Friday, September 20, 2013

Back in the saddle

It took almost two months, but today, I got back in the saddle.

Ben was, of course, amazing and perfect.  Her carted my rusty butt around my first jumping lesson in quite awhile.  It was the first time I'd jumped since we completed our Training event back in July.  I had some goofy distances, but it really is like riding a bicycle.  It all comes back, and your tush hurts like hell afterward.  I'm probably going to be limping tomorrow.

But the important part is that I went back.  It's still hard, I still find myself referring to Fiona as 'my horse' and looking in her stall when I walk by, but it's getting better.  Time heals all wounds, and the word from UNH is still that she's amazing and awesome and the students love her.

It's been decided that I'll keep riding Ben, even if it's at a much more limited level.   I have to get that darn master's degree, but what can I say, there aren't a lot of horses in the world where you can just swing on and jump around at three foot like it's no big thing after two months off.  I adore my Meathead and I'm excited that we'll get to keep working together, even if he'll only see me once or twice a week.

Now I get to work on the project called moving on and giving Ben a fair chance.  No, he's not Fi, but the Princess is off pursuing her own career and it's time that I work on mine.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Project Conclusion

So this is it
I say goodbye
To this chapter of my ever-changing life
And there's mistakes
The path is long
And I'm sure I'll answer for them when I'm gone
- Something to Remind You, Staind

I got my official e-mail from UNH on Friday.  They love Fiona and want her as part of the program.  The letter officially donating her to the Equine Program is on it's way.  The Princess now belongs to UNH where she will be a dressage school master for their many students.  Part of me is relieved, part of me is heart broken. I'll admit that I secretly wished for her to be sent back and even now my initial reaction was 'I've changed my mind, give me back my pony!'.  But it's done now.

And this is how Project Fiona concludes.  It wasn't the ending anyone expected, especially me.  I'm still second guessing myself, even though I know it is a perfect situation for her.  She is adored, spoiled rotten, and will never have to jump again.  When she's ready to leave the program, I have right of first refusal.  I can go visit her whenever I want.  That doesn't mean it's easy.

I haven't ridden since she left.  Poor Ben has not seen much of me.  His junior rider is having an absolute blast with him and they've been doing well at the shows.  With grad school and my continuing mixed feelings, I'm letting his lease go.  At the end of September, he'll be someone else's ride.

So now what?  This whole thing started with me looking for an eventing partner and now I'm stepping back.  I'll still be teaching and taking my weekly lessons, but riding needs to take the back seat.  My husband and I closed on a house a week ago and that's taking up a lot of time and energy.  I can't quit, any horse person knows that quitting just isn't possible, but I need to put it in the background.

Come graduation, the cycle will start all over again.  Another horse hunt.  But for now, I'm going to focus on finding my love of the sport again.  I still look for Fiona when I go in the barn, but I think it's time for me to get back in the saddle and shake this off.  She's happy, Ben is still here, and I need to remind myself why I find this hobby so addictive.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


That's what I'm calling Fiona's trial, an extended sleepover.  She's still mine, but she's just staying over at a friend's place.

I dropped Fi off at UNH today.  I have been to the facility a lot of times, but it was my first time going into the barn. It was big, orderly, and very airy.  I was impressed and very comfortable dropping my girl off.  Of course the Princess didn't mind trailering by herself or going into a new barn.  What she did mind was the deep bedding in the big stall that was waiting for her.  It was a finer type of shavings than she's used to and at least fetlock deep.  She stopped, snorted, and wouldn't move for about thirty seconds while she stared at the bedding.  After that, she dug into her hay and just watched the world go by, already settled in.

Tomorrow, her trial will start.  I'm not sure what the plan is, but I've dropped off everything they'll need for her except for a saddle and a girth.  We'll see what she thinks of being a teacher and we'll see if UNH likes her quirky little self.

Part of me wants her to do really well and find her forever home, but I'll admit, part of me wishes she could just come home again and be my princess.  Leaving her there was much harder than I thought it would be.  But the bright side is that whatever happens next, Fi will have a safe place to call home.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Letting go

I've been awfully quiet lately, and I don't think anyone is surprised.  I've been making preparations for Fi's move to UNH, and it hasn't been easy.  Despite my foot dragging and uncertainty, the time has arrived.

Tomorrow Dorkzilla's owner is giving us a ride up to UNH.  I'm dropping the Princess off for her thirty day trial to see if she's a fit for their dressage program.

Today I went for a ride.  I haven't actually ridden her in a couple weeks, but there was no way I was going to miss my (potential) last chance to ride her.  We kept to the ring since the last thing I needed was for her to pull a shoe or get hurt, but we had a good ride and worked on the things that the teenagers don't ask her to do.  It was a good reminder of how far we've come from the borderline out of control ride that she was three years ago.  Three years ago?  We struggled to canter a circle at one end of the ring.  Today?  We worked on our counter canter, collected trot, and ten meter circles at the canter.

Afterword she got a full bath and clipping.  I want her to look the part of a show horse when she arrives tomorrow.  All of her gear has been packed and clearly labelled with her name.  I'm sending her with a good bit of her equipment because, again, I want her to go in there with every chance of being impressive.  Her own bridle, half pad, boots, and fly mask are bagged and waiting to go with her.

Her shoes were just done, all of her shots and paperwork are in order, she's current on everything, and she's as shiny as a new penny.  I've done everything I can to stack the deck in her favor for her trial.

Tomorrow is going to be a very, very rough day.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lady in Red

Me and the Princess rocking it at UNH, First Level 1, 67%
Even with my lack of navigation skills 

Fiona has been on the market for quite awhile.  It was almost a year ago that she stopped jumping on us.  She's been for sale for about five months with no luck.  We haven't even had a nibble in awhile.  There's very little interest in a TB dressage horse, particularly not a chestnut mare.  If she was a WB or QH, she'd be long gone, but we can't even get people to come out and see her due to her breed.

With that in mind and a handsome hunk of a Meathead eating his head off, I made yet another difficult decision.  The Princess is heading off to UNH for a 30 day trial in their equine program to see if she suits.  If she's a match, I'm going to donate her to the program.

Why on Earth would I give away my precious girl?

Because she would be safer and better cared for at UNH then she would be at many homes.  I can go visit her whenever I want and can see her at the UNH shows.  I'll have right of first refusal when it's time for her to retire.  She'll get the chance to be a dressage specialist that also enjoys trail rides.  She'll be in a program and get the work and attention she deserves.

In many ways, its the ideal situation for her.  She's been helping out with the flat lessons at the barn more and more.  The students love her, she's not your typical school horse.  Kick?  Ha, only in the free walk.  Be ignored?  Never.  The Princess only ignores me when I turn into an alien in competition.  She will be happy with a parade of college kids to fuss over her, exercise her, and curry her belly.  I always said I wanted her to be more like Black Beauty than the Black Stallion, and in that I achieved my goal.  Fi will go for anyone that knows how to ask properly.

We're getting her records together and making arrangements for her sleep over.  With any luck, she'll be the dressage teacher UNH is looking for and Fiona will have found her niche.

I'll just be over here in the corner.  Gibbering.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Teachers and students

As I've mentioned on occasion, I sometimes teach at the barn as a substitute.  This is useful for the barn since it means they have a back up when the regular teachers have a conflict.  It's nice for me because it keeps me in practice as a teacher and, when it's not what I'm doing for a living, it's fun.  After working in an office job, spending a couple hours trying to keep kids on top of ponies is a nice change of pace.

With my background in the hunter/jumper world, I'm a bit different than the other teachers.  I'm a stickler for position and accurate riding.  My personality is also a bit different.  I'm a hard nose and drive students a bit harder.  Jumping position until their legs shake, no stirrup work, gymnastics and complicated courses, all of that is in my repertoire.  I can't tell if the kids are happy to see me or not.  On the one hand, I'm the sub so I shake things up.  On the other hand, I have no issue with barking if a kid does something I think is dangerous.

I've subbed in enough to know the kids now.  We've worked out a teacher/student relationship and I do think of them as my students.  I get all protective of them when I start thinking of them as my students.

One of my kids gave me a very serious scare today.  It wasn't too terribly hot, cooler than it's been, but it was very humid.  I had them going through a pattern one at a time.  I turned to one of them, asking her if she was ready for her turn, and she said that her stomach hurt.  I walked over, asking her what kind of hurt, and noticed she looked pale.  I repeated my question and she wasn't focusing properly.  She didn't respond.  At this point I noticed she was trembling.  I reached up to wave my hand in front of her face and saw her list to the off side.  All I could think was 'she's having a *** damn seizure!'.  I grabbed her arm as she slumped forward, half conscious.  She was aware enough to hang on to the reins and keep her feet in the stirrups, but wasn't responding.

I had to ask her a couple times to let go of the reins and take her feet out of the stirrups before she complied.  At that point she was a bit like a sack of potatoes.  I gave her a tug and she slid off into my arms.  Good thing she was a little one, since I had to completely catch her.  Also a good thing she was on the amazing school horse Red.  He just stood there while all of this was going on, still as a statue, even as I hauled her half conscious self to sit on the coop.

I asked if she was diabetic, epileptic, had any allergies, but she said no to everything.  She looked better now that she was on the ground.  Her grandmother was waiting in a car, so I took her arm so I could walk her across the ring to her grandmother.  We made it maybe ten feet before she melted on me.  I caught her and this time, she was lowered to the ground.

Fortunately the working students arrived at about that point so I had help.  We laid her on her back with one of the students holding her feet up.  She'd gone gray and though she never completely lost consciousness, for all intents and purposes, she'd passed out.  Her grandmother spotted us at this point and rushed over with water and an Epi-pen.  No Epi-pen needed, and after lying on the cold sand and drinking water for about ten minutes, my student was back on her feet and her color was back to normal.

It was a lesson on how easy it is for a kid to overheat or dehydrate.  She had breakfast 2.5 hours before and that was the last time she had something to drink.  45 minutes in the saddle in high humidity was enough to send her system into shut down.  She rebounded just fine once she downed a bottle of water and had some time to chill. 

That was one of the scariest damn things that have ever happened while I was teaching.  In the end no harm done, but I will certainly be harassing my parents about bringing water in future lessons.  This sport is going to give me a heart attack, one way or another.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


It's amazing to me how adaptable humans are.  I was horrified to go Training just last week, and this week?  I went about in a relatively calm and non-chalant manner.  Once the paradigm has shifted, we seem quite content to accept the new reality as though it's always been that way.

It's not to say it was perfect.  Or even overly good.  But I was out there doing my job without hysterics or a panic attack.  It's progress.

My dressage was 'pleasant', to use the judge's words, but needed more.  More energy, more bend, more self carriage.  I was far too occupied with trying to ride my first Training test in that little dressage arena to worry about little things like actually riding my horse.  The letters come up fast when the ring is little.  We got a harsh score of 42.7, but she was a bit rough with the class.  The lead score was a 35 or something like that.  We were last in a division of six, but I was pleased that I had remembered my test.

I went to swap my gear to jumping equipment and realized I'd forgotten my vest.  Of all pieces of equipment to forget, it was my vest!!!  That's what you get when you work long hours and then pack at 4:30am.   In desperation I went looking for anyone that would lend one to me, but everyone riding with my barn was off helping.  I didn't recognize any of the equipment in the trailer, so I dejectedly went to stadium thinking I wouldn't get to ride cross-country.  Lo and behold, I found the barn's teenagers playing jump crew.  I told them why I wasn't mounted and they immediately took off to get me vests.  Of course this means I was stuffed into a skinny teenager's vest, but I take it as a point of pride that I was able to get it zipped up.  Who needs to breathe while jumping?  I don't usually breathe while jumping anyway!

At this point, the horse before me is already heading into the ring.  One of the girls gave me a leg up and I took off for warm up.  I trotted into warm up and right over the cross rail.  The poor Meathead was still figuring out that we were jumping now when we moved on to the Training height vertical and oxer.  30 second warm up and then we charged into stadium, just barely on time.

I also didn't get a chance to walk my stadium course.  I read the map, but never actually went into the arena.  Oops.

So there I am, facing my first Training stadium course in wet grass with no idea on distances.  Thank goodness for all of those years riding as a jumper.  I rode very forward and we actually had a really good round.  We left all of the fences up and didn't miss any jumps.  We did have a bit of trouble with the combinations, since I didn't know how many strides they would be until I was on top of them.  The one stride worked beautifully, we took a long spot to the two stride and ended up chipping in to get the second stride in.  All that matters is that Ben and I got around and left everything up, a bit of a rare feat for that course.

From there it was straight to cross country.  I barely had time to catch my breath or stretch my legs that were cramping due to our sudden start.  Off we went on our second Training level cross country course.  It started out really well, all the way through 5 A and B.  Then the Meathead got a bit rude with me, doing his charge off and temper tantrum routine.  I think I got him wound up for that stadium round then had to deal with the after effects on cross country.  Since it was untimed, I made him halt right there in the middle of the course so we could have a discussion on manners.  We jumped along well after that, though we did have to trot again while we discussed his manners going to the skinny.  By the end of the course we were back to galloping along with a much more mannerly attitude.

Due to half of my division getting eliminated by missing fences on cross country and someone else getting a stop, Ben and I finished second.  We were the only ones in the division to end on our dressage score.  I was definitely feeling proud of our achievement, even if our cross country time would have been terrible due to my schooling.

Ben's next outing is with a junior rider that is borrowing him due to her horse's injury.  Yes, yet another junior rider wants to borrow my pony.  I seem to have a theme.  He'll be off to UNH to run Novice (or Beginner Novice, depends on whether or not they were able to change her division).  She's a tough cookie, I'm sure she'll be able to handle him cross country.  But I already told her, leave the spurs behind for that phase.  I forgot to take them off with the vest fiasco.  It led to a sharp stadium round, but an explosive cross country course.  I don't think she'll need that for Novice.

As for me?  I'm going to take August off from showing so I can focus on my school work and getting some of the pieces in place.  As the dressage judge said, we have a lot of work to do and I have some fitness work ahead of me if I want to compete at 400 mpm.

But come September, we may be ready to go Training at a sanctioned event.  Paradigm shifted.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Welcome to the New Age

Ben's always been a bit of a mixed bag for me.  On the one hand, I love riding him and I always have a big, dopy grin on my face when I'm jumping him.  At the same time, he scared the crap out of me on cross country and we've had a very rough start in that phase.  He's a cuddly puppy dog, but what a Meathead!

Today he won my long term loyalty.  With my move up to Training looming, I begged my trainer to include me on a cross country schooling outing today.  I was petrified at the idea of going out and trying to get around at Training without at least one more attempt at getting the two of us on the same page.  She agreed, and I showed up at the barn today to load up the gear and my Meathead.

Small catch.  It wasn't a schooling trip, it was a schooling show.  I was going to be going around at Training.  HURK.

I was beside myself walking the course.  I love Scarlett Hill, the courses are always gorgeous with lots of room for galloping, but they don't tend to pull punches on cross country.  These bad boys were to height and there were a lot of firsts for me.  A ditch combination (jump the ditch at an angle, three strides, ramp), a corner, a trakhaner, a skinny, a maxed out table and a beefy parallel oxer, a water combination (drop into water, three/four strides, jump out over a bank), and all at 400 mpm.  HURK.

I gibbered.  I fidgeted.  I fretted.  I pleaded with my trainer to let me move back down or to skip some of the fences (like the holy hell FML trakhaner).  I sang ditties through out my entire warm up just so I would keep breathing.  I was belting out Henry the Eighth while I circled the start box.  My trainer just shook her head and told me to just get out there and have fun.  I was on Ben, after all!  HURK.

Fun?  a;ldskf;akjdf  I was ready to have a heart attack and fall out of the saddle, especially when we had to wait for the rider in front of me to get tossed back on her horse after they had a parting of the ways.

I came out of the start box and attacked the course like I'd been instructed to.  I left my spurs behind so I could kick without reservation.  Holy crap, we found our groove.  I let him do his job, he let me pick the fences, and we marched around.  I even managed to get most of the way around without the fear muscle fatigue catching up to me.  It got me right around fence 15, the drop coming out of the woods.  I landed and felt rattled, so hauled Ben back.  He didn't like that.  Up next was the water combination and I was riding backwards to it.  I looked down, so Ben stopped to do a gator check.  I gave him a spank and he dropped in, jumped out, then threw a temper tantrum.

"First you look down, then you spank me?!  Nuh uh, little girl, you have lost your driving privileges!"

Thank goodness we only had one fence left, because the Meathead took off with me like a bat out of hell.  I got him over the last one, pulled him up after a serious fight, and gave him a big pat.  He accepted my apology and we moseyed back to the trailer like nothing happened.

On the way home, I treated myself to a butterscotch sundae.  I think I earned it.

So I guess this makes us ready for our great Training level debut next week, since I've now schooled all of the Training level questions.  And lived to tell the tale!  The trainer is all set on us making this final and not sneaking back down to Novice again this season.  And you know?  I think I'm okay with that.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Fiona is not happy when the attention is not on her and today, she decided to make sure my attention was right where it belonged.

Today was Day 1 of my two day dressage show at UNH.  I entered the Opportunity classes purely because they were cheaper and I had no way to know if I would even have Fi when the show rolled around.  That means the tests are the same, but they don't count as qualifying scores for the USDF.  Same tests, same judges, same challenge.  The Princess was up to the challenge.  First 1 and First 2, we completed our move up to First Level.

To be fair, Fi hasn't been to a horse show since the disastrous GMHA back in September. 

She was a bit wide eyed after she was braided up and her shipping boots were put on.  Once we got to the show, she hung out by the trailer while Dorkzilla went out for his debut at Third Level.  I did have 'for sale' flyers hung up, but I tried to not look at them too much.  It was about me going out and having a good day with my princess.  Warm up was a bit exciting the the FEI horses warming up, including some stallions.  Fi was very offended by this, but after a couple of temper tantrums she settled in to a really nice frame and mind set.

And what a day we had.  The princess warmed up beautifully and I was more relaxed than my usual dressage outings.  We went in the ring and, aside from my complete inability to remember the First 1 test, laid down a heck of a trip.

Yes, you see that right.  66.6% at First Level.  Ho-ly crap.  That includes my rider error at the end.  We were the only ones in my class so the blue was kind of a silly thing, but I wanted it after I saw that score.  Highest.  Dressage.  Score.  EVER.

We also did our First 2 test, but we had a big spook due to a screaming kid and got a 61.6%.  I certainly can't complain when my 'bad' test was still well over 60%.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Fiona is a confirmed First Level horse.  She was so well behaved that both tests said 'willing and obedient' as comments.  The canter transitions were quiet, the leg yield was willing, and the stretchy circles were very stretchy.

There will be video of the First 1 test.  Dorkzilla's owner taped that test, so it should be up in a day or two.  I also paid to have a videographer tape both tests, so I'll have those in about two weeks.

And as though our day wasn't already awesome, Dorkzilla and his owner finished their Bronze Medal with two qualifying scores at Third Level!  It was a very exciting ride home for both of us. 

Tomorrow we'll be back at the dressage show for a more relaxing day.  Dorkzilla's owner doesn't need any more scores, so she'll be riding just for herself.  I accidentally signed up for a Training level test for tomorrow, so we'll be doing First 1 and Training 2.  Oops, but it's still good practice for me.

Tonight, the martini is purely celebratory.  My princess is all grown up.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


So, Ben and I went to this show over the weekend.  Some little place called Valinor where we did the Novice division.  The nice part about an old pro is how easy he is to handle on the trailer and at the show grounds.  He snoozed and munched hay while we waited for our turn to play.  The Horsepesterer was there, so here's video of our dressage!

He was still white!  All of that armor worked!  The most amazing part?  We got a 30.0.  Yes, you saw that right, a 30.0.  Lowest dressage score I've ever gotten and the lowest he's ever gotten.  Just think what kind of score we would have had if his friends hadn't been calling for him through our entire test!  I felt like I was holding it all together by the skin of my teeth, but hey, so long as the judge didn't notice it's all good.  That put us in 7th place out of 16 horses.  It was a huge division.

Our stadium jumping was a bit overly exciting.  My sleepy Meathead disappeared as soon as we walked into stadium and I suddenly had a heck of a lot of horse on my hands.  Not too alarming when you've ridden the Princess in competition, but it took me a couple fences to adjust to the fact that he was going to be charging about.  That cost us a rail at fence two, but we were otherwise good and the trainer seemed pleased.  We walked over to cross country.

I'll admit at this point that I was very nervous.  I was just this side of scared.  I'd only taken Ben out cross country the one time, and it had been terrifying.  I had the muscle weakness you get with high anxiety and I was seriously worried about how I was going to do this six minute Novice course.  That's a long time to be galloping about when you feel weak enough to slide off at the walk!  The starter said go and we took off.  I did as the trainer said and let him really go up the first hill to get us both in a groove.  The first two jumps went well, but I had a heck of a lot of horse on my hands.

We came down the steep hill, then we were supposed to turn right into the woods for fence three.  Ben saw the trail going up the hill and started to take off again.  I wrestled with him to try to make the turn and we ended up in the trees.  The jump judge was laughing as we got ourselves untangled and turned around.  The Meathead was so surprised to see a jump sitting there in the woods, but he went over it and we were off again.  Fences four and five rode beautifully and I started to feel like I'd found the right ride.  It was a bigger gallop than I was used to jumping out of and Ben doesn't have the natural balance of Fiona.  Galloping him is a bit unnerving because I don't have the same confidence that he'll be able to keep his feet underneath him.  I'll admit, I trotted a couple of the downhills because I just didn't feel comfortable.  I was also feeling weak still and having trouble staying with him.

Six was good.  A bit long since he was looking at it and I gave him a smack, but good.  I ended up trotting seven because I couldn't get the canter I wanted for a tight turn to a ditch.  After eight we had another overly exciting gallop up a hill and I couldn't get him back for a tight turn so we ended up going long at the water.  Seeing a pattern?  I felt weak and didn't totally trust his balance, so we kept slowing down and going the long way.  At twelve we got our groove back and it carried us around to fifteen nicely, all galloped out of stride and very nice.  These were also some of the bigger fences on the course, including a maxed out table.  It gave him something to at least notice.  Then I tried to turn right, but Ben was convinced we had to go left.  You almost always go that way at Valinor and clearly he remembered his past courses.  We had a wrestling match before I could get him heading to the last jump and the finish.

Our finish was far from fast or dramatic.  We went down a steep, slippery hill and suddenly there was the finish.  A big, temporary shed, a bunch of kids standing around waiting for us, a hastily cleared out area with odd colored footing, and the finish flags.  Ben went over the last jump, but refused to canter on the other side.  He trotted up snorting and wide eyed, much to the amusement of the judge that could see me kicking like a pony clubber.  At least I didn't get a willful delay.

So when the dust cleared, we got 4 time penalties on cross country.  We ended on a 38, which was actually a really good score, but it was a big division.  We ended up in 9th.

Overall, I was pleased with the day.  We got out there, did our jobs, and had respectable rounds.  No stops, no elimination, no falls, no dangerous moments.  It did leave me with a lot to think about, though.

The big thing was my nerves going out for cross country.  When your nerves are bad enough that you feel physically weak and can't ride the way you need to, there's a problem.  I have to say, that's never happened before.  I usually can be very physically aggressive cross country and have no problem doing that in competition, but my nerves completely got to me.  I was lucky Ben is inherently honest and didn't take advantage of me. I never felt like I was in danger, we could always stop and he never tried to buck, but I just didn't feel secure enough to make time on a challenging course.  I was worried I would get rattled out of the saddle.

It took time for me to trust Fi and I have to remind myself that this is an all new relationship.  Ben hasn't given me any reason to not trust him.  I just need to get out there and do my job, since he's going to do his.  I also need to quit comparing him to Fi.  No, he doesn't have her gallop.  Very few horses have her gallop and balance.  He can't sit down and just ski down a steep hill at the canter like it's nothing, but that's no reason for me to trot as much as I did.

July 10 is our next outing.  The current plan is to go Training, but we'll see how my next cross country school goes.  If I can't get my nerves under control, I'll step down for safety reasons.  I can't go to that half coffin question or the big drop they have if I'm not secure in my ability to hang on.  But as I told my trainer, this is something I can work with.  He packed my ammy butt around regardless of my nerves and that's worth it's weight in gold.

His owner suggested we could extend his lease . . .

Friday, June 14, 2013

And so it begins

Where is my show shirt?  Or my braiding supplies?  Or my XC vest?  Has anyone seen my dressage coat?  Good belt?  HAIR NETS?  I know I had them when the 2012 season ended, and yet, I can't find anything.  And the things I can find all need to be cleaned.  My stock tie is hanging up in the shower drying, my saddle pad is in the dryer, and I can only hope my horse is staying some shade of white.

Here's what he looked like today after a long day of work:

Hubba hubba.  He is one handsome Meathead.  The best part about grey horses is how darn nice they look when they're all cleaned up.  His owner swears by Dawn as a shampoo so I gave it a try.  He certainly does look shiny and it is way cheaper than any of the other things I've tried.

And how do we keep grey horses grey?  Armor, and a lot of it.

I'm hopeful that I won't have more than an hour's worth of stain removal tomorrow with this much of him covered up.

It's pretty darn late in the season to say this, but the bus is leaving the station.  My dressage coat has been located and packed, new hair nets have been purchased, lots of water and snacks are packed, and I even purchased some new bamboo boot socks (amazing stuff, highly recommended!).  Don't know my dressage test, but that's what the drive down is for.  T minus four hours and twenty three minutes.  Fortunately the sleep aids are hitting now so I might just be able to get a couple hours of sleep.

2013 Eventing Season is a go!

Friday, June 7, 2013


The down side to things going well is that expectations are increased.  I had a really solid jumping lesson today despite the pouring rain.  There were some simple gymnastics, a goofy bending line, things of that sort and they were set above Novice.  No idea how tall they really were, since my trainer said 'a bit above Novice' but there's only four inches between Novice and Training.  And the holes on a jump standard are three inches apart.  How much variation can there be?  But I'm getting off topic.  The point is that Ben and I schooled around quite nicely at very close to Training height.  No rails, no scary jumps, just the odd spot that was a bit long or short, but that's to be expected.

So after heading back to the barn to dry off (thanks, Tropical Storm Andrea), I sort of sidled up to my trainer and asked her if they had split divisions at the upcoming Scarlett Apple Three-Phase.  I can definitely do the Training level dressage and if I can school stadium at that height so comfortably . . .

Her response?  Just move up to Training.


Of course as soon as she said that, all of my lesson mates started to chime in that it would be fun and I'd do fine.  Dorkzilla's owner is doing Training at that event and offered to share a trailer with me so we could leave when we were done rather than waiting for the little divisions.  Ben is a total packer at the Training level, other than the occasional brake failure.  Cross country isn't timed so I don't need to worry about stepping up to a Training level gallop.  It's the farm where we do most of our cross country schooling, and we're going schooling again next week.  I could jump everything that's Training sized in schooling so that I would know for sure that we could do it  . . .

Holy crap, I'm moving up to Training.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Shades of grey

Why, why, WHY did I ever lease a grey horse?  I always say that I don't want one, the best feature on Fi is the fact that she's a liver chestnut and doesn't show dirt.  Now I have the Meathead, and I get to see things like this on a daily basis:

Really, Ben?  REALLY?!

I'm going to buy stock in Quick Silver, bluing, Dawn, and anything else I can think of to get him cleaned up.  That's 16.3 hands of TB gelding that I have to keep at some shade of close to white.

I'm insane.  Why did I ever lease a grey horse?!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Race day

Today was the ECTAthalon in Hamilton, Massachusetts.  This was a relay race where each person did there section of the trail in a different way:  run, bike, ride, or paddle (kayak).  This was something we'd been planning for weeks, and despite some last minute shuffling of team members, a complete team showed up for the race even with the ridiculously high temps.

And let me be clear, it was ridiculously hot today.  Absolutely stupidly hot.  You don't see highs of 95 very often in this region, and of course, that was the temperature today.  

First up was the 3.5 mile run, then the 3.8 mile biking loop, then it was me and Fiona's turn for the 3.9 mile equestrian section.  We waited with the rest of the equestrians in a field for our turn and the princess showed everyone else how this worked.  She sacked out in the shade and ate grass.  One by one, the bikers showed up, ditched their bikes, and ran to their counterparts to hand off the team wristband.

We certainly weren't the fastest team.  Fi and I were one of the last six horses waiting when my husband hustled over to hand off.  The heat really did wear on the bikers and runners more than the riders and paddlers.  We weren't looking for a fast time, we just wanted to have fun.  Fiona's section was an optimal time section, so it wasn't like we were going to be racing the clock.  With an average speed of 10 mph, I was more worried that we would get a speed penalty.

Some of the other horses were pacing, jigging, and even a bit of spinning was going on, but the princess was perfect.  She cantered to my husband for the hand off, cantered to the start line, and then walked while I check with the starter that we were okay.  Once we heard go, we were gone.

She was perfect.  We walked, trotted, cantered, and even squeezed in a gallop.  She was brave as a lion over the bridges and didn't even mind the combines that were working in the hay field.  She had to walk in the woods for both time and because of the heat, but I let her go in the fields so she could really enjoy herself.  We cantered into the finish with Fi's ears pricked and looking for the next four miles.  I handed off to our paddler so he could finish the race and headed back for the trailer.

Doesn't she look proud of herself?

I didn't have a watch on, so I was just guessing at our time.  We weren't looking at winning anything anyway, so I just went with whatever was the most fun.  Looks like fun worked, since I was just one second off from the optimum time.

The trip wasn't completely perfect.  There was about a mile between the finish and where the trailers were.  It seemed like a great way to cool Fiona down, so I hopped off to walk her back in hand instead of having the trailer driven to meet us.  This was a poor decision when wearing field boots.

I now have my feet all bandaged up.  Small price to pay for such a fabulous day.  The event was well run with water available everywhere and friendly volunteers to help.  I recommend anyone in the area sign up to do it next year.  I know I'll be there!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Is it spring yet?

I'm convinced that New England does not want to have a spring this year.  It's ridiculous.  This was Fi on Sunday night.

Yes, she's wearing a blanket on Memorial Day weekend because it was COLD.  It was 56 degrees and the winds were gusting over thirty miles per hour when I took her out for a gallop in the woods.  She appreciated the outing after being kept out of work for two days by the nasty weather.

Then this was Fi today.

It was 72 degrees, sunny, and gorgeous.  Also buggy.  Doesn't she have the cutest fly mask?

We went out for another trail ride, this time accompanied by Dorkzilla.  His owner gave me a run down from the Mary Wanless clinic she attended over the weekend.  We practised posting while the two beasts trotted side by side down the trails.  Both of them can do some gorgeous dressage work while out in the woods.  Good thing, since she's off to a dressage show on June 23 and 24th, doing First Level 1 and 2.

Ben (who won his Novice division over the weekend with his junior rider) is scheduled to go to Valinor June 15th and UNH July 14th with me.  That's all the more I have scheduled, since August is a total mystery right now.

After Fi's last showing flopped, I settled into the idea that she's not going anywhere any time soon.  This time the actual showing went very well, but it seems the interested party is more of a tire kicker and has lost interest.  The perception that horses should just be given away in this economy is still going strong and it's making things difficult.  There aren't any other showings scheduled, despite a new video, so I'm starting to plan long term for Fi again.

She also has a fun trail event this weekend that I'm looking forward to.  We're going to be part of a four person relay team where each member completes their section in a different way.  My friend is doing the running phase, my husband is doing the biking phase, I'm doing the equestrian phase, and another person is doing the kayaking.  It should be a lot of fun.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Close your eyes . . .

. . . and leap.

It's hard getting to know a new partner, particularly when they're so different from your previous partner.  It's taking some time, but that's to be expected when my confidence over fences was really in the gutter.

Ben, to be fair, has given me little reason to worry.  Other than our 'exciting' XC ride, he's been a perfect gentleman.  I point at the jumps, I kick, we go.  End of story.  He's a whole body work out to do dressage with, grinding his teeth and trying to go downhill at all times, but perfectly rideable.  His true redeeming feature is his ho-hum attitude to stadium jumping.

I hopped on today after working the princess (who was awesome, as always).  I used my jump saddle and planned to jump some little stuff to keep us both in practice.  There were some tiny cross rails and verticals set up, all less than two feet, and it was really pretty funny to watch.  Poor Ben was kind of fumbling and landing on his face trying to get in close to such tiny fences.  I hopped off and reset the fences to about 2'6", something low and comfortable while we worked on the ride between fences.

Sitting in isolated glory in the middle of the ring was a training level corner question.  It couldn't be lowered since it rested on a barrel for one side, so it was still set up from when my trainer and some other Prelim level riders were out schooling.  I eyeballed it, but told myself no, I shouldn't do that.  I was supposed to be having a casual ride.

Ben is such a delight to jump, you can pretty much guess what happened next.  I jumped around, really happy to get some clean flying changes and taking that as confirmation that I had him nice and forward.  I turned to the panel, had a great jump in, and the corner was just right there.  A bending three stride put us at a great distance.  Sometimes you've got to just get that first big one out of the way.  I know my eyes closed one stride out.  As soon as I knew Ben was locked on and we were set, I just let him drive and closed my eyes so I wouldn't second guess it.

That saintly meathead just picked his toes up and jumped over like it was no big thing.  There was a little head toss on the other side, but it was more of a 'finally, a real jump!' then any kind of acting up.  I called it done with that.  I was just so darn happy, I'm still smiling.

I'm hoping to get him out for another XC schooling in the next week.  I just need to keep going out until we're comfortable and safe together.  That little glimmer of hope is still very much alive.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Let's face it, riding can be scary.  You're sitting on a thousand pound animal that has a mind of it's own and if it chooses to leave, you really can't stop it.  If it chooses to unload you, chances are it's going to happen.  If it chooses to stop suddenly, there's not really a lot holding you down.  It can gallop at over thirty miles per hour and if that happens without your permission, all you can do is hang on and hope it changes it's mind.

Yup.  Scary.

Then, as if that's not enough, I took a big TB that's used to going rather briskly, put him out in the open for the first time since October, and pointed him at solid objects to jump.  Oh, and I haven't actually completed a XC course since July last year.  Am I brave or just really, really stupid?  I'm still not sure.

Ben and I took the next step in our relationship yesterday:  XC schooling.

At least he's really cute
We carted the troops off for a day of galloping and jumping.  There were five adult students that played hooky from their various jobs to go play.  We loaded up our five experienced horses and headed out.  Three of the horses had been out already, but two (Dorkzilla and the Meathead) were going out for their first time of the year.  I decided to bit up, putting on Ben's Wonderbit to get some leverage in case I needed it.
Trotting around to warm up wasn't bad.  Cantering wasn't bad, until I came around the end of the field and pointed him back toward home, the trailers, and all of the other horses.  He started to accelerate, I told him no galloping in warm up, and he threw a temper tantrum.  A propping, snorting temper tantrum.  I kicked through it to the best of my ability, but he did it each time I pointed toward home.  The more nervous I got, the bigger the temper tantrums got.  To be fair, he never twisted or tried to unload me, but he was very clear that he disliked me telling him to stop.  He completely forgot how to do anything but halt or canter in a little ball.  I actually had the trainer move the rein on the bit so that it acted like a snaffle so I could take a feel without him completely overreacting.  It didn't help much and he managed to shake me loose enough that I really thought I was going to be eating dirt. 
It was the first time in years that I was genuinely scared while riding.  I got so damn spoiled riding Fi.  I was fearless on my mare and that made this even more terrifying.  When he dropped his head and propped, I had no idea if he was about to send me flying.  When he jumped and took off, I had no idea if he was going to bronc or if I could regain control.  As I told my trainer, 'this sucks!'.  My trainer had the right idea and just kept sending me out over and over again, despite my protests, to do a long loop around the field over low fences, forcing us to figure each other out and wearing us both down.  He needed to be less excited, I needed to be less petrified, and exhaustion would take care of both.  It wasn't a recipe for a soothing, beautiful ride.  He was going to be naughty on his first outing, I was going to be nervous on a new horse, this was all expected.  At least that's what the logical part of me was saying.
It's really hard to be logical when the hind brain is scrabbling at the inside of your skull and screaming, "I'm out of control and he's really big and I'm going to get hurt and I'm scared and I WANT OFF!!!".  The front part of my brain was logically going through the variables and commanding my legs to get out in front of me, ordering my upper body back, and forcing my hands to go down and release so he could gallop.  And in the middle of my brain?  Some safety feature kicked in and I started belting out "Henry the Eighth" at the tops of my lungs.  They taught me to sing when jumping as a kid when I was nervous and it still works.  Of course I used to use Mary Had a Little Lamb, but Henry the Eighth works better when galloping down to a table or drop into water.
My friends were highly amused and told me to not quit my day job.
But the important part was that it worked.  I came down a notch from my frantic grabbing, Ben's ears flicked back since I was actually opening my mouth and communicating again, I starting breathing (which really helps), and singing is good for releasing feel good hormones.  I'm singing, things can't be that bad.  I made it down the bank, dropped into the water, jumped the log out, took the big ditch, jumped the little house, looped around to the coop, and finished up over the big table.  I even managed to jump up the one stride steps.  Not bad for my first school in nearly a year and my first school with my new partner.

My trainer said that she completely understood being nervous in the situation and that she kind of wished we'd gone to a smaller schooling facility for that first outing, but I said it was better this way.  Get out there, get it done, and prove to myself that I could do it.  Fun?  No, not in the slightest, but sometimes I need to quit being a chicken shit and just get it done.  I can do it, Ben can do it, we just needed to knock some rust off.  We were both well within our comfort zones for the questions asked, it was all about us figuring out each other.  If this was Ben at his worst, we were going to be just fine.  By the end of the ride I'd found the brakes and could hit them without the temper tantrum and felt comfortable galloping down to a fence.

When I got off, I almost fell down.   My hands and knees were shaking so hard that I could barely walk him to the trailers.  I finally noticed how much adrenaline I had in my system when I couldn't speak a coherent sentence.  My legs ached from holding on so tightly.  Today I'm an aching wreck from shoulders to ankles.  Not only am I out of practice, I had to ride my brains out to get around.  My body is not pleased with me.

But I'm pleased with me.  There's a sign in the barn that says "Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway".  I was definitely courageous.  Here's hoping I get it under control before my first show.  The trainer will be very embarrassed if I'm still belting out melodies while jumping.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


Hear that sound?  That horrible grinding racket?  That would be the gears starting to rotate.  At long last, 2013 is getting started.  At least for me.  Everyone else seems to have been working on 2013 for awhile now, I'm just a slow starter.

The entry for Valinor is lying in front of me, just about ready to mail off.  June 15th, I'll tackle their Novice course yet again but this time with Ben instead of Fiona.  I just love Valinor for their cross-country course.  The rolling terrain really makes me feel like I'm going across the country and the jumps are so inviting.  The stadium course is on a hill and that makes it challenging, but I can work with that.

It also looks like I'll be getting in my first cross-country school this week.  Scarlett Hill opened this week and a group of adults are planning to play hooky and get an early school in.  I'm a little nervous since it's Ben's first outing of the season and our first outing together, but I'm also excited to see how we do.  We've been doing really well in the ring, hopefully it will carry over to the great outdoors.

I feel like there's smoke coming out of my ears as the rust is knocked loose.  I have to find my vest for cross-country.  I'm sure it's around here somewhere . . .

Fi's latest showing got cancelled (the lady would rather get a gelding, bah), so the princess doesn't have anyone else looking until the 20th.  I'm accepting the fact that she's going to be a very difficult sell and trying to settle into a rhythm where she's my dressage specialist and Ben is my eventing partner.  Riding both in one evening is a real challenge, especially after work and before sunset.  Dorkzilla's owner is still helping out twice a week and it's making a big difference.  I get to see my husband once in awhile!  I'm hitting the trails with the princess to keep us both sane and continuing to tune her up in the ring.  Her collected work is coming along nicely.  I think I'll sneak her off to the dressage show at UNH in late June.  Hopefully someone will be interested in an affordable First Level horse.

She's also got a trail event on June 1st as part of a relay team.  It's going to be hilarious.  It's a four person relay team with each member hitting the trails in a different way.  The first person runs four miles, the second person mountain bikes four miles, the third person rides four miles, and the last kayaks.  Fi and I are taking on the riding segment, my husband is handling the biking segment.  It's the first time in a long time that we've been able to go out and hit the trails together.  It's almost too bad that it's an optimum time competition for the horses.  Fi and I can do four miles in about fifteen minutes, but we'll have to trot along politely and try to think 'trail horse' rather than 'big, strong Thoroughbred'.

Big strong Thoroughbred is a heck of a lot more fun, but I think I'd get nervous at an event with everyone going for speed for four miles.  Fi can do it and keep her marbles, but she's more the exception than the rule.

These horse shoppers don't know what they're missing.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


It's hard to move on when you don't know what's coming.  Fiona is still up for sale and there are still people coming to see her, so it's impossible to make long term plans for now.  This leaves me in a unique form of stasis.  On the one hand, I want to spoil my mare.  I want to buy her things, cuddle with her, really be invested in her but at the same time I know she may very well not be mine for long.  It doesn't make sense to buy her equipment.  While I have her, competition budget is limited by having two horses.  I can't really move.

It's a weird, awkward, uncomfortable feeling.  I'm trying to put some distance between myself and the princess so I can better cope with the fact that she's for sale.  It's a bit more difficult when she's absolutely adorable and snuggly.  She's been fabulous to ride lately, other than having some yahoos due to spring and moving to the summer barn.  She's always a handful for a week or two after moving outside.  All that fresh air and open space just goes right to her head.  Of course, her version of being bad is to be overly forward and shake her head. She's soooo bad.  Really, she's bad.  She promises.  Dorkzilla has been out with an abscess, so his owner has been putting in rides on Fi and has really enjoyed their time together.  I feel a lot of pride when I hear how pleasant she is, how responsive and educated she's become.

At the same time, I'm riding Ben.  He's not Fiona.  He's Fiona's absolute polar opposite.  He hates dressage, he loves to jump.  He's a bit of a chicken and doesn't hack out with other horses.  He has a decent spook, particularly around piles of equipment and people running around.  He is an amazing, amazing horse to jump.  He is such a joy to ride, but such a meathead as a personality.  I feel like I need a bullhorn sometimes so I can yell "Hello, meathead!  I'm up here!  Pay attention!".  I might possibly need pompoms.  But he saves my bacon over fences and is so . . . him.  I've always considered myself a senior TB gelding addict, and he's exactly my type. He's just a big, dorky, kind gentleman of a horse that is convinced the shed is going to eat him.

Despite the weird feeling, I'm going ahead with my plans to debut with Ben at Novice in June.  I can live off of ramen for a bit to get a chance to show this handsome hunk of a TB.  He's got two May outings with his other rider, so it should be a recipe for success.  Tiny jumps, easy dressage, slow cross country.  I can just leave him in his lazy hunter mode and enjoy my day.

I have started to feel a tickle of something with him that I haven't felt in awhile.  Probably not since August last year.  I'm pretty sure it's hope.  Hope that I can really make my move to Training this year.  Hope that our lessons at Novice that are so easy and amazing will continue and that I'll be able to head into competition feeling like 'we've got this, just sit back and watch'.  A small, traitorous part of me is hoping that Fi finds her new dream home so I can throw all of my time and resources into Ben and finally have that summer.

But for now, I wait.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Deja vu

Allen was the first horse I ever owned.  I did a write up about him in a previous entry.  The short version was that he was a big, black, loud TB gelding that was nicknamed the Hellbeast.  I adored that horse and lamented that I came into his story so late.  Of course, I probably couldn't have handled him when he was in his prime.

Me and Allen, a long time ago

Today I was riding Ben and doing some jumping.  We're still around Beginner Novice height, but that's mostly because I'm enjoying my returning confidence and want to take it slow.  It just so damn nice to go out and jump around with no fuss, no drama.  I point, I kick, he jumps.  At this low level, that's all there is.  I know when I move up to something bigger it will take more work to lift him up off of his forehand, but for now, I feel like I'm riding a hunter again.  I was ready to cry today after jumping around.  It's just that much of a relief to have it all be so easy again.  I was happy and relaxed and smiling the whole time.  We did have a bit of an argument about one line.  It went something like this:


Hey, we're going to jump the cross rail.
Something in the door is trying to kill me.
Focus, we're going to jump the cross rail.
Okay, okay, we're jumping the cross rail.

- jump the cross rail -

And now we take the bending line to the one stride!
No, we bend to the green and white vertical.
No no no, I can see the one stride.
It's the vertical!
One stride!
One stride!
So help me, horse, I'm the one with opposable thumbs and I know the actual course!
Fine, you stubborn human!

- jump the vertical -
- walk -

. . . want to try that again?
Sure, sounds like fun.


Smart ass old men, thinking they know the course better than I do.  But you certainly can't complain when the only downside to your ride is your horse locking on to the wrong fence.  The entire conversation between the cross rail and vertical took about six strides, so not a major issue.  He can be such a meathead, but he's cute so it's okay.

So what does this have to do with my horse Allen?  After I made a stupid mistake, I heard myself say 'sorry, Allen'.  Wait, what?  Ben jumps nothing like Allen, what was that about?

Aside from the fact that Ben is almost Allen's twin in terms of build, Ben is in that same group of horses:  wise old men that will take care of a rider when necessary.  He's only fourteen, but he's definitely got the same feel.  He's been there, done that, and is now looking out for the less experienced rider.  He's not perfect, he's certainly willing to argue with me about something.  It's the same feature that will keep me safe on cross country in the future.  Allen would sigh and take charge when I did something stupid, Ben does the same.  Galloping down to a fence and you suddenly have that sinking realization that you've ridden your horse down to no spot?  Put your hands on the neck, put your leg on, and thank your lucky stars that the old man you're riding knows his job better than you do.  He may not make it comfortable for you, but you will land on the other side safely.

The conversation I had while jumping was one that I could have easily had with the Hellbeast.  With Ben nuzzling at my neck, I couldn't help but think of Allen, doing the same thing a long time ago.  It gave me a sense of deja vu.  I think I'll go back and watch videos of my beloved jumper tonight and think about what we did together.

Friday, April 5, 2013


That pretty much sums up Fi's second showing.

It started out well.  I technically wasn't there, but I needed to drop off white polos for the princess so stuck around to ride Ben.  And yes, I did want to meet the people that were considering buying my princess.  They were quite nice.  They mentioned the lady had been riding for five or six years, so that sounded promising.  I walked Ben into the ring as the trainer was riding Fiona and she looked like a million bucks, trotting around very chill with her head down.  She tossed the rider up and they trotted around together, looking wonderful.  Fi wasn't on the bit, but she was being polite and quiet.  The rider wasn't experienced enough to really get her on the bit or adjust her trot, but they looked happy together.

I didn't know the lady was scared of cantering.  They asked for a walk to canter transition, but the lady didn't have the experience necessary to prep Fiona for it and then would get scared when Fi hopped up into the transition.  It ended with Fi trotting each time.  The problem was that they tried again, and again, and again, and the princess started to get tense.  She was doing what she thought she was supposed to do, but they kept stopping her which she takes as a correction.  That always upsets her.  Her tension made the rider nervous and the situation started to escalate.

She had a lovely canter from the trot and I told her to stay on a twenty meter circle if she was nervous.  Fi will offer a lenghtening on the long side, but will hold steady on a circle.  The woman was quite nervous, I'd say she'd crossed into being scared at this point, and abandoned the circle to return to the rail.  Fi got quick, the woman flat out panicked, and for the first time since I bought her, Fiona panicked.  Whites of her eyes, head in the air panicked.

They made it around the ring twice before the woman got herself together enough to sit up and say 'whoa' with intent.  Fi shifted back to a little canter, still looking terrified, and then spotted me.  I've never been the one standing on the ground calling for a scared horse before.  I called for her at the same time the lady got her back and she made a bee line for me, trotting up and halting right in front of me.  Poor thing was just petrified.  She'd been bad, she knew she'd been bad, but she had no idea what she was supposed to do.  She just wanted me to pet her and tell her she was okay.  I held her and let her calm down.  She was blowing like a freight train and still trembling.

The lady slid off and everyone declared that it wasn't a match, Fi was too advanced for her.  When the rider asked for a canter, she would get things like haunches in which freaked her out.  If you're not used to it, horses going sideways or swinging their haunches around can be scary and usually comes before them being very naughty.  If she was nervous about cantering, that had to be mildly terrifying.  Then there's Fi's big, round canter.  Even when she's being quiet, she covers some serious ground.  If I'd known the lady was this nervous about cantering, I may have nixed the whole thing.  The princess is a kind, forgiving, gentle horse, but she's exactly as brave as her rider.  No one has ever panicked with her and now we see what happens.

I did have to sit and think back at all of the things she's faced, trying to figure out what caused today's incident.  This is the mare that will face absolutely anything without panic, she's never bolted in all the time I've had her, what the heck?  But as I went through the list, I realized that she's never had a scared rider.  We've only put confident riders that would enjoy her on her back.  Experience was secondary to a rider that was just confident.  Even the less experienced juniors that borrow her for lessons enjoy cantering and the fact that she'll just go and go all day.  They're comfortable with her getting a bit quick and know that she'll stop if they ask.  They know that she's got some fancy buttons and just laugh when they get the wrong thing.  Fiona has not had a rider that rode scared since . . .

The lady I bought her from.  The one that was terrified of her and couldn't ride her.  The one that knocked Fiona over while trying to canter.

Ding ding ding.  That would be my lightbulb turning on.  Holy crap.

I'll talk to my trainer tonight.  We'll have to tighten up the screening process.  They need to be confident at all three gaits to try her.  Experience, skill, and confidence aren't the same things. 

I'm trying to not beat myself up too much over this.  The woman was so broken hearted, she'd really enjoyed Fiona and was all ready to set up a vetting.  She was so excited for this pretty, fancy, sweet mare she'd found and I was excited that this nice lady in a great situation was interested.  But at the same time, I'm glad it happened now.  Better now than two weeks after they bought her and poor Fi being up for sale again, except this time as a bolter.  On the one hand, I feel like I should have trained her better.  Desensitized her a bit, made her a bit less responsive, but my friend just about whacked me in the head for saying that.  As she put it, Fiona is a talented, correctly trained horse.  You don't change that, you just find her the right rider.  Someone with more experience is coming out tomorrow, so we'll see what they think. 

Tonight I switch to martinis.  Tomorrow, I think Fi and I are going out for a hack.  Poor little mare, this has been just as hard for her as it has been for me.  She needs to go out and defuse for a bit.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Waiting game

This image has nothing to do with anything, it just cracked me up. 
Doesn't matter the discipline, schooling rings suck.

Selling horses sucks almost as much as buying one.  Just in case anyone was curious.  I've got plenty of experience with shopping for a horse and everything that goes with that:  long drives, false descriptions, and the feeling that your taking your life into your hands with the snorting beast that they swear is a packer.  Yeah, right, and I'm the queen of England.  I even had the one horse that swung around on a lunge line and struck out at me.  I should have charged that lady for the lesson in ground manners her horse received.  No, I didn't seriously consider him.  I like my trainer and her working students too much for that.

Now I'm on the other side.  Calls with silly questions, biting my nails wondering if my horse will act up for the first time in her life, primping and grooming and trying to not wake up in the middle of the night wondering if I should have left her polos at the barn.  Why do dressage riders insist on white polos?  One ride and I've got to wash the things.

Luck hasn't been entirely on my side.  Her first showing was a complete bust.  The lady was looking for an all around horse to replace her draft cross that was retiring due to old age.  Fi was very well behaved for the showing (I was hiding in the viewing room so I could watch), but it wasn't a match.  She asked for a canter from a long reined walk and Fi was perplexed.  Walk to canter is a very formal move for her and she needs to be on the bit and working, not walking around with her head around her knees.  To be fair, all she did was pick her head up and set off at a quick trot, ears flicking every which way while she tried to figure out what she was supposed to be doing.  The ride lasted maybe five minutes.  Not a match.

My sales video attempt was also a disaster.  Fi was in heat and kept looking toward the door rather than keeping a steady contact.  Minor, sure, but it looked terrible on video, like she couldn't hold a contact.  Bah.  It's a pity, she was actually being very good and did nice work.  Steady shoulder in, calm simple changes, nice stretches, but as a video clip for a sale it didn't work.  I went home and had a beer.  Whiskey barrel porter that I actually helped to brew, very nice at the end of a stressful day. 

Today was another showing. It's been a bit chaotic since I'm not directly interacting with anyone that's out to look at the princess.  All conversations are going through my trainer and she's being shown by other people.  Today it was Dorkzilla's owner that showed her which worked out well, since the trio watching were all DQs.  A trainer, a barn owner, and a potential owner/rider.  From the report I got, it was a complete success.  The potential trainer rode Fi and liked how responsive and comfortable she was.  The rider was less experienced and had some trouble with the canter transition, but the trainer loved how safe they looked together and how willing Fi was.  Rumor has it Fi took good care of the rider and the rider was excited by the potential to do things like go to the beach.  They're coming back on Friday for a second look, since they had another horse to check out.

Part of me is relieved.  Someone came to look at my horse and liked her enough to come back for a second look.  This is also someone that rides at a barn where some of my friends keep their horses.  They have references that check out, Fi wouldn't be that far away, and they've probably already heard quite a bit about the princess.  I like the sound of that quite a bit.  At the same time, I'm apprehensive.  They have another horse to look at and Fi would have to be a super star yet again on Friday.  And then a vet.  And then what?  

There's an experiment you see in psychology.  A rat is put in a cage with food on one side.  In order to get to the food, the rat has to cross a plate where it will receive an electric shock.  The rat wants the food, but does not want to be shocked.  This causes quite a bit of anxiety.  I sympathize with the rat.  I want Fi to sell and go to a good home, but I don't want her to go away.  Part of me was relieved at the bad showing, part of me was stressed because of the good showing.  I'm going through more antacids doing this than I did when I was horse shopping!

It's a waiting game.  I'm not directly involved, so for me, it's mostly waiting for text messages, keeping her immaculate, and washing polos.  I'm glad my trainer is handling this, I think my hubby would smother me with a pillow if I was also screening e-mails and phone calls.  As it is, I think he's going to hide the coffee from me.  It seems I'm a bit wired and he doesn't think I need more stimulants.  I don't know what he's talking about, climbing the walls and hanging from the ceiling is completely normal!

Hush, let me have my moments of delusion.