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