Friday, January 30, 2009

Ice, ice baby

Sorry. Couldn't resist the incredibly bad use of Vanilla Ice.

If you haven't been glued to CNN in the past few days, the South East region (e.g. Lexington) has been hit with a rather nasty ice/snow storm. The region is well known for its lack of capability of handling such an event and so about 100,000 homes were without power, water or the basic amenities. The surrounding counties took the major hit, some will be without power or H2O for at least another week to two weeks.

As for me I'm doing fine.

Even though from Tuesday, up until 10am today I have not had power at the loft and have been staying with a few local relative (the boy's mum).

And by Wednesday the roads became way too treacherous to even travel to work, much less the barn (thanks everyone who helped out there!) so I stayed put and caught up on some reading.

It was also on Wednesday that due to rolling power outages and personal ineptitude to dress myself I earned some mild frostbite on my feet. Some may consider walking barefoot across the frozen tundra of a parking lot knocking on windows, testing doors to get back into your now defunct building a character building exercise, I however, do not.

I eventually pulled the door off the magnet-hinges and got back inside to warm up with soft wool socks and a mildly-warm shower. Didn't leave the blankets until we vacated the house.

I swear if I build the next house, conventional tumble locks WILL be used, backup solar generators will be employed and two words for the farm truck: snow plow.

By Thursday, we were all back at work, only to be punished by our absenteeism with mandatory overtime for next week (hooray!)

All this house time and lack of barn time, means me going cabin crazy. I felt fairly catatonic up until today. I felt mostly disappointed namely because I was making (what felt like) progress again under saddle.

Now I feel like a house frau of a heifer, horses that are back sliding in training and stuff that needs to be done.

It's also not over, we're supposed to get snow on Monday.

But on the positive side I am going home, I have power again.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Everyones a little bit racist

I loathe Kentucky weather sometimes.

On one hand, the summers are blisteringly humid and even now, makes my very short hair curl. On the other hand, the winters come very late, but when they come they're hard and cold. And yes, both spring and fall are very, very, short.

Today and yesterday were my days off from the usual two plus horses due to said weather.

I just rode Sinari in the indoor and went to the other farm afterwards to clean up a few things, but became stuck in the social hour.

But first training:

Yesterday I had a lesson with Sharon, working over one of my favorite transition exercises (shoulder in to two steps of half pass and back to leg yield) and overall straightness (walk-canter transitions on the quarter line). We finished up with medium/extended trot to stretchy circles. Highly productive and the emphatic purpose of straightness and metastability allows me to put her anywhere I need to.

Also realised that I need to clean up the transition to the canter from the walk.

Coming back into work, she's become stronger, the break did her very good and she's becoming more adjustable as the days go by. Today I pushed her a bit, doing the three steps of super-collected canter and mini pir's (think half pass around the circle). In the end she was probably collected enough to do five alternating walk-canter transitions around the circle itself.

If this keeps up we're definitely doing third level by May.

I'm truly happy with her at the moment.

However my euphoric state ended when I hit the other barn and hit the social hour that occasionally goes on.

It was too cold for the regulars to show up, but one of the leasees were there etoling their success in making it into one of the local rags. I tried ignoring, but was sucked in to it.

Part of this annoyance is self made. Most of my friends are simply not horsey. They understand the paticulars but not the true dynamics of a barn, equestrian and dressage. I don't have anyone to bounce ideas off of, or really bitch about that stupid placement of the leg yield in first four.

So I rely on a few people who I can go to.

One of them loves to harp on me. Primarily because we come from two very different schools and grew up in vastly different backgrounds. I primarily grew up with the German training system in mind and I'm a Yankee and she with the French/Portugal school and was a Southern debutant.

On top of this she's breed bias. Hates what I bred May to ("the Dutch thing"). A virtue I really despise. In my book no breed is better than another breed. They all have their great virtues and detractions. Some are built for the sport both mentally and physically, and some won't get past training level.

But no one is better than anyone else and pushing personal breed choices down my throat isn't helping anyone.

On the side is the training issues.

Nine times out of ten, I can take whatever is dished out to me.

But lately for some reason, I've been frustraited. Nothing I do is ever really good enough. I'm continiously being compared, analized, watched, hounded. I'm the silly little child who doesn't know what she's doing. I'm really always wrong.

I'm really tired and I wish I could be allowed to train and address the problems how I see fit. I wish I could be able to control the training and have a say in mangement a bit better.

I'm not in the position to say much of anything nor do I really want to. So I accept it and move on.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Oh baby

We finally had enough break in the weather that we all could work consistently for three days straight and lo... life became a lot better.

Sinari is a rambunctious mess. To the point where there were no breaks. As my grandfather once put it: she really needed to blow out some carbon. So, at 50 something degrees today, I was happy to get her out and gallop hard. It was a well deserved break after Tomorrow and Sunday I have a lesson. There has been some talk of bumping the lesson schedule up to three times a week, which I'm all for at the moment.

May is doing exceptionally well keeping the herd in line with each other. One false move and the blonde children are told exactly where they belong. The old girl can still outrun most of the herd. It's entertaining to watch.

Bella began back this week with just easy ground work. I figured this would be the best way than dumping directly back into under saddle.

I've been thinking a lot about this baby. With this baby, Sinari's proposed in '11, it would make four, maybe five horses. Scary. Five to six total to handle (Bella, Sinari, May, Baby 1, Baby 2).

What worries me the most is financials.

The economy sucks. I'll admit that. I'm standing in the middle of a huge fire sale of bloodline, bloodstock and ponies that normally wouldn't be on the market at prices that I wouldn't normally be able to afford and it really makes me weep because its like being an obease person in a cake factory.

How I'm going to do this without killing myself or my long term goals (farm will be purchased in 2016, would like a new truck to haul with, and continue on showing, schooling at current schedule and open up a business) still remains to be seen. But the whole will/way thing should be kicking in.

First stop: the bank.

Back to the drawing board.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ain't misbehavin'

A long time ago, I was a fearless teen. There really wasn't a horse I couldn't ride, gallop out or bounce off of. I loved and lived to event at one point and usually the more bolder, hotter ponies were much better than the ones who were shy and reserved.

When I started dressage, I was the same way, I liked a hotter horse. Porches as my then-coach would describe them. Thankfully the schoolmaster taught me not to nag with the aids otherwise I would still be in the stratosphere.

With the training from impetuous teen to semi-educated rider, I really began to develop tastes for particular habits and over the years I've developed pet peeves with people and their horses that could be perfectly controllable aspects attributed to training.

These are just a few:

  • I hate horses that can't lead by my shoulder that lag, lean or drag behind.
  • I don't like unforward/cold/lazy horses.
  • Horses that don't know how to stand and wait at the block.
  • Pushy horses.

So when one of these really rear their heads, I try my darnedest to get past it, and unfortunately it's often swift, somewhat methodical and sometimes lacks the southern version of tact.

Forwardness is my biggest pet peeve of all. I want the horse to be forward, without question, all the time. Irregardless of under saddle or on the ground. Its such a basic fundamental principle of dressage, but at the same time it's just as ignored as straightness.

Part of forwardness is fitness. Eighty percent of horses out there aren't really fit enough to go beyond the level they're being asked of. The other twenty percent are just not off the aids, not sharp enough.

I think other half of the problem is three fold. First part is that most riders are really afraid of asking for super forward, carrying gaits, also that horses never really learned to be forward from the get-go on the ground and I think the other half has to deal with the corrective measure, which sometimes can't be pretty from an outsider's standpoint.

When my horses aren't forward, I immediately correct them and send them on. Being in front of my leg is not a question. It has to happen, all. the. time. The general thought to corrective action in some fields (notoriously natural horsemanship) runs a long the lines of abuse.

Clear direction and correction isn't abuse. Nagging however, is.

And this is what bothers me when I sit on other horses, is while I try to remain tactful and un-nagging as possible. But its the perception of being overtly rough that bothers me.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The weather outside is frightful.

The weather dipped into negatives last week and most of my riding plans went out the window until today.

We began back seriously on Tuesday, but then the weather came hard and quick. While I grew up the north, and I'm used to schooling, being in and around it. But when you break your bucket while chipping out ice, replacing bedding because it was so frozen it wasn't comfortable to walk, let alone sleep on, I took the hint. I let riding slide.

But I wasn't around horses. Being the Director of Pony Cup, I did a lot of work over the week to begin to put infrastructure within the show. We decided on a class list, levels of sponsorship and what direction the show should take. Even got a location (can't tell it's a secret). Made a lot of headway on it. Recieved community blessings from the upper-ups. Good mojo overall.

Redesign was so-so. Much of my ideas were shot down like clay pigeons and I'm working late every evening to get the update done. At least the weather cooperated with that. Even if the FTP didn't.

Coming back to riding has been wonderful and the horses are stronger than ever now. For now, getting everyone in shape is the top priority and it's slow, methodical work.

Part of me gets really frustrated at this stop and go thing. She's turning ten this year, and I feel that while we're making huge leaps of progress, and we can taste FEI somedays- we still have a long way to go. Still rusty on the changes, still no confirmed piaffe, an assemblance of a half pass.

But, today was straightness and keeping body alignment. My coach had a wonderful visualisation technique that worked wonders. Nose, withers, ribs and hips, keep these aligned and you have a thorough horse and everything else will follow.

I did have a few sucking back discussions with Sinari who wanted to slow (not collect) when I sat portions of the trot. A few well placed taps kept her energetically forward.

For me it was sitting. I found myself tipping forward a bit, but when I sat, I was still a little hovering. Relaxing into the motion, sitting and dictating the tempo became easier towards the end.

In the end, it was a very productive day.

May is still very pregnant and Bella is still very muddy (outdoor is drowned and repetitively frozen).

May hit her third trimester, and it's all starting to seem so eminent. I can almost see this foal, somedays I really dread it. Still unsure what I want to do for next year, but I think 2010 she might have a job as an ET recipient mare. Which works out a whole lot of solutions for the both of us until 2011, when I really want to do ET with Sinari.

Did find a stallion, but not telling who until the last bit of contracts are signed and I'm ready to proceed.

Overall, I'm ready to move forward again and I'm eager for the weather to stop being bi-polar.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

When it rains it pours

Mud season started early with rain and apparently snow and my old wellies really need a make over.

Normally, this time of year is off because the outdoor is either frozen, under water or various states of disgusting.

I wouldn't know, since I'm at an indoor facility. But the mud is horrendous. Horrendous to the point of slipping is becoming habit and the horses are becoming sore from loosing their footing. Grooming has been an interesting experience.

Sinari has become sore from slipping out in the paddock, and we're on a walk regime. It's not a bad thing, she's becoming much more forward and we can concentrate on lateral work, halts, rein backs, pirouette work.

It's also the start of breeding season. Everyone is finalising their choices for their 2010 babies. Stallion shopping is a fabulous, nerve racking experience. I'm expecting my first in late-spring 2009. I plan not re-breeding directly, but am thinking about trying an embryo transfer.

Between my hypothetical matings, I had a small reality check. A good friend, and fairly important breeder asked the following:

Why do you want to breed this mare?

Truth be told, I love her.

Alright, love is nice, but what about her makes her so special she should reproduce? Why let her reproduce instead of buying something already on the ground?

In short, Sinari one of two sisters. The other one is in Oregon being a career mum. Her dam is alongside the sister and is not being bred to the right sire to produce more. Her sire is gelded. Sinari is the only mare of her breed training and competing at the level she's at. She's highly competitive, has tested well with verbands, and is continually proving herself in and out of the arena. She will be FEI and the breed needs more proven mares and less career mothers. She's conformationally sound, easy going and I wouldn't mind having a million carbon copies of her.

She is a valuable individual, on a personal and professional basis and would only give back to her community.

At that point I think I received blessings.

My biggest fear (aside from utter failure and breeding a FHOTD feature) is I become like every other breeder out there that I end up with more horses than I'd know what to do with and I'd be cash strapped at every turn. To the point where I wouldn't be able to achieve competitive goals.

My long term goal is to create a small band of pony mares that have not only proven pedigree, but are proven themselves. I want their offspring to always be in demand and be known more for the damline than the sire line.

But mostly, I just want FEI ponies.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

And we're back

The saddle arrived Friday in a plain large, brown box that was lined with foam.

It was already opened by the boy, who probably knew I would tear open the box like an over-exuberant kid on Christmas.

At first blush, it looked way too narrow and I went into panic mode, finding my original tracings, matching them up with my flex tool and comparing the width. I even had nightmares about it running too narrow and Sinari coming up lame from the bad tracings.

Such is the life of a person who has a continually developing, hard-to-fit pony.

After my paranoia was sated after 10 hours of sleep, I took it to the local saddler and had her check it out. Vetted clean for soundness.

Then came the moment of truth, fitting it. I was itching to do it all day Saturday, but I had a few very welcomed company and it was delayed till the very end, but well worth the wait. By the time I opened my truck door, the smell of leather was heavy and heaven.

I threw it over the pony, and let it sit, ran my hands over it, under it, it fit at that point. I girthed it up, no girthy-ness (one of the best signs ever).

And then I girthed it up today with all the fittings and just a clean square pad and rode.

The ride itself was uneventful, Sinari is out of shape (as am I), and it was warm. I was more or less to see her reaction to it under saddle.

While she wasn't exactly forward (the saddle took my leg off), she was super soft in the bridle and deeply engaged, especially on what I consider her weaker side- the left. Lateral work is nice. Ride lasted about twenty minutes with her huffing towards the end.

The only thing I can pick on with the saddle is that it feels like I'm sitting on top instead of into the horse. This could be flocking issues, or the way the seat is designed (the twist) and I might invest in a ThinLine pad to help with adjusting/development issues.

Otherwise, no slipping, no sitting weird, no truly hard sides and no leaning.

Overall, I'm sold.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Halter gnomes

I've learned over the years from hard-to-catch ponies that preparation is half the battle. Mine aren't hard to catch, but they still wear their halters turning turn out.

Then again after being run down a few times or shoved past, the less you have to fiddle about, the better.

So when your in-training-to-become and FEI pony decides to go buck wild and then buck naked, loosing her halter in a large paddock just as the sun is setting, life gets interesting and you learn to make rope halters really fast.

I blame halter gnomes.

I swear every farm has one and is probably the cousin to the dryer-gnome who has a fetish for clean, warm socks.

My horses go out in their leather turn out halters, partly for the above mentioned reason and for various other concerns. One minor exception is May, who goes out without, but that's another story.

So after I put away the pony for the evening, I trekked back out to the now somewhat dark two or three acre paddock and begin the walk in 20 degree and falling weather.

I wasn't successful the first time.

Or the second.

But today in my morning trek, I found it. Perfectly intact, clip still clipped and not a seam broken. Whatever the halter gnome wanted with it, s/he had its way with it and left it for me to find.

And while I'm happy to have the turnout halter back, I wish they would be considerate and hang it up when they're done.