Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane Irene and Free Jumping Cats...

As you may or may not be aware, the East Coast was just pummeled by Hurricane Irene. The big storm is estimated to be one of the most expensive in US history, and many towns on the Eastern Seaboard are still dealing with the aftermath of her wrath. 

During the storm itself, my husband and I were worried about whether or not we had enough food and water to sustain us if we were unable to leave the house for days.  We made sure we had batteries, flash lights, lots of non-perishable food items, fully charged cell phones, and bathtubs filled with water.

As the parents of two kids, we also made sure to have entertainment for house-bound offspring.  We loaded up on movies, hoping the power stayed on, and plenty of books if it didn't.  The kids, bless their hearts, were able to find alternate sources of entertainment while Irene raged away outside. 

They taught the cats to free jump.  Well, really, only the one cat.  Dreidel, our Maine Coon, is a bit plump and was clearly of the opinion that fat cats don't jump.  Mo, the less plush and infinitely more nimble orange tom, was enlisted as the feline free jumper.

They started with just the single jump:

Then the kids increased the degree of difficulty by making it a combination:

This excercise kept them, and the cat, busy for hours.  Which is a good thing when you're stuck in the house.

No cats, or kids, were harmed during the making of these videos.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ludger Beerbaum!!

The Maestro turns 48 today!!

I guess his ride in the FEI Nations Cup in Rotterdam today, Gotha, didn't get the memo, as she accumulated 8 faults in Round One.  Let's hope the rest of the day goes better for Ludger.

Here he is on Gotha at the Nations Cup in Aachen this year:

And on one of his other rides, the Baloubet du Rouet stallion Chaman:

Here's a link to one of my favorite Ludger videos, a tribute to the great mare, Ratina Z:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Biden Gifted With Mongolian Horse: Horse Objects to New Name

Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia today, the first US VP to visit since 1942.  The Mongolians decided to show their excitement over the visit by gifting the Veep with what, in their pastoral culture, is one of the most precious gifts that can be bestowed, a Mongolian horse.

Biden named the horse "Celtic," which is reportedly the Secret Service's code name for Biden (not very secret, now is it?)  The horse, perhaps unimpressed with his new name, became what press correspondents called " a bit excited" and reared up on Biden.  Perhaps the petite pony was trying to tell Biden his name was Batukhan, a Mongolian name that means Firm Ruler.  It's clear who'll be wearing the pants in that relationship!

Biden later posed with Mongolian wrestlers and camels.  By all accounts, they liked him better than his new horse did.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wheeeeeee! and Other Bloopers

Okay, so I recently posted about how wonderfully well our last horse show went.  Well, just so you don't think I'm getting too big for my breeches, I'm going to share with you some pics from other shows, so you can see how things normally work in our world.

My mare, Sugar, is a master of the Rider Over-Ride.  Typically happens when we are approaching an oxer that she finds particularly impressive.  Or maybe it's an oxer that I find particularly impressive.  Will have to give that some thought.  In any case, what typically happens is we'll be cantering down to the fence, and I'll have some idea of where I think we're going to leave the ground.  When we get closer to the fence Sug will make an Executive Decision that, no, she doesn't like my input, and she's taking over the decision making process. 

We then have what I like to call one of our "Holy Crap!" moments, with her taking an ENORMOUS leap and me hanging on for dear life somewhere in the back seat, with my heels up by her ears and my mouth wide open.  I'd like to say my mouth is open in prayerful supplication to my Higher Power, but I'm not going to try and BS you.  You know I'm saying something that my mother would have washed my mouth out for. 

There is some photographic evidence of these moments, which I will now share with you.  Hope you get a giggle or two, and I'd love to hear which one you like the best.

 This picture cracks me up, not only because Sug's giving the oxer way more respect than it deserves (she'd gotten a tap from the crop in the schooling ring to encourage her to go over an oxer she was being lazy with) and because my face is hysterical, but because of what you can't see.  As I was trotting out of the ring the photographer came over to tell me he'd gotten this shot, and to say, "Oh, by the way, I thought you'd like to know your fly's has been down the whole round."  Priceless!


Thought you might appreciate the full sequence here.  Back story is it was our first away show ever, week 4 at HITS Saugerties.  My trainer decided that for our first class we'd just warm up with something smaller than we normally do.  The round was going well, until we rounded the corner to the oxer and final combination. Miss "I Really Think I Should Be A Grand Prix Horse" saw that oxer and LAUNCHED herself skyward, with no warning to her unsuspecting rider.  She landed on the back rail, splintered it, and then took off as if  her hair was on fire at the combination with me hanging on like a burr, holding the reins by the buckle.  Luckily we got through the combo okay, and she passaged her proud self out of the ring as if she'd not just raised several people's blood pressure.


Pic 1 -- Note that the shoe is directly left of her eyes.
Pic 2 -- The shoe is by her schnozz.
Pic 3 -- Now the errant hoof covering is directly to the left of my helmet.
This series was shot from a couple of angles by two people.  You know you're lucky when you have not one, but two people recording your less than stellar moments!  Anyway, Sug was fairly impressed by this triple, and gave a huge leap into the first element.  She then decided that the best way to handle the situation she found herself in (remember, she wasn't taking rider input at this point) was to take ANOTHER huge leap over the second element!  At some point she caught her toe on her front shoe, and as we were rocketing skyward I heard a high pitched whizzing noise.  It was her shoe flying by our faces!  As you can see from the third shot, I had a great view of that shoe as it flew threw the air, smacked into the third element of the triple, and then hit the dirt.   Thankfully she allowed me to pull her up at that point, although she wanted to go for fence #3 and argued with me some about it.   We excused ourselves, left the ring and found a farrier, with her shaking her head and looking around as if to say, "Hey, didja see that?  I jumped so hard and high I jumped right outta my Jimmy Choos! Pretty impressive, huh?"

As you can see, the rest of the show was pretty much more of the same.  We were lucky to get out of there with our lives. You have to say, the mare loves her job!  At least it wasn't an oxer this time.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Best Show Ever!

As you can tell by the superlatives in the title, I'm about to go overboard.  Much gushing about the Sainted Bay Mare will follow, so here's your warning to either pull on your waders or abandon ship now!

Last Saturday we showed at the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show in the Pre-Preliminary division.  Granted, 3' or thereabouts may be small potatoes to some, but to this re-rider it was the Holy Grail of jump heights and I had to pull on my Big Girl knickers in a big way to attempt.  We've done a LOT of work (grids, courses, clinics, THERAPY) to get comfortable here, and I think we've finally achieved a point where I don't go into the ring thinking, "Golly, those look ENORMOUS."

I did my pre-show homework. While polishing my boots I visualized successful courses.  I replayed a mental movie of my last lesson, where I'd been relaxed, soft in my elbows, and our jumping efforts had gone well. Before I went to bed I wrote down a few things to make certain I was not using negative thinking.  For example, instead of worrying if there would be a triple bar, I'd write down "Successfully jumped triple bar during lesson."  I wrote down everything I needed and then made sure it was in the car.  Then I set my alarm for 15 minutes earlier than I thought I needed to in order to give myself extra time to deal with those little emergencies that crop up. (Good thing my daughter wasn't showing; I need an extra half an hour when she shows and I was low on rack time this week.)

The morning was perfect.  It was slightly overcast, so not too hot.  I had extra time to fiddle fart around and relax over a latte and some breakfast.  I did a final check through of everything -- show clothes, boots, helmet, check book....Crap!! Tip-toed quietly back upstairs to get check book and then headed out to show.  Arrived before my trainer, had time to memorize the first two courses (all 3 would have taxed my mental processes WAAAAAYYYY too much.  Keep in mind this is progress, as I've just recently graduated from actually drawing my courses in a mini-notebook.)

When my trainer got there we had time to walk the course, take a couple of bathroom breaks (Helloooooo, middle aged with two kids!) and warm up.  Sug was incredibly relaxed.  She's not a hot horse by any stretch of the imagination, but she does get a bit "up" for shows.  She struts around, nudging everyone and generally gives off the impression that hey, a Very Important Horse Has Arrived.

My tendency to over-think things has a very common ancillary effect -- I micro-manage her and nitpick as we approach a fence, causing her to focus her attention back on me and not her job.  Which means we miss distances,
which at the very least makes her work harder and/or causes dropped rails.

Thank you.  I did wonder if you noticed that.

Yes, Sug, I did. My point here is that for the first time ever, I did not micromanage or nitpick or get stiff elbows (mostly) on Saturday.  And we had beautiful rounds.  We had consistent (for the most part) rhythm with good distances (90% of the time).  You were relaxed, I was (for me) relaxed, and I thought we had the most harmonious show experience we've ever had.  Kinda like we shared the same brain.  It was amazing. And wonderful.  And fun.  I didn't get in your way and you were relaxed and happy and able to do your job to the best of your ability. 

True.  I often wonder about that. I do not attempt to do your job.  Why is it you try to do mine?

Ummm, because I'm a Type A control freak, Sug. That's what we do.  Ceding control or sharing it with others is a big step for someone like me.

Pfffffffffttttttttttt.  Get over yourself.  I'd like a peppermint now, please.  And an Oreo.  An Oreo would be nice.  I was really very good.  A reward of some kind is in order.

Yes, Sug, you deserve a bag of peppermints.  And an Oreo.  Just the one.

Anyway, it was a very good day.  Sug wound up taking two firsts and a third, and was Grand Champion in her division.  She won a gift certificate to Dover Saddlery (Thank You, Dover!), a pretty glass jar just perfect for holding peppermints, and a VERY snazzy new cooler!  It was tremendously cool to have my picture taken with her while she was sporting her spiffy new duds and wearing her big tri-color ribbon.  I've always wanted to be like those riders I see in photos in the Chronicle of the Horse, posing with their Championship coolers.  Thanks to my wonderful Sainted Bay Mare, I am now able to cross one more thing off the bucket list.

Thanks, Mama! 

You're welcome.  May I have another Oreo?  The fried ones are quite good. And a massage?  I worked very hard.  A massage would feel very nice...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Horse Tries to Swim English Channel, Cites Velvet's Mom as Muse...

English horse attempts record setting Channel swim...
Here's one for you from the "Odd News" category:  Off the coast of Sandwich, England a horse was rescued by RNLI lifeboat crews after it had swum more than an 1/2 mile out into the Channel.  The horse had spooked and unseated it's rider in the shallows, and then panicked and swum out into deeper water.

The owner called the lifeboat crews, who were able to attach a line to the horse 's bridle and coax it back to shore. 

With a mastery of understandment only the British can comman, the reporter states, "It's not known if the animal was actually trying to get to France."  Priceless!!!  Perhaps the horse had heard French equines had it better and was heading off to improve his lot in life!

Best quote ever was from one RNLI crew member, "Leading a horse to water is one thing but persuading it to come out again is a completely different issue.”

All's well that ends well!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

There's a Horse in the Car!

This week my hard drive decided to self destruct, and apparently my back-up drive decided to go AWOL sometime in November. (Yes, thank you, it has been pointed out to me that I should have checked on this myself, rather than just relying on blind faith and my company's IT department. Duly noted.)  I've spent 3 days on the phone with IT trying to recover files, install a new hard drive, and fix all the other SNAFUS that go along with this kind of problem.

Therefore, my brain is now fried, and I am in desperate need of a good laugh. 

This video fit the bill.  Thankfully, I am still sufficiently in possession of enough brainpower to know I will NOT be showing this video to the female offspring, as undoubtedly she will take it into her head to see if she can stuff Cookie into the truck.  I am pretty sure that 13.2 ponies and GMC Acadias don't go well together.

Smile, Horsie!

Friday, August 5, 2011

TGIF - Fabulous Way to End the Week

This is one week I am happy to see the end of.  You know the kind -- work issues, kid issues, car problems.  One thing after the other piles on until BAM!  Somebody says something they shouldn't on Facebook.

Anyway, this week was one of those.  To add to the external frustrations, my barn time was not quite the therapy it normally is.  I was tense and stiff; Sug was stiff.  Our rides were not going well.  I didn't feel right, and she didn't feel right.  If you're a parent, you know when your kid is coming down with something long before it's obvious to others.  We did some long and low stuff and some lateral work at the walk for a couple of days, and I did some massage after our rides.

Today the kids and I headed out to the barn early -- thank God for summer Fridays!  Soph rode Cookie and I rode my mare, who was a lot looser and more willing to bend than in previous rides this week.  We did some suppling exercises, kept it forward and loose, and had the first decent ride this week.

My son, who absolutely adores and is adored by my mare, wanted to hop on and cool her off, so the kids took the girls for a sedate walk around the fields, accompanied by the Billie Jean, the barn donkey.  I sat up on the hill and watched, and for the first time this week, RELAXED.

TGIF, ya'll!  Hope its a good weekend for you!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Horses and Ice Cream Together? YIPPEE!!!!

Tammy and her driver, Allison Carlton,
dispensing ice cream in Marshall, MI.
Two of my absolute passions are combined in a very unique way in Marshall, Michigan!  Imagine a sedate draft horse pulling an old fashioned wagon down tree lined streets, with children running out to meet it, then coming away with smiles and ice cream pops.

Brian Mason, owner of the Marshall Carriage Co., believes this old-fashioned method of ice cream dispensation will compliment his main business, that of running horse-drawn carriage and ghost tours of Marshall's historical district.

Who doesn't love the ice cream truck?  Who wouldn't love a horse-drawn ice cream truck more?!?

I'd like a chocolate eclair, please!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Another Horse Hero...14 Year Old Girl Leads Horse From Burning Trailer

This past Sunday 14 year old Grace Pilkington walked through fire to rescue her best friend, a 13 year old Thoroughbred named Hershey.  She and her mom were driving through Nashua, New Hampshire, when they noticed smoke coming from the trailer window.  They pulled over, and rushed back to find steam from a ruptured water cooler that ad caught fire.

Despite the flames, Pilkington immediately ran into the trailer, and as her mom lowered the gate on the trailer,  led her horse to safety.

Can I get a WOW from the audience?  You go, Grace!  Grace's mom now calls her Boyd Martin, a reference to the gritty eventer who, along with coworkers and friends, risked his life to rescue his equine partners when his barn tragically caught fire.

To read more, especially about the wonderful good samaritans who helped Grace and her mom (totally restores your faith in humanity) click here.