January 27, 2011

Its Official - Almost

I just took the first step to committing to showing this season. I just bought my show gear.  I still have a lot of my old show clothes, most of them actually.  But while I'd like to say I still fit in my show clothes from 12 years ago, unfortunately this is not the case.  I'm sure 6 years of making beer for a living and 2 more of making cheese didn't help.

I tried on my white breeches last year and I could get into them, but ride in them.... no.  The shirts, there was no way.  I squeezed on my show helmet, but its more of a hunt cap and I'm not sure it even meets any of the safety requirements nowadays.  I had a Pony Club helmet but that has been lost in the moves over the years.  So I bought myself a new pair of breeches, a new helmet and a new show shirt, all the cheapest I could find of course.  Luckily the 2 most expensive items still miraculously fit, my boots, and my jacket, thanks mom and dad for buying me things a size or two too big.

I spent a lot of time looking for bargains and waited and waited until I was sure I was going to need these items... I hate spending money on my riding, other than the necessities of feed and lessons.  The Dover catalog came and I found so many good deals that weren't on the website.  I found everything I needed within a price range I was willing to pay. I even threw in a new saddle pad because it was only $15 and it looked so nice.

On a side note, what makes a pair of breeches cost $250+??  What do they do that the $70 breeches (I think $70 is too much but I am super cheap) don't?  Both cover my butt.  Do the $250 ones ride the horse for me?  Do they move my leg to the proper position for shoulder-in?  I know I'm making fun, but I kinda really want to know.  Anyone out there with high-end breeches... are they worth the 300% mark up?

Ok back to the original subject .. showing.  Buying these things was my way of committing to showing.  I've thought about it in the past with Gunner and last summer with Dexter, but always gave myself excuses (some good ones) about why I couldn't do it.  With Gunner, he was so nervous and I didn't have a trainer or trailer.  And with Dexter, once I had a trainer and trailer, I wasn't sure he  was quite ready.  Well we've been working together for a year, we have a trainer and a trailer.  Am I hesitant because he still gets spooky in new situations, and last time there was a show at my trainers barn during our lesson, he walked around with his head high whinnying at every horse he saw...yes.  But we will never know until we try.  The worst that can happen is we go, he's too high strung and we have to scratch.  Ok, maybe there are worse things like him flipping out, breaking free and generally running amok.  But he hasn't done that yet so we won't think about it.

I always told myself I would only show when I knew we were absolutely ready.  Now I'm realizing you can't know if you are absolutely ready until you get to the show, especially with a relatively new horse.  So our goals for the first show won't be to win, but to get there and ride and complete the test.  If we do that, success, although I really really do like winning. 

No all I have to do is actually register for a show.... eeeep!

January 24, 2011

A Good Sunday

After a two week hiatus from riding (other than the few bareback sessions) I broke down and called my trainer to see if I could come and borrow her indoor.  She is 50 miles from my house so it isn't something I can do every day.  But I had a lesson scheduled so I was planning on making the drive anyway but didn't want to waste a lesson since I hadn't ridden any since our last.  This is all thanks to the weather here in Colorado, lately if there isn't snow on the ground there's mud or its completely frozen, all of which Dexter slips and slides around on,

So we loaded up and headed out.  It was nice, I wasn't rushed to get there any particular time and could ride as long as I wanted.  We started in the indoor.  He was high energy from having time off but still did well.  he always does well in the indoor, less distractions.  Then as he started to sweat I decided to see what it was like in the outdoor.  We walked outside it it was a nice cool day (yes 34 is now considered cool)  and the footing in the outdoor was surprisingly dry so we rode out there.  I like riding outside because he has a good winter coat and the cool air and wind keeps him from sweating. 

He was really frisky outside despite the 30-45 minutes we had already ridden.  But someone had left some trot poles out so we went over those to get his attention back.  He only stumbled through them once, otherwise he did pretty well.  Some ponies came out to join us in the outdoor and the new friends was too much for Dexter to handle, he had to crane his neck every time we walked by. 

He was doing fairly well so I decided what the heck lets go to the dressage arena and practice a quick test before we are done.  Dexter had other plans, he behaved OK, other than doing his best giraffe impression as we walked over (I was leading him, we had never been to the dressage arena and I knew he was fresh so I took the safe route).  I led him around the arena and saw there was still some snow down by C so that in combination with him looking around and in general tense all over, I decided against a test in the dressage ring.

So we went back into the indoor, no worries we had all the time in the world.  As we got on a boarder joined us.  I was just going to do a quick test and get out of her hair.  I hate getting in the way of the boarders (which rarely happens since my lessons are usually so early on a Sunday morning), because they are paying to use the arena while I'm just there borrowing it.  Anyways, she was just walking around so I practiced training level test 1 (kinda, while avoiding the other rider).  And he did really really well, other than protesting and resisting the trot to canter transitions with little hops (he was convinced he was done at this point as I had already made him think we were done twice by getting off to go to the other arenas).  He did much better than the last time we ran through a test.

As we finished I saw the boarder I was sharing the ring with was getting off.  Apparently Dexter's big canter was making her horse nervous, oops.   I told her we were done and she could get back on and she did.  I also made sure she knew she could always tell me if we were causing problems.  I didn't have to canter if it was stressing her horse out, or I could have waited until she was done.  After I left and was untacking Dexter I saw my trainer bringing a pretty spirited horse into the indoor to lunge, the boarder promptly exited, oh well.  I've had to do the same thing, sometimes it just isn't in the cards.

Now that I know Dexter can (almost) do all the movements I'm more excited about showing.  My only concern now is his nervousness about new places.  It seems to be all about the weather and his mood.  The first time I brought him to my trainer's place he looked around a bit but got right to work.

All in all it was a great Sunday.  I  got to ride and try some new things.  We cantered a lot, something I was afraid and he was too unfit to do 6 months ago.  And we successfully finished a test, with no flip outs from either of us.  We rode for about an hour and a half (with lots of breaks) and man am I sore!

I know in general this was a boring post.  But we had such a good time and it was great to get in a good solid ride, I wanted to share.  It was a great start to my week.  I only wish we lived closer to the facilities so I could ride like that all the time.

January 20, 2011

A One-Horse Woman

I've always been a one-horse woman, well one at a time anyways.  I've noticed on a lot of the blogs I read many of you are fortunate to have several horses.  And I started to think about it - "If I could afford it, would I want more than one horse?"

In short, if I had no job but infinite income, yes, probably 4.  A dressage schoolmaster, a dressage horse in training, a fun little jumper to take on hunter paces, and a good solid western pleasure/trail horse.

But I don't have infinite income, and in order to get the income I have, I have to work at least 40 hrs a week, so no, I don't think I would want another horse.  Because in all honesty, we could afford another horse, and I often find myself looking for one that's affordable and just needs some work.  Then I think about Dexter and how that would affect his training.  How his progress would slow as I shifted my attention and I quickly change my mind.  I only have so much time I can devote to my horse weekly.  That's usually 1-2 hrs a day, 4-5 times a week (when the weather cooperates).  So that would be 2-3 rides a week maybe less if I had 2 horses. Doesn't seem fair for the horse, he would never get a chance to really have a routine and progress.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I am the only person who rides my horse, partly because I like it that way and partly because I live out in the middle of nowhere, where the closest dressage trainer is 50 miles away.  So even if I decided to get another horse and have a trainer help me out, or another rider, I couldn't.

All this is just my logical reasoning as to why I couldn't get a 2nd horse.  The other part its that its just how I grew up.  I was only allowed to look for another horse once mine was sold.  I always only had one horse, my friends always only had one horse, so I just thought everyone only had one horse.  By the time I found out there was another option, it was too late, it was ingrained. 

I think having more than one horse would be like having more than one boyfriend (or girlfriend - lets not forget the mares).  I'd have to split my time and affection with both of them.  And God forbid I start to prefer one over the other, I would feel so guilty.  (Can you tell I don't have kids).

It probably also doesn't help that I currently board with a woman who has 4-5 horses in different stages of training.  She also has a regular job so I see her work on one for several months just to put it out to pasture for 6 months while she works on the others. 

But obviously it can be done.  So many people seem to be fortunate enough to have the time and finances to work with several horses at once. I'm curious how you all handle it.   How you do it with a full time job?  Do you ever worry about how much time you spend with each of them?  Do you ever feel guilty if one starts outshining the other?  How did you decide it was time to buy another horse?

While I think I will always be a one horse woman, unless I win the lottery, I certainly don't think that is the only option.  I applaud those of you who have time time, talent and resources to have several of these amazing animals in your life. 

January 19, 2011

Stall Gremlins

Dexter hates stalls, any stall, with or without doors.  Loafing sheds are ok, but stalls, no.  His previous owner  kept him out in the pasture, and so do I, but prior to that I don't know his history.  I don't know if he had some awful experience in a stall or just isn't used to the so feels trapped. 

I don't think he's claustrophobic (although because of his size I wouldn't blame him) because he has no issues with our 2 horse trailer (which is much smaller than a stall).

And really it isn't an issue except for 2 reasons: 1. Its starting to get really really cold and the only shelter Dexter has is a stall left open so he can go in and out. 2. If we ever start showing seriously he may have to stay overnight .... in a stall.

The second issue isn't all that important, since we haven't started showing yet I'm not going to worry about it.  But the 1st I am.  Sure we could move Dexter to a different pen but this is really the pen with the best shelter so I'd rather him use it.  And the weird thing is, in the summer he did.  I used to come to the barn and see his head sticking out of the stall.  Now I come and he's standing in the snow covered in ice and snow. 

When I first got Dexter and put him in a stall and saw him kick the door and pace around I thought, this isn't good.  So I started feeding him in his stall every day.  He'd be out on grass and hay but when it came time for grain he'd come in and eat in a stall.  I'd switch up which stall too so he didn't associate only one with food.  And he'd eat then patiently wait to be let out.  But if he stayed in for more than 30 minutes or so he'd get impatient, still it was progress. 

And when he moved to the pen with the stall as the shelter, we did the same thing, he'd get his grain in the stall.  And like I said, he didn't seem to have a problem with that stall, especially since it didn't have a gate and he knew he could leave whenever he wanted to. 
But now things have changed, he's spooky around both his pasture and the barn stalls.  I first noticed it when I put his feed in his pasture stall and right after I left he came running out behind me.  I figured something may have spooked him, maybe his pen neighbor made a face through the bars, no big deal.  Then I noticed when I fed him in the barn stall, he'd take a bite then come to the door and look around while he chewed, he used to just bury his head in the manger until he was done. 

I had gotten out of the habit of feeding him in his pasture stall and had been just feeding him in the pasture but I know that I need to get back to feeding him in the stall.  The other day I fed him in the stall and it took some convincing just to get him in there.  Then he'd go in, take a mouthful, leave and chew.  He kept this up until it was gone.  I hate to stress him out during meal time but I don't know how else to make the stall positive again.  I also don't know what happened that made him afraid of it.  I looked around and didn't see anything he could have hurt himself on. 

I'm thinking of getting one of those jolly apple/lik-it holders to put in the stall to keep him busy.  But I've read mixed reviews on those. I'd like to think once it gets cold enough, Dexter will force himself into the stall, scary or not.  But if I can do something to ease his stress about it before it comes to that I would like to.

January 18, 2011

Thanks!

Thanks to Riding from the Ground Up and Nina's Story for nominating me for the Stylish Blog Award.  Not really sure what it is, but it's still nice to be recognized as a blog that is actually read.

So the Rules:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
2. Share 7 things about yourself
3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers
4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award!
1. Check and Done!

Seven Things about Myself:
1. I started this blog as a way to vent/share my horsey thoughts and stories without boring my husband to death. He is very supportive but can only fen interest for so long. I find if I keep things in I forget them but if I write them down and am forced to explain myself I remember and understand better. So I started this blog to un-load my brain and never, ever thought anyone would read this.

2. For 6 years of my life right out of College I made beer for a living. I worked for Anhueser-Busch as a Production Supervisor and made beer. Part of the job was "tasting" every tank before I released it to be packaged. The dream job in theory, and truly it was a lot of fun. But after 6 years of working shift, even the free beer couldn't make me stay.

3. Back in 1996 & 1997 I won the Jr/Yr Region 5 Championship Award, 2 years in a row for Training and 1st Level. I'm not bragging, just sharing as it was the peak (and still is, sadly) of my riding career. Right or wrong, those wins solidified my lifelong passion for Dressage. It showed that I was actually good at something. And that I could be successful at it with an unknown trainer and a little QH, I didn't have to drain myself or my parents of money to succeed, even if on the smallest level.

4. I am almost 31 and my favorite item on the McDonald's menu is still Chicken McNuggets. I know they are gross and over processed, but with that sweet and sour sauce they are soooo good. Go ahead and judge, I don't care.

5. I am a Floridian by birth, but a Coloradan by heart. We visited Colorado when I was ~14 and have dreamed of living here ever since. And have finally gotten my dream... modified. While I live in the high plains, and it resembles Kansas more than Colorado, on a clear day I can see the mountains from the barn.

6. I hate cleaning, it is the most soul sucking activity I can think of. But I'm also a slight perfectionist so I am constantly struggling with the need for a clean house but the absolute dread of cleaning it. Plus I'm lazy, so I often throw clothes where ever and put of doing dishes, knowing its going to drive me crazy the next day. Its quite a paradox.

7. I learned Dressage on a Reining horse, and couldn't get him to walk straight for the first 4 lessons. He had some dressage training, but was primarily a reiner (and my trainer let me do some slides on him for fun.) But he had so many buttons and I was so new, every little shift in weight or bump with my leg or hand sent him off into another direction. He was the sweetest and most patient horse. For a while I'd be afraid to move on him, but it was the best way to learn quiet aids.

 
And now for the 15 Recently Discovered Blogs - I haven't been blogging or reading blogs for long, so they are all recently discovered for me.  And I'm sure some of these people have already gotten this award, since it seems to be spreading quickly.  But I don't care, if I like 'em I like 'em.
  1. Kelly and Dexter's Lessons (OK so this is my other blog, but I do read it and enjoy it.)
Now to just tell all these blogs how much I enjoy them....

January 17, 2011

Snowed-In Sunday

Yesterday I went out to ride, hoping all the snow had melted... no such luck.  I'm really really trying hard to not complain about the weather, it doesn't help and I know most everyone else is in the same boat.  Except the lucky few in Florida (I used to be one of those few, sigh).  Anyways...


Since we couldn't  do much I decided to hop on bareback and take a few pictures.  Not easy to stage the camera, hit the timer, and get Dexter to look cute at the exact right moment, but here are some of my attempts.
We are having fun I swear
Yeah! He's ears are up, it's a miracle.
Not sure what the camera did here, but I kinda like it.

And just for fun, some video of us riding bareback.  I know! Two videos in a row, this is not a trend, I promise.  And sorry about the no helmet.  I am an avid "helmet rider" no matter what I'm doing.  I had taken it off to take a picture or 2 and forgot to put it back on.  We didn't do much than trot, not in that snow and mud.
video


Here is hoping for the warm weather (above freezing) to keep up so the arena can dry up.

January 16, 2011

Me & Dex Back in December - Pre-Snow Storms

I finally got around to uploading and editing some video from back in December.  It short because I was taping myself and apparently kept riding out of the frame.  So these were the best clips where I wasn't just trotting across into the middle of nowhere.  We still have some work to do and I look like a spaghetti noodle at my sitting trot, but much better than 6 months ago.  You'll just have to take my word for it.  Enjoy!

January 11, 2011

Judge Me, Please!

Every once and a while my husband tags along to one of my lessons, whether it is because I need help loading Dexter or I want him to film it for me.  When he does tag along he happily sits on the bleachers and listens to and watches my lessons (what a guy, right!?).

After one of my first lessons on Dexter (and one of the first lessons my husband had ever watched) he said "I don't get it, why do you want someone to tell you all the things you are doing wrong?".  I laughed at him and said "How else do you get better at something?"

See, the only lesson my husband has ever had was a ski lesson 3 years ago.  And that was only so he didn't die as he careened down the mountain.  Otherwise he is pretty much self taught on all his hobbies.  He plays 5 or 6 instruments, all self taught.  He works on cars, trial and error but self taught.  Is he doing it technically the right way?  Probably not.  But he hits the notes and gets the job done.  He may work a little harder than someone who was technically trained but I think the fact that he figured it out on his own gives him the biggest sense of accomplishment. 

So when he sees that I can "ride" Dexter just fine (get him to walk, trot, etc.) he doesn't see why I need the lessons, he doesn't question it,, he just doesn't get it.  So I explained to him the nuances of riding, and the fact that the feedback from your horse isn't enough.  If you hit the wrong note on a piano, you can hear it right away, if you aren't queuing a horse right, you may never know.  Unless you are an expert (which I am not) you really need someone on the ground watching your frame and position to tell you exactly when you got it right so you can burn that feeling in your head for the next time. And that's how I think of it, my trainer isn't telling me what I'm doing wrong, she's teaching me how to do it right.  The best way, the most efficient way. 

For me the sense of accomplishment comes from getting it right, not just getting it done.  Every thing I've ever done - track, riding, violin, I've had an expert coaching me, so I'm used to criticism, I thrive on it.  I know I may get a lot of no's and negative criticism in the beginning.  But I know the more I learn and practice, the more rights come along so the lessons become an encouraging positive experience.  A few years ago when I bought Gunner we didn't have access to lessons.  We rode around for years, working on gaits and transitions.  But because no one ever saw us ride I never knew how we were doing.  Granted we didn't show so it didn't matter but I never got the sense of accomplishment I do now. 

And yet another reason why I enjoy dressage.... feedback and criticism.  Every test your ride in front of the judge is scored and commented on.  You don't just get to know if you were better or worse than others in your class, but you get to see the specifics that got you there. You placement in the class becomes secondary to your score, you start competing wiht yourself over everyone else.  The goal is no longer first place but a better score than your last.  You can read what the judges thought and work on that for next time.

 And I get why my husband likes to do things for himself, I get the same feeling when I do things for myself.  For me its the fact that I train all my horses myself. Yes, I have a trainer telling me what to do and how to do it, but I do it.  I prefer to do the work vs letting someone else ride my horse.  It just a personal preference.  I'm sure the horse would progress better and faster with someone else, but the teaching and learning together is what makes it fun for me.

Maybe lessons aren't for everyone.  And maybe some day I will get to a level of riding where I don't need them, but I don't think so.  Unless I am the best at the highest level (highly unlikely to happen) I figure there is always someone better than me I can learn from.  So thank you to all the excellent, positive trainers, teachers, and judges out there.  We may not always like what we hear, but as long as we listen and learn, we will always like the results.

January 8, 2011

Detoxed

As of yesterday Dex seems to have gotten all of the alfalfa out of his system. We even had a productive lesson today.

Although we had one little lunge/buck fit yesterday after he slipped on a bit on the mud.  I had been avoiding all the wet spots in the pasture but Dexter thought he knew better and veered off into a mud pit.  His front legs slipped and he decided to jump and buck to get his balance. 

He's done this before and I never understood it.  Dear Dexter, flailing your legs around in various directions will not help you land steadily on your feet.  But yesterday I figured it out.  Have you ever seen a cat loose its balance or do something stupid.  They kind of look around to see who saw and act like they totally meant to do it.  That's what Dexter is doing, he doesn't want me to know he trips over his own feet so he starts the little bucking act to pretend like he meant to do it. 

Don't worry Dexter, I understand.  As long as you don't go for an Oscar winning performance and buck me out of the saddle.

January 7, 2011

Dexter on Drugs

or as other's know it...Alfalfa.  When I first purchased Dexter he was on grass hay, the new place I was going to board at primarily fed alfalfa.  We fed alfalfa a lot in FL and since I didn't want him to have to be kept by himself, we decided to wean him off the grass and onto the alfalfa. 

He seemed a little snorty and more high energy than I remembered when I had tried him out but I tossed it up to being in a new place with new things to worry about.  Then came the spooking and bolting, see How did you get there?.  I was not a fan, this wasn't the horse I signed up for and started to really worry about what to do with him.  He was snorting, bolting and generally nervous about everything.

 I started doing some research and found several comments and articles regarding alfalfa hay.  Some said it affected the horses energy, some said there was no definite proof.  Anyways, I decided to get him off the alfalfa, it took some convincing of the barn owner (mostly because it was so hard to find), but we got him back on grass...what a difference.

Some may think it was in my head, maybe so, but all I know is he became much more manageable and the calm, laid-back horse I had bought.  Sure he'll jump a little every now and then at a truck backfiring (who wouldn't).  But it would be a quick jump and look vs. a full on race to the barn.

We have been on grass for a while and he's been doing dandy.  I went on vacation over the New Years and the barn owner gave him some alfalfa while I was gone to keep him warm.  I told her that was fine, because I wasn't riding him, I saw she was still giving it to him as of Monday and asked her to stop being as I planned on riding once the snow melted. 

Fast forward (or rewind depending on where you are) to yesterday.  I went to ride him, knowing it was chilly, and that he had been off for a week, so I expected some extra spirit.  What I got was some extra stupid.  I knew we weren't going to get much accomplished when he started prancing and snorting just entering the barn.  As I tacked him up he calmed down and was OK when we first started riding.  The ground was still wet and slightly slick so we didn't do much.  But he was having trouble focusing and I could tell he was way more worried about just about everything except me.  We'd get one trot circle in then I'd feel him tense up.  His neck would get rigid and he'd take shorter steps.  For the most part we worked through it, but every once and a while I had to stop him and remind him I was still there.  There were a few times he jerked his head up to look at something, what, I don't know.  We rode for maybe 20 minutes working on transitions then called it a day.  I wasn't ready for another fall, and the slick ground worried me.  We stopped just in time, because as soon as I got off the boogieman came out.  He spun around, looked off into the distance and gave a big huge snort, you know the kind you see stallions do when they see a super cute filly.  He lifted his head to remind everyone just how big he was, and kept getting ahead of me and generally walking all over me.  We spent some time working on ground manners then went in. 

The thing is the alfalfa doesn't seem to give him extra energy, its not like he's moving faster or wants to run, it just makes him crazy/stupid, on edge really.  Everything is scary, he's worried about every little noise or movement of the wind.  Like last night he tripped over his own foot and decided that warranted a little buck/lunge/spin routine.  Did the ground offend him??  He becomes scatter-brained and unfocused.  It makes riding totally un-fun.  Maybe if I was younger and had a pair, I'd consider it a fun challenge. I've never known anything to alter a horses personality like that before, it really is bizarre to me and makes me think I'm the one with issues.

And maybe it is other elements that are causing this but it just seems way to coincidental.  Does anyone else have issues with alfalfa?  Some people swear by it.  I know the barn manager thinks I'm crazy because all her horses act fine on it. 

But luckily it isn't a permanent personality flaw, and all I have to do is keep him away from drugs, I mean alfalfa..

January 6, 2011

One Event To End Them All

Every time I watch Eventers on TV I am amazed at the courage and stamina of both horse and rider.  They make it look so fun, galloping across the countryside, leaping over giant barrels and flowerbeds.  I start to wonder if I should try eventing again.... then I remember.

Apart from Pony Club Combined Training Rallies (which were actually kinda fun) I only competed in one real Eventing Competition when I was about 16.  I'm not even sure why we did it, I had been showing dressage for a while and I usually went to other shows if I was tagging along with friends, but I remember being there by myself.  Maybe we just wanted to try it out.  It was a learning experience none the less, I learned I am not an eventer. 

Cross country was first, I had my watch, I had walked and memorized the course.  It was different than our little course at home but had most of the same elements, logs, tires, ramps, ditches (well we didn't have ditches at home, but we'll be OK right?). 

The buzzer rang and we were off to the first jump.  LE (my QH mare) looked at it and backed off a little but sprang over it.  On to the second... I see it, LE sees it, I'm looking over it and LE is looking at it.  Nope, first refusal.  It's OK, new course we will just try again, nope, second refusal.  I start to get a little flustered, LE doesn't usually refuse.  So I give her some "encouragement" with my legs and crop (sorry LE) and I'm sure there was some loud "GIIIT" noises.  I think I would have been much calmer except despite that fact that this was a small event they still thought they needed an announcer.  And I could hear him, I don't remember exactly what he was saying other than it was to the effect of "Rider #4 freaking out and beating her horse at jump #2, less hope she gets over this jump soon."  So I think we refused one more time then got over the jump. 

Onto the rest of the jumps, I think we refused every other one, and the ones we didn't we cleared by a good foot and a half (they were only 2'6" to begin with).  Then we hit the ditch, a small 2ft wide ditch.  LE had seen these before at rallies but I guess she didn't approve of this one.  At this point I had lost all hope for the course so I wasn't so spastic, after a few refusals we walked up to it and she leaped over it.  I don't remember the rest of the course, but I remember when we were done I didn't cry, I wasn't mad, I just thought "Wow, that was a disaster and embarrassing."

Next was show jumping.  Surprisingly LE got her jumping legs back and we did the course with no refusals, maybe a few knock downs though.  But being as my trainer wasn't there to tell me different and I was so focused on the time, I took every tight turn available.  If there was a long way or a short way, I took the short.  Yanking poor LE around tight turns.  I was a nervous wreck but she did well.  I started to think I might place (certainly not win).  All that was left was dressage and I knew dressage!  This was the part most people struggle through, they had jumpers they were forcing to do dressage, I had a dressage horse I was forcing to jump.

Finally dressage, we could do this!  And  there were individual ribbons for dressage so I was confident we would at least go away with something.  As we walked around the ring waiting for the bell to ring the scribe asked me if I would like her to hold my whip.  What an odd question?  No silly scribe I'll keep it, I don't usually use it in the test but it's nice to have, thanks anyways.  We did the test well, dont' remember much of it as it wasn't stressful or brilliant, just a good test.

After a good break I went back to check my scores... Cross Country - bleh, Jumping - OK, Dressage... DQed.  What?? Disqualified?? (Apparently you can't use a whip in combined training classes, you can in Pony Club so I had not clue).  They still showed my score - best score in dressage... I would have at least gotten a ribbon in that class.  Great.  Stupid me for not reading the rules or questioning why someone would want to take my whip.  Hey, they tried.

So that was my first and last Event.  Not because I'm a quitter (maybe a little).  But because overall I wasn't having fun, LE wasn't having fun and it just wasn't our cup of tea.  We still jumped over our jumps at home, with no pressure or time constraints and still had fun, but for showing, dressage was it.

January 5, 2011

That Should Have Been My Pony!

Sometimes life isn't fair, we all know that - here's an example:

About a year ago, I popped on Facebook to find a picture of a cute little pony with a caption from my cousin saying "Meet the new member of our family!".  I immediately call her up to see what this is all about.  She does not ride, her kids don't ride (2 and 1 year old).  She grew up across the street from a hunter/jumper barn and never had any interest in horses.  So I had to find out how a pony entered the picture.

Turns out her dad (my uncle) decided to buy it for her kids (again 2 &1).  He's keeping it at his place and the pony (a miniature Shetland to be more accurate) came with a saddle and bridle and everything.  Now my uncle also never had interest in horses, that I know of.  I do know he's never owned or ridden one.  So as I talked with my cousin I gave her some tips to pass along to my uncle, you know, get a vet out, make sure to keep her feet trimmed, and don't change her feed from what the previous owner suggests unless the vet says to.  My husbands family lives nearby so I promised to come by the next time we were in town (we live in CO they live in FL so its not a quick trip).

We we visited a month or so later I came bearing State Line Catalogs.  The pony was  adorable, a little miniature Shetland chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail.... just what I pictured when I used to wish for one, all she was missing was a pink bow in her hair.  (Only mildly jealous at this point.) 


I gave my uncle a few lessons on how to pick up her feet, saddle her and bridle her.  Although after working with 16 and 17 hand (even 15 hands for that matter) horses, this 10 hand horse proved to be quite a challenge.  I'm not used to having to buckle things up so low.  The first thing I noticed was that the bridle did not fit at all, she had a teeny tiny head and even at the tightest settings the bit knocked her teeth.  But since no one was going to be riding without a lead line for a while (ahem... 2 &1 ) I told him to forget the bridle and just use the halter.

We then took the 2 year old and plopped him on the pony and I lead him around while people took pictures.  This is where the jealousy started to set in.  While my cousins son was enjoying himself, he wasn't as ecstatic as I would have been.  He didn't even ask to ride the pony we just told him to.  He never asked for this pony, he didn't dream about it every Christmas eve.  Heck, he's 2!  He hadn't had the chance to want a pony, but here he is riding along on his very own pony!  And because he got this pony before he even knew he wanted one he may never really want or appreciate it.... so unfair.

Disclaimer:
I'm not really upset my cute little cousin got a pony when I didn't.  I think it's great that they have the land and ability to do these things.  And even if he doesn't ride it, I know he loves giving his 'ony carrots.  And I know that I have nothing to complain about, I got my first lesson when I was 7 and my first horse when I was 12.  Not many little girls who dream of ponies can say that.  Its just fun to rant some times.

January 4, 2011

Ode to USPC

I've mentioned before I'm a product of the Pony Club, I was a member and competed for 3-4 years as a teenager. When I moved out here to the close to nowhere plains of Colorado I realized it is not as widespread as I thought.  Out here we have 4H, very similar, but not quite the same.  Anyways, I thought I'd take some time to advocate Pony Club and thank them for all they've taught me. 

As a child of a non-horsey family, when I got interested in horses, we really didn't have a clue about anything - how to buy, take care of, show, etc.  And as we all know for every horse owner there is a different opinion on all of these things.

Some friends of mine had joined Pony Club so we decided to try it out.  What Pony Club gave me that regular lessons didn't was the knowledge and discipline around everything other than just riding.  Sure they had an outline of what you should know as far as how to ride, but most of the rank tests consisted of ground work, horse knowledge, and horse care, very little time was spent in the saddle.  Pony Club taught me how to wrap my horses legs, tell if he's colicing, how to dress a wound, tie a stock tie, clean a sheath, etc.... things that just didn't come up in regular lessons. 

Pony Club's emphasis on horse and equipment knowledge, as well as safety made me learn and focus on things that I normally wouldn't have thought of.... always trailer a horse in a leather halter in case it panics it can get free, always tie a horse up with a quick release knot (this has come in handy more than once), wear your helmet, put your spurs on last so you don't trip.  Some rules seemed a little silly (like the last one) but this kind of attitude reminded me that this was an animal I was working with and to always be prepared.

The shows were "Rallies" and you competed in teams.  This taught you teamwork and that riding wasn't about who won but also about having fun.  And the Rallies didn't just judge you in the ring, but also the care of your horse and tack.  There was a giant list of things your team was required to bring including tools to fix broken tack and a first aid kit for both you and your horse.  They came around and judged the organization of your tack room and kept an eye on the teams and even judge you on your sportsmanship.  There was also a written portion to every rally where you were tested on your knowledge of parts of the horse and tack, and proper procedures.  You had to present yourself to the judges and often answer questions on the fly.  This gave me more confidence in talking with authority and showing my knowledge.

Really, the amount of things Pony Club taught me are too numerous to name.  They taught me how to be a good horseman and good sportsman.    They gave a kid with no horse experience a place to learn and grow with other kids.  They teach you the "proper" way to do everything so everyone in the group is doing the same thing.  And while I don't deny there are different ways to do things than what Pony Club taught me, I still believe it was the most detailed and the safest bet 99% of the time.
I'm sure I've forgotten more things than I remember, but that's the great thing, even if you only remember 25% of the rules you still come out ahead.  I still clean my tack before every show, I still keep a leather halter for trailering, I always wrap my horses legs when trailering, and I always run my hand along the horses butt as I walk behind them.  I know I  have tons of little habits that I'm not even aware of thanks to Pony Club.  And are all of them necessary all the time? No probably not.  But I know I'm grateful I automatically tie my horse with a quick release knot every time they spook and I can get them free quick enough before anyone gets hurt.

So to sum it up :) - Thank you United State Pony Club for giving a kid a positive environment to learn how to ride well and safely, how to be a good sport, take criticism,  and take care of my horse.  Thanks for not only teaching me how to be a better rider but also a better competitor and owner.

For more information on Pony Club visit www.ponyclub.org . This isn't a paid advertisement, I swear.


January 3, 2011

Bred for Dressage

As I return home from a long weekend with the in-laws I am reminded that I was bred for dressage.  I love my in-laws, they are the best in-laws a person could ask for.  They are loving, fun and treat me like their own.  But any time you spend a length of time with a group of people so different from you, you can't help but feel a little lost and start to do some soul searching... I'll get to how this relates to dressage in a minute... I promise.

Some background... My husband and his family are very laid back, I am not.  They go with the flow, I like to steer.  They are happy-go-lucky people who have a loose plan but for the most part, things happen as they happen.  For better or worse, I am not one of those people, I am constantly planning, thinking about what is going to happen next and what time it needs to happen.  Its how I was raised; it is what makes me comfortable.  Without a plan I feel lost and disconnected. So as I was sitting there with my husbands family trying my hardest to be easy going and deal with the constantly changing up-in the air agenda I started thinking about it.  And I started making parallels to the horse show world.  And I realized my need for a plan is probably why I gravitated towards dressage so easily.

In dressage training there is a specific pyramid you are supposed to follow to train your horse.  And the tests are very specific tests, they tell you what to do, when to do it and even what they are looking for when you do it.  No question left unanswered.  And you get the test well ahead of time, so you can train and know what to expect.  In the jumping world, sure you know you are going to jump a course and you know how high it is going to be, and you get the course... but not until the day of the show.  You usually have a few hours at best to memorize the course and you and your horse don't get to practice it, the first time you ride the course is in your class... yikes.  But at least you know what is coming next.  The worst (for me) is the flat hunter type classes.  You know the ones, where you ride around in the ring just waiting for the judge to yell out commands.  You trot along never knowing when they are going to ask you to canter and for how long.  I'm not bashing these types of riding or shows, I'm just saying they aren't for me.  I remember when I used to ride hunter/jumper I would get so nervous in the ring; waiting, anticipating what was to happen next.  Would I be in a good spot for the transition?  What if I'm hidden behind another horse?  How long will I be expected to hold my 2-point? 

Now that I ride dressage, I go in the ring knowing I'm ready.  I know the test, I know my horse, I know exactly when and where our transitions will occur.  And because I've practiced the test a few times (not enough that the horse has memorized it) I know our trouble spots and will be prepared for them.  This kind of preparation may be seen as a crutch in other show circles; a good horse and rider should be able to think on their toes and not need so much preparation.  I don't disagree, in fact other than the anxiety I enjoyed hunter/jumper classes.  But dressage came along and took away the anxiety so all I was left with was fun and determination.  As always, I may have veered away from my point a little.  I just think knowing my challenge at hand makes me a calmer more confident rider, and even if no else does, I know my horse probably appreciates it.  Now if I could get the in-laws to send me an agenda 6 months in advance everything would be  perfect!