teadog1425: (Diddi)

Had a lovely, lovely morning down the stables, just messing around with the horses!

J's new baby Icelandic, Diddi (the pony in the icon), has now been with us for a couple of weeks and he is sooooo good!  He's 3, so he hasn't been backed yet, though J's mum, who was looking after him, has been doing a lot of work with him, so he's very used to being handled and wearing a headcollar and bridle.  Last weekend, we took him and Marco out for a walk on the common and he behaved like a sedate old gentleman, rather than a 3 year old out for his FIRST walk!  The only time he had a bit of a fit was at a big grey tree stump, which obviously looked like it ate Icelandic horses for breakfast, but even then he just had a bit of a jump sideways, and once Marco led the way, he walked past it with no problems!

Today was the first day for having his saddle on and he was a STAR!  He looked completely unconcerned having the saddle on his back and even tightening up the girth.  J led him around the yard with it on, and he walked beautifully and seemed more concerned about the grass and the horses in the neighbouring fields!  Then we took his saddle off and J jumped up and just hung over his back for a few seconds.  He was a bit taken aback by the weight (not that she is heavy, lol!), and he turned his head to look at her and wanted to walk, but other than that he didn't seem upset or worried, and he stopped walking when I asked him, and J slid off and we all told him how clever he was!  He is an absolute poppet.

Luckily, he and Marco seem to get on quite well.  Diddi is quite a bossy horse, and Marco is the more submissive of the two; however, he's not averse to explaining things to Diddi when D gets on his nerves!  Marco is a bit concerned that D seems to have taken over his stable, and he sulks a bit when J spends time with D, but he gets more than enough fussing of his own to make up for it!  His leg is healing well, but is obviously itchy where the last bits of skin are healing over, so he keeps knocking off the scabs.  We put more cream on today, so hopefully that will help.  We also gave M his first dose of Pernamax, which is the new supplement we are going to try him on for his arthritis, so fingers crossed that it does a good job helping his mobility.  We fed it to him in bits of apple, having been warned that it has quite a strong taste that most horses don't like at first, and sure enough he spit a couple of pieces of apple out, but all of the pills went down in the end!

Today we took them out for a walk again, this time with J's greyhound, Sam, and despite J's mum having warned us that D liked to eat dogs, everyone was very well behaved!  D coped with two motorbikes and a HUGE motor-trike passing him on the road, plus bicycles, people doing LOTR style battle re-enactments (even M doesn't like them much - he's a bit wary of the swords!), and lots of dogs, and didn't turn a hair.  Sam wandered about quite happily, practically under D's feet, and D watched him a bit carefully to start with and was then totally unconcerned, and kept reaching down to slime Sam's back affectionately (or hungrily, we weren't sure which!).  At one point, he did take Sam's tail into his mouth and was nibbling it, but Sam didn't even notice.  Clearly he was checking whether greyhounds tasted good to eat!

After we got back, I showed J the work I had been doing with M in the dually halter - working on getting him happier about being hosed. 

Backstory: when M got caught in the barbed wire and cut his leg badly, the barn owner, who rescued him, tried to hose off his leg, and M freaked out and wouldn't go anywhere near.  Even when he was heavily sedated, he still refused to let himself be hosed.  Obviously, this isn't a great situation esp in cases of emergency - or even if we just wanted to give him a bath!  So, I wanted to try and work with him to get him happier about hoses and being hosed.  I've read a lot about natural horsemanship, and so I knew the basic principle of approach / retreat, and so I started off by finding a small piece of spare hose, and just getting M happy enough to touch it with his nose, and be touched by it.  I hung it over his stable door and moved it around a bit while scratching him, until he was happy to stand next to it, and not worried by it moving.  Then I went into his stable with him (this was when he was on box rest - so it was quite good to keep him occupied too) and got him used to it lying on the floor, moving about, up to the point where I could rub it all over him and he was happy.  This actually didn't take long.  I think it helped that in the stable, he could move his feet if he had to, but he was also pretty bored so was keen to come back and be near me.  That afternoon, I was helped by B at the stable, who has done some Monty Roberts training, and she showed me how to put on the dually halter and we worked with M getting used to a real hose that had water coming out of it. 

It was interesting, because he didn't look panicked at all, he just really didn't like it, and he was really determined that he wasn't having anything to do with the hose or the water.  The dually really helped because it meant that there wasn't any benefit to pulling strongly back, which is what he was doing previously.  And it made it really clear, that there was a benefit to moving forward towards the hose, which was the release of pressure on his nose. 

Since then, I've tried to practice this every time I'm down and we've got our routine pretty much down pat now!  He's not that enthusiastic about going near the hose, but I let him think about it, and release the pressure when he offers to move forwards, and we eventually make our way up to standing on top of the hose.  Then I turn the hose on and work up to hosing his legs, praising him lots when he stands still.  He's now pretty happy with having his front legs hosed (ie doesn't move), and will let me hose his shoulder, stomach and back without moving, but he's still pretty unhappy with having his back legs hosed.  However, we're slowly getting more and more moments of standing while the hose is on his back legs, though he does still try to lift them up out of the way.  But we've come a long way, and I'm really proud of him, and really pleased! 

And then we turned the boys out and spent some time poo-picking the fields!  It's really funny - I find poo-picking really peaceful!  There's something about the pleasure of seeing how quickly the field looks better, and something about the peace and quiet - although D thinks that wheelbarrows are really there for him to play with, so it's not _that_ peaceful!  It's just really satisfying!

All in all, a really lovely morning!

teadog1425: (Default)

Is it wrong that I am completely addicted to Animal Cops Detroit?!

I love the Aussie Pet Rescue too - and I can't help noticing that, in contrast, the UK RSPCA and Pet Rescue programmes look like a lot of dithering about and hand-waving over nothing...  :-(  At least in the US and Oz versions, they get out there and actually HELP the animals.*

I also want to adopt most of the dogs from the ACD programme, so it's probably lucky that it isn't based in the UK!


* I have to confess to unhappy associations with UK RSPCA as my family rehomed a puppy from them which had to be put down after they failed to notice that it had sarcoptic mange.  The whole litter had been rehomed with this horrible skin condition, which the vet said was so severe that they must have had it from birth, and the centre had never picked it up.  It was a really traumatic experience for us, and the puppy never recovered.  So, not very impressed really.

teadog1425: (Default)

Boy, has it snowed!

Yay!  SNOW!

Woke up at half six this morning, and it felt like Christmas Eve, peeking out of the window to see whether Santa the snow had come yet!  And it had!  No work today - trains into London are running a skeleton service at best, most of the tube lines are all or part suspended, there are no buses running in the whole of Greater London, and more snow is forecast for the afternoon!  I am so happy that I am reduced to bouncing on my toes going 'Eeeeeee!' a lot!  This is BETTER than Christmas!

Had breakfast with my sister, who had walked down to the railway station to go to work and been thwarted by the lack of trains, which was very nice - and am planning a walk on the common with other family later.

If only the roads were better, I would drive down to see M - who, as an Icelandic, LOVES the snow!  I would love to see him ploughing through the snow, all his mane flying!  Yesterday we had a short ride in the indoor school because it was SO cold that my face went numb just walking out across the field to bring him in.  He Does Not Like the indoor school - which has rubbish footing - sand over concrete - not nice at all.  But he was a good sport, and I had dragged out some poles to make it more interesting, so we practiced our turns - steering from the withers, and asking him to step sideways with his foreleg, rather than jack-knifing at the neck.  NB to self: he can turn beautifully, but it seems like he has to be going slow enough to do so...  Making sure that I had a good enough 'lid on the toothpaste' was helpful here, seemed to give him enough 'space' so that he could step sideways, otherwise he just surged forwards.  The poles were also helpful, because he understood the concept of steering towards them, so was more inclined to listen to my leg asking him to step sideways when he understood that we were aiming for the pole in front of us.  At one point we were trotting and ended up in front of a pole (when my steering had gone a bit pear-shaped) and he did a tiny little hop over the pole - so that was a good omen for possibly doing jumping on him at some point! 

We also practiced our walk-trot transitions.  I was trying to play around with how to get trot rather than pace (which is the lateral two-time Icelandic gait, I think), and also how to get from pace to trot, when he was offering the former rather than the latter.  This is still a work in progress, but I noticed the following (notes to self for future work) - he paces with his head held high, but it seems like he can only trot with his head held low.  There were a couple of points where I managed to ride through pace into trot, by sitting really 'deeply' into the pace, and asking him both to push on and reach down with his head.  This didn't always work, and it may be that what worked was some other thing I was doing that I haven't identified yet.  He seems to offer pace as the default, as it seems to require less effort than trot.  The typical riding school advice of 'shorten your reins and ask for trot' definitely Does Not Work for M.  He needs a longer rein if anything.  Shortening the rein just gets pace with the lifted head carriage. 

So, we have another lesson with S next Saturday, and I feel that we've conscientiously 'done our homework' - and, more to the point, have some things to discuss re both the steering and the walk-trot transitions.  So, I'm looking forward to that.

Right - I'm supposed to be making use of this time to write - so more posting later!

Happy Snow Day, everybody!


13 Jan 09

Jan. 14th, 2009 07:08 am
teadog1425: (Default)
ETA: it won't let me put Buymeaclue's LJ tag within the body of the text - it keeps dropping it to the bottom of the entry - but the relevant post is by her!  Grr!  Argh!

Post from 13th Jan 2009


Right - I've been reading back through my copy of Mary Wanless's 'For the Good of the Rider', in order to respond to a post by here  - I'm going to come back to that, I think, because there was some other stuff that I wanted to round up here first.  Frustratingly, the internet access at the flat is painfully patchy - for no apparent reason, the connection will drop from the router and this means that accessing livejournal at home is a bit hit and miss...  At this rate, I'll be hitting up the local Starbucks for my internets...!

So, I got some riding time on Sunday!  Very happy.  And even happier because I went out solo.  Still only the second time that I have done that - but M was brilliant.  Just walking because the footing wasn't that great - one of the other horses down the yard had slipped and fallen while out hacking earlier in the day (mainly because he was being a prat, and throwing himself about), but thankfully was ok, just a little cut on his leg.  But it was just really nice to be out, and I was experimenting with my seat - just trying to be really conscious of my seatbones and what I was doing with my core and legs.  M seemed happy - he prefers going really fast, with all his hair flying, but was good-natured about the whole thing.  I've got another riding lesson on Sat (postponed from last week), so that will be interesting too.

The other thing I wanted to do was round up how the first week of my new writing target had gone - so that I have it to refer back to later.  The target was to write 2,500 words in the week - which was broken down as 3 days of 500 words and 4 days of 250 words.  I just failed to meet the target due to a wipe-out trying to write on Saturday.  I got 100 odd words, but the whole thing had gone sticky and I just couldn't bear the discomfort.  The error was in waiting to start until late afternoon, after a lot of busy-ness earlier in the day - by the time I got to the writing, I was just too tired, and the brain would not co-operate.  However, I met or exceeded my target all the other days, which I am really pleased with.  So I'm going to call that 2,400 - although, thinking about it, I'm certain that I exceeded the 2,500 target overall.

The other thing to note was that the last 1,000 words of the week (which were the first 1,000 words of a new chapter) were 1,000 words up a completely wrong alley, and I only realised this by the second writing session on Sun evening.  I wrote my quota for that session anyway, and then spent a bit of time trying to work out where I had gone wrong - which I managed to pin down before going to bed.  Monday morning's session then involved starting the chapter again with the new content/direction and it seems to be motoring along happily enough for the moment. 

This has of course derailed my timetable, but I'm not allowing myself to feel too stressed about that.  This is going to happen - either with days where I can't get the words done, sections where I write myself into a dead-end and have to back-track, and other sundry issues.  If I can maintain the schedule by and large, then I will be very pleased with myself!  I've also made myself a word-o-meter (paper version - so not v 20th C) but I've found that helpful in the past to help maintain momentum.  Right, the internet has vanished into the ether, so I'm going to save this to post later, and do the riding post at a later date...

[livejournal.com profile] buymeaclue

  which was 

[livejournal.com profile] buymeaclue


teadog1425: (Default)

Ok, ok, it was very pretty - there was a sparkling layer of frost on everything - grass, tree branches, dead leaves, rails - all looking just like fairyland.  BUT, yet again it was too frozen to be able to actually RIDE!  I do like going down and doing the horsey stuff - mucking out is a very good warm-up even in really freezing weather, and I had a really thorough and satisfying clear-out of M's bed, so that I would have been happy to sleep on it tonight!  I hoicked out all the frozen bits of ice from his water bowl.  I soaked hay, and made up feed, and navigated the laden wheelbarrow up the frozen ramp to the muck heap.  But I had almost no actual horse-time, except for putting M out into the field when I first arrived.  He gets very impatient to be out even in the worst of weather, so is in no mood to stand around and coffee-house.  He wants to be OUT, and NOW!

(This is turning out to be a very CAPS heavy post...)

I am HOPING that the weather tomorrow is milder - I've got the afternoon shift tomorrow, so with luck even if there is frost on the ground in the morning, it will be ok to ride by lunch-time.  Keep your fingers crossed, internets!

In other news - I CAN HAZ SHINIEZ!!!  I am very excited - [livejournal.com profile] elisem earrings are on their way to me!  I will try and post pictures when they arrive.  They are called 'Asking the Owl About Eternity' and they spoke to me because owls mean Athena and wisdom - and I completed my PhD about 3 years ago, and since then I've been trying to learn a different sort of wisdom (than the intellectual kind) and the earrings look like they would be a Useful Reminder.

Also, yesterday I had dinner with my parents and one of my sisters, and we made pizzas from scratch, with homemade dough, and they were DELICIOUS!!  Mine had on it: Dolmio tomato sauce as the base, then onions, peppers (red and yellow), asparagus, mozarella, feta, basil and some olive oil drizzled over and it tasted AMAZING!

On the writing front, I have slacked off today - I didn't have time to write first thing this morning, and I have not yet managed to stop procrastinating this afternoon (there are just so MANY interesting things on the interwebs)...  I am still resting in hope that I will write my 250 target words for today, and then I've got to write 500 tomorrow.

I was Mighty today.  When I got back from the yard, I stacked and set off dishwasher, had lunch, went over the road to talk to personal trainer guy about possibilities, washed the mould off the wall next to my bed, dried off the wall next to my bed, hoovered the floors of the sitting room, hall and my bedroom, took the baubles and decorations off the (dead) Christmas tree, hoovered floors again (Xmas tree needles), changed my bedclothes (Lovely New Bedclothes... mmm!), unstacked the dishwasher and then keeled over in a pale, interesting heap!

Right, words now!  Onward!


Jan. 9th, 2009 07:48 am
teadog1425: (Default)
Down to stables last night - I do one night in the week, which is a bit of a trek, as I have to commute home and then drive from there to the yard - takes about 2 hours travelling in all, and I can't get there before 7.30pm, but luckily M is quite happy being left out in the field until I get there - would be happy to stay out there all night long in fact!

I'm gradually getting faster at mucking out and setting up for the night/next day - mucking out shavings bed, supper/breakfast prepped, hay net, water, and changing rugs on M.  I finished up in 45 mins last night, and that included about quarter of an hour giving him scritches and gently brushing out his mane, which he seemed to like!

I'm also very pleased that the ongoing plan to train him to come to the gate when I call him seems to be working - previously I have had to walk across the entire length of the field, because he's quite happy to stay out there, and doesn't see any point in coming in!  He's fine to catch, he just didn't seem to think it was worth the effort!  So now I've started calling him from the gate, backed up with rattling his dinner in the bucket - and that absolutely does the trick!  Yay me, and yay him!

I'm also pleased because this was the first week of my new schedule, and I managed to write 1500 words - which was the target!!  I've got 750 to get at the weekend, which will be a little busy - apart from anything else I have to scrub mould off the wall next to my bed, which is not a job that I enjoy! - but I reckon I can get that.  I need some kind of chart to track words achieved...
teadog1425: (Default)

I'm only a few words off hitting my 500 target for today, but the well seems to have run dry, and everything has stalled, so I'm blogging instead!

A busy weekend, but almost no riding...  which was a bit sad, but not much to be done about the weather. 

Saturday, the ground was very icy in the morning and there is a fairly long section of road to cover before you get to the common, which slopes both up and down and winds quite sharply.  The general consensus was that nobody fancied the footing on that.  Which meant that I was all done and away in time to make a quick dash around Sainsburys and be home to eat lunch.  At that point, all my momentum deserted me and I watched most of The Colour of Magic on the TV, and noodled on the internets for most of the afternoon.  Still I did hit my 500 word target.

Today, I went down mid-morning for a ground-work lesson which had to be post-poned, due to a double-booking of the indoor school.  Instead M and I walked out again with J and her Norwegian horse.  We did a good hour this time, and R was very well behaved all things considered.  He took the lead some of the time, and took his time looking at everything, and smelling everything that looked interesting, and he got a little rushy at the end, but was sanguine about bikes, people, and even a dog carrying most of a tree-trunk in its mouth.  Afterwards, J came into the school with me and I rode M bareback for the first time!!  My first time bare-back riding ever, in fact!  It felt _very_ different.  I could balance myself while being led, but I couldn't balance and steer!  Still was v good fun and I will have to practice more. 

I also cleared some more space in my room, and have now just finished packing up the last of the stuff that was in my parents' house.  There are still boxes to be moved into storage, but just having reached this stage feels like a big achievement.  I've now got to negotiate when I can get it moved to the storage place and work out how I fit any more stuff into my cubby-hole of a bedroom...

Right.  Back to see whether I can get those last few words before bed.

And done...

Jan. 2nd, 2009 06:58 pm
teadog1425: (Default)
500 words today in two blocks. 

I might try to see whether I can squeeze out another before I go to sleep tonight, but then again I might give myself the night off!

Note to Self:  When the words are refusing to come, it is - yet again - because you are insisting on them being the RIGHT words.  Stoppit.  Allow them to be the wrong words and a) the words come and b) they are usually more right than when you are checking their credentials at the door like an overzealous bouncer...

OK.  Supper.
teadog1425: (Default)
Had a fantastic hack today - went out with S for the first time, and took a different route, turning right once we got onto the common, and then winding up through thick bushes of rhododendrons and back round the edge of the common the other side.  We actually had sunshine for most of the ride and the footing was generally good.  We had a long section of trot and several short canters, and much fun was had by all!

Once back at the yard, I untacked and then M and I went back out on foot this time, giving a lead to a baby Norwegian Fjord who needed some practice encountering other road users.  Norwegian pony was very interested to discover that this was where all the other horses went to when they left the field, and did not object noticeably to cars, bikes, people or dogs.  To be counted a success therefore!

I've got a lesson next weekend, which I'm really looking forward to...  I think M enjoyed it last time too, which is good!

Right, onwards and upwards...  Words to make.
teadog1425: (Default)
And Done!

So that took me a little longer than my usual half an hour, but I had to move rooms because I was getting distracted by A's phone call.

And it was like pulling teeth...  It always comes easier when I do them first thing in the morning, literally just after I've woken up - I think the critical faculties have not kicked in at that point.  Also, I have pushed it today - written 3 blocks of 250 (roughly - it works out at a bit more than that but it's not allowed to be less than 250) - to try and see how difficult that was. 

OK, to 'splain - I started setting myself a routine of writing a section of 250 words every morning, setting my alarm half an hour earlier, and making the words before I set foot out of my bedroom and hit the shower.  That has been working well - I often open the computer thinking that I have not a clue what is coming next, but by the time I've hit the end of my 250 block, I'm usually warmed up and I've found the next little section of the narrative.  It also seems to work well with the day's break between blocks, in refilling the well and getting a sense of what should come next.

However, if I want this draft to be finished before next autumn, I am going to have to write more than 250 words 5 times a week.  So I'm attempting to up the ante - 1250 words during the working week, and another 1250 over the weekend.  (I might have to tweak that, depending what I can actually get - the horse stuff often takes up a significant chunk of my weekends.  And the flaw in this, is that it doesn't count polishing time - I'm currently first drafting and simultaneously second-drafting a chapter or so behind, to tidy up for first readers, who are getting it piece by piece.) 

This also means less time for processing between blocks, which is harder.  And the section that I'm on at the moment, seems to be confused about what order it's coming in.  I wrote the first quarter-chapter (for ease of calculation and self-analysis, I'm aiming for chapters of roughly 5k, and usually divided into at least two equal sections/scenes and sometimes four) - and have now come to the conclusion that it should come in third position.  The scene I was drafting for second position, stays in second, but now comes before the scene it previously followed, and I've still got to write the first and fourth sections...  All fun and games...!
teadog1425: (Default)
I've got one more set of 250 words to write - so this is for motivation...

It's now 20 past 8 - I'll report back when I'm done...

teadog1425: (Default)
Well, one of my aims for 2009 is to start posting on this LJ again...  I had got into the habit of using it only for allowing me to make comments on other blogs, but during the last part of 2008, I have found myself wanting to post again, so new year, new start...

Looking back, a lot has happened over 2008 -
  • an office relocation at work;
  • a personal relocation at home - moving into a new flatshare;
  • having my eyes opened to completely new skills - attending two MW courses during the second half of the year, which made a huge difference to my riding;
  • starting to horse-share and finding my current share, with an Icelandic horse who is a) a lovely, responsive, polite gelding, b) really fun to ride and c) almost bomb-proof;
  • starting a new WIP and getting up to 50k by the end of the year - the original plan was to finish it by Sept, but was hopelessly unrealistic.
  • making some new friends and keeping some old ones
Most of the year has felt like being on a rollercoaster - whenever I found some kind of solid ground, the whole thing shifted again, and it has felt more like keeping going under blitz conditions than achievement exactly...  But looking back at that list, I am actually surprised by what I've managed to achieve, and feel hopeful for 2009.

So aims for 2009:
  • Attend some more MW courses - I've now found a RWYM instructor locally, so have started having lessons with her too, but the courses are invaluable - and a lot of fun!
  • Complete the WIP and start sending out.  I did a bit of calculating and worked out, that I need to be writing at least 2,500 words a week in order to get the first draft done in time for rewrites etc, so that is another aim.
  • Take another look at both work and living conditions - in that, I know that neither are actually where I want to be at the moment, and I keep putting off the process of trying to work out what would be more right.
  • Be healthier - two bouts of flu and a heavy cold, just in the last few months - which is not fun or productive.
  • Start dating again.
  • Try to build the foundations for being able to have a dog of my own, probably not this year, but as soon as possible - which leads back to #3 above...
Well, I think that's enough to be going on with...

Hello LJ - did you miss me?  ;-)
teadog1425: (Default)
A really satisfying ride...  Thanks to [personal profile] buymeaclue and to lots of thinking about her good advice, and to my instructor R, and to Star, who I was riding... !!  And me, of course, who did things differently, and got some good results!!  ;-)  In particular, we had some good canters - which I am v pleased about (more detail below)...!

I had been doing a lot of thinking during the week about my mental state while I ride - which I think was at least part of the issue on the ride Saturday last week - and I've decided that there are two parts to this (well, two parts that I can see at the moment, anyway - always more to add, I'm sure): first is body tension, second is my own nervousness/confidence.  

I know that generally I hold a lot of tension in my body, and I was trying to notice where specifically, during the week, and I have a particular habit of holding tension across my shoulders by twisting in my left shoulder.  So I was trying to get into a habit of being able to consciously relax that tension.  The nervousness/confidence thing is more difficult...  I find it difficult to identify why some rides I start off feeling more twitchy than others, and why sometimes (as [personal profile] buymeaclue says) you can ride yourself out of it, and sometimes you can't...  However, I've been doing a reread of the CJ Cherryh duology 'Rider at the Gate' and 'Cloud's Rider', for the first time since I have started learning riding again, and was finding some of the nighthorse bits there, surprisingly relevant, in particular *spoiler alert*  Danny's realisation that he is fidgetting at Cloud - I was practicing during the week, holding a feeling of <still water> while consciously letting go of that tension in my shoulders/upper body, and that seemed to get good results in terms of a more relaxed less fidgetty horse underneath me. 

I was riding Star this week - who I've had some really nice rides on recently, and that helped confidence-wise compared to last week.  She is a grey mare, and I'm hopeless on horse sizes, so I'm just going to make a stab in the dark at 16.2, because that sounds about right!  She's very responsive to legs and hands, is quite forward going but not too strong, and can get a bit spooky, but only when she is taken by surprise and freaked by something.  The early times of riding her, I got caught out by a couple of sudden spooks sideways, through not predicting well enough what she was about to do, but recently I have found that riding her forward more confidently, results in a kind of nervous curving sideways away from the nerve-inducing object, but none of the sudden bounces sideways that we had before.  So I'm pleased with that.  We get on very well and I enjoy riding her a good deal.

It is still on tracks in the Park, so we're restricted to the horse tracks at the moment, so we did the usual circuit clockwise, walking and trotting up towards the steep hill - Star was a bit rushy, wanting to get ahead of R's horse when trotting, but I was feeling calmer about that than last week when Sonnet was doing the same thing, and was just trying to remember to keep my upper body back (ie not tipping forward), and then asking her to come back to a more collected trot, which she did.  Then had a couple of good canters, with walking in the middle.

I was trying really hard both to keep myself much more relaxed and also to keep my upper body further back...  I think that part of my habit of curling forwards (the foetal crouch) was because I was thinking about trying to control that front forward third of the horse, and forgetting about all the horse that was behind me...!  So I tried to think about keeping myself much further back, and I tried Hannah's recommendation of singing 'row, row, row your boat', which worked brilliantly well for feeling the rhythm of the canter...  I was feeling that I was bumping a bit hard into the saddle for my liking, but the horse was cantering nicely, I didn't feel that I was unbalanced on her, and I felt much more in control than last week - so all in all very good!  We even had a little look sideways halfway through the final canter when she was worried by some kid on the path right next to the horse track, who was doing a kind of staggering run from side to side that Star obviously thought looked wrong!  But she didn't spook, and she did keep going in canter, and when she dropped out of canter at the end, I managed to get a transition back to canter from walk, which I was pleased about.

So all in all, a very good ride!  Still got a lot of work to do on that canter, I think, but I've got some techniques to practice now!  I've got a lesson booked tomorrow morning, and I'm going to try and get R to take some video footage if possible.  So that will be interesting...  R threatens some riding without stirrups, which I'm not so keen on, but he's right that it's what my seat needs!  Hmm, bring it on!
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OK, I know that LJ is the fount of all knowledge, and I'm hoping that some of you might be able to help with this...

I am having problems with my canter seat.  It's consistently been the gait that I've struggled with from the beginning  in riding- not helped by the fact that mentally it feels very fast, which leaves me feeling like I don't have enough time to react to things (this particularly when trying to canter in schools/arenas).  And I know that _my_ reluctance to canter had a lot to do with my struggle initially to actually get any kind of transition into canter at all - i.e. the horse was responding to my reluctance in preference to my (probably half-hearted) aid!

However now, nearly a year down the line, my transitions into canter are good, but I'm still struggling with feeling secure in my seat during the canter.  Some rides are better than others, and some horses feel better than others.  And I think that this seems to correlate vaguely to how relaxed (and brave/confident) I'm feeling when I get on, and also to the horse's particular gait and build (slight horses with choppy canters are the most difficult)  - a combination of both these factors making today's ride particularly unsatisfactory...

What I think is happening is some combination of tipping too far forward in my seat and also bracing with my feet against the stirrups - the effect is that the rocking movement of the horse is jolting me out of the saddle, and then in an attempt to keep myself on board, I am trying to grip with the legs, which then makes me less able to move with the movement of the horse.  I've tried cantering without stirrups in lessons, which is definitely better, but I tend to get very unbalanced when cantering in circles, and tip out - which was how I ended up falling off in October.  Since the fall, I've felt a lot more nervy about cantering without stirrups, though I did do some the other day.

I suspect that I should be somehow sitting to the canter with my upper body much further back, but that feels so counter-intuitive and unstable that I'm having a hard time even trying it out.  I'm wondering if anyone has any exercises or mental tricks/visualisations/exercises that might help me to correct my body position and be able to relax into the movement more?  It does get very frustrating!

Thank you in advance for all responses!
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Sitting on tube today next to elegantly dressed lady in her late twenties/early thirties - leopard print fur coat, long expensively-hennaed hair accompanied by incongruously cheap pink fur ear-muffs - I guessed Russian for nationality...  She had no trace of a cold, and yet she breathed with conspicious volume as though she were on some kind of ventilator... 

This lasted the whole journey (she got off the stop before I did), and it was only when I was walking to work that I realised what the noise reminded me of...

Who'd have thunk...?  I just took the tube with Darth Vader's daughter...

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What an amazing ride!  I rode Star, a white mare that I have not ridden for a little while.  Previously, I have enjoyed riding her, but have found her canter almost impossible to sit to – she is a little stiff, I think, and because of my (lack of) skill level, I kept getting bounced quite energetically out of the saddle, meaning that then I also bounced back into the saddle, but also that (due to the resulting feeling of instability), I would often find that I had put too much weight into my stirrups, locked my knee and boosted myself still further out of the stirrups, resulting in a sort-of inadvertent half-seat...  

But, this time, all the work that I had done on my holiday with Lucinda, plus my realisation at the end of the previous weekend’s hack (that actually Sonnet felt more ‘collected’, when I used my legs more around her body, and thought in terms of trying to ‘gather her up’ underneath me), plus my lesson yesterday on the equine simulator (about which more below), and also all the work reading Mary Wanless’s book (‘For the Good of the Rider’), meant that I no longer got bounced off the saddle by her.  Next time I have to try and see whether I can get a better extension from her, and work on making sure that I don’t let her drop out of the canter (which she only did once, and given that the footing was getting stonier, I wasn’t too unhappy about that).  However, this felt like a quantum leap forward in my skill level – it was really hard work for muscles in my legs and pelvis that haven’t been used to doing much at all (I can really feel it in the core muscles around my gut) – but I felt SO much more stable in the saddle, and it was much easier to go with her movement, and feel like I was connected to the horse...  I am really, really chuffed with myself!

The other interesting bit was that Star kept dropping her head so that she was behind the bit, and then tossing her head upwards, and I wasn’t quick enough to brace against her at the start of the movement.  But right at the end, I suddenly remembered all the work that I had seen Lucinda do with getting the horses to stretch long and low and also to bend to the right and the left, and which I had done a little (very inexpertly) on Cloud.  So, in the hope that it would give her something else to think about other than tossing her head around, I was asking Star to bend to the left to start with (she didn’t really seem to be able to do the long and low bit, and I didn’t feel so confident about how I would ask for that), and then to the right, and interestingly she had a lot more trouble giving me a bend to the right...  I would get a nice bend to the left, and would then ask her for the bend to the right and she would start to move her head, and just right of centre it would come up into head tossing, so I kept asking really quietly, and took her back to the left bend, and praised her alot, and we did in the end get quite a nice right bend too.  And I was really proud of myself, both for having the inspiration to try that as a distraction technique and for the execution, which although it probably left a lot to be desired in many ways, at least did seem to work on some levels!! 

The equine simulator was one I had found through the miracle of the intarwebs, and was only about a half hour drive away.  It was not the most high-tech version that I’ve seen, but it still gave you all of the main gaits – walk, sitting trot, rising trot, canter – and would even do downward transitions when you half-halted with the reins!  The most useful things about the half-hour lesson, were firstly getting a refresher on my alignment – making sure that I was sitting properly upright, and getting my feet in the correct position – and secondly working on showing me how much I needed some core-strength, and more specifically, what I needed it for.  Watching myself in the mirror as I did sitting trot showed me quite how much I was moving at the waist, and also how badly my back was hollowing to absorb the motion.  I even did a bit of trying to rise to the trot without stirrups which made me realise the extent of the bracing needed in the inner thighs...  The worst bit was trying to get off, because the wretched thing had a dressage saddle, and try as I might, I could NOT get my leg over its back.  I’ve got a fairly significant bruise on my thigh now...  Still a really good weekend, and a feeling as though I’ve really locked in some learning!


Sep. 30th, 2007 10:17 pm
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Well, I didn't make my challenge...  I got a page of solid (if not perfect) prose - mostly from Saturday.  Today events just upped and ran away with me - what with the unexpected crises on top of the things I already had planned - well, let's just say, I didn't spend a lot of the day sitting in front of the computer.

The thing I was struggling with most was what

[personal profile] matociquala calls 'line of direction', and what I think of as 'flow'.  I had intended just to write loose first-draft prose, but what was coming out was more second-draft, which then asks for a lot of time spent moving different chunks of the sentence around to see whether it can read more smoothly if that chunk comes earlier or later.  Add to that some struggling with characters that would not transition between one conversation and another, and really I'm quite pleased to have got what I got.

Today, I also rode, played football, shopped, took the dog for a long walk, and cooked a roast...  Now, I am v tired, and will sleep...!

More on the riding, later...



Sep. 29th, 2007 11:42 am
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So, I'm calling myself on this - I've got an unusual free day - the house to myself, and nothing scheduled - so, that means that this is a writing day...!

Now, the last few times that I've attempted to take myself one of those, what has happened is that I manage to consistently derail my intent, by procrastinating so badly, that I only manage to get the odd paragraph done.  Hence the challenge here.

I challenge myself to write three pages (computer pages) of draft on the current chapter - doesn't have to be good, just has to be quantity for now - by the end of today.  And then I have to come back here and blog on the result!

Ready, steady, get set, GO...

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A quiet ride today – and I’m left feeling slightly disappointed, though it’s difficult to put my finger on exactly why...  A last-minute change of personnel – the instructor that I usually ride out with was ill, and so I was riding with someone that I hadn’t been out with before – and there was perhaps a little less than the usual camaraderie...   I was riding a big bay gelding called Dicky, who is a deep stout-brown colour, and is an old-timer at the stables – he’s been there about 15 years, I think.

I’ve ridden him before, and really enjoyed it.  He feels very solid, which is nice; he is not at all spooky, and he’s a nice schoolmastery type horse.  I asked for him, because I’m still battling against feeling extra nervous before I ride, and the not-spooking was reassuring...  The ride before, I had discussed with my instructor that we would work on my canter seat this ride, and Dicky has quite a nice canter, not too stiff and quite easy to sit to.

The weather was lovely – autumn sunshine slanting low in a blue sky, and a kind of chill in the air which made it feel fresh.  The deer are in rut in the park at the moment, but I didn’t hear any calling – they were just more visible than usual:  we saw one harem group (females with one large male) and another group of males lying down together at the foot of the hill, and right at the end of the ride, one young, very nervous male (perhaps last year's?) who came out onto the horse path and goggled at the four horses riding towards him, before running away. 

I was happier with my cantering this time – I felt that I was relaxing to the movement of the horse better, and that my balance was better, though I was finding it difficult to keep the canter going – Dicky kept dropping back into trot and then not really listening to my requests to start cantering again.  I found the trotting quite difficult: he felt quite stiff underneath me, and it was a hurried, bouncy trot which I was finding difficult to absorb properly - felt quite bruised after.  And he didn't really listen to me as far as slowing down or stopping.

I think part of the reason that I feel disappointed is that I had been reading this book by Mark Rashid's assistant, Kathleen (Lindley, I think?) and had been reading about having this amazing partnership with your horse, and letting the horse communicate with you... and I was thinking about trying some of the things that she talked about - the breathing, the awareness and so on.  And I didn't really feel that any of that worked...  Another post soon, on why/how that didn't seem to work - but I think the disappointment comes from feeling that it didn't work because I wasn't doing it right...  hmmm... 

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Well - here we are...*looks about*... hmmm, spacious, isn't she!

Testing, testing...  one, two, one, two...  This feels rather like standing on a lit stage in front of a darkened auditorium, just you and that microphone, and suddenly you can't quite remember what you came up here to say... 

The point of this post was that I wanted to remind myself why I was doing this - perhaps as a way to make this less scary, and to make myself feel more like I have a point to doing it, when there are probably other things I should be doing instead...!  And also so that later, when I look back (if I do - I mean I'm not sure how much stamina I'm going to have here...!), I can get that moment of going - so that's what I thought I was doing! - when the process of doing it has changed everything along the way.

So, the main purpose of doing this was to have a place to keep my thoughts about my two main apprenticeships - which are respectively in horse-riding and writing.  Because both of them seem to involve a process of thinking about things that is kind of interesting - to me at least, and sometimes it's difficult to remember the inspirations you have along the way.  And sometimes you really, really, need to be able to see that you have actually progressed, when you hit another rocky patch and you feel like you are completely skill-less.

So, I've been riding since Feb this year (rode a tiny bit when I was early teens, but never learned properly, just sat on horseback and picked up lots of bad habits), and have just (about three weeks ago) had my first proper fall (*inserts comment about how now only six more before you become a proper rider here* - I was amazed how everybody in the whole world seems to have heard of that one!).  Was lucky though - only bruising to my back and some joint soreness, which though v painful, is now all but gone.  In its place though, is an increased nervousness, which is v annoying and which I'm trying to work through.

And, I've been writing with intent for about six or seven years now - nothing published, couple of novel-length first drafts completed (really really bad drafts), and a head full of ideas for the other stories that want to be written when the current head-squatter finally moves out.  What I'm in the middle of at the moment is a total rewrite of the first of those really bad drafts - I'm about 15 chapters in, but it's taken me over a year!  Aargh!  *clutches head*  I had really hoped that it would go quicker than this, but I am discovering the hard way that this will just take as long as it takes.  And, you know what, I'm actually ok with that.

OK, so that's a start, and I've got other things to say, but I'm going to keep them for the next post!

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