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

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Charles Rides! And 2Pointober

So this week I started coughing while at work on Wednesday. Initially I thought it was just allergies but by the next morning I knew what it was: my yearly bout of bronchitis. -_- Body: why you do dis???!!

Off to the doctor I went on Friday, where I was nebulized and given antibiotics, steroids, an albuterol pump, prescription cough tablets for the day, and prescription cough syrup with hydrocodone for the evenings so I could sleep. (Apparently I was pretty sick?)

I'm a huge lightweight when it comes to meds that are supposed to make you drowsy. Benadryl? Dimetapp? Robitussin? Dramamine? You name it: they knock me on my ass. Can't take any of them if I'm trying to function. So I followed the directions for taking that arsenal of meds. Friday night: took my cough syrup. Slept fine, woke up fine. Saturday night: took my cough syrup. Slept fine...for 12 hours!...woke up very groggy and kind of stayed groggy all day today.

I obviously had taken Friday and Saturday off from riding to give my body a chance to heal. On Saturday morning I stopped by the barn to drop off Gracie's and Lily's blankets since it was going to plummet into the 30's (!) in the evening. By that afternoon I was feeling well enough that I asked Charles if he finally wanted to ride with me on Sunday (today). He's been begging to ride since the beginning of September! But then Gracie fell and then we were getting all of her issues sorted out, and I wanted to be 100% sure she was going sound so she'd be safe for him to ride.

We drove to Kathy's, pulled the girls from the fields and tacked up. The temperatures were in the 50's so both girls had beet pulp mashes with plenty of water to get some extra fluids in them while we got them ready. I always worry about them not drinking enough water with big temperature changes.

I lunged Gracie in the paddock in front of the barn prior to Charles getting on to see where her energy levels and brain were at, and also to watch her move. She was happy and forward but not silly, and she was the soundest I have seen her in probably forever: no short striding at ALL.

So I turned her reins over to Charles and held her for him while he mounted up. I had him ride in the Alta while I rode in the Wintec dressage with the sheepskin cover. The longer we were at the barn, the lazier I was feeling. Honestly, my main goal for the day was to get my 2pointober baseline for L. Williams. I'd be happy even if I did nothing else. I did some light lateral work with Lily at the walk while supervising Charles warming up Gracie. And snagged some pics!

It was quite windy!

Slow gaiting
Once she was all warmed up and it was evident that Gracie was definitely going to behave with him, I opened the gate to the back field without dismounting from Lily.

I warned Charles that Gracie loves cantering up the back slope of the field and will try to do it if she is anywhere close to that hill.  He should either stay away from it to begin with or go up the hill at the gait: I don't want her thinking that it's okay for her to just take off at a canter whenever she wants.

He did well, initially avoiding the hill entirely then going up at something very close to a speed rack. I let Lily walk around in the general vicinity of where Charles was riding, calling out the occasional correction: "Keep her head up!" "Slooooow.." but otherwise, he was riding exactly where he had left off prior to getting whacked in the knee on his last ride in July.

Gracie had a moment in the back corner of the field, right next to the neighbor's gelding fields. Someone back there was throwing buckets and/or fixing things out of sight in the barn. Gracie spooked at the noise, scooting forward with her tail tucked and proceeded to have a small bucking fit. 4 or 5 rolling bucks in quick succession where she popped up her withers but didn't kick up her hind feet, while turning in a half circle. My jaw may have dropped when I saw him ride that out without even the slightest hint of losing his balance. He instinctively rocked his shoulders back and simply locked his elbows so Gracie couldn't get her head down, then kicked her forward the second her front feet touched the ground.

I didn't tell him to do any of that. In fact, that's the most Gracie has ever bucked whether under saddle or at liberty. So it's not something I had even discussed with him prior. He's seen me ride out bucks but I've never verbally explained to him what you're supposed to do.

Good job Charles!!!!

We had left the gate between the paddock and the back field open. Charles was riding nonchalantly by the open gate when suddenly Gracie decided she was going to go back into the paddock and did a 180 degree turn to the right, succeeding at her attempt. Charles didn't even have time to try to fix it, it happened so quickly. He got her turned around and back into the field without an issue. He did one more turn around the field and...I watched Gracie make a beeline for the gate again. Despite him not wanting her to go in that direction, he was looking right at the gate this time when it happened. Again she got into the paddock, again he got her back out. He tried to close the gate behind him but I instructed him to leave it open.

"You can get her past the open gate but you have to block her movement with your right leg and use the opposite rein, your left, to turn her away from it," I explained.
"But that's exactly what I'm doing," he said. He was frustrated.
"Start turning her away from the gate before she starts even thinking about it. Use your entire right leg from the hip to keep her going where you want her," I demonstrated on Lily. "And bring your hand back more when asking her to turn. [He was being very light with his hands on the reins but Gracie was taking advantage of him. He needed to ask more.] This is a very common test with horses: trying to exit through open gates or stop at closed gates. If I can keep her from doing it, you can too. You have the advantage of longer legs and more weight," I said encouragingly.
He thought about it for a second, then turned Gracie around.

"Try it again." I called after him.

This time they effortlessly made it past the gate with no issue at all!

Evidence! You can see the offending open gate in the left of this photo.
And more evidence! Her gait looks positively snazzy here!
I filmed them too:

Since they were doing so well, I went ahead and got my 2pointober baseline. In my sheepskin-covered dressage saddle with caged stirrups that probably could have been 2 holes shorter but whatevs. This is what my time was:

And here are photos showing that this can be done in a dressage saddle with too-long stirrups. :)

And if I can do it having bronchitis, in a dressage saddle, with too-long stirrups, you can too! Go do it! Two point is a great exercise for your whole body and will help your balance regardless of what discipline you ride in. The prizes are for most improvement and for longest time. You have the whole month of October! Tomorrow is the last day to submit your baseline time to either L. Williams or Hillary. Just comment on their blogs to let them know what your time was. :)

After that I went back to toodling around at the walk while watching Charles ride around. He had one more incident with Gracie where he was looking straight at me as he came around the field...so of course Gracie came gaiting at top speed straight towards Lily and me! Lily pinned her ears and hopped out of the way at the last second as I barked orders to Charles. He brought Gracie to a halt next to me and I explained that he absolutely needed to look where he wanted to go as he instructed Gracie with his body. She was going to go where he was looking no matter what his seat, legs and hands were telling her.

You and I know all of this but I'm sure you remember, like I do, the time when all of these little details weren't automatic and we still had to think about these things. I wasn't annoyed at him at all; it's part of the learning process for him and this is also why I had him riding in an open field on his first day back in the saddle in months: I deliberately had turned the ride into an informal lesson without him knowing. ;)

"So I'm going to just sit here on Lily," I told him, "and you're going to bring Gracie around and ride past us without crashing into us." (Note my faith in him! Haha...)

Charles turned Gracie around and obliged. As he was coming around the far end of the field, I saw his eyes focus on me. "Nope, you're not going to look at me!" I called out (this field has great acoustics for lessons, as the sound bounces off of the trees), "You're going to look at the fence at the other end of the field and go there!"

They glided past Lily and me in the grass about 6 feet from us.

"Do it one more time!" I said.

He repeated it, this time keeping his eyes where he wanted to go the entire time. He was grinning afterwards.

"Okay. So eyes, hips and legs, and hands," he said, as he brought Gracie to a halt next to us.
"Yes," I said. "In that order. And if she's not listening, you reinforce the hips, legs and hands in quick increments until she does. But you make sure that you are always looking where you want her to go." This is way oversimplified, but we're not doing dressage here (yet?); he's just continuing to fine-tune his basic steering with a mare that definitely has a mind of her own.

I remembered to swap the leathers on the Alta out for my longer leathers for him, but I couldn't remember what hole I used to set them at for Charles. As it turns out, they could have gone up two more holes. He did a fantastic job keeping his heels down throughout despite this!

Looking where he wants to go!
Using his abs to collect her.
It was a good ride for him and Gracie. They worked for about an hour total and the time just flew by. Lily was an absolute doll despite not having been worked since last Monday, despite the cooler weather and the wind. She was happy to walk around or just stand around patiently. No spooking, no silliness, no shenanigans, no nothing. We did our 6 minute trot in two point and then cantered up the field's slope once and that was the most we moved: we then returned to our previous state of inertia. I love that horse! The more time passes, the more I can count on her to do exactly what I need her to do without any explanation.

Lily on a different day, modeling her muscles.
Once I felt Gracie had been worked long enough, I accompanied Charles and her in the smaller paddock while he cooled her out and then we dismounted. The girls got untacked and we let them hang out by the fence grazing while the sweat on their backs dried off (mostly Gracie; Lily barely broke a sweat with all our walking!) so we could curry them out. Lily's feet were getting long so I trimmed them with my new rasp: a Heller Black Legend. My previous rasp was a Black Master and it did a great job...but the Black Legend is even better. It's like rasping butter! (Granted these are hooves from the wetter Northeast; not the rock-hard hooves of the West!) Super sharp. In 10 minutes I was done with all 4 feet.

I then sat down in the barn to set up the mares' feed with their supplements for the week while Charles helped Kathy with mulching and picking poop from the paddocks, and Zoe took Deja for a short ride in the park.

It was a really nice relaxing afternoon at the new barn. Kathy's barn. :)

*AAANNND before I forget, L. Williams is celebrating her 1,000th post! And she is holding a giveaway to celebrate. The link to the giveaway is here! Congrats LW!


  1. Charles looks really good riding gracie and rock on on your 2 point time. I've been having bouts of sickness too, sometimes the body just needs a rest.

  2. Yay for Charles! Sounds like he's a natural. As for the 'look where you're going' - I learned that the hard way when a horse I was riding started freaking out. As I tried to regain control, I also began looking at all the different things we could crash into...which of course meant that said horse then started moving towards those things! That experience cemented that lesson for me.

    And Lily looks fabulous, wow!

    1. Oh God, yes the 'look where you're going' was a huge one that I had to learn the hard way over fences! On two separate occasions during my jumping career I accidentally aimed a horse at a 5' standard because I was not looking at the jumps themselves. :/

      Thanks! She's been taking her job of putting on muscle very seriously! Haha

  3. That's a pretty kickass instinct to have re: the US shenanigans!!! I think dressage is in the future. ;-)

  4. Your challenge time is impressive! Mine is.... not haha.

    1. Lol! Hey, it just means you'll be more likely to get the "Most Improved" award! :D

  5. He looks great on her, and she looks comfortable carrying him. I think the saddle serves both of them well. It's clear he's having fun, and that the horse is relaxed.

    How wonderful to have a man brave enough to pursue this not-safe passion, and that he cares enough to let you teach.

    I wish I could offer my husband the same. Someday!

    My American dressage trainer would say, "No, do a posting-without-stirrups challenge!" Oh, she was rough.

    1. Thank you Lytha! :D I had a friend ask if I was going to sign him up for lessons when I told her he was riding. I know I got this puzzled expression on my face. "I'm teaching him," I explained. She was surprised. "He doesn't argue with you?" she asked. And then I started watching other husband/wife riding duos and realized that there is often a lot of competitiveness and they often deliberately refrained from critiquing one anothers' riding because it led to arguments...I hadn't thought of it, and thankfully it hasn't been an issue. It's convenient too, since I'm the one that installs the buttons on the horse. Haha

      Your hubs is wonderful too. I love how he will hike out with you when riding Mara and how he has helped you with some of her issues. It's awesome that he's so supportive!

      My PR jumper trainer would have said the same thing as your American dressage trainer! She'd have us flat for an hour without stirrups w/t/c before we were allowed to jump!