Monday, April 30, 2012

One Fence, Two Fence, Red Fence, Blue Fence...

What I CAN do, when I'm not saying "Oh Crap!"
Although I am thinking "Oh crap,
why is my butt in the saddle?"
Sometimes in order to progress it's necessary to take a step back. I f you've been following AWIP for a while you know I've been dealing with some fear issues, have been working with a mental performance coach (Sommer Christie) in order to move past them.

One of the things we thought might help me get past the "Oh Crap" refrain that goes off in my head when I jump courses would be to concentrate on jumping small single fences or elements (combinations) rather than entire courses. When I rode in a Jeff Cook clinic a month or so ago, he recommended the same thing.

The thinking behind this is that by having me concentrate on "bite-size" goals, such as maintaining my rhythm and pace over small fences, and achieving successful repetition over small "scary" fences like oxers and triple bars and triple combinations, I will build my confidence to the point where tackling a course won't be overwhelming - it'll just be a bunch of single jumps strung together.

I had a heart to heart with my trainer who, bless her heart, was okay with this plan. The last couple of lessons have been great. It started with one where during our flatwork she had me lengthen Sug's canter, making sure I kept her in the bridle. Something clicked and Sug gave me the most AMAZING canter. My trainer said, "Yes! That's the canter you want to go down to a jump with!"

Huh?? What? This is the canter? This particular one?  Where has it been? How the heck is it that am I only grasping this now??  It's sorta like the magic canter I got in the Eric Horgan clinic, but a bit more powerful and maybe a touch faster, without being fast.  Maybe the word is impulsion?  I wasn't allowed to stew, as my trainer told me to come around and head to a vertical off the right lead while maintaining the canter.

I maintained the canter, and Sug stayed round and cantered ebulliently down to the jump, which we took in stride.  We did the vertical a couple times in both directions, and got pretty darn nice distances every time.  Then we took on a 5 stride line.  I kept the canter, but got in a little bit deep.  She was able to jump pretty easily even still, and moved right up off my leg to get the 5 strides with no problem.  Wow!  Mistakes are a lot easier to fix when you've got a little power underneath you.  Who knew??

So we've had a couple more lessons since then, jumping onesies and twosies and working on my rhythm and the canter, and the ability to adjust her stride. Which, by the by, is a lot easier when she's in the magic canter. Again, who knew? 

A funny thing happened.  One of the fences my trainer asked me to jump was teeny tiny, and for the first time EVER I asked her to raise the height of a fence.  That's the beauty of this going backwards thing.  I'm not scared of the fences, I'm having fun, and for the first time I actually WANT to jump bigger.  I actually ASKED to jump a triple combination!!!  Whoop Whoop!  Go ME!  Now, I'm not saying I'm ready for a 3' course yet, but heck, I'm moving in the right direction.

I'll keep you posted on how we progress. 

Thanks so much for reading!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Nice Digs....

If this place has a barn I'm all in.  Although I'd imagine you need a couple people and a pulley system to haul up groceries,laundry, and such.  I'd be willing to make the sacrifice, as long as there's a barn and a clearing where I can ride.  And wireless access for USEFNetwork and FEItv. 

I imagine one would get quite fit going up and down all those stairs.

Finca Bellavista is a residential treehouse community in the south Pacific coast

Friday, April 27, 2012

TGIF. Finally.

Oye.  It's Friday morning, my first day back in the office after a week out traveling on business, and I've got that post-travel hangover when 3 lattes just doesn't cut it. 

Thus, today's post will be simple.  At some point I will share with you some thoughts from my recent mental performance coaching session.  Just not today, as I doubt I can coax any type of mental performance from my fried brain.

So, Friday funnies it is!

I love this photo.  It's a fantastic shot, but also reminds me of the Sainted Mare's feeling about water.  She's not a fan.  At all.  We had a moment like this at the river near our first barn.  Involved a LOT of creative vocabulary on my part.

No discussion necessary for this one.  It's just cute as heck.

Same thing here.  I know it's not horsey, but still.  FUNNY!!!!

And this is the Sainted Mare's vote in the This Horse Should Be Sainted category.  She's had to save my butt often enough that she likes to recognize other equines who, through no fault of their own, are put in the position of having to extricate themselves and their riders from difficult situations.

DRUMROLL, PLEASE.  (And thanks to my friend Joanne Murphy, who shared this on Facebook.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

And Now, A Fitness Message From Bob Goddard...

I'm in a cheeky mood today, flushed with success as this morning was the first morning in eons that I've been able to do a REAL workout (cardio, weights, and core.)  Between the back issues and bronchitis, working out and fitness have hit the back burner. In a word -- OUCH!  But in a good way. I say that now. No doubt tomorrow I'll be singing a different tune.

You can imagine how nice it was to find a post from one of my favorite blogging buddies that shows many of us are in the same boat, especially with respect to that annoying body part commonly called "the core."  Bob Goddard, author of Horse Crazy and blogger-in-residence on Bob the Equestrian, has graciously allowed me to re-post his recent reflections on the ever-import core and its importance to equestrians here on AWIP. 

Enjoy!  Thanks, Bob!

The Belly Wars
by Bob Goddard

Over the last ten months, I’ve discovered that an equestrian career involves much more than just showing up for lessons. Once you get on the main path, you begin to discover that the path is actually a complex network of trails involving your mind, body, checkbook and – if you will – soul.

Well, at least your “core”.

I’ve heard a lot about this “core”. How important it is. How a rider should use it. Why it should be strong.

I’m just not exactly sure what it is. I figure it’s gotta be something in the middle, right? Probably centering on your belly region and extending to the neighboring body parts.

I’m worried that I don’t have a core. That my core has been devoured by a Greedy Gut, having its own way and dominating the region like an overconfident hegemon. Years of bad habits and a reduced metabolic rate have created this Body Part Bully who blocks my progress down the Golden Path of Equestrian Glory. It mocks me. It dares me. When I stand up, it looks like it my toes grow out of it. There will be no photos in today’s post.

Well, if Greedy Gut wants a fight, its got one: Jenny signed us up for a class on Core Strengthening.

Actually, the Belly Wars have been going on for some time now. I dropped 20 pounds in the months prior to the start of my equestrian career last year. Then, in a powerful winter offensive, Greedy Gut regained half of its lost territory. And the jods sit folded in the front closet.

This is our counter-offensive. The class begins in June. That gives me two months to lose the 10 pounds I gained during the hibernation months. Then let the strengthening begin.

This is war.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Captain America and the Comeback Kid...

When Rich Fellers galloped into the ring on Flexible, the show jumping audience filling the Brabanthallen held its collective breath.  The handsome Fellers, with the American flag emblazoned on his helmet, and his diminutive 16 year-old stallion were on the very edge of making an unlikely Cinderalla story come true.

The talent filled German team were the arguable favorites coming in to the 2012 Rolex FEI World Cup Final.  The Dutch had the advantage of home turf.  Rolf-Goran Bengston, reigning European Champion and #1 in the Rolex Rankings, was also competing.  The white haired American and his catty little stallion were hardly the oddsmakers' favorite to take home the title.

Luckily Rich Fellers and Flexible don't pay much attention to the oddsmakers.  Twice over the course of Flexible's career Rich has nursed Flexible back from potentially career ending injuries (a blocked main leg artery in 2003 and a badly damaged shoulder after a fall into a ravine in 2006).  Each time Flexible has come back to competition, and no doubt the bonds forged during those times have been a great part of their ensuing success.  As Fellers said after his win, "He’s like a pet, I love him and he loves me, we have a great relationship and we know each other very well.”

The pair have won numerous Grands Prixs, and have also enjoyed success at the World Cup before, coming in second in 2008 and winning the opening speed leg in Geneva in 2010.  Rich and Flexible repeated that feat this year as well, besting 37 starters over Dutch designer Louis Konickx's challenging course on Day One.

So, cue the spotlights for the jump-off on the final day.   Here's your Cinderella story, a plucky horse and a rider so nice and respected by his peers that when he was in danger of not making the Finals in 2009, not one but two riders (Will Simpson and Jill Humphrey) declined their berths in favor of Rich and Flexible.  The arena was poised on the edge of their seats: Could the oldest horse in the competition dig down deep and produce yet another clear and fast round against Switzerland's Steve Geurdat, a well known speed rider on a younger horse?

Flexible, who may be smaller than many of the gargantuan warmbloods he regularly competes against, is amazingly agile over the fences and extremely fast across the floor.  Fellers went second, and knew that if he rode a plan similar to that of Geurdat, 8 strides to the penultimate fence, his stallion's quickness would give him a good chance to beat the Swiss pair.  The American team raced around the course and galloped the last eight strides to the final fence.  Flexible leaped into the air one last time, and landed with the rails in the cups as the timer stopped at 25.97, .64 seconds faster than the Swiss duo.

The crowd at the Brabanthallen, who know good show jumping and good horsemanship when they see it, responded to the gallant pair's efforts by giving them a rousing standing ovation. 

Congratulations to Rich, to Flexible, to Flexible's owners Harry and Mollie Chapman, and to Team Flexible.  It couldn't have happened to a nicer or more deserving team.

Please take a few minutes to enjoy Rich and Flexible's jump off, and the ensuing awards presentation, courtesy of .  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Stuff You Won't See Me Wearing Around the Barn or in the Show Ring...

I see myself as being pretty conservative in terms of my personal sartorial style.  Nobody looks at me and says, "Oh yeah, she's fashion forward!" A colleague once called me a WASP-Talbots-Ann Taylor-T-shirt-and-Levis kind of gal.  Sounds a bits schizophrenic, maybe, but pretty much sums it up.  I'm either in classic business clothes, or jeans.  End of story.

Oddly enough, around my barn, though, I've gotten a bit of a "blingie" rep, which I don't quite get.  Okay, so I have a mare and I have indulged in the occasional pink or pink ribbon-trimmed saddle pad or purple stable blanket.  And yes, her Sanswill Designs jumping bonnet does have a bit of (tasteful) bling, but other than that, I wouldn't say we were outrĂ© or anything.

I mean, it's not like the Sainted Mare or I will be showing up to lessons or shows rocking any of these looks.  Mostly because we simply couldn't pull it off.  Some people can, and look amazing doing it.  We just couldn't.  Best to know your limitations, right?

Gotta love the folks at Hermes.  They make a heck of a product. This may be going a touch too far though.  Are the wings supposed to give you a little extra lift over the big oxers?  The Sainted Mare gave this a "hoof down."

A big "shout out" goes to the folks of the Chronicle of the Horse.  They are lucky enough to be at the Rolex World Cup in s'Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, and posted these pics from the trade fair on the Photos & Video section of their site.   

These saddles look way cool.  I mean, snakeskin just says "I'm a Badass", doesn't it?  However, I'm pretty much guessing you'd need to be a professional to stay in the tack, though, as I doubt there is enough Sit-Tite spray in the world to keep my amateur tuckus in these saddles.

THIS saddle does not say "Badass" on any level.  'Nuff said.

God bless Anky Van Grunsven.  Amazing rider, great mom, AND savvy business woman to boot.  Likes all colors of the rainbow, as well.  Let's just say I'll be steering away from the brighter colors in the ANKY Technical Casuals collection.  SPANX doesn't make anything strong enough for me to go there.

Seriously, put me in those yellow puppies, strap a retractable Stop sign and some flashing red lights on me and I'd resemble what my blogging buddy Confessions of an AA Event Rider would call the "Double Wide Short Bus."  Lord have mercy!

Anybody need a little bling for your jumping boots? If I tried slapping a pair of these on Sug, I think my trainer might slap me.

Speaking of legwear, how about these?  I honestly can't decipher how I feel about the chaps.  I'm pretty sure I'd be laughed out of the barn if I wandered in wearing these, but I'm strangely drawn to them.  I absolutely LUST after the boots, but would never dream of wearing them at the barn. 

Who am I kidding?  I'll never wear either of these to the barn.  I'd have to sell the horse and cash in the kids' college funds to afford them. 

And in the Oddly Named Item of Clothing category, check out this Men's breech from Italian textile giant Animo.  It's called the Muffin.  Umm, that may be a FAIL on a couple of levels.  As in, muffin top is never attractive, unless on an actual muffin.  And could you ever wear these without hearing "Do you know the Muffin Man, the Muffin Man, the Muffin Man?" in your head all day?  Just sayin'...

Yep, boring as it may be, I'll be sticking to my plain old breeches and polo shirt, thank you very much. 

Carry on!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Badminton Bound and Bronchitis...

Kristin and Joey doing their
thing at The Fork

Somewhere in my travels in cheese-land last week I managed to pick up bronchitis.  Boo Hiss.  Blech.  And since I'm climbing right back on a plane for a business trip next week, odds are good I'll get over this just in time to pick up something new. Oh Goody! 

However, before succumbing to the plague I was able to run on down to Four Star International Eventer Kristin Schmolze's Everbreeze Farm and interview her for Horse Junkies United before she and her perennially young 17 year-old partner Cavaldi (aka Joey, the Face of Five Star Tack) head across the pond to the Badminton Horse Trials at the end of the week.

How did I get so lucky, you ask?  Proximity, really, and a few connections.  I board my horse about 5 minutes from her farm, and last summer my daughter and I participated in an Eric Horgan clinic held at Kristin's farm in Califon, NJ.  Kristin and her groom Vanessa couldn't have been more helpful or hospitable. They both complimented me on The Sainted Mare, which of course predisposed me to liking them immediately, but when they gushed over my daughter and her pony...well, let's just say I'd walk through fire for either of them.

So when I heard Kristin was heading to Badminton and needed to raise funds to help with the ENORMOUS costs (think SUV, or whopping college loan) well, it was a no brainer to say, "Hmmm, maybe the Horse Junkies United community and my AWIP friends can help!"

How lucky am I?  Hanging with
Joey and Bailey, Kristin's dog.
You'll be able to read the entire story about their amazing partnership and their dream of competing at Badminton on Horse Junkies United this Friday, 5/20, but in a nutshell, Kristin has always wanted to compete at Badminton.  It's any eventer's dream.  Joey is her horse of a lifetime, and at 17, this is most likely his last shot at doing Badminton.  Kristin and Joey have grown up together, and she can't imagine taking this step and making her dream come true without her best friend, the friend who has had such a large part in shaping her into the rider she is today.

Kristin's friends have organized a Badminton Bound 2012 fundraiser to help her offset some of the mega expense that is part of realizing the dream of sending Joey to Badminton. If you are able to and would like to help Kristin by donating, please visit and scroll to the bottom of the Badminton Bound post.  I did. I might never ride around Badminton, but in a few weeks, I'll have had a tiny part in the journey of someone who has.

If you have an FEITV subscription, you can catch the Badminton Cross Country phase on Sunday, May 6th.  Check back with FEITV for times.  I'm hoping I'll be lucky enough to catch Kristin and Joey tearing up the track.

Kristin and Joey Show Jumping at PTF 2011

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

For Sale or Lease...

Now, I'm not in the market for a horse, but like most horsey folks, I can't help but look at the sale ads posted in magazines, at tack stores, or at horse shows.  It's an addiction, but on the scale of 0 - Crackhead, I figure it's a pretty innocuous one. 

This particular ad caught my eye as I was heading up the stairs to register my daughter for her classes at the Four Seasons horse show last Sunday.  I glanced at it as I walked by, did a double-take, and stopped to get a better look.  Three seconds later I was laughing my butt off and trying to avoid being incontinent. 

Alaskan Warmblood?  Custom bridle included?? Reserve Champion 2010 "Top Guns of the Tundra" All Breed Show?  Sadly outgrown at 19.3hh!!  BWAHAHAHAHA!!!!  This was AWESOME!

Of course, while I was laughing my head and offering mental kudos to the comic genius that created it, part of me was thinking, "Gee, I wish my mare would get her knees up like that."

"If you would stop jumping up my neck, I certainly could!" is the Sainted Mare's pithy response.

Sorry, Sug.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sometimes the Best Horse Shows Are the Worst Ones...

OK, I know what you're asking.  "Have you been hitting the vino again, Amy?"  The answer to that would be NO, although I might contemplate having a glass at some point.

Yesterday was the Pony Jockey's first horse show of the season, the Four Seasons show at Duncraven Stables in Titusville, NJ.  We spent Saturday primping and polishing the pony, making a last minute run to Dover (how is it possible for a child to grow so quickly and to lose so dang many gloves??) and then on Sunday morning we got up at o' dark hundred to make the hour-long drive to the show.  Luckily the impending rain was holding off, so we considered that a good sign. 

Silly us.  Cookie, normally the most reliable of ponies, a pony who considers herself a Very Important Horse Show Pony, was apparently not in the mood to horse show yesterday.  She's entitled to not be in the mood.  We all get that way sometimes. 

Here's what happened: We were entered in Pre-Children's Hunter and Equitation: My trainer had Soph and Cookie school for only a little while as the footing in the schooling ring wasn't optimal. Since Cookie is older and had broken her splint bone, my trainer likes be conservative and save her legs for the classes.  No arguments there.  The footing in the outdoor ring was a bit sticky from some earlier rain, and my trainer told Sophie she'd need to ride with some real impulsion to help Cookie get over the fences.  Soph rode in, and promptly forgot her instructions. They got to fence number 2, an oxer with yellow flowers, and the pony, realizing her pilot was asleep at the wheel,  said, "No, thank you very much" and ducked out left.  She did that twice more and they retired.  The good news was the child didn't seem upset or mad at the pony -- which made me quite happy.

Re-evaluating the strategy
So, for round 2, our trainer instructed Sophie to ride up more, add more inside leg, and use an opening outside rein to hold Cookie on the right track.  Well, Cookie is not usually a stopper, but she's also no dope, and by now she'd decided that she saw herself a quick way back to the trailer and her hay.  Three drive-bys past the same oxer out they went, Exit Stage Left. Off went pony, child and trainer to the schooling ring.  Luckily the child was still fine about the whole thing, no anger at the pony, no tears.  Just  an "Okay, we have a problem to fix" kind of attitude.   I was trying to take notes, as I'm not sure I'd have been as composed..

By now I'm a bit worried that there's something wrong with the pony.  My mare is not a stopper, but if she does, it's usually a sign that something hurts.  So while they schooled I prayed to the Horse Show gods that the pony wasn't hurting somewhere.  I'm a natural worrier, so I was envisioning catastrophic breakdowns, MRIs, career ending injuries.  My husband took one look at me and told me to stop, that the pony was just testing Soph. (Not inconcievable, as Cookie's a very smart pony and does not see why she should be doing all the work if her pilot is daydreaming away up there.)

It seems Cookie was not in pain, just in a mood.  My trainer suggested menopause, as Cookie is 16 now.  No matter, because for round 3 Soph clearly had her head in the game and rode like her life depended on it.  That pony not only had pace, she was going around that ring like her tail was on fire!  As they approached the bogey fence, Soph held her inside leg on the pony like an iron rail and held a wide opening outside rein, and about 4 strides from the fence she went to the stick like a jockey coming down to the wire on Derby day.  Needless to say Cookie said a firm "Yes, Ma'am" and cleared that fence like she'd never even thought of going by it.
Finally! Over the bogey fence.

Needless to say the pony knew we were on to her tricks and had found herself an engine, and it was in full gear. The next couple rounds were a bit brisk, to say the least, and gave Soph a few real good opportunities to "cowgirl up"  and learn to stick the long ones.  God love her, she came out of the ring with a huge grin on her face, patting her pony for a job well done.  'Did you see how fast we were going that time?" she asked.  Last I checked, neither Hunter or Eq rounds were judged on speed, but so what, the kid and the pony were now having fun, and that's what matters.

So in terms of ribbons won, it was not the best of days (although we did get a few ribbons). In terms of lessons learned, though, it was definitely a banner experience.  A year or two ago a day like that would have sent the child fetal.  Now she grins through it and tells her pony she's a good girl.  She learned to gut out a difficult round, make the best out of some lousy spots and get over them and move on to the next fence.  She learned she could stick with a pony that was being less than perfect, and if that isn't a confidence builder, I don't know what is.  Most importantly, to my way of thinking, she clearly showed that the ribbon was not what mattered, rather it was the time spent with one's pony and the experience of learning together that was.

Way to go, kiddo.  Momma's proud of you.

The humans are happy, but Cookie's
still wondering where her hay is.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

More Equestrian Hugh Jackman...

My daughter has a horse show tomorrow and as you know, that means a less than ideal alarm clock setting.  It also meant a last minute stop at Dover as the child is growing like a weed and we needed a show shirt and new gloves, STAT!

The hubby is not happy.  I get it, nobody enjoys spending money like it's going out of style.  Nobody likes getting up at o'dark hundred either, especially on a weekend. (Then again, maybe somebody shouldn't have stayed so late at Poker Night. Just saying...) 

So that gave me inspiration for more Equestrian Hugh Jackman.  Enjoy!  Lord knows I did!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sadness Hits the Horse World Times Three...

Amy Tryon and Poggio II
I was sitting in the Milwaukee airport waiting to board my flight home and idly checking Facebook to pass the time.  The first post that caught my eye evoked a gasp and caused to sit bolt upright, startling the girl sitting next to me.  "What happened? Somebody die?" she asked. Possibly not the most sensitive thing she could have said, especially as the answer was yes.

 Eventer Amy Tryon was 42 when she slipped away in her sleep yesterday.  That's my age.  I've always enjoyed following Amy's career, and loved how she seemed like such a "regular" person, despite her success.  Almost blue collar, if that makes sense.  My Dad was a volunteer firefighter, so I could relate to that part of her life as well, and how could anyone fail to be moved by Poggio's story?  Mountain trail horse to world class eventer?  That's the stuff movies are made of.  Add to that the devoted and supportive husband, firefighter and Team SmartPak blogger Greg Tryon, and well, it was a bit like a fairy tale.  Isn't it odd why some people and their stories just seem to grip us?  This was one of those for me.  So very sad and sorry to hear of this loss.

US Show Jumping Chef d'Equipe
George Morris
I was still trying to wrap my mid around the loss of Amy Tryon when I scrolled down and saw the USEF release announcing George Morris' diagnosis of prostrate cancer. 

?!?!?!?!  Has the horse world tilted on it's axis today? 

Started sending thoughts skywards, asking the PowersThatBe to offer healing and solace to all those who need it right now. Hoping the fact that I was in a plane at this point and at 10,000 feet and climbing helped my messages get through.

John Quirk
When I landed I checked Facebook again, just to see if there was any more news.  Kinda sad that I get my news from FB, not CNN or NPR, but there you have it.  Was absolutely gobsmacked to read of the passing of John Quirk, husband of breeder Tish Quirk, former publisher of HORSES magazine, and perhaps the most driving force behind getting the Rolex World Cup event to Las Vegas.  Without John's efforts, many North Americans might never have had the opportunity to see the likes of Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Albert Zoer, Marco Kutscher, and Ludger Beerbaum.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected.  I gave my loved ones an extra hard hug when I got home last night, and am looking forward to seeing and hugging my mares tonight, and letting everyone know how blessed I am to have them in my life.

BTW, before I forget, thank YOU for being in my life.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Getting Old Bites. Oh Yeah, and Equestrian Hugh Jackman...

My medical war chest...
You know, I'm starting to feel like old food.  Just a bit past the old Sell By date, you know?  Mostly I'm okay with it.  I can deal with the wrinkles, the crappy eyesight, the fact that I could have given birth to most of the people I work with.  I can handle the fact that my legs look like a road map and certain parts have migrated in a distinctly southerly direction. Think Southern Hemisphere.  Chile, perhaps. Or Argentina. But I digress. 

That's another thing.  I can deal with my mind going. I can.  What I can't seem to deal with is the creaky, ouchy,  gimpy, EVERYTHING FREAKING HURTS part of getting older.  Seriously, between the messed up back, the wrecked shoulder and the muscle spasms just about everywhere, I'm about a nanosecond away from being humanely put down! 

I just took a good gander at what it takes to get me through a day and darn near passed out.  Ice pack, TENS Unit, Ben Gay lotion, Ben Gay patches, Tiger Balm, various pharmaceutical assistance in the form of NSAIDs and muscle relaxants, heating pad, and um, yeah, WINE.

While I was having a bit of an internal meltdown over this, the husband came in and asked my plans for getting the kids to their activities and oh by the way, what was for dinner?  (Why do they always do this at the precise moment it's least safe for them to do so?  Why? )  For some reason this got me thinking of what I'd REALLY wish he'd say, which got me thinking about the whole Equestrian Ryan Gosling/Equestrian Ryan Reynolds thing.  Which is great, but you know, both of them are a bit young for me, and while I'm all for the whole Mrs. Robinson thing, what I'd really like is a mature, family oriented, relationship-stable gorgeous dude who totally understood the horse thing as well as all the other crap I have going on in my life.

Enter Equestrian Hugh Jackman!

Now THAT's what I call a fantasy!

Chicks and Bunnies and...Hippos? Happy Easter!!

Hi all!  It's the night before Easter, and we've had our egg coloring marathon and annual viewing of It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown!  Seriously, we don't do holidays if there isn't a corresponding Peanuts movie to go with it. 

The kiddos are off to bed and dreaming of baskets filled with Hersheys Kisses, chocolate bunnies, Cadbury Eggs, and Reeses Peanut Butter Eggs.  Mommy doesn't have to dream about them -- Mommy is eating them now. (They won't miss what they never had, right?)

Anyway, saw the cutest thing on the way to the barn today and wanted to share. The heck with the Easter Beagle, now we have the Easter Hippo!  (The local vet hospital has the hippo on their lawn and dresses it up for the holidays.)

Have a monumental Easter!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

See, I'm Not Crazy. This Mental Stuff is IMPORTANT, Especially for Amateurs!

As you may know, I've been working with a mental coach and trying  to deal with some fear issues I've had.

Working with Sommer Christie has really made a difference for me over the past couple of months.  She's helped by giving me tools to work with so I'm much less likely to go fetal when something goes wrong on course.

Mental performance coaching is not just for the elite level athlete (clearly, I am not an elite level athlete.)  Amateurs can definitely benefit from this kind of work.  In fact, I would argue we need it as much if not more than professional athletes do.  After all, they are more used to risk or competition nerves or distration than we are.

Horse Junkies United recently posted this fabulous interview/video of Guru/Canadian eventing Coach David O'Connor being interviewed by Stepahnie Rodes-Bosch.  The topic?  Getting ammie riders to the instinct level and improving their mental game.  (Click to read Part 1: How Winners Are Made.)

Check it out!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bernie Traurig Clinic Report Part Two: "You Have To Have Control."

Bernie Traurig
Sorry about the delay on Part Two of the Bernie Traurig clinic at Mary Babick's beautiful Knightsbridge Farm.  Life intervened.  You know how that can be.  If you need a quick refresher to remind you of what happened in Part One, you may click here.

After the initial "getting to know you" tack and position check at the beginning of the sessions and a brief warm up, Bernie asked the riders to canter on the right rein through a series of poles on the ground set at two strides, one stride, and three strides apart. As the riders complied, he noticed a couple teams drifting to the left and asked the group what they considered the primary aid to correct that drift might be.  Most riders agreed that they'd use the outside leg or the outside neck rein, and Bernie pointed out that while those were perfectly acceptable secondary aids, the primary aid he'd use would be an inside opening rein.  He then had them come through the poles again, asking them to pay careful attention to any drift and to correct it with the use of the opening rein.

At one point Bernie stood in front of the last pole and asked the riders to canter down and halt in front of him.  One horse ran through the exercise shaking it's head, which Bernie attributed to the rider's clashing aids -- adding too much leg while closing her hands. He said it was like a car: "You don't use the gas and the brake at the same time."

One rider on a very forward pony found it hard to get the exercises done without rushing,  She was asked to school the pony by slowing her approach and adding a stride in the two stride.  Bernie stood at the end of the exercise in order to encourage the pony to stop.  When the rider managed to stop the pony Bernie had her back him, then pat him and ride forward a few times.  He told her that she, too, was using too much leg and hand while asking her pony to stop, which was confusing him and making the already forward pony anxious and causing him to rush.  Bernie had her canter through the exercise again and she was able to get it done effectively.  Bernie also changed the pony's bit, saying he felt the pony was unhappy in the corkscrew he was currently in and would go better in a rubber D.

Bernie had set up a small course which started with two verticals set five strides apart on the diagonal.  The riders then came around the short side and up the other diagonal on a long approach to an oxer and then around the short side to a line of verticals set on a short seven strides down the long side.  At first the riders were asked to trot in and canter down the line in 6 strides.  The pony came down the line in 5 strides, so Bernie asked the rider to came back through and halt in the middle. He  told the group how the bit change allowed her to school the pony effectively. " You don't put a big old sharp bit in there. You put a bit in that he accepts, which allows you to school him and apply a level of pressure that he can accept."

Bernie had the girl bring the pony back through the exercise, then had her school him again by halting in the middle, backing, and then patting.  He recommended schooling lots of control exercises for the pony to retrain him to listen, and urged her to be firm in her requests, but then to immediately reward the pony when he complied.

On and in his DVD, The American Hunter/Jumper Forward Riding System, there is a segment called Building Blocks to a Great Position: To Sit or Not to Sit. It describes the types of seats one can utilize while on course and when to apply them.  At a couple points in the course work there were good opportunities to discuss this.  One rider on a big bay sat in a full seat through the 7 stride line and her horse was too forward.  Bernie thought her full seat was acting as a driving aid, and had her try the line again in a half seat.  She  did, and the result was a much smoother ride.

Another rider on a lovely chestnut 4 year old came through.  The chestnut sucked back, and the rider changed from her half seat to a full driving seat, which Bernie said was an appropriate reaction to encourage an apprehensive horse.

A couple of the horses were sluggish and unresponsive to the leg aid to go forward.  Bernie had the riders correct this by going out to the rail and practicing canter to gallop transitions.  He asked the riders to sit the canter for about 5-6 strides, then get up into the half seat and gallop for 5-6 strides, then sit and canter, and so on.  He had them do this in both directions until the transitions were prompt.  When one horse still puttered about phlegmatically, Bernie hopped about, nudged him up with his spurs a couple of times, and soon had him galloping around like Secretariat.He noted how the rider's overly upright position caused a backward horse and an overly deep distance, while his forward galloping position encouraged a more forward, active horse jumping easily out of stride.  He gave the horse back to the rider joking, "I know one thing, you have a new engine in this horse!"

Bernie stressed how the flat preparation is the most important part of jumping disciplines. "You hit the gas and if the horse doesn't react, correct it. Same thing coming back."

The session finished with another control exercise.  Bernie set a pole on the ground out of a corner with 5 forward strides to a small oxer.  After everyone went through he rolled to pole back two feet.  After everyone managed to go though that successfully, he rolled it back another foot. "This is a great exercise for playing with long distances and short distances," Bernie told the group.  "You have to have control."

Gotcha, Bernie! Going to the barn to work on that now.

Happy trails, everyone!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Today's Oh Crap Moment...

A good friend sent this to me on FB, and I had to laugh (feeling somewhat guilty about that).  I work for a publication that serves the dairy food processing industry, so yeah, there's the whole "cows" thing. 

However, the real reason this made me giggle is because I could just picture this being Sugar with a thought bubble over her head saying, " Well, crap. I hate it when Mom makes me go for the long one."