Happy Thanksgiving!

Ike and Alison

Ike and I would like to wish our friends and family a very Happy Thanksgiving.  We are so very grateful and thankful for everything –

Our friends who follow our adventures through the maze that is dressage riding/training;

Our friends and family who attend our shows to cheer for us as we head down centerline;

Ms. C who guides us through our training – we would be trotting ovals at Intro Level if it wasn’t for her guidance;

The clinicians who provide another point of view;

The managers, secretaries and volunteers who tirelessly work to pull together fantastic shows;

My fellow dressage chapter members who provide camaraderie and wisdom;

Our farrier and veterinarian who keep Ike sound and healthy;

My supervisor who is always understanding when there is another barn “emergency” or an upcoming show; and

My amazing husband who continues to support our efforts and who safely gets us to and from our shows and clinics.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  May your holiday season be blessed.

Alison and Ike

 

Can Someone Direct Me To The Bigger & Taller Store?

Ike in his blanket

Hmm, there is something amiss with this blanket

This past weekend, my husband and I watched the movie The Blind Side again.  It is an amazing story, but I mention the movie for one particular scene.  Mrs. Tuohy takes Michael Oher to the Big & Tall store to find some new clothing.  She asks the salesmen what they have available in Michael’s size.  He points to one rack and states, “This is all we have in his size.”  Mrs. Tuohy retorts, “Are you not a big and tall store?”  The salesman laughs and replies, “He needs a bigger and taller store!”  Well that is about where I am with finding Ike a winter blanket.  Yes everyone, that moment has arrived, Ike has outgrown his EIGHTY SIX inch blanket.  As you can see in his photo, we cannot close the front of the blanket – the velcro doesn’t even come close to securing in front.  As my blogger friend Susan noted, “He has massive cleavage spillage like the drunk girl on Saturday night.”  Poor Ike.

We have moved beyond the normal horse-sized blankets.  Most brands of blankets have a maximum size of 84 inches with some venturing into the 86 inch range.  When you start looking for sizes bigger than that, your choices are very limited.  I suppose most companies assume when you are that big, you don’t get cold.  When you type “88 inch horse blanket” into a search engine, you get about 5 websites with a limited selection of turnout blankets and stable blankets.  Cute colors/plaids/patterns?  Forget about it.  Color choices?  Typically one color choice – take it or leave it.  The best selection appears to be at Schneider’s Tack (the same place I found Ike’s double bridle) with a brand called Big Fella Blankets marketed “For Drafts, Large Warmbloods, & Wide Bodied Conformations.” Color choices are grey so we can look like a walrus or navy for the look of a blue whale.

But before I purchase a new blanket, I need to measure Mr. Wide Body to attempt to get an accurate measurement.  Pulled out my measuring tape only to find that Ike has also far exceeded the measuring capability of my tape.  Super.

So, to date, my dearest boy has outgrown our last horse trailer, two bridles, a girth, a multitude of bits, his 82 inch blankets, his 84 inch blankets, and now his 86 inch blankets.  Heaven help us if he outgrows his stall.  I will be footing the bill for a new wing of the barn…

Stay warm everyone!  Ike will do his best until the new blanket arrives.

alison

How to (Kind Of) Assemble a Double Bridle

DSC03239

So this winter means that Ike and I are beginning our introduction to the double bridle. Yep, I have never used one before. It was debated and discussed for a number of months before we decided that it could be helpful. I struggle due to lack of experience with dressage beyond First Level, and I lack the physical strength to half halt effectively in certain situations.  There are also Carpal tunnel in both wrists and my fibromyalgia that can make riding a struggle some days. My drive to learn and to escape the lower levels keeps me going, and the double bridle can hopefully give me just a little bit of extra oomph to teach Ike the skills to progress beyond First Level.  I will still ride in my normal bridle most days, but will use the double bridle during some of my lessons. [read – under the eagle eye of Ms. C so I don’t do anything stupid inappropriate.]

I found a very nice double bridle (it can convert to a snaffle bridle if necessary) and inexpensive bradoon and Weymouth bits through Schneider Saddlery (http://www.sstack.com/English_Bridles/Dress-Conv-Bridle-W-pat-Bead/$%7B(%20%20)#32871%20FS%20BK}) for a very reasonable price. Of course, assembling the pieces was not quite as easy as clicking “purchase” on the website. So, without further ado, I present to you “How to assemble a double bridle.”

  1. Stupidly smile at box when it arrives because it makes you feel like a big kid rather than a beginner.
  2. Open box. Remove the packaging and sniff the new leather.
  3. Lay out the various pieces on the counter to make sure all parts are present and accounted for.bridle on counter
  4. Look in box for some Ikea-style pictogram assembly instructions. Grimace and then mutter expletives when you realize there are none.  my look of horror
  5. Pour a large glass of wine.
  6. Retrieve laptop so that you can find a photo of the assembled bridle on the website.
  7. Attach the bradoon and Weymouth bits and admire your handywork.
  8. Remove the bits when you realize you forgot to attach the browband.
  9. Curse your ineptitude and take a big swig of the wine.
  10. Slide browband into place.
  11. Reattach both bits.
  12. Realize that the headstall is backwards because the throatlatch is in the front.
  13. Mutter more expletives as you remove both bits for the second time and then the browband.
  14. Have another large sip of wine.
  15. Curse the inventor of the double bridle.
  16. Pour more wine.
  17. Yet again study the photo of the assembled bridle and reattach the browband first and then the bits.
  18. Attach the noseband.
  19. Breathe sigh of relief when you realize you finally attached everything correctly.
  20. Attach the reins to the bits.
  21. Call your trainer to confirm each set of reins are attached to the correct bit.
  22. Admire fully assembled bridle.
  23. Find a keeper on the floor. Pick up before it is consumed by a curious canine.
  24. Scratch your head when you realize you cannot figure out where it goes.
  25. Shrug and put it in your wallet just in case you have an epiphany.
  26. Admire your accomplishment again as you envision riding down centerline with your horse wearing the bridle…one day….
  27. Finish the bottle of wine.

I am happy to report that Ms. C gave my efforts a passing grade.  Ike was a sport as we adjusted the fit.  And I have to say (please pardon my proud horse mom moment), that I think my boy looked pretty smart wearing this new bridle.  Wish us luck!

alison

 

From The Horse’s Mouth

Ike November 2014

Happy Fall Everyone!  I’m again taking over to fill you in on my life in my words.  I’m pretty sure that I should have my own blog by now, but Mom says that I’m not ready for such responsibility.  Sheesh!  What a mean Mom.  Seriously, how am I supposed to rely on her to give the full story?

I’m pretty sure that I did a very good job at the regional competition.  Mom had that silly grin on her face and tears in her eyes when she realized we got one of those big ribbons with the long streamers.  I gave one of the streamers a taste and I have to say that it was disappointing.  I will stick with apples and horse treats.  It was cool to have people cheer for me when Mom and I went into the big indoor.  People called it a “koliseeim.”  I say it was a really big indoor with lots of chairs and few windows.  How do I get one of those at the farm?  Maybe Santa will bring me one for Christmas…

Being at the show was a lot of fun, but by the end of the weekend I was really tired of being inside all the time.   We horses need to start a union and get some better benefits – stalls with attached paddocks will be on my list of demands.  An internet connection at the barn, a private apple orchard, and a climate-controlled barn will also be discussed.  And none of that pay-for-performance stuff.  I get my pay and benefits regardless of the color of the ribbon.  But I digress…My friend Winslow was there as were Roo and Flori.  Dad came along as well as my canine brother Tim.  Ms. C was there to cheer for me on Saturday.  It was big fun to have Miss Melana visit me at night.  We had fun sending photos to Mom.

Once I got home from the show, I had a whole week of doing nothing but hanging out in my paddock.  Mom came to visit, but there was no riding.  She said that I had earned my vacation.  I’m trying to figure out how to have vacation every day like my brother.  He won’t tell me the secret to full-time vacation.  I think he is afraid Mom might put him back to work.

But now that I am back to work, I have to say that things have become much HARDER!  What?!  I did really well all year, so how can the work get harder?  Mom and Ms. C have introduced me to this medieval torture device they call a double bridle.  They stick not one, but two bits in my mouth.  Two!!  What was wrong with one?  It has something to do with the work getting harder.  I keep hearing the word “kollekshun” used more frequently.  It basically means that I have to use my hind legs more and more.  There is also talk around the barn about some sort of Second Level.  The only other level in the barn is where they keep the extra hay.  I’m waiting to see if we will have horses moving in up there.  Mom and Dad have a second level at their house, so maybe my brother and I are moving.  None of the other horses are telling me much, but they all like to smugly stand along the rail while I have to work with all that metal in my mouth.  Luckily, I don’t have to use it every day.

You might be interested to know that my mane is finally growing back.  I really didn’t mean to scratch out as much as I did this summer, but the tick bite was really itchy.  My mane is at the length now that it looks like a Mohawk.  Cool, huh?  Maybe we can introduce that as a talking point at the union discussions this winter.

If you know anyone who wants to help me with my union formation, please send them my way.  It is awfully hard to type on Mom’s laptop.

Ike

Selfies with Ike

Friday night smile

Ike and his buddy Melana

Do you ever wonder what your horse does at night once you have returned home or to your hotel room if away at a show?  I’m neither curious enough nor neurotic enough to set up a web camera so that I can constantly monitor my boy.  I have never worried about the boys when they are tucked into their stalls at Ms. C’s house.  There are rumors of hot bran mashes and mice parties in the feed buckets, but I know that I can sleep soundly when both horses are home.

Now when Ike and I go on the road, I can be a bit of a worrier.  Will he get some rest?  Will he have enough water and hay?  Will he try to escape over the half door?  Did I remember to latch the stall door?!!  It helps that my friends and I take turns doing late evening barn checks.  My husband has become accustomed to my request to swing by the barn after dinner “just to make sure all is well.”

Well, I learned while in Lexington, VA for the CBLM Finals last month, that Ike had a late evening visitor.  My husband and I were watching television at our hotel when my phone buzzed with a new text message…

"Selfies with Ike!"

“Selfies with Ike!”

Hmm, young man, Mom is not sure that you are old enough to have girls in your “room” without adult supervision!  I texted back asked what the two of them were doing and if she thought she could fit Ike’s entire head in the shot.  Didn’t have to wait long to find out…

"Nailed it!"

“Nailed it!”

Phew!  That is a lot of head to fit into a selfie.  Good thing Melana has long arms.  There were selfies from Friday and Saturday nights as well as daytime selfies when Melana would stop by for some Ike time.  I was also informed that there might have been some snuggling as well.

Friday night love

Friday night snuggling

Oh, Ike.  Such a lady’s man.  I even got to join in the selfie fun on Sunday afternoon before my Training Level final.

Group selfie

Maybe that is why Ike did such a stellar job – his selfie buddy was there watching his performance.

The selfies didn’t stop when we returned home either…there must be a cache of photos on Melana’s phone.  Me thinks that someone misses her late night buddy.

"How I feel not visiting with Ike."

“How I feel not visiting with Ike.”

Ike says you are welcome to visit anytime!  He will leave the barn door unlocked for you.