Monday, July 30, 2012

First Show Report

I think my goal for our first show was very tame. I didn't care about ribbons or placings, or even about my performance. I didn't care about getting disqualified or even falling off.  All I wanted was for Hemie and I (mostly Hemie) to have a positive experience.


Don't get me wrong, it was constructive, a "learning experience" - and most importantly it ended on a positive note. But overall it wasn't a particularly fun or pleasant outing for either of us. 

Phase 1 - Trailer, Tack Up, Warm Up
Hemie was a pro at trailering, stood quietly while tacking up, and longed and warmed up like he'd been doing this for years. Unfortunately they started the show before we could warm up in the jumper round. But most shows don't allow you to warm up in the actual competition ring, so not a super big deal.

Phase 2 - Hunter Ring (wherein I eat dirt)
We had signed up for the 2'3" jumper class, but the hunter ring was empty so we decided to head on over there. Hemie was a bit looky-loo, and we just circled around for him to take a nice good look at everything. Then we headed to our first jump. He dodged out. I halted him and corrected. Not a big deal - I had anticipated some refusals at the show. So we reapproached. Notice my legs and seat in this pic:

You can guess what happened next...
He tried to dodge, I corrected him, then became unbalanced and unseated. On the landing I made like a lawn-dart and crashed into the sand. To add injury to insult, Hemie kicked out at me and got my ankle nice and good.

"Good thing you're wearing your vest!" someone yelled from the crowd. Gee, thanks.

But its true. I was the only one at that H/J show wearing a vest, and the only one who needed it, apparently!

I got back on, and we made it over a few more jumps. I almost fell off once more when he spooked, and he was clearly frazzled the whole time. But we did get over some jumps.

Note giant chipmunk!

But before we could get over jump #4, Laurie called me out of the hunter ring.

Phase 3 - Jumper Ring (wherein Hemie has complete meltdown)
She thought that the jumper ring would be a better environment for Hemie. We schooled there previously, and there were some very "plain" looking verticals.

Well, I wasn't feeling especially confident, not to mention I didn't have time to memorize the course. So I asked Laurie if she would take him in the jumper class. Let's just say Hemie was a handful.

In round 1, Hemie was clearly on edge and overwhelmed. His hips were swinging left and right - our straightness issues at home were 10x escalated at the show, and he got stuck a few times, refusing to go forward and instead just hopping up and down.

In round 2, Hemie just had a meltdown. He got completely stuck, so Laurie abandoned the idea of jumping and just focused on getting him to canter around the arena. When he was able to canter around okay, she called it quits and took him out.

She walked him around the property for about 20 minutes, until his brain seemed to reactivate and he quit spooking at everything. Then she walked him back into the arena, just to walk him around all the jumps in a relaxed way. He was back to his normal self.

Phase 4 - Back to the Warm Up (wherein the day ends better)
I asked Laurie if I could take Hemie into the warm up arena to go over a jump or two, mostly for my benefit but I also thought Hemie would appreciate it. After some hesitation, she agreed. 

We spent a few minutes getting back into a groove together, and Hemie was clearly happy to be jumping and feeling like he was a good boy. We called it a day when we realized both of us were relaxed and feeling good.

Relaxed. The right way to end our first show.
So, there you have it. I have a swolen ankle, a huge purple bruise under the left thigh (from hitting the pommel? who knows?), and I can't turn my head to the left.  I've been icing everything a few times a day. A new helmet is on the to-do list.

My next lesson is tomorrow night. Hopefully I'll be able to cram my ankle into a boot!

Preview to First Horse Show Report

Actual post to come, but in the meantime...

submitted by:

In a twist of irony, I was the one who suggested this meme concept to Equestrian Memes Blog last week. Oh, sarcastically humorous universe. How you humble me. Repeatedly.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Prep for First Show

Per SprinklerBandit's request, here are some pictures of Hemie and I (sorry I couldn't get any from the schooling this past weekend, but I promise I will find a camera slave willing friend to take a few at the show on Saturday!)

These pics are courtesy of hubby-kins, who came to watch a lesson a little while back. 

My bridle has been cleaned and conditioned, my boots are shiny and my polo shirt is clean. Need to do a number on my breeches, but besides that I feel pretty ready to go. We don't yet have a plan for classes, but I predict some cross-rails. I'd like to get a good 3 to 5 classes in, and see what he thinks about the idea of riding then waiting then riding then waiting, but we'll see how Hemie is feeling.

My only goal for the show is for Hemie to have an overall positive experience. I don't care if we come in dead last in every class. If we are having fun, then its money well spent.

We've got a lesson tonight, and then tomorrow I'll probably do a quick ride followed by horse and tack deep scrubbing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Strad Farms Schooling

This Saturday morning myself and two other ladies from the barn trailered over to Stradivarius Farms in Santa Paula as a schooling outing in anticipation of the hunter/jumper show next Saturday the 28th. Let me cut to the chase.

Hemie. Was. Fabulous.

Well, okay, there was one minor deviation from fabulousness. Before we even left our ranch, as we were loading up the horses, somehow Hemie got a little panicked in the trailer, tossed up his head (safety snap worked and popped off), and he (carefully) bolted out of the trailer and ran free down the property. His tail was flying up, he was snorting up a storm, and looking exceptionally cute. I caught him without issue and loaded straightaway without issue. He was also fine loading back up to go home after our schooling.

In a way I'm glad we had this little incident. Now I know what happens when my horse gets panicked and loose. He's fine.

But back to the fun part. Hemie was a bit antsy when first tied up and getting his tack on, but besides that he was an absolute gentleman. He longed out great, was patient for me during mounting (and unmounting to help head a friend's horse, then re-mounting from a weird bench), and was perfectly behaved during our warm up. And he handled the giant chipmunks like a pro. 

Not us. Borrowed from Strad Farms website.  Note giant chipmunks.
Next we got a lesson from Laurie in the jumper arena. I got to watch Laurie school another young horse first (always very informative for me), while Hemie and I cruised around the arena so he could get a good look at all the jumps and their decorations - including, but not limited to:

Greek columns
 plus a HOT BLUE roll-top jump, and of course all sorts of gates, flower boxes, and even a few metallic-paint covered jumps.

When it was our turn to go, Hemie was ready for action. We went over a small vertical a few times. Laurie had me practice using the whip to encourage him to march on towards the jumps. The first time he went over fine, but the second time he refused. Straight and relaxed. So that told me that I needed to have him a bit more forward. Better to have a little too much horse on the landing than to not make it over in the first place was the motto for the lesson.

I didn't make that mistake again. Hemie was very game and excited. I could feel him prancing like an excited kid, and Laurie laughed at the delighted look on his face as he got a chance to tackle these exciting, new fences.  We did several hunter lines and bending lines. I am improving (though not fast enough by my tastes) at not catching him in the mouth over jumps by getting left behind. And I also felt really good with my lower leg positioning.

But most importantly, Hemie and I enjoyed every minute of it. And I was able to ride him well enough that Laurie didn't have to hop on.

Our first show in just one week! Bring it on.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How to Catch a Horse for $2.99

I was perusing a blog which linked to this website which is basically an advertisement trying to get horse people to buy their advice on how to catch a horse - for the low, low price of $2.99. This "special report" claims it will "change your life" and "transform your relationship with your horse."

I'm sorry, but solicitous websites like this really annoy me. There is so much FREE advice on the internet these days, who would pay even $3 for something like this?  The hyped up description has so many negative emotions thrown around, its like this "author" is trying to capitalize on poor, frustrated horse-people.

Well, for those of you who clicked this post who really are interested in learning how to catch a horse, here is some advice for FREE.  My other mount, the fabulous but sometimes sassy Miss Paint, lives in 150 acres of grass pastures overlooking the ocean in Santa Barbara. Every so often, she will decide that she does not want to be caught. She is especially naughty after her farrier visits for some reason.

Most of the time I can catch her within 5 minutes, but there have been days where I pursue her for a full HOUR. Earlier this year, there were three occasions in a row where I could not catch her at all. That had been a first, and it really bothered me. A lot.

I had to set emotion aside and use logic to devise a plan to catch her. I'm proud to say, it worked out great. And here is my strategy, free of charge.

Create a situation so that being caught by you more is desirable for the horse than being out in the pasture/paddock/wherever.

I couldn't think of a way to make the 150 acres of luscious grass less desirable, so I needed to make myself and the prospect of her getting caught more desirable.

First and foremost, make sure you are putting out positive energy when you go to catch your horse. If you're in a bad mood, if you have a rock in your shoe and you are uncomfortable, or if you start to get stressed out, no animal is going to want to come and hang out with you.

Secondly, have a clearly available reward for your horse. A yummy treat that they can see, hear, and smell works best.  If you have a tiny treat in your pocket, that will not be as tempting as a delicious bunch of carrots hanging from your hand. Crack one of those carrots so they can hear and smell it.

Actual bunch of carrots costing $0.99
3 Bunches of Carrots, which cost $0.99 each at the local grocery store = $2.97 (yep, 2 cents cheaper than those other guys).
If you've been having an extra hard time catching your horse, like I was 3 times in a row, take the pressure off by NOT catching your horse. As in, go out there with your goal simply to be to feed your horse and pat it on the neck. Do that once or twice without a halter in your hand, to remind your horse that you are there to have fun and spoil her, not just to catch her. On your third visit, she should remember that you are the fun human with the good attitude and tasty treats and hanging out with you is actually more fun than chilling in the pasture. Calmly loop a lead rope over her neck as she is munching - don't to straight for the face with the halter. Pretty soon, your horse will be coming over to you! Gotcha, horse!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Disaster Prep

Photo by Mark Higgins, circulated by Roundup Mt. fire in Montana, June 2012.

This photo gives me the chills every time I look at it. Living in southern California my whole life, I've done my share of evacuations due to wildfire. Luckily I've never faced a situation so desperate that required setting horses free to fend for themselves. But these recent fires in Colorado and Montana are a stark reminder that every horse owner needs to be prepared for an emergency. If you don't already have them, you may want to consider these disaster prep ideas. Be ready before a disaster happens.

Emergency Information Sheet
This is a piece of paper that lives in a plastic protector or can get laminated. It should have:
  • Horse's name and detailed description, including photos. Breed, height, coloring, markings, brands, tattoos, scars. Photos will help non-horsey people ID your horse (not everyone knows what a blaze or a pastern is).
  • Your name and contact information. A backup contact person in case you are incapacitated or unavailable.
  • Horse's medical history information - allergies, conditions, medications, etc.  
Have multiple copies of this sheet. It should be kept at your boarding facility, and taken in the trailer with you when you travel. Present it to your horse-sitters when you are out of town. Give it to your family members, just in case. Save it on your computer so can post it online or email out, if necessary.

Halter Tags & Fetlock Bands
When trailering, or in the event of needing to turn a horse free in an emergency, having ID info physically attached to the horse can save a lot of time, headache, and heartache. Put an ID tag with your phone number on your daily halter (and trailering halter, if different).  I'm personally a believer in leather, as it will break if the horse gets caught somehow. You can also buy a small dog collar to put around the pastern or fetlock with, and either get a name plate or ID tag with your phone number on it. 
Excellent example modeled by Speedy G
Also, good to have on your bridle as well, just in case you ever get in a "loose horse" situation. 

Info Braided Into Tail
Another way to attach your contact information to your horse is to have an ID tag that you braid into the mane or tail with a shoelace or something. You don't want to wrap anything around the tailbone, as that could cut off circulation. You could even slice up an old tail bag and use sharpie to write on that. Have this always at the ready and nearby your horse. There are commercial products available, but you could probably make something just as good.  Horse and Man Blog even came up with the idea of using twistie-ties and those little store key-chain plastics with the barcodes. In a pinch, that'll let you describe your horse, and help ID you as the owner.

Neck Bands
When Miss Paint got evacuated last summer from Santa Barbara, the ranch in Buelleton that housed all the evacuated horses put neck collars, sometimes referred to as broodmare collars (often used at big breeding farms where the mares are all out in pasture), on all the horses to inventory them. You can order them online and have them at the ready.

A note about physical attachments to the horse:
When evacuating a horse or setting them loose due to fire specifically (versus hurricane, tornado, or other disaster), some people are concerned about items attached to the horse getting hot or catching fire and burning the horse. For example, the metal parts of the halter scorching the horse's face, or the leather catching fire or melting. BUT, remember that hair is highly flammable, and that your horse's entire body is covered with it. If your horse is close enough to the fire that the leather halter, tail tag, or fetlock band has a reaction, your horse's mane and coat would be catching fire as well.  So that is something that each individual owner will have to decide for themselves.

Livestock Crayons/Markers, Chalk or Paint
Preferred by people who don't want physical items attached to the horse, livestock crayons allow you to write info or draw patterns on your horse's body. Phone number, owner name, barn name, even just a unique marking to ID the horse later, can help you be reunited with your horse. Order these online at Hamby Dairy Supply - I'm sure there are other places. Less than $5 each - cheap, fast, and can't fall off.

Microchips are available for horses just like for dogs. They are inserted into the neck, near the crest about half-way between ears and withers. Your vet would have to install one, or you can order and inject yourself with a kit. Several options are available from Could be useful in proving you own a horse, but not super effective in having a horse returned to you: micro-chipping horses is not very widespread, so it is unlikely that rescues or good Samaritans would call a vet out to scan found horses on the off-chance they are chipped.

Iris/Retinal Scans
Iris and retinal scanning is still a recent phenomenon, only available through certain vets. After researching at and doing some general googling, the problem with this approach is that it is not widespread enough. If a rescue group finds 5 loose horses, they aren't going to call out an expensive vet to scan a bunch of horses on the off chance that one has its scan on file. In fact, they wouldn't know *which* vet to call, as there isn't even a database of vets that have this equipment! Maybe in the future this use will be more widespread, but for now I don't think that having your horse's iris scanned is going to increase its chances of being returned to you in an emergency situation.

Tattoos & Brands 
Tattoos and brands, on the other hand, are visible and identifiable even by non-horsey people. They can help you ID your horse, but they wont help someone discover you are the horse's owner unless and contact you unless (A) the brand or tattoo can be quickly linked with an organization such as a breed association, AND (B) your information is registered with that organization. I'm working on getting my info registered with the Jockey Club since Hemie has his racing tattoo.

Go ahead, look a gift horse in the mouth.
Hope everyone will take a minute to make sure they have an emergency plan in place! Our horses are too precious not to.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Olympic Fever

The 2012 Olympics are only 2 weeks away!! And the fever is especially high for those of us lucky equestrians to call Ventura county home. That's right, my local community produced not one, but two of this year's Olympic equestrian competitors who will be representing the US at London this summer!

1. US Eventing team rider: Tiana Coudray, based out of Ojai (north Ventura county), aboard Ringwood Magister (barn name: Finn).

Photo courtesy of USEA.
Tiana is considered the young gun and a bit of a wildcard on the US eventing team. But for all those who have met her (as I have, very briefly, when I went to Twin Rivers HT in March 2011), they surely feel very proud to have Tiana represent our country at this international athletic and sportsmanship stage. She is a sweet, friendly, approachable young lady with the most gorgeous horse of all time. Finn is truly a stunner. An amazing example of a West Coast eventing rider making it all the way to the top!

2. US Dressage rider: Jan Ebeling, based out of Moorpark (Eastern side of Ventura county, where I keep Bohemian), aboard Rafalca.

Photo credit: N. Jaffer of The Star-Ledger
This pair has gotten lots of media attention, including some hilarious Colbert report coverage, due to Ann Romney's partial ownership interest in Rafalca. They are lovely to watch and have been competing at the upper levels for a while. They are considered a tried-and-true element of the US dressage team.

Ventura is located about half-way between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, and its a fabulous place to live and work and ride. It's no wonder some top athletes live and work in Ventura county. We have excellent weather year round (we're in the 70s here while the rest of the country is experiencing a major heat wave!). Even the furthest part of the county is less than an hour from the beach.   Yay Olympics! Gonna be fun!!!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blogging Fail

is when you realize you have several posts that are half-written, and several more churning in the brain, but you somehow can't frikkin get any complete enough to warrant clicking "publish."  I'm working on it. In the meantime, please enjoy this haiku poem:

Big horse show today
Rolled in some lucky green poop
Why is mom crying?

By Leslie Wylie, editor of and blooger of  Wylie Eventing blog

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Independence Day! On this day in 1776 the Declaration of Independence was adopted and the USA was born. I hope all Americans take a quick minute to re-familiarize themselves with that moment our nation's history - it is interesting to compare the values of our country then versus now, given the current political divide on Affordable Health Care, corporations' rights, and elected representatives' differential compensation. Cough Excuse me! My anthropologist side is showing!
On to horse business!
I'm falling deeper in love with Hemie. He's smart and handsome and his black tipped ears are just the cutest. And he tries his heart out every time to learn and to be a good boy. He genuinely enjoys our rides, I think.
Yesterday we declared our own independence by going on our first solo trail ride (his third trail ride ever). He was very well behaved, and absolutely fascinated by the piebald cows in the neighboring field. They were too far to get a good picture, but here's some photos of the handsome boy.

First solo trail ride.

Trumping Hemie's normal level of dirtiness, I was greeted by this:
Just when you think he can't possibly get any dirtier...a bird shows that actually, yes, he can.

Yep, bird doodoo. 

Anyway, this morning I had a fabulous lesson. I had two light bulb moments: one in the jumping, one in the flatwork. On the flat, getting him to connect to the left rein has been a challenge, but we are now introducing shoulder-in and that is definately helping a lot. I'm getting the hang of it, but I'll need to continue so that Hemie can get it too. 

As to jumping, we had some "slip-n-slide" bulging out to the right, both before and after the jumps. But it turns out that the magical remedy is to keep him completely straight before the jump and not let his hips swing out. It worked like a charm, and I look forward to practicing it more. We also did a pretty good course of about 4 jumps. Thanks to J.D. for the video and pics:

Monday, July 2, 2012

Stacked Cavalettis

Okay, the pity party is behind us and we're back to the normal (positive outlook) broadcast. Let me show you what we jumped this weekend:

Yeah, baby! Note the two cavalettis underneath -  that was our "oxer" (which we've only done once before). We did that oxer a few times at the end of our jump lesson. Then Laurie said "let me make this a little higher" and threw up that third one. It may only be like 2 feet high, but still - the jump size DOUBLED! How did Hemie do? Like a pro. He was straight and balanced and popped over like it hadn't just doubled in size. :::warm fuzzy feeling:::

Now let me present our challenge jump of the weekend:

Yep - maybe 8 inches high, but Hemie really thought that going around was a better idea. We conquered it in a few tries, and it helped me learn the fine line between encouraging him to jump without pressuring him to jump. I had kissed at him in what I thought was an encouraging way, but it made him nervous. I think only practice will help me do this correctly.
Still needing the Corona ointment regularly   =(

Our feeding schedule has changed. I'm now just doing beet pulp and rice bran (and canola oil until our bottle runs out). No more Senior or SafeChoice Perform. He has put on a good amount of weight while my wallet has become much too empty, so I'm gonna try this out while keeping an eye on him. I think it will be fine - he gets a nice large scoop of rice bran so his fat intake should be good.

And lastly, we have reached the month of JULY. You know what that means? Our first show. At the end of the month. We had earmarked the Santa Ynez huter/jumper show on Sunday the 29th, but there's a show the day before at Stradivarius in Santa Paula. Strad is much closer and only slightly more expensive in fees, so I think that is the way we'll go. Either way...just one month until our FIRST SHOW!!!