Saturday, February 28, 2009

Presentation Part II: Good

Awhile back, I decided to do a short series on the varying levels of presentation in sale horses. We started off with Poor presentation, which you can find here.

Now, again featuring the lovely McKinna as our model, let's examine Good presentation! I know I said in the first post that this one would be called 'Average,' but let's face it, Average ads these days are 3 sentences on Craigslist. So, without any further ado:

McKinna is a 13 year old QH/Arab mare, 14.3 hands. She has a very sweet and intelligent personality, and she's very versatile. Main focus is eventing right now. She competed in Oregon High School Equestrian Teams for 2 years in english and western and gaming. She is good on trails and has schooled XC at Inavale - loves the water complex! Would be a perfect Pony Club mount. Loads/ties/clips/bathes, UTD on everything. $3000.

More pictures available, please email or call for more information.

When you email me, I will respond within a couple days. I will tell you a little bit about what I've done with her, explain what level she's schooling and showing at, probably tell you that she's an easy keeper and is happiest with turnout. I'll send you a few more pictures, action shots and just standing. I'll make a joke about how she's grey so she loves to roll in mud. I will probably ask you what you're looking to use her for, but I probably won't ask you for references or for a description of where you will board.

Okay - this is a pretty good ad. We've got three pictures - jumping, regular under saddle, and a somewhat well-posed conformation shot. I've given the buyer important information: age, sex, breed, height. I've noted her varied background but shown that our main focus is eventing.
I've thrown in the obligatory load/tie/clip/bathe/UTD statements.

In general, this presents a pretty solid picture. There is enough information here to give the buyer a good summary of the horse in order to determine if further inquiry is going to happen. She's clean in the pictures and they show her doing what I say she does.

This being said, what improvements could be made? These are subtle, but can make a big difference.

- Jumping photo: she is safe and neat, but not her best. It's a low fence and she's twisting a little, and her forelegs aren't as high as they normally are. It's also from head-on; preferable jumping shots are from the side or a 45-degree angle.
- Conformation shot: this gives you a good idea of her conformation, but it could be improved. The clunky longeing caveson obscures her head, she's at a slight angle, and she's standing a bit awkwardly.
- Background info: instead of "english and western and gaming," more specifics would be preferable. Also, you'll notice I neglected to state how high she jumps, which is usually a consideration when buying a jumper!
- Video: Notice that there isn't one. This is not a dealbreaker for most people - if they like the horse, they'll come see it anyway - but can be a nice touch.

In all, this is a good quality ad and would serve any horse well.

Next time, we'll go all-out: clean, braided horse, carefully written ad, thoughtfully set-up conformation shot, and high-quality flatwork and jumping pictures. It may take awhile to put together, because I'm not sure I *have* high-quality jumping and flatwork pictures ;-)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Few Changes

I've made a few minor changes to the blog - a minor title change (since McKinna is no longer the only horse I actively ride!), addition of a header picture, and a little fiddling with the side bar.

There's now a 'Popular Posts' piece, where you can visit the blog posts with the most comments. There's also an RSS feed link to subscribe to posts and comments. I'll continue making some little tweaks here and there (I admit that, though I'm a teenager and therefore should be 100% tech savvy, I am pretty much clueless about feeds and subscribing - O! The shame!) but nothing too big.

I've got a busy weekend ahead of me: Friday jumping lesson, Saturday Quiz Rally, Sunday dressage lesson!

Keep your eye out for some upcoming posts: I'm going to finish the Presentation Series that I started (finally, I know) and do a short series of posts based on all the information I have learned while studying for Quiz Rally.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I love the way sometimes an insight hits you like a ton of bricks.

You've heard people talk about this thing before - maybe all the time. You had a vague sense that you were missing something, but it wasn't that big of a deal. You thought everything was going great.

Then someone says something to you that clicks into place, and WHAM!, you've got some serious new things to think about. I got one of these a few months ago. It was at the catch-riding lesson that I may have described quite awhile back. A fellow Pony Clubber rode Pandora. After we switched back, she said, "You gotta get her to stop off your seat. And get in front of the leg - but she needs to stop off your seat."

"Okay, specifically do you mean stop off my seat?"

"Close your thighs and calves, sit up and stop your back, and make her stop. Just go back and forth from halt to walk. Then you can use the same thing for a half halt, just don't ask all the way."

Seriously. This was the aspect of The Almighty Half-Halt that I'd been missing. Sure, I knew it involved your legs - of course it does! You're recycling energy. Sure, I knew it was a momentary resistance through your back and arms, which your horse immediately responds to, followed by a release.

But I didn't get it.

I worked hard to get Pandora to stop off my seat. Lots of repetition: close thighs hard, hug with calves, straighten up, close hands, halt. Pause, praise, walk on. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Now I have a horse who will halt right away -- BALANCED and SQUARE -- from a walk or trot. I also have a horse who does not rush with me. She gets a little excited in the trot after a canter? I have an instant rebalancing tool at my disposal. I briefly close my thighs and hands, and she's right back with me.

I guess I did something to deserve good karma, because I got another fantastic insight from the clinic I rode in yesterday. In short, she fixed my biggest position flaw. I ride with my legs too far forward. It's always been a habit, and I've never figured out how to fix it. My other big flaw was riding with my upper body too far forward, but my last clinic helped me fix that problem. I stopped jumping ahead. But I could never figure out how to get my lower leg beneath my body without screwing up the rest of me.

This clinician had me bring my lower leg back, and I had to hold it there by really using my thighs and abs. It hurt. And oh boy am I sore today - especially those hip flexors, which really have to open up to hold that position! But I felt so much stronger and more secure. My parents weren't at the clinic, so I didn't get any video or pictures, but Pandora was really initiating forward movement and responding well. We did some low-key jumping, focusing on getting Pandora to really listen to me and make her own mistakes to figure things out.

I will definitely have to practice to maintain the position fix consistently, especially over bigger fences, but I feel like I just took a huge step forward. With this final piece of the puzzle in place, my D-3 Pony Club rating in July will be a piece of cake. She noted that this was really the last piece of the "balanced position" that Pony Club requires, so I'm starting to feel a little more optimistic about possibly rating up to C-1 in September.

From Pony Club materials: "The C-1 and C-2 is a Pony Club member learning to become an active horseman, to care independently for pony and tack and to understand the reasons for what he or she is doing. The C-1 and C-2 show development towards a secure, independent seat and increasing control and confidence in all phases of riding." The fence max at C-1 is 2'9", which doesn't sound big at all, but when you factor in the complexity of knowledge required as well as the fact that they expect your position to be totally solid almost 100% of the time, it's a little more difficult!

Anyway, I'm super excited to work on this position fix. It's the piece that's been missing! Now that I can hold a proper position, I can also work stirrupless. The way I felt before was, if I can't get my legs into the correct spot, won't riding stirrupless just reinforce the bad habits? I'm excited to strengthen my riding by working on this. I'm also thinking I should start some regular fitness, because my abs clearly need a little help!

I'm so glad I went to the clinic, even though I was sick and tired and my parents were out of town. I've kind of gotten my motivation back in the last week or so. Funny to think that so simple of a fix (read: simple does not equal easy!) can totally affect your riding.

You should tell me a story about the last time you had some serious insight whack you in the face, so I don't feel quite so silly.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Balance (Or, How To Live With Horses)

Let's face it.

Horses are time consuming.

This is why sometimes you only get one post every couple weeks. It's why I stagger blearily to a couch in the lounge for a half hour every Wednesday afternoon to slip in a nap before I head out to the barn to ride. It's why I've written about them in damn near every college application or scholarship essay I've ever typed. It's why, when my friends complain about me going to bed early on weeknights, I just smile.

It is also, naturally, worth it. Else you'd just ship them off and be done with it, right? Ha, ha.

I want to know how you balance horses with your "real" life.

I somehow manage - often haphazardly, frequently through sheer force of will. Mostly, it's just become an ingrained part of my life: my evenings, from somewhere around 4:30 to 7:30, don't exist. I do homework during the day or after I get home. I work whenever I can to pay for the habit.

My secret weapon is that deceptive little statement, "Oh, I guess I'll just go for a short ride tonight." Yeah, and if that ride of mine lasts less than 10 minutes, I'll eat my boots. Most times just talking myself into the saddle pushes me into a half hour work session or longer, just because I enjoy riding Pandora so much. She's fun.

It also helps that we watched International Velvet at Pony Club camp this weekend. After an hour of watching a video where all the girl does is canter around and jump, you're certainly inspired to get some canter work done!

In general update news - everything is going great. Pandora has been doing absolutely fantastically, really bringing herself up off her forehand. We are focusing on keeping the "dive" out of our canter, where she plunges forward and drops her head and neck because it's too hard to support herself. This weekend, we're heading to a clinic and rating assessment. This means an excuse to get her all pretty and clean, and me being the fussing fiend that I am, I'm quite looking forward to it!

To be honest, horses play a cyclical part in the balance of my life. Sometimes, I let other things slip in favor of the horses (read: homework? What homework? I've got a horse show today!), and sometimes the horses fade into the background (that is, "But...I'm tired. Maybe I'll ride tomorrow night"). But no matter how hard it is to find a balance, I know one thing is life would be even more unbalanced without them. Why?

Because if I didn't have horses I'd probably be a muttering, straightjacketed mess ;-)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Slow Going

Hey guys - it's been a busy couple of weeks just dealing with life, hence lack of posts. But I've been riding and making some really good progress with Pandora!

I love, love, *love* how our transitions are going. We have smooth, relaxed halt-from-trot, and if at any time we get out of control or out of balance, I have instant access to a quiet transition down and back up to rebalance ourselves. Very cool.

I've got a few hours of calculus homework plus an outline for a 5-page history paper to do, so you will have to make do for now with a short post. To tide you over, here's a video of the 2'3" class from the schooling show we went to on Saturday.

She was great! Didn't even try to peek at the fences, just jumped them around as if she was saying "Finally, we get to do some slightly challenging stuff!" We did two 2'3 classes and were also entered in a 2'6 class, but by that time I'd been tacked up for several hours and I just felt like I was too tired to give her a decent ride. So, we schooled some of the 2'6 fences and she was totally fine, then we called it a day!

It was a beautiful day for the show and many people showed up - turned out to be a great fundraiser for our Pony Club.

Next week will be a little mellower in terms of workload for me, so expect some regular posts again.
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