Posted tagged ‘horse’

Mountain Trail Clinic

May 28, 2022

Jigs and I attended a mountain trail clinic last weekend at Salmon River Horse Park in upstate New York. Cathy Drumm is a wonderful clinician. We attended a few western dressage/working equitation clinics with her already where she showed me about slowing down and being softer- something I need to do beyond horses. Funny how that works.

Normally I’m impatient doing groundwork but I surprised myself by gaining new techniques that filled holes in my knowledge and will translate to riding.

Texas Two Step

Over the years Jigs and I competed in versatility where fastest time through the obstacles wins. Horsemanship was not considered which led to bad habits. We completed courses but it was not pretty. In mountain trail challenges, you are judged on horsemanship and obstacles. Time may be a factor but only a small portion of the overall scores.

Swinging Bridge

Getting Jigs over the obstacles is not an issue, it the how we go over and the maneuver. Halt, turn, backup and straightness trip us up and deny good scores. Slowing down, keeping my hands from pulling on the turns is difficult for me which makes it hard for him. I want to do better for us both.

Water Box

It was a fun weekend full of confidence building accomplishments. It is the first time we cantered in the water! We didn’t look pretty but we did it!  At the end of the clinic, there was a mock challenge with a judge who gave us scores and feedback. The first thing she told me was I was biting my lip coming into the course. I should relax and smile. Really good advice. Another was hip before hands! Brain knows but the body is still learning. We came away with new tools and a lot to work on!

Adult Lessons

May 12, 2022

I have not posted in a while. Lessons and clinics consume my weekends, work my weekdays, several contain a commute. 

Lessons are focused on breaking through the barrier of insecurity and fear. Trail riding is a rare event as I work to become a better rider for my 19-year-old pony. I know it’s silly to anthropomorphize horse behavior, but Jigs truly seems to enjoy the first half hour of our lessons- especially the cantering part. Beyond that, not so much.  

Working Equitation Clinic

Fun moments are strung between frustrating ones.  I’m relearning to balance both trot and canter. Proper riding is critical for elder fitness.

I struggle with turns on the forehand, turns on the haunches. Last lesson my instructor put a whip through my elbows and behind my back to retrain my hands – like a kid learning the basics. But I understand this is needed to get clean turns.  Years of structureless riding built up bad habits of hands, body, and mind. Retraining is hard but then there are the moments when it comes together, and we get a neat turn or canter to a clean stop between poles. There is a glimmer of what can be.

Days are longer, Summer, nearly here. There will be more lessons, clinics, and maybe even a few competitions. Balancing the canter is not unlike life, it’s about slowing down, sometimes even stopping to gather yourself and try again.

“Losing the Plot”

February 17, 2022

I am losing the plot

I am grieving the end of superwoman-ing

I have laid down my cape

As though I haven’t risen like a phoenix from a thousand deaths

As though I haven’t been reborn to notice that my mission is not dead yet

Alanis Morissette – Losing the Plot

My daughters love Alanis Morrisette. She was an inspiration to them in the 90s. I was young enough to appreciate Jagged Little Pill too. Raw and honest, she gave us permission to be angry, to rage, to be crazy, to love, to stand up for ourselves.

Over the years we have gone to Alanis concerts together. We saw the musical Jagged Little Pill at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA, and again the first month it opened on Broadway. What an amazing pre-covid New York memory that is.

I have come to love adult Alanis. Her last album, Such Pretty Forks in the Road, contains mature female angst. The struggle of balancing family, work, joy, depression, anger….  The wide swings from ordinary, to extraordinary, to sadness, to madness, it is all there.

Adulting is hard. Finding balance between bliss and drudgery is maddening. Some days there is no time. Fear trips the scale toward unbearable, leading to avoidance. Awareness of mortality is a buzz kill.

Cookies?

Not much riding since fall. Weather, time, obligations, and avoidance are barriers.  Most weekdays I do not visit Jigs. On a good day, I get to sneak to the barn at lunch and play treat dispenser. I rarely ride any longer. Some days we just walk.

For now, that must be enough.   

Walking with the pony

The snow is melting and the mud will dry. Lessons start next week. We are signed up for clinics.

I sing along with with Alanis, “the fire is not out yet.”

More Goddard Park Memories

November 12, 2021

I love riding at Goddard Memorial State Park in Warwick RI.  6-miles of woodsy trails run parallel to Greenwich Cove. The views are spectacular. Off seasons, horses are allowed on the beach. Over the years, Jigs and I have collected memories of sun, friends, and even spooky moments there.

During one of our first rides, Jigs spooked sideward at a squirrel, mid canter. Miraculously I stayed with him. My friends behind me commented we looked like Wile E Coyote getting jumped by the Roadrunner. I still chuckle thinking of it.

Another time Jigs kept creeping up on the mare in front, despite my best efforts. She got fed up with our rudeness. He took both back hooves in the center of his chest. I can still hear to hollow sound of the connection.

Even after years of visiting the park, Jigs refuses to canter in the water, but waves and boats no longer trouble him.

Last Sunday we made a few more memories. Thank you to my friends, Bethany of Pictorial Tales Photography and Kathy for the lovely photos!

The point
Along the Bay
The Bay

If you get a chance to ride there, I encourage you to make some memories of your own.

Comfort Zone

August 22, 2021

As I sit awaiting tropical storm Henri, I reflect on last weekend’s adventures. It’s easy to stay within your comfort zone, but growth comes from challenging yourself.

Saturday Jigs and I competed in the Mountain Trail Challenge at Mountain Lane Farm in Temple, New Hampshire. Their mountain trail course was designed by Mark Bolender. It is the only one in New England. We completed one of Mountain Lanes’ clinics in May with friends so that we could attend course play days, but we never made time to do that.

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I decided to attend their August competition anyway. After all, I bought the new trailer so that we could try different things. This was the first time I trailered Jigs alone since acquiring the Featherlite. He’s been iffy backing off it, but it was not an issue for him Saturday!

Swinging Bridge – Photo Courtesy Mountain Lane Farm
Water – Photo Credit Mountain Lane Farm

My goal was to compete in four classes, Level I Rider which is walk over moving obstacles and Level II Rider, walk, trot, which includes 180 and 360-degree turns. In retrospect, I probably should have done Novice and Level I since 360-degree turns are a work in progress for us! We also could be crisper side-passing and backing up.  On the other hand, Level II was a stretch and I now know what to focus on.

Well Earned Snack

We placed in both Level I classes, Open and Adult taking 3rd and a 4th. There were some amazing horse and riders in our division, and I am proud of our placings.  After ribbons were handed out, the judge came by and paid us a compliment. She said she saw Jigs and I have a great partnership! I was glowing.

Try- 360 Top of the Cake – Photo Courtesy of Mountain Lane Farm
Balance Beam – Photo Courtesy of Mountain Lane Farm

I doubt we placed in Level II but I do not know. I ended up scratching our last Level II class because I needed to be home by 4. I would have stayed if it was not for the commitment. While we were not competitive, I am proud of Jig’s try.

Bridge on the Course – Photo Courtesy Mountain Lane Farm

There is another competition in October; I’m planning to go!

Sunday was the second adventure. We attended the Baystate Trail Riders Associations’ Galloping Gourmet Ride at Lake Dennison! The ride covered BSTRA’s permanently marked 10-mile route. Unlike trails closer to home, there are few rocks and miles to move out. I think it was the fastest 10 miles I ever rode!

Bridge on Galloping Gourmet Ride

This year I have been struggling with letting Jigs canter on trails due to his tendency to “spook” at things I cannot see. (I laughingly rolled off him trotting at Miles Standish when he swerved at an old car fender trailside.)  His trot is fast enough to keep up with our cantering friends, so it is not an issue. This time, I let go for a few stretches and allowed him canter. Yes, he had a tiny spook but nothing I couldn’t handle.

HI

I’ve been thinking about the line between fear and comfort zone. In my head it gets jumbled up. There is a difference though. Thursday, we had a rare tornado warning as the remnants of Fred passed through the area. When the government emergency alert hit my phone, a sharp quiver jolted my nerves. The hair on my arms stood up. My brain fell apart. I was on a conference call and literally could not understand the speaker’s words. This was primal, instinctual. It told me to MOVE. I’m sure there is a scientific term for this.

Then there is the fear that hovers like a dull headache, always present just below my consciousness, encroaching on my comfort zone. It is shadowy, nebulous, yet it nudges me toward conservative choices- less MOVE, more STAY.

Things such as flying through the woods have become harder. I’m too aware of mortality, of what if, of worst-case scenario. I cannot allow that to take away the joy of loping through the woods or completing up a level. Even in my 60s, I can learn, grow and feel the joy of loping through the woods.

2/21/21 – Or Aging Not So Gracefully

February 21, 2021

3 twos and 2 ones- patterns everywhere.

Into the Woods

February’s pattern is snow and more snow with a few warmish (in the upper 20s low 30s) days between. Footing on the trails is decent. We know where water pools into ice beneath it and are careful- maybe too careful.

Last weekend Jigs and I even managed some extended loping behind my friend and her wonderful mustang. Loping is rare for me on these trails. Without the snow they are rocky and uneven with tree roots.

At 3 plus 60, I have become a cautious rider, almost fearful. I do not canter unless sure of the footing. I no longer ride on the road when alone.

Today Jigs was full of exuberance. He wanted to run when I wanted to jog. My hesitation was a buzz kill. It nearly came to a rare argument.

I feel bad.

Feel bad that I did not give him a chance to stretch out.

Feel bad that I slowed my friend down.

Feel bad not to be that little girl who could fly without consequence.

There is no cure for aging. We shrink. Our bodies lose flexibility. Our bones get brittle. We no longer bounce, even with snow on the ground.

When a Blue Ribbon is an Epic Fail

November 24, 2020
Blue

A few weeks ago, Jigs placed first at a versatility. It was totally unexpected and not our best performance…ahem… well, not MY best performance. I took him off course and totally skipped an obstacle.  Not sure how we won our division….

What is worse is I rode the course and 4 trail miles without my helmet. When someone asked where it was at mile 2, I froze. My brain was foggy.  I went back and retrieved it from my truck to finish the second loop.

Riding without a helmet is a huge NO for me. I have fallen enough times to know its value. When I flew off Pepper onto the pavement, my Troxel was cracked front to back.  That would have been my head.

And there was the time I got bucked off hard and ended up in the ER with a bruised hip. That night I had also forgotten my helmet but remembered as I started to mount. I ran back to the barn to get it. Who knows what would have happened if I had not?

Riding with a helmet is my rule.

I have been struggling with Vertigo over the last month. One episode was so bad my daughter took me to the ER. A saline drip and a few meds got me through that frightening morning.

A follow up visit to my doctor resulted in removal of wax and another appointment to check on my blood pressure. I have been doing exercises to help reposition the crystals in my ears, but the dizziness is recurring.

My daughter who is an ER medic has been taking my blood pressure almost daily. Seems like I may suffer from white coat syndrome as it is still high but not dangerously high as it was in the ER and the Doctor’s office.

I suspect my physical issues reflect the world around me. 2020 has been stressful for EVERYONE. I must keep reminding myself how lucky I am. Maybe that is why I do not feel like I earned a blue ribbon for a less than perfect performance- even though Jigs was joyful on the course.

Joyful

My problems are first world. I have food, a place to live, and a horse to ride, while others wait in line for hours to get a box of food so their families can eat.

Thanksgiving is approaching. I will focus on being thankful. The undeserved blue ribbon is a reminder of how lucky I have been in this long, stressful year.

Camping at Myles Standish

September 18, 2020

Jigs and I had a fabulous time horse camping at Myles Standish State Forest (MSSF). Unlike Otter Creek where we stayed in a luxury “cabin” and turnout, I slept in a tent near Jigs. All night, I could hear quiet munching through my sleep.

And I slept well. Better than on my new mattress at home. I broke down and bought a low-end air mattress for this trip. What a difference from sleeping on the ground or even a cot. The mattress supported my hip; I did not wake sore or stiff.

The trails off the horse camps at MSSF are soft and sandy. Footing allows for miles of canter and gallop, if so inclined- and this old lady was not. Campsites are minimal with water spigots between them. There is no electricity other than in the camp bathrooms.  Cell service was spotty at best.  True camping.

Swimming

Disengaged from reality, I relaxed.

It was great to spend four days with Jigs. As a boarder, I do not normally feed. It was fun to be the “food lady” for a change. There is a special bond between horse and the person who feeds. For a few days, I got to feel that again.

Feeding Time

Do I wish I could keep my horse home? Yes and no.  Yes, because I miss the joy of early morning feeding and the bond formed by more one on one interaction.  But boarding has widened my circle and there is usually someone to ride with. Jigs gets to be in a herd. These factors make boarding a good option for us.  I suspect if Jigs were home with me, I would not ride as much. He would not be happy without his herd.  

The Herd

Partners

April 18, 2020

Horses saved my life twice, once when I was a rebellious teen and again in middle age. I don’t speak much about the recurring depression that rises out of my insecurities, of my anxiety. The presence of my horse lifts this shadow. My eyes dilate when I gaze on him and I see the world as a more perfect place.  My breath slows to match his. My heart beats with his. Together, we remain in a moment where the past is gone and the future, immaterial.

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The human/equine symbiotic relationship is hard for non-horse lovers to understand. Some humans are born to bond with these magnificent beings. Our souls long for their presence. On their backs, we fly. We walk more confident beside them.

I am grateful for the grace my horse shares with me in these strange times. Perhaps, I am saved again.

New Coolers

November 11, 2019

I finally got around to taking photos of the two coolers Jigs won At the Eastern Regional Pleasure Trail Ride.  Can’t help but brag!

new cooler womens over 2019

Women’s Over 2019

jigs 2019 Ride Champion

2019 Ride Champion

We won a saddle at this ride in 2012 and have ribboned since, but not placed first.

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Unfortunately the saddle does not fit Jigs, so it sits in my cellar collecting dust.  I can’t bring myself to sell it…. that year the ride was dedicated to one of the organizers mother who was a founder of the ride. It was an honor to win it. And like this year, totally unexpected!