Thursday, July 25, 2019

Lesson Recap: MORE CONTACT

Apparently, one of my big issues is that I'm not seeking out enough contact and pressure on my reins in encouraging Gwyn to reach down and into my hands. I'm not necessarily throwing it away, but I'm certainly not doing her any favors.

I did finally get pictures of the new farm where Gwyn is living. Here is Kaylee. The goat pen is to the left and round pen to the right. That little shack behind the round pen is the community tack storage that I'm not planning on utilizing.
 This is timely, as I've just reached the part in the book I'm reading about that exact thing and remembering the feel of what she needs (and what isn't too much, despite what my brain says) is going to require some serious retraining on my part.
Farm managers live in that super sweet RV. I'm pretty sure the clearspan building is where they keep the hay. The hay field in further in the back and the river is behind the tree line. The hills you see are on the other side of the river and are part of Lord Hill Park, which has miles of equestrian and hiking trails.
I don't think I nearly appreciated this book enough when I read it as a teen as I do now that I'm putting lots of pieces together from my own instructor, deKunffy, Swift, Wanless, and several of you bloggers. Or honestly, even when I started taking lessons with Jim. There's been a lot of mental maturing in my approach to riding over the past 8 years.
 I had just read the part where if human anatomy was ideal for riding, we'd have long enough arms that our fingers could wrap around the bit. Instead we need reins as extensions of our arms. This isn't the first time I've seen that imagery used. Sally Swift has an illustration of that exact thing in her book Centered Riding. Now that I go and find the section (in the chapter on Hands) I see that she's referencing the quote by deKunffy, who is the author I'm currently reading. Go figure. hahah

The simple shelter Gwyn has in her field. This is the first time I've seen her using it. 
 The trick for me, of course, is actually taking up that contact and treating my reins as though they are my forearms. I'm so loathe to catch Gwyn in the mouth, that I'm avoiding her mouth. But of course reins aren't forearms. They're flexible little shits that have slack while your forearm, by its nature, is much stiffer but would automatically require your elbows to be the point of give. So I have to remove the slack AND incorporate give.
Right before she decided to be a snot and go gallivanting across her sizable pasture.
However, once I push past my discomfort at holding her mouth, all of a sudden my horse wants to stretch down and into me. In fact, the whole lesson more ended up being me teaching myself how to quickly gather up my reins while keeping even contact and then automatically let her stretch and pick back up. 
I brought my GoPro to record the lesson! So I have media
 But it was good. Gwyn has a high set neck because of the friesian blood. We fight a lot of anatomy to get her moving where her back is lifted and her head is down. This is where I really appreciate the blogging about TC that Megan does at A Enter Spooking. He's a lot further along, but has the same anatomical challenges. She clicker trained this stretch into him. I'm seeing the value.
 My warmup was serpentining on the outer racetrack. Gwyn progressively got looser, her head dropped and her pace slowed and steadied. The last quarter of the track he had me halt at my bend switch point and back a few paces then move forward. Then I moved into the arena and worked on contact.
Jim: I want her nose so low she's plowing the dirt while you ride!
 Once I was getting good at keeping things steady at the walk we moved into the trot. It helped to think of holding contact as a bicep curl. My hands tend to be so low that this imagery was enough to bring them where they ought to be with contact, which then had Gwyn stretching
 Also note my absolutely straight arms in all of these pictures.  *facepalm* I obviously really really need to keep that bicep curl image in mind while riding.
 After a lot of trot work, I did some canter work, aiming to ask for the depart while she was relaxed and rounded. Since we were actually asking her to take off with her hind, she barely maintained the canter for even a stride, but she was offering a VERY nice transition each time I asked and that's improvement for sure.

Jim wants me to also analyze how she sounds before, middle and end of the ride. After all the stretchy trotting and walking, her trotting was quieter and smoother. She was moving lighter on her feet and not clomping. In fact, I was able to switch between the clompy trot and the lighter trot just in how I rode her. So more senses to incorporate while riding in self evaluation.

Fantastic stretchy trot on Gwyn's part and beautiful heel first landing too
Here's some quick moments where we are getting the stretch in the walk and trot.

And here's some super rough canter departs. Something to work on and build strength for.

 Once the lesson was over I gave her a quick rinse with liniment. I figured it would help ease any muscle aches after doing the big trail ride with all the climbing and then asking for a lot of work being rounded.
Concerned with joggers.

Mount Baker in the sunset on our drive home (I pulled over to take this photo)

This valley is really popular with skydivers and hot air balloons (those two dots to the right of Gwyn's head)

Monday, July 22, 2019

Trail Ride out of Fall City **photo heavy**

This got really long from pictures alone, but oh joy of joys was it great to get out on the trail again! And for some legit conditioning to prep for endurance out here in the PNW. Cortney asked if I wanted to ride with her at Taylor Mtn. I agreed. It was a no brainer. The night before, she realized that the road to the trailhead was going to be closed so we replanned to meet at Fall City and ride up into Tokul and explore some trails in the area to see if they would connect to anything.

She really wants to put on an endurance ride in this area and it would be SUPER easy to get enough trail to do a 50 mile ride. Our (I say our, I would be drafted into comanaging, lol, but her) only hang up is finding a place to hold ride camp. She's been trying to contact land owners in the valley but no one has yet been willing to rent out their hay field for a weekend.

Anyway, we met at the FC arena. There were riders heading out just as I arrived, and someone arrived as we were heading out on the trail.

A wider view of the arena with the track around the perimeter.
Also starting to fill up, with the promise of warmth and sun, was the Fall City Float business, that takes folks up river with their rafts and tubes and drops them off so they can float down the river. By the time we got back, their parking lot had overflowed into the horse trailer lot.
We started by crossing the road. The cars were VERY polite (there is a crosswalk with Warning: Horses! signs) and both directions immediately yielded to us. Gwyn handled that so well, I was really pleased! She used to not be so relaxed near cars or on roads.
 Then it was down this short private drive to the Snoqualmie trail access. We encountered a doe who couldn't decide which direction to run away from us. I did include this portion in the video!

 Then we climbed on a nice wide trail up and up and up. Gwyn felt fresh and her ears were just super perked forward the whole way. She was feeling good.

 Then off the main drag onto the narrower, single track and access up into Tokul. These trails are open to use by equestrians, hikers and mountain bikers. To get deeper access you do have to pay a yearly fee because it's privately owned land used for logging.
But it's fantastically gorgeous.

Uphill to the left, downhill to the right.

 I included some of the switchbacks in the video as well. It's a good way to climb up the hills with less effort but there's still climb.  Gwyn pooped out after a few turns and just stopped. You can see Cortney below us
"Mom, I forgot what hills were." - Gwyn

After the climb on the single track we came out onto a wider logging road and near some of the clear cut. From there, we hopped onto a trail through the clear cut. 

But not before pausing so Cortney could adjust a hoof boot and also, conveniently letting some more bikers pass us.

We wound through the clear cut then back into single track in open forest.
You really get a feel for the steepness of the terrain in this one.
After the second portion of forested single track we came out into another clear cut. There had also been a small, controlled fire in this spot the previous year, and combined with the summer rains that have (thankfully) stuck around, the wildflowers were just everywhere. We were riding through bright clouds of purple and pink with much more green than usual plus the bright blue sky above. 

More single track switchbacks in the clear cut.

 Gwyn was a good enduring pony and took advantage of nearly EVERY puddle and stream we came across to drink. We started about mid morning but the heat was only going to increase. I was really happy she was taking care of herself.

The views were stellar once we got some elevation. Plus the clear cut let us see pretty far.

There's the tip of Mount Rainier.

 We did some exploration and tried a trail to see if it would connect. Unfortunately, the ground was too soft for horses and had some deceptive boot sucking mud. Cortney lost a rear Renegade, found it, put it back on, and promptly lost it forever in the next mud patch.

Saddle bags are great for lunch! We both ate on the go.

What do I spy with my eye and the handy dandy zoom feature?

The Seattle skyline and the Olympic Peninsula!
As the crow flies, we were 22.3 miles from Seattle proper and 70+ miles to those distant peaks in the haze. It was an AMAZING day.
Then we followed the power line road until we couldn't go further (at this point, my go-pro ran out of battery)

The ground drops away and down to a river. The lines go across to the ridge on the other bank. We're looking basically North at this point. Then we tried a side road to see if it would meet up lower down the mountain. The road had a few downed trees, then ended in a giant berm with several saplings that we pushed through because it looked like it kept going. Only then it ended in impassable blackberries. So we turned around and made our way back and used the much softer roadway as a good place to canter and stretch legs with breaks to get over downed trees.
As we returned to the power lines (and after I stopped to pee)  we suddenly realized that Mount Rainier was WAY more visible!
Hi Volcano!

Then it was making our way back through the clear cut. We kept encountering the same pair of bicyclists as we crisscrossed the trails. It was kind of funny! By the end of this ride, Gwyn was much more relaxed when she saw bikes.

Once we got back down to the valley, we went passed the trailers, much to Gwyn's annoyance, and down to the river. When she realized we were going into water, Gwyn got VERY excited. She charged right in and drank deeply. Then proceeded to get deep in, enough that my feet were easily wet and the bottom of her belly was submerged and just stood there and sighed. I had a very very happy horse.

"There is a human in the water, Mom. MOM. IS HE OKAY?!" - Gwyn

I tried to get a picture of the water line on her. It was easily over the base of my stirrups.

That blue line is our elevation. The dip down in the middle was trying that road that ended in blackberries.

And have a video compilation of some of the more interesting moments like some of the switch backs, the change of scenery as we take new trails, and the absolute squelching sound that occurred when Cortney pulled her lost hoof boot out of the mud, that promptly got lost forever less than a minute later.