Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Putting it to Practise

With all of the theory and learning I've done in the past little bit, it's ALL about putting it into practice.  As they say, it takes There's a saying that it takes 21 days to create a habit.  Now, I'm not sure if that's based in any type of study or not, but just think how long it would take to change a bad habit into a new one that has been there for over a decade?  Its daunting, but when you get results and feedback immediately, it's worth it.  That's what I'm going through right now with my riding, changing bad habits into correct habits and Koda is my indicator of how I'm doing.  Makes it difficult sometimes when your "indicator" is constantly jigging around due to a number of different distractions.

I've had a couple rides of just working on me and seeing how small changes affect Koda.  It's all about the conversation, and not only the conversation between Koda and I, but the conversation I have with myself.

The aim:

Me: Relax, elastic arms, weighted elbows, give with your hands, soften, support with leg.
Koda: oh wow, ok, I'll soften and track up, put on my fancy pants and be as light as a feather.

Right now:

Me: Ok, relax, weighted elbows, let him go...
Koda: nice, lots of rein, GRASS!
Me: NOT THAT MUCH, take him back but stay soft
Koda: AH!!!!!!!!!!
Me: Relax again, slow it down...
Koda: slow down?  Ok... *western jog*
Me: damnit, support with the leg!

Me: Ok, slow it down, relax my arms, weight the elbows, and keep the legs on...
Koda: OHhhhhhh, that's what you want?  No problem

Half a circle later...

And it continues on.  As we practice and move forward, we're not only getting stronger physically (along with strengthening the right muscles), we're starting to work together better.

All in all, I'm loving it :)

Oh yes, new thing I noticed about Koda - when he's really clicked in and listening, he'll turn his right ear back to me.
Another beautiful view from northern Alberta

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Land of the Midnight Sun

It was solstice this past weekend so Koda and I went out for our annual midnight ride.  Our ride was TRULY at midnight as I was a bit late getting out there, but no matter as we could still see just fine.  It was a nice ride, we went out on the road a little ways solo with no issues.  Since Dandy was left alone with the pony in the yard, he called to us a few times with Koda calling back, but otherwise was nice and calm.

Heading out for our ride at midnight
When we got back to the yard, I didn't want to stop there, so I worked on what Sandy had taught me at the clinic last weekend.  Essentially, I need to be soft and fluid, using the weight in my elbows to create the connection but to not be stiff in any part of my shoulders, arms, or upper torso.  We had some nice moments but Koda seemed a bit... off to the left.  I'm going to keep my eye on it and see what happens.  I think it may just be a lack of strength to hold himself properly going to the left and I'll have to toss in some strength building exercises for him in our later rides.

View off the bridge at 1:00am
I really am enjoying this way of riding as it's so much softer and much more "one with the horse".  I know how fluffy and new-age that sounds, but it is really true.  I'm moving with Koda now instead of struggling to keep up with him, our balance with each other is better, and I'm getting to really know Koda more through our rides.  Before the clinic I used to go to the barn and go through the motions, looking at the end result of the exercise we were riding that day and not taking into consideration where we're at or how that day is going, etc.  I've become much more mentally present in my rides and I am loving it. 

Solstice is a pretty big deal up here as it is not only the longest day in the year where we don't really lose any light throughout the night, but it is also Aboriginal Day.  Since our community is mainly Métis and there are several reserves close by, we get a good taste of aboriginal culture.  My favourite part of the day was going over and listening to the drummers.  I loved the juxtaposition of modern dress (guys wearing jeans, ballcaps, etc.) while partaking in such a traditional performance. 

Drummers performing for Aboriginal Day
As time marches on, we're drawing closer and closer to a fairly big day... My Wedding!  Please don't be alarmed if posting becomes even less or more erratic... Trying to organize a wedding across the country is a bit of a logistical nightmare, but it's coming together.  I keep on thinking I've forgotten something, but really... if I've forgotten it, is it really that important to me?

Keep on smiling everyone :)

Monday, 16 June 2014


I rode in a clinic this past weekend that has completely changed my entire way of riding.  The clinician had this incredible way of breaking down riding into a completely cerebral activity which it truly should be but in a way I never thought of before.  Yes, we have to be aware of our surroundings, what our horse is doing, and what our bodies are doing along with the cause and effect of our actions, but to what degree?

Sandy took it to a level that I completely understand and in 3 days, Koda was moving like a completely different horse.  It is incredible.

I am a very cerebral learner, I like to think on things and then go and do them.  Give me imagery, metaphors, any type of language you like, and I'll pretty much latch onto it and fly with it.  What I came to realize through this weekend (and which Sandy saw the moment he saw Koda) is that I can be a very forceful rider.  I've been riding Koda with too much everything, except for leg.  For those who know Sandy, you know you can always have more leg!  I was too active in my hands, seat, body, everywhere, being too rigid and forceful.  Essentially it was like I was constantly nagging Koda all the time without giving him a chance to do what I wanted.  Instead of asking, having a conversation and communicating, I dominated the situation by force.

Through riding with Sandy, I found what following the motion and feel REALLY means and to keep my arms soft but not too whisper soft.  Through that, I could really apply the concept of riding from leg to hand and the results were absolutely incredible.  For the first time ever, Koda was moving to and through his back through my hands.  Talk about positive reinforcement: every time I was stiff or locked in my body, or my arms became too hard, Koda would tell me clearly with a raise of his head, dropping his back and becoming hollow.  The instant I softened and applied my leg, he would lift through his back and round downwards.

The movement he is capable off is more than I thought he had and all I have to do is ride him correctly!

Now doesn't that sound easy... ;)

I know I'll put some more posts up for this clinic, but for now I'll leave you with this general overview and taste of what it's like to clinic with Sandy Alexander.  

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A break from the sandbox

We're back!
Koda and I took a nice break from our usual schooling and exercises to go for a long hack with the BO and her brother who is up to visit.  We went for a long hack down the field road towards the river point then went for a bit of exploration of a few older trails.  Koda was a rock star, wasn't being overbearing or a nut case, small win!
Rocking the split mane

Discovering new trails
While we were hacking through the grown over trails, I let Koda grab a few mouthfuls of grass... not the best idea since after that he was ALL about the sweet sweet green... damn that evil temptress!  Although it was a great help on getting over this insane trail obstacle of tarps and garbage bags stacked alone the start of the trail.  All the horses just tramped right through with no hesitations.
Major trail obstacle - tarps and garbage bags in lumps!
Koda went over, like a boss

"I'm the boss"

On the way home the sunset was absolutely gorgeous!  The Fiancé had taken a clinic in photography and is now all about taking photos.  Gave him a shout and we met at the Peace River bridge to take some photos of this gorgeous place we live in.  Even though it's full of mosquitoes and is a snow covered land for 6 to 7 months of the time, but when it's not covered, it sure is beautiful.  
Night time photoshoot with the Fiancé

Monday, 2 June 2014

Suppling Exercises

We are stiff. 

Going to the right is no problem right now, but doing any type of bending to the left is almost impossible.  It's been coming on now for a bit, and of  couse if you don't address the problem soon, it just gets worse.  I've started including simple suppling exercises with Koda to get him to relax and bend through not only his neck and poll, but body as well.  During our flat ride over the weekend, I stopped after doing a good 15 min warmup and just asked him to flex his poll and neck to both sides.  He wasn't sure what I was asking to begin with (uh oh!  Holes in training...) but got it after a bit.  I'm not sure if he was struggling with the flexing or just irritated with the mosquitoes buzzing around his face (flipping his nose around) but he did come down and hold the flexions I asked without tension. 

After that quick exercise, we slid into a ton of sitting trot circles.  In our back pasture there are old fence posts with no fencing on them.  I used them as pylons and we did weaving, we circled through, did lazy eights, did proper figure eights, leg yields out of the circle, all around.  As the work progressed, Koda relaxed into the circles and we had some nice progress.  Once we stepped into the canter work though, he became tight and fussy.  I think the problem is I'm expecting him to move as well in the canter as he does in the trot which is completely unfair since we do more work in the trot than the canter. 

Remedy: More canter work! 

In just less than 2 weeks time I'll be going to a 3-day clinic with a VERY good clinician and I want Koda and I to be fit and ready.  I know it sounds weird, but I don't want to be THAT rider at the clinic... The next two weeks are going to be a dressage bootcamp for us, working in the back field with plenty of hacks to keep us sane.  Object of the bootcamp - relaxation. 

We're now into full blown mosquito season and you know it's a bad year when people who have lived here their entire lives start to complain.  The arena is booked up all week, so I only have it for the weekends (early morning!) so we'll be using the DEET liberally.  Its bad when you go to rub your horse's face and kill a dozen mosquitoes at the same time... gross!

Anyways, time to dust off my inner dressage diva and get down to work!  I know miracles can't happen in two weeks, but that doesn't mean you can't try ;)

Happy Monday Everyone!