Friday, December 21, 2012

Star Light, Star Bright..

One thing I love about the holidays are all the little packages and parcels that land on your doorstep from distant family and friends.  There's something so much more exciting about a hand packaged parcel than the commercial cardboard from major retailers.

So I was thrilled when I found a little box on my doorstep from Star's erstwhile caretaker.  I was expecting a little bag of cookies or some other holiday treat, but was amazed and teary to find this:

A pretty little star shaped ornament (not Star shaped.. she was rounder and less pointy) with a lock of her tail and some pretty blue and white beads (our old xc colors) inside. 

There was also a bit more of her tail tucked in the box which has been added to the small braid I snipped off her tail a couple years ago.  I'm sure I'll think of something clever to do with that, but this shining little ornament with a twist of her tail is a gorgeous little memento. 

It will be a wonderful memory to pull out every year when we trim our tree.

**Getting misty eyed again, so I'm gonna call this a post :) ***

ps- Mares were medium good yesterday.  P1 was being fussy about outside leg and P2 thought that jumping 3 cavaletti on a circle was torturous.  Thankfully, both worked through their concerns...

I hope everyone has a fabulous Holiday Weekend with their loved ones (both furry and not).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Perfect 2.0 (& a little snow)

Last night brought the first nice little dusting of snow in the foothills and with the snow came two very adorable, very well behaved mares. 
Their synchronized ears crack me up
When I got to the barn there was just enough snow to make the pastures and trees look pretty, but not enough to screw with the roads or freeze the footing.  Of course this also meant that the primordial ooze that is the muck at the girls' pasture gate also wasn't frozen. 

Trying to maintain footing on the (vanishing) firmer mud while wrestling with the gate and wrestling one mare out while keeping one mare in is getting harder and harder as the muck deepens.. but I suppose horses are supposed to be a challenge and if the challenge has to come somewhere I'd rather it be in the muddy paddock gate than under saddle. :)

I pulled Prairie in first and tacked up for our lesson.  A couple weeks ago S set up a cavaletti at X so we could figure eight over it, or just incorporate it into our circle.  Prairie had an absolute conniption fit about cantering over it and we had to all but abandon anything resembling the exercise before we found Prairie's comfort zone (trotting a plain pole on the rail).

S had apparently had Prairie cantering figure eights over the cavaletti with clean changes last week.  Eager to see what would happen if I attempted such a feat we warmed up and got to business. 

In summary - Prairie was a stud.  When I focused on "squaring" our corners as we turned toward the cavaletti and keeping her straight for a stride before and after.  This is easier said than done, but it helps keep me riding the mare from back to front - and anything that does that is good in my book. 

After cantering on circles over the cavaletti (something that fried Prairie's Brain 3 weeks ago..) we started with the figure eights and whenever I had her packaged, straight and balanced, she nailed her changes.  If we got strung out, inverted or came in with too much bend, we were moderately screwed. 

I really couldn't believe how well she was doing though.  She only missed the clean change once with her hind legs, and there was no trace of the lead-change-induced-anxiety that I've witnessed before.

We upped the ante a bit and moved the cavaletti to the diagonal approaching H so I would canter the diagonal, and then hopefully use the cavaletti to assist with the change as we rejoined the rail. 

This was too much time to think about the lead change for Prairie and she ended up trying to swap and getting all fussy as she crossed the center line when she was still a good 4 strides out from the cavaletti and change in bend. 

We worked through it, and I realized that I needed to maintain our old bend on the diagonal so that Prairie didn't over think the change too soon.  If I held her too straight, the diagonal was just too much time to stare at the cavaletti and get concerned about what to do with her legs. 

We got a few good changes from the left to the right, worked a few from the right to the left and then called it quits before the gerbils exploded.  I was really pleased with the mare.  I felt like she gave me really good, honest tries and stuck with me longer than she ever has with hard questions like this. 

Pia was next.  She was a little squirrely when I first brought her in (mostly over concern to where Prairie disappeared to I think), but she calmed down in the cross ties and was a super quiet, patient girl while I hosed off her muddy legs and tacked her up.  I've been riding her in my old Klimke dressage saddle with a sheepskin half pad under it.  Nothing else.  But she seems really happy in that combo.  We've also started working with her in her bit (!!!) so I tacked up with her old KK double jointed loose ring (without a noseband) and got on. 

The first 30 seconds gave me slight PTSD because P felt firey.  But, a quick nudge forward and some big circles calmed her down in 2 minutes flat.  S left the cavaletti out at X and we basically repeated Prairie's lesson but without any steady rein contact (or rhythm for that matter).  But P was great! we walked small figure eights.  Trotted small figure eights, trotted over the cavaletti on a circle, cantered over it on a circle and then played with figure eights. 

I did throw an old stirrup leather around Pia's neck as an "oh shit strap" which I really liked.  I hooked my outside hand into it and let that be my safety blanket.  I could lean/haul/pull on that thing as much as I wanted without disrupting Pia or shutting her down with too much rein contact. 

The mare actually seemed pretty tuned in to her neck rein and between that and my seat I was able to leave a biiiiiig loop in our reins the whole time.  The only time I really needed to fuss with my hands was to give her an opening rein over the cavaletti for rein changes.

Afterward we went for a big property walk and she was calm, forward and super relaxed. 

WHAT A GOOD PIA.  Full marks.  Brav. 

Look at that happy mare face! (ignore the slipping pad) 
 Things I'm learning about Me and P(1):
  • I am still totally reluctant to put my leg on her.  I'm expecting her to be naughty, but she isn't reacting that way.  I need to ride the mare I have, not the mare she was in 2010/2011.  
  • She feels like a pony! I've taking Prarie's size for granted and gotten sloppy with my upper body balance.  I need to stay back on Pia and not tip forward.
  • She's trustworthy.  (with some things).  Horses, backfiring, 4x4's, nothing seems to spook her when she's working.  I need to trust her more on that.
  • She's totally ok without rein contact so I need to be ok with that for a little while too - until I earn her trust and can ask for a bit more confinement. 
  • P is really enjoying her work.  This might be my favorite thing right now.  I want to make sure I don't do anything to jeopardize that relaxation.
So it was a great mare day.  They earned a perfect 2.0 GPA and I can't ask for more than that. They must be giving me my Christmas gifts early... 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Toe Trimming Trip

Thursday's Field Trip to Summer Camp was a uneventful (in the good sense) success.  I feel like when horses are involved, uneventful is usually a good thing.  And when trailering horses is involved, uneventful is always a good thing.

Since everyone else seemed to be working on a Thursday, I couldn't con anyone into making the trip with me, but I did manage to get my dad excited about helping me load the mares up.  Mind you, he hasn't loaded a horse of any sort into a trailer since the 90's so he was eager to help, but a bit... rusty on how to apply helpful pressure from behind.

Luckily the most protest that Prairie lodges is a 60 second "right to sniff" before she walks herself on the trailer.  Pia was the wild card.  She's been fabulous in Cowboy Man's stock trailer, but has only loaded in a straight load once, and it can look a little more claustrophobic especially with a big giant mare already in one stall.

Shouldn't have worried though.  Pia caught sight of the hay bag and damn near trotted up the ramp.  Good little Squirrel.

Then we were off. Me in my gorgeous new truck and the girls in their adorable matching plaid coolers.  (I think we can safely say that if I ever end up with twins, or multiple children of any sort really.. that they will be dressed in coordinated if not matching outfits regularly).

I managed to miss most of the rush hour traffic and made the trip in an easy three hours.  Both girls walked off the trailer politely, stood nicely in the barn while we unwrapped then let them go get their wiggles out in the arena before the toe trimming commenced. 

We started with Pia, and talked about how he's been shoeing her.  The answer is that she is in regular Eventer shoes, set just slightly wider than her own hoof wall (but with a ground down bevel to keep her from pulling them off).  The Natural Balance shoes are just a tad too square for her these days and a tad too short in the length. 
Prairie waiting (mostly) patiently for her turn
CM has been really focuses on getting P as much heel support as possible and keeping her trim cycle short enough that he catches her heels before they start to curl in or collapse.  So far it's working.  It might mean that I have to haul her to Camp for trims every 5 weeks for a while, but I think that's doable.

Both P's just stood and snacked while we worked on their toes.  Pia's feet look awesome.  Her angles are good, her heels are finally starting to widen and all in all they getting a bit cuppier and starting to round out rather than looking like long drawn out ovals.
Prairie started to lose interest and began playing with her tongue..

After P1, we took a break for lunch and put the girls out in pasture to fart around and sniff at the herd over the fence.  Both of the mares were super social, super playful and super relaxed.  P showed no stress at returning to her old stomping grounds and immediately sniffed at all of her old friends.  Especially her boyfriends.

Prairie took the back seat and stayed behind Pia when dealing with the herd which is the only time I've ever seen her defer to P1.  Then they both (obviously) found a muddy hole to go squirm around in like hippos before coming back to the barn for Prairie's feet.

All in all I was relieved to get a big thumb's up from CM on how Prairie's feet are doing.  I wasn't concerned about anything but I have not-so-secret fears that I'm going to screw something up drastically and end up snapping my mare's tendons with a bad trim.  Not likely I know, but some humility and terror seems prudent.

What I wanted help on was assessing Prairie's bars and how much to trim them.  I haven't been worried about them because they aren't particularly large and have never protruded or folded over on me.  CM did point out that on her hinds they are big enough to make contact with the ground and could be producing pressure points.  So we scooped those out, talked a bit about her heels and then we were done. 

Easy Peasy.

Since I had a little time before I needed to be back on the road, we took the mares down to the arena for some ground work.   Over lunch we had been discussing the challenges and successes with both mares on the ground and CM brought up the notion of working them together.

(two mares!? at once!? god help me).

He set the ring up for our classic leading exercise which entails having snack buckets placed along the rail all around the ring.  Then we walk asking the mare to heel nicely at our shoulder and when we want to stop we exhale deeply and raise our arms as a physical signal.  Both P1 and P2 are very good at this game, but the refresher was more to remind them that it was listening time and not smell-everything-and-obsess-about-the-herd-time. 

Then CM grabbed both leads and proceeded to take both mares around the ring, stopping and starting, getting nice mouthfuls of snack when they were good girls. 
starting out... They were lagging a bit but tightened up
Halting and having to soften toward CM before a reward.
Annnnd then heads down into their snack bowls.
Pia was a stud.  But she has way more experience in being worked alongside another horse than Prairie does.  Prairie doesn't like traffic of any sort or to be too pressed up against fences or walls or anything.  Also, her response to being too closed in (physically or by a crowd) is to just bust forward into a roomier space. 

She tried this a few times when she didn't want to stand nicely between Pia and the rail, but CM just directed his body language at Pia to stay put and added pressure to Prairie until she put herself back in the correct position. 

He explained that what he didn't want to do is take Pia out of her correct position in order to get Prairie back where she needed to be.  By doing that he let Prairie be someone what charge of what was happening instead of him behaving more or less like a lead mare.  It was pretty cool to watch. 

For anyone who has seen the liberty acts from someone like Sylvia Zerbini, my mind is pretty much consistently blown at how one is able to direct different horses different things at the same time. 

The closest I get is being able to shoo one mare away from the gate while I coax the other out the smallest possible opening when I need to bring them  in from pasture....

Anyway.  It wasn't a difficult exercise and by the end CM was easily walking, trotting and halting with both mares at his shoulder.  Prairie had a hard time with tight turns when she was on the inside and needed to really slow down but it was pretty cool to see each of them rate their speed so that they maintained their correct shoulder positioning..  

That was the end of the day, and the haul home was equally easy. 

two matching P''s in a pod!

Friday, December 14, 2012

When the Gerbils Come to Play

ger·bil [jur-buh l] noun

any of the numerous small burrowing rodents of the genus Gerbillus that infest the brains of Equines and cause irrational, erratic, often obnoxious behavior while under saddle. 

Gerbils.  I often picture them running around like stink in Prairie's brain - smashing into walls, each other, and whatever else is in her head.  When they are sleeping and quiet, all is well.  But when they wake up and start bouncing off each other like ping pong balls, no good can come of it.

Supermom found this video and we're both certain that it looks something like this:

I mean. It has to.  That has to be what's happening when her eye rolls back and she runs away from... nothing.

Damn Gerbils.

In other news our field trip back to Summer Camp was fabulous.  More on that later.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

10 Luxe Gifties

Full disclosure that this is a totally biased list, based entirely on things I think are pretty but haven't actually given into buying for myself (rare, I know).  Even I draw the line sometimes.  As wonderful as the girls would look in/on/with these items, I haven't justified it yet (emphasis on the yet). 

In no particular order...

1) The Dubai Bridle

First up, a bridle I've been drooling over for a while.  I'm a sucker for pretty much anything Otto Schumacher (you'll see more than one item on this list by them) but this bridle continues to taunt me from afar.  

I've become a huge fan of the muted sparkles that adorn the noseband and browband.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some glitter (on me or the mares) but there's something about this bridle in "Dorado" that's flashy without being ostentatious.  Prairie would look killer in this.  Pia not so much. but that's ok.

At $699.99 I won't be ringing it up anytime soon, but it would be a dynamite show bridle.

2) Gorgeous Stall Plates:

There are a million varieties out there worth posting.  Butt he simple fact remains that substantial, well crafted stall plates are a great detail in any barn aisle 

I stumbled onto Nelson Manufacturing's site a while back and really liked the variety of their products. 
I find this one particularly classy:

3)  Rambo Grand Prix Helix Sheet

Confession.  I own this.  But I love this. and secretly I was at least one more for Prairie and one for Pia to match (obvi).  They look adorable in their matching plaid fleece coolers, but they'd look smashing in these bad boys.  The fabric wicks, so it functions like a nice cooler and I really like it to haul in.  The drape is magnificent, the fabric stays decently clean and the trim dresses it up a bit.  Prairie always looks fancier than she is when she steps off the trailer in this sheet.

At $105 it's more than I'd usually spend on a stable sheet, but way less than a custom wool dress sheet and frankly, I think this looks sharper than many of the dress sheets out there.  I'm biased though. 

4) Otto Schumacher Custom Halter

Drool.  I want them all.  The leather is stunning and there are so many options I don't even know what I would order if I did feel like blowing the cash on one.
I don't have a horse that would model this option perfectly (though I could find one I'm sure). but I think it's drop dead.  sigh.

5) Gersemi.  All of it.

It's spendy and it's prettier than things that I should wear within 50' of the Muddy Mares, but lord I like it.  I begrudge the women at shows trotting around in their gorgeously styled (but moderately functional) Gersemi, but secretly I just want it.  I want it all.

This jacket is my fav in their current line up:
6) Monogrammed Stable/Polo Wraps

It is the birth right of every equestrian to monogram as many things as possible.  Show shirts, saddle pads, blankets.. You name it and you can put your name on it.  As a kid I never monogrammed a thing.  In fact I found it sort of confusing and avoided it all together.  These days though I love it.  For one, it keeps your stuff from wandering off elsewhere in the barn and for another, when you stick to the same font and style across all your items it's sharp.  (For the recod I stick to Dover's "K" option on monograms.  Love it).

I have yet to cross the boundary of throwing my initials on leg wraps, but when it's done well, I really like the look.  Especially for shipping.  But for myself, I just can't justify $10 of monogram on $10 wraps.  The cost doesn't quite balance out.  $10 monogram on a $50 pad? sure.  But that's what makes monogrammed wraps a good gift.  Something we don't buy ourselves.  It does mean that the pony clubber has to come out and get OCD enough to get your wraps all perfectly lined up so that your pretty monogram stays centered. 

7) Handcrafted Bit Box

For the Tack Ho' with everything.. I bet she doesn't have this. 

A well crafted, totally gorgeous bit box.  Keep all your bits in a tidy little row and at your fingertips without them clanging around, sinking to the bottom of a box or sitting on a bridle hook encrusted with dried hay/grain/slobber.

At $295, it's in the splurge section of tack organizers, but what a gorgeous show piece for the well manicured tack room or tack locker.  Rhar. 

8) Brush Box

While we're on that classy site... I love their dovetailed brush box as well.  I like that it has the traditional look of a wooden brush box.  It's refined enough to be carried to any back gate, but it's distinctive enough that you won't forget which one is yours.  
Also, at $79 it's remarkably affordable for a custom wood piece.

9) Cheval Show Shirts

They fit.  They don't come untucked.  They have extra long arms for the right amount of "cuff."  They look cute when your coat's off.  And they are machine washable.  No ironing. 


You can definitely find cheaper "wrap collar" shirts out there. but these are so damn cute and the fabric is worth paying for.  They last and they launder well.  That is all.

I was going to finish the list with a world class equine like Sa Coeur or someone equally drool worthy. but since I don't think anyone is dropping multiple 7 figure checks on a horse anytime soon, we might as well stay within the stratosphere a little bit. 

10) Samshield Custom Helmet

At 995 Euros it better not only protect your noggin, but increase your IQ by a substantial percentage.  But price not withstanding, Samshield has come out with very attractive, subtly distinctive helmets.  I'm a fan of their "off the rack" options, but the pallets for their custom helmets are brilliantly done.  I recognize that both the hunter and dressage rings leave no room for such fabulous headgear, but It almost justifies a foray into the jumper ring where the audience would be both suitable and appreciative.   I played around on their website and came up with this fun thing:
And in case you can't see.  Yes, those are 255 tiny little rhinestones sparkling nicely around the perimeter of the brown lizard top piece.  Over the top? Sure.  But why not.  I wear a helmet every time I ride and it seems only fair that there's a possibility for it to be something fun and fabulous.

So many pretty things.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sometimes You Just Have to GET ON

I think I mentioned it, but I've been in a weird mode of loving my barn time but being totally unmotivated to ride.


It happens every few months, where the notion of tacking up and rolling the dice on what the P's will give me just sounds... arduous.

This morning I was scheduled for a 10:30 lesson with Prairie.  A muddy, wet, soggy Prairie who hasn't been ridden since Friday (and not by me in a week).  Add to that a slight cold that's trying to blossom into full blown snotty-sore-throatness.  And I was 99% committed to asking S to take the ride while I watched.

I did manage to squeeze myself into breeches and tall boots (to look like I intended to ride if nothing else..) before leaving the house in case S couldn't, or my fistful of cough drops magically recalled my drive to ride.

Maybe it actually was the cough drops, or maybe it was just going through the motions, but once the mare was groomed (ish, there's only so much mud one can get out without a steam cleaner) and tacked I was feeling pretty good about legging up.
giant beak.
I did opt for a quick lunge first.  The indoor was filled with gross farrier-hoof-burning smoke and the pounding rain was causing people to dart in and out of doorways in a very Prairie-concerning fashion.

Now, lunging Prairie is a crap shoot.  She's good on the lunge, and doesn't pull, or buck or fart around.  But the scurrying around in a circle can either get some of the frisky out, or totally escalate the gerbils to full panic.  Especially in the canter, she can let herself get a wee bit off balance and then it's just a hop, skip and a scoot to total meltdown.

Ergo, 10 minutes of lunging can actually do more harm than good in terms of quieting her brontosaurus brain.

Lucky for me there was no scooting so the 10 minutes of trot work and a wee bit of cantering seemed to take the edge off.

Also, the pelham that I've been schooling in a couple times a week has been requisitioned by it's actual owner which meant that I had the plain KK snaffle back on the bridle.  Not the twist.  Not the elevator bit.  The plain, chunky happy snaffle.  (hmm).

Turns out, the mare was pretty good!  If anything she was a bit dull - both to my legs and my hands.  I kept getting suckered into holding up her front end but S had me halt, and do our slow rein back to unlock and re-soften which helped quite a bit.

Then we did a really fun trot pole exercise which looked like this:
We started by coming up the center line, over the first pole, then collecting and turn back (either left or right) over one of the side poles.  Focusing on turning from the hind end and not falling on the inside shoulder.  For Prairie, (and me) this is hard.

The idea is to figure eight back and forth, going both directions with lots of opportunity to sit back and lift through the turns.  Good exercise for both of us since I can't possibly get away with relying on my inside rein, and Prairie didn't have time to get strung out or disengaged..  Brilliant really.

After about 10 minutes of trotting the figure eights, S asked us to add a canter transition after the angled pole, then return to the trot before turning back up the center line.  This made me really half halt over the poles and emphasized the need from Prair to be in my outside rein as we turned back to the rail.  Otherwise there was no shot of getting a halfway decent step into the canter, or having the balance to come back down 3 strides later.

The mare was... fabulous.

Then, about 50% of the time we would keep our canter and do a full 20m circle over both the angled poles, then return to the trot, back up the center line, change directions and canter the poles on the other lead.  Prairie put in a good show on this.  She didn't have any rage blackouts regarding the canter poles and even managed to add strides which prevented a strung out bounding stride.  Magical.

Again.  All still a bit dead to my leg and hand, but a hell of a lot better than her being overly sensitive, or loopy or scooty.

Finished up with some stirrup-less torture for me and called it a day.

Can you believe it? 3 days off, no martingale, a super soft bit and a happy, reasonable mare? I am shocked.  shocked I say.

As is usually the case, I'm so glad I made myself ride.  It was productive, energizing and totally rewarding.  I don't know what causes the no-ride-funks, but every time as soon as I swing back up in the irons I'm pleased as punch to be there and not quite sure what I was avoiding.

Mares.  They never give you what you're expecting...

As for Pia, she's with S today hopefully repeating their cavaletti work. So it's looking like a good day for our GPA! we might even achieve that elusive 2.0!

Tomorrow I'm stuck in meetings all day, but Thursday I get to hitch up the new truck (!!) and take both mares back to Summer Camp for a day of toe trimming.  P1 is due and my regular farrier (who I don't really use since I do P2's feet myself..)  looked at Pia's cute short, round feet with Natural Balance shoes on front and thought I was intentionally crippling her.

Since her heels are just starting to really widen and we finally have her back in a size 2 shoe I really don't want to impede her progress with a bad trim or different strategy.  Instead, we're off to see Cowboy Man so he can reset her fronts and give me some feedback on Prairie's feet as well.

When he saw Prairie a month ago, he was really pleased with her feet and only commented that perhaps I could work on her bars a bit.  I totally confess that I am terrified to take a knife to the bottom of a foot so I'd like that first session to be supervised.  Seems more than prudent.

Fun field trip coming up!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Just Shove It Down the Chimney...

Pardon me for a moment while I regale the spoiled-rottenness that I have become (as have my mares).  Apparently my increasing horse-trailering-events have been stressing out the Husband.  Mostly because if I want to haul the trailer I need to haul with his truck.  Not an issue except that his truck is a company truck and something that he actually needs to execute his job on a daily basis.  Additionally, he's sometimes outon a job site on a Saturday (or Sunday) which means I can't necessarily assume that weekend trips are fair game. 

So far our solution to this little conflict of interest has been that I ask politely and try to limit the times I steal the truck during the week and he tries his best not to panic about having to go out and do an emergency job while I'm tootling around with the horses on a Wednesday.

Ultimately this was not ideal for him (though I didn't have too many complaints) and his (obvious) solution was to just shove an F-350 down the chimney for Christmas.


I fully admit that this is an extravagant, lovely, fairy tale solution.  But I'm not going to complain.  Not while I'm rolling down the road in this beautiful thing, enjoying my seat heaters and blasting bad pop music out of the speakers. 
It's so sexy. 

Anyway, I'm beyond thrilled.  I can't actually really put into words how much fun it is. 

Is it absurd that we are a two diesel truck family? Yes.  Totally absurd.  But we also own a Smartcar so the gas mileage gods aren't too angry with us...  In point of fact, when I'm not hauling the trailer, this thing is averaging 18.5mpg.  My volvo only squeaks out 19mpg which means I don't have to feel too guilty taking the truck instead.  And this weekend with one horse in the back of the trailer we got about 15.5mpg... better than I was expecting.

So.  in conclusion.  I'm totally spoiled.  I'm also totally obsessed with the new truck and really (really really) thrilled with how well it tows.

In other news.  The girls have been devising new methods to further cover themselves in mud.  Somehow Prairie even got mud inside her shoulder guard and Pia got mud UNDER her forelock.   They seem to have a shared talent in that very specific regard. 

Other than that there's not much to report.  The holidays are quickly eating up my normal barn time.  Between year end stuff for the business, holiday parties and the inevitable errands associated with gift shopping and hosting friends, the girls are getting lots of pats and cookies, but significantly fewer schooling sessions... I'd give them an official few weeks off if we weren't planning on a little dressage clinic this weekend with an instructor who's visiting the farm.  I suppose it's worth some preparation for that... Argh.

I'm too busy trying to figure out what all the buttons in the truck do. :)

Also, I love how it looks with our trailer.  I'll never keep the black clean, but with the dark wheels I think it looks pretty sharp with the gray/black of the trailer.  

Does anyone need a ride anywhere?  Cause I'll totally pick you up...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Prairie was lucky enough to have our friends (the incomparable Joe + Jill) come out to the barn and take a few pictures.  Joe and Jill are fabulous people, fabulous friends and fan-ta-bu-lous photographers.  They did our wedding (and made the whole thing look even more magical) but have never shot horses before.  A few months ago they asked if I would be willing (willing!) to let them come snap some pics of Prairie and stretch their skills and portfolio a little outside their norm. 

Obviously I jumped at the chance to be guinea pigs.  Prairie was a snorting monster, Joe and Jill's two (adorable) kids had a blast scampering around the property and all in all we had a good time.  They wanted to play with their light a lot so we stuck to portraits which were easier to accomplish while trying to keep the big soft lights from tipping over in the mud.  Not exactly their normal studio shoot... :)

Prairie was great about the flashes and looming lights and only tried to eat a camera lens a couple of times (whoops).  Here's a few of my favorites (one already being the new banner).  I love how goofy Prairie looks in some of them.  Though we look down right classy in a couple shots if I do say so myself. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Raising Your GPA (Good P Average)

This weekend I discovered a new measurement tool for how my day at the barn goes - my GPA. 

Now unlike High School and College where my GPA floated somewhere north of 3.7 without much effort, the new GPA (Good P Average) falls somewhat lower, even when considering a perfect score is a 2.0 (two P's... so two possible points).

If a mare is great and happy and a pleasure to work with, she gets her full point.  A good ride but tough? .75.  Kind of a twit? somewhere between .25 and .50.  And of course totally god awful would earn a mare a big fat 0.0 on the day (and possibly a for sale sign). 

Now I get that I'm adding their scores (not really averaging), but I never said it was a perfect system. 

Saturday Prairie was a good girl, but a tough ride.  We tried to do some figure eights over a cavaletti in the indoor, but Prairie was all tweedley and got so damn freaked out by the 8" pole that we had to make it a bit more remedial before we found success.  But she finished on a good note and earned a solid .60 for the day.  When she wasn't anxious though, Prairie was very balanced and engaged in her canter.  Considering that we were back in a snaffle I appreciated that effort and focus.

Pia was a star for S, but got a little exuberant and wanted to crow hop around a bit so she finished with a .75. 

Grand total for the day?  1.35. 

Sunday however I came home with a rather dismal 1.0 GPA.  The morning started out gorgeous and we had every intention of taking the girls for a trail ride.  But by the time I got to the barn the clouds blew in and it was pouring buckets.  Since lessons were filling up the indoor we still rode outside but the slop encouraged us to stay at home instead of risking worse weather on the trail and the inevitable mud. 

I put Prairie back in the pelham and planned to do a quick 20 minute school, almost like a show warmup.  Hop on, walk a bit, pop some transitions.  Shoulder in each way.  Short canter tour and done.  No need to work too hard when the rain is coming down sideways. 

Prairie however had other plans.  She was nervous, fidgety and explosive.  I think she was just distracted and excited at the cold air/rain and looking for excuses but it was not enjoyable.  I tried diffusing with some of our magical halt/slow rein back stuff but every halt rendering her snorty and pawing.  And our rein back was rushed and anxious, or totally ignored and replaced with small bunny hops/threats to rear.

Not. Okay.

Meanwhile Pia was the cutest little squirrel imaginable.  She was soft, but attentive.  Both her ears and lower lip were floppy the whole time and she was perfectly happy to walk and trot around in the rain splashing through all the puddles. (she's still being ridden in a rope halter with two reins to the nose)

I finally got so fed up/freaked out with Prairie that S and I swapped beasties.  She tried to walk Prairie calmly (emphasis on tried) while I finished on a happy note with Miss Pia. 

Prairie really cemented her 0.0 score when walking her out to pasture was more of a kite flying exercise than anything else.  Pia on the other hand was super soft and very obedient with her leading exercises even with her anticipation of rejoining Prairie out in pasture.  So Pia carried the team with a 1.0.

The Good (albeit soggy) Sister (at least on Sunday)

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