Saturday, December 28, 2013

Healing

Merry (late) Christmas!

Jack was selected to wear the Christmas Hat this year, because Spider and Vinny were totally being Party Poopers.


Thank you all so much for your kind words and thoughts.  It really means a lot to us.  We are still missing our Matilda, but every day gets a little better.  Yesterday I saw the boys playing again, for the first time since Matilda's accident.  It lifted my spirits quite a bit, the atmosphere around here has been so somber.

Horses grieve just the same as we do, they may not shed tears or have elaborate rituals, but their sense of loss is just as real as ours. I was reminded of this by the boys' surprising reaction to the tractor after Matilda's death....

The boys have never cared much about the tractor. I've used it many times in the pastures without them bothering me. But on the first day I drove the tractor into the pasture after Matilda's accident, the boys very quietly walked up and surrounded me. I stopped the tractor, and one by one, they filed up to inspect the bucket.  That's where we had put her body, to get her off the road after the accident, and I guess it still had her smell in it.

They stood side by side and very carefully, very thoughtfully sniffed the entire bucket over.  They would stop periodically to touch each other's noses, and then go back to their inspection.  It was the sweetest, saddest thing I've ever seen.  After a few minutes, I got off the tractor to stand with them in front of the bucket and all four of us paid our respects to our little friend together.

        Matilda was always far too interested in the tractor. I think she would have stolen it and gone on a joy ride if she could have figured out how to work it.





Friday, December 20, 2013

Matilda

Yesterday we lost a member of our family.  Our little Matilda has died.




Matilda was never easy, she was a pony and a mare and had a double dose of attitude.  But, she was always very kind and careful with the kids.  She never bucked or ran off with them.  She was always so careful around them when they groomed her.  She loved to be groomed, and the kids were more than happy to oblige.

My daughter learning to trot.

My son learning balance.






I bought Matilda when my daughter was just a toddler, so that she could have a little pony to practice her horsemanship on.  Spider and Vinny were too big for her to really learn on.  When my son was born, he learned how to groom and ride on Matty, too.



















I wish I'd taken more pictures of them with her.  I was always so focused on supervising and teaching them, I never had time for pictures.

















With adults and the geldings she was completely different.  She was a tough little cuss who never took shit off of anybody.  She may not have been very tall, but she was bigger than all of us, and loved to prove it.  I saw her kick the geldings right in the face on many occasions, and she'd give the same treatment to any adult who disrespected her.  She earned our respect, and in return we all earned hers.



The geldings needed frequent reminders.


Matilda always felt that the fences and gates were just suggestions that didn't really apply to her.  We did everything we could think of to keep her in, and we thought we'd finally gotten a fence that would hold her.  She hadn't escaped in over a year.  But yesterday she got out and, for some reason, went out to the road.  She was hit by a car and killed.


Wrong side of the fence, circa 2009.


The driver is fine, thankfully.  They weren't driving very fast.  The car struck her right in the head.  She was killed instantly.

I wasn't expecting to lose her, not like this, not now.  I thought for sure that Vinny would be the next to go.  It's easier when they're old and have lived a full life.  Matty was only around 10 or so years old.  I used to say that, when I got too old to ride, I would buy her a little cart and make her haul me around in it.  I thought that she might even be around to teach my grandkids to ride, like she taught my kids.  Ponies are supposed to live a long time.  She was supposed to outlive Vinny and Spider and maybe even Jack.

I wanted to do a cute little Pas De Deux with her and Spider someday.  




I'm so sorry, Matilda.  You deserved so much more than this.  Your story wasn't over yet.



We all miss you, Matty.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Winter Has Arrived

Last year we had a mild winter here in NJ.  I could have gotten used to that, but it seems we won't be having a mild winter this year.  We've had two snow storms back to back and another one coming this weekend. This weather has made things awfully frozen and miserable around here.

I've been contemplating getting a pair of winter riding boots, something warm, waterproof and suited to abuse.  There are many options out there, and I've pored over the descriptions and reviews.  I had it down to two candidates, but just couldn't decide between them.

I've never had a pair of winter riding boots before, despite living in NJ for 15 years.  I've always made do with my pair of old paddock boots, thick woolen socks and gaiters (half chaps, for you East Coast folks).

But, my paddock boots are nearly 20 years old now.  I got them when I was a teenager.  They were the first pair of English style riding boots I ever owned.  Obviously, my paddock boots never went into the show ring.  Back in the day, my tall boots were expensive and precious.  I wore my tall boots for shows, and shows only and my paddock boots for schooling.  

As time went on, I got a little more solvent and could wear my tall boots for training, too.  But, when winter came, my tall boots would not accommodate thick socks and thick breeches, so my good old paddock boots and gaiters came out. And that's how my old paddock boots became my winter boots.

My good old boots.
We've had several cold, wet and nasty winter days here and I've been spending them cleaning my tack.  As I was cleaning, I spied my good old boots sitting under a saddle rack.  I pulled them out, looked them over, cleaned them, oiled them and water-proofed them, and reminisced about all the horses those good old boots had known. 

Those boots have been placed in the stirrups of more horses than I can remember.  They've also been in the stirrups of many horses that I do remember, the horses who made me. They've been with me from when I was a just a stall mucker and catch rider, to barn manager and sale horse rider, to farm owner and amateur.

I knew then that I wasn't getting a new pair of winter riding boots.

Today I put on my thick winter breeches, then a pair of thick wool socks, and then put my good old boots on my feet, just where they belong.  Those old boots still have a few more winters left in them.






Friday, December 6, 2013

The Dying Art of the Leg Yield

Nobody does leg yields much anymore. They're only called for in First Level now, and only at trot.  I've talked to people who believe leg yields shouldn't even be practiced once you're done with First Level, and others who didn't even know that leg yields were possible at canter.  To each their own, I suppose.  If you're getting things done without them, then I guess you don't really need them.

But, for myself, I had a bit of an epiphany about leg yields in my last lesson....

I use leg yields quite a bit, at trot and canter, because they're very good for getting Spider to be sensitive to my leg. I don't have a lot of strength in my legs, and I'm rather short, so I need my horse to be sharp off my aids. Leg yields are excellent for that. I especially like to ride up and down the driveway, leg yielding between the cherry trees.

Very fun.


 In one of my lessons a month or so ago, my trainer had suggested an exercise where you half pass, then leg yield in the same direction, then switch back to half pass, rinse, repeat, until you get to the end of the arena. So, if you were tracking left, it would be: half pass left, straighten, leg yield left, half pass left, repeat until you run out of space. Then you change direction and do it again tracking right.  (It took me two explanations and then my trainer drawing the exercise out in the sand before I understood what I was supposed to do, so I apologize if that description stinks.)

The idea behind this exercise is to get Spider's outside hind leg working.  He likes to let it wander out and do its own thing.  On a horse with a back as long as Spider's, this causes problems.  If that outside hind is not engaged and pulling it's weight, it feels like you're riding two guys in a horse suit.  

Not very fun.


The half pass-leg yield exercise is fun, though, and does help Spider engage.  We've been working on it in pretty much every ride.  Spider even adds his own little flair to the transitions, a sort of happy little "jump" as he goes from one to the other.  I like to imagine he's doing Jazz Hands as he transitions between the leg yields and half passes.  We mostly do it at trot, but have been practicing a bit at canter, too.

In my last lesson, the one where I had my epiphany, my trot work was quite nice, but the canter was falling apart a bit.  My outside aids just weren't sharp enough, and I was trying to ride two guys in a horse suit.

At one point my trainer yelled "Leg yield!".  I dutifully leg yielded, but it seemed like an odd request.... until he yelled, "No!  Leg yield from the outside aids!"

Aha!

Suddenly, it all came together.  The outside aids are a leg yield!  This is why we train leg yields, why every Classical text emphasizes leg yields and why the First Level horse is required to perform them.  Once I started thinking about my outside aids in the same way I think about leg yields, my canter improved.  Now, I wasn't actually doing a leg yield, but I was thinking leg yield and that made all the difference.

And that's how the sad little leg yield that nobody ever pays attention to saved the day.....






Monday, November 18, 2013

Why I Don't Actually Need To Fix My Changes

A few weeks ago I was lamenting to my trainer over the fact that I see loads of people doing the upper levels by just kicking and cranking the crap out of their horse, but anytime I do that, my horse just sticks his nose as high up in the air as he can like a deranged giraffe.  It's really not fair, their way looks a lot easier.  And they aren't getting 50s.

Luckily, my trainer knows me so he knew I was (mostly) kidding and didn't throw anything at me.  Instead, he sighed and said, "You can't ride like that because you have a horse that is sensitive.  Now, shut up and do that half-pass again, but this time set it up correctly and ride the whole thing!"

"Shut up... set it up correctly and ride the whole thing" is actually a pretty good way to solve any problem, as it turns out.  It has helped my flying changes immensely....

Spider used to be a jumper, and came to me with an automatic change, which I then had to de-automate because I needed him to do counter-canter.  But, I didn't really do that good of a job de-automating it, because he would still try to change any time you changed direction.  So, I decided to just skip 2nd level and go straight to 3rd.  Seemed to make sense, right?  Except there aren't any cheat codes in dressage.

I learned rather quickly that Spider had a lot of trouble doing the changes from a collected canter, and I couldn't figure out why.  He could counter-canter in collection beautifully.  If I let him out into a Training or 1st Level frame, he would change every time we changed direction.  But, once collected, he could only change in the corners or he would cross-canter for several strides.  And sometimes he would even continue to cross-canter through the corners, which is extremely uncomfortable for the rider.  He seemed fine with it.  We actually did an extension in cross-canter in our last show.  Sadly, there were no points added for technical difficulty.  (Which I think was totally unfair. How many horses can do an extension while cross-cantering?)

I was stumped.  I felt the only rational thing to do was to go all the way back to the beginning.  We spent several days doing canter-trot-canter transitions.  Then we stepped it up to canter-walk-canter transitions (AKA, simple changes).  Then I had a lesson.

As I explained to my trainer what I had been doing he sighed, probably suppressing an urge to throw something at me.  Then he said, "You don't need to do that.  The horse can already do a flying change."

He had me take up canter on a circle, then do a shoulder in on the circle. (While you don't see this in tests, it is a real thing.  Sometimes it's called canter plie, usually in the old classists' books.)   After that, we did haunches-in.  Then back to shoulder-in.  Make the circle smaller.  Shoulder-in. Haunches-in.  Make the circle smaller.  Shoulder-in. Haunches-in.  Walk. Change direction.  Shoulder-in. Haunches-in. Make the circle smaller.... you get the point.  Eventually, we went out across the diagonal in canter and did an absolutely flawless flying change.  And then we went the other way and did another, just to prove it.  Woohoo!

So, what was the difference?  Preparation.  Riding those quick transitions forced me to ride every step and got me into the habit of doing it.  It also helped loosen Spider up, so there was no tension in his collected canter.  (Tension is the root of the deranged giraffe impression)  He was also paying closer attention to me, since I was actually giving him direction instead of coasting along and then being all "Change now!".  As it turns out, if you've taken the time to create a horse that is sensitive and reactive to the rider's direction, you sort of need to continue to provide direction.  Who knew?

That was last week, and I've continued applying those concepts to my riding.  I no longer have a need to fix my changes, because they were never broken.  I just need to set things up correctly and ride the whole thing.

That sounds really easy, doesn't it?  HA!  It's hard as hell, because nothing in dressage is easy!  But, that's another post.  Right now, I need to go torture myself ride my wonderful horse.



My new aerobic routine is getting the mud off of him.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Down The Rabbit Hole

I tend to be easily distracted, particularly when it comes to the internet.  I find it easy to get lost in the sea of links, one simple Google search can suck up hours of my day if I let it (and I frequently do).

Case in point:  I've been giving Spider Devil's Claw as a supplement for years (but not during competition season, it's illegal).  There's quite a bit of good evidence that it does work as an anti-inflammatory (which is probably why it's banned in USEF competition).

I can't take most anti-inflammatory drugs because they exacerbate my auto-immune disease.  If I'm achey, I can only take acetaminophen (Tylenol), which is pretty useless, or narcotics, which just make me sleepy.

A few months ago, as I was pondering how much better Spider was feeling after going back on his Devil's Claw after a competition, I thought to myself "Hey, I wonder if I can take Devil's Claw?".  So I consulted Dr. Google....

(Note: Any time I consult Dr. Google, I always make sure that what I'm reading is an article from a legitimate, peer reviewed, scientific journal... preferably a medical journal.  I do not ever trust content from sites with titles like "Dr. Moonbeam's Super Secret Compendium of Treatments The Medical Community Doesn't Want You To Know".  I also check and cross check the references in the journal articles.  Then I ask my Dr. about it.  You can never be too careful!)

In Googling "Devil's Claw and IBD", I fell down a rabbit hole.  Not only did I find out that Devil's Claw can be tolerated by people with IBD, but I also found out that there are other anti-inflammatory herbs that are not only effective pain-killers, but also help treat IBD!  The two that came up over and over, and had solid evidence to back them up, were Boswellia and Turmeric.  After talking to my GI Doc, I figured I'd give them a try....

Now, the caveat with all these "supplements" is that, here in the U.S., there is no regulation on them.  So, while the substance may work very well in a laboratory setting with controlled doses of the active ingredient, you may not be getting that dose from the supplement you buy at the health food store.  Numerous independent studies have shown that many of the supplements on the market, including equine supplements, do not contain the stuff they say they do.  You have to do your research and practice a bit of trial and error when choosing supplements.  I prefer to find supplements that list exact amounts on their labels.  None of this "Contains XYZ!" advertising BS, I want to see exact milligram amounts listed on your label!

So, this is totally not an endorsement of any product.  But, there is quite a bit of evidence that Devil's Claw, Boswellia and Turmeric are effective at relieving pain and inflammation.  And they work for me!  They also seem to be working for my horse.

Of course, the plural of "anecdote" is not "data", and you should always exercise caution and good sense when trying out such things.

Or, you can just use the time tested, redneck approved painkiller.... Booze!

A fancy glass makes it less redneck when you let your horse lap up wine.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Well, It Wasn't The Lowest Score I've Ever Gotten....

It was the second lowest score I've ever gotten in a dressage test.

It was the lowest score I've ever gotten at 3rd Level, so I broke a personal record there. 




I'm talking, of course, about the USEF show I competed in last Sunday. Spider and I did not do our best work, but we went out and did it and we own our mistakes. 

And, oh boy(!) were there mistakes!  We competed at Third Level, Test 1. My first mistake was starting my warm-up too early. My second mistake was to stop riding my horse as soon as I entered the ring. I had a tired horse that I wasn't riding, and we were doomed....

We ended up with a 50%, and we earned it. The judge was fair. My half-passes stunk and the changes were worse.  My only complaint was that she called an error when we didn't do a flying change in the correct place. Judges will sometimes do that to help your score if the missed movement affects the following movement (like a flying change in the wrong place). But, honestly, by that point in the ride there was no saving us.  I wish she had just let us go on our merry, crappy way.

She did say he was an attractive horse, though.  So, I guess we have that going for us....

We have the whole winter to fix everything.  Step One is going to be building up both of our fitness levels.  Step two is going to be getting Spider to do his changes when and where I ask him to, rather than wherever he feels like it.  


For Step One, I've been riding Spider for 40 minutes straight, without our usual frequent breaks.  I'm also going to start jumping once a week.  For myself, I've upped my own workout routine and plan to add some sort of aerobics.  I don't know what kind of aerobics, because I hate aerobics, but I'm sure I'll think of something.

Step Two is a post unto itself......




Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is probably my favorite holiday.  I just love dressing up and carving pumpkins and humiliating my pets....


"Jack" O' Lantern.  Get it?
This didn't last long, as shortly after I finished it Jack decided to show me exactly what he thought of my art work by rolling in the dirt:

And that was the end of that.



Spider went with a more understated, but still festive, look.

Classy



Vinny was supposed to be a zebra, but as soon as he saw me coming with the paint and stencils he took off in the opposite direction.  I guess he still remembers what I did to him last year:


Halloween 2012.  I used Kool-Aid, and he was orange until spring.
Despite wanting no part of having his costume painted on, he did come back around long enough to photo-bomb my Jack O' Lantern:
"Boo!"

Happy Halloween!!!!!!!!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Welcome Back, Left Leg

As most of you already know from following this blog, 8 years ago I broke my back in a riding accident.  The accident left me with a weak left leg that didn't always do what I told it to and was mostly numb (which is a plus when your horse stands on your foot, but not so much when you need to know whether or not your leg is on your horse).  And then I have other complications on top of that that aren't helping matters.  I had pretty much given up on ever getting much use back and have mostly just been trying to figure out how to work around it.

On Tuesday, I decided to have a late night ride under the full moon.  I love riding at night when the moon is full, especially in the fall. It's so nice and crisp out, but not cold yet. Just right.

I didn't run this through any filters or photo editing.  It just came out like this on it's own.  Kinda neat.

On this particular evening, Spider was being rather crappy about bending left and that was severely disrupting my enjoyment of our moonlight ride. I got annoyed, and when that didn't help, I got mad.

I've been practicing being better balanced in the saddle, keeping my weight squarely over both seat bones and my hands balanced on either side of my horse, even though that makes it harder for me to use my left leg.  Since my accident, the only way for me to get my left leg on is if I sort of contort and lean off to the left.  But, contorting and leaning off to the left side leaves my right side wide open, allowing Spider to slip out the side door and making my half halts non-existant. I need my outside aids for collected work, so I've been trying to stop leaning, even if it means giving up my left leg.  I figured if people can ride with no legs, then I can do it with just one and I'd make up for it some other way.  I've also been working more on strength training out of the saddle in the hope that it would help me compensate.

I guess all that work on balance and strength is working.  On Tuesday evening I got mad and, without even thinking about it, I put my my left leg on my horse.  And I did it without compromising the rest of my position. I put my left leg on him, and closed him in with my outside aids so that he had no choice but to suck it up and bend.  I didn't do it on purpose, it was just an instinct.  I guess I was mad enough that the part of my brain that knows how to ride over-rode the part that remembers that my left leg doesn't work.  And, "Surprise!", my leg works again!

I'm not sure who was more surprised, me or him.  In the entire time I have owned Spider, I have never put my left leg on him like that.  I've never been able to, as I bought him after my accident.  I do know that I was a lot happier about it than he was.  No more half-assing it for Spider, now he actually has to bend left and I can do something about it when he doesn't.

Now, I'm still not at 100%.  Far from it.  My left leg is still much weaker than my right, but it's gaining strength.  I know that because I have muscles in my back and hip that are really, really sore right now, but that's a good sign!  I'll take it!





Saturday, October 12, 2013

Water-proofing

New Jersey has been inundated with wind and rain for the last few days.  Hopefully, this isn't a preview of what winter will be like.  I prefer my winters like my wines: dry.

When we have this type of weather, I'm always surprised at my horses' reactions.  Well, I guess after four years I'm not really "surprised", anymore.  Just annoyed. Before coming to live here they were all kept in stalls, either in show barns or racing barns.  My set up here is that they can come and go as they please.  I have two shed row barns, 5 stalls total, that I leave open for them to come and go as they need.  Before a storm, I always bed the stalls as deep as I can with nice fresh straw so they'll have a nice and cozy respite from the weather. They mostly view my efforts as snack time.

"Check it out, you guys.  She totally left food in here again!"

They'll stand in their stalls, happily munching on my straw bedding, until the actual storm hits.  Then they all go outside, butts into the wind and heads down, until the storm has passed.

They've even convinced poor, innocent little Jack that this is a good idea.


This wet weather has motivated me to start water-proofing my leather goods for winter.  For most of the year, I'm rather hands-off with my leather.  I have a dry cloth that I use to wipe the dirt and sweat off after every use and I oil it if it looks dry, but other than that I don't do much with it. Some people think you should wash leather goods frequently, but I disagree.  Water rots the leather and stitching, and if you wipe it down every use it doesn't accumulate enough grime to need much washing anyway.

But, in the wet and yucky winters of New Jersey, I do find that leather needs a bit more protection.  It needs some water-proofing.  So, come fall I start coating all my leather in beeswax.  Why beeswax?  Because it's it's inert, it's water-resistant, it won't rot leather or stitching, and several years ago a very attractive man with a sexy Australian accent sold me a tub of it at a Horse Expo.

Water-proofing supplies.  The margarita is optional, but very helpful.  



You could also use mink oil.  I used to use mink oil, and it worked perfectly, but it isn't sold by attractive men.  However, I'm almost out of my beeswax, so if you know of any leather water-proofing products sold by attractive men, I'm all ears.




Monday, October 7, 2013

Kindergarten

My daughter started Kindergarten a couple weeks ago, which has made our life a little hectic, but in a good way.  She's very excited to be going to school and meeting new friends.  Every day she brings home a folder full of her daily projects so that we can see she what she's doing and supplement it at home.  At first I was a bit concerned, because the material they were covering seemed pretty basic. They're covering the alphabet and numbers, things my daughter already knows.  I was worried she might get bored and start acting up or zone out.  But, she attacks all her projects with all the enthusiasm of a Thoroughbred.  I suppose she's learned from the best.

Spider and I have gone back to Kindergarten, too.  I've been having issues with some of the "tricks", the half passes and flying changes.  Working on them wasn't helping, nor was practicing suppling exercises like shoulder-in and haunches in.  Spider was in and out of the contact and I was getting frustrated.  It was time to go back to basics.


The real Training Scale, courtesy of Hillbilly Farms.

I took Spider onto a 20m circle and really concentrated on what I was doing and feeling.  And I noticed  that, no matter which direction the rest of my body is pointing, my pelvis is always pointing left.  It's subtle, I bet it can't even be seen from the ground.  Actually, I know it can't be seen from the ground, because I've seen pictures of myself riding and didn't notice it.  I'm my own worst critic, so if it was obvious, I would have noticed.  It also explains why Spider does better at half pass left and right lead to left lead changes, I'm always subconsciously cuing for them.

For several rides I just took up a 20m circle and concentrated on pointing my pelvis in the correct direction.  We did transitions between and within gaits and shoulder and haunches-in on the circle, but all I focused on was pointing my pelvis in the right direction and keeping it there.  The difference was amazing.  No more coming in and out of the contact, he was steady.  After several rides of just concentrating on training me, we tried the half passes and changes again. Suddenly, Spider understood what I wanted.  He wasn't trying to sort out my conflicting cues and we were back in business.

Our next show is November 3rd, and this will be the last time we show 3rd level, because we're going to nail it.  Maybe...







Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tough Cookies

I'm not ranter.  It's not my style.  But some things just annoy me, and I hope you'll forgive me this rant.


Here's a funny picture to make it worth your while.


In my years of riding, I have had the good fortune to ride with many different trainers, coaches, and instructors.  Some were good, some were meh, some were awful.  But I learned from them all.

The best ones were the tough ones.  The ones who didn't gloss over anything.  The ones who told me straight up that I was riding like shit and was going to ruin my horse if I didn't fix it.  They weren't always super effective in telling me what I needed to do to to fix it, but at least they weren't blowing smoke up my ass.

The worst trainers were the ones who coddled me.  They wanted paying clients, so they told me I was doing wonderfully.  And then, when I went out and rode like a drunken monkey in a show and got a deservedly low score, they'd tell me the judge was "biased" against me.  Ha!

But those coddling trainers always have a flock of followers, and I hear the word "biased" thrown around more and more.  I see the tough trainers, the ones who tell you the truth, bashed in forums all over the internet.  I hear them bashed in conversation with my peers in every day conversation.

Nobody wants to hear that they suck.  I get that.  But, sometimes you need to hear it.  It's not just you out there.  You're sitting on a living, feeling, thinking animal and if you're riding like a drunken monkey, that's not fair to your horse.  How do you think your horse feels when you're yanking his face off, slamming into his back, or riding him for an hour with his hocks trailing into the next zip code?

Suck it up, Buttercup!  Your ego has no place in the saddle.  Now, I'm not saying that you should put up with actual abuse.  But, if somebody tells you that your riding is bad or detrimental to your horse, you should probably give that some thought.  Don't just blindly say "Nuh-uh!  You're a big 'ole meanie!"

I'm not saying you should blindly follow their instructions, either.  Go out and get a second or third opinion.  But, please remember, if your second opinion tells you that you're riding perfectly and the only reason you're not doing well is because of a vast conspiracy against "correct riding" or "XYZ breed" or "XYZ riders", they may be blowing smoke up your ass.






Saturday, September 21, 2013

Thoroughbred...

Thoroughbred (noun)    A breed of horse known for its speed, agility and natural inclination to break everything on your property.





This is why we can't have nice things, Jack.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Vinny's Story

I don't write much about Vinny.  He was already retired when I started this blog.  His chapter was over, and I was writing about my training experience with Spider.

Many parts of Vinny's story have floated through my head over the years, but I always planned to tell it when he died.  His story would be a sort of closure for that chapter of my life.

But, Vinny has made it clear that he isn't planning on dying any time soon, and it's a story that needs to be told.  So, I'm going to tell it now.


I met Vinny when he was 18 and I was too young to know better.  He was an FEI Schoolmaster, I was a working student.  We seemed to get along well, and when his owner told me she had purchased a new horse and needed a good home for Vinny I jumped at the chance to acquire him.  She gave him to me, free and clear.  Little did I know she was lying about everything.  She was getting rid of him because he was soured and and difficult to handle.  She was scared to death of him, and for good reason.

"Never look a gift horse in the mouth"




I'm the only person who ever called him "Vinny".  His real name is Stravinsky.  He is by Strauss, the famous Swedish Warmblood sire.  He was bred for dressage.  Bred for it, built for it, tested for it and should have been amazing for it.  But, somewhere along the way he was soured.

I didn't know that when I took him on. I knew he had some quirks, but surely I could handle them.  I was young, I was strong and powerful and had all the convictions of "classical" training and knowledge behind me.

And so I "scored" a free Schoolmaster.  I thought I had really made it.  Vinny had other ideas...

Once I started to work him consistently, his vices started to come out.  He could be difficult to handle on the ground.  Under saddle, he bucked, he spun, he reared and he bolted like a saddle bronc on the rodeo circuit. But he only acted like that sporadically.  Most times he was great.  So, I dealt with it.

I began to show him and ride him in clinics, which is when I started hearing the stories about him.  Random people would come up and ask if this was "The Stravinsky": The Stravinsky who had the blowup at the Horse Park, The Stravinsky who dumped that BNT, or the other BNT....

They were never good stories.  It turns out Vinny had spent most of his life going from trainer to trainer because of his behavior problems. But I was able to manage him, so I just shrugged and laughed it off.  We all have our quirks, and surely age had cooled him off.

Unfortunately, I was wrong.  Vinny was well and truly soured, and his behavior got worse and worse. He was dangerous. He only dumped me once, but he broke my back when he did it.  That injury was the end of my career as a horse professional.

The trainer I worked for at the time wanted him out of the barn immediately. She wouldn't touch him. No one would.  At the time, I didn't have my own farm, so I sent him off to a retirement farm.  Which he then got kicked out of for bad behavior.  So, I sent him to another retirement farm, which he also got kicked out of for bad behavior.

Luckily, by the time Vinny got kicked out of the 2nd farm, I had my own place and he came home to live here.

I remember when I went to get him like it was yesterday. I hadn't seen him in months and it had been two years since I had been his primary caregiver. He must have heard me or smelled me as I walked down the barn aisle, because he stuck his head out and pricked his ears up as I approached.  He remembered me.  I loaded him up with no issues and drove him home, unloaded him and put him out in the pasture. And I didn't have a clue what to do next.

I resented the hell out of him.  He had ruined my career.  He taken everything from me, and then continued to be a thorn in my side by getting thrown out of the purgatories I'd sent him to.  And now he was at my house and I had to see his sorry ass every day.  I had to feed him and take care of him every damn day as though he weren't the creature who had ruined my dreams.

I expected him to resent me, too.  After all, I was the last person who had made him do dressage.  He rebelled against me so hard back in those days.  I could still remember the last time I rode him: the way his eyes glassed over when I asked him to enter the arena, the way he had just shut down and decided to do whatever it took to get me off him.  I was just in his way.  And now here we were, forced to co-habitate.

He didn't resent me, though.  He greeted me every day like an old friend.  He was still a prick, and still got into trouble, but he didn't hold any grudges against me.  And, slowly, I let go of my resentment for him.  It's hard to hold a grudge when your grudgee pretends like it never happened.

Horses don't hold onto grudges or resentment.  I have no doubt that they remember things, but they don't hold onto them like we do.  Vinny was perfectly happy to give me another chance, which was more than any human had ever done for him.  He had spent his life bouncing from trainer to trainer and barn to barn as the humans in his life got fed up with him.  In spite of that, he gave me another chance and I couldn't do any less for him.

I've owned the bastard for over a decade now and, while I wouldn't describe our relationship as "warm and fuzzy", we do have a mutual respect for one another.  He may not have been the Schoolmaster I wanted, but he taught me enough.







Saturday, August 31, 2013

Our Oaf

Jack continues to be a pleasure to work with and have on the farm.  He is a sweet, kind little fellow and full of try.  Unfortunately, he is also one of the clumsiest horses I have ever known.  We've actually taken to calling him "The Oaf".


He has the best "Derp" face.


I think (hope) that it is mostly his age, size and general lack of maturity that makes him such a klutz.  The poor little fellow has legs all over the place and not a clue where to put them.  I've seen him fall down in the pasture after taking a corner too tight.  I've also seen him randomly run into the door jam of the stall while trying to walk out of it. (No wonder he lost every race he was entered in).

He also has no clue about social graces, which results in him getting smack-downs from the other horses when he invades their personal space.  It also results in me getting stepped on and head-butted regularly.  At this point, he may actually believe his name is "DammitJackGetOffaMe".

He spent the last couple weeks lame after getting tangled in the fence and breaking it.  How does such a thing happen?  Well, I didn't see it happen... but after owning horses for many years, I've gotten pretty good at forensics.  It seems he was rolling in a mud puddle and got too close to the fence.  He took out two lines before getting himself untangled.  I didn't discover the accident until I found Matilda in the lawn, she had escaped through the broken fence lines.  Spider was cluelessly grazing in the pasture, and Vinny was eyeballing the remaining line to size up whether or not he could shimmy under it.  Jack was hiding in the barn.  He didn't have any cuts, luckily, but he definitely strained something in his left shoulder and was off.  Poor guy.

But, he seemed to be doing all right yesterday, and ready to work again.  So, I took him out to put him on the lunge line.  I wanted to assess his soundness.  He's perfectly sound, as he proved to me by running all over my property and the neighbor's property.  (Sorry, Neighbors!)

Now, I definitely did a few stupid things here.  I'll be the first to admit that it's been a long time since I took on a 3 yr old, and I've gotten to be a bit of a slacker.  I was not really following best practices.  I put a 3 yr old on a lunge line in an area of the property that wasn't fenced.  And, that 3 yr old is 3 months off the track, 17h and hadn't been worked in two weeks.  I was asking for trouble, and I got it!

He was doing pretty well, just going around like an old campaigner, when suddenly he spooked at something and ripped the line out of my hands.  Now, I've come off Jack a couple times under saddle and he always stops, but that's because when I come off the reins go slack.  That's a "stop" sign for race horses.  I had been lunging him in side reins, when I lost the line the side reins didn't let up.  He leaned right into them and did his best racehorse impression.  Plus, he now had the lunge line "chasing" him.  It added up to about 10 minutes of pandemonium, until he figured out the line wasn't going to eat him and settled down enough to let me catch him.  Once he was caught, we went back to work like nothing ever happened. But, we did go back to work in one the fenced areas... just in case.

In a few minutes I'll have to get myself out from in front of this computer to put him back on the lunge line.  And you can be sure he'll be in a fenced area, and I'll be on his behavior like white on rice. And I bet he's not going to do damned thing, because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.










Monday, August 26, 2013

More

This year, when Spider shed his winter coat, I noticed he has a lot of grey hairs.  He's 18, but still acts like a colt.  I'm not ready for him to be old yet.  We still have things to do together.  



I had a lesson with my trainer last week.  At the end of the lesson, my trainer said "I wish that he were 12". I wish he were 12, too.  I wish that he was 2, I wish that he could live forever.  But, that's not the way of life.  He's 18 and he will always give me everything he has to give, but I know our time together is finite.

I wanted to get him to Prix St. Georges this year, but I've had a bad health year and I don't think it's in the cards.  I can't even manage to get out of 50% in 3rd Level.  I'm actually not sure I'll ever get out of 3rd Level.

I found out this year that my auto-immune disease (IBD) is causing my spine to fuse, and it's fusing crooked.  My crooked spine is twisting my pelvis, so I sit crooked in the saddle.  My left leg is numb from the hip down, my right leg is numb from the knee down.  It's a side effect from my spine fusing, as the bones of my vertebrae close and fuse together they pinch off the nerves going to my legs.  My IBD has also been unusually active this year.  Auto-immune diseases go in cycles: "active" states and "remission".  I've only been in remission for a few weeks this year.  It's been very frustrating.  It's really hard to do changes and half-passes when you're crooked as hell and can't feel your legs, especially since I wasn't always this way.

That being said, this isn't a "Woe Is MEEE" post.  I'm not that type of person.

At one point in my lesson, as I was struggling with my aids and Spider was getting strung out, my trainer said to me, "You have to go back to Kindergarten", and that's what we did.  I brought Spider to a walk, and we walked until he could follow my aids.  Then we moved to trot and canter, and once again established my aids.  One thing I love about my trainer is that he doesn't care how you get things done, as long as the horse is going correctly you're free to improvise.

"You have to go back to Kindergarten" has stuck with me.  I'm never going to be able to ride like the Guenters and Ullas and Steffans of the dressage world.  I'm never even going to be able to ride as well as most amateurs.  But, what I can do is train my horse to follow my aids.  That's what "going back to Kindergarten" is for me, it's teaching my horse to follow my aids so that I can enjoy riding him.

We may never get to Prix St. Georges.  We may never get out of 3rd Level.  And that's OK.  We're going back to Kindergarten, and we are going to have fun learning how to color in the lines again.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Google+ and Steak



We had really nice steaks for dinner, accompanied by a very nice Malbec red wine.  It was so nice, that I had another glass for dessert.

Then I wandered upstairs to catch up on bloggy stuff and blindly followed the Google prompts to integrate Google+ into my blog.  What can I say, I make bad decisions after steak and Malbec.

So, now I'm wandering through the Googlesphere trying to figure things out.  If my blog goes all wonky, it's because I kind of suck at the interwebs......

Friday, August 9, 2013

How A Tree Falling On Your Fence Can Be Fun


Usually Not Fun

I was reading an article the other day, or maybe it was a book... I can't remember now.  Really, the format doesn't matter. It was talking about training upper level horses and it said the most important thing was to not forget to constantly go back to the basics because, without focusing on the basics, you'll just end up with automated "tricks".  So true.... but, so boring.  Flying changes and half passes are exciting, much more so than rhythm and relaxation and all.  But, rhythm and relaxation are essential for every ride, and especially essential when you ride a TB.  They are not renowned for their rhythm and relaxation skills!

I find I spend most of my ride getting Spider loose and swinging with seemingly endless transitions, leg yields and circles.  This does not make for exciting blog posts, but it is what the upper levels are made of.

Here's my words of wisdom for all of you out there aspiring to 4th Level and beyond: It's just like what you're doing now, but sometimes you get to do a few flying lead changes at the end.  Unless you somehow screwed up, then you have to go back to circles, transitions and leg yields.

I should totally be a motivational speaker, right?



It hasn't been all boring stuff over here, though.  Spider and I have added a fun new component to our exercise routine in the form of hill work.

Southern New Jersey has a serious hill deficit, but I do have one rather small hill in my front pasture.  This time of year, I usually have the horses in the front pasture, but last week nature conspired against me to bring down a rather large limb right into the pasture. (See above picture)  It's a Cherry, which can make horses sick, so I had to lock them out until we get it cut up.  And, since it's a Cherry, it has ridiculously hard wood that has dulled the chainsaw three times.  We still don't have the thing out of there.

Since we're not using that pasture for grazing right now, I've taken Spider out there a few times to work on the hill.

Usually I use raised cavaletti once a week or so to get Spider's butt under him and encourage him to shorten his strides and lift his legs.  It works well, but it really isn't as good as a nice hill.  Especially for the canter.  My hill is pretty big, so I can take up a 20m circle on one side and go both uphill and downhill on one circle. It's amazing how much his collection increases just from a few laps up and down that hill.

From the 20m circle on the hill, I can then go straight out onto the flat part of the field to play with flying changes and half passes.  Spider loves this, as it's a big open space, much bigger than the arena, and he feels like he can get really forward.  I just have to make sure he doesn't get too forward, since he tends to get strung out.  I also have to keep the flying changes in check.  Now that we're working on them again, he likes to throw them out all willy-nilly.  A nice little volte when I feel him getting amped up usually keeps this in check.   Although, I will freely admit that today I let him throw out changes as we cantered around the field and did not correct him.  Unless giggling like an idiot counts as a correction.

It was not good dressage training.  But it was pretty damn fun, and sometimes you just need to have fun.  I'll fix it tomorrow.




Friday, August 2, 2013

New Things

Several years ago I noticed that every time I have a birthday, I get a year older.  So, I decided to stop having them.  Problem solved.

But, my husband refuses to acknowledge my lack of birthdays because he wants me to be old, and he insisted that I go buy things for the birthday that I didn't have last week.  That's very sneaky of him, because it's not like I'm going to say, "No, I don't want to go buy things."

First on the list was new breeches.  I haven't bought a new pair of breeches in so long, the company who made the last pair I bought is no longer in business.  Which is a shame, because they were nice breeches.  

Since it's been so long, I don't know much about the new brands and styles.  But, a little while ago I had stumbled upon a blog post reviewing the Smartpak Piper breeches. The review was positive, and the breeches aren'y too expensive, so I decided to give them a try.  And they're pretty great!  But, because it was forever ago in blog time, I can't remember who the blogger was that reviewed them.  If it was you, leave a comment so I can thank you properly and link your post!

I got two pairs of the Smartpak Piper breeches, one in "wheat" and one in "blue jean".  The "blue jean" is really just navy blue, but it's still a nice color.  I was a little hesitant about getting low rise breeches, but they're not really low rise on me.  They fit right on my waist, as opposed to the old style breeches that came all the way up to my ribs.  My favorite feature is the material on the calves.  It's a lightweight spandex type material, with none of that obnoxious velcro tab nonsense.  It fits smoothly under my boots without bunching or rubbing.  Very nice!

Next on my list was some new books.  I've been wanting to get Carl Hester's "Real Life Dressage" forever, but it's always on backorder.  As it happens, it wasn't on backorder last week and I was able to get it!  And it's great!  It's not a "manual", like the old Master's tomes.  It's the story of how he brought along five different horses of varying age, temperament and conformation.  He talks about the different approaches he used based on each horse's natural tendencies and he doesn't shy away from the sometimes "ugly" side of training.  So many of these training books give the impression of "This is what I did and then the horse was super awesome and we won everything".  Not this one! Carl makes it clear that this is a process and, even with the best training, sometimes horses are still assholes.

And, because you should always get more than one book so they don't get lonely during shipping, I also got Susan von Dietze's "Rider and Horse Back To Back".  But, I haven't read it yet... I was too engrossed by Hester's book. I did thumb through it a bit, and it looks good.  I have her other book, "Balance In Movement" and it's quite good, so expect this one to be the same.

And finally, I got a new dump cart.  That wasn't a planned thing, or even something I wanted.  The old dump cart was fine, until it suddenly wasn't.

"Well, there's your problem" -Jamie Hyneman


This catastrophic failure occurred on the day after my theoretical birthday, which prompted my husband to exclaim, "I know what to get you, I'll get you a really nice dump cart!"

And he did.

It even matches the lawn mower.  Sort of.  Actually, I should paint the rims yellow. 




Sunday, July 21, 2013

Three Year Olds

Three year olds are a trial, be they horse or human.  I'm not sure what I was thinking, taking on two three olds at once.  Actually, I wasn't thinking... The cuteness of three year olds over-rides the rational part of the brain and results in "SQUEEEE!  ZOMG! SO CUTE! MUST HAVE!"  It's an evolutionary adaptation to insure the survival of the species beyond this hellacious year.  

My three year olds, clearly conspiring against me.

It's a tough age.  Their bodies are much more developed than their brains, which is problematic.  It makes them clumsy, confused and prone to tantrums.  Training a clumsy, confused creature who is prone to tantrums is ridiculously difficult, but must be done for their own benefit.  And, because training a clumsy, confused, emotionally unstable creature isn't enough of a challenge, they're also trying to learn their place in the social construct.  That's science-speak for "super defiant control freak".

Case in point: My son needs to learn to use the potty.  Physically, he is capable of this.  Mentally, he has no desire to change the status quo.  Up until now, he ran around gleefully oblivious to toilet etiquette.  He went where and when he wanted to and someone else took care of it.  While I can see the attraction to that lifestyle, it doesn't change the fact that he needs to start attending to himself, mostly because I'm tired of doing it for him.

Second case in point: Jack needs to learn to carry himself and behave in a way appropriate for a saddle horse.  He is physically capable of this, but his life on the track wasn't like this and he's at an age where he's clumsy and defiant.  He doesn't want to change his status quo and, because he's 17h, I can't do it for him!

So, what do you do with these three year olds?  You point them in the right direction.  You show them, through your actions, the correct way of going.  You have infinite patience.  You accept the mistakes, but make the "right thing" easy.

So I sit my son on the potty, no matter how much he resists, and I wait until he gets it.  I give Jack the aids and I wait for him to get it, no matter how much he avoids it.  And I remember to have patience, because they are only three and they will get it eventually.

I believe it was Einstein who said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". He obviously knew some three year olds.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Things To Do When It's 100 Degrees...

... Sit in the house and drink Sangria.

My lazy version of sangria is to stick popsicles in cheap wine.  I use the good popsicles, though.  The ones made with real fruit.

See?  Fruit!  It's healthy.


Surprisingly, the horses don't seem to be too bothered by the heat.  They have plenty of shade and water, though.

Jack has discovered a novel way to keep cool.  He lays in the mud.  Unfortunately, the biggest and best mud puddle is the one that surrounds the water tubs.  His wallowing has resulted in dumped water tubs on more than one occasion.

Of course, dumped water tubs mean more mud.  Maybe he's smarter than I give him credit for.


While I admire his innovation, getting all the dried mud off of him is really a chore.  Between his stereotypically Thoroughbred thin skin and his stereotypically 3 yr old wiggliness, cleaning him up  to work is more work than working him.

As for work, we're keeping it light.  Spider and I working on polishing our walk work.  I've always been told that walk is the hardest gait.  I can believe that, it's certainly the easiest gait to screw up.  The walk is the only gait that lacks a moment of suspension, which makes it difficult to correct.  You can hide a lot in a moment of suspension.  If a horse gets jiggy in the trot, you can kick him in that moment of suspension and get him moving again.  If he gets lateral in the canter, same thing.  If he gets too strong, you've at least got some impulsion to work with.  But, the walk is a marching, four beat gait that puts all your tension, all your stiffness and all your other faults out there for display.  Performing the walk part of tests always makes me feel naked.  Hopefully, all the work we're doing will help with that, or at least make me more comfortable in my nakedness.

Jack is being introduced to the long lines.  While long-lining can be quite physically demanding, it doesn't require much energy in the introductory phases.  What Jack is learning now is to get used to the feel of the lines on his sides and legs, to not try to turn and face me when I move around him with the lines and to stop and go on command (a concept he's spotty on under saddle, too).  It's good work for the heat.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Just What We Needed....

More rain!

NJ is being inundated again, so I'm holed up in the house.  It's raining hard enough that the horses are also holed up in the barn, which rarely happens.  They usually prefer to be out grazing when it rains.

I have five stalls, and four horses that obviously can't count.

This is a 10x12 stall, and those horses are all over 16 hands.  That's 3600lbs of horse crammed into 120 square ft.


All three geldings cram into one stall, while Matilda gets her own.

Clever little mare.

Since I'm holed up in the house, I've been messing around on the internet.  I should probably be cleaning or something, but the internet is more fun.

My internet wanderings have led me to David Ramey, DVM's website and I've been reading it for hours.  It's really good stuff!  He offers a science-based look at equine medicine and maintenance, which is refreshing and informative.  Equine husbandry relies too much on voodoo, snake oil and "But, that's how we've always done it".  It's past time we started demanding some proof, or at least decent evidence, that the crap the industry is shilling actually works!

I could go on for several more paragraphs on that subject, but that's a post for another day.  The rain just stopped, and the sun is peeking through the clouds.  I think I'll go ride a horse or two.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Liebstered

I've been awarded the Liebster Blog Award thrice, which is fun because I haven't had this award before.


Liebster is German for "beloved and valued", and to accept it I now have to do the hokey pokey.



No, wait, that's not right, I have to thank the person(s) who nominated me...


And I do thank them, because it's so great to be acknowledged!  I was awarded by Saiph Torren  of Wait For The Jump,  Dragon of I Trot On and Checkmark 115 of Chasing the Dream.  I didn't know about Wait For the Jump, so I'm glad she de-lurked to award me because her blog is really fun, and I really like I Trot On and Chasing The Dream.  They're all very good blogs to follow.

Now I need to give 11 random facts about myself:

1.  I'm allergic to monkeys.

2. I have a neurologic abnormality called synesthesia.  I think of numbers, letters and abstract ideas as colors.  For example:  I think of the number 7 as red, the letter K as pink and being sick as purple.

3. I love heat and humidity, but can't stand the sun.

4. I have Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and it's causing my spine to degenerate and fuse.

5. I'm out of wine, and will need more to complete this list.

6. I got more wine, so let's go!

7. I like the smell of marigolds.

8. I once took lessons from an Olympic Eventer.  She told me to stick with dressage.  I did.

9. I enjoy menial tasks, like mowing the lawn, dragging the arena and cleaning stalls.  They give me time to think, be alone, and have a drink.

10. I am terrified of lightning.

11. I went to grad school to study neuroethology, which is the physiological basis of behavior.  It's basically animal behavior for super-nerds.


Now I have to answer a bunch of questions from my nominators (Is that a word?)

I'll start with Saiph's, since she was the first one to nominate me.


1. Who is your favorite horse? (Either real or fictional) Why?

Secretariat. His Belmont Stakes win still sends shivers down my spine.  It's a beautiful thing to watch. Plus, I've got a soft spot for a chestnut.  (Jack is a great-grandson of Secretariat, BTW)


2. What is the most exotic/unusual pet you've ever owned?

I've had snakes, lizards, turtles, salamanders, newts, rats, and ferrets... but by far, my most unusual pet was Frankie the Fan Belt Kitten.  When I worked as a vet tech, a feral kitten was brought in that had gotten caught in the fan belt of a minivan.  Her jaw was broken, her tail was missing, one of her ears was half cut off, and she had cuts all over her body from the belt.  The on-call vet stitched her up as best she could.  She had so many stitches that we dubbed her "Frankenpuss".  As Frankenpuss recovered, her personality started to shine through, and we quickly re-named her "Frankenbitch".  She was a tough little cookie. She made a full recovery, and needed a home, so I took her home with me.  But, I lived in an apartment at the time, and apartment life was not for Frankie.  I eventually took her to my parents farm to live, where she is still alive and raising hell at the ripe old age of 13.  

3. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A jockey.

4. If you ended up being something else, what made you change your mind?

I got too tall.  Which is ironic because, at 5'3", I'm much too short for dressage, but that hasn't stopped me!

5. What are your long-term riding career goals?

Don't fall off too many more times, because it seems to hurt worse now that I'm older.

6. What is your greatest riding achievement?

Not getting killed doing it.... yet.  

7. What is your greatest regret?

That I didn't meet my Spider until he was 11.  I wish I could have had him since he was a baby.  

8. What is your favorite movie? Why?

Star Wars.  Because it's awesome!

9. Have you ever read a book that moved you so much that it changed your life? Which book?

I think every book I've read has changed me in some way.  I love to read, and will read just about anything.  Some books change me by expanding my knowledge of the world around me, some books just hone my BS meter.  

10. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? What would your house be like?

I'd live somewhere in the Caribbean.  My house would be very open and airy, with lots of colors.  I like colors.  It would also have acres of pasture for my horses.

11. If you could have any saddle, which one would it be?

I've already got seven, my husband would not be happy if brought home another one, no matter how "perfect" it was!


Next, I'll answer Dragon's:


  1. Get up early to ride, or stay up late?
Both.  I have my own farm and two kids, I ride whenever I can!
  1. What do you do for a living?
I'm a Farmwife.  It's not particularly glamorous, but it's fun.
  1. What do you wish you did for a living?
Right now, I actually enjoy this quite a bit.  I've only been at it for three years, though.  I might get bored soon.
  1. If you could try any type of riding what would it be?
Sidesaddle.  It just looks interesting.  I'd probably fall off.
  1. What is one thing about your horse you wish you could change?
I wish he were younger.  He's 18, and I'm not ready for him to be old.
  1. If you could change your horse's name to anything (registered or barn) what would it be?
Spider's real name is not Spider, he had a ridiculous show name under his previous owner.  Spider was just his barn name. I actually didn't even know about his ridiculous show name until I signed the sale papers and the show name was used.  I knew I didn't want to use the show name, and I thought about changing his name to something else.  In the end, I decided that "Spider" really suited him best. 
  1. Facebook, Tumblr, or Instagram?
Facebook.  And everyone should totally follow Spider on FB.  The link's in the sidebar!
  1. Ebay, Craigslist, or Tack shop?
All of the above.  I have a problem.....
  1. If you could take on the life of any character in any TV show or movie, who would it be?
Oooh, I honestly don't watch enough TV or movies to say.  I tend to watch the History Channel and Food Network.  
  1. If you had an unlimited budget, what type of car or truck would you buy?
Some sort of fast little sports car.  I currently drive a Ford F350, it takes up 4 parking spaces and moves at half the speed of slugs.  It would be nice to get to highway speed on the on ramp and not have to park at the very end of the parking lot.    
  1. If you could move to any part of the world, where would it be?
The Caribbean!  But, only if I could take my horses.







And Now Checkmark 115:
1.Which horse in your life has been your favorite and why? Leased, owned, ridden etc.

Spider, hands down.  I can't really explain it, though.  He's not the fanciest, or the nicest, or the best at anything, but there's just something about him.  He and I just click.

2. What is your fav/least fav thing about your current barn?


Favorite thing: It's mine, all mine!!!  Least favorite thing: It's mine, and I have to take care of it.

3. Biggest pet peeve?


People who refuse to open their minds to new ideas.

4. What is the scariest horse related incident you've been involved in? (colic, trailer accident, etc)


I was on a trail ride with a friend, we were miles from the barn.  We had decided to gallop a bit down a long stretch of a clear trail.  I was in the lead, when her horse suddenly passed me without her on board.  Her horse was panicked and bolting.  My horse was trying to bolt, too, after seeing the other horse bolt past us.  I needed to get back to my friend to make sure she was alright.  I ended up having to get off and lead my horse back to where she was.  She was OK, just banged.  Her horse had stumbled, then panicked after she fell off.  Luckily, there was another group of people a little further down the trail who managed to catch her horse and bring him back to us.  It was definitely a scary few minutes, though, when I wasn't sure if she was OK and then when we didn't know if the horse was OK.

5.  Post a pic of your fav throw back & why.


This is from back when I wanted to be a jockey.  My legs were the perfect length.


6. Netflix or redbox?


Neither.  I do not have the attention span or time to sit and watch a movie anymore.  

7. Tell us your plan of attack in the event of a zombie apocalypse.


Steal all the horses in my area, then start recruiting for my zombie fighting cavalry.  I figure my dressage knowledge will help me train my cavalry force, which I will then use to conquer the surrounding towns free the surrounding towns of the zombies.  

8. Coke or Pepsi?


If it's got Jack Daniels in it, I'll drink it.

9. Iphone or Droid?


iPhone.  I have Macs, I like that the iPhone syncs up with them automatically.  

10. Favorite meal.


Gumbo

11. Biggest obession besides horses.


Gardening.  I love it, I grow flowers and fruits/veggies.  I have filled every bit of space that isn't being occupied by horse stuff with gardens.  I also can't pass a Lowe's or Home Depot without stopping to check out the clearance rack.  I admit it, I have a problem....



Allright, that takes care of the first part.  Now I need to make my own questions and nominate people.  And I'll totally get to that, at some point....

For now, I'm having trouble finding blogs that haven't been nominated and I'm working on writing some posts, potty training my youngest, and surviving the monsoon that has been unleashed upon the East Coast!



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