Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dear Winter: I'm done with you.

Do you ever have those days where you just have to shake things up and do something different otherwise you'll just scream?

Well, maybe not scream, but definitely mope around instead of getting anything actually accomplished. I reached that point today.

Ironicly, this whole week  - and part of the weekend- has been really nice. Nearly - dare I say it? - Spring-like;  above 30 degrees and partly sunny! The things I could have accomplished in a full sized arena... counter canters, extensions, half-pass transitions, build a freestyle, sunbathe, you name it.

Tilly gets photobombed by someone else enjoying a roll
But, of course, no matter how nice it is out there, there is still two feet of snow/slush/ice on the ground, so inside we stay.

Tilly had today off because of how much of a rock star pony she was yesterday. She lengthened. She leg-yielded. She had flowing transitions. She moved off the leg. She gave to the bit.
So today, she ate and got brushed before being reblanketed since the temps are supposed to drop back into the teens tomorrow. No more naked pony time (but it was good while it lasted).

Since Tilly, my easy ride, had the day off I opted to end the ennui with RC. We've been doing round supple circles for months and we're both getting a little sick of it. So today we jumped.

Umm, excuse me... You did what???

"Uh, dude. You left something in my way...."
Yep, you read correctly. I dragged poles, standards and cavallettis out (which was a refreshing change from having to put everything away before I can work a horse... but seriously, would it kill people to clean up their junk?) and set up a cavalletti and one cross rail jump. It was maybe 18" tall, so don't worry... I am not stretching the athletic limits of my horse.
Anyway, I warmed up RC, per usual, then trotted the cavalletti before tackling the cross rail - trot in, canter out. And I think he had a blast. He started out a little tense on the landing, but afterhe figured out that I'm really not going to ask anything difficult from him, he relaxed into it with only a handful of embarrassing over-jumping attempts. All's well that ends with a relaxed happy horse.
I even broke a sweat, so I must have been doing something right.
"What's a guy gotta do to get a drink around here?"
Now, what with all of the snow we've had over the winter, and the fact that the water tanks are only 18" deep (don't ask. I'm actually proud that I can't follow the train of thought that went into that decision making process), the ice and packed snow is now taller than the top of the tanks. I'm glad that RC has figured out how to stay hydrated despite the difficulties... but really, there has got to be a better way to water the horses than this.

And then it was on to Delight.
I'll admit that I was lazy. I left the jump paraphernalia in the arena... And rode the exact same lesson plan as I did with RC. Except that Delight is on the AP track, where RC may still be in the 'academic' (read: average) program. Delight barely has to try over the cavalletti or that 18" cross rail. I thought briefly about raising the rail  or (gasp!) making it a vertical instead... but I chickened out hard. So a cross rail, it remained.
Delight, try to put any less effort into this...
I even tried something new: I hit 'record' on my little camera and set it on the edge of the arena. The quality of that camera sucks, as evidence by these screen captures. Ugh.
Anyway, Delight decided that the cross rail was nothing more than a bigger trot pole, which led to possibly the most awkward attempt I have ridden on her (and let's face it, riding over a pole is not my forte anyway). So I graduated delight to the canter, since evidently the trot-in-canter-out approach was mind-numbingly boring for her.
With a much better effort, I even managed to look half-way tactful in my riding. And two good 'jumps' later, we walked it out. I will say that Delight was pretty proud of herself at the end of the day. Maybe I wasn't the only one who was ready for a change of pace....

Of course, we'll be going back to dressage tomorrow, but it was a nice 'fun' day.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Good News!

Well, last week was a rough week.

The barn manager up and left, leaving the barn in a sort of limbo, Opie passed away and we had a blizzard.
"Don't worry Alison, I'll never ever ever leave you alone"
Says Bacon the comfort-poodle

But today was better!

For one thing, it's been in the upper twenties, which is practically tropical by recent standards.

I know, I only rode on horse, but Delight was great. She's switched her stiff side from left to right, so at least there's something new.... I'll admit thatDelight can frustrate me with all of the spooking and leaping shenanigans, but when she's right it feels like I really accomplished something. And today she was right. We warmed up, per usual with lots of leg yield, changes of bend and shoulder ins, then moved into transitions once I got her back end where it was supposed to be.

By the end of the hour, I had some really fantastic sitting trot, halt-to-forward trot transitions, and lateral work. I've got to give it to the pony, when she's on, she's on!
"Ummm... why does SHE get the blanket?"

So, you only rode one horse, what are you so excited about Tilly for?
Well, I'll tell you.
My 12 year old student rode Tilly for the second time and Tilly was a little champ. She'll make a wonderful kids horse with a few more years on her, and who knows, with a few more shows on her she might fund part of my arena!
But I'd miss her, so she'll be staying with me for now!
"Yeah, I'm ready for the Jr/YR classes"

It's always fun to watch someone else ride your horses. Tilly is a fancy little pony with muscle on her now. Adora-Pony!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Death of My Childhood

Today was a rough day.
'Cause this is a good sight at the barn

It started out rough and really didn't get any better- even when I spent 12 hours at the barn. Usually barn time is a cure-all for whatever ails me. Not today. Today the barn drama overpowered any curative properties that horses could have for me.

Because I got some Bad News.

Opie, the one who started this whole horse obsession, was gone.

On Saturday, she started having a hard time breathing, so on Sunday my parents brought her to Waller Equine clinic so some of my very favorite vets could scope her on Monday morning. The news was bad. She had some Gulf coast virus that damaged her airway so that her trachea was restricted to only 20% of its normal size.

In short, Opie was trying to breathe through a straw.
So it was time to let her go.

I know that I'm an adult, and have moved on to other horses and other sports, but there are those horses who will always be special in their own right. Opie was my first horse. She gave me more than any of my subsequent horses have (yet).

Opie, the week we bought her.
Hard to believe that to me, she was the most beautiful horse ever
Of course, being Texas, I started riding lessons (Isn't that what Texans do, ride horses?) After a year of weekly lessons, my instructor told us that it was time to get more saddle-time, and in order to do that, I'd need my own horse. As it would just so happen, the little orange horse who bucked reliably during a lesson was for sale. And I wanted to own her so bad my teeth hurt. I mean, I was the only one who rode her in lessons (no one else wanted to stick on a sour,green 6 year old with a bucking habit and a wicked cow kick- but only at other horses), and I felt that made me special to her some how and she knew it. Next thing I knew, I walked out to Opie's pen with a bucket full of carrots and she was mine. All mine. I don't think that my parents could have ever delivered better news than that to me.

Now don't we look adorable?
Of course, since my sister and I started out riding western, We jumped into the rodeo scene - drill team and barrel racing. Of course we didnt know the first thing about either, but our instructor ran the Katy Cowgirls Drill team and we were invited to join. Of course, since I had Opie, I spent years riding at the back of the line (remember that wicked cow kick issue?), seeing how many times Opie could buck during a two hour practice. Of course, but the time the rodeo rolled around, and we had an audience, Opie would puff herself up as big as she could and behave like she'd never though of misbehaving.

I could always count on Opie- no matter how nervous I was about riding in front of a stadium full of people, she'd never spook or start. We could gallop by the chutes filled with bucking broncs and rodeo bulls, and she'd never bat an eye. Kids running up and down the aluminum stadium seating couldn't phase her.
Of course, when our time came to hold the important flags and I climbed my way up the Seniority list (which is easy to do when you join a group at 10 years old... and stay for the next 7 years), we discovered that all of the bucking and fussing just disappeared when we got the lead spots.
Parade with the Big Flag
I don't know if I'll ever be able to hear the "Redneck Girl", "Feel Like a Woman" or the Star Spangled Banner without thinking of her and the 10 years that we rode in the KISD high school rodeo.

Opie and AT, in their retirement years

15 years, and never went off of her feed
In the early years, I really wasn't that into showing. For one thing, I had no clue of where to start, and for the other... well, Opie maybe didn't have the quiet, obedient show persona down. But we covered a lot of miles on trails. During the summer, we would take road trips (my poor parents) from Texas to Michigan, stopping at state parks with horse trails every night for a week. While my parents would set up our tent, my sister and I would be off having grand adventures tearing through uncharted trails (to us, at least), never worrying about being lost or not being able to ride through something.

It may not be where my heart is now, but those years trail riding were priceless.
Opie was also my Trailride horse. Note the capitalization. As a family, we were invited to join the Salt Grass Trailride... 100 miles with 1500 of our closest friends, ending up at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. I was comfortable - if bored - by the totally walk trailride. Yawn to both me and Opie... Who was, of course, the only horse on the trailride (or at least our wagon) that managed to gain weight while working (slowly) for 8 hours a day.

Did it once... never doing that again.

Our trailride after I hurt my knee.

Dressage Head
Of course, about the time I discovered my love for dressage, my trainer deemed Opie totally unfit for the sport, and I welcomed Arlberg into my life.

He was no Opie.

Opie did not tolerate heavy hands.
So when he hurt himself, I finally had the chance to bring Opie out to the show barn and take a few lessons with my  (new) trainer. Her canter was terrible, her circles weren't round and her trot would hold up a show it was so slow... And she was 8 months pregnant by then. But she tried her little orange heart out, and we even got a 70% at a schooling show... Which once again validated my opinion that Opie was only the Best Horse Ever (especially compared to Arlberg).

One of the most special moments of my life, thus far, was RC's arrival. Opie, being her typical self, didn't give us any warning that we should be expecting a foal any time soon. Other than being big as a house, and super cranky in the May heat, all seemed normal.

Now that's a scary word to use around horses, isnt it?
May 28, 2004, she ate breakfast like it was the last meal she'd ever see, no waxing, no suspicious behavior  So when my mom, sister and I drove out to feed everyone dinner, image my surprise when Opie watched us pull up to the gate, unlock it, come on it... then promptly laid down. Of course, like any teenage girl with the love of her life, I sprinted from gate to pasture (ok, it was maybe 100 feet), panicked that there was something horribly wrong with my horse.

There wasn't.

She was just waiting for me to have her foal, and once I showed up the delivery took less than 5 minutes. Evidently she was ready to have the thing. I was crying then for an entirely different reason than I'm crying now when I saw four perfect little white legs and a perfect little white stripe (and a snip on his lower lip that looked like he spilled a little milk). I had talked to Opie for the whole year about how I really really wanted a horse with four white feet.

And she gave me just what I wanted... Like always.

To my surprise, my grumpy, opinionated mare loved her annoying little colt. She kept him close and wouldn't let anyone near (except people, of course). The herd had to wait until she was good and ready to share him with the world before they could get near the new little guy.
She taught him the important things in life like What to Do When One Is Stuck In the Fence, or Always be the First to Come In for Dinner.
And the one that made me cry (again) tonight - Pin Your Ears at Your Dinner.

He's got some big shoes to fill.

So here's to you Rohos Precious Honor.... 
Always watching her herd

For making me the horseperson that I am today
For giving me more good memories than bad
For putting up with my learning curve
For giving me what I needed, even if it wasn't what I wanted
For making my childhood everything it ever could have been
For letting me try everything, even the things you knew were stupid.

Thank you for everything, Opie. 

Rohos Precious Honor
April 13, 1992 - February 18, 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

Happy Valentines Day!

From Mr.RC....
You made cookies!?!?!?


Happy Valentines day! From the Studliest Stud on the farm

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Grumble, Grumble, Whine....

Today I worked both ponies (I love my ponies). I started with Tilly because she's, well, Tilly. And Delight can be a hand full and I had just eaten a real breakfast. No one wants to sit a spook on a full stomach. 

Is the Sweaty Pony developing a topline?
Anyway, back to Tilly. We worked a little harder today then we have for the past few days and I discovered a hole. Turns out that a long walk break means "we're done" to the little Tillner. So we had several laps of walk between each exercise, then I put her right back to work and fully expected her to be just as honest on the bit as she was before the break. After a few repeats of this, she got the concept that it's really better for everyone involved if she just goes around like a good pony and doesn't try to lean through her outside shoulder and overbend to the inside-or heaven forbid- drop behind the contact. 
The plus side is that we got some great canter transitions and some good starting shoulder-in's (after my pro championship debut with Delight, first level is not sufficient when one plans on showing training level). 

And while Tilly dried off from her work out, I went out and got Delight. I immediately noticed a problem with Deli. She had manure frozen into her tail.
Evidently, when she's walking along through the snow, her tail is the right length to drag through little manure piles... And when she stops to eat, those piles get frozen into her tail like some sort of terrible wind chimes. 
Oh no! You love a nice tail on a horse! What ever did you do?!?!?
I cut it out. 

Yep. There was no point in trying to detangle that mess... so out came the worlds dullest scissors and voila!
Now I have two sport ponies with pathetic tails. Great.

But at least she was good for our ride. I didn't feel like putting up with her normal shenanigans during warm up, so I lunged her. I know, what a cop out, but this way I didn't get into a fight with her and we actually had a productive ride. 
But that poor, poor tail.

And RC was lame. Poor guy has some soreness high up in his right hind leg. He's been NQR for a few days,  so I dont know if he slipped and hurt himself or what, but I gave him some bute. Guess we'll see how he feels tomorrow.

Monday, February 11, 2013

What a Waste...

After two (more) stellar rides on the Tillner, i have come to the conclusion that her super-chill ammy-friendly temperament is absolutely wasted on me. I mean, I caught myself thinking "man, this horse is a boring ride"... Not because she's a blah horse, but just because she doesn't spook, buck, bolt, look, or even twitch when things happen around her.
One of those balmy February days...

Let's take Sunday as the perfect example of why this is The Amateur Pony.

  • I rode her last. After giving three lessons, riding a student's horse and having an exciting ride on Delight, I was understandably low on initiative and patience by the time I pulled her out of the field.
  • It was getting dark (aka, close to dinner time)
  • The horses had spent the afternoon getting riled up as the neighbors shoveled snow off of the roof
  • A low pressure system was just starting to dump freezing rain over the area (side note: why does 30 degrees feel so much colder than 20? That doesn't seem right)
  • Four- count it, four- 'advanced beginner' riders hopped on their ponies and swarmed the arena about 20 min into our ride
  • The BM's boyfriend was moving snow with the tractor, so ever 30 seconds or so, there was the thud of snow banking up against the steel arena

All of the factors were piled against her, yet she still pulled a wonderful ride out of nothing!

I mean, she was focused, through and powerful (for a pony). She was obedient and supple. She was perfect!
And while I thoroughly enjoy this pony, it feels like the karma of the horse world is out of whack when I,an accomplished 'trainer', have such a calm wonderful horse when so many poor adult ammys (and some kids) are woefully overhorsed and don't enjoy their saddle time because they worry about when the next spook will happen or what noise will set  Dobbin off next.
"Psssh, you keep your winter storm Nemo.
We call this one 'Monday'"
Of course, when ever I start thinking that riding is dull because Tilly's such a rockstar, there's always Delight to bring me crashing back to earth. Thanks, Pony. Really.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Blah's

Have you ever had a week that can only be described as "blah"?

That's how my week has been. Not a stellar week, not a terrible week, not even an incredibly icky week. It's even been sunny for the last few days. I still had a rough time getting excited about it.
Unlike Bacon,who lives in a state of constant excitement.
But I did have a good day with the ponies today. Delight started the day a tad... up. But she (and I) pulled it together to end with a nice relaxed trot. Whew!
Lurking pony
Tilly was... Not perfect.
Then again, after two days off, what do I expect?
Perfect! I want perfect! All the time! 
Then again, instead of Delight's spin & whirl maneuver, Tilly is positively boring to ride. Even when she's being naughty, she's just not as supple and responsive as I want instead of being spooky, jumpy and bucky... Like another pony I could name.


Tilly has taken control of the herd.
Don't do anything crazy.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Redefining Cold

So, after a week of single digit temperatures... I have to say, it's not so bad.
Actually, after the subzero temperatures last week, ten degrees is looking practically balmy. I've been really good about working all three every day this last week... so, as to be expected, I had some really good rides (yay, right?).

With the ponies in their heavy weight blankets, heavy blanket liners and shoveling extra food at them at every opportunity (I'm a strong believe in the 'chewing keeps them warm' philosophy), the ponies - yes, even RC- have survived the single digits well.

Actually the only one who is not a fan - at all - of this weather is Tempi. She spends as little time outside as possible.
Who would like this white stuff?!?!
Bacon is, well, Bacon. He's just happy to be with me. For instance while Tempi is aggressively squeaking a tennis ball, Bacon is laying happily on my left foot... Just so he'll know if I leave, he's at the ready.

Well, that's all I've got for now. Maybe this up coming week will be more exciting. Or warmer... 

(mid-twenties.... c'mon mid-twenties!)