Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring cleaning

The wind was vicious today and subsequently reflected the short comings of spring. It was cold, wet and windy. It felt like we skipped the next two seasons and went back to dreary winter.

That and being ill didn't deter me from riding for the past couple of days though.

Starting Friday I went out, drugged with anti histamines and rode. In return for the efforts Sinari turned in another solid work, with throwing her first clean changes in both directions (thanks Kara for kicking my butt!). While I thought we were doing well in one area- we were lacking in flexibility. It felt like a yoga session gone wrong as we noodled our way through various degrees of bending, which ultimately resulted in our first true extended trot (much to our coach's amusement-- calling it a 7) and honest passage (would have been a 5). Today, tried to re-create it, but it backfired a bit, but we did pull off another round of clean changes because of the work we did yesterday.

My position was also picked on, and the fact that I ride with longer reins was stressed on as well. The point being, going through the levels the two biggest components of it are being able to ride straight and through. Picking and maintaining that bend allows the greater degree of collection and thoroughness, by comitting the line-- you can put the horse anywhere you wish at any time.

It seems everyday we do this, the closer I feel to the PSG. That third level is only weeks away with consistent work and second level is in its death throes. It feels freaking great.

Because it is spring, it also means its time to spruce up things. I began as I always do: with the truck.

I live in my truck and despite it's current issues, it was overdue for a cleaning (especially if its going in the shop). I removed twenty pounds of clothes, stuff that was in there since last August, my small collection of Starbucks coffee glass bottles. I found all my saddle pads and then some.

I ordered seatbelts, and when I drop it tomorrow for what its due for, I'll also have them give me estimates on the bumper. I just hope an arm and leg isn't on the bill.

It also means I can start re-creating a show trunk and take stock of what needs to be sold or truly bought. I can put together my spare supplements.

I then started with the barn, first with just raking the public space in the shedrow. My next few steps is to re-organise the tackroom, the feedroom, my little space on the row itself and keep it sustainable.

Finally its onto my house, which is a bleeding mess and expecting a visitor Derby weekend. Not to mention the sheer ton of laundry.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Down but not out.

I remember when I was little, a sick day was something to have. You sat at home, parentals would manage your comfort and watch TV. However, being an adult and being ill is not only distinctly miserable, but the fun lies in the negative regions on the scale of fun stuff to do.

If you haven't gotten the hint- I'm ill with whatever little bubonic plague carrying cow workers' offspring passed along. Normally I don't get sick either, but the huge stress of what was going on at work and lacking sleep over last weekend, I think it just accumulated. I hate killing off the eight hours from work because I want to use the time more constructively... like going on vacation, or enjoying it while not suffering from virus-inducing coughing fits. It needed to be done. Such is life.

But not all is wasted sitting at home. I ordered her full bridle bits from across the pond. It was a sweet deal too- 60 US for both bits. I'm looking for an extra set of reins for the snaffle bit, the bridle came with plain, sewn reins and I can't working with a set. So I ditched one pair (gave to a friend) and I want something with stops and preferably rubber. I also talked to Enter at A Jewelry (local girl who also rides) and I'm having her make Sinari's browband.

Despite recovering, I am still riding. Sinari went back to work Tuesday with a hack on a long rein, the proceeded to turn in two very good works on Wednesday and Thursday. The pony came back fine from the show itself, seemed less tired too. She's just a super star in the making.

With this month-long lull of no shows/no events, I've re-started the changes (which she seems to get at the moment), cleaning up the half pass, and working on the uber-collected (canter on the spot) canter to micro pir's. Definately cleaned up the left side "I can't do straight" senario and the mediums which are strengthening now that she's back on home turf. By the time Meadow Lake rolls around, she'll be good to go.

May is almost down to a month (April 10th) and I'm getting scared and excited and the two emotions have become increasingly mixed. I'm not scared of the foal, I'm know the team I have in place does an excellent job and has a super post-natal care plan in place. I'm sure the thing will pop out with all the parts in all the right areas. I know I can handle the ground training, and getting everything initially into the right place.

What I'm scared of is the unknown. I have been for a long time now.

I'm more concerned three years down the line when my ambitions start rearing again. I make no qualms that, if I still have the foal when it turns four, then I want an FEI young horse candidate or, in the very least, an FEI candidate.

I'm horribly scared that the thing will be 17 hands and have THE worst behavior. That it will distinctly HATE dressage and be a candidate for Fugly Horse of the Day. The Tennessee stud nightmares have stopped, but I think they've been replaced with more realistic ones. Which, in my opinion, are worse.

The even weirder thing is that with Sinari's impending embryo transfer, I have more solid feeling about the results than the current scheduled bundle of joy.

I think it stems from riding my gelding, who I bought as a three year old, backed as a four year old and sold him when he was five. On paper and tape, he trumped Sinari, and was ironically something that I orginally wished for (big, black and excellent potential). I bought him privately with money I regret spending from my trust account.

In the end though, he trumped me by ditching me a few times. He hated dressage, hated contact, hated using himself. I wanted him to be my FEI horse very badly, he wanted to be anything else. But, in the end, he went to a fox hunter's home in Virginia, and we were all happy.

I learned a lot from him, and from my first pony, Jammie. They taught me upper-level dressage (and the sport in general), isn't for every horse. Yes, while you can incorporate the principles, and the exercises, competitive dressage, just like any other sport in it's pure form, is tough and takes a specific individual to do it. In other words, three quarters of the game is mental and if you don't have an individual who has that brain- forget it.

So while there is a bottle of prosecco and ice wine up for grabs I'll be doing hard shots of something when I have to step into the irons for the first time.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Big mamma

I had my local farrier come out the other day for a trim on Mamma-to-be May.

While I wasn't there to hold (my farm team is excellent), but the farrier was a little more than amused when she came waddling in from outside, looking nothing more than the typified cartoon-broodmare: all body zero legs. He dubbed her: midget mare. Seriously, her belly is twice the width of her normal size.

With less than 50 on the calendar for countdown, things are heating up on our end for final preparations. Starting next month, she will probably start being in the stall during nights, the mare alert system will be implanted.

Speaking of things to be done, after the show yesterday, I've made a list of stuff that needs to be purchased (aside from fixing the car) over the next few weeks to make my life a little easier on the road.

-Breeches (Full seats, I couldn't get a grip yesterday in my old Mt. Horses)
-Polo shirts, black with logo on them.
-Extra show shirt

Horse clothes:
-day stable sheet (I'm coveting a matching Newmarket sheet with the quarter sheet I have, but I really want a traditional wool one).
-Bradoon and curb bits

Storage/portable items
-hanging hooks for bridle, saddle and h20 buckets
-multi-use garment bag (one that stores everything in one shot)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The cherry of the season

I believe most weekend warrior/Adult Amateur types are masochistic.

Seriously, what fool would take pleasure in waking up at the crack o' dawn on her weekend, bathe, braid, study random squiggles on a white board, compete against friends and stand all day watching people do the same damn thing?

This fool would.

We kicked off the season at the Snowbird III at the Kentucky Horse Park. It was a simple affair, one test (Second Level test 2), and didn't bother wearing the jacket or my top hat. The goal was light: score above 60 percent, settle into routine and clean up the left lead.

The day started off simple, woke up, showered, went to my local corporate coffee house for my breakfast. Came to the park, tossed feed, checked in, and proceeded to check out the footing making sure it didn't freeze overnight. After being less-than-satisfied with my tax dollars at work (warm up was solid and ungroomed, water not turned on at individual spigots, pot holes in stalls) I continued on.

If there is one perk about the pony, it's she's super easy to braid. No halter, no lead, no nothing, in fact, it takes me a whopping FIVE MINUTES to plate the pretty running braid and her forelock.

However, I had two charges to groom. Sinari, who takes five minutes and a fellow traveler who needed button braids.

The last time I did buttons was when I evented eons ago. Despite thinking that the braids weren't tight enough. I didn't miss a beat and got everything done well prior to the girl's first class and all of the braids were evenly spaced. Had more fun with our neighbors who were local dutch breeders, and I was in full novice breeder mode.

Flash forward a few hours, I'm on, I'm riding and ready to go in, but prior to the event I get yanked aside by the judge who is bent (at a schooling show) for everyone to be formally dressed.

While I'm all for wearing my jacket at shows, and looking the part, it's a schooling show. It's not meant to be serious, it's meant to be relaxed. While wearing your attire is encouraged, it should not be enforced. The way I also see it is since I'm riding not with the crowd (ala training and intro)-- I'm doing you the favor of having something to judge other than horses that can't go on he bit.

Which leads me to think if I go down the centerline at PSG at one of these shows, I'll wear something similar, if something worse. Haven't decided.

Aside the mellowdrama from the fashion police, the test went smooth. The medium trot just wasn't firing on all cylinders, my impression of a sitting trot was odd, but the canter work was quite nice. We scored 60 percent and change, enough to place second over a green third level horse and under a seasoned stuck-at-second level pair.

Afterword hacked about the park. First and foremost Kentucky Horse Park is a tourist attraction, so if you go or have gone, realize that the people on horses whether be competitors or staff, are the side show. Over the years I've had some pretty interesting requests that ranged from taking photos with the people, to asking to sit on the pony (that would be a no). Horse education ranges from: horses are pretty to three steps shy of DVM degree.

This time, because Sinari was clipped, she looked almost shaved, and not a whole lot of people know what a clipped pony looks like, so when the general population shows up concerned that your poor pony has issues, I can't help but laughing. A lot.

So our collective season is kicked off, good bad and otherwise.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pain in the neck

Our first show is Saturday. Just one test, to make sure that the waters are good for the future stuff and to get out as soon as possible.

Second level test two is simple on paper but there are two elements to the test that just suck. The first is haunches in for thirty meters, straighten, turn, turn right, haunches in right. The second is a similar movement, canter depart, volte, to across through X, walk canter depart, volte.

Wouldn't be so bad if the pony didn't start steam rolling down the longside for a medium. That's my bad. I use the long sides a lot not a whole lot for lateral work (quarter lines and center lines are good for that) but rather for the forward and back.

It also wouldn't be a problem if she wasn't sticking the left lead.

This is namely due to me and my body position, so to make myself explicitly clear, I worked on walk-canter transitions on the longside every three strides on the left. The exercise is fairly simple, pick up left lead canter, go three strides, walk, regroup, canter right three strides, walk regroup, canter left. Rise, wash repete.

Sounds simple right?

Sinari rolled out her steam rolling canter and the sudden start/stopping she began to get tight in her neck. Then she really began protesting on the ten meter circle. Which led to our arguement today (upright stiff neck, leaning, running).

I pulled a boo-boo working that so close to the show and I feel morally stupid doing it to her hollow side. To get this mare to be truly thorough, you need to talk to her through her neck and her whithers, which loosens her back and she truly becomes that much softer. Doing that work so close I think set us back and I really didn't help it.

Back to the neck down work tomorrow, then a day off, then a day out hacking, a day running through the test, then shipping over to the park and running through everything out there.

On the otherside, May, according to the farrier looks like an overstuffed midget mare.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What's in a name?

I went to the barns yesterday in a foul mood from work. I saw May at the gate and I grabbed her to have a long grooming session prior to seeing about Sinari.

About an hour into my pony parlour work, I realised that the bouncing ball of fluff is due in about a month and a half. You can't really miss it, May is beyond huge and when you occasionally push, the baby moves or pushes back.

To keep the mood light hearted, I have a small contest at the barns going where if you guess the date and sex correctly I'll dole out a couple of bottles of wine.

But the other part of the fun with having any baby is naming.

It's the creative part of the paring (aside from the initial coupling), and I've had plenty of thought for it. The problem is every horse I've had so far has already come named (for better or worse). Going to shows is slightly painful at the moment because Sinari's full registered name is in Welsh, and is inevitably butchered. Repetitively. The problem is further compounded from my perspective as a writer. I love words, learning new ones, in different languages and the problem is that there's so many great words out there that roll off the tongue and feel just right.

I'm also slightly superstitious on the subject, believing that it's bad luck to change a horse's name and won't change the official name after initial paperwork. Even if its Skippamypantsoffhotstuff or Miss Muffet.

BoldFibonacci, Sante, Prosecco, Tabula Rasa, Verdict, Sui Generis, Oded, Ashima, Zulu, A Fortiori, Saccheri, the list becomes endless and even infinite when you start dealing with barn names.

So, I'm in a quandry, I orginally had three names picked out. But now the list has grown and I have choices and only one opportunity to put it to paper.

Between thoughts, I played a little with May. When I first got her, I was under the impression she never had anything done to her aside from producing babies and having a halter thrown on her.

I was very wrong.

First I broke out the clippers. I thought she would act up, but no, she let me do her feet her bridle path and her jaws. I pushed her further, throwing a sursingle and girth on her, expecting, again a blow up. No. She didn't balk, even walked around a bit with it.

Then I decided to re-introduce the trailer.

She's been slightly fearful of trailers ever since I got her, apparently they had to shove her in the trailer from North Carolina and it took an hour and a half to get her to her current spot. That's with the drugs.

So I walked up to the little blue trailer, swung it open and let her stand there. I sat down in it and just fed her a little bit of hay off of it. She was fine with this, coming closer to the trailer. There was a little bit of grain left over from when the guys were training the babies grabbed the little can and shook it at her.

And lo. She loaded. It was the shock of my life.

She stood there for a few minutes, and I unloaded her, praising her all the way back and on the ground. She got the rest of the grain and went back to the herd.

It infiniately cheered my day up.

Sinari is back to work. It's coming along.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Feet back on the ground

We landed on Monday, two hours late, but still arrived. My mind is still very dizzy.

The most stark change was the lack of snow, which in the south only lasts a few days or not at all. Flying out of white out was interesting. The cold never changes, but you can definitely feel spring coming.

Despite going to my house in New Jersey, attending lecture at Julliard, seeing Bach's Mass in D Minor and seeing my family, I missed my horses more, and riding terribly. Since landing I've been itching to get back to work and in the saddle, I was even allowed dispensation to come to the barn after hours, to look in. Walking through the barn for the first time it was good to see her face over the door. I was even elated to see May, who looked extremely pregnant.

I've been playing catch up since I've landed and so, I didn't move Sinari back until today due to a few scheduling conflicts. But she's back and we begin back tomorrow, I can't wait. We have a show in two weeks and there's so much to do.

With that, my poor to-do list exploded. From having the billets shortened up to finding a new pair of show boots and co-heading the green team at work, it just seems like a small mountain of stuff and laundry descended on my desk. I still need to clean out my truck and have a few things due for various people.

Tis the season and it's only started.