Monday, July 16, 2018

Artist giveaway, and cards as affordable art!

I can't stop looking at this image
I've stopped sending "occasion" cards for the most part -- why feed the Hallmark Beast when you can support artists, rescues, and non-profits? My husband contributes to many nature/rescue/diabetes non-profits and often they send lovely cards to us.  We can personalize them for any occasion in our own hand.

I occasionally get cards from a local horse rescue. There are times, though, I like to pull out all the stops and send a "wow" artsy card that is blank inside.

Artistic find! Caroline Towning
I found one recently that is so beautiful and haunting I read about the artist Caroline Towning. She is based in the U.K.  I liked it enough to order it from London. Do you see what I see? How ethereal, like a ghost horse.

Towning works in pencil and watercolor, and oil. Her attention to detail is both realistic and expressive -- the animals appear present and alive. 
I had a chance to engage with Caroline a little when I wrote to her about the card. I learned she worked in animation and design and as a curator before she decided to devote her life to painting horses. Now based in London, Caroline specializes in equine portraiture in  horse racing, polo, show jumping and dressage. She can be found at competition trade fairs in the UK, and I hope one day to see her at the Land Rover 3-day.

Caroline Towning
The giveaway!  
I have a beautiful "gray horse" card to give away -- if you ordered these in the U.S. the shipping costs would be prohibitive, so it's special. To enter the contest, just leave a comment with the name you would give to this gray horse. My choice:

White Album

Love the Beatles. Make sure you leave your contact info in the comment so I can reach you!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Riley and I 2018

Since I fell of in 2014, I can count the times I've ridden Riley outside on both hands. This summer we're going to do better, as weather permits. Last Monday I had a nice outside ride, my first of the summer. See the playlist at or click on the image right!

Note that I'm using Correct Connect reins, which I think has really helped my contact and hand position as I'm riding -- I start with the reins too short, clearly, but I like the way it goes after that.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Correct Connect: Reins that help you improve your contact

I don't know why, but for some reason I have trouble keeping my grip on the bloody reins. My reins always seem to be too long, they slip through my hands, and I'm constantly adjusting them. Charlotte Dujardin has famously been quoted as saying "short reins win medals"! She is right. Long reins put your hands in your lap, encouraging you to collapse at the waist. Long reins can cause a break in the line from hand to the horse's mouth and facilitate fiddling/busy contact.   

I've struggled with this problem for longer than I care to admit. I've tried reins labelled sure grip, rubber lined, and rubber "infused" reins. Nothing has helped. 

What's Correct Connect? 
Last week, I tried the Correct Connect rein training system, which was developed by Olympic eventer Jill Hennenberg. I was searching Google  for reins to improve grip, trying words like grippy, grip, rubber, stops, and finally, in desperation, I typed "velcro reins." And there it was, the web site for Correct Connect.  

My reins don't have the white stops -- there are several options.
Correct Connect is a rein/glove system that offers the ultimate in grip -- the reins and gloves connect with a type of hook and loop system (aka Velcro). I thought it was genius, and the endorsements on the site had some big name trainers. The reins and gloves are about $100. I messaged the site to find out the length of the reins, and they responded on a Sunday night in about 5 minutes -- 114." I ordered the classic black Kyle option on the spot. The Kyle reins are all black as opposed to the Original with white stops (shown left).

My experience 
I rode in them for the first time on Sunday. I decided not to try them in a lesson, but I wish I had. You know when you're having one of those feel-good rides, you wish your trainer was there? I loved looking in the mirror and seeing solid, quiet  contact and Riley looking happy in the bridle, not bracing.  Suddenly I was focusing on other things -- like my position, my seat, and my upper body's connection to my hands. 

Not your father's Velcro The hook and loop attachment is not like your standard industrial Velcro -- it's a much lighter "stick," secure but easy to adjust. The few adjustments I needed to make (walk breaks, stretchy trot) were easy and natural. Other things I noticed:

  • I didn't take as many walk breaks. I could ride longer with Riley in a better balance.
  • Our transitions were better.
  • Riley had a better connection to the outside rein.
  • I had a better sense of communicating with Riley, and could use my hands in a more nuanced way. I noted that when my hands are a little wider, Riley seemed easier to direct through my leg and seat. 
I read on the site that the reins are a little stiff at first -- something I did not really experience or notice. The gloves felt great, and I'm picky about gloves -- I like to be able to bend my fingers easily. 

Standard disclaimers apply
Now I've only ridden in them once, and sometimes you try a gadget and have a honeymoon period. But many, many other times I've been disappointed from the start with a much anticipated miracle gadget. So this was a very pleasant surprise.  The one "down side" I saw was that it is possible to ride with a more open finger and still keep your position on the reins -- you gotta have some discipline, after all.

A training aid, not a crutch
I don't know if you could ride in a show with these reins, but I'm pretty sure that's not the point of the Correct Connect system. The reins help you get the right feel, and understand the benefits of a steady, elastic hand. I also think that Riley is going to have more trust in my hands as I ride in these reins. Correct Connect will help you/me have that epiphany about the right feel and connection.

There are a number of options with Correct Connect reins/gloves, and I'll talk more about this in my next blog post...