Cloud's Honor Racing

Cloud's Honor Racing
www.GoodHorse.org

Cloud's Honor Riding

Cloud's Honor Riding
www.LeightonFarm.com

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.