I've been having a lot of fun jumping Toby over the last few weeks. Now that the weather has changed we have been working in the indoor arena. He is an absolute angel in there! There are no distractions so he stays focused on me and does everything I ask with a sweet willing attitude. In this video clip he shows a balanced well paced canter and nice jumping form over two cross rails.
All horses are bent a little to the left or a little to the right. They spend 23 hours a day in positions that is likely crooked but comfortable and familiar to them. When we ride them it is our job to straighten their bodies and encourage them to be using their core.
My horse Toby is shaped like a banana to the right. He does not like bending to the left. So when we do dressage I have to ride with extra awareness about my left side. He also has a slight weakness on his left hind. I over compensate by raising my left shoulder and giving with my left elbow. However, it is very important that I straighten my own body so he can be straighter. I really have to work hard to anchor my left elbow because slowly but surely he starts to pull to the right and after a few circles on the right lead the reins are loopy. You can see in this picture how good he looks collected and how strongly anchored my left elbow is. I'm so thankful I have an amazing coach to guide us through these technical details.
For our group jumping lesson we learned the technical side of adjusting our body position for going up hill and down dale. It's about leaning forward and holding onto mane when going up hill. Lean back and kick your feet forward for going down dale. Ultimately you want to maintain your body position as balanced and upright regardless of what the horses body is doing beneath you.
It has been beautiful weather here in the Kootenays. Fall is my favorite time of year as the intense summer heat fades and the leaves on the trees change dramatically to flaring reds, bright yellows and magnificent oranges. So it is especially fun to be doing cross country jumping.
We had a little paint party last week. The three of us played with our paints in the field doing cross country jumps and practiced going up and down hills. I worked on my "release". My piant, Teddy, has a big strong head and dives down on the landing of the jump. I don't want to get pulled down with him so I started throwing my reins away to allow for slack. However, this is a bad idea because I lose control of steering and breaks. My coach advises to hold on to the reins even if it pulls on his mouth as he will soon learn to bring his head up. So we tried it and his head stayed more level. Learning while having fun with horses is truly the best!
My daughter and I had a great week-end with the boys. We hauled the horses to the riding club for a Pony Club week-end with a wonderful clinician who came from Kelowna. Teddy was awesome with my daughter. It is amazing to see her trotting around the arena with him. He is a Clydesdale/Paint cross, so even though he is big, he very gentle and kind (most of the time). I also brought my 5 year old Welsh cross so he could gain experience from going to new places. He was very calm. For our first ride in the arena he was a little distracted but after about 10 minutes of working on transitions he started listening and being very obedient. My daughter and I even went on our first trail ride together with two other young girls. Horses are magic!
I haven't written about our amazing family cat, Leo, the orange Tabby. But first let me tell you about Cordy. When I was two years old we got a huge white male cat, who was also two. Cordy was like my brother. I grew up with him. He put up with me when I would wrap him up in a blanket and push him around in the stroller. He moved with us from Philadelphia to Vancouver when our parents died. When we was twenty-two years old he finally started to slow down. I took him to the vet to see if they could help him. But I didn't like how they treated him and could not bare the idea of him being put down on a cold stainless steel table. I picked him up and carried him home to contemplate what to do next. As I held him and told him I loved him, he died in my arms. It was the perfect ending to our long and connected relationship.
So I really did not want another cat for a long time after Cordy died. How could any cat compare to him? But I knew I always wanted an orange Tabby cat one day. So after my first Rhodesian Ridgeback, Ridley, died about 7 years ago, I felt open to welcoming a cat to the family. I was reading the local newspaper and saw a litter of kittens advertised, one of which was an male orange Tabby. When we went to visit the litter and I saw little 8 week old Leo, I knew he was our cat. We took him home and he has never let us down. He is awesome with the kids and the dog. He lives inside and outside and comes and goes as he pleases. He has never peed in the house or had any health problems. If I haven't seen him for a while, I will call out for him in the yard and he comes running a minute later.
Yesterday I went to a friends house a block and a half away to have some quiet time . Leo just finished eating and joined me on my walk. We hung out at my friends house and cuddled on the couch. It was a such special one on one time with Leo. We never get that with a household of six beings.
This afternoon I was wondering where he was as he has not been around as much as he used to. I thought he was probably hunting in the neighbor's compost which is why he doesn't come home to eat as frequently. Sure enough, I look out the window and I see him looking down intently for any activity in compost.
I had a trail ride training session with my amazing coach today. A year ago, we got a second horse so my husband and I can go trail riding together. All has been going well, except now my husband wants to trot in the lead which makes my young horse freak out. So basically I learned that it is a process to prepare the horses mentally. Every time we change a variable we need to re-establish the rules, like going from the arena to the trails. I worked Toby in the arena for 15 minutes doing a few transitions. We practiced with one horse passing the other and halting. Then we practiced doing small trots and walking before trotting out for a while. We also separated the horses and met up again. Both horses did great, they were both totally calm. I'm so happy to have a plan of action so we can go on more adventures together.
Benjamin is our family dog. In the summer of 2012, I had very young children, a 1.5 year old boy and 3.5 year old girl. For some reason I felt called to foster at the local SPCA. We brought home a husky named Trigger. Trigger was a master escape artist and started getting territorial over the food bowl with my senior Rhodesian Ridgeback. When I took him to the dog park he would protect her and get in fights with other dogs. With two young children to look after, I felt it was too much for me to handle. We brought him back and they asked if we could take Benjamin. "Who's Benjamin" I asked.
Benjamin, at the time, was a one year old Coon hound/Shepherd Cross (so they think). We looked at him through the window and we saw a very sad looking furry hound dog with and extremely long nose. We entered his room and he vigorously started wagging his tail. "Sure, we can foster him." I said.
We took him home and fell in love with him. Life was so happy and fun with him around. He absolutely loves children, swimming and playing fetch. He is by no means perfect. He has been a lot of work over the years. He is very territorial and barks a lot to ward off people or dogs that come too close to the fence. He also bays with the horn of the train at 5 am. Now that he is five years old he is starting to settle down a little, little bit.
When we take Ben to our weekly summer outings to the beach, he is very excited to swim and fetch. So here is are two video clips of Ben doing whatever it takes to get a stick, even if it is two feet under water.
My daughter and I went to a local horse show this week-end. I participated in 3 hunter classes and 2 dressage tests. I was a little disappointed with how it went. Teddy had his feet trimmed only 5 days before so he was a little ouchy. I could not get him to canter on the hard footing in the jumping arena. And I was quite tired from all the preparation for the show the day before. So we were both a little off. We did have a lot of fun though. My daughter was a wonderful assistant. She took pictures, bought me the different whips in between classes and kept me hydrated. I hope next year she will be able to participate in a few classes too. But most importantly we confirmed that Teddy is our treasured family horse. He listened perfectly and was quiet and gentle. He has truly bonded with us. The three of enjoyed our time together on our little adventure to Hot August Hooves.
I have been a Professional Animal Communicator since January 2016. I have been an animal lover and admirer for a very, very long time.