Friday, May 30, 2008

Minor meltdown

Volker Bromman is giving a clinic at my barn this weekend, so there are several new horses on the premises temporarily. Additionally, the south doors of the indoor arena were opened for the first time today, giving a full view of the stalls housing the intruders. Luckily I had already planned to lunge, because upon entering the arena and taking in the various new stimuli, Willow had an extended thoroughbred moment. She started vibrating right away, and I was just able to get the side reins hooked up before she started a grand passage in stallion fashion, tail straight up and nostrils flaring. She then attempted a hysterical canter. I started some serious transition work to get her mind on me. It took about five minutes to talk her down from the ledge.

Happily, sustained hysteria really isn't Willow's thing. She can definitely let fly with some crazy antics from time to time, but she comes back to earth fairly quickly. Before long I had her long and low with a nice, stretchy, rubber-band style trot and a quiet canter. My ride was quite productive, although I kept it short because I suspect Willow's going to regret all that passage in the morning. I did have better luck shrinking the left canter circle tonight--I tried giving her a good hard bump with my right leg rather than just a subtle pulsation, and I saw the light bulb appear above her ears. Don't know why I didn't try that sooner. Tomorrow I'm going to try bumping her into canter half pass and see how that goes.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jenny kicks butt

Congratulations to my long-time friend Jenny in Nebraska for rocking the house at a recent show. Jenny is bringing along her own young mare, Nicolodeon, and they scored a 72 at second level. Don't they look awesome? I love the engagement behind.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Puissance jumping

Have y'all ever actually seen puissance jumping? I've heard about it, but I never realized just how freakin' high the puissance wall is. In this clip the wall is 2.2 meters, or about 7.2 feet. There's so much about this feat that is unbelievable, but the hardest thing for me to imagine is the view on the way down, and how the rider and the horse absorb the shock of coming down that far. I guess you'd want to make sure your stirrup leathers were in good shape.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Willow clip a day, part 3

Here's the last of the Willow clips. I was mostly focusing on first level, with a little bit of second. And still trying to get Willow to realize she can carry herself higher in front. Overall, I'm happy with where she is. My goal is to have her solid at third before she turns eight next spring. I don't have my bronze yet and I'd love for the two of us to earn it together.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Willow clip a day, part 2

In this clip I was focusing more on keeping Willow up in front, with better results. We did trot lengthenings, shoulder-in, travers, stretching down, walk half pass, and shallow counter canter.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Willow clip a day

My dad filmed three of my rides while he was visiting. When I watched this first clip, I realized I still am not getting Willow up in front the way she needs to be. On the plus side, I love how forward the trot is, and the canter has definitely improved in the past couple of months. A little bonus at the end shows Willow's talent for turn on the haunches -- she's been able to do it ever since she figured out the outside rein. I wish small canter circles came as easily :)

Mystery solved

My not-daffodils are indeed alliums:

"Allium siculum (reclassified as Nectaroscordium siculum) (Koenders unofficially calls them Hanging Bells) – Not a globe shape, looks like an umbrella, bell shaped florets hang down in colors of mauve, purple, green and white in one floret, strongest onion smell (good to deter critters), 2 ½ - 3’ tall, 3-4” pretty flower."

Thanks to the Dave's Garden blog.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dad's visit

My dad's here visiting from Nebraska. I had all sorts of home improvement projects lined up for when he came. The biggest one was helping me install laminate flooring in the living room. I had already ripped out almost all the carpeting before he came. He helped me rip out the rest and pull up tack strips and staples. Here are a couple before pictures. The flooring underneath the carpet was apparently the 1950s version of laminate. It was sort of like wallpaper with a wood print on it. Very cheesy.

The flooring project took us about nine hours total. I think it looks gorgeous! So much more practical with three dogs running around.

My awesome friend Erica, the Inch-by-Inch Gardener, says she thinks my mystery plants may be alliums, which actually are members of the onion family, but look like Dr. Seuss flowers. Here's what the blooms look like today:

They're sort of like little upside-down tulips. Does anyone know if these are indeed alliums and will eventually puff out in Dr. Seuss fashion?

Coming soon: new videos of Willow! My dad has agreed to serve as videographer. I was hoping, for his visit, that we would have some sunny weather, but holy cow! It's hot! We're going to wait and go to the barn this evening. I'm sure Willow would agree that's a good plan.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Caffeine withdrawal

When trying to overcome an addiction, I've read that you should think of every failed attempt as "practice." I've been practicing quitting caffeine for a long time now. Because I love my Coca Cola so much, my past attempts have revolved around decreasing my consumption. Those attempts have all been miserable failures. My five-can-a-day habit would reassert itself within a few days.

For some reason, this week I have an exciting new level of resolve. Tuesday night I was driving home from the barn, really craving a Coke. I realized I didn't have any at home. And I suddenly said, that's it! I'm quitting! I am not dragging myself to the grocery store with this giant greenish-brown horse kiss all over the front of my white shirt! (My grandfather told me a similar story about quitting smoking: he was way the heck out in the middle of the north forty combining, and he realized he really needed a cigarette, his pack was empty, and his pickup was very far away. He got mad and quit.)

So I'm 48 hours into the cold turkey experience. I had a miserable headache last night, although I found that working up a sweat riding seemed to help it quite a bit. I suppose the trick is to keep your circulation pumping. Today I just feel foggy and tired, but the headache is mostly gone. I'm using Gatorade as my crutch. I was hit with a severe Coke craving around lunchtime, but I just kept sipping the Gatorade and it passed.

Wikipedia tells me the first 48-72 hours are the worst, and all withdrawal symptoms should pass after a week. Wikipedia also provided this helpful illustration to keep me motivated:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ready to introduce the double bridle

I've decided it's time to introduce Willow to the double bridle. The canter is lagging behind somewhat, but she's schooling solid second and even a little third in walk and trot, so why not. I'll just ride in it once a week for awhile. (I'm a big believer in schooling in the snaffle most of the time for as long as possible. I think there are often some major training elements missing if a horse requires a double to be rideable. Your mileage my vary.)

I rode schoolmaster Aron in the double every so often, but that bridle was already fit to him. I've never fitted a double to a horse from scratch before. There's a lot to consider! Between all the various components, the possibilities are nearly endless. And expensive! Luckily, it turns out the trainers at my barn have a whole drawer full of bridoons and curb bits in several sizes, so at least I'll be able to try various combinations without spending a lot of money.

I hope my fingers remember how to manage all those reins.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

That's not a daffodil . . .

Last fall I bought a bag of daffodil bulbs at a gardening center in Eugene. I had lots of lovely daffodils in March. I know you're supposed to leave the foliage alone after the blooms are gone so the plant can store up energy for next year. So, I haven't been paying much attention to the leftover daffodil foliage by my fence. Until yesterday, when I noticed something . . .

What the . . . ? Those new pending blooms are three feet tall! Can somebody tell me what they are?

In other news, the lilacs in my backyard smell terrific. And my little Japanese maple is booming.

One final question. I have a grouping of three trees in my backyard. They're just starting to put out shoots. I found a "treefinder" on the internets that suggests the trees are some kind of ash. I'm thinking maybe Oregon ash? If so, those are gonna be some BIG trees someday. One probably would have been enough. Why three? So close together? Oh well, I'll worry about it in twenty years.

I'm off to the barn in an hour or so. I'm back in the saddle today. (I don't expect to fall off, but if I do, I'll make every attempt not to land on my mouth.) Today's focus will be shallow counter-canter loops and canter lengthening. I'm also going to focus on smallish canter circles. Smallish being, like, sixteen meters. Someday, when we're doing canter pirouettes, I'm sure it will be hard to remember just how difficult Willow is finding small canter circles under saddle. She just has to figure out how to lift her shoulders up and over. And I have to figure out how to help her without holding her up, which she'd really like for me to do.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Barack back in Eugene!

Barack Obama visited Eugene again yesterday, and this time he speechified on the quad, so a lot more people could get in. Unfortunately, I didn't know about this visit until Thursday, and I had fun dental surgery scheduled for Friday morning. Too late to cancel! Between the very sore mouth and the Darvocet, standing around for a few hours just wasn't gonna happen. But it looks like he got an awesome turnout again!

My mouth was feeling a lot better today, but the dentist warned me not to exert myself overly for a couple days lest I start bleeding again (yuck), so I lunged and did work in hand with Willow. Normally my three sounds to communicate with her while lungeing are cluck, trill, and kiss, and I couldn't do any of those with my mouth in its current state. Oh well. She still worked hard for me.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A blast from the past

Here's some video of Willow's first clinic, back when she was a gangly four-year-old. She was so skinny, and all legs! That's my Lubbock trainer riding her--Willow had dumped me the day before as I attempted our first canter under saddle, and I was sidelined for a couple days with an injury. Good times!

As you'll see, steering and brakes were still a little iffy, and Willow was most definitely not on the bit yet. Even so, she willingly attempts shoulder in and half pass with decent results.

It's funny to compare this clinic video with this video from February 2008. She has filled out so much, she doesn't even look like the same horse!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Accidental flying change

Willow produced her first under-saddle flying change today. I asked for right-lead canter on an eighteen-meter circle, and she picked up the left lead. With my outside hand I grabbed the bucking strap and gave a very definite right-lead aid. With a mighty leap, Willow switched to the correct lead. I think my helmet may have brushed the rafters. But then she continued on in a quiet right-lead canter, so it was all good.

I watched the Derby, and I realize I forgot the other day to mention the biggest reason why I don't support horse racing--way too many horses break down. Eight Belles was actually my pick, partly because she was the only filly, and partly because she looked like Willow.

I'm very sad about what happened to her.