Sunday, March 28, 2010

Meet Bean

The backlog of posts is growing... My visit with Keizer (which was lovely), a lesson in which Marissa realizes she's a spoiled brat (for getting annoyed with her horse for jumping too big.  Don't you hate when they are just too talented?), a new gadget, and a lesson in collection. 

But first.... meet Bean.

Bean is Alicia's Jack Russell, and you might even say the official mascot of Whitmere.  At horse shows, you can sometimes find him on a leash by the ring (though he finds the leash demeaning and offensive because he's far too aware of socially acceptable behavior to run away or go where he doesn't belong).  At away shows, he's usually happily perched in the dash of the RV ready to greet us between rounds.  When we are home, he's almost always at the barn (unless he's seen the weather channel and doesn't think the weather will suit his taste) and almost always chasing, carrying, or throwing a ball roughly the same size as he is.  When Bean is at Whitmere and Alicia is not, he sits like a statue at the end of the aisle and stares at the driveway until she returns.  During these times, he cannot be comforted and will not be distracted, and will in fact spurn any efforts you might make to lift his spirits.  

He has perfected the art of appearing starving and adorable if treats are in the vicinity, and is usually very successful at convincing any and all nearby humans to feed him:

To be honest, he is one of the strangest little dogs I've ever met but also one of my favorites. It takes a while to win him over, he plays hard to get, and some days won't talk to you at all just to keep you on your toes. But once you've found your way into his good graces he will do just about anything to make you laugh.  I have spent countless evenings in the tack room hysterically watching him do things like this:

Note that Bean happily posed for each of the pictures above and would have continued to do so had we thought of more poses for him.  Not exactly camera shy. 

I think now you've met all the faces of Whitmere... though we have some new equine faces around the barn that I'll have to introduce you to.  There is Montel's new younger brother, Oliver, and the newest addition to Kathleen's herd, Griffin, as well as a new Whitmere acquisition, Reggie.  The backlog continues to grow!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ice boots: Reader opinions?

So I want to get Tucker a set of ice boots.  Nothing wrong with him, but our vet says they are the best thing you can do for a horse's tendons after he jumps hard.  I have borrowed Alicia's set twice now (once after the free jumping session, and again after the 3'6" gymnastic).  I love the way his legs looked afterward and I thought this would be a great solution for horse shows.  For some reason, even though Tucker wears wraps just fine in his stall overnight, he doesn't like to be shipped in wraps so he stomps his legs in the trailer if he's wrapped.  So, I can't wrap him until we get home, and sometimes that's hours later.  But if I had ice boots with me (in a cooler, obviously), I could ice him while I was packing up and closing out, etc., and then pull the ice boots right before we hit the road.  Then I can wrap him as usual when we get home as usual, but this way I'll be taking care of those precious legs right afer he jumps.

But then I went to Dover to buy them and I heard my credit card gasp from its hiding place in my purse.  These things ain't cheap!  Note:  That's the price for a set of two.  The upside of these is that I know that they work.  The downside... It's just a neoprene pouch with some pockets for ice packs.  Surely there must be a cheaper option?  So I put my research skills to work and started looking around.

First I ran a seach for "compression ice pack."  You'd be amazed how many doctors recommend using frozen peas for a sprained ankle.  The first option I found is for humans, but I like the description of the ice packs, they are supposed to be soft and pliable which I think would be nice on his legs.  It's made by Polar Products, Inc. and only $21.95 each, which is a lot more like it.  This appears to be pretty well made and I'm sure it would be comfortable for him. The ice packs are 6" by 9", and there are two, so I'm guessing it's about 12" across and 9" tall.  That would definitely be wide enough to wrap around the back and side of his tendons, but maybe not all the way around his leg.  9 inches might be a little short though, especially on his hind legs.  I wrap his legs in 12" standing wraps and they are exactly the length of his tendons behind and slightly long in front.  (Yes, I probably should buy shorter ones for the front but these were free, and you know I can't pass up a sale, let alone a gimme.)

Then I started searching for "equine ice pack" and found Elite Kold Equine Ice Leg Ice Wraps.  These seem like a plausible option.    Note, this price is only for one, but it's still quite a bit cheaper.  $28.95 each versus $41.45 each.  (Wow, a blog first:  Marissa does math!)  I feel better about the fact that they are made for horses.  Not crazy about the bright blue color but I guess I can live with it.  The fact that there are 4 ice inserts could be good or bad.  Might be a pain to load them up, but also might be easier to fit in the freezer and provide a more flexible fit.  I am a little concerned that they are this much cheaper though.  Does that mean they'll fall apart?  Or are they just not as well advertised? 

Reader opinions?  Do I spend full price on the ones that I know work?  Do I go for the cheapest ones even though they are made for humans?  Do I go for the bright blue compromise?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

So cool

Another post about a great lesson!  (Seems like it's one week on, one week off.  I hope the fact that today's lesson went so well doesn't mean that next week is going to be a complete disaster.)

Tucker hasn't been feeling great since he had his shots on Wednesday, but finally today he felt fantastic.  Back to his old self.  At the trot he was forward and straight and his lateral movements were really good.  I am learning how to correct him when he bulges through his outside shoulder instead of giving me a true bend, without making him stiffen off my outside rein (using my outside leg and seat and an elastic but steady contact).  I also seem to be figuring out what I need to do with my right hand -- though it is a constant struggle!  Old habits are so hard to break and I am constantly having to bring my elbow back to my side, but I do sense progress.  The only piece of the trot work I wasn't thrilled with was his collection tracking left.  His extensions are always beautiful and effortless in both directions.  To the right I am able to get a nice collection back to front after the extension.  To the left he resists and stiffens, and then comes above my hand to evade it.  I need to work on it some more and figure out what I do to the right that I'm not doing to the left, or vice versa. 

I was also very happy with his canter work today.  To start he felt like he wanted to lean against my hand and pull me out of the saddle but we did some counterbends and some circles over cavaletti and eventually he became more balanced.  Huge accomplishment -- I was able to come across the diagonal and get a soft, relaxed, clean lead change.  Only trouble is I have no idea what I did differently that time.  And of course, I missed three in a row (only got the front) once we started jumping, until he gave up (I actually heard him mutter "oh bother" under his breath) and just started landing right.  But the good news is that he has become so much less worried about them and I am at least getting them some of the time.

Onto the good part though... the gymnastic.  This was a very simple gymnastic, a 9 rail to a crossrail, one stride to another jump, then one stride to an oxer that grew, and grew, and grew.  In the middle of each one-stride there was a single rail on the ground so Tucker had to keep his canter consistent.  We started off with just two crossrails (no third jump), and I worked on keeping my upper body tall and my hands out in front of me (instead of burying my hand or leaning over my hand).  Then the crossrail became a vertical, and then we added a third fence, which started out as another vertical.  Then the vertical became an oxer, which went up to 3', and then went up to 3'6"!  (Which by the way looked absolutely HUGE and I can't believe that I ever competed at this height.) 

All I can tell you is that this horse has the best jump of any horse I've ever ridden -- hands down.  He uses his back so well, and he is relaxed while at the same time very powerful.  I've never before jumped a horse where you can actually feel the moment that they rock back onto their hind end and then power up off the ground, and then feel the energy flow forward underneath you from their tail to their ears -- just like it is supposed to feel.  All I had to do was push my heels down and grab mane.  We jumped it three times, and each one was better than the time before.  The only thought in my head as he was sailing over this fence was... this horse is so cool.

I was grinning ear-to-ear like a little kid as I cantered around the corner after the gymnastic each time.  I was feeling a little bit chicken about it at first but I am so glad I was able to ride through it and enjoy it.  I was on such a high afterward.  Jumping this horse, when it goes right, is just the best feeling in the world.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Found Keizer!

No, no, not the town in Oregon.  (Though I'm not sure I do know where that is come to think of it.)

I found Tucker's daddy! 

I had brunch earlier this year with Keizer's former owner and she told me Keizer had gone down to college in Savannah, GA and that from what she knew he was retired.  So, on a whim, several months later, I emailed Savannah's coach and explained who I am (Keizer's former groom, owner of his son, etc.) asked her to please pass my email along to Keizer's current owners.  Today I got a very nice email from her and she shared his owner's email with me.

So, at the risk of seeming somewhat crazy, I emailed this complete stranger and told her I used to be Keizer's groom, I now own his son, and would love to hear how he's doing.  While I awaited a response, I began checking the travel sites to see how much a roundtrip ticket to GA would cost this time of year.  Sent a text to a horse friend:  "Is it crazy to spend $500 on a flight to GA to see Keizer?"  Response:  "No I don't think that's crazy."  Gotta love your horse friends.

A few hours later, I got an email back from Keizer's owner who told me he is doing great and living at her parents' farm in PA (much closer than GA!).  We emailed back and forth all afternoon and I learned that Keizer is still sound and stays in light work, still gets jealous when you pay attention to other horses, and still goes through mints like a garbage disposal.  Some things never change.  The best part of all this is that Keizer lives less than an hour away from me!  Who would have guessed?  This whole time I've been picturing him living the good life down South, and all the while he's been living the good life in my own back yard.  His current owner has very graciously offered to let me come and see him next weekend.  I absolutely cannot wait to throw my arms around his neck.

She was kind enough to share some photos of him with me. I can see a family resemblance. He and Tucker have the same eyes and the same muzzle. Tucker's ears are just slightly bigger but they both have the curly tips. Keizer is definitely a bit fancier, but Tucker gets his heart of gold straight from him.

My love for Keizer is only slightly surpassed by my love for Tucker.  He is one in a million.  Sweet, well-mannered, patient, and willing.  Even as a stallion, he was always one of the easiest horses I've ever worked around.  He was a true gentleman, an amazing athlete, and a bit of a goof ball.  (Sound like anyone else you know?  Apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. . . .) 

It makes me so incredibly happy to know that he is well cared for and has people who love him and spoil him.  I was a little worried when I started tracking him down.  You never know what path a horse's life might have taken, and Keizer is a late teenager now so I wasn't sure how his health would be.  Thankfully, I am overjoyed to say that he seems to be doing wonderfully.  According to his owner he still acts like a ten-year-old and still loves his job and gets bored without something to do.  Exactly what you want to hear about a horse you love!  Sigh.  Today was a good day.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Beautiful Bloggers

We all seem to be passing this award back and forth between each other so I think everyone on my list probably already got this award but I'm still very touched by everyone who bestowed it up on me and happy to hand it out to my favorite bloggers, whether they've already received it or not.  After all we are riders, everyone knows we all like our awards. 

So, this honor was given to me by Golden the Pony Girl, Dapple of My Eye, and A Horse and a Half.   These three girls are some of my favorite bloggers.  I love hearing about their horse stories.  All three of them are working with greenies right now and their stories remind me of all the stages Tucker went through along the way to becoming the Wunderkind, some sweet, some frustrating, and some inspiring.

Now, seven things about me (I'll do my best to tell you stuff you don't know):

1. I've never lived without a pet.  When I was born, we had a cat, Rocky, who lived to be 26, and a miniature schnauzer named Pete.  Then when I was six I got a kitten, Kitty, who herself had four kittens (whoops).  Then my brother brought a dalmatian home from college, Arlo.  Arlo was one of the worst-behaved dogs in history, but I loved him beyond words.  When I went away to college, I got a red beta named Fenster, who lived for three and a half years, and travelled back and forth from VA to NJ with me for every break.  He was a great fish.  Then in law school I got Homer, my turtle, who still lives with me.  Shortly after law school Lilly arrived, and most recently Sterling joined the family.

2.  I used to like cleaning, and prided myself on keeping my apartment extremely clean, but I think I've grown out of it.  Rather than laziness, I've decided to chalk it up to leading a full life.  These days I sort of let it slide til I look around and realize that I'd be seriously embarrassed if someone stopped by unexpectedly.  Then I clean the entire apartment with a shop vac.  Which includes vacuuming the stove.  Very domestic. 

3.  I love, love, love country music and all the presets in my truck are set to country stations.  I've gotten so used to it that I forget to change the station when someone else gets in the truck.  Something else you all don't know:  I line dance every Tuesday night.  Yes, really.  It's so much fun. 

4.  I've broken a lot of bones for this sport of ours.  Seven toes (stepped on), three vertebrae (fell on my butt), my left collar bone (flipped a horse over crashing through a swedish oxer), a finger (loading a tack trunk into the goose neck), and a bone in the top of my foot (gave a big mare a little too much trank to clip her).

5.  I have started nine horses undersaddle (the good way of breaking, in contrast to the above).  Three were ponies, one was a thoroughbred, and the rest were warmbloods that lived on Tucker's baby farm.  Loved every one of them.  Getting on for the very first time is my very favorite thing to do with a horse.  The first time I got on Tucker, he turned his head around and checked me out, then practically shrugged his shoulders and walked off.  That was uneventful. . . .

6.  Okay, okay, something else non-horse related.  Let's think.  My favorite color combination is brown and baby blue.  Most of my apartment is some variation on this theme.  It's gotten a little trendy lately, but I don't care.  I liked it first.

7.  My favorite cocktail is an ice cold cosmo, light on the cranberry, with lots of fresh-squeezed lemon.  Remember, when life hands you lemons, find someone with vodka.  Mmmm, anyone have a lemon?

And now on to the re-gifting: 

In addition to the three I mentioned above, here are some others I like:

Adventures with Super Sam.  My friend from downunder!  Nina's blog is really fun.  Sam is adorable, and Nina is currently looking for another horse.  Nothing is more fun than living vicariously through someone else's horse shopping adventures.  Plus, I lived in Australia for a semester during college so I love when Nina talks about Australia and sometimes I get to hear Australian slang.  Good on ya!

A Year with Horses.  Kate's blog is one of the first ones I started following.  Kate is a fantastic writer and I really enjoy reading her blog every day.  We have different approaches, but I like the way Kate works with her horses and I like learning about her perspective on things.  If you aren't following Kate's blog, she and her family recently went through a very tough time with a mare named Miranda.  The story is tragic, but Kate and her daughter handled all of the events with integrity and compassion -- like true horsewomen.

Eye on the Horse.  My girl Nicku has gone through some not-so-great horse luck but she's got an amazing ability to stay positive no matter what life throws at her.  She came to visit Tucker and me over Christmas while she was in town to see family, and she is just as charming in person as she is on her blog.

Grey Horse Matters.  A great blog, with beautiful photos.  This is a really, really beautiful farm with some adorable horses with big personalities.  I love seeing these horses in their matching blankets, and so far everything I've seen of this property, from the tack room to the ring to the custom-made hay trees has been just lovely. 

Halt Near X.  Very funny horsewoman.  This blog is chock full of quick wit and clever writing.  Always good for a chuckle.
She Rides, I Pay.  As I've told you before, Elizabeth is the sister of Kathleen, who owns Rodie and Indy and is the famous author of the Rodie's All Natural Horse Treat recipe.  Elizabeth now blogs for COTH, which is a pretty good gig!  I can always count on her for a good lesson in barn etiquette, or an update on what's going on in the COTH forums. Plus, she's the horse show mom I always dreamed of as a little girl. . . .

SprinklerBandit.  This is a great blog, about an absolutely adorable Oldenburg mare.  I love hearing about this mare's progress.  She is going to be a very special horse, and has a very dedicated mom who works very hard to keep her!

Sweet Horse's Breath.  This one's a tear jerker but I love it.  Kristen has an OTTB and is working very hard to find a way to save him from a very serious case of laminitis. Her love for this sweet horse is infectious. 

The Literary Horse.  Jane is one of the funniest women I've ever come across.  She is an amazing story teller
and has an uncanny knack for making me snort and cackle.  If you aren't reading Jane's blog, start today.  She's got a very funny series of posts about abscesses from last week that should get you off to a good start.

What Was I Thinking....?  I've just started reading Wolfie's blog and I really enjoy it.  Wolfie is new to the sport and her blog is about her progress with her first horse, Gem.  She's got a great sense of humor about all these new experiences, and knows how to avoid taking life too seriously.

So there you go . . . congratulations ladies, and happy reading!