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Shad's Journal


Summer 2010

Well - I had a bit of adventure this summer. Went out for a trail ride on July 5 - Shad spooked at a deer and headed into the woods and I fell off. In the process, I had a close encounter with a tree and broke a couple of ribs, injured my foot and collected an amazing set of bruises! This is a first for broken bones for me - I don't recommend it as it's no fun at all. I documented the bruises in photos - a little ghastly, but I think the progression is kind of interesting!

It's now almost 4 weeks later. They say it takes 6 weeks to heal. Still not riding - I was thinking about getting on today, but it hurts quite a bit to try to lift a saddle onto Shad's back, so will wait a little while longer. I figure once I can tack up, I will be good to go. I do plan on doing a little round penning today. I am over not being able to do much!

Day 1 - This is shortly after I got back to the house. You can see where the waistband of my breeches protected me. There was a huge hole blown out of my shirt - a cotton polo.

So Day 2, things look a little more dramatic - everything was turning color. Ow.
Day 2 - I normally have pretty bony ankles - this is pretty swollen.

Day 3 - A lot like day 2, only a little more so.

Day 4 - I never did get a picture of the full set of bruising as it would have been x-rated. It ran from just under my shoulder blade on the right side, around the side as you see in the pic and then wrapped around my hip, finishing up in the groin area.

You can see how the bruising has sunk to the bottom of my foot and gone all the way out to my toes.
Weird! I am pretty sure the toes weren't involved!


This is almost 4 weeks after the fall. Pretty much cleared up, except that there is a big dent that must be where the ribs broke. Wonder if it will fill out over time?


Very belated update - 9/27/2009

Well -it's been quite a while since I have written in Shad's journal. Last January, Austin was injured, so Henry has been riding Shad all year. They have had a great time and Henry has helped Shadow get so much confidence out on the trails.

We did a Judged Pleasure ride recently and found that both Shad and Callas still need work on herd-bound issues, but they were really pretty good about the obstacles, so that was cool. I took over the ride last week for a dressage lesson with Missy Ransehousen (?sp). It was nice to have some eyes on - it's been almost a year since I rode with anyone. Shari got some pics and it was amazing how great Shad looked - a tribute to the good work Henry has been doing really.

Judged Pleasure Ride 6/7/2008

The Cast of characters:

Austin - 6 yo TB off the track less than 6 weeks!

Gretel - 11 (I think) yo TB/Belgian x. Foxhunter, but has never done a judged pleasure ride before now.

And Shad - 10yo QH - has done these before, but it hasn't been much of a pleasure!

Pones were TOTALLY awesome. And it wasn't as nasty as we feared. A heat wave had descended and we were worried about cooking the critters. The first part of the ride was almost 100% through the woods and there was a nice breeze the whole time. The last little bit was in the hot sun, but that part was pretty short, so it wasn't too horrid.

I had talked to my sis about maybe joining us - we called her as we approached her exit on 270 - "are ya coming?" "uh uh uh, I have to feed.. and hook up." "Aw C'mon! - we'll wait for you" "Um - ok". Some real arm twisting there! Now I don't know how she did it, but she fed, hooked up, made a copy of her coggins, printed out the registration form, filled up her water supply, saddled up her mare and headed down the road and was only 1/2 hour behind us. Amazing! Hank was very pleased that Austin stood quietly on the rig while we waited for sis to show up.

Let me see if I can remember the obstacles. There were 11.

#1 Mounting. Gretel and Shad were quiet. Austin was a bit antsy.
#2 Mailbox. The mailbox was in a cut in the woods that was filled with park debris, mounds of clippings and leaves. The mailbox itself had two huge bright orange inflated carrots hanging from it. Austin freaked a bit and hopped around like a frog. Henry hung cool and waited him out, and was able to approach the mailbox and touch it. Shadow was a total star. He gave the mounds of debris the oogy eyeball, but let me bring him right up to the mailbox and move his heiney over so that I could touch it. Waited quietly a moment and moved off quietly - YAY SHAD. Gretel was quite lookey here, but sis (aka Kaja, aka Ka) got her up to the mailbox. However, when she touched it, it fell down! Gretel got kudos for standing there with the mailbox tumbling around her feet!

#3 Debris strewn path. This obstacle had plastic bottles and stuff strewn about on either side of the trail. There was plenty of room to get through - about 2 feet across. Shad went first on this one. He walked up to the path, paused, put his head down to review the scary objects and then quietly walked through. He probably lost points for stopping, but I was so pleased that he took a careful look, figured it out and went on. Austin walked through without a look as did Gretel. Henry just said that he was getting light in front waiting his turn to get through.

#4 - 7 - I am not sure I remember the order right on these. Amazing how quickly we forget. We decided we should have brought little golf cards with us so that we could note each obstacle and our score!

#4 Narrow logs. There was a narrow spot in the path with a bunch of logs like close set cavaletti. Austin went first on this one and negotiated it in style. Shad went next and frankly was so worried about keeping up with Austin that he completely ignored the obstacle! :roll Gretel did this one pretty perfectly.

#5 I think 5 was the obstacle we called the car wash - streamers of white fabric hanging down that you had to safely negotiate - either ride through or around quietly. Gretel was quite worried about this one, and had to go around. I think if they had a little more time, she would have gone through, but they ran out of time. Shad was funny. He was kind of focused on Gretel and I don't think he really realized the streamers were there until we were halfway through, then he jumped in place, but he held it together and walked on through. Austin was a champ and acted like he walked through that stuff every day. Henry said he got a little agitated being last, but I didn't see him acting up.

#6 I think this one was an obstacle where you had to pick up a tennis ball from a cone on the left side of the trail, ride to the next cone on the right side of the trail and place it there. Henry went first on this one and he and Austin did great. I went next and claimed a handicap for riding such a tall horse! It was quite a reach down to the cone, but I managed. Shad was perfect standing quietly while I made my big stretch. Ka was funny - she practiced stretching while we waited! She and Gretel did great also.

#7 For this one, we had to walk across a creek, then a lady handed us a slicker, which we had to mimic putting on. The creek wasn't the obstacle, but it added a bit of difficulty. Just drape the slicker around the shoulders was fine. Shad went first on this one and was perfect. Austin was equally unconcerned as was Gretel. No biggie at all for our babies, but you could see from the churned up ground that some horses really worried on this one.

#8 was a donkey plant/umbrella stand with a pair of flags on either side of it. It was a two part obstacle, partly judged on the obstacle, but also judged on how quietly your horse stood and waited while his pals disappeared over the hill. Austin went first on this one and was quite worried about the obstacle. He was afraid someone had turned that Donkey to stone and by god the same was not going to happen to him! But again, Henry just quietly waited him out and they made it through. Ka went next and Gretel said "this is no big deal". Shadow was pretty concerned at being left behind, but I kept him in a haunches in/circle thing, swapping directions, until it was my turn. He did give the donkey the hairy eyeball, but walked through obediently.

#9 was a wooden bridge that you had to walk part way across, stop and back straight off. Austin went first and was great. Henry has only been backing him a step or two, so he really came through backing his whole body length off the bridge. The judge made a comment that he wasn't quite straight, so I rode Shad onto the bridge next. He was a star, putting his nose down to ensure that it was an "ok" bridge, but going forward for me. Then I picked a tree and we backed up straight until the lady told us to stop! I think we aced that one! Ka rode Gretel next and she did it very nicely also.

#10 was a wooden bridge in the middle of a creek. The start and finish were under water. Austin went first and walked quietly and confidently over the bridge. Shad started out very nicely on this one and stepped obediently onto the bridge, but it moved and scared him and then it was quite slippery from being wet, so he scrambled and danced off the edge. I opted to not retry - he had been so good all along and he hates stuff that moves underfoot. I will work with him on that, but I was pleased that he had started out so well. Gretel walked over it like it was nothing. Sis stayed to the right which was dry and less slippery than the left side.

#11 was the dismount. Uneventful for all. They were pretty tired. You just have to know that they will judge you on releasing the girth, running stirrups up if you are an English rider.

The other cool thing was that a young man who had bought a PMU rescue filly from my sis was there with his now grown-up mare. He rode the entire event bareback in a halter! There is more to the tale! This filly was so wild and wooly when Ka got her that you couldn't touch her, much less halter her. When he was thinking of buying her, he would come every day and work with her - they are very cute to watch now - totally bonded.

As for me, I was SOOOOO tickled with Shad - the last time we did one of these, he was a PITA, reactive, chicken, leaping all over the place, dragging me all over. UGH. But today, he was a true steady eddie. I am smiling ear to ear!

All in all a very fun morning, much less steamy than we had anticipated (although quite warm). We are all pooped, but the pones had a nice roll and are eating grass and we are napping or getting ready to nap! LOL


Riding with JJ 12/13/2007

This was our last lesson before JJ heads to Florida, so it was really cool – we recapped and discussed some of the info from the GP clinic. 

JJ talked about the three seats:  driving, holding and harmonizing.  So you drive and ask for more forward, then harmonize, or you hold and ask for better balance and then you harmonize.  It was really cool and I think we got some real breakthrough moments for me especially. 

We discussed the shorter rein.  I am a bit uncomfortable working so short without any help, so JJ suggested shortening to where I feel uncomfortable and then letting them out half an inch or so.  We also talked about the feeling of sustaining his balance in no less than a level state.  IOW, I can ride him up or level, but need to be careful and aware that he doesn’t drop downhill.

We did some really nice canter work.  I need to work a bit more on the three seats at the canter, but basically we started working the walk/canter transitions.  Interestingly enough, the transitions on the left were pretty respectable.  On the right, more than once, I told him something very unclear and got a halt instead of a depart!  I am going to have to figure out what I am doing with that right seat bone, because it put him right on the ground. 

We would do a 10 m circle at the walk and as I approached the wall, ask for the canter transition.  Go a few strides down the wall, and come off to a new 10 m circle (we did 12m circles on the left because it’s harder for him), and then as I approach the wall again, transition to walk.  I needed to really be attentive to riding the down transition properly, not letting my arms creep forward and permit him to dump on his forehand, not letting my WHOLE BODY creep forward :lol  JJ got me me good, I was preparing for the C/W transition when she said “now HALT” – we got a beautiful walk transition!  We repeated this all over the arena.  She told me to be attentive to when he starts to get tired as this is pretty taxing work and make sure I give him a break.

We finished off by criss-crossing the stirrups, really trying to let the leg hang from the socket, keep the hips open and supple, keep the knee –especially the right knee – and toe turned forward, then we did a bunch of trot halt transitions with the occasional reinback interspersed .  Then building the trot a little more with me really trying to find the feeling of the bigger steps and encouraging him to be lighter lighter lighter off the leg. 

Simply awesome.

Riding with Gerhard Politz 12/9/2007

Tried to start out with a nice active walk – GP mentioned that it was an improvement, but kept at us throughout to maintain it at a top level.

Early on he had us halt – make sure Shad was really straight, then ask for a teeny right flexion, straighten, teeny left flexion, straighten, repeat. Then go to walk and keeping him straight and active work on the flexions (This is easier said than done!) :lol He felt that he was still holding too much in the jaw and wanted him to release the jaw.

Then to the trot and guess what? More flexions. When Shad got heavy in the left rein, he had me do a little flexion with a curled wrist, hold for a moment and release and then ride forward into the release.

He had me go to the shorter rein early on and then use the flexions and forward energy and upper body to keep him light in the bridle and up in the shoulders. GP mentioned that he is too comfortable rolling over his shoulder and that I need to be more demanding of him and myself and ride him much more up into the connection.

We got some nicer leg yields this time although Shad still needs to be sharper off the leg – I also tried to be less holding in my seat – I can feel myself stopping him and have to really think about staying supple in my hips so that he can move his hind legs.

The canter work felt divine! Actually not too many corrections – mainly not letting my reins creep long and really sustaining my outside rein connection as I ask for bend. We also did flexions in the canter and I really felt a nice release in the left canter a few times – it’s very hard for me to get. He is so much more UP in the canter - this is more JJ than our work in the clinic, but her prep this month left both Shad and me ready for this work with Gerhard.

At the end of the ride, GP went after me for shortening my leg, he wanted me deep into the ankle (but looking in the mirror, it wasn’t that deep! Just about right), nice big stretch down and make sure my stirrups stay far enough forward on my feet that they don’t restrict my ability to flex my ankle. I told SRG later that I didn’t even whine about the new boots, although that was part of the trouble – I am much more heel down in my paddies and half chaps, but I have to break the doggone boots in, so sucked it up!

Oh – one of the exercises I forgot to mention yesterday was extreme half halts at the trot, almost to the halt and then SPRING forward to get him to sit and load his heiny a bit more.

Overall a very beneficial clinic – time to up the ante for both of us. More activity and more up in the bridle is our homework for the winter.

Riding with Gerhard Politz 12/8/2007

Rode in a clinic with Gerhard Politz today.  He’s a tough taskmaster!  I have been under the weather all week, so was a little wimpy, but managed to hold my own. 

He started us out with a big swingy walk – he mentioned that we had ok overtrack, but that we need more activity and marching feeling.  That was a theme that was mentioned throughout.  In all fairness to Shad, some of that came from me, both from being a little tense in the clinic situation and also feeling a little stiff and sucky from being in bed most of the week. 

He had us do leg yield with nose to the wall – again looking for sustained activity along with maintaining the correct angle to the wall throughout the long side.  I had more trouble sustaining the activity tracking left on the LY right.  This is not a surprise as I have problems keeping him soft and through on the left and he is less accommodating with regard to moving off the left leg. 

He then had us do some trot “lengthenings” down the long sides – again looking for more activity, more forward feeling in the work. 

Lots of circles – looking for good activity, correct bend.  The canter was a bit different – he thought he had enough forward energy, but needed to sit more – of course as soon as he started sitting, the activity level became more difficult to sustain. 

He then had me start shortening my reins.   Now to shorten the reins and still keep Shadow light was an interesting task.  It forced me to sit up more and use my back and seat more effectively and also to focus enough on my hands to half halt and play a bit with him so that he could soften and step with sufficient activity into the shorter frame. 

In the shorter frame, we repeated many of the exercises, along with a leg yield tail to the wall which was kind of cool.  Actually I was able to control him better with shorter reins – was able to be more accurate in the ly for example, but I think it was partly because I was sitting up better and also relaxed a bit as the lesson wore on.  Also needed to work on staying down in my leg.

The canter work got very nice.  I could feel a really nice sitting feeling, but could also tell that he was working quite hard to sustain the sit and the canter at the same time.  His down transitions from trot to canter felt pretty good, but I do tend to drop him in the trot walk transitions, so need to focus on riding straight to a quality walk. 

Will ride again tomorrow – I didn’t get video this time, will have to see if I can someone to video me. 

Riding with JJ 12/4/2007

Boy, it’s awesome to have someone like JJ riding your horse and then giving you lessons. 

The boots are starting to get a little more broken in so that I don’t feel quite so much like my legs are in another state.  Fitness was improved a bit as well. 

We worked again on getting and sustaining that last bit of throughness and trying to work through the slight holding at the base of his neck.  He is still not so very interested in bending left, but she had me work on finessing that also.   We did haunches in on the trot circle right, then straighten and soften – usually right first and then left and step him up a little with the left leg to encourage him to be even more active behind.  Then reverse.  It’s harder to the left because he is unwilling to release his left jaw and unwilling to step honestly to the right rein with his left hind leg, so we when we did HI on the left circle, he stalled out – splat!  So for me, it was to stay alert and keep him active enough to continue trotting on the circle and at the same time, keep his left hind active and encourage him to step to the right rein and to make sure that I am not taking on the left rein. 

Similar work at the canter.  Circles tended to get too big and the departs were sucky.  That’s when I really feel that I am riding in the evenings after a day of sitting in a chair being tense!  They did get better and he’s really getting so responsive to the seat!

Every time we got a big of good release in the neck, JJ encouraged me to ride forward into the space and try to keep the feeling of release in the slightly more active work.  When Shad gets tired or uncertain, it’s really hard not to let him turn me into a 5th leg! 

Both the trot and canter work are so immensely better than they were even a week ago.  There is swing and boing in the trot, and the canter is starting to show some jump and power.

So have been having a lesson once a week, getting out to the barn on the weekends, and am riding one of the horses at home a couple of times a week and my riding is showing improvement too.  I can really feel that I am sitting up better, staying more open in my seat, keeping my leg on and more stable  - stuff like that.  

Riding with JJ – 11/27/2007

Lesson last night.  Worked mostly on the horse with a few position reminders.  She was kind to me because I was wearing my new boots and had “log leg” syndrome.  I am going to have to do something about fitness too. Ack. 

Shad is in full training with JJ, so she is really tuned in now to what he needs.  The main issues we are working on are keeping him loose behind the saddle and getting that last bit of throughness at the base of his neck.  He has a little spot there where he still holds. 

She wants us to use the trot to help the canter and the canter to help the trot. 

The canter right now is too “forward”, lacking in sit and collection, but she is installing jump, so says don’t worry about sit so much right now. As he builds strength that will come, but do focus on riding the jump in the hind legs.  I can really feel much more elevation in the shoulders in the canter already. 

I am finding him a little stiff on the left rein – this is an old problem that we have struggled with for a while.  She is having me finesse it.  One exercise is to work a 10m left circle in trot.  Sustain the connection on the right rein.  Use the right thigh to help keep the shoulder from falling out.  Soft touches of the left calf to keep the left hind stepping, soft touches on the left rein to keep the left jaw soft.  Then start leg yielding out on the circle, really swinging his hiney out first to get the left hind leg under your seat, then take that energy a bit forward in the trot.  We also did this on the long side and on big circles – a step or two of ly, then ask him to really spring off that inside hind. 

In the canter, we are doing similar work, leg yielding in and out on the circle.  I struggle more with this at the canter, partly I think because Shad is building strength at the canter and needs more support than I am giving him right now.   After we transition down to the trot, he gives some really gorgeous trot.  I am supposed to SIT on it and suck it up!  LOL 

We also did an exercise where you start on 10-12 m circle and then sort of square corner it and leg yield to the letter, straighten, reshape the circle, repeat.  This is a nice little softener for his back behind the saddle.  It’s a short enough stretch of work that I don’t tend to get tight in my hands. 

Another helpful exercise was to come on a 10 m circle (trotting) with an outside bend.  Then gradually change leg and body and return to true bend.  The interesting thing about this one is that I had to really pay attention or he would break to walk with the increased load on the inside hind.  JJ wants him to understand that he can bend his hocks and spring up and forward.  He is definitely getting it.  She said he is a horse with a ton of try – he really wants to please. 

One of the things I am finding is how a teeny shift of weight forward can really tip a horse on the forehand.  I tend to drop my shoulders forward and that really is not helpful.  JJ said “He’s not very sharp off the leg anyway and if you tip forward, he is then behind the leg and behind the seat.”  I think this falls in the category of not good. 
The other thing he is doing is clicking his teeth.  This started a couple of years ago.  I suspect it’s due at least partly to somewhat sore hocks.  I put him on Adequan and it seems to have helped quite a bit, but I think he returns to it for tension or discomfort.  He is due for a shot on Friday, so it will be interesting to see if he is better next week.  Henry noticed that he clicks his teeth differently on the left and right reins.  On the left rein, he clicks almost exclusively when his left hind (right fore) hit the ground.  On the right rein, he is less discrimate about his clicking and tends to click more frequently.  Henry also thought it looked like I was putting a bit of a pull on the rein at that time, so we are going to play around with some lunging and see if that makes a difference in my ability to be more independent in my hands/seat so that I can be more sensitive with his mouth. 

We also talked about how he is not a really forward thinking horse.  She is helping him understand that – it’s very interesting because it’s not that he doesn’t want to be hot off the leg and forward, he seems to just not really understand that it’s an option.  I think this is probably one of my mistakes in bringing him along. 

She will ride him today and tomorrow and I will take the ride on the weekend. 

(11/23/07 10:42 am)
Life with an Indoor

I moved Shadow to Goodness Ridge farm last weekend so that I would have an indoor and be able to work over the winter. I plan to alternate keeping him and Callas there - probably about 30 days at a time and see how it goes.

We set up a lesson for Tuesday evening and I came out and tacked him up and started warming up. JJ came out and asked if I wanted her to ride him, so I said sure! She last saw him over the summer when he was just getting legged up from his long layoff, but I was very busy this summer and just didn't get the opportunity to do many lessons with her, so it was a fresh "view" of Shad for her.

When she was getting on, she asked if I wore spurs - I said no but that he was okay with them, but she took her spurs off anyway and hopped on without taking my whip either. She rode halfway down the long side and came back and asked me for the whip. Shad is one laid back boy. I think spurs are in his future too!

Watching her ride my guy was amazing. He's pretty fancy for a QH, but does tend to roll over his shoulder and to be a little stiff behind the saddle. She started out just by getting acquainted. How does he move off the leg, what is his trot like, how well does he bend? You could see her just having a little conversation with him. Can you do this? What happens if I ask you this? How about this? Good boy!

I have never seen her get fussy or angry with a horse. Her modus operandi is very positive and very supportive of the horse.

So then we chatted a bit. She was generally pleased with his basics, but felt that he needs to be sharper off the leg. He was clicking his teeth, which is a tension thing for him - I think he started doing it when his hocks started to hurt and now that he's on Adequan, he has mostly stopped doing it when I ride. I think he was a little worried about a different rider, but expect that it will clear off in a week or two as he gets to know her. He is also due for his Adequan in about a week, so with the intensified work, I may put him on a more compressed schedule.

She felt his canter suffered mostly from lack of fitness and wanted to wait and see until his fitness improved a bit to see what she wants to do with the canter. She also said she could help him understand how to use his body better in the trot. And then she went and worked on that a bit.

Lots and lots of suppling - fairly rapid changes of bend, started with SI and HI, progressed to a few steps of HP to a change of bend to new HP. Always asking him to step actively to her leg and seat. Lots of "move forward" breaks to reresh the trot from the lateral work. The trot just got more elevated, more airy, rounder, softer, more supple - it was amazing the difference from when she started to when she stopped. Then as she was cooling out, his walk was absolutely stunning - very loose behind the saddle, huge overstride. I honestly didn't know my pone had such a walk inside his body. I can't imagine what the trot and canter will be like after a month of work with JJ.

(11/4/07 3:42 pm)
Fall is really here

Shad is fat and furry these days, but it was chilly with a brisk wind when we went to work today. Climbed on from the fence and he stood nicely and waited for me to ask him to move off. Something we have been working on as he tends to wander off and not stand still for mounting! We then worked in a nice marching walk. He was a little sticky, so I sang him some songs - fortunately for all no one could hear but me and Shad. Then we did some walk leg yields to loosen him up all over and then we went to trotting big circles and shallow trot LYs. Then we did a little canter both ways then back to the trot work, really trying to get him to step evenly up to both reins. I tend to carry my left shoulder forward, so especially on the left rein, it's difficult for him to bend unless I really focus on where my body is.

We worked on visualizing a very supple and soft feel in the back and up into both reins. It was actually quite nice. Then we did a fair amount of canter work. Lots of transitions. If I trot "too much" without making some canter transitions, he tends to zone out and blow off the canter departs unless I bring him back to the walk, re-balance, yadda yadda, so I worked a bit on staying sharp off the aids. Was going to work on some square corner canter stuff, but he is due for his Adequan and I felt like he was a wee bit sticky behind, so figured I will give him his shot this afternoon and then work on that when he is a little more lubricated.

Got some really gorgeous power trot after the canter work. For myself, worked on supple back, draped leg and carrying the upper body - hmmmm - a bit of everything. Oh yeah- trying to be sure that I didn't get hard in my hands if he got against me a little bit. Worked on some transitions within the trot, both during the rising trot warm up and later when I was sitting. I know he needs to show a lot more difference, but I was pleased with what we got. We haven't been working on it and he really tried to give me a big engaged power trot and then to come back and give me a more carrying trot.

We both sweated - pretty good for a cool, windy day!

(10/13/07 4:42 pm)
Just Ridin'

Got home from work early enough to ride today. Yippee! Went and grabbed Shadow and tacked him up. He must have had a rough night last night because he had a hand-sized patch of hair missing from his shoulder and there was blood on his nose. Couldn't figure out where it was coming from and it was only a tetch, so didn't fuss over it too much. Just as I was about to get on Henry got home and turned the rest of the gang out into the yard. I know - we're weird! They were running and bucking and farting around, and Shad was a little agitated. Not too bad though. I walked him around for a moment, then climbed on board. He was kinda stiff and sticky and felt less than 100%, but I figured it was that "rough night" thing, so I went ahead planning for a light ride.

Well- with the gang out there he was pretty fired up, so went into a booming trot - lots of circles, spiraling in and out to get him to bend in the body and be more supple. He was hitting the ground pretty hard, so I thought about the sound of his footfalls and thought about making them lighter and that helped quite a bit. He felt nice and energetic, but still kinda stiff, so we started leg yielding to get him to step under and just break loose behind the saddle a bit. Every circle got nicer and more engaged and his shoulders started to really come up. It was very cool. What was even cooler though, was that as we worked, the gang in the yard was still fired up. Callas rolled and came up Whee hawing!!! and Shadow just stayed with me, good as gold. It was MOST cool!

Went to canter since he was feeling so nice and got some nice canter work too. A bit stiffer on the left with a tendency to fall in slightly, but worked that by working on the placement of MY inside shoulder. Then started to ask for a little more sit in the canter - he could do it for about half a circle, then would fizzle out and break, so my job was to ask for a little bit less so that we could get a bit of up-ness and still sustain the canter.

After all the work for the Cowboy competition, it was very fun to ride dressage and see how he felt about that work. He felt fine!

(10/6/07 5:56 pm)
NE Regional Mounted Cowboy Shooting Championships today
Shad was awesome! I dry fired the first two goes, mixed in a little cap gun on go #3 and gradually added more until I "shot" all the targets with the cap gun on the last go. I would have loved to have tried light loads, but I just don't think he was quite ready and I don't want to lose all the ground we have gained.

Pro was awesome too. Henry fired the cap gun for the first 5 tries and then snuck in the light loads on the last go and Pro was just totally ho-hum. Perfect!

There were a couple of level 4 riders there - that's big dog in case you are wondering. It is so impressive to watch them go - they are smooth and fast and the horses know the game as much as the rider.

It was funny - courses typically have a "run-down" where you basically turn and ride hell for leather blasting away as you go! In one of the stages, you had to turn after the run-down to go through the timers and lots of the old pro horses were pissed off because they clearly thought their riders had made a mistake!

I think the 1/2 hanno won again, I didn't stick around to hear scores since we are obviously in the toilet. I told 'em I should get the most improved award!

(5/22/07 3:52 pm)
My lesson with JJ (Pro, not Shad)
Our lesson today was rinse & repeat!

I was out of town on travel and didn't get much time to work, so basically a reprise of last week's lesson. Still very good!

Very tricky being so focused and attentive. I felt my body control was better than last week although Pro felt kind of stiff, especially at the start.

At the end of the ride, I could start to feel something different in his back - in a good way. I also was able to catch myself pretty frequently when my leg crept forward or if I started to get heavy in my hands. Not everytime, but at least I can feel it sometimes!

Continued with the HP/LY exercise as a warm up. It really helps give me access to Pro's hind legs. Then we went to canter and worked on keeping him soft and up through the transitions. Did not try to ride C/W at this point, but went through trot.

Once he was loosened up in canter, we went to trot work and the "homework" is more or less getting those trot walk transitions, keeping them up, active and soft in the bridle throughout.

Constant reminders to Pro (and me!) that I am not going to carry him around anymore.

Flat shoulders, knees down. Attention to getting the thigh/hip back for the canter depart vs only the lower leg. Lower hands, especially outside.

Does this all sound familiar? Why doesn't the bod do the things we know we are supposed to do!?!?

Anyway - cool lesson. Shad is looking better, so will see if I can get him out next week.

(5/15/07 4:06 pm)
Lesson with JJ (Pro)
Shad appears to be suffering from an abcess , so I rode Pro this am for my lesson with JJ.

I warmed up with a bunch of walking and then went to the work she had me doing with Shadow, SI down the CL to turn on the forehand to SI, then did a few steps of trot work and then pretty much went to canter. He really does warm up much better at the canter - his trot work is always hard, but it's much easier on both of us if we canter first!

JJ walked in while we cantering and said "that looks nice!" Great way to start a lesson!

Big picture, we worked on getting him off the forehand, lighter in the bridle, straighter, softer - all the things I always work on with Pro, but I think we did 'em better today!

She had me doing w/c, c/w transitions and also transitions within the canter, collect, go forward, collect, go forward, then collect, collect, collect for the walk transition and maintain a little SF on the right rein to keep the right hind under and keep him really straight on the outside connection when we were on the left rein.

We also did some LY/HP work at the walk. Turn on centerline, LY to quarter line, HP back to center line, repeat. She had me exaggerate the LY left to really get the hind crossing over, even permitting the haunches to lead a bit. Another thought was to use a 1/4 on the forehand to again step those hind legs under and through.

One of the things I really like about JJ is her insistence on staying light in the hand. And she gives you the tools to do it properly. I was finding that when I released Pro, he would happily accept the release, tip over on his forehand and LAY on my hand - fifth leg please! So she had me think of the release as just a softening of the wrist. She also suggested thinking of the "two wrinkles" at the corners of the mouth and making it one wrinkle. That was an image the worked pretty well. And along the way, I figured out that I really need to add more leg in the combo.

Another little epiphany was that when we are on the left rein, he wants to overbend laterally, but I finally realized that he is not properly connected longitudinally over the right rein. So that helped me think about using my right rein and leg in a more effective fashion. We also talked about sustaining a canter position and where your outside hip and thigh need to be. Ouch!

We finished up with some really awesome trot work. He was on my seat, rhythmic, soft, over the back. I think he could have been more up in the shoulders, but at least he wasn't jamming down into his neck. I was sitting up, feeling when he dropped his heiney out behind him, feeling when he tried to set up on the bridle or run through it. It was riding every step x 8 - his hind legs, my legs, his shoulders, neck, jaw, my hands, all very light tiny changes, but no stiffness allowed. Very cool, but I had to concentrate like a fiend!

JJ is a very quiet teacher - strikes a nice balance between explaining and letting you ride it and figure it out. Cool ride!

(5/8/07 6:06 pm)
Lesson with JJ (Shad)
Took a lesson with JJ today.

Shad is SOOOO FAT and out of shape and I am not a whole lot better! So we did a fair amount of walking interspersed with the trotting.

She suggested that we treat the work like a sort of restart and use it to establish some new habits right from the start - like say.....Not being so phlegmatic about the leg for example.

Warmed up a bit in each direction at the walk, then went to walking the square with a 1/4 TOF in each corner. Attention to my position, leg down and on, outside hand low (has a tendency to creep high). Attention to not hanging on the inside rein - reminder that backward pressure on the rein restricts the forward activity of the leg. Lots of small position reminders - bent elbows, flat shoulder blades, open the hip joint - ow! When he gave a really good effort at the TOF, let him go forward on a loose rein across the diagonal and relax. Lots of changes of direction in here.

Added in a little trotting work. Started on the circle, then moved to the square. Keep the feeling of the TOF in the corners. Keep the leg on and hind legs active through the transitions. That pesky outside hand kept creeping up.

Got some nice trot work, then went to SI down the center line to TOF before the track to SI back down the center line or where ever we happened to wind up. Clear difference between his ability to engage that right hind and the left hind. A few touches of the whip to ask for more with the left hind, then he was more responsive to the leg

Then the trash truck arrived and we moved to the far end of the arena while it clattered about, but he stayed amazingly with me - a little worried, but kept working. I was really pleased.

We got some pretty nice moments in spite of our long layoff.

Shad is at camp at SRG's barn this week - gives me the chance to work on her good footing since I don't have any and just get going a bit.

Nice solid lesson with some good homework. It was great to be back in the tack.


Mark Rashid is a marvelous horseman. Click on the Amazon links below for his books.
Mark's new book is due out later this year.