Cloud's Honor Racing

Cloud's Honor Racing

Cloud's Honor Riding

Cloud's Honor Riding

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Giving of Permission

Birdie and I went to Sharon White's to school over her ever expanding cross country jumps. She was kind enough to give Diana with D A and me with Birdie a lesson. It's been a while since I did any cross country jumps with Birdie other than the ones at my farm. As I expected when we rode out onto the cross country course he became very uptight. It didn't help that there were other riders riding around. Birdie knew something was up. He was a mixture of anxiety and excitement which mixes like oil and vinegar. Except if you shake it, you won't like what you get.

I tried my "do dressage in the field" system, which was good, but not good enough. Sharon came down on a 4 year old of her own and began by talking about galloping. She told Diana and I to separate and warm up in the gallop. Birdie's head was higher than high. She told me don't worry about where his head is, put your hands down and keep your reins longer. This is hard to do when you're about to have your eye poked out by your horse's ear.

Now we began by jumping a log which Birdie did well and my new correct way of pulling him up worked like a charm. What a relief. Next we went to a log that's up off the ground a bit and Birdie didn't like it and stopped. By the way, D A who's never done cross country, willingly jumped everything and seemed to love it all. Back to Birdie - I started to kick Birdie and tell him he should have jumped that log. After all, he's jumped tons of logs. Sharon told me to stop. Stand there and try to get him to look at it. Birdie doesn't think he's allowed to look at jumps. He didn't want to and he snorted his dismay and acted quite silly, but eventually he walked up to it and put his head down to take a sniff. It took nearly five minutes, but once he sniffed that log a wave of relaxation went through his body. Sharon told me to walk around it keeping him as close to it as possible which I did with little trouble. She said that Birdie is scared and this is how I should work it out with him. She was right because he was brave and confident for the rest of the lesson.

While driving home, I thought about what had happened and I realized what she had done was given me a way to give Birdie permission to look at jumps. What I had done was to tell him, it's okay to look and this ended his fear. Apparently he is afraid to jump without looking and I don't blame him. I am so impressed with Sharon, she really gets Birdie and I'm excited to work with her again. She has offered to go to Gordonsville with Diana and I. I can't wait.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Accelerator

Gymnastics clinic with Jimmy today, Wow.

My Bird gets very strong after fences. Everyone agrees he loves to jump and this is part of the reason. I have been a bit accepting of this behavior and I realize I need to address it. I've been trying to make him pull up willingly after I jump. You've heard it before, it seems like the harder I try to pull up, the faster he goes. I've been struggling with this for a while and I found the magic potion today. It's something I knew all along, but just hadn't put together on this horse. Here's how it goes....

Birdie is strong to the fence, but that's another issue - sort of. After the fence he just wants to keep going and what do I do? I pull on the reins - I mean the accelerator, I mean the reins. That's what it does, it makes him go faster, just like racehorses. Oh dear, I already knew that. So I say to myself I need more leg to push him into the bridle. It's not easy to apply leg to a horse that for all intensive purposes is running off. I do it anyway and still no prize. If anything, he's worse. So Jimmy says to me why are you getting on your toe? I think to myself, I really don't know. So I drive home thinking "Why am I getting on my toe?" I think about applying more leg and then I realize I don't have strong enough legs to push him into the bridle. I have strong legs too, but the reason I don't have enough leg is I AM STILL PULLING ON THE REINS TOO MUCH!!! In an effort to squeeze harder, I'm getting on my toe. I have the wrong balance of aids. Wow.

Here's the thing, I'm going to jump a fence and my Bird is going to cut and run and I'm going to soften the reins and apply leg. Now I know why people think horse people are nuts. The thing is it works.

Now for the approach to the fence. I learned something about that today too. It also has to do with the balance and application of the aids. Well doesn't everything? Bird wants to run to the fence and throw himself over it. We know that's wrong, but he is very successful at it, at least up to 3'6". Jimmy has been working with me all winter to change that and it has changed immensely. So now he's been ragging on me (and rightly so) to ride in the moment. Ride the horse of today not yesterday. The horse of the moment, not the horse as he was a moment ago. So here I am cantering to the fence and the Bird is strong. I ride quietly and he produces a rhythmic, balanced canter. As I get to the fence, maybe four strides out, he breaks into the most disastrous trot. It's crazy, so I abort, circle and pick up the canter again. This time as we approach, I soften my elbows and he speeds up and jumps. I get yelled at. Jimmy said, "You always let him sucker you into letting him run at the fence." And I do, Jimmy is right as always. So, I figure I needed more leg to hold him together. Wrong. This is the way it is. As we approach the fence in a slow rhythm, Birdie basically says, "If you won't let me run at it in the canter, I'll run at it in the trot, so there!" I, the human need to wait, wait, stay the same and wait until the moment, the infinitesimal moment when it's time to jump and then soften. Not one stride before, not two strides before, but the moment. Every time. I know everyone knows this, but there's knowing it and knowing it.

By the way, I figured most of this out from my dressage lesson yesterday and then Jimmy asking me the right questions today.

Monday, March 9, 2009


I've been focusing on dressage with Birdie. That's been the toughest thing for him and of course, each time he improves in his dressage, he improves in his jumping. Elizabeth has been working with us three times a week. I wish I could do this all the time, but I have limited funds so this is a temporary situation. We've made huge strides forward and experienced breakthrough after breakthrough.

Something happened the other day that on the surface seems unimportant, but knowing this Bird the way I do, it was a defining moment. In the past, when someone else gets on him, there is a tractor beam pulling him to me. He's very insecure around other people and really only trusts me. Elizabeth got on him a few days and he wanted to stay with me. He learned a lot from Elizabeth and he experienced several transforming moments with her.

I was on the ground on Friday and Elizabeth walked away and Birdie began to follow her. He's never trusted anyone else before this moment. He's been more settled and happier when other people come around. I think he finally realized that most humans are good and I thank Elizabeth for this. One of the things I like most about schooling with Elizabeth, besides the fact she's an incredible teacher, is that she cares about my horses as much as I do. She is attached and personally invested in them. This is very good for me and my horses.