Thursday, 28 July 2011

Horses in the Carmargue

Image: R Croal (with permission)
Part of a series of horsey photos with a  European flavour,
courstesy of a very good friend.Horse

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Anything for me in that pocket?

Image: R Croal (with permission)
Part of a series of horsey photos with a  European flavour,
courstesy of a very good friend.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Pop-up Horse Art on Elie Beach

Galloping Horse Art on Elie Beach - Grab the mane and go
I am a beach lover, have been from an early age. I spent a couple of years living by one as a child, which co-incided with my introduction to horses, and have always held a very special place for both since. Whenever I catch my pony I would like to think it will live beside the sea, beside the imaginary ones of my childhood.

Lovely Elie - if you have your wetsuits...brrr!
In the last few years I have become an Elie beach regular. Its a 2 hour drive from Glasgow to the east coast and the East Neuk of Fife, near St Andrews. Provided you can handle the fact that the sea is pretty much Baltic all year round and the weather is hit and miss - as anywhere in Scotland - then  you can have some lovely holidays in this area.

Elie - even when the weather is not so good, still looks amazing
The beaches are a treat and it does rain a little less than the West Coast. The whole place is full of colour in summer, rich flaxen fields with wild red poppies and a sky that is somehow bigger than the one I know at home. across the sea and rolling fields and all of a sudden you feel you can see the curve of the earth.  It is like viewing the world through a fish eye lens.

I went out on a a hack yesterday at nearby Kilconquhar, but it had been raining lately and the fields and trails very boggy. We only managed a short and very pedestrian canter, so I took to the sand this morning  to let out a little of what I felt I was missing out on

Little arty helpers gathering seaweed
My kids and nephew who searched the best rock pools for seaweed that looked like squid ink spaghetti and my galloping mare was off.

Galloping Mare on Elie Beach
Our finished (if a little temporary) artwork

There for my enjoyment and that of any passers by before the tide washed her away in the afternoon.

Some people don't like beaches unless they are sunny and warm....I think they have forgotten how to enjoy a beach.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A right good blether while you jump....

Does jumping make you nervous? Last night I had a jumping lesson, which I haven't had in a while. It started with a plea of 'I'm a little bit nervous' and ended with a whoop of 'That was brilliant, I can't believe I did that!' 

So I now know the answer....the cure all for eradicating jumping nerves. It's a very Scottish cure, a specialist riding technique which we call blethering.

It may be a uniquely Hazelden technique, as expertly practised by owner / instructor Rob, who can (and I am sure he wouldn't mind that I say so) blether for Scotland. It starts before he gives you a leg up, and doesn't stop for the full hour.

Our collective group waffle last night covered all sorts of inane chatter .....holidays, T in the Park, how much it costs to park your car at T in the Park, what might happen if you didn't pay the parking fee, the horrors of accidentally shutting your kids fingers in car doors, the horrors of accidentally shutting the boot on your dad's head, forthcoming weddings, drinking too much, hangovers, pakora, mushroom pakora, loathing of fish pakora, and so on.....

Jumps are punctuation, the focus is the utterly mindless chit chat.

Blethering in order to be effective in this way must absolutely not be about riding, although you can pepper your blethering with a generous sprinkling of ' heels down' or 'just hold him a bit there' or even 'three, two, one' on the approach to the jump. You can even follow up after jumping with post jump corrections, as long as you don't let it interrupt the very arbitrary flow of the conversation. I doubt the BHS gives any certification in this particular skill, but in terms of the confidence that distraction can bestow on the rider, I think they should.

While blethering you can easily jump up to 40 times almost without noticing you have. In no time at all I was jumping 70cm jumps 3 in a row, and noticed that not only was my mouth no longer dry, but I was loving it and on a complete high!

The footage was of Ice, who I rode last night...not my video, not me riding, although looks about the same height and I am pretty positive that Sarah has benefited from this little known technique. I'll leave you with some more of Ice head is still right there, another of Sarah's clips helps me hang onto the moment a while longer!

I will miss my Hazelden lessons for the next few weeks, but when I come back, it will be for a blether and a jump, that is for sure.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Merlyn trains with Markus Bauer

I had the privilege of watching Markus Bauer doing some work with Merlyn yesterday at a visiting clinic at Carolyn's school, Hazelbank House. A while back Ali's friend had mentioned they had a top class dressage coach coming to give lessons and would I like to book in for a lesson...'Umm, eh, I'm not really in that league' I said 'More of a novice to be honest....'

So along we went yesterday, not to ride Merlyn, but to watch his owner Ali ride for Markus. My friend Jane and I sat and watched three consecutive lessons, the last of which was Merlyn's.

It was really worthwhile and do you know what, I think I could have gone right in there with my 'novice' had firmly on my head and he would have been just as helpful and personable as he was with more experienced riders.

He re-enforced the basics with all his riders, from eradicating piano hands to keeping elbows at the waist, and little things like putting your leg on without raising you knee.....and WHY these things matter, explaining what happens when you dont get it right with your seat bones, for instance.

What was really interesting to see was the investment of time in getting the communication right, before pushing on with your training. Lots and lots of transition work, halts, sitting trot to steady pace, asking for bend, straightness and over tracking. Only once everything was right, and staying that way did they move on.

Whenever the horse stopped listening or got above the bit, it was back to halt and start again....he said riding on once the horse is in that place is like riding with the 'handbrake on', much better to take it back and start again from the right place. The horses were moving so well, it was a delight to watch, especially the pointers on Merlyn.

My video footage was terribly poor and did it no justice whatsoever, so I won't post, but if you ever get the chance to watch him or ride with him do...even if you are a novice!!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Let's see what you've got Mr Merlyn

This was a first for me. What not having a horse of my own, merely having the privilege of being in Merlyn's world lately, I earned the job of 'horse sitting' during a vet's visit this week.

He has a gash on his leg which looked like healing and then had become infected again, so I was his 'familiar face' while the vet attended to treat. I think I have ridden him about 6 or 7 times, so he should recognise me, yes, but we are still very new, so it was a bit of a test.

Now, the fact that I turned of with my two kids on tow might have set us off on the wrong foot, unfamiliar noisy little excitable things that they were.

'Wow, he is the biggest, blackest horse we have ever seen!' They gasped. I have to agree, he is astonishingly black, not even a hint of anything else. We agreed he would make an excellent (if a little stereotypical ) evil knights horse in a movie...'Ha right until the good nights shadow popped out and said 'Boo' to him' I laughed.

I took them round the back to meet Ali's dog thinking best kept out the way, but when I returned to the stable I inadvertently sneaked up on Merlyn and spooked him  right out of his skin....'I rest my case' I think and apologise to him. Great start before the vet arrives, yes? 

By the time I opened the stable door he was a little on edge, to say the least, and was definitely in full audition for the role. 'I'm a big scary horse (actually I'm a big fearty)' he acts out, pawing and looking down his nose at me, doing he best to look a menacing and live up to his on screen potential.

I have to say Merlyn still seems huge to me, somehow bigger than Monty who is also 16'3, but I guess like humans its all in the way you carry yourself. I don't know if the Actimel advert is just a UK thing, but I often feel  when I stand beside him like the little girl  in the advert who says 'Lets see what you've got, Mr Muffin!'

Anyhow I led him out, doing me best not to be trampled along  the way - new steel toe boots doing a grand job - and played vets assistant with some extra pointers on how vet to steady him. Mr Muffin (Merlyn) kept his on edge demeanor for rest of the visit and needed an extra bit of hold with the rope across the nose band and extra grip the neck to steady him for all that prodding, washing, clipping and bandaging.

At the end I say 'You were a brave boy'...'Indeed he wasn't!' comments the Vet. I sense that having previously undergone a lot of vet treatment for a broken foot, he may be as fond as I am of the densist after a root canal treatment.

Now that I am a veteran of the Vet visit I do hope he has forgotten it all before our next encounter!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Riderless horse sketch

Its just a sketch, have a notion to do a piece on dressage, and I keep coming back to a sketch on a lunch break I doodled a month or two ago, which in turn prompted me to start on this. I was in half a mind just to add a rider, but didn't as the horses head would then be too far tucked in. Its a starting place for now, so I'll just see where this starts to go over the coming weeks....time for a bit of research, I think.

watercolour sketch of riderless horse
copyright  retained
As ever if any of you have photos of you and your horses doing dressage that you would allow me to paint from, send a link.  I got a lovely great photo to work from Red Hot Ruby's blog a few months back, always on the hunt for something that sparks off an idea....

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Love that horse....

I rode Rocky tonight and we had some great fun. Jumping the teeniest little jumps, we still managed to knock down about one out of every four but we had such good fun I really didn't care! I was so delighted as last time I rode him we could barely get a canter going, but tonight I had new tough soled Mountain Horse boots on my side (or rather they were on his sides) and I am pretty sure they helped.

Riding Rocky and loving it
copyright ACairns
I did this drawing of him back in December, kind of when I started on my equine art thing, and it is still a favourite of mine, really caught his likeness. It was a coloured pencil work, which I haven't done in a while, so I am tempted to go back to do a few more now. Here is the photo that I worked from, which was a bit of a duffer, but did the job.

Do you know, I really love that wee horse, he is comfortable, has a lovely nature and just feels really safe, just about the right height you feel that if you did come off it might just not hurt too bad. The thing is he feels really balanced, so falling off him just doesn't cross your mind too often at all, which I find really does add a lot to the pleasure of riding.

The first time I rode him I wanted to buy him, and I kind of felt a little bit of that again tonight.....can I just keep him....can I , can I??

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Overbending on Monty

From a fast paced hack to an hour of schooling completely focused on 'bending' .... both ends of the riding spectrum in a week for me. We worked in walk an trot in circles, Monty and I, round and round until one leg ached so much you had to change rein. Lesson script is around about as circular as our route, round and round we went for the hour.....

Kerry: "hand opened out, further, much further, right off the neck"
Me:"further than this?"
Kerry: "yes further than that"

Kerry: "that's about right"
Kerry: "OK whats happening now?"
Me: "he's cutting in"
Kerry: "so what do you do then?"
Me: "more inside leg"
Kerry: "that's right"
Kerry: "OK, I can see your leg on but he's not listening"
Me: "yes.  I know"
Kerry: "you have to make him"
Me: "YES. I know"
Kerry: "he's still not listening"
Me: "YES. I KNOW!"

This is the difference between knowing what you are to do and actually being able to do it, and sometimes the gap fo me feels unbridgable. Whenever I get that feeling it makes me just a little more inclined to go for the 'lets grab a horse and take it for a run in the fields' school of riding....."abandon lessons" goes the voice in my head.

Now, Monty isn't the most bendy horse to be fair, but he can do it and we had moments of bending, but they were brief, hard gained, and so so easily lost in a moment of confused co-ordination from me.

Fleeting, but maybe still, that moment of feeling something that you might remember. His head tucked in a bit and he was frothy at the bit at the end, which  am told is good, but must admit I dont have the feintist idea why....someone enlighten me?

Knowing that we got there a even just a little bit makes it and easier discussion for the two of us to have next time. Although I must say I am not sure I relish the thought of another hour of this too soon...I suspect it will be on the cards, our instructor thought our perfomance was a little wooden!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Here today gone tomorrow

Friday night sketches...sometimes I keep them around on the blog, other times they just vanish...what will they do? Who knows, depends how I feel about them in a few days....

 Friday night sketch of Trio

Friday night sketch: Movement

Happy hacking

Travelled down Ayrshire way again last weekend for some hacking fun with my friend Jane. Two hours in the Craigengellan Estate, me on Freddy Jane on Norman.....Norman, what were they thinking when they named a horse Norman?

the handsome old boy Freddy
Our lead horse was a mare Lucy, who had been out of work for about six years foaling, and since her return is a little bit wired. She has quite a pace on her and Ros's Mum said she would only take her out with more experienced riders (!?!) as she can be a little unpredictable.

'Wow, us experienced' I was nice not to be referred to as a novice rider for a change, gave us both a much needed confidence boost. It is all in the mind this horse riding mullarkey, I am more and more convinced of that all the time.

Lucy set a crazy pace even at a walk, and Norman was hot on her heels and Freddy shaking off his twenty two years and keeping up with the speedy duo on all but the most stretched out canter. Actually I am pretty sure Norman was galloping briefly and so would Freddy had I let him. You are only as young as you feel, you know, once an eventer, always an eventer!

We came back exhausted and on a massive high....this, my friends, is what it is all about.