Thursday, July 28, 2016

Changes and Motivations

Earlier this year when I found out I was pregnant (76 days to go!) nothing changed for me, at least not right away.  I kept on riding, despite the crappy weather, doing our first baby hunter show, to get back in to the swing of things.  Around mid-March Fox and I had what would be our last ride together for a long while. I took him to a local farm that has a lovely arena and I moseyed around while my friend A and her mare did more serious things. Fox had a small brainless moment in which his front feet left the ground, while his back feet spun to the left.  Nothing huge or scary but it was enough that I decided to stop riding after that day. We did keep riding that day and wandered out to the XC so A could school her mare and Fox could make friends with the three loose ponies. He's always so enthralled with the smaller equines. I think he feels like a giant next to them and it gives him a good feeling to not be the designated shorty.

Back to deciding to stop riding.  If he was going to be throwing in random airs above ground while we were off the farm (98% of the time he's an angel off the farm) then I knew I couldn't trust him to take care of me at home where he's usually an a$$hat.  There was no way I was getting back on the High Queen after not having swung a leg over her back in three years. She's enjoying her retirement and see's no reason for that to change thank you very much.

My DH's horse, the tallest and youngest horse on the property at a whopping 8 years old this year was also out.  Despite the security of the western saddle that fits only him, Cowboy has the attention span of a gnat and if I could work him 5 or 6 days a week, I'm sure he'd be safe for me to wander around on. But my schedule isn't that flexible and Cowboy and I share a history.  I still have the scars on my right hand from where he bit me one year in an attempt to snatch a peppermint from my hand. I may pull my big girl panties on and start teaching him dressage next year (FYI I've said this almost every year for the last three years) and actually compete him, but we'll see.

So what has been going on since I haven't been swinging up in to the tack?  Well I now have an impressive array of lunging equipment. I've fully restocked all my grooming supplies and bought lots of equestrian items that I either can't fit in to right now (a lovely lavender FITS shirt, size small, thank you Tack of the Day) and some new pieces of tack that again I can't use for at least another five months(I'm planning on trying to get back in to the saddle in late November or early December), ie the cob sized, Havana brown Micklem Competition bridle I just snagged for a deal on eBay.

Other than that there is just a lot of fantastical plans and staring at the background photo I have on one of my monitors at work (I have two, duh IT's need two!).  The photo is of the one and only time I cantered the High Queen up over a XC fence at a schooling.  It was a small wooden coop and we came at from downhill to uphill approach.  DH just happened to catch us mid-leap as I let out a Wahoo!   My mouth is wide open in awe and delight, the High Queen is just easily catching massive air over the fence, one ear flicked back to listen to my ecstatic glee. 

I kept hoping to meet up with my coach to get training rides done on Fox but it just never happened. DH took the truck apart one week to install his new birthday gift(a truly awesome touch screen stereo system with not one but TWO back-up cameras! One camera is specifically pointed a the ball hitch in the middle of the bed to make it sooo much easier to hitch up the trailer!) and he wasn't quite able to get it back together in time and of course even if he had it wouldn't have mattered because Fox came up a little off in front.  Too much running around with the mare I think.   The time before that the weather just wouldn't cooperate and before that my coach's schedule was just too packed and we couldn't find a good day.  So I've kind of given up getting Fox ridden and decided to just let him wallow in his vacation until late this fall.

The High Queen got her first ever three legged lame abscess. Sooo totally fun!  And it was on a rear hoof so it was extra fun trying to convince her to let me soak it.  But I now own a staggering amount of hoof packing, soaking solutions and some new ice wraps to help with the inevitable leg swelling.

Even as the day for baby's impending arrival draws nearer I still find myself more apt to be cruising tack catalog's than baby gear catalogs.  Although since finding out that I'm having a girl. YES! I've also been cruising pony breeder websites.  Not that I'll be getting a pony any time soon, in five or six years probably. But it's fun to look and distract myself from the upcoming sleep deprivation. Already the baby has been waking me up in the middle of the night with her random and sometimes startling movements.  I think the baby is practicing her pony clubber kicks.  At 3am mommy is not amused by this and wishes the baby would go back to sleep.

I've decided to keep this blog as mostly eventing as I get back to it late this fall.  But for a hilarious take on my eventing journey while juggling horse life, work life and baby life head over to Eventer +Baby Makes Three.

Until next time, keep it between the flags everyone!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Best Week You Can Have That Doesn't Involve Being in the Tack!

So8ths Jump Art

A few weeks ago I made the five hour trek to Chesterfield, South Carolina to immerse myself in the Heart of the Carolina's Long Format Three Day Event.  I had contacted the fabulous sponsor coordinators prior to and these extremely generous people paid for my lodging so that I could indeed stay for the entire event.  Next year (Oh YES! I am going back)  I'm going to haul my horse trailer down so that I can stay on the property.

Me sporting some So8ths Volunteer Swag

Thursday night I joined a host of other volunteers, and the coordinator plus many of the officials at a dinner on the property that was set-up so we could all get to know one another. I also got to talk to the sponsor coordinator to find out what jobs he needed me to do.  So with my marching orders and a full stomach I headed off to bed so I could get up early the next day and start the fun.

Friday dawned bright, semi-clear and fairly warm.  After catching breakfast with the other volunteers, again provided by the gracious coordinators and owners of So8ths, I caught a ride over to the dressage arena which was a short hack through the woods, or a slightly longer drive on the road.  This day I would be the official bit checker.  I know, very prestigious.  It's not a job most people like, something I found out later. I on the other hand loved it because it meant I got to touch all the horses! It also meant that while I wasn't bit checking I had a ring side view of every dressage test.  Win win!

So many lovely, braided, well turn-out horses of every shape, color and breed!

Dressage Warm-Up

Saturday was Endurance day! Woo hoo! Every eventer's favorite day, filled with long gallops over gorgeous country and flying over xc fences!  Again after hitting breakfast with the volunteers (the coordinators take such excellent care of their volunteers) I climbed on to the hay wagon and was treated to a leisurely ride to my spot on the XC course where I would be jump judging that day.

I would be judging for every division and both sections. Because if running a long format three day wasn't crazy enough So8ths also runs a horse trial simultaneously!  In the Training 3D section I had six fences I was judging.  Two were combinations and counted as one obstacle and the others were single fences.  I had a brush combination, a ditch and rail combination and a trakehner. I also judged a brush and ditch for the Novice section and for the BN section a brush and a coop.  The day was long but how can you go wrong with the scope of your job involving watching horses gallop up and fly over fences?  That is never a bad day. Now if I could only get paid for it! 

There were only a few mishaps on course.  A couple of T3D riders got lost on course but eventually found their way to the right path.  One rider's horse hit the trakehener with it's hind leg hard enough that the rider chose to retire and there was one significant rider fall. Her horse slammed on the breaks at the very last minute and the rider ended up in the ditch.  The horse, bless his heart, took off for home.  The rider was unharmed and quickly got up and was checked over by medical.  No injuries to either party.

Morning Jog

Saturday night is also the evening of the annual Kentucky Derby Party, which falls on the same weekend as HOTC.  We played racing games, watched the race and ate some excellent food from private catering.   I headed to bed early though others hung out and danced until very late.

Sunday dawned clear and warm for stadium day. I watched the morning jogs, I know most people would find watching a horse trot by very boring but I loved every minute of it. Later I went off to my job for the day. This day I was wrangling warm-up. Basically checking in the riders and making sure everyone was where they were supposed to be at the time they were supposed to be there.  Again I had a front row view of very tricky stadium course.   I cheered on each rider and spent the day leisurely watching the completion of the best sport in the world.

This APHA pony won his division in the long format!

I had absolutely the best time, met so many great people, including the owners of the most beautiful privately owned event venue I've ever seen, ate tons of great food, made new friends and got to watch my favorite thing, horses loving their job and doing it well! 

Keep it between the flags everyone!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

If You Can't Ride, Give Back

Since my pregnant status isn't going to change until October and my ponies aren't trustworthy enough to haul my ever expanding butt around I've decided to do some volunteering.   My goal is to someday do the BN Long Format Three Day Event at So8ths.  Ever since I found out about it and watched the videos I've been entranced with actually doing it.

So what's the next best thing to competing at the So8ths Long Format?  Volunteering!  You get to see it all and learn all the tips and tricks without a whole lot of pressure.  So next Tuesday I'll be making the long trek from my farm in southeastern VA to Chesterfield, SC!

If you don't know what this is or what its all about, go to the website and check it out!

Because I will definitely be between the flags!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Because It Isn't Enough to Cry


Some deaths aren’t a shock. The pet or person has been sick for a long time and it’s the natural progression that they pass on. There is relief that they aren’t in pain anymore, are no longer suffering.  Then there are the deaths that hit you like a rogue ocean wave. It’s big and dark and swallows you whole and you don’t think you will ever be able to look back and not cry.

Almost five years ago my husband and I drove to Philadelphia to pick up our new puppy. English Bull Terrier’s as a whole are independent, stubborn and are basically 60 to 70lb tanks in a small package. They are also loving, loyal and goofy.  My own EBT, Agate, was all of those things and more.  He used to lay in the kitchen and watch me cook, usually on top of my feet, just in case that piece of vegetable or meat might need cleaning up from the floor. When we brought home a chair-and-a-half from my sister’s house he quickly claimed it as his throne. Although we would occasionally share it, him taking up ¾ of it and I getting what was left. 

He would grunt and whine and make the most improbable noises for a dog. Agate would also beg for ice cubes anytime anyone was in the freezer. He chewed up the edges of my muck boots, he chewed my husband’s socks, he stole rolls of toilet paper out of the bathroom and parked himself squarely in front of the woodstove any time it was burning.

This past week I had to let him go.  I say I even though he was really both my husband and I’s dog because when it comes to the animals the hard choices are always mine.  My husband was a marine and saw so many awful things and never shed a tear.  But the animals make him soft and mushy on the inside.  Not that I had any of an easier time giving the vet permission when it was clear my dog wasn’t going to recover.  But he was more mine than my husband’s and it was the last good thing I could do for him.

I mostly held it together at work.  I told no one of his passing, they wouldn’t understand and I thought if I had one person say to me “it was just a dog.” I might be physically violent.  He was not just a dog. I raised him, I loved him and in the end I couldn’t protect him like I wanted to.

Yesterday I went to the vet’s office so I could bring Agate home one last time. My husband and I buried him in the backyard in a sunny patch of grass. He liked to lie in the sun.  Later I’ll plant flowers there. For now there is only the heartache every time I walk in to the house and he isn’t there. The memories that cloud my eyes with tears and the guilt that I couldn’t save him.

Keep it between the flags everyone.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

When the Universe Starts Laughing and All Your Plans Go to Hell

(Fox and Seneca are living together for the summer to see if they can do it and not be total donkeys about being separated for things like being ridden)

In December and January I was thinking seriously about what I would do with Fox this year. I really, really, REALLY wanted to get to a Beginner Novice Horse Trial with him.  So we needed to work on our canter departs, which were fairly ugly and work on oh cantering over a course of fences. Which was something we had yet to do.  My work schedule had been fairly ugly in the last couple of years and the whole I will not ride if I’m alone at the house thing really put a dent in my training plan.


But there was light on the horizon! In July I would be going to a new command with a different and thankfully less stressful schedule.  I might even be able to ride my horse in the mornings before work! At least on days that my husband was home.  Everything was looking up, rosy and positively delightful despite the nasty winter weather that decided to descend on us.


And that is exactly when the universe decided that my life needed a little shaking up.  I’m pretty sure there are some people upstairs laughing their asses off.  Because in early February I found out that I was pregnant.  The week before my 40th birthday. After eighteen years of marriage and absolutely no hint of babies anywhere.  I had been telling both our families for years that I did not want children.  Their messy, needy and require large amounts of my personal time devoted to their every whim.  I know, I know it sounds exactly like owning horses.  But horses can be left out in a fenced enclosure while you live the rest of your life. The police and social services tend to frown on doing that with a baby.


So I had to rethink pretty much everything about my life at that point.  I was still riding until about mid-March then I made the decision to stop.  It wasn’t that I felt scared or that anything truly bad happened. Fox just had a small brainless moment. I never felt out of control or like I was going to come off but I felt like if this happened a few months later I might have been unbalanced enough to come off.  I’m 40 years old, I wasn’t planning for this baby but it’s right here with me and I have to do what I can to protect it. Who knows maybe it will be an Olympic Eventer who goes out and conquers all those courses that scare the life out of me!  Until I can get back on which won’t be until late next winter/early spring my coach will be giving Fox the education and hopefully horse trial miles he needs.

So I’m trying to think about all the great things that come with a kid rather than the down sides.  Yeah there will be diapers, lost sleep and I’ll have to carve out time to ride. But there will also in a few years be a PONY!  That sweet, pretty, talented pony that I never got as a kid, though I begged and begged.  There will hopefully be Pony Club, horse shows and horse trials.  I’m hoping that I can share my love of horses and this kid whoever he or she is will love them just as much as I do. 

I’ll be a little disappointed if the newest member of Eventing at Midnight doesn’t have the horse bug but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Until then everyone keep it between the flags!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Because the Big Yellow Flowers will Eat You!



So this happened! My pony is furry, dusty and was a bit wild. My tack was cleaned hurriedly the night before, my trailer was definitely in need of cleaning and organizing but my heart was willing.

Last weekend I decided, even though I hadn't swung a leg over the wild red pony since late December or early January that we needed to get out and do something.  Prove that my pony could behave and that I still retained at least a little bit of riding skills from days past.  A local group was putting on a fund raising fun show that had a little bit of everything for just about everyone.  There were western pleasure classes, games and for us English ridin folk some very low level hunter classes. My horse is not a hunter.  I think if he ever had to do a hunter flat class he'd probably lose his mind completely.  I have discovered over the last two years, more so this last year, that Fox does not like other horses coming at him from the opposite direction.  I've no idea why he has this phobia but he gets very anxious and nervous when horses come at him head on.

Not only is my pony not a hunter but even doing hunter classes I didn't dress him as a hunter. I left his mane long and unbraided, I used a square white AP pad, he was wearing his hoof boots and his neck strap.  We were very rogue eventers.

At the start my pony was a bit nervous, lots of horses moving around, lots of people, noise, it was hellishly cold and he hadn't been off the property since December or January.  Which by the way was at the exact place we were doing the show, in the very same indoor arena.  That was a lovely twist of luck.

So after I tacked Fox up we walked around several times before he deigned to stand still at the mounting block.  Then we walked around some and some more.  In fact until we actually went in to the arena to school prior to our class we never stopped moving.  Fox was just happier that way and fussed less with the reins.

Then we went in to school with a few others.  We walked and trotted around just letting everything sink in and letting my pony relax.  I also kept a wary eye on some of the other horse and rider combinations.  All of the fences were white cross rails, except the first one.  The first one was white cross rails with big yellow flowers all over it.  Every combination we watched either bulked, propped, stopped or outright ran out at that fence.

Here is where I smile a bit smugly and perhaps just a tad evilly.  My pony never batted a lash at that fence.  My baby eventer, with so much heart and try never even looked at it.  Just hopped gently over.  It went this same way when our actual class came up.  Every horse had an issue with that fence, even the dolled up, braided hunter.  If we had cantered the course rather than trotted it we would have won first place.  But I was extremely happy and proud of our red ribbon.  Even if it did have a barrel racer on it.

I love my pony!  Here's to keeping it between the flowers and the flags!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Naughty Pony Seeks Employment

I never really took notice of what was happening until tonight.  Due to my ugly work schedule I ride my pony sporadically during the late fall and winter.  Not the best thing for our riding, his fitness or his attitude but it's the best I can give right now.  It's not like Fox exactly has a hard or stressful life hanging out in the pasture, grazing and making googly eyes at the High Queen.

But it struck me tonight that Fox really does enjoy working and having a job.  Exactly how have I determined this?  Well for starters whenever I walk out in to the pasture with my trusty lead line Fox makes a bee line for me, stands patiently while I clip it on and rub his neck, then check to make sure he's still toasty under his blanket.  Our weather right now is particularly bad and I felt like the US Postal Service tonight when I clipped on Fox's lead line.  It was dark and the sky was spitting snow and stinging ice at us the whole time.  Not to mention the massive half frozen puddles from the rain the day before.  Lovely weather for a walk.

Fox thought so at least because he marched happily after me and only got miffed when I made him stand at the end of the drive a wait a couple moments.  Patience is sometimes not his strong suit though he's not nearly as bad as his heathen brother the Crack Beast. But he followed me without complaint and was entirely happy to pause at the horse trailer to grab a well deserved horse cookie.

I think my pony is just bored. Hopefully when my schedule changes this summer I'll be able to give him the employment he is certainly asking for. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Take a the dark...and the COLD.


A few weeks ago I took Fox down to the indoor about an hour from my house.  Once again it was a bit of a hassle to get the pony brat in to the trailer. Which is the same issue the High Queen had.  Anyone sensing a pattern here?  So I decided to take a real hard look at my horse management to try and pin point the deficiency that leads to the "I don't wanna" attitude.

My horses live out 24/7 with run-in-sheds to get out of the weather and a blanketing wardrobe to rival the inside of a Kardashian's closet. During cold weather this sort of set-up fosters a hands off routine. I go in, I dump feed, hang hay nets and scuttle back to the wood stove.  A few times a week I brave the dark and check feet, coats and for blanket rubs (Thank you Horseware Ireland for my no rub blankets!) treating any cuts and for the evils of thrush.  Other than that my horses lead a pretty uncomplicated life.

Which is where my theory that this limited contact was causing the trailering issues.  At least with respect to Fox.  He at least I know will get in to the trailer though it might take awhile. Where as the High Queen if she decided not to get in, well, just start walking!

So what does one do? Especially if my evil day job keeps me slaving away until after dark. Well you suck it up and take your pony for a walk. Every day, in the dark, and the cold. All the evenings that I don't take my pony out for grooming or to and from the side pasture, I clip on a lead line and walk my bratty pony down the long driveway. We turn at the end of my driveway where it touches the paved road, we pause letting Fox learn to trust and obey me. Then we move on, turning at the big gate, push the gate closed, the I try to close the padlock and slip on the insulated bag while Fox mugs me for the horse cookie he is sure is hiding in the bag.

Then we stroll back down the driveway, stopping a couple times to reinforce my role as the leader, then we go back in to the pasture where Fox assists me in pushing the gate closed, also forcing him to step into the big muddy puddle in front of the gate.  The first week or so at that point Fox would resist me leading him in to the mud and cold water.  These days though he follows willingly. Is he a perfect angel every time? Nope. There has been naughtiness, flailing of feet, flinging of heads, and spooking for no reason.

But is it working? Time will tell. I've a couple days off coming so indoor time is imminent. I found a new one about three miles from my house. Looks easy to get my trailer in to and the footing is decent. So until the behavior report keep it  between the flags everyone!