Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Fever!!

Are you feeling it????  Finding yourself getting up at the crack of crazy to watch the live feed of the Eventing competition?  I have been.  Thank heavens I work from home, because this is what my office looks like right now:

Yup, the iPad is live streaming from London while I am chipping away responding to my morning emails and making phone calls.  Just to the right of the iPad you can see the Dressage IS #1 foam finger I got while covering the US Dressage selection trials a few weeks ago.

Olympic fever is alive and well here at Casa Crazy. Horsies in the morning, swimming (my husband and I swam in college) and gymnastics in the evening.  We have a fun drinking game we play while watching gymnastics.  You drink once when they mention Marta Karolyi, and three times when they mention Bela Karolyi.  You drink twice whenever the announcers say Elfi Schlegel or any form of her name.  We also assign drinking values to certain moves, depending on the actual event (vault, pommel horse, uneven bars, etc.)

Seriously, the Olympics makes for good times around my house.  Good thing they only happen every four years.  Go Team USA!!!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympic Pentathlon: A Possibilty?

Olympic fever is alive and well at my house.  My husband and I were swimmers in college, so we always watch as much as we can off the pool action. I will watch any Olympic sport, although of course I have been getting up at o' dark thirty the past two mornings to catch as much equestrian coverage as I can.

The other day the kids and I were joking about what Olympic sport I could possibly still have a shot to qualify for.  God bless Hiroshi Hoketsu and Ian Millar; they give me hope that I'm not to old to dream about an competing in equestrian.  I'd probably be better off if I stopped this jumping silliness and focused on dressage. If I use 71 (Hoketsu's age) as a benchmark, I've got roughly 30 years to practice.

Swimming is out.  I'm not Dara Torres, who at age 43 attempted to qualify for the 2012 Games, which would have been her sixth Olympics. She missed her goal by nine-hundredths of a second (0.09). I was never more than adequate at the sport.  If my team needed an extra body in a relay, they'd throw me in.  Not really the base you want to try and build an Olympic bid on.

Long story short, I decided I might have a shot at pentathlon.  I can swim, I can ride, I can shoot.  I can also run.  I just can't run well.  I used to date a fencer.  That gives me a head start on that, right?? 

Then I saw this video on Horse Nation this morning:

Meh.  Maybe not.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

In the "Holy Crap!" Category: A Jumping Simulator?!?

Yep, I need me one of these!
Today's "Holy Crap!" Category entry comes with many thanks to AWIP commenter fiberchick for bringing this amazing technology to my attention.  She's right, this would be a waaaaaayyy better purchase than that Korean rider/exerciser (seriously, what does one call that thing?) from yesterday's post.

This is the Jumping Simulator from Racewood Equestrian Simulators, a company that began in 1990 when its founder Bill Greenwood developed an Equiciser (now we have a name for it!!) to help a leading jockey stay fit as he rehabbed from an injury.  The company has since developed and patented fully interactive simulators for dressage, polo, jumping, and disabled riding groups.

Racewood's Jumping Simulator can walk, trot, canter, gallop and jump. You can also use the programmable options to tell the simulator to refuse a jump and/or fall. I guess this is a nice option if you happen to be an adrenaline junkie or of a masochistic bent, but really?1?  I'd be using this thing to get my jumping mojo back, not to create additional opportunities for equine-derived injuries, simulated or otherwise.  I guess it would be helpful in terms of practicing safe bail-outs and whatnot, but really, I could down a couple of Bud Lites and find the nearest mechanical bull for that.

The Simulator can be set for Cross Country or Show Jumping, and gathers information from pressure sensors on the reins, stirrups, neck, saddle and legs and displays the feedback for the rider, alerting him to changes in balance or pace.

How cool is this thing???  I'm thinking I just found the perfect Christmas present!!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Finally!! Somebody Believes Riding Is Exercise!

At least I think that's what I'm getting from the video below.  Sadly, I'm not fluent in Korean.  Doesn't matter.  I laughed so hard when I watched this video my drink came out my nose.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Little Laugh at "Horse Show Nerves"...

My barn buddies and I often talk about how we were fearless as kids.  What?  Sent into panic attacks by the thought of a horse show?  Are you crazy?  We'd show our horse, our friend's horse, and that bronc that had hospitalized 3 people and we'd never think twice about it.

Now the very thought of a horse show has us reaching for the Xanax (Valium, wine, insert sedative of choice) and writing lists that are three pages long in hopes of calming our nerves by combating the effects of Adult Onset Dementia.  You know the list I'm talking about.  The one telling you to remember your Xanax, insurance card, show clothes, extra contact lenses, helmet, phone (so you can take a picture of your course), ice bags, Advil, and Ace bandages.

As a "responsible" adult,  we fear everything.  We worry that we're not prepared, that we won't ride well, that our butt looks big in our breeches, or (GASP!) that we'll have one of those dreaded GPS moments and wind up yelling frantically to our trainer, "Which one is it?  Crap!  Which one do I jump next?!"

Yeah, okay, as fears go, it's not the end of the world.  Frankly, getting eaten by a shark ranks higher on my list of crappy things that could happen.  Still, every time there's a horse show you can find at least one of us sitting in the trailer practicing our yoga breathing.

My barn buddies are off to HITS-on-the-Hudson this week.  I'd like to send them off with my best wishes for good luck and good weather, and (hopefully) a little giggle. 

Here's my take on Horse Show Anxiety.  Clearly it's meant for jumpers, but could be appropriate for dressage and eventing with a few tweaks.

(Full credit and apologies to David after Dentist and whoever came up with the Finals meme.)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Not Your Normal Day at the Barn...

The day started out like most of our summer Saturdays: Get up at the crack of crazy and harass the kids through breakfast so we can get out the door to whatever rugby tournament we're scheduled to be at.

Had to pack riding clothes so we could hit the barn afterwards.  It's funny -- the kids play in anywhere from four to six games and yet I'm the one that's exhausted.  Go figure.

So by the time we got to the barn I was toast.  Just not feeling the mojo, ya know?  Then Sophie came up and told me she'd forgotten her paddock boots and half chaps. 

My mind blanked.  My jaw may have dropped open. I could almost see the myriad different responses that were crashing through my head.  Thankfully I was able to (in the words of the immortal Archie Bunker) stifle myself.  We decided that we'd forgo a "real" ride, and just hop on the girls bareback and in our shorts, have some fun, and leave the serious stuff for tomorrow.

Sug and Cookie were totally on board with the idea.  We walked and trotted around the grassy area between the indoor and outdoor rings and around the barn.  Then we went into the outdoor ring and cantered around a bit.  The girls clearly enjoyed the different form of exercise, and both tossed their heads and attempted a few baby bucks. 

It certainly wasn't our normal routine, and we certainly weren't attired in regulation equestrian garb, but ya know what?  Sometimes you just gotta get out of the rut!

Somehow I don't thing George Morris would approve of this!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Awwww Alert. Cute Video of the Sainted Mare.

One of the bestest things about Sug is that she takes such good care of us.  She clearly views me as the Village Idiot, and sees her job as that of minimizing the damage I might inadvertently cause.  She very obviously sees my children as her foals, and you can tell she is determined to co-parent them to the best of her ability.  When we come into the barn, she will nicker at them in her low rumble until the come to her stall and say hello.  When I take her out of her stall, she will stop by the kids and lick them, almost as if she is inspecting them and checking to see if I've kept them in good shape.

I was noodling about watching some of my saved videos and came across this old one.  If you've been following AWIP for a while, you may have seen this before, so I offer my apologies for that.  I just felt like posting it again, as it shows so well why we call Sug the Sainted Mare.

Enjoy, have a great weekend, and again, thanks for taking time out of your day to hang out with us!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Oh, Happy Day! We Can Canter!


Heeeheeeheee.  Giggle.  Grin.  Smirk.  Snort. 

I'm so happy I can't contain it!  If you could see me now I would no doubt resemble Snoopy doing his famous happy dance (sans ears, of course).

After what feels like eons and millenia of rehabbing Sug's injury at the walk and then trot, the Sainted Mare has been cleared for cantering.  WHOOHOOO!

It did not matter that it was 90 degrees and sunny, with a slight hint of Bangkok, by 7AM.  We got to canter!

Mind you, we are only allowed to canter on the long sides of the arena, but heck, it's a start.  We do our 15 minutes of trot (umm, actually, it's actually more like three 5 minutes trot sets ) and then off we go, crazy cantering fools doing 5 minutes of long sides.

Sug is just as excited as I am.  Our canter departs are PROMPT, and usually accompanied by snorts, snaky head shakes and some halfhearted attempts to buck.  She BOUNDS down the long side, with me valliantly half halting and trying to keep her off her forehand.  She somewhat begrudgingly comes back to the trot on the short side, and I have to half halt the bejeezus out of her to stop her from LEAPING into the canter before we get to the long side.  Yep, someone's just as excited about cantering as I am.

Of course!  Cantering is FUN!  Trotting is boring.  Cantering means jumping will come soon. 

Yes, Sug.  Hopefully if things go well, jumping will come soon.

And I did not attempt to buck, half hearted or otherwise.  I was simply rounding my back. Had an attempt been made, there would be no doubts about it.  I did not indulge myself as you are still injured, and clearly not able to remain in the tack during a buck as athletic as mine.  If we are to jump soon, you cannot still be injured.

Thank you, Sug.  You're the bees knees. 

I am.  A reward would be appropriate, I think.  I notice there is a new peppermint jar on the grooming box. Some of those would be nice. 

You can tell Madame Mare is a bit more full of herself than usual. I'm happy about it, as it means she's feeling good. Off I go in search of peppermints!

Hope your trails are happy, and thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Horse Show That Almost Wasn't...

Sophie pats Cookie after a job well done.
Sometimes I wonder if this parenting thing is going to be the death of me.  Really.  You know those mothers that seem completely nonplussed despite the fact that they've got 8 pre-teens running through their yard and dinner to cook and a science fair project to help make?  You know - the mothers who smile serenely and who seem to know the absolute right Dr. Phil/Oz/Spock thing to say when their child is sad or mad or glad or in the middle of a $hitstorm of angst and drama?

I'm not one of them.

The other night, Sophie was overtired from a sleepover the night before and seemed a bit bummed out. While she was organizing her stuff for the following day's horse show, I made a few attempts to find out what was going on.  I used my sweetest, best, most understanding Dr. Phil voice each time.  I swear to you I did.  It didn't work.  She was mute, until all of a sudden she wasn't, and then she was face down in tears on the bed, howling.  Absolutely howling.  The cats peeked in, took one look at the situation and got the heck out of Dodge.

More gentle probing (and by God, I was exhausted at this point) got the kid to spill the beans.  The cause of the drama?  Camp had been "boring", the afternoon snack was "bad", and we didn't get a chance to go to the pool because I "needed to go grocery shopping." 

My brain snapped.  I had a full-on WTF aneurysm. Gone were Doctors Phil, Oz, and Spock.  In their place was the wrath of Mom, and it was a righteous and awesome wrath.  To put it bluntly, Miss Thing got an earful, and I was about half a second away from pulling her out of the show. I don't have a problem doing that; I've done it before. However, a small part of my brain was saying, "She didn't really do anything wrong.  She was tired, you pushed her to tell you what was wrong, and she did. You just didn't like her answer, or the drama that came with it."  So, before I did anything irrevocable, I got my husband's opinion on the matter, and a very rational friend's thoughts as well.  Ultimately, we decided to let her show, but to enforce consequences later by having her do extra housecleaning chores and sit through one of my long winded lectures on "Why what you did was unacceptable: Part XXIII."

She woke up the next morning as her normal self.  She was helpful, respectful, and listened attentively to her trainer and to me.  She said "thank you" whenever people complimented her on her riding or on her pony.  She was considerate of her pony and praised Cookie with many pats after each round.  There was no sign whatsoever of the sulky hell-child of the evening before.  She even bear-hugged her Grandpa and thanked him for coming to watch her show.

Reserve Champion.  Happy child. Tired Po-Po.

Wonderful!  Happy child, happy Mom, happy pony (there were lots of treats and hugs).  She almost had a relapse when we handed her the bucket of cleaning supplies, but took one look at me (I think I might have been drawing in a deep breath in preparation for another Shock and Awe campaign) and thought better of it. 

She went off to clean.  I went off to take a nap.  This parenting thing is exhausting.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


If you've been following AWIP, you might recall from a couple recent posts (this one and this one)  that Sug, the kids, and I are all currently getting physical therapy for various ailments.  Sug's recovering from some inflammation in the branches of her suspensory ligament, I'm dealing with herniated disks and sciatica, the kids both have knee issues and Soph has added upped the ante with an inflamed growth plate in her heel (or Calcaneal Apophysitis, for those of you who like tongue twisters.)

A family that therapizes together...uh, spends a fortune??

Things are slowly progressing.  Soph is not icing as much, Noah has finally been pain free and played in his first rugby tourney (hooray!) and Sug and I are up to 15 minutes of trotting, short and long sides!  Her recovery has been due to the excellent care of our barn owner and vet, and the no doubt (in my mind) to the laser therapy she's been getting from her Aunt Carolyn, my friend and owner of Peak Performance Therapy.  This laser stuff is amazing -- Carolyn's done my back several times and it really helped (although God knows what the neighbors thought, seeing me bent over her ottoman with my pants unbuckled! LOL!)

Sug getting laser therapy from Aunt Carolyn
(Peak Performance Therapy)

The thing is, we're SUPPOSED to be trotting 15 minutes consecutively.  Well, we do try, but the Sainted Mare and I find that a wee bit ambitious.  By the 4th minute we're both sucking for air, dripping with sweat, begging for mercy and ready to call "Uncle."

Speak for yourself.  I could go at least 8 minutes.  Maybe 10 if you'd let me do a slow trot.

OK, Sug. The point is, this getting back in shape thing ain't easy.  We're doing our best, and we do the 15 minutes.  Yes, it's more like 3 sets of 5 minutes, but that does add up to 15 minutes TOTAL.  Then we cool out, she gets her bath and her ice, and I get my BENGAY and my wine.

Here's to baby steps!  Cheers!

Tonight's vino therapy - a lovely New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Just a Horse? I Don't Think So...

Just Hanging - Sug, Soph, and Me
This weekend a friend went through what many of us have at one time or another; the age old argument with a loved one about the time/money/emotional attachment spent on "Just a horse."  Obviously I can't speak for everyone, as each situation is unique and with its own challenges.  One thing I have noticed, though, is that it doesn't seem to matter if the money in question is actually available, or if the time in question is time that the person with the grievance is spending on their own pursuits. 

What I see as the root cause of this classic argument (and remember, I'm not a social worker, psychologist or anything of the kind - the only initials I have after my name are EMBA and MOM) is the emotional attachment that we feel for the horse.  Money and time are convenient, and often legitimate, complaints, but I'd bet dollars to donuts that in most cases the real issue at hand comes down to "You love that horse more than you love me." 

I see it this way:  I don't love "that horse" more than I love you.  I love you better because I love "that horse." My girls, bless their hearts, teach me the patience I need to raise better children and allow my husband to live to see another day.  When I experience training issues with Sugar, I am learning  to take a step back and assess the situation and ask, "Is it me, or her? Am I explaining what I want clearly?  Is she being naughty, or is she confused?"  That moment of analysis allows me to regroup and present my request differently, and that usually produces the correct reaction from Sug, or suggests a new tack to take to get where we want to go. 

That technique, when applied to my children or husband, means that instead of shrieking "What in the HELL were you thinking??" (my default mode) when they do something I find unacceptable, I can pause, take a deep breath, and ask "Did that work out the way you hoped it would?  No?  Why not? What do you think you could have done differently to get a better outcome?"  That fosters calmish discussion, which engenders trust and models patience and more mature way of handling difficult situations for my loved ones.  Does this work perfectly all the time?  Nope.  But it happens more often than not, and it happens because of  lessons I learned from"that horse."  Not because of all the therapy and the self help books (which, by the way, cost a lot of money and take up a lot of time.)

So, when people in my life (never my kids -- my kids "get" it) have questioned the amount of money/time/love I devote to "Just a horse," I show them this video, created by ohsoawesome12 and based the poem below.  I think sums it up quite nicely. 

'Just a Horse'

From time to time, people tell me, “Lighten up, it’s just a horse,” or “That’s a lot of money for just a horse”.

They don’t understand the distance traveled, the time spent or the costs involved for "Just a horse."

Some of my proudest moments have come about with "Just a horse."

Many hours have passed and my only company was "Just a horse," but I did not once feel slighted.

Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by "Just a horse," and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of "Just a horse" gave me comfort and reason to get over the day.

If you think it’s “Just a horse,” then you will probably understand phrases like “Just a friend, “Just a sunrise,” or “Just a promise.”

"Just a horse" brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy.

"Just a horse" brings out the compassion and patience that make me a better person.

Because of "Just a horse" I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future.

So for me and folks like me, it’s not “Just a horse” but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.

“Just a horse” brings out what’s good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.

I hope that someday they can understand that it’s not “Just a horse” but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being “just a woman.”

- Jess Schwarcz

Friday, July 6, 2012

Function Follows Form. Who Knew??

You know those Conformation Clinics they do in just about every equine publication?  The ones where you have to pick the horse whose confirmation best suits a particular job?  I suck at those.  Never fails.  I never pick the right horse.  Worse yet, I simply cannot see half the stuff the author tells me is wrong with the horse.  She'll say one horse has really long pasterns, and the horse that beat it has great pasterns, but the winner's pasterns will inevitably look 2" longer to me. 

I bring this up because confirmation faults have bitten me in the tuckus in both my equine life AND my personal life.  It comes as no surprise that Sug's upright pasterns predisposed her to osteoarthritis in her coffin joints.  She's a bit tied in behind the knee, which could have contributed to our current issues with suspensory branch  inflammation.  If we ever decided to breed her (she's very well bred and was a broodmare in her past life) we'd have to choose a stallion with excellent leg conformation in hopes of getting a foal with better legs.

What is surprising me at the moment is that recent events with my kids suggest I should have put more thought into my own stallion selection.  My stallion  husband has lousy stifles knees and hooves feett .  Oh, yeah, and a slight curvature of the spine. Both my kids are in physical therapy for knee issues that are directly related to poor knee structure.  Both also have faulty foot alignment that leads to uneven gaits that cause heel pain in the one and compounds the knee pain in the other.  Thankfully their backs are strong and straight.

I am currently in physical therapy as well (cue Sly and the Family Stone's, "It's a Family Affaaaaiiiiiiir...) but my problems stem from old injuries, not poor conformation.  As a broodmare, I bring crappy teeth and poor eyesight to the gene pool.

The stallion in question, for all his conformation issues, is in great shape, active as heck, and is the only one of the lot of us that is not in PT, mainlining supplements, or getting regular massages and/or chiropractic.  Unless you count the cats.

Go figure.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

And Today's Fantasy Is....

CHIO Aachen.  Aachen, Germany. 
Umm, yes please, I'd like some of that.

I've been watching CHIO Aachen this morning and have come to a conclusion. At least once before I depart this earth I would like to jump around a course at Aachen.

Mind you, the fences would have to be muuuuuuuuuucccchhhhhh smaller.

Do you think they have an Itty Bitty Jumpers class at Aachen?

And the Sainted Mare's boo-boo would have to be 100% healed.  That goes without saying.

But as far as Bucket List items go, it's not a bad one, don't you think?

If money and jobs and all that other crapola that normally gets in the way was not a factor, where in the world would you most like to ride? 

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Soul of an Animal...

A week or so I wrote a post about how sometimes I'm shocked by the fact that Sug is not human.  You'd think the 4 legs, tail, and rather large, facile ears would have clued me in, but it is what it is.  She's such a dear friend and partner that I forget she's an equid, not a hominid.  Many of you replied to that post saying you felt the sme way.
So of course I had to share when I saw this on Facebook this morning:

This adorable critter looks very much like my own furry pal Dreidel, so it tickles me on a couple levels.

Have a wonderful day, and thanks for being a friend of AWIP!