Sunday, June 19, 2011

Show #2 of 2011 - The Rest of the Story

It was a good show. It was a short show with some highs and lows. You've seen the photo with the three blue ribbons and I had to just show that without telling you the story, just for fun.

I showed in 7 classes and took home 4 blues, a red, and a yellow. Which seems really sweet, until I tell you that the first 3 blues (in the picture) were both 1st and last place. Yes, I was the ONLY adult English rider at the show. There was NOBODY there. The entire show of 43 classes was done by 4pm. At the show in June we left after class 35 and it was about 7pm. This meant two things: not a lot of competition and not a lot of time between some of my classes. Not that I mind taking home the blue ribbons, but it seems a bit lackluster when it was basically an exhibition.

I got a stall and a tack stall which was good since it rained most of the afternoon and my BM and her awesome doberman, Dakota were my indispensable show grooms.

Adult Hunter Showmanship:
Didn't screw up the pattern, Junior was pretty good, but wouldn't keep his pivot foot planted. Not pleased I was the only one in the class but whatever. Not a lot of adults do the showmanship. Maybe they're afraid of running in public? 1st out of 1.

Adult Hunter Under Saddle:
I couldn't believe there wasn't anyone in this class and surmised that if no adults were doing HUS then none would do Equitation, either. Crap. He made me work for it with both an extended trot and a "controlled hand gallop" which I haven't had to do in about 10 years and I only had a little tinkle of KAT's voice saying "for the hand gallop they want to see 2-point" so I guffawed, kissed him forward and went into 2-point. 1st out of 1 ...lame.

Adult Equitation:
The pattern was not too difficult and I only managed to go slightly off pattern. Thought it odd that Junior wasn't picking up his upward transitions as well as he usually does and realized that was a slight problem in HUS, too. Hmmmm. 1st out of 1...again... sigh.

Adult Western Showmanship:
Guess what? I jacked up the pattern. Surprise! I did everything right and Junior was good - still stepping out of turns though. The last piece of the pattern was a 270 but as I passed 90 I realized it couldn't be a 270 cause that would be facing the wrong way and ended up doing some sort of an awkward 405. 3rd out of 3. This actually really upset me because I finally had a little competition and I messed up the pattern so badly of course I was the bottom of the group. If I hadn't done that where would I have been? I'll never know. :(

Adult Horsemanship:
I had barely enough time to tack up for Horsemanship and was so late I only looked at the pattern as I was walking to the in-gate and as soon as I handed the pattern off and walked in my mind went completely blank. There were cones. I didn't have a clue what to do with any of them. I was the last in, therefore supposed to be the 1st to go. Judge asked if there were any questions. I asked to please not go first. Either look like an idiot that way or have to ride and make something up and look like a complete idiot. I literally learned the pattern by watching the other two riders. Felt like an ass. Somehow won the class. 1st out of 3.

Adult Western Pleasure:
I only entered this class (and the next one) because my BO wasn't getting back with the truck until 4:30 at the earliest so I knew I was either going to have to sit around or keep showing. There were 6 riders. I figured I didn't have a chance but somehow was graced with 2nd. Apparently the judge liked our forward lope/canter.

Open Walk/Jog Western Pleasure:
He would start out the jog nice and slow but kept getting faster and faster. I had a hard time convincing him to stay slow. I did have a few times where all I did was shift my weight back and I felt him slow but there were other times he actually needed to be bumped. He even broke to a walk at least once. No place. Not sure how many in the class. At least 9 but I lost count as he started to fuss about leaving the arena last. I went ahead and used it as a schooling moment and he got over it pretty quickly.

So the high spots were feeling the slowing at the weight shift, sitting on him for a few hours straight between my horsemanship class and my last pleasure class and having him be relaxed and content. It helped that lots of people from the old barn liked to come up and love on him. Oh, and winning Adult High Point was nice but felt like a giveaway. I took the cash anyway.

The low spots (aside from STILL not being able to get 4 patterns down) were not feeling like I competed in the English. And to be honest, in the English riding classes I could feel myself not trying very hard and I'm disappointed in myself for that. The other low spot was that I think Junior hurt something. He's not visibly lame but between him not wanting to let that foot stay planted during the pivot (seems like once the leg starts to twist he needs to pick it up, rather than let it turn) and some of the difficulties in canter take offs, which he's normally really good at, and adding how he was on his toe (not resting, more like hesitating) on that leg when we opened the trailer, I think something's up. I'm going to give him a few days off and see how he's doing. Silly pony.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Show #2 of 2011 - Sneak Peek

I'm too tired to tell the whole tale tonight, but I will soon. Until then, a teaser:

Just remember that things are not always what they seem.... To Be Continued...

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I guess my horse has grown thumbs. Invisible thumbs, because upon inspection I could not find the thumbs. He doesn't even have ergots, so I suppose thumbs would be the next evolutionary stop?

Are you confused? Think maybe I'm drunk-blogging? I suppose I should explain.

Today I got an email, kindly stating "Everything is fine" in the first sentence because I don't know about you, but if someone from the barn calls or emails or texts I panic immediately so I appreciate permission to breathe. This email was from B and she just wanted me to know that she had tied Junior to our tie ring (I use it often while cleaning his stall or just teaching him a little patience - no big deal) while she cleaned his stall, and though she kept an eye on him since he does have a knack for untying himself (which is why I use a trailer tie on a zip tie instead of tying him with release knots) she finished the stall, looked up, and he. was. gone. BUT the lead rope was. still. there. She found him outside eating grass and caught him immediately with no problems. I'm not at all upset over the matter. I can see it happen and I have to laugh at the darn genius-of-a-horse. Totally something only MY horse would do. And I know I didn't take physics, but I canNOT believe he got a clip off of his halter. It's a standard heavy brass snap clip. The only way I can believe he got that open is if he grew thumbs. Have you ever had a horse manage to do that? I meant undo a clip, not grow thumbs. If your horse had thumbs I would have heard about it on the FuglyBlog. I know he's smart and very active with his face but... Really? More likely, the clip wasn't over the whole ring but rather clipped onto the nylon and when he pulled on it it just came off. I've done that before when clipping without looking. I can imagine poor B's face when she looked up and saw a swinging lead rope where a horse was supposed to be. But it's not a huge deal. This was a freak event no harm was done. Thankfully we're 3 for 3 on his escape attempts ending in "I'm fre-ooooh grass nom nom nom oh hai mom whatcha doin?" instead of any sort of running for the hills. Hopefully he doesn't ever escape in the winter! Luckily all the barn doors are shut in the winter. :)

Tomorrow is show-prep day. All of my stuff is sitting at the top of my stairs waiting to go down to the car. It looks a whole lot like THIS except everything is clean and inside of the bags. Tomorrow I get to do the morning barn feeding, have my 3rd lesson with JM, then hopefully the rain holds off enough for me to put the Bug out on the grass for a while while I pack and organize so we can end the day with a bath so I can go home, double check my lists, wash a tail, pack my clothes, and get to bed so I can be up at the butt crack of pre-dawn. I HATE that part of showing horses.

The plan is to get a stall at the show because it might rain and also because I think he'll be calmer in a stall surrounded by horses than he was tied to the trailer alone. And hopefully when he has to he will go ahead and PEE!!!!!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Strap One On - Part II

How did YOU celebrate International Helmet Awareness Day? I celebrated it a day early by purchasing a new helmet from EquusNow, taking advantage of their 20% sale in honor of the Day.

A little boring history of my life as a helmet wearer, feel free to skip to the end:
When I began riding at about age 13 somewhere around the early-mid 90's, there were two things I was required to have: A "hard hat with a harness" and boots. I was handed a State Line Tack catalog and then proceeded to beg my parents for the two items. We, of course, chose the cheapest of the options and bought rubber riding boots and the "Trotter" helmet. It was not an approved helmet and I don't really remember what other options there were, but I do remember that it said something about it being an "item of apparel only" but since it had a harness it was good enough. This was over 10 years before even 4H started requiring approved helmets. I would really love to see a catalog from that year and see what the other options were. I still have the poor old thing but the velvet is crushed and discolored and the stiff vinyl harness has seen better days.

It wasn't until I got out of grad school and started riding again that I was required to have an approved helmet so I bought an Aegis Ussepa. After years of un-vented velvet I appreciated the lighter weight, the vents, the adjustable fit, and not having to be nice to it to keep it pretty. I wore that helmet from about 2006 to 2010 when it sort of fell apart. The dial broke and the plastic shell started to split along the seam that appeared to be held together with the equivalent of electrical tape. I also took a light fall in it in 2006 and that was the very first time I felt my head hit the ground and was thankful for the "real" helmet. I wasn't aware that you should replace a helmet after a fall, but it was such a tiny fall and my elbow took the brunt of the fall anyway. The head was the last thing that hit the arena floor.

I replaced it with a Lami-Cell helmet I found NIB on Ebay. I liked the look and the price was right. I thought it would suffice for schooling and look good enough if I decided to show in it. I really like the helmet but it is SO HOT in the summer. Wonderful for winter, though. The reviews on the helmet complained of the black fading and I've just started to notice that.

So now I am an owner/wearer of an Ovation Deluxe Schooling Helmet. I've only ridden in it twice but so far I'm pleased. I think the profile is pretty slim but there was a big difference between the S/M that I fit into and the L/XL I tried on at first. It is very light and comfortable, and though I am definitely sweating in it, I'm about as comfortable as can be in this horrid humid weather. I particularly like that it has a removable and washable liner and once I figured out how to get my ponytail IN the ponytail hole it's really nice. No more ponytail shoved down onto sweaty neck. With the sale price it was under $50 and that is a great price point for me, especially knowing that helmets should be replaced about every 5 years or after a fall, whichever is sooner.

In some belated news, I am a horrible person. I moved Junior's last trim appointment a week later so it would be closer to my next show (a week from today). The day after the appointment was supposed to be he chipped the inside of his LH and it sliced into his RH heel. He'll live and it's not the first time he's done something similar. You might be able to see the scars above and below the cut, and might remember how he was interfering in the hind so badly when I bought him that I had to put ankle boots on him. It had only bled a little and once I shaved it and hosed it I could tell it wasn't all that deep and he showed zero signs of lameness. I did have to go all "frontier medicine" on it and pull the nippers and rasp out of the tool drawer and figure out what to do. I couldn't leave it there but I couldn't bend it back down or rip it off so I nipped it and then rasped it smooth. When Jim came to trim him a week later he approved my work. I forgot to take an "after" shot but it wasn't very interesting looking.

And I also found two attached ticks and what appeared to be evidence of at least 2 more the other day. I think that's the first ticks I've ever found on him. One at the tip of the tailbone and one right in the middle of his face. It looked like another had been on his face and one in his forelock. Gross. Now I'm super paranoid about it. Oh the guilt.
Look at his adorable wrinkled nose!

I suppose I should acknowledge that I am not a perfect helmet wearer. Though you will never arrive at my barn and find me riding without one, I admit I do not wear an approved helmet when I show in my flat classes. This is not news, you've seen the photos/videos. I am not completely above feeling the pressure to wear more "traditional" headwear in the showring, be it a hunt cap or a cowboy hat. I admit it. I also admit that this a weakness on my part and I wish I didn't think wearing a helmet in a western pleasure class would make me look like a scaredy cat. But I did wear my approved helmet when I rode in the Cowboy Challenge (amongst all the cowboys) and I wear it when I school and trail ride. Part of the reason I replaced my helmet was because it was so hot I was beginning to consider not wearing it and I don't want to go down that path. I know that wearing a helmet decreases my risk of head injury in the event of an accident. I know that I am more at risk when I don't wear one. I limit my exposure to the 2 or 3 shows I do each year. I am also an adult and make this choice knowing full well the risks. As in all things in life: there will always be someone with more and there will always be someone with less. In this case, there will always be someone more committed to wearing a safety helmet and there will always be someone less committed. Maybe someday they'll be able to make a western one that doesn't look absolutely ricockulous. The derby Troxel did wasn't nearly as bad but the western is fugly and from what I can tell has already been discontinued. Surprise. The link is the ONLY person I found who was brave enough to post pictures of themselves wearing it. ALL of the advertisements show it without a person so you can't tell.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Strap One On!!!

Did you know that Saturday June 11th is International Helmet Awareness Day?

There are tons and tons of retailers participating in special sales and promotions to help increase the number of riders wearing proper protective headgear and thereby DEcreasing the number of head injuries caused be equine related accidents.

One such retailer is our friends over at EquusNow here in Columbus, Ohio. They are offering 20% off ALL HELMETS and FREE SHIPPING for orders over $100! And please do let me know if you place an order with them!

And remember the picture that helped me win a gift card? It's featured on THIS PAGE!

I went to EquusNow today, but I'll tell you all about that later. Today I want you to think about your helmet and maybe take advantage of the discounts offered by EquusNow and other retailers. For a list of participating retailers, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Lesson, Supplements, and Attitude

I had another lesson with the JM on Friday and we spent the time working on Western. Junior started out the day very cranky and was behaving a lot like he did on the bad day so we did some cantering and JM drove up at our worst moment where he was being extremely disobedient so she got to see his "other" self instead of the wonderfully calm, relaxed and obedient horse she saw at our last lesson.

Once we started the lesson he was much better which leads me to believe it's mental and not physical. If it were physical, wouldn't it get worse with prolonged riding instead of better? I think with JM arriving he had something else to think about and forgot about the fields for a minute. Mostly due to what she saw when she pulled up, we spent a lot of time working in a circle with 4 cones set up in quarters doing an exercise much like what in2paints has been working on with her "hunting the stop" exercises. We started at the walk and whenever he'd speed up we'd stop and make sure we were balanced and square with round back and soft in the bridle. Then we did the same at the jog. The idea (or so I gathered) is to get the horse anticipating the stop and therefore be softer, slower, and more balanced. It's harder to stop when you're plowing forward with a hollow back and weight on the forehand so you encourage the horse to stay in a posture and speed that makes it easiest to stop. Making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. A variation of this (that I got from a reining video) is to lope to a halt, then back immediately. This is, again, encouraging the horse to stay in the round soft frame so they can stop and back more easily. This is also encouraging topline and hindquarter development. During the walk and jog I felt what in2paints described as the horses's legs getting heavier, almost asking every step "still forward?". Now, this type of exercise can be over-done and create a hesitant horse that lacks forward movement and destroys the cadence. You've all seen that kind of horse where the walk looks like a drunk old man, the jog looks like some weird new gait where two legs are in sync but the other set are slightly off. We will not go there. But considering how forward Junior is, especially at shows, it'll be helpful to establish a communication where he understands to slow down but stay round. We finished off with a little pattern work and it seems it takes us 2-3 tries in a pattern to get him listening to me and responding to the aids. The smaller and tighter the cones the harder it is. I think my worst problem is not pre-cueing enough. I forget that he's not broke enough to just come down from a lope to an extended jog and stay in posture if I don't remind him to round up and I end up using only half my aids and getting craptastic downward transitions. His upward transitions are really easy so I forget that the downward ones still suck.

I know part of the recent problem is that when I have those morning lessons/rides, he gets to watch all the other horses be taken out of their stalls and out to the fields to eat grass. He would very much like to go with them. It wasn't as bad when he was only turned out in the sand lot but now that they're spending their day on the grass he's gotten worse. He was better on Saturday when one of my students came out to get a pony ride. I got on him first and he was a little uppity but not bad. He behaved relatively well for my student and when he was being "bad" I could tell it was because the student was actually giving him mixed signals and Junior was trying to do as he was being asked so I made sure we weren't punishing him for that.

In other news, I broke down and bought a bottle of corn oil. I'm still waiting for the "free sample" from Uckele and the water didn't work. I was able to do the first 3 morning feedings with the corn oil so by yesterday morning the powder was essentially gone and he only left a few feed pellets and that is pretty normal for him. The $5 bottle of oil and the $1 for the mustard squirter was a lot cheaper than the $35 for the Cocosoya oil. And since I don't even know if the Tri-Amino is going to help I don't want 2 gallons of Cocosoya oil lying around.

Mustard squirter? I suppose I should explain. I hate corn oil on the feed cart. We were feeding one of the horses corn oil for a while and everything gets covered in it. Ideally I'd like to find a pump bottle to put on the bottle, but in lieu of that I went to the dollar store and bought a package of the red and yellow squirt bottles people use for ketchup and mustard. I chose the yellow one since it's corn. :) I've also got the bottle sitting inside a plastic coffee can so it doesn't tip over and the mess is contained in that instead of running all over the feed cart.

It's somewhat embarrassing how twitchy and OCD I can be about the weirdest things. I would LOVE for the feed cart to only have the exact same containers for all the horses, labeled with my label maker and for all the feed to be kept in exactly the same type of containers. As if that would make it WORK better. As if the free re-used dog treat containers don't work as well as something I'd find at the container store for $10. But it would look so pretty!!!!

We have a show in 11 days so we have some work to do. Another lesson on Friday with JM. It sounds like my awesome BM is going to come to the show to help me out/hang out so that is very cool and I'm looking forward to it!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Yesterday I rode in the heat but he was SOOO much more relaxed than he was on the bad day. Same tack, but instead of doing a fast lope for half a hour, we jogged serpentines, did a bunch of pivots and a few lope-halt-back-whoa transitions. He seemed in very good spirits. We even took a little walk up the field.

I couldn't take pictures of the dry spots because there were none. It was a hot humid day but we didn't work nearly as hard. Go figure. Maybe it was a fluke? I'll keep monitoring it, of course.

Today I went out in the morning-ish, groomed and tacked him without tying him, and then jogged around the outdoor for a bit, marveling at how sometimes he acts like a pro packer, just jogging around on a loose rein like he was born to do it. The breeze was excellent so I took him for a walk first on the little trail loop which we've been in two or three times this year, but it's been very wet. He still gets obviously nervous about going into the woods, walks quickly and with a purpose, (the purpose is to get the f**k out of there ASAP or the lions and tigers and bears are sure to find us) but he didn't spook (aside from the halt when a squirrel jumped onto a tree trunk) and let me slow him down each time we went over the log piles. Then we went out and actually walked the whole perimeter of the hay field for the first time this year. I was VERY surprised he stayed as calm as he was, which is to say he wasn't vibrating and jigging the ENTIRE time and when there was obviously a deer in the woods next to us I convinced him not to run away. THEN we went into the other woods that we haven't been in since last fall and aside from having to off-trail it a few times and double back because we haven't been able to clear the trails yet, he was a champ. Amazing how we can go from a total train-wreck to a superstar in two days. How can I keep up!?!

Someday I'll get that camera mount on my helmet and I'll take you through our little trails. They're very short but really perfect for introducing us to the "wilderness". Ha! I never really thought about trail riding as being "hard" because I grew up on the prairie and trails were mowed paths through grass. Hills? Nope. Trees? Sometimes. Deer? Sure, but they see you coming from 6 miles away. We still have our goal to haul to a real trail this summer and it WILL happen. Most of the places are still pretty muddy but we're getting sun and sun and sun in the forecast finally to dry it all out and hopefully get us some nice plush hay!