Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fun Barn Times With the Kiddos...

Not too long ago I wrote a post about the joys of having a little alone time at the barn.  It's true, that's nice, especially when the kids are doing their Bickersons impersonation.

However, today's post is the flip side of that sentiment.  The other day when the Boy and I arrived at the barn he decided that Cookie looked like she needed a little special attention.  Even though Noah is too big to ride her anymore, he has a huge soft spot for the pony he had so many good times with.

He told me he thought she looked bored in her stall, so he pulled her out and groomed her.  I laughed as I heard him kvetching about the knots in her tail - he must have spent at least 20 minutes just picking them out. Cookie basked in the attention, chewing and licking her lips and turning her head to give him little looks conveying pony approval.  After she was groomed to his liking, he took her for a walk in the indoor, looking for all the world like a boy walking and chatting to his very large dog.

All of us went to the barn the next day, and we all fussed over the girls and hung out with barn friends.  Noah rode Sug for a few minutes before I got on, and when he hopped off Sophie and Cookie took the opportunity to play a few minutes of "herd the big brother."

The next time we went to the barn Soph decided it was time for a pony spa day, and gave Cookie a massage and then clipped her, all the while chatting to the pony and telling her all about soccer and school friends. 

These are the little moments I love, the ones I feel so blessed to have.  I'm so thankful to these wonderful horses that allow us to experience these precious times together.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Great Laundry Debate...

Taking advantage of a litle sunshine.
Ahh yes, laundry day.  Time to rid saddle pads, wraps, bandages and the like of equine detritus. 

For some of you, your barn may have dedicated laundry facilities for you to use.  Others may avail yourselves of an equine laundry service.  Some may watch the dirty laundry pile up and fervently hope barn elves will magically clean it overnight.

Or, you may be like me and schlep the stuff home several times a week.  In that case, you might also have a non-horsey significant other who is not exactly crazed about sharing another aspect of their life with a large, hairy, sweaty animal.   They may, in fact, voice this opinion in no uncertain terms.

My SO, sometimes known as PB (my uncle gave him the moniker Poor Bastard soon after we got engaged) decided one day to voice his displeasure about my use of our washer and dryer for my equine laundry.  His chief complaints were the smell and the hair.  Let's just say he picked the wrong day to go toe- to-toe with me.  I pointed out how I use Febreeze every time I do a load of horse laundry, and how I wipe down the washer and dryer with a Clorox wipe after (almost) every load.

I then dragged him up the stairs towards our bedroom, and good ol' PB, the eejit, got that look guys do anytime you head in that direction.  That gleam in his eyes faded when I detoured into our bathroom.  PB had just gotten home from a workout, and there was a load of FUNKY smelling (why do men smell like onions when they sweat?), wet workout clothes on the floor waiting to be taken down to the laundry room.  I drew his attention to the shower, which he'd just used, and the ton of follicular evidence he'd left behind.  I then pointed out a similar level of follicular evidence left in the sink, remnants of his daily shaving efforts.

I did not even need to say a thing.  PB knew it was Game. Set. Match.  Laundry debate over.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Jesus Take The Wheel!

One of my friends, a woman who has had the gargantuan task of training me a time or two, sent me this picture today and told me it reminded her of me.

I totally cracked up.  Spewed my drink on my laptop and everything. 

I may wallop her one when I see her next, but boy, is she ever right on with this one!

(Now I'm wondering if Sug thinks her name is Jesus.)


Monday, September 24, 2012


I was going to write a post about what a nice weekend the kids and I had with the horses, and then I came across this poem posted on Facebook by

This is much better than me nattering on about the kids.  Apologies to all the dudes that read this.  I have full faith, however, that you'll be able to change a few words around and relate.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Little Alone Time...

Normally I'm telling you about what my kids and I are doing at the barn.  Last night I had one of those rare, precious, magical evenings where I got to hang out at the barn sans offspring.


Yep, we are ALL about class!

Seriously, it's not like I don't love my kids, but sometimes they're a real pain in the a$$, ya know?  It's nice to just get in the car and go, with no yelling "There is no earthly need for five costume changes! No one cares what you look like! I am leaving  in 5 seconds and if you're not in the car you're not going to like the direction your day will be going in!"

When I'm solo, no one tells me how to drive, or that they forgot their boots, half chaps, or spurs.  Nor do I need to do the post-ride departure countdown, "We are leaving this barn in 5 minutes. Did you finish cleaning your tack/rolling your wraps/sweeping the aisle/turning out the light?   I don't have to lose my mind and patience as my youngest child fiddle-farts around, talking to the cats, staring at cobwebs, or perfecting her "model pose."  More than one evening has ended with my son and I driving away from the barn with Sophie running behind the car yelling, "Wait for me!" and with me yelling back, "You'd better run faster! I told you we were leaving in 5 minutes and it's not my fault you didn't listen."  Yeah, I know, no Mother of the Year trophies for me.

So last night I rode with a girlfriend.  After our ride we had a glass of wine and chatted a bit while we cleaned up the horses. Actually, we didn't have a "glass" of wine. There were no cups, so we improvised and used the scoops from my friend's supplement containers. Um, possible sign of alcohol problem?  Hell no! It's a sign of resourcefulness!

When she left I pulled the pony out of her stall, groomed her  and loved on her a bit.  I even got ambitious and pulled her mane, which she was less than thrilled about.  She's so cute -- she puts her chin on my shoulder and eyeballs me, with an "I may be small but I could put a hurtin' on you if I wanted to" look on her sassy little face.
Quit yanking my darn hair out, Mom!
Bliss. Big sigh. One of life's treasure moments, some alone time with my girls.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In Today's News: From Horror to Hope In One Fell Swoop...

You know, I can go for long stretches of time without reading the news.  I don't mean to be ignorant, but I'm a pink and blue happy thoughts kind of gal and let's face it, that's not exactly what the news leans towards.

Today I was disgusted sickened outraged incensed horrified to read this:

Horse burned on NW Pa. farm treated at Ohio State

The Associated Press

CENTERVILLE, Pa. -- A horse doused with flammable liquid and set afire at a northwestern Pennsylvania farm last month is being treated at Ohio State University thanks to about $10,000 in donations.

The Meadville Tribune reports Northstar suffered burns over 40 percent of its body when a person who has yet to be caught lit the animal on fire overnight Aug. 25-26. The incident occurred in Athens Township in Crawford County, about 90 miles north of Pittsburgh.

After being treated at a veterinary clinic in Titusville, the horse was transferred to Ohio State's Galbreath Equine Center. The horse is reportedly doing well, but faces about a year's worth of skin graft treatments that will leave the animal scarred and disfigured.

State police in Corry continue to investigate.

Read more here:

I haven't been a practicing Catholic for years, but I'm going to have to go to confession for what I'd like to do to the sick S.O.B who committed this heinous act.  I can't say any more than that, I am so sickened.  What is it that makes people do things like this to other people or animals?

Thankfully I then read this, and some sense of balance was restored to my little corner of the world.

Trooper and officer Preston Gabriele placed first in the uniform division of the North American Police Equestrian Championship last year. Arthritis has forced Trooper to retire from the police force, but he has a new job with the Equestrian Association for the Disabled. (Hamilton Police Service)
Hamilton police horse Trooper gets a new job

By Samantha Craggs, CBC News

Trooper and officer Preston Gabriele placed first in the uniform division of the North American Police Equestrian Championship last year. Arthritis has forced Trooper to retire from the police force, but he has a new job with the Equestrian Association for the Disabled.
For two years, he's patrolled busy streets and packed crowds. Now the faithful police horse named Trooper has a new gig with the Equestrian Association for the Disabled (TEAD).

The eight-year-old Percheron was one of four horses used to launch Hamilton Police Service's mounted patrol unit two years ago. Earlier this year, he developed arthritis, which made him unable to handle the long shifts required of a police horse.

Police services board members voted Monday to donate him to TEAD, where he will join 16 other horses to carry disabled children and adults around a Mount Hope farm.

Preston Gabriele and Trooper. (Hamilton Police Service)It's the perfect job for Trooper, who is renowned for his gentle personality and even temper, said Inspector Scott Rastin.

“Usually it takes a year and a half to have a horse that can function as a police horse, and can go through traffic and disturbances and not be scared,” Rastin said.

“But before Trooper had a year of training, he was on the road by himself. He was that good a horse.”

Trooper has dealt with many chaotic scenes during his time with the unit. He was a common sight during rowdy late nights at Hess Village. He was an important part of the police presence at last year's Occupy protest in Hamilton.

Trooper and officer Preston Gabriele even won first place in the uniform division of the North American Police Equestrian Championship.

Trooper's large size and even temper make him a good fit for TEAD, said board member Patricia MacInnis.

“He sounds like a very gentle boy,” she said. “No horse is bomb proof, but we try to get horses that are as bomb proof as possible.”

Riding horses is good therapy for TEAD's 120 riders, MacInnis said. Riders can feel a full range of movement, in addition to the feeling of liberation.

“When we put our riders on the back of a horse, they are able to feel what like to be an able bodied person,” she said.

The unit is training a new horse. There will be a "name the horse" competition announced soon, Rastin said.
May there always be more Troopers and people who, like him, try to do good in the world, rather than the kind who bring pain and suffering.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Spending the Day With Rodney, George, and Buck...

I have somehow managed to contract a stomach bug and have decided to give myself a break and take a day off from work today.  While I await the loss of 5lbs due to the fun aspects of this illness, I am indulging in a day of DVDs.  Remember when you were young and sick and Mom put you on the couch with a cup of tea and let you watch TV all day?  Well, I'm doing the adult version of that, horse geek style.

While I admit I did indulge in one chick flick (Leap Year), the majority of the day has been spent with my Three Masters:Three Legends DVDs.  The footage was filmed in November of 1998 at the non-profit Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center where Susie Schoellkopf is executive director. The center serves special-needs children and relies on funding from donors. Proceeds from the sale of the series were earmarked to assist in the center's efforts.

There are three volumes with two DVDs in each, 4 hours of footage in each volume for a total of twelve hours all told.  I've watched all twelve hours, but I could watch all them another twelve times and still learn something new each time.  Today I started with Volume Two, Disk Five.  It starts with Rodney Jenkins discussing his thinking on Hunter classes.  Several rider/horse combinations circle Jenkins, and they're not just your average clinic riders.  Nope, the riders in this clinic are Beezie Madden, Aaron Vale, Melanie Smith Taylor, Jenifer Alfano, and Scott Stewart. 

Rodney does not just comment on the rider's position, he does an almost forensic analysis on how it affects the horse.  He teased one rider, calling her Mister Lock-Hands, and told her how her tendency to "grip" a horse with her hands created tension in the horse.  "You grab that horse in the mouth all the time and it gets him upset. Learn to relax your wrists a little.  Yeah, look at that horse!  All of a sudden he came back to you, didn't he?"  Sure enough, there was an immediate and visible change in the horse.  Jenkins then told her to wrap her legs around the horse while keeping her wrists relaxed. "Look where his head came?  See how he got polite with his head?  He got kind in the eyes."  I didn't see the eyes get kind, but I saw the other bits.

Rodney Jenkins recently served as a judge in the
Totally Thoroughbred Horse Show at Pimlico Race Course.
Rodney gave one girl a series of what must have been six instructions on her hand carriage.  By the time she complied with the last instruction, the horse's head had dropped into a much better hunter frame.  Rodney then concentrated on Scott Stewart, saying how everything Stewart does is intense and how he never takes his mind off the horse.  Good thing, right?  Not always, according to Rodney.  He said sometimes horses can't stand that kind of single minded pressure and get upset, and begin to look back at the rider with their ears.  Judges don't want hunters with ears laying back.  Rodney told Scott to take the pressure off by pulling the horse's head to one side a bit to give him something else to look at to refresh his attention and get his ears forward (obviously when the judge isn't looking).

Melanie Smith Taylor cantered by on a grey horse.  Rodney reminded the audience of what he'd pointed out the day prior in the confirmation section - the horse's short, straight pasterns.  He pointed how the horse's weakness behind created a tendency to travel with his hind end to the inside.  He had Melanie perform a shoulder fore to straighten the horse. Rodney agreed you'd never do that in a hack class, but you'd better practice it at home if your horse has the same issue.

Rodney on the great Idle Dice, one of my favorite combinations ever.
Rodney is the first to admit that, for all his emphasis on form, his form was never the best.

Maybe everyone else knows this stuff, but a lot of it was revelation to me.  Rodney pointed out that all of riding "is body position and balance." After all, those would be the aids, right?  He asked the audience to recall an exercises George Morris, one of the other Master Clinicians, had shown in a prior demo.  George had asked riders to purposefully duck on their horse's necks while going over fences.  Rodney asked the crowd, "When he told them to duck at those horses what did they do?  They got flat. George was making the horse jump like the body.  That's the reason all that flopping and ducking makes horses quick."

Rodney asked another rider to bring her shoulder back and then pointed out how the horse stopped stabbing the ground with its front hooves and how it's head came up.  He said that ideally, the flat class should be a prep for the jumping classes, and you don't want a horse with his head so low it's level with the bottom rail of the jump because then the horse will have a poor effort.

Sorry that I'm just rambling on here.  I'm gonna blame it on the tummy bug.  I know I'm geeking out, but I love this stuff.  It's like taking a PhD course in horsemanship.  The stuff I mentioned?  That was all in the first 5-10 minutes of the clinic. That's NOTHING, especially when the clinic progressed into jumping portion.  I rewound the DVD so often to listen to something a second or third time I was lucky it was DVD. Had this been VHS I'd have worn it out.

The set is a bit of an investment, I'll grant you, but if you like this kind of learning, well worth it.  Maybe ask Santa for it?  I'm moving on to Buck Brannaman after Rodney, and am actually hoping I'm sick tomorrow so I can OD on George's segments.

Here's a peek at Rodney back in the day:

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

This Is Why You Should Always Wear A Belt and Carry Peppermints...

Keep 'em handy at all times!
In today's Holy Crap! news, a Boston, Massachusetts area train dispatcher went above and beyond her normal duties when she left her post to chase a horse that was galloping near the commuter rail tracks.

Yep, you read that one correctly.  The horse was galloping near the commuter rail tracks.

Train dispatcher Paula Nicholas saw the horse and began chasing it.  Nicholas told a reporter for the metrodesk that the horse stopped, and Nicholas was then able to use some peppermints she had in her pocket to catch the mare. She then wound her belt around the equine escapee and escorted the horse off of the tracks.

Luckily, the oncoming saw the commotion and train was able to slow down.  Commuters were only delayed 11 minutes.

Seems Nicholas is used to chasing horses, as she has one of her own.  That would explain the peppermints in her pocket.  Bet she wasn't expecting to have to catch a recalcitrant equine during her day job, though.   The report says the mare in question is none the worse for wear and is waiting in a nearby barn for her owner to come get her.

Nice job, Paula!

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Little Million Magic...

Hey all!  I hope you and your ponies have been having a good time of things as summer wanes and we look toward fall.  Anyone got some exciting plans for the fall?

Sug and Cookie got yesterday, Sunday the 9th, off because Sophie had a soccer game and my buddy Libby and I were heading up to Saugerties, NY, Home of HITS-on-the-Hudson to cover the Pfizer $1 Million and $500,000 Hunter Prix. 

Yep, typical horse nutter.  She gets a day off and what does she do?  Go watch other people ride. 

Darn straight I did, and I have the official press accreditation to prove it. (I can't help it, that still gives me a charge!)

Look!  My press badge.  Signed by Canadian show jumper Jill Henselwood, rider of my most favoritely named show jumper ever, Special Ed. (Yep, so much for journalistic aloofness -- I TOTALLY played the geek card!) 

Aaaaaaaaannnnnnnnd  it gets better!! (Or worse, depending how you looked at it). I totally stood in line for the riders' autographs after the press conference.  Was a total hoot.  The average age of the others standing in line? 12.  Then there was me, a teen aged horse nut at the ripe old age of 42.  McLain and Jill thought that was pretty funny.

To read some of my coverage from the HITS Championship Weekend, check out Horse Junkies United:

McLain Ward Is The Million Dollar Man

What’s In A Name? Chatting with Jill Henselwood

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sapphire had a baby!!

The great Sapphire and Topaz, her new foal. 
My daughter greeted me with this news the other morning as soon as I wandered into the kitchen.  As I'd just left my bed and was woefully undercaffeinated her comment made absolutely no sense to me.

"Huh?" was my witty rejoinder.  "What are you talking about?" 

At least, that's what I think I said.  Sophie says what she heard come out of my mouth was more like "Mwahnahschoogenfeld."

"Mom! Sapphire had her foooooooo-aaaaalllllll!"

At this point Sophie gave up, grabbed my hand, and dragged me to the basement family room where she has her Breyer horses set up in what I call Happy Valley Hillbilly Ranch. I say hillbilly as, since we refuse to buy another gi-normous Breyer barn, the child has gotten resourceful and created barns out of whatever is at hand.  As of today's writing, most of the ranch's residents reside in old wine boxes. Not Sapphire, though. She resides in the Breyer barn.  Rank has its privileges and all. But I digress.

The Great One's stall.  With nameplate, of course.

There she was, in the north field, the Magnificent Mare herself and her brand new baby.  I had no idea the mare was even expecting and had a tense moment as I contemplated lack of pre-natal care, however both mother and baby looked quite healthy.  Sapphire was already cantering about her field -- concerned about getting her pre-baby figure back, perhaps? 

"Did you let McLain know?" I asked. For some reason this was all my sleep-addled brain could come up with. You can't see in the picture, but Sophie's Sapphire is autographed by McLain.  If you've been reading AWIP for a while, you'll know I blog for Horse Junkies United as well.  I covered the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair for HJU and, during a embarrassing moment of weakness, ran across  the schooling ring and pretty much tackled the poor man in hopes of getting him to sign my daughter's Breyer model of Sapphire. McLain, ever gracious as he is, signed the model for me and then told me to tell Sophie to "take good care of her."

McLain and me, taken seconds before he called security. 
Just kidding!!

McLain has no idea what he started.  He's created a monster, really, as Sophie has taken his words as gospel.  Sapphire is on a regular grooming and exercise schedule.  All Sophie's horses have a set turn out schedule, however, Sapphire gets the best "field" and is out mostly at night since Sophie feels the bugs annoy her.  Inevitably, once bedtime is announced I'm told, "I need to turn Sapphire out!"  Now, I'm well aware this is a delay tactic of the highest order, but I indulge it because, well, it's Sapphire

Sophie takes good care of Sara (Sapphire's barn name) in other respects as well.  It's well known that Sara loves her Dunkin' Donuts.  Sadly, we don't get to the double D's as often as the big mare would like, but I do bake often. Sara's learned to love chocolate chip cookies, espresso chip cookies, and dark chocolate Kahlua brownies. (Crap! Chocolate is no good for pregant women!  What about preganant mares?) Sophie takes care to feed her only small amounts of these indulgences, though. (I know, as I vacuum up the crumbs.)

We decided to err on the side of caution and removed her brother's Lego Millenium Falcon and Sith Infiltrator out of the back of their field, as from what I understand foals are like children and thus highly accident prone.  Neither of us know anything about caring for or raising foals, so Sophie has pulled out all of her horse books and is reading up on the subject.  She says you always have to do right by your horse, but it's especially important when the horse in question belongs to one of the best riders in the world and he has specifically told you to take good care of her. 

She gets no arguments from me on that point.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Sainted Mare's Halo Slips...

See the outline of the tennis ball?  Threw the ball
for the dog, missed, and hit the mare's butt.  Karma?
Sometimes you just need to get out of the ring.  To my way of thinking, the ring is the equine equivalent of an office cubicle, or school, and I'm a big fan of playing hooky. 

When I rode with a dressage training maaaaaaannnnnny years ago as a teen, we rarely rode in the ring.  We rode out into the neighbor's fields and did all our work there.  Trust me, if you can get a good shoulder in when there's a hay baler or fractious Labrador in the next field over, you're doing something right.

The other night  Libby, Sophie and I decided to warm up with a small trail ride and then do some fitness work in the field next to the barn.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.  Then it wasn't. We came down the one hill and turned left up the next incline.  Stratego was in the lead, with the pony following behind.  I'd shortened Sugar up quite a bit to keep her from running up the pony's backside. 

Sug didn't appreciate this so much, and I guess her competitive nature kicked into gear a bit because she grabbed hold of the bit and took off.  We rounded the turn like Secretariat rounding for home at the Belmont with me clinging on like a burr.  We passed the pony and she was so pleased by this she let loose with a truly hellacious prop-buck-twist-buck sequence that almost popped my eyeballs out. 

It was a rather athletic effort, wasn't it?  I was quite impressed with myself.

Yes, Sugar. While you were impressing yourself, somewhere in the back of my mind I was remembering Jeff Cook's lesson, "Never look down during a buck or you're gonna land there."  So there I was, eyes to the sky (I think) while trying to plant my butt in the saddle (between bucks) and attempting to stop my rambunctious mare.  Bless her heart, she realized Mom was about ready to tip arse over teakettle and settled into a passage-headshake-passage-snort maneuver that was much easier to sit to.

Consider it a "balance assessment."  It's my job to help you evaluate the improvement of your riding, and I was just throwing in a random skill check.

Thanks, Sug.  You're a peach.  I did pull my big girl pants on and trot around the field some more, doing shoulder ins to keep Ms. Full of Herself busy and out of trouble.  I also made sure to position us either alongside the other horses or in front of them, as it seems while she okay not being trail boss at the walk, Madame Mare does not appreciate being left behind at the faster gaits. 

Lesson learned.  You've still got it, Sug, old girl.

Pfffft. I never thought I lost it.