Sunday, May 25, 2008

I have a confession

A couple weeks ago, I jumped off Bar. No, I didn't fall off - I really did jump. He started bucking and I bailed, landing - much to my own amazement - on my feet.

I did tweak my left knee a little bit, though not as badly as I hurt my right knee falling in the bathtub a year ago.

So, Friday night was my first (I think) ride on Bar where it wasn't a lesson or Steve wasn't in the arena with me on Lena. Yes, I admit, I had a hurdle to get over with him.

So hard to convince him to be calm when I'm sure he can hear my heart hammering in my chest.

Steve had ridden him, I'd ridden Lena, and I'd had a couple really helpful lessons with Bar, but I hadn't gotten back on him alone, in the arena, at feeding time, since I came off the last time.

So. I knew it was time to face it with him, even if we didn't do any more than walk around the arena. I had a couple goals: stay on, push myself into pushing him past a tantrum and into doing something I asked him to - even if he didn't feel like it - and ending everything on a positive note.

I am happy to say that he and I accomplished all of those goals, and then some.

I love this horse. He has so much personality and spirit, so much going on in that big, brown head of his, without a mean bone in his body anywhere. He's stubborn and opinionated and doesn't always see the value of what we're working on in the arena. (I can't say I blame him half the time, either - I'd rather be on the trail, too, but we have things to work on.) I could feel him bunch up underneath me when he started to get frustrated, but instead of reacting to him my normal neurotic way - you know, wrapping my legs around him and leaning forward - I'd open up and lean back. It's not that he would stop fighting me necessarily, but he would give just a tiny bit. He wouldn't press his 1,200 pound, lightening-fast advantage. He cooperated.

And he knew at the end he had done well, that I was happy with him, that we had worked a little more trust back into our relationship.

Baby steps, I told him, baby steps.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The First Show

I apologize for being MIA. I've been very busy lately with work and have been traveling a lot and am just now getting back into the swing of things before I take off again!
Willoughby and I competed in our first show together two weekends ago!! We had a blast! I'll try to get a video up from one of my tests later this week!
It's been about 2 1/2 years since I competed with Fenway so I was really nervous but also really excited to be there.
Poor Willoughby had the week prior to the show off (great timing, I know) because I was gone working the Maker Faire which isn't that far off from a horse show - long days, big/late dinners, early mornings, lots of walking, lots of adrenaline. I made sure not to enter any tests the day we arrived. We met the crew - Ellen & Leo, Katey A & Andy, Susan & Money Penny, Eva and Final, and settled into our barn aisle. Then we had a lesson with Ellen and rode in all the different arenas.
My friend Sarah drove over to visit, which was really nice, and then witnessed me momentarily loosing my sanity when I couldn't find my truck keys anywhere!! We finally found them in my purse (even though we both searched my purse multiple times) after I had already placed a call into TripleAAA.
DAY 2:
We got our first test over with! I held my breath the whole time! We were showing in the polo arena, which was isolated from all the other arenas and horses. Willoughby was an outstanding citizen but I think he was holding his breath the whole time too!
A highlight of the day was having my Dad surprise us by showing up to watch!!
Day 3:
Highlight of the day - Odie walked up in the morning, surprising me! She drove 3 hours to come watch us!! And then Ryan came to watch too! There's nothing better than be surrounded by all your favorite people and pets! I know it sounds cheesy but it's the truth!
The first test of the day was excellent and I was very happy with the score. We had some baby bobbles but I felt that I actually rode the test instead of holding my breath! The last test of the day was a pooper and it doesn't count in my book because I think we were both tired and our warm-up was incredible so I'll pick my battles!
Overall -
The tests that I rode, first level test 3 &4, were a bit challenging for us because our canter is a little unbalanced and weak. We need work in this dept! But I was so pleased with his demeanor and work ethic. I enjoyed putting on my show clothes again, braiding, spending time with my horse, and visiting with all my friends! I can't wait until the next show - Pebble Beach in July!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Waiting for Katie to post :)

Katie and Willoughby had their very first show - the very next weekend after Maker Faire! In other words, Katie - who works for Make and Craft magazines - was totally swamped and stressed two weekends in a row.

BUT! I did hear from her that the show with Willoughby went really well and they even did things a bit above the level they were "supposed" to be showing at.

I can't wait to see her photos and have a chance to hear more about how things went.

Which is why I'm posting this just to leave a big, fat hint.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Boot fetish

I might have a small boot fetish.

Just a tiny one.

My red boots, my daily riding/barn boots, had started to crack and fade and I knew it was only a matter of time until it was time to replace them. As always, I was torn between getting another pair of red boots or replacing them with another color. I've got the lovely whiskey-colored pair for normal wear, and the temptation was to turn those into the riding boots and buy another pair of red boots.

But I love my brown boots, too! And - if one were to apply even a tiny bit of logic to this - they do go with more than the red boots do.

If they were just going to be dress boots, I'd have gone with red in a heartbeat. But, as you can see, I went with black. There was actually some logic, there. No, really!

The red leather probably has to be bleached before it's dyed red again. Black just gets died over the color of the leather, so theoretically goes through less processing and will will last a little longer. We are here to test this and I'll let you know if I just give up and go back to red next time!

And, yes, a definite boot fetish.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

More barn wildlife

Sunday during my lesson we had two hefty gopher snakes make their way across the arena. The first one Peter herded across the toasty sand and then he played snake charmer with the second one.

Judging from the size of both snakes and the three rats Wesley managed to bring us last week - in an 12-hour period, mind you - methinks the rodent population is also relatively healthy this year. Wesley's new nickname is "Little orange stripey merchant of death." He was quite proud of himself. We were just glad he left them on the doorstep - two still warm in one case - and didn't bring them inside.

Friday, May 09, 2008

In the category of why bother

I love to give the horses baths, and mostly they love the attention and the scrubbing. Bar in particular would stand perfectly still and have me hose down his bowed tendon for, oh, about an hour I think.

But, as those of you with outdoor horses know, moments after returning a clean and shiny (and wet) horse to their paddock, you experience a "why did I bother!" moment as they drop to the dirt to - especially in Lena's case - very, very thoroughly undo all that hard work.

Then you sigh and console yourself with the fact that at least you had them clean for a moment and under the dirt is a soft fluffy coat.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Lena gets a lesson from Janice

Steve and I are going away for two weeks (!) in June, so I asked Janice if she would be willing to ride Lena some while we're gone. She said she would, and came out to give Lena a spin in the arena today.

Lena was a little surprised at being asked to collect a little more than normal - okay, a lot more - and not to go directly from the trotting part of the workout into the loping part of the workout. "What? Isn't loping what comes next?" Janice even asked me if we always worked Lena out in that order and then made Lena walk until it was Janice's decision to lope. Hm. Actually, watching Janice made me realize our workouts are too predictable and it might be good to mix them up just a little bit more for both horses.

Lena did fine under Janice's capable and patient hands and Steve and I are both firm believers that the more input Lena gets, the better horse she becomes. The same applies to Bar, but I'm not sure anyone but us is crazy enough to ride him or that I'd be comfortable enough to let them in any case. I even struggled with that on our trail ride yesterday. I thought I'd be more relaxed with Steve riding Bar to warm him up, but I sure spent a lot of time worrying about how they were doing.

After she was done, they trotted over towards me and I let Lena "cut" me for just a moment. Love to watch that head come down and those ears go back, even if I have to pretend to be a cow.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Trail adventures

We took the horses out today and introduced Bar to uphill and downhill. For the most part, it was pretty successful. He got a little tired going uphill - shocking, I know - and a little nervous going downhill. Steve rode him up and he did okay for the most part, but Lena definitely has the edge - and the rear end - going up steep hills. At least right now she does.

We stopped and all of us had some lunch. You can see how differently they are shaped, though both are tall and leggy. (Hence the demise of Lena's cutting career and the success of Bar's racing career.)

I rode him down and we did have a bit of a Jess/Bar nervous moment because he thought trotting down the hill was the best way to deal with being unsure of his footing and I thought perhaps we should slow down and watch where our feet were going. I did start to get scared, I admit it, but we worked through it and managed to get down the first hill without too much of a ruckus. Of course, that may have been because I decided that relaxing was a better plan than getting into our normal feeding frenzy of dual anxiety.

He wanted to be in front, but he's so concerned about his footing and doesn't really know what to do, so would sometimes stop mid-trail and start to turn around. It's a little hard to explain to 1,200 pounds that there will eventually be downhill no matter which direction we end up going. I'd circle him back around behind Steve and Lena and Bar would take the rear, watching where she placed her feet and dropping his head to really pay attention to where his own feet were going.

I also had to get off and lead him over a couple of obstacles, like a creek and the first step off over a rock in the trail, but he got more confident as we went along and near the end of the ride actually led Lena past a big, scary rock laying in wait mid-trail to eat unwary horses.

The ride was not without injury, though nothing too serious. While getting out of Bar's way over the first rock step-down, I stepped off the trail into a hole and knocked my knee on what appears to have been the sharp edge of a rock. But he waited for me to regain my footing, didn't rip the reins out of my hand and go tearing off down the trail, and stood still while I got back on, so we are making progress. I also have a bruise on my heel because I foolishly didn't stay to one side as we crossed over a raging trickle of water. Well, I crossed, he leaped. Mustn't get those dainty feet wet, apparently. My fault, not his. He didn't keep going and again stood nice and still as I got back on.

He's funny. He gets so torn between not wanting to face whatever it is he is nervous about and not wanting to lose sight of Lena. Mostly, Lena wins. And mostly he knows I haven't done too much crazy stuff that gets him hurt, so he goes along with me even when he's not sure I know what the heck I'm doing.

All in all, a good day and a really good learning experience for him. Neither horse was particularly willing to get back into the trailer and seemed like they'd have been content to doze in the sun by the trailer for at least a little while longer. But they were also glad to get back to the barn just in time for dinner!

Things of note I've been meaning to post

Yes, I'm still alive and, no, I haven't fallen off again! Woo hoo!

Saw this in our local paper and couldn't help but think that the mountain lion was either really hungry or really silly to take on four horses, but it seems to have ended well. For the horses, not the mountain lion.

I have thus far managed to stay away from the temptation lurking over at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds this weekend - wild horse and burro adoption. Just what we need, another wild horse.

Congratulations to Big Brown for his Kentucky Derby win, and my heart breaks for Eight Belles who ran her heart out on two broken ankles. Here she is finishing second on ankles that already had to be breaking or broken, the only filly in the race. I refuse to post the picture of her laying on the track, much better to see her suspended in the air, flying over the track. Okay, I have to stop reading articles now, I'm starting to cry over a horse I don't even know!

Hearing about Eight Belles made me start to think about what we do with all these ex-racehorses. As we're finding out, they are not easy to handle and retrain, even if they are perfectly sound. Lots of information out there, and agencies like this one in Texas that helps place ex-racers, and resources like this one that has links to a lot of other resources for OTTB assistance.

Me? I just keep working through my issues with Bar and we are making progress. I don't worry so much about him missing the track anymore, either.