Saturday, January 16, 2010


My trainer and I became addicted to videotaping lessons — that is, until my hard drive filled up. My solution has been to transfer my fellow students' lessons to DVD.

Since the lighting in the indoor isn't ideal and our trainer, Terri Stryker, is teaching and videotaping at the same time, the video comes out fairly blurry. Nevertheless, I enjoy the challenge of taking blurry, poorly lit, still images from the video and tweaking them in Photoshop to create cool splash screens for the DVDs.

Here are some of my favorites:

Helen riding Grayson, her nine-year-old thoroughbred hunter.

Susan, whose own horse is laid up for a few months, taking a lesson on Stanhope Stables's own Namore.

Pam, riding her own horse, Care Bear.

Juliet, who usually rides Namore during peak-traffic times on Saturday, found a quiet moment where they both have some space.

Carol on Woodhollow Equestrian Center's school horse extraordinaire, Nathan.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

"SKILLS": Two-point position

If the purpose and practice of the two-point jumping position remains elusive (I resemble that remark), check out this amazing video of freestyle cyclist Danny MacAskill. Seeing things in a different context sometimes helps — anyone can ride a bicycle, right?

Looking past his sublime jaw-dropping gravity-defying athleticism and creativity, if you substitute the horse for a bicycle, MacAskill has some serious two-point skills: flexing the hip angle to shift and maintain the center of balance, holding the back, and doing this all with the the core muscles so that the hips, ankles, elbow absorb and follow the movement of the horse... er, I mean bicycle.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Blowin' in the new year

We had a good windstorm last Tuesday. Siding was scraping the outside of the indoor arena and it sounded like the roof was holding on with all its might. I longed Jazz in the morning — instead of being responsive to basic cues, he looked more like a "pony kite." [You pony owners and trainers know what I mean.] I was trying to be mindful of a barnmate who was taking a lesson on her thoroughbred, but her horse didn't seem to mind the commotion inside or outside of the arena. I later personally expressed my jealousy of her good fortune of having a such a sensible horse.

That afternoon, I checked the "vibe" in the indoor ring. Most of the horese were on edge and my trainer agreed that we'd play the lesson by ear. I'd tack up Jazz and bring him into the arena, but wouldn't over face him, if it felt like he was going to blow.

As soon as I got back to his stall, I knew we'd be fine. He was calmer that I was, so, before getting on, I gave myself a my own timeout for couple of minutes in the lounge. At various times during my lesson there were about eight horses in the ring, Jazz seemed like the only one who didn't flinch.

Soon after treating Jazz for EPM, I sensed that he was a bit calmer. There was no way that he would have been able to handle the indoor arena in a windstorm last year, whether or not he had been longed, so his progress seems dramatic. However being the person who is closest to him, I can testify to incremental changes, where every few weeks or so, he seems a bit quieter and calmer.

In September 2008, I both lost my mare, Gracie, and Jazz was diagnosed and treated for EPM (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis). Technically, that was 2008, but for me it's been a blur that only seemed to get more manageable in recent months. Those who remember Gracie know that she would have been unconsolable in last week's windstorm. I think of her every time I hear the wind when I ride. Thus I have absolutely no real experience with owning a horse that doesn't come to pieces under that much pressure. Trust me, I could grow to like it.

I'm grateful that Jazz has held up during this past year and taken the leap of faith with me, to get past the disease that afflicted him for so long and puzzled those that previously cared for him. My New Year's wish for Jazz and our barnmates is for more of the same: healthier, stronger and, for those of you who need it, CALMER horses.