Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hardcore Riding

With Christmas coming closer and closer I knew that Gus was possibly going to have between 3 to 4 days off doing nothing but eating and rolling in some dirt. But the 29th and 30th of December we're suppose to attend an intense 2 day clinic (if a small detail in scheduling will allow it!!!) and the last thing Gus needs is a week off! But the weather is making this task EXTREMELY difficult! Yesterday the rain came in and it's suppose to keep raining until sometime after Christmas... so how the heck am I'm suppose to ride???

Well I decided to brave it today and be "Hardcore". Thank goodness it's not freezing outside so getting a little wet isn't the end of the world. But getting so soaked that it takes hours to dry off isn't fun. Which is what happened today. I woke up to the sound of a steady downpour and then around 9 it stopped. I quickly jumped up, checked the hourly weather and saw that I had till 11 before the rain was coming back. So immediately started running around the apartment trying to get ready so I could "beat the rain". Unfortunately I didn't have a working bathroom quite yet (it was fixed this afternoon) so I was running up and down the stairs to the half bath right under my room. I'm not the most organized person especially when it comes to planning out the most efficient morning routine. I just wander back and forth between my bathroom and my bed putting a shirt on, brushing my teeth, digging in my laundry for riding pants while brushing my teeth, spitting in the sink and washing out the toothpaste, grabbing a quick bite of breakfast, finding some socks to wear, and then looking for my shoes and making sure my dog Jello is ready, looking for Jello's raincoat (since it's suppose to rain), finding my keys, finding my purse, making sure my phone is in it, oh wait it's upstairs.... ok now where is Jello- oh she's gone back to sleep- WAKE UP we have to GO!!! Aaaaand just as we walk out the door woosh! Instant downpour of rain. So back inside we trek only to hear the rain stop 3 minutes later! So back out we go and to the barn we're headed!

On the way the rain comes and goes but doesn't really rain all that hard so I keep thinking- ok, I can do this- think about the clinic, be hardcore, be hardcore, be hardcore!!! What is a little rain? It's not cold, suck it up, suck it up, BE HARDCORE! So as soon as we get to the barn I knew we were in a little trouble- the ring was SOAKED and it starts to downpour again! So plan changed, going to clean tack, after all I just drove out here, wasn't about to turn around... and then the rain stops! So I ran out to the field, grabbed Gus, quickly tacked him up and we headed out to do some "Road Riding" since that was the only place we could do any sort of fitness ride.

The good thing about the road that's right behind the barn is the lack of cars. The farm had been sold to a developer before the economic crash and they had paved a road for the trucks to drive on. They also put in a water system so there is a nice grassy flat space with man holes sticking up along the way, but plenty of space to ride on. It's not a long trail, but it has decent footing and paired with the road on this mucky gross wet day it was all I had to work with! The road has a perfect hill to walk up and down and really get the horses pushing uphill or sitting and really using their hind end/stifles to walk down.

So off we went towards "The Hill" and it started out just a little drizzly, nothing that we couldn't deal with. Gus was feeling great, my quarter sheet was covering up most of my saddle and keeping Gus's butt dry (since he's clipped I didn't want him getting chilled) We took the Man Hole Trail as a nice warm up to "The Hill". The footing wasn't that bad and it has a nice slope that isn't to steep but starts to get the horse pushing a little more than on flat ground. Finally we approached The Hill and Gus was ready- well he didn't have much choice ;) Now this Hill compares nothing to the Snowy River Hill, but it really gets the horses puffing 3/4ths of the way up

Scene from "The Man from Snowy River"

Now this movie is the definition of hardcore riding. Just look at the way Jim is balanced as he and his horse sail down the cliff edge after the brumbies. This is obviously the most famous scene, but Jim's horsemanship throughout the entire movie is hard core awesomeness. I think I'm going to start channeling Jim Craig and Denny on cross country now... Just look at this picture!!

Hardcore Downhill Riding

We ended up walking up and down the Hill 3 times to really give Gus as much of a work out as possible for the clinic. We could of done it more but by the 2nd loop my pants were soaked through and on the 3rd loop I was getting cold and was a little jealous of Gus under the quarter sheet. If I glanced down water cascaded off the brim of my helmet onto my already drenched legs. It was definitely time to head in. 

Even if the rain stops I'm still in a bit of a pickle. The ring is so soaked and with more rain in the forecast I don't see how I'm even going to be able to ride in it before the clinic. So Gus and I might be banned to the "Hill" for the next week, but I think I'm going to join him in walking up and down the hill- after all I have to survive the clinic too!!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Under all that Hair...

It finally happened! Gus is now one super cute CLIPPED over grown pony!!!!

After much pondering and consideration to the future weather forecast, available "free" time, and future ride plans, I made the decision to bathe Gus on Sunday and then clip him on Monday (the day of the monsoon!!!) because those were the last of the really warm days before fall (and an inkling of winter) decided to set in.

So on Sunday- out came the shampoo and scrub brush! I'm not going to bore you quite yet with tips and tricks to get your horse so squeaky clean that you can pass a HA Formal Inspection at a Pony Club Rally (or rating for that matter!) That'll be for another post on another day! (Just for those that might not know- H.A. is the highest level of Horse Management in the Pony Club Rating system- check out
Just some of the "tools" needed to be "HA" clean!!!

Now it was Monday- clipping time!!! I opted to give Gus a little Ace to keep him from being bothered by the tickling from the vibrations of the clippers. I wasn't worried about Gus not letting me clip him, but I know he is very sensitive and I have to use the softest curry combs and brushes because he's so ticklish. I waited about 20 minutes after giving Gus some Ace and into the cross ties he went! 

Clipping a horse is kinda of like walking in the snow. Taking that first row of hair off with the clippers is like the first step into a completely unmarked area of snow. You can't help but look at it and think- I hope I don't mess this up!!! But at the same time I love it! Just like hearing the snow crunch under your boots and seeing your footprints follow behind you, there is something satisfying and thrilling watching the blades cut little paths into the coat. There is something exciting about transforming a shaggy pony into a work of art! I guess it's the same feeling that artist get when they start a new project? Taking a canvas and seeing it transform beneath the paint? When you reach the end you hope it's something that you can be proud of! 

Ok so remember in the last post where I was talking about Quarter marks? After some Google searching I came up with a fun little design that I was going to attempt to put on Gus's butt. Typing in "Augustus" (because that is his show name) I found a lot of marble faces staring back at me. Along with these stone faces were random pictures of faces on coins. So I thought, all coins have a tails side so maybe there will be an easy design on the back of an "Augustus coin"? Sure enough, there was!

Augustus Coin
So here's a little history lesson- Caesar Augustus is considered the first Roman Emporer. He was Julius Caesar's nephew/adopted son. Approximately four months after Julius Caesar was assassinated, a comet appeared in the sky. (Can't you hear it now? Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears...oh a comet!) Augustus declared that this was Julius Caesar ascending into the heavens. Apparently this comet was so bright that it could be seen during the day and was visible for 7 days. The comet became a symbol for Augustus and was printed on the back of these Augustus Coins. So there is your history lesson for the day! Thanks to Wikipedia's Caesar's Comet and other websites that I will not link to because they tended to be discussions about the religious context of the star and since this blog is not about religion, I've opted for you to search for yourself if you are interested. (Google image search "Augustus Coin" and click on any coin that looks like/similar the one above and it'll probably take you to the right page)

The "Practice" Side- eventually was shaved off
Well I am NOT that skilled with a fast moving blade to write out words or create the tail of the comet, so I opted for a little artistic rendition for Gus pony's quarter mark. Taking masking tape and a bottle with a round bottom, I traced the bottom of the bottle onto Gus's bum and then used the masking tape to make the rays of the comet. Originally I was trying to cut around the masking tape with small clippers, but that ended quickly because the blades were to close together and was cutting the hair sooo close to the skin that I was going to have a bald pony if I wasn't careful! Since I hadn't clipped the other side of his bum yet, I took masking tape and made a quick small version of the comet. Then taking the big clippers I buzzed over the masking tape and cut the exposed hairs. It ended up looking decent enough so I thought, might as well try it on the other side! Anything would look better than a bald booty!!!

As for the rest of Gus's body, I ended up doing a trace clip combo with a hunter clip. I shaved off all the hair on his body, but left the legs and a saddle pad (like the hunter clip) and only clipped off the hair from the bottom side of his neck (like the trace clip). The reasoning behind my motives is simple. Gus has plenty of blankets to keep his back warm this winter, but this doesn't help his neck out (even though all his blankets/sheets are high neck) So by leaving some hair on his neck he can stay warmer while he's hanging outside in his pasture pigging out on the dying grass and eventually hay (when the grass finally sleeps for winter). The underside has been clipped to keep him cooler when riding because that is where he (and all horses) sweat the most on their necks, henceforth why you clip that part of the neck!

Now it's time for the drum roll..... The end results of Gus's new haircut!!! After hours of scratching and itching from the hair finding it's way into my shirt, and straining my eyes to make sure I wasn't leaving clipper lines, I present to you, Prairie Augustus, ready for winter riding!!!!!
The Right Side

The Left Side (note Comet on hind end)

Closer view of Gus's Quarter Mark!
And on that note I leave you with a joke-

What is the difference between a good clip job and a bad one?

2 weeks!!! Grow hair grow!!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

To Clip or Not to Clip...

Fall is here, winter is coming, and yet today the temperature reached a blazing 75 degrees F. It was way to gorgeous of a day to not ride so off I went to my NEW barn!!! Ok so I might also add that I've moved!!! Not just moved barns, but completely moved cities!!!!! I am soooooo much happier in this new place, even though I haven't been here very long, but it's always a good thing when you find yourself smiling as you drive down the road right? Yes... a very good thing!!!!

So back to the barn... The past week of riding I have been challenged by the amount of hair that Gus has. When it was cold I didn't want to work him to hard because I wouldn't be able to dry him out before the sun set, and today poor Gus was sooo hot that I had to cut our ride short because he was having difficulties cooling down. He's decently fit (for the amount of work I put him through) and today he didn't stop puffing until I was able to douse him with cold water- so this brings up the age old question- to clip or not, and if clip, what kind of clip?

Pros of Clipping:
   Easier to clean after riding!
   Cooler for horse in work (especially where I live- see today's weather temp!!)
   Can do fun designs (though coming up with the "perfect" design can be tricky...)
   What shedding season???

Cons of Clipping
  More blanketing required
  Horse might look ugly (bad clip job, or not pretty color after clipping-usually bays!)
  costs $ or hours of your day (depending on how fast you are!)

If I do end up clipping a horse I always try to wait till after Thanksgiving. This way I only have to clip once! If you clip to early they grow their winter coat back and you either have to clip again, or deal with shedding season. Also if you clip to late (after they start to shed) it could mess up summer coat growth.

Some people leave lights on to prevent their horse from growing a coat (since it's daylight hours that tells a horse when to start growing/shedding). Personally I hate this, it probably costs more in extra electrical usage than just clipping the horse! One person I know leaves the lights on all winter and then her horses start to grow winter coats in March/April when they should be shedding! Then she has to clip the horses because they're to hot for the summer...(where is the logic in this? She ends up clipping anyways!!!) I know some breeds standards (show quarter horses come to mind) tend to favor this system but it's not my favorite way to keep a horse's coat short, but if you're showing your horse in those type of breed classes through the winter then I guess it's what you have to do? Good thing eventers don't care!!!

So after much deciding, ok not really- Gus is getting clipped!!! It's time to figure out what type of clip to use. Depending on work load/ blanketing abilities/shelter options this can be more difficult to figure out. The four main types of clips you see are: Hunter clip, Trace clip, Body clip, and Blanket clip.

Personally I would never body clip my horse, but that is mainly because of the type of weather my horse tends to see in the winter. Body clipping is fine for the horse down in Florida/warm climates or have access to warm blankets, leg wraps, and a warm stable for the cold days. If my horse is in serious work I tend to do a Hunter clip so that the legs can stay warm because I can't always go out to the barn to wrap legs (think road closing weather conditions) plus the hair on the legs gives them protection from sticks and brambles and things that you might run across when trail riding or fox hunting (hence it being called a "Hunter" clip- ah ha!) I also find the so called Blanket clip a bit backwards. Why take all the hair off the neck but leave the back? I guess if you don't have adequate blankets and need to keep their back warm then this makes sense, but I'd rather do a reverse blanket clip and leave the top part of the neck hairy (like the neck on a trace clip) and clip off the hair under the blanket (but leave a patch under the saddle- for protection). This way when horse is standing outside he can keep his neck warm and stay snuggly under a nice thick blanket.

The best part (in my opinion) about clipping is the quarter marks!!! You can add some fun and flair to any horse or pony by stenciling a design onto their bums! There are some really neat ones out there, and also the typical fun ones (hearts, stars, etc) But clipper beware! If you are clipping into the coat you better be an artist!!! Your design can only get bigger if you make a mistake!!! If you're clipping around the design you can always shave it off if it looks bad, but alas your "easel" is a one time use (until next year or another horse!)

And now I need to go think about what Gus's design is going to be...and hope that I'm skilled enough to do it!!! I'll try to post pictures after Gus's clip job- which will hopefully be done in the next week or so!!!! Goodbye hair!!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011


One of the benifits of boarding at the farm where the pony club equipment is stored is the ability to borrow it when it just sits there looking at you day in and day out... Well ok when I say the equipment I really mean the Polocrosse mallets that are hanging in the tack room!!! Our club bought the mallets back when I was in high school because of Festival 2001 where we all came back totally in love with the game! We never got competitive with the game, but loved having the mallets around to tool about on our horses. Heck it's a great way to find out how quiet your horse is, because lets face it- only a certain horse is going to let you swing a stick around on it's back!

Lately I had been eyeing the mallets and wondering how Gus would do... So day 1) I grabbed the mallet and slowly introduced it and the ball to Gus. He was a saint! He probably was more interested in the grass  we were standing on then the stick I was holding in my hand- he didn't flinch a muscle. So next came the ball, at first he thought it might be edible and sniffed it for a few seconds and then realizing it was just a plastic lacrosse ball (the real polocrosse ball has been lost in the shuffle of moving between 3 barns) and he went back to snoozing. I rubbed the ball all over his face, shoulder, flank, etc. Then I started lightly tossing the ball at him to see how he would react it if accidentally hit him, again nothing- the only thing he did was reach for some mouthfulls of grass while I pelted him lightly with the ball. So obviously he's fine with the mallet and ball being in some sort of control, so the next step was to see how he would react with it in motion. I started swinging the mallet in large circles by his eyes and flanks, nothing, zero, nilche. Gus continued to stand there and look at me like I was some crazy person because he wasn't bothered at all by flying objects!!! Good sign Gus!!

Day 2) Ride time!!! I tacked up Gus today and took him out into the field to see how would react in "play" mode. I waved the mallet around and then tossed the ball straight out in front and VOILA! He did nothing. My horse was so game and awesome that I decided his next career should be as a polocrosse pony!!! He's a great height, obviously doesn't care about the ball and stick, he's top man in the field but doesn't usually bite or kick except in play, so he'd be aggressive but not dangerous (a plus for a polox pony) the only issue I foresee is speed. He's not the fastest horse in the world, and it does take an effort to make him go anywhere, but I think if he was playing a game he'd pick up the pace and get a little more excited. He's really handy and listens to your leg really well so today I didn't have any problems stopping and turning with one hand on the reins (another reason that I'm in love with his Dressage training!!!) The only problem we had today was ME!!! I couldn't pick up the ball for the life of me!!! Walk and sometimes at the trot I was ok, but every time we would canter right past the ball... Now to give myself some credit, and not take the total blame... we only had a lacrosse ball which is about half the size and much lighter than a polocrosse ball. Plus the grass was really tall and the mallet kept getting caught on the grass blades instead of being able to scoop up the ball. So word to the wise- there is a reason polo players and polocrosse players play on mowed fields!!!! Plus I lost the ball a couple of times and had to walk around looking for it- even with it being bright orange it was difficult to see if it was buried under a tall thick clump of grass!!!!

Now I just need to find some friends in the area to come over and play a game with us! And find a REAL polocrosse ball....  But if not I'll keep playing by myself because it really is a great way to cross train Gus. He has to listen to my leg cues, practice galloping forward and slowing down, and turning with balance- all good things that an eventer should know! So here we go- it's Polo-Crosse Training time!!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Are Pictures Worth a Thousand Words??

Basically my entire life somehow revolves around horses (much to my grandparents chagrin) but I do have other hobbies, one of them is photography. Most of the time I feel like I get pretty lucky with a shot, as in not really sure why it turned out so well, but it did...luck. I see pictures of professional photographers and I can't help but drool. The way the capture the emotion just makes me want to fall out of my chair with yearning. If I could design the perfect life, I'd be a professional photographer that happens to ride horses. But since I have not quite found the niche of this so called "perfect life" I can continue dreaming and hopefully one day get there! So as a quest to become a better photographer I thought I'd share some of my favorite pictures from over the years. Some might have horses in them, but not all do- this is part of a "challenge" posted by a Chronicle of the Horse Forum poster to blog about something non horsey- so here goes my "challenge" :)

"An Irish Road Trip"

Ok so here is a picture I took back in the summer of 2008 when I was living in Galway Ireland. I had a student working visa that allowed me to work, live, and play for 5 months before coming back to the states. While I was there I met 3 Canadians, 1 Aussie, 3 Irish neighbors, and 1 Irish girl. Ok so I met more people than that, but these were the people that I hung out with basically the entire time. This picture is of my Canadian roommate, Liz, standing on top of the Cliffs of Moher.

Irish Road Signs- good luck if you don't have a map!!
Galway is seriously the best location for staying on the west side of Ireland because it is the most central to all the tourist sites. The Cliffs were an easy easy day trip from the city, and you can easily catch a tour bus that will run you to the cliffs and back, and stopping at various other attractions along The Burren.

The Burren- yes that's what the ground
 looks like, cracks and all!!
The "Coast Road" to the Cliffs

one of the Portal Tombs sprinkled across Ireland
A tourist attraction on the way to the Cliffs!

Aussie Susy waving from "the other side"

But this day Aussie Susy, Canadian Liz, and I took a little road trip with a rental car on loan (don't tell the rental car company!!) took off on one the few true blue days to go sightseeing. We had a great time hiking out past the sign that read "Do Not Go Past This Point" (because lets face it, the sign was only for legal reasons, everyone goes hiking past that point!!!)

plants along the cliffs

cute older couple enjoying the day

When we got fairly far the sky suddenly started to turn an ugly black so back towards the visitor center we went- and thank goodness for our perfect timing! Literally seconds from opening up the door into the visitor center (that looks like a little Hobbit home because it was built into the side of a hill) it started pouring and thundering!!! Now it does rain a lot in Ireland but RARELY does it thunder!!! So our gorgeous blue day was interrupted by a short thunderstorm, but on the drive back to Galway it allowed us to see some of the most amazing full rainbows... oh Ireland how I do miss you!!!

Rainbow on the way home

And even though this was suppose to be a horseless post I couldn't help myself- this is Ireland after all and horses are a part of the scenery!!! These two cuties were hanging out in a pasture right next to the coastal road we drove down! So naturally we stopped and took pictures :)

the lunar landscape that is The Burren in the background

This is Ireland- horses are a part of the scenery!

Friday, September 30, 2011

If I had $100 million...

Winning the lottery is the easiest way to get rich quick, unfortunately having the winning numbers is the hardest part.... but if you win wow... life is set and I know exactly how I would spend the winning money.

I use to not know what I'd do if I'd won the lottery, buy a mansion? Buy a boat??? Yeah.... don't care to much about boats and mansions... well now I do know exactly what I would do if I won- I would clone my horse Johnny.

Johnny was my awesome eventer back in the day and unfortunately he was in an accident that caused his vertebrae to shift and pinch his spinal cord resulting in him becoming a Wobbler. It took a couple of years (about 6 I think) before he was diagnosed as a Wobbler, but before his downfall he was one of the most amazing horses in the world. He was a gorgeous mover, a fantastic jumper, and had more personality in one tail hair than most people have in their whole body. He loved playing with things, would grab the velcro straps on my jacket sleeves and rip it off, would unzip my coat, give a little push if he didn't think you were paying enough attention to him, and always had a mischievous gleam in his eye. Everytime I would turn around to tell him to stop he'd have this look on his face like "who me?" and I always laughed. Plus he was one extremely good looking horse. He had so much presence that people would stop and look at him walk by. Dressage judges loved him, I loved him, and everyone that met him found him to be a great horse.

Johnny's last event- Farewell 2001, Training Level

He had so much promise to be an upper level eventer, but just as we were starting to think about moving up to Prelim, he crashed and burned. It's a long story that is way to much to type out, but the basic gist of the story goes like this:

The eventual downfall of Johnny's eventing career started with a pulled stifle from galloping around the field when a neighbors horses got loose on the road. The picture above was taken at the last event Johnny and I ever competed in- Farewell 2001 (an aptly named event). At this event I knew something wasn't quite right him, he was sound, but on cross country I was having to kick him along to make time, usually I was doing my best to slow down because he loved jumping so much. The stadium was so bad (but somehow we got one good picture from it!) that when I walked out I knew John needed a vacation. We jumped clear, but it was only because John was so athletic that a 3'3" jump was like asking a professional basketball player to play against high schoolers. We spent the next 3 years bringing Johnny back only for him to re-injure himself once we thought he was back to normal. We worked with top quality performance vets so it's not like we were flying blind. They didn't know what was going on until 2005.
Johnny at our first event together, FENCE 1999

I had Johnny with me in college and was taking regular lessons with him, doing my best to get him back into eventing shape. We were consistently jumping 2'9" courses and working on 2nd level Dressage movements until winter break and I took him foxhunting. I'd hunted him before, so it wasn't anything new, but that particular day he was quite fresh and even though we started out first field, i bumped him back to 2nd because he was being so naughty. The next time I rode him he just didn't feel quite right, so no big deal, probably just needed a hock injection or maybe a round of Adequan, after all he'd reached the age where age starts to creep slowly up on a high performance horse. So back to college we went, and a vet appointment was set up. While waiting for the day of the vet appointment I'd walk John around and see if he was improving. Each day he got better and better, and 3 days away I thought he'd felt really good at the walk. But 2 days before the appointment there was a crazy blizzard and I couldn't get down to the barn to check on him until I was able to load him in the trailer and take him to the vet's.

Upon arriving at the vets, the first thing Dr. Jim had me do was trot him in a straight line so he could assess his soundness. I did this and heard Jim call over one of the other vets and I kept trotting in straight lines until they told me to stop, and they gave me the worst news ever- Johnny's problem wasn't musculoskeletal, it was neurological. I cried the entire drive back to the barn, and probably the entire way back to my apartment.  What was wrong with my horse??? We figured it out after ruling out all the possibly diseases, and then took him to the Vet school where they were able to take pictures of his vertebrae and could see that the 6th and 7th were pinching his spinal cord, and probably had been for a very long time and over time Johnny's coordination grew weaker and weaker. Basket surgeury was suggested, but because it was almost summer and it was such an invasive surgery, plus long term it wasn't really that reliable, we decided to do prolotherapy instead. It was suggested by a good friend and very forward thinking vet that had know Johnny since he was 4.

Johnny and his buddy Clyde

 So off he went and when it was all done John started his rehab and I was able to get him back to walking, trotting, and cantering. He could walk over poles, go on trail rides (though flatter ground was better!) and I was able to enjoy him riding him for a couple more years. I did jump him one last time, and it was the scariest moment of my life. As Johnny hurled himself towards the tiny tiny, maybe 12" high log (remember how I said Johnny loved to jump??? Yeah maybe a little to much at this point!!) I thought "Oh god, If you please let all four of Johnny's feet land on the other side and stay in the upright position I will NEVER ask him to do this again" and as my life flashed before my eyes while we were in the air, holding on for dear life, John landed and galloped off up the hill on the other side. I was able to stop him and thought kept thanking all my guardian angels, god, zeus, the force, basically everything for letting me live another day! Johnny, who was very proud of himself for jumping, pranced the rest of the way home and I thanked my lucky stars for letting something that could of been potentially the worst decision of my entire life turn out ok.
Johnny at his last show before retirement, November 2006

John retired full time in January 2007. He wasn't feeling quite right anymore, and even though I was still able to ride him, I was loosing the time to do it in. I started student teaching my last semester of college, and that took up all free hours of the day writing out lesson plans, grading papers, and surviving. It's exhausting the very first time you start teaching, and sometimes I wonder how I survived those first few weeks before I got the swing of things. I knew I couldn't give Johnny the amount of attention he needed because he had to be ridden or worked with 6 days a  week to keep his neurons working properly and so it was decided to retire him while he was still happy.

Johnny enjoying his first few days of retirement

And retired Johnny stayed until this summer, when after 4 1/2 years I decided to ride Johnny again. It was the best moment of my summer, and one that I won't forget for a very long time. As soon as I threw my leg over John's back and sat in the saddle, I felt like I was home. Muscle memory is a funny thing because everything about sitting on John's back was memorized and it was like I never left.
Riding John for the first time in 4 1/2 years

So that is why I would clone Johnny if I won the lottery. He is the peanut butter, I am the jelly, and together we make one heck of a sandwich. Gus is on his way to being my next super star horse, but as one can never forget their first love, I will never forget Johnny.

Best view

There's a Hole in my Pants Dear Liza, Dear Liza

Today one of my favorite pair of riding pants developed a hole in the wrong place. My poor pants are so threadbare from wearing them day in and day out that it was inevitable. This is part of the reason I hate how expensive riding pants can be!!! Why would I pay $100+ for a pair of pants that are going to get ripped up, worn out, dirty as hell, and faded??? Maybe it's because I buy cheap pants, but I doubt that is the reason they wear our so quickly- my poor pants just can't take a break!!! It's more likely related to my limited supply of pants because I am to cheap to buy new ones!!! I am always looking for a deal (thanks Tack of the Day...sometimes) and rarely find what I'm looking for- normal cotton pants. Cotton Naturals are my favorite and most of the time are quite durable- heck I had a pair of show pants that I think I wore for 5+ years, hunting, showing, and clinicing, and finally the knees wore out (and I got to fat to fit in them, thanks College, thanks) So naturally I went back to Cotton Naturals and bought more pants. They don't quite make them the same way as they use to, or I'm wearing mine way to much- both could be a reason why my pant selection has dwindled down to three pairs of pants, rotating through. 

Since my threadbare blue pair developed a hole in a very uncomfortable place (think potential saddle pinching) I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and buy some new pants. My most favorite pair of pants I got on Tack of the Day and while I love the sight it also depresses me because these amazing pants CAN NOT BE FOUND ANYWHERE!!!!!!!!! I looove them!!! I love how well they last, I love the material, I love the colors, I just LOVE THESE PANTS!!!! But they were a clearance item and can not be found anywhere :( Why Tack of the Day did you have to sell me the most amazing riding pants ever and make me fall in love with a discontinued riding pant??? I'm crying here!!! hahaha... just kidding... but have yet to see a pair or pants on that site that could compare to the "Most Fav"pants in price and sizes. Don't get me wrong- they have great prices for the pant, but I'm not willing to spend $100 on a $200 pair of pants!!! Don't care if I'm saving $100- I won't spend over $50- and that better be a really special riding pant!!! Maybe I'm just to frugal sometimes??? hahaha- oh well... I guess I need to bite the bullet and order some new pants.... but not quite yet ;)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Bit Better

Recently I have decided to change Gus's bit. I have been riding him in a loose ring double jointed KK that   I've had forever! It was the bit that I used on my old eventer, Johnny, back in the day (talking 1999-2007 when he retired from riding) It has always been a great bit, and still is a great bit, but something wasn't working so well for Gus.
Gus always opened his mouth and took the bit without question, but in the past couple of months I'd have to pry his mouth open with my thumb and stuff the bit in as quickly as I could before he'd clamp his teeth back together. He never flipped his head or did anything naughty so I pondered what was it about this soft, nice, snaffle that had my horse thinking it was the worst thing ever??? He regularly gets his teeth checked and floated so I knew it couldn't of been a bad tooth acting up, and once it's in he doesn't open his mouth or try to evade the bit, heck I ride him with a plain, loose, noseband with nothing fancy attached to it to keep his jaw in place. 

One day it kind of hit me what might be the problem. As I was doing my best to pry open his mouth by applying pressure to the bar of his mouth, I realized at the same time I was doing my best to avoid his canine teeth from chomping down on my thumb as we played cat and mouse with the bit. So as soon as I got the bit into his mouth, i curled back his lips and had a look. Sure enough his bit was really close to his canine teeth and when he started chewing it would clank against his teeth. I was in a bit of a quandary because obviously the bit was to low in his mouth, but if I raised it any higher it would be to tight against his lips- there would be 3 wrinkles instead of the 2 that you are suppose to have when the bit is placed in the mouth. What about using a smaller sized bit? I tried that (I had 1 size smaller sitting in my trunk from Liaison) So into Gus's mouth that went. It looked great- 2 wrinkles, no teeth clanking, but it still wasn't perfect. Where the loose ring slides through the mouthpiece it was really close to the corner's of Gus's mouth and was only a matter of time before it would start pinching his mouth and causing sores there. So that was ruled out.

I started thinking about all the bits that were at the barn and I thought about the bit Gunner uses on Byrd. It is one of the Nathe rubber bits and figured it had 2 advantages over the loose ring snaffle. 1) It is rubber, so if it hits Gus's teeth it won't be as bad as metal hitting them, and 2) it is a mullen mouth so it shouldn't hang low and hit his teeth.
The Nathe
On Sunday my friend Alyse and her sister Cory came over and rode around the front field. I figured it would be the best way to find out of I had any control in the Nathe bit, and better to find out at home then at a show, clinic, or lesson! If Gus did run away with me we'd still be in the pasture and he could run around to his heart's content and I'd know that it wasn't a good bit for him. But this wasn't the case. He was so soft and happy in the bit I thought well damn, what have I been missing all this time? Just after a few minutes of trotting he developed some nice "lipstick" (the slobber from working the bit in the mouth) which is something that Dressage judges look for because it means that the horse is accepting of the bit. We even galloped around the field and I was able to stop him quite easily before crashing into the electric fence, which I know would of stopped him!!! He jumped great, we worked a little on our flying changes, and I couldn't of asked for him to be any better. He was a little motorcycle-y to the left, but that was just me needing to balance him a bit more and not let him lean left. To make sure that this wasn't a fluke or caused by the pretty mare that Gus took a shine to, I rode him in the bit again for my jumping lesson today and again he was perfect!!! I wasn't asking him to round up and go on the bit, but at one point I did take a little more rein up and closed my leg around him and I felt him round and soften to me before letting him have his head for jumping. Gus is so well trained that I don't really need the bit for steering or stopping because my leg and seat do most of that anyways. The bit just seems to be more of a comfort for Gus- something to balance against as we jump around- and when I say balance, I don't mean that he is leaning on the bit and pulling down on his forehand, he just jumps better if I have light contact with his mouth instead of looping the rein and going all free bird on him. I think it's his way of knowing that I'm there too. I could be wrong, but it sounds nice!!!

Now that I know how much Gus likes the bit, I'm in need of buying one of my own. Byrd's bit is to big for Gus and slides through his mouth a little more than I'd like, plus it's Byrd's bit. Not that Byrd even needs a bit, but for whatever reason his rider likes riding him in the bit better- even though he has a Micklem Competition Bridle set up to be bitless. I think it's more of a mental thing that Gunner and Cindy have, because Byrd's not going anywhere and he's happier without the bit- heck he's practically chewed through the Nathe! Though when it comes to the Nathe bit I can't help but gag at the price of it!! Seriously- for a piece of SOFT RUBBER it's going to cost me a cool $75.95????? What the heck makes it cost that much??!?!?! It's a piece of rubber!!!! An expensive Happy Mouth costs $50 but normally runs in the $20-$30 price range- way easier on my pocketbook!!! But what if he doesn't like the Happy Mouth??? So after my lesson I called mom in hopes that she might have a nice Happy Mouth somewhere in her bit collection and sure enough she did!!! Fantastic!!! I figure I'll give the mullen Happy Mouth a try and if Gus hates it and doesn't go as well in it as the Nathe, then I'll shell out the $75 for it, but if all that he liked about the Nathe was it not hitting his teeth and being made of rubber, heck that's exactly what a Happy Mouth will do!!! I'm headed up to Mom's this weekend so Happy Mouth test here we come!!! Here's to hoping Gus likes it just as much if not better than the expensive piece of rubber that calls itself Nathe!!!

Happy Mouth Hopeful!!!

Friday, September 16, 2011


The American Eventing Championships- the average person's Olympics. Or at least it's my Olympic dream!!!! Knowing that I'll probably never make it to the Olympics as more than a spectator (which I'm ok with!) I have set myself other goals to compete for. The AEC's is one of them and ever since I qualified for the very first AEC back in 2003 but was unable to go because I had just started my freshman year at NC State and thus was car and horseless, I've made it my mission to find my way there.

Last year I was able to go to GA with a friend who was trying to get as many hours under belt for her TD and Judge's license. It was great because I had just failed my B rating and needed something else to focus on- thus donning on a nice yellow hat that stated my volunteer status and getting a chance to stick my fingers in some of the nicest horses I've ever seen's mouths as I checked their bits to make sure they were "dressage legal"- it almost seems silly because if they made it this far I doubt it was in an illegal bit!!! But watching the likes of Charlie Plumb, Boyd Martin, and Rebecca Howard on their novice horses (I was in the lower level dressage warm up) mentally prepare for their ride and seeing some of those novice horses' owners watch them carefully in the warm up, willing them to be on their best behavior, I couldn't help but feel a little giddy at being so close to greatness. I also enjoyed sticking my fingers in the normal riders' horses mouths. Getting a chance to talk to someone, wishing them good luck, helping out in any way shape or form was truly exhilerating. I couldn't help but think about how much I wanted to be in that warm up arena and I had 2 more years to do it in.

Obviously I didn't make it this year. But I have one more year to go before it leaves Chat Hills. But if the rumors are true and it moves to Kentucky I will have 3 more years to add onto next years 1 so totaling out 4 more years of trying to get there. I'm not in a financial position to be driving to far to get to the AEC's so I have a limited amount of hours that I'm willing to drive- Kentucky is the max that I'll go- 3 bordering 4 is my normal hour limit, but for Kentucky I'd drive- heck I've already done it for Pony Club Nationals back in 2001 and for Festival in 1998!!! The AEC's are basically Nationals for non pony clubbers!!

If I can get Gus to become a stronger, bolder jumper I know we have a chance of doing well at the AEC's. With horses you never know what is going to happen, how well the Dressage judge likes you horse, freak incidents like a weather balloon falling into the middle of the arena while you're riding, it's just basic life "what if's". But if you have a good horse you at least have a fighting chance to come home with the blue! Gus has a really strong Dressage background so I'm hoping he'll be scoring in the 20's and low 30's when we finally get to a real event, and each day he gets braver and better at jumping. I have a year to get myself more confident with Gus to give him a successful ride around a cross country course and through a stadium round that seems to be quite difficult because the poles fall down real easy at Chat Hills... So here's to every day getting better and getting Gus to the AEC's by 2012!!! After all I'm just hoping to make it around Beginner Novice to start with!!
Gus mentally prepping himself for the jumping

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Super Pony- sort of

Somedays I swear Gus is the most bomb proof horse out there and then other days I'm cursing him for being such a ninny!!!

Yesterday I wanted to start introducing scarier looking fences to him to help build his confidence. He's been jumping around great in our weekly lessons and I decided that it was time to bring out the liverpool/ditch fence. Working with limited resources I grabbed the lattice that use to be attached to a jump pole and dropped it on the ground. I put a pole on either side to give it boundaries for Gus to judge the jump. It's not terribly wide, really- he could probably walk over it, but I didn't want it to be too massive or scary that it would cause problems. Since bravery is what we're working on, small and simple is the best way to start!

Well I built my white "liverpool" in the morning and was planning on riding in the afternoon. Of course when I headed out to the barn that afternoon there was a storm looming in the distance so we acted quickly and headed off to the jump field. At the farm there is a large population of Canadian Geese that have mated and come back over the years only to have more babies and the grownup babies to find a mate and have babies! So needless to say in 3 short years the goose population has gotten a bit extreme from the original 3... and of course the large flock of geese were hanging out in the jump field nibbling on the grass. With the coming storm, me being a bit tense because I was very carefully watching the sky for any signs of lightening or the onset of the storm, the wind blowing a bit, and a much cooler temp, Gus was feeling quite up and had a bit more of a bounce to his step. I was ready for Gus to jump 10 feet in the air and what does he do? Absolutely nothing. He just calmly walks by the white lattice liverpool thing and when we started trotting and the geese started running and taking off he never changed his pace but kept on going. At one point I pointed him towards the middle of the flock and trotted into them to disperse them out of my field (they really were in the way) and as they took off running and flapping their wings before taking off into flight Gus did nothing. I don't think he even cared that they were in the same place we were, he just kept on trotting. By this point the storm was getting closer so I pointed him towards the x I set up to get him in jumping mode and he jumped that like an old pro and then we headed off to the lattice pool and he trotted over it like it'd been there 100 years. No big deal, so we cantered over it and again, no big deal. At this point I saw a flash of lightening so we quickly headed back to the barn and I gave him the biggest hug and pat and told him how fabulous he was. The geese alone made me realize how awesome my horse really is and that one day in the future he could make a great kid's pony, but this is in the way distant future because I am enjoying him way to much!!!! Though now that I know he'll jump lattice, I'm on a mission to find a blue tarp for the real liverpool training to begin!!!
So Gus was the super star, geese chasing, lattice jumping pony yesterday and then today he went back to OMG man. I call his panic moments OMG b/c I can just imagine him saying "OMG it moved!!!" or "OMG what is THAT????" or any variation starting with OMG! He always perks his ear forward and stops or sidesteps around going "OMG OMG OMG it changed". Today was no exception! We had a jumping lesson this morning over at Bill's place and Bill is always changing the jumps around- either for a new exercise or just to give the horses new things to look at. Well the past month Bill had two boxes set up on the different diagonal lines- one set of boxes had a Australian flag on one side and a sun on the other. The other boxes had bricks and stones painted on the different sides. Well Bill had moved the boxes into the bottom two corners of the arena and as we were walking around starting our warm up, Gus spies the flag/sun boxes and went "OMG it moved!!!". He stopped moving forward and I had to kick him on where he proceeded to side step around and kept looking at it. So immediately as soon as I got him past the boxes I turned around and headed back towards them. Gus was still alert and we walked over to them where he proceeeded to sniff them and then I asked him to trot and he trotted calmly past them both directions. He was looking at the boxes, making sure they wouldn't move, but I was happy with him moving forward and only glancing at them with one eye. After a pass each direction Gus stopped looking and we ended up having a great lesson.

It can frustrate me at times when Gus freaks out at the silliest seeming things and other times I think he's going to be naughty and he could care less. Once he figures out what's going on he's the best horse in the world and isn't bothered by a thing, but I can't help but wonder what he's going to do at an event. I can only school so much at a new location and it's not like they're going to allow me to take him into the sj arena or out on xc for him to look at all the jumps. I know that this is where schooling at various locations over cross country and sj courses or taking him to schooling horse trials is going to be the best but right now the funds are a bit lacking while I search for a full time job. It's really annoying that all it takes is money and time to go out and do what I need to do for Gus but right now I don't have much of either!!! With fall show season coming up I looked up various schooling shows and events to take him to and I can't make it to a lot of them because I have something else planned- like a wedding or a work weekend. So sadly Gus gets booted to the back of the list and I continue to think of scary things for Gus to jump at home. But hopefully this'll mean he won't be as spooky when we finally do head off to the shows and a loose goose happens to fly across the ring we're riding in....

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sitting on the ground

When one person falls off it is funny, when two people fall off at the same time it is hysterical!

The other day my friend Kristen and I went on a trail ride to clip the branches in the way. Both of our horses are pretty quiet and will stand when told. So off we headed with clippers in hand to tackle those stupid branches (especially the ones too thick or green to break and just pop back into place!) We left the barn with the clippers closed and holding it out to the side. As we approached the trail Kristen says to her horse "Byrd don't dump me with these clippers in hand"-famous last words. Just 20 feet into the trail our first branch stuck out taunting us as only a branch can do. I smile and say "Our first branch of the day!" and just as I start to lean over, about to open the clippers, I hear something rustling in the woods and then Byrd jumps forward causing Gus to jump sideways and me with out a hope and a prayer (since I was already leaning off to the side) fall on my butt in the middle of some prickly plants! Gus meanwhile was just standing there all non-chalant and looked at me like "What are you doing down there?" I somehow rolled over and picked myself up out of the sticky brambles and looked over to where Kristen was standing holding her horse. We both looked at each other like why are you off? And I asked "Did you jump off or Fall of?"
"I fell off- what about you?"
"I also fell off-hahahaha!!!" We both starting laughing at the absurdity of our funny little equines and then decided that today wasn't going to be a good day to go clip tree branches! So back to the barn we headed (without any mishap) and took a few laps around the front field with the tree clippers sitting quite peacefully in the barn.

So with that note I will leave you with some hilarious clips via the great place that is youtube :) Fall # 5 felt oddly familiar after the failed trail ride with both Kristen and I finding our way to the ground at the same time... ;)