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