Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

It's all about flexion

Last Wednesday I had a fantastic lesson with Carolyn - our first lesson with her in almost 3 months.  I had pretty low expectations and was honestly expecting to have a bit of come to Jesus session.  But never fear, the WonderPony was fantastic.  

When I'm stressed, I prefer to go for walks.  Charlie and I have been doing a lot of walking lately.  Not to mention, he got about a week off between finals, my drill weekend, and my trip to DC.  I flatted him a few times before our lesson and found him to be a bit heavy and somewhat stiff in his jaw.  I didn't really force the issue since he's been on a bit of a vacation.  

I got to Julie's farm a bit earlier then usual since he hadn't been off the property in over a month and I wanted to make sure he had plenty of time to settle if he needed it.  It was pretty busy so I was glad I got there a bit early.  Charlie was pretty good and settled down nicely - he even stood tied to the trailer, calmly observing another horse refusing to get on the trailer.  Good pony!

I got on and warmed-up while Carolyn was finishing-up Julie's lesson.  Charlie was good but a bit pokey.  I've started riding with spurs in addition to the dressage whip (I promise he won a race!) and they've really helped me to nudge him up into the bridle.  As my lesson started, Carolyn really complimented me on how connected he was and how supple he looked.  I just about fell off - I didn't think he felt awful but certainly wasn't expecting that kind of praise.  Because of our lack of fitness, we spent a fair amount of time talking about theory.  The biggest theme of the lesson was flexion - Carolyn felt like I was riding Charlie too straight which allowed him to dump the connection with the outside rein.  Now, I've struggled with the concept of flexion because I'm always afraid of having too much flexion and losing his shoulder.  Carolyn told me that as long I maintain connection with the outside rein, I shouldn't have to worry about keeping his shoulder in line.  The other question I had was about overbending.  Now, way back in the dark ages, I was taught to overbend as a way to supple during the warm-up.  I haven't really used this with Charlie although it has been brought up in lessons with some other people.  I just kind of feel like it throws him off balance - I thought this was because I was doing something wrong but Carolyn said because he's so long and all overbending really does is make him longer.  Not what we're trying to accomplish.  So once I had the concept of what was the appropriate amount of flexion, we rocked just about everything!  It was a really fabulous feeling. 

End of our dressage test at our last show since I have no photographic evidence of our awesome lesson.  Such a good pony!

Thursday was rain and Friday, it was gale force winds so SuperMom and I went shopping for some last minute items.  I thought I was going to be able to ride on Saturday but I ended up playing hurry up and wait for most of the day.  I had called about some round bales on Wednesday with the plan to pick one up Saturday AM but the folks I called on Wednesday were apparently not around on Saturday.  Grrrr...  So back to Craigslist I went and found another source who happened to be right down the street instead of 30 min away like the other ones I had called on.  Score!  Only downside is I had to wait until 1230 to meet the guy and by the time everything was all said and done, it was too late to ride and still make my study date.  :(

Round bale!

 I did get a chance to ride this morning and Charlie was quite good.  I practiced the flexion and as long as I maintain my contact with the outside rein, Charlie maintains the connection.  My next step is to add some lateral work as well as asking Charlie to sit more with his hind end.

Just because he's cute!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A few of my favorites...

I've been lucky enough in the past couple of days to have two of my favorite blogs give Charlie and me a shout out and thought I would return the favor.   But here's the deal - this list is not all inclusive because honestly, I don't follow blogs I don't like (does anybody do that?).  So without further ado, a few of my favorites...

So the first blog I ever started reading was Kate's over at Grey Brook Eventing in 2009.  I love that she's so open about her triumphs and struggles.  She goes on some amazing adventures (she spent a semester at Oxford!!!!) and takes phenomenal photos.  She's also incredibly analytical when describing her lessons so I've been able to learn a lot by reading her lesson recap posts.  If you haven't checked out her blog, I HIGHLY recommend you click right on over - you're in for a real treat.

Next up is SprinklerBandit at SprinklerBandits.  She has an older version of Charlie - what's not to love?  She hasn't always had Charlie's older brother, Cuna and seeing her joy in riding return this past year has quite simply been magnificent.  I firmly believe any adult amateur deserves a Charlie or Cuna in their life and I was so happy for her when she made the decision to get Cuna.  It was a very tough decision to let go of Izzy but ultimately the right one.  If for some reason you haven't stopped by her blog, you absolutely must check it out.  Give yourself at least the afternoon because once you start reading the archives, you won't be able to stop until you're all caught up.

Karley, who blogs about her seriously handsome red-head OTTB Henry, always makes me smile when I read her blog, All In.  Even when things aren't quite going the way she planned, she always manages to find the silver lining.

A Filly's Best Friend is another favorite.  BeBe calls it like she see's it and besides having handsome ponies and crazy cute puppies, I seriously covet her new farm.  Folks, it has a salt water pool in addition to having nice turnout, an arena, and a barn - what more could a girl want?

I love L. Williams at Viva Carlos - she is wise beyond her years and I find her posts really resonate with me.  She posts awesome photos although I wish should would post more of her own work...hint, hint...;)

Another old favorite is Kate's blog, The Adventures of Lucy.  She and Miss Lucy have some real adventures - some planned, some not but Kate always has Lucy's best interests at heart.  I hope Lucy knows just how lucky she is to have landed where she did.  Kate also makes awesome hand-painted saddle pads - they are absolutely lovely.

Jen over at Cob Jockey blogs about training her young cob Connor and their journey to become eventers.  They are well on their way and honestly, who doesn't want a cob?  Connor is crazy cute and just as talented.

If you haven't read Tales from a Bad Eventer, stop what you're doing and go read.  Right now.  Seriously.  She is hysterical and very creative.  Makes me giggle every time. :)

And finally three new blogs that I just started following - Megs over at Natural Noshing Meets Dressaging, Hillary at Equestrian At Hart, and Ruffles at Just A Girl and Her Horse.

Anyway, there you have it - just a few of my favorites.

It rained all day today (yuck!) and tomorrow is supposed to be a day of gale force winds (double yuck!) so I most likely won't be getting on the WonderPony until Saturday.  If manage to study a bit tomorrow, I'll try to post something about our dressage lesson yesterday - it was fantastic!

Charlie kinda looks like this tonight - he's all bundled up because wind chill is supposed to be in the low 20s.  And I thought I lived in the sunny south...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A History...revisited (cont)...

First and foremost, I must mention I had an absolutely stellar flat lesson today.  Charlie was such a champ!  I wish I had photographic evidence but since none exists, you'll just have to take my word for it.  Carolyn was shocked - she said this was the most supple and connected she's ever seen him.  Guess I'm doing something right for once since I haven't had a lesson is over 4 weeks!  Yay!!!

So back to the beginning.  I should mention my last post covered two days - I flew to PA on Friday night (on the redeye from Los Angeles), arriving first thing Saturday AM, rode Charlie Saturday afternoon, decided I wanted him Saturday night, Tom vetted him Sunday afternoon, and I left Sunday evening for Harrisburg and my training.  I spent the next week lining up a place for Charlie to live and transportation to SC.  The housing was fairly easy - I ended up keeping him at the place where I had been leasing a horse.  This was good for a few reasons and bad for a few others.  Good because it was familiar, somewhat close, and I knew I could work off most, if not all of the board.  Bad because the care could be a little sketchy, turnout was a herd situation, and there were way more horses there then I realized (the barn had a huge influx in December for some reason).  Cherie arranged the shipping and Charlie arrived right before Christmas.  

When I first saw Charlie in PA, Cherie was calling him Cosmo since his JC name is Cosmic Rae (who comes up with a name like that?  Seriously!) and initially I was going to stick with Cosmo because I thought it was kind of cute but in the end, he just looked like a Charlie to me.  Charlie was pretty skinny when he was in PA (due mostly I imagine to coming down off all the food he was getting at the track, etc because Cherie's horses are just about always a little chubby) but the shipping was pretty rough on him and he was even skinnier when he got to SC.  

A hug from Charlie!  Cherie took this on Sunday afternoon after the PPE was done - we were on a mission to take video for SuperMom.

I wasn't sure what to expect but he was the same horse in SC that I fell in love with in PA - pokey, spook-free, and a total love.  I've never had a horse this green before and I should mention I bought Charlie on a few premises.  The first being I was going to be deployed where I would earn a fairly substantial amount of money so I just needed to survive the next 4 months without any major catastrophes that would mean I needed to max out my credit cards.  The second was during said deployment, Charlie would go back to Cherie for training so she could put some excellent basics on him.  And lastly, that I would get to Southern Pines as much as possible when she was there (she winters there every year from the middle of January to the middle of March).  The last one would become very important as I took two lessons from the barn owner (I had been riding with her while leasing the horse) and the second was so disastrous, I refused to ride with her again.  That meant my only lessons were when I made the trek to SP.  

This is SuperMom on the WonderPony - I think this was about a month after he arrived in SC.  You can kind of see how skinny he was but to get the full effect you really needed to stand behind him - his hips stuck out so much, he looked like a cow. :(

I think I went to Southern Pines just about every other weekend that winter.  It was kind of a rough winter in SC that year - lots of snow which is highly unusual.  This made the boarding situation kind of rough.  Because there were so many horses in the property, the turnouts were basically mud.  They put out round bales but only one per a field so Charlie didn't really get as much as I wanted him to because there were so many horses vying for it.  I knew I needed to find a new place for Charlie but was hoping I could make this one work until I left for the desert.  Then at the end of February, I got some troubling news - due to all the budget issues with the government, my orders were being canceled.  On one hand, that was kind of exciting because I didn't need to put my life on hold for 8 months but on the other hand, it was a bit disturbing because I was depending on that money.  Faced with this news, I knew I needed to find another place to keep Charlie ASAP.  Once again, Cherie came to the rescue.  She called Janna (who I didn't know at the time) and asked her if she knew of any place that would work for Charlie and me.  Janna is the one who hooked me up with my current situation which as I've said before, is totally amazing.  

I moved Charlie to the current farm at the end of March 2011.  Ironically about a week after I moved him, I got word my orders had been reissued and I was once again scheduled to go to the desert.  Funny how that stuff happens.  At this point Cherie had left to go back to PA and I started taking lessons from Janna.  Things were going well and I decided to take Charlie to an event at intro level just before I left for my deployment; kind of last hurrah if you will.  I had ZERO idea of what to expect - I had taken Charlie trail riding at Clemson (they have this huge experimental forest that has loads of trails) and of course, we had been to SP but I'd never taken him somewhere with lots of other horses, etc.  Well, other then incessant pawing while standing on the trailer, he was the rockstar we have come to expect.  He just kind of took it all in and was fabulous.  I knew dressage would be ok meaning I was fairly confident he wasn't going to jump out the ring but had no clue as to what he would do with the jumping phases.  We had never jumped more than 5 jumps in a row and he'd never been XC schooling unless you counted jumping logs in the woods.  Well, like I said fabulous.  Here's the video from our SJ round - I started off trotting because I had no clue what he would make of the brush under the rails.  Obviously he couldn't have cared less.  XC was the same -  he just loped around like he's been doing it his whole life.  We came home with a pretty yellow ribbon.  

This was in the dressage warm-up.

XC!  Jumps were more of a trip hazard but you have to start somewhere!

I left the following weekend and Charlie left for Cherie's a week after I was gone.  He spent the next 7 months with her.  She made sure he was ditch proof and water proof in addition to installing some really great basics.  She took him to a few shows; 1 at intro and 1 BN.  She also managed to put a ton of weight on him.  I got him back just about this time last year and was shocked at how much he had changed - he was huge!  I think he grew another inch and had so much more muscle.  And that pretty much catches you up to when I started blogging.

Last show at the Carolina Horse Park in October.

I think we've come a long way this past year and I'm pretty excited to see what next year has in store for us!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A History...revisited...

So first and foremost, I must apologize for all of the grammatical errors in my last post!  Holy bad editing Batman!  My only excuse is my brain is swiss cheese from all the studying and what little brain was left, has been severely compromised by the illness.

I feel famous thanks to SprinklerBandit or maybe I should say Charlie feels famous.  She hit the nail on the head in describing how I feel about my red pony.  When she asked me for a photo of Charlie, I gave her a whole bunch (because who can choose just one?) and one happened to be the first picture I ever took of Charlie.  She asked if I had ever done a post on how, exactly, Charlie came into my life.  I sort of did here but I'm not sure if I ever went into any more depth.  So without further ado, here's the in-depth version of how we came to be and what the first year looked like...

In December 2010, I was in PA for some Navy training in preparation for my upcoming deployment to Kuwait.  My very good friend, Cherie, who I've known for over 20 years (she was my first Pony Club instructor) lives in the vicinity of where my Navy training was taking place.  Because of this, I arranged to arrive in PA a few days early so I could spend the weekend with her.  I figured she would have something for me to hack around on and maybe even have a bit of a lesson so I brought my chaps with me.  I had just started riding again in August and was hoping for some input on what I should be working on with my lease horse.  Cherie typically has approximately 4-5 horses at any onetime, almost all of them are OTTBs.  When it came time to hop on, she told me to ride Charlie (whose name at that time was Cosmo) as he was the quietest thing she had.  *Just an aside about me, while I can stay on just about anything (because it seriously takes a lot to get me off, not because I'm awesome - promise!), I prefer to ride something quiet and takes a few kicks to get to where you want to go.*  As I was tacking him up, I was thinking "hmmm...he's kind of big and isn't this the one she told me about a couple of weeks ago?  The one who had just come off the track?"  I trusted her (not always the smartest move which you'll understand in a few sentences) and we went for a little hack down the road.  Cherie's horse was being a bit of a hooligan and while Charlie was trying to figure out what was so concerning, he didn't spook at anything - not the chickens running loose in the neighbor's yard, not the neighbor horses who came galloping up to the fence as we walked by, not the dogs barking, you get the picture.  On the way back from the hack, we stopped in the ring where I proceeded to trot around and attempted to canter.  I say attempt because I honestly couldn't get him to canter, that's how pokey he was.  We trotted a few "Xs" which he hopped over like a school pony and then headed back to the barn.  As I was untacking him, Cherie proceeds to tell me that's the first time he's gone for a hack down the road and the second time he's jumped...

For whatever reason, after she told me how little he'd done, the wheels started turning.  I took a picture and texted it to SuperMom asking her what she thought.  I asked Cherie how much and she quoted a price that included a huge "friends and family" discount.  SuperMom was supportive (as usual!).  Now, keep in mind I WAS NOT IN THE MARKET FOR A HORSE.  I was still in school, at least a year away from a decent job and not to mention, an upcoming deployment to the desert.  But for some reason, it just seemed right.  Cherie tried to talk me out of it, promising she would find me another one when I was done with school.  But I wanted this horse and being a firm believer in everything happens for a reason, I went with my gut.  I definitely had moments of "what the heck was I thinking?!?!" but for the most part, I was just super excited and knew things would work out.  After a PPE by Cherie's husband Tom, the deal was done.  Here's some video we took to show my mom how awesome he is.  Keep in mind this is his third or fourth time jumping and he's about 6 weeks off the track.  I think he'd been ridden a grand total of about 10 times prior to my getting there.

First picture I ever took of Charlie...

To be continued...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Plan...

So something I've been thinking about a lot lately is is how I never have "A Plan."  When I ride, I just ride.  Sometimes I think I have A Plan and will say to Charlie, "Hey Charlie, today we're going to work on transitions..." but rarely do I work on what I tell him we're going to work on.  I might do a couple of token transitions because that's what I told him we were going to do but that's about it.  I've thought about creating some sort of calendar where I plan out my rides and then write down what we actually did below The Plan but I just not that organized.  So what do you all say?  Do you have A Plan or do you just get on and address what you feel?

Onto the heavy stuff - I'm currently in NCLEX prep hell (NCLEX is the licensing exam you have to take in order to get your RN - you didn't think they let just anybody stick you with needles did you?) and am feeling incredibly dumb.  Believe it or not, I did pretty well in school however, one would not be able to tell based on how I'm scoring on my NCLEX prep questions.  I stupidly agreed to go take it with a friend on 28 Dec in Asheville - I'm having lots of anxiety. :(  Oh and I'm sick too - thanks Dad (he's now known as Ground Zero...).

I got some new gloves!  Not sure how I feel about the grey but I love Roeckl gloves - totally worth the extra $$$$.

Does anybody else's pony drool like mine?  This picture doesn't do the amount of drool justice.  

Crooked leg.

So I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before but Charlie has a crooked leg.  Not a great picture of it because he was being a bad horse and not standing still.  I suppose the good thing is he travels fairly straight.  Bad thing is the corner on his inside heel collapses.  Bruce is doing his best to get it where it needs to be but it's kind of long road.  Doesn't help that this is the foot where he abscessed this summer - inside heel...

So I know I buy a lot of stuff for Charlie but I just want it known that he has a lot of old stuff too - this cooler belonged to Fuzzy and is almost 20 years old.  Yup, I take good care of my stuff. ;)  Silly pony once again couldn't stand still hence the blur.

Speaking of new stuff - Charlie modeling his new medium weight Amigo.  He has a SmartPak medium blanket which I really like (I mean, I really like it!) but it's modeled after the Weatherbeeta and I think that style gives him rubs.  However, the Horseware blankets don't seem to bother him as much.  

Hopefully we have a lesson with Carolyn on Wed but other then that not much else will be going on other then answering lots of NCLEX questions.  I'm going to apply for jobs this week as well - wish me luck!  I'm going to needs lots of it!!!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Totally unrelated...

So this has absolutely nothing to do with Charlie or anything horsey but Hillary over at Equestrian at Hart made me think of this.  Honestly, does anybody out there like group projects?

This sums up my feelings about group projects...

I am hoping I never have to do another one but I have a sinking feeling there are many more group projects in my future...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

July at Christmas

So the weather here has been crazy - there is something very wrong about Christmas decorations in 75 degree weather but I digress...

So since it is somehow currently the 5th of December and I swear yesterday was the 9th of November, I have a lot to catch up on...sort of.  The Sunday after Thanksgiving, I made the trek down to Pine Top to jump judge.  It was beautiful - classic good eventing weather with a slight chill in the air and tons of sunshine.  It was a pretty full day as they were running BN through Int but went pretty smoothly.

This is how early I had to get up in order to make the jump judge meeting...

This was my view from my intermediate jump which was just a log roll top thingy.  The first water is through the trees.

This was my prelim fence - a pretty straightforward table.

Charlie has had a relatively light two weeks.  School is almost done - meaning I take my last final tomorrow.  The lead up has been a bit crazy for whatever reason.  I've been riding Charlie in his figure-8 (I love how it looks!) as he's been opening his mouth quite a bit when I start pressuring him on the flat.  He gets a smidge annoyed with it and then resigns himself and goes quite nicely.  I'm still working on the go button - some days are better than others.

Doesn't he look handsome?  Ignore the mismatched leg gear - someone forgot to do wash...

I haven't really started feeding hay yet although I think I'm going to start.  The fields are looking pretty sparse although weight-wise, I'm pretty happy with how he looks.  I'm also contemplating a round bale to help keep Charlie and his girlfriend busy.  I'd supplement with the higher quality hay I got in September.  Decisions, decisions...

Looking good if I do say so myself!

I decided to jump a couple of days ago because honestly, I was really sick of flatting.  Because I have no jump crew, Charlie gets to jump what I set-up.  I decided the below would be a great idea - I probably should have put a barrel out so he could have an opportunity to understand the exercise before asking him to do the below but he's the WonderPony so it's all good.  Once he got it, he was great - took him about 3 tries and then he had it.

Probably not one my brighter ideas.

Everything else has been pretty quiet.  I was supposed to have a lesson with Carolyn today but it got canceled due to rain - because we canceled, it didn't rain.

Sharing is caring.

I just thought this was cool - saw this in the grass on my way back to the barn after feeding the other morning.  Effects courtesy of Instagram which has to be my most favorite app ever.

'Tis the season - those green balls in the tress up ahead are mistletoe.  

Final tomorrow, Navy stuff this weekend in GA and then on Tuesday I go to DC of a day and half.  I wasn't super thrilled about the DC trip (it's Navy related) but I just found out that one of my Marine friends I mentioned in my Thanksgiving post is currently stationed at the Pentagon so I get to see him which is really awesome.  SuperMom is in charge as Nadine, the farm owner, is in Belgium visiting family.