%$&*# Groundhog

ike-in-double-bridle-1

Thus far, we have been fortunate to have a mild winter with plenty of opportunities to keep our horses in regular training.  That being said, we still have to make it through February and the beginning of March before we can say we are done with the misery of frozen fingers and toes.  And all we can hope is that the groundhog is wrong in his prediction for 6 more weeks of winter.  Too bad my hound dog Holly is no longer with us…she would be able to convince the groundhog to change his tune.

Our Third Level progress has been slow but steady.  We can’t seem to break out of our tortoise mode.  Rabbits we are not.  Since neither Ike nor I have ever schooled nor competed at this level, poor Ms. C has the difficult task of training us simultaneously.  And, for the most part, I am the one holding back our progress.

I manage to stifle Ike’s trot and canter half pass.  Every once in a while, I manage to align his body just right and we flow across the arena.  I get all excited and giddy like a schoolgirl, but when asked to do it again….well, we hobble across the arena looking like a ginormous wooden puppet.  It seems that I cannot grasp the concept that the shoulders must start the movement.  I prefer to let the haunch take the lead.  Yes, yes, it is wrong but I just can’t seem to help myself!  I promise to keep practicing since I know there is a great half pass in the big man.

The extended gaits are still rather elusive.  I am happy to report that finally we are beginning to have a decent medium trot.  A real one, not a “horse just goes faster” medium.  I guess it just took some time for Ike’s strength to develop.  It also helps that on the cold and blustery days, Ike wants to go forward, so we use that to our advantage.

And I know you must be curious about our flying changes, since that is the make or break for Third Level.  Let’s just say that they are a work in progress.  Some days we nail them in both directions.  Some days Ike’s hind end doesn’t get the message to do anything so we get disunited.  Some days Ike ignores me and we careen around with an ugly countercanter.  And then other days, Ike anticipates them and they are textbook perfect when he does it without my interference.  Sigh…  We did have one amazing day where we had solid changes and countercanter all in one training session.  I’m trying not to get too excited about that day since it is about as frequent as a blue moon.

The spring schedules and prize lists are starting to pop up in my newsfeed and on websites.  Not sure what the year will shape up to be, but we are aiming for a Fix-a-Test clinic at the end of March.  Based on the outcome of that, we will make some decisions about our spring show schedule.

alison

p.s. For those of you who are wondering about Cigar, he continues to improve.  There are still some proudflesh scabs that we are combating, but my old man is back to his normal, grumpy, independent self.  And yes, he is filthy!!

 

Ike’s 2017 Update

Hello my friends! 
It has been a while since I checked in to share my thoughts on life and my Mother’s stories. Someone has to fact check her writing and get to the truth.

My brother sucked up a lot of Mom’s time and money late last year. His leg looked like a bloated hot dog and he didn’t feel like eating. There was some fancy name for what he had, but I called it “Suckstobeyou-itis.”  The vet stuck a tube in his neck and then he had to stand in one place for a few hours while clear stuff got drained into him.  Borrr-iiinnnggg.  They also kept sticking him with lots of needles. Oh, the needles; the tack box looked like it belonged to a drug addict.  The vet even had Mom sticking him multiple times a day. Mom also jammed applesauce laced with medicine into my brother’s mouth for weeks on end. She even conned Ms. C and Mr. D into helping with her evil plan. 

I did feel bad for Mom one day when she thought my brother was not going to make it. I hung close and casually ate my hay. I tried to look unconcerned, but I would have been very sad to say goodbye to him. Even though his vet bills cut into my Christmas loot, I guess I am glad that he is still around.  He finally feels well enough to play with me which is good since there is no grass to eat and my slacker Mom doesn’t ride as much in the cold.

When Mom does ride, she puts the big boy bridle on me. I am not a fan of all the extra metal in my mouth. I like to play with all the pieces. Sometimes I get it under my tongue which forces Mom or Ms. C to have to fix it.  Mom thinks it gives her more control,  but I proved otherwise a couple of days ago. She was trying to slow me down, but I managed to set a pretty fast pace. Mom results to yelling, “slow down!!!” but I just ignore her.  A boy has to have some fun once in a while.

We are working on stuff to move up to Third Level this year. Mom wants a medal of some sort and the stuff I am learning will help her get it.  I wonder what it tastes like. Will it get me more treats? I had better get an Uncle Jimmy ball if she gets her medal. 

Most of the stuff we are learning isn’t too hard, but Ms. C yells at Mom a lot during our lessons. “More flexion.” “You let the haunches lead.” “You let the shoulder fall out!” “Ask for more push on that trot.” (Umm, Mom, I hear you huffing and puffing up there…perhaps some cardio training is in order. Maybe some training for your coordination too.) I am trying to do what she wants for the flying changes, but sometimes she doesn’t ask at the right moment and I have to scramble to do what she expects. Thankfully we have plenty of time before we have to go public.  And Mom still gets her left and right confused. Face palm. Yeah, it is embarrassing some days.

We have been lucky this winter that the snow has not piled up and we have not had weeks of sustained cold. I like it since it means Mom can’t keep me in a blanket all the time. I look silly being the only horse at the barn whose mother dresses them in ridiculous clothes. I guess I should be glad that the goofy patterns don’t come in my size.

Hope all my friends are doing well. See you out and about later this year!

Ike

When My Friend Is Sad, So Am I

You see your friend’s number pop up on your cell phone, and when you answer, you know what the call is about even before a complete sentence is spoken. The tears stream down your face as they surely are on your friend’s.  They said goodbye to their beloved horse that morning. There is nothing more to say at that moment. You share a moment of silence and say goodbye. 

What is it about these amazing creatures that make their loss so hard even when the horse is not yours?  It matters not the horse’s age or what that horse did or did not do during its life. Pedigrees become just words on a page; ribbons lose their shine.  All that matters is that your friend loved their horse and now the horse is gone. They loved their horse even when there was no ribbon from the show. They loved their horse even when another mystery wound appeared on the leg. They loved their horse as they sat in a cold barn into the wee hours of the night as the horse recovered from colic.  They saw past any flaws and just saw love in those big brown, trusting eyes.

As their friend, you wish you had some profound words to help ease the grief. You wish a hug could stop the tears.  Time appears to stand still for days on end. A card never seems to say enough.  I would give up every year end award for them to have one more day/week/month or year with their four-legged family member. 

 The loss makes you realize that each day you have together is a gift.  Hug your horses tight, tell them you love them each and every day, and never forget to be there for each other.

alison

Merry Christmas!

Ike and I would like to wish all our friends and family a very merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and a joyful holiday season. We hope this time is filled with laughter, fun get-togethers, and yummy holiday treats.  

Ike is hoping that one day mom will give up the tradition of placing things on his head or that he grows a little taller so I can no longer reach the top of his head.

I am hoping for a mild winter and safe footing so we can continue riding through the colder months.  I am also secretly hoping for clean changes and fluid half pass steps.

Merry Christmas! 

Alison and Ike

My Love/Hate Relationship With Winter

Ike January 25 2016

Ike expressing his views on winter weather. (This is from last winter.)

 

Well, winter has arrived in the mid-Atlantic states.  The snowbirds have migrated south and the rest of us have opened up the bags of winter clothing and hand warmers to face the colder temperatures.  There are things that I do like about this time of year, but there are also things I truly despise about the season…

Love: Not having sweat pouring down my face and burning my eyes.                                                   Hate: The wind stinging my eyeballs making it look like I am crying. 

Love: Not having to have ninja like reflexes to kill horseflies.                                                                     Hate: Being so padded to stay warm that I move like the StaPuff Marshmallow Man.

Love: Not riding in the atomic dustbowl.                                                                                                  Hate: Frozen footing.

Love: No allergies and random sneezing while I ride.                                                                             Hate: That my nose runs like a faucet in cold weather. 

Love: The energy that my horse has.                                                                                                        Hate: The bat crap crazy energy my horse has on some days.

Love: Pockets in my winter coats.                                                                                                           Hate: My fingers being so frozen that they can grasp nothing in the pockets. 

Love: Not having to clean gooey sweat globs off the bridle.                                                                   Hate: How impossible it is to manipulate cold leather.

Love: Not fearing having a shoe sucked off in the mud.                                                                         Hate: Worrying that my horse with twist a fetlock in the frozen mud holes. 

Love: Not worrying about odd tan lines.                                                                                                  Hate: Wind burn and chapped lips.

Love: Not having to wear a gas mask in the car with the dirty, sweaty saddlepad.                                   Hate: Having to wait for the ice on the windshield to melt.

So what are your favorite and least favorite things about this time of year?

Alison

Time To Install The Winter Brakes

ike-dec-2016

Naughty List Candidate

So after very mild and workable temperatures in November, frigid temperatures and gusty winds have arrived in Virginia with a big, “Hellllloooo you poor souls who can’t migrate south for the winter!”

What that means is that it is time to drag out the fleece lined riding breeches, Thinsulate winter boots, and thicker gloves stuffed with Hot Hands. It also means that I look like I am crying while I ride since my eyes tear in the cold, and my nose and lips will be permanently chapped and cracked until April.  I know, it is a picture-perfect look.

Those of us who weather the winter conditions also know that our horses transform into different beasts once the thermometer dips and stays well below 50 degrees. Tiny demons take up residence in their ears encouraging naughtiness and crazy antics while in their paddocks and while under saddle. Yes, even Ike can be led down the naughty road…the threat of telling Santa appears to have no effect on his behavior.

Thus far this winter, Ike has destroyed two fence boards and one fence post. You read that correctly, he snapped a fence post with not a scratch on his body.  He also decided to rear, buck and cavort up and down the fence line just as the vet was administering Cigar’s antibiotic shot.  Cigar decided that he should join the fun, so I had to let go of the lead rope rather than get dragged through the mud.  Many thanks Ike for “helping.”  He has also resumed his wood-munching habit and more chicken wire has been installed on the boards around his coop stall. 

Tacking my demon-infected horse is much more challenging given that Ike seemingly generates a generous amount of static electricity.  I do my best not to shock him, but inevitably, we both get a jolt or two as I remove mud, shavings and other unidentified material from his coat.  Ike also is less than patient as I chip out the packed mud and manure from his hooves.  I now need to be very aware of where my feet are in relation to his hooves or I get stomped on as he jerks away his hoof.  Good times.  His hatred of the tightening of the girth is also magnified in the winter.  Nipping and cow kicking are standard practices in Ike’s world.  Smacking and yelling are mine.

Unfortunately for me, my winter boots are a bit bigger than my summer boots, so my usual spurs don’t easily fit around the heel.  I tried riding without spurs and using my Prince of Wales spurs, but Ike scoffed at my leg aids, “Mom, I cannot hear you!” Fine, Ike, mom knows how to stretch my pointier spurs.  Problem solved.

Over the span of 10 days, I’ve also determined that our collected canter has gone south with the snow birds.  We have fast canter, faster canter, fastest canter, super warp speed, and no absolutely no brakes in the snaffle bridle.  These canter speeds make schooling flying changes challenging if not impossible.  It is hard to be subtle, yet clear with your aids when you are hanging on for dear life and praying that you don’t snap another fence post or your neck.  What is a girl to do if she wishes to continue working during this fun? The girl installs “the winter brakes,”  AKA The Double Bridle.  Problem curtailed if not completely solved. Of course, I cannot manage both sets of reins in puffy gloves, so I cope with cold fingers for the opportunity to stop when I want.

If anyone has any winter horse survival tips they wish to share, please pass them along!  As long as the footing is safe and the roads to the barn are clear, we will brave the cold and work towards our Third Level debut.

Stay warm my friends! Alison