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.