Thursday, May 26, 2011

Half-halts and the Lunge Line


I had a bit of a light bulb moment the other day while lunging Callie. It finally truly dawned on me how important half-halts and leg are while lunging a horse.

You may be thinking, "whaaaa? but I'm not riding, leg? are you crazy?" I might be lol, but just because you aren't riding your horse doesn't mean you can have your leg on.

Most people think of  lunging as a quick and easy way to exercise their horse, slap some side reins on, throw them at the end of a line, and voila, I can build fitness, exercise them, and help improve their balance. Right? Wrong.

Only if done correctly. The horse may have side reins on, may have a bit in their mouth and saddle on their back, but if they are just carrening around on their forehand, unbalanced, hindend disengaged, they are doing more harm than good.

In order to have impulsion in the gaits and to have a good, solid working walk, trot, and canter, the leg needs to be in. In lunging, the leg is the whip and voice. With Callie she is incredibly sensitive to these cues, I often only have to give a little cluck or lift the tip of the whip about a foot to get the desired response. This keeps her engaged and her hindend working up under her.

But then I need to be able to control this forward energy and not let her just run it into the ground by being on her forehand. So that means that the half-halt must be effective. There is where I see sooooo many people getting it wrong, their horse either doesn't understand the contact, or refuses to take it. When lunging there MUST be contact with the horse's mouth! If they keep cutting the circle and coming in towards you and giving slack in the line then they are not on the contact. Callie is awesome with this, she really likes a steady, solid contact with the bit and actually puts quite a bit of weight in the reins/lunge line. This is not bad and not to be punished, this is just what she finds comfortable.

So, whenever I give a "leg" cue with the whip or voice I make sure to give a little half-halt, just a soft squeezing of my fingers on the line, a subtle yet quick give-and-take of pressue, often many of them in a row as we go around. This reminds her to pick up her forehand and balance, and not plow around on her nose.

The result? A balanced, energetic picture of a horse working correctly, with implusion, responsive to the aids, and able to change gaits quickly and easily because... they are balanced!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

When it rains, it pours


Literally and figuratively!!

Literally, the storm front moved in and the thunder started rolling Tuesday evening, it's been raining ever since. Things are muddy, wet, cold, and gross. Trying to get the muck cart from the barn to the dump pile is an epic task, the mud is slick as ice, I can't get any traction! It's only a matter of time until I loose my footing and faceplant into the manure... oh my.

Figuratively, life is just crazy right now. CRAZY! I'm soooooo glad the semester is over, although I didn't do so hot on my finals DUE to said craziness, oh well, I still passed both classes with a B, I'll take it, considering all that's gone on in the past couple months. But man, just... man. Things are looking up for us, the changes that have happened are really good, but I'm so stressed about things, these are BIG changes. All I really want right now is a lazy afternoon at the barn where I can do whatever I want and not be under some sort of timeframe or pressure or expectation to be somewhere to do something to satisfy someone. Crossing my fingers I'll get it this saturday. Crossing them hard!

Otherwise, little miss Callie mare is getting a break, mostly in part to the literal rain, and a lot in part to the figurative rain. Just when I was starting to make progress with her, fiddlesticks.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My horse show Mom


My mom is the best! Not only did she give me my love and passion for horses to begin with, but once I really got rockin and rollin in the horse show world, she became my biggest fan and supporter at shows.

It started with those first fun little schooling shows at Greenie Mountain Stables where I learned how to ride, kicking my way over fences on Natt, that cranky (but loveable) arab mare who hated jumping, yet I was bound and determined to jump her anyway... and when I got her around that X-rail course with NO refusals, not only was my grin the biggest, but my mom was cheering the loudest!

Then as I grew up and started attending Pony Club ralllies, while she was not allowed to help ME directly, she still helped. Volunteering as gate steward for the dressage ring was her favorite job. And always, always, she would flip up the camcorder and video my test or round when it was my turn in the ring.

She was over the moon when I announced my intention to start eventing, it was something she had always wanted to do when she was younger but didn't get the chance, now she could live vicariously through me! When I went to my first event at beginner novice and entered the stadium ring, she was more nervous than I was and after every single fence she whispered "Thank you Jesus!" into the camcorder.

She would travel where ever I went to watch me show, from those Welsh Pony national shows way out in Tulsa, OK to the USPC Championships in both Sacramento, CA and Lexington, KY. No matter where the show was she would pack up her minivan and follow behind the truck and trailer, just to come watch me compete, help where she could, and to cheer me on.

Now that I'm in college and no longer actively competing she'll call me up every now and then just to say "I have horse show withdrawls!" Aaaah mom, you and me both! I invited her to come jump judge with me at the Colorado Horse Park 3-day event last summer, that turned out to be a miserable affair of cold, rain, desperate runs to starbucks, and more cold. Hopefully this year will prove to be a sunnier show, we both need our horseshow fix.

Here in a few years though, once my baby is foaled and grows up and I'm out of college and get to start competing again, I'm sure my mom will be right there, by the ringside, cheering me on, and saying her wonderful little prayers of thanks everytime I clear that fence!

Love you Mom

Friday, May 6, 2011

First Impressions of the Derby Field


The Kentucky Derby is tomorrow!!

And I haven't read a lick up yet on any of the horses starting. I've been so caught up with Badminton and Rolex eventing goodness that my horse racing passion has taken a backseat. Normally I'm busy following all the prep races throughout the spring like the Wood Memorial, Arkansas Derby, Santa Anita, etc. But, thanks to working full time, chemistry, and my discovery of (<< best site ever by the way) horse racing hasn't exactly been my list of priorities.

I now how a little more than 24 hours to review the entries for the Derby set to run tomorrow!! Yikes!

And of course work doesn't allow me to download Past Performances from anywhere cuz it's a PDF file... grrrrrrr

That said, from what info I CAN find about these horses and their history (thank you and, I really want to like Archarcharch, he won the Arkansas Derby, however he's drawn post position #1... bugger! Buuuut he's won with a come from behind style, so this may not be such a hindrance to him after all, and it might benefit, because technically he has the shortest distance to run to the wire.

The current favorite, Dialed In, is the favorite because of obvious reasons. Mostly, because he's never finished worst than second. That's not bad. Out of 7 career starts, he's won 5 times. He won the Grade I Florida Derby beginning of April, and drew post position #8. For him, that is excellent. I think he DOES have a good chance of winning, hence him being the favorite.

If him and Archarcharch had their post positions reversed I think they would be switched as far as who the favorite would be. Apparently Arch (I'm already getting sick of typing that word multiple times lol) has been training really well and is super fit and ready to go. So... this could be interesting.

Really though, it's a very wide open field. Another year of several mediocre colts, and I don't say that lightly. Yes, these horses are winning, but against who? I've seen a couple really close calls for the Triple Crown, some heartbreakingly and agonizingly close (Real Quiet, aaauugh!), but this year, I don't see a colt that can win all three... at least, not yet. Barbaro could have I think, he showed a lot of promise, but we all know how that story ended unfortunately.

Anyway! Back to the field... I normally pick a long-shot winner, dunno yet who, I'll have to read over the PPs later today and make my pick. That, and the odds will change so drastically between now and tomorrow afternoon.

Finally, my favorite NAME pick has got to be Pants On Fire. LOVE IT

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Canter Under Saddle


It exists!!! *happy dances*

After about a week and half of focusing on fitness and only cantering on the lunge with side reins (which is definitely improving, her freak-out-run-away moments are becoming fewer and less frequent), I cantered Callie under saddle yesterday. Initially she tried to fight me, and tell me "NO I can't do this!" but I insisted, we had a bit of a discussion about listening to inside rein and inside leg aids, and when I asked for the canter again, she gave it to me. HUZAH!

It is still very unbalanced, and a little rushed, and still definitely not 100% relaxed, but it was without fighting, without her head in the air, without her trying to stop, and she was yeilding to the bit and just, cantering! She did it both ways, it's obviously hard for her to hold, but that will come in time.

It kinda stinks though, I'm probably only going to keep her through the end of May, then I need to start saving $$ for my new horse (which still hasn't been bred, ugh!). I can still go ride her, but it's in a very uneven pasture with not-so-great footing. But, the thing is, by the time June 1 rolls around, when she'll be headed home, is when she'll really be read to start doing more fun things like jumping! Pooey.