Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Warm One!

So... Guess what we got yesterday? 
If you guessed 'MORE SNOW', you'd be right! Imaging my surprise when I tried to leave my house yesterday morning to find 6" of snow covering everything. It hadn't been snowing when I went to bed... So when did all of this snow show up?

My guess is sometime after two am. Why?
Because that's when the weeks worth of snow accumulation on my roof chose to slide off. On the plus side, I now know what an avalanche sounds like; on the down side, it scared the crap out of me and both poodles. I was pretty sure I was being robbed by a bear....
What is this? The great outdoors?
On the plus side, it was 30+ degrees when I went out to the barn, and I loved it! Seriously. Who wouldnt enjoy nearly-above-freezing-temperatures for a change? I rode RC in a sweatshirt! No layers upon layers of jackets, making my rides look like the Michelin Man has taken up dressage. It's really not a good look. Nor is it terribly effective... But at least I'm not freezing. 
So my ride on RC was in a sweatshirt... How could I top that with Delight? 
Yeah, I warmed her up OUTSIDE. 
That's right. You heard me. 


We took a ten minute trailride through belly deep snow around the big field. That's got to be good for getting her to free up her shoulder and bend her hocks, right?

Ok, so maybe you cant see how deep the snow is here...
But its deep. 
 Evidently it did the trick, because she was very very good. We're still trying to get her a little bit more honest into the outside rein, but she started the ride out much looser and forward thinking (without the spook). Success!
 Not that we're going to have another outdoor ride any time soon...
Ahh... back to the single digits. Gotta love the UP
And then it was Tilly. Fortunately for her, I was running a little late so I only have 45 minutes to work her before I have to put her away and give a night's worth of lessons. We also had a "please move into my outside rein" kind of ride. But she gave me some very calm, very organized trot-canter-trot transitions, so I'd call that ride a win too.
"You said this was a SHORT ride!"
So, the moral of the days rides: Get the horse to the outside rein... then you can move on to the more fun stuff. 

And I should enjoy the freezing rain today because it's only going to get colder.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

It's Been a Good One

 Today was a good day. Why?
Well, for starters it was over 25 degrees outside.
And sunny.
You know... the kind of day that makes a girl think that she can take her truck out of 4WD and not die. Loved it.... So I did what everyone really should do on a day like this. I rode. All frickin' day. I'm tired and will probably be sore, but it was a great day!

Tilly was a champ. I rode her first, and there was a beginner in the ring on a wrenglish horse. And Tilly was unperturbed by the fact that she had to share the ring. Yay for this season's warm up arenas, right? We even got some good canter transitions, not the rushy green pony transitions that she can do, but nice calm, quiet transitions. Sigh. There is hope! Now on to lengthenings!

Next up was Delight. I started her on the lunge for two reasons: 1) She's been more relaxed if I don't fight her through the first 15 min of work and just lunge the warm up and 2) Delight felt stiff last time I rode her. Not lame, but not right... Horse people know what I mean.
15 minutes of lunging, scrutinizing every step for some sign of injury or lameness, then I hopped on. Today I did a lot of long and low and round work, instead of the second level stuff. And it seemed to help... Walk, trot and canter all bringing her neck up and then down, then up then down... and she stayed remarkably relaxed. Yippie!

RC is RC. He's pretty much a boss. Sure, his canter needs to open up a little bit, so we worked on medium-working canter transitions. Of course, he chose to be an overachiever and tried to turn the exercise into medium canter-quarter pirouette- working canter -quarter pirouette... It took a few tries for me to really get through to him that I didn't really want him to work that hard. Yet.

I then worked a student's horse for her.. just to ride through a problem. Which was fun.

And then I went home, after 7 productive hours at the barn. And took the poodles out for a walk in the fields to look at animal tracks across my arena. The down side to that brilliant idea is that the snow is two feet deep, and the poodles are 10" and 14", respectively. So now my shed is full of melting snow balls.... Whoops.

At least I have two tired poodles, right?

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Big Year

So, what is a girl to do during a week of sub-zero temperatures and constant snow?

Movies. Lots of movies. And you know which one was my (surprising) favorite?
Yep. A movie about competitive bird watching. The friend I watched the movie with was not as enthralled, asking "Who would waste that much money on a hobby where you cant win any money?"

Yeah, now you get the connection, right?

In a nutshell, the movie is about three men who are all trying to have a "Big Year" - in which one evidently competes to have spotted the highest number of birds in North America, for no prize money- and how this quest for more birds affects their lives.

I loved it. A movie about an expensive, solitary hobby that forges friendships and ruins relationships? It could not be more directly relate-able to my life if it tried!

Unless someone wants to buy the movie rights to this blog....
No takers?

Guess I'll just have to work for a living, like everyone else.

Snow flakes!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Rant

Ok, so I am going to make a very very quick detour from my happy me-centric posting style to rant about others.

All week, the kids have had half days at school. No one came out to ride. Sure it got kind of cold... But really? Wear a jacket.

Today it was nearly thirty degrees outside. Sure there was blowing snow, but the barn has an indoor!
No one came out to ride.

I posted an arena clean up announcement for all of the  kids to come out and help rake the arena... And no one showed up. Now I'm tired, sore and crabby from raking (and watering) the entire arena without some much as a "thank you, Alison... the corners look better!"

Next week it's supposed to be in the single digits and dropping... I already have kids whining about having to ride in the cold.
No mercy, I say!

Tack on some inexplicable barn tension (obviously I won't go into detail...), and I've hit my pressure point.

But really... When did it become ok to ignore a horse for a whole week? I can't remember ever taking an entire week off of riding - especially with no school or work interfering and a covered arena to use! This makes me feel ancient, but where exactly did the 'work ethic' of horse owners go? It was never ok in our house growing up to 'just not feel like' going to the barn. Horses need to eat, get groomed and worked.

How is this going to affect the start of the show season? There's a reason that I'm out there riding two or three horses a day. No, I don't just like the punishment when it's zero degrees in the arena.... I want my horses to look more than ready when we make our first trot down the centerline of the season. To be ready, then need to be fit, supple and more advanced in their training. That's how you win! By having the most prepared horse at the show!
At this point, I'm not sure that my students (they are kids after all) really understand the type of horses and riders that they will encounter at a recognized show. Fancy gaits and a nice horses aren't enough... The work has to be done before the show season starts.

I'm appalled at the lack of initiative. Appalled.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Onions have them.
Ogres have them (evidently).

And my horses have them. And I mean this in the most literal sense of the word. With single digit temperatures in the immediate forecast, I dug out all of my winter goodies and prepared the ponies. Well,in as much as I put layer after layer of blanket on them....

 All three ponies got liners (though RC's is by far the heaviest, the ponies only have fleece liners on) under their waterproof blankets. RC's liner was upped from the fleece layer to the uber-heavy-duty version to compensate for his complete and utter lack of a coat. Unfortunately, he's too big for the heavyweight blanket I ordered him last year (78", what was I thinking?!?!), so he has to wear his midweight Weatherbeta over his liner. At least he's warm and dry, right?
 The mares, on the other hand, have matching heavyweight blankets over their fleece liners. Mom bought Tilly an uber-heavy-weight liner too, but I'm going to see how she does tomorrow in just two layers. Delight can shiver off a little weight...
Which two are mine?
Moving on to the training side of things.... Guess who's in the double?
That's right! RC has had two rides in the double bridle this week... and never batted an eye at the additional hardware in his mouth. As a matter of fact, he was actually looser through the neck and back all ride than he is when in a snaffle... And no, I am most certainly not cranking him in and rollkuring around the arena with the added leverage the curb gives me...
Yeah, he looks psyched.
Not that the curb is a big huge thing... it is the smallest shank available out there. This was, after all, London's old double, and he couldn't stand any added pressure from the curb. RC, on the other hand, seems to like the added weight that the curb gives the bridle.
Handsome boy, amiright?
Delight has also had a few really good days back to back. I have started my rides with lunging, so that she can get loose and relaxed and warmed up without me on her back... And it really seems to help her focus. Of course, I am not just letting her play around like a marlin at the end of the line; she has to do walk-trot and trot-canter transitions until she relaxes along her topline. Then we work. 

Today we had some wonderful sitting trot and some real half-passes at the trot! Like a real third level horse!Woohoo! Finally we're making some progress... It felt like we were kind of stalled out there for a while... Of course, she still resists the bend at first and doesn't want to be totally straight through her transitions, but it's progress!
And we haven't gotten into a fight in a week! Yay for progress, right?

Of course, I still have the poodles. Tempi is not really a fan of this time of the year, when the snow gets taller than she is... but she's willing to forgive the weather for a few minutes of fetch every day... Bacon is still just happy to be here. With me. As a matter of fact, he's asleep under my chair at this very moment.
Tempi found the ball....

Even black and white photographs can't make Bacon elegant 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sharing is Caring...

The upside of boarding is that bit by painful bit, I learn a little more about what I need in a barn verses what I want.
I want a full sized arena with room to actually get some good work done on a long side. I can almost feel the ability to share the arena with another rider without it disrupting my training plan for the day. Almost...

Just ride your line. I'll flippin' avoid YOU!
As it would turn out, I am just not able to share an arena. At all. I mean, sure there are a few select individuals who can school around me and vice versa,but for the most part, others seem incapable to coping with my schooling.
Changing directions? 10m circles? Lateral work? AHHHHH! 
It all results in the awkward "oh god, I'm trying so hard to stay out of your way but I just CAN'T" two-step which results in both riders having to grind to a halt to a chorus of "so sorry"s and "I didn't know"s... So it's probably just best for everyone if I plan my rides for when there is little to no arena traffic. I've tried so hard to get everyone on board with arena rules... but there will always be a few who just can't hang when someone else's ride consists of more than the w/t/c around the rail.
/rant over
Snow Pony!

The good news: No one else rides now that it's cold! Yay!
Sunday was another cold grey day that tempts one to remain curled up under the covers and watch dressage on dvd. So I got up and out to the barn to work a horse or three.
The Dutch?!? Oy, the dressage controversy! 
I only got Delight worked before there were beginner lessons all over the place. So I cleaned tack, brushed (and fed) the other two, cleaned stalls, swept the barn and left. What a waste of my weekend. But Delight was quite good, so at least there was that.

Today I made up for lost time with RC and Tillner. RC was first (after I cleaned his stall). He was pretty good. Every single flying change that I attempted (and one that I didn't) was clean! AH-HA! Before and after the changes I worked on making him really round (easy there, he is NOT being rollkured to death). I read the Bartles book, and there were a few concepts that I wanted to play with... And RC is, after all, my training guinea pig. Of course anything written and endorsed by the dutch has been vilified by 'purists' and classical riders all over the internet. But, seeing as they have enjoyed overwhelming success the international scene, I'm willing to read what they have to offer and pick and choose what works for me (and my horses).

Unsurprisingly, Tineke Bartles knows what she's writing about. Whodathunk? We'll have see where RC is in a month.... 

And Tilly. She and I have been in a rut. She's started to respond to the whip with a buck (not good, right?), so today we did a ton of canter-trot-canter transitions off of the seat. I ended up with one sweaty pony who could pop between canter and trot without losing her balance and rushing. Yay.
"You know 'relaxation' is on the training scale?"

Today counts as a success.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What a Day

Pony shows no remorse.
 So, today was not one of those days that goes according to plan. Not at all. Though, for what it's worth, I would like to state that I fully and completely blame today's events on the fact that my "goals" post is still hot off the presses... Nothing like tempting good old equine fate like setting solid, concrete, and public goals.
 Now, what - exactly, went wrong, you ask?
Excelent question. Today was a balmy 30 degrees, the snow was glistening and the sun was almost unbearably shiny. That may be where everything went wrong. It was simply too nice of a day. And Delight wanted to change that.
As it would turn out... Delight had a slightly different lesson plan than I had in mind. About ten minutes into the ride, I made a bad choice. I picked a fight that I did not win. Delight decided that she was NOT going to go into the corner with the spectator seating. So I applied the uber half halt (make that spook upwards, right?), lots of inside leg and outside rein- keep her in the corner!
It was a good plan.
It didn't work. At all.

The upwards half halt worked. Too well. Delight reared. I spanked. She leaped  She bucked. And bucked again. And again. Then veered a sharp left.
And I ate it. Hard.
So we finished the ride with 45 minutes of lunging. Trot. Canter. Trot. Canter. Trot. Canter. Rinse and repeat until you have a sweaty, tired, obedient pony.
This pose might have clued me in that today was not going to be great
Practicing, again? Really?

That's right you go back to your hay. 
Next up was Chantilly. Of course, for this ride, I was a little sore. And tired. And cranky.
But she worked hard. And did ok. And I didn't get bucked off. Whew
Happy pony poses by her bridge.
Thanks dad.

Ah.Then there was RC. I lunged him. Good boy.

To finish off my day, I got my haircut. Finally! I was able to donate 11" of hair to locks of love, and voila!

Friday, January 4, 2013

It feels Like a Cop Out...

So, I was going to try to avoid the whole New Years resolution/life goals for 2013 thing... But the more I think about it, the more it feels like a total cop out.
I haven't made any new years resolutions for the last few years because I really had no clue what was in store. I've moved, changed jobs, moved again, started a little side business and here I am today. I'm finally in a place where I think that I can comfortable predict where I'll be in a year.

And if I'm way off on my predictions when I go through all of my posts a year from now, I'll shrug it off. Or delete this post so there's no incriminating evidence....

Well, since most people have three major categories of new years resolutions-love, money and fitness-I'll do my best to follow suit.

Lets start out easy: Fitness
I want to be down ten pounds from where I am now- preferably 15. It sounds like a lot, but I did kinda put on 5 over the holidays (there was so much food!). I am going to try to behave and do some kind of fitness program twice a week that is not horse relates (so cleaning stalls/moving sawdust doesn't count).

Getting harder: Money
Well, my little training business has gone better than expecting. I'd like to grow by one full time student in the next year and take my existing students to their first recognized show (and not embarrass ourselves). Obviously I won't address my 'real job' goals here... it's a blog about horses (and poodles!) -but I have a few of those as well.

Hardest: Love
HAHAHAHHA.... kidding. Really, with a job, a training business, two upcoming show horses... As if I'd have time for love, let alone share it with you guys.

Ok, we'll replace that with an easy one: Horses (and start easy and work our way down)

RC: I'd like to really confirm his changes. I can get a clean change about 80% of the time now (which is hard in the tiny indoor we're in all winter). I'd also love to start playing around with him in the double bridle- just because we can. I did a pretty good job keeping him fit last year, but if I can commit to one 'fun' day with RC, that might be enough to keep both of us motivated all year long...

Delight: I want her confirmed second level by the end of the year, schooling third. Possibly not showing second level with scores in the 70's, since the lengthenings are tough for us, but at least able to lay down a solid 65%.  Getting her strong enough for the collected work will be the real trick. I'd like to try to commit to one "fun" day of either jumping or just trails every other week.

Chantilly: Poor Tilly got a little neglected last summer, where I mostly just hacked around on here and didn't really work her until fall rolled around. This year I want her at solid first level. I know she can pull off mid-70's with her gaits, I just need to get her stronger and more fluid in all of her work. I'd love to be starting second level work by the time the championships roll around, but we'll see how that one goes.

So how's that for some goals? Not ambitious in the least, right?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Back to Normal...

Well, all of my company (er, family) is gone... as of 6a this morning.

What does this mean to me and the poodles?
We get to sleep in my own bed.
I can get started on the four loads of laundry that need to be done...

All in all, life can return to normal.

You know, riding, teaching, working, rinse and repeat.

The good news is that Delight and I are starting to figure out the whole "relax while working" thing in a small enclosed arena.
The bad news is that Tilly has figured out how to get herself composed for a buck.

Oh well... Now I have to get organized and start thinking about next years show schedule (can you believe that students are already asking about that? yikes!).

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Year in Review

January saw the beginning of my training business in the upper peninsula, and I participated in the Dressage Today's 'New Year, New You' (and blogged about it). It was cold, and snowy and I enjoyed almost every part of it.

February saw more snow, some freakin' cold days and a loss of riding inspiration. Oh, and a dozen valentines day cupcakes by me, for me (as it should be). I wrapped up the month with a trip to OH to visit a friend and buy some arena mirrors (which WILL go up next year. Promise).

March saw the start of spring... and lots of mud. Lots, lots of mud. And bears.

April saw the battle against Tilly's scratches (which I won), my first clinic with Ken Border Jr, getting my farm ready to horses to come home again and the horses coming home!
May saw rain, hail and sun. There were a few bumps in my introduction to horse keeping on the farm- like Tilly's time practicing the 'electric fence limbo'. London joined the herd for his summer escape. And I started planning for the show season...
June was my birthday! Immediately proceeded by a business trip to Seattle, immediately followed by a horse show in Wisconsin (Delight got a 70%). The next weekend I took 5 students to their first dressage schooling show in Escanaba, which went surprisingly well. Whew!

July saw more farm ingenuity and another horse show. Delight earned another 70% and qualified to go to the championships. Oh... and the bridge.

August brought Tilly's first show. So, it was a schooling show and we showed at intro... BUT she got a 70! Oh, and all of my students did well too. So that was a win. Oh, and my arena went in.

September saw my final schooling show, kids in tow (where we rocked). And Tilly gave Delight a haircut (that's still growing out).

October brought the championships in Lexington, Ky, where I had my biggest reality check of the year. I have got a long, long way to go...

November saw the move of my horses back to boarding (darn). I attended another Ken Borden clinic, where we worked on Delight's lengthenings. There was also a Thanksgiving road trip where I ate too much, drank too much and watched season after season of Psych with my sister. Then drove home in the snow, singing Christmas carols.

December has been quiet. Lots of lessons have been taught (by me), lots of presents were bought... My horses aren't home, and the boarding facility isn't perfect... But it's ok.

Happy New Year! This last one has been a great year, I can only hope 2013 is even better!