Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day THIRTY! 30 Day Challenge

Day Thirty: Your future with horses

PHEW! I almost made it!  I missed posting this yesterday by completely spacing out.  This past week at school has been utterly insane.  But here it is!  I completed the entire 30 Day Challenge!  Click here to see all the posts.

So, my future with horses.  Well, I plan to own horses as long as I am physically capable.  I cannot imagine my life without them.  If I cannot own a horse at some point, I would find a way to lease one or at least take lessons.  Someday I plan to own another Morgan, someday I hope to own a Connemara pony, and I am sure I will own another Standardbred!

I plan to continue to compete in the future as well.  I love dressage and would LOVE to earn my USDF bronze medal someday.  That means I have to earn scores at First and Second...that might be hard.  My immediate plan is to try First Level this year with Dreamy and see how we do!

We are expecting a big 8-14" snow storm here in Maine tomorrow.  So much for this 30 Day Challenge helping me get through the winter weather.....SIGH.  Last year at this time it was 60-70 degrees...this year it has barely gotten into the 40s on a good day.  It has been a very very trying winter and early spring so far.  Here's hoping the summer is gorgeous for good riding!

I have lots to post about Dreamy and her spring conditioning!  I started riding her on March 13 and we have had 15 rides so far!  She is looking FANTASTIC and I am excited!  More later!  :-)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day Twenty Nine: 30 Day Challenge

Day Twenty Nine: Favorite, breeches, tops, helmets, etc. 

It is funny to think about brands, since I am not always a loyal fan to certain brands.  I normally won't just buy something because it is a certain brand.  I usually look for an item based on my needs, what fits me or my horse, and what my budget looks like; I try to buy the best I can afford, which sometimes means saving for a bit or buying a nicer used item rather than a new but cheaply made item.

That said, I do have some favorites, mostly based on what I already own and would buy again.

Boots: I own a pair of Ariat riding boots and at first I figured the "brand" was just a hype.  But I have to say that I adore my Ariat field boots.  (Thankfully, my father bought them for me as a Chirstmas gift a few years back, since I could never afford the $300+ boots myself!)  They broke in super easily, as I simply wore them to ride, and by the third ride they were broken in.  And they have worn very well, as I use them as both my everyday boots and my show boots.  I would not hesitate to buy another pair.  As far as horse boots, I really like Woof boots, only because I have had good luck with them.  I have a couple of pairs for cross country jumping and they all look great.  And for shipping boots, I really like the Dover Pro's.  I bought them for $40 used, but they had never been put on a horse.  Score!

Breeches: I have owned lots of different pairs of breeches, but my favorites are Ariat, TuffRider, and Kerrits (sometimes).  I currently have a pair of Ariat white dressage breeches that I show in that have worn very well, despite multiple washings and lots of shows.  (Again, a gift from my father years ago...)  My TuffRider breeches are my favorite schooling breeches, which I believe I already wrote about (scored them for very cheap in a consignment tack store, though the TuffRiders are pretty reasonably priced).  And I like some of the Kerrits breeches, but sadly not all.  I am a Kerrits Ambassador so I ought to be telling you how awesome the Kerrits breeches are.  But all of the pairs I have owned have completely ripped out (and they are expensive!).  While they are comfortable and fit me well, I have found that they do not actually hold up well for the value even though at one time I thought they did.  Just recently I have had my favorite greenish schooling pair rip out as well as my tan show breeches!  :-(  I bought a pair of white ones (on sale!) with the black on the full seat (thinking the black would be better than white!), but HOLY COW they are awful!  The black full seat makes me stick in an odd way to the saddle and when it is hot the full seats capture so much moisture it always makes me feel as though I wet my pants.  :-(

Tops: I do like my Kerrits dressage show shirt, as it is comfortable and has worn well so far.  I also like Ovation show shirts.  As far as schooling, I tend to wear whatever t-shirt is on top of the pile.  LOL!

Helmets:  I like my IRH black helmet, which I use for both schooling and show.  I just recently bought a Troxel Capriole for showing in hot weather, so I will know if I like it this summer!  (Got it new for half price!)

I should also mention a few other brands I love:
  • Horse Tech (they make Glanzen)
  • Absorbine
  • Triple Crown (grain)
  • Crosby
  • Stuebben (I love my dressage saddle and bridle!)
  • Horseware
  • Baker
  • Weatherbeeta
  • Dansko (love my clogs!!!)
  • Equine Couture (love their ribbon belts!)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day Twenty Eight: 30 Day Challenge

Day Twenty Eight: Helmet or no helmet?

HELMET.  Hell yes.  Every time, every ride.  I am always utterly amazed at the number of people who make up insane and ridiculous excuses to not wear a helmet.
My hair will get messed up!  Seriously?  Your hair is more important than, oh I dunno, your LIFE??  You can easily brush out your locks, but I am thinking it is a bit harder to fix your brain.....or your death.

I am a good enough rider to not wear a helmet!  Really?  And horses are machines and never spook, trip, or otherwise unseat riders, huh?  Yeah, OK, smartypants.  Do I even NEED to bring up the big name riders who have fallen off recently???

I have earned the right to wear a dressage top hat with my shadbelly!  Hmmm.  That's nice.  And that top hat could also earn you the right to have a brain injury when you fall off.  Now THAT'D be fun!

It is my right to not wear a helmet!  Oh yeah?  And do you think your family has earned the right to have to care for your crippled a** for the rest of your life?  Can you look at your family, spouse, kids, whoever and tell them that while you think you don't need a helmet, if you are wrong, then they have to care for you for the rest of your life??

See, in my opinion, it is not a matter of IF you get hurt around horses, it is WHEN.  Horses are big unpredictable animals.  I don't care if it is a perfectly trained GP horse or an ancient trail horse who can barely move beyond a walk.  Horses can kill you.  I just don't get why people balk at the idea of using a very simple, affordable, and painless measure (AKA a riding helmet) that could literally save their life, or at the very least, help them continuing living the "normal" life they are accustomed to.

I am so thankful the USEF has finally passed rules about wearing helmets in eventing and dressage.  It was a long time coming and I am glad they did the right thing.  
Can you tell I am just a little bit passionate about helmet safety??  LOL!  Sorry to offend those of you who like to ride without helmets.  To be blunt, but I think you are dumb.  :-)


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day Twenty Seven: 30 Day Challenge

Day Twenty Seven: You know you're an equestrian when.... (list five things)

1. When spending hundreds of dollars on your horse is completely normal to you, but spending more than $50 on yourself seems extravagant.  (Case in point: the $$$$$ I spend each year for routine veterinary care for my horses fair outweighs what it would have cost to have my broken finger fixed years ago.  Instead I told myself I was fine, ignored the intense pain in my finger, and now I have a weird looking pointer finger.  Or the fact that I will spend $100+ on a horse blanket but will wait as long as possible before I buy myself new socks, preferring to wait until the holes are so large I might as well not even wear socks.  Sad but true).  

2. When you plan your summer vacation (I teach high school so I get a wickedfreakingawesome long vacation) around your horse shows.  When you will ditch family events because you have a horse show....or will leave the event early to go to the horse show.  See here.

3.  When you half halt your car/truck.  Not kidding, I truly do this without thinking.  I try to half halt my truck ALL THE TIME.  For the record, it does not work.  The brake works much better.  I also think about leg yielding my truck whenever I change lanes. 

4.  When you have repurposed household items for the barn.......I use old toothbrushes to clean tack (though I have been known to open a brandy new one if needed), I find that toothpaste works great to clean bits, I took a brand new Pampered Chef spatula given to me as a gift to the barn when I needed to mix supplements without thinking twice,  I get excited when a bath towel is threadbare enough for the barn though I have taken brand new gifted towels straight to the barn when they are a nice color/texture, when I found out the large pumpkin filling tin cans hold exactly one pound of my horses' grain I was seriously excited.....the list goes on.

5. You critique other animals' way of going as a matter of many times have I admired my dog's clean changes???  Or my cat's ground covering lengthened trot?  Sad.  Just sad.

6. When you call your doctor your vet.  How many times did I do that when I was pregnant????  LOL!  And I have called my dog's paw a hoof.  Non-horse people at work think I am absolutely insane.  It's OK, I sort of am!  LOL!

7. When the broom in the barn is used more than the broom in the house.  Oh, don't even get me started.  My barn is so much cleaner than my house!  I mean, my barn gets cleaned and swept every single day!  Sometimes twice if needed!  LOL!  My house is lucky to be cleaned once a week!  LOL!

8. When you are pretty sure you ought to have asked for a riding ring rather than a diamond engagement ring.  I think this all the time!  LOL!  My husband thinks I am crazy.  I asked for a two-wheeled wheelbarrow the first birthday I had my horses at home and it was seriously the best birthday gift he has ever gotten me!

9. You've hauled hay, shavings, and grain in your little Honda Civic.  Thank goodness I now have a 3/4 ton GMC truck!  LOL!

10. Number of items in my horse's grooming kit: over 20.  Items in my own: 3 (face soap, Blistex, and a hair brush).

11. When you think about how a piece of music would work with your horse's gait.  I have so many ideas written down for a musical freestyle!  :-)

12. When you buy so many carrots at the grocery store each week (a five pound bag each time) that the cashiers actually take notice and remark that you must really like carrots!  (And then I just tell them that actually my horses do!  LOL!)

13. You spend hundreds of dollars on horse shows just for the chance to win .95 ribbons.  Yup, guilty.  :-)

14.When you have more framed photos and larger scrapbooks for your horse than your own children.  Yes, I admit, I have way more pics of my horses. 

Oops, I think it called for five.  I guess I was on a roll!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day Twenty Six: 30 Day Challenge

Day Twenty Six: Biggest riding pet peeve

I wrote up this long post (in draft form) about my pet peeves yesterday, and then just now as I was going back to it to publish, I realized I hated my whiny complaining.

SO!  I have decided to harness my inner negativity and delete it all!  :-)  I dislike when others constantly complain about everything (in fact, I have ended friendships over it), so I think I ought to smarten up as well.

My biggest riding pet peeve is when I mentally KNOW what I need to make my body do but I cannot DO it!  Sooooooo frustrating!  LOL!  I work so hard but I am not a naturally gifted rider and I lack "feel", so there are times when I know my horse would be better trained if I could only get my act together.  It bugs me so much.  I also wish at times I could just pay for my instructor to train my horse, but then I would not have the satisfaction of knowing that my horse's successes are my own.  And I suppose then I would have to call her my "trainer" instead of my "instructor".  And I don't want to sound like a real dressage queen!  LOL!!!!  ;-D  (kidding....)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Day Twenty Five: 30 Day Challenge

Day Twenty Five: Your dream trailer

My dream trailer would be another Eby.  I really love my Eby gooseneck stock trailer, but if I could afford it, I would want a fancy horse trailer with tack room.  I like the look of the Victory Series 4 horse head to head.   I would want the tack room of course.  I would rather have a head-to-head rather than a slant load.  I am not sure if I would want a trailer with living quarters though.  When I show overnight I kind of like getting a hotel room and having a real shower and bed.  :-)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day Twenty Four: 30 Day Challenge

Day Twenty Four: Your best riding buddy

My best riding buddy is Shelly, without a doubt.  In fact, she is probably my best buddy period!  :-)  We both own and show Standardbreds; I have Dreamy (and Reva) and she has McKeever Hanover.  They are both 20 years old in 2011 and get along quite well.  Neither like any other horses, but they love each other.  :-)  We joke that they are an old married couple.  We used to show together in 2-gait and Shelly had to be super careful in the ring...if another horse got near McKeever and his girlfriend Dreamy he would pin his ears and go after them.  We normally either stayed really close together in the ring or completely stayed apart, depending on the size of the class, etc.  When Dreamy moved to 3-gait last year, McKeever would watch for her outside the ring while he was showing.  They are adorably cute together and even look similar...although McKeever is definitely more masculine and thicker as he was a stud for many years.

Shelly and I got along easily from the beginning.  Though I do believe at the show in 2006 where we competed together for the first time, she was wondering who the girl was who kept beating her!  LOL!!!  ;-D  We often place first and second, flipping back and forth.  We joke that if one of us has to lose, it might as well be to the other.  :-)  

Shelly is just a few years older than me, we both have one son, and our husbands might as well be twins (because of the way they act)!  We get along very well...we talk every single day (or close to it) or we can go a week without saying a word but neither of us gets angry at the other.  We are both always very busy and understand that in each other.  My husband has referred to Shelly as my wife....ha ha ha.  We joke we might as well ditch the husbands and buy a farm together.  :-)  Shelly and I are always going on horse adventures together and I trust her completely.  I know she's got my back and would be there for me in a heartbeat, and I hope she knows the same is true for me.  We make each other laugh and have a similar sense of humor and TONS of foolish inside jokes.  I wish she lived closer, as she is about 45 minutes from me, and I also wish she showed dressage!  LOL!  We only do the hunter shows and marshal together.  :-)  

We have weird connections that go back before the start of our friendship.  My grandfather bought FW Volo from her grandfather back in the 1970s!  And I taught at the same high school as her father back in 2003, before I ever met her!  Crazy!

There are so many memories between us...the time she showed out of her car at her home farm and tied her horse to my trailer, buying matchy-matchy tack/clothing for marshaling (and generally obsessing over our marshaling outfits), our trip to the National Standardbred show in NJ and many other road trips with our horses which usually involves rain and lots of eating, The Toothbrush Incident aka " this YOUR toothbrush?", PRPL LVR aka purple lovers (not what you think...ha ha ha), "Hey lady, did you know your shirt matches your horse's socks and underwear?", numerous intense rainstorms at horse shows, spraining my ankle at a horse show, the time she hid in the bathroom (stood on a toilet even!) to avoid a certain crazy person and MISSED my dressage rides (!!!!!), loading and unloading all my horse show crap gear in the rain (and she only complains a little.....LOL), her pep talks when I get nervous/discouraged at shows (even though it makes me angry at her at first because dammit she should let me give up!), The Lady with The Tooth, the thousands of times we are laughing so hard that tears are rolling down our cheeks and I am nearly peeing my pants, the times she has stripped in front of my husband and father at horse shows (whoops...), "My Horse Looks Like Breaded Chicken!", "L".....and the list goes on.  :-D

Here are lots of photos!  (Remember, Dreamy has the star...)
SPHO-Maine Endless Summer Show 2007
Standardbred National Show in New Jersey 2008
Marshaling at Scarborough Downs 2008
MHA Maine Event Horse Show 2009 - Sometimes I let her win.... ;-)
Marshaling at the Cornish Trotting Park 2009 - Our horses wanted to graze SO BADLY!
Marshaling at Scarborough Downs 2009
Maine Horse Association Banquet 2009
MHA Ocean Communities Show 2010 - we each pulled a first in the double judged in-hand class!

Marshaling at the Cornish Trotting Park 2010
MHA Maine Event Horse Show 2010
Marshaling at Scarborough Downs 2010 - We are all twins!  :-)

Here's to many more fun horsey years together!  :-)  Love ya girl!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day Twenty-Three: 30 Day Challenge

Day Twenty-Three: First horse you rode

This is probably the first horse I ever rode.  This would have been when I was about four years old.  Who knows what the horse is named...but I do remember that this was at a fair at a local elementary school.  What great safety!  I especially like the way I am STRAPPED onto the saddle!  LOL! 
This is the first horse I ever took riding lessons on.  Her name is Joydale Pollyanna.  You can read more about her here

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day Twenty Two: 30 Day Challenge

Day Twenty Two: Describe the importance of riding in your life

I ride and own horses because they define who I am.  I simply cannot imagine my life without my horses.  I don’t ever remember not having horses in my life.  I think for me loving horses is an inborn trait!  I enjoy the responsibility that comes with owning horses and keeping them in my backyard.  I like working hard, getting blisters, and feeling tired after a good ride or from putting up hundreds of hay bales.  Riding and showing allows me to set goals and create hopes/dreams for the future.  My horses’ good health and my riding accomplishments make me very proud.  My horses give me comfort, teach me patience, and accept me for who I am.  I know I will never be without a horse in my life.

Horses represent power, beauty, and strength, which are all traits I think woman want to possess.  Since “power” and “strength” are often masculine qualities, horses offer me a chance to be those things in a more feminine way.  There is nothing quite like riding a good gallop across a field, mastering a dressage concept, or soaring over fences to make me feel strong and powerful.  But often this power is coupled with gentleness as well.  Horses appeal to both of my feminine and masculine sides. 

I appreciate the communication between a horse and rider.  It is subtle and complex, and unlike any communication between humans.  It is more sensitive and pure.  My relationship with my horses is something that I treasure and I know it can never be recreated with a human being.

Also, I think women are nurturers, and therefore we often revel in taking care of our horses: I know I get a lot of enjoyment out of brushing, feeding, mucking, and worrying about my horses!  I think women like myself are attracted to horses because they not only represent something to care for (and care for very deeply), but also because it allows us something to give ourselves.  When I am riding or showing, it is MY time.  It is a break from my work/family/home responsibilities.  

I remember writing my college essay back in 1997 about the importance of horses in my life and what they taught me.  I was accepted into all four colleges I applied to, so it must have been decent.  ;-)  Of course, having looked for it now to post here, I cannot find it. 

My mare Sparky (left) and FW Volo, 1997

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day Twenty One: 30 Day Challenge

Day Twenty One: Your favorite schooling outfit

For whatever reason, I tend to wear tan and white (dressage) breeches only at shows and at home I wear all other colors.  My most favorite schooling pair was my greenish full seat Kerrits breeches.  I say was because the fabric on the seat completely fell apart this past fall.  I got them on clearance for only $20 and I adored them.   Oh well.  At least I did not pay full price ($90+)!  My other favorite schooling pair is a dark gray ribbed full seats from Tuff Rider.  They were on clearance for only $15.  :-)  You know, I never seem to find my tan or white show breeches on clearance....LOL!

I generally wear one of my many horsey t-shirts to school in.  When it is super hot, I go with a tank top.  My favorite is a gray tank with thicker straps.  But I am not too fashion conscience, because usually I am mucking stalls and doing other farm chores before and/or after I ride. 

I wear my IRH helmet and Ariat field boots for both schooling and showing.  I am not rich enough to own two different sets! :-)  And I wear my SSG riding gloves...but instead of black or white (which I only use for showing) I wear a leopard print pair to school in!  LOL!

Reva says "HI!" (2009)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Happy 5th Birthday Reva!  She's my spring baby!  :-)

(Yeah, yeah, I know Standardbreds officially turn a year older on January 1 of each year, but I prefer to stick to their real birthdays! :-)

Day Twenty: 30 Day Challenge

Day Twenty: Your favorite horse show

My favorite dressage show is the University of New Hampshire.  They offer two summer dressage shows each year.  Here is the post about the last time I showed there in 2010.  I love showing at UNH  for many reasons.  It is not that far from home, it has great trailer parking, and I went to college there!!!  :D  That is the biggest reason I love to show at UNH; as an alumnae I feel like I am riding on my home turf.  A lot of people dislike riding at UNH because of the set-up and the small(er) warm up.  But I just love it.  And Dreamy really likes showing there too.  UNH has the two summer USDF/USDF shows each year, as well as three USEA horse trials.
Here we are at UNH summer of 2009

My favorite horse show is the National Standardbred horse show put on by the SPHO-NJ.  It is so much fun!  I attended in 2008 with pics here and here, 2009, and 2010 with pics here.  I just wish it was a two-day show, since traveling all that way for a one-day show is completely exhausting!  But it is still worth it, of course!  :-)

Standardbred Nationals 2008                                                                    Our first year, showing off one of our ribbons!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day Nineteen: 30 Day Challenge

Day Nineteen: A discipline you would like to try

I am dying to try team penning!  I have done so many things with horses, but I have never worked with cows on horseback.  I am not sure why I want to team pen, but I think it looks fun.  I would probably suck at it, but that would be OK!  LOL!

I would also love to try cowboy mounted shooting.  It seems like a neat skill, but again I would probably be a terrible shooter.  :-P

And lastly, I want to do more versatility challenges.  I had a blast at the one last August, so I want to try it again this year.  

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day Eighteen: 30 Day Challenge

Day Eighteen: Your favorite horse show picture(s)

My son's first horse show 2007.  I love how Sparky's eyes are closed. 
Seriously?  Can it get any cuter??  :-D
Such a typical face.  LOL!
So proud!  :-)
The ribbons are nearly as big as he was!
Love them.  <3

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day Seventeen: 30 Day Challenge

Day Seventeen: Your equestrian idol

This is a hard one, as I am not the type of person who follows famous people, celebrities, etc.  Yes, I think Steffen Peters is pretty amazing and I have always liked the Karen and David O'Connor.  But I have never thought, "Oh geez, I really want to be like them."  They are way too advanced for this adult amateur to idolize.  LOL!  I never have dreamed of the Olympics and all that.  I love horses but I have no desires to pursue them as a full-time, elite level professional career.

So I guess my real idols are just normal everyday folks.  I admire my riding instructor Judy of Little Moon Farm because she is super helpful and patient with me.  She is a great rider who knows so much more about dressage and training then I will ever know.  I love that I feel comfortable enough to ask questions and admit when I need help.  I know she will push me in a positive way but never get angry or demeaning.  Not every instructor is like that.  Also, Judy has a wonderful mare named Locket and has not only done all her training herself but she also manages her EPSM very well.  You would never know her mare had this disease, as she takes super care of her.  Judy is a horse person who I highly respect and I value her opinion. 

I also admire three Standardbred mares and their owner/riders.  The first one is a friend of mine from Kentucky named Laura who owns a wonderful mare named Legs.  Laura has owned and shown Legs for many years and they are a wonderful ambassador for the Standardbred breed.  They have earned tons and tons of ribbons and awards in hunters, equitation, and western.  Laura and Legs were at WEG with us and demonstrated western pleasure. Laura has done an amazing job training and showing Legs and certainly is someone I look up to.

The other two are Sea the Gray owned by SPHO-Florida and Whiz Bang owned by my friend Tina.  These two Standardbred mares have competed in USDF shows from Training up to Second Level with their rider Heather!  And they have won numerous dressage awards and ribbons.  I admire all of the work Tina and Heather have put into these mares.  They also were at WEG in the dressage pas de deux.  While I know I will never achieve Second Level with Dreamy, I certainly am proud of the work of these Florida horsewomen!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day Sixteen: 30 Day Challenge

Day Sixteen: Your most recent fall

I rarely fall.  I'm serious.  I am not sure if it is because I have a Velcro butt, good horses, or really good luck, but I have been lucky to not take too many tumbles in recent years. 
Of course, my most recent fall was last spring (April 2010) at a horse show.  Yup, I actually fell off at a horse show!  :-/  So perfect.  But I still placed fourth in the class......ha ha ha ha.  I thought if you fell off you had to be disqualified, but apparently not.  Before that, I had not fallen off since the winter of 1996.  And that was during a jumping lesson where the (17.1 hand) lesson horse and I parted ways over a jump.  LOL!

The full blog post is here, in case any readers want the entire show story.  But here is just an excerpt of the actual fall...

"Our last class of the day was Adult 3-Gait Command. The class started off well, and we ended up being part of the last five still riding. I was thinking, "Just stay in while one more rider has to go to the center and you will get a ribbon!" [Note: at this particular show they only placed to fourth place.  Not sure why...] No sooner did I think that, going along in a nice canter, and my lovely mare tripped. I am 100% convinced she tripped on one of the big honking ROCKS in the ring, and she just went down in a heap. As we were cantering, and suddenly stopped short, I was bounced off over her right shoulder. I landed on my left shoulder first (OUCH!) and I remember yelling the word, "SH!T". Yeah, great. I am so classy at horse shows! :P

"I tried to get up and saw Dreamy halfheartedly trotting away, the reins around her right front leg. I knew immediately that I was not able to walk on my left ankle and my left shoulder was in searing pain. The darkness started to close in and I knew I would faint. I got to the rail but there was no way to get out of the four rail fence unless I climbed it. YEAH RIGHT. So someone told me to roll under the lowest board. I remember saying, "Seriously??" But I also knew I had to get out of the ring and get someone to help me not pass out. All I could do was ask about my horse. I started getting weepy because I just wanted to check my horse and I could feel my body starting to shut down. I hate passing out. And this was no dust-yourself-off-and-get-back-on kind of fall. I had hurt myself!

"The EMTs had not arrived yet (they were parked up by the barn) and someones dad came right over and had me lie back and he raised my legs. Suddenly, I was no longer about to pass out. I was so thankful! There were many people around me and suddenly there was ST too. I cannot really remember the order of things, but the EMTs had me move everything and they examined me. Within a few minutes I felt much better, though my shoulder pain was horrible. They put my arm in a sling and my ankle in a splint. The judge handed me a fourth place ribbon....seriously? How did I place if I fell off???? Shouldn't I have been disqualified? that point I was not questioning the poor organization of the show. I just wanted to check my horse and get home.

"Because there did not seem to be any broken bones (though the EMTs recommended I get x-rayed) and we were three hours from home, ST and I decided to head home. We figured it would be better to just get as close to home as we could, as it was about 5PM when we rolled out of there. I felt good, just very very sore. By the time we got to ST's farm, my arm felt 95% better and my ankle was killing me. Dreamy seemed fine, thankfully. We had many many helpful friends who not only assisted me, but also helped ST get the horses loaded and ready to go home. I am so thankful to everyone who helped and has continued to check in with me. I think it looked a lot worse than it really actually is! LOL!

"I had x-rays on Monday morning and nothing is broken. My ankle is just sprained, so I am wearing an air cast. There is some swelling and a tiny bit of bruising. I really thought the entire thing would be purple! Today is Wednesday and I am already feeling 95% better. I still have a little stiffness in my shoulder, but I can put my weight on my ankle again and walk almost normal. It is still a bit swollen, but that will go away.

"What an exciting show! The worst part was telling my parents. LOL! They worry about me too much. And seeing as I have not fallen off since 1996, when I was 17 years old, this was a pretty big deal! LOL! And I have never been injured in a fall, just had a bit of soreness or stiffness.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day Fifteen: 30 Day Challenge

Day Fifteen: If you could say something to any one horse, what would you say?

Well, I talk to my horses all the time.  LOL!  But I am assuming this means, if I could say something to any one horse AND the horse would UNDERSTAND and LISTEN to me, what would I say.  That is sort of hard to do! I could say a lot of things....I would want to tell Reva to stop chewing on everything in sight and to start picking up the canter lead to the right this year, I would tell Dreamy to relax and stop avoiding the contact (by going behind the bit) like she sometimes does and to slow down her canter, I could tell Sparky to stop grinding up her poop like she sometimes does in her stall or to stop chewing on that little spot on her stall.....etc etc. 

But you know what?  Those are all silly things that I can either live with or train my horse better.  LOL!  None of them really matter so much.

What I would really say?  I would tell Sparky THANK YOU.  I would thank her for being the very best first horse a girl could ever have.  I would tell her I am sorry for any mistakes I made with her.  I would tell her how happy she made me back when I was thirteen and how she still makes me so happy to this day as a 31 year old.  I would tell her there will never be another horse like her.  I show her this every day by how I take care of her.  I promised her a forever home back in January of 1993 when I first met her, and she will be with me until her last breath.  Sometimes I just wish she really understood how much she has done for me and how I can never repay her.  I just hope she feels loved and appreciated in whatever way a horse feels that.  :-)
Sparky and me at her retirement ceremony in 2007

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day Fourteen: 30 Day Challenge

Day Fourteen: Your dream barn/farm

Oh, this is a fun one!  My dream farm would be on 80+ acres somewhere with no winter/snow and no natural disasters.  LOL!  (Can you tell I am sick to death of winter??)  I would want a six stall barn, 12x12 matted stalls, three on each side of the aisle, with Dutch doors opening up to paddocks and sliding doors on the front.  I would want each stall to have one of those little grain windows and automatic waterers with a gauge so I would know how much each horse was drinking.  The aisle would have the nice rubber pavers like they have at Hay Fever Farm.  Might as well have the gorgeous stall fronts and the pretty architecture like they have too!  I would want a heated tack room with a big sink and washer/dryer, grain room with space for bedding storage, and a huge hayloft.  No wait, I might as well have a separate hay building, since this is a dream.  :-)  I would want a wash stall with hot/cold water.   I would need carriage storage too.  All the fences would be four rail wood.  Each horse would have a paddock that opened up to a larger grass field.  There would be an indoor with top-of-the-line footing and lots of mirrors.  There would be gorgeous windows in the indoor, like at  Spring Creek Farm (where I have taken a few that indoor!!).  I would have an outdoor dressage ring set up and a jumping ring, as well as a full cross country course.  Maybe I would do clinics and shows, but no boarding and no training or anything like that.

Oh such a dream!  I will never own anything at all like that.  The closest I might ever get would be to board somewhere like that.  :-)

In reality, some day I hope to build a new house and barn on the 15 acres we own in the neighboring town.  The barn will have four stalls, 12x12 matted or clay, with the Dutch and sliding doors as above.  The grain windows are mandatory though...but no automatic waterers.  I will have a rough concrete aisle with a row of mats down the center.  I am sure the tack room will not be heated but I want a sink and maybe the washer/dryer.  It would save my house set, that is for sure!  Hay would have to be stored in the loft, as I am sure I would not be able to afford a separate hay building.  If I cannot have an indoor wash stall, I want an outdoor concrete slab with a drain to bathe horses.  The fences will be what I have now (BayGuard electric fence) or that white electric cord stuff.  Maybe I will look into what my instructor idea what it is but I like it.  I will still have paddocks off the stalls that open up to larger grass pastures. Definitely NO indoor!  But I want a real ring, full dressage size, as opposed to having to ride in the uneven field that I have now.  :-P  I would be able to set up my jumps like I do now...I could not have separate rings for each.

Oh, to dream.......  :-D

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spring Training Begins!

This weekend I was able to finally get both Dreamy and Reva out to begin the long process of spring conditioning.  I hate giving them so much time off (about 3 months) but in this climate without an indoor I do not have much of a choice!  :-)

On Saturday, I trailered Reva over to Vienna Farm, which is where my instructor boards for the winter.  I had not been on Reva since December, but I figured she would be fine; I am either really brave or really stupid (probably both! LOL!).  While I cannot take a lesson from my instructor there (not that my horses are in shape enough anyway), I can ride with her for a nominal ring fee.  And lucky me, she bought me two rides in exchange for helping her with barn chores this winter!  Yay! 

I was planning to only tack walk Reva around the indoor, since she is not in shape, but I knew that this would be a good experience for her.  It was her third time off the farm and her first time in an indoor arena!  :-)

She trailered over there with no issue.  It is just about 34 minutes door to door.  It was very windy, but she was very well behaved in the parking lot while I tacked her up.  We walked through the big barn into the attached indoor; while her eyes were HUGE and her ears pricked as far forward as possible, she was very brave.

I had put her halter over her bridle so I could walk her around on foot first.  She entered the arena and immediately whinnied loudly to herself in the mirrors along the opposite short side.  LOL!  So funny.  I took her to the mirrors first.  She sniffed and admired herself.  My instructor came into the ring with her mare and Reva was VERY interested in her.  She was nervous but not out of control or ready to explode.  I knew she was pretty high when I decided to get on, but I did not want to lunge her; she does not really know how and I did not want her tearing around on a small circle.  The nice thing was she did not do the "instant sweat" thing that Dreamy does when she gets nervous.  In fact, Reva never got hot or sweaty at all (which was my point) except just where the girth was.

When I got on, she was coiled pretty tight.  LOL!  She jigged herself around the arena, and I stayed light and calm in the saddle.  I made her circle, serpentine, go across the diagonal, etc.  I tried to keep her mind as focused as I could, since she was soooooo incredibly over stimulated from the indoor.  The nice thing is that she only halfheartedly attempted a crow hop a few times.  Had she really wanted to, she could have easily lost her little baby mind and launched me into the air.  I had already decided that the footing looked fairly soft, so I was not too nervous!  LOL!  She started to relax and focus more, finally finding a real walk instead of her jigging nervous walk/trot gait, but she still was pretty high headed and "crazy Standardbred" looking...inverted and strung out.  She finally began to reach for the bit and I asked for some small leg yields and then trotted once in each direction along the long side.  She was even more relaxed once I trotted her.  I wanted to end on a good note, so as soon as I got some good long stretching to the bit at the walk and a few halts, I called it quits.  She was 100% relaxed by the time I got off her, which was good to see.  All told, I was probably in the indoor with her for 30 minutes.  My instructor trotted and cantered (of course) which was good.  I had no idea how she would react to another horse in the ring moving faster than a walk, but I was pleased that she was fine.  So all in all, it was a good experience for Reva! I am going to try to coordinate with my instructor again in a few weeks, and I am willing to bet Reva is even better.

Today I rode here at home; first I took Dreamy out for a 20 minutes walk around the field.  And then Reva had a turn.  The snow is up past the horses' knees, but it is all melty and easy to walk through.  (It did clean the white on their legs quite well!) Dreamy was perfectly fine, as though I had been riding her all winter.   Typical!  :-)  I really did not do much with her except make her march along, doing some "medium" walk (as best as we could in the snow) and then free walk.  Reva was a little naughty at first, trying to buck and plunge through the snow, although Dreamy had made a nice path.  Naughty 4 year old!  LOL!  She was good and we worked on softening and stretching to the bit.  

My goal is to tackwalk Dreamy as many days as I can (5-6) this week.  I already know she will get Thursday off because I have an appointment in the afternoon, but I hope that now with the time change I can ride her each day without losing sunlight.  I will try to get on Reva 3-4 times.  Hopefully the dirt road and trails behind my house will begin to melt so I can do more long slow distance work outside of the field.  It gets boring just marching around in circles!  :-)

Day Thirteen: 30 Day Challenge

Day Thirteen: A picture of your worst riding

Oh geez, this could be interesting!  LOL!  I am not sure I actually want to publish a pic of my worst riding! Now that I have looked all through my folders, I could not stop at just one......ha ha ha.  Get ready to laugh...or cringe!!

Dreamy's first horse show, fall of 2006.  She decided that the first crossrail was super scary (and now that I look at the fence, I see that it is set up incorrectly with a false ground line!  SMART!)  This is me trying to NOT fall off...she stopped so hard that I ended up on her neck (I was sitting on her withers!) and almost on top of the left jump standard.  I refused to actually fall off, so I clung to her neck, got myself back in the saddle, circled her, cleared the fence, finished the course, and placed sixth out of 13 riders.  (The following spring we placed first in the same class.)  Sorry Mom, I am sure your heart just stopped looking at this...  ;-D

Downeast Congress, summer 2010.  Dreamy had a complete and total meltdown in her hunter over fences class.  Something spooked her in the covered arena (she HATES that ring) and she tried to run out to the right at the second fence.  This is me doing my damnedest to keep her straight.  Defensive riding at its best!  I particularly like my tongue sticking out.  LOL!

Standardbred Nationals, summer 2009.  Ah, yes, this is classic: looking down to check the lead, rounding my back and shoulders, bracing my elbows, loss of contact.  Oh man.  And Dreamy is at the most awkward moment of the gait so she looks mighty fine herself!  Bahahahaha.

Linda Zang clinic, spring 2009.  Dreamy looks cute, despite my equitation fail.  I just LOVE my leg!  LOL!  Bent wrist, weird elbows, and pinching with my knee.  Lower leg is gone.  :-)  It is the "up" phase of the rising trot and I look like I am about to take flight off my horse's back.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day Twelve: 30 Day Challenge

Day Twelve: Favorite horse color

I don't really have a favorite horse color.  I like any color of horse that is well trained and easygoing!  LOL!  But if I really had to chose, I would say chestnut.  I love sorrels, bright red chestnuts, dark liver chestnuts.....any of the variations.  It might be because my first horse Sparky is a chestnut or because I myself am red-headed (remember my senior pic from the last post...??).  ;-)  For all the banter about chestnut mares being so difficult, I have always loved mares.  And I think I get along with the red-headed ones the best because we are alike!  :-D

As Sparky has aged, the roaning on her face has increased...

Crabby face, but shows Sparky's chestnut color!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Check it out!

OK, OK, I know this is out of my 30 day challenge routine, but I wanted to post this!!  

I first found Ellen Harvey back in 2006 when she published this article.  I had no idea who she was, but I immediately liked her.  (And I liked her style of writing...I am an English teacher after all!  LOL!)

Since then, I have become "friends" with Ellen on Facebook and via email.  Hopefully on one of my trips to NJ I will get a chance to meet her in person.  She writes a blog for the United States Trotting Association's Hoofbeats publication.  And to my surprise, she wrote about me and the work I am doing at my high school in her latest blog!  THANKS ELLEN!  I am so pleased to have the positive shout-out for my kids!!  Read the entire is at the end.  Please consider sending your dresses!  :-D

Day Eleven: 30 Day Challenge

Day Eleven: Find a sale horse online that you want to buy

Well, this is hard!  LOL!  I am not the type of person who browses sale ads.  And I am not in the market for a horse, so sale horses don't cross my mind.  :-)  If I got to choose a horse to buy for myself (as opposed to have a Standardbred given to me...), I would choose a Connemara (or maybe another Morgan).  Yes, I LOVE my Standardbreds!  But if we are living in my fantasy world here, then I get to have my dream Connemara pony!!!  LOL!

Cute Connemara - and great price!

Another cutie Connemara 

And another...

Or I would buy one from Bantry Bay Farm

I would want a mare, maybe already started under saddle.  I would not want anything over 6-7 years old.  It would have to be a dappled gray or a chestnut.....maybe a bay.  I am sure if I dedicated a lot of time to internet browsing I could find more examples.  

You know, it just dawned on me.  Instead of choosing a six figure warmblood as the horse I would dream about buying, I chose a pony.  HA HA HA HA....

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day Ten: 30 Day Challenge

Day Ten: How does your family and friends feel about your riding?

To be really honest, the only people in my life who understand why I ride and own horses are my horse friends.  :-P  Ha ha ha...

My folks always supported me as I grew up, from shuttling me to the barn every week for my lessons, to leasing a horse for me, to buying my first horse Sparky, to carting us to horse shows and everything in between.  I know I was a very lucky kid to have horses in my life from a young age.  My parents were amazing to allow me to pursue my passion.  My dad is not horsey at all, but has made jumps, brush/tack boxes, stall doors, etc. for me when I have asked.  He still tags along to horse shows even though I am now old enough to truck my horse myself.  Often he now watches my son while I show, which is so supportive.  In college, where he footed the bill, he always expected me to "get a real job" and that horses needed to be my "hobby".  I get that and agree with it (though sometimes I wish I just played horses all day...LOL!).  My mom is (and probably always will be) a complete nervous wreck about it all, which is fine.  ;-D (Love you Mom!  LOL)  She never really liked following the horse trailer to horse shows and refused to watch me jump....ha ha ha.  She took lessons one summer back when I was a teenager, but that was pretty short-lived!  LOL!  Hey, at least she tried!  (And it was on Pollyanna, the first horse I rode!  LOL)  But despite not being horse people themselves, they allowed me to be one.

But for all of their support, which I am not trying to diminish in the least bit, I sometimes get the feeling that they don't "get it".  I feel like they think I am crazy....I'm not sure they understand why I spend the time, money, and effort to ride and own horses.  I accept it, of course.  This is not a bad thing, and it does not bother me as much as it used to.  Mom used to say in a half-joking/half-serious way how her little ballerina (I danced for many years...) suddenly decided she liked to get dirty and horsey.  :-D

They might never understand how horses define me.  It is not a hobby.  It is who I AM.  Horses are as much a part of me as being a woman is a part of me.  Horses challenge me, make me whole, keep me sane, give me confidence, and allow me to be ME.  And I always feel like my parents think that is a little bit....weird.  LOL!  ;-)  I think they expected me to outgrow my "horse phase".  But they love me unconditionally, horse crazy and all, I do know that! 

My husband does NOT like horses.  



He pulled an old "bait-and-switch" on me in the last ten years.  When we first met, he was all interested in learning about horses, wanted to come to the barn with me all the time, came to horse shows, even TOOK RIDING LESSONS AND LIKED IT.  So I was thinking I would have a very supportive non-horsey husband at least and maybe even a fellow horse person at best!  Then we got married and immediately he refused to ever ride again.  Seriously, I am not kidding.  NOT COOL.  There is a whole back story here that does not belong on my blog, so I am keeping it simple.  :-D  For now, I accept it.  He sometimes agrees to do turn in/out and feeding while I am out of town but is not going to muck a stall.  It hurts and it SUCKS.  But again, there is more to this story....and don't feel bad for me!  :-)  I love my horses and I will NEVER give them up for anyone.  

My son is definitely an animal lover, but horses are not his "thing".  I have NEVER, EVER pushed him into riding.  He knows he is always allowed to ride...he has his own brushes, a helmet, and his own teeny tiny western saddle.  He prefers cats to horses.  LOL!  And he is the child who when confronted with the choices of a merry-go-round, will pick a SHELL with a BENCH SEAT to ride on rather than the pretty merry-go-round horses.  SIGH.  When you have three real ones in your backyard, horses lose their novelty pretty quickly.  But he is innately comfortable around them, knowing and understanding the balance between being careful but not being afraid.   He has a fabulous natural seat and it takes ALL of my willpower to NOT push him into riding.  I have a feeling he will always be supportive and even help his mother with hay someday (when he is actually able to LIFT the bales) but he is not a horse person.

Most of my friends are horse people.  They know and understand.  I can talk horses and they don't roll their eyes.  ;-)  My bestest friend is also my partner-in-crime horse show buddy.  It is funny to think about, but I actually think that all of my "real" friends are horse people.  I seem to have a hard time becoming close friends with anyone who is not into horses.  I mean, I can hang out with non-horse people and be friendly and enjoy each others company, but I tend to not develop strong relationships with them.  I am weird!!!  LOL!!  But it is alllllll good, because I like me.  I am happy with who I am, what I stand for, and have come to accept that not everyone will understand me and what is important to me.  :-D

My senior picture 1997 with Sparky.
See why I get along with red headed mares....????  LOL!