Monday, April 29, 2013

Derby Recap with video

First, a quick recap of the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event for our California riders and then on to mine and Hemie's derby recap from Sunday!

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Gin & Juice
Photo from
Kristi Nunnink, Hawley Bennett-Awad, and James Alliston did an admirable job representing west coast riders at this world-renowned event, with 2 pairs placing in the top 10! The competition has 3 phases in this order: dressage, cross-country, and stadium jumping. The horses also have to pass inspections before dressage and stadium. Each pair gets a score for each of the 3 phases, then the combined total determines the final placings.

Hawley Bennett-Awad with Gin & Juice
Dressage: 59.8. Cross country: No jump faults, 0.4 time faults. Stadium: double-clear. Final placing: 7th!!

Kristi Nunnink with R-star
Dressage: 55.3. Cross country: No jump faults, 4.4 time faults. Stadium: 4 jump faults, no time faults. Final placing: 8th!!

James Alliston with Parker
Dressage: 66.2. Cross country: double-clear. Stadium: 4 jump faults, no time faults. Final placing: 14th.
Kristi Nunnink and R-star
Photo from

James Alliston with Jumbo's Jake
Dressage: 51.5. Cross country: No jump faults, 24.4 time faults. Stadium: 8 jump faults, no time faults. Final placing: 23rd.

James Alliston with Tivoli
Dressage: 49.5. Cross country: No jump faults, 7.6 time faults. 2nd horse inspection - eliminated.

Go west coast eventing!! For a fabulous review of Rolex check out this comprehensive recap from Eventing Nation!

And now, on to mine and Hemie's derby recap from yesterday!

My goal for the event was to simply perform better than last time. My wish was to not come in last place.

Goal was met. Wish was not. But I'm feeling great about our performance and excited to get out there and do it again soon!

Ironically, by all objective and technical measures we did not perform better than last time. My dressage score was worse than last time's, and we were eliminated in the jumping from exceeding the time limit. But I feel better about our performance and improvement in both phases.

To cut to the chase, here's the video of our jumping round. Like last time, we did the "Easy Beginner Novice" division with jumps up to 2'3".

So, we had 2 refusals this round as compared to 1 the last time. And we got eliminated by exceeding the time limit whereas we just had time faults last time. So why do I feel this round was improved? One word: forward. We cantered the majority of the round and overall had more oomph as compared to last time. Its still not nearly as much forward as is needed, nor as much as we have at home, but its coming along at shows...slowly but surely.

Understandably, by jump #3 I was pretty rattled. My thought heading to jump #4 was a simple wish to get through the course. I'm so pleased that we did. I'm proud of myself for not letting those two refusals dictate the rest of our course. And I'm proud of Hemie for being brave. I think overall he had fun out there.

Two other gals from my barn competed as well, and in fact they both were in the ribbons! S.B got 2nd place in the Intro division, and K.K. won 1st place in Training.  Here she is on her horse Georgio Armani ("George") showing how it's done. These jumps are up to 3'3".

It is wonderful to watch talented riders on safe, game horses. Fortunately and unfortunately, local shows like this are an opportunity to watch how not to ride. We saw some dangerous riding and strung-out horses, including being ridden by trainers. Reflecting on my ability to safely address issues on course, and in light of the safe and positive performances of the other gals in training with Laurie, I am thankful to be in training with someone who focuses on quality rather than ribbons.

Next post will recap our Dressage phase.

Friday, April 26, 2013

ROLEX - California Edition

The Rolex Kentucky 3 Day Event is happening right now at the beautiful Kentucky Horse Park. This is the only CCI**** (four star) competition in the United States - the highest international competition level in the sport of eventing.

There's lots of great information on the web about the course, the riders, the horses, the owners, the grooms, the facility, et cetera, especially at Eventing Nation and Horse Junkies United in addition to personal and barn blogs. But what I would like to showcase are the 3 riders who hail from California. I've been privileged to see all 3 of these riders compete (and a few of the others competing at Rolex this year) and as a Californian eventer I'm proud of them for representing the west coast at the nation's most challenging competition.

Firstly, I find it absolutely fascinating to learn that the entry fee to compete at Rolex is only $100. Yep, $100. That's about one-third of "typical" west coast entry fees. Stabling is an additional $140, but that is for a full week! Check out the official omnibus listing for the event here.

Top 5 Interesting Facts On California Riders at Rolex
  1. The female riders are riding mares, while the male rider is riding geldings.
  2. 2 of the 3 riders do not represent USA at international competitions.
  3. All 3 of the riders and 4 of the 5 horses have competed previously at Rolex (Tivoli is making his Rolex debut).
  4. Between the 5 horses, 3 are USA-bred and 2 are imports.
  5. Between the 5 horses, there are 3 bays, 1 chestnut, and 1 grey. 

On to the 4-star riders from California. Ladies first.

Photo from
Kristi Nunnink 
USEA Rider Profile
Rolex Competitor Profile
Facebook Page

Kristi of Kristi Nunnink Eventing/Next Star Farm in Auburn, northern California, has been at the top of the sport for many years. The most notable recent accomplishment aboard R-STAR was their 2012 win at the CIC3* at the Event at Rebecca Farm. This is the pair's 4th time competing at Rolex - they've competed each year starting 2010. Her mount, R-Star, is a beautiful grey Holsteiner mare, born in the US in 2001. She is owned by Kristi. She stands at 16.2 h.h. and is a thick powerhouse of a horse, but lovely to watch - she makes it look effortless.
Photo from Kristi's Facebook page. Kristi and R-star competing at Rolex in 2012.

Hawley Bennett-Awad
Photo from Associated Press
USEA Rider Profile
Rolex Competitor Profile
Facebook Page

Hawley hails from Temecula in Southern California. She trains out of Kingsway Farm which is literally across the street from the Galway Downs facility. Though she lives and works in the US, she is Canadian and competes for the Canadian international team. She proudly represented the west coast internationally by competing at the 2012 London Olympic games, where she unfortunately had a fall and was hospitalized. She made a surprisingly quick and full recovery, and won 3 different CIC3* competitions in March of this year! I've had the privilege to watch her ride several times; I was struck by her safe, defensive position and clear verbal communication with her horses. This is her third time competing at Rolex, and 2nd time aboard Gin & Juice, a small but mighty Thoroughbred mare co-owned by Hawley and Linda Paine. Ginny was born in the USA in 2000 and is 15.3 h.h. Both Hawley and Ginny are darlings of the west coast eventing scene - both are cute and friendly and great competitors. 
Photo by Michelle Dunn, from

Photo from

James Alliston
USEA Rider Profile
Rolex Competitor Profiles, one for each mount: Parker, Tivoli, Jumbo's Jake
Facebook Page

James Alliston has been competing more horses than you can shake a stick at! The young man (he's my age - 26!) is based out of Castro Valley in Northern California, originally from the United Kingdom and representing Great Britain at international competitions. He cleans up regularly at competitions, amazingly able to show 3 to 5 mounts at events. For example, at the March Galway Downs event he placed both 2nd and 3rd in the Advanced division, and both 2nd and 4th in the CIC3* division. He's quite tall, and from watching him ride I found him to be a particularly quiet, focused rider.  With three mounts at Rolex he's got numbers to his advantage. All three of his rides are geldings, and consistently place very well. Jumbo's Jake and Parker have competed at Rolex before, though it will be Tivoli's first time at this competition.
Photo from

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Poop Post...A Foray into Fecals...Oh Sh!t...

I couldn't decide what post title would be best. I'll let you decide.

Horseman's Lab Fecal Kit
Image from
Following a disturbing worm situation at the end of last year, I signed up for a mail-order fecal testing service through They send you a fecal test kit every 3 months, you send them back the sample, and they email you the results within a week with hard copy to follow by mail along with another sample kit if your horse tested positive.

The idea is that you only worm your horse when he needs it, which (a) reduces intolerance buildup in parasites and (b) may be healthier for your horse, since dewormers are basically toxins.

So I tested Hemie last week, and got the test results Tuesday morning. He is positive for strongyles at 100 eggs/gm, and positive for roundworms at <100 eggs/gm. The recommended protocol is to worm if strongyles test at 200 eggs/gm or higher, or if there is any positive testing for round worms, tape worms, or pin worms. So, someone's going to be getting a mouthful of goop very soon!

Roundworms are normally found in foals, not in mature horses. This is concerning, as it might indicate that Hemie has a compromised immune system, or that this particular strain of roundworms has adapted to survive in mature horses. In any case, thank goodness Dr. Byrd of Horsemen's Lab is available to answer questions and give feedback about wormers to use. I'm going to give Hemie one application of double-dose fenbendazole from the Safe-Guard Power Dose set I bought last year but ended up not using. And in 3 weeks time I'll send in another fecal sample so we can make sure everything got taken care of.

I have to say that while I dallied for months before signing up for the automatic mail-order fecal-testing kits (and unfortunately it took a wormy situation before I pulled the trigger and signed up), I am very pleased with the service and intend on using it for the foreseeable future. I used to think that it was cheaper just to worm, since the cost of a fecal test is about the same as a cost of a wormer. But the truth is that paying for the knowledge of his worm situation really is worth it. Peace of mind is worth $15.

On a very completely separate topic...

to Lauren of She Moved to Texas! She just had a fabulous contest on her blog to win a ShowSheen Try-Pak (4 oz samplers of 3 product), and I'm so excited to be one of the winners. Thank you!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Miss Pix

This is Pixie Dust, an 8 year old Rhineland/TB mare. Big, bold, and beautiful.

Pixie on the left, Hemie on the right.

She is Hemie's girlfriend. They've been friends and neighbors for a year, and even got to play together in the turnout many times. She's a sassy momma but a lovely and talented horse.

Unfortunately she hurt herself a few months ago, possibly from trying to kick out at Hemie when they were next door neighbors in pipe corrals, potentially getting a leg stuck over or in a fence for some unknown amount of time. It was a very unusual lameness issue that ultimately turned out to be a very small bone fracture in the hip where a tiny piece of bone flaked off and the surrounding muscles and tissues are sore. 

The vets at Alamo Pintado prescribed 4 months of stall rest followed by 2 months of hand-walking followed by very gradual increase back into work. They predict a full recovery, but allow for the possibility that there might be an issue jumping. Pixie is in her 2nd month of stall rest, I believe. 

Sadly, due to life/family circumstances, her owner J.D. has been looking for a new home for Pixie. Its a very challenging time to re-home a horse. If she was fully sound I'm sure J.D. could sell her for a pretty penny, being such a lovely warmblood with several months of full training under her belt, going BN successfully and schooling N/T. Even if she won't make a full recovery to jumping, she's a heck of a mover and has scored well in dressage.

This coming Saturday she is being taken to Thoroughbred Rehab Center, Inc. which is the organization through which I adopted Bohemian. They will be taking over all responsibility for the horse and will be finding her a new home either during or after her recovery and rehab. They specialize in advanced recovery therapies for ex-racehorses.   

If you are looking for a new horse, or know someone who is, then I hope you will contact me for more info about Miss Pix. She's a good mare who will make someone a very loving mount. Judges adore her, and in terms of value she's at a steal of a bargain right now. Warmblood + pretty + training = $$$. If board wasn't so expensive and if I had just wee bit more time, I'd seriously consider her as a resale project. Just get her through rehab (slowly and safely of course) and then to a few dressage shows, then sell her to a great home.

My blog post title is a double-entendre. I call her Miss Pix but I also am going to miss Pix when she is gone. 
Bye bye and best wishes, pretty girl. Hope you end up in a wonderful home.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Camera Cars (link to post)

Not quite sure how I messed up the blogging situation, but I think I hit publish instead of save, and then unpublish, then publish again later...

Anywho, my most recent post can be found by clicking here. Exciting stuff about Hemie's former job as a TV star. =)

BTW there's a contest over at She Moved to Texas  that you should check out!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Elvenstar Hunter Show AKA The Braiding Disaster

About a week ago I found out that 2 newish clients of Laurie's were headed to a local hunter show, and I looked into tagging along. It's good practice for both of us to go to a new place, and conveniently the show facility is right next door.

As in literally, we share a fence. Perfect!

But wouldn't you know it, there are no gates. There is one gate from another neighbor's property, but there's a brick wall on the other we had to trailer over. Yep, we trailed to next door. I felt like Steve Martin in LA Story.

Anyways, I decided that this weekend was as good a time as any to try braiding Hemie. I've never braided him, and I thought it would look good on him. I decided to braid the day before in order to preserve my show morning sanity. Let's just say it didn't work out.

He was a pretty good sport, but was annoyed at bugs.
Here we are halfway through.

So handsome! Even with my pitiful excuses for braids!

Next morning - day of show. Braids did NOT hold.
Apparently Hemie either rubbed or slept on his neck. I tried salvaging them, but it was for naught. Laurie took one look at them and said they were beyond saving. We ended up pulling them out.

Which leaves me in a conundrum for future braiding (including this coming weekend!) I try again the day before but just spend more time/effort/energy/hairspray to help them be more secure, or do I wake up crack of dawn and braid on show-day?

Anyway, on to the show! It was held at the well known Elvenstar Stables in Moorpark.

They have 2 show rings, with the upper ring being for higher levels and the lower right (ring #2) for the lower levels.
"Ring #2" - Lovely hunter ring.
The footing at the facility arenas was really cool.

Close up: powdery sand and scraps of fabric? Paper?
According to the website, its ESI All Weather footing - a blend of sand with "geo felt & special fibers." I loved it.

The day started off as a bit of a cluster. As I pulled in to the barn to longe and groom Hemie, I got a call from the show secretary telling me my classes were going and asking if I was on site since I hadn't checked in. Ha! I wasn't even going to be picked up for another 45 minutes or so, so I said I would probably need to scratch those classes (2') and enter the 2'3" instead.

As soon as we got to the facility, one of the barn moms graciously signed me in and said that I could still make the 2' classes if I got on ASAP and headed to the arena. I decided that I was not going to rush or stress, and if we missed the classes then so be it. I'd rather take our time and ensure a positive experience for Hemie. Plus I knew we could handle the 2'3" without issue.

Unfortunately there's no shots of us doing our best hunter impression. Oh well.

Laurie warmed up Hemie because he was acting quite bright eyed and bushy-tailed, but there were no major freak-outs. Just his normal issues exacerbated by the stress of being in a new place.  After her ride she was hesitant about him being able to go in the hunter ring, saying he wasn't broke enough. To be honest I was floored when she said this. But I think she was just a little tired (she had just come back from a 3 day trip out of state) and not thinking clearly since we've done several shows before and are doing a derby next weekend. If my horse isn't broke enough for a 2' hunter warm-up class then we have major problems.

Anyway, she came to, and I took him into a 2' warm up class (they graciously let me do this even though the division had ended) and then the 2'3" warm up class a little bit later. We called it a day without actually entering any judged rounds, but that was fine. Due to the hurry-up-and-wait situation at these levels of shows, I was actually up on Hemie's back for probably 2 hours. He was a very willing and brave mount in both our classes, and we cantered through the entire 2nd round, very fluid and forward. I came out smiling from ear to ear and it was overall a great day. I would go back to that show again in a heartbeat.

The two gals who I went with are young girls (like 12 and 8 or something), and their moms brought a groom. I was informed (note: not asked) that he would be helping with my horse for a tip. It was one of those socially awkward situations where trying to explain that I didn't need or want (read: didn't want to pay for) a groom wasn't going to fly, so I just bit my tongue and started worrying that this show was going to be more costly than I had thought.

But let me tell you: having a groom was awesome! He not only groomed Hemie to a gorgeous shine, but tacked him up, led him around, wiped my boots, wiped Hemie's hooves, brought both of us water, helped calm him down, helped un-tack and groom, and was just overall friendly and pleasant and helpful beyond belief. A girl could get used to that! I tipped him handsomely. Don't you love it when you stress about something and it turns out to be fabulous?

After our 2 rounds, I took Hemie back to the trailer. He was the only horse tied up there, and for some reason he was acting like a dork - hollering and pacing around, not eating his hay. He's been tied before, all by himself, without issue. At one point he got his lead rope stuck on a part of the trailer, but he just stood there like a good boy until I came to release it. At least he's still smart when he's acting like a dweeb. He settled down as soon as the other horses came back to the trailer.

Being a dweeb at the trailer.
Laurie and cute little Walden showing off Tori and Honor's reserve champion ribbon.
Honor, Mocha pony, and Hemie chillin at the trailer. With Fermie the amazing groom.
Hemie in the trailer heading home. He is looking back at me.
Overall it was a fabulous outing. The Elvenstar managers were very pleasant and accommodating. All the kids and parents were friendly and low-key. The girls I rode with and their moms were welcoming and friendly, and most importantly it was a safe environment.

Okay, one more story from the day. Most of the 2 hours I spent in the saddle were walking around inside the warm-up arena. Hemie did not really want to stand in one place for very long - he got fidgety. Anyway, when the divisions changed from 2' to pony division, a mass of children and ponies flooded the warm up arena. They were going every which way, and looked so darn cute with their pigtail braids and fuzzy coats! Hemie was a champ navigating the warm-up craziness. At one point a young girl was walking next to me and in all seriousness asked me if I was competing for the pony medal championship. I said no, that I would be doing the 2'3" (which apparently is called "Intermediate") - and she very formally wished me luck. :)

I have to say I do love competing with small children; they remind me that horse-riding is about reconnecting with your inner child and having fun.Which I certainly did.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Camera Cars

Firstly, there's an easy and fabulous contest going on at She Moved to Texas so check it out to enter to win some ShowSheen!

Fairly soon after I adopted Hemie, I was invited to join a Facebook group started by a friend-of-a-friend who also adopted a horse from the HBO TV series Luck. I joined it and for the first few months it was mostly just gals like myself sharing pictures and stories about retraining their Luck horses for new careers.

But then I noticed some exciting activity going on - people from the TV show's production crew were now a part of the group and offering some insight on some of our equine stars!  Allow me to share:

Squeeee!! So cool!! No wonder he handles things so well.

Here's a photo of another Luck horse, Monty, with the camera car.

I admit that I haven't actually watched any of the show, but I think I should especially to see if I can pick out my horse in the last two episodes.

Cute aside: right after we got Hemie, my husband went on youtube and found a racing clip from Luck. "There's Bohemian!" he said, pointing to the token bay in the racing scene (they've got a black, a chestnut, a grey, a liver...). They have leg wraps and eye blinkers on, not to mention some of them are painted to match other horses. I had no idea if that horse was Hemie or not. I tried to explain this to Rick but...well, you know how horse husbands are.

OOooh, stretch DOWN into transitions!

Our evening dressage lesson this week brought an aha! moment: encouraging a downwards stretch before asking for *any* gait transition.

In lessons we have asked Hemie to stretch down while in the trot before asking for the upward transition to the canter, but for some reason I never asked for this in the other gait transitions, upwards or downwards. This past lesson, Laurie had me ask for stretch before every transition - including downwards from canter to trot, which is when the light bulb turned on. It resulted in a lovely floaty and uphill canter with his back way up while his his head stretched down.

This is definitely related to my increasing ability to maintain a connection at all times. The key has been to stop thinking of contact as all-or-nothing, of either having it or not having it. Rather, the idea is always having it but to differing degrees - such as light, medium, or heavy. But more like having a long scale that ranges from 1/2 lb of pressure to arms-falling-off-pressure. 

We have been working on Hemie's throughness: coming forward into the bit and maintaining a good contact while not backing off impulsion-wise. Once we have a good forward feeling and are well connected to the outside rein, we ask for him to stretch down and offer some shape and lift his back. As Hemie gains better control and body coordination he has been more and more able to stretch his head and lift his back on top of everything else (steering and keeping body straight and such). He loves to lift his back so this has actually been improving quite dramatically lately.

Images from article at US Eventing:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Equestrian Bucket List

This post has been inspired by bucket list posts at  Viva Carlos, She Moved to Texas, and The Roany Pony.

Childhood Bucket List
When I was younger and doing saddle seat, my ultimate goal was to compete at the American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA) World's Championship Horse Show which takes place at the Kentucky State Fair every year in Louisville, KY. This is the penultimate Saddlebred competition in the world. I had the privilege to attend and watch some years back with my mom, and it is by far the biggest and coolest horse show I've ever been to. Here's a video giving you a glimpse of the excitement of stake night:

To be honest I don't know if showing there is still something that is on my life's list or not. I love saddlebreds and I can still appreciate many aspects of saddleseat, but clearly my horsey life has taken a different direction.

Debbie Rosen & The Alchemyst at Rolex

Travel & Experiences

1. Go to Kentucky to watch the Rolex 3 Day Event live in person!

2. Take a full-fledged horsey vacation - pack riding through the rocky mountains, or a dressage intensive in Europe, or the Irish bed-and-breakfast rides.

3. Shop for a horse (all my horses have come to me in one way or another - I've never actually shopped for my own horse before).

4. Own a foal, and raise it.

Training & Showing

1. Compete at Twin Rivers in Paso Robles. A lovely facility.

Twin Rivers Ranch
2. Take a Jimmy Wofford clinic.

3. Finish a HT on my dressage score.

4. Finish a HT on a good dressage score.

5. Compete a full or partial saddlebred in eventing.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Self-performed farriery

Oh boy, I'm headed into very controversial territory here! It is a sister to the barefoot-vs-shod hot-button topic: the concept of self-performed farriery.

Let me preface by saying that whether or not you agree or disagree with my ideas and approaches, you are welcome to share your thoughts if you feel comfortable doing so! Comments are ALWAYS welcome. =)

If you asked me a month ago if I would do any sort of farrier work to my own horses, I would have been like
Skeptical Baby

And yet...last week I purchased a rasp. It is a Red Tang farrier rasp, double sided, with a wooden handle.
Large tooth side

Fine tooth side

A local gal here in the West Coast eventing scene successfully competes her horse barefoot, doing half-star training level. And when I say successful, I mean in the ribbons regularly, getting year-end awards consistently, and regarded highly by her peers and trainers alike. Like me, she isn't a die-hard barefoot freak - she is an intelligent woman giving barefoot a solid chance because of its benefits. She has been kind enough to share some of her experiences and methods with me, and in fact just the other week I got to meet her and her horse in person to see how she does "touch up" in between barefoot trims. Her horse's hooves were the most gorgeous, well-angled, well-formed, well-textured hooves I'd ever seen. Clearly she is doing something right (in combo with her horse having great genes, I suspect).

After that experience, I was able to look at his hooves with fresh eyes and compare them to these amazing hooves. Hemie's have a long way to go, and I need to do what I can to help them along.

Hemie's back hooves look better than his fronts, which is not surprising since they haven't had shoes in 1 year whereas the fronts have been barefoot for only 4 months. His right front is looking the worst of the group, due to significant chipping and uneven wear. You can see vertical as well as horizontal striping, and a small chunk missing on the inside from where chips broke off. The left front has a more rounded toe, and less chipping, but visible striation.

For the last week I've been applying the Keratex hoof hardener, and trying my hand at touch up rasping. The idea is to address small chips to prevent them from becoming larger ones. Like anything else, this is a physical task which takes practice to develop skills.  IE, I don't think I'm doing a great job at it yet, but you gotta practice to get there!

After a light rasping. Dark spots show where I rasped.

After applying the Keratex.
As to the bottom of the hooves, it is interesting to note how soft or hard they look and feel before versus after a ride.
Left front, after riding.
Left front, after hoof-picking before tacking up to ride.

Luckily Hemie has been very patient and tolerant of his mommy's shenanigans. He calmly lets me fuss with his feet for 5 times longer than I ever used to each day. Good pony.

Training update

Entries have been sent for the April 28th derby at the Meadows of Moorpark. My goal is simple: perform better than last time!

Seriously I love this diagram.
In our training we are working on the magical combination of connection and impulsion. Since Hemie showed us early on that he gets stuck in place when frustrated or overwhelmed, our training has always focused on forward. (Ironic for an ex-racehorse, no?)  Slowly but surely we've been adding rein contact, to the point now where we can do a full ride with some level of connection.

Currently we are focusing on making sure Hemie does not slow his pace or decrease energy when increasing rein contact. Likewise, we are working on adding leg to get more connection to the bit and increased energy without going faster or doing an upward transition. Understandably, this is a hard concept for an OTTB (or any green horse) to understand. And since I have minimal experience riding horses who know how to do this, its been challenging for me as a rider to cue properly. I gotta make sure I give clear aids, at exactly the right time, to let Hemie know what we want.

I've been focusing on a few main things in my practice rides lately:
  • Jumping form: keeping a rock solid lower leg with no swinging.
  • Dressage position: sitting back on my pockets more and having better upper body posture so I can use my core rather than shoulders.
  • Solid outside rein contact, especially on the left.
  • Maintaining good impulsion and good connection at all times, even when tootling around bareback, and most especially when Hemie is thinking about spooking. Forward to the hand!
I regularly include stirrupless riding in my dressage saddle, but I haven't been doing it in my jump saddle. I know in my gut that I should, and that it would help with my lower leg.

Back to our upcoming show, it is taking place on my and Hemie's 1-year adoption anniversary. Seems like such a long time, yet so short too!

Another wish I have for the show (I'm not calling it a goal on purpose) is to not come in last place. As I've explained to the hubby, if I perform my best at a show, and it just so happens to be not as good as the other competitors doing their best, then that is 100% fine and I will be proud to have performed the best I could. But, still, it is a competition. Everyone is going for the blue ribbon every time. Blues may be unrealistic for us at this point, but not last sounds like it could be achievable. =]

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Honesty and Horsemanship

If you haven't yet read it, I encourage you to check out the Honesty and Horsemanship post over at SprinklerBandits blog. It struck a real nerve with me, and I've been thinking about it for several weeks now.

I grew up believing that all horse behavior problems stemmed from the human side of the equation. Rider error, training mistakes, improper ground handling, even a lack of adequate vet or farrier care - all to blame on humans, not the horse.

But horses have personalities. They have preferences. They enjoy some activities over other ones, just as they enjoy some foods over others and some people over others. And I think that in order to have long term success in any discipline, the horse has to not only be willing but truly enjoy it. We call this heart.

There is a reason that Jimmy Wofford and many other respected trainers and horseman, including some of my favorite bloggers, advocate for people new to eventing get a horse that is experienced and dependable. Especially since part of the sport involves jumping over solid obstacles, it makes sense that one of the two of you (horse and rider) should have done this before. Its a common sense approach which addresses concerns of safety, confidence, and skill-development.

But that is not the path I took. My first several years doing eventing was green-on-green with the beautiful Spirit.

A fun day with Spirit at a local ETI show - August 2011

One year ago, I gave "notice" to Spirit's owner, saying that I was going to be adopting a Luck horse and therefore would not be continuing on with Spirit. It was a hard decision to make, and a hard conversation to have. There were many factors that went into it, of course, but a large one is the fact that Spirit and I were not able to have successful XC schoolings for a year. I think Spirit's heart was not in it. I had tried my hardest to improve as a rider, and even paid for training rides in addition to lessons, but we simply were not able to get around safely and have real progress in that area.

So, did I go out and get a safe, dependable, experienced eventing mount?

No.  I got a fresh-off-the-racetrack thoroughbred with zero dressage or jumping training, let alone any cross country experience.

Now it just so happens that my lucky gamble has been paying off. Hemie is a careful yet willing mount who (so far) enjoys jumping and cross country. And I am very much enjoying the journey with him.


But I rationally acknowledge that it was quite a gamble to take, and the intellectual, analytical part of me says that if I had to do it all over again, or if life circumstances change, I would try to get a packer.

Now, I've been riding my whole life, and have helped do some training and re-training of several horses over the years. I'm not afraid of a challenge. I consider myself well-endowed in the cahones department and feel good about my ability to stay on. But I have finally come to a point in my life where I recognize that I could enjoy not having the challenge. I would enjoy the increased level of confidence and security that comes with a horse that has been there, done that.

Playful Hemie
And its okay to feel that way. No matter how much experience you have or what your skills are, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that the best horse for you might not be that young, untrained horse full of potential. It might be that older, more experienced horse who can show you a good time.

I don't plan on changing my horsey situation. I love Hemie and we are both having fun together. We are working towards our goals, but more importantly - I am fully okay with where we are in the journey. I'm not in a rush to get to any particular level or to any particular event. I'm simply enjoying the process and trying to stay safe.

By the way, this past weekend Spirit did a gymkhana and a local horse show, and brought home some ribbons for her new rider. I'm very happy that Spirit is doing great, and wish her all the best. She will always have a place in my heart. 

Photos from Facebook.

Monday, April 8, 2013

First bareback jump

 This weekend brought some much needed r&r.  Saturday we did an XC schooling at the Meadows and it was a great outing. Hemie's right drift issue came up multiple times, which was good because it gave me practice addressing it (LEFT rein! right leg! turn left if you have to!). He didn't get overly frustrated or dramatic which is nice because means both of us are working on this issue as a team.We had a lot of fun, and even did our very first jump going solidly downhill. Hemie and I stayed balanced and uphill. :)

Sunday I went out the barn just to do a quick visit, applying the Keratex hoof hardener (you apply every day for the first week). It was a lovely day and I decided to do a little bareback ride. Hemie was a great sport, and we cruised around the facility while working on him being forward into my hand.

The jumps in the upper arena were set super low, so I decided to hang in there for a bit and have a conversation with my guts about bareback jumping. We went for it:

 For the last week or so, we've added a new piece of tack to our jumping rides - a neck strap. It was recommended to me by a very successful local eventer, and it sure has come in handy a few times.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

5 Barn Things

This has been a very challenging week for me - work wise, emotionally, and mentally.  But thank goodness for horses and for this blog, where I feel more compelled to dwell on fun, positive things than on the negative.

So, inspired by several of Karen's posts at Bakersfield Dressage, here are my 5 barn things:

Sparkly pink crop - used to be my "show" crop, but I've since gained a modicum of traditionalist views...and a gelding! Now it's my schooling whip and I save the black one for shows. Super easy to find if I accidentally leave it out in the ring!

Bucket in a Bucket - Sometimes you need a bucket, and you don't want to have to empty a bunch of stuff out of it to use it. By storing my small bath bucket in a larger empty bucket, I don't take up valuable space with an empty bucket, yet have a large bucket readily available.

White Vinegar - I use it to clean out feed tub, grain buckets, water buckets, and mixing spoons. I don't dilute it - I just spray it on things full strength, then add water and either scrub or hose off. Its a powerful cleaning and antibacterial agent, yet completely non-toxic of course.

Oster brush - It is one of the mysteries of the universe as to why this brush works so much better than regular hair brushes. It doesn't look especially high-tech, but I swear it brushes through tangles quickly, adds volume, and does not rip hair out!

Hair Moisturizer by Healthy HairCare - Though its name is quite generic, the product is not. I've been spritzing Hemie's body 2 or 3 times a week and generously coating the tail. It works great as a detangler which is helping his tail grow out, but it's also a nice coat conditioner making the hair feel softer and look shinier. You dilute it quite a bit - one part moisturizer to 8 parts water, so this little bottle lasts a while!

A bonus thing is in several of the above photos - pink electrical tape! I have pink electrical tape on pretty much all of my barn stuff. It helps me keep track of stuff that is mine and helps reduce my things going missing.