Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Crazy, eh?!

I just knew my lesson would be great last night. I started smiling in anticipation on the way to the stables last night from work. I couldn't wait to get there.

The herd was turned out to pasture just over a week ago, a couple of weeks later than usual because of the soggy conditions. Gem got his little turnout field back and is loving it! Last night was the first time this season I had to bring him in (usually he's brought in for me). I could see him dozing under the trees and I called him as I walked through gate. He looked and then trotted over to me! I did my usual greeting, gave him a rub and then hooked his lead rope. It was a great way to start our time together.

It was warm (27C) and sunny, so our lesson was going to be outside. Unfortunately, the dry sand in the front paddock made A LOT of dust as we did our warm up. At one point, I wasn't sure where LA was - I could hear her, but couldn't see her! :-) Time to move the lesson out on the grass. You can actually see where we had our lesson in my header picture. :-) Normally when we are in the fields, I start feeling that nervous butterfly thing in my stomach and then I start gripping the reins . Not last night. I was first through the gate. Gem and I walked around, checked out the cavellettis and the poles and wandered around a bit in the tall grass. I wanted to see what the terrain was like and I wanted him to feel the tall grass against his legs.

We started our warm up again, this time jogging over the poles and the cavellettis. Yes, you read that correctly. Me, Gem, grass, tall grass, open space, JOGGING OVER POLES AND CAVELLETTIS. I know! Crazy, eh?! My classmates, including CA, were amazed at my lack of hesitation. LA was yelling encouragement. Gem never faltered. He plowed through the tall grass and uneven terrain like it was nobody's business. I overheard one of my classmates say to another as we jogged around them that I had good balance. :-)

Then we came to the part in the lesson where LA asks us what we want to do. Jean and BF were ahead of me and decided they wanted to lope circles. Of course the circle was much bigger than what it would be in the paddock. :-) It was great to watch them loping in the grass. My turn. LA asked me what I wanted to do. "Lope." I know! Crazy, eh?! She never batted an eyelash. "Show us how it's done."

Gem's departure was great. He was relaxed and frankly, so was I. There was a brief moment as we were loping through the tall grass that I had a flashback of doing the same thing as a girl. The memory made me feel good and I started to grin. When we finished loping, LA commented that it was nice to see me smile.

I JOGGED and LOPED a number of times last night. I even jogged by a couple of the old horses that had come in from the other pastures to the paddock gate for their nightly grain treat. Didn't faze me. Gem did everything I asked him to do. While CA and LA were arranging a private lesson, Jean and I walked further into the middle of the pasture to cool our horses down; another first for me.

As we dismounted, LA approached me and said that I had taken a giant step. I was very pleased. Gem made it easy. I think our bond was strengthened just a little bit more last night. I trusted him and I think he trusted me. I untacked Gem and had a hard time leaving him. It was such a fantabulous lesson and I didn't want it to end, sort of felt like a terrific first date - remember?? :-) Jean mentioned at Burger and Beers that she had noticed a change in my confidence over the weekend and was impressed at my performance last night.

I am a little stiff today, but it's a good kind of stiff. As I mentioned in my previous post, I think I am entering into a new chapter with Gem. I am excited about it. I can't explain why last night was so different from others. Was it the Advil I took before lesson that loosened up my muscles? Perhaps it was that I had a very productive day at work and was on a roll. Maybe it was the 1/2 fudge brownie I had late in the afternoon. :-) I think that it's probably my new negative-free attitude and Gem is feeling it. Open spaces! Loping! Jogging! Look out! Here we come!!.....I just hope my body can hold up.... :-)

What was I thinking....?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Slamming a Door Shut

Well, thank goodness that's over with. My Husband has replaced my laptop and spent yesterday setting it up for me. I think he likes me. :-)

The last week has been a roller coaster of emotions for me. In general, I am a Steady Eddie. What you see is what you get. I like everyone to be happy, I believe in positive reinforcement and I try to approach things with a smile first. Not last week.

Tuesday before last's lesson was awful. Not awful technically....actually, I did pretty well....but awful personally. I didn't go for Burgers and Beers because I thought the top of my head was going to blow off and I would come across the table at someone. This was the first time I didn't go. At the end of lesson, I was telling LA that another boarder was going to show me some pleasure driving exercises for Gem. LA came down hard with discouraging this approach. Unfortunately, this conversation was taking place in front of my classmates. As LA finished telling me how Gem was going to turn into a fire breathing dragon and rip my arms off (my interpretation of her safety talk), CA contributed to the conversation by stating that SHE thought that Gem showed signs of disrespect towards me when we had free lunged him and he could be a problem in an unfamiliar situation. It was at this point, the top of my head was getting ready to blow off. I don't remember much after that. I felt like I had been ganged up on. I felt that the excitement that I felt for Gem's new found talent had been sucked out of me. I felt incompetent and a bit betrayed by LA and CA. I think it took me 5 minutes to untack Gem and water him and get the heck out of there.

Now granted, my stress level lately (Board Meeting, Dad's illness and surgery) has made my skin very thin. And, CA has always provided comments because we ride on Sundays, so there is that level of familiarity. But something that happens on a regular basis is that, when we go for Burger and Beers after lesson, Gem ends up being made an example of. Yep, because he's not a robot school horse he is considered a "challenge", according to some of my classmates. Usually, I just remind them in a smiley way that he's not a robot horse and we move on. But, the negativity has been percolating for a while now and has started to boil over. There would have been no way I could have sat through yet another conversation at Burger and Beers focused on how Gem could be improved or how he could kill me if I teach him to drive. It wouldn't have been pretty.

CA did reach out via email that night. She knew I was upset with her. I have a "sleep on it" rule, so I responded to her the next day. We met on Sunday to talk about it. It was not a satisfactory conversation really. She became defensive and so did I. According to CA, training and the environment at a stables is always negative. You learn by being told what you are doing wrong. I agree with that to a point (LA's teaching is positive and negative balanced, which I like). She did apologize for jumping in the conversation with LA, but she did tell me that I would have to accept that barn environment was negative in general and the comments she makes are "constructive criticism". I explained that if advice is asked for, yes, it's "constructive". But if it's unsolicited, then it's just rude and discouraging....for me, anyway. I pointed out that I would never initiate a negative conversation about her horse in front of others, so why wouldn't the same courtesy be extended to me? We walked away still friends, but I don't think our relationship will be the same.

I spoke to LA about it. She did agree that the conversation about driving could have been taken off-line, but she did reiterate that she was against having a non-professional person showing me how to do something that could potentially be dangerous if not handled properly. I totally agreed with her. We talked about barn environment and how I was finding that it was chipping away at my confidence. She had an excellent point; she told me that she overhears our conversations when CA and I ride in the arena on Sundays. She hears CA making comments, giving advice, telling me how to do things. LA pointed out that I had opened the door to negative feedback and familiarity by accepting it initially and then allowing it to continue. If I wanted things to change, then perhaps it was time to shut the door. She said that she would be more than willing to take 10 minutes out of her Sunday routine to show me how to do something or if I had a question about something I could always talk to her. She was very supportive and encouraging. She told me that my skill level is right on par with ALL other classmates and congratulated me (again) because I have to work twice as hard as they do because Gem is big and is not a school horse! I started to cry. :-)

So, I have closed a door. No more negative feedback for this girl. I will not allow myself to be sucked in to the negativity of those around me and I will not allow others to chip away at my confidence. Usually, I make arrangements to ride with CA or someone else on Fridays and Sundays because that's my comfort zone. Not last week. I tacked Gem up and rode BY MYSELF in the front paddock. I had my Nano shuffle, the sun was shining, it was quiet around the stables and it was amazing. I was quite pleased with myself.

So you see, one door shuts but another opens. There was a positive that came out of all the negativity that I have been experiencing with riding lately. I sort of feel that I am entering a new stage in my riding experience. It was confirmed that I am as good a rider as my other classmates! Yay! I can ride BY MYSELF! Yay! This new-found confidence that I have was evident in my lesson on Tuesday....I loped Gem in a SMALL circle twice! Yay! Everyone did really well, in fact. BTW, I went for Burgers and Beers after. We were happy and pumped and congratulated each other on how well we did.... positivity is contagious!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


My laptop is toast and will be given a decent burial once the hard drive is recovered. Geez, I can't tell you how many times I have reached for my laptop while sitting on the coach and there it was, gone! :-) It's driving me crazy, being out of touch. Trying to share my husband's computer this past week has been a challenge, to say the least. My Husband will be buying me a replacement laptop over the weekend. I hope all my blogger friends are doing well and I am hoping to get caught up with everyone's activities soon!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Sound of Music + Fearless

My laptop is broken. MY LAPTOP IS BROKEN….WHAAAA! For the last 3 days I have been unable to check out email, FB or what my blogger friends are up to on a regular basis. I tried using My Husband’s computer, but I can’t read his screen (he has very teeny tiny type) and I hate his chair. I am writing this at work – shhhh! Don’t tell anyone! :-)

I had a fabulous weekend – hope you guys did, too. The weather couldn’t have been better. The sun was out and the temps hovered around the 25C mark. Absolutely glorious. I have Friday afternoons off May until the end of August. I headed out to the stables Friday afternoon and gave my guy a good grooming. Usually there is NO ONE at the stables on Friday afternoons, so I don’t ride (yes, I am a chicken). But last Friday, there were a couple of helpers in the old barn stacking hay in the loft, so I tacked up and rode in the front paddock.

Gem was full of beans and anxious to get outside. For the first time in a long time, I had to reposition him a couple of times next to the mounting block before I could get on him. When I got on him, he actually started to walk off before I was positioned in the saddle. I made him “whoa” and I backed him up and then made him wait. Then we started off walking. He was prancing. After a long work week, I was suffering with computer body fatigue and had no wish to wrestle with Gem. I had a light-bulb moment….I remember one of the trainers at a clinic telling a girl to hum to calm her horse. Why not! At first, his ears were twitching back and forth (what the heck is that noise?!) and then he starting listening. He started relaxing – it was subtle, but he wasn’t pulling on the bit any longer. I started enjoying myself (I think it helped me relax too!). The tension started to leave my shoulders. I started to relax. Don’t ask me what I was humming to him, but it morphed into serenading my boy. Yes, I belted out “Killing Me Softly”, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”, “You Are My Sunshine”, “Jingle Bells”, ”Into the Night”; I know the words to these songs. :-) The helpers got an earful, no doubt. Not sure if my voice was carrying over the small hills and pastures, but I was having a grand time in the sunshine and I think Gem was, too.

My Niece was dropped off for the weekend Friday evening. We did some running around on Saturday, planted the rest of the annuals and watched two of the Twilight movies over the weekend (we are both in Jacob’s camp). My Niece made an interesting comment after the movies; she doesn't like that Bella needs to be saved by guys all the time. That's my girl..... :-)

My Niece brought her boots and helmet with her, and Sunday we went to the stables. She has been taking English lessons once a week since February and wanted to show me what she had learned. I dusted off my Courbette saddle for her and put it in the trunk. Geez, I had forgotten how much lighter English saddles were compared to Western! My Niece groomed and tacked up Gem. I was SO impressed! We led him outside and after tightening the girth, without any hesitation, up she got! I walked beside her for one lap (it made me feel better) and then she continued to warm Gem up at a walk and then started posting trot. You know, she looked pretty darn good! I admired how she managed Gem and how he responded to her. She has to work on her legs and heels down (hello?!). However, her hands were excellent and when she was posting, she was on the correct diagonal every time. Gem did everything she asked. My Niece explained the importance of having contact with the bit, showed me how to do a 2-point and explained why when you are JUMPING you shouldn't lean into your horse's neck before the jump because may get bonked in the head as his head comes up to go over. She's been taking lessons for 4 months! Boy, I wish they sold that fearlessness in a bottle.

Indulge a proud auntie.....

Warm up

Posting trot

Gem thought she wanted to lope but she convinced him it was a trot she wanted.

More trotting.....

All done!

Aren't they adorable?!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Black Sheath

I would think that there are many females around my vintage that might think of this when I say "black sheath":
(Isn't she gorgeous?!)

Now, if you are a horse person, perhaps your first thought would not be of Breakfast at Tiffany's and Audrey in that dress. No, if you are a horse person, you probably think of this when I say "black sheath":

My friend contacted me about three weeks ago….

Her: I haven’t seen you since the beginning of April! I have been thinking about you!

Me: What a coincidence! I have been thinking about you, too. Gem needs a Willie Wash!

Her: Oh. Again?

Me: Once a year as part of his Spring tune up.

Her: Oh. I see.

Me: You helped me the very first time. I will always remember that. I am thinking that we should do this every year. Like an anniversary of sorts.

Her: Will we go for beer after??

Me: Yes. You can have as much as you want, because I am driving.

Her: OK, I’m in.

Me: (to myself) She’s so easy…. :-)

Last year’s experience was, well, interesting. As they say, the first time for anything is always the hardest. I had very high anxiety and on top of that I was embarrassed. Yes, embarrassed! Technically, I understood what needed to be done. The execution was the issue. The whole touching Gem, you know, there made me blush like a teenager. The experience did bring my relationship with Gem and my friend to a whole other level. :-)

Admittedly, I was still intimidated by the K-Y counter at the pharmacy. Once again, I did not go to my regular store because I didn't want any of my usual clerks to see what I was buying! And, I was still a bit anxious when we arrived to do the "act' this past Sunday. My friend started grooming him as I got prepared. K-Y - check, facecloth - check, bucket with lukewarm water - check, gloves - check. Assume the safety position - go!

After the initial shock of how deep the sheath is, I got down to business. Gem gave me that "what the heck are you doing back there?" look, but then went back to enjoying my friend's brushing. He was a gentlemen once again this year. I am so lucky. He was actually pretty clean. I suspect that last year was the first time in a long time since he had been cleaned and that's why there was so much gunk. The Willie Wash was completed in a timely fashion (I am getting pretty good at it!) and we left the stables satisfied that my beautiful boy's private area was squeaky clean. Yep, I am the Willie Wash Queen!

Some may remember my emotional trauma last year. We learn through experience and I made some changes to this year's routine, the most important one being PUTTING MY HAIR IN A PONY TAIL. Secondly, I came to the conclusion that in my enthusiasm I may have used a bit too much K-Y last year (having grey K-Y drip down my arms was an indicator), so I cut back on the amount. Thirdly, I brought a change of clothing; it was so nice to be able to sit and have a nice big frosty draft with one of my best-est friends in the whole wide world and not see Willie Wash evidence splashed on my clothing! :-)

What was I thinking....?