Bye Bye January

Ike November 2014

January 2015 is just about behind us and I am not sad to see it go.  The weather has made riding consistently next to impossible.  I am lucky to ride two or three times a week right now and our work is scaled back significantly.  We have thankfully had more rain than snow, but the frigid temperatures mean slick and frozen footing.  Slick and frozen footing means conservative rides to insure that there is no slipping on slick spots lurking just beneath the surface of the ring.  Had one scary moment last Sunday when Ike lost his hind end at the trot.  Luckily, we stayed upright with no sprains, strains, or lingering injuries.  The footing had appeared acceptable…needless to say that I avoided that end of the arena and kept Ike at a more conservative pace.  No point risking an injury.

Even if I don’t ride, I still worry about injuries.  The paddocks are a muddy mess right now and I fear that Ike will slip during one of his galloping jaunts around his field.  His friend Lady has fallen twice as she cavorts about her paddock.  His brother injured his left hind showing off his black belt board-breaking skills to the mares.  This time last year Ike had just come off stall rest for a lameness issue due to paddock antics.  We do not need any repeats.

We also do not need any repeats of my gymnastic dismounts from Ike.  At my age, my gymnastic skills are pathetic at best.  Truth be told, they were not that great in my younger days either.  My ability to get my feet under me as I flip off my galloping horse to stick the landing is nil/nada/zero.  Luckily for me, there have not been any vultures lurking around the ring.  Fingers are crossed that they have relocated to greener pastures.

And speaking of fingers, let me just say that it is impossible to execute an effective half halt or maintain the proper rein length when your fingers are partially frozen.  When you add thick winter gloves and hand warmers as well, it is like riding with oven mitts.  On the days I have ridden, I usually have a lesson with Ms. C.  Might as well make the most of the ass-in-saddle days.  Even if we cannot canter or work on lengthenings, there is still much we can do.  Rein backs, shoulder in, haunches in, turn on the haunches (currently our worst nemesis), square halts, 10 meter collected trot circles, and of course, my sitting trot, are all on the “things we can do most days” list.

Here’s hoping that warmer days are just around the corner.


What Did You Say?!

Ike November 2014

There are a lot of articles by highly respected animal behaviorists and trainers available that talk about animal communication.  What is your dog/cat/horse trying to tell you?  A flick of the ear can be annoyance or a sign that they heard you yell at them.  Snarling teeth are never a good sign.  Squinty eyes can also mean bad things.  But what if our animals had verbal skills equal to ours?  What if they did have voices and could tell us exactly what they are thinking and feeling? “Why must I eat this food when you are having steak?” ” “I do not wish to canter at that end of the arena.”  “I think he got three more treats than I did!!” “Why do I have to work when he gets to stand around all day?”  “You are the meanest Mom EVER!”

Personally, I don’t know if I could handle the fact that my horses and dogs could talk.  I imagine that my animals would all have sarcastic personalities with frequent potty mouth issues.  Basically five unruly children, two of which weigh half a ton.  Um, yeah, things would be a lot different around the house and barn if there were verbal skills.

So with that thought in mind, I started thinking about who my animals would sound like.  If they were to star in an animated show or a Mr. Ed-type sitcom, who would do their voices?  What actor, politician, or public figure could capture their personality?  So here goes…

Tim 2014

Our dog Tim, a former therapy dog, has a politician’s personality.  He likes to stop and greet everyone we pass on the street, “Hello! So nice to see you today.”  At the vet clinic, he will seek out the technicians and vets to say hello.  If he could shake hands with everyone, he would.  He would be a baby kisser.  He is a constant beggar, so that plays right into the politician personality.  What have you done for me lately?  After a little deliberation, I decided that Ronald Reagan would be the ideal voice.  A former actor and president, he could easily capture Tim’s persona.

Spencer 2014

Spencer is my quirky dog.  He wouldn’t let us pet him for the first year.  He would growl and run away.  Over time, he has finally realized that love from us is a good thing and he will now nudge you for attention.  He has calmed down tremendously, but when he knows it is time for a walk or a ride in the truck, all bets are off.  He is a frenetic, hot mess.  He is also the instigator when it is play time.  His move is the “boop on the nose” until Brownie joins the fun.  Kevin James I think could capture Spencer’s quirkiness. “Pet me, pet me! No, stop, I have had enough.”  “Time for a ride!! Oh, goodie, let’s go let’s go! We are wasting time here people!”

Brownie 2014

Brownie, oh, Brownie.  He is a spitfire.  For a dog who is missing part of his right femur due to a traumatic injury that required a femoral head ostectomy, he moves like a greyhound.  He barks more than any dog I have ever owned.  He will run the other way when I call him to come inside.  He is wide-open 24/7 and will bark like a fool at any dog that dares to come into his sightline and bounce like a ball at the end of his leash.  We are quite the sight to see on our regular walks.  He needs an actor who is unafraid of letting loose.  John Belushi is a close second, but it is Will Ferrell who is my final choice. I see him, in the movie Old School, running down the road naked and when asked by his wife what he was doing, “We’re going streaking in the quad!”  Of course, there is no one with him.  Yeah, that about captures Brownie.

And now the big boys…


Cigar, my retired OTTB with personality to spare.  Of all my animals, he is the bad boy of the crowd.  Whether he was halting at C to poop right in front of the judge, almost cow-kicking a clinician as we rode past (she had to lean to the side to avoid the contact), or casually eating my $50 bill that was to pay for our lesson, he has always tested the boundaries of my love.  He was the horse no one wanted to be near in the warm up ring; you just never knew what was coming next.  The voice of Cigar needs to capture that edginess and living-on-the-edge attitude.  Vince Vaughn would do Cigar justice.  Cigar would be the one with the most to say and the one whose thoughts would make any movie worthy of an “R” rating for the questionable language.  “Where the  #$$%% have you been? I am starving.”  “Why, no, I do not wish to be brushed.”  ”

Ike in new blanket

And finally, last but certainly not least, is Ike.  I struggled the most to pick his “voice.”  Ike has presence.  Ike is a gentle giant, but can get very grumpy when my attention is elsewhere.  He is amicable, stoic, but has a playful side.  I will never forget when he decided to play Lights On, Lights Off in the barn one night…the light switch is now protected by chicken wire to keep him from flicking the lights in the barn on and off all night long.  I debated with my friend who could capture his spirit.  For some reason, we decided that he would have a British accent.  Prince William?  No, to royal and reserved.  Winston Churchill?  Too serious.  Finally, we settled on Hugh Grant.  I watched Notting Hill recently and his soft-spoken demeanor could do Ike justice.  “What do you mean that I can’t have my dinner now?”  “Why must I always be the one who works the hardest?”  “Oh, I see you brought apples for me.  Why must I share?” [so, as you read that, did you imagine Hugh Grant’s British accent?]

So, I would love to hear who you think could capture your furry family members personas.  If you know my animals, I’d love to know what you think of the choices.


p.s. I promise to update you on our progress towards Second Level soon.

Rare CV Blue Whale Spotted

Blue whale in the field

Shhh, be very, very quiet.  A rare Central Virginia Blue Whale has been spotted.  These are solitary and elusive creatures that must be approached with the utmost of care.  They can be very suspicious of your motives, so do not approach unless you are carrying bribes of apples and carrots.  These creatures have been known to run if you approach them carrying tubes of Ivermectin.  Do not run after them as they are fleet of foot, and they will taunt you as they run circles around you with a smug look in their eyes.  If you do earn the trust of one of these creatures, it will be a rewarding partnership.

Yes, dear friends, Ike finally has a new winter blanket that fits his burgeoning body.

I had ordered two blankets to try – an 86 inch and an 88 inch.  The box in which the two blankets were shipped could easily fit all three of my dogs as an inexpensive dog house.  Our UPS man must hate us.  The new blankets come with a warning that they should be tried on carefully to avoid getting them dirty.  Sure, okay, it is so easy to avoid dirt, hay and hair in the barn.  When I removed the blanket from the plastic bag, it was all I could do to keep it from touching the ground.  I’m pretty certain that a family of four could easily camp under it if you added poles.  I finally managed to lift the mass of fabric onto Ike.  Thankfully, the first one fit so that I did not have to remove the other from the plastic.  With a few strap adjustments, Ike was snug in his new blanket.  Thanks to the Schneider’s Big Fellas line, Ike was able to remain a size 86.  They cut the blanket more generously so that it no longer looks like a miniskirt and with the gussets in the shoulder area, the blanket can close in front.

Ike in new blanket

The new blanket arrived just in time for our latest cold spell.  Riding is curtailed because of the frozen ground, so not much to report as far as training progress.  Hopefully warmer temperatures will return soon or I will win the lottery so we can winter in Wellington…stay warm my friends!



Impatiently Patient

Photo by Pics of You

Photo by Pics of You

Is it just me or have we become a society of “now?”  We no longer wish to wait for anything.  Everyone needs the answer now and will call you repeatedly until you pick up the phone out of frustration to make the ringing stop.  No one wants to take the time to do real research that would take you to the library to find an actual book or peer-reviewed journal to find correct answers…just Google what you want to know and hope the first website to pop up has an accurate answer.  No need to spend all day in the kitchen measuring wet and dry ingredients for cookies, just tear open a package and chomp away.  Why wait for the evening news when you can check your phone 100 times a day to learn that your friend just ate waffles for brunch?

I will admit that I am not the most patient person.  I have been this way since I was young.  My mother will attest to that fact.  I will scream at the slow person in the left hand lane of the highway.  I will roll  my eyes when the person in front of me at the store waits until after everything is bagged to try to find their wallet at the bottom of their suitcase-sized purse.  I will shudder and weep for the future of our country when the cashier tries to figure out how to make change when I give them $10.01 for a $5.26 purchase.

My horses are doing their best to teach me to be patient.  It. Is. Not. Easy.  I watch as fellow riders seem to sail up the levels with ease while I continue to struggle with the correct alignment for a leg yield or keeping Ike’s haunches from drifting in at the canter.  This may well be the first year ever that we aren’t starting with Intro or Training Level tests.  Ten years is a long time to ride those same 20 meter circles.  I’m sure there are ways to cheat time and get things done faster in our training.  I don’t know how, but I’m sure someone, somewhere, has come up with some tricks.  This impatiently patient person is going to do things the right way.  My ego will just have to take a deep breath and enjoy the slow ride.  Yes, we have used a double bridle in our training, but it is done under adult supervision.  It will not become a crutch.  Most days I ride in my snaffle.

The funny thing is that I can actually see and feel a change in Ike and I even since the championship show.  We can now ride the First Level shallow canter loop with ease.  The canter-trot-canter transition actually occurs right around X.  Our 10 meter trot circles are round with Ike’s outside shoulder pointing the right way; those 10 meter canter circles for Second Level are still a work in progress.  Our leg yields are more fluid and Ike is going to rock shoulder in and haunches in when the time comes.  Ike’s medium trot finally has some power from behind and I am gradually able to sit his trot for longer and longer periods.

What is the difference?  Time, time, and more time.  We patiently school on a regular basis under Ms. C’s eagle eye.  I ride after work most days trying to replicate what we had in our lessons.  I read online articles and my Dressage Today regularly to better understand the theory.  I get back in the saddle and practice some more.  Will we be ready for Second Level in April?  Only time will tell, but when we do, I am certain that my impatient patience will have paid off.


Happy New Year!

Hello 2015, so nice to meet you.

Hello 2015, so nice to meet you.

Ike and I would like to wish all our friends and family a Happy New Year!  We are excited about what the new year will bring to us.  Hopefully it will bring me the ability to sit the trot, the knowledge to compete successfully at Second Level, and the ability to laugh at myself when things go horribly wrong.  I hope for Ike the new year brings the ability to move his hulking body as one cohesive unit, the patience to put up with his spastic mother, and that his fear of large tractors and vultures stays in 2014.  Ike is hoping for more treats, less work, and that the hotwire between his paddock and his brother’s magically disappears.

Stay tuned for our new adventures!

Alison and Ike