Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sweet spot

Hannah has found Bourbon's sweet spot and has accentuated his talent there. Now I have to learn it too. On my ride in the morning, I enjoyed some of that sweet spot. And I must say it is amazing. What I noticed is that he feels happy and his ears are forward when you are in it. And he just coasts along. He's actually extremely smooth and strong feeling. I can hear his gait in the arena footing, and it is powerful, forceful. Very different from any other horse I've ever ridden. I want more of this. Learn it Renee. My lessons are to keep those hands low, soft and relax in the seat. And he kinda does the rest. Kinda. He's young and is learning. I'm old and I'm learning. Well ain't we a pair? A team sitting on the fine line between utopia and disaster. LOL.

The set up is important, to get that face and headset and then go into the gait right from the first step. And I have to keep even to keep him going straight. And I have to maintain and check his speed. And I gotta get those hands back down. And I have to have fun. And and and..... Okay, the 'kinda' is Kinda not true. It's more about finding that sweet spot and just staying right there. It will come. It's a dance of give and take. And, then he puts those ears forward and he coasts. Whoops. Ahhhhh.

Lisa Weaver and her husband show up and she rides her horse too. Then we all go out to lunch...the weavers, Hannah, Bub and myself. Ruby Tuesday has a very nice salad buffet by the way. It was a nice chance to get to know everyone a bit better. I'm reminded how amazing so many people are, as I listen to stories of the disaster efforts in catrina in Louisianna. And I thank the Tennessee walking horse for being a backdrop to meeting new people.

After lunch I'm off to Janes to relax and get ready for the show tonight. Jane joins me and we set off for the hour long journey to Petersburg. On the way we pass the TWHBEA headquarters of the walking horse and I catch a glimps of Mighnight Sun's statue standing out front. They recently did some maintenance work on him, and he looks great standing soldier over our great breed HQ.

We arrive to bustling activity. The show has begun and a class is in the ring already as we park. We walk up to the outdoor arena to fun music and an entertaining announcer. I showed here last year, and it was one of my favorite places. A small ring, gazebo and real grass in the center. I find Hannah and the stable in the warmup area. She has a bunch of horses here, since its all pleasure classes. As I look around I see that the big pleasure trainers are all here too. And there looks to be some great horses too. Should be as much fun to show as it is to watch all this talent. And I was not disappointed.

 Bourbon is tied to the trailer, and I learn I'm in classes 25 and 36. So I settle in with Jane and Anne to enjoy the show. Great horses! By class 17 or 18 I decide it's time to get dressed, and I head back to watch Hannah warm up B and do some practice laps myself. This warmup area is just a designated area on the grass which is a little treatrous. So I carefully ride. B is doing great and well behaved. And soon they call my class. I follow a few other horses into the ring, set him up and go. Right away I feel that sweet spot and I'm excited....stay right there, I tell myself. Twelve horses squeeze into that small ring and it's game on. Flat walk, running walk and reverse. My ride feels so good. He's shaking and it kinda felt like the stars aligned FINALLY. And Hannah confirms my good ride as I pass her each time. Yeah! I feel elated as I enter the line up. A good solid ride, maybe I could place. As I look down the row of horses I notice a few nice ones that I had seen show already, and others that I know are top winners historically. It's a huge, good class, and I had a good ride. Only 5 placements will be given....and I'm thrilled to be tied at 4th place. In the ribbons! And this one plus last night provide that needed sence of validation about Bourbon. Cloud nine carries me until my second class. My ride is not as clean. I think Bourbon got ornery during the wait. So we struggled a bit....but out of 9 he placed 4th again. Wow! I am told by Jane that there were world grand champions in that class who didn't place. So more validation. And while it is just one person's opinion in the end, those opinions are beginning to stack up to the complimentary.

Note to self - do not wear these shoes if
you might have to run from Gate B36 to E36
in 5 minutes at ATL.
I was in the last class of the night, so we pack up, say my goodbyes to Bourbon and Bub and Hannah. A good night, and I had great moments and I just continue to learn more with every ride...the good, bad and ugly. But it's all forward progress for sure.

I pack and put away my show outfits at Jane's when we get home. I fly home tomorrow. As I jump into bed, I assess the weekend. I had highs and lows, but it is all taking me in the right direction. As I drift off to sleep, I can still feel Bourbon under me with his wonderful gait and those ears forward. And, I smile.

The flight home was just beautiful!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saddle time

I flew in for the weekend. Unfortunately there is no more direct flights between Mke and Bna, so it's now about a 5 hour commitment. But by 1pm or so, it's Bourbon time....or more correctly, saddle time.
Clifford the big red horse!
B gett'n ready for a test drive.

B was excited to see me, so much in fact that he kicked up his heels.....literally. Ummm, with me on him! Twice, or maybe three times. Ok. Now back to work. I unfortunately decided I needed to make up for the past few weeks not riding him, in the first 5 minutes in the saddle. Not a good idea, and it went down from there. With a little time out (for me, not B), I did end the practice ride on a better note. Lesson learned, relax, and try to have fun. Quit the workin. And God bless Hannah for hanging in and pushing.

I had a little time to rethink it all between practice and show, which included a consult call with Scott to get my butt kicked into the right gear. By which I decided it was truly best to regroup and shake it off. A spritz of parfume and freshening up did part of the trick. And a decent warmup topped it off. Plus I got to wear my black and silver western outfit for the first time....and so I knew if nothing else, I certainly could win first place for bling effects.

The Lions show is held at the Ag Ctr. Or more endearingly named the 'rock pile'. And the entire area is basically rocks, stones, or grindings....including the warmup area and the showring track. We're not in 'Wisconsin' Dorothy, this is a far cry from the deep sand rings of home. And while it is a completely different feel, it's really cool as well. You can clearly hear the echo of your hoof beats to keep your gait, or know when it is off. And I listened with a thrill as Bourbon entered the ring. A nice four beat gait, for sure. Hannah has brought him a long way on that, and so now it's just me learning a looser way of riding while still maintaining his frame and headset. An oh so more easily said then done responsibility. But I'm determined to crack the code on it! Saddle time. My friend. More saddle time. And god bless Hannah!

My class tonight is the trail pleasure, and at least a dozen horses enter the ring. It's a big class, and all ages of horses-not a junior class. So B is at a bit of a disadvantage against the aged horses that enter. We enter the ring right about in the middle of the pack....and before I'm around once, everyone is in and it's show time.

My ride is good, I am trying a bit looser hold but keeping his headset...but I do struggle to keep him going while he decides to deposit some apples on the track! Ugggggggh! Really? At least I'm saved by the call of the reverse. I luckily turn around right on the end of the ring by Hannah, and as we lock eyes, we both say 'spurs'. Lesson learned, wear spurs every time. Then you'll never need them! Or if you do, ya have em! So on the second way of the ring, I did what anyone who didnt have spurs on, but needed them, would do.....I kicked like a toddler on a naughty Shetland pony. Lol. All the way around the ring. And just when I didn't think I could kick anymore, they called for the running walk. And when I thought I'd just give up...they called for the lineup. Yay......said my legs.

As I lined up and then backed. I relaxed a little...and took my first look around. And there to my right is Barbara Kenehan! So I said hi, and we both laughed. How nice to see a wisconsin face. And Lisa Weaver is just two horses down. She's also at hannahs place and has a fab little horse named Juan Carlos. In fact lisa and Carlos won that class that night. And I'm very proud to report that B got fourth. So we are movin on up....and in a class with many horses, some that are aged, and many really good winners! So while my practice was a struggle, my ride under the twinkling lights was a huge success. And some validation that just maybe we have something going on here.

After collecting my ribbon, I rode out and gave B a big hug as I handed him off to be broken down and taken back to the trailer for some well deserved hay. This was followed by some fist bumping and celebratory moments. And a 45 min call back home with Scott. He said he was able to see quite a bit of my ride on the stream. And he said B looked great...especially in the running walk. Huge backend, that he said stood out against the other horses. With a little more shake (and saddle time for the rider) who knows!?

The rest of the night I got to enjoy the classes with Jane and Carlan and her girls. But I was happy....progress made. Tomorrow I'll go back and practise more.... We'll get it! Im determined. And God bless Hannah through it all! ;)