Friday, February 24, 2012

Thoughts to Ponder.

There is probably, no better pick-me-up after a fall then a lesson with the most positive coach on the planet. W is said coach, always praising and supporting and cheering her students on, such that, even the day after landing arse-first in the sand, I can resume feeling like I'm mildly competent and in all truth, my pony does not suddenly hate me. No lasting harm done, right??

My little heart swelled when I walked up to his paddock on Wednesday and he came trotting over to the gate to meet me. It is not often that he comes to me (normally he just stands still wherever he is) and after our jumping mishap, I could only think that my pony does not hold grudges. Yesterday was yesterday, today is today. Inside, since I was early, I gave him a good grooming and found he had a slight bit of fluid buildup in his left hind pastern. Part of me isn't too surprised, since we've had some fluid problems in the hock of that same leg in the past and he'd worked pretty hard for the last two days. But there was no heat and it was something you'd expect of a horse that had been worked. Synovial fluid build-up. Such is the life of an aging horse that's working hard. And yes, he got Thursday and probably today off to rest and relax.

I figured I'd warm-up Moon before our lesson, so that when we started we wouldn't have to spend the first 15 minutes of the lesson on just the warm-up. When W arrived Moon was bending nicely and stretching down to the bit. We showed off our work on the shoulder-in and leg-yield, and boy, is he ever awesome at that lateral stuff. Forward, circles, meh. But lateral? Happy Pony. I swear he was born going sideways.

I've also come to find that I can actually start to control him on a microscopic level. Move just a foot, just a shoulder, just the haunch. And sometimes, I don't even have to think about my aids and such, but they just happen. Freaky.

We moved on to the trot and he was a really good boy, but found trot shoulder-in with a left bend (his hard side) to be pretty difficult. He'd often stop to stretch, roll his head and chew. Just so tight! By the end though, he was trying like a trooper and I could only lavish praise on him. W is impressed by how quickly he seems to get the concept, and while we still have to work on more angle, he's straight and seems to understand what is being asked of him...even if sometimes he just says "this is really hard for me!". I don't blame him. I was aching by this point myself!

She asked to finish with canter departs and boy, that was a struggle. Moon was TIRED with a capital T. He'd done 45 minutes of trotting and shoulder-in-ing and leg yielding and bending like a banana pony. And now I want canter?! Aurgh.

In his "good" direction, he kept picking up the wrong lead. W said she saw nothing troubling or concerning in his canter or depart, he simply didn't know that he had to pick up a specific lead. So he'd lean out onto my leg in an attempt to always depart on his "preferred" lead (being left). At one point, we did half the circle at counter-canter and W started getting all excited. Um, W, this isn't right?...

W explained to me that he balanced himself really well through the corner of his counter-canter, which exemplifies that he's STRAIGHT. Apparently straightness is needed in order to maintain the counter-canter through corners, which is why it's further up the training pyramid. Um, okay, but we haven't mastered NORMAL canter yet!

Finally on our fifth or so attempt, he departed properly and we made it three quarters of the way around the circle. And W stopped to correct ME. Apparently when he starts to peter out, I start driving with my seat. BAD habit from years of lessons, where they tell you to drive with your seat in the canter. W says, nuh-uh, no way. Apparently when I start to drive, he just braces against my seat and puts the brakes on. Counter productive 100%. Whoops...

Instead, once quick "bump" with the legs and back to neutral or bring a crop and one quick tap. Legs always back to neutral and always keep your seat neutral. No more driving. No more "polishing the saddle with my seat". <Insert guilty face>

She asked me to do one depart on the other lead and boy, tired pony wanted none of that. Kept slowing to a walk or trying to just run off. Finally he just did it, unhappy, sprinted a straight length, cut the corner and slowed back to trot. W and I both knew it wasn't a quality canter simply because he was a tired pony (we were over an hour already). But again, nothing to be concerned about. Just more practice and experience needed. She assured me that our shoulder-in would help tremendously with the canter and so, we'll keep practicing.

The Moon-pie was happy to return to bed, scarfing down the treats I handed him and wandering off to find a quiet place to relax. Lesson successful.

But there are two things left in my head after my most recent rides:

One is that some days, I'm bored. Perhaps it's the winter blues that have been plaguing everyone, but there are moments when I feel like we've spent 9 months traipsing around a ring. Today, 12 attempts at shoulder-in might be thrilling. Tomorrow, it's another lap around the arena, another trot depart, another loop. Riding is, a sport of patience I suppose, but right now, I'm impatient. Show season feels a million miles away, we seem to be stuck without a canter for over two months of trying now, and all we have to look forward to in the next two months is more canter departs and loops around the arena. Oh YAWN. It AMAZES me some days how people can be perfectly happy ring-riding for weeks, months, even years on end. It's most certainly, not for me. I think I'm officially ring-sour.

The other thing, is how wonderfully right for me, my Moon-pie is. I've read, watched and listened to a lot of people search for their heart-horse, even one coming to the realisation that their horse is not right for them this very week. Moon should be renamed "Jack". Because he is a jack-of-all-trades. He truly is not stellar at anything, but he has the heart to give anything a try. I am NEVER scared of him. After a fall, after a spook, after anything. He's always just my buddy, and always there for me.

Anyway, last night I was off to an IRC meeting that was moved into the city to spare me the long drive in the bad weather, and then Saturday morning I'm really hoping to make it to watch the Valkenborg Dressage Clinic. It'll be the first clinic I'll get to watch and certainly something to be learned. If I luck out, I might sneak in a short trail ride with the Moonpie in the afternoon. I have 8 or 10 projects to attend to this weekend, which is probably okay considering the cooling temps. Where IS spring?!

Lastly, I've had a couple of inspirational conversations lately and wanted to share them. While only one was specifically horse related, they both easily apply.


"Know your limits, but alike, give you and your horse some credit. You don't learn unless you try, you don't get better if you don't keep trying, and you'll never know if you don't try...It's just something you haven't done together. Bet you didn't know you could sit his trot either. Bet that was just as uncomfortable and weird for him as it was watching you come flying off his back :) hee hee. Maybe you threw the jump up a little too high. But heck, if we didn't push we wouldn't learn to slow down a bit :)"


A time comes in your life when you finally get it…when, in the midst of all your fears and insanity, you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out…ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying and blaming and struggling to hold on. Then, like a child quieting down after a tantrum, you blink back your tears and begin to look at the world through new eyes.


You realize it’s time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change, or for happiness, safety and security to magically appear over the next horizon.

You realize that in the real world there aren’t always fairy tale endings, and that any guarantee of “happily ever after” must begin with you…and in the process a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.

You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always love, appreciate or approve of who or what you are…and that’s OK. They are entitled to their own views and opinions.

You learn the importance of loving and championing yourself…and in the process a sense of new found confidence is born of self-approval.

Your stop complaining and blaming other people for the things they did to you – or didn’t do for you – and you learn that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected.

You learn that people don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say and that not everyone will always be there for you and everything isn’t always about you.

So, you learn to stand on your own and to take care of yourself…and in the process a sense of safety and security is born of self-reliance.

You stop judging and pointing fingers and you begin to accept people as they are and to overlook their shortcomings and human frailties…and in the process a sense of peace and contentment is born of forgiveness.

You learn to open up to new worlds and different points of view. You begin reassessing and redefining who you are and what you really stand for.

You learn the difference between wanting and needing and you begin to discard the doctrines and values you’ve outgrown, or should never have bought into to begin with.

You learn that there is power and glory in creating and contributing and you stop maneuvering through life merely as a “consumer” looking for you next fix.

You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era, but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build a life.

You learn that you don’t know everything, it’s not your job to save the world and that you can’t teach a pig to sing. You learn the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake.

Then you learn about love. You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You learn that alone does not mean lonely.

You stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes. You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say NO.

You also stop working so hard at putting your feelings aside, smoothing things over and ignoring your needs.

You learn that your body really is your temple. You begin to care for it and treat it with respect. You begin to eat a balanced diet, drinking more water, and take more time to exercise.

You learn that being tired fuels doubt, fear, and uncertainty and so you take more time to rest. And, just food fuels the body, laughter fuels our soul. So you take more time to laugh and to play.

You learn that, for the most part, you get in life what you deserve, and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for and that wishing for something to happen is different than working toward making it happen.

More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction, discipline and perseverance. You learn that no one can do it all alone, and that it’s OK to risk asking for help.

You learn the only thing you must truly fear is fear itself. You learn to step right into and through your fears because you know that whatever happens you can handle it and to give in to fear is to give away the right to live life on your own terms.

You learn to fight for your life and not to squander it living under a cloud of impending doom.

You learn that life isn’t always fair, you don’t always get what you think you deserve and that sometimes bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people…and you lean not to always take it personally.

You learn that nobody’s punishing you and everything isn’t always somebody’s fault. It’s just life happening. You learn to admit when you are wrong and to build bridges instead of walls.

You lean that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment must be understood and redirected or they will suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you.

You learn to be thankful and to take comfort in many of the simple things we take for granted, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about: a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower.

Then, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself and you make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never, ever settle for less than you heart’s desire.

You make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting, and to stay open to every wonderful possibility.

Finally, with courage in your heart, you take a stand, you take a deep breath, and you begin to design the life you want to live as best as you can......

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