Sunday, November 18, 2012


Sometimes when my brain races ahead full tilt, my goals become distorted and I have to take a few steps back to regroup. When the fire took place my first responsibility was to take care of Suki and make her recovery as smooth as possible. As she continued to improve and her survival was no longer in jeopardy I had to accept that my goals would have to shift in a different direction and slow to a crawl. I would be lying if I didn't say that I was disappointed and jealous of those whose horses were not harmed. Not that I would have wanted anyone else's horses to be injured, of course but I felt like I had a black cloud over my head. Just as my mare Jenny was starting to really come along she suffered a fractured hock in a trailer accident bringing my goals with her to a screeching halt as well. And while Jenny did go on to train and compete again (in spite of the veterinarians saying that she would never be competition sound again)she never reached her full potential. But she gave me everything she had with heart and courage and we shared a deep bond.

So I find myself once again with realigned goals, and have days when I miss the intense training from when I was at J's barn in Unionville. As the cold of winter looms ahead and my riding will stop for a few months I plan on taking a deep breath and prepare for spring. Hopefully there will be opportunities to audit some good dressage clinics to keep me motivated. I suppose I can pick up some training DVDs to help plan for spring. I have never viewed the Reiner Klimke videos and he was such a master....
I know that at some point I probably will have only a few opportunities to lunge Nikki because once the ground freezes it can stay pretty hard throughout the remainder of winter. But we can work on some leading exercises to strengthen our working relationship which will be fun as well. So, in spite of my lack of riding this winter I plan to fill it with learning experiences out of the saddle. It would be great if I could find someone who had an upper level school master that I could take lessons on weekly. Something I will have to research.

And so, in the continuing theme of learning opportunities, I come back to my new obsession with classical training and the Spanish Riding School. I found this video (You Tube, of course)
Watch the one-tempis in hand.....Oh Suki, I hope you're ready!

The next two videos are about the Spanish Riding School itself, with a narration of the history, etc.

Monday night (Nov 12) we had very heavy rain. Although the arena drains pretty well, it was no match for such torrential downpours. There was one area that was puddle-free so I was actually able to lunge Nikki for a bit. Slightly "up" at the start (after being in for longer than usual)she settled quickly and worked well. Even most of the paddocks were too wet for turnout, so it gave Nikki some time to stretch her legs a bit. Suki was quite a fidget on cross ties while I groomed her, anxious to get outside. Both girls would be out in a paddock while their stalls were being cleaned so at least they were out for a little while!

Thursday was a beautiful day and I was excited that I would get to ride again. When I turned into the farm driveway I could see Nikki rolling. As she was getting up Banker dropped in the field next to her, followed by Killian by Nikki. It was fun to watch. Suki was the only one who I didn't see roll, but I suspect she started the chain reaction of rolling, judging by the mud on her knees!

Fortunately Nikki came right to the gate. Suki stood at the adjacent gate and nickered to Nikki then stood at the fence facing the arena while we worked. I had a nice ride, keeping it simple with a lot of transitions and changes of direction, followed by some ground poles. Nikki kept her focus in spite of occasional outbursts by her big sister!

Even with day time temperatures hoverung around fifty degrees, the nights are cold requiring blankets. Some days I am forced to skip a day at the barn, which results in Suki's neck being slighter drier than when it is moisturized daily. But I am proud of myself for finally treating Suki like a horse instead of a piece of fine china! In the beginning she needed to be treated very delicately, but now that she has fully recovered I have to let down my guard a bit.

Saturday morning reminded me of why I enjoy living in the Oley Valley. Bold brush strokes of orange across the sky topped the mountains at sunrise. The wide cornfields have been cut down in preparation for winter's rest. The meadows are thick with frost glistening as the first light of day hits them. Isaiah had his lesson and because he listens better when I don't watch I now sit in the car and wait for him. I love to watch him ride so initially I was a little disappointed. Then i realized that it was 45 minutes of uninterrupted reading or writing....hmmm

Usually I take care of Nikki first, but Suki followed me down the driveway to the gate and called to me. Obviously she wanted to go first! Because it was such a nice day I decided to lunge Suki as well and I wrapped her legs in white polos and put on her bridle. Suki listened well and while Nikki looked up from her grazing occasionally she didn't call to Suki at all! It's funny how whenever I put them back out in their pastures whichever horse is already out comes over to the gate to investigate. They have an interesting relationship, always vying for my attention.

I read an article recently that said that every day you should do something that makes you feel uncomfortable. So Saturday I lunged Nikki in her bridle but had not planned on riding. I did however take my helmet to the arena just in case I decided to do my uncomfortable task by riding Nikki bareback. Bareback riding is not something that I have ever really done to often simply because my horses have always hated it. Since I didn't ride as a young child, the opportunity to do it then was also not an option. I lunged Nikki for about 15 minutes then walked over to the mounting block. My heart beat a little faster as I secured my helmet. Nikki is 17.1, after all, and getting on was going to be the first challenge. I took a deep breath and climbed aboard. Softly squeezing my legs I urged Nikki forward at the walk. Quietly we walked around the arena. We performed loops and circles and a little leg yield after the walk. It was much better once I started to breathe! I was about to get off when I decided to ask for a trot. Nikki has a really comfortable trot and Oi love to sit, so off we went. Yay for me! Okay, next challenge: a little rising trot. Oh my! I was having a great time! I asked Nikki to halt and wrapped my arms around her very fuzzy neck. Walking back to the barn we both had a bit of a swagger in our stride!


  1. I have every confidence that such moves are childs' play to Suki. The only thing I don't like is how unnatural the horses are forced to hold their heads. I have seen too many YouTube undercover videos on how some trainers force the horses to keep this position constantly in order to alter the neck muscles. Such behavior is torture, in my opinion!

    1. Some trainers do force horses' heads into unnatural positions. Rollkur is frowned upon as a training method and is often used as a short cut to proper training. If a horse is pushed from leg into hand properly such tactics are not necessary and I don't think should ever be employed. Classical training is supposed to not do that although I am sure there are some who claim to train classical but actually do not. I have always been taught to ride with a soft hand and like to "test" myself by moving my hands forward, and if the engine is working properly the horse maintains that position. Whenever anyone talks about a "headset" you know they are riding from their hands and cranking the horse's head in! : (
      From what I have observed and read about the SRS they are trained very slowly and properly. Watching them school (granted, it was a public session) the horses appeared happy and willing to work and were praised and rewarded with sugar frequently by their riders.
      I agree, the methods you mention are torture! Hopefully I am not naive in believing that the SRS trains without resorting to extreme methods! Have you seen evidence that they are training harshly? Hopefully none of the videos that you have seen are of SRS training.