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

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Schizo Weather

Yesterday I made it to the barn by 11:00 am, in time to finally watch one of Tina's lessons with Carolyn del Grosso.

Carolyn is a Grand Prix dressage rider who has ridden with the likes of Sallie Swift, and is a gold USDF medalist. She teaches more in the classical dressage method of lightness and balance, and is a well-known trainer in this area. I had been itching to watch a lesson, because I haven't met another classical dressage trainer since the rather unconventional Manuel Trigo clinic.

We were introduced, and I sat down next to Carolyn on a mounting block in the outdoor, and Tina rode Houdan in a 20 meter circle in front of us, walk, trot and canter. Tina worked hard! Carolyn had them do an exercise where Tina applied contact with the outside rein, enough to turn Houdan's nose out in a slight counter-bend, and once his shoulders straightened, she was to pick up her inside rein, moving her hand slightly back, up and towards the center of Houdan's neck. This is a Nuno Oliveira technique, where turning is initiated by moving your hands towards your center, rather than away from the horse's neck. When inside rein pressure was applied in this way, Houdan would respond by lifting and lightening in his entire front end. At this point, Tina had to let go, and Houdan's head would automatically fall into a straight vertical line, and his trot gained a floaty quality. Tina also had to sit so that her outside butt cheek was more medial in the saddle, to help keep Houdan in line.

It was pretty awesome to watch. Houdan would complain a little initially when the cues were given correctly, in a small attempt at an evasion, but he would immediately respond. It was very clear when everything happened the way it should-he looked like a picture perfect dressage horse. Tina is a good rider and is great at following instruction, and also has some of my same quirks when riding, so it was a good lesson to watch and learn from. This was an exercise I actually NEEDED to do with Lily.

I took down Carolyn's information, with the goal of calling her for a lesson myself sometime in the next few weeks.

It was freezing. The forecast had said it was in the 40's, but it felt like the mid-30's, even in the sun.

I got Lily and walking back to the barn from the paddock, it started to...sleet? Snow? Rain? All of the above. Despite it being sunny.

Snowflakes and rain drops on my jacket sleeve!
I tacked Lily up in the wash stall, deciding to use the dreaded mullen mouth snaffle that I had not used since this event, and took her into the indoor, since the rain was coming down hard.

We had just finished warming up at the walk, when it suddenly cleared up outside and the sun came out. It was way too gorgeous to avoid, so I got off and took Lily to the outdoor.

Well. I got Lily trotting, and we were able to canter once in each direction, when the trainer we don't like and one of her students entered the arena. This complicated everything because there were already 3 of us riding in the arena. It's not a large arena, and with the jumps it can get tricky maneuvering to avoid colliding with other riders when it gets crowded.

I was starting to get flustered about trying to stay out of everyone's way, and suddenly, the weather made it easy.

We had been in the arena for only 15 minutes, but the sky had quickly become overcast. Halfway around the arena at a trot, I heard a distant rushing sound. I looked up at the clouds, and saw that distinct shredded look they'll have when they're bringing rain. Right above us. I hopped off Lily at the same time as Nancy, one of the other boarders that was riding in the outdoor, and we were the first to flee back inside the barn. I got these photos as I trotted Lily into the shelter of the building.

Snow/sleet/rain falling-note the little white slashes.

My saddle covered in the sleet/snow combo as we trotted into the barn!
Crazy, crazy weather!! I had a big flashback of the summer we spent if Wyoming. When you go hiking in the mountains there, you HAVE to pack enough gear for surviving in inclement weather and a possible overnight stay, simply because the weather is so unpredictable during the summer-one minute it will be 70 degrees and sunny, the next it will drop 30 degrees and the skies will let loose golf-ball sized hail and lightning (I actually experienced this over there...)

So back in the indoor we went. The trainer with her student came too, which meant that our 20m x 40m indoor became VERY crowded indeed with 4 riders.

I picked up a trot and had Lily circle in the center of the arena to assess which direction we should take, as everyone seemed to be going in different directions on different tracks. I just wanted to try to do something productive without getting in anyone's way. Thankfully, 5 minutes later it had cleared up outside again, so back all of us went to the outdoor, except for the trainer and her student, who stayed in the indoor.

The sun lasted even less this time, and I quickly got Lily working in a circle at the trot, in an attempt to do something productive with her. I worked on the exercise that Tina had been doing with Carolyn in her lesson, and this worked really well with Lily: when she came above the bit, I asked for a small counterbend, and when she released, I turned her nose towards the inside, supporting with my inside leg. She lightened and rounded. This was one of our best snaffle bit workouts in a long time.

And then the clouds really started to get dark again. I walked Lily out, and as the rushing of the coming downpour became audible again, dismounted and led her back into the barn.

It had not been a productive day at all! The weather was annoying, but at the same time fascinating. I'm used to this-the weather in Puerto Rico is can be just as topsy turvy, and it was weird to me now because if I had been indoors looking through a window, I would have automatically assumed it was hot outside with the coming rain: on the island it was 85 degrees all the time, and you're just alternating between rain and sunshine. Some of my rides on Lucero would be just like this-ride, take cover, ride, take cover. Or just stay out and get wet...of course I had desensitized my boy to being ridden in a poncho, too!

Drenched after galloping home in the rain. Lucero, back in Puerto Rico.

At least now I have access to an indoor arena.

I never in a million years would have imagined I'd be experiencing that same ambivalent sun/rain pattern in the cold. It's kind of a nice change from the sweltering mugginess of alternating rain and sun in the summer! :)

Because, you know, since this happened, might as well just sit back and embrace the cold and forget about spring ever coming:
Except spring isn't in Florida either-it's just summer down there all the time.  My conclusion: spring is  a myth, along with unicorns, elves and the tooth fairy...


  1. Wow that trainer. I'd have flipped out. That's a really lame-ass move. What a witch with a B.

    1. "Witch with a B..." Lol! I'm going to steal that one too! ;) She most definitely is that! We have a couple of different trainers at this barn, and this is the only one that everyone has problems with, including the stable hands and the barn manager! The only reason why she's still allowed to teach is because so many of the boarders use her...we can't figure out why. We really can't.