Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Short Help Is Better Than No Help

Although, this isn't quite what I had in mind as far as spreading the straw in the stalls goes. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Spots Shows His True Colors

I tried Spots several times before we bought him. Having ridden sale horses and other people's horses for many years, I know how to push buttons on a horse and figure out what they're capable of pretty quick. He passed my tests with flying colors.

But, busy training and sale barns are very different environments from the Adult Amateur Backyard Farm, and sometimes a horse will find a whole new personality when they move into the Backyard Farm. 

Spots sure has. He didn't have much of a personality when I met him: he did his job, he didn't cause any trouble, he tried to figure out what his rider wanted, and he seemed to genuinely like kids. But, he wasn't exactly Mr. Personality. 

Now that he's here, his personality has exploded. He's an extremely friendly little guy, bordering on pushy. Being a chestnut, an Appaloosa, and a pony, he also believes that he's 10ft tall and bulletproof.

But, being only 7 years old and having mostly lived in training barns, his bravado only extends so far. He's still getting used to us, and our boisterous, completely random, and utterly irreverent atmosphere. 

His bravado has been seriously challenged by the chickens. This may seem silly to someone who has never met a chicken, but anyone who has owned chickens knows that they are little feathered jerks. Their favorite activity is randomly popping out of stalls and the feed room, squawking and flapping and generally causing a ruckus.  Their second favorite activity is running across the arena as fast as they can, usually while flapping and squawking, and dashing in between the horse's legs.  It's like having mobile cavaletti that squawk and flap.  And people wonder why my horses don't react to anything at shows.....

Chickens just don't care.

Poor Spots just doesn't know what to do about the squawking, flapping little terrors, but he tries to take it in stride.  Unless they randomly leap out of the feed room straight into his face, as happened the other day.

I was leading him past the feed room when the assault happened. I guess we must have startled the hen, who came flapping and squawking out the door and straight into Spots' face. He reared straight up, yanking the rope out of my hand, then turned heel and ran to the other side of the property as fast as he could. It wasn't very far, so I wasn't particularly worried about him. The barn is in the back corner of the property and that part of the farm is surrounded by a large, thick hedgerow.  I'm not really one to chase a horse around anyway, as it usually does more harm than good. Chasing a panicking prey animal just makes them panic more, and it's not like you can catch up to a galloping horse on foot, anyway.  Much better to close off any exits and then patiently wait for them to settle down and stop running.

Turns out that I didn't need to do any of that, though. When Spots reached the hedgerow he stopped, collected his wits, turned around and came trotting right back to me.  I hadn't even moved from the scene yet, as I was still cussing the chicken and examining the damage to my hand. He looked a little embarrassed, so I just pretended nothing happened and tacked him up as usual.  Although, the ride was a little short because it's hard to hold the reins with rope burn.

This is why you should always wear gloves!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Viva Carlos Blog Hop: Advice

Well, I didn't even manage a full week of my new blogging schedule, partly because my internet's being dodgy and I can't edit my posts the way I like to and partly because I'm too lazy to really learn how to use the Blogger app on my phone (the phone is currently my only internet source).

So, I missed Friday and Monday, but then I saw the Viva Carlos blog hop posted today and thought, "Hey! I can get myself  back on track with that!"

Here goes: fingers crossed that I can get this posted and properly linked from my phone..... 

What's the best advice you've ever received from a trainer or other rider?

Years ago I worked for a very large, and usually angry, Swedish ex-cavalry officer. His training method mostly consisted of using his substantial size to muscle the horses around. My job was riding the sale horses, mostly young imports from Europe. 

One day I was assigned to ride an 18.2h 5 year old who had just arrived at the barn a few days before. I was about 20 minutes into what I thought was going to be a pretty good ride, when the 18.2h youngster decided to have a meltdown. His meltdown involved leaping, bucking, and some other aerobatics that I have repressed from my memory. 

Fortunately, I stayed on, got the youngster back under control and finished up my ride. Unfortunately, my big, angry Swedish boss saw the whole thing. 

After I put the horse away, he cornered me. I thought I was really in for it. He never minced words and had a knack for insulting his riders in multiple languages. I would need to take my shoes off to count all the riders who had fled from his barn in tears, never to return, in the short time that I worked there. But all he said to me was, "That horse forgot you were there. Make sure they know you're there."

Although I didn't agree with most of his training practices, that advice has stuck with me over the years. Even today, most of the accidents, misbehaviors and even simple training issues I encounter are a result of the horse forgetting the human was there and the human failing to make his or her presence known. 

What's the worst piece of advice you've ever received?

"You can't do that with a Thoroughbred."

Monday, July 14, 2014

How Not To Annoy The Show Manager

I'm now on year two of being the Show Secretary/Manager/Organizer for my local USDF GMO. I really enjoy doing it and, for the most part, people are really great. However, sometimes competitors can be a little annoying. I attribute this to just not having a good idea of how dressage shows are set up and run. So, here's some tips from a show manager that will help you endear yourself to the Powers That Be of the shows you go to.

First and foremost, put down as much information as you can on the entry form. Seriously, that's what all those boxes are for. I need all that information to assign you to your appropriate classes and give out High Score awards. My club has high score awards for certain breeds and mares, AAs and Juniors. You're going to be left out if you don't fill in that information. And, don't worry about breed bias or bias against AAs from the judge. The judge never sees the entries, those are for my eyes only. All the judge knows is your name and your horse's name. 

Then, when you're done filling everything out, proofread it! Nothing is worse than getting an entry where the class number and class description don't match, or one with handwriting so bad that I can't figure out how to spell your name or your horse's name. And it's even worse if you didn't give me an email address or phone number on your illegible form. 

Please put your contact information on the entry form. That goes back to my first paragraph about filling out the whole entry form. I promise I'm not selling your contact information for profit. I'm not giving it out to anyone, I'm not going to stalk you. I need it so that I can ask you questions about your illegible entry form, notify you of your time, and mail you any High Score or other awards you might have won. 

Lastly, but not leastly, if you have any special requests as to timing, please let me know when you send your entry in. I try to be as accomadating as possible, but I'm not a mind reader. If I send out the day sheets, and then you tell me that you have to have a morning ride, I'm going to be really annoyed. Also, if you tell me you need a morning ride time, but what you really need is a ride time before 9 am, then you need to tell me "before 9 am" on your entry and not "morning ride time". If you only want 20 minutes between your rides, tell me. If you need 2 hours between your rides, tell me. If you're trailering in with your friend and need a time close to theirs, tell me. I promise I won't think you're crazy or bitch about you. I've been showing horses for many years, I understand. For me, as the show manager, nothing is worse than hearing a competitor say after the show, "Well, I could have done better, but we didn't have enough time/had too much time between rides and Poopsykins can't handle that." I want you to do well and have fun at my show, but you have to communicate with me. 

Example: I have a regular competitor at my shows who comes with horses of her own, and usually some students, too. She goes above and beyond with letting me know her timing requests. She tells me which horses need their tests ridden back to back, which ones need a long break between tests, who she's coaching and how long she needs for that. I friggen' love her. I can't always get everything exactly as she needs it, but I can get it close because she tells me what she needs. 

Finally... and this is my best piece of advice.... If you had a good time at the show be sure to let the show secretary/manager know. If you had a bad time, you should also let me know so I can fix it, but people aren't really shy about that.

If you had a good time at my show, and take the time to shoot me an email or a phone call or a Facebook message afterwards to thank me, I guarantee that I'll remember that and I'll remember you. And then I'll tolerate a lot more of your shenanigans. 

Bottom line: The Show Secretary/Manager is just a person. We are not omniscient, nor are we competitor-hating trolls bent on ruining you. Most of the people who work a dressage show are unpaid volunteers, and that includes show secretaries/managers. Most shows don't turn a profit, because the overhead for a show is ridiculous. We're putting on shows because we love the sport and we love the competitors. We really want you to have a good time, that's why we're doing this. Please communicate with us!

Friday, July 11, 2014


Horses are a passion, but if you're not careful, that passion will consume you.

I love all of my horses, and I love having them all here on my property, but there isn't much room for breaks. After awhile, no matter how much I love them, I get sick of them.  That's when it's break time.

I haven't been having the greatest year ever. I've lost two of my horses. I've been sick a lot. I'm struggling to get in a rhythm with riding and training three horses who have vastly different training levels, needs, and personalities. I needed a reboot.

We recently took a week long vacation in Truckee, CA.  It's in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, about as different from my little farm in NJ as you can get.  We had a good time, it was relaxing and fun. I caught up on some books I'd been meaning to read. I didn't have to feed or ride horses, clean stalls, mow, or do any of the other chores...... In short, I was pretty bored by about day 3.

The view from our cabin. Note the lack of places to put a horse.

It was nice to get away, but better to get back home. I came back with renewed energy, ready to enthusiastically get back to work!

And then the two herniated discs in my neck decided to act up. When I was young and stupid, I would have just saddled up anyway and powered through the pain with a Robaxin and a beer. Now that I am older, albeit still rather stupid, I know riding when your spine is acting up is a bad idea. Instead, I sit on the couch with a Robaxin and a beer.

And that's where I've been for the last few weeks.

But, I'm feeling much better now, and ready to get back up to my old shenanigans. Robaxin and beer really are the cure for everything. Well, I did do some Physical Therapy, too.  That probably helped a little bit.  At any rate, I've been a terrible Blogger this year and I'm going to remedy that. Writing this blog, and reading all your blogs, really help me keep myself on track and keep my enthusiasm up.  I'm actually thinking of making a little schedule for myself with writing, to keep myself involved and motivated.

It will probably work just as well as the schedule I made for riding my three horses, but the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. All of my friends will vouch for my insanity, so I'm going to go ahead and give the schedule a go.

I'm thinking a training-type post on Fridays, A Wordless Wednesday, maybe a Throwback Thursday and whatever else on Sundays or Mondays. It could work.....


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