Monday, August 25, 2008

They Say Practice Makes Perfect

So, The Devils were good at last week's Jumping Branch combined test - their first outing of the fall season. Due to some minor drama the preceding week, we decided to drop Next Dance and Pickles from Preliminary to the Training level with Peter Pan. Peter stole the show and was second, Pickles 5th, and Harry (next Dance) was 6th. So a good start. Full Gallop is next to prep for the American Eventing Championships in September.

It's all well and good for me to ramble on about all the lessons, toture, and adventures in Paradise, but I thought you all may be interested in the other side of the goings on. Why do we do this day in and day out? This is a question I ask myself almost daily. Simple answer, because I love it. One of my favorite expressions I heard somewhere (can't remember when) is that we need to own the ride.We need to be able to own our nerves, own the track, own the size of stride. That means we need control. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Own the ride. I teach it all day long. Sometimes I teach it for 14 hours straight in a clinic situation, like last weekend. Over and over. I ride it over and over on other peoples horses without issue.

But...when I get on my own horses....different story. All of a sudden one gets weaker in the knees. Self doubt creeps in. Something doesn't feel quite right. Oh no......pressure.What's the countdown to the next competition? How many days do I have to get this sorted out?

At the moment I am feeling great about dressage. (of course, that could change at any time.) I am usually good in that department for about 2 weeks. But then I need another "fix" and I can go on again. Without my dose of "sit here, do that, move this" every two weeks, I would be a puddle of complete mush. I am so lucky to be able to get these fixes on 5, 6, or more different horses each time.

The other day, I was show jumping in my great ring with Barbie (the angel that helps me at home) and got to the end of my knowledge ladder with the horses. I set up an oxer for Riverdance to jump and got all mushy about it so I had to ask Barbie to put it down. I got to a CLEAR point. I needed help. For some reason, Show jumping is very difficult for me. It is far easier for me to gallop and jump natural banks, ditches and water than poles that fall down. Go fiqure.

I have gotten to the point where I am comfortable jumping them over some sizeable jumps. Point is, I dare not go any higher unsupervised. It is important for everyone to realize when they need help, advise or support. It is also very important for people to know that even people who ride all the time go to other riders to work on their respective STUFF! So tomorrow I am taking the troups for some Show Jumping lessons. Can't wait! I haven't jumped with anyone in a long time! One would think with all my preaching I would have this stuff all figured out by now. So off we'll go to seek ownership of many things. Mostly my nerves. Wish us luck!

Friday, August 22, 2008

River Dance to Tower-Ready for take-OFF!

I am starting this blog in the dressage ring. No,don't go away... I have to tell you, I have ridden around Rolex four times, and all around Europe on many different horses - and what I am now learning about dressage has me as fired up as any cross country course has ever made me.

What a challenge to learn about such a high degree of control and communication with my horses. (Emphasis here being placed on the word learning) When I get Big Riverdance sitting down to get ready for a medium trot it is like sitting on a 747 getting ready for take-off! I come around that corner and baby get ready to go for a ride! Just writing about the feelings he gave me yesterday gets me all choked up. I can barely mention River's name without getting a frog in my throat. He gave me some tempi changes yesterday that got me so excited I had to pull up. I couldn't take any more!

The Devils were also very good. They are not allowed out of their respective cages. We are hammering away at calm, forward and straight. They begin their fall season this weekend at a local combined test...

Another goal of mine is to jump River around a 4 foot course without drama. We're getting close. I am having some jumping lessons next week...

I had a wonderful one on one lesson with one of my new male foxhunter saftey victims (I mean participants).What a star! Do you know how important this is to have people actually looking for help with their riding, and then even enjoying a flat lesson? It is so important for the rider to get that look of "wow, I actually felt that !" Learning new tools is very exciting for me, and to be able to pass these things on to our local friends is an honor. I can't wait for the men's group in the woods this weekend. Ladies look out... and stay tuned!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Foxhunter Safety Clinic Kick Off

So much has happened since our last entry. Todays news...Arenus, makers of "Steadfast" have decided to really help me and the Devils get to the Championships in Illinois in September. What a great feeling to have even more support.It boosts one's confidence to the hilt. I had a wonderful meeting with them last week and together, I think we can really form a wonderful partnership.

Eventing on a large scale is difficult. There are so many pieces to the puzzle. The health and well being of the horses always comes first, and Steadfast is helping my horses in a way that I cannot. They are glowing and enjoying their work with confidence and less stress. Needless to say, I am delighted with their attitudes and well being. So... fingers crossed that we can keep it up!

The Fox Hunter Safety clinics have begun! Last Saturday and Sunday, we had 6 brave souls show up. I asked them if they had been forewarned! There was quite an assortment. We had a giant Percheron, a classy Thouroughbred mare, a polo pony/hunt horse, an Indian Chief, a delightful 19 year old mare, and another Percheron cross.

The first day we set a small "course" that required a multitude of skills. Our course consisted of a log to an uphill through the trees down hill over a ditch and then a left turn to another log. WE started at the walk, one on one, progressed to a trot and ended with the entire group going as on a hunt(only trotting). Chaos ensued. PERFECT!

All sorts of things happened! Steering, confidence, balance, bucking, pulling, ducking and diving issues were quick to surface. EXACTLY what the doctor ordered! So after lots and lots of talking and explaining, I sent the ladies out to try again round their tracks and, what do you know? Each time got better and better!

When all the ladies were sufficiently exausted I simply smiled and said, "See you tomorrow, bright and early," and off they went moaning.

Day two was about technique. In a nutshell, we practiced getting control of our horses' shoulders and also being able to own and change the size (and temperament and attention span) of the horses. A few changes of equipment and education of specificaly how and where to "influence" the horses gave everyone a thrill and ultimately led to newfound confidences. The second class was not as "exciting "as the first as I kept the ladies more "confined," but they got the point.

There certainly was a lot more groaning from both horses and riders.(I love to go deep) and with this bunch it only took two rides! We accomplished a great deal and everyone was excited to come back for more.

I have many more tricks up my sleeve to quietly let these brave souls find out how to make their own riding skills better. Hopefully, clinic participants will enter into discussion on this blog and give their feedback in the future! Stay tuned.

Next class wil be even more fun! We have 5 or6 men starting out! Can't wait!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Welcome to My New Blog!

Here goes...The first blog. After a sucessful spring season of eventing culminating with the Area III championships, all my eventers, Pickles, Next Dancem and Peter Pan (also known at farm as the Three Devils) have been spending a hot summer hacking in the Hitchcock Woods and practicing LOTS of dressage and show jumping in our ring at home. Hopefully this work will strengthen our base for the fall season.

Riverdance has switched hats. He will soon be wearing the top hat and tails of an upper level dressage horse. Can you believe it! WE are learning things I never thought possible and having a GREAT time. It is a complete honor to ride him and learn this new balance. I still cannot speak about River without tears of gratitude and joy. He is a horse of a lifetime for me and together we are going to conquer those pirouettes and tempi changes! Currently my goal is mastering the extensions. It is still hard to keep River connected to planet earth as he LOVES to fly! Patience HMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

I also am proud to announce that I have gotten on board with a great new product called Steadfast, produced by Arenus. I really think this has helped my horses and they also are helping my team get to the competitions in style. I am excited and delighted to promote the product that has helped my boys look and feel terrific. Not only has it helped them look and perform at their best but I think it is helping them cope with the many stresses of competition and travel. To me, managing stress is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves and for our horses' atheletic performances. Please vist my website and click on the Arenus link for more information regarding Steadfast!

Lots happening at Paradise. We have about 15 horses in training. Needless to say, days are full. As I mentioned earlier, the Three Devils are all quailified for the American Eventing Championships in Illinois in September, but I am torn between going there (a very long way to travel in today's economy) or going to Chatahoochie Hills in nearby Georgia. Currently I am leaning toward the latter. However, I have a meeting with Arenus this Friday and they just might change my mind! Stay tuned...

To prep for those competitions I am aiming the three devils at a local event as an easy go to get them back into the fall season. We're not sure when River's coming out will be.

The Aiken Hounds have been excercising all summer in the Woods but we are concurrently cross training them for syncronized swimming and relay at the Paradise Farm pool on Wednesday mornings. Not only are the hounds getting a workout, but many of our members and friends (and their horses) also are vying for spots on the team. Our current star would have to be Mrs. Karen Dempsy followed closely by Ms. Dawn Beckering, our new hunt secretary!

The foxhunter safety clinics start up again Aug.16-17. We have 5 groups this year. There is a lot of interest and buzz in Aiken about it and the the clinics have really grown. We are especially pleased this year with the new entry of the "MEN'S ONLY" group. So ladies better LOOK OUT this season!

Stay tuned for further "Adventures in Paradise!"