December 8, 2011

Dear Dexter

Dear Dexter,

Thank you for being patient while our riding time has been put on hold.  Thank you for continuing to get excited the few times I come out.  Our visits have become very special to me, even if its a few minutes to check you over and give you treats.  Somehow your soft nose and warm body have a way of grounding me.  Reminding me that even though times are stressful now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and as long as I have you, I have some serenity in my life. 

Thank you for taking care of me as we start to ride together again.  For slowing down when you feel me loose my balance, and for picking up right where you left off even if I have a long way to go.  I appreciate that you did not forget you were a working horse and never offered to buck (yet) during these first few rides. 

Thank you for keeping your canter slow even on the straight aways.  I promise we will graduate out of the small pen and into the pasture soon.  The small pen is more for me than you.  I still need the security of it.  And thank you for pushing though with me as I try to get us both back in shape.  I know you've enjoyed your time off, but I can tell you are happy to go back to work.  And I can say I am happy to be working with you again. 

I know right now with the weather, and the baby and work we dont' see each other much.  I promise as Alex gets older and the weather gets warmer we will see more of each other, to be honest not as much as we used to, but we will make it work.  We will still ride and learn and show, I won't let all our hard work, your work ethic and talent go to waste... I promise.

November 29, 2011

Back in the Saddle!

Ok, some of you may have noticed I've been gone, and some may have guessed that the reason was because the newest member of our family has arrived.  You are correct!

Introducing Alexander Louis -

He is two months old now and I feel like I am just now getting my head above water.  FYI, babies are HARD work.  I wasn't able to even think about Dexter for the first month or so.  Now things are settling in and I've gotten to ride a few times.  Dexter has picked up right where we left off, maybe even a little better.  I on the other hand have completely forgotten how to ride.  I fall all over the place.  Poor Dexter tries to keep up, he stops or slows down every time I start to loose my balance.  It makes for quite an interesting ride. 

I've finally realized I won't be able to keep up my normal routine now that I have Alex.  I was hoping to find a day care open late enough that would still allow me to ride after work.  But reality has struck and a) there are not day cares open that late, and b) I realize that won't leave me much time to spend with Alex in the evening, and before he arrived I didn't really care about that, now I do.  I'm thinking I'll have the weekends and maybe one or 2 days a week I can swing it to go out and ride, not exactly the competition schedule I was working on last year (before I got pregnant), but we will have to make it work.  I am committed to continue riding as it is the only thing that makes me feel like me. 

Dexter meeting his new little brother.
A quick work on motherhood - I mentioned a few times my trepidation with becoming a mom before Alex arrived.  I've never felt like a mom nor have I had the desire to become one.  Everyone reassured me that I would magically fall in love with him as soon as he arrived.  This was not exactly true.  It is hard to love something that demands so much and returns so little regarding emotions.  I'm not saying I hated him, but I wasn't head over heals either.  For the first 6 weeks or so he was simply "my responsibility".  It was my job to keep him alive and happy.  I had a strong deidcation to him, but no emotional attachment.Then as he started to get a personality I started to bond a little more.  Now I do love him and enjoy the time we spend together.  I still enjoy my time away as well.  I don't feel defined as a mother, I am still me, I just now have an new characteristic to add to my identity.  Not sure why I felt compelled to add this to the blog, maybe because the "non"motherly are so under represented.  Everyone seems to think once you have a child you are a mom and that's it, that's all you want to talk about.  And I want to represent those who still want to be seen as an individual, not just "Alex's mom".

September 12, 2011

The "Horse Gene"

I know there are many of us out there who are the only ones obsessed with horses in our family.  A lucky few have grown up around them with their family, but it seems a lot of us got the horse bug and it never went away.  It makes me wonder where the "horse gene" gene comes from. 

Most little girls are fascinated by horses.  But for some of us, about the time our friends are packing away their "My Little Ponies" we are slipping on our jodphers or chaps.  Its not enough to read books and watch movies, we NEED to be around these animals, to touch, smell and just interact with them.  Even if it is walking around in a circle at the fair.But why, what compels us towards these animals?  As an adult I appreciate the incredible bond and trust that comes from working with such large animals, but was I that wise when I was 7?

For me, no one in my family ever rode horses or ever had the desire.  All I know is that when I was 7  I started to ask for riding lessons.  My mom said sure, but I'd have to give up tap/dance.  I don't remember thinking twice about it.  It was an easy decision for me.  I think my mom thought it might be a little girl phase, but it wasn't.  After 5 years of taking lessons in some lady's back yard my mom gave in and got me legit riding lessons and a horse.

And in all the years of watching me ride and compete the bug only bit my family once or twice.  My mom tried to take lessons when we switched barns, but only lasted a few times and always made me pick the horses feet.  Not because she's a pre-Madonna, I think she is just genuinly afraid of the size of the animal.  My brother rode my new horse once.... the day we got him.  And my dad bravely took a lesson once after we had my first horse for a while... My point is they all tried.... and still didn't get it.  So out of a family with no interest in horses how did I get obsessed? 

I don't remember the first time I ever rode a horse, I've been told it was a pony at a fair.  I was 4, he spooked, I fell off.  Not the best begining.  I do remember my first lesson.  It was on a 19 yr old Paso Fino, I was 7, all we did was walk.  But I got to steer and I was in control.  And I remember feeling so powerful and so free being on top of this huge animal and having it do exactly what I wanted.

And I know there are certain traits I have inherited that steer me towards Dressage, the need to be perftect and always have a clearly defined goal.  But my brother had those same traits and used them to become an Eagle Scout and later compete in rowing.  We have always been an animal freindly family (other than the horse we always had cats) but never an animal obsessed.... so what's my deal? our deal?

I don't really have an answer, I just find it facinating that so many of us come from families with no horse history.  And so many of us are deeply devoted and intrenched in the horse world.... so where does it come from??

August 24, 2011

My Kind of Maternity Pictures

First off, I've never understood the "maternity picture" thing.  Of course I've never understood the getting pregnant thing either, but that's my own issue.  I get the fact that its a magical time in your life that only lasts a few months so you want to capture it.  What I don't get is the fact that almost every maternity picture I see looks awkward and/or creepy.  And I know there are those out there with great pictures where the mom-to-be looks comfortable and the dad isn't doing something totally weird, but for every good one I've seen 4 bad ones.  Still family members seem to want to see pictures of me all fat and round and since they threatened to fly out and visit if they didn't get them I figured I'd comply.

So rather than just take the "I'm standing here , here's my big ol' stomach" against the wall picture that looks more like a mug shot, I drug the husband out to the barn and took some there.  Tell me what you think.

First the "good" ones. 
Is Dexter sniffing his brother-to-be or the treat I have in my left hand? You decide :)
The relatives got a huge kick of the second one and I admit it is super cute.  But if I'm being honest with myself I know Dexter is only going for the treat.

And some out-takes... its hard to get a horse to cooperate when he knows dinner is on the other side of the fence.

Yes, I get it, you're tall.

A good head rub makes it all worth it, plus all the treats.
So, overall I think not too bad.  I still look big and uncomfortable, but no akward husband (by the way, he has no interest in being in the photos... I've asked) or weird bare belly.  Just me doing what I do, hanging out with my horse.  They do still looked posed, but what can you do.... we were posing.

I thought about hopping on for a picture but thought that might be pushing it.  Don't need to stir up any controversy this far into it.  Maybe I'll take one of those later just for myself.

July 15, 2011

Good Luck Everyone!

I know there are quite a few fellow bloggers out there planning on heading out to shows this weekend, some the first time this season, some the first ever.

Good Luck!

May your horse be focused, the weather be nice, and the ribbon be blue (or red for our Canadians).

I'm looking forward to reading about the adventures come next week!!

July 12, 2011

Dressage is Taking Over Eastern CO!

Ok, so not really.  But I did get a call from someone this week that lives in my area and is starting dressage.  I've been out here by my lonesome for so long, I never imagined I'd get to have a dressage buddy.  Now she's just starting dressage but has been doing hunter and all sorts of other riding so I imagine she is going to pick it up quickly.  She mentioned something about being 2nd level ready. 

I'm just happy to have someone to compare notes with and maybe even get to watch ride without driving an hour.  My brain is already turning on whether or not she would be able to ride Dexter for me every now and then.  I've kept him in pretty good shape with the lunging, but it still helps to have someone on him now and then.  And while I still hop on him every so often, its only for walking and trail work.  But we will have to get to know her first.  As I've mentioned a few times before, I"m pretty picky on who I let on my horse.

Oh!  And maybe I'll have someone to go to shows with next year!  But I'm not getting ahead of myself. :)

July 11, 2011

OT - My Cat the Hunter

This has nothing to do with horses, but it does involve one of my pets.... my cat- Pengin.  One afternoon a robin was taunting her through the window.  This is after about an hour of just sitting and watching when she decided she couldn't take it anymore and had to at least try to get at it, the robin is unphased.

To be fair, she is actually a decent hunter, better than I would like.  She has recently figured out the doggie door and likes to bring us mice (sometimes still very alive) at 2 am.

July 10, 2011

Not a Bad Season

This is me and Dexter's haul for the season. 

Granted some of these ribbons are technically "last" place, but some aren't so that's ok.  Some of the blue ribbons are even legitimate, as in more than one person was in the class.

Over all, be it a short one, it was a good first show season for Dexter and I (first for Dexter, first in a really really long time for me).   There were some disappointing moments (the last show we took a few large steps back).  But some pretty awesome ones too, like our 2nd schooling show where he was already over the hype, even enough to win Training Level 3, a test we hadn't done out yet, and with 4 other people in the class.  I think that's the ribbon I'm most proud of. 

My family was able to come and see me get back in the game.  And by the end of the season (again ours, I know for others its just beginning) we were such pros at the whole thing, we didn't even have to drag the husband along.  Sometimes the scores were ok, sometimes they were better and sometimes they were bad.  But we got there, we didn't fall off and in the end, shows were routine for both me and Dexter and I think that was the first step. 

Next year's goal.... a year end award.

June 24, 2011

A New View

This weekend I loaded up Dexter for my long line lesson with Trainer.  To my disappointment she suggested we start with lunging, but I know how to lunge (at least I thought I did.)  She made some good points so I went along with it.  Long lining can be cumbersome and require a lot of walking and some jogging.  And until we know Dexter is going to be obedient on the line and not freak out, its safer to work with the one line rather than 2.  Picturing how Dexter currently likes to buck and throw a fit when I ask him to canter on the line, I agreed.  But I did make her promise to let us start trying the long line if he progresses well on the lunge line.

But I still learned more than I thought I would.  I had been lunging him at home, but don't have a whole lot of training tack so it was mostly to keep him in shape, with no particular frame.  So the first thing trainer pulled out was a surcingle and side reins, the kind you loop through the bit and attache back to the surcingle so there is some play on how low he can hold his head.  She explained this will act as reins so he will always have that constant outside rein to work with.... first light bulb of the lesson.

She started the session out lunging him showing me how to half halt with the line and whip and wouldn't you know it he was in a frame in less that 5 minutes.  She kept saying how good he looked.  Knowing my history of thinking I got it when I actually don't I decided to speak up - "OK what are you looking at specifically, I agree he looks good, but why?".  She explained a little about elevation and muscle movement.  I need more - "OK so what muscles are you looking at, how can I tell if he's in a frame"  So she pointed out his back and ab muscles... OK I think I got it now.  Second light bulb of the lesson. 

She showed me how to use the whip to get him to move his rib cage vs how to use it to get him going more forward.  (BTW when I say "use the whip I don't mean beating my horse with it, just shaking and pointing it at him to get him to move.)  Along with some other tricks to make lunging as close to riding as possible.  All things that seem obvious now.  I think I was just being lazy when I lunged him before.

So now I have some new tools in my belt.  We've had some sessions at home and I think its working, although I'm a little paranoid that I don't actually have it.  I've also decided to switch things up a bit with some free lunging and tricks so he doesn't spend the next 3-6 months on a 20 meter circle.  I'm thinking of teaching him to bow and smile... what do you think? :)

June 17, 2011


Due to being pregnant, weather, and other life events getting in the way I haven't been able to see Dexter nearly as much as I want.  And when I do have time I usually lunge for a while then get on.  I ride until its uncomfortable, which is usually about 10-15 minutes. 

Show season is over for me so I don't have a whole lot of goals to work towards.  We were working on half halts and collection, and due to my useless abs at the moment that's not really happening, so when I do ride I don't really have an objective.

All of this is really affecting my mood.  I feel listless and useless.  It's funny how much of my self worth and self image is ingrained in my riding.  If I'm not riding, who am I?  If I'm not working towards something then what am I doing?  I've found myself lately in just an awful unpleasant mood.  I assumed it was hormones.  But the more I think about it, the last time I felt like this was when I took a 2 year hiatus from riding in college.  As soon as I started back up, I felt better.

Do I have any reason to complain?  No, there are a lot of people out there in worse situations.  Wonderful people who have wonderful horses  and for whatever reason can no longer ride, yet they find joy in just being around their animals. I strive to be like them, but for now, I just want to feel a little sad for my temporary loss.

This weekend I'm taking long line classes with my trainer (last time I tried it on my own and me and Dexter just got horrible tangled).  I'm hoping this will give us more to work on than the lunge line will.  And I can at least keep Dexter progressing if I'm at a stand still.

June 14, 2011

Better Late Than Never...

I know its been a while since the last show, but here are some pictures from it.  Thank my husband.  the prior shows he wasn't taking enough pictures.  I told him the "magic" picture is almost impossible to get, so you just have to keep taking them in hopes one turns out right.  He's such a good listener :) I got to sift through 400+ pictures looking for the magic one.  Let me know what you think :)
Can you tell it was a bit dreary?

Dexter keeping an eye on us from his stall.

It may just look like a walk, but you try to get Dexter to relax in the middle of a test.

Proof that there is at least one moment of magic in every test.

June 11, 2011

Dear Non-Horse People

Do not judge what you do not understand.  This is my life, my decision and my risk to take.  I do not judge you for the decisions you made when you were pregnant, please give me the same courtesy.

So here's the deal, I was thrown a baby shower this weekend (not my thing, let me tell you!), with about 20+ non-horsey people and 3 horsey people.  So 90% of the conversation was all about the baby, was I excited, was I ready, how many do I want (lets see how this one works out first.)  And there was one question I could tell everyone was afraid to ask "Are you still riding?"  I know they wanted to know because every once in a while when the conversation would stray from the pregnancy and horses would get mentioned some brave soul would ask, and everyone around would perk up.

To the non-horsey people my answer was this "I've weened myself off, I still go out and work with him but from the ground."  To the horsey people, they got the truth "I'm still weening myself off.  I don't do a lot but I still ride when I'm feeling OK and he's feeling OK. But it is really really hard to quit hopping on, even if for a short walk."  I hate that I chicken out like that, I just don't want to deal with the opinions and advice.

There was one comment that really got to me and sparked this post.  My mother-in-law was one that got the courage to ask "You're not riding anymore right?" And I gave my non-horsey answer, then another family member announced to the room "OK we can all breath a sigh of relief now!".  You know what??  Screw you!  You think I'm putting my un-born child's life in danger without knowing a thing about it. 

Did I tell you I thought you were an idiot when you let your dad buy your 2 yr old son a miniature horse, knowing none of you knew a thing about horses, or tack or equine safety?  No, I came down when you asked and gave you a lesson on how to put your child on the horse and lead it around safely. Would I ever put my child on a horse that young, not knowing a thing about it, no, but that's not my decision

I think what gets me the most is that horses are still seen as dangerous to the outside observer.  Is there risk involved? yes.  But for those of us who have been around them for years and know their equine partners better than their own family members, the risk is small.  I think I even get a little offended because people assume Dexter is dangerous.  For me that's like saying my child is dangerous.  You've never even met him. 

The reality is, I know the risks.  I'm not in denial, I know there is a chance I could be sitting on Dexter one day, something spooks him and I fall, and God forbid, hurt the child.  But I've wighted the risks and decided its one I'm willing to take.  To not be around and ride Dexter as long as possible is not an option for me.  But you can't tell them that, they don't understand.   "It's just a hobby".

All I can say is I'm glad I have an understanding husband in all of this.  He sticks up for Dexter and knows I won't push my luck.  He's even learning how to pick Dexter's feet for when I'm too big to do it myself.

June 10, 2011

In the Eye of the Beholder

Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, especially when it comes to horses.  I know there isn't one of us that would readily admit we have an "ugly" horse.  But if I were to be totally honest with myself, I know Dexter has big hips, and hocks that turn in a bit.  But he also has great legs, a gorgeous mane and tail and the cutest face Ive ever seen, and because of his personality and gates I thing he's beautiful!  I'm sure to an outsider he's just a lanky bay.

And I also know my L.E. was not the prettiest horse when we got her.  Her chest, face, stomach, mane and tail were all rubbed raw due to some mite or fungus that cause her to itch all the time.  She was slightly U-necked and just a little chestnut quarter horse.  By the time we had to sell her you couldn't tell me she wasn't the cutest horse in her class, it helped that all her hair had grown in. 

Which is why I try to be as mute as possible on the subject when someone insists on going on about how pretty their new purchase is.  A friend of mine is often buying and trading "project" horses that I just don't see the value in, but she knows they are going to be great.  For her it all comes down to the head.  "Doesn't he have a pretty head?!".  (For the record I know she thinks Dexter's head is big and ugly, I love it.)  And all I can think is - Yes, nice head, but the short roached back might be a problem.

Her latest purchase was a "black" 6 yr old Arab stallion.  I put black in quites because I'm gonna guess he's actually a dark bay.  She has been telling me about this horse for a while now, so I know she's super excited to get him.  She wants to ride him and breed him to some of her mares.  And of course  until he showed up I had images of "The Black Stallion" dancing around in my head.  That is not what showed up.... in my eyes I saw a scrawny, scraggly bay pony with a crooked tail.  He does have a cute, be it, tiny head.  But for 6 he's pretty lean and small.... maybe 13.2H.  And I know Arabs are petite but he just looked more like a 2 year old to me.  I know it sounds like I'm picking on this horse, but I'm just trying to illustrate the whole "eye of the beholder" thing.  This is not my dream horse, nor a horse that I would consider buying just because he doesn't fit my image of a dressage horse, that doesn't mean he's any less of a horse.

To my friend, who has been dying for a black stallion forever, he's elegant... "petite" with a pretty head.  And "beautiful movement"  She keeps telling me he moves so beautifully out of the shoulders, which is hard for me to understand since I've spent the last year trying to get my horse off his shoulders and onto his butt.

It is just a reminder that the horse world is so big and everyone is looking for something different.  My dream horse would never work for her and vice verse.  But we both love horses and couldn't live without them.

May 27, 2011

Day 2 - Rainy Days

Ok, so the first day was a wash, but the second day would be better right?  Nope, a wash too.... almost literally....

The second day we got there much earlier, no rushing today we were going to ride until he got it right.  I even planned it so I could ride for a while, give him a break, then do a quick warm up just prior to the test.  So we get there ~3 hrs before my first ride and I notice the warm-up is half under water.  I guess it had rained quite a bit.  The warm-up has moved to the indoor, which is half taken up by temporary stalls, so it is slightly larger than a small dressage arena.  I'm not complaining, no one can control the weather, it was just an unfortunate set up for such a large show. 

By the time we started our pre-warm up there were about 10-12 horses in this small arena, all about the size of Dexter.... huge.  So we were more focused on how to steer and dodge vs relaxing.  After about 15 minutes I realized it wasn't working and went outside to walk in the muddy warm-up.  We would at least take some time to look around and get that out of the way.

For our real warm up they had moved the warm-up ring back outside, mud puddles or not.  I'm guessing after watching a few too many close calls between novices and gran prix riders they thought it would be best.  This is where I realized Dexter's real fear of mud.  I knew he had an aversion to it, and always thought it was cute how he would steer around the wet spots in the pasture.  But now I saw it, he would not canter through the mud, and he would shorten his stride at the trot.  I get it, when I first got Dexter he wasn't all that balanced and he used to slip all the time with his back legs, even on dry dirt.  So he's smart, and doesn't want to slip.  I let it go being as the test arena looked better.... I was wrong.

First test of the second day actually started out pretty good.  He was relaxed across the back or better than the day before and he was paying attention, probably because he didn't want to slip.  Then we came to the canter section.... or to Dexter, the canter-break-canter-break-buck-canter-break-lengthen trot section.  Every time we had to turn he broke into the trot, and was completely tense and anxious the rest of the test.... drat.

We had about an hour between tests so before I gave him a rest we went back to the warm-up and I MADE him canter through the mud and puddles to prove that he in fact could now do it.  He wasn't the same lanky uncoordinated horse he was 8 months ago.  I'm sure I scared a few people in the warm up as it took quite a bit of momentum to keep him going. But he did it, it took some convincing, but he made it through the mud with no falls, hopefully I had proven to him he could do it, short term anyway.

Second test started out good... again.  Then the canter, again.  This time at least he kept going, only breaking twice, once after he decided to leap over a suspicious spot in the ring vs go through it.  But in order to keep him going we weren't all that pretty.  And we ended up with the lowest score I've ever gotten with Dexter.... worse than his very first show.  Every now and then you get a comment from a judge that sticks with you.  Hopefully its a positive one, this one was not.  "Need to work on canter basics for the safety of all involved."  - OUCH!

Over all the show was pretty disappointing.  Yes, the weather was a huge factor, and it was evident it affected a lot of the horses.  But I feel Dexter and I were more affected than most.  I'm sure I was affected by the weather and other horses, there by losing Dexter's confidence in me.  And its disappointing to fall so far back from where you've come. 

To top it off, I'm pretty sure that was my last show this season.  Between his high spirits, the energy involved and my growing belly, I think I'll be staying local until the baby is born.  Most of the time Dexter is fine at shows, but all it takes is one rainy day, one slip/buck and my center of gravity being altered to take a fall, and that's a chance I dont' think I can take anymore.  I still plan on riding and still plan on taking lessons, but showing is done.

I think it was a good first season, although short.  We both learned, grew and developed.  We were starting to get some confidence near the end, maybe we will just erase this last show from our collective consciousness.

May 26, 2011

It's Been a While...

So I haven't been blogging much because not much  has been going on, other than rain and wind.  Plus I went to my first recognized show 2 weeks ago, and have been totally bummed about the experience I haven't figured out how I wanted to share it.  Do I want to have a pity party about how the weather ruined all our rides? or how about a humorous internal dialogue from Dexter and his fear of mud puddles?  or maybe the judges u"un0fficial" comments that didn't make the test about what the hell we were doing there?

Ehh, I'll just tell it like it is.... it was not fun, for several reasons.  To start, the week before the show, it started raining, so we hadn't ridden for a few days.  This was our first 2-day show where we would be staying over night, and we showed up a little late the first day so i didn't have a whole lot of time to warm up.

The first day we got there and I knew I needed to lunge him, he was acting full of himself like he had the very first show.  We lunged for a while and he calmed down a bit, but not as much as I would have liked.  It was cold and wet and I think the weather was getting to him. I rushed to get dressed and got on with about 15 minutes to warm up.  Every show we go to we get the same comment, relax over the back.  So that's all I focused on, transitions will come, the bend could be better, but for now, just relax.  As this was a bigger show than we've ever been to before, there was just too much for Dexter to look at, relax wasn't going to come. 

So ok, I only entered opportunity classes the first day for this reason. We would just school through this first day to get ready for tomorrow.  We started out ok, he was straight down the center line and halted on cue.  Overall the test was okay, but it was a huge leap back from what we had done in the last show and at home.  He was counter bent, leaning on my hands, tense and just not paying attention.  Same for the second test of the day.  Oh well, like I said, we will school today and show tomorrow.

Day 2 - Tomorrow

May 3, 2011

Half Way There and Still Going!

I'm 20 weeks pregnant at the end of this week and happy to report still riding.  No falls or kicks yet that all the experts warn about.  We've modified our routine only a little bit, no more sitting trot, more canter work as it's much more comfortable, and shorter and slightly fewer sessions.

I will admit I'm more picky on what days I ride, Dexter gets a little frisky on windy cold days, so we stick to the warmer calmer days, which lately are few and far between.  And our sessions only last 30-40 min vs 45-60 before.  This is partly due to my energy level at the end of the day.  And if Dexter is acting less attentive, we get some quick good work in and end the session early.

But overall everything has been great with the riding while expecting.  I still have my balance and most of my core muscles.  I can feel my abdominal ligaments starting to stretch and I know at some point your ab muscles start to separate (really looking forward to that) so I know at some point I won't have the tools to ride correctly, and I've decided that's when I'll stop.... or at least downgrade to walking and working on side passes, turn on the haunches, etc.

I took a lesson last weekend and it was actually one of the most productive lessons we've had in a long while.  The past several shows, the comments have been about loosening Dexter's top line, so all we've been working on is getting him in the right frame and really letting him stretch and reach.  And in the last lesson we got it more consistently than we have in the past.

I'm really lucky to have such an understanding trainer who recently had her own baby so knows what I'm going through and knows what I can and can't do.

I know there are people out there who may think I am taking an unnecessary risk by riding while pregnant, and I don't disagree.  We are all taking on a certain amount of risk every time we mount a horse, pregnant or not.  As of yet the pregnancy hasn't affected my ability to ride so I don't feel that I'm at any greater risk of falling or getting injured that I was before I got pregnant.  Once I feel my balance shift and my muscles give way I'll have to re-evaluate what I can and can't do and go from there.  But I wanted to share some of my progress since there are so few people talking about riding while pregnant other than general time lines.  No one really talks about when and why they quit riding.  I know I'm no expert on horses or babies, but I feel I can at least provide my own journey and experience for those looking for more information.

Next week we find out if its going to be a boy or girl, either way they've already won a few blue ribbons!  Not many babies can say that coming out of the womb. :). 

April 29, 2011

What a Trooper

 OK, I know this horse doesn't belong anywhere near a 6 year old before it learns some manners.  But besides that this little kid is such a trooper and is certainly not going to take crap from a little pony.  Not once do you see tears.

April 18, 2011

Feedback For My Dexter

Dear Dexter,

Please stop staring at the spectators on the side lines at the shows.  It makes people think you don't know how to got straight on a long side.  I promise they aren't there to kill you or give you treats.

And we both know you are having fun, but if you could stop throwing in a little buck every time I ask for a canter depart that would be great.  The judges don't appreciate it as much as you and I do.

Other than that you are doing great!  The things we get dinged for are things we are working on and you don't know yet (other than those mentioned above) so not your fault.  I can tell you are getting the idea and are doing what you can to give me what I ask for... I appreciate that.

And thanks for always trying to fit in one last poo and pee before we enter the ring.  I know you can't officially get marked off for that but its still nice that you are thinking ahead. :)

Keep up the good work!

April 13, 2011

Frankie Says.....


And that is the consistent feedback I got from the latest show.  The majority of the comments were around getting Dexter "relaxed across the top line," whether it was on the circle during a transition, even at the walk.  And I know, we've been working on it.  But I guess I thought it was better than that.  Its all relative right.  I know he's more relaxed than he was when I got him, but this is the first time the judge has ever seen him, so she doesn't know that, all she knows is he's still tense.  And that's fine, we will continue to work on it.  Other than that, all the comments were expected, he wasn't bent to the right, because he was over bending and we've been trying to correct it, so we are working on it.  He isn't balanced completely at the canter yet, I know, still a work in progress.  And he still needs to stretch more on the stretchy parts.... again, getting better but needs work. 

I like reading the comments because it shows we are working on the right things.  Despite the scores, it lets us know if we are on the right track.  I guess theoretically we wouldn't be showing until all the major components were perfect, but we just don't have that kind of time.  And being that Dexter gets exponentially better every time I take him out I think it's worth it.  He doesn't get a whole lot better on scores, but he does on behavior and concentrating.  I took him out 45 minutes before his first class, thinking we'd have to take some time to ride the buck and silly out of him before he'd settle down.... nope.  He was better there than at home, I was like, ok, what do I do for the next 30 minutes??

Place-wise he got 2 firsts and a second.  While I'm proud of him for doing so well, we only had  2 people in our class, so this time around we focused on the comments and overall scores.  We didn't win the first places by a large margin, and where we got 2nd, the rider (she only rode in that one class) blew us away. I saw her in the warm-up, a very nice horse and nice rider, so no beef here, we were clearly out-matched.

So comparing our scores to the last show, we were about the same.... always somewhere in the 60-62% range.  Our one major improvement was we got higher scores on our medium walks, may be a small victory but its a victory none the less.  And a little better on our stretch circles, which is good, we will get there.  I know we have it at home, I just need him (and I) to relax a little more.

Next stop.... Fort Collins Schooling Show....  I know, I'm sure there are those of you who think I may be going a bit overboard with the shows.  But I really love doing it, I love the experience and seeing all the other horses and riders.  And the way I figure it I'm just condensing my show season in half, trying to get as many shows in before I can't ride anymore.

April 7, 2011

The Original Pit Crew is Coming

My parents are on their way!  They want to come and see me show, so they are on their way out from Florida, for my show this weekend.  They were my original "pit" crew.  My mom and dad couldn't tell you the if I was on the right lead or if I was even on the right horse at times, but thanks to my mom, my horse had the whitest socks and tightest braids at the shows.  And thanks to my dad I had the shiniest boots, and my horse had the cleanest nose.  They knew how to clean and primp like the best of them.

So I'm excited for them to come out, I'm sure they would like to help but its been quite some time since the last show.  Not sure my mom is still in the braiding mode.... which is ok because Dex gets the running braid this season.  But at the same time that means 2 more people I have to keep track of.  Luckily they know me well enough to know when I need to be left alone and when I need help... I hope :).  My husband has been doing a good job as my fill-in crew but still needs some work.... he asks WAY too many questions when I'm trying to remember my test or what I just rode.

My parents are also excited to come out, but for another reason all together.... the impending future grand child.  Whenever I talk to my mom (who is trying to plan a baby shower) she keeps saying "We;'ll just talk about that when we get there."  When they first said they wanted to come out I made it very clear that this would be a horse weekend, not a baby weekend.  And I keep having to remind them of that.  There is enough going on with preparing for a show that the baby is going to have to take a back seat.  Its not like its going anywhere.  So we will see how that goes.  My last ride is around noon, so I figure if they do keep their promise on the no baby talk, the flood gates will open around 1 pm.

So wish me luck... not only with my first "recognized" show (I hope I don't do anything stupid to get DQed, there are some crazy rules out there) but with juggling my horse and my crazy parents.

April 6, 2011

Product Review

After reading about the Furminator on Nina's Story I decided to look into a similar Deshedder.  I looked up the Furminator and was not impressed with the price tag of ~$50.  But Dexter looked like a woolly mammoth and I really wanted him to look nice for show season, as short as it may end up being.  I didn't want to clip him, not just yet anyway, mostly because I've never had to body clip a horse and was afraid I'd make him look worse. 

So I looked around and found a lot of shedding combs similar to the Furminator and ended up getting the Andis Power Deshedder.  It has a little motor that is supposed to vibrate.

Andis Company 40095 Power De-Shedder Plus Large

I got it for about $20 online and figured it was worth the extra bucks if the vibration helped loosen more hair. 

So first, the pluses:
It worked great, the first stroke was full of hair.  It was quick and easy, and unlike shedding blades and curry combs it holds the hair in the comb so it doesn't fly all over you and your clothes.  Dexter didn't seem to mind it at all.  I could see the fine metal teeth bothering some more sensitive horses but Dexter just sat there calmly chewing.  I think the vibration actually calmed him a bit.  It took the same amount of time as it would if I curried him.  And I took it home and used it on my dog and took off twice as much hair as I did with Dexter.

The negatives:
It works best on a dirty horse. Once you go over an area, if you try to go back over you don't get much hair even if you can easily pull it out by hand.  I think the tangles of an un-groomed horse help grab the hair.  The vibration does nothing to help with getting more hair.  I tried it with the motor on and off and no difference.  It did seem to calm my dog and horse down though.  But next time I'd skip that option. 

Overall I love it, it works well, is much cleaner and no more sneezing every time I groom him.  I can't use it every day but once a week seems to really help out a lot.  I think it will cut down on his shedding time quite a bit and he already looks much better than a few weeks ago. I also swear it makes him look shinier... but I'm sure that's in my head.

March 24, 2011

Where are all the Cowgirl OB-GYNs?‏

Ok, one of the first things I had to do when I found out I was pregnant was to see how much longer I could ride. I started online - most every site I saw said "no riding" what so ever. Then I got some books and same thing... "too risky". Crap! But why?? At the time the little peanut was no bigger than, well, a peanut. Riding didn't feel uncomfortable or jarring so what's the deal?

Well every site/book usually just had one line or sentence regarding horseback riding and the response was something along the lines of "The risks of falling off or getting kicked while riding a horse is too great to risk. It is not recommended." Well I'm sorry, I need some more information than that. Lets assume I've changed my riding routine so that I'm in a small controlled arena, with a horse I know and can read. In addition I've been riding for over 20 years, and can handle most spooks. I also can read my horse and only ride on days he's mellow and in control. Lets say I've done all these things, weighed the risk of falling or getting kicked and decided I'm willing to take those risks... now what??

I need information on what is going on inside, what kind of forces can the baby/placenta take? I know when I ride I don't feel uncomfortable or jarred, is that enough? I feel like all the advice being dished out is being given by people who don't know a thing about horses or what it means to be a life long equestrian. Its not something we can cast aside so quickly. Give me some options. To simply say I might fall isn't enough, I might get in a car accident too. Does that mean I can't drive? And I trip over my own feet more often than I ever fall off a horse. Can I walk? I know I'm being a smart ass, but its frustrating the lack of knowledgeable advice out there about horses and pregnancy.

I ended up relying on the "expert" comments from life long riders that responded to the advice on some of the sites. And while some decided to stop riding all together, most continued to ride their regular trust worthy mounts. Those who stopped said they stopped due to energy, being uncomfortable, or loss of balance. All sound like reasonable reasons to me. No one said "I stopped when I fell off." Some even said they rode up to 9 months. While I'm not sure I'll be able to make it that far (especially since I understand your abs basically disintegrate) its a little encouraging.

I also talked to my OB-GYN, since I live in a rural area I figured she's dealt with this before. Her advice, keep doing whatever it is I usually do. And if its uncomfortable for me, its uncomfortable for the baby.

So my plan as of now: Keep riding, no sitting trot for a while though. Ride until I feel uncomfortable or not secure. Once we stop riding I'll take that time to work on my long lining skills (currently non-existent) and maybe use the time to introduce Dexter over some jumps via the lunge. But I still plan on working with my horse for as long as I can. Its a stress reliever and I feel that my time with Dexter is good for my mental state which in turn will be good for the baby.

But someone seriously needs to take the time and really explain the potential risk of riding a horse while pregnant, beyond falling off. I think there are enough of us out there to warrant it. And we all want to keep the baby safe, but also know that to not ride for 9 months (plus how every many after) isn't an option. There are enough professional women out there who make this their job, give us some factual medical advice, so we don't have to rely on wives tales and "just do what I did". It would also help to have some facts so I can deal with all the non-horse people in my life looking down on me for putting my un-born child's "life at risk".

As a side observation, I've never bought totally into the fact that horses can read minds and such. But I have to admit, Dexter has become more mellow the more pregnant I get. Maybe he can smell the hormones or something. But even when he does get tense he listens to me a lot better. And when the horses in the pasture act stupid and go galloping across our ring, where he used to spin and join them, he now just turns to see where they are going and stops and picks his head up. He's still nervous, but has a head about him. I don't know why the change, but I certainly do appreciate it. And as I said, as I get bigger the more precautions I'll take, even if it means I have to stay in the small arena for a while.

March 23, 2011


A strange question popped into my head out of the blue the other day. "Would you be friends with your horse?" The obvious answer is "Yes, I am friends with my horse, I love him/her." But I mean, if your horse was a person who had the same personality traits as yoru horse.... would you hang out with them? Again, when I asked myself this, my inital repsones was "of course!" Mostly because I didn't want to think about it too much and find out the answer might be no. I mean, what kind of person would I be to say I don't want to be friends with my horse. But because I'm over analytical and like to think about stupid unsignificant crap like this I started thinking about all the horses I've had and if they would be my friends. The answer is yes.... and maybe not.

I've had horses with a range of personalities... from docile to stubborn to smart to nervous. Combine that with the fact that I have a rigid personality that only lets me really get along with a handful of people I meet, the likelihood of me liking all my horses gets pretty slim. Let me clarify something... I'm not a raging bitch that hates everyone I meet. I get along with most people for a certain period of time. But the people I call friends are those that I genuinely enjoy being around, can talk about anything, and can handle me even in my worst moods.

And just because I may decide me and my horse may not be human friends doesn't mean I don't love them and appreciate them. I do, I've loved every horse I've owned, and all for different reasons. The fact of the matter is you pick your horses with different criteria than your friends so a good friend might not make a good mount and vice versa... another reason why this whole question is moot, but we will go for it anyways.

First off is BeeBop, my first, beautiful blonde gelding. BeeBop was sweet, docile, willing to try anything and in general a good guy. He lugged me around and let me do all sorts of silly things like slide off his back. He was the best first horse a girl could ask for. As a person, I see him as the laid back, go with the flow guy. And to be honest a bit of a push over. BeeBop never really had an opinion and I'm afraid I'd end up walking all over him. Sorry darling, I love you forever, and maybe we'd be buds at work and share stories but don't see us going off on any long bonding retreats.

Then came LE (short for lop ears). LE was stubborn, opinonated, but still smart and hardworking. She'd do pretty much whatever you asked but would let you know how she felt about it with a little hop or a grind of her teeth. LE would be that friend that doesn't hold back, she is going to tell it to you straight and not spare your feelings, and I can get along with that. I think me and LE would be great friends. I find the people I am closest to are the ones I can go to for advice and aren't going to just tell me what I want to hear. Granted LE might get on my nerves every now and then when she got into one of her moods, but I'd just throw the honesty right back at her. :)
My sweet Gunner. Gunner was the first horse I bought all on my own, with no trainer or parents to guide me. He was a sweet boy that would follow you around the ring and the pasture. One of my favorite things to do with him after a ride was just walk around the arena and have him follow me, I'd run, he'd run, it was the cutest thing. Because of that I imagine Gunner as a cute boy with a little crush. But... Gunner was timid. He was afraid of anything new and anything that moved in general. And for that sorry buddy but I don't think we could ever get seriously involved. I need someone a little more adventurous. But I'd certainly keep him around, who doesn't love a cute boy vying for your attention.
And lastly, my Dexter. Smart, funny, willing to try new things but a little apprehensive. Throughout our training, Dexter has tried to figure out what I want, he gets frustrated some times and sometimes he decides he's not in the mood and throws a bit of a fit. But I can tell he's trying and thinking. Plus he does some hilarious things some times, stuff that just makes me laugh out loud. Dexter would be one of my good friends. I think he'd be the smart funny one trying to make sure everyone is having a good time. But he'd have his own ideas too, not just go with the crowd.

Well, that was fun and pointless. I'm sure it would be much more interesting to read for those who've known my horses, but maybe it will get you thinking.... would my pony be my BFF? Maybe, maybe not... does it really matter, they are all so special anyway.

March 22, 2011

Change of Rein

So I've been putting off writing this blog for some time now. I wasn't sure f I was ready to share with the blog-o-sphere yet, or anyone for that matter. But as it is increasingly effecting my riding and plans, and its bound to come up some time, I've decided to go ahead and break the news.

Back in January I found out I was pregnant with our first child. And to be honest one of my first thoughts was to take out this season's show schedule and see how many shows I could fit in before I got to big. Can I get enough to qualify for year end awards? Can I even qualify for Championships? Will the baby be born in time for me to show at the Championships? I know... pretty skewed priorities. But getting Dexter trained and ready for this show season has consumed me for the last year, I'm supposed to throw that all out the window in one day?

And while I'm really trying to be excited about this new addition, I'm having difficulty. I've always been selfish, I'll admit that. And that is primarily why kids haven't been on my to do list. When people would ask me when I was planning on having kids I just said "I don't know." And what I was thinking was "Hadn't thought about it, and what do you mean when? " So whenever I was forced to think about it all I could think of was how my life would change, and what I wouldn't be able to do anymore. Would I have to sell Dexter? If I didn't would I have to spend less time with him? Would that be fair? If I didn't spend less time with Dexter would that mean I would be neglecting my child or husband??

But my wonderful husband has always wanted them and I started to worry that if I got older and changed my mind it would be too late so we stopped trying to not have them and gave into fate. Fate took a quick 2 months to decide, so here we are. As far as where I am in my life, its perfect timing. We both have decent jobs with no noise of lay offs or any of the other issues many people are facing these days. We make a decent living and have plenty of room for the little nugget. We aren't too old or too young. So everything is perfect on paper, now if I can just convince my heart and head of that.

Everyone says once it comes you'll feel different. I certainly hope so. My only solace right now is that I am, at heart, a perfectionist and an over-achiever, so anything I do in life I try to do to the best of my ability. So I imagine this will kick in when the child comes and I will do everything in my power to make sure it grows up to be a healthy and happy adult.
I know this is off topic and not a particularly popular view on motherhood but I try to be honest. And believe me, I want to have the motherly instincts and be like everyone else my age who is cooing over their new belly or baby. I know several of you out there are parents and please don't take my opinions as disrespect or that I think kids aren't great. I'm know they are, I know they are an amazing, wonderful addition to most people's lives. I just hope I'm one of those people.

Well I seem to be repeating myself . I just wanted to share the news so you all understand why I'm starting schooling shows so early and trying to fit at least 1 or 2 in every month. The debate on when/if to quite riding is still going on and that will be a whole separate blog.

March 21, 2011

My Mutt

The number one question I get whenever I take Dexter anywhere isn't how old he is or who my trainer is but "What is he?"  And its usually that exact question, not even "What breed is he?".  The smart ass in me wants to say "A horse, silly."  But I know what they mean so I just reply "He's a Friesian Standardbred Cross."  And the responses run the gambit - "I could tell he was part Friesian."  "I could tell he had Standardbred in him."  "He reminds me of my Friesian cross." "Well, he's lovely"  "Oooh, interesting mix."  "Oh.... okay."  "Standardbred, really??"  And sometimes I just get looks that say "Who would mix those two??"
And to be honest when I saw him for sale I was a little wary myself.  I loved Friesians, wanted one from the first time I saw one, but knew nothing about Standarbreds other than the ones I had seen were all pacers.  And I know his pieces don't got together just right, with his big Friesian head and short Friesian neck connected to his looong Standardbred back and butt.  His mane and tail are all Friesian, thank goodness.  And his legs are fighting between the two, he has nice long legs like a Standardbred but he's trying to get that Friesian feathering in there somewhere.  His big hips... I have no idea where those come from, but they keep making my barn owner think he's skinny.  She thinks his belly needs to come out to his hips and I keep telling her he's got big birthing hips, he'd have a pot belly if he filled out that much.
Anyway, my point is my mutt isn't perfect, and apparently he's a conundrum to those who see him.  But I love him and all his gangly misplaced parts.  They may not look perfect but they give me a pretty floaty trot and the smoothest canter onc could ask for on a big galoot (when he finally gets it balanced.)
I love my mutt, he may not be purebred and he may be a mix few look for, but for me he works.  Anyone else out there have an interesting crossbreed that sounds like it wouldn't work but does?

March 18, 2011

Safety First?

I was out on Wednesday trying to get back in the swing of things and work on the feedback I got from the schooling show, when we were joined by the barn owner's daughter and her little arab gelding.  The little girl is about 11, and usually does endurance with her mom.  They go out on hour long trail rides while I sit happily circling in my arena.  The daughter hasn't been able to ride much lately because of the weather and her mom recently got seriously hurt on a trail ride.  I knew her dad let her come out and ride because I was there so I didn't mind, happy to help and she's a fun little girl.
She usually takes her arab and just runs around the field.  Recently they have dragged a few old logs into the field to practice "jumping" and this is where I get nervous.  I don't jump anymore, mostly because I was no good, but I did for quite a while when I was in pony club.  Last summer the barn owner asked me if I could teach her daughter how to jump.  I told her I wasn't all that great but would be happy to help.  They never set up a time or asked again so I didn't worry about it.  I had given her daughter a few English lesson's here and there in preparation for some 4H show (because apparently you can learn English in 2 lessons.... sheesh), and the little girl never seemed to enjoy it... to many rules.
So we are out there riding and I start seeing her hoping over these logs - no more than 18" high.  I should say the horse was hoping over, he was flopping along getting left behind.  She had not left the saddle once.  Now I don't get into people's business and I hate handing out unsolicited advice.  But being as I was the only adult with this child, and would ultimately be the first responder should she take a spill, I felt I had the right to say something.  She came up to me and said she's been working on Red's jumping.  I asked if she was working on her jumping, she said no. 
I tried to give her some tips without being pushy.  I told her to sit up and lean a little forward over the jumps like when we practiced 2-point in her lessons.  I explained why and I think she got it.  I watched her over the jumps again and it looked like she was going to kiss his mane and I thought "Oh no, what have I done."  But at least she was a little better.  Later she felt confident enough to try and canter over the jumps, God bless her little horse for breaking to a trot just before instead of leaping over when he wasn't in a good spot. 
Me and Dexter we cooling off by now so we just walked around and kept an eye on her.  She asked if I was going to jump Dexter so I said sure.  I walked him up to the log, got into my 2-point and walked him right over it.  Sure it was a smarmy move but I wanted to use it to prove another point.  I let her know that Dexter had never jumped before, so before I started taking him over logs with me on my back, I would lunge him over jumps and poles so he can figure out his timing and spacing without worrying about me.  I told her that even though Red is good at trotting over them, cantering is harder for the horses to see, so she should lunge him over some jumps first to see how he does before she trusts him to go over them smoothly.
Oh and here is the kicker, and shame on me for not even realizing it until we were done (since I'm used to seeing her that way) - She was doing all this without a helmet.  To me that is totally not acceptable.  To have a minor going over logs with no helmet.  Granted, they were small jumps, and she wasn't going fast, but she was inexperienced and you never now.  Her mom, a very experienced rider just fell of a horse while trail riding and broke her leg.  Jumping just throws another wrench into the whole thing. 
So now I'm at a bit of a cross roads.  Am I over reacting?  I try not to be one of those horse people where I think my way of doing things is the only way. And for the most part I'm pretty good at seeing that there is more than one way to do things.  God knows me and the barn owner have differing opinions on everything from training to trailering, but we still get along and respect each others methods.  The difference here is a minor is involved and its a safety issue.  But its not my minor. So do I speak up?
Do I tell the barn owner that I would like to see her daughter in a helmet, at least when she is riding with me?  Do I mention that a few lessons with a professional to just get the basic jumping position down would greatly increase her safety?  Or do I just trust they know their daughter's level of riding and stay out of it.  Don't get me wrong I don't think they are bad parents, in fact I'm guessing they didn't know she was out there jumping without a helmet, and know she has one.  I just don't want to step on toes, but I also don't want to see anyone get hurt.
What would you do?

March 16, 2011

Schooling Show - Take 2

I took Dexter to another schooling show held at the same barn as the first last weekend.  When I got my ride times on Wednesday and saw 15 people in 2 of my classes (gulp) I got a little discouraged.  We could barely place when there were 5-6 people in our class.... No way were we going to be in the top 3rd and get a ribbon.  My only solace was that we entered the apparently dreaded Training Test 3 ... only 5 people.

Now my goal wasn't to win, or really even place, especially since we had so much competition, it was just to do better than we did at the first show.  Which considering we got last place should be hard to do, plus increase our scores. 

I was hopeful still, it was warmer, so we'd have an actual warm-up area, and he had been there before so his nerves should be less of a factor.  We got there extra early this time (I felt a little rushed last time).  So we had time to warm up then un-tack while Dexter got to chill out for a while.  We warmed up in a separate ring from everyone at first.  He can get bratty when I start to ask for the canter and with his size he can be intimidating when he starts to buck.  Plus the "Warm-up" ring was a small dressage ring with a low rail, too many people and I wasn't 100% sure he wouldn't hop right over the rail and keep going.  By the end of our warm up he was listening, going nice and steady and being an overall good boy. 

I went to check my times to make sure they hadn't changed and found out that due to a fire in the near-by area a few people had scratched.  My 15 entry classes were now 10... I like those odds a bit better. 

Fast forward to our first test... Training Level 1.  Last time we started with a wiggle down the center line and a back-up/side-pass instead of a halt.  This time, I overshot the center line, but he was straight, and we halted... square!  So far so good.  I won't go through every movement, but I can say half way through when we had just finished our first canter work and he came back to the trot without rushing all I could thing was "Oh my God! We are doing it!  He's paying attention and concentrating.  I'm relaxed and having fun!"  His stretch at the walk and trot still sucked but I knew they would.  He refused to stretch down unless he knows he's done. 

Test 2 - Same concentration, he broke into the canter a few times when he wasn't supposed to but I'll forgive him because that's all we worked on in warm up.

Between Test 2 and Test 3 I got my results from Test on..... 4th place!  I was so proud of Dexter and up 8 points from our last ride!  I read the judges comments and she said he needed more impulsion in the canter.  Oops!  I was so afraid of him barreling around the ring like last time I had cranked him back a little too much.  Oh well,  now I know what she wants I'll kick it up a notch for test 3.

Test 3 -  It was getting to be a long day and Dexter was finally relaxed, prior to this test he refused to stand still waiting to go in the ring, now he stood with his head down... "good boy, we are almost done."  Again, he did well and I made a few mistakes.  I forgot for half a second when we were supposed to transition from the canter to trot.  So in my hesitation Dexter made the decision and trotted a little early.  Drat, almost a test with no mistakes.  I pushed him at the canter and after the test the judge commented on how much better it looked.  I love dressage and the immediate feedback you get.

I took Dexter back to the trailer and got him ready to go home while the rest of the riders rode.  I know I should watch my competition but with a husband and horse ready to go home its kinda hard. 

We went and got our results... Test 2 - 5th place, good boy Dexter!  Then I looked at the results for Test 3, only 4 people in the class.... We got 1st Place!!  Oh my goodness!   GOOD BOY DEXTER!!!  From last to first in a few short weeks!  I'm not trying to brag but I am so happy for him.  You never know how things are going to go with a new horse and a 13 year hiatus from showing.  I love showing and I can pretend its not about winning.... but it sure is more fun!!

This was my fist blue ribbon in 13 years and Dexter's first ever.  And all I could think on the way home was "I did it."  This has been a goal of mine ever since I bought Gunner back in Texas, 6 years ago.  I never knew if we'd get here, I didn't know if it was possible but I needed to try.  And even though riding at home gives me a lot of joy and reminds me of what I love to do, showing is who I am.  And I finally felt like I found myself again, like the little hole had been filled.  I'm not just a horseback rider, or a dressage rider, I'm a dressage "competitor".  That is what all the riding at home is about for me and that is where I shine (inside, still trying not to sound cocky).

For some years now, with getting married and changing jobs and new horses, I wasn't sure if I'd ever really compete again.  And I had serious doubts that if I did start showing again, I wouldn't be good enough any more.  I know this was just a schooling show and some of my competition were 12 year olds, but it was the first step and it was the boost I needed.  I now know we can do it, Dexter and I together.  I can't say it enough - What a good boy!!!

If anyone is interested in our test 2 video I'll post it, otherwise I'll just keep watching it myself, over and over and over.... :)

March 6, 2011

One Year Ago...

One year ago, I handed over a check and watched a giant bay horse load onto a giant 3 horse trailer.  He was too long for the divider to close so he was just tied in this big open space.  I followed the trailer the 40 miles home carefully looking for any signs of distress or that he may have come untied.  When we got to the barn, I went in untied him and unloaded him.

He immediately picked his head up, looked around and snorted loudly into the wind. He pranced around looking at all the new people and horses.  Holy crap, was this the same horse that was half asleep on the cross ties an hour ago?  No worries, he hadn't been off his property in several years, he's allowed to be excited.  I turned him out in his temporary pen that would be his home until he got settled enough to join the herd.  He pranced and trotted around, a beautiful floaty trot.  Oh My God!  That's MY horse!  That was the first official day Dexter was mine.  I had never had a horse with such pretty natural movement, and I was overwhelmed with the possibilities of what to do with it.

Since that day me and Dexter have had some ups and downs.  Starting with mostly downs, now mostly ups.  The first couple of months he acted like a completely different horse, high strung, snorty and overall un-focused.  I freaked out a little bit, thinking I had bought too much horse than I could handle.  The only reason I had talked myself into buying a 17H horse was because he was so docile when I tried him out.  At first I figured he was just getting used to the new surroundings but since he didn't calm down after several weeks I got worried.  Eventually we took him off alfalfa and he calmed right down, mostly, he still has his days, but I can handle one or two every now and again.

I thought I'd take a little look back at me and Dexter's journey over the past year and what we've accomplished:

  • Changed his name from "Pud" (yuck) to "Dexter"
  • Removed a very large painful wolf tooth (much better)
  • Bought a Dexter sized trailer
  • Got dumped twice (both times found out he was getting alfalfa)
  • Seriously thought about selling (after the second dump)
  • Started taking lessons thanks to the new trailer
  • Fixed the behind the vertical issue, he now borders on heavy in the hands.
  • Fixed his 4ish beat canter, so smooth now
  • Stopped constantly chewing on the bit (thanks to the tooth pull), he now only does it when he's irritated.
  • Re-learned my diagonals (See previous post)
  • Learned how to sit a giant trot, for a little while anyways
  • Learned to travel in a straight line
  • Started to learn how to bend and follow the contact down
  • Re-learned how enjoy just "hanging-out" with my horse
  • Went to our first show!
With where we've come and some of the doubts I've had, I'm really happy with what we've accomplished together in the last year.  We coudlnt' have done it without our patient trainer.  But Dexter has been so honest and hard working, trying to figure things out.  And I've learned to be more consistent to help him understand exactly what I want.

We aren't perfect, but we've come a long way, and with our first show out of the way, I'm excited to see where we will end up next year.

March 1, 2011

Back to the Basics

My Trainer has been recently blessed with a new baby girl (of the human kind) so I have been on a lesson hiatus for the last several weeks.  No worries, I understand, so I have been video taping myself to keep the momentum going.  At our last lesson she had given me a few things to work on so we have enough homework to keep busy.  I just need the visual to match what I think I'm doing with what I'm actually doing. 

Watching the video I can see we still aren't getting a good bend to the right and his head is ahead of the vertical.  But overall we are looking good.  After the long battle with Dexter diving behind the vertical I'll take a little nose out any day.

A little proud of myself for how far we've come I sent some of the video to my old trainer back in FL.  She has since retired from the horse business but we enjoy talking horsey stuff every now and then. 

She agreed he is looking much better and that it is easier to bring a horse back to the vertical vs pushing him out.  The she dropped a little bomb.  She asked why I was consistently on the wrong diagonal.  She gave me the benefit of the doubt thinking I was doing it on purpose.

She was half right, I was purposefully picking up the inside diagonal but didn't know it was the wrong  one.  OOPS!!  I guess after a very long hiatus from lessons my brain got mixed up on which diagonal to be on.   My current trainer hadn't really emphasized my diagonal, we've been too busy working on my frame and Dexter's.  And the funny thing is I know if you start posting on the first stride out of a canter you should be on the correct diagonal and I noticed I never was.  I thought it was weird but figured I had gotten that part wrong.

The embarrassing part was I looked back at the video from my show and yup, on the wrong diagonal.  How embarrassing.  I wonder why the judge didn't mention it.  Maybe we were such a mess she figured the last thing I needed to worry about was a silly diagonal.

So, I thanked my old trainer and told her I'd fix it right away, no big deal, look at my outside shoulder instead of my inside.  She insisted I re-learn how to feel my diagonal without looking, ok, no problem.  I guess I never really paid attention to my diagonal because I saw posting as something I had to do until me and Dexter were strong enough to sit the trot.  Then we'd only post when lengthening or when he got too forward.  But as we have been at it a year, maybe I should pay more attention.

We spent some time during our last riding sessions feeling the diagonal.  The good thing is it seems to be easy, or at least like riding a bike.  I can definitely tell what shoulder is moving when.  The funny thing is if I glance I can pick up the correct diagonal, but when I'm feeling it I almost always pick up the "right" (as in right or left) diagonal.  Even if in my head I am saying up, down, up, down correctly I'll come up on the down. 

Hmmm, guess I'm sided, just like my horse.  No biggie we can handle this one.  But it is funny the things you forget when someone isn't there reminding you weekly.  I always felt like riding a horse is like riding a bike, but I guess the technical rules get a little fuzzy.

February 21, 2011


A while back my work had a little workshop on how to influence others.  How to get people to do what you want them to, or more importantly how to get people to want to do what you want them to do.  And I couldn't help but draw parrallels between how I influence my employees to how I train my horses.

During our workshop I heard a lot of people decribe influence as "making" poeple do something or using the "becasue I'm the boss" reasoning.  (This is why we had the workshop, we needed some help in this area).  And I kept thinking, you cant "make" anyone do anything.  And "because I'm the boss" only gets results in the short term.

Same thing with horses, I know the only reason I get my horse to do anything is becasue I have somehow convinced him its a good idea., he doesnt' know I'm the boss, or maybe he knows I'm not, iether way, he doesn't care.  And as far as making a horse do anything, anyone who has tried to load a clostrophobic horse into a trailer knows there's no "make" about it. 

And listeneng to everyones pholosophies about influence ane compairing them to my own made me wonder if I felt differently because I work with horses, or if my thoughts on influence is what made enjoy training horses.  Either way I think most people could learn a lot about human nature jsut by working with a horse, or any animal for that matter.  Becasue whether we realize it or not, our motivations are very similar.  What gets you more motivated, doing something becasue someone told you to or doing it because there is some kind of benefit in it for you? That's all it really is about... the what is in it for me factor.  And if you can figure out how to communicate that to an animal, who doesnt' speak your language, its a piece of cake with a person who does.

February 17, 2011

Show Video

As promised:

Dexter's First Show - Training Level Test 2

Since YouTube and Blogger aren't coordinating today, a link will have to do.  Remember, I fully admit this is not a good test.  I'm all over the place, and Dexter is all over the place.  But we are here to share our journey and the journey has to start somewhere.

February 16, 2011

AQHA Gets with the Program

I have been meaning to post about this for a while and just haven't gotten around to it.  In my latest Dressage Today magazine there was an article about Quarter Horses in Dressage. 

I am a huge quarter horse fan.  My first to horses were quarter horses and as I've now dabbled outside the breed, I've come to appreciate their attitude and work ethic even more.  Never did I have to worry about them spooking or getting tense.  They are the perfect horse for any kid starting out (this is a generalization, all breeds have their outliers), they are usually calm, willing to work and smart enough to figure out what you want.  I think if I had started out with a hotter, more "dressagey" horse, I would be a much more timid rider now.  Having a quarter horse helped me build my confidence a rider. 

The one compromise for the quarter horses I owned what that I basically took them out of any AQHA awards and any ability to move up in the AQHA world.  We were riding dressage and a the time dressage was one of the few disciplines AQHA didn't recognize.  So while L.E. was the 2nd highest scoring QH in First Level in the entire country, it didn't mean diddly in the AQHA world or anyone looking to buy an AQHA horse to show at recognized shows.  She didn't get any AQHA points, and with the AQHA you have to keep up with points to stay competitive.  This was 13 years ago.

This article in Dressage Today was about the fact that AQHA has begun to recognize dressage and is allowing results from approved competitions to count towards their AQHA points.  I say yeah AQHA!  I think dressage is a good fundamental skill for all horses to have.  And because if their personality and obedience, quarter horses can excel at the lower levels of dressage, where most of us ride anyways.  L.E. was schooling 2nd level when I had to sell her.  And she snapped her knees at the extended trot with the best of them.

My only concern is the AQHA Appendix program.  Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of the cross, QH/Thoroughbred makes an awesome sport horse.  But with the AQHA Appendix program you can breed a QH with a Thoroughbred and they get an "Appendix" added to their breed papers.  They can be registered under AQHA but don't become fully registered until they get so many points at recognized shows.  At that point the appendix gets dropped and they are considered straight up Quarter Horses.  I worry over time this may dilute the breed, and opening the field up to dressage may quicken that dilution since the cross is usually quite good at it.   I've noticed over the years already that "Quarter Horses" for sale are looking more and more like their taller slender buddies, the Thoroughbred. 

But all in all I'm in huge favor of AQHA recognizing dressage.  I think its a big step and may change how people view quarter horses in the future.  They will no longer be seen as just pleasure and cow horses, but the real well-rounded sport horses they are. 

Rugged Lark - The first "Spokes-Horse" for AQHA Dressage