Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Special Mare's Special Day...

My gorgeous Birthday Girl.
Seventeen years ago today Madame Mare graced the planet with her presence.  I can only wonder what that day was like.  What kind of hopes and dreams did her breeders have for her?  Were they looking to further their breeding plans?  Were they hoping for success in sport?  Or were they looking for a horse that would be their next riding companion?  I can only imagine what those early hopes and dreams may have been for the filly they named Obottie. 

Five years ago this month she became a huge part of my hopes and dreams, and she continues to add joy to my life with each day she is in it.

Thank you, my wonderful Sainted Mare, for all you have given to me and to my family.  Thank you for taking  me and my children into your big heart, for taking care of us, and for teaching us.

Here's to many more Happy Birthdays together.

And yes, dearest, not to worry. We will be bringing a plethora of your favorite treats to the barn tonight to celebrate.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sometimes Not-So-Good Can Lead to Good...

James and his boy.
I was not feeling overly optimistic about Wednesday night's lesson.  It was one of those days at work, and there was an accident so we were running behind.  While we were sitting in traffic I made the mistake of asking my 13 year old son what he was thinking.

How could an attempt at communicating with your son be a mistake, you ask?  Last time I asked that answer the answer was, "I'm contemplating the origin of binary code."  Huh?!?!?!  I couldn't compute, stammered something unintelligible, and felt my head explode somewhere around exit 33 on 287 South.

Wednesday's answer was true to form.  "I'm thinking about clouds.  Clouds are tiny drops of water, right?  And water weighs more than air, right?  So how is it that clouds float in the air?"   I think I managed to gibber something about clouds being like steam and then POW! There went my head.

Turns out all the "omens" stressing me out and convincing me that the lesson was going to be lousy meant nothing.  Sug had a massage over the weekend and had chiropractic and acupuncture done on Tuesday, and felt FABULOUS.  She was so supple, connected and on the aids.  When we jumped, we were staying in a consistent enough rhythm and in a good balance, so that if we were a little bit long or a little bit short it didn't matter. 

I was able to keep my focus even when my trainer raised one of the fences to 3' and even when he added additional fences to the course, which was great, as typically the more fences there are or the higher they are the more things tend to get unraveled.  At one point we practiced a roll back turn, and Sug went into jump off mode immediately.  She sliced the turn more than I asked her to and then tore off on the other side looking for the next fence to jump.  It was funny -- she certainly wasn't acting like a horse about to turn 17, and that makes me very happy!

Noah had a wonderful lesson on James.  We'd thought the cold was affecting James and causing him to be a bit fresh, but after looking more carefully at his behavior we thought that maybe he was uncomfortable.  So James had massage, chiropractic, and acupuncture as well, and you could tell as he was getting the treatment that it was working.  He'd get an adjustment, then heave a huge sigh and visibly relax.  His muscles were like tight bands before, and after they were like butter. 

During last night's lesson James was sighing contentedly, his eye was soft, and he was a perfect gentleman.  When he and Noah got to a couple of long spots where he had to work harder orNoah landed heavily on his back, instead of landing and sprinting off, James just landed and cantered away quietly.  Noah was happy, James was happy, and I was happy because my boys were happy. 

It was such a joy to see James feeling better and back to normal.  These wonderful creatures give so much to us, it gives me such a wonderful feeling to think I've been able to give something back to them.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Very Special Day...

Checking out the new home.
Five years ago today a big brown mare with a penchant for licking people stepped off a trailer and into our lives, and our lives have been so much ricer for her presence.

We'd traveled to New Hampshire the weekend before to visit friends who knew Sugar and recommended her as a potential lease for me.  She was described as "not mare-ish" and as a "sweetheart" who was brave, kind, simple, and scopey.  I rode her twice that weekend and liked her; she felt safe and comfortable, perfect for what I was able to do at the time.

A week later my friend called and asked if I was ready for her to come a couple weeks early, as another friend was heading south to winter shows in Mississippi and could drop her off on the way.  Of course I was ready!  I rant to the tack store to get a bridle, a halter, and other necessities, and six hours later found myself holding the lead rope of the sweetest creature on the planet and feeling like a kid on the best Christmas of her life.

Hi Noah, I'm Sugar.
She calmly surveyed her new surroundings, re-introduced herself to the kids by licking them until they were soaked, and sussed out where the local food sources were.  We showed her to her new stall (she approved of it) and then groomed her and loved on her a bit to help her settle in to her new home.

I've been racking my brains as it seems appropriate to tell you all the things I've learned from her, but honestly, there have been so many lessons that they are all jumbled up in my head.  I could say she's taught me about unconditional love, as no matter how badly I ride her or what kind of foul mood I show up in, she is still happy to see me and lick me and work with me.  She's taught my kids and I patience, and how to care more about something else other than ourselves.  She's taught us the value of persistence; that sometimes things don't turn out the way you'd hoped, but if you keep working at it, things will turn out the way you need them to.  Sugar has taught us how to listen better and to look harder into things, because sometimes the obvious answer isn't the right one.

I think it was Seattle Slew's long time groom who said something like this of his great champion, "He made me want to be a better person."  Odd as it may sound, that is how I feel about Sugar.  I want to be someone she can be proud of. 

Thank you, my dear friend, for all you have given to me and my family.  These past five years have been wonderful, and I hope we have many more years together.

Two of my favorite faces.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thoughts on Love...

Love is knowing where someone's itchy bits are, and then taking the time to scratch them.

Happy Valentines Day, and thanks so much for being a part of A Work in Progress!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Pretty Nice Night...

What James looked like before we pulled
his mane. The Equine Cousin It.
I love Tuesday nights at the barn.  It's quiet, just the Boy and me and maybe one or two other people.  Usually the others are riding while we groom, so often it's just Noah and I in the indoor.  Noah has his plan, I have mine, and we are perfectly happy to ride our plans with only occasional comments to each other.

Tonight we both worked on one of the no stirrups exercises from Kate Benson's article in the latest issue of Practical Horseman.  After all, if you lose a stirrup it's a pretty good thing to be able to pick it up without losing your balance or yanking on your horse's mouth.  So we worked at dropping and then picking them up, first at the walk and then a teensy bit at the trot.  Let me say this about that: Easier said than done.  My ankles are cement blocks, so being able to just raise my toes and pick up my stirrup is about as easy as, well, flying.  Without an airplane.

After my no stirrup fun I concentrated on my two point, relaxing through my knees and sinking into my  heels.  My goal was to work on getting my ankles to act as shock absorbers and using my legs more to tell Sug where to go.  I read somewhere (or heard somewhere) that you should be able to do everything in the two point that you can do in a full seat, so I've been practicing.  This, too, is harder than you might think.  Trust me.  I find myself trying to keep my balance, and then I shift my legs to ask her to circle and Whoops!  There goes the balance and I've got a mouth full of mane.  I'm getting a bit better. I've noticed that as I do more of this, I find my legs work more independently of each other and my other parts.  For example, before as I'd come around a turn to a fence my trainer would always tell me to add more outside leg.  I thought I was using plenty of leg before, but I can tell the difference now, and my trainer doesn't tell to add outside leg as often.

Mmmm. Yummy.
We finished up popping over some crossrails to work on rhythm (good grief, when does one ever get rhythm???) and added some transitions and circles in between crossrails to keep her focused on me and my aids instead of getting all fired up about jumping. 

After our ride I showed Noah how to pull James' mane, which James was not thrilled about.  However, I found he handled like a big boy as long as we fed him the occasional peppermint and sang James Taylor's Sweet Baby James to him.  We topped the evening off with a stop at Cold Stone Creamery for a Hot For Cookie and then watched some of the Westminster Dog Show.

Not a bad night, right?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Snow Days...

Winter storm Nemo (do they name every storm now?) just blitzed through the Northeast and dumped quite a bit of the white stuff on us.  I know that we humans love to use a good snow day as an excuse to lie around and relax and, from the attitude I was sensing from Sug and James today, it seems horses do as well.

I was greeted by this face, which seemed promising...

Hi there!  Do you have a carrot for me?

However, the happy face was quickly followed by this face, which was less promising.

Crap. You're going to want to ride, aren't you?

James didn't seem to be too enthused about the prospect of riding, either.

No!  I don't wanna go.  You can't make me!

Oh, alright.  But only because you gave me a carrot.

James thought that maybe he could escape riding by digging his way to China.

Maybe I can dig my way out of this.  Or maybe I'll just have a good roll.

No horses were harmed during the making of this photo montage.  They were however, susequently ridden.  They survived that as well.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Chicken Soup Anyone?

Hi Mom!  Feel better soon!
How does a horse crazy gal spend her time when she is sick and can't get to get to the barn?  After all, she still needs he horse fix, right?

1) She plays with Breyer horses

2) She indulges herself by watching a lot of video from EquestrianCoach.com.  I had a "moment" while watching Archie Cox's flat training segement where he has his student move the horse out a foot at the canter and then in a foot at the canter, and  talks about how important this is when choosing a distance.  He says, "It allows you to give the horse a little more room to create a greater distance if you're getting little close to the fence."  From now on, to be able to do this - to see a distance and manipulate my horse's line at will to create a better one- is my Quest, my Holy Grail.

3) She watches even more video, this time on FEITV.  She endlessly counts 1-2-1-2-1-2 as the horses and riders navigate the various World Cup courses, hoping to absorb a better sense of rhythm and pace.  (My husband walked by, heard me doing this, and in his best Rain Man impersonation, said, "Uh oh, fifteen minutes to Judge Wapner." 

4)  She watches the movie Secretariat. For the 18th time.  And still gets tense during every race. My husband had something to say about this as well, as I leaned forward, gripping the armrests during the Triple Crown scenes.  "You do know he wins, right?  Every time you watch the movie, he's gonna win."

5) She researches the tatoo number of the OTTB her kids are now riding.  He's probably much happier being called James, as his registered name is awful.  I won't even mention it, as it sounds like a skin disease.  James was completely undistinguished on the track - unplaced in 3 starts, with winnings of just over $4000.  However, his pedigree is interesting as it has several notable names in it- Man O' War, Northern Dancer, Nasrullah, Nearco and Native Dancer, to name a few.   My Babu is also mentioned twice, which is interesting, as his descendants include Anky Van Grunsven's Olympic gold medal winning Bonfire, Bruce Davidson's JJ Babu, also an Olympic gold medallist, and Anthony D'Ambrosio's Grand Prix show jumper and puissance standout Sympatico. 

6) She badgers her husband into taking pics of the horses and texting them to her whenever he takes the kids to the barn. 

And she drinks a boat-load of tea, downs a trough of chicken soup, and gobbles a ton of Vitamin C so she can get back to the barn as soon as possible, because she misses her ponies.

Friday, February 1, 2013

So Scopey He Could Jump A Plane...


I'm just wondering what's going through someone's head when they see a plane on the ground and think, "Yeah, I'd like to jump that.  On a horse.  At speed."

Or, better yet, I want to know who sees a plane and thinks, "I bet if I cut the wheels off that thing it'd make one hell of a cross country jump!"

I wonder how many times the rider had to point the horse at the fence before it went over.  I HAVE to believe there was some intense discussion between horse and human about the pros and cons of this endeavor.

Anyone else think there may have been adult beverages involved???

                          Let's fly!
                                    Another great photo from Horsetrader.hu