Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Snow hack!

Yesterday had reasonable snow hack weather, so I texted my working students for today and suggested if they were interested in such an adventure, they should bring warm clothes.

Both seemed pretty excited about that idea -- it did occur to me it's possible they've never *been* on a snow hack before.  One of those things that when you don't have your own horse you may or may not ever get to do...   So today had *perfect* weather for a snow hack.  Not too cold, brilliantly sunny, no wind, and light, fluffy snow.

Alright, but first I need to get there.  On my way to school a client's horse and somebody else's car is stuck sideways in the unplowed road.  So myself and another random person helped get them going and then I was on my way again.  About 10 mins late, but I had an easy day lined up so figured if things got bumped by 10 mins it wasn't tragic.  Text first people that I'm running late and on my way again.  All good -- until I end up getting stuck in their driveway *sigh*  I didn't think that was *quite* how karma was supposed to work!  >;-P    Ah well -- while I was riding one of the owners freed my car :)  So all good!

Get to the barn, pretty bummed that I have yet again forgotten my camera *sigh*  Also pretty bummed that it's the perfect day for a snow hack, and my pony's not broke.  Some day she's going to be a lot of fun, but we're not really there yet.  But ok, arrange so that the girls will come into the ring and w/u as I'm finishing with Lexi so she can get used to being in the ring with other horses.  Lex was pretty lazy today -- willing enough, but not nearly as interested in life as she usually is.   Rode with both Bella and Athena in the ring and she really didn't care.  Even had her sit while the others cantered around and she was cool with that too.  Way better than the last time we tried that game *g*

So I decide I'll lead Lexi while the girls hack.  In the back of my head was the idea that if all was going well, I'd let the girls gallop -- and I'd need a third horse for that so I could send one out and the one behind would have a buddy, so having Lexi along would be a good thing.  And of course also good for her to get out.  And of *course* I'm just going to lead her...  Absolutely not going to ride.  Putting on my crash vest and helmet...?  Ummmm merely for warmth.  Yeah, that's it!

And the other method to my madness -- a snow hack would be great for Sasha!  Poor Sash -- while this week's been wonderfully relaxing for me with no lessons in the evenings, she's been going stir crazy!  hahaha she's used to running full tilt around the barn for at *least* 12h/day -- usually more.   So sitting at home every evening is kinda driving her insane.  So I thought a good snow hack, complete with frisbee, would help her a little :)

Victoria showed up just as we were heading out, so she tacked up and came out to join us.  So four horses, three riders, one walker and one puppy all went out for a snow hack.  Umm can I just mention that walking in snow is a *lot* of work!  hahaha omg.  I thought I was fit, but wow am I going to be sore tomorrow.  We went all the way around all the fields (well, Lexi and I short-cutted a little!) and played frisbee with Sasha most of the way.  All good.  Then we went to the galloping field :)  Woohoo!  Victoria's horse was a little hot, so she just did one lap at the trot and then hung out with Lexi (who was quite happily digging through the snow to munch the hay).  Brena and Rebecca both got to do a couple laps at trot and canter and then a gallop run :)  I was soooo jealous!  hahaha I LOVE galloping through the snow.  Or, you know, just galloping :)  But especially galloping in the snow.   And black horses (well one horse and one pony) galloping on white snow makes quite the picture.

So we head back before the ponies get to have *too* much fun >;-P  Since I can count on one hand the number of times those girls have galloped - combined!  :)   So I thought I'd better call it before things got exciting.  But I still *really* wanted to hack.  And Lexi was being sooooo good.  Even with Sasha bounding in and out of the trees.  So when we got back to the mounting rock I hopped on her and we went out again :)   Just a short hack this time -- down the tree-line and part way through one of the fields.  But still, I was so happy :)  She was super-good!  I realized pretty quickly that I had no breaks and little steering (thinking I would when I don't in the ring is one of those handy delusions I'm so good at :) so I tried very hard to arrange it so she stayed in the middle of the pack *g*   So we didn't go far, but we did a little loop and she was awesome!  Woohoo!

And now, thanks to Rebecca, I'm officially on vacation!  Pretty stoked about that.  Started out with a wonderful bubble bath complete with candles and a new book to read.  And now I'm going to sit myself in front of either a movie or my book until sometime way past my bedtime when I am NOT going to set an alarm!  hahahah can we say "it's the little things in life"?  :)

If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. - Alice in Wonderland

Ok so I've been running adult camp for the last few days, which was quite an adventure.  hahaha a seriously intense three-day clinic.  In some ways way more challenging than "normal" camp and in some ways way more fun!  I'd say those two things balance, especially as I generally like that kind of challenge :)   However, there are now FOUR different posts (three of mine and one of Amy's) on the GRS blog about adult camp, so you can go read those if you're interested, and I'll move on.

Now, the one plus side of camp, is me having to teach all day justifies me paying somebody *else* to do chores *g*   Yeah camp!  Even better since Rebecca agreed to do it and she's pretty much a superstar, meaning I *really* don't have to do chores when she's there.  Don't have to supervise or help or take care of the difficult pieces - if she says she'll do it, I can relax and know it'll all be done and done right and I can go do the job I *really* want to be doing.  So I rode first thing in the am and then taught all day and then went home.  Perfect.

I was really looking forward to sleeping in today -- first time in a long time it's been an option. But my Sat am person backed out, so I had to go to the barn. *sigh*  Ah well - I DO get to sleep in on Monday since Rebecca is giving me a *whole* day off for Christmas :)   Woohoo!!!!

I have the coolest puppy ever!
Anyways - back to my story, sleeping in got vetoed.  So I went to the barn and did all the usual chores.  Then had a huge snowball fight with Sasha - hahaha omg so much fun.  But since I failed to dress appropriately, I ended up soaking wet.  Yeah for tons of clothes at the barn -- both mine and the lost and found *g*  So back to work and I start doing stalls.  And am on speed - like super-fast.  hmmmm random.  Oh yeah, haven't done stalls since Tuesday!  hahaha amazing what happens when you give your muscles a couple days off every once in a while.

So I did as little as possible and went home.  Right.  That's the way the story *should* go.  But you're not new here...   No, I decided it was time to gut the barn and start over...  hahaha I'm just not good at taking it easy.  The only part I wasn't happy with is I'd already mucked two stalls when I decided that, but they were the two worst ones, so I went back and gutted them anyways.  Not as though there weren't a dozen *other* things I could've been doing at the barn (ummmm riding my pony?) but you know how it is when you decide something *has* to be done.  Now, to do the same thing to my home...  hmmmm maybe Monday.  The list for Monday is rapidly getting a lot longer than Monday actually is.  Although I'm seriously considering that the first thing I'll actually do on Monday is tear up the list!  Might be the only way I actually take a day off.  hahaha and one of these days I'm actually going to get to use the massage gift cert that Steph and Paula got me for my bday...  You know, the birthday in July >;-P

And on the "relaxing note" -- when I was a kid I was completely addicted to the "Sweet Valley" books.  Comeon admit it - if you were a girl who read at all, you were hooked on them too!  hahaha closely followed by Saddle Club :)   Babysitter's Club was a distant third...  And I'm sure there were a ton of others, but those are the ones that come to mind first.  Why did they come to mind?  Because when I was in Chapters tonight (yes, that *is* the highlight of my Saturday night...) I found the Sweet Valley twins grew up!  I don't even know how it caught my attention, but in the normal fiction section there's an adult version.  Premise being the girls have grown up and are living adult lives now.  hahaha I didn't end up buying it, but I'll admit I might've read the first chapter standing in the aisle *g*   Might be a guilty kobo purchase at some point in the near future.  Made me smile but also made me feel *old* at the same time!  hahaha ah well.

Lexi's ground work is going well, but I'm having some issues installing forward aids.  Think I need somebody on the ground with a lungewhip who knows what their doing...   Lesson next Friday could be entertaining :)  Friday's a long way away though -- before then I have a full day of teaching tomorrow, day OFF, two horses moving in, moving one horse out, organizing the next semester, finishing the syllabus and plans for our EC theory lessons, and a whole bunch of other odds and ends that need to be done this week.  Yikes!

Anyways - off with me for now.  Night!

Guest Blogger: Amy Parker - Adventures at Competition Camp

Amy's take on the insanity of the last three days :)  Visit her blog at :)


Get out of the way, spectators, I’m performing dressage brilliance here,” she said while flailing her arms and bouncing around on her pony.

Camp began like all camp adventures should: with excitement, nerves and lots of giggling! Yes, even the kind of camp that admits only adults! “Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play,” said Heraclitus, and how true it is!

Day 1, Dressage:

The only thing that kept me from a sleepless night of tossing and turning in anticipation the night before camp was the reassurance of knowing how my coach tends to run things like this! I was pretty well assured that she wouldn’t be set on killing us on day one – day two and three were fair game, but day one, I had figured she would have something planned to set the tone, calm the nerves and get us in the game! And so I slept soundly and awoke excited (perfect way to start my holiday!)

Sure enough, when I arrived we were told we were starting the day off in dressage (oh good); on the lunge line (how bad could a lunge line be?); and I was first (oh damn)!

That’s when some of the nerves started to kick in. I haven’t been on a lunge line since I was a kid. And even then, perhaps only once or twice. In my early days, I started out in a group with another kid running around at the horse’s bit for the first day on the horse and was w/t/c/jump within the first couple months! I can’t recall there being a lunge line involved, well, ever. You just can’t do lunge lessons with 8 kids in an hour class! Ah, the good ol’ days! But I’m always game for humbling myself trying something new! Reassuring myself all the while that: “Lauren isn’t set out to kill me today! Tomorrow maybe, but today I’m safe!”

Warm up the pony and then lunge line goes on and very quickly my supports come off – lose the stirrups, lose the reins, hold the pommel, lose the pommel! We started out by correcting my seat. Having the tendency to sit behind the motion, back on my seat bones with body angled back, I was told to grip the pommel and keep my pelvis and body angled forward, legs loose and not gripping and to find the rhythm. While my muscles warmed up and loosened this posed a challenge for which the solution was to take the legs off the horse then let them drape back down (repeat as necessary). Once I was getting the rhythm better and my hips were loosened up enough to really start to swing with Jack’s stride I was told to put my arms straight up in the air. “Oh dear, here we go!” Around we went with arms straight up in the air. Take the legs off the horse, let them drape back down (don’t fall off, don’t fall off, don’t fall off). Keep the swing in the seat, follow the rhythm – bigger, bigger, bigger swing. Now do circles with the arms. And then the other way. And then the real challenge, in opposite directions (if you’ve never tried to swing your arms in opposite circles, please try right now and let me know if you accomplish this on the first try, this caused a series of nervous giggles as my brain began to melt with the effort required to manage this!) At this point, Lauren points out “Look how well Jack is moving, because you’re not thinking about going with the rhythm you just are!” And he really was going well, and my seat was naturally doing what it was supposed to do and not resisting staying in balance with the motion. We then tried rotating around to either side as far as I could reach in both directions. Then back to being loose and hanging at my sides.

At some point in here we repeated and Jack got some side reins so I could really feel how he felt as my seat got further in sync with his movement, the bigger the swing my seat allowed the further he stretched down into the contact of the bit and the further he stepped beneath himself. All-in-all, this was a great start to the three-days! There was definitely lots of giggling going on, because well, “if you can’t laugh at yourself, life’s going to seem a whole lot longer than you like!” It was a lot of fun! And a good refresher to how the seat should feel to get my horse coming through my aids!

Day 1, Jumping:

In the afternoon was a jump lesson which I shared with Rebecca aboard Athena. Quick flat warm up, and then onto jumping. The other girls ladies (Adult camp…oh, yeah I’m an adult!) came in to discuss the proper distancing in a trot-approach gymnastic and then set it up. We had a textbook gymnastic set with 3 trot poles 4 1/2 feet apart, 9 ft to a vertical, 18 ft to another vertical, 21 ft to an oxer. (Since I was warming up while the final jumps were set, the others can correct me if I’m wrong!) This meant warm up for me was to get Jack moving off my leg to be able to cover the distance which is slightly longer and needs impulsion for him, and for Rebecca and Athena to work on collecting her stride since her stride has the tendency to be 18ft not 12ft!

Time to jump! A few times through with just the first vertical to get the horses warmed up (and check we’re not on a ‘disaster’ day for eq, you never know), and then the others went up (all still low around 2′-2’3″). “All okay still? Good, knot your reins!” Here we go again!

Reins get knotted and we’re told, drop them in the trot poles, two-point, arms like airplane wings! From adult camp straight back to the early days! haha! We had a blast! The nice thing about no reins is it keeps the chest up – a bad habit I have been struggling with as I tend to over-bend at the waist – now this usually happens most when I’m seeking more impulsion, but in the past it was the replacement of my release which had disappeared into planting the hands at the withers (not a good habit!) Once that was going well we were allowed to take back our reins, but now we were to cross our stirrups. The trick to jumping without stirrups is to crank your knees up right before the jumps so that once you’re in your two-point and jumping your leg ends up in the right spot and hopefully stays there after all 3 jumps! Really makes for a solid leg!!

Once we’d done that a few times it was time to take back the stirrups and the reins and jump some bigger stuff. Up and up we went. I’m not entirely sure how high we got (mostly memory is just failing me at this point), but it was in the 3′ range for the oxer, I believe. Jack and I did beautifully the first couple of times through, the end result of a morning fixing the seat, and the exercises without stirrups and reins! Fatigue started to catch up to us near the end though and our last couple, while still good, just ended a little messier and haphazard than would have been ideal! (No jumping pictures of me yet, I think Aileen was taking photos of the jumping that day since Lauren was setting fences.)

Day 2, Dressage:

We kicked the second day off with an hour-long semi-private dressage lesson. Brena and Bella and Jack and I were up first. Going into the first ride that day I was thinking to myself “Thank goodness I’m in good shape and not sore today!” That was before I got on my pony. There were some tired, achy muscles that instantly whined in protest the moment I swung my leg over and sat in the saddle!

The goal was to put into practice what we’d worked on the day before with our seat and body position. And my own personal goal was to get a better feel for my outside rein which I have been struggling with lately! We warmed up our ponies and then found ourselves on the circle of death…. or the 20m circle that never ends. Something I’m quite familiar with after a summer full of these lessons! It really does help keep the focus zeroed in on what you’re trying to improve so that you’re not having to worry about where you are in the ring or any other variables that come into play while going large.

You’ll have to bear with me, explaining a dressage ride is quite difficult for me, especially because it’s all just in the early stages of coming together in my head never mind in practice!

As the ride progressed my focus honed in on a few things: maintaining a forward, from-behind rhythm, steady hands, and a swinging seat. In the last few months as I’ve been working on getting Jack to come on the bit, I’ve begun to notice just how much my hands tend to bounce and are just in general way too active (mainly because I am trying too hard, and it’s been a bad, unconscious habit for a very long time to constantly fiddle with reins). So to work on getting a steadier feel and also a stronger outside rein, I was setting my elbows at my sides and just holding quietly and focusing on the rhythm until the forward rhythm was there. This also included letting the reins go long a couple times, letting Jack stretch down to the ground for the bit and slowly bringing him back up without letting him tip onto the forehand or going so fast as to hollow his back. All the while too remembering to keep hips swinging to keep the forward rhythm going even when applying leg and flexing in and out (where I have a habit of freezing my hips in order to apply my aids)…

In the end, after a couple run-along-beside-us moments from Lauren, we had the most beautiful trot going! Jack was positively floating, so light in front and in my hand! It was amazing!! No way to really describe it other than floating! I apparently have some soundless video of this (no pictures unfortunately) so if I end up with some footage I will definitely add it in here! An amazing ride! One of the highlights of my week for sure!!

Day 2, Jumping:

Our jump lesson on Day 2 was not so much about jumping as it was preparation for jumping! Lauren wanted to have us jumping a solid well-ridden course on Day 3, so the best way to prepare was to do it with poles the day before. The focus was on riding the “perfect” course – straight lines, deep into the corners, accuracy, rhythm, and counting strides. “Sounds easy right?” Hahaha! The easiest things in Lauren’s ring are often the hardest things! And that’s a lesson you can learn over and over again!

So we learned our “course” which would include a couple bending lines and a triple, and, on pole day only, an accurate simple change in a specific location along with some tricky corners to navigate. Jack was very into playing this game – because even though he wasn’t that fresh going into the lesson, once we started to “jump” he was totally game! We did pretty well on our rhythm but ran into some trouble with our turns – too much inside rein. I’ve definitely got to work more on that one and getting better at making turning off the outside aides second nature! With the simple change we were doing, Jack and I had it down pretty well at the beginning but kept buggering it up near the end. I wasn’t being clear enough or asking for the trot soon enough and he knew where he was going! So we had a couple solid screw ups in the middle couple rounds before we got that back under control again!

By the end we were all doing pretty well! Riding straight lines, getting better in our corners and keeping a steady rhythm! Ready to jump the next day!

Day 3, Jumping:

We started off our last day with jumping since it would be the harder task for the horses. Jack was fresh and ready to go and while I was battling some nerves as I watched Lauren up the heights on all the jumps from the group before, I knew that once we started jumping my nerves would settle down. At the very least I might have one ugly round and then get over it! We didn’t get to warm up over pieces of the course to make it as close to show-reality as possible. We used our first fence by B to warm up with, and Lauren used a neat trick to battle the nerves. As we kept coming round, the jump got bigger and bigger until it was well over 2’6″-2’9″ we were jumping in our course.

The trick worked well. Once we were warmed up, nothing in the ring looked very big or intimidating anymore! We were ready to give it a go!

I have to say, this part of the camp was my biggest highlight! Jumping courses is something I’ve done many times before, at home, off property and in shows but lately it’s been a battle to get all those pieces back together without all the bad habits I’ve picked up over the years!

So to make my descriptions easier, I’ve created a little course map for your viewing pleasure:

Our first round went without any major mishaps! Managed to amaze myself on that one! We did knock down 5a/5b – just not enough impulsion coming out of the corner and pony not really picking up his feet. But the poles landed safely so we jumped 7a/7b as poles on the ground! Haha, oops! I had it in my mind pretty well what I had to do to keep this course together – both from doing the poles the day before and from the course work we’d been doing in our lessons in the weeks leading up to the camp. I knew a few habits I had to knock! One is letting my brain shut off for anywhere from 3 to 5 strides after a fence (“Oh I survived, PHEW!”), another was dropping my eyes in that process (gotta knock that one if I want to ride cross!), and using the outside aids to steer which I learned from the previous day! So those three things were on my list from the outset and made for a reasonably effective first try!! I had a couple sticky spots, like coming into the triple, and in the corner coming up to the final fence, but for the most part I was on the ball! I definitely had “land, sit up and ride” in my head that day as I’d woken up thinking it (obviously was dreaming about jumping before I woke up that morning!)

Our subsequent rounds got much better. The triple never quite resolved itself, just needed to have more leg coming out of the turn toward it so he’d hit it on a more forward moving stride. And we were having problems making the turn from 6 to 7a/7b which once we widened it out to come more toward the oxer it rode really well as a 3 stride!

By far the best course work I’ve accomplished in a long long long time! Maybe ever!!

Day 3, Dressage:

The final day was Test Day! Riding dressage tests, in other words. Brena and I had Entry Test 2 to ride. To be honest, by this point I was really feeling the fatigue! We warmed up well, I had Jack on a good forward, from-behind stride, but when it came time to sitting and trying to put it all together I’d almost get there and then muscles would give way to fatigue! So we just moved on to the tests. Lauren gave us some pointers for how to warm up – picking up on what parts of the test would be an issue and how to prepare. Jack and I found getting into the corners without knocking Lauren’s little pylons an issue (found myself envying Brena with her pony Bella as they scooted through the pole/pylon gauntlet with seeming ease while I had to really sit up and half the time had an ugly time of getting Jack really square and balanced through the tight square turns – very very good practice though!)

We rode the test three times, each time got progressively more accurate, though fatigue was really starting to catch up to me! Rhythm was an issue I fixed in subsequent rounds as we’d been lagging in the first try. I also made a goof in the first try by letting Jack go on a loose rein free-walk instead of doing the medium walk required, however the loose rein walk gave us a floaty-on-the-bit trot down the center line to our halt! That was pretty amazing to feel! If only my whole test could have been that! (One day!) Our circles were pretty decent but shifted off center from the letters a little which got better as we re-did the test, but not quite perfect. I needed to have hit the letters on the track a little sooner than I was. And our corners did get better as we went though they never quite got perfect – needed to sit up much more and get a better bend with more impulsion coming out of them off my outside aids.

It was a fantastic camp, all-in-all! Great people and the horses were all on their game! Lauren had plenty of confidence boosters as well as challenges to help us all along our paths to better riding! And some really great highlights!

I saw some fantastic improvement in my course riding – much more on the ball and thinking after each fence, better use of my outside aids and using my space well. My equitation on gymnastic day was coming along great!! Jumping without reins and then without stirrups really set up the right feel for when we got them back! Dressage Day 1 on the lunge line also set up for the best dressage moments I have had to date in Day 2 with Jack literally floating around our 20m circle on the bit and tracking up beautifully!

My goals for the camp were to:

get a better feel in dressage for getting my horse on the bit – which included getting a better feel of a connected, steady outside rein
put together a course of jumps while staying focused and thinking every stride
I’d say those were definitely nailed!

On to my next goals:

More adept at putting my horse on the bit (better connection of outside rein and seat)
More consistent eq when jumping
Rider level 6
Compete at first event
Certification for EC Instructor of Beginners

When all was said and done...

And it all came together today!

We started with raising yesterday's pole course off the ground :)  Mieke, Carolyn and Brena were in the first group.  They warmed up over a single jump and then we pieced together the course.  By the end all three had a great course going!  Woohoo!  The focus changed depending on the rider -- Brena was working on convincing Bella to bend correctly in her corners and keeping a consistent rhythm.  Carolyn's focus was equitation.  And Mieke had the most entertaining challenge -- keeping it all together after something goes wrong.  I have to say -- she put in possibly the best round I've ever seen her do!  Fabulous!

Then it was Rebecca and Amy's turn.  They have a little more experience, so the course wasn't built up slowly -- they tackled it full on the first try, just like in competition.  And they did it!  Woohoo!  Amy's focus was a variation of Mieke's -- not so much putting things back together if something goes wrong, but keeping things together all the way around the course.  And sometimes that's a very long way.  Rebecca was riding Athena, who she has very little experience with, and the focus was - in her phrase - survival skills!  hahaha but she pulled it off :)   Woohoo!

Then it was time for our last dressage set.  The focus was on accuracy rather than brilliance in riding which was well timed because by this point the riders were all so exhausted that accuracy was the only option remaining.  hahaha apparently riding twice a day every day takes its toll!   The rules are simple - pylons are set out in each corner of our ring; for corners you go around, for circles you cut them off.  You can have one "free" knock down.  After that, you have to dismount and reset them when you knock them over.  hahaha only one rider had to reset.  Not too shabby :)   We ran through the basic details required to ride an Entry level test -- tangent points for 20m circles in all the various locations, center lines, diagonals, transition points and all other related excitement.   And in the end, they got to put it all together and practice their test :)

It was also video day today.  I love using video as a teaching tool -- so many people accelerate their learning when they can actually see what they're doing, at least in part because it so often *feels* very differently than it looks.  Riders who feel straight, can see they're crooked.  Riders who feel they're going really fast, can watch the turtle pass them on the track.  Riders who jump up the horse's neck, can see how their position differs from the ideal.  And on and on and on.  Glancing through them on my machine -- they pretty much worked (filming while coaching, so I wasn't actually watching the camera at the time *g*  Horses and riders may or may not be consistently in the frame, but the general concept is ok.   I did video day the last day so it could be cumulative of the week's work, but I think next time I'd like to do it earlier in the week so the rider's can see it and we can work on what they've seen afterwards.  But then, all of these riders are regular students of mine anyways - so it'll still work out, just longer term *g*   All the riders will have video of their jumping and their dressage though.  Dressage test and at least snipits of lessons.  Fun fun fun :)

So overall - camp was a blast :)   Adult camp is a *lot* harder to teach than normal camp!  hahaha I've never actually done it before, every time somewhere I worked for tried to host adult camp, they never had enough people.  I think the reason it worked for us is those camps tried to attract beginner adults, whereas our camp was a seriously intense competitive focus.  So the riders who signed up are ones who are already serious about their riding.

Why harder?  An odd statement coming from me since I don't really teach kids at all :)  My primary market is teens and young adults -- mostly twenties.  And in regular lessons that's awesome.  But put them in the intensive environment and it activates the "perfection" trait *g*   I've blogged that one before, but it's basically where targeting perfection actually inhibits learning.  For two reasons:  first, they don't want to fail, so they're less likely to play around and try.  Which, let's be honest, is a HUGE part of learning to ride.  Second, perfection is unattainable   No matter who you are -- Mark Todd gets awfully close, but the rest of us mere mortals, if we aim for perfection, we're going to fail.  So then they get frustrated because they're "failing" and then the frustration makes them tense, and as we all know, tension is the antithesis of good riding *sigh*  Vicious circle there eh?   So it makes the "therapist" part of the classic trainer/therapist title become far more prevalent.  And *that* is what makes teaching adult camp harder.  Teaching kids is easy - just tell em what to do and occasionally how to do it *g*  Then watch them have fun.  Teaching adults, you have to remind them to have fun!  hahaha

On the plus side, all the rest of the time is *way* more fun with adults.  Anything-goes analogies (several of which may not have been exactly pg rated, but what I've learned is the more outrageous the analogy the more effective :), no need to babysit in the barn or worry about what students are doing when they're not riding, social hour at the end of the day...   All of that was a blast.

Could've used another hour in each day.  Had a few unmounted riding things that I think are important in a competition camp that we really didn't have time for.  Rider warm-ups, goal setting, effective use of practice rides, mental training, etc...  Part of me always feels ridiculous doing that sort of thing with adult students (I mean really, I'm sure they've all hit 'goal setting' a few dozen times between school and professional lives) but otoh, I've found they often have more of an appreciation for it.  So we'll see - maybe next time I'll schedule in a lunch hour.  Those who were there, thoughts?  Would that've been a good add?  Or just make the day too long? :)

Alright, off to read Amy's take on the week :)   Overall though, I had a *great* group of campers and was awesome to see so much progress in such a short time!  Will definitely do it again next year :)

Adult Camp Day 2

So everybody was significantly better prepared for the weather today.  Woohoo!  And despite the snowstorm, everybody made it :)

We started with dressage again.  Two sets of semi-privates with Brena and Amy riding first and Mieke and Carolyn forming the next pair.  Both pairs got sucked into the dressage vortex.  That is to say, the endless 20m circle!  hahaha the goal was to apply yesterday's seat work to achieve some sort of connection.  All riders felt fine after yesterday's activities; until they got on!  There were a reasonable number of fitness related comments as they tried to use the muscles they found yesterday!  hahaha but they gave it a solid effort anyways to some awesome results!  We saw some absolutely brilliant moments.  Jack was just floating around the ring!  And of course there was the odd moment of "why doesn't this work?  I could do it yesterday!" when they're trying too hard. We've all been there!  In general though, there were some pretty excellent results.
Brena and Bella
Then it was right into the jumping!   Rebecca, Brena and Amy warmed up while I set up our pole course.  The focus today was on accuracy -- no height at all, but I wanted a perfect course.  Accurate lines, the correct number of strides, counting down to each pole, steady rhythm all the way around, no problem.  hahaha none of these girls are new here -- they knew fully well that if it was apparently low and simple, it wouldn't be *g*   And sure enough, it took a few tries, but in the end it all came together.

Then it was Mieke and Carolyn's turn.  I was impressed that they'd been paying active attention to the group before and had the course down when we were ready to start.  Woohoo!  Carolyn really got Nick going well, flying changes and all!  hahaha so that was fun to watch :)  And Mieke brought the afternoon to a fabulous conclusion by putting in an absolutely beautiful round on Dixie.  Wow.

And tomorrow it all gets put together with dressage tests and jump courses :)

Why should kids get to have all the fun???

Adult Camp is proving to be a blast :)  Participating we have Amy, Brena, Carolyn, Mieke, and Rebecca's doing half days since at least one of us has to work during the day and she's generously taken on that role *g*
Dressage Brilliance
We started day 1 with lunge lessons for all :)   Some of the riders hadn't been on a lunge line in years, if ever!  So it was with a combination of trepidation balance by giggles that they tackled the challenge.  For the first few rounds, everybody hung out in the arena, but as the temperature dropped the riders retreated to the heated viewing lounge to watch from behind the glass *g*
Carolyn and Jack
Carolyn and Mieke were focusing exclusively on developing their seat -- both equitation and how to move to sit with the horse.  Amy and Brena were taking that one step farther and adding in independent aids -- which led to some interesting dancing :)   And this status message from Amy:

hahaha - what Brena heard equally appropriate :)

Afternoon was gymnastics.  Challenge #1 - set said gymnastic.  Brena gets the gold star for being the first to rhyme off the correct distances...  Walking them, however, is still a skill in progress for most of the riders :)  However, thanks to a handy-dandy measuring tape, Brena and Carolyn had a perfect gymnastic set on the first try!  Woohoo.
Rebecca's 1st time jumping with no stirrups
Amy and Rebecca were jumping first, like absolute prostars!  Through the gymnastic, no problem.  Through the gymnastic with no reins?  Still no problem.  Ok then, how about no stirrups?  That was slightly more challenging - esp as Rebecca had never done it before.  hahaha but in the end, both did really well.  So they got their stirrups and reins back and the jump went up a bit :)  Next challenge, jumping big fences with eq as good as when they had no reins *g*
Brena and Bella
Brena, Carolyn and Mieke were next up with the same gymnastic set up.  We did some equitation work first, following up with the jumping version of the morning's exercises and then they went ahead and jumped a little higher as well.  Woohoo!
Mieke and Dixie
Somewhere in all the chaos we had a discussion about rider warm-up.  I've never understood why people warm up for every other sport in the world, but almost never for riding.  Some suggestions:
- leg lifts
- lunges
- quad stretch
- shoulder/arm stretch
- calf stretch
- jumping jack/skipping/running

All good.  Another one that my coach introduced me to that I don't entirely understand the logic behind but do find *really* works is:

Looks *really* ridiculous, but actually exceptionally effective if you're brave enough to try it!

Pony for Christmas?

Silly pony stories

Wrapping Christmas presents with a puppy dog is an entirely new challenge.  hahaha omg I don't think I've laughed that hard in a long time.  It might've taken several times as long as it should've and the wrapping is of a, shall we say, less than professional quality, but it was highly entertaining *g*

Having a lot of fun with Lexi -- who I'm pretty sure is at least part dog *sigh*  So the first time I discovered this was the day I decided to play with the liverpool.  I wasn't expecting much drama since she's been pretty cool about everything.  I should know better by now.

Lex walks up to it, totally calm and stops.  "I am *NOT* going over that."   Touch it with nose.  Kick it.  All good.  Step over it?   Have you heard recent rumours of ice skating in hell?  No?  Me neither.

She was showing no signs of fear, just plain no.  I was standing on the ground - she's not ready for riding challenges yet.   Tried leading her, just about got kicked in the head for that one.  Tried lunging her, suffice to say that did not work.  Really did not work.  *sigh*

So try a combo of lunging/leading -- ie leading with a lungeline held very short -- just long enough so I can be slightly behind her with lunge whip...   Ummmm yeah.  Pony's fairly athletic *sigh*   That *also* did not work.

So now thinking, these are going to be a part of her life forever.  Can't screw it up now.  Ok back it off a bit - lunge her around it.  Yup, still no fear.  Quite happy to lunge around.  Within a cm of it (legit - I think two of her feet actually went over a corner of it).  Ok fine.

Take pony back in barn and untack her.  But I really didn't want issues with it, so I thought I'd bring her after-ride carrots in the ring and have her free but put them in the liverpool so she'd at least go near it of her own volition.

Uh huh.  She's *really* good about following me when she's loose -- she'll stick right by whatever side I put her on.  Can stop, turn, change direction, etc.  And really, it's an indoor ring.  So I unclip her and she's following me.  All good.  Then she spots the carrot (I don't usually have carrots in the ring).  Wants the carrot.  Following the carrot with 100% attention.  So instead of putting the carrot in the liverpool, I walked it over it.  Pony followed with only the very slightest hesitation.  2 feet actually stepped in it.  Pretty thoroughly proving my "you're not afraid" theory.   Turn around and carrot leads her the other way over it.  Happy pony.  Then go across it lengthwise - so at some point she actually has all four feet in the liverpool (it's only *just* wide enough that that can work).  And she's calmly waiting for her carrot. Omg.

And yet, all that is still very much pony behaviour.  *Smart* pony behaviour, and exceptionally food motivated, but still within the reasonable realm of the equine.  It was later that evening that I met the puppy version.  After I finished teaching (so roughly 12h since our morning activities) I brought her back into the arena.  The plan at this point is just to walk around calmly.  I let her go and instead of sticking with me as she always has, she leaves and goes straight to stand in the liverpool and then looks at me.  The "ok I'm in the liverpool, where are my carrots?" was so very clear.  And very much something Sasha would've done :)

hahaha anyways - she amuses me :)  My coach has informed me he expects to see her in my next ride.   "Ummmm, you realize she's not broke right?"  "You have two weeks."  hahaha sheesh.  So now pony's in boot camp  We walk and trot reasonably well but canter... ummmm not so much.  hahaha ah well.  It'll come.  Hopefully sooner rather than later *g*

So it's Christmas Eve and Norad says Santa's getting near, so I'm off to sleep.  Night!

#FridayFlash 58: A Perfect Day

So I *finally* got a FridayFlash in! My last one was last November! OMG. That's right - I haven't written anything since the move *sigh* But tonight, I manged it :) hahaha totally not my usual style, but hey - I'll take what I can get when it's a once/year occurrence!

As always, comments very welcome.

Enjoy :)


The air was warm and quiet. The lake was still and reflected the brilliant blue sky. He took a moment to appreciate the gift nature had provided. It was, he decided, a perfect day for murder.

“I’ve got the beer, you ready?” The greeting broke his contemplation. He schooled his expression to reveal no indication of his darker thoughts while he responded appropriately. It didn’t take long for the two men to load up the little fishing boat. Rods, bait, and the all-important cooler.

“I’m so glad you talked me into this,” Jake commented with a relaxed smile as they shoved off the dock. “It’s been way too long since I’ve had any time off. And it’s perfect fishing weather.”

“You work too hard. Everybody needs to escape once in a while.”

“You should tell my wife that!”

“I’ve tried. She’s not inclined to listen.”

“Yeah she’s a tough one, but she’s increased the business ten-fold and, you have to admit, she’s usually right.”

“So did you tell her where you were going today?” His question was perfectly timed with just the right easy tone.

“That would hardly be a wise decision,” Jake acknowledged. “No, as far as everybody’s concerned I’m in back-to-back client meetings downtown today. That way, if anybody tries to reach me and can’t, they’ll just assume I’m in another meeting. I’m covered for hours.”

“Brilliant,” he said with a smile, knowing Jake would misinterpret it. Everything about his attitude and conversation suggested he was happy to be relaxing with an old friend, but inwardly he was vibrating with excitement over what was to happen and what would come of it. This wouldn’t be his first time; that had been years ago. And there’d been others since. Several. But this would be the first time with somebody he knew. Somebody he used to respect.

He’d planned this one far more carefully than any of the others. He had a solid alibi lined up. Nobody could know they were out together, or even that he’d ever been on this trip. He’d thought through everything. The location was perfect; Jake’s lake was private and deep. Nobody would see. And it would likely be months, if ever, before the body was found. If he was even slightly lucky, Jake’s wife would sell the cottage property shortly after the funeral; after all, it’d been his hobby, not hers. She had never approved.

With location established he needed a method. A gun would echo for miles; hardly good for a subversive act that required a long time for a getaway. A rapid acting poison would be perfect except that Jake always brought the cooler. There was no easy way to change that tradition smoothly. A knife would be too messy and too risky; Jake might get the upper hand. He didn’t like to admit it even to himself, but success was more important than ego. After all, it was a perfect day for murder. It’d be a shame to waste it. And finally he came up with it. Sheer brilliance.

The only question had been whether Jake would tell his wife. The one who had put an end to their fishing trips and gambling excursions and general enjoyment of life. The one who had turned Jake into a boring, law-abiding, workaholic. And of course, the one who took over the books and stopped his handy access to cash. Jake had let her take over his life, but he hadn’t told her who he was meeting. It was indeed, a perfect day for murder.

He briefly considered actually fishing for a while first; it wasn’t likely he’d be out on a lake again anytime soon. But, he realized, success was more likely to be achieved by getting back to town as soon as possible. There was still a slight glimmer of a chance he might actually need an alibi this time, and getting back faster would make it stronger. Especially if he managed to get back before anybody noticed he’d ever left.

He was just about to make his move when he heard a sound in the distance. A sound that shouldn’t be there. A sound distinctly like a motor. “What’s that?” he asked, as though nothing more important that his fishing were being interrupted.

“Oh, I invited the rest of the old gang to come join us. I thought since I don’t get to see you very often any more it’d be great to have the whole group together.” The look Jake gave him was one of an excited child revealing a barely-held secret. He feigned the appropriate enthusiasm while feeling the crushing disappointment of wasted plans. But then he philosophically shrugged it off and settled in to enjoy the fishing.

After all, there would be other days.


HUGE congrats to Chelsea and Lissy for coming 3rd in Ontario for Junior Pre-Entry!   Not half bad for their first season!   Awesome job!!!!

Gymkhana Fun :)

Our Christmas Gymkhana was So. Much. Fun!   I'm sooo excited by how it went :)   We had an excellent turnout and, judging by the photos, everybody had a ton of fun playing games.  The food was incredibly yummy - and even better having leftovers today!  Although for some reason all the Rolo squares were gone :(  Very sad about that.

We collected some great gifts for Christmas Wish!  I'll leave the gift collection basket there till next weekend if anybody still has anything to add to it, feel free :)

So we started out our day by tacking up and warming up most of the schoolies.  We had Athena, Nick, Louis, Bella, Charlie, Jack, Lissy, and Dixie all in the ring at once!  hahaha and while you might expect that to cause chaos, it actually went really well :)

Once everybody was all warmed up we divided the group into two teams of four for the candy-cane relay.  Player one weaves a giant candy-cane to one end of the ring and hangs it on a standard, player two weaves down and gets it back, etc etc.  Winning team is the one that gets all four riders there and back fastest :)  We stacked the teams so each team had an equal number of novice riders and more experienced riders as well as fast horses and slow horses.  It worked out well and was lots of fun.  Then we did a rider switch and did a round or two with experienced riders only -- this let some of the riders who were not playing the first round   play and those who wanted to could go a little faster.  Lots of fun had by all there!

Then we played garland pairs -- riders paired off and each side held one end of a 4' garland.  The goal?  Survive a command class without dropping or breaking the garland.  This one was so much fun to watch -- and judging by the laughter a whole lot of fun to ride too :)

I had three or four other games lined up, but by then it was lunch time!  hahaha next time I think we'll do fewer rounds of each game and add some more variety :)   But I think there definitely should be a next time!  So much fun.  And the aforementioned lunch...   Yummy!   I'm kinda loving GRS potlucks -- they always seem to include incredible food!

Next GRS activity?  Adult Christmas camp!  Still have one or two spaces open -- if you're interested, lmk!

An evening escape

Got to go see 007 tonight.  So much fun :)   The fact that it was so much fun tells me it's been *way* too long since I've been anywhere *g*   Oops.   I used to love going to the movies; one of my favourite methods of escapism.  hahaha   HUGE thanks to Superwoman for once again taking care of my real world so I could escape :)

But at the movies I saw a trailer for a Jack Reacher movie -- I quite like most of those books...  Not sure I can handle Tom Cruise as Reacher, but might still be a good excuse to escape one more evening *g*   Or might have to just go reread the book.  Although I made that mistake last night -- opened an old favourite "just for a chapter or two..."   Then suddenly it was 3am.  Somebody want to tell me how that happened?  Sheesh.

An evening of watching somebody else's writing makes me want to go write myself...  It's amazing how much I miss that...  hmmmm well I have an hour or so till I should pretend to go to bed...   Also have about 5h worth of work to do...  We'll see.   GRS blog post first though.  Off to write that one now.