Horse Seeking Rider or Free Ride to Florida

"Um, Mom, why are you crouching down in the snow?"

“Um, Mom, why are you crouching down in the snow?”

Hi Everyone!  Mom has not been inspired to write much these past few weeks, nor has she been inspired to ride, so I am taking over the blog to fill you in and to find someone who will come ride me or drive me to Florida where they don’t have this cold, white stuff all over the ground.

I think it is the white stuff that keeps Mom from riding.  I’m not sure what the big deal is.  Rumor has it that some people actually do ride their horses with this stuff on the ground.  Mom fusses about me injuring myself, but I’ve been out in it for a few weeks now and I’m still moving.  Truth be told, I think Mom is a snow-weenie, but don’t tell her that.  Now Mom does still come visit us most days and hand out snacks, but that is about it.  She did hack away at the ice balls in my hooves the other day.  She is a wuss – took her over 20 minutes of poking and prodding with the hoof pick to get the job done AND she ruined the hoof pick in the process.  Silly woman, if you had demonstrated some patience, they warm up and fall out on their own…

My brother likes to make snow angels and suggested that I give it a try to alleviate my boredom.  You fluff up the snow with your hoof and then flop down and wiggle around as much as you can.  Cigar flops from side to side so his snow angels have a pretty big wingspan.  I didn’t flop over like Cigar, but I did my best to make some wings.  The hard part is getting up out of the snow when you are done.  My front hooves kept slipping out from under me (those darn shoes that Mom insists that I wear), so I had to take a break and sit like a dog.  I then gave one big push and was released from the snowy angel I’d made.  One angel was enough for me; I now just watch my brother make his angels.  I do try to steal his water bucket while he is down and he can’t bite me.

One really delicious treat that we get when the weather is cold is a warm bran mash.  It is a delightful snack we get late in the afternoon.  Mom happened to be around one afternoon and doled out our portions.  She then insisted upon taking my photo.  Seriously, she is not right in the head.

Ike after bran mash

As you can see in the photo, I was not pleased at the photo-op, but since she was out of neck range, I could not reach out and make her drop the phone.  I’m plotting my revenge.

Mom is very worried about show season and how this break will affect our Second Level debut.  I try to reassure her that it will all be okay.  So what if we don’t do Second Level until May or June?!  If she could just get her act together and learn to sit my trot, we might still be able to do it in April.  She still pounds on my back like a jack hammer when I really get my trot on.  Perhaps she needs to eat a cheeseburger or two and get some padding on that bony ass of hers.  Maybe then it wouldn’t be so hard.

I never did grow a really thick winter coat, so I should be okay when I get to Florida.  Just remember I need a roomy trailer and plenty of hay.  We can send word to Mom once we are on the road.

Ike

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Ribbons Here, Ribbons There, Ribbons, Ribbons Everywhere!

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So Mother Nature continues to be a real bee-itch and make riding darn near impossible in Virginia.  Sub zero wind chills and now the looming possibility of up to a foot of snow.  Seriously, Mother Nature, you suck.

What is a rider to do when they cannot ride and grooming your horse means white, stiff fingers within 20 minutes?  You go hibernate indoors.  My house is the cleanest it has been in months.  I have scrubbed grime from crevices that no one else would notice.  Closets and drawers have been decluttered.  Cabinets are organized.  Sketchy containers of condiments have left the refrigerator.

And then I decided to tackle my home office.  Yikes!  It is amazing how quickly papers and other assorted things accumulate in my office.  It is the dumping ground for things that don’t have a better home.  It is also the place where all my horse show ribbons live.  I have only been competing for 3 years with Ike and prior to that, 5 years with Cigar, but boy are there a lot of ribbons loitering about the room.  As you can see, they had become “curtains,” but I feared that the miniblinds would cry “Uncle!” and collapse into two heaps on the floor.  I am embarrassed to admit, but the ribbons were a bit dusty.  There were also cobwebs and one, all right two, sheesh, three dead stinkbugs found amongst the colorful satin.  The horror!!  I boxed Ike’s smaller ribbons from his first two years of showing and only left the yearend awards and his 2014 season ribbons on display…after removing the offending dust, cobwebs, and dead bugs.  (Seriously, where did those stinkbugs come from?!!)

There does come a point though that you need to do something with all the ribbons.  Leaving them in boxes seems silly; there were a lot of blood, sweat, and tears poured into earning those pieces of satin.  You can donate them to a class for projects, dump them in the trash, or find someone with mad-crafting skills to turn them into something decorative.

Heart Wreath

My crafting skills are limited;  I managed to make the Valentine’s wreath above with some of the ribbons, but sewing is beyond my reach.  I opted for option three and turned to a more talented crafter to make something fabulous.  I collected all of Cigar’s show ribbons and handed them over to my friend’s soon to be daughter-in-law who wanted to try her hand at upcycling ribbons.  Let me just say right now that I wish I had done this sooner!  What an awesome way to honor Cigar’s short-lived dressage career.  She made me a hanging quilt and a decorative pillow using the streamers and some of the rosettes.

Ribbon quilt

The coolest feature of the quilt is the back where the show details from each streamer are chronicled.  Lauren put a lot of thought into the design and I could not be more thrilled with the results.

ribbon pillow

The pillow is adorable and lives in a room that always has the door closed.  My dogs thought the pillow looked like a pretty dog toy…the rosette was particularly tempting.  Once I had these two commemorative pieces, I felt better about tossing the unused pieces and reclaiming some space in my closet to now store Ike’s ribbons.  It is a vicious cycle.

So now that the house is clean and organized, spring can hurry up and get here.  This girl is ready for more saddle time!

Squeak, Squeak, Squeak Goes the Diesel Engine

Ike peering from barnDid you hear that horrible squeaking noise on Tuesday afternoon?  The one that sounded like a 50 year old bike being pedaled up a hill?  That would have been Ike and me in our dressage lesson.  Sheesh, it sure doesn’t take long for Ike to get a little stiff and rusty, and seemingly lose all the progress we’ve made towards Second Level.  It takes even less time for my riding to fall to pieces.  I suppose that is what happens when you are down to riding once a week.

Such is the plight of the average rider in the middle of winter.  We are at the mercy of the weather since we have no indoor arena.  Why am I not riding regularly?  Too wet, too cold, too frozen, too windy can all be used to explain why.  People like me are not able to leave our jobs, homes, and family and spend the winter in Florida playing with our horses every day.  We live vicariously through videos posted online; we jealously stew over their short-sleeved shirts and shiny, mud-free horses.

It was probably a good thing that I didn’t ride in the gale force winds on Monday.  Ike had a very busy day applying a mud mask to all exposed parts of his body.  It took me a good hour or so of grooming to get the dried, caked mud from Ike’s head, neck, legs, and tail.  There was even mud under the blanket – I’m not sure how he managed that feat.  I was as dirty as he was just from taking off his blanket.  As you can see from this photo, there was a clear line of demarcation between the land of the blanket and the mud flats.

Line of demarcation

Ike’s neck after 15 minutes with the curry…

While I cursed the blanket for sharing Ike’s mud with me, I also was thankful that it was in place or my task would have been even more daunting.  When I was done, even my teeth felt gritty.  A friend suggested that I get some Orbit gum for my dirty mouth.

Thankfully, Ike did not reapply his mud mask on Tuesday, so grooming was quick work and we could get straight to our lesson.  It. Was. Not.  Pretty.  Ike was stiff; all body parts were moving, but all parts were not moving together.  My fingers were stiff in the cooler weather which meant that my reins kept getting too long and uneven and I was always a half a step too slow for a proper half halt.  Transitions were our saving grace.  It took a good 25-30 minutes, but finally Ike’s body started moving more fluidly.  Ah, he is like a diesel engine – he just needs some time to warm up before getting to work.

Once the engine was humming, our work improved 10 fold.  We starting working on our leg yields to supple Ike even more.  I still have trouble keeping the correct alignment.  All too often, I leave Ike’s hind end playing catch up as I let the shoulders bully their way ahead.  Just half halt that outside rein to stop it they say; I say bully to that.  Once Ike’s shoulders take the lead, it is all I can do to slow them down.  I also have to be careful that I maintain the proper flexion since Ike is more than happy to demonstrate his half pass ability. (which by the way is lovely.)  We tried the new First Level Test 3 movement of leg yielding from K to X and then from X to H.  Make sure you have control of those shoulders well before X – it is way too easy to overshoot X and end up with a very steep line to H.

We then moved on to shoulder in and started introducing the Second Level Test 1 pattern.  Holy moly!  We can actually do it!  I am still in shock.  There is a dim chance that we might actually be ready to try Second Level at a schooling show in April.  Ike and I can finally ride the first 8 movements of the test with some level of success.  We are able to show a change between a collected trot and a “medium-like” trot.  The medium trot is still a work in progress, but work has stalled with the poor footing.  We are really in a correct shoulder in position and don’t just have an over bent giraffe neck.  We can ride smooth square turns onto and off of the rail.  Reinbacks are decent.  Luckily, Ike can already walk and free walk, so movements 7 and 8 feel like bonus points.

But that is where are work ended for the lesson.  The footing was not safe enough to push for medium trots or canter.  Call me a wuss, but I’d rather err on the side of caution then end up with a tendon injury that sidelines any work.  Warmer weather will be here soon enough and we will be back to full speed.  I am still practicing my impatiently patient skills.  They too are a work in progress.

alison