Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Forward Aids from a Light Seat

I don't know how many of you subscribe to Dressage Today but I find it to be a very useful magazine.  Because of his concussion laminitis, and because the arena at my trainer's barn is dirt, I haven't been able to take a lesson since March.  MARCH!  So, training Jackson has fallen squarely on my solitary shoulders.  With a lot of help from my then trainer, we took my previous horse from green to third level (when I sold him).  So, I know the basics and feel confident in the work I am doing with Jackson.  His trot is on the cusp of 1st level since, with his lousy feet always relapsing, we spend a lot of time doing walk and trot work.  I rely on DT and USDF Connections and some books (101 Arena Exercises) to keep me on the right track and to keep me from getting bored.  Brett is my eyes on the ground. 

There was an article in the August issue of DT about how to motivate a laid back horse.  Jackson isn't a lazy horse but he is a laid back horse.  That's how he got his barn name -- he reminded me of a lanky cowboy, leaning against a barn in Wyoming, chewing on a piece of hay.  Jackson is a great trail horse, a great horse to put non-riders on in the arena and a safe horse.  He is also a good dressage horse because he likes to go forward, he's a pleaser, and he loves having a job -- and doing it well.  He's a fun, safe ride on the trail and a fun, forward ride in the arena.  Who could ask for more?  ...maybe good feet.  Could I have good feet please?

Yesterday morning, I rode Jackson before work.  I didn't have a lot of time and he is still on limited work coming back from his last "off" episode.  My goal for the day's work was to teach Jackson to go forward from my seat.  He already knows halt and downward transitions from my seat.  I didn't know you could do forward from your seat -- I've always used a light squeeze.  I used the steps outlined in the DT article.

The aid for moving forward from your seat is to lighten your seat -- sort of lift your seat upwards as if you were avoiding a tack on the saddle seat.  Initially, I exaggerated the movement.  I lifted myself completely out of the saddle.  Of course, he had no clue what I was doing so I added a squeeze.  Pretty soon I could lift without squeezing.  His ears were going back and forth a mile a minute.  Go?  Do I go?  Or not?  Like this?  After 15 minutes I had him making halt-walk and walk-trot transitions by just lifting my torso up but not leaving the saddle.  He wasn't perfectly consistent but he was close and the transitions were nice and  forward. 

The most unexpected part was how much he liked it.  I'm not sure why that surprised me -- duh, how much nicer is it to have someone become lighter on your back than squeeze your sides?  He was also pleased with himself for learning something new.  I'm wondering if the transitions had more punch because he felt free in his back to move forward.  Today, his feet are resting so I'll work on it some more tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Jackson and Kalvin are buddies.  This is all well and good when they are standing head-to-tail giving each other a massage.  It isn't so good when they ricky-race around.  Kalvin isn't supposed to be running on his foot and Jackson isn't supposed to be pounding on his laminitis.  I had been opening the back of Jackson's stall into the pasture during the heat of the day.  I was sure he wouldn't be racing around in 100F degree heat.  I was wrong.  I went out to do the evening chores the other night and there he was, standing stock still in the pasture, pleading with his eyes and bobbing his head.  He didn't have to move, I knew his foot hurt.  I enticed him back to his stall with an apple and locked his gate.

So instead of afternoon turnout, I've been putting him in the arena while I muck so he can roll and walk around a bit.  Kalvin isn't close by to egg him on if he throws in a few bucks.  Running and playing on sand is a lot easier on his feet than the hard packed dirt in the pasture.  Last night I put him in the arena and sat down on the mounting stump in the corner to watch him.

The dogs were out and Kersey decided to squeeze through the rails of the fence and sit with me.  Specifically, she sat between my knees leaning against my leg trying to expose as much of her belly as possible for rubs.  Jackson came over to investigate.  They have touched noses before -- Jackson reaching his neck over his stall door and lowering his head to investigate.  Kersey tries to lick Jackson's nose.  Jackson shrinks back in disgust.  But then he sticks his head back down and they repeat.  So, when Jackson ambled over to us in the arena I wasn't worried although I thought Kersey might be.  Jackson has chased her out of the pasture in the past.

After a few minutes of Jackson nudging Kersey, I got up to get Jackson's halter.  I expected Kersey to follow me out of the arena, glued to my leg.  Instead, she stood behind the stump with her nose in the corner and her rump pointing out next to the stump.  Jackson leaned down and I caught my breath expecting him to bite Kersey on the back (which is what he does to the donkeys at times).  Instead, he started wiggling his lips and giving Kersey a butt massage.  Kersey didn't move a muscle.  She looked surprised, confused - and happy.  When Jackson moved up Kersey's back and began chewing on her collar I stopped the party.  I had visions of Jackson lifting the poor dog up in the air and flinging her across the arena.

And, of course, I didn't have the camera with me. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Stills: Pests and Things That Annoy You

Here is the challenge (no bonus points for me):

its pretty much an open challenge to vent on anything that annoys you to including things or any type of animal or insect… Bigtime bonus for anyone who can photograph a mosquito….:-)))

Click on the Sunday Stills icon on my sidebar to see pictures of other pests.

My subject?  My pest?  Bella.  My very annoying (but sweet) Nigerian dwarf goat.  She will not stay in her goat pen with the other goats.  No.  She insists on jumping out and eating my apple trees.  She has really done a number on my newest tree -- half the foliage is gone -- and that is REALLY annoying.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fixing Finessa's Founder

Brett and I have both been wondering if Finessa's founder a few months back is related to the hole she has been chewing in the barn siding.  The hole has been there for a few years and was caused by a horse rolling too close to the wall and kicking it on his way up.  Thanks Strider - we're thinking of you up in horsey heaven and hoping you are rolling in wide open places.

When holes have been around a long time, you forget about them.  You don't even see them anymore.  I didn't notice the hole until the other day when I caught Finessa happily munching away, nibbling the corners, making the hole deeper and bigger.  She didn't want her hay, she wanted the tasty blend of concrete siding and wood.  ...and then she started limping around again.

This morning after chores, Brett got right on the task of covering it up with wire mesh.

 It was 8:00 when we started and already hot and humid.

This gauge says "normal" is 50-75% humidity.  Says who???  We are used to humidity at 10-15% so at 45% it feels like a rain forest.

The forecast says temps around 100F again today.  Ugh.

Brett got all of his equipment out.  Notice that the end of the cord to plug in his air compressor is going into Flash's stall.  No, the electrical outlet isn't in the stall.  Brett was messing with Flash, draping the cord around his neck and otherwise disturbing Flash's breakfast.  Not that Flash cared, he just kept eating with the cord hanging over his face.

Next, we kicked the donkeys out of their stall.  They weren't happy about leaving their breakfast behind.  Tuffy tested the latch and tried to push his way back in.

First step was nailing a piece of wood against the siding so there would be something to staple the wire mesh onto.  Staples don't work too well with concrete siding.  Once the wood was in place, Brett cut the mesh.  Bella and I assisted.

...the helpers.  Bella was eying Brett's bucket of tools.  She was not much of a helper.  We kept hoping she would go back to her herd but no, she wanted family time.

My job... standing on the mesh while Brett cut it to the right size.  Why do I always get the difficult jobs?

Mesh installed.  Time to let the Tuffy and Finessa back into their stall.

Tuffy was looking very closely at the mesh.  We worried that they would grab it at the bottom and pull it off.  So, Brett went off in search of some wood to put along the bottom and hold the mesh secure.

First he tried this big piece.

Bella thought it might work.

Brett tried driving a couple metal stakes into the ground to hold it in place but the barn footing was in the way.  

He went off to look for another piece of wood, one that wasn't so thick so he could nail it on.

Jackson took a break from his morning hay to come out and see what all the commotion was about.

Good job, Dad! 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Done With Summer

It's been hot all week.  Today we are, once again, above 100F.  And to make matters worse, there is monsoon weather lurking out to the east, in the desert, so it is humid as well.

This morning we had beautiful cloud filled skies when I went down to the barn to feed. 

To the east, from our driveway across the neighbor's property.

West, from the orchard

North west from the arena
It was already warm.  The rabbits were searching for shade.  Rocky tried looking for it under a stool. 

I rode Jackson immediately after I finished with chores.  I was hoping to beat the heat.  We warmed up on the bridle path and then headed into the arena.  Despite running the arena sprinklers and trying to ride in the shady corners  as much as possible, I didn't last long.  We tried working on trot for about five minutes but when we came down to walk I was nauseous and light headed.  When I got up to the barn I checked the temperature -- already 90F at 8:30am.  I don't know how people ride in the midwest, east and south in the summer.  I hosed off Jackson (and myself) and went up to the house for breakfast.

At noon I went back down to the barn to feed lunch.  It was 103F then.  Sedona was sprawled in the coolest corner she could find.

The only animal crazy enough to be out and about was....  Bella.  She was chomping away on my apple trees.

She followed me down to the barn where we were greeted by Darth Vader.
Jackson: I'm not the one who picked out this fly mask, okay?
The donkeys were down at the bottom of the pasture, resting in the shade. 

I'm not sure, actually, that they are donkeys.  They might be oversized termites.  Or maybe they thought Brett didn't have enough projects around the ranch.  ...they've been eating the barn siding.

Bella was busy in the barn inspecting the horse laundry, saying hello to Flash, and climbing on the furniture.

I keep the barn refrigerator stocked with soda for Brett, the farrier, and the UPS delivery guy.  I was tempted to take one although I am not a soda person.  Instead, I opened the door and stuck my head in enjoying the cool air.

I was about cooked, so I walked back up to the goat area knowing that Bella would follow me.  She has done a number on my newest apple tree.  I am not pleased.  She apparently has developed quite the taste for apple leaves.

Back at the goat pen, all the other members of the herd were snoozing in the shade.  Thistle greeted me from the correct side of the fence. 

Then it was back in the house for me.  I don't think I'll venture out again until the sun starts going down. 

And to all of my blogger friends and followers who are dealing with Hurricane Irene -- please be safe. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Signature Themes: Intellection

The second signature theme that drives me is called "Intellection."  This does not mean I am an intellectual, thinking deep thoughts.  It simply means that I like to think.  As in, I can't turn the brain off even when I want to.  And, obviously, the equestrian discipline that never lets you stop thinking is....dressage.  Bingo.  Think about training, think about tests, think about rhythm and tempo and impulsion and schwang... think.  think.  think.

Here is the definition given by the book/survey tool (emphasis mine):

You like to think. You like mental activity. You like exercising the “muscles” of your brain, stretching them in multiple directions. This need for mental activity may be focused; for example, you may be trying to solve a problem or develop an idea or understand another person’s feelings your horse. The exact focus will depend on your other strengths. On the other hand, this mental activity may very well lack focus. The theme of Intellection does not dictate what you are thinking about; it simply describes that you like to think. You are the kind of person who enjoys your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection. You are introspective. In a sense you are your own best companion, as you pose yourself questions and try out answers (is he off or unbalanced?  if I half halt in a corner, does he rebalance? ) on yourself to see how they sound. This introspection may (often) lead you to a slight sense of discontent as you compare what you are actually doing with all the thoughts and ideas that your mind conceives. Or this introspection may tend toward more pragmatic matters such as the events of the day or a conversation that you plan to have later. Wherever it leads you, this mental hum is one of the constants of your life. 

Poor Jackson.  I'm constantly thinking of new patterns to ride, new turn out schedules, and I analyze each ride to death before, during and after.  These pictures are from a lesson this past January.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Scott Cooks Us Dinner

Brett's son, Scott, called on Sunday and offered to come up Monday night and make us dinner.  Scott said he would bring up the food  - all I had to do was provide some staples and ingredients from the garden.  Scott is a professional chef, creative and talented.  I zipped home after work as quick as the freeways would let me. 

Ready?  Here we go....

First, Scott roasted a couple sweet potatoes in the oven which he used to make gnocchi dough.

I pulled a couple beets from the garden and he roasted them as well.

The sweet potato and thyme gnocchi dough was rolled into a log and cut  into pieces.

Then he tossed the gnocchi with flour  while the cooking water came to boiling.  

The chef at work.

(A professional chef cooking in MY kitchen.  Pinch me!)

Meanwhile, blueberry sauce started to simmer.

The gnocchi after boiling.

Scott trimmed the venison.

And coated it in his secret "mystical rub."  He left me the tub of rub when he left.  

He asked me to pick him a couple apples and he cut up bread into little square toasts.

He browned butter, spooned it on both sides of the bread and then put them in the oven to brown.

This was not a low-cal meal.

He tossed the apples in butter until they were nice and brown.

Next he added Calvados to the pan and ignited it.  Can you see the streaks of orange above the pan by the shelf of the stove?  That's flames.  The flames didn't photograph well at all but, trust me, it was impressive. 

The apples.

The blueberry sauce still bubbling away, getting thicker.

Scott seared the venison on the stove and then finished it in the oven while we ate our first course.

At times, the stove top was pretty crazy with everything cooking at once.

Scott seasoned the foie gras with grey salt and pepper, then seared it in oil.

Those chef people really know how to plate things!  Here is our first course:
apples in Calvados sauce, toast squares and foie gras.  

It tasted out of this world: silky, sweet, and smooth. 

After eating the first course, Scott sliced up the beets which were finished roasting and put the venison in the oven to finish cooking.  He tossed the beets with butter and thyme.

He plated the main course, starting with the blueberry sauce...

...added beets and gnocchi...

...and the venison -- with a sprig of thyme on top.

It was an amazing dinner.  By the time we finished eating it was 11:00 -- and it was midnight before we went to bed.  I'm dragging today (up at 5:00 am to do chores before work) but it was SO worth it!