Thistle Thursday Heat

The kinds of heat.

Of all the hundred different kinds of snow, there are only about five different kinds of heat.

First, the kind of heat that’s welcoming.

Balmy, wavering, not entirely convincing.  Beneath it all, there’s a promise of 10 degrees cooler at any time.  As soon as it’s past 6 pm, a small shrill around your shoulders in a thin tank top.

thistle dressage

Next, there’s beginner heat.

Fooling any winter hardy to think it’s actually hot.  Sweaty, over-warm, super-hot, how-can-we-go-on?!-kind of heat.

It’s the heat you think you’re in when just visiting someplace warm from up north, realizing it’s only May…

riding outdoors

The third type of heat is where fingers sort of puff up, legs feel heavy, wet hair dries in 10 minutes, and anyone who has a choice plunges into a pool.

riding in thistles

Quick break in the heat study – how awesome is Valiosa here?! For every crazy difficult ride, this makes up for it all.


more forward horse outside

The fourth kind of heat is the humid type.

Drenched, dripping, breathing heavy, after just picking out four hooves and grooming.  Clothes clammy while tacking up, strange green growth pops up on the barn wood and on any tack almost overnight.

Georgia, Missouri, Florida – any place else you live inside a sponge?  Walking feels like moving in molasses.

horse in thistles
Marquise Muffin Top and prickly thistles.

The fifth kind of heat – The dry, lizard-like hotness with birds gaping, panting, with open beaks.

Exterior walls radiate heat, steel shelters are like little ovens, even in the shade inside, and metal burns to the touch.  No cooling even if the air moves.

Wind is a hairdryer down the throat, eyes crackly from no humidity at all.

We’re not quite there yet – this year has been the easiest spring/summer.

Gray mare, being a little gem!

riding on uneven ground

Gray Horse Overdose

There was this handsome visitor.

Such a gorgeous PRE.

gray pre stallion

Gray horses nestle their way in once you own one.  It’s what they do.  At first, no early sign of addiction.

Then, you find yourself taking pictures of other gray horses…

gray andalusian stallion

Maybe there is a problem…


Tomorrow – Thistle Thursday!

Come back to see what that’s all about 🙂 gray horse in thistles

riding in thistles

Keeping The Hand Closed Around The Reins

Killing you with all the endless indoor schooling pictures.

I know.

Still, here we go.

Years ago, I didn’t have the habit of opening the hand too much.  Or if I did I had no idea of doing it.  Now, it’s become a problem, and I’d like to train it away.

training to ride better

What happens is that once we’re in a really nice, soft contact, I open more, to give or something, then she’ll take advantage and become strong, say down the longside or diagonal.

Then we get strung out, half halts are not going through because now the reins are too long.  And Valiosa will lose straightness and impulsion with inconsistent contact like that right away.  Super frustrating to know the hand must stay closed, but it still opens!

horse cantering with loose open neck
Madam Milky Way working hard. 

Every time I let the contact slip like that, we lose valuable time in getting back to the “right spot”.

First step to get it right is to really believe she can go into the closed hand and stay there.  That she’s actually capable of going forward in THAT contact.

horse in canter at the downstride

Makes sense?  Because earlier, she just wasn’t capable to.

So.  I’ll be working on that in the sandbox.  Soft, closed hand.  Not an oxymoron.

gray horse doing dressage in covered arenaWhen it works, she’s awesome!

After this week we’ll be mostly on our own again.  (Oh NO!!)  Many thanks to Geñay who works with us and has been so helpful!  It’s been a blast, couldn’t have done this without you!

horse portrait

Other Hard Things We’re Working On

We’re not in bootcamp, but Valiosa may be starting to think so.

Each ride, she has to go at least half-way correctly, at least half of the time.  Annoying to her, and hard work, since she usually gets to tourist-around and work more on own terms 🙂 here and there.

sitting straight while riding on the circleEmpress Plum Pudding would rather do some type of Western Jog than this.

One change in her is a better, softer, trot and once she turns on the motor behind a lot of the “tweakiness” finally goes away up front.  Well, yeah, go figure, we all know that’s how it works, but it would take me soooo long to figure out in each ride how to “arrive” there with this horse…  And then start over from scratch again the next ride.

New task is to half halt more.  Half halt quicker.  Half halt and not holding.  OK, how about just half halting!!?  And pushing the hands forward to soften, while keeping her on the outside rein.

allowing the horse to canter freely forward
Nice little hind leg pumpin’!

Straight stretchy trot can happen, small miracle.

horse stretching in trot

Overall (ignoring another huge problem: keeping the hand closed.  Maybe next year.) aids have to be quicker.  Quicker half halts, quicker to give, quicker leg, and quicker transitions.  Little syrupy preparations take too long, we amble around too much.

Riding with the leg off will go a long way.  Would be great to reprogram to never touch with the leg unless it’s an actual aid – impossible now but refusing to give up!

overbending the horse neck to the inside

Also super difficult:  Straight with just the right flexion.  I either get too straight or overbent, especially to the left.  But she is softer, so I’ll take it!

Only 4 rides left of “more focused training.”  It’s been luxurious, to have help at every ride.  Spoiled.

dressage with andalusian cross horse

Show you more next week!

Here’s Where She Is In The Training Now

Definitely looser, a little more over the back.

Monday morning is starting off with a bad calf strain for me, so no riding this morning.  On again tomorrow.

white horse in dressage

As promised, today is a quick peek at where Valiosa is in her training.  We still do strange tweaky things but overall, she’s made a huge change in the past two weeks!

horse falling out on volte
Salt Box Mare – falling out of her box.

Once she comes off the inside leg aid instead of pushing against it, we come together more like one package.  Awesome when it happens!

canter with small white horse

dressage with gray horse

Last week I had her teeth floated again, and she had an overall vet check.  It’s helpful to have another eye check her gaits – easy to become “home-blind” right?!  She passed various flexing and prodding – wonderful!

pushing the hand forward in canter

Had her on Pentosan for some time, just to help out, but never noticed a hugely significant difference.  Has that happened to you?  Trying another series soon, to help protect as much as can – hoping for many years with this mare – at 6 ml instead of 5.

She’s already so much softer just from working better!

riding with looser rein in canter

Have a great start on your week!