Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Reality Bites...

I woke up this morning and my first conscious thought was, "Oh crap, it's only Tuesday."

Score one for the Power of Positive Thinking.


My next thought was, "How long until I can leave for the barn?"

OK, moving towards the positive spectrum, in the sense that I am working towards achieving a positive goal.  Makes sense, yes?

New idea for a t-shirt: "Work, the speed bump between waking and getting to the barn."

Must get working on that.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Best Damn Show Shirt Ever!

Cute, right?
The other night after riding I was turning the horses out and realized I'd run out of fly spray. I'd thought I had more, but as per Murphy's Law, I didn't. Cue last minute dash to try and make it to the tack store before they close.  My local Dover Saddlery is often open until 8pm, so that's where I headed.  Even gave them a call to let them know I was coming and what I needed so it could be waiting and I could get out of their way by closing. (I've worked retail and know what it's like when you want to go home and someone comes in at 7:59 and you close at 8:00).

I had literally just walked in the door when Sarah Jane, one of my Dover BFFs, yelled to one of the other associates to "Get Amy that shirt!"  (Is it just me, or does everyone get attached to the folks that work at the tack shops they go to?  I swear I love and rely on mine like I did my Labor & Delivery nurses.

The girl brought over what looked like a very nice wrap collar show shirt with contrasting fabric inside the collar and cuffs.  I couldn't tell what the pattern was - it looked vaguely Vineyard Vines-y,  until Sarah held it up.  That's when I went nuts.  Wine bottles and glasses!! Red and white!!!  On navy or purple backgrounds, with matching contrast stitching.  AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!  What a perfect blend of  two of my favorite things, horses and wine!!!  Honestly, I think I may have been jumping up and down with excitement.  Or doing the pee pee dance. At my age it's a toss-up.

Seriously, how perfect are these shirts???


They are part of the Essex Classics Talent Yarn collection, and are made of high-tech fabric with mesh panels for ventilation and contrasting stitching for a subtle pop of color. They have anti-bacterial and deodorant magic to help you avoid show-stink, and UV sun protection.  Even better, they come with Scotchgard stain resistance - less slobber stains, yay! They also have collar snap repositioning. I have no idea what that even is.  Kinda like when you're buying a car and you don't know half the stuff the salesperson is telling you it has, let alone if you'd ever have a need for any of it.

The shirts are fitted, so keep that in mind if you choose to order.  If you like a looser fit, you'll probably want to order up a size.  At $129 they're a bit of an investment, but if you're addicted to horses and wine, there really couldn't be a more perfect show shirt. 

I'm not showing at the moment, so I don't really need one.  Other than the fact that I neeeeed one because, really, they're perfect. 

Conundrum.  Maybe I can wear it to work...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Shades of Dances with Wolves...

Kissy-face with Cantissimo
OK, I couldn't think of a better headline than that.  I suck at stuff like that.  I may be in Publishing, but I'm lucky to have editors that come up with the catchy phrases.

Moving on....If you're older than 30 you may remember a Kevin Costner movie called Dances With Wolves.  Costner plays a Civil War hero that is sent to a remote Western outpost with nothing more than his horse for company.  (After seeing the movie, 90% of the female population would have given their right ovary for the privilege of accompanying him, civilization and creature comforts be damned). While he's working to rebuild the abandoned fort he becomes somewhat of a curiosity to a local wolf, and Costner, devoid of companionship, begins to develop a relationship with the animal.

A local tribe of Lakota Sioux on a buffalo hunt spot Costner interacting with the wolf and are intrigued by the lone soldier.  Knowing that one soldier inevitably means more, they try to befriend Costner to find out what the US Army plans, and by the way, had he seen any buffalo recently? Costner becomes a friend to the tribe and they give him a Lakota name, "Dances With Wolves." Much to the chagrin of the female movie watching public, Costner's character then falls in love with a white woman taken by the Lakota as a child, called Stands With a Fist.

Sorry for the lengthy babble, you know how I tend to blather on. Anyway, one of the things that become popular at that time was trying to come up with a Native American for yourself.  You know, 'cause what the hell, right?  We take Buzzfeed quizzes to find out what Disney character we would be, why not try to figure out what our Native American name would be?

What made me think of this was the other night when I was at the barn with friends I was loving on a new horse who had just arrived. He kept putting his nose up to mine and I would kiss it every time he did.  My friend laughed and told me to stop making out with the horse. That reminded me that several other folks have made comments like that over the years,  that made me flash back to the whole Native American name thing.

Mine would be "Makes Out With Horses."

Bumping muzzles with Junior

Smoochies with Moochie

Thursday, July 2, 2015

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

Practice makes perfect.
In a previous post I shared that I'd bought a trailer and was learning to drive it, and was relying on the help of friends to help get me road-ready.  The second time I took the trailer out I asked Dad to help, as he had lots of experience trailering boats and motorcycles and other stuff.  Plus the man had once taught me how to drive a car, so this seemed like a logical idea. We'd already been there, done that, so to speak. Clearly I'd forgotten how some of those early driving lessons had played out. More on that later...

My parents live across from a church. So I figured I'd drive out there on a Saturday afternoon, get some more highway experience on the way over, and then Dad and I could practice backing up and three-point turns in the empty church parking lot.  You know, since there was a lot of room to maneuver and all that.  I don't mind sharing that I was hoping for a little heavenly guidance as well. Jesus take the wheel in the literal sense and all that.

Saturday morning Dad called and told me he was worried about me negotiating the turn at the bottom of the highway's off ramp.  "Ummm, okaaaaaaayyy," I said, thinking I'd practiced a few the week before and it was a simple stop at the light at the bottom of the ramp and go left after you get three-quarters of the way through the intersection kind of thing.  "I think I should come to the barn and drive back with you," Dad told me.   Here's the thing: My Dad is the wonderful kind of person who lives to help people.  He loves to feel like he's been instrumental in making someone's day better. What am I going to do, say no to making my Dad happy?  Nuh-uh.  "Sure Dad, Noah and I will get the trailer hooked up and be ready to leave when you get here."

He called me from the road 15 minutes later. "I spoke with Father Chester," he told me. "He says it's fine that we use the church parking lot and he wishes you good luck and God bless."  Well, alrighty then. Not only did we have a special dispensation and a blessing from a priest,  we were going to be in God's parking lot.  I'm thinking that in terms of good mojo it doesn't get much better than that.  Confidence was high.

Trailering over from the barn went well.  Dad was a font of helpful advice and info such as what to watch out for when stuck next to a tractor trailer, what trailer behaviors/sounds were normal, and how certain things would feel once the trailer was loaded.  That all changed when we got to the church and started working on backing up.  It was then that I remembered something about learning to drive with Dad. He tells you what to do, and if you don't/can't do it he loses patience quickly. (I started flashing back to the catastrophe that was him teaching me to do hill starts in my Mom's manual Jetta.  It took years of therapy to get over that.)

It was 85 degrees and even hotter on the blacktop.  Noah, Dad, and I were all sweating like hookers in church. I had to pee, and Dad was yelling at me, "You gotta get the feel! You gotta feel the wheel!" In all honesty, I couldn't get mad at him.  It was hot as hell and he'd had open heart surgery 4 months prior. But I can't concentrate for shit when I have to pee, nevermind when I have to pee and someone is yelling at me.  I made an executive decision to take a brief break. I jumped out of the truck, told Dad to sit in it with the AC on while I ran across to their house to go to the bathroom. When I was done using the facilities I grabbed one of my parent's jumbo travel mugs and filled it with his favorite summertime adult beverage, apple cider and vodka, and brought it back to him. 

Confused Labrador face
While Dad happily worked on hydration, I asked him to take on a supervisory role while Noah gave me instructions.  The Boy actually understands the whole backing up thing and can explain it pretty well, so I figured we had nothing to lose.   I was ready to start again when Noah came up to me and said, "You understand how this process works, right?  It's basically a pivot.  The hitch ball is the fulcrum, or central point in the rotational system."  Bless his heart, he actually pulled out a piece of paper from the glove box and began drawing a truck and trailer on it. I took this all in with a blank look on my face.  You know the one, looks kinda like a confused Labrador? That was what I looked like. "Sweetie, that's great," I said,  "Here's the thing, though. Right now Mom doesn't need a physics lesson, Mom needs to know which way to turn the damn wheel."

So we persisted. Dad was initially a bit put out about being replaced as Advisor in Chief but Noah buttered him up by very strategically  "consulting" Dad before giving me advice.  Plus Dad had his libation, which certainly helped make taking a managerial role more palatable.  I'm not going to lie and say I did well. There were a lot of failed attempts, a lot of backing and straightening and backing and straightening some more. There was a lot of cussing and several appeals to my Higher Power for assistance. (None was forthcoming).  Several times I got so creative with my language I half expected to be struck by lightning, especially given the fact that this was God's parking lot.  (That may have been why the aforementioned assistance was not forthcoming).

I was finally able to manage a smooth 3-point turn and we decided to quit on that high note. Noah and I took the trailer back to the barn and then headed home, where we met my parents and I made a nice dinner to thank Dad for his assistance.

I've since practiced trailering several more times, taking longer and longer trips on back roads, state routes and interstates.  I've driven over to the local horse park,  practicing backing and three-point turns between the large farm equipment parked there. (That might be worthy of a post. I haven't decided yet).  The kids keep me company, and we're having fun with the whole experience.  Pretty soon I think I'll be ready to actually haul a live animal. I'm thinking maybe a guinea pig or something small.  You know, baby steps and all that.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Driving Lessons, Equestrian Style...

My son Noah recently turned 16, and in New Jersey that means you can get your driver's learning permit.  Which basically means that the parent of the fledgeling driver needs either a bucket of valium to remain calm while instructing the newbie, or a damn good stylist to cover the gray hairs earned during practice sessions.

Noah has been practicing in my truck, which is good because we'e in a lovely large cocoon of metal, and bad because it's my new truck and I know it's going to get dinged up and of course I want my baby boy protected but I'd really still like to keep my new truck dent free.  Deeeeeeep breath.

Today I let him drive home from the barn, which is a half hour trip, much of it on the highway.  It was after 8 on a Friday night, so traffic was very light.  I buckled into the passenger seat, took a deep, cleansing breath,  and prepared to be a calm and collected font of driving knowledge.

Here is some of the advice I gave him:

When we were merging onto the highway: "You're gonna need to give it more leg." (No kidding, that actually came out of my mouth).

When going up a hill: "More impulsion!" (I even clucked for good measure. Again, totally unintentional).

Coming in to a downhill turn: "Whoa. Whoa. WHOA!"

Before a dog-leg turn: "You're gonna want to half halt and balance up before entering the turn."

During the dog-leg turn: "You're bulging to the outside - what do you need to do?" (Thank God he didn't say to apply stronger outside aids).

Again, this stuff was just coming out of my mouth, 100% live streaming.  No lie.  I wasn't planning any of it.  You know how it is. When you're a horse person every other aspect of life is seen through the equestrian filter.

To give the kid credit, he didn't bat an eyelash and he didn't need me to translate a thing.  He did fairly well for a newbie.  Has a bit of an issue with keeping the pace consistent - he tends to rush or back off a lot.  There's no middle ground with him.  He has the same tendency when riding, so maybe if he improves one he'll improve the other.

PSA - If you live in Northern NJ and are on Routes 78 or 287,  you may want to avoid a champagne colored Chevy Tahoe. Just saying.

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.