Friday, August 08, 2008

good friday

I had forgotten how invigorating the Pilates matwork is - I have decided to do it every morning, and it's been a great way to get my days rolling.

Today I finally deemed it cool enough to get Keil Bay back under saddle. He was alert but calm in the barn aisle, and this carried through to the ride itself. The first thing he did was drop manure at the mounting block, which is a sign that he's relaxed and ready to work.

His ears were forward and he was definitely checking things out - looking into the woods, beyond the back field, etc. But he wasn't distracted, and definitely not spooky. He was nicely forward and very responsive. So responsive to my seat and legs that initially we were zigzagging around a bit. I had to really get quiet and clear with my legs and seat and once I did that and focused on my self more, we got straighter.

I noticed that he was very accepting of the bit and seeking contact, and I practiced some new ways of holding the reins (thanks jme!!) which seemed to help both of us.

We did a lot of "correct" walking. Then did some extended walk and a long stretching walk. I followed his pattern from the free lunging and changed directions across the diagonals so we were basically doing a big figure-8 pattern. He was anticipating this, and that allowed me to focus on some fine-tuning instead of thinking about where we were going next.

We did some warm up trot and then did a nice pattern where we did working trot around the arena and extended trot across the diagonals. Amazing! He really went well and I felt like he was in front of my legs AND my legs were underneath ME.

We did just a bit of canter to stretch out at the end, and then walked a bit before ending.

I hosed him off and then cleaned my tack, half chaps, and boots while he grazed in the barnyard with Rafer Johnson and Dickens E. Wickens.

Really really nice day. I am hoping to ride Cody this evening and cap it off with another good ride.


Grey Horse Matters said...

A good ride is one of the best feelings, Keil Bay sounds like a great horse. Hope your ride with Cody is just as productive.

billie said...

Thanks, Arlene, for giving me the opportunity to say it again - Keil Bay is the KING! :)

I did not end up riding Cody last night. When I went out to the barn around 8, my daughter had set up a small jump course in the arena and was cantering the pony over it bareback and I got sucked in to the spectator role.

The idea of jumping bareback makes my groin ache, but she makes it look easy. She was also doing some arms out like bird wings jumping, and let me tell you, the fact that she can aim this pony at a jump and hold her arms out while he takes it is HUGE progress.

After the evening feed, I gave hay in the paddock and my husband brought out two glasses of wine so we could sit and watch the horses munch. It was a lovely way to end the day.

Cody is on the docket for today!

jme said...

i'm happy to hear you had such a great day! the weather has cooled off a bit here too and the horses do seem more enthusiastic about working again... me too ;-)

can i just say how impressed i am that you do pilates every morning? i like my yoga, but pilates is torture to me!

i'm glad the rein thing is working out alright :-)

you've given me a good reminder for the next time i ride! it's so nice to hear a rider talk about making the most of work at the walk. a lot of riders (self included sometimes) think of the walk as something you HAVE TO do before you get to the 'good' stuff.

but i've found (and have to continually remind myself) that good, varied, relaxed work at the walk sets the tone for your whole ride. your idea of the patterns keeps it varied and interesting. i'll even work leg yields and such before moving on to trot, and the horses seem so much more focused while simultaneously being looser...

billie said...

jme - do not be too impressed about the Pilates - I am only a few days into it this time around!

Several years ago I did it religiously for about a year. Unfortunately this was before I started back riding again, so I didn't realize the benefit the core strength offers to riding. I was similarly tortured initially, and very discouraged that even some of the very basic movements were too difficult for me. But the beauty of the program is that you see very quick progress if you stick to it. And I felt the strength building.

At some point during that time I decided to join a gym b/c I was tired of doing Pilates on our floor with dogs licking me in the face and hair/dust bunnies sticking to my clothes. :)

Now I'm back to the Pilates b/c it doesn't require driving anywhere!

I really need to get myself back in good shape and sadly, I think the focused mat work and weight training are going to be necessary. But the PIlates goes very quickly once you get the breathing and the movements down and build some strength, and I hope I can plug some yoga in for the evening to unwind from the day. The gym is the bear. It's just not in my orbit right now and I need to get it there.

Re: the walk work - I have found that with two "older" horses, it is necessary and quite useful to warm up but make it count at the same time. The funny thing I've learned is that the 5-year old QH also does better if you really work on that walk and get him going well. Like you said, it carries forward into the ride.

Plus, it gives ME the chance to get myself organized. My legs are getting more automatic, although not automatic enough yet, but it's still an exercise in looking like a Gumby doll when I try to coordinate hands/legs/seat. Adjust one and the other two go out of whack. It's light years better but still a work in progress.

I heard a very respected upper level dressage trainer say once that she buys horses for their walk because it's the gait that reveals the most about the horse and its potential. She said if you start with a good walk you can improve the trot and canter, but not in the reverse. She showed some video of Olympic dressage riders/horses at the walk and it was true - the ones with the great walks tended to be very correct all the way through the tests. I found that fascinating - so many people SELL horses based on their trots and canters.

The patterns serve the same function for me as the walking work does. If I can put one thing on autopilot (this is truer when riding alone - with a trainer in the arena I can rely on their eyes and voice to keep things rolling) I can focus more on fine-tuning other things.

Thanks for your comment - I write a small dissertation in response b/c they're so thought-provoking!

Debra W said...


Hopping over from Peggy Payne's blog to say hello. What a gorgeous horse you have! I haven't been riding in a couple of years, but I adore horses.


billie said...

Thanks for coming by - and glad you enjoyed the photo of Keil Bay. He is a handsome fellow, I admit. :)

The others are beautiful too - I need to do a group shot - haven't done one in awhile.

And I need to pop over to YOUR place and see what's up with you!

jme said...

i love your dissertations! they give me so much to ponder also :-) now i'm feeling guilty and will have to give the pilates another try... i used to run but i'm trying to save my knees/ankles, so i need to find another, more low impact way to get fit again. i know pilates would be great for me, but it's just. so. hard. :-)

billie said...

Try the book The Pilates Body by Brooke Siler. She lays it out in beginner/intermediate/advanced, has very clear instructions and photos, and also has "tips" for each movement. She uses visual images in her instructions and reminds me a lot of Sally Swift in that regard.

The very best part though is that she has a section in the beginning called modified beginner. It gets you started with the basics but made a little easier as you build some strength. If you do it 4x/week you will quickly get to the beginner section and feel really good about it. (imo..:)

And if you miss a few days, it's easy to go back through the modified beginner exercises and ramp back up to the more advanced ones.

I really love this book.

jme said...

thanks! i just bought it! - i wish amazon didn't have that whole 'buy with 1 click' option! i get myself into more trouble that way ;-)

billie said...

For some reason the buy it now thing made me think of the FAO Schwartz Christmas catalog a few years back - in which you could buy an actual PONY for your child - I believe it was 10k, and you could pick the color. It came with tack and a trainer on Christmas Day to help get the pony settled in. Can you imagine?

A buy it now pony out of a catalog!

Glad you got the book!

Debra W said...

Ohhh, I want to buy a pony and have it delivered to my doorstep by UPS! I wouldn't have any place to put him or her after that, but it would be lots of fun. I would love to see a group shot of your beauties. I will have to look back at your archives to see if I can find one.

Thanks so much for popping over to my blog! I have seen you over at Peggy's for a long time and always find your comments interesting and insightful. I am glad that I finally came by to visit you. I am looking forward to reading more of what you have to say. I will definitely be back!


billie said...

LOL - Debbie, if you buy the pony and then need a place to keep it, my daughter would likely be happy to oblige. :)

I'm glad you stopped by too.

Your blog is lovely and very inspiring - I'll be stopping by there frequently.