The Bad Thing: Hudson’s Perspective

Dear Jane-Readers,

Please forgive me, but I am going to address all the equines out there, who surely will comprehend my pain.  No offense meant to bipeds: it’s one of those “until you walk in my hooves” sort of things.

Dear Equines,

The misery has compounded. For weeks, Jane has rushed in, apparently aimlessly deciding what to do with me, and then forgetting what she decided.

She has been driving me crazy.

Legitimate grievance #1:

I’ve learned to handle the grooming. I’ve adjusted my philosophy and even put my preference on the bottom.

  • Groom and let’s go.
  • Don’t groom and let’s go.

Legitimate grievance #2:

For nearly 4 weeks, all I have done is WALK.  I refuse to count one trot circle or one canter circle as something besides walking. I’ve walked:

  • on the buckle
  • on the bit
  • stretchy
  • booming
  • lazy
  • on the road
  • in heavy sand
  • while ponying Dinero
  • while being ponied by Dinero

Sometimes all in the same “riding” session. I have dutifully walked with gentlemanly forgiveness, and reasoned with Jane. Despite her abundant faults, Jane usually listens. 

Every. Single. Day. I politely suggested we add to the mind numbing walk program.

Every. Single. Day. Jane said “not now, Hudson, sorry”.

I am not lame.  I am healthy. I am fit. There is no medical reason I must walk.

Many of you may identify with my frustration. {Tucker, Fee, Ginger, Solo…need I go on?} I’m trying to handle my retirement with grace, and embrace my new career (gag) as a dressage horse.

I’m a point and shoot kind of guy, okay? I need to work.  I mean, come on: plod plod plod, turn the corner, plod: hey there’s those turkeys again. And how about that manure pile? You knowI think the sun might have moved a notch…

It’s water torture. Drip drip drip.

Then, The Bad Thing happened…

Continue reading “The Bad Thing: Hudson’s Perspective”

Thank You For Traveling Air Hudson, Please Fly Again Soon…

Most. Uncomfortable. Gallop. Ever.

Below is what I thought, as Hudson blasted down the big arena’s long side in a jarring blur of  pipe rail:

  1. Strange. I cued for a trot.
  2. This is dang uncomfortable. I know we’re at speed, but that shouldn’t…
  3. Why am I in the air?
  4. Why is my air time alternating with slamming into the saddle?
  5. This reminds me of something…almost have it….
  6. How weird is this? This feels just like riding the bull…
  7. I wonder why it feels like…Uh Oh…

Yes. I was that slow.

Seriously. It took the entire long side, many jolts into the air, and 4 or 5 savagely good leaps and pile drives for my brain to arrive here: Hudson was bucking.

I spent an embarrassing amount of time wondering why the saddle kept inexplicably disappearing, being annoyed Hudson wouldn’t stay on the bit (once Dressage Brain is activated, all other reality ceases to exist), and wondering how my equitation could just vanish. I mean, I was in the air at least half the time we were galloping?

Translation: I was too stupid to fall off.

In all the years I’ve ridden him, Hudson has never even kicked out in happiness, let alone bucked.

When I told Bella, she said: “What did you DO?!?”

BTW, this is the right response. I thought the same thing while still on board. Any other horse I’d look at multiple factors, and well, I would have known they were bucking. I did make sure he wasn’t in pain. That was my second thought after, “What did I DO?!?”

This is what I did:

I did not take into account The Bad Thing.

Hudson is going to tell you about it tomorrow…

Murphy Monday: Murphy Goes to Kindergarten

Barbie told Murphy he was getting something all his own.  It was a surprise.  Murphy hung out at the gate, bugging her.

What is it?  Can I eat it? Does it run? How can it be all mine?!? We share everything!

Melody and True jostle for Best Viewing Position at their gate across the way:

Oh man.  This is gonna be gooood!

Uh. Mom? It tastes like just another two-legged? Is the two-legged carrying my surprise?

(It’s worth noting Barbie’s complete lack of concern. If we flip to her mental page, the title would be: Thank God Someone is Rescuing Me.)

Hilary explains good foal manners to Murphy.

This is what Murphy hears: lalalalalalalalalalalalala…you are the cutest wittow baby boy…you are handsadoracuterrific! And you can have whatever you want.

No, you don’t understand! I already know how to do this, so I don’t need to do it anymore!  Really.  I got this one. 

Fine. Whatever.

He had to walk for Ten. Whole. Minutes. With only 17 – okay maybe 26 – rest breaks.

Murphy’s feelings about his first day of kindergarten:

But he luvvvvvs Hilary:

Auntie? Aimlessly walking around is stupid. (sorry) But don’t leave!  You just got here. Can’t you just like hang out awhile? Maybe rub my back?

Melody and True: Well. That was uneventful. 

Barbie: Noooooooo…!!!!! He can work longer!  Teach him to sit!

(For a relative size comparison, and to understand our shock seeing him after a week of camping, Murphy, at 2 months old, next to Shaun, who is 5′ 4″ tall.)

Shhh, Don’t Scare the Cows…

I have a new riding plan.  It’s unorthodox, but it’s working.

I’ve watched lots of dressage videos, imprinting my memory, to emulate the good riding later.  Sort of a visual aid to my brain: see this footage?  Do that, K?

I know this works for many riders.

Frustrating. It doesn’t work for me.  I went back to concepts that I understand in my body.

  1. Whatever I am physically holding, the horse can’t use.
  2. Look for the places I brace my body.  Those will be the areas the horse can’t relax in, since I’m bracing against him.


it’s not always bad. Quiet holding with my body can be a powerful tool to keep a line straight or block a ribcage from drifting.  The concept also helps me stop unconscious holding: letting the horse have room to move forward within the outline, and not stop impulsion.


Oy.  Is there anywhere I don’t brace, at some point? (Gumby bracing.  Bend one part and another part stiffens!)  I discovered I brace my wrists (?!?!?), creating a counter brace in Hudson, making it very difficult for him to be soft.  He can be super light, but not soft. How do you soften wrists?  I’m still working on that one.

During the last few weeks, I’ve watched the video of Kathy cutting steers on Rhodie many times. She has something I want, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Stillness? Quiet? Relaxation? Yes, but the way she is doing it is different from what I do.

The next time I got on Hudson, I went through my checklist (it’s Hudson, there’s a little give and take):

Jane: Hmmm….what am I holding? [mentally going through body parts]

Hudson: Jane? I believe you are holding the reins.  Feel free to drop them.

He’s a humorous guy.

Jane: tension in body…where am I bracing myself? Good grief.  Who braces their ankles?!? I will my ankles to stop “bracing” against the stirrups.

Hudson: Don’t care if you brace.  Hellloooo, I’ll just brace back. Win-win. Can we GO already?

I picture Kathy on Rhodie: that quality of internal and external stillness  you need when approaching high flight animals. Why not try?  

Jane: Still.  Completly relaxed. I am one with my horse…I am one with the herd. Ohm.

Hudson: CATTLE?!? WHERE???? I’m on it.  Point me.

His head flew into the air, his ears swiveled wildly, and he became absolutely and totally silent.  He saw the cows in my head, he knew. My body was saying “get ready for cows”, and he was ready.

His reaction was the best possible positive feedback. I did it. I’m quiet enough for cows!

I warmed us up on the access road as if we were moving through a large herd of invisible steers.  He’d begin to amp up (seeing my imaginary cows) and I’d say, with my body “Shhh…don’t scare the cows.” He was instantly quiet. Our connection was electric, solid. For the first time, in his mind, we were partners. I finally hit teammate status with Hudson!

The change is profound.

In order to broadcast “safe”, I have to stay  emotionally and physically contained
in a way that is new for me on the back of a horse. It’s impossible to broadcast “unthreatening” if I’m not self-contained, relaxed, focused, and quiet.

When we went into other gaits, I imagined going through a herd of steers at the trot or canter. Whole new experience. I am GLUED like a pivot to the saddle: a very relaxed pivot. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great start. Finally, I can feel the dressage axiom that was too abstract for me to integrate: my seat belongs to the horse.

This is why I appreciate good horsemanship wherever it shows up.  Apparently I’m too concrete of a thinker to apply spoken dressage axioms.

But watching a good cutting team, I suddenly could visualize it in a way that made sense to me.

Give me an imaginary herd of steers, and I get it.  I GET IT! Whahooooooo!!!

(Shhhh…don’t scare the cattle…)

If you try invisible cattle, let me know if it worked for you or not, and how you felt it went!

What unorthodox things have you done to “get” things in  your disciplines?

I Heart Hudson

Yesterday was an exercise in riding frustration for both Hudson and I.  Hudson did exactly what I asked him to do.  He picked up the wrong lead every time.

When I’m tired or don’t feel well, I revert to an ancient (and bad) riding skill set.

Hudson canters off an inside cue. All you do is relax your seat, and drop your inside hip. That’s it. No lower leg, no reins, no complicated set of cues in alphabetical order delivered by courier service.

Cantering off the inside explains a lot of sudden canter departs when I first started exercising him. I’d shift a hip to get more comfy, and off we’d go!

99% of all horses I’ve ridden have been trained to canter off the outside leg.

Apparently it’s hard for me to remember how an inside cue works. While dropping a single hip is not rocket science, I could not manage to do so.

Instead, I unconsciously popped out his inside shoulder (wrapped him around my outside leg) and did all the things which would prevent most green or difficult horses from picking up the wrong lead.

A  trained and easy horse that requires a single dropped hip is far too difficult for me to grasp.

I’d set him up nicely wrapped around my inside leg, trotting beautifully.

Then I’d implode, and use every cue I ever learned. All at once.

Continue reading “I Heart Hudson”

Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Dressage Arena…

…I ran into Bella, who said, “Hey, I’ll help, if you want.”

Hudson is over his abscess.  Despite the fact it’s in a terrible site, he’s standing in mud, and conditions are far from optimal, he’s…fine.  It’s healed over enough that a simple cleaning and (needleless) injection of betadine prevents evil bacteria from grabbing hold.

Hudson is sound, energetic, and good to go.  We’ve been working.  In the face of my trainer’s retirement, Bella offering to help me not suck is awesome for the following reasons:

  • I’ve been in deep dressage gloom. How will I ever learn?
  • She trained Hudson. She can look at us and know exactly what’s happening on both sides. She’s felt his evasions and when he’s trying to do it well.
  • She knows dressage, having shown successfully through Grand Prix.
  • I can hear her in a way I haven’t been able to hear other trainers.
  • She doesn’t ride “through” me. I can repeat everything she’s said when I’m not in her presence. It’s a miracle!
  • There is nothing vague about her instructions.  It’s all concrete stuff I can do now.
  • No difficult to grasp metaphors. Yet.  Metaphors are good. But I need a lot of specifics. I always tell trainers I missed some of the basics and need remedial help, but somehow they didn’t see that, and thought it was modesty (?). Bella sees what I missed.  Thank God.
  • After two days of practice, people were stopping us in the arena, and asking me what I did to improve so dramatically.
  • Her help is casual.  It’s short(ish).  It’s huge gift.

A few riders went so far as to claim I could clean up at first level if I’d just enter a dang show. (Doubt this.)  None of my previous training was wrong or badly done.  Good, kind trainers. Maybe I forgot stuff. Maybe I wasn’t ready.  Maybe I was too nervous.  Don’t know.

What I do know?


I had to write that in all caps, because it feels That Big.

Hudson, whom I thought hated dressage, is starting to become very interested.  He has to perform, he has to think.  Performing and thinking are his happy buttons.

He didn’t hate dressage, he hated how I was riding.  It was fine when I was catch riding, because we only did stretchy stuff, and he got his intensity fix from Bella and roping. When that stopped, he didn’t get his adrenaline fix, and was just…bored.

Now he’s extremely interested in what we’re going to do next.

I also get the best possible positive feedback: if he does it wonderfully, it’s because I told him how to do it wonderfully.

“YOU asked him to do that,” Bella says, when I’m awestruck by a result, “He’s just doing what you asked him to do, remember that.

It’s not a miracle.  It’s not rocket science.  It’s what he’s supposed to do when asked.

Really? There’s no secret club? No big revelation? You learn how, do it, and it works?

THAT’S the secret?




Sniffling, Sneezing, Coughing and Cross Posting Toward the Goal

Oh sure.  Going for the Post a Day challenge is – not easy – but attainable when you feel good.  Throw in the kind of bug you can only get from someone’s child throwing up on you, and you might as well kiss an original thought good bye.  Heck, kiss any thought goodbye.  Post?  Can’t I just call in sick?

Can I get a show of hands? How many of you would like to call in sick to your life?

I’ve already marked the front door with a big black X to signify the plague lives here.

Despite my hard work to have a weeks worth of posts in reserve, I’m barely making the daily deadline.   Yes. This is Jane feeling sorry for self, and sharing the misery. Hang on, I’m getting notification from a brain cell, it wants me to know something or other.


Thanks brain cell!  (Note to self: send brain get well card.  That was nice.)

A trouble shared, is a trouble halved.

Oh.  I’m being generous and sharing!  That’s what I’m doing today.  (Aren’t you lucky.) Who knew?

There are two posts by other bloggers I’d like to share.  One is thoughtful and horse related.  The other is simply hilarious.  Hilarity is Vitamin C to a cold.

Thoughtful approach to horses, courtesy of Bille at Camera Obscura:

very wise words for living and working with horses

Progress in very small increments. Make smart choices in the sequence of exercises. Never ambush your horse. Never skip a step. First establish trust.

-Faverot de Kerbrech

I read this quote this morning on Thomas Ritter’s Facebook page and immediately copied it to print and put in the tack room on my bulletin board.

I absolutely love the line “Never ambush your horse.”  I think much of what we do to horses in the name of training them and dominating them could easily be considered ambush – not so much the what we do but the HOW we go about doing it.

Hurry, read the rest before you get to the barn!

Hilarity below, to build cold resistance, from Listful Thinking:

A Series of Lists Attempting to Explain Why I’m No Longer Allowed In Certain Vietnamese Restaurants

This is probably the most convoluted thing I’ve ever had to explain with lists before.

Category F5 tornado (upgraded from initial est...An F5 tornado– no match for Derek’s teeth. 

When I told one of my coworkers in high school that I was sitting next to some mysterious kid named Derek in physics, he leaned over and whispered, “You know Derek’s a quadruple black belt in Taekwondo, right? I’ve heard he plucked a kid’s eyeball right out of its socket.” This was terrible news, as I am no good at physics and have surprisingly large eyeballs. Worried that I would frustrate him to the point of violence, I began asking all of my fellow high school-aged co-workers what they knew about my new physics partner.

Read more more more.

It’s going to be an interesting week!  Who know what will be here tomorrow.

I certainly don’t.  Could be cake.  Could be a photo of the sofa.  Could be…

Retirement Jobs for a 21 Year Old Horse

Jane’s concept of retirement:

A time to ease up on the intensity and craziness of a full life. Head off in a new direction, at a reduced pace.  Exercise, read, learn something new, find a cool retirement job: stay sharp, have fun.

Hudson’s concept of retirement:

Old people with no teeth.  Yuck.

It’s a puzzle in which I’m still working out the details. Hudson’s input:

Cattle-Drive-A-Day.  That would be a GREAT retirement job, Jane!

The day after the round-up, Bella, Alice and I meet to walk out the horses. Hudson is angled broadside in the pasture, to catch the most sun.  I try to remember if I’ve ever seen him nap. We un-blanket, everyone riding bareback with halter or bridle of choice.

Both boys fussed at our mounting block: the retaining wall.  (Hey, Hudson is tall!)

There was mud on the ground.  We expect them to stand in MUD?

Continue reading “Retirement Jobs for a 21 Year Old Horse”

Going Blank

It’s usually a bad thing.  I go blank when someone is yelling at me. Not a thought in my head.  Zippo. My brain is on some tropical beach, sipping an umbrella drink, leaving me in the lurch.

If my 83-year-old mother is chastising me, I can’t defend my decision to not become a concert pianist, dental assistant, or  hair stylist.  Her goals for me.  Good goals, but not even remotely me.  I stand there with a completely blank mind, and can’t think of one solidly useful thing with which to defend myself.  This is sad, given I’ve had 40 years to come up with something good.

“I’m incredible with frosting”, I say, defiantly.

This is my mom. Frosting doesn’t qualify.  Frosting is not  useful.

A moment of silence please, for the frosting-impaired.

Continue reading “Going Blank”

If it’s Worth Doing, it’s Worth Doing Badly

In which we get goofily serious.

My brain on dressage:

I get it.  Theoretically.

One of the most encouraging things an instructor ever said to me (when I asked for homework) was “Do it badly”.  I think dressage is complicated,  which, in turn, makes it…complicated.

Her words came back to me yesterday. If I strike the three times I just got on and walked around, I haven’t ridden in nearly 6 weeks.  I mounted with some relief, knowing I was likely to ride badly. No lofty goal.  Ride, stay centered, enjoy.

Best dressage ride I’ve had in a loooong time.

Continue reading “If it’s Worth Doing, it’s Worth Doing Badly”