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.

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The One With the Shallow Canter Loop

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Yeah, yeah, I’ve been a bit of a slacker on my blogging in the past few weeks.  After reading what Ike had to share last week, and finding out that he placed a sales advertisement for me on Horse Junkies United (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/?p=83195 ), I felt that I needed to get back to my writing before I found myself on a trailer to an unknown destination courtesy of my darling horse.

We are gearing up for our next show.  It seemed like it was waaaaayyyyyyy down the road, but June arrives on Sunday and the show is only two weeks away!  Eeek!  Now I should have some confidence given our luck at the last show, but I know well enough that success at the next show is not guaranteed.  Plus, we decided to be bold and signed up for First Level Test 3 otherwise known as “the one with the shallow canter loop” as I have dubbed it.

The shallow canter loop: It sounds so simple.  Left lead canter around the short end, at H turn onto the long diagonal towards X, then maintain the canter as you head back to the rail at K.  All this after a 15 meter circle and a lengthening.  Not.So.Simple.  I have no doubt that our problems with maintaining the canter on the loop are all my fault…problems are almost always due to my error(s).  We tend to lose it right around X.  I probably shift my weight inappropriately, or grab the right rein more than I should, or shove Ike to the right with my left leg and knock him off balance.  Then, I repeat my sins on the right side.  No wonder he put me up for sale or trade.

Then there is the matter of the right-to-left leg yield to centerline, to 10 meter circle to the left, 10 meter circle to the right, and (joy of joys) then finish with leg yield left-to-right.  Say what!?  That is a lot to ask of the spastic girl with her BIG horse.  It is not a good time to let your reins get too long.  Trust me, I speak from experience.  I’m debating smearing Stick-um/rubber cement/Super Glue/Gorilla Glue on my gloves to help.  If you lose your steering at any point of this series of movements, you are doomed.  Doomed!

Although I know that we are not as strong as I would like to be, I’m still glad that I decided to try it.  If you never commit to trying, then you will be less likely to practice and push yourself.  It is too easy to get complacent and stick with what you know.  It is the same philosophy I used when I signed up for First Level Test 2 at the first show of the season.   Just do it.  And remember, at most shows there aren’t that many people who are watching that closely.

And while I did commit to the harder test, I did also sign up for Training Level Test 3.  I really want to see if we can break the 70% mark in that test.  It still haunts me that we had the bobble in the canter at the GAIGs.  It also haunts me that when we rode the test a few weeks after the GAIGs that the judge compared our canter to Scooby Do.  I know we are better than that now and it would be nice to see the improvement in the scores.  Anyone want to take bets on how we will do?

The weekend looks gorgeous.  Looking forward to two happy days in the saddle.  Happy Riding!

How To Take a Holiday Photo of Your Horse

Santa hat success!

Santa hat success!

Supplies Needed:  One Santa hat, One pound of peppermints – wrappers removed, One camera, Infinite patience.

Step One, Day One – Locate the Santa hat.  If you are anything like me, you stuffed it into a box/bag/tack box after Christmas last year and swore that you would remember where you put it.  Ha ha.  Finally find said Santa hat and realize that it is now too dark outside for photos.  Put Santa hat back in tack box for another day.

Step One, Day Two – Arrive at barn earlier prepared to take photos.  Remove wrappers from the peppermints and stuff them into your pocket.  Grab Santa hat and camera and head out to retrieve horse.

Step Two, Day Two- Give horse a peppermint to gain trust.  Show Santa hat to horse.

"Hmm, this is an unimpressive treat."

“You want me to do ‘what’ with this thing?”

Step Three, Day Two – Let horse grab hat.  Watch Santa hat fall into the mud.

"You really don't expect me to wear this, do you?"

“You really don’t expect me to wear this, do you?”

Step Four, Day Two – Retrieve hat from mud.  Mutter expletives under breath while trying to clean Santa hat and spy horse passing judgment on this holiday activity.

"Don't you have anything better to do with your time?"

“Don’t you have anything better to do with your time?”

Step Five, Day Two – Attempt to place Santa hat on horse’s head with one hand while holding camera with the other.  Horse transforms into a giraffe.  Growl at horse and wish you had a third hand to grab a peppermint from your pocket.

Step Six, Day Two – Put Santa hat and camera in one hand and grab a peppermint with the other.  Get horse to lower head by offering peppermint and quickly shuffle hat into the same hand for second attempt at placing over horse’s ear.  Hat falls to ground.  Return to barn defeated.

Poor Santa hat, no love from Ike.

Poor Santa hat, no love from Ike.

Step One, Day Three – Reach into pocket and remove one large sticky, lint-covered glob of peppermints that you forgot were there.  Remove wrappers from new handful of mints and retrieve horse.  Groom and tack horse.  Grab Santa hat and camera and bring horse outside.

Step Two, Day Three – Attempt to place Santa hat on horse’s head; the giraffe returns.  Bribe horse with a large handful of mints and sneak Santa hat over ear.

Step Three, Day Three – Quickly grab camera and ask horse to look at you.  Horse blatantly ignores your request.  Take a photo anyway.

"I refuse to acknowledge you.  This is mortifying."

“I refuse to acknowledge you. This is mortifying.”

Step Four, Day Three – Pick Santa hat up from ground when horse flicks ear.  Give up any further photo attempts in order to ride.  Give horse remaining mints to prevent further pocket stickiness.  Remind yourself to wash your jacket.

Step One, Day Four – Wear dirty jacket to barn.  Place mints in other pocket since the first pocket is now stuck closed.

Step Two, Day Four – Groom horse and put saddle on.

Step Three, Day Four – Grab bridle and Santa hat in one hand.  Place 10 mints in the other hand.  While horse is munching, sneak bit into mouth and Santa hat on ear under the bridle.

Step Four, Day Four – Squeal with excitement that the Santa hat is on horse’s head.

Step Five, Day Four – Grab camera and walk outside with horse.  When horse is distracted by a bird, take photos as quickly as possible praying that one is blog worthy.

Step Six, Day Four – Put camera away and ride horse while he is wearing Santa hat and you wear a silly grin.

Step Seven, Day Four – Give horse big hug and remaining peppermints and thank him for not killing you.

"You will pay dearly for this embarrassment."

“You will pay dearly for this embarrassment.”

News From The Soggy, Muddy MidAtlantic Region

Ike and his new friend Walter the Show Poneh

Ike and his new friend Walter the Show Poneh

Riding has been at a virtual standstill because of the nonstop rain showers.  [Insert face with tongue sticking out.]  While I do realize that Ike and I will not have any major breakthroughs in this week before the finals, I am sweating the fact that we’ve been doing next to nothing but dodging raindrops and brushing mud off Ike’s legs.

Saturday was no different, but the rain was more of a constant mist than raindrops, so I tacked up Ike for a soggy lesson.  Ike was a trooper as was Ms. C.  I struggled to see where I was going because of the rain on my glasses and had to trust that Ike would not allow us to run into Ms. C or the fence.  We worked on a steady, rhythmic connection at the walk and the trot.  I opted not to canter because of the mushy footing; no point pushing and risk injury.  We thought that Ike was moving quite well.  As long as I can control my nerves and remember to ride to my hands, we should be able to hold our own.

In other exciting news, Ike and I have a visitor from the northwest.  His name is Walter the Show Poneh who is the unofficial mascot of the Horse Junkies United (http://www.horsejunkiesunited.com ) website.  HJU is a collection of bloggers who come from all aspects of the equine world.  A while back, I was asked to blog as part of the HJU site, so many of the posts from Ike’s Centerline Adventures get reworked and reposted there.  It is exciting to have Walter here in Virginia to accompany us to the regional finals.  He is a very well traveled poneh who has had the privilege of meeting some of the top riders in the world (he has had his photo taken with top eventers Mary King, Hawley Bennett and Sinead Halpin!  Go Walter!), and now he made time in his busy schedule to cheer for us in our efforts to successfully show at our first regional final.  Hoping that our weather improves as the big week begins so that Walter can actually use the sunglasses he packed.

This week is going to fly by and we will be on the road to Lexington, Virginia before you know it.  The vet comes tomorrow to give Ike a chiropractic adjustment to get him loose and ready for our final centerlines of the season.  The farrier also is stopping by to check Ike’s shoes and to give us extra Equi-thane…just in case.  I’ve already stopped at Tractor Supply for shavings, treats, and show sheen.  The packing lists are still growing, but I’ve amassed a lot of what I will need on the spare bed.

Still need to pack the wine.

What a Year It Has Been!

140Do you know what the significance of today is?  I didn’t until I logged onto my WordPress blog page.  It is the one year anniversary of Ike’s Centerline Adventures!  How far we have come since we started chronically our exploits.  I looked through my photos from this time last year to see if I had a similar one to the one above that I took last week.  As you can see, Ike is sporting a decent winter coat this winter and is beginning to fill out.  Below is the closest I could find for comparison.  015

Poor boy didn’t have any winter coat last year…I think he is starting to lose his baby face and gain more of a topline.  He has grown two inches at the withers and is now just a hair shy of 17 hands.  I know for a fact that he is heavier.  I know this because it hurts a lot more when his hoof and my foot try to occupy the same place on the ground at the same time.  My toes and my Mountain Horse Winter Riding Boots don’t stand a chance against Bigfoot with his steel shoe.  You can clearly see the shoe imprint on my boot.  Luckily, you can not see that same mark on my foot.

After some late season winter weather and work kept me out of the saddle for 3 days, Ike and I finally got back to work with our lesson yesterday.  Ms. C continues to school us in the basics because that is what we need right now.  Our throughness is questionable some days, non-existent on others, and fleeting at best.  I’m getting better at getting Ike to where he needs to be, but I still have miles to go.

I saw a quote on Facebook on My Virtual Eventing Coach’s page the other day that I really liked and sadly, it describes me to a tee, “Keep your hands forward thinking at all times, don’t be ‘stealing’ from the hind legs.”  Yes, I’m a thief.  If I am constantly pulling backwards or overbending Ike’s neck in one direction thanks to my “grabby” left hand, then he will never be able to truly push from behind and stay straight.  Most of our lesson was spent getting Ike through and connected at the walk and trot.  We had to do it at a slower rhythm to help Ike understand, and once we achieve it, we asked for more gas.  But wait Alison, don’t throw him away just because you are going more forward!  Oh, yeah, squeeze those fingers, engage that core, pull your shoulders back and show Ike the way.

Ride every stride.  I should adopt that as my new mantra during yoga rather than om.  I might actually remember it!

Entries are sent for our first two shows of the year.  A new year is getting ready to unfold.  Stick around for year two of our adventures.

Blogger Love

versatileblogger111

When I started blogging almost a year ago, I had no idea whether or not people would read it, like it, or follow it.  That wasn’t the driver in the decision to start writing.  It was just a way for me to chronicle the progress and special moments with Ike, my newest equine family member.  You think to yourself that you won’t forget any of the special moments, but trust me, the older we get, the more likely we are to forget things.  The blog would be my way of documenting everything, so that when I am old and senile, I can look back and say, “Wow, I actually did that?!”  The pictures would be the proof that I did indeed ride horses.

Many thanks to Mellchan and Sparrowgrass for nominating me for this blogger award. You can check out their blogs on WordPress at   http://mellchan.wordpress.com/ and http://sparrowgrass.wordpress.com/ .  I have found that  reading the blogs written by others  is and interesting way to discover people with similar interests as well as folks with more diverse interests.  In the end, we are all just regular people who just enjoy sharing our thoughts and experiences.

According to the rules of the award, I should tell the people who nominated me 7 things about myself that they don’t already know.  Hmm, here we go:

1) I like to eat the cookie dough more than the finished cookie.  Yes, I know it is bad, but I continue to do it;

2) In my opinion, wine should be a food group;

3) Snakes terrify me thanks to the rattlesnake at the National Zoo trying to strike at me through the glass;

4) I secretly want to be a professional organizer;

5) If I didn’t own horses, I would spend my time gardening;

6) I have a serious problem with boots – my husband claims to have discovered my stash – I deny everything; and

7) I cannot whistle, not one lick.

Finally, I am to present this award to 15 deserving bloggers.  So here are my picks for blogs for you to check out:

http://janetfoy.wordpress.com/

http://goodcooks.wordpress.com/

http://mymagicshoes.wordpress.com/

http://dannigirl2013.wordpress.com/

http://www.horsejunkiesunited.com/ (There are over 20 equestrian bloggers at this one website…including yours truly….and I love all their adventures.)

Thanks again for the recognition!