Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Jesus Take The Wheel: Adventures In Learning to Trailer (Part One)

Hide your women and children!

So I have this trailer now.  It’s no longer mired in ice, so I’ve begun taking it out to practice, with the idea being that I should get as many mistakes as I can out of the way before I actually put live animals in there. 

A few folks told me to just hook the thing up and go out and practice. That wasn’t going to work for me. The way I saw it, that’s not how I learned to drive in the first place. (Here are the keys, Aim. Have at it! The highway’s just down the road on your right.)  I wanted someone who knew what they were doing with me for the first few times. 
My friend Mary-Ann went with me the first time, bless her brave heart.  The kids and I had been practicing hooking the trailer, so by the time she got to the barn Noah and I had hooked up and ready to go.  We made it down and out of the long driveway with no trouble (kinda weird not to be able to see anything but white metal in your rear view mirror) and out on to the closest main road.  I was busy congratulating myself for making the sharp uphill turn it and when I heard Mary-Ann say, “The speed limit’s 50. You have to do at least 50.”

Now, I’ve never had that kind of issue with speed limits before.  Mostly I have to slow down to get to the posted limit. I don’ recall ever needing to speed up.  However, dragging a big box around made me a little conservative, so every now and then you’d hear Noah or Mary-Ann remind me to speed up until finally Mary-Ann said in a tone that brooked no argument, “No, really.  You have to go 50. Now. Step on the gas pedal.”
We drove over to a local office campus with several large parking lots, figuring since it was a Saturday there would be ample room to practice backing and turning without too many casualties. The lot was wide open so I worked on backing up into parking spots. We were just about to start with K-turns when a little white-haired man in possession of a uniform and a very official attitude came out and asked us to leave the premises. I’m not sure why, but this struck us as hysterical for some reason. 

After our eviction we got on the highway for a bit, and then popped off to go to a road that Mary-Ann said was perfect for working on K-turns. It was basically shaped like a T, and Mary-Ann had me stop on the top-left side of the T and back the trailer down the long stem of the T, then pull up to the right so I was straight on the top right side of the T, and then back the trailer down from that way.  This did not go well. At all.  I sucked.  I think I might have tried to do this about 20 times in each direction to no avail. Which made me tense.   And flustered.  And irritable.  My vocabulary was getting more colorful by the second, and I was incorporating my Higher Power’s name in expressions that could have gotten me smoked by a lightning bolt had said Higher Power been paying attention. Mary-Ann did her best to remain patient with me and Noah did his best to avoid laughing. (Smart Boy).
Finally I half-assed it in a way that we could call marginally successful and we left it at that.  We got back to the barn, unhooked the trailer, and heaved huge sighs of relief. Mary-Ann headed home ( and probably poured herself a large adult beverage) and Noah and I drove home, feeling that we had a good number of successes and knew what we needed to do to get better.

More about the 'getting better' stuff to come.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Truly Fabulous Horse Show Swag...

Whoa!  Two posts in one week!  Can you stand it?  Must be some new record or something.

Today's blathering is on the topic of prizes.  You know, the ones you or your spawn get if you happen to have a good day and you wind up with a $1.00 piece of blue nylon telling you, "You done GOOD!"

Coolers or silver plated whatnots (plates/frames/cups) are awesome, but a: they kids and I don't typically show at that level, and b: if we did, I'm not so sure we'd be getting those kinds of ribbons.  So we play at the more local level, for the most part, and I'm really happy with the direction the prizes are going.

I mean, shows have a hard time making money, so I'm gonna say that the fact that they give prizes at all is pretty damn fantastic.  Because a ribbon may fade, but a coffee cup or candy jar can go off to college with you.  No joke.  Both my kids will go off to college with a full set of coffee cups.  I'm thinking they can use a couple for their intended use, then repurpose the others into pen holders, hair tie organizers, or flower pots.  (Whatever, the last one could happen, although they better not be growing anything funky in them!)

Anyways, I've noticed that show management has gone and seen the light.  Yeah, kids make up a good portion of the active show population, it's true.  But if you look carefully at the folks who are sitting on top of horses, sweating from activity and nerves, and looking as if they are going to vomit, you're going to see a lot of adults.  What's the connection here?  The age thing.

Who is paying for the horse show?  An adult.  The adult who is parenting or the adult who is riding.  What do adults who are paying for the whole galactic ally expensive horse thing do?  They drink!  They drink to exacerbate the pain of writing astronomical checks, or to alleviate nerves or because that night's lesson (or any of them in recent memory) didn't go to plan.  Or just because hanging at the barn/show with the other inmates at the horse-crazy asylum and sharing an adult beverages is a good thing.

Crap, this post was not supposed to be so log.  Here's the point: Horse show management is finally recognizing who pays the bills, and is tailoring the prizes to them. PREACH!!!!! Sing Hallelujah!

I offer as evidence....

Yay!  Bring on the vino!
We went to a show where they were giving the wine glasses above as prizes for winning a class.  I told the Boy, "No pressure, honey, but Momma needs a new set of wine glasses."  Luckily the Boy had a very good show, and I got my wine glasses.  SCORE!!!!

Mommy's sippy cup

One of my favorite shows is right up the road and one of the masterminds behind it is a very cool lady who actually reads this blog (Hi, Lena!!).  Lena is a true genius.  She has great stuff for the ponies and kiddos, but she also knows that Mom and Dad (aka The Bank) need a little recognition as well.  The Child did well at one of the shows, and after she won a class Lena walked over to Sophie to hand her the blue, and on her way over she handed me the wondrous invention you see above.  SWEEEEEEEETTTT!  (See, I told you she read the blog!)

And to further expound upon Lena's brilliance, look at what she gave to the series Reserve Champions.  A chair!!  Seriously, this is great on so may levels.  As a parent of a rider, you need something to sit in during the hours of "hurry up and wait" until the spawn goes in the ring for the 2-5 minutes they actually spend showing.  Or, if you are the person that is showing, you need something to catch you as you slide bonelessly off your horse, as well as something that will hold you as you a: suck deeply from an oxygen tank or b: hydrate yourself with an adult beverage. (In which case, see above).  And it comes in handy if you have multiple children with activities, or the equestrian child participates in other sports.  The little beauty above has come in handy at several soccer/lacrosse games.

As you can imagine, I've been lobbying our trainer and barn manager to go to these shows as often as possible.  You can never have too many wine glasses.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Role Models...

Soph doing her thing.
You know, having a kid is a complicated thing.  As a parent you're supposed to teach your kid right from wrong even as you continue to make your own mistakes.  You  try to lead by example and hope that in the end you've done more good than bad and that you've raised a decent human being.  Notice I'm not setting the bar overly high here.  I said decent. I'm not expecting the next Bill Gates or Mia Hamm (Although that would be nice. Think of the horses they could buy me!)  I just want them to be good, happy people.

Sophie is now 13, a tricky age at best. Some days we're besties. Others?  Not so much.  Those are the days of  the eye rolling/foot stomping/aggrieved sighing variety where you start to think piercing your nipples and pulling your lower lip over your head would be less painful.  (Yeah, I went there. My blog, my rules.) To paraphrase a friend of mine, many days we're like boxers, punch drunk and just bobbing and weaving and praying to make it to the end of the round.

I think Soph and I really do like each other (Yeah, that bold statement is probably going to swing back and bite me in the ass somehow).  I am continually amazed by her. One second she's a somewhat goofy 13 year-old freckled chatterbox.  On a soccer pitch she's laser-focused and a fierce competitor. Heaven help you if you think you're taking that ball from her.  She's a strong field general, communicating with her team, setting up plays. She has growing pains in her joints that that sometimes leave her hobbling when she walks on the pitch, but she plays through the pain and when she runs down the field you'd never know she was hurting. 

Same thing happens when she rides.  The goofball goes away and she has the intense focus of someone years older. She analyses every move she and her horse make, and rides as if she's thinking five steps ahead all the time.  Me? I'm just thrilled to get to the other side of each jump alive.  If I were to be honest, on one hand I'm totally in awe of her ability to do that, and on the flipside I'm just a bit envious. (Okay, more than just a bit.)

I tell her how she impresses me quite often. 

At the World Cup 
with show jumper  Marco Kutscher.  Squeeeeeee!

Last Sunday were on the way to a soccer match and had stopped at a highway rest station for a Starbucks fix.  As we were climbing back in the truck Sophie says, "Mom, I'm so proud of you for getting this big truck and learning how to drive the trailer.  You are not afraid to try new things, even if you're scared."  She then went on to say how cool it was that I worked so hard to be able to afford to ride, and that I'd started my blog and parlayed that into writing for Horse Junkies United.  She thinks I'm cool because the HJU connection has allowed me to cover competitions like Devon and the Zoetis Million and most recently the Longines FEI World Cup in Las Vegas. She thinks that the fact that I get to talk to and interview famous riders that we watch on live streaming and FEITV "is, like, totally awesome!!"

She inspires me to be stronger, physically and mentally, to go forward even when it hurts.  She's watched me get an EMBA, do I think from that understands the importance that education offers in terms of getting to a place where you can afford to realize a dream. I think she sees from watching me that you can be a woman that succeeds at work in a man's world.  That you can have a family, a passion, and a career, but that it takes a lot of  hard work and you have to go after it, not wait for it to come to you. That you can try new things, even if they scare you, at any point in your life.

Her comments absolutely floored me. ( And damn, did I wish I'd recorded them!) They also got me to thinking: So often we think of sports figures, business tycoons, or other famous folks as role models. I think it's pretty cool that my kid and I found role models a little closer to home.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Horseless Horse Show...

What do you do when it's a gorgeous Spring day, you're finished with your homework and it's the one day a week when you don't have soccer and/or riding? 

If you're my daughter, you set up some jumps in the front yard and spend an hour pretending you're a famous show jumper.  I think she pictures herself as McLain Ward's Rothchild, because they are both small and feisty and damn good jumpers.

I call this clip "The Jump-Off" as it's clearly a shortened course. The fences are 3'9" and 3'6".  No big deal if you're on a world class show jumper.  More of a big deal if you are a 5'2" girl, albeit one with springs for legs.  "Don't video!" she said to me. "I'm not at my maximum height."  (In case you are wondering, so far that's been just over 4'."

What do you do when you're bored with jumping the high stuff?  You start asking yourself some technical questions, of course.  Can you lengthen and shorten?  Are you quick enough with your legs?
Clearly it's time to set up some gymnastics.  Jim Wofford would be proud.

"The Bounce"

"Bounce to a One Stride"

"Going the Other Way"

Seriously, the kid never stops, bless her heart.  If she were a dog, she'd totally be a Jack Russell. No joke. She asked if I wanted to try a course or two.  Uh-uh. Nope. Taking a pass on that one.  The kid got me to do a cartwheel the other day and I damn near killed myself. 

No thanks, kiddo. I choose life.  You jump, I'll video.  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

F*&%k Winter. No, Seriously, F*&%k Winter. C'mon Spring!

No riding.  It's too cold and I already have my pajamas on.
Ok, so yeah, I know winter's almost over and Spring is coming and we had Daylight Savings Time and the days are longer and blah blah blah.  (Spring ahead, my ass. All I know is I lost an hour of sleep that day.)  Almost over doesn't quite cut it for me, because saying something is "almost over" means it is still here.

Why am I in such a strop?  Because winter is not quite gone, it's still cold, and for the umpteenth time I damn near killed myself trying to get out of my Under Armour. You know what I mean, the base layer you wear in the vain hope that you won't freeze your ass off. . You come home from a ride and you're all sweaty and you have to be a flipping contortionist to get out of  your sweaty Under Armour.  It's bad enough trying to get into it in the first place, but getting out of sweaty Under Armour requires the skills of a Chinese acrobat. Seriously, when I try to take my winter weight turtle neck off the neck hole is so tight I feel like I'm trying to hang myself.  Inevitably during the struggle to get my top off I trip on something and go down like a box of rocks. So then I am writhing on the floor, still trying to extricate myself  and swearing like a sailor. Cue the inevitable trip to the chiropractor, where I feel like I need to make something up because saying I threw my back out while trying to get out of my workout gear just sounds wrong.

My winter riding apparel usually consists of a base layer (Under Armour or something similar) and then a long sleeve technical shirt and a 1/4 zip pullover, which is usually made of fleece or technical fabric. Which brings me to another issue.  Why does every piece of technical/workout clothing make a mildly-fluffy middle aged women look like the Michelin tire dude?? Seriously?  We're trying to deal with work, the kids' schedules and the onset of hot flashes and hormone changes and you want to piss us off by making us feel fat?  You know one day we're gonna crack and force those skinny stick figures who design this stuff to eat dozens of donuts. An hour.  For a month.  And then we'll make them wedge
Not a good look.
Another issue riders who spend their winters in the frozen tundra face is shrinkage. As in, when you put on a base layer under breeches and a top, it feels like everything is a little bit smaller.  If you are already shoehorning yourself into a pair of breeches that are a size smaller than you really need (because dammit, you're not going to go out and buy the bigger size, you'll duct tape your mouth shut before you'll go there) this can be difficult.  As in, Chinese acrobat difficult.
For example, ever try to go to the bathroom with 2 layers on?  You can't wait until the situation is dire, because you know it's gonna take five minutes to wiggle out of your layers.  Then when you're done, you have to wiggle struggle back into them. This is why I hate wearing side-zip breeches in the winter. Everything's tight, so I have to suck my stomach in. Then I have to turn to the left side while trying to use my arm to push my boob out of the way so I can see the hooks and zipper.  Then comes the suck-in-shimmy-curse-pull-say-heartfelt-prayer-last-yank-before-you-pass-out maneuver and for a moment I'm giddy with success.  That lasts for a split second until I realize that I've given myself the mother of all wedgies and my underwear is halfway up my digestive track.  Sigh.
Then there's the whole temperature management thing that happens when getting the horse ready.  You curry, you brush, you comb, and suddenly things are getting a bit warm, so you take off your jacket.  You're fine for a few minutes until you actually get on the horse.  While warming up at the walk you start to feel the chill again, so you put your jacket back on.  That doesn't last long, because after five minutes of trotting you're breaking a sweat.  Off comes the jacket. Although it's never that easy. Nope, because you try to pull the jacket sleeve off over the glove, where it gets stuck. So then you're holding the reins with one hand while trying to pull the glove off with your teeth.  You get the first arm off and proceed to the second one.  This involves additional contortions where you then find yourself blinded because you've gotten your jacket caught over your head and the other sleeve is stuck on your glove and you're pulling and swearing and praying to God that your horse doesn't decide to spook at the cooler that's laying over the edge of the arena wall.  And now you've given yourself another wedgie.
So you've groomed and ridden and groomed again and where does that leave you?  If you're me, on the floor of my bedroom, kicking and pulling and yanking and cursing as I try to remove my sweaty Under Amour/sausage casing.  So yeah, I'm looking forward to Spring, mostly because my breeches will fit better without the extra layer underneath and I can indulge in the fantasy that I've lost weight.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Remembering "The Other Sugar"

The "other Sugar." Such a pretty girl.
Sometimes things come out of the blue and completely throw you for a loop.  I felt that way tonight when I opened Facebook and read a friend's post.  She'd written that her mare had sustained a serious injury and had been euthanized.  I'd be devastated to learn that any friend had lost their beloved horse, but this one?  This one hit very close to home.

My friend is someone I'd met through A Work In Progress, a fellow blogger who was originally from New Jersey and, in one of those bizarre coincidences life will throw at you, also had a mare named Sugar.  Through our blogs and Facebook friendship we kept up with each other's equestrian ups and downs, and shared news of our exploits with our Sugars.  We even met up when I was on a business trip to her area, and I got to meet her Sugar, a gorgeously voluptuous woman of color. (That was another thing we had in common, lusciously curvaceous mares!)  When I spoke of my friend and her mare to my family, I spoke of them as "the other Sugar and her Mom."

When my Sugar left this earth, my friend was one of the first to reach out to me, and she supported me from afar with words of support, both on the blog and on Facebook.  A few years ago I'd had a saddle pad trimmed with a pink and green polka dot ribbon and embroidered with Sugar's name.  After I lost the Sainted Mare, I wrapped that up for my friend and sent it up to her, thinking it would look wonderful on her "pinto pony" and that maybe it would be a way to keep the "Sugar connection" going.

A friend of hers left a post on my friend's Facebook page, and I think it does a better job of saying what I mean to say better than any words I can think up on my own.  My heart goes out to you, my friend.  I'd like to think that both our Sugars are up there together, comparing notes and swapping stories about their crazy mothers.

If you bury her in this spot, the secret of which you must already have, she will come to you when you call – come to you over the far dim pastures of death, and down the remembered paths to your side again. And though you ride other living horses through life, they shall not shy at her or resent her coming, for she is yours and she belongs there.

 People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by her footfall, who hear no nicker pitched too fine for insensitive ears. people who may never really love a horse, smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth knowing.
The one place to bury a horse is in the heart of her mistress.

Author Unknown

Godspeed, Sugar.  You will be missed.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Putting the Cart Before The Horse. Literally.

My new wheels
So I just looked at the date and it's been an age and a day since my last post. Yikes.  Guess there's a
lot to catch up on.  So let me get started...

I still don't own a horse.  Just haven't found the right one. That being said, I've been super fortunate to be able to ride a horse named Presidential, who I call Mooch.  Mooch was coming off an injury and needed to have an easier job than his previous gig as a Big Eq horse, and I get to ride him until for a while until he goes back to that job.  Sadly, I don't have the bank account to keep him, but I'm enjoying the heck out of him while I have him.  He's a big ol' love bug, and wants to be best friends with everyone he sees.  I baby talk the heck out of him, which is something I never did with Sug, but it works with him and he seems to like it.  I think he really wants to be a Momma's boy, and he has an endearing tendency to take the the cuff of my sleeve into his mouth and suck on it.

The kids are still riding Tiki, the lovely grey boy we lease from my trainer.  He's wonderful, so full of personality and smart enough to do calculus.  He's quirky: He'll jump anything you put in front of him if you put him to the middle of it, but he's petrified of cavaletti.  I love that he has all the buttons, but that he's not push button, so the kids do really need to ride him.  Here's some video from the kids' first show on him.  I think you'll be able to see why he's such a treasure.

Noah and Tiki

Sophie and Tiki

So, the big news...I bought a trailer.  Yep.  You read that right.  I bought a trailer.  Didn't have a horse of my own or a truck to pull the trailer with, but I bought a trailer. When I told my good friend Tara, she laughed and said, "You literally put the cart before the horse!" I hadn't looked at it that way until she said it, but yep, that's what I'd done.

I now had a trailer, and needed something to pull it with.  Off I went to find something big enough to pull a trailer, yet functional enough to work as my business vehicle and my mom-mobile as I ferry the kids to and fro.  Managed to find a used SUV that fit the bill, and now all I need to do is take it to a trailer dealer to kit it up few things and I should be in business.  Well, at least in business enough to learn how to drive the thing.  Which should prove to be interesting.

I have to admit I'm a bit nervous about the whole thing, but determined as well.  This was something I always wanted to do when I had Sug, as I wanted to have the ability take off and do clinics and trail paces or just go wherever we wanted to whenever we wanted to.  I have wonderful friends who were happy to trailer me when they could, but you know, sometimes schedules don't align and it wasn't fair to them to bum a ride all the time. I suppose I could have gone with using a shipper, butI really just wanted to be 100% independent. Hence the trailer. I regret that I didn't do it when I had Sug, so I am doing it now.

Which basically means that if you're on the roads in NJ, well, you might just want to be extra careful around any horse trailers you run across. Just saying.