Dear Mr. Spider,

Spider Bite 1

I am writing to you today to thank you for the extensive damage that you have wrought on Ike’s face.  You probably thought nothing of the consequences when you decided to bite poor Ike on the left side of his face.  Ever since you did it, I have not been able to stop thinking about it.

The bite seemed innocent enough at first.  I dabbed it with anti-itch cream and headed home.  By day two, Ike had multiple bumps on the entire left side of his face and the hair started falling out.  By day four, most of the left side is now hairless and he has rubbed a few spots raw.  None of the topicals we have applied have stopped the madness.  I am now buying Zyrtec by the case (Ike needs 10 pills twice a day) in hopes of tempering the itching as the reaction subsides and heals.

Please note that if I ever find you or your offspring, there will be immediate consequences felt.  There will be no trial.  I will be judge and jury rolled into one maniacal package.  Punishment will be death by shoe/boot/brush/broom/any other inanimate object within striking distance. I will feel no remorse for my actions.

I am not looking forward to the disapproving stares and snide comments by the DQs at this weekend’s show.  I have started to work on Ike’s Phantom-of-the-Opera-style mask to hide the damage; I feel certain that the TD will accept it without question.  I might add a cape for dramatic effect.  The first person who asks, “Why did you let this happen?” will be pummeled with my piaffe whip.

You have fair warning Mr. Spider.  You’d better pack your bags and find a new home.

Alison

The TV Did It

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Ike prior to the latest round of facial injuries

 

When I was in my formative years, I was always injuring myself.  There was rarely a question about how I did it – I fell in the gravel driveway and tore up my knees, I jumped off the handlebars of my friend’s bike and scraped my hands, elbows and knees, I was walking and simply tripped and twisted my ankle.  Poetry in motion.  And if there was a parental question about how I obtained my injury, I would always tell the truth no matter how embarrassing it might be…My brother on the other hand, he was notorious for his bold-faced lies.  How did you slice open your hand? “The T V did it.” (My father did not have to investigate long before he found the pocketknife and bloody Lincoln Log.)  How did you tear your brand new sneaker? “The sweatpants did it.”  (He is taking the truth about that one to his grave.)

Ike falls somewhere in the middle.  Sadly, the big fellow can also be a bit of a klutz. (Ssshhh, I can hear some of you noting that he is just like his mother.)  And while he may not exactly lie about how he injured himself, he is also not always forthcoming with how the injury occurred.  I swear that he shrugs his shoulders when asked what happened to cause the loss of hair/blood/lameness/odd lump.  Sometimes I can tell that the injury was inflicted by his brother.  Other times I can locate the offending bug bite that started the itching and severe loss of mane.  Last weekend I watched him misjudge how far away from the fence he was and bang his head on the fence post.  I feared he’d hit his eye, but thankfully upon removal of the fly mask, he’d only scraped some hide off his face right above his eye.  Most times though, I have no idea what caused the injury and all I can do is triage the damage and pray that we have some hair growth before the next dressage show.

And the cause Ike’s lameness a few weeks ago will forever remain a mystery.  We had a stellar lesson one day, a solid training ride the next, and emerged the next morning clearly limping.  What the?!  We had been working hard to strengthen our countercanter and develop a more powerful collected trot.  I had been doing my best to teach him to reach more in his medium trot while trying to maintain my position in the saddle.  He went from 100% sound to the walking wounded overnight.  You could see him limping even at the walk and the problem was definitely the left front.  No obvious signs of a problem; he only flinched when you touched the bulb of the hoof.  My best guess is that he laid down to sleep and then whacked himself with one of the hinds as he flailed about to get up.  There were no televisions nor any sweatpants to take the blame.

We were lucky and after a week off from work, Ike came back completely sound.  Amazingly he did not seem to lose any of his fitness or stamina from the down time.  Wish I could say the same for me – a week out of the saddle always leaves me a bit rusty and slow to react with the necessary aids.  We now work with polo wraps, pastern wraps, and bell boots to protect his legs and hooves.  I’m still debating the merits of bubble wrap for turnout.  Keep your fingers crossed that we make it through the second half of our show season!

alison

 

 

Equestrians Know It’s Hot When…

Ike in the shade

Can we just hang in the shade?

So there have been numerous articles published in the local newspaper to let us know that the dog days of summer are here.  Oh, really? Someone needed the newspaper to tell them that it is ridiculously hot? Umm, any equestrian could have told you that weeks ago.  We have our own ways of knowing it is hotter than Hades outside with a dose of subtropical humidity to make it more insufferable.

Equestrians know it is sweltering when…

 

You are on your third change of clothes and it is only 10 AM.

The sweatband in your helmet is so saturated that the sweat just runs into your eyes and blinds you. Thankfully your horse is smart enough not to run into your trainer.

They postpone a horse show for the safety of horses and riders.

You sweat through your gloves and can no longer half halt efficiently since the reins are sliding through your fingers.

Your horse is soaking wet even before you start grooming and tacking for your ride.

You dread stopping somewhere on the way home from the barn for fear someone will surreptitiously take a photo of you and mistake you for a Pokémon character.

A bug flies into your face and sticks to the sweat. Hey, at least it didn’t fly into your mouth this time.

You remove your clothing off like a banana peel.  Raise your hand if you have had a wrestling match and a few choice words with the sweaty sports bra that really doesn’t want to part ways.

It feels like you are squishing when you walk, but it is just the sweat pooled in your black leather boots.

You sweat so much that your gloves turn your hands a rainbow of colors from the dyes. Another show of hands for those who have gone into the office with this new “accessory.”

You accidentally hit yourself in the face with your horse’s sweaty saddle pad. Bleh, that doesn’t taste so good.

You seriously debate the merits of riding up and down the barn aisle rather than braving the sun.

You place your helmet on your head and sweat from the day before drips onto your head.

Your clothes are wetter going into the washer than when they go into the dryer.

You use the word “moist” a lot in conversation and you have not baked anything since the holidays.

You Google “places with cooler summer temperatures” but then realize that your 18 hand dressage horse will be a bit out-of-place at that dude ranch in Banff, Canada.

Stay cool and safe everyone! This heat wave can’t last forever…

alison

 

 

Get Smart

 

Ike at the Meadows May 2016

Photo by Melana K.

 

If you are of a certain age, you have probably watched the television show Get Smart starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon.  Younger generations are probably more familiar with the movie of the same title starring Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway.  Maxwell Smart’s famous tag line was, “Missed it by that much.”  That line pretty much sums up  our first licensed show last weekend.  It is that wee little bit that costs you dearly.

The weekend did not start off well given that Mother Nature had decided that we needed 15 straight days of rain leading up to the show.  I was so desperate to squeeze a lesson in before we went that I rode in some light rain.  We traveled to the show grounds in the rain, unloaded in the rain, and then sat in the barn listening to it rain even harder.  The covered arena was in use by the breed show, so most of us tacked up and rode in the rain and slop and prayed that Saturday would dawn a clearer day.

My first ride on Saturday was Second Level Test 2 – the qualifier for the USDF Region 1 CBLM Championship.  I needed a 62% to be qualified for the fall.  You only need one score and to be a member of one of the group membership organizations.  We’d been able to get some scores over the minimum at the schooling shows, so I was hopeful that we could get our score at this show to take some pressure off at future shows.  Heads up, watch my face closely as we make our first turn off centerline:

First Attempt at Second Level Test 2

When your horse decided to show his medium canter rather than a medium trot, spook at the judge/scribe/plants/invisible boogey men, and then show his pivoting skills rather than a correct turn on the haunches, you end up with a score of 61.795% – a mere 0.205% away…yep, missed it by that much.  I would have to wait until Sunday to try again.

We also attempted to obtain that magical 60% in Second Level Test 3 that I need in order to try my musical freestyle at a licensed show.  This test has continued to vex us even though we are stronger in all of our Second Level work.  We have yet to ride it without a bobble or two, but I took a deep breath and headed down centerline.  Well, let me tell you, we did manage to ride both canter serpentines without breaking in the countercanter, but we again demonstrated our ability to plant Ike’s hind legs in the turn on the haunches.  Our score?  A 59.5%…sigh, another swing and a miss.  Since we only signed up for this test on Sunday, the coveted 60% will have to wait until June.

Finally, it was time to try Second Level Test 2 again.  This test would be ridden in the covered arena…and guess who never schooled in the covered arena.  We’d just have to hope that Ike would maintain his composure, and let’s admit it, it was fingers crossed that I could maintain mine as well.  Here is the ride:

Second Level Test 2 Dressage at the Meadow

We had the one little bobble in the right lead countercanter, but after a quick prayer, I was able to get Ike back into the right lead so that we could demonstrate our simple change just a few strides later.  Phew!  Overall I was pleased with the ride; I had to just hope that the judge felt the same way.  After a 30 minute wait, the score was finally available online.  Drumroll please!  65.128%!!  We did it!!  Qualified!!  What?!  Ooohmmaahhhggeerrrrd!  What a huge relief.  Finally, we didn’t miss out by a hair or a nose.  There is hope for us yet.  We had many very good movement scores in this test.  I am proud to say that we earned a 6 and a 7 for our turn on the haunches (the secret is to nag at the caboose the entire time).  Our simple changes also were strong.

So now I can breathe a huge sigh of relief.  Don’t worry, I’m sure there will be plenty more misses on our way to the championship and plenty more comedic relief moments as well.  But that is part of the journey.

alison

 

 

The Other Left

Ike Morningside April 2016.jpg

Hello friends!

It has been too long since we have had a heart to heart.  I have had a busy spring, and this weekend will be my first weekend away from home since the championship show last fall.

Mom and I have already done three schooling shows this spring.  Three!  A poor boy can’t catch a break these days.  She is a woman possessed this spring – like she is on a mission and everyone had best stay out of her way.  I tried to get out of her way by busting out of my stall, but she was less than amused at my efforts to thwart the third outing of the year.

Two of the shows were at this place that has a lot of high-flying horses and also horses that race around on perfectly good grass and jumped bushes and big logs.  I can’t figure out why they would choose to jump over fences or bushes. That seems like a lot of extra work. Why not just run around them? I could show them fence deconstruction techniques that are rather effective.  Or, here’s a thought, how about not run at all and just eat the grass?  Such silly ponies.  Mom did let me taste some of the grass before and after we worked.  It was very delicious.  I think all shows should offer it to the competitors – a snack bar for horses if you will.  There is a snack bar for the people, and I think since we are doing most of the work that we should have one too.  I shall have to remember to bring this up with show management at each of the shows this year.

I like these little shows since it means that I still get some time in my paddock to play with my brother and I get to sleep at home.  Yes, I get a stall at the away shows, but with my late night visits with my selfie buddy and the fact that the new barn makes scary noises, I don’t sleep as much and get very tired by Sunday.

And I must say that poor Mom needs some directional help.  At the last show, I almost had to change my name and disassociate myself with her.  Mind you, she had Ms. C READING the test and we have ridden Second Level Test 2 many times already so it wasn’t like she didn’t know which way we needed to turn.  I even tried to strongly hint to her that she was trying to turn the wrong way and I tried to go to the left as called for by the test and Ms. C…but the crazy woman insisted that we do a second turn on the haunches to the right.  Umm, Mom, we just went that way, it is time to go LEFT!!  The judge never rang the bell, but politely told Mom that she failed to demonstrate a turn on the haunches to the left.  Mom laughed.  I just hung my head in shame.

Thankfully I have heard through the grapevine that she has now enlisted the help of a 6 year old for some tips on remembering which way is left.  (“The left hand makes the ‘L’ Ali.”)  Hopefully mom has practiced making the “L” so that we don’t have another misstep this weekend.  If you are reading this and will be at the show grounds, remind her to avoid the other left and stick with the correct one.

And, in case you hadn’t heard, I’m 8 years old now.  That’s like 25 in human years so I am waiting for the opportunity to have more of a say in what I do and don’t have to do.  My brother doesn’t have to go places or work hard, so I think it is high time I get to live like him.  When I asked him about approaching Mom with the idea, this was his response:

The boys Apr 2016

“Seriously, why does Mom keep him around? Shouldn’t he have moved out by now?”

 

He thinks he is such a comedian.  I am not amused.  I will just have to figure things out on my own.  Stop by my stall this weekend if you have any tips to share.

Ike

Mom is a Cootie Queen

Ike Jan 2016

Happy New Year!  Hope all my friends are doing well.  Things are good here at the farm especially since I haven’t had to go anywhere since before Thanksgiving.  It has given me time to catch up with my barn buddies and contemplate the writings of Baruch Spinoza.  He is credited with saying, “I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.”  No offense to Mr. Spinoza, but how can I not laugh at human actions?  I guess he hasn’t met my mother or her friends.  It is a veritable comedy routine of hilarity for my pals and me.  It is beyond comprehension why they do the things they do, but we sure do get a good chuckle from watching them go about their day-to-day lives. 

Mom has apparently had an alien take up residence in her head because she has been sick since the day after Christmas.  While my brother and I do feel bad for her, it has meant that I have had a really nice break from the rigors of regular training.  She has tried to claim that she was “better” on a couple of occasions, but when she can’t make it through a 30 minute ride without blowing her nose 10 times, I would argue that she it is time for her to see the vet.  If I had a runny nose for that long, I would have been poked and prodded multiple times and been subjected to yucky syringes of ground up medicine disguised as apple sauce (you are fooling no one Mom!).  Can someone please make her an appointment?  Hopefully Dad knows how to grind up the pills and fill the syringes.  Now there is a funny image of Dad cramming medicine-laced apple sauce in Mom’s mouth. 

When she does claim to be “well,” Mom has only been able to ride me two or three days a week.  The rainy weather has also kept her from asking Ms. C to ride me.  It is hard to get away with anything when Ms. C starts riding me.  She is very smart and wily and is quick to fuss at me if I try the tricks I try with Mom.  What makes it even worse is that Ms. C then shares her thoughts and findings with Mom.  Shhh!  I have diligently worked to develop those evasions.  Why are you telling Mom my secrets?!  It is fun watching Mom fumble about trying to figure out how to stop me from grabbing the reins. 

I am not bored though with all my time off from my dressage work.  Cigar got a new halter for Christmas; he gets one every year since his halter gets pretty ratty over the course of the year.  Now, I don’t want to incriminate myself, but I may play a role in the halter’s annual demise.  Mom got a different kind of breakaway halter this year.  It has a short leather piece that breaks if necessary.  Well, the second day Cigar wore it, the new halter fell off into the mud.  It could be poor quality leather or poor workmanship in the construction, but noooo, Mom blamed me for the broken piece.  Umm, Mom, it was over on the other side of his paddock, so maybe Willow broke it.  You have no concrete evidence that I was involved.   That is all I have to say about that matter. 

Mom also fussed about the missing hair on my forehead.  As you can see from my picture, it really isn’t all that bad.  The first time she saw it, she wanted to poke it with her finger.  Seriously?  You want to touch my wound with your cootie-covered finger!!  I stood very tall, got accused of being a giraffe, then she got serious and put my halter on my head.  Thankfully, she wised up and cleaned it with a washcloth and put some ointment on it.  I didn’t get to read the label, so hopefully it will protect me from Mom’s germs. 

And, Mother Nature finally got serious and colder weather has returned to Virginia.  That means that my big blue blanket finally made an appearance at the barn.  Mom was tickled that it still fit me.  Mom had it laundered at the end of last winter.  Not sure what was in her Koolaid that day, since the very first day she put it on me, I christened it in the mud in my paddock…Hahahaaaa!  There is also a slight tear in the shoulder, but I have no knowledge of how that happened.  To my equine friends reading this, a fun game to play with your human is the Blanket Sidestep.  Quietly watch your human get the blanket situated to place on your back.  This can take a while if my Mom’s pace is any indication; be patient – it will be rewarded.  Right when they are ready to lift it onto your back, quickly sidestep away from them and watch the blanket fall on the floor/in the shavings.  If your human is anything like my Mom, it will drive them crazy.  Good times. 

So sorry, Mr. Spinoza, I  am going to have to disagree with you about not laughing.  Life is too short and my Mom is too funny.  I’m going to laugh even if it is silently.

Ike

 

The Last Gasp Before The Finals

Ike at Rose Mount September 2015

Ike at Rose Mount September 2015

Phew, our last regular show weekend of the year is in the books – we just now have to power through to the championship show in October.  This particular show is a special one to me since my dressage chapter is the one that hosts the show.  We only have 45 members, so it takes everyone plus our supportive family members to pull off the weekend successfully.  Planning starts pretty much the year before when dates are selected and judges are secured.  Since so many of us also like to compete at the show, there is careful planning so that everything is set so that we can still get our horses ready for the competition.  Needless to say that the week leading up to the show is crazy as all the pieces and parts must be delivered to the show grounds and then assembled before the competitors arrive on Friday.

 And, if I can boast for just a second, I must say that we might be a small group, but we are mighty, and we pull off a mighty nice dressage show.  We’ve got a tent full of vendors with fabulous wares to sell, delicious food, an air-conditioned and flushable port-a-john trailer (yes, you read that correctly, air-conditioned), lovely ribbons and prizes, generous sponsors, and the BEST volunteers.  Mother Nature was a bit of a wicked witch on Saturday with some heavy rain, but the show went on and Sunday dawned a stunning fall day. 

There was a brief moment on Saturday morning that I questioned whether or not we would make it to the show.  My husband and I arrived at the farm to hook up the trailer and load Ike.  While my husband hitched the trailer, I was responsible for retrieving said horse and having him at the ready when the ramp went down.  Ike revived his one man play of “The Gingerbread Man” and ran as fast as he could around his paddock avoiding Mom.  Not even an apple would draw him close even when I shared the better part of it with his brother.  Luckily Ms. C felt sorry for me and stepped in to help.  Thank goodness that Ike never says “No” to her.  When that happens, we are doomed.

As I mentioned, Saturday was a bit of a soggy day.  And when I say soggy, I mean soaked through to your underwear as you watch the rain stream off your very expensive saddle as you pray that there is no permanent damage.  I must also get on my soap box for a moment and ask again who thought that WHITE pants were appropriate riding attire??!!  Unflattering to most of us and rather transparent when wet.  I’m fairly certain that the tag on my underwear was readable through the wet fabric. We ended up only riding our First Level test and with a personal licensed show best of 67.9% we came home with a pretty red ribbon.  That test made me feel secure with where we are as we head to the championship show.

Sunday dawned a better day.  Crisp fall air and bright sunshine.  Since we didn’t want a repeat of Saturday, Ms. C brought Ike in before we arrived.  Sorry big boy.  My first ride time was identical to Saturday and my second was shortly after – that meant we only had to tack up once which is always a good thing in my book.  Anyway, our First Level test was not as tension free as Saturday’s ride, but we still managed a respectable 65.7% and another red ribbon.  Would you like to take a guess at what caused our tension?  Geese.  Canadian geese waddling about right outside the fence line.  Just what is it about birds that Ike cannot handle?  At least they did not take flight since that would have guaranteed that I would have had a short duration flight as well.

Our second test of the day was Second Level Test 1 or as I like to call it, the one with all the simple changes.  Luckily, Ike and I have made progress in our simple changes and we actually received some 7’s for them during this test. Woohoo!  There is hope for us yet.  As you can see from the video, we still need to develop better throughness and Ike needs to sit on his hind end more, but considering that we really just started Second Level a few months ago, I am pleased with our progress.  The plan is to work hard all winter and be ready to bust a move with Tests 2 and 3 at our first show in May 2016. 

 

We ended up with a 63.333% and a third place ribbon.  Our goal for Second Level this season was not to make it to any of the championships, but to achieve at least 60% in our scores.  I’m just thrilled to say that all of the Second Level tests that we have ridden this year have hit the 60th percentile range.

With this show behind us, our sights are now set on the Region 1 GAIGs in mid-October.  Big man is going to get a well deserved break for a few days and then we will be back to work to fine tune the elements for the First 3 test.

Thanks for sticking with us this season!

alison