Cloud's Honor Racing

Cloud's Honor Racing

Cloud's Honor Riding

Cloud's Honor Riding

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Kim, it is possible to love a horse too much!

And I do.

That was the theme of my ride with Jim Wofford on Friday.  I was privileged to participate in a clinic at beautiful Greystone Farm.  The weather was wondeful and I was finally able to get Elizabeth Madlener to come with The Bird and me.  I've been experiencing difficulty integrating our progress on the flat into the jumping and I was sure she would be able to help me with Bird if she saw us working with Jim.  How lucky am I to have my Grand Prix dressage coach accompany me to watch me ride with Jim Wofford?  Of course, she came because of That Bird.

So a short background on Bird - as if you haven't heard enough.  Bird was a horse that jumped out of fear when I got him.  He rarely quit a fence because he was afraid to.  He did not jump out of joy or willingness.  I didn't know how to jump, but was good at staying out of the way, so all the responsibility fell on him.  In a weird way I think it helped build the tight relationship we now have because he made all the decisions and had to take care of me.  That is a lot of pressure for a horse, but he came through each and every time.

As time marched on, Jim and Elizabeth worked hard to improve my riding skills, but also to build the fragile confidence in The Bird.  This Bird now jumps from joy, he jumps because he wants to and he is not afraid.  Enter the new, ugly problem.  Well, if it's Bird's responsibilty to take care of the jumping and he's not afraid to voice his opinion - and he doesn't like the look of the jump - he stops.  Kim Clark loves That Bird, she loves him when he's good, she loves him when he's bad, she loves him when he's ugly. Besides, being far from a perfect rider. I take responsibilty.  I make mistakes. 

This stopping started happening several Jimmy lessons ago.  Jimmy has been telling me that I love that horse too much.  He's been telling me to correct him for stopping.  Yesterday, Jimmy went off.  Of course it may have had something to do with the fact that Bird sort of almost ran into Jimmy.  Not a great thing to do during a lesson.  Jimmy told me to punish him if he stops.  He said I know exactly what you are thinking.  "I made a mistake".  "Of course you did, but he must jump anyway.  If he makes the decision to stop he has to pay the price.   If you don't start correcting him, I will and you won't like it one bit if that happens." 

Well I think Jimmy feels passionate about this issue. 

That man is in my head and everything he says is exactly right.  I don't know how he does it, but that man knows me like a book.  So......

I hit Bird and Bird went off.  I held my position and stayed focused on the fence instead of letting Bird change the subject to "I'm crazy now because you hit me."  Jump the damn fence.  He jumps.  Bird did try stopping a few more times throughout the lesson.  He couldn't believe I was correcting him but our relationship began to change.  Suddenly I was responsible.  Suddenly Bird was a normal horse. 

Now it is true that not that long ago, I would never have hit The Bird.  Jimmy would never have told me to hit him either.  He was a frightened horse and would have been horrified had I hit him.  He had no confidence.  That was then.  He isn't afraid any longer and has started to assert himself like a normal horse.  I have to respond like he's a normal horse and discourage the bad behavior, because that is what it is.

I believe yesterday was a huge day for Birdie and me.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My First Show Season etc.

This is my first "show season".  I did do a few horse trials last year, but only sporadically.  This year I started late, but it turned into a one after another sort of thing and I have become exhausted and decided to back way off for August - heat, hard ground and so much to catch up on, but the main reason is I am tired.

Willie has been doing horse trials and we elected to go Recognized early in the year, The Bird and I have been sticking to Unrec Dressage shows and both boys are showing real promise.  Things I knew, but have now experienced is Eventing has the added difficulty of a marathon length day, and you have to get all three phases right.  So far, Willie and I have the show jumping and the cross country down, and the dressage is the cross to bear but it is coming.  It's frustrating because his dressage is superb at home, but Willie just hasn't brought it with him yet.  Everyone tells me this is very common with the Event horse so I am confident it is coming and when Willie finally packs a full suitcase to bring to the show, they better watch out because magnificent is an accurate description of his dressage ability - when he applies himself.  Ughhhhh......

Bird has been easier.  Did I just say that??  He's nervous and anxiety filled, but with each show he has become more sure of himself and his environment.  He's relaxed more and improved with each outing.  There's not much to do but work on myself and get him out to continue the process.  It's amazing really that we've even made it this far, but I'm very optimistic about our future and plan to do some combined tests and maybe even a horse trial or two this fall. 

I love to talk/write about my horses and their progress, but things have been hectic around here.  I think we're moving a record number of horses this year which is wonderful, but more work.  We've been covered in the Washington Post, Fox 5 News and Willie and I were in Horse Talk Magazine.  We are developing a Foster Home program, Dvd and one of my favorite new projects starts on August 21.  We will be inviting people who have off track Thoroughbreds or those interested in having one to the apron of the Laurel Park Grandstand at 8 am.  We will watch horses being exercised and talk about how they are ridden and trained.  Trainers and riders will stop by for a chat and Q & A.  All this to help people understand how the horse is ridden and trained at the track.  My theory is that if you understand the horse you get, the retraining and transitioning will be much easier thereby creating many more happy owners and horses.  I'm working on an announcement now with the details.  I actually should be doing that instead of writing this.

This is a rambling post.  The baby horse is turning gray.  I sorely need to do more pictures and video and promise to do that soon.  He leads in front of him mom to the back field each day, gets a bath when he comes in - going into the wash stall and has had the blacksmith "do" his feet twice.  Oh and he stands for fly spray each morning.  No bad baby at Leighton Farm.

One thing that has bothered/concerned me about the horse trials is the hardship on the horses.  It's been very hot this year and I've made some observations that cause me quite a bit of concern.  Coming from a racing background, the comfort and  health of the horse is paramount.  In the summer, I have never walked into a receiving barn and seen a horse that wasn't behind a fan.  In fact, I've never seen one without one at his "house" either.  I go to these events and see horses tied to the trailer all day, hot sun beating down on them, no fan.  Or standing in the trailer without a fan all day.  A trailer is a metal box.  The same people bring an awning to sit under, but nothing for the horse.  I've even seen two horses shoved onto a tag along standing there all day.  Two horses in that small an area generates a ton of heat!  Everyone operates without concern as this is normal, but I can't tell you how much it bothers me.  I went to a few horse trials with a friend before I ever competed.  The first thing I bought was a small generator, to run fans and I do. Let me tell you, if you see the look on Willie's face when the fan goes on, you'll know it's the right thing to do.   I don't think I would event if I couldn't provide what I consider the minimum of comfort to the horse who I expect to do dressage, show jumping and cross country - all in one day!  Now granted I have not seen any horses die or get sick and I'm sure the people there love and adore their horses, but if it's hot enough that one feels the need to bring an awning to sit under, isn't it hot enough that your horse needs some air?