Sunday, March 31, 2013

How To Turn A Non-Horsey Easter Into a Horsey One...

Easter started out with lots of promise for my husband.  The barn was closed, so there was a whole day for him to look forward to without anything horsey on the horizon.  He was looking forward to quality family time with no mention of anything equine whatsoever.  "It's going to be a totally horse-less day."  Umm, dear, have you been putting Baileys in your coffee again?

For example, I started the day curled up in my favorite saddle chair with my morning latte, planning the Easter menu and catching up with Today's Equestrian. After finishing TE, I moved on to the latest Chronicle of the Horse.  The husband noted my choice of reading material with rolled eyes.

After a nice brunch we headed over to a local park to do some hiking by what we like to call The Fire Swamp (no R.O.U.S sightings, thankfully).  Things started out okay for the hubby, until Sophie started cantering instead of walking and jumping every natural obstacle she could find.  And if she couldn't find one, she'd make one, boobytrapping the trail and no doubt pissing off several unsuspecting mountain bikers.  She would then make us all jump whatever she created.  Thankfully there is no video evidence of these shenanigans. Suffice to say, the hubby was not amused.

Fire Swamp

One of Sophie's "natural" obstacles

We got home.  Noah and I made a pound cake, which had bourbon as one of the ingredients.  I used the Woodford Reserve bourbon I'd gotten on my trip to Kentucky to see the World Equestrian Games in 2010.  So of course we needed to talk about the 2014 WEG and whether or not we swing a trip to see it. I also felt the need to sample some of the bourbon while doing some last minute recipe read-throughs.  More eye rolling from the husband.

Two fingers of Woodford Reserve.

After the cake was in the over, I settled in on the couch to write this post.  Sophie went downstairs to play with her Breyer horses, and Noah paged through the Chronicle of the Horse. 

It was at this point that the poor bugger gave up and went to take a nap.

Happy Easter to all who celebrate it!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Still Standing...

The Masked Mare says,
"No standing on this horse!"
Some of my blogging buddies have been letting it be known that their equestrian goal is to stand up on a horse.  Bob and Emme, you know I'm talking about you, you crazy kids!  These two deserve serious props, and I fully believe both will accomplish their goal.  The idea of standing on a horse sounds like fun to me, and I'm pretty sure I tried it, with very little success, when I was a kid.  However, at this point in my life my goal is pretty much just to be standing when I get off the horse.

Today, even though the Black Lung continues, the Boy and I sucked it up and headed down to the barn before we headed off to the doctor's office.  Sug's still on the IR with her corneal ulcer - we've got another re-check with my vet tomorrow and I have high hopes- so we decided that I would warm James up for Noah. 

Possibly not the best idea I ever had.  Which was followed by what could have been the second not-best idea, which was "Let's ride outside." (I said this even know it was a bit windy and he hadn't been ridden the day before. Oh well, as eventing great Jimmy Wofford says, stupid should hurt.) Normally, this would not have been a big deal, but given I haven't ridden above a walk in 2 weeks it had "Potential Distaster" written all over it.

James was frisky, but controllable for the most part.  That being said, I learned it's probably I good thing I never got to be a jockey, as I would have gotten left in the gate every time.  Sug can be pretty quick with a spook, but with James it was like breathe and...What-The-Heck-Am-I Doing-On-The-Other -Side -Of-the-Ring????  We spent the first 10 minutes of the trot work doing shoulder in and haunches in to keep James' attention off all the trolls that were lurking ringside.  I was happy because I did not get frustrated or lose my patience.  It was a "James, you are being a boob but I understand why and we will work through this" kind of thing.  After a couple more "Let's see if she can stick" moments, he settled down into a nice working trot.  We played with that, and a touch of canter, and finished my part of the ride on a good note.

A couple of good looking boys.

James was relaxed, but we decided to (finally) be smart and finish up in the indoor.  Noah and James worked on transitions.  A lot of trot to walk and back up again, and then some trot-canter-trot.  He really worked on sinking into his heels, keeping his lower legs still, using his weight to bring the horse back and  keeping his elbows fluid and following. 

Then we cooled him out, brought him out to the field and spent several minutes doing scratches and snuggles while Sug ignored us and munched hay.  The Sainted One is not a snuggler, and is easily disgusted by PDA.

And I'm still standing.  Mission accomplished. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Nice Sunday Morning, Despite the Plague...

The Black Lung (my new favorite term, courtesy of AWIP reader Hilary) has been running through the house and the kids and I have pretty much been unable to do anything other than hold down the couches.  This morning Sug had a vet re-check for her corneal ulcer, and Noah roused himself enough to take the lesson we had scheduled for him. 

We weren't expecting much given his energy level, but surprisingly things went well and he and James had a good ride.  Afterwards, they cooled down outside and I snapped a few pics.  I think you can tell these two kinda like each other.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sorry, Terribly Sorry...A Thousand Apologies!

Ever feel like this?
Do forgive me for dropping off the face of the earth.  Not that I flatter myself that you've been waiting on the edge of your chairs for me to post again. (What?  You mean you haven't?!?  I'm crushed.  Sigh.) 

Anyway, getting back to my narcissistic fantasy that you've missed me:  I've been off dealing with, well, some Very. Important. Crap. (Meaning I think it's important.  Not like World Peace or Syria or world hunger or women's rights, but you know, important on a me-me-me-me-me level). You know, the stuff that distracts us from what we like to do.  The stuff that pays the bills or otherwise occupies 90% of our waking moments.  You have that as well, yes?  That stuff that keeps you awake at night with your mind spinning around like a gerbil on a Habitrail wheel?

Let me bring you up to speed:

1) Sugar has had a second bout with a corneal ulcer.  We noticed it right before I left on a business trip.  It seemed small and insignificant at first, but while I was away things seemed to get worse, and thevet was called a couple times and it felt like being far away from your kid while she was injured and in hospital.  Bless the grooms at the barn we're at - they were on top of everything.  Bottom line is she has an indolent corneal ulcer and things look like they are slooooooooowwwwlllllyy improving. We hope. 

2)  James, the OTTB my kids ride, has ulcers and some issues in his hocks/stifles, which makes the poor guy a bit cranky.  Who can blame him?  So we try to keep him comfy with chiropractic. acupuncture, and massage until my BO comes back from Florida and we can explore other options for him.  We're probably looking at injections in the hocks and stifles. GULP.

3)  Oh yeah, it's time for Sug's yearly injections.  Double GULP. 

4)  Sophie is having a hard time adjusting to James.  It's tough going from a pony to a horse.  He's also a Thoroughbred and a more challenging ride. If she had her way, she'd like to go back to ponies.  My son loves James, and is working his butt off to learn to ride better so he can be a better partner to James.  We started working with James as he is a sweetheart, and a cost effective option that we thought both kids could share, as our budget does not stretch to having 3 horses.  So Sophie is not happy, and if I am to be honest, she does like to press the easy button.  Noah is happy, and accepts that success with this horse will take some work.

Assuming James' health issues are resolved, do we ask Soph to "pony" up to the challenge?  If we don't, I can see her losing interest.  Then again, that's not the end of the world.  Alternatively, I could let her share Sug with me, and Noah could focus on James.  Problem there is Sug is 17.  I'm not comfortable asking her to jump as often as Sophie and I need to in order to improve.  Oh well, none of this is earth-shatteringly important and it will sort itself out, but it's the sort of situation that makes Mom want to wring her hands and reach for a large glass of Malbec. 

5)  Add in the fact that I've been dealing with an upper-respiratory/ sinus thing/ cough for darn near a month and a half and it got worse last week when I went on a business trip and I had a senior moment and planned a business trip for the week my kids have Spring Break and my husband is ready to kill me and I have 3 more trips planned in the next month and a half and work has been Super Stressful I don't even want to get into that right now and I just hope I can keep my job so I can pay these vet bills.... BREEEEEEEEEEEATHE!

6) Those darn green-glad imps of Satan have been around selling their crack-laced cookies.  Have you ever been able to turn a Girl Scout down?? No way, right?  If you do you risk becoming the neighborhood pariah!  Well, our little neighborhood sales mavens know that I'm an easy mark, and hit me up for 24 boxes.  Other people hoard pets or chachkes, I hoard Girl Scout cookies. 

Well, given the above mentioned stress, I've been on a sugar and carb induced binge.  No lie, one morning I woke up with two empty wrappers in the bed next to me and an empty box of Thin Mints on the floor next to the bed.  Yep, $h!t just got REAL!!

Given the current lack of fitness regimen due to the inability to breathe courtesy of the illness combined with the constant influx of cookies into my gaping maw, I'm thinking I'll be quailifying as one of the contestants on the next season of the Biggest Loser.  I hope I'm on Bob's team.  Jillian terrifies me.

So that, in a nutshell, is what's been going on.  Thanks for letting me rant.

Could you pass me a cookie, please? 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Blahs...Oh, and a Really Cute Video

Ever have those days where you wake up in an icky mood and you have no real reason for it?  Today is one of those days.

It could have started with the dream I woke up from -- it was a return to high school.  Wasn't any better in the dream than it was in reality.  Wasn't tragic, it was just high school, which happens during adolescence, which for 90% of the population ain't exactly the high point of  life.  Just sayin'.

Could be that I didn't get to ride yesterday and we are staring down the barrel of one of those dang winter storms and it looks like tonight's lesson will be cancelled. (Note to self: Check to see if the weather wizards named this one.)  The kids did the "snow dance" so that they get tomorrow off from school.  I did the "Hell No! snow dance" so I can go ride tonight.  Let me tell you, I was serious, and my gyrations put the Harlem Shake and Gangnam Style to shame!  No, I will not be posting video.

I was in such a funk that I could barely push myself to work out in the time between getting the kids to school and starting work.  I went downstairs to the treadmill, started hooking up my laptop so I could watch FEITV while exercising, and got distracted watching the old Stephen Colbert Dressage Training videos and SpruceMeadowstv.  I forced myself to do a short Nike training ab workout, came upstairs and contemplated "showering" with a Clorox Wipe.  Really, Amy?? Time to snap out of it!!

Fast forward to sitting down to start work and wasting more time by farting around on Facebook.  Then I saw this video.  Grumpies gone!  Tell me this doesn't make you smile.  Dontcha just wanna kiss that sweet spotted nose?

Nothin' better than a little donkey love to improve the mood, I always say. :)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Few Updates...

The Birthday Girl in all her glory.
It's been a few days since I last checked in with you all, so I figured I'd quickly catch you up on the going's on around Casa Crazy...

The Sainted Mare's Birthday

Madame Mare was treated to quite the fuss on Tuesday night.  Noah and I arrived at the barn packing carrots, apples, mints, granola bars and other goodies, which Sugar gobbled down quite happily.  She's not very ladylike when accepting treats.  She lunges at whatever you have in your hand like a great white shark going after a seal.  (Really, it's not quite that bad, - you do know by now that I exaggerate a little, right?) The only reason I even still give her treats is that she's very careful to never get any fingers, bless her heart. 

Her Majesty was perhaps a bit surprised that she was expected to work on her special day, and maybe a bit less than thrilled that part of the festivities included being made to wear a birthday tiara and boa, but she accepted our shenanigans with typical Sug aplomb and did what she had to do to get more yummies.  Noah thought she looked mortified but I think she secretely likes playing dress up.

Riding: Rhythm is Peace (and Safety!)

We have been having the most amazing lessons!!!  We've been going back to basics and concentrating on rhythm to the fences.  Our trainer has been having me re-learn jumping to erase some bad habits and fear that arose because of them. I've been concentrating on cantering one crossrail on the circle until I can stay in a consistent rhythm, and lo and behold, once I could stay in that rhythm, the distance thing wasn't as much of an issue.  A little close, a little far away?  Either was doable from the right rhythm.  (Of course, it helps when the fences are ridiculously small.) 

We progressed from doing single crossrails to two in my next lesson, just to see if I could maintain the rhythm when I had another fence to worry about.  We worked on keeping the rhythm while changing the strides in a line.  Question - can Amy collect Sugar and do 7 strides in the line, and then open the stride and do 6 without getting flat or strung out?  Now she can, and consistently, too!  In the past I could have maybe done it once, maybe twice in a lesson, but not 3 or 4 times.

Each lesson we've added another fence or two, low fences, and we jump one, then two, and then maybe three in a row if I can show my trainer I can maintain the canter rhythm throughout.  We've gone to four, then five, and he's even raised the heights on some of the fences so some are crossrails and some may be 2'3", and another one may be 3'.  This has helped me to stop worrying so much about the height of the fence.  As my trainer tells me,  "It's not the height, it's the rhythm."  Notice a recurring theme here?

In my last lesson I ended jumping a course of seven or eight fences of varying heights.  I've been able to jump courses before. Heck, Sug and I would jump 3' courses at shows, so it's not like I can't do it.   It's more like I used to feel that after the third fence things were unravelling and by the halfway point we were getting strung out and if we made it to the end of the course it was on a wing and a prayer.  I used to feel fear pretty much every stride of the course.  Now I don't.  Now I am so busy finding my rhythm, balancing her up, and then staying in my rhythm that I haven't been afraid. 

Jumping is even fun again.  We get to a slightly deep distance? No problem.  Land and get the rhythm back.  We see a long one?  No need to panic.  Stay back, land in my heels, regain the rhythm, and carry on.  Sug is much happier with this new system, as there is consistency.  Not so much pull-pull-pull, now go-go-go!!!!  Am I perfect. Not by a long shot.  But we've addressed a very real weakness and I am better, and that makes a huge difference tome, and most importantly, to my horse. I swear to you she's smiling after every lesson.

I told my trainer that I really feel this approach has worked for us, that it helps me preserve my focus and makes me more confident.  My trainer answered (insert Argentinian accent here) "Of course.  Rhythm is peace. For the rider and for the horse"  He cocks his head and thinks for a second. "And safety.  Rhythm is peace and safety.  And that brings confidence."

So there you have it.  I'll leave you to think about that pearl of wisdom until we meet again. 

Thanks for reading!