Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Once the holidays are over, don't you breathe a sigh of relief that things can go back to normal?  I always do.  Not quite there yet since we still have New Year's to get through (my least favorite holiday, to be sure), but at least Tucker is getting back to his regularly scheduled programming and back into a better riding routine after my hiaitus, which I spent doing a lot of sneezing, coughing, sleeping, and cat-warming:

Lilly

Sterling

Yes those are the world's two most adorable cats.  I completely agree.  Terrible nurses, though.  Always asleep on the job.

Anyway, now that I am back, so is Tucker.  He came back to work feeling a little stiff and weak behind.  I noticed that at the walk, he was really twisting his hind feet as he placed them on the ground, and looked stiff through his stifle and lower back.  Once on his back, he just felt tight underneath me, like he was walking with his hind legs way out behind him, which I noticed went away by the end of the ride.  So, we have been doing lots of long and low trotting, making him push forward instead of just plunk along, trying to get his back looser and hind end stronger (wish I could do hill work, but unfortunately not this time of year).  He doesn't seem to mind the work at all and has been better with each ride, so I think the stiffness was due to time off, particularly in the cold weather and with less turnout that he'd usually have in the summer, and so far doesn't seem to be anything that concerns me.

Last week I got an early Christmas present, a visit with Nicku, who did me the honor of riding my lovely beast while she was here.  She did a fabulous job with him and it was awesome for me to get to see my horse go, which is a very rare occasion for me since I'm always on board.  Once Tucker got over his disappointment that this would not be just a pony ride, and Nicku figured out that Tucker's "go" button is more like a hair trigger (especially for someone with super strong dressage legs!), they made a really great pair.  She also made a couple of observations that have really helped me in my last few rides.  Another reason I love having someone else sit on my horse -- there is always something to learn from a fresh perspective, and I love when amateurs can help fellow amateurs. 

First, Nicku noticed that Tucker doesn't want to take the outside rein.  I think I have been working so hard on keeping my hands steady and keeping an even contact on both reins that I've gone too far and started letting him rely on the inside rein too much, to the exclusion of the outside rein.  Which of course encourages him to lean in, and gives him the opportunity to bulge through his outside shoulder, two tricks that he finds very useful to avoid working too hard depending on what's being asked of him.  So we have been working on that.  I still want him to be balanced on both reins, but I don't want him to avoid/resist contact on the outside rein, which he's doing now.

Second, Nicku echoed Eric's advice, which is to do transitions within the gaits.  We've been working on this... Tucker generally finds this completely stupid ("You said trot and I am trotting. What do you want now?  Make up your mind lady.  Sheesh.").  The extensions are easier for him, mostly because of the way he is built and because he naturally has an 18-foot canter stride.  But he can be a bit lazy, so the first couple are always sort of... pathetic.  So we are working on getting him to be a bit more... responsive.  I am trying to hear Eric's voice in my head yelling at me to GALLOP.  I actually had some great hand gallops down the long sides of the arena on Saturday, so things are improving.

The collections are another story.  His answer to the collected trot is to walk, and the collected canter to trot.  I'm getting better about catching him with my leg before he actually breaks, but it's a fine line and he tends to get frustrated and confused easily (or at least feigns confusion well enough to disrupt the exercise).  For now, since he is still building up his strength, I am only asking for a few collected strides at a time, but eventually I want him to be able (and willing) to hold a collected trot or canter for as long as I ask, and then go forward again when I ask, etc.  Preferably, without making any executive decisions to change gaits entirely (which is both counter-productive and humiliating, since it makes me feel like a little girl who can't make her pony go). 

I doubt he will ever enjoy this work, but I am hoping that in time he will tolerate it.  I may go back to collecting and extending between poles on the ground, since he at least believes there is a point to this exercise, as it relates somewhat to jumping.  If all else fails, I'm not above bribing him with stud muffins and canada mints, a fact of which he is well aware.   

Sunday, December 18, 2011

As to be Expected....

... when you have to give your horse two weeks off in the middle of winter (stupid flu)... This pretty much sums up the ride yesterday:


It began with dancing and prancing in place on the cross-ties, and pawing dramatically whenever I left his side.  Charming, absolutely charming.  Delightful, in fact.  At least he gives you fair warning though.  Sort of a  "mount at your own risk" signal.

Down to the ring we went, where I kept a firm grip on the reins (I can be taught), and hand-walked him around for a while, so the cute kid on her palomino pony could finish her lesson in peace.  As soon as she left the ring, I let Tucker run around for a few minutes ... and run he did.  Absolute mayhem, though he seemed to be having a ball.  

Tucker's favorite moves:  
1.  The Chicken:  Gallop as fast as you can straight toward mom, dive left as soon as you see the whites of her eyes.  Best to wait until she puts her arms up in alarm.  Freaks her out every time.
2.  The Squeaky Toy:  Gallop as fast as you can down the length of the arena, and when you get to the end, toss your head as hard as you can, spin in place, and squeak repeatedly.
3.  The Hover Craft:  Come to a complete halt.  Turn to be sure that mom is looking.  Jump straight up into the air with all four feet.  Land bucking.  Bonus points added for extra hang time.
4.  The Wild Stallion:  Extended trot across the arena, nose to ground, tail flagged, snorting as you go.  Stop short.  Raise your head as high as it will go so you appear at least 18hh tall.  Snort some more.  Take off at full gallop, pretending to hear/see something terrifying.
5.  The My Little Pony:  Without warning, decide to be done playing.  Calmly trot or walk to mom.  Place forehead against mom's chest.  Wait for ear rubs.  Snuffle pockets for treats.  

Friday, December 16, 2011

What Not to Wear: Hunter Ring Edition

The Chronicle ran an article this week called "Hunter Fashion Dos and Don'ts."  I usually love the COTH articles, but I have to be honest, I thought this one missed the mark.  First off...  what do I really want to see in the hunter ring?  A beautiful, healthy, well-muscled (read, not obese) horse with a balanced uphill canter, a round athletic jump, and a rider who maintains her own center of gravity between, over, and after the fences.  Those are the rounds that take my breath away.  I have never had my breath taken away because I noticed that someone is wearing "the right breeches."  But just for a moment, let's put aside the fact that we should be concentrating on performance, not fashion.  This is hard for me to do, because I have defended the hunters more times than I can count as "more than just a beauty contest." 

In a way, though, performance and rider attire do go hand-in-hand.  The one point the article made, with which I did wholeheartedly agree, is that the rider's attire should never distract from the horse, who should be the main focus in the hunter ring (same goes for the rider's equitation, but again, off topic for today).  One of my favorite hunter riders to watch is Amanda Steege, and what I love about her riding is that I don't even notice her. 

Other than this point, though, I thought the article otherwise missed the boat.  First, because it ignored some majorly glaring fashion faux pas that are rampant in the hunter ring, and second, because the article seemed to focus too much on the expensive parts of the hunter look, rather than what is necessary and appropriate.  So here we go... "What Not to Wear: Hunter Ring Edition," by Tucker the Wunderkind.  In order of importance, here is what I think is absolutely necessary to look your best in the hunter ring -- and ways to make it happen even on a shoe-string budget.

1.  A sparkling clean, neatly clipped horse.  You're there to show the horse off... so why on earth would you let him walk in not looking his very best?  There is nothing less attractive to me than a horse going into the ring with a brown tint to his gray dapples, or a layer of dust visible form 100 yards.  It takes nothing more than a lot of elbow grease and a willingness to rise at o'dark hundred to get a horse's coat looking nice for the show ring.  (Hint: daily currying, and a swig of corn oil in their dinner, goes a long way to making them shine.)  I also think it is imperative that hunters have whiskers, ears, a bridle path, white socks, and coronet bands clipped.  I don't care if Pookie doesn't like it.  Find a way (I prefer bribery).  White socks just won't get white if the hair is too long, and if you think no one notices that her muzzle isn't shaved...  well, I do.

2.  Shiny tall boots.  Note, I did not say expensive, custom, or embelished with alligator skin and tiny little rhinestones.  No one can tell what brand you are wearing when they are on your feet.  So long as they fit well, and you take really good care of them, they will do just fine.  The boots I show in are the same ones I bought myself when I was 13, with my babysitting money.  It pains me to add up exactly how old they are, but apart from having them resoled because the tread was getting slick, they are still in great shape and give us that polished ready-for-success look -- for the hefty investment of under $5 per year.

3.  Clean, well-oiled tack.  You'd think this would be a no-brainer.  But you'd also be amazed to see how many people cut corners in this department.  Tack should be a rich brown color, which means it needs to be cleaned regularly and oiled properly (once again, there are lots of inexpensive, good quality bridles out there.  If you take good care of it, no one will know it didn't cost you half a paycheck).  Clean tack includes a clean bit, a clean saddle pad, and a clean saddle.  Giving the reins and the nose band a once-over doesn't cut it, in my book. 

4.  Good braids.  I've heard the debate about doing away with braiding altogether because it's "so expensive."  Guess how much I spend on braiding every year?  About $10 in yarn, sharp scissors, a pull-through and a seam ripper.  Braiding stinks, it hurts my back and makes my fingers cramp, but you have to admit, there is nothing more elegant than a well-braided horse.  Braids should be tiny, lay flat against the neck, not twist, and be relatively uniform.  If you're not braiding, make sure the mane is neatly pulled, laying flat (I spray with Quic Braid for this), and the tail is brushed out thoroughly.  Tucker uses a fake tail, because he's not naturally blessed in that department, though I disagree with the suggestion in the COTH article that a fake is de rigeur.

5.  Well-fitting breeches.  I don't know what "the right breeches" are, Mr. Dignelli, but I do know what wrong breeches look like.  Bad breeches are either skin tight (visible panty lines, is that really what you want people to notice over that two-stride?) or too baggy (sure, I almost pee a little if the jumps get big, but do I really want people thinking I'm wearing an adult diaper?).  Try on lots of different brands at different price points, figure out which ones flatter you the most, and if they are going to break the bank, search for an online sale, stalk the consignment racks at your local tack store, or comb e-bay and the COTH classifieds until you find a pair in your size (you will eventually, I promise).  I personally love the way the RJ Classics Ocala sidezip breeches fit me, but they are pretty pricey (IMO), so I only have two pairs (that only come out for clinics and shows) and I waited for a sale to buy them.  I also seriously dislike super low rise breeches -- particularly with shadbellies.  It's a no-no in my book.

6.  A classic coat and showshirt.  If you really want to get the look just right, you can never go wrong with a navy jacket and white show shirt.  Here's another insider's tip for you:  show coats go on sale all the time!  Don't ever buy one at full price!  I have purchased all my show coats (and I have a pretty decent selection at this point) either on consignment (one of my favorites, a classic hunter green one, was $25), or on at least 50% sale.  My navy coat was free... someone at one of my former barns gave it to me because it didn't fit her anymore.  All I had to do was hem the sleeves.  Moral of the story?  If you find a really good deal on a coat that fits okay, it's worth taking to a tailor to get it just right.  Just make sure you show them that you need full range of motion in your arms.  And of course, you can always try your luck at winning a gorgeous new hunt coat from Get My Fix, who is currently offering a gorgeous custom Hayward coat (and frequently offers lots of good giveaways).  I'd absolutely love a wool one in navy, though I'd opt to skip the piping on the collar.

7.  Black gloves.  Non-negotiable in my opinion.  You have to wear gloves in the hunters, and they should be dark, otherwise attention is drawn away from the horse and to your hands.  Personally, this is one area where I think form meets function, because the right gloves, ones with a tackified grip, will help you keep a good feel on the reins.  These Roeckl gloves are my favorite for summer, and these SSG gloves are my favorite for winter.

8.  Hunter hair.  I know, hair nets are stupid and you hate putting your hair up.  But snoods are out of fashion in the hunter ring, and ponytails are out of the question if you're over age 8 (and even then, there should be two braids. With appropriately sized bows, people).  I personally love the One Knot Hairnets, because they avoid the painful bump in the middle of your forehead from that second knot.  If you need help, go here and type "hunter hair" into the search box.  You'll find several threads where people will go on endlessly about how they do it.  Just make sure the sides and the back are neat and tidy and your hairnet isn't showing below the brim of your hat and across your face.  And while we're on the subject of your face, it doesn't hurt to run a baby wipe over it to remove the really obvious grime, but a full face of makeup while on a horse just seems wrong to me. 

9.  A conservative belt.  Keep the bling for your Sunday hacks, a night out line-dancing, and maybe the jumper ring.  Your belt should never, ever, be something someone notices in the hunter ring.  I have a nice brown one with a brass buckle that I like, but black works too.  Just keep the buckle small and be sure the width of the belt matches your belt loops. 

10.  The finishing touches.  These are the last minute things you do (when time allows) at the in-gate to give you and your horse the extra little wow factor.  Here is what I recommend.  Wipe the horse over with a towel spritzed with rubbing alcohol, which will lift any dust that's landed on him during schooling.  Wipe the eyes, nose, and mouth with a wet towel.  It will darken these areas, which makes their faces shine, and remove gook.  I also only feed him Canada Mints as treats on show days, so we never have green/brown/orange/pink lipstick. I don't use hoof oil (personal preference), but I do use a hoof brush to make sure his hooves don't have any caked dirt on them.  Brush the ends of the tail so it flows nicely.  Baby powder the white socks.  Lint roll your show coat (if necessary).  Wipe off your boots, or if possible, hop on the horse and then have a friend wipe them off.  Now just breathe.

And there you have it... my suggestions for looking your very best in the hunter ring.  It won't stop you from missing on that long approach diagonal oxer, but at least you'll do it in style.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Give Your Dreams a Chance

First, a Quick Tucker Update:  He's been pretty great since his little runaway episode (probably feeling guilty), but I've had the flu (ugh) and haven't seen the poor beast in over a week.  I texted my barn manager today to request that she let him know he's not orphaned.  I intend to see him soon.  On to the blog post....

*  *  *

So today, as per usual, I dropped off my dollar contributing to my office pool's chance at winning the Mega Millions... since I sure don't want to be one of the few employees left who didn't become an overnight millionaire... you never know.

As I ate my lunch, I got to thinking.... what would be on my millionaire's shopping list?

Well, first and foremost, I'd buy a super fancy A/O Hunter.  Something along these lines:

Lumiere and Jane Gaston (photo from Bigeq.com)
Could you just die for this horse?  So beautiful...

No don't worry, of course I'd never get rid of Tucker.  He'd just become a jumper and I'd play in both rings.  Which, of course, would require a new wardrobe for him.  No more fancy stitched padded nosebands for him, no sir.  I'll take a figure-8 and some brass clinchers, please.  And defnitely a set of these Veredus open-front boots.  Given the size of our ears, we probably need a custom bonnet, too.  Not to mention that all the horses would need coordinating winter wardrobes (like these, and these).  Looks like I better put Smartpak on speed dial as soon as I win....

Then I'd need a pony for my niece (well, we'll say it's for her, but really I just want a pony), and obviously the pony would need a friend, so I think a mini donkey is in order. 


Of course, I have a European vacation I'd like to take too....  And let's not forget that when I'm in Holland, I'll probably want to bring a nice young prospect home with me...  (You see where this is going.  Can you imagine how many animals I would end up with?)



And then of course I'll need something to transport my noble steeds in, since I plan to travel up and down the East Coast depositing at least some of my millions to the good folks at HITS.  My current pickup and two-horse trailer just won't do.  Nope, I'm definitely going to need something more like this:


Naturally, I'll need something to pull it with.  I think this F-450 King Ranch ought to do the trick.  Have you ever been in one of those things?  Oh boy would I love having one to call my own....

As for a home base?  I'm not asking for much.  Twenty or so acres, big enough for a nice barn, rings, plenty of turnout, and some little trails.  Oh and I guess I'll need a place to live.  How about a pretty little cottage overlooking the turnout fields?  Maybe something with a stone fireplace, big picture windows, and a nice front porch?  Just something warm and cozy for me and the beagles and the jack russells....


And then there's the barn....  let's spare no expense here.  Give me all the ameneties.  A big wide center aisle, plenty of cross-ventilation, those gorgeous Euro stalls with brass finials.  These would suit me quite nicely:

(Go ahead and click that link. You know you want to see more pretty barns.)

Then we'll need some super fancy grooming bays, and big, well draining wash stalls.  Including one heated and enclosed wash stall.  I'd venture a guess that something like this would make me happy:


I'm thinking about 8 stalls would be just right.  And all the stalls would have custom-designed automatic waterers with built-in heaters, and slide-out feed bins for quick feeding, and a drop down from the hayloft for hay, and a recessed ceiling fan, and a trunk in front of each stall just for their blankets, and a dutch door that led outside, with an overhang to keep the hot sun and the rain out of their faces. 

Outside, I'd have big turnout pastures with run-ins and four-board fencing, and smaller stone dust paddocks for the really wet weather, and a trail around the perimeter of the paddocks with stone dust footing for hacking.  And of course, a nice indoor ring close to the barn with crushed leather footing, big mirrors, and a heated viewing room, an outdoor ring with sand and stone dust footing and a watering system, and a grass jumping field.  And lots and lots of pretty jumps.

Let's see... and for the humans... a nice lounge (with a well stocked bar please!), and a big feed room with a fridge and a sink, and a tack room full of brass hardware and wooden trunks and gorgeous leather....  Can you picture it?  I'd invite all my favorite horsey friends to come and board with me in horse heaven.

Whew... now that was fun!

So tell me, what would be on your list?  And what am I forgetting?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanks a Lot Buddy.

Those were the words that came out of my mouth as I watched my horse gallop and buck away from me and off into the distance as I stood dumbfounded in our outdoor arena.  The day after we are supposed to spend 24 hours being grateful for everything we have, I was reminded of what I am generally grateful I don't have.  And that's a large, brown, obnoxious and recalcitrant creature hell-bent on being a complete imbecile, endangering others, and risking his own life for absolutely no reason at all.  (Yes, I'm still mad at him.  Don't worry, it won't last.)

Let me paint the picture for you.  I have the day off from work.  It's gorgeous out.  Sunny, blue skies, no wind.  I have to pull off my long johns when I get to the barn.  It is unseasonably perfect weather.  Naturally,  I wanted to ride outside, and I figured that since I had ridden outside at my clinic last week it wouldn't be that big of a deal for that big brown moron monster horse I own.  I did put a slightly stronger bit in his mouth though, figuring I'd probably need it.  I'm not completely dumb.

So we get out to the arena and I set up a few small jumps, figuring we'd had two good flat work sessions this week and I'd practice what I learned at my clinic last weekend.  Tucker followed me around like a dog, as per usual, ears at half mast.  So I bring him back to the mounting block, tighten my girth, throw the reins over his head, pull my cooler halfway back, pull down one stirrup, and then pull down the other.

For reasons that no human will ever understand, the sound of the second stirrup hitting the end of the leather (a sound no horse has never heard before, obviously) signaled such severe and significant danger that Tucker leapt from a standstill to a gallop in a nanosecond.  In part of that nanosecond, I still had one finger on the reins and contemplated possibly hanging on to him.  And then he kicked out at me.  Yeah.  That's right.  Attack the mother.  Good idea.  Thanks a lot buddy.

As he galloped a circle around me, depositing his (newly laundered) cooler neatly in a mud puddle as he went, I thought I might be able to head him off at the in-gate and prevent a complete disaster.  I, of course, thought wrong, because a human trying not to run and frighten her horse is obviously much slower than a 17 hand warmblood barreling forward at Mach 10 on high alert.  And out the gate he went.

My first thought of course is on the riders in the indoor, who were probably not expecting a large brown idiot streak of horse-shaped fury to come charging past the open doors.  Not to worry, they were all smart enough to dismount as soon as they saw this nonsense potential disaster unfolding.

I head out after him, realizing as I go that my special needs special horse is now headed for the driveway, possibly the parking lot, possibly the road.  As my wheels start turning I go from a brisk walk, to a jog, to a sprint.  By the time I find him, I realize I am running faster than I thought possible, and may have stopped breathing a while back.  I stop, panting, on the other end of the farm, where I find him trotting up and down the fence lines between the turnout fields, successfully agitating nearly every horse on the property in the process.  Luckily, he's in an alley way with a gate on both ends.  I shut the gate behind me, a smart move that experience has taught me.  Tucker does not do well when he gets loose.  He tends to panic, assume he is in trouble (I wonder why one would feel guilty after running away from and kicking out at one's human?), and will run blindly away from any and all two legged creatures, oblivious to all other potential danger.

So after an exasperating few minutes worthy of a three stooges skit, chasing my evil stupid ridiculous free to a good home panicked horse back and forth and up and down this alley, mud splattering everywhere, expletives flying, all much to the amusement of my four legged onlookers, I finally reach out and grab the reins (which, by some miracle, have stayed over his head) as he gallops past, and he spins in a circle around me, nearly dislocating my shoulder in the process.  Did you all read about when Fen got loose, and how he came straight to FarmWife when she appeared?  This was not exactly like that.  One would hope with ears as big as my horse has, that he might have some mulish qualities.  Apparently not on this particular day.

After making sure that the poor frightened mare turned out in the round pen had been caught, and seeing that the horses in turnout were quieting down, I march him back across the property to the outdoor ring.  He is still snorting and prancing and generally carrying on like he's just been extremely brave in the face of certain death.  I grab my lunge line out of my trailer as we walk past.  He begins to humble at the mere sight of it.  He knows what's coming.  After a quick discussion about how we do not LEAP or STRIKE as we walk away from our mother on the lunge line, but rather we walk calmly in a circle until we are asked to TROT, and not GALLOP, Tucker finally begins to re-inhabit his own body.  As I watch him trot around and around, I can see the old familiar "but I HATE the circle game... this is soooooo stoooooooopid.... whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy...." expression on his face.  After a few more minutes of this torture, mostly for my own edification, I let him walk for a bit and then climb aboard.

The ride was great.  He was actually very well behaved.  And I made him work his little tail off.  We did not, however, get to any of the little jumps I had set up, nor did I work on too many of the things I learned in my clinic, other than practicing not slouching.  I did, however, get a good reminder that we should always ride the horse we have today, and sometimes that means scrapping our plans.  (There's a life lesson in there somewhere too.)

I'd ask if anyone wants a nice big brown horse, free to a good home, but I know there'd actually be takers... and I know I won't stay mad at him much longer.  I did just buy a bag of carrots, and they're going to go bad if I don't feed them to him.....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Eric Horgan Clinic Recap

So, Tucker and I were scheduled to do a clinic last week with Eric HorganIn case you don't feel like clicking that link, Eric was a member of Ireland's Olympic Three-Day Event team at Montreal in 1976, competed in the 1990 World Equestrian Games in Stockholm, 1992 Burghley International Three-Day Event, and the world-renowned Badminton Horse Trials.  He was the bronze medalist at the 1989 European Three-Day Event Championships and is a two-time winner of the Punchestown (Ireland) International Three-Day Event.  Just for starters.  And that's not even getting into his coaching credentials. So, he's sort of a big deal.

Eric holding Court.

Then I get this email, saying that due to multiple scheduling conflicts and a couple of last minute horse soundness issues, the clinic would have to be rescheduled.  My heart sank, knowing that Eric goes to Aiken, SC, for the winter, and wouldn't be back to New Jersey until the Spring.  Then I read on, and saw that Eric was still going to be in town, and would be teaching lessons at a nearby farm (which happens to be owned by a fellow alumnae of my high school, the Ethel Walker School.  Small world.  Horse world is even smaller.).  So... a private lesson?  With a former Olympian?  Who has a great sense of humor and an Irish accent?  Where do I sign up?

You may be wondering why I was so desperate to ride with someone outside my discipline (resident hunter princess here).  Well, first off, anyone that runs in the International circles that Eric does, and has been exposed to the best riders and trainers in the world, is always going to have something to teach little old me.  And second, I rode with Eric frequently when I was in high school, and can honestly say that those clinics were the best pieces of riding I've ever managed.  (Well, except for that one time when I ended up eating dirt, and came to, mumbling something about her getting behind my leg). 

So after a few midnight (literally) body-clipping sessions after work last week, Tucker and I head out on a bright sunny November morning to introduce Tucker to Eric.  On the way, we swung by Altea to pick up our blogging friends Amy and Sugar.  Tucker fell instantly in love with Sug and had a momentary panic attack when he was separated from her for ten minutes while I tacked up.  This should come as no surprise.  She is one good looking mare.  And even sweeter in person, if you can imagine.  She didn't even mind Tucker's obnoxious space invasion, which drives most mares up the wall.  Though she did eat all of his hay.  But, he has always been more motivated by friends than food, so that was just fine with him.  By the way, Amy and Sug are exactly the kind of travel buddies we like.  They thought of everything, including bellinis.  We love them!


When we started the lesson, Eric asked me about Tucker, what we needed to work on, etc.  I focused on our major issue:  getting the right canter, going forward, and maintaining pace.  As it turns out, Eric was extremely helpful in this department.  He watched the horses warm up and then brought us in to the ring to discuss what he saw.  Though both horses travel quite differently, similar exercises were needed for both horses to improve their canter.  Eric observed that Tucker has a naturally well-balanced canter, but that it's often very difficult to get a naturally balanced horse to work harder and really engage his hind end (yes, exactly.  Tucker strongly believes that his natural way of going is good enough). 

He also observed that I slouch.  (Guilty as charged.)  But here's a new way of looking at it:  Eric gave us the analogy of how the natural horsemanship folks stand at the "driving line" and can send the horse forward or slow the horse by putting their body in front of or behind this line.  So he wanted me to think about keeping my body behind the driving line, to keep my horse in front of my leg.  For some reason, this concept really helped it click.  As a result, there are actually some photos where I was sitting up.  Look!

(Let's ignore the wonky thing my left arm is doing
and focus on the sitting up part for now, yes?)

We worked on transitions (and making me sit up through them).  Walk to trot, trot to walk, then walk to canter, canter to walk.  Once these were "crisper," we moved to transitions within the canter.  Extend, collect.  But not my usual gradual extension and collection.  This was immediate:  on a circle (around Eric), gallop forward, and then bring him back -- sharply, in just a couple of strides -- to a very collected canter, but all the while keep the canter "pinging."  The first few times we did this, Tucker gave me a very unenthusiastic, slightly more forward canter, and then broke to a trot instead of collecting.  To which Eric responded, dryly, "I can tell you do this a lot."  Followed by, even more dryly, "That was Sarcasm."  Yes, Eric, I get it.  We need to work on this.  Tucker eventually got with the program though and delivered that pinging canter that Eric was looking for. 

We then worked on carrying this quality canter to a line of poles, which eventually became jumps.  Has anyone ever had you work on the quality of your canter in the middle of a line?  Yeah, me either.  Quality of canter to the first jump, and even away from the second jump, yes.  But in the middle of the line?  I've always focused on stride length, but not canter quality.  Would you believe the two are related?  As in, if you have a better quality of canter, your horse's stride is much more easy to adjust?  Makes perfect sense now.  Never would have occurred to me before last Sunday.

As we worked on this very simple exercise, Eric broke down for us where the rides were going wrong.  He focused a lot on recovery after the jump.  To really drive the point home, he'd go stand in the spot where we actually recovered, and then stand in the spot where we needed to begin recovering (in case you couldn't guess, they weren't exactly right next to each other).  As a general rule, I seem to do pretty much nothing for the first two strides upon landing.  So in a six stride line, we have two big strides, and then four increasingly smaller strides.  Instead of two or three balancing strides, and then three strides where I am just maintaining what I have until takeoff.  So we worked on this, over and over, until I was better at it. 

Once we added the jumps, Eric changed my jumping position a little, making me hold my shoulders back more so that I land in a better position to immediately start recovering upon landing.  This worked pretty well too, which was a good thing, because we then added an end jump after landing from the line, that was either five or six bending strides away.  Tucker showed his true colors here since I buried him to the end jump the first couple of times and he just shrugged his shoulders and hopped on over it.  I finally got it though, and we ended on a great note, where I managed to land from each jump, recover, and maintain a decent canter throughout.

Very simple exercises, very big results.  With a few laughs thrown in.  Exactly what I was hoping to get out of this experience. 

Now THIS is a good canter.

_______________________________________

p.s. -- Eric thinks I should try the jumper ring with Tucker.  He says I'd have a blast with him.  The hunter princess is mulling it over....

p.p.s. -- Photo credit for this entry goes to E. Skuba.  Thanks again Libby!

Friday, November 11, 2011

This Friday Funny Brought to you by Disney

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent last week with my niece.  She's a huge fan of the movie Tangled (don't worry, I also had her watch the Breeder's Cup. For educational purposes, of course. And explained that a lot of OTTBs go on to great careers in the hunter/jumper world. It's never too early to learn).  Anyway... seeing Tangled five times in a row was just fine with me, because I absolutely love the horse in this movie.  I am fairly certain that his animators know Tucker.  This is the gray cartoon version of my Wunderkind, I swear.  My favorite part about this horse is that he doesn't talk (I mean, do you remember how off-putting it was when Starlite started singing?), but he's got a clear personality and he stars in some of the funniest scenes of this movie.  There are definitely some horse lovers on the Disney staff.

I thought we could all use a little bit of silly this week.  A few short clips below (just in case you don't hang out much with the Disney-going set).  Enjoy!









Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dear Tucker,

I know what you're thinking.  Where have I been?

Remember all that snow we had?  Remember how all the trees fell down?  Well that meant mom's house had no power.  I know you see really well in the dark, but mom not so much.  And I know you are nice and toasty warm under your Smartpak blankets, but mom needs heat.  I don't grow a winter coat (thankfully).  So I had to stay with your Uncle Mike.  He is the one with the tiny human (like a filly, with two legs), whom you haven't met yet.  You two are going to be adorable in leadline.  I know how you love children, and she will be the cutest thing ever perched up on a big tall horse like yourself.  And eventually, she will be the reason that you finally get to have your own pony.  Yes, you're right.  She needs to come and meet you.  No, I don't think we can bring you to meet her.  Although their backyard would make a lovely pasture.  We'll think about it.

And then Uncle Mike had surgery on his knee, which kept me away a little longer.  You remember when you hurt your hock?  Well this was just like that.  You know the drill.  Three days of stall rest.  Lots of medicine.  Bandage changes.  Ice and compression.  Handwalking.  Watching for signs of discomfort or colic.  You know how mom is really good at that kind of thing, and like I said, Uncle Mike has a tiny human, so another set of hands were needed.  I knew you'd understand.

But today is the day my love!  I am coming to see you!  I have been staring at your sweet face from the background of my phone (the little black thing I am usually carrying, which -- ahem -- now has teeth marks on it because you like to put in your mouth), and missing you very dearly.  So I know you have missed me too, but I will see you soon!  And I am bringing treats!

Love,
Mom

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Wrong Ending

This story had the wrong ending.  This wasn't the way it was supposed to go. 


You were supposed to have an unprecedented career in showjumping, adored by fans across the nations for years, and continue to amaze us with your talent, agility, strength, and heart.  You were supposed to be retired, with that wise old look on your face that teenaged stallions get, and paraded around the ring adorned with a blanket of roses.  Crowds of people were supposed to stand and applaud your many, many accomplishments, music playing and riders choking up with pride and esteem.  You were supposed to live out your twilight years in some big green pasture, calling out to mares across the fencelines, pinning your ears at geldings walking past, and nickering to grooms for treats and scratches.


You were not supposed to come crashing to the ground in a heartbreaking, violent, tragic way.  The crowd was not supposed to look on in horror, hands clapped across mouths and tears streaming down their cheeks.  You should have ended this competition with a victory gallop, a ribbon streaming from your bridle.  There shouldn't have been a moment of silence.  The competition shouldn't have been cancelled.  This was definitely not the way the story was supposed to play out. 


I haven't been blogging regularly lately because I have some kind of prolonged writer's block and I find myself with no idea what to say these days (but everything is fine, Tucker and I are well). I felt compelled to write something today though, both to honor this great horse and to reflect on how profoundly his passing has affected me.  It has left me feeling morose, a little indignant at life, and completely empty. 


Go home and hug your horses tonight.  Tell them you love them and you're grateful for them.  And be honored to be part of a sport that allows us to share in the lives of champions like Hickstead.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jeff Cook Clinic Recap: Day One

Day One, we were told, would be gymanstic-type work, and Day Two would be course work. 

After we had walked around for a bit and the horses were loosened up, Day One started out with Jeff asking us to form a semi-circle around him, while he came around and inspected everyone's tack, making minor adjustments as he went.  (Stirrups up or down a hole, a flash one hole looser, a martingale an inch longer, etc.).  As he came around he learned each of our names, asked us what division we show in and what height we school at, what bits we were using, etc.  When Jeff came around to me I said a silent prayer that Tucker would not frisk him for treats... thankfully, he did not.  Small miracle. 

We started out on the rail at a rising trot and Jeff worked on our positions.  Things I heard:  stretch up taller, sit on your imaginary back pockets, quiet hands, thumbs up, elbows in, left rein is longer than your right (a relic of my formerly completely twisted position).  I also heard, "Stetch up taller.  TallerTaller.  There."  (Yikes! That hurt.)  About half way through our trot warm up as I was circling around Jeff he said, "Do you feel what your left hand is doing, right now?  You're nagging him.  Do you feel yourself doing it?"  My honest answer:  "No.  But now that you point it out, yes."  Jeff explained how critically important it is to have quiet hands, because otherwise the bit becomes a punishment and the horse never gets a reward for being soft.  Especially on a horse that wants to be as soft as mine.  I vowed to fix this. 

Jeff had us warm up in the canter and work on full seat, half seat, and two point.  Not surprisingly, my "full seat" is really a half seat, and my "half seat" is really a two point, and my two point is just standing way too far out of my saddle.  We worked on this with a little 18" crossrail at the end of the ring.  By the end, if I tried my hardest to demonstrate a full seat, I could pretty much get the half seat Jeff was looking for.  Still have some work to do on that....

The first jumping exercise we did was basically a serpentine through the ring, landing and halting straight after each fence, and then turning, picking up our canter, and on to the next one.  By fence three, Tucker was convinced he was in trouble.  Landing and halting straight surely was some sort of reprimand and Tucker was on the verge of a melt down:  "Oh no I don't know what I did but I think maybe now everyone hates me and I'm a bad horse and I never do anything right and, and, and...  oh wait, she's patting my neck.  She wants me to go forward.  I think maybe I'm not in trouble.  Ohhhh.  This is just part of the exercise.  Okay, I get it.  Stop and go.  No problem.  This game is easy."

This exercise got Tucker sooo light up front on the way to the fence that I actually had too much bridle using our normal jumping bit, and had to switch to something lighter for Day Two.  I worked on not overjumping with my body, and keeping my thumbs turned up, which seemed to be the two most important pieces I was missing.  Jeff seemed pleased with our progress after a few tries.  I was amazed at how each horse improved as we did the exercise a few times. 

The next exercise was a simple two stride off the left lead, set on the quarter line, but instead of landing and continuing left around the end of the ring, we had to land and turn right, into the wall, and back up the long side.  The first time, Tucker was completely caught off guard.  The second time, he landed right and I swear he was making the right turn even before I asked.  Here again, Jeff pointed out that the turn was really nice and soft and I picked at him with my right rein.  (I did?  Do I really do this all the time?  [Answer:  see video footage.  Yes, I do.])  Next time through, I was soft on my right rein, and Tucker executed a brilliant soft right hand turn, followed by a circle right, back up the two stride, and then a lefthand turn into the wall, and then over an end jump.  This probably requires a diagram:



That isn't exactly drawn to scale, but hopefully you get the idea.  The goal was to get the horses paying better attention, because we were asking them to turn in the opposite direction from what they were thinking.  Tucker, being a child prodigy, picked up on the exercise immediately.  There is no fooling him.  But it did get him light as a feather, so that when we added two long approaches to oxers after this, he went forward, extended his stride where I asked, and stayed engaged and really light in his front end.  Brilliant!

One other thing Jeff worked on with me and another couple of riders who were having trouble getting the right pace right from the start.  He'd say "gallop!" and we'd ask the horse to canter off right from a halt in the corner, come really forward around the end of the ring, and then when we got straight to the fence he'd say "now cool it."  And wouldn't you know, the perfect distance was right there every time?  Get the right pace and the right forward rhythm right from the start, and the rest works itself out.

I loved these exercises.  Even though this was the 3' section, the jumps were small (2'6"ish) so we could concentrate on the exercise and not worry about the jump itself.  Jeff wanted simple changes if needed, nothing fancy, nothing too elaborate.  He was also quick to compliment the riders who "worked it out" even when it wasn't pretty, and pointed things out that applied to the entire group or applied to another horse, so that we all felt like we were still learning, even when we were just waiting around for our turn.

At the end of Day One, I felt like I had a lot of new things to work on (and some of the usual issues too), but overall I was pleased with my riding and overjoyed with my clever horse.  Think I could get one of those "Proud Parent of an Honor Roll Student" bumper stickers for Tucker's butt?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Triumphant Return

Testing, testing....  :::tap, tap, tap:::  Is this thing still on?

I realize that my prolonged hiatus from blogging may have caused some of you to remove me from your RSS feeds or delete your bookmarks... but hopefully, you'll come back?  I've got lots to tell, and I am done making up excuses for not blogging.  I have been great at making excuses though.  It started off with being too busy to write.  And then I was too busy to ride, so I had nothing to write about.  And then it had been a while, so I thought I had better make it a good one, and I didn't have anything exciting to tell you.  And then I just got writer's block.  And then...  Well, you get the idea.  But the point is I'm back and I've missed all of you.  (Not only have I not been blogging, but I've not been reading either, and I have lots of catching up to do with you and your horses.)

My next couple of posts will recount the Jeff Cook Clinic that Tucker and I did this weekend, which was fantastic.  Jeff is an amazing teacher, who made small adjustments to my position that had a huge impact, and gave us creative, different, simple but challenging exercises that got our horses responsive, sharp, light and engaged.  He also has a way -- mostly through positive reinforcement I think -- of instilling serious confidence in his riders.  I rode ten times better with him than I usually do, and mostly because I wasn't going around wondering if I would be able to do it.  After the second day I thought... if I win the lottery, my horses and I will just follow this man around the country. 

So here are the highlights:

1) At some point during the flat phase of Day 2, Jeff repositioned my seat so that I was sitting deeper in the saddle.  As I tilted my hips forward and scooted my bum underneath me a little more, Jeff said to me:  "There you go, you can sit a little deeper on him, don't worry, he'll allow it.  You ride well."  Thank goodness he turned his attention to someone else at that point because I literally started beaming and the only thought in my head was, "okay, I can die happy now."

2) Throughout the clinic Jeff made general observations about the sport of riding in general.  My favorite was:  "Do you know why the highs are so high with horses?  Because the lows are frequent."  Words to remember.  He pointed out that he could make a nice easy course and tell us all we're wonderful for two days, but unless he gives us a chance to make mistakes, he's not going to be able to help us out.  Took the pressure way off.  At least for this little perfectionist.

3) Jeff repeatedly emphasized making the horses' jobs easier and more pleasant.  For example, when we first got on in the ring, he wanted all of us to walk the horses around for a good 10 minutes or so, on the buckle.  I got on and did what I usually do, which is ask for a long and low frame and ask him to walk forward, but Jeff corrected me.  He used Tucker as an example to show how much bigger their step is behind when you drop the reins and let them walk around on the buckle with their noses poked out vs. when you ask for an "artificial" frame right from the start before they have a chance to loosen up through their backs.  He then had us warm up at the trot with no contact with the horses' mouths at all for the first 7 minutes.  Of course, Tucker started out with his head straight up in the air, but after a few minutes settled right down into a nice relaxed frame, all on his own, just from me sending him forward and asking him to be straight using my leg.  I was impressed. 

4) I love the way Jeff helped us out in front of the jumps.  If we needed to come forward he'd just say, "Stay on it!" and if we needed to wait he'd say, "Now cool it."  Maybe cause I never play anything cool, ever, I kind of liked being told to "cool it."  Just seems like the right image to me.  And when we got it right, he'd yell out, "GOOD RIDE!" and there was a conviction in his voice that just made you believe him. 

5) After the flat phase on Day 2, when I had finally figured out how to quiet my hands and get Tucker to reach and relax through his back, Jeff looked at me smiling and said, "You're really right there on the edge of it with this horse now.  He really wants to do it right.  If we had another couple of days together to start adding some shoulder-ins and lateral work to what we've been doing, you'd have him exactly where we want them to be.  Nice job."  (Pretty sure I didn't hide the beaming that time.)

Stay tuned for a more detailed account of the exercises and courses from Days 1 and 2.  It's nice to be back. 



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

You Have to Laugh...

This weekend I managed to sneak in a ride between showers on Saturday.  Because of all the ridiculous rain we've been having, Tucker's overnight turnout schedule was all screwed up last week and as a result he was a tad fresh.  He was holding it together really well in the outdoor ring on Saturday, until....
"PUMA!"  (Tucker begins spastically scrambling at a noise in the tall grass outside the ring.)
"No... that's a sparrow."  (I begin making efforts to regain control without further escalating the situation.  He is now hopping up and down, in a motion not unlike that of a confused sparrow.)
 "I am a WILD UNCONTROLLABLE STALLION!  I am galloping through a white water river to rush us to safety!  I cannot be stopped until the coast is clear!"

"No, you are a ridiculous gelding splashing around in a puddle, and you may be about to fall down.  Please stop, before you hurt yourself."
At this point, I managed to get him back to a walk that more closely resembled that of an equine, rather than, say, an injured kangaroo or a cat after a cold shower.  We continue sounding the alarm to other (non-existent) members of the herd through a series of snorts and huffs and similar high alert noises.  I pat his neck, which is now a solid coil of tense muscle.  I wait until I can no longer feel his heart beat bouncing my knees off my saddle.

The coast seemingly clear, I resumed my canter a little further down the ring and made a slow, controlled circle.  Tucker gave me a heavy sigh and came back down into the bridle. 
"Definitely a puma," he mumbled under his breath.
You have to laugh at moments like this.  They sure make it impossible to stay mad at them.

Monday, August 22, 2011

2011 USHJA Hunter Derby Finals Recap and Results

What an amazing event that was to watch!  Fabulous riding, gorgeous horses, challenging courses.  Such a thrill.  In case you missed it, all the rounds are now available on the USEF Network.  

The courses were beautiful, designed to look like an actual farm, with a little barn (yes, a barn in the ring), a pond, a bridge, a driveway, hedges, etc.  It was so creative, and presented some real challenges!  Here are the course designs (from the IHD facebook page):


Classic Round


Handy Round

Full Results:
1   C COAST Z  LILLIE KEENAN  765.5
2   DECLARATION  SCOTT STEWART  758 
3   CARLSON  TAMMY PROVOST 725.5 
4   SIENNA  PATRICIA GRIFFITH  725
5   CARLOS-BOY  SCOTT STEWART  724
6   VALIANT  TAMMY PROVOST  716
7   HAVANA  VICTORIA COLVIN  714
8   SAILOR'S VALENTINE  HOLLY ORLANDO  708.5
9   TAKEN  KELLEY FARMER  705
10 GARFIELD  SCOTT STEWART  668.5
11 CROWN AFFAIR  JOHN FRENCH  545.5
12 PRAISE  KELLEY FARMER  334
13 YES INDEED  SARAH MECHLIN  308
14 TELL ALL  SUSAN BAKER  303 
15 EMPIRE  SCOTT STEWART  298
16 TIMBER RIDGE  ERYNN. BALLARD  286
17 FRANCESCA  MAGGIE JAYNE  267
18 INCLUSIVE  VICTORIA COLVIN  252.5
19 MADISON  LILLIE KEENAN  231
20 BASES LOADED  KELLEY FARMER  206
21 CLEARLY  KELLEY FARMER  176
22 CR HARIBO  HOPE GLYNN  146
23 BRUNELLO  ELIZABETH BOYD  0
24 POETIC  MAGGIE BOYLAN  0
25 POSSE  COLLEEN ACOSTA  0

Jersey Boy, whose name is pretty much synonymous with the hunter derbies at this point, was the 2011 Series Champion, piloted by Jen Alfano.  I didn't see their Day 1 round, but something must have gone uncharacteristically wrong because they didn't make it to the top 25.  Just goes to show you never know with horses!

Lillie Keenan was awarded Top Junior Rider, and Susan Baker was awarded Top Amateur Rider.  Susan did a great job in the Classic with her horse Tell All - it was an awesome round, but unfortunately just missed the cut off for the handy round.  I was rooting for her as the amateur in the bunch though, and she did not disappoint! 

Lillie's round was outstanding - she was the clear winner - and she is only 14!  What an amazing rider.  Soft, gutsy, effective, smooth, cool and confident.  And she really let him rip in the Victory Gallop - I got a little teary eyed seeing that gorgeous horse covered in tri-colors gallop around the ring!  You can see the awards presentation and the victory gallop at the end of this video, at 4:08:26.  It'll make you smile, guaranteed!

Some lovely, lovely horses and beautiful rounds.  The course was tough though, and presented some really significant challenges for a lot of horses and riders, which is how it should be in the finals.  It was truly a joy to watch.  Love this sport!

Friday, August 19, 2011

2011 USHJA Hunter Derby Finals Weekend!

Hey there Derby fans, it's Derby Finals weekend down in Lexington, KY! 

Yesterday was the jog and the hack (all horses passed for soundness in the jog).  There are some really fantastic pictures of the Derby horses getting ready for the hack on the International Hunter Derby facebook page.  The candids were like celebrity sightings for me -- I know most of the big Derby horses by now and I am such a Superfan (where are my foam fingers that say "Jersey Boy" and "Crown Affair"?) that I get a little giddy seeing candid shots of these amazing creatures (reminds me of US Weekly - they wear polos and heidi boots - just like us!).  I highly suggest liking them on facebook for up-to-date coverage and scores of the rounds!

Today is the 1st Round of the Derby.  The first round course looks like this:

(Also courtesy of the IHD facebook page)

I especially love the options starting at Fence 9 -- either land from fence 8 and roll back to 9, then jump the in-and-out toward home and keep turning left to 12, or land from fence 8, across the diagonal to the other option at 9, then hard right to the in-and-out away from home, and roll back left to 12.  I'm so curious to see how most people ride that.  I think I'd prefer the first option I described, though the second one may be a better opportunity to show off your horse's handiness.  The design of that in-and-out is really cool, check it out:


(Photo courtesy of the COTH facebook page)

I will be following along on facebook today for the Round 1 scores, and I will re-post them here once they are released.  So far this morning, two of my favorites, Clearly (ridden by Kelley Farmer), and Garfield (ridden by Scott Stewart), have the highest scores with a 341 and a 350, respectively.  Stay tuned!  There will be a recap on the USEF network this evening. 

Also, tomorrow evening, at 6:25 p.m. Eastern (first horse on course at 6:45 pm), Round 2 will be streaming live on the USEF network.  Friends and I are getting together to watch together.  Some people have Oscar parties... hunter princesses have Derby Finals parties....  If you can't see the streaming video, you may want to check in at the COTH Hunter/Jumper forum.  There is SURE to be a thread going as folks watch at home, and the commentary never ceases to entertain.

An exciting weekend in hunterland for sure!  Check back here for more updates.

Update #1:  Scott Stewart took home 1st, 2nd, and 3rd aboard Carlos Boy, Declaration, and Empire in Round 1.  Empire is my favorite of the three! 

Update #2:  The Top 25 Results from Round 1/the Qualifying Round:
 
1st - Carlos-Boy/Scott Stewart;
2nd - Declaration/Scott Stewart;
3rd - Empire/Scott Stewart;
4th - Madison/Lillie Keenan;
5th - C Coast Z/Lillie Keenan;
6th - Garfield/Scott Stewart;
7th - Crown Affair/John French;
8th - Carlson/Tammy Provost;
9th - Sailor's Valentine/Holly Orlando;
10th - Timber Ridge/Erynn Ballard;
‎11th - Brunello/Liza Boyd;
12th - Yes Indeed/Sarah Mechlin;
13th - Valiant/Tammy Provost;
14th - Inclusive/Victoria Colvin;
15th - Taken/Kelley Farmer;
16th - CR Haribo/Hope Glynn;
17th - Clearly/Kelley Farmer;
18th - Posse/Colleen Acosta;
19th - Sienna/Patricia Griffith
‎20th - Poetic/Maggie Boylan;
21st - Havana/Victoria Colvin;
22nd - Bases Loaded/Kelley Farmer;
23rd - Praise/Kelley Farmer;
24th - Francesca/Maggie Jayne;
25th - Tell All/Susie Baker.

CONRATS TO ALL!  (Some of my personal faves on that list... Empire, Garfield, Crown Affair, Brunello, Taken, Clearly, and Francesca ... but all of the horses above are simply spectacular!)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ride for the Cure!

For the past few years, I have participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which is a 5K to raise money for breast cancer education, screening, and research.  For a few years, I was even the Team Captain for my old law firm (Go Pink Peppers!)  Every year during the walk, I say that I should be doing it on horseback.  Turns out that in the past few years, some states have begun to organize Rides for the Cure, and this year New Jersey joins the ranks.  So, I formed a team and I am hoping some of my rider friends in the area will join me!

The event is a one or three hour trail ride, starting around 8 a.m. on October 16, 2011.  There's no registration fee, but each rider must commit to raise $300 by September 23rd.  Once you register, it's easy to seek donations through the pre-written emails that the Komen Foundation provides.  If you're interested, you can get more details through the link at the top of my side bar.

This is a cause near and dear to me, as someone I care very much about is a two-time breast cancer survivor (and I now have a favorite barnmate who is also a survivor!).  Additionally, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.  75% of all proceeds benefit local breast cancer education and screening programs.  Last year, the affiliate invested $1.4 million into the local community to reach 45,000 women from Somerset to Cape May.  The remaining 25% will support innovative breast cancer research bringing us closer to the cure. 

I hope you and your horses will join me on the Ride (or if you are far away, please consider supporting my team)!  Just think of how fun it will be to dress the ponies up in pink and ride through the woods!  Can't you picture the Wunderkind's giant ears in a pink bonnet???

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bittersweet (but Good) News...

So, my little spotted mare is sold.  It's taken me a week to blog about it, though some of you saw the news on facebook already.  I meant to tell you all earlier... I really did... but I was a little sad, and I needed a little time to stop being sad.  (Let's just say it's a good thing no one stopped in at the barn after that trailer pulled away cause there was a big bay horse with tear stains on his shoulder at the end of the aisle!)  But I'm not sad anymore so it's time to share the good news!


The last pic I took of my little girl

Julie has gone to a wonderful, wonderful home.  She's gone to Green Apple Stables in Hillsborough, NJ (yes, just down the road from me!).  I can tell from her new mom's facebook posts that she is already loved and adored, and each time I see that it makes me grin from ear to ear.  She's been gone about a week now and so far I've heard nothing but good reports, so I have a feeling Julie is very happy with her new digs. 


All settled in at her new place

The trainer at Green Apple, Kendra, is someone I've known for almost my entire horsey life.  A little backstory.  When you were a barn rat kid growing up spending every waking moment at the barn, do you remember there was that one teen-aged girl who was basically the coolest person your childhood eyes had ever come across?  She was a great rider, an incredibly nice person, everyone adored her, and your dorky little ten-year-old self followed her around like a lost puppy?  That was Kendra.  She was definitely the best rider at our barn, rode some of the trainers' top horses, was always nice to me even though I was a really, really annoying kid, and -- this was by far the coolest thing according to ten-year-old-me -- every time she rode her polos and saddle pad matched her shirt.  Guess which kid spent her babysitting money on polos and saddle pads in like ten different colors so she could do the same thing? 

Long story short, I am overjoyed to be sending Julie to a home that I know for sure is a good one.  Kendra has lots of experience with green horses and I have no doubt will do a great job helping her client bring Julie along.  It's an ideal situation for everyone, and even though I miss my little girl already, she's only a ten minute drive away.  I have to say, I feel really good about being down to one horse, now that I've gotten over my initial separation anxiety.  And really how can I be sad when I am still so fortunate and have such a fantastic guy by my side?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Wunder in the Genes

Hey folks, sorry it's been a while.  For some reason we all seem to be taking it easy on the blogging this summer.  I guess when the ground is covered in snow we spend a lot more time in front of the computers (and in my case, on the couch covered in cats).

I recently did a little digging into Tucker's pedigree, thanks to a little help from a friend who owned his mom, and was able to piece together most of his bloodlines:



Do you see what I see, way back there on his Dam's side?  He's got WUNDER (and FLUEGELWUNDER!)  in his blood, no wonder he's The Wunderkind!  I am officially calling him Fluegelwunder when he's being goofy from now on, just fyi. 

Some of the reference sires in his Dad's bloodlines:

Keizer, who you know already

Cireina, Damsire (with baby Keizer!), who passed along the EARS!


Nimmerdor, KWPN Stallion of the Century

Farn (who apparently passed on his drama llama technique)

Amor

Exkurs

And on Mom's side, we have:


Mom - Savoire Faire (with Tucker's little sister)

Sandsturm

Sendbote

Sender

I love this stuff.  Not that I am an expert in Sporthorse breeding, but I love analyzing the photos and seeing what I can pick out that was passed along.  For example, on the Sire's side, all of them (including Tucker) have the same eye, which gives them all a very similar expression.  And on the Dam's side, they all have the same uphill build, high wither, and strong shoulder (which Tucker got too, along with a beautiful, floating trot that matches his mom's). Fun stuff!