Friday, May 31, 2013

I'm Baaaacck! (And Still Batty as a Bedbug!)

So most of last week was spent auditing the George H. Morris Gladstone Program and reporting on it for Horse Junkies United.  If you haven't had a chance to check out the coverage, you can find them all here.  What an amazing experience!. I took almost 50 pages of notes!  Sometimes it seemed as if every word coming out of the man's mouth was another pearl of wisdom.

So, it kinda sucks that I haven't been able to get to the barn and try out all my new knowlege.  You know how it is, right?  You stock up on good information and then wait for a chance to hop on your pony and be McLain Ward/Steffan Peters/Jen Alfano all rolled into one? Never quite happens that way, though, does it? I'm just hoping my brain will hang on to everything I learned long enough for me to actually use it! 

In the meantime, I'm feeding the horse addiction a couple of ways....

1) Re-reading the Pony Club Manuals.

2) Watching my new DVD.

3)  Trying desperately to whip Brenda Breyer into shape.  I mean really, forget the lack of approved tack - what on earth is this outfit she has on?  And no helmet??? Look at those heels -- she has no weight in them!  Despite that she is clearly riding from front to back, as evidenced by the fact that the horse is up in the withers and his croup is lowered.

Why no, I haven't had any wine.  What makes you ask?

Missed you all!  MWAH!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Best Laid Plains...

Ok, you know how I told you I wouldn't be blogging much this week on AWIP because I was blogging for HJU about the George Morris Gladstone program?  Well, it seems I fibbed.  Just had to share this.

Today I was all fired up to ride after seeing the flatwork session at Gladstone. I was gonna do some snazzy work with Sug, yessirree Bob! THEN I got home and the Boy tells me that he NEEDS to be at his spring concert tonight. Yesterday was when he first mentioned he HAD a spring concert, but then the story was that he did not need to go. Today that changed. He needed to go to protect the sanctity of the bond of clarinet players or something.
The recommended attire is for these events is white shirt with black pants. He pulled a shirt out of the closet and came downstairs looking like an extra from Fiddler on the Roof .  Seems my white peasant tunic got mixed in with his stuff somehow. We laughed hysterically for a few minutes before going into my husband's closet for something a bit more appropriate and putting the poor kid out of his misery.
Given how his revelation today affected my plans for the evening, I'm not feeling guilty about the fact that I am still laughing at him.  Don't get me wrong, I'm so proud of Noah for honoring his commitments and his responsibility to his fellow band members. I just wish he'd filled me in on the schedule a bit earlier, ya know?
Tonight's sacrifice assures me of the Mother of the Year award, yes?
(BTW, You get AWIP style points if you can name this tune!)

Chillin' With George...

Hi all!

First of all, my thoughts and prayers are with any who are affected by the tragedy in Oklahoma. I felt the need to count my blessings and hug my kiddos a little harder this morning.

This week I am so lucky to have the privilege of covering the George H. Morris Gladstone Program for Horse Junkies United, so I won't be posting much on AWIP. 

The program is a week of intensive training for the young US show jumping talent, aimed at providing guidance and support for riders with the potential to contribute to future US teams.

If you are interested in reading about the learning taking place here in Gladstone, click on over to Horse Junkies United Junkies United.. You can view my posts here.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Girl Has Giddy-Up

A very happy mare surveys her domain
Last night was one of those perfect nights - gorgeous weather, perfect temperatures, and busy kids so I had the ponies to myself. :)

I rode James first, and took him out into the fields to get him used to paying attention and working in non-ring surroundings. We worked on not falling on our faces in downward transitions while  the deer, hawk, and rabbits looked on with interest.  We even saw a fox, who I swear told me to get my heels down as he trotted past. 

Then I had a lesson on Sug, who was not feeling like a 17 year-old. From the start of the warmup Madame Mare was on her toes and moving forward, tossing her head and cavorting when we picked up the canter. She thundered down the long side when we did canter lengthenings and showed her displeasure when I asked her to come back.

We started to jump, and man, was Sug ever ready. The Sainted Mare was in jump-off mode even over the teeny warmup fence we circled over. I was sweating up a storm trying to keep my weight in my heels and shoulders back while half - halting  and trying not to become too "handsy." 

We had to install some brakes by halting her after some fences and in the middle of a line, but frankly, I couldn't get mad at her. She's 17, and I'm beyond thrilled she's feeling that good. We jumped a few courses, and pleasantly surprised my trainer when I asked to add a few fences at the end of each course. That's pretty significant, as I'd lost my jumping mojo for a while, and for me to ask to jump more represents a huge gain in confidence.

Sug was still bouncing with energy after our lesson, so we headed out to the fields and I let her open throttle and gallop a bit. The sun was on its way down and the combination of golden light, green fields, local wildlife and powerful mare was as close to heaven as it gets. We wandered around some more before I brought her back for a bath and some quality grazing time. 

If pressed, I'd tell you we were both smiling.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Two Happy Mamas!

I love this view. :)
I hope all the AWIP-reading Moms out there (of 2 and 4 legged children) had a lovely day this past Sunday.  I still have what my Dad calls a $hit-eating grin on my face from the wonderful Mother's Day I enjoyed. (On a side note, what is that expression about???  How can eating feces ever be a positive thing??? However, I digress, yet again.  Apologies.)

Anywhoooo, the Boy and I scooted down to the barn early Sunday morning to get some quality time with the ponies in before Soph's early afternoon soccer game.  We stuffed Sugar full of carrots and Happy Mother's Day wishes. The Sainted Mare is winning in the offspring category - she has had 3 babies that we know of, so she's one up on me.  

We decided it would be fun and relaxing to take the horses on a trail ride, and I shamelessly pulled the Mother's Day card and asked the Boy if I could ride James.  I did this because it's been a while since I've ridden James, and also because I wanted to go on a long ride, if possible, and didn't know if James' Thoroughbred sensibilities would kick in and prove too challenging for Noah.  (Once a Mom, always a Mom, right?)

Luckily, while we were tacking up, we ran into a fellow boarder and one of the event trainers at our barn, who were planning on heading out to Christie Hoffman Park.  They graciously allowed us to tag along, and sweet pink and red jelly beans, did we ever have fun!  The park is something like 170 acres of hiking and riding trails, and comes equipped with cross-country jumps.  I have been dying to get out there for ages, and it seemed serendipitous that it happened on this particular day.

The Sainted Mare was very happy Mama indeed,  smiling with equine joy in her happiness to be out and about.  She swiveled her head from side to side, taking it all in and blowing out in relaxed approval for her surroundings.  I could tell she was also in Mom-mode, as her ears constantly flicked back to check in on "her" boy and she made visible adjustments to compensate for any balance changes on his part.  She walked readily through the river for Noah, which would have been a 20 minute discussion about the detrimental effects of river water on pony pedicures had I been on her back.

James was also being kind to me, in his way.  As the ranking Thoroughbred in our little herd, he clearly felt the need to be in front, and he clearly felt the need to be in front at speed.  He could have taken me on a full-speed tour of the park had he so desired, or parted ways with me and left me to enjoys the park's beauty on foot, but he reined his instincts in and didn't, bless his heart. 

An earlier trail ride,
with a relaxed James.
 When the group decided to trot down the long side of a field, James treated me to a very impressive hop-canter-skip-capriole sequence.  Virginia, the event trainer, kept up a running stream of advice, "Keep his head up, sit back, heels down, legs forward!" as I laughed and called James a silly boob and attempted to stay on. 

When we got to the river, the other three horses plunged through, including my notoriously aqua-phobic mare.  James protested, citing alligators, trolls and piranhas, and we discussed the mater for a good 20 minutes.  He clearly wanted to join his friends, but was visibly scared, going forward and backing up and wanting to hop up and down but remembering his manners and keeping his piggies on the ground.  Virginia and I tried using her horse as lead pony to entice James across.  He hemmed and hawed, stopped and started, and finally gave in and frog-leaped across the river.  Virginia tells me our faces were priceless, mouths wide open and eyes all goggled, and that she wishes she had thought to bring with her camera. 

After our victory over the Big Bad River, James and I were on a high for the rest of the ride, and I swear he seemed to relax and grow in confidence.  We trotted some more, without the high drama and haute ecole of our earlier attempts.  We even went back through the river, with only a five minute discussion about potential risks and hazards.  Virginia told me that this time his feet actually touched the water.  Couldn't prove it by me, but I'm willing to take her word on it.  I was impressed with our efforts that I suggested a trot through one of the fields close to home.  "That might be ambitious," were Virginia's words of caution. 

That Virginia is a prophet, I tell you!  James knew he was close to the finish line, and off he went, trot be damned.  His head was up, it was down, his butt was up, then it was down, and I think what we were doing was called the Antzy Thoroughbred Canter.  He desperately wanted to run, but knew he shouldn't because the nice lady on his back would not be able to stay on, and so he did this stilted "I wanna run but I gotta canter but I wanna run" thing that had me laughing and cussing him out the whole length of the field.  Virginia laughed and said it was a good thing he was 14 and had matured, as I probably would not have been able to stick with an 8-year-old James.  No kidding!

After all the barn fun we watched Soph and her soccer team dominate a side that had controlled them just six months ago, and my girl scored two goals, one off of her left foot.  She dedicated one goal to me, and the other to her Grandma, who was also in attendance.  Later in the afternoon, I took in the jump-off from the Old Salem Farm Grand Prix.

It was a darn fine day. :)

Gratuitious cute pic of a dirty James bonding with Sophie.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Goat Rides Horse. Really. I'm Not Joking.

Okay, so maybe "riding" is a generous term in this instance.

The video is part of an effort to promote tourism in Newfoundland and Labrador, (not the dogs, the Canadian province) where, we are led to believe, fantastically cool things like equestrian goats exist.  This is a pretty big deal for a place that, other than boasting it's own time zone, hasn't seen much excitement since Lief Eriksson beached himself there sometime in the 11th century.

When accused of staging the video, the film crew making the tourism spot affirmed that they'd spotted the duo while going about their official job.  They approached the owner of the farm where the animals resided and she allowed them to film. According to the farm owner, Sunshine, the horse,will lay down and the nimble little pygmy goats use that as an excuse to play 'King of the Mountain' until Sunshine tires of their antics and "gently" bucks them off. 

No harm, no foul, according to the animal's owner. 

I have no trouble believing this could be real.  Have you ever seen goats up close?  They're nimble and curious little buggers, and will climb anything.

Also,  google "Goat Rides Horse."  Looks like there are any number of nubile Nubians looking for a little giddy-up action.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

In Praise of a Little Alone Time...

A Mobius strip.  Pretty innocuous, huh?
I'm an only child.  This is pertinent information as it will help you better understand my occassional need for alone time, which may or may not be more highly developed than some. I also love my kids to distraction.  I do.  I love them like crazy, understanding that at the same time they often drive me batcrap crazy. 

I think that's so because as an only child, I spent a great deal of my formative years on my own, engaged in silent, solitary, peaceful (mostly) activities.  Now all my time is spent in a frenzy of chaos, and while I would not change my life, sometimes I long for a little "alone time" and I don't think I am a bad parent or person because I do (or, at least I don't think that way most of the time). You following me?

Tuesday night it was my son's turn to come to the barn with me.  It was a more than typically rushed evening, as we had to be home in time for me to run out to my daughter's orthodontist appointment.  Picture the Boy and me driving down a busy NJ highway, me with my eyebrows drawn together as I mentally work through some work issues.  It occurs to me that there is a sad lack of parent-child interaction, so I weakly offer a "Whatcha thinkin' about?"

Dammit.  I know better.  That particular question always leads to an aneurysm inducing answer.  Yesterday's gem was, "I'm thinking about Mobius strips."  WTF?????  Go ahead, Google away. M-o-b-i-u-s strips.  Lord knows I certainly had to, even after he tried to explain the term to me.  I knew I'd heard of them, just couldn't pick one out of a lineup.  Sigh.

Then we rode.  I kept stopping what I was doing with Sug to offer help. I know, big mistake. I could almost hear Sugar thinking, "Shuddup fercripessakes and leave the kid be.  You have your own issues to worry about."  Then there was the rush to get cleaned up and get home.  The watching-him-take-5-trips to the tack room when he could have saved time by bring everything at once. (Yeah, of course I had to point that out, for which sin I was treated to the dreaded Eye-roll of Annoyance).

Yesterday I got to go to the barn by myself.  And have a lesson.  By Myself.  Could focus 100% on my ride.  Groom and clean tack without distractions.  No one to ask where the hoof stuff was, or where their girth/gloves/helmet/favorite saddle pad was.  Nobody asked me if I had a drink or snack on me.  (Yes, of course I do, honey.  Actually, what you call my big butt is actual a mini-bar stocked with your favorite treats - let me pull a vitamin water out for you!)

It was absolute bliss.

Tonight it's Soph's turn to come to the barn as we have a lesson.  I'm wondering which daughter will show up.  Will it be the taciturn pre-teen who huffs and eye-rolls every time I say something?  Or the Chatty Patty who needs to fill every silence with news of school going on, soccer gossip, or random noises?  I already know I'll be clucking at her to finish grooming and tacking up, and then alternately begging her to hurry up and threatening to leave her there if she doesn't clean her tack faster. 

Guess who was playing with Mom's
phone when she should have been cleaning tack?

I think one solo barn day a month is fair.  That's not asking too much, right? 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Our Own Baby Badminton...

You want me to do what?
Wikipedia defines cross-training as "an athlete training in sports other than the one that athlete competes in with a goal of improving overall performance."  It's purported to be good for people and with all the reading I do on horses I'm coming to the conclusion it's good for them as well.  Supposedly it not only gets the horse more fit, it adds interest to their lives and thus creates a "happy athlete."

So, with this in mind, and with the memory of my recent attendance at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day event in mind, I decided to ask one of the eventer trainers at my barn how I might go about getting Sugar more fit for the summer show season.  She suggested I take the Sainted Mare out into a neighboring field and do some trot sets, starting with a couple of days of doing four 5 minute sets to see how we went and then progressing from there.

The field is set on a slight rolling hill, about a football field long and one and a half football fields wide, and surrounded on three sides by woods and one side by a paddock.  It even comes with a few jumps - logs, hay bales, a few old tires, and a small shed-roof.  I hadn't jumped any of them despite several previous trips to the field, but they've been tempting the heck out of me.  (Rational, sober, mature self-preservation instinct has prevented me from giving in.)

Sug LOVED being out in the field.  Her ears stayed pricked forward the whole time and I could swear she was smiling.  She bounded forward off my leg and moved out in a rolling, swinging trot, or at least she did until we got to the steep part of the hill.  Then the trot slowed, the head went down, and she grunted in time to her increased efforts.  She powered through, but I could tell she was happy when we hit the flat portion at the top. 

THEN there was the down part.  The sink-into-the-heels-and-try-to-remain-balanced-while-not-yanking-on-Sug's-mouth-or-slamming-down-on-her-back-as-we-try-not-to-fall-on-our-faces part.  This is waaaaayyyyy easier said than done, but by the fourth circuit I think I improved.  At least the mare had stopped grunting on the down portion of the posting.  I can see where this "riding out" stuff can be helpful.  If you can keep your balance in this terrain, perfectly manicured footing should present very little problem.

We did our four 5-minute sets, and she still felt pretty good.  By that time another boarder had joined us in the field, and we (two adult women and our 17-year-old horses) accessed our inner children and cantered around, giggling, whooping, and jumping some of the small obstacles.  (I may have indulged the fantasy that I was powering 'round the course at Badminton or Rolex.) Sug jumped brilliantly, really powerfully and round, and was clearly having a ball.  We goofed around for a few minutes, then stopped before we over-did ourselves. Together with our friends we ambled back to the barn and Sug recieved a well-deserved rubdown.

Dang, we had fun! I was grinning ear-to-ear the rest of the day. I'm looking forward to more of this cross-training stuff, and I think Sug is, too. 


A tired Sainted Mare.

Friday, May 3, 2013

When Horse Life Spills Into Real Life...

I had one of those "Oh, for cripes sake!" moments today while driving home from lunch.

I have spent so much time working on rhythm and pace and staying in the same canter so I can see the striding to a fence that it's taken over my world. 

I found myself driving down the highway estimating how many "strides" away from other vehicles I was.  Then I did my best to stay at the same pace so as not to overtake them.  Then I played with adding strides (slowing the car down) and leaving them out (accelerating.)

Umm, yeah, maybe it's time to get fitted for a huggy jacket.

Your thoughts??