Hi all! I hope you’re not melting in the heat. Especially you poor folks in Arizona. I’m so sorry. Forgive today’s randomness. Many things have been percolating in my brain since my last post.
Shiloh is a unicorn! After all this time of extremely sparse riding and disorganized, unclear training goals, Shiloh has seemed to retain most of what I’ve taught him so far. He responds amazingly well to leg cues and readily lowers his head when I ask him to get on the bit. It’s an amazing feeling. I never thought I would get him to this point, after all of his high headed nonsense. I’m learning so much about how to use my seat to supplement my hands for half halts and transitions, too! I’ve realized that tension has become a huge problem in my riding, both mine and his. I have a problem with clamping my inner thighs when I feel like he is getting too speedy or I lose my rhythm. This thigh clamping problem then precipitates my other position problems. Clamping my thighs tips my pelvis forward, hollowing my back, lightening my seat (“floating away”), leaning forward, and ultimately collapsing my shoulders and neck-creating a position that clearly tells my poor unwitting horse to step on it.
Slowly, I’m trying to correct these issues my paying attention to the rhythm of my seat bones and finding a new “safe position,” one that is open and straight, instead of resembling the fetal position. I see the most progress in Shiloh’s walk. He’s straight, round and on the bit, and carrying himself in a nice and balanced shape. I feel like he’s an intro level horse with a grand prix canter. Can we invent a dressage test that includes leg yeilds, shoulder-ins, reinbacks, and quarter turns, but make it just walking? His impressive coordination degenerates as soon as I transition from the walk to the trot/pace/gait/canter. Then he reverts back to giraffe mode. But at least now I am getting better at maintaining my boundaries and keeping him under control and somewhat relaxed in the canter.
I’m choosing to ignore his frame and instead take a moment to applaud myself for not reverting to jockey position.
And now I am able to pick up both the left lead and the right lead, with some finagling. This is a huge victory for us. I’m green with envy every time I log on to WordPress and see all the amazing things people are accomplishing with their equine partners in the show ring. I’ve been positively DYING to get back into showing. I’d love to start getting Shiloh different places to school and trail ride and get him more comfortable with exploring new lands and meeting new friends.
Next up: summer life hacks.
1. Giant wide-brimmed shade hat. A must have for any summer wardrobe. The best part is that not only do you get protective shade for the back of your neck, you can dress up any barn out fit and look classy. Bonus points for red lipstick and pearls. I got this hat for fifty cents at the thrift store and I LOVE it. It has a wire outer brim so I can mold it to thwart any offending sun rays. I don’t love the fact that it is black, but it’s well ventilated enough that I can look past that flaw. Ponies love it too.
2. Zinc Oxide/Titanium Dioxide sunscreen. Please use it. Sunburn and sun poisoning are not only annoying, but can cause lasting damage and premature aging. Don’t forget the backs of your hands and sun-protective chap stick. And it’s important that you choose sunscreen with the active ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, as these are natural barriers to UVA and UVB rays and they contain no harmful chemicals. Avoid any sunscreen that includes Oxybenzone or Retinol Palpitate. These nasty chemicals are banned in more sensible countries. Oxybenzone is a hormone inhibitor so it will reek havoc on your thyroid and possibly cause problems with the reproductive system, also, Oxybenzone is a major cause for breakouts as it clogs the pores. My face cleared up almost immediately when I started using zinc based suncreens. Retinol Palpitate has been known to actually damage the skin and worsen (or even cause) melanomas. Barn people make fun of me all the time for my constant reapplication, but the jokes on them. I’m not the one with jazz hands tan lines from riding gloves!
3.Sun-protective clothing. If reapplying thirty times a day annoys you, you can always go for the sun shirts that are rising in popularity. My favorites are the Noble Outfitter Ashley Perform L/S Shirt. They are super easy, professional looking, and affordable.
4. Smoothies! I recently bought myself a small blender for making smoothies to take to work. They are a wonderful way to cool off and recharge, since they are packed with vitamins and minerals and they keep well in the refrigerator so they can be prepared the night before. I have the knock off version of the NutriBullet, and it seems to be a handy little gadget. So far I’ve tried blueberry/strawberry/banana and pumpkin spice smoothies and they were both great. Plus, it’s basically a proven fact that merely gazing upon the colorful shades of glucose, fiber, and vitamins will boost your immune system (and your mood). I’m not really a health nut, but slurping one of these babies makes me feel hella jacked.
5. Regular face washing. It sounds silly, but for me it’s a quick refresher in the middle of a long, hot day. I recommend the Konjac sponges. They have a line of cleansing, purifying, and hydrating face wash sponges. All you have to do is wet the sponge and give your face a quick wash. No messy soap and rinsing involved. I work in a sparsely air conditioned environment, so I carry around the charcoal sponge and whip it out whenever I need to cool off and manage the sweat shooting out my forehead.
6. Natural fly spray and coat conditioner. Within the last year, I’ve gradually switched Shiloh’s diet to whole foods and pasture only, no concentrates. I want to expand that natural focus to his insides as well. I’m tired of riding the synthetic silicone-based teeter totter from silky soft to dry and damaged. And the chemicals that are in the commercial fly sprays have started to freak me out. I figure that if I have to pull my tee shirt over my nose while I’m spraying him down, how the heck can I justify covering his entire body in that stuff? It’s made up of toxic pesticides designed to kill bugs. Shiloh is a lot bigger than those bugs, but I worry what damage I’m doing by daily exposing him to these products. I’m fiddling with recipes at the moment, but my first batch is made up of 1 cup of apple cider vinager, 1 tsp of tea tree oil, 1 tsp citronella oil, 1/2 tsp lavendar oil, and 1/2 tsp lemon oil. It seems to fend off the worst of the flies and buzzing insects, but it does have a distinct smell. Hopefully the other ponies aren’t bullying him for his mom’s choice of cologne!
Other news on the horse front: Everything Olympics! Despite the seemingly deteriorating situation in Rio (what with the virus spreading demon mosquitoes and the drug wars), I have every hope that the show will indeed go on. I’ve never really gotten into the Olympics before, but since I’ve started avidly listening to the HRN shows, I’m a fanatic. My main focus is on the Dressage competitors, but I’m also strangely interested in the eventers and jumpers. One of my eventing idols, Elisa Wallace, has been named on the long list for the United States Eventing team, which I’m super pumped about (insert link for eventer). She’s an amazing rider and a great advocate for the American mustang.
As far as the United States Dressage team, I only have one word for you: Freaking Valegro. Okay fine, two words. Let’s just skip the Dressage portion of the Olympics and hand Charlotte Dujardin the gold medal. Unbeaten since CDI Kapellen in 2012, gold at Rotterdam, FEI World Cup Grand Prix at London Olympia in 2011, individual dressage gold at the Great Britain 2012 Summer Olympics, setting the Grand Prix Freestyle world record to 93.97% (smashing puny Totilas’n previous record into the scientifically engineered fancy Olympic footing), and killing it at Olympia 2014.Why bother riding against this freak of nature?
Stay gold, my beautiful Blueberry.
Who are your favorites leading up the the Olympics?
Happy Horsing Around!