Saturday, 30 April 2011

Stopping a tonne of horseflesh

I had a lesson an a half on Monty this week. He is what we call 'forward going' or a 'strong horse' with a great response to anything you ask mostly, but a more than occasional tendency to feel utterly unstoppable. The sort of horse who can prompt people to say 'I don't mind who I ride as long as its not......' although most of us love him dearly

Ordinarily is is jumping that does this to him. Out come the jumps and he morphs from fast but at least responsive into overexcited express train mode, speeding up at each turn. At some point thereafter there is usually a moment where you round the corner towards the jump and you realise that he is completely in the driving seat and all you can do is keep your leg on and hope he feels good about it. He has a good heart and won't ditch you in it for no good reason, but it is still not a good feeling when it happens!

Well on Thursday there was not a jump in sight, but as soon as we started working on canter transitions I knew how it was going to pan out. I had a good ten minutes of 'flaming nora' going on in my head before I got to the well-we-can-just-keep-on-going-in-circles-for-as-long-as-it-takes phase.

I was reasonably able to go with this mindset for about another half an hour during which time I even managed to relax enough to get off my knees and lighten my hands and just once pull off the slow-him-with-your-seat trick.  Mostly I relied on a lot of circles and some serious and repeated half halts to get me through though and by nearing the end I was sweating buckets with the sheer energy of trying to hold him.

Then came the utterly-worn-out-please-let-this-end-soon-and-safely phase, as my failing muscles started to show badly. The upshot of this all is that my thighs ache - and I know they shouldn't, but gripping with fear that does that - my triceps and lateral shoulder muscles feel fairly well worked and between the shoulder blades is an absolute killer....phew!

Next time I ride Monty, some how I will make my seat do a lot more talking.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Meeting Merlin

Some of you may recall my post on a chance encounter with a colleague with a horse who needed some extra exercise. Well brave girl I am,  as today was my iniation into Merlin's world....I went and met him and took him for a stroll to see how we got on with a view to maybe a wee routine of taking him on my own, provided we bond!

Meet Merlin - he is completely black, not a spot or anything

He is a big boy, Irish Draught Sports, Ali thinks....he has an Irish chip in one ear and a Dutch one in the other, so he has perhaps travelled, but descent and history all a bit of a mystery. He is around 10 years old, although had a couple of years out with a broken foot, so he thinks he is younger!

He caught first time, no trouble there, and stood nicely for grooming, only threatening a couple of nibbles, and then he seemed to get over it. Saddle on fine, Ali did the bridle to show me how he likes his ears done - right first it seems - and then we walked him up the the local riding school to try out his new rider.

Mind the ears, right then left please....
We didn't manage very long. He spooked at the dog and did a nice 'shoulder drop swerve' manoeuvre but we sat. Then as I worked him at trot I quickly realised that he felt really off balance. He felt really odd, his pace was almost as if he was picking up canter but he was still in trot and his left shoulder kept dropping. I said to Ali he was going to take a little getting used to and asked did he look lame?

Thinking it was maybe just me - you know wonky riders can make for wonky horses, we swapped around. He looked to be moving better, but Ali could feel the same as me like he was dropping his left shoulder....we felt his leg a little warm and concluded a lameness problem from last month hadn't really passed fully.

So we eased off on the school work and took him for a walk so I could get to know how he was on the roads which were very quiet and single track. All good, I think, took me a while to relax completely. When he spooks he stops completely and if you nudge him on he goes backward....oh crikey, thinks I, next he is going to whirl around and bolt for home. Ali re-assures that its not his style.

We walked him around a route that Ali said is about an hour of walk and trot work, had a cup of tea and watched him eat his feed, pawing the ground as he did, no interference please!

Back to the field with Pebbles....
Ali turned him out at the end of the day, no rug, into the field with Pebbles the three year old mare and another couple who I can't remember the name of. I am rubbish with names, so for future reference: Ali's friends are Gillian and Emma (who lives next door) Ian, Rusty the terrier and Ben the Golden Retriever....there, I shall be able to check back when my memory fails me, as it so reliably does!

Next stop for us is a meet up next week to meet the riding instructor at the local school and another walk out, and if all goes well, we bond and my nerves hold out, then I may just have found a new friend.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Call for photos

I am trawling around looking for good photos of horses for my artwork and growing a teeny bit frustrated by the constraints of the attribution licence. It has many benefits - such as allowing you to make derivative works from some lovely people's photos - but just that one little drawback in the world of painting which is the need to reference that it is based on a photo found on flickr creative commons.

Question: when is a credit stating ' Based on a photo by ...... at http:www.....' a good thing to put include in the title of a painting forevermore? 

And so, on that note, anyone who doesn't mind giving me permission to paint a horse from any of their blog photos, please do let me know...

Friday, 22 April 2011

BBC reports moves to revive the Glasgow Art Fair

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Shaping up for Summer


I have had a week now where the art and the riding have both taken a back seat, so was delighted to be back in the saddle tonight.

Even more so when we got there and decided to take them to the outdoor school for the last half hour of light on a beautiful sunny day.

Bombproof Arnie  and I lead the way, the brave boy of the herd.

We are still collectively on our flat work roll, and as a credit to our instructor Kerry, it is still something a little different every week. We ride a lot more in our own formation to begin with, working alongside each other of transitions, leg yields, circles and the like, somehow Kerry with eyes on all of us, always asking questions "How did that shallow loop feel to you then?" I ponder "Felt like he might have led too much with his shoulders" I hazard? "That's right, he slowed down too"she points out. Yes, he did that, and I think that means he was moving out to the side too much, not forward all starts to make some kind of sense this strange language week after week.

Then, usually we move on to work at a canter with and this week came up good with cantering in straight edged 'shapes' again.  Squares first - no cones, you had to work it out yourself  as you go, loose focus and you round those corners off very quickly  - and then harder still triangles. Amazing what a difference an extra 30 degrees makes on a turn, it certainly  made us all work a lot harder. Leg on hard for the straight edges, and strong inside leg to push them around the tight angle, a little outside leg if the back end drifted too far, then quick as you can, leg on hard again for the straight side. Sometimes it worked, sometimes I lost it and dropped out of canter, but it was such hard work we were not that fazed when it happened.

hazelden horses
We were all exhausted, and most extremely sweaty and grateful for the cooling air as we walked them up the lane to turn them out for the night as there is finally enough grass.  As we turned them up Pablo and Larry charged to say hello, with Pablo screeching to a halt a foot a away from the electric fence, the recent shock of an encounter with it yesterday fresh in his mind. I am thinking of getting one fitted on the fridge, or perhaps the biscuit tin to get in shape for summer.

Happy horses, happy riders, summers a coming.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

I'll Fly Away: Grey Horse, Acrylic on Canvas

I'll Fly Away, Acrylic on Canvas, copyright of artwork A.Cairns 2011
based on photo by Just Chaos licenced under Creative Commons 2.0
He is there or husband if sufficiently sick of the sight of me painting him, that he insists he is finished. Me, I am less sure, but he is definitely resting, which means I will be looking for pastures new.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Horse sketched on a lunchbreak, and inspiration at Trongate 103

A horse sketch, copyright
I had a little wander on yesterday morning to Trongate 103, which is a collaborative arts venue in Glasgow which houses gallery space, artists studios and the Glasgow Print Studio for a little creative distraction from life in general,which quite frankly had been more than a little confusing that morning.

While there stumbled across some things that caught my eye. They are a very random lot, some horse related and others, I don't know, just things that caught my eye which I like track of somewhere as I know they are somehow important, but don't yet know why, if that makes any sense at all.

The first item was a sketch in the Project Ability gallery, which is a visual arts organisation based at Trongate 103 which enables and encourages those with disabilites to use artistic expression and practice to achieve their creative potential. I don't know anything about the artist, other than they were clearly prolific as there was a great big folder of their loose, fluid line art for sale in the shop which raises funds to support the work they do. It was a portrait 2 horses titled 'Mother and Son' and apart from the sketch itself, I warmed to the simplicity of the title.

Mother & Son, H.W.B Davis A.B
on show in the Project Ability shop at Trongate 103

On my mind while there was the fact that I think I would like to work with the people in this organisation, I like what it is about. A few years ago considered postgraduate study in Art Therapy although I wasn't sure if it might get a little too deep, I suspected that undergoing therapy yourself might be a prerequisite and I wasn't at all sure that what I wanted to do. Added to this the only institution I found in Scotland where you could do the course was in Edinburgh which with a young family living in Glasgow is more than a bit of an inconvenience, and so I parked it for the time being. It is still in me somewhere, as one of those 'what if' questions.....I might enquire with this group about volunteering to see if I can answer it. 

I had a look in the Glasgow Print Studio Gallery, where some canvases by caught my eye, a lot of intensity and depth to them, organic and quite breathtaking, artist Sam Ainsley.

Then to the Print Studio shop where I leafed through the work, pausing over a few, but today it was Rachel Duckhouse, whose work you can see here, but somehow the website images don't do these visual feasts any justice, but you light like them anyhow.

After all that browsing I returned to my desk with a 20 minutes to spare and so sketched a horse  on some tracing paper before returning to a more to returning just a little altered, to the day in hand.

Monday, 11 April 2011

On the carousel

This is as close as I have been to a horse all week.....we have been 'en vacance en France', the lovely St Gervais Des Bains near Mont Blanc for ski-ing and sunbathing in almost equal measure.

The lovely old carousel in St Gervais sits below a beautiful alpine backdrop, and was open every day for a few hours. At 2 euros a go, my children did their best to free us of our spare change at least once a day.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Bitter Chocolate finish

So it has been little and infrequent touches of the paintbrush this week but little by little my bigger piece of a grey horse is getting closer now. I sat by the fire tonight on the floor and mixed up a dark bitter chocolate paint mix of Burnt Umber and Phthalo Blue, and it looked good enough to eat.

Sitting on the floor a chocolate brown rug I carefully slicked it around the edge of the canvass all the way, a dark ribbon an sweet finish. I knew I wouldn't paint on until I was 'nearly done'. Like a nice pudding after a well earned dinner.

He is nearly ready to be varnished, but now I need to sit  in his company and wait to see what draws my eye, what calls me back to the canvas for just a touch more paint...patience, not to seal him as finished too soon!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Hacking out with the kids....sort of

I have been still working away on my painting in between life generally, working, riding, kids, you know the whole daily juggling act that goes on until before you know it a month has passed and you start writing the wrong dates on things because everyone else most be wrong it can't possibly be April.

The weather has picked up a treat here in the last week or two, bringing my kids, quite rightly, to press me to put down the paintbrush and come and enjoy the great outdoors with them. We were lucky enough to make the most of the glorious sunshine last weekend with a lengthy romp around the enviously large city park which is right on our doorstep.

If you can't live in he country with a horse, a park on this scale and your own two legs can serve you well. especially when a bit of imagination can turn your outing into a real hack on some fictitous ponies.

We trotted along here, my boy was on was on Ed, who got a bit carried away and cantered off with him.

We stopped for water here, thirsty work all this hacking out.....

My jodhpurs and riding boots (just add imagination or a sprinkling of fairy dust) while we stopped for a rest.

Anyway, my son realised that after we stopped at the river, he had forgotten to get back on Ed, so I guess kind of left him behind. Probably just as well we don't have a real one then.

On Thursday evening, I arrived at the stables a sleepy livery horse had his long dozy head out the door in the last of the daylight....8pm and still light.  The real delight awaits in a week or two when we will be able to return to the outdoor arena.

Nice lesson, nothing too strenuous as once again I opted for a confidence restorative riding experience on Pablo. I rode, he listened and the ugly need to berate myself for the full hour did not rear its head, leaving me with that lovely warm glow of just doing something you love. Wonderful!