Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

" The Beginning Dresssage Book"

I have heard that Dressage principles can be used in any discipline that you ride. I totally agree. A French term, dressage is an equitation term and means training. I have started reading the book, “The Beginning Dressage Book” by Kathryn Denby-Wrightson and Joan Fry. Dressage is a style of training. A kind method. A training method that considers the well-being of the horse foremost. A method of give and take. A method that teaches correct posture. A method that teaches the correct balance between horse and rider. Definitely the kindest of methods.

Dressage teaches the horse to be balanced. With impulsion and forward movement, the horse learns to carry himself correctly. The horse learns to engage his hind legs, bringing them further and further up underneath his body, adding cadence and a springiness to his gaits. The book teaches the art of lunging and the beginning of collection through correct lunging. Lunging develops the horse’s muscles, allowing him to become stronger in his back and leg muscles.

Proper seat position is necessary to maintain the balance between horse and rider. The rider needs to sit on the seat bones, not in front of them and not behind them. The thigh muscle needs to be against the saddle so as to maintain contact with the seat bones.

There are many exercises while lunging to help the horses build confidence and strength while engaging his body. While lunging with side reins, not so much to set the head as to set the poll to aid in muscling and for the horse to begin to learn impulsion. As he slows his speed, the horse learns to extend. This is the fundamental beginning of collection.

There are many exercises that help to maintain contact with the horse while keeping correct posture with the seat bones. Tying off the reins and stretching the arms and legs helps to teach balance in the seat. If you are uncomfortable doing these exercises with no rein contact, have someone attach a lunge line to the horse. You need to be relaxed and comfortable, not tense and unsure. All of the exercises emphasis the correct position of the seat bones. You learn to use very little pressure on the reins to bend the horse, whether into a circle or to change directions.

Maybe I have taken some movements for granted, well… maybe not actually for granted, but I have done them long enough that I do them by feel now. The reading I have done so far has made me analyze each movement. As I read the chapters, I see in my mind what the author is explaining and what the horse or rider should be doing or how they should be reacting. I know and understand what I have read. As you read this book, re-read anything you don’t understand until it makes sense to you. Picture in your brain what the concept is. Sit on the floor or on a chair and try the exercises.

Dressage Prospect? Definately a good riding prostpect as we have ridden some of her brothers and sisters!

I’m sure as I get further into the book, I will read some of what I am already incorporating into my training program. I like how the author has thoroughly discussed the reasons behind her style. I have done some of the same maneuvers as she has outlined in her book, and I have learned more from her about the effects these have on the rider and on the horse. I understand how a movement, either the horse or the rider, changes the balance of the horses. It is interesting to read about what you thought you knew, and now to realize that you understand the concepts better. I’m anxious to read the riding parts now, and to fully understand the movements that we do with our horses. What parts of the horse’s body changes as we ask the horse to do specific exercises. How does the rider change position when you want the horse to move a certain way.

My goal is to apply these principles to increase the muscle and strength of my horses’ back and leg muscles. I will work on his collection. My goal is to apply subtle rein direction, while maintaining contact, to have my horse perform better obstacles.

Keep reading. I will continue this book’s discussion in my next blog. Just give me a few days. I may not get to it before the weekend!

Oh…I’m starting my ride for the year! Even if it is just in my head! Come along for the ride and be prepared when warmer weather finally gets here to stay!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Vacation is Over...

Tom and Brenda at a cave

The past week has had to been the fastest week of my life. We are on our last day of vacation. Isn’t that always the case? When you want the time to be the slowest, it is the fastest. I felt like we did less and the time went very fast.

We are sitting in the airport, waiting to board our plane. And it is just a few days after a plane went down in the Hudson River due to birds flying into the engines. Ok, we can’t be afraid of flying like we can’t be afraid of driving after someone we know has an accident. Just as we can’t be scared of getting back onto the horse after we fall or get bucked off (Tom’s thought!!!). We just need to be more cautious. But after we are on a plane, our lives are in God’s hands! I’m praying for a safe return! “Dear Lord, Our lives are in your hands. We place our trust in you. We know you are with us. Let us return safely to be with our loved ones. Amen.” Isn't that a quaint little church?

We have boarded the plane and we get the seats at the exit row, at the wings of the airplane. We get to open the escape door in case of an emergency. Yeah! I am praying for no emergency. Tom has the window seat and I have the middle seat. We have lots of leg room - one advantage to this row!

Vacation was very relaxing. I’m not sure how much Tom thought of work, as he was wise not to tell me! We only thought of home and the horses once, after we saw on the news station that all of the Northeast United States was being bombarded with zero temps and snow. Nebraska had minus degrees at night and early mornings for a few days. I wondered if Micah would look INTO the water tanks to make sure they were thawed. If Traci, my friend who did weekend chores with her daughter, filled water tanks on Sunday, then tanks would be fine until Wed. I didn’t worry as much as I would have since the day temps on Thursday and Friday were suppose to be in the 30-40’s. We have month old Beagle puppies, but they were walking around well the last few days before we left. I knew that, even if they got out into the stall away from the other puppies, they would get back together and huddle up under the heat lamps.

We decided to relax more on this vacation and do very little else. We didn’t want to be running around every day. When we landed in Aruba last Saturday, we rented a car, checked in at the room, and went to the beach. We saw our first sunset of the week. Not as colorful as other years as there were more clouds in the sky. We were told this was due to some rainy weather the week before. We decided to walk the beach more every day.


We took advantage of a free breakfast at the Orientation/Welcome meeting on Sunday morning. Mid-morning, we enjoyed the pool and sunshine for a few hours before lunch. The sun is so intense, even in 80 degree weather, that within an hour of laying on a lounge, (which I started to spell “lunge”, chair, I had to take a quick dip in the pool to cool off. After lunch, we headed to one of our favorite areas of the beach, to lay on a lounge chair, soaking up the rays, listening to the ocean waves. aaahhh. I brought a book to read, but how could anyone stay focused on reading when all your body wants to do is to have you close your eyes and enjoy all of these sensations. When the sun became too hot, we walked the edge of the water. The water is so clear, a mixture of aquamarine blue and teal, darkening in color as the water deepens the further it goes out into the ocean. The sand is so soft and white. Where the wave lands on the shore, the sand is packed down and easier to walk on. Where the water gently splashes, the sand is squishy soft, still easy to walk but leaves a footprint. The water is cool when you first step into it, but instantly becomes comfortable to the touch. When you are really hot, the water is absolutely refreshing! The waves are a little rough, so we didn’t get into the water many times to swim. For us, it is enjoyable to walk, feeling the waves against your legs, somewhat drawing you into the ocean, yet leaving you to remain on the beach.

We did take an all day jeep tour on Monday. The island is 6 miles wide by 19 miles long, and it did take all day to see all the areas. Oh my goodness, I wasn’t prepared! They needed extra drivers, and Tom volunteered. Mid-way through the day, I was glad, and so was he! The jeeps were larger, covered top, and with 2 seats up front and a passenger area behind that seats 6-8 people. We started out on paved roads, but went quickly to off road, then into some “off” off road terrain. We drove through rocky ground and over, what appeared to be but couldn’t be seen, roads that were as rocky as the terrain around us. Roads that were full of ruts, and ditches, and washed out areas. In some areas, the passengers in the back said that they felt that the jeep was going to tip over. We couldn‘t feel that up front where we sat, but I was glad when we got back to paved roads. We did see a lot of the island that day, from the Lighthouse at the far northwest part of the island, and past the rocky, rough waves on the eastern Atlantic side. There we saw the Natural Bridge and a smaller natural bridge, where, when the waves aren’t so strong, there is an area to swim. We continued inland to the Gold Mine Ruins, a charming old Church, and the Ostrich Farm. We went south to the far south west corner to Baby Beach, were we enjoyed some snorkeling. There were not as many colorful fish there as we had seen the year before at a different area. Late in the day, we drove the west coast north, back to the resorts. We did not see the Aloe Vera plant that we had toured last year.

We did pass people on horseback. On a trail ride of some sort. The leader rode a Paso Fino, but some of the other riders rode so badly that I couldn’t tell what movement their horses had. I’m sure the horses preferred to walk than trot that day! I laughed when I saw people in shorts - for 2 hours in the sun, riding in a saddle! I'm sure they will be be sore! It would be neat to ride on the beach, but when you can ride for free, this seemed awfully expensive!

The rest of the week was filled with a morning of shopping, a morning of relaxing in the room, and some mornings at the pool. The afternoons found us at the beach, sometime lounging and sometimes walking the waters edge. We enjoyed the sunsets a few evenings. We enjoyed an evening of dinner out and a few hours another evening of music and dancing. We enjoyed a few evenings of drinking coffee by the pool after the sun went down.

Ostrich Farm - Don't they have strange feet? Or are they hooves???

The week ended all too soon. I’m not ready this year for the time to be over. Maybe next year we will come for 2 weeks. We are already thinking ahead of when Makenzie and Caden are old enough to come with us. Maybe in 4 years, as 3 year old may be too much for Grandpa! I would love it! But they may be homesick at that age. We’ll start somewhere closer to home for a week’s vacation with us.

All in all, a great week away from the responsibilities at home and work. A great week for just the two of us. A great week to enjoy each other’s company and conversation. A great week to just go…aaahhh.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Finding Free Time

Everyone needs a vacation time. We get so wrapped up in the everyday rush of getting everything done. Kids off to school, parents off to work, meals, wash, after school activities, sports, nightly meetings. When is there time to slow down and relax? Do we even take the time to relax in the evenings or are we always doing something until we drop into bed at night?
Is your mind always busy, thinking of things that we need to get done? If I keep everything inside me, then I’m always trying to remember what is on my list. I end up forgetting what I wanted to do until the end of the day and it’s then too late to get it done that day. Or I end up laying awake longer when I go to bed, with all the days events and the next days events swirling around in my head. Have you ever been so dead tired, thinking that you would fall instantly to sleep, and lay there wide awake, thinking about what needs to get done?

I like to write things down, otherwise my mind is on overload. I like lists, and I like to cross off what gets done. It makes me feel that I have accomplished something! I have started slowing down in the evenings. I have realized that I need time for myself, or maybe it’s my age telling me I can’t keep going 24/7 all the time. I’ve went all out when the kids were home, keeping up with their activities, riding at night, giving lessons and in the barn until 9 some nights. Spring time was a busy time of the year, and for a few years, I enjoyed it. I thrived on the spring horse training season. But mixed with lessons, activities and late nights, I was dragged down by June. By then, summer lessons and horse shows were in full swing, and some nights were even later.
For awhile, our vacations centered around horse activities. State 4-H for 5 days during the middle of July was usually the hottest week of the year. The first week of August to Texas for Youth Worlds. The first few years, this seemed like a vacation, doing some sight seeing on the off days that we didn’t show. We definitely enjoyed the pool time on the afternoons that we could go back to the hotel. We enjoyed the years we went to Texas. We went as a family and we showed as a family. Even as the kids left their youth years and were in college, they still came to Texas to watch their younger brother/s show. But this was a working vacation. It had been quite a few years since we had gone to the Jersey shore with Tom’s family or had gone hiking to the Colorado or Montana mountains.
Now, the two of the kids are married and the third is in college. Now, it’s time to enjoy life and slow down. No evening activities to rush to. The schedule is work related, with a few meetings tossed in. With the kids gone, there is more work around the place that needs to get done. Sometimes, well, all the time, this past year, I felt like all my husband and I did was to maintain around our place. How do we get all the work done, yet take time to relax? We haven’t accomplished that too well, as I can’t remember many times that we sat outside with a glass of ice tea or a cup of coffee. During the summer, the humidity or bugs bother you too much to do that. Then there may be 1 week each spring and fall that is pleasant enough where you could actually sit outside and enjoy that coffee. July and August are very hot, and we actually have some down times during those months. We enjoy our pool, at least a few hours Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Work is so busy that, by the time we get home, finish chores, we don’t have the desire to lounge in the pool, even for a short time before showers. Maybe see a sunrise like we saw on vacation!

What works for us is to plan a week and go away. We can’t take a week off and stay at home and get things done. It doesn’t work well for us as someone is always calling. Or my husband goes to work anyways, saying he is going in for the morning, and ends up staying until 3. As far as I am concerned, that was a whole day at work and no time at home!
We are on vacation now. On a much needed week’s time in the sun at the beach.
Everyone needs to be revived each year. You need to take time for yourself. If a week away in not possible, then take that week and do something for yourself. Sleep in every day, sight see locally, start a hobby. What ever your sport of hobby is, do it every day one week. Enjoy and relax. Get rested. Get ready to start the next week with a renewed vigor!

Whatever you do, make it seem like you have been on a vacation!

New Years Ponderings

A New Year has begun. Traditionally, everyone makes New Year’s Resolutions. We all make choices and promises. Some healthy and some soul searching, others just for fun. But do the promises come to be reality? How good are we in keeping our promise to ourselves? What motivates us to change? What keeps us from making our goals? Why do we get discouraged? What keeps us on track? How do we keep the initial excitement alive and forge ahead? How do we make resolutions that are attainable?

We are always excited to start a new year. It’s a new beginning. It’s a fresh start. Motivation comes from being excited and from doing something new. Time to set goals. I plan on doing something for myself this year. What do I want to accomplish? How will I meet my goal? I know HOW I will do it: I will set a plan! I live by a calendar. I can never lose my calendar. I did that once, and I had the whole family looking for it!!! I love the organizational data and commitment of writing something down that a calendar offers. I’ll incorporate my goals into my calendar. I’ll write down WHAT I want to achieve. I’ll write down WHEN I want to achieve my goal. And I’ll write down what I achieved and HOW I did it. WHY? So I feel good about myself, for helping others, and for helping my horses.

Should I meet daily, weekly or monthly goals? How small of tasks can I break down the big goal into? To reach any goal, I should start out with little steps, that can grow into larger steps as I’m conditioned in working on my goal. Maybe I don’t need as much physically conditioning as I need mentally conditioning in working on my goal each day. I’ll write down what I want to do each day or each week, or by the end of each month. I’ll also write down what I accomplished each day or week, and what I was able to achieve at the end of the month. That way, for future reference in setting goals, I’ll be able to determine what times of the year it is easier for me to achieve certain parts of a goal.

I need to be conditioned into working a little each day on my goal. Mentally, I’ll need to work on a mindset that no matter what else happens, my goal for the year is what I need to work on that day. My goal is possible. Maybe all that I accomplish is a thought about the goal, but I need to keep that goal alive and positive in my head. Keep that initial excitement alive.

Maybe it will take a week to make that first tiny step, or a month. Does it really matter how long, as long as I’m further ahead in a month than where I am today? Look towards the finished product. What do I want that end result to look like? How do I want to feel about what I have accomplished? Maybe whatever we do, we need to feel good about ourselves.

So what promise should I make myself this year? I will list out some thoughts, then look at them realistically.

Every day, tell Tom that I love him, and tell him that more often.
Clean my tack once a week, because I know I’ll never get it cleaned every day! I may get the bit rinsed off once a week though!
Ride Finny 5 days a week during conditioning and ride season, or at least average 5 times a week.
Compete in 5 CTR’s, Competitive Trail Rides. I have those dates on the calendar already.
Set some goals to accomplish at the CTRs:
Have Finny stand quiet when other horses walk away.
Work on Finny’s maneuvers so we perform better obstacles.
Condition long and slow - set a mileage and speed chart and stick to it.
Ride a few day long conditioning rides.
Participate in some clinics this year. I have already scheduled a Centered Riding clinic. I would like to do 1 more riding one with Finny.
Instruct a Riding Clinic.
Start and ride my 2 young geldings, who are now 5 and 6, more than 30 days! Maybe 90 days on the 5 year old, and 6 months on the 6 year old.
Organize my home office. It’s a mess, and it’s so bad, that I just let the piles grow!

Maybe some of the goals are too large, and we need to decide to break those large goals down and accomplish a small portion this year. If a goal is too large, then I may never start it if I feel like I could never achieve it. Decide on the most important part of a goal that you want to accomplish and work on that the first year, and decide on the next part for the 2nd year, and so on. You want to ride better, than maybe work on body position or keeping your legs back.

I read somewhere that you should always do the worse job first. That would definitely be working on organizing the home office. Then it is actually getting started with the 2 young horses! I just need to get those 2 in the barn for a week and put a solid first week on them. Then a habit has started! This is something I really need to do this year, and I have the desire to do this, but I also know that it is going to be work. I have decided that if I work a little bit at this, then it will start not to be work, and will turn into fun. When it’s not fun, I will give myself, and my horses, a break!

What happens if we work hard at our goal and nothing is happening? If we are physically exercising and we don’t lose weight? If we are doing something we love, and it begins to be work? If we get disappointed in ourselves, we get frustrated, and we’ll stop trying. Make the goals something you want to do, not just what is going to make you healthy. Don’t set a goal because you know that is what other people want you to do. Work on your mental health first. If you are working on any goal, you will feel better about yourself, therefore being healthier because you have a healthy mindset. Then maybe you will achieve a physical goal without even realizing it.

Maybe that is what makes New Year’s Resolutions possible - make them a habit! Keep your promises by having a plan and sticking to it. Make the goals reachable. Make the goal something you want to do. And don’t forget to add the fun in there. Do something that means a lot to you.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Happy New Year 2009

Jan.2, 2009

Wow, what a busy December I have had, and Fall, and Summer, and Year!

Tom and I have just had our first 2 grandbabies born in December. Makenzie Ruth was born Dec. 10th and Caden Thomas was born Dec. 26th. We went to CO for Makenzie’s birth and then we traveled back to spend Christmas with Sara, Jake, and Makenzie.

Grandma, Pop and Makenzie

We left the day after Christmas to travel back to NE for the arrival of Caden. A week later, we spent New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with Jacob, Amber, and Caden. Pop, Caden and Grandma

Jan. 9, 2009

I started this blog a week ago, and just found the time to finish it! Tom and I are starting a week’s vacation today, that is definitely needed by him. Poor guy. He has worked 7 days straight since September, with only Thanksgiving off, and the time to see our newborn grandchildren. Now we are sitting in the Atlanta airport at 6:30 in the morning, after leaving from Denver at 1 am. Yes, we left Friday night/early Saturday morning at 1 AM!!! Since we had to fly from somewhere, we drove to Denver to see Sara, Jake and Makenzie.

Makenzie is changing her looks already. Now she looks smaller that what Sara did at that age. He face is so petite. She was a little fussy last night with a sore stomach, poor baby girl! I did hold her and was able to put her to sleep. A really deep sleep and she was so content.

When we fly back to Denver next weekend, the Denver Market is taking place. This is a vendor market for stores to see new product and order at discounts. We would be driving out to Denver for the market anyways, so we decided to drive out a little early. It was just perfect timing to drive out early, go on our vacation from here, and when we get back, we are already here for the market. AND….we get to see Makenzie!

For now, we are still sitting in the airport for a few more hours. On our way to Aruba! A sunny, sandy resort island. Inland is mostly like a desert, but resorts line the shoreline. A quiet place. Very restful! To me, this seems like a resort for retirees. We seem young, but occasionally, you will see newly weds and families. And nude sunbathers! What a shock when we saw them last year! European women like to be in the sun without tops on! Guys still have shorts on though, no fair!!! Tom pointed out a guy for me….about 1 year of age! LOL!!!

We are anxiously awaiting for 4 pm today. We should be walking the sandy shores! Watching the beautiful sunset! Relaxing and lounging on chairs, drinking an Aruba Ariba…ask Tom about the first time he had one of those drinks! I’ll never forget his experience!!!


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