Day 1 - When and Why I Started Riding

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I guess we'll start with the why I started riding.  That's easy.  I was a horse crazy girl for as far back as I can remember. I read any and all horse books I could get my hands on.  Looking back on it, I think I really was destined to get an OTTB.  My favorite books to read (and reread and reread) were The Black Stallion series and the Thoroughbred series.  It didn't matter if it was horsey fiction or books about horses and how to care for them, I gobbled up everything I could get my hands on.  Any movies that had horses, yup I watched them.  Even as a wee little kid one of my favorite movies was Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer, for the horse of course.  So finally when I was in middle school my grandfather mentioned that his sister's neighbor had horses and he said I could go over sometime.  Like I was going to say no to that.  Unfortunately I had to wait until my great aunt was having a picnic one day and then finally I got to get up close and personal with some horses.

That day I got to meet some wonderful people that have turned into good friends.  And I got to meet some really great horses.  Nikki and Tom offered to let me learn to ride on their horses.  And it all came full circle when I started showing Tom's horse a few years ago.  His horse that was just a baby that first day I went to his barn.  


Equestrian Challenge

I saw this on one of the other blogs I read and thought this might be a good way to get me back in the swing of regular blogging.  Plus since I'm not doing much riding right now, at least I can talk about horses and riding :)

So here is the Equestrian Challenge.  I know I'm a bit late for Day 1 but I hope you will all forgive me.

Day 1 - When and why you started riding
Day 2 - Your current riding goals
Day 3 - You best riding
Day 4 - A ride that impacted your life
Day 5 - Your first fall
Day 6 - All the tack and riding clothes you have (brand/color/other details)
Day 7 - Your favorite ribbon won at a show and why
Day 8 - A little about the barn/stable you ride at
Day 9 - Any injuries that occurred from riding
Day 10 - How your family/friends feel about your riding
Day 11 - Find a horse for sale online that you would want to buy
Day 12 - Favorite horse color
Day 13 - Most embarrassing moment
Day 14 - Your dream barn/farm
Day 15 - If you could speak to any horse, dead or alive, what would you say
Day 16 - Your most recent fall
Day 17 - Your equestrian idol
Day 18 - Your grooming routine
Day 19 - A discipline that you would like to do
Day 20 - Your favorite horse show
Day 21 - Your perfect schooling outfit
Day 22 - The importance of riding in your life
Day 23 - Picture of your favorite jump/combo
Day 24 - Your best riding friend
Day 25 - Your dream trailer
Day 26 - Biggest riding pet peeve
Day 27 - You know your an equestrian when... (5 original answers)
Day 28 - Helmet or no helmet?
Day 29 - A style/trend in tack/riding apparel that you don't like
Day 30 - Your future with horses

Stay tuned for Days 1 and 2!


Decisions are made by those who show up

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The greatest fictional president the United States has ever had once said, "Decisions are made by those who show up."  Today is your chance to make that decision.  Show up at the polls and VOTE! 

Normally I don't engage in political discussion on my blog or facebook.  Mainly because I view those sites as entertainment for myself, a way to connect with friends and sometimes blow off a little steam.  From my observations of most political discourses on facebook turn into screaming (typing?) battles of "I hate your guy because he lied" or "I hate your guy because he hates (insert group here)"  I will gladly debate my candidate if you can sit down and calmly talk about the issues and why you support your candidate.

If you recognize the quote it's probably fairly obvious who I will be casting my vote for today.  And yes, I have real reasons for supporting the President.

For years politicians have been talking about health care reform.  But President Obama didn't just talk about it.  He said he was going to do it and he did!  The Affordable Care Act removed restrictions regarding pre-existing conditions, made health care more affordable, removed lifetime caps and allows recent college graduates to stay on their parents insurance longer.  How exactly is this a bad thing?

President Obama ended the war in Iraq, just like he said he would.

He believes that women should have access to preventive health care.  And that a women should be allowed to make choices about her own body, not have them be made by the government.

He believes that everyone is equal and he has proven that while in office.  He signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act so that women get equal pay for equal work.

He supports education and is making it easier for students to afford a college education.

And despite inheriting one of the worst economic messes since the Great Depression, the President has still added 5.4 million private sector jobs to our economy.  Under President Obama the economy is steadily improving.  Yes it is slow, but the decline didn't happen overnight and neither will the recovery. 

This morning Twitter directed me to a feature through the Washington Post where you can trade in your generic I Voted sticker for a customized one.  It allowed you to chose which candidate you voted for and then state why you voted for him (in 30 characters or less)  Once you have made your button you can view ones that others have made.  I was struck by the reasons listed (on both sides)

  • I am American
  • I am a cardiologist (what in the world does that have to do with your choice of candidate?)
  • Sanity
  • he isn't a Muslim
  • Obama is worthles (yes the spelling is directly from the site) 
  • Romney lies
  • I'm a liberal
  • I'm a conservative
  • Mitt the mutt is clueless
  • he doesn't suck
Really people how are these possible real reasons for you to vote for a particular candidate?  Don't get me wrong, I'm glad everyone is getting out there and casting their vote, but I do wish people took the time to care about who is leading their country and make an informed decision.  Luckily there were people who restored my faith
  • His plans benefit the people
  • Strong leader
  • Health care
  • I believe in his policies
  • Represents my values
  • I believe in his vision
  • I want a better economy
  • We need equal rights
  • His policies help my family
  • Women's rights, environment
  • Income and wealth equality
  • Health care and foreign policy
  • Better vision for the country
Please get out today and exercise your right to vote.  If you are not sure where to go, visit Google's Politics and Elections section.  You can type in your address and it will give you the local polling location. 

Now that you're done reading my one and only political rant, what are you waiting for? Go, go vote!



Friday, October 19, 2012

I've been thinking about the direction I want to go with my riding for a while now.  And I've made the decision to make the switch to dressage.  Now don't get me wrong I love to jump.  And I don't plan on giving up jumping entirely.  But I do think it's the right choice for me competitively.  I fine when I'm at home, I can jump anything Bonnie tells me to, might not look pretty the first time, but I can do it.  But at shows, my nerves just get the better of me.  I'm finally able to admit that doing this competitively is just not really doing me or the horses any good.  So I'm sticking to the sandbox.

Really it just makes sense for me to take advantage of the horse I have to ride now.  Yes Bugs is a great jumper.  But he is a phenomenal dressage horse.  So why not try for my bronze medal with him? 

No, not this kind of bronze medal
Through USDF you can earn your bronze, silver and gold medals with qualifying scores at certain levels.  For the bronze medal you have to get two qualifying scores (60% or higher) at first, second and third level.  The scores have to be earned at two different shows and under two different judges.

First level is really not out of reach for me.  Let's look at the tests and what each one introduces

First level test 1
  • 10m half circle at trot-got it, school them often
  • 15m circle at canter-got it, again, we school that often
  • lengthening of stride in trot and canter-Bugsy's got this down pat, in fact he often does them without being asked.  might need to work on the brakes at the end of the lengthening though
First level test 2
  • leg yield-we rock the leg yield
First level test 3
  • 10m circle at trot-done
  • change of lead through trot-done
  • counter canter-done
A little work on lengthening and other than that there's nothing in first level that I don't feel comfortable with.  And I've got all winter to work on it.  So right now the plan is to ride first level at my first show in March.  And since it's a two day show and I can ride three tests each day, why not try second level as well.  Challenge myself over the winter.  And challenge it will be.  Well challenge for me, not for Bugsy though.

Second level test 1
  • collected trot
  • collected canter
  • 10m circle at canter
  • medium gaits
  • shoulder in
  • simple change of lead
  • rein back
Second level test 2
  • travers
  • turn on the haunches
Second level test 3
  • renvers
Well, I can do a decent turn on the haunches, and a good rein back.  I can sometimes get a decent shoulder in.  OK looks like I've got some work this winter.

So in typical Bonnie fashion we got right to work this weekend.  Bugsy has been getting turned out at night with Kaye and even though he had been in Friday night I took a calculated risk and got on without lunging him first.  And he didn't try to dump me, alright this is starting out promising.   Let him warm up long and low, really stretching that neck out.  By the way, so glad the stretchy circle in first level still has a coefficient of 2, Bugs kicks ass on the stretchy circle.  then we started to collect and work on some 10m circles, changing directions every so often and really working on keeping his head and not losing the bend on the transition.  Then she had me try a collected trot.  I've never done a collected trot on any horse.  We didn't quite have it exactly, certainly not show ring ready.  But for my first time it wasn't a half bad attempt.  I could feel him start to bring his hindquarters up underneath himself to get the collection.  So that was pretty cool.  Then Bonnie took pity on my poor out of breath self and allowed me a brief walk break before we started on the canter work.  And this is where she really challenged me.  The 10m trot circle exercise?  Yeah we were to do that.  At the canter.  It was hard, I will admit that, only having like two strides to come down to the trot and then pick up the other canter lead before changing directions.  But after a few times I started to get it.  Again it wasn't perfect, but it was a start.  I'd like to think that Bugsy was enjoying himself as much as I was learning new things.  

All in all I'm really excited to show dressage this year.  I mean who wouldn't be excited to show of this fancy thing?


No I Haven't Died...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Although it might have seemed that way.  I'll be honest this summer has been kinda rough for me in ways.  I'm just very, very burned out working the two jobs and I find myself lacking in motivation to do much of anything.  On my days off I have to force myself to do things, otherwise I would just spend the time in bed.  So my horsey activities have been pretty limited this summer.

I did make it to one schooling show in July.  A hunter/jumper show at that.  Kaye and I did both the jumper division and hunter division at 2'6".  Originally I had planned to do 2'9" or 3' but Kaye wasn't feeling herself the week before the show so we scaled back a little.  Kaye was pumped to be at a show again and it made for an interesting warm up for the jumper division.  She had a little more go than I wanted on the wet grass and so we did have some time penalties.  But we both still had fun. 

After a break for an hour or so we headed over to the hunter ring for the Intermediate Hunter.  Kaye was a rockstar for her first time in the hunter ring, taking home a first and second over fences and a third in the flat class.  Good enough to give us Reserve Champion for the division!

In other news, Bonnie added a new horse to my string a few weeks ago. Bonnie had started riding Bully very lightly, just tack walking really.  But the one week when she had Sarah tack her up, Bully just had a fit about the bridle.  Well she had been going in a rubber eggbutt snaffle, and I think the bit was just too much for her mouth.  She's a pretty delicate horse, and I think that thick of a bit was uncomfortable for her.  So I cleaned up Bonnie's old jumping hack and tacked up Bully with that.  She was an angel in it!  Took a few minutes to get the steering but then she was great. Walked and trotted and even popped over a few crossrails.  First time jumping in maybe five or six years and she just hopped over the fence like she's been doing it everyday.

So the next week I tacked Bully up again with the jumping hack and we had a second jump school. Started with a single vertical at about beginner novice height.  No problem for Bully.  We jumped that a few times and then Bonnie set up a second vertical.  Went through the double with no problems a few times with no problems and Bonnie added a third vertical.  That's when we had a bit of trouble.  My fault entirely.  I didn't get us in right, or with enough impulsion and we took down the first fence and then Bully got her self tangled up in the pole. She tried to keep going but it just wasn't meant to be, she started going down to her knees and I had nowhere to go but over her head.  Luckily she was already on her knees and low to the ground so I didn't have far to fall, but I did manage to get a brush burn above my tank top from her mane on the way.  We both got to our feet and other then a little superficial scrap on her left knee we were both ok.  Bully was her sweet self, no grudges against me for not giving her the best round.  We walked a bit to calm down and then tried again.  Bully never even thought about stopping, which I totally wouldn't have blamed her after the last time, she just jumped through the triple perfectly.  What a great horse!  At that point we decided to call it quits for the day.  We were both getting tired and it was a good point to end on. 

Other than that, Bugs and I have had some good rides this summer.  including a jump school in which he was trying his best to jump me out of the tack.  He didn't succeed in his plan though!  I've got some plans for Bugs this year.  More on that soon.  Gotta talk it over with Bonnie since she has the final say so. 

Can't have a post without a cute Bugsy photo.


Just 2 more days!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

This time on Friday and my view will be:

And Saturday I will be looking at:



I can't wait to be in Kentucky.  Unfortunately before I can get to Kentucky I have to finish the day at Pitt, work till 11 at Wally World.  Then tomorrow another day at Pitt followed by the Nickelback concert.  And finally my final day at Pitt and Wally on Thursday and then meeting the rest of the crew at the barn to drive through the night.  Oh and sometime in there I have to find time to pack.  Eeek!!!  I have no time! 

Oh well, it will all be worth it when I'm sitting in the grandstand Friday morning.  See you all in Kentucky!


The Spotted Wonder

Monday, February 20, 2012

This weekend things FINALLY came together and I was able to make it out to the barn on Saturday morning.  And as soon as I got there I was sent out to purchase a tow chain as the trusty tractor decided to be not so trusty and break down.  Well, the search for a heavy duty tow chain was not fruitful, so an hour later I headed back to the barn to ride.

I started out with Bugsy.  I'll be honest, I was expecting to have a rather, uh, explosive pony under me.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  I did put him on the lunge line with side reins before I got on.  Let him play and get rid of the bucks that way.  Then when I got on, I had a very well mannered pony who was eager to get to work.  After having the last month off, I think he was very happy to be ridden again.  He gave me some beautiful trot work, and I was really able to push him forward into a very impulsive trot.  Then Bonnie had us work on some halt-back up-canter transitions.  At first, I wasn't being aggresive enough in my canter departs and so Bugsy was taking a few steps at the walk before cantering, rather than immediately cantering.  After a few tries, we started to get it.  Well I started to get it.  I'm really getting excited to show Bugsy this year, especially as we start adding these more difficult dressage movements.

Then it was time to tack up the Spotted Wonder.  He's starting to shed out, so I'm hopeful that maybe sometime soon I'll get him looking somewhat clean enough to take pictures.  I'm beginning to think I need to give him a little more credit.  He might not be as slow as I first thought.  Mentally at least, in terms of his actual speed when riding, well that's still s-l-o-o-o-o-w.  I got on and went right work on bending.  Lots of circles of varying sizes in both directions.  Mystic actually is starting to remember what I want from him.  He was bending through the entire length of his body and really trying not to drop the inside shoulder.  After about fifteen minutes we moved on to the trot and after a few circles he remember that he had to keep doing the same thing at the trot that he had been doing at the walk.

I have discovered that posting the trot on him is nearly impossible right now.  He's just too much work to keep going, let alone get a good trot out of when posting.  I really need to be able to sit down and push my seat and back into him to get a nice forward trot.  Of course the spurs also help with that as well.  I noticed that he was starting to become a lot more steady in the bridle.  He's not fussing with the bit as much or playing around with his head anymore.  He's still green so I'm not asking him for a lot in terms of a frame.  I keep contact with his mouth, but he's perfectly fine with going somewhat in front of the vertical at this stage in his training.  Plenty of time to ask him to come back and accept more contact in the future.

Next weekend I think I'll try him over fences for the first time.  I know he can be a rather enthusiastic jumper, so we'll see how that goes.  Mystic could turn out to be a fun eventing prospect this summer.  Maybe cross country will teach him to actually move.  Or I might just exhaust myself trying to get him to make time.  In the meantime, I think I'll stop at Luster's on Friday.  Seems like it's time for Mystic to get his own bridle and stop sharing Airy's.


In need of my pony fix

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Every winter I struggle with finding the motivation to ride.  It's cold and the weather just sucks.  The ponies all have way too much energy from being cooped up in their stalls.  And I find a lot of times I just don't want to ride.  This winter especially has been made even more difficult by the fact that Derrick's days off have been falling over the weekend recently.  When we get so little time together as it is between our work schedules, I admit I have been sacrificing barn time to be with him.  This past weekend however I was going to the barn.  I would ride and spend time with the ponies.  And then Saturday morning I woke up to snow.  Enough snow that my little Versa wasn't getting out of the driveway.  Damn you PA winters!  Next week though I will make it to the barn. 

So no real riding update, but I couple of things I wanted to share with you.  First this photo was shared with me the other day.  A friend of mine had a half arab colt that she purchased as a baby.  She showed him in halter and ended up selling him when she purchased her new Arabian gelding for Western Pleasure.  KC is now with Gordon Potts of The Brass Ring in Texas and is ready for the show ring.  KC looks amazing, and if anyone is interested in a young western pleasure horse I recommend taking a look at him. 

KC with Nikki in 2009
KC looking all grown up!

And I need to ask for some jingles for a blog friend.  Ashley over at The Process of Learning has been eagerly awaiting her mare Ella's foal.  Well baby arrived yesterday, but she's a little premature.  So everyone please send jingles her way.

Ella and Baby


Equine Bucket List

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Annie over at Eventing Nation wrote a post last night that really struck me.  She started by talking about an interview she heard were a gentleman was taking his life savings and a year to complete all the items on her bucket list.  It got her to think about her own equine (of course!) bucket list.  She then further challenged us to come up with our own.  Well Annie, I'm taking you up on that challenge. 

  •  Complete a long format three day event
  • Earn a USDF medal
  • Learn to drive
  • Ride a reining horse
  • Breed, raise, train and compete a foal
  • Go to Burghley and Badmiton
  • Train in Aiken for a winter
  • Ride a thoroughbred on the racetrack
  • Try combined driving
  • Spend a summer working for an upper level eventer
  • Learn to ride saddleseat
  • Learn to ride sidesaddle
I'm sure there's more that I can add to this list.  And I'm trying to keep it realistic.  I mean yeah I'd love to ride at Rolex, but let's be honest, that's not going to happen.  It's kinda fun to actually put this stuff down on paper (or well in type) and make a list I can check off.

So now I'm challenging you.  What's on your equine bucket list?


A Long Overdue Update

Monday, February 6, 2012

Winter has definitely settled in for western PA.  While we haven't yet had a bad winter, it has gotten cold and it's dark so early.  Unfortunately my time with the ponies has suffered because of it.  I just can't quite bear that much riding in the cold, especially since they all tend to feel pretty good in this weather.  Luckily over the past month or so I have gotten some good rides in.  And added some new ponies to the string.

The week between Christmas and New Year's saw me at the barn pretty often.  The nice thing about working for Pitt is we do shut down for winter recess that week.  So I was able to get out almost every day.  I had several very productive dressage rides on Bugsy.  Slowly but surely we are mastering this whole dressage thing.  And it's making more and more excited for show season to start.  I also had a ride or two on Kaye, which was a nice change.  Although it was very apparent that only the kids had been riding her for a while.  She was very stiff and all strung out.  And she was rather resistant to changing that at first.  But we did a lot of circles where I just dropped my outside rein and made her work entirely off the inside aids.  It worked, but she needs some occasional tune up after the kids.

Buggers got a sweet new pair of kicks, so he got a couple of days off.

Bugsy enjoying his pedicure
I love when Matt is home to shoe the horses.  First he does a hot shoeing, which I just like the fit of the shoes so much better.  And then second, he takes the time to do the job right.  Not that our other farrier isn't great too, Matt just really takes the time.  I tacked up Bugs when he first got there so he could watch him go.  See Bugsy has one front leg that is just a hair longer than the other, so if you trim his hooves identically then his stride is just the tiniest bit uneven.  But Matt watched me work him a bit and then pulled the old shoes and started trimming.  Then I worked him a bit more before the new shoes went on so Matt could evaluate his movement again.  Bugs felt great with the new trim!

Since Bugs got a mini vacation, it gave me some time to ride my own pony.  X was thrilled when I put him back to work.  And I mean work.  Ari's been riding him a lot lately.  And she does do a great job with him, but I've noticed he's been really resistant with his head when changing directions and I'm not entirely pleased with his canter.  So he got tacked up in the western saddle with draw reins and went back to school.  It was an enlightening experience for him.  Everytime I would ask him to change directions he would stick his head up in the air and to the outside.  And everytime he did that I would drop my outside rein and turn him in a small circle, making him bend and give in the head.  With some encouragement from the big boy spurs when necessary.  Eventually he figured it out.

Tired pony after school :)
Towards the end of the week Bonnie added a couple new horses to my string.  I got on Buddy for the first time.  And I have to say, he's a pretty cool little horse under saddle.  He hasn't really done any work at all in a couple of years, and that was evident in how quickly he tired.  But damn if hasn't forgotten a thing.  Typical arab he had to think about it the first time, but then once he got through that first time, it was like 'oh I remember how to do this.'  Of course I did feel like I was practically on the ground.  Slender, 14 hand Buddy is quite a change from rolly polly 16 hand Bugsy! First ride we didn't do too much, just some walk/trot, mainly so I could get used to him.  The second ride we did a little more.  We incorporated a lot of trot work and some cantering.  Again, he tired easily since he's so out of shape but he was a really good boy for it all.

Buddy after our first ride
And then the second new horse added to my string was Mystic.  You might remember Mystic from when Katie was riding him last year.  Well, he's kinda had a break for a while since Katie left the barn in August.  And actually a break was probably the best thing for him.  I tacked him up and lunged him a bit the first day before hoping on.  While he was very wild and full of go on the lunge, as soon as I got on him he turned into western pleasure pony.  Personally, I'd much rather ride a forward horse then one you have to make go all the time.  Did have to get after him with the whip a few times just to get him to move on, and then he was a little better.  The worst part though, was that he goes very much off the outside rein and hardly at all responds to the inside leg.  He really just wants to go around very stiffly, with little to no bend and just drop his inside should and fall around the turn.  Not acceptable!  That first day I just did a lot of circles with him, asking for the bend, making him do it right and hold that shoulder up.  Lots of changes in directions and I started to get him moving off my leg by asking him to spiral in and out of the circle.  Second ride on Mystic was much improved.  While he isn't the brightest bulb in the barn, Mystic can figure things out.  Something from our ride the day before must have stuck because he was a little more responsive.  Of course that also might have had something to do with the spurs I rode in.  :)  It was a lot of the same stuff from the first ride, lots of circles and changes in direction.  And I started to include some baby leg yields.  Anything really to get him moving off my inside leg and carrying himself properly off the inside aids rather than the outside aids that had been favored by his previous rider.  And he is actually learning and starting to change the way he carries himself.  I just foresee lots and lots and lots of circles in his future. 

Mystic waaaay over jumping the baby crossrail with Katie
Even here you can see he's not really bending
I'm really starting to get excited about the new year.  I've got a lot of horses to work with, and I'm planning to show as much as possible with Bugsy.  2012 is looking very good!