Friday, December 31, 2010


My grandfather, whom I call Bampie and have written about here, is not only one of my favorite people, but also one of my favorite horse people.  He taught me so much in the years I boarded my first mare Sparky at his farm.  I was lucky enough to board her there for the first six months I owned her in eighth grade, and after a year and a half boarding elsewhere, I brought her back from my sophomore year in high school until I moved her here to Cornish with me in 2003.  He took care of her for me all through college, and there were times when I would not be able to visit her for a week or two at a time.  But I always knew Sparky was fine.  Bampie is the one person who I truly have never had to worry about leaving my horse with.  

Anyway, I visited and went out to lunch with Bampie on Christmas Eve day.  Besides the usual Christmas card and cash gift (thank you Bampie!) he gave me a brand new pair of leather splint boots.

Now granted, they are 20+ years old.  LOL!  But they were never put on a horse!  They're brand new and in perfect shape!  They are the Walsh brand and really nice.  Granted, they won't fit Dreamy's little tendons, but they are just right for Reva!  Yay!  Her first pair of cross country boots!  :D

I love that Bampie is the biggest pack rat ever.  He has trunks and trunks FULL of harness racing equipment.  I have one of his trunks (given to me the day Sparky became mine and arrived at his farm), I have a jog cart, a few harnesses, and other odds and ends he has given me over the years.  Every time I am there, he gives me something to take home.  I love it, because even though some of the things I will not use (I have Volo's halter and brushes...they are his and I will keep them forever just because) or cannot use (I have an old leather racing harness that is not safe but it was my grandfather's and that is what matters...), they are hand-me-downs from someone I love and care about very much.  :)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

More Snow Pics!

My son and I took advantage of the gorgeous sunny weather yesterday to play in the snow with Dreamy.  He was very giggly at first, mostly because he has never ridden bareback (usually has his teeny western saddle) and because he has never ridden in the snow!  He is hot/cold about the age six I would have been in heaven if my mother owned three horses!  LOL!  But I can understand how growing up with them in the backyard takes some of the excitement out of it.  I NEVER push him to ride.  It is always his idea.  And he was having so much fun yesterday that I had to beg to have my own turn!  LOL!

After a moment of walk, he decided to ask Dreamy to trot.  LOL!  Ummmm, no kiddo, Mama's not going to let you trot bareback, in the snow, and without a lead/lunge line attached!  Thankfully Dreamy knows her job as a babysitter and did not actually go into a trot.  This past summer was the first time he agreed to ride without a lead rope attached and actually steers very well.  His favorite exercise last summer was to go over the ground poles and aiming for the exact center over all four.  LOL!  And yesterday was the first time he actually expressed interest in trotting.  I told him if he wants to learn, we could plan a time with the saddle and a lunge line attached.  We'll see if he actually follows through.....  :-D  

The pics are from my iPhone because I did not want to deal with my camera in the snow.  I knew my son would want to take pics of me and he can easily handle the iPhone.

Brushing Dreamy before the ride.

Dreamy wanted to follow me around rather than allow him to "ride" her alone. When he would turn her away from me, she would halt. LOL! He asked me why Dreamy would not listen to him and I told him, "Well, you are tiny like a flea and she can barely feel you up there!" Hence the nickname of The Flea while he rides her.

This kid's got a hell of a position on a horse. I wish he would want to ride more than just 2-3 times a year. SIGH

I love her eyes closed. She is just like Sparky when my son rides her.

Typical.  LOL!

He thought making tracks in the snow was pretty cool. "She's like a truck, Mama!" LOL!!!

This is so cute it hurts.

Finally Mama got a turn to ride her horse.....I had to beg! LOL!

Best place on earth....the back of my pony.

Many of the pics look like this.....but still a good job for a six year old!  LOL!

Big canter.

Another big canter.

I especially love my fancy riding 16 year old Carhartt coveralls are sexy!!! LOL!

Feeding treats to the goooood mare. :)

ME: How many treats should we give her?
C: Hmmm, how about six 'cause I'm six!

Kitty tracks!


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow Mares!

Up here in Maine, we got about 8-9 inches of snow overnight Sunday into Monday.  The wind was also howling so I left the mares inside for a while on Monday morning.  Once it stopped snowing and the visibility was a bit better, I let them out around noon time.  They were happy to be out but were certainly ready to come inside at 4PM for dinner!  LOL!

I took a bunch of photos when I let them outside.  They were pretty cute in the snow and wind!  There is not much space in their winter paddocks, but all three ran around, bucked, and rolled multiple times.  Then Reva tore around the longest while the other two "mature" mares watched!  It was pretty cute!

More pics can be seen here on my Facebook page!  You do not need Facebook to view them!

Here is Ms. Sparky!  Love this mare!

Reva being frisky in the snow!

Reva playing in the snow!

Reva rolled about ten times!  LOL!

Dreamy rolling...

This was right after Dreamy got up.  I think this picture is SCARY!  :-P

Pretty Reva!

Dreamy and the blowing snow!

Whoo Reva!

LOL!  They were all so covered!

Reva being a cutting horse!

Using her hind end.....good dressage horse!  ;-D

Sparky and Reva

Dreamy's butt  :D

Licking the snow off her nose....LOL!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Traditions

First, congratulations to Now That's A Trot for winning the saddle pad number contest!  :)  She guessed 36 and I actually own 38.  Yay!  I know her personally so can email and get her address.  I have a fun little horsey surprise to send her.  Thanks to everyone for guessing!

We had a wonderful Christmas here.  All of the family on both sides came here and I cooked a large ham (from our own pig!) dinner.  All was said and done by 3PM which was unheard of!  It was wonderful...I got to spend some time in the barn and the boys took a nap!  :)

I have a Christmas tradition to ride my horse (now horses...) bareback in the snow.  The only year I did not do this was the year my parents bought me a County dressage saddle back in college.  :)  Of course, I had to try out the saddle!  LOL!

I took Sparky out first.  There is only about 2 inches of snow so it was not as exciting as some years, but that was OK.  Sparky was cute....I forget how small and smooth she is.  Her trot felt like a western jog compared to my Standardbreds.  LOL!  We went around the field in the snow a few times before she decided she had enough and pulled me towards the gate.  Point taken.  :)  I had only planned to ride her for 10 minutes anyway and she held me to that.  :)

Dreamy came out next.  She was a good mare...easy walk, trot, and canter.  I could have continued riding but after about 15 minutes I realized I was losing light and should dismount if I wanted to ride Reva as well. 

I did not take Reva out for a Christmas bareback ride last year.  I had only owned her for five months at that point and I was unsure how she might be.  But this year I knew she would be just fine. 

Now I did not account for her size though.  With my other two mares, Sparky at just barely horse size at 14.3 and Dreamy at 15.1, it is quite easy to stand on my two-step mounting block and just throw my left leg over their sides.  Now with Reva at 16.3, I soon realized that there would be no throwing of legs anywhere.  I actually did try to put my leg up there, only to have it get stuck on her croup.  Hmmmm....not a great thing to do on our first bareback ride, but she was completely unfazed.  LOL!

I decided I either had to give up or just climb on.  Climb is a good verb for what I did.  I leaned up on my stomach and sort of shimmied my way up onto her back.  The thought that she might move or buck briefly crossed my mind.  But you know, this mare is such a rock.  I know she will have her moments (and watch them all happen next year in the show ring....LOL) but overall she is pretty forgiving at her young age of almost five.  :)  She stood there with the reins looped and waited for me to figure out what I was doing.  I love that as soon as I was up there, when I reached up and scratched her neck, Reva, in turn, reached around and whuffed at my face and then smelled my boot.  She always has this curious look as if to say, "What ELSE are you going to do Mom?"  

Anyway, it was a nice afternoon with my girls.  It was about feed time by the time I finished with Reva, so they all came in for dinner.  The mares all got treats from Santa in their stockings.  And Reva got a Jolly Ball!  Wow, Santa knows her well!  ;-)

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!  :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


So my computer is still being fixed, but it seems as though the end is in sight.  I should be able to pick it up tomorrow!  Yay!  :)

Anyway, just thought I would post something funny.  I was putting away some of my show saddle pads the other night and decided to take all of the pads out of the (huge) trunk to organize them.  As I was sorting them into piles (show vs. schooling, dressage vs. AP vs. western, etc, etc.) I began to count.  

Now, I have owned a horse for 18 years and have been riding for 26.  That's a long time to accumulate horsey stuff.  And now with the three mares, I have a bad habit of justifying buying more tack because I own more horses.  But in my defense, none of Sparky and Dreamy's cob sized equipment and tack fit Reva.  So I DO have to buy larger sized items! LOL!

I sort of wish I had not counted the saddle pads.  I feel like a bit of a glutton.  But it is hard to not purchase a saddle pad with a good price, sort of like the $5 fitted AP one I nabbed at WEG.  Or to pass up the cute maroon saddle pad that I got embroidered with Dreamy's name at a horse show in 2009.  And I have won a few of them as trophies, the newest being the one from MHA this year in fact! 

Any guesses?????  How about a contest until Christmas Eve......I will send out a fun horsey surprise to the person who guesses the exact number (or closest to exact!)

Monday, December 20, 2010


My computer is currently dead from a terrible virus, hence the lack of posts.  I am hoping it will be fixed properly this week.  :(  Thank goodness for my work computer!  LOL!

Anyway, just had to share something cute.  Reva is probably one of the most affectionate horses I have ever met, and certainly the most affectionate out of the three I own.  Sparky simply "puts up" with me, her servant, while Dreamy does like to nicker lovingly to me and puts up with minimal fussing.  Reva, on the other hand, is the biggest lovebug ever.  She whinnies loudly to me when she sees me and would quite honestly like to climb into my lap if she could.  While she is very loving, she is not an obnoxious in-your-face kind of horse, thankfully.

So every night after I bring the mares inside, grain them, and all that, just as I am leaving the barn, I give them each a cookie.  It has become ritual enough that they will actually stand with their heads over their doors waiting for me.  LOL!  Sparky gets hers first and dives right back into her grain.  Dreamy gets hers second and then whuffes my face and enjoys a scratch or two on the neck before heading back to eat.  Reva is last and she begs for attention.  She will stand there at her door for as long as I am there, enjoying her face rubbed, leaving her grain and hay.  Sometimes she will even still be standing at her stall door, watching me as I walk back into the house.  It is pretty cute.

Last night she did something new.  I groomed everyone last night before doling out cookies, and Reva was apparently very pleased with me.  She ate her cookie, closed her eyes while I scratched her furry ears and cheeks, and then she leaned down and rested her big forehead on my chest.


She stayed there for a while, too.  Such a love.  It was like getting a horsey hug.  :)  I am such a sap, but it is kind of fun to have a horse who really likes to be fussed with.  It totally makes my inner horse crazy little girl happy.  I hugged her back with my arms up around her face.  She seemed to like it!  LOL!  Her eyes were all soft and happy when I left the barn.  I kissed her cheek and she sighed.  Oooooh horse.  And people wonder why I love them so much!  :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

USDF National Convention, Symposium and Awards Dinner

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) National Convention, Symposium, and Awards Dinner this past weekend.  I flew to Jacksonville, Florida on December 3 and thankfully the northeast weather was fine for traveling.  You just never know in December!  LOL!

My friend Tina from Florida was nice enough to pick me up from the airport.  We headed straight to the Jacksonville Equestrian Center, where the Symposium was to be held.  We had a booth at the trade show, to represent the United States Trotting Association (USTA) and Standardbreds in Dressage!  It did not take us long to get the booth set up and looking fabulous! 
Jessica at the USTA had the banner made....

This photo above was taken by the USDF photographer and posted to their FaceBook page!  Yay Standardbreds!  :)
Enjoying our booth!  :)  Tina is on the left, I am on the right!
We decorated our booth with dressage ribbons...most were from the Florida Standardbreds since I had a limited amount of space in my luggage.  The tricolors are Dreamy's!
Four of the five USDF All Breed Awards won by Standardbreds in 2010.  Dreamy's award is on the far left.  I did not hang up her other award.
We headed to our hotel to get ready for the Salute Gala and Awards Dinner.  Dreamy won two dressage national championship this year: the All-Breed Open Training Level award and the All-Breed Adult Amateur Training Level award.  Tina's horse Whiz Bang won two championships at Second Level, Open and Musical Freestyle.  And the SPHO-Florida's ambassador horse Sea the Gray won the reserve Second Level Musical Freestyle award.

The banquet began at 6:00 PM with a cocktail (half) hour followed by a yummy dinner and dessert.  We had a lot of fun, but WOW it was the longest banquet I have EVER been to!  LOL!  The All Breed Awards were at the end, and of course, our breed organization is USTA so we were third from the end.  We accepted our awards around 10:30 PM!  Whew!  But it was very cool to go up on stage and accept Dreamy's two medals.  I felt pretty proud of our breed!  It was a smaller turnout than I expected, but there were still many people there.  Sadly, many of them left long before the end of the banquet, but what can you do when it goes on for FIVE HOURS????  LOL!

Here is one of our awards....I also have two pics from the banquet coming in the mail.  One is of me with USDF executive director Stephan Hienzsch and the other is of the three of us with our awards.

Both Saturday and Sunday mornings, December 4-5, we arrived at the JEC early to attend to our booth for the day.  We chatted with many people and all were very supportive (and many surprised) to see Standardbreds on the dressage videos and photos we had.  There were only around 20 booths at the trade show, which surprised me.  I guess I thought it would be a larger turnout for a national organization.  I suppose it could be the economy...??  Anyway, I was happy to also have time to see some of the symposium, too.  I did not know what to expect, but I ended up really liking the format.

The two presenters were Gary Rockwell and Lilo Fore.  There were demo riders for each test from Intro A through Fourth 3.  On Saturday they ran through Intro, Training and First.  Then Sunday they did Second, Third, and Fourth.  Because there are new tests, it was focused on the new movements.  Gary would judge the test aloud, which was interesting.  While watching the rides I would imagine what I thought each movement should score and then you would hear Gary actually say the score and his commentary.  Very educational.  Lilo would work with the horse and rider pair at the end of the test, highlighting new movements and helping each rider make improvements.  

The one negative part of the entire symposium was some of the "inflated" scores given out.  There were a few times were I felt Gary was being too generous, such as when a horse broke into an unbalanced trot during the canter and received a 7 on that canter movement and when a rider earned an 8 on rider position and she literally rode like a sack of potatoes.  ON a side note, I saw a professional have her Training level test called for her, which surprised me.  I know you are allowed to do it, but it seemed odd at Training level.  Call me picky, but I wanted the symposium judging to reflect REAL judging, not just be "nice" to avoid backlash from auditors.  The ironic thing was that there was a dressage show going on at the JEC all weekend and the scores were VERY low across the board.  So it seemed wrong to have the symposium riders all earning 70%s when the competitive riders outside were all earning 50%s.  ????

Anyway, I was able to watch the Training 2 and 3 tests, which was nice.  Sadly I missed First 1 to be at the booth, but did get to see First 2 and 3.  I am going to ride First 1 next year and wanted to see it.  I also saw some of the Fourth level tests too.  All weekend I took notes and really felt like I learned a lot. Here are my notes...I apologize if they are unusable to anyone but me!  LOL!

On sea-sawing the reins, using them alternately, both Gary and Lilo reminded the audience that forward energy is lost.  They also said that they CAN see it, however subtle you think you are being.  And on a sensitive horse, it can show up as head tilting.

At one point, a horse was being silly at the canter, when Lilo asked the rider to sit deeper in the saddle.  Lilo made me laugh when she said, "You're having a conversation there!"

Gary reminded a rider to not allow her arms to come forward in the stretchy trot circle.  He said to think of it as a quiet release.  He called it "oozing the reins".

I had a revelation about the trot loops in Training 3 (which used to be in Training 4).  Instead of thinking of it as a straight change of rein with a weird bend at "X" (seriously this is how I envisioned it), I now realize I have to think of it as three 10 m. bends.  If I am on the right rein, let's say, coming along past C, I have to ride a right bend through M, then straighten for just a moment (even sitting a beat...!) and then ride a left bend through X, again straighten the horse for a stride and sit a beat, then bend again to the right through F.  That makes MUCH MORE sense to envision it that way.  What was I thinking before.....????  LOL!

Lilo corrected a rider's hand position, saying you should have your hands one fist above the withers and one fist in between them.  She called that "home base".

Both Gary and Lilo reminded many Training and First level riders not to ride their corners too deeply.  You only have to ride it as deeply as your smallest circle in the test.  So that is a 10m. corner.  Only at the upper levels do you ride it in an 8m. corner.

Lilo called the Training level roundness like a "banana shape."

"Every movement lies in correct preparation, " said Lilo.  She said the word preparation at each level many times.

For a Fourth Level rider who was not always "riding" her horse (as I sometimes also tend to do) Lilo reminded her that, "Your expertise needs to be there when your horse needs you the most or makes a mistake."  Don't stop riding when you are doing something difficult.

The cool part was that not only did I learn a lot from the symposium, but from my new friend Juan!  LOL!  He was my adopted instructor for the weekend, patiently putting up with my endless questions.  If I lived in Florida, I would want to ride with him!  He watched my video from UNH Dressage this past summer and gave me some good pointers.

He recommended that I ride Dreamy in an exaggerated shoulder fore to the right, specifically because that is her harder direction, especially at the canter. Starting at the walk, then the trot, and working up to the canter.  This will help her to engage her inside hind leg.  He reminded me that if she wants to be heavy on the right rein, to drop it!  To let her figure it out.  And he pointed out her outside shoulder at the canter, how I am allowing her to drop because I am NOT supporting her at all in the left rein.  I HAVE TO remember to support that outside shoulder with my outside rein.  Seeing myself on the video while he critiqued me really helped.  I could see what was happening...since my feel on the horse is not always that good.  I think I need to do the same thing with Judy, my regular instructor here.

Going to the left, he recommended I ride her in counter position.  I asked if this was the same as counter bend, but it is not.  He said to ride her with her head and neck to the right but keep the rest of her body bent to the left, as normal.

I love learning from many different people.  Sometimes when someone says something in a certain way, it clicks for me.  Sadly,  with winter upon us, my dressage training is sort of on hold for a while.  But I have lots of homework here for the spring!  LOL!

Not only did we have the banquet, the booth, and the symposium, but also SPHO-FL's trainer Heather rode in the dressage show there at the JEC that weekend too.  She rode a client's Gypsy Vanner and SPHO-FL's ambassador horse Sea the Gray.  On a side note, both Tina and Heather (and the two STB mares Whiz Bang and Sea the Gray) were at WEG!!  Anyway, we got to watch her rides and help her out in the barn.   It was awards, education, and showing all in one weekend!  Throw in some great company, good food/drink, and lots of laughs, and I had myself a grand 'ol time.  LOL!!!

Overall, my USDF experience this year was fabulous.  I am so thankful to the USTA for giving support to us riders/owners showing Standardbreds in rated dressage.  And I owe my beautiful mare Dreamy everything.  She is the reason I had this experience in the first place.  :)