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!

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!

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

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

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!  :-)

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!

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.

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.  

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".

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!  

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.

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!!

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...
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 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!