Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Funny A$$ Lesson Horse Analogy...

This is not Pippi, it's Sug dressed up for Halloween,
but I thought it went well with the
whole Working Girl analogy.

One of my bloging buddies, an adult ammie who shares her horse Pippi ( LOVE the name!!) is learning to canter this week. She blogged about her first experience, and her description of her lesson horse had me absolutely HOWLING!  I mean I was damn near fetal I was laughing so hard.

Tell me this doesn't paint the perfect picture of a true blue, been there, done that, worth their weight in gold lesson horse. 

"Selena was her usual stoic self. Her attitude somewhat reminiscent of that of an aging "working girl." Everything about her says "Okay, you paid your money, so let's get this ride over with." She fakes any enthusiasm, and just tolerates the experience..."

If you'd like to read more of Emme's stuff, click here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

My New Favorite Fitness Regime...

I injured myself 5 months ago and fell off the workout wagon for a good long time. Now I'm much better, albeit a bit "poofier," and should really be getting back on the dang wagon instead of watching it continue to roll on past me whilst I sip a class of Sauvignon Blanc. Problem is, when you fall off the wagon, you tend to lose motivation and get to a point where you think, "Wagon? What wagon? I don't need no stinking wagon. Pour another glass of that wine!"

Alright, I may be carrying that a bit too far, but you get my point. Once you stop, it's hard to get started again unless there's a significant motivator. (If memory serves, there's a law in there somewhere -- something about inertia? What is that one? An object at rest stays at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force.)

Anyway, this particular object has been at rest, but a desire to improve my riding and a fear of needing to purchase bigger breeches (or Spanx)has motivated me to get back into physical activity. Well, that and a few good friends, otherwise known as "outside forces" (Allison, you know I mean you!) who are very good evangelists for the healthy lifestyle.

Thus, I got back to work. Or working out. Whatever. So far it's been some yoga, a little bit of cardio, and light weights.

However, I've come across a workout program that I think will be a wildly successful one for me, as it combines a good core workout with one of my favorite things in life. Consider it the ultimate anti-inertia core workout! Thanks to my good friend Sarah for passing this along!!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sometimes You Just Need to Hug Your Pony...

Sophie drew this at school today. 
Said she needed her pony with her.
 It's been one of those weeks, and I was talking myself into skipping the barn on this rainy, foggy Friday night in favor of my PJs, a glass of wine and a good movie. 

That changed the second I arrived at my daughter's school to pick her up.  She came running out of the classroom, hiccuping and in tears.  As my arms encircled her in a hug she wailed, "I...j-just...w-w-wanna...see my p-pooooooony!" Seems she'd been collateral damage in an altercation between two schoolmates, the poor kiddo.  Maybe a stronger individual would have been able to remain resolute and stay home in favor of wine and PJs, but I'm a marshmallow. So we mopped her up a bit and headed home to change
and go down to the barn.

She didn't want to talk on the way down, and as soon as we arrived she jumped out of the car and ran to her pony's stall.  Minutes later I found her, sitting on an overturned muck bucket and leaning against Cookie's shoulder.  Seeing her took me back about 30 years, when I'd get off the bus and run to the barn where I took lessons to cry out the day's woes to Lazy or Andrew, the two lesson horses I rode and adored.  Those good old souls shepherded me through many a childhood tragedy or triumph, and I was so glad to see that my daughter had the same kind of support system.  Sugar, who resides in the stall next to Cookie's, was clearly concerned as well.  She had her nose out the feed hole and was nickering anxiously, wondering what was amiss with her "foal."

Talking it all out...
We didn't ride.  We just groomed the girls, clipped them, massaged them and loved on them.  We also took them into the arena and played a bit with them. Sophie and Cookie spent a good portion of the time just walking around the arena together, and when the rain stopped I could hear Sophie speaking softly to the pony.

By the time we left Sophie seemed over the events of the day, and while she wasn't her normal high energy self, she seemed at peace.  She hugged Cookie and kissed her precious little nose, and thanked her.  When Sophie headed out to the car I stayed behind a minute to thank Cookie as well.  Because as much as parents try to be everything for their kids, we can't be. 

We're so lucky to have these wonderful creatures to help us raise our kids, because sometimes the only thing that will make a hurt better is the love of a pony.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sinead Halpin Clinic - Part Two

Hello Friends of AWIP!  Hope this finds you well and not succumbing to the February Blahs.  Part two of my Sinead Halpin clinic recap was originally posted on Horse Junkies United, but for ease of use, if you haven't seen it there (And why ever not? There's a TON of great stuff there!) I'm making it available for you here.  :)

Part One of this clinic recap discussed the Five Rider Responsibilities (1. Direction, 2. Speed, 3. Rhythm, 4.Balance, and 5. Distance/Timing) and left off with the riders coming down a line of crossrails and either testing their control of Direction and Speed by riding a bending line to a set of flower boxes, or working on the rider’s balance and Rhythm by coming around the corner and riding a straight line over another set of flower boxes.

The next part of the exercise had the riders really focusing on Direction by incorporating all 3 crossrails – the first one, the offset one on the quarterline, and the last one (formerly the second element of the line).

Sinead encouraged the riders to show the horse which way to go by using an opening rein and by pushing him over with the outside rein against the neck. The riders were told to think of this as an exercise in “Line over Speed.”

By the way, just as an aside, when I say Sinead encouraged, I mean she ENCOURAGED. Sinead is an immensely positive and enthusiastic instructor. Her excitement when a rider achieves a goal is palpable. Her enthusiasm and humor contributed to extremely relaxed riders, which, to my way of thinking, makes learning easier and promotes retention.

Finally, Sinead asked the riders to put all the learning and the Rider Responsibilities together.

This meant an exercise that consisted of coming into the first crossrail at a trot and cantering the second two crossrails, and coming back to a trot through the corners to test the horse’s ability to listen (Speed). The riders then came back up the angled flower boxes and continued up the bending line to the crossrail line, then around the far end and down the long side to the double crossrails.

This course tested the riders ability to set the Direction of travel, tell the horse which Speed to travel at, maintain a selected Rhythm and stay in Balance, and finally, Timing.

Although it was a very small course, it required a lot of precision, and it was immediately apparent that if something went wrong early in the course (ie. the rider lost the horse’s shoulders or could not maintain Speed) it was going to be apparent later on in the course unless fixed immediately.

I found it easy to make the connection to my own experiences in show jumping. I’ve ridden many a round where a small bobble in the early part of the course (maybe I didn’t balance her up enough to get the lead change quickly enough) resulted in things getting strung out and a rail down.

Sinead made certain that each rider and horse combination finished the exercise and the clinic on a positive not, and then recapped each rider’s takeaways with them, along with suggestions for future practice.

Just for fun, I’m going to recap a few of my favorite Sinead-isms:

Pongo telling Sinead he'd be great
as her next Rolex ride.
1. “Survival is always the number one expectation!” As someone with fear issues, I can related to this. This was said amidst much laughter, and the context here was a discussion on timing — why you needed to fix little problems as they crop up because they would turn into bigger problems later on course. We were all having a bit of a giggle as Sinead was telling a rider she needed to spend less time congratulating herself for making it over the fence in one piece, and more time recovering and dealing with any issues. Seems most adult ammies can relate to this “I made it!” behavior.

2. “The worst thing you can do 3 strides before the fence is take the horse’s attention away from the fence. When you’re rounding the turn, you should already be in your rhythm, not still having a conversation with your horse.”  I am sooooooo guilty of this I am hanging my head in shame as I write this.  Bad Amy, BAD!

3. “The only way to practice WHOA is to GO.”

4. “Be a lowlife. You have to lower your balance through your hips and into your heels.”

5. “Stop focusing on the front rail of that fence and just focus on your rhythm and the horse’s breath.” This was said to a rider whose horse was an audible blower, and Sinead was telling her to use that as a tool to establish and maintain a rhythm to the fence.

6. “Pick a rhythm, and then relax into it.”

7. “Sometimes when you’re schooling just jump a jump, and then flat, then jump another jump, and then flat again. Do this until a jump isn’t a big deal. Some riders and horses tend to carry baggage from fences 1 & 2 around the course. This will help that.” I love this one, as I am a veritable Bag Lady when it comes to carrying baggage around a course, and need to get jumping to the point where it’s a non-event.

If you are ever lucky enough to come across the opportunity to take a clinic with Sinead Halpin, DO IT! You will come out feeling positive about yourself, your riding, and your horse, and with a good plan for going forward. Additionally, if you’re in the NYC metro area, you might want to keep abreast of the goings on at Bow Brickhill Stables, as they frequently host clinics with guest clinicians like Peter & Mark Leone, Jimmy Torano, and Frank Madden. Head rider/trainer Tik Maynard ( a native of Vancouver, Canada and currently long listed for the Canadian eventing team) also offers Winter Training Sessions on a regular basis.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Therapy for the Therapy? What's THAT About?

Saw this on Facebook and liked it. 
Certainly resembles my path.
"I thought the horse WAS the therapy?" That was my bemused husband’s first comment to me after I told him that I was speaking with a Mental Performance Consultant for my jumping related fear issues.  “I don’t get it. If the horse WAS the therapy, NOW why do you need therapy?”

It’s not a fear of looking bad, or making a fool of myself. It’s a “Holy crap, one of us is gonna die!” kind of fear. Which, understandably, affects my riding. For example, I’ll be riding to a fence and I start feeling the fear, and I start choking up on my mare. Then, I realize we’re going too slow for her to clear the fence, and I make a last second desperate attempt to gun her at the fence. Kind of a “STOP! No, crap, that’s wrong. Um, GO! Yeah, GO!!!” thing. Which is, of course, not fair to the horse at all and very likely to cause exactly the kind of catastrophic accident I’m worried about.

I don't want to stop jumping. I’ve read a few book on sports psychology and fear, and watched a number of videos. They’ve helped a bit. However, we’ve reached a point where self-help and self-diagnosis aren’t enough. I’m tired of coming home from jump schools frustrated with myself, and so I decided that now is the time to bring in a professional.

Session One
I contacted Sommer Christie, who is a certified Mental Performance Consultant, member of the Canadian Sport Psychology Association, and guest blogger on Horse Junkies United, a site I contribute to.  Session One basically covered the ground work — what did I think my issues were, when do I think they appeared, were there any times when I didn’t feel fear, how were those times different than when I did feel fear?  My skill sets and ability don't change on any given day, so what separated my Peak Performances from my Weak Performances?

During our chat we kept circling back to the idea of “preparedness.” I am a bit of a control freak, and when things go cattywumpus, I feel an intense need to go back to the basics.  Which Sommer said was a good thing as when we are in optimal performance mode, our body reacts through muscle memory. By making sure my basic skills were honed, I was actually setting myself up for success. A firm foundation in the basic skill sets allows the body to perform by rote (again, paraphrasing here) which creates kind of a comfort zone, or safety net if your mind is intent on assuming the fetal position. So, when I feel better “prepared,” maybe because of more basic skills work, I ride with more confidence. End of Session One. 

Homework was to think about my best performance ever, and what was significant about it? How did I prepare? What was I thinking before starting the round, and what was I thinking about during the round? Did I lose focus at any point? If so, how did I get it back?  Then I needed to identify the gaps.

This is so true. 
More than one way to get to Rome, after all.
Session Two
We pretty much began where we left of the week before, with the concept of "Preparedness."  I need to feel secure in order jump with confidence, and we talked about what I could do to prepare myself for the show season.  One of the things I identified was practicing over poles in order to become more comfortable with distances.  Another was more work without stirrups to have a stronger, more secure seat. 

Sommer let me know that it was not enough to simply have these goals, but that I needed to set them out as specific practice plans and then hold myself accountable with measurable results.  For example, I needed to go into each practice with a plan. For example, each day I could set up an exercise of poles and commit to cantering them 50 times.  As I rode, I needed to keep track of how many successful distances I hit and how many misses I had.  I also needed to be mindful of what happened when things went right and when things went wrong.

Afterwards, I need to do what's called a Debrief.  That means I need to write down (this is the important part -- you have to write it down in a journal) what parts of my training went really well and why. Then I need to ascertain what parts of my training need to be improved and figure out how. It's important to recognize what I did well as well as any mistakes that were made.  The object is to recognize and reward successes, and then recognize mistakes in order to learn from them. It's also important to keep mistakes in context.  Mistake = learning opportunity, and not time to pull on a hair shirt.  For example, I could write that I missed too many distances because I was off balance, however, I made more distances today than yesterday.

After all the debriefing analysis comes the action plan.  Given what happened in my training session, what are the necessary steps that I need to take in order to improve my performance? Is that more poles? More no-stirrup work? Longe line lessons?  Remember, each step must have measurable results (ie. 50 poles gives me X number of good distances and Y number of misses that I can compare to previous sessions.)

So yesterday I had a lesson and we went over poles, poles, and more poles.  Some of the poles were set in a circle, like the face of a clock.  The poles were set at 12, 3, 6, and 9 and walked 6 strides between each.  I went round and round those damn poles and I got 7 strides, 8 strides, 6 strides -- you name it, I got it.  Then we bounced over 2 poles set in the corner of the arena.  Same kind of result there.  Some good rides, but more less than stellar attempts.

Oye veh, I could tell my Debrief was gonna be a long one.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sinead Halpin Clinic - "If You Can Walk Up the Stairs Without Tripping, You Can Find a Distance"

My buddy Pam and her trust steed Pongo
looking forward to the Sinead Halpin clinic. 
(Originally posted on Horse Junkies United.)

On Valentine’s Day, I gave myself a present that did not include chocolate – I took the day off of work and drove over to audit my friend Pam’s ride in the Sinead Halpin clinic at Bow Brickhill Stables in Milford, NJ.

Sinead is an international level eventer who is currently listed with her horse Manoir De Carneville (‘Tate’) on the USEF High Performance Training ‘A’ list for the 2012 Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team. Sinead and Tate were the highest placed American finishers (3rd) at last year’s Rolex Kentucky and were 15th at Burghley.

I knew it was going to be an interesting experience, when I arrived a little early for Pam’s lesson and caught a little bit of one of the earlier groups jumping small crossrails.

The first thing I heard Sinead say was, “I’m not looking for a perfect distance at the lower levels. You just need to get to the fence and get over without tripping.” Well, I thought to myself, am I ever in the right place, as the search for the perfect distance is my own version of the quest for the holy grail.

Sinead Halpin and clinic participants
at Bow Brickhill Stables
She then told the group "if you can walk up a set of stairs without tripping, you can find a distance." At this point I started to worry, as I've been known to trip going up a flight of stairs, but heck, I grabbed a donut and a chair and settled in for some learning. (Note: You do still have to worry about distances, just not for the purpose of the exercises the riders were doing at that time.)

Pam's session (Beginner Novice level) started with Sinead asking each rider about their previous experience, their horse's experience, what they were currently working on and their goals for that horse. It was a varied group of riders of varying ages and experience and horses ranging from fairly green to "been there-done that". She then asked the riders to warm the horses up as they normally would, and as everyone began circling the ring she discussed her philosophy of training:

"Riding is about communication. When you get on a horse you need to have a set expectation, and you need to be very clear and honest about that with the horse. You want to be friends with the horse; you want a mutual respect."

Sinead asked the riders to begin a series of transitions, and to pay close attention to the horse's response to their aids. When leg was applied, did the horse move off immediately and willingly? When brakes were added, did the horse slow down at once or did it take a few strides. Was the horse heavier in one rein or the other?

Sinead had the riders walk 4 steps, then trot 6, then halt and back up 3 steps. Then she'd ask them to trot 8 steps, walk 7, and ask for right lead canter. After a few minutes, she asked the riders to come to the center and tell her what they'd noticed.

As expected, the riders reported issues with stiff sides, acceleration issues, and brake failures. Sinead's response was to acknowledge the issues and then tell the riders that the issues were things that would not be fixed in a day, but at least now they were really present to what was going on with their horse on that day, and to be mindful of that when riding the upcoming exercises. If you had a phlegmatic horse, you'd need to be ready to ask for more pace, or less on a horse with more engine.

Sinead then talked about what she called the the "Rider Responsibilities." You can tell she's spent some time hanging out with David O'Connor, current coach of the Canadian Event Team and heir to the position as American team coach once Capt. Mark Phillips retires, as these are the exact points he discussed at 2012 International Eventing Forum. (For more on David's take, read Kerry's coverage here.)

The Rider Responsibilities as defined by Sinead at the clinic are as follows:

1. Direction - This isn't just steering, it's being able to control the front of the horse, the hindquarters, and more importantly, knowing how to position them where you want them.

2. Speed -Is that line 5 forward strides or 5 short strides? If it's 5 short strides and you go in with your tail on fire, you're gonna have some issues.

3. Rhythm - Do you have the magic canter, as defined in my Eric Horgan clinic recap, and are you able to maintain it? Is your horse's hind end engaged and is he pinging off the ground in a regular pattern of beats.

4. Balance - Are you and your horse in a state of mental and physical equilibrium? Are you confident, centered, steady?

5. Distance/Measurement (this is what my notes say Sinead called #5, but if you read the David O'Connor post, he calls it Timing. In either case, it boils down to the rider's ability to control numbers 1-4 or to then react to any changes and figure how to fix the situation.

Excercise 1
Sinead had the riders pop over a series of flower boxes. The purpose of the exercise was to test the rider's ability to control Direction and Speed and Rhythm. The first rider handled the Direction and Speed elements, but lost the Rhythm when her horse popped into a canter just before the fence. Sinead explained that the horse was genuine, forward thinking and eager to do his job. She suggested the rider needed to be more centered and keep her position, and that her tendency to soften too much before the fence gave him contradictory messages.

Sinead told the rider to keep a consistent conversation with the horse that told him, "Nope, we're trotting," and asked her to think about where her belly button was located and to stay centered around it.

This next bit was a revelation for me. Sinead stood in front of and about 15 feet before a cone. She told everyone that the "Eye for Distance" starts in your core. She then walked to the cone and asked where the cone was relative to her eyes. She returned to her starting point, then walked back to cone while leaning forward. She then walked to the cone while leaning backwards. "What changed?" she asked. My trainer has told me not to lean forward before a fence because it will mess up my eye. I thought I "got" the concept, but it wasn't until Sinead and the cones that I GOT the concept, and how my center of gravity and the horse's center of gravity were tied to seeing a distance.

Excercise 2
The next exercise incorporated a crossrail to a crossrail oxer. First, the riders rode in at the trot and cantered out on 7 strides. Then they cantered in and out on a more open 6 strides, testing the horse's rideability on a more open line after doing such tight precision work over the boxes.

After all riders rode through the line, Sinead had riders who needed to get their horses more attuned to their aids ride the crossrails on a bending 3 to the two angled flower boxes.  This forced the riders to really focus on their Direction and Speed and making sure their horses were responding immediately to their requests.

The riders who needed to work on their positions as related to application of the aids and Rhythm rode the crossrail line around to the parallel flower boxes.

There's a lot more learning to come, however, it seems to me that it makes sense to dilute this into two posts.  So look for more here and on HJU shortly.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

This Could Have Been A Friday Funny...

But a friend sent it to me today and, well, people need a giggle on other days, right?

When we sent Sugar over to High Brass Farm and their aquatic treadmill for rehab, we joked that the Sainted Mare would need drugs and a set of water wings to set hoof on an aqua treadmill (Princess does not like water).  This is pretty close to what I was thinking at the time.

Thanks to Sue for sending this over!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sharing the Love...

In honor of Valentine's Day, and as a way of thanking all of you for taking us into your hearts, Sugar made this for you:

As a special Valentine's day side note, Sug got her very first Valentine today (that I know of, at least).  Her admirer is Tucker, a lovely (and talented!) bay gelding owned by my blogging buddy Marissa.  You may remember Tucker and Marissa from my post about the Eric Horgan clinic.

This morning Tucker posted these on his blog.  Isn't he the sweetest thing? The bees knees? 


Friday, February 10, 2012

Sug's Take On Equestrian Ryan Gosling...

The girls at the barn and I were having a good giggle/drool session over the phenomenon that is Equestrian Ryan Gosling and my blogging buddy Marissa's hysterical riff on it, Equestrian Ryan Reynolds

I'm guessing Sug was paying attention and thought there needed to be some eye candy/fantasy material of the equine sort, because I came home to this:

Dear Mom,

I heard what you and your friends were saying tonight, and you know, you gals aren't the only ones who dream about gorgeous studs who say the right thing at the right time.  So, here's a little something for all the mares out there...

Many thanks to Marissa for the inspiration, and to Sarah Dee and the girls from Dover Saddlery, Branchburg NJ, for the assist -- Bryn, the Jolly Ball comment is a riot!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Powerball Fantasies...

Damn.  I did not win the Powerball drawing last night.  Sigh.  I guess the silver lining here is that means the jackpot's even bigger for Saturday night's drawing, so fingers and toes are crossed.

What would I do with that kind of moolah, you ask?  Maybe not what you'd expect.

Certainly I'd quit my current job, but not to live the life of luxury.  I'd actually like to become a working student. 

No, I swear to you that I haven't been hitting the wine fridge.  If I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted and didn't have to bring home a paycheck, I'd like to apprentice myself to someone and spend my days learning how to become a true horse person.  It would have to be someone nearby, as I couldn't pull the kids out of school.  Although, since we are talking fantasies here, in the summer I'd like to be able to drag the family, the Sainted Mare and the pony, and --oh yeah, we'd need to get a horse for Noah -- go somewhere to work for/train with someone in Europe.  Think one of the Whitakers would take us on?It would be nice to either move closer to the barn or get a small farmette where we could keep the horses ourselves (not the husband's idea of fun,certainly) although the kids would squawk about leaving their friends. 

I'd also love to get a horsebox so I could drive to shows and clinics - to me they look a lot easier to drive than trailers.  I guess, since we're talking fantasy land here, we'd need a small one for local trips and then one of those gonzo people/horse Winnebagos with a bathroom/kitchen/humongo TV/hot tub (kidding) so we could chill in style when we go to away shows.

Since we tend to drop things, I'm not thinking we'll be breaking out the china and crystal in our luxury horse box. Post-show adult beverages will be served in plastic, as always. Also, the kids and the husband are slobs, so I'm thinking we'll need the Scotch guarded leather. We may be rich in this fantasy, but we remain practical.

There would, of course, have to be sizable donations to CANTER, Old Friends, and assorted equine rescues and charities.

Finally, I'd like to breed the Sainted Mare.  Since I could afford to keep her baby, I would not worry as much about contributing to the unwanted horse problem.  Who would be the perfect Sugar-Daddy for Sug?  Hmmm- is there any frozen Libero H lying around??  Numero Uno?  Lux Z?

Would we breed her (she's had 3 already) or get a surrogate as she is older now?  Aaaack --the mind positively reels with pink and blue foal fantasies.  Baby names, anyone?  If it's a girl, how about Sweetness?  Pays homage to Mama Sug and the great Chicago Bear running back Walter Payton. (I'm a big football fan, BTW.)

Probably a good thing there's no chance in Hades I'll be winning the Powerball on Saturday night.  I've clearly gone 'round the bend.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Trainer Translations...

Found this gem on Facebook today, and howled.  Just laughed until I was incontinent.  I think I've heard my trainer say most of these.

Hope you get a kick out of it!

Monday, February 6, 2012

While the Cat's Away, the Mice...Form a Drill Team???

Post-Drill Team refreshments for horse and rider
The month of February is a slow one around our barn.  Typically, our trainer heads to Florida with a few students and those of us who can't make the trip to warmer climes stay home and take it a bit easy.

This year, as our trainer prepared to head south, a few of us were chatting after a lesson one night and one of us said (the culpable will remain nameless) "Wouldn't it be fun to start a drill team?" 

If memory serves, this comment did not come entirely out of the blue.  There had been some discussion of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their musical ride.  One of our members is Canadian, so she may have been the one who planted the seed.  All I know is that an "Isn't that cool?" became a "We could totally do that!" and then it completely fell apart into a "How about we practice Sundays at 10am?"  There may have been wine involved.  I'm neither confirming or denying anything.  There also may have been discussion of setting our musical ride to the dulcet tones of Def Leppard.  Again, the culpable will remain nameless.

So, on Sunday morning Sophie and I headed down to the barn, ready for Day 1 of Altea Drill Team practice.  We prepped like you would expect.  We googled a few RCMP videos on the way down to the barn, checked out a couple of "How to Start Your Own Equestrian Drill Team" sites and a few example drills and pretty much decided to wing it from there.

At this writing our team consists of Sophie on Cookie, Me on Sugar, Libby and Stratego, and Tamsin on Toby.  After we convened at the barn, we discussed basic strategy while warming up with some Dunkin Donuts coffee (Sophie abstained) and a few donuts (Sophie had 3), then decided we'd better get on and warm the horses up as well.  After some WTC (the equestrian equivalent of Jersey Shore's GTL) we commenced trying to follow each other nose-to-tail at the walk and trot. 

This was easier said than done, as we had one GINORMOUS warmblood with a GIGUNDA stride (Stratego), a very large Thoroughbred with a pretty darn big stride, a mostly lazy warmblood mare with a medium stride, and a feisty pony that might have been born with short legs but has the personality of a horse that was born to lead and who was mightily peeved that she wasn't.  I couldn't stop giggling, because while we may have been trying for the RCMP,  I think we looked more like Colonel Hathi and the Elephants on Parade from the Jungle Book.

So we walked nose-to-tail, and trotted nose to tail, following each other in circles and on straight lines, down quarter lines, and across the diagonal, with Tamsin, our leader, exhorting us to "stay in line" or "turn sooner" or "bend to the right!"  Most of it went pretty well, until we started to get fancy.  Then it went to hell in a hand basket pretty quickly so we retrenched and went back to the basics.

You know, this drill team thing is really quite applicable to jumping (what we normally do).  You have to regulate your pace and rhythm. Your horse needs to go forward and come back as soon as you ask it to, and you need be able to turn right and left and ride on a specific line so that you arrive at a specific place under the right set of circumstances.  Who knew, right?  Here's hoping all this fun has a positive effect on my ability to see a distance!

We had a BLAST!  The horses had a blast as well.  It was a change of pace for them and they got to play with their friends.  They also got rewarded with small bits of donut afterwards (Sugar LOVES sharing Mom's Boston Cremes).

Sophie and I have been doing some research, and we think we may ask the others if we can try this pattern next week...

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Funnies, Cause Sometimes You Just Need Them...

I'm totally ripping this concept off from my blogging buddy Marissa, Tucker the Wunderkind's Mom.  I don't think she'll mind, though.  She's a pretty understanding sort and well, knows that sometimes you have to do what you ave to do to get by.

It's been one of those weeks, and ya know what?  I am going to celebrate the end of it with a few laughs, so here goes:

If you're a horsperson and you don't laugh at this, I can only surmise that you are seriously humor deprived or having a worse week than I am, in which case, my thoughts are with you.  Or, you're Steffen Peters (sigh) and have been sitting the trot perfectly since birth.

This one is because I am in the dairy industry, and because I am an angst-ridden over-thinker, and, well, because who doesn't like cows?  Thanks to PartiallyClips for the assist.

And, finally, because I am a girl who loves her chocolate, and because I am an only child who finds it hard to share her chocolate...

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Crazy Week With A Few Smiles Thrown In...

The Soccer Phenom in action in an approved setting

It's been one of those weeks.  You know the kind I'm speaking of -- the kind when a few hours into Monday you're already wishing Friday would hurry up and get here.

Started off with the Girl (aka Soccer Phenom) breaking the TV.  Apparently "How many times have I told you we don't play ball in the house?" really IS a rhetorical question.  Best part about the story is that it happened while we had friends over for dinner.  I heard the thumping while I was cooking, poked my head into the basement doorway and saw the Child with ball in hand. 

"Sophie, how many times have I told you we don't play ball in the house?"  Yep, I really did say that.

"Mom, watch, I can bounce it off my butt!" Do you love it?  The kid totally has a future in sales.  Objection?  What objection?  I don't hear any stinking objection...

Anyway, the ball got put away, but not soon enough.  Half an hour later the kids decided to play the Wii, and came up to tell us the TV was not working.  How we didn't make the connection, I don't know. (Wine, maybe?)  How the 3 boys who were here managed to keep mum about the guilty party's activities is also beyond my ken.  It wasn't until my husband checked on the TV the next morning and the Boy commented, "Wow, I didn't think Sophie had hit it THAT hard with the soccer ball," that all become clear to us.  OK, so good thing the folks at NCIS don't depend on us to crack cases...

On the GOOD side of the ledger this week, my entry was chosen for HillBilly Farms' parody of George Morris' Jumping Clinic.  Sidesplittingly funny!

Also, I was nominated, not once, but TWICE, for the Liebster award! (Thank you, lovely blogging buddies LWilliams at Viva Carlos and  EQUESTRIANATHART!) 

Liebster means “dearest” in German, and the award is intended to help up-and-coming blogs get the attention they deserve. Here are the rules:

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

2. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award

3. Pick your five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.

4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs!

So, I'm passing along the love, and here are my nominees (in no particular order):

1) I Pick Crazy:  I love Emme, the author, and am devastated we don't live near each other, because as I read her blog I can see we'd get up to all kinds of shenanigans together.  Tell me you don't ADORE the picture of her mare, the one with the forelock up in the air.

2) Bob the Equestrian : Bob's accounts of his lessons leave me laughing like a loon and gasping for breath.  Oh, and also wondering where he finds those funny t-shirts. 

3) Tucker the Wunderkind: Marissa was my very first blogging buddy, and I am so thankful I am lucky enough to live by her, so we CAN get up to all kinds of shenanigans.  Reading about her adventures with Tucker, truly the sweetest bay boy imaginable, makes my day.

4) Confessions of an AA Event Rider and Convicted Overthinker: OK, if the title itself didn't drag me in (A fellow overthinker? I'm IN!) the fact that she's got a mare named Sugar would have.  Oh yeah, and the great writing keeps me coming back for more...

5) The Road Apple:  Am a HUGE fan of HillBilly Farms (LOVE their grooming tote!) and expect more hilarity from their blog.  If you are a fan of The Onion, this is the equine version. Plus, my Pop Pop used to call horse poop road apples, so I just love the name.
Heaven knows I could go on, because there are so many blogs I read and enjoy, but the rules say five and it's getting perilously close to work time and I have yet to shower, we'll have to leave it at that.