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equestrian

canter, dressage, dressage lessons, dressage training, dressagemortals, equestrian, horsewomen

The Elegance of Elbows

Despite what non-horsepeople say about the horse doing all the work, those in the know are all too aware that dressage is a total body workout. To persuade the horse to do anything other than graze, run off with you, or haul himself around on his forehand takes a lot of convincing. It also takes a super-human coordination of the rider’s legs and limbs in concert with the seat, core, and shoulders. It looks so easy when done by a professional.
As an adult amateur dressage rider, I am constantly trying to align errant body parts. To have them work up to a full concert would be fantastic. For now, I’d settle for something resembling a recognizable melody.
This past week my elbows stepped up as the body part of the month. I’m sharing this story because I’m impressed with how paying attention to the elbows has made a significant difference in my effectiveness.

Assuming you don't want to look at my elbows, here's a shot of Micah (right) with Harrison, the handsome new guy at the barn.

Assuming you don’t want to look at my elbows, here’s a shot of Micah (right) with Harrison, the handsome new guy at the barn.


My trainer has long been nagging me to keep my elbows at my side (especially the right elbow, which colludes with my horse to give away the right rein), and while I’ve improved, I only really got it last week. (Note: I reserve the right to back-slide at a moment’s notice.)
We were working on haunches in, a counter-intuitive maneuver which messes with the mind and body of both beast and rider. We were flailing along, kind of getting it, when I glued my elbows to my sides and voila! haunches in happened.
I applied this technique to the trot and — amazing — it improved! As expected, gluing the elbows at the canter is more difficult so that’s going to be an ongoing effort. Gluing the elbows while remaining relaxed and fluid is another challenge, since it’s easier to turn into a chunk of concrete when becoming uber-focused on correcting a habit.
Try it and see if focusing on your elbows helps you. You may have noticed that all of the professional riders keep their elbows at their sides while the less skilled of us flail our arms about. Keep a mental picture of the rider you want to be in your mind as you try bringing your awareness to your elbows this week. Give it a go at the walk, then work your way up.
Happy riding!

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dressage competition, dressage pet peeve, dressage spectators, equestrian

Short Dressage Show Rant

It’s time for me to share my #1 horse show pet peeve: Spectators Who Critique Rides

[Begin Rant]

Dressage looks easy from the sidelines but it’s actually a horribly exacting sport involving a 1,000 pound herbivore with a flight instinct.

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Spectators who critique rides from the sidelines do everyone a disservice. Most disturbing are spectators who don’t compete themselves. If you’re not brave enough to be in the show ring yourself, your comments are unfair, unwanted, and unkind.

Most of us know enough dressage lingo to sound knowledgeable. It’s easy to say someone needs more outside rein, a more secure seat, or more tactful hands — but to have the presence  of mind to accomplish these things in a stressful environment is something else.

From the sidelines, it looks as if each test moves in slow motion — as if the rider has plenty of time to make corrections. One might assume, from a ringside seat, that there’s MORE than enough time to half-halt, balance the horse, finesse the bend, or whatever else the rider needs to do.

Perhaps that’s true for professionals. As for the rest of us, we wish! Transitions happen quickly — lightning-fast. The judge rings the bell for you to go in, and the next thing you know your reader is calling, “X, halt salute.” You’re done and it’s all a blur. You’re still gasping for air. You didn’t have time to correct mistakes, you simply had time to make them. Or so it feels.

If you’re an expert rider, have pity for the less fortunate — they are struggling. If you’re not an expert, don’t pretend to be. You may be dissing the rider in front of you within earshot of their friends and family. That’s tacky! While you’re using the tone of a knowledgeable critique, what you’re really doing is a put down.

If you can ride better than that poor soul in the ring, do it. If you can’t, acknowledge the time, effort, and courage it takes to compete and give them a hearty round of applause for all of that.

Dressage is a lovely sport. Let’s keep it that way.

[End Rant]

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dressage, equestrian, horsewomen, margaritas, stallions

Barn Women Get Weird

One of the things I most like about horsewomen is that they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty. Or their mouths. It is perfectly acceptable for horsewomen to talk about semen, for example. Nonhorsewomen generally don’t discuss semen outside of a gynecologist’s office.

I threw a little happy hour get-together last week and invited several women from the barn. Seven women and 26 limes resulted in the consumption of 72 ounces of margaritas. The discussions ranged far and wide but the highlight of the evening came when Tina gave us a reenactment of her stallion’s day of semen collection.

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Using several bar-b-que skewers to represent rails, a cucumber slice to stand in for the ‘plain as day Quarterhorse mare’, and a bit of chicken satay to show the relative placement of the ‘phantom,’ Tina gave a lively recap of the day’s events. Let’s just say her young stallion had a little trouble getting things right. Thank goodness for the two burly guys on hand who got things corrected. It’s dangerous work.

My next-door-neighbor had stopped in to visit and was amazed and amused. She’d previously had no idea how this deed was done. Fortunately, as a nurse, she’s not squeamish. “Wow! I like these women,” she said.

It’s so refreshing to get beyond polite chit-chat, politics, and the weather. Thanks to horses, our lives are anything but dull.

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cowboy, dressage, equestrian, pasture

Back in the Saddle

You know you’ve been missing your horse when you’re mountain biking to the tune of “I Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” There’s something very weird about that.

Much as I love mountain biking, there’s nothing like being on a horse.

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Yesterday’s return to the barn with a little country western playing on the radio felt oh, so right. I even enjoyed the long, long walk to the far reaches of the pasture — where the grass is so much better than right next to the gate.

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Micah has shown little enthusiasm for my plan to teach him to come running at the sight of me and my carrots. I slog across the pasture, watching swallows sail through the grass, a few geese honking overhead, perhaps a hawk. The walk takes so long, dandelions pop up, mature, and go to seed before I reach Micah, in the far corner. He’s so far away, I can’t see any detail — I just aim for the biggest horse out there.

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Sometimes Charlie, the youngster of the group, gets the herd riled up and cantering to the gate. I appreciate when he gets Micah to the gate for me, but no such luck today.

Continue reading…

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A Horse With No Name, America, Desert, equestrian, horses, Songmeanings.com, Wikipedia

Desert/Horse/No Name

Every destination needs a theme song. Unfortunately, a trip to Palm Desert, CA has unearthed memories of the most inane desert tune ever written. Like a sandstorm that just won’t quit, the melody howls  through my days and nights–making me wish for shelter from the storm. The song’s reference to a horse makes it all the more difficult to escape for the horse-starved traveler.  I’m referring to America’s 1971 hit ‘A Horse With No Name.’

I apologize if the song pops into your head as well, because it’s one we’d all like to forget.

Desert vista, minus horse

Desert vista, minus horse

In the interest of research, I went to songmeanings.com (who knew there was such a thing!) and learned that there’s been much controversy as to whether or not the ‘horse’ in the song referred to heroin. Really? It’s hard to believe anyone with half a brain would come to such a conclusion…or care.

It’s also hard to believe that there’s a Wikipedia entry about ‘A Horse With No Name.’ However, they nailed it with the following description: “The song has also been ridiculed for its banal, oddly phrased lyrics, including “The heat was hot”; “There were plants, and birds, and rocks, and things”; and “‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.”

Wikipedia also notes that there is speculation that band members were intoxicated with cannabis while writing the song–which is more believable than the heroin reference (above).

The chorus is as absurd as the rest of the song, but has that unfortunate ‘sticks like glue’ quality that only really bad songs have. Following are the lyrics that linger, including the ‘la la’ (actual lyrics, I’m not making this up) which goes on for far too long. Sing along if you like–at your own risk.

“I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name

It felt good to be out of the rain

In the desert you can remember your name

‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain

La, la”

At week’s end I’ll return to Bend, with hopes that the taunting tune will remain in the desert, where it belongs. Perhaps the sight of a real horse—with a name—will make it go away.

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