Photo by S. Atkinson

Photo by S. Atkinson

It is all about the hashtag these days.  #this, #that, #andtheother.  If you are past a certain age like me, you still occasionally call it a pound sign…and get odd looks from the younger generation.  It was only last year that I dipped my toes into the Twitter pool.  I must admit that I am still not an effective tweeter, and properly hashtagging and tagging fellow Twitter users is not my forte.  The other challenging twist to Twitter is that you only get 140 characters in which to make your point, so it forces you to really think about your sentence structure and word usage – no superfluous words allowed.

My tweets are usually confined to my thoughts about horse ownership and barn life.  In case you are not on Twitter (if you are, you can find me at @wholovesike), here are some of my random thoughts that fall into the category of #equestrianproblems.


Horse hair is: a fashion statement, a condiment, a home accessory, or all of the above?

Drug chemistry is a good thing…banamine to the rescue again.

Leaving your horse’s uneaten Stud Muffin in your pocket means you will be cleaning lots of little crumbs from the dryer.

60 minute lesson of mostly sitting trot =1440 minutes of soreness.

Alison+Ike=5 Horseflies=0 – why does it feel like we are still losing the Battle of the Flies?

Hot,humid weather+rubber reins+sweaty hands – riding gloves =loose reins+ pathetic half halts.

% $#% Apparently, my white show breeches decided to become pale blue in the washing machine.

Bleach removed the blue tint from my white breeches, but left behind a dingy yellow tint. Definitely .

That moment during your lesson when it feels like your graduate work oral exams when you don’t know the answer.

To wash my horse’s laundry with mine or do a separate load? That is the question.

That moment you realize your horse is going to bite the farrier before you can intervene.

Picking frozen mud out of my horse’s hooves is like chipping a concrete block with a butter knife.

Dressed warmly enough to handle the cold temperature at the barn, but I looked like Ralphie’s little brother in .

I don’t recommend driving with spurs still strapped to your boots.

Finding a shriveled carrot in the washing machine 2 loads later…

Yes I wore my fleece-lined winter riding breeches to walk my dogs. No I don’t care what people thought…I was warm!

Ending up dirtier than your by the time you are done currying and brushing off the crust of mud.

Leaving dirty barn rags in your new car=no more new car smell.

The realization that you are the one holding back your horse’s progress.

With the volume of hair in my car, it makes me think my have been taking my car for joy rides while I sleep.

Hearing from your barn that your removed the hot wire and fence between them so they could play…

Wiping your face with a towel then realizing you already used it to wipe dirt from your horse’s nostrils…

Forget the pumice stone, my feet need a hoof rasp to be sandal-ready.

When you horse is so tall you don’t see the dirt on his topline until you are mounted.

Paid my horse’s chiropractic bill yesterday so that he could act like a bucking bronco today.

Today’s lesson was all about the shoulders. Why must my have such massive ones that like to be bullies?

Watch out SI swimsuit models, I have my first tan lines of the year.

Going from First Level to Second Level is like jumping from elementary school to graduate school in a single bound.

When your trainer gets on your and says “We have work to do.”

My braiding skills leave much to be desired. My poor looks like a beauty school reject.

Thinking your white saddle pad is still white until you get a new one.

I think I blinded my husband with my pale legs…

Finding your underwear stuck to the Velcro of a polo wrap…after you get to the barn.

Why is breathing the first thing I forget to do when riding my test?

The trailer always looks like a crime scene after a show.

So desperate to ride that I rode in the rain until I could no longer see clearly through my glasses.

Putting on your riding helmet when it is still wet from your sweaty ride the day before…

Phew, offended myself when I wiped away the sweat on my face with my gloved hands…time to wash the gloves I suppose.

I need to set aside my perfectionist, OCD tendencies and be okay with being a “beginner” with my dressage work.


Feeling a Little OOC


The abbreviation OOC brings back memories of my laboratory days spent mixing chemicals, using acetylene flames and playing with really cool instrumentation.  All laboratory work done for regulatory purposes requires a lot of quality control in order to certify the results as true and accurate.  Of course, things don’t always come out as planned, and when you just cannot figure out why things went awry, those analyses were noted with the term “OOC” – Out of Control.  Basically, it means that you have no freaking idea why the analysis went south.

Ike and I sweated through our first lesson since last weekend’s show.  Ms. C and I spent some time discussing my Second Level rides and how we can improve upon those scores.  Mind you, we were both very pleased with last weekend since we hit our goal of getting in the 60th percentile with both my Second Level rides (64.242% and 61.212%), but now we need to refine the work and boost those scores a few more percentage points.  She was there to see my rides, so she can definitively tell me what we need more of – more jump in our canter, more oomph and engagement in our collected trot work, more of everything in our medium trot and canter work, more shoulder freedom in our shoulder ins, and less tension in my body.  That isn’t too much to ask now is it?

So yesterday’s lesson was about finding the latent gears in Ike’s trot work.  Ms. C kindly let me work in rising trot or I don’t think there would have been anyway we could have accomplished anything.  We started in a solid working trot.  Once we were stable there, I asked for a little more, and then more, and a smidge more, and then when I thought that was it, we went for another power push.  At that point an elephant could have charged out of the woods and would not have noticed.  I felt like we were riding the edge – barely in control – teetering on the brink of chaos.  A little OOC if you will.  Finally Ike really found that six gear in his hind end- Ah!  There was the engagement.  There was the lengthening of his frame.  Does anyone seriously think I can sit THAT trot?!

We finally had to take a break, not for Ike’s sake but for mine.  I really need to get my butt more aerobically fit to keep up with my horse.  Between figuring out how to sit Ike’s medium trot and remembering to breathe, I have a lot of work to do before I am capable of getting the most out of my horse.

And speaking of work to do, our turn on the haunches also has miles to go to get out of the 5-6 range in scoring.  We have better luck to the left than to the right.  Ike’s bully of a right shoulder really likes to get in the way and interrupt our flow to the right.  His hind end would rather shift to the left than put up a fight with that shoulder.  If I get to busy in the saddle, it confuses the situation even more and we end up with a small shuffling circle with the haunches doing most of the moving.  Not pretty.

But even with our issues, we are moving forward with our Second Level work.  Going to try Second Level Test 2 at a Fix-a-Test clinic in a couple of weeks.  It is the perfect opportunity to give that test a try and get some instant feedback from one of the local judges.  She was one of the judges last weekend as well, so I can’t wait to hear her advice for boosting our scores.

We have no shows scheduled for July, so we have plenty of time to practice before we go public again.

Stay cool!


You’ve (Not) Got The Look

My best view while riding.

My best view while riding.

I love looking at photographs of other riders and horses, especially those who compete in the upper echelons of the sport.  The talent, the beauty, the power is awe inspiring no matter which discipline you select to admire.  I enviously look at their correct position in the saddle and how relaxed they appear.  I try to commit the images to memory to recall while I am trying to get Ike to elevate his front end while trying to keep my hind end securely in the saddle.  The riders aren’t inadvertently leaning forward or pushing themselves out of the saddle.  They are actually looking where they are going and not at their horse’s withers.  When you look at the riders’ faces, you can see the determination and focus.  In many photos, the riders are even smiling.   

Sadly, when I look at photos or videos of me riding, I look like I am in pain, constipated, or distressed.  I scrunch my nose as if I just sniffed milk past its expiration date.  I can look horrified as if I’m an actress in the new blockbuster horror film. Thank goodness Ike does not mimic my facial expression.  The judges would eliminate us in a heartbeat if he looked as pained as I do.  A Glamour magazine “don’t block” just might be necessary…or someone with some wicked good Photoshop skills to replace my pained look for a more pleasant facial expression.  I am not expecting any modeling contracts to be headed my way anytime soon. 

That "I smell something bad" look

That “I smell something bad” look

This wretched look is on my face no matter how the ride is going.  Even with my good blue-ribbon rides, I distort my face.  In the rare photo, I can conjure a neutral face – not happy, not sad, not pained, just mannequin expressionless.  Even with my final halt and salute photos, you see more relief and surprise than joy. 

Ms. C tells me that it is due to the fact that I am concentrating.  While that may be the case, why can’t I concentrate with a less distressful expression?  She said that we can certainly work on it during my lessons, but there are so many other issues to work out that it will fall far down in the list of things to think about while riding.  It is all I can do to think “half halt,” “turn,” “put my weight in my left/right  stirrup,” “where is my leg supposed to be,” and “BREATHE and RELAX.”   

I doubt this is something that I will fix anytime soon, so in the mean time, I will ask everyone to focus on Ike in the photos.  Big man can almost always look peaceful and focused, even when his mother is not.




Rainy start to JuneWell as far as I can tell, Mother Nature and the month of June must be having one heck of an argument.  I am not sure what June did to piss her off, but someone needs to apologize so that the sun can return.  This has been the view from my windshield for the past 3 days.

Needless to say that there has not been much riding this week.  I did tack up and ride in the drizzle yesterday for 30 minutes, but once the rain started getting more and more steady, I threw in the towel because…1) I could barely see through all the rain drops accumulating on my eyeglasses, and 2) I really didn’t think it was wise to get a brand new saddle sopping wet.

Sad to think that I didn’t think twice about Ike or myself getting wet, but the saddle will be treated with kid gloves for some time to come.  We do not need a repeat of 9 years ago with my last saddle.  It didn’t involve rain, but watching a brand new custom saddle get flung onto the ground because your Thoroughbred won’t stand still for the girth is gut wrenching.  Four times it hit the ground and at least once it was the recipient of a hoof print on one of the billets.  Thankfully, there was no damage but for some dirt.  Also, thankfully, Ike is a bit more cooperative during the tacking process.

Our work was decent for what we were able to accomplish.  We are starting to school haunches in, turn on the haunches, and the countercanter work for the Second Level Test 2 test.  Hopefully by August we will be ready to give it a go.  Our turn on the haunches right now looks more like Frankenstein turning a corner and is not yet fit for public viewing.

Hoping for a lesson tomorrow if the rain will end early enough to allow the arena to drain.  Otherwise, does anyone have four flippers I can borrow for Ike?