Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Seeing Red

I was in my local saddlery the other day and even with the new spring fashions on the racks, I was struck at how little colour there was when it comes to riding apparel in contrast to the other clothing shops I had recently been in.  Sure, there are some fun short sleeved tops, but basically not much else. 

 You probably have a favourite colour and when you are shopping, you are automatically drawn to the rack that has "your" colour.  When I am tired or know that I will need to be energized for the day, I wear red.  It not only makes my skin look great, but I feel like a million when I wear it.  :-)   I have always been interested in colour and many years ago, I decided to take a evening course at a local college on colour psychology as it relates to interior decorating.  It was fascinating.  Colours influence our daily lives and we don't even realize it.   Here's a few examples.....

Red is the colour of heat, love, passion, energy and strength.  It's the colour most used in national flags.  Red elevates your heart rate.  Have you every noticed that if there is a red car in front of you, you have to catch it?  I now have a red car and I have to really watch my speedometer!  Red also makes you hungry; it reminds you of meat.  A lot of fast food restaurants have red in their decor.  :-) Too much red will promote anger.  When it comes to riding, Masters of the Hunt wear red jackets.  I am sure it's like a badge of honour, but I also wonder if the colour red, in this case, has another meaning; does it encourage blood lust? 

Orange is a nice bright colour.  It represents fire, sun, warmth, fun.  It stimulates activity and is associated with the tropics and fruit.  Great colour to stimulate conversation.  Lazy, hazy summer days...... bring it on!  A lot of my summer ensembles have orange in them.  I don't recall seeing orange anywhere in my saddlery ever, not even when it comes to casual tops.

Yellow is happiness, sunshine and playfulness.  Certain shades of yellow are associated with caution (think hornets, road signs).  Although yellow is a bright colour, it is the hardest colour to see as you age.  I have seen light yellow blouses at my saddlery.

Green is a great chill out colour.  It makes us think of nature, growth, replenishment and safety.  It is also a food colour.  You see green as a main colour on a lot of advertising when they are promoting health products.  It also represent success, money (the colour of money) and banking. Green also represents envy (green with envy) and jealousy. Hunt seat riders can wear a hunter green jacket.  I am thinking that it's the "success" they riders are going for when they wear this colour.

Ah, blue.  Cool, calming, water, sky.  It represents creativity, intelligence, wisdom, loyalty and trust (lawyers and bankers used to sign documents in blue ink).  It reduces your heart rate and it the best colour for your bedroom.  But, don't use this colour in your kitchen!  There are very few foods that are blue, so this colour does not stimulate your appetite (hmmm...maybe i SHOULD have this colour in my kitchen...).  In show jumping and hunt seat, competitors wear a dark navy jacket.  

Grey and Brown can look very elegant but they don't stimulate.  Brown is an earth colour and can provide a sense of comfort.  Hunt seat and saddle seat riders sometimes wear dark brown or grey jackets.  

Purple, a combo of blue and red is associated with royalty, luxury and prestige and symbolizes mystery and magic.  I wonder why there isn't a purple riding jacket???  :-)

Black can be evil, depressing, scary and can promote a negative feeling (blackmail, black mood).  It's also powerful enough to portray class and elegance (black dress, tuxedo).    Dressage and saddle seat riders wear black jackets and black jackets are occasionally seen in hunt seat competitions.  I am hoping that it's the elegance they are going for and not evil!  :-)

White is often associated with being pure, clean, fresh and good.  Pristine white snow is peaceful to me.  Hollywood's good guys are usually wearing something white while the bad guys wear something black.  Doctors, dentists wear white coats.

Why were red, black, navy, grey, brown and green chosen as equestrian jacket colours?  Was it to hide dirt or dust?    Perhaps these colours looked best on all horses.  Perhaps they were chosen because the colours were easy to come by in days gone by when the wool and fabrics were being hand dyed.  Perhaps, in a once male dominated environment, these colours suited men.  Or perhaps psychology played a part without anyone even realizing that these colours promoted class, power, success, intelligence, elegance, and loyalty.  

So, incorporating certain colours into your riding attire, tack or blankets can help you achieve a certain energy or feeling.  This time of year, winter sucks the life out of me.  I have a very bright red neck warmer that I had forgotten about.  I will be digging it out tonight and will wear it when I ride going forward.  Hopefully, the red colour will provide my brain with enough stimulation to give me the energy and motivation I need right now to ride, particularly on my lesson nights.  ;-)

Hope everyone is having a good week!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013


In the spirit of St. Valentine's Day, I thought I would share a love story......

R. registered her daughter, Mary, in a summer camp at LA's a year ago.  Neither her or her daughter had been exposed to horses up until that point.  R. would hang around after dropping Mary off, and then over the week of camp started helping the staff and kids get ready.  She watched Mary ride in the morning classes, noticing how her daughter's nervousness changed to elation over the week.  When everyone went on the afternoon trail rides, R. would do her running around and come back by 4:00 p.m. to pick up Mary.  Mary couldn't keep her enthusiasm in check on the drive home and would talk non-stop about the horses and her new friends.  :-)

R. and her husband decided to register Mary in weekly lessons.  Mary took to riding like a duck to water.  R. watched her shy Mary gain more confidence and make friends.  And, R. found herself enjoying being around the barn and admitted to me that she had a hard time leaving.  :-)  Mother and daughter had discovered that they loved being around horses.

As I got to know R. a little better, she told me a bit about her life.  She is originally from Newfoundland and came to Ontario when she was 20 to live with her sister.  She became a hair stylist and worked at a high end salon/spa.  She met a guy and eventually moved in with him and got engaged.  Her husband-to-be was sporadically employed, but they were both young and there was lots of time to settle down.  During this 5 year time period, she had a regular client who came in every 3 weeks for a trim.  They got to know each other very well and John became a good friend.  As her wedding day approached, R. realized that her feelings for John may be more than friendship, but she did not act on them.  The wedding took place and two years later, she was pregnant.  All this time, John continued to come in every 3 weeks for a trim.  When R. was 6 months pregnant, her husband decided that he couldn't handle fatherhood and abandoned her.  Fortunately, R. had family here to help her.  When John heard of what happened, he declared his love for her, explaining that he had loved her from the start - "Do you really think I needed to have my hair trimmed every 3 weeks!  It was love at first sight!"  R. was flabbergasted and after she gave her head a shake, she told him of her feelings for him. They took it slow and two years later, R. and John got married and moved to a big mansion (he's a big-wig at an international company).  John has loved Mary since the day she was born and although she sees her biological father occasionally, Mary considers John her dad.  R. never dreamed that her life could be as good as it is.  Ah, love.....

Last October, as I was coming in from a trail ride, another boarder came rushing over and told me to hurry Gem into the barn....there was a surprise birthday celebration going on.  I  quickly pulled off Gem's saddle and put him in his stall.  A group had gathered in the barn aisle.  Mary and her mother entered the barn with John.  They were told to hurry because there was going to be a surprise for a new boarder.  Everyone stood around...waiting. LA then walked over to a stall and walked out this lovely sorrel QH and handed the lead to Mary and said "Happy Birthday".  Mary took the lead, but looked around.  "Do you mean me?", she asked.   R., who had no idea what was happening, looked at John and asked what was going on.  He responded that he loved seeing Mary so happy riding, and if Mary was happy then R. was happy and if they were happy, then he was happy.  :-)  He had worked secretly with LA for weeks to find the perfect horse for Mary. The penny dropped, and Mary tentatively petted Ringer's face and looked into his eyes, then gave him a big hug.  It was love at first sight.   R. started to cry, Mary started to cry.....well, OK, we all started to cry.  :-) 

Mary couldn't love that horse more.   Ringer is perfect for her.  He is in great shape and is trained as a reiner.  Mary continues to take weekly lessons and is learning how to ride him properly.  She's not sure if she's going to go into reining or games, but it's nice to have the choice.  She and her mother are at the barn every single day.    In fact, LA had to tell Mary that Ringer needed to have a break occasionally!   :-)  When Mary isn't riding Ringer, she is grooming him.  They are the perfect owners, making sure that his health and feet are taken care of. 

The deal was always that Mary had to maintain her studies if she wanted to ride.  She has kept up her end of the bargain.  The love Mary has for riding and her horse are a great motivator.  R. continues to hang around the barn and helps out where needed while Mary rides.  She brings in horses, sweeps up, fills the water buckets, feeds.  She has told me that, coming from a professional  "spa" background,  she never thought she would love hanging around a BARN.  WTH?  :-) 

Even though John does not spend much time at the barn, he benefits from the positive impact that horses have had on his loved ones.  R. and her daughter are doing something together, which makes their bond stronger.   Ringer has found a partner that absolutely adores him.   It's win, win all around.   In fact, I suspect that all the families of the people I know at the barn benefit from having a horse as part of the family.  :-)   I have said it before and I will say it again:  Horses are magic.   R. has gotten on Ringer a couple of times and walked him around.  She likes it!  She has mentioned that lessons are in her future.  I think it's just a matter of time before John finds R. a horse of her own.  :-)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Follow My Lead

I have seen Gem twice this week.  Both times I rode in the arena because of the frigid temperatures.  

The first ride (Sunday),  I was a bit anxious.  I hadn't ridden Gem in a week at that point.  But to be honest, it had been an exhausting few days with my mother and seeing to her needs and I had nothing left to give.   Gem gave me a little attitude when I was getting him ready, so I was expecting him to be frisky.  Reduced turnout time due to bad weather was probably a factor.  I felt very tired as I walked him up the lane to the arena. Gem was nickering and prancing a bit and I was not looking forward to having to convince him to behave.  But, something strange happened.  As I positioned him next to the mounting block and asked him to stand, his eyes softened.  He stood nicely as I mounted, and waited patiently until I asked him to walk on.  And, that's what we did for most of our time together; just walking, doing squares, circles and some bending.  He was very well behaved.... and kind.  The reins were relaxed and his head was low.  Whatever worry I had about him being frisky vanished and I let my mind clear.  I felt my body start to relax and the pinched look on my face disappeared.  It was...... a great ride.  Could it be that he realized how emotionally and physically drained I was?  Did he see it in how I walked to the arena?  Could he have heard it in my voice?  He just seemed to know what I needed out of that ride.

It was bitter tonight and when I arrived at the barn, my headlights reflected off of the solid ice that covered the lane.  Great.  You see, we had +10C earlier in the week (I know!! Crazy!!), which melted a ton of snow, followed by rain and then the temperatures plummeted again.  Lesson was cancelled this week due to the insane weather.  LA had a truck load of fine gravel dumped on the lane and around the barn.  Thank goodness!  Walking would have been treacherous without it.  However, a horse slipped this morning on the icy pathway to the turnout areas, and fell.  He wasn't hurt, but LA ordered another truckload of the gravel and had it distributed along the paths this afternoon to help the horses maintain their footing.

My frame of mind was much better tonight as I got Gem ready.  I had had a very productive week at work and had ended the work week on a good note. I was looking forward to riding, even if it was just going to be walking in the arena due to the low temperature.  As I opened the gate leading to the lane, Gem stopped.  His head was up, ears forward and there was a bit of anxiousness around his eyes.  I asked him to walk on and he refused.  I spoke quietly.  Gem lowered his head and started sniffing and examining the icy road.  Ah, he was nervous about the ice!  Perhaps news had spread amongst the other horses of the mishap that one of their turnout mates had experienced on the ice.  :-)

I tried to reassure Gem that it was OK.  I asked him to walk on.  He was hesitant.  He took a step, but stopped, again lowering his head checking the ice.  He took another few steps, walking beside me but stopped again.  Then, instead of walking beside me, he moved behind me. With a little encouragement, he continued to walk behind me all the way to the arena.  Perhaps he felt that if I could walk safely following a certain path down the lane, then he was going to follow in my footsteps.  He trusted me to take care of him.

It was another good, relaxing ride.  We walked around the arena with DH's Mom for about 1/2 an hour before the cold took it's toll.  Gem was relaxed and his straight lines and turns were very good.  After a sniff of the ice when we left the arena, he followed me back up the lane to the barn.   And for a horse that doesn't appreciate displays of affection, he allowed me to hug him to my hearts content when he was in the cross-ties - he usually get fidgety when I do this.

I feel there has been a subtle shift in our relationship.  Even though these two rides were not "busy" physically, Gem and I seemed to have moved up a notch in trusting and understanding what the other needs.   Yes, it really has been a good week.  :-)