Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Horse Family Goes On Vacation...

The kids on their 2-wheeled vacation steeds
I've said it before and I'll say it again: You can leave the ponies, but the ponies never leave you.  Case in point: We took a family vacation to South Carolina this week, the first real "away' vacation we've taken in a while.  We were looking forward to some time away from our busy schedules, quality time together as a family, and truth be told, my husband was probably eagerly anticipation a week away from anything horse related.

He rolled his eyes when we told him how we hugged the horses goodbye and told them we'd miss them and not to forget us for the week.  James, angel baby that he is, raised his head and pretended to look like he cared that we were leaving. Sug never even looked up from her hay.  The poor man started to get a sense that the horses were not going to be completely left behind when we were at the airport during a changeover: We were getting on to one of those automated walkways and my son misjudged his approach, at which point he turned to me and ruefully said, "I chipped the distance on that one."

Here are some of the other ways we knew the horses had not left our minds:

1) You go on a bike ride with your son and when he passes people on the bike path he yells "inside" to them to let them know what side he is passing them on.  To his way of thinking, the road was the outside and the golf course was the inside.  made perfect sense to us, but I told him we were probably the only equestrians on vacation so we'd be better off sticking to "left" and "right."

2)  You realize that bikes, at least the big old cruisers, do NOT listen to half halts.  They respond to backward pressure on the pedals.  I was pointing out an alligator sunning himself in a lagoon to my son when I experienced this bit of learning, and damn near skidded into the lagoon before I figured out what I was doing wrong.

3)  You call your bike your "steed" and name it.  My husband's eyes darn near rolled back in his head when Sophie announced her bike was a stallion named "Julien" (pronounced Hool-eee- en) and Noah and I confessed to naming ours as well.

4)  You find yourself creating a horse-less horse show with your bike.  While waiting for everyone to get organized to bike home after we'd gone out to breakfast, I noticed Sophie riding her bike in circles around the parking lot, muttering to herself.  After listening more carefully, I could tell she was giving herself the same instructions she'd get in an under saddle class.  Of course I had to video that bit of cuteness!

5)  While walking on the beach Noah commented how much fun it would be to bring Sugar and James out there, and what a good work-out it would be for our tubby mare.  As we watched Soph run around a jump the tide pools, he turned to me and said, "Look, she's practicing the water jumps."  Some of the tide pools were too large for her to jump over, and she called over to us, "Look, I'm an event horse, and I'm going through the water hazard"  She'd make a very brave event horse.

6)  You take so many bike rides that your muscles are screaming at you.  Normal people would go to the local Piggly Wiggly and look for Ben Gay.  We Googled the nearest tack shop for some Sore No More.

We're only halfway through our vacation, so I'm pretty sure we're going to have a few more of these moments before we head home.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! One For The Bucket List!

This was the last image I saw before turning out the light last night.  I'd been paging through my new issue of Horse International magazine and lo and behold, there it was!  And I thought, "Sweet nine pound Baby Jesus!  THIS is one for the bucket list!  I might never be able to actually ride at the All England Jumping Course at Hickstead (what with being an amateur and the whole wrong side of the pond thing), but THIS is something I could pull off and at the same time say I'd competed on those hallowed grounds."

So here you go, donkey chariot racing at Hickstead, courtesy of Horse and Hound:

While I was searching for the video above, I came across something a little closer to home that takes the whole competition a step further.  This footage was shot at Equine Affaire in Massachusetts in 2009.  I try to schedule a business trip to Massachusetts every year around Equine Affaire - how the heck did I miss this???  Hoping it's on the schedule this year, as I need to figure out a way to get involved!

Anyway, there's your Hump Day giggle.  Don't say I never gave you anything!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Best Laid Plans...

It's a gorgeous Saturday. Sunny, mid 70s, with a bit of a breeze. Perfect day for riding.

Except I'm not. The kids have a horse show tomorrow and Noah is riding Sug in itty bitty jumpers. He told me he would feel more comfortable about giving the mare the ride she deserves if he could work on things in one more lesson before the show. 

Bless his heart, does the little booger know how to work me or what? 

After riding we need to rush to bathe the beasties, clean tack and finish prepping because we had plans to meet friends for dinner. Of course we were running late, so things were, ummm, in a word- hurried.

Here's the summary:

Arrive home with 45 minutes to spare before needing to leave. The Boy proceeds to make the fixings for his famous chocolate chip cake while I set to work polishing his boots.

Daughter starts polishing her paddock boots. Realizes she forgot to tell Mom she'd finished the brown polish last show. Mom does several deep breathing exercises to avoid hysterics and sends Dad to store in search of more brown show polish. Crisis averted.

Boots are polished. No time to shower, so splash and lather arms and face to get rid of worst of the barn sludge. Poof myself with powder bomb of anti Monkey Butt powder and a spritz of perfume to get rid of eau de equine. 

Hair is mix of hat head and cowlick courtesy of horse slobber, vaguely reminiscent of the spooge hair gel scene in Something About Mary. Apply splash of water and hair goop to create semblance of order.

Pull on summer dress uniform of plaid skort and polo. Realize have not shaved legs and look like feral yak. Attempted to dry shave, which resulted in removal of square inch of shin and much cussing. Slapped on bandaid with hopes bleeding would stop by the time we got to our destination. 

Get to friend's house. Act like mature adult and monitor alcoholic beverage consumption, as horseshows and hangovers don't go well together. Get home feeling quite virtuous. Hit the rack only to realize I had not actually baked the cake. Crap. Adjusted alarm on iPhone to reflect earlier wake-up call. 

Alarm adjustment turns out to be unnecessary as barn buddy and fellow horse show attendee elects to return my text from previous night at 5am. Now wide awake and have plenty of time to bake cake. 

Commence warming up espresso machine for mandatory infusion of caffeine. Frothing of milk too noisy and too much effort, so elect to go with quick shot of whipped cream on top of espresso. 

Kids are dressed, cake is ready, so with a quick prayer to weather and horse show gods, off we go!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It's Good To Be The Queen...

The Sainted mare has been a very good girl recently.

Well, she's pretty much always a very good girl, but her halo has been perfectly balanced and super shiny the past few weeks.

She was superlative in her first show with her Boy at West Milford where they won Champion in their division...

She was exceptional at the Sussex County Fair and Horse Show, where she got all "did-up" and fancified and won her Boy numerous ribbons and did NOT eat Carlos' breakfast sandwich (even though she wanted to).

So this weekend she got richly rewarded for her efforts with a massage, chiropractic, and some acupuncture.

Good girl, Momma!  Thank you!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


If you read my last post, you know my kids were getting ready for a show and making me bat-crap crazy, bless their hearts.  There were more than a few moments that I doubted we'd ever make it to the show.

However, we did make it to the show.Sugar and James were on the trailer chowing down on their hay, completely unfazed by the horse show atmosphere.  Not surprising, as nothing gets between The Sainted Mare and her food, and James is smart enough to know that if he snoozes he loses!

I'm a fair weather horse show-er.  My feeling on this is that I pay too darn much to not enjoy myself, and showing in the rain ain't my idea of fun, you know?  I suppose that'd be different if I were good, or qualifying for something, but I'm not, so I can be picky.  However, it was the spawn's horse show, and I didn't want to disappoint them.  It wasn't even really raining, just seriously threatening. Until we got there, of course.  Then the rain came, just in time for Sophie's division.

Long story short -- the Child rode pretty well.  Since she'd fallen off at the last show, my trainer decided to drop her down a division and work on the basics and the issues she felt contributed to the fall.  I have to say I appreciated that tremendously- it's the first time I've had a trainer say "Hey, there's an issue here.  We haven't addressed it properly to date and it's causing a problem now and will cause more later, so let's take a step back." 

Soph worked hard to keep her heels down and to keep from jumping ahead.  They had some really nice moments, and a few "learning" moments.  It was her worst round that I am most proud of.  Things were going so well, and then she moved up a bit too much down a line and he landed the out of the line feeling a bit frisky.  He started sassing; shaking his head, bucking a bit and being  naughty.  Instead of going fetal, as she might have a year or two ago, Sophie calmly circled James and got him back under control, then quietly finished the course.

Here's a look at that round:

Despite that round and a few other errors, Soph wound up as champion for her division.  The ribbon was nice, but if asked, I think she'd tell you she was more proud of the way she handled things when they got challenging.

Thanks, pal!

Noah was showing Sug, which was a first.  Was Mom nervous?  Umm, YES!!!  Not because I was worried Sug would be naughty, but well, just because one of my babies was riding my 4-legged baby.   Also, Madame Mare may be lazy as heck at home, but she knows when she's at a show, and rises to the occasion, as my trainer soon found out.  Sug schooled like she does at home: she la-di-da-ed around the course looking like she was about to drop into a coma.

However, the lackadaisical manner was dropped as soon as she entered the ring for the class.  Ears pricked, she thundered down the first line, and when the Boy cut the turn after the diagonal, TSM clearly said, "Right, jump off!  Game on!"  Didn't matter that it was a 2' course.  My trainer reached out, grabbed my arm, and turned to me when it was over, saying, "Ok, clearly we are doing Itty Bitty jumpers next time!"

Game on!

Despite the fact that Sug's pace was not particularly, ahem, hunter-like, she and Noah also were champions for their division.  More importantly, they had a blast together.

All in all, it was a good day.  We spent time together as a family, had fun with our ponies, and the kids got some good horse show mileage under their belts.  Definitely worth the, uh, aggravation of the horse show prep from the night before.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Horse Show Prep: I Don't Have Enough Wine For This!

Have you ever noticed how horse shows are a lot like labor?  After they are over you forget how truly painful they can be and start thinking it wouldn't be such a bad idea to take another stab at it.  I was thinking about that tonight as I helped the kids get ready for tomorrow's show.  Both kids are showing: Noah is riding The Sainted Mare and Sophie will be piloting James. 

You'd think that since the kids are the ones who are riding that they'd be doing all the work and I'd be sitting around, glass of wine in hand (something white, as that's my summertime go-to beverage) and overseeing the preparations in a purely supervisory role.  You'd be vastly wrong.

After their lesson they brought the horses into the wash stalls for s pre-show shampoo.  Simple, yes? Not so much.  I was sitting on a tack trunk gabbing with our trainer when I casually glanced over and noticed James was getting soaped up although much of his body was still dry.  "Soph, he needs to be wet before you add the shampoo.  You know, kinda like when you wash your hair?"  The blank look I got informed me the message wasn't going through.  "Soph, hose him down, all of him, before you start to wash him." 

She proceeded to get him wet, but only his body.  "Soph, you have to do his mane and tail, too."  Again with the 1000 yard stare.  I took a deep breath and counted to 10.  "Soph, get his mane and tail wet.  Just like you do in the shower with your hair when you wash it."  For whatever reason she understood me this time and did what i told her.  James looked over at me gratefully.  I looked over at the next wash stall.  Sugar's mane was half wet, half dry as the Sahara. "Noah, did you hear what I just said to your sister?"  The slack-jaw and blank look let me know a little repetition was in order.  My trainer, who had stood silently through all this, started laughing at this point.  She knew I was in for a long night.

About 20 minutes later I wandered down to check on Noah and Sug.  He was washing her tail.  At least, that's what he thought he was doing.  He was standing a few feet from her side with her tail held out between them, and he was running a soapy sponge up and down sections of her tail.  She had her head turned as much as the cross-ties would let her and was watching him with a bemused expression on her face.  "Noah, what in hades are you doing?? You wash her tail like you wash your hair!"  I then showed him how to wet it and massage the shampoo in.  I also showed him how to swish the skirt around in a bucket of clean, soapy water.

Seriously, I'd gone over this stuff with them a zillion times before, and they've certainly seen me doing it a lot.  I think it's like that Murphy's Law thing that says every time you need to print out a report for an important meeting, the printer/copier/computer breaks down.  You know, things go wrong in proportion to how badly you need/want them to go right.  About this time I turned to see what Soph was up to.  A soapy James was standing quietly in the wash stall.  Alone.  No little girl in sight.  "SOOOOOOO-PHIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEE!"  Turns out she'd gone off in search of a towel and gotten distracted by some of her barn friends.  I told her if she disappeared again before he was sparking and her tack was pristine that she wouldn't have a cell phone until she graduated college.

I sat back down on the tack trunk and counted to 10, then 20.  A friend of mine, mother to one of Sophie's barn buddies, commented that she'd never realized how much work went into show prep.  "Yeah, well, it goes a bit quicker if you're not dealing with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb," I drawled.  Hmmm, Mom's getting snarky.  Might be time for an attitude adjustment.  Time for another glass of wine? 

Sadly, the answer was no to the wine, as while the kids cleaned tack I needed to do a bit of touch-up clipping, wrap Sug's legs, and braid the portion of her mane that lies on the left side over to the right so it looks somewhat organized tomorrow.

"Mom, where's my show pad?"  "I dunno, where'd you leave it?" 

"Mom, where do we put our stuff?" "Well, if your goal is to use it at the show, you might consider how you are going to get to the show and start with that."

"Mom, should I bring my girth?" "Only if you want to stay on the horse, sweetie."

By the time we'd finished, I was practically twitching with the effort to remain calm and fantasizing desperately about a tropical island with no signs of children or horses and a cabana boy who brought me wine and rubbed suntan lotion on me.  I made the kids go through about 15 "final" checks to make sure we had everything.

"Mom, we've got it all.  Everything is on the trailer!"

We'd only gotten half a mile down the road before we had to turn back and get the crop, spurs, and girth they'd forgottenIt should be an interesting show tomorrow.  Any bets on how long it will be before I say, "Gee, let's go to a horse show!" again?