Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Winter Pony

In summer, I have a beautiful red mare. She's almost copper colored with a long, full tail. She shines. She shimmers. She ripples. She's lovely and sleek and a well groomed athlete.

In winter? I've got a yak.
The yak, offering to shake.

She's fuzzy and dirty and sports an afro. She's got a beard a billy goat would envy and ear tufts that put an owl to shame. This is my winter pony. She's a cute yak, but she's still a yak. It's kind of embarrassing, but my other alternative is to stand in a cold barn aisle and pull her mane for no reason other than my pride. I like being warm more than I like my pride.

This is the first time I've caught her little trick in a photo. She had this behavior when I got her and I swear someone taught this horse to shake. When I'm too slow with the treats, she holds her front right hoof in the air. She doesn't really paw with it and it's not an anxious behavior. I think she's offering to shake. I discourage it, but it still pops up. I had a candy cane in my pocket and the princess knew it.

I labelled all of her blankets and pads today in preparation for her departure on January 1st. The princess is migrating south, and my long months of withdrawal are upon me. I'm really not going to know what to do with myself. I'll ride on Saturday and make sure all her stuff is neatly packed, and then I won't see her until the end of March.

. . .

I'm going to lose my mind.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

As the indoor season rolls by, we've spent a lot more time working in the ring. This is like putting my mare under a magnifying glass. People see her more and more people are interacting with her. In an effort to keep her busy, she's picked up a teenager of her own (a working student) that lessons on her, along with filling in when the more advanced riders need a horse for a lesson.

On the flat she's a dream. All of this time being watched has made it easier for my trainer to pinpoint our roadblocks in dressage and we've made major progress over the last month. She now looks like the first level horse she was supposed to be last month. Her back lifts, her stride lengthens, and she doesn't pull your arms out of their sockets. Getting her there isn't easy, but once you've got her? Butter. It's amazing. Almost any teenager or adult is happy to ride her in a flat lesson. She's super sweet, tries hard, and can be very fancy.

Over fences? I call that her Mr. Hyde personality. She'll be standing in the middle of the ring, quiet as a lamb and dozing. I wake her up and get her moving. As soon as she realizes we're jumping, a transformation takes place. She picks her head up, the motor engages, and she slams against my hands. Game. On. It's nothing compared to last year, we're doing courses at about 2'6" including gymnastics without batting an eyelash, but she's still an intense ride.

As soon as the course is done? Back to Dr. Jekyll, snoozing in the middle of the arena or watching the other horses going. On the flat, I'd trust her with almost anyone. She trots and canters around on the buckle with a relaxed headset that would make a hunter trainer drool. I had a clinic with Ashley McVaughn last weekend and Fiona was a bit of a mystery to her. I warned her at the beginning that she can be quite explosive, then warmed her up on the buckle. After the third cross rail, the princess woke up and her whole other personality emerged. Ashley was worried that she was psyched due to noise or cold. I laughed and said she was actually being really good.

And then Fiona dozed off in the middle of the ring and had to be poked awake to take her next turn.

The princess is an odd, odd pony.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Statistics, schmamistics

An entire week devoted to nothing but studying statistics could make the sanest of people feel a bit batty.

I wasn't all that sane to begin with.

Tonight was my final, so my class is over and I don't have to think about school work for a whole month. In order to study (cram) as much as possible, I didn't make it out to the barn this week. Withdrawal is ugly on it's own. Coupled with statistics overload? Just damn ugly. So here's to thinking about things that do not involve Greek letters or probability!

What says 'not statistics' better than pictures of our run on the beach?

I appreciate the fact that there's photographic evidence of my insanity. The sequence of us galloping is from us racing the teenagers. I'm trying to pull up, so it's not all that pretty, but you can tell we were having a good time.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Evidently I still have some issues with my position in dressage. I thought I'd been improving, but I had a flaw pointed out today. I have to say, I never saw this particular problem in any of the dressage books I've read. Or hunter, jumper, eventer, or any other kind of horse book I've ever seen.

I need to put my boobs. In my butt.

Yes. You read that correctly. Boobs. Butt. Together.

It did bring the lesson to a bit of a stop while I comprehended that visual. Or tried to, anyway. My old hunter habit of having that little arch in my lower back and lifting my chest clearly doesn't do it for the dressage aficionados. Telling me to put my chest down wasn't a strong enough image, so the clinician went for a new one. It's going to take me awhile before I can really look at that bit of advice without snickering like a second grade school girl.

There's something about riding that makes us all so unabashed about our bodies. It might be the fact that we work with very large animals that really don't have any modesty. It might be that we spend so much time trying to get our bodies positioned just so. Maybe it's just the high concentration of females. Whatever the cause, I've had a variety of things yelled at me.

Don't hump the saddle! Crotch in front of hips! Grind the saddle! Stick your headlights out!

At least there weren't any kids in the ring. If they start giggling, I can't help but giggle with them.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Aside from gorging on turkey and hearing about the Black Friday sales, Thanksgiving is traditionally a day to think about how lucky you've been for the past year and to give thanks as appropriate. Here is what I am thankful for this year.

I am thankful for my husband who not only tolerates the paddock boots by the door and the saddle pads showing up in the wash, but will show up to take pictures and video tape for my records. He also takes me out to dinner to celebrate my accomplishments and lets me wallow in my sorrows.

I am thankful for a trainer (she's the one in the pink hat) that can tolerate my flaky moments, my control freak tendencies, and my own unique quirks. I'm thankful that she will still coach me after I show up with a blingy browband and a brightly colored saddle pad.

I am thankful for the friends I have made at my barn. We're an odd ball, eclectic bunch, but we all have this horrible addiction in common. They're also great for things like 'Hey, I need to pull Fiona's mane, can you just give me a hand? She should be fine, I swear . . . '

I am thankful to ride at a barn where we can do things like go out hacking, are close to fox hunting, and can show almost every weekend all summer if we want to. My checkbook doesn't appreciate it, but Fiona does.

And, of course, I am thankful for my horse. Through the tantrums and the explosions and the screams of 'Whoa, damn it!' ringing across Area I, she has made me smile every time I've gone to visit her.

A happy turkey day to everyone.

Bad habits

We're really not to sure why the princess does this. Maybe she's still in kindergarten and thinks she's flirting. Maybe she thinks they need to get a move on. It's certainly not aggressive. She'll be walking along, minding her own business, and then will nip the butt of the horse in front of her. We all understand, Dorkzilla has a cute butt and the little pony yesterday really was just that adorable, but it's not exactly endearing to the other horses and riders. There are nicer ways to show appreciation for a nice derriere.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Learning to fly

Credit to ~inkd-in-blood

Way back in the day, when I was a kid in the hunter ring that rarely rode outside of an arena, I heard the phrase 'fly without wings'. For most of my life I assumed that referred to jumping. That certainly was the moment in my riding that felt the most like flight, particularly over a large oxer. It was thrilling, ignoring gravity for a short instant. My pony and I would, for just a second, fly.

Turns out I was wrong.

Fiona has taught me something that no other horse has ever managed. Today I raced her on the beach and felt her shift gears, drop down about six inches, and truly fly. I couldn't believe how fast she was going, or how effortless it seemed for her, or how safe it felt. We passed the other horses with wind whipping past my ears and the princess tugging at the bit and begging me to finally let her go completely. I wasn't willing to risk a bowed tendon in the sand, or risk the pedestrians on the beach if she spooked or decided to not stop politely, so I had to keep some hold. Even with that light hold, my mare flew and was nice enough to take me along for the ride.

It's incredibly thrilling. I'd never galloped on the beach before, or actually raced my horse in any setting. For the first race there were five of us. Four teenagers and me. I was facing the wrong way when my trainer yelled 'go' because of a false start, but Fiona made up for it. As the other riders told me 'she came out of nowhere and just flew right past us!'. For the rematch (which I requested due to facing the wrong way), there were only three of us. Three fit, well schooled thoroughbreds took off down the beach. It was very close, partially because all three of us had a hold. We were all riding our competition horses and didn't want to risk an injury. Fiona was declared the winner because she had a head in front when we pulled up.

I knew the three of us were lucky, lucky riders because we pulled up and then walked calmly back to the group on horses that had just a second ago been galloping as hard as we'd let them. There was very little jigging and for most of the walk they were on long reins. The entire trip to the beach drove home the idea that I am incredibly, unbelievably lucky. As far as I know, that was Fiona's first time seeing the ocean. She galloped alone and in a group, she went into the ocean up to her hocks and walked through the waves, and stood watching other horses gallop on a completely loose rein.

I don't know what I'm going to do with myself when she goes down to Aiken.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My therapist

Dr. Fiona will see you now

Today was not a good day.

The first thing that happened this morning was that my work laptop started to act up. Nothing too shocking, but I needed to deal with it in order to get anything done. While deleting and reinstalling the offending software, my connection skipped and the install was botched. A second attempt just corrupted everything. Including my OS. At about 1pm I declared my laptop dead, as it could barely start up without the blue screen of death. It currently doesn't recognize my mouse or USB ports. It seems to think they are some sort of alien invaders.

At this point I started playing Tetris on my phone while waiting for tech support to call me back with an appointment to see my computer and probably reimage it. At 3pm I got sick of waiting and decided to go pick up a dressage saddle I had on hold to try. It was supposed to be a 30 minute drive.

Traffic was hellacious. Hellacious. I actually yelled at other cars. Scratch that, I screamed at one point. Over an hour of road rage later, I arrived. I picked up my saddle, covered it up to protect it from the rain, and spent another hour and a half inching to the barn. I tried it on the princess, it seemed to be a decent enough fit but not perfect. Believe it or not, it looked to be too narrow. On my TB mare. I took it for a test drive and my mare said no way. At this point my head was just throbbing. I yoinked off the dressage saddle, slapped on her bareback pad, and went back into the ring to work off a little steam for both of us.

We had a nice ride. Fortunately she's good at tuning me out when she needs to. It wasn't until I was back in my car and starting the engine that I realized my ride had obliterated my stress headache. There was nothing left. I sat there and marveled that thirty minutes in the saddle (well, bareback pad) had so completely defused everything that had gone wrong with my day. She really is better than visiting a therapist.

Thanks, princess. I'll pick up a different saddle for you tomorrow.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

So very busy

The Northeast finally put things back together and life got back to usual. Mostly. The barn got power on Friday morning (to wild rejoicing) after almost a week out. Some neighborhoods went a full week without power. That sounds like a ridiculously long time until you take a look at the damage.

It wasn't just a limb here and a limb there. It was entire trees down with streets impassable in Hollis. I heard that there were just as many power lines as trees down. The fact that everyone is back up in a week is kind of impressive, when you put it in perspective.

The trails have been a mess with all of the branches and trees down, so I was a bit concerned about our hunter pace. I didn't need to be, and the hunter pace went on exactly as scheduled. There were some fabulous costumes!

The Teletubbies. They had all four, but I couldn't get a shot with all of them.

There were about eight of these mermaids, the costumes were amazing.

Keeping in mind the flooding and chaos we've had all fall, the course was different than past years. There were a few less jumps and a few more road crossings. However, it was an awesome ride, as always, with perfect weather and a beautiful course. The princess went out with Dorkzilla in the three foot division and they didn't miss a single jump. She jumped everything in her path without batting an eyelash, including substantial coops that are out for the Myopia Hunt. It's always fun to take Fiona out to gallop and jump, and getting to skip dressage? That's just about as awesome as things come, so far as the princess is concerned. We tore around for about six or seven miles. When we got to the finish, she tossed her head up and wanted to go again. Might be a bit over conditioned . . .

Next weekend is the big move to the winter barn. Off to the indoor and being able to ride after sunset again. Part of me is looking forward to it, but more of me is bummed that the winter season is upon us. Time for a bit of hibernation.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Tablet

Is this horse related? Not at all, but it's my blog, and I'm excited.

The tablet is back!

I'm sure Peyton has already spotted my new pen, but for now, I am back to doodling like a fiend and not hurting any trees in the process. It's a good time to draw, as there's about six inches of snow on the ground and more falling. The princess doesn't even have her winter shoes on yet, since we usually don't get snow until December, so it's time off for her until the white stuff melts. Hopefully it won't take long.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

I <3 NH

Dressage. n.
(1) The art of riding and training a horse in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility, and balance.
(2) The guiding of a horse through a series of complex maneuvers by slight movements of the rider's hands, legs, and weight.
(3) That phase where you go in circles in a sand box and, if you're riding a certain chestnut thoroughbred mare, you spend most of the ride managing her list of complaints.

All things considered, would you rather practice your dressage or hack out and see views like this?

The view from Woodmont Orchard in Hollis, NH

Yeah, that's what Fiona says, too. Stops to eat clover, apples right off the trees, and open spaces? Sign her up!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am so lucky to ride in Hollis. Just a jaunt down the street puts us in the town forest and it's still commutable from the 495 loop. Hard to believe that this scene is just an hour away from the chaos of metro-Boston.

To my trainer, Fiona would like to convey a message:

Sorry about the dressage progress, but we'll get right on fixing that little . . . weight issue. A couple hours of riding a day should do the trick so much better than cutting back grain rations. Really, let's not do anything hasty. This is easily managed: More food, more galloping.

Love, the Princess.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What is that thing in the sky?

There is a large, bright, alien object floating around in the sky. It's making everything so easy to see, and it's warm, and I don't understand. Is it an alien invasion? Is it the apocalypse?

Wait . . . nope. That's just the sun. Been awhile since I've seen that.

Just when I was considering adding floats to my little Yaris and investing in a pair of oars, the rain has finally stopped. I am incredibly grateful for this, since we discovered during my trip to Maine that I'm not good with watercraft. It's a bad sign when you're out with a kayak for the first time and your husband has to tow you back because you just can't seem to get the damn thing to turn.

Fortunately it's off season for tourists in Maine, so there were no witnesses and no one has photographic evidence of my complete inability to handle a kayak. Thank goodness for the hubby planning ahead for his wife panicking, hanging on to the sides of the kayak, and refusing to move because she's absolutely positive the thing is going to roll. I got my revenge, though. Turns out I'm pretty darn good at starting fires, even out performing the former Eagle Scout. If my career as an analyst and lackluster eventer fails, I can always take up arson.

As for the princess, lots of pouring rain means lots of time off. And lots of time off in fall equals some charming shows of athleticism. It's been awhile since people had to clear the ring for our canter work. Ah, memories. A friend rode her in a jumping lesson while I was in Maine. I got the message that she had jumped Fiona, and that she was a very good girl! It took some work to figure out the timing, and getting her set up for the next fence was always interesting . . .

I'm so lucky to have friends that use the word 'interesting' rather than 'scary', 'alarming', or 'holy hell, where are the brakes on that thing?'. I know what my mare is like in fall, and I can only imagine what an 'interesting' ride she must have been. Tomorrow is the elegant Ladies' Ride on the Myopia Hunt grounds. I'm not betting on Fiona making a stunning impression.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fall is in the air

With the end of the competition season comes the off-season. All sports have an off season, a time of year for athletes to take a breather and give their bodies a break. For those of us eventing in New England, our off-season runs from about mid-October to January. It runs later for those that don't head south in the winter, out to about March.

So what do you do with the off-season? In theory, you get ready for the on-season, but that doesn't really seem to work out. There are no pressing goals, no looming competitions, no reasons to go out on conditioning sets or practice that stupid trot lengthening we'll need when we go Training. The weather is beautiful, the sun is actually out, and I have a serious case of 'off-season-itis'. Dressage? Nah, I'd rather not. Jump schooling? Do I have to? My interests seem to be entirely focused on trail rides and hunter paces right now. Our hectic schedule of the past six months has suddenly dropped off to nothing.

After the UNH trials, Fiona got most of a week off while I simply got caught up from spending five days completely focused on my horse life. Now I'm easing myself back into the swing of things, heading out to the barn to ride and enjoy time with my horse. I just don't have it in me to do a lot of drilling. We'll have plenty of time for that once the weather drives us indoors. I've been invited out for a fun day with the cowboys, so that should be great, and there's a big ladies' ride that I'm heading off to in another week. Toss in a couple hunter paces and I'm all set for the fall.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Richard Jeffrey

Conditions in stadium were less than ideal . . .

Before all of the excitement with my move up to Novice, I went to a clinic.

On September 30th, there was a course design clinic offered at UNH with Richard Jeffrey. For those that don't recognize the name, this was the man that designed the stadium courses for WEG, Rolex, and Burghley, just to name a few. His credentials are simply too many to list and if you want to learn from one of the best, he's the guy to listen to.

It was an all day clinic, running from 9:30am to 4:30pm and including lunch. The first half of the day took place in a lecture hall, going over theory and rules. We also discussed the process that Richard uses to design a course and some tricks that he's picked up along the way. He described course design as being similar to having 'feel' on a horse. You can't teach feel, you learn it during time in the saddle. The same can be applied to course design. He said that sometimes he'll move a fence and he's not even entirely sure why he did. It just felt like it needed to be moved.

There is a lot of theory to cover in stadium course design. We covered the different types of fences and their relative difficulty, the importance of lines, and striding. Some of the theory was more applicable to designing courses for something the size of Badminton, but much of the theory applied to lower level courses as well. I particularly liked the comment for designers to not try to be clever. The point in eventing is not to see who you can get to have a rail, the point is to give them a test in the specialized phase of show jumping.

There were a couple points that stirred up debate with his primarily eventing crowd. The most contested was the idea that each level should have their own course, rather than the common practice of having one course for all levels that is raised and lowered as needed. As he put it, you don't have a Novice rider ride the same dressage test as the Preliminary rides but with the first and last moves removed. A Preliminary combination should be given a more technical course and a Novice combination should have a simpler course. I personally agreed with the idea, but it was not a popular one, particularly with riders showing multiple horses and trainers with riders at multiple levels. It does make course walks more difficult, but since all of the fences were basically in the places where they would be I thought it was perfectly manageable. Of course, that could be my h/j background talking.

After lunch, we went outside to build the courses that would be used for the UNH horse trials. We went over selecting materials and how to lay out a course. With a ring crew of fifty people, it was pretty quick business to get the jumps built once the top rails were all in place and measured. We spent a couple hours getting the fences measured, squared, adding fill, and walking it until everyone was comfortable with what was being built. We also went over how courses are measured, walking along while the distances were wheeled. The courses were sweeping with inviting turns, making the most of the small arena. Richard mentioned that this was the smallest arena he had ever designed for, which put things in perspective when I looked at the arena and thought it was a good size.

In many ways the clinic was a great success. Having a process and theory to help build out courses that ride well can do nothing but help. I definitely feel better equipped to try my hand at course design for schooling shows or around the barn. It was interesting to get the perspective of someone that doesn't accept 'that's how it's done' for an answer and challenged us to look at the phase differently.

It wasn't a perfect clinic. It was a bit awkward at points when he was faced with the realities of a horse trial that doesn't have huge sponsors. Richard was uncomfortable with the heavier show jumping rails and even with the location and footing of the arena. The decision was made to make the fences at maximum height and width, due to the trial being at the end of the season. The TD and organizer were on board with this, and there were no protests logged by anyone. The actual courses were beautifully designed, but probably more challenging than most of the riders going to UNH were expecting. UNH is usually seen as more of a friendly move up event. Richard had no way to know that, or to know who was entered at the event.

Six horses were eliminated on the Preliminary stadium round between the Preliminary division and the Preliminary/Training division. I've never seen carnage like that in stadium. Zero eliminations in Training but a heck of a lot of rails. Four eliminations in Novice. By the time Beginner Novice went in the word was already out that Cross Country was being shut down due to the deteriorating conditions (non-stop rain all day) and it was now just a two phase. What caused the carnage, the rain or the courses? I think both. The actual courses seemed to ride well in terms of the turns, but maxed out was too much of a question for the riders that were there that day and in those conditions. I had two rails, which for Fiona is rather unusual. Was it the course? The line between 4 and 5 didn't ride well for anyone and with a square oxer at the end, she tipped the front rail with her back legs. That rail went for about half the rides, making me think something was up. The second rail was all me, overriding due to my concerns with the footing.

Me and Fiona hitting the infamous green oxer, fence #5

I liked the courses, I enjoyed riding mine. I saw some mistakes and rough rides that came from people not used to seeing the questions asked. People cutting inside of an island and giving themselves a terrible line to a fence and then having the rail. The questions weren't difficult in and of themselves, but I think it was something the eventers weren't used to seeing. With all of the rain I wish they had dropped the fences a hole just due to the footing, but I did sign up for Novice and that means I have to be prepared to jump a 3' course.

What next? Will this have any kind of influence on designs in the area? Will there be a movement toward having individual courses for levels? I'm thinking there won't be any significant change. It's a case of bad timing, but after the carnage I don't think anyone will be jumping on board with the new ideas. It's a pity since I'd like to see more courses like what I rode. The questions were straight forward, they just took a rider that knew how to handle them. I didn't get stuck in any corners, I always felt like I was being presented for my next fence. The courses were probably more demanding than most of the riders were expecting, and combined with the height and conditions, they took their toll.

Richard made a comment that the USA is losing their medals in the stadium phase and fixing that had to start at the grass roots level. I agree completely, we need to stop lowering the fences and making the courses easier. We need well designed, challenging courses to make us more savvy in that phase. Hopefully the organizers took notes on what was said and we'll see courses that ask those questions again next year and hopefully the competitors won't be caught off guard this time.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The finale

There are all sorts of sayings about persevering through adversity. The weather today gave us the adversity, Fiona provided the perseverance.

Heading out of dressage, sans airs above the ground!

But I don't want to get ahead of myself. First I went to the Richard Jeffrey clinic. I'll do a full writeup on that later, but I learned a lot from one of the best course designers in the world. After that was dressage day. Now we've been working super hard on our dressage all summer. It's been a challenge to handle my nerves and Fiona's tension, but after the Beland dressage show I thought we were on track to get below 40. I was so excited when I was walking toward ring three, seeing that it was far from the trailers and had a quieter warm-up and it was just perfect and . . .

Was that a marching band warming up?

Oh yeah. It was. There was a football game across the street, complete with tailgating and vending and a marching band and a cannon. You know it's going to be an interesting dressage test when a cannon goes off during your warm up. The horses in turn out next to the ring were also jumping and bucking. There's a certain point when you just accept that it's going to be a rough test and you just try to hold it together. We managed a 42.5, which is actually progress for us, but was 14th out of 15. It's dispiriting to have one of your better dressage tests and be completely out of reach of a placing, but there are somethings you just can't school for. Like marching bands.

Today was stadium and cross country. And rain. Oh, did it rain. It rained all day, piling up on top of a really wet end to summer. The stadium jump course was riding very, very rough with eliminations in Preliminary and rails flying in Training. Being my first Novice, those maxed out Novice fences made me a bit nauseous. The footing looked dicey to me. The ride two ahead of me was eliminated, the next one had a stop and slid into a fence. I went in and told myself to just jump around because I was already at the bottom of the standings. It wasn't like I could go down any further. The course rode just as rough for Novice as the other divisions and after pulling two rails (rider error due to nerves over the footing), I actually moved up one place.

Fences 11 and 12 for Novice, water to the log

Cross country was one big water obstacle. Fortunately there were a lot of paths on raised dirt that could take a lot of water. I unleashed Fiona on the stretches where the footing was good, asking her to stretch and really gallop out for me and she loved it. I felt like I was riding a finished horse rather than my green bean when she locked on to fences and just took me to them with little management from me. Sections of the footing were coming apart, so we trotted those, but she was able to more than make up for those sections when the footing was good. She roared over the finish line with thirty seconds to spare. That moved us up to eighth place and got her yet another pretty ribbon.

So as to my question about whether or not she's ready to be a Novice horse? The answer is an unequivocal YES. Her dressage was tense, but that's the same score she got at Beginner Novice so the level isn't the issue. Her stadium had a mature, controlled feel to it that she has only picked up in the last two months. The height clearly was not an issue. The cross country was where she truly shined. She never hesitated and dragged me over the one fence that had me unnerved even though I wasn't particularly sure this was a good idea.

I have a Novice horse now.

My cheeks hurt from grinning this much.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Game on

Fiona rocking the Noice at the ATF Two-Phase

There's one aspect of my job that I love and that's my flexible schedule. In honor of my grand move up to Novice level this weekend, I took three days off from work. Tomorrow is scheduled to be a cross country school at Scarlett Hill to knock the rust off of Fiona since Valinor. She can be squirrely if she hasn't been on cross country recently, so we'll run her around and remind her that it's fun to go and jump around the countryside. We'll just see if Mother Nature decides to go along with us and not unleash a deluge.

Friday is the jump course design clinic with Richard Jeffries. Yeah, the Richard Jeffries. I'm so excited about this. I enjoy jump course design and I'd love to learn some theory behind it so I can help with course design around the barn. I lean more toward the technically challenging due to my time in the eq ring, but I also enjoy designing a course that's smooth and rides well. I'll take a lot of notes, both as a rider and an aspiring course designer. Don't tell anyone, but if I could complete the requirements? I'd go through the training to be a TD. Not that I expect to ever have multiple prelim horses, but there you go.

Saturday is dressage for UNH. I ride at noon, so it should be a nice, relaxing day. I really should get around to learning my test . . . Particularly since I'm participating in the Adult Team Challenge. Only the top three scores for the team count and there are three awesome dressage horses on my team, so I'm expecting Fiona to be the drop score. At least that's some pressure off.

Sunday is stadium and cross country. I'm again riding at noon, so I won't feel frazzled. We'll be walking courses the day before, so plenty of time to relax since the training riders will have us there pretty early. UNH has a reputation as a great place to move up and I'm sure we'll be fine. Fiona will jump anything so long as I aim and say go, but it's still my move up so I'm nervous. Are we really ready to go Novice considering where we were just six months ago?

I'll tell you on Sunday.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Choices, choices

There's been a lot of fuss in the eventing world about 'made vs. bought'. Some riders make their rides, some people buy them. I, being less than ridiculously rich, have a horse that I've made. I bought her even though I only jumped her over one two foot vertical and it wasn't very pretty. I bought her because she was willing to try and her conformation suggested there was a decent little jumper hidden away.
Fiona doing the Novice division at Green Acres.

Since then she's proven me right. She's a very decent little jumper and has a lot of gusto for the job. Through blood, sweat, and a lot of tears, I've managed to make her into a horse that can do a novice stadium round and look quite proficient at it. I've nearly given up at some points, but we both managed to tough out the growing pains and we've reaped the benefits of that. Bragging rights are entirely mine because, up until now, no one has jumped Fiona except me. Not a soul, not even my trainer or the instructor from the winter or my friends or the teens around the barn. No one has taken the princess over fences. I may not win at the shows, but I rest on no one's laurels but my own. But that's going to change.

I signed Fiona up to go south with my trainer and be in full training for three months.

Why would I do something like that, considering how much pride I get from riding my own work? Mostly because Aiken agrees with her while the winter barn does not. She was so happy and relaxed in Aiken while turn out was chaos in New Hampshire. I want her out in the sun, not stuck in her stall because she can't behave in turn out. I also want my trainer to take a look at what I've done and fix where I've screwed up. I'm an amateur, I know I've made mistakes. If I want to move the princess up to training, I need to have my work checked. If my trainer starts showing her in Aiken and decides she's ready, she may very well move Fiona up for me so at least one of us has a clue at Training level.

I keep forgetting that I can count the number of times Fiona's gone cross country on my fingers, and I'm not all that much more experienced than she is. Our first novice is next weekend, and we'll both be moving up. I'd like it if she moved up to Training the first time with someone that's been there, done that. Rather than having me hanging off her ears and screaming 'oh my gods that's BIG' closely followed by 'I've changed my mind!'. She's very green still, and while that seems to work just fine for us at Beginner Novice and Novice, I feel that a bit more mileage would be a good idea before we leap into Training.

Listen to me, planning her move to Training when I didn't even think she would be able to do sanctioned in spring. I can't even imagine what I'll be planning a year from now.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fall Days

This is the absolute best time to live in New England. It was about sixty degrees and sunny today when I took the princess out for a trail ride, showing one of the barn's teens how to make her way through the trails. Last year I had to have a guide, this year I am the guide. More than that, last year Fiona was all eyes when we took her on her early trail rides. Today she was the lead horse in her hackmore.

She's developed a 'working mode' for trail rides now. When she hits her stride, she lowers her head until her poll is about even with her withers, ears pricked, and walking with this huge step that some other horses have to trot to keep up with. She can cruise like this for hours without batting an eyelash. Add that to her new found ability to drink on the trails and I think I do have a limited distance endurance horse on my hands. Or maybe she's a closet hunter, or a western pleasure horse in disguise! Maybe she secretly craves to jog and lope, reins slack and completely quiet and obedient with me dressed in sequins . . .

Yeaaaaah, no.

My schedule has shifted to something much more laid back. We have a fun show next weekend at the town ring. Fiona will be entered in the hunters! It should be hilarious. She'll also be doing the 'knock down and out' and the command class. If there aren't a lot of spectators, I'll enter the barrel racing just to say I did. After that is UNH. We've managed to put a team together for the Adult Team Challenge for Area 1, so it's going to be an exciting weekend. A cross country school, then course design with Richard Jeffries and then two days of showing. And then my competition season is DONE!

Considering I spent most of my winter wondering whether or not I was going to even have a show season, I'm definitely ready to be done and sleep in some mornings. I'm ready for hunter pace and fun events season. That little gap between the end of the competition season and the weather falling apart is just an amazing time to have a horse. Hunter paces and trail rides through the fall foliage. It's hard to keep me in a ring this time of year, but who could blame me? Dressage is for the winter when we're trapped in the indoor. Fall is for fun.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Flight of the bumblebee

I'm very lucky to ride at a barn that has access to a lot of trails. And those trails lead into other trails. And other trails. Rumor has it that you can just keep going all day on the trails if you want to, and you don't mind possibly getting lost. With the cooler weather keeping the nasty biting bugs at bay, I've been adventuring out more with friends from the barn to check out the trails.

Dorkzilla and the Princess, with the Jumping Machine's ears in the foreground, enjoying some clover at the top of Woodmont Orchard
Photo courtesy of Debbie Sullivan

Our horses seem to enjoy getting out of the ring and it certainly makes them more accepting of new situations. They're pretty used to terrain, dogs, bikes, cars, and anything else you can find on state trails and in state parks. With highs in the 70's and lots of sun, it's hard to convince us to get back into the ring and practice our circles. Instead we practice steep ups and downs, bridges, stepping through moving water, and just moseying around.

However, we got a reminder today on Mother Nature's tendency to keep people humble. Just when we thought we were real trail riders with real trail horses, we had a bit of an incident. We've been striking out and exploring sections of trail that we haven't ridden before. We did have a map, even though we weren't really using it, so we weren't in danger of getting lost. With Tropical Storm Irene in the not too distant past its not a surprise to find trees down. We had a trio of trees down, blocking the trail and configured in a way we just couldn't jump it. We split up to find a way around. After we managed that, Dorkzilla stopped to look at the running water we were about to cross.

Then he started frantically rubbing his face against his legs and basically freaking out. Which confused us, since he's usually so mellow. We saw a bug, but didn't think anything of it until Fiona started to buck. The princess never bucks, so I knew something was very wrong about the same time one of my friends got stung on the neck. Bees! All three horses were frantic to get away, but we were going to have to bushwack to get back out. I ended up dismounting so I could get Fiona out through that narrow path as fast as possible. I ended up running back down the trail with her trotting along, snorting and very unhappy. The other two pairs were right behind us.

With all three horses and all three humans stung, it's probably not a surprise someone reacted. In this case it was Dorkzilla. He broke out in hives on top of the many stings he got since he was the one that got hit first. He's doing fine now after appropriate care, but he did look a bit like a pineapple for awhile. Fiona came in second place with about ten stings, and Ruby had just the one we found (she was third in the line). I got stung four times, probably more than the other riders since I dismounted. I got stung right on the keister, which I did not appreciate when I remounted.

Considering what could have happened, with three big, fit horses in close quarters being stung by bees, we got off lightly. We were very lucky to all be mounted on horses that are willing to take direction even when they're afraid and starting to panic. The princess was in her hackamore, but she kept her marbles together and ran with me down the trail.

This won't dissuade us from adventuring out into the wilds of New Hampshire, but I really doubt we'll try that particular trail again. There's almost so much of nature that we want to deal with.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Idle Hands

It appears that my shoulder still hates me, so time off will be had. I don't know quite what I did to it. After our rather raucous ride around Valinor I had a sore neck and if I turned a certain way I could feel it pull through my left shoulder. I thought 'tight muscles, possible pinched nerve' and carried on. It's about 10 days (and two horse shows) later and I'm now treating myself like a horse with a mild lameness and some heat and swelling. Ice, handwalk, some bute, stall rest. Well, Advil instead of bute and staying away from the barn instead of stall rest, but it's the same general idea.

This means a lot of time to sit around and read the internet. Never a good idea. I've been following discussions on whether or not stupid people should own horses and some on how to fix the problems with America's eventing system. I was less than kind on the discussion about the 'I didn't know' excuse. If you're going to go out and buy a horse, buy a damn book and learn that they need their feet done and how to put on a halter. There's no excuse for that nonsense when handling a thousand pound animal. 'I want one because they're pretty' is not enough cause to buy a horse.

As to the future of eventing? What a tangle. Our culture calls for teenagers to get out there and win right NOW, so we end up with young riders buying packers that take care of them and moving up the ranks. Does this produce our future Olympians? Nope, but what is a trainer to do? Tell them that they need to put in some time on difficult horses and learn to not win? It's frustrating for a kid to keep losing because they don't have the 'made' horse. I know from my current project that it can be frustrating to put in so much work and go to a show and get trounced. I'm proud of her, and there's a sense of accomplishment that comes from riding my own work, but who doesn't want to go in and win ribbons?

I don't have a solution, since the culture is increasingly that everyone has to win. If you're not winning ribbons, you shouldn't be playing. And if mommy and daddy have to buy a fancy packer to make that happen, then so be it. The kids with less money riding horses they have to work with are squeezed out, and trainers make more money on kids that campaign, anyway. Until the base culture changes, no decisions made by the USEA or the USEF will make any difference. People want results and they want them NOW. Thanks, Google.

Time to grab some frozen peas for my icing. Typing out a rant clearly is not the best way to rest my shoulder.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dorkzilla and the Princess

What a weekend. I'm typing this in a less than vertical position because sitting upright is just not worth the effort.
The princess shared my opinion today when I showed up at her stall to put on her shipping boots yet again. Yesterday was our first sanctioned dressage show. We managed to put in a better than expected showing, getting a 60.8% and a 63.2% in our two Training dressage tests. I was just hoping for not eliminated!

You can also see Fiona's boyfriend, whom I've dubbed Dorkzilla for reasons unknown but it sticks. Fiona got a 2nd and a 4th, which is pretty spiffy for being the only Thoroughbred that we saw on the results. Everyone else seemed to have a Warmblood or a Friesian. I was very proud of her, and that's our best dressage in awhile. No airs above the ground!

But today was our two-phase and a different story. I arrived at the barn exhausted, and Fiona looked just about as bushed. We had a serious dressage school Thursday, a jumping lesson Friday, a gallop on Saturday, a dressage show Sunday, and then the two-phase today. It looks like she ran out of gas after the dressage show. Add to that the fact my left shoulder has been bothering me since Valinor and has now decided to just start cutting out on me.

We got a 45.7 in dressage and pulled two rails. We were flat jumping and I actually had to tap her on the shoulder in stadium to make sure she powered up enough to take on an oxer. We had no business being at the show, but no harm done. I did very little warm up and she went right home after her stadium. She'll have time off this week, since our next competition isn't until Oct. 1.

It's been a long three weeks with lots of showing, but she muscled through and has learned a lot. I definitely think she's ready to tackle Novice. This week we'll both take time off and recover some of that drive.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Thelwell Ponies

Well, the tablet is still dead, but that won't keep me from subjecting people to my doodles.

This would be inspired by the princess and her best friend Ruby out on the trails. I've been having this same fight since I was five years old, and I'm still getting dragged toward the food. The conclusion:

We have the tallest Thelwell ponies ever seen. We're so proud.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fashion Trends (aka I am clearly not cool)

Can someone explain fashion to me? Please?!

I've noticed a trend at shows lately. Maybe someone can explain it to me, because I just don't get it. It appears to be one of those trends that's oriented toward people too young to drink but old enough to think about boys almost as much as horses.

Neon colored sports bras under white show shirts.

I spotted this the first time with a teen at my barn. I thought it was an oopsie moment when she walked over with her neon pink bra shining through her white, cotton show shirt. It lit the whole thing up like a neon sign. Of course her show jacket is going on over top so no harm done and I just gave her some friendly harassment over it.

Another teenager with our barn had a neon blue sports bra on under her white shirt at our last show, and I stared at that. Then I saw more girls sporting this look while walking the stadium course. While I make a point of having a white or other very light color bra on under my white shirt, there seems to be a new trend toward having the brightest color bra available on under your show shirt.

Am I losing my mind, or is this an actual fashion statement like those god awful thongs with the rhinestones hanging out of everyone's pants a couple years ago? I mean, I'd hate to be unfashionable. If I need to get a lighter show shirt and a bright royal blue bra to match my show colors, I'll get right on that.

I don't get fashion.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Shout Outs

Another sanctioned event is in the books, and I have a couple messages for those involved:

To Tropical Storm Irene: Thank you for holding off until we were off of cross country. It was plenty slippery enough on the grass with just the light, intermittent showers and I appreciate not having any downpours to add more difficulty to the terrain.

To the jump judge at fence #5: Laughter is good for you, and I'm glad we were able to give you a good belly laugh when my mare saw something off to the right and ran off the track and up the side of that construction site like it was a bank on a motocross course before completing the turn and taking #5 nicely.

To the jump judge at fence #12 and #13: Sorry about dropping the F-bomb between fences, the approach to #13 was a bit out of control and I saw my life flash before my eyes. But fortunately the princess has a healthy dose of self preservation, backed off, and we didn't get to see just how athletic she can be.

To the princess: I'm very sorry about turning into an alien in dressage when you started to key up thinking we were going on cross country. Also, thank you for the amazing runs in stadium and cross country. You were very grown up with balanced roll backs on a slippery stadium round and rocking around a cross country course with a lot of terrain. Glad you had a good time, and I think that's your last Beginner Novice. It would be a nice change if you actually noticed the freaking jumps.

We managed to squeak out an 8th place ribbon and get home before the weather got icky. Next up on her agenda is a week of dressage camp in preparation for next week's dressage show, and also to get us started fixing her dressage scores. She keeps going double clear, but at this level, there really isn't a lot of movement for the leaders after dressage. But considering her clear stadium (there were a lot of rails due to terrain and slippery grass) and rocking cross country? I think her future as an eventer is looking golden.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricanes and Heat Cycles

Sometimes you just stare at a situation and think 'this cannot end well'. My next event is starting to get that feel to it.
Fiona all braided up for Valinor

First there's this hurricane coming up the coast. While people are still debating on how bad it's going to be by the time it hits New England, I'm really not big on riding cross country in a tropical storm, much less a weak hurricane. Due to a very rare Northeastern tropical system, our show got moved to Saturday. We're still riding with 50% chance of rain all day, but at least it's not 100% chance of rain with tropical storm winds. Small favors.

Then I went to ride the princess today only to find that she was cranky, sore, and just not in the mood to talk to me. Someone's in heat big time. She was spooky, distracted, and did not want to lift her back. Do they make Pamprin for mares? I wanted to give her bute, chocolate, and a hot bath, but that just didn't seem practical. She did get a bubble bath and about 45 minutes of hand grazing after she was braided up. Close enough. She has my sympathy, there's usually a day or two out of the month where I sure don't want to work, but if I have to work through it so does she.

Another 3:30am wake up call, a three hour drive, and what will probably be a very wet show. Sometimes I think my hobby is silly.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Moving up

Sure, sure, we moved up. We completed our Novice schooling debut with our usual gusto. Fiona managed to stick to her dressage score and nabbed a pretty yellow ribbon. We had a lovely gallop and I got to yell to a photographer, "My steering is sketchy, look out!" But everyone is used to my princess being a super star. That's old news.

What's really interesting is our new schooling technique, which is basically don't. Avoid warmup as much as possible. I think it's just me, since I get flustered in a crowded warm up. This time we tried a fifteen minute school to get her working, then tucking her back on the trailer for about half an hour to chill out. Then we just walked over to dressage and headed in with no warm up. It worked great, she didn't even get a chance to get wound up. I don't think she noticed the dressage until we were halfway through and we were given a 40.8. We're very close to that sub-forty score I've been trying to get!

Of course storms blew in while we were wrapping things up with our elementary riders. Being a very organized show team, we had the trailer all loaded so that when the last two came trotting over from stadium, we were able to strip their horses and throw them on the trailer.

Eventers are a fun crowd. Something about the sport just calls in fun people. We had tack off almost as fast as the riders touched the ground, trying to get everyone loaded as the thunder started to boom. Stripping horses is an art form and the team is just darn good at it. The horses didn't get a rain drop on them. The equipment, on the other hand, got some rough handling. I apologize to the teenager that was still in the dressing room when we started hurling stray equipment in and bellowing for her to get a move on. I'm sure it was quite alarming to have the door yanked open and spare shipping boots chucked in her general direction.

I indulged in a nice bottle of wine to celebrate. My girl is getting so grown up. I even joked with my trainer about how we can manage moving her to training. I sure won't be the one in the saddle for it.

I don't think my trainer thinks it's a joke.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Project Fiona - Day 365

Amazing how quickly a year can go by. I still feel like I just got a new horse. Maybe I'll never stop being the new mom that whips out pictures at any opportunity. It's quite possible.

So one year done. But done is the wrong word. One year in. I've said that it takes about a year to build a solid relationship with a horse, and I have to say that we've just about got it now.

There's not really much else to say. She's wonderful, talented, and I was incredibly lucky to stumble across her. It's been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but she's just blossomed.

In the next three weeks, she's got a full schedule. She's got a schooling three-phase next weekend at Novice, the weekend after that is a sanctioned horse trial at Beginner Novice, and then the weekend after that is our dressage show with Training 1 and 2. There might even be a two-phase at Novice in there, all in preparation for our grand move up to Novice at UNH in October.

Now I'm going to go have a beer while I apologize to my knee for the 2 hour hack we went on after that jumping video. It wasn't planned to be a 2 hour hack, but we got just a wee bit lost in the apple orchard. Fortunately both of our ladies don't mind things like walking down a major road while we found our way back.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Ever try to explain to a thoroughbred mare why we do lateral work? It's a funny conversation.

"Shoulder in."
"Because it's good for you."
"It's going to make you more supple and it will be easier for you to lift your back and go on the bit. And we have a dressage show in three weeks."
"Those are stupid reasons."
"Okay, fine, do it because I told you to."
"Do it because I'm sticking a spur in your side."
"Ha ha. You don't own enough Saddle-tight to win this one, mom, and we both know it."
"Do it because I have those molasses and oat treats you love in the barn and tomorrow I'll take you out for a gallop."
" . . . you've got a deal, but I still think this is stupid."

Needless to say, the princess does not enjoy doing her lateral work. Traveling in three tracks does not make sense, and she thinks we need to just forget this whole nonsense and go jump something already. Or maybe do some lengthenings, those are a lot more fun. Anything that does not involve leg yielding on and off the track. Or anything that does not resemble a counter canter. I know her flying lead change was one of the things that sold me on her, but it is damn annoying to try to canter a bending line on a horse that will do a flying change if I so much as glance in the direction of travel. I sneezed and got a flying change, for pity's sake. You should see her tempi changes out on the trail when she's trying to guess which way we're going to turn next. If she could do them on a straight line, and when I actually wanted them, I'd have a Grand Prix horse on my hands.

Instead, I have Fiona. And she does not believe in shoulder in.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Clinic Time

Bobby Costello working with a student at the August 2nd clinic.
Picture courtesy of Eleazer Davis Farm.

A couple weeks ago, one of the ladies from the barn asked if I wanted to head to a clinic with her. I love going to clinics, so I was in before I even knew who was teaching. Stadium clinic with Bobby Costello? Sounded like a great way to spend the day.

We loaded up the princess and Mr. Lips to head to Eleazer Davis Farm in Bedford, MA. It was hot and sunny with the threat for storms later in the day, but Smart Pak was there to provide lunch and lots of cold drinks. There was also a raffle for saddle pads and a spiffy bridle, but I never have luck with those things. There was already a class going when we arrived and we settled in to watch a couple rounds.

If I had to summarize what Bobby wants to see in stadium, I would say a forward, positive ride that's proactive. When a rider came into a one stride underpowered, he described that canter as having no options. She couldn't move up or ease off, since she didn't have the power to make a change. That definitely stuck out as an interesting thought. You need a powerful, forward canter in order to have options.

Bobby's a positive teacher, quick to yell 'excellent ride' when a rider deserves it. He's also not afraid to let a rider know when there's a problem. As he told one rider, 'you're riding like you're on a Jamaican vacation!'. Fortunately, that wasn't me. I got comments about 'the jumps are on this end of the ring, there's nothing over there, where are you going?'. Accuracy is very important. If he's looking for a five stride, do not jump it in a four or a six.

Or in the case of Fiona, bounce through a one stride. I got a laugh for that one. He has a particular laugh for when an exercise catches a pair out.

The jumping started out with gymnastics, then moved on to courses. Most of the horses settled in nicely to the gymnastic, jumping well with set poles forcing them to really use their bodies. Fiona is not very good at gymnastics, but she held it together to manage a one stride to a two stride combination. Bobby had no idea what an accomplishment that was for her. Before we could move up to a grid with a bounce, Mother Nature decided to interfere.

We were the last group of the day and the promised thunderstorms decided to arrive with a good dose of fury. We had to scramble for the indoor when we spotted lightening and had to take cover for about thirty minutes while the wind howled and thunder rumbled. Eventually they moved jumps up to the indoor so our group could finish. I appreciated Eleazer Davis Farm for managing to make the best of the mess, and Bobby for continuing on like nothing had happened despite the massive disruption.

The analogy that was used for the princess was that she's like a sling shot. When she gets wound and I hold her too tightly, that's like hauling a sling shot all the way back. When I release to a fence, she just explodes. I need to bring her back and let go over and over until she can learn to balance herself and not explode over fences. He also thought she was very attractive, so I was a happy camper. Fiona had a little crush on him, nudging his arm whenever he was in reach to get him to pet her. She was quite adorable and put in a good show of what she's capable of, both her explosive side and her talented side.

A huge thank you to Eleazer Davis Farm for a well run clinic (and ice cream!), Smart Pak for a delicious lunch, my friend for giving us a ride to the clinic, and Bobby for his advice and patience when the princess decided to have one of her mini-meltdowns in the middle of our lesson. We got a lot out of it, and hopefully we'll get another chance to ride with him again. There are pictures of the clinic (none of us due to the weather) and the new ring on Facebook.

Friday, July 29, 2011


There are a couple different types of courage that you see in the world of horses. There's the basic kind that we all have, the kind that lets us mount a thousand pound animal that may spontaneously decide the sky is falling and take off at any second. We can't actually control horses and anyone that's ridden for any real length of time knows this. We can ask politely, beg, plead, push, and even punish, but there is no chance my little self can force my 16.1 hand mare to do anything is she's dead set against it.

There's also the courage of facing something you're not one hundred percent sure of, like that corner on cross country or the triple bar your trainer just moved up. That's the kind of courage where you are afraid, but you go anyway. It's part and parcel of the sport, to accept the fact that you will occasionally be afraid and that there's nothing wrong with that. It's that edge of fear that gives us the addictive adrenaline rush. In order to grow, we learn to take a deep breath, push the fear into the back seat, and just trust in our horse, our trainer, and our own abilities.

I'm learning about a new type of courage. The kind that comes with dropping off an entry form. It's a surprisingly defined moment. Once you drop that envelope into the mail box, it's done. Sure, you can scratch later, but you've still entered. You've committed to going and doing something that makes your heart pound and your respiration pick up. I'm still early enough in the game that this isn't routine yet. I haven't ridden most of the courses in the area, so they are still unknown quantities. As surprising as it is, it takes a certain amount of courage to affix that stamp and send your paperwork off.

I've entered a sanctioned dressage show and it triggered that same moment. Am I ready to take the princess out and have her judged as a pure dressage horse? They won't care that she devours cross country and skips around stadium, they'll only be interested in the performance in that small square of sand. Am I ready to show what she's learned, and even more heart palpitation inducing, read the comments I get back? It's the only way that we'll grow and progress, so I dropped that envelope in the mail. Dressage has slipped badly, and I need to face down my nerves and fix it.

Odd that I'm more nervous about a couple dressage tests than our next horse trial. Courage is defined a bit different for every person, and right now, it takes more courage for me to go down center line than to drop into water.

I've ordered a new pen for my tablet, so hopefully I'll be able to get caught up on my art starting next week.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mother Nature Strikes Back

I did one weather complaint post in winter, I'm due for one in the summer. Don't get me wrong, compared to the weather in my hometown back in Minnesota, New England doesn't really have weather. You can go a week at home and not get above zero at all in the winter, and then top one hundred in the summer with mosquitoes big enough to take a roping saddle. That doesn't even begin to cover the straight line winds, tornadoes, or blizzards.

Actually I should suggest that to my mom as a new way to work her sheep. Round them up with her trusted mount, a Minnesota mosquito. I digress.

Even if the weather here on the East Coast is more mild, it can be damn unpleasant at times. Such as today. Projected high is 96 degrees Fahrenheit (36 degrees Celsius, I'm getting pretty good at doing those conversions on the fly because of teammates in Europe), with a heat index of 105. That's pretty miserable in any part of the country, especially when it's humid enough to feel like I've been slapped in the face with a wet blanket each time I step outside.

Considering the conditions, the princess is getting the day off. She does tend to get panting easily and sweats a good bit, I don't want to push her on a day like this. Tomorrow's lesson is at 9am and the humidity is reportedly going to start breaking, so it sounds like a better day all around. Between the bugs and the weather, conditions have been less than ideal. I took her out for a nice, relaxing ride in the woods on Sunday. This turned into a break neck gallop up a long hill with me cheering her on, yelling 'We can lose them!' as we outran the deer flies. Fiona enjoyed herself a good bit, but it was not exactly a leisurely trail ride.

This is the worst part of the summer. It's hot, it's muggy, and the bugs are monstrous and persistent. Mid-July to mid-August is the part of summer I don't like. Mid-Febuary to mid-March is the matching time in winter that I loathe. But I probably don't have much room to complain, I could be back in Minnesota. Nine months of winter and three months of lousy sledding.