I’m on one of my thrice-yearly tears, throwing stuff away, giving stuff away — clearing out. Someone looking round the place might be surprised by this, because even I’m a bit ‘Eh, really?’ but there have been three large bin bags that have made their way out the door. We’ll see, there may be more to come.

And then I find something like this and hope I haven’t thrown out anything I may like to come across at some future date.

PRIX CAPRILLI

This was one of those tests for which we did a dry run in our lesson and never got around to ‘doing’ properly, with the white boundary markers and the marking. It is so old that I was riding Delilah at the time — so this is like, 2007 — I am pretty sure I moved on to Rebel at some stage that year as well, so it must have been winter.

I also remember how good Delilah was at this particular test, and thinking that maybe she liked doing it, without really being sure why. Now I think that horses ‘like’ dressage because the rider {me} is giving the aids clearly — the way they should always be given, whether or not one {me, again!} is being given a number grade for every transition.

I remember coming over the jump #2 and leg-yielding her over to M, and thinking, ‘She’s actually letting me leg-yield her over to M!’ — and also the way she really went for the last change of rein over #3, from H to F.

I can’t predict how Connell will approach those fences — and I immediately stop myself from visualising anything but a strong result. Let’s do this!

***

For those who like a nice cross-reference: that nail polish is spoken of here.

***

Ever done correctly, that is, with the white things down on the ground, and the silence.

There have been any number of times in which instructors have tried to incorporate a dressage test into a lesson. Sure, we do loads of flat work in the warm up, but the flat work never gets its own time to shine, unless we try to do a test. ‘Try’, because what happens is, we get the test, we go away, we come back the next week and all get a chance to do it with the instructor correcting us as we go along… except one or two haven’t shown up that week. So we resolve to do it all over again the next week — and those one or two show up, but the weather is dreadful, so it has to be put off.

And then one or two others don’t show up the next week, or all the arenas are booked for something else, so the white things can’t be laid out properly — and then the week after that, there’s a course still set up from pony camp and we’d all rather do that

So it never gets done.

We had a test, a simple pre-novice sheet, and we did the thing where we all did it in the lesson, and the ones that hadn’t gotten it, got it, and we were all meant to do it the next week; cue all of the above, and after IDK, six weeks, we forgot about it. I had the sheet folded up into 8ths in my pocket, and then gave up and left it home — and then our teacher sent us up to the upper arena to do it.

Gahhhhhhhhhhh.

The test is simple, and I had spent a lot of time during my commute drawing it on my palm: enter at A, track left at C, 20 metre circle at B, etc. There was always a bit where it felt like my brain went on hold, after the canter — when do I walk? — and the picture in my head went all fuzzy the way TVs used to do when the signal went out. And then I’d somehow pick up the signal again, which luckily I did on the night.

It was exceptionally like the way I imagine a proper competition to be. We didn’t warm up as a ride, we had to cope with the nerves, we had to line up outside the 20×40 metre area and trot around before we entered… I was going second and I was glad I was getting it over with. The night was warm, Connell is ‘black’, the sun was glarey — oh, the excuses were mounting!

I felt confident, though. I had run through it in my mind when I was taking Connell through some transitions, and he’d been actually pretty good when we did the practice, even though he tried to canter every now and again when he felt like it. Off we went, too early trotting around the arena because I had no idea that it would take that much time for the comments to be written out, but eventually we were trotting in at A.

All I could hear was my breath and the beat of Connell’s hooves. The space felt super-extra-small, since we’ve never ridden within the proper dimensions before. For all I knew, he could have spooked at the white things and just walked all over them; this inspired some if the best outside leg I’ve ever applied. I had to do all the thinking since no one was hollering advice or correction from the ground, and I think we both liked that. There were a couple of times I felt like we’d messed up — at once stage, he did almost step on the white things [from the brain to the rein, Sue!] and I wasn’t crazy about the way we got into the canter on the left rein between A-F, but otherwise: delighted with the circles, especially the ones in canter, we both kept those going smoothly, and that halt at X was a combination of precision and relief.

And then we got our sheets at the end, and it was all I could to wait to add up my marks. When I saw those 10s, though. OMG.

MY FIRST TEST
The perfectionist in me is always going to respond to a good score [177], but the rider in me was purely ecstatic about the progress Connell and I have made. I’ve been riding him for the guts of four years now, and I remember a time when he wouldn’t even canter past the ride, much less in a 20 metre circle, much less halt square. I know that my riding is improving when he does what I ask, because I am finally asking properly. Added to this, I can feel my legs back from last year’s injury, maybe at 90% at this stage, and that physical strength informs my mental toughness.

Connell was getting one anyway, but that night’s Pink Lady apple was very well earned.

I want to do a Prix Caprilli next…

***

‘WHAT DID I JUST SAY?’ As a media professional, I should probably know more about Jurassic World than I do, which is mainly not much, which is because I squealed and jumped and hid my eyes so much during Jurassic Park that I am maybe too scared to go see it.

Then the internet lead me down the garden path via the clip of Pratt ‘doing’ his acting faces in the movie [funny] to the trailer itself [okay, so, that lady that got snatched up by a flying thing? Ahhhhhh] to a featurette [boring] to a scene in which Owen Grady [Irish!] rescues somebody who’s fallen into the raptor pit.

I had no idea Pratt was playing a dino whisperer. The scene is like, basically every day with horses: don’t do something bad that they’ll remember, but don’t taken any sh*t from them either. Use firm, declarative sentences, don’t be afraid, and don’t leave on a bad note. This is like Monty Roberts for prehistoric reptiles. Cool!

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 13.03.58

Hey – hey!

^ And then he says, ‘I see you over there!’ to the cheeky one that’s trying to sneak up on him. It’s like me and Connell every time.

I may go see this now, but maybe by myself so only I know how many times I dropped my popcorn.

***

Clip is here.

***

I really don’t know where to put this, so I’m putting it here. My virtual real estate is actually rather focused, and while I wish I could file under: Culture [RIP, ITM], I think we’re fine in my equine neck of the woods. I missed horseriding because of this, so you know it had to be worthwhile.

***

I had a notion that I would go to Limerick to see Royal de Luxe and their 25-foot-tall puppet, despite not being much of a marionette enthusiast. That wasn’t really the point, I didn’t think, that it was a puppet: it was the spectacle. The spectacle that had begun off the streets earlier in the year, with mass resignations by the top directors of Limerick’s 2014 City of Culture team. The spectacle that had, at its core, the disputation about this very event and the perception of it.

That was January; as it got closer to the time of the event, I started thinking I might like to see this in person. I started thinking, I might like to have a little day trip adventure. With a giant grandmother figuring largely [ha], and as my actual paternal grandmother was from the actual city of Limerick, this seemed like a no-brainer. Never mind that I was still taking it easy on the auld leg, or that if I went on the Friday, I would in all likelihood have to skip my Saturday lesson, it seemed foolish not to go along.

As with all good journeys, this one began in the dark. Read the rest of this entry »

photo 1
It’s almost time for the Dublin Horse Show, the annual trip to Nirvana for Irish horse people — not that there aren’t other shows in the country, I thoroughly enjoyed Tattersalls last year — but this is the biggie, and people attend from all round the nation, and indeed, the world, and there is so much stuff to buy.

I bought the above at last year’s show, and they are already falling apart.

1} This is good, because despite the two month hiatus, I am obviously riding loads.
2} Not so good, because it’s only been one year.

It may just be the bad luck of the draw. I mainly get my half chaps from justchaps.com, and am in fact in expectation of a happy event, being the delivery of a pair of mesh-y summer weight chaps, an exercise in optimism if ever there was one. One hopes, anyway, given the way the weather has actually been summery, that they will come in useful.

I did have an unfortunate experience with a previous pair I’d bought from the above, but they were totally cool about the whole thing and replaced the faulty set. Faulty, you say? Did my legs, like, not work in them or something? Nope: the tab on one of the zips snapped right off after almost no time at all. I got a replacement pair with no fuss, and continue to buy from them because their customer service is so good.

I got to thinking about the way I wear out my equestrian wear. And also: how much I have.

Hats: three on the go. Wow, wut? Seriously, okay, so, there’s the one that is perfectly fine except that I don’t like the nylon straps. I use that one for when I’m volunteering for the RDA [Riding for the Disabled Association} because I don’t ride that much, maybe just 20 minutes to get the horse worked in, and so there’s not enough time for the scratchiness to annoy me.

Then there’s my new Harry Hall, which I wear on Saturdays, because I’m trying to get a good run out of it and want to keep it nice. On Wednesdays I wear my other Harry Hall hat because I wear make up on Wednesdays, because I work in an office and so I ‘do’ make up, perhaps to — ha, ha — make up for the fact that I wear my jodhs, oh yes indeed and my half chaps, too. So, then, when I ride and sweat, the foundation on my forehead gets all over the inside of the hat. Which I don’t want to happen on my new one.

Still with me? Let’s not even talk about jodhs. My current favourites are the ones I got in Canada, which were 30% off the original Canadian dollar price, which was already 40% off in regard to my euros, so they were basically free. And they have a front zip pocket, because I hate the inside tuck-y pocket, out of which everything falls when I get the home and fold them up.

This post could actually go on forever. I’ve got The Fat Coat™, christened thus in honour of my nephew Thomas, who christened his own down jacket thusly — I’ve had mine for at least seven years now, and it is in bits, but it is warm, it has a hood, and it goes down over my bum. What more could a gal ask for? I don’t think I’ve had the same coat for seven years since… ever.

The rucksack! Actually falling apart from the inside out:
THE RUCKSACK
It used to have two inner compartments, and now it is one big one. I’ve also mended the place where the straps meet the top, twice.

I also got to thinking about all of this because someone finally made off with my long stick, which — hang on, there’s a link, I know — I had hidden successfully for three years. It had lost the flicky bit at the end probably five years ago, and the weave was starting to wear off in places, and sure, it was crappy — but it was my crappy long stick, and no one should steal things. But, if you picked something up that was clearly abandoned, that’s a different story…

Anyway! I’ve had a new long stick sitting around the place, which I haven’t bothered with because it is red — what was I thinking? — and sure, I didn’t need to use it because the other one was just fine. It’s now in rotation, but only on Saturdays because my pal has custody of it since she drives and can keep it safe in her car. On Wednesdays, I snoop around and do the thing where you pick up a long stick lying about and then you put it back where you found it, and hope it’s in the same general area next week.

I have to say, I’m delighted that I am getting the full use, and beyond, out of all this gear. I don’t know that it’s necessarily a product of the Current Economic Climate or not, but it’s so satisfying to have things that have been giving good service for a length of time. It may be because when I began, I had no idea I would to take to the horse riding as much as I have. So: sentiment? Maybe. I was going to replace my jodh boots because one of the pull-it-on-tabs snapped off the other week, but they’re so comfortable I forget I’ve even got boots on, so why would I want to mess around?

If it ain’t broken in, don’t fix it.

***

 

I just came across this, as a draft labelled ‘2013/02/06’* Is that June 2nd, or the second of the sixth? No, I think it’s February, as this is an American platform, is WordPress. I wonder why we do the dates differently, here? Today is the 24th of the fourth, or 24 April. As we would say.

Anyway, we did this last year. The lesson was indoors, so yeah, probably February, although after the weather we ‘enjoyed’ this winter — rain, rain, rain, which made sandy goop of the lower arena, which made no odds as we went out in it anyway — it must have been incalcuably miserable outside.

The fences weren’t big, but they were tricky:
THE SET UP

Because after the crosspole, you kind of had to jump sideways. Or maybe you ended up jumping sideways because you didn’t approach it correctly.
THE FLOW

What is amazing to me is that I look at it and I remember it, but I know if I had to do it again, it would be easier to do than trying to write about it.

If you do as you’re always told, and look at the next fence, your body sends much of the information the horse needs. Keeping the inside leg on would help here, as well. I remember there was a bit of confusion on the part of Connell and I the first time we attempted the right rein straight, a ‘Where did that come from?’ moment that ended in a cat-jump.

Looking where I was going really helped with the left hand straight. ‘Looking where I was going’ seems like a no-brainer, and it is, but you’d be surprised what happens when you get up the back of a horse, how common sense often goes flying out the arena door.

Going down to A and all the way back around to the right hand straight at M was easy peasy and made sense to both of us, and then made it easier still to do the whole thing over again, a little bit higher {probs no higher than 70, 75cms} {maybe 80?} — but then the added twist of having to take the crosspole in reverse pissed Connell off, who was using his head quite enough for one evening, and I actually couldn’t get him to do it.

I remeber it was one of those nights when a person new to the lesson was all, ‘I’ve never seen Connell go like that!’ — in fact, ah! he wouldn’t do the crosspole in reverse, and was feckin’ speeding away from it, and I said, ‘He feels too strong,’ and the person new to the lesson was gobsmacked. Which is good and bad.**

I remember also that the straights felt like they were that close to the wall, but there really was loads of room.

I love these sorts of exercises, because I do have to look where I’m going, and when I look where I’m going, I’m not so focused on trying to read the horse’s mind, and we just do the thing, and it’s liberating, and it feels like total collaboration. It’s like, we’re both just minding our own business, and it’s fun.

Less than a week to go…

***

*YYYY/MM/DD is in fact the international standard, says Google Answers. Huh!

**Good in that he was listening to me and being forward going, but bad because I wasn’t accustomed to said forward-goingness and I wasn’t very good at bringing him back.

***

Which, upon reflection, could go either way. The Universe is either conspiring to drive me demented, or is conspiring to tide me over for the next ten days-to-fortnight until I am back in the saddle.

Or, I am spending way too much time on t’internet… because I am still grounded.

Here are the top 11 movie horese of all time, via Digital Spy, and here is a time-lapse video of the construction of Andy Scott‘s public sculpture, The Kelpies, in Scotland. The film is by Walid Salhab.

This is better than browsing summer-weight turnout rugs, for a horse that I don’t even have…

***

I’ll just leave this here.

***

‘Whither’!

I should have just taken the fall. Read the rest of this entry »

01 KITCHEN WINDOW
That is Three Rock Mountain, as seen, with zoom, from my kitchen window. Located in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Co Dublin, and accessed through Tick Nock Forest, the summit is 444 metres/1,457 feet high. I rode it up once, and was preparing to ride up it again. Given my dread of hacking, the first time had been a big thing — somewhere in the back of my mind at least.

Exactly in the back of my mind, in fact, in my hippocampus, where all the data to be assessed for flight-or-fight resides. It was in there, that info, but from the moment I said ‘Yes!’ to the ride out, it just sat there, and didn’t interfere.

And fair play to it, because it has now been joined by a new memory, one of exhiliration, ease, and pure awesome sitting-on-a-horse, going-up-a-frickin’-mountain joy.

When we decided to go out again, the conditions were not those as reflected in the above photograph. Read the rest of this entry »

FIGURES OF EIGHT

Eight years on from my first ever riding lesson, these posts are still wandering round and round, a figure of eight starting with today, probably, and yesterday, definitely. It's the antithesis of how I usually do things, but... that's horses for ya.

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