Equestrians Know It’s Hot When…

Ike in the shade

Can we just hang in the shade?

So there have been numerous articles published in the local newspaper to let us know that the dog days of summer are here.  Oh, really? Someone needed the newspaper to tell them that it is ridiculously hot? Umm, any equestrian could have told you that weeks ago.  We have our own ways of knowing it is hotter than Hades outside with a dose of subtropical humidity to make it more insufferable.

Equestrians know it is sweltering when…

 

You are on your third change of clothes and it is only 10 AM.

The sweatband in your helmet is so saturated that the sweat just runs into your eyes and blinds you. Thankfully your horse is smart enough not to run into your trainer.

They postpone a horse show for the safety of horses and riders.

You sweat through your gloves and can no longer half halt efficiently since the reins are sliding through your fingers.

Your horse is soaking wet even before you start grooming and tacking for your ride.

You dread stopping somewhere on the way home from the barn for fear someone will surreptitiously take a photo of you and mistake you for a Pokémon character.

A bug flies into your face and sticks to the sweat. Hey, at least it didn’t fly into your mouth this time.

You remove your clothing off like a banana peel.  Raise your hand if you have had a wrestling match and a few choice words with the sweaty sports bra that really doesn’t want to part ways.

It feels like you are squishing when you walk, but it is just the sweat pooled in your black leather boots.

You sweat so much that your gloves turn your hands a rainbow of colors from the dyes. Another show of hands for those who have gone into the office with this new “accessory.”

You accidentally hit yourself in the face with your horse’s sweaty saddle pad. Bleh, that doesn’t taste so good.

You seriously debate the merits of riding up and down the barn aisle rather than braving the sun.

You place your helmet on your head and sweat from the day before drips onto your head.

Your clothes are wetter going into the washer than when they go into the dryer.

You use the word “moist” a lot in conversation and you have not baked anything since the holidays.

You Google “places with cooler summer temperatures” but then realize that your 18 hand dressage horse will be a bit out-of-place at that dude ranch in Banff, Canada.

Stay cool and safe everyone! This heat wave can’t last forever…

alison

 

 

Hang On A Second..It Is Just About Time

Ike - May 2015 - Photo by K. Childers

Ike – May 2015 – Photo by K. Childers

Well, it is just about here…our Second Level debut.  To say that I am excited about it would be an understatement.  It has only taken me 10 years to finally get to this point in my dressage journey.  Yes, that is not a typo – 10 years.  Go ahead and make fun if you must, but I believe that all things and events come into our lives when we are ready for them.

My first years of dressage training were a challenge since 1) I had no clue what a half halt was, and then 2) once I did, I had a horse who thumbed his nose at the concept.  God bless Ms. C for her patience with the two of us.  How challenging it must be to try to teach a concept to a student with a horse that fought every step of the way.  No wonder progress moved slower than a snail’s pace.  Cigar and I were at odds for 6 years before his knee fracture forced his retirement.

If I wanted to get to Second Level sooner, an experienced mount would have been a wise option when shopping for Cigar’s replacement…but those experienced horses were well outside my budget and unfortunately, no one was offering to syndicate a horse for me.  Buying a green horse was my best and only option.  All I could do was hope that my two test rides on Ike were a good indication that we could form a partnership.

Thus far, I have been very fortunate with my green horse gamble.  Ike has very few foibles under saddle and truly does try his best to understand what we ask him to do.  I still clearly recall that steering was optional at the canter and that I nearly lost a knee cap on more than one occasion.  There was no half halting of the outside rein to stop the outward spiral towards the fence.  The inside rein and a prayer were all I had some days.  Poor Ike also had to finish growing before he could finally operate all body parts in a synchronous way.  Truth be told, I didn’t think he was ever going to stop growing!  Thankfully, it appears that he has finally reached maximum height and length.

And, if I am being completely honest, I needed to learn some new skills before we were ready to move beyond First Level.  Moving to Second is like jumping from elementary school to graduate school in one leap.  You can muddle through Training and First Levels with a basic knowledge  of dressage, but you had better put on your big kid boots after that.  Yikes!  The sh#% gets real…real collection, real medium gaits, real transitions in and out of those medium gaits, 10 meter canter circles, simple changes…there is no way you can fake your way through a Second Level test.  I think I can finally identify a collected trot versus a short, choppy trot.  I can finally ask for a simple change and get it most of the time.  I can finally position my horse in a correct shoulder in rather than a “neck in.”  It just took me a little longer since we were also teaching Ike at the same time.  Again, I think I got very lucky when I picked Ike.  Not every horse is so tolerant of learning new skills from a green rider.

So here we are, just a few months shy of our 4 year “gotcha day” and we are preparing for our first centerline at collected trot.  Hoping for the best and trying to remember to breathe.

Alison

Extracurricular Activities (or Why Ike Needed to Get Back to Work Sooner Rather Than Later)

"Who wants to play with me?"

“Who wants to play with me?”

The month of February was not a good month for making forward progress to our goal of showing Second Level in April.  We had a solid lesson on February 9th, and then Mother Nature decided to be persnickety and throw every type of frozen precipitation at us for days on end.  I tried riding one other day, but that ended with Ike’s hind end slipping out from under us and me almost sliding off with thoughts of broken bones and torn tendons flashing through my brain. So I hung up our bridle and hunkered down until Mother Nature’s mood improved.  Unfortunately it took her almost 4 weeks to come to her senses as our next lesson just happened today, March 10th .  Grrr, not amused.

Ike on the other hand, took the time off to engage in some extracurricular activities.  The more bored he became, the more the extracurricular activities escalated.  I thought I would share with you some of the activities in case your horse is still out of work and you need some ideas to keep him occupied.

  1. Halter Removal – This game only works when at least one horse is wearing a halter.  The object of the game is to get the noseband of the halter into the mouth of the horse wearing the halter without the halter breaking.  I guess it goes without saying that it is also better if nothing breaks on any of the participants.  Of course, this game is hard on the halter, so buy cheap ones since they will eventually fray and break.
  2. Snow Angel – You try and make the most elaborate snow angel.  This game requires some agility skills and the ability to completely roll over to obtain the full angel wing span.  Ike, sadly, usually made a one-winged angel.  This was his least favorite game and soon fell out of favor.
  3. I’ve Got Your Water – This game involves trying to steal the water from your brother’s paddock.  Each day, repurposed muck buckets of fresh water were set out in the paddocks in the morning.  We came to realize that Mr. Giraffe could grab the handle of his brother’s bucket if it was set too close to the fence.  Ike thought it was great fun to grab it and try to put it in his paddock.  “Ha, ha, I now have two and you have none.”
  4. Play With Me Now – The instigator stands at the fence line and must make mean faces at the other participant until the other participant relents and finally plays with the instigator.  It also helps to stomp the ground and kick out your hind leg in disgust.  Once both participants are engaged, both must show off their rearing skills in the icy footing.  The first one to fall is the loser.
  5. The Tree Removal Game– You find the one and only tree near your paddock and pull on the trunk of the tree to see how much of an angle you can obtain before the tree splits in two.  So far a 30-35 degree angle is the record.  Ike plans to parlay this game into some side work this summer working for a tree company.
  6. Paddock Redesign – This is an advanced game that requires some knowledge of electric fences and how to test whether or not they are working.  Beginners will need help from more advanced players to hone their fence testing skills.  Once the basics are established, the object of the game is to remove a section of the paddock fence to create a “door” into the adjacent paddock.  If the “door” is not fully open, you also test your jumping skills to avoid the “trip wire” still blocking the “door.”  Once in the adjacent paddock, this opens up a whole new array of game opportunities…until of course you get caught by the warden…
  7. Spring Fling – This is a bonus game if you master Paddock Redesign.  It is also a boy/girl game.  The object is to see how long you can play with the girls over their fence line until you get caught by the warden or you piss them off enough that they no longer want to play with you.  Bonus points are given if you can avoid shocking yourself on their hotwire while you engage them in play or if you can create a “door” into their paddocks.

Phew, we went back to work just in the nick of time.  I would hate to think what was next in line for equine activities…Trailer Pulling Contests or Hide and Seek anyone?

How Equestrians Know It Is Springtime

March 9 without blanket

1) You take your horse’s blanket off the final time and send it to be cleaned.

2) Your horse ejects hair at such an alarming rate and you consider if Hair Club for Horses might be needed.

3) Your car has so much horse hair in it you think the horses may have gone joy riding while you slept.

4) The printer runs out of ink because you printed too many show prize lists.

5) The excess funds you accumulated all winter are gone after you enter two shows.

6) Your horses look like bloodhounds as they search out the first blades of grass.

7) As your horse wanders around his paddock, you pray that the nails of his shoes will keep them secured to his hooves and not sucked into a muddy oblivion.

8) You arrive at the barn to find this…

Muddy Cigar

9) Once you clean your horse, you hope that he remains clean for the Coggins photo.

10) You debate the merits of brown boots, mud brown pants, and tan shirts.

11) You rejoice that you sweat during your ride rather than wondering if frostbite has set in on your fingers.

12) Daylight savings time means you no longer have to get blinded by the setting sun when you ride after work.

13) You are more excited at the thought of the new spring tack catalogs rather than the seed catalogs.

14) You shudder at the thought of spring cleaning the tack room.  Evidence suggests that the Mouse King now lives in your tack box.

15) You are so excited to be in the saddle again that you suffer from memory loss about all your summer complaints about heat, bugs, and sunburn.

We might still be days away from the official start of spring, but Ike and I wish you warm spring thoughts everyone!

alison