Friday, November 17, 2017

No Horse November

A Horse Blog Without a Horse...

Here's the thing.  I LOVE horses and I will ALWAYS live the "horse life."  But I must admit that I am thoroughly enjoying these weeks of being horseless.  I know a day will come when I start to feel the itch of wanting my own horse again, but for now, I am enjoying it.

Oh, and I had a photographer friend come take a few photos before Congress, just so I had something to remember the good times...

Evan Zimmerman Photography

Top Five Reasons Being Horseless is Awesome:

5. MONEY: Imagine all the $$$ that goes to your horse each month suddenly going into your pocket. No vet bills, no boar, no farrier, no chiropractor, no supplements, no replacing broken equipment. I didn't even buy ANYTHING at Congress, it was weird, but also good.

4. RESPONSIBILITY: No one is going to call me at 9pm to tell me my horse is colicking/bleeding/loose.  I don't have to be responsible for a 1000lb bag of trouble.  I don't have to check the temperature constantly to find out if I have to change blankets. I don't have to treat cuts or ice legs.

3. CHOICES: It's friggin cold already and I can stay in the warm house instead of the cold barn.  I don't HAVE to go ride.  I can choose to ride as often or infrequently as I want without the guilt of neglecting or over-working a horse. 

2. TIME: Especially leading up to Congress I was at the barn almost every single day for weeks and weeks.  Now I have at least 3 hours/day extra to do things like put dishes away and shop for a new washer and dryer or

1. HEARTBREAK:  Horses have broken my heart.  It's nearly 4 years since I lost Junior and I still miss him madly.  I still catch myself wishing I could just have him back.  Huck was supposed to be the next great one, and he just wasn't.  He broke me financially, emotionally, and physically.  I'm going to take my time in recuperating. 

We'll see how long this lasts before being broke and busy is "worth it" again. 

I've ridden once since I stepped off of Huck at the Congress.  I took Kevin for a little ride last weekend while hanging out with friends.  It was nice, but I'm still happy about my horseless situation.

I admit that I am happily distracted at the moment so I'm sure that is helping me be "okay" with horselessness.  The first weekend of Nov. I moved into a house with my BF.  Without the horse I finally feel like I have the ability to do some much overdue "adulting" like buying new oven mitts and window treatments and purging excess stuff. Lemme tell you, living in one place for 10 years with THREE walk-in closets kind of makes you a hoarder.  I don't know how many times I thought "WHY do I have this?" while packing for the move. 

And soon it's the Holidays, I need to finish up my Sabbatical projects, and get ready for school to start back up in January.  Plus I'm designing the costumes for our big spring musical, so there will be plenty of distractions until Spring.  I mean... I did put the summer horse
show dates into my calendar just in case...

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Blur that was Congress

I’m kind of a bad blogger and this will be a wordy post with not enough photos, but I hope you read it anyway as it's kind of huge.  Yesterday happened so very, very quickly.

First, the days leading up to Congress were far more stressful than I anticipated. On the 25th (I've blogged since then but didn't mention it) I had a great reining lesson and then I was careless about my feet and Huck smacked a hoof across the top of my left foot while coming off of the trailer.  100% my fault.  I thought I broke it and that Congress was over.  Luckily it was not broken and only took until the 29th before I could try to ride again.  Then on Saturday October 7, a mere day before move-in, my back self destructed (I have two old disk bulges and weak SI joints) and I spent Sunday in lots of pain while my BF and friend did all of the heavy lifting including bedding my stall, hauling everything into the tack stall, lunging Huck – EVERYTHING.  I still didn’t know if I’d be able to show. 

I admit that the pain and the fear that I wouldn't be able to show really clouded what should have been a fun, exciting celebratory time.  I planned to take pictures of us moving in and really document everything.  Instead I was too worried to do anything but try to get through it all.  

Thankfully Sunday night my back adjusted itself a bit and Monday I was able to go get it adjusted and by the evening I was riding, with a little dose of pain meds.  Huck was very chill as we rode in a big arena with some pros I recognized.  I was intimidated, Huck did not seem to be. 

Tuesday morning came very early.  Our Senior Ranch Riding class started at 8am, and we were draw 29 out of 83.  My plan was to get dressed and have Huck lunged and tacked up so I could go watch a few runs, come back for him, and ride until our go.  I got to the arena (which is the furthest spot from our barn you can imagine) only to realize the pattern was taking only about 45 seconds and they were already on draw 5.  I booked it back to the barn, grabbed my chinks and my hat and my horse and headed out with my friend.  Halfway to the arena I looked down and I was wearing purple tennis shoes.  F*&k.  So I sent the horse with my friend and ran back to change into my boots.  I got to the arena, got on, and had only about 8 rides before mine.  So our warm up time was quite short.  

Also, before I went over to show, I discovered a facebook message from someone who was at the show whose name I recognized because FAMOUS, and who was interested in seeing Huck.  So I knew they’d be watching too.   No pressure.

My friend and our equine Chiro were there with me at the in gate while I tried to breathe and remember the pattern.  There’s a moment when you ride alone into the Coliseum and hear your name announced in the same voice that you’ve heard all the top riders in the country announced, where it all feels like a weird dream and you’re not sure how you got there or what you’re supposed to do.  So I took a deep breath and smiled and trotted right into the pattern.

Huck was as good as I could have ever expected him to be.  He listened and stayed with me and I didn’t forget the pattern.  We were not as soft and finessed as we needed to be to place, but that’s understandable when you’re competing against pros.  There was a whole cheering section of my horse friends so it felt really good to hear them whoop for my lead change and cheer when I finished my pattern.

I let Huck rest in the stall while I watched the rest of the class and a few of the Junior horses go.  Then I went to get Huck ready for our Level 1 Amateur class. 

I kept our schooling quiet and Huck seemed really soft and responsive. The pattern didn’t go as well as the first, but I was really tired by this point and the pattern was much harder for us - there was an extended lope through the middle of the arena.  He didn't try to change leads, but he got amped up and I didn't have accurate steering so our straight lines weren't so much.  I blanked for a second before one of the poles, not remembering if that’s where I needed to come down to the walk.  Huck felt my hesitation and offered the walk before I could process it so that was a break of gait, which is guaranteed to take you out of the placings.  Oh well.  So I headed back to the barn, feeling relieved it was OVER.

I walked him back through the warmup pen and dismounted.  As I was headed back to the barn I ran into a judge/clinician friend of mine and we stopped to chat for a minute about my run.  The prospective buyer came by and looked Huck over and said he’d try him later.  !!!!!!

I put Huck away for the day and went back to watch my friend get 6th place in the class.  He had an AWESOME run and he’s worked so hard to get there.  Last year he was in the bottom 50% of scores in the class and it was such a thrill to see how much he’s improved over the year.  He's doing the Freestyle Reining on Saturday, too.  

After the last Amateur class was done, the prospective buyers asked if I’d bring Huck over to the warmup pen.  As I'm leading him over I hear their name over the loudspeaker getting 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places in the Amateur class...... I watched them both ride him and it was surreal just seeing them RIDE my horse, let alone be interested in buying him. Huck was very Huck during the ride and got a little uppity when she asked him for a couple of lead changes in a row, but she didn’t bat an eye.  I told them all about him and how I got him and what we’ve been doing and about his maintenance.  He made me an offer and I took it and burst into tears.  LOL. 

Test ride...

I was so relieved to know that he was going to people who understood the kind of horse he is and can take him places I could only dream.  It’s not every day that a multiple world and congress champion Mozaun McKibben wants YOUR horse.  Yes, you read that correctly.  You know, just the guy whose demo at Congress years ago introduced me to Ranch Riding, and who holds just a few world titles in the class.  NBD.

Post test-ride, trying to make sure he had a ride back to Texas.

I took Huck back to the stall and untacked him and cleaned him up while Moz and Sarah put their horses away and tried figure out how they were going to get Huck home to Texas. 

They brought me a check and I signed over the papers.  Moz put a rope halter on Huck, tied up the lead and said, “Does he ride bareback?”  I said, “Uh, I’ve been on him bareback” and he jumped right up on him in the barn aisle and rode him away… bareback in a rope halter.  Huck didn’t even look concerned. The horse that scares me just found people who GET him and aren’t afraid to use him in the way he needs to be used. Hucks gonna go work for a living and I think he'll be all the better for it.  And I can't help but feel kinda proud that my horse was good enough for the McKibbens.  I'm not sure what their plans for him are, but I hope it goes well and that I get to see some of it happen.  

Me, Sarah, Mozaun, and Huckleberry

So.  Congress is over for us.  We didn't place, but we had respectable runs.  I believe Huck’s probably in his new home in Texas by now, stabled along with world champions. 

There will be more posts about Congress coming, including a "congress first-timers advice to other first-timers". 

I will eventually go read my scores to see where we ranked in our classes, and I’ll probably get some fancy Shane Rux arena photos if there are any decent ones.

What else do you want me to write about?  

Happy Riding. 

Moz and Huck, riding off bareback in a rope halter, like ya do.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Countdown to Congress - Patterns

In less than a week I will be showing at the biggest single-breed horse show in the world. 

The feelings of "what have I done!?!" have not diminished, but I am trying to remember that I'm doing this for FUN.  This is fun, right? 

I popped down to the grounds earlier this week to get my parking pass and to check out our stalls.  Parking is $25/day or $75 for Exhibitors which includes 24/7 In/Out privileges and parking much closer to the barns/arenas/shopping for the entire Congress. 

Exhibitor's Parking Pass!

We have our stall assignments. We are moving in on Sunday. We show on Tuesday.

There are 83 entries in the Senior Ranch Riding and 53 in the Level 1 Amateur Ranch Riding.
Senior starts at 8am EST, then the Junior, then our L1 class.  No draws yet, but I'll post them when I know.

You can find the full schedule and lots of info at The Congress Website.  

The event is live streamed via iEquine.  You'll need to give them an email address if you want to watch.  I'll do a blog post with my show number and our draw order when I get it.  The Congress starts with reining, cutting, roping, ranch, then there's a big shift over to the jumpers and pleasure folks.  I'll tell you the grounds have a totally different feel between the two factions and I much prefer the atmosphere of the first! 

Here are the patterns:

The Senior class is an open class for horses aged 6 and older.  It's mostly pros in the class riding client's horses.  I entered it as a warm-up, hoping that by going into the arena once alone before our class was worth the extra $65.

The Level 1 Amateur class is for amateur riders showing their own horses.  The Level 1 is basically the "novice" class.  There is also Amateur and Select Amateur for riders of a certain age.  

Here are my challenges going into practicing the patterns:

1. Bringing him down quietly from the extended lope to the collected lope.  Most times he will come down fine, but if he gets really excited I have to be more heavy handed, which doesn't make for a soft transition.  We are working on this with a few exercises so that hopefully he will be more willing to give with a smaller cue.  Practice practice practice. 

2. Coming down from the lope to the extended trot without breaking back to the lope.  This is really the same issue as #1.  We will have to err on the side of breaking to a jog for a few steps then asking back up to the extended trot.

3. POLES.  Sometimes he's super careful over poles and sometimes I think he's trying to step on all of them.  We will keep some poles in the arena this week, as well as working over the bigger logs out in the obstacle field.

4. In the Ammy pattern, elements 3-5 are somewhat unclear.  There has been an interesting discussion going on in a facebook group about whether or not it would be credit earning to treat those three numbers as a rollback, or if the judges want to see you stop.  turn.  lope off.  I'm leaning towards the latter, partially because it does NOT say rollback, partially because keeping Huck quiet leads to better control.   Plus, if there are three separate maneuvers listed, the judge will probably have three separate scores to enter so I want to be clear about completing maneuvers.  

5. My stress level.  (Note the name of this blog.)  Honestly part of me wishes I'd never even thought about doing it, let alone actually paid the money.  The other part of me knows that it's something I've wanted to do for a long time and this is the time to do it.  I'm trying to get enough sleep and eat well, an I'm trying to breathe and find the fun in it.  :)

More to come as we Countdown to Congress!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Countdown to Congress, and the Impending Departure

Hello Friends!

In TWENTY days I will be showing at the biggest single-breed horse show in the world.


YIKES.   Why did I think this was a good idea!?!  LOL!

Huck's been riding really well since the last show.  We've been taking it easy and really focussing on the things that are asked for in Ranch Riding patterns, which is mostly transitions, directional changes, and transitions mixed with directional changes.  Square corners, circles, lines, stops, turns, extensions, collections, just quiet quiet broke broke.  We are also working lots of gates and we need to up our ground-pole game too in case the patterns have walkovers, trot-overs, or sidepasses over poles.

The actual patterns haven't been released yet, but they should be by October 1st, which should give us a week with the pattern before we move into the Congress grounds on Oct. 8th.  I'm showing both the open Senior RR and the Level 1 Amateur on Oct. 10th so it's likely the patterns will be different with more difficult elements in the open, or it might all be the same pattern.  Congress was criticized last year on social media for just their lack of creativity/challenge for using one of the AQHA standard patterns instead of creating a new one so I'm interested to see what they choose this year.

The other day we even went out on some trails BY OURSELVES!!!  Then we schooled our extended trot out in the big grass field.  Man, that horse was striking himself he was taking such a big stride!  His extended trot is one of my favorite things about him!   I love riding in a fresh arena and seeing how his footprints overlap so he leaves the tracks of a two-legged creature.

So we are taking it quiet but doing a lot of riding.  :)

And what was that in the blog title about a departure? 

Spoiler alert: Huck has been listed for sale.  I actually made the decision back in March that the Congress would be our last hurrah and then he'd go find a new person. I didn't want to put it on the blog until he was officially listed.  Have you ever ridden a horse that you just knew wasn't "right" for you?  Maybe you bought a horse who you just didn't click with, or that lesson horse that could get the job done but just wasn't enjoyable to you?  And remember that other student who LOVED that horse you didn't get along with?  There's a horse for everyone and I finally accepted the fact that Huck isn't the horse for me.  I adore him and he's won lots of things for me, but I think I need less of a cow-horse, both for my physical and mental comfort.   I think he should go do more reining and cow work with someone else and I should find more of a ranchy pleasure horse.   Huck has come a long way in the two years that I've had him and I'm really proud of that, but I think he's just not quite the horse I want to invest any more time into. 

I've also never sold a horse before so this is pretty new territory and is causing some anxiety (big surprise) while I watch the "likes" pour in on the facebook ads and hope the right person finds him soon.

So shiny!!!!
So what next?   I am quite honestly looking forward to being horseless for a while!  The last time I was horseless it was not by choice and it was just awful. I was depressed and I got fat and it was just the worst.  This time I'm looking forward to refocussing my resources (time/money) and maybe doing crazy things like taking an actual vacation (like somewhere other than Minnesconsin!) like I've heard non-horse people do, and maybe buying myself some shoes or clothes that are less than 10 years old, you know, the little things.

I'm not done with horses but I'm excited to have less pressure about horse care and showing goals.  I want to be able to lay on the couch on a cold Saturday instead of having to go exercise the horse, or schedule farrier appointments or pay for vet bills, or.... well, you know.  And I want to not have to worry every time I get a text between 9pm and 10am.   At least for a while.

I do plan to go back to riding Kevin for his owner a few times a week, and I want to take some reining lessons somewhere. I may ask if I can show Kevin a little next summer, or I may consider leasing a horse for the show season if I can find one.  I expect I'll take one/two years off of ownership before I start to find my next partner.  None of this is set in stone as I'm quite excited that I DON'T have to plan it and I can just let it happen.

For the time being, I am enjoying my pretty little red pony, practicing a million transitions, and trying to breathe.....