Wednesday, December 31, 2008

American Museum of Natural History Exhibition of the Horse - Enjoyable and Informative!

Yesterday was a trip into NYC for the family. My husband, the boyz and myself took the train into Penn Station to go to the Museum of Natural History. One of my Christmas gifts was to get to see the Horse exhibit and of course the kids went to see the dinosaurs. I offered the boyz a chance to see the Horse exhibit but I got the reply, as any self-respecting 5 year old boy would say, "no Mom, I want to see the DINOSAURS!"

So my husband herded the boyz towards the dinosaurs and bid me an enjoyable, peaceful show.

I entered the world of the Horse. The first image you see is a large projection screen with a handsome bay horse, moving in glorious slow-motion. Every muscle rippling under his shiny coat, the majesty of the beast invites you to learn more about it.

The exhibit begins with the prehistory of the horse and touches on the evolutionary process that brought the horse from tiny forest dwelling 5-toed creature to the plains roaming grazer we are all most familiar with. If you wanted to get an even more complete visualization of the horses' progression through the eons, the hall of prehistoric Mammals in the museum's permanent display has a really detailed and well presented display for the horse. I highly recommend visiting that as well after viewing this show.

Next, we are led to the places in time where the paths of early man and equines crossed. In the beginning horses were merely a source of food. Then it is thought men next harnessed the animal's strength to carry and pull loads. But it was in the moment man chose to make himself the object carried by the horse that history was dramatically changed.

By bringing the two together, the brains and cunning of man and the strength, speed and loyalty of the horse, ancient and increasingly modern civilizations were pushed into newer levels of advancement. Some of the interesting objects that were in this part of the exhibit were a Samurai's saddle, an equine gas mask from WW1 and a beautifully restored horse-drawn fire engine!

Moving through the show, it was very briefly explained when horses' were first given shoes. I felt this part of the exhibit could have been given a bit more embellishment. The wearing of horse shoes was another major change and advancement into the usefulness of the horse. It would have been interesting for even the non-horse familiar to see some of the many different shoes horses have worn for various reasons and purposes. Even comparing a Thoroughbred's racing plate to a draft horses' shoe is cool for kids and adults!

There was much to see for the modern horse and it's more recreational/sport/business use. Racehorses, both Thoroughbred and Standardbred were well-featured. Rodeo and ranch horses, show jumpers, polo ponies and therapeutic riding horses also had their place. I was surprised there wasn't a bit more visual display regarding the Olympic participation of horses. I may have missed something, but Dressage and Combined Training seemed only a written mention.

A video monitor showing various horses used in sport in different countries was very interesting for me. In this presentation, racing Mongolian ponies, the wild and colorful Palio de Siena in Italy and The Japanese mounted flag capture games were some of the featured events. However, the replay of Secretariat's incredible finish to the Belmont Stakes that brought him the Triple Crown was the high point of the show for me. I remember watching the race when it was run in real-time as a kid and every time I see it, I get chills!

The show wrapped up with a neat popular breeds interactive display where you could use a touch screen to view several of the most common breeds of today. It was especially fun for me since I personally know the Percheron representing his breed on the display! There was another room with a video show of a therapeutic program and some other pictorials on the wall but it was packed with viewers and I noted it was near the end of the show so I only briefly observed it and moved to the finish.

Of course, the end of the show lets you exit into the well-placed gift shop. I usually move through the gift shop quickly (especially with the kids in tow) as it's a cash trap. However, since this show is closing this Sunday, January 4th to go on the road, most of the souvenirs were 50% off to get rid of the inventory -especially the items marked Museum of Natural History. Woo-hoo! I bought a T-shirt, keychains for me and the kids and some toy horses for them as well. Must remember museums may offer similar bargains when we plan to attend future shows. The closer to the end of the shows run you plan to go, perhaps the better the deals in the gift shop!

In my opinion, it was entertaining, interesting and good for those well educated in all things equine, those who have a little horse knowledge and those who know little but wish to gain more insight into the only animal other than the dog who has given so much to mankind by working side by side to benefit us all.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Q-Link for Equines, Hmmmm...

I opened an email today from one of a few riding gear shops who send me their online specials. This ad baffled me. At first glance, I thought this was a free keychain with purchase offer. Then I read further and saw it's some kind of new-age energy balancing gadget - Q-Link Equine. Supposedly you put this object on your horse somewhere and it will have a calming effect and help the horse to focus by balancing his "biofield".

Uh, okay. May the Force be with you.

I went to the website to try and understand exactly how this thing is supposed to balance horsies' chi. No explanation made scientific sense to me, I even looked in the human version section. Still sounded like using crystals and astrology to me. When I saw the price of this nifty little ticket to equine sanity I nearly coughed up my coffee. $199.95!! Nearly $200.00 for this?? I have a better idea for that $200.00, how about spending it on a few more riding lessons and work with a qualified professional to address your horses' problems? How about spending it on a vet check to determine your horse has no health problems that are affecting his attitude?

Call me a skeptic but I can't believe this thing is the miracle worker they say it is. Anyone out there know of this? If you have used it, what was your take on the results? (and if you did buy it, were the results so dramatic it was worth that much money?)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Furball makes a Snow Angel

It snowed... and snowed... annnnd snowed.

Seems a good 4-5 inches or so. Without snowball pads, riding Monty ain't happenin' but since I haven't been able to get to see him in a week, I made my exit and headed to the barn. The barn workers were in the process of plowing and dragging the grounds when I got there. I glanced at the riding ring behind the barn. Not bad, looked like they plowed it out so maybe I'd be able lunge him a bit.

I was the only boarder there. No surprise. I grabbed a fistfull of horse cookies from my tack locker and my lunge line and went into the barn. The handsome hairball
was standing with his butt to the door. He glanced over his shoulder at me with a look of scorn and ignored me. Oh boy, I felt the chill and I don't mean the weather.

"Sorry Buddy", I muttered. As soon as I slid the latch he turned around with an expectant face and I popped a cookie right in his mouth. "Ah, much better, aren't we", I chuckled and slipped the halter over his ears. I clipped the chain of the lunge line across his nose and led him out of the stall.

I took his sheet off, popped another cookie in his mouth and we walked the length of the barn out to the arena.

Well, only half the arena was plowed. I cast the lunge line out to Monty and he started walking on a circle. One complete circle later he had muddy snowballs packed in his shoes. I figured that. Then I said to him, "C'mon, lets make some prints in the snow". So I walked him over to the unbroken snow and let him play. He put his head down and walked with his nose pushing the snow. Then he stopped and started pawing at it with his front legs. Then he made a circle, dug a bit more and to my surprise, he buckled his knees and went down for a roll in the snow!

I laughed as he made a big, furry, horse-shaped snow angel. Then he got up and shook himself off. We walked around a bit more, then I let him take another try at lunging. He walked out to the circle, gave a huge buck in place and then calmly walked in to me as if to say, "I'm done". I let him end with that.

We went back in the barn and I cleaned out his hooves. I took some time to clean up the melanoma situation under his tail, which is a nasty chore in the winter. Then I spent some quality time just scratching all the right places and rubbing his nose. In between scratches, I would surprise him with another cookie. By the time I put his sheet back on and returned him to his stall, I think my week's absence was forgiven.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Back In The Saddle

Tonight was lesson night again for the boyz. It was soooo cold. They are troupers, the cold made them complain but they wanted to ride even with the chill. The Master asked how Harrison was after last weeks' lesson. I told him of the child's comment about "it's like falling from your bike, you just get back on". The Master said, "Really? Wow, I'm impressed". Harrison's only thought was maybe it would be better to ride a different pony this week, since the one he got bucked from, "Bandit" was "not so nice". So, he got his request:

This is Harrison riding Donny. Harrison was a little more apprehensive, especially when Donny trotted for him. Donny has a much more forward trot than Bandit and it caught Harrison by surprise. But even with his newfound respect of falling, he didn't bail out on the lesson. He kept at it, although with a little more walking than trotting this time and was happy with the ride.

This is Devon riding Bandit. He had his usual good lesson and told his brother afterward, "yeah, I straightened him out for ya, Harrison."

Little Boys Ride English, Too

As I shop for the holidays, I have looked for horsey things for my sons. And I have learned that this sport SERIOUSLY discriminates against little boys. The only toys and gear I can find for little boys is stuff for western riders. My children ride english. There are no little Rodrigo Pessoa playsets. There is not one boy rider doll out there. I can give them all my vintage Breyer horses and tack, but they have to use a cowboy with the english saddle.

When looking for gear, I would say 98% of all english gear is made for little girls. All the cute pony stuff comes in pink and purple. The stuff in blue is powder blue and obviously feminine in design. I looked for inexpensive, little kid's half chaps for them. They wanted the cute ones made of washable suede with a cartoon pony head embroidered on them. They came in pink, purple, powder blue, brown and pink, pink and purple, black and powder blue, and one set in two shades of brown. I had to settle with the brown. Even the black and powder blue looked girly. My kids would have LOVED red, or navy blue and red, even hunter green. Maybe if I'd gone for real suede I could have found solid navy or hunter, but the cost was MUCH more and I have to buy TWO of everything each time.

If you shop for riding clothes, jodhpurs come in "childrens" sizes, but many of them have styling features designed with girls in mind. Such as a low-rise waist. My boys don't need low-rise waists. Why doesn't some enterprising designer create some schooling gear in camouflage print or dinosaurs(and NOT in pink)? I'd snap that up in a second.

There is a catalog I love called Wild Horsefeathers which sells all things horsey for kids. But there is almost nothing geared towards little boys who ride english. I know the numbers don't support carrying an extensive line for boys but a few items more than nothing would get my dollars.

Every time I have conversation with professionals in the Hunter/Jumper world, when I tell them both my boys ride and ride english they are surprised. One Hunter/Equitation judge I know was glad my kids ride english and told me he'd like to see more boys in this sport.

Anyway, rant over. Good thing I'm an aggressive shopper. I'll find what little is available and if the price isn't ridiculous, I'll buy.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Falling Off

Thursday night was the weekly lesson night for the boyz. It was good to see both of them were raring to go and ride since we've had head colds galore since the weather changed. As soon as I walked in the door from work, my husband and I helped them into their jodhpurs and mud boots, added another layer to their clothes and piled into the SUV for the drive out to the farm where they take their lessons with the Master. The weather was a whole lot of awful and I was expecting traffic to be a beast but surprisingly it took the usual 30 or so minutes and we were there.

When we arrived, my husband gathered the big duffle bag with all their gear, helmets, half chaps, gloves and stirrups (yes, my kids each have their own set of safety stirrups to swap onto the schoolie saddles for their lesson to save time fiddling with adjusting the leathers to just the right length each week.)I took both boys to the office to pay for the lessons and find out who they were riding. In the office, they were each handed a homemade chocolate chip cookie and told which ponies they would ride.

Nice. Nobody ever offered me cookies. It's good to be a little kid.

The Master was heading down the aisle of the barn as we were heading out to the indoor arena. He told me my husband was waiting for the kids to get them into the rest of their gear, and I had to fetch the ponies. Yes, knowledge of horses is a double edged sword. I am now the groom to the young princes. There was a girl grooming a horse in the aisle. The Master said, "You remember J, don't you?" it was a girl I've known for a long time who rides with the Master. "Sure", I said,"How are you, J"? She answered, "Great, wow, I can't believe how BIG your boys are! They are so cute. And they take lessons with the Master?"

And I looked at my kiddies. Munching on cookies and smiling at the Master. The Master caught me looking. He said to the boys, "And you NEVER give me a hard time, right?" Of course, they shook their heads "No" in unison. Then he said to them, "and what do we say to students who don't listen to me?" I watched their reaction... a slight pause... then Devon piped up, "We tell them, HEY, you don't mess with our trainer Master!"

We all cracked up! The Master was tickled. He high-fived Devon and said, "I LOVE these kids". And off they went with him to get dressed. And off I went to saddle ponies.

When they were mounted and their lessons began. Each boy takes a lunge-line lesson at the same time, one with the Master, the other with another trainer there, Miss L. Then each week they switch so they both get to ride with the Master. The idea is to eventually have them both off the lunge-line and able to take a semi-private lesson together. By now, the rain really started to pour. The arena is one of those dome-roofed structures that are a kind of tyvek sheeting stretched across a metal armature. When the weather is rainy and windy, the rain water blows across the arena roof and makes a whishing "zipper" sound. It also makes a rattly noise from the wind. The ponies should be used to it but you could tell they weren't happy. In fact, one time our lessons were cancelled because the horses were just too spooky in the indoor from the wind sounds.

The lessons were proceeding smoothly, the kids are really good with posting now, and they were trotting on the lunge line very nicely. The Master had Harrison trotting around when suddenly his pony tensed up, bucked and sent Harrison to the ground. It wasn't a scary fall, the child landed in the soft dirt on his bottom but the pony got scared when he lost his rider and jumped away from the Master who was only focused on getting to Harrison. And as he jumped back, suddenly there were pony hooves dancing around my little boy.

The pony must have felt or known his rider was underfoot, he tucked both hind legs up in a big hop and scooted forward. My husband and I were about to rush out there when the Master looked at us and hollered to stop and wait.

He talked quietly to Harrison, then the child got up, brushed himself off and he and the Master started slowly walking in a circle, with the pony trailing behind. They were quietly talking. I figured this was a good time to walk out and take inventory.

I knew Harrison was okay, I’ve seen enough falls to know when it’s bad. I also know why we were told to hold back from coming over to him. Sometimes parental concern can back fire and the child gets more upset because of the parents' reaction. But I wanted to see where his emotions were at. As I approached, they both looked at me, Harrison’s dirty face broke into a small smile and I returned it with, “Congratulations. You are a real horseman today.” The Master whispered, “He’s ok, now I need to put him back on”.

I nodded and walked back to my husband. The Master boosted my son back on the pony, his brother and Miss L stopped their lesson to applaud and dad and I gave a big thumbs up.

By the time they rode over at the end of the lesson, the Master had convinced Harrison that he had tried to jump a huge oxer in the center of the ring and next time he’d make it to the other side! My son was proud of himself, He told us in the car afterward that when you fall down, you have to get up. It’s like when he falls off his bicycle. He said quitting is failing and he was not a failure.

I agree with the Master, I love these kids, too.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snow and a Ghost?

We had our first snow over the past weekend. Nothing major, just and inch or so, enough to sugar-coat everything and set the mood for the season. The kids were excited (duh!) and couldn't wait for the chance to get out there and enjoy the white stuff. After we completed the morning's errands of picking out a Christmas tree and buying a few more decorations to add to the yard display, they went into the backyard to tear up the blanket of white and I left them with my husband to go see about riding Monty.

Driving to the barn I was kicking myself for not asking my farrier to put "snowball" pads on my horses' shoes. There was just enough on the ground to ball up very quickly in Monty's hooves and make riding too treacherous to attempt.

When I got to the corner before the left turn into the driveway, I could see into the riding ring behind the boarder's barn and noticed it had been dragged and was clear of snow! Big Love to our barn manager! He plowed and dragged the ring for us as soon as the snow had stopped!

I collected my tack and gear and saddled my furry beast. Monty turns into a white yak every winter. I didn't bother clipping him this year, partially due to lack of motivation and because I have this feeling it will be a cold, nasty winter. He spent last winter just wearing a turn-out sheet for the entire season as he had his heavy horse hair "sweater" on underneath. The sheet keeps him clean enough, since it's next to impossible to groom that coat.

We went into the back arena. The ground was surprisingly soft, considering how bitterly cold and windy it was. I figured we'd get in at least 30 minutes of walk/trot and quit with that. Turned out it was good enough for a 20 meter canter circle at the far end, too.

After we warmed up and worked, I cooled him out by walking him around the farm. We strolled past the annex barn, down the driveway to the stable in the back and then around the big horse trailers parked by the turn-outs. I took him in loops around the trees by the turn-outs but there was enough snow on the ground by the trees that he collected snow in his front shoes and I felt him wobble as we headed back to our barn. I dismounted and sure enough, horsie had snowballs packed in his hooves.

I'd recently bought a small riding case that clips to the saddle and this was the first time I used it. I figured it would be good for lip balm and tissues (rather than my sleeve or the back of my glove - ick!) Good thing I tossed a hoof pick in it. Digging those ice balls out of a shod hoof is tough. But I managed to chip it out and hand walk him around the cleared driveway. Monty was happy to come back in the barn and untack. His Sunday bran mash was freshly made and waiting for him.

Now, 3 days later, the temperature here is 61 degrees! That's a 30 degree differnce! I've been stopping by the barn every evening just to treat a bit of thrush in two of Monty's hooves. Monty was sweating with just the sheet on in the barn last night. I would have left him without the sheet but figured then he'd wind up outside in the light rain they predicted with no clothes when they turned him out in the morning. So, I left the big barn door open about 6 inches as I walked out. I know the barn owner likes to keep everything closed in the winter but considering how warm it was, I opted to give the horses a little air as it was so stuffy in there.

One kind of creepy thing though, it was windy last night. The way the barn is located on the property, the wind often makes a whistling or moaning sound as it blows past the barn. Last night, for the first time, the sound wasn't coming from the front of the barn, it sounded more towards the back.

After I finished with Monty's hooves and put him back in the stall, I wandered past the other stalls, checking water buckets and if any other horses were a bit sweaty under their sheets. For some odd reason, the door to Dandy's stall in the middle of the barn was wide open. All the doors were shut but that one. Odd because it's an unwritten rule that all doors must be closed no matter if stall is occupied or not. And as I walked past that stall, the moaning wind sound happened, right outside the window of the stall!

I don't know if there are ghosts, spirits or what but the hair on the back of my neck stood up. Dandy died in that stall EXACTLY a month ago last night. Was that sound his spirit? Why was the door open? Was I going to see a horses' ghost?

The horses didn't seem to notice but it was enough for me! I quickly turned and left. Dandy, if you were there in spirit last night, rest in peace, and please don't spook me like that!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Changes in Horse Behavior in Colder Weather

As I read around the blogs and posts these days, it seems so many people seem to be lamenting that their usually calm and steady equine companion has been possessed by high spirits and nonsense. Welcome to late fall and winter.

The following are some thoughts and suggestions about working with horses in colder weather.

Change in the temperature, weather and season has a way of making old timers act like young fools and schoolmasters forget even the simplest of movements. There seems to be a heightened awareness and alertness to every sound, smell and sight and especially to what other horses are doing.

Some of this might be responses to instincts that are hard-wired into the essense of being a prey animal. In the wild, horses will migrate to warmer places and more plentiful food sources at this time of year. Wild horses would also seek out places where they are better protected from predators as prey animals have fewer available food sources when the weather turns colder, and they need to eat more to maintain body temp. So perhaps, there is a ancient survival mode that kicks in when the seasons change, increasing horses' sensitivity to sites and sounds as a means by which to protect themselves against predators. An increased flight drive so to speak. In addition is an urge to migrate, to move - a restlessness that we have rendered unnecessary by providing a stall and food but that still may exist and cause frustration for horse and handler.

Perhaps it's also the constant tingle of a chilly breeze riffling the longer fur. If the touch of a fly is an annoyance on the fur, imagine a cold breeze penetrating the coat to the skin. And a fully clipped horse will most certainly want to get moving to generate some heat to adapt to the disadvantage of being rendered naked! Unless a horse is working hard or showing during the colder weather, it's preferable to use one of the body clipping styles that allows maximum fur coverage with minimum cooling and drying efforts after working.

On a normally phlegmatic horse, a creative rider will use this newfound energy and alertness to find exercises to distract the horses' mind. A good example is to create a maze of poles on the ground and walk, then trot the horse through and over them. Patterns for such can be found in several training exercise books, such as Dr. Reiner Klimke's book, Cavaletti: The Schooling of Horse and Rider over Ground Poles". Many horses tend to have improved concentration when they have to focus about where they are putting their feet. This is good because a rider can move into the ground pole exercise at any time during their ride that they need to bring the horses' mind back from daydreaming.

Many people like to use lungeing before they ride to get the nonsense out and then mount up. This is useful but much has been made of the abuse of this practice by overdoing it in order to render a horse exhausted to compensate for the rider's shortcomings. Lungeing before riding is best done fully tacked, so the horse knows he will be asked to work. The person lungeing should ask for the horse to perform the basic gaits for perhaps 10-15 minutes as a warm-up. If the horse bucks and plays on the line, they should keep control but ignore it and ask calmly for the horse to settle down. The horse should never be forced into galloping and bucking around by excessive urging, thinking this will hurry getting the goofiness out of him. In fact, that may very well have the opposite effect. The horse might have been quite willing to lunge in a well behaved manner for a few minutes then proceed into under saddle work nicely warmed up but after being agitated by being chased around the line will be so rattled under tack that working productively will be difficult at best!

Sometimes , especially in an older horse, the colder weather can bring on increased stiffness and creakiness in the joints and body. That can be incentive enough to act up and hope you'll get off their aching back! There are now numerous supplements on the market to address joint issues. This might be a time to discuss dosage with a vet. A vet might tell you to change the dosage, sometimes what is the average dosage on the package is not enough for a particular horses' needs.

Some horses appreciate being rubbed in with a little liniment just before work, to bring the blood up to the surface and create a sensation of heat. The slight increase in blood flow to a commonly stiff exposed area, say the hocks, from a short massage and application of liniment can often improve their attitude and get them to work faster. This should never be done under boots, bandages or areas covered by tack, as the increased heat from working can produce irritation, blister the skin and create sores and other problems.

Another thought to consider is the increased sensitivity to the cold of the metal bit. Imagine putting a frigid bar of metal in your mouth, across your tongue and touching your teeth. No one would blame a horse for wanting to avoid that! If you can try a rubber or plastic (such as a Happy Mouth) covered version of your usual bit, it might make a difference since these bits are not such conductors of the cold. Otherwise, the simple act of warming the bit before bridling is a gesture of kindness sure to be appreciated. Even on the coldest of days, the bit will warm up reasonably quickly in your bare hands. It's far better to get your hands cold for a few minutes than to put a freezing cold bit in your horse's sensitive mouth. Your horse's well being is what's most important, don't you agree?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tack of the Day - shopping

While we are all in shopping mode this time of year, It's always fun to see, "what's out there", especially on the web. Here's a great, fun site that changes their featured bargain every day. It's Tack of the Every day at noon EST they change the featured item and bonus item and some of the bargains are excellent. It's hosted by my other favorite place to shop, Bit of, whom I highly recommend for variety of merchandise, great website and super helpful and friendly staff.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Treats!

A very Happy Thanksgiving to all my blog buddies, both those I feel I know from our trading posts to those who simply read my ramblings and move on. I hope I've made you smile a few times, maybe pick up a tip here or there from things I've learned and be entertained. If so, then my blog has found it's purpose, thank you!

In keeping with Monty's Christmas list and Thanksgiving, here's a holiday appropriate addition to the list:

Skodes Pumpkin Spice Horse Cookies for Fall
Monty - "Looky mom! Pumpkin spice horse treats! You can NEVER have too many horse treats on hand! Here's what the folks from Skodes have to say;

Our horses are deeply in tune with the cyles and environment of nature. Now there is a great new line of cookies that celebrates this natural harmony: Skode's Seasonal Cookies. Our first recipe arrives just in time for Fall. Made out of fresh pumpkin, organic pumpkin seeds, specialty hays and warming herbs and spices so reminiscent of homemade pumpkin pie you may just steal some of these cookies from your horse! Happily, the combined sugar and starch levels for these cookies is only 6.7 percent. This means they meet the stringnet standards of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistant Group. No wonder Skode's Treats have earned the title: "The Worry Free Treats."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Monty's Christmas List

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Soon my addled brain will be forced to cope with the reality of holiday gift shopping. So, to have some fun, I thought I'd start Monty's Christmas list for Santa, which will be some of the cool things I find that I think he'd put on his list:
Monty -"How about this nice Skull and Crossed bones embroidered saddle pad from Union Hill? It has a very Ralph Lauren Rugby collection vibe. C'mon mom, I'm just badassed and preppy enough to pull this one off! (besides, you owe me for the embarrassment of that pad with the cherries on it)."

Monty - "And looky, they have matching embroidered polo wraps to complete our style!"

Monday, November 24, 2008

Meadowbrook Hounds Pony Club Hunter Pace 2008

Here's the photo of Monty and I at the last jump. Kind of an awkward moment in the takeoff for that jump. A split second later and it would have been a brag-worthy shot. But I bought a 5x7 anyway because every picture is precious. The pace was held on November 9th. (I'm kind of behind in my riding blogging)As you can see from the photo it was a bright, brisk perfect day!

My pace partner's horse got injured in turn-out, and about a week before the pace she called to say she didn't thnk he'd be sound in time. It always seems something happens before I ride one of these paces, lately. I figured I was out of luck unless someone could add me and make a team of 3 when my partner called again to say she was renting a horse from the local hack stable for the day and she'd be able to go after all.

When I arrived with Monty, there she was with this big, dorky, grade, paint gelding. We both had a laugh and were curious to see what this guy could do. With Monty leading we set out and found out "Phil" as he was named, was not bad, even if as she said, he felt as if all 4 legs were borrowed from different horses. He would pop over the smaller jumps when Monty led and could keep pace nicely.

I spent most of the ride in "whoa". Monty has been so sluggish at home I figured I'd be nice and let him do the pace with his new "B" ring baucher bit. Usually I ride him with an elevator type jumping bit on these paces. Yep, big mistake, he found his giddy-up and was eager to gallop the ride. I also have the feeling he knows what his job is on the paces, he gets out in the woods and wants to canter as much as possible. But I was not in the best shape this time out. My arms were hurting from holding him back after the first 15 minutes out. And as much as he wanted to go and my partner wanted to go, I begged to slow it down because I had nothing left to hold him with. We were not competitve and it was my fault.

I'm wondering if I can do this anymore. I have no time to properly prepare for these paces and I don't like feeling like I haven't ridden enough. Monty is in better physical shape than I am, what little riding we do seems to be about adequate for him but zero for me.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dressage - English and Western!

A friend sent this to me and I had to share! Please watch! It's a great comparison study of two styles of riding!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Six Things About Me

On The Bit has tagged me again, this time with "Six things about me".

The rules are as follows:

Link to the person who tagged you.
Post the rules on your blog.
Write six random things about yourself.
Tag six people at the end of your post.
Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
Let the tagger know your entry is up.

Hmm, 6 random things about me...

1) I have a crazy love for cherries. I don't know when or why but cherries make me smile and I have all kinds of clothes, accessories and jewelry with the little red buggers on them. For awhile, I even had a black saddle pad made with cherry print fabric. My husband used to tell Monty he felt sorry for him every time he saw the poor beast wearing it. I finally gave in and sold it at a local swap meet to a teenage girl who went ga-ga over it!

2) I think Daniel Craig is total hotness. "Casino Royale" made me a huge fan of "the blonde Bond".

3) I secretly wish I lived in Manhattan, in a nice but not over-the-top apartment, preferably rent-controlled. My husband lived there nearly his whole life. I envy his ease and comfort in getting around in that environment. I went to college there for 4 years, but I was a commuter, not a resident. I love NYC.

4) I wish the National Horse Show was still held at Madison Square Garden. I miss the opulence, the tradition and the fun that I had in my many years going to see that show. My only regret is I never got the opportunity to show there as a junior rider in the Maclay and that my own children will never know what I am talking about when I mention it. And they won't know about Claremont Riding Academy, either.

5) I still have most of my lifetime collection of Breyer horses. At one time the herd was around 200 horses. I have sold some on Ebay but still have many. My boyz are just starting to play with some of the older, more common models. These were my favorites when I was a child. The collectible quality ones are stored safely away for a future on display or to be sold for college funds.

6) I have an impressive horse bit collection. I've mentioned in this blog that I am fascinated with bits. And thanks to Ebay, I've picked up some really nice and interesting ones, even some vintage ones. Monty likes his Sprenger bits the best but good soul that he is, he tolerates my experimenting with this bit and that one. I like to see for myself how certain styles work and he's a reliable test subject.

So, that's six things about me! I'm not sure whom to pass this one to. Most of the blogs I'd tag have already been tagged by OnTheBit! So, here's one or two I think might be game and join the fun:

A Girl and her Horse
The Posting Trot
A Bay Horse

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What are Children good for?

Had to share this soooo cute picture that was emailed to me by a friend. Also, to update how my boyz are doing with their riding. They continue to enjoy their riding lessons. We entered a small schooling show on Nov. 1st at the same stable they take their lessons at and they rode in the leadline classes, walk only and walk/trot. Proud mom that I am, I thought they looked great! My husband shot video, will see if I can figure out how to get some up on the blog to share.

Of course, all the leadliners entered in each class got a blue ribbon! Leave it to my kids, after they got the blue ribbons in the first class, when they pinned the second class with all blue ribbons, they asked if they could trade them for "better" colors!! So while the Master looked on in horror, my boyz happily handed the confused ribbon girl their blues and smiled as they were exchanged for a green and a pink ribbon respectively. LOL, the next riding lesson was preceded by a gentle lecture from the Master that the only "better" color there is, is BLUE!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

So You Wanna Be a Cowboy?

Nope, I'll stick with Hunt Seat Eq Princess or Dressage Queen!

Pas De D'oh!!

Now here's a "horse" of a different color! I Really LOVE those 1 tempi changes!!!!!!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Horse Bitting, a favorite subject of mine

I have often wanted to post in depth about horses and the use of bits. I was browsing over on the Myler Bits website and liked this caption by Julie Goodnight on the home page so much that I decided to add an excerpt here:

"...There’s been a lot of discussion lately that all bits are bad and that if you really want to be kind to your horse, you’d go bitless. Have you been in on a similar discussion? While I agree that there are many horses that work just fine in a bitless situation, I think it is overly simplistic to say horses shouldn’t use bits.

To me, there’s one really important fact. Bits don’t hurt horses, people’s hands hurt horses. There’s a concept dating back thousands of years (about 3500 years ago) that’s attributed to Xenophon, who wrote the oldest complete book of horsemanship (there are older pieces but they are only partial documents). He said that the harshest bit in the world can be soft in a horse’s mouth when in the right hands and the mildest bit can be very harsh in the wrong hands.

Having said that, I think that there are many bad bits that shouldn’t be used at all. There are some bits that I wouldn’t use but could envision a use or a horse I might try it on. And then there are the bits that I love that horses work great in. Through the years I’ve learned that there are few people involved with horses that know much about bits or even how and why the horse responds (or not). Worse yet, there are people out there that are flat out wrong about what they think about bits.

The most common example I can think of is the Tom Thumb bit. It’s a classic Western bit that many people refer to as a snaffle—showing a level of ignorance about the difference between a snaffle and curb bit. There are only two types of bits—direct pressure (snaffle) and leverage (curb). People think because the Tom Thumb is single jointed that it is a snaffle and therefore mild—and they are incorrect on both accounts. There’s an article in my training library about the Tom Thumb misconceptions but the point is that when it comes to bits, most people are not only ignorant but often what they think they know or what they have been told—sometimes even by a trainer-- is flat bass-ackwards.

When a horse is struggling with the bit, there are two fundamental considerations to make, which are overlooked by most people. First, how does the bit fit the horse? Secondly, how are the rider’s hands contributing to this problem? The amazing thing about the Myler bit system is that it is born of decades of hands-on research and innovative design features (like shaping the bit to the horse’s mouth—what a concept!) which are all about making the horse comfortable with the bit. It is a passion and mission of the Myler brothers to help as many horses as possible be comfortable and relaxed in the mouth..."

Granted, she is endorsing Myler's bits, but I think most of her premise is right on point. I have ridden at various times on various horses with some very strong bits. Early in my riding career, these bits were never introduced without my trainer's supervision but now I am able to work with them on my own. No sensible rider without properly established independent and light hands should ever attempt to use one of the harsher bits without qualified instruction.

My own examples are that Monty rides at home quite happily in any of the Sprenger or KK bits with the lozenge in the center. If I were competing in dressage, these bits would move smoothly from training arena to dressage arena.

When jumping in the show ring, where the aids must be subtle and the ride must appear smooth, I may change to a Myler Dee with a twist and copper roller but without rein hooks. Monty can get forward over a course of fences and this bit enables me to get a quick response from him without exaggerated effort. By "exaggerated effort" I mean the difference between merely closing your fingers tighter on the rein vs. pulling on the bit with your entire arm.

For hunter pacing or riding in large groups of horses, I may use a 2 ring elevator bit with the same lozenge mouth with double reins, riding mostly from the snaffle rein will allow me to offer him relief from the gag effect of the bit but if we are galloping and I need to "rate" his speed, a stronger contact on the rein attached to the lower ring increases the leverage and helps control the pace.

And these choices are not set in stone. I have used a Happy Mouth Kimberwicke for trail rides and even schooled with a hackamore at home.

I have a large and ever-changing collection of bits. They fascinate me. How so many designs exist all with a fairly similar purpose in mind. I like to browse Ebay and have found some gems at great prices and have sold others there from my collection that I feel I don't need anymore. My favorite find was my most recent purchase, a KK "B" ring baucher bit at less than half of what it sells for new!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

R.I.P. Dandy

It has been awhile since I last posted. Seems the level of busy in my life hasn't left much time for quiet reflection and sharing of thoughts and experiences. But the sad news of my friend E.W.'s beloved Dandy's passing has me wanting to dedicate a post to the closest I have ever come to an equine saint.

This old fellow was the reliable rock we all looked to when heading off property to trail ride. He was the trail buddy that you always knew would not misbehave in any way and his calming effect on other horses was enviable. Never took a misstep with a child on his back and always carried his doting E.W. with care no matter what adventure the two of them embarked on. With personality plus, he could make you smile even on the worst day. E.W. was blessed to share his life and Dandy was blessed with the most loving and attentive human to protect his. I am saddened to know of his loss but the knowing that it was a peaceful passing, that his great heart simply gave out, gives some comfort.

My thoughts and prayers are with you, E.W. in your time of loss and sadness. Perhaps, when you are ready, you will consider posting your own memorial to Dandy. I'll share my tribute to my mare, Alta on This is a lovely place to keep your pet's memory alive.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween! A Pumpkin Tale

Well, let's see. I have been tagged by OnTheBit with a Ghost It Forward. Now I have not been able to recall an appropriately ghostly story to share, nor have I found (or had time to create with Photoshop) a good, "ghostly" picture but I do have a memory to relate about how we used to get our Halloween pumpkins when I was a kid. So here's hoping this is in the spirit of "Ghosting It Forward".

When I was about 11 or 12 years old and had my first horse, Tally Ho, we used to trail ride all over the West Hills park in Huntington, NY. If I had a buddy riding with me we would even cross the road in front of the stable and go into the wooded land on the other side of the park. 30 or so years ago, you would be able to ride through the woods and not be cut off by the housing developments that now cover much of the land.

One of our favorite places to ride to every fall, was a small farm next to a well-known riding school called Mrs. D's. This farm was next to a boy scout camp ground which is still there today, even though both Mrs. D's and the farm are long gone. The farm was off limits (of course) but there were trails around it if you wanted to ride over to Mrs. D's. However, this farmer would have a very nice crop of pumpkins growing in the back section of the field, right next to the entrance to the trails that led to and from Mrs. D's.

We would ride over after school, being sure to wear our nylon school windbreaker jackets. You know - the kind with the snaps up the front and the drawstring around the bottom. When we got to the edge of the field, we'd dismount, snap up our jackets and pull the drawstring around the bottom tight and tie it. Then we'd collect as many small pumpkins as we could find and put them in our jackets. The jackets acted as a "bag" to hold them next to our body. Then we'd take off our helmet and choose a pumpkin the size of our head and put it in the helmet, using the elastic chin strap as a handle to loop over our arm. (back then, that's what passed as safety headgear, LOL. Even funnier is the irony in that we were riding bare headed in order to protect our prize pumpkin!)

Now, the challenge that you had to do all this and somehow scramble back onto your horse before the farmer noticed what was going on and sent his dog out after you. Visualize the drama of trying to climb onto a horse with a jacketful of pumpkins, while trying to keep another pumpkin in your helmet as it's dangling from your elbow by the chin strap! Now imagine a barking dog tearing across the field after you and you can imagine what the horse is doing.

Did it EVER occur to us to have one guy dismount and get the goods, then hand them to the guy on the horse to do the jacket stuffing? Nope, because then in your greedy, pre-teen mind you'd only be getting half as much loot!

If we managed to do all this and get back to our barn without mishap, we'd proudly display the smaller pumpkins on the wooden ledge that was in front of each stall to hold brushes. It was like a badge of courage to have them there because everyone knew where they were from and what you had to do to get them!

Ah, good times.

Every autumn when the air becomes chilly and the leaves change color, I think of the pumpkin raids. So I hope you've enjoyed my not quite a ghost story but definitely in the spirit of the season!! (I'm not sure who to pass this one on to from here, perhaps I'll let the ghost rest here until next Halloween.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Doggie Dressage

I just saw this for the first time. Breathtaking! You will be amazed at the beauty of the haunting music and the bond between the dog and the handler.

What Have I Been up To?

LOL! Okay On The Bit, you got me there! I have been AWFUL about keeping up with my posting! Yes, I have been busy to my eyeballs these weeks. My kids are mostly to blame, hello - who knew doing homework with 2 kindergarteners would be as time consuming?! My boys are in a dual language immersion program so they are learning Spanish and English at the same time. It's really cool and they are taking to it so well but it's homework from 2 teachers for 2 kids and it all adds up!

I have my next hunter pace coming up November 9th. Hoping just the weekend riding is enough to keep Monty fit for it. I had to pass on the Dressage show and stop the dressage lessons. I was having some difficulty fitting the lessons into my schedule and also things have been getting tighter with funds around the household. I really enjoyed riding with Miss D, I feel Monty and I both benefitted greatly from her input. However, I decided to direct my lesson money solely for the boys right now, they really LOVE the riding and look forward to their weekly lesson.

Their big day is approaching. November 1st is their first horse show! The stable where they take their lesson is having a little schooling show. My boys will be doing the leadline Walk and Walk/Trot. It's such a weird feeling to watch them riding with my long-time H/J trainer. I remember how tough he was with me, yet he's having FUN with them! I switched them from the stable where they first started riding when I saw how much they were taking to it and my trainer said he would take them - but only because they were my boys. My H/J trainer, who I'll refer to as "the Master" from this point on (LOL) doesn't take on little beginner kids but since the Master and I have been together for over 30 years and are more family than business he agreed to it.

I think my kids have surprised him. I also think they amuse him. The best was when he was teaching Harrison on the longe line. Harrison started watching a girl on her pony in the ring. The Master called him to attention and told him he must pay attention to his trainer, not others in the ring. He then jokingly told Harrison, "you know, your mom never listened to me when I told her what to do". And to that Harrison answered, "Oh, I know, she never listens to me, either."

Thanks kid.

The Master burst out laughing at that one. He came over to me and smiled and said, "I love little kids who toss their folks under the bus. He's gonna do great!"

That made his day... kind of made mine too!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Picture Proof from Hunter Pace

Okay, I couldn't wait to post so here's one of the proofs from the photographer. The photo is © Leslie Wilson, Photographer. I will order copies of this and the other proofs and then post the other two.
This is from the first fence. Monty looks super-cute, I look like I need to drop a few pounds and take few refresher jumping lessons. But we sure had fun!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A White Friesian?

So today I was wondering, could a white Friesian horse exist? Maybe an albino or something? Seems the answer is 75% yes. The story begins like this;

"If you're familiar with Friesians, you know that some of them suffer from inbreeding problems. Thirty years ago, the German-based Hillner family received permission from the Dutch Queen to cross-breed several Friesian mares with Jalisco, an Arab stallion standing at stud at Gestuet Marbach, to get some fresh blood into the breed. Exactly one of the foals turned out grey -- a stallion named Negus. After he had spent the first twelve years of his life un-trained, he changed hands.

His new owner, Sylvia Parduhn, started schooling him and was very pleased with his "bomb-proof" character, which allowed her to start riding a stallion at this advanced age. Parduhn also bred several mares with him, and again, one of the foals turned out a grey stallion -- Nero, the now fourteen-year-old horse who impressed the Equitana crowds not only with his color but also with his exceptional gaits."

And you can read the full article here: Nero - The White Mystery Friesian.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ed Wrigley Memorial hunter pace - a great day!

The Ed Wrigley Memorial Hunter Pace held at the Muttontown preserve was a fun event!

The day began overcast and soggy. The rain was an intermittent, light misting drizzle, adding to two previous days of the same so I knew what kind of footing we'd be in for. I called my pace partner early to see if she was still up for it. She said she didn't mind the rain, as long as it wasn't a downpour or cold. We were going!(Actually, she turned out to be a much more aggressive rider than I had expected!)

My husband helped me hook up the trailer and I left to pick up Monty, who had already eaten his breakfast and was lounging in his turn-out when I arrived. Thankfully, Monty did NOT roll in his favorite muddy spot and we were loaded quickly and on our way.

The preserve is very close to my home and the stable and we got there in good time. So good in fact, that the very next trailer to pull in was my partner's and she parked right next to us! We tacked up and headed over to the starting box where about a half dozen teams were already milling about awaiting their call to start. It turned out that there were about 35 teams entered which was a great turn out even with the yukky weather.

When they called us to the start, we were expected to jump a cross rail right before entering the woods. I wanted to try it since the photographer was there. (I'm a picture junkie) My partner said to go ahead and she'd follow. Monty trotted up and over. I, however, was in less than perfect form and I know when that proof arrives I'm gonna groan and vow to never let my trainer see it! (of course, if it's not TOO awful, I'll post it here to share!)

My partner's horse is a sweet old soul. He's about 15 years old so he and Monty are close in age. The two geldings got along well, and when we left at the start, they were most compatible and it didn't matter which horse had the lead, although I admit I kind of hogged the front. The footing was what I expected, it was slippery and even a bit treacherous in some spots, so we did more walking and trotting than we would have liked. We knew we were going to be out of the ribbons but our horses would come home safe and sound. If you want to be competitive in a hunter pace, the ride has to be done at a canter and working trot. The more you walk, the more you have to flat out gallop to make up the time.

Along the ride were some nicely maintained, natural log jumps of varying heights and almost all had go-arounds. Some we jumped, some we simply bypassed.

Of course, there was one "jump" that was a bit of a surprise for both of us.

We were galloping down a nice, open stretch of trail when ahead of us was about a 3 foot wide puddle, spanning the width of the path. As we approached, I felt Monty speed up. I had a feeling he was going to try and jump the puddle.

He did.

I prepared for the take off but he didn't jump the way I expected. I thought he would jump across the puddle, in a more flattened arc. Instead, he popped up in a big leap and landed hard on the other side. I got jumped out of the tack and even though I stayed with him, on the jolt of the landing, I bit the inside of my lower lip - really hard. OUCH! At first I didn't feel much, I wasn't even sure it was bleeding, then I wiped my mouth on my glove and yep, blood. My partner rode up and as she asked if I was okay I told her - "I'm gonna have a nasty fat lip". She looked at my face and said, "ohhh, yeah".

Well, no use worrying about it when you are out in the woods and not anywhere near an ice pack. So off we went with me sucking my lip and thinking maybe I need to brush up on my jumping.

The rest of the ride went smoothly. We were fast but fair to our horses. We were pleased that all our horse shoes stayed on, even with the mud, as we passed 2 shoes lost by earlier riders. We finished up heading back into the field where the trailers were parked and jumped the last fence, also with the photographer at the ready. Hopefully, that jumping shot will be a little more brag-worthy. ;)

Once we finished and took the horses back to the trailers. We hosed them down and loaded them. Both horses were tired and glad to rest in their dry trailers out of the now increasing rain. We riders headed over to the lunch buffet and enjoyed grilled burgers and hotdogs, salad and some tasty baked goodies. The rain was quite steady by now, we sat at a table under a tree and ate in a fairly dry spot. Then it was time to head for home.

I appreciate all the work the organizers put in to this hunter pace. The path was well marked, the course was interesting and even challenging in some places and even with the less than perfect weather, it was easy to see that all who attended were having a great time. I hope this becomes a yearly event!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Great Ride!

We did it! The hunter pace was fun, if a little soggy. Will fill y'all in sometime tomorrow! I need to go ice my busted lip again... (evil grin - you'll find out about it when I post!)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hunter pace on Sunday

I have been awful about keeping up with posting. Ever since the boys started kindergarten everything has been turned upside down. Add to that a big load of work on the job and some family responsibilities and it's been head spinning for me.

The hunter pace is this Sunday. I wish I felt more prepared and that my horse was in better condition. My only consolation is that the rider who is filling in for my usual pace partner (B.P.) isn't a really aggressive rider and she doesn't feel her horse is in the best condition, either. So I doubt I'll be competitive but I'm hoping for a good ride.

Today has rained a lot and the weather is tucking in to be pretty lousy for Saturday. So I'm guessing there'll be muddy footing to deal with. I don't think this rider will be as game to get out there in the rain, either. I'm crazy enough to go if it's raining lightly and so is B.P. or I could talk her into it but again, I don't think this woman will go there. If the weather system doesn't move, we may get a wet start to Sunday and I wonder if she'll decide not to go, in which case - I'm out of the hunt - so to speak. We'll see.

I have to clean up my horse, too. Monty needs a visit from the clipper fairy, to have his mane pulled and a good grooming. We had a dressage lesson this week. After a stiff start, his motor got running and we got some nice moves, including a top-notch turn on the forehand that even left Miss D surprised. She wants to practice Training level tests next week. We are still thinking of getting to the last dressage show at the stable down the street in October.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hunter Pace - Must Just Do It!

My usual hunter pace partner, "BP" emailed me yesterday with a conflict of scheduling. Seems her daughter really wants to ride at a horse show on the same day as the pace. It's a show where she'll be with all her barn buddies and they have a sleep over the night before. BP didn't want to disappoint her daughter but she also hoped to find some solution to honor her commitment to me.

She thought maybe I'd change my mind and bring Monty to the show instead. I just don't have my head around horse showing right now. True, I'm still not writing off the dressage show but my biggest reason for not wanting to go to a hunter/jumper type show is that I know I'll be there all day. Waiting. When will my class start? Have my kids driven my husband nutty, yet? Oh, Lord, I really need to be getting home, soon. Whereas, in dressage and at the hunter paces, you get a start time. So you can pretty much plan your day from there.

As a mom, I told her since this was important to her daughter, she should go, that the child will need her there. But I was still bummed about losing her as a team mate and possibly having to cancel the ride. I figured I'd ask around, maybe call the organizers of the event and see if there were any teamless riders wanting to join me or a team of two willing to let us join to make it a trio. By last night I had an alternate plan. I had emailed another friend who usually rides the paces in the fall and has a whole crew of buddies who also like to pace. She asked around for me and sure enough, one of her friends was looking for someone who wanted to go. We connected through email and we are set!

I'm such a passionate pacer that in the past I've even posted an open request for a partner on a local message board. The one and only reply I got turned out to be a great gal with many common horse show acquaintances and we had a lovely ride. I like to be competitive if possible but I will take what I can and if my partner needs to go slower for whatever reason, I'll be happy to oblige. I'm someone who has no problem riding with one friend and all we do is take a leisurely walk/trot trail ride and with another we are hell bent for leather galloping and jumping whatever obstacles we encounter!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

My First Blog Award!

Wow! My blog has just received the Arte Y Pico Award from On The Bit, another of my fellow bloggers! I am so honored that she considered my humble musings worthy of this recognition!

I will update this post later with all the rest of the information that is required once this award is received.

Many Thankees to On The Bit!!

Here are my choices to send the award on to:

1) Culinary Types - this is one delicious culinary blog. Peppered with mouth watering photos and wonderful descriptions of the offerings of the places they visit, I feel it's a worthy recipent of this award!

2) Late Nite Landfill - this always eclectic, clever blog is worthy of note for its extensive informative links and witty critique of the best of the worst that late night television has to offer!

3) Mugwump Chronicles - I enjoy these tales of a horse trainer. Her visual writing style is worthy of this award.

4) Behind The Bit - I'd be willing to bet that this blog has been awarded this before but here it is again, for entertaining posting, interesting subjects and generous photos to illustrate her points.

5) The Dead End - What a great blog with lots of photos for anyone interested in Halloween and all things spooky!

Don’t Forget to Pass on the Rules with the Award:

1) You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award, creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogger community, no matter of language.

2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

3) Each award-winning, has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the ward itself.

4) Award-winning and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of “Arte y pico”blog , so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5) To show these rules.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dressage, Thunder and Lightning - oh my!

Yesterday evening was my dressage lesson night. Stopped off at McDonald's for two sweet teas (my summer of 2008 refreshment of choice on a humid day), one for me and one for Miss D. Arrived at the barn to find Monty was sporting a brand new set of shoes. OOps! I kept forgetting to pay for his last set... BIG check goes in the mail today.

So I had to go and get the Plugits and clean out and fill the stud holes. We were tacked and just got into the polo arena as Miss D. arrived. I warmed up at the walk, even executing a fairly nice turn on the haunches through the walk, something I have been working on with with him just to lighten him up and he actually did his best version of that movement to date right in front of Miss D. She was surprised and impressed. Ah, seems my memory is shaking off the dust and I'm recalling how to ask for the movements. I'm hoping she works with me on some turns on the forehand with him next week. We went into the trot work and Monty was on his game this week. Much softer, more forward and lighter.

All the while, in the distance, these big clouds were gathering, and occasionally there were visible bursts of lightning flashing from cloud to cloud. But there was no thunder. We guessed it was just heat lightning and continued to work. As we went back to the walk to prepare for the canter, the cloud was marching right over the polo arena and the lightning bursts were getting clearer, bigger and scarier. We simultaneously agreed we'd end the lesson with the good trot work and hurry back into the barn as it was getting scary, now.

Just as we got in the barn, the lightning was obviously right over us and we could see flashes by the polo arena. Then the thunder started. I wanted to get Monty untacked, take his water out of the stall since I hadn't had the chance to walk him out long enough and get Miss D her check so she could leave. However, just as I put Monty away, the lightning started to really get wild. Miss D looked at me and said, "I don't mind waiting this one out, I'll help you get your stuff put away and maybe by then it will blow through."


She had my saddle, I had my grooming tote and some other stuff, we were about to walk out of the barn when this H U G E bolt of lightning cracked down somewhere close to the medical building and office, the lights everywhere but in the barn we were standing in went out and then thunder like a tremendous explosion boomed. We gasped and just stood there shaking. I don't know why the barn still had lights (but I said a very humble thank you to God for that). Slowly, one by one, the lights of the office and the clinic flickered back on. After two more half-hearted lightning flashes, the rain came in buckets and the temperature noticeably lowered. We then hurried to put my stuff away. I checked on Monty, he was warm, but we agreed it was more from the humid weather than from not having been walked out much. I gave him his water buckets back and we closed and locked up.

I thanked her so much for staying with me. If I was there alone, I think I would have just sat down outside my horses' stall and cried like a baby. That was one of the creepiest nights at a barn I can recall. What made it extra frightning is that the annex barn on the other side of the property was hit by lightning about 2 weeks ago. No horses were hurt but one of the stalls is marked from it. It blew out the lights in the annex barn and the same buildings that went dark tonight and I heard Doc had trouble with his computers from it as well. I guess lightning does strike twice in the same place or darn close to it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ed Wrigley Memorial Hunter Pace - I'm There!

Cool! Got my time for the upcoming Ed Wrigley Memorial Hunter Pace on Sept. 28th. My first hunter pace of the season! So excited!!

I posted earlier this year about the passing of one of our local horseman, Edward Wrigley who gave so much to our enjoyment of the sport. The Muttontown Horseman's Association has put this hunter pace together and I hope it turns out to be a great event!

And, don't think I'm writing off my dressage delusions just yet. The first dressage show I may attend will be October 19th. Had another lesson with Miss D last night. Not as progressive as we have been but due to me losing time from being sick and Monty getting to hang out, it took us longer to get "connected" this time than before. However, we did have a good breakthrough in that his canter to the right was balanced and soft, whereas that's his usual side to get stiff and fall through the shoulder. Miss D was most pleased that we got that out of the lesson. We both agreed that sometimes when you find a movement that needs work, you work it, correct it and then have to almost "catch up" a bit with the things you didn't work as intensely during that time.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ode to my Smartpaks

I love Smartpaks. How easy is it to pick out your horses' feed supplements and have someone else measure it and set it all up for you, then deliver it to your house well before you run out? Before I had the twins, I did the whole process myself, every 30 days sitting down at the kitchen table like a mad scientist scooping out portions of this and that and sealing it into ziploc snack sized baggies.

After the birth of the boyz, way different story. I had no time to add that baggie chore to the huge list. And would feel super guilty when I realized my horse had gone 2 weeks (um, or more... ;P) without supplements. The only reason I held off from using Smartpaks for awhile longer was they didn't offer the exact same supplements that I had chosen for Monty. But finally, I gave up, substituted as best I could from their offerings and have been very pleased ever since. Yep, it costs a bit more, but it bought me time, which I have realized is truly the most precious commodity you can buy.

So, here is a haiku poem, as tribute to my love of Smartpaks:

Smartpaks are a gift
to horseperson with no time
for filling baggies

Friday, August 22, 2008

George Morris - I Pushed the Button

LOL! Well, I'm guessing the link I posted with my previous post most likely only will work if you are a member of I can't access the thread the link leads to unless I log in as a member (which I am, you can find me as SolitaireMare, there).

I highly recommend signing up just to read the deliciously snarky thread that was started with the following post by a member called "TimidJumpOff":


Does anyone know who this guy is? He evidently writes a column in a magazine, but does he actually ride? Who does he train with?

A friend of mine from TOB sent me a PM saying that this George guy called me "Loose", who is he to call me loose, I have been married for 28 years and have been faithful for all those years. When I was single and ambassador to Japan I may have been a little loose, but not now.

Getting back to this George guy, I hear he lives in Jersey. While I boarded in Jersey I never heard of him. What division does he show in? I did the pre-preliminary jumpers in 1989, never saw him there. Now that my horses are on LI, I rarely show, preferring to flap my mouth to my BNT ad on TOB. If I ever run out of stories recanting every fall I have ever had maybe I will return to showing to gather some new material. for now I have more than an ample supply.

Can anyone give me some background information on what this guy has ever done other than writing his silly little magazine column?"

Now, If you choose to venture further, Remember, it's all tongue firmly planted in cheek and it does get funnier (and weirder) as it plays out. The thread is from a few years ago and closed to new replies but still an amusing read.

Hmm, seems I've pushed a button by mentioning the "master". My personal opinion about the man is, I do not deny or diminish his personal accomplishments. But as a rider who grew up with his "Hunt Seat Equitation" book as the veritable "bible" of that style of riding, my biggest complaint was that I felt his ideals were unattainable for someone like me. I wasn't genetically gifted with his idea of the perfect riding physique, and I can't tell you how many times I lost in the showring to a lesser rider who just "decorated her horse" better than me. I was never overweight back in my day, but I was not a skinny teenager either. I had to learn how to ride smarter, and show I could THINK in addition to sit there and steer. (not a bad thing in the long run) Funny, my best ribbons came once I showed as an adult amateur, where being a little, um, "thicker" is just part of being an adult.

I had the opportunity to ride in a clinic given by him when I was a junior. The experience was lacking in my opinion. I had a green horse at the time. Which didn't seem to interest "the master" at all. Sadly, all I remember of that day was him asking me a question in the line-up after we did some flat work and I hesitated before answering him and he made some less than encouraging comment. Nothing snarky or bad, but enough to embarrass a teenager who wanted so much to impress someone like him, even with my green, crabby, OTTB mare.

So, it seems to sum up that he's still the Master of Hunt Seat Equitation to many, an over promoted prodigy to some, a sadistic drill sargeant to a few and an enigma to the rest. But definitely worthy of discussion. So I leave this to the readers, "Who Is George Morris?"

Who is George Morris?

Yesterday I took the day off from work. I think I am on the mend and this evil sinus cold is leaving. I spent time noodling around online and found this gem on When I was a junior rider a thousand years ago, George Morris was the LAST word on riding huntseat. Any of you Hunter and Hunt Seat Equitation riders who look to George as the equivalent of a god in custom boots and a Polo shirt will chuckle while reading this!

Who Is George Morris?

And in case you want to read the truth about what the man has really accomplished:

Show Jumping hall of Fame - George Morris

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Still Sickkk

I wish this horrible sinus-infection-head-cold whatever it is would just leave! I have been living on a Dayquil/Nyquil schedule. My head feels like it's going to explode, I'm coughing all the time and my sinuses are backed up farther than the Long Island Expressway on a Friday afternoon.

I cancelled my lesson on Monday and I just cancelled my make-up lesson that was to be tonight. I just don't have the strength to ride up to lesson standards. However the weather is just SO darn nice that I may drag my carcass to the barn tonight and hack around a bit just to alleviate the guilt I have for not riding for over a week, now!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Woo Hoo! US Gold in Team Show Jumping!

(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

August 18, 2008

HONG KONG (AP) The U.S. has won the gold medal Monday in Olympic equestrian team jumping, knocking out Canada, which has taken silver.

Norway has won the bronze.

The U.S. got clear rounds from their first three riders in the jump-off. One Canadian rider knocked down a fence, and since Canada only had three riders to the Americans' four, that clinched the U.S. gold.

The U.S. also won team jumping in 2004 in Athens and has two returning combinations on the 2008 team, McLain Ward on Sapphire and Beezie Madden on Authentic.

Ian Millar, riding in his ninth Olympics, forced the jump-off with a clear round on In Style. The team silver is Millar's first Olympic medal.

The above was copied from AOL news.

I enjoy watching the dressage, but the showjumping is my first love! I enjoyed getting to see it on the Oxygen network last night. Plus, I think they showed all the rounds including the jump off, NICE! Usually it's edited to the point where all the excitement is cut out of the event. I love checking out each rider's equipment, I'm such a gear-geek! I have to say, I think Ian Millar's ride was just amazing to watch. His form is beautiful, even over those big fences and he's 61 years old! Now that's how I want to age!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I Miss My Horse

This has been a tough weekend. My husband is away with his bike club at a bicycle race in Pennsylvania this weekend. I'm on full-time mom duty. While the kids are just loving the exclusive "mommy time", these have been two of the most gorgeous summer days so far and I have been feeling the "call of the saddle".

I have been dealing with a nasty head/chest cold that showed up on Tuesday with aches, fever and a sore throat and ended any riding I could have done last week to keep ahead of the weekend I knew I was going to miss. That, and the weather has been rough with wicked thunderstorms popping up in the afternoons and again in the evenings to kill my after work rides.

The kids lucked out, the stable where they take their lessons has an indoor arena so the thunderstorms didn't cut out their riding time! I am so NOT prepared for my Dressage lesson tomorrow night...

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Klimke Legacy

This is fun to watch. First is Reiner Klimke's Olympic ride, next is his daughter Ingrid's Olympic ride over 20 years later. She rides as beautifully as her father!
Reiner Klimke and Alerich - 1984 Olympics video
Ingrid Klimke and Abraxxas - 2008 Olympics video

Tribute to Dr. Reiner Klimke

I found this wonderful link about my dressage inspiration while surfing through Google. I agree with her every word about this incredible equestrian artist. I especially agree with her noting that Dr. Klimke didn't just ride his horses in the arena, he galloped in field and jumped them as well. I also feel a horse is a better athlete by expanding it's repertoire and riding "out of the box" so to speak. Enjoy!
The End of a Golden Era - A personal Tribute to Dr. Reiner Klimke by Sue Wingate

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Congratulations to Germany in Eventing!!

This is from AOL News:
German gold medal team pose with their medals for the equestrian eventing competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong

German gold medal team (L-R) Peter Thomson, Andreas Dibowski, Hinrich Romeike, Ingrid Klimke and Frank Ostholt pose with their medals for the equestrian eventing competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong August 13, 2008. REUTERS/Caren Firouz (CHINA)

No, I'm not anti-American. Being of German heritage, and being a long time respectful fan of Dr. Reiner Klimke's talent in dressage, I was thrilled to see his daughter continuing the legacy of excellence in equestrian sport!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Dressage Lessons

Been a long time since I last posted on my riding!

So far I've had 4 lessons with the dressage instructor whom I'll call Miss D. I really enjoy her coaching style. Her background meshes well with mine and with each lesson I have been improving my position and effectiveness of the aids and Monty has greatly lightened up on his front end and is giving more from impulsion behind.

From the first lesson, I explained that I knew I had gotten lazy and hadn't had a lesson in about 2 years. She caught me on one thing I was aware of without even clueing her in - I "talk" too much with my hands. I have a habit of getting nitpicky with my rein aids and I had a feeling it was obvious. It was, she called me on it from the beginning. We also were very "clunky" in the transitions. I just let him fall into them without keeping contact and asking him to work into the next gait.

She has made me conscious of my position and balance. Miss D said it's obvious my preferred riding style is huntseat, and I do pivot forward at the hip almost naturally when riding. From the hip down she likes my lower leg position very much. She has pushed me into sitting straighter and deeper. In so doing, I allow Monty more freedom up front by shifting the balance more centrally over his middle. The result of that is his front end lightens, and I don't have to "pick" with the rein aids, he holds his frame by himself.

Lesson 4 was last night and Miss D was impressed in the difference between the first lesson and yesterday's. Last night Monty carried himself in a light contact and nice frame for most of the lesson. The transitions still need work but the improvement over 4 lessons has been notable. Miss D feels that by October we will be able to do at least Training level tests 1 and 2 and should pull respectable scores.

I have also been back to the trails after our access through the big stable down the street was revoked by the owner due to the accident a few weeks ago that I posted about here.

We now have to stay on the road around a blind bend. We hand walk the horses from our barn along this part of the street, then mount up at the top of the hill where the street is much quieter. It's about a quarter mile walk. The ladies that trail ride at my barn have done the new route and assured me if they could do it, Monty and I should be fine. E.W. and I decided to give it a go last Saturday.

As I also posted, with the longer, hillier stretch of paved road to travel, I decided to have caulk holes added to Monty's front shoes and to buy small, removable road studs to give him a little extra "bite" on the pavement so we could minimize risk of slipping. It worked beautifully. He was very secure, the studs did just what I hoped they would and they stayed on through the trails which can get stoney in some places.

I found it kind of fun to use the studs again. I hadn't used them since my serious showing days years ago. My favorite new gadget is the Safety Spin T-Tap. I used to hate the old style metal ones shaped like a letter "T". I was very leery about what would happen if the horse pulled away from me before I had it unthreaded from the shoe holes. This one is a round rubber "hockey puck" that screws in quickly and out just as fast and if the horse did step on it should not cause damage like the other style. If you are using shoe studs and need a T-tap, this is the model of choice!

And to round it off, my twins are still taking their riding lessons and they look forward to Thursday afternoon each week. Part of the excitement is the riding, part is seeing if they get a different pony to ride from the ones they have already ridden!