Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Thanksgiving menagerie

My husband's 40th birthday was on Tuesday, and since that's a pretty major milestone, we both took the day off.  Combined with having the days off today and tomorrow, this is turning out to be a pretty light week, which is nice.  I plan to get some serious work done on my novel this weekend, as well as spend as much time as possible at the barn.

I have lots to be thankful for today, of course: my part-time job with a wonderful family, taking care of wonderful kids; being able to make (the rest of) my living via writing; a supportive husband; and of course, my two horses, two dogs, and (as of recently) three cats.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Clothes for my next horse show

I've blogged recently about how much I enjoyed my first show in September, and also about our fun trip to the trail course last month.  I'm enjoying all this kind of stuff so much that I am actually planning to start showing a little next year.

Which means I need show clothes.

I already have a pair of tan tights-style breeches that I bought over the summer for this purpose (though, embarrassingly, the ladies that worked at the tack store sold me a pair of children's XL breeches -- I didn't want to spent a lot, not knowing if I would continue showing, and they were out of the inexpensive breeches in adult sizes).  I also did get black paddock boots -- finally -- so that my boots and my half chaps would match.

I still need to get a jacket and a dressy blouse, plus probably a more casual collared top for less fancy schooling shows.  I also could stand to get a black helmet cover to cover up my pink helmet (when I bought it, all they had in my size in the style I wanted was pink).  My top, jacket, and helmet cover were all borrowed in this picture (and since my trainer is a size medium, they are a little baggy on me).

I'm a little jealous of my friends from the barn who ride Western in these schooling shows.  English show clothing looks smart, but it's also very hot to be wearing a jacket in these summertime shows.  Plus, Western wear offers a lot more ways to get creative with your outfit without breaking the show's rules.  Western riders get to ride in jeans, for one thing, which I normally ride in at home, but of course I can't at a show.  As for tops, it seems like anything long-sleeved with a collar is fine.  I've seen some really pretty Western blouses at these shows, and maybe it makes me a bit of a dork, but I love when women match their blouse to their saddle blanket!

Whether you ride English or Western, simply buying the appropriate clothing to show in can be pretty expensive, unless of course you are substituting Western street clothes for Western show clothes, or borrowing from friends.  But as much as I loved showing in September, I know I am going to want to do this more often, and therefore I've decided the investment is worth it.  My plan: to ask for some show clothes (and perhaps some nicer tack, too) for Christmas, or to use any Christmas money I get to buy what I need.

Anyone else here already decide what horse-related stuff they want for Christmas?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Panama's trip to the trail course

I almost forgot that I hadn't posted about this yet, but just before we left on our vacation, I took Panama on another away trip with a bunch of friends from the barn.  This time it wasn't to a show, though, but a trail course that one boarder's godmother has set up on her property.

Panama wasn't as well behaved as he was at the show.  There were plenty of possible reasons why -- it was a bigger group from our barn than at the show, several horses were freaking out when we arrived, and also one of his corralmates was there -- which seems to be a greater source of anxiety for him than if he travels with horses from his barn that he doesn't know as well.

Even so, he was pretty good.  He loaded onto the trailer right away in the morning, despite the fact that I put him in the second spot, so there wasn't as much room, visually, when first getting on.  In fact, we were one of the first trailers loaded and ready to go.  It was a nice -- and new -- feeling to have my horse get on at the first try, and stand there quietly while other horses fussed.  Once upon a time, the one with the horse refusing to load would have been me.

One mare -- the one having a hard time loading -- was freaking out from the minute we unloaded.  In fact, she did a backflip off the trailer -- rolled onto her back and right over her shoulder -- unloading, which was scary.  Another young horse had to be lunged for a while because he was so ramped up -- he was a maniac on the lunge line, too.  I think that atmosphere definitely contributed to Panama's initial mood, because he too was pretty fired up to begin with.

Although most people mounted their horses right away, I started out on the ground with Panama -- I just didn't trust him, as distracted as he was.  Even on the ground, he was running through me a bit at first, though the trainer that had been hired to work with us gave me a few exercises to do with him to get his focus back on me.  It helped, but it wasn't until I started actually doing the obstacles with him that he calmed down -- and, amusingly, it wasn't until I picked the hardest obstacle in the course, the noodle curtain!

It was like I had to present him with the biggest possible challenge before he actually started focusing on what he was supposed to do.  I was pretty confident, though, that I could get him to go through the curtain if I went first, because I know he trusts me.  I walked through, looked over my shoulder, and parted the curtain in the middle (the breeze was blowing it) to show him the opening.  He did come through after a moment or so, purely (I think) because he wanted to be on the same side as me, and he did it as fast as possible.  We went through it a few more times, until he did it a little more slowly and a little less panicked.

Next we did the cowboy curtain, which was a piece of cake after the plastic and pool noodles blowing in the wind.  These were just ropes hanging, no big deal, as you can see:

He figured out pretty quickly that if he walked through in my wake, he could get his nose in where I had parted the curtain.  He is one smart cookie!  And after that, we went back and did the noodle curtain one more time.  This time he was much more confident and didn't try to rush through it at all.  (He wasn't about to stand still for a photo op on that one, though.)

Amusingly, although he quickly conquered both of the two scariest obstacles on the course, it was the easier obstacles that gave us the worst time, such as the fake bridge with the red silk flowers in pots on either side -- never mind that we do real bridges on the trail all the time, and have a fake bridge at our own barn!  I think it was the fake flowers that threw him, but he was consistently like that: The easiest obstacles (and to other horses, not just in a human's opinion) were the most difficult for him.

I deemed him calmed down enough to try riding him, and saddled him up in time to join the group photo on horseback.

And yes, I was the only person there riding in an English saddle.  I was told how "brave" I was once or twice, which amused me, because they said it in the same tone that they would say "crazy."

Panama got a little distracted again once I was in the saddle, so I wasn't as brave with the obstacles as I had been from the ground.  We crossed ground poles and tie rails, but didn't attempt any of the bridges or the curtains on horseback.  I also found that I had to keep him moving: If we stood still for any amount of time, he started getting distracted and antsy.

Our big accomplishment on horseback was jumping a big log with a tire on either end.  I initially intended to walk him over it, but he stopped and wouldn't step over it.  I suspected he wanted to jump it, so I circled him around and pointed him at the log again.  He started to trot, so I let him, and sure enough, he jumped the log!  He hesitated ever so slightly before the jump, though, which made me think he wasn't going to do it, and resulted in me getting a little left behind.  So we did it again, with much better results the second time.

Pretty soon it was lunch time, so I untacked Panama and tied him up at the trailer to enjoy a little lunch himself.  A lot of people mounted back up again after lunch, but I decided I had had enough excitement and challenge for the day, although in the afternoon we did work on a few of the obstacles we had missed in the morning, just from the ground again.  And soon after, it was time to go.

It was a great day, despite the rough start.  I am really enjoying taking Panama places with my friends from the barn, and hope there will be a lot more shows and other "pony road trips" to look forward to next year!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

A few quick updates

We returned from vacation a week and a half ago, just in time for me to plunge headlong into NaNoWriMo, the novel writing challenge I do every November.  Well, technically I am behind on that, too -- not just my blogs and my work -- because I promptly got sick as soon as we got back.  And once I was better, I started spending the majority of my free time (which wasn't much, with my nanny and babysitting work last weekend) at the barn.

I was delighted to find that all of the work I'd done with Panama before I left, getting him to be more responsive to the bit, hadn't gone to waste: Even after not having been ridden for almost two weeks, he still remembered all of it!  Usually he "forgets" everything if I don't ride him for a couple of weeks, and I have to spend our first ride or two reinforcing basic rules such as letting me steer and not cutting corners in the arena.  Not the case at all this time!  I've been riding much more frequently since summer ended (and with it my crazy schedule), and clearly that extra work has paid off.

I'm not really riding Rondo yet, though my trainer is riding him once a week.  He has been an ordeal this summer, through no fault of his own.  Eventually I will bring myself to write about it.  Right now, he is under saddle but still full of baby shenanigans, and I just don't feel comfortable dealing with it by myself just yet.  I am going to start out by just riding him while my trainer is present, until I've gained a little more confidence in him.

The kitten, whom we've named Izzy or Isabel, is growing like a weed, and is happy and healthy.  We are still keeping her separated from the other pets for the most part, although she is allowed supervised playtime now with our male cat (who is only 3 and still playful -- the other cat, an older female, isn't interested) and, occasionally, the dogs.  Her mom (we assume) has been spotted at the barn from time to time since we caught Izzy, but so far we haven't had any luck catching her, too.

All is well, in other words, even though I've been really busy -- too busy to update my blog much, and even sometimes too busy to ride as often as I would like, though lately riding is the last thing to be sacrificed!