Thursday, December 31, 2009

Can't you see what love has done?

The holiday is finally cleared past and what remains of it, I really don't want to touch. Having the long vacation in the middle definitely made things tolerable at work. 

We're back to normal (if you can call it that). 

I'm back to riding full time and looking in at the youngin' when weather is permitting. I'm back to plotting


The year wasn't without loss. I lost my first truck due to its age-related infirmities. I lost a few mounts in July, and subsequently left that farm for quieter pastures. I lost a few responsibilities, membership to KDA, a few pounds and perhaps a few points on the IQ scale when I decided to plan out a number of major clinics for this and the next year. 

While the economy was loosing itself, I was busy finding me, I think I weathered my first bubble out alright. Even started my 401k.


But for the most part, we did well. 

Goal recap for 2009:


Horsey Stuff

  1. Final four scores for bronze
    No. I fell short at the last three. Then due to a situation change, I couldn't show for the majority of the year. Hindsight being what it is, I'm more than fine with it. I still want my bronze though.

  2. Foaling/ Find home for May
    Achieved. Sincere safely foaled out, he's now big (but thankfully not as big as his playmates) and May is safely tucked away in Michigan.

  3. Fourth level/PSG schooling
    Achieved. We ran through a trunkated version of the PSG. The movements are all there, just need the strength. We're taking this year out to get her up to par for 2011's season.

  4. More education
    I don't know whether or not I ment formal or non formal. There was plenty of formal education, but the majority I recieved was informal. Experience is the best teacher and she wolloped me soundly. I learned not to take in-kind trades anymore, to get everything in writing, keep your files straight and always be straightforward in your dealings.

  5. Begin L program
    No. I didn't have enough time or have the scores. Still interested in going after this though.

  6. Attend all scheduled shows/inspections
    No. Especially the inspections. I have my eye on GOV Oldenburg book for Sinari next year, depending on cash flow-- but again, it's all about the FEI.

  7. Expand team and promote ponies
    Achieved. I did expand the team. I did promote ponies.

  8. Successful NDPC show (and expand to three rings)
    Achieved in a roundabout fashion. According to the peanut gallery, it was a success. But I don't want credit for it.
Regular:
  1. 70 mile bike
    Does the thought count? I got on a bike, found a cat and promptly crashed. During the summer we regularly went on 10 miles. But I didn't get to do any of the long distance stuff.

  2. Start school
    Erm. Yes and no. I finally settled on a degree and will be starting summer classes. But didn't get to do much in '09 due to an outstanding bill.

  3. Smile more
    Achieved. I'm overall a happier person. I can thank my physical therapist, a good pair of shoes, the boy and my pony for that.

  4. Better job.
    No. But not for the lack of trying. I was on the final call back for several interviews and even my own company was impressed with me, and is considering something down the pike
 So what's on the docket for 2010?:

Horsey Stuff:
  1. Condition and train through I1. Gotta nail them tempi's!
  2. Continue to teach and train Sincere. Make him a responsible citizen.
  3. Acquire more farm implements.
  4. Successfully execute clinics.
  5. Save for Embryo Transfer

Non Horsey stuff:
  1. Repair credit score, develop more savings
  2. Go to school
  3. Develop more 'me' time.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Into the light of day

I'm lucky that mum and dad are here to visit, otherwise, I wouldn't have an extra pair of hands to film our fourth/fifth(?) day back into work. Second day in the double. She did well, and much more than what was there in the film. She tired herself out in the footing and became horizontal by the time half steps were asked for. But the little girl was all too game to give third level work a try.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

101 things: new series


At work, we have a series of books floating around called 101 things every golfer/diver/audiophile/driver/ect should do before they die. They're beautiful coffee table books.

But it also made me think as a dressage rider. What's 101 things, as a rider I should do before I retire out and go onto bigger pastures?

101st thing: Learn to meter and letter a regulation dressage arena.

A regulation arena is 20 meters by 60 meters (or for those font of feet- 66 by 197- rounded for conversion). This is the only element of dressage the doesn't change with the level. Your dress may change, where you compete and ride may change, your bridle will change, but the 20 by 60 meter box you enter, perform and exit will never change.

The arena is used not only in competition, but in training. Until you've put one together (or ridden in one), the feel of the distance and finite space feels a bit fuzzy. Think walking a jump course versus looking at the diagram.

The arena doesn't need to be show quality, just accurate. You can make an arena out of ten ground poles and a few staked letters. If you need a judges box, an open horse trailer could do as well.

To measure out, start with a corner, stake it and measure 20 meters (66 feet). Mark the second corner. From the second corner measure 60 meters (197 feet) down the length. If your measuring tape is too short, do it in sections, marking off everywhere you left. From the third corner, measure the second short side and then the second long side.

This is the basic outline, to make sure you have a proper rectangle, you measure diagonally from corner one to corner three, and corner four to corner two. Move the corner stakes in or out so that each diagonal line is equal to 207.8 feet. We have rounded the exact measurements in converting meters to feet (20 meters = 65.6 feet and 60 meters = 196.8 feet).

Now you're geometrically correct, lay the letters. The basic package of letters is AKEHCMBE.

Start with A and C, place them half way down the short side, letting A stand back a ways from the entrance. Once aligned start clockwise from C, six meters from the second corner, put M into place, 24 meters B, and six meters from the third corner F. Repeat with K, E and H, same distances. Go back around and align all the letters with each other, using X (center of the arena as a check point.

If you have to move the arena (eventually you will if you groom the arena), mark off letter spaces with electrical tape.

Congratulations, your first arena! Go ride. 

Monday, December 21, 2009

Its beggining to look a lot like Christmas

I'm finally on a short break from work and I can catch up with a few things.

First, it snowed. Not torrential, but enough to sell out the eggs, milk and bread for the week. People are odd here about the white phenomenon. It snows, and there are at least ten accidents, a death or two and the grocer is sold out. Seriously.

The ponies are tucked away. Sinari is camping out in her ultra-thick stable blanket enjoying the periodic ride out in her newmarket sheet, Sincere is running around naked.

Sinari's and Sincere's Christmas lists are simple: food, treats, and attention. They've always been simple.

Mine however is a little more...expensive and somewhat leather induced.



 

 

 
Custom saddle for Sinari. Home base for the team (sans extra wattage), Petrie boots and yes, that's right ladies, a Pikeur shadbelly.

I've been eying custom saddle for sometime. In fact, I told Sinari if she went FEI, she would get one. It's getting close to time to pay the piper. Don't get me wrong I love having the Duett (actually due for a re-flock), but having something that's truly built for the both of us is something we've both been craving.

I've also been coveting a proper shadbelly and boots for when we go down the centerline at FEI. 

As for property, I have a feeling it'll happen sooner than later.

But really, what I want for the holiday is time. I want more time to train. More time to sleep and more time to just be. Everything else is going great. 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What you don't have you don't need it now


I've heard several times, that horses are like potato chips. You cannot just have one, or in my case, two.

Seriously. I have issues. It happens every year that the stallion issues in the trade magazines come out. 

I'm addicted to breeding.

Those glossy advertisements, enticing videos and dreams of putting my next super pony on the ground is really almost too much to bear. Stallion auctions are the worst too. Low-cost breedings from very classy stallions. I frequent the GOV-Oldenburg, the KWPN and New England Dressage Association's yearly ones, with the hope to someday add my own superstar to the roster.

I also live in an area that is the cradle for thoroughbred reproduction. People ship their mares from here and yond to reproduce with the top players in the game. 

To tell the truth I'm not unlike others who breed.

Breeders continuously live in the world of 'if', 'could be' and experimentation. They're part dreamers, part historian and alchemist. They devote their time, energy and most of their discretionary income on reproducing in hopes of their next star.

I've already purchased the first breeding for Sinari when she retires out. He's pictured above.

So when I see a super nice mare, or even a relative of Sinari, who I think would be an excellent riding pony and producer, it's all I can do to say no. I've stopped looking at classifieds, stopped going to auctions and listening to people who insist I buy. It's not because the individual isn't nice. Contrary, the economy has given me a steady stream of premium, proven and keur mares within budget range.

It comes down to time.

Lately, I've only had two horses to work, and one to seriously ride for the first time in a few years. It's nice. I've been able to progress twice as fast with Sinari, concentrate on Sincere, assure that the barn is in good order when I leave it and still make it home, by latest- seven in the evening. Three to three and a half hours.

I found that as you progress through the levels, the more time you spend conditioning, keeping that condition and keeping everyone mentally at ease. In addition to doing my own stunts, I do my own work. From cleaning stalls to ordering feed. I do it all. And there aren't vacations until I leave the physical area. 

On top of this, I have the pesky rule that all mares who I intend to breed must be proven via performance. I love strong damlines, I love riding good mares and it commands stallion owners that much more easily.

Creating these individuals, again, takes time.

Time is also relative to money. Currently it takes 80 hours to produce the pay that I earn. It's decent pay that gets me a lesson a week, feed, board for the lot of us and assures that there is gas in the car. But it's still 80 hours. Breaking it down out of 240 hours (five day week) total:
80 hours at work
80 hours of sleep
40 hours at the barn
3 hours in the car
10 hours eating
10 hours working on individual projects
5 hours during-the-week errands
10 hours shower/bath
2 hours for the misc. stuff I can't think of

Doesn't leave much time during the week to accomplish much of anything. 

To produce another Sinari right now is not only out of question, but unfair to another mare who deserves the attention and love that she would get. 

I made the executive decision not too long ago to concentrate on quality, not quantity. Any breeder can produce quantity year after year and eventually get results. However, the difficult task is to produce consistency, quality and results at equal pace.

Right now, to produce that, I need to produce FEI. Can't produce FEI until I ride FEI, can't ride FEI until I train to get there.

Following this vein, I've turned down my magazines, banned myself from auctions and automatically deleted emails about mares. I'm here to train. Eventually, I'll feed the repro monster. But now, credentials first.

*******************
Side note:
We're hitting stride at work, and won't be able to post consistently over this week and the following weeks due to schedule. If I do, it will be short. Sinari is doing wonderfully, Sincere is doing much better since last week. Saturday sessions will resume at Christmas.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What's in your bucket? Trailer edition


My earlier post about grooming kits inspired this.

My work has been on a Japanese-styled cleaning kick for the past year or so. While I don't believe in using miles of colorful electrical tape to organize my life, I believe in being well prepared and keeping things as simple as possible. I've been delaying the deep-clean for sometime, but the onset of snow yesterday caused me to speed things up.

This weekend, I went all my supplies this week, tossing out the ones I haven't used, or are expired, and making note of the ones I need to refill on.

I packed away the stuff that is seasonal and transported it home, I took my halters and some equipment in for repair, I oiled, greased, raked, stacked, washed out, hung, dried, poured, reassembled and winterized just about everything near me. 

Aside from winterizing the barn, I winterized the trailer I use. This rolling box on wheels pulls double duty as equine transporation, an over sized tack and changing room and sometimes hotel.

You literally stuff a temporary life in a space the size of a New York apartment.

Among the basics in the trailer I frequent is a broom, shovel, minor farrier equipment, step stool, extension cord, white board (for schedules, and phone numbers), flairs, a small bag of kitty litter (helps with stuck situations) rain gear, plug in for phone, collapsible chair, flashlight with fresh batteries, surge protector, a leatherman tool, bungee cords, fan, trailer/truck jack, trash bags, magnetic plate, WD 40, supply of towels, collapsible wheelbarrow, human first aid, horse first aid, fire extinguisher (I also carry one in my truck), equine paperwork, muck tub, fork, curly hose, various horse-show/travel only supplies, racking for bridles/saddles, camping supplies (tent, bed roll,  pillow, mess kit, and sleeping bag), food/water, Crisco, and buckets for food and H20.

This winter I did a few things differently, to start, I re-parked and chalked it in the open, on gravel. Kentucky mud is notoriously sticky and hard to get out of. Last winter, when we had the ice storm, we were deep in mud until May and around felled trees. It was even hard with a 4x4. If I have something this winter, I don't want to spend three hours with the owner digging the trailer out.

Inspected all the seams and framework. I pulled out the mats, inspected the floor and gave it a thorough sweep. Ditto with the mats. I put plastic lining in the windows to keep out snow. Inspected, WD'ed/greased the hitch, put the muck tub, over it and the electrical to keep away moisture and put the lock back on the receiver. I inspected and covered the spare tire and the regular tires were re-inflated. All hinges also got a healthy dose of WD and grease. It'll be due for inspection and possibly a re-pack in the spring.

Instead of leaving my much-abused supplies from above to rot over the next three months, I inspected and repacked everything in Rubbermaid containers with cedar blocks and a small bag of salt. I removed all old paperwork to be filed at the house and took whatever dirty laundry home as well.

Felt very accomplished at the end of all this. 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Empire state of mind



Went to a friend's aid this week, so between that and overtime at the Jungle, my riding was grounded.

Instead, I've been battling wet, flooded stalls and clocks that go way too fast. 

I got to have a session on Friday on the ground. Which was progressive. She was leaning left, so I worked mostly loosening her up in that direction.

From week prior we got to sorted out the changes. I was correct, it was a bit of claustrophobia and a bit of footing. She's offering them clean and straight again.

We're back officially indoors again for the winter. 

Watching her on the lunge, I noticed a few things. My saddle needs reflocking. It's about time, it's been a full year and she's changed immensely. We're also due for a massage.

I was talking to a few people, and it reminded me of the promise I made to the pony a while back: if you go FEI, I'll get a custom for you (even if I have to steal it). Well... she's filling her end of the deal and it's honestly time to find someone who can make it thoroughly. If I can hold off the purchase for the next 18 months, I'll be happy.

I need to pick up mash, stall dry and switch her door out to a yolk so I can keep her outward facing window closed.

As I lay me down


Winter is finally here. Along with the plummeting temperatures, snow and first-cold snap antics.

My normally well-behaved young man turned into a fire breathing adolescent. High from winter frost and probably a fresh pump of testosterone. From last week where he was contented to pick up all feet to steel pony statue.

We had our first discussion in a long time.

Our discussion went deeper as he began to throw his now sizable weight around and voluntary stand on his hind legs.

I have a feeling this was inevitable. 

Measures were taken, the little boy was laid down several times and subsequent order was temporarily brought to the world.

Doesn't mean that I have some nasty rope burns and my right shin took a beating. He's become much stronger, much taller and much quicker. 


I hate resorting to laying him down (and I'll probably get flack for it here), but I understand why. I don't like fighting with my horses, it really ends up in frustration for both parties. But, in this case, it was this or go through round after round of resistance.

Afterward, he is his fine, sweet self. Like nothing happened.

Colts. I swear.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Saturday Sessions 1.3




Directions:
Start on a 20 meter circle (either direction at any gait). When you hit the long side of the arena, half pass to center line.

More advanced versions:
Steepness of the line, add zig zag in the half pass.

Why?:
While a 10 meter circle will set you up for half pass, a 20 meter circle will test if you can change the degree of bend to match the line and how well can you adhere to riding on the line as well without compromise.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

We were born to run


The small boy had visitors this week. The boy's mum, who hasn't seen him since he left the other farm, stopped by and admired.

Sincere performed all pony tricks for his visitor. Going up the big hill, going between the hay rolls, over the log and tarps and tapping his legs up.

He was so much fun and easy.

Did I mention easy? Short of fetching a stick he did everything without fuss. You can't ask more than that.

He was cheating a bit on his circles, but it was easily solved by pushing the rope at him.

Talked briefly to a few friends about his schedule next year. I don't know, but I would like to hit up one maybe two shows, and just get him out on the grounds. But first-- he needs to get into the trailer. Which should be easier after what we've been working on.

Today we also got official stuff in the mail from Arabian Horse Association. He's officially registered as half arabian, completely cool certificate and all. Onward and upward with Performance Horse Association, USEF and USDF as soon as holiday cash rolls in.

Need to pick up various supplies at Brumfields soon.

Also forgot that December is almost here. November's recap of the goals:
-Relaxation 
Check. way more relaxed now than at the end of the month. Endo Tapping has helped greatly.
-Leading
Check. I can pretty much get him almost anywhere now. Very little resistance. 
-Learning to be in a stall
We started putting him in a stall last week, has accepted it readily, but still kind of distracted.
-Tying 
 He ground ties, however, haven't had the opportunity to be in the grooming stall for various periods of time. We'll have to revisit this.

December's:
-Trailer loading
-Tying
-Stall time (something tells me he'll winter in one)
-Arena (which really ties into relaxing).

Diamonds on the soles of her shoes


Despite being thankful for a holiday, I'm not really thankful for the obligation which interrupted my life. Although, the pony wouldn't object. She got her holiday meal of soaked alfalfa and grain, feels quite refreshed from the cold weather and time off.

Riding took a back seat to holiday eating. We rode a grand total of two times this week, took Wednesday through Friday off and resumed today on the ground.

For the two time we rode, she worked once in the snaffle, and once in the double.

Felt limited due to weather. We were regulated to the indoor up until today. 


We namely worked on reactions.

The first day, I got the bright idea of schooling center line canter to halts and back to canter. Never mind I haven't worked on this line forever, nor have I particularly schooled transitions. It wasn't so smooth. Think more like performing crash landings and hi-ho silver impressions. Part of this was my fault, where I wasn't preparing, and even if we landed we landed crooked. But, we muddled through, and whenever I laid the word whoa down, it was a screeching halt.

The next day was better, we weren't able to work on lateral work, but took the chapter from December's Dressage Today's article from Steffen Peters and cleaned up the in and out portion of the extension and mediums and collection itself. This was fun testing how quick I could get a reaction out of the transition. The trot work was a little strong, but the canter work was very nice, getting three's and eventually four steps back and fourth. Sinari sustained much longer, and was more engaged through this instead of just doing collection or just doing mediums. It will probably be added to the routine fairly regularly.

Today though, we worked on the ground, I wanted her to have a stretch day with the flexibility to work on half steps and mediums. She worked out great, and I'll get back on tomorrow. I have a new bag of exercises I want to try out.

December's goals:
Three on the spot steps of piaffe
Clean changes when asked for
Lateral work
Relaxation
Condition

Friday, November 27, 2009

Saturday Sessions 1.2


Directions:
Pick a gait and start on the center line. Half circle 10 m to the right, sharp turn to the left, short diagnol, half circle to the left and halt at X.

More advanced versions:
Smaller half circles. Random transitions. Add lengthening/medium/extension on the diagnol. Add half steps on the circle. Add flying lead change, simple change if going in the canter. Counter canter on half circle and pirouette on the turns.

Why?:

I love center line work. You don't have the cheat of the rail to keep straight. It also has a degree of risk about working in the open.

But working center lines can be boring, tedious, and not always productive. By incorporating the two half circles (ala first level test two), you test straightness and flexibility. The second circle especially sets up for the halt at X. The short diagnol leaves a lot of options open, initially use it to teach balance on long lines, bu work toward develop lengthenings and later add to it for the flying or simple change.

Better days


I'm a little late on posting about Thanksgiving, but honestly, I had my reasons.

I love Thanksgiving, it's one of the few actual holidays that I enjoy and positively associate with. It's a holiday not about getting, but giving. It's about what you bring to the table and contribute, not what you get out of it.

As 2009 draws to an eventful close, I have a lot to be thankful for.

I'm first and foremost, thankful for my family.

My standard definition of it is fairy skewed. Yes, I have genetic relations who are family (and I do love them), but then there are the non-relations who truly co-create the core. The boy being the top of that list.

These people have stood by me during horrible lows and air-thin highs. They've seen me at my worst, at my best and every stage in between. I think there are some things in the works in the near future, and hopefully it will work out to the best.

Tying quickly for that spot, is Sinari. The wonder pony continues to amaze and delight. She's my rock. The only horse that I know, even for the bad rides, there are several awesome ones coming down the pike. She teaches me daily. I look at her every day and think how beautiful and amazing she is. I look at her everyday, and feel lucky to be her's and share in her life.

I am thankful for Sincere. I'm thankful that he's taught and rewarded my patience (or lack of at moments). Six months ago, I was in a bad spot with a barter that went wrong. He was still unborn, and was prepared to give up everything to walk away clean. But providence came in and said wait. He's rewarded me tenfold and will be excited to see how he develops.

I am thankful for the cats, who serve not only as my personal alarm clocks, but are willing to sit with me during the rough spells and tough blogs.

I'm thankful for a job. Even though I dislike it, I still have one. It's the first job I feel that I've actually feel successful at. It still pays the bills, is paying for a number of other things and will be allowing me to go and get my advanced degree(s) done. It's allowed me to mature, not just as someone in the work force, but as a human.

I'm thankful for my supporters and my critics, who help keep my team going and keep me humbled enough to keep on reaching.

Thank you all who have supported the team, who comment or email or send positive vibes. May your leftovers be plentiful, your smiles infinite and your worries few. May you all find happiness in those around you and have the grace to weather the changes that come.

Merry Thankgiving.

Kelly, Sinari, Sincere, Osmosis, Kiwi
&
Team EnGaged Dressage

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It figures


The little man continues to grow.

So much so his figure eight halter, the one that was uber-large and hanging off his nose when he was six hours old, was so tight at six months that it began rubbing is nose raw.

I found an old halter that will do as an in between, but really needs the crown replaced.

His mind is growing as well. This week we worked on a variety of things, making the stable into his schoolroom.

When we got out of the field, he is still a little hesitant about going in the barn, especially at the new entrance (hey, we don't go in there we go out!)

We started by feeding in the stall. He's still more interested in getting out, but at the same time, the emotional eater in him can't ignore food. Plus it sets up routine.

In the end, he was great.

In the stall, we worked on tying, grooming and getting out of my space. On the side I worked on stopping and going. It's easier in he stall than it is outside, less distractions.

Tapping him in the stall is easier as well, he worked on relaxing/stretching and learning to independently pick up his legs by just tapping on them. A helpful idea to get piaffe/passage down the pike.

Shortly after we lead to the grooming stall where he's learning to stand in a busy environment, challenge for the young man. But despite being fidgety- he tried to do well. We left there quickly and tackled the tarp.

In the last session I set up a tarp and log exercise. Goal was not to get overly excited about it (or run away or jump on me or barge), and get him to walk over the log at different points/heights. This was accomplished pretty readily last week.

This week we repeated by walking on the tarp, over the log, both directions with the added bonus of setting up for the triangle.

To the left he was great. Did everything including stepping over the largest part of the log.

To the right, we are unpracticed. It took him several attempts at turning around before he got the message that going right, leading right, and moving off to the right is just as important as going to the left (it also shows how uncoordinated I am). Eventually he got it, and we went on successfully conclude standing up for conformation, which he's whip smart about.

Personally, I think he enjoys the attention and I think he'll definitely shine in an arena like that

This week, I don't know what our session will be due to holiday, but I'm going to try some different conceptual exercises for him such as lay down and bow. It would be a low-impact way to strengthen the muscles and add another fun thing to work on .

Added news: we're officially registered with Arabian Horse Association. Will be sending in the Performance Horse Registry/USEF stuff soon too.

She moves in mysterious ways.


It was an interrupted week at best with uncooperative weather.

It wasn't anyone's fault for the interruptions, I needed to go to physical therapy and the timing on some of the rides were just late or off.

For the better part, we were stuck indoors.  Which sucks, because it was sunny outside for two days (but the footing was soggy).

Sinari worked fairly well in both bridles, her time in the snaffle is more productive because of the time in the double. I think I still prefer riding in the double, but the snaffle keeps me honest as a rider.

We worked on a number of exercises, but the one thing that's bothered me is the changes. Lately she's been fumbling them, ignoring the aid during the later half of the session.

I think it's a combination of things.  First, she working twice as hard now that the connection has been solidified since she's been in the double, so she's tiring that much more.  Secondly, the new footing is deep, which again is making her stick a bit in some different areas and finally, I think the arena probably feels a little claustrophobic to her, it's also a similar case in the extensions.

So I'm leaving the subject for awhile (or at least until I can get back outside) to concentrate on other things.

Like shoring up those extensions, make the passage more passage-y, to collection and working on some variants of shoulder and haunches in. There's also a chance to work over some cavaletti to help with a lot of this and break up the routine.

Despite being stuck with the changes, there were a lot of highlights.

Half pass is getting stronger, however, we need to slow the canter down and make it more lateral. I put the piaffe more on the spot by making it into a pirouette. She's quicker to change gaits in the lateral work as well. She did a full test zig-zag at the walk with no issues as well.

So the goals this week, despite facing another interrupted week are to clean up the transitions, work more elements of the PSG (possible string a few together, try those exercises Steffan Peters outlined in December's Dressage Today, go outside and gallop a little more and just make it fun again.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Saturday Sessions 1.1



Directions:
Pick a place in the arena along the wall. Begin a slightly small(er) 8 meter circle and at the top of the circle half pass steeply back onto the wall. Go straight. Begin second 8 meter circle and repeat.

More advanced versions:
Use the short side and fewer steps. Add passage, turn on the haunch and pirouettes. 

Why?:
Due to the size of the preparatory circle, it makes the horse rock back into more of a turn on the haunch and automatically positions for a steExcellent tool to teach the horse to turn on the haunch without loosing energy or impulsion.

Furthermore, it teaches the horse also a more refined outside rein aid. Teaches the rider about what the good turn on the haunch feels in addition to building up the gaskins and the haunch without going over kill on the pirouette work. 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Curb your enthusiasm


It's been a really productive and exciting week with Sinari.

While the weather has been cooperating with us, we've been progressing pretty far and fast.

It's the perk of having only one to concentrate on. The down fall is I'm looking like my Thanksgiving supper, overstuffed.  Time to hit the gym.

But first the recap:

Sunday and Monday we took off again from work. Scheduling is still being a pest on this one, but I think I finally got it under control.

Tuesday was crisp and just about perfect to go galloping on the mile loop. We opened up the conditioning route with a brisk walk for the first quarter and then a slow canter, putting emphasis on not changing the speed or the rhythm despite the rolling terrain.

We went back to the arena for the rest of the week at various lengths. Somedays, I work twenty minutes and other days, it's pushing 45 and also in various outlines. Depends on what needs to be accomplished and what is being offered that day. But ultimately, I just want her to feel good in the work.

In that work is getting the solid extensions, working through multiple changes, variations of the half pass, passage (out of the mediums), the zig-zag and the new fun trick- pirouettes (still pales to piaffe, but still ultra fun to ride).

The cherry on the cake was schooling 3/4's of the PSG (not in any particular order). Minus tempi's. Tempi's aren't our strong suit yet, but we did accidentally obtain them last week. I'm kinda looking forward to accidentally getting them again soon.

But in running through bits and pieces of it, I feel we'll be along those lines soon enough. It's just a matter of obtaining tempi's and more strength.

We also presented formally in the double to our coach.

I've been riding in the double bridle on and off for a month. It's usually once a week towards the back half of the work week. Some of he work has been serious, and some of it has just been goofing off in it.

Sinari enjoys working in it because it's a much more refined aid and I can keep out of the way. I like working in it because it keeps me incredibly honest. 

For those who haven't ridden in it, it's a different kind of work. I have at least three times the pony in it and we're capable of doing that much more work. At one point or another, I wanted a horse that could go FEI in a snaffle. Call it a point of pride, but there's a lot to be said about doing most of your work with simplicity.

I didn't want to fiddle with the double, heck, I didn't want to wear spurs either. Its because that we've been going in the double, she's more responsive in the snaffle and has more energy. It's because I have spurs on I don't nag. For her, she want clear, defined communication.

However, there is a learning curve. When I presented that day, I learned I cannot take equal contact on the curb and snaffle. That I'll get used to hearing that as well. And all that leather. Oy.

On tap for next week is upping her time in the double, getting a more confirmed piaffe, possibly working over poles to help with the passage, work the pir's and more half pass and passade.

I ain't no millionaire's son


It's been Indian Summer all week. While I've donned light sweatshirts and rolled up my jeans to get my work done without breaking a sweat, I can't help but sitting out in the sun.

Even the horses seem to be enjoying the last bit of fall.

Sincere was great this week.

We took a break from the usual routine of going in the arena. Instead after leading out of the field, we just went in the grooming stall, and, for the first time in recent memory, in an actual stall.

The last few weeks have been a bit back and forth with him. He's young, and it's to be expected.

But, I think this week, we've reached a turning point.

In the field he was lagging behind. I had no whip on me (or food), just the cotton lead rope attached to his halter, which after circling once, he got the point that going forward isn't an option.

He lead extremely well after that. No pulling of the human or the horse, and no running backwards. I can't tell you how pleasant it was to just walk along side him without having to kick up a fuss.

Everything was fine until we had to go up to the truck. Like most people, my truck is a mobile tack room. I have my clippers, treats, supplies, laundry and of course, the occasional Grande dirty chai from Starbucks cooling off in the drink holder.

Most, if not all horses that I ride or work with need to go near this truck due to being absent minded. I usually forget something, whether it be my boots, or the sugar cubes to pay the pony. Being young, he doesn't quite all together understand the concept of ground tying. So he's attached while I'm rummaging for his supplies. 

He walked up and stood as I got in the truck to search for the infernal saline solution for five minutes, never once pulling back or trying anything.

At this point, I'm ready to quit, he's been great.

But I wanted him to go into the grooming stall and just stand up for a few and get used to the idea of being fed in a stall.

He walks in, occasionally stopping, thinking and moving on. We get into the area and he's fairly pushy, wanting to be in everything and everyone. It doesn't take long to settle him in and walk him out to the regular stall for his feed and a tap session.

Sincere is hesitant about regular stalls. He has been for a while. Probably because aside from being born in one, he hasn't spent too much time in them. He went in with a little reluctance, but after getting his food he settled in. I start playing with him, Endo Tapping him, picking up his feet and just touching him all over. Afterward, we lead by the giant blue tarp of doom (scary in the first three seconds, giant plaything in the next two) and over some logs and trotted back to the paddock.

Aside from a little screaming, he was a star. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

Saturday Sessions 1.0

I've had some specific requests for exercises that I do under saddle with the ponies. I'll try to post them on Fridays so those who want to try can work on them Saturday.  All the credit goes to Sharon Vander Zeal who comes up with the most interesting work during for my Saturday Session with her.

Apologies in advance for my lack of MS Paint skills. I'll improve later, promise!


This is the exercise I mentioned a week prior and felt it was a good place to start. I left the arena unmarked simply because the majority of the work can be done symmetrically and at all three gaits.

Directions:
Start at the center line, shoulder in two steps, half pass three, straighten then leg yield two then shoulder in again. Switch bend, half pass, straight, leg yield, shoulder in. You should end up in the corner, where I let Sinari stretch down.

More advanced versions: 
leave out the shoulder in, add steeper lines, add/subtract steps in half pass/leg yield.

Why?:
Teach the zig zag and quicken the changes of bend without drilling one particular movement. It also makes the rider very aware of what they're doing in the saddle and quicken them up to that bend change.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On and on we go


The little boy is growing up.

The last few weeks he's been stubborn about leading. Backing up, carrying on about not wanting to leave the herd.

The plant and freeze is highly annoying to begin with. The backing up is worse. 

Being forward, is more than important to me. It's a concept that he cannot ever say no to.

So for the past month whenever we worked, we went on short walkabouts. First it was to the truck. Every time he would stop and plant, we would circle, stop and circle about some more until he got the point. Every time he would run backwards he would be tapped up until he accepted being forward.

When he was weaned, we started going farther. We started exploring the inside of the barn and more of the surrounding fields.

When May left we started going to the barn.

Being nervous he ate his way through his mash in the wash stall, and nearly freaked at the sprinkler in the adjacent arena on the first day. He still occasionally trips over the back of my heels. The subsequent days he was fine about the wash stall and walking in and out of the barn.

This past week though we had one bout, and the rest of the time outside was ultimately pleasant. He went from having breaks to having none sometimes. So now, he's learning to chill and maybe reinstalling some breaks.

November's goals:
-Relaxation
-Leading
-Learning to be in a stall
-Tying

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hey soul sister


What a fabulous week!

Not just in weather, but in training.

Weather wise, it was clear, sunny and warm. Indian summer. Color, was phenomenal. Every tree in the surrounding counties peaked in color.

Aside from the weather, the pony was all systems go in training.

I think schooling outside makes a huge difference in the routine, and I was so happy to have my outdoor back from the muck and sludge that the rain had turned it into.

Sunday and Monday she had off. Namely due to my time constraints, by Tuesday, we were back. Starting the week out with a hack around the property (and promptly trying to turn into a giraffe at the pit Bar-B-Q thing in the drive). Despite the back fields being occupied, we worked deeply on bend. When we hit the polo field I wanted to canter a bit. She felt wonderful, threw in some changes too.

Wednesday was the highlight of the week, we were back in the arena. I really wanted to test her meddle with some serious fourth level work and maybe an FEI movement or two. She pulled out really green canter zig zags with the change, half steps to canter and a series of accidental tempi's.


Thursday was mild, put her on the lunge. Played with collection and the mediums. By the time we hit the mediums I was running down the long side of the arena to get the hocks going. Doing this on a bum pulled hip is not the brightest of ideas, but hell, it looked great.

By Friday, we were in the double working forward (she was mildly sucking back). Figured out she didn't like having the curb, which I normally tie up, flopping around when warming up. Saturday we pulled it all together for micro pir's, passage, half steps, medium/extensions, the zig-zag exercise from hell and a few other pony tricks.

She was so awesome, today she got the day off. Next week I present in the double bridle. Can't wait.

Monday, November 2, 2009

If you change your mind

Last week was fairly easy for Sinari. It was a catch all towards the last half of the week with riding and schedule obligations taking over my life.

With the bad weather, we were mostly regulated to the indoor. But for the work was great quality. We did solid third level work and played with a number of stretchy days to keep it easy.

Life went so well that we threw on the double for giggles and learned I had more horse than I thought.

She's had the double on before, just for hacking about, zero contact on the curb. I'm normally trying to figure out how to gather the reins and what goes where. I'm also paranoid about making her stop-y or any less sensitive.

This time, I picked up the curb contact and went with it.  I actually figured out the reins, and we went to work. Aside from one half pass where she didn't know what I was asking for, she was still forward, but far more up in the shoulders and through. I felt like I was out of her face, which I think she appreciated.

I want to think she prefers the double, but right now I think it's too much of a novelty right now. I personally still prefer my snaffle, but I like the results of the double and what kind of rider it expects me to be.

The lesson was great, definitely has the half steps down pat (despite pulling through a bit to the right), the turn on the haunch is confirmed and the half pass is cleaned up, just need to make it more FEI-ish.

I also think we're due for the massage lady to come out and work on her. Despite being tapped daily, there are certain muscle groups that seem to be binding with the work.Also need to get the saddle re-flocked, it's been one year.

This week, because the weather is going to be just darn nice, I want to go out for a fall gallop, work more on what we've been working on and try the double again.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Baby, baby



 

 

 
Sincere was due for some photos. Figure I share from this weekend's exploits. It was his first time in the regular arena.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Next to godliness

I've been with the boy for about two or three years now. We're still going strong, living together and planning on expanding our lives together. He likes the fact I have the horses, and I'm doing something that I genuinely like. I couldn't do much of what I do without him.

But we have a dirty secret.

We're both household messy people.

We let the mail pile up, boxes of ammo hanging around, there's books forming small cities around the couch and a few other things that are out of place and line. There are even boxes that haven't been unpacked for two years and I don't want to look in my closet.

The boy, who has seen me clean a dirt floor barn down to the final detail, shouted in exasperation the other day of how I could care so much about a barn, but not the environment I sleep in. Even my friends, notice the same trend that my horses are often outfitted better than me.

Kind of sad right?


Not really, but I'm not alone.I have friends who at least have an idea what it's like.

My logic behind the selective OCD is two fold. First, the animals don't have a choice. They have to live where I put them and in a particular lifestyle. I can't stand dirty water or food buckets, but I can personally tolerate rinsing and re-using the same glass eighty times. Secondly, when I come home from cleaning what feels like the Agean Stables somedays, I don't want to face my own house. Straw meet camel's back.

I work in a place where I'm partly responsible for Six Sigma, environmental and inventory quality and then I go to the barn where I spend at least another thirty minutes cleaning. I clean, or have some involvement of cleaning, all day.

Sorry, I am my own imported labor.

I'm not complaining about doing my own chores. In fact, I enjoy it. It keeps me involved and gives me a level of information on what's going on with my ponies. It's also therapeutic. Angry, pissed off, upset or just plain aggressive? Grab a your weapon of choice and keep at it until you can't go anymore.

We're getting better about the house, but there's a lot that needs to be done to make it comfortably organized.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Go ahead and jump


The weather had been on and off with Sinari all last week and we were forced, for the most part indoors.

Normally, I don't mind the indoor. It's one of the nicer ones in the area, however, they just re-laid the footing, which is ultra deep for a dressage person.

I don't mind deep footing, but she does. She can't really find purchase on it unless it's wet or just harrowed, she feels like she's swimming instead of striding. Lately, I have to keep an eye on her stifles when working on the surface, the left one seems a little warmer than the right lately and the last thing I want is pulled stifles.

Despite this she's working really well and keeping a fresh attitude towards the task at hand.

We cleaned up the half pass and the shoulder in on the right is coming along. She's confirmed in everything to the left including three more half steps. Her normally strong right side is pushing a little weaker, but when we commit to the line/exercise, she gets the point. We did working turn on the haunches with the neat turn quick two steps and straight exercises. We also went out on a fall hack during the prettiest days.  I really want to gallop out and go conditioning, but I figure walking, when the grass is a little slippery is far better.

In between, we're working on the freestyle stuff. And no, I'm not sharing that until my compilation is complete. And no, there's no Pirates of the Caribbean.

Any event...

This week I want to clean up the straightness and ask for more collection. I would like to clean up more half pass at the canter, and if the weather's clear go on outside. I'm debating about working more in the double bridle, to get the feel of it and to see how she reacts to the different aid.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Knock three times


I played hooky from work on Friday so I could catch some late shut eye and attend to what I needed to attend to. In reality, I accomplished very little, and relaxed much.

I also realized that Dressage Pony has passed it's one year mark yesterday with 14 most cool followers and a bunch of other cool things. We're a front page Google search status for dressage ponies. We've received hits from far away as Australia and close as my town. I have email from all over.

I'm chuffed for all the support, it really means a lot. It's connected me to the world far more than I expected. I enjoy hearing from people who post comments here and their experiences. I love reading their blogs and following their herds as well.

What will the future hold? I don't know. But the ponies and I are going full hilt forward and welcome anyone to come and join or follow the team.

Speaking of relaxation. Sincere is learning to chill out and go forward.

We hit a stumbling block from last week. A left over that quickly manifested due to the quick change in weather.

While I thought he lead well, he has grown smarter and quicker. Not to mention larger. The little colt has quickly learned how to manipulate a situation to his favor and this needed to be nipped in the bud. He has two favorite tactics, the stop and plant; and go backwards.  The go backwards is one of my least favorites.

Leading is a fundamental requirement of any domesticated horse. It's one of my pet peeves when a horse cannot or will not be lead from the shoulder without fuss. So, we (meaning Giacomini and himself) addressed this issue in an effective manner: he learned to go forward through lateral work.

Unusual way to do it, but pulling a horse forward causes them to stop and lock, moving laterally however, allows them to mentally and physically unstick themselves.

From there he worked on a micro lunge session with someone who is far more experienced with foals. While Sincere resisted at first- he relaxed through insistence. When the session was over, he nearly loaded into the trailer, but could independently have his legs tapped and when asked, went yielded to the contact. When I took the shank over, I just lead him around to different points in the paddock.

He had minor blowups, which is to be expected for a baby, but with the new dialog in place, I could quickly resolve issues that cropped up. In between, he was stood up and tapped. He's trusting his relaxation much more now, and finding reward in not being so busy. It was pleasant to be on good grounds with him again.

Because of the messages I've received over Endo Tapping, what it is (not to be confused with Endo Spink's  TAP), what it does and how it relates to young horses, I've send word along to Giacomini, asking to tape sessions with young horses, the methodology behind doing this and what the long term effect with following this kind of scale.

I would like to hear further thoughts on this, especially from those who have bought into the NH/Lyons/Roberts stuff but found unable to apply it to their situations.

Tomorrow is the big day, he's weaned and May leaves. We shall see what happens.

Friday, October 23, 2009

And the small shall inherit the earth


I make no bones that I'm in dressage ponies, it's obviously the subject of this blog and what I heavily promote.

So when USEF announced its pilot Youth Pony Program headed by grand pony-queen, Lendon Gray,  I couldn't be more estatic and a tad envious as well.

If you haven't been on the scene in the last ten years, there is a definite cry for competitive pony schoolmasters for youth to learn effectively and safely on. Concurrently running on the heels of USEF's announcement the most recent issue of Dressage Today (November 09), there is an extensive blurb on how we need these mounts.

Venues such as Dressage at Devon, and upcoming ones like the National Dressage Pony Cup, have started taking up the cause. Even the CDIs and GMOs are starting to award high points for the 148cm and under variety.

Yes, we need venues, and competitive mounts. We need riders, trainers who are willing, financiers who are wanting and organizations to track bloodlines, results and reward those who have participated (my vote goes toward a Pony of the Year award with USDF). It's a huge, Atlas-like undertaking.

But there are a few problems.

First, comparatively, it's not financially lucrative to breed and raise dressage ponies versus the hunter variety. The  pony who can crack it's back over fences on the AA while packing the wee child around and the pony who can do tempi changes, piaffe and still pack the wee child around will command about 30k less than it's hunter counterpart. If it's an eventing pony, well... good luck.  If you think I'm not serious even in this economy, go look.
 
Adding to the conundrum, the same pony will most likely not be bought by parents for a child, but rather, by an Adult Amateur who is downsizing, wants manageable, has zero international ambition (because FEI rules state they cannot compete in open CDI classes) and has the cash to pay for the pony too.

So stating the obvious, hunters have perfectly created and dominated the pony market. It's made pony ownership not only attractive through specific kid-pony classes, but incredibly lucrative. It's allowed efficent, euro-styled development of a variety of pony jockeys, auction places and bloodline tracking. The sheer scope and industry impact is amazing. 


Also another thought is the venue aspect, every year there is the Pony Finals in Kentucky. This USEF-backed and directly hosted event annually happens with great amounts of patronage and time spent by all getting to it.

Even as a dressage person, I love this event. Aside from getting stuff that actually fits and is well made for the pony, it's well run and executed. It attracts the numbers year after year too. There are some top notch ponies and pony jocks. Dressage ponies don't have a governing body backed event, at least to the scope of Pony Finals, those that are in existence are privately funded and sponsored.

Secondly, by the time a person has invested not only the cash, but the time creating an FEI-capable pony, usually wants to keep it for herself. This is even after the pony has been on the market for months at a time.

Personally, I know this, not because Sinari is for sale, but because I'm going in to that situation.

Have I been made offers on Sinari? Yep. By a variety of people.

Have I considered them? Yep, I'd be very ignorant not to. But in the end, this is my pony, and of all the horses I've ridden so far, she's the one I look forward to everyday. There's not really ever going to be a price on her. Plus we're only now getting to the fun stuff.

So to say the very least, I want this program to succeed. Future plan-wise, it would mean a ton more support and business for those out there who deal in this kind of market. It would develop the dressage bloodline so it's comparative to the hunter world. It could create the venues, the riders, allow patronage and develop the community far beyond what any individual can do by themselves.

However, this is a step in the right direction and I applaud it. But, there needs to be some fundemental changes in addition to hosting clinics.

Personally, I would like to see a development of pony-only awards, young pony venues (BuCha would be awesome), development and support of pony-only riders and jocks (not just the youth variety).  I would also like to see a cross-cooperation of breeds. All too often, I see the natterings and politics working against the overall goal so that one book can one-up the other or self-stabotage itself. If these can be fudementally met and supported beyond the initial honeymoon stage, then we, as a nation, will be all that much more compeitive in the long run.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tappa tappa tappa

Sincere's time with May is drawing to a close.

Actually, it has for the most part. I can separate the two for a length of time without the other going off and in the field, they graze on opposite corners, unless he needs a snack.

Working with him has progressed from in the field to outside on his own. Working him alone presents a few challenges.

 Since he draws a lot of his strength on his herd, the challenge there is to get him used to the idea that working alone is not a scary or upsetting thing. It's also kind of an advantage to have a buddy along when the going gets tough. But nine times out of ten, I don't have that.

I also discovered he emotionally eats worse than a teenage girl. Every time he's stressed out, he goes for a drink, or in my case, he goes for the box of sugar cubes. He loves working for food and will do anything for a bite. God love the food motivated horse.

He's also incredibly fidgety. Ants in the pants variety of fidgety. Mentally he needs to slow down and just chill out and I've got a plan for that.

But recapping the weekend:

 Saturday's experience was less than positive. The whole thing was rife with going backwards mentally and physically (he would literally back up ten feet) and probably set me back a few sessions with the wee guy. I feel incredibly bad about the entire matter still, even though Sunday, he regained his training wheel status and a little more faith in me we just went for the basic walk in a figure eight.

 Honestly, it was a classic case of doing too much. I introduced the trailer, we went for a walk, we groomed, we worked through puddles, we did, what was later told to me eight sessions in one day. Go stupid me.

What caused him to get back on the path? I would like to think sheer training ability, but in reality, it was his ability to forgive and my addressing the root cause of relaxation through Endo Tapping.

Endo Tapping is a systematic conditioned response through rhythmical tapping on the horse through stimuli (e.g. whip, hand, strapping rag) to produce endorphins to relax the horse. Think of it as an application of percussive massage. It was discovered in part by Giacomini and a few of his associates and since then has found it's way into a number of hands.

 I started doing this because I want relaxed horses and I saw what it has done for those who have been regularly tapped. I think it's partially the reason why Sinari has come back the way she has (she's tapped on every day prior to work), and I have begun to see a difference in the way May carries herself.

 In this case I use a whip with a small ball at the end and produced some nice initial results after the first session. Sincere, while more clearly relaxed, less agitated, he still wouldn't allow himself to fully mellow out. The first two minutes of starting to mellow out, he would pick himself up again and be on alert. It was like watching an insomniac wake themselves up out of REM cycles. But physically he was better, more chilled than the dancing thing on the end of the rope on Saturday.

I'll continue to tap on him.

Today he had his first shots with glowing reviews from the vet. Hopefully not too sore tomorrow.

So training plans for October:

Endo Tap him until he gets a consistent reaction.
Leading, and no resistance while leading.
Learning to go forward.
Bonus: get in the trailer.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Higher and higher

We finally got a break from the rain. It's been deluging non stop with bitter cold wind and unfun fall weather. It kinda made me thankful to clip Sinari when I did, otherwise, I would have a pony-sicle instead of a pony.

We've gone through our first full week of work, and right now, I'm extremely happy with the progress made to get back to form. Normally it would take about two weeks for every week off to get her back into the mental and physical condition that she's showing now. And while, I don't have her physically yet, mentally she's matured.

She also seems less stressed. Possibly because I'm less stressed.

This week's work has been comprised of round and low, lots of stretching and  reintroducing lateral work with a low-key setting. Sessions typically started at fifteen minutes and capped off the week working around 45 minutes with walk breaks in between.

She remembers everything and now, she's doing it far better.

The week went well enough where I asked for single changes again, this time, they were rounder, up hill and more through.

The activities accumulated to this week's lesson, and while it was emphatic on transitions and cleaning up some other things, we got some nice side effects like the super collected canter, three steps of half-steps in piaffe and a few other nifty tricks.

We also thought about the 2010 season that is now in progress. While I would like to actively show her, I think the time would be better suited to gaining reliable self-transportation and investing in the training. Next time I bring her out, I want it to be PSG, not third or fourth.

But right now, she's just freaking fabulous

Monday, October 12, 2009

What's in your bucket?


Every horse person has a grooming kit. It's a really a cross-discipline staple you'd find in any barn. That lovely box or bucket of brushes, rags, ointments, oils, lotions, curries and picks to keep everything straight with your horse and would allow personal sessions.

I remember as a kid I would hoard brushes and stow them away in my then pristine tack trunk for my future horse. They were even cleaned weekly despite never seeing an equine to begin with.

My mother though I was odd, I thought I was well prepared for the occasion.

Grooming is still one of my favorite daily activities, and nothing tells you more about a horse than his personal box of brushes.

Back in the day, kits were assembled per horse, where owners knew what kind of brush the horse would enjoy or in some cases tolerate. My big case in point, is when I evented an Appendix Quarter Horse, the only thing I could use was a soft brush and maybe a curry on his legs. The rest of the time it spent rubbing him down. Thankfully he never really rolled and mud wasn't his favorite thing.

But these days, they come pre-assembled.

For me, it defeats the purpose of selecting the tools you feel most comfortable with. It's also a demarcation of the downshift in general horse grooming knowledge. I still curry and strap my horses with Mineral Oil after a hard work and I still hand pick manes and tails.I kinda wonder what kids are missing out when they can't or won't choose their own brushes to go in their own horses' kits.

But I digress.

I currently have two buckets of brushes.

Sincere's bucket is simple. The blue bucket consists of a dual sided jelly curry, a dandy brush, a flick brush, Cowboy Magic, a few rub rags, his box of treats and a hoof pick.  Plus whatever I happen to be showing him that day. He really doesn't have an opinion about his brushes yet, mostly, they're just fun play things that I have to occasionally yank out of his mouth.

Sinari's bucket, however is a little more complicated. Her black bucket starts off with her pimple curry mitt. I got this mitt for easy use and shedding season. Sinari hates regular curries and prefers her soft mitt and will stand for a few hours to be curried on. This is quickly followed by her her dandy, her flick and her soft brush, rub rags, and hot pink hoof pick (only hoof pick I have had that hasn't wandered off).

Ointments include, hoof oil, MTG (for that current skin funk), FAZO and Mineral Oil for her daily strapping. She also has Cowboy Magic to sort through the long mane and tail of hers. She also has her own set of scrunchie, hair tie things.

If you notice, I don't have a hair brush. I usually spend a few hours sorting tails every few months.

But for all the brushes and ointments, the reason why he and she looks so good begins on the inside. I really contribute this to McCauleys Brothers, Glanzen 3, regular worming and nutritional work. Year after year my horses look great because of it.

So for the readers: what's in your bucket?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Double Entendre

I'm going to try something new. I'm going to try to do two separate posts per week. 

Sincere is not really a side note anymore, and letting him be a side note isn't really correct. He's doing just as much as Sinari in regards to training. It's hard enough trying to fit everything into one post so it's coherent, it's time for the split.

Plus he's really filling into his role as a dressage candidate.
 
After I settled Sinari in to her local digs, I was able to concentrate on Sincere and May, who were in desperate need of grooming and attention.

When I travel on the road to see my horses, certain bits of attention fall by the wayside to accomplish the overall goal of getting things done. May and Sincere, more often than not, find themselves with stretches of just hanging out. Finally I can spend a solid two or three hours grooming and training.

After I finished with May, including picking out burrs, trimming bridle paths and cutting witch's knots out, I started on Sincere who is going through an ADD phase.

Grooming is no issue for the young man, who is going to be fairly metro when it comes to his looks. Minus his socks, which were mud encrusted. I greased him down with liquid show sheen to keep the burrs out and began his leading lesson.

Sincere, for his age, leads and trots in hand pretty well. He ground ties and, for being young, isn't pushy. However stopping and turning not so much. Then there's the issue of the scary barn, or the scary trailer or the pile of wood.Teaching him to be brave is another thing that, while he's good at, could always be improved. I've learned over the months, never take for granted what the child gives you. What may apply one day, may not apply the next.

The problem isn't him, it's me. I want to do and show him so much. He's usually very game for it, and I want to push all the time. Have to keep the sessions short and sweet, sometimes they are and sometimes they are not.

Today we went through most of it, got him to touch the trailer, go around the wood and walk up to the barn. Stopping wasn't an issue today where he did the plant and stare fairly well, but he was easily started up again with a couple of taps from behind.

Tomorrow I'll Endo tap him. Down the road I want to introduce him to the small clippers, get him loaded in the stock trailer and get him towards working on the trailer.

Home Again

Life has officially returned to normal. After an extra two weeks, some rain, transportation bingo and a few other things, Sinari is home.

I was greeted by a dirty, disorganized barn and a loose horse.

The dirt was my fault the loose horse picked his way out of the stall.

I board in a tobacco barn with a dirt floor.

I actually like this place. Aside from the dirt, it's huge and airy. It feels like home. Normally the good fight against dirt, dust and various other things isn't an issue. You keep up with the work and it stays a bay.

But since I wasn't there, it overran itself. Not only that, what I thought I had organized, was messy.

I came home to my clean stall, dusty buckets, dusty trunk, dusty feed bags and dirt-encrusted fan and SmartPak bin. I had dirty pads collecting dirt and mold (how did that happen?), white rags that are brown and my wash kit upside down in the lower barn.

Then came Sinari. Who not only made a Thelwell pony look more turned out, but probably garnered a few WTF looks from fellow boarders whose sleek reining Quarters were just coming back from their futurity runs and mine was coming back from the all-you-can eat buffet.

To make matters worse even the vet said something.

Cue embarrassment.

To tell the truth, she went from a smooth lower 900, to chunk-tastic 1000. The pony is now sporting Jenny Craig as her sponsor and is putting on one hell of a guilt trip.

So I went on a mission. First, I spent the first two days seriously cleaning the barn.

I bought the gallon of bleach and anti bacterial dish soap to prove it.

I took down the summer gear, cleaned and stowed it for the winter. I gathered up the pads, raked, swept and wiped down. I still have to tackle my tack. Earlier I sent out all my blankets (ten plus of them) to the launder and they came back in neat plastic bags for this season and summer.

There's something soulful about an organized barn.

Then I broke out the clippers, the tranquilizers and my mandarin collar jacket and got down to business.

Thirty minutes later, with dirt and hair covering me, I have a fully clipped naked horse with skin funk. Tomorrow she'll get a full bath after going back to work. Promise to post naked pony photos.

I still need to hit up the Home Depot for a number of supplies.

Also- if anyone is in the Lexington area and needs clipping done, I'm game. As my motto goes:
they grow, I mow.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Song sung blue

Nearly three years ago, a bay Arabian mare stumbled off of Chronicle of the Horse Forums and in my life.  A product of too much time on my hands and having sucker written all over me.

She was skinny and malnourished, despite not having a foal at her side for several months. She was skittish, nearly running everyone including me over in her new place. She was injured, with pickling salt in her wounds, and scars across her croup from god knows what. She was proud, opinionated, stubborn and smart.

She went by the name Wench when she stepped off on the clear, humid August morning during Pony Finals, but she became known as May to those who loved her.

I didn't know what I wanted to do with her. Originally, I wanted a young, somewhat broke mare that I could turn around, instead I had received May, career broodmare.

Her old owner thought she wasn't worth the time or effort to feed after she weaned, or, judging from the depth of the wire wounds, not worth even some antiseptic. When I talked to her, she made no qualms about why she didn't like the mare, and quickly made excuses as why there were why scars over her croup.

Truthfully, I was a bit crestfallen when she hopped off that trailer.  

But the mood quickly subsided when she nosed my pockets for sweets.

On that August morning, my first order was to get her to a farrier, clean out the wounds and put antiseptic in them, get her up to date on vaccinations and put some feed in her. Since she didn't fit even my smallest halter (and had shipped in nylon), I went to KBC and purchased a basic leather that would fit her fine-boned features.

I turned her out with a mixed herd on grass, and she gained weight immediately. She was smart to handle and picked up on ground manners quickly enough.

At first, it was a tumultuous relationship between the two of us. If she didn't like what was going on, she would leave the scene. If she didn't like me, she would find a way not to be caught or touched. She lived in her halter 24-7 and was extremely trailer, needle, wormer phobic.

Eventually she moved to Deer Haven, where she became chief babysitter and blossomed into something awesome. The more I handled her, the more I showed her new things, the more she opened up. Eventually she shared all her fun scratchy spots (loves having her tail scratched and will back up to you), learned some tricks and, what was the highlight of time with her, loaded on the trailer. Needles and wormers are another matter.

The same year May arrived, I saw Savant, Sincere's sire, go at Young Horse Nationals. I thought he was a gelding with his fabulous temperament, until I saw his advert in a stallion service auction benefiting Holly Bergay. Eventually, I bid on, and won that breeding for May.

A year later, she was in foal and when the Preakness Stakes were a few hours into the books, a bouncing baby boy was in the world.

I made the decision to breed for a lot of reasons, which were discussed around here and other places, but I doubt I couldn't have had a nicer foal if it weren't for her.

But, after all was said and done, something was nagging me. After a lot of soul searching, I came to understand that May needed someone who can bring her further along and do her a greater service.

You see, my barn right now isn't a breeding and training operation, it's just a training operation. All my horses are in training in one form or another, with the idea that one day, they will go to upper level dressage. May is a great horse and deserves a great home that will take her to the next step, whether it be having another baby, starting and going under saddle or just being nifty out in a paddock with a bunch of babies.

I searched a long time. In my head, I could still do it all, but eventually, a literal forever home came that would offer her a chance to do something worthwhile. Most importantly, it's a home that offers security. After her ordeal, it's vital that she always remain safe, loved and taken care for. The minute that those obligations are not being met, she stays with me.

I wish I could say, she'll live out the rest of her life in my backyard, playing babysitter or surrogate to the various horses, but I can't. She'll be up north, living a good life under fantastic care.

So, a few weeks after Sincere bids his goodbye to his mom, she'll be loaded on a trailer and shipped out with two others from her herd.

I miss her already.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Smart buy 2.0: Taming of the pussy cat

This is Ossie.

Ossie, short for Osmosis, is a domestic long hair cat. And judging from the fur piles, she's a gray domestic long hair cat.

Ossie enjoys many things. Catnip, milk, chasing the occasional fly in the bay windows, swimming in a full bathtub of water and being just a-freaking-dorable are on the definite top list.

The problem with Ossie, aside occasionally using her cuteness for evil and occupying every empty box with her form, is that she's furry. Furry to the point of you pet and you look like you committed a personal sin kind of furry.

But despite brushing regularly, she still develops nasty weekly mats. Which I promptly had to cut out otherwise they would turn into large clumpy mats. She also clogged the bathtub a few times.

I was literally at my end, I was prepared to take a pair of clippers to her and give her the jungle clip. That is, until a last ditch tryout of a new brush and system for taming the long hair.

So, I plunked down forty bucks for the Furminator, and another twenty for a bottle for Cowboy Magic.

I've heard the claims that it will reduce shedding, furballs, hairy couches, speeds up shedding, healthier coat, does the hokey pokey and everything else under the sun.

Hefty investment that was partially underwritten by the boy's family who gave me a gift certificate to SmartPak for my 25th.


After it arrived I went to work on Ossie. No less than ten minutes later, I had a small pile of gray fur that was the size of a chinchilla on the coffee table. Twenty minutes later, alongside a very pissy cat, the pile was half her size. I rubbed her down with Cowboy Magic to help prevent more mats in case the product didn't deliver.

A week later, her coat looked less fluffy (in the good way), had more bloom and... zero mats where I brushed. She was also more active, and when you petted her, your hands were clean from the attempt.

This week's session concentrated on her tail and her hind legs, the worse of her areas. Again, ten minutes later, I had a Latino-rodent sized pile of fur and a pissy cat who was again doused in Cowboy Magic. 

Needless to say, come spring time, I'll be ordering a bigger brush for the ponies.The Furminator delivers.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I get around

I drove up to Pittsburgh last weekend to pick up the new truck with Vicky.

The drive was long, the drive home was even longer, but it was worth it. Will post photos soon- if you haven't noticed, the south east has been under water for the past couple of days. Taking photos is hard when you can't see much in front of you.

But the truck is sweet, and having transportation is even sweeter.

With the wheels, I've pretty much sated my thirst for doing errands and other regular things. I even had an eight week, what the hell did you do to yourself at PT the other day. Hell, getting coffee is a continual highlight. Friday, I get to hear Anthony Bourdain chat in Louisville and Saturday, I'm heading on out to Sport Horse Nationals to get a taste for what we'll be going for in two years. I still need to drop off blankets at the cleaners as well as my own show coat, shirts and other things.

End of the year wrap up stuff.

I've been playing catch up with the ponies who are still out with Vicky's herd. Not complaining, I've been doing plenty of conditioning over the hills there and watching baby be his lovely self.

Sinari is almost black liver chestnut with her incoming winter coat. The Glanzen really made the difference. She's not as fuzzy this time of the year either, I hope it bodes well for what kind of winter we have in store. She is dappled, fat and sassy. She is my most prized, and she knows it, but tolerates the colt. I've been slow to start her back to work, kind of savoring the easy going nature of the situation and bringing her mind and her body back all at once.

Sincere is having a ball with the mud, much to my unamused expression. You know how hard it is to keep whites clean? Let alone on a horse that enjoys his mud baths? Hard.

At the same time, I don't mind if he keeps up the easy going personality. In the world of horses, he really is one of those who is self-assured. He'd be the good-looking popular jock in the crowd whose mamma taught him to be nice to everyone. He enjoys his sugar cubes and treats.

To try the point, I did something that I probably shouldn't have, in an area that I probably shouldn't have. Because my arena time is limited, and because both mare and foal are still attached at the hip, I work out in the field, with the rest of the herd.

Normally these sessions are short, working on leading, some ground tying, yielding front quarters and hindquarters. This time he presented new opportunity. Already rolling in the mud, I entered the paddock, he stayed down, as he usually does and I began playing. I laid him in a recumbent position, handled him till he fell asleep. Then I flipped him on his back and started to handle his legs in different ways. I expected him to be more resistant, but he just took everything in stride never putting in a peep of protest.

I also have good news on the horizon as well, I'm officially starting up a business in three months and can't wait. It doesn't mean the end of Amazon, but it's a step forward.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Keep on Truckin' Part 6: Rollin' on 45s, Saga Ends.

I finally did it, I finally achieved truck status.

It's not exactly what I wanted, but it will do. A friend and myself are going to do the pickup on Saturday in... Pittsburgh. The truck is in New Jersey, and dear ole da and I are meeting half way at Steel City to exchange. I wish I could fly up, but

Not what I call the highlight of the weekend, but you know... transportation comes with the horses and I'm really tired of bumming rides.

People have been beyond excessively nice and kind to me (especially the boy). Last week, Vicky picked me up and I spent the entire day with her just going around. It felt awesome to get out of the house and break what has become Cabin Swine Flu.

I got to pet on my horses and see how they were doing. Hugging on Sinari (also got to ride- who was fantastic), I marveled how dark she was and how her winter coat was coming in quickly. Also reminded me to order my own set of ultra-large body clippers this year.

I noted how Sincere is now way bigger with his Marilyn Monroe/Rockette legs that just go on forever, that his foal coat is shedding out in clumps and how soon he'll be weaned from May. He reminded me to order blankets. But aside from the third (!) halter he's on (chewed the second), I did manage to get him his own brush box.

I guess when you don't see family for so long, you marvel at the changes.

But with truck comes the natural follow up of trailer. Which I'm hoping for in about a year to have the credit and down payment ready. I've already been in contact with a bunch of dealers to find a brand I would thoroughly enjoy, that would be lightweight, but strong enough and versatile to handle my and my horse's needs.  The one that truly fits that bill is Brenderup.

I've hauled with a lot of things in a lot of composites, Corn-Pro, Merhow, Sundowner, Jamco, Kiefer, Featherlite, Equi-Spirit, Hawk... but really unless it was a gooseneck, the bumper pulls never really shouted at me to run out and spend 13 on them. In fact, hauling with a few of them scared me about to death.

Until I hauled with a Brenderup a couple winters ago.

It was a friend's Baron two horse, and I was skeptical right down to body materials. Don't get me wrong, it was a clean, new-er trailer. Roomy with a practical layout. I hauled it with her F250, it was more truck than what was needed, but even fully loaded down with equipment, horses and various other things, it towed like there was nothing back there, above speed limit.

It was that, and not wrenching my back out at the ramp and having everything work in the bitter cold that was ultra comforting and impressive. I was still skeptical about the tack space (wee tiny), until I saw the models could be converted for space.

It's seriously the IKEA of trailers, and I'm fairly bound and determined to have one. Maybe by Rolex or WEG, they'll be able to make me a deal.

I know it puts a hamper on my plans for '10 (still have to beg and plead for a ride). But the year off could do us good, it would solidify the team, allow for some growing pains to sort out and more importantly, would be great not to be on a show-driven schedule.

I'm still open for debate on that, but for now, I have October and November to finish out and a few options to discuss with people.