Sunday, October 30, 2011

an insightful clinic, and October snow

The clinic yesterday went great! I was nervous because despite my best intentions, I left my house late and was then further delayed by Lucy being wary of the step-up stock trailer that I borrowed, which made me very late to the clinic. I didn't let myself speed at all - in fact, I went 50 or slower the whole way there on the highway. It was my first time trailering alone and the trailer I borrowed was a 4-horse stock trailer, which was bigger than anything else I've towed so far. That combined with my baby being inside was reason enough to go nice and slow and just get there whenever I could.

It turned out that the clinic organizer had added another session before mine, so I was in fact very EARLY :) See? Things work out for a reason! Lucy unloaded great and the barn manager let me put her in one of their empty stalls. The weather was deteriorating already so the clinic was held in their indoor. Lucy munched on her hay while I watched most of the lesson before mine, and then I got her ready for our lesson.

The clinician teaching the lessons is also a well-respected judge around this area. I showed under him a lot as a kid and always appreciated his fairness as a judge. I was excited to get his insight on Lucy.

He immediately commented on her huge stride even just at the walk, but also said it was "hurried". We spent the first half hour making her more adjustable and also making her stride less quick. We talked about half halts and it turns out I've been doing them wrong for about 20 years! ha. His half half method was waaaaay more effective with Lucy. He said instead of pulling back evenly with both hands (as I've been doing for ages), hold your outside rein at a constant pressure to support, and "vibrate" your inside rein. I tried it and immediately her stride slowed, she dropped her head, and waited for another instruction from me. He said, "Yes! This is what it's all about! With your half halt you're saying, 'Lucy?' and she is supposed to respond, 'yes?'" This is a vast improvement over using the "old" half halt with her, because she would immediately go to fight it.

a nice "quiet" trot, and I'm not even slouching!
We did some work over small fences. It started with a small vertical line with five strides between it. Lucy and the other horse in our lesson both rushed through it and jumped very flat. Next he asked us to trot to the first fence and then bring them to a trot before the second fence. Both horses flat-out ignored their riders and bombed through the line again. He said we needed lots of grids. I was like, yes, I know, that's why I'm here! I can set up lines just fine. I want to know how to set up grids and teach her to pace herself.

To my delight, he moved the two jumps so that they made a bounce. It wasn't a very tight bounce but it was a good place to start. He mentioned something about height not being necessary to teach these things, but I wasn't upset about the small jumps at all. In fact, on my clinic application I had written "I don't care how big the jumps are - I just want to learn how to ride her through a grid!"

The first time Lu went through the line, she was very cautious about the second jump but she bravely gave it her best shot. I was really proud of her! She knocked the first jump down but I didn't even care -- the important thing was that she jumped the second jump. We haven't done a bounce like that before, AND the second jump had this weird fabric filler thing on it that spooked the heck out of the other horse in our lesson, and that horse had been showing in the 3'9" classes all summer.

First time through the bounce. She's about to obliterate the first jump but look
at how hard she's thinking about the second. Joe is saying "SLOW. SLOW!!!"
We did the two jumps as a bounce a few times, and then he added a third jump to the line, also as a bounce. We went through that a bit, and then as our final test, he tightened up the line so that the horses really had to use their brains and jump round. She did it perfectly! She's so clever :D

A video showing some of the flat work, and the progression of the bounce lines.

Watching the other person in my lesson negotiate the line on her horse. One of
the best things about clinics like this is being able to learn from the clinician
AND the other people riding. You can always learn something new!
I was really, really pleased with her for the following reasons:

-it was cold, rainy, and miserable yesterday. she didn't try any nonsense at all. I believe this time last year she was already throwing herself through the air and refusing to go forward and in general being a raging b*tch. I guess all of that GastroGard did work, afterall. I am feeling much less apprehensive about this winter.

-she behaved *really* well in the strange indoor, which btw had several stalls in it, some equipment at one end, and lots of people at the other end who were auditing the clinic. not a single spook out of her!

-she was super brave to the strange jumps, and was really a good sport about the whole thing. I was by no means riding her perfectly. It's been about ten years since I did a line of bounces and she let me figure myself out up there while she negotiated the lines. Really, really good.

-she didn't seem to mind the open stock trailer I borrowed for the day. even with the rain coming in through the slats at the top of the trailer walls, she was quiet back there the entire trip both ways. I did leave her fleece lined blanket on for the trip because I thought she'd be cold and wet otherwise.

Speaking of cold and wet, it SNOWED last night! We got just a few inches but my parents house in MA got 14" and they have trees down all over the property. The poor trees didn't have a chance...they still have green leaves on them! I texted L, Lucy's leaser today and asked if she wanted to have a snowy trail ride but it looks like the snow is going to be gone for the most part before we have a chance to ride in it ;) Oh well, I'm sure there is much more snow in store for us this winter!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

barn rules

The number of horses at my barn is about to increase by 150%, as a local lesson barn is moving 15 of their horses and ponies to my barn on the first of November to stay for the winter. I'm not exactly thrilled about this because I like how small and quiet my barn is. I also like that there are minimal kids. There are a few kids at my barn currently but they are pretty mature and reliable. My last barn was all adults, though some of them acted a lot like kids themselves. All of the boarders at my current barn are respectful of each others space, I know all of the horses and their quirks, and I don't have to battle for ring time or play dodge-em with four other horses in the ring.

I know I've been spoiled with all of that space, though, and I've accepted the fact that the circumstances will change dramatically very soon.

My barn owner and I were talking about barn rules. With so many new people moving in all at once, there is the potential for things to get very messy. My opinion is that we should post the barn rules in a very obvious spot and have a barn meeting within the first week of all of the new people being there to introduce everyone and make sure we're all on the same page. The thing is we don't even have official barn rules because we've been able to function just fine with everyone cleaning up after themselves, being respectful of each other, and making sure their horses are behaving themselves.

My main concerns are:

-possibly having to schedule ring time because there are going to be so many lessons that the lesson program could literally take over the barn and all of the space
-if there is a lesson going on (or two), are they going to allow me to ride in the indoor with them? this is New England and it's going to start snowing soon, so though we have an outdoor it may be under 3' of snow until March like it was last year.
-making sure people clean up after themselves. this is a HUGE issue for me. I hate when people pick their horses feet out and then just leave the dirt right in the middle of the aisle.
-ensuring that people are aware of what they can and can't use. I'm lucky that my tack, grain, and other supplies are locked up safely in a small tack room that I share with one other person, but my tack trunk is out in the aisle. I don't keep anything valuable in it but I would hope that no one would go looking for something in there. I am very particular about my things.

So my question is, what rules does your barn have?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shameless plug - please vote for me!

Tredstep is running a Facebook contest to win a pair of half chaps. I posted a photo of Cairo, Lucy and I and we are in second place. If you have time and wouldn't mind, please like my photo on Tredstep's page! I would be thrilled to win the new half chaps and after this week, it would be a really nice change. My tall boots broke, then my washing machine self-destructed and flooded my basement and we had to purchase a new one today (NOT in the budget this month but what can you do?!), and then today my Mazda once again failed at life after it just got $5,000 worth of repairs (new transmission, new clutch) a few months ago and is going to have to be towed to the garage tomorrow. I could really use some good luck.

Link to Tredstep's page (scroll down to see my photo)

Direct link to my photo

Thank you!!

I absolutely *had* to share this video

Can you believe the strength, seat, and centre of balance this girl has?!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

GREAT day!

The show today went better than I could have expected. By some miracle, Dreamer stayed white overnight. He wore a sheet last night but I seem to recall from my days showing him that he would always manage to get stained somewhere, even on occasion UNDER the sheet. Last night he must have been feeling cooperative because we pulled him out of his stall this morning and I almost had to put sunglasses on, he was so sparkly.

Then we took the sheet off of him and while we loaded Lucy, we put him in his stall for all of two minutes and the little devil rolled in the dirty stall, so he had to have a vigorous cleaning session with Miracle Groom and an old towel to get him clean again.

C rode Dreamer beautifully. This was her very first show and she was nervous but excited. I spent a long time with her yesterday practicing in the ring at the barn as if we were at a show, so I'd stand in the middle, "call" the class into order, and go through the walking and trotting in each direction. We practiced how to switch direction, how to pass another horse, and how to stand when the judge asked people to come into the middle of the ring at the end of the class. We reviewed what the differences were between "pleasure", "equitation", and "command". She is really smart and kept her wits about her, and concentrated on accomplishing her goals, which were very specific, instead of trying to "ace" the entire thing. She came away with all firsts and seconds and a championship ribbon! Dreamer wasn't perfect for her; he gave her some trouble by the gate, trying to get out of the ring and that sort of thing. She gave him a smack with the crop and didn't make anything but forward and straight an option for him. He didn't give her any nonsense after that! I was so proud of her.

Lucy warmed up so well for her classes but once the classes started, she was more excited than I had hoped she'd be. The show was so small that I entered the Open division because no one else showed up for the Green division and I didn't want to be the only one in the class. There was only one other girl in the Open division. Our first class was hunter pleasure, which we obviously flunked because she's neither a hunter nor very pleasurable to ride lol. Oh well, she tried very hard. The second class was equitation and I won! The third class was command, which we also won (and it just occured to me that we picked up the wrong ribbon for that class at the end of the day...oh well). I was really happy that we won that class because we were asked to do things like walk/canter transitions, backing up, changes of direction at the canter, etc. She ACED it. The fourth class was the Championship class, which we got second in because she blew the left lead (picked up the right lead, got pissy, threw a tantrum/flying change leap fest, and then picked up the left lead...RIGHT in front of the judge. Argh. Oh well. She was much better than the first show we went to over the summer. Then we did trail, which we won out of everyone at the show. I think that's pretty hilarious and awesome.

The tall boots looked great and I was able to at least put my heel down, yay :).

The biggest stress source of the day was having a student with me and having to get her and her horse ready on top of me and my horse, which was a first for me. I think I handled it well. Both of us were on time for our classes, and both horses got a warm-up.

off to the warm-up ring

Trail class - going over the "bridge"

backing up through the poles

moving a bucket from one barrel to another

C and Dreamer warming up. Don't they look great?!

Dreamer with his ribbons at the end of the day
On a side note, check out the contest over at Get My Fix to win a free custom ear net from De La Coeur.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

tall boot nightmare

Did I mention we're going to a show tomorrow?


Ok, we're going to a show tomorrow.

This was all very last minute. I got the email with the class list in the middle of the week, wrangled a trailer to use on Friday, went and picked the trailer up Friday night, spent all day today getting the horses clean (yes, plural...I'll get to that, though) and tack conditioned, ran a million errands, and then at 4pm just as I was about to leave the barn to go to my Dad's birthday dinner an hour away, I tried my tall boots on.

I got the zipper halfway up the leg on the right boot and the zipper completely failed.

My beautiful, $380, never-see-the-light-of-day-unless-it's-something-important, zip-up Ariat Challenges. I think I rode in them maybe 75 times.

I spent 25 minutes trying to get them off, PRAYING I didn't have to cut them at all, and finally I pulled hard enough to get the zipper pull back down to the bottom of the boot.

Then I had a minor breakdown. With 16 hours to go until we were supposed to be at a show (and dressed the part), I had no tall boots. This is when it is really, REALLY good to have a Dover store less than five minutes down the road. I called them almost in hysterics to see if they could do anything to help me. They said, "sure, bring them in, we'll see what we can do."

Folks, less than 20 minutes after I walked into Dover with my busted old Ariat boots (which, by the way, I bought SEVEN years ago), I was walking out the door with a brand new pair of Ariat Challenge II's that I had exchanged for my old boots. It's like that pair of size 9 tall/regular calf was sitting right there waiting for my old ones to fail. I literally tried them on at the checkout counter as they were ringing me up. I wasn't even late to my Dad's birthday dinner.

Dover, I freakin' love you. The only bad part is that this means I will be riding in an entire division at a show with brand new boots. I am doing the best I can to break them in at least a bit tonight but so far my ankles and the backs of my knees are not pleased with this arrangement. Commence walking up and down the stairs 50 times? Yes.

Oh, so horseS. Yes, Dreamer is coming too, and it will be his rider's first show ever. She is excited and nervous but after her ride today, I think she's going to do very well! We set some goals for her that have nothing to do with the colour of the ribbon she gets so no matter how you slice it, tomorrow will be successful and most of all, FUN. :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Congratulations to our winners of the hand painted saddle pad contest :)

I am so pleased with how many people entered this contest! Thanks for your support, everyone!

The random winner is Stacy of The Demure Connoisseur. Her haiku was:

with a quiet neigh
and a soft sweet nuzzle
I sure love my horse. 

And my personal pick winner is Terry of Moondance Ranch. Her haiku was:

crisp sharp morning air
first slanting rays of sunshine
wild hooves thunder by

I picked Terry's haiku because it jumped right out at me. Reading it gave me a clear visual of a scene I have witnessed often, but will never tire of: frisky horses playing in the early morning cool fall air.

I loved ALL of the entries; you are all so clever :) but sadly I could only pick two, so congratulations to the winners! I will be emailing you both to find out which pad you'd like, or if you'd like a personalized one.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

matching jackets

Do I or do I not have the most tolerant horse ever?

I know, it shocks me too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

tomorrow is your last chance!

Last call: Don't forget to enter to win a hand-painted saddle pad! Entries close tomorrow at midnight and I will announce the winner on Friday.

Since there are so many fantastic entries, I've decided I will pick TWO winners. One for best entry, and one random. I was going to do a 2nd and 3rd place but I can't give away three pads so I thought this was better.

Enter here!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kenny gets brave

Kenny has really taken up a renewed interest in riding. I had to run a big errand on Friday night so I wasn't around, but he went and tacked Lu up by himself, warmed her up, and rode her in the indoor. Toward the end of the ride, he decided to jump over a crossrail that he had set up. She jumped it well, so he made it a 2' vertical, which she also jumped well. He sent me a photo on my phone of the jump and told me he jumped it with Lucy and my eyes just about bugged out of my head. I was a bit concerned that Lucy is still so young and impressionable, and I didn't want her or Kenny to get hurt. He assured me that it was a positive ride, though.

On Saturday, he rode again and this time I was there to help him. She was kind of a huge brat to begin with, but he got her attention by using lots of half halts, changes of direction, and circles. They had to ride in the indoor again because the outdoor was totally saturated from all the rain we got on Friday, and Lucy is really different to ride indoors. She is stiff, she turns like a piece of cardboard, and she is more "up". She did relax after a few minutes, though. He ended up jumping her over a 2'6" vertical and they both did great. I was like, PHEW! What a nice horse. She really took care of him, listened well, and was so cute.

He rode again yesterday and this time I have photos! He "warmed her up" for me and then I rode for a few minutes.

Pretty good, huh?

First swedish oxer! What a star.

Trying out a bigger spread.
I am also very proud of the young lady who has my old pony Dreamer at my farm. They have come so far since Dreamer arrived just a couple short months ago. She started out not being able to really stay with him at the trot, has progressed to feeling comfortable enough to canter through fields and on the trails, and yesterday they jumped their first little crossrail! I was beaming...and so was she :) Dreamer was such a superstar. He is pretty much autopilot to a jump, which is great for her right now because she can focus on her position and not worry about getting to their destination. That pony is worth his weight in gold.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

fastest way to get a white shirt dirty

looking for some feedback

I've been pondering a few things over the past day or two and I'd love some feedback.
1. Do you keep in touch with your horses old owner? If so, to what extent? Do you email back and forth occasionally, are they friends with you on Facebook, do they follow your blog if you have one, etc? Do they support the progress you've made with your horse? Do you invite them to visit your horse? Do they invite themselves to visit your horse? If you found out they were speaking badly about you and your horse, what would you do?

2. Do you keep an amount of money in mind that you would sell your horse for? Lately I've been considering what Lucy is "worth". I'm not thinking about selling her but her insurance came up for renewal and she's insured for $6,000 right now, which is the lowest I could insure her for when I bought her. At that point she was really worth nothing and my main concern was being able to pay for colic surgery if she ever needed it, which is why I insured her in the first place. With my insurance plan, as is the case with most insurance companies, you cannot insure the horse for major medical without also insuring the horse for mortality, so I had to pay the premium for $6k (just shy of $600). Long story short, I was telling a horsey friend about having to renew Lucy's insurance and when I told her how much she was insured for, my friend was surprised I didn't insure her for more. I really have no idea what Lucy would be worth if I sold her right now, though. She doesn't have much of a show record but she is a pretty cool horse with a lot of talent.

Reminder: don't forget to enter the hand-painted saddle pad giveaway! Contest ends in one week! I am getting very excited to pick a winner and due to the fantastic entries, I've decided to add second and third place prizes. Click here to enter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kenny, Cairo, and Lucy

Today I met Kenny at the barn after work. Lauren had already ridden Lucy but he really wanted to ride, so we decided that she could go on a low-key walking trail ride and have a bit of trot/canter in the field if she was good.

Lucy "Marilyn" Taylor

Cairo takes herself so seriously...sometimes.

Dad! Dad! HI! Dad! Down here! HI!!!!
Wait for meeeeeee!

Cairo having a blast. Lucy was not as excited. She just wanted to go home and
she was being naughty to try and get out of work, but you know what that got
her? more time in the field, and some ring work too.