Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Good Day to Save The Ta-Tas...

Bays for Boobies
The alarm went off ungawdly early on the morning of the Central/South New Jersey Susan G. Komen Ride for the Cure.  Horse show early, if you get my drift.  As in, what-the-heck-am-I-doing-up-it's-still-dark-out early.  No worries! I
leaptbounded slid out of bed and blindly felt my way to the kitchen and the coffee machine. A swift jolt of caffeine enabled me to crack open at least one eyelid and I was able to do a brief check on the equipment for the day's ride: Pink fly bonnet? Check.  Generously donated ECOGOLD Secure saddle pad with the breast cancer ribbon embroidered on it? Check!  A quick text to my teammate assured me that Sug's pink polos, bell boots, and pink glitter were waiting for her in the trailer. I donned my pink polo, pink sweater, breeches (thankfully not pink - one has to draw the line somewhere) and boots and off I headed, second double shot latte in hand, to the barn.

The Sainted Mare was a tad surprised to see me so early, but a carrot or two convinced her it was worth her while to leave her stall to be groomed and wrapped.  My teammate and friend Marissa arrived with her trailer, with her horse Tucker anxiously awaiting a reunion with the object of his affections. Said Object eagerly loaded onto the trailer, impatient to get to...the haybag.  Didn't matter to Tucker, who sighed contentedly and gazed admiringly at his ladylove while she decimated his hay.

When we arrived at the event it was all systems go as we met up with our other teammates, Ethan and Chrisie, as we needed to pimp out our ponies in their pink finery.  Pink wraps and polos, pink glitter in manes and tails.  Marissa's mom had  made big flower and ribbon wreathes for their tails, so tails needed to be braided quickly in order to secure the tail arraignments.  Marissa had found a breast cancer awareness stencil with pink glitter online, so we stenciled a big old pink ribbon on the horse's rumps.  I added the initials M and a C on Sugar's butt in honor of one friend who survived breast cancer and one who is currently fighting it.  Once we were all pinked-up and pretty we joined the other dolled up riders and set out on course.
Pretty in Pink

It was a crisp fall day and the horses were on their toes and happy to be out.  Our teammate Ethan and his Paso Fino Gitano were the hit of the ride - every time we came to a checkpoint everyone wanted to meet the personable little gelding with the adorable way of going.  Gitano took his newfound celebrity in stride,  graciously allowing his public to adore him.  We trotted and galloped over hill and dale, and of course we came to The Sainted Mare's nemesis - water.  Sugar's philosophy is this: She is a jumper.  Jumpers do not ford water, jumpers leap over water.  So when we got to the itty bitty 2' trickle of water ambitiously termed a stream, I knew what was in store.

Sug (in t he rear)is sure this water thing is NOT a good idea.

Sug was the last in line, and as soon as she saw the water she started hemming and hawing, and working herself into a state.  Everybody else crossed the 2' stream with no issue, taking the easy way up a slight incline on the other side.  Not Princess Aquaphobia of Clan Drama Llama.  She rocked back on her haunches and  launched us straight up in the air, which brought us to the other side of the water, but left us facing a 4' bank.  With a burst of adrenaline fueled energy, the mare scrambled up and over the bank with me holding on for dear life and cussing a blue streak.  Thankfully Ethan was able to get all of this with his iphone camera.

Hanging on for dear life...

We finished the ride, put the horses away, and wandered over to the main staging area for a complimentary lunch and to bid on some cool stuff in the silent auction.  Local merchants had donated their time and wares to the cause - on offer were baskets filled with baby clothes, pet treats, and home goods.  One local carpenter donated a gorgeous tack trunk and bit box.  Show Jumping Olympian Nona Garson donated a lesson to the cause.

While team Bays for Boobies certainly had a lovely time on the Ride for the Cure, more importantly, the Ride raised a total of $41,040.80 for breast cancer research and programs. Team Bays for Boobies raised $2,295, and thanks to some wonderful folks , I was able to raise $590 for the cause.
Go team!  Bays for Boobies was the 4th highest team fundraiser.

I have to admit that at first I felt a bit of guilt, as it seemed odd to be doing something I loved in order to fundraise.  I mean, on one hand it felt like I was asking people to give me money for something I would do anyway (ride).  But then I thought on it a bit more: People run to raise money for breast cancer research, hence the Race for the Cure. I don't run (unless somebody armed is chasing me).  There are Swims for the Cure.  I swam in college, so I could probably get back in the pool and do one of these (but it feels a bit too much like work, you know?)  Turns out there are a variety of events, from bowling to cooking to golfing or driving to raise money and awareness to raise funds to fight battle against breast cancer.  So, in light of this, I was able to drop the guilt and just feel good that I was able to do something, however small, that might make a difference down the road.

Or trail, as the case may be.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who either donated to the cause or wished us well in our efforts -- your support is tremendously appreciated!

Photo by Beth Lewis.  Graphic blandishment by Pam Frisoli.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pretty In Pink? Heck Yeah! Bays for Boobies Rides to Cure Breast Cancer...

As you may recall, my blogging buddy Marissa asked me to team up with her to do the 3rd Annual Ride for the Cure to raise funds for breast cancer research.  Our team is called Bays for Boobies because her horse Tucker and Sug, our official team captains, are both bays.

Since I last wrote about our efforts, a lot has happened.  Two teammates, Ethan and Chrisie, have joined us, and thanks to a bunch of wonderful folks, we've done a fantastic job raising funds!  Bays for Boobies has raised $2,000 for the Central and South Jersey Komen Ride for the Cure!

WHOOHOO!!  I'd like to offer a heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who has donated, and to everyone who plans to keep us in their thoughts as we try to help make a difference.  Thanks to your support Bays for Boobies is in 4th place in terms of funds raised!

The ride is 2 days away, and, well, lets just say we have been enjoying the HECK out of ourselves getting ready for it! We are gonna look like a Pepto Bismol explosion on horseback!  Marissa's mom made a  ribbon and flower wreath that goes in their tails, we have a breast cancer ribbon stencil for their rumps, hot pink ear bonnets, hot pink polo wraps, and hot pink bell boots.  

Sug will be sporting a specially embroidered CoolFit Jumper Pad with the pink breast cancer ribbon, which was donated to the cause by the wonderful folks at ECOGOLD. We also have pink crystal rubber bands to braid their manes with, pink glitter for their manes and tails, and we’ll all be wearing pink shirts/sweaters.  Even Ethan, who is very secure in his man-hood and would look handsome in any color you put him in.

I CANNOT wait to get to the event to see everyone all decked out in their best pink duds with all their pinked-up/pimped up ponies.  Rest assured there will be many pictures to share with you all!! 

Thank you again for all your well wishes and support.  There's still time to donate if that's something you feel called to do.  Click here to go to Sug's and my web page if you'd like to help us "do our bit" to eradicate breast cancer.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Clint Eastwood Horse Show...

Finding the car? Easy peasy!
It's been two years since my last horse show.  If you've been following AWIP for a while, you may recall that last show was the one where I attempted to turn myself into a human lawn dart.  I haven't shown since then because of one thing or another - The Sainted Mare injured herself, I was kicked out of my old barn and needed to acclimate to life in a new system, health issues, my son was showing my horse, showing has never been that important to me.  For any number of reasons I just didn't show.  Then things changed and I kinda sorta thought I maybe wanted to show.

You know that kind of feeling, right?  The niggly thought in the back of your brain that's just a kernel of an idea until it takes shape and ultimately becomes something you need to act on?  That's what happened to me.  Watching my son show Sugar made me think I might want to show, and over time that thought grew and finally I told my trainer, "Let's do it!"  We settled on a local show as my comeback, and decided that instead of the jumpers I'd compete in the equitation classes.  My trainer felt that I'd be more relaxed as I wouldn't feel pressured by the need to make time or memorize a jump off course, and I'd put less pressure on myself as I am not an equitation rider, nor is Sug an equitation horse.  No expectations = no pressure, right?  BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Not if you have my brain.

The weekend of the horse show coincided with a soccer tournament my daughter was in.  I spent the morning watching her team play, thinking it would help distract me and keep the show nerves at bay. It didn't.  Not really.  We then had friends back to the house for a pizza lunch.  No distraction here, either.  Noah and I headed off to the show and arrived at 3:30, ready to warm up and show around 4:30 or 5:00. Here's where things got interesting.  The classes started running later and later, as will happen at horse shows, and our estimated show time was pushed back an hour, then another hour, and then another hour, and yet another hour.  We were told we'd be showing outside, under the moon and arena lights, in weather that had turned quite chilly and windy ( a factor when all the fences standards are decorated with cornstalks.)

So here's where we get to the Clint Eastwood portion of this post...

I showed.  Despite nerves and delay and crappy circumstances.  When we weren't on the horses by 8:00PM I wanted to chuck it all in, but I didn't. Yay me.

I didn't completely suck.  There were some very nice moments in my courses.

I didn't fall off when I choked my poor horse into a ridiculously deep distance and she had to jump straight up from a near standstill. I almost went out the side door, but managed to scramble back in the tack.  The good news is this contributed to a marked lack of impulsion, which made it much easier to do the Halt/rein back test portion of the class which immediately followed that fence.

We had a fabulous time with my trainer and barn friends, laughing like loons over a late dinner of pizza that a barn mate's mom brought in.

Finding where you parked your car is not too difficult when you are one of the last people to leave the show.

The time - Riding at 9:00PM, 5 hours after we thought we would be.  By 9PM I'm normally in my fat pants, reading a good book and enjoying a nice sauvignon blanc. 

The weather - a 20 degree drop in temperature with gusty winds.  The Sainted Mare was definitely on her toes, bug-eyed and snorting, as was James, the OTTB my son Noah was riding. 

Cornstalks.  And wind. Need I say more?  Thankfully TSM and James kept their wits about them.  Many horses didn't, and we saw a few galloping riderless around the ring.

My riding.  I went from riding 3' courses well at home to riding 2'6" courses badly at a show.

My nerves.  I let them get to me.  And because I let them get to me, I lost focus. Instead of being a thinking rider who executed her plan, I became a reactive rider that choked up on her horse, trying to "pull back" into seeing a distance, instead of simply getting my rhythm and letting it take me to the fence and finding the distance out of the rhythm.

When I added so many strides my poor horse had to take off from darn near underneath the base of the fence and I almost fell off and had to had to clamber back into the tack after hanging of the side of my mare's neck.

I beat myself up quite a bit over my performance at the show, as poor Sug did not deserve the ride I gave her.  Despite the adverse conditions, she did her job as best she could.  I did not hold up to my end of the bargain, and I feel I let her down.  Thankfully, horses don't think like we do.  (I hope). 

In the meantime, I'm feeling glad that we got that "first show" out of the way and it's in the rear view mirror.  I know what I need to work on in terms of my riding and in terms of my mental outlook, so I can say that while this show did not go as I'd hoped, it was a valuable learning tool.

So, onward and upward!  Time to start planning for show #2.  Now, where did I leave that valium prescription...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Breaking Out The Bad...

Last night's lesson was pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

Actually, the last several lessons have been really good.  (Smiling and doing a little happy dance.)  After about a year of working on my rhythm and making sure to keep my canter consistent over baby fences, I've gotten consistent enough to warrant moving back up to 3'.  In the past raising the height of the fences would have put me in the fetal position, but since I've worked on my mental approach and the whole consistency thing, the "fetal thing" wasn't so much of an issue.

My trainer built me up to 3' in stages.  I usually share lessons with my kids, which made sense since we were all jumping about 2'6".  Lately during lessons she'd raise one fence in a course  to 3' for me.  Then maybe a second fence would be put up to that height.  The rest would be the 2'6" my kids and I normally jumped.  I'd jump a course with the 3' fence or two. No problem.  Wheeeeeeee!

In the interest of honesty I should mention that the first couple times my trainer raised the fences on me she totally fibbed  and told me they were only 2'9".  I'm no expert, but she's the coach, so I believed her, even though they looked bigger to me. Finally during one lesson she raised a fence and it looked waaaay too big to be the 2'9" she told me it was, so after I'd finished Sug's post-ride grooming I snuck back into the ring and measured it.  Sure enough, it was 3'.  Ah-hah!  Mind games!  I can appreciate those!  She knows how I work, and bamboozling me into thinking I'm comfortable at 2'9" when I'm really jumping 3' is not a bad strategy on her part.  Well played, coach!

So, anyway, back to last night's lesson.  Soph and I rode together, and usually our Tuesday night lesson is mostly flat with some cavaletti work or exercises over small fences.  Last night the exercise was the "circle of death" exercise, where you ride in a circle over jumps working on rhythm, staying the center of the fence, and getting the horse to land on the correct lead.  My trainer had complicated things by making the fences into ridiculously small targets - a flower box and two bales of hay.  First we jumped the one hay bale, working on getting a rhythm and making sure we could get our horses to the middle of an obstacle only 3' wide. Then we did the hay bale to the flower box. Then the hay bale to flower box to the second hay bale.

Sounds easy, but it ain't.  Luckily for me, I'd geeked out yesterday and had read Amanda Steege's article on nailing your lead after a fence in the November issue of Practical Horseman. Amanda advocates making sure you look up and across the fence in the direction you want to go, and that you close your fingers around the rein on the side of the lead you want as your horse prepares to take off, while you apply slight pressure with the opposite leg and step into that heel to move the horse's haunches over and cue him to land with the correct hind leg first.

I'd also watched a little while I was on the treadmill at lunch.  Hope Glynn's video on "Making the Most of Your Turns on Course" was super helpful.  She demonstrated how making a good square turn to a fence sets the horse up for a good jump.  She also showed how fading in or out on the turn affects the horse's landing and approach to the the next obstacle, and thus affects balance and smoothness and your distance, as well as time if you're a jumper.

Well, DUUUUUHHHH, right??  I mean, I should know this stuff, right?  But you know how sometimes you get to the barn after a long, crappy day at work, you've fought rush hour traffic and somehow all the stuff you should know doesn't seem to come out in your ride?  I just read a blog post on Eventing Nation by Denny Emerson's student Lila Gendal on Being More Present and it touches on this.

So last night, I was present during my ride, and I nailed that damn circle of death exercise, right from the get-go!  And what made it even better was that my daughter had trouble with it for a while, and so did my trainer's daughter (a fabulous little pony jock with several trips to pony finals under her belt by age 9).  My trainer was telling the girls to watch me (watch me!!!) and how I set up my turns, how I used my outside aids, and how I got Sug to the middle of each fence. LALALALALALA- time for the mounted happy dance!!!! (I know, real mature, huh? Great parenting moment, right?  Pffffftttttt!!!!  Sometimes Mom gets to win! LOL.)

Yeah, I was getting high on my big, bad self.  Got my strut back on, feeling like a badass!  That's me, vanquisher of flower boxes, slayer of hay bales.  Bring on that 3' course, baby!  I'll kill that muthah!!!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bays for Boobies

Next time we'll be wearing pink and Riding for the Cure!
Dear Friends of AWIP,

I hesitated before writing this post, because you are friends and there's a trust factor there and I don't want you to feel I've ever abused your trust.  However, after doing some serious thinking, I feel strongly enough about this that I'm going to go ahead and post this.

As you may know, in the United States, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every three minutes.  We’ve all known someone – a friend, family member, or colleague – who has been affected by this disease.  Often when a friend or loved one tells us they are facing this particular challenge, we feel helpless to do anything.  I know i felt that way when a dear friend shared her diagnosis with me.

I would like to do something, however small, to help end this horrible disease, and so Sug and I (together with our friends Marissa and Tucker from Tucker the Wunderkind) are participating in the Ride for the Cure Central and South Jersey on Sunday, October 20, 2013  - a trail ride to help end breast cancer forever.  We've called our team "Bays for Boobies." Others (read: “normal, non-horsie people”) might participate in one of the Komen Race for the Cure run/walk events, but you know I don’t run anywhere unless someone is chasing me so we are doing it this way...

I am asking if you'll consider helping by donating in support of our efforts, if your circumstances allow.  Seventy-five percent of all proceeds benefit local breast cancer education and screening programs.  This year, the affiliate invested $1.1 million into the local community to reach 25,000 women with breast cancer education and provide 8,000 free mammograms.  The remaining 25% will support innovative breast cancer research bringing us closer to the cure.
If you can help by donating, please do so by going to my page.

If donating doesn't work for you this time, that's absolutely okay!  Maybe you could keep Sug and I in your thoughts as we progress in our fundraising efforts, or maybe you can say a quick prayer that a cure is found?  Or maybe you'd prefer to see how you can help efforts in your local community, or find an event you can participate in. You can do so by clicking HERE.  

Thank you all for your friendship and well wishes, and for supporting us in whatever way works for you.  Knowing you guys have our backs is truly special.  

I'll keep you posted on how we do, and of course, as we are planning to deck ourselves and the horses out in all manner of embarrassing pink frippery, there will be pictures.  Lots of pictures.  If you have any ideas on how we can accessorize, please feel free to share your suggestions!