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The Only Way to Get Riding Fit is to Ride October 17, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — theridingwriter @ 7:37 pm
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Riding my mare Nadia at a Jane Savoie clinic.

In the last six days, I’ve done 13 rides, two lunge sessions and taught three lessons. Most professional riders do that in a day or two, but I haven’t ridden that much in one week in years. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but riding is hard work and can be pretty intense exercise. Anyone who tells you it isn’t has never really ridden.

I’m not in that kind of riding shape. My legs, core and back are really tired and a bit sore. I know that will improve as I continue this schedule, but the bigger issue is that I’m riding green horses or horses ridden by inexperienced riders. That means they are stiff and imbalanced, and boy does that torque your back, neck and shoulders. It actually can be pretty painful to ride these kinds of horses. They jar you and try to throw you off balance because of how they carry themselves or how they try and evade your efforts to help them.

As a rider, you have to try and show the horse the correct way of going, and that takes understanding what the horse is doing and having the skills and tools to work towards making it better. That doesn’t happen in one ride, and depending on the personality of the horse, it can get kinda ugly before it gets better. Some horses are quite resistant to change, and you have to be really assertive to convince them that what you are doing is worth them trying. Please note that assertive is different than aggressive. There is no need to be aggressive, although there are times when being strongly assertive can look like being aggressive. In that case one has to look at the intent behind the action. Assertiveness comes from a place of confidence. Aggressiveness comes from a place of anger. There is a huge difference.

For the green horses, you need to be confident to help show them the way, and for those young horses who think they know everything, you have to convince them your way is better. Boy that can be a challenge!

For inexperienced riders, you have to teach them the correct skills so they can positively impact their horses and gain confidence as they progress. To do correctly, all of this takes time, work and patience. It is not an easy path, but it is a worthwhile one.

In the meantime, I’m resting up for next week and looking forward to building on the work I did. Oh…and I’m taking lots of ibuprofen.

 

Back on the Farm September 10, 2020

Filed under: riding and training — theridingwriter @ 11:03 pm

 

I sold my farm in 2013. The main reason was to try and save my marriage. (That didn’t work…) But I was also tired of winter. Taking care of a farm in below freezing temperatures is not fun. At all. But in Florida winter is the best season. It’s now my favorite season. Yes, the summer is ridiculously hot and humid. It lasts a good six months and is relentless. But still, I’ll take the Florida heat over winter any day of the year. And while managing horses in Florida presents its own unique set of challenges, I began to think “I could own a farm here.” So I started looking at farms for sale, even though I had no intention of buying one. Kinda like looking at those high priced dressage horses. It’s fun to dream.

However, last week I started working part time on a horse farm. It’s a small place so it’s not too hard. They have also been generous enough to allow me to build an instructor business there. I am really looking forward to that.

It’s funny to say that I’m happy to be back cleaning stalls, but I really am. Non-horse people don’t understand, but I’m guessing most of you reading this do get it. It’s not a job; it’s a lifestyle, and it’s part of my soul. And while I’m not fond of getting up before the sun, there really is no more beautiful, peaceful place than early morning on a horse farm.

I’m not going to get rich doing this. Heck…I’m not even sure I can make a decent living at it. But at this point it’s worth a try.

 

I’m using my day planner damn it! August 28, 2020

Filed under: writing — theridingwriter @ 5:42 pm

At the end of last year, I decided to go back to the old fashioned type of calendar where you actually wrote things down. I tried and tried to use the calendar on my phone, but it just didn’t work for me. I am one of those people who retains items better if I physically write them down.

I thought if I had an entire week in front of me, I would pay more attention and be more organized. So I bought a weekly calendar for 2020 – a nice one with plenty of space to write in. Well…I basically stopped using it in March of course. It sat on my desk, closed and gathering dust, for about five months.

After I got laid off in July, I decided I would break it back out and use it come hell or high water. I was determined to get appointments and deadlines that I needed to write down. I was going to make myself be busy enough to need it! So I opened it up, and it has been sitting to my left (I’m left handed) ever since. And I have gotten things to write in it. Multiple things. Heck…it even kept me from double booking myself next week. It gives me a feeling of hope when I write down a newly scheduled business appointment. It’s silly, I know. But right now I’m looking for every little piece of positivity I can find.

I do feel antiquated using the traditional pen and paper method. Yes, I could use the Outlook or Google calendars, and I do when I’m coordinating with other people. But this is my desk, my system, and no one would ever know I’m old-fashioned…except for I just wrote about it, and now everyone knows…

 

Empathy in Horse Training August 20, 2020

Filed under: riding and training — theridingwriter @ 7:37 pm

Empathy is defined by Wikipedia as “the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.”

I’ve been thinking about empathy a lot lately (and before Michelle Obama made it part of her DNC speech.) Now…I’m not going to get into politics here other than to say I think, generally speaking, many people have a lack of empathy right now. As I thought about that, I began to realize that to really excel with horses, you have to be able to empathize with the horse. You have to try and see things from the horse’s perspective. What are you asking him to do? How are you asking him? How does the horse perceive it?

For example. There is a plastic bag blowing around, and the horse spooks. Your response to the horse could be to get aggressive and say “You stupid horse. It’s a plastic bag. It’s not going to hurt you” and force the horse to continue on with what he is doing. But horses are flight animals, and their instinct is to run first and ask questions later. If you are empathetic, you will realize that the plastic bag represented a threat to the horse. Perhaps you should take some time to show the horse the plastic bag so he can realize that it is not going to hurt him. Given a few moments to comprehend this, many horses will understand and then go about his business.

Some people are naturally empathetic, and some aren’t. However, I fully believe it can be a learned trait; one that horses can teach us if we take the time, patience and awareness to allow it to develop. These are all incredibly important traits for us to have, not just for working with our horses, but also in dealing with our fellow human beings.

What about you? Do you have empathy? When working with your horse, do you feel like you can see things from his point of view?

 

Dressage on the Ground August 14, 2020

Filed under: riding and training — theridingwriter @ 8:10 pm

Most of us that spend any time with horses and training end up doing a lot of ground work. It’s a great way to start a young horse, important for teaching respect, and a confidence builder (for horse and human) when tackling something new.

When it comes to competition, Halter and Showmanship have been the established ground classes. Specifics vary by discipline, but generally speaking Halter classes are judged on the horse’s conformation and movement, and Showmanship classes are judged on the turnout of horse and handler as well as how the handler executes movements (think equitation on the ground.)

 

The North American Western Dressage (NAWD) organization is taking this one step further with their program called “Six Feet on the Ground.” According to their website, they “emphasize the principles in the training scale, which are applicable to every discipline and provide a working model for success even before we get in the saddle.” There are tests equating to intro and training levels, in which you can compete virtually. Movements such as leading the horse from both sides, backing, walking and trotting on a small circle, turn on the forehand, turn on the haunch and side pass are scored like a traditional dressage test. There are even collective marks given at the end. Classes are judged virtually by NAWD licensed judges.

 

I find it an interesting concept and another way to do training and even competition that’s suitable for anyone, with any horse, in any discipline. So, yes…I’m going to give it a try and see what I can do with it, especially with my young horse Lily. Oh yeah, remember Lily? I’ve previously written about her on this blog, and I’ll be going back to her soon. She is definitely a project.

 

Return to Teaching August 9, 2020

Filed under: riding and training — theridingwriter @ 1:31 am

When I lived in Maryland, I taught riding lessons part-time and had a great group of people who I worked with on a regular or semi-regular basis. After moving to Florida in 2017 I stopped teaching for a variety of reasons, mainly work, a different lifestyle and family obligations.

After losing my job, I thought I’d try to pick up a few clients to make some money while looking for another full time position. I now have two farms I’m traveling to for just a couple of lessons. Hopefully more will develop as the weather cools off. The thing I’ve remembered is that I love teaching. Really love it. I would be happy teaching all day, every day, even during the Florida summer.

I enjoy helping people and horses. I like watching their progress, and I absolutely love, love, love when the rider, horse (or both) has a light bulb moment. Everything falls into place and horse and rider become a team. Helping a pair progress and become a team, whether showing is a goal or not, is truly rewarding. I consider myself lucky to play a small role in that.

At a lesson today, the client asked if I wanted a chair to sit in while teaching. I said thanks, but no. I’m always on the move when I teach. I could be doing a full day clinic, and I don’t sit down. I told her it’s because I’m riding along. Some days I feel like I’m working as hard as the rider.

So, for a while anyway, I’m doing some teaching. It makes me happy, and these days, I’ll take whatever bits of joy I can find.

 

A Final Note About Gwen July 31, 2020

Filed under: rescue — theridingwriter @ 8:32 pm

For those that have read this blog for years may remember Gwen, the Arabian-cross that my good friend Debra and I rescued and re-homed. (If you haven’t read about her, please do. She’s worth getting to know.) The picture at right is the one we saw that first caught our attention. She was lovingly attended to for five years by Emily, but sadly I have to report that we lost Gwen in May, 2020.

We all wish our four-legged friends could stay longer, but they can’t, and we have to face losing them. It’s the hardest part of loving our animals. I’m so glad Debra and I took a chance on Gwen. She had such a distinctive personality and a “sure I’ll do that” attitude. We are equally glad that we found the right person for Gwen. She had a fantastic home and was spoiled rotten, which Gwen enjoyed (and expected I think.) In the end, that’s the most anyone can ask.

Here is what Emily (pictured at left with Gwen) had to say in a Facebook post. “I’m absolutely devastated to share the news that Gwen passed away this afternoon. Her heart couldn’t keep up anymore, and we made the decision to let her go. She was surrounded by everyone who loved her and spent a month being stuffed full of more treats than she could fathom.

“Thank you to everyone who has been involved with her care. I cannot tell you what it means to me that so many have helped over the years. I have made incredible friends through Gwen and am so thankful for the years I had with her. She was the best damn horse anyone could have asked for.”
Thank you Emily. Rest easy Gwen. You are etched on our hearts forever.
 

Pondering Freelancing Full Time July 22, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — theridingwriter @ 7:28 pm

I have been freelance writing and teaching for more than 20 years. It’s always been part-time, and sometimes it’s almost completely gone on the back burner. At the same time, I wished I could do it full-time. Well, now I find myself unemployed, and as I have been looking for a job these past few months, it occurred to me. What if I became a full-time freelancer? Prior to that thought I hadn’t really considered losing my job (i.e. good income, steady paycheck and health benefits) to be an opportunity. But…that could be what this is; an opportunity to do what I have always wanted to do.

Can I do it? My heart says yes, but my brain says wait a minute. You should probably do something where you will receive stable income and health insurance. On the other hand, with the advent of so many people working remotely, perhaps more businesses are open to someone working for them outside the office.

Then there is the teaching aspect. In Maryland, I had a solid group of individuals that I taught. I enjoyed that so much, and I have really missed it. I haven’t really tried to get clients in Florida. But there are many, many horse people here. It takes time to establish a presence, but there’s no reason why I can’t do it. I just have to get out there, and social media (much as I don’t really like it) helps get the word out so much faster. For example, in one Facebook post on a Florida-based horse group, I got my first two clients. I need a lot more, but it’s a start.

I’m not really sure if I’m brave enough or willing to risk everything to do this. I had thought my freelance work would be my temporary gig or my safety net until a “real” job came along. What if I thought of it the other way? To get unemployment, which I’m not eligible for for several weeks yet, I have to be looking for a job so that could be my back-up plan to working for myself full-time. Hmm…

 

Closing One Door July 16, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — theridingwriter @ 7:48 pm

I’m dusting off this blog again. It’s been quite a few years, but I’m looking to increase my freelance work. I am recently unemployed from the Arabian Horse Association as they are no longer publishing Arabian Horse Life, the magazine for which I was managing editor. I didn’t write much for the magazine, but what I did was usually association information so I didn’t take a by-line. Several people suggested I write something for the last issue, so I did. This was printed in the final issue of Arabian Horse Life, and I posted it on social media, but I wanted to put it here for posterity I suppose.

 

 

A Conversation with Lily August 2, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — theridingwriter @ 5:23 pm
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Lily has scratches. That’s a blog post in itself, but for another day. The first day I tried to rub the scabs off she had a fit. I understand they hurt and I understand she is sensitive, but trying to kick me while holding her hind foot is unacceptable behavior. So Lily and I went outside and had a conversation. This was the first serious talk she and I had, and she was initially stunned. I started moving her one direction and then the other and she exploded because she didn’t like being told what to do. However, within only a few minutes she settled down and listened. Good enough for that day.

The following day I went back to work with her again. I figured she would either be like “get away from me you mean lady” or would listen nicely. I was very glad to see that she listened quite well and acted like a lady. She was relatively good for working with her scratches, and she continues to be. She doesn’t like it, but she has not tried to kick me again.

I have since worked with her several more times and she is spot on. Lily is quite smart and willing to work as long as she has her thinking brain on and not her flight brain. (She did break her lead rope spooking at someone wearing a rain slicker. Sigh… We have not gotten to desensitizing with a rain slicker, but it’s on the list.) Today was the first time she had to work while something else was going on around her. A person was bringing horses in while I had her in the outdoor arena. At first she thought it was impossible to focus on me when other things were happening, but it took very little to convince her that she could. Then she tuned into me and didn’t look at the other horses again. I am very impressed with her brain and her willingness. Now only if she can learn to tone down the flight response…