Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
Click on Logo (Original artwork by Lanie Frick for Messick Quarter Horses. Not permitted to be copied)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Summer is Over!

Summer is almost over! Hard to believe! Summer just didn’t seem long enough! We just didn’t have the heat that we have had most summers. Sure, we had a few hot, unbearable days, but not so many that we were counting the days until fall. And now, August is ending in near record lows. We even had days in July where we did have record lows! Isn’t that amazing? Yet, weather stations have said that July was only the 5th coldest, so there were even colder Julys sometime since the late 1800’s, when they started keeping record of the temps!

Traditionally, I don’t ride in August because of the unbearable heat. But I had no excuse with the cooler mornings. I still didn’t ride very much. After County Fair the first week of August, I spent the 2nd week in Colorado. I did ride for 4 days while I completed the Centered Riding Level 1 Instructors Course. Since coming home, I have spent the last 2 weeks not riding. I had to take a few days to recover from jet lag, then I spent the last week and a half doing odds and ends around the house.

I caught the “Organizing Bug” while my parents were here in July. My parents came for a 2 week visit to see their 2 newest, then 7 ½ month old, great-grandchildren for the 1st time! (This makes # 17 and 18 for them! Isn‘t that wonderful!). While they were here, I refinished the downstairs family room, which I love! I said good bye, no, I said good riddance, to the 70’s look. No more orange not-quite-shag carpet. No more dull walls and ceiling. Every day, we did something different in the mornings. I worked my tack store in the afternoons. The first Monday, we went carpet shopping. The rest of the 1st week, we packed up books, moved out furniture, tore up the old carpet, and repainted the walls and ceiling. The 2nd week, new carpet was laid, furniture was rearranged, bookcases were filled with books, and a toy area was established. I love my new family room!!! Nice, padded, soft carpet for the grandbabies to crawl on, and for grandpa “Pop” to lay on also!!!
Back to the present. Or at least, back to the last 2 weeks. I really had no excuse to not be riding for the last week and a half. Cooler mornings. ½ days at the store. Needing to prepare for Fall CTR’s. But I just wanted to get some odd and ends done in the house. I don’t know if I ever had the “nesting” bug when I was pregnant, but it was kind of like that. I just wanted to get some things done. Maybe because, when my parents were here, I started cleaning up the house and bedroom closets. The family room was emptied out, and the pool table was ladened down with all that stuff. One Sunday, when Sara, Jake and Makenzie were home to see grandparents, AND Jacob, Amber and Caden were here, AND Micah was home also, it was almost a free for all!!! LOL I told the kids that everything on that table was going. Take what was yours, and if there was anything left, whoever spoke up first got it! It was amazing how much stuff did go!!! But I wondered why I had some of Amber’s old stuff here, and not at her parent’s house! LOL And, no Sara, you can’t have the NEW horseshoe towel bars - they are for the bathroom! LOL

The one spare bedroom is the office now, but we had set up the bunk beds again, even though the grandkids won’t be able to use them for years! A bookcase and computer hutch were taken out, but the desk and closet was the pits! I went through boxes of “stuff” and got the closet organized and now I can see the desk again.

And I put the kid's baby pictures back up on the wall. I can't wait to add Makenzie's and Caden's baby pictures above the parent's baby pics!

Then, this past week, I wanted to work on Sara’s old bedroom, which is now the spare bedroom/baby room. I needed to make more room for a crib, and still be able to walk around the room. At first, I though I would repaint. But I had repainted after Sara was in college, and the walls still looked nice. It was amazing how much bigger the room looked after I de-cluttered.

A cedar chest went to the family room to sit beside the toy area and one of the bookcases.
Breyer horses, that were still in their boxes, and that were stacked on the floor, were taken down to the family room. 3 large stuffed horses were taken to the bunk beds.
The rocking chair was taken to the family room, to a corner beside the furnace room door. (Tom said the family room is looking cluttered now, but I think it looks just fine, and horsey!)

Now, I had to get Tom help me to rearrange furniture. He loves doing this with me. Not! We do have a wall filled with a dresser and my old vanity, but that opened up a wall for the baby crib.
Now, we have a portable crib,
but I’m ready to set up my old crib when we get a new crib mattress. And I hung some of my old paintings that my mom had done for me. They are from the old, paint by number sets.

One year, both my sister and I got them as a gift. I thought they were special then, and I think they are doubly special now. I haven’t had them hanging in a long time, and now they frame the large bedroom window. I just have to hang another hook for the new curtains, that I had for about 2 years in a bag under the bed, that I found when I started de-cluttering. It's great to find things that you forgot that you had! The room is ready for family and grandbabies to come visit!

Tom and I spent the morning cleaning the large windows in the 2 bedrooms, and cleaned 4 ceiling fans throughout the house. While Tom finished putting shelf hooks and the shelves into the closet, I hung curtains that I washed a few days ago.

Tom attached a book case to the wall and I vacuumed the living room. We changed the water filter. Tom starting working on getting a larger frig to fit into the smaller frig opening in the downstairs kitchenette. I put the finishing touches on the bedrooms.

Time for chores. It was already 6. The day flew by, and still no horse time, except for feeding them their grain. Maybe tomorrow….

Come along for the ride, when I get riding! I better start riding soon…

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Centered Riding Instructor's Course, Level 1 Part 2

August 12-16, 2009

What an experience! I am thrilled with what I have learned! After years of riding, training, and teaching, the freedom of movement has come. Not only to the horse, but to me, as the rider.

I feel like I am a natural rider. I sit the horse with no tension in the body. Legs, arms, and hands are ready to respond to the horse’s movements. Or to the unexpected jump! But from years of riding young horses and older horses with bad habits, there is a tightness in the body through my shoulders and neck. One thing that this week has taught me is that there is years of memory within the body. You may feel relaxed, with no tension, sitting straight, in balance, and body in straight alignment, when actually you are not. I am amazed how I feel when our wonderful instructor, Peggy Brown, had me tip forward a FEW degrees. I felt like I was going to fall forward, when actually I was in alignment. I need to realize that and work on that. I need to learn what my other body parts do when I am tipped back a little. Where do they go? That intrigues me and I will work on that as I ride through this next month.

I have learned to relax my body to ALLOW the hips to follow the action of the horse. This has been the biggest break through on my journey of Centered Riding. After Part 1 of the Instructors Course, I easily learned the “Dancing Knees”. During this riding exercise, while in 2 point position, I allow my 3 leg joints, the hips, knees, and ankles to accept the movement of the horse. Know, in Part 2 f the course, I needed to free up my hips more. And I got it! Well, actually, I got it too well. My body feels like it is moving all over the saddle as my hips move with the horse’s lope motion. My instructor says that this is natural. Riders learn to move, and at first, they move too much. Then, like any balancing act, the body learns to move less and less. The body will finally settle in to the movement of where it needs to be, while staying out of the horse’s way. Yea!!! But know to work on less movement of my body and more natural movement, and one of impulsion, of the horse’s body.

I have learned to straighten my neck - UP! I rode with a “vulture” neck or like a “turtle in the shell” effect. This concept was hard to achieve. I understood how I should look, but getting the look was not easy. One area that Sally Swift enjoyed studying was that of the Alexander Techniques. Alexander is a little bit of stretching, a little bit of meditating, and a little bit of relaxation, all rolled into one technique. As I learn more about the Alexander Exercises, I know my body is going to come into a natural alignment. What I didn’t realize is that with even a few minutes of stretching, how sore your body gets! As I tried to work on my neck through my hour of lessons each day, I became sore through my neck muscles and upper shoulders. I try to stretch and relax every day now. One exercise that helps me, actually 2 exercises, are to stand against a flat wall, feet shoulder width apart and slightly forward off the wall, and stand straight against the wall with the lower back and neck. Another exercise is to lay flat on the floor, with knees bent and a small book under the head. Hands flat against the floor of laying across your midde, and RELAX!

I ride with contact as I work on collection, BUT, as I left go of the tight contact on the reins, and as I rode with a balanced body, my horse’s neck dropped naturally. And with the freer movement of my hips and joints, my horse’s movement was deeper. He naturally drove with impulsion as I freed up my body to get out of his way, to allow his body to do his job. BUT, I felt like even though he was collected, he was strung out, which isn’t possible if he is collected. I think it is just a different feel of collection, with the head and neck down, and out, but not with the nose sticking out. Finny had a much longer neck, and that is what you want. I will work more on his canter this next month, too!

I am so excited to continue this Centered Riding journey! As part of the curriculum, I have to wait 2 years to move on to Level 2. Instructors need time to learn the basics and time to teach what was taught at each level before moving on to the next level. During this time, I will need to continue my own education by continuing with Centered Riding lessons and clinics, as well as auditing and participating in other clinics and workshops.

I will now be using Centered Riding basics and exercises as part of my lessons. So come have a lesson or buy the Centered Riding books and practice with your horse! I’ll enjoy reading your thoughts, what you are doing with your horse, and your accomplishments! Ask me questions and I’ll gladly try to answer them or find the answers!

Come along on the Journey with me!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I have slowed down...some

I have slowed down. I seem to want to take my time. I feel more relaxed.

I don’t rush as much when I drive. That is when I first noticed it. I drive at the speed limit. I started not pushing the limit by going 5 over. As I watch cars fly by me, I wonder why they are in such a hurry. I wondered why I was always in such a hurry.

I just feel like I want to take my time. I’m tired of doing so much at one time. I’m tired of rushing. I’m tired of trying to do 1 more thing before I leave. I’m tired of being late. And I’m really tired of what is happening recently - waking up at night, feeling very, very warm!

I was so dead tired 2 nights ago that I finally slept through the night! I don’t know if my body warmed up or not, because I was too tired to wake up to find out! I felt like a new mother with a young child who didn’t wake her up for the first time!

I think that, since I haven’t slept well lately, this is the start of me not rushing - because I’m tired! I sit and relax more. I want to sit and relax! I want to take the time to sit and relax! I enjoy sitting down and relaxing! What a treat to take a cup of coffee to the lunge chair and just sit there, sipping. Listening to the birds. Watching the horses. Not thinking about anything!

We all need to re-energize ourselves. When the kids were home, and we were showing, my down times have always been mid-late August, after coming back from AQHYA World in Ft Worth, Texas. The other time has been January, after the busy holidays and before we really started back to riding. When the kids were really showing and preparing for qualifying classes for Youth World, we would ride all year long. All those cold, dark afternoons in January and February. The barn was ½ full in those days, so I kept busy with stalls, and riding, and training. I didn’t seem to notice the short daylight days. Then! I sure notice them now. And I really don’t want to be in the barn with chores when it is 0 degrees out! Brrr. You can’t ride then anyways, so why have chores? The horses are outside during these months.

Now, I’m re-energizing myself by taking time for me. Especially when the days and weeks are busy. I find a time to sit and enjoy that cup or coffee or glass of wine. It may only be for 10 minutes when I get home from the store and have that cup of coffee, or ice tea, before going to do chores. But I’ve sat down and just regrouped. Or it could be after the shower and have that glass of wine while watching a mindless show. I really do enjoy sitting and doing nothing!

But I enjoy the horses and the training and competitiveness of CTR’s. Now I just make sure I have the time for myself to enjoy doing what I want to do. I got to the point where I didn’t want to ride for pleasure and I didn’t like that. I want to enjoy my horses. I just needed the time to re-energize.

It has been a year now since I started the re-energizing process. Looking back over the last year, I see that now. I still give lessons, but not as many. I stopped being a 4-H instructor after 15 years, plus. That was a hard decision, and one that I had been thinking about and talking about for more than a year. Finally, the time seemed right. I’m doing more riding for the sport that I am enjoying. I have taken my rides back to the fields, but only in the spring before planting and in the fall after harvest.

I have slowed down…some! I’m enjoying smelling the roses! Literally. I planted some and they are starting to bloom. I hear how quiet it is when I am quiet! I’m taking time to lay on the lounge chair! I love that!

Maybe this process made sense to me, and I realize that it is happening, since I started the Centered Riding Instructor’s Course in May and June. I seem like this summer has been a more relaxed summer for me. And more on the CR course, as I am in Colorado this week, completing the 2nd half of the Level 1 certification.

I have re-energized and I am ready to go! TAKE SOME TIME FOR YOURSELF. Get revived and come along on the ride with me! I’m looking forward to riding when I get home!


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