Cloud's Honor Racing

Cloud's Honor Racing
www.GoodHorse.org

Cloud's Honor Riding

Cloud's Honor Riding
www.LeightonFarm.com

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.