Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Gift--Heartfelt Thanks to Artist Karen McLain

As a few of my faithful readers are aware, my very good friend Linda's horse Shorty has been diagnosed with cancer and given six months to a year to live. Being quite heartbroken by the news, and feeling horrible for my friend, I got to thinking.....

I had found Karen McLain's blog a while ago and had contacted her regarding pricing and information in order to find out about getting an oil painting done of my horse Jackson. Since I always seem to have other things come up monetarily, that had been put onto the back burner for awhile. After Shorty's diagnosis and with Christmas coming, the wheels in my head started to turn. Wouldn't it be great if....

So I contacted Karen once again and explained the situation with Shorty, and that I would like to commission one of her oil paintings for Linda to have to commemorate their life together. I was having computer issues at the time so I went to a friend's house and shot her an e-mail to please call me. She called me back the very same day and we went from there. The whole experience was wonderful and Karen was a superb communicator throughout the whole experience.

Karen wanted to know everything about Shorty. From personality, age, to what disciplines he has been ridden; there wasn't much she didn't end up knowing about him without actually getting to meet him herself.

I told Linda about the gift. Why not keep it a surprise you ask?  I thought long and hard. If my horse had cancer and someone was having a painting done for me, I would want to pick the details out myself. Did she want to be in the picture? Would she want a close up or him running in the field? Halter or no halter? After her partnership with him of sixteen years, there were things I needed and wanted to know so that the finished product would be special. Although I love Shorty too, I have only known him for two years and he is not my horse. I wanted a masterpiece, and in order to make that happen she had to know. She told me that it didn't really hit her until a few hours after I had told her, and then she cried.

Last evening I was finally able to see her face as the letter from Karen was read to her (she tried to read it out loud herself, but....tears...), and she saw the painting for the first time. I had already looked at the painting and read the letter, and I CRIED when I saw such a perfect rendering of Shorty. Even though I had very carefully looked at Karen's paintings on her blog, you worry when giving a gift that is so important. That your expectations won't be met. That the horse you know won't be the one in the painting. I need not have worried. As soon as I saw it I gave a HUGE shout, "She got him! She captured him perfectly!" And Linda thought so too. His soul shines through; this is not a generic horse painting. She had also seen Karen's work on her blog, but she commented, "This is her best yet!" Of course it is... :).  I wish I had captured it all on video. Her face was a Christmas gift to me. She got a bit teary, but her best friend Lorri was sitting across from us wiping her eyes copiously for all three of us.

Thank you Karen. Your painting was a beautiful way to thank my friend for all she does for me and Jackson, show her how much I love her, and to thank Shorty for being the amazing horse that he is.  Folks, you will not regret a painting from this amazing artist!

Friday, December 25, 2009

THIS is a Wonderful Life....

Anne, Lorri and me...Can you believe that Lorri and I both have Anglo Arabs? They are SO different!

Linda on Red (Missouri Fox Trotter), Anne on Allie (Arabian) and Lorri on Ozzie (AngloArab)

On Wednesday we had wonderful 68 degree weather and it was the perfect day for us to hit the trails! I haven't been riding too much in the past month with sickness and weather getting the upper hand. Oh. And work. And the kiddo. There were actually five of us who rode out, but we took these pics without our friend Kathy (later pictured in pink) because she was being a slow butt... :) J.K., Kathy!
We took along tools to clear some trail, officially beginning our work on the annual Triple H Equitherapy Scavenger Hunt. We have changed the date from June to early May because we think the cooler weather in May will attract more riders. Adding new trails and obstacles are imperative to keeping the interest and freshness of the ride alive. Three of us cleared branches and forged trail on foot, while two held the five horses; I'd say we spent 45 minutes clearing and the rest was a relaxing, invigorating ride. Even though we waded streams, and traveled at a pretty fast pace for five riders, it felt as if we were all very much in sync and we all had a ball. If you have ever ridden with this size group, you probably know that this does NOT always happen! :)
As we rode, I reflected on the past year a bit, and how far I have really come with Jackson. When we trot now it feels like another extension of me; we have both gotten so much better at this gate, I am no longer thrown up into the heavens gulping at the stars. We can canter. Collection, check. (OK. Much more collection than ever before, how's that? :) On the bit? Most of the time. Doing things with such comfort and ease that they are automatic? OH YEAH! :) Lost 54 pounds? Done that too. That in and of itself has helped my riding immensely. There are people out there who are overweight and ride superbly. I am not one of them. I was a thin person in a fat body. Seriously. At my thinnest I weighed 127 lbs. at a height of 5'10. Of course, this was at the age of 22, and I was VERY thin. Realistically, I will be happy to lose another 10 lbs. for a happy 135-140. My horse loves the weight loss too. Did I lose the weight for my horse and to be a better rider? Absolutely. My dressage lessons have also been a wonderful thing we have started this past year. With Allison my instructor(who is 79 and was a Grand Prix XC rider in her time), it has really been an eye opening experience, and benefited my riding more than I can say. Although I don't know if I will ever be what you call a dressage rider, I DO take lessons to help our partnership, further our learning, and to aid in mine and Jackson's jumping abilities down the road. I firmly believe if you can perform classical dressage (at least the basics) you are ready for anything! In the next year it will be time to add the next piece of our challenge. JUMPING! We will also be working on obstacles and add a few competetive trail rides and our usual trail riding to the mix for variety and to keep it fun! They don't call him a sport horse for nothing and we both love changing it up!

Back to our ride. We did lots of different and advanced terrain: small spaces, up and DOWN steep hills, deep streams, switchbacks, etc. All the horses took it in stride. We even did a couple little jumps over a log and one drop off. Kathy was riding a seasoned Warmblood XC jumper, and Lorri did them at a wild hand gallop (gotta love those mares!), but Jackson is nothing if not practical, and is so attuned to me. He is one smart guy, and knows just what I am ready for these days! We popped the jumps at a trot...Don't get me wrong. This horse is SO MORE THAN capable of a wild, fun hand gallop in a heartbeat, and could run all day, but he knows that we have that on the list for next years post! :) What a good boy!
As it neared 5pm a really cool mist hung like a light cotton batting with the sunlight over the water. It looked so cool. I am in the light blue in the pics below...wish they were better, I had my camera, but Linda actually remembered to grab hers and take a few! Sometimes it is not a picture taking day, I felt the need to commune with the day, my horse, and my friends...

All I could help thinking was, THIS IS THE LIFE!

Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas to you all!
May your rides be many, fun, and fill you up in 2010!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Goodies Everywhere....

Below are my HOMEADE HOLIDAY HORSE TREATS! The recipe is from the November 2008 issue of Horse Illustrated but I will include it in case you want to try them! They were REALLY easy! I also included the peppermints after I baked them--just the old fashioned soft sticks which are really easy to break....I made a double batch because I was baking for seven horses--Jackson, Lorri's three and Linda's three. Each batch yielded 15 treats but you could easily make them a bit smaller--mine were a spoonful each--give or take a bit! I used one Granny Smith and one Red Delicous (for sweet and sour taste) and two average size carrots for a double batch...

Also note Miles with his yearly gingerbread house, and of course the torture of the cat turining her into a reindeer. Really, didn't go all that well. She is bent out of shape over the new dog and has declined to celebrate the Holidays this year.

Carrot/Apple Horse Cookies

1 cup grated carrot

1 cup grated apple

2 TBSP. corn oil

1/4 cup molasses

1 tsp. salt

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup flour

Combine the grated carrot, grated apple, corn oil and molasses in mixing bowl and blend well. Gradually fold in the salt, rolled oats and flour and continue blending. Drop the dough by spoonfuls two inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. ( I found it only took about 12 minutes in my oven so watch carefully!)


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jingle Bella Finds a Home

I have recently had an itch that needed scratched. The yearning for another dog. I kept putting it off, because I really want a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I am not in a place where I can have such a big dog. I have a fenced in yard, but my dog door will only fit up to a medium dog and the x-large size I looked into would come with a hefty $400 price tag. I have the kind that fits into a sliding glass door. Also, I do have a pretty small house, and a dog that is easily the weight of my son, well, I need LAND!!! Since my dog is only five months from being 16 years old, I admit, I am going to need some comfort when she goes. Canine comfort. And I love dogs. All breeds, all types. Small, big, large, extra large, full-bred, mutt, it doesn't really matter to me.

But how to find the right dog? I knew I couldn't go to the shelter. I just can't. I would cry and then leave with two or three and really turn my life into problem city.... So..the other day I went onto Craig's list just to look. I did not expect to see the little face peering out at me that I HAD to follow up on. I talk myself out of things. What if? is my mantra when it comes to things like this. And most of the time, I talk myself out of things by worrying. My biggest concern was my dog Dakota. Not that she would be mean to the dog, but that she would feel displaced or replaced. I have had her since she was 5 weeks old and she'll be 16 in April. I should have remembered that Dakota has no problems with other pets...

So, I found her on Craig's list on Saturday (and the lady removed the pictures that TOTALLY sucked me in, I must call and try to get them), and by Sunday morning I was on the phone. Her face wouldn't leave my mind. I told everyone at work I was waiting for a sign from God. Maybe the sign was that I found her so quickly and that I NEVER go to the pet section of Craig's List. Strangely enough, my friend Rose, another nurse, was the clincher. She said, "She needs a home. Adopt her." Now, no bolt of lightning came down, no sunlight blinding my eyes, but I look up to Rose, so her words were heard. Simple, true words. MY sign. Or perhaps she was just the impetus that made me make up my mind. At any rate, I found myself making a long extra hour trek after work ended at 7pm to go and get her. The owners had been evicted and I'm not sure what the woman who thrust her into my arms relationship was. She had scant information. She's had shots sometime in the past. Not sure how old she is, maybe a year or two. She may be indoor/outdoor. So really, not much help. Food. Oh, just give her canned whatever, no specific brand. (I am inwardly thinking, canned, cheap crap, no way. Science Diet or Iams mini chunks, YES!). But this little girl who weighs exactly 11 lbs. immediately curled up into my arms and nestled in like she belonged there.

The car ride home was uneventful, she settled onto the floor of the car in all my barn jackets and slept. I wondered at what ordeal she had been through in the past few days. I had told my son I would be late because I needed to go see about a Christmas present. I was only 1/2 hour past my normal time, so I actually did well. He was in disbelief when I opened up the car door. "Mom, WHO is that?" "Miles, It's our new dog."
His face lit up and his arms reached out. That's my boy. Loves pets and animals. And she stunk! I didn't want to put her through a bath after all she had been through, but there was no other option. I wanted her to be able to come up onto my bed, and NO WAY that was happening without a bath! She did fine and we dried her pretty fast with her wiry terrier hair. I LOVE terriers after having one as a little kid. One that looked exactly like Toto (with the same name) from the Wizard of Oz. The woman said she is a Norfolk terrier, but I looked them up on the internet. I don't think so. She has big pointy ears with little tufts of fur at the tips. Also, she has a mohawk right in the center of her head! She looks nothing like the Norfolk Terriers I saw pictured who have small ears that flop forward. But she is definitely a terrier of some type.

She is so calm and shy around loud noises and the other pets. She LOVES to sleep on the bed with me and also loves the dog bed I bought a few weeks ago, the one my older dog SHUNNED. We are teaching her to use the dog door, but she is afraid of the flap. Only one accident so far on the first night.

So I have learned: she may have fleas (already treated), she is itchy but haven't seen fleas--skin problem?, needs shots (check, I went and purchased her first one to give her until I get her to the vet for her Rabies and to get fixed), she isn't fixed; she's in heat, so I got a tiny little 11 lb. dog mess which is no big deal, she has no idea how to walk on a leash, she has worms (as evidenced by the butt dragging I've witnessed)but no tapeworms in her poop, and she is the sweetest, most loveable little thing I could've wished for. Thanks Santa Claus!

We haved named her Bella. Bells=Christmas. I'll probably end up shortening it to Bells anyway, because all the pets have nicknames. They told me her name is Sara, but she shows no response to that name so I know it was never Sara. Maybe for one day. Our other pets definitely have their noses bent out of shape. Especially two out of my three cats. This is evidenced by the fact that they have spent the past three days on top of the kitchen cupboards. Dakota, my dog, is feeling a tiny bit neglected, but she sniffs at Bella and has no beef with her...I am just trying to give everyone extra attention. I am sure they are thinking, "Christmas, this is Christmas? Bah, Humbug!" But all three cats were adopted, and Dakota is the only one I paid for in Florida. I will pay adoption/rescue fees now, but I won't buy a pet when so many need homes. I paid nothing for little Bella, but I would have, at least a re-homing fee. But, the woman didn't ask, and in light of the money I need to spend on her medical care due to neglect.... Of course I did buy Jackson three years ago, so I guess I'm not totally altruistic!

Today is my last day off out of three, I wonder how little Bella will fair with me gone and Miles not getting home from school until 4pm? I expect accidents since she is having problems with the dog door... But maybe we'll get lucky! Regardless, I feel blessed!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Winnah'!

Folks, we have a Holiday horseshoe winner! Since my son was home sick from school today, I grabbed my OLD first jumping helmet (the one I would have died in back in those days if I'd ever hit my head--really, NO cushioning!) and dropped the entrants names in. I then had Miles pick the winner. Julie from over at Equine Mine was the name Miles picked out.
Julie's advice to me was: "Here are a couple little mantras I like to remind myself of...."My horse has no goals, only I do" and "Make the right thing easy, the wrong thing difficult" and "Never take soundness for granted...everyday I ride I consider a gift." Wonderful advice Julie. Thanks.
If anyone does want a horseshoe, I make them for $15 plus s&h. I can make many different types, different sized shoes, colors, charms, stones, etc. I have recently had an offer to sell them on the Riverwalk downtown in a really cool eclectic gift shop, the owner is going to sell them for $35-85 depending on the beads, size, etc... I have not totally committed to this yet, we shall see...
I will also have another little giveaway sometime after Christmas so you may get a horseshoe yet! Thanks for all the comments, I really enjoyed them.
Come back over tomorrow and meet a new family member! I can't wait for you all to see her!!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday Giveaway....

I've been wanting to do a little giveaway of one of my homemade beaded horseshoes and was going to do it in Oct. at my one year blogging anniversary but computer issues put a crimp in that! Here is your chance to obtain your own bit of beaded luck! Just leave me a piece of horse advice/wisdom/anecdote that you have found useful in your own dealings with your horse or the horses you have ridden. If you don't ride, but just love horses, leave me advice too! I will have the drawing on 15 December...if you are an anonymous commenter, please leave an ID or name of some sort at the bottom of your comment. The winner will be announced soon after, and I will obtain contact information then. I will mail internationally so leave me some sage advice folks! The horseshoe you win may not be one of the two pictured!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Amusing Little Update...And NEW additions!

Turkey Exploded. Stand By Please.

The now infamous Turkey Cake....

After taking the computer to the Doc and one power supply later, I am back to blog land again! Sure have missed being able to post! Just wanted to show you what Miles (my son) made for Thanksgiving. Of course, this cake stole the show, and it was his creation from A-Z. And before you ask where the feathers came from as all 10 people at my friend's house did before partaking in a slice, they came from the local craft store! :)We had a really nice day and Miles got to meet Lorri's new Rhodesian Ridgeback Heike, who, at six months isn't so new (or small) anymore, and then we all got to meet Linda's new horse Traveler who she had just picked up Thanksgiving morning. Traveler started out with the name Cowboy which was a resounding NO! He is a three year old QH with 60 days under saddle. I can't wait to ride him! But he is getting short rides so he'll grow properly yada da dum... but that is why he looks a bit gangly and non-muscular! I will post again and update the riding front, just wanted to say, "HELLO!" my peeps!

Traveler (ummm. Jackson's new twin?)

Heike. Lorri's new Rhodesian Ridgeback

Sunday, November 15, 2009

We Canter ON!!!!

Well, my computer has CRASHED and is from all outward appearances in need of a burial. An ill fated Halloween par-tay with six 13 year old boys seemed to be the end. HUGE SIGH. All my pics are on it. I would probably just work extra and get a new one since this pup is an '04 Dell if it weren't for the pictures!!! Any ideas anyone?

On the riding front, I HAVE NEWS!! Jackson and I cantered, and I didn't fall off. OK. I did fall off, but not because of the canter! LMAO.
Here's the story. I had a riding lesson with Allison and we learned shoulder in, maybe not rock solid learned it, but we did it several times and I actually get the concept and can execute it. SWEET! BUT, the best part came AFTER the lesson. I decided to take Jackson into the field for a little hack.

We went around once at a nice trot with him being ultra responsive and things felt good. I was circling the field's perimeter and as we were trotting I let him break into the canter as I inwardly began giving myself the mantra, sit up and deep and OH SHIT, and OK, this is good, etc.... He stopped when I asked, and for having not much cantering experience with a rider, it wasn't as uncollected and all over as I had expected. Then I messed up. Coming out of the canter and at a trot or fast walk I let go with one hand, threw it up in the air and gave a cowgirl, WOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOO! AND it was REALLY LOUD. Totally stupid because Jackson wasn't ready for that and spooked. I went off. Then he stood over me as if to say, "Well, dang, mom, we did it finally, and then you had to go and SCREAM at the top of your lungs! WTF? I just started laughing. THIS GIRL OBVIOUSLY can't canter on this horse without smelling dirt somehow, someway was my thought.
Because my instructor Allison and friend Linda were standing behind a horse trailer talking they missed it. My whole football field length beautiful canter. ON the up side, they missed seeing me kiss the dirt... They had come out after they heard the yell and both commented that it was a VERY HAPPY yell, but by then I was back up on J's back and walking towards them. They said they couldn't figure out why I had yelled since there I was ONLY walking.....

So coming back towards them I decided to SHOW them what we had done. We again broke into a canter towards them and I AM SURE I had a s--- eating grin on my face. They just stood there smiling and clapping as friends do when they see you overcoming your nemesis. This was such a milestone for us as a team. Sure felt nice to have my big girl britches on and JUST DO IT!!!

Galloping is tomorrow.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Throbbing Heart of News

On Wednesday the vet came out to vet the horses--the usual shots, Coggins, teeth, etc. He also gave us some very bad news. Two months ago Linda had had a mass removed from Shorty's sheath and we had hoped that this would take care of it. The mass has come back, and the vet says it is a very aggressive melanoma; Shorty has six months to a year to live.

I am so saddened by this news, it is not describable. Shorty is such a special guy. I call him Spotty (my affectionate special name for him, that only I am allowed to call him :). Not only is he a cool looking Leopard Appy with an awesome personality, he is gaited. Smooth rocking gaits, you don't even need to post to his trot, just sit back and enjoy. Another special advantage is that he performs to the level of his rider with nary a complaint. My son has been learning to ride on him, and he is the horse I rode frequently when I was getting my nerve back after my broken shoulder on Jackson. Recently, I have been working on my canter with him to get my aids down (and my confidence up!) before I attempt my green guy.

Linda has raised Shorty, now sixteen, since he was foaled from her red roan. She had no idea her roan threw Leopard apps. so she says she was quite surprised to see him appear! She has gone through times (when he was younger) when he was totally unsafe to ride--even she wouldn't ride him (and she'll usually ride anything)--but he has turned into a steady, reliable mount and it has been wonderful!

He is currently not symptomatic other than the fact that he doesn't run in from the field anymore at feeding time. He still enjoys trail rides and lessons. This is the life he knows, and he will be lightly ridden until he shows that he can't be anymore. Obviously, knowing Linda like I do, she will do everything and then some to keep him as comfortable as possible and then let him go when it is time.

Oh, Spotty, I do love you. We will make the most out of the time we have left. Of course we will see you again in heaven, waiting at the pump--Linda and I already have sent early requests to be in the horse and dog department.....

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Professional Pic of Me and "The Master" and a SICK story....

Walter Zettl and I

Well, I know it's been awhile, but whatever vile organism that has decided to invade my body has done quite the number. Of course, having been exposed to the H1N1 virus via a patient I was convinced that that was what I had. All flu tests have come back el negativo. I feel a bit better than I did, just fatigued and overall not feeling good. BUT, going on 14 days later, I am still spiking temperatures of 99.0 to 100.4. The Dr. was thinking it was pneumonia yesterday, but I have absolutely NO symptoms of that, AND I've had it before. It doesn't go under the radar in my experience! So she put me on a Z-pack as we both are now convinced it MUST be bacterial somewhere-- hoping is more like it. I've lost 8 lbs. due to lack of appetite, but I am TIRED of being an invalid. I rode Jackson on Wed. thinking that would make me feel better. I had convinced myself I was malingering and a shot of horse therapy would help. I guess it did, but I also threw up, got a sunburn (duh, sunblock....), and spiked the usual temperature the next AM! Probably sooner, but I thought the hot feeling was from the burn....So the next AM I was sent home from work (after hearing how BAD I looked) and hearing from the Dr's secretary (MISTAKENLY) that I was positive for Influenza A AND H1N1! That was OK, the fever was back and I was ready to just lie down anyway. SO---enough of my woes! All you guys doing OK out there? Flu anyone? I sure hope not!

Wanna ride, wanna ride, wanna ride.......

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Girl On Her Horse

Someone asked me the other day what I was putting into practice as a result of Walter Zettl's clinic. I learned so much,(much was beyond me), but I did absorb some things to add to the arsenal of things I am ALREADY working on. In fact, I got some great tips, but I mostly work from what my instructor teaches. The clinic just helped me with the bigger picture I guess you could say. It also helped to see SO many riders having to work at their canter, I got tons of great info. and feel that cantering is now so close I can taste it. Hopefully, not because I go off and have blood in my mouth along with broken bones! :)

We are working on transitions (of course) with lengthenings; one really good thing to practice that we learned from the clinic is to have the person you are with shout rapid fire transition commands at you. "Walk, trot, walk." etc, really quick. It does serve to wake Jackson up although we are not fast at them at all.

We have been studying turns on the forehand and leg yields at the quarter line...we do NOT get them right a lot of the time. This is my fault of course, because my horse does them perfectly if they are set up right!!! I should say our turns on the forehand are a lot better than our leg yields with the back legs crossing from the quarter line to the track...and that looks so darn cool too!

Also working on straightness while working and backing. We do really awesome backing--look ma I didn't use my reins. Did you notice that I didn't use them to stop that time either? MOM, you obviously just weren't watching the paint dry!!! LOL!

In my last lesson Allison and I began working on shoulder fore in preparaton for shoulder in, which she said was coming very soon. Sholder fore is simply aligning the horses inside shoulder with his inside hip. I can feel when we do it, but when I asked Allison HOW I would know I was doing it right, she said, "When I tell you you are." Obviously a LONG ways to go on that bit just yet. That's OK. I must have been truly awful at it because usually I can at least practice what I've learned....

Also doing TONS of circles, serpentines and ssssnakes (my terminology)....working on initiating turns with the inside leg and then capturing the increase in impulsion with my outside rein while opening the inside rein to indicate direction. The idea is that Jackson will then respond by bending around the inside leg and shifting the balance back. You then GIVE on the inside rein and DRIVE, not pull him around the turn. The rider's outside leg must be slightly back to avoid the horse's hind leg stepping out. Luckily Jackson is a very bendy horse :), but learning dressage and teaching my green horse too is HARD AS, I will not lie.
But when I can float to a fence, take it like a pro, and then float away, I will have my success.
And GOD willing, success I will taste!

Must go now, was exposed to H1N1 and the fever feels like it's back, I had a little bit of energy and instead of getting dog hair up off of the floor I posted... ugh, I am a horrid sick sad soul.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Walter Zettl Dressage Clinic-Kerrville, Texas

Walter Zettl and moi


Scott and his Perch/Andalusian cross Sky High Scotty

Caren with Walter getting wired for sound....

Cindy on Unity- Dutch Warmblood

Jackie riding Caesar

On Tuesday I had the wonderful opportunity to go to a Walter Zettl dressage clinic and get some learnin' in! Since Kerrville is only about 45 minutes from my house and the price was right, my friend Linda and I were quite thrilled to get the opportunity to see a master at work. Above are only a few of the riders (there were 7 total) and I learned from each one. As we arrived, craning our necks, to see if we were in the right place (only seven cars?), we went to check it out. And let me tell you. This was spot on cool to see this guy teach. As soon as I arrived and placed my chair ringside (2 chairs down from Walter) beside a to DIE FOR covered arena with MIRRORS (OH!!! I dream of having mirrors...) and incredible footing with tire entrails and sandy loam, Walter took a moment to come up and give me a HUGE bear hug! This was one of about three or four I received that day, and I tell you, you GOTTA LOVE a German hug!!! :) And folks, this was a more private clinic, or not advertised, or well, lets face it, dressage riders in Texas are just not as common as the cactus we grow! The entire day there were never more than 20 folks watching, and this included the seven riders who were participating in the clinic.

Linda tried to get us spots as riders (without my knowledge) and when I heard that I almost died! HELL NO!!! I have had exactly 10 dressage lessons in MY LIFE (as I used to equate dressage to watching paint dry at the lower levels, but as I see what it does for your overall riding, I am HOOKED!)
Only 6 of these lessons have been on Jackson, my own horse. We will be considered for next year apparently, and that would suit me much better, because my horse and I are doing SO well with only six lessons under our girths!

The wonderful thing about watching these riders was that no MATTER how accomplished many of them were, I could see them working at the exact same stuff that I do. At a bit of a higher level perhaps, but the same issues still arose. I would lean over and say to my friend, "she is riding really forward", or,"watch, he's going to tell her to increase her contact", and lo and behold, Walter would be right there with me giving the same advice!

Most of the rider's were working at late first to somewhere in the second level, with one by the name of Sandy Whistler (who BLEW us all away with her horse Papillion that she has trained and started herself as a 3 yr. old and is now ONLY 7!), and is in LATE 2nd level, easily to be 3rd very soon. She got so much applause (hardly anyone else did until the end!), b/c Walter pushed her to do more and she did it flawlessly with things she had never even attempted before. She doesn't want to compete, she does it all for her own rewards, and sadly I did not get a pic due to battery issues, but she sat beside me after she rode and I got TONS of great advice from her. She asked what my riding background had been before I started dressage, and when I said strictly jumpers, she had all kinds of great tips and advice. SHE was awesome!!! I tend to ride quite forward while keeping my lower legs rock steady(as I noticed some of the riders with jumping and eventing experience tended to), and she gave me easy tips to put into practice. (And they WORK oh, so well, as I found out while riding the next day!)....

A BIG thing I realized is that we will all ALWAYS be working on our weak spots. I had always thought that at a higher level of dressage and with tons of practice these would just magically go away. Stupid, I know. But after seeing these ACCOMPLISHED riders still making MY mistakes, well... It helped. The forwardness and my lower legs will improve, but will they always be my nemesis? It appears that this is very possible. Or my wonky left hand and bat wing shoulder that never want to behave?.... :)

Walter talked to me about how he used to ride 8 horses a day, all having to be immaculately groomed and turned out for presentation, clean the stalls, and then, only then, he MAY have had time to watch his instructor ride and teach. Being German-- at the top in most world competition--he most likely did have it very hard. MUCH harder than any working student today in the U.S. It was almost like hearing how our parents had to trudge 6 miles each way in the snow, right? NOT. I told Walter I would take that over my current job ANY day, any time. He chuckled and seemed to give that some thought. He also told me that he is having an ABSOLUTE ball touring with the Parelli's and that Linda P. is really coming along as a student.

I was happy to see and learn at this clinic, but honestly, since my own trainer is VERY Europeon, it wasn't that different from her teaching AT ALL. In fact, it was a mirror image in many ways. They are both the same age, from Europe (she from England) and teach dressage with the same mind set; at times even the SAME sayings. OPEN THE DOOR. That's a big one. This was great because now I KNOW I am learning from the right instructor, the RIGHT WAY!! Parallel teaching. Almost, if not better than taking lessons from Walter. AND, Allison's accent is much easier to understand! LOL!

We felt SO compelled to put into practice ALL that we had learned, we didn't attend Day 2. It was going to be the same riders and I was itching to get my butt on my own mighty Jackson. Walter asked if we were coming back, and I said, "I would love to Walter, but I feel like I need to ride tomorrow. Priorities you know." His blue eyes lit up, and he said, "Oh, yes my love, I DO understand...."

What an awesome experience.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Horse Boy Revisited....Meeting the Author (and Producer!)...

On Sunday I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Rupert Isaacson, the author of the book 'The Horse Boy' and then seeing the Sudance film with the same title. Since I have quite a background in the autism realm (12 yrs. experience), my son's little brother is autistic, and of course my volunteer work at Triple H Equitherapy, this book and movie were of extreme interest to me. I had chatted live with Rupert a couple of times online, and while only getting to talk to him a very little bit during the book signing and in the Q&A session after the movie, I am excited to go to his ranch and really have a good convo. He has so much knowledge to impart, not just in the world of autistim, but as a consumate horseman. Raised in England by South African parents, his knowledge of dressage and eventing astound me. Just a neat guy and I'm sure his wife is just as great. I'm always looking for interesting horse people here in Texas so this was a real treat! The Horse Boy movie came out in independent theaters this week, if you don't read, give it a gander. Or do both like I did!!

Meeting Rupert...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tag! I'm It! From A Hunter In Training....

Tagged a week or so ago by A Hunter In Training to list a few of my likes and dislikes.... Here goes.

I LIKE....Tack Shops and buying horsey related things! I always have a list, I am never done with my horsey arsenal! :)
I DON'T LIKE...The tack shops in my area of Texas are pathetic with no English selection! I'm from the East coast where we have SUPER tack shops so being forced to buy online makes me super sad! If that makes me a snob, too bad... :)

I LIKE...A peaceful drive in the country.
I DON'T LIKE.....Rude, aggressive drivers! Do you REALLY need to try to kill me to get where you're going?

I LIKE...Being a Divemaster...scuba diving! One of my passions that I engaged in when I lived on the 3x5 mile island of Key West and had nary a horse in sight!
I DON'T LIKE...The fact that the only place to dive in Texas are in lakes. UMMM. NO THANKS! Boring after the tropics!

I LIKE....My job as an RN working with infants.
I DON'T LIKE...The fact that like any job, there are issues with people, policy and pay that frustrate me and are always challenging. OH! And that I didn't just become a veterinarian!

I LIKE...My son's sense of humor and quirky little ways.
I DON'T LIKE....The teenage (he's 13) mouth, disregard of my rules, and the attitude! Where is my sweet little boy who cuddles with his mama? He called me mama until he was 10, and then one day it was just MOM. I had believed until then that I had the rare child who would always call me mama, and absolutely LOVED it!

I LIKE...That my son has a good relationship with his dad, and that I do too!
I DON'T LIKE...That his dad has been sent to Iraq for a year and that single parenting is just as hard as I remember it, harder with a teenager. And of course both of us worry about his dad's safety....

I LIKE...The fact that the friends that I have are so wonderful and that I have a supportive family.
I DON'T LIKE...The fact that my family are all in Pa and that I don't have that many friends here in Texas. (The few that I have are GREAT though!)

I LIKE...My dressage trainer Allison.
I DON'T LIKE...The fact that I can't afford more than a bi-weekly, sometimes only monthly lesson!

I LOVE....The fact that I am fortunate enough to have a horse at all, and to have friends to ride with who are ALWAYS super supportive and helpful!

I'm not into tagging folks...if you would like to participate, consider yourself TAGGED!!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Substance of Things Hoped For...(Our Story)

Well, a few of you have asked questions when I have mentioned the trials I have had on Jackson--breaking my shoulder, falling off numerous times, and the funniest mishap(afterwards!) hitting the tree-- so that I feel compelled to finally tell our story, and of the night on a camping trip a year ago now, in the PITCH BLACK, that I KNEW I would keep him NO MATTER WHAT.

Jackson was my birthday present to myself in January of 2007, and I met him for the first time on my birthday! Don't that beat Bath & Body Works gift wise?! I knew nothing about buying a horse and knew only what I had read. AND I did everything wrong from A-Z. I should be ashamed of myself, but I am not. I followed my heart, and as my heart frequently is (at least in how I feel about an animal) it was not wrong. But, OH BOY, I simply got lucky! Lucky that he turned out to be a sound horse (as I waived a vet check-DOH!!), and doubly lucky that his owner that had had him since he was a colt (four months old), was honest with me. In my defense, I did not have the knowledgeable friends that I have now, in fact, I had no horsey friends IN San Antonio, really, I had no friends here at all! I had moved here about a year before that. Largely due to this, I had been depressed for some time, and the horse purchase came after about three months of intense thought and yearning to actually have a life and friends again besides work!

Jackson had not been ridden in two years(!)(age 7) as his owner had to have her spine fused along with pending knee surgery (she was older), and despite keeping him at the cheapest boarding place in town, she could no longer afford to keep him. She was up front with me about everything (except one thing, or maybe I just didn't even hear...), I thank God for that, because I was SO gullible, a lesser person could have really taken me for a ride. He would have flown through a vet check, I am certain, but that is the one thing I didn't do that makes me pretty embarrassed. UH, HELLO? She told me that he had been trail ridden extensively, but she did not mention that he HAD NO IDEA how to canter with a rider, which will play into my story here in a bit.

Anyway, after meeting him for the first time I REALLY liked him. I could tell he and his PO (previous owner) Yvonne had quite the relationship and while Jackson was friendly, there was an aloofness (Ok, he was stuck up! He loves me now, but that took awhile!) that I didn't even notice as I was so excited. I told her that I needed to ride him and I could tell that she was nervous about that since he hadn't been ridden in two years. The ride was less than ideal. She brought a horrible Western saddle (he was only ever ridden in an Australian saddle) that was so uncomfortable I wanted to cry. She was thrilled that he performed so well after two years of not being ridden, but honestly, I just wanted off. I couldn't tell anything with that saddle. I only did walk/trot which seemed fine to me. Now I know had I tried a canter I would have been OFF. Most likely anyway.

But I bought him. There was something....I just knew it. Despite the fact that he was completely chomped on from all the mares bossing him around, and had a shaggy winter coat, I could SEE him and what he was. Not to mention that beautiful picture in the sales ad. I have it up in the corner of this blog, the one of him cantering. I could SEE that horse and he was to be mine. And I got him for a steal. At least I think so. A horse is only worth what you think he is, and what someone is willing to pay for him. Bottom line. That is something my friend Lorri told me. She asked me a couple of months ago what I would sell Jackson for NOW (hypothetically) and I went off on his experience since I have had him, his breeding, his papers, YADA YADA...and she comes out with that! I have seen AngloArabs with papers go from $500-$60,000 so I think she has a great point. My trainer Allison told me I got a steal and have a diamond in the rough. Not as rough as we used to be, and a real compliment from her! Anyway, I digress.

So I found a boarding situation I could afford (at the time)and there I met some wonderful horsey friends to ride with. Yvonne and her friend (who boarded at the same ranch) came to meet me there on the 8th of February and we went to pick up my horse. We first went to drop off one of her friend's horses at another friend's ranch, who just happened to be Jackson's breeder, Connie Covington! Connie is awesome and still keeps in touch with me. She has also gotten me in touch with Jackson's full-blooded brother Jack's (Bugsy) owner. (This is the one I want to breed with Lorri's horse). While at Connie's I got to tour and meet some of Jackson's half brothers and sisters and meet his sire, Lamaras Firebusz (Buzzy) the Arabian half of his parentage.

The picking up and loading of Jackson was uneventful, he loads like a dream and his ground manners were very well taught. We got him to the ranch and put him in a stall to settle in for a few days before he would be turned out daily with the other horses and then brought in at night. They were feeding oats and hay and I had to go talk to the ranch hand about starting him VERY slowly on the oats as he thought nothing of just giving him a normal ration. AGH! He said they are easy on the system, but easy or not, they were new to Jackson and I did not need a colic on my hands. That settled, I gave him a few days to settle in before riding him. I had to anyway as my bridle was still on the way!

Our first ride was just a round pen and then an arena workout with w/t transitions and plenty of WHOA's, making sure stopping would not be an issue. It wasn't. We were ready to head down the lane on our next ride. This ranch and the one mile lane each way have been on several local commercials due to the beautiful walnut trees lining both sides. It is a fun ride and we had a wonderful time. We even cantered so I was in horse heaven!

The cantering issues started about a week later. We were in the arena and there were lots of things going on that day, team ropers practicing with live baby bulls and lots of horses and people around. When the ropers were taking a break, I took J. into the arena for a ride. I started him into a canter and I still am not sure what happened, but I was soon on the ground. Dusty, shook up, but fine. The ropers caught my horse and were nice. They were all drunk so I'm sure they thought it was funny as hell. English rider falls off. Yes, riding drunk is quite common with the ropers at this ranch! I blamed it entirely on myself, and really, every time I have come off is my fault in my opinion. I have a willing, forward horse and I am (yes, I admit) OVERHORSED. But it took many more spills for me to get this through my skull.

On to the day of THE trailride. Five of us set out and at one point my friend Tami began to lope her horse down the trail. I wanted to GO too and got Jackson into the canter. When I asked him to stop, he did, but since he was green and uneducated (and I include myself in that equation!) he dropped his shoulder and stopped on the forehand. I went one way, he stopped in the other. UGH! I got up, remounted and continued the ride. I had a three inch rugburn type cut (freckles still haven't come back to that area!) and was incredibly nausous with my right shoulder KILLING me. I finished the ride, pretty miserably, but I did finish, mostly because I knew I wouldn't have been able to make the 2 mile journey back on foot and didn't want to ask the whole group to turn around. My shoulder ended up being broken and still hurts every day as it also had torn ligaments and has over the course of 2+ years developed a bone spur. After two weeks I was back up riding and taking lessons from a friend out at the ranch, but cantering was out. Then one day about a month and a half later, Jackson spooked and I went off again. When I tried to remount he was so spooked he re-spooked but I landed on my feet. About this time my main riding buddy Tami moved her horses to her ranch and my nerve was about gone. Especially to go out and ride by myself. I tried it once and ended up in the sand in the round pen just from hitting his butt with my foot while mounting. I had set up a situation where fear was all I felt, and I was not the leader anymore. Jackson knew it and was feeding into that fear. I began to avoid going out to see him. I was at an all time low. I had to MAKE myself go and see my horse? The guilt is indescribable. You should get joy seeing your horse and all I felt was dread and sadness about my situation. I did not know what to do so I put him up for sale. He needed someone who would do right by him and could really ride him. UGH. Horrible feeling. I was also having issues paying my board, and paying that much for a pasture ornament is ridiculous.

You know that saying,'When God closes a door he opens a window?' In my case he THREW open a barn door. I had not answered ONE of the numerous responses I was getting to my ad on I could not do it, and I knew I needed to. I work with a lady named Linda and we always talked about our horses. I mentioned that I was selling Jackson because I could not afford the boarding situation anymore. I didn't really go into the chicken I had become on my horse (and I had gained a good amount of weight by this time (40 lbs)!!!) and how depressed and totally distressed the whole thing had made me. Being the type of person she is she said, "Nope, bring him out to my ranch and keep him there, you can pay me $50 a month and pay for his feed and hay." So that is what I did. The barn door got thrown open and I was on my way to getting my nerve back and keeping my horse!

Obviously, this has not happened overnight. My friends have been immensely patient and tolerant of my slowness and encourage me a lot. Over the years they have both dealt with and overcome fear issues; Linda even had a horse rear and fall on her and break her tailbone. LORDY! I can trot forever now when I wouldn't have been able to do even five minutes a year ago. I have cantered on Jackson exactly two times in the past year (and the second time I hit a tree because I didn't give him ANY direction when we got to it! I was so amazed and delighted we were cantering, we came around a corner to a tree directly in front of us, and I did a mini-freak which consisted of not telling my horse which way to go--so we parted ways, and I left marks on the tree where I went SPLAT!) although I do fairly well on my friend's horse. (See two posts ago where I was cantering the spotted app.) Cantering has now become The BIG Monster. The dressage lessons are helping IMMENSELY and I am gaining my independent seat which is riiiggghhhht there. A nudge away. The fear is the problem. I am gaining confidence all the time, I know I will get there. Some of the fear comes from the fact that I have sole custody of my son while his dad is in Iraq, and even if he weren't relying on me, if I get injured, I have NO ONE ELSE to help me with the bills. So injury isn't an option. The living on the street vision helps feed the fear fire in my mind, I tell ya'!

But I want to tell you about the TIME I WAS SURE I WOULD BE KEEPING MY HORSE. A year ago this month, Linda, Lorri and I made a five hour trek to Parrie Haynes Ranch near Kileen, Tx which has 55 miles of trails and the rustic (but fun!) accomodations you see below. That cabin was air conditioned and that was good enough for me! We did one 9 mile ride the first day we got there, as we arrived later in the day, and then two the next day. It is the second ride I want to tell you about. Lorri and Linda decided that leaving at 6:30 pm would give us plenty of time to do a 10 mile trail. I had my doubts, some of the trails had proven to be so steep, rocky and perilous that I literally closed my eyes and prayed a couple of times. My awesome horse did it all. I voiced my doubts that we would make it back before dark, but I was overruled. So off we went. And went. And went. And darkness started to creep in. We started to use a cell phone to read the trail markers. And then we were lost. In the PITCH dark. Moon? Nope, not out. We had to establish a system to follow each other by. I had to follow Linda on her white horse and Lorri had to follow me with my white t-shirt, because Lorri was all in dark clothing on a dark horse. I tried following her and totally freaked, there wasn't anything there to see! Linda and Lorri weren't really worried. They knew we could follow the power lines and come out somewhere. I wondered where and how many hours this would entail. How many more hours would I be able to stay on? Could I drape myself over Jacks while we walked and rest my muscles? Lorri laughed her ass off the entire freakin' BLACK ride. I knew my horse could see with no problems, so that really wasn't an issue and did help with some of my fear. He was just SO awesome. Nothing phased him on that trip. Ravines, steep rock going down & up, weird riding patterns, a PITCH black ride; he SO had my back. As I was riding him in the dark I was proud. I knew we were becoming a team. A team coming a bit slowly out of the starting gate, but one that will inevitably win OUR race. We made it out of those woods somehow, and it didn't take all night. Our neighbor's had called the ranger to report us missing (ha ha) and told us that people get lost (REALLY LOST) on the trails at night and have to be rescued quite frequently!

So, that is our story! I am just going to be riding, riding some more, and taking as many lessons as I can afford. And guess what? WHEN we get our canter on you all will be the first to know!!!

The Cowboy Cabin

Pit toilets but HOT showers! No complaints from me!

Up the rock...

A view of a sorta steep part...

Going UP!

Me & Jackson and Lorri with Kite

Linda on Shorty & Lorri on Kite (Those sunglasses of Linda's have miraculously disappeared!!:)

Can you see the marks I left?

Dressage Lesson