Friday, April 29, 2011

Oh praise Him, Allelujia!

What a wonderful, wonderful, WONDERFUL day :) I can't stop smiling, it seems. The Lord has truly blessed me this week and today was no different. First of all, the clouds and rain and wind from yesterday were forgotten as today dawned bright, sunny, and warm. Oh, and early, as we had a first thing trip to the vet for a few checkups (all of which were excellent, by the way!). C rode a couple, and then our newest client showed up with his gelding for an evaluation for training. New horses are always exciting, of course, but doubly so when they are complete knockouts. Denali is a chestnut Hano gelding who will be embarking on his new career as an event horse after doing the hunters for most of his life. And somehow, by the grace of God and infinite kindness from C, *I* got to ride him today. Talk about a fun ride. His trot is so floaty and rhythmic, and he trotted right up to a fence and jumped right out of stride despite whatever I was attempting to do on his back. He seemed kind and forgiving, and even though his flatwork will need time and he'll need to lose his belly before he'll be fit and ready to event, he's going to be fun to have around the barn. He's already made friends with Jet, who could be his twin brother. I have pictures that I will post tomorrow.

So a little later in the day we headed down to S's barn to try out a potential free lease. Allegra is a chestnut OTTB mare standing about 16 hands, and to be honest that's about all I know about her. Stay tuned for more details on her past and training and everything, but yeah, she came right up to me in the paddock and walked inside quietly. She was a little nervous in the cross-ties but settled right down as we walked her to the dressage ring and got on. We didn't do much since she's lacking muscle and fitness, but about 20 mins of w/t/c which was absolute heaven. She doesn't really seem to know much but she goes forward willingly and quietly, has a very soft mouth and the sweetest personality you can imagine. I know, I know, red TB mares are supposed to be the Devil. This one...isn't. Even C said so, and he's the world's toughest critic. He seemed to really like her and wants me to ride her in our ring tomorrow. I am trying not to get my hopes up too much but I really like this little girl's personality and how incredibly kind she seems to be. She's not really a sweet horse, not one that wants to be cuddled or anything, but she's KIND. She has a nice smooth trot that felt like once she gets fit it'll be super. Her canter is like glass and she stays remarkably straight in it despite the lack of strength. She didn't require a huge amount of leg but also wasn't interested in getting quick or rushy. She also stood quietly for her bath and was patient the entire time I handled her. We'll see how tomorrow goes, but fingers are definitely crossed right now.

Well, that would usually be enough happiness for one day, but there's more. I was exhausted after work and ran several errands and felt as though my eyes might actually fall out of my head. The last thing I wanted to do was go work w Champ but I sure am glad I did. The little nuggetchild came right up to me in the field and I just threw him in the roundpen immediately and started asking him to work. He was a little more lazy today than last time so it was a workout keeping him moving, but he was good with stopping and turning at my command. He also looked better soundness wise (last time was a little foot sore because his tootsies had just gotten trimmed). I only had to work him for about 5 minutes before he was licking and chewing, so I asked him to halt and waited for him to walk over to me...then he followed me anywhere I went. I'd forgotten how much fun it was to join-up with a horse. He followed me like a dog and stopped when I stopped, even if I was feet away from him.

Then I went and found a little snaffle bridle for him to try.

He's never worn any tack before so I wasn't sure what to expect, but he opened his mouth right up and looked at me like "What?" I worked him a little longer with the bit and then decided what the heck, might as well try the saddle on him. After throwing the pad all over him and him basically just looking at me like I was dumb, I threw the saddle on and tightened the girth and this is the eruption that happened:

Yeah. Not too exciting. I wanted to hug all over I did. :D Then we had a lovely grooming session with his hair flying all over the place. So proud of this little booger! He's so smart and so chill about everything. I plan on working him in the roundpen this weekend under tack, and then possibly backing him as early as the middle of next week. We'll see. I can't seem to stop smiling.

S and Prowler go cross-country tomorrow, cannot WAIT to watch them rock around that course. I feel like I might finish up this wonderful, blessed day with some HGTV...haha..
God Bless!!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New Pony Project!

Well, I have a new project! Not a free lease yet, we are still looking at the red mare tomorrow or Friday, but a very kind couple at church have a little 2 y/o gelding that they’ve been looking for someone to start under saddle. I haven’t broken a horse in a while, but I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed taking a baby from being a fat, spoiled horse to an obedient, well trained horse that someone else can show or just enjoy riding. When I got the voicemail today from Miss C about me working with this gelding, I realized I had a rare afternoon free and headed right over. I wasn’t sure what this horse would be like…all I knew about him was that he was 2 y/o and had been shown in halter classes when he was younger. And that he was spoiled rotten and very well loved.

I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. Champ is a compact, well built chestnut and white paint gelding with one white eye (the right eye). He sized me up from the very second I walked into the paddock. After attaching a lead rope, I started with picking up his feet. He wasn’t fond of standing still for this process, so after each step forward I came back to his head and asked him to stand. If he pushed past me, I immediately asked him to back and then stand. It took about five minutes to do all four feet, but he eventually did concede. Next I put him in the roundpen and started seeing how touchy he was. I poked and prodded him all over, moved him away from me, around me, led him (start and stop on voice command), and then began moving him around me. He’s lazy, but very smart. At first he thought he could get away with stopping by going to the side of the gate near his buddies and turning his haunches to me. I started anticipating this action (or lack of action) and got him moving with lots of verbal encouragement and flicking the longe whip. He really impressed me. When I asked for a walk, he stopped…so I asked patiently several times, got a trot, a halt, and FINALLY a walk…and then he stayed in the walk until I asked for something else. He caught onto my voice commands right away and turned on a dime when I lifted my hand. I worked him for about 10 minutes (finishing up with more leading and asking for still halts) and then rewarded him with lots of pats and “Good boy!”s. He never once bucked or tried to kick at me or the whip, which impressed me. He basically just seemed lazy and testing me to see how serious I actually was. Once he realized I WAS serious, he was willing and listening.

My tentative plan is to start real work on Friday (tomorrow is supposed to be horrendous weather). I plan on doing more roundpen work, eventually adding a saddle and bridle to our routine. When he’s moving forward willingly on command and comfortable with the tack, I’ll back him. He’ll be started in a western saddle and a snaffle, since his future looks to be as a trail mount, although eventually he may be a nice English mount for the couple’s niece. I’ll strive for working him four times a week but we’ll see how his body and mind handle that. I’m so excited and blessed to have an opportunity to get more experience with babies and get more time in the saddle outside of work! The fact that this is a totally different horse from what I’m around all day makes it even more fun. If no one minds, I’ll post updates after each session with Champ on this blog and hopefully will have pics/videos next time. I didn’t realize I hadn’t brought the camera out of my car until after I left today, that’s how much fun I was having.

I also got to gallop the Monkee today and rubbed huge holes in my knees :-D Yay, I missed my old war wounds from the track! He was really good and strong today, and despite the crazy humidity he didn’t get too tired at all.

If the darling weather will be nice to us tomorrow we’ll be going to check out some OTTB’s for sale for a client…fingers crossed! And for me to get to try the red mare! I cleaned and oiled my beautiful Kieffer saddle today in hopes that soon it will have a new back to sit on.
God Bless!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quick Longleaf report and Monkee flying :)

We had a very successful weekend, with all four of the boys bringing home a ribbon! Guppy had a rail in stadium which dropped him to 3rd place, but he was much improved from Chatt Hills and we are pleased with him. Flaggles was also 3rd, he moved up several spots with a clean stadium round. Val was 5th after a clean stadium round and is really jumping much better with his body. He was an angel all weekend so we are excited about him. Deon was 7th after getting robbed in the dressage but a clean XC and SJ round! Yay, boys! We are looking forward to our next outing at Chatt Hills May 20th.

Cory's stadium round. Please pardon the lack of zoom on most of the fences. The camera doesn't let me zoom while recording, and I'm also a terrible recorder!

Monkee had an excellent, if short, jump school today with JD. JD is one of the most renowned hunter judges in the country and stopped in on his way home from CA to his next show in VA to school the big horse. He's been working on getting the Monkee to jump around his fences rather than just across them. I fiddled with Windows Movie Maker today and made a stupid little video for your viewing pleasure.

Then headed out to trot Guppy. I finally spent my gift card to the local tack store last was a sympathy gift after losing Aidyn and I hadn't wanted to spend it until I got another horse. Finally I decided to just spent it on myself...Aidyn wouldn't have minded. I have had my eye on the Kerrits Flo-Rise riding tights for more than a year now and never had the money to buy a I bought a pair. And an Equine Couture polo shirt for lessons and clinics (provided those happen again one day!). And some very cool sunglasses. So for some reason, I truly believed my new riding breeches would make me a better rider today. Boy, was I wrong. I had a terrible trot on Gup, and am not sure how much of it was my fault or his. He was in a crabby mood from the moment I got on, with a big hump in his back. He hacked fairly nicely, only a few spooks here and there. I was trying to remember Silva's words in my head..."Don't force his head down, just set your hands in front of you and ride him to them and he'll soften." Well, I'm not Silva, and he didn't. He ran through the bridle and trotted around with his head straight in the air, resembling a giraffe. He also spooked at the same log every single time we trotted past it. I tried to just be patient and ride him through it, but after a while it just became ridiculous and I got after him a bit. Regardless, he never relaxed, he never softened, and he never let go over his back. I trotted for 15 mins and headed home, defeated and cursing my new breeches. Gup had no idea that anything was wrong and marched home with ears pricked, probably tickled that I hadn't actually made him do anything constructive. Arg! Trying to just remind myself that this horse has off days where he never does let go in his body, and this may have been one of those days since he did have a day off yesterday and no Equissage today (it's in KY with Susan at Rolex!!). Tomorrow is another day.

Supposed to get to try a redheaded mare this week. I am very excited about it despite my sensible side telling me to just be, well, sensible about things. I can't help myself! Fingers crossed!

God Bless :)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Longleaf Day One Update and more Silva videos!

Silva first, because I've been trying to upload them for days!

Working on Monkee's medium trot, Day One of the clinic. You can really see the improvement near the end of the clip.

This is Monkee and C working on their half-pass:

Guppy warming up with Silva, Day Two:

I miss her :(

Longleaf is going well so far! The boys were all super today. Everyone had a super dressage test and went clean cross-country! More of an update tomorrow when I don't have so much tack to clean. Very proud :)
God Bless,

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Silva, Day Two

Day 2 of the Silva Martin clinic dawned overcast and slightly chilly, but we were ready to go with Monkee at 7:15. Everyone looked well rested and ready to go after a relaxing evening of pizza and wine and good conversation. Both horses (Guppy and Monkee) were much improved from yesterday and were already thinking Silva’s way. A few more words of wisdom from today’s session:

1. In the canter to prepare for a transition to walk, it helps to ride a 10- meter circle first, collect the canter, and then ask for the walk coming out of the circle. This way the horse is already back on his haunches and prepared for the downward transition to be crisp and correct.

2. A super exercise to engage the inside hind leg is to do a shoulder-fore on the longside right out of the corner, for about four strides, and then go straight into a working trot (with the body straight), and then back to the shoulder-fore, back to the working trot, etc. until you get to the end of the arena. On the short side, really go forward for a stride of two, then ask him to come back and repeat the shoulder-fore out of the corner.

That’s all I remembered to write down because I was so into watching how beautifully the horses were going. Got more videos on the camera that refuses to upload, so I’ll just post the crappy Blackberry videos again and you can imagine that they’re good quality.

Silva on Monkee explaining how she likes to warm her horses up...not the extreme LDR that some riders do, but more of a stretchy deep trot that allows the horse to let go in his back and neck and be physically ready to really go to work.

A little warm-up canter:

Guppy time:

I'm sad this clinic is over but hopeful that Silva will be spending more time in the SoPines area from now on :) God Bless,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

When I first heard Silva Martin was teaching a clinic here, I got shivers just thinking about it. That reaction was warranted, because after actually WATCHING Silva teach a clinic here, my head is swimming so fast with all of the amazing knowledge I gained that I don’t even know where to start. This is similar to the reaction I had to meeting her, where I quite literally stumbled over my “nice to meet you”’s and probably had the biggest goofy smile imaginable on my face. She is taller than me (must be closer to 6’) and all legs, with the most beautiful face you can imagine. All muscle, covered by perfectly fitting Pikeur breeches and gleaming dress boots. I am fairly sure I actually squealed upon noticing that we were, indeed, wearing the exact same baseball cap….a token from the 2010 WEG, although she got hers from going to coach/cheer on her husband, Boyd, whereas I got mine as a kind gift from C’s mother. Nevertheless…same hat. That’s about all we have in common, however. I truly have never seen someone with such an incredible attention to detail, ability to coach AND ride to the point of getting inside rider and horse’s heads and totally understand each’s weaknesses and strengths in a matter of minutes. After sitting on anyone’s mount at the clinic, she could tell you a novel about each horse and then proceed to teach the pair as though she’d been coaching them for years. I’m fairly certain that each pair left VERY pleased with their session and eager to get to work. She was also extremely complimentary of each horse and appreciated each mount for their individual attributes.

C rode Monkee and Guppy in the clinic today and will be riding them for Silva again tomorrow. Silva loved both horses and really felt that they would both be big stars. Rather than droning on and on about each horse’s session I thought I’d just bullet point some of the major points I observed throughout both lessons. These are things that really stood out to me and that I am going to always employ in my own riding.

1. When preparing for a flying change, you want to ride to get the change BEHIND. The front legs will follow naturally. When you watch horses doing changes, the vast majority of them who don’t have a clean change will swap in the front but not behind. Silva stressed the importance of having that hind leg engaged and ready to change in response to your aids so that the front end just follows suit. No big adjustments necessary, no uncomfortable cross-cantering. She stressed this on a 20-meter circle in the counter-canter. With the horse able to bend left or right without swapping his lead, she would have them completely straight in their bodies and then ask for the change from behind…and the changes were beautiful and spot on.

2. Several of these event horses have the tendency to not truly go forward in the trot because they’re “lit up” so easily the day before cross-country. Riders may be hesitant to truly ask for the trot they want for fear of the horse getting too quick, or hot, or losing the quality altogether. Silva honed in on that right away and really worked with the 3 horses I audited to ensure they went properly forward right from the beginning. There was no time to ask questions or to raise a stink. They were asked with no nonsense legs to go forward into her hand, and they went, and their trot work improved IMMENSELY.

3. When you make a decision to ask the horse for something, make sure you are firm and unwavering in your decision. This really applied to me and my riding, and even other aspects of my horsemanship (even simple things like leading). Often, when I ask for something and I’m not quite sure, and the horse doesn’t give me the right response, I second-guess myself and decide the horse must be right, that I must be asking for something wrong or too difficult. Silva was saying that if you choose to ask for something, you have to TRUST that you’re right and follow through. It’s okay if the horse doesn’t understand the first time you ask, or even a few times after that, but you need to be firm and ask the same way each time. For example, today I was roping Flaggles, and he was refusing to go forward and stretch into the Pessoa. Usually I decide that means I either adjusted the Pessoa incorrectly or I’m asking him to move forward incorrectly. Or, he’s hurting and can’t physically move forward. Today, I was firm in asking for forward (after giving myself a Silva pep talk) and asked repeatedly with a stronger aid for several minutes. Finally he gave up ignoring me and went forward nicely and had several minutes of stretchy trot. It was a good lesson to practice, because my aids can be so wishy washy, especially on horses like Monkee who know more than I do.

4. When you have a spook, the last thing you want to do is disrupt your forward momentum and take a hold of their face. This is one of those “I know but I can’t make my body listen” type deals. Most of the time, when a horse spooks, your first instinct is to find their mouth so you can be back in control. Silva said no, keep your hands still and soft and put your calves on so your horse moves through the spook and right back into your hands without you losing your forward. It makes sense, and is obviously harder to put into practice than to understand, but it really works. Guppy is a notoriously spooky boy in the dressage arena, but when he would spook she would ride him forward without even moving her hands, and he settled right back into work and felt much more confident about the whole situation.

5. If I can ever ride a horse as Silva rides a horse, I will be set.

I can’t wait for tomorrow’s early morning session! These lame Blackberry videos will have to tide you over until I can get the real videos uploaded.

Some of these moments are "work in progress" moments from when Silva was first riding Monkee. There is some good footage of medium trot and I will have better if the camera would like to show me how to upload from it!

God Bless!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Feel Good Video

of Monkee rolling. He is so funny when he wants to change sides or spots. He sits up like a dog and rotates....just watch and you'll see :) He is so full of life, and such a happy horse. Watching him enjoy the simple pleasures of life reminds me that life does go on, even when we feel like it shouldn't. It feels good to remember that.

Monday, April 18, 2011

It doesn't get easier.

This post is in loving memory and honor of a very special member of our family. Jersey joined Aidyn over the Rainbow Bridge today at around 9:30 a.m. today. He fought such a hard battle for the last week and a half and today he just couldn't fight anymore. Our vet was wonderful and supportive and as heartbroken as we all were. We got to say goodbyes to him while he was made comfortable by medicine, so he didn't suffer at all. He touched each and every one of our hearts in his brief time with us here, and we all loved him very, very much. He was such a kind soul and had such a bright future ahead of him. I asked him to tell Aidyn that I love and miss him every single day. And then he was gone. We can't NOT get attached to these animals. They're our kids. We spend more time with them every day than we do with anyone or anything else. Yet their time with us is out of our control, and as hard as that is to bear or to understand, it's true nonetheless. The comfort comes in knowing and trusting in our Savior and also knowing that our animals aren't in any pain anymore. The pain we feel is a selfish pain for wanting them to still be with us, but they're happy and carefree now. In time, we can rejoice in that. For now, we need time to cry and to heal. Hug your horse today. God Bless, Ry

Friday, April 15, 2011

Gotta get down on Friday...

Had a chance to go try a horse today, and in the process to put into practice some of the concepts Lizzie was working on yesterday in her lesson. The horse is a 9 y/o Paint mare named Kat, about 16 hands. She is for sale but I could take her on free lease until she sells, meanwhile competing her and learning from her. She is quite out of shape but super willing. I watched her owner ride her first so I could see how she moves and jumps. Then I hopped on. The first problem I had was putting way too much leg on and getting a jig in the walk. She was much more sensitive than I had anticipated, but I liked that about her. We picked up a trot and she had the tendency to fall in tracking left, and overbend to the right. I'm just finally learning how to feel where a horse tends to put their haunches each direction so that I can correct them and ride them straight. She had a very soft mouth and the trick was not to take a hold of her face without having a lot of push from behind. That's hard for her right now since she's out of shape, so we let her stick her nose out and just asked her to trot on. Her canter was lovely, albeit weak, and her transitions were super, she was very responsive and trying hard. C came into the ring and set up a few small fences to pop her over. We started with trotting a cross rail, which was hard for her bc of her fitness. She would generally put a canter stride or two in, but C said it was fine as long as I kept my leg on all the way to the base of the fence. I could really feel the difference in the quality of the jump if I came to it in a poky trot. When we started cantering it was even more apparent. If I didn't establish the quality of the canter BEFORE the turn, the jump was no good. A good canter and balanced turn almost always resulted in a nice distance and pretty jump. Naturally, I wanted to throw my upper body forward (a bad habit of mine). She was a smaller horse for me and I have a very tall upper body, so I had to really concentrate on keeping my body tall and waiting for her to jump up to me. It will take a LOT more practice ;) I haven't jumped higher than a crossrail in years. I liked the way she jumped and how game she was despite being tired and hot. Afterwards she walked around on the buckle to cool down. A very sweet mare with a big heart from what I could tell. I felt very safe on her and comfortable on her.

So when are we bringing her home, you might ask? Well, C has a few concerns about the maintenance she might require to compete again. Because I'm so broke right now with vet bills and the like, it's not sensible for me to take on a horse that would need a lot of vet work. The question we need to assess is whether she's just weak behind and would strengthen with time and fitness, or if she has a few physical issues that would need veterinary maintenance. So...we will see. I really felt like I clicked well with her.

Here's a super short video clip of her owner on her:

I'll keep you posted. Until then, God Bless and have a great weekend!!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Learning from the Best

I was set to have a boring day today at work and then was given the priviledge to audit a lesson of one of the top junior event riders in the entire country. I learned so much and wish I had my laptop IN the ring while she was riding so I could jot down everything that was said. We'll have to make do with what my memory managed to recover, but wow, what a super learning experience. C is truly a brilliant trainer with a wonderful ability to figure a horse out in about 5 minutes. And the rider, well...Lizzie Snow is 19 years old and is one of the most talented young riders in our sport. It's not every day that you have a chance to watch a lesson with a rider of this caliber. She was riding Coal Creek, a horse of Amy Tryon's who won Fair Hill a couple of years ago. He is a tall, well made, coal black gelding with a kind eye. This pair hasn't been together long but you wouldn't know it by watching them go.

One of the first things C recognized was Lizzie's habit of letting her reins get a bit long and keeping her hands closer to her crotch. I also have this problem, so it was good for me to watch the difference when she put her hands out in front of her and kept her reins shorter. Now that she had a steady contact with his mouth, she could push him up into the bridle and get him truly FORWARD to the fences without letting him become flat. I could see that when she softened her hands in front of a fence, Devon would forget to use his back and would hit the rail every time. When she kept him up in front of her and used her leg to keep the engine going into her hand, he jumped powerfully and correctly. He's a horse that likes to bulge left, especially through right hand turns. She worked on straightening him through her outside rein rather than pulling on her inside rein, and riding him forward through her turns so he didn't back off or lose his rhythm. Sometimes he would get a bad spot and have an awkward jump, but since she rode him the same way to EACH fence, he could land and continue in the same rhythm and set himself up better for the next fence. This is something C stresses to all his students....ride every fence forward, and the fence will happen. If you come to a fence going backwards, no matter how good you think your spot is, it won't be a good jump. I got to see examples of this and the correct approach and the difference was like night and day in the way Devon would jump. What an amazing horse. Here's a short video clip of Lizzie coming through a one-stride:

These tips can help on the flat as well. Rather than letting your horse suck back and plop along, it's important to get them forward and kick them up into the bridle. The forward comes from the hind end, and when contained by the hands, the back can come up and the horse can work correctly. This was what we were starting to work on with Aidyn...and it was SO hard for me NOT to soften my hands forward when he wanted to give! Then he'd immediately fall onto his forehand and lose the forward. It's so important to give the energy somewhere to go, into a steady contact, so that doesn't happen! It was such a good lesson and so informative. I plan on stocking this information away for when I find another horse and start jumping again. :) Fingers crossed for tomorrow! I am trying not to get my hopes up, but I'm still so excited! God Bless,

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Two Verves and I'm Good to Go!

For those of you who have yet to discover the wonder of VERVE, an "insanely healthy" energy drink, discover ASAP. I'm lucky that a rep lives right down the street and brings me free Verves whenever I need them. Now that it's spring, it's kinda hot for the five cups of coffee I need to get through the day, so two Verves and I'm set! Look at this sweet little can of deliciousness:

So amazingly yummy.

So anyway, it was back to the grind today. I made a huge dent in the horse show laundry pile, we're down to a couple of shavings-infested stable sheets and a few more wraps. Got all of the saddle pads back in the pad trunk and ready for Longleaf. Also, big news, BooBoo is back under saddle and goes for a checkup tomorrow to determine if he's ready to start trotting. Right now he's had 2 days of walking under saddle for 15 minutes, followed by 1.5 hours of turnout. He's been perfectly behaved and sound, so fingers crossed for an excellent checkup tomorrow! He's so happy to be back in work!

I got to take the Monkee for a trot today. He was feeling awesome after 2 days off and wanted to play. We hacked for 20 minutes on the buckle and then began a 20 minute trot in the Nelson field. He was feeling quite excited today and just wanted to run, run, run through the bridle and ignore my half halts. I, as always, was tempted to just take my leg off and pull back. And, as always, he reminded me that it NEVER works. So I forced myself to pull my shoulders back out of the heinous crouch they had made themselves into, put my leg on, and lowered my hands. And I half-halted. Nothing happened. I didn't freak out like I wanted and pull back, I just asked again. And again. Oh, and again, and added a circle for good measure. And slowed my posting. And added the right bend that he hates so much. WHOA....wait, was that a RHYTHM? Oh, it must've been my imagination....but no, there it is again! Granted, every time he gets it, I speed up my posting and collapse my ribcage and practically beg him to trot like a Standardbred again, but it WAS there.

I'm slowly figuring out how to ride this horse without doing too much or too little. Sometimes, because he's so much smarter than me, I'm tempted to just drop the reins and let him do whatever. Other times I'm tempted to bully him and MAKE HIM do what I want. There's this happy medium that I only find for seconds at a time where he's quiet, rhythmic, happy, and relaxed. It's easier to find in the canter, his best gait, and hardest to find in the walk. The trot is about 50/50...but worse when he's hyper like today. I just have to literally go through the checklist in my head (leg on? hands low? posting slowly? shoulders back? jaw clenched? riding defensively? no bend?) and then at the end of it all, BREATHE and remember that the perfect trot is in there, I just have to find it and keep it.

He teaches me SO much and I always feel like I learned something when we're through. It's almost comical how he can be so brilliant at times, and then sometimes he just feels like a greenie right off the track. It's all how he feels that day. The underlying point is that he's hot, sensitive, very adjustable and also very hardheaded. He's also wicked fit and thinks that open fields mean galloping or jumping, not stretchy trot. So I guess the biggest thing I can do is provide the same aids, over and over, until he remembers what they all mean and just settles into his work.

We did manage to get a beautiful trot right at the end of our 20 min set. He then walked home on the buckle and wasn't even sweating. Got a nice Vetrolin bath and got his dinner. I am so blessed to get to even sit on this horse, he's truly a special boy :)

We have an appointment Friday to try a free lease horse...keep your fingers crossed. I'm so excited and really hope it works out!

God Bless!


Monday, April 11, 2011

Chatt Hills updates!

Writing this while in the RV on the way home, so I apologize in advance for any lack of making sense or spelling errors. Kinda getting thrown around currently, haha.
Chatt Hills is one of the most gorgeous facilities in the country. We got permanent stabling and everything was an easy walk from the stabling area, even the camper spots. There are so many things to like about this event, from the amazingly good footing (it’s basically shredded carpet) to the brand new state of the art facilities to the well organized show itself. We never had a problem with the officials, we were always aware of what was going on thanks to the announcer who could be heard clearly everywhere on the show grounds, and the weather was picture perfect (if a bit muggy from the location near the river). We had a super weekend, I’ll write a brief recap for each horse rather than doing it by day 

Monkee: Monkee did the Intermediate this weekend. On Friday, he was asked to participate in a judge’s seminar (performing movements from the Intermediate tests). He was quite nervous during the session (he’s not a start/stop kind of horse, he likes to keep moving and working) but I felt the judges gave some helpful hints for relaxing him and we went back to the barn hoping this would only aid him in his real test on Saturday morning. It seemed to. Monkee was a little tight going into the arena but once he settled into his test, he was workmanlike and I felt it was a very, very nice test for him. His canter lengthening were beautiful, his halts were perfectly square and immobile, he was obedient and correct in most of his trot work, and his walk was lovely and swinging. He ended up with a 40.8, a fair score.
After a brief break it was cross-country time. When the big horse runs xc, everyone holds their breath until he comes home safe and sound. The course was fairly doable with a few tight questions (like a bounce right on top of a steep hill three strides to another fence on an angle). I was back at the barn getting Gup ready but from what Hayley said, he ATE it up. He was a total machine and had a clear round AND made the time. He was a little beat afterwards, as this was quite a hilly course and we really don’t have hills at home so it was a little challenging for their fitness levels this early in the season. He got a nice bath, wrapped and poulticed, and was all set for show jumping on Sunday. The course looked big but nothing like what he mastered at SP II. He warmed up BEAUTIFULLY and went in the ring calm and relaxed. Jumped super, had one unlucky rail in the triple, and…drum roll please…WON! So proud of him! He was so good all weekend and really rocked it. We won an easter basket full of goodies (monetary and culinary). So proud of the little man!

Guppy: Gup had a less than stellar dressage…he has this thing about the letters in the dressage ring, in that they fry his little guppy mind. (No pun intended). He’s the kind of horse who should win the dressage every time, but little spooks and goof-offs sometimes prevent that. He was a monster on cross-country, even encouraging C to say “Well, he’s definitely ready to move up [to Prelim]!” Again, the course was tiring and it showed on Sunday when he did his stadium. The warm-up couldn’t have been better, even getting a “Wow, that’s a really nice horse!” from Peter Gray, a high compliment indeed. He went into the ring and had two rails, mostly because he was jumping flat and lackluster. He was so tired afterwards that I literally had to drag him to get his bath, so he will be getting a lot more fitness work before Longleaf in 2 weeks!

Ardy: The big horse once again proved that he’s the real deal. The dressage was MUCH better than before, very little resistance on his part and he got a good enough score to be in the top 8 after dressage. Cross-country (his favorite phase, naturally) went well, he attacked every jump on course and finished up wondering where the REAL fences were. He’s got such a natural talent for jumping that Training level is way too easy for him…so once he gets his dressage skills a bit more honed, he’ll be moving up. Stadium was like watching the Grand Prix horses go on TV…he was dead on to every fence and just made it look SO easy. He came home with a 6th place ribbon and lots of cookies and pats. Such a fun and exciting horse to be around. His future is looking so bright 

Flaggles: We are SO very proud of Flaggles. He had an incredible dressage test (32) that put him in 3rd place. He rock and rolled on cross-country, his weakest phase, going clean and within the time. He was quite proud of himself and didn’t show how tired he was until after his bath. He was pooped. Sunday morning his legs looked fantastic and he went and jumped a double clean in stadium…and ended up WINNING his novice division! He is just such a neat horse and so much fun to watch show jump. He takes each fence as a personal challenge and really gives it his full effort. He wasn’t even close to touching any rails and we got another easter basket to enjoy!

Val: The little horse drew a lot of looks this weekend, and he was pretty darn good for his very first Novice. He was a bit of a dweeb in dressage…he had a lovely warm-up and then decided to kill his forward gear right before he went in the ring. C rode him very well and they ended up not having any major mistakes but the test just wasn’t forward and through enough. He was brilliant on cross-country, having a few good rubs before he realized these jumps were a bit bigger than BN and then he clocked around. C’s comments coming home were that he was a “tough little guy, I’ll give him that”. His stadium was pretty good, C tried to ride him in a more forward stride and it backfired a bit in the double, he had the 2nd element down, but other than that was clean and brave. He ended up just out of the ribbons in 8th. Not bad for his first Novice, and he’ll go again at Longleaf.

And in addition to all THAT excitement, I discovered on Friday that a horse I used to work with at Churchill was competing. After some expert stalking I found that he was not only stabled RIGHT behind us, but being ridden by one of C’s friends. I didn’t get to see Vilas go all weekend but he ended up 6th in Open Training and looked great just in the stall. SUCH a special horse. I talked to his rider and he said he adores him, and thinks he’ll be a very nice upper level horse one day. It just made me smile ear to ear to see him all grown up and kicking butt. I hope we’ll run into each other at future events, but I’ll definitely be following him from now on. I always knew he’d be a rockstar event horse, and I’m so thrilled that he has the chance.

Also got to see Theodore Al Coda, the famous Theodore O’Connor’s little brother, and meet his rider, Mary Bess. What a cute little booger he is. Looks a lot like Teddy, 14.2hh, huge mover and had clean xc and stadiums rounds. Mary Bess said she has his little brother too, and that both ponies are joys to ride and train. I loved seeing Coda go and can’t wait to see him in the future as he progresses.
All in all, a fabulous weekend at a fabulous venue. I am so blessed to get to travel with these amazing horses and people and see parts of the East Coast that I’d otherwise never see. Now back to my day job, and 2 weeks til Longleaf!
God Bless,

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ramblings of All Sorts

So first of all, my friend Sara has once again just impressed the heck out of me...she has started her VERY.OWN. BUSINESS. It's called "Tidy Birds Organizing" and it's basically a service to help people not only redo their homes but also their organization skills, time management, etc...and I get to be the first customer :D My place, as much as I adore it, needs some work and my life needs some work. Right now I've reverted to my old racetrack habits of working and then totally crashing for a several hour nap, then staying up all night and feeling exhausted when I go to work the next day. Step one is to eliminate my daily naps, even though it'll take a while to remind my body that it's gonna make it without them. I also have to start a new morning/afternoon (before and after work) routine that I can get into, so I'm not just hanging around not getting anything done ever. Along with these personal changes I get the priviledge of having her completely redo the inside of my beautiful apartment, with new paint, new furniture, new layout, storage opportunities, and general organization and cleanliness. I am SO EXCITED to get started....we start next weekend! Stay tuned! Guppy had his second roundpenning session on Sunday, and N started with a bit of free lunging and getting him to stop and reverse directions just by her body language. I found it very neat, he was so in tune to her that he even followed her over to set up the liverpool (even though he was scared of it). He then jumped the liverpool several times fearlessly. Yay, Gup! Here he is awaiting the start of his session, hanging out in his training bridle:

Short video clip of free lunging:

We ship out Thursday A.M. for Chatt Hills, so hopefully Gup will showcase his new skills this weekend and kick butt :) I had the immense priviledge and joy of taking Monkee on his gallop today. Despite a terrible earache from last night, one hour of sleep, NOTHING to eat but a cracker, and 30 mph wind gusts, I somehow managed to not fall off or get run away with. This little booger can book...he remembers quite well how to gallop like a racehorse and he knows all the tricks. I had just finished telling him that he was a lot like galloping Diva but not as tough when he decided to lock his jaw and take off. We had a few arguments but all in all he got his fitness out of the gallop and my arms got a good workout. He trotted home very well and got a nice Vetrolin bath and ice boots, which he enjoyed. Then he got a chiropractic session with Greg and despite all the teeth-knashing and angry faces he felt MUCH better afterwards and was begging for cookies from everyone. Can't wait for him to rock the course this weekend! My free lease situation fell through, unfortunately, but it just wasn't meant to be I guess...we did get a call today from someone we had contacted before and I will give her a call back tomorrow...cross your fingers! I'm so ready to get back in the show ring! God Bless, Ry

Saturday, April 2, 2011

the big horse rocks.

Today was a true blessing. I woke up a little worried about getting everything done today with just me and Noel but we not only got everything done but got EXTRA stuff done. Yay! The Lord always provides you with extra strength when you need it!

Monkee had an absolutely amazing jump school today. Joey had him jump through a one-stride (both oxers) at a cross-country gallop to get him really getting across the fences and not backing off. The oxers ended up around 3'9" and he just ate them up. I've never seen a horse who jumps as hard and correctly as this horse. He is really on his game right now and I think we're definitely going places with him. His ears were pricked the entire time and the bigger they got, the better he jumped. Last weekend was definitely a confidence boost for him and we are SUPER excited about going Intermediate at Chatt Hills next weekend. Got a short video of him jumping through the one-stride off the left lead:

In other exciting news, BooBoo went outside for TWO WHOLE HOURS today without running or getting upset, and when he came inside he got a thorough grooming (lots of shedding going on) and several cookies. He is such a fun horse to be around. I'm really getting attached to him and my favorite moments are in the afternoon when it's quiet and I'm just loving on him :)

*cross fingers* I *may* have a free lease opportunity materializing in the next few days. That is all I'm saying, because I've jinxed things in the past by getting excited too early. ;) Stay tuned!

And a shot from tonight while I was turning horses out. Today was truly gorgeous and despite the wind, it was a true example of God's glory.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A New Approach to Jumping Triple Combinations

Hello one and all,
It's been one of those days where the hours go by really, really slowly and then all of a sudden the day is over and nothing is done yet. The barn resembled Japan around 2:15 p.m. but somehow our team managed to get everything cleaned up (seven horses included) and presentable by 3:30 p.m. I'm sitting down for two seconds until the farrier comes back (he was here ALL day working on a pair of glue-on shoes) to tack a shoe back on for us. Add our farrier to the list of things we can't function without...he is wonderful. So, wanted to write a little about Guppy and his first day of roundpen training.

Guppy is a very, very nice horse with a lot of presence and talent...however, sometimes he has a hard time with combinations in the stadium ring. It's almost like he sees the second jump and can't understand how the first jump fits in..then he jumps in and loses his confidence. There is a trainer down the street (we'll call her "N") who is an expert in roundpen training and natural horsemanship type things. She offered to work with Guppy to see if she can boost his confidence (thus transferring to the ability to tackle combinations!). It was very different from what I'm used to and it was quite interesting to watch. I rode Gup down to her barn and she had me put him in a stall, and remove his bridle. She pulled the stirrups down and basically connected them under his belly with a stirrup leather so they can't move around and distract him. He then got a rope halter, and then a simple bridle with a D-ring snaffle. She then started working him in the stall, moving him around her and away from her. He was nervous at first and just kinda jumped away from her with white eyes but after a few repetitions he started listening instead of reacting and was halting/walking at the raising or lowering of her hand. When she felt he was listening she took him to the roundpen outside, practicing halting and starting again the whole way there. Then she worked him in a small circle around her, getting him to move his haunches away from her when she walked towards him and having him halt when she raised her hand.

Next step was to attach two long lines to each side of his bit and through the stirrup irons, which immediately freaked him out. It took a few moments of him galloping around to figure out that the lines weren't going to kill him and he finally got the hang of changing directions and changing gaits by voice commands and body movement. One of the visibly cooler things N did was have him go from a collected canter on a small circle to an extended canter on a larger circle just by closing her fingers on the lines.

At this point I had to run back to the barn and get some work done but it was interesting to get to see most of his first roundpen session. Time will tell if this will register with him but I have faith that he's a smart boy and will get the hang of it and hopefully build his confidence (which is the only thing holding him back right now). I had a video of him working but my moronic self forgot to hit "stop" so the phone recorded it's entire memory of my pocket. I really can't believe I did that.

I do have a video of the BooBoo amusing himself. It was supposed to show him pulling carefully folded blankets down and tossing them through the air but I caught him in an angelic moment of posing. He's so darn cute.

ALSO..if you're interested in pictures of our latest outing, go to, then equestrian, then events, then Southern Pines II, then Charles Plumb. Monkee, Guppy and Ardy are on there :)