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…





Ike Culpeper Aug 2015

Yes, that’s right puny human, come closer…

Move over Frankenstein (or Fraank-en-shteen if you are more of a Mel Brooks fan), there is a new monster in town to terrorize the villagers.  If you are attending a dressage show in the mid-Atlantic area this year, keep your eye out for Frankenhorse.  This creature is typically one of the larger equines in attendance with a ginormous, block-like head and a long bed body.  He might look like any ordinary horse, but if you look closely at the button braids, they will be hiding the bolts in his neck. 


 In the stabling area, you might see him dragging around a young-ish maiden as he bulls his way to the nearest grass patch.  Stud chains and lead ropes are no match for this monster who can be very single minded when hunger pains strike .  It is suggested that you just step aside and let him pass rather than risk having him dent your $800 Deniro boots and/or your foot with his sizeable hooves.  If you see him in his stall, do not be fooled by the friendly expression on his face as he watches your approach toward his temporary living quarters.  Frankenhorse’s long neck makes easy work of nipping at unsuspecting passersby.  Barn visitors should also be wary of flying feed buckets.  This monster can be very grumpy when hungry.  You might consider wearing your riding helmet when visiting the barn housing this creature.

 Frankenhorse typically reveals his awkward self during the more challenging movements in the Second Level tests, so mosey over to the ring to catch a glimpse of the Second Level classes to see this creature in action.  Ten meter circles are more hexagonal than circular since a supple midsection is not typically seen on a FH.  Countercanter is also not FH’s strong suite since that also requires a supple body rather than bullish shoulders and a board-like ribcage.  Most often, FH gives himself away with the turn on the haunches.  That movement exaggerates FH’s stiffness.  If you are quiet and listen very closely, you will hear him grunt and groan when asked for the turn.  Pinned ears and a swishing tale are also telltale signs that you are watching a Frankenhorse.

Thankfully, with regular work, timely feeding, and appropriate training to keep his mind occupied, Frankenhorse’s reign of terror can be minimized and peace can be maintained. 

Consider yourself warned!

Finally, the Hiatus is Over

Feb 4 2016

When I was a child, my family owned boats – a daysailer when I was very young, then we sized-up to a 25 foot sailboat, and finally, we shifted to motorboats which were better for fishing.  My mother used to call them “holes in the water that we throw money into” since it seemed sometimes that the boat spent more time at the dock than on the open water.  But, even when the boat was stationary, there were still expenditures that drained the bank account.  A few years ago, my parents finally plugged the last hole and got rid of the boat.

Now that I own horses, I better understand what she was saying.  When I am forced by powers beyond my control to cease all riding, it can be very frustrating.  Even when I cannot ride, there are still board checks to write, vet bills to pay, and apple expenditures.  So after 15 days of no riding, I finally got my butt back in the saddle and rode Ike through the slushy remnants of the blizzard.  Desperate times, people, desperate times.

Fortunately, some warmer temperatures melted those last stubborn traces of the snow and the ring was back to its pre-snow condition.  I took full advantage of the situation and scheduled a lesson with Ms. C.  She had warned me that the horses had displayed their naughty wintertime behavior earlier in the day.  One of the horses she rode decided to exhibit her airs-above-the-ground skills.  So with that cautionary advice, I heaved myself onto Ike’s back and began my warm-up.  Just when I was lulled into a false sense of confidence, Ike reminded me that he could at anytime be in charge of our ride.  Luckily I kept my ass in the saddle and quickly regained control.

In my lessons, we have dabbled with flying changes and half pass in preparation for Third Level, but the focus is mainly on the basics – is your horse through and working over his back?  Is your horse straight?  Seemingly simple concepts in theory yet challenging when you add motion and power.  Ike can certainly give the outward appearance that he is through at the trot, but I know when he is faking it.  The challenge is then to correct the lack of throughness.  There are times that the only way to establish it is to go back to the walk.  It is usually easier for me to win the argument while moving slower.  Once we achieve the throughness, we then are starting to add more power.  Note to self:  You had better get into better aerobic shape in order to ride that powerful trot!

Straightness can still elude us at times…well, for full disclosure, it happens more often than not.  Yes, we can regularly trot a straight centerline, but straightness at the canter and on a circle or bending line?  Hmm, I struggle to know what is going on with the caboose.  I can think we are going straight, but if you look at photos or watch videos, you can see Ike’s hind end is not quite on the same track as the front.  And while I know that we should be cantering with a slight shoulder fore position, I struggle to know if I have achieved that correct positioning.  Ms. C frequently asks me if I think I have a straight horse; I frequently respond with, “Maybe.”  Needless to say that is not the correct answer.

Things get even more challenging when I try to recreate the throughness and straightness when I ride on my own.  Do I have it?  Should I praise Ike?  Or did we completely miss the mark and I’m rewarding the wrong thing?  The struggle is real, but thankfully, I have learned that I am not alone with this struggle.  I’ve found a group of like minded dressage riders on Facebook.  We lament working on our own and worry that we are doing more harm than good.  Luckily some riders with more wisdom reassure us that our horses are forgiving creatures.  Most of them want to please us.  Stop worrying about making mistakes – it is part of the learning process.  Just enjoy the journey even when you end up on the long road.

So the plan is to enjoy the unscheduled time off from riding to just enjoy my horse’s company and stop kicking myself when we make mistakes.  Success comes when you dust yourself off and try one more time.



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.



#EnoughRainAlready – I Want To Ride!

"I will say my goodbyes from over here."

“I will say my goodbyes from over here.”

Sigh, it has been a challenging few weeks.  The Mid-Atlantic region has been coping with copious amounts of rain after a dry spell.  We were run out of our fall beach week 2 days early because of a nor ‘ easter, only to come home to a rainstorm and another nor ‘ easter.  Thank goodness Joaquin decided not to pay us a visit.

The foggy photo was taken the last morning before vacation.   Ike must have thought that he was expected to come with us because he avoided all interaction with me. I didn’t push the issue, gave all the apples to his brother,  screamed goodbye, and headed down the road for a week.  Did he learn anything from this? Probably not, but he came right to me when I returned,  “Hi Mom!  Come see me! Do you have treats?”

In the few rides that I have squeezed in between rain events, I am feeling confident with our First Level work heading into the last weeks before the finals.  Someone read my blog post from 2 ½ years ago titled “C is for Canter, P is for Patience” just the other day.  It was a good reminder of how far we have come with our work.  Back then we struggled to stay on a 20 meter circle.  Ike resembled Scooby Doo on more than one occasion.  Our walk and trot work carried our scores.  I can proudly say that we have now seen 7’s and 7.5’s in our canter work later this season.  Real evidence of progress! 

Our Second Level endeavors are also coming along.  Even Ms. C was pleasantly surprised with our turn on the haunches. There is hope for us yet.  I am pretty certain that our scores for the movement could finally exceed the 5 ‘s that we received earlier this year.  We have scaled back our simple change schooling until after the finals. Ike sometimes offers canter when I want trot…honest mistake, but it would be costly in our finals class.  The changes are coming and we will be ready in the spring when the plan is to go full Second Level.  (It would be the first time EVER that my season didn’t involve Intro, Training, or First Levels.  I feel like a big kid now.)



In other news, we have added an adorable Husky cross to the family. Lena is a five-year old from our local SPCA.  She is a lovable doll who just today barked for the first time since joining the family.  Briefly considered bringing her to the fall show for the doggie costume contest, but decided against it since she has yet to be introduced to the equine side of the family. Better to wait until she is more settled.  They can be a bit overwhelming the first time.

Sorry for the delay posting since our return.  I started drafting this last night and lost the post.  Not sure where it wandered off to, but I hope it finds a happy home like Lena did.

Fingers crossed for some sunshine this weekend!!


Mom Says That I’m A Gigolo Like It Is A Bad Thing

Ike Aug 23 2015

Howdy Friends!

It is about time for me address the whole, “Ike is a gigolo” rumor that Mom started at our August show.  I guess Mom got word that once she leaves the show grounds that I have friends of a female persuasion stop by my stall.  First off, if Miss L had not told Mom that Miss R and I were canoodling, Mom would have just gone about her merry way none the wiser to my evening activities.  I need to get a hold of Miss L’s phone – it appears to be the way that information is sent to Mom.

Ike and his new friend Miss R

Ike and his new friend Miss R

Second, can I help it if the attractive ladies like to come and hang out at my stall in the evenings?  It isn’t like I’m sending out invitations.  I’m just minding my own business munching on hay and they come over to say hello.  It would be rude to not to acknowledge them and spend some time visiting…Well, I guess if I am being entirely truthful, I sometimes stare pathetically at them while they are standing in the aisle.  Works like a charm.  If Mom is so worried about me, perhaps she should just consider sleeping in the tack stall. Ha! Like that will ever happen.

Sadly, my selfie buddy Miss M (https://ikescenterlineadventures.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/selfies-with-ike/ ) from the championship show last year is off to college.  Mom tells me college is like having to have a lesson three times a day, five days a week.  Phew, I don’t think I would like college that much.  Sounds like a lot of work to me.  I need to find a way to send Miss M a message to ditch her classes and come hang with me again in October.  If not, maybe Miss R will come to entertain me when Mom and Dad go back to the hotel?! (Hint, hint)

Mom says at our show next weekend that I will not be spending the night at the show grounds.  Humph!  What a meanie.  She says that it is because of the tiny stalls and small half doors on the stalls, but I believe she is trying to be one of those helicopter parents who just want to keep me from having any fun.  So since I will be going home at night,  if you are in the area, please stop by and see me during the day.  There is no reason why we can’t visit when Mom runs to the bathroom for the hundredth time.

In other news, I must say that I am so very happy that August is behind us.  The other horses and I are over the heat, over the humidity, and over the bugs.  We had a herd meeting and have decided that we all want to have our paddocks screened in with big ceiling fans hung to create a constant breeze.  We will also need skylights in the roofs and an irrigation system so that grass will still grow.  None of us have any money, and Mom doesn’t seem like she would be on board with our plan, so can someone help us raise some funds?  Rumor has it that you can ask strangers for money.  We are pretty certain that if we all make sad faces that everyone will feel bad for us and send money.  Oh, by the way, we also want glass panels to help keep our paddocks warmer in the winter.

The really big flies showed up last month.  Since we have no screens yet, we have all had to be creative in how we eradicate them.  I like to let them land and then have Mom slap them really hard.  They are hardy bugs however so sometimes she also has to stomp on them.  My brother has perfected the stop, drop and roll technique.  Jelly just runs really fast.  Sophie bucks, but after they bite her on her belly, she likes to turn over her water trough and then straddle it and scratch her belly.  Joe just crashes into the gate until someone comes to bring him inside.  We will all be glad when they disappear until next year.

We also have bees that like to buzz around my nether regions.  They are in some ways even more annoying than the flies, since Mom and Miss C seem averse to taking a swing at them.  Mom tells me it is because the last time she was stung by a bee on her forehead that she looked like a Star Trek Borg with the top part of her head all puffed up.  I think that sounds pretty funny.

I have also been working very hard to get ready for the last shows of the year.  And, surprisingly, so has Mom.  She has really stepped up her riding and attention span.  She is usually like a dog when it sees a squirrel – easily distracted and a bit goofy.  Slowly, but surely we are learning to do a turn on the haunches.  Since neither one of us had ever done it before, we both were getting confused.  Miss C had to get creative with teaching us the correct movement.  When I get it right, I get a piece of candy, so I’m trying to do it right every time.  Mom gets no candy, so she seems to be learning more slowly than me.  Perhaps I should tell Miss C to start giving Mom a treat as well.

Well, I need to run.  I want to get outside before the bugs wake up.  Until next time everyone, stay cool!


Duct Tape, Diapers, and Epsom Salt

That is an odd looking shoe on that right front hoof...

That is an odd looking shoe on that right front hoof…

So all my equine loving friends probably already know what I am about to tell you based on the title of this post…for everyone else, we believe that Ike is getting ready to blow an abscess.  Fingers are crossed that things resolve quickly and we will be back to work sooner rather than later.

Why do we think that this is the cause?  For my past 4 rides, Ike has been a bit of a pill.  There was no head bobbing until yesterday, but he had been unsteady in his contact and blowing through my aids for down transitions.  The theory is that his right front hoof has been sore and the disobedience was his way of letting me know that something wasn’t right.

Since I thought he was just being difficult, I scheduled a lesson for yesterday afternoon so Ms. C could help me…well, as soon as I picked up the trot, we knew that something was very, very wrong.  Head-bobbing lameness that was worse tracking to the right.  I hopped off and we put Ike on the lunge line.  Ugh!  Not pretty.  Thankfully, Mr. D was home and he was willing to test the hoof.  Ike was reactive to the hoof testers but it was not horrible.  We tried pulling a nail or two to see if there was a bad one, but in the end, the shoe came off and the soaking bucket came out.

Big man was fairly cooperative for the hoof soaking.  While the hoof was soaking, I fashioned is temporary bootie to protect the shoeless hoof.  The sole of the bootie was multiple layers of duct tape and a diaper became the bootie.  If diaper companies only knew what equestrians did with their diapers, they would totally reform their marketing strategies!  It is at this point I wish I was an octopus in order to have enough hands to hold my horse, hold up the hoof, place the diaper and duct tape sole, and then wrap the entire bootie with more duct tape.  I felt confident that it was secure and would last until morning…ha!

About 6:30 p.m. last night I received a message from Ms. C that a certain horse decided to whoop it up in his paddock.  He ran and bucked like a bronco.  Hmm, I guess the combo of shoe removal and Bute administration made someone feel better.  Sadly, the bootie was a casualty of the melee.  Better the bootie than my horse’s hoof.

Ike was in good spirits this morning.  Soaking was easy since he was busy eating his breakfast.  I constructed his new bootie and left him peacefully eating hay with the admonition that he was to behave until I returned after work to evaluate his status.  Someone was happily grazing when I returned.

Good News #1 – the bootie survived intact and was still in place on Ike’s hoof.

Good News #2 – Ike looked almost 90% sound at the trot when we lunged him.  The other 10% we blame on my makeshift shoe…I would run funny too if I was missing a shoe or had a diaper wrapped around my foot.

So, that begs the question, “was it the start of an abscess or a wonky nail or two that was causing the problem?”  Decided to still soak the hoof and fashion another bootie.  If Ike looks sound in the morning, the shoe will go back on as soon as possible.  If he is worse, then we will formulate a new plan.

Thankfully we have no shows scheduled until August, so if we had to have some down time, this was as good as any.

Fingers crossed that we are back to work by Thursday or Friday.