Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finally, a SMART rule change for the USEF!

I know everyone has their own opinion about helmet use.  And I normally refrain from writing about it here on my blog.  Hence the reason I did not post anything about Courtney King-Dye......

But in light of recent developments, I have to say something!  Personally, I wear a helmet EVERY time, EVERY ride.  I cannot imagine a reason why I would not wear my helmet (same goes for my seat belt).  I also personally don't care for the "personal choice" argument, that it is a viable choice to NOT wear a helmet (or a seat belt for that matter).  If there is technology that can SAVE YOUR LIFE, you need to take advantage of it!!!!  (I also believe that smokers should pay MORE for their health insurance - I don't smoke - but that is another thread for another blog...LOL).

So it is with great happiness that I report that the USEF (United States Equestrian Federation), which governs all equine sports, has announced a landmark rule change!

Effective immediately, all riders at USEA (United States Eventing Association) events MUST wear an ASTM/SEI-approved helmet while mounted!  YAY!

And effective March 1, 2011, all riders at USDF (United States Dressage Federation) shows from Introductory to Fourth Level MUST wear a helmet.  All riders under 18 years at any level must now wear a helmet as well.  YAY!

This is a fantastic rule change.  I can only hope that eventually the FEI will adopt the same policy and require EVERYONE at UPPER LEVELS to wear a helmet!

I am sure the horse forums and blogs will have many different opinions regarding these new rules, but I for one am very, very pleased.

To read the official press release, click here

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ummmm.....when did I move to the Arctic??

Not much to report.  Not much going on.  Yesterday morning at 6:30 AM when I fed the mares it was -19 degrees.  Yup, -19!  HOLY CRAP that is cold.  And at evening chores it was a blistering 3 degrees above zero!  Whooo! 

This morning was a little better, with the temps just hovering above zero.  I believe it was officially 1.5 degrees.  That is way too darn cold.  But I admit that I was momentarily really HAPPY to see the arrow above zero.  LOL!

The mares are doing fine in the cold.  I keep a steady supply of third crop hay in front of them and refill water frozen water buckets as much as possible.  They all had icicles on their noses the past few mornings and yesterday Dreamy had frost in her eyelashes.  It is pretty weird to see a black horse with pure white eyelashes!  LOL!

I am very pleased with their winter coats and have not yet blanketed anyone.  No one is clipped, of course.  Reva did not grow much of a winter coat last year, so I did blanket her, but this year she is a true Mainer.  :)  He coat is long and furry and gorgeous, just like Sparky and Dreamy.  I especially like how the lack of blankets make their coats so much cleaner.  Granted, they get tons of shavings in their manes, tails, and sides from sleeping in their stalls, but there is none of that scurfy dander that accumulates under horse blankets.  Blech!

It was funny to me to see so many people on Facebook worrying about blanketing their horses, etc.  in the cold.  Granted, they need hay, hay, and more hay to generate heat and need fresh water, but seriously horses do better in colder temps anyway.  And if the horse has a good winter coat (which all of mine do) then NOTHING I can put on them is going to be better than that.  There is no way that a blanket/sheet/whatever is going to ever be warmer than my horse's own natural protection.  Plus, I hate hearing how owners put a blanket for one night over a poofed out winter coat, when the horse has been fine naked all only serves to make the horse colder as the blanket makes the hair coat lie flat.  Without the "poofiness" the horse cannot maintain the pocket of warm air near its coat.  In stalls at night, out of the wind, with lots of hay and water, mine are clearly not suffering from the cold temps.

Obviously, some horses and situations warrant the use of blankets.  :)  I am not dissing blanket use!  :)  I just hate the one night random blanket on a horse that has been totally fine and happy with its winter coat. 

Anyway, not much going on besides cleaning and feeding the mares.  They are happy, fat, sassy and furry.  I just hope it warms up a little bit.....I like double digits a whole lot more than the single and negative numbers!  :)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

More WEG video!

Here is another WEG 2010 video!  This one was made by the USTA.  

I think I need to make a WEG page here to keep everything together!  :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Thanks to Kate at Riding From the Ground Up for bestowing this blogger award to me!  

There are four duties to perform to receive this award:

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

So I have to share seven things about myself.  Hmmmm....
  •  I am a perfectionist and organized to a fault.  This is perhaps because I am a first born, with a Type-A personality.  :)  I like things done correctly the first time.  I have a hard time delegating because it is easier to just do it myself and not have to "fix" something that someone else did for me.  Being a perfectionist is hard, and sometimes completely stresses me out.  (Yes ,I have read the book Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.....many times! LOL!)  But I will say that I have "mellowed" out a bit over the years, especially since becoming a mom.  But I am still pretty tightly wound!  LOL!
  • I love to teach, and I truly like my kids, but I really hate all the drama (and other things....but I will refrain from typing anything else) of the adults.  I dislike staff meetings and all the blah, blah, blah complaining from the adults I teach with.  Yes, some of them are GREAT!  But I admit I have to bite my tongue and suppress my eye rolling A LOT during a school day.  If ya don't like kids, or you can't stop complaining for a moment to breath, or if you really aren't teaching anything in your class, stop teaching!  LOL!
  • Speaking of drama, I also HATE HATE HATE the drama I have experienced over the years from crazy horse people.  Sadly, these individuals are all OLDER than me and ought to know better.  But that is not the case.  I have had experiences with very mean and truly EVIL people.  Once I nearly got hit at a horse club meeting!  I have had a crazy person with a "hate crush" who wrote about me on her blog!  I had a person get in my face and yell at me at a horse show!  Seriously people?  I would think they have better things to do than worry about me!  LOL!  It is sick.  I have come to the conclusion that people are not only crazy, but will do crazy things when they are JEALOUS of you.  I hate to think people are jealous of me, but that is all I can figure.  Sad.
  • I am the class secretary for my college class (2001) at the University of New Hampshire.  :D  I write three columns a year for the alumni magazine's "Class Notes" section.  I worked in the alumni office during my senior year, helping to edit the alumni magazine, and when I graduated they asked me to be the class secretary!  I like the job and enjoying writing my column.  I also LOVE MY COLLEGE!!!  GO WILDCATS!
  • I adore riding dressage, but it also drives me incredibly crazy.  I am not a naturally gifted dressage rider.  I was taught to ride hunt seat at age 6, so my body wants to be in a forward seat.  It is my comfort zone.  And I am short at only 5' 3/4" (LOL) so I am not long and tall and elegant in the saddle.  OK, I have moment of being elegant, I suppose.  I am short and stubby and I want to lean forward like I am about to go over a fence!  LOL!  I also have discovered I do not have the best "feel" in the world.  If an instructor asks me what my horse is doing, I can feel whether or not it is correct, but I have no body awareness of myself or the horse (well, very little).  So it is frustrating!
  • I grew up hating the color pink.  I was a bit of a tomboy, preferring my guy friends to any female.  Actually the only females I tend to get along with are horse girls, both as a kid and now!  But lately I have been loving the color pink..... but NOT neon pink.  GAG ME.  But I love light pink and brown anything.  I love my Burberry pink plaid iPhone cover.  If I had gobs of money, I would own a pink plaid Burberry purse!  I have a cute pink plaid ribbon belt.  Reva's colors are light pink plaid....and I am totally coveting these shipping boots for her.  Sadly, I do not have the money for them right now.  But someday....  :)  If anyone wants to buy the SmartPink Plaid ones for her, she would gladly accept them. 
  • I hate to cook.  Like REALLY HATE TO COOK.  But I really LOVE to eat!  :)  I could eat out at a restaurant or take out every night of the week.  Come to think of it, I generally despise most all housework.  I am not domestic at all.  My only domestic quality is that I live in a house!  :)  My barn is always cleaner than my house.  I mean, my house is always picked up, but not always clean.  I breed dust bunnies!  I wish I had a housewife.  Geez, that would make my life so much easier and more fun!  LOL!
OK, now I have to award this to 15 recently discovered bloggers.  Well.....I admit I "follow" many blogs, but only a handful actually update on a regular basis.  In fact, more than half of them have not written anything for a looooong time!  Plus, I really have not discovered any new blogs lately.   I award this "Stylish Blogger Award" to any of you who are reading and have a blog!  Go ahead, accept it!  :)  You deserve it!  Go and write!!!  :D

Thursday, January 20, 2011

300th post!

It is hard to believe that I have been writing here since May 2008.  And this is officially my 300th post!  Yay!

Some interesting statistics (to me, anyway! LOL):

I currently have 54 "official" followers, and many others who read and/or comment but have not hit the "follow" button.  

I average about 1250 views a month.

Most of my traffic comes from BehindTheBit.  Thanks Stacey!  :) 

While my biggest audience is the USA, I also get readers from Canada, Australia, the UK, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Russia, South Korea, and Estonia, as well as random other countries like Ethiopia and Hungary.  Very cool!

The most popular posts are:
Chastetree berries
Ethmoid Hematomas
WEG 2010
Saddle Fitting

Well, here's to another great year of blogging!  :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Check it out!

Look who made it on the Scarborough Downs page!  Yay for my good mares!  :)  (Sparky could not be included, as she is a Morgan after all.  LOL)

It won't be there for long as they rotate pictures through.  :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dressage cowgirl?? Nah, I just dress like one.

Things have been crazy around here, hence the lack of posts!  Sorry readers!  It is the end of quarter two, and this English teacher is up to her eyeballs in grading writing portfolios.  I am halfway done though, so that is a good thing!

Lots of horsey things have been going on, but nothing has really sparked my interest in writing.  LOL!  And it has been brutally cold.  I mean, arctic cold.  As much as I want to ride in the beautiful snow, it is just too cold for me and the ponies.   At least the sun is out, I suppose!

Something funny dawned on me today and I wanted to write about it.  I thought about how a nice dressage rider (and occasional eventer) like myself has accumulated so many WESTERN shirts!  LOL!  Yes, readers.  Western shirts!!  WHY you might ask?

Well, I don't know.  :)  Dreamy and I did try our hand at showing Western pleasure this past year at the Standardbred National Show.  It was a lot of fun.  But I wore a sparkly Western show shirt for that.  Will I show Western again?  Maybe.  It honestly does not interest me that much compared to dressage.  But I do really have a desire to try team penning.  Granted, my Western saddle is a show saddle, but what the hell. 

But, I am not talking about the sparkly show shirts.  I mean the yoke pearl button WESTERN shirts.  A few years ago, I found this pretty Western shirt by Roper for $5 including shipping on eBay.  I go through cycles with eBay where I will ignore it for months and then shop it for weeks.  How could I NOT buy this NWOT five dollar shirt????  :)

It is cute, and I love the buttons and yoke thing.  For some reason I really like the pearl buttons on Western shirts.....???  LOL!

Then along came a few others, such as these two Wrangler shirts found at Tractor Supply for $3 each.  Seriously?  Who can resist a shirt for $3??  Suddenly, I liked dressing like a cowgirl!  Tee hee!

And last year at Tractor Supply again, I found this one.  It was on sale, but I think I spent around $12.

And then this is the latest one, though it came from Macy's!  My husband bought it for me for is by Style and Co.  It looks a lot brighter in the pic than in real life.  It is more fitted with a lower neckline than my Wrangler and Roper shirts, but I still love it.

You know, I see a trend...hues of pink, brown, and turquoise???  LOL!  I like to wear them on Jeans Friday at school with one of my belts with the big silver buckles.  The kids get a kick out of it.  Of course, I pair them with my Danskos, my teaching footwear of choice.  No cowboy boots here.......yet??  (I do like the Ariat FatBaby boots a lot, but have not bought any).

So anyway, it just struck me funny how much I love my Western styled shirts.  Am I a dressage cowgirl?????  Nah.....I just like to dress like one!  ;-D

Sunday, January 9, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Susan Richards trilogy

I love to read.  I mean, yes, I am an English teacher so I TEACH reading (and writing) every day, but I still love to read regular old books that are not in the "canon".  LOL!  I tend to read more in the summer and winter, and this winter is no exception.

I have recently finished the third book in a "trilogy" of novels by Susan Richards. Overall, I liked them all, with the exception of the middle one.  Remember the following is only my opinion and you may disagree, which is fine!  :)

The first book Chosen by a Horse was fabulous.  Published in 2006, I want to say I read it a year later.  It is a wonderfully written memoir about how a starved and abused Standardbred mare named Lay Me Down helped heal Susan's own broken heart.  It was incredibly sad but also uplifting, and truly resonated with someone like me who has a strong bond with a horse.  I liked the Standardbred connection, of course, and I can appreciate any book that makes me cry.  This is a definite "must-read" for any horse person out there!  :)  The only thing that really bothered me was that the cover did not have Lay Me Down (the Standardbred) on it, but some random wild horse pic.  Fail.  I realize that she probably did not have a "cover worthy" picture of the horse, but still.

The sequel, Chosen Forever, was published in 2008 and was also well written.  But I will be honest, I did not enjoy it nearly as much as the first book.  I know that is common, but it was a bit of a let-down.  This one was all about how Susan dealt with her life as she began to heal (bad upbringing, bad marriage, alcoholism, and OH a best-selling book!  And a new husband!)  It was almost too "OMG-my-life-is-fabulous-look-at-me!" for me to really like it.  I mean, I admired all that Susan has been through in her life.  And I certainly admire her as an author.  But I did not need to pay $13.95 to read the book.  I know that it was probably not her intent for that to be what I got from it, as she does seem humble enough, but this book just didn't do it for me.  Plus, it had very little to do with horses.  :-(  And the cover was again, stupid IMO.  

The final book, Saddled, was published in 2010.  I just bought it after Christmas with a bookstore gift certificate.  I liked this one as much as the first.  It goes back to the beginning of Susan's life, with more anecdotes on her rough (and abusive) childhood, her alcoholism and her first awful marriage.  It clears up all of the things she mentions briefly in the first book.  It was a bit of going back in time, but I liked it.  It focused on her Morgan mare Georgia and how moving to a new farm and owning Georgia helped start a road to recovery and strong mental health.  But again, I wish it were GEORGIA and not some random horse on the cover.  Oh well.  Cover fail times three.  What can ya do?

Overall, I highly recommend the first and third books, especially for a horse person.  I felt like I could relate to her feelings for her horse (though not so much to the terrible upbringing, alcoholism, or bad marriage.....but still).  Reading about how she struggled and relied on her horse was much more interesting than the middle book all about how perfect! everything turned out.  I am not sure if she will publish another one in two years.....but I cannot imagine what she might have left to write.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Riding in the winter..... so not fun!  :-(  I am not a winter person at all.  I hate having to bundle up to go outside.  And yes, I obviously was born and raised (and still live...) in the wrong state!  LOL!

This week is back to reality for me which means back to work teaching.  :)  Last week during vacation I got to ride a bunch of times, which was nice, but seriously, I am NOT a winter riding person.  At least we had a bit of the January thaw, with daytime highs in the sun up into the 40s and 50s!  I sometimes wish I had an indoor to ride in, but then I think that I would still wimp out from the cold.  LOL!  Granted, with Dreamy I am careful not to ride when it is very cold, seeing as it can irritate her breathing issues.

I rode Dreamy four times over my 11 day vacation, all bareback.  Mostly I was too lazy to actually tack her up, but also I think it was good for my posture.  I had to sit up at the canter or I would have fallen off!  Ha ha ha.  And Dreamy is much happier in the canter when her owner actually RIDES her it was productive.  The footing here has been great, which just enough snow to give some traction, but nothing too slippery or deep.  I had no real goals with her, mostly because she is out of shape and enjoying her winter time off.  All I wanted in each short ride was prompt transitions in all three gaits (which I got) and correct connection with the bit in all three gaits (again, which I got...though she was a bit above the bit at the canter, we had good contact which was progress).  So life was good!  And Dreamy seemed happy, enough to buck one day at the canter in the snow!  Whoo!  :-D

I rode Reva three times, once bareback and twice I actually tacked her up.  :)  She was very good...I did get some of an attitude on our second ride.  I think she is beginning to realize that riding is not just be-bopping around the field, but that I have expectations of her.  ;-D   Now that she is not as green as she was last year, and I have more expectations, she is realizing OH NO!  THIS IS WORK!  I was wondering when this might occur!  :)  I started asking her for transitions with softer aids, expecting her to respond from a smaller aid than I did in the past.  She is very sensitive to any downward transition more so than upwards.  She is so sensitive that she can sometimes be almost abrupt.  

But her minor attitude was easily soothed, as I brought her back to something she knows well (bending at the walk) before working again on the transitions.  She caught on quickly, and within the short 25 minutes I rode her, she was going up to the walk from the halt and up to the trot from the walk with a slight leg and seat aid.  It was great...and Reva proved that she is a quick learner.  I also worked on walking a "square" at the walk...progressing easily to an actual turn on the forehand.  All of my in-hand work with her paid off under saddle!

So not much to is cold.  The horses are happy and fuzzy.  And I am planning our conditioning schedules, dreaming of spring!  :)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

RECAP: 2010 Goals

Here is a look back to my goals I set in January 2010.  Some were met and some were not.  But overall I am very happy with how our year progressed!

Sparky - ALL GOALS MET!  Yay!
  • Keep her healthy, happy, and sound
  • Ride/drive her lightly
Dreamy - Almost all of our goals were met!  Just never got a chance to try team penning.  :(  That's for 2011!
  • Keep her healthy, happy, and sound
  • Continue to show at recognized dressage shows, a few of the MHA hunter shows, and perhaps a three phase event or two
  • Compete for the third year in a row at the Standardbred Nationals in August
  • Take at least 2 lessons per month with Judy, preferably more if possible
  • Attend as many clinics as financially possible
  • Marshal at the racetrack for MSBOA and SD as needed...maybe one day at Cumberland with Shel??
  • Go team penning and/or try cowboy mounted shooting (I am being serious!! LOL!)
  • Continue to work on the connection to the bit at the canter, the stretchy trot, and begin to ask for increased collection/impulsion
  • Score consistently in the 60's at Training level
  • Strengthen my core (This is obviously a goal for me, but I will be achieving it when riding Dreamy, so here it is.)
  • Have fun at WEG
Reva - Again, met all of our goals except for one!  I think we are ready to compete in 2011!  LOL!
  • Keep her healthy, happy, and sound
  • Continue the excellent under saddle work started last July-Oct
  • Work on balance while walking and trotting, reaching for the bit, and bending ribcage
  • Continue to work on in-hand cues (for showing in 2011)
  • Introduce canter in late summer/early fall (maybe)
  • Attend at least one clinic
  • Attend at least one SMDA schooling show, not to show, but to "school on the grounds"
  • Take her to a few lessons at Judy's, mostly just to get her off the farm
  • Be ready to compete in Intro level dressage and walk/trot hunter classes in 2011
Overall, 2010 was an incredible year!  I owe my little black mare everything and she owes me nothing.  Because of Dreamy, 2010 was fabulous.  My biggest goal (though I never explicitly wrote it down, as I was too afraid to actually put it in writing) was to earn a USDF All Breed Award with Dreamy.  And we won two, the adult amateur and open medals!!  They were both championships!  And I got to actually GO to Florida to be on stage at the USDF banquet to receive them!  WOW!  

We scored consistently in the 60s at our USDF rated shows.  We even earned scores at Training level up to a 68.214%!  The July day at UNH when we earned that score was the best feeling ever!!!  :)  Yay for dressage Standardbreds!!!

We rode at WEG 2010!  OMG!  That was far and away the best equine experience of my life.  I will never do something that awesome again, I just know it.  It was outrageous, fun, exhausting , thrilling, exciting, did I mention FUN, and so worth it.  :-D

And of course, Dreamy earned a ton of other ribbons and year end awards.  :)  But that was to be expected, right??  ;-D

Overall, 2010 was a huge year for me and Dreamy in competition.  I am proud of her and still a little overwhelmed about it all.  

I am not 100% sure what 2011 is going to look like just yet.  I need to see what the various show calendars look like, decide who is going to do what (Reva is going to debut in 2011!), decide if I want to try more USDF shows or stick with schooling shows (or BOTH), etc, etc.  There is still much to be decided for 2011 goals. 

But I know one thing.  I am healthy, happy, and excited.  And my lovely mares are happy and healthy.  Not so sure about the "excited" part!  LOL!  ;-D