jennyaxe: Photo in black and white. I'm in profile, looking to the left, with a calm and content half-smile. (Default)
The cats have stayed well, so we're satisfied it was the rowan berries that caused the problems (thanks [livejournal.com profile] artela for telling us about it!). The girlfriend has fetched her new kitten, who is awesomely cute, as he should.

This weekend we've been having competitions at the stables. They're members-only, but we had a fair number of participants (there are quite a few people who join the club in order to be able to compete there). These competitions were at a reasonably low level, they're mainly set up to be practice for inexperienced horses/riders or just a fun thing. We didn't have winners as such; in the jumping part (which was today) everyone got a rosette if they got around all the fences in the right order without any faults.

The dressage was on Saturday. We'd also announced a "flea market" for horsey stuff, since we need to get some money for our new riding paddock - we really need a second one for the warmups when we're having competitions. I came early and helped set up the market, pricing some stuff that had been delivered late, and so on. Then I took Melanie for a walk, to see how she'd behave when there were so many other strange horses and people around. She seemed more curious than scared, which is a very good thing. Hopefully I'll be able to ride some practice competition on her next year, if she doesn't go lame again. Then I helped out at the food stall, where we didn't have much actual food to serve as the electricity was gone for several hours - not only at the stables, but in a fairly large surrounding area. The closest shop and gas station didn't have any either...

When the guest riders had left, I fetched Prime Diamond in and started picking burrs out of his mane. He was really bored and wanted to chew stuff, preferably me or my clothes, but I got a lot of them out. Of course he'll pick up new ones, but I made a start cutting the burr plants in the field. I filled the largest wheel barrow, but I couldn't see any noticeable change in the field... still, if the others who have horses in the same field help out, and we all do a little each day, it should help.

Today I was the judge for the jumping part of the competition. It's really fun, but also a bit exacting. I refreshed my knowledge of the rules of competition, and even brought the laptop with the PDFs of the rules so I could check things up as necessary. Since it's such a small show I was lenient where possible, though I did make a couple of mistakes that I had to correct immediately. Still, it all went fairly well and people seemed happy. The weather was OK too, no rain during the actual events, and we got quite a few things sold at the flea market. I bought the first head stall for my horse - it's one he'll grow out of within a year, but it's nice to have something to start training him with, and I can always sell it on at the next flea market.

After the show was done, I fetched Melanie and spent some time combing through her mane and tail, which I've neglected to do for a long time. She seemed to appreciate the attention. Then I went riding, which started out well. I was practicing making her listen when I pull the reins, basically by first making a very small pull, just closing my fist around the reins. If she didn't listen I'd give her a sharper pull, and if that didn't help I'd have her stop and back up. Basically this makes her realise that if she reacts properly at the first gentle pull she won't get the harder and more uncomfortable one. She understands this perfectly well, she's just been ignoring me and I need to work on that.

After a while we got into the woods, and she started freaking out. She'd jump sideways and try to spin around. I thought she was either scared of something, or she was upset that we'd gone away from the other horses - either way I didn't quite feel safe going on into the forest, so I just took her a few meters further on (in order to not teach her that if she starts jumping I'll let her turn around), and then went back. It was just as well, because I was really tired, and I still had a stall to clean. Before doing that I spent a few minutes lying in the clean straw with three kittens purring in a pile beside me. I almost fell asleep there...

So, that was the weekend. Now it's bed time.
jennyaxe: (house/wilson)
On Sunday I went out riding Melanie. This time I was accompanied by L on her 25-year old mare Ellie, and A on Melanie's brother Elliot who's eight or so. We walked along the road until we got to a nice meadow, where we first trotted a while and then took a gallop. Melanie behaved very well; she was calm on the road even when an idiot driver honked his horn at us - damned lucky none of the horses got scared! She was very good at keeping a quiet pace when trotting, and when L started galloping I had no trouble keeping Melanie at a trot for a while before I let her start galloping as well. (I did this mainly to see how well she'd listen to me and how hard it'd be to keep her back - that's a fairly good thing to know when you're out on an unfamiliar horse...)

We turned back and decided to gallop back across the meadow. This wasn't really the best idea we'd had so far - the horses knew they were headed back to the stable and their food, so they were very eager to run. L's mare was off like fired from a cannon, and I wasn't far behind. I heard later that the mare had taken the bit and refused to slow down... Melanie at least kept listening; I could slow her down, so I kept changing the pace - reining in to slow down a little, then letting her get her speed back up, a couple of times. That's when it happened. Ellie stepped on a six foot long branch that was hidden in the snow. It flew up right in front of Melanie, who naturally shied away from it - and I lost my seat and went down in the snow. Melanie kept running until she caught up with L and Ellie. I'd managed to fall well enough that I didn't hurt myself, I just was a bit winded, so I got up and walked over to L and Ellie. L got off and caught Melanie.

Looking back, A had also gotten off her horse and was walking towards us. It turned out he'd been so eager to catch up with us that he'd started bucking and jumping, and A was smart enough to get down and lead him instead of trying to stay on when he was in that mood.

We walked back towards the stable. After a while I found a stone I could use to get in the saddle from - Melanie is 170 cm high and there's no way for me to get up from the ground. A kept walking her horse, L was already back in the saddle.

So, that was my most recent adventure. Not a bad one as falls go; I'm a bit bruised but I didn't break anything. And it wasn't really Melanie's fault - anyone would get a bit scared by a big branch flying up right in your face like that. She's a good horse and I feel every bit as safe on her as I did before.

It's obvious that she hasn't had much experience of being out in the fields like this, but she has a lot of coolness and good sense and doesn't get frightened easily. She's also very affectionate - when I went to bring her in from the field, she came up to me and started nuzzling. And she whinnies if I leave her alone in the stable while fetching her saddle or something.

I still don't have a picture of her so there's no Melanie icon so far. We'll go with my other current obsession instead...
jennyaxe: Photo in black and white. I'm in profile, looking to the left, with a calm and content half-smile. (Default)
As I wrote earlier, I've decided to participate in a dressage competition this year. I've had lessons both on Samurai and on Skutt, and I've learned a great deal. I've got a much better seat and I'm much more relaxed, much more able to communicate clearly with the horse.

On Sunday we had a competition training day. For a dressage competition, the arena should be 20 x 40 metres (or 20 x 60). Our arena is 30 x 60. So we had to start by putting out small fences to make a 20 x 40 arena. There were five of us and we were supposed to start at 9. I hadn't slept well so I didn't get there until 9.20 (after having had breakfast in the car - how's that for a good start?). We still got the arena done by 10 am as planned. Monika rode Skutt first, then the stable owner rode, then it was my turn to take Skutt. I didn't quite make the round properly, mainly because I didn't know the course completely by heart and so sometimes I took the wrong turn, slowed at the wrong place, stuff like that. But it did feel as if I can take part in a competition without embarrassing myself too much.

Then I took Skutt out to walk him a while and cool him down. We went along the small road for a few hundred metres and then turned back. That's when we heard the motorcycles. We moved off the road and waited on a patch of grass some metres away. The first six motorcycles weren't a problem, but the seventh made a lot more noise, and Skutt took off like he was fired from a rocket. It took maybe fifty metres to get him down to a reasonably collected gallop rather than a wild bolting, and another hundred metres before I got him to stop. By then the motorcycles had also stopped and turned off their engines. I thanked them for doing so and got Skutt to walk past them with only a little prompting required. They didn't start up until we were well past them, and Skutt danced a little but didn't try to bolt again. I don't think he was really that scared, he was probably just taking the chance to get to run a bit...

I got back to the stable, Monika took care of putting Skutt back out in his field and I sat chatting with the stable owner while her sister rode the course. Then we all pitched in to move the fencing back to the outhouse. Once that was done I was very hungry, so I invaded [livejournal.com profile] jegra and her housemate's place to get some lunch.

After a large helping of spaghetti, Jegra and I went off to the stable where her two horses, Samurai and Campero, live. I got to sit and take it easy while she started mucking Campero's box and we let Samurai eat. Then I started caring for Samurai while Jegra did his box. Once the horses were ready we went off, Jegra riding Campero and I riding Samurai. It was lovely going out in the sunshine, it was about 10 C (50 F) and just a small breeze. Of course, both horses were eager for a run, so we had to be careful... Samurai did try to take off with me a couple of times but I got him to slow down without too much trouble. When we got back Jennifer cleaned the saddles and the girths which had gotten rather muddy; I helped a bit and learned a bit more about how to care for the tack.

After all this I drove home, took a shower, sat by the computer for a while, then fell asleep as soon as I turned the light off.

If anyone had told me two years ago that I'd spend a day riding a dressage course, getting bolted with when riding out, carrying fencing, riding another horse - in all spending a couple of hours on horseback plus doing some heavy carrying - I wouldn't have believed that I could do it. I'm deeply happy to feel so much better. I still have some bad days, when I can't get much done, but they're so much fewer than they used to.

Also it feels very good to know that when Skutt and Samurai were being difficult, I managed it. I didn't let Skutt run straight out into the field as he tried, and I got him to slow down and stop. I didn't let Samurai run off with me when he wanted to, and I did manage to keep him at a reasonable pace even though he was bursting with energy and really wanted to take off. These are greater victories even than having managed the dressage course...
jennyaxe: Photo in black and white. I'm in profile, looking to the left, with a calm and content half-smile. (Default)
So today was the first day of riding lessons on Samurai. I got to the stables at 12.15 for lunch with the other participants, which was nice. I cleaned Campero's fistula (he still has a hole going through his cheek by the fracture) and mucked out Samurai's box. At 14 I brought Samurai in so he'd be able to eat while I mucked out Campero's box. I got him ready on time to get into the riding house and start warming him up ten minutes before 15, when my lesson was to start.

We started with simply walking around and I got some tips on how to improve my seat. Eva saw that I tend to not notice if I'm not sitting centered on the horse and she helped me with tips on how to avoid listing to one side. Then we did rising trot, where again she helped me get a better seat - I tend to fall forward a bit too much and she had me practicing my balance by standing in the saddle while Samurai was standing still, until I could stand properly without losing my balance. Then I did some more turns doing rising trot so I'd get it fixed in my mind.

After that it was time for the seated trot. As I wrote yesterday, that's something that's always been a problem for me. Part of it is that with the abdominal pains from the endometriosis, the incessant movements required for the seated trot can be very painful, but the greatest part is that I'm not supple enough or relaxed enough to follow the horse's motions.

Eva helped me with this. She had me relaxed enough that I could do seated trot for several minutes, with change of pacing and speed, without losing the rhythm. Part of it was simply learning how to deal with losing the rhythm - I've kept trying to get it back while keeping the horse at a trot, but that's uncomfortable for both of us and has never been successful. Eva told me to instead slow down to a walk and get my seat back properly at walking pace, and then try again. This worked wonders!

Then we did turning on front legs and hind legs. This is stuff that Samurai knows very well but I have never tried it before - and that's an occasion where it's abundantly clear what a good thing it is to ride such a well schooled horse. Every time I managed to do my part correctly, he responded immediately, so I got an immediate feedback telling me if I was right.

After that we did some gallops, which went well, and then the lesson was over. Samurai seemed quite pleased with finally having me riding him better; he had some of that white foam around the bit and he rubbed his head against me thoroughly afterwards - always a sign that he enjoyed the ride. For me it was lovely - not least knowing that I was in the saddle for an hour, doing some rather strenuous stuff, and I made it through the whole hour without having to ask for a break!

I'm very tired and in quite a bit of pain - but happy, content and looking forward to tomorrow.
jennyaxe: Photo in black and white. I'm in profile, looking to the left, with a calm and content half-smile. (Default)
On Wednesday I was at an "inspiration day", which is a day of seminars aimed at women in the workplace. I'll write more about it later; I have a lot of notes that I need to clean up before posting.

During one of the seminars we were told to think about one thing that we wanted to do, and make a decision to actually do it during 2006, and tell our neighbour about it. I decided to participate in a dressage contest. I've wanted to improve my riding and participate in contests for a while, but I haven't actually gotten around to doing anything about it.

I ride two horses, [livejournal.com profile] jegras Samurai and [livejournal.com profile] gnapps Skutt. Jegra is a very good trainer but she doesn't have a lot of time. Eva, the owner of the stable where Skutt lives is also a trainer, and this weekend she's going to hold lessons at the stable where Samurai lives.

So yesterday I called [livejournal.com profile] jegra and got permission to take lessons on Samurai. She likes what she's heard of how Eva works so she's OK with it and said she'll come along and help me with caring for the horses if she's got the time. There was still an open slot in the course, so I'm booked up for lessons both on Saturday and Sunday. And next week Eva's going to give me a lesson on Skutt. This should be very interesting - having a trainer see me ride on two so very different horses should make it easier for her to find out what I need to practice rather than on what the horse needs to learn, so to speak.

And yesterday I took Skutt out for a short walk and trot along the road outside the stable. Now, when you trot, there are two ways of riding. You can do the "bump" thing where you lift from the saddle on every second step and sit on every second one, or you can sit down the whole time. Sitting in trot is difficult, because the horse moves up and down very quickly, so you need to have a good seat to be able to follow his movements and not just bounce around uncomfortably. And for a short while I managed it - I moved with the horse, not just up-and-down but also left-and-right - it's left-up-down-right-up-down-left-up-down and so on... and it felt so good to have that perfect connection!
jennyaxe: (samurai)
Yesterday I was back to [livejournal.com profile] jegra's stable for the first time since December. Originally I'd planned to start riding Lemkje, the horse I fell off from, but for various reasons that's not likely to happen any time soon, and as Samurai isn't going to be hired out he's still available and Jegra still needs help.

I got to the stables at about three in the afternoon. All horses were still out in the fields. I mucked out Campero's and Samurai's boxes (Campero's fracture is now completely healed, BTW) and then went with the owner to bring in Samurai and the other horses sharing a field with him. I let him eat and went off to the nearby gas station to get a hot dog for myself.

When I got back I started brushing and cleaning hooves and all that. Samurai was reasonably nice about it. It took some time to fit the saddle properly (Samurai got very upset when I didn't get the saddle right at first!) as it's a bit different from the ones [livejournal.com profile] gnapp uses.

The weather was lovely, but as Samurai hadn't been ridden in a week or so, and he can get quite hot and hard to hold when he's too frisky, I decided to stay indoors. It's nice to have a lovely big place to ride in, as opposed to the half of a barn we've got at Skutt's stables.

I kept to walks and trots, not feeling quite up to galloping yet. Samurai was a bit disappointed and tried to get away with claiming to be afraid of certain parts of the walls. When he found that all that happened was that he'd get to walk slowly past the same spot several times, he gave up on that, and the rest of the ride was uneventful. I'd forgotten how lovely it is to have such a well schooled horse - not that I don't love Skutt, because I do, but they are so very different and I really enjoy being with both. But I'm starting to feel the need for some lessons if I'm to progress and be of use to both the horses and their owners.

After I'd put Samurai in his box and put away the tack, I went up to get Campero from his field. He hadn't been let out until 12.30, so the stable owner and I thought he'd appreciate staying out longer than the others. He was a bit difficult walking down from the field - tried to run past me and then snapped in the air above my shoulder. I gave him a whack with the halter rope, whereafter he looked immensely sheepish and as if he was greatly surprised at what he'd done. He's a four year old stallion and it's spring... no wonder he's acting up a bit - but that's precisely why it's so important to deal with it immediately or he could become dangerous both to himself, to other horses and to humans.

I stopped for food on the way home and got back some time after eight. Didn't fall asleep until eleven, so I've been pretty tired today - not to mention achey! Mucking out two boxes is no mean chore, and both the wrist and the back are complaining. Also the hedgehog is being a bit prickly - I hope it'll get better soon now that I can ride twice a week again.

I do love riding Samurai, though I don't (yet) have the same connection to him as I do to Skutt. Of course I haven't been riding Samurai for as long, but I think it's also the fact that Jegra's had him since he was born, while Skutt was ten years old when Gnapp got him. So he's not got as strong a connection to her as Samurai has to Jegra, giving him more room for other connections with humans. Skutt is more affectionate towards me than Samurai is, though of course Skutt is far more affectionate towards Gnapp - she's with him five days out of seven and she works a lot more with him than I do. Still, he shows that he likes me, too. And yesterday Samurai appeared pleased with our ride - he has a habit of rubbing his head against his rider if he's enjoyed the ride. He hasn't done that with me before but yesterday he did. Of course, he'd not been ridden for a while and so would have enjoyed it even if I wasn't very good, but it did cheer me up.
jennyaxe: Photo in black and white. I'm in profile, looking to the left, with a calm and content half-smile. (Default)
Just spoke to a coworker, one of the developers, about some work stuff. I mentioned that I'd not been involved in some stuff around Christmas due to having a broken arm. It turned out he'd grown up in a horse-raising family and he was very interested in what horses I ride. So I finally got around to putting some of my riding pictures up at my LJ scrapbook - they're at http://pics.livejournal.com/jennyaxe/gallery/0000cxfr. All of them are two years old or more; I hope I'm a somewhat better rider by now.
jennyaxe: Photo in black and white. I'm in profile, looking to the left, with a calm and content half-smile. (Default)
Got back from the stables half an hour ago; am now showered and preparing for bed. Am terribly tired, in some pain, but also tremendously happy and relaxed.

I knew that I missed riding, but I didn't know just how much. It felt so good just to walk Skutt slowly on a snow-covered road, while talking to [livejournal.com profile] gnapp. Skutt had missed me; he was demanding to be scratched and petted to an unusual degree - normally it's something he accepts but doesn't beg for. The weather was good - about minus 3C (27F), no wind, and cloudy. The snow made it fairly easy to see the road and we went slowly anyway.

I did not fall off and I wasn't afraid of riding. Not that I thought I'd be, but everyone else seems to assume it'd be scary.

Happy. Tired. Going to bed now.

Various

Feb. 13th, 2006 06:55 pm
jennyaxe: Photo in black and white. I'm in profile, looking to the left, with a calm and content half-smile. (Default)
My coworker kindly bought a new E-string for my violin when he passed by the music store, so today I got to practice with all four strings. I managed "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" without it sounding too bad. The cats still don't like it, though. Nor does the wrist that was broken; it hurts like blazes after just a few minutes playing. This probably means that playing is good exercise. Also, I'm somewhat proud that I strung the violin all by myself.

Tomorrow I'm going riding with [livejournal.com profile] gnapp. She'll help me with everything heavy and then walk while I ride. I need to take it slowly as the wrist is far from completely healed and I really shouldn't risk another fall. But I've realised how much the riding means for my health - when I ride, I'm pretty much knackered afterwards and in some pain, but during the autumn I didn't have that constant pain/heaviness in the abdomen. It's been coming back now, though, and there's really nothing else that has changed, I'm not more stressed out or anything. I suppose I really do need that exercise...

Also I'm physically restless. I find it hard to stay focused during a one hour meeting without fidgeting. This is not my usual self.

Yesterday I had a bad headache, so I went to bed early, which meant that I managed to get to work early and also left reasonably early. I've managed to do two loads of laundry (riding clothes and cleaning rags - yay for having a washing mashine!), water the flowers and get some violin practice in. Now I should go clean out the litter boxes so I won't have as much to do early in the morning. The cleaning woman will be here tomorrow and she shouldn't have to deal with that so I need to make sure it's as fresh as possible when she comes. Really, spending those approximately 200 USD a month is the best possible use for that money; I feel so much better not having to deal with the heavy housework and not having to lay it all on Calle.

Calle has made me start writing slashfic. It's not going very well.

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jennyaxe: Photo in black and white. I'm in profile, looking to the left, with a calm and content half-smile. (Default)
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