Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wondermare Strikes Again

We had yet another awesome English lesson today! My little wondermare never ceases to amaze me. Our main issue these days in the English realm is the trot. Satin is a bit of a lazy trotter and hates moving out into what I call the "Big girl trot". We have been improving it little by little each week, but this week we had a major break through.

She started off the lesson with a pokey trot, so Renee decided to hop on and see if she could find the key. Well, as always, she did. She would start by framing her up at the walk and then the sitting jog. Once she was round and on the bit, she would then push her up into a bigger trot. It did not come easy, even for Renee. Satin did put up a bit of a fight and had some swishy tail "I don't want to do this" moments and broke into the canter a few times to avoid the work of a big girl trot.

After a few minutes Renee had me get back on and try the exercise. I started the same way she did, rounding her up at the walk / sitting jog then pushing her into the big girl trot. We got some absolutely BEAUTIFUL trot. She stayed perfectly framed and on the bit and moved forward in a nice big trot. We would go a time or two around then stop to praise her and than again, in each direction. After that we did some canter work and with both the trot and canter worked on round downward transitions.

We finished up with work on the serpentine using two side by side jumps, that we have been working on the past two weeks. We had some rough patches, but overall it was much improved. She isn't cutting the jumps as tight or jumping them on a diagonal. She is jumping straighter and her turns are nicer and wider, though we could still stand to use a bit more of the ring.

All in all, I am very proud of her today, especially her improvement at the trot. We may have a future in Hunters after all!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Awards Banquet

Last Friday, was the annual awards banquet for the local schooling show series I participate in. It is always a fun night to spend with your horse show buddies celebrating the end of a successful show season.

This year I won quite a few awards. Satin was Grand Champion in the Western Speed Division. Let me remind you that she is 22 years old, making her the oldest horse in the division. Needless to say, I was quite proud of this accomplishment and my supposedly "senior" horse, who is constantly showing everyone that age is just a number!

Me and Satin's trophies = She received the perpetual for being grand champion, as well as, a first place trophy.

My other awards were earned by the ever handsome JB. He was third for the year in Open Model, which was a huge accomplishment as he competes against mostly QHs and Paints. He also received third in Beginner Western. He was the only Standardbred in this division and only started western training about two months before the show season began. Due to his achievements in these two divisions, he also won the trophy for High Point Standardbred in Open Classes. There are two Standardbred divisions at this local show series (both of which JB was champion in with his owner Helene), so this award goes to the Standardbred that acquires the most point in the non-Standardbred, or Open, divisions.

Helene and I with all of JB's awards

I was quite proud of both of my wonderful show ponies this season. They both gave me what has probably been my best show season so far. I am so grateful to everyone who helped make this possible. First and foremost, my fabulous trainer Renee, whose patience, knowledge, and dedication are what gave me the skill and ability to bring home these trophies. Also, a big thank you to Helene for lending me the ever wonderful JB and Jill, for giving me Satin, the best thing that's ever been mine and my partner through it all. I also can not go without thanking my family and friends who always support me, Daryl who ships us to every show, and my barn crew for being there for every early morning class, late night prep, and everything in between. It's been a great year and I can't wait to see what next year brings for us.

Me and all 5 of my trophies

Me and my show team with all of our trophies. Love these girls

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Another Great Lesson

Last week we had another great English lesson. Our lesson partners Lisa and Lexie were back in action. It has been raining all day, so we were in the indoor, which leaves limited space for jumping. It did, however, give us the opportunity to do a lot of good flat work exercises.

We started with shoulder-in at the walk in both directions, then we added some trot and canter to that. We would trot half the ring until we got to the long side by the door and then come back to the walk and shoulder in down that side and repeat. Then we did the same thing, but added canter instead of trot. This exercise was great for transition work as well, which the princess pony is quite sharp at. Afterwards Renee set two rails on the ground parallel to each other. One was a few feet from the indoor wall and the other was at the center of the ring. She had me stand parallel to one and Lisa across from me standing parallel to the other. She had us go around in a circle, never taking our eyes off of the other, and we had to stay across from each other the whole time. Each time we passed the rails, Renee would call out a command, such as sitting or posting trot, canter, reverse, halt, etc. It was fun and quite helpful.

Next, Renee set up two small verticals next to each other (well not right next to each other, they were a few feet apart). She had us do a serpentine exercise where we picked up our left lead down the long side and around the first jump, then turning and coming over it. We would land on the right lead and go over the next jump, land on the left lead, canter up a few steps and halt, completing a serpentine pattern. A serpentine over two jumps doesn't sound that complicated, but put it in a small space and it requires a lot of collection, focus, and smoothness. The first time through she stopped at both jumps as she sometimes does the first time she approaches, but then she went over them and completed the pattern nicely. Every few times through Renee raised the jumps. We probably went up to about 2'6". We worked on focus and smoothing out the turns to use up the space we had and make nice straight approaches. In the beginning Satin wanted to cut the turns short, which had her jumping the jumps on a diagonal. By the end though, she was jumping perfectly and doing the pattern quite smoothly.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Perfect Hunter Pony Has Returned!

Last week Satin and I had a fabulous lesson! As Satin has come further along in her jumping training, she has been slowing down over the jumps and going around more like a hunter. The last couple of lessons however, she reverted back to jumper pony and was a speedy gonzales through the courses. Also, last week Renee and I decided to up her grain ration to two full scoops of sweet feed at each feeding, in order to help put some more weight on her. She is a little horse so I figured this new feeding program would add to her hyperness over the jumps.

Luckily for me, it seems to have had the opposite effect. In our lesson last week (the first since the diet change) she jumped like a perfect little hunter pony. We have been working on developing her trot which is much better. We also worked on my position at the trot which needed some tweeking. Then we worked on two point at the trot and canter which in Renee's words was "perfect" which made me quite happy.

As we cantered around going from our normal seat to two point, Renee had us pop over a simple white vertical, just using it as part of our circle. She had me go up into the two point as I approached the jump so all I had to do was release as she went over, since I was already up in a two point. This worked very nicely for both of us and we got some beautiful jumps and some "perfects" on my jumping position, which again made me a happy camper as that has been one of the things I have been working on the most.

After a few times over the vertical to warm up, Renee gave us a course to work on. We started with a shorter course of about 6 jumps. After a time or two through that, Renee changed the course making it 9 jumps, which included a two stride, diagnonal, a few singles, and a three jump bending line. Height wise, the course ranged from 2 foot to 2'3" with maybe one or two 2'6" jumps in there. It was our first time ever through a two stride and though height wise it wasn't large and they were plain verticals, I was a bit nervous. Satin picked up on this making the first time or two through a bit awkward, but after that I got over it and it rode quite nicely.

She rode through the whole course beautifully and at the perfect pace. The first time or two through the longer course she got quick going to the last two jumps because there was a long canter distance to get to them so she got a bit anxious, but after a few times through she settled and rode the whole course at a nice, even pace. Renee was quite happy with both of us and I was feeling quite confident about the course by the end of the lesson. When we are both in the groove with out jumping we do quite well. When she is in fast paced, jumper pony mode I get more disheveled which translates to her and we don't ride as smoothly. We are both getting better with each lesson though and Renee is slowly but surely working to build my jumping confidence.

Satin even jumped like a perfect hunter pony again on Saturday at home. This was even more shocking because she tends to be even quicker at home. I just did some lines and single jumps then a short 4 jump course, but she remained nice and quite through out. Then Ember, who rode her in the Firecracker Fun Show jump-off, wanted to get on. So, she jumped a 6 jump course and she though she got a little quick for her in the beginning, once they both settled into each other she rode quite nicely.

The icing on the cake was yesterday though. I was riding bareback with my friend Shannon and I just had Satin in a halter with the lead rope tied to the loop on the bottom under her chin. Shannon and I decided to switch and she asked to jump her over the crossrail. She jumped her bareback with no bit in her mouth and going in the direction of the gate and she went along perfectly at a nice, even hunter pace! I was quite proud and surprised and think this new diet may be our friend rather than the enemy I thought!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Firecracker Fun Show = Huge Success!!!

I could not be happier to announce that the Firecracker Fun Show, which I have been writing about (and of course planning) for the past month, was a HUGE success!!!! We raised over $3,000!!!

It was an absolutely amazing day! I could not have asked for better weather or turnout. We had a good amount of riders, horses, and attendees. All of our classes were very full and everyone had fun whether they rode or not. People have been writing and commenting to me over the past couple days saying how much they enjoyed it and what a great time they had.

The family was especially grateful, which made all of the hard work and planning completely worth it. I was so touched by their words of gratitude. Both of Caitlyn's parents expressed their thanks over Facebook and her family members that attended all hugged and thanked me personally over and over. It was especially emotional and heart warming between Renee and I. The whole experience was just so rewarding for me in more ways than one. I can't even fully express it. I was not the only one overwhelmed by the generosity and support shown by all of the attendees. As someone said to me the entire day had such a good vibe. I was so happy to be able to help this wonderful family. Renee has always been so good to me and has gone above and beyond to help me, so I was more than happy to be able to help her. Plus, I am fully aware of what it is like to have a family member with cancer. My uncle lived with us when he battled lung cancer and I'm sure Caitlyn's young age makes it that much more difficult.

I also have to once again express my thanks to all of those who helped me make this possible: Kayla and Daryl who worked side by side with me through out, Lauren for letting us host it as the farm, Katie for running the ring, Amy for judging, Sue, Mary, Shannon, my parents, Kelli and everyone who volunteered their time during preparation and the day of. I also have to thank all of our generous sponsors who donated money, goods, or services. This includes Central Jersey Horseman's Association who sponsored our ribbons, C&C Embroidery who donated and made our Cure for Caitlyn shirts, Terrace Bagels who donated 4 dozen bagels, Dr. Klayman of Colts Head Veterinary Service, Mike Mullin, my family, the Hoffmans, the Harvey's, Beauty Store and Salon, the Nieto's, Quail Creek Pharmacy, the Ebners, Sarah Wayda, Gina Giovenco, Casey Koehler, Lazy M Feed, AB Tack, and so many more.

The Howell Patch wrote a great article about the event, which can be seen here.

We started the day a bit later than planned, but that is a horse show for you. When it comes to horses you can never stick to a schedule. The entire day ran very smoothly though. We started off with our pairs obstacle course, which I won along with my partner, Kayla (yes I have decided its time to use full first names). We followed that up with a switch class, in which riders switched horse and were judged on how well they rode and presented a horse they were not used to at the walk, trot, canter. I was extremely lucky to switch onto my trainer Renee's horse Portas. Portas, or the Big Man, as we fondly call him, is a beautiful warmblood gelding with a puppy dog personality. He is also a gorgeous mover and extremely talented jumper. I was lucky enough to ride him once before at R's farm and even jump him a little. Renee's brother rode Satin in this class and Renee rode Taz.

Portas had been a little spunky for Renee in the first class so I rode him a bit conservatively and just let him go around as he pleased. Unfortunately, we had a break at the left lead canter. I circled to get him out of the pack and unfortunately half of the pack circled with us leaving us no where to go. We recovered the canter quickly though and took a 5th in that class. My friend Ember actually won the class on Lexie, my lesson partner Lisa's horse.

Another highlight of my day was in the next class which was the jump off, which we split into ponies and horses. At the last minute mt friend Ember asked if she could take Satin in the class and give her a try. I said sure go ahead and she ended up taking 5th and going over her first 3 foot oxer! I was a very proud Mom!

I let Destiny, one of the girls from my old farm run Satin in the barrels. I did not expect her to run as she usually doesn't at home. But, apparently she knew it was a show and was ready to go, though luckily did not display the enthusiastic hopping and rearing she does at other horse shows. Destiny had never run barrels before and did great! They had fabulous turns and got 3rd to two very fast horses (one being Kayla's horse Smokey). Her sister Shyanne did a dash on her as did I and we got 4th. The Big Man aka Portas had some pretty nice barrel turns too!

Next was the relay race. My team, which consisted of myself, Kayla, Ember, Shannon, Renee, and Doug, won. This was followed by a pairs command class, where Kayla was again my partner and we took third. After that we had ride-and-tie, in which it was a team of 2 riders and 1 horse. The first rider runs the horse fully tacked to the opposite end of the arena where the 2nd rider is waiting. They hop off and tag in the second rider who untacks the horse and runs it bareback home. Kayla and I used Smokey so we were once again the winners. The final competitive event for the day was ride-a-buck, a bareback class in which a dollar is placed under your knee and you are given commands to follow. You keep riding until you lose your dollar. It came down to Renee and I as the final two and I knew I was done for. As you all know I speak very highly of Renee as a rider and trainer and there was no way I would out ride her, plus my mare is quite bouncy while Portas is smooth as silk. The normally docile Portas, however, forfeited the class for them. While backing up Portas decided to stand up. A 17 hand horse in full rear right in front of you is quite a site to see and add a leap to that rear and you are really into something. Needless to say this was a bit much even for Renee and she slipped off, putting an end to our bareback dual, which otherwise might have gone on quite a while. We ended the class winners once again though I am curious to see how it would have gone if Portas had not ended it for us. Though, I am pretty sure I know the answer to that!

Renee, Portas, and I at the end of the day.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Down to the Wire!

The Firecracker Fun Show is in t-minus 4 days! I can't believe it's finally here! I am very excited about it, but also a bit stressed. The show gets bigger and better with each day of planning. I do have a great team of supporters, but also have some difficulty delegating, so I have tons to do and feel like time is running out.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I organized a similar show last year, but it was on a much smaller scale. I am very happy about the rapidly expanding size of this show, but with it comes more to do.

The ribbons arrived yesterday and they came out great. Big thank you to Central Jersey Horseman's Association who sponsored them. I ordered wristbands similar to the Livestrong bands, that read "Cure for Caitlyn" which came in about 2 weeks ago and have already begun to sell. I also have to thank my embroiderer C&C Embroidery who donated 25 "Cure for Caitlyn" shirts and is donating $5 from the purchase of every shirt there after. The shirts came out great and it will be awesome to see so many people wearing them on show day. They have also been a great fundraising tool.

So many people, especially in the horse world, have been so generous. We have tons of great raffles from generous sponsors, such as my local vet who donated a free chiropractic adjustment, as welll as, a free acupuncture session. We have several lessons from great trainers in various disciplines. We also have non horse items like gift certificates, household appliances, and wine.

On top of the horse show and raffles, we also have a 50/50, pony rides, hair feathers / fake tattoos, a used tack sale and a wishing well for the family. The wishing well is similar to the wishing wells found at baby or bridal showers. Guest bring a small inexpensive item and add it to the well, kind of like stocking stuffers. For this wishing well, we asked that guests bring items for any member of the family. For example, I purchased some small toys and coloring books for Caitlyn and her brothers. I also bought a family movie they could all watch together. Things like this are a nice touch for the family and gives them something to keep them entertained at home or in the hospital.

As you can see this makes me quite a busy girl. Things are coming together quite nicely, but we still have a lot to do as show day approaches. I am learning about all the things that go into putting on a large show and charity event. I am also learning that I really love it. Yes, I am extremely busy and a bit stressed, but I am really enjoying putting this all together, especially because it is for such a great cause. It is also really rewarding to see all my work pay off and come together to be quite a success. It is not even show day and I have already collected almost $350 in donations!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

We Jumped Big Girl Jumps!

Today, Satin and I had one of our solo lessons. It was raining all day, so we were in my trainer's small indoor. We started with work on our posting trot, since Miss Mare isn't really a huge fan of the forward, working trot. We worked on pushing her out and getting her to extend and move forward. R had us go to the sitting trot and frame her up, tuck her nose in a bit, and shorten her back to give her more power in her trot as I moved her back up to the posting trot. We worked on getting slight contact and the frame in the more forward trot as well.

Afterwards we did some work on our flying lead changes. R set up two sets with two poles in each set. We cantered figure eights through the sets, using them to get our lead changes. She nailed her lead change from left to right basically every time. Right to left was a bit of a different story, as she would get crooked and loose the hind end. With some pointers from R, we were able to fix this and get nice changes both ways.

Then R added a small vertical to our pattern. Well, at least it started as a small vertical, probably under 2 foot in the beginning, as an extra pole to work on the right to left change, which she got easily coming off of the jump. Soon though R was lifting the rail. Every time or two through the "course" she would walk over and lift the rail a hole, thinking I wasn't paying attention as she was giving me instruction as she did it. She can be quite sneaky when she wants to be. LOL Eventually she got the jump up to about where we have been jumping, around 2'3. Then she lifted the jump a hole and sent me over it on its own. I did it though not without some hesitation. Luckily, Satin had no hesitation and sailed over beautifully.

"How about one more hole?" R said next. I gave her the "do I really have a choice look" and shrugged my shoulders. "Whatever you want". So up went the rail one more time. Satin knocked the rail, but due to rider error. Her toes clipped again on the second time, again my fault as I came out of my 2 point too early. The third and fourth time though she sailed right over and did so beautifully according to R and other onlookers. Felt pretty nice to me too!

Afterwards I asked R about how high the jump was. She brought out her handy measuring tape and announced that it was just over 2'9"! 2'9"!! I was shocked! I figured it was about 2'6" at the most, which was about as high as I thought we would really ever go as my mare is older and small. Seems like I underestimated us both, but luckily R never does!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Last Show of the Season

Last Sunday we had the last show of the season for the local schooling show series I compete in with both Satin and JB. Satin was in the lead for Grand in Speed for year end by 6 points, so she had a title to defend. JB was just a few points off getting reserve behind tough competition in both Model and Beginner Western, so the pressure was on.

Satin was up first in the speed division. We went in for the barrels and she was totally asleep, basically cantering the pattern. Luckily her good turns made up for lack of speed and she managed a 2nd. I borrowed a western version of a crop for the next class which was poles. I never actually need to use a crop on Satin, just flashing it past her eye a few times is usually enough. This is what I did as I ran up the poles and she kicked in to gear. She cut the turn around the first pole too tight and the footing was a bit soft from the rain earlier in the week, causing her to almost fall. I thought her front end lost traction, but I saw from the video her back end actually sunk under her and what I felt in the front was her scrambling to catch herself. The one thing I love about my mare though is she will do anything to save us both. One time during a lesson she tripped doing a lead change and went down on both front legs and her shoulder and managed to get herself back up and keep me aboard then keep going.

Anyway, when she recovered we just stood there for a few seconds. I wasn't sure what to do and whether or not I should keep going. That is when Satin said, "Mom I'm ready to keep going". So I trusted my mare and completed my pattern, though conservatively. The other great thing about my mare is she is very smart and careful. She is not the kind of crazy horse that will keep running hurt. If something was wrong she would let me know, so when she said let's finish, I said okay. She managed a fourth in that class.

My father was ringside that day, as both my parents always are. He has not seen me fall or almost fall since I was 5 so he freaked out about. As I exited the ring he was frenzied, insisting I get off the horse right away and that she was dragging her back foot. Now my mare is 22 and has some arthritis and those of you with senior horses with arthritis now, they often will drag their back toes a bit while walking and some even while trotting. So this slight toe drag is completely normal for my mare, which my father did not understand. I let him cause me to second guess myself, but I know my horse and I will never let that happen again. I got off felt her legs and flexed them, all normal. A friend of mine walked up the ring just then and I had her get on and trot her around for me to see and she trotted nice and forward. She was quite eager, even breaking into the canter. Then I got on and felt her trot, still 100% sound and normal.

My next and final class was keyhole so I practiced a rollback and both her turn and canter felt perfect, so I decided to trust my own judgement and knowledge of my horse and continue on. I ran her slightly conservatively, in fear too quick a turn may slip her up again. Her turn was beautiful and she earned a 3rd. These placings were just enough to keep her in Grand for year end awards by 2 points. Not too bad for a supposedly "senior" mare.

Next up, I had JB in Model. He placed exceptionally well against some stiff competition. A new gelding came who I happened to know from my old farm. This gelding and his sire are champion halter horses in Palomino and QH. JB placed 3rd in that class to that gelding and another that has been champion at CJHA the past few years. In the Open class he placed 6th out of about 12, which was excellent. He held on to his 3rd for the year end awards.

After that, we tacked up for our western division. Usually JB's owner H rides her classes before mine so the edge is off by the time we get to warm up. They had changed classes around to fit everything in so now she was riding after me. JB was pretty quiet though, but required a little more warm up then usual. Unfortunately, I did not get to give him as good of a warm up as I would have liked as I had to communicate back and forth with the ring steward to see where they were in the ring H shows in and if classes could be held as promised due to the switch.

Anyway, I had him going pretty nicely by the time they were ready to start with Horsemanship. It was a pretty simple pattern, so I was quite confident. The entire pattern rode beautifully until the very end. The last part of the pattern was to jog to the last cone, stop, and back 4 steps. Unfortunately for us, it just so happened that the last cone was placed right next to the board for the trail class, which JB is deathly afraid of. He refused to trot all the way to the cone and stopped about 4 or 5 strides before it and backed himself the 4 steps. This cost us a few points, but we still managed a 2nd. In pleasure he rode pretty well, but did speed up at times, and placed 4th. We earned back our title of Command champion (a class we have won almost every show this year). It was down to 3 of us, one of which being my friend K, who I battle for first with every show. The judge has us backing up and asked for a reverse. I was the only one to reverse and keep backing as is proper procedure. The trail class was a failure as JB was once again afraid of half the obstacles, so he was 6th. He again held his place in 3rd for the year end.

It was not the best show of the season for me or either of my mounts, but it was still a good end to the season as they held their positions for year ends. I am quite proud of both Satin and JB and could not have asked for two better show horses. They both gave me a great season filled with many wins and championships. Satin proved once again she has still has plenty of years left in her and "senior horse" has a very loose definition. JB was excellent for his first ever western show season with this past winter being the first time he was ever ridden western. Looking forward to a little break for all of us and exciting season in 2012.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Yonker's Under Saddle Race

This past Saturday, October 8 I made my first trip to Yonkers Raceway for their first ever Under Saddle race, also known as a Monte race. They use trotters only, since pacers require hobbles, which could be an issue for riding. They also start behind the driven starting gate, just like in a regular harness race. In this particular race, they only went around the track one time, which equals a 1/2 mile. In a typical harness race they go twice around the track, for a full mile.

This type of racing is extremely popular all over Europe and this exhibition race at Yonkers was an attempt to bring it to life in the United States. Supporters of this new racing style hope it will bring more people to the track, and personally I agree with them!

For those of you that have never seen a Standardbred in full trot or pace, you don't know what you are missing. I have been a lifelong Quarter Horse girl and until I became friends with so many people in the Standardbred world, and became a Standardbred fan in the process, the only type of racing I knew was Thoroughbred. Harness Racing is just as exciting as Thoroughbred racing. The speed and action of the trot or pace is unbelievable, as is the many other aspects that make up the sport.

I have ridden some green Standardbreds that still had a big trot or pace, but could never imagine riding a real racing trot or pace. My friend H, who you all know as the owner of the ever talented Standardbred JB, was a participant in this race aboard a trotter named Where's Harry, and from the look on her face and what she told me after, it was the thrill of a lifetime. It definitely looked like it from the sidelines.

As I mentioned earlier, this was my first time at Yonkers and I went solely for the purpose of seeing this race. It was exciting and different. I would love to see this catch on and have some kind of circuit with different brackets and lengths. While this race was all trotters, they were all of different ages and classes, ranging from claimers to stakes winners. The other interesting aspect was that all seven horses were ridden by women, while on the other hand, most drivers are men. This is not to say female drivers do not exist, but they are few and far between. The full list of participants in this race can be seen here.

I believe this sport will bring new fans to harness racing and in turn more people to the tracks. I think other members of the horse industry will be especially interested in this new type of racing. I know I definitely was and from what I heard from the people around me, as well as, others who saw the video of the race (which can be viewed above), I wasn't the only one with this opinion. Also, from what I have heard from Yonker's regulars, the track was much more crowded that night than usual, which was due mostly to the Monte race.

I strongly urge the USTA and harness tracks around the country to put their heads together and look further into this sport. It may just be the ticket to bringing new life to harness racing.

Here are a few photos I took of the race (Copyright Shutter Savvy Images)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Last Week's English Lesson

Our lesson with L was rescheduled to last week and we were riding English once again (still don't know how R tricked me into this LOL). Anyway we started with our usual warm up on the flat then R sent us out to do some dressage serpentines. We started doing them at the trot, then moved onto the canter with simple changes. Her simple changes were pretty good, but not her best. We had not worked on simple or flying changes in a while though. Then we moved on to the flying changes, which I knew were not going to be pretty.

As a former reining horse, Satin can do flying changes in her sleep. But, now that she is holder she has stiffness and arthritis issues in her hocks and she also tries to rush into them too much at times causing her to miss the change behind. This is what happened the first time through. The second time through we got one perfect change, but the rest ended up being late or simple.

R said part of the problem was she was swinging her butt out behind and suggested practicing with a bit of an exaggerated bend down the straightaway, since the changes were supposed to be in the middle) and not letting her change. We did this several times until we got the response we were looking for, then R said "Okay now continue around the turn and let her change". She executed a picture perfect change after that, though not at center line, but that's okay.

Afterwards we moved on to course work. Our warm up course was the outside line to the single diagonal jump that began our course in our previous lesson. She refused the first time to the line then went over with no problem. After two times of this R made the single diagonal a bending line going to the first jump of the outside line, as we had also done in the previous lesson. Then she added another line that was probably about one hole higher on the opposite side of the ring. Satin sailed over it like a champ. I was quite proud, especially because it was her first time over this line and she sometimes refuses a new jump added mid course on the first attempt. After that R added the roll top as a single jump on the diagonal. We had done the roll top before, but this time it was a bit higher then in the past. Satin once again sailed over it like it wasn't even there.

Near the end of the lesson we were both jumping through the course quite smoothly, and both R and I were quite happy with it.

Busy Planning for the Firecracker

The last two weeks have been a bit hectic for me, hence the lack of updates. L and I did not have our lesson 2 weeks ago as we usually do, due to R having to go out of town at the last minute for a family emergency. Her niece's 3-year-old daughter was hospitalized and diagnosed with Stage 3 Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. Fortunately doctor's are very optimistic that with chemotherapy she will recover. She will remain in the hospital for a month and then have to go back once a month for chemo. She will receive chemo for at least two years.

This family has a long, hard road ahead of them. They have two other children, boys, ages 5 and 7. They live in Ohio and none of R's family lives near by, but they are taking turns traveling to Ohio to help. A fund has been started for Caitlyn and her family, called the Firecracker Fund. This will help with Caitlyn's excess medical expenses, as well as, things for the family like gas, meals at the hospital for mom and dad, babysitters for the boys, etc.

I was heart broken for R and her family at the news. My family has been touched by cancer multiple times and I know how hard and painful it is for everyone involved. It is especially sad when this horrible disease affects someone so young. Besides that, R has always been very generous and helpful to me, going above and beyond, whenever I needed her. Of course, I wanted to do anything I could big or small to help.

Last year, me friend K and I, had organized a fun show at our barn to benefit the Hope Happens Here Fund, which was started for my cousin who has cancer, but also benefits other families touched by cancer. We raised just under $1000 and everyone had a great time. Several people had been asking me if I would do it again this year, but I wasn't sure since we had moved barns since then. When everything happened with R's niece though, I knew another fun show was just the thing, especially since I already had the demand.

I got together with K and we came up with a fun class list that would be entertaining for rider and spectator alike. We presented the idea to our barn owner who was all for it, and happy to help. Then I spoke to R who was very excited by the news. Now we have a whole team of volunteers at work for the show which is set to take place November 5th. I already more people attending than the last show and tons of people offering raffles. The horse world is very big and very small at the same time and is always willing to gather together in support of one of their own, which is being proven once again through this show.

Besides the show, we are having other activities as well. We will be offering pony rides for children (or even adults). We are also having raffles, a 50/50, and a used tack sale. We have other ideas in the works too, such as a "wishing well" type basket, like they do at baby and bridal showers, to collect gifts for Caitlyn and her family.

So far November 5th promises to be a fun and successful day for a good cause, so fingers crossed!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Weekend of Horse Showing

This weekend was filled with back to back horse shows. On Saturday I had the Jersey Bred Show with JB and H, of course. There used to be a multitude of breeds showing off their Jersey Bred horses in breed classes at this show. This year the Standardbreds were the only ones left and it was the last year of the show. Since we were the only breed participating the SPHO-NJ decided to open the show up to all Standardbreds with only the Jersey Bred's taking home the money.

Between myself and H, JB was entered in 11 classes and took home 9 blue ribbons, 1 red, and a green. JB and I were 2nd in Model to my friend R's stallion. We took first of eight in a cross country pleasure class of both English and Western riders. We also won both of our western pleasure classes. He was very much in the western zone. He was also a bit itchy and fidgety earning us a 6th in the command from not being able to stand still. He and H were first in all of their classes which included English Pleasure, Jumping, and Driving.

On Sunday I had my normal local schooling show with both Satin and JB. Satin was very good and ended up Grand Champion in the Speed division. Her barrel pattern was just about perfect and keyhole was absolutely perfect. Poles, which is usually her best event, was not so great. She ran up then sucked back as we turned to weave down the poles, then tried to dive right at the pole. I managed to pull her out and get down the poles, but she sucked back as usual when we hit the last 2 poles going up and she basically walked around the end turn before taking off for home. I don't know what was up with that, but we still managed to take 2nd so it ended up alright.

We had some issues with a last minute judge change. We found out after the judge never showed for speed that he was in the hospital. We were lucky to get 2 last minute replacements. There is a father - daughter team that sells tack at all the shows. Luckily, the daughter happens to be a judge and agreed to judge the model and showmanship to keep the ring going until our other judge arrived an hour later to judge the riding. We were 2nd in the Geldings class and 4th in the open class out of 14 horses. I was quite pleased.

JB was very good in the riding. We were 4th in horsemanship, with what I thought was a decent pattern on our part, but not our best. He earned 3rd in pleasure and 2nd in command, with the class coming down to my friend K and I get again. Both of us looked at each other like "Oh God, not this again" after last shows back up contest. JB was quite itchy and fidgety yet again though so it didn't take long for us to get out for him moving in an attempt to itch at the halt. He was 5th in trail as expected, since he is afraid of half the obstacles.

Right now JB is holding 3rd for the year in both of our divisions, only a few points away from being reserve and Satin is holding Grand in the speed. Here's hoping for equally good performances at the last show of the season in October!

Last Week's Lesson

Last week Satin and I had our second individual lesson. R started out by asking me if I took Satin to jump at a horse show next year, what would I do? My reply was, "Vomit". LOL What R meant was Jumpers, Hunters, etc. I had always thought the jumpers looked fun as I have a need for speed, but on the other hand until I am more confident Hunters may be a better fit. I expressed this to R, when my other response of "Whatever you told me to do" did not suffice. R agreed that the Hunters were a good basis for everything and that we would focus on that this lesson. She decided we would do some English Pleasure in our warm up since that is what I originally inquired about when starting these English lessons (though now I think Hunters or Jumpers are more my thing).

Satin hates to trot. She prefers either walk or canter, and gallop of course! The first thing we did was work on getting her to extend her stride a bit and go in a more forward trot, which we achieved with the help of a vine that served as a crop. One thing about Satin is that you never actually have to touch her with the crop (or in this case vine). All she has to do is see it and she gets the picture. After waving it by her eye a few times she was trotting right along. Her canter was pleasure perfect so that wasn't a problem.

Anyway, after that R reset the jumps to be more Satin's size and told me to go warm up a bit before she gave us our course. Well, Satin decided she was only jumping the jumps in the direction of the in gate, but not the opposite direction. We tried and tried for about ten minutes and then all of sudden she changed her mind and was ready pop right over everything in both directions. She is quite the silly little mare sometimes.

After we had managed to get over the jumps in both directions R gave us a short hunter course to do of an outside line with two bending lines. Satin went over everything very nicely and she gave us another slighty longer course adding another bending line, with much more bend then the other two. The old mare never ceases to amaze me though. She took all of the jumps beautifully, going at the perfect pace, like she had been a hunter all of her life. I managed to do pretty well too, if I do say so myself. R was very happy with us both. Maybe a hunter show is in our near future after all.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

General Satin Updates

I just realized my last few posts about Satin have all been about our lessons, so figured it was about time to give some general updates.

Last week, in the days leading up to our lesson, she was acting a bit funny about taking the bit. She always grabs the bit eagerly out of my hand. When I ride her in the hackamore she even tries to grab the hackamore chain like it is a bit. So, when she suddenly started refusing the bit, I found it very odd.

Then at our lesson on Wednesday she refused even more than she had been. She clamped her mouth shut and was pulling her head up and away from me. It took me almost five minutes of fighting with her to get her to take it. In all of these instances, once I got the bit in she was fine. She did not act funny or in pain while riding. This time however, she had foam coming out of the right side of her mouth. It was white and bubbly and made her look like she had rabies. It was coming out and dripping everywhere.

After I finished riding, R has me clean out her mouth with the hose so she could look inside. We had quite a lot of fun trying to hold open her mouth to inspect it with a flashlight (except not really). She is usually good for the dentist, but was not too happy with us, though she wasn't too bad, just kept wanting to clamp her mouth shut. We did not see anything that appeared infected or anything like that. There were some points on the inside of the teeth, but nothing major. This was odd being that she just had her teeth floated about 6 weeks ago and my dentist is always very thorough. The other thing we noticed was that she had a lot of hay and grass and what not stuck on the inside of her back teeth on the right side. We took her back outside and R hosed out her mouth again, trying to target the stuff stuck on the inside of the teeth.

Luckily, R's husband D, who is a farrier, and as much of a horse guru as R, was there to assist. R had him hold open her mouth after this and they both examined it and neither could see anything causing the problem. R suggested calling my dentist back in and riding her without a bit until then.

I rode her the next day just bareback in her halter. I gave her that Friday off and then Saturday rode her western in the hackamore and she went to grab the chain as always. This immediately caught my attention. She rode perfectly. We even did the collected circle, extended circle exercise I had down with Taz and she did it very nicely. I have done similar exercises with her in the bit, so was not sure how she would do in the hackamore, but she was great.

Anyway, I relayed the hackamore story to R the following day and she said maybe we had gotten it out when hosing and it was related to the stuff packed on the inside of the teeth. She suggested going ahead and giving the bit a try. Later that day I tacked her up English and she turned her head away from the bit the first time, but when I asked her again she took it with no issue. I rode her around, asking her to get on the bit, and jumped her a little (which she did very nicely and quietly) and there was no foam whatsoever. Whatever it was it looks like we got it, thankfully.

We also changed her diet, since she on occasion will leave over some of her pellet. She was getting half a scoop of sweet feed and half a scoop of pellet, plus her equijewel and cortaflex (joint supplement). R and I both felt she had lost a little weight, most likely due to the bad batch of hay we had gotten at the farm. She wasn't leaving enough grain or leaving it often enough to cause the change. R suggested changing her feed and putting her on a full scoop of sweet plus her supplements and taking out the pellet. She said if that is what she eats then that is what we should give her. It worked and she has been cleaning up grain consistently since. We also got a new hay delivery which is much nicer than our last batch, so hopefully we can get her back to bring a chunky monkey in no time.

Taz Update

Taz has been great (as usual) in our last few rides. Last week we put the grid to use (no we didn't jump it). We did small, canter serpentines through the grid with simple changes through the halt. His simple changes through the halt are fabulous, as is his collected canter, so he did them beautifully. We also did some work on figure eights at the jog and lope with simple changes through the halt.

After seeing us do this R suggested doing a small, collected canter circle around one of the jumps, then doing a larger, extended canter circle, then going back to the collected circle. She wanted me to use my seat, especially my hips, to get the transitions from collected to extended canter. We did this exercise in both directions. In the beginning we had some problems with breaking to the walk in the collected circles and not having enough speed to show a true difference in the extended circles. With some pointers from R on seat and hand position though we ended up with nice patterns. I repeated this exercise today and it went very well.

I have also been doing more one handed riding with him. Today I got some very nice lope from him both two handed and one handed. His jog with the one hand was perfect. I was able to get him super slow with a nice low head set.

Try's Fun New Habit

Try has come up with a fun new game for me. One thing about Try is he is very smart, too smart for his own good sometimes. He likes to spice things up a bit and develop new, not so fun habits to keep me on my toes. About a month ago his new fun habit was swinging himself towards the wall not leaving me much space on the left side (coincidentally the tacking side) and refusing to move over when instructed. I sought council from the all knowing R who suggested just poking him in the sensitive belly area with one finger, rather then trying to push him over, which only caused him to push back. After a day or two this was successful and he never tried it again.

We have been new habit free since then until last week. His latest fun new habit is trying to attack me when walking to / standing at the mounting block. He has always been an occasional nipper, but this was much more then that. When I walk him into the ring, we walk a small circle to un-bloat him and stop a few feet from the mounting block to tighten the girth. Then I walk him to the block, line him up, put the reins over his head, and mount. His new thing was he would try a nip or two in the beginning then from the time I tightened the girth to the time I mounted he would continuously try to come at me with his teeth, in much harsher manner than the occasional nip he has done in the past. His owner and I discussed the fact that we must put an end to this immediately so of course I went to R.

R's suggestion was to treat it like an in hand class and be very consistent. She said that every time he tried to bite me I should immediately back him up 3 or 4 steps. This was an option his owner and I had discussed, but he used to be bad about standing at the mounting block and if he scooted around too much at the block we would go and back him up, try again, etc. This was why I was not sure if I should do this for the biting at the block because I did not want to cause him any confusion. Once R confirmed this was a good plan I put it to work.

The first time I did it, I started immediately from the first little nip, so by the time we got to the block he got the picture and I would say showed definite progress. I did it again on my last ride yesterday and he did not try to go after me at the block at all, so hopefully we have put this new game to rest.

As far as riding, he has been a dream. No matter what stupid stunts he pulls on the ground, he has been consistently great under saddle. We have been doing a lot of work on his collected canter, with his head down and on the bit and he has been doing it beautifully! We have also been practicing his slow jog with his head nice and low, which is also one of his best things. I have also been doing a lot of circle work at the jog and lope, as well as, a lot of pattern work. Since he is so smart, I have to change it up and do different and challenging things to keep him entertained, so pattern work is great for him. We have also been doing some work on his turns on the haunches and to the right he is perfect, but to the left needs a little work.

Gambler's Choice Lesson

Last week I had my regular bi-weekly lesson with my friend L. We started out with our usual warm up flat work. Satin was a bit stiff and a little sluggish at the trot (which is typical, she hates trotting). We did some exercises to fix that, such as changing my seat to encourage her forward and breaking up the trot with a few strides of canter here and there to wake her up. This helped a bit then we did an exercise trotting a quarter of the way around the ring, then cantering a quarter of the way around, then trotting, etc.

After that R decided we would have a bit of a competition and instead of giving us a set course or exercise as she usually does, she said we would do some Gambler's Choice. For those of you that don't know, Gambler's Choice is a jumping competition. When done at a horse show, each jump has an assigned number of points and the riders have a designated amount of time to jump a course of their choosing and acquire as many points as possible. Usually the rule is that you can only jump each jump twice (once in each direction).

Anyway, in our version there were no points or time restraints. R said just keep jumping until you mess up (meaning you get a stop). We were allowed to jump each jump once each direction and as long as we were still trotting or cantering we were still in. She had dropped about half the jumps to a height Satin was capable of jumping. L started and got 3 jumps under her belt before getting a stop at the fourth. I did not get that far. The first jump rode beautifully and went to the second expecting a stop and I got one. It was totally my fault so on my next turn I rode more confidently and got through about 6 or 7 jumps before getting a stop when I last minute turned to a jump Satin wasn't expecting. After that, we had no issues and she jumped everything she could in every direction. We even through in a few jumper turns. R and I were both very happy my jumping position as well :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Introduction to Grid Work

Yesterday Satin and I had a solo lesson (as my loyal readers know I usually lesson with my friend L and her fabulous mare and Satin's best friend Lexie). Anyway, L and I usually only lesson every other week and starting with this week Satin and I will be taking private lessons on the off weeks. R and I discussed it and I thought this was a great idea. It gives me a chance to work on improving my English riding as Satin and I are both still learning in that department and a weekly lesson will speed along the process. It also gives me more continuous reinforcement of the things R is teaching me. Plus, it will give me a chance to get back to some western lessons too. :)

We started with some basic warm-up flat work. R had a grid set up that she had been working with one of her other horses on. She suggested we work with that. I was a little intimidated by this set of four jumps right in a row. L was never a fan of them and while I had seen her and several others (including R the day before) do them, I had never done any myself. R was her usual wonderful, reassuring self and told me we would take it slow, set it for Satin's striding, and slowly build it up as we went along.

We started with the first jump set as a cross rail, with three trot poles leading up to it. The last of the jumps was set as a small vertical gate. First, I trotted the gate on its own a few times to warm us both up. We had lengthened my stirrups this lesson and I felt a bit off balance at first by that, as well as, the fact Satin was popping the small gate like a deer. Anyway, then we started through the grid which R added canter poles to each time we went through. At first we had to work on pushing her trot forward so she did not suck back through the grid, as Satin hates doing a forward trot. After a few times and several canter poles R put jump number 2 into a very small vertical, basically a raised cavaletti. Satin was apparently shocked by this change and stopped for a hard look, so I trotted it solo and she was fine. After a time or two of this she added the third jump, a small plain vertical, then finally raised the second jump into another vertical of about the same height. It was basically a one stride from jump 1 to 2 and 2 to 3 then a two stride to the final jump. After we completed this successfully a few times, R made the first jump from a small cross rail to a small vertical. I did not think Satin would stop at this, as it was not a major change to the grid, but apparently it was enough for her. I thought she was going and went into my two point and she hit the breaks hard. I was thrown forward (probably mostly due to my not yet completely steady balance in an english saddle) onto her neck. Luckily my feet stayed in the stirrups and my mare remained still as my whole body was on her neck with my feet still in the stirrups. In R's words "a very nice save".

Anyway, R's main focus for us with the grid was to keep Satin slow and calm and work on her striding with the jumps and for me to work on my position and releasing. The first few times were a bit rough for both of us. But, with R's patience and guidance we got some very nice trips through the grid. Satin was going through very nicely, at a calm steady pace (though she did get a bit quick the first few times we went through after all 4 jumps were up, but settled nicely). I, again thanks to R, got some very nice two points. I found my comfort spot to stay in through the grid and bent forward in perfect time, keeping my hands forward and releasing. R was very happy with us both. We ended by cantering over the straw jump a few times to practice the position I had just worked on with a canter jump and again R and I were both pleased with the results.

In the end R asked if I was still intimidated by the grid or if I now agreed with her that they were fun. I did end up really liking the grid work. It was fun and not as intimidating as it looked from the ground. It also really helped me with working on my position because I felt like I had more chances with the four jumps in a row rather then a two jump line. The slower pace helped too, as did the fact that R was standing beside the grid coaching me through it since she was adding and raising every trip or two. All in all, it was another successful English lesson and the grid ended up being very good for both Satin and I.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Taz and Try Update

I ride Taz every Tuesday and Thursday and last week I didn't post anything about him because we rode in the indoor both days so we just did basic walk, jog, lope rides, nothing major. On Tuesday I just worked on a nice slow jog and calm lope since his lope in the indoor the week before was quick and a bit erratic, plus I had a killer head cold so was not up for much work.

Thursday I was feeling much better and up to a little more challenge. We started with our nice slow, relaxed jog. Next, we did our canter in both directions, which he picked up quickly and smoothly and he settled right down into a nice calm, collected canter. Usually his first canter each direction is a bit quick, but today it was quite nice. Then I decided to work on the pattern R had given us a few weeks ago. We start by trotting a straight line down the ring, then picking up the canter in the turn, and cantering a three loop serpentine with simple lead changes through the halt. To finish, we continued cantering out of the serpentine and down the straight line we jogged in the beginning, halting and backing up. He did the serpentine and simple changes perfectly. His canter to halt was a bit crooked the first time or two, but we ended with some very nice ones.

I ride Try three times a week, the days changing according to my schedule. This week my first ride was on Monday. We were testing out a new girth since his old one was too small and neoprene was giving him rubs. His jog was very nice as it usually is. It was cool and he was feeling good so we did a lot of canter work. His canter transitions were fabulous. His canter was very good too. It was a bit quick in the beginning but I was able to quickly bring him back and get a smooth, easy canter. We also worked on his collected canter, which he is doing better and better each time. He goes right on the bit when asked, goes into his headset and does what feels and I hope looks like the most beautiful canter. We also did some work on canter circles, which he did pretty nicely, as well.

My second ride was on Friday. We started with some medium trot work and very nice canter with great transitions. Then we worked on figure eights at both the trot and canter with halt transitions in the middle. His transitions to the canter in the figure eight were a bit slow but otherwise he did it very well. We finished up with some work on his slow jog with his head stretched down, which is one of his best things.

Unfortunately due to Hurricane Irene I did not get my third ride in on Saturday. I did go out to see him though and groomed him up. Afterwards we worked on tacking, which is not his favorite thing as I have mentioned. I tacked him up slowly with lots of praise, then I let him sit with the tack a few minutes, gave him lots of carrots then took it off. Afterwards I groomed his owner's other gelding and mini.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Another Overall Successful English Lesson

Yesterday I had yet another English lesson. It is becoming kind of a routine now. We did some basic flat warm up. Then R had set up 4 jumps in a small circle, which she put down into 4 piles of poles. We started with those trotting the circle then cantering it, which went well. We had done a similar exercise over the winter in the indoor.

After we did this a few times, she put the poles back up into small verticals. This made the exercise harder, a circle of small jumps may not sound hard, but anyone that has done it understands it is. You have to keep a consistent, even pace, have a good focus, and steady seat. It helped to slow Satin down. She did a nice collected canter all the way around.

To the left we did pretty well. My seat and eye were much more consistent and where they were supposed to be. To the right, was a little stickier. She kept taking the one jump that was facing the gate from the long spot and lunging, making it hard to get to the next jump because she was quick and crooked. At one point when she did this it got me all discombobulated and I between trying to fix myself and fix her to get her to the jump I inadvertently asked her for a whoa. I got her to the jump, but also got the whoa so she put on the brakes right at the jump and I went over it without her. Apparently it was quite a spectacular fall according to my witnesses. I basically did a back flip off of her and over the jump landed on my feet in a squatting position, with the reins in my hand. R said I looked like a vaulter. Other then a little whiplash I was fine. I climbed right back up and went and did the circle again.

I fixed my eye and got that part of the circle smoother and it rode better. We tried again one to the left and one to the right and she was a bit tired and got dull. I fixed my seat and got her into a more consistent pace and fixed that, but was still all discombobulated to the right and couldn't get it. R gave me some tips to fix my seat and between that and fixing my eye my next two times around rode very smooth and perfect.

We had a few bumps in the road, but it was all in all a successful lesson. Today we just did a light hack since we both worked hard yesterday and tomorrow we are hoping to go team penning since we haven't done so in a while.

Monday, August 22, 2011

National Standardbred Show

Yesterday was one of my favorite shows of the year, the National Standardbred Show. Even though I do not have a Standardbred I am very involved with the breed and have many close friends that own Standardbreds. As you all know, JB, who I have been showing and often write about is a Standardbred. They are an extremely versatile, talented, and quite underestimated breed. The National show really brings the Standardbred community together and shows what the breed can do.

They have every discipline covered from hunters and western to driving and dressage. Horses and riders from all aspects of the Standardbred world came out, including hall of fame racehorse Gallo Blue Chip. There were several horses still racing that competed, as well as, several big money winners pursuing second careers.

I showed the ever handsome JB in Showmanship, where we placed 5th, as well as, Geldings In Hand, where we placed 2nd to a very good looking gelding from Ohio who went on to win the National In Hand Championship. We had several members of SPHO Ohio join us this year for the National and they were a very nice group of people with some very talented horses. The girl who showed the winning gelding in hand came over to me after both of our classes to congratulate me on my placings and comment on JB's good looks (and she was not the only one to do so). I look forward to competing against them again next year. JB and I also managed to sneak into the command class where we took 5th.

I spent the rest of the day fulfilling my other horse show role: show mommy / photographer. My show mom duties usually pertain to JB's owner H, but at this show I have so many friends showing I have to stretch myself out a bit. H and JB are still my main focus, but I try to lend a hand to whoever else needs it, like my good friend L, who is my lesson partner.

Anyway, H and JB had a fabulous show. They competed in driving, equitation, and english pleasure. They won every class they entered except one, in which they received third. They were also supposed to compete in jumpers, which unfortunately was canceled due to a storm. The National tends to end every year with a storm, but at least we got the entire show in, except jumpers, before then.

JB also carried two other riders at the National. He carried a young girl in leadline. He also was the mount of Alex Brown, author of the book about the famous Barbaro, in the ride-a-buck class. It was Alex's first ride on a STB and they brought home the blue ribbon.

The other great thing about the National is getting to see old friends that you don't get to see regularly. Friends from Maine and Vermont traveled to the Horse Park for the National. We did miss our Kentucky friends though!

Everyone had a great show day and it was nice to see such a nicely turned out group of Standardbreds.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Awesome English Lesson Today!

For those of you who didn't get it from the title of this post, I had an awesome English lesson today! LOL! As I mentioned in my Satin update post, Satin & I have been expanding our horizons and taking some English lessons. She is becoming quite the little jumper pony!

Satin was absolutely perfect on the flat. She had a nice medium trot and a slow English pleasure canter. We started off with a few warm up cross rails, which she did nicely. Then my fabulous trainer R instructed me to make my own three jump course. I decided to do the straw jump to the outside line, a course we had done in our previous lesson. We did it a few times, getting better and better with each try.

Then R added a fourth jump, a cross rail made out of planks with some flower boxes. We did the same three starting jumps then I had to ride down to the end of the ring turn around a jump there and canter down the plank cross rail. She jumped it with no problems and much enthusiasm. The second time around I forgot about going to that jump and had turned to early, but I made it work and did a jumper turn and went right to it. The next two times I went for the same jumper turn, just for the fun of it LOL

After a few times of this course (which we did in both directions) R decided to make it a little more interesting and add a 5th jump. It was our warm up cross rail which was set to make a bending line from the plank cross rail. So, the first four jumps remained the same and we added the original cross rail at the end. She did it great but was quite the little speed demon going down the bending line as I expected because it was going toward the entrance of the ring and her paddock buddy who lessons with us.

My last few times around R wanted me to go back to the longer turn / straighter approach going into the cross rail bending line instead of my little jumper turn. Since I remarked I had only continued doing it because I liked doing the quick little jumper turn, she decided to give me an extra challenge and had my little jumper turn at the end going off the cross rail line, hard left to the straw. The first time of two I couldn't get there. It was a quick turn and between Satin's speed down the line and my eyes not staying up as much as they should it made it even harder. Finally on my third try, I gave it my all, adjusted my focus, and we made it work! It was a little rough getting in but we got there and got over!

These various courses gave me some time to work on my position too, especially in the first few lines where Satin was going nice and quiet. I have still have to practice, but I'm getting a lot better and more stable. I just have to keep R's voice in my head saying chest up, chin up!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Updates: Taz

Last, but certainly not least, we have Taz. As mentioned in my previous post, Taz is a Quarter Horse that belongs to my trainer's husband. When I first met R about 3 years ago, one of the first things she said about Satin was that she reminded her of her husband's horse if his blaze was flipped upside down. This is true if you look at their faces but Taz is built like a bull, very wide, unlike my petite mare. They have some similarities riding, as well. They both have bouncy trots, but great jogs. They both have comfortable, rocking horse canters and are both former reiners, with great transitions, and love to GO. Taz can get a pretty good spin going still. R let me try one time when we were riding together with him and Try. I hope to try again soon.

Anyway, when it came time for Try to be going home I was sad because it meant not going to Muddy Creek twice a week anymore. I loved all the extra time there. I learned so much from R during that time and it was just nice and peaceful. During my last ride on Try at R's place I mentioned how I was going to miss coming to ride there all the time. She said she had been thinking the same thing and then later while we were riding told me I was welcome to continue coming and ride Taz instead. Of course, I jumped on this opportunity.

I really like riding Taz. As I mentioned he is quite similar to Satin in a lot of ways, such as his way of going; smart, willing attitude, and like Satin when doing pattern work he always tries to be a step ahead. Unlike Satin though, he is quite sensitive. He was given to R's husband by one of his clients (he is a farrier) because they couldn't deal with him. The sensitivity R believes is from bad training. As I mentioned, he is quite wide so requires a special saddle. He was probably not being ridden in a properly fitted saddle so he used to buck a lot, both under saddle and in the aisle after being tacked. When he has the tack on he is afraid of everything. The slightest little thing makes him flinch, especially when first tacked. R broke him of a lot of this from what I heard, but he is still sensitive.

R says he is best when in a program so me riding him helps keep him going. He and I have gotten along just fine though. I figured out how to ride him quite quickly with R's help and have not had any problems with him. I have only seen him buck once with R, but when he bucks, he sure does buck! I am having a lot of fun with him though and look forward to learning more on him.

Updates: Try

We can't forget about Try. As I've mentioned in previous posts Try belongs to a friend of mine and was living at my trainer's farm, in full training with her. My friend approached me over the winter about riding him when he returned home, as she has a back problem that keeps her from doing much riding. I, of course, agreed and began riding him weekly at R's farm to prepare for the time when I would ride him on my own.

Well that time came in the beginning of July when he returned home. The last few weeks he was at R's I went from a weekly lesson to twice weekly supervised rides. Supervised meaning R and I rode together, her on her husband's QH, Taz and me on Try. We would both do our own thing in the beginning to warm up then we would work on something together like pattern work or pairs exercises. This made me feel fully confident in my ability when he returned home. It was weird and a bit lonely riding on my own, but Try and I have settled in to our new routine quite nicely.

We have hit a few bumps in the road, such as some extra nippyness and not being totally cooperative on cross ties in the wash stall at first and later during tack up, which is not his favorite thing to begin with. But, with R's advice we nipped those problems in the bud rather quickly and luckily he has been consistently great while riding.

R came out one day last week to watch our session and give us some guidance. She had one or two tips, but was very happy with my work with him. She got on and rode him a little too, so it was nice.

This photo was taken by Try's owner C during one of our sessions at R's farm.

Updates: JB

Next we have JB, aka boyfriend. As you all may remember, JB is my friend H's Standardbred who is quite the jack of all trades, basically the most versatile horse ever. This year we expanded his repertoire to include western pleasure, which he is a total rockstar at.

Unfortunately he is the horse I ride least as he is the furthest away, but we are still actively showing in model and western and he is kicking butt, if I may say so myself. He is better and better every time I ride him.

Two horse shows ago we were champion in open model against 12 other horses, most of which being Quarter Horses and Paints. He won both the gelding and open class. He has been consistently pinning well in open halter competitions all summer.

H, JB, and I after his Grand Champion win in Open Model.

He has been doing very well in his western classes too. As I mentioned he is better and better with every ride. He goes slower and puts his head lower every time. In our last horse show we were grand Champion against Appaloosas and Quarter Horses. He was 1st in pleasure horsemanship, and a very tough command class in which we backed basically a full lap around the arena. He received 2nd in trail which is his worst class since he is scared of everything LOL.

Some pictures from this summer:

Updates: Satin

First and foremost is of course my wonderful mare, Satin. She is still as feisty and young at heart as ever. We are a little more than half way through our show season now and she has been perfect. At our last show, which was last weekend she ran 3 absolutely perfect patterns. Her barrel turns couldn't have been tighter or smoother, her poles run was just about flawless, and her rollback in keyhole was right out of her reining horse days. The only thing that could have made it better was if she gave it a little more speed. She ran, but not as fast as she could, but I was still very happy with her. Other than our usual show series we have also done a gymkhana at a local fair and team penning.

We have also begun expanding our repertoire to (drum roll, please) ...... English. Yes, you heard me right! As you all know I have ridden english a few times on my horse and friends' horses. I even took an English lesson back in the fall, but between lack of tack and a fall over a jump, Satin and I took a bit of a hiatus from our english riding. I decided to give it a second try though and approached my trainer with the idea of an english pleasure lesson. Well that one english pleasure lesson has become a series of English lessons. My trainer has this very subtle way of getting me to do these things LOL. At the end of my lesson she will say something like "Next week when we jump, we will try this." etc. I think she is also secretly turning my pony into a hunter as she has not been slow enough for english pleasure these days LOL.

So far, so good though! Our last two lessons, Satin has been perfect and I have been trying my best to keep up with her :). My eq over fences needs work, but we are both still green to this whole English / jumping thing and with R's help we will be pros in no time. In our last lesson we jumped a mini course including a roll top and a hay bale jump. I'm quite proud of my little barrel pony.

In other Satin news, we moved to a new barn in mid-July. For reasons that are just way too much to get into we moved to the barn right next door. All of our friends moved with us though, and everyone at the new barn is very nice. We love it so far.

At the time of the move, because things were not crazy enough, Satin got a swollen leg. She has had this one or twice before but it did not respond to my usual treatment of hosing, walking, and wrapping. It started on a lesson day so I took to her R for evaluation. We walked and trotted her for a bit, cold hosed the leg, and R did a standing wrap. She also had not been finishing all of her grain for 2 or 3 days before this. She never spiked a fever but her temp fluctuated from low normal to high normal to mid range, etc. After 2 days with no change in swelling R suggested a vet visit. R is not one to sound the alarm unnecessarily so I did as suggested.

The vet tested her for lymes and suggested a hosing, furazone leg sweat, walking, and bute regimen. She also started her on doxy, an antibiotic for tick related diseases. Within two days, the leg swelling was down and once she was settled in her eating returned to normal, as well. The lymes test came back negative but she remained on the doxy for 10 days anyway. Whatever it was it seemed we caught it quickly and she is now back to her normal healthy self.

Some recent photos:

I'm Alive, I Swear!

I'm still alive, I swear! This summer has been extremely busy for me and unfortunately my blog was one of the casualties of that. I have been on overload between riding four different horses in four different locations, horse showing, pre-grad school stuff, photography, and something resembling a social life.

BUT, as you can see, I am coming back with a vengeance. I redesigned the entire blog from top to bottom, starting with a new name. College Cowgirl was no longer appropriate as I am now a proud college grad, so the blog was in need of a new name. I figured Live to Ride (which is already my blogger user name) was an appropriate title to sum things up. Yes, I am going back to school as I pursue my Masters, but I am also beginning my journey in the "real world". Riding will always be a part of that. Even though my career may not always be horse related, horses and riding will be always what I live for.

Along with the new title, I figured the blog could use a new look. So, I gave it a total makeover, including new photos on my sidebar.

I will also be adding some new posts to update you on my summer. I figured the easiest way is to break it up into separate posts for each of the 4 horses I am consistently working with, but I will sum this one up with general updates on me.

As previously mentioned I was accepted to grad school starting in the fall (YAY!). I will be attending the same University I attended for undergrad, which will remain nameless (sorry guys :) ). I will be pursuing a Masters in Communication, which I figured would nicely compliment my Bachelor's in Journalism and aid me in a career in the field of Public Relations or something along those lines. I still want to write and photograph of course and will continue to do so on a freelance basis and / or combine it with my newly learned Communications skills.

Speaking of writing and photography, I have been a bit of a slacker in the writing department. I have only written one freelance piece all summer, though I do have a second assignment waiting for me if I could ever find a break in my crazy schedule. On the photography front I have been quite active. I received a new camera for my graduation gift so I am not shooting with a Canon EOS 60D and I LOVE it! I redid my website with some new pictures. Check it out!

Some photos taken on my new camera: