Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review

In an effort to not feel so blah about blogging, I figured I would copy my fellow bloggers who do yearly reviews.  So here you are....Standardbred Excellence for the year 2011!


January
The new year began with a recap of my horse goals.  I complained about riding in the winter in the Northeast and shared a book review with you.  I hit my 300th post, won a blog award, shared more video from WEG,  and applauded the USEF helmet rule.  Oh, and it hit -19 degrees here in Maine.  Somehow I have blocked that memory until just rereading that post!  Ahhh!


February
I reported out on the Maine Dressage Society banquet, which is always something to look forward to during the dreary months of winter.  I had fun with my friend Tania at Dover Saddlery and discussed the topic of "red snow" as it relates to horse husbandry.  Reva earned her own stall plate, at the request of a reader I talked about my Morgan's relatives, and I reveled in my little Standardbred featured in the 2010 USDF Yearbook!  I wrote about how much I love horses in honor of Valentine's Day, I laughed at my mare Reva and her reaction to sheep, and shared an interview about Standardbreds.  I rounded out the short month by attending the SPHO-NJ banquet


March
In March I did a 30 day challenge.  Click here to see all of my posts!


April
By now, my conditioning schedule was in full swung.  Tania and I went on a fun beach ride!  And I continued riding my horses as much as possible because of that wonderful thing we teachers love, school vacations!  :-)


May
Reva had more dental work done and I added to my horse tooth collection.  I worried about moving up to First Level with Dreamy, which ended up being No Big Deal.  Reva went to her first ever horse show and was champion of her division!  Whooo!  And I publicly thanked two of my horsey friends Tania and Shelly!


June
Reva went to her second horse show,  first ever trail ride, and tackled the scary noodle curtain.  Dreamy and I started back into the swing of lessons and went to another SMDA dressage show.  Reva went to her first big overnight show in Skowhegan and was fabulous!  Dreamy and I went to the UNH dressage show at the end of the month.


July
We had a wonderful summer and I was so busy (in a great way!) in July that I never touched the blog!  LOL!  Reva had the month off from showing.  Dreamy and I spent a long weekend showing at Isaac Royal's USDF show, followed by another SMDA show, then had an AWESOME vacation at Acadia National Park, and finished the month doing well at a horse trial in New Hampshire.  


August
Again, we were busy at shows!  Dreamy went to another SMDA dressage show, had fun at a clinic with Peter Atkins.  Reva made her first trip to the National Standardbred show in New Jersey and I had a rant about being "on the bit".


September
Reva debuted saddleseat at the MHA Labor Day Classic, her fifth show of the year.  Dreamy was busy marshaling at the track, competing in a combined test, and our last SMDA show of the season.  Reva continued her winning ways at another MHA show and earned her first custom browband!  


October
I mourned along with the rest of the horse blogging community as Andrea had to put down her beloved mare Gogo.  Reva went to a dressage show and cleaned up at her eighth and last show of the year, even trying out western just for giggles.  We got a shout-out from friend Ellen Harvey at the USTA.  Dreamy went Beginner Novice for the first time at Sunset Farm and marshals at the 3YO Finals at Scarborough Downs.  Reva makes good strides in her training and we lunge her to work on her canter.


November
Reva continues to make great progress in her training as I take advantage of the gorgeous fall weather to take as many lessons as possible.  I attend the 2011 MHA Year End Banquet with friends Shelly, Tania, and Katie.  And I am proud to say I completed NaBloPoMo 2011!!


December
I talk about unsuccessfully switching Dreamy's SmartPak and Reva's reluctance to bend.  We have a wonderful Christmas here and I am very much looking forward to 2012!  Show dates are already rolling in which makes me excited!  :-)


I had planned to recap my 2011 goals here too...but then I realized I never actually posted them at all!  Whoops!  Suffice it to say, I met all my goals....keep Sparky happy and healthy in her retirement, rock it out at Prix Caprilli and First Level with Dreamy, and have an awesome year showing Reva.  I think I will outline more specific goals for 2012 in a January post...

Friday, December 30, 2011

PRODUCT REVIEW: The Water Bucket Cozy

I have had the opportunity to test out the Water Bucket Cozy over the last week.  I wanted something that might not freeze the buckets quite so solid but without any electricity.  It retails for $42.95 at SmartPak which is pretty decent since a heated bucket is about the same price.


Mine looks like this except in black...and I think this one is the small 2.5 gallon bucket, while I have the 5 gallon version.  But you get the drift!  LOL!
When I opened the package, the Cozy was like a big poofy jacket for a bucket.  LOL!  It came with nice little instructions and only took me a moment to figure out how to put it onto the bucket.  It went on easily and has stayed very clean and neat over the last eight days.


So far I am loving it!  I am using it for Sparky, as she is very good about not destroying things.  I moved the top cover out a bit so that the opening is larger for her to get used to it.  The company does recommend adding 4 cups of hot water to increase insulation but so far I am just filling it normally from the barn spigot.  I think that as the winter continues into the "deep freeze" I will add the recommended hot water.  But so far, there has just been a bit of very thin ice on the top, but absolutely no ice on the sides.  Both of my other horses' buckets have had much more serious ice on the top and sides by morning.  And the company is based out of New Hampshire, which is neat.  You can order directly from them (looks like it is $4 cheaper to do that than most retailers, but then the shipping is $8), but since I get free shipping from SmartPak it was cheaper to get it from them.  Many other tack stores carry them as well from the looks, including Dover.


So why am I so excited about this cool new invention, asks those of you who use heated buckets all winter.  I know many people happily use heated buckets, but I have never had any inclination to want them in my own barn.  I refer to them as "barn burners".  LOL!  There is too much risk involved in my opinion, from barn fires to horses electrocuting themselves by chewing the cord.  And because I only have one four-way outlet in my barn that is not directly outside the stalls, I cannot use heated buckets even if I did want to, as they are not supposed to be used with extension cords.

It is a complete pain to break ice out of buckets, but I rather break ice than have dead horses.  I give the horses one last check around 10 PM and they have to go until 6:15 AM, which means their buckets normally do freeze.  I have kept my horses for almost 20 years like this with no issue, as Sparky has NEVER had a heated water bucket.  I realize some of you readers think I am a bad horse person for not using them, but I am happy with it, my horses are clearly happy with it, and so, the end.  ;-D  And in no way do I think that anyone who does use a heated water bucket is negligent; I am just saying they are not for me and my horse husbandry style.  :-)  So if you are like me, here is a great alternative to the heated buckets.  

Looking to buy a nice western bridle?

I am selling a western bridle on eBay...check it out!  If you know someone who might be interested, please share the link with them!  Thank you!





Thursday, December 29, 2011

Merry (Very Belated) Christmas!

As much as I tried to get in a blog post before Christmas, it just didn't happen.  Oh well!  Here are some fun pics from right before Christmas.  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, no matter which one(s) you celebrate!!


My son made a snowman in the only snow we have had since the one storm at Halloween!  Very weird Maine winter weather here!  There is currently no snow!  (BTW, I love my dog running up in the background...LOL!)
Santa cookies are standard around here...
Sparky was NOT impressed with her antlers...LOL!
...and neither was Mac!  What a patient cat!  LOL!


Santa filled their stockings with treats!  Reva got a new dandy brush as well!
Reva didn't notice her antlers and kept eating her grain...
Hi MOM!
Dreamy WOULD NOT POSE.  Such a pain.  LOL!

I love how Reva is still interested in me instead of eating.  That is another barn cat named Riley.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Update and musings...

I always find that after I blog continuously for a month I need a break.  LOL!  And truthfully nothing exciting is happening around here right now.  I have had a bunch of little ideas for posts but nothing that seemed worthy to write on its own.  So here is a little bit of everything with very little coherence.  LOL!


We are having the oddest winter so far; it has been warm and MUDDY and just recently has gotten very cold and the ground froze up.  I am trying hard to get the mares out 2-3 times a week each, but there have been days I wanted to ride and it was just too muddy.  Over the weekend it was a bit too frozen.  Oh well!  Maybe it will snow (which I hate but it is better than the frozen rutted ground!) and then I can ride in the snow as long as the ice stays away.  


It is funny to me that over the spring and summer I would ride both mares each day and at the end, in my fatigue, would think, "Soon it will be winter and we can have some downtime!"  Of course, now that it is here, I hate it!  LOL!  I miss riding them both each day, 5-6 times a week.  I wish I had an indoor!  But then of course it would be too cold or too dusty...ha ha ha...so instead of being a complainer I am just enjoying my horses each day.  Some days it is just feeding, mucking, and picking feet.  Today I brushed everyone as they ate their dinners, which is one of my favorite ways to be with them.  They all are well behaved enough to stand quietly in their stalls without halters/leads as I spiff them up.  I have decided to not clip anyone this year as long as I can help it, so all the mares have thick, luxuriant coats.  They are like big stuffed animals.  


Sparky is looking and feeling so well.  I always breathe an inner sigh of relief each morning that she greets me with her head over her stall door.  At her age (29), I always feel the need to be prepared for "that morning."  Uggg.  :*(  She thoroughly enjoyed the massive amounts of mud in the bottom of her paddock these past few weeks and showed me such by slathering it all over her body each day.  Ha ha ha.  It was almost warm enough last week for me to contemplate bathing her, but I just broke out the Showsheen and Cowboy Magic instead!


Dreamy has been enjoying some "fun" and easier rides over the past few weeks.  I have taken her out on the trail as much as possible, taking easy strolls through the pines and then bouncy canters up the hills (there are a lot of hills!) and just riding for fun instead of "training".  She is still in decent shape and I hope I can ride as enough through the winter to avoid having to completely start her at square one in the spring.  


I switched Dreamy's Smartpak over from Recovery EQ and Glanzen 3 to just Trisport, thinking I was so smart to save some cash.  Yeah, no.  We are in week 5 and she is feeling stiff under saddle.  She is not lame and granted she is not in 100% shape, but I know my mare and she is not as fluid and free in her gaits as before.  So much for trying to be frugal!  I love Recovery EQ and Dreamy has done so well on it; I changed her Smartpak back last week.  I will finish up the Trisport until the Recovery EQ comes at the end of the month.  I think I might actually write a testimonial for the Recovery EQ and send it to Smartpak.  Normally I am not one to do that, but in this case I think it warrants one!


And Miss Reva...she has been accepting bending at the trot as a normal part of her life lately...ha ha ha.  She has also begun using speed to show her displeasure at times so it is back to reestablishing rhythm and tempo with her for a bit.  She is much more opinionated that I gave her credit for in the beginning and I think will prove to be more challenging in the end than Dreamy.  But I could be wrong.  Her training came along in leaps and bounds this past fall and despite her lightened workload right now, I am hopeful that we will be able to easily pick things back up in the spring.  Her body has changed so much and I can tell correct work is starting to improve her overall balance.


Call me crazy, but when you have horses in your backyard, you tend to notice every little detail.  Reva enjoys cavorting in her paddock/pasture and when she bucked she always looked like she might fall over at any moment on her head.  She always seemed "top heavy" to me and her back end would be somewhere out in the next town over.  But just in the last few weeks I am noticing how much she now uses her hind end when she plays.  She has taken to rearing up and spinning off her hind end, something I have never seen her do.  When she plays she is much more "up" in the front now.  She finally is starting to look graceful when she plays rather than like a drunken wind up toy.  LOL!  Yay for correct dressage work!


So overall, things are going well!  I am not dreading winter as much as I was a month ago.  It helps that I am still using my barn hose (except for yesterday, Sunday, when it hovered right around 30 all day).  ;-)  I am sure we will all pay for this mild winter later on, but I will take it for now!  I still have three year end banquets coming up in January and February which I am looking forward to.  And I am hopeful to get in a few beach rides and lessons this winter when I can!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NaBloPoMo - I did it!

I did it!  Thirty posts in thirty days...well actually, it was 32 posts!  :-D




I am not sure what made me want to do the NaBloPoMo challenge this year.  Part of me wanted to see if I could actually do it, part of me wanted to be like other blogger friends who have done this in the past, and part of me just thought it would look cool to put an icon like the one above on my blog!  LOL!  :-p


I do not think I would have been as successful had I not used the prompts each day.  There were some that I did not like writing as much as others, but overall it was not bad.  There are times when I have so much to write about and then other times I feel like I have the most boring life ever; writing something along the lines of, "Well, I fed the horses, mucked stalls, and had two good rides today" just seems silly to do every single day.  There are times when whatever I am doing for training under saddle with the mares is just not that interesting.  

Obviously it is easier in the spring, summer, and fall to write more because I am showing a lot.  Now as we head into winter, lessons have slowed down (sadly, my instructor does not have an indoor), shows are over, and it is harder to fit in ride time.  Thankfully the footing has been decent enough so far to keep both Reva and Dreamy fit, but I am unable to ride both in a day because of the lack of daylight.  I am happy to ride each one 3-4 times a week though, which is better than having to stop riding all together.  I will keep it up as long as I can until the temperatures drop or the footing deteriorates.  Maybe we will have a mild winter and I can continue riding!  It would be great to not have to start at square one of conditioning in March.  :-)


Happy blogging!  I hope that my NaBloPoMo or other 30 Day Challenge prompts might inspire you to use them as well!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NaBloPoMo Day #30

Day #30 - A photo (or two!) of my horse being herself


Reva
Her curiosity and love of kids is adorable...July 2009
I love those dopey ears and sweet expression! Spring 2010
Dreamy
She is such a packer with my son...December 2010
This is so Dreamy...that unamused expression...WHAT is my mother doing now??  Taken at WEG practice at the Red Mile 2010


Sparky
This is her mean mare face.  ;-D Spring 1998
But really she is such a sweetheart...winter 2007

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

NaBloPoMo Day #29

Day #29 - One thing my horse did that really affected me


Reva
Bringing Reva to her first ever off-farm experience in 2010 really made me proud.  It was the first time I really asked her to completely trust me and I was excited to see that she did.  It gave me confidence that I was on the right track with her and a glimpse at how she might act at other off-farm environments.  She was such a quick learner and really did "all the right things".  Of course, her first show was pretty gratifying too, but the prompt says one thing.  ;-)
Reva at the 2010 Chris Lombard clinic
Dreamy
Out of all the experiences we have had, I would say my trip to the World Equestrian Games and Dreamy's USDF success stands out to me the most.  2010 was a huge year for us.  I know there were other more poignant moments with Dreamy, but riding at WEG, earning good dressage scores and ultimately our All-Breed national championships was such a hard earned goal for me.  It was surreal to truck my horse to Kentucky last September and be a part of the Standardbred demos.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience in so many ways.  And then I had a similar feeling when I flew to Florida last December (almost a year ago now!) to attend the USDF Symposium as a vendor (Tina and I created a Standardbred Dressage booth courtesy of the USTA!) and the USDF Awards Gala!  It might very well be the only time I attend both my lifetime.


I'm in the middle, posing with Heather (left) and Tina (right)
Sparky
Obviously as my first horse, Sparky has affected me in many wonderful ways over the nearly 19 years I have owned her.  But there is one incident from the first spring I owned her that will forever stand out to me.  I was boarding her for a short time at a local farm near my middle school (I was in the eighth grade) where I could get off the bus at the barn and my mom would pick me up later in the afternoon.  I loved that part of this barn (most other parts, not so much, but that is a different story not for the blog).  We had permission to ride in the flat grass field directly next door to the barn, as it was owned by one of my classmate's parents.  Being young and foolish, I checked the field for holes but that is about it.  We were trotting along the edge, close to some bushes near the fence line of the boarding barn and I heard a weird rustling noise. I caught the sight of something and quickly realized it was a wire.  I brought Sparky down to a walk and halt immediately.  I hopped off and saw that it was actually old BARB WIRE and it had somehow gotten caught around Sparky's hind leg.  AHHHH!  The only way to get her free was to drop the reins.  I was close enough to the barn to yell for help, but I also knew that I needed to get her free RIGHT NOW and not wait for help.  Plus, I worried that yelling would make Sparky nervous.  Bear in mind, I had owned this horse for about seven months at this point.  All of these thoughts went through my mind in about half a second.  I spoke soothingly to Sparky, dropped the reins, and continued to talk with her, telling her STAND, good girl, you're OK, STAND.....and so on.  Thankfully she stood like a statue, never moving away or even bending down to reach for grass.  I was able to disentangle her hind leg very quickly from the wire and there were no cuts.  We were very, very lucky.  I will never forget how it felt to have my horse stand so still without anyone holding on to her and allow me to lift her hind leg out of the barb wire mess.  It amazes me that she trusted me THAT much so early in our relationship.  It still amazes me today.  She is not a flighty mare, but she can be hot and opinionated and patience is not always her best virtue.  ;-)  I am convinced she knew something was wrong and that I was going to help her.  (And the barb wire was cleaned up after that!  Phew!)


My senior pic with Sparky!  1997

Monday, November 28, 2011

NaBloPoMo Day #28

Day #28 - The current status of my horse's training


Reva
Reva is the least trained of my horses, with only seven months of under saddle training.  She is solid walk/trot, while her canter is coming along.  She will pick up the left lead without issue but the right lead only about 80% of the time.  She understands how to reach into the connection with the bit and has a pretty decent rhythm as long as she stays relaxed.  Her relaxation is an issue at times though and she is currently resisting true straightness/ bend/shoulder fore.  When she resists, she gets quick.  She hold her tension in her jaw, specifically her TMJ, and will grind her teeth.  She will get a complete chiropractic work-up this spring, or maybe even earlier.  (Her teeth are done every 6 months and were just floated at the end of September...)  There are moments of absolute brilliance, where her trot becomes amazing and she is so soft in the bridle.  And there are moments of garbage too...LOL!  I have to remind myself she has only been under saddle for seven months now.  And before that she had ~30 rides on her.  So I am pleased where she is in her current training.  :-)  She is going to be at Intro level next year and if we show in open shows again I will keep her in 2-gait.  I hope to move up to Training level and 3-gait with her in 2013.


Dreamy
Dreamy can school all the First level movements minus the canter loops.  Well, we can do them but they are not good enough for competition.  :-0  And we can do Second level movements of shoulder-in, renvers, travers (harder), and turn on the haunches, but she will never show at that level.  She is safe and handy over fences up to 2'6" and I will keep her at that height or lower.  I know she could do higher, but as she is almost 21 years old I am happy with keeping her sound.  :-)  Dreamy is probably trained as far along as she is ever going to be.  Her canter is not a "normal" dressage canter, but it is pretty decent.  Right now my only plan is to do a few Beginner Novice events with her next year and foxhunt in the fall.  If we do any straight dressage it will be at First level and 3-gait at open shows.


Sparky
Miss Sparky is retired.  :-)  She is as trained as she will ever be.  She reached First level movements, jumping up to 3', and Preliminary level combined driving before retirement.  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

NaBloPoMo Day #27

Day #27 - Any horses I may have considered instead of my horse


Reva
Choosing to own Reva was sort of a ridiculous impulsive decision.  I had received two emails about her from my friend Helene and fell in love with her photos.  I knew I wanted a young horse in the future, but I did not think the future was that day in July 2009.  LOL!  Oh well.  I am glad I own her but did not consider any horse instead of her.  
   
Dreamy
I looked for a number of weeks for an older retired Standardbred that needed a home back in early 2003 when I decided to bring my mare Sparky home.  I figured I could find something older with issues that needed a home and could be a companion for Sparky.  I called and emailed about many different mares through a local Standardbred forum, but none of them sounded like anything I really wanted, so I never met any of them.  I found out through Sparky's massage therapist (at the time) that Dreamy needed a home, and having known her for years since she lived at a farm near my grandfather's, I knew I wanted her.  So while I did inquire about many other horses, Dreamy was the only one I took seriously.


Sparky
My parents and I looked for my first horse for a LONG time, much to the chagrin of my 13 year old self!  LOL!  It was at least a year, and we looked at many different horses and called about a ton of them.  At the time there was no internet (gasp!) with DreamHorse.com and all that  so I would scour the statewide Uncle Henry's publication on a weekly basis.  Sparky just sort of happened to fall into our laps and while she was much different than the fancy Morgans we had been looking at (she was in a bad situation and her abilities were unknown), she was born at the farm where I began my riding career.  Once I knew she needed a new home, there was no other horse for me.  We bought her the day and brought her home within an hour after meeting her.


It is funny to write this all down, because it now dawns on me that all three of my horses have come to me through word-of-mouth.  And all of them came to me virtually unknown...my parents bought Sparky for me within an hour after meeting her, Dreamy I only faintly knew from the occasional visits when she had a foal each year (realistically, I think I met her twice in that many years), and I had Reva sent to my farm straight from NJ never having met her!  Wow, way to be a super careful horse person!  HA HA HA!  I think I broke every single rule in the horse buying book.  :-p

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NaBloPoMo Day #26

Day #26 - The conditions my horse lived in before I got her


Reva
Reva lived at Showplace Farm in NJ before I got her.  She was with John Duer, son of Carter Duer of Peninsula Farm in KY.  I actually have a photo of her in her stall at Showplace (below)!  She was well taken care of by my friend Rob who was her groom!  (I totally creeped this photo from Rob's Facebook page.  Ha ha ha)


Reva at Showplace...it is dated March 2009 on Rob's FB album.  


Dreamy
Dreamy lived at a private farm in Wells, ME before I got her.  She was taken care of and had her own small paddock.  But I can't say she was spoiled like she is here!


The day I brought Dreamy home to my farm in 2003.
Sparky
Sparky had the worst living situation of my three mares.  She was at a private home in Weeks Mills, ME when we bought her.  She was chained in a straight stall with no bedding, hay, or water but lots of manure!  There were chickens all throughout the barn and lots of chicken poop on her back.  :-(  She was not quite up to proper weight and it was as close to a rescue as possible without really being a rescue.  It was a bad situation that could have become much worse.  
I'd have to scan an earlier photo, but this is from probably 1996.  
My farm is not fancy or beautiful, but it is safe and my mares are pampered with the best I can provide!  :-D

Friday, November 25, 2011

NaBloPoMo Day #25

Day #25 - A common misconception about my horse


Oh, this is an easy one!  :-D  There are WAY TOO MANY misconceptions about the Standardbred.


Standardbreds do not make good show horses.  FALSE!
Of course not!  Just take a look around this blog here!  :-D  Standardbreds can be retrained for many different disciplines.  The neat thing about Standardbreds is that you can find them in many different sizes and shapes, so you are bound to find one that can jump, or do dressage, or turn barrels, or cut cows...or do it all!  Standardbreds are incredibly versatile and enjoying having a job!  They are general very well behaved at shows as they have "seen it all" at the track.


Standardbreds cannot canter.  FALSE!
They are trained on the track to NOT canter, so it is not as much a physical limitation but a mental block.  Generally once they understand you WANT them to canter, they have a very easy time learning to balance and produce a decent canter.  Of course, some horses might have physical limitations as in any breed.  Not every Standardbred will have a canter similar to a fancy warmblood, but some do!  :-)  Truthfully, with patience and tactful riding, a Standardbred can do whatever you want to teach it to do!


Standardbreds are crazy race horses! FALSE!
Oh geez!  Standardbreds are the most non crazy horses out there!  Granted, you will find a crazy one out there somewhere, I am sure, but in general Standardbreds have super temperaments and very mellow personalities.  I gallop my Standardbred mare Dreamy on cross country courses in a French link snaffle.  (Actually she has always been in a plain snaffle.)  


All Standardbreds are ugly.  FALSE!
Well, you can certainly find a Standardbred out there that you find ugly.  I have seen my fair share of ugly _______ (fill in the blank with any/all breeds!!)  Standardbreds are bred for speed, not beauty, but even the most Roman nosed one of the bunch will have a heart of gold...so truly how can you call a sweet horse ugly!  ;-)  


Standardbreds who are no longer racing are all lame and crippled.  FALSE!
Of course, there are those who stop racing because they truly have been injured.  You will see stifle injuries as the most common I would say, with some splint and suspensory injuries too.  But generally, unless you want to compete heavily, a Standardbred with a properly healed racing injury will be fine for light riding.  But most Standardbreds come off the track because they no longer have the desire to race, but their legs are clean.  A failed racehorse is not a failed horse.  


And my biggest pet peeve...Standardbreds have to be rescued from the track.  FALSE!!
Arg!!!!!  Hearing this makes me ANGRY!  There are bad people involved in EVERY single breed and EVERY single industry/discipline.  The vast majority of Standardbred horsemen and women are wonderful owners and care meticulously for their horses.  They depend on their horses for their livelihood and it would make no sense to mistreat them.  Do Standardbreds often need new careers and/or be rehomed after their time on the track?  Yes.  But they do not need to be "rescued" from anything!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

NaBloPoMo Day #24

Day #24 - Where I was in my horsemanship before I got my horse


I started riding at age 6 and became the proud owner of my first horse Sparky in January of 1993 when I was 13.  I was a confident young rider at that point, walk/trot/canter and jump.  I did not have a ton of experience with different horses but I think I was a pretty decent rider.  I spent two years prior leasing a very hot Morgan mare named Tiffany, who taught me how to be a tactful yet effective rider.  Sparky taught me patience and the importance of trust.  


Dreamy came into my life much later, in 2003.  Hmm..I just noticed that it was ten years after I got Sparky; actually it was ten years and four months.  ;-)  By the time I got Dreamy, I had been through college where I rode different horses multiple times a week in the equestrian program.  All of my elective credits were earned in the equine program and I actually have a minor in equine studies.  I don't think I would have been as confident in training Dreamy myself without the time I spent studying with Janet Briggs and Amy (something) at school.  I am thankful to now have a wonderful instructor Judy Thibeau who has helped me immensely in the past three years.


Through all my successes with Dreamy, there have certainly been many mistakes.  The time I put into her has allowed me to train Reva well.  I think the things that took me forever to learn with Dreamy has taken much less time with Reva (THANK GOD).  I do think that riding school horses (aka horses who know more than me, Dreamy, and Reva combined) would be beneficial to me at this point in my riding.  But it is hard enough to find the time and money to take lessons on my own horses, so taking lessons on other horses has just not happened.  But I am very happy where I am in my horsemanship.  I wish I had time for more lessons and clinics, but overall I cannot complain.  :-)  I am a solid amateur rider, but by no means extraordinary and I will never be a trainer or instructor.  I only have Second Level dreams, so it is all good.  :-D


On a different note, I am kind of getting bored with the different NaBloPoMo prompts I have been using.  LOL!  Thankfully there are only six more days left!  I am not always a great blogger, as I have times where I blog a lot and then times when I ignore my blog, so I figured I would need the prompts to help me along.  Part of me wishes I had just done my own thing, but I like to finish what I start.  


OH!  And today I hit 80 followers!  Yay!  I love my loyal readers and love when you leave a comment!  If you are reading and have not yet added yourself as a "follower" to my blog, please do!  :-)  Look in the upper left hand side of the blog and click the link that says "follow".  :-D  Thanks!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NaBloPoMo Day #23

Day #23 - Any competing I do with my horse


I love to show and any regular readers of my blog know I do a lot of competing.  Dressage shows, open pleasure shows, three and two phase events, versatility challenges, I love them all.  I have shown at schooling shows, USDF rated shows, "AA" rated shows and everything in between.  I have shown all over New England and have gone to New Jersey for the last four years to attend the National Standardbred Show.  I don't need to bore you with all the details of all the many places I have shown!


In many ways, showing helps motivate me.  My tack is cleaner when I show too!  LOL!  ;-)  Being at home with no one to ride with (unless I make specific plans) can be difficult to keep focused.  It is too easy to take a day off from riding if I am tired and no one is there encouraging me to ride with them, so knowing I have to prepare for a show helps keep me motivated to ride six days a week.  I like having challenges and setting goals with my horses.  But simply making training goals are not enough for my competitive nature.  I like to show in order to test our training and of course ribbons are FUN!  ;-)  But showing for me is also a social opportunity.  The camaraderie and silly memories are just as much fun as winning a ribbon. 


Now, I do want to say that I have nothing against those who chose to not show for any variety of reasons.  Showing is not the "be all, end all" in terms of horses.  I respect people who do not show just as much as those who do.  If enjoying your horse without showing is what makes you happy, GO FOR IT!  :-)  I just know for me personally I would not be happy without showing at least a few times a year.  I don't think that showing defines who a person is.  Of course, I like sharing my successes here on my blog and posting pics, etc. etc.  But does that make me a better horseman?  No way!  But of course, this is all my opinion and I am sure there are others out there who disagree.  That is OK!  I just wanted to make it clear that just because I love to show does not mean I look down upon anyone who does not.


Reva's first show ~ May 2011
Ribbons from Dreamy's first show ~ August 2006
My first show with Sparky (and our first blue ribbon!) ~ York County Riders 1994

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NaBloPoMo Day #22

Day #22 - What specific disciplines do I do with my horse?


I grew up doing dressage and eventing, with some pleasure shows in there as well.  But in the last two years I apparently have gotten bored, because I have tried western on both my Standardbreds and saddleseat this past year on Reva. (Damn those MHA shows I have been going to where I have met Saddlebred and Hackney friends!  LOL!  ;-)  I really want to try team penning some day and I am DEFINITELY going foxhunting next year!


So specifically, I am a dressage and event rider, but I also like to have fun and make my horses versatile.  A good horse is a good horse, regardless of what seat you ride.  I am not a snob when it comes to breeds or disciplines.  It is actually pretty fun to bring along four saddles and four outfits to a show!  Ha ha ha.  


Reva
In her one year of showing, she did in-hand (hunter and western), showmanship, equitation, hunter under saddle and over fences, western, trail, dressage, and saddleseat.  Whew!
Reva's first time showing saddleseat!  MHA Labor Day Classic 2011


Dreamy
She has done in-hand (hunter), showmanship, equitation, hunter under saddle and over fences, roaster under saddle, western, trail, barrel racing, pole bending, dressage, eventing, and lots of marshaling at the track!
Dreamy's first time down centerline!  SMDA in 2007
Sparky
We did it all...in-hand (hunter), showmanship, equitation, hunter under saddle and over fences, western, trail, barrel racing, pole bending, dressage, eventing, pleasure driving, and combined driving.


Sparky and I in 2006 at a CDE at Preliminary level...she won it!

Monday, November 21, 2011

2011 MHA Banquet

The Maine Horse Association year end banquet was this past Saturday night.  It was a very fun evening with three of my horsey girlfriends, Tania, Shelly, and Katie!  And of course we got to see all of our MHA show buddies too!


Reva and Dreamy both won year end awards from MHA this year!  


Dreamy
Reserve Champion Training level dressage - 67.275%
Reserve Champion First level dressage -  61.99%


Reva 
Champion Introductory level dressage -  65.945%
Recipient of the Standardbred Pleasure Challenge Trophy
Champion Standardbred 2-Gait Pleasure
Champion Standardbred In-Hand
Reserve Champion English Horse In-Hand


The dressage divisions and English Horse In-Hand were open to all breeds.  I am super proud of them both!  Not bad for Reva's first year showing...and having only been under saddle for seven months (with about 30 rides before that!)  I am already excited for 2012!


Showin' 'em how it's done Standardbred style!
Here is the STB Challenge trophy donated last year by the Standardbred Performance Society.   I designed the trophy...bought the pottery on Etsy.com and my brother made the wooden holder.  My friend Shelly's horse won it last year and Reva won it this year!
Reva's three championships also earned us a garment bag, bridle bag, and stall front bag.  Yay!

No photo session is complete with being ridiculously foolish...yes, I am 32 but act like a kid.  :-D  This pic is actually sort of scary!  HA HA HA

NaBloPoMo Day #21

Day #21 - How my horse responds to different environments

For the most part, all three of my horses respond calmly to new environments.  I am lucky to own horses with good minds.  Sparky was always pretty chill when I took her somewhere new and I never had to worry much about her.  We showed all over the place and she was normally the same horse at home as she was at a show or on the trail.

Dreamy is very calm too, but the transition from the dressage warm up ring to the competition ring used to be a problem for her.  I think much of it was because I would get tense.  We would sometimes leave our best ride in the warm up.  But we have not had an issue with that for the last two years.  Dreamy has been all over the place with me, from the quiet Acadia National Park trails, to the electric atmosphere at WEG 2010, to horse shows all over New England, to the harness racing tracks, to the Maine beaches.  She might look around in a new environment but stays smart and I have had few problems.  She used to "lose her halt" during the first year I marshaled at the track with her, but we have been able to successfully work through that.  (See below.)

Reva is very laid back in new environments for her age.  She disliked the covered ring at Skowhegan, so the two shows we did there presented more of a challenge than shows we did in an open ring.  But Dreamy never liked that ring either, nor do many other horses. For her first year out and about, I am very pleased with her mature and calm response to new places.  She was stabled overnight with strange horses as well and never made a peep.

I think the key to having horses stay calm in any environment is to stay calm yourself.  Horses pick up on so much from their rider/handler.  If I am apprehensive, they figure they ought to be as well.  I have always approached new environments as though we have done it 100 times already.  And normally the horse will follow my brave lead.  I much rather work through something than give up.  For example, when Dreamy used to be unable to halt when we first started marshaling at the tracks, instead of fighting with her or giving up on marshaling, I worked her through it.  I would make her halt for two seconds and allow her to move off MY LEG, not when she figured it was time.  I would do this 164686903 times in the course of one afternoon on the track...by the fifth race or so, Dreamy would get bored with me and just stand still.  LOL!  I wouldn't fight with her, I would just outwit her.  And instead of whining about it and saying, "My horse is bad at the track", I just brought her there as much as I could.  DISCLAIMER: Dreamy was never dangerous at the track.  She just felt she needed to be in motion rather than stand still.  Obviously, I would not have ridden a dangerous horse who put me or any of the drivers/racers in jeopardy.  So now Dreamy is completely laid back at the track and loves to stand along the fence greeting the fans.  :-D

I think there are times when I have done things with my horses that other people think I am crazy for doing.  I am not saying I do anything dumb, because I certainly don't, but I really don't get all caught up in worry about new situations. I know I have a trusting relationship with them before I ask them to do something.  And I think I am sometimes braver than I realize...something that doesn't make me nervous might make another rider VERY nervous.  I figure I might as well try something out and see what happens.  I know my horses are not dangerous and I am able to be brave for them.  I am pretty sure that I would have never been so successful with Reva this year at shows if I had not been brave for her.  She follows my lead and has come to the conclusion that if I say something is OK, it probably is.  I hope that never changes.  There is a great line here from a clinic with Reva in 2010.  The clinician, Chris Lombard, "admitted to me that he did not believe me in the beginning when I said Reva was confident.  He figured she would be timid, just from seeing her in the first few moments in the ring, spooking at the crossrail in front of the audience.  He was happy to say he was wrong.  He said that she was confident because I was confident.  He said that with a nervous or timid rider/handler, he was not sure that Reva would be so calm.  That was pretty cool to hear as well."  Reva has not doubted me yet and for that I am thankful.  Of course I was nervous the first time I showed her, but I made deliberate decisions regarding that show to set us both up for success.  And it paid off!  :-)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

NaBloPoMo Day #20

Day #20 - How my horse was trained


Reva and Dreamy
No one ever sat on Dreamy before me and only one person (my friend Helene) had ever sat on Reva...and it was for a bareback pony ride around the NJ farm.  Both of my Standardbreds were trained by me, an adult amateur who does well only because she works her a** off.  ;-)  I would never make it as a horse trainer and I am OK with that.  I have to work hard to figure out my timing and feel, and I take lessons as much as I can to make sure I am headed in the right direction.  I had started Dreamy under saddle for about a year before I started regular lessons with her; thankfully I have been taking lessons on Reva all along.  I ride both of them dressage 95% of the time, but will put jumping tack on Dreamy to jump (which is never more than once a week) and was riding Reva saddleseat a handful of times this past summer in order to show.  I take dressage lessons as well.  I personally feel that a dressage foundation will allow a horse to pursue any discipline.  I especially like a dressage basis for Standardbreds because it teaches them how to move their body correctly and how to balance.


Sparky
Sparky was trained under saddle before I bought her as a 10 year old.  But she was out of shape, out of balance, and scared to death of accepting the bit.  She had been at the mercy of a series of unforgiving owners...one prior owner told me he had to use a "running W" to throw her to the ground because she was "difficult" to train.  O.O  Sparky's first few owners were young girls who probably did not put a very solid foundation on her.  The young man who sold her to me said if he wanted to win a race against his buddies, he would ride Sparky.  When asked how he slowed her down, he added, "Oh, it only takes a few sharp tugs and she slows right down."  He said this while pointing to a deeply ported western curb bit.  Yikes.  


I was only 13 years old when I got Sparky and decided to take her back to the true basics, working her in long lines, teaching her voice commands on the longe, and treating her like she was a youngster.  I built a trusting relationship with her for three months before I even got on her back.  (Plus, I got her in January and without an indoor it was no big deal to wait until April to ride! LOL!)  My farrier at the time chided me for taking so long to ride her.  I remember my instructor at the time having me use a pelham, standing martingale, and a chambon (but not at all once...LOL) in the beginning with Sparky before just using a regular eggbutt snaffle.  I rode "balance seat" and did dressage, jumping, eventing, and hunter under saddle.  I wish I had ridden DRESSAGE at that time because I think she would have come along better in the beginning with a pure dressage basis (and without the gadgets.)  :-/  It was not until four years after I got Sparky that I really focused on her dressage training, which is what made her an even stronger horse and eventually a superb driving horse.