That thing I said about Sadie? That her feet are always so neat and she is always so nice about lifting up her feet? Forget it.
Monthly Archives: October 2006
I need help with this one — I mean these four.
When I was riding Wilco the Friesian, feet-cleaning was the absolute worst part and the hind legs were the worst of the worst. I’d somehow manage to cajole him into lifting his foot for me and then, with pick in hand, I’d burrow and delve with the pick through the morass of fetlock feathers, mud, horse poo, gravel, and shedding hoof-stuff. I always worried about tickling his frog (the part in the very center) because horses don’t like to be tickled in the frog. No, I havn’t done it yet, but I worry. Wilso, being a Friesian, is big. Very very big. Enourmously big. Not the biggest horse in the world but plenty big and he’s got big legs and big feet and trying to keep his front leg up and steady while I cleaned was murder. The back ones were impossible. After each foot, I’d have to stop, take a rest, check my pulse, and wait for my head to clear from the task let alone the slight worry that he would topple over on top of me because I’d compromised his balance.
I know, logically, that it is not possible for me to keep a horse leg up in the air and that I need to let gravity work for me or something. I think I’m doing too much lifting and not enough strategizing. Aren’t I supposed to rest the hoof on my thigh or something? And WHY, when I do that, does the horse always have a gastric event? They don’t have a gastric event when I’m working on the front ones, I swear! Come to think of it, that’s another thing I like about Sadie — she has such nice clean feet! I don’t know how she does it, but she does. The front ones are a joy to clean out and she often lifts her feet for me which is kind and generous (or she gets it or whatever).
So there’s got to be a way to do this without courting heart attack. Maybe I put my hand too far up on the leg. Hm.
1. Keep that leg back and relaxed at the same time. When my leg is tight, then my toes point out.
2. Be aware of my body.
3. Headlights (and we all have two on our chests, boys and girls) point in the same direction that the horse is going. They do no good shining out into the woods.
4. The leg: back. The thigh: vertical
5. Go deep into the corners. Move Sadie’s butt over first. Keep doing it — it’s not good to ask sometimes because then she’ll never listen at all. Don’t let her take short cuts!
6. Ride every minute I am on the horse.
7. Punctuate feet-out-of-the-stirrups workouts with a few minutes of posting. It helps clear Sadie’s brain.
8. The leg? Keep it loooooong.
9. Stop drawing the leg up like a jockey when using it to apply pressure to the horse’s side. Keep the leg loooooong.
10. Get the danged girth tight!
I see a pattern here — isn’t it amazing what writing something out tells you? Today my writing tells me that I need to work on my leg.
Since I’ve come late to this horse world, I honestly don’t know much about what is and is not Top Drawer, nor what is Bottom Drawer as defined by the Top. But I’m begining to get an inkling that there’s lots o’snobbiness out there.
Not that I’m without snobbiness. Why, even as a child, I turned up my nose at Disney’s Winnie-the-Pooh because I cut my Pooh-Teeth on the books , the one with the Ernest Shepard drawings. Heck, I even had all of the Pooh stuffed animals at one time prior to the Disneyfication of Pooh — except for Rabbit. My Rabbit was a generic standing bunny and didn’t look like much like either Disney’s or Shepard’s. And when I first saw the Disney stuffed toys, well! I knew the difference! They were cartoony, nothing at all like the pen and ink pictures in the books — and none of those abridged and watered down stories for me, either, Oh no. The full Pooh kielbasa or nothing at all. So there.
A few months ago I heard the phrase, “Well, they do quarter-horse English” in reference to a stable, as though quarter horses can’t do anything excpet round up dogies, smoke stogies and yodel. Not that I can do any of the three. OK, once I smoked a cigar and was violently ill. But it wasn’t a compliment and wasn’t meant to be. At the one show I attended, I was blissfully out of the loop so if anyone was behaving correctly and yet rudely (surely the embodiment of snobbery), I was too dense to catch on. I like being dense!
Sounds like a cross between the Doors of Perception by Huxley or Five Ringsby Musashi. It’s not.
The horse, according to my teacher, has five doors. One door lets the horse go forward and another one lets it go back. The third door lets the horse go to the right (or left) and the fourth door lets the horse go left (or right). The fifth door lets the horse go straight up. For now, we are sticking with the first four. I forgot to ask if there’s a sixth to make a cube (down? Ugh. Never mind….)
When I release the pressure with one leg, I’m opening the door to let the horse through. If I want to open a door in the other direction, I apply pressure with the other leg (I’m only talking left and right doors here, not front and back ones and certainly not the trap door at the top that goes out onto the roof).
It sounds like major “duh” stuff except when you are riding or except when I’m riding. While I work on doing something with one leg (one of my legs), I totally forget about the other leg. Usually it comes forward while my toe points at an unnatural angle.
Then there’s my hands. Today, to get the right feel for things, I held onto the saddle and noticed the position of my elbows. The idea was not to bump Sadie in the mouth so much, to keep my hands still. Gosh, I hope I havn’t been bumping her in the mouth too much!
Then for heck of it, Leah asked me to scissor my legs back and forth at a walk. Sadie bent one way, then the other, then the other — probably wondering what in the heck I thought I was doing — which gave me a nice feel for how much I can actually do with my legs.
So when we go around in a circle, we are opening and closing doors just a bit here and there, back and forth.
I don’t understand how I get interested in this stuff or how I get so paralyzed by it, but did you know that you can watch videos of kittens on YouTube? My favorites so far are “Moos plays with feather” because it is so amazing how the Django music works perfectly at moments with the frantic batting of the feather performed by Moos.
There are also some swell videos of bengal cats (a handsome breed!) performing amazing stunts inside of cat treadmills. The videographer has several more bengal videoes, as do other enthusiasts. My but they are lovely!
My favorite this far, however, is “4 1/2 minutes of kittens” —which now I can’t find by searching but it’s out there someplace. I mean, I’m telling my husband about it! “And then the kittens did this! And then they did that! And one of them lost its toy and so it started playing with its foot and then it lost its foot! Oh my God it was so cute!”
Pitiful. Me, not the cats.
Yesterday’s free ride was an opportunity to ride darlin’ Sadie of the Blue Blue Eyes and also an opportunity to go over some of those jump-pole things except on the ground. Just poles, right? Right. OK. It was yet another thing that made me nervous on Stalker the other night, when I had my smallish breakdown. Just walking over the poles let alone trotting was not working well for me. Worked just fine yesterday for both Sadie and moi. I even tried closing my eyes a couple of times as we walked over the poles, so as to keep from myself the chance of seeing anthing that might unerve me — like the pole we were preparing to walk over.
I endorese closing one’s eyes during safe and secure work. I did that once at the barn before last. My teacher, Laura, had the horse Vegas on the longe line and to practice my balance, I closed my eyes. Like a horse wearing blinkers, closed eyes took away all the extra spooky things that will leap out and grab me if I make eye contact with them. Hey, the horse sees ‘em too, just not the same ones. And the really great thing about closed eyes is that at a moment’s notice, Pop! you can open them again! Ha!
Right, the kitten. Leah is working hard to save a small kitten that’s been abandoned by its mom. The eyes are open but the tiny tiger-striped thing needs some extra care, so Leah kept in inside of her shirt, safe and warm. Awww!!! And what a good idea! I know, there’s a blue million too many cats in the world and we don’t need any more but there’s something about saving one of something that’s so danged sweet.
One of my favorite books on horses is The Nature of Horses by Stephen Budiansky. Budiansky is a science writer who has also written about our favorite domestic creatures, science, and history.
According to Budiansky’s research and writing, the pivitol moments in the horse/human connection occured about 6,000 years ago, shortly after their fossil remains (and I’m not sure about this — how long does it take for bone to become fossil? Is 6K long enough?) began to vanish. There were horses the heck all over the place including North America, but they died out because . . .because they did. And the cave paintings in France and Spain from, when? 30,000 years ago? look like that Przewalski’s Horse; the stocky build and the brushy zebra-like mane.
So it was in Dereivka, a place on the Dneper River about 500 kilometers north of the Black Sea, that may have seen the first human on the first horse. Archaeologists found a grouping of bones including the skeletons of two dogs, a horse skull, some figurines — and the cheek pieces for what could have been a rope bit and bridle.
How on earth did someone decide to ride a horse? How did that person/those persons discover that you could get on the back of this animal that didn’t want you on its back AND that you could control it by controlling its mouth? Did it start with an orphaned foal on the edges of agriculture who nickered sweetly to someone cutting grain? There must have been some social interaction or surely the horses would have been eaten (which they were). Since the author talks about the bit and bridle and not about pieces of a cart, it seems that humans didn’t see horses as beasts of burden. Food, yes. Moving vans, no. But what made someone decide to ride? To get up on the thing’s back and ride?
So, as the wild horse vanished from the land, the domesticated horse showed up. One decreased, one increased. Human, per Budiansky, saved the horse.
My pal Dawn has a new business enterprise that you might want to take a look at. It’s a way to connect people who want free stuff with PR people who need folks to try out their new stuff. Dawn’s site, GetThemBlogging.com explains exactly what the deal is and why you shouldn’t worry about getting SPAM when you sign up. She’s an entrepreneur, that gal is!
Dawn is also down-to-earth, interested in social concerns, a stay-at-home mom who homes schools her kids, and a writer. In other words, this is not some damn Ponzi crap and no one’s getting recruited for anything a la Mary Kay or Amway. Promise.
Had another breakdown in my lesson tonight, but it was small and manageable. Stalker was full of beans since he’d had no turnout and was pawing the floor with his left front hoof as I groomed him and tacked him up. So that made me tense and Leah could really tell. Leah could tell exactly what was up because Stalker would go faster when I got an attack of claustrophobia which made me more tense which took me some effort to calm down which lasted for 10 seconds until we got near the next jump (this is just getting near the jump, mind you, not jumping) and I got my phobia back and Stalker sped up again in response and on and on.
Leah asked me to talk about it, to talk about what was bugging me. She told me this the last time I had a melt-down and stressed at the time (and tonight) how important it is that we talk about what bugs me. I mean, I believe her — but I just can NOT believe that someone actually wants to know what’s upsetting me and isn’t going to judge me as stupid, weak, wrong, etc, when I actually open my big yap and talk.
Well then! Aren’t you glad I told you that?
OK. So, I was having spooking issues. “The jumps,” I said, “are too close to the wall.” Hey, they were! Well, too close for my taste BUT the correct distance from the wall/rail. Hmph. “And my leg is moving around and my foot’s sliding back and forth in the stirrup!” I wailed.
“And what do you do about that?” asked Leah.
“Um . . .put weight in my heels?”
“Exactly. Remember: You are in charge. You’ve got the reins, the bit — you are in charge of what Stalker does. He doesn’t know you’re afraid of him. When he feels your fear, then he figures there’s something to worry about. They can smell your adrenaline.”
So I came clean about what was upsetting me. At the lesson prior to mine on Monday, I watched girls go over jumps. Small ones, but jumps. Several horses bumped a front leg and stumbled and everyone (except me) would laugh or joke or make light of it — but when I watched, I thought, “That’s not funny. That’s terrible.”
This has happened to me before; I see something in a riding class that makes me nervous and I don’t talk about it (because who wants to know about that for God’s sake?) and it makes me nervous for days or even quite a bit longer. Years maybe even. So I hang onto it inside but let on like everything’s fine – ha ha! – and meanwhile my glasses are steaming up from unshed tears.So I got to shed them and just talk about the problems and the fears — and Stalker, good old Stalker, dozed off underneath me. Then I came home and downloaded “Drive” by Incubus: “Sometimes I let Fear take the wheel and steer.” Yeah.