Saturday, January 29, 2011

Two Training Days

Yesterday Annette and I took Flash and Jackson for a dressage lesson with our trainer in Riverside.  These lessons are always hard and Flash and I are usually exhausted afterward.  It was no exception yesterday.  We spent the first 15 minutes getting Flash to bend immediately when I pick up the reins.  My trainer told me there are only 2 positions with the reins: on the buckle or accepting contact and bending using his body.  He likes being on the buckle and resists at bending and using his back.  Times, they are a changing for him.  And I have to learn how to give and release when he accepts contact.  Such a fine line for two males to follow.  However, half way through the lesson it was working, and it was a really good feeling for both of us.  After an hour lesson I hosed Flash off, tied him to the trailer with a hay bag next to him,and went to watch Annette and Jackson.  I checked back about 30 minutes later, and Flash had his eyes closed, dozing in the warm sun.  It was a long day; we left at 10 in the morning and didn't get home until almost 5 in the afternoon.

Today I got up at 5:30 am and went down to the barn to feed.  It was 32 degrees with frost everywhere.  Annette elected to stay and bed and dream about getting a new saddle for Jackson.  Actually, I had to get Flash ready for mounted patrol training.  We left at 6:30, drove for an hour, and arrived at the training facility, the first ones there.  I like to get there first because parking is really tight and it's difficult to maneuver my trailer.  The training, (this time in a western saddle), starts out with formation riding for two hours, and then two hours of sensory training.  Most of the horses are pretty good at a walk, but when we pick up the trot, a lot of them blow up, and their riders lose control.  We don't usually try canter, because it becomes total chaos.  I usually try to get next to a horse that has a good head with a good rider.  The problem is that people forget the movement commands or speak too softly, so Flash and I have to lead in the difficult movements, like doing a "wedge" and moving people off a wall, or the rail in this case.  Flash was really tired when we got there, but he was a good boy; and when I picked up the reins, it took him only a few seconds to start working correctly.  He looked out of place with the other "head high" horses, but the lieutenant was pleased.

After a short break we started doing the sensory.  It consisted of walking by balloons, thru a flare pattern,  over tarps, thru a "car wash" while at the same time a ground person had a gas powered leaf blower with caution tape attached to the blower end pointing it at the horses from three feet away.  None of it bothered Flash.  At one point I picked up a trash bag full of empty soda cans and put it on his neck, under his belly and on his back while the person with the leaf blower walked all around him about 2 feet away trying to spook him.  He just said "whatever".  Then they started up the "air man" who is Flash's best friend.  While all the other horses wouldn't come closer than 20 feet, Flash walked right up said, "hey buddy, I missed you".
Flash and his "air man" buddy.
Flash with the "battle ball", another one of his favorite friends.

We ended the training with shooting shot gun blanks near the horses while a police car was a few feet away with the lights and sirens going.  I think the siren bothered Flash a little, because it took him a minute to walk up to the car.  But when he did, he put his nose on the closed window and seemed to be admiring his reflection in the glass.  Another long day though.  We didn't get back home until 3 in the afternoon.  Flash rolled and decided to make more compost.  I decided compost was a good idea, and wrote this blog.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Stylish blogger award, you got to be kidding

Well I just checked my blog comments, and I was overwhelmed.  I had 6 comments, all of them positive.  That's far better than when I go to work.  Being a police officer for 34 years, once in awhile I hear a negative comment, so it's good to read positive ones.  A special thanks to Shannon from "a work in progress" for nominating me for the "stylish blogger award".  I really appreciate that and will be motivated to write more.

Now for 7 things about myself:
1) I'm a semi-retired police officer, 62 years old, who is relatively new to the equine world.
2) I am married to a wonderful woman, Annette, who is the only person who can put up with me other than my mother who passed away 10 years ago.  My mother warned Annette about me before we got married, and she went thru with the vows anyway.  Crazy.
3) I live in the coastal mountains of Southern California, about 60 miles north of San Diego.
4) I couldn't even spell dressage when Annette explained it to me, but being the dutiful husband, I attempted to learn, (slow process for a 62 year old male).  I enjoy dressage and think the communication and connection it provides with my horse is better than any other discipline.  However, Flash, (my horse), and I really enjoy mounted patrol work also.
5) I have three adult children and 6 grandchildren.
6) I enjoy good food, and boy can Annette cook, but now I am being told to watch my cholesterol, so bye    bye good stuff.  Flash is happy though, less weight for him to carry around.
7) I'm enjoying life now more than ever.  Entering the equine world with my own place and barn, meshing that with post career police work and a wonderful wife and a great horse and family, it couldn't be better.

At this point in my "blogging" career, I'm new to it and only follow a couple of other blogs, all of which have already been nominated for awards.

I have to say this about dressage shows though.  When I compete, mostly at schooling shows, I get to wear my "class A" police uniform.  Some of the comments are really funny.  One very young rider, (about 9 or 10), turned to her Mom when I rode by and whispered, "Mom, why are the police here?"  At another show, I was almost attacked by a female stalker who wouldn't leave me alone.  Even with Annette standing there, she wouldn't leave.  I finally had to hide in the bathroom until she left.  The last time I competed was about three months after a full knee replacement.  I get a little tense tacking up even though Flash tells me to chill.  Well this time I got on the mounting block in full uniform, swung my leg over Flash, and immediately my breeches got hung up on the cantle.  At the same time I heard a loud rippppppp.  Annette heard it too and told me to just sit down.  I couldn't, the breeches were really hung up on the cantle, and I was suspended about three inches above the saddle.  Now I'm really embarrassed and so is Flash, so he decides to walk away to get  away from all the stares.  I must have been some sight.  My whip is dangling from my left hand, I don't have the reins, my butt is on top of the cantle, (talk about a weggie), my wife is walking after Flash to get him to stop, and onlookers are offering assistance.  It turned out alright though.  I placed first in the developmentally challenged police officer category, ( the only entry).  I cherish that blue ribbon.

Shannon, thanks again for the award. I'll try and write more often, it's just in the past week I have been working on writing search warrants, (not nearly as much fun as blogging); but filled with just as much compost.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Back in the saddle again-----------

Just not correctly.  Well, after two weeks of non-stop rain and Flash healing from his soft tissue injury, we finally had a chance to take a dressage lesson this past weekend with our trainer in Riverside, Ca.  The weather was beautiful, warm, (about 80 degrees), and windy.  It had been about 6 weeks since our last lesson and only two or three chances to ride since then, so my expectations were not high.  The two times I did ride Flash in our arena at home, he was sluggish and stiff, and a little bit out of shape.  After a half hour, both he and I were exhausted.  The lessons with our trainer are intense.  Usually 10 minutes of walk to warm up, then a good 40 minutes of non-stop trot and canter work.

My wife and I trailered Flash and Jackson up to the lesson and she rode first because she makes those decisions.  Besides, I'm the designated photographer and had to take photos of her lesson.  I tacked up Flash real fast, tied him to the trailer with a hay bag to keep him company, told him to stay out of the wind, and not to bite the airplanes as they took off over his head from the small airport next door.  Then I went to photograph Annette and Jackson in their lesson.  Flash was real good.  He just sat there eating his hay.  Once Jackson called out to him, complaining about having to bend and not being able to canter right away, and Flash just called back and said, "Chill dude, you'll get your chance".

Annette ended up having almost an hour lesson, and then it was our turn.  I got on Flash, did a little warm up, then we started to work at a forward, bent walk.  Almost immediately my trainer started correcting my body position: elbows into my side, left shoulder back, heels down, chest out, look straight ahead, not down, too much outside leg on the left lead, not enough inside leg on the right lead, keep your hands still, thumbs up, firm outside rein, no, too much firmness, lean back, watch that left shoulder again, it's coming forward.  At this point I have to tell her, "hey, I'm a guy.  I can't multi-task.  Isn't it time to pick on Flash?"  She said "No", Flash is doing the best he can with the rider he has".  It was not quite like that, but pretty close.

Flash and I are just at training level.  He doesn't really have any aspirations to go higher, but our trainer is talking about first level and what is needed.  I listen.  Flash just blinks his big blue eyes and says, "Dad, just try to find some spooky sensory stuff, something that will hold my interest like walking under a multi-colored parachute, pushing a battle ball with people behind it, doing the teeter-totter bridge backwards, or just chill'n with my best friend, "air-man", flapping all over me".

Well, half way through the lesson my body position gets better and Flash and I start to click as one.  He is stepping under at a trot, really using his back.  At canter he is nice and bent and "popping" into each stride.  Then our trainer wants to work on immediately going into canter at a walk.  Well, Flash doesn't immediately go into anything unless it is to tell Jackson to get away from his hay.  But we try.  The first time was a no-go.  The second time my trainer said to ask immediately and reinforce it with a hard tap of the whip.  Well he did it, correct lead and all.  And he learns real fast too.  The third time I just asked with a little slide of the leg to the back, and he shot off like a cannon.  The left lead was better than the right, but it gives us something to work on.

Our lesson lasted well over an hour.  When we finished we were both extremely tired, but happy.  My wife said Flash looked like a warm blood towards the end of the lesson.  I asked her if I looked like Steffen Peters.  She gave me a blank stare and said, "you've been sniffing too much compost".

It's good to be back in the saddle.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Equine Justice Court

The crime scene is our pasture here at Aspen Meadows.  It is fenced with 3 rail vinyl fencing.  Three of the sides have electrical tape on the inside of the top and bottom rails.  The fourth side has chain link fencing attached on the inside with no electrical tape; however, a black wire is buried slightly underground to carry the current from one side to the other.  Today I was grooming the pasture, (because I am anal about that), and I discovered the black wire pulled up and some of the chain link bent at the bottom.  Being the designated "Pasture Police Officer", I immediately knew that a felony had been committed.  Based on several "donkey facts", both Tuffy and Finessa were arrested on suspicion of felony vandalism and placed in stall-a-tary confinement, pending a court trial.

The presiding judge was Jody's Lucky Devil, aka. Flash.  With his piercing blues eyes and equine wisdom well beyond his years, nothing can get by him.  The defense attorney was none other than the infamous Twistn Turbo Esq., better known as "fast talking Jackson".  The lead prosecutor was Kalvin Kline, an attorney with PSG background.  A handsome 17h warmblood is he.  The jury pool was limited and consisted of 1 cat, 2 dogs, 2 rabbits, and 7 chickens; however, better than most juries found around here.

The trial was swift.  The evidence presented by the prosecution was overwhelming:  donkey prints by the pulled up black wire; donkey poop along the fence line; and hair strands on the chain link which DNA analysis showed was a 99% match to Tuffy and Finessa.  Halfway thru the trial, both Tuffy and Finessa "rolled over", (which they do every day), and pled "no contest".  The Honorable Judge Flash pronounced sentencing, ( 1 day more of confinement, but credit for time served), and restitution for the damaged property.  If there are no financial means available, then both donkeys shall do "hard labor", with a length of time to be determined at a later date.

Court was adjourned, the jury thanked for their time and effort, and the case was cleared.  Or was it?

BREAKING NEWS.........from ENN, (Equine National News).  A governor with "donkey lineage" has just commuted the sentencing on both Tuffy and Finessa, stating, "They are such good little donkeys, it's not fair they be incarcerated".

The President of the property, my wife Annette, says I should just go out and buy some 6x6 lumber to put along the bottom of the chain link fence to reinforce the chain link and cover up the black electrical wire, putting an end to the donkey's juvenile delinquency.  Or maybe it was my juvenile delinquency she was talking about.

Back to my own private dementia  and my compost pile.  Pop's out.