August 14, 2017

Hay Bale Jumps

I just returned from the first real vacation we've taken in nine years. The past nine days have been spent unplugged from the world while floating on a small yacht somewhere in the inside passage. It was nice to get a lot of reading in and just plain relax for once. Reading for some reason also causes me to want to write. Even if that writing is done, painstakingly, one finger tip at a time on a tablet with no keyboard that I managed to pry from my five year old's death grip. During the trip we occasionally came to port, which in these modern times would have intermittent internet access, allowing me to upload text only blog posts (as you may have noticed). Otherwise, there was no phone calls, no emails, no technology in my life and it was delightful. We managed to fill the technology void with a lot of salmon, crab, and prawns. A lot of them. It was tasty.

Now we are back.

Upon returning last night I was delighted to see that the fields in our neighborhood have been baled. Normally I just look at them and see hay bales, and vermin control. Not this year. All I can think of is riding around in the field and willy-nilly jumping those bales. I am itching to do this today, but with our return also came the rain. Rain we really need, and haven't seen in a long while. So, no riding today unless things dry out by this evening (sadly, this is entirely possible). Tomorrow though...

August 13, 2017

Pursue my Passions

"One thing that that makes a passion enjoyable is that you don't have to worry about results. You can strive for triumph, or you can potter around, tinker, explore, without worrying about efficiency or outcomes." - Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

Dressage has never a been my passion, horses have. Somewhere along the line I lost sight of that and its been a source of frustration as late. I have become too concerned with the results in the dressage ring, and forgot the rest.

Dressage fell into my life when I got Rose. I planned on doing the hunters with her; I was a hunter/jumper after all. However, I wanted her to have a dressage foundation, as I feel flat work is so important to the development of a jumper. Then a funny thing happened. Rose was naturally good at dressage. She was built for it, bred for it, and doing anything else with her seemed silly.

I plunged myself into the world of dressage. I still remember, standing in the Glison Street Saddlery shop in Portland, Oregon, staring at blingy browbands. Anything flashier than a fancy stitched browband was so foreign to me. Could I really put swarvski crystals on my horse? It turns out I could, and I did. I quickly developed an enjoyment of dressage, dressage shows, and the adult ammy dressage community. Rose made it easy though, but I never knew just how easy dressage came to a horse with naturally lofty gates.

I sold Rose and a year later, after moving to the farm, bought Gentry.

It was natural to dust off my tack and see what fit Gentry. For the most part Roses's tack, complete with blingy Keiffer swarvsky crystals, fit Gentry. He had very little training, so once again I was starting a dressage horse. At this point, due partly to habit and party postpartum anxiety, it did not cross my mind to do anything other than dressage with him. So we carried on, and we struggled. I chalked it up to green horse stuff, but as time passed over the past three years the truth of our struggles began to dawn on me. His gates are neither lofty or expressive. He is quite simply not a natural dressage horse. I had no idea how much more difficult dressage is with a horse that is not bred for dressage. Now I do. 

This does not mean dressage isn't good for Gentry, nor that I will give up riding dressage with him. I would still like to get him to second level, someday. However, that day a few weeks ago when I dusted of my precious fancy stitched, buttery soft, leather goods and decided to jump him, I had a different horse. He was animated in a good way, focused, and fun. His dressage work has made him balanced, rythmatic, adjustable, and established flying changes. He sees his own distances and neither over jumps or hits poles. If he chips, it is my fault.

After three years of dressage with Gentry, I have decided to give hunter equitation a go. He is not built to be a dressage horse, nor is he an elegant hunter type. I no longer have the kahoonas for the jumper ring or cross country. However, I can look pretty while effectively riding a horse. A horse that likes to jump. That leaves us squarely in the world of hunter equitation and dressage equitation. I am exited to have this new focus. At the same time though, there are so many other aspects of horses that I find happiness in. Trail riding, skijoring, braiding, grooming, and just plain toodling. Horses are my passion. Not dressage. That is what I need to get back too and keep sight of.

August 9, 2017

Ride Like you are Ten, not Thirty Nine

Most people are eleven in the sixth grade, I was ten. I dreamed of horses, I drew horses, I collected Breyer horses. I lived in the city. I did not have access to horses. They were viewed as a fleeting, expensive, fantasy of a little girl. My parents had no idea.

Nearly every summer, my family would pile in a wood paneled station wagon and drive the obligatory long haul from Portland to San Diego to visit my grand parents. As we drove seemingly unending miles down the coast, I imagined riding a horse, just outside the window of the car. We were galloping along, wind in my hair, jumping shrubs as they whizzed past the window. Nothing gave me more pleasure on a car trip than that little private game I played.

I didn't have many friends in school, as I suffered the near annual fate of being the "new kid". However, in sixth grade I made an equally horse crazed friend, who's name sadly alludes me thirty years later. She had horses.  We spent our lunch time in the library drawing horses and discussing them, every day. We became boosom friends.

For my birthday that year my parents allowed me to go to her barn and go riding. I didn't know what I was doing, but all those years of imagined obsession seemed to have prepared me; that or i simply had an insane amount of natural talent. We galloped our ponies, helmet free hair blowing in the wind, bareback up a field and through tree lined trails, jumping fallen logs. It was pure joy. Innocence. Fearlessness. Elation. Happiness.

It is that simplicity and happiness that I want to regain in my relationship with horses. This is my current riding goal. A bronze medal will come someday, but happiness needs to come first.

August 1, 2017

Dressage Horse Jumps...Hunter Eq?

My posts have been slim this summer, because due to a booming business (good stuff) and parental responsibilities, and Hubs insistence that we get back to our pre-baby summer weekend routine (lake every weekend), and a USEF/USDF Dressage show that I help plan every summer, there just hasn't been dedicated riding time, show prep time, or time to ride on the weekends. Also throw in a few show barns being quarantined for strangles, and that all equates to no showing for me this summer. That is of course a bummer, because if I don't have an end goal I have a hard time keeping motivation. In the past this wasn't so much an issue because I paid board, and show season or no, the guilt of paying board made me ride 4-5 times a week. Now that I don't have that financial guilt to motivate me, I have developed a bad habit of letting the "other stuff" get in the way of my riding.

The one silver lining to the no showing plan is that when I do ride I don't feel like I need to drill my dressage work non-stop. In fact, last week I felt like I didn't need to do dressage at all. This past spring I had my old Bates Caprilli jumping saddle re-flocked (or rather the horrid CAIR panels ripped out and replaced with wool) and fitted to G-Love. I still hadn't ridden in it, so I decided it was about time that I took it for a spin.

I jumped my horse!

Not only did I jump G-Love, but I had fun and I even put my big girl britches on and jumped a 2' vertical. I know, what you are thinking. "Renee, that is a sad tiny little jump. Your 5 year old kid could do that blind folded and backward on his pony".

You aren't wrong.

However, there is this weird thing that happens when you have a kid. Or at least this is what happened to me. My brain and body got pumped full of anxiety hormones. It honest to goodness feels like I am looking death in the face every single time I even think about jumping. But I did it. Just for the record I haven't jumped 2' since before I got pregnant...6 years ago. That is a long time.

You know what? It wasn't even scary. Death's face was no where to be seen. Take that postpartum anxiety! G-Love was perfect. He seems to really like jumping and naturally finds his spot so long as I stay out of his way. Now of course this has me thinking. He does dressage because I ask him to and he's a good willing boy about it...most of the time. He doesn't love it though. I doubt that he even likes it. It has given him a really good foundation though.

Gentry honestly seems to like jumping. Maybe he even loves it?

Now I'm rethinking my entire identity as an Adult Ammy dressage queen. G-Love would never be competitive in the hunters, he just moves too much like a draft horse. However, he's good at lengthening and shortening and I think we could actually do well in the local Hunter Eq circles. I'm pretty sure we could debut at 2'3" Hunter Eq just as we are now...especially now that he has his changes down (mostly).

Maybe, just maybe...

Forgive the blurry video still...but G has knees!
AND, I don't look too terrible. Though my stirrups are a touch long. Dressage much?


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