Friday, June 6, 2008

Wednesday Night Dressage with Katie Speer

Victorious - The team of Katie Speer and Diesel

Katie and Diesel with Legacy's Owner/Trainer, Liz Murphy

I am pleased to announce that my Thoroughbred Valie and I will now be learning from Katie Speer (the young woman pictured herein), Apprentice Trainer, here at  our wonderful boarding farm, Legacy Stable in Mendon, MA.  On Wednesday night we experienced our first session with Katie and even though it was mostly ground work with just a short walk/trot with Katie in the saddle, I was amazed to find that every moment of our time was extremely beneficial.  I have been suffering with an ongoing left-hand disability for some time now and as a result, there have been many things that most horse owners take for granted, small chores and the like, that I just either couldn't do or had an awful hard time in my attempts to accomplish on my own.  For instance, the simple act of tightening his girth was very hard and often painful for me, "Oh yes, I could get it done but it was never tight enough as I just couldn't gain enough leverage on my own power to accomplish this seemingly simple task".  If it were not for the fact that Katie didn't make me feel inferior, I would have felt quite foolish when she immediately came up with the idea of having me stand on a foot-stool so that I could lean on Valie thus giving me just the "edge" I needed to girth-him-up properly.  Another example of trying to accomplish a simple task on my own was bridling, it's not that Valie won't take the bit, it's just that sometimes when you get the reins over his head and remove the halter, he scoots away and........without having enough strength in my hand to firmly guide him into place for bridling, it was exasperating for me and often impossible to accomplish this on my own and again, another simple suggestion from Katie was to use the halter as a collar so that I have something to grab and hold onto; well, again, the bells and whistles went off when I suddenly realized that problem would now be a thing of the past as well!  Moreover, even though I've now owned Valie for some time now, there have been many things I had forgotten since I had not been a horse owner for well over 17 1/2 years.  So, with her simple to understand instruction, for example a quick refresher on bandaging and I was able to do it quickly and quite well if I do say so myself, she then went about the task of answering my endless questions and by the time we led him out of the stall and into the arena, I was already feeling as if I was well on my way to becoming an independent owner and rider again despite this nagging hand disability.

My first issue in the arena was dealing with getting him to stand still for mounting because it has been so hard that sometimes it even kept me from getting on at all.  The specifics of my disability is that my hand has lost all of its strength as a result of a bone that had been broken in the same place twice, had never healed correctly and then arthritis set in.  And since the left hand is the one that supports your weight and guides you when mounting, my tension level would always rise when attempting to pull myself up into the saddle.  She worked with him for a few moments on standing still and then decided that the easiest and safest way for me to mount was to face him to the wall and utilize the mounting block while he was focused on the wall as a barrier that would keep him from walking! Well, with that, he quieted down immediately, so much so that she didn't even have to hold him and after a few false starts, I was able to easily get my foot in the stirrup, grab the bucking strap and pull my weight up into the stirrup, "Ahhhhhh, success!".

Last but certainly not least, I was then able to watch my wonderful TB begin the process of schooling Dressage and I was thoroughly amazed as she talked me through what she was doing and in turn, I watched my lovely, handsome guy adjust to her cues and quietly go "on the bit" with his ears forward and an almost happy look to those kind eyes of his!  This is what I needed to feel inspired and motivated and to hear her say that he was cooperative and did basic low level Dressage movements quite well made it even better!

So, I'm finally well on my way to becoming an independent horse owner again and will now be riding with Katie twice a month and with Liz twice a month.  However with Liz, I will be concentrating on the Hunter discipline and will look forward to some jumping down the road and maybe eventually can look toward some low level cross country (well, that's waaaaaaaaay down the road for now!).  But at least, I finally have a plan that allows me to move forward rather than remain stagnant.

Valie and I thank Katie for that wonderful training session and to Liz for coming up with the idea, a plan that will certainly get me moving toward my goals, "Yup, my equestrian life is looking better by the minute, "Thanks Legacy Stable".

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sunday Evening Visit

Each and every Sunday evening, rain, snow, sleet, hail or otherwise, I go to the barn to "just" visit with my horse. These visits are for the sole purpose of observing his moods, looking over his body for cuts, scratches, swellings, etc. and just plain ol' hanging out with him, sharing carrot snacks and being close and affectionate. These non-stressful visits are so very valuable for the both of us, it gives him an opportunity to relax away from the pressure of having to do anything but just hang out in his stall with me. Often times, he makes certain that he gets a thorough head scratching in by using my back as his "scratcher" and he ever-so-gently runs his head up and down on my back and other times, he will lift his leg to signal an area that he wants me to hand scratch for him and of course, I oblige.

When I first brought my boy home I used to spend an extraordinary anount of time in his stall with him because I truly believe that it creates a strong bond between human and equine and while I no longer do it as often as I used to, the Sunday night visits are mandatory and more often than not, we usually take time throughout the week to do the same thing. These visits have been very educational for me, I've learned to be in tune with his "horse cues" the things he does that signify various changes, the ability to determine his needs and to detect illness and frankly, I was even able to detect Lyme disease in him just by sharing his space with him. He has learned to trust me, he no longer finds the need to crib when I'm there and I now know that his
cribbing was because he was anticipating something in his past as a race horse that was probably far from pleasureable to him and coupled with his strong effort to overcome his headshyness, he will finally allow me to touch his face, put my face next to his, pet the area around the ears and I think that by year's end, he will finally let me touch his ears with ease, I think that Valie is finally well on his way to leading the life he was meant to have. My boy knows I will never hurt him and I know that he will never take a dishonest step with me and........that is, by far, the most incredible bond I could have ever hoped to create between him and I.