Thursday, February 25, 2010

Riding Simulator!

Some of you know that I took a whirlwind trip to Ca this past weekend. By whirlwind I mean It was 39 hours long. I flew,I drove, I rode, I drove and I flew again. It was not for the faint of heart let me tell you. I went to visit Carmel Valley, a very pretty area in Northern Ca chock full of lovely scenery and wonderful horse people. It also just happens to be my favorite time of year out there. When everything is green and blooming. I took this crazy trip to try The Riding Simulator. As seen at Equine Affaire and other horse fairs across the west coast. I met "Luke" and his owner/importer Barbro Ask-Upmark. Luke is quite a stud! 1200 pounds, 15.1 or so , solid black, long main and tail, and a schoolmaster in every sense of the word. He stood for hours accepting every ones attention, with nary a peep or irritated swish of the tail. When he was called on to perform he was 110% on. His feed back was honest and fair. I got to ride this wonderful fellow at Steinbecks Horsemans Day. It was educational and fun. When I wasn't riding Luke I enjoyed the speakers.

Riding simulators are not a well known tool in many circles and even in the circles they are known, they receive some snarky comments. To those people I say, don't knock it until you try it. I had my doubts, I mean really, why would I ride a mechanical horse when I have two perfectly good, living, breathing ones right outside my door? Simple answer? BECAUSE I'D LIKE TO SAVE THEM FROM MY LACK OF RIDING SKILLS! Now, beyond that, I was just plain curious. Does this simulator really feel like a live horse? YES.. What can it teach me? ALOT! Will I think its just a novelty? HELLS NO! Should this be taken seriously? IF YOU ARE SMART, YES! Why? Lets take other serious sports that operate at dangerous speeds on highly sensitive equipment: Car racing,motorcycle racing, piloting aircraft, bike get the picture right? All of these things have training simulators in common, and none of them pilot a living being with its own ideas. So in my book, our sport should be based on simulator style learning before actually being allowed to touch a real horse. In Europe school masters are common at good riding schools, allowing riders to learn position basics on a lunge. Here in the USA? Good luck with that. I couldn't even get a paid instructor to give me regular lunge lessons on my own horse. This is where that void is filled. Luke is fitted out with multiple sensors, a computer brain and screen and several programs to test ones abilities. On the teaching program he will visually tell you via a glaring red dot on the screen, if you are out of balance, off center, or just plain behind the motion. His side sensors tell you what leg is engaged and where. His bit sensors tell you when they have no contact, to much contact or simply imbalance between right and left. He responds without ire, honestly, and immediately to the input he receives. He is a computer after all, and your "typos" will be visible in his performance and even in his database. He records your ride and can play it back so you can see how well you fared! Let me ask you something, how often have you bounced around a lesson feeling for that second of "ahhhh" with your horse? One hour of blood, sweat and tears for a snapshot of what it can be like. Who pays the price for that, I ask you? Sure your butt is sore, but what where you slapping against to make it so sore? That's right, your beloved horse! What if you could find that "ah" moment and better yet ride it for as long as you wish. Then take that muscle memory and transfer it to your breathing equine? Now that moment of "ahhh" can be shared. Your horse will be so glad you got it worked out!

My ride on Luke told me something I already know, my left leg is weaker than my right. But, I had no idea my weaker left hand was more consistent, than my stronger right hand! And with a little physical manipulation applied as we where in working trot by Barbro, I found the sweet spot in the saddle that I would never have found on my own, no matter how loud the instructor yelled! By the way, that proper seat felt crooked as all get out to me until I got used it and could find it myself! It was fantastic! Aside from the "serious" work one can get done on the simulator, its also a gas! I couldn't stop smiling, much like the first time I rode a gaited horse. The audience had fun too. They got to watch it video game style on the large screen. My dressage test was pretty entertaining. Forget scoring in the 60's and 70's, I could hardly ride a straight line down the rail. I think I even stepped outside the arena and back in. In any case, all you gamers out there would appreciate working out your tennis stroke on Wii. Your first couple of shots go wild until you get the feel down. I could have ridden forever trying to perfect my feel, except for the fact that I was popping a sweat and my inner thighs where beginning to sing. Yes, like riding a real horse, it is a work out! So much so that there is a calorie counter as well. See? yet another application for a simulator. Hard winter? No worries stay in shape, indoors! Coming back from an injury? Ride in safety, no bucks or spooks here! Horse laid up? not this one, never lame, never throws a shoe, never an off day! Confidence problems, grow it with core strengthening practice. So, whats a girl to do? It is a perfect piece of equipment for a trainer such as myself. Well, as it turns out you can buy one of these wonders for your very own. And that's just what I did. Amerika , my own black beauty will be on her way to NC by the 15th of March. Sign up now as I have a feeling she will be very popular!

my ride:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Living in the "momo" (moment)

Talking to my dear friends farther north has made me grateful , kinda, for my soppy, coastal swamp. Even if you have never owned animals that require outdoor care in inclement weather, I'm sure you can imagine what dealing with feet of snow, gale force winds and plunging temps can be like while attached to a one thousand plus pound animal who finds the whole deal as vexing as you do. Horses are experts at mixing "yikes" and "woohoo" in large and equal amounts. This usually results in a awe inspiring athletic display that makes us wish we had our cameras, OR picking ourselves out of the nearest mud puddle, thicket, snow bank, and/or tree branch and wondering why all our money and time is spent toward this very frightening, very ungrateful animal!

I hear stories all the time about how old cream puff became"weather challenged" and uncharacteristically mashed their human, while their human was trying to "rescue" them from said weather. What to do ? What to do? This is simple miscommunication folks. Here's our take on the situation: "oh no its_____________(insert weather challenge, snow wind, rain , thunder) out! Poor Cream Puff I better go out QUICK and get her to shelter!" So then we attire ourselves properly against the elements and feeling very confident our animals are thinking just what we are, we scurry out to right this wrong. What are we feeling? Well, angst, tension, hurry, fear,impatience, misery from what ever element is washing over us....and we approach our yikes/woohoos with this. They on the other hand are thinking "weeeeeee, yikes, weeeeeeeeeeeee, yikes yikes, waaaaahooooo!" Then they spy a oddly bundled energy bomb moving quickly toward them. they recognize that this could mean, "food, change of venue or just as easily...... hey, shes come to yikes -woohoo with us. YAY!" Here's where the trouble starts. We have all heard the saying"leave your emotions in the tack room" This is very good advise. But don't forget "train where you can and not where you can't" and "it takes as long as it takes". The "where" in the last statement includes emotional spaces not just the obvious physical spaces like a challenging spot on the trail or by the"scary" end of the arena. Emotional space is your mind set and energy under the same distractions your horse is experiencing. Are you thinking about how quickly you can catch him up and get you and he out of this weather? Are you wishing the snow wasn't dripping down your cheeks into the neck of your jacket? Are you wondering if all the horses are out to kill you by being way the heck down the field away from the gate? Are you wondering why this is taking so long and why you tried to do this in the first place? hmmmmmmmmm? Probably! Human nature after all. But what should be considered is the fact that you will have to be focused, flexible and serene for as long as it takes to achieve your goal...which may or may not be your horses goal.

Always attend to the horse you have today, in the moment. Not the horse you usually have. Now , you may think as you read this that I advocate training during a dangerous weather event, that's not the case. But I am saying that you should be prepared to if you have chosen this time to interact with your horse. Relax, Focus and Breathe. Start training where ever your horse tells you to start and watch your successful experiences pile up.