Remembering Our First Ride

My friend Ms. CS took this photo last Saturday right after Ike had his cold hosing.  I absolutely love this picture of him.  I think it really captures his sweet nature and easy going personality.  Writing this blog has really kept me on task with taking regular photos of Ike.  I look back at the photos from last August and over the past 11 months and can see his personality emerging as well as muscles and a topline.

I don’t think I ever shared any of the Florida photos of Ike.  Here is the very first photo I took of him as he was getting tacked for my first ride.

He was very good for grooming and tacking even as a very green three-year-old.

And here I am sitting on his back for the very first time…I have to say that I was a bit nervous.  He had been under saddle for around a month when I came shopping.  Bianca assured me that he was a sane youngster.  Anyone who rides knows that the first time you sit on a new horse, there is a “get-to-know-you” period where you have to figure each other out.  What does the horse know how to do?  How much do I squeeze my legs for a trot without sending the horse to the moon?  Do I barely have to squeeze the reins for a halt or scream “WHOA!” at the top of my lungs while pulling back with every ounce of energy I have?  While you are thinking about all this, the horse is trying to figure out whether or not they are going to listen to anything you have to say.

I’d never spent much time around green horses.  Most of my experience has been with well-seasoned lesson horses who are in a class by themselves at figuring out a rider’s ability in under 10 seconds.  My Thoroughbred was technically not green when I bought him, but he was “green” in the fact that he had to start from square one with dressage training.  He was a challenge, but it taught me a lot about being a rider and not just a passenger.  There is no being a passenger on a green horse…I have to ride every stride and be there to remind and reward.  The greatest reward is feeling and seeing the progress Ike has made.  Can’t wait to see where we go.

Rain Delay

Our area got some much-needed rain today, so no riding and I used a head shot from a sunnier day since the indoor shots aren’t always the most flattering.  The Fair Weather Fairy and his friends were happily munching hay indoors during the heaviest showers.  Not a big deal since there really aren’t any major breakthroughs that we can or will have in these last 5 days before the show.  Unfortunately there are no overnight miracle cures for establishing a balanced canter.  There is that darn lesson in patience again.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Ike and I will have our lesson with Ms. C tomorrow to confirm the skills we do have and to sketch out our show day warm up plans.  We are going to bring the tractor into the ring as a substitute judge’s booth.  Many of our low scores were down at the judge’s end of the arena at the last show, so I will try to keep Ike’s attention as Ms. C shakes papers as we ride by.  Can’t keep giving up those points and half points in case we need them to make up for the lack of stretch down trot.

p.s. The chipmunk boy is back to normal.  Thank goodness we were able to avoid a vet visit.  Cigar was full of himself today in his paddock.  Bucking in place like he just couldn’t stand still.  Perhaps a side effect from the antihistamine?  Or just a Thoroughbred being a Thoroughbred?

Selecting a Theme Song

Call me odd, but all of my furry family members have a theme song.  The title of the song captures their spirit and personality in those few simple words.  I shared these a while ago on Facebook, but thought I would share again since I was thinking about the appropriate tune for Ike.

Cigar’s song is Fruitcakes by Jimmy Buffett.  Just because he is a Thoroughbred does not automatically mean that he is crazy, but we are pretty certain that a screw came loose and rattles around that head of his.  Good thing I love him so much.

Holly is my 15-year-old hound dog.  Her song?  Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads.  In her heyday, the girl could hunt down ANY critter that dared enter our suburban backyard – a groundhog (1), opossums (3), a dove (1), a house finch (1), squirrels (too numerous to count), and thankfully, no skunk.  Most amazing part, she never had a scratch on her from any of the battles.

Tim is my terrier mix therapy dog who hates getting wet in the rain or muddy and refuses to have anything to do with Holly when she is prowling for critters.  I selected YMCA by The Village People for him.  It just works.  Trust me.

Spencer is our 3-year-old All American Mutt.  He was and still is a whirling dervish; the 1980’s classic I Want to be Sedated by The Ramones seemed all too appropriate.  The only means of taming the zaniness?  Three days a week at doggie daycare.

And finally what you’ve all been waiting for….(sound of a drumroll)…..Ike’s theme song is Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bob Marley.  Ike rarely gets grumpy and is always happy to see me.  Yes, he can be excitable in the cold wind, and hates being out in the elements, but his overall persona is one of peaceful  contentedness.  I wonder what he’d look like with dreadlocks?

Hoping to hop aboard for a ride tomorrow.  A little over a week away from the next dressage show – guess I should make sure I have memorized Training Level Test 1.  Oh, and um, yeah, we need to work on that stretch down trot.

Give Me a S, A, D, D, L, and E

So today was saddle fitting and lesson day.  Why not cram as much into one day as you possibly can?  No stress, says the girl with a mile long list of things still to be done tomorrow…

I had decided that the saddle needed to be checked based on the underside of the saddle pad.  It appeared as though there was a bit of excess pressure around Ike’s withers.  He has grown a couple of inches taller and there is a hint of muscle on his topline these days, so the thinking was that the tree might need to be adjusted or that the saddle was too narrow and I’d have to say goodbye to the current model and hunt for a new one.  I currently ride in a buffalo leather, Custom Saddlery Advantage saddle (http://mysaddle.com/Advantage.html) that was constructed for my Thoroughbred.  I LOVE my saddle.  Yes, love.  It puts me in the perfect position.  The thought of saying goodbye gave me an oogy feeling in my stomach.  If you’ve ever ridden in the perfect saddle, you know what I mean.

The saddle fitter arrived and it turns out that we know each other from the local dressage club – small horse world.  She had lovely things to say about Ike and, drumroll please, said that my saddle was still perfectly serviceable for Ike!!  Hallelujah!  [My friend A will be very sad at this news, but my pocketbook was quite pleased.]  After watching me ride, she realized that it did need some flocking towards the front of the saddle.  Watching a saddle fitter work is fascinating.  With all the modern technology available, it is still done by hand and by feel.  It is like watching an artist at work.  Once the wool flocking was added, I hopped back on for my lesson.  The saddle fitter stayed to watch, and thank god she did.  Ike was not happy with the adjustments.  I could not keep him straight and between the reins; it was like riding a writhing earthworm…not a good thing two days before a show.  Ike fell in, he fell out, he swayed like a flag in the wind.  Ugh.  We stopped, and hemmed and hawed, and Ms. A took the saddle to remove some of the flocking.  We popped another saddle on Ike and there was almost immediate improvement.  We then put my saddle back on, sans two fist fulls of flocking.  It was a night and day difference.  I would not have believed it unless I had seen and felt it for myself.  The old adage is no hoof, no horse.  I say bad saddle fit, bad ride, bad horse.

We ended on a positive note.  His canter was lovely today once the saddle fit was as he liked it.  Ride times were revised, but I’m still the first down centerline.  Thank goodness that I won’t be riding an earthworm.

Ike’s Brother

I would be remiss if I did not post that today is Ike’s brother’s 16th birthday. My dearest Cigar is my retired OTTB (off the track Thoroughbred). He raced under the name HiHoSky for 51 starts with $42K in earnings…of which I was no part. He finished his racing career at Charlestown, WVA and then tried his hand at point-to-point races at Morven Park in Leesburg, VA. Not sure how he ended up at the farm where I was taking lessons, but he joined the family in November 2005. His heart was never really in dressage and truth be told, I think he was hoping to pop out of the trailer at the track rather than a stodgy dressage show. If he could talk, I’m sure he’d have asked me how I expected him to win with his nose on vertical when most of his life had been stretching it out as far as possible.

We battled our way to First Level before an unhealed knee fracture forced his retirement.  We really did battle the past 7 years.  He’s given me a bloody nose, a black eye, a finger that is no longer straight, bruises in the shape of hoof prints on both feet, a bruised butt, a knot on my shin from a kick, whiplash, a sprained wrist, a sprained ankle, and a total lack of ego in the saddle.  But so help me, I love my boy.  He has given me great confidence in myself that I can cope with and overcome big obstacles.

Cigar was not without his battle wounds as well.  He had a major hip injury that kept him out of work for 6 months, two emergency vet visits for stitches to his right shoulder (he likes to roughhouse a bit tooooo much with other horses), an abscess, hock issues and arthritis in both hocks from all the racing, an odd founder-like episode, sprains and strains, and the career ending knee fracture.  Let us hope his younger brother is not as accident prone.

He now lives on the same farm as Ike and lives the life of Riley.  No demands on his time.  Mares to flirt with and his buddy Dude to keep him company.  Mom hands out love and treats just because he nickers hello.  Cigar is a talker unlike his silent brother Ike.  His most endearing trait is giving kisses on demand…if I pucker and ask for a kiss, he will swipe his muzzle on my face.He and his barn buddies enjoyed cold carrots and peppermints to celebrate.  After the celebration, I got in a 20-25 minute ride.  Started off the ride in two-point because Ike was a bit fussy – we believe the saddle is getting too snug as Ike starts to muscle up and develop a topline.  I got him through and using his back; the rest of the ride was excellent.  Canter transitions were spot on…13 days left.