Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Contact....contact....contact!

Well, after a not-so-good weekend of rain and a swollen hock, I was pretty bummed. Sunday her hock was totally back to normal, but it was POURING. I mean just absolutely miserable. There was no way I wanted to ride.

And Monday night S and I had to go to kindergarten information night. Yes, my baby will be starting kindergarten this coming fall. Where does the time go???

Anyway, the sun was out today and I was bound and determined to ride. I got the stalls done, the barn cleaned, and the mares inside and grained by 5PM. I cleaned them both up and got all my tack ready to go by the crossties. Back in the house by 6PM to make dinner for us humans, S arrived home at 6:30. Good timing. :)

I was able to go out to the barn and just tack up. I rode for just over 30 minutes and overall I am pretty happy with our ride. Dreamy was totally calm and willing. I rode in the field, but I was probably pushing it a little. I just could NOT ride in the driveway tonight. UHGGGG. Most of our field circle was fine for walk/trot and about 1/4 of it was pretty muddy. I just skirted around it the best I could by going into the little bit of snow that is left there along the edge. It made for a weird side to that part of the circle, but whatever. On a 40-45 meter circle it does not really matter.

I just walked and trotted her. The footing where we trotted was NOT good enough to bother cantering. No biggie. So I focused on CONTACT tonight. Usually I get really impatient and fuss with her, which makes her fuss back at me. So tonight I decided to try something that I read on another blog, Eventing A Gogo written by Andrea. Andrea's mare dislikes contact in her warmup and Andrea has been trying to just let her be and wait for her to come down and accept the contact. She gives her a set amount of rein and waits for her mare.

So I decided that instead of nitpick Dreamy to death and make it worse, I would see what happened. If I nitpick, Dreamy starts to CHAMP and CHOMP on her bit. UGGG. So going to the left, I just gave her a set amount of rein, and every time she came above the contact I just moved my hands to keep that contact instead of letting the reins go slack (which is what Dreamy wants). It only took a half of a circle around for her to accept the contact. We walked and trotted, halted, and worked on stretchy walk to medium walk just fine.

But the other direction? Not so good. It was not bad per se, but it was not as nice as going on the left rein. Oh well. She was NOT impressed, but she also did not get as frustrated with me since I was not fussing with her. I just would thump her with my legs as needed (think Pony kick) when she would suck back and totally invert, but I just kept a steady feel on the reins instead of trying to lift, use indirect, use opening rein, etc etc. And it worked pretty good. I think if I continue to ride her like this all the time, she will eventually settle into the contact easily and softly as she did to the left. :)

Not much else going on. I am going to search around for a Furminator thing online in a moment. I think that is what it is called. I will blog about it this week. :D LOL!

And only 19 days 'till our first show! :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

The new header pic

To commemorate the start of our show season on April 19, I thought I would post Dreamy's first ever trot down centerline! She was just a perfect mare at her first ever show. Not even afraid of the ring or the judge's booth or ANYTHING! Yes, I think my mare is amazing. :)

Shows and Hocks

Well, I have officially entered the first two shows of the year! First is a combined test down at UNH on April 19. We are going to do Modified Beginner Novice. I am not expecting anything exciting, just a chance to get out and do something early.

Then our official start of the show season will begin on May 10 at the NEDA Spring USDF show! I got my confirmation email yesterday, saying that my entry is complete and I am all signed up for Training 2 and Training 4! Whoo! I asked the very nice show secretary if I could ride as LATE as possible on that Sunday. See, this is a two day show, but I am only riding on Sunday because 1. I will still be teaching so taking off for a weekend will not really work well and 2. It is a TON of money to get an overnight stall ($150). As it is, this show cost me $120 to enter the two classes, which includes both the class fees ($40 each and $10 for the T4 to be a qualifying ride. I doubt we will qualify but it would SUCK if the score was good enough but I had not paid the extra $10 ahead of time) and all the drug/office fees. Last year at my little local schooling dressage shows (SMDA) it only cost me $40 to do two classes, because all I had to pay for was $20 per test without any additional fees. So I am trying to be as smart as possible about money. Yes, it would be GREAT to be able to ride both Saturday and Sunday, as it would give me two chances at each test. But I just could NOT fathom spending an additional $90 for the two additional tests on Saturday PLUS $150 for the stall.....I stuck with just doing this as a one day show.

The problem? The showgrounds are three hours from me. So if I get to ride late in the morning as opposed to 9AM, I will be fine. And the very nice show secretary agreed to schedule me to ride as late as possible. YAY! I am nervous but I think we will be just fine. We may not break 60% (which is what I need to use these two tests to qualify for USDF) but that is OK. Seeing as it will be our first USDF rated show EVER......I am just expecting to stay on (the horse) and stay in (the ring). The rest will be icing. :) Hey, this worked well for my first ever dressage show(where we won our first class with a 68% something and scored a third in the second with another 63% something) , so why not for our first ever rated dressage show??? :)

Oh and hocks.....yesterday Dreamy came in from her muddy paddock with a swollen hock! YIKES! It is her near side hock, and there was some heat but NO lameness. So I cold hosed, gave her a dose of Bute, and put some hock wraps on her just in case. I did notice that she scraped her other hock (mostly likely when she lies in her stall at night...) so I figured perhaps she had gotten up weird in her stall that morning? It could also be something she did in the paddock, or maybe even being sore from being ridden Fri-Sun and then having all week off )not because I WANT her to, but because that is what happened....grrrr.) In any case, I was not that worried seeing as she was sound.

This morning, her hock is fine but her fetlock is huge. Well, I suspect the swelling just moved down the leg. So tonight I gave her more Bute, more cold hosing, and wrapped with polos for extra support, along with the hock wraps. We shall see what awaits me in the morning.

The worst part is I could have ridden this afternoon. I chose not to, as there is no reason to make her leg worse or even cause her to be lame. A few more days off will be just fine for her. :) I will never be that person who puts her own desires and wants before the NEEDS of her horse....like so many imbeciles I know. GAG.

The good part of all of this is that she sound. Just completely as "sounds a dollah." Not only was she fine when trotted out, but she was fine when she decided to buck and canter/trot across her muddy field. Uggg......muddy mess and that tells me it is time to lock her out of the grass field and confine her to her "all weather" paddock AKA the muddy spring paddock! LOL!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Trifecta!

I am happy to say I was able to get THREE (yeah, that's right, count 'em....THREE!) rides in over the last couple days. I rode Friday afternoon when I got home from school, Saturday afternoon, and then again today on Sunday. It was SO NICE to ride more than ONE day in a row!

In her typical "OMG-It's-Spring-And-I-Am-Excited" mode, Dreamy was very "up" on Friday. I think that is the nicest way to put it, and perhaps the least vulgar. Yes, I had a few choice words for my mare when she decided that piaffing and attempting to do airs above the ground would be a good choice instead of walking along like a sane horse. Now while I can appreciate her upper level dressage efforts, I really just wanted to stay on! GRRR...

Foolish mare. It was brisk, sunny, and she was ready to rock. The nice thing was she immediately calmed down after her crazy mare impersonation. I could feel her thinking, "Oh whoops, that made Mom mad since she just yelled at me." (Dreamy hates being yelled at). Plus it helped that I PUSHED her forward and made her come down to my hand.

I really think she feels good this spring. She looks amazing: her neck and topline look fabulous for having had so much time off, her coat, skin, and hooves are gorgeous, and her weight is perfect. She might be a bit heavy , but with consistent work I am not too nervous about that. Even her musculature is great considering her time off this winter.

But anyway, we got some good straight trots in the driveway and hill work at the walk on the road done on Friday. That was all I wanted. She was steady in the bridle, except her nerves were making her CHEW incessantly on the bit. Bad nervous habit. UGG.

Saturday she was great. I worked her in the field, which was so-so footing. Just some trot and walk transitions. She was calm and in the bridle quite well. Better relaxation in the jaw and some foaming! Yay! Just tried one canter and she was perfect. It was a right lead canter from the trot. She stayed in contact, relaxed and came up into the canter easily. Downward transition was not bad either. Actually it was quite nice and felt perfect three beat! No lunging or throwing of her body!

I tried the other direction but she slipped in the transition and I brought her immediately back to the walk. The footing was not conducive to cantering and I figured I had been lucky to get that one good canter. I wish I had a ring!!!!

Sunday (today) was another good ride. Again we tried the field, and it was OK for trotting. We had a battle of wills about coming up into contact, but it was over within 3 minutes or so and she did NOT lose her temper!!!! That was nice. After we worked for about 10 minutes, the sky opened up and it SNOWED like crazy! I swear, it was sun and slightly warm when I was tacking her up and then BOOM! It was a complete blizzard!!!!!!! I could barely see! I rode her for about 20 more minutes in the field (yes, I have a Puritan work ethic and snow will NOT stop me!) and decided to go out into the barnyard (where the footing is nice, but rutted so no trotting) and do some turns on the forehand/haunches, then go up and down the slight driveway hill a few times. She was perfect. :) It finally got to the point where I could no longer feel my face....the snow was pelting me and it felt like my face was burning.

I literally rode her into the barn (bad me, but the ceiling is like 50 feet up, so now way I could hit my head) to dismount, seeing as the snow was so heavy. We were both COVERED in snow. I had to laugh, because it was so typical of the season. As I was untacking her, it stopped snowing. I seriously contemplated tacking her back up, but decided that she had been good and there was no use getting back on and having things possibly end on a bad note. Then by the time I was leading her back to her pasture, the sun came back out in full force. GOOD GRIEF! It is March weather, that is for sure! And of course, the saying holds true: If you don't like the weather (in Maine), just wait a minute!

All of the accumulation was gone by the time I walked to the house, after having put my tack away and sweeping the aisle. Too funny.

So I am pleased with how things are progressing this spring. It is tough having to have a real job, because with S. home (it's mud season for loggers!) now I do not get to ride every day. POOR ME! LOL! In the past four years as a stay-at-home-mom, I could ride all the time. Now I have to plan it out to ride after work, after stalls/barn chores, and somehow get (human) dinner served too. On Friday I was able to do take-out pizza, so it worked! Not that I can do take-out all the time......at least it is light outside longer now, so even if I cannot get on until 6PM, that is OK.

Dreamy gets tomorrow off, and then my goals this week are LONG SLOW MILES (read: boring!) and more good connection to the bit. Springtime conditioning has begun!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring!

My vet was here for spring shots today. Almost $600 later.......both mares have their vaccinations, rabies, and Coggins. I did a fecal for the heck of it and also bought a new tube of Banamine. Thankfully for my checkbook, I do teeth floating in the fall, so I can spread the wealth around.

So far, no issues. It seems that there are always issues with spring shots: a colic, nasty sore necks, or even hives and seizure episodes! (Yes, one year Sparky totally became covered in HUGE hives and then had what appeared to be a seizure about 10 minutes after the vet left. Scary stuff. Luckily, the vet was just next door and was able to come back over within 5 minutes. She ended up being fine, but I was pretty shook up.)

But tonight, all looks well. A tiny bit of swelling on the point of buttock area, but nothing else. Both mares had their shots between 2:30-3:30 and cleaned up their dinners at 5:30. SO here's hoping we are OK.

Yesterday I had a good ride in the gorgeous weather. The field was OK for walking and some trotting, but when I rode at about 9:45 AM, the snow was pretty hard. Instead of being sorta mushy and easy to trot through, it was hard and crunchy. She kept falling into it, rather than being able to just plow through it.

GRRRR.....

So we did about 15 mins. in the field and called it good. I was frustrated with having such a nice day but not being able to enjoy it. Being at home alone, I did not want to go out on the road. So back in the barn yard, I realized the incredible amounts of MUD PUDDLES in the driveway would be a good opportunity to school. Dreamy has a weird thing with puddles.....she bends her body into odd contortions to avoid having to get her toes wet......about the third try, she sighs loudly and splashes through. She is really NOT afraid, just wants to test me and be SURE that I REALLY do want her to get her princess feet wet.

And you wanna know what she did? All that perfect puddle mess to practice with? She just blazed right on through the deepest spot the first time I asked. No body contortions, not even a blink of an eyelid. Either she is over her water "thing" or she is over her "OMG-I-can't-get-my-hooves-wet-because-I-am-a-ballerina-princess!" thing.

Either way, I made her do it a bunch of times. Her hind socks were as black as the rest of her body. :D

Then I decided that I might as well use the flat part of the driveway to do some trotting. OK, technically it is the road in front of my house, but because it is a discontinued town road and the plow guy stops at my house (read: there is a 6 foot high SNOWBANK so no cars can pass until it melts) I can get about 20-30 trot strides in a straight line, then turn and come back. Yes it sucks. But this is exactly how I got her ready to show back in 2007. And as I recall, we did pretty damn good that year. ;-)

She was all wobbly and looky and "OMG-I-can't-remember-how-to-listen!" mare. So I pushed her naughty self up into the bit, sat up tall, and made her WORK. She was fine until she spotted Sparky down in the lower part of her paddock, which is out in the scary trees. I think she forgot what Sparky looked like.....hmmmm....lost her mind for a moment and was immediately COVERED in sweat. Now, mind you, she did nothing naughty, just got tense and SWEATY. Ah, mares. No idea how she can became instantly lathered, but she did.

Well, we worked through THAT whole thing and soon we were doing LOVELY sitting trot, walk, rising trot, walk, halt transitions. Back and forth. Back and forth. Her sitting trot was so fabulous I was happy with accomplishing something. Actually, I was happy that she became scared mare for a few moments, seeing as normally at home she is totally chill and relaxed. This is more of how she acts at the track. So obviously I can never practice calming techniques at home.

No canter, as the footing in the field was ATROCIOUS and there was no room in the driveway, but that is OK.

Now, had I been able to ride her today, and done the SAME thing? She would have been fine. This horse just needs CONSISTENCY and really needs to be ridden 4-5 days a week. After an entire week off, it is normal for her to be as high as a kite. At least she is obedient and listens to me. Though she did crow hop when I poked her side because she was being a blob at one point.

Ah, mares. And spring rides. :p S is going to be on "mud season vacation" soon, so I will have plenty of time to start our real training.....without a week off in between.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pretty Pony and Adorable Son


OK, OK, so that is NOT a Standardbred in the header photo. XD

In honor of my wonderful mare Sparky (who is 27 years young!), as well as the imminent arrival of spring, AND my gorgeous little boy C, I wanted to post this cute photo from spring 2007.

I know Dreamy won't mind sharing the spotlight. :)

ADDED INFO: When I replaced this photo from the header with a new one, I decided to post it here. :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Just a Horse


From time to time, people tell me, "lighten up, it's just a horse" or"that's a lot of money to spend for just a horse". They don't understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for "just a horse". Some of my proudest moments have come about with "just a horse".


Many hours have passed and my only companion was "just a horse", but never once did I feel slighted. Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by "just a horse", and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of "just a horse" gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day. If you, too, think it's "just a horse", then you will probably understand phrases like "just a friend", "just a sunrise" and "just a promise".


"Just a horse" beings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy. "Just a horse" brings out the compassion and patience that make me a better person. So for me and folks like me, it's not "just a horse" but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.


"Just a horse" brings out what's good in me and diverts my thoughts away from the worries of the day. I hope that someday they can understand that it's not "just a horse", but the very thing that gives me humanity and keep me from being "just a woman."


So the next time you hear the phrase "just a horse", just smile....because they "just" don't understand.



(author unknown, but thank you)


PS - Above pic is of my mare Sparky, escaping the heat and bugs in the "parlor" of the barn on a hot summer day.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Faith Restored

I got to ride BOTH days this past weekend! WHOO!

It was 60+ in the sun and 50 in the (shady) barn on Saturday. SO NICE! Even the MUD was worth it! My dad came to get C at 9AM and they went up to camp. (Camp is on a small pond only 20 minutes from my house). That gave me time to do my stalls, clean the barn, and ride!

Dreamy was as high as a kite! WHOO! She was so fresh, but not in a dangerous way. Being alone, had I felt for one second that I was in danger of falling, I would have gotten off. But that is the nice thing about her. She might be all "get up and go", but she is never hard to ride or control.

We walked around, breaking a path through the snow, and the footing was excellent. When I asked her to trot the first time, she instead gave me the loveliest canter depart ever! LOL! She was like, "Can we just canter today every time you put your legs on?" Darn mare KNOWS the difference between a trot cue and a canter cue! But no, she just canters, canters, canters! I did get some decent trot, but it was a bit tense, as she was anticipating the canter. She just wanted to play.

It was a good workout, that is for sure. I planned to ride only the normal 30 mins., with very brief trot and a few strides of canter like I have been doing. Well, it ended up being more like 45 mins. (with brief trots and canters) but mostly WALK WALK and more WALK. It took lots of leg to keep her connected to the bit and WALKING. Good lord! Mares.....my legs are pretty darn sore.

Then Sunday was another nice day. S worked until 2PM and I went right out to ride we he got home. I had a fantastic ride that actually made me cry. Well, not really CRY, but get teary because she was SO PERFECT. Dreamy was focused and calm, completely different from yesterday. She was back to her normal, ho-hum self.

And......drumroll......her canter was just perfect. I had been on her for about 25 mins, but when she gave me that canter, that was it. I praised her like crazy, put her on a loose rein, and let her walk awhile to cool off. Sometimes when your horse is that perfect, you just have to be done. :D

That ride restored my faith in myself, my horse, and our abilities. I think we are going to have a great summer! It was the first time she was totally in contact with the bit the entire time we cantered. She did it twice on Sat., but I was like, hmmm...that was odd, probably just a fluke. I felt excited, but figured not to get too excited. Then on Sunday she was totally THERE the entire ride. And that last canter was just absolutely three beat, steady, slow, and CONNECTED to the bit!!!!! She did not throw her head into the air, she did not fling her body into the canter, but she just sat underneath herself, stepped into the canter very easily, and she used her neck and came DOWN to accept the bit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This has never happened yet! The feeling I had was completely indescribable!!!

I think that was the best six strides of canter I have ever ridden in my life. And to top it off? She came down into the trot without gaping her mouth up and open against my hand. She just softened, accepted, and came down to the trot. There was a half stride of pace there, but what the hell. Everything else was perfect.

Of course, as my very realist and non-horsey husband had to point out, the next ride might suck. Yeah, well, yesterday she proved she really IS a real dressage horse. All my sweat and tears paid off. I never thought she would give me a canter like that. Now that we have done it once, we can do it again. Granted, it was in the snow, and the snow is the perfect footing for getting a nice uplifted canter from a STB. But c'mon, we have been cantering now for a YEAR. That's it!! Only a year!! And I worked so hard last summer to prove Judy my instructor right when she said we would "get it" by October. We didn't, mostly it was my fault for still not riding correctly, but still I felt like I let myself (and her) down.

But yesterday I worked SO hard to keep my leg on her correctly, and I SAT UP so much I felt like I was lying on her back. I was so focused on riding my horse correctly that it paid off. So....thank you Judy. That canter was for you. Now.....if I can only recreate it in a lesson on dirt footing! LOL! ;-)

I know I am nuts, but rides like this are what truly sustain me. Ah.........horses. :D

Thursday, March 5, 2009

That is my leg! LOL!

Remember when I talked about Dreamy being in the MDS omnibus twice? Well, that pic of my leg is really me! NO having to eat my hat! (But I TOTALLY knew that was us....)

Anyway, I have been in touch with the photographer and I think I am going to buy a copy! I love that pic. I have always wanted an artsy pic of my leg. Silly, I know. LOL!

Riding with Lendon!!!

So, one of my dreams has always been to take lessons with Lendon Gray. I completely adore her. She is one of the only BNT/BNR that I actually think really highly of. OK, well, her and the O'Connors. I applied to take a lesson with her through the NEDA Flextime program , which I talked about here

If I had been smarter, I would have become a working student with Lendon back when I was in college or right afterward. Oh well, too late now. :p

So I wrote to her recently, saying that while I may not have received a Flextime lesson with her, I was still interested in possibly coming down to take lessons over a weekend. I had no idea if this was even something she would consider, seeing as I am sure she has plenty of local clients already and having me come down would probably be a pain in the butt.

I was pleasantly surprised to get an email the other day, saying:


Elizabeth, I would love to have you come. Lessons are $110. Stabling is about $35 per night although a new person will be running the stable this summer. There is a motel in Mt. Kisco and Armonk -- closest -- less expensive ones in Brewster, Danbury, CT and maybe Stamford, CT.
Lendon

Umm, wait. Did Lendon Gray REALLY just say she would love to have me come for a weekend of lessons???????? Two lessons and overnight stabling for two nights would be $290. The round trip is approximately 600 miles, and if I pretend the price of gas might be $3.00 this summer (crossing fingers), then I am looking at $150 in gas. And a hotel and food? Well I could do this for $550 or so. But an opportunity to ride twice with Lendon and then hang around all day at her farm to watch her teach others and such????

PRICELESS.

(OK, I know that is a corny MasterCard commercial, but hey, it works.)

Of course, I might just be being outrageous here and there is no way this would work. But what the hell......I can save money. I sent myself to Nationals in NJ last year, paying my own way, WITHOUT a job! I can do anything, man. (And it does seem that I have a few generous sponsors too.) ;-)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A REAL Dressage Coat

I have two riding coats.....an ancient black hunt coat and an "Ebay find" gray hunt coat. I have always wanted a "real" dressage coat, but just cannot afford it right now. Plus, having a perfectly suitable black jacket makes me wonder why I need a new one.

But I want a REAL one, with the silver buttons and the flap in the back. LOL!

I have been scouring Ebay, to no avail. Plus it is SO hard to find a coat on Ebay and not be able to try it on.

So I found this great UK shop that carries PIKEUR coats so cheap, like half price!!!!!! www.amirashop.co.uk And they are totally reputable! I emailed for more info on sizing, since it is all German and I have no idea what a size "36" means. LOL! Here is what I got back. Looks like I am a size 38 and want a Diana. :D We shall see......I am all about spending money lately, huh???

Hi Elizabeth,

Thank you for your e-mail, the Pikeur jackets are measured by chest circumference.

A German 34 has an approximate chest measurement of 32"

A German 36 has an approximate chest measurement of 33"

A German 38 has an approximate chest measurement of 34.6"

A German 40 has an approximate chest measurement of 36.2"

A German 42 has an approximate chest measurement of 37.8"

A German 44 has an approximate chest measurement of 40"


The Diana is a longer traditional style jacket

The Epsom is a slightly shorter "fashionable" style jacket

The Skarlett is a very short jacket - sitting by top of hips

The Ascona is similar fit to the Epsom with a slightly less fitted shape

The Ghia is same style as the Epsom but made with the new soft-shell fabric designed for all year (weather) competitions.


Please let me know if you need further advice.