Horses lend us the wings we lack.

In riding a horse we borrow freedom.

The air of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Conquering my fears, accomplishing my dreams

It has been too long since my last blog. Let me fill you in on what has been happening...

Last May, I decided to take up jumping lessons with an old riding friend. Being dressage/endurance riders, our philosophy is to sit up tall, long stirrups, deep seat and comfy saddle. Not so, is the case for jumping. Crank up your stirrups, hands up the neck, two point position, small, uncomfy saddle and lots of rein contact. OUCH is all I can say, we were in pain.

After a couple of lessons, I started trailering one of our own horses over for lessons. Eddie, an experienced Trillium jumper was needing the work, and I, the mount. Eddie came with a lot of experience and some questionable quirks. (He hates the mounting block, he fusses with his bit and he likes to jump FAST.)

A few tack adjustments (mostly a new bit) and a few pointers for me (take up contact!) and Eddie and I were moving much more in sync. My hesitation and fear to jump slowly disappeared and my need for exhilaration climbed. Next challenge? To enter a show. Now was my time to conquer my fears and acheive a dream I have always wanted to do. It was now or never, and I wasn't about to back down.

A few weeks later I found myself in my first show. I don't think I have ever been so nervous in my life. I had a nervous breakdown during practice- I was sure I was going to forget my course. I even ran through some jumps. But a good pep talk from my coach and slowly the fear subsided and I started to focus. I was going to conquer this, no running away. Come my classes, Eddie jumped fabulous.  He was all business, and so was I.  I was ecstatic. I did it! Eddie ended up 7th in both our jumping courses, and 5th in our flat class. We placed in all three classes. I couldn't have been more proud. And to top it off, I even trailered myself there and back with no help (aside from Pierre- who backed the trailer up for me....)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cowgirl Up!

Well, I am officially converted. Riding in a rodeo was more fun than I ever expected. I had a blast! My horse was quite anxious, despite being the most experienced, she was the least well behaved out of our group. I had a feeling that she was going to dump me and boy was I right. Our first event- the barrels- started with a bucking escapade. During the bucking, my hat flew over my eye's so I pulled her up, whipped off the cowboy hat and continued on. Our next two events went without incident- we were much slower than the other riders but rode with extreme precision and grace. I was very happy with her performance. The last event we were entered in was the keyhole- gallop down to an open ended circle, ride in, turn around and gallop back out. Everyone was encouraging me let Sheylan open up and give it her all, so I did- that in hindsight was a mistake; she spotted a mudhole and came to a dead stop halfway down the ring. Off I flew. I landed on my feet. I then ran back to her left side, and got back on. In the process of getting back on I lost my stirrup. It had come loose and fell right off the saddle, but I continued on anyways and completed the event. The cowboys were amazed that I could ride stirrupless- to them that is unheard of, so I was destined as the trick rider of the day. Now I am hooked and can't wait for my next rodeo. Perhaps I will actually practice before I enter in some of the events!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rodeo Bound

This weekend I am riding in the Wiarton Rodeo. This is my first rodeo. My friends DD and Mark participate annually and this year I have been invited to join the festivities. We have been rounding up western tack and gear all week to look the part (we don't think our dressage saddles just won't fit in). We are taking up three horses, camping at DD's parents farm and going to have a weekend of fun! Perhaps I'll even get my dirtbike-riding boyfriend to ride my horse in an event! I am hoping that the rain will hold off, but what the heck, if it doesn't we will still be riding. Afterall, we are endurance riders at heart! Pictures to follow...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My project, Jack

I have taken on a summer project; his name is Jack. He is almost 4 years, but has the mind of a two year old. He likes to keep busy- very busy. It is not uncommon for him to be running around the paddock with large sticks- usually about four feet long- playing with them as a dog would. He is covered in war-wounds from playing with the other horses. These mark his story that he likes to play and he likes to play rough. I brought Jack into the barn. My goal was to lunge him and do some ground work with him and then possibly get on his back for the first time (if he was a good boy).

 I had him all tacked up in the cross ties, the barn was buzzing, the students had just left for the ring for the lesson. I tightened the girth. Jack has had the saddle on many times and never had a problem, but he tensed after I did it up the last whole, so I loosened it again. I asked him to walk forward. He took two very awkward steps forward than lept forward then back and over he went head-over-heals with my saddle and me still attached to the end of the rope. Four times he stopped, then lept forward and reared backwards falling on his back. I kept calm but my insides were shaking. People in the barn were horrified. I just stood still, and didn't dare to let go of that rope. It was the only thing that kept me with him. Finally he was too scared to move, he was back on his feet, frozen in his place. Help had arrived and we got him out the barn. We tightened the loose girth without incident and continued on to the outdoor ring. Two of my fingers were bleeding, but I was determined not to get frustrated. This is horses- expect the unexpected.

I lunged him and did ground work without incident. Jack's ego was deflated. His horrific experience seemed to turn him into a man, so much so that he let me get on his back without flinching, without fear, without any doubt about what I was doing. Strangely enough I had his complete trust. What a miracle it was and what an experience. Lesson: no matter how good your three year old is, still treat them as a three year old. Anything can happen in a blink of an eye.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rain, rain and more rain.

This week has been a week of rain and more rain. I gave in trail riding to arena work and schooling. Fun! Oh well I guess we had it pretty easy in March and April, so Mother Nature is making it up to us. My week of working on my cross country course did not go as planned. I did however get my weekly lesson in. I rode Rio again last night. Was he ever patient with me. I was not myself last night and riding was a struggle. I felt like I had two bodies- my upper and lower bodies were not connected. I was all over the place. Luckly Rio, who usually has little if not any patience, was more than willing to be patient with me as he tried to figure out what the heck I was asking. My problem- I was trying too hard! My lower legs were bouncing all over the place, my upper body leaning forward in the saddle and gosh knows what else. Thank goodness my coach was more than willing to help me! It wasn't all bad though. Last year I would have probably ended up in tears not being able to accomplish anything, but I have gained a lot of confidence now and realize there are some days when things just don't work! I am pretty sure I am in desperate need of a chiro and massage. Good thing I have one booked for next week. Ending the lesson off- I was able to somewhat achieve haunches out. Not bad! I need practice. I have homework to do--- practice riding with no stirrups, transitions using on the seat, turning in and out of the pilons using only my seat and bareback- lots of bareback! I will let you know how my homework comes along!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My mare, Sheylan

This is my horse Sheylan and I crossing the river into the valley where we ride. Sheylan was my birthday present 5 years ago for my 18th birthday from my riding coach and her husband. Picture courtesy of Wendy Webb photography.

My next goal... jumping

My goal for this summer is to take up jumping. Growing up I have always done dressage and trail riding. I want to expand my horizons. So, Thursday evening I took it upon myself to create some jumps in our bush which we call parkland. Parkland is a hardwood bush with a lot of fallen logs. I rode my horse Sheylan out with a halter and a lead and tied her to a tree. I thought for sure she would want to graze but rather preferred to stand and watch over me. She took her job very seriously over-seeing everything. She is very matriarchal. Within minutes I was sweating and realized I had totally over dressed. Off came my winter coat and helmet. I threw my coat over my saddle and my helmet on a nearby stump. In one hour I had accomplished 7 jumps. Not bad. Each jump I tested. That was Shey's favourite part - flying over the jumps. It's a lot easier planning a jumping course from the back of a horse than on foot. Within the next couple of weeks - before the ground cover grows too tall, I will attempt to expand my cross country course across the length of the bush. I hope I am not taking on too much at once. This could be a big job!

I went out riding again this morning with my friend and her horse Vision. She loves to jump. It would have been great to show her my new course but unfortunately with the extreme rainfall we had Friday night through Saturday we couldn't cross the river to access parkland. Instead we opted for a ride through the fields (which had amazingly dried up enough --- from all the wind) for us to manage a nice canter across the fields. Our horses were all business, no spooking and very glad to finally get some exercise. Looking forward to what next week will bring. Hopefully less rain and more sun. I have a lot to accomplish!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Another evening ride

Last night I rushed to the farm after work to make it to my weekly lesson. I rode Rio, an anglo arab. I spent the last two years helping train Rio. He was a very green six year old, but with a lot of patience and time he has become one of the top horses at our barn. This year I have traded my trail stirrups in for dressage. Rio is my favourite when it comes to dressage; he is a very talented horse who can turn into butter if you know how to push the right buttons. Last night he was very forward and very willing to work, he even gave me the best canter we have had all year. I was very pleased.

After our lesson we joined my friend on her horse Solo for a trail ride in the valley. Our rides together are more gab that riding (we like to talk) which proved itself not ideal as we were too busy talking to notice a doe just off the trail. Poor Vanessa who was leading had Solo spook and spin, leaving her to a very slow, "unscheduled dismount". She landed on the ground with her feet in the air which in turn spooked Solo again, only to run backwards into the brush and get into even more of a tangle. I, only the other hand had a little bit more warning (thank goodness- it's a long way down on him) and was able to pull the e-brake and control Rio before he could spin and leave. We got ourselves back in order and continued on down the trail, laughing at our adventure.