Monday, February 18, 2013

Clipping & Jumping

This past weekend was just what I needed - horsey time, hubbie time, friend time, and healing time. And laundry. 

I got a jump lesson on Saturday morning, went to a baby shower in the afternoon, had a date with my husband in the evening (Orcs Must Die 2, if you must know). Then brunch in Santa Barbara Sunday morning followed by Storm's memorial in the afternoon in Valencia. I wasn't as productive as I had planned on being in terms of dishes and grocery shopping and such. But sometimes taking care of your soul needs to be prioritized - that's productive too in its own way.

Saturday felt good. The sun was out, with a refreshing breeze. I got to the barn early to clip off some of Hemie's fuzzles. He is hating shedding out. He gives me the evil stare with angry ears whenever I get the curry out. Turns out racing TBs on the west coast get body clipped every year - who knew? I decided to give him a trace clip to help him out, but I ran out of time so he got just a small bib clip. We will see how much more I take off in the coming weeks. I feel bad for the guy, but I don't want to pay for blanketing either. 

Anyways, we saddled up and went to a new arena (#2 of 8) for our jump lesson. It went really well - we worked on:
  • bending right
  • lighter contact through the jump course, especially before jumps
Bending right is certainly improving. As a rider I need to make sure I sit deep and tall and don't lean forward or to the inside. Specifically we're working on bending right without falling in, taking incredible concentration ensuring outside rein is out wide, inside leg is up on his shoulder preventing the fall in (and decreasing size circles), and inside rein turning while holding whip over leg to touch his hip to encourage hind legs out. Its like patting my head and rubbing my belly while walking and chewing bubble gum. 

Jumping was fabulous - we did a nice little course of about 5 jumps, and I had a great aha! moment. Laurie had me focusing on being light with my reins and encouraging more forward. This is mentally challenging for me - it's hard for me to trust him, I guess. Well, we worked on it quite a bit and of course it got easier as I went along. Hemie appreciated it and rewarded it with a steady rhythm. When he got fast to a jump, I just did a solid half-halt afterwards and continued on. No big deal. Though I think I'll need to do that a few more times before it truly feels like no big deal. My inclination is to be overly slow and in his face.

So now for the aha moment. As I was focusing on being less handsy, I realized coming to the jumps that his hip would sometimes drift right. My first reaction was to pick up my reins to straighten him, but then the light bulb came on - that's what LEGS are for. OOOoooh. Right leg back a tad, and voila! Straightness, while being light in the mouth. Overall Hemie, Laurie, and I had a fun time.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Castle Rock Farms

What has 8 arenas, 5 round pens, a water complex, and professional barn management? Our new boarding facility, Castle Rock Farms. Prepare to be jealous.

I arrived early at Windwalker last Saturday with the intent of taking one last trail ride through the orange groves before moving to CR. Hemie was feeling fresh-tastic so we had to change plans and we joined in a lesson instead. Then I loaded up my car (and my friend's car, and the do I have this much horse stuff??) and we made the 15 minute drive down the road.
Bye bye, lemon groves
We pulled in and it was a busy day at the barn. Hemie stayed in the trailer while I went to check on his stall - it had been freshly packed which was nice. I flagged down a stablehand to notify him that I was moving in and to ask for a water bucket. He kindly obliged, and I went to get Hemie from the trailer. Lo and behold, the stablehand came with me, and in an expert manner took Hemie from me and smartly led him to the new stall.

Yes. Like a groom.

Antonio, as I came to find out his name, was a confident horseman. That one motion made me feel so at ease. Especially since three-times-a-week turnout service is included in board! Score!

Some photos.

Pipe barn aisle. At night. I can see!

Settled into the new stall.
Water complex with banks, ditch near light post.

Arena with Reagan Library in background on the hill.
Those last 2 photos are from the facility's website.

The dressage lesson last Saturday before moving was quite productive. My main takeaways are that we can increase the amount of time spent in a balanced canter, even when doing our difficult right lead. Also, to march him right up into contact and expect connection sooner than before - within 30 seconds, say, rather than within a minute or so. Also, he's much more able to accept outside rein even when circling right and moving hips out (bending right - so hard for those racehorses eh?).

Later on Saturday we did a grand walking tour of the new barn, under saddle - exploring all the arenas and walking paths. Hemie was a trooper, not batting an eye at the tractors and quads zooming around with hay and such. We passed by the petting zoo with pigs, sheep, goats - Hemie gave a snort but that was all. Next we encountered the flag area; there's a trainer specializing in desensitization and his whole boarding area is covered with flags and poles and streamers of all colors. Hemie barely noticed. Overall, I was a very proud mama.

Sunday we played around in the eventing arena, supervised by Laurie in between lessons, and focused on straightness over small jumps and playing in the water and going up and down the banks. Hemie was fabulous at the new surroundings and cross country elements - alert but not nervous.

Gosh it has been a crazy and emotional week, but at least everything with Hemie is going great. <3

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentines Day!

Wishing you a very happy Valentines day! 

I just got off the phone with my little sister, who is out of surgery and recovering from the live liver transplant to our Uncle Warren, who is still in surgery for another 5 hours or so. I am so grateful that she is okay, and that there is a loving support network of family and friends and doctors and nurses. Thank you for all of your supportive prayers and vibes. May they reflect back to you ten-fold and may you have a love-filled Valentines Day.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Welcome to CA, Austin Eventing!

Deer Creek Ranch in Malibu
Just a quick shout out to Lisa Bauman and her horse Arvo, who have moved from Texas to the beautiful Malibu mountains. Lisa is an eventing trainer and competitor, and the new resident trainer of the beautiful Deer Creek Ranch. You can check out her blog here. The facility is about 45 minutes from me, longer with a trailer, but I sure would love to go clinic there sometime!

Lisa and Arvo get brownie points in my book because they showcase the American Saddlebred as a successful sport-horse, and in fact I mentioned them in this post before I Facebook-friend-ed them, which was months before they announced their move to CA. Can't wait to meet them in person!

It's been a long while since I've discussed it, but I grew up riding ASBs doing saddleseat and I truly do believe that Saddlebreds are great horses who have a bad rap in sport-horse disciplines due to saddleseat training methods. They are smart, hardworking, and have plenty of *presence*.  I sure hope we will see them emerge in more numbers in sport horse disciplines in the near future.

Welcome and good luck to Lisa and Arvo as they hit the Area VI eventing scene!

And to all my readers dealing with storms and snow and ice...we don't have that here in Ventura County. Just sayin'. You're welcome to move here too!!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Galway Downs and back to jumping!

Sometimes life doesn't go in chronological order. So here is last weekend's update.

Intermediate division XC jump #13
Photo does not truly show incredible depth/spread.
Saturday I went to the Galway Downs horse trials down in Temecula. I've volunteered there a few times before and it is always a blast. This time we did XC jump judging again, but we got there early to watch some stadium jumping too.

Preliminary division XC jump #13
We jump judged #13 for both the Intermediate and Preliminary divisions - the two highest offered at this particular show. These jumps were quite beautiful and straightforward, and they rode very well. We were happy to radio in all riders clear over these jumps. No refusals, no run-outs, no nuthin'! In fact for the whole XC on Saturday there were no major incidents or issues. One rider toppled off at the jump after ours, but she was fine and the horse took the shortcut route back to the barns and did not interfere with the other competitors.
Here's a few snippits from the runs:

Bunnie Sexton, of Shepherd Ranch in Santa Ynez, aboard Rise Against:
Bunnie is just one of the nicest people you will meet. I hope I'm as talented and athletic when I'm her age!

Hawley Bennet-Awad, Canadian Olympic team eventer based out of Temecula, aboard Gin & Juice:
Hawley is great to watch. Clinicing with her is on my wish-list.

Tamra Smith of Next Level Eventing, also of the Temecula area, aboard Fleeceworks Fernhill:
Tamra is an eventing machine. She rode 6 (yes, six!), horses at this event, and all six of them competed in either XC or stadium on Saturday. That's a lot of riding.  

And last but not least, from my neck of the woods, Jerica Coert aboard The Alchemyst:
I've only met Jerica once, but her little sister used to ride with us and I got to know her mom as well when Spirit and their mare Sara lived together. Lovely gals. Jerica is one brave young rider who has overcome some amazing obstacles. If her mount here, Al, looks like he could do this in his sleep, well it's because he probably could. This is a 4-star horse owned by Debbie Rosen of Wild Ride Eventers. He's been to Rolex several times and was practically on vacation doing this Prelim course. What a very kind mitzvah of Debbie to let Jerica have this ride.

Overall it was very interesting to note a marked distinction between the horses competing prelim versus intermediate. In prelim you saw horses of every size and color and breed - some big and some small, some built uphill and some downhill, some with go and some more slow. But at intermediate there was clearly an overall horse type - very uphill, tails low on the rump, big powerful hind ends, deep barrels, proportionate neck to back ratios, and of course the "look of eagles." Breeds seemed to be sturdier built thoroughbreds and small to medium sized warmbloods.

In Jimmy Wofford's book Training the Thee-Day Event Horse and Rider he makes a comment that I remember bugging my eyes out at: that any horse can compete at Preliminary level. Tell that to Spirit. Well, I'm sure Jimmy could get any horse around Prelim level. But in light of our observations about horse types successfully competing at Prelim versus Intermediate, maybe that is more what Jimmy meant. That most horses physically can do the prelim level job, but it takes special conformation (and many other things) to go higher.

Another interesting discussion is whether or not it is appropriate to compete one's horse at its capped-out level. Theoretically you are always schooling one level higher than you're showing, but at some point the horse is maxed out. Do you compete at that level or not? There's no margin for error, but they can do it. An interesting problem that one day I hope to experience.

Sunday I was back home, full of energy from watching some amazing riders, dying to get back in the saddle and to get my horse over some jumps! (We haven't jumped in a month, since I pulled his shoes.) Well it was meant to be, because as I pull in to the barn I see this:

Yes, a jump arena full of small cross-rails. 


At first Laurie had us do some flat work of course, then we started incorporating ground poles, and then the jumps. 

This lesson was brought to you by the word straight. Straight, straight, straight.

We did plenty of circles and bending lines, but we worked on keeping Hemie straight in his body on the approach and over jumps. He was very happy to be jumping again, and part of that excitement started eeking out with his hips swinging to the right and trying to catch up with his front legs! He'd have jumped sideways if I'd let him, silly boy. 

Well, to correct it involved circling to the right, swinging his hips left and out. It made a point that he can't swing his hips right. Pretty soon just a half-halt on the right rein did the trick. Then a deeper right hip bone. He's a quick learner. 

He hasn't shown any soreness since then, but to be safe and on the advice of a local eventer competing very successfully with a barefoot horse, I got some hoof hardener. 

I leave you with the cute barn cat, Journey:

Friday, February 8, 2013

Thank you, Hemie

The magical thing about horses is how they can melt away the sorrow and stress of life. These last few days have been some of the most emotionally challenging I have ever experienced - a flurry of despair and confusion and bitterness and sorrow, topped off with exhausting 12-hour work days and our whole family's stress about my sister and uncle who are about to undergo the knife for a live liver transplant. Losing Storm brings back so many emotions of losing my horse Bo several years ago. That anguish will always be in my heart.

I visited Hemie last night. I had a cry with my trainer who helped put Storm and Jessica together, and then Hemie did what horses do best - live in the moment. I'm sure he sensed my emotional state, but instead of getting antsy he was a hard working, loving boy. We had a nice dressage ride capped off with the words every student wants to hear from their trainer: "You're ready! It's time for you to go to a dressage show."

My beautiful Bohemian, thank you for being there for me.

Some people can move on faster than others. Maybe I'm slower than most. I dunno. But life has a way of marching on and taking you with it.  My family is coming to my place tonight to spend quality time together before the flights out to Pittsburgh and the liver surgery this coming week.  Plus this weekend we're moving barns which is going to be an adjustment. The new place doesn't have tack cubbies so I'm sure I'm going to have to buy some racks and trunks and other expensive things. The saddlery is having their annual mega sale, with my good friend Shadney visiting from up north. Hopefully the weekend will bring me some relief  Or at least some quality sleep.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

In Memory of Storm

Today a very special horse left us to be in a better place. Storm was Spirit's best friend, and Hemie's best bud too. I was his very proud God-mother. Please send a prayer for his human, my close friend, Jessica.
Hey lady, do you have a cookie? I am very handsome!

Head shake moment!

Workin' hard with his momma.

The Rainbow Bridge Poem

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. 

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance.
His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together...

Author Unknown

Storm was an amazing horse - handsome, charismatic, laid back yet with plenty of pep. A scopey jumper and hard working dressager. And most of all, cuddlebug and dear friend.

One of the hardest things in life is to lose your horse. It's also hard to lose to your God-horse. I miss him already, but I believe that he is resting in peace, munching on some delicious grass in the meadows at Rainbow Bridge.