Thursday, October 25, 2012

Indoor Day

Yeah... what I would give for an indoor (though, in all honesty, I probably would have given the horses today off anyway). This morning was icky. Pouring rain, lightening and thunder type icky....

I have a habit of lurking on the weather channel app, watching the weather and trying to plan my week accordingly. Which is why I wasted a perfectly nice day yesterday to go and get a load of sawdust to strip and rebed all three stalls instead of working any of the three horses. Now, all of the stalls needed to be stripped and I needed sawdust... the threat of severe storms in the following 24 hours spurred me into action when I might have otherwise waited til the weekend to restock. So I stripped my stalls and did my 80 mile drive to get a truck load of sawdust before work, then drove around the Kewenaw with my truckload of sawdust for a day before rebedding all stalls by flashlight last night.

But the horses had nice new fluffy bedding before the rain started, so it was worth it.

Dog Camp is hard....
 I woke up to a sheltie leaping on my head (why good morning Mr. Scott...) at the sound of rolling thunder in the distance. Both these thing were met with a strong desire to remain in bed by me and the poodles.
Inertia. It sucks...

But, I realized that horses were hungry, and I wasn't going to be able to go back to sleep with Scott flailing around anyway, so up I got. Off to the barn in my snowflake PJ's, new barn coat (with the hood up) and bright yellow rubber boots... I was a sight, to be sure. Stylin' UP style...

The horses were, prediciably, glad to see me. After all, I am the bearer of food and yummy yummy treats. And (though I may be giving them too much credit) they seem to know when they have to work, and today was not that day. Today, instead of being fed, brushed and kicked outside... their stalls were cleaned while they were still in them (only Tilly attempted a minor escape, quickly thwarted by hay).
At least the weekend should be nice, right?
Feed, clean, water... rinse and repeat. Horse keeping in a nutshell, right?
At least I know that my horses are warm and dry today....

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Horse Buying 101: Heart verses Head

Easy...this is not about me buying another horse... even though I am now down to three horses (actually two and a half horses, really), so I do have room for one more....

Stop it, Alison. Stop that now....

One of the internet bulletin boards that I frequent always has a thread or two about buying a horse. It can start as a "Hey, critique this horse to be my next dressage... what do you guys think?" and inevitably dissolves into a "I LOVE THIS HORSE! WE'LL SHOW YOU MEANIES WHEN WE'RE PSG CHAMPIONS!".... because - say it with me now- every horse can do dressage. 


Now the realm of buying and selling horses has so many rant-worthy topics, I could write a blog... But there's only so much that I care to rant about on any one topic, so I'll have to limit this to a post or two. So what buying pitfall am I going to focus on today?

Buying the horse based on a totally emotional response instead of buying a horse that fits the bill of what you need, rationally. 
We'll have the same relationship as Alec and the Black!

I get it, really, horse's are more like pets and sometimes there's a case of love at first sight. I'm just as guilty of it as anyone else... of course, by this point in my life I can curb that impulse when I see an absolutely adorable quarter horse, or flashy pony. I know that the horse has to be able to do what I want (and do it well) for our 'relationship' to work out, otherwise it's unfair to both me and the horse. So, let's take a little walk through memory lane and see when and where I lead with the heart verses head....

Horse #1: Opie.
Don't we all buy our first horse because we love them? Maybe not as adults, but let's face it, 99% of little girls are madly in love with their first horses, and I was no exception. Opie was a unhappy lesson horse that I felt special to be allowed to ride. She bucked, she darted, she bit (other horses), she kicked (again, only horses), but I loved her. My little 12 year old life would forever be incomplete without her. 
Did it work out? Yes, I did everything with Opie and loved her the whole time. As a matter of fact, I still love Opie, 15 years later... We did barrels, driving, pleasure (poorly), drill teams, trail rides, dressage- You name it, we did it. We were the jack of all trades, master of none. 
Should it have worked out? On paper, buying a green broke, sullen 6 year old quarter horse of questionable breeding for a young, newish rider with no real goals. In hind sight, I think that it was only the lack of any real goal that made our partnership work. If we didn't do well, we just changed tracks. 

Horse #2: Arlberg
Again, the young girls love for the horse outweighed the rational, intelligent side of things. Of course, a shifty trainer doesn't help. So in came the conveniently for sale Arlberg, a 15 year old AppendixQH (yeah, he had a QH great grand parent back there. The horse was 98% TB). 
This time I did have goals. I wanted to do Dressage, and had been told that my beloved Opie would never be able to do Dressage. I would need to have a horse like Arlberg, the polar opposite of everything Opie was, to start my journey in Dressage. And like all teenage girls, I treated Trainer's word as golden and immediately fell in love with tall, lanky, pampered Arlberg. 
Did it work out? Not really. On one hand, I found a new trainer who helped me improve myself and my new horse and earned some decent scores at shows. We even dipped our toes in to the recognized shows to play with the big dogs. On the other hand, my new Dressage Horse was crippled. As soon as the check cleared the bank, the bute wore off and Arlberg moved like any other used up former race horse, so we were introduced to the wonders of modern veterninary science. The other (major) downside of this  was that Arlberg really damaged my confidence. Where I felt invincible on Opie, I never knew when Bergy would 'explode' and run away. 

Horse #3: London

I'll admit, at first I did not love London. I didn't even like London. I distinctly remember the first time I saw him as a working student, taking him up for the trainer to ride and thinking "I'll never own a horse with a neck like that. Look how low it ties in!"
Then when Arlberg tore a tendon while turned out, my trainer more or less said "this is your new horse, don't even bother looking around". He met all of the rational criteria that I needed, and my trainer knew it. He vetted clean (lesson learned with Bergy!). We had the typical love-hate relationship often seen between frustrated beginners and their schoolmasters. I love and appreciate him now, even if he wasn't what I wanted at the time, he was certainly what I needed.

Horse #4: RC
OK, this one doesnt count. He was Opie's first baby and my first foal, of course I love him! But since I bred instead of bought him, I put up with all of his quirks (and probably installed a few myself). 

Horse #5: Delight
Delight's sales ad picture
This time I had a list. I was an adult. I was only going to look at young sport ponies with dressage potential. I looked at hundreds of ads. I called on one, vetted her and brought her home. I liked her when I saw her, but I like her more now that I've trained her. 

Horse #6: Chantilly

This horse I bought for resale, and to fine tune my training. I was actually looking at a different horse, but Chantilly fit my bill even better. I ruthlessly squelched the inner voice that argued for the flashier mare (chrome! so much chrome! and a belly spot!) in favor of Tilly's superior natural gaits. 

I guess the moral of the story is that it's easy to fall in love. I love all of my horses, to varying degrees. But both horse and rider are happier when their goals and abilities are in line with each other.

And for pete's sake, listen to your trainer!

Monday, October 22, 2012

So Long, Farewell...

So this weekend was two days of action packed excitement... Especially after less than a week to recuperate from the championships disaster of 2012 (a episode that shall go down into history, I'm sure).
So to lay down a quick timeline for everyone, I arrived home on monday night. Courtney came up to teach a clinic on Friday afternoon, Mom arrived with Delight in tow Friday morning (ish). Clinic/lessons all day Saturday, then both Courtney and mom left on Sunday morning.

And I took a nap.

The good news is that for my first time organizing a clinic, it went off without much of a hitch... Sure there were last minute changes, and next time we might have to do a Clinician Dinner afterwards so that everyone can chat with Courtney, but I'm going to call it a success. Yay.
I know that my two lessons on Delight and Tilly were eye opening. It's been, oh, a year since my last lessons with Courtney and in that time, I've attended one clinic. This is the downside to living in such an isolated place. But i have another two rides with Courtney in two weeks, so I'm excited.

Now on to the sad news.
London headed south with mom on Sunday. We all knew it was going to happen (well, except for RC), but it was still sad to watch him slowly disappear into the distance. RC spent the better part of Sunday scouring the pasture calling for London... Just in case he was lost. When I brought RC in for dinner, he was very concerned that London wasn't already waiting for dinner in his stall. Poor guy lost his best friend.

Today, RC is less concerned, only emitting the occasional whinny for London and trailing the mares at a respectful distance when turned out. He's slowly forgetting London.... But there was a tough day or two out at the farm.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gone Country...

Today I took RC for a ride... in his western saddle and dressage bridle. Since I was sporting plaid breeches and paisley mud boots, we sure were a sight.

Side rant: I really wish that daylight savings time would come around again. I'm really irritated by having to wait til 8:30 or 9 for it to be light enough to ride and clean the barn.
Related rant: I really wish that the electric would get reconnected to my barn. How  hard is it for an electrician to stop by to give an estimate? Really people, I'm trying to pay you for a job, not just steal your time! It's next to impossible to function with no lights and a garage door that won't open and close at the push of a button any more. I know, this sounds like a first world problem (and it is, really), but it's really tough to get everything done during daylight what with lessons and my real job and all, not to mention figure out how I'm going to get hay and shavings into my barn...

Anyway, I decided to take RC for a ride this morning because Tilly got worked yesterday and RC needs the exercise... In his western saddle because I didn't want to have to walk all the way back to the house to get his dressage saddle (I actually locked up my saddles when I was out of town, crazy, right?) and let's face it, I'm feeling lazy.
I was a little worried, because RC was trotting oddly last night, so I started our ride with a trailride. London and Tilly were eating their "candy hay" (our square bales are mostly alfalfa. London loves them), so RC and I rode the fence line and even fixed a spot or two. Then I took him down and around the arena, which was too wet to ride in without worrying about pitting out my arena, and finally worked him in the grass below the arena. And we had a fun little w-t-c session.

Finally, I gave London a haircut so he looks like someone loves him, at least a little. He was so proud to have his mane hunter-short again, he had to lead Tilly and RC on a trot around the pasture when I turned the whole herd out.

And then it started to rain. So I went to work.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Ahhhh... I'm home.

Back in the 40 degree rain that seems to be the accepted UP fall weather. All of the locals like to remind me that I have yet to be here for a real Fall or a real Winter or even a real Spring, for that matter. But I can always win the real summer war. 115 degrees in El Paso for three weeks trumps one 90 degree day any time, any where... So that's some small consolation when I smile and nod and assure them that my thin blooded Texas self sure is in for it. Again.

Anyway, in between rain showers, I did manage to take Tilly out for a ride. Yay!
She's fat, lazy and unmotivated after her two weeks off, but she was a good sport and let me play a little Dressage Queen with her. We have a long way to go before she's fit and trained enough for her recognized show debut next year, but we have all winter, right?

The way I figure it, Delight was a 70% training level horse (yes, even at recognized shows) and she got slaughtered at the championships, so Tilly had better be a 75%+ training level horse before I even think about taking her to a real show. Ouch. That math just hurts me. I remember the days when a 65% was great... Now it's not even qualifying.....


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Day 5 & 6: Get Me Out!

Ok. I have had enough.
Yesterday I had my two rides, with a little improvement... But we have a ways to go before I'm happy at first level at all with Delight. In good news, Tilly is fancy enough to compete in the Pony classes...

Now, why is this my worst horse show ever?
Let's review - in chronological order- shall we?

  • My trip begins with a phone call that my horses are out on the road. In Chassell, MI... When I'm 200 miles away. Evidently, the horses ran right through the fence, taking down a whole chunk of my hot wire. Upside: I have great friends who corralled the horses and repaired my fence. 
  • It rained when we overnighted in Jackson, MI. Why is this a problem? Evidently there's a leak/drip in my trailer which means that my helmet was literally full of water when we arrived in Lexington. I poured about a quart of rainwater out of my helmet and had to wear a cold damp helmet all weekend. 
  • My moms truck (brought it bc it had more room for the dogs) starts running rough, but we make it to KY. Brought it in, and was assured that it would be fixed by Saturday. My mom got a call at 6p on Friday that there are no parts in the US of A to fix the problem. Enter the worst rental car ever.
  • I get an update on my horses that they have gone, in a word, feral. RC's biting, Tilly's escaping, and London is running the farm sitter over.
  • I realize how far I am to being able to compete as a professional. 
  • Today I got a missed call with a voicemail from my barn sitter, telling me she had "bad news" and that my "barn was destroyed". My heart dropped out of my chest wondering is a horse was hurt or dead or something equally terrible. Come to find out that RC just kicked out a wall which was later repaired... With phone calls like these, I'm not long for this world. 
  • I scratch my last class because with 20 mph winds and a tired pony, we had all the wrong kind of energy. Ponita was tired and grumpy (and probably sore) on our hand walk, and I knew that it was over. No point in pushing her beyond her limits or setting her up for failure.... But a wasted $80. And no qualifying score. 
  • Mom and I get Courtney on the road and head to the airport to pick up my rental car (which I called and reserved for an airport to airport rental, Lexington to Marquette then coordinated a ride home). Denied, because I didn't have a credit card (which was NO PROBLEM to the woman I talked to when reserving my rental)... But the Hertz rental could hook me up, and accept my measly debit card.  But if it were really that easy, I'd be on my way to the UP. And I'm not. I'm currently updating my blog from an El Cheapo motel (the only kind that welcomes three dogs and two horse show weary travelers for under a hundred bucks). Come to find out that they need a credit check for those of us who are "point to point" renting, just in case I try to abscond with the shitty compact car I was attempting to use to get home. And little old me has never gotten a loan, borrowed money, or signed for any one of the myrad credid card offers that they send out to the ignorant college student so that they can trap them in that 27% interest. But not me... so I don't get a rental car. Even with cash in hand, no points on my license and two jobs. Nope, no debt, no car. 
So here I am, trying to find a way home.... Crap.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Day 4: The Disappointment

Yeah... Title says it all. Today was Delight and I's Training Level Championship class.

We were outclassed. We did not even belong in the same arena as the top ten horses in that class. The winner earned a 77%... We closed up the class with a 65%. Not even close to good enough.


I'll watch my video when I get up the nerve to watch it. At the moment I don't really think I'm in the frame of mind to watch me fail that hard and objectively watch for where I need improvement. Can. Not. Do that.

Receiving a little coaching...

Pony Canter

Flying Pony
My first ride was first level test 3... And I felt that it went quite well. Courtney schooled me before the test, slowing our tempo by about 50% for a slower, more powerful trot and increasing the give through the rib cage. Our test, while entirely different than our normal style, felt pretty good. I would have called it a success.
Until my sister relayed my score to me. I would have guessed that it was better than a 63%...
Pony warm up, waiting on the bell

Another Hover Pony shot

Chillin with the gang

What a day. Remind me again why I do this?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Day 3: First Class

Ah, so now Day One of the show (day three of my trip) is behind me, I can breathe a sigh of relief that Delight did not blow up or leave the ring or buck me off or any of the other myriad naughty pony moments that could have occurred.
Oh'dark thirty at the Rolex Arena
Of course, this being a horse show, the day started around 4:30. Ouch, right? But of course with two rides for Team MacDonald, both had to be before 9 am...
Sambuca Extra and Courtney in their first Grand Prix test of the show
I watched my sister ride at 7:45 in the rolex arena then had to rush to get on my horse and down to the Dressage Complex (looong walk, remember?). I was running a bit behind schedule, even though I didn't have to get changed since I wore my 'dressage whites' under my clothes to start the day (planning ahead for a change), so I only had about twenty minutes of warm up.
The warm up with the lower levels riders is, in one word, terrifying. In my twenty minutes I was nearly run down by worried juniors and white faced ammys more times than I care to count. Deli-pony was NOT a fan...

However, we managed to pull a decent test out of thin air. It was much more relaxed than our Wednesday warm up, but not as relaxed as ideal. There was quite a bit of room for improvement... So imagine my suprise when I actually placed with a score of 69.6%.... Only three percent out of the lead. There's hope!

Of course, after wrapping up the our classes for the day before 9, we untacked the horses then moseyed over to watch a few tests (with Sam who stopped by for moral support!) and follow the grand tradition of horse people and critique and comment on the warm up and classes going on, then took the dogs on a little walk on the cross country course....
What's a visit to Rolex without a course walk?
At the end of the day, Team MacDonald took the Bucky and Delight out for a little ride to stretch their legs... On the cross country course. Delight took (most) of it in stride while Bucky was not impressed with the jumps. Or driving horses. Or paso finos from the store next door.
.... And after a little hand galloping, I can kind of begin to see the allure of eventing. It was FUN.

And dressage horses can go out and do just fine.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Days 1 &2: Travel Time

So, the Championship Saga has started. On Tuesday my mother and I took off to head to Kentucky. Loaded up the 15 bales of hay, 8 bales of shavings, saddles, bridles, show pads, schooling pads, a bag of feed, dog crates and food…. The list goes on.  We were ready, set and off!
Six hours or so into the trip, I received texts and phone calls.
My horses were out. CRAP.  Why, after six months in their own field, would they choose the weekend that I’m already stressed and heading out of town to stage a coup?
Fortunately, I have some great friends/clients who corralled my ponies, restrung the fence and righted all the other wrongs. I continued the last 300 miles of day 1 with few(er) concerns.

The good news is that after 560 miles, we stayed at a great little place that I found on (Lone Pines Ranch outside of Jackson, MI… two thumbs way up).

Day two of my drive, we made it the final 350 miles (whew). Of course, I received a text that my three ponies at home had gone feral… But out of sight, out of mind.
Be still my heart... One chain restaurant down, one to go

I pulled in to the Kentucky Horse Park around 5:30, got a little lost looking for our stall in Rolex Tent 3, then bedded down a stall and brought Delight in. She made that 900 mile trip none the worse for wear (whew).

There should really be an award for the furthest traveled at this show. I'm pretty sure I'd be a strong contestant...
Team MacDonald... All settled in.

I was lucky that my sister checked me in and had picked up my number and info packet…. So off to the warm-ups! This is a BIG park! It’s got to be a 20 minute walk from the Rolex complex (where Courtney is showing and near the ) to the Dressage complex (where I show)…

Stay tuned for Day 1 of showing….

Monday, October 8, 2012

Final Countdown....

Good news: We survived the first snow fall of the year. The horses were blanketed and tucked safely into their barn. I did have to wipe the snow off of my truck... Too bad there's no power to the barn, at the moment. Damn...
Your colorful moment of Zen has been brought to you by the UP

Anyway, I'm sure that everyone realized that it's the final countdown to the GAIG USDF Region 2  Championships... My first ride is at 8:37 Thursday morning for my training level warm up. T Minus 3 days....

The look like show ponies, don't they?
My championship class is 5:21 pm... last ride of 40 training level horses. I sure hope the judge likes training level. No pressure, right? On the bright side, as of 6:50 Friday (after the awards ceremony, if I should be so lucky), I'll be able to claim that I've pulled off my first successful year as a pro. Yay me, right?

Whew... so much to do in the next 6 hours. Then 16 hours of driving. Followed by four days of activity and show tension. Followed by 16 more hours of driving. Followed by hibernation.
The boys don't get why I'm stressed.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Tis The Season....

That's right folks, it's that time of year again...

The days are getting shorter. COTH is starting it's Secret Santa (which reminds me, I should sign up...).The colors are changing. The temperature is falling. The snow is coming...

Wait, What?!?!?!1
Add caption
Yep, snow. London is not going to be a fan... Good thing that the driveway is finished and I can get my horses back into the barn!

Of course this driveway job was supposed to be done in August, but now that it's actually in, who am I to complain? AND i now have running water in my barn! How amazing is that?

Of course, before I officially welcome winter with open arms while whistling christmas carols, I have to say that the fall colors are/were amazing!
Isn't that bridge picturesque through the fall foliage?
 Look at all of the pretty colors....
Tilly and RC came over to see what I was doing.
Work?!?!?! We're outta here!

Bring on the snow... I'm in the holiday mood.