Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Say WHAT?

So yesterday I found a new horse in the paddock with Moon and Curly-horse, and it seemed that Moon's girlfriend had been moved to a different group. The new horse was a small drafty-style pony, something like a haflinger? Blond, well-boned and compact. Thankfully below Moon in the pecking order and respectful to myself. I didn't see W around the barn yesterday so I couldn't learn more about the arrangement. I suspect that with 2 outdoor boarders, it wasn't a big deal to add another.

When I headed over this evening for another schooling ride as part of our renewed dedication to get in competition form, I managed to catch W who was starting a lesson. I discovered that the new fellow was "Jack" and he was part-haflinger! I knew it! All thanks to Shyloh, the most famous haflinger I know. Jack is there for W to break to ride, which is pretty exciting.
Moon continues to drive him around, though they're quite respectful. No biting or kicking yet. His girlfriend was moved, since she was going through her first heat cycle and Mr. Moon apparently wasn't overly impressed with her sudden clingy nature. Felt he should push her away : P Unfortunately, one of her new paddock mates was picking on her and she decided to jump the fence (she's successfully done it before). She made it over but took a bit of skin off her back legs. Poor girl.

So tonight. We walked and trotted and serpentined and he even offered a poor version of the turn-on-the-haunch. He was tired and slow, not wanting to move out a whole ton, though he had good contact and we even managed a pretty awesome stretching circle for us. The longer I rode though, the more tired he got and the slower he went. And the more thumping I had to do to keep him moving. Oye.

After W had finished her lesson and we were the only ones in the ring, I asked if she'd watch our canter circle. I felt like I was doing something wrong. Well, let me say when she said yes and settled down to watch, I suddenly got crazy nervous. If that's how I am with my COACH watching, what will I be like in a real competition with a JUDGE?!!  : P

So we went for it. And got the wrong lead, falling out of the canter at the first corner. Boo.

W assured me that my position was fine and that he was actually really willing to transition to canter which was great. No hesitation or anything. She suggested I work on a trot circle spiraling out and then asking for canter when we got out to the edge. I sent Moon off and did just that. Guess what?

We did it. 1/2 a circle, solid. On the correct lead. W even said he did a good job rebalancing himself into the second turn and still had a nice easy depart. And my position was still fine!! Yippee!

She said we just need more practice in getting it right. Instead of working at doing lots of canter circles, work at doing lots of proper canter departs. And THAT is our next goal. She also explained to me that I probably feel like I'm positioned wrong when he counter canters because he forces my body to move opposite how I'd want in order to bend to the circle. So I'm trying to do one thing and he's making me do another, which feels wrong. If we get the correct lead, it'll feel right and I won't feel so wrong. Right? ; )

Next Wednesday, 7 pm. Back to lessons.

The funniest thing of the day? W was standing in the middle of the ring watching the student go-round. I was standing next to her on Moon, watching and staying out of the way. My favorite kitten suddenly decided to leap onto W's back and climb onto her shoulder to perch. So I started telling W how I had Mr. Kitten on Moon's back yesterday and their antics over the water trough, when suddenly...

The cat LEAPT onto Moon's face!!!! : O

Moon gave a small sideways leap and moved his hoof out of the way as the kitten fell to the sand. And thankfully stood stock-still until the kitten ran off (I was worried for a second he would step on the kitten since the kitten fell RIGHT beside his hoof). But nope. Moon froze after his initial start. Man I love this horse. How many horses would move no more then 6" after a cat leapt at their face?! And then stand stock still?!

Best pony ever. I put the kitten back on his back after untacking him and guess what? Moon whipped his braided tail around and smacked the cat with it : P What a pair.

That was today. I'm going to call today a good day. Especially after our proper canter circle when W looked up at me and said "I think you guys should go Training Level in June. One Walk-Trot show should be enough with how your canter is looking".

Say WHAT?!    : O

Today is full of surprises.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Getting Official

I've been keeping tabs for awhile now on the different memberships Moon and I will have to join to compete in dressage this summer. Two weeks ago I mailed out our Dressage Winnipeg membership and waited patiently for our Provincial horse organization to get around to updating their page. Which was keeping me from joining the National horse organization and getting my Bronze Sport Licence.

Well guess what?

They updated it today.

Which means I'm officially a provincial and national member. I didn't bother with amatuer status since Walk-Trot is all Open anyway. All I can say is I best get back to woodburning... ; )

I also signed up for 15 weeks of yoga, after reading the first couple of Chapters in "A Gymnastic Riding System" by Betsy Steiner. It's all about core strength and that's one thing I haven't a clue how to strengthen off a horse. So to Yoga I shall go. We bought a voucher from an online deal site, so the whole 15 weeks was just $20! Hopefully after 15 weeks I'll have some take-home skills to keep working on and be in good shape for show season. Plus, it's always awesome to try something new.

(yes, he has gained weight...two weeks off and no surprise there.
Hopefully a few weeks of regular work and he'll start trimming down again)

I had an opportunity tonight to get Moon back into his training regime which I hope is the start of regular training again. I almost have to recommend that everyone take two weeks away from your horse and then get back on. You might be surprised.

Moon for some reason was on good-behavior this evening, surprising me with the smooth rythym of his paces, sharp transitions and more special, contact. I actually realized just how much more contact he gives me then he ever used to. Granted, we don't achieve "positioning" of his head at the vertical, but there he is, in my hands, listening.

We had one "Holy cow" moment when we accidently performed a beautiful turn-on-the-haunches, with only a single forward step in our 300 degree circle. It was purely accidental and I couldn't possibly ask him to do it again, but I was thrilled to know that he COULD do it if I ever figure out how. T-o-t-h requires a certain amount of lightness of the forehand and I'm thrilled to discover we're getting there.

(yippee! finally a REAL dressage girth instead of an aussie girth.
Looking good Mr. Moon. Now if only you could lose those pounds
you gained so it fits better : P )

A nice leg yield off the wall and some decent serpentines for a horse out of work. We tried some trot poles, but someone (Moon) spaced them too far apart and didn't know if he should trot or canter. So tried both, making a mess of it.

We did some more canter circles, nearly achieving 1 complete circuit in our bad direction and only 3/4 in our good. Granted, our first go 'round in the good direction included a certain horse attempting to canter OVER our trot poles sideways...and instead stepping directly atop one. He seemed to come away without damage (I sure hope), but he broke to trot to go through them every time after that. Poor smart pony.


I had before this a sweet and kind blog post, but have decided to keep it unposted. Instead I'll just summarize to say that I got my Dressage Girth (finally) and am pleased. The quality is nice and it looks pretty darn good on Mr. Moon. With it he got a new rain sheet...which is a bit tight through his broad shoulders. He also got a show pad for this summer and another grippy pad for practicing at the barn. Plus some pastern wraps for his hoof boots and I got a show shirt. HorseLoverz had screwed up my order as well, but were kind enough to refund my money on the items they messed up on, but let me keep them. So in the end I ordered myself a surcingle and hopefully will start training Moon to ground drive in a couple of weeks when it arrives. I haven't any driving reins, but I've a long rope and some snaps and a genius idea to attempt to create my own. ; )

I also placed an order with my Christmas gift cards for some trailer gear for Moon. Including a saddle rack and bridle racks for it, a head bumper and tail wrap for him (which he might have to wear in the field since I've discovered his tail flap has rubbed his tail near bare...which will look right awful come show season). Lastly I bought the show breeches I was needing and some dewormer for next season.

So I just need to order brakes and tires, and find a pair of show gloves. I'm hoping to get back into lessons with W next week since things have settled down and we need the training.

Oh, and can someone tell me why this little fellow isn't part of our fur family yet? : ) He chased us around the ring for 20 minutes trying to grab Moon's tail. Then after Moon was back in his paddock, the kitten climbed onto the fence while Moon was drinking his water. Moon looked up and wiped a big mouthful of dripping water all over the kittens back, pushing him off the fence and into the snow! Kitten came up swinging! Too funny!

(and no, Moon didn't even care. He only looked back when Curly horse
started bellowing out in the paddock. Mr. Kitten even wandered
around his back for awhile! Soooo want him!)

Hoping for another training ride tomorrow. We both need it.

Our return

The BF and I haven't quite made it back into normal spirits and felt a strong pull to spend some time with family. For us, that includes the fur-kind.

Since my dad had some stuff to pick up at the US parcel place, I lucked out in finally getting the horse gear I ordered in November (and took 6 weeks for HorseLoverz to ship). It was waiting for me when I got home and ufortunately, some things were missing.

For starters, I had ordered the competition pad and instead got an olympic pad. I had also ordered a blue trimmed show pad and instead got a red trimmed one. *sigh* I had heard some terrible things of HorseLoverz customer service, but have yet to experience it. They gained some brownie points when they were kind enough to refund my purchase prices and let me keep the miss-sent items.

So the BF and I went to visit the poor pony who's been sitting in a field getting fat over the last 2 weeks, and make sure he knew he was well loved and soon to resume his place of work and training.

We tried on his new gear after a good grooming (it goes so fast when you have someone helping) and the red-trimmed pad looks great and fits perfect. I'm kicking myself for not getting a slightly larger dressage girth, but I think that the double elastics might still stretch out. They're on the first and second holes and creeping forward. Then again, it's still rather stiff and he has more weight to take off.


We tried his new rain sheet as well, and while the length is perfect, he's too much shoulder. The BF and BO both thought it looked and fit well, but I really think it'll rub something nasty in the shoulder. He's just so broad and they stitched the darts too low. Oh well. I'll try it on him a few more times before deciding if I should try to sell. Suppose he'll only wear it when it rains.

His winter blanket needs some more repair since he acquired a nice rip clear through while we were away. Oye. Whole back end is covered in bite marks. Must control irritation. Only benefit remains that he's not marred up because of it. And blanket season will end soon.

I did pull the tail flap off after finding it's been rubbing the hair off one side of his tail. Which won't likely grow back in time for show season. Boo.

Beyond that, Moon was a sassy-pants. The BF looked at me and said "I think you should ride him more".    : P  Which was in all rights, sweet. As we drove home from Gran and Gramps he had been asking me all sorts of questions about our future barn and pasture. Gran had sent us to help with chores with one of their long-time friends and we had a lovely tour of their stable. The BF has now begun a great deal of planning, from our paddocks to our tack room. Which includes space for his own future horse. A Clydesdale I'm told...

For those without horse-husbands, as mine isn't (neither horse-y nor husband-y by nature), you know how much it makes your heart burst when they take even the smallest interest in your equine persuits. I believe I'm truly spoilt.

Granted, with it comes the direct and pointed BF that I know and love (in time). As he turns to me and says "You're going to have to stop riding like you have been if you want to compete. Twice a week of trotting circles isn't going to cut it."

: )

The goal is to get him back into work and up his training schedule. We're just a couple of months away from show season and he can not be in the behavior he's in right now. Though 2 weeks off will do that to a horse. Since we can add cantering to our routine now he should hopefully get a little more tired and a little less sassy.

I'm also aiming to get back into my weekly lessons with W starting next week, which means more serious riding and hopefully some new thought and input. We didn't make as much progress during our time apart as I'd hoped but we did get that canter circle accomplished. And that's pretty darn good.

The BF and I are planning our 8 year anniversary vacation for next month, which I hope to roll into my birthday celebration and turn into an unbridled shopping/relaxation weekend. The BF already wants to head to a motorcycle store and we've both placed our next set of orders. Since I received a credit from HorseLoverz for my mistaken order, I used the refund to purchase a training Surcingle. Which means I can start teaching Moon to drive when it arrives. I hope to get the BF out to help me with that one, since I will need the extra hands...

To get free shipping and since I had a coupon, I also got the dog a cute little blanket that reads "I didn't do it". Only problem is it needs to be -80 for her to wear it without roasting. But since it technically didn't cost me anything, I'm not complaining.

I also finally spent my Christmas gift certificates at Schneiders. The order is in for my show breeches, a tail wrap and head bumper for Moon in the trailer, 4 bridle racks and a saddle rack for the trailer upgrades and 4 dewormers. 2 to finish off my year's supply and 2 for a friend. So other then brakes, I'm all set for my trailer upgrades in the spring.

What more can I say? Not much. We wait for spring to show up and get back into our routine. Routines are good. Oh, and someone remind me again why this little fellow isn't one of our fur-family...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

At a Great Loss.

My sudden absence from the blogging world was spelled by an unfortunate loss of one of my best followers, and through love, my only grandpa. It amazes me still, that Gran and Gramps followed this very blog for much of my ownership with Mr. Moon, always cheering us on or teasing us gently. Gramps was hardly a young chap, but he still knew how to get to our posts on Gran's tablet, seeing our pictures and reading of our adventures. To have never had a Grandpa before him, it was a special treat to have fallen into a family that made me one of their own. He was the best Gramps I've ever had and will ever have.

And how lucky I have been. To have known him, to have known Gran, to have been given the chance to be part of their whole family, quirky and amazing as they are. He gave the world his family, and in turn, gave me more people to love.

Thanks Gramps. This blog is for you.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sizing things up.

It had been too long since I saw my buddy, so this morning off to the barn myself and the BF went. I hadn't given too much thought to what I'd be doing, but I was well aware that the BF probably wouldn't find it too enjoyable to watch me ride figures. To normal people, figures are a fancy word for going in circles around a ring.

Moon was feeling fresh, with only minimal damage to his blanket and lots of snuggles to give. We got him cleaned up and I finally unbraided his tail after more then a week. I love how curly they appear. Tacked up and into the ring, I hopped aboard. He was a good soul, clearly a little stiff and hot, but that's to be expected after the time off. Can't say I was much better. I warmed him in my figures and then knew I'd best get doing something more exciting as the BF started jogging laps around the arena. Hmmm...

Well, my first decision was to try a canter circle on him. Last week he made his first full circle and I hadn't tested him since. I stayed back and tried not to brace and asked. Feeling fresh as he was, he gave me a great big 'HURUMPH' as he transitioned followed by a 'UGH' and then around the ring we went. I should say, the noise was so loud the BF whipped right around and called out "Are you hurt?!". I slowed us back to a walk and let him know that it was Mr.Sassy-pants making all the noise, not I. You'd think he was trying to transition with an elephant on his back, the way he made that "UGH" noise. The BF was sweet enough to tell me that it sounded like it came from me, which was less then flattering.

We did a few more canter transitions, but he was rather hyped and sometimes took the wrong lead. Finally I asked the BF to lay out three pylons and we'd try some 'barrel-racing' in a cheesy gymkhana sorta way (not the gymkhana is cheesy, but it's closer to my barrel racing then the pros...).

Boy was I surprised when Mr. Moon swapped into canter to do those barrels, almost managing to switch leads in the process. Of course, that also meant me nearly on the ground and I quickly established that we may canter to them, but we trot around them.

It was fun to say the least, neither technical nor talented. Sometimes when you become used to focusing on 'working', it's nice to come back after a break and just have some silly fun. And that we did.

I finished him off with some proper schooling circles and practiced out neckreining again. Which he seems to understand pretty good, though not as well as one would expect of a western-bred QH...

I hopped off so the BF and I could measure his great big rump. Why? Trailer fit. My stalls are about 2 1/2" wide, and some people have told me that's too narrow for the modern QH. Well, Mr. Moonpie measured around 22" at the hip with his tummy sticking out slightly larger. The narrowest opening of the trailer is 29" and wider once you get past the gate. He seemed to measure fine all-around, height and length as well. Worst case I'll tell him to suck in his gut and let him travel with his head sticking out the back gate.

I'm joking of course. It should be a comfortable fit but not excessively roomy. The BF informed me that I can purchase no horse larger then Mr. Moon...sooo...another horse is okay?! ; )

Before I carry on with my story, I should mentioned we stopped by the trailer to take these measurements and while there, crawled under to look for brake flanges. These are the things that the brakes bolt to. My trailer has no brakes, but they need to be added (even if they were there, they'd likely need replacing).

If there is a flange, it's a *simple* process of unbolting the rims, bolting the backing plate to the flange, bolting the hub and drum to the backing plate, greasing the bearings, bolting the rim back on and of course, running the wiring. If there's no flange, we have to add one.

And no one in my city will even touch it, because it's "high risk". *sigh* No flange would mean purchasing TWO brand new axles...

I was rather worried there'd be no flange, but lo-and-behold today, flanges. On both axles. So it'll be a rather inexpensive and not too time consuming process to complete. Yippee!

Back to today. We measured Mr. Moon's rump and then I looked over at the BF, "Wanna ride him?"

The BF has only ridden Mr. Moon twice, once on a lead line, once Moon just followed me around. "Sure" he said.

I must say, that I do have pictures but the BF has run off with them. I should add, he had a really good natural seat, head-hip-heel. At first he was a bit tense and when Moon trotted off, he did as he'd do on his snowmobiles and gripped tighter. Yeah, doesn't work with a sensitive horse like Moon. Off the two of them trotted, both looking displeased.

I had my first opportunity to "teach" just a little bit, and it was a blast. The BF was a great listener on horseback, and it didn't take long before he was walk-halting him all over the place. What made it even more wonderful, was when he exclaimed "He's sooo sensitive! I just have to look left and he goes there!". So proud.

It was extra nice to see that the BF trusted me and held the reins most gently, never yanking back on Moon's mouth. Many first time riders can be a bit rein-heavy, but I'd say if anything, he was actually a bit too gentle. We tried a bit of trot, but the BF conceeded that it's one of those things you need practice and familiarity with. Still, they wandered all of the place unescorted, the BF assuring me that he was pointing Moon where he wanted, and Moon was listening.

What sweet boys!

It was just wonderful. The BF even agreed to ride again and work towards that trot, so maybe someday he could come trail riding with me. I actually wouldn't hesitate with a little more practice to pair the two of them up. : ) I also was quite certain that I do want to someday get my coaching certificate, as it's wonderful fun to teach. I never want to do the truly technical stuff like W or Bee, but to teach adults or children how to start, that would be a blast!

Almost as much as watching my two favorite boys ride off together. : )

Friday, January 20, 2012

Plans, Plans and Liebsters.

So I spend too much time planning as it is, and of course with horses, the decisions are plenty and frequent.

Today, I'm wondering about where we're going this Spring/Summer. This morning, that meant which fairs/competitions, but this afternoon, it's where to board.

Yesterday, and the days previous, it seemed like there were too many good options, each with its advantages and disadvantages. I'd say I have plenty of time to make these decisions and just let time sort it out, but I don't. January is nearing it's end and that means 2 months until our possible earliest move, 3 if I drag my feet. If we are going to move, I want to be settled by May 1st so that Moon has some time to adjust before our first shows. Ideally I'd still be at W's when we start showing but...that probably won't happen. So now I'm perusing my opportunities, trying to chose what will be the next, best place for us (not the next-best, but the next, best)...

I also found some more awesome news in my mailbox today. Another email from Bee, loving the idea of me hauling Moon over to her barn for our EC lessons/levels this summer. The nice thing about this is that testing has no additional charge when your coach is a qualified examiner, up until 5th or 6th level when someone other then your coach has to test you. Just a surcharge to have the marks entered in the national database. Score. The more I think about being under her coaching umbrella again, the more excited I get. Mare, a blog-friend was posting about feeling like she was 'cheating' on her BO/Coach when she agreed to take lessons elsewhere. This should never be the case, but often is. We can't grow as riders if we ever only learn one style of riding, from one person with a specific set of experiences and training. Diversity.

I should add, as I think she's not the only one who needs to give consideration (I myself was struggling the very same recently), that your choices should not be based on making or not making other people happy. Only two things matter: Your horse's happiness and health, and your health and happiness. Horse's first, your own second. Now granted, we all must stay within our financial constraints, but must also chose the best long-term care.

Moon and I headed to Wendy's for lessons because we needed to build confidence, experience and basic dressage. When I went there, I actually wanted someone with some jumping experience that could help us in that area as well. I think I also mentioned the EC levels. But what we needed at the time, was basic dressage training. We still need it, but Bee is able to expand on our skillset. She's a hunter/jumper judge and knows a ton about western riding. I would LOVE to try some trail classes and there's no doubt I want to finally get that low-jumping-course goal off my list. There always needs to be progression. Some people like to focus REALLY hard on one thing and become masters at it. That's W. She's incredible at dressage and very focussed. I'm kinda...whimsical. Probably why I wound up with a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-nothing sort of horse. He could do everything, kinda. But will never (could be my fault) become a champion at any of them. Being a champion is boring. I'm more of an experience sort of person. Try everything. Learn what you're good at. Learn what you like. Learn what your horse likes. Discover every activity out there. Keep it interesting and ever-changing.

The first summer I rode with Bee she started me doing showmanship. Then trail. Then dressage, jumping and barrels. Oh, and keyhole. She even hung riding equipment on the fence and made me ride to it, pick it up, identify it correctly and then relocate it somewhere else. I learned to lunge. I trained a horse to jump. It was the ultimate schooling for the true ADHD individual and horse. Of all my coaching and riding, she still sticks out in my mind.

We've already started our Spring planning. Yes, I like planning.

May 1st, we'll decide where we'll be summer boarded. There's a lot of options here.

How do I chose? I wrote a ridiculously long dialogue and diatribe of all my thoughts and the longer I wrote, the more obvious my decision was. I KNOW what I want for Moon. I know what I want for his feed, for his supplements, his farrier, his conditioning, his riding, his care. All of it. It may have taken a year of ownership to figure out, but I've got it now. I also know what I NEED. To improve my training, to get lessons, for new experiences, to compel me to get out to the barn. Let's face it. It's hard to get to the barn. Some day's I'm lazy. Some days it's raining. Sometimes, well, sometimes it just doesn't happen. But we all need a motivator. Find yours. Set it up. And do it. Those of you who wake up every morning, bounce out of bed and down to the barn even when it's freezing cold out, or raining or miserable, well, good on you. You're a bit of a freak of nature and I envy you a bit. But the rest like me, make it easy for yourself.

I in the end, have a few greatest fears and few greatest desires. And a personal pet-peeve that I can use to get me out to the barn more in the spring...And relieve a bit of my guilt while I'm at it.

I know in my gut, as it's not the first time I've contemplated it, that it's the best move for both of us. But like Mare, I'm hesitant because of all the outside factors. Guess what? Being responsible for your horse and your life means sticking by your gut.

Other then the future move, I plan on making some changes to my lesson program. I'm going to drop to 3 lessons a month and need to still decide how to divide them up. A lot of that decision will be based on how things go with Bee. I'm currently thinking 1 lesson/month with Bee doing EC levels, and 2 lessons/month with W doing dressage schooling. However, if focusing more on my EC levels with Bee is more advantageous then my Dressage schooling with W, I'll swap the 1-2 lessons. Regardless, I'll be dropping the 4th lesson/month to cover Bee's higher fees and account for all the showing we're planning. The EC levels make me more nervous then showing, since I'm starting to wonder how well Moon and I will actually do with this whole "Rider Level" thing. It's one thing to go to a show, compete against others and not a get a ribbon. It just means that they're better at it. It's another to say "Here's the foundation for good riding and horsemanship...and you failed". Ouch.

We're looking at 3 EC Sanctioned Dressage Shows. These are expensive to compete in, but an excellent opportunity to do something 'real' for just once. I'd like to do Training Level just once by the end of August.
I've chosen 4 local light horse shows (at Fairs) that would be reasonable to drive to and from past class-lists, have some interesting events for us. Events like Trail, English Pleasure (W-T-C), Cross Rail, Butterfly, W-T English Equitation and Egg&Spoon and Costume Class (why not?!)
I'd like to do 2 fun shows, probably with the IRC since I plan on attending their spring AGM next month. These are more about having a chance to go out and do something new, then get good at anything : P

Our 2012 Show Schedule:
May 12 - 13th - Dressage Winnipeg Bronze Show - Walk/Trot
June 16 - 17th - Dressage Winnipeg Bronze Show - Walk/Trot
July 6 - 8th - Carman Light Horse Show -
July 14 - 16th - Selkirk Light Horse Show
August 11 - 12th - Winkler Light Horse Show
August 20 - 21st - Dressage Winnipeg Bronze Show - Training Level

On an aside, the second half of my book order was listed as "Delivered" today, so it looks like I'm getting home to some new reading! I read a few more chapters in Dressage 101 and still LOVE the book. I actually feel like I learn a lot to take back with me from it. Yesterday's package included: "A Gymnastic Riding System" and "Equine Fitness" which seemed good on initial scan. I'm a little uncertain about "A Gymnastic Riding System" but think it needs more then a cursory scan that I gave it. : P The weather is still quite cold here (-27 F with a low of -36 F after the windchill) so I'm not sure if I'll continue to read my nights away or go visit the pony. Poor neglected pony...

Yesterday they were calling for a windchill that will freeze the skin in under 10 minutes, and while I really thought I SHOULD go, I chose to stay home and woodburn some plaques instead. At least I was still doing SOMETHING horse related. I didn't even pretend last night that I might go. Today...?? Well, if I walk to my car and crystalise on the way, I'm going home to a warm supper, burning another sign and reading my new books. Moon will understand. Right now it's...just -22 F with the windchill, and is supposed to feel like just -9 F by this evening. Stay posted on how this turns out...

Finally, the Liebster Award.

Liebster means “dearest” in German, and the award is intended to help up-and-coming blogs get the attention they deserve. Here are the rules:

1. Copy and paste the award on our blog.
2. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award
3. Pick your five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.
4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs!

I got the award from Adventures with Shyloh! Who I read religiously. Ironically, reading her Liebster choices actually led to me following a few more blogs!

So MY choices, choosing some hidden gems that I LOVE reading are:
1) Simply Horse Crazy - She is. And the adventures of her and Missy always leave you rooting for them! Plus her photography is awesome.
2) Panic and the Pony: A horse-owner struggling to realize her own talents and those of her horse. Deeply personal and always honest, you just know she's doing better then she lets on.
3) My Equestrian World: Oh Edward. Charming and witty, this blog just keeps you coming back. Plus Pip's so cute!
4) R Lil Bit of Cash: Dear sweet Lilly. I'm addicted to this blog. I don't even ride western, but I can't stop reading!
5) The Good Kind of Bitter: Not a horse blog. A pointedly honest blog with just the right overlap of sarcastic humor. Just fantastic writing.

Trailer Guts.

I feel so compelled, because the weather is chilling and I've little desire to freeze into a popsicle (nor turn MoonSox into a icicle), to share with you my trailer-rehab plans for spring. I've a fair chunk of things on my mind as seems to be the case lately, work is more repetative then exciting, so I doodle and dream about my little blue beast and how we shall fix it up to convey my little brown beast.

Here he is, good ol'Blue sitting on our parking pad in the city. Being where we are, I'm fairly sure this was a sight to the neighbors, a horse trailer parked in the city. It did get me thinking, that this might actually be pretty advantageous when we head out, as to pre-hook-up and pack will save time.


As you can see in the above picture, someone closed in the front portion of the stock-sides. I spoke with the daughter of the maker and she let me know that side and front windows were 'extras', so this is a pretty base-model trailer. I'm not sure why the previous owner would have closed in part of the stock-side, other then maybe reducing the amount of air/debris coming so close to the horses' heads. You can see that the last fellow was also touching up any spots of potential rust with silver rustoleum, which even though it doesn't match the blue interior, has helped prolong it's life.

I also plan on trying to rig up a screening system for those rear windows, to keep the bugs and debris out. Likely a velcro or latch-style system, which would allow them to be easily and quickly removed.

The 'orange' spots are from we can tell the primer they used and occasionally some of the original blue paint has chipped off. You can also see in this picture that the fiberglass roof is in need of a good scrubbing, since dirt has collected on and around it. 

The front door is actually still in pretty good condition. The front window still opens, the latch still works (needs a new key made) and the hinge is solid. It closes well, isn't drafty and really doesn't show rust. The blue paint has been worn from the edges, and like the interior, this will be repainted come spring (and warmer temperatures!).
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The little storage cubby. There's one of these under each front manger. They're about 2' wide or so and lack any sort of storage devices. You can still see here that some rustoleum has been used to keep the bottom from rusting and while it's dirty, it's still in great condition. I'm planning on putting diagonal saddle racks under each manger, though I might just do one and put more storage under the other.
Looking from the front of the trailer to the back, you can see the middle gate and the edges of the mangers. The flooring has been completely re-done and has some black matting to keep the horses from slipping. I'm thinking about getting two of the 'over-door' style bridle racks and hanging them from each manger side while traveling. They can hang low at the same level as the saddles when in transport, and then when we get where we're going and unload, I can hang them from the horizontal bars or stall sides for easier access.
Here's looking forward to the front of the trailer. Again, not a ton of tack space, but room for everything I'll need.

 

The one rear door needs some repair to the wooden slats, which will be another job for this spring. These are original and just showing some loss of life due to the evils of time. The metal sheeting behind the wood slats is in good condition, so it'll be a matter of pulling these out and replacing the rotting ones. And repainting the whole thing. I'm considering getting some nicer, new wood and redoing both, and instead of painting it, laquering it. That would probably last longer and look nicer. Glam up the trailer.

Here just showing the back corner of the trailer. More fun stuff to sand down and repaint this spring. Yippee...

 The tires. THESE need something done with them. That's a car tire. With very little tread left. NOT what we're going to be traveling with. Instead, we're going to repaint the rims a nice gloss black and have new proper ST tires put on (ST stands for "Special Trailer", which when you're purchasing tires is how you know they were specially designed for trailers). Because of the similarity in pricing, we're figuring we'll go with 15" D-Range tires, which is the maximum you can use on this trailer. It means we can haul just over 9000 lbs, but really, the axles and flooring would probably go first. Oh, and the truck can't haul 9000 lbs. : P  Also going to keep the original hub caps, since they're all there and are cute.
 Another interior shot. The gate. Again, some paint needed, but overall, pretty good shape for the year. It comes in and out with some pins at the front and back, but I'm going to pull them out and give them a good sanding and shot of lube before replacing them. You never know when something might happen and you'll need that gate out ASAP.
Last picture. This is the back half of the trailer and you can see my cute new trailer ties. In blue. : ) All my gear is blue. It's all about matching, right folks??

So finally, color choices. The exterior is staying the same, but I can't choose between the following interior colors (exterior color is the background color).



Anyone have a favorite? Remember, it needs to be bright enough to not scare the horses and not so bright as to scare the horses. Oh, and the walls will have poop on them at times. Find something that goes well with poop. ; )

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

All Dressed Up.

I've been staring at my Schneider's gift certificate, knowing I need to commit to the last of my show clothes. After another confirming read through the National Rule Book, I've decided to just show in my chocolate brown hunt coat, rather then buy another. Truthfully, I tried on way too many coats with none of them fitting properly (I've a long thin torso and monkey arms), and was beyond thrilled when I found my TuffRider. It actually FITS without me looking stupid.

I've also decided to pair it with beige breeches, since white are more expensive and beige will match my gear better. Oh, and let's face it. It's hard to look good and stay clean in white pants! Beige also means I can use these show breeches if I haul Moon to any smaller fun shows or local fairs, which have other classes like hunt seat, jumper or hack. Again, my brown coat would be fine here as well. By using this color combo, I'm essentially able to use most of the gear I already have and ride it in any class.
So once I place my order, I'll have everything but black gloves. Which I can probably find somewhere last minute. I'm going to add the butt chains for the new trailer, a fork for it, a head bumper for my silly horse (better safe then sorry) and maybe a cute new finishing brush. Gift cards gone. : P

For those curious, the EC Sanctioned shows have the following dress rules:


ARTICLE E 4.1.4 BRONZE COMPETITIONS: WALK/TROT THROUGH
FOURTH LEVEL
 A dark coloured or grey jacket (tailcoats not permitted).
Contrasting pin stripes and piping are allowed.
 ASTM/SEI or BSI/BS EN approved protective headgear
 White or light coloured breeches
 Juniors are permitted to wear jodhpurs and jodhpur boots.
 Tie, hunting stock, or choker
 Gloves
 Dark coloured riding boots (plain, laced or with zippers)
 Dark coloured half chaps or half boots zipped over short boots
may be worn. Half chaps/boots are forbidden at Silver and Gold
competitions.

I assume that beige is "light coloured" and therefore I'd be fine. Even if I'm not "cool" or "in"...


THIS is what I assume we'll look like...(minus the terrible head-behind-the-vertical head position...and faulty left-hind hock...oh, and I have eyes...and a mouth...)

In other news, I found out from my trailer contact that "Ford Blue" was the original trailer interior color, which tempts me to keep the color the same. Though it's kinda...bright. She also told me that my trailer was actually in better condition then her own!! That her dad (the creator of Blair trailers) and her husband custom designed and built for her. How sweet is that??!

I learned a lot from our email chain and am a little sad to be so far away, as she invited me to come trail riding with her. Apparently her best trail partner (her hubby) passed away and now she doesn't really have anyone to go with. Boy I wished I lived somewhere near Kansas...Anyone wanna come on a road trip?! ; )

I bailed on going to the barn last night (bad, bad me!) but think I'll compel myself to get out there today. And while I'm at it, check some details on the trailer. Why, why is it so cold out?!! The only one who likes it is this one:
(yip, that's my dog, and yip, she's cheaper then gasoline...)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

That's some kinda luck...

I was hunting through one of my notebooks today trying to find some programming script I had copied down for work when I stumbled across a little note I had scribbled in the margin:

EC Rider Levels.
I had scribbled it there almost a year ago, when thinking about putting Moon and I through our Equine Canada rider levels, to progress eventually (some day far, far in the future) to becoming an English Coach. It's a not-too-realistic dream that I've toyed with since the age of 17 when I first found out about the Rider Level system. Much like swimming lessons as a child, you would progress in lessons through different levels of horseback riding skill until you reached a specific extent of theory and practical knowledge. Each level had a written and practical examination and you would be awarded a certificate or pin. High enough up, you'd become "qualified" to teach others and would have to spending time gaining "hours" teaching others before progressing further up the ranks.

In my own Province there are very few EC Certified Coaches. When I went looking for a coach I struggled to find one, as many people follow less rigorous "coaching" programs that don't require this level of testing.

But nothing compares to the EC program. It is demanding, thorough and requires true skillset. When I was 18 years old I completed the first Level (now considered levels 1-3) but never applied for National Membership, which is required to obtain credit. Year after year, I've considering going back to get some more levels (they turned the 3 levels into 10...), yet never actually managing to accomplish it. Often the barns providing the theory courses would cancel them, or you had to haul out and they were a long ways away. I took lessons with an EC coach for two summers, but while she considered me at Level 5, I always left before going for any testing.

So looking at this scribbling, I thought that I need to get on this already. Finding the time and finances isn't going to be easy with all the other dreams I have going on (and boy do I have dreams!), but where there's a will, there's a way.

I opened my email account and searched for that old instructor of mine...and there in my draft-box was an email I started to her last spring when hunting for a coach.

Reading through it, I could see how far Moon and I have come. I confessed that we had no canter, our trot was a mess, he didn't listen that well and his head was always in the sky. Not saying we're perfect, but we're not the same team we were last year.

On a whim, I redrafted the email and contacted her. I was certain she wouldn't remember me anymore and after googling her name to try to confirm the email address, I was pretty certain I knew what her response would be. "I don't remember you and I don't have time for you."

Why would I think that? Oh, it's not my lack of self esteem. That's pretty steadily on the rise. No, it was the overwhelming list of her recent activities and qualifications. She had it all, she was a highly regarded international judge, examiner, national committee member...there's no way she has time for me, let alone remembers me!

This afternoon there was an email sitting in my inbox from her. Uhoh...

Turns out, she emailed me from her vacation in Florida! To say that she remembers me and is thrilled I found my dream horse. She was actually coaching me when I nearly bought an OTTB...and was the one that guided me to my decision not to purchase. I still remember being reminded that the right horse feels right...even if it takes years to find. She remains in my books, the best coach I've ever had. Don't get me wrong, W is fantastic. But this lady (we'll call her Bee) was capable of pushing me yet supporting me. Always introducing me to new and unique things and being able to magically tie it all back to my original goal.

If you're wondering why I didn't go back to her last summer when I owned Moon and wanted a coach well...I was actually scared of her response! I still thought she wouldn't remember me, and I convinced myself that it was too far to haul Moon (it's past W's), W was less expensive and Bee doesn't have an indoor arena the way W does. Easy decision. I still am thrilled I went with W and don't plan on bailing from her coaching. It's been incredible. I'm just starting to wonder if much like riding a different horse every once in awhile is good for you, maybe riding with a different coach once in awhile is good too???!

Regardless, Bee's completely game to assist me in working through my levels despite the fact that she's downscaled both her teaching and boarding. Which is fine since I plan on using Moon anyway : ) The ONLY real issue is that W doesn't allow outside coaches without permission...and I have a suspicion that she might not get on with this coach as a judge...

If that IS that case (I've never asked, so it's total hearsay right now), then one more incentive to relocate come spring, probably back to T's (who I had a great conversation with). I could train with W three weeks of the month and with Bee once per month (Bee is more expensive and also doesn't coach competitive riders). I'd probably haul to Bee's place since T's lacks a sand arena right now...but there's some practice time with my awesome pony trailer!

Huh. One more thing to follow-up on.

I also browsed the EC Rider Level requirements and with Moon I think we'd easily get through the first two levels which are pretty much walk-trot, transitions and trot poles. And things like not running into other horses and being able to groom : P
Moon will need some practice on Level 3 to achieve the Canter leads, which is the only thing in that level that we can't do (We haven't even PRACTICED leads : P ).
Level 4 stumps us because it's more cantering though we're working on the canter circle (20m) and the jumping...we need to jump a 2' combination in this one and canter a fence...uhoh.
Level 5 is jumping a 2'3" oxer, stirrupless canter (do that all the time when my stirrups fall off...), non-progressive transitions and jumping stirrupless. THIS level we're not going to reach anytime soon and need lots of schooling.
Level 6 is even harder, 2'6" jumps, full course and is the level before Instructor certification (meaning you can teach Level 1).

Looking forward to it. And REALLY hope I can make at least the first two levels happen : )


On another rather astonishing note, I've been trying to track down some information on the "Blair Trailers" that made my new pony trailer. Of course, there's pretty much nothing online except an advertisement for a 1971 Blair for sale and some mailing addresses. I emailed the dealership selling the 1971 and their reply was "Where'd you find that ad?? The trailer hasn't been for sale for years!". Whoops. No information to be had there. The address for the company led me (thanks to google street-view) to an old building that likely was the plant with the signs missing and the gates locked. No luck there either. It seems that Blair Horse Trailers are no more...

More google searching had me stumble across a webpage designed by some girl talking about her history in showing Appaloosas. In the webpage she mentions the Blair Trails being made by William Blair when one of his horses was injured in a commercial trailer. He wanted one that would be safer and better designed. Surprise, surprise, he made the first Blair in his backyard. Since there was an email address on the webpage I thought "I should contact her. Maybe she can direct me to some long-lost relative who's the third cousin of the maker and I can get some more info???". So I shipped out my email, not really expecting anything back.



"The Only Blair Trailer Ad online..."




Boy, was I surprised...THIS was her response:
My dad who founded and ran Blair Trailers has passed on. I and my husband worked there most of our adult lives. I might be able to answer some of the questions. We always had an Erie address although we moved from the farm to 47 highway in 1962 or close to that point in time. We were never in the city of Erie. We did farm out some parts to an outfit in Erie.

The original trailer was first built on the farm under a tree in around 1958, no one is sure what the exact date is.

Your trailer has a number on the frame between the tires on the driver's side, that is that trailer's year built and own number. It is legal ID.

You didn't say if the trailer was pull type or a gooseneck, but I'm assuming it is pull type. It should have a fiberglass top in excellent condition. I hope no one has ever painted it. On a sunny day you can tell if it has been painted as (if there is not too much tree mold on it) you should be able to see light through it. Fiberglass tops were our main selling point besides being a well built safe trailer to haul horses in. We invented the walk through escape door in the front. And were the first to use the round rear bumper so a horse can't hurt his leg on a sharp edge.

At this age, if the floors have not already been replaced, I'd guess they might need to be replaced. That and rust from people not cleaning out the mess the horses leave in the trailer are it's only weak spots on the top. The axles and leaf springs will need to be checked along with the brakes. We did not manufacture them, they came from suppliers. Redneck Trailer Supply in particular.

Somewhere around here I have copies of the old brochures that have the original selling prices on them. But they are older than 1974. Any help I can be just email me. How wide and tall is the trailer? Inside measurements.

What kind of horses do you have?  
Now I'm THRILLED! To make contact with the daughter of the original maker??! For all I know, she may have helped make my trailer! I LOVE that my roof is all original and they wanted it to be see-through. I didn't even realise the rounded bumper and now suspect that the whole brake issue may be a little less difficult then I suspected, since I have the name of the axle maker too! Plus the possibility of seeing the original brochures?! How cool is that?! Wow.

How much good luck can you have before it starts to spoil???! Another awesome National Velvet quote for you that makes me chuckle...: "I want it all quickly 'cause I don't want God to stop and think and wonder if I'm getting more then my share."

I best email her back quickly!!!

Beyond all of this excitement, I might head out to the barn this evening for either a short ride or else work on our lunging. It's FREEZING cold out and everything creaks from it. Probably Moon too. Hopefully W put him in his blanket liner today before sending him out. Brrr. I'd like to just stay home and relax on the couch (such a busy week and weekend) but feel compelled to spend time with him since it's been nearly a week!!! Yikes. The other advantage? I can check out a couple things on the trailer I need to confirm in order to place orders for some remaining supplies...which will tell me how easy or hard (how long really) it'll be to get my trailer up to 100% for towing. : ) Brrrr....

Monday, January 16, 2012

When things are meant to be...

I came to the conclusion this morning that it really was a busy weekend...when the fridge was empty and there were 20 unread blog updates. But as much as I wanted to start reading, I felt compelled to tell the story of my weekend...

As you all know by now, I got my horse trailer! I had made a comment on the nature of fate and how you can do nothing but hope and work hard. And have a little luck. And luck we did..to the point where it was almost 'meant to be'.

Friday I decided to show up to work early so I could get off a bit sooner, and then chose to work through my lunch to leave even earlier. When I got home in the early afternoon, I walked in the door and headed to check the front mailbox....when the phone rang.

I checked the call display and realised it was the seller of the horse trailer; and considered letting it go to voice mail, since I had learned that morning that we couldn't pick it up on a Sunday since our vehicle permit office was closed (need a temporary permit to transport it). But after 5 rings decided to answer anyway.

The seller and I chatted for a bit, and it seemed like everything would work out except for the date. Sunday was the only day we were free to go, and it was the only day that didn't work because of permits. Monday would, but we didn't have a chance to book time off work. No luck. We'd be waiting another week and the seller said they would still be trying to sell it during that week. sigh.

Regardless, I made a ton of phone calls (2 hours worth) to arrange all the paperwork. Who knows what could happen. Set yourself up for success, even if failure seems imminent.

So the BF comes home and was going to email the fellow we were meeting on Saturday to buy a snowmobile...but decided to call instead. Much to our surprise, the guy asked if we could come out that evening since his boy had a hockey game on Saturday. Um, sure!

Immediately things seemed like they might fall into place. We headed straight to the bank so I could get some US cash...and got there 15 minutes before the bank closed. We then drove the 4 hours round-trip to pick up the snowmobile Friday night, got home around 9 pm and I called the seller about the pony trailer. I told her that Saturday at noon we'd be pulling into their farm to pick it up.

I raced around for the remainder of the evening getting everything we needed: the dog's rabies certificate since we'd have to bring her with us (no time to arrange anyone to look after her, and too long for her to stay home), our nexus cards, cash for gasoline, paperwork, map...

I crawled into bed with the alarm set for 6 am, and subsequently checked it every 1/2 hour JUST in case it wasn't working. At 5:30 am, the BF and I had both been wide awake for at least an hour, so we got ready and were out the door by 6 am. The four vehicles ahead of us at the border were all pulled in for vehicle inspections, but we continued on through. Winding down the smaller highways through rural North Dakota, eating truck-stop breakfast sandwiches and counting the Dairy Queens. At exactly noon we passed by the Cottonwood tree (yes, that was our directions...left at the cottonwood), and pulled into the driveway.

The trailer was sitting there looking even cuter in person. We met the owners, inspected everything and were happy with it. We spent a bit of time meeting the owner's horses and introducing them to our dog (just so friendly!) and then hooked up and hauled out. We headed to the capital city of Bismark and drove straight to Staples. Who let us use their phone to call the Permit office, which by this time, it was already 2 pm. We faxed out our first form and then since it'd be an hour, we headed off for lunch. At 3 pm we were back at Staples and the papers arrived to fax back...this continued until 3:50 pm, ten minutes before the permit office closed for the weekend, and we got our permit. Under the wire by 10 minutes. Otherwise we'd be stuck there until Monday morning.

We headed home and reached the US/Canada border at 11:30 at night. Following a thorough inspection process, we successfully imported our trailer into Canada. We got home at 12:30 am on Sunday and the BF managed to back it into the driveway even with vehicles half-parked in the lane.

Sunday morning, I was still thrilled with it. It looks awesome with our blue truck and hauls pretty darn good. While the tires are functional and made the whole trip without issue, I plan on replacing all of them, adding a new set of electric brakes and installing new bearings (though the axles were cool the whole 7 hour drive). I'll keep the old tires and use the best of the 4 as my spare. I'm also planning on adding a break-away module which applies the brakes if the trailer ever separates from the tow vehicle. It's $40 for the module and everything needed to set it up, which to me is a small price to potentially preventing a catastrophe.

The exterior of the trailer is near perfect, and the fibreglass roof is pristine. This thing wasn't stored outside, that's for sure. The interior is a bright blue with a couple spots of surface rust which I'm going to sand down this spring and repaint the interior a nicer color...any votes between a soft cream, light grey or grey-blue?

It came with two nearly new trailer ties, and I just want to recover the butt chains which are wrapped in clear plastic that's yellowed a bit with age. The BF is planning on making me a pull-out saddle rack for the front compartment, and we'll put a halter/bridle rack in there too. I'm taking the door handle off to get a new set of keys made for it, and then we'll add a lock to the back door. We're also contemplating doing some velcro-in plexiglass windows for days when it's raining or miserable. Oh, and he's going to add some more interior lights for me when he adds in the brake wiring. We also need to replace the back reflectors since one fell off when we were driving home... : P

The whole thing is rather spacious feeling and from my experience with friends' WW-style trailers, it feels more open. Oh, and the floor boards are brand new, it came with rubber matting and a good deal of the paint is still on the under-frame! After 38 years?? Regardless, the BF offered to climb under there and repaint the entire undercarriage and wheel wells a nice gloss black. We're also going to repaint the rims black and keep the original hubcaps (all 4 are still on it!).

Obviously, I'm just thrilled with it. The weather here has turned cold and miserable, which gives me plenty of time to plan what I want to do. We're hauling it back to our house in the early spring and will start getting it ready for Moon. I'm planning on getting some accessories for it, which will include a manure fork, two head bumpers for the horses when they travel (considering Moon smoked his head on a 2-horse with living quarters gooseneck trailer...), a couple of haybags...

The whole thing has left me ridiculously excited...we'll be living large. There really is something freeing about knowing if you want to take your horse somewhere, you can. And hey, there's room for two, which means I don't have to travel alone. Horse camping anyone??

Even cooler? When I explained to the BF how I want to haul to some local fairs to attend their shows and he said "Can we make a trip of it? You know, do the horse thing and then go to the fair?" : ) Yes, yes we can. Then again, there's a couple of campgrounds with horse camping that we're thinking of checking out this summer. He'll bring his mountain bike, I'll bring my pony. I'm even planning on setting up some temporary horse fencing in our back field (I have the energizer, just need some step-in T-posts and electric tape) so I can haul him out to trim the grass for us...and get used to his future home : )

So that's the story of the cutest little pony trailer. I adore how unique in styling it is and from what I can find I believe that Blair is the only makers of this style of walk-through. And I still feel like THIS was the trailer I was supposed to get. I'm going to have to work extra hard to get us showing this summer, but I'm loving the fact that we have the ultimate freedom in our hands. Maybe we won't get to a ton of places this year, but we have many years together to enjoy. And it might not be the most expensive, most luxurious, make their jaw-drop trailers out there. But it seems perfectly suited to my little Moon'er and I. And THAT is what matters most.

(lots of pics of the inside of the trailer will come later tonight ; ) ).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

PONY TRAILER!

Details forthcoming...
For now:
1974 Blair 2-Horse Straight Loader Bumper-Pull MoonSox Hauler


Friday, January 13, 2012

'til your knuckles show white

I’m still thrilled from yesterday’s ride.

I stumbled across a quote on another blog (forget who’s now) that read:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common then unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
      - Calvin Coolidge 


Perhaps this is our motto? Or vision statement?

I have been working towards that canter for many months now, often feeling a bit defeated that it wasn’t there. At times, I thought perhaps he couldn’t canter. Sometimes I thought I couldn’t canter. Often I was left feeling like we were going to be stuck showing Walk-Trot for the rest of our lives.

In the midst of all my doubts, remained a determination to get there. Week after week, I struggled with a rushing trot, a horse that would rather buck then canter off and eventually, a horse that would fall out of the gait at every corner. I’d say that I could have easily given up, but that’s not true. A horse that doesn’t canter a circle? I’m not going to be that person. I knew he could do it, I just didn’t know what we were doing wrong. Or needed to do to fix it.

There seems to come a moment in a rider’s life when they transition (pun?) from an unaware rider to a truly self-aware rider. Yesterday I finally felt like I could focus on myself and my actions instead of being overwhelmed by what I was supposed to be doing. Granted, I still need to take it a step further and be able to modify my movement in response to what I am experiencing, but this is a good first step. I finally felt like a rider instead of a marionette.

If someone had told me in May 2011 that it would be 8 months before my horse was capable of cantering a SINGLE 20 m circle, I would have stared at them, eyebrow raised. 8 months? To canter a circle. Granted though, when I started with W, she told me it would be a slow process. But I’d always respond with “We have our whole lives”. I still believe that. If determination and persistence are the wondrous training tools they seem to be, then I no longer doubt that we can achieve a great deal of what I dream up. Do not get me wrong. We will never be Grand Prix riders, mastering piaffe or Olympians who can perform levade. The very basis of who we are limits us, yet allows us to reach great heights. How so? Because while our confirmation, age, time, finances and training limit our natural abilities, we are determined to find our successes. Where others may throw their hands up and admit defeat, we’ll soldier on.

Perhaps it’s like a maze, where you choose a direction to head and make strong strides until you reach a wall. Or a door. Or a cross-roads. Sometimes you make a wrong decision and have to back-track. Sometimes you end up going the wrong way or getting turned around. Sometimes though, you get out of the maze and find yourself standing in a beautiful world knowing “I created this”. And then you re-enter the maze to find out what more you can create.

Probably a month ago, I would have told you that I don’t think we will be ready to canter at a show this year. Schooling or sanctioned, I wasn’t certain we’d be ready. But I was determined to at least try.

I suppose that’s what our jumping experience is as well. I’m fortunate to have W’s guidance when it comes to Dressage Schooling and have reaped many benefits from it. There is NOTHING more valuable then hours logged in the saddle, but at the same time, there’s no greater gift then having a set of educated eyes guiding and helping you. For us, when it comes to jumping, we’re green. Moon has pretty much no experience and my experience is all in that wide-eyed “OMG, am I doing this?!” state. The best was a 2’6” hunter course, when I’d never before jumped a course, even of x-rails. Thankfully, I had a school master to guide me.

I want jumping to be MY training. I know that it might be slow, we might not be very good, but I want to experience truly training a horse for myself. W has given me so much confidence and education on the flat that I’m excited to apply it over jumps. I swapped up my book order (finally got it to work at 11 pm last night) and ordered a book on cavalletti exercises. And when it arrives I’m going to work through it. Step by step by step.

Now all I want to do is find every competition coming up and canter at all of them! Even though our canter is still unmasterful and fleeting at best. There’s something inspiring when you catch a glimpse of what can be, and becoming focussed on chasing it down.

As said in National Velvet: “Some day you’ll learn that greatness is only the seizing of opportunity – clutching with your bare hands ‘til the knuckles show white”.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

When Scooping Frozen Poop.

It's neither the highlight nor the lowlight of my day, but I learned something about poop. When it freezes (as it did in the arena this evening thanks to figid temperatures) it's REALLY hard to scoop. Just keeps rolling out of the muck fork, over and over and over again. Frozen poop rolls.

But none of that really matters. I drove to the barn tonight a little frustrated. Not with Moon, but with life. Chapter's was having gift card errors, keeping me from ordering my new books. On the drive home, some lady wouldn't stop honking her horn at me when I couldn't get enough traction to sneak between on-coming traffic to cross the road. Work was frustrating me as an endless loop I thought we had solved, returned. The trailer deal seemed to be waivering thanks to title transfer issues of the deceased parent. The weather had turned cold and bitter. I wouldn't be able to make it to the border this weekend to finally pick up my dressage girth.

Moon was his usual sweetheart when I got to the barn, and I tacked and warmed him up. I set my video camera and wondered if I was making forward progress without W's coaching this week, or if I was ruining all of our hard work. We did loops. Serpentines. Transitions. We walked and we trotted and we went round and round.

Then I gathered up all of my knowledge, everything I've been told, everything I've read. I trotted Moon through some 10 m circles, transitioning between walk-trot throughout them. And when we reached the corner, I sat back and silently asked.

"Canter"

We made the first corner, Moon strung out and almost in a hand-gallop. As we neared the second, I looked in the direction I wanted to go, I leaned back and I drove with my seat like I've never done before.

Suddenly, we made it through the second corner, so I kept driving with my seat and trying to stay loose through my body.

And we rounded the third corner.

It was only after coming through the fourth corner that I lost my inside stirrup and we fell back to trot.

LAVISH PRAISE.

We had a canter circle. A FULL circle (technically slightly more...). It wasn't beautiful, it probably wasn't truly circular and it needs work. But the lead was right, the movement was right and it was continuous.

What did I do right???

We practiced a few more times, and while we got further around the circle then our previous attempts, we never did better then two-thirds of a circle. But I didn't care.

You'd think that it'd be because I finally proved that Moon could do it, but that's not why. It's because I FINALLY felt like a true rider. This was OUR success. No coach calling out what to do, no simply stumbling into it. This was planned, rehearsed and put into practice. One might say, "trained".

Each time through that we failed, I became more aware of ME, and less focussed on Moon. MY clamping lower legs. My tendancy to lean forward. My lack of a driving seat.

He'd go further the longer I kept my legs loose, and my body back. I was INFLUENCING him. The more I controlled him on the circle, the more I kept him from sticking his nose up during our transitions, the more I prepped him for the depart, the better he got!

I finally, finally felt like we can make progress without hand-holding. Those moments where W tells me to feel it and ride, THAT was today. We found our success. Gone are my worries whenever I look at a show schedule and see 'canter'. We'll get there. I'll make sure of it.

Oh how good that moment feels. I've been waiting and dreaming of it for so long, and can't believe that for as down as I was when I showed up at the barn, I could leave so ecstatic. Success is out there. Chase it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Oh Fate...

why do you torture me so??!

I've always told myself (it makes me feel better) that some super-human power determines how things pan out. So when things don't turn out as I want, I tell myself that some greater power saves me from an unknown terror. Like perhaps that brown trailer was actually stolen and THAT's why I didn't get it. Or the white one was rusted through underneath...

Fate once again has its cold hands wrapped firmly around my future, and I'm left waiting for her to do something. About that horse trailer.

Which trailer? The little blue-grey one with the front escape door. Since coming across it, I've turned my nose up at most of the little WW-style ones (those 2-horse with the little tack doors on the sides), with something about this one just appealing to me. The biggest appeal? That escape door. Not being trapped with a misbehaving horse.

The owner responded, that she has everything I need to clear the border. And the papers are on their way from Iowa. And she'll keep taking offers until it's paid for...

Which means I need three twists of fate:

1) No one in the area can buy the trailer before the papers arrive. If a local offers to purchase and is okay picking up the papers at a later date, it's sold.
2) If papers arrive by Saturday (the post comes on Saturday??) then I'll drive down on Sunday and hopefully have it home by Sunday night.
3) If they DON'T come by Saturday, I'll be waiting another week to get down there. AND if a better offer comes along, it's sold.

Oye.

I'm now waiting. Anxiously. Fate, you evil, evil bugger.

Tonight, no ride on Moon, as the roads are bad thanks to a storm that blew through, and my pa came to visit. Always nice to visit with your pa. I plan on being out tomorrow and will have a long discussion with Moon-pie about the powers of fate. And how he better stay healthy and sound if I get the trailer.

Everyone cross your fingers and baby toes. Or email the lady and tell her how awesome we are and how much she should sell it only to us. Maybe I should email her a pic of Moon's cute little face... ; )

I'm hoping...

The Horse's Book Report

I'm a book addict. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love reading, love books and at times, refuse to put them down. I also learn best through reading. Show me how to do something, I'll forget. Explain how to do something, I won't understand. But let me read it, and then practice what it is, and I'll figure it out.

So I've been hunting for and reading a lot of horse-books lately, hoping to help enhance my learning. While W's training is awesome, sometimes I just don't have the time to understand or envision what it is I'm doing. Even if she tells me I'm doing it right!

I've chosen 6 books to purchase with my Chapter's gift card, which is in the mail. Hopefully just another couple weeks until my choices arrive.

The #1 pick was unfortunately out of stock. : ( That would be Claire Lilley's "Scales of Training Workbook". This book seems like an awesome foundation to developing and building your own goals and exercises, as you can clearly see what skills must stack upon the next. Too bad it's out of stock.


The remainder of the books I've chosen are a variety of books in Dressage and Jumping, as well as touching on general fitness. "Dressage School" by Britta Schoffman seems like an awesome "Dictionary" for dressage, explaining the aids and movements for each dressage move. The downfall of this book is that it seems to lack solutions to common problems encountered when schooling these moves, but hopefully it's accompanying books can assist with that.


"Mind, Body, and Spirit" by Betsy Steiner caught my attention, because it's not purely a physical riding book. It's explaining how to mentally and psychologically ride your horse. Mentally preparing, visualizing, etc. I LOVED reading a book from our library called the "Ride with your mind clinic" by Mary Wanless, and suspect that this book may take the mental portions I loved of that book and apply them to a more practical riding portions. 



"Equine Fitness" by Jec Ballou has a little promo...it comes with a set of pull-out cards which include exercises to work on, as quick reference guides. I love the idea and after browsing the table of contents, think that this book will offer us tons of creative and useful exercises to enhance our riding. I'm game for that. 


"Jump with Joy" by Sarah Blanchard is not one of my 'normal' readings, since it's a jumping book. But I LOVE how this book starts at the very basics, even how to train a horse to jump. Whether Moon and I ever actually get any good at it (by good, I mean stay on at 2' : P), I think this book will help me meander towards that goal. And if not, an excellent reference if I ever get my hands on a horse that jumps in the future.


Jane Savoie's "Dressage 101" is actually a book I've read twice already. And LOVE. The library carries it, but it's one of those books that I just want to have on hand, whenever I need it. It combines two books I was looking for previously: "Cross Training" and "More Cross Training". This book explains things in a way I understand, and really helps clarify issues encountered. Love it. 

My last choice is the "101 Dressage Exercises" by Jec Aristotle Ballou. This is the same person who wrote the "Equine Fitness" book that I want, and after reading "101 Jumping Exercises" (from the library) and "101 Arena Exercise" (which I own), I think these books are AWESOME lesson plans. Sure help keep you out of the rut!


 Although I'm not buying them, I have access to a couple of books from my local library. I have "Dressage 101" on-hand again, along with the "101 Jumping Exercises". Which I think is great because it has flatwork AND trot jumps. Which I about all we can master right now.

"Dressage Formula" by Erik Herbermann is a good read, but for me, lacks illustrations. He's very methodical in his approach, but I'm not sure all of his solutions would work for me. I feel like I'd get very stuck in his plan and just flail around not knowing how to continue. But still a well written book.


Richard Maxwell's "Unlock your horse's talent" is a book I wouldn't purchase. He has some good pointers, but overall, it's a little too Parelli-John-Lyons for me, where I'm somehow going to be able to lunge my horse into talent. I can't. He won't. And the exercises didn't even seem fun nor progressive. Next.


"Gymnastics" by James Wilfred is an awesome little book with really quick visuals to setting up gymnastic layouts in your arena. Love the progression, the explanations, the whole thing. Only problem? Cantering by the third exercise. Nice to dream about, but we won't be working through this book anytime soon.

"Enlightened Equitation" by Heather Moffett is another book I've taken out for a second time, but honestly, the book is a bit repetitive on the other's I've read, but doesn't seem to offer me anything new that I'm looking for. Perhaps it just doesn't explain it in a way I understand. Either way, it'll be the last read in my current list.


Anne Kursinski's "Riding and Jumping Clinic" is an old version of the book I took out over Christmas. Nice little read, great for someone seriously into jumping, but not for me. Too advanced, too indepth and not what I'm ready for. But I'd recommend it as a read for my H/J friends out there. 



I'll re-post on my thoughts about my Chapter's order once it arrives. Hopefully it was a good selection of books that will enhance our riding. If not, hey, a good book is never a waste!