Thursday, April 30, 2015


Inspiration can come from a lot of places. Most people are talking about World Cup and Rolex when they talk about inspiration right now, and that's all well and good. We should be watching the people at the top of our sport to see how they ride and train, but inspiration doesn't always have to come from such lofty sources.

Last weekend I scribed for one of the first USEF shows of the season here in my corner of Region 1. April is pretty early for us, most of the Really Big Names are still in Wellington or just coming back up, so the show was filled with just the Regular Joes. Since I'm just one of the Regular Joes, too, I really enjoyed scribing this one.

I saw flubbed changes, bucking and kicking out in transitions, errors galore, refusals, some wild careening around the ring and at least two "Oh, SHIT!" moments.

Why is that inspiring? Because it's what we all go through. Most of the competitors at the show were Adult Amateurs, and the Pros who were there were not riding Valegro. I learned a lot more scribing that show than I could ever learn watching the World Cup.

It's good to watch people at the top of the sport, but don't forget to watch the regular people, too. The people at the top of the sport started out as regular people, and they got to the top by getting out there and doing it in spite of all their screw ups. All those Big Names had their days as Regular Joes who flubbed changes, had bucking and kicking in transitions, made errors galore, careened around the ring and thought, "Oh SHIT!" many times.

For me, my inspiration was that the PSG isn't so scary anymore. I scribed several PSG tests and saw the best and the worst of that level, sometimes in the same test.

What I took away from it was, "Hey, I can do this, too!"

And I highly recommend scribing for shows as a great way to make everything about shows less scary. I have scribed many shows of all levels and have never met a judge who was mean or scary. I've worked with a lot of judges, from "Learner (L)" judges to FEI, and they were all very kind and positive.

Scribing has taught me that the judge really wants to see the competitor do their best, and they'll reward a gung-ho try that falls short over a half-assed attempt at coasting through a movement. It's taught me that the judge really wants you to just ride your test correctly. It's also taught me that the judge really can't tell a damn thing about you or your horse when you ride your test, they're judging this ride in this moment.

Leave your baggage at A and ride your test.

But try not to do this.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I'm Not As Good As I Once Was

I'm currently standing halfway between my kitchen and my living room with a glass of wine in one hand and three lidocaine patches on my back. I'm stuck here, because I can't make it any further until either the lidocaine or the wine kicks in. How did I end up stuck here? Well, that's the story....

I got tossed yesterday. Tossed right off a horse. Launched through the air like a crash test dummy. It wasn't any of those "crazy" Thoroughbreds, either. It was that damned little pony. 

The pony my kid rides bareback with no problems.

Spots has been a model citizen for pretty much everything we have ever asked of him, but yesterday he was just not feeling it. He was balking and spooking while we groomed and tacked him up, and I knew I couldn't let my daughter ride him. But, I also didn't want to let him learn he could act like that and get out of work. 

So, I got on him. It was all good for a little bit. He was still balking and spooking, but I used circles and transitions to keep him steady. Then he decided he'd really had enough and went full bronc on me. The thing about those little guys is that they can buck and twist like nobody's business.

I made my 8 seconds and then some, but eventually he launched me. I made a good landing, just like I've always been taught. I tucked and rolled right back up onto my feet and caught the little bastard, and then the adrenalin wore off and I realized I'd tweaked my back something fierce. That's the thing about having a bad back, it's always a bad back and one wrong move can set it off. Especially wrong moves like being bucked off a sulky little pony. 

I knew I had to get back on, but I couldn't. I wasn't angry or scared, I just couldn't physically lift my left leg higher than a few inches without sending searing pain through my sciatic nerve. I made a heroic (and probably somewhat comical) effort, but I just couldn't heave myself back up there. So, I sent my daughter back to the tack room for the lunge line. If I couldn't ride him, I'd at least lunge the snot out of him. He had to do something so that he knew he couldn't just toss me.

That didn't go so well either. I couldn't manage to shuffle around well enough to be anything close to effective at lunging him. At this point it all hit me, the feeling of being old and broken and useless, and I burst into big, fat, self-pitying tears. I stood in the middle of the arena and sobbed like an idiot for I don't even know how long. It was long enough and pathetic enough that even the pony felt bad for me and came over to put his head my shoulder. I believe he was trying to tell me, "Geez, lady, get it together." 

Eventually I got it together, got him untacked and put him away. I may not have been able to work the snot out of him like I wanted to, but I figure having to stand in the arena with a sobbing lunatic was probably punishment enough for him. 

When I got back in the house I texted my trainer to tell him what a broken old failure I was. He responded with, "No you're not. Every fall is a lesson. What did you learn?"

I replied, "I learned I'm not 20 anymore and next time the pony is acting uncharacteristically  assholish don't get on."

His response: "That you are not 20 is old news. The second is the lesson."

I hate it when he's right about things like that. In my mind I'm still the 20-something bulldog who could ride the nastiest, rankest horses in the barn and laugh, but I suppose it's getting about time that I grew up. My back certainly thinks so.

For what it's worth, I'm not actually injured from the fall, no bruises or sprains, not even any sore muscles or tender spots. It's just that when you have chronic back problems anything can set it off. Yesterday it was falling off a pony, but some days it's been something as mundane as going up the stairs too fast or leaning over to get a spoon out of the dishwasher. I'll be fine in a day or two and ready to get back in the saddle, walk up the stairs, and retrieve my own spoons.

As far as what set the pony off, I'm sure the internet is frothing out the mouth to tell me that he has EPM, magnesium deficiency, chronic depression, a saddle that doesn't fit, rotten teeth, terrible feet, bad training, rabies, alien probes and/or some combination of all those things, but since this is one single incident in an entire year, I'm going to chalk it up to just having a bad day. I have bad days, you have bad days, and our horses are allowed to have bad days, too. If it continues, then we'll have him worked up and checked for alien probes. I can also assure you that next time he's having a bad day, I will just lunge him.


(I'm not renowned for making great decisions.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Long Time No Blog...

I was just reading someone else's blog when I saw my blog in their blogroll and it said "Last post 3 weeks ago" and I was like, "Crap! Has it really been that long?"

It has. But, this time I've been slacking because I have been doing things, not because I haven't been doing things. In the last 3 weeks I took an impromptu vacation, rode in a clinic with a hangover/jet lag, hosted a dressage show, and went on a hunter pace. Here's the rundown.

A few weeks ago was our 10 year anniversary, so my husband and I went to Las Vegas on a whim to celebrate. We were planning to get Elvis to re-marry us, but then we discovered that the hotel had a pool bar that served drinks by the pitcher and we never left the hotel again.

Seriously, does it look like I'm going to be able to do any walking?

Because no trip to Las Vegas is complete without a bad decision, I had also decided to host and ride in a clinic the day after I got back. So, our flight got in at 8pm, I went home, crashed, got up, loaded up Spider and went to a Fix-A-Test clinic to ride a test I hadn't ridden in over a year on a horse I hadn't ridden in a week. Luckily, they didn't change the 3rd Level tests all that much. The movements are all the same, but the half passes are a little longer.  Also luckily, I know the clinician and the clinician knew I had just come home from a 4 day bender in Las Vegas. Not that I got scored any less harshly, but at least I had a good explanation. Sort of. I'll write up a whole post about that soon. (What I remember of it.)

The next weekend was the first show of my local GMO's schooling show series. It went off perfectly, in spite of the ring being flooded when the show was supposed to start and half the entries scratching. Actually, the scratches were a good thing because it allowed us to push the start time back two hours and get the arena dried for the rest of the tests. Running horse shows teaches you to think on your feet and improvise with MacGyver-like skills, I highly recommend that everyone volunteer at every horse show they can for exactly that reason!

Then this past weekend was the hunter pace at a local vineyard. I went on this same hunter pace last year and we won the Optimum Division, but this year my back was bothering me so I did the "Just For Fun" Division. There's no ribbons, but there's loads of wine!

Better than ribbons.

We also had a birthday party for Jack, who turned 5 on March 31st. This year he wore a sparkly glitter rainbow cowboy hat for his party. He also got loads of treats, extra rice bran and a thorough grooming from the kids. When his party was over, he refused to go back in the pasture and had to be coaxed in with more treats and a promise that he might get a half-birthday party if he's good.

In between all that, I've been seeding pastures, getting the garden ready, trying to convince Spider (and myself) that we really can do the PSG and teaching my daughter to ride.

She's already better than me, I'm going to have to refer her to Lendon Gray.
Oh, and my daughter just reminded me that Spot's birthday is this weekend and he needs a party, too!


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