Cloud's Honor Racing

Cloud's Honor Racing
www.GoodHorse.org

Cloud's Honor Riding

Cloud's Honor Riding
www.LeightonFarm.com

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Other Half of the Equation

It occurs to me that I've not been including the other major factor in my progress. I think it is because this was already a regular part of my development. If you are going to get a true picture of what is happening, I need to start talking about Elizabeth.

I am in awe of the insight she has into my riding and my horses. She is keen on what Birdie needs and he is always happy and content after our work with Elizabeth, no matter the mood he arrived with.


I am lucky that all of my teachers are in sync. When I work with Elizabeth after a lesson with Jimmy, she sees progress, not regression in either myself and my horse. The same is true when my Jimmy lesson follows Elizabeth and now I've added Samantha Allan to the mix. I've asked Samanth just who she is on several occasions. Sometimes Jimmy's words come out of her and other times it's Elizabeth. I believe I am lucky to have such wonderful talents molding both me and my horses.


There is something about Elizabeth that I appreciate very much. She forms a relationship with my horses and their well being is her priority. She gives them a rider who hears them through feeling and has shown me that everything I do effects my horse, absolutely everything.
I've never had a lesson with Elizabeth that my riding and my horse's training didn't improve. It doesn't get any better than that.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A True Gift

This is a small part of what I learned yesterday at my lesson with Jim Wofford. It was one of those days that you know will change your riding and your relationship with your horse forever.


Part of receiving and appreciating a gift is actually recognizing that is has been given to you. Sure, on holidays it’s easy to know you’re being handed a gift, but what about the intangible, unexpected gift? Many times these are the overlooked blessings.
Today I got such a gift. Birdie was transformed right under me into a horse that was patiently waiting for my cues. I took the hour to realize what I was on, but now I have a completely new direction in which to go.


Birdie received the gift of comfort and confidence today and he realized it immediately and responded in kind. I, being a human took longer to understand and as always my Bird was patiently waiting for me to arrive.

I learned today that I must use my head to ride every stride, not in a labored heavy way, but in a light, intuitive way. I can’t check out, because he is waiting for me now. The horse that I could not even think of touching with my leg, now requires that leg. No more hanging on to him to get to the jump. Now I must soften and wait out the ascent. I did not know what to do on the approach. I found myself out of kilter without a horse to hold to the jump . Even though it was wrong, it was the only way to get there. I’ve rarely experienced this before today.
I have my work cut out for me, but I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Jimmy Lesson!!

I had another lesson with Jimmy yesterday and as an extra added bonus, Samantha Allan took a horse too. I just started taking lessons with Samantha and it's amazing the progress I'm making. She is a longtime student of both Jimmy and Sharon White. Most recently she has schooled with Sharon, but wanted Jimmy to see her horse Everest - aptly named I might add. Samantha's farm is only five minutes from mine, making it possible for me to have a weekly lesson with her. The fact that she was there yesterday was great for me because she now has the input from Jimmy to apply to my lessons.


As always, this lesson was very productive. I'm starting to analyze the feelings I'm getting from my Bird. I feel a lot from my horses, but when jumping I've not been able to take advantage of it, partly because I've been concentrating on trying to be in the right place. I still need work, but I'm getting it. Jimmy answered a question that was on my mind about leg position without even being asked.


The lesson centered around the horse waiting to go where the rider signals rather than anticipating the next jump. The jumps were set up so the horse and rider had several choices, making it impossible for the horse to know which one until the rider signaled, usually by turning his head over the preceding jump. That's all my Bird needs. A one stride to a two stride oxer or angle left to a jump or right to another jump. Consequently, once the horse is going through the one stride he must wait for the rider to direct him to his next jump.
What happens in Birdies mind is a fantastic jumping festival. Did you ever see the Beggin' Strips commercial where the dog is saying "BACON!!!". That's Birdie, only he's exclaiming "JUMPING!!! WHICH ONE??? WHICH ONE???" I feel this and I get excited and now we're both screaming "JUMPING!!!", when I need to stay the same and say "Yes, Birdie we're going left this time." The long and short of it is (a) I felt this. (b) I realized what I was doing. and (c) I stopped reacting to Birdie's excitement. Everything about our performance improved. Pretty neat.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cross Country Schooling at Leighton Farm!!

Samantha Allan came over to my farm and schooled me over every cross country fence I have here. I've been dying to jump the chevron and the Bird cruised over it like it was built for him. We did the roll top my husband made and that is certain motivation for him to build the corners I want for Christmas. I am so lucky to have Samantha just around the corner. A weekly lesson in jumping again is moving my progress along. She is a student of Jimmy and works with Sharon White, so that makes things perfect for me. I am so lucky.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Lesson That Keeps On Giving

Yesterday was the best day Birdie and I have had - ever. When discussing leg position, Jimmy had also told me to lift my little toes. Sounds weird, but it puts my lower leg on the horse. I have to add that five minutes earlier Samantha Allan has suggested the same thing. This helps my stubborn left leg. The problem may be in my ankle. Kind of makes sense since I damaged the Achilles tendon and have stiffness there. Elizabeth is going to be so happy with my leg position improvement - I hope. Jimmy also talked a lot about changing direction often to slow Birdie down, rather than actively trying to slow him down. Lots of shoulder in and leg yield and reversing direction to keep his mind settled. He also finally addressed the rooting. He told me he's not liking that very much and suggested I fix one hand when Birdie does it. In this way he punishes himself, but has a way down to the ground. If you jerk Birdie, of course his head goes up. If you fix both hands he reaches the end of the reins and up his head goes. If you fix one rein, he reaches the end of the reins and bends downward. That Jimmy, what a fox - that's why his farm is named Fox Covert.So yesterday, Birdie and I did flat work - not in the ring. Jimmy had mentioned the Bird is very dependent on the walls/sides of the arena. They seem to give him security. At 45 minutes his back was so relaxed he was gently flipping his crest as I was riding him. My hands were quiet and soft. That is the moment I had finally shown my Bird to the ground. He followed the bit as long and low as I wanted to make it. I almost cried tears of joy.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Everything Costs $$

I talked in length with Dr. Carol about Graycie yesterday and she suggested a plan of attack, although she said the money I could throw at this is endless. Anyway, she told me to start with simple flexion. She wasn't crazy about the EPM theory, especially in light of the nature of her disobedience. Meaning, Graycie's attacks are awfully coordinated in nature. Coupled with the fact that EPM tends to be a farm problem and I have no other cases here. Not that it couldn't be the problem, just not the most likely one.


So I did the flexions yesterday and at least where her joints are concerned, Graycie is the soundest horse to ever walk this earth. Perfect rhythm and movement. Poetry in motion, a pleasure to watch. I should have felt better, and I do in a way, but what is it that is bothering her?


I already had the saddle fitter out to check her saddle. Her back still could bother her, but unlikely as well. Now I'm on to the Lymes disease theory. Neurological, but not necessarily causing lameness. There's a test and I'm going to have it done. More money....

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Goal

Yesterday, I reached my goal of posting without stirrups for thirty minutes. I actually felt I could have done it the day I achieved twenty minutes, but was afraid I wouldn't be able to walk the next day. Conditioning oneself is interesting. For two months I wondered if I would make it to ten minutes and then it was literally like one day I could go as long as I please. Of course, I don't think I need to do past thirty minutes, unless Jimmy tells me otherwise. I really hope he doesn't.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What Happened To Graycie?

I haven't been talking about Graycie lately because I just couldn't. Her love of dressage and being ridden, progressively turned into hatred. It started about two months ago and I still don't have the answer, but I feel I'm getting close. I am sure something is bothering her a lot. The problem with diagnosing this mare is she is as tough as they come. Even though she is a b**ch, she has always done everything I asked of her. She's done it to the best of her ablility, but not without making her opinions clear to me.
It started out as resistance and turned into exercises to improve my seat. Put another way, the fact that I could stay on her while she had the tantrums was a miracle. My seat is definitely better now. I should inject that I can ride any movement in an exercise saddle, but in a dressage saddle I feel defenseless. What was she doing? Well, she was running off for a while. Not far, but it got me good. She was tough as a race horse, but never ran off. I figured she was getting bored so I started doing some cross country hacks which weren't the most fun I've ever had, but they seemed in the beginning to help.
She was good in her lessons with Elizabeth when the problem first started, but I did tell Elizabeth about the running off. Finally, one lesson about a month ago she did it when I asked for the canter. I have to inject, running off doesn't make me that upset. I've galloped race horses for 20+ years. Being run off with is far from the worst thing that can happen. They always stop. It's the fact that Graycie was telling me something important and I was missing it. By now she and I were both frustrated. By the way, when Graycie ran off with me in the lesson, Elizabeth looked me square in the eye and asked me what I thought I did to cause her to do that. I thought to myself, "I left my exercise saddle at home". She is right though, my canter transitions need a ton of work and Graycie knows it.
Running off wasn't getting the results Graycie wanted. I was getting great at dealing with it so naturally she came up with another way to communicate her concerns to me. Something she had done as a race horse, but now, with all that gymnast type muscle she's developed as a dressage horse, she was much more athletic about it. I should mention here that Graycie does warn me before she lets me have it. She makes a eee, eee, eee noise and about five to ten minutes later she lets me have it. The new behavior? Straight up in the air, come down peg leg, move right, then maybe back in the air, come down peg leg, move left. She is quite an amazing athlete because she can do this five or six times. In the beginning it got me loose, but I can't tell you how much it has improved my seat. I can only think if she really wanted me off, I'd have come off, but I didn't even when I wished I would.
What was I doing all this time? I had her teeth checked, she did have a couple sharp ones so I was hoping that was the problem. Got on her after a week off and no luck. So I thought, she doesn't trust the bit anymore, I got a Nathe. No luck. My vets suggested I give her Regumate and bute for a week and see what happens. I got on her yesterday and no luck. I am certain though that the problem is to right side. In a way it's getting worse with time off. I'm starting to consider neurological issues. EPM?? I have great vets and we're going to have a pow wow about this today. I had planned to give Graycie off the winter regardless, but I need to get a handle on this problem first. She is so tough, that's why this is so difficult to diagnose, but she's my girl and we'll figure this out.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Twenty Minutes!!

One great thing about posting without stirrups for twenty minutes is it makes ten minutes seem easy. Today I finally graduated to twenty minutes and my form is good. That's two thirds of the way to my goal of thirty minutes. Of course, Bear deserves a medal. While I have my third arm out patting myself on the back I should give Bear his fair share of accolades. He is trotting around the farm for fifty minutes with a five minute break between two point and posting without stirrups. What a good horse. I couldn't do it without him.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's Been A While Since I Checked In

I am up to 30 minutes per day of unsupported two point going cross country on my farm. Poor Bear, he hates it and to make things interesting he does the disappearing head trick. The great news is I can stay in two point and get his head up. My position has changed a lot. I feel stable, but I've also realized how uneven I am, both in the weight I have in each stirrup and the way I use each leg. This exercise is extremely valuable in propagating equal use of my body.
I'm still at 10 minutes of posting without stirrups, but the quality of my position is drastically improving, making it a much more demanding 10 minutes. I plan to expand to 15 when my left leg is doing half the work. As it stands my right leg is stronger than my left.
I've been the luckiest person in the world. I've gotten two lessons with Jimmy since the clinic and I'm becoming much more aware of the finesse my Bird requires of me. I feel great about the improvement I'm making and I'm motivated to keep on. It makes all the torture worth it. In fact, I can't wait to ride every day. I am so excited about what I'll learn today. It's like being handed a gift you get to open every day.
I've been going to Sharon White's for the lessons and it is striking how light and supple she is while riding. Horses are so comfortable with her. I feel like I ride like I'm driving a Mack truck. This is good to know because now I'm very aware of every move I make and how I make it. This will be good for Birdie, actually it will be good for all my horses.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cross Country Clinic with Jimmy


This was a big day for me and I had (1) a plan and (2) a lot of butterflies. Go back and read about my first cross country clinic with Jimmy to understand why I brought so many butterflies. I wanted to get to An Otherwise Perfect Farm with enough time to tack up, stroll around in a power walk and then do the "show the Bird to the ground thing". Cherie was on board with the plan and I was happy to have her there for support. She elected not to bring Katchi because of the upcoming ride at Waredaca. She insisted I bring my video camera so she could document my ride. I told her I didn't want to see myself ride right now because I knew I looked like a pile of crap on a horse. I just wasn't feeling tough enough to deal with it. So, I brought the video camera and Cherie documented my ride.

If you've never read the book Riding Logic, by W. Museler. Read it. Every day, my Bird is improving from the knowledge in this book. It was astounding the way this horse who has so much anxiety was stretching and reaching to the ground as I warmed him up. Cherie videoed this and it was the first time I was able to see it. It's like - a miracle. Birdie is not only feeling better physically, but he's happier. He did this with other horses warming up all around him. He relaxed. I am truly amazed. I was glad she made me bring that camera.

Jimmy always starts out by getting our names and he actually knows mine now and that's neat. He also said we'd start in the arena so we could get our butterflies flying in formation. Works for me. We then went out to the cross country course and started with some stadium jumps on a hill. We then transitioned to the actual cross country jumps. Jimmy corrected me a lot. Particularly about posting at the canter, which I didn't quite understand, but I do now. Also, soft hands, which are mandatory with Birdie. He is super sensitive to everything. I was holding my own and more stable than I had been in the past. Primarily due to my developing "Jimmy legs".

Then he told us to jump this bench and then gallop a ways to what looked to me like a black ski ramp. GULP, this took me right back to Win Green and Birdie hanging over that ski ramp. Okay, self, this is how it's going to be. You can do this, you know this horse can do this. This is your moment of truth. Look at these other people, they can do it. Thank God I wasn't first. The first jump, piece of cake, although it was windy so I couldn't hear what Jimmy was yelling even though he had a megaphone. I know he wasn't yelling "Good job". We were now approaching the black ski ramp, how appropriate the color. Wait, leg, look at the jump, wait, soft hands, grab mane, WE DID IT!! It felt like crap, but we did it. Now Birdie was rolling right along and that's the fun part. He was happy, apparently I did a fairly decent job. Cherie later told me it looked good.

I've got to thank Jimmy Wofford for teaching me. I'm beginning to think this really is possible. At the end of the clinic he told me he wanted me to watch that video and I wouldn't be happy. I knew that going in, but yet another sacrifice to learn. If you want to learn how to ride, you need to leave your ego in the house or the car. It's just an obstacle when you bring it to your horse.

I watched the video. Cherie told me just watch one thing, your hands, or leg position. Well, my eye went right to my big bouncing butt. In racing we have a different name for posting at the canter. Monkey f**king a foot ball. There are a couple of amazing things about this. One is it was incredible how still I could keep my hands while my butt was going up and down that much, they really only moved when I was uptight. Two, I galloped at the track for 20+ years and never looked like that. The good news is this is going to be rather easy to fix. I think I've been way overthinking this two point thing. I'm trying to do everything but gallop the way I know how. I think I need to just gallop the horse. There is little difference between the way eventers and racetrackers gallop and I've been thinking they're totally different positions. I'm sure I'll still have to work on it, but the monkey thing, it's got to go today.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fair Hill Course Walk with Jimmy

Cherie, genius, had asked Jimmy at the last gymnastics clinic if he would be walking the course at Fair Hill. He said he was, and she asked if we could join in. He said yes, but he didn't know what time it would be. We had a plan. We would spend the entire day there and keep an eye on Jimmy. Sort of stalk him so we could do that course walk. It ended up being much easier because he posted the time on his site and Cherie was probably the first person to see it.
We spent the day at Fair Hill. Watching the dressage, shopping, having lunch, shopping, checking out the exhibits, shopping. You get the idea. Around 3:15 Jimmy got up and we knew we had to go. He drove to the start box. We had to walk. I mean speed walk, at least we thought we were speed walking - there was no way we were going to miss a moment.
He was walking the three star course with two riders, Josh Barnacle and Debbie Rosen. Cherie and I filed in behind. If you've never been to Fair Hill, the course is rather "hilly". It's not flat and we found out that Jimmy walks faster than any human alive. At least we think so. I ride 5 or 6 horses a day and I was winded and sweating in no time flat. Determination was our best friend and Cherie and I toughed it out. We were really happy each time we got to a jump, to hear what Jimmy had to say and to catch our breath before the next walk phase. We were feeling like wimps until Josh said he should have trained to do the course walk with Jimmy. Josh went on to put in a solid performance in the cross country phase. Debbie, put in a fantastic ride but fell with three fences to go. We were rooting for them both.
We walked for 2 and 1/2 hours. It was fantastic and I learned a lot. At the end of the walk Jimmy asked how we were doing and I told him I had been reading the book he suggested. Also I had been doing the exercises. He asked if they were working and I said yes, but likely not enough, knowing I had a clinic with him on Tuesday.
The book is Riding Logic and it's written in an old style that is very hard to follow. That said, it's doing more for Birdie than I ever thought possible. I was a quarter the way through the book and the author kept referencing the "badly made horse". I kept thinking "why am I reading a book about horses with bad conformation?" Well, keep reading, its about badly trained horses. The key part of the book is the part about showing the horse to the ground. My bird needs this more than anything and I've been working on it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Is There Gain In Pain?

I've been following my new program of working on my dressage leg and jumping leg everyday. It is making me sore. At the end of each exercise I am literally asking myself "How bad do you want it?" I must want it bad.
So anyway, I haven't gotten to posting without stirrups past ten minutes, but I have been improving the method. Simply put, my leg without stirrups is improving. I'm also doing two point trotting up and down hills with zero support from mane, reins or leaning on neck. I'm trying to balance myself as long as possible, and it's happening even on the up and down.
Birdie and I are working on that long, longer, longest dressage leg and opening my hips. Oww, oww, oww, but it's happening. Tightness in my left hip is what's lifting my right seatbone off the saddle. It's all good.
So a test today. The Bird and I did our usual high powered stroll around the farm, followed by trotting where he chooses his head position and my hands follow. I then did jumping with my new improved, painfully acquired jumping position. That new leg works great. I have improved balance and the leg and hands are not depending on each other so much. We did the figure eight canter lead changes over the fences. Just a few weeks ago I could not transfer my weight to get the lead change in the air. This day it was systematic. No coming back too early to the saddle after the jump. Birdie started out his wound up self, but quickly relaxed and slowed down as he realized it was going to be a very different day to jump.
Yes, the gain is worth the pain. Incentive to go on.
I've decided that in addition to the leg/position work, I need to be a more giving rider. My horses are givers, probably most horses are. It's a frame of mind as much as an action. I want to give to my horses at every opportunity. I want them to expect to get what they need from me. Of course, giving the reins whenever possible, but I've decided it's more than that. Giving seat, lighter more flexible. Giving shoulders, elastic and kind. Riding with strength that allows me to give to them and accept what they offer, which is a lot. I ask them for something, but then I have to give them what they need to accomplish it.

Friday, October 3, 2008

My Legs are a Pretzel


I galloped racehorses for around 20 years everyday and I miss it. If I had more time I'd go and get on a few every morning. As it is I can't even keep up with my regular schedule. Eventing is demanding in a different way than most disciplines. I have a great race rider leg, or at least I think I do, I very rarely ever came off a racehorse, no matter how bad things were going. Considering the numbers I rode, that's got to be a good indicator.
Now here I am 45 years old and learning to jump. At the same time, I'm doing dressage - every day. Here's the problem: Elizabeth wants my leg one place and Jimmy wants my leg another. They are both right, so what do I do? For those of you who are younger, I have bad news, you are going to stiffen up, really bad. This makes the whole thing even tougher.
This is what I've decided to do. I'm going to do both leg positions every day. Yesterday, I rode the Bear in the usual program. This is my Jimmy exercise horse. I posted w/out stirrups and spent 20 minutes in two point without any rein contact. My legs hurt. The Bird has topline and anxiety issues so I've been hacking him around the farm a ton. He is developing a better topline and at the same time he is relaxing. I call them our "power walks", this was at Elizabeth's suggestion, but Jimmy basically told me to do the same thing. We do some trotting, but only so much as he remains relaxed. These days I stretch my legs longer and longer. No knee, lower leg on, relax and open your hips. I've got muscles screaming I didn't know I had - in the walk! We usually do about 45 minutes to an hour.
By the time I get to Graycie, I'm warmed up and my legs have passed through the "pretzel" stage. They're as good as they're going to be that day. My goal right now is to have my position as correct as possible and use as little aids as possible to get the desired result. We are working on getting her on the outside rein with minimal inside rein use. Yesterday, I realized, as she growled almost the entire ride, she resents getting off the inside rein. Remember, she's a former racehorse and I broke her and galloped her the entire career. She expects certain things of me. As a racehorse she was tough and although she does not lay on the reins, she expects that inside rein to be there. Let me add, when Graycie growls, its a warning that something unpleasant is coming and she had three nasty little tantrums yesterday in the windy chilly weather. We got through it. I'm making progress and I know when she gets through this phase, were going to progress to the next plateau.
Let me take a moment to explain what it's like riding this mare. She is so smart, so sensitive. We've been working on her canter depart for some time now and she does not consistently pick up the lead I want. Notice I said I want, not the lead I ask for. I am supposed to ask for the lead I want with my inside leg when her inside hind is coming under her at the trot. I can feel that, but my timing isn't always perfect. I realized a few days ago she picks up the lead I ask for, so to speak. If I squeeze while the inside hind is coming under, she picks up the correct lead. If I squeeze when the outside hind is coming under, she picks up the outside lead. "It's all up to you human." This is all good, because this mare requires me to be correct at all times. As my timing improves, think what I'll be able to ask for and get. Incredible.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Our Third JW Clinic

I didn't know I was going to ride in this one until the day before. I drew in after a cancellation and I was ecstatic! Cherie was happy too because we would be going together and that's always more fun. You can talk about what you learned with someone who was there. It's actually a better learning experience.
I had to rush to get things in order so I could go. My plan was to get up at 3 a.m., feed and tack up the Bear. He's my rescue and his new job is the posting with one stirrup and without stirrups. I think it's as hard on him as it is on me. I've worked my way up to 10 minutes left stirrup, 10 minutes right stirrup and ten minutes without stirrups. I'm not young and consequently I'm stiff. I realize how stiff because these exercises loosen me up and build my strength. I wanted to be my best so I wanted to do this before I rode the Bird with Jimmy.
So there I was in the dark in front of my barn riding my Bear when JK pulled up. I know JK thinks I'm crazy. He's a retired jockey and although he's very interested in the "show type riding", he doesn't understand a lot of it. In particular, why I'd get up at 3 a.m. to torture myself and the Bear.
My Bird was a little more "up" this time but that was okay, I was ready. I had religiously been doing my exercises and I was warmed up and ready to go. Billy Meister was riding a green horse in my class and what a pleasure to watch that kind of skill. The horse soaked up his quiet demeanor like a sponge. It's good to be around those kind of riders, it makes you realize there's so much more to this than just correctness. Gifted riders give something intangible to horses that brings out their best in an easy, unlabored way. Natural and effortless.
Back to my struggle with position - my reality. I was riding, oh five minutes and Jimmy told me "lets pick up where we left off last time". We made a lot of progress with this horse and I want it to continue. That meant, get out of his mouth going to the jump, grab mane and wait.
Birdie did duck out once at this clinic, it was an oxer and the first time he has ever ducked out during a gymnastic exercise. Jimmy and I had a discussion about leg position after that which really helped because with all this painful posting I've been doing, I don't really know where my leg belongs for jumping. Now I do. This was a great day and this time Jimmy didn't tell me to post without stirrups or post with only one, but I plan to keep doing it until I can post without for 30 minutes. He suggested I read a book, Riding Logic by Wilhelm Museler. I ordered it and it's on it's way. He wants me to learn about showing the horse to the ground.
Cherie and Katchi - I've learned so much about training an eventer from this pair. I have the mind of a trainer, but I now have to apply it to a new discipline. I am in awe of the progress these two have made together in the past year. Last year there were many times, it seemed impossible Katchi would ever do a horse trial. Now the two of them are a team. Poetry in motion and it seems with each day they are more polished. They had a great day at the clinic. If anything, Katchi was too relaxed, almost napping at times. What a change from last year when alert was a kind description of Katchi's attitude. The focus at this clinic seemed to be on teaching Katchi to adjust to changes in the height of the jump. Of course, he made great progress, and Cherie was - well perfect.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Second Jimmy Wofford Clinic

Birdie and I were brave enough to show our faces at the gymnastics clinic with Mr. Wofford at An Otherwise Perfect Farm. What a difference a few months makes. My good friend Cherie was in the 3' class and wanted me to do it with her. I thought about it and decided to do the 2'6". Not because Birdie couldn't do it, because he can skip over that height. I've been jumping with Steuart and doing it as well. The reason was I really wanted to have a good day, so I aimed low.
It was a perfect day. Birdie was relaxed this time. Jimmy really gave me some insight into how I can ride this incredible horse better. He gave me exercises to do to really improve my riding, even if they are - well painful. Did you ever post with only one stirrup? How about gallop? It is helping though, not just my jumping, but my dressage too. Oh, I also have to post without stirrups, which believe it or not is easier to do than having only one, at least for me. Jimmy told me he really likes Birdie and I can't tell you how much that means to me. This horse is such a giver, I am touched by how much confidence he has in me. We didn't even knock down a rail. Me and the Bird Man redeemed ourselves. What a great day.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Our First Dressage Test Together

No not Graycie and I, although I'm sure it's going to be quite a story. Birdie has dressage anxiety issues. He gets uptight at the sight of a dressage arena. I don't know why, but that's the horse I have. We entered in the BN Short Course at Loch Moy. What a gorgeous place that is. The people are fantastic too.
Dressage was first thing in the morning and my faithful friend Cherie was there at my side even though she was there to compete the fabulous Katchi. We had to walk down a long hill to the warm up arena. I told Cherie it seemed the more I drill the Bird the more uptight he gets. My strategy would be to try to ride him on as loose a rein as possible during warm up. To my amazement, he was going for it. I even did a little on the bit work and he was quite pleasing.
Now it was time to walk up a small hill to an area with three dressage arenas side by side. Now let me inject that it's been over 20 years since I rode a dressage test. When Birdie saw the dressage arenas, he became extremely uptight. There was no bending to try to relax him, any movement is prohibited until he tones down a notch. Now I know, from riding racehorses, when a horse is this tight, and I mean tight, you just sit there. Any movement at all and they pop off. What is pop off? Well it manifests itself in many different forms, but it's never good and around a dressage arena it will probably be embarrassing too.
The guy before me is saluting and it's time. Here I go around the arena on my very uptight horse who is now even more uptight. My only goal is to make certain that this wonderful horse does not have a bad experience. He needs me to do this right. I look down in the judges box and what do I see? It's my neighbor. I start to laugh which is great. What are the odds I don't ride a dressage test for 20 years and my neighbor is the judge?
I'm going to get my third arm out now and give myself a pat on the back for the following reasons. Me and the Bird rode a very accurate test. His straight lines were pretty straight, his circles were round, he did his transitions where he was supposed to. It was not a competitive test because he was so uptight, but it was an accurate test. It is very hard to accurately ride a test on a horse that uptight, believe me. The best part of it was, although he never really relaxed, he did become more relaxed as the test went on. I am excited to ride the next one because I think we're on the right road, albeit a long road.
We did not do the cross country course in competition, it was very hot and in two days I was to ride with Jimmy. We did school it later in the day and the most special thing happened. Birdie never has fun, he just does his job. I can never get him to take a treat and when I ride him I know he loves me, but he doesn't seem to know how to just enjoy. This day though we had a breakthrough. It was so hot and Cherie decided we should stand in the water jump a bit. Katchi was splashing up a storm and Birdie just stood there wondering what the hell we were doing. Waiting for me to decide the next task. Then it happened, after about ten minutes of standing there, Birdie put a hoof forward and splash! "Hey, I like this!" Splash, splash splash! Cherie and I were laughing and telling that Bird what a good horse he is. Katchi joined in and said, "Hey when I do this you tell me to cut it out."
It was a good day. Cherie and Katchi did what they do best, they won their class.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Christmas in July

It was Christmas in July for me today. I've not seen someone ride Graycie since she was ridden by a jockey in a race. She was beautiful. Steuart rode her and she did everything she was asked. She was a handful upon arrival but that stopped when she realized why she was there.
My lesson on Birdie was wonderful as well. We learned a lot last week and I was able to put it together during today's lesson.
It was a good day.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

First Lesson with Steuart Pittman

I had my first jumping lesson with Steuart Pittman today. I took Birdie and Steuart really read Birdie well. He recognized his anxiety and gave helpful advice on how to better handle it. It was a great lesson over all. However, I need to break this trend of falling off the first time I work with a new person. Yes, I fell off again. It’s terrible, but for some warped reason I am not embarrassed and feel it was a great day.I’ve fallen off more in the last few months than the last 15 years I galloped and broke racehorses. I am athletic enough to get myself in big trouble. The only great thing is I am learning at an incredible rate. I just hope I get enough jumping skills before I break my neck. Birdie is wonderful and I know he is hoping I learn soon because he’s tired of me crashing him.What happened? I’m not sure, except I am not looking at the jump early enough. Part of that is because of the dressage training. I’m not supposed to turn my head, and in jumping I am so the horse knows we’re going to jump that. The other problem is I do a better than decent job of leaving the horse alone, but when he doesn’t want to go, I don’t have the tools to get him to. It’s a skill I need to learn and fast. I felt sorry for Steuart, a new student and she crashes her first lesson.He’s willing to take me on so I label him a brave individual. He really helped me and I will ride better today and every day just from what I learned yesterday. Next week I’ll be taking both Birdie and Her Highness, he said he’s willing to get on her. I can’t wait, it’s going to be fantastic to see him ride her. I’m excited to know his opinion of her.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Just Another Day with Her HIGHNESS

Now for Graycie. I've had it, I'm not going to take it any more. Poor Graycie, she's bored so I think I'll let her abuse me. She has no respect for me whatever and it's all my fault. Today I decided I'd jump her because she's been such a miserable b**** the last week. I warmed her up and did a little canter in two point. Then I thought I'd do the five stride cross rails before I went over to the gymnastic. She did them at 800 mph at full MB (miserable b****). I naturally figured the oxer would back her off like it has in the past. After all it's not new anymore. Wrong, 900 mph at full MB. So over to the gymnastic - you know where this is going don't you? Poor JK, he had to put up with two MB's. Okay, small cross rail, maybe 2 feet to start. Stopping her after was no picnic. So I thought a straight rail at the end might back her off. JK set it at about 2 feet. It slowed her down to 800 mph, with some really mean bounces at the end when I was stopping her. So we put the second cross rail, set at 2 feet up. She did it really fast and made it through. Totally ignored my desire to slow down and be reasonable. Now, to top it off, people are shooting guns at Glenn's, my neighbor, and she, being the nosy one, wants to pay attention to that - not to me, her stupid human. She's approaching and stopping, going sideways, running out, having nasty tantrums. I look at JK and tell him I've ruined her. I don't know what I'm doing and she's decided she hates jumping. We put them all down on the ground and JK had to walk me through while she beat him with her head the whole way. After a few passes, I was able to walk her through myself. So JK and I decided we've over faced her and put the three jumps down to oh, as low as they will go. I walk her up she steps over, go back again, there's shooting, "I DON'T WANT TO GO HUMAN! I WANT TO SEE WHAT'S BACK THERE”. Okay, I snapped, I've had it. She's not afraid; she doesn't respect me at all. She doesn't have to listen to me and I'm a joke. Whack! Not hard, right behind the leg. She goes. Now it's not smooth, but she's paying attention to me. This isn't seamless but she is paying attention. After a few moderately successful passes, not at 800 mph, but not the way I'd like either, I decide we need to go and school in the dressage ring, which of course, she does not want to do. I've had enough and I'm not going to take it any more. We trot, we canter, I don't care if I make her uncomfortable, she can live with it and be appreciative when Elizabeth finally straightens me out. She shook her head in defiance the whole time, but she did what I wanted to do. Tomorrow, I'm not taking any more of her abuse. She's going to have to suck it up. I think I've been spoiling her wayyyyy too much. I hope you don't have to visit me in the hospital this week, but if I'm right, we've reached a new and important plateau. I hope I’m right.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Day of My First Jumper Show - EVER

It was decided we would go to the show. I arrived at 7:30 am. Cherie wasn’t there yet, but good old JK came with me. We’ve worked together in racehorses for twenty years. I settled in and set everything up. Cherie arrived and said they didn’t have the course out yet. I tacked up and got on Birdie. We rode around and he was great. Cherie didn’t want me to jump until after I walked the course with her. Now two things are worth mentioning. One, I’ve never been to a jumper show, even as a spectator. Two, I’ve never walked a course. It was time for our first course. It was me and my Baby Bird. I wasn’t worried about him. He never lets me down. I was worried about me messing everything up. As we jumped the course I was overcome with emotion. He was perfect. Perfect spots, perfect rhythm. He knew why we were there and I could hear him whisper in my head, “don’t worry human, I’ll take care of this.” I was so proud of him, he was so wonderful. SNAP OUT OF IT. They’re yelling at you, “There’s one more fence!!!” Yes, I almost messed it up, but instead we jumped clean and won the class. I won my first jumper class. Well, Birdie won it, but he let me come with him. Thank you Cherie. The second class was not as polished. Truth be told I was tired. We did jump clean, but not fast enough and ended up third. I’m not used to being tired from riding. At one point I galloped around thirty horses a day between the morning and the farm. It didn’t matter, this type of riding made me tired. I really need to work on fitness.

Friday, June 20, 2008

First Warm Up Arena - EVER

It was only two days after the Jimmy clinic and we were supposed to go to our first jumper show. A very small show, a C rating, just a schooling for us to try it out. I told Cherie, I’d go to the warm up on Friday, but if Birdie was as full of anxiety, I wasn’t going to show him. It wasn’t fair to do that. I was dying to know if he would be upset though, since he had finally relaxed at the clinic.Friday night, we went, it was only five minutes from my house. When we arrived, Birdie was keyed up, but I took him off by himself and rode a while. Still strong on the bit, we went into the warm up ring. Boy, what a circus. Horses going every which way. I told Cherie I’d never say anyone at the racetrack was a bad rider again after what I’d seen there. The most important thing is in less than fifteen minutes, Birdie was starting to relax. Cherie had me jump a few fences and I was horrible. I’d never been so bad. She told me to wait, stop getting ahead. I finally did one correct and she told me to stop. I don’t know what happened to my riding, but I was now worried about me, not Birdie.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

First Ride With Jimmy Wofford - a Clinic at Win Green


Over the past year I’ve attended two or three clinics and lessons with Jimmy Wofford. Not as a rider, but helping my friend Cherie. I learned a lot and was impressed that I completely understood what he was talking about. Bear in mind I’m an exercise rider with a background in dressage. I never really learned to jump. I have jumped before, but never learned how. Truth be told, I never really had a desire to. I loved dressage, but couldn’t make a living at it. They’d pay me to ride at the track, so I went there. Racing has been very good to me and I don’t regret taking that path.Birdie gave me an opportunity to ride in a clinic with Jimmy Wofford. Something I really wanted to do. My friend Cherie said I was ready and it would be great for my riding to have Jimmy take a look at me early in my learning.

I’d gone cross country jumping twice with Cherie and it was fun, because Birdie was so fantastic. I told Cherie, I didn’t want to be the class clown. She assured me we belonged there. I’d observed the last cross country clinic with Jimmy and they didn’t jump anything I wouldn’t have been completely comfortable with. Besides, Birdie had come so far. He was much more relaxed and happy with me now. His only issue was ditches. What could go wrong?Well, I know Jimmy Wofford sees hundreds of riders, maybe thousands. One thing I’m sure of - if I ever ride in another clinic of his, he’ll remember me – and Birdie.When we arrived, all was great. Both Birdie and Katchi, Cherie’s horse, stood quietly on the trailer while we set up our stuff for the day. We were early and had time to watch the clinic before us for a time. So we unloaded the boys and headed down the hill to watch, and let them graze. Birdie was relaxed and I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. We were watching the Prelim people and Cherie said, “We won’t have to jump that stuff, our jumps will be much easier.” I remembered the last cross country clinic and felt certain she was right.There was some question as to exactly what time we were to start, and down the hill came a gal that was riding in our clinic with her horse tacked, but in a halter. We decided we should do the same. Everything was going great. Finally the time came to get on our horses and warm up. Jimmy would be coming down that hill soon to begin. I got on Birdie and it was as if an electric shock went through him.

Suddenly, it was the horse that arrived at my farm. Filled with anxiety and leaning on the bit for assurance. Then he backed over a bush, a real bush too, about 3 feet high. Well, all eyes were on me and Birdie, but not to worry. I was confident if I just sat quietly, he would relax. I know from riding so many racehorses, you can’t make a big deal of anxiety. You have to just sit.Jimmy likes to line you all up at the beginning of the clinic and learn your name and about your horse. I told him my name and that Birdie had competed to Training Level. He asked me how far I’d competed. I told him I’d learned to jump about two months ago. He said he’d have to keep an eye on me. Birdie was standing and I don’t think he was aware of the entire problem standing before him. My friend Cherie did try to help by telling Jimmy I can really ride. Thank you Cherie, I appreciate your vote of confidence.It was time to warm up in the sand arena. We were to line up single file, leaving enough room between us and jump a simple fence. Easy enough, I was sure Birdie would soon calm down, because jumping always seemed to pacify him. Well, we went around the edge of the arena and he just didn’t want to turn, through another bush and then finally headed to the jump. “Wait, stay out of his way, don’t sit down too early”, I reminded myself as we headed to the jump. He jumped it like he always does – great.

Thank you Birdie. It was that way every time, he didn’t want to turn but once headed to the jump, we were fine. I felt pressure, my horse was so up tight and leaning on me and everyone else could just, well, do the jump. Right about then Mr. Wofford said exactly what I needed to hear. Take your time, don’t worry about everyone else. At this point, I was sure everyone there thought I was an idiot. I have a rather thick skin though and wasn’t about to give up. I came there to learn and my horse needed to get through this. I continued to sit and relax my body as much as I could. Jimmy likes you to ride on a long rein and let the horse do the work. I knew this, but I also knew there was no long rein for Birdie unless he started to relax.

Jimmy covered this point before we set out to the first cross country fence. He looked at me and said he realized if I gave Birdie too much rein, he’d be gone and if I took too much hold, he’d be gone. He wanted me to try my best to get him on a longer rein throughout the day. I was glad he said that to me, because I really couldn’t let go of the hold. I’d tried it in the past when Birdie was in this mood and he not only took off, but his head went straight into the air. So much that I had to move my face to one side to keep from being hit.Now I want to take a moment to say, I love this horse. I adore him and I knew he was just having a bad day. I wasn’t mad at him. I felt bad I couldn’t give him what he needed. If I were a better rider, I’d be able to help him. He was upset and looking to me to make it better and I was failing him.The first cross country fence was simple, I’m not good at names so I’ll just say it looked like some logs with a little brush at the bottom. Same thing, Birdie was hard to get to the jump, but once he got there, he jumped flawlessly. My jumping style was not as good as most days, but I did a fair job.

Jimmy didn’t really rag on me about getting left a little here and there. He kept reminding me to figure 8 between fences to keep Birdie busy. I tried to, the best I could, but I knew if Birdie didn’t relax soon, I was going to get tired. We only ride racehorses when they’re like this for fifteen minutes or so. Birdie had now been in this mood for over a half hour. I was still sure if I just sat there, he’d come around.Jimmy Wofford is really great at telling you what you need to hear. That’s not the same as telling you what you want to hear. About halfway through this clinic he said to me he really liked Birdie, and that was important to me. He said Birdie just needed time and patience and would probably be a wonderful horse in four years. Well four years wasn’t exactly great news, but one thing I have is time.

Remember, this is all happening because of the Gray Monster.One thing I knew was that Birdie was teaching me. He made RIDE, he didn’t hand me anything. What kept me going on this day was the fact that I knew if I got through it, I’d be a better rider than I had been the day before. Birdie would be a better horse. I kept pushing back the little voice in the back of my head that tried to tell me I wasn’t going to make it through this day.I was getting tired and Birdie wasn’t relaxing. It was now over halfway through this clinic and I had remodeled my goal. Now I thought, if I just got through the day, just sitting quietly on Birdie and not making a big deal of his anxiety, the next time we went out, he’d be better. In other words, I lost all hope he was going to relax on this day.One other thing was happening. While I was sure that everyone else riding in the clinic, save Cherie thought I was an idiot at first. At this point I felt I had earned their respect. Now mind you, no one ever said or did anything the least bit unkind. This was in my head, and I guess I was feeling rather proud I’d made it this far.Jimmy occasionally would have me do an easier jump than the others, which truthfully, I was grateful for. He then instructed us to jump this sort of fake trakehner, then gallop down a hill and up another hill to a ramp (I think that’s what it’s called). That trakehner thing looked ominous to me. It had an awfully big telephone pole on it. I took a deep breath and headed out, it was my turn. Well, Birdie did what he does, he jumped it.

Hooray, I made it!! I got a little left and as I always do when that happens, I apologized to him. As Birdie always does, he accepted. Now, for the fun part, I’m great at relaxing horses in the gallop. That was one of my strong suits as an exercise rider. I let him out as he settled in to his rhythm. The ramp thing didn’t worry me at all. It seemed straight forward to me. Well you know where this is going don’t you?I’m going to say maybe 8 strides out Birdie said to me “I’m ducking to the left”. I said “No, don’t do that”. He said, “Okay, I’m ducking to the right”. I said, don’t do that either.” Then he said something I wasn’t prepared for. He said, “Okay, I’ll go.” Now that shouldn’t be a problem, but you have to keep in mind that although Birdie does quit once in a while, it really isn’t very often. Consequently, I have not developed the skills to get a horse to jump that’s quitting. Even worse, I had never had a horse that was quitting, change his mind and decide to go. It should have been great news and it was, for a moment. When Birdie said, “Okay, I’ll go.” I reacted. I leaned forward. Now all my weight was on his forehand as he was lifting off. I’m not sure, but I think since he was planning on quitting on approach, he wasn’t paying attention to the height of the jump. At any rate, he hit it – hard – and over his head I went. He was hanging over the jump.

Front feet on one side, back feet on the other. Struggling, looking over the jump. I looked up at him and pushed myself back, as soon as he saw me, he scrambled over the jump. He was looking for ME. He was in trouble and instead of saving himself, he looked for me.What a wonderful horse. What a kind and gentle soul. Who was now running around Win Green Farm at racing speed. New reins swinging in the air, back and forth. Wow, he is fast. Everyone else was down the hill, huddled together. I was later told, Birdie seriously thought about running right through all of the innocent bystanders on horseback. Cherie said, “holy cats, I'll never forget the look in his eyes as he came around the corner (reins flapping below his neck) and zeroed in on his pack of horsey friends - myself and the other girl at the edge of the circle didn't know where to go! I just kept thinking that surely he'd have enough sense not to actually run us over!” I was up on the top of that big hill. On display for all to see, as my horse made the rounds. Birdie even took time to go in and out of a turn out shed before deciding to come back my way. As he ran by, I reached out and grabbed the reins. Lucky catch really, and he was ready to be caught anyway. Cherie said Jimmy never said a word. It was a long walk down that hill. I was glad Birdie and I weren’t hurt. I will comment that hitting solid timber is painful, but I wasn’t hurt, hurt, if you know what I mean. I got to the bottom of the hill and a really nice girl was waiting to help me. I asked her if I should get back on, she said absolutely, so I did.Jimmy looked over at me and said, You got a little left over the first fence, so you overcompensated and jumped ahead on the second one. Something like that.

I was instructed to go and jump the first cross country jump I’d jumped that day until Birdie settled back down. Birdie did what Birdie does. He jumped like I’d never crashed him. Somehow that horse has confidence in me. When we’re approaching a jump, no matter how much I messed up the jump before; he says “I know you’re going to do it right this time!!” I don’t think I deserve it, but I’m thankful he is so forgiving.I was tired, very tired by now. I think we went to the bank next. Jimmy had me do the small bank and then told me to rest awhile, he wanted me to be able to do the water. Birdie has always been great at the banks, but I was very glad to rest. I said to Cherie, I get the trophy for most humiliating experience and I hoped she’d never win it back from me. I’ve been present for some of her, well, not so wonderful moments. I accept the fact, it doesn’t always go the way you plan when horses are involved.The rest of the clinic went without a hitch.

After one hour and forty-five minutes, I was finally able to ride Birdie on a loose rein. He was probably tired, but I was glad we had achieved that goal. I had lost hope we would.Now, I should have felt humiliated and sorry for myself – I think, but I didn’t. I really learned a lot. I had a stronger bond with Birdie. I had no idea how much he cared about me before that day. Also, he had finally relaxed, and had I reacted to his anxiety, it could have been a disaster. I do not believe that horses consider the time it takes to do something. I believe they think, “I did it or I didn’t do it. It was pleasant or it was unpleasant.” I don’t think they think “Ha, I made that human wait an hour to get me on that van.” Or “It took an hour and forty five minutes for me to relax that day.” I learned how to better deal with Birdie’s anxiety. I jumped lots of fences I’d never seen before. I also learned, it’s a lot better to get left than it is to jump ahead of a horse. Not only for the rider, but for the horse too. I rode under pressure and I made it through the whole clinic. I never gave up.

Friday, March 21, 2008

My Baby Bird and Elizabeth Madlener

In March a wonderful girl contacted me and offered me a horse that had competed to training level in eventing. I was so excited, this was the answer to my prayers. A horse that could teach me how to jump so when Graycie was ready, I could teach her.Birdie turned out to be a fantastic jumper. He had tons of anxiety, but when it came to jumping, he was brave, reliable and kind. He even started teaching me. “Psst, aren’t you going to tell me to take off here? This is the spot.” No matter what mistake I made, he never held it against me. He approached the next jump with “I know you’re going to do it right this time”. I’ve never known a kinder or gentler soul. He was hungry for my approval and I was happy to give it.Graycie was coming along, and I’d even jumped her a couple times, but I knew I needed to do more.My good friend Cherie had been going on an on about this dressage instructor she had. I needed help with Birdie on the flat and I also needed help with my riding. I’d gotten as far as I was going to on my own. I decided I should get a lesson on Birdie with Elizabeth Madlener.I’ve never considered myself the best rider in the world or anything, but I know how to ride. I did dressage in my early riding and won more than my fair share of ribbons. I galloped racehorses for 20 years or so and earned the respect of my peers.I was excited to get a lesson. I really wanted to get myself improved and was anxious to help Birdie. That day, I left that lesson, knowing I don’t even know how to ride. Plain and simple, I am a total idiot.Now I’m no quitter. I don’t give up without a fight. So I tortured myself for the next week. Riding everything I could, working on sitting correctly, getting my legs back and trying to find my right seat bone. I have no idea where it was hiding, but I couldn’t get in on the saddle to save my life.The day of dread came and it was time for the second lesson. I had worked hard but, didn’t expect anyone to notice. I still felt like an incompetent in the tack, but I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. I had this wonderful horse, Birdie to think of and then there was the most magnificent creature to ever walk the earth to consider.This lesson went well. Now mind you, I still had a hell of a climb to get where I wanted to go, but I was on my way. I felt it a good time to bring up the Gray Monster. I needed to lay down the ground work with Elizabeth because in my mind Graycie was special and I wanted to be sure whoever helped me would never damage her spirit. It was decided the next lesson would be on her. I made arrangements to ship Graycie over to the indoor during the week so I could see how she’d react. She hadn’t been off the farm since she was a race horse.My plan was to longe her and then get on her if she seemed okay. It was a flashback to the past. 900 mph on the longe line, I don’t know how she stays up. I know, occasionally she doesn’t. She calmed down to a dull roar and I elected to get on. JK said “Are you sure?”. I said “No, but I’m going to anyway.” It was a little creepy at first, but she calmed down and was quite good.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Graycie and Elizabeth

Well, they day arrived and I was excited all day. Graycie and I were going for a lesson at 3 p.m. When we got there, she was her usual bossy self and Elizabeth was running behind. It was miserable being stuck with Graycie when she wasn’t working. I told myself she has to learn to wait and be patient and this was a good lesson. The lesson went fabulous. Elizabeth agreed she was special, but also informed me I was irritating Graycie. Well, I knew I got on her nerves, but I didn’t know this girl already knew how I should be riding her. I also told Elizabeth I knew how to gallop, but I really didn’t know how to canter. It had been so long and I really needed help. She knew it. My seat was all wrong and I really needed to pull my right seat bone out of moth balls or where ever it was hiding.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Cross Country and Graycie - NOT a Good Idea

Things were going okay in our training of "circle, circle", but Graycie had her moments of resistance. She was very annoyed that nothing fun ever happened. I tried my best to give her variety.We set out with Punkie, my tried and true horse on a cross country hack. Punkie actually broke Graycie and I felt it could lead to a breakthrough. Well I couldn’t get back to the barn fast enough. It was decided she wasn’t ready for hacks.During this time I was riding as many horses as I could to work on getting my dressage seat back. I had been an exercise rider for 20 some years and it had been ages since I did anything other than break babies and gallop. I knew I needed some lessons, but I also needed to get “good enough’’ to take lessons.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Riding Her

By the end of February, I felt confident I should start riding her. She was longeing decently and I thought she’d be happier if she was ridden. How hard could it be to just do a few circles in front of the barn after longeing? Well, I longed her first and that went well, so I removed the side reins and got on from the mounting block. JK peeked out of the barn to see what would happen. I just rode her around on the flat area in front of my barn. There are always a few jumps set up out there. She was a typical ottb, in that she didn’t know how to turn off the leg and seat and wanted to rubber neck a bit when you resorted to the rein. You see, racehorses do steer, but we rarely turn them. About 20 minutes of that and she was relaxed and I thought I better stop on a good note.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Beautiful Girl Gets Hurt

Back to longeing. It rained for a few days and the ground got worse with each day. I need to build a longe pen with footing, but I haven’t the funds yet. My biggest money maker is now retired and hating life – Graycie. I have millings in front of my barn. They are ground up asphalt from roads. They do have a bit of give to them so I thought I could longe her there until the ground got better. It was working so well I decided to order a truck load to expand the area. It gave us a place with stable footing and I was concerned since she had fallen down on greasy footing.Then one morning the fillies in the field nearby came running around to the front and Graycie leapt into the air really high. When she landed she lost her footing and fell down, breaking one side rein. She really hit the ground hard. There really wasn’t enough cushion in those millings. When she got up she had scrapes on her knee, ankle, hock, stifle and chest. It hurt her, I had never seen Graycie in pain before. She had never suffered any injury during racing. She did get a cut on her ankle once but that didn’t seem to bother her at all. Now she was in pain and I couldn’t stand to see that magnificent creature reduced to a depressed animal in pain.I talked to Carol one of my vets who understands my relationship with horses very well. Carol doesn’t even make me feel like a kook. I was afraid I was breaking Graycie’s heart. She was hurt and depressed and had lost that fire in her eye. Carol assured me she would get through this. She only needed to accept this new life and it would take time. I wasn’t going to extinguish the bright spirit that was Graycie.Well, it’s a funny thing about that girl getting hurt. You see, she’s smart and from that day on she took longeing seriously. She began to settle down and find a rhythm. She started to carry herself and find the best way to navigate those irritating circles. For the first time I saw this could be possible. It was now.