Saturday Lesson Courses

Finally had a lesson on Saturday! With jumps! Whole courses of jumps, even! October weather has been both cooperative and gorgeous lately. I have no film of the lesson, so you get course maps.

Eli and I warmed up over a low wall with no standards as a trot jump. Funny thing about no standards … if you don’t steer, horse will maybe not realize that he is suppose to jump the jump. Hee. So that only happened the second time we came around to trot over it. He jumped it from the trot just fine otherwise, once I, you know, used my legs and stuff, that whole steering thing works great.

We also warmed up by cantering a little outside line and that worked out just fine. After that my trainer raised a few of the lower jumps and we proceeded to execute the first course.

It actually went mostly quite well, except for one missed lead that translated into cross-cantering to a Swedish (made of planks, not poles) off a long approach. The jump itself worked out fine, though and every other part of the course worked out well. We got a bit quick from the 3-stride to the two-stride, but not too bad. We should probably work on taking combinations more often so I’m not holding Eli off the jumps and hoping we don’t leave out a stride … gahd, I hate 3-stride lines.

The next course was a different pattern and the first line rode nicely, but again we had that long approach to the Swedish. Initially, we stayed quiet, but then we got to a point in the approach where I saw a really tight four strides left, or I could accelerate through a big three strides … Well, I SHOULD have softened and whoaed a little and let Eli take the quiet four strides but that is not what I choose to do and Eli got PISSED. The line with the combination was terrifyingly quick and the turn to the tiny little no-standards wall sucked ass. I kind of got Eli back for the last line but not really.

At this point, my trainer had me walk Eli on a loose rein for a few minutes, then flat him at the trot for a few minutes to get BOTH of our brains back. She told me to WAIT WAIT WAIT on the long approach and our second attempt at the same course was lovely. It felt spot on everywhere, and I even got Eli to a little gap at the last oxer on the outside line and he jumped huge over it.

Basically, I had a jumper brain moment. Eli does not like my jumper brain. I think he’s pretty much programmed for easy, quiet rides at this point (with his step he can walk down most lines) and lets me know it when I ride counter to that. My job is to slow my brain down. And also to support his canter with light leg while keeping my shoulders up so we aren’t just flinging across fences. We have another clinic coming up in two weeks (same clinician as last time) and I gotta get my mind right for it.

Starving the Shade

You really can’t live in the Western world today and not suffer in some way from anxiety. What American is not anxious about something, if not multiple somethings? (For example … the opioid crisis, gun violence, international terrorism, domestic terrorism, failing transportation infrastructure, racism, lead in the water of not just Flint but many American towns, tropical diseases migrating north as the climate gradually warms, rising sea levels, and oh yeah rent/the mortgage, to speak nothing of hurricanes.) There are many manifestations of anxiety, and if you’re interested in scratching that surface, you can find statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

But within anxiety, there swells a strong current of existential dread, notably at the forefront of American culture and politics today, explicated to a certain extent in a New York Times Magazine piece, “The Golden Age of ‘Existential’ Dread.” If you interact with media at all, you can’t escape the venomous tendrils of existential dread weaving together everything from climate change deniers and creationists, to universal health care proponents, feminists, and the Standing Rock protesters.

However, there is another type of existential dread and it’s personal. My own experience with anxiety has a few facets and I did not discover until recently that a big part of why things make me anxious, why I have racing thoughts, why I regularly entertain graphic fears of losing things important to me … a big part of this is existential dread. It has shadowed everything I do every day. For many years, it controlled me (and given my taste in literature and film I have no idea why this never occurred to me while I was younger). For many years, I fought it without knowing it or knowing how to fight it effectively. I found some succor in two books — My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind by Scott Stossel and Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks. After reading I realized that what I suffered I did not suffer alone. And I knew I could change things myself (which included actively seeking professional help). I coveted and currently enjoy relief in some of the daily tasks I perform in relation to my dog and my horse. Horses, especially, can be a pleasurable,  purposeful, and constructive outlet for anxious or obsessive-compulsive energy. Horses don’t sink into murky anxiousness never to be heard from again, they just are, and they live in the moment. Clear your head and bask in their immediacy of existence and try to learn that ever-presence from them.

why get mad at the wind from patentlybay on Vimeo.

The burden of existential dread, however, is not assuaged wholly by fussing over my animals. The animals help A LOT and drive my motivations for doing basically anything. But there are still at times nagging feelings of “why” and “what if” that darken the ether around me. And this shade forever skirts total demise. Perhaps without it, I am not me.

Yet it no longer rules me.

Partly because of cognitive behavioral therapy and partly because I have embraced gratitude, I no longer spend hours ruminating on all the bad things ever. If I dwell on a thing, it must be a thing of beauty and must improve my life, or it doesn’t get an iota of my time or energy. This is a conscious choice. Anyone can make it. Every dumb article you read on click-bait websites about pop psychology probably says that happiness is a choice. And they’re right. Even when locked in struggle–with people, or work, or finances, or family–happiness is there to be had because your mind is that agile. My mind is that agile. I control what energy I put toward that which would otherwise dim me in shadow. I keep that energy for myself now. There is now no shade capable of consuming me.

If you think you can’t do this, know that you are wrong and you can do this. Maybe not easily, but you can do this.

Weekend Weather Patterns

My barn hosted a schooling show on Saturday and I wound up running one of the in-gates. I managed to keep a relatively organized flow of competitors going in and out of the ring for their over fences rounds and flat classes. The warm weather was nice and not too warm, although I forgot sunscreen on my ears and neck, so I have an interesting burn-then-tan pattern going on right now. I thought I would have the energy to ride after the show, but that was a dumb thought and Eli got the day off.

Sunday, the weather felt very different. Cool, overcast, gusty. Perfect day for a few jumps? I half thought Eli would be more reactive than usual because of the weather, but rather he was foot-perfect. Super simple, quiet enough for the add-steps. This, we can build on.

3 lines from patentlybay on Vimeo.

Portrait Session

I have very, very few regrets … like maybe three total throughout my entire life. One of these is that I did not take high school senior portraits with my horses Anchor and Red. I am making up for that now.

As an aside — having never been the subject of a portrait session with my horse, I googled and trolled pinterest for ideas. So what happens when you do that is that you get a lot of golden-hour flower crowns and billowy floral print tops or transparent white maxi dresses, draped artistically down the horse’s flank while the human subject drapes herself along her horse’s neck. All bareback. Probably in knee-high amber waves of grass, and if you’re lucky you might even have a willow tree on the bank of a cool, clear brook in the background. With faeries.

None of this is my style, nor is it Eli’s. I opted for, like, a regular outfit, and Eli wore his Lund bridle.

A long-time catch-rider, now a trainer at the barn, is also a photographer. I booked a session with her for last Saturday and I am IN LOVE with these pictures. It makes me so happy to see Eli as a relaxed, inquisitive, happy-looking horse in these pictures. If you are in the Austin area, I highly recommend this photographer! On facebook at 5-12 Photography (you say it like “five – twelve”) or on her website. Now for more pictures!


where are the mints

I am mostly just obsessively staring at all of these pictures at this point.  This last one might be my favorite.

Weather Delays

After schooling Eli last Monday, he got his teeth done and it rained, so trying to ride on Tuesday or Wednesday was out of the question.

Would like to do this again …

On Thursday evening the footing in the smaller of the two rings at my barn was in good shape, but Eli hasn’t worked much under the lights yet and the ride was an exercise in convincing Eli not to spook at things outside the arena that look terrifying in the dark (like the water tank, trees, an orange and white cat, some coolers set out to dry flat …). After that kind of situation, I knew Eli would not be in the right frame of mind to jump on Saturday, so I just did some light flat work and tried to stay out of the way of people actually jumping.

I usually ignore my phone but sometimes I feel obligated to check it when it buzzes me just in case.

Sunday was the first day I could really get a good flat work session in, although the humidity and lack of breeze had both me and Eli dripping in sweat by the end of the ride. And check out barn favorite Whisper making a cameo appearance.

trotting from patentlybay on Vimeo.

If the cold front stays away long enough, I will probably jump him around over some low fences just to get the exercise in tonight. And, of course, it might rain again. I am ready for the cooler weather, though. It’s going to be 95F today before the cold front blows through late tonight. Yuck.

Horse Books

Amanda started a hop about horse books and what we have in our personal libraries. I realize that this isn’t about horse fiction or poetry, or coffee table books, but I am including those anyway, mainly to demonstrate the slightly outdated and somewhat eclectic nature of my equestrian book collection. Although I am a librarian, my personal book collection is completely disorganized.

First, my recent favorite … who else shelves the Klimkes in between Faulkner and Jean Valentine? I love raised poles/tiny jumps and work over them frequently with Eli. I find at the walk to be the most challenging because Eli doesn’t so much walk as he does mosey, so he has to pay attention and march with the cavalletti.

Next is this little group. I use the Linda Allen one A LOT for ideas. Also, The Ultimate Horse Book … where do I start? This was exactly the type of book I spent hours poring over as a tween and teen. And it has some quirky gems that when I see them now, I’m like, did y’all just make this up?

Anyone familiar with this breed? Don’t worry, the book also has practical information, too. Such as recognizable breeds (apologies to any Furioso devotees out there) and illustrations of gaits.

I studied gaits pretty thoroughly in book form, less thoroughly in real life until I had my first horse. It’s immensely helpful to me to see the footfalls drawn out explicitly so I have a mental image to go along with what I can (or can’t) feel under saddle.

Another coffee table book? I am not sorry. This one is gorgeous.

I have required horse person fiction shelved with … other stuff.

Not to worry, though. More reference volumes, coffee table books, and classics are in my collection. You can see the riding books slant toward the hunter/jumper end of things, with bits and pieces of dressage stuff. I also have early editions of a lot of the reference/care books. Newer ones are available, so my collection might not have the most recent knowledge or best information, but what an interesting time capsule, complete with advice on ear-twitching foals … ew. But the George Morris and the Anne Kursinski are crucial for h/j types.

Speaking of crucial, more Morris and some Steinkraus grace my pile of what I’m reading right now. Or trying to read. And not fall asleep dreaming of puffins and sled dogs (I haven’t gotten very deep into the Shackleton yet so it’s quite pleasant so far).

Does Ariel count because it was the name of Sylvia Plath’s horse?

Back to reference. This is a well-worn tome that I arduously studied as a youth. I am sort of a sucker for information presented in encyclopedic format complete with color illustrations — I have similar books on birds and rocks and dogs. There lives within my brain a tiny little Victorian-era naturalist that I must sate on the reg.

I mentioned bits and pieces of dressage … really, just this book and the Klimkes stand out to me. This post also reminded me to order the Xenophon, speaking of classical horsemanship. So that will be added to my pile of nightstand books.

Got say it: you may as well skip the Billy Collins. I have no memory of even reading it, it stood out so little to me. The Monk is a really goofy, fun Gothic romp, though.

I have the 2001 edition of this title and I think a 2007 edition is available, and I am sure even more recent information is available, but this book emphasizes the importance of forage in the equine diet, and I highlighted lots of stuff in it.

More hay, everybody. More hay. But do you see the line just above where I highlighted? Yeah, no, we can and should actually give water after exercise. Unless it’s really hard exercise, then I think it’s more of a tailored plan among rider, owner, and veterinarian to provide water safely in smaller amounts after crazy difficult workouts like upper level xc. That could be what the author was getting at, but the lack of clarification could be cause for continued confusion over whether to offer water to horses after exercise — for a very, very long time we were all told not to, in many cases by otherwise knowledgeable horse people we looked to as mentors and teachers. Like I said, time capsule. Eli gets to drink water out of one of those little 8-qt. buckets before and after exercise.

The book also presents data in easy-to-understand charts and other illustrations. This might actually be the most-used book of my collection, so I should probably seek out a more recent edition or any other new books on equine nutrition.

So my collection of equestrian books is pretty all-over-the-place, both in topic, tone, and physical location on my book shelves.

Fitting In Some Jumps

Weather in Texas rarely cooperates so sometimes you have to take a chance at getting things done in between storms. Fortunately last week I was able to ride Eli a few days, and I was off work on Monday of this week. I asked my trainer on short notice if she had time to help me with Eli over fences which resulted in a very brief jump school over those fences in the arena that had suitable footing around them. Around a few of the jumps, the footing was still too dicey, but Eli and I managed to pull out some SUPER SASSY efforts over the fences that had decent footing around them.

white line sass from patentlybay on Vimeo.

Horse still jumps? Check. Rider stays on throughout? Check.

blue line sass from patentlybay on Vimeo.

Tuesday he had his teeth attended to, which is just as well because it rained some more.

Maybe this Saturday I can get an actual lesson in the actual arena with actually good footing. Not going to hold my breath, though.