Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Libby is a dear friend of mine.  We became friends when she started taking lessons at the barn where I was boarding.  On many levels we are completely different people.  I over-communicate, Libby tends to say only what she feels is necessary.  I tend to over-emote, Libby has to give thought to what she feels.  Because of and despite our differences, our friendship works.  Here are a few examples of what it's like in our world:

At Hunter Farm's Princeton Show Jumping:

Me: Holy Cow!  I just bumped into Frank Chapot - literally bumped into him!
Libby: Who?
Me: Frank Chapot! (I go into longwinded recitiation of Mr. Chapot's accomplishments).
Libby: Oh. That's nice.

At Garden State Horse Show:

Me: Libby, look! There's Anne Kursinski!
Libby: Who?
Me: Anne Kursinski! (Libby calmly listens to me as I recount some of Ms. Kursinski's resume).
Libby: Oh. That's exciting.  Where is she?

Me: Libby, that's Peter Leone going into the ring! I audited his clinic at Equine Affaire!  He's (again, Libby listens as I blather on about yet another equestrian).
Libby: Right, I remember that.  That was where you got that tip on getting the horse to come off the fence on the correct lead by blocking with the inside leg, or something?

From the FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas:

Me: Hello Libby? Guess what? I'm watching the course walk at the World Cup and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum is only about 30 feet from me. And there's Ludger, and Marcus, and Steve Geurdat!  And McLain Ward!!!! 
Libby: Who? 
Me: She's ranked world's # one, her horse is Shutterfly! And he's ........... (you know what's happening by now, right?)
Libby: You must be having a blast!

Poor Libby, scenes like these have played out more often than either she or I care to remember.  Bless her heart, she lets me go on endlessly, no doubt sounding like an E! Online correspondent devoted solely to all things equine.  I truly hope that I listen even half as attentively when she speaks about pathology and rat complements!

Friday, May 21, 2010

My son was home sick from school the past few days.  I work from home when I'm not travelling, so it's not that difficult logistically when one of the kids is sick.  I normally hop on the treadmill after getting them off to school, and usually watch my horse releated DVDs, or, as my husband calls them, "game tapes" while working out.   Noah decided to crash on the couch and watch with me while he was home.

Our video of choice was from the ShowJumping Clinic series, one of Ian Millar's.  I like his style; as he says, he's all about repetition, rather than escalation, which is something I think we can all work on.  I like to think learn something new each time I watch my tapes, however, it's a new experience when one is watching with an  11 year old budding equestrian with a penchant for asking questions. 

Let me tell you, you really know how much you understand something when you try to explain it to a kid.  I've had several aneurysms (usually driving in rush hour traffic) while trying to explain the mysteries of the universe to my kids.  "How does water get up into water towers?  Pipes, valves, pressure....No?  Okay, you know how the earth revolves?  Yeah?  Well, when the earth turns upsided down every night the water goes up into the tower and then the shut a door and it keeps the water in.  That work for you?  Excellent!"

Ian was trying to explain the striding and how he was planning to ride it, and Noah asked me to help explain why Ian said some lines were more of a forward ride and some more conservative.  Well, maybe it's easy for you to multitask, but walking, talking, and trying not to go bassackwards off the back off the treadmill while translating Olympian to middle school darn near killed me.  Somehow, I must've said something that made sense to the kid, becasue he got it.  Was a beautiful moment, and a very special one for me as a Mom.

Was even better the next night when he put it into practice in his riding lesson.  No if I could just get him to put away his clothes....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Weekend thoughts...

It's been a great weekend. 

Friday night the kids and I drove to the barn, where they played tag with Billie Jean, the mini donkey, and Perzy and Stan, the dogs, while I rode.  At one point Sug and I were being chased down the arena long side by 2 kids, 2 dogs and a donkey -- was hysterical to watch in the arena mirrors!  Thank heaven's for my rock-solid, sweet tempered mare!  She wasn't thrilled with these shenanigans, as she hates the donkey, but she's a good sport and willing to put up with most anything if the kids or I ask her.  Our friend Christine joined my barn pal Libby and I for a few post-ride gab session, and the big kids watched the smaller kids play.  Libby, a most stupendous Adopted Auntie if there ever was one, taught the kids her pencil trick and we all giggled as the kids tried to master that, and then the loon call (easier said than done, and very messy!)

Saturday was back to the barn for the kids and I.  They played commando in the fields with their animal pals; I had a group lesson with Libby and her horse Stratego. Considering I've only taken a few lessons since Sug's been back in action, it went fairly well.  We actually jumped - YIPPEE!!!!  Sug was sooooooooo excited to be jumping again (she fancies herself quite the Grand Prix mare) that she cavorted around the ring, bucking and snorting ans snaking her head.  The jumping-on-a-circle-and-counting-strides exercise became more of a Jump-one-two-WHOA-four-EASY, Sug-six-giggle-WHOA, Sugar- Jump - Dangit horse!- two - for the love of Pete, mare! - four - five- HORSE!!!  

I couldn't get mad at her, as she was clearly just so excited to have a job again after almost a year in her stall recuperating, and I was just so happy she was feeling so good.  Not to mention, I was also pretty darn happy I stayed on through all her shenanigans.  I'm at the age where involuntary dismounts and unwanted contact with terra firma hurt significantly more than they used to and require more than band-aids to fix.

This morning was fairly ideal, as mornings go.  I got up, made myself a double strength latte and headed down to the barn (by myself!) for some quality time with Sug and a trail ride with a barn buddy.  We took our girls all over God's Half Acre, and the mares loved it (except for the scary bridges, clearly there were mare eating trolls underneath those bridges.)  We trotted down dirt roads and cantered through fields in the manner I remembered doing when I was a kid.  A couple of times I was tempted to hop off and take her playing in some of the watering holes we passed. Only the knowledge that I might not be able to get back in the saddle and the fact that she HATES the water prevented me. 

When we got back I gave her a bit of a spa treatment -- clipped her muzzle and ears and gave her a massage.  One of my good friends is an equine massage therapist, and has shown me some ways to help relieve Sug's stress points.  I love spending that kind of time with my mare, taking care of her, learning what makes her feel good, and just bonding with her. 

All of this had me thinking about how lucky I am.  I have two beautiful children that share my love of horses and animals with me.  We have such special times at the barn together, something I hope holds us in good stead during the turbulent teen times to come.  I have wonderful friends that I've met through my horse and the barns that I've been at, friends who have become family.  I have a wonderful friend in my mare, a creature whose love I treasure and strive to continue to deserve.  My love of horses has created a wonderful extended family for me and my family. 

All in all, you can't get much better than that.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rockband as it relates to riding...

Spent some time as a family playing Rockband on the Wii tonight.  The kids shared singing duties (Mommy does NOT sing) and Joe and I swapped turns on the drums and guitar.  Well, if I'm honest, I mostly played drums and occasionally relented and let Joe take a turn.

One thing that is painfully obvious is my utter lack of musical talent.  I flat out suck.  The kids despair of my ever scoring over 50% or getting more than 9 notes in a row.  My husband now calls me Animal, after the drummer on the Muppets.  As this is not something my kids are familiar with, we had to employ another means of technology , YouTube, to show them what we were referring to.  Once we pulled the kids off the floor and got them to stop laughing, it was decided that yes, Mom was not having a seizure, she was just channeling her inner Animal.  (Seriously, I'm about tapped out on family time).

Picture me, arms flailing, leg flapping, mouth opening and closing like a trout gasping for air.  Joe thought the mouth thing was analogous to someone who has to move their lips while reading.  A regular crackup, isn't he.  Despite all the ineptitude, I did have moments where things started to gel.  Those moments seemed to happen when, of all things, I stopped trying so hard.  When I just let go, it seemed that all of a sudden the gods of coordination were my friends.  At least for a few seconds.

This is similar to my riding these days.  Sugar and I are getting back into a groove, getting back into shape, and I'm on her 4-5 times a week.  However, I have to admit I feel a lot like Animal -- flailing arms, flapping legs and all.  The mind knows what the aids for a shoulder in may be, but heaven help me when I try to implement them.  It feels as if my inside leg is hooked back over her hip, my outside leg is tickling her ear, my inside hand is back by my hip and waggling like mad and my outside hand is halfway across and up her neck.

We approached a cavaletti the other day, and for some unknown reason it seemed like it was a good idea to go over it.  Mind you, Sug thinks any piece of timber on the ground means she needs to access her inner jumper, and since my balance is non-existent, you can imagine how this exercise went.  We approached at a fairly good pace with a lot of leg on my part. Why would I do that if I had reason to assume she'd jump it like the Head of the Lake at Rolex?  Excellent question.  I realized my error, tried a half halt, which, given my crappy balance and Sug's general lack of motivation, was more like a 3/4 halt.  We skidded to the base of the cavaletti, flailed around a bit, and then went up and over.  Picture me on her tail, then on her ears, then her tail again. 

My trainer assured me things are not looking quite as bad as they feel (she's laughing while she says it, though).  However, I'm betting she and my family are looking for Animal t-shirts on the Internet.  In the meantime, I'm riding without stirrups, begging my friends to longe me, and checking my umpteen hundred riding manuals to see what exercises will help me get my mojo back.  Because really, it's fun to access your inner Animal, but only when you want to.

Monday, May 3, 2010

It Takes a Village (one with a Chiropractor, a Massage Therapist, a Hot Walker...)

I can't imagine what it takes to keep our top level horses competing and staying at the top level of competition.  Getting my mare sound again after arthritis in her coffin joints THEN a bruised pastern has been such a team effort I can hardly imagine what it takes to keep a top level string of jumpers, eventers, or dressage horses.

I'd like to think I take good care of Sugar.  Even before she had problems she saw the chiropractor and massage therapist on regular basis.  She had farrier visits every 5-6 weeks, regular worming and dentistry, and supplements as needed.  I stretched her before and after every workout and often massaged her as well. 
During her period on the Injured Reserve she was handwalked, massaged, stretched, soaked, iced -- in buckets and with ice boots, wraps, and even the Cryo Cuff Cooler I got when I had shoulder surgery (my own version of the Game Ready system.  She also had almost two months on the Aqua Treadmill at High brass Farm in Pittstown, the best darn equine spa around!

Now that she's almost fully rehabbed and back into work, she's back into chiropractic, massage, and we've added one of the new bells and whistles available to us at our new home, Altea Equestrian in Califon, NJ.   Sug now has a daily session on the hot walker.  The first couple of times were hysterical -- she was definitely excited to be playing with all her new friends.  All the other horses were walking calmly, almost letting the butt bar shove them along, while Sug was pressed up against the front partition and passaging away, looking like the type of of overachiever who has always annoyed the rest of us who are satisfied with mediocrity.

My point (you knew I had one!) is that if this is what it takes to keep my moderately active 14 year old jumper going, what in the name of Sam Hill must it take to keep Sapphire or Let's Fly or Authentic going??
I'm going to the WEG this fall, and I'd love the opportunity to hang around in the barns and watch the various equine Pit Crews in action.  The amount of learning that could be had would be phenomenal!