Saturday, 15 December 2007

There is something magical about the frost and teaching people who really want to learn

I know it's cold and my toes are mostly in the state of constant freeze alert but I just can't help but be overwhelmed by the beauty of the frosted arenas when I teach late in the evenings. Don't laugh but on Wednesday, with the floodlights on, it all looked like someone has just dropped and scattered millions of tiny silver earrings all over the place! I kept staring at it now and then with some sort of childish admiration ;) I spent my childhood in the country where winter means snow and a lot of it. Frost like that is a different matter ;)
Horses take longer to warm up in this weather. Sometimes they are being a little fresh and playful and I have to be mega watchful with beginner riders. Sometimes we stop and while I explain things to the riders I am surrounded by the clouds of warm air blown out through the horse's nostrils.
One of the children asked me why she can see the horse's breath in the winter but not in the summer...At the moments like that I am quite pleased I spent four years in a profiled high school class studying biology and chemistry ;))

I found this online at www.wondertime.go.com : Why can I see my breath when it's cold?

The Kid's Answer
Kai, age 4: Because oxygen is in your mouth and you blow it out when it's cold. It's white and it comes out of your mouth and some people like to do that. In the summer, the oxygen is still in your mouth and it's sleeping, so you don't see it.

The Parent's Answer
Kai's mom: You have warm air inside you and cold air outside. When they mix, you get a white cloud.

The Scientist's Answer
Water has three phases: liquid, gas, and solid. Water vapor is the gas phase, and ice is the solid phase. What you are seeing when you see your breath, says Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist at the NOAA National Weather Service in Silver Spring, Maryland, are little droplets of water condensing out of a gas that's in your lungs. Our breath contains a lot of vapor because our lungs are quite moist. When we head outside on a cold day, water molecules (the vapor) in our breath lose the energy that, when they're warm, keeps them moving. Instead of bouncing around, they crowd up next to each other. And as they slow down, the molecules change from a gas state to denser liquid and solid states — the visible cloud of tiny particles of water and ice that you see when you exhale.

How to Explain It to Kids
Go outside and have your kids blow on their hands so they can feel how warm their breath is compared to winter air. When our warm breath puffs into cold air, tiny droplets are squeezed out of it like water from a sponge. The drops make a small, vanishing cloud.

After huffing and puffing out in the cold, head back in to warm up with hot chocolate. The plume of steam from the boiling kettle is like your breath: hot and wet. As the jet of water-laden warm air mixes with the cooler air of the kitchen, moisture in it comes out as a cloud of water droplets. The droplets are so small, they disappear from view before ever reaching the ground — just like your frozen breath.

It's handy to know little facts like that as, thank goodness, they earn you a little bit of attention and save you from frustration ( I am not too good with kids, you see).

On Thursday I had a really good session with Hamlet. There was a lot to like about the connection and the contact was better as well. I was particularly happy with the half-halts as I finally managed to get them actually going through him (half-decently) rather than stopping at the base of his neck in a jerky fashion.

Today was quite a busy day which saw me teaching riding club riders in Kent. Although I do have sessions with children/teenagers there they are so much more involved in riding that I almost enjoy teaching them as much as I enjoy teaching adults.
The thing with children riding since forever and without instruction is that they develop all sorts of quirky methods to deal with problems. Those methods are very rarely of much help for their further development as riders and in fact they very often work against them.
Standing in the stirrups, for instance, and pulling hard on a strong pony's mouth will indeed stop the pony but will not teach a child to use their seat, to half-halt, to communicate with the pony with their entire body rather than just the reins. Habits like that are mega hard to break and they desensitise the pony in the process but we are working on it.
What is great is how much effort and heart those young riders put into the lessons and seeing them and the ponies improve is an excellent reward.

The adults' lesson was my typical 'torture' session as I do make those people work hard. They are usually rather tired afterwards but since they love it and I am determined for them to improve, we have a lot of fun time as well as moments of serious learning.
We are continuing to work on flexion and stretching, relaxation and suppleness which is basically the same what I presently do with Hamlet. I do think it's such an important building block for any further steps that I am not going to get anybody to skip on it. The horses have a 'thank you' notes all over their faces, they snort, they chew the bits, they have foamy mouths. It's a privilege to teach people who put so much effort into the exercises and all the 'homework' I give them in between our lessons.
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The great news is that I have finally managed to book a session with Anna Ross-Davies. It was difficult to fit the day that would suit all parties involved but I guess there aren't impossible things for those who are really determined. The 1st February 08 is the date. Still a long wait but I am told by everyone it will be well worth it!
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