Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 In Rewind

I've discovered that one thing I love doing with this blog is looking back month by month and recapping what the heck happened with me, the beasts and our time together.

Therefore, I present to you, 2013 in a Reader's Digest format.

January

January saw us set some goals, and hang out in the rain.

Pia was relatively well behaved and a few visits from Supermom meant we not only got pictures, but we got to take a trail ride too.
The P, bitless

Trail Time

P2 Beak.
Prairie continued her jumping education with a field trip to try some courses away from home, along with another field trip for a Dressage reminder which was fun. 

Also, The Boy rode Gus for the first time and I loved every second of it.
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February

We pretended to focus on Dressage, Prair and S had several lessons with our favorite other trainer, Pia started acting out again and I decided that a traditional training barn was just not going to be good for her.

Prairie had her first show of the season and started with a Championship in her 3' Pre-Greens.  It was a month of ups and downs.

feeding treats at the Back Gate

Strengthening our Trot

The Girls out together

March

We got Gus and presented him to M2.  Gus was officially the cutest thing since sliced bread loved every minute of the extra attention

Pia made the move out of the barn and back to a happier turnout situation while Prair's feet got sore and I contemplated putting some shoes on the mare.  Also, my Dad made an epic tack trunk and the month closed out with both Prair and Gus at a show.  (Gus won his WT classes with a kiddo)


Gus, M2.  M2, meet Gus.

swoon

two black ponies sitting in the shade

Handsome Gus.

April

Prairie got front shoes, and promptly tried to rip them off/shove clips up her hoof wall. She also put on some big girl panties and hauled up to an A show for schooling day.  Remarkably she held her gerbils together and handled the whole thing pretty well.  I made the mistake of actually counting how many saddles I owned (too many) but somehow justified ordering the CWD anyway (oops!). Pia settled into her new routine, put some weight back on and started resuming her happier mare behavior.  Finally, we closed out the month at a totally horrid, rainy terrible schooling show.  Prair was great, but we didn't place well.  hence we called it a "moral victory"

schooling with the big kids

complaining about her new shoes

loving her new life.

Happy Birthday/xmas/everything to me
May

We bopped around a fun C show, and Prair collected a lot of loot.  I decide that there are perks to showing in Hunter Land, and the number of ribbons is one of them.


Gus turned 16 and celebrated with lots of treats and presents, and also by turning up lame (well, lamer).

I agonize over whether or not to keep Prair in shoes (I do) and we have a mostly successful rest of the month.


June

The CWD arrived (and didn't fit), Prair's right shoulder got tight again and nothing was working perfectly.

But went to our first Week Long A show and, well... learned a lot.  Prairie was mostly insane for the first few days but calmed down by the time the weekend rolled around.  I learned maybe Perfect Prep isn't a horrid thing.
Somehow we still got two championships
When we got home I started the great boot hunt of 2013 and pulled Prairie's shoes.

July

The Boots. OH THE BOOTS.  I tried all.the.boots.

We pick a pair (finally) and get back to work.

I go a little nutso and put brass tags on everything.

We head to another A show, collect a few more Tri-Colors (though in novelty colors, grrr) and feel great about our progress.

I find out I have to miss our August show due to a surgery (BOOO HISSS) and that's about it.

August

I turn 30.  Obviously I use the occasion to act like I'm still 22 and dance my ass off surrounded by friends and family

Prair shows without me and does pretty decently at her first AA show.  At some point I gave her hind shoes (and drilled for studs) so she had some grip on the grass.  She seemed to like it.

I have a slight panic about having not ridden a single Dressage Test so we find one last schooling show to hit and enjoy the outing (though Prair acts like a Dragon the whole time).
it was really.pretty.


I went to visit P and she reminded me how pretty and nice she is when I don't lock her in a stall all the time.


September

We move up to 2'9" at our next show and win.every.class in our Hunter Division.  Who would have predicted that six months ago!?  The win comes with our first COOLER.  We get a second COOLER in the Pre-Greens and Prair squeaks out a respectable 3rd in the "big" Classic with S.
2'9"!


I torture myself by riding bareback (semi) regularly and I torture Prair with some spinal injections.

The injections and shockwave made her significantly more comfortable and we start to see the "new and improved" Prairie complete with more relaxation, muscling on her back and all sorts of good things.

Gus' prolonged lameness finally erupts in a massive abscess and he gets (more) stall rest.

Prair and I jump 4'3" and don't die, we mentally commit to Thermal and enjoy a weekend clinic with who will be our regular trainer in 2014.


October 

Prairie continues her shockwave treatment.

I pretend that i'm going to commit to the two-point challenge but really only do it one day.

We head to the Eq Finals and win another cooler (!!?)  Though we had a few disappointments (including not having seen the "test" for the medal finals on our course map)

A good friend from college visits and rides Gus in a lesson with me.

Gus continues to be lame(ish) so we walk, and walk, wand walk

and I decide to clean out unused horse things from my garage.  Though I have totally failed to ship any of it - though I SWEAR I will.  soon!! (in fairness I did say that the ups store/post office is my least favorite place ever)

November 

We find out that Prair won a year end award, though we politely decline to travel to the USHJA meeting to claim it.

The Boy and I find out I'm pregnant, (which starts to explain a lot of things...) and I start thinking about what the means for the horses.

It definitely means I'm out most of the show season for 2014, so I look at my 2013 goals and decide I better sneak in one more show and try the 3' AA's.

I do.  Without a coach, or really any preparation and we get our butts kicked by juniors but Prairie is Really Good.


December

I officially decide to move Prairie to a new program, though I agonize over what the right decision is.

Knowing that no matter what, the kiddo is going to significantly reduce pony time, I relish in easy, lazy hacks and try to enjoy the mare still being close enough to see 5 days a week.

Gus is miraculously sound in the super-cold-weather and enjoys being worked again.

I commit to a new barn, Thermal and draining my bank account, all the while loving every second of this crazy little adventure with Prair.

Holy Crap we did a lot in 2013.

Here's to another wild and crazy year filled with what I'm sure will be even more surprises!



Monday, December 30, 2013

Prair's Moving Day

Friday, we officially got the mare all moved and settled in to her new house.  I did an remarkably terrible job of taking any photos of the process but The Boy was in tow and carried bins of blankets and bundles of tack around to their new homes.
literally the only picture I took (The Boy emptying her haynet in the new stall)

Prairie decided that the drizzle coming down made the trailer look like a much better option than raising a stink about loading - so she hopped right in, nickered a few times to her buddies, and we were off.

The new barn is much smaller (maybe 15 stalls in the show barn?) but very well designed and seems to be very comfy for both the horses and their people.

I'll attempt to take pictures this week so that we aren't relying on my lackluster written descriptions.

Prair settled quietly into her stall and I tried to figure out how to shove all my crap in a significantly smaller (though totally acceptable) tack locker.

Saturday I woke up early and made the drive (50 minutes from home, no traffic - not so bad!!) for a lesson.

As I was tacking up I realized that Prair hadn't been worked in 3 days, and likely hadn't been turned out since Thursday.  Seemed like a perfect time to climb on in a new indoor and go for a ride!

She has of course, hauled to this facility multiple times for lessons, but I question how much that really helps quiet the gerbils when they want to play.

Turns out, I didn't have anything to worry about.  After one hard look at the big door in the far end, she quieted right down and we had a great ride.

After some lateral work and a few transitions, we began working up over a small course and found some of our current weak spots.  The whole course was twisty, single fences and unrelated distances. Prair was really wanting to land and lengthen instead of coming back to me so the first few jumps were "good" but made for an interesting pace.

We focused on circling when I needed to reorganize in order to get the canter I wanted instead of "staying on course."  We had a couple nice go's and just about the time I thought my legs were going to fall off we called it quits.

I spent a couple hours bumbling around and chatting with folks, trying to get a better sense of how things work around the barn.  People seem to all use barn saddle pads (which get washed!) instead of their own, which was one fun tidbit I figured out.  Also, most folks tack up in their stalls.. that was easy enough.  And the peppermints are definitely for the horses, not for the kids. :)  I'm sure I'll figure out more norms as I go, but I always feel a bit like I'm on eggshells as new barns as I try to figure out what the flow is, what the etiquette is and how things work in a new place.

When I was leaving for the day, I caught sight of Prair out in a turnout (presumably for the first time) with her head 27 feet in the air and her tail totally flagged.  I'm pretty sure we'll end up with less turnout overall in this facility so I'm keeping a close eye on her brain does with some different feed and a different routine.

Fingers crossed we see only good things :)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Ho Ho! (and anything else that makes you happy)

From all of us (humans and critters alike), a very Merry Christmas from Pia & Prairie's Parade!

We hope (regardless of what or how you are choosing to celebrate) that you are enjoying the close of 2013 and reveling in something lovely.


Gus won the xmas card contest this year (obviously), though Prair had a close second, what with the whole "calm-ish" thing being slightly more appropriate for her overall presence.



xxxo

Monday, December 23, 2013

SNOW DAY! (or slush, or sleet, or something day)

In our neck of the woods snow is very exciting.  The news talks about it for days before, during and after any actual potential snow. 

Last week there was lots of talk and chatter and then on Friday finally there was snow. At least two whole inches of snow. 

Because it's a rarity, I adore snow when it shows up locally.  I feel like a school kid and every time I wake up at night I peek outside to see if the snow has actually happened, and for some inexplicable reason when it does snow I compulsively check school closures even through I am decidedly not in school, nor is anyone else in my household.

The part of me that spent the better part of 10 years on the East Coast scoffs at Seattle's Snow Freak Outs.  It's not that I can't drive in the 2" of snow, it is more that if everyone else is going to freak out and call a snow day, I am making tea, grabbing a book and hopping on that cozy bandwagon.

So I did.  Friday was officially a Snow Day, and I canceled my morning lesson.  Of course, by 2pm the snow had turned to rain and most everything was washed away, but that was not the point. 

SNOW DAY was the point.  We had a snow day.
Praie enjoying her somewhat snowy field
After said snow day, the barn officially decided to settle into it's seasonal mud pit status.  Pastures are a mess, walkways are a mess.  Prair is a mess.  Everything is a mess.

But that's what we get in our neck of the woods so the griping should be relatively limited.

Aside from looking like a Swamp Creature, Prair's lovely streak continues.  Her only major loss of points this weekend came from the fact that she is currently digging-to-china in her paddock and snacking on red dirt and roots.  This dirt stains/covers her beak in a lovely red mud which she promptly smears on everything.  Me.  Tack.  Walls.  Small children... everything.  It's gross.

The only other downside to the weekend was I think I potentially pissed off/was mean to one of our other boarders.  She's not in S's program, and is a very green rider with a very green horse who I think is barely broke for groundwork and maybe goes under saddle for a trainer, but maybe not yet, can't be certain.

The conflict arose when S took a small kid on a small pony into the indoor for a lesson at the same time I was walking in to ride Prairie.  Said other boarder was in the ring with green horse attempting to lunge. I say attempt because it was not a super safe/consistent lunging effort.  The horse didn't want to stay on a circle... and was sometimes rearing/twisting and for the most part was just unpredictable.

At some point she pulled in her line, so I started to use the whole arena (I work around other folks, but if you pull in your line, I'll use that opportunity to get off my 20m circle at one end).

She then asked if she could "have" one end of the ring to keep lunging for another 20 min or so (this is a 20x40m ring folks) and I pointed out that technically, lunging is not allowed in the indoor with other people.  If it's empty, you can lunge.  If there are lessons or other riders (or in this case both), you have to head outside to the round pen, or the larger outdoor ring (again, deferring to lessons and other riders). 

She looked confused and I think is actually green enough to not understand why her lunging was a bad idea with a 3 year old on a pony and another horse in the ring.  I get it, it was drizzly, and gross, and there was a reason everyone wanted to be inside, so I understood why she didn't want to go someplace else and I felt like an ass for being the one to not defer to her request - but even taking me out of the equation, trying to lunge a wild thang with a tiny kid (who did slide off the pony at one point) is not (in my mind) smart horsemanship. 

Anyway, I got a serious eye roll and exasperated sigh, which made me feel like crap, but oh well. 

Usually I abide by a first-come-first-serve theory of working around other folks and their exercises/jumps/lesson/whatever. But in this case I felt moderately justified in pointing to the barn rules and being a brat.

I know most training barns have pretty strict rules about lunging (when, where, how) but most open boarding barns tend to be less rigid.  Ours is a strange combo where about half the boarders are in S' program, but the other half are scattered amongst other trainers, or board and ride independently. 

What do your barns say about lunging in arenas/priority for use of rings? I'm moderately curious.

This is a funny week for rides with the Holiday and all, but we'll do our best and come Friday, Prair moves to her new digs! 





Thursday, December 19, 2013

True Cost of Big Shows: Part I

I'm going out on a slight limb and actually publishing my estimated costs for Thermal.  Usually I wouldn't consider this a "limb" per se, but it's friggin expensive and while all things horsey are expensive - opting to show in Hunter/Jumper land is hideously expensive, particularly for weeks on end and especially out of state.

So, it's a gross, ugly, giant number that I know will get varied reactions from "you only live once!" to "that's disgusting, my family of 5 could live for 2 years on that much money."  I assure you that choosing to spend this cash doesn't mean that The Boy and I have endless coffers or that it's a decision that was made lightly.  Obviously we are ultimately ok spending it, and it won't put our rainy day(/emergency vet) fund in jeopardy, but still.  Not an everyday expenditure.

(waaaaahhhh)
Being a relative newcomer to the H/J scene, (and also having never shown more than one week in a row) I'm surprised how hard it is to actually nail down what the true cost of showing with a bonifde Show Barn is.  Some of this is due to the fact that money goes in different directions...  I tend to pay my trainer for Day Fees, Travel and any Grooming I opt for, but then the Braider is separate, which is separate from the Show Office for class entries, stabling, etc...

Regardless, at my first few A shows, in spite of my best efforts to know what it was going to cost me, there always seemed to be some expense that snuck up on me. 

Add that to the fact that people tend to politely avoid talking about costs and money in general and you get a big 'ol black hole that you just stumble through and figure out.

For those who have either never experienced these show costs, think they might want to experience it, or manage to look the other way while a spouse or fairy godmother cuts the check.  Here are some cold. hard. numbers related to taking your horse to an A show.

I labeled this post "part one" because I hope I remember to do a follow-up post that includes our actual costs.  Lord knows estimates are rarely accurate....

Here goes:

Prairie is scheduled to show at Thermal for weeks IV, V and VI (HITS uses roman numbers, and I think they are cooler than regular numbers).  This requires shipping her (and equipment) 1,300 miles each way.  While there, she will be competing in two divisions with a Pro riding and hopefully two (or three) divisions each weekend with me.  She will have grooming, braiding and a double stall since she's huge and tent stalls are not.

In addition I am still trying to figure out how much of those three weeks I will be present.  Regardless, there are plane ticket(s) and lodging for me, along with rental cars, food and the inevitable horse show shopping.

So, based on costs from last year, and my entry form this year, here's how I think that major costs will break down:

Equipment Transport (hay, trunk, tack, drapes, etc):  $350
Horse Vanning:                                                           $1,500
Trainer Hotel/Travel Split:                                          $1,400
Out of State Day Fee (x21):                                         $1,365
Stabling (x2 for double stall x3 weeks):                      $1,200
Braiding (4 days/week x3 weeks):                               $1,020
Entries (4 divisions/week x3 weeks):                           $1.920
Lodging for Me (4 nights/week x3):                            $2,400
Rental Car:                                                                   $400

That brings the Preliminary Total to $11,555.  That is before shopping, office fees, tips, extra classes and feeding myself....  Which means I really should be mentally preparing to hemorrhage closer to $15,000 especially once Prair orders her matching barn clothes...

eleven thousand dollars

That's a lot of money.

Getting to the Back Gate aint cheap
In a weird way, I think the cost would have totally scared me off this adventure if I wasn't pregnant.  I'd probably hunker down for a season of local shows and aim for Thermal when I was competitive at 3' and I felt like my apr├Ęs-show bikini body was slightly more svelte.

My initial response when we found out I was pregnant was to cancel Thermal, rein in all pony related costs and hunker down.  But The Boy being The Boy, along with my proclivity for spending, means that in a weird way the pregnancy has us both saying "now or never."  Heading out of state for a multiple week show sounds even more expensive and even more difficult once a kiddo is in tow, so now it is.

There are in fact lots of things the "Thermal Money" could go toward, but we have had several open, honest conversations about it - and concluded that enjoying our already expensive, show horse someplace where we can also enjoy the sun and some time together sounds like a lot of fun. 

Additionally, our biggest household budgeting issue isn't the one-off costs (thankfully), but rather limiting regular monthly expenses.  Hence, a half lease, finding Pia the perfect home and exploring a less expensive boarding option for Gus.

So, no - I don't feel guilty.  I did for a bit when we were hemming and hawing over the pros and cons.  But now that the decision is made, I am ok with it and just trying to make sure that we enjoying this whole experience as much as possible, since it may not be an annual event.


















Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Evidence.

We had one of our (many) holiday celebrations on Monday evening, this one with The Boy's side of things, which always involves (among other things) way too much good food and a healthy dose of chatting and catching up.

We also exchanged gifts, and M2 is particularly good at finding little old treasures to tuck in the mix.  This year was no exception, but I thought a couple items were worth sharing.

Like this adorable picture of The Boy
How cute is he!?

Apparently getting ready for a trail ride on Summer Vacation, I think this pic is adorable.  As much as he claims not to be horsey, he's clearly always been relaxed around the beasts.  Lucky me, eh?

one more for good measure
Also, for the record, in this second pic, my mom asked "is that a horse?"  To which I sigh and wonder how I ever convinced that woman to throw the horses their lunchtime hay when we kept them at home....


Had to share ;)
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