Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fighting a loosing or more likely already lost battle :/

I feel like a fish out of water or like I am in some weird equine version of the "Twighlight Zone".  When everyone around you is of the same mindset and everyone you speak to thinks you are speaking a foreign language it really starts to make you feel like "I" am the one who is crazy.  It is frustrating, discouraging, disheartening and I really need to sit down reevaluate and figure out why I am even trying and if it is worth it.  Why am I adding more stress to my life?  What do I hope to accomplish?  What is my purpose for fighting anyways?  It the cost of trying to educate a group of people who feel they need no education, worth the price of stress and fighting it is adding to my life?

Here is the story in the short version, sort of.  Pony Club, complete stressor, I am trying to make positive and right changes to better the club that was on it's last leg and I am met with resistance for every single step.  Sigh...frustrating.  Then I am also an assistant leader in a 4-H club.  A 4-H club that is %99.9999 western pleasure and the other %.000001 are back yard riders who pull their horses out once a year to run them off their legs for the week of fair.  I have steered clear of all of these folks for 4 years just taking my kids so they could have fun riding with other kids.  Well at the leader meeting it was brought up that they were considering adding a few dressage classes to the show bill next year.  That is awesome right!  That is what I thought too until I entered into the discussion over the topic and I quickly realized they do not want to really learn dressage they just want to "play" dressage.  They asked me what "dressage is" and I started out with what I believe dressage is, the connection between horse and rider, training to acquire correct movement from the horse by engaging the hind end with a round back and bending at the poll.  I thought it was a very  quick and basic run down of 'dressage'.  Once the blank stares started I quickly realized that is not the answer they were looking for.  Then another leader pipes up and proclaims, "it is a pattern with letters",  another says, "oh!  That's what those letters are for in arenas!"  Then the president says, "yeah they have to do things like lope a 20 meter circle!  Well I guess it is called canter??"  Then there was a collective "AH HA" moment that went across the room.  "So it is like an equitation class!!!"  "YES!".  I quitely slump back in my seat and realize I am sorely outnumbered and am new to this group and that speaking up at that point was going to do more harm than good so I sadly kept my mouth shut and they moved on.  All agreeing that those type of classes would be fun.  I have to say I am not surprised by the goings on within 4-H that is to be expected.  They are good people that are offering a good program but that is not their "sport" of choice so they just don't know.  I am happy that my kids will get to do some dressage test for free at the fair and so I am happy they made the change.  Who knows it may spark an interest in some of the kids along the way.

The most disheartening moment came when I was talking to a Pony Club Horsemasters member and was venting about what went on explaining to her the situation as I did here.  And when I said that someone said, "so it's like an equitation class".  Waiting for the Oh My they did not!  But instead I got, "well that is essentially what it is".  I audibly gasped and said, "you did not just say that, honey we really need to have a talk if that is what you think dressage is".  So not only are the expected 4-h leaders clueless about dressage but faithful pony club members who i had assumed had been properly educated.  It is so disheartening.  I know that as long as people are teachable that they can learn and that they quite possibly will some day but do I want to be that person to fight that battle?  I don't think I do.  My experience is not great to begin with then to not have even one person who can stand along side me in agreance.  It really does make you question your own thinking and positions when every single person around you looks at you like you have 3 heads.  That is where I am with that and I come here with it because a lot of you DO understand what I mean and it helps not feeling like the outcast.

Just writing this out has helped me get some clarity on the situation and I think I have an idea about what my next step needs to be.  I must first get my Pony Clubbers better educated.  We need to have some sort of winter unmounted dressage classes with an expert.  Someone who can break down the sport into it's most basic form and help the kids/members understand the importance and foundation of dressage.  Yes I think that will be a great place to start!!!  Now to find the sucker ahem...expert!  Thanks guys for putting up with my venting it really helps clear my head and think things through effectively!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

It isn't fancy but it's functional.

Story of my life not fancy but functional.  Many many moons ago I was asked by Aimee at Sprinklerbandits to show my barn.  I agreed to do so but I have never done it for a few reasons 1) to find a point in time that my stalls were clean along with my barn being clean and not filled with random junk  2) Because most people board at facilities that actually generate an income and can afford half decent facilities. 3) because I am a procrastinator to the core of my being.

Well I found a moment that the barn was mostly clean in conjunction with clean stalls and a resonable amount of random junk.  Just got over reason #2 and decided to stop procrastinating.  So here it is my very small but serves it's purpose, barn.

We own 15 acres, with a 2500 square foot home(half out dated half redone), 3-4 acres of fenced in pastures and a 20x30ft barn.  I have 2 stalls that are 10x13 ft and a small 6x8(for mini's), a 4x8 goat stall and a 8x8 feed room and a loft that is 8x20ft.  None of it was in the barn when we bought it except the loft and a huge mess of a half rotted out floor that we had to tear out.  We hope to someday build a new barn but for right now this works.

Steady's stall

Lily's Stall
Mini stall and goat stall they have a door to come and go as they please.

feed room
Nothing fancy but the simple fact that I can look out my kitchen or bedroom or dinning room or bathroom windows or even right here from my computer and see my horses happily grazing then I will gladly give up fancy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

One handed bareback riding on an OTTB!

I know Steady is such a wild and crazy beast what was I thinking??  Hahaha, the truth is that 99% of the time he is a perfect gentleman.  So much so that after I got done racing him in the bean bag toss I promptly handed him off to my seven year old to graze him.  It is so nice to get the horse you have at home to show up out in public.  People become so impressed with his progress when really that is what he is almost always like but the last time they saw you he was standing on two feet acting like a wild stallion, haha.

I entered the "ride a buck" class.  That is where you place a dollar bill between your thigh and your horse riding bareback and the last one to drop it wins.  It started out nice and easy with some walk, trot.  Then we went to canter we dropped a few of them.  But Lee Ann decided to up the ante so she had us ride with one, trotting and reverse across the diagonal with the disclaimer "without running into anyone!"  Madness I say but we were still in the game as serious competitors!  We had to post the trot, bareback, with a dollar between our thighs!  10 meter canter circles.  Then we were down to just 3 of us.  I admit Steady has some massive withers but his gaits are so nice when I ride bareback they really don't become a factor.  Now a year and a half ago they would have because he did not have steady smooth gaits and I was more like a dead fish flopping around up there but A LOT has changed in a year and a half and riding bareback is a ton of fun now so I knew that we could hang quite well in this class.  I could see my dollar slipping back though.  I was out 3rd during a canter down the long side because my dollar just slowly slipped farther and farther back.  Live and learn, now I know that in any future 'ride a buck' classes the farther forward you can place your dollar the better.  Next time, Gadget, next time!
Reverse across the diagonal at a trot, bareback, one handed, without running into anyone.  And people think dressage is hard ;)

Can you find Steady and I?  Far right!

The other fun class we did was the bean bag toss.  We had to pick up four bean bags off of a barrel one by one and take them down to the other end of the arena and toss them into a small bucket on a barrel.  It is about speed and accuracy.  It is timed and you get points by getting the bags in the bucket.  You might think we would have an edge on the speed factor since he has won $350,000 racing but if you don't know about career OTTB's I can assure you speed is not an issue but stopping?  Well that is not really required in a race.  About two strides in with those long legs I was telling him to put on the brakes. We came in last in this class but we could have been real contenders had I concentrated more on holding onto the bag.  The first one slipped out of my hand before I ever even got to the bucket, ugh.  The other three I held on tightly too and made them in.  Steady was a bit confused by the whole thing.  The first run he kind of lost his head and didn't know what in the world I was asking him to do.  Then he got the hang of it and it was fun and I think it was good for him to realize he can trust me in an unknown situation.
My other disadvantage besides riding an OTTB in a bean bag game was he had the other horses beat in height by a hand easily.   Streeeeetch!

The best part about a show at Lee Ann's (well the weather since she has some ability to make the most amazing weather for her shows.  70 and sunny and the next day it was 25 and snowing!) is the atmosphere.  She even sends out in her show bill that everyone is to cheer for everyone.  And that is exactly what happens.  Everyone is smiling, having fun, chatting and cheering.  Not a rider comes off course without a group clapping and cheering for them.  I had my own little cheering squad in the Princess Diva Diaries family!  It was so nice seeing Kelly and Lexi.  Riva is such a gorgeous girl and Kelly has done such an amazing job in the last year bringing her along.  Till next season girls!  We MUST do dinner sometime!

All Photos Courtesy of Lee Ann Zobbe she wears many hats and does them all so well!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A good way to end the season.

Though it was not in my "plan" for the end of the season.  I think the "plan" said something like "end the 2012 season with a move up to Novice schooling show."  I have to say though that I cannot complain.  Could I have moved up?  In hindsight absolutely.  Was I 100% confident that it was the right timing?  No.  And I am not willing to add anymore to chance than is already included in Eventing.  Had Steady not gotten injured I am confident we could have but I am grateful that that was not worse and we even got to show one more time.  I was undecided whether I would enter or not.  If it would be worth it or if I should just call it quits early this year.  I am SO glad I decided to walk in to the post office at closing time on closing day for entries to get mine post marked in time.  Talk about indecisive!

I got my ride times and I didn't ride until 12:10 and would be completely finished by 4 and that included sticking around for all the fun classes and watching the bareback puissance, which was AWESOME by the way.  Two girls made it to 4 ft before they each jumped but took the rail and they called it a tie.  One of the winners even has her own eventing blog so you can read her account of the craziness here.  They made it look so easy.

So with such wonderful ride times I didn't even have to pull out of my driveway until 8 a.m. and I returned home at 6:30 pm. perfect!  All went smoothly with traveling the 4 hours(2 hours one way).  Have I mentioned how nice it is hauling Steady in a trailer that he actually fits into and is not freaked out by?  Let me tell you it is such an incredible relief of stress over hauling and he doesn't try to kill himself.  For the most part.
My two daughters came along and they packed, unpacked, carried saddlees, filled buckets, grazed Steady, groomed, cleaned stalls, tacked and cheered me on all day.  I am one lucky woman to not only be comepeting in this sport that I love with the coolest horse but I get to do it with these amazing people who love and support me.

Dressage: Warm up was lovely.  He was pretty relaxed and extremely relaxed compared to our last few HHP experiences.  I was pretty nervous for our test.  I enjoy learning dressage and I respect the sport/artform emensely but performing a test is such a stresser for me. I think it has to do with the last few rides and how aweful they have gone.  So I felt myself tense up and it wasn't my best riding by far but by the time we go to the end of our test I realized we did it.  He did an amazing job.  He was good, obedient and semi-relaxed.  It was one of our best tests if not the best (at least that is how it felt for me).  He only had a couple moments the turn down centerline, the right canter depart and his halt.  The canter depart was bad but he came back to me immediately and gave me a nice canter and his halts are usually perfect but this one wasn't aweful.  The canter was my fault completly, Lee Ann picked up on it last weekend in our lesson that I have a tendancy to put my aides on and think NOW!  And that just sends him in a frenzy and that is what I did.  I thought without those moments we could have even come close to our best score which was a 31.  So when I went to pick up my test and saw a 38.1 I was a little surprised, not disappointed because it is till respectable but just surprised.  Though I scanned through the rest of the scored for ALL the divisions and I realized that all the numbers looked higher so it seemed across the board higher numbers with this judge.  I loved the judge though she was great!  So helpful at the end even schooling some.

Forgive the bouncy video .  My nine year old took it.

Then to the fun stuffs!  Jomping!  Let's jump all the things!  I entered the BN Derby which has stadium XC combined.  Steady true to form did wonderfully brave, honest and bold just doing his thing.  It was of course SO FUN! 

Steady enthusiastically leaps off the bank!

There were only four in my division I was second after dressage and the sweet girl that was in first her horse was just TOO excited to jump so they decided to scratch before jumping.  So Steady and I ended first and even though it wasn't exactly where I had 'planned' to end more than anything I am glad we ended on such a good note! 
I also entered a couple fun classes but I must leave that for another post but they were SO MUCH FUN!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

And then there were two...

I am going to start with the good part of the post.  I have been very absent here lately.  I have just been very uninspired in writing and riding.  Life has been busy and it was an easy excuse to help me ignore my lack of enthusiasm for anything training related.  It stemmed from feeling like I missed out on the fall season because of Steady's injury.  Then this DC Pony Club position that was seriously dumped on me has had my stress for the equine section of my life and emotions full.  I mean with 3 kids, a farm and the day to day of all of it only leaves a sliver left over for equine stuff as it is and now add in another responsibility related to horses well that sliver left for myself and training seems to be shrinking.  But I do intend to balance that out better because I am simply NOT willing to give up my passion to run an outside organization.

It worked out last minute that I got to get out and take a lesson from LAZ.  Ahhhhhh what a huge sigh of satisfaction.  I needed it desperately and am SO glad it worked out.  We worked on simple grids and it was exactly what we(we as in mostly I) needed.  It was very productive and I love that LAZ understands my life a bit and gave me the dimensions of her grids and said 'now go home and do this".  She knows us well enough to know our strengths and weaknesses and we can get right to the point.  I left the lesson 100% satisfied and smiling ear to ear because of the progress.  One of the biggest ah ha moments was when she told me to squeeze with my inner thigh/knee and shove my heals down to get him to slow down!!!  He had a nice canter when she told me that and he instantly broke to a trot when I did it....lol...it was VERY effective.  I have had many instructors tell me different ways of slowing him with my body, slow my post, tighten my stomach muscles but this was by far the quickest and most effective response I have gotten from him.  It is an AWESOME thing to have in your arsenal when you have a horse like Steady that speed is his go to solution for everything.  She also pointed out two things that I completely agree that Steady with all of his faults has two extremely important good qualities.  He LOVES to go forward and his work ethic is incredible and she is so right and love those qualities about him.  He is such a great horse for me.

Now onto the really really really bad part of my weekend.  I was gone all day Saturday and didn't return until 11pm that night.  Sunday morning was hectic and Steady was still at CAF (being trailered home by a PC member).  Lily and Blaze were turned out with plenty of water and grass so I was lazy (and very busy) and didn't go out to the barn in the a.m.  That afternoon we had a family over for lunch then Pony Club came over to make horse treats for a fundraiser.  One of the PC girls(S) went out to throw Blaze some hay.  I was outside getting Lily to let our lunch guests pet him.  S come to tell me she doesn't see Blaze so she went out to the pasture to look for him.  He is ALWAYS standing at the fence if people are outside, so I knew something was up but my first guess is he got out and is grazing next door.  Then S yells across the pasture, "MISS AMY!!! HE'S DEAD!!!".  At first I didn't believe what she said so I made her say it again.  Then I couldn't even comprehend what she was saying.  I just thought I have this little boy coming out any second to pet Lily I am going to see them off and figure out what she is talking about.  Once our guests left I asked her multiple times to tell me what she said and it came back the same, "HE'S DEAD!!".  I got my husband and asked him to come out with me and no matter how much I didn't want it to be true it was.  He was dead!  Lying in the pasture, dead.  I won't go into any more detail about what went on after that because I honestly cannot rethink any of the last few days it is just too sad but our hearts are completely broken and it will take a very long time for this pain to subside for myself and my girls.  I rarely talked about Blaze on here but that little pony owned my heart.  I had him for 6 years and he is more of a family member than a horse.  Don't get me wrong I love Steady, Moonlight, Snappy and Lily but out of all of them Blaze is the ONLY one that would have NEVER no matter what EVER left my farm, EVER!  I cannot explain it but he meant more to me than any other pet I have ever owned.  I have never been hit this hard by grief over an animal.  Then add onto that the fact that my girls have been hit very hard by it also makes it only that much worse.  They are not overly emotional kids and they are used to loosing pets whether it has been from rehoming or death and they are normally quite unaffected by it.  So to see how hard it is on their little hearts is so sad.  I am grateful for all the years they got to have him but am so sad by all the years that they will have to live without him.  I will not go any farther into it for the sake of my heart and emotions right now.  But I will leave you with a picture and a video in remembrance of THE best little pony I have ever known.

My tribute to Blue Eye Blaze

Rest in peace my sweet Blaze. For the hundreds and hundreds of days like this that you gave to my family, for the thousands and thousands of little girl giggles you provided.  For being the first horse that awakened that passion for horses in all of my little girls' hearts. For gently allowing bouncy butts, kicking legs and pulling hands to slowly learn with kindness and care.  And for the countless first pony rides you gave in your life and the inevitable smiles the appeared upon each little face.  They were smiles that you placed there and we will forever be grateful that we were allowed the privilege to have you in our lives and for you we will never be the same.  You only ever added joy and happiness to our world and we were not ready to lose you.  We didn't get to say goodbye, what we wouldn't give to hug your fuzzy little neck again. For such a tiny pony you have left a huge hole in our hearts.