Archive for January, 2010
As every Dressage rider knows , we tend to be perfectionists. The rest of the riding world watches scratching their heads as we practice endless circles of every conceivable size and are never satisfied with the roundness or the size or the something.
How many times have we each pledged to ourselves that we will try harder, work harder, ride more , ride longer , take more clinics, take more lessons, read more books etc. ad infinitum?
As I eagerly loaded my horse for the last clinic I took , I found I was more nervous than usual. This often means the ride is extremely important to me and that I know I am going to throw my mind and body into an all out effort , the energy required being truly daunting.
While I warmed up I tried to think of everything I had ever learned and how I could improve on all of it.
My thoughts on taking clinics are this: you research the clinician and believe you truly respect their work and approach. You pay your money, (more than you usually have ), leave yourself plenty of time to get ready and then when the clinician enters the ring you basically hand over your mind and body and give yourself up completely to the experience.There will be plenty of time for mulling over the details of the ride later.
This time I could not have guessed what an epiphany would transpire!
By the time the coach entered the arena I was already sweating. My horse was doing his best to cooperate with my very enthusiastic urgings by leg,seat and occasional stick for more, more, more impulsion, rythm, cadence, frame and everything I else I could huff and puff out of him.
I awaited with trepidation the command to produce far more of it all. Imagine my surprise on hearing “ you are working much too hard!”
We came back to the walk and rather than push , grind ,pump or kick I was asked to touch my horse with my ankles lightly and to do so every three or four strides. a simple and gentle reminder to keep going with energy. It worked!
As I was encouraged to keep up this light reminding I was asked to make my upper body as tall as possible. I stretched up through my abdominals and obliques. The taller I became, the lighter and softer my horse moved on,more freely and more supple with every movement. He became totally on my aids. I finally said “I can’t ask lightly enough!”The more I sat up , stretched up through my whole upper body and let go through my thighs, knees , hips and seat, the more my horse let go in his jaw until he felt like satin, the lightest whisper of an aid gaining me more response than I’d ever had before.
The clinician said to stay on purely by balance: no gripping , tensing , tightening or pinching. A state I thought I had acheived years ago but clearly this was an entirely new level of letting go. I was told I must be willing to trust my horse and my balance enough to be vulnerable. The odd thing is the more vulnerable I became , the less I protected any joints by closing them or tightening them and the more secure I felt. It seemed the horse and I were one floating creature of ease and grace.Mind you , all these concepts are things I teach every day but on this day I learned that knowing it is not doing it. All the tension we carry in our bodies day in and day out over issues too numerous to list in these busy times, go directly into our horses.Working harder and harder we increase this tension rather than release it. I could actually feel the joy in my horse! I could feel how happy he was to do his best at whatever I asked for. I could feel that so much of his stiffness was actually just a reflection of mine.
When I finally gave up my need to control my horse’s every step in the interest of trying to improve it, my horse was free of my endless nagging to share his bounce and swing and energy with me. What a gift he was giving me.
After the ride I was truly in quite an altered state of awareness for several hours. I had given myself permission to let go, to make mistakes, to stop trying to make the pair of us look perfect every stride.In that moment I had given my horse the chance to be truly submissive without having to deal with all the tension I had been sending him. I realized how very much he wanted to please me.
I am still trying to recapture that moment. It is getting easier. I try to be in a freer state of mind when I go to ride. I have a training plan for the day but have become more flexible regarding what seems right in the moment. It is so hard for me not to work too hard. To let go in my seat , my neck, my shoulders and back…hips, thighs, knees and ankles.
It has occured to me that little is said in life regards our posture. We drag ourselves here and there usually in a rush and seldom just savour the joy of movment. We get around the best we can and don’t pay much attention to tension being stored here and there in our bodies as we go.Our breathing can be rushed , our jaws clenched,our necks tight and stiff. How can we expect our horses to move loosely under such a load and not to mirror this behaviour in their way of going?
Try working smarter,not harder, think of your quiet aids and how happy you are to be riding , not where you have to be 53 minutes from now. Our horses always live in the present. There is so much we can learn from their approach. Cheers and Happy,Carefree riding. Libby Keenan
As the last of the festive trimmings from the holiday season are put away we find ourselves facing the long off season. Some of us will be hauling frozen buckets and longing to be out of our arenas again. Some will be lucky enough to continue training in warmer climes but most of us will be dreaming of spring and suffering a bit of cabin fever.
My solution? A superb read for those long evenings when sunset comes too early and outside is too cold! “Beyond the Homestretch” by Lynn Reardon is a marvelous journey not to be missed from start to finish.
For the novice horseman it is a vitual handbook of almost every concieveable aspect of horsekeeping and a very encouraging tale of how knowledge follows desire and determination.
For the trainer, you will recognize with fondness the long and bumpy road from starter to professional.
For myself , it took a long time to read and digest the whole book. Not because it is overly long, at 282 pages, a very comfortable read. It was because every chapter , every anecdote and adventure set off a firestorm of memories from my own journey. Lynn’s descriptions of the racetrack are so clear and real, you are there. You are there alongside of all the colourful characters every racetrack attracts. The trainers,dealers,jockeys,exercise riders,veterinarians grooms come to life vividly bringing back my own days at Woodbine racetrack in Toronto.
You will laugh and cry with Lynn all the way from an unsatisfying though successful office career to her crowning achievement: L O P E Lonestar Outreach to Place Ex-Racers.
You will find yourself in every page as she emerges from the cocoon of “novice weekend rider” to full scale trainer with the keen eye and instincts of a true horseman born only of long experience.Of necessity Lynn learns to deal with dire medical situations, dangerous riding, difficult and unscrupulous characters and more ways to stretch a dollar than you can imagine. With the purpose and gumption only a dream of the heart can produce Lynn faces down seemingly unsurmountable obstacles. In the process she finds compassion in odd places ,hope in the darkness and faith in herself and deepening respect and love for her husband Tom.
Anyone who has ever loved a thoroughbred will find them again in the pages of “Beyond the Homestretch”.
If you find yourself in tears every spring when the “Run for the Roses”, starts ringing across the airwaves this book will warm your soul.
As a child I was lucky enough to ride a great grandson of Man O War. “Valcouer”, a chestnut, small and fragile looking who had been injured before he ever raced but saw me to my first red ribbon over an 18 inch jump course. I spent over an hour, frozen in my chair, starring into space back on that jump course before resuming reading.
“Beyond the Homestretch” published by New World Library will be enjoyed and appropriate for readers of all ages from 10 to 100.The same way horses level the age gap between riders, this book’s appeal will span audiences from the city dweller who has only imagined being astride the back of the proudest of horses to the trainer who has seen it all come and go many times before.
I wish Lynn all the luck in the world for the continued growth and success with LOPE. I hope more books will follow since I have a feeling this story has really just begun. Libby Keenan
Congratulations to Jenny Sweedler on winning Tack n’ Talk’s 2009 Christmas Photo Scavenger Hunt, “The 12 Horsey Days of Christmas”!
Jenny will receive a beautiful Panoramic Edition Boiselle calendar for her win!
Please enjoy her pictures of the 12 Horsey Days of Christmas below:
For the twelve days of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
twelve tasty carrots!
eleven feed buckets!
ten polo wraps!
nine hoof picks!
eight lead ropes!
seven trot poles!
six paddock boots!
FIVE SNAFFLE BITS!
four dressage tests!
three lunge whips!
two saddled horses!
and a horse in a red Santa hat!
By Robin Shen
She Carries me away
From here to there
From now to then
Hours Darkened by
A Miserable Daily Existence
Left Heaving in her Wake
Her Victory an Effortless
Toss of Jet Rippling
On a Graceful Arch
Framing a Rising Sun
Rise on her Neck
The Tender Smell of Sweat
From Steaming Shoulders
The Scalding Warmth of her Skin
Shrinks from my Touch
Her Body Presses against mine
My Heart Falters
Closing my Eyes
I Seize the Moment
I gasp for air
Steal my breath away
Later in Bed
I fight to stay awake
The memory of
A day with her
far better than any dream
About Robin Shen: Combining knowledge of classical dressage and natural horsemanship, Robin pursues the lightness, connection and harmony that comes from being an “Enlightened Horseman”. You can find out more about Robin and his methods on his Enlightened Horseman Blog.
By Lisa Kemp
What horse lover hasn’t marveled over the all-Palomino horse troupe in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade? Prancing golden horses in shining silver-encrusted saddles, their riders bedecked in colorful costumes and waving red, white, and blue American flags; it’s a sight to stir anyone’s patriotic sentiments. Me, I just drooled over the horses, trying to decide which would be the fanciest mount for my own dream parade.
The stuff of horsey dreams for decades, the Long Beach Mounted Police’s (LBMP) all-Palomino troupe rode in their first Tournament of Roses (ToR) Parade in 1948; they’re still going strong in their 62nd year of parading, with the LBMP celebrating their 75th anniversary in 2010.
Carla Routt, granddaughter of troupe co-founder Jack Turner and the first female member and female president of the LBMP, says the all-volunteer riders are really ambassadors for the LBMP and the city of Long Beach.
“We often travel to different events, presenting gifts from the Long Beach Police to various governments. We’ve been in the Eisenhower and Nixon Inaugural Parades, and have traveled extensively throughout North and South America,” she says. The troupe also provides an average of 8,000 hours of annual service at charitable events and functions, and has a scholarship program for deserving young equine-science candidates.
While the Palominos are the true stars, every horse’s tack can certainly stand on its own in terms of glitz. Each one-of-a-kind black leather Western saddle is encrusted with handmade sterling silver created by artisan metalsmiths of the 1930s and ‘40s, and has a breast collar, bridle, and reins to match. Saddles are so heavy they often take two people to lift them onto a horse’s back!
For many horse lovers, the Palomino horses and their riders are synonymous with the annual New Year’s Day parade. Held every January 1st, the first Tournament of Roses was in 1890 in Pasadena, Calif., staged by Midwest and East coast transplants who wanted to showcase the mild winters of their new home.
Early festivals included not only marching bands and motorized floats, but also bronco-busting demos and even ostrich races! Collegiate football was added in 1902 with Stanford University against University of Michigan, but Stanford was trounced 49-0, and football was dropped in favor of Roman-style chariot races. Football bounced back in 1916, and has been a sell-out ever since 1947, according to the official Tournament of Roses Web site.
For 2010, the Tournament of Roses Parade will kick-off at 8 a.m. Pacific time, and be broadcast in the U.S. on multiple networks, including RFD-TV, HGTV, ABC, NBC, Hallmark Channel and the Travel Channel. The Parade is broadcast in more than 200 countries and territories internationally; for information on everything about the Tournament of Roses events, visit their Web site at www.tournamentofroses.com. For information about the Long Beach Mounted Police including even more photos, visit www.longbeachmountedpolice.com.
This year’s Parade theme is 2010: A Cut Above The Rest. When it comes to the gleaming glitterati of the Long Beach Mounted Police, it’s a sentiment they’ve lived daily, both past and present.
About Lisa Kemp: An award-winning writer and marketing consultant, Lisa has devoted her expertise to the equine industry through her company, KempEquine. Her writings have appeared in publications such as The Horse, Equine Chronicle, Equine Journal, Holistic Horse, USHorse.biz, Paint Horse Journal, Massachusetts Horse, Women & Horses, EQUUS, and Blaze magazine. Lisa believes a good day is one spent with horse people, horse pictures, horse information, and yes, actual horses. Lisa lives in Chicago, Illinois.
Photos Courtesy of the Tournament of Roses Archives