Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pencil It In...

So, I've been looking over my calendar trying to decide which shows to go to, how best to qualify for the championships (68% at Training level... yikes), what's too far to drive and what shows I could possibly talk Courtney into coming to so that we could show together and hang out (like the bad asses we are).
Now my tenative show schedule is complete!

June 9-10 Cooler By The Lake I & II Iron River, WI

June 16 Summer Solstice Schooling Show Escanaba, MI

June 30 Timber Trails Jump Show Hancock, MI

July 7-8 North Woods Dressage Summer Show, Iron River, WI

July 20-22 Dressage at Lamplight I & II, Wayne, IL

August 11-12 NWDA Summer Fun Schooling Show Iron River, WI

September 15-16 NEDA Fall Classic Schooling Show, Iron River, WI

October 11-14 USDF Recional Championships, Lexington, KY

Not too shabby, huh?

Actually, it's terrifying how buys this summer is turning out to be... But, I think that I should probably bank on going to more than two shows to get Delight qualified for the championships and I can see Courtney's Grand Prix debut at Lamplight, so that on made the cut. All of the schooling shows are for my students (and I get to get a practice class or two in with Delight), so they are kind of a 'freebie' for me since I'll be hauling their horses anyway.

Downside to all of this horsiness? Buh-bye social life...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Extreme Barn Makeover: Version 2.0

Ahhh, glorious long weekends... the perfect time to ride all of my horses, relax, maybe drink a beer (or fruity girly drink... what of it?).
Or not.

My dad was in town this weekend, so I got a shit ton of jobs done... but no horses ridden (which I'm strongly tempted to panic about, seeing as I just signed up for two shows in the next month). So, without any further ado... I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. (For a refresher of how the barn used to look, go HERE)
The old floor torn out, concrete broken up and removed (thanks dad!)

Center support beam up. Six foot gate installed and 4"x4"s laid down as base supports.

Wall up, gate latch installed. The floor was raked smooth (or as smooth as I could get it) and 3/4" rubber mats were laid down. 

Check out those mats!

The cheap 1/2" mats I had were re-positioned on the alley way floor. I'm one mat short, but when my tack box gets installed, it won't even be noticeable.

So, what else could I have possibly gotten done?
A tack area!
The herd in their stalls. London thins that the barn is just a touch short....

Tilly, enjoying her new stall, and Delight sulking in the back. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

50 Shades of Grey

No, this is in no way about that book (which Amazon keeps emailing me about, but I have not read nor to I own).

I've had a three or four day streak of sunny warm days. It had started to make me uncomfortable. You know when you have that pre-sunburn feeling all the time and feel like a ball park wiener just about to split it's skin?
Well if you spent less time lounging around in the sun soaking up that vitamin D, you wouldn't have that problem, now would you?
True, condescending italics voice. True.
Also, now I really want a ball park frank. 

Well, the streak has broken. It's grey and rainy/threatening to rain  all day. Perfect day to get som non riding related jobs done, right? So what's first on that list?
Get Shavings.
Ok... Off to the sawmill I go, tarp on hand. I payed for my truckload for shavings and pulled along back for the big front end loader to fill 'er up. I had my tarp secured to the front of the bed, then pulled up over the cab so that I could just pull it over the back, tie it down and drive merrily away with my truck load of shavings.

It was all going according to plan... Until the driver started to dump the shavings.

The rain had stopped, and the wind had picked up.
That blasted wind.

It ripped my tarp off of my review mirrors, where I had secured it for just this issue, and sent it flailing towards the bed of the truck. Fortunatly the front end loader stopped my wayward tarp with a yard of sawdust. There was no force in the world - short of shoveling out my truck- that was going to liberate that tarp so that I could cover my load and head on home. I signaled the driver to finish loading my truck...then headed back to the supply/hardware store to purchase myself another tarp.

Anyone here care to guess how difficult it is to secure a new tarp to a truck bed literally over flowing wth sawdust all in gale force winds?
I got sawdust into crevices I didn't even know I had while cursing my binder twin, lack of a knife, and the wind.

The bright spot is that a gentleman came up to me as I finished securing my load (while muttering under my breath) and chatted me up for a while. When he gave me his number, I figured he was hitting on me until he parted with the remark "I have a dump truck and could quote you a price to move that sawdust for you, six yards at a time".

And you know what, I think I will call him... before I commit accidental suicide by tarp.

My load made it home ok, and I got it half way unloaded before I had to sprint off to work (redneck style with loards weighing doen that damn tarp and half a load of sawdust in the back).

I made it half way to work when I started to notice a burning smell.... Then I got to use my new favorite curse:
Oh for fucks sake, what could possibly be going wrong now?!?!?!
Stop the car, get out and check for a problem. There are faint curls of smoke coming from my drivers side wheel well. Well, that can't be good. Off to the shop it is!

Dropped my truck (and sawdust) off at the shop down the street from my office... Evidently my calipers for my breaks were worn enough that they were literally smoking.

I want my sunshine back.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Oh what the Hail....

Pardon the pun, I really couldn't help it...

"Shhh... I'm hiding"
This weekend was like Michigan forgot to take it's meds, weather wise. On Saturday it was 90 degrees (the locals swear that they were melting into oblivion) and dry. If it wasn't got the salt marks on my horses I wouldn't have noticed that they sweat while I worked them.

OK, that's a lie. I notice things like that, but I was just trying to make a point, ok?
Moral of this story: I did not get my lawn mowed.
"Whatcha doin'?"

Sunday was beautiful... Until around 3pm. Then the skies opened, dime to quarter sized hail rained down and the temperature dropped 30 degrees. Fortunately, I planned ahead, and had shut the horses in the barn while I had left to go give a lesson at my old boarding barn. I may have lost my voice a little bit trying to yell over the sound of the rain and hail on the metal roof. Occupational hazard.
Oh, and I didn't get my lawn mowed then either...

However, I got up early and mowed my lawn before work this morning! Hah!
Now I just have the rest of my to do list to wade through. Oh, and sign up for my first show of the year.... Yikes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


So yesterday I had two good rides. I'm sure I would have had three, but I didn't have time to squeeze RC in because I had to babysit the guy spreading lime in my fields (seriously, why can't they ever give me notice when they are going to show up? Some of us have job(s) and lives to schedule!).

Tilly was a touch excited, seeing as there was a giant vehicle flinging little rocks across her field. She settled down in what has become her record time (whew), and we did lots of changes of direction at the trot, big looping circles and more or less rating her speed so that we didn't slip into ZOOMPONY mode. That mode isn't fun.
Even our canter work was calmer today. We had one lap of 'up up and away!' type canter, but after that she settled into the rhythm and we practiced our big looping circles at the canter, both directions.

Next was Delight (well, after work.. you know, that pesky job that I have to be able to afford the lifestyle I seem to prefer).. I was prepared for her to be a little bit of a dork, since she's had a few days off and the herd had been penned up in my front (lime free) pasture.

She was a champ. Sure we had a little tiff starting out on the bit... But we worked through it and that's all that matters. We got our trot-canter transitions which have been a tad sticky (she thows a mini fit, I throw away my reins... which didn't help a thing), we got our walk canter transitions (and we've only just recently begun playing with those), we even got some nice lengthened trot (hills are amazing). Woo hoo! Maybe, just maybe, we are ready for this show season.

Or maybe it was just a fluke.

Either way, it was a fun fun ride.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Turbo Pony,Western Pony, Jumping Pony and a Sunburn

This weekend was my weekend 'off'. Seriously, I had planned on finishing the top pasture fence and riding my own ponies...
Possibly reading a book..
Drinking a Mikes...

You get the idea. it was going to be a slow weekend where I relaxed and enjoyed my UP springtime weather.
But you know how plans go - especially around horses.

I ended up loaning London out to one of my students to ride with that HJ trainer that my former BO brought up (amid much barn drama). I mean, If this kid wants to jump, London's you boy. He has that hunter 'look'... and her horse is only five and not talented in the jumping department. So, I changed my plans to take London to that clinic Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. No biggie right?

I can still get my other three ridden. I took RC out, and on a whim (since I have had decidedly few of those of late), threw his western gear up on him.

Well that's no beuno....
Important PSA: If you are using a bridle that fastens using chicago screws, it's best to check the tightness of all screws before heading out down the road to my 'arena. This way, when you go to toss the split reins over RC's head, you will not be left with that look of shock when one the reins are only attached to one side of his bit.

See? This part doesn't need two screws!

Fortunately, I'm a closet Macgyver (I knew that engineering degree wasn't a lie!) and scavenged a chicago screw from RC's throat latch to secure the rein back onto the bit. Ta-dah!
I didn't have a paperclip, but otherwise it was just like this...
What was supposed to be a fun little ride around on my Western Pony ended up as a two hour trailride up and down the hills, around trees and basically just exploring the back of the property via deer trails. RC had a blast... Until I made him do a little western work at the end.
Gratuitous Quarter Horse Haunches shot!
Moral of this story: I need to get a watch.

Next up was Tilly. Tilly seems to have decided that the lack of fences in our new riding area signifies that she can go as fast as possible. Turbo Pony needed a re-install of brakes and steering. Fortunately, she settled down and we got some good work much quicker than our previous rides... so I must be doing something right! Of course, our ride was only 45 minutes because poor Tilly was a sweaty foamy mess after a half hour of work on hills (and 15 minutes of getting her head screwed on straight), so we took a mini trail ride (of which she was a huge fan), gave her a sponge down, put her in her fly sheet and watched her tear out to the rest of the herd.

By this point I was running decidedly late to get London to the Barn for his HJ lesson... Thank goodness I have easy loaders and can hook up to my traler in on straight shot (yeah, I'm that good). Long story short: London is an adorable hunter. He made everything else look like a little tiny pony, but he went over everything he was pointed at, with his head low, ears up, and knees high.
The clinition picked on the fact that his tack didn't match and he needed a tail extension.
Say what?
Seriously? That's all you have to say? No -say - riding instruction?
I could have given a better over fences lessen than that. And I don't jump. At all.
Sunday, they spent half the lesson learning how to tighten the girth from the saddle. Gotta say, I'm glad that I didn't spend the money to ride. Yikes.

I spent my sunday afternoon (because for a 9 am ride that means I got home around 2pm) lounging in the sun. I threw on a pair of shorts, slathered sunscreen on my pasty white self and read a book in the sun with the poodles.
Tempisays "throw the ball... Throw the ball" Also, just ignore how blindingly white my legs are. 
Of course, poor Delight was just groomed all weekend, no riding. Poor abandoned pony.

And I am sporting a sunburn.

These weekends off are hard on a girl.  (I'll have to add pictures tomorrow because I forgot my camera. Whoops.... Annnnnd Added!)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How Do You Spell Trouble?


(Also, that rhetorical question packs less of a punch in this format.... as 'trouble' is already spelled out. But try not to let that bother you. Or comment that the spelling is in the title... )

So today there was no riding. 'Why not?' you may ask, "After all, it is 65 degrees and sunny out. The weather could not possibly get any nicer".

Because of my pony. Well, Ponita Tres, to be exact.

I'll admit, that I have been lax in my fencing. The fencer wasn't hooked up because I was still finishing up my third little pasture (and nothing pisses me off more than shocking myself on accident while trying to put up fence posts). I figured that the herd is quite happy to have all that room and grass, why would they poke at the fence? London and RC are convinced that the white rope means hot wire anyway, so I don't have to worry about them. Delight would rather lounge a safe distance from everyone else and eat all by her lonesome.
"If I even look at the fence, I might get shocked!"
Tilly, it would seem, is my problem child.

I turned everyone out this morning and headed in to finish my coffee before going out and riding. Of course, I glance up and there is a red pony grazing by my front steps.

Wait a moment.... That's not supposed to be there...

So I halter her and throw her back into the field. Surely that's a fluke, and she'll be happy grazing with the rest of the herd?
"Later, yo"

She trotted out to the herd. Looked at me over her shoulder, hunched up and slithered under the fence.
"Hey guys! You should see my new trick!"

Of course, everyone had to come see what I was doing.
That's it! The electricity is being hooked up TODAY! Of course, this means that I have to rewire it a bit so that I'm not shorting out the fence on my incomplete pasture, but no biggie.
Tilly will just have to wait in the barn until I'm done!

Of course this takes a little bit of wiring on my part since the set up for the charger is by the front of the barn. I no longer have fencing in the front of my barn, it is now all behind the barn. Darn. Good thing I have spare insulated wire, wire cutters and an exacto-knife. Of course I could have just used a pair of needle nosed pliers and been done with it... But then I would have had to go back into the house to find those. I made do.

"Why do they always leave me behind?"
After too many walks into the barn, out of the barn, around the back of the barn, rinse and repeat... I got the fencer grounded, connected and up and going. Test time!
I turned Tilly back out with the herd (though I doubt she did much reflecting on what she did wrong while penned up in a stall) and started to walk the fence line to check for shorts, etc. Lucky me, I only found three (which if you look at my pasture, is really lucky. I'm starting to hate pine trees. Just sayin').
Power off, fix the shorts and power back on. Ponita Tres is in for a shock (literally).
Once the excitement of me puttering around behind the barn wore off, the horses returned to their regular schedules of eating and napping. Except for RC, who tried to steal every tool I had out with me.
Now I didn't see Tilly get the first shock since I was putting tools away when I heard the sound of thundering hooves, but when I went back to check on everyone they all seemed content to stay home...
Is she dead?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The 'To Do' List...

Is it just me or is the To Do list a never ending, constantly expanding entity much like the universe (depending on your religion's view of scientific fact, of course)?
I bought a nifty little white board for my front door to help me keep track of who's lessons are when and where and what all I need to get done. It was a great idea, if I do say so myself... I write three (or four) day's worth of  lessons, events and social agenda (hah! Good one, Alison! Thanks for the laugh!) along with what little things I think that I can knock off of my to do list. This Idea came from the full fledged melt down I had when writing down the Official To Do list (referred to as a TDL. Hey, as an engineer, I love a good acronym)  for my farm...  By the time I finished listing one page worth of projects, I was exhausted and had to retreat to my living room to veg out and watch an episode or two of Psych.

Anyway, yesterday's TDL had:

  • Clean stalls (come on, everyone starts their To Do lists with an gimme) -Check
  • Ride Horses (And, maybe I need some motivation) -Check
  • Plant my seedlings (the beets are taking over my kitchen...) -Nope

So, two out of three ain't bad, right?

Anyway, this weekend's TDL is getting out of hand... And it's only Wednesday!

  • Mow the lawn (or turn RC out in the yard) so my house looks less abandoned
  • Finish my fence! (There are only three posts left! Nearly done!)
  • Hook up the fencer (Tilly is NOT going to like that)
  • Plant my seedlings. Finally. (The beets are going to start a revolution if I don't spread them out a little bit.)
  • Call about leveling the arena (again)
  • Start making my arena letters
  • Time permitting: plan a trip to TSC (it's a two hour drive there... so a little planning or rainy day might be in order) for mats
  • Start construction on Stall # 4 for Tilly
  • Get a load of shavings
  • .... 
And the list goes on and on... So many things, so little time.. And that's not even the official TDL. 

Then again I may just scratch the whole list and just ride again. It's really only hurting my beets....

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

That Overwhelming Feeling

Last night I had a dream about horse showing (again!). I dreamed that I was the only one who brought a 'real' horse to the horse show... everyone else brought a bicycle with a horse head and tail on it, stick horse style. When I finally found my stick horse version of RC, I realized that I didn't have a bike, but one of those razor scooters. I was so dismayed that I didnt have that elegant pedaling motion while riding my test, but instead had to roll down the centerline in that awkward duck paddle!

What the heck is going on in my subconscious?

I'll admit, that I was feeling overwhelmed - what with lessons and farm improvements and the never ending to-do list. It had been two days since I'd ridden my own horses. Why do all of this work if I'm only going to teach others how to enjoy my horses?!?!?!

So today I rode. And all is well once again in the Universe of Alison. As I counter cantered RC around my 'future arena site', I was calm and happy. I didn't have to worry about what clients think about my little old farm, or that my extended family/coworkers think I'm flipping nuts for spending so much of my time 'playing around with those horses...
I followed RC's wonderful ride with Tilly. Of course I had to get a mectric ton of hair off of her first. I curried until I thought that my arms were going to fall off but there was still more hair coming out. After scrubbing her legs clean (mare has been in a raging heat cycle. Raging...Really, it's been gross), I called it good enough and tacked her up.

Because I value my health insurance costs at their current levels, I opted for a few minutes on the lunge before hopping up on Tilly for her first solo outdoor ride.
She was, as always, nonplussed by the change. Her warm up trot could be described as blase. Her canter was even as relaxed as I've ever seen it. What the heck, I packed in the lunging and hopped up on the pony.
She was relaxed, looking around at the trees, telephone poles, house across the street, everything as we strolled on by. Her trot work got a little more exciting.
As it would turn out, when something caught her eye, the power steering failed. We had a few, ahm, conversations...
"Circle, pony."
"Ohhhhh... what's that over there?"
"Circle, pony!"
"Really, I think we need to go check that out. It's so new and exciting!"
"Circle! Pony!"
"Whoa, there is so much to check out up here!"
"....well, you didnt have to be so rude about it"

But after a time or two practicing steering, reminding Tilly that I am still the one in charge, we got some great changes of direction. After a walk break and some transition work, I felt brave enough for the canter.
Funny thing about the canter... It's quite different when practiced outside than when practiced in a 40m x 20m arena. Pony can move. Quickly. And without power steering.
Back to square two.
A few circle/transitions and a change of direction or two to get the canter back under control, and I called it a day. Pony was sweating, so she must have at least worked a little bit, right?

So even after a ride that was only teetering on the boarded of control... I still had a great day. All i needed was a few hours on horseback to remind me why I'm doing all of this.

Monday, May 7, 2012

... And the Rain.

Well, last week was all off for me, what with moving the horses home and having Mom in town so I was really looking forward to getting some saddle time in this morning before work (because, of course, I have two lessons to give this evening)... But it was not to be. I was hoping to wake up to 50 degrees and sunny, instead of got 40 degrees and drizzly.
Of course, I could have found my big-girl panties and sucked it up, but instead I moped around the house, drinking coffee while the horses ate their breakfasts then brushed each horse/pony till he/she gleamed, blanketed and tossed them out into the front field.

RC was not happy that I closed off the back field from him. Of course, he settled down and joined London for a bit to eat...

 The ponies seem to have their own little clique. Far, far away from RC....

For a moment I thought that I would be able to get a picture of all four of them happily grazing....

But the ponies are cursed with curiosity, which resulted in pictures like this:
She was convinced the camera had a treat in it somewhere....

Delight refused to 'stay' for her picture....

I found that the 'sneak attack' before i headed off to work was the best way to catch them all getting along.

Even then, Delight honed in on me...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

We're Growing Up!

I have crossed yet another First off of Tilly's list. We went for a ride in the big wide open spaces of my new 'riding arena' which is a huge change from the totally enclose 40m x 60m arena that we've been working in all winter.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I hooked her to a lunge line for a few minutes first... Just in case. I mean, safety first when riding a youngster in a new environment after a few weeks off, right?

Of course she made me look like a wimp as she calmly floated along in the walk, trot and canter, looking happily around at her new surroundings, not a spook.spin.buck to be had. Good girl.

We did about half an hour of trot work before we convinced Mom to joinus on a 20 minute trailride in the old hay fields across the street.

Tilly crossed her first road! Squee!*

We walked around the huge field, dodging trees and wet spots... Leaving RC in the dust, because really, what pony needs an escort? She was wonderful.

We did have a momentary start when the three sandhill cranes that live here took wing. Those suckers are huge with a loud prehistoric call and seem to fly in slow motion... .

Much like I imagine a pterodactyl would (tell me that's not scary!)
Run, white boy! Run!

Now, I'm not sure if it was the call of the cranes that made Tilly start, or the fact that I started humming the theme to Jurassic Park while they were in flight, but she handled it well... Better than my rendition of the Jurassic Park theme- and seemed to assume that a bird wouldn't hurt her. Clever Girl.

Yeah, this video is ten minuted long, and I only hummed the first maybe two minuted of the JP theme. But I like JP... So deal.

*Ok, that noise was embarassing... But the Pony was being so good!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

London's BACK!

Ahm... I'm a touch excited.

My big boy London arrived last night around 8 pm to join in my 'lesson string' which had previously consisted of only RC.
London, back in the day
For those of you who are new to the blog, London is my first schoolmaster. We earned my bronze medal, and tried my first timid foray into fourth level (not good). We learned our first tempi changes together and showed all over the country, trying to qualify for various championship. That horse has earned my a ton of reserve champion ribbons.
Rockin' the top hat before it was banned

Of course that has been over the last ten years. He's now 19 and has spent the last two years teaching my mom how to do dressage after emphaticly declaring that he had had it with fourth level collection/work. He's happy puttering around in a first level frame, and only occasionally playing with the lateral and collected movements. He is, however, a spectacular lunge lesson horse (I know, I took three days of lunge lessons with Martha on him). So, he's earned his golden retirement of carting kids around, letting them learn how to do round circles and get baby lengthenings... not to mention getting fussed over and pampered by a couple 13 year old girls is right up his alley.

Of course, I took him out for a little bit of light work and a trail ride with my mom on RC for compnay. This horse is 19, he'll be fine, I thought.
I was wrong. Kind of.

He was hot. Passage-through-all-of-the-trot-work and porpoise-into-the-canter-work kind of hot... Which is to say, that he was a blast to ride today. There was more forward energy from that horse than I have ridden in the last 5 years...
Could have been the three days spent on a trailer...
Or being reunited with his Bestie, RC.
Or meeting the pony girls.
Or the 50 degree temperature drop from the beginning of his trip.

But seriously, who wouldn't want to learn on this: