Friday, September 27, 2013

Another Life Lesson Learned...

Mad Mare.
You know those days where you just don't seem to get much accomplished?  This would be one of them for me.  I think the highlight of the day was a conversation I had with my son over breakfast this morning.

I've just returned from a 4-day business trip, and he asked if I was happy to have gone to see the horses last night, even though I did not ride.  "Of course," was the reply, as it's just good to be able to kiss on the horses.  We laughed at how Sug did her "mad" routine with me: When I've been away for a while and first approach her she pins her ears and refuses to look at me.  After I've grovelled enough (usually by feeding her several treats) she whips her head around, ears still pinned, and starts licking me for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile James just puts his big ol' head in my arms and lets me hug and kiss on him all I want.

They are different that way.  Sug likes attention, but on her terms and only when she wants it.  She's not a hugger; she will, however, lick you to death when she's in the mood. James is ready for a cuddle any time and would simply love to be a lap-pony.

Noah asked if that bothered me, and I said no.  I told him that horses are like people in that respect.  Some are really affectionate and huggy and outgoing, and others like to show affection in their way and at their moment.  Noah could understand that, as he can be affectionate, but is not typically a hugger and is only affectionate when he is comfortable with the situation and the person.  Sophie, on the other hand, is a hugger and would squeeze and love on anybody 24/7 if you let her.

I told Noah you have to respect the horse's or person's comfort level, and look for their cues, and then interact with them in the way that works best for them.  Trying to get a horse, or a person, for that matter, to change for you is like trying to spit in the wind. Just doesn't work.

Not bad for an exchange before I even had a cup of coffee in me, huh?  I have to admit, I'm pretty proud of myself. LOL.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Flying the Horsie Freak Flag High...

You know those horse people things we do that other folks don't get, like half-halting grocery carts, poking people and clucking at them to get them to move over, counting strides between cars on the highway, and seeing no issue with washing human clothes and horsie clothes in the same load, much less the same washing machine?

I have two more for you:

1) This past week I was at the gym. A quick look to either side and in front of me confirmed that everyone else was either watching the bank of TVs, or reading Men's Health, Shape, Self, Prevention, or some other gym-appropriate reading material. I'd brought my own reading material from home, and was (can you believe it?) the only one catching up on the latest issue of The Chronicle of the Horse. I know-seriously? Don't these people appreciate good literature??

2) This past Sunday I flew out to Las Vegas on a business trip. Miracle of miracles, I arrived at the airport with time to spare, and so parked at the gate, fired up the old iPad, and commenced watching some Global Champions Tour live streaming. And I was into it, riding every stride with the riders and
exclaiming with disappointment when appropraite. (Umm, that means I was saying "Crap!" or "Shit!" each time a rail fell). After a while I realized I'd drawn a crowd. Several guys, no doubt thinking I was watching the NFL, were standing in a semi-circle behind my seat, no doubt pretty darn confused when they realized the athletes I was focused on were 4-legged, not two. One guy even asked me, "Who's playing?" Ummm, ponies vs. poles???

How would you have answered that one?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Getting Our Gallop On...

Tucker: Gee, Sugar, you're so pretty.  Sugar: Nom. Nom. Nom.
Oh for cripes sake, I cannot believe so much time has since I've posted anything. The spirit is willing but the fingers and mind are, well, weak.  I swear upon a stack of Hunter Seat Equitations that I will do better, promise!

Anyway, I have something fun to write about!  You know how Denny Emerson and George Morris often point out how riders today spend so much time in rings or showing that they never ride out on terrain?  Well, call me old school, but I love what these guys have to say, and though I've always been big on riding out, this summer I've made a concerted effort to do much more of it.

Christie Hoffman Farm Park is just a quick ride away from our barn, and it's got scads of trails and open fields to ride through and loads of obstacles to jump over.Every year the Tewksbury Trail Association does a trail pace there, and this year my blogging buddy Marissa and her horse Tucker teamed up with Sug and I to do it.

Marissa and I get along like peas and carrots, and our horses get along great as well.  Tucker adores Sugar, and Sugar is content to be adored while she eats all of Tucker's hay.  Win-win, right?  So off we go, mimosas at the ready for a post-ride celebration.  It's one of those gorgeous September days, the kind where the sun is out and it's comfortable but not cool.  We set off like a giddy Thelma and Louise before things got ugly.

What?? This thing is how many miles???Did you pack rations?

Sug is 17, and the ride was supposed to be 8.5 miles or so.  We'd done a lot of prep-work, but I was still concerned about taking it easy and going at a pace that was easy for her.  Well, Madame Mare and her buddy had other ideas.  They wanted to trot, and not just trot, they wanted to TROT. As in, "Here's at my best Totilas impression, Mom!" I can't get my mare to lengthen at home to save my life, so of course the irony was killing me.  Then we got to an open field, Marissa and I just looked at each other, and to tell the truth, I think the horses were galloping before we asked them.  We were laughing like loons,  Sug was tossing her head, and Tucker was doing his best Seabiscuit impersonation.

Nah, we're not having any fun at all.

We galloped a lot that afternoon. Basically, we were totally accessing our inner 13 year old and having a blast remembering all the fun stuff we used to think nothing of doing.  We'd walk for a while, then turn into an open field. I'd ask Sug how she felt about a gallop, and she'd be three strides into one before i finished the question.

"Wanna gallop?"
"Wanna jump that?"
"Hell yes!"

Ambassadors for equestrian sport.

We met cool people, ran into old friends, and tailgated with some folks who were new to the neighborhood and wanted to get a better look at the horses.  They had mimosas, so of course Marissa and I had to go say howdy.  They also had carrots, so Tucker and Sug were happy to stop as well.  Tucker took his carrots like a perfect gentleman, and Sug did her best Great White Shark impersonation.  We posed for pics with every single person there and then headed out on our way. (Clearly we were not worried about time allowed!)

We had some really funny moments at some of the streams and water obstacle.  Not shocking, as Sug is somewhat aqua phobic, but she's been getting better.  In the first part of the course we had to walk through a stream that was about 10' wide, then do a long loop and cross back over it.  We've practiced crossing this stream a lot during our weekend trail rides, so had no problems.

However, when we got to a 6' wide stream at the bottom of a deep gully, Sug clearly felt it was time to rethink this trail pace silliness.  Tucker plowed through with no issues and waited on the other uphill bank.  Sug hemmed, hawed, debated, demurred and fussed.  I looked at Marissa and said "She's gonna jump" at the same moment that Sug rocket-launched herself skyward.  She landed scrambling on the other bank, with  me hanging halfway out the side door and scrambling back into the tack.

She did the same thing over over a teensy tiny trickle of water about 20 minutes later, although this time she didn't launch quite so far and I didn't come at all close to buying real estate.  All went well until we got to the finish and the water hazard. Now, The Sainted Mare is a jumper, and as such, feels it is her duty to go over water, not through it.  She also has a marked mistrust of any water she can;t see the bottom of.  We got to this tiny banked pond and she said, "Oh, Hell No!" 

Tucker, prince that he is, trotted right through.  Sug pulled an Oscar-worthy drama llama routine on the bank, prompting Marissa and Tucker to circle back and rescue us with a lead through.  Sug did her best to jump the water, and we would up landing with a crashing splash in the middle of it.  She sniffed the water, snorted, sniffed it again, and leaped to the other bank.  Did I mention there was a photographer getting all of these shenanigans on film?  Priceless.

Sug: Are you sure there aren't any alligators?   Tucker: None.  And there are no cougars up on that hill, either.

Pongo, the cutest beastie at the event.

Denny and George are right, riding out is a hell of a lot of fun!  I'm still grinning, three days later.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

McLain Ward's Next Show Jumper?

Sophie was in great form today.  It was her birthday, so why shouldn't she be?  She wanted to go on a trail ride before her both sets of Grandparents came over to celebrate, so we took James and Sug on a nice long wander and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

She was still feeling "horsey" when we got home, and despite the fact that she consumed almost an entire tray of bean dip with half a bag of Tostitos, she pulled out her jumps and showed us what kind of show jumper she'd make.

I'm heading off to cover the Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix and the Diamond Mills Hunter Prix at HITS Saugerties tomorrow, and she was inspired by that, raising the sticks and telling me she was going to be McLain Ward's next show jumper.

She cleared  3' 7.5", which impressed the heck out of all of us.(We were not quite so active. We sat on the porch drinking adult beverages and stuffing our faces).  I asked her if she thought she could jump that high with McLain on her back.  She didn't even need to think about it.  "No problem."  No confidence issues there.

Check out Sophie's Mini-Prix below:

Here she is clearing the 3-stride combination, which I think was set around 3'3":

Makes you tired just watching her, doesn't it?   Her goal, she tells me, is to be jumping 5'3 by age 14, two years from now. I know what kind of determination lives inside this kid,  and I'm not about to doubt her.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Whistle While You Work. I Dare You.

I might be late to the party because apparently this has been around since 2009, but I saw it on the United States Pony Club Facebook site today and it's too darn good not to share!

I've had a mare for some time now and although cleaning her lady bits ain't fun, it wasn't until we leased James that I was reminded how nasty willy washing can be.  That being said, I never though to write an ode to it to help pass the time, à la Disney's Giselle in Enchanted or the Seven Dwarves in Snow White.

Holy smokes, sportsfans, it's a Ding-Dong-Sing-A-Long!

Until I saw this, I thought the funniest thing I'd seen regarding sheath cleaning was my very proper Mother's face when she stopped by the barn one day and found with my arm up to the elbow in my gelding's junk.

That might be a close second to this.

Go ahead, tell me that's not going to be in your head all day.

You're welcome. :)

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Horse Family On Vacation: Part Two

Look!  Horses on Hilton Head!
It's disgustingly early and I'm woefully under-caffeinated, but I'll try to get a few thoughts down since, well, there's not much else to do on this plane except mouth breath and hope for this ride to be over. On one hand it can be a good thing to be located in the back next to the lavatory, especially if you're a middle aged mother of two (know what I mean, ladies?). On the other hand, the atmosphere can be a touch, ummm, gag-worthy.

Anywhooo, so here are some of the other ways we managed to make our non-horsey vacation a bit more, for lack of a better word, horsey:

1) My son and I were bike riding and he kept trying to ride without the use of his hands, to no avail. He kept drifting precariously to the right. I made the connection that Sugar and James drift right when he rides them, and -LIGHTBULB!- came to the conclusion it might be because he is weighting his right seat bone too much. I asked him to tighten up his core a bit and concentrate on putting a little more weight into his left seat bone, and lo and behold, after a few aborted attempts he was able to ride no-handed in a straight line.

Noah and Sophie riding "Julien" and "James the 2nd"

2) Sophie has declared that my lucky number is 4. This pronouncement is based on the fact that my average per hole mini-golf score is 4, which she says is obviously because horses have 4 legs. You get the connection, right? Clear as mud.

3) On our last day we managed to drag my husband to an actual barn. One of our previous trainers had moved to a lovely facility about 30 minutes from where we were staying, so on our way out of town we stopped by to say hi and see her new digs. As the kids and I walked into the barn we all inhaled deep breaths of that wonderful horse smell, and both turned to me and voiced what I was thinking, "Boy, it sure smells good in here, and boy, do we miss our horses." So we loved on every horse who was amenable to it, offering scratches and nose kisses and peppermints and just breathing in the magic that is horse.

Sophie the Girl meets Sophie the Pony
4) Our flight home was at an ungodly early hour, so we elected to spend the night before near the Savannah airport. It seemed like a great opportunity to see a bit of this historic and lovely city, and we took one of the walking tours of the haunted houses of old Savannah. Savannah is a beautiful city, clean, with wide streets and moss-draped live oak trees. Horse drawn carriage tours are a big tourist draw, and of course we needed to walk up and smuggle peppermints to as many of the cart horses as we could. I'm not a city lover, but I could probably live in Savannah, as at least the historic center smells more of horse (and equine by-products) than of car exhaust, sidewalk food vendor grease, and too many people in close quarters.

5) Plane flights are a great place to read. On our flight home my husband found himself with nothing to read and no in-flight movie, so he leaned over to see what might be of interest in my stack of magazines. "Practical Horseman, Practical Horseman, and Chronicle of the Horse," he intoned with dejection. "I have the US Pony Club Manual of Horsemanship in my bag, if you'd rather that," I mentioned helpfully. He elected to nap rather than expand his body of equine knowledge. Silly man.

So there you have it. How a horsey family manages to take a week away from the horses and infuse it with at least a tiny taste of things equine.

Would be better utilized as a jump field or pasture, right?

Really?? This even needs to be said??