Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dressage Lesson 8

I took my last Texas-based Dressage Lesson today. It was both exhilarating and very sad. It was my first lesson with my new saddle, and my trainer showed me how to sit and ride in it properly, including the always elusive sitting trot. It was also the last time I might train with my very wonderful and challenging instructor, and so a lot of things were left unsaid.

But to stay focused for a moment, Brego and I had a serious case of the lazies. It was a warm, sunny day and neither one of us had gotten much riding done the previous couple of weeks. So the ever-present "go when I say go" battle was in full swing. We also spent some time working on me using my abs properly in my saddle to let my legs hand loose and "breathing". It's quite a different sensation than the huntseat I have been riding in for, say, 25 years. In huntseat, I learned to hold with my thighs and inner calves and let my hip angle close by letting my belly fall forward with each stride. Today, I learned to hold myself with a tight stomach and let my thighs and legs fall relaxed. It took quite a bit of effort, but I was just starting to see what my trainer was trying to show me. I even attempted a couple of circles of sitting trot, which was not quite right, until I learned how to "bicycle" my thighs to keep my abs engaged. Whew! That shamed me quite a bit... got to get to those pilates classes!

We also worked with Brego on his keeping his hind end animated and engaged, even while moving at a slower pace. He tends to let his motor die out and drift onto his forehand when he shuffles around. Or more accurately, I let him do those things by dropping my gut. So we worked on me driving with my seat and playing with my hands to ask him to come up to me while my trainer worked to my side with a long whip and asked him to pick up his rear legs "faster" to keep the tempo. I must say, Brego is one smart cookie. He figured out how to respond properly to the whip cues from my trainer with very little fuss and repetition.

The work we did today with the whip cues will lay the foundation for more advanced moves such as a proper collected walk and piaffe, all of which, according to my trainer, will help strengthen Brego so he can perform the lower level movements, such as a simple canter, lightly and with great impulsion.

My trainer is so taken with Brego and with his great mind, that she has offered to take him into full time training while I am in New Hampshire, until I can bring him up in May. It's a great idea, and one I am seriously considering. It would be wonderful to have someone I trust work with Brego and teach him all the things I don't even know I don't know, while I am getting settled in New Hampshire for the next two months. The only drawback is that I started this journey with Brego to see what I could do with him. I am an adult amateur with very little formalized training. I mean, this is my eighth dressage lesson ever. It seems almost cheating to have a super pro work with Brego for a month. But in my heart, I know I am being selfish. I have already proven that I can bring Brego along, albeit slowly and with great patience on his part.

It would be unfair of me to let him sit in a field, getting very out of shape, for two months, when he can get some clear lessons with consistent aids to keep his brain and body active. I can tell he gets frustrated sometimes when my cues are muddled or come too late. It's a great opportunity, I just need to swallow my pride. Plus, I still have jumping training to mess with. :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I've been tagged by the always interesting Wiola over at Freeland Instructor's Diary (Love the blog, by the way!). So in the spirit of being a good citizen of the blogosphere, here's my tag entry.

The rules are...

You must post the rules before you give your answers.

After you've been tagged, you need to update your blog with your middle name and answers.

You must list one fact about yourself for each letter of your middle name.

Each fact must begin with that letter.

If you don't have a middle name, just use your maiden name/last name.

At the end of your post, you need to tag one person for each letter of your middle name. (Be sure to leave them a comment telling them they've been tagged and need to read your blog for details).

Here are my fun facts, that most people find interesting, after a beer or two:

N - I am a total Nerd. I love my new MacBook Pro. Yummy.
I - I played Ice Hockey for a women's team before moving to Texas.
C - I have a Canadian Marriage, eh?
O - I read Math and Philosophy at Oxford University
L - I am Lazy, which has its good points because it makes me more...
E - Efficient at work. Why write code that's readily available in the open source community?

I am going to need to work on my six tagees... To be continued.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Last Hurrah in Tejas

On Sunday, I took Brego out to a fun park on Granger Lake for one last hurrah before the frenzied packing begins. Between interviewing and preparing to move, Brego has received little work in the last week. But he still was a complete blast as we trotted and cantered around the park.

A recent flood had swept tree trunks across the trails, providing perfect cross country obstacles to canter over. One tree in particular formed a really impressive fence, about 3' tall at its highest. It was laid across a gravel road. I sized it up from a distance and then circled Brego around it. I wanted to see how he would handle the unusual fence without schooling it first, knowing his looky loo tendencies. Brego and I picked up a canter down the gravel road and as we approached the log, I zeroed in on the highest spot. Brego went exactly where I placed him, ignoring the obviously easier paths, and cleared the jump with such enthusiasm, that I was completely floored. Luckily, the moment was captured.

This picture, dear Readers, exemplifies everything about Brego which makes him truly special. I am so proud of him. He is brave, honest, and surprisingly talented. He has the soundness, of both limb and brain, to face new challenges with confidence. I don't know what I have done in my life to deserve such a horse, but I recognize that I am truly lucky.

When we jump like this, I regret taking the spring season off to move. After we later attempted to jump a 6 log course, however, I am glad I made the decision. With everything going on, neither one of us are conditioned enough to jump a full course, not to mention the other two phases. Sadly, I am the one most lacking in fitness, but I still don't think I would have the time to get either one of us in shape in time for the March 8th season opener. Oh well, I can do what I can and hope to restart conditioning in the summer.

Brego is not just a great eventer, he is a great companion in adventure. In a previous post, I mentioned that even though Brego has done many things in his short life, he is lacking in one quintessential skill for a Texas horse: herding cows. His days of being a Texan are numbered, but I still seized the opportunity to move some cows in the park. It was a valiant effort and Brego was pretty brave, but not exactly the model of efficiency. Things got particularly dicey when a bull stared us down and refused to move. Undaunted, we circled around for an easier mark and successfully moved a few heifers before running back to our buddies. Bulls, in case you didn't know, are mean. And scary.

A great day on a great horse. This memory will keep me when I am missing Brego over the next couple of months.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Big Plans for a Big Horse

I've been a bit remiss in adding blog entries recently because I have traveled to New England to interview for a position with a company in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. They have been so gracious as to offer me a great job and a great opportunity. So the next two months will be spent relocating from Texas to New Hampshire, no small undertaking.

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As such, the spring show season has been abandoned and I am spending my time packing the house, switching banks, reserving Uhaul trucks, etc. Not nearly as much fun as showing, but guaranteed to be twice as stressful!

There are many reasons why I am making this move, but a large one is that in New Hampshire, I will be able to afford a beautiful farm and have Brego at home. Oh yes, the big boy is coming with me! The current plan is to move him and Hobby up at the end of April. We have already located a wonderful farm near my temporary housing which has an indoor arena and excellent pasture board. I think Brego will be much happier in a colder climate (as it's 80 degrees already in February and he is miserable) and the eventing scene can only be better than it is here.

Also, as a side bonus, the long term goals of this farm include a cross country field, but also to be a sustainable horse-powered farm. I will likely start a second blog for that adventure, since it is sure to generate lots of amusing content.

But in the meantime, my updates will be sparse as I will unfortunately be away from Brego for a full month until I can drive him up. I am planning on taking a good 10 days to make the trip, in order to stop at some pretty amazing parks along the way and get a few "reunion" rides in. Then I will be a regular poster again as we get to know our new Area 1 eventing region.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Can't Argue with Destiny

I have been discussing ponying up the money for a dressage saddle for awhile. Well, ever since Brego started really rocking in dressage. I knew from my experience with his custom Borné eventing saddle, that it would be very difficult to find a used saddle that would fit him. I did assume, however, that it would be slightly easier to find a dressage saddle that would fit a large, broad-backed horse than a jumping saddle. For some reason, jumping saddles aren't usually made for drafts...

Anyway, I really love my jumping saddle. It is custom made for his back and my butt and I love its balance and gorgeous looks. Borné is known, if they are recognized at all, as a dressage saddle maker. If they could do so well on my jumping saddle, I knew I wanted a Borné dressage saddle as well. So I would flirt with the idea with my saddle-fitter/Borné rep. She said the model of Borné should would recommend would be a Levade. Oh, what a beautiful saddle, and so Baroque sounding! But the price is (fairly) high and I also needed a new laptop.

So I finally made the decision to go with the laptop and decided that Brego would have to make due with his one custom saddle (which cost twice as much as he did, by the way).

So along comes an ad on the internet for a used Borné saddle. A used Borné Levade saddle. A used Borné Levade saddle in a wide tree. A used Borné Levade saddle in a wide tree with a seat size perfect for my, er, bum. Could it be? A perfect storm designed to spend my money??

I talked to my saddler and the owner of Borné Saddlery herself tracked down the original owner of the saddle and compared the tracings done for her horse to Brego, which she conveniently had on file from my jumping saddle, and declared the saddle just might work! And, as if that wasn't enough customer service, she told me that if I bought it and it didn't work, she would purchase it from me for resale so I would not be at risk of losing my money!!

Did I mention I love Borné?

So I bought it. And tonight I rode in it. And it's a little like falling in love all over again. This saddle is even nicer than my jumping saddle, if that's possible. The leather is amazing, so soft and supple. And it was in mint condition, no scratches or rubs, even from the stirrup leathers.

I can't wait to get a lesson in it with my trainer, so I can learn to actually ride in the luxurious thing. It is really different than my jumping saddle, comfortable and stable, but without being constrictive. It's the first real dressage saddle I have ridden in, so there is quite a bit of a learning curve for my legs to grow long. But for now, Brego has two amazingly nice saddles, and I am the luckiest person around (for more than one reason!).