Saturday, February 26, 2011

Big Girl Dreams

It's interesting how dreams change. Some dreams become long term goals, and then short term goals, and reality, and the present, and past. Others you grow out of - and sometimes that's okay! Katchi's glad I gave up the astronaut dream. But still other dreams get pushed to the side by the immediacy of life - of traffic, school, a job, a mortgage - how easily we lose sight of our dreams!

A couple of weeks ago, while I was teaching lessons at Equidistance - my good friend Laura made a surprise appearance to audit and deliver my Christmas gift! The gift was a book - a big fat coffee table book of dreams come true - in horse barns and farms! I cannot begin to describe in words the beauty of these farms - they are nothing less than stunning! The horses must look out in awe and wonder at their good fortune!

Stables: Beautiful Paddocks, Horse Barns, and Tack Rooms
Kathryn Masson (author) & Paul Rocheleau (Photographer)

I have a file that I throw clippings of ideas for barn design or set-up into - I love discovering new clever ideas to make the horses happier or the stable chores easier - or the barn more beautiful! And someday, I dream of pulling out that file of clippings and making them into a reality. And now, thanks to Laura, I have a big book that I'm tabbing full of post-it notes so that one day it may be my bible as I put the finishing touches on my very own dream farm! I may not have $20 million to spend on it, but I have dreams and you've gotta start someplace!

At the bottom of the gift card, Laura wrote "Believe in your Dreams." Simple advice, yet one too many of us forget too often. Thank you for reminding me, Laura!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Golightly Into Spring

I don't love February. The weather sucks, the eventing world has gone south, frostbite schooling shows, shoveling snow may get you fit but it hurts – and Katchi isn't the best gift giver on Valentine’s Day – basically, February kinda sucks.

But not this February!

This year it’s been so warm I’ve managed quite a few of my early morning rides outside, on soft ground, watching the sunrise cast a golden glow over the arena and Katchi. It’s been absolutely breathtaking. And I’ve snuck in a couple of show jumping lessons – with Jim Wofford and Sharon White. What luck!

Katchi even found some spring grass this February!

But the main reason I love February 2011 is the Golightly gang! Last Sunday, I had a small gathering of students and friends over for a “40 days until spring” party. And what fun we had! While the wine, cupcakes and cake were definitely a highlight of the evening – the videos were priceless! I spend a lot of time videoing my students, but we rarely have the chance to sit down together and critique the good, the bad, and the ugly of their rides. So, everyone brought a short video from this past year for us to watch and learn from – the game quickly took on a theme – the not so fabulous to much more fabulous! We watched falls and refusals and unintended ziggity-zaggety approaches to jumps – we cringed and laughed at ourselves! And for redemption – each not so fabulous video was followed by a much more fabulous video! It was absolutely fantastic to see how much improvement had happened in such a short amount of time! Most of us don't spend our weekend evenings watching old horrible videos of ourselves - we like to watch the good ones! So, it's easy to overlook just how far we've come. I think our little cinema premier was a huge confidence boost to everyone and a tremendous energizer to get back out there and keep working – because things really are going in the right direction!

It was also so helpful to talk through the videos with everyone – to see when they made good rider decisions, even with me stuck on the sidelines not able to tell them what to do! To see when they forgot my instructions and what happened as a result. And to learn some new things too - using Katchi’s helmet cam from last fall – I showed everyone how to place your horse on a line so that you can avoid the mucky ground that the 100 horses before you tore into a 2 foot wide mud path right at the middle of the 12 foot face of the jump. It’s like riders are stuck on a conveyor belt in a trance… MUST GO EXACTLY WHERE THE ENTIRE HERD OF RUNNING SHEEP BEFORE ME WENT… Why not steer 2 feet over and give your horse solid ground and good footing to take off from so he doesn’t have to work so hard, get sucked in the mud, and risk a shoe or injury – there is no rule in eventing that you have to jump the 12 foot wide face of a galloping fence right at the 6 foot midpoint mark – but there is a rule (at least I have a rule!) that you owe it to your horse to make things as easy as possible for him and keep him safe. Find the good ground!

I had hoped to spend some of the evening also talking about spring goals and plans, but blame it on the aforementioned wine, cupcakes, and cake (and all the other good eats!), we got sucked into the riot of the videos and never got to goals! But I think the night must have inspired everyone else as much as it did me, based on the flurry of emails I’ve gotten since then asking me about spring goals and plans.
So keep any eye on the calendar on my website to see where the Golightly gang will be next - SPRING IS COMING!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Physical Therapy Day: Time to Straighten Up!

In my post about the Jan. 22 Area II Meeting, I withheld comment on the Physical Therapy presentation by Dr. Jennie Stone. I withheld comment, because I was tremendously impressed and hopeful that within a few weeks I might have much more to say about her - and today I do!

Patricia at Ecogold posted videos of Jennie's Area II presentation, which are very informative...

The part of Jennie's presentation that struck me most, actually didn't make it into Ecogold's videos - Jennie made quick mention of a few riders she has worked with to correct issues that developed through injury or work posture that sounded like they were having big effects on their riding. I thought - huh, I've had that injury and I have that pain, and I have that problem... maybe there is something I can be doing to make my "normal" much less painful, stronger, and more effective. Katchi said, yes, please - make the appointment!

The 'in the saddle' assessment.
Jennie spent about 30 minutes watching me ride Katchi on the flat. Walk, trot canter - circles and straight lines. Rising and sitting trot. And some shoulder-in and leg yields. And the halt. Apparently you can't hide anything in the halt! Jennie took a series of pictures of me in the halt, from different angles. The picture here is my favorite. Stupid left leg. And its weakness effects everything from my toe turning out, leg not laying flat against the horse (can you see how much of my left leg you see in the picture compared to my right leg), doesn't stretch down properly from the hip, which shifts the pelvis, back, shoulders and... all the way to a tilt in my head! WOW! I knew I was doing something funky like this, but I had no idea it was showing up from head to toe! We also talked through various things I do differently each direction - one encouraging thing is that I actually work out of some of these issues as I get warmed up. Now that I think about it, it would have been interesting to see if the halt pictures would have looked differently taken at then end of my ride, compared to these taken at the beginning.

The flexibility and strength assessment.
Armed with 'the evidence' of my in-the-saddle issues, we moved inside to assess my flexibility and strength in very targeted muscle areas. This was quite revealing, because we could pin-point where the issues were originating from - with the objective being to the develop stretching and strength exercises to correct my curvy saddle posture.

Through all her poking, prodding, bending, and pushing - Jennie pin-pointed 2 key issues that I hope will make a big difference in my riding, once I get them under control! To be fair, she identified about 10 things, and gave me about 30 exercises - but I need to focus on the most critical ones first!

1) Weak left hamstring and glute (resulting from old knee injury - this causes the left leg to pull up from hip and rotate out in the saddle, causing the head-toe chain of events pictured above).

2) Lower trapezius - ranked about a ZERO on strength. ooops! While my other shoulder areas were weak, this one was um, well, non-existent! This muscle is key to sustaining the "shoulders back" posture of dressage and that Katchi needs to stay light on the front in his jumping. Okay, point made.

Good news is that she complimented the alignment of my head to my shoulder, hip and heel - something I've been working very hard on the past year! She also felt that my core was in relatively good shape - oh thank you Pilates for Dressage Riders dvd!!

Jennie left me with a packet of typical equestrian exercises, marked to hi-light the most important ones for my weaknesses. It's so nice to imagine that you look oh so lovely in the saddle - it's a good mental technique, but mental imaging can only take you so far when you rank a zero on the strength scale!!

I think what I'm most pleased about with this session is that I now have a link between what I see/feel in the saddle to specific causes that can be fixed. I overanalyze my show pictures and lesson videos - I see my left toe out, I see my back curve and shoulders rotate... I could have taken lots of photos of me in the halt and seen lots of things out of alignment. But, trying to force straightness would only create tension. But now realizing that so much of what is going wrong in my riding posture is linked to a few specific weaknesses - that was a revelation!

With Silva gone until April, my hope is that over the next 2 months I can begin to make some progress in straightening myself out. As I won't have any dressage lessons during this time, at least I hope this "self study" program will help me keep us moving in the right direction so that we can get even more out of our lessons when she comes back from sunny Aiken!

Jennie suggested that I have someone take more pictures of me in the halt in 2-3 months and see what things look like - I better end this post, I have exercises to do!

Thanks to Kerry for taking the pictures!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

February 12: Golightly Lessons @ Equidistance

The Golightly lesson day at Equidistance Horse Center (Brandywine, MD) has now been rescheduled! I will be there next Saturday, February 12 - teaching private jumping lessons, starting at 11:00.

If you are interested in signing up, please contact Ilkim at

My original blog post has more information about Equidistance and lesson details/price.

Auditing is free! Hope to see you there!