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