Snow has returned to forecast for the foreseeable future - LE SIGH! This did, however, make for the perfect opportunity to crack open Jean-Luc's new 1200 D/300 g fill Tough1Equine teal/brown turnout blanket. He has a sheet to get him through most of this winter, but why not try a blanket with some fill? I think it will make the guy comfier and stave off any end of season weight loss.
He was looking rather handsome if I do say so myself.
Things have returned to normal(ish) at work... and while I am thankful, it did make me sad that I don't have the copious amounts of daily horse time. But again, it isn't a bad thing to fall back into the normalcy of work.
As a West Virginia School Teacher, I have much to be thankful for #55United #55Strong.
9 days of civil disobedience
Tens of thousands of protesters
0 property damage
West Virginia teachers just taught the most important lesson of their lives side by side with citizens, and the entire world watched. Those things that we value most we must stand up for. It can be done with the utmost of integrity and civility. The winds of change are blowing over our beautiful hills.
If you're completely out of the loop with what just happened in my little, oddly shaped state, and without getting too "political," Seth Meyers had some fun breaking it down.
As always, #boldlyGO!
Due to some rather inconvenient circumstances happening around the state, work has afforded more time with Jean-Luc. I am making the most of that time by heading to the barn at least every other day.
Until today, the weather has been absolutely abysmal. I never knew I how much I hated mud and rain until I owned a horse. As you may have read in the last post, one of my ultimate goals with Jean-Luc is to help him become a balanced critter. His natural pace really has him all over the place. Just look at this photo!
Here, he is just walking to me from the field and he's leaning all over the place. His lateral movement can be pretty wild to sit sometimes. When working at a pace, it is impossible to make sharp turns and causes the horse to constantly trip. It isn't good for his back either, and that is why I am spending so much time on all these tiny, micro-movements / efforts.
More saddle time has really helped us out, too. Though I do not wish to encourage his pace, he is pretty high strung, so at least for now, we pace until he is relaxed enough to fall into a gait. That isn't ideal. Normally, you would work up from the walk into a gait, rather than down into a gait from the pace. However, it is what is working for us.
The other day, though, the weather and conditions just weren't going to allow for us to be outside at that time. Thus, I started working in the barn on a lesson I had reviewed from Gaited Horse Trainer, Larry Whitesell. I found his site on Facebook nearly six months ago, but this is the first real lesson I have tried. Below is the link to the original video lesson.
After reviewing, and knowing there wasn't much I could do with Jean-Luc outside, I decided to give this video a try.
Below is the link to our first attempt. You will see that Larry emphasizes several practical ideas, but primarily that the bridle is to be used to talk to the horse's feet. Also, none of these exercises require more than feather light touches.
The goal was to get Jean-Luc to back using a feather-light touch on his bridle. The direction from Larry is not to push is not straight back into the horse's chest because that will pinch their tongue. You are to move towards their ears. Also, this motion is to come from your core, not your arms.
Overall, I'm pretty happy with the first attempt's results. I know we have a long way to go, but this should help Jean-Luc learn to hind end rather than his front legs when stopping - something he is notorious for. Truly riding any sort of downhill slope on this guy feels like you are descending atop a jackhammer!
Building balance and strength has always been my goal for Jean-Luc. This Spring we are beginning get very serious about it. I just pray I have the patience and dedication to watch it happen.
For those of you who know Liz, her Blog is currently on a hiatus. She has every intention of writing again soon, but in the meantime, I'm happy to share a little part of what she's been up to recently - helping me. Liz and I have been in each other's lives since we were five years old, (maybe before). She is amazing and her dedication to a lifestyle of horsemanship is something I respect. Since purchasing Jean-Luc I have been blessed to have her friendship and guidance.
She is also insanely busy, so when she offered up some informal lessons in the very little free-time that she has, I jumped at the chance! Her training philosophy makes the most sense to me because it is based on classic and natural techniques that when done correctly, result in a healthier horse and rider.
Because the techniques I'm learning are not unique, I was able to "study up" on concepts prior to my lesson. The video below from www.EquitopiaCenter.com, "Art 2 Ride" features trainer Karen Loshbaugh and Equine Veterinarians Dr. Joanna Robson, Dr. Sarah le Jeune and Dr. Sue Dyson. I believe, is a great detailed explanation of what Liz often discusses when teaching me. The video demonstrates what incorrect riding can do to your horse. It also explains why a person would want to use these gymnastic-like techniques to build their horse's back, as well as what happens when a rider/trainer gets this process right or wrong.
This process is not something that happens overnight. Jean-Luc and I have at least a two-year road ahead of us before he will be able to sustain his core and back muscles while riding and that's more than okay by me.
When I arrived at the barn the other night for our lesson, Liz had kindly caught Jean-Luc and tied him for me (#spoiled). It saved both of us time, and we learned he will follow behind a 4-wheeler (quad for those of you up north), with no issues.
While she worked one of her horses in the field, I quickly cleaned and tacked Jean-Luc up. I was excited to toss on his new girth that I'd found a the Galloping Grape Labor Day weekend. It's nothing special, but it was the correct size and made the entire process of saddling up go faster. It's amazing what having the right tools for the job can do.
To start, Liz asked me to work Jean-Luc in the arena with his side reins. She showed me that I had been using them backward (sorry buddy, momma's learning too). Then we worked on getting Jean-Luc used to the feel and encouraging that forward motion, through the bit, and tucking his rump. He could only hold the correct body position for fleeting seconds, but thanks to the video from above, I knew this was to be expected.
We worked at the walk for about 10 min on each side. Then Liz asked me to take him to the outdoor round pen to work on speed changes under saddle. The outdoor round pen is slightly larger and allows for you to canter.
This is where things get ... #fun. You see, I can be kind of a wimp. Once upon a time, I had a knack for hitting the dirt. Now that I have few years on me, the dirt seems so much further away, and it really does take more time to recover. When Liz asked what I wanted to work on, I knew it had to be something that would build my confidence.
Again, rather than tossing me to the wolves, she's kindly suggested working on "speed changes". This made me happy because it is also something that Jean-Luc and I can practice without anyone around. It's quite simple. The goal is to start out at one speed, ask for another speed, and keep changing it up in an effort to have you and your horse go the speed you tell him at the exact moment you say.
Last week I clued her in on something that surprises even me though - I haven't worked at the canter... at all. Yes, I know, every girl's dream is to run through a field of wildflowers as the sun sets over the mountains. How have I not done this yet!? The short answer - I am a chicken.
Liz and I both knew it was time begin whatever steps necessary to make this happen. I mean Jean-Luc is smart and likes to move. Only working his lower gears has a purpose (discourage the pace), but he enjoys moving. So, we started moving around the arena slowly, then a little faster, then changing his speed up and down throughout his different gears. Finally, I got to a point where I believed both we were ready to canter.
The short celebratory version of this story is ... he was ready to canter. I was ready to canter. So we did. The best part of this being a story told in the 21 century is that Liz had her phone on her and was able to take some pretty memorable photos. Remember that old phrase, "A picture's worth a thousand words." This is no exception.
Photo Credit: Liz Stout
As difficult as these are to share, I can actually laugh with you at them. I thought for sure I'd swallowed my terror and I was hiding it well. Liz's camera proves otherwise. It also helped prove something else, though. My fear is somewhat irrational. Look at that happy little critter just moving around in circles! Sure, I can make all the excuses I want, "he isn't balanced", "he moves weird", etc. But the truth is, I am the one re-learning what I once knew. I am the one who needs to just chill.
Thankfully, even if my head doesn't seem to remember, my body hasn't forgotten everything. These photos do show a relatively balanced rider. For the most part, I'm happy with my hands the placement of my feet. My shoulders need to be relaxed and squared up a bit, but I think that will happen more as I remember to BREATHE! After all, it's been 10 years since I've really done this.
By the end, Liz and I both agreed to "fake it till you make it." I practiced cantering on both sides a few more times with a giant fake smile (note the photo at the top of this post and the one below).
I am so thankful to have someone willing to take the time to point out things I, myself, could live in denial about forever. Having a friend to push me through, but still let me do it at my own pace is truly priceless. I am looking forward to working on the things I learned the other night with Jean-Luc. These photos a valuable, because no matter what, I believe in the progress we will soon see after them.
My name is Chelsey.
Generator's Cuevo Gold, or as he's known around this barn, "Jean-Luc Ponycard", was foaled in 2004 from Generator's Hurricane & Cheyenne's Little Bit.
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