Saturday, February 20, 2010

Two thank yous

So many things to blog about ... so little order in my brain. :)

We'll start with this: More dreams featuring MT, TW, and their kids -- this one involved me having to ride both Reveille and the pony I had the most success on, Stormy, in a group lesson. MT wasn't teaching, though -- his son was. Which is odd -- J could teach, I'm sure, but he's just not a huge horse guy. So it was all very chaotic, with Reveille dancing around like a much spookier horse, jumping in and out of her pen, etc. I was terribly amused when I woke up, and when I got to the barn I told MT and TW they had to quit showing up in my dreams. :) Clearly, my brain is working on the Whole Horse Thing overtime!

So this afternoon, as I was getting ready to go out to the barn, the doorbell rang, the corgis informed me that We Were Being Robbed!, and I opened the door to the mail carrier, bringing me a prize package! :) It was from onthebit, and it was my prize for being the first to identify her car tire buried in snow. Squeee! I was so excited! I opened the package to find a very nice note on pretty horse stationery and this:

So very cool! It's a lovely white dressage pad and a bridle charm!

Thank you, onthebit -- it's great! I will actually keep this pad for show season, because I need a nice clean show pad, and I am really looking forward to putting the bridle charm on a clean bridle and horse. :) I absolutely love it! The bridle charm is definitely for good luck; see?

I can't wait! :)

So this week's schedule got blown out. Blah. But -- something good did come of it. When Thursday went awry and took Friday with it, I called TW as I was in the middle of turning my car around and changing my plan. I asked if MT could put a ride on Rev Friday morning, because she needs the work and I wasn't going to be able to come out that evening or Friday. He had the time, so yay!

And when I got to the barn today, she was so tuned. She was awake and alive to my aids, and I was able to get her to keep a strong, forward tempo, both directions. That is complete bliss, right now. She's so easy to ride when she's forward. Or at least, so much easier. I was able to actually work on positioning her nose inward, little gives and takes on the right rein, rather than moving her forward. When she did slug a little bit, she responded instantly to my leg.

Thank you, MT!!! *beam*

What with my tax refund coming in and with a bit of a reshuffle of my budget, I'm absolutely delighted to discover that I can afford to put Reveille into half-training starting in March. This might not sound like much, but it's huge for me. It means MT will ride her several days during the week, and I'll continue with my usual riding schedule, and I'll have weekly lessons. This is going to be a great thing for my girl, who needs a lot of consistent riding, just because of who she is. I anticipate it'll bring her along by leaps and bounds, compared to how she's been coming along so far. Which, in the last month, has been pretty far, so I'm happy.

Training with side reins continues to go well. I saw some real effect today while I was riding, and her muscles are developing very nicely. She needs more, of course, but it's good to have the validation that it's working.

So overall, positive progress! I have a lesson tomorrow, which I'm looking forward to, and I'll hope it goes as well. :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Monday: Spanish teaching.
Tuesday: Game night.
Wednesday: Worked late, had to bathe dogs immediately on getting home. Ugh. I did dream that MT and TW saw me reading some kind of school book and insisted that I shouldn't bother with all that reading and schooling, that I should quit school, live in some unspecified place on their property, and focus on riding only. *laugh* Talk about wish fulfillment; if I could quit my job and just ride, I'd be thrilled. Unfortunately, horses cost money ...

Today: Longing, finally.

Also, I suddenly -- after a training meeting for work that culminated in "oh, it doesn't matter exactly what you do, just be consistent about it" and very little "THIS is what you should do," and my resulting "FINE. I'll do it my own way then, since you don't care." -- understand how Rev feels sometimes when I'm not clear in my leadership.

Such strange things offer us insight.

Further updates as events warrant.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Weekend comments.

A very productive weekend, horse-wise. Not an easy one, but a productive one!

Friday I went out to ride, after rescheduling with a friend. The whole goal was tempo and balance, and we ... sort of succeeded. In hindsight, after Sunday's lesson, we didn't succeed at all, but I worked really hard at it.

Saturday was a very fun day. I got to the barn around 1:30, and as 2:00 got closer, people started arriving in floods! Turns out that MT was teaching a 2:00 jumping lesson that somehow ended up involving just ponies -- maybe just-barely-horses, but still. :) I love watching jumping lessons, partially because it's fun in its own right, but partially because I want to soak up as much information as I can and make my own return-to-real-jumping as easy as possible. So after I longed Rev, I took her outside, mounted up, and watched the jumping lesson from outside the arena. It's good for her to learn to stand and wait, and she was quite good about it! She did look around and get a little tense a couple of times, but I distracted her by having her move around, etc., and that took care of it. MT commented on how good she'd been, which was nice.

At one point, the working student looked over and said "You look like you're ready for an ambush!" I'd just redirected Rev's attention from something she was about to get too tense over, just by talking to her and wiggling the bit, so my response was "I am! They're lurking." I wasn't really kidding, either. I know Rev sometimes gets in the mood to spook -- she's not a spooky horse, but sometimes she decides it would be fun to play and spook at things. I don't care for riding that sort of thing, so I'll head it off if I can -- be ready for things Rev wants to be ambushed by, and keep her from ambushing me. :) Sometimes I feel like I have to have, in the words of Alastor Moody, constant vigilance! I'll be able to almost-completely relax on her one of these days, but for the moment ... she's 5.

So after we watched the lesson, we went in to work. Again, focus on tempo and energy, and my balance. We did better than we had on Friday, certainly, especially when I got my balance. Of course, after Sunday's lesson, I think we should have done more, but ... experience is the thing you get right after you need it. :)

I also talked to MT and TW about the fit of my saddle -- I learned some new things about where it ought to go and about my horse's back. I had no idea she was such a round horse. XD It's odd: my Collegiate Diploma jumping saddle is a medium-narrow and fits her nicely. My Courbette de Kunffy Grand Prix dressage saddle is a medium and is a bit too narrow. Hunh. Interesting. We'll see if she finishes her wither-growing this year and how it affects saddle fit. Meanwhile, when the County fitter comes out again this spring, I'll get my Courbette reflocked to fit her a little better. (And see how County saddles fit her and me; if they fit great, I'll start saving.) I really do like when TW and MT are in talking moods, because I always learn something interesting. And heaven knows that I need to learn more things -- and heaven ALSO knows that I love to learn things!

So Sunday, obviously, we had a lesson. This one was all about tempo and energy, with a small side of Longing in Side Reins: How and Why, and a topping of Weight Aids.


Now I know what to look for when I ride. And it's more than I'd been getting. I'm glad I have this yardstick, for sure -- I know she has a beautiful trot, and of course I can't see her feet when I'm riding to know where she is with it. So now I know what I'm looking for and what it feels like. She's not real excited about giving it, so I have to work at it.

MT gave me a couple of tools for getting there -- first, he mentioned that if I don't have any contact in my reins, she'll raise her head, pin her ears, and start swishing her tail. I'm not sure if this is a general purpose comment or if it only applies to when I use my stick on her, but having soft contact can't possibly be a bad idea, so I'll take it and run with it.

The second thing he suggested was that if she starts resisting and slowing down, despite my leg aid and weight aid, I should hop off her and put her right back on the longe line and basically push the GO button, get her moving. Get her into a relaxed, forward, energetic trot with her back swinging and her attitude improved, then get back on her. Lather, rinse, repeat until she moves forward under saddle. I'll definitely work that this week and see how she does.

Good news, though: MT commented when he rode her that she feels a lot better to him than she did the week before, so there's progress! Woot! He thinks, and I agree, that longing in side reins is having a great effect, so we'll press on with that.

If we can get the forward energy back, I think we can make some real progress. One thing I noticed in the jumping lesson was the emphasis on steady tempo before and after fences -- which I know about and know is important and why -- but somehow it'd not occurred to me that that's part of what we're shooting for here. Part of it.

So I find myself motivated -- there's a noticeable change in my horse, which is extremely positive. There's something to shoot for in the foreseeable future. And in the short term future, if I can get her forward energy going, she'll be WAY easier to ride, way more fun. Can do.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mental prep

Nothing new to blog about today, since I didn't ride last night due to Spanish lessons, but -- certainly thinking about what it is I need to work on tonight.

* Clear aids, for one, both on the longe line and in the saddle, with the expectation of near-immediate response from the horse.

* Energetic gaits, both on the longe line and in the saddle, that are regular. (the regularity is, to use an abhorrent bit of corporate-speak, a "stretch goal")

* Balance, as usual! Weight aids, and keeping the correct steady leg position.

* Keeping her neck straight by allowing the left rein to be soft and lots of little gives and takes on the right -- guarding the haunches with my outside leg, as well as outside leg to inside rein.

That oughta keep me and her busy, neh?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I really like watching Rev work over her topline. She does have a really nice topline when she's in work, and it's one of the things we need to develop with her. So I longe her in side reins for now, both as part of the longing routine before I ride her and as a workout of its own once a week. This helps so much -- it helps her learn to accept the bridle through its steady contact, and it helps her work over that topline, which strengthens so many of her muscle groups. I think that if we can get her working steadily and smoothly in the side reins and then without them, we'll have gone a long way toward resolving her lateral flexion issues, just through the muscular development and submission to the bridle.

(Of course, I never ride her in side reins -- they're a training tool for the ground only, as I see it. She needs to learn to submit and stretch, but they're no substitute for correct hand, seat, and leg aids.)

Anyway, longing last night was quite pleasant and productive. Not much to report, just that life's progressing well!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rearranging the weekdays

Usually, I can't get out to the barn on Mondays or Tuesdays, due to standing commitments on those nights. So my plan is that I'll longe her with her side reins on Wednesdays, do chores and whatnot at home on Thursdays, then ride Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for a 4-day horse week.

This week, though ... I could have ridden yesterday if my second tutoring appointment for the day had gotten back to me in time to tell me he needed to cancel before I was on my way to the library. Today, my game night is cancelled, so I'm headed out to longe. My student rescheduled for Wednesday -- okay, cool. I'd had something scheduled for Thursday, but since it would cost me money, I cancelled. So: Thursday, ride. I hope I can ride Friday, but I might need to get together with a friend. Then, Saturday and Sunday, ride.

Gah! Chaos! But for now ... off to longe.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Wishful thinking

From Monday: Since I can't ride tonight ... I'm daydreaming about the things I need to do, wish I could do, wish I could buy. :) I warn you: this will be long, rambly, and full of wist and links!

* I really need to take care of Rev's mane. I haven't pulled it or done anything but brush it since September, and she's starting to look like a range pony. I need to trim her bridle path down again first. Then I will probably just cut her mane a little longer than I want it, because it's way too long to pull alone, then pull it down to the right length and thickness. I really hate the way horses look with cut manes, but ... in this case, I think pulling it after cutting it will take care of it. At some point, I probably need to ask TW for a braiding lesson, because I haven't braided a horse in something like 20 years. I never did master braiding forelocks in the first place, either. So some instruction, followed by annoying my horse practicing a lot, will probably be necessary if I want to braid her at all this year. I have a sneaking suspicion that she'll be not-so-good about being braided ... well, we'll just have to work through that.

* I can't wait for dry, warmer weather. Seriously, I am so tired of Epic Mud, and it's so vain, but I love my horse's white socks. Allow me to indulge my inner horse-crazy eight-year-old girl: I get squeepy when she's clean, all tacked up in nice white boots and clean white saddle pad, clean tack, and looking like A Professional Horse! I know, I know -- I shouldn't be cute about my horse, there's much more to riding than looks, allowing myself to get sentimental doesn't help the working relationship, et cetera ... but ... I'm an ex-little-girl, to paraphrase 'The Transporter.' I can't wait to get her all shed out (the process of same is astounding) and give her her first bath of the year.

* I'm working on the list of things I need, since I'll be getting some money back from taxes -- not as much as I'd like, but still. The list of things I can't do without and must replace is quite short: one helmet, one set of half-chaps or boots. I've crashed my helmet twice and bounced my head a little in it twice more, so the helmet replacement is well overdue.

Where this gets slightly more complicated is ... which helmet? Boots or half-chaps? Once I decide that, what kind of boot/half-chap? If I go with half-chaps, I'll definitely go with the Tredstep Elite half-chaps. Boots, though ... that might be nice. I have to admit that I love the feel of half-chaps; they feel so much more flexible than boots do. Then again, the tall boots I have (one of which has a broken zipper) aren't great -- I have really enjoyed my Dublin paddock boots, but I haaaaaate the tall boots. They weren't expensive, but ... ugh. I'd really like to get a set of pull-on boots, without a zipper, honestly. To make it even MORE difficult, I look a little ridiculous in Spanish tops. So -- ideal boot criteria:

* No zipper
* Fits wide calf and short shank
* Not more than $150-$200 max
* Not field boots
* Regular top or lowish Spanish top

This might be an option, but they might be a bit too tall: Ovation Finalist dress boots
A good suggestion -- these are workable, though they have a zipper; they're available in short-round sizes. A bit expensive, though: Mountain Horse High Rider II

I wonder how different men's boots are from women's and whether I might do better looking at men's sizes.

Gah, boot shopping is terrible!

Fortunately, I know which helmet I want -- I've been riding in a Tipperary, and I like the fact that it protects the back of my head, but it is definitely an odd shape. I kind of like this one better: IRH Elite Then again, after reading the reviews, maybe I ought to look into something else. I don't much care for the Troxel helmets, and I'd prefer not to have a velvet or microfiber cover, just because of dust and the way they end up looking shabby. Maybe I should go with my first instinct after all and go with a Charles Owen skull cap and a cover? I'd have to have a snazzy cover for cross-country, of course. :)

Which brings me to the next thing I would prefer to replace: Rev's brushing boots. I've used a set of Dover's generic, white, fleece-lined, PVC-outer boots on her for two years now, and they're rather the worse for wear. Not because they're white, as you might expect -- because they're made of PVC. The PVC cracks and splits easily, and I'm not terribly happy about the elastic bands. They're not bad, but ... I'd prefer to at least have something else for show. Something not made of PVC, something white.

These are an option, if I want to stick with brushing boots (better price on Legacy, but the stuff's the same): Woof Wear brushing boots in white/white
I'd almost prefer to go with splint boots, though -- there are a couple of options. These seem really high-tech, but ... I wonder. They seem like they might crack or split on the shiny parts: Davis splint boots

The other splint boots out there with the design I like don't come in white. Bah, I say! I think this is a topic I've covered already, but ... I guess I'd put her in navy blue if I had to, but I'd rather go with white on her feet.

Anyway, that's my list and pondering for now. :)

Sunday, February 7, 2010


So -- yesterday I rode; today I had a lesson.

Yesterday's ride showed some improvement on all counts -- I was better able to anchor my lower leg and got some good responses out of her. I had the ground poles out in a serpentine and a set of four basic trot poles, and my goal was to "do the exercise we did in the last lesson and do better at it than I did before." I can say for sure that we did better, though we still had some tempo (rhythm) problems and certainly had impulsion problems as a result. Still -- it was better than before. We got a little bend, and we got a little better in tempo and balance. I worked really hard on my lower leg and on shifting my balance correctly from seatbone to seatbone.

And then this morning, we had a lesson. I learned quite a bit and have several things to put on my list for this week's practice, starting from the first moment of longing.

Before I even type about it, I'll say that I think there were three main reasons things went so much better today than last week or even yesterday: 1) I'm feeling fully healthy again, 2) I've been practicing and focusing and reading, even when I'm not riding, and 3) I checked the "I can't!" at the door. I realize that, honestly, my horse and I are a lot alike: if I/she gets a thought in my/her head, we can be complete impossible to deal with until we get rid of the thought and replace it with something more productive. (Seriously, my friend C has accused Rev and me of being reincarnated sisters, the way we work together/argue, and she's sort of the way I'd be if I were a horse. Not to ascribe any special or romantic ideas to her -- she's a horse, nothing more, nothing less -- but she does have her own distinct personality.)

Anyway, I'm sure that when I get that way, it's terribly frustrating for MT -- he's not really the sort to say "look, you're being an ass; quit it," even though I probably deserve it sometimes -- and I always feel terribly guilty when I do that. I'm extremely fortunate to be able to take lessons from MT; this is the caliber of instruction you can't get just anywhere, and he's superb with training horses and teaching riders. So I do the Jane Eyre thing -- I try to do well, try not to 'give offense,' but fail every now and then. Mea maxima culpa, and I'll always try to do better.

At first, MT was riding a young horse in for training while I was longing. Rev was good, overall, with only one spook at first, and then calmed right down. Of course, that also implies "a little bit dead." I was very pleased with Rev when MT asked us to hang out in the center of a ring for a bit while he worked the young horse's canter, which is a little all over the place -- Rev got a little freaky for about 5 seconds, I held her in place, and then she completely calmed down. Good girl. When MT left the arena and then came back, the Learning started.

Step one: Get Rev to respect my aids from the ground on the longe line -- get her to move forward energetically. As MT said, give her a light aid to give her the opportunity to respond to it. If she doesn't respond, give her a stronger aid. And if she ignores that, as she's prone to do, get after her hard. So I worked at that, with her in her side reins: ask for a trot. No trot? Cluck in the rhythm I want her to trot in. (Not cluck twice rapidly, which is what I usually do and need to unlearn.) No trot? Shock the crap out of her with the longe whip. Suddenly she respected my voice aid! Duly noted. Avoid walking out in front of her, trying to drag her along -- stay still, and let her move forward.

Step two: I feel a little like I'm in the Mystery Men movie -- to get her to hold the contact in the left rein, little gives and takes on the right rein. To keep her correct on the inside rein, use the outside leg. Not that "outside leg to inside rein" isn't one of the Dressage Commandments, if not the first one, but gimme a break. I'm just now experiencing it for real.

MT got on her first just to ride and demonstrate, and I found it really useful. I saw what he needed me to do -- keep her neck straighter and not worry so terribly much about bend, just about tempo/rhythm and contact. So after he worked her a bit, I was able to get on.

And I did a LOT better this time -- I was able to keep my lower leg more secure and use the correct part of my calves to give her leg aids. I felt like my weight aid was much more effective today -- I was having much less trouble using it and with shifting from one aid to the other, that's for sure. MT talked a bit about the correct way to give aids -- clearly, with loose leg, then give the aid, then soften the leg again -- which I'd been getting better at last year and need to focus on again. Clear, definitive aids. Rev will do much better with that, and I think it'll help me get my canter departs back.

We kept the tempo/rhythm going this time, through my weight aids and through a softer and different rein contact than I'd been working with. Softer on the left, where she's hollow, and lots of tugs on the right rein to connect her up on the left. Even, elastic contact. It helped a lot that I wasn't fighting through her nose or fighting to have her correctly bent -- we were able to get going a lot better.

Through the poles, I worked to keep my balance back a bit, give her plenty of rein, and support with my leg.

And overall, a good lesson. Thank God -- if this had been as dismal a failure as last week, I would have been in a bad place. :) Today, I can ride.

Tomorrow and the next day are her days off; Wednesday I'll just work her on the longe line with her side reins, and we'll shorten them a notch as MT suggested. I love watching her figure out how to work over her topline! She can have SUCH a nice topline, and it helps develop her muscles so much. So Wednesday, longe line; Thursday ride, Friday off for hanging out with friends, Saturday and Sunday ride. Seems like a good plan.

In other news ... oh I hope I get a tax return this year. (Should find out today.) I really need a cooler for her, since we're not out of the cold season yet no matter how gorgeous today is, and my half-chaps are, if you'll forgive the pun, on their last legs. Both snaps at the bottom are broken, the zippers are really starting to come apart, the stitching over the top of my right foot is coming loose, and the elastic that goes under the boots is down to three little stretchy threads on one of them, and not many more on the other. Thoroughly disreputable, in other words. The USDF may allow half-chaps now in lower levels, but these make me look like a mounted ragamuffin. (To say nothing of my mare's long, Western-style mane, shaggy bridle path, and muddy feet.) So I hope I have enough money to pick up a set of Tredstep Ireland half-chaps. I like them because they seem high-quality, and almost more important, they come in exactly my size. As a short-round, I find it hard to get good tall boots and half-chaps -- even when I'm slender (which I'm not now), my shanks are still really short, and my muscles are bunchy. One of these days I'll be able to afford custom-made everything, but ... um, maybe I should buy a lottery ticket first. At any rate, on my wishlist are those half-chaps and a nice fleece cooler for my girl. Of course, the wishlist is much longer than that, but ... it'd be nice! :)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Er. If anyone more talented than I wants to put together a nice little header graphic for this, that'd be super-cool. :)

Where we are now

Last night's ride was marginally successful. In my lesson on Saturday, we were working on a shallow-loop serpentine over ground poles -- the exercise is about accuracy, bending/straightness, tempo, and balance. We can be accurate, mostly, but the rest of it is a challenge. I couldn't get my weight aids sorted out -- sometimes not at all, sometimes just not quickly enough; I wasn't turning her correctly with my whole torso & hips turning; my rein contact wasn't even or consistent; my rein aids weren't correct; and she loses tempo and impulsion with me when we're riding curved lines.

The turning-with-my-torso thing was easiest to fix. Of course, it helps when I have not so many things to do that I can keep my leg on correctly (inside of my thigh, knee, and calf in contact, draped adhesively, as de Kunffy writes, rather than pulling my knees up and pinching with the back of my calf and my heel) -- that makes EVERYTHING easier, if I have the correct base to work from. That's my main goal for this month: work that base. Get that muscle memory going, so I don't have to think about it so much. From there, I have a much better platform to work from. So that's workable, and I'm able to do it in practice fairly consistently. Exceptions are when we're going right and she's really resisting, really counterbending.

The weight aid is the next element I need to fix -- it's really like I'm trying to build from the ground up. MT suggested that I should put my right seatbone directly in the middle of her spine to really heavily weight that right seatbone ... I wasn't able to do it much in the lesson, but I worked on it really hard last night. I don't know if I was doing it right or wrong, but I know something was happening, because the muscles on the right side of my back were sore afterward, in that sort of I-haven't-been-used-and-now-this? way. I tried hard to keep my torso upright and not collapse to the outside while I did all this, and I think I succeeded most of the time. The more solid seat and leg helps in this, although when the circles get smaller -- requiring more bend -- things start to go to hell fairly quickly.

I did a couple of exercises that I thought were particularly useful -- a modified sort of figure eight, where we'd ride a 15-meter half circle, diagonal straight line through X, 15 meter half circle, then back through X diagonally. I'd started with the more correct 20 meter left circle - few steps straight - 20 meter right circle, but I, and as a result Rev, wasn't able to shift my weight and change the bend that quickly and still keep it correct. I thought the half-circle/straight line figure 8 helped quite a bit -- we were able to do much better, and it did indeed give both of us a workout.

I wasn't happy with her tempo, though it was mostly better than it'd been on Sunday -- that's not saying much, really, because I had absolutely nothin' on Sunday. So I worked hard on keeping her moving forward and relaxed through curved lines, and I had a little success. Not quite sure what the key is there. There's got to be something I'm doing wrong, because MT can get a good even rhythm and impulsion throughout the ground pole serpentine exercise on her, but I can't. Clearly this is my failing, and I'm not sure how to fix it.

Second, in the end, I wasn't entirely satisfied with our ride, but it was getting late and she'd sweated through her not-insignificant outer coat as well as her undercoat. So we did some small right circles at the walk. I wasn't as concerned about where the circle went or how big it was or whether she wandered ... I was focused entirely on where my right seatbone was (middle of her spine), where my legs were (rotated inward, inside leg at girth, outside leg behind the girth guarding the haunches), and giving the correct rein aid (little gives and takes on the right rein, allowing her to keep the bend as long as she could, then asking again). By focusing on that and keeping the circle small, things went from terrible, to bad, to wavery, to okay, and then to two small instances of softness and real bend! Tiny, momentary instances, that you would probably have missed if you were watching, but ... they happened. At that, I let her quit. Maybe I should have kept pushing to get more of them, but I thought that the effort should be rewarded.

So we'll see how we do tonight. I plan to work more on my seat/leg, turning correctly, and weight aids. I'll probably use the figure eight exercise again, too, and some large one-loop serpentines. And I'll work on getting a canter depart, too. Just ... keep on trying. That's all I can do, eh?

The Story So Far

Reveille, the first day I got her, in SC's arena in Tennessee.

So, a quick introduction: I'm [rinsie]. I like to say I've been riding all my life, and to a certain extent, I have -- started lessons at 8 or 9 at a hunter/jumper barn in Texas, riding calm and well-trained school horses, moved on to working at a pony farm in California when I was 12, riding stubborn ponies and later a speedy little Arab/Hackney pony, then bouncing around from horse to horse and experience to experience. I worked at a couple's Appaloosa ranch for a while, and I have to say I wish I'd been older or wiser when I did it, because there were SO many opportunities to learn that I didn't take advantage of. I was young, trying to figure out what I needed and wanted and could do, and ended up not making good choices. Sigh.

From there to Georgia, where I worked at a snooty dressage barn for a bit -- it wasn't a very good situation for me, since the teacher believed that only tall, slender people could be good riders. I'm neither. *shrug* From there to Tennessee, where I met some great horse people and really got back into riding for good. I learned how fun Tennessee Walkers, Spotted Saddle Horses, and other gaited horses can be.

And then, in July 2006 ... I bought my first horse of my very own, Reveille. Her breeding is something of a mystery. I met her dam, a 15.1 hh bay Quarter Horse mare, that probably has papers somewhere out there. Allegedly, her sire was Izar, an Orlov-Rostopchin stallion imported by Alex Chterba, who somehow got loose and met Missy in the pasture for a little pasture accident. I can't get complete confirmation of this, but it's the best story I have so far. Her looks back it up -- she's QH size, with a big ol' block head and a QH butt, but her neck, back, hind legs, and general conformation are more warmblood-y than not. Overall, at 15 hands full-grown, she looks like a three-quarter scale warmblood. Moves like one, too.

She was 2 when I bought her, and she'd only ever had one person on her back before -- and that just a kid, while Rev's owner ponied her. I was the second person ever to ride her. I decided to buy her based on her natural gaits -- big trot full of suspension, rhythmic canter, good walk -- and her conformation. She also has a very kind eye.

What I didn't know at the time was that she was extremely smart -- I mean, I knew she was clever; I figured it out the first time I got on her. But I didn't realize HOW smart she is, and how opinionated, or willful. I'm blessed and cursed with a smart horse -- cursed now, while she's young, and blessed later, when she's trained and we're doing higher-level stuff.

I also didn't know at the time that she'd inherited her dam's bad habit of bucking. She doesn't buck under saddle any more, really, and she isn't bucking on the longe line much either. But for a while there, it was a real issue. The first time she bucked me off, I broke my left pinky finger. The second time she bucked me off, I shattered my collarbone. She hasn't bucked me off since, mostly because I freaking refuse to fall like that again! At 34, I just don't bounce like I used to. I've fallen off, but I haven't been thrown since. *knocks on wood*

So far, she's turning into the fantastic little horse I thought she'd be -- her gaits continue to improve, and her jump is super-cute.

So now we're in Idaho, working with one of the best eventing teachers available in the Northwest. I love My Teacher (MT) and his wife (TW), but it can be very, very difficult, being the least-skilled and least-horse-educated person on the property. Lately it seems like I can't do anything right, and it's terribly discouraging. I want to do well; I want to compete and do well in regional three-day events, eventually. I want to make MT proud and have TW be able to say "she's doing well." And nothing like that's happening right now. But -- excelsior, yes?

Right now Reveille's issues are all centered around one thing: lateral flexion. More to the point, the lack thereof. She's weak in her right hind, so she finds it very difficult to bend right. And because she's herself, she really tries her best to avoid bending right. She bends left easily, but right ... it takes a lot.

Especially for me -- my right side is weak, and I realize exactly how much I need to work on my seat and my legs. With an old ACL replacement on my right knee and never quite getting the mobility back, I am pretty sure that I overcompensated for years for that injury. Then, after shattering my right collarbone and landing quite hard on my right hip, I've been out of alignment for going on two years now. In a perfect world, I'd be able to go to physical therapy and a chiropractor regularly and work the hip issue out. But in the real world, it would cost me $30 a session for each, and I simply cannot afford that every week. When I win the lottery, sure, but ... alas. :) Until then, I have this right-side weakness. But I'm working hard at fixing my seat and leg position.

So all that plus the realization that I haven't been using the correct part of my leg to give aids to my horse for as long as I've been riding have made this journey difficult. Plus the fact that I have zero immune system -- if a germ comes along, I get sick. *shrug* It's always been that way, so I'm used to it, but it doesn't help at all when I get so sick I can't ride for two months in the winter. (Next year, I will be planning for this and put Rev into half-training for the months of December and January, just so I can be sick and not worry about her.

But -- MT does his best with me, and I work hard in practice. I sometimes succeed a lot, sometimes a little, and sometimes not at all. Right now I realize that a lot of her issue is lack of strength -- she'd been down for two months, maybe ten weeks, before I got back on and started riding regularly again in late January. So she needs to build up her muscles, stretch, and just generally get back into work. And so do I. So ... onward, yes?

More soon, now that I've got the backstory done.

Square one.

So it seems that most of my other blogs (livejournal, opendiary) are going by the wayside, because all I ever really want to talk about is my horse, my riding, things I think about related to my horse and my riding, things I want, goals, and challenges ... all related to riding. And I was inspired by to create a horse blog, with nothing about other things that bother me, like work or money. I don't like talking about that stuff anyway.

So here it is: Excelsior!

ex*cel*si*or Noun: fine curled wood shavings used especially for packing fragile items. Idiomatic: small topics or items that are unrelated, unnecessary, or trivial. Also: Foreign term. "Ever higher!" New York state motto; also popularized by Stan Lee's Who Wants to Be a Superhero? television show.

So here's where I'll put my random thoughts -- the excelsior -- and my more substantial thoughts, goals, worries, stresses, and successes. And I promise to always strive for more -- excelsior!