Sunday, June 28, 2009

A neat find...

My husband found this bird's nest in one of the side lawn trees. It was empty, so the little ones have already hatched and flown away.

Normally, I would not appreciate a bird's nest, seeing as I would have wanted him to leave it in the tree. But if you look closely, you can see why he brought it to me to keep.

Yes, that is my Sparky's tail hair in the middle of the nest! How cool! :)

Standardbred Performance Society

There is a new Standardbred organization just getting its hooves off the ground! Please check us out at

There is a printable membership form! Please support this new organization!

Tell all the STB folks you know! Thanks!

UNH Dressage Show, June 26-27

We competed at UNH this past weekend, doing both Training 2 and Training 4 each day. UNH is close enough that I was able to trailer in both days. It was nice to be able to go home and relax, rather than have to stable her there. Plus, after three days away at the Downeast, I did NOT want to have to overnight again so soon.

I am very pleased with our weekend. We scored where we should have. I have no excuses and think the judges were very fair. There were no "technical difficulties" or "naughty" horse moments......unlike some folks who shall remain nameless....GAG. I would say that most dressage folks who see my scores would think they are very low. And you know, they are not spectacular. But based on where my horse is currently in her training, and the fact that she is a STB, I am beyond pleased with our weekend.

No ribbons, as they did not split the divisions like most shows. I thought this was rather cheap, but what the hell. Showing is not about ribbons, but when you shell out $195 it would be kind of nice to bring something home to show for your efforts! LOL! Ah well. And we won our fair share at the Downeast last weekend! Someone asked why I could win so much last weekend and then not place in the top 6 at UNH. Well........trotting and walking around a ring with one change of direction is not hard. We are quite good at that. Doing Training level dressage, especially Training 4, is VERY hard for my mare right now. But we have come so far! That is what really matters to me. Progress....the journey....NOT the ribbons to brag about.

Training 2
10 out of 12 places

Training 4
14 out of 19 places

Training 2
8 out of 10 places

Training 4
10 out of 13 places

We had to ride Training 2 in a grass ring, and the footing was pretty sticky. Dreamy had a hard time with the footing, so our tests were not as nice as they could have been. There were some really deep places that she had a hard time actually getting through! Her canter was impacted quite a bit, but oh well. Not much I could do about it.

Her Training 4 test on Friday was tense. A cement truck pulled up right outside the ring and parked just as I was about to head in to start my test. She was rather worried and we got "explosive" as the comment on her first canter! LOL! Yeah, well, I am glad I stayed on! Explosive is a good word to describe that test. I was waiting for her to completely lose it and dump me. I am proud that she kept it together and we did manage to get through the test without any major issues. She did pace once on that downward transition from the explosive canter. One step. That was the only time she paced the entire weekend. So I was pretty damn proud. Pacing when nervous will probably never go away. :)

Overall, I knew we had some nice moments and some not-so-nice moments during each ride. We scored 7s and 6s on everything except the canters....we got 5s and 4s. I was not surprised because I KNEW that was happening as I was riding.

What I am most happy with is our IMPROVEMENT each day! We went up 2.5 points on Training 2 and almost FOUR points on Training 4! When I finished my Training 4 test on Saturday, I KNEW it was the best test we could have ridden right now. She was just perfect. Yes, the canter needs work....mostly balance! But she was completely on the aids and her trot work was outstanding. She was totally soft and connected in the bridle all weekend. Dreamy used to warm up nicely and then become a bundle of nerves when we switched over to the competition arena. She never did it at NEDA Spring in May and she did not do it this past weekend at UNH! That is a huge accomplishment and I knew it would just take practice and time. PLUS, I got 6s and 7s on my rider scores! YAY!

The judges were very encouraging. Beth Beukema wrote that I had a fairly accurate test but needed to develop more balance in the canter (Training 2 on Friday). Dorothy Maxfield wrote that our walk was lovely. Our trot was quite nice when relaxed. Keep up the good work and good luck! (Training 4 on Friday). She is also the only one who gave me oral comments at the end...she said I had done a wonderful job with my Standardbred and that she saw a lot of potential! YAY! Ida Anderson judged both tests on Saturday. For Training 2 she wrote: Attractive team. Focus on encouraging this good horse to move with hocks more under. Continue to monitor tempo and keep elastic connection. Good luck! This was in the mucky grass arena, where Dreamy literally could NOT keep her hind end underneath herself. Then on Training 4 she wrote: This horse starting to look good and very correct in trot work. Keep working to improve the canter. Take slight contact and try to balance it if you can. Good job and good luck!

So while we did not get our qualifying scores, nor did we break 60%, I am VERY pleased with our weekend. I know we still have a long ways to go, but I am happy we are just out there doing it! Improvement will come slowly, but it will come. It may be 2010 when we finally qualify for USDF awards, but that is OK with me. For now, I am having fun and working hard! I never even brought my camera....LOL! So no pics right now. The professional photographer was Mystical Photography and will hopefully have proofs up soon. I may buy ONE if it is decent, but honestly I already have so many photos of this mare in competition....LOL! I will post an update when the proofs are up!

ETA: Photos are up! Click here
I am very unimpressed with them though. They are all boring side shots of us trotting....and geez, I already have about 200 pics of us doing THAT! :P I was hoping for something a little more artsy, maybe a nice head shot of Dreamy.....oh well. I will not order any. You can see, however, how awful she did in the grass arena. It was ridiculous footing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rain sucks....but I got my UNH times!

This rain just completely and utterly sucks. It is so wet outside, and I feel like I am going to start growing mold. UGGGG. The worst part is that the footing in my "ring" is not that great after this many days of rain. AHHHH!

So, I gave Dreamy Monday off, of course. I wanted to take a lesson last night, but between my husband unable to get home in time for me to use the truck AND the rain, I cancelled it. I am hoping to try again tonight, but he just called and said he had a break down and was not sure he would be home by 5PM. Oh will probably just rain anyway.

I did ride last night for 45 minutes in the drizzle. I did just a light dressage work out, nothing too hard. She was quiet and relaxed, coming right into steady contact! Yay! She did not feel stiff, but she did feel a little tired. We did some lateral work, trot-canter-trot transitions, and long and low trot. Her canter transitions both up and down were fabulous. No pace.

If I do not get to take a lesson tonight, I will just ride her lightly again. I want to do some of the test movements for this weekend's show. Ah yes, we are off to UNH for their dressage show.

Here is my ride schedule:

8:42 AM Training 2
9:45 AM Training 4

8:57 AM Training 2
2:49 PM Training 4

I love the fact that I will be home by noon on Friday. Granted, I have to leave here around 6AM. But Saturday kind of sucks! I have to wait SIX HOURS between my tests!!! Good lord! I am not getting a stall, because UNH is close enough to trailer in to both days. So anyway, I am hoping for decent footing, good weather, and 60% or above tests! Send some good energy our way!

At least the rain is making the pastures grow out of control grass! If it ever dries up, we can mow it with the tractor and it will look amazing. This is Dreamy the day before we left for the Downeast show (last Thursday).

Who, me, spoiled? LOL!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Downeast Congress Photos

Well, I am not sure if there are enough photos of this weekend. I mean, the professional photographer did only take 78 photos of me. LOL! I was so excited to get a CD of all 78 images for just $129. I usually spend at least that on three or four prints! Now I have them all and can do anything I want with them! Some of these first few were taken by me. :) I will put the heading of the photo at the top of each one.

Here is a shot of Standardbred Row! There are two more STBs to the right, but my lens cannot take a shot like that.
Dreamy's stall is on the far left, then our tack stall, then McKeever's stall. As you can see, S is mucking him out!

Close up of our tack stall front and lovely banner. We had a table and flowers and all that....but with the rain and wind, we opted to not put it out. :(

Inside of the tack stall.

The great banner I had made for the occasion!

The banner I had made for my mare. Now we can show in style!

Hi Dream!

Here are the things I bought! A new saddle pad....maroon of course. Then I had it embroidered right there at the show! The treats were in the goody bag.

This gorgeous bowl was made by Laurie
Dombroski. I love it!

Here is my shirt and the cute bag I had made.

Here we are in Dressage Suitability. Dreamy looks great, but I am having a hard time sitting up because I am ABSOLUTELY SOAKED! I thought I might slip off!

Pretty mare!

The two
UMares doing the demo.

S and
McKeever in the demo!

H and
Bruizer in the demo!

J and Duncan in the demo!

Dreamy and me in the demo! Cute little event horse!

Jumping in the demo!

Line up at the end of the demo!

STB In-Hand

Dreamy just "loves" in-hand!

Doing my Hi Lo
warmup/Easy Does It division. Not sure which photo is from which of the three o/f classes. Here I am looking for my jump! And so is the mare!

I am holding her face a little too much here.....getting ready to have to PULL her up on the landing do she does not buck!

There are other photos of us jumping, but she was a wild and crazy mare! These were the best ones.
Saturday night's
STB Pleasure Class.


Tears streaming down the face...

LOL! If you click on any photo, it gets really big on your screen. Then you can see the tears! :D


Sunday morning's
STB Equitation Class.

Another win!

Victory pass!

And Sunday afternoon's STB Pleasure Championship

We are the STB Champions of the weekend! This is the other photo, same as the one on top of the blog. I love this one, because you can totally tell how MAD she was at having to stand. Classic pissed off mare face.

Vicotry pass was a little crazy....she is like WHAT IS THIS THING ON MY FACE???? The steward (in the win photos) asked if I really wanted the big ribbon on her face. I told her, "Sure, why not? I can stay on!"

LOL! ;-)
Ah, pretty mare! This was before we won anything, so I wanted to be sure that we got a photo near the sign. S took it for me.

The Standardbred Crew!

THE END! I had a blast! Hope you enjoyed the photos! :)

Downeast Horse Congress, June 19-21, 2009

I had so much fun at the Downeast Horse Congress. I had been looking forward to this show since late winter, when I had contacted the show manager to see if he was adding a Standardbred division. This was a double judged show, so each judge got to pin the class. I ended up with double the set of ribbons! I am going to write all of the exciting news, then do another post with just the pics. There are so many photos that I will drive myself crazy trying to get them all to look right in with the words.

Thursday was my last day at school. I had planned to get all of my packing done, then bathe and braid Dreamy, and be in bed at a reasonable hour. Well……anyone who knows me also knows that as much as I try, the reasonable hour thing never happens. With a young son and too many things to do in my house, I ended up headed out to bathe and pack at 8PM. Yeah, so I was back in the house at midnight. Great.

Friday morning I headed out at 7:45 AM to drive to Cumberland with Dreamy in tow. It was pouring rain, mind you. POURING. Like torrentially pouring. When I got there around 8:45AM, I saw that my show buddy S had already gotten her gelding McKeever on the trailer and all we needed to do was load my tack and horse into her trailer. I put Dreamy on the crossties in her barn (which is a race barn at the fairgrounds, so Dreamy was like WHAT THE HELL IS THIS? Her eyes were as big as saucers, but she stood stock still and waited so patiently. That was a huge surprise, since she is normally not patient.) It took no time to get all of my stuff (and I have a LOT of stuff!) into the trailer, get my mare on, and head out. I want to say we rolled out of there around 9AM.

We arrived at Skowhegan around 11AM (aka “Skowtown” and “Skow Vegas” just as an FYI to any non-Maine-ahs. LOL!) The fairgrounds are a nice place to show, with a covered ring and pretty decent temporary stalls. We lucked out and ended up in Barn 2 (which I will request for next time) which had nice gray boards instead of ratty red canvas on the stalls. We got the stalls set up with four bags of shavings, seeing as the floor was concrete (only downfall of the stalls). I ended up doing up her legs (putting standing wraps and rubbing alcohol on them) both nights, which I think helped too.

I put Dreamy in her stall and she settled in very easily. Of course, because she is a Standardbred! I would have liked to walk her around more than I had, but it was pouring buckets. We got the tack stall set up and began socializing! There were two STB mares from the University of Maine program, Dewey and April, who are known as “UMares”, as well as many students and faculty. One of the faculty members is a good friend of mine and she brought along her STB gelding Bruizer. He is ridden by a UMaine student who has done a wonderful job with him. Later in the evening, my friend from RI arrived with her STB gelding Duncan and our “Standardbred Row” was complete.

My first class was Dressage Suitability. I knew that this would be our “blow off” class, seeing as Dreamy is usually a little looky, if not full blown nervous, for the first time in a new ring. Top off the fact that the ring is scary to MANY horses in general, and I knew not to expect much. Of course, the silly part is that Dressage Suitability had to be the blow off, seeing as we actually DO DRESSAGE and not hunters. But oh well. LOL! Of course, it was pouring and I kept hoping it may let up a bit so I could get a good warm up. No luck. I had to warm up in the downpour. By the time I entered the ring, I felt like I had fallen into a swimming pool in my show clothes. I was slipping all over the place in the saddle. I have never been so soaked in my life! Dreamy was so good in the warm up, which was really just a dirt area between the barns and the covered ring. There were massive puddles and little running streams everywhere, but she trotted and cantered through them all. Our right lead was sloppy, but I figured this class was just for the sake of doing it. I know our canter is really only good for 20-m. circles right now, so cantering around the HUGE ring was going to be a challenge, if not impossible.

And she was so nervous in the class! The bleachers were pretty full of spectators, which she oogled at. The far side of the ring had a huge puddle just outside the rail, which was obviously incredibly scaring and ate horses. We had a nice counter bend on that side of the arena. BAH! And she was so nervous and not paying attention that we got both leads wrong. They were perfect in warm up, and she has been getting them at home 99% of the time, but oh well. That is showing for you. But at least I got her in the ring, and I figured had gotten the foolishness out. I was wrong….more on that later. We ended up in third, which sounds great until I tell you there were only three people in the class. LOL! Oh well. Back at the barn, I stripped out of my wet clothes, took care of my mare, and got to relax until the Standardbred demo at 6:50PM. S and I just ate at the show vendor, which was actually pretty good, but rather expensive.

The demo was something I helped to organize, with six Standardbreds total. It was the first ever demo (OK, it was our first ever “anything”) for our new organization, the Standardbred Performance Society, and it was a resounding success. First we had the two UMares (DoRunBlueFortunate aka “Dewey” and Skittish aka “April”) do part of a drill they have done at the University. The announcer read our script about the two mares while they performed. Then we had four members of our new organization, the Standardbred Performance Society, in the ring. First was Bruizer’s L’il Star, then Slam Dunk Lobel, and then McKeever Hanover. “Bruizer” and “McKeever” went hunt seat and trotted around doing circles and changes of rein. “Duncan” went western pleasure, showing off his running walk. Again, the announcer read the script about the horses and riders, complete with major racing/showing accomplishments. Last, I entered the ring to jump! I opted to stay at the “less scary” end of the arena because 1. I knew Dreamy was a bit afraid of the scary puddle at the other end, and 2. All the horses before us were congregated down there. We went over a little gate once in each direction, then I cantered (on her LEFT lead…LOL!) around the arena once. At the very end, we all lined up in the center.

I was very pleased with the demo, except for the fact that the sound system would not work properly, so our fun and upbeat swing music did not get to play. But that was OK since overall the horses looked great and everyone seemed to really like it. We got a lot of positive comments, as did the show manager.

Saturday morning was less rainy, but it still showered on and off all day. This was my busy day. I was hoping to get my Standardbred In-Hand class done frist thing, so then I could do my three jump courses. But instead, the hunt ring steward recommended I go jump and THEN do my in-hand. Oh great. Just what I needed was running around like a crazy person.

The hunt ring was to be held in the covered arena and the in-hand and pleasure classes would be in the infield of the track. There was so much rain in the infield, however, that they were not able to hold the in-hand and pleasure classes there at all. YIKES! I give huge congratulations to the manager and volunteers who were able to get everything organized and figure out what to do. We ended up having in-hand in the aforementioned dirt warm up area between the barns and the covered ring. It was not ideal, but it was not very wet due to excellent drainage. The infield grass field was literally under several inches of water, so moving the classes was a great choice.

So I got ready for my Hi Lo Judged Warm Up and Easy Does It Stake, which were both the same course. I went in for my warm up and Dreamy was great. She hesitated at the first fence, but then she was quiet and easy to ride over the rest of the course. I was so pleased with her! I wanted to then do my Stake class, as the ring steward told me I could, but immediately after my round she said that I had to do my regular Easy Does It Over Fences class BEFORE I could do my Stake class. YIKES! I had totally NOT memorized THAT course, so I had to leave and do that.

Well, I spent some time looking at it. I hate memorizing courses anyway and I have to write them down. The worst part is that there are no numbers on hunt courses, unlike a stadium or cross country course, so I had to really know the course. At least in a stadium course, I can count the jumps off. I know if I am off course, because I am always looking for my next number on the next fence.

SO……………I think I have the course down so I ask to go again. We go in and the first jump is the same as the Hi Lo, but from the other direction. Dreamy has to do the opening circle at the “scary” end of the arena. This starts our course off badly. She lands from the first little fence and puts her head waaaaay down between her knees to buck! WHAT????? She has NEVER done that to me. Of course, I pulled her up hard with my right rein to prevent her from bucking. But I was so mad and surprised that I also yelled, “You F*CKER!” Yeah, really classy. As soon as I did it, I was completely mortified. And of course, I then completely forget what I am doing and head for the wrong jump. The two judges let me do four more fences before they finally announce “Off Course”!

CRAP! CRAP! CRAP! I have never gone off course, so this was a learning experience. I was embarrassed more about dropping the F-Bomb than going off course. I headed out, walked around for a moment to clear my head, and then asked to do my Stakes. It was the same course I had done for Hi Lo and it went fine. She was still VERY naughty because she was “nervous.” Now, there is a difference to me between her nervousness in the Dressage Suitability class and the jumping. In the DS class, she was nervous but she LISTENED to me. She did what I asked, even if she was doing it at racehorse speed at times. But the jumping classes made me mad. Yes, she was nervous, but there was NO reason for dropping her head at EVERY SINGLE JUMP to try to buck. I was prepared for her antics, but that does not mean I like it.

I ended up placing out of the top 6 in the Hi Lo. There were 29 entries and the judges’ cards only reflected the top 6, so I have no idea where I came in. I imagine I did better than 29 out of 29 though! LOL! She was very good on that first course. I hope I was in the top 15 or so. For Easy Does It Hunter Over Fences Stake I ended up fourth out of 6 riders.

We went back to the barn after the three jump courses and had to get ready for STB In-Hand. Thankfully S is a great friend and groom, so she helped me to get the saddle marks off Dreamy. I was pretty upset about Dreamy’s antics in the jump ring, so I had to allow myself to be mad and then shake it off. We literally had maybe 15 minutes before In-Hand, so I think I did pretty well. But I was so upset that Dreamy was naughty. Like I said, there is a difference to me between nervous and naughty.

I was not expecting much in the In-Hand class. For one thing, I despise In-Hand. I really do! And Dreamy is not a “typey” Standardbred at all, much like McKeever. I knew that the horses built like actual Standardbreds would do well. Big, tall, broad and rangy. So we ended up fifth out of 8 entries. I was proud that both Duncan and Bruizer ended up with first place ribbons though! And Dreamy was really well behaved, despite her tendency to get bored in In-Hand classes and do fun things like rear. She did everything I asked and kept all four feet on the ground. LOL!

We then had to go back and get saddled for Easy Does It Hunter Under Saddle. Dreamy was better behaved than she was in the jumping, which I think was because she was not alone in the ring. She was a little nervous, but listened to me. We got our leads, but it was not entirely a pretty right lead canter. UGGG. I ended up in fourth out of 8. That was surprising to me, as I had figured I would not place at all! And for the fact that Dreamy is NOT a hunter, I was happy.

SO……we were supposed to be doing our pleasure classes in the infield. Like I said, it was under water so the classes had to be somehow fit into the covered arena. The hunter classes (over fences and under saddle) ended around 6:30 PM. The show management then fit our “afternoon session” of pleasure classes in before the evening session. Word has it that they were there showing until midnight!!! So anyway, our Standardbred Pleasure class that should have probably gone off around 2PM had the outside ring been OK, ended up going off at 8:30! LOL! The afternoon session at 8:30! But I must say that it was pretty cool to be showing in the arena under the lights.

I ended up doing quite a bit of shopping while we were there on Saturday afternoon. I bought two Downeast pins to hold on my number, a Downeast t-shirt, a pottery horse bowl, a custom embroidered bag, a saddle pad which I then got custom embroidered, and a CD of professional photos. The photographer was fantastic. I bought all 78 photos on a CD, which I can do anything with, for only $129. Had I bought just three 8x10s, I would have spent $100. And there was NO WAY I could have only picked a couple of photos. There were so many excellent ones! We also got goody bags from the show, which had cute Downeast cups filled with horse treats and people candy.

A bunch of us went to Ken’s Restaurant for lunch. (Note: It is a great place to eat if you ever find yourself in Skowtown!) We had wanted to go to dinner, but with our class being postponed until later in the evening, we opted to do lunch instead. The horses were all rested and S and I grained by 5PM. The rain was scattered and it was pretty much just a very cloudy day. The occasional drizzle was not that bad and really only got the tops of my thighs wet when I was riding. We took our time getting ready, though towards the end it was pretty boring. Nothing like waiting nearly 12 hours between your classes! WHEW! I was pretty excited for the class, but I also knew I had stiff competition. All of our Standardbreds were capable of winning a pleasure class. And Dreamy and I never do well in pleasure classes, so I was just looking to have a good ride with no nervousness.

And my mare never put a foot wrong. Her trot was fluid and as rhythmic as a metronome. She just went in there and completely stunned me. Truly I think she was much happier in the covered arena with her “buddies”, rather than being alone with the jumps! We retired to the rail as the steward brought the cards to the announcer. They were pinning first through sixth, so there was really little suspense. When they announced, “This class was clearly unanimous and our first place winner is number 122……etc etc” I completely burst into tears. I am not talking about a little weeping; I am talking big gulping sobs. LOL! I was just so happy with my mare for many reasons. First, we NEVER pin well in a pleasure class. Second, she overcame her fear and was not nervous at all. And third, she was just absolutely perfect. I am serious! She may not be a hunter, she may never be able to canter around a huge ring more than just on a 20 m. circle, but she was absolutely perfect in her 2-Gait STB Pleasure class.

So we got to do the victory pass and the tears were just streaming down my face. I cried all through going back to the barn, accepting congratulations, and getting her put away! LOL! It was a good 15 minute cry. What a fabulous way to end my day.

Sunday dawned…..with more clouds. It was raining at 4:48AM, when I awoke and could NOT get back to sleep. I just kept thinking about the night before and how awesome my horse had done. We planned to get up at 6AM to feed horses, but I was awake for an hour before that. I was eager to show again in our two last classes, STB Equitation and then STB Pleasure Championship. I could tell Dreamy was pretty well done with this whole “live-in-your-stall-for-three-days” thing, and was bored. I took her for a long walk on Sunday morning, and we went all over the grounds. I also think it helped limber her up. The rain cleared right before our morning class and I was ready to go. I do well in Equitation, often winning or at last second. I really wanted to do well.

And yet again, we got to do a victory pass! I was so pleased with my mare, as she was just as good as the night before. She was completely confident in the covered arena now. It was just a blast to be riding her. She did not want to stand in the line up, however. That was kind of a pain in the neck. The day went much more quickly this time. We got the horses put away and decided to have lunch. They were planning to start the afternoon session around 12:45 and we were the fifth class in. We ate lunch and had about an hour to pack everything. We pulled the trailer right up to the tack stall and packed everything away except for our show clothes, tack, and water buckets. That way when we were done showing, we would only have to pack a few things.

I was excited for the STB Pleasure Championship class. I knew if we could put in a repeat performance of the last two classes, we would have a good shot at the champion title. We had a good warm up, with lots of good trot work and lateral work. I warmed her up exactly how I had for the last two STB classes. She was being so responsive that I even threw in some trot leg yield, which was perfect. Without spurs or a crop!!! She was so responsive to me. And then we even did some extended trot across the diagonal which was fun! She was just so easy to ride!! The sun and blue sky came out during our warm up, which was crazy. And it made it crazy hot! But within 10 minutes, it was back to gray clouds.

Yet again, the class was great. Dreamy was on auto-pilot and just was so smooth and easy. She came right to the bit, was completely on the aids, and just moved flawlessly. I was excited to know the results, so retiring to the rail was very suspenseful for me. And again, we got to do the victory pass! We had swept all three of our under saddle STB classes and been named the Standardbred Champion of the weekend! WOW! I was so proud! I am still in awe of how well we did. It was quite a comeback from the nervous mare I rode on Friday in our “blow off” class!!!

Overall, the weekend was a success. I had a blast being with all of my horse friends. We laughed, joked, helped each other out, and just enjoyed being together. I got to meet a lovely woman named Heather McPhee, who owns Center Peace Farm in Jay, ME. She was stabled right behind us and was just so much fun to be with. She rode her gorgeous five year old Friesian mare named Rosalina. I got her email and would like to stay in touch. She offered to be barn neighbors with us anytime we are showing together, which was cool!

S was a great help to me, and I am so grateful for her friendship. We ought to hate each other, seeing as we are usually so close in the ribbons! LOL! But instead, we help each other out and cheer each other on. She is the person that I would like to see win if I don’t, much like any of my horse friends with me this past weekend. S trucked my horse up there, calmed me down, told me to shake off the bad rides, and made me laugh so hard I thought I would pee my pants. She gets my humor and we get along like peas in a pod, even if we don’t see each other for a month or longer.

J was supportive and fun to be with too. She brought her barn owner C, who is another great horse woman. I love being with them and look forward to many more shows together! J made the tough (but also easy) decision to pull her horse Duncan out of the Championship class when he started moving really short behind in the warm up. It was hard, because I know she wanted the chance to ride, but it was easy because she loves her horse like I love mine and she is a true horsewoman. She did what was right for her horse, despite losing money on the class and missing the shot at a ribbon. I am proud of her for her decision.

It was also great to spend time with N. I am glad she finally got to meet my mare, after knowing me for over two years now! I have always visited her up in Orono/Old Town at her home, so she had never before seen Dreamy other than videos and photos. It was so cool to be able to share the great social aspect of showing with N. She really truly understands now when I say it is so much more than ribbons. Her horse Bruizer was a true star. His rider H did a great job with him and he looked excellent. It was hard to believe he has only been under saddle for about four months now! That is the Standardbred way! LOL!

And all the University gang was great! I think they had fun and they represented the University so well. Having two of the UMares at the show was such good publicity for their program.

There was only one downfall to the weekend. Yes, the rain was no fun, but we all had so much fun that the rain was nothing. There was a horse in some of my classes that was horribly lame and unhappy. I know this person and have little respect for the way the horse is treated and the way the person behaves in public. At one time, I was an acquaintance of this person, but I no longer want to be around with someone like this….at all. I am not rude to the person, but I just avoid and go out of my way to not have to be with this person. I have posted about this person on my blog before. UGGGG. I have let it go and moved on, but this person has not. It is too bad, but I really tried to not allow the person to spoil my weekend. It is the person’s problem at this point, not mine.

Overall, I had a blast at the Downeast! I would do this again in a heartbeat. Well, I might want to wait a few weeks, seeing as I am still sore and tired! LOL! But I would say the money and time was VERY well spent. There is nothing quite like the joy I get from my horse and my friends.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gearing Up to Show THIS WEEKEND!

I am at school right last day!  I am SO ready for summer and more than a little bored to be sitting here!

Tomorrow is technically the last day I am supposed to be here, but I took a personal day. Seeing as I have not actually taught a student since May 19 (my seniors' last day of classes) and I am giving no underclassmen finals this week, I felt OK asking for the day.  I told my boss exactly why I was asking for it off, and reminding him that I would NEVER do it if I taught underclassmen.  He was 100% supportive of granting my personal day!  :)

So, the reason is because I am showing this weekend at the Downeast Congress Horse Show in Skowhegan, ME.  It is the Maine Horse Association's 30th annual Downeast Show, and it is a Class "A" double judged pleasure ring and a double judged hunter ring.  That means TWO sets of ribbons!  WHOOOOOOOOO!  Click here for more info......scroll down for the show.

Dreamy and I are doing numerous classes over the three days:

  • Dressage Suitability (FRI)
  • Standardbred in Hand (SAT)
  • Standardbred Pleasure (SAT)
  • Standardbred Equitation (SUN)
  • Standardbred Pleasure Championship (SUN)
  • Hi Lo Judged Warm Up (SAT)
  • Easy Does It Hunter Over Fences (SAT)
  • Easy Does It Hunter Over Fences Championship (SAT)
  • Easy Does It Hunter Under Saddle (SAT)
Also we are doing a demo on Friday night at 6:45.  :)

I should have lots of photos and lots of news to share when I get back on Sunday night.  Though I will probably wait until Monday/Tuesday to post!  

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Great Juggling Act is least coming to a close for now!

Whew! What a crazy hectic life I have had lately! While I try to only write about horsey things on my blog, sometimes other parts of my life have to be written about as well. My seniors had exit exhibits, finals, graduation, and Project Grad within the last two weeks. Holy stress! At least now they are done and I am slowly catching up on my sleep. Project Grad was overnight on this past Sunday night. Our two hour cruise on Lake Winnipesaukee was great fun, but the seven hours in a large white tent with no heat was AWFUL. Just simply awful because the "coordinator" of this event did not do a good job with details! We played cards and listened to music....for 7 hours! And mind you she gets a rather large stipend to organize Project Grad. Hmmm......and I got nothing but a "nice job" for organizing prom. But I digress.....

So I was awake for 22 hours straight with 53 very crabby seniors. Yeah, not my idea of a good time. I was able to sleep five hours on Monday morning and then I rode my horse. It was actually a really good ride, if only because I kept my expectations small and she easily exceeded them. LOL! Then I was in bed both Monday and Tuesday nights by 7PM. Last night I finally felt like a normal person again and got to ride. So it seems like I am back to my old self. :) I am supposed to be in school until June 19, but I had to take a personal day seeing as I will be at a show in Skowhegan from June 19-21. So my last day at school is June 18! YAY! Tomorrow I have been asked to chaperone a field trip to an amusement park (tough life I know) and then I only have four days to work next week. I have to finish cleaning my room and organizing for next year. Then it is off to show for three days and my summer has officially begun! Here is a photo montage I made of my kids.....if you are interested.

Also of note in the last few weeks is that my son graduated from PRESCHOOL! YAY! I am so proud of my fabulous little boy. He is entering kindergarten in the fall and I am so proud of him. Photos here in my FB account...

So now, how is Dreamy!? She is actually doing very well. For one thing, I think she looks the best she has looked since I started her under saddle in 2006. She is finally well muscled in all the right places, her coat looks great, and she is at a good weight. She was really overweight when I first got her, having stood around for many years, and then last summer I think I got her too thin. Not that she was thin as in ribs showing, but she is easy to get fit and literally be all muscles and no fat. I think that makes her look too angular. I am very pleased to see how well her stifles look this year. I know that one of the keys to developing her canter is to strengthen her stifles. Thankfully she was never injured in her stifles as a racehorse, so it has never (knock on wood) been an issue. She is not lame in her stifles, nor does she have any issues with them. But I knew that in order to strengthen her canter I needed to focus on strengthening her stifles. I got the chance to hear Jo-Ann Wilson speak at the ME Dressage Society's banquet in January of this year and one of the articles she passed out was about stifles. I will write a blog post at some point about what I learned from that article, but not right now....

But anyway, her stifles look stronger and are definitely more developed than a year ago. Plus we have come so far in her training. Lately we have been working on developing the connection to the bit. I really think Dreamy should be a western pleasure horse, as she rather have no contact at all. LOL! It was easy enough at Intro level to "fake" it, because she can look the part of being on the aids, but really she wasn't. Now that I am asking her to do more than just walk trotting around, she needs to be on the contact. It has been a struggle that really sparked back in October when I had that clinic with Susanna Hamilton. For the first time, we really made Dreamy come onto the bit. She was not pleased about it!

But I can see that consistent and CORRECT work has not only developed her muscles properly, but also our under saddle work, especially the canter, has improved dramatically.

Our latest work on connection had me feeling as though we were having "bad rides". She seemed to get REALLY heavy in my hands and just not at all where I thought she should be. After my last lesson on Saturday June 6, I asked my instructor Judy about it. We were in her barn and her mare Locket was on the crossties. I took Locket's lead and made Judy hold one end while I held the other.

I asked her to show me how much contact she wanted me to have with Dreamy's mouth. It surprised me that it was so heavy, seeing as "normally" my horse wants to travel with feather light (if none at all...) contact. Hmmm...OK, well this is better than I thought.

"But this is how the contact feels now," I told her, as I literally pulled against her hand. She told me that was OK. It is definitely too heavy for where we WANT her to be, but it is a LOT better than where she is (feather light to none). As Judy told me, we need to get too strong of a connection in order to then back off a bit. And when she felt luggy or heavy, she wanted me to do a transition. I felt SO MUCH BETTER after she told me this. So even though here I have been thinking we are having "bad rides", in reality we are having great rides! Dreamy is finally starting to be steady in her contact with the bit, staying right there where I want her to be. I know this has taken FOREVER, but Dreamy really rather NOT work towards self-carriage, thank-you-very-much. And realistically, her conformation does not lend itself to self carriage. She has a large heavy shoulder and a smaller back end, because a pacer just plows along on the forehand and trails out the hind end. And heck, the overcheck keeps them from falling on their faces! LOL! So I have to sometimes look at the big picture here and remind myself that there can be no time table for her training.....but let's face it, I totally want to do that.

So yesterday's ride was fantastic. I have been doing lots of broken lines and figure eights to work on getting her warmed up in the trot and ready to work. She came right down onto the bit, soft and steady. I started asking for slight leg yields, pushing her haunches over through the turns. She stayed soft and bended easily in both directions! Yay! She seems to have a harder time bending to the right. This is also her harder direction in the canter. I moved her shoulders over for shoulder fore and even a few steps of shoulder in. I worked really hard to activate her inside hind and also make sure she did not drop her inside shoulder. We did counter bending at the trot. We had some of the best trot work we have ever had. I mixed in some canter/trot/canter work and she stayed soft and supple. Only once to the right (instead of EVERY time) from the canter to the trot did I have to put her onto a small trot circle to regain some semblance of bend. For a long time, she became stiff and crooked after the canter, so putting her onto a small trot circle helped. I am proud we only had to do that once yesterday, and it was her worst direction.

The canter to the left was great. I only asked three times, and she responded with three lovely transitions, true steady canters, and then soft and precise transitions back to the TROT. No pacing. The right lead has been a bit of a mess lately, with bad transitions and four beat unbalanced canters. After such a nice canter at NEDA, with 7s on transitions, I was freaked! Instead of completely freaking out (I only freaked a little...) I tried to trust the process. Yesterday I was rewarded with two genuinely balanced and upward transitions. That was nice! It seems that Dreamy disliked having to keep contact in the right lead transition, so I used to literally drop my inside hand to give her "room". That was fine for a while, but as soon as I started to actually ask for contact in the canter depart, she fell apart. Not pretty. And of course, then my position would fall apart (more so than it already does...) and suddenly we were pacing....and it was just not good. Blech!

So I was pleased to find that I could find a happy medium for her. I still gave her a teeny bit of rein, but literally it was just a teeny tiny bit. And she rocked back and hopped into the canter! WHOO! I prepped her with excellent bending and lateral movements so she would not be falling on the inside shoulder. I tried it once more and she did it perfectly again. It was the transitions from NEDA! YAY! And the canter I got was MUCH better than that of late. It fell apart about 2/3 around the circle, but what the hell. Small steps.

So I am hoping tonight's ride goes well. I think I might go out on the trail so I can do some hill work, but we will see. I want to jump, but the footing might be too soggy for that. We have had three days of on/off rain. Tomorrow she gets to have off, seeing as I am getting back from the chaperoning trip at 8PM (no one mentioned THAT tiny tidbit when I agreed to go...) and then I have a dressage lesson for Saturday morning at 10AM.

So here's hoping life is back to normal...whatever that is! LOL! :) And it is time to start prepping for our exciting show at Skowhegan where we will pretend to be a hunter pony! That should be interesting.

The Zombie Chicken Award

Yay!  The Zombie Chicken Award!  This award was bestowed upon me by my fabulous blogger friend On The Bit.  The Blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the Zombie Chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all…

She wrote the following about her reasons.....

Standardbred Excellence is my third recipient. Just reading about her mare’s COPD makes me twitch with stress! Yet this very cool woman hardly seems phased by it. She just takes things in stride and making sure that her mare is the best she can be. She also is much braver then I am right now because she has already taken her “non-traditional dressage horse” to recognized shows this year! And done well at them! If anyone could inspire zombie chickens I know she could! If she can make taking care of her two lovely mares during a Maine winter seem like fun those zombie chickens would totally have to show some respect!

So thanks On The Bit!  :)  Hopefully this will inspire me to BLOG something now that my life is back to normal AKA my seniors have graduated and my last day of school is June 18!!!!  WHOOOO!