dancing_crow: (Default)

We were at Circus Smirkus pretty much all day yesterday. We ushered and took tickets for the afternoon show, which was happy and made me laugh, and then Al came up and we ushered and took tickets for the evening show which was sold out and had a long line of people that mostly made it in. While the afternoon show as great, the evening show really rocked. I think having a bigger (louder) audience makes a lot of difference to how the show proceeds. Brattleboro is a very familiar stop, and a lot of the troupers take lessons with NECCA, so I think there is a lot of local enthusiasm when the circus comes to town.

There is so much to love about this show; the energy and enthusiasm the kids bring to the performance, the shouts and shrieks of the audience, the excellent live music. Plus the quality of the performers improves with each year.

I think this is one of their best years ever.

dancing_crow: (Kaboose)
exercise: yoga that made me pant, and circus that did also
horse: Kaboose, the Red Queen, through a different set of woods
fabric: yes

We have a puddle that is half the block long, can float the canoe, and develops white caps when the wind blows this hard. I am agitating for a light house and some bouys to help people navigate it properly.

Kaboose/Queenie (I keep thinking of the Other Kate's button that says "Don't call me Queenie Baby, it's degrading") was great except for an Extremely Terrifying Tree that seemed to be infested with tigers. She came to a screeching halt, quivering, and it took a lot of snorting to march up to it and touch it and get her peppermints. Nothing else was quite that horrible, even the place where the beavers are un-dissuaded by various pipes and wire cages.

Circus was AWESOME. The kids played together on Ariana's weird tubalar apparatus, experimenting with different things while Al and I tried to balance eachother in different strange ways. I totally rock as a base.



long day

Nov. 20th, 2008 08:38 pm
dancing_crow: (Kaboose)
Well, considering I was thinking I didn't want to do any of the things I had to today, I did great at many of them.

I attended Yoga thinking that it would be a win if I only did child's pose for the hour. But I went through most of the class, and worked hard, and felt much happier when I was done.

I knew I had to stick my nose in the neck of a horse, so I located my winter riding britches which was a good thing because I'm pretty sure it was about 29 degrees fantastically farenheit at midday. I rode Kaboose who started out tight and cold and spooked by the wind. After a good deal of trotting, she loosened up and settled down, and we had some really nice work at the trot and canter. With the cold there was one corner of the ring that was treacherous - a thin bit of mud over icy mud - and we had to be clever to avoid it. But I got some really nice bending in the canter, and a bunch of nice forward, brisk canter transitions. It is all about sitting and waiting for her to bring the canter up to me, not leaning forward to encourage her or anything stupid like that. The more it feels like I am waiting, the more clear and definite the depart is. Then the kind mare worked with me for a lot of sitting trot practice. This is one of those places where riding a horse is nothing like riding a bicycle. I remember being able to do this. I remember being good at it, and flexible in the back and solid in my seat. And now I am stiff and clunky on her back unless I am thinking about my seat Every Single (Fucking) Stride. So I practiced exactly that.

I rode Ruby just a little too. Before I did that I tried to get her to trot next to me around the ring. She freaked out at some leaves at the end, yanked the reins out of my hand and galloped madly around before stopping and walking up to me with the reins around one foot and stopping with her nose in my hand looking slightly embarrassed. I untangled her and we tried again. She was eyeballing me so hard she nearly tripped a couple times, but she did fine after that. And I rode her, walking and trotting, in straight lines and circles. She is such a baby, and doing so well.

It was family circus tonight, but poor Al spoinked something in his back and the girls were experimenting with a sling, so I ran through my trapeze routine twice, which was all I had strength for, and my hands are wrecked and I will have some awesome bruises tomorrow but I am tired and happy.
dancing_crow: (penny)
Yesterday was one of those 4 pants, don't stop kinds of days.

I did go to Yoga, and did a small number of very hard things, and made the teacher laugh. It still feels like a small, sneaky triumph to make the teacher laugh, no matter how old I get.

I rode the two younger horses. Penny, I keep forgetting, is 4. She doesn't feel like 4 because she is sensible and huge. It is easy to forget youth when the horse behaves like a slow geezer, but I can see it her balance. She can get some very nice trot work going; round and forward, and on the bit, but cantering is like waltzing with elephants. She tips, her shoulders go a different direction, and she has serious steering issues. So I spent a lot of time today trying to loosen her up on the right rein. She is stiff to the right trotting, and that translates to appalling canters to the right. We did a lot of shoulder fore and leg yielding to try to help her stretch her left side out around right turns. Then we did tons of canter departs, working on getting her bending right instead of dropping her shoulder and ploughing right. It is getting there, but slow.

Penny also has some issues with being saddled, mounted and dismounted. I've been taking it much slower, and trying to make sure she is comfortable and unworried at each step. The dismounting has to be the funniest to watch. She used to tuck her tail and squeal when I swung my leg over to get off. Now she swings her head around to find the carrot I am offering her as I lie over her back. I swing my legs around, and climb part-way off and slither back on again, praising her all the way. The plan is for her to get so used to me thrashing around up there that nothing bothers her.

Ruby is the opposite of all that. It is easy to think she is young because she is short and springy, and she looks a little sneaky. She is 3, she gets huge props for doing what she does calmly and well. What she does is walk, trot, turn and stop. We practice that a lot, and then we go walking and trotting in the woods. I was thinking she would be fun to do a walk-trot dressage test with next spring.

I re-upped my New England Dressage Association membership, so I get a list of shows and a membership card. The owners I ride for are cheerful about the idea of me competing their horses. I am laying in long term plans for some dressage competitions in the spring. Starting with learning my tests.

The rest of the day was driving to Brattleboro and a family circus class. We did mostly partner acrobatics. Both kids get flown, but the big one is starting to be just a little too heavy for me to carry easily. We all three line up to toss the little one around. Last night she was up for it, and we all had a pretty good time.

We are going to see They Might Be Giants tonight!! They come to my town. I walk to the show. I love this place.
dancing_crow: (Kaboose)
Who knew that the up side of riding a really difficult horse was that the return to an easier horse was BRILLIANT? 

Kaboose and I turned in a series of sterling canter departs, after some suppling and bending exercises I had used on the lesson horse. It was that feeling of holding between my should blades, and sitting harder or softer, that made a huge difference, plus the fact that I wasn't being propelled from the saddle by the size of her movement. I used less hand (thank you midnightsjane, you are completely correct - the worst part about Tuesday was yielding in the face of what felt like uncontrolled acceleration) and thought about buymeaclue's image of having horse in front of me. Whatever it was, it worked, and we got a series of soft, sweet, forward canter departs, with a good deal of much nicer, balanced canter, and even some non-rushing, non-falling-on-our-forehand down transitions. She was so light and I was so together, we tried a handful of walk-canter transitions, and she was so awesome I stopped.

Then I rode baby Ruby, and she was great too - we walked and trotted and halted, steering around in circles and experimenting with light contact. Then I tried to get her to move away from just one leg. A tiny, baby turn on the forehand. After some thought she got it figured out off my right leg, so I tried moving her off my left leg. I cracked up when she offered to move right into it - she'd figured out sideways, but forgot she had another side. Or something. We got that straightened out after a couple tries, and she was done. We went for an amble down the road to explore a little, and got brought home by the rain. I was pleased I'd thrown over my yoga/pilates for riding, because the riding days are feeling increasingly precious as the winter comes barrelling towards us.

In circus, I still remember and can still do my routine on the trapeze. I ran through it twice and then stated feeling wobbly. I hated the trapeze I was using - the ropes were too short and for one move I had my hands on the straps holding it to the ceiling. Which was vile. And handstands and headstands, and poor Al was practicing cartwheels. He bends at the waist, on the wrong way, so Bronwyn had him cartwheeling between two upright mats. It looked claustrophobic, but both girls could do it. Well, the older one cartwheels like breathing. The little one still has to fling herself at things.
dancing_crow: (ruby)
Thursdays are insanely busy. I could change it, except most of it is good, even dropping into bed at the end of it.

Thursdays start with a yoga/pilates class from my South Boston guru (more on her another time) which really is just to get warmed up. I am not sure how much yoga helps my riding but it fells like a lot.

I rode Kaboose for almost an hour - she of the training and good nature. I am still trying to improve our canter departures, because it feels like no matter how together and light she is when I ask, she flows through my hands like water and buries her nose and runs into it. We got into a giant pulling match before I stopped doing that. I held with my shoulder blades but let her have my hands, and that got her both lighter in my hands and lighter in the shoulders. From that we got some better canters, but I still have so far to go.

Instead of riding Ruby, the baby, I followed good advice from every corner and got ready for lungeing again. This time we had a curcingle and side reins, and a soft lunge rein with no chain. I prefer to run the rein in the bit and over their head to the far side, so pulling (on either of our parts) won't slip the bit through. Lendon says it is OK, and lacking a proper lungeing cavesson it works well enough. And then we lunged. She did pretty well. We can whoa, walk and trot in both directions, smoother to the left. Up transitions are easier than down. There was no tension in the side reins, so I have to get those to a point where she has some contact (she is so SHORT!!) I didn't work on canter at all. What I did do was remembered from working with a Thoroughbred back in college. I tried to get her to make her trot slower and then faster and then slower, without breaking out of the trot. She seems to have done that before, or to be exceedingly intelligent. Both are likely. Then we tried making the walk slower and faster, and trying to get her halts solid at the end of the line, without turning in. the halts are definitely a work in progress, but she is comfortable with slower and faster, and I think I'll work on polishing that understanding for the next several lessons, both lungeing and under saddle.

The rest of the day was spent driving to Brattleboro for Circus classes, Aerin's followed by family circus, and making it home before I crashed.

I realized I have been accounting the complexity of the day by how many different pairs of pants I wear. Today was yoga pants, britches, jeans and back to yoga pants for circus. Most days max out at two pairs of pants, Tuesdays are three, only Thursdays have 4.
dancing_crow: (Default)
Another lesson today. I rode yesterday, just hacking about, on a little gray Arab mare with only one eye. She had her right eye removed because it had a tumor, and she is oddly lumpy around the ears and jaw as well. I did not carry a whip, and spent a lot of the ride booting her to get her off my leg, but we had some very nice leg yields and should-in. My sitting trot was vile, and our canter departs were catastrophic. Her eye issues make it more worrying going to the right than to the left. We finished on a much softer trot than we started, so on the whole we did well.

I was slated for another horse today for my lessons, but she had the goofies and couldn't be caught, even by the teacher. So I rode the one eyed mare again. With supervision, and a whip, we did much better. Mara (teacher) speaks of particular movements or sequences as unlocking the horse. Before unlocking they are harsh, and after they become much softer. Last week a particular shoulder-in unlocked the horse, and we spent the rest of the lesson doing much nicer work. The same kind of lateral work helped unlock this horse. The leg yields went from stiff necked, nose out and wiggly shoulder to much more forward and rounded, more wrapped around my inside leg. She is much softer to the hand than last week's pony, and easier to get forward. When it is going well, it feels like I am driving a wheelbarrow, almost pushing on her mouth rather than pulling or holding. We worked on some canter transitions, and really just holding the whip made a huge difference, plus holding with my shoulder blades to keep her from running through my hands.

The title references my own dreams of horse ownership as a child, where I always pictured myself mounted on a gray Arab mare. Of course, I never came close to that - strictly grade horses all the way, backyard keeping, 4H and Pony Club on a budget - I'm sure you'd recognize the drill. I loved them all. But I mentioned to Mara this dream, and she rolled her eyes and said "That was all I had - I'd have loved a different horse..."

So here I am riding gray arab mares. They are up-headed and wiggly in the shoulders, but have some lovely moments. I am hugely amused.

I also had yoga in the morning, where the teacher asked us to remember the last time we were joyfully embodied. My mind leapt to my lesson two weeks ago, on the bay grade mare with a real extended trot, in the sun, in the outside... and before that to two years ago on a little chestnut Morgan doing an extended trot outside in the spring sun... good things to remember. Nice also to remember being competent riding.

Made up for by circus today. I started tired, and everything hurt. But I finally nailed the upside down wrap-the-fabric-behind-your-back move, having practiced it resting gently on my head. And two one-minute handstands against the wall. Free standing head stands. And the beginning of a new trick. Of course, the new trick hurts, because everything hurts, but eventually it will not be so distressing.
dancing_crow: (Default)
Two days a week I go up to Brattleboro Vt. to New England Center for Circus Arts. It was started by twins Elsie and Serenity Smith, alums from Cirque du Soleil, because they wanted to come home to the Connecticut River valley and do what they love. So there is this amazing, world class resource, 40 minutes away from us.

On Saturday we do family circus with another family (5 of them, 4 of us) and we do things like partner acrobatics, and partner trapeze, and some fabric climbing and tricks, and hand stands and head stands. There is a lot of noise, and it is a lot of fun. Mostly Al and I are in it for stretching and family time. The girls are way more flexible than us, and have better strength to weight ratios, so they can do some really pretty things on the various apparatus. All the aerial stuff happens on relatively static things - they hang from a single point in the ceiling, some swivel and some don't - the point is to climb, and hang, and twist and be graceful and effortless.

I was having such a good time in family circus that I signed up for private classes on Tuesday when Aerin is there for her other class. I work with Bronwyn on whatever I want to work on. At the moment I am trying to put together a (small, foolish but do-able) routine to perform at the spring recital. Fabric is what the userpic looks like (that is my best trick at the moment) also called silks or soie; you've seen it in Cirque videos, and now there is a woman doing silks and contortion in a hotel commercial (!). I am much lumpier than she is, and not so strong, so my tricks are, well, lumpier, really. But I love doing it, even though it hurts and makes me stiff and complainy all the next day. And I am getting better. Very very slowly.

loong day

Mar. 4th, 2008 08:29 pm
dancing_crow: (Default)
After waking around 3:00am when the front came through and heated me up (I keep thinking I am getting hot flashes but so far it has been misuse of the thermostat and other external issues. I'm grateful) I was up for early Y exercise, which I am attempting to use to improve my strength to weight ratio, from both ends. It would work better if I didn't love dessert so much. I had scheduled myself for a yoga class, and Wendy wanted to take the horses to an indoor riding ring to get started on the spring training schedule and it is (finally) a Circus day again. I contemplated skipping one or another of these things, but I'm glad I didn't.

In yoga we did a bunch of hand stands. I start them differently, which kind of bugs the teacher, but she is mostly OK with it since I warn her what I'm going to do. I can do very respectable handstands against the wall, and head stands almost anywhere I can put down enough padding. She had us experiment with forearm stands too, so I told her "I'm going to give you heart failure now" and kicked up into a forearm stand proper. I was insufferable. But polite.

At the barn we got it cleaned in record time and then the woman came who wanted to buy Dakota. She is nice, peaceful and cheerful. They would work well together. With the ice and snow there wasn't a lot they could do, but she walked up and down the path and around the manure path. A woman came with her who said she did massage and communication. To my huge credit I didn't laugh at anything she said until I was home. She did do some interesting stretches and manipulations, and found a very tight muscle along his armpit (?) that would explain why he always hates having the girth tightened. Standing around in the snow, my feet got colder and colder and colder. I started in almost shirtsleeves, and finished with my lined mittens on and the spare car sweatshirt I keep for emergencies and I was still shivering. After the they left, Wendy and I hooked up her trailer and took Dakota and Flash to another farm to use the indoor. It felt a little odd because it was the barn I pixied at last year, but we had fun, I think. Flash was compeltely deranged - Wendy had him on a 20'lead, and he was goggleyed at first and then bucking and farting and leaping about in fabulous ways. I lead Dakota around the indoor one each direction, using cookies to bribe him, and then hopped on bareback. He was also a bit bug-eyed, but he handled it much better. He was most disturbed by a bucket catching drips in the ring. He likes buckets because buckets mean food, but this bucket made a ticking noise every time a drip hit it, and he'd flinch as if stung, and then approach it again. We mostly walked, and did some small trot circles, keeping well away from Flash's flashing hooves. We returned home just in time to tidy everything away and run fetch children.

I circus I spent an exhausting 45 minutes working on learning new tricks on fabric. It is amazing how hard the first time is, and how grateful I was to be able to stop and breathe and then come at it again. Al said he admired my determination, which is nice of him to say because I was feeling singularly lumpy and incapable. Yet I managed to accomplish the tricks I had worked on before with a certain level of grace and style. Practice practice practice. Or two blocks down and cross the street. I'm not sure there is a market for circus at Carnegie Hall.

I am pleased to be home and I'm going to bed. The morning comes much too soon.
dancing_crow: (Default)
No ponies yesterday, no ponies tomorrow. It is school vacation week. The fact that not one of my offspring is horse crazy I view as a catastrophic failure of genetics. But at least I have circus today. I am still working on a very very short routine on fabric for the spring recital. I shall be the oldest, fattest, happiest participant in the whole show. You are all cordially invited to come and cheer me on.
dancing_crow: (Default)
Temp: a balmy, rainy 40F
Layers: not an issue
Thoughts: why are my hands SO COLD when it isn't even freezing out? ow ow ow what did I do in circus yesterday yo be so sore today?

Each time I let the horses out, I think I know what they are going to do, and each time they go a different way and my heart sinks, and I am sure they are all headed over the horizon and I will have to chase them in the car and bring them back... what? in the back seat of the van? and then they come roaring back into view snorting and bucking and having a great time. I guess if I thought they were really headed AWAY, I'd be a lot more careful with halters and leadshanks and turning on the fence and keeping the gate closed. But the grass is all under 18" of snow and ice, the only stuff to eat is in the paddock, and the only place to roll in the fresh snow and stretch your legs a little is, well, not in the paddock.

This time they all waited til the black thoroughbred mare was turned out, and headed down towards the house, in the rain and the mist. The next thing I knew they were galloping up along the trail, and then out and around again. Again at the end, they all roared into the paddock and settled down almost instantly.

Alice was home from school today, so I had to skip home.

I am so sore it feel like I was beaten. I think it is a combo of stretching and climbing.

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