Monday, June 27, 2016

Familiar Sights

More content later, but, sigh.

Yes, that is my horse soaking his #%$@&! right front hoof.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Good Read

I have not done my blog links roundup in a while due to a lack of anything resembling free time, BUT, today, if you are looking for something to read, go read Liz's writeup of riding the OD 100 mile ride.

Endurance riders are AMAZING, and Liz's writeup is spectacular.

Friday, June 24, 2016

still alive!

I am still here, still alive, and after three weeks of work basically 24/7 - tonight I am going to ride my horse!

Like, so much work that after the show I hauled everything out of my car and dumped it on my dining room table and it literally has not moved an inch since then. None of it. The ONLY thing I did was oil my saddle what with the hurricane during the show and all.

Decisions coming up: I need to commit to one of two schooling shows in July & August because I said I would ride on a team with my barn and I need to go three total shows to do that. Two barn shows + one off property show. So. Hm. Which one?

I'd love - LOVE - to do both, but the shipping is way out of my budget.

Anyway: nothing of real substance here. Just to let you know that I'm still alive. I assume Tristan is too or someone would've told me.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Fantasy Horses

I'm deep into my busiest work period of a two year cycle, and so I've given Tristan this week, and probably next week, off. He worked his ass off for me for the three weeks previous to the show, and in a hundred little ways I could tell that he is no longer as tolerant of that kind of ramping up of work as he used to be. So he gets some well-deserved time to be a horse. Because two Training tests at a schooling show is basically his equivalent of a long format four star.

In the meantime, I'm taking care of loads of little domestic things and indulging in comfort activities. Eating brownies and taking the intern out for margaritas are among my less productive of those.

More productive is comfort reading. And when I need comfort reading, I turn to one author: Mercedes Lackey.

Now, I'm not going to claim Lackey is an especially gifted author. She has a knack for worldbuilding, a couple of clever ideas, and her writing output is frankly inhuman. That's...kind of it. Which means that every time I am in need of comfort reading there are a half dozen new books of hers to indulge in. I think of her as my literary equivalent to boxed mac'n'cheese. Not really good for you, not tolerable as a consistent diet, but when I am need of an hour of sheer indulgence, I will eat an entire box.

Lackey's main world is Valdemar, in which there are these divine beings called Companions, who take the form of pure white horses with blue eyes. Companions choose special people to be Heralds, and then form a quasi-military, quasi-judicial corps that serves the crown.

So: magical telepathic white horses who choose the very best, most worthy people and then bond with them for life?


Which brings me to my Friday question. Are you drawn to fantasy horses? Horses are a feature of almost every single book or movie with an even slightly magical or out of the ordinary bent. Sometimes they're the core driving force behind the plot, as they are in Valdemar. Sometimes they're just ancillary characters.

Are there any that stick out to you? Any of your favorites? Or do fantasy horses that fly, talk, perform magic, or otherwise exceed the capacity of normal horses not interest you?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Longer Show Recap

Can I just say, I envy all of you who can do blow-by-blow accounts of your tests? Like, you remember pieces of them? I dunno. Maybe my head is stuffed too full of everything else, but I can only retain some basic pieces.

First: holy fuck, the weather was miserable. It wasn't so much the rain or the wind as it was the rain, and the wind, and the cold, all together, constantly. Watch Emilie's video to get a sense of the day.

My last prep ride on Friday, after our epic, come-to-Jesus ride on Thursday, was...sluggish. He was tiiiiiiired. We did a thoroughly uninspired run-through of both tests in the dressage ring, in the snaffle, and then he got a long bath. Which he hated, but desperately needed.

Saturday night I didn't sleep terribly well; I drilled and re-drilled the tests, but they would not stay in my head. Not only that, but I discovered that the long diagonal free walk in Training 1 that I had memorized and schooled was, well, not a long diagonal after all, but a short one. *facepalm*

Sunday morning: bang on schedule for everything, but maybe a smidge short on warmup time. I was in not-fucking-around mode, Which was both good and bad. It meant that I was disciplined and strategic about what I chose to do with him, spotted trouble spots, and tried to work through them. It also meant that I was tense, iron-fisted, and railroaded him through everything.

setting off. nope, didn't braid. zero regrets.

From a certain point of view, that was the ride he needed. And it worked: we had not a hint of the bolting, bucking, uncooperative little shit that he had been for the previous three weeks. When I told him to jump, he asked how high. He was so docile that halfway through my warmup I went down to the barn and got a whip, and that added in the last bit of sharpness that I needed, but he still remained controllable.

note clenched fists.

But I'm not going to pretend that was a ride that was going to score well in a dressage ring!

I rode Training 2 first, and succumbed at the last second to an offer to have the test read. That was a first for me! I've read many tests, seen many read, but have never had one of my own read. It kind of underlined my theme of the weekend: do what you can, and let the rest go.

sit up. SIIIIIT UP.

Anyway, Training 2: I was pleased with the way we rode into corners, the promptness of transitions, and while he was braced AF, we at least had lines of communication. I softened when I felt like I could, which was probably way less often than I actually could have, but having gained the upper hand finally there was no way I was letting it go.


I was less than pleased with the, of all things, the lack of interest in my inside leg, particularly to the left, that meant that we were miiiiiiiiiiiiles away from the fence, particularly on circles and particularly in the canter.

does that circle look like it's going to end up anywhere NEAR E?

On the other hand: free walk! YEAH! One of my very few claims to fame is that I do a damn good free walk. Just a few seconds after the picture below was taken he stretched out even more. You can get a sense of how windy it was by his mane & tail.

So, Training 2: I felt pretty good about having nailed the thing, if not done it well, and then we hung out by the ring in the rain waiting for Training 1. I felt like Training 1 would be my chance to actually do well.

Mostly I was right in that. I was much more present in the test, having the assurance that he was going to behave. I identified moments to ask for more, and moments to soften. He responded well to both. So while it was a more uneven test than the first one I'd ridden - which had consistency going for it, even if it was consistently tense - I was more pleased with it.

Well, except for a few dumbass moments. First! I kicked over A on my way in. And laughed my ass off down the entire center line. The judge was clearly grinning pretty hard too when I did my salute, and Tristan didn't care, but man, that was embarrassing.

you can see it on its side in the background here.

Second: I put the right canter circle in the wrong place. It's in the end of the ring, and I put it in the center. Which is a shame as it was actually turning into a really nice circle when I heard the bell. Damn it. -2.

And THEN when we went to do it again, I was so determined to put him on the rail so he could go deep into the corner so we could get the canter transition on a bend so we could be ready to get a good 20m circle...I put him too close to the rail. And he did a little tap dance and I heard his hoof hit the board and I said "DON'T YOU DARE" right at C, and of course lost all of that prep for the canter. (The judge either didn't hear me - which I find hard to believe - or took pity on me and did not mark this as an error, but I totally deserved one.)

I was overall happier with this test, with his rideability and my decision-making, though it was still tense.

what do you mean, straight and upright on a canter circle?

In my partial defense, by the time I entered the ring for my second test it was raining so hard I could barely see through my glasses. A few people actually commented on it afterwards.

CRUSHED the free walk again!

Both tests ended up right around 58%, which is less than ideal, but was good enough for second place in the class, which tells me two things: a) hooray, schooling shows! and b) the judge scored really tough, which I like. Down with the 6's and 7's for every movement!

We scored lowest on our canter circles and any moment when we needed to display bend. We pulled in 7's on both free walks, and the centerlines & halts. Centerline + halt requires little to no actual skill and it's one of the few things I pride myself on consistently nailing.

my own feelings on appropriate salutes are a matter of public record

I put Tris back in the barn, toweled off my tack pending a cleaning later that day, and praised him to the skies. He really did so well. Far better than I expected. It was not fancy or anything, but for our first time in the ring in 4 years, amid disastrous weather and a less than ideal prep in the last two weeks, plus the totally scrambled state of my brain - I'm pleased.

spent several minutes trying to get him to put his ears forward, no joy

Which is not to say the competitive nature of my brain now wants to SHOW ALL THE SHOWS, NOW. It does. We've got probably three more schooling shows lined up for the summer, pending rides, and we can definitely do better.

kinda wish I'd gotten a picture later in the day when all the branches on that tree started swaying

I spent the rest of the day being a general helper around the show grounds. Frankly, I was as miserable, cold, and wet as I've ever been at a horse show. The company was exemplary, but wow. At a certain point after about noon most of us hit the wall, reached the other side, and the rain almost didn't even matter anymore. Wet and cold was a constant state of being.

I helped clean up as much as I could but I admit I bolted as soon as the show was over. I went home, took a loooooooooong hot shower, and sat down on the couch for a cup of hot tea, a few minutes of relaxation...and fell sound asleep for about 2.5 hours. Whoops.

So, that's the story of the show! Overall good. Plenty of room for improvement.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Show Recap: The Very Short Version

It rained a LOT, all boneheaded moments were my own, but overall I am happy.

(Don't get too excited, they were four person classes.)

Can't recap in earnest today because house work: raised beds are finally going in!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

House Post: New Front Porch Lighting

When we re-wired the house, we discovered that the previous front porch lights were DONE.

you can sort of see them here, to either side of the front door.

They were probably original to the house, c. 1928, and the insulation on the wiring had melted off. The metal of the lights themselves was done. Kaput. Unsalvageable. How they had not simply disintegrated off the front of the house or caused a fire is a mystery to me.


I found new front porch lights that I loved in, of all places, HGTV Magazine (I KNOW), but they were hundreds of dollars apiece. I showed them to my in-laws when they were visiting and my father-in-law, who loves a challenge, emailed me a link a few weeks later to some very similar lights for $120 each. Sold!

Then the project kept languishing. See, the previous lights had simply been screwed on to the front of the house without regard for the slant of the siding. That was reasonable because they were dangling - they would right themselves via gravity. That was not the case for our new lights.

We hemmed and hawed and debated and bought 2 different versions of mounting blocks that seemed like they might fit over the siding but were the wrong size and I tried to hire our handyman guy to do it but a) he was booked months and months out and b) he really thought I could do it myself. I guess I gave him way too high an opinion of my competence during the ceiling fan project?

In the meantime...basically we had bare bulbs hanging on their wires off the front of our house. For a long time. They were under eaves so it wasn't a huge problem but it was still Not Good.

Finally, FINALLY, I put it to the top of the list for my parents' next visit, and my magical father brought all his tools and put up our new lights.

Step 1: Cut out the siding down to the actual wall of the house.

Yeah the lights have been sitting there since we bought them 10 months ago apparently I have no shame.

Step 2: Devise a complicated mounting system with pressure treated blocks and carefully measured pre-drilled holes. Swear a lot. Ok, that might just be my dad's step 2.

Step 3: Put up the block itself!

Step 4: Wire in the lights.

Step 5: Ooooh and aaaah over how pretty they are.

Step 6, apparently not pictured: Caulk around the edges of the new mounting block just to be safe about moisture getting under the siding.

Step 6: Realize there's zero reason for the old mail & newspaper boxes to be there since we put in a new mailbox down on the street. Remove them. Vow to pressure wash the house at some point this summer, gross.

In short: I love them!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Maternal Instincts

Some people look at babies and feel a hormonal kick. I look at babies and think "Jesus Christ that looks like a lot of work for no actual reward."

On the other hand, I look at puppies and want to bring them home immediately for snuggles.

Which is to say: meet my new nephew, a redbone coonhound named Rufus! I am counting the days until I get to meet him in person.

Friday, June 3, 2016

One step forward, two steps back

First, the good news: show clothes still fit! Including the white breeches!

The coat is just a smidge tight, but not in the "doesn't fit" way, in the "cut to be restrictive and make you sit up straight" way, and it's always tended that way.

My stock tie has vanished, but as of late last night I have another one on the way from a friend which is a fun story I will blog about later.

I also located my show helmet, hairnet, show gloves, stock pin without difficulty, remembered that I had actually bought a brand new white show shirt out of some technical wizard fabric like all the kids are wearing these days (my old show shirt was a polyester short sleeved thing that worked for IHSA classes in college but was the actual pits of fashion). I had never worn said shirt but a wearing it in the picture above!

I had also (yay past me!) washed and neatly packed away all my white/show saddle pads. So those are good to go too.

Now the bad news: I tried to start Tristan in his snaffle in the dressage ring last night and it was kind of a disaster. He bolted repeatedly, never relaxed, never softened, would not listen to me and as a result our circles were weird half-square half-oval blobs. In fairness, it was ludicrously windy, so that may have keyed him up, but it was still absolutely awful.

I brought him back down to the indoor and schooled the everloving shit out of him. We ran both tests. We ran every movement in both tests. We ran transitions, We cantered. I put on spurs and a whip and forced him forward into a hand gallop. He was tiiiiiired but finally cooperative at the end.

Then we went up to the outdoor jumping arena, and we repeated that, making sure I had brakes and that he was listening to leg and hand in the walk, trot, and canter. Then we went back up to the dressage ring and trotted and cantered around the outside, politely. He was ever so very tired, but cooperative.

So, today: we'll see. I'll start in his snaffle but bring his kimberwicke up. Depending on how the ride goes I'll decide whether to warm him up in his kimberwicke and switch to the snaffle for the actual rides.

Semi-related gripe: I didn't read Training 2 through thoroughly enough, what the hell. How many times can you cross the diagonal in one goddamn test?!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Baby Steps & Show Prep

First things first: on Tuesday night, I started my ride in the kimberwicke, and let's just say there was not enough pony kicking in the world. So I hopped off and swapped bridles - I had brought his dressage bridle up - and Tristan was a ROCK STAR.

We ran through Training 1, and my geometry was the absolute suck, but Tristan took a half halt, gave me some bending, and even softened up quite nicely in the canter. It was nowhere near a world-beating ride but there were moments of respectable dressage. Which is really all we've ever aspired to.

So, we might actually pull this off!

Things left to do:
- pull out my show clothes you guys I haven't even unzipped my coat bag since we moved to Vermont and literally the last time I put on my white breeches was July 2012 THIS CAN ONLY END IN TEARS
- give Tristan a bath
- clean tack
- actually read Training 2 and maybe think about memorizing it
- think through some kind of warmup plan? who am I kidding, I'm going to wing this on Sunday morning

Realistically: I have this evening to do one last major ride and pull out my show clothes, and then tomorrow afternoon - maybe? - to do a quick tune-up, give Tristan a bath, and clean tack.

Also last night I pulled out a calendar and counted and for a stretch that started this past Tuesday, this coming Sunday is my only complete day off for 21 days. So of course I'm horse showing, then volunteering afterwards. What is it about horses that encourages so many bad life decisions?

Oh, and it's going to rain. All day. Yup.