Sunday, June 30, 2013

All the Other Stuff

Because I let so much time lapse between my first lesson and now I felt two posts were needed.   So first off I am finally, FINALLY free of my previous command. I checked out last Tuesday, handed in my security badge and happily skipped away from the prison I've lived in for the last three years.

Thursday I got to mark something off my exciting adventure list.  Superhubs, my two inlaws and myself went white water rafting in central Virginia.  Along with a fabulous lunch of duck proscitto at a great resturante called Galley.  Afterword we all wandered through a lovely antique shop that had a shop cat that had the most gorgeous celadon green eyes I'd ever seen.

I also got to meet, along with all the wonderful staff at Riverside Outfitters, the most well behaved Labrador I'd ever met.  My older sister has two, one is a holy terror(think Marley x10) and the other is fairly well behaved. But Dandy was truly a wonderful dog, and if all Labs were like her I'd have one.

Then I had a blast traversing the James River in a big blue raft, stopping half way through on a rocky outcropping for cold water and trail mix.

And next we all moved on to begining to put the new front porch on my house that I have been harassing super hubs about for years.  But with all the man power available he couldn't say no.  It will probably take us another couple of weeks to get it completely done as we both have to go back to work next week.

Then came the High Queen.  GRRRRRRRR!  I went out to feed her yesterday morning and she was not only her usual hitchy self in the back, but now she had a new limp in the front.  I checked her all over but found nothing.  SIGH.  So I separated her from Cowboy, making them graze in different pastures. Then by using a bit of temporary fencing I created a small paddock connected to the run-in-shed. I had to hope that the High Queen would stay within the paddock and not bulldoze her way out.  Apparently she likes being near Cowboy, but having her own separate area and stayed within her domain.

I also went to a Gary Allan concert last night.  LOVE HIM! And the best part of the evening, other than sitting with super hubs, was hearing Gary Allan sing Smoke Rings in the Dark, one of my all time favorite songs.

And let me just say I LOVE Craigslist.  Yeah there is a lot of crap on their, and some sketchy people. But when you can buy several thousand dollars worth of wood fencing for a 100$ you know that there are some great deals to be had.  I might even get a barn out of it.  The woman we are getting the fencing from sold her house, and the new owner doesn't have horses and wants all the fencing gone.  I asked about the barn and the old owner is checking to see if the new owner wants it.  It's just a pretty one stall barn with a tack area, a loft to store hay, and a nice overhang for shade.  I wannnnnt it so bad. Especially since the High Queen keeps trying to damage herself.

This week I will check in to my new command. I'm hopeful that I will regain all the joy I used to have in my job.  Keep your fingers crossed and stay between the flags. 

The Lesson Update

My lesson went  both better and worse than I thought it would.  Let's start with my mount. He is an adorable, though slightly grumpy, aged TB gelding named Leo.  He enjoys treats and cuddling, but does not really like the whole grooming thing. Eh, a lot of TB's are sensitive and crabby about grooming.

Leo isn't the most forward horse I've ever ridden, but he's not a child's walk/trot pony either.  He's somewhere in the middle.  His gaits are wayyyy different than my precious OTTB princess that I've been riding for the last five years.  Leo's gaits are big and bouncy, whereas Seneca's are flatter, and smaller.   There are about six other riders in my group, which had me slightly anxious. Traffic jams, and constantly having to watch out for said traffic is one of the reasons I've been drawn to eventing.  But we managed to get around the flatwork without getting either run over or in anyone's way.

And here is where I ran in to trouble, not navigating around the other riders, but apparently having ridden my forward OTTB mare for the last five years made me a better rider for her, but not necessarily for other horses.  I rode Seneca a lot by feel.  I could feel when I was on the wrong diagonal or wrong lead. I never had to look, which is the way it's supposed to be.

But when riding a new horse whose gaits feel all strange and funky to me I made mistakes on both diagonals and the leads. I also felt like my position was all crap when I asked for the canter. So something to work on.

More Liebster Award:  Okay so here are my 11 random facts.

1.) I love to cook and make up new recipes.
2.) I love to garden
3.) I have a fear of heights
4.) I am a good speller, but terrible at math
5.) I am definitely a MAC/Apple person
6.) Sinead Halpin is my favorite 4* eventer
7.) I sometimes believe I was an Irish horse breeder in another life.
8.) I love all forms of potatoes
9.) I look better as a redhead
10.)  I am definitely a mare person
11.) I've been married for 16 years!

I'm now off to select my Liebster Awardees.  Keep it between the flags everyone. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Liebster Award

A few days ago a wonderful, and unknown to me at the time person nominated my little blog for a Liebster award.  Along with the nomination I have to answer a few random questions, and then nominate 11 other blogs for people that have less than 200 followers.  So on to the first part.

Thank you Hawk from over at the Forging Fiction eventing blog. Check her out right here:

Here are the questions and answers to the 11 questions I was given.

What is your favorite childhood memory?  Spending two weeks with my grandparents at their summer place in Maryland.
If you could have a super power, what would it be? Wow, this is a tough one. I think either flight, or healing others.
You have one wish - what would you do with it?  To have the life I've always dreamed of.
What is your favorite color? Grey, I know weird, but true.
What are you most passionate about right now? Taking as much stress out of my life as possible.
You win the lottery. What is the first thing you buy? Land in North Carolina to build my dream farm.
What is something that intimidates you?  Jumping
What is a quote that best describes you? There were two roads that diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by.
If you had a week off from work, what would you do? RIDE!
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? Ireland
What is the most dangerous/daring activity you have ever partaken in? Volunteering to serve in a combat zone, twice. 

Okay this is just part of the award nomination events. I'll post the 11 random facts some time this weekend.  Keep it between the flags everyone. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pictures Present and Past

S I got off of work a little early(I'm in the middle of transitioning to the new job and can manipulate my day a little) so I made a stop at the feed store to get feed and some fly protection couture for my two four foots.

When I arrived home I found my two four foots covorting around the pastures like freaks with their tails on fire. I thought it was the noise from the neighbor mowing next door that set them off. But no it was just Seneca was feeling particularly good and wanted to play. The past several months I haven't often seen her wanting to play which is a good barometer for how she's feeling.

While it hurt to watch the hitch in her stride when she came back own to the walk for short periods it lifted my heart to see her happy and playing halter tag, and whose the fastest horse with Cowboy. Although she doesn't win the fastest horse races any more.  I once looked up Seneca's racing information to see what her speed index number was.  The speed index is how the JC and other racing organizations calculates how fast a horse really is. The closer a horse's number is to a hundred the faster they are.  For example Zenyatta the famous racing mare's speed index number is 127, blazing by the JC standards, AP Indy is rated as 126, and my own girl was rated as an 83, so her speed was respectable.  These days though she's content to let Cowboy think he's faster.

I was digging through some photos and thought I'd show two contrasting photos. The first shows what we were doing last year, the second is this years activity.

(not my best equitation moment but it was fun.)

(Seneca enjoying her retirement)

Where Hunters Live

I finally got out to the hunter barn to audit with the trainer I've been talking to. The first appointment I decided to reschedule due to A.) the trainer was going to be in Lexington, VA at a big horse show and wouldn't therefore be teaching, having handed the lessons over to the assistant trainer, and B.) An ugly tropical storm was making the weather very tricky to drive in.

But last Friday the weather cooperated and I drove the 20 or 30 minutes to the new barn. I love that it has an indoor, that right off the bat is a plus in my book. I still had some apprehension though because in my experience hunter barns are dens of materialism, fake pleasantry, and massive games of one-up-manship. This barn, however, so far is different.  Most of the people who will be riding in my class are middle aged women, school teachers, stay-at-home moms, friendly sorts. There are a couple of teenaged girls in the class but they also seemed well grounded and less inclined to the hunter princess cliche.

The trainer, K., seems knowledgeable and has the kind of ethics that put the horse's wellbeing first. She is also a very big fan of OTTBs, which is another plus in this barn's favor.

I will say after having watched the lesson group that I will be weaving in to tomorrow that I am at the high end of the skill level of the class. I'm not saying I'm the best rider of the group, but maybe my eventing background where you do certain things to get the right response in dressage and jumping have put me far ahead of the rest of my classmates. For example K., told one of the teenage girls who is also at the higher end of the skill scale how to get the horse she was riding to bend in to the corners. This for me is second nature because as eventers we need all the points in dressage that we can get, and making our  horses bendy in the corners is one of those ways to get extra points.

The only thing that I wanted to really do when I was watching the flat part of the lesson was to tell almost every one of the riders to get their horses going more forward at the trot.  I could feel my leg muscles twitching in response to the lazy trotting of all the horses who  all seemed to be wearing a very smug expression on their faces.  I don't  know yet what horse I will be riding, but I can assure you that horse will be moving out at all three gaits.

I'll report back after my lesson tomorrow. Until then keep it between the flags everyone.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

When Eventers Go Behind Enemy Lines

In the last couple of weeks I've done a lot of things, and lots have happened, good, and bad.  Lets start with the bad.  Again with my no patience thing I set up an appointment to go try what looked on paper and the video as a really nice trail/low level eventer in a nice mellow AQHA mare package.  Now remember I said I wanted something safe, sound and honest, plus quiet.

And the mare was all those things with one little thing that I couldn't wrap myself around. I had never met the equine equivalent to a zombie until meeting that AQHA mare.  She had zero personality.  And while she was a great trail horse, her lumber gaits, and hard mouth made her unsuitable for anything but walk-trot lessons for children.  At the end of the test ride I tried to give her a peppermint and she didn't refuse so much as just stand there unresponsive. It was very strange. Needless to say she did not come home with me.

The good.  I plotted what to do next.  In my area of Virginia there are very few eventing barns, and even less that have lesson horses to do said eventing. So what's an eventer to do? Most would take dressage lessons until they found their equine soul mate. Not so with me. Dressage is lovely, and I actually enjoy it, but I know where I really need work is jumping.  So this Friday I have an appointment to audit lessons with a h/j trainer thats about 20 minutes from my house.

A long, long time ago I was a hunter rider. Then I came over to the dark side and never wanted to leave, but with no eventing barns within a reasonable distance I decided to go back behind the enemy lines and venture over to hunter land once more.  I am bitter sweet about it. I want to ride and jump, work on my equitation, possibly even show. But I'm not looking forward to the other aspects of hunter world that made it easy to leave the first time.  First I will not do a flat class, period. My life is not worth getting side swiped by an eight year old.  Second I want functional whether it's pretty or not, if it gets me safely where I want to go fine, but I am not doing the pretty perch thing that  I have been training myself out of for the last ten years.

What am I hoping for in this sojourn in to hunter land? Confidence.  I lost it somewhere on the last two green horses I had. And the last time I cantered the High Queen to a fence was last June, and that was a baby table jump and we had just flown up a bank and I just let her continue on in a good rythym to the bench. It wasn't exactly planned because usually at a canter she hits race horse mode four strides from the fence.  This I wonder if I think back on it might have been caused by whatever hidden issues she has that also cause the lameness.

The other good.  I finally got new orders to a new command in my area, and its looking like it won't interfere too much with my riding, and I'll have all my weekend and afternoons free. YEAH! Soooo happy about that.

The last bitter sweet comment. Today I was moving my much loved Pessoa saddle from the horse trailer where it had been living to the house so I could take out Seneca's narrow plate, and put in the medium one. This was sad because it meant I really had come to terms with retiring my beautiful drama queen.  As I was carrying the saddle to the backdoor that faces the back pasture Seneca called out to me in her deep, soft voice.  It was as if she thought I was going to take her for a ride.  I wanted to cry, but sucked it up and went in to the house. I still ache and feel like I let her down somehow in not finding the cause of her issues. So on Thursday while I have the day off I plan on giving her a spa day, a bath, beautification, the works.  Just because I can't ride her doesn't mean she can't still look like my princess.

Keep it between the flags everyone.