Saturday, May 30, 2009
Day 2. Carol teaches so relaxed and so effortlessly! I am loving her as an instructor!
12 riders were split into 5 groups, with each group riding for an hour. I was lucky enough to pull the last group! 3:45 - 4:45 in 90 degrees! Luckily, the indoor arena was a spacious 70 x 140’, with an additional 20’ on the end for seating. Sliding doors acted like large windows on the sides, allowing for a cross breeze. It was actually very pleasant in the arena!
Most of the riders were not new to riding, but did not have a lot of Centered Riding experience either. Some were intimidated by their horse’s fast gait. Some were trying to find their balance at the trot and lope. Some were on sensitive horses who felt their riders tension.
The first group was taught where to sit and to find their balanced seat by tipping their pelvis to find their center. To relax the horse, the riders were told to yawn, which in turn, made their horse “yawn” and slow down. The group worked on “S” turns, which helps to relax the horse, which in turn allows the horse to breathe. A horse can’t turn easily if he is stiff. The riders were taught to turn from their center by using their belly button as a guide.
To send the horse off into the trot, the riders took a deep breath and blew out loudly, pushing the air out with a puff, adding their legs when necessary to get the desired gait. By focusing on the center, and spinning a ball in your center, you make the horse aware that you are asking for a faster gait. To slow down, the rider sat, breathed out and down to ask for the stop. With a soft eye, the riders guided their horses through cones, turning with their center. A soft eye allows the rider to be more aware of what is going on around him.
The “Bubble and Spring” is the place where the foot goes on the stirrup. With the foot properly placed, you allow the horse to be a freer mover. You can absorb motion through the ankle, knee, and hip. Breathing relaxes the horse and rider. Soft eyes keep the rider from getting stiff. All of this works together to keep the horse from getting too stiff.
The 2nd group worked on thinking tall and relax the rider’s shoulders. They worked on contact on the reins with their tricep muscles, keeping a bend in the elbow and keeping the elbow elastic and soft. Stirrups were shorten after Carol rotated the hip joint and lengthened the leg. The body was to be a “clothesline”, stretching outwards with the shoulder and allowing the body to move freer.
When a horse has a big trot, try bouncing on the down of the trot. Ride the horse with the outside of the leg. This frees up the horse to move and releases the rider’s thigh. With soft eyes, walk in a “bubble” with clear intent of where you are going. This causes the horse to remain in focus with the rider. The riders practiced going through 2 cones set on a diagonal in the corner, first going between the cones, then riding on the outside of the cones. With this focus, the riders worked on their intent of where they wanted the horses to go.
These riders learned to remain relax to stay centered. They were to stay in the middle of the horse’s ride, with their chest up. The bubble exercise helped to channel the horse’s energy.
The 3rd group worked on allowing movement in the seat. They were to feel the front to back and side to side movement. As they felt their seat bones, they were to feel first one side then the other side. To become more aware of their seat bones, they thought of peddling a bike backwards. The faster you peddle, the faster the movement of the horse. The slower you peddle, the slower the horse’s movement. As the body relaxes, the body and hip moves front to back. They worked on circling cones, keeping their eyes up and looking around the circle. The riders worked on having less tension in the legs, by feeling the feet on the bottom of the boot. As they halted, they were to breath into their center, breathing down.
The riders learned to soften their own back to help lengthen the horse’s stride. The riders worked on relaxing their whole leg, from their hip, down their leg, to their foot.
Group 4 worked on the same techniques as the above groups. They worked on cone exercises, with soft eyes to weave the cones. They grew more confident as they worked their horses through the cones and circled the cones, and as they forget about their tension.
I was in the last group with 2 other riders. We each wanted to make sure that we sat as centered as possible. Carol made subtle adjustments, some only ¼”, to how we sat, to help lengthen our body and legs. She worked on freeing our hips and relaxing our legs. With me, she worked on my hip joint to allow it to open more, allowing the upper leg to sit higher, yet maintaining the knee bend. As we first walked, she wanted us to feel ouir knees. Could we feel them move up and down as the horse walked. We trotted, with a hand on our knee to feel the upward and downward movement of the knee.
We rode at the 2 point, finding our deep center. As we lowered our body into the saddle as we sat, barely touching the saddle, we concentrated on what our knees were doing. We worked on an exercise: posting, 2-pointing, sitting the trot. As we worked on the lope, using our center to stay grounded, we found the place were we were relaxed.
Pictures to come soon, I promise,. 11:30 and I am tired. Early day tomorrow. I ride at 7! Night!
May 21, 2009
The day was forecasted to be hot. Our group volunteered to go first. That was great. I would rather ride in the cool 60’s morning than a 90 degree afternoon, even if I was riding an hour earlier than the day was scheduled to start. But no one told us that we were going to have thunder and a storm in the area during the night, awakening me at 3 am! I never sleep good when I am away - too excited for the following day, I guess. So I am wide awake at 10 pm, and 11 pm, and finally went to bed before midnight. Awaken with the thunder, maybe some hail, at 3 am, so I went outside - and no one else was outside - and shut trailer windows. Then back to bed, shutting trailer windows. Listening to the thunder and wondering if we were getting the storm. I actually went back to sleep without knowing if it was raining, and that darn alarm woke me at 6 am out of a deep sleep! Wouldn’t you know it!
Our ride time was great! Have I said how much I am loving Carol Wilson as an instructor! She is so positive, supportive, and with a unique humor! She has many years, no decades, of balanced riding techniques and she teaches well with an educated eye! I just love her coaching!!!
We started the morning ride session with some stretches, since I and another rider was stiff through the pectoral (chest) muscle area from yesterday’s ride session. With the up and outward stretch of the muscles while we rode, it was enough to stretch them to tightness today. I felt some relieve from the tightness after the stretches!
I was in the arena about 10 minutes early, and long trotted Finny down. As we started the session, Finny was more relaxed than the previous day. Poles were laid in a pattern in the arena,. We were told to ride in our “bubble”, using the whole arena to ride with “soft eyes” and “intent”. We could walk or trot, and go around or over the poles.
We were to ride “centered” and turn with our “center”. We could use a little inside rein when necessary to help the horse to look where he was going. When you ride with soft eyes, AND breathe, the horse is so much more relaxed. Remember to spin the ball in the center to have your horse move out freely. Remember to back peddle to slow your horse down and stop.
We fine tuned today! The group, per the instructor, told us that we were sponges and soaked up the information. Maybe a little alpha! Lol
We trotted one at a time, crossed the arena on the diagonal, and loped off in the opposite direction. The transitions were smoother when the rider used soft eyes, raised up and widen through the chest, and looked around the corners.
My group was well matched. We all worked on sitting the long trot and posting the trot, using our center. We wanted to have smooth lope departures, using our center to lope. This is a concept that I will work on, as I always have “pushed” the horse into a lope with my outside leg, asking for a forehand step before the lope departure.
We practiced holding the reins correctly, with the hands turned up, the pinky finger on the outside of the rein, and the thumb on TOP of the rein. With on a slight tightening of the rein, you should be able to turn the horse. Ask to see the horse’s eye first, before making the turn.
Remember, Centered Riding Simplifies Riding!!! Don’t get “hard eyes” “inward”. Don’t concentrate so much that you forget what you are working on.
Ride with SOFT EYES. BREATHE. Find your BUILDING BLOCKS to set up your CENTER. GROU ND with your feet, with even pressure on your stirrup. Ride with CLEAR INTENT.
I’m excited to change my focus and am looking forward to this journey!!! Come along on this fascinating ride with me!!! Remember, Centered Riding is a Process! Relax and take your time getting there!
Centered Riding Clinic, in preparation for the Instructor's Clinic in June and August!
After traveling 3 hours to Carol Wilson’s barn just north of Topeka, Kansas, I got Finny settled in his stall. Temps were in the low 90’s here, so my plans of riding him this afternoon didn’t pan out! Sun was beating down and I was sweating! So I gave him hay and water and told him he was lucky to be relaxing in a stall out of the sun! I registered late for the clinic, so all outside pens were full. Good thing for Finny, being a black horse. Black and sun don’t mix well!
By the time I leveled up the trailer, unhooked, turned Finny out for some stretch time and scooped his stall, it was time to freshen up and get ready for the evening’s seminar. I put Finny back into his stall, changed into fresh, non-smelly socks, and put some deodorant on to mask warm body, changed into clean jeans and a non-sweaty “horsey” top, and I was ready to go. The evening’s event was in the small town’s pizza joint! I ordered a small supreme pizza, without onions and peppers, and went to join the others. And there were free, home-made chocolate and peanut butter brownies! Yummy!!!
Besides being a Level 3 Centered Riding Instructor, Carol is also a Level 2 TTeam Practitioner. Her evening clinic was “7 Easy Exercises to Improve Your Riding”. With Carol’s communication background and her easy going manner and humor, the evening was fun and educational!!! She taught us the 7 exercises, using fun cartoons, with personal experiences, and by volunteer examples.
Carol outline the Center Riding Basics. Soft Eyes. Breathing. Building Blocks. Centering. Grounding. Clear Intent. More on this tomorrow, after the clinic.
She discussed rider issues. Tension. Lack of Body Awareness. Asymmetry. Breathing. Lack of Core Strength. More on this after the clinic also.
We practiced the 7 exercises:
Body Wrap: Ace bandages placed lightly on the body to “hold” the body or part of the body. After an hour, what is the awareness. The volunteer could not balance on 1 foot. After this lightly placed wrap, she sat and rose from a chair with ease, and she easily balanced on each foot!
Neutral Spine. We laid on the floor, with our knees bent and our feet flat on the ground to find that spot were we are centered. We marched in place to find this spot, only raising our knees until they were pointing towards the ceiling. We tip our pelvics back to flatten our backs onto the floor. We rolled our pelvics up to raise our backs off the floor.
Breathing. As we practicing breathing, did we breath shallow and only raised our chest, or did we breathe deep and use our abdomen? With this exercise, we placed our hands on each side of our ribs, then on our stomach to feel our breaths. We then were to breath deep, and move our abdomen up and down. Then we were to take the same deep breaths, but not move the “marble” that was placed on our belly button. This helps to strengthen the core! More on this important topic later!
Hip Control. Carol demonstrated with a volunteer. She raised the leg and held the foot. Someone said it look like she was trying to clean out their feet! Lol Then she relaxed the leg, holding it lightly, and made tiny circles. As the leg loosened and lost tension, the hip became looser. As the person walked after this was completed, they felt like they had a looser, freer moving “gait”! lol Everything is in horse terms!
Shoulder Lift. Carol demonstrated with a volunteer again. She held the arm, just to support it. Then she lightly made tiny circles with the arm until she felt the arm loosen up. As she ran her hand down the arm to the hands, the arm lengthened as it relaxed.
Waiter Exercise. Oh, my! You used your whole body for this exercise. Raise your hand as if you are holding a waiter’s tray. Go ahead, try this one! Now, circle the tray in a complete 360 circle! How are you going to accomplish this? Tricky, huh? It can be done. As you lower your hand forward and down, bend at the knees. Bring your hand back towards your hip and straighten up. Practice both directions.
And lastly, the Tongue Exercise! First we stretched our necks sideways as far as we could, and focus on a point in both directions. Then we looked up and back, remembering how far we could look back. Now, with your tongue, rub the outside and inside of the top teeth. Now rub the outside and inside of the bottom teeth. Now write your name with your tongue. Repeat the neck stretches. You can stretch further, can’t you?
These exercises taught us to be more aware of our body. After we completed the exercises, we reviewed the list of rider issues. With doing these exercises, what rider issues could each of these exercises help with? Each person had different answers, depending on what problems they had when they rode and how they felt that these exercises could help them.
I am here to become a more aware rider. I want to know how my body is affecting my horse and my ride. I want to ride as centered and correctly as possible. I want my horse and I to be a complete team - a team that completes each other!
If you are interested in Centered Riding, check out their website at:
Come along on this fun, challenging, self-awareness ride with me!
Monday, May 25, 2009
May 16-17, 2009
This CTR, we wanted to get to the campground early enough on Friday to settle in, then ride for a couple of hours before check-in. We wanted our horses to relax, get used to the new environment, and to know the trail and terrain. Mother Nature didn’t cooperate. Less than and hour after arriving at Smithville Lake, clouds moved in and skies got dark. Rain and hail soon after. Later we heard that a tornado was spotted at the area airport, less than 30 minutes away. Close enough for me!
After 5 ½ “ of rain and hail over the next 3 hours, the trails were too wet to ride! So, once again, the horses stood tied at the trailer and didn’t get any excess energy and anxiousness out of their system! The lightening and thunder stopped, so we were able to check in. We were to bring the horses to the vet and horsemanship judge clean, stand still for vet check, and trot a relaxed circle. Right! They are standing in mud and they just stood through 3 hours of a storm. But amazingly, if the horses are allowed to eat grass while they are standing in line, and waiting their turn, they are relaxed! No rain during check in, but there was still some lightening in the sky.
Finny does a great job at check in and check out, standing still for the judge, and trotting in hand well. Since it was very wet out, we only had to trot in a straight line for a short distance out to a cone and trot back, and not trot the circles in both directions. The judge checked for swelling in the legs, a sound back, and for gut sounds.
Check in went well. Potluck was next. We had more friends come and ride this CTR, so we had a potluck together before the pre-fair briefing. We enjoyed a taco bar, with everything including brownies with a “special ingredient” by Virginia,. Do you want to guess what that was? Some of the brownies had jalenpo peppers! I didn’t have any of those!
Pre-fair briefing went well. The ride committee told us that they would wake us up if the trails were ok to ride, otherwise sleep in! Someone would check trails at 7, and if the trails were ok, be ready to ride soon after! Trails were good and we rode out about 8:30. We rode out an hour later than we should have, so after we rode 22 miles, and had an hour lunch break, we got back to camp about 3:30, in time to clean up the horses, and present them to the judges for a soundness check.
With the wet conditions on Saturday, we had muddy and slick hills, and boggy areas. Our first obstacle was within the first ½ hour. We were to wait until the horse in front of us had moved out of our sight and had done the obstacle. Then we were to go up and down a slick hill. The judge was checking to see how much contact and control we had and if we were out of the saddle. Our next obstacle was to trot to the judge, stop, and back 3 steps. That evening, the judge reminded riders to settle their horses before and after the obstacles. We had a trot by for soundness. The horsemanship judge surprised us and told us that evening that she was watching how we handled our horses at the P&R’s!
We were to ride a 3.75 mph. That is pretty slow as most horse walk a 4 mph or faster, especially the gaited horses. But this day seemed really fast. We trotted and even loped on the meadows. The boggy areas really slowed us down. A lot. Some of the areas were 20-30’ feet long, and more than ankle deep. We had slop ½ ways up the horse’s leg. The muck was deep enough to pull shoes off and to make a horse’s stifle sore. Amazingly, the water crossings weren’t deep. I think the rain came quick enough to just run off, but then settled in the low spots. And on Sunday, the boggy areas seemed longer and deeper and stickier. My horse did well, taking the areas slowly, finding the shallower areas.
Once back to camp, we had to clean up the horses and present them to the judge. We literally power washed the mud off the legs! Saturday’s metabolic check and trotting went well, and we had no leg issues or back soreness, and we had good gut sounds.
Sunday morning, we had to trot by for the judge to check for lameness. One of Sunday’s obstacle was to walk down a hill to the judge and stop. As we were waiting in line, we were told not to watch the obstacle. Once we stopped at the judge, she told us to turn facing west, and side pass to the north 3 steps. Ok, now think. It is morning, so the sun is to my east. Turn and face away from it. Now, what is that saying they taught us in school. East is to our right, west to the left, then we face north and south is to our back. So as I sat there facing east, I knew I had to turn completely around. I visualized east at my right, and then I knew which direction was north, which would have me side passing up hill. I figured this was correct, as it would be safer to side pass up hill and not down. Later, we found out that the judge told different people different directions. I assumed this was so everyone has a fair chance at this obstacle. At another obstacle, we stopped at the judge, dismount on the off side onto a log, and remount. While waiting for that obstacle, Finny was anxious and would not settle and stand still. But amazingly, he was perfect at the log. I mounted and remounted as quickly as I could. Then as we walked off, we were to wait for the next rider to perform the obstacle. Finny was still anxious as we waited. We need to work on getting him to settle and to stand still.
P&R’s went well both days. Finny had some of the slowest respirations, scoring a 3 and 4’s. I loosen the girth, wet his neck down with a sponge, and stand back to let him relax. At one spot on the trail, we were to stop as the vet judge checked metabolics. Once again, Finny did not stand still well and wanted to move as the judge placed the stethoscope on his back rib area to check for gut sounds. I have worked on him to move as soon as I touch him with my legs, but now I have to teach him the difference between my leg and the judge’s stethoscope. Next time, I will dismount and stand on the off side of the judge to have my horse stand still.
We left Sunday as soon as we finished checking out, so I don’t have my cards and I can’t remember the other obstacles that we did. I will report later on those and where I lost points. I lost gut sound points at my first ride, so I made sure to stop and let my horse eat grass along the way. And at the water crossings, we allowed them to drink whenever they wanted to. I also dropped my sponge and got it wet, so to wash down my horse‘s neck and to cool him off. I actually did drop it the sponge into the water and my friend Virginia got off and retrieved it for me!
Check out went well. We did our trotting circles as well as trotting in line. Finny does this well and check out was uneventful. I think he was ready to load and come home! After 3 days of rest, we were back to trotting and conditioning for the next clinic or CTR!
Come along on the next ride with me!
Sunday, May 24, 2009
I always free lunge the horse. I want the horse to get a feel of the arena and see all the spooky places. I want to turn the horse back and forth in the opposite direction to change the horse’s direction and to set up dominance. I want the horse to bond with me. Then we saddle and bridle and free lunge with the saddle on, with the reins tied off on the horn. At no time, with or without the saddle, is the horse allowed to play and buck around. Not with me in the arena. This is a time, maybe to blow off steam and run, but we are still there to learn. And that does not mean to learn to buck and kick out while a person is in the arena with them. If a horse does kick out or start bucking, I quickly change the horse’s direction. And I keep changing the direction often, it gives the horse something different to think then bucking and kicking.
Free lunging also starts to teach the horse how to lunge on a line. To go around in a circle. To stay away from the center. To respect the person in the middle of the arena. To get used to the saddle stirrups flopping on the horse’s side.
I always leave the halter on, so that I can tie up quickly if I need to. Horses are always learning patience by standing tied in their stall while another horse is being worked. Now we attach a lunge line to the halter. The horse already knows how to circle around the handler, so teaching to lunge on the line becomes easier to do.
I attach the long lines to the bit. The line goes through the stirrups and I lay the end of the lines across the saddle until both sides are attached to the bit. I don’t secure the stirrups. I let them loose so they can flop against the horse’s side and the horses becomes used to that feel. Once both of the lines are attached, I stand on the near side of the horse and hold that end of the lunge line in my left hand. With the other hand, I bring the other lunge line down from the saddle and throw the end over the horse’s butt. Sometimes, the horses are scared of the rope as it touches their legs and they kick out and run. I try to keep them in a circle around me, but if they are too scared, I will let them run with the lines loose behind them. They need to become desensitized to the ropes. Once they aren’t scared of the ropes, I ground drive them by standing behind them. I serpentine the arena, by shortening 1 line while lengthening the other line, being careful to keeping the lines in a loose circle while I hold them. Doing serpentines in the arena teaches the horse to follow reining directions by giving to the bit and bending and flexing the neck in the direction that the reins are telling him to go. I teach the horse to go in a circle and to trot and lope in a circle. With the lounge lines on, the horse is beginning to learn collection as he is bending at the poll and withers, while driving with impulsion.
The horse is saddled, bridled, and lunged. The horse is being ground driven. The horse learns to follow the direction of the reining. The horse has already learned to walk, trot and lope while giving to the bit and to change direction. Once the horse is accustomed to this, and drives easily, the transition to riding becomes easier. The foundation and fundamentals have been easily taught. Next training step will be the first ride!
Come along on the ride with me!
Saturday, May 2, 2009
For the last month and a half, I have been conditioning for the start of CTR, Competitive Trail Riding. Lots of field riding and trotting to get the extra weight off of my horse, Finny. Hosting a Centered Riding Clinic, with some CTR friends, to work on correct body positioning. Even conditioning myself with lots of posting and 2-pointing at the trot. The first ride was this past weekend at Cherryvale, Kansas. A beautiful place to ride. Trees and forest. Just like I grew up with. Throughout the ride, we rode next to the lake or saw the lake through the trees.
One area of CTR is P&R's, Pulse and Respiration, checks. The horse needs to come into P&R's and stand quiet for 10 minutes. After that time, the pulse and respiration is taken, and the horse needs to be below a certain number or he will be held for another 10 minutes and another P&R is taken. The horse loses points if he is held for an additional 10 minutes. During the 10 minute rest period, you cool off your horse. Most times, I loosen the girth, and then I stand back from my horse, allowing him to relax. Other riders remove the horse's saddle. Some riders wet their horses down with water and a sponge or water from a squirt bottle. Some riders even fan their horses in very hot weather. The rides have unique ways of tying on their equipment they use to keep their horses cool! Finny had great P&R's this CTR, lower than I had expected.
Another area of CTR's is Obstacles. Both the rider and the horse is judged on how well they perform the obstacle individually, as well as together as a team. Is there a partnership between the horse and rider, or is the horse not listening to the cues? Is the horse rushing the obstacle? Do you, as the rider, have enough contact with the horse? Are you riding centered, or are you heavy in the saddle or behind the horse's motion?
Our first obstacle was a judge mount. Finny knows how to stand still, except on the first day of a CTR! He was heads up and ready to go! He did not stand still at the step stool, but he did stand still as I mounted from the ground. All 15.3 hands! It is so much easier mounting when using a step stool! Other obstacles during this ride were: 1) walking over a large log, 2) walking past the waters edge of a lake, as the waves were lapping at the shore, 3) walking down a hill and stepping between logs, stopping and counting to 5 (which I did out loud, so that there would be no mistake that I didn't rushed the obstacle), 4) trotting a large circle while the vet judge checked for lameness, and 5) handling the horse during check-in and check out.
Another area is making time. You have a 30 minute window to complete X number of miles within a set amount of time. One important area to consider is whether you are giving your horse enough time to graze so that you are keeping the intestinal tract moving. This ride, I had diminished gut sounds. I questioned the vet judge about this. We even had diminished sounds after our 7 hour trip to the CTR, after eating the whole way and for an hour after getting there! She said that there could be numerous causes. One could be the stress of the ride and the anxiousness of the horse. Another could be not enough grazing during the ride. Another cause could be decreased water consumption. After talking with friends Virginia, Sheri and Sandy, all who have competed in this event, they gave me some great advice and their recommendations. I will begin to add electrolytes to my horse's water before and during the ride. I will add beet pulp to his diet to increase fiber and water. I will water down his grain the day before and during the competition. I will try to make up time during the ride to allow for more 5 minute stops to allow my horse to relax and graze.
The horse needs to stay sound and to go through check-in and check-out without any signs of lameness. The vet judge checks for the capillary refill of the gums as well as checking for dehydration. If she presses on the gums, making a white area, and within 1-2 seconds, the area returns to a pink color, the horse has sufficient blood flow. If she pinches the skin of the neck and the skin returns to normal, the horse is hydrated. The vet checks for any fill or puffiness on the legs. The vet judge watches the horse move at the trot in a straight line, trotting away from her and towards her, as well as watching the horse lunged in a circle at both directions
The next CTR is soon. I continue to condition my horse 4-6 miles per day, 5 days a week, at the walk and trot. I ride for an hour to 2 hours at a time. I stop and allow my horse to graze, hoping to develop a habit for him! Which woulde be a great habit! I practice trail maneuvers calmly. I will add electrolytes and beet pulp to his diet, to increase his fiber and water content. I will get him to stand still on the first day! And I will continue to read, learn, and educate myself about a horse's health. I want my horse to be a happy, healthy CTR horse!
Come along on a CTR with me! You'll love it!
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