Thursday, June 28, 2012

A small pity party

In true SprinklerBandit fashion, I would like to have a moment of silence for my wallet. It is "too light" as my fav stand-up comedian Brian Regan would say. New horse = shoes, vet/shots, another vet/teeth, lots of extra feed for Mr. Skinny-pants, and tack to fit him (girth, halter, sheepskin pad). And we just got notice that board is increasing. Another $40 a month I need to find.

{Silence} Sigh.

To make matters worse, my BFF is moving her horse away and we'll no longer be in training together. She and I took the dive into Eventing together 3 year ago, but sometimes good things do come to an end. I gave Storm an extra kiss last night since he moved this morning - gonna miss riding with Jess and snugging with my favorite Godhorse (I'm his Godmother). 

There's more.  The other other gal who rides in the evenings, J.D. who owns the fabulous Pixie Dust, is moving her horse due to the board increase.

So I'm gonna be having even more alone rides than before. Woe is me. Seriously though. =(

Okay, pity party has concluded. Thanks for listening. Time to combat the sadness with my top horse-related things to be thankful for:
  1. Amazing, sound horse.
  2. Fabulous, affordable trainer.
  3. Generosity of others (TBRCI & HBO for Hemie, reins & boots from trainer to fit him, etc).
  4. Boarding facility caretaker I can trust.
  5. Supportive husband and family. 
Okay. Feeling better already. "It could always be worse" as they say. And I truly am very blessed to be able to have horses in my life, especially one as smart and handsome and cute as Hemie. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Horse Ballet Hiliarity

I don't know about everyone else, but I am loving all the attention that Dressage is getting right now in the media. Especially when its falling in the comedian's corner. I've been sharing Colbert's "sport of the summer" clip with anyone who will listen to me. Now allow me to share with you.

Also combining Dressage with funny-ness, this video of Freestyle "Sexy and I know It"!

Here's the youtube channel for more like this one:

Thanks to for sharing the hilarity.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hemie meets Levi

This weekend was pretty relaxed on the horse front. Sadly I was out of town Friday and Saturday for a funeral, but I went out to see Hemie on Sunday and brought my little dog Levi. Levi is a schnauzer-cairn terrier mix (or so the adoption paperwork says) and this was his first time meeting Mr. Heems. They got along great.

 Hemie has been going through saddle pads like nobody's business. For having such a thin coat, I simply do not understand how he gets so dirty. I put in twice the elbow grease when cleaning him, but he's still incredibly dirty! I finally had the great idea to bring a baby pad to take to the barn, so that my washing machine doesn't have a premature death from saddle pad washing.

Well, this baby pad started off white. As in starched white. Granted it was a hot day, but by the end of our ride this pad was 100% drenched in sweat (literally completely soaked), and is a remarkable display of how much dirt I was NOT able to groom off of Hemie before the ride. How embarrassing! Seriously, I *did* groom before the ride. Sigh. At least it shows that the saddle is sitting pretty evenly on his back.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


It has been a crazy work week. A bunch of long days, the kind where you're completely drained afterwards, and a glass of wine sounds more appealing than changing into breeches. But of course those are the days that you get so much more out of each ride (and your horse instinctively knows to be extra snuggly). 

Hemie the handsome <3

Tuesday's ride was great. We found a grid set of ground poles and trotted all around and through them. Wednesday's lesson was fabulous. We did some trot poles and a bit of jumping. I had loose legs, but I blame exhaustion from being up for over 12 hours by the time I even mounted. Again, work week level red craziness.
"Grid" of ground poles we found in the arena. Yeah, we trotted it like pros.

Please take a moment to send warm thoughts and prayers to Ashley, friend of Nicku and Pongo of the Polka Dot Periodical. And remember to always wear your helmet.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Outing to Stradivarius

Saturday Hemie went to his first horse show, but not a competitor -just as a schooling outing. It went really well - he got the drill right away and we had no issues at all.

The show was held at Stradivarius Equestrian Center, a nicely groomed and decorated boarding center. Click the link for their website (with lots of photos) and you'll see what I mean. Faux facades, porte-cochers, ponds and water features, etc. 

Hemie and Pascal in the trailer.

Hemie (with trailer buddy Pascal) had to stay in the trailer for about 10 minutes while we went to register and get our bearings. He stood quietly in the trailer just fine.  

Next, he learned how to stand tied to the trailer while getting tacked up (not something they do at the racetrack).  He was squirmy, but we got saddled up pretty quick and headed around the property to give him an eyeful and a nice healthy longe. He was looky-loo, but respectful and obedient.
Hemie standing like a champ. Out trailer was right next hunter ring.
Laura and Pascal jumping in the background in above picture. They are really fun to watch! 

Pascal and Laura doing a hunter round.

I hopped on and we rode in 3 different arenas - he was an absolute star! Relaxed, calm, obedient, straight. We even did some jumping in the warm-up arena and he was very well behaved. And let me tell you, there were plenty of spook-worthy things around that facility: 4-foot-tall wooden chipmunks, hanging canopies fluttering in the wind, fake building facades with shadowy alcoves. I believe the architectural term is visual interest.

After our fabulous ride, we hacked around the property to give him even more exposure. Lots of machinery and colorfully decorated jumps to sniff and walk around. He was so good, I decided to take him back to the trailer and call it a day. Early on I had been tempted to do the walk-trot-over-poles class, but I was really pleased with the school and felt like we had accomplished what we had come to do. 

Final test of the day: leaving Hemie tied to the trailer while I went about watching my barn mates compete, close up at the show office, etc. He passed with flying colors. Hemie ate and drank, peed and pooped - all those normal horsie functions that indicate he was relaxed even in a new surrounding, tied to a trailer, in the So Cal heat. I was a proud mommy.

Hemie is waaay out there, staring at me, but being very calm.

Hemie's mane finally got some attention. Thoughts? Does it look pulled? 
Mane, under control!
Randomly, there was a pig on a leash at the show. Fiona was a runt who was expected to die, but miraculously lived and now is potty-trained and clicker trained like a dog. And she's dog friendly. SO CUTE!!!
Fiona, the adorable clicker-trained pig. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Add Purpose

I've been slacking a bit this week, mostly due to crazy work schedule. But finally, Saturday night, here is some video! Thanks to Jessica for taking these.

Here's what I'm working on presently:

  • Be more purposeful in the approach. Let him know that our plan is to go over the jump. No longer just "hey horsie, what do you think about going over the jump?"   March on down to it like we've got places to go.
  • I've been catching Hemie's mouth over the jumps by getting left behind, so my position for the last few strides needs to be 2-point, with hands holding mane, loose rein. 
  • When he slides out, release outside rein. Direct rein only. (I keep having to learn this over an over! Gahh!)
So far Hemie is really enjoying our work.  He likes to jump and go over ground poles, and he's feeling more uphill and balanced than before. I finally rode him in a good gallop (well, as good as you can in an arena - I'm sure there's higher gears at a racetrack), and he was really fun and I felt really comfortable. Best of all, he came right down to a nice collected canter as soon as I asked for it. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Funny. But True.

From the fabulously funny Equestrian Memes Blog:

Its also the topic of discussion right now (kinda) at one of my fav blogs: Sprinkler Bandits. I used to think that $165 for a saddle pad was crazy talk. But now I want that pad too... sigh.

On the Hemie front, I've been slacking on the posting a little but will remedy soon, with *video* =)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Do you like your brain?

If so, wear your helmet.

June 9th is International Helmet Awareness Day, promoted by The idea is to spread the word about helmet safety and promote always wearing a helmet. Additionally, many tack stores and helmet companies are offering discounts on helmets during this day.

Unfortunately, this day is forcing me to confront my own stupidity. While I wear a helmet every time I take a lesson from Laurie or ride Hemie, I haven't been using a helmet when I ride my other mount, Miss Paint, up in Santa Barbara. I ride her bareback, in a halter, alternately out on the trail (150 acres of mountain pasture) or in the arena where, yes, we do jump.

The trails are on uneven terrain, riddled with holes and drain channels, with spook-worthy wildlife including deer, coyotes, snakes, cows (okay, those are technically livestock/domestic, not wild), etc. She could trip or spook at any moment. The arena is dragged once every comet-passing, so the footing is horrible and very trip-worthy too. Plus I'm jumping and doing all the trail class obstacles. Bareback. In jeans. In a halter.

Stupidity in action. But a nice sunset.
Now that I've spelled it out, it looks like I'm practically asking for brain damage here. It's kind of embarrassing, really. Any marginal counter-argument about how I've only fallen off her once and landed on my feet, or that she's as comfy as a couch, are all bogus. I like my brain. I really need to helmet up.

One question I still have about helmets, though, has to do with the falling-off-so-replace-it rules. I've fallen off while wearing my helmet, but I've never landed on my head, nor even bounced my head hard. I normally land on my feet or on my back (God bless impact vests). But I'm sure my head must touch the ground at some point when I land on my back, right? Does that mean I need to replace the helmet?  For now I've decided to keep a helmet unless I've bounced my head hard or landed on my head. Thoughts? What do you do?

Let me leave you with this funny skit from Jerry Seinfeld. Most horse people will agree that riding has enough benefits to outweigh the risks. But not all "regular people" get that. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Firstly, I have a confession. I've done nothing to tame the crazy mane yet. Its flowing free, running wild, au natural. Hemie the hobo. =P

Moving on. This past weekend I didn't get a lesson, but did watch and support 3 riders from our barn competing at the Meadows of Moorpark Derby. All three did a great job in the Beginner Novice division - all three horses and riders exceeded expectations for performance. =)

As I walked the course with my barn mates and trainer, the jumps looked...big.   >.<  Beginner Novice jumps are only 2'7" at the highest, plus I've competed at this level, at this facilitiy, and even took home 3rd place! Why would these jumps make me feel so intimidated and overwhelmed? Is it because my XC on Spirit got so unpredictable? Or because I now have a horse that is green-as-can-be to jumping? Or both? Or neither? I remember a time, not too long ago, when Novice looked doable if a bit of a challenge. How sad is it that BN looks intimidating to me right now.

I had a lesson Tuesday night, and it went really well, considering I hadn't actually ridden Hemie since the last lesson. Firstly, let me please celebrate the small milestone that Hemie can now longe out in the jumping arena, not just in the round pen. He understands the circle concept, accepts contact with the longe line, and has figured out how we "travel" our circles around the arena to different spots. He really is a smart boy. But back to the lesson, I started off asking for more contact, especially going 2nd direction (tracking right), having my left rein as the outside rein - he is stiff/sticky on that side. We were feeling pretty well connected, but he started to fuss with his head just a tad. I thought to myself: could I release 1/4 pound of pressure from the reins and still be well connected from my elbow to his mouth? I tried it, and indeed I could, and it made Hemie happier. Success.

After about 15 minutes Hemie really started to relax - his back came up, his shoulders started swinging. We kept a good rhythm and felt very well connected.

So we decided to jump. He was game, and we worked on straightness and staying slow. He likes to stick his head one way and his rump another as we approach the jump. At first, half-halts and lower leg back seemed to help (but not fix 100%). But later on he added a severe drift to the body angling. We're talking high-class side passes here. To the right. So of course I fumble around with trying to "close the outside door" with my right rein and leg. How many times do I have to be told that that will not work! At least once more I guess. Laurie told me to turn LEFT, and that immediately took all the gas out of his motor. Poor Hemie had a confused look on his face - you mean we're not allowed to just go sideways all crooked? Ah, adjusting to life outside of the racetrack. Anyway, I'll continue to work on it.

Meanwhile, Laurie mentioned that we should take Hemie to a show, not to compete but just to get him used to the clapping and the smells and sights and excitement. I would think that if he can handle a racetrack with hundreds of fans and hot dog stands, he could handle a horse show. But I've learned to always take Laurie's advice - that's why she gets the big bucks. We'll hopefully do that in the next month or so, as we've picked out our potential FIRST SHOW!!! It's not set in stone yet, but we've got our eye on the Santa Ynez Valley Equestrian Association's hunter jumper schooling show at the end of July. Classes as low as you want (literally, poles on the ground if you like), and about as cheap as they come!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pony Club...part 2

Facts are coming in from all over about the mysterious organization known as The Pony Club. (For my original post on this, click here.)

I'd been systematically taking advantage of the Amazon free "Look Inside" feature to scope out the Official Pony Club Manuals.  I got through  The United States Pony Club Manual of Horsemanship: Basics for Beginners - D Level (Book 1) but was saved from further fact hunting by the fabulous Kelly of RideGroomFeed. She graciously shared her experiences and even wrote a post answering all of the basics that an outsider like me would ask. Seriously, the Pony Club's "FAQ" section needs to take a page from Kelly, or from the ever-informative Wikipedia. (Why is it that a website about another website is more informative than the primary source website??)

For others like me who grew up outside of the Pony Club circle of influence, here are the basics:
  • Pony Club started in England in 1928 (aha! turns out it IS an international society! the quaint name belies its multinationalism). Each country that has Pony Club (and there are many) is a different group - there is no international standard.
  • Members meet regularly to learn horse riding and care skills. Rallies are members-only gatherings, anything from a riding lesson to a day-long clinic on specific aspects of horse care to a horse show.
  • There are various levels of ratings that members can achieve, differing by country. To advance to each level, there are a series of tests/quizzes. At all levels except the very top, the tests are on BOTH horsemanship/care and riding skills. You have to pass both sections to advance a level.
  • "Pony" refers to any member's mount (a horse of any size). Huh.
Well, from what I can tell, most Pony Club graduates really appreciated their experience. Now that all my basic questions have been answered, I guess they can technically be de-commissioned from "secret society" status. But day there may be a dark, mysterious adventure movie about the Pony Club. Secrets of The Saddle has a nice ring to it...