Monday, November 28, 2011

The benefits of not having it all.

In my previous post about how proud I was about how I have done with Steady.  Kelly made a comment about a benefit of not boarding because I don't have to deal with others opinions about a greenie taking on the training of a greenie.  And that is a very good point.  I do not have to listen to or hear about other opinions about my choices in alot of things including, training, feeding, care.  Which is quite nice to be able to live in a state of oblivion ;).  I have no outside pressures of how quickly we are moving along or so and so does it this way or so and so says to do it that way.  I can comfortably move at our own pace and if I want someones opinion I can go online and ask for it or pay someone to give it to me, i.e. .lessons.

That topic got me thinking that there are more than a few benefits of not having amenities at my disposal and so I decided to list them.  Cause we all know that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence but when we really stop to evaluate the benefits inside our own back yard(so to speak) I think we are pleasantly surprised at what we will find.

Kate at A Year With Horses just touched on the topic about riding off the rail and that made me think how Steady and I have both benefited from not having a 'rail' to ride on.  She mentions attention and straightness and though I had not put much thought into it once I started thinking about it I realized those are fantastic things that we just do naturally because we have had to.  I never realized how aware I am of a straight line.  Whether it is in the pasture, an arena or in the middle of an enormous field.  We rarely ride in an arena and what I have found is that training in my pasture is so much harder to do but if we go into an arena Steady can produce amazing work, hence a 29 on his last dressage test.  Had we produced anything that could have gotten a 29 in my pasture practicing at home?  No, but because we have more challenges in that situation when we do ride in an arena it just comes easier.  I do have to constantly be thinking about where we are going, how straight my lines are and how round my circles are.  I am pretty sure I can produce a nice shapely 20 meter circle anywhere.  Why?  Because I have had to.

Another benefit is grass footing.  Oh yes nice footing would be great and would mean I would get to do more work in more conditions if I had it.  But looking at the benefits of it.  I am extremely educated and aware of what footing is good enough to ride in and what Steady is capable of doing in that footing.  I am constantly aware of every step and placement of every foot. Which in turn makes me a more aware rider.  So though winter months pretty much mean trotting, trotting and more trotting it is good for both of us anyways.

The closest thing to barn drama I see is my little girls fighting about who gets to ride first.
I don't have to worry about my horses while they are at the barn.
If I want to check on them I just have to walk to my kitchen window and look at them in the pasture.
I can ride/groom/play with the horses on a whim.
Saves gas money since the farthest I have to go to see them is 50ft out my back door to the gate of the pasture.
I can talk to myself while I ride without people around to video and post to youtube.
Feeding in my pj's.

Those are what I came up with off the top of my head.  There may be many more I miss because I have only ever boarded my own horse(my arab as a kid) a few times for just a few months at a time.  So I don't really know what it is like to board.  And believe me there are many positives to boarding and negatives about having them on your property that I can think of too but this is just expounding on the positives.

Cause some days are not as pretty as others.

 First off I feel like I live in the PNW lately with the weather we have been having.  Twice a day I come in from feeding the animals and have to change my cloths because I am covered in mud. I had to get creative and set up temporary a solution for the mini's and goats in the center isle of the barn because of their stalls flooding. I am ready for cold temperatures, snow and the mud to disappear for a while.  Thankfully the weather man is calling for just those things.  I am hoping that tomorrow morning we will wake up to a blanket of the white stuff.

I had one of those rides Sunday.  You know the ones that you say to yourself, "what the heck am I doing trying to train a horse??"  It was generally a mess and I don't know that we really accomplished anything.  It was the first ride in a long time that I  really got Steady frustrated.  At the point of frustration I have learned that is when I need to back down and find a new approach.  Even if it is caused by the fact that he was distracted and not wanting to paying attention to me I still always either change the subject or try a new approach.  Because who can learn in a frustrated state of mind?

It started out with him being really forward yet when I asked for contact he would either invert, brace and got into Llama impression or over exagerate my request and I would loose him nice forward movement and get kind of locked up, up front.  Moving off my leg was more work than usual and I could get a shoulder in going toward the barn but away from the barn he would get that locked up(not sure if this term makes sense but I don't know how to explain how it felt) feeling again.  By locked up I mean short, irregular strides with los of forward momentum.  This is when the frustration started and after a few attempts to 'unlock' him and him bunny hopping(his version of flipping me the bird) I decided this was no way to get progress so once I got a good shoulder in toward the barn I told him good boy and called it a day.

Over all he was just amped and defient.  Trot poles meant intermittent attempts to jump and/or run off.  A tinsey cross rail called for him to try and run at it then run off afterward.  One thing that stuck with me from my very short lessons with Dorothy Crowell was that if he can't handle himself at a canter then go to a trot if he can't handle himself at a trot then walk.  Basically when troubles arise that are not being fixed then take it back a notch and go back to the last thing he does now how to do well and start there.  Such great training advice and I can't think of a more thorough way of doing it.  It can be hard to feel like you are going backwards by doing something that maybe seems elementary to you or you feel they 'should know this already' but it is so helpful to unfrazzle a frazzled young/green horse.  You don't usually have to spend long back at the previous step but you do need to make sure you take as much time as the horse needs.  Not the amount of time you feel it should take.  All tough things for those of us that want to progress, progress, progress.

Last year I decided I would not canter until the spring.  So I took a year working only at the walk and trot.  Boring?  Maybe, but I knew that I needed to establish many things before I went onto anything else.  So that is what I did and I found that just by working at perfecting cues at the trot did wonders for the canter and I really did not have to do any work on the canter once we started cantering.  So though I think canter is naturally Steady's best gait I also think it is what it is because of the ground work that I laid down first.  As I was riding yesterday I started thinking it would be a good place for us to start this winter too.  Do I like to canter?  Yes actually it is my favorite gait, other than a  nice gallop.  But when we ride at home in the sloppy winter months it can be dangerous to canter anyways.  We will through in canter here and there mostly just to work on picking up leads and transition but I think I have figured out our best place to train is at the trot so that is were we will stay most of the winter.

 Karen and I are planning to lesson back to back on Dec. 17 for visiting and taping purposes so I am so excited for that.  I realized after my ride that Steady and I are at the place were another lesson would be good for both of us.  Help us refocus for the winter and find something new to develop.  Ever since Event Camp I really haven't felt we were in the place to take another lesson because we had so much to work on and were making nice progress.  I think now we are ready for the next step in this process.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I'z famous...ummm...I mean, infamous.

Phew tough crowd, right?!  I felt I needed to clear my name.  So people no I do not punch babies in the face.  I don't hate rainbows and gumdrops.  I don't run up in line as children are waiting to Santa Clause revealing the truth that he is a fake.  I assure you that just because I think the working student position is a raw deal and dared to share an opinion that was different than the Beloved Boyd does not mean I am mad at the world and envious of everyone that drives around in a Lexus.  I love my life and am grateful for all I have.  I know I have more than most and have worked for every ounce of it.  Puhleeez people you are being quite silly.  I don't run around stealing candy from small children, well, unless it is my kids halloween candy then it is fair game.  Boyd is not worried about any of it.  How do I know you ask?  Well, I asked him and he assured me he is not worried about any of it.  So go back to your turkey dinners and find someone else to attack and share you pent up anger with someone else.  Cause I will not let it effect me because I am loved and am surrounded by those I love today and don't plan to let your hatred get me down.  Now please excuse me cause I have a butterfly to squish!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Beating a dead horse.

  Not to beat a dead horse but I am one that has the need to get out all my feelings on an issue and then I can move on in a healthy fashion.  Is there something that I am missing here?  Where does this thought process come from that if you are not willing to sacrifice: financial stability, job/career, health, dignity, and possibly your first born child to advance your education in the sport of eventing then you are now: Lazy, ungrateful, envious, unimaginative, bitter, jealous, unable to learn anything at all, disdain toward those who can afford opportunities, venomous, need to grow up, ungrateful for healthy children, complaining, angry, entitled, whiner, afraid to work, expect money to be handed to you.  These are all quotes from 'anonymous' commenter's toward me or those who agreed with me and there are more than that if I wanted to waste my time rereading all the comments on COTH. 

Many points I want to make but the top few are

 1) In my original statement I by no means was saying that I in any way shape or form would or wanted to consider this position.  People seemed to assume that because I made the comment about the position that I wanted it.  That was not the case I was just frustrated that those I know who 'could' take it would be held back because of the insane amount of money you would need to do it.
2) My intention in making the comment was to challenge Boyd in his offer.  I did not hide 'anonymously ' bashing anyone.  I never called names, degraded any ones character and I took responsibility for every word I said.  I did challenge the ethical boundary that I felt was being crossed.  Boyd has every right to do as he pleases.   I mean if I could find a way to get people to pay me to work for me I think I would be tempted to do it.  I am not the law or the rule I just felt it stood to be challenged.  And by having so many people on both sides of the issue I feel it started a very good conversation about it.  Even if people are going about the conversation by calling names and letting their emotion get the best of them, it is still a conversation that I think is worth having.
3) Those that would like to say I do not understand hard work and sacrifice obviously have no idea what they are talking about.  Try, having 3 kids in 3 years having a new born, 1 year old and 3 year old there is not many sacrifices of yourself like that one.  100% worth it but you are constantly giving of yourself for such small babies.  Add onto that gardening, canning, milking a goat, making all your own bread, making cheese, mending fences 7 months pregnant in the middle of January in 2 feet of snow, taking care of all your live stock year round(all stalls, hay loading/unloading etc. done solely by myself) and the cleaning and diapers that go along with all of it.  All so that you can afford to live your dream of having a family, a farm and horses.  I have had nothing handed to me in my life and have had to overcome obstacles that you can't imagine(but I won't go into that sob story) but my life has not been roses and sunshine but I have taken every experience and used all of it to better myself for me and those I love.  I was a working student(though it was never really given a name back then) for 5 years and when I say years I don't mean fluff 3 month winters in South Carolina I am talking since the age of 8 I was working year round in Michigan all weather, exercising multiple horses a day, feeding, turning out, grooming, tack cleaning and all that good stuff.  All for the opportunity to ride/show one of the trainers horses and for 2 lessons a week and shows in the summer months.  The school bus dropped me off at the barn and I would get picked up by my parents in the evening.  I am talking frigged temps that I rode in every day.  Fingers and toes that ached so bad from the cold and in between rides huddling in front of the tiny space heater in the tack room just to get the feeling back before I went back out.  I had an old used saddle I rode in, used my trainers helmets and had hand me down boots and breeches.  I, to this day still ride in two pairs of those hand me down breeches.  I know what it means to work.  I know what it means to sacrifice.  All for the sake of a passion that burns in me like an unquenchable fire.  But I still cannot understand how someone that truly appreciates being at the bottom and working your way up to the top of such a tough sport would not see the value in giving back to the sport by helping someone behind them.  Even if it is a bit of a cost and time from them.  It seems worth it.  And ask that person to make such detrimental sacrifices such as jobs and health by not even being able to afford to feed yourself all the while watching someone ride around on horses worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and a facility that I am sure is a bit more than bare bones.  Especially someone who has so recently had the opportunity to see what it is like to have the 'sport' give back to them.  By all the generosity and outpouring of support in their time of need by hundreds that did not know them but were willing give of themselves for a fellow eventer in need.  As I said he has every right to do as he chooses I personally was just shocked to see them make such and offer and responded out of shock.  It by no means was a personal attack on the Martin's and I by no means have hard feelings toward them I just think their offer warranted a challenge.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A shameless brag, and opps I did it again.

In pondering our progress and after our recent ride.  I am so pleased with Steady Smiler and a bit of a shameless brag but I am pleased with myself.  When I bought Steady I was not in a position as a rider to take on training a horse.  I ignorantly didn't know what I was getting myself into.  I hadn't ridden in nearly 15 years and in that time I went from teenager to an adult.  My physical body had changed completely and mentally I had changed completely.  I was almost as green as they come.  The only thing I had going for me was all the hours I had in the saddle from age 6 to 15 and the fact that I did train with an amazing trainer for many of those years.  Then I go buy a race horse.  Tell me, what could possibly go wrong??  You mean besides EVERYTHING?  After a few rides I at least had the sense that I couldn't do this on my own.  So I found a trainer and started lessons.  I won't go into the whole story because it is all on this blog somewhere but with the right horse, a good trainer, willing to make the monetary investment and a lot of work almost anyone can take themselves from train wreck to a compatible pair and living their dream.  I am by no means a pro and am continually progressing, learning and improving but I am proud of how far we have come.  And we did it all without fancy: arena, footing, horse, rider,  tack, clothes or equipment.  Just a horse a girl, a $50 bridle, a saddle that fits riding in a pasture, with a little creativity, a lot of stubbornness tenacity, with a little money, a lot of grit and not afraid to work for what I want.  It is exhilarating, fulfilling and empowering as a 30 year old, overweight, wife and mother with the feeling I had lost my identity to stop dreaming and take my life by the horns and make it what I wanted.  So yes my horse is amazing but with the risk of sounding completely narcissistic I must say I think I am pretty amazing too!

On an unrelated note you may or may not know what I am referring to but just for future reference if I have not done or said something to piss you off, just stick around I am sure it is bound to happen ;).  I am human, there are days I am in a crappy mood and say things I shouldn't.  If you cannot handle imperfection then you definitely should not read my blog and probably should not be riding horses because if I know nothing I do know that no horse is perfect and not even one single ride is perfect(reference your last dressage test scores.).  Though imperfect I am not afraid to admit when I am wrong and just like with my riding, in my life I am continually striving to be and do better.  That my friends is all I have to offer.  At least I know that no matter what I always have these guys in my corner.

Have I said lately how amazing my horse is?

Probably but I will say it again.  I have not been riding much.  Ever since I was saying how lovely the weather was to ride in, I have either been too busy, too sick, or the weather too crappy to ride, figures.  So I would say I have been riding once or twice a week for a few weeks now.

I had about an hour and a half yesterday and the weather was crappy, the footing in my pasture(where I ride) is awful and anything more than a walk or trotting large circles was out of the question.  I thought it the perfect opportunity to go use that indoor arena down the street that has been so graciously offered to me(for free I might add, yay, I love free!).   It went a little like this:

Run grab my saddle, bridle, helmet and grooming box and throw it in the truck.  Tell my daughter to get in the truck.  Hurry and get Steady's halter and lead rope, grab him walk over to the trailer and then stand there for 20 minutes helping him decide to get into the trailer.  Oh this horse and my trailer frustrate me to no end but I am happy with how we now deal with it and it always ends with him in the trailer.  There is never any anger or rushing, it is all just patience and persistence and time.  Ugh time was what we were short on yesterday but I was not going to let that effect how I handled the situation.  Even when he pretended he was the black stallion and stood straight up on his back legs right in my face.  Trick with him is to not fall for that crap.  He by no means is out of control, he is in complete control and it is all just theatricals(that used to work on me BTW) that have worked in the past with others I am sure but now I know if I just pretend it was nothing and keep at it he gives that crap up fast.  I know that there are a million tricks and methods to loading a horse into a trailer and trust me I have exhausted all of them.  I have loaded him a thousand times and he is a million times better than a year ago but still unpredictable about it.  Once he will walk on no problem and the next time he will stand there with his feet planted looking at me like 'yeah right b---- I gettin' in there'.  But it usually never takes more than 30 minutes now and I know to plan for extra time.  Though today I was in a rush I decided that if he drug it out too long then I guess I would just call it a loading lesson instead of go ride.  But after about 20 minutes he got on and we made the long 1 1/2 minute drive down the road.  He took a look around once there, there were horses in a pasture just 15 feet from us running around and excited to see him.  But like the old race horse he is, those things are just not problems for him.  I kept his name Steady for a reason, the guy is just steady and takes everything in stride.

I quickly thew on the saddle and went to the arena.  I let him walk around the entire ring and look at anything that might be interesting, the gator and spreader at one end, the calf simulating machine in a a corner a big heater in another and the gate at the opposite end of the arena that you could see through to the pasture with the cattle in it.  Once again Steady was, well,  steady.  He looks at everything but never in a hesitant spooky manner, just a what is that, what does it smell like, ok that's boring way.

The whole ride lasted 30 minutes because I wanted to leave time in case we had loading issues again.  Quick warm up, make sure he is moving off my leg.  I am first so happy to find that even after almost a month of very light riding he has not forgotten what it means to move off my leg.  I LOVE his mind!  It is like once he gets it he will never forget it, love it.  I asked for leg yields off both legs and he is better to the right on leg yields but he is stiffer bend to the right on circles(reference, octoberfest dressage test, he moves like that to the right regularly).  I know I could just resort to pulling on the inside rein and get "bend" but that is not correct and I don't want to do that, but I don't have a tool in my arsenal to know how to work on this.  He is a little harder to leg yield down the long side to the left but on circles he bends beautifully to the left.  We even did shoulder in, in both directions.  I was very impressed.  See, I ride in a pasture and I have some semblance of an arena shape I go in but without walls to work off of training those types of movements can be a huge challenge.  We work on them but without a straight wall to work off of it is very hard to tell how effective any of it is.  But yesterday I saw that with the work we have been doing has been effective it was just harder for me to gauge.  Then the canter, OH the canter, yes his canter.  His canter is so amazing and the most fun to ride.  It has all those fancy words that all you DQ's out there use to describe good movement that I don't know the meaning of half of them.  Like on the bit, uphill, impulsion, cadence those kind of words, that was him, oooooh it feels so amazing.  I even leg yielded at the canter for few strides just to see if he would/could(never tried it before) and once again he proves how awesome he is and does it no problem. Over all he just felt GREAT!!!

I rushed to untack load up the truck and attempt to load Steady.  Thankfully he only took 10 minutes to load this time and after minorly jackknifing the trailer into my truck because I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing(good thing is I only traded about a speck of paint, but still felt like an idiot) I backed out and pulled in the driveway with enough time to unload Steady put him in the pasture and about that time the bus dropped the girls off from school.  Phew, that was close.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Christmas wish.

A little girl not far past her 5th birthday standing in line, curiously watching as one by one the children in front of her walk up and jump into this curiously looking mans lap.  He has a velvet, red suit on and a long wirey white beard, big black belt and grin on his face.  She is told he is Santa and if you have been good he will bring you what you request on Christmas morning.  Her Father nudges her, encouraging her to take her turn on the friendly looking mans lap.

She shyly climbs up and he asks her if she has indeed been a good girl this year.  She quietly replies, "yes".  He then asks her what she would like for Christmas.  After a seconds thought she says, "A toy horse, a halter, a lead rope, a bridle, a fence, a stall, a saddle, a rider............and........a coloring book!!"  This girl is surely a child after her Mothers heart and her Fathers wallet.  Yes you guessed it, this was my youngest daughter last Saturday when her Daddy took her to the mall and let her go see Santa while my oldest and I were at a pony club meeting.  Honey if you read this you may as well give up now because it seems this is a loosing battle, 4 girls in one house all horse obsessed, sorry, it is cruel an unusual punishment for the non-horsey husband/father.  If it is any consolation we love you more than any other person on the planet!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Keeping horses on a budget.

Keeping horses on a tight budget is probably more like it.  The word budget is defined by perspective.  For what is expensive for one can be affordable for another, or affordable for one can be expensive for another.  So I will give you the bottom line about what it costs to keep a horse on a farm in the state of Indiana.  Now if talking about money makes you uncomfortable then don't continue reading because I am putting the honest truth about dollars we spend a year to keep horses. 

It is also a bit more complicated than just numbers because if you were to be completely thorough you would need to add into the equation the cost of fencing that was put up and stalls that were built.  First I will list the one time costs to make the property horse worthy. Thankfully a small barn(post to come soon about that small barn.  Far from fancy but functional) was already on the property so we did not have to build.

3 stalls; lumber, gates, and hardware  $200.  (though we need to spend about $100 more to finish them)

3 acres fenced in $3000.  My argument for this is that it is investing in the property.  May not be 100% true but I am going with it.

The cost over a year to keep 2 horses and 2 miniature horses.
Grain $1200
Hay $1000
farrier $450
Vet $600 (this is if just basics are covered and no issues, which thankfully is all we have had so far)
straw/sawdust $200 (kept outdoors 90% of the time)
dewormer $150


divide that by 12 months

I pay roughly $300 a month in keeping all 4 horses.

fuel to haul them $50 a month
paying for lessons/clinics $50 a month
competition fees(this year) $300 total
cost of tack/equipment about $2000 this year
 = $3500

Now we can get into the morgatge payment on the property $1,000 a month
and a truck to haul the horses $500 a month
but then we would just be spiting at least that is what I tell myself.

When it is all written down on one hand I feel I do the best I can to make owning horses affordable and on the other hand I see a lot of money not being put into savings.  I wanted to do this to help me put things into perspective and thought I would feel good about the outcome but now that I see it written down I think I need to excuse myself because I think I am about to get sick....bleeeech....

I do love these animals and think almost $7000 a year is worth having them in my life but man I need to get a job!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

You are not doing anyone any favors by letting your horse walk all over you, so DON'T do it!!

Gawd, I let my frustration get the best of me tonight.  And the whole time I was thinking the dumb ass previous owner is the one I should be smacking with this rope right now.  Moonlight has horrendous ground manners and I saw first hand how he got them the day I bought him.  As I saw his previous owner let him literally walk all over her.  Step on her, push her, just awful things.  She never once corrected any of his behavior.  I don't know exactly how long she owned him but I know it as many years and she all but ruined this horse on the ground.  It is so frustrating because it is so much easier to take a green horse and teach them the right way but can be close to impossible to ever eradicate learned bad behaviour.  I know you can improve upon it and new habits can be formed but those old ones are never really gone they are just kept in check so to speak.  And some times they rear their ugly heads without provocation.

I am ashamed that I did get angry and disappointed by the way I handled the situation but I had had enough.  It is my fault because I did see little things come out here and there and maybe would correct them but let some things slide.  I guess in the mindset that I would show him a little grace cause he really is a good boy.  But unfortunately because of the way he was aloud to treat humans for so many years he can not be aloud one ounce of grace or leeway.  If you give him and inch he will take a mile and if he has to knock you over to do it then so be it.  Sad but true.  As Buck Brennaman put it, he started out thinking he would help people with horse problems when in reality he usually is helping horses with people problems.  And when horses have people problems every owner from that point on has to pay for those problems and most of all that horse has to pay for the rest of his life.  Then imagine if a that horse gets into the wrong persons hands?  So sad what could happen to an otherwise decent animal all because one person did want to correct him.  And his owners case I believe it was more out of 'love' that she didn't want to 'tell him no' but really you are not helping your horse or anyone who ever handles him and you are possibly endangering his well being down the road if put into the wrong hands.

Be honest please.

Is it supposed to be a horse?  Is it ribbons?  That is pretty but why didn't you draw the whole horse?  These are all remarks my family said when I, extremely excitedly showed them my pretty much useless and way too time consuming art work.  Then I explained that it is two S's which stands for Steady Smiler, you know my horse??  I had this inspiration to come up with this logo for no other reason but my vanity I guess.  I had visions of a custom painted saddle pad for horse shows and a window decal for my truck.  Silly maybe but I was excited about it either way but when they couldn't even tell what is was I got a little disheartened.  Two S's and a horse jumping 'eventing'.  Don't be afraid to give your honest opinion is it just too vague of a drawing to really see what it is?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I finally rode my horse.

Perfect fall weather but too much to do and not enough time to do it and the end of daylight savings time has kept me from riding, dark at 5:30 sucks.  That and the fact that I wanted his trail wound to heal up.  He ended up getting swelling and heat in the leg but a couple days of wrapping and antibiotic ointment has it healing up nicely now.  So I would say for the past almost 3 weeks I have only ridden a handful of times.  He was not happy about me showing up with tack and ran around the pasture bucking and acting silly for a few moments.  I did not plan to make it a grueling work out anyways so I don't what he got his panties in a bunch about. 

Goal: pretty much just make sure he remembered how to move off my leg and a walk and a trot.  He was feeling WAY to good to even care to attempt a canter.  He has a lovely canter and I am not worried about him rushing at the canter when he is feeling like that my worry is more about how crazy forward he gets at the trot after a good canter.  I didn't need more forward at the trot.  He broke into a crazy silly run off with his nose in the air half attempting to buck for a moment, goofy guy was feeling good.  I took that as a signal that even though I already felt we were pretty low key we needed to go a step lower.  A tip I picked up from Dorothy Crowell.

I felt it was as successful of a ride as I could asked I'd say 25 minutes total.  He was harder to move off my right leg so our ride ended the moment he moved off it perfectly.  I jumped off at the trot and patted him all over and told him he was a good boy.  A major lesson Steady has taught me over the last year and a half is that 'Rome was not built in a day', nor does any training need to be perfected in a day.  I live for the tiny glimpses of light and make him feel like he just won the Kentucky Derby.  Now tell me do you think he will want to figure out how to repeat those glimpses of light?  And before you know it, those tiny glimpses turn into big break throughs. Also that there are those days that you can't see any light and to never take those days too seriously.  And never make a decision based on any one single bad ride, especially if you are dealing with a TB.  Thanks Steady for being such a great teacher.

Happy eventing!! And thank you for flying Air Amateur!

Have a great day!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things...

You may now have visions of Julie Andrews frolicking through the meadow and the ever so famous song from "The Sound of Music" stuck in your head.  I decided it would be a fun post to photograph some of my favorite things.  I have many many favorite things and I think this could be an ongoing series.  Something like My favorite thing Friday?  Who knows I am easily distracted so the series could very well end up being a short one but here is the first installment.

My truck, matching new blanket and my pretty, love, love.

Giant pumpkins.

And this adorable little girl in footie pajamas with messy, morning hair <3
P.S.(you may or may not have noticed I accidentally posted twice today.  My last post was about the ton of gravel I shoveled to make my feed room.  If you missed it go check it out.  Blogger is annoying in the fact that I can delete a post that I didn't mean to hit publish yet it does not disappear from the feed.  I heart blogger! ~insert sarcasm)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The last of the Peter Atkin's October clinic at the Bea Hive, water complex.

Me having a little chat with Peter about a statement he made about hating boots on XC.  He said he sees boot cause more problems on XC.  That is the first time I have ever heard such a thing and had to ask.

Peter and madness in the water. I LOVE this conversation! Peter noticing that Jr. is not happy on gravel. Dorie states he is barefoot. Peter tells her if she knows her horse is bothered by rocks then she needs to always walk through the water find the best path through and throw out any large rocks in the way. I thought that was So facinating and shows his level of care for each horse.

Fantastic end to a fantastic clinic.  Amy from Moose on the Loose had her post about the clinic posted on Eventing Nation, which was super cool.  It was the post that I gave the link to previously.  It fired off quite the debate on EN which as Amy stated got people thinking about their riding.  Like Peter or not we have to agree that getting our minds working about our riding is always good!  I hope you enjoyed the clinic.  It was no small feat to upload and post all of the info but worth it if it was helpful to others.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Winning Photos!

These were emailed to me the other day!  Enjoy! 

Steady Smiler as a 3 year old

Steady as a 4 year old.

Steady at 7.  He finally looks like the horse I own all the others he looks like such a baby.

If you live in Vancouver and frequent the races you may have seen Steady Smiler race. Most of his races were run at Hastings from 2003-2007 and the last photo is at Woodbine 2007 where I believe his owner(that I have been in contact with) shortly after that lost him in a claiming race. The owner/trainer that owned him from a yearling to 2007 is the lady that sent me these and is also sent in the mail today 4 of his winning videos and the video of the British Columbia Derby that he came in second and won $66,000 in that race alone. Learning more and more of his history and I noticed she is exactly right when she told me that they allowed Smiley(as they called him) to be himself and he always did well for them, but the following owners did not and he never did well after he left them. Here is the link to his racing records and you can see he was very consistently placing 1st, 2nd and 3rd with the occasional lesser placing for 5 years then you can notice after 2007 he only had one more win after that and it was in a low claiming race in 2009 just a few months before I purchased him. It is amazing what a horse will do for someone he wants to please but will not perform the same for others. Something I better ALWAYS remember in my work with Steady!   I know some may not have any interest in any of this but for those OTTB enthusiasts out there this stuff can all be so fun!

2,500 lbs of gravel makes for a killer work out.

You can't get more perfect than the weather last Tuesday.  High 60's and sunny, heavenly.  So what would you do if you had no plans on a day like that?  You mean replace old boards on the barn and shovel over 1 ton of gravel would not be first on your list??  It was on mine.  I was actually just happy that the cold has held off long enough that I could finally get to this project without freezing my fingers off.  I went to the gravel store(?) place where a big front end loader dumped over a ton of gravel in the bed of my truck in less then 1 minute.  If only it was that easy to get it back out of the truck.  I needed that gravel for my tack/feed room in the barn.  I use the word 'room' loosely.  It used to be a stall for one of my mini's and has not yet had walls built(on the hubby's to do list).  I decided to quit waiting for walls when I could at least use the floor space that was pretty much being wasted.  Water likes to settle into that section of the barn so my plan was to put 6 inches of gravel for the base to help keep things dry.


I am not too sure why I didn't take any before pictures but here are the afters.  It may not seem like much but it was ALOT of work to remove and replace those boards by myself.  I mean, you tell me how you would screw up 8 ft boards level, alone?  I would guess to any bystander(there were none of those because they would have been put to use) it would have resembled something like the game Twister but instead of colored circles my right foot was on the board holding it in place, left foot on muddy ground, left hand on power drill trigger, right hand wrapped around right leg and applying pressure to power drill and viola one screw in.  Readjust, repeat process 27 more times and you have all boards replaced.  About that time is when I was out of breath and said outloud(to myself of course) "I still have 2,500 lbs of gravel to unload and I am already worn out".

 Get ready this is pretty exciting!!!  Pictures of my old beat up, small barn!!!

new boards up,

New floor laid!  It's not fancy but I am grateful and it is functional.

But just like with any good, tough horsewoman I wasn't going to let being tired stand in my way of having a feed room.  So I pressed on, shovel, after shovel, after shovel full, got thrown the 4 feet from the bed of my truck to the middle of the room. 

Surprisingly I got it all unloaded in about an hour with a short break in the middle.  You know the going rate for 1 ton of gravel is only about $12 so if you ever want to feel like getting a big bang for your buck go get yourself some gravel.  It is cheaper than a gym membership! 

And this my friends is how I spent this gorgeous fall day not, grooming, petting or riding my horsies.  These are some of the days that the thought runs through my head, 'I wonder what it would be like to board my horse and someone else did all this work, while I played with my pony.'  But then I walk out my back door and hear the ever faithful whinnies when they hear the door open and remember that it is all SO worth it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I want a friend.

How sad does that sound??  I do have friends.  At least 1 or 2, ha, but I don't have any horsey friends near by.  But what I really want is a friend that just loves to do barn projects.  Like pull off boards and lay gravel and screw up more boards and move stuff around and dig dirt that kind of stuff.  Ok that is probably not very realistic to have that kind of help but it sure would be nice.  My husband is usually this friend.  He reluctantly will do my barn projects with me.  As of late though I have not been able to convince him that it really IS more fun than laying on the couch after you have worked all day.  I have some projects that should really be done before the harsh cold hits.  Quite honestly we are lucky it hasn't hit yet but I look at the list and get overwhelmed and don't do them, humph...sometimes the life of having your horses in your back yard can get completely overwhelming and I for a very short moment have boarding envy.  End whine.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A trail for the record books.

Oh my!  When a friend text me and asked if my daughter and I wanted to join her and her aunt on a trail ride this afternoon I jumped on the opportunity.  Neither of us had ever ridden these trails but her aunt has.  We hauled the hour trip, unloaded tacked up and walked around a bit all with no excitement.  I was quite proud of my boy/boys.  No excitedness or silliness just calm and relaxed.  Even when most of the other horses were acting goofy.  I was suprised to find out it was not just us but 4 others, two of which ride the trials often and served as our guide which was a great thing.  Chances are on our own out there we would have never made it back.

 That's mine and Steady's butt :)  The two photos are from pretty much the only two calm parts of the trail.

In attempts to make this a quick post I will sum up. 6 miles, mud, mud and more mud.  Mud up to the horses knees over and over again.  Steep hills both up and down.  Grab mane and hold on for dear life steep.  Logs in the way, narrow trails, sticks and branches and roots all over the ground in the trail way, low branches and by branches some were big friggen branches.  By narrow I mean some spots there is enough space for you, your horse and your legs and about an inch on each side.  Windy, muddy down hills.  One of which I watched Moonlight slip and his entire hind quarters hit the ground.  He popped back up and my daughter the rock star she is didn't even bobble.  It was madness!!!  My favorite conversation of the ride:  Elaina: "Mom you keep saying everything is fun."  Me: "Honey when I say fun I really mean scary."  E: "you mean fun and scary?"  Me: "yeah if we make it through then it is fun!"

And we did make it through.  Quite successfully I might add!  I told Steady a couple times, "see you are a trail horse not a race horse".  Not sure he bought that one bit.  But as with anything I ask of the big guy he was so game.  He jumped logs and water(oops, but it was very amusing, he was pretty much saying, hell no am going through that deep ass mud!), cantered up hills and the thing I am the most impressed with is that this is the first time for him to ever be on a group ride like that and he really got the hang of it.  Was happy hanging in the middle of the pack, though would have been way happier out front as usual.  Best of all he really figured out how to regulate his pace according to those in front of him.  I was worried that would be a problem considering that every horse out with us couldn't have been much over 15 hh and had a considerably slower pace at ever gait but he figured it out and it felt cool being on his back as he did.

Me avoiding one of the many branches from hitting my head. And that's cutie pie Moonlight and Elaina in front of us.

Moonlight again proved he is worth his weight in gold.  Truckin' my daughter safely through another crazy adventure with not one problem.  That horse can be a bull on the ground and everytime I get fed up with his manners he proves his worth under saddle.  I love that horse so much I could squeeze him till he popped!

Only bad part is that Steady did come home with a couple scrapes.  One on his RF that is very small but one on his LH that scraped a quarter sized hunk of fur off.  It is superficial and should heal fine but I feel awful because it was my bad judgement that caused it.  I chose to jump a log that I didn't see the mud in front of and when he landed his hind leg scraped down the big log :(  poor guy, dumb me. But the rest was all around awesome!!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

The banks.

Favorite 'thing for me to remember', you stop kicking at jumps they start running at jumps. A few 'little' jumps on the way back toward the water. Another Pep talk with Peter He asked Sara if she just wanted to hang around novice and training the rest of your life, or do you want to go somewhere? LOL my answer would have been, I would be happy to be successful at Novice. I wonder how that would go over? We are almost done with clinic videos. Only water left to post. Homefront news, I spoke too soon about the weather. It rained all day and all night. Which put a damper on my riding plans. I did not enter the EN Dubarry contest because I am just not that creative but after yesterday evenings feeding, these were my thoughts. 'You know Amy rubber boots are only helpful if they don't have holes in them.' Just about then is when I stepped ankle deep into a puddle and felt my entire boot fill up with freezing, muddy/poopy water. Next thing that went through my head, 'I wish I would have won those Dubarry's'. But even still I cannot complain, sunny and 50's today and sunny and 60's over the weekend. Tomorrow we are off to the State Park to ride the trails. I am trying to decide to just take my 8 year old daughter and Moonlight or to take a friend and her daughter along with us. The problem is this friend cannot ride her horse(the one I talked about a while back that has issues that she is not capable of handling or riding). So she would ride Moonlight and my daughter would have to ride our mini which can be no fun after a few miles since he is so bouncy. I plan to ask my daughter what she would rather do since she is the one that would have to deal with the sore ribs after 9 miles of bouncing around on Snappy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Practice what you preach! He sure does. And ditches.

I can watch this over and over and over again.  It gives me chills every time.  In any lesson with Peter he is adamant that you praise, praise, praise your horse.  If you watch this video he practices what he preaches.  He praises Henry after almost every single fence.  For all that this man has to think about on a XC course like that, he makes none more important than letting his beloved friend know how good he is doing.  Some links to Peter stuff.  Interview from Eventing Nation, Run Henny Run FB page to follow all their events, Run Henny Run merchandise(which has made it to my Christmas list.  I want the Rolex DVD and the shirt please!) all good stuff and fun for any eventer to check out.

First is a VERY short clip of Peter placing Sara's leg right where he wants it.  It give you the exact place he says to have your leg.

Next is Peter explaining that a newly built jump will most likely through a horse for a loop. They can smell the difference. A few jumps on their way to ditches. A Peter pep talk. On to ditches...Sorry abou the first one I was trying to take off my jacket. In homefront news I am getting very excited about starting the young haflinger in the spring. Gives me something to look forward to all winter! Steady had yesterday and today off which is pretty much torture in this beautiful weather we have been having. So I catch rode yesterday on my daughters horse and plodded around with him for a bit. It was good and I need to remember to do that fairly often. Just like any lesson/kid/beginner horse they can quickly get some bad habits. Luckily he is such a good boy he is a pretty quick fix kinda guy. Then cause I felt guilty riding my daughters horse and she hadn't ridden in over a week I gave each of them a 20 minute lesson before dinner. Great way to spend the evening! Tomorrow I will ride Steady again just flat maybe some trail riding will be nice. I am thinking that my daughter and I will get to squeeze one more trip down to the state park for a trail ride. I didn't expect that to happen this late in the season but I will not complain!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

If you are sick of hearing about Peter Atkins, don't go visit this blog.

If you are tired of hearing, "Peter this, and Peter that, Peter, Peter, Peter!!!"  Then I have a blog that I suggest NOT going to.  She too is part of the Peter Atkins following.  She is a great writer and I have been encouraging her to blog more often.  But if you are crazy like us and cannot get enough of Peter then go over to read Amy's latest posts about the clinic.  She rode in the clinic that I have been posting about and has some great posts about it.  Head on over to Moose on the Loose, a great blog about Amy and her Pinto Moose and their eventing adventures.  It is also one of those blogs that blogger will not allow me to comment on but I really really want to.

In other news Sara Ivie came out yesterday.  She came a little late.  She showed up about 4:20 and chatted and she had me ride in my saddle first.  She evaluated my saddle and said I did a very good job with what I had to work with.  She said the shim pad with him is pretty much a must at least for the time being.  Then she had me ride in some of her saddles.  It was very interesting to me to feel a distinct difference in each one.  The difference in the way it felt for me but also the difference in Steady.  There was distinct tension in him when the saddle was not fitting well.  Resistence to rounding his back.  Then when they fit him well he was relaxed and even stretching some which is not something I get often out of him.  The 'conquest' was the narrowest tree she had which was narrow and still was not narrow enough.  WOW that was eye opening.  She said he needs and extra narrow!  As far as fit for me the twist was not good for me in this tree.  It brought my knees out away from the saddle but I did like the fact that I was not put in the backseat like I am in my saddle.  That made it easier to post correctly and get out of the saddle at the base of a jump.  She suggested that part of the reason I feel I am throwing myself forward at the base of the jump is because I am in the back seat so much that I have to kind of fling myself up to keep up with him.  Same kind of concept in my posting.  I always struggle to get that just brushing the saddle post and too often feel I am hitting the saddle then coming back up.  But I did not have that problem in any of the County's it was easy to have that brushing the saddle post I am always striving for.  Out of all of them of course I like the highest end 'sensation' but I also really liked the middle one which is the 'inspiration'.  As far as fit for Steady well she said I would need to have a custom saddle made for him to get an optimal fit.  Extra narrow tree, extended tree points, shoulder gussets and extended panel.  Of course right?!  I do agree with her and it made me feel better that I was not just crazy thinkign that he is impossible to fit because she had trouble and didn't have a saddle in her truck that would fit him even halfway decent.  But to fork over $4500.00  for a custom saddle is just not an option right now.  Some day?  Probably.  Now?  No way.  It is hard and a bit discouraging knowing the truth about my saddle but at the same time I am very glad I know.  My saddle fits OK.  The biggest problem with it is that there is a bit of a bridge in the middle of the panel.  Making pressure points in the front and under the cantle.  Then add to that, that it kind of puts me in the back seat, plus Steady already struggling with his lumbar going out and causing him issues adds up to definitely not optimal fit.  Pretty much what I found out was that he has a high wither, uh duh, hollow behind, lacking topline, oh wait I already knew all of those things, but it was good to get a professional confirmation of all the things I had read and studied and worried and stressed over with Mr. Steady .  I did find out that for as big as he is, he actually has a short back.  So the smallest seat size I can get away with the better for him.  That was great information to find out that I had never considered.  All in all she spent 3 hours!!! at my house trying saddle after saddle after saddle.  I was very impressed with her patience and determination to find something that will be best for not just my horse but me too.

So now my wheels are turning about a new saddle and it is going on the wish list.  My biggest concern about my saddle that I learned yesterday is that jumping is a problem.  I didn't realize that some of our jumping issues were so much connected to my saddle.  Riding in other saddles I could feel and see the difference.  He is holding his breath over jumps in preparation for landing because of the pressure on his lumbar region.  He is not jumping round and upon landing his back end is "left in the next county" as Sara put it.  Then he kind of runs off inverted and bracing.  Then in two of the other saddles we did not get that same reaction over the jump or after.  That is the hardest thing because now I know that jumping is causing him pain and it is hard to ask him to improve on something that he is doing because he is trying to avoid pain.  Grrrr...  So we will be doing flat for a while and slowly going back into jumping small stuff just to get a baseline of when, why and how the pain is being caused.  I know he was probably sore to start because we had jumped pretty hard two days in a row and I was planning to give him at least a week before jumping him again but I didn't realize she would have me jumping to evaluate.  So I am going to give him at least a couple weeks of just flat, then start from there.  All in all I am very glad I had her come out and would happily recommend her as a saddle fitter.

Soon to come are more clinic videos/posts, we still have ditches, banks and water to cover.  So stay tuned :)