Cloud's Honor Racing

Cloud's Honor Racing

Cloud's Honor Riding

Cloud's Honor Riding

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Did You Ever Jump Without Reins?

I had a lesson with Samantha Allan last week and it was exciting and informative. Birdie, being the high anxiety, energy driven equine is probably the last horse you'd choose to jump without reins, but he is the horse I have. Sam decided it was a great time for me to experience jumping without reins. In the indoor, trotting poles to a one stride was the setting. I learned something about my riding that I hadn't realized. I also faced a fact head on, (not literally) that I already knew.

First, Birdie approaches and jumps beautifully without any input from the reins. Imagine that, I have proof that if I would just leave him alone, he would jump beautifully. That's a great thing to know. Second, my tension or anxiety when approaching the jump has nothing to do with the approach at all. Apparently I know if I leave him alone, he'll approach correctly and jump beautifully. I, being a human though have a desire to have too much contact on approach. Now I know why. After the jump when the Bird is free, he has a YEE HA, good time. He sort of cuts and runs. He did it even better than usual when he realized I had no reins. It was obvious that I approach the jump anticipating the depart from the jump. This in not rational because there's nothing I can do on the approach about the depart except muck it up. Having this information moved my riding up considerably and I never knew this before that lesson.

This lesson was an exhilarating learning experience. It had moments of mild terror as the wall approached. You see, having come from a race track riding background, I'd have been much more comfortable in an open field jumping without reins. There I would have all the time in the world to get them back and slow my Bird. In an indoor, THE WALL IS COMING!! They keep solid objects to a minimum on the race track and that's the way we like it. When I told Jim Wofford what I had done in my last lesson with Sam, he got the biggest, cat that ate the canary grin and said, that Sam is a good girl.

I told Sam I feel I need a lot more of this. Not to worry, she has many more exercises in store for me. I am lucky to have such great people to work with.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Momentary Despair

This blog is supposed to be about riding, but that's not what I do with most of my time these days. Even though I spend around 6 hours per day riding. I'm sitting here at my desk at 3 a.m. in the morning answering my normal 25 or so emails. So much is happening with the placement/rescue work. I find myself feeling completely impotent. Nothing I do is enough. I just can't get enough done, fast enough for these horses. I deal with people who love them and want what's best for their horses and that is real pressure. Then I deal with people who just want to get rid of them, another sinister kind of pressure. This is what despair feels like. No matter how many times you tell yourself you can't help them all, deep down you really do want to help them all. I'm going to allow myself ten minutes of this and then I'll get back to work. I promise I'll get back to writing about riding. I don't want to bum everybody out. I guess it's normal, I forget I'm human sometimes.

I Think Too Much, But It Works For Me

So it's 33 ̊ and raining today at Leighton Farm. I was going to the track do pictures and video of four horses to add to the site, but it was just too dreary for the pictures to come out well. I felt pressure anyway because I was sure the day would deteriorate and I have horses I simply must ride today - in the cold rain.

I don't have an indoor or even a sand arena. We built this farm to accommodate the needs of racehorses and they don't need an arena. I never cared for farm racetracks, so we have turf gallops and trails through the woods for schooling the babies. It's great for transitioning thoroughbreds and it was easy to incorporate jumps into the gallops. The thing is, when the footing is greasy, I have to be innovative. It was that way with the babies and racehorses and it's that way with the horses in show training. Today we only had a couple must trains. One is a baby that was really rotten to break and now that she's going good. We give her light days, not days off. We are all safer that way.

The other is, you guessed it The Bird. I gave him a break last week, but just found out we get to school with Jimmy this Thursday. The Bird is a pip after a day off so we usually hack about the farm the first day back. The next day we school on the flat which will set us up perfectly for our lesson on Thursday.

Now when I get back to the farm it's 33 ̊ and raining. I have to admit I'm used to it. I galloped for around 20 years at Pimlico and your job is to ride, rain, shine, sleet, snow. I hate galloping in ice rain, it hurts your eyes. If you wear goggles it builds up on them quickly and you can't see. I used to close my eyes and open them for a stride every three or four strides. Can't say I miss that.

Getting to the point - this is an epiphany for me. I would estimate every month I've schooled with Elizabeth Madlener she has at least once per month taken hold of the reins near the horse's mouth in an attempt to show me the elastic "feel" I should have. In other words, the relationship with the horse's mouth. I did understand it and try to put it into play. I've always been a tactful rider, so I'm sure I was getting it?

A few entries ago in this blog I talked about Sharon White and how light she is on a horse. In fact this is a trait that the really gifted riders seem to have. They are effortless and comfortable on a horse. The horse in turn is completely comfortable with them.
I'm always working on my riding and trying to learn why I do what I do. The Bird loves to run at jumps, he came to me that way. When he is in high anxiety you have to take hold of him to the jump and then let go on approach. This is very hard to do. Jimmy has made it easier for me to do this and I've been working on it. I asked myself why can't I let go? It's driving me nuts. It's easier for everyone to let go, the horse is happier. I've never had a problem letting racehorses go. Why is this so hard on this horse?

Today riding my Bird in the cold rain at the walk on a long rein I found the answer. Tension. Tension is the answer. The truly great riders all lack tension. This is why Sharon is so light. She is strong and effective, but hasn't an ounce of tension in her body. The "feel" that Elizabeth keeps showing me. To achieve it there can be no tension. The tension in my shoulders and elbows prevents me from letting go of the Bird. It builds with his tension. I have to be strong to ride him to the fence, but by the time I arrive at the take off I've built up so much tension in my body to hold him, I can't let go completely.