Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year in review 2011

2011 has been a phenomenal year for Moose Tracks. I love looking back and reminiscing...and look forward to 2012!

In summation we camped, we did clinics, competed a little bit and with the help of hock injections and fabulous instruction improved a bit. 2011 brought many new friends that I am thankful for. It sadly did not bring a saddle that truly fits or a balanced, collected canter-hopefully 2012 will bring that. 2011 also concludes my first year in the blog-o-sphere...I hope to improve that in 2012 as well.

I started this blog as informal practice as I will be creating a blog for work. So far it has been fun and at times cathartic. My first post told the story of how I acquired Moose.

July was all about Come Again Farm Event camp. From food to fun and new friends-not to mention the valuable lessons learned- my July posts chronicle the event camp adventure. 2012 CAF event camp is definitely a must for Moose and I!

No posts in August :(. Bad blogger! So I have no idea what we did but am quite sure I was riding and Moose was eating and "eeyoreing" around!

Only 2 measly posts in September but at least I have something posted.
Moose's canter was still an in we did not have one at all. So off to the vet we went. Though he was technically sound we did stifle and hock injections.While this was no magic bullet it did finally allow us to start to improve...the canter is finally coming!

October was a great, great month for us. With Moose freshly lubed we tackled the Come Again Farm Horse Trials at starter level -daring to canter in public. He did really well finishing in 3rd!

October also found us traveling for the first time to BeaHive Ranch (I hope to go back in 2012-what a special place and rockin' people!). We rode again with Peter Atkins and continued to improve under his tutelage -even jumping a few training level cross country fences. I am still so proud of my horse-what a generous sort he is! If it was possible to make that experience more special my clinic report being published by Eventing Nation did just that!

In November I posted about my ongoing saddle drama (STILL ongoing) as well as our visit to the grand opening of Dove Saddlery in IL. I also gave time to give thanks to the many that have helped me along the way and also wrote a bit about my experiences being a working student. I don't think I wrote that particular post intent was to relay that truly anything is possible if you are willing to make the choices to lead you there...and that these choices are often difficult and uncomfortable...but in the end it is up to you.

uh-oh. Looks like this is THE post for December. Perhaps my New Year's resolution should be to blog?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Seasonal Affective Disorder=SAD its winter!

The first Sunday of November marks the time/ riding change where I find my self banished to the indoor redneck engineered tractor shed until March.

the 50X120' winter prison

While I am lucky to have an "indoor" of sorts the sheer effort and time required each evening (watering, raking,etc) to prepare for my ride makes it easy to sit on the couch with my hound and a book. It takes every ounce of motivation to grab the hose and rake, scrape the mud of the Moose and go for ride. It is especially a let down after such a wonderful year. But I guess that is /must be my motivator! To 1. not lose ground on what we have accomplished and 2. try to improve a little while confined to 50X120'

Riding in such a small space is not conducive to free-styling exploits (where Moose and I excel!). Our winter grind routine so far is this:
  • Walk 10 minutes
  • Leg yield head to wall & tail to wall each way
  • Tracking left haunches-in and shoulder-in at walk
  • Tracking right more head to the wall leg yielding (no haunches in this direction yet) and shoulder-in at walk
  • Trot a few loops then circles at each end
  • Leg yield quarterline to wall as well as head to wall & tail to wall at trot
  • Trot tracking left is ridden 90% of the time with a counter bend
  • Trot work tracking right is always ridden shoulder-fore (Moose's weak side)
  • A few canter circles -Moose finds this difficult in such a small space...but it is better than last year where any attempt to canter in the indoor resembled toads wild ride amiss a dessert sand storm!
  • Interspersed are plenty of walk breaks
  • We end with a few trot-canter and walk-canter transitions

Goals for the winter
  1. To not be so fat. I need to stay get in shape. Blah.
  2. Develop haunches in at walk tracking left
  3. Improve canter
  4. And finally -I hope -the big goal- is to be balanced enough to counter-canter inside!
As I write this I am looking at this:
Mommy peeese stay inside

But riding beckons. And I have a date with the exercise bike. I hate winter.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks

It is the season for giving thanks. I have a lot of thanks to give. I have been so fortunate in my life. We all lament –someone always has a better horse, fancier tack, more money. Why oh why can’t that be me? I am as guilty as anyone in having these thoughts…but when I stop and think it is the people that are most important and I have been surrounded by the best.

My family –Not.Into.Horses.At.All.  But yet they were there.
Traveling 4+ hours to watch me ride for 5 minutes in a horse show. They sacrificed their time and their money for me without complaint. I did not realize all of this at the time and there is so very much more…for brevity’s sake let’s just say that I have now realized the family vacations stopped at the same age I started riding.

My pony and I with Betty
Betty- The barn manager I had growing up and my unpaid baby sitter. Most would be horrified by this (parents using a barn manager to watch their kids). But she loved the group of rag tag kids that were deposited at her barn 7am-7pm Monday through Friday. And we loved her.

If I can take a moment to go back to family. My momma (a single parent) would get up 2 hours early to drive 40 minutes away from the city to deposit me at the barn before driving back to the city to work. After working a full day, the drive was repeated to collect a filthy jabbering child.  But she knew it made me happy so she did it. Thank you momma.

Betty was an old school horseman (she cringed when sweaty horses were hosed off vs being rubbed dry with a feed sack). She taught me so many horsemanship lessons that are with me to this day. I did get a chance to thank her before she passed away. We laughed at the things I did…dressing my pony in pants and glasses to put on a play for her, (trying) to give the barn cat a bath, breaking the rules and galloping the steeplechase with a halter/ no helmet/ bareback. I thought I was getting away with something but discovered she knew all along. Betty has been gone now a long time. Not a week does not go by when I don’t  do something thank makes me think of her. Thank you Betty.

The trainers –Too many to list.  Those that gave lessons and catch rides to a bumpkin kid in exchange for chores (again –in retrospect-they had a full paid staff and did not need those stalls cleaned, horses walked or aisles swept). These trainers gave me opportunities for high quality instruction and the chance to ride impressive horseflesh while keeping my integrity (my family could have never afforded the lessons or competitions). 

A special thank you to Dennis and Sherry of Longview Farm for arranging the breeding of my dear Abby. She was a horse of a lifetime for me and now for my favorite little girl.
Abby with me circa late 90s & with her little girl 2011

And also to the Southwinds Farm crew (Kitty, Jill and Mr. Jack) for taking me in and making me part of your family and giving me so many "first times" from the chance to groom at Rolex to my first trip out of the country. I was rough around the edges for sure but you gave me every chance to be better.

Jenny at Massey’s Corral- The phone rang on my 16th birthday followed by a gruff “why are you not at work?”  And  so began my tenure at Massey’s Corral.  I learned so much from Jenny-horse health and leatherwork. I have lost touch with Jenny over the years and if somehow someway you come across this blog Jenny please get in touch. I miss you terribly. Thank you Jenny for giving me my first (legal) job and sharing your knowledge. And yes –I have stayed away “from the batwings and foo-foo dust”, my tack is clean and the stitching is tight.

This post is long but cathartic…moving to modern times I have to thank the folks I have met in the Midwest.

The Come Again Farm Crew- After spending 20+ years developing relationships in area 3 I never thought I would find my comfortable place Midwest. But in a few short years CAF is that place. I love showing and learning there and have met the most wonderful people.  

Tim and Kandy –Thank you for being my first anchor here and for letting me into your child’s life. I love that little girl like no one’s business and respect you both more than I can say. Your family and your child have made my life better.

Susie and Doug- My Midwest mom and pop. There are not enough words in the English language or pages on the internet to thank you. Suffice it to say you are the people I call first when it is really bad and when it is really good. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Working for (not) a Living -Being a Working Student

There has been quite the lively discussion of late due to Boyd Martin's working student post.

I am not going to comment on the particular post but would like to share a bit about my working student journey.

The story begins when I was 14 and brand spanking new to eventing. I enrolled in a week long camp at Southwinds Farm. The camp was educational and fun...plenty of things to do, learn and see. Swimming, chasing peacocks and movie watching were all non-horsey activities campers could enjoy. Though I did enjoy the snipe hunt I skipped the other social activities -to watch the advanced riders and lend a hand (just to be around them). OK I stalked. But while stalking I cooled out a few horses, wiped down tack and helped with feedings. On Sunday when it was time to go home Mrs. Kitty invited me to stay -as a working student- providing I worked as I had the week before. From then on summers were spent at Southwinds.

The Good

I was immersed in eventing. Ate, drank and slept it. I was given one lesson on my horse each day along with the opportunity to ride straight of the track green beans to advanced level horses. I learned all aspects of the care and feeding of the upper level horse.

In addition to horse lessons I got life lessons. Southwinds was as much about the person as it was about the horses. I was a shy teenager lacking in self-confidence. I was taught to live with a positive attitude and moral character. I left the farm having learned to smile, look others in the eye and to live with a positive motivation.

This sums it up (from the Southwinds website)-

"With our horses our students have learned communication, confidence, responsibility, discipline, tenacity, persistence, initiative and an overall better attitude toward life. In our Life Management Skills Program, we take it a step further and teach the student how to use these characteristics learned from the horse and apply them to everyday life."

The Bad

Being a working student is hard work. I can't remember what time we began work but I do know it was dark out when we left and dark when we came in. I fed, watered, cleaned. Rode horses, gave lessons, pulled weeds and repaired fences. Not a day went by when I was not exhausted. The work you do as a working student compares to nothing else you will do as work in your life.

The Ugly

I put in the ugly because it fits with the good and bad format. But it was not ugly. It was a choice. And yes it was a sacrifice.

I was a minor and was lucky enough to have my family support me. They helped every way they could but we were and are are far from rich. I won't bore you with an "I'm poorer that you" story but have you ever eaten government surplus? I did as a child.

But yet I was still able -again with the support of my family-to make my dreams come true.  Even as a kid I had jobs -tack cleaning, baby sitting and giving riding lessons to the up-downers. When I was 16 I got a regular job (yet continued with the tack cleaning, baby sitting and giving riding lessons ). I also started working off my board by cleaning stalls - 20+ a day- so I could save money for my summers as a working student when I couldn't work.

The ugly is that sacrifice. I don't regret it a bit. But I missed a lot of normal teenage things because I was working. People often laugh when they talk about pop-culture from their childhood because I have nary a clue -while they were at the mall, watching TV, going to the movies-I was at the barn.

Did I miss out? I don't know. I am happy has an adult and don't actively miss those things.

The Memories

I cherish memories from my time at Southwinds. I hold grooming at Rolex (twice!) close to my heart. It gave me my first experience in Europe (also as a groom). And it gave me people I love today.

One memory in particular has me giggling still. Somehow Jill and I finished chores early and took the time to catch up on grocery shopping and a dinner out. We arrived home late...and as we were getting into bed realized we had skipped Winston's scheduled trot set (advanced horse prepping for a 3-day). Our PJ's were stripped off. I jumped on Winston with Jill following behind in the 4-wheeler shining a light on our path. We made our way through the south Georgia woods at near midnight laughing and cussing our mistake. But the horse got his needed work in.

And in the end it is all about the choice

So in the end it is all about choices and attitude. What are you willing to sacrifice? Your time? Your money? A comfortable, stable career? Social events or your family? There is no right or wrong answer. Only what is right for you.

And if you truly want to be a working student for Boyd or another trainer do it. I am not interested in why you can't -I want to hear about how you can. Your "can" list may not be pretty. It may not make you,your family, or others happy. But I believe anything can be done. It's very simply making a choice and deciding to do it.

And instead of worrying about what others have and do - count your blessings. Open your eyes to our world...if you are reading this you are at least literate. And have a computer and electricity. 
If you find yourself feeling slighted or envious over the advantages of others remember yours.  
And get to work on something -there is a lot to do.
On our worst days it's these things that seem so trivial that can mean the most. On my worst days I can always find something to be thankful for. I challenge you to do the same.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Not Black Friday... but shop we did

We came, we saw, WE SHOPPED!

At the grand opening of Dover Saddlery in Illinois!!!!!!!!!!!
Dover Grand Opening! Woot! Woot!
My best riding buddy/surrogate momma/awesome lady Susie and I could not let Dover open without giving them a warm welcome.

Susie was so excited about the Dover opening she hurried perhaps a bit too much getting dressed.

Perfect excuse to buy new boots!

 All told I think we spent ~4 hours in the store and examined every item at least once. It was great fun to see the products from the catalog and try on $500+ show coats and sit in hermes saddles. The things of dreams they are!

It was a lovely store with all the essentials (and non-essentials i.e. $500+ show coat).

The big purchase for Moose Man was a Micklem bridle. His current bridle has caused some heinous rubs and despite my attempts at creative padding my very good boy is reluctant to be bridled. I will be sure to report back -especially if it is as majikal as some claim.
Note the 'Amy Engineering' (poll pad and fuzzy thing)

Since we were in the area we also stopped by Saddler's Row where I bid a fond farewell to my saddles. Moose has been a fitting nightmare due to his very short back and my big booty fondness for large saddles.

I spent quite a bit of time with Master Saddler Michael Dainton discussing Moose's conformation and sitting in saddle after saddle. This man has the patience of a saint!

The final recommendation was a Prestige D1 dressage saddle. This saddle is made for horses with short backs and has several nifty (read expensive) features like a cut away panel, gel insert and elastic front billet. Video here.

For jumping the Black Country Vinici Tex Eventer was the winner. Sitting in this saddle felt like coming home. Which everyone in Saddler's Row was made aware of as I yelped LOUDLY when I first sat in it! This saddle has long sloping cantle that does not affect the length of the panels. I was more than comfortable in the 17.5!

So Michael and the saddlers row crew will be working hard to sell my saddles so I can (gulp) afford these. But really the customer service was great -can't thank Michael enough for his time and expertise. I finally feel confident that the saddle monster can be conquered!

As a final bonus Susie won the drawing for 30 seconds in the cash box. I'll admit it - I momentarily had a flash of her grabbing thousands - and me taking home the Prestige D1!

But alas...
$14. Yup. $14.

The day ended with a superb supper at the Peotone Bierstube. Yay Schnitzel!

A great weekend with an even greater friend ended 12 hours later...did I mention we examined every item at least once?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Need to Vent

For all that is sacred am I supposed to fit a saddle to this?
Where would a saddle GO on this horse?
For all you smarties I do know it goes on the back. Well there ain't much back there if I don't want to go behind the 18th thoracic vertebra.

As a 5'6'' 130 135 140 lb rider I prefer an 18'' saddle. Ain't happening. I now have several saddles for sale.
17.5 Wide Ryder/ Trilogy Amadeo Elite

18.5 M Stackhouse. 18.5 =much to long. This makes me very sad :/
18''' Forward Flap Bates CC -not even  close


Monday, October 31, 2011

The Atkins Diet for Eventers

Moose and I had a wonderful time at BeaHive Ranch continuing our education with Peter Atkins. As I watched other riders adapting to Peter's unique riding theory it made me think of the first time I rode with him.

I rode into my first lesson with Peter in July 2010 as part of Come Again Farm’s first event camp.
Peter Atkins Teaching at Come Again Farm

He watched me ride around a bit and promptly lengthened my stirrups…for a jumping lesson. 

OK, I will admit it. At this point, I figured I had a cook on my hands. Nevertheless, I figured you could learn something from everyone, kept my mouth shut, just lengthened my stirrups and jumped.
Only to be told to “Stand Up”. Huh? What? Clearly, I misunderstood.

“Peter, I’ve been taught to fold my entire life over jumps. Are you saying this is wrong?”
To which he replied emphatically, “YES!”

I was now convinced I had a cook on my hands. But I’d paid my money so I might as well give it a go. It would at least be a fun story to tell. So I tried it. Huh,…that kind of worked for me…let’s do that again…hmm the light bulb was starting to go off.

Peter explained that a horse clears a jump with front end. In jumping in the manner that the American equitation system dictates, we are making the horse’s job more difficult. By standing up over the fence with our leg in front of the girth we are freeing the front of the horse while also cementing our position in the tack.

This was starting to make sense...And then there was this strange flushing sound....the sound of 25+ years of jumping lessons with the red coats of  show-jumping fame, advanced event riders and $100s in well thumbed classic American texts going down the crapper. Best damn day of my riding life.

More was to follow...much more. At the end of my first lesson my perspective on riding theory had been flipped upside down. Since that day I have attended every possible lesson with Peter. I am going to share a few of my favorite 'Peterisms' below...they may sound odd at first (trust me -so been there) but give it a chance. You will be changed for the better.

Peter on Riding

Of primary importance is balance and tempo.

Horse should always be ridden in balance. A balanced horse is happy horse as the horse is a prey animal -their worst fear being unbalanced, falling and thus unable to defend themselves.
Riding the horse round, always in a high quality working gait decreases the load on the joints as the horse uses it muscular strength to support itself. Horses always ridden in this manner stay sounder longer.

The control of balance and tempo is your job as a rider. My mantra as I school at home has become "Who's trot is this?" "Is this a quality canter?"

Peter on Jumping Position
Your stirrups will be lengthened (“ride long, stay on long”). Your leg will be moved forward with the toe out (“imagine hooking your spurs in front of the girth”). Finally, you stand up over the jump –you do not fold.
"Stand Up, Look Up, Kick Up" Note: leg should be in front of the girth #@$!

The effectiveness of this position is illustrated as Peter has riders jump horseless. It is almost impossible to jump the fence folded as the weight of your head and upper body disrupt your balance. The jump is easily cleared when one jumps upright.

This is hard!
A bit easier now!

“Stand Up, Look Up, Kick Up” is the oft repeated phrase.

Sound interesting? Well I'm stopping here-you'll need to ride with the man himself.

In a Peter Atkins clinic you will be treated to a complete education. From appropriate tack, bitting, and whipping technique no topic is left uncovered.

And yes -after my first lesson with Peter I headed to a tack store for a new bit, bridle, reins and spurs. Darn it all it just made so much sense. And darn it all if my little horse did not improve just with the new tack.

Trust me. Find a clinic near you or better yet organize one yourself.

If you are lucky enough to ride with Peter Atkins, a proponent of inquiry based learning, I am going to give you some questions to mull over beforehand. You might be surprised by the answers...but they will make you a better rider.

Q & A with Peter

"What does the horse need to be on the bit?"

"Why do jockeys ride with their stirrups so short?"

"Why do horses not like water"?

"How big a fence is this up-bank?"

And finally, a question you thought you might never hear in a riding lesson;

“How heavy is a bowling ball?”

Good luck to you...and a helpful hint. Guess if you must. NEVER say "I don't know."

Friday, October 28, 2011

Peter Atkins at BeaHive Ranch

October 22 & 23 was spent at the jaw-dropping gorgeous BeaHive Ranch in Springville IN for a Peter Atkins clinic.
BeaHive Ranch
Uhhuh. I brought my unclipped (he lives out all winter) fat pinto camp pony to this place. I was a bit intimidated...until I was greeted with warm smiles, hugs, steaming hot cocoa and welcome gifts. The furry pony was ushered into a freshly bedded stall complete with topped off water bucket. I was made to feel like family and we quickly settled in to enjoy our weekend.

My first lesson was later on Saturday so I spent the morning with a trusty bottle of Miracle Groom getting the beast the Moose presentable. As Moose is not normally stalled BeaHive had kindly provided a guest seemed a good idea to let him out for a bit to stretch his legs before the lesson. I left him quietly munching grass only to come back to this:
Iz ready for my lesson now

%$#@! We dusted off and got ready to ride. I was looking forward to continuing our education with Peter. Moose and I have worked with Peter since 2010 and under his guidance had been slowly making progress.  Peter took a minute to check on us a few minutes before the lesson started-he of course wanted to see the canter. I think he was pleased (yay!). He gave me some home work (canter-trot transitions every 4 strides as well as walk-canter transitions) and then it was time to start the group lesson.

The clinic began in traditional Peter Atkins style (if Peter had a punch card I could no doubt redeem it for a free lesson or 2!) with riders navigating scattered poles in an exercise I call "pick-up sticks". Moose and I have already done this in previous lessons as well as praticed at home so were able to complete the task now as easily as the "first-timers"...but hey-that's progress!

The pick-up sticks are are systematically removed and jumps added until resulting in a traditional grid.

Through the Grid
I felt Moose and I did well...hell we have had lots of practice at this. However, I did not perform as well as I hoped. Reflecting on this I realized I had not been jumping much at home. Our work has mostly focused on improving that gaits (especially the canter). When I did jump it was through a series of low bounces used to improved the canter (Peter homework from July) so I had not been working on me. Another factor was fitness. I have completely slacked off on the exercise routine as of late. The body control was just not there.

On to Sunday -Cross Country! Moose had recently completed starter at the Come Again Farm Horse Trials and I was ready to work on our improved skills. Apparently so was Peter.
We started out easy enough over some beginner novice and novice type fences. Moose Tracks was jumping great! 
Unfortunately I had the same feeling from the grids lesson -not enough body control and not enough fitness. This became more apparent as the fences got a bit bigger. Poor Moose had never jumped fences like this:
meh, it looked bigger in person
I was now asking him to jump a few training fences for the first time and instead of helping him he had to help me. Good Moosey. Bad Amy.

I came off cross country thrilled with my wonderful, kind, generous horse! And vowed to not do that to him again. I will be fit next time.

Days later I am still replaying how wonderful my horse was for me. Thank you BeaHive for allowing us to use your beautiful property, for stuffing us with goodies and for the very genuine hospitality and kindness. Thank you Peter for sticking with Moose and I as we fumble around the sport of eventing. And thank you MooseMan for taking care of me.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Octoberfest Moose Tracks Style

Moose Tracks has had a very busy October. From relaxing trail rides galloping waterways and leaping yard art to cross country schooling with friends he has not been home a single weekend.

In early October, we trekked to Come Again Farm’s Fall Horse Trials to eat test our mettle at starter level. Yes, starter –as in Beginner Novice Test A –as in we are cantering in public! Yup, time to test the new hocks!

With some trepidation, we entered the dressage ring….and…wowza! Moose pulled it together and gave me his best! I left the ring thrilled and humbled by my little horse. Icing on the cake was a score of 35 putting us in second!
For full disclosure we did get “hurried tempo” on the first canter circle, “needs slower tempo” on the second and “needs to work on better control of canter tempo so not so hurried” in the comments. Poor judge –if she only knew!

On to showjumping –Lee Ann out did herself with a really challenging and fun course decorated to the nines. Moose jumped clean and even cantered most of the course! Woot!

I thought this picture was cuuute. My husband, however, felt he looked like a leaping Okapi :(

Ok...there is a vague resemblance

this. I needz it.

We tore up the cross country cantering the entire thing. I had promised Moose he could eat the popsicle they were giving at the finish flags so we were there in no time…when I went to look at the final scores we had time penalties. For speeding. Oopsie…I did not think to wear a watch-who tries for time at starter anyway? It never occurred that new hocks=speedy Moose. 

Oh well! Still thrilled with the MooseMan and his pretty yellow ribbon.

That's my Baby!

Last weekend Moose got to clinic with Peter Atkins at BeaHive Ranch…post on that coming soon (promise).

Teaser alert –Moose Tracks jumped some TRAINING level xc fences (and I did not pee my pants!).

Yes! This is a training level fence!

PS –and for the record I did actually go to CAF to event. I only dropped $25 or so at the concession stand. For full disclosure Lori ran out of food :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Thank you fairy godmother

Moose and I have a fairy godmother. Really.

One that understands why I would need to pay more for a lameness exam from an FEI vet for a camp pony than most people pay in vet bills for a year.

She understands why he has a dentist, a chiropractor, custom fitted saddles and bits from Germany.

She knows that Moose can't talk. He can't say that his saddle that once fit is now digging into his back making him horribly sore. He can't say that his girth rubbed and that his bit is making a sore on his sensitive mouth. He never mentioned that his hocks hurt so badly he could not gather them to canter.

The only way Moose can say this things is by acting out-which he simply will not do.

So thank you fairy godmother...for being my support. Thank you for loving me and Moose.

Friday, September 16, 2011


When I got Moose I figured we would spend the fall and winter training and by spring be ready to go beginner novice moving up to novice. That did not happen. Though our walk and trot work improved 200% our canter…resembled a canter. In the same way a barrel horse charging for home has a gait that resembles a canter.

I sought advice…transitions, circles, just let him canter, transitions, cavaletti, lateral work, backing, transitions, just improve the trot and the canter will come, transitions, lunge with side reins, lunge without side reins, transitions.

After all that our trot and lateral work improved another 100%. Our canter not so much. I began to look for other causes.
  • Teeth
  • Saddle fitted
  • New girth
  • New bit
  • No ulcers
Check, check and check.

I did notice his stifle occasionally slipped…armed with google I began to suspect a stifle issue.
Our Symptoms
  • No canter
  • When asked to canter crowhops. A lot.
  • Stifle slips
  • Straight stifle conformation
One of the bestest vets ever (that sadly lives far away) confirmed my suspicion that it could be stifle or possibly an SI issue. Since I could not haul him to Boston (yes- I considered it) the vet search began.

I consulted the best of the best, checked references and loaded Moose up for an 8 hour round trip voyage. ..and the clinic was very good. But. I could not help but feel  a little bit as though my Moose was not quite fancy enough. The Doc kept saying “he is not lame”…and finally “I can’t make him an Olympic horse…that canter is what you have”. Almost the same line spoken by an Olympian coach. I refuse to believe that.  No-Moose will never rival Totilas….or get even an “8” on gaits. But this horse has a heart of gold and more try and willingness to please than any human or animal I have encountered.

Stifle and hocks were injected and home we went.

So far his canter has improved. The last 3 rides an actual gait has been developing…I have hope.

Moose at Hospital

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It all started with the thoroughbred...well maybe an Arabian.

In my first and second blog posts EVER I introduced my man Moose Tracks.
Turnabout is fair play. Here is how I got started with the all consuming passion for horses and the sport of eventing...

It all started with the thoroughbred...well maybe the Arabian.

I cannot remember when my love of horses began. As a child I read every one of Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. Most of these books were centered on the sport of racing...little did I know at the time but Arabians do not in fact race in the triple crown.

As a kid in the city the only outlet I had to horses was through the television. And the only programs that had horses was racing. The first race I clearly remember was Gato Del Sol's derby victory. I would have been five years old.

From such a young age I awoke (on my own) at 6:30 am every Saturday to watch the newest edition of Race Horse Digest. I lived for the first Saturday in May and the Triple Crown series to watch my thoroughbred heroes in action.

I whinnied stomped and pranced anywhere I went. Every time I threw a penny in a fountain or blew out my birthday candles I wished for a horse of my own.

At eight years old a family friend gave us a pony. And some goats. You see my uncle wanted get free goats he had to take the pony. That should have been the first clue. We did not have the first clue.

 It was a dream come true for me and a nightmare for my mother. Every time I rode, the pony bucked, brushed, or rolled me off. To my mother’s horror, I would immediately climb back on until the next untimely dismount.

After only a few short years, my pony died of cancer. I was devastated. And we still did not have the first clue. Would you believe we bought the horse from the first for sale ad we saw? And that the horse was a green broke/been gelded two weeks/4 year old Arabian? But he was so preeeetttttty (as in he did not resemble a very hairy dog and did not try every way possible to remove me from his back)! And cheap! And the price included delivery, brushes, blankets and a saddle! (All of this should have been the second clue but we just though ourselves savvy shoppers).

With this fine new horse we decided to board our purebred Arabian locally for a whopping $75/month. This led to lessons (praise the lord). I lucked out-still did not have the first or second clue-with getting a decent instructor. She cussed a lot and could be a little mean but she knew what she was doing!

Leg loose in the canter? Well stirrups were locked in a tack trunk for a week. If you wanted to ride you rode with out them. Hours, hours I tell you were  spent on the lunge line without stirrups or reins with me clinging to my pony's back exhausted. Days where spent marching around the barn duck footed and bowlegged if I turned my toe out to much in a lesson.

Best thing that could have happened to me. I had a trainer that demanded perfection in riding, turnout and horsemanship. It did not matter that my equipment was all hand me downs -it fit and was clean. It did not matter that my horse was an Arabian and she did 'A' hunters. His long mane was pulled and the bridle path shortened.

Admittedly our start in short stirrup and then the pony hunter ring was rough. He never was an easy ride and always had a dirty stop. I knew we had come into our own when another trainer argued with my mom that he could not possibly be a full Arabian -he had to be at least half welsh! As I got older I got more self conscious. I began to realize the difference between my horse/clothes/equipment/ that I worked off lessons while others paid and others. The snide remarks (that happened a lot more as we began to do well) began to bother me. I was a teenager after all. I needed a change and decided to try pony club.

The first activity when I joined was something called 'Combined Training Rally'. I may have had the first clue but still not the second. I happily signed up never having seen a dressage arena or cross country course. I showed up proud of my turnout complete with slow twist bit and standing martingale...that was hastily changed! My pony did a dressage test -hunter style with nose poked out- and jumped handily around stadium. Then cross country. The first fence was a log -they do not have these in the hunter ring. Pony stopped not once but twice. On the verge of elimination I gave him a swat and off we went. I ended the course beaming and knew no other type of riding would ever be good enough. I also found a new family. A family where competitors helped each other. To the little girl (from another team no less) that walked with me to the start box that day telling me what to do and who also shouted words of encouragement as we tackled the log - you are eventing. Thank you.

My aunt (yes, the aunt from this post) had a friend who had a cousin that she was pretty sure did eventing. I enrolled in their summer camp (oh how I love camp!)

I spent that week in a variety of activities including basic dressage, grid work and conditioning. In the heat of the afternoons, the other kids swam in the pool and watched TV. I, on the other hand, stuck around the barn helping the more advanced rider’s clean tack, hold horses, or just watched them ride. At first they were a bit surprised that I would help feed or clean but by the end of the week they were accustomed to me being underfoot. Come Sunday we packed up and readied for our journey home. Mrs. Kitty, as she is fondly known, pulled me aside and invited me for another week free of charge provided I would work as hard as I had the prior week.

That invitation began many summers of residing at Southwinds Farm. More on this later perhaps.

So dear reader or dare I hope readerS. How did you get your start?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Camp ends. Bittersweet & Breakthroughs.

Thursday Pick your lesson…hmmm if you guessed Peter Atkins you are correct!

The last day of camp was Thursday and included a show jumping lesson with Peter. The focus was…improving the canter (surprised?).

We stated with the trot working Moose very round and low. When a balanced, round and low outline was achieved Peter had me imagine my arms/ reins as poles to push his nose forward. Instead of transitioning trot to canter Peter set up a series of poles 9 feet apart (this helped simulate a canter stride). We totted in and cantered out with me again trying to catch the front feet with my hand and kick his back up. The goal was to do a balanced transition to trot before the canter deteriorated…that was the goal anyway.

The poles soon became jumps. And then *it* happened.  The best jump of my life. I felt those little mutton withers come up and Moose’s back round as he sailed over the last element.  It had finally clicked-I kicked at the girth and got out of the saddle at the right moment. I loved the feeling of that jump and have been dreaming about it ever since.

Sadly I have not yet had my canter breakthrough nor have I been able to try and recreate that jump as the Midwest has been under a heat warning since I have been home.

So with a big breakthrough in our jump we left camp. A bittersweet moment for sure. It was a great week of learning, socializing and eating (had to put that in there –food was AWESOME).

I can’t think LeeAnn Zobbe enough. Come Again Farm is a very special place and Come Again Event Camp is a very special offering. I have longingly eyed event camps for quite a while-however the fees and distance were out of my range. LeeAnn has created a unique camp. Us ‘regular Joes’ with our ‘unlikely event horses’ as well as several future super stars can come together to train with world class instructors and live our dream for 4 days a year.

With that said thanks to the clinicians –especially for taking time with amateurs like me on cheap unlikely event types. I did not ride with all of them but heard glowing reports from those who did. Peter Atkins, Leslie Law, Dorothy Crowell, Mary Lowry, Jennifer Kasier, and Bonna McCuiston are all appreciated.

And to my fellow campers –see ya next year!

Thanks Amy, Amy, Amy, and Susan (honorary Amy) for being great riding buddies!

Want to ride better? Jump Grids. No Horse Required.

The Pool.
Quoting Rachel "Peter Who? Courage smack, or punishment? Screw it, I'll just drink my beer."

Stepping through the broom...some were better than others!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More Event Camp-Show Jumping, cross country, whipping and other weird activities

Tuesday- Leslie Law (Cross Country) | Peter Atkins (Show Jumping) 

Tuesday I was very excited to ride with Leslie Law. An admitted book hoarder I of course own a copy of ‘Cross Country Masterclass’ and was eager to put into practice what I had read.

Mr. Law has very classic teaching style. We began by shortening our stirrups a hole or four (guess who the four was) and practiced galloping position. As we were all one horse amateur riders it was suggested that once a week we shorten our stirrups two holes shorter than cross country length to develop our fitness and galloping position.

We moved on to some very simple jumps, water and ditches. Being the book hoarder I am I recognized several bits from Jimmy Woffords ‘Training the Three Day Event Horse and Rider". A good read!

That afternoon I had showjumping with Peter Atkins. Poor Peter. Poor Moose. I rode like garbage. 


Take away points?

I ride like garbage. This can only be fixed by beer consumption. I fixed it.

Thank the lord for Wednesday and a chance at redemption.

Wednesday- Bonna McCuiston (Dressage Fix-a-test) | Peter Atkins (Cross Country) | Peter Atkins Lecture on Bitting & Whipping

Bonna was a dear and suffered through BN test A. 

Ahhh Dressage. I choose to laugh it off. Everyone else does!
“So –you’re a beginner. Right?”

“Not exactly. I have ridden a for a few years or 25.”

She gave me some tips (canter transitions, transitions, transitions). I think she was afraid to have us canter in the small ring (with her in it) so we worked on shoulder-in.

The afternoon session was cross country with Peter. As all the horses were starter level we focused more on improving the canter than jumping. I found this hugely helpful as you cannot have a good jump if you do not have a quality canter. 
Moose working much rounder
Peter had us canter up and down hills actively “catching the front feet” while kicking the horse up at the girth. This resulted in a rounder back and a quality gait. 
He had me working hard with Moose to improve the canter –riding counter canter and then true canter in counter flexion.  

Peter hopped on the Mooseman for a bit so Moose got some training and I was able to better visualize what he was teaching. 

We also cantered Moose thought the water several times using the drag of the water to help me improve his balance. Overall this was a great lesson for me –best of the camp!
Great Lesson! Thanks Moose & Peter!

The evening lecture was “Bitting and Proper Whipping ah la Peter Atkins”

On bitting Peter was a proponent of  jointed snaffles feeling that the nutcracker action of a single joint was harsh. 

This was demonstrated by placing different types of snaffles between the hands and then feeling the action.

Peter recommended a good old fashion jockey whip as most crops are “items of apparel only”.
Whipping was either for courage, a wake up, and very rarely for punishment. He cautioned against whipping a horse that stopped because it was scared feeling this could eventually lead to falls as the horse, fearful of a whipping, would jump a fence when it was best to stop.

Wake Up

We all got to practice
Wake Up? Courage? Punishment? hmmm