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!