Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Finally, real pony stuff!

First, let me say that you know you have a well schooled Hubby when he sees the box of candy canes on the counter and, before opening them, asks, "Are these for the horse or can I have one?" (Answer: Both.)

Vacation is over Red Pony! Back to the grind!

Red was more than happy to come in today as the paddock is in lockdown since gun season started yesterday, which means he squeezed in with four other horses that he has to share hay with. Boooo. But barn equals free cookies and nothing is better than that.

looking soo good!

Aside from being a little strong at the trot, our warm up went amazingly. Part of it was that he was fresh so he was really moving out beautifully, but the other part was that I was actually riding him! Hellooo. Why did no one tell me this before?! My whole focus today was gluing my elbows back so they stayed at my sides and only softening my hands when he relaxed and started bending and collecting instead of throwing my arms at his face and losing whatever progress we'd made. It was tough, and it took him awhile to figure out that I wasn't caving, but at the walk and trot when we finally got it, it was so good. SO good. Easily THE BEST his dressage work has ever been in the six years I've been riding him. It's like he's been waiting for me to figure out how to ask for the last piece of the puzzle. We're not amazing dressage partners yet by any means, but I finally saw and felt a fancy dressage horse in there somewhere.

The canter wasn't quite as good--he was a lot stronger than at the trot and it was all about the half halts. Fortunately, the canter is Red's best gait and when he picks up the correct lead, it's more about keeping him straight and his shoulder up than any crazy frame adjustments. He was good to the left, a little crooked when I stopped riding him for a few strides, but otherwise nothing to be ashamed of. When I brought him down to the trot, it took less than one full circuit of the arena before he was going in his fancy new dressage trot.

To the right, he was definitely rusty and he didn't get his lead until the third try. He was also much quicker this way and my shoulders were crying by the time we were done. When I brought him back down to the trot, it took us a long time to get back to the fancy trot. Whenever I'd start to soften my hands when I thought he was getting it, he'd start cantering again and we'd have to start all over. But he did eventually get it--maybe a little fast--so we ended there.

I only rode for about thirty minutes, but it was a hardcore workout for both of us softies, so I'm totally satisfied with it. We wandered briefly around the barn before heading back in.

we walked out of the arena, past my car.

down the hill to his pasture.

made a circle through muddy tire tracks.

back up the hill.

past the lurking barn cat.

past the monster house/hay storage.

looking shiny and almost not ribby anymore!

It's super warm here today, but there is no way I'm leaving his sheet off. He was SO. CLEAN. And now that I'm going to be riding him regularly again, I'm not killing myself scrubbing eight inches of mud off of him every day. I did, however, put his lighter sheet on which means that he also got to wear his new shoulder guard because the Horze sheet is cut really strangely.

man in black.
In other news, while I was at my mom's I took the dive and weighed myself. I've gained TWENTY pounds this year! Twenty pounds I soo could not afford to gain. Gross. So I've dug out my arch-enemy Jillian Michaels and have started dating her again. Jillian hates me. She hurts me. She makes me yell and curse at her. But I am determined to get fit again (when I was galloping horses, I weighed 120 pounds! I don't want to be that grossly thin again, but still!) and I've lost weight with her before so December is going to be about pain and torture. If you never see another post from me again, it's because Jillian Michaels has killed me.

And, just for your amusement, here's Hubby roping off of Red a week and a half ago:

video

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Whoops.

Thank goodness I came out to my mom's for Thanksgiving. Not that I wouldn't have spent less money to simply not drive out at all, but my mom has "Empty Nest, Full Wallet" syndrome and likes to bestow things on me when I'm out here. So, armed with more cash in my pocket that I usually have in a month combined, my best friend and I cautiously ventured out to Target yesterday around noon to see if they had a book I wanted (The Girl Who Played With Fire), and ended up staying for an hour. I was quite proud of myself, spending only $30 on the book, a new pair of moccasins as my last pair have a hole worn through the sole, and a sweater. My dear BFF spent almost $70 on things she didn't need either, but got the cutest pair of shoes ever.

But this is a horse blog! So what else did I buy on Black Friday?

A German Martingale. Back when I first got Red, I became good friends with a local trainer who boarded a couple of her training horses at the barn I was at for use of their indoor. She really helped me out a lot first transitioning Red from crazy racehorse to caaaalm jumper horse, and I really, really respect her as a rider. All her horses (she's a H/J rider) go so beautifully, but they look SO happy with their jobs. She reccommend that I get a German Martingale as it has a lot more give to it than draw reins and she thought Red would really like it. However, as they're usually $50-$150, it kept getting pushed farther and farther down the list. But I finally caved for this serious cheapie, and I can't wait to try it out when I get home.

A shoulder guard. Red's turnout sheet is rubbing his shoulders and I hate those big bald spots. Plus, I'm going to clip him when I get back and I don't want him rubbed even more. It even comes with a matching tail bag! Which I already have. And never use. So if anyone wants a black tail bag, let me know and it's yours for free.

That's all I could bring myself to buy. Of course there are a million other things I want, but I still have to have gas money in the bank to get home. Darn.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cooookies!

This will be picture heavy, but unfortunately the pictures are from my phone so they're not top quality. Hubby currently has my camera in Myrtle Beach where he's on a "business" trip--though I don't see how a two hour product meeting followed by two days of quail hunting, golfing, and shark fishing count as business. This is the same company that sent him on a fully expense paid trip to Vermont this winter to ski. Must be nice, right?

I stood Red up in about two seconds for a quick conformation shot just because. Even with the lure of grass three feet away, he was more than willing to square up and stand still.

Red's Top Five Favorite Things:

1. Eating.
2. Licking the wall (or other available surfaces) when done eating.
3. Getting his picture taken.
4. Rolling.
5. Getting a treat for being so cute, licking the hand that fed him, then rolling and looking more cute so he gets his picture taken again.

He leads a hard life.

a half-assed attempt at a conformation shot. he actually has
a really short neck--i don't know why he looks like a giraffe.
We headed down to the arena to play for a little bit. He wasn't too impressed at first, spending more time rolling than getting crazies out, but he eventually got the hint.


video

Once he got the idea that he was free to run, however, he took it to heart and started making laps. To the right--which means he was really hammering his RF where his wonky suspensorary is. Noooo. So I had to lure him in with the crinkling of the carrot bag to get him to stop.

video

He was too impressed with himself to even get treats, so he had to snort and dance around me for a few minutes before focusing again.

"zomg, i iz a racehorse! a cuh-razy racehorse!"

"alright, now where are my cookies?"
I did some carrot stretches with him, much to his delight. I think Red could pull a cookie down from the rafters if he was so inclined. He can stretch like a circus freak.

"you can't keep cookies from me!"
We walked around the arena in what Natural Horsemen like to call "Join Up", but Red likes to call "Follow the cookie machine around--if you push the button enough times, cookies are dispensed through the pocket area."

tacked up in red's stall.
I jumped on him to we wandered around in a very Stacy Westfall-ish manner (HA!) for about five minutes before I got bored and quit.


I let him graze by the barn for about ten minutes before the BO suggested throwing him out in the area by the round pen to graze for awhile.


oh, gosh. i swear he's not pregnant!
He went back to his stall just in time for dinner. I rubbed down his front legs with the delicious smelling stuff I got at the dollar store today.


Just as I was leaving, BM pulled out Pepper for a driving lesson. As Pepper is probably the cutest Appy pony in existence, I couldn't help but stay to watch.


only second time hooked to the cart!
She had a bit of a mare pony-tude, but once she got the idea that going forward was all that was wanted, she trotted around like a little super star. Ohhh, Red..... I think I found a new game to play!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Escapee Baby

When I trudged my way up the hill to get Red this morning, the newest baby in the barn--the black and white paint colt now named Picasso--was standing on the wrong side of the fence. Apparently the electric isn't working to that paddock (which is great, since there are the two foals and a mini in it) and he shimmied his way underneath the tape. He looked a little stunned and didn't take his eyes off of me as I crashed through the woods to get to him; he definitely had no idea what to do once he was free. Hubby unhooked a section of the fence and, with a little prodding as he's only been leading for a week, we got him back under the fence and reunited with his "friends". His friends wanted nothing to do with him and chased him around for awhile until they got bored with that game and left him alone. Guess who's going to have to find a new pasture to get turned out in?

"i don't want to be in here with these mean girls!"
Hubby rode Red down so we could take his wraps off, check his legs, and ply him with cookies after being a mostly good sport about yesterday. His legs were icy tight. Thank goodness. I'm not one who thinks there's a supplement to cure everything, but I am never ever ever taking him off of SmartTendon. Since he's been on it, his leg hasn't blown up a single time. I would recommend it to absolutely everyone that has a horse with soft tissue issues. This stuff has been a friggin' miracle worker for Red. A year ago, he would have been lame for a week if I'd jumped him like I did yesterday--which really wasn't very much at all.

"i put up with way too much."

"but there are always cookies at the end of the tunnel!"

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I couldn't help it!

I give in to peer pressure way too easily. Red got rudely yanked out of his temporary retirement to test out the new cross country jumps. He was not impressed, especially since dinner time was right around the corner.

He made sure to show his displeasure and the fact that he hadn't been ridden in two weeks by being the naughty Thoroughbred he was when I first got him off the track. I rode him fittingly, and though it can be a little nerve-wrecking to trot around with a loose rein on a horse that's trying to take off with you every other stride and hopping up and down in place, our motto at the Contessa barn was "The shorter you ride, the shorter you stay on." (Which is perhaps why myself, the other female rider, and the 6' tall rider never had the siren go off for us and our two midget riders did.)

Because Red was such a fruit loop, we did ten solid minutes of trotting as soon as we got out to the field, then took several long walks around the field to show that we were not out here to be crazy town. After I was feeling a little more confident in his saneness, I trotted him over the smallest jumps in the field a few times, just making sure he had brakes and was listening to me. He was a little overzealous the first few times, but finally got the hint that being chill was a good thing.

"i am cuhraaazy!"

it's hard work being so naughty.
In our jumping, I have found a new, serious weakness in Red. He has no idea how to jump uphill. No idea. He spent quite some time in training with Nick Zito who trains a lot of his horses in draw reins, so when Red gallops, or thinks he should be galloping, his chin gets superglued to his chest and nothing short of serious yanking will bring it back up. Which is no good when he's not paying attention to anything in front of him until....wait! There's a jump two inches from my face! So that was an uphill battle today (Buh duh bump.) that we'll have to continue working on.

video

He was also not very interested in trotting to any of the bigger fences, witnessed mostly when trying to jump the oxer. He would not trot up to it! He was far more interested in going at a head-long canter that was more leaping up and down than actually cantering. I finally did a few laps around the field and got him going fairly well, but even then, a few strides out he leapt into the canter and got us into a hot mess over the jumps.

not going straight, and definitely not trotting.

look at you, fancy dressage horse. now please carry that to
your jumping approach!

you're doing it wrong.

we actually look fairly put together here. pictures are flattering.

video

I knew I had to do the trakhener before we ended to make this craziness worth it, but I was really freaking myself out.

"be brave, red stallion."
"whatev, mom. doesn't bother me any."
It was a slight uphill approach, so I really pushed Red up to it and he kept his silly head off the ground to actually give me a pretty good approach. I, however, did nothing at all to help him and two strides out I felt him start to falter and called out to Hubby, "He's not going to jump it!" To which Red took great insult and went right over....though as you can see in the picture, upon landing I think he was as surprised as I was he went over.

"wtf did i just jump?!"
"zomg, we're alive!"

As soon as he landed, I bent down to give him a huge pat, putting the reins in one hand, and he promptly took off with me. I put his head behind my knee and got him pulled up shortly, but needless to say we were both done after that. We were alive, he didn't refuse a single fence, and he was ready for dinner.



It took me a good twenty minutes to curry him to shininess again; even though he wasn't hot or out of breath, he was so sweaty from being a nervous nelly and quite fuzzy. The clippers are going to have to come out next month. Bummer. I hate clipping. But who doesn't?


the hounds showing off their jump.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

We are Eventers.

Hubby was talking with one of his customers (Hubby sells seed and chemicals for a big ag company) that lives in the same town as the barn is in. Said customer's wife came out and the subject of horses came up. Customer's wife was like, "Oh, which horse do you have there? I've boarded there on and off for seven years." So Hubby said that the wild Red stallion was ours and customer's wife started to rave about all the rave things she's heard about us, starting with, "Oh, she events, right?" That alone is music to my ears. Yes! I am an eventer! Yayyy!

The long and short of it is, she's heard that Red is a super cute, super awesome jumper, and I ride really well (clearly she did not hear this from the BO), and that we go to all our own shows alone (apparently this is the mark of someone seriously bad ass. I'll take it. I guess?).

Anyway. Maybe I shouldn't toot my own horn through second-hand "gossip", but every now and then you like to hear that people don't think you're a complete idiot ruining your horse, so I thought I share. It's my blog after all. I could tell you all about how people bow down and kiss the ground I ride on.

But I'll refrain.

interval training for racehorses: kind of like training eventers.
me riding the world-famous coyote lakes (aka charlie) and my roomie,
simone, on cobleskill-famous timothy murphy (aka derby doo).
2006.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bromance.

It was so gorgeous outside again today, I couldn't help but go out to the barn. Red and Spyder have been moved to the paddock Red was in when he originally arrived for hunting season safety, and they were standing next to each other right by the gate. The other three horses were all the way at the top of the hill where the cross country course is, being normal horses and enjoying the awesome weather and grazing.

I had to send Red into the barn by himself to hold back Spyder from running me over to try to come in with him. Not cute, boys. Fortunately, Red is happy as long as he's with people and/or working, so it's not really a problem for me, but Spyder really needs some new friends. He screams his brains out now whenever Red is pulled out of the paddock.

Red got a seriously thorough grooming. He was disgusting. I think I gained about ten pounds from all the dirt and dust I curried off of him. He looked nice and shiny afterwards though, and since tomorrow is supposed to be equally as fabulous, he'll probably stay that way until it rains on Thursday. He is also up to 1,000 pounds! Woo hoo! Only fifty more to go. He got a hay belly before anything, but his ribs are just barely visible now. I can't wait for him to look like a foundation stock Quarter Horse again....as long as no one comments on it. He is a Thoroughbred, damn it! Look at his pin firing and enormous ankles! OTTB love.

red and robert in january.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Still here.

The past week has been pony-less with the exception of Saturday when Hubby and I made a trip out to the barn to stuff Red with cookies and finish off our cross country jumps.

Red is clearly enjoying his time off as I had to drag him quite forcefully to the barn to groom the eight inches of mud off of him and snuggle him into his sheet.

ruh-tard.
spyder was in for a lesson so i had to stand in as the licking post.
Hubby was on a MAN craze this weekend (MAN craze being defined as doing MANly things in a minimum amount of clothing. It was barely 50 degrees out and windy and Hubby was in a cut off shirt. Really, Hubby?) so we took the hounds up to the cross country field to build what we could with the remaining logs.

pig dog was not pumped about riding in the back of the truck.

unlike her crazy sister.

agility dogs take to cross country!

pig shows off her top-class tuck as darcy takes a long spot.
 We ended up with a small oxer (2'7 in front, 3' in back), two seriously large logs stacked on each other (2'7) heading downhill, and a trakhener (3') in the making. We have the perfect poles at home to shore-up a ditch for underneath it, so hopefully that will get done this upcoming weekend and we'll be totally done with it.

the trahkener-to-be

stacked logs on a death-defying hill

view of the hill from the logs. really not that scary, but for someone
with serious hill phobia such as myself, it's plenty.

the oxer.
 The puppies were most definitely instrumental in helping build the jumps. Piggy especially, as she kept bringing us sticks and testing how well the finished jumps "rode".

pig's contribution.

darcy helping with the oxer.
In other news, I'm sort of kicking myself in the ass for choosing this month to give Red off. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous for the past week and every day I've been thinking about how nice it would be to go for a trail ride. And then I see or read about some jumping exercise I'd like to try, or I have a lightbulb moment about what I want to try differently on the flat with Red, or we build new cross country jumps that are just begging to be used. But nooo.....I'm holding out. Last year, my first winter in Pennsylvania, the weather was super mild so I'm hoping I'll still be able to do some fun things outside next month. Of course, there isn't 3,000 acres of State Gamelands across the road so that limits things some, but I'll figure something out. There is no way I'm going to be in the arena all winter long.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Finally!

We finally got power back on yesterday afternoon. I saw a Verizon work truck stop at the pole and fiddle around for half and hour.....and then drive away. I wanted to go running after him, waving my arms and screaming, "Nooooo!!! My lungs are icing over!!! Come baaaaack!!" Hmm. Maybe that's how Red felt. We are both princesses. Fortunately, about an hour later the real electric company truck pulled up and within ten minutes we had power! And there was water gushing from the spigots in the wall behind the washer! At which point I forgot all about going outside to grovel at the wonderful power workers' feet and threw the switch on all the breakers because I couldn't remember which one the pump was.

After several frantic runs back and forth to the washer and the breaker box, and several calls to Hubby ("Hubby! The kitchen is flooding! Again!"), I got the whole lot sorted out and was able to take a shower and do some dishes. Thank friggin' God. I am a total neat freak and having even a spoon left over in the sink makes me a little neurotic.

But the fun doesn't stop there. (It never does, does it?) This morning I climb out of my nice warm bed to walk around my nice warm house, and I nearly stepped on the rabbit.

Me: Bunny! What in Hades's name are you doing out?
Bunny: I don't know. Apparently I am Houdini and I can escape from my cage with nothing unlocked or broken. Now please put me back in. I am hungry.

I finally made my way to the barn to get all my stuff organized and make sure Red has everything he needs for an extended period of time off. Yay! I'm giving him November off as he's worked hard all year without much thanks from me, and I'm finally going to be able to see my family for Thanksgiving week in my hometown of Aurora, Illinois (Excellent.) for the first time in a year. I'll go to visit him between now and then, of course, but I'm definitely cutting back on gas money. Thank Goodness.

While I was there, he got his toes done and I got to watch another OTTB get worked on by an acupuncturist. Very interesting. She also does chiro work, so I got her card for when I have some money. Hopefully Red can go into the new year totally sound and with no excuses to be naughty.