Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Fond Farewell

It has come sooner than I thought it would. Spirit is leaving tomorrow, headed to a trainer about 30 minutes away for a month-long trial to see if she will work in her program. 

I envision Spirit getting loved on by lots of horse-crazy girls, popping over little crossrails, doing ETI shows, and heading out on trail rides. I sincerely hope that it works out. 

My emotions have been up and down and all around today. Right now I'm very sad. I miss her. She is a really wonderful horse. 

Here she is in her fancy new leather halter with custom nameplate from one of our GLAPHC championships.  She'll be getting off the trailer tomorrow in style! 

Our final ride today was "long and low."  Lots of stretching downward, lots of stretchy trot, and we worked on our walk-to-canter upward transitions, since I remember that being required in ETI shows. I know we've done it (we've got a bucket of ribbons to prove it!), but it's been a while. 

Spirit's sideways ears, surveying the ring.

We popped over a few little jumps, and called it a day. She was calm and relaxed, happy to be out.

Spirit was pretty darn clean, but I gave her a full-on bath anyway. I even did the super-duper tail treatment (purple-for-blondes shammpoo, then conditioner, then Cowboy Magic gloss).
She was perfectly behaved in the wash rack. Even when a horse next door tried to kill us. Repeatedly.

Her birthday is on May 15th (turning 7!!), so I decided to make her an early birthday/going away celebration treat!
$10 of horsey joy.
Happy early 7th birthday and going away celebration, Spirit!
She enjoyed every bite!
She's looking at me from the back of her stall. 

I don't know why but this last picture is making me tear up. Okay, okay, I'm completely balling right now. She's just looking out at me as I'm over by the barn, and I know that she loves me just as I love her. I've been her human for over 2 years. Wow this is so hard.

Deep breath.


Farewell, beautiful Spirit! I wish you every happiness.

Today was also Day #2 with my new horse. I realize that in my crazy day yesterday and extremely late post I forgot to include some pretty basic details.

Bay gelding, ~16-2 hands, Jockey Club registered name: Bohemian Spirit. Barn name (for now): Bohemian. Born: May 20, 2005. Raced 12 times, but never broke his maiden (never won a race).
We interpreted his name as a very good omen. My first horse and absolute love of my life was named Bo, and of course there's fabulous Spirit. A good omen indeed.

Today hubby got to meet our new baby. We have a farrier appointment Tuesday morning so we can't do much until Tuesday night. Some pictures for your viewing pleasure:

He was introduced to cross ties for possibly the first time, and was a total rockstar for getting hosed down. We also gave him some medicine for an inflamed cut on his forward left armpit, and a huge bucket of a tasty smelling feed concoction of beet pulp, rice bran, senior feed, SafeChoice Perform, canola oil, carrots, apples, and mints. And a cookie. He figured out what to do with the bucket right away.  

I gave him a salt block yesterday evening and this morning there was a lovely little indent horse-tongue sized. He knows what to do with that too. Good boy. 

Tomorrow he gets another turnout in the sandy round pen, then Tuesday the real fun begins. 

A New Adventure. A Lucky Gamble.

Today was an amazing adventure. 

But first, let me tell you how this all started. As I mentioned a little while back, my trainer Laurie went to check out some of the Luck horses (ex-racehorses from the cancelled HBO series "Luck" starring Dustin Hoffman) from her long-time contact, Leigh, with Thoroughbred Rehab Center Inc affiliated with Winners Circle Ranch. When she came back, she looked me straight in the eye and told me that I needed to get one. After lots of thought and reflection, and hours of discussion with my friends and hubby, I came to the conclusion that this was a golden opportunity I needed to take and it was time to part ways with Spirit. 

Laurie had picked out a few horses she thought would be good for eventing. Ultimately, she and Leigh hand-selected the horse they thought would be best for me.

Today was the day to meet him for the first time, and bring him home. 

A photo essay. =]
I arrive at the barn and the trailer is hooked to the truck. This is really happening. 

On the road. A gorgeous day.

Made it to the state-of-the-art rehab, layup, and boarding facility. 

The moment of truth. What's the horse like? Will I like him? Will he like me?
He sees us coming and perks up. He's friendly. He's handsome. We are all giggling like little girls. My trainer's smile here says it all.

The facility is beautiful.

Well, he looks good. Time to get on the trailer and go. That's right, no test ride. No trot-out. First time I see him out of his stall is as he's being led to the trailer to go home with me.

Racehorses are used to large vans. Will he load on a bumper-pull 2 horse?

Yep. No problem.

Back at home, he is calm and alert. Inquisitive but relaxed. We turn him out in the round pen.

He rolls. We decide to ride him.

Trainer, then me, then BFF all get to hop on.
His front shoes came off a week or so ago, and it's clear he is sore.

All tucked into his new home. He likes having a window.

More to come tomorrow. =]  It's been a long day and its late. Technically its tomorrow already. ;]

Friday, April 27, 2012

A very hard post.

Sometimes the universe whispers to you. If you don't listen, it will start telling you. If you still don't listen, it will yell at you. At some point, it will slap you across the face.

The time has come to part ways with the beautiful and wonderful Spirit. I've spent over 2 years with her, and I think she and I have both learned from and taught one another. I love her; I think I always will.

I've been presented with an incredible opportunity to adopt one of the Luck horses - a horse that I (and hubby) will own ourselves, a horse pre-approved and hand-picked by my trainer. As an added bonus: purchase price is $0, horse has been x-rayed, is completely sound, and needs a home and a job.

This past Monday I had the hard conversation with K.M., Spirit's owner and my "horsey-mommy" and dear friend.  I told her that I had decided to take advantage of this opportunity. Realistically, this means that in terms of helping cover Spirit's expenses and in terms of my time and energy, May is going to be my last month with Spirit. She was very gracious and understanding, though also sad and surprised.

My emotions have been a roller coaster, zig-zagging around but mostly bottoming out on anxiety, trepidation, guilt, sadness, confusion, fear.  Am I abandoning ship? Am I giving up on Spirit?


My BFF, my trainer, even my non-horsey husband and non-horsey other BFFs all agree: stepping onto a new path for a new adventure is not the same thing as giving up on Spirit. We had a good run together. And in a way it's good that I'm sad, because it underscores my love for Spirit and wanting the best for her.

We had our hurdles and our plateau; I think that, in time, we could have pushed through and been able to do a full BN horse trial without getting eliminated (my unattained goal for so long now). But I don't think that Novice was in our future, not without some serious effort and struggle, more hurdles and plateaus.

But it wasn't meant to be. I don't know what the future holds for Spirit, but I hope its a future that she will enjoy: living with other horses, not being overly challenged by a rider or trainer, just being allowed to be her beautiful, expressive self and be asked to do things she is confident doing.

Of course I hope I'm wrong about her. I hope maybe a different rider, a different trainer, a different regimen, a different anything/everything will enable her to be a perfectly willing and safe eventing mount. But more likely she just needs a new job. She is so beautiful and so athletic - she could do so much.

Per my last several posts I've been taking lessons other horses lately. I've also been riding Spirit, but just working on what we already know and on my position and stamina. Maybe a part of me knew it was time to stop asking as much of her.

For the number of weeks I have left with her, I'm going to make sure Spirit is enjoying herself. I'll keep her clean and trimmed up and in shape, but with more trail rides, more relaxation, less work. My #1 goal with her will be her happiness, and not progressing in eventing.

The new adventure starts tomorrow morning.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dressage on Brodie

Last night I had a FABULOUS dressage lesson. I had a goofy smile on my face the whole time, and even erupted in giggle fits periodically.

I was aboard the fabulous Brodie:

He's the smallest horse in our training stables, and he jumps the largest jumps. And he makes it look easy. Not to mention he has perfect ground manners, is super snuggly, and is just as cute as a button! His owner, Ashley S., and he are an absolute inspiration to me.

I've been wanting to take a dressage lesson on Mr. Brodles for a while - ask and you shall receive! I'm so glad I did - it was fun and I learned a lot. Here are the highlights:

  • He made me work to get impulsion, but was very willing to get on the bit and stay connected. And it just. felt. right. OOOOooooh - THIS is dressage.
  • When I asked him to leg yield, he practically jumped sideways! So Laurie shouted "You're driving a Maserati tonight!" Apparently he doesn't need half as much leg as Spirit does. =P
  • My first time doing an actual, real, dressage extended trot. OMG fun fun fun!!!
  • I had to be demanding with asking for impulsion, but subtle for most everything else (transitions, shifting body parts, etc). 
  • Canter was like floating on a cloud.
After I got home later and was telling my husband all about the fabulous ride, I realized what the real special spark of the lesson was. It was the first time in months that I felt 100% SAFE on a horse. Even when he clearly told me that I was doing something wrong, I never once felt that things could go sideways. He had not one ounce of naughtiness, not one bit of green-ness, not one iota of "loose-cannon" ness. Wow. Although I did my best to fix my problems as quickly as possible, I knew in my gut that if I were to sit there all day long and ask incorrectly, he'd patiently wait for me to do it correctly, and in the meantime would not even think about getting light up front or rearing, stopping or getting stuck, run off, or wig out in any way. An amazing feeling to have after riding greenies for so long. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Jumping Elton - Take 2

I've (mostly) snapped out of the "bleh"-ness from last week, due in large part to some fabulous rides all weekend. Saturday I took two back-to-back jumping lessons; first on Elton, then on Spirit. I showed up early to watch a few other lessons and help out setting jumps. Probably not my smartest move, given the sunburns on my arms and being fairly tired before even mounting up, but it was nice to catch up with other gals at the barn, and very good for me to watch others' lessons and learn from them.

So, on to lesson #1 - Elton. It went WAY better than Wednesday's lesson. The warm up/flat part of our lesson still needs improvement - I'm still learning how to feel what a good pace is for us and how to get engagement from the hind while connecting to the bit. But I think I have the jumping  part more in line; I was able to stay off of his face as use my body positioning more to clue him in on steering and speed. He was a very willing mount, and I think he had fun too. Thanks to J.D. for taking pics and video!

Lesson #2 was on Spirit and we had a pretty good lesson for most of the time. I felt more secure in my positioning and I think I'm finally catching on to being more subtle with my riding style - using more seat and keeping a more constant contact so I'm squeezing my hand rather than yanking my elbows. Laurie was pretty positive about our flat work. Jumping started off pretty good too.

But, we had refusals. Laurie saw the first one coming but I was caught off guard by it. Losing impulsion throughout the gymnastics apparently. Spirit stopped square which was good, so we circled and approached more aggressively (so I thought). Nope. Refusal again. And this time not so square - more dodgy. I scooted her (side pass) back into square position, then Laurie took the whip from me and gave Spirit a good spanking for being naughty. The jump was lowered and we got over it. Then it went back up and we got over it again, but with the help of me using the whip right before the jump, to backup up my role of alpha mare in the relationship.

Grrr. Sometimes I'm fine with disciplining Spirit but other times it bothers me more. I know its necessary (and it works!) but I just wish I didn't have to. I wish she *wanted* to jump, even when conditions aren't 100% perfect. She simply doesn't like challenges - she wants to jump low jumps, but she's not interested in having to really use her body and she really doesn't save me if I get out of position, or take off my leg, or make any mistake at all. Of course, its not fair to expect the horse to do her job and mine all the time, BUT a safe mount for eventing wants to jump and will save the rider on the occasional times when the rider screws up.

Anyway, the lesson ended on a very positive note, and all in all I do think that my riding position is improving and that I am making progress in understanding Elton. I am really enjoying being at Windwalker and part of the barn group - all of Laurie's clients are just sweet, kind people who are intelligent horsewomen and very welcoming and encouraging.  An exciting opportunity has come up which I am exploring - it if pans out, I'll be posting on it sometime in the next few weeks, but I'm trying to not get ahead of myself. =)

Friday, April 20, 2012


So I found out yesterday that the Meadows derby was cancelled. Not enough entries, I guess. Word isn't "official" yet but I heard it from my trainer who heard it from the organizers. I'm bummed. And now feeling a bit aimless. Every single show/clinic/schooling I've tried to do this year has been cancelled, with the exception of one XC schooling which went pretty badly. 2012 is almost 1/3 over, and all I've accomplished with horses is zip. The whole wedding and honeymoon thing gives me a free pass for some of it...but still.

Overall I'm feeling kinda "bleh" right now. Unmotivated, unfocused, unenergized. I'm normally an upbeat, optimistic person, *especially* when it comes to matters of the horse, but I've just been in a funk since Wednesday's awkward lesson.

I just poured a cup of coffee for myself at work. And its cold. Sigh.

I'm getting 2 lessons tomorrow - first on Elton, then Spirit. Hopefully I'll get back into a more positive and hopeful state of mind. I've offered to organize a barn meeting for my trainer - basically a time for us all to get together with our calendars and list of shows we each want to do, and all get on the same page about the rest of the competition season. Trying to make Laurie's life easier since she does so much for me. Maybe that will help my attitude too.

On a different note, GOOD LUCK to everyone at Twin Rivers this weekend! Sure to be a gorgeous weekend - I just love that facility. Special happy vibes to Ashley S. (who I think is manning some cameras - have fun girl!), and to Tylia S. who is competing on Arame (currently 1st place as of this posting - hooray!).
Twin Rivers' Website.
Check scores here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Jumping Elton - Take 1

So I had my first jumping lesson on Elton last night. It was a bit rough. As my friend pointed out later, the problem with riding the trainer's horse is that it's the trainers horse. Meaning:

  1. Horse is used to a professional who is crystal clear with the aids.
  2. Trainer doesn't want the horse to get screwed up - its *her* horse. 
Of course, the trainer doesn't want any horse to get screwed up by bad/novice riding. However, that is perhaps most especially true when it's her baby getting ridden around. She's put a lot of hard work into that horse.

Elton started off a bit saucy. He made it clear that he didn't like how I was riding him. I'm sure due to point #1.

Laurie was not as clear with her instructions as normal. I was confused by what felt like conflicting instructions and new command words - I presume due to emotions following point #2.

This made for a challenging lesson.

After a few jump rounds, Laurie got on Elton, and confirmed that he was being a pill, and it wasn't just my riding. Whew. He even had a refusal with her on, which was a bit freaky for me to watch, but at least it wasn't a dangerous stop, and of course she fixed it right away.

My lesson then got better. Here are my main takeaways:

  • "Set it and forget it." - Quickly get him organized, then just sit chilly and let him be. He doesn't like fussing, and I have to just give the aid then give it a rest. Then give the aid again if needed.
  • I need to figure out speed. Elton is so rhythmical that it is very hard for me to know if we are going fast or slow. What felt fine to me was way too fast according to Laurie during the warmup. Likewise I apparently had him going alternately too fast and too slow during the jumping. Hopefully I can find the correct speed and learn to *feel* it on him. And quick! 
  • Mane is your friend. Grab it. Or get left behind. 
  • Release the reins 3 to 4 strides before the jump. If he speeds up, sit up with my body to slow him - do not mess with his mouth!
  • Straightness is key. Keep his neck straight. Use counter-bending when needed.
  • He is already long. Keep him in a package. His nose should not be in Timbuktu.
  • Be more dramatic with the aids. Strong clear aid. Then "shut up" completely. No nagging.
So there it is. My next lesson on him is Saturday - hopefully combo jump and dressage. I will definitely be referring back to this list Friday night and Saturday morning.

After riding Elton I gave Spirit a nice longe the the lovely large round pen as twilight was settling in. She was a good girl, responsive to vocal commands and stretching down with her nose a lot and stretching her back upwards. It smelled like oranges and rich earth - totally relaxing. I read an article on Horse Nation about whether or not horses respond to aromatherapy. To be honest the article was inconclusive on that point, but I think that surely they do - all creatures respond to pleasant surroundings including smell. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Weekend Update

After storming all last week, we had a fantastic weekend of great weather and I was pretty productive as far as horsey-things go. And I have some exciting news!

First - the exciting news: I'm going to do the upcoming Meadows of Moorpark derby on May 6th riding Elton, my trainer's horse!
Seriously, he's a gorgeous horse. Haven't been able to take a decent photo of him yet though. 
Several people from our barn are going, so we're gonna have a good fun group!  Its only Elton's second show ever, so we're going to do the "Easy Beginner Novice" division. I have to say, I'm so excited! I think we are going to both have a lot of fun. Elton is a BIG boy, super leggy, and just as sweet as can be. I enjoy riding him and am looking forward to taking more lessons on him to get ready for this show.

But what about Spirit? you ask. Well...when it came time to do the entries, I realized that I wasn't comfortable entering Spirit. Our last several XC schoolings have not been successful, and there's no reason to sign up for a show if we can't get it right in practice. My confidence is already shaken as it is.  Its sad to admit that we've done BN at the Meadows many months ago, but I don't feel safe doing it on her now. She is an unpredictable horse - sometimes great, sometimes quite naughty. Stopping, running away, dodging out -  we address one issue and another pops up. It simply isn't smart to show her until we can get some consistency and dependability.

I'm quite blessed to have a trainer willing to share her horse with me, to help me with my confidence and allow me to participate in a fun event that I otherwise wouldn't be able to do.

But back to the lovely weekend...

Saturday the rings were closed (still too muddy), but the trails were quite nice, and Jess and I took the horses out for a nice ride. We even trotted and cantered some of the small hills both up and down - good practice for me who still gets nervous riding downhill. Sunday the rings were open and I did a good practice ride on Spirit. I worked on 2-point position, and not releasing my arms (not at the same time, though!).  I also cleaned two sets of tall boots, one bridle, and one back-up headstall. I still have quite a lot of tack left to clean though.  I also gave Spirit a good cleaning.

Meanwhile, Laurie and some other gals from the barn took a trip down to the valley to check out some Thoroughbreds. They are from the recently cancelled HBO TV series "Luck".
Photo from TMZ - click for article
So, it turns out that there are about 40 horses that had been racing Thoroughbreds which HBO bought for this show, now cancelled after just 1 season. Instead of selling the animals back into the horse racing industry, HBO is rehoming them through reputable, fully licensed/accredited adoption agencies, including one that my trainer has had a relationship with for a long time. Kudos to HBO for that decision (though I'm sure PETA's pressure had an influence).  Laurie has always been an OTTB (Off the Track Thoroughbred) rescuer and re-trainer (including Elton!!!), so we'll see if some new faces show up around the barn in the coming weeks. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Cleaning

I am woefully behind in my horsie chores. I have loads of saddlepad and barn towels to wash. Every piece of tack I own needs a thorough cleaning. Spirit's waterer has more moss than water in it. And with all the rains going on right now, I'm sure to have a muddy horse too!

So, to try and get motivated, I've compiled a list of tips, tricks, and guiding principles for keeping things clean and tidy. Please share if you have others!!!

Guiding Principles

  • A place for everything and everything in its place.  
  • A little cleaning everyday goes a long way. 
  • Make it easy to do regular cleaning. Put supplies in a handy place, in easy-to-use containers. Buy cleaning products you like to use.

Tips & Tricks

  • Assign a "home" to each item you have. 
  • Keep a small cloth and spray bottle near your tack so you can do a quick wipe down after rides.
  • Put all your bathing supplies in one area.
  • Label your stuff. Use special colored electrical tape on everything. Makes it harder to forget things around the barn. Or for things to walk away.
  • Dust from top to bottom. 
  • Remember, vinegar and baking soda and dish sponges and steel wool work at the barn too.
  • Have lists for shows/events/going off property. 
  • Have a centralized binder or folder for horse info and papers. 
  • Keep a calendar for wormer/farrier/trainer/show schedules. 
  • Get rid of stuff you don't like or don't use. Its not worth hanging on to - its just clutter.
  • Oftentimes selling stuff is more hassle than its worth - give it away instead. 

Well, this weekend I plan to do some cleaning and organizing of my garage and closet (horse stuff central). Maybe some tack cleaning and trailer and tack cubby area organizing too.

PS - To follow up from yesterday's post about shorter leg issues, I've been stretching 3 times a day for the last 2 days. I'm taking this a lot more serious after seeing those photos of the horse's back after unbalanced riders (post was edited in the afternoon). I owe it to Spirit and myself to be as balanced as I can be.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Short Leg Syndrome

Short Leg Syndrome a.k.a Limb Length Discrepancy a.k.a. Unequal Leg Length a.k.a. Leg Length Inequality (LLI) a.k.a. Leg Length Alignment Asymmetry (LIAA). These are actual medical terms for basically the same situation. And I think I have it.

Since the beginning of jump lessons, my trainers and friend have remarked that I don't have my legs even in the stirrups - one is longer than the other, but it keeps switching off. At the end of lessons my saddle will be off to one side, again switching off. And over time I have been getting more and more paranoid about it, constantly shifting my weight around, trying to see if my feet and knees are even when I look down, trying to gauge how even my hips feel in the saddle. Its compounded by Spirit's round back, and my recent acquisition of a non-slip pad has been helping to some degree. It's been easy to ignore. Must be Spirit's back, must be my developing balance, must be that borrowed saddle, must be XYZ. Plus I only notice it when riding - its not like I walk off-kilter or anything. And who knows how long I've been uneven? Before jumping I did bareback riding for years - no stirrups to worry about.

Some weeks back I went to see a physical therapist/body worker for my TMJ, and on a whim I mentioned my leg unevenness issues when riding. I was lying face up, and she took my legs and stretched then out and did an alignment. Then she picked up one ankle and banged it against my other ankle. Yep. My right leg is like an inch shorter than my left one. YIKES! She took a look at my body, and apparently the issue is in my hip - the muscles are very tight on my right side for some reason. She prescribed stretching my psoas muscle (part of hip flexor group) regularly. I'll be honest, I need to do it a lot more than I have been.

I've also started paying attention to how I have my hips and legs while seated at my desk at work and at home. I realize that I almost never sit regularly - I'd always have one leg under my bum, or a leg crossed, or ankles crossed and out to an angle. Never just even with both hips on the chair. My gut tells me that this may be the cause, or at least its prolonging the issue. So I've been trying to be more mindful of my position and posture when sitting down.

What I need to do is go back to my therapist for a check in. I already know that I need to stretch more regularly, and for sure stretch before and after riding. -_- Blah. I'm gonna feel like a big weirdo. I know Daniel Stewart recommends it though. Does anyone actually do this?

Just this afternoon, my trainer shared the below photo on Facebook, credited to Craig T. Roberts, DVM Inc.:

How could I be so naive as to have such a cavalier attitude towards my leg/seat/balance issues? Constant readjustment of the saddle, shifting weight, etc, really cannot be healthy for Spirit's back. Time to get serious about stretching. Who cares if I'm embarrassed? Whats really embarrassing is a lame horse because the rider can't suck it up and do a few stretches. Attitude corrected.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


This is a hot topic right now in the blogosphere - I feel like we're all collectively getting kicked in the butts by our trainers with things like stirrup-less riding, holding two-point, etc. I've been including stirrup-less riding in my warm ups or cool downs, but I have never done any actual 2-point work, beyond the occasional few moments in lessons. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see how long I could do it for. So last night I did it, and whoa - I am out. of. shape.

I made it once around the arena at a trot. And once around the arena at the canter. And the whole time I was wondering if I was doing it right - if I was too far forward, if I was too heavy in my heels (I had the specific thought that there was NO WAY I could hold 2-point without stirrups). Ouch.

Well, I guess its good to know what to work on, eh?

For my readers who don't really know what I'm talking about, here is a picture of a normal seat:
Silva Martin on Rosa Cha, 2010   
Compare to two-point position, aka galloping position:
Phillip Dutton on Woodburn, 2010
Notice the tush up out of the saddle and the rider at a forward angle, closer to the horse's neck. It takes A LOT of legs and abs and back to do that. Trust me.

I've also noticed that horse fitness is getting some attention in the equine online media world, presumably since the show season has officially started and we're all making sure our horses are ready to hit the horse trials. I especially liked this article from Horse Nation about conditioning work for the lower level horse. Interesting tid-bits there that apply to lots of competition horses, not just eventers. The main points that spoke to me are:

  • Develop enough fitness to make sure your practice rides at home last twice as long as your rides at horse shows. This makes sure you/your horse has enough stamina to get through the show when adding in the jitters/away-from-home stress. 
  • "I firmly believe that 15 to 20 minutes of trot work should be able to happen without you or your horse getting out of breath and without taking any breaks. If you can't trot for fifteen minutes without stopping to take a break, that is your first fitness goal."
  • "If you should make a day every week where you ride your horse twice. Flat him for 30 minutes, then a few hours later pull him out of his stall and jump a few jumps and go for a trail ride. not only will this help his fitness, but it will help him mentally prepare."
  • The rider needs to do plenty of stirrup-less riding, and galloping in two-point. "The basic time frame of a BN or N XC run is 5 minutes give or take, so that has been our base line goal, to gallop for 5 minutes with me in two-point." 
  • Also, the horse should be able to gallop for for this length (and hold a nice canter for some time in Dressage), so add in "canter" sets to your workout: don't worry about quality at first, just maintain the canter for 5 minutes each direction. Then add in quality.

I plan on working on myself a bit more before I focus on Spirit's fitness. Right now she definitely outranks me.

BY THE WAY, if you are looking for a talented and gorgeous horse, please allow me to introduce you to a lovely mare for sale: Isadora, or "Izzy". Here is her DreamHorse ad, and here is her For Sale page on her Trainer's Website. She is very affordably priced and is one of the most photogenic horses I've ever seen.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Eventers are Crazy

Okay, okay, so I've only been jumping for ~2 years. But still, part of my brain thinks that people who willingly do upper level cross country have got a death wish. Even when the pros do it (and now I know enough to see how well they are riding - way beyond my skill level), it still freaks me out.

I don't know if I'm the only one who thinks this way. But since I write this blog to chronicle my ever evolving perspective on the sport, I felt compelled to share that as of right now, I still think people who do Rolex are nutso. I thought this before I did eventing, I thought it when I competed at intro levels, and I think it now. We'll see how this changes. I used to think Novice looked like the jaws of hell, and now I think its "doable, but challenging."  In fact, Prelim is my current "scary as hell" lower limit.

Sinead Halpin & Manoir de Carneville - Rolex 2011 XC

Sharon White and Rafferty's Rules: XC The Fork, Advanced B, April 2012

Amy Ruth Borun and Santa's Playboy CIC*** Jersey Fresh 2011
She is an amateur who started riding in her 20s (she's in her 40s now).

Settling In

I'm in a good place, emotionally and geographically, at Windwalker Ranch. I really love that Spirit is at Laurie's barn, benefiting from daily turnouts and extra training. I love being part of the barn group - all of Laurie's clients are fantastic, down-to-earth people who care about the horses' health above all else. No prissy madona types. And so far it feels that Spirit loves it too.  She's been calm and relaxed and happy every time I've visited her.

On Friday evening I went out to see her. It was my first practice ride at Windwalker. We worked for a good 15 minutes, practicing what I learned at the belt lesson. Spirit was great, and I felt that I was doing pretty well with my new found supportive body positioning, and *demanding* Spirit be balanced and uphill. There's a few low spots in the arena where I am being a particular stickler on this point, and it is really helping. Keeping Spirit uphill while going downhill (even slightly) has always been a challenge for me. Afterward we went on a nice trail ride. Spirit still had plenty of go, so we cantered up the hill, did some exploring, got completely lost, then turned around and came back. I will need an escort for my next few trail rides. =P
On trail, halfway up the hill, overlooking the dressage court.
Saturday we had a fabulous lesson. I got there 40 minutes early (instead of 25 to 30) and had plenty of time to get ready and tack up and warm up. It was so wonderful not to feel like I was rushing - I'm going to try and do that more often. Laurie had back-to-back lessons, so I was able to go warm up in the dressage court while Laurie finished up the lesson ahead of me. It was really nice - I felt like I had a great connection with Spirit by the time we went in for our lesson. Our first jump lesson in 3 weeks.

Laurie set up an fun gymnastic for us. I only took pictures after the lesson, after it was all built up, but of course it started out as just ground poles and then slowly but surely everything increased. Here's how it ended up:


Laurie didn't actually tell me this, but I presume that we did gymnastics in part because it reduces rider-error. All I really had to do was set up Spirit properly then get out of her way. And in fact I was a little rusty on both counts, but soon got it figured out. Meanwhile Spirit was a good sport and didn't get too offended at my mistakes. We both had fun, which is the whole point.

We did have one refusal, at the red and white oxer, when we added some flower boxes to the jumps beyond it. I schooled it carefully, thoughtfully, then we we approached (the whole thing) and had no problem. In some sense I'm actually pleased that I got the opportunity to handle a refusal. After the lesson we did another trail ride, this time with Jess and Storm. It was a lovely Saturday afternoon.

Time for a few more ranch photos:

12x24 half-covered pipe corrals overlooking arena. Spirit on the right.

Lower turnouts (behind pipe corrals). Spacious with plenty of shade and water.

Quasi artistic photo of lemon groves near the washracks.
The facility itself is definitely growing on me. The pipe corral stalls are not kept in great condition as compared to Rancho Linda Mio, and they are more expensive, but overall they are comparable. The jump arena is much larger with tons of jumps, the round pen is much larger and has better footing, and they have an official dressage arena and actual trails! And there isn't a road running through it - a plus.  The smell of the orchards is a great bonus. But who's kidding who? What really makes this ranch great is increased access to my trainer, Laurie Canty, and knowing she is looking out for Spirit daily.

In other news, I'm finally cashing in on our prizes from GLAPHC 2010 (yes, 2 years ago).  Padded black leather halter with engraved name plate, and I also picked up a new cotton lead (she ate hers upon move-in) and a lovely aqua flysheet (on sale for $40 at Calabasas saddlery! Score!).