Merry Christmas!

Ike and I would like to wish all our friends and family a very merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and a joyful holiday season. We hope this time is filled with laughter, fun get-togethers, and yummy holiday treats.  

Ike is hoping that one day mom will give up the tradition of placing things on his head or that he grows a little taller so I can no longer reach the top of his head.

I am hoping for a mild winter and safe footing so we can continue riding through the colder months.  I am also secretly hoping for clean changes and fluid half pass steps.

Merry Christmas! 

Alison and Ike


The Mile Long To Do List

Ike Dec 11 2015

Where has the time gone?  It is hard to believe that it has already been three weeks since the musical freestyle clinic, and that there are only two weeks until Christmas.  This is the time of year that my riding schedule goes from five or six days per week down to three days, four if I am lucky.  Many factors play into this schedule shift, and while it drives me crazy, I don’t think Ike cares that he is now a part time worker.

First of all, the sun’s earlier departure from the sky really wrecks havoc with my ability to ride after work.  Most days I can get to the barn with enough time to ride 30-40 minutes.  However, the angle of the setting sun means that half my ride is spent riding into the blinding glare.  Ike usually has a moment of pause as well as we turn.  We both squint and I pray that no wildlife decides to pop out and say “Boo!” during this momentary blindness.

One of our dogs has been in desperate need of some obedience work, so I took advantage of the slow down in riding to sign up for a 6 week Canine Good Citizen Class.  We practice as best we can with our two other dogs “helping,” but there has been progress.  Two more classes to go and it looks like he just might pass, shocking as that is to myself and everyone who knows Brownie.

My work schedule right now has also gone from a steady 55 mph to the white knuckle 100 mph with deadlines of yesterday.  I suppose if work had to get busy this is a better time than May or June when show season and riding is in full swing.  Since this also involves more time on the dreaded Interstate 95 in the Washington DC area, perhaps it is best that I am not riding as much.  The more I am on this god-forsaken road, the less I am tolerant of poor driving displays by other commuters.  Needless to say that I am a bit stressed upon arriving at my exit.  PSA:  I believe that turn signals are STANDARD EQUIPMENT on most automobiles and trucks, yet the use of this piece of equipment seems to have declined.  If we look hard enough, I’m sure there is a direct correlation to the increased use of cell phones while driving.

In lieu of riding on high stress days, I find that just spending time with the boys is enough to return my blood pressure to normal levels.  Grooming is an excellent moving meditation.  When that is done, this happens:

Brotherly Love

And, lest I forget, December is also when the holidays and all the things that accompany them invade my to do list and probably everyone else’s as well.  Shopping, wrapping, more wrapping, finding Christmas cards, completing Christmas cards, baking, decorating, cooking, eating, regretting all that you ate, post office visits, family visits, visits with friends and the occasional party or two.  Most of the necessary stuff is done and now it is on to the baking and cookie decorating.  Ike’s favorite fan club will be here next weekend for an afternoon of cookie fun!

And, while I am not riding as much, I do find that when I do find the time, it is with much more purpose and focus.  I already have an eye on next year and what we want to accomplish.  I’ve set a lofty goal of achieving at least one score in the 70th percentile range for Second Level.  I know it won’t be easy, but I am hoping that the effort to achieve that will pay off later when we move upwards to Third Level.  <===Do you see that???  I actually mentioned Third Level?!  I’d love to think that we will give Third Level a go by then end of 2016 as well.  Guess we need to start thinking about flying changes on command and not as you please (Ike’s favorite way right now).

Stay sane my friends, the relative peace of January is right around the corner.  Fingers crossed that the weather is cooperative so we can continue to enjoy some saddle time!





Dear Santa, Leave The Presents, Take My Brother

"No, Mom, I will not wear Santa hat this year."

“No, Mom, I will not wear Santa hat this year.”

Ike and I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, a God Jul, Feliz Navidad, a Happy Festivus (for you Seinfeld fans), and Happy Holidays!  Whatever holiday you and your family celebrate, may your time together be joyous and memorable.  May you laugh until your cheeks and sides hurt, eat plenty of delectable food, and sip on delicious beverages.

Ike says to remember your equine friends when you are shopping.  Black licorice, apples and peppermints are particularly tasty.  Uncle Jimmy’s Hanging Snacks are also perennial favorites with Ike and Cigar.  Cigar will be sporting a new red halter to replace the one Ike shredded.  Ike will look dapper in his new burgundy polo wraps.  The boys also sent a holiday donation to an equine charity.

May your year to come be filled with straight centerlines, clear rounds, optimal times and plenty of barn time!

All our best,

Alison and Ike

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.”

Ike Has a Few Things To Say

Sporting my new blanket!

Sporting my new blanket!

Howdy Everyone!  Mom has a lot going on right now, so I thought I’d step up and fill you in on how things are going at the barn in recent days.  You might as well hear things directly from the horse’s mouth rather than Mom’s sanitized version with her slanted point of view.

I have to say that I am liking the weather of late.  All this cold wind and cold temperatures and rain and ice mean that I don’t have to do much except be a horse and play with my brother.  Mom is a weather wimp.  She says that I am one too, but I would like it to be known that I was out in the sleet this morning while she hid in the house.  Oh, yeah, wait, she made it out to the barn long enough to pat my head and give me two Stud Muffins.  Only two?!!  Doesn’t she know that two is really nothing more than an amuse-bouche?  Not amused, but I did forgive her because when I did return to the barn, she had put an Uncle Jimmy’s Licky Snack in the holder.  Clever woman remembered to put the top on the holder this time.  Darn her!  It takes a lot more work to eat it with the lid.  I can finish it off in about two nights without the lid…

As you can see, I managed to get a new blanket for the winter.  I told her in the spring that she should go ahead and order me a new one, but, Noooooo, silly woman waited until the cold weather had already arrived this winter.  She actually tried to convince me and herself that I could get by with the 84 inch size.  I quickly pointed out that it wasn’t going to work and the blanket would look more like a scarf all scrunched up above my shoulders.  I hear they went to a happy home so I won’t have to suffer the embarrassment of wearing too small clothing.

I’ve been working hard under saddle to learn what I need to know to be a dressage horse.  There are all sorts of new words and movements they are making me do.  I even tried a walk pirouette last week.  Mom and Ms. C are also teaching me how to move sideways and forward at the same time.  Phew, it is hard to move that way.  They have had me do it at the walk and trot and even a little in canter.  I am very tired after those lessons.  Ms. C told me that I’m starting to look like a horse.  What?  What did I look like before?  A big dog?  Maybe it has something to do with my old blankets no longer fitting.

This growing stuff is awesome.  I keep growing and working hard; Ms. C keeps handing me treats while Mom keeps buying me new stuff.  Score!  So far I have amassed a new bridle, a couple of new bits, a turnout sheet, a medium weight blanket, new saddle pads, and some new polo wraps this year.  Best part is that Christmas is just a few weeks away!  I’m hoping for a new saddle (Humph, I have to use my brother’s stinky old saddle!) and a new boot to hang in my stall.  I like to play with the boot at night and it is the penthouse suite for the local mouse population.  It is close by my feed bowl, so it is convenient to dining.  Had to interview some new tenants recently though, since the old one went on a date with the barn cat and never came home.

I’m still very happy in Virginia with my family.  I am very thankful that I have the family that I do and have a nice barn to call my home.  Mom takes very good care of me even if she is stingy with treats sometimes.  I get to go to a bunch of new places during the warmer months where I’ve overheard people tell Dad how happy they are that Mom has a horse like me to ride.  That makes me try really hard to be good, but I still get scared sometimes at the new places.  I hope that doesn’t make me get in trouble.  I asked my older brother about that to see if he had any insight.  He told me not to worry; he says that Mom will be our Mom forever.  I think knowing that is the best Christmas gift of all.