Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Pet Mummy

No need for many words. This year, I have a lot of fun stuff that's made things really great. To help me celebrate, ADW and Bucky have put together a little something for everyone...

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Model: Buckingham
Wardrobe Consultant: ADW
Photographer: me
Finished on Pixlr Express

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lesson #59: Rein Like a Surgeon and Ride like a Rebel

It snowed today. Not here in the city but when I made my way out to Erin, there was snow covering the ground. Looks like it's pretty official: we've moved indoors to ride now. I tacked up to ride Trinket and this is the first time since the last lesson I had successfully gotten her to canter after determining the problem that I was having. That, and the fact that she had a show the day before so was probably a little pooped that time I tried to ride her.

The other student is riding Lakota and I find out that Lakota is very keen on a very light touch in his mouth and that is one of the reasons he kicks up such a fuss when you don't do that. I was riding him with too much rein pressure because we had a miserable time. I decide to try similarly with Trinket and be more aware of my rein pressure in her mouth. And guess what? She isn't pulling me down and forward and she just seems happier in general. Looks like this mare is keen on a light rein touch as well... she just acts differently than Lakota or Nifty. She makes me do all the work when she bites down on the bit and pulls me forward and doesn't kick up a specific fuss.

Today was a successful ride where I got her into a canter. We were working on the usual trot and this time I checked my posting diagonals as often as I could remember. Her trot was pretty good today and despite looking a bit tired when I found her in her stall, she was pretty go today. We worked on a few circles in seated trot which helped me get my seat into it. When we started working on canter, I had to get my head into the game. I had to think "canter" when I was asking her. She didn't do half bad; we got into the canter a few times even though once or twice it was the incorrect lead. I continue to have the same issue with tipping forward when I ask her and as she gets speedy. I know I can do this properly because I remember the feeling of sitting up straight and being prepared to do it.

During one of the canter stints, I lost my stirrup and Lenka told me that my posture was MUCH better. I couldn't stop her while she was zipping around and I was struggling with my stirrup. I probably should have just let go of the other one too so I wasn't so unbalanced and just let her go. Lenka reminded me that... why did I lose my stirrup? (oh me me! pick me!) Because my weight was not in my heels so I was pinching up with my knees and then my leg was coming up and oops! It popped right out.

We're finishing the lesson with some low level jumping. We start over an X with 2 point in the trot. My turns need some work and my 2point as well. I am told that I need to have more of my butt "sticking out" and weight in my heels and to remain in the 2 point for at least 1 stride following the landing so not to land heavily on her back. We try to exit it into a canter. With Trinket, we always end up heavy on the fore hand and I'm struggling to get back up right. It's becoming more of a problem because I can't get her into a canter like that either. Lenka says to add more energy into the trot and a cluck as she lifts her front over the jump. I'm not successful today. We move to the last exercise with 2 X-jumps that are radiating out like it's 4:00pm. Sure, we get through both jumps ok but I'm unable to get Trinket into a canter following. I have to work on pulling myself back up too.

Posting Diagonal Jar Tally: 2 x $2.00 = $4.00
To date: $12.00

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lesson #58: Bucking Bronco

I had a challenging lesson. It is needless to say that I didn't quite prepare myself for what transpired but I didn't do too badly either. I rode Lakota and it's only the second time I've ridden this gelding but I already know he's obstinate and cranky when it comes to working. Last time, he pinned his ears back when I asked to canter. He has a beautiful smooth floaty canter that is a pleasure to ride when he's willing.

Today, we have a new instructor and she starts us on getting into a working trot. I have to really push Lakota because he just doesn't seem to want to do anything. He ignores all my aids and signals; I really have to kick him to get him going. Eventually we sort things out and he starts listening to me--albeit reluctantly. Our trot isn't as quick as it should be so I goad him onwards into a more engaged trot.

But, Lakota is not excited to work and I spend a lot of effort pushing him forward. Eventually, we work out a temporary truce and he begrudgingly agrees to get into a trot. However, when I insisted on getting into a canter... this initiated war. I now have Lakota bucking and kicking in protest of this request. This goes on with ears pinning and a head shaking about. I am really not enjoying this right now. Thankfully, I didn't realize when he had bucked and stayed on just fine. Then the kicking was mostly startling more than anything else but he was still moving (check). Next obstacle: he is lifting his head up and back and losing the rein contact as a result. I am told to continue to shorten my rein to give him soft contact and regain control while continuing to push him forward. More kicking, head shaking, ear pinning and mini-bucking.

I do eventually get him into a canter but by then, we're both unhappy with one another and I'm pretty tired. I had been applying a considerable amount of leg by now and I am in need of a rest. We do a few more laps of my argument with Lakota and call it a day. Not the most progressive of lessons but definitely one where I learned some unusual tricks to counter a horse like him.

Posting Diagonal Jar Tally: 4 x $2.00 = $8.00

Friday, October 25, 2013

Diagonal Jar

I've been training Bucky since the day that I found him. He's been a royal pain in my arse but he's always so darned cute. Take last night for example: he snuck onto the table as I was showing ADW out. I heard (because I've developed super sharp hearing now) him on the table; the table creaked, actually. So I raced over and saw him on the table with that guilty look on his face so I clapped loudly and he zoomed right off. Someone's in trouble now.

I grabbed our furry little friend and sent ADW off and took Bucky to his room and closed the door. That would be it. Animals learn by association. A little late, yes, as some of you might say, but I felt justified for catching him in the act. One day he might just learn that he's not supposed to do things like that. One can only continue to try.

Anyways, training bad habits out of any living breathing creature seems easily transferable between different animals. Humans are technically animals and if you tried to touch a hot stove with your bare hands, you'd learn pretty quickly that it's hot and you shouldn't touch it.... or at least be wary of it. That said, I am going to introduce my posting diagonal jar to train an incorrect posting diagonal out of me. I know what a posting diagonal is therefore, I should be more aware of my posting diagonals during lessons. Time to train this bad habit out of me.

How is the jar going to work?

When I am called out for a posting diagonal during class, I'll count that and multiply the number of times I'm called out, with $2.00; with the total going into my posting diagonal jar. The lesson posts will include both the tag (posting diagonal jar) and the tally at the end. At my next riding anniversary, I will summarize the total and then look to donate to a specific charity which helps horses (or cats, if I can't find one that is geared to horses).

Note: updated cost after further reflection

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Worm Bin Winterization

I don't know about how the weather is where you're at but just north of me, they're getting snow. It's not even past Halloween yet! "Winter is coming" is the motto of House Stark (Game of Thrones). The words behind this motto is one of warning and constant vigilance. It's very reassuring for someone like me, actually. We don't get a winter quite like the characters of the story but regardless, us Canadians have a lot of winterizing to do before the frost sets in and the snow starts. I have been slowly working in the garden to clean up and get things ready for the winter and for next spring. I wanted to try my hand at planting garlic for next year and I have planted 10 bulbs and cleared out the remaining legumes. I still have a little left for clean up but the major items have been cleared up and I've also take in my vermicomposting bin.

I'll go through the steps I took, to get things ready:
  1. I made space for my bin in the basement. It is returning to its old spot.
  2. The bin was cleaned up by washing the exterior with a powerful spray of water and sifting through the compost to ensure that everything is still healthy.
  3. I do the clean up outside.
  4. While sifting through the compost, I am looking for ear wigs (ugh) and other critters that are not desireable to be found in a worm bin. I pull these out and dispose of them back into nature.
  5. I washed the outer bin that acts as a catch all and the lid.
  6. I notice a lot of mites in the bin. These look like tiny brown specks all over the walls of the bin. I make the effort to wipe down what I could see and get rid of as many as I can.
  7. All washed parts of the bin are left to try and then put back together and brought inside.
My worms seem to be pretty happy but the quality of compost is questionable in my mind. I see that they have eaten most of what's there and there is really only very fibrous items still remaining but the paper doesn't seem to break down enough. I envisioned that there would be a lot more "dirt" and less of the broken down paper bits. I'm not sure what I should be seeing here but I thought it should be more homogenous. I've since mixed things around and added a dry layer of newspaper shreds. I haven't had to wet down my shreds anymore because the moisture from the bin is enough to get new paper wet.

Next steps? It's becoming more self-sufficient but now I have to do some research about what the ideal compost should look like and what I need to do, to achieve that.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Get Up, Stand Up

I used to be that kid... you know, the one that would hide and give up for fear of failure. I was forced to learn to play the piano, get extra math and English tutoring as well as being pushed to excel academically. I did none of these things well, I admit. And, I'm still uncomfortable with failure but with age, I've gotten better at accepting both--a certain level of 'failure' as well as redirecting the fear to something that will help push me to succeeding. Sometimes brilliantly and other times not so much.

No, I didn't have a sudden near-death experience to illicit a fire under my arse but I've been left with my own thoughts about success and failure in a broader term and realized that I can sit here with the fear keeping me seated; or I can get up and do something about it and take control, and either work to excel or stare fear in the face and make the active choice to do what I can and still fail anyways. But, at least I tried.

What am I referring to? I'm on my way to my first piano lesson (again), tonight. Renewing my musical relationship, is on my "bucket list" and naturally, with the way things have been going, I've taken the decision that I want to revive my dormant memory and skills as now's as good a time as any. When I was being coerced to take it, I struggled with always being much less capable than my (younger) brother; he picked up the sight-reading and the tempos and scales like a duck to water. I, on the other hand was like a cod fish on land: totally out of my element. So, I mentally gave up. I figured it would be sufficient to muddle through to complete my RCM grade 8 and stop. I didn't have any interest to do more but figured that at least I 'accomplished' something. This uncomfortable sense of 'accomplishment' I garnered though, stayed with me in the back of my mind reminding me that I didn't really deserve to feel good about being able to say I completed my grade 8; I could barely sight-read. I have not touched the piano in over a decade now and we have two pianos at home: a grand and a small upright.

But, as my friend Dave reminds me, "You're an adult now. You can play whatever you want.". So, my decision is to start up bi-weekly lessons with a local teacher at the Piano Studio Etobicoke. My game plan is to hone and develop my abilities so that I am able to play the new scores I bought yesterday at Song & Script Music Store. I've always wanted to be able to play some of the greatest songs both classically and on-screen or stage and this is my chance to get back 'on stage'.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Lesson #57: Bliss

We visited a little slice of heaven on Friday (Oct 18, 2013) in place of our regular weekly lessons at Greyden. This facility is stunning: the stable is built into the rolling hills of the property and is bright, clean and solidly built. The indoor arena is also HUGE. I don't know the exact dimensions but I would happily guess that it is twice the size of Greyden's. It didn't take a lot longer to get there but the route we took is slightly different. Our instructor's specialty is dressage herself but she also teaches hunter-jumper. All the disciplines that I really want to work towards because I'm interested in (what I'd consider) the highest level of horsemanship: eventing. Not only do you have to be an incredibly proficient rider in several different areas but the relationship bond between horse and rider must be unshakeable.

I know. Are you swooning like I am? I've been on cloud nine since Friday and haven't been able to stop thinking about our experience. I even got up on a Monday (MONDAY!!) morning with pep in my step on my way to work. Sure, I fell asleep and missed my stop but who cares? I'm feeling like a million bucks! I even greeted my coworkers with a cheery "good morning!" to which they grumbled or ignored me. Again, not something I do but I didn't care what was going through their minds b/c I floated in. So, onwards to my lesson!

When we arrived, I was assigned a chubby Appaloosa mare named Ariel. She's a cremello colour which almost looks white to me; and she's got these bright blue eyes and spots on her extremeties. It's nice to be riding a horse that isn't a pony; she's approximately 15.1 hh which is perfect (though I do love a 16hh+ horse) for me. But, like most animals, she's got a mischevous glint in her eye and dirt all over her back, loin and croup. Time to get working.

We put ourselves together and walk into the arena to put ourselves together and mount our steeds. We're reminded that because these horses are not "schoolies", they are sensitive to aids and we do not need to excessively ask. We have our usual warm up of trotting around this big arena and wow; Ariel only needs a teeny squeeze and off she goes. I consistently forget about my diagonals and have to be reminded to check. I should actively check regularly and see if I can feel when I'm riding incorrectly. That said, we do quite a bit of trotting around and I start to realize that I'm pretty unfit and I tire and my legs and my cardio systems remind me that I need to continue to work on that. Cycling Sunday mornings, here I come!

Next, the canter. I've been experiencing issues with getting Trinket to canter in both the indoor and outdoor rings lately. I shift my outside leg back and she takes off like an F-16. No pulling down, no deeking about and no dropping down in speed. We canter around several times and I can hear the air whistling past me and I continue with a giant smile on my face. Since the ring is large, I don't feel like the walls are too close to me and we both comfortably lap around several times. To slow down, I remember that I should be sitting up straighter and making myself slightly more rigid and gently squeezing my reins to tell her that I intend to slow down. There is no fighting: she drops out of the canter and we're back in the trot and I barely have to pull back before she slows further to a walk.

Our final exercise is a small x-jump which we take at the trot but these girls and guy actually jump over the jump even in trot. My 2-point is weak here and I find myself either leaning onto her crest or pulling on her just before the jump. I'm reminded that when she jumps and I'm in my 2-point position, she'll come up to me so there is no need for me to lean so far forward--just stick my butt back and out. I still need to find my 'sweet spot' here as I progress forward. One day this will just come together and I'll be moving forward to getting into a showing/competitive state. Until then!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lesson #56: You Lift Me Up

It's Thanksgiving weekend for us Canucks and it's the weekend of the Erin Fall Fair. However, ADW and I don't get to go to the fair but we do get up Sunday morning to go riding. It's rainy though, so we end up indoors; and it doesn't really bother me anymore, to ride indoors, because I feel like I've gotten more control over things and speeding around doesn't seem so darned scary.

I'm assigned to ride Trinket. But, I receive this news with a bit of apprehension. I have been having trouble with Trinket to get her into the canter for several lessons now and I can't seem to figure out what's wrong with me. Yes, me. Not her. I've learned that animals are a lot smarter than we give them credit for so likely, she's perfectly understanding what's being asked of her but she isn't doing it for some reason that I haven't yet figured out.

I speed around trying to initiate canter and every time, I get close but it doesn't seem to follow though. I am falling all over the place and leaning forward more and more. It's an incredibly frustrating stint. Lenka even tells me, "you ask her nice once... and if she ignores you, you demand it of her. Kick harder and I don't care how you look like". I kick as hard as I can when I try for the umpteenth time and she only manages to speed around. *sigh*

Lenka asks if I want her to give it a whirl and see if she can figure out what might be wrong with her because my aids are right and I'm asking for the initiation in the corners. It's when I stand holding onto Trinket do I realize that Lenka is a lot taller than I am and getting on a pony looks kind of funny on her ;) Regardless! She also kicks and pushes Trinket to get into a canter but she can't seem to stay in it. This time, she tries something different: she lifts her head up with the reins while asking. And off she goes!

Lenka tells me that I need to lift Trinket off to initiate the canter. The thing is, the more experienced girls ride and show her so I'm sure that a good portion of the error is attributed to my lack of developed skill. Trinket leans on the bit and pulls herself along with her front instead of motoring through with her backside. This can't be good that her hind end is a little on the weaker side. I do remember this comment during another lesson and it makes sense now. But, I'm glad that I've figured that out! Hopefully I can continue to work with her to get at least myself up to par so that my weight is shifted back into the seat and onto her hind end.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lesson #55: Frustration Rising

Sometimes things don't get better and you just continue on the bad path you've started down; this was one of those kinds of lessons. I rode Trinket again and I had a good deal of trouble getting her into the canter. The last few lessons have been a real test of my patience and self confidence getting into the canter with Trinket. But, it hasn't always been like this. I worked up to the point where I was able to canter her indoors in a smaller space with control. It was a very satisfying accomplishment as I slowly worked up to the ability to do that. But, today was rough because she didn't get into the canter despite me pushing her.

Instead of the usual posting or seated trot, we focused on extending and shortening our trot. Lengthening a trot has a horse cover more ground and the strides are literally longer. This seems to also mean that they go faster. Shortening is more 'march like' where they are covering less ground and it's closer to them marching. When we were lengthening, we were asked to push them forward and to post with an exaggerated post but going away from home. Shortening the trot was done in the direction towards home and in a seated trot.

Our next exercise was trot poles laid in a closer measurement where we are required to shorten their stride so that there is one foot fall between each pole and no poles are missed. This is not as easy as it looks and if they're not careful, they can stop on the poles or miss them entirely. Following this exercise, Jennifer lengthens the distance between the poles and says now we are to extend our trot and still end up with a single foot fall between each pole. Not easy. If you don't lengthen enough, they have two foot falls between each pole and that's wrong. So, you need to have them really move forward and reach for that next step.

From there, we get into something different: gymnastics. Jennifer was basically asking for the horse to do a line of multiple jumps and moving through it into a canter. First few times was a trot through it and we ended up in canter b/c there was so little space between the jumps that they had no choice but to canter out. What a neat feeling! You have no space for a half seat or anything and you stay in the 2-point for the entire line. She even goes as far as to triple the jumps and the horses have to leap leap leap canter.

After going through with trot, we're asked to get into a canter to go into the jumps as well as continue out of it. This has become another lesson like the last few, with Trinket. I am frustrated because she won't start into the canter and seems to be able to get out with a canter but not after pulling me so far forward that I am pushing against her crest/whithers to get back up. I'm clearly being pulled down far too much. The canter has become a really frustrating experience for me as no matter what I try, I am being pulled down and the canter is becoming non-existent because neither of us are able to get into it.

I finish this lesson feeling frustrated with the situation and unclear about what I need to do, to get myself back up and her moving into a canter. But, I have had quite the experience jumping through those gymnastics!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lesson #54: Anniversary

October 4, 2013

It is literally 1 year to the day, when NR and I started riding at Greyden. A lot has happened since then and I feel like the best thing to do is to review how far I've come. We've got a new instructor tonight and since the lesson focused around what we know and what we can do, I thought it might be beneficial for me to review the things I've accomplished, to date, and to review goals and direction.

In order for this comprehensive list to be relevent, I"ve checked out the Equine Canada handbook of Rider Level Program, Levels 1-10 for the English Discipline. It appears this is a rudimentary manual for all English riders to aspire towards before deciding to specialize in a specific area of English riding. These areas could be anywhere from Dressage to Eventing to Jumping.

There are extensive requierments within the manual and at this point, I am comfortably past level 1 and nearly completed level 2. I have a few items to master in level 2:
  • Know how often the ferrier should visit a horse (I'm sure I can find this information online somewheres...)
  • Be able to tie a quick release knot (I tied one of these when I was a kid but I can't remember and we never need to do it in the school right now)
  • Know the reasons for cleaning tack and the method involved (I would know this if I didn't miss 'spa day' back in May)
  • Preparation and accuracy between the letters. Riders are not necessarily proficient at canter at this level (my canter is something I continue to struggle with)
  • Riding 20m circles of the correct size (i.e. going to tangent points) (I ride some sort of circle... but 20m exactly? I'm not sure)
There are some items in level 3 which I have familiarity with but there still is a lot that I haven't gotten through yet. But, for 1 year of weekly riding, this isn't too bad!

In terms of my lesson today... I need to work on the canter with Trinket because I have a tendency to be heavy on her forehand which only makes matters worse. My shoulders collapse and I lean forward to initiate the canter which is exactly what you don't want to be doing. With this mare, doing that makes it difficult for her to initiate the canter since she tends to be heavy on the forehand anyways; all that is accomplished is that she speeds up in the trot and I just bump around uncomfortably!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lesson #53: Front Heavy

Sunday September 29, 2013

I've got a long day ahead of me but what better way to start it than to be riding! I'm on my own today, to get everything done. The lesson with Trinket is a good start to the day. Since it's an outdoor lesson, we work on getting our gaits going and Lenka challenges us to a sort of "course" with trot poles. We're asked to start a canter and then transition to a trot and then trot over poles and then re-initiate the canter and then trot over some more poles and completes with a canter. Easy enough to comprehend what is being asked but I certainly had a good deal of difficulty getting through this. My initial canter worked just fine and I even transitioned down into a trot. But, getting back into the canter was a total nightmare. I was struggling and Trinket was only going faster and faster. Nothing worked despite my urging and pushing.

Lenka pointed out that I was leaning forward and my shoulders were hunching forward. It isn't that Trinket is not listening... but she tends to be heavy on the forehand so when I tip forward and my weight gets onto her front end, it must put her out of balance and make it difficult for her to initiate the canter. So, instead of am bumping around in a seated trot with my posture totally out of alignment and my shoulders rounding forward with her pulling me down and forward.

This is certainly not my most graceful moment on this mare so I do try to continue to push forward and try again but I also recognize that I will have to do something about my own posture to get this right. It isn't her... she's clearly capable of doing a canter but I would say that she's probably not feeling balanced enough to initiate it and nobody wants to trip.

This was a frustrating lesson and I hope that my luck will be better next lesson.

The rest of the day was me driving out in the country to get to Stratford/Sebringville. It's such a wonderful drive out that way and I have a great time driving out on country roads on my own. It was a great break to be out on my own zipping around in ADW's car ;)

The best part? I'm on my way to do a food pick up this afternoon. Starting with my trip to Sebringville/Stratford to pick up my half Berkshire pig carcass. That's right folks, I'm going to pick up ~100lbs of delicious heritage pork. I always say, pork is supposed to be fatty. If it isn't, why aren't you eating chicken or something even less fatty? There's nothing wrong with fat. Especially when the animal is raised naturally and happily. I arrive and pick up 2 large boxes of my pig and head home with an additional 100lbs in the back.

I won't get into too much detail as I'll save that post for another day but the farm that I went to is called Perth Pork Products and they raise several heritage breeds that taste like the pork that used to be eaten. mmmmm mmm delicious!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Flying Lead Change

I realize that I forgot to outline what a flying lead change is, during my post about my latest stay-cation vacation. We learn what a flying lead change is but I didn't explain what that might be, for the rest of you. The lead change happens in mid-air during the canter. The canter is the third gait of a horse and it involves 3 foot falls and follows this sequence (in a circle):
  1. outside hind
  2. inside hind + outside front
  3. inside front
The objective of proper leads is primarily for proper balance of the horse and is very important if you're doing jumping and less so if you're riding a straight line. The concept is similar to trot diagonals.

Here's a thorough video about what it is...