"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Developing Lightness in Arctic Weather

Yesterday we tackled the cold again. It was a balmy 24 degrees. (HA!) I changed what I wore, however.

- a thin, "modern" thermal shirt with extra long sleeves (they reach my knuckles.) Courtesy of Target.
- a Cuddl Duds Fleecewear thermal long sleeve layer
- a boucle wool blend turtleneck (scored at Victoria's Secret a long time ago. It is fuzzy, soft and warm!)
- my ELT fleece jacket
- Cuddl Duds Flex Wear thermal pants
- silk thermal pants over them (also courtesy of Target)
- Power Stretch Kerrits again
- similar sock combo, and same boots
(Yes, I do wash the stuff I repeat in between wearing them again. I'm OCD that way.)
- for gloves, I found my "good" pair hiding at the bottom of a suitcase. They are made with angora wool, and I got them for just $3 at this super cheapo store over here named Gallo (how and where we found that store is a whole other story...it started with us needing scrubs for work at the time and turned into quite the adventure). They fit well on my tiny skinny-fingered hands, and I put them to the true test, which they passed with flying colors! Hurray $3 gloves! To think I almost didn't get them at the time...the little things even wash well. I've been throwing them in the washer and they come out like new.
- I took my quilted black jacket that is supposed to be good down to 9 degrees.

I could move for sure this time! 
As it turns out, I never needed to wear the black jacket. Nice! I guess I made better choices clothing-wise. It probably helped that there was no wind...

Lily was calmer on the cross ties, so we did no prior lunging and I just got on in the outdoor. I had made it to the barn earlier than the day before, so we were actually catching the warmest part of the day, and with adequate layers, it actually felt nice in the sun (I never in my life thought I'd be talking about it feeling "nice" in the sun in 20 degree weather...) We walked and walked and walked, straight lines, circles of different sizes, backed up, did turns on the haunches, shoulder in, counter shoulder in, baby leg yields. Everything to get every little muscle on Lily warmed up. We trotted a bit in both directions, then repeated everything at the walk again. Trot on a loose rein a couple of times around the arena at her own pace, then a big 20m circle at the canter in both directions to get her blood really pumping. She was really uphill at the canter yesterday, and wanting to be collected-I wanted to keep going, but didn't think it would be a good idea to canter a lot in this weather on a horse that has never experienced a real winter before. I read this article recently-I think Equus must have published a similar article about that OSU study at one point, too. BQ has also referred to it.

After that, it was all mostly trot work. We did small figure 8's across the arena, in no particular pattern, looping one through another, at a collected sitting trot. Lily was really happy to be collected.

Our "needlepoint" tracings in the arena after our intertwining figure 8's exercises

I tried doing giant X's with her at a more forward trot afterwards, but she wasn't really feeling the forwardness, so I didn't insist and continued our little exercises. We did spirals in every corner of the arena in one direction, sitting the trot as we spiraled in, then going back to posting as we spiraled out; change direction across the diagonal, and repeat in the opposite direction. Around this time we'd already been riding a good 40 minutes since the initial walk warm-up was so long. So I decided to try a new exercise I just found in the 101 Dressage Exercises book. It's called the 10-10-10. It is Exercise 84 in the Developing Lightness section; page 184. You canter 10 strides, trot 10 strides, canter 10 strides, walk 10 strides. Mix and match. We only did walk-trot 10 strides. This was FUN! Lily did get impatient with it, but it had the desired effect once she understood that I really did want her to do all of these transitions. We went through phases: she tried anticipating the trot command at the walk, then she got a feel for the count and started trying to offer the transitions on her own, so we started doing 12-12-12 instead. At this point she stopped anticipating, came UP in her entire frame and lightened on the forehand, arching her neck on loose reins. I looked down at our shadow and she looked almost like a Paso Fino, her nose straight down in a vertical line, neck up and arched but with her poll at the highest point, ears flicked back towards me, listening.

Lily's head and neck looked like this little Paso's, on reins that were that loose!
I fell in love with this exercise, and it is going in the toolbox. It will be interesting to see what she does when we add the cantering...I have a feeling we'll have to do more like 20-20-20...

After that, Sally joined me on Jezebel. I have liked Sally since the first time I met her, and now that Charles and I are living closer to the barn, I'm hoping to be able to be riding buddies with her. Lily was finally wanting to extend after the 10-10-10 exercise, so we did giant Xs while Sally warmed up Jezebel at walk and trot. On Tuesday she had tried to ride as well, but Jezebel had also been a freak show-she hadn't even been able to get on her! The little TB was a good girl this day, however, and gave Sally a nice ride. Afterwards we just walked and walked and walked around the arena, side by side, talking. Hadn't done that in a long time-not since my last ride with Diana.

And today, we shall brave the SNOW! It snowed last night! I will actually get to see how Lily reacts to her first time in the white stuff. :)

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