Friday, February 24, 2012

Post of the Week: If People Were Horses

From Mugwump Chronicles, this made me actually laugh out loud!!! Love it:

If People Were Horses:

Just think how much simpler life would be if we were more like horses.

When we gathered around the dinner table the meanest one would get dessert first. Then the mean one would get to walk around the table and eat off everybody's plate and it would be considered good manners.

If our ribs were showing nobody would call it a "bikini body," they would call a rescue organization.

The bigger our butt the more desirable we'd be.

When our Grandma calls us "big-boned," it's a good thing.

If we didn't like somebody we could scream and kick them. Nobody would get arrested or question our motives.

If we DID like somebody we could still scream and kick them and we'd be forgiven.

When the mean girls in the clique snubbed us we could eventually win them over by following them around and looking sad. Then we could scream and kick them too.

Being big, fat, crabby and mean would only make you more popular.

Communication would be so much simpler.

If a woman didn't like a man she would scream and kick him.

If she did like him she would scream, kick him and then pee on the floor.

No conversation, no flowers, just scream, kick and pee.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Reining Clinic

This past Sunday, Diego and I attended a reining clinic hosted by local trainer, Kim Rapp.  This was our second lesson out at Kim's, having gone two weeks ago for a semi-private with my good friend Ronda and her horse Quik.  The clinic was a different format, being open to anyone interested. 

We started around 10 in the morning and had quite an ecletic mix of riders.  Digs was really calm coming off the trailer and getting saddled.  I took him over into the corral/arena first (it's really a HUGE roundpen, great format).  He was a bit snorty at the bull that lives a corral panel or two over, but got busy with some ground work.  He settled in pretty quickly and I mounted up before too long.  However, the more horses that came over and started to ride around with us, the more agitated he became.  After he couldn't decide whether to whirl around to stare at someone, or spook at something else, I decided safety first and got off and worked his little butt of in the center of the ring for a while.  Took loping quite a few circles with several quick changes of direction to get his focus back on me and his mind on the task at hand (and for him to realize he was NOT, in fact, going to die ).  We mounted back up and fell into the swirl of people, trotting around before catching a breather next to his buddy Quik.  That really seemed to get his head on and he relaxed totally.

Kim came in and got us started, she had everyone line up along the rail, then one at a time we went into the middle and did a few rounds to show where we were at with our training.  The first was a boyfriend/husband, obviously very green to horses, on an older paint gelding.  He was followed by girlfriend/wife, again a green/unschooled rider on a more well trained, but young grey mare.  Turns out the gelding was her old horse, who she's had for 12 years.  She recently purchased the mare, who has "training", and they were attending to both become more schooled riders.  She said new horse has buttons she wants to learn how to work.  :)

Diego and I went next.  He retained his calm demeanor and gave me a few nice trotting circles around, relaxed and supple.  We leg yielded across the center to change directions.  I was fortunate and was just turning back to the left when Kim asked me if I would lope him (something we didn't do last time) and he obliged quickly with just a kiss and a squeeze into a left lead - his strong preference.  He was a bit tense, Kim asked if I had noticed and I had, but I could tell he wasn't that bad and after a few strides he loped along nicely.  I thought I heard one person mention "That's a nice lope."  Diego carries himself very well, uphill and driving from behind.  He stopped quickly and I beamed with getting some compliments.  Turns out that was more or less the best he'd be all day!  LOL

A lady on a cute QH gelding named Blue went next, followed by Ronda and Quik.  Then one of Kim's reining students on what was easily the most well-trained horse there, aside from Kim's handsome drool-worthy roan stallion she was riding.  There was a lady on a hot little grey Arab, and another chestnut Arab that was a student of Kim's.  A lady just getting started in western riding, mounted on a cute Haflinger (who Dig was highly suspicious of at first - way too much fluffy hair for him), followed by friend Elizabeth and her TWH mare Dixie.  You can click on the link for her account.  So a total of 10 of us.

After everyone had a chance to show where they were at, Kim started working with us from the greenest to the more experienced.  It was great to watch and listen to what she was having people do, and seeing the transformation in their horses.  She had a lot of people work on rib and shoulder control by doing a counter-arc.  This was the same focus we had for Diego two weeks ago - to gain control over and help free up his shoulders.  This is a pretty good video to explain what it is:  Counter Arc  Kim had us start circling the same direction their nose was tipped in, then to keep a hold of their nose, and ask them to change direction and start to step across with their legs/bodies.  It's sometimes easier to start on a straight line, but it was helpful to see how many of us were working on this same concept, and how each of the horses would respond.

Kim worked her more experienced students in to demonstrate various manuevers throughout the first course of one-on-ones, so it happened that Diego and I were the last ones to go individually.  She wanted me to work on a right lead circle, since he had already done some nice ones to the left.  I wailed about, "But that's WHY I went left the first time!!!" ;) and we laughed.  That's what we were there for, to learn and work on the issues.  So right-lead it was.  Mr. Dig was all tense after having stood around for a few hours, so we had to trot a few circles to get loosened up and get his head on straight again.  Kim worked me through trying to get him to pick up his right lead.  I've been taught to cue by using my inside leg to support the bend, and then ask for the upward transition with my outside leg. 

This wasn't working for Diego, and he was getting frustrated with being asked, then brought down to a trot when he'd pick the wrong lead, then being asked, slowed, etc. and he got pissy and after a couple head-shake warnings, let loose one good buck.  Kim had me immediately turn him in a much tighter circle to the right, then get after him and ask him to lope off again.  He had displayed some of his pissyness two weeks ago, he will get mad and fight me, but this week we were trying a different tactic of NOT backing down and doing something else, but instead pushing him through and making him do it.  So I kept him in a small (10 m.?) circle and went back to pushing him through it.  After a few more failed attempts, she had me work on counter arc, and then asking him.  He picked it up and got the lead!  I relaxed and let him cruise in a bigger circle before we stopped him fully.  She had me repeate the small circle to counter arc to correct lead successfully one more time and then we all took a short break.

Near the end of the break, I started riding Diego around again.  Asking him to work off my legs and stay light in my hands.  Again, the more horses that joined us, the more aggitated he became.  I did my best to stay relaxed and with him, but was getting a little frustrated.  There was a lot of loud commenting of "Really, REALLY?!?!" and "Knock it off" coming out of my mouth.  Dork.  But he did get his head on straight (er, mostly) and we cantered around one or two more times before lining back up on the rail. 

Again, Kim worked through most of the other students first, and actually that worked out well, as E, Ronda and I were the last three remaining.  We're all fairly close together with where we're at, or as E so perfectly stated: "not polished at what we do, not rank beginners, not afraid to TRY at any speed".  Kim had me working with Dig again, then sent us to the fence to do rollbacks.  These used to be one of my FAVORITE manuevers to perform with a good reining, cutting, cow-working horse - actually, they still are REALLY fun!  But boy-howdy do they make you WORK!  We weren't looking for a lot of finesse, or slow, it needed to be quick, quick, quick, with Dig listening to my outside (cueing) leg and deciding to pick up the correct lead more on his own.  Whew, was it both fun and hard!  It took me a bit to coordinate myself, I kept wanting to kick with both feet coming out of the turn, and Kim wanted me to only kick with my outside leg.  So I had to kick, kick, ride, sit up, sit down, pull him around to the inside (fence), then grab and kick, kick with my new outside leg.  We were both panting hard after a few times.  After he picked up the right lead a few times on his own (I couldn't really tell, working that hard, Kim would let me know and pull him around soon if he chose the wrong one), we let him canter on his right lead off the fence and then stop.  Both E and Ronda started cracking up laughing.  I had stopped facing them, and I guess Dig had the most perfect "little kid that just got in BIG trouble" look on his face.  =)  But he DID it!!!  Good boy.  He also stood perfectly still while they worked on stops, until we did it one more time.  Kim told me to take him to the center, counter arc and ask for the right lead, and then send him down the fence again if he didn't take it on the first try.  So more rollbacks for us.  Pant, pant, grin, grin!!!  I don't know about Diego, but I LOVED IT!

So, I'm totally loving the lessons and can't wait to get back.  Plans are for a long ride this weekend (my last before Rides of March), then our club has motocross race the next weekend, then AERC Convention, then Rides of March.  So next lesson probably won't be until that weekend of 3/25.  Already looking forward to it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

About Me

I added a new tab at the top if you're inclined to click on it.  Go Diego Go isn't my first blog, but I retired my last effort when my dearly beloved horse, Sinatra, had to be euthanized due to cancer.  I left that prior blog as a tribute to his honor, and started a new one when I acquired Dig.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

TIME or DISTANCE: More Thoughts

Endurance Granny weighs in with her thoughts...

TIME or DISTANCE: Time or Distance? That is the question.

The original question was posed on Boots and Saddles then segued to Go Diego Go, and is an interesting enough topic that I thought I’d throw in my two pennies for what they are worth. (possibly about one half cent but here I go, newbie-ness has never stopped me yet).

In an all perfect world on a sensible and well-trained horse I would focus on TIME with distance being a secondary factor. I feel that the worse disservice one can do to their horse is to train distance and then at an actual ride when time becomes critical, the horse being pushed harder (even a little matters) than actually trained. All manner of things can and do go wrong when that happens. Just sayin’ because it is the honest truth.

But there is always an on the other hand…

Click link for more reading.

Distance versus Time: My Thoughts

Today, Mel over at Boots and Saddles posed an interesting question:

During conditioning rides, do you ride for time or distance?

I've been mulling this over, and started a comment on her blog, then realized I had a bit to share on the topic.  I find I tend to use a bit of both methods. Most often, I will ride for miles though, or rather a specific trail loop I have in mind. I generally do my long rides slower than endurance pace (around 4.5 - 5 mph overall). I don't like riding out-and-backs, so being able to go ride xxx specific loop, I know that I'll be getting in that set number of miles.  However, I don't always choose a loop due to it's length, but rather the features of that particular trail:
  • Deep sandy footing to work on tendon and ligament strength
  • Long steady hill climbs to build muscular fitness
  • Shorter, steeper hills that I work at a faster/harder pace to build aerobic capacity
  • Long periods of nice footing, to work on sustained gaits at a certain speed
  • Technical trail for mental focus and learning to watch foot placement
When I'm setting out, I generally have an idea of about how long time-wise that particular loop may take me, but I like having the freedom to go faster, or slower, or explore a bit as the fancy may strike.  I do firmly believe in short sessions of speed work, although I'm more likely to incorporate that as part of a long ride (i.e. work this uphill particularly hard, or canter a certain portion of the trail).  I feel that tempo-work, or working at the endurance ride pace (or ideally even faster), for short sections of a long ride is really beneficially, and a HUGE cornerstone of my training.

If I'm short on time to ride, I would rather have a training session of some sort than try to fit in any type of "conditioning."  I'm not the best in that I value my personal time very highly, and understand the importance of rest and mental down-time for my health.  So if I have a free hour of time, I'm much more likely to spend that OFF the horse than ON.  I enjoy my saddle time too much to try to rush through it due to time constraints.  Very rarely do I ride for less than one hour, if I'm taking the time to saddle up, then I'm going to enjoy that time for a more extended period.  This means that my horse looses out on the benefit of those short, quick, "get 5 miles in" type of rides, but he's much more likely to experience being out on the trail for hours on end.  Since January, Diego was ridden according to time:
  • Two rides that were one-hour long and approximately 5 miles
  • One 2.5 hour lesson, shared with a friend so he was "worked" about 1/2 that time and we rested or did exercises on our own the remainder
  • Two rides that were between 4-5 hours long and about 20 miles each
  • One 6 hour 30-mile ride
At this point, I feel he's very fit and should easily be able to complete a 50-mile ride.  This weekend, we're having another lesson on Sunday, so I'm hoping to do a long ride on either Saturday or the holiday on Monday.

What preference do you tend to have for your riding?  Time or distance?

**Posting and/or updating posts here on occassion with a picture so I can add to my Endurance - The Ride of a Lifetime Pinterest board, which is where I'm also compiling some Endurance 101 Clinic ideas.  Original article source will be linked when applicable.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Post of the Week: Cross Training

From Fugly Horse of the Day:

Guest Post: Cross Training:

“Cross Training”. By definition this is when the athlete steps away from his regular discipline and works at something else, and is meant to have physical or mental benefits to the athlete. In the equine world, the term “cross training” is usually very narrow. You will not see a western pleasure QH trainer taking his horse around the arena in saddle seat tack and a double bridle. No, cross training means taking your equine athlete and doing Dressage. (For dressage horses, cross training usually means “take them for a trail ride”.)

To me, dressage is just another horse sport/entertainment discipline, on the same plane as western pleasure, saddle seat, jumping, driving, endurance. I think dressage puts the horse in the most gorgeous frame of all those activities, and it has the ability to move me to tears. But that’s all it is — another horse activity. Please stop trying to convince me that doing Dressage (capital “D”) is going to make my horse “better”. You’ll have to prove it to me.

This has been bothering me since the equine chiropractor came to our barn for his regular multi-horse visit. He worked on my competitive trail horse first and the visit went as it always did — he had to search to find anything wrong with my horse, pronounced him sound and pain-free. Then onto the dressage insructor’s personal horse and 2 of her clients’ horses. All of which were a mess of sore hocks, sore backs, sore polls, sore necks… The trainer made the mistake of pronouncing me “lucky” to have such a good horse. And I made the mistake of saying that I wasn’t lucky, but that I was asking my horse to do something quite natural and did not in any way influence his way of going. And she made the mistake of saying my horse would be even better if I did Dressage arena work with him….

Somebody prove it to me. Dressage (and Dr. Deb Bennett’s wonderful conformation articles in Equus) is based on what the human’s idea of “beauty” is. A stallion puffed up with an arched neck, vertical face, tucked-under hindquarters, collected movements, everyone agrees that’s when a horse is at his most beautiful. Dressage is getting a horse to assume those poses on command and hold them for extended periods of time. Dr. Bennett “proves” that dressage helps a horse because his build will change as a result of the work. Of course his build will change — you are asking him to do new physical things with his body. But that does not mean the change in build is a “good” thing even though the change in build appears more beautiful to our eyes. No one confuses a ballet dancer with a female body builder, yet their builds are each perfect for their disciplines and each would fail if they looked like the other. If moving in such a fashion is truly better for the horse, then you would think natural selection would have produced wild horses moving from waterhole to waterhole in a “balanced” dressage-like manner.

So I will consider dressage to be simply another horse activity. I will continue to believe that my competitive trail horses do not need dressage work to help them trot down the trails. I will continue to let them decide the best way to move to finish the task safe and sound. They will continue to get the winter off with no arena work. Stop trying to convince me that Dressage work would make my horse perform better.

Thanks for allow me the opportunity to voice my opinion!

By: KT


I wanted to post this because I think this is a great opportunity for a discussion. No two people have the same experiences and so I thought it would be interesting to get some different points of view on ‘cross training’.

There are a few ideas within this guest post that I have issue with, for example, I’m not sure the writer has a solid grasp of what dressage is. I (Snugly aka Dressage Empress) freely admit that today’s dressage world can be a little iffy. However, if we focus on the principles of the discipline, which I think is probably what the chiropractor meant, then dressage can be a useful cross training tool. Furthermore, dressage and conformation articles aren’t based on aesthetics, but function; how the conformation and musculature of the horse help or hinder it in any given discipline.

Personally, I think dressage is beneficial for all horses – sorry, I should say all English discipline based horses as that’s where my experience lies. That’s not to say I believe dressage is the be all, end all of the horse world; but rather that I believe in the principles upon which the discipline is built.

I’m sure most of you have seen or heard of the training pyramid. For those who haven’t, it’s essentially the building blocks of under saddle training. From my understanding, it’s widely used in Europe and not limited to dressage.

The theory being that you can’t have suppleness without rhythm, contact without suppleness, and so on and so forth.

Now, does a well mannered trail horse who listens to his rider need to focus on this? No. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it! But what if you needed to open a gait? A few steps of leg yield might not be the worst idea…

Ok, that’s all I’m going to say. I want to leave this open for discussion!

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