Tag Archives: hunter

The Perfect Golf Swing… the Perfect Jump

Top 12 reasons they are similar:
12. Learning the basics is the first step.  Practice until the basics are automatic reflexes.

11. Hands are critical… They should go with the club swing like going with the horse.

10. Visualize your goal. On a perfect jump, you can hardly feel the takeoff and it’s smooth as silk, fluid and effortless, horse and rider are one. The perfect swing is a similar feeling, you can’t even feel the face of the club hit the ball, the human body and the club are moving as one. The less excess movement the better. The best golfers generally have the smoothest swings and the best mechanics.  The best riders have invisible aids, it looks like they’re doing nothing.

9. Variety of distances.  Be able to execute short distances and long distances equally well… practice both. By the way, a short hopper shot is a Chip.

8. The course of nine holes is like a course of nine jumps, there are challenges lying in wait.  Make sure you know where you’re going so you don’t wander off course.

7. The flat work is on the driving range and the putting green.  Putting is a large part of the game and everything between fences is flat work.  It’s the element that is practiced least and screws up most.

6. You have to get out there and play and ride. Yes, you can get pointers from DVDs and web sites, all proclaiming to have “the answer.” The more time in the tack and on the golf course, the quicker you will excel.  Don’t go to a country club “A” show course until you are consistent at the small courses.   Lessons are good, someone with knowledge watching your ride and your swing. Video yourself and compare yourself to the masters.

5. Traditional attire is best. Equipment does not have to be expensive, your riding and your playing outshines your outfit.  Spend money on lessons before the latest fad. Be comfortable, have sound equipment and sun protection.

4. Getting the right rhythm and sticking with it produces the best swings and the best jumps. Break out each component – addressing the ball, back swing, stance as you would working on your riding – hands, leg, posture. Swinging in slow motion is like jumping cavelettis.

3. Being in physical shape means your golf game and your riding will be better. Go to the gym, yoga and pilates, become a runner… they will help your swing and your jumps.

2. Relaxation is key.  Golf and riding are mental activities.  Become a student of the game and the basics, and once you have mastered them, try not to over-think.  Let the gestalt of it all take over. Enjoy being outside and being in nature as you would on the back of a horse.

1. Have a positive attitude, a belief that the ball will go in the hole, that the horse will jump the fence. Negative thinking is counter-productive in both sports. Every rider, golfer and horse can have an off day so shake it off.  If you think negatively and the worst happens, you’ve lived through it twice, haven’t you? On the other hand, be humble; your next swing could be a lost ball.

Love your horses and your game!

kw

Taking a Mulligan – Part 2

< < Part 1 

Our second horse show, Mulligan walked flat footed into the arena for his flat class. Honestly, I could have called it a day right there. I was busting the buttons off my riding coat and I tried to act nonchalant and cool. He stood in his lineup like a statue. Mr. Canon documented the experience and played it back for us a hundred times.

Mulligan was relaxing. He cantered his cross rails in the jumping class like a hunter. When he did his first immaculate lead change in the arena, Dana from the rail was so happy that Mr. Canon trembled. Mulligan handled the flowers, the fences, and the announcer with aplomb. Mulligan appropriately won second place.

To hear our celebration and the applause, the praise and the carrots, you would have thought Mulligan just won a USHJA Hunter Derby.

A trainer would have arrived on the grounds on schooling day, stabled the horse for two days, and had him ready for us and his amateur rider by Sunday. But we would have missed Mulligan’s transition from pawing at the trailer to standing quietly, from nervous wheeling around, to eating hay and drinking water. No one would have told us when his frantic neigh for help became a nicker of hello. I would not have experienced the moment his heart pounding between my legs turned to a sigh of acceptance.

Dana and I watched Mulligan process and learn. We rode every fence right there with him (from the rail and on his back), calmed him through his nervousness, prepped him, fed him, groomed him, schooled him, posted him and showed him. Mulligan made us proud and Mr. Canon was right there with us every minute.

Anyone that has had any experience bringing along a young horse, riding any horse for that matter, accomplishing any endeavor of worthiness, knows that it is rarely an uphill progression. There are pitfalls, disappointments, setbacks. Handsome (he’s Mulligan at the shows but Handsome at home) had pulled a shoe and bruised his sole so he got some time off the next weeks. We soaked him in Epsom salts, poulticed, cold hosed, massaged his muscles, pine-tarred his soft feet and let him mow the edge of the arena. When we started him back, Handsome received his first lunge lesson.

A training barn’s groom would have done all that. Would he have told me how Handsome loves the attention? I would have missed how Handsome stoically stood for poulticing, blog_article_mulligan2_smilesand the dexterity with which he pulls carrots out of my back pocket while I painted his hooves.
It is a joy to be Handsome’s teacher, his part-time nurse and his friend. Hearing his whinny lifts my spirits. Handsome is getting more confident at the same time he is building mine.

Once Handsome/Mulligan is healed, and if the stars collide, schedules coincide and we feel he is ready, he will be added to the show calendar amidst the other horses’ schedules. Our adrenalin will get us through our regular work days, evening rides and a tireless summer. We trust our program but remain flexible for the unexpected. Plan B is right around the corner with C waiting in the wings. Mulligans don’t care about plans.

In a world where two country “dumb asses” win the Kentucky Derby, I bet they would say that the deepest rewards come not despite their background but because of it. The “wins” are embedded in the process. Few horses become champions but taking a mulligan can bring out the champion in all of us.

~ kw

< < Part 1 

Taking a Mulligan – Part 1

“Take a mulligan,” instructed my golf teacher after I topped a drive off the tee. Immersing myself in golf lessons seemed like the right distraction after the passing of my 23-year old thoroughbred. And once I turned 50, I was reluctant to go the green horse route again.

But golf wasn’t horses.

Enter Handsome, an appropriately named gray OTTB gelding owned by Dana whom I met through a horse ad online. She had allowed him months of rest after his racing, starting him in his hunter career slowly, with light hacks and cross rails at a schooling show or two.
Through Dana’s generosity, now I ride Handsome as often as possible. Handsome lives on Dana’s ranch along with two other horses that Dana shows, and several more retired horses and ponies, dogs and cats.

We do not have the deep pockets to show the A circuit, the cash flow to pay trainers, the time-off-work to stable all week at horse shows, the extra twenties lying around to tip grooms. We do have our years of expert advice from good trainers, and our own experiences of horse care, training, vetting, shoeing (Dana shoes her own), hauling, braiding, schooling and showing.

At the shows we are known as an “Independent.” Be kind to us Independents, we were up at 4 a.m. While I am not an advocate of riding trainer-less, it just works for us right now. A bevy of good hunter-jumper instructors reside in our area, available to assist at a moment’s notice. Because we are Independents, we appreciate even more the many hats trainers wear.

Our days are marathons. Both of us work full time, have family commitments and juggle our schedules to accommodate the horses.

But the rewards run deep and the lessons are profound.

I soon discovered that Handsome has a forgiving attitude when his amateur (that’s me) misses a distance or makes a mistake. Maybe it has to do with the carrots I bring him, the scratches behind the ears and the conversations we have while grooming. After a few months of trotting over grids and cantering simple lines, Handsome and I were ready for our first horse show together.

Handsome’s second career as a hunter compelled us to come up with the show name Mulligan.

To help us assess our progress, Mr. Canon travels with us to horse shows. blog_article_mulligan1_canonHe is there for every round including the flat classes. He communicates our mistakes so they are obvious and he never dwells on the negative. Only sometimes does Mr. Canon lose his focus, but the big picture is always there. He is accurate, handy, and affordable. We observe our performances against the professional hunter rides that we watch carefully with Mr. Canon at our side.

Mr. Canon mirrors our mistakes and we have instant replays when we need reminders.

So at our first local show together, Handsome now Mulligan asked questions all day long. Why are horses everywhere? Why are horses tied to trailers? Why are we riding then resting, then riding then resting? Why are we not going the same direction? Why is that horse jumping in the arena next door when we are just standing? Why are we lined up but those three horses are leaving, can’t we leave too?

We answered his questions patiently, through continual exposure and quiet rides, words of praise, lots of petting and boatloads of carrots. Mulligan settled down in his cross rails class, jumping every fence the first time. He had a flashback from the race track when he heard the announcer on the loudspeaker but he came through the experience no worse for wear.

Dana and I were exhausted.

~ kw

Part 2 >> 

Winter Ed. 101

It’s THAT time of year. Winter is in full swing and I’m a wonderful snuggly hairy beast, nestled in my blanket, my tummy well fed. The first show isn’t for months and I’m a critter without a care in the world. AND THEN…those enticing notices come in the mail, are pinned up on tack room bulletin boards, in house show offices… CLINIC TIME! Get a head start on the show season, they say. Use your Christmas bonus! Ride with an Olympian!  Uh oh. . .

blog_article_clinics

Clinics make us better…they build confidence, open up our minds – horses and riders – to new perspectives, a different way of saying something, enlightening metaphors. Heels down day and day out can make one wince. Ride like there’s anchors attached to your heels… well now why didn’t you say so?

Oh and by the way, it’s cold outside. Well it’s WINTER, people! I heard George Morris say at a clinic in Florida this winter that if your horse isn’t fresh, call the vet! Expect it and plan accordingly.

From my perspective (and that would be the horse’s) clinics can be fun like jumping new grids, or they can be boring, jumping the same line over and over makes me cranky. Sometimes I get fidgety.

Clinics more likely can be confidence boosters, facilitating us to jump in balance and rhythm with the best form we can. But a clinician also has the power to crush our confidence; it can be very scary if we are overfaced.

Clinics are great venues for low-budget riders like my mom to get instruction and advice from a different perspective of a knowledgeable trainer. Web sites like Equestrian CoachHorse Channel, EventionTV and  Ask The Horse Show Judge  are very helpful for training, riding and showing. But learning takes place experientially – and one has to do it to get it.

Commonly asked questions:

What if the clinician sets up something you know your horse isn’t ready for?
Human: Calmly walk over to the clinician and explain your reservations due to the level of your horse.
Horse: If an adjustment is not made, calmly take the course and fart in the clinician’s face as you trot by and try your best.

What if you can’t hear or don’t understand what the clinician is saying?
Human: Calmly walk over and ask clarifying questions of the clinician. You are paying good money for his/her advice and if you leave the clinic not understanding a point that was made, you’ll be grumpy.
Horse: Exactly as above, because if YOU’RE grumpy, I think you’re mad at me and I’m just a horse trying think up ways to keep you smiling.

Auditors:
Quiet please… not clucking, no side quips. Dress warm, zip it up, write notes, but keep it down to a whisper. And down in front.

Above all, Mom:
Before you sign on the dotted line, research the clinician. Ask people who have attended before or audit one yourself. Make sure you place us in the correct session for our experience and training level.

~ kw