of my better rides. I don't know what was wrong with me but it was just a lot of discombobulation. It took some time to get my trot going at a good pace and the canter... it was as if I regressed several lessons!

I focused on the diagonals today so I wouldn't get caught for it as many times as I've been, since starting this endeavour! Sheri said our trot was in pretty good shape and that we would work on some canter. It's as if my brain went straight on holiday and I was asking for the canter with only my outside leg. And of course, all I got was a lot of speedy trot. When it clicked that I needed to engage the inside leg too, we finally took off and I was bouncing all over the place in on the saddle. Ariel was also speeding up and falling in at the corners. We were both a complete mess. Sheri told me to open my outside rein in the corners to help her rebalance herself and to remind her to slow down a bit with mild rein squeezes. Both worked but my butt slapping the saddle did not get better and Sheri was reminding me to loosen my hips and to allow my pelvis to loosely swing in the seat. For some reason, I was sitting very rigidly today.

Then I recalled that I should loosen my lower back and engage my lower abs and ta-da! Swinging in the seat again. Phew. I thought I lost it for some time. Much more control once I started paying attention again. Sheri reminds me that I need to ride each stride and have to be in control of what I'm asking and what Ariel is doing. The highlight, was when we got on the incorrect lead because I asked for the canter on a straight away and as I was bumping around and speeding about, Ariel did a flying lead change on her own! I thought I was going to fall off when she did that! The momentary mid-air suspension and change in lead was not something I was anticipating to feel. What a neat feeling. I think it was that moment with the reminder when I got out of my fog and something just clicked.

We finished our lesson with ground pole work (which I think Perry--ADW's mount for the lesson--was scoffing at). "Count the stride pace!" says Sheri. "Be sure it's consistent and you're not speeding up or slowing down and you go over the poles at exactly the same pace". I chuckled a bit in my head as I started to count to myself the strides... it's like my piano lessons! The one thing I suck mega at is keeping tempo. I'm constantly speeding up and slowing down and it doesn't even matter that I have the metronome going...

So defintely stuff to work on throughout the week and for the next lesson: practice keeping tempo and doing some stretches to loosen my hips up and remembering that each stride counts. It's kind of like what my piano teacher says about keeping tempo... "don't ever stop counting. You need to be counting all the time."

Posting Diagonal Jar Tally: 1 x $2.00 = $2.00
To date: $25.00

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lesson #61: Details and Tricks

It's my first lesson during the day at Gosling Stables. I've been looking forward to this lesson for 2 weeks now. But, I'm a bit apprehensive because I'm riding with the advanced kids today since ADW is away on business. I'm apprehensive because I'm scared I won't be able to keep up.

It's the first for a few things today, including breakin' out my own grooming kit. I also have to go out to get Ariel. The weather up in these parts at this time of year is a bit harsh and it's windy and wet. I head out to the paddocks and when I see Ariel with the other mares, I know she eyes me too. She bucks at another mare and trots my way. It's as if she knows I've come for her. She walks right to the gate and I slip her halter on and head inside. She holds her head nice and high as if she's excited to be going indoors. I'm not sure if it's because she's expecting breakfast, a warm stall... but it can't be to work, right? She's very accommodating when I'm grooming her so I suppose that she's just as happy going to work as she is getting breakfast.

I have to remember to be careful to ride with a light rein because she doesn't like a lot of pressure in her mouth. In the class too is Ariel's nemesis: Bonspiel. For some reason, they really dislike one another and given the opportunity, would probably kick each other to smitherines. It's a good class though. We work on some technical stuff to initiate the impulsion from their hinds during trot but collect it. It's probably quite elementary at this point but it's difficult to accomplish! I'm asked to squeeze inside leg and half halt the outside rein during the rising portion of the posting trot.

We get some canter going and I need to keep her in check because a few times she speeds off. I sit tight and remember to do a few half halts to remind her that I'm still there and bring her down a little bit. The best thing about this mare is that she's responsive to leg aids. What a pleasure to ride with your legs instead of your hands.

We work on transitions up and down with the aim of having a timely response to our aids. Ariel's being a teeny bit grouchy today and isn't responding as quickly to as light a touch. But, Sheri mentions that today, my hands have not been steady and were bouncing a bit and not consistent which probably meant I caught her mouth. I probably shouldn't have raked as much of the yard yesterday just before riding.

Cool out involves bareback walking out and I ride her with just my legs and let her a loose rein. This mare's got next to no whither and thus has the most comfortable bareback ride! I am actually looking forward to getting to ride her with bareback and trot!

I also learned today, I'm riding a "trick pony"! Not the kind that is used in vaulting or trick riding... but that she knows how to do things for treats! She can 'smile', 'kiss' and 'bow' for treats!

Posting Diagonal Jar Tally: 2 x $2.00 = $4.00
To date: $23.00

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Two Reviews: The Hunger Games

I'm so far down the rabbit hole on this one I'm not sure I can really get into anything else until I'm "allowed" to get into the second part of this trilogy. Going from deciding this is a lame story for kids, to thinking about the characters and their motives while I'm raking leaves... seriously. So far down. But, despite this, I'm moving right along this month. I picked up the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins more out of curiosity than anything else. It seems like a lot of what I've been reading lately has not been planned! But, that's part of the fun.

The Hunger Games was written several years back but has become a huge hit and was made into a movie. I probably don't need to hype it up much more than that since Jennifer Lawrence has become a household name. This series was written for youth, but, it's surprisingly gruesome and violent (granted, that's up to your imagination) and gained a wide following. I finished reading the book in a work week. As usual, this fictional story took time to pull me in; it didn't take long though. Collins uses a first person present perspective through the eyes of the book's protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. Because of this style, she writes simply and to the point; we are in the mind of Katniss experiencing each moment as she is. This is not a story telling but rather, a live account of a character's life. We're brought into the story through the eyes and thoughts of Katniss.

The story is set in a dystopian future where the people live in Panem--the remnants of North America. The rich and advanced live in the Capitol, enslaving the surrounding districts by exploiting them for specific purposes. This keeps each of the districts in some sort of oppressed state where they live to provide and work for the citizens of the Capitol. We are provided little background about what happened for the world to arrive at this state of opposing wealth and extreme poverty.

I'm not sure if Collins had the intention to talk about specific themes in the book but my take of the primary theme is that it's a satire of reality television. The games themselves are staged and controlled in a way which the gamemakers analyze and create situations to improve ratings in the Capitol. Though all the districts are required to watch, not for entertainment but because they are forced to, in part of the punishment of their Treaty of Treason, the people of the Capitol watch purely for entertainment. They have no connection to the tributes whereas those in the districts are hoping that their tribute won't die. It's a matter of survival for those of the district and for fun, in the Capitol. The lives of those in the districts is hard and real whereas those living in the Capitol are seemingly frivolous and fake. Even in one part of the book, Katniss reflects about the absurd values that those in the Capitol have about appearance.

I couldn't read the book and not watch the movie--especially since it was released on Netflix. The movie was pretty true to the story of the book but as expected, could not capture the first person present perspective and as someone who read the book before watching the movie (never ever read the book AFTER watching the movie!), I found it shallow and lacking depth of character. In addition to this, the camera angles and styles the director chose was making me sick! I suspect it was done to capture the first person perspective of the action but I was eating dinner watching it and had to sit further away during chase scenes so I could keep my meal down.

Nevertheless, I am excited about the second installment of the trilogy and am anticipating my literary palette cleanser before falling back down the rabbit hole ;)

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Royal 2013

It's been weeks since I've ridden outdoors and it's the start of a new fiscal year at work. Fall is my favourite time of year because the bugs are gone and the weather is comfortable. And right after Halloween, it's time to visit the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and see the animals, food and farming. This year, we've chosen to watch the rodeo and this time, I'm prepared for photos with a zoomy lens and great seats! Amber Marshall is co-hosting with Ross. Who's Ross? I don't know because I can't find any information on him! :(

We started out checking out the Angus competition with ADW drooling all over the place thinking about steak and hamburger...

Angus calf

Now onto the big show! :D

Amber & Ross

Bareback Bronc

Pole Bending!

Trick Riding

Guy Mclean, Aussie horse whisperer

Barrel Racing

More Barrel Racing!


The most dangerous sport in the world

I hope these photos gave you a sampling of the day ADW and I had at the Royal :)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Lesson #60: More Leg!

Today is the last lesson that ADW and I are taking at Greyden. It makes me sad that I won't be riding there any more because I've grown attached to some of the horses, like Trinket. Although this mare is difficult to ride, she's one of my favourite ponies. There's something about her that I am drawn to. Tonight's lesson started out with the usual warm up of trotting around. Already, I'm caught for my first missed posting diagonal.

The class is focused on bending. We use 20m circles at trot to prepare for our bending. I try to ride with a lighter rein with Trinket because the last lesson with Trinket proved that she responded much better when I wasn't heavy with her face. She kept her head up and moved forward. Today she seemed a bit dull and didn't really seem to want to get into doing much. I had to encourage her frequently, even in trot. And, as expected, in corners she'd get even slower and I needed to use more inside leg to tell her to continue to move forward and bend too. More leg!

To incorporate bending and keeping moving, we did trot poles at angles with the goal to continue in the same pace at turns and to keep moving forward. This proved to be a particularly challenging exercise because Trinket was predictably slowing when turning. More leg!

To finish up the lesson, we're moving into canter. I find myself falling forward again with my upper back rounding over and my hands dropping and Trinket getting into a pony trot. I ride the pony trot better than I have in the past but it still isn't something that I'm excited to do. When she gets into a canter, I realize my weight is almost always in the balls of my foot and not in my heels. Hence, the flopping forwards. I always have to readjust myself once I get into the canter but this is becoming a problem because she takes this need to adjust as an opportunity to either transition down into a trot or switch her lead. Both are equally frustrating because I can't seem to get a full go around of the canter. We try several times and eventually get it. I had to really tell her to get into a canter because wouldn't listen to me asking. More leg!

To keep her from drifting into the corners, I'm reminded to use my inside leg to push her out. Learning to get her to do things from leg aids can be challenging too... as many schoolies sort of just tune you out. So the nudges I give her aren't enough. More leg!

We finish the lesson with leg aid riding only. It's tough but I get through it by getting her to turn with my legs only. Granted, it's only at a walk but I'm sure I would probably be in big trouble if we were trotting (or faster) with only leg aids. But, riding is not about the hands; it's about riding with your seat and legs. An incredible performance can be seen in Heartland episode 18 of season 5 when Amy auditions for Dark Horse.

Posting Diagonal Jar Tally: 3.5 x $2.00 = $7.00
To date: $19.00

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Review: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

This book was not originally on my list and I haven't heard of it either. It came as a recommendation from my former manager as she said it is "light hearded, whimsical and funny". The only other information available to me was the back cover of the book that read "A reluctant centenarian with a life much like Forrest Gump's (if Gump were an explosives expert with a fondness for vodka) decides it not too late to start over...".

The author Jonas Jonasson is a Swede with a twisted and creative sense of humour. The plot he doctors up is twisted and ridiculous all while inserting itself in actual world history very nicely. This isn't a novel that has an overarching theme throughout the book, imbedded in the characters and plot; it's simply a book that requires some knowledge of historical events, an imagination and a sense of humour. Our story is centered around the main character Allan Karlsson--a centenarian who's as alert as you or I but bored of his life in the old folk's home. So, he decides to leave. He doesn't have a plan or a specific desire to go anywhere. But, when in his life has he ever?

As the reader follows Allan's journey of a series of unfortunate events, for others; we are also taken back to the days when he dined with Mao and Truman. For someone who is well versed in basic modern world history, this is either a sheer delight with the unusual story that unfolds, or is a blasphemous piece of prose that doesn't take history seriously. I think it's fun to see how Jonasson takes some liberties with what might have actually transpired between these historical figures and Allan Karlsson while maintaining the actual historical outcome.

The story itself doesn't have any specific purpose other than to entertain. I'd say if you're looking for something of a light and fun read with no real objective or outcome, this is one of those books. It's amusing and will, at times, make you laugh out loud or stare in disbelief at the absurdity of the events unfolding before you.