Thursday, June 29, 2017

Hacking through the Swedish Woods

Hey all! I know it's been a while, but I've been too busy with school to ride.  I met a new friend a couple months ago in a new Spanish class who has ridden her whole life, she and her family breed and train warmbloods for show jumping. About a week and a half ago a new filly was born! Her name is Come Fortune. She is a cute little light bay with a white marking on her face.  When I met her a few days ago, her teeth hadn't even come in yet. I spent time scratching and petting her, and she rubbed and sucked on my hand a bit.  She was the youngest horse I've ever met, so it was a fun experience.  I also met several stallions and some of the riding and breeding mares. They were all very nice.

I got the opportunity to ride one of the mares, a bay named Cocco.  She was a very pleasant horse, a real "thought-reader"  who was sensitive to the rider and barely needed to be touched to do what I wanted.  She also had one of the most lovely canters I have every ridden; it was smooth and easy to ride.

My friend and I rode on the trails, talking and enjoying ourselves, and even went of the path and into the woods and fields.  Unlike the golden and brown summer grass in California, the fields were of verdant green grass and flowers, some of which were the purple and blue lupin flowers, just like the ones in Calfornia. It was also lovely to ride through the shade of the trees and past some old farms.  My friend said that one of the old farms we passed had been used in a famous old Swedish movie, but I do not recall the name.

We walked for most of the time, but in some portions we allowed the horses to canter freely.  It was exhilarating to let loose and to canter freely outside of the arena, and I feel it was much easy to ride the canter like this.  I rose out of the saddle and could easily rode her smooth gait. It was so great to be back in the saddle on such a lovely horse and ride in the open with no pressures.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

First Ride Back

My first ride back was fantastic; I feel like I picked up almost where I left off! I was able to use my seat properly and turn with mostly my body, not my hands. I went to a large riding stable with an indoor arena and at least 50 horses and ponies total, many of which looked much nicer than the average horse I'd see at barns or pastures in California. It was quite a new experience, riding in a indoor. I rode in a group lesson, as is common here in Sweden, on a beautiful black gelding named Ben.  It became clear that I was given the most challenging horse of the group to ride.  Ben is sensitive; he requires hardly any aids at all to walk, trot, canter, and turn.  This can be challenging in some ways, as you can imagine, because it means that he often is faster than the rider wants.  However, I personally like these kinds of horses because I enjoy having a horse that is responsive and that I do not need to work hard with to get a forward gait(and I like the speed too, if controlled.  I feel like I handled him well.  I applied what I learned with Laura about using my seat to slow Ben down to a comfortable to pace at all gaits.  I also tried keeping all the visualizations she has taught me in mind while I rode.
I love Ben; he is so gorgeous and fun.

This did occur right away though.  It took a little bit to get a feel for him. I started the lesson with a warmup in walk, trot, and canter, and then the group and I moved on to jumping.  I had told the instructor that I did not have much experience with jumping, but the fences were low, so I felt confident in my abilities.  For the first exercise I was supposed to jump over a fence, circle at a set of poles several strides away, and then jump the next fence.  The first time through, I was not so successful with keeping Ben at a desireable pace, and he went through the exercises uncontrollably.  I was a bit flustered when I lost my stirrup after the first jump and when the band came of my stirrup(it was those jump stirrups with the break-away band on the outside; the instructor did not have an extra band, but I rode well without it from then on, once my heels were down).
I am about to circle here

However, for the rest of the exercises, in which more jumps were included, I increased my focus on my leg position, on posting the trot slowly, and on using my seat to slow Ben to a desired pace.  I felt like by the middle of the lesson, Ben and I were really working together.  He kept at a comfortable pace and listened to my aids.  I even felt comfortable cantering the final jump.

The trainer believes that I did a good job with Ben, and my mom thinks that my seat and my hands were much better than that of many of the other rides(she thinks I kept my hands steady and made good use of my legs to turn).  The only comment the instructor made was that my lower legs were all over the place, but I think that will improve as I develop my muscles again.

There is one thing I noticed about the teaching here that is not the same as how Laura taught.  That is that while the instructor told us what exercises to do, she did not focus very closely on techniques.  With Laura I would be guided at almost every moment--told when to fix my position, lift my hand, or to change something in my riding and reminded when to look up and straighten out. I know these are all things a rider should consider on his or her own. However I feel like with Laura's method I gain more of a solid foundation than with what I have seen of this lesson so far, although these kinds of lessons may move forward to knew things more quickly.  This is just an observation of the different teaching methods I have experienced, not really something I am picking on.  I know that how I learned with Laura is not how all instructors teach anyway. Regardless it is great to be back and to have an instructor to guide me.  I hope to continue riding here, and then in the summer I would like to train with Laura.

Well, that is all for now!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I'm Back

I know I have been gone for a long time, but I have been very busy with school. I have been studying the IB program, which takes so much time; it is an intense program.  Also I have not yet been able to ride yet here in Sweden.  However I am looking into a place and will try to begin to soon! I even have a friend here who used to ride, but he does not anymore because of how busy he has been with school.  Still, it is fun to know a guy who has some common interests.

These past few months I have tried several new things, including learning hip hop and Arabic dance and training jujutsu. I have been working on a dance choreography and I'll post the video once we complete it! The jujutsu instructor has been impressed with my strength and how quickly I learning, and I am convinced that part of this comes from riding horses.  It is fun to learn to fight and to defend myself.  My instructor thinks I can graduate to my first belt, the yellow, by summer!

Anyways I hope the riding stable works out. It will only be once a week with how busy I am with school and with how far away the place is, but it will be a lot easier to travel to sicne I can take the train and the bus on my own.  I'll try to post more often, even if it is not completely horse related!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

I'm Still Alive, and I'm Starting School

I haven't been posting on the blog much because I still haven't found riding opportunities since I'm still not completely settled in yet(I don't move into an apartment with my family until October).  Once I do, however, I'm sure I will find riding opportunities.  There are many lesson barns in Sweden, and the landlord's daughter rides horses.  It's frustrating not riding, but I have enough keeping me busy these next few months.

On Monday, I start school.  I will be attending a school called Per Brahegymnasiet, which was built in the year 1283.  It is a beautiful old building that has a magical feel to it because of its age, as if it were Hogwarts.

There I will be studying full IB.  IB classes are international classes that are at an international standard; they are typically more challenging than regular classes.  All the classes will be in English, but I'm am taking a Swedish as a second language class as well.  In addition to that, I will be taking English at a Higher Level, History, Physics at a Higher Level, Advanced Mathematics at a Higher Level, and Chemistry.

I'm focusing heavily on math and science because I someday hope to study astrophysics or quantum physics at university and work as a researcher to discover new information about these fields of work.  Learning about how the world works truly fascinates me. I find these things - events that happen on the largest scale, way out in space, and the things that happen on the most minute scale within the atom - truly extraordinary.

I'm looking forward to classes. I'll endeavor to keep this blog active, even though I do not have horse information to post about.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

DIY Horseownership Stall Sign

Recently, I asked the talented Olivia of DIY Horseownership made a stall sign, which I gifted to Laura.  I've been wanting to get something for Laura to show my appreciation for all she has done, and something beautifully handmade seemed perfect! Laura loved her gift!

 If you haven't visited Olivia's blog yet, go check it out.  She makes many creative projects and also goes on fun adventures with her mule, Nilla, and her husband.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Swedish Tack Store!

Last week I was away from home at a summer camp for youth from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland.  It was an amazing experience and I met so many great people whom I consider to be friends(my first new friends since leaving the US).  I've also had several other exciting adventures, but nothing horse related has happened until last Saturday, when I visited a tack store!  There were several things that stood out to be about this store that makes it different than my experience in California.

Where I lived in California it was difficult to find a tack store because most of them were not in the main part of town.  A person had to go out of the way, to the industrial or agricultural area  of town where people buy tractors and farm equipment.  This Swedish one, however, was in a large shopping center situated in the main part of town.  It is much more accessible than the stores I've been to in California.

Another exciting thing about the store is that it carried mostly English riding supplies.  Of course I don't have anything against Western; I've enjoyed riding Western and have become more open-minded about different riding disciplines.  Nevertheless, I'm an English girl at heart.  My heart leapt when I saw gorgeous dressage and jumping saddles, English bridles and pads, and tall boots and paddock boots.  All these equipment seemed affordable too, and I think that were less expensive than some things I have bought online in America.  There were name brands too, including Ariat, Toulouse, and Horseware Ireland.

There was bling on a lot of things(helmets, saddle pads, bridles)

While there, I tried on some helmets(I need a new one) and looked at the affordable breeches and everything else there. I didn't purchase anything, but simply looking was great. I'll stop here when I need some horse equipment!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Greetings from Sweden!

I've haven't been posting anything since coming to Sweden, so I wanted to say that I'm doing well.

On June 5th, my family woke up at the crack of dawn and drove off to Las Vegas from what once was our home in Northern California.  The trip wasn't very eventful.  We stopped at a few rest stops along the way and that was it.  The one we stopped at for lunch was actually one we had stopped at many times before on various road trips.
A song from U2' s Joshua Tree album played on random shuffle so I had this picture taken.

In about mid-afternoon, we arrived in Las Vegas and checked into our hotel.  We stayed two nights, walking done the Strip each day to find places eat dinner.  We had been to Vegas before that, so we didn't go out of are way to see things, but we still did a fair bit of walking and I several photos.
Las Vegas

I find the Ministry of Magic!

On Tuesday afternoon, we headed to the airport so we could wait for our flight, boarding the plane around 6:00 in the evening.  Each seat had a screen where the passenger could watch movies(not so unusual, but awesome) and even track the flight of the plane(location, elevation, speed, etc).  I watched two movies, but I also enjoyed tracking the flight of the plane.  Though I tried to sleep, I only got a few winks of sleep.  I have trouble sleep when traveling in cars, and apparently airplanes too, and once it was light out, it was impossible to sleep.  Nevertheless, I was to excited to feel very tired. Once the plane began to land, I admired the landscape from above.  The dark, snowtopped mountains and fjords of Norway were particularly stunning.
I'm leaving on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again

Around 3:00 in the afternoon, we landed in Sweden and took a train south toward Småland, where my grandma lives.  We took a short train first, and then transferred to a train that we rode for several hours across the countryside.  It was a comfortable train, equipped with tables and Wi-Fi, and it went at a speed of 200 kph.  However, getting to the train, boarding, and unboarding was difficult.  Between the four of us, we had seven large bags, four hand luggage bag, and a small purse. Each of the large back was filled to the limit set by the plane: 20 kilos, or 44 pounds, if you prefer.

When leaving the second train in Nässjo, we had to pile everything by the doors several minutes ahead of time to make sure we got off with everything. After the train ride, we were picked up and taken to a very small town south of Jönköping.  Since arriving, my family has gone on at least one walk a day, exploring the area.  We can walk to the grocery store, a cafe, and a small train station from where we're staying, but we mostly just explore. I now know the community very well.  I have even found a hiking trail that leads to a lake.  The path is about 8 km, there and back.
This picture was taken at 10:00 PM

Since it is summer, it does not get fully dark.  At midnight, it is twilight out.  The sun is down and a few stars are out, but it is light enough to see easily.  Distant objects don't even appear as silhouettes. It was strange at first, but it's nice.  I'm.but looking forward to winter lightning, though, when it gets dark in mid-afternoon.  In Stockholm, there will only be 3 or 4 hours of daylight during the winter solstice.


An old farm we drove to 

After living in the drought-ridden California, it was amazing to see dozens of lakes in one area. This is the one we walked to.

This area of Sweden, Småland, has many of churches

I went to my first Midsummer Celebration!

Eksjö, a historic Swedish town 

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

I won't have any riding opportunities any time soon unfortunately, but hopefully I can once I get settled into a more permanent place.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Wonderful Ride

It seems unbelievable, but my time of leaving for Sweden has almost arrived.  The move will be bittersweet, because I'll miss the friends that I have in America, and I'll miss being a working student for Laura.  It has been so wonderful to know her, work with her, and learn from her.

On Wednesday, I had my last lesson with her and my last ride in America for a long time. I was given the privilege of riding my choice of mule.  I chose to ride CR Moxie J, the mule who won Dressage, Western Dressage, and English Pleasure at Bishop Mule Days last week.

The only way I can think of to describe what it was like to ride him is amazing.  He is the most trained animal I have ever ridden, and as such, he wasn't just a pushbutton lesson horse like many of the animals I have ridden.  He has the most amazing gaits I have ever ridden.  When I set him up properly and rode him in front of my leg, his walk was loose and free.  He's a big mule, so I was able to ask for large trot strides.  Perhaps his most amazing gait, however, was the canter.  The transition to the canter was always smooth.  All I had to do was making a kissing sound, and he would roll into the canter.  His strides had a lot of bounce to them, and they felt almost effortless to ride.

As I rode, I focused on keeping my body balanced, since any unbalance could affect my riding. When that was in place, I asked for forward, rhythmic gaits. I tried to keep an elastic connection between my hands and the bit, giving to Moxie slightly when he gave to the bit and became soft and round.  It was so amazing when he did so.  Because of the soft connection and roundness, I could allow him to stretch when I took a few moments to walk and catch my breath.  He stretched so nicely; it felt great.

I worked on a lot of circles.  At one point of the ride, after I had ridden each gait many times,  I rode each 20 meter circle in the arena one after the other(not a serpentine; I stayed on the same rein in this exercise).  I started at the walk worked up to doing the exercise in the canter.  When I kept a soft connection and the right amount of bend in Moxie's neck and body, things felt extraordinary.  It was amazing how effortlessly Moxie could do things.

I'm so happy that I had such an amazing last ride in America on an amazing mule.  I'll miss riding mules when I go to Sweden.  They're such amazing creatures, and I hope to tell European equestrians about them.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

San Francisco Trip

I apologize for being MIA these past couple months; I've been terribly busy getting ready for moving overseas to Sweden.  I have been out to the barn, helping Laura get ready for Bishop Mule Days and watching her ride with her trainer, who rides FEI horses.

On Friday the 20th, my family went to San Francisco to get our passports finalized.  We took the BART from Colma into town. While in San Francisco, we wandered all around town. Below are some of the photos that I took while there.

 Fishing Pier
Bay Bridge viewed from Pier

The things below here come from Fisherman's Warf.

This is the Sorting Hat.  I found it in the Mechanical Museum, where there are many old arcade games.   Most of the games are mechanically operated and are from before the days of video games.  I also played a mechanical bike race game with my brother(you had to twist nobs to move the bikes) and won.  My brother played Pong with my dad and was defeated by many points. I watched a mechanical galloping horse, but I haven't uploaded the video.   It was very exciting to see the museum, and I highly recommend going there next time you go to San Francisco. 
From right outside, by the WWII submarine and ship. 

WWII ship called the O'Brien.  My dad told me that many of those ships split in half and sunk because of a design flaw(the ports were squares, not circles).
 Then we to the Norwegian Church, where my parents were married 18 years ago.  It has a marvelous view.

Of course we went to Lombard Street just after, and I took a picture.
We then walked back to the BART station, returned to our car, and headed.  Except for spending about an hour getting our passports, another hour in the Norwegian Church, and about 20 minutes eating lunch, we spent the entire day walking or standing.

Moss Beach, near Pacifica

My parents lived in Pacifica before I was born, and my mom worked in Half Moon Bay.

Dune Beach, not very far from Half Moon Bay