Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tucker the Dressage Pony

Some photos and video from my dressage clinic with Pierre St. Jacques at CLR Stables last weekend!

I think Tucker's dressage work is really coming along well, if I do say so myself.  Still lots to work on, mostly me.  But I see signs of progress and I'll take it!


Turns out I stick out my tongue to do leg yields?
One of the lesser known lateral aids?

Love this one of him (don't look at me and my caved-in core).
Look how nicely he's sitting!

Love this canter.  Would really love it if I could actually sit to it...

I know he's getting a little too deep here, but I love this one too.
And I'm mostly sitting up, which is nice.

And now onto the videos....
(they are each quick clips, best stuff is in the first two if you don't feel like watching them all)








Huge THANK YOU to Anita (barn mom/photographer extraordinaire) and Ethan (boyfriend/videographer extraordinaire) for braving the cold and getting up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday to catch all this on film!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Last Hunter Pace of the Season

Yesterday Tucker and I joined some friends from my farm for the Covered Bridge Trail Association hunter pace, which starts at a farm across the street from where Tucker lives (very convenient!).  It turned out to be yet another absolutely perfect day.

Of course, it didn't quite start out perfect.  I picked up our friends Ethan and Gitano in the morning, and somehow ended up running about ten minutes behind schedule.  Then on the drive over to Tucker's farm, the skies were looking gray and rain drops were hitting my windshield.  I was feeling stressed and a bit doubtful that we'd have a good day for riding.  Then we stopped to register all the horses riding out from my farm on our way in, and a stop that I thought would take five minutes took twenty-five.  So for those keeping track, I am now running thirty minutes late.  When we pulled into the farm, everyone else was mounted.  I know you all know that feeling.

I sent the rest of the riders on their way so as not to compound my stress by feeling like I was holding up everyone else's ride, and tried to remind myself that this was supposed to be fun.  By the time I was on my horse and riding across our property, after few deep breaths and a couple of visits with Ethan's trusty flask (oh c'mon, I know it's before noon but it was really cold), I started to relax.  And then the sun started peeking through the clouds, and I got a little more encouraged.

The first part of the ride went as usual, except that Tucker was a bit more "up" than he's been in the past, but it was cold and fall leaves were blowing around so I didn't think much of it.  Then the first time we hit a nice stretch of hay field to have a little canter through, I realized Tucker wasn't so much channeling his inner Seabiscuit, but rather being possessed by one of the demon horses that pulls Hades' chariot.  As the field sloped downward and bent a hard left, and Tucker latched onto the bit and hurtled himself ever faster, I started wondering, Are all my affairs in order? 

Thankfully, our little Paso friend Gitano was slightly less... um... possessed by demons, and was able to return to a walk just in time for the path to bend around another hard right.  While Tucker Orphnaeus was oblivious to my efforts to stop the runaway freight train despite my standing in my stirrups, leaning back and pulling with all my tiny might (my shoulders are still sore from that one), he is not one to leave a buddy, so he returned to something akin to a battle march and snorted ominously, muttering something about the apocalypse and entrances to the netherworld.

The next part of the ride was alongside a road which I used as a good excuse to walk for a bit, repeat the Hail Mary and attempt to get my blood pressure to subside.  For reasons that will only ever be known to Tucker (or perhaps it was just those few more sips of rum), at some point he just took a big deep breath and decided to be his usual perfect-trail-horse self for the remainder of the ride.  And then we had fun.  The views were spectacular, the company was charming, and the horses were happy.  And the rest of our gallops were all intentional.  Always a plus.

Much better.

Beautiful ride!

All smiles... was it the sunshine?  The horses?  The rum?

I was also able to settle a matter that's been troubling me a bit... and am pleased to tell you that Tucker is, in fact, way faster than his little Paso Fino sidekick.  Yes I do realize that he's twice his size and this should not have even been up for debate, but it was, and I'm pleased to report has been resolved in our favor after three separate races.  Do not let anyone convince you that he was "letting us win."  That's nonsense.  My horse may be somewhat lackadaisical about life, but he is in fact quite fast when he wants to be.

When we got back from the ride, I got a chance to sit on my first gaited horse, and have to say it was pretty fun.  I mean I felt completely like a fish out of water and had zero idea what I was doing but Gitano was a pretty good sport about it and luckily for me seems like he's got a pretty good sense of humor.  I think we look pretty cute together to tell you the truth.



Two more pictures to share with you, mostly because I want you to see that for every nice picture I get of my horse and post on the blog, there is at least one where he's in full on derp mode and my face is just full of disdain.  I kind of can't stop laughing at this one.

Note the flared left nostril as he attempts to yank the reins from my hands.

Well at least three of us look happy about this photo.

We met back up with everyone from my farm at the end of the day and I'm glad to say that everyone ended up having a wonderful ride.  All in all I'd say our first CLR Stables hunter pace, and the last hunter pace of my season, was a success!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gorgeous Boy in Action

On Sunday I trailered Tucker over to Alicia's for a jumping lesson and he was such a good boy.  I had a discussion with a friend recently about cross-training or doing different things with your horse, and we agreed that while you can't have a top level show horse who also trail horse and also a dressage horse, you can do lots of different types of riding and activities and end up with an all-around awesome horse who is fun to ride no matter what you're doing.

It seems like we have Tucker in a great place right now.  He has proven himself to be a completely unflappable trail horse, who will confidently lead or follow, cross water, climb up and down hills, jump whatever I point him at, walk on the buckle through the woods or gallop across a field.  We have had three really successful dressage lessons in a row now, and I measure success by the fact that we accomplished what we set out to work on, Tucker tried really hard and didn't throw any tantrums, and I was able to go back and work on it again in my rides during the week and get similar, if not exactly the same, results.

He has also been so much fun to jump lately, which I feel is sort of a barometer for how he's feeling physically and mentally.  He is stronger from the dressage so his canter is more balanced and consistent, and he is relaxed, I think from all the riding out.  I am also more confident, especially about sending him forward (which I think is both from the hunter paces and the dressage - we are working on a real honest-to-goodness medium canter).

Anyway, we had a great lesson.  He warmed up really well and then we worked on our nine-rail to cross-rail exercise (from this post), and focused on my position, leg at the girth, weight in the heel, flat back.  Then we moved on to a gymnastic, which we gradually built up.

Here he is at 3':
video

And here he is at 3'6":

video

I just love him!  I grabbed a couple of stills from the videos above and I realize their blurry as anything, but I can tell that he's jumping really well, swinging through his shoulder and pretty level with his front end.



I still need to get my hands farther up his neck in my release as the jump gets a little bigger but overall my position isn't bad. Next time I want to put a braid in his mane where my hands have to go to train myself to release to there. I think I've gotten into a bad habit of not releasing from jumping lots of little fences maybe? Always a work in progress as we all know.

After working only on the gymnastic I then kept my canter and jumped the gray and red vertical and the black and white oxer that you can see in the videos, on the diagonals.  They looked a little larger than life when Alicia was setting them up, but after she put the gymnastic up they magically returned to their actual size and I was able to actually think about riding my horse rather than ponder my own mortality as I approached them.  (I like Alicia's psychology there - I swear, good trainers could also have PhD's in psychology with all the tricks they have to use to get us weenie Adult Ammie's to get out of our own heads.)

After the lesson was over and Tucker was happily snoozing on crossties in his ice boots, I had the pleasure of riding my favorite pony, Little Man:


And playing with my favorite colt, Bazil:


All in all, Sunday was just a great day from start to finish.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ride for the Cure: The Cutest Pictures You'll See Today

Okay I wanted to say the cutest pictures you'll ever see, but the internet is so full of pictures of kittens doing adorable things that I didn't know if I could make that claim.  But I feel like there are good odds that these are the cutest pictures you'll see today.

We had a blast.  It was a gorgeous day, sunny and breezy with just enough of a chill in the air to feel like fall, the trails were beautiful, and the horses were happy.  I was essentially giddy with the prospect of turning four horses into life-size My Little Ponies, as I mentioned in my last post, and I think I pretty much succeeded in that task.  They looked so incredibly cute that I kind of can't stand it.

Tucker was excited when we got to the farm where Sugar lives, already looking around for his dream date the second I opened his trailer side door.  Then when he spotted his new BFF Gitano when we got to the Ride, he started doing that sweet little silent knicker where their nostrils tremble and could not wait to get off the trailer so he could sniff him and nudge him and lick him (did I mention Gitano is a very good sport and puts up with my horse's attention very well?).  Then when he realized that Caprioso was there too, he basically entered pure euphoria and existed in a state of unadulterated bliss for the remainder of the day.  He was surrounded by his best friends, out in the woods and the open fields, there were jumps to be jumped, and everyone kept telling him how extra adorable he looked.  This, my friends, is Tucker heaven.

More importantly, we were able to have fun while supporting a really worthwhile cause. Overall, the Ride raised $41,040.80, Bays for Boobies raised $2,295, and thanks to all of you, I raised $730. I am very proud to be supporting the Komen foundation and all their efforts toward a cure.  The money we raised will go directly toward helping local women by providing screening and education, and to support national research programs.

And now, without further ado, the cutest pictures you'll see all day... enjoy!









Thursday, October 17, 2013

Happy Birthday McLain Ward!

Super Fan here.  It's my favorite GP rider's birthday.

And of course... I can never share this photo too many times:


I'm not the only one who thinks today should be a national holiday, am I?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In Which Tucker and I Get Out and Make New Friends

So first things first... quick update on my last post: Montel has found a wonderful home!  I've said it before and I'll say it again, the horse world is a strange but truly beautiful place.  Just when I had hit a point of desperation and was visiting neighborhood farms to see if they'd take him in exchange for barn help (like I have that kind of time), people started coming forward.

Montel in his younger days
 So many people reached out to help, either through spreading the word or offering him a safe place to land.  The display of compassion and altruism I witnessed was awe-inspiring, to say the least.  A horse like Montel can mend a lot of bridges and reach a lot of hearts.  So great to see first hand a story with a happy ending.

And in other news, Tucker and I have been hitting the trails and really enjoying the gorgeous fall weather we've been having in New Jersey lately.  First we did the Tewksbury Trail Pace with Amy and Sugar from AWIP (read all about that beautiful day here).

Don't you love how he gazes at her?
You know how Tucker loves his lady friend Sugar, so those two obviously had a blast together.  I think Amy summed it up best that we were like a giddy Thelma and Louise before things got ugly...  That lady is seriously my partner in crime and I look forward to my adventures with her like a kid waiting for Christmas.

While we were at Tewksbury we made a couple of new friends, Ethan and his paso fino Gitano, and we just met up with them for the Amwell Valley Hounds hunter pace.  It was another completely gorgeous day.  We keep really lucking out with the weather.



Needless to say, Tucker is rather smitten with the both of them....


I'm not sure if the boys look adorable or ridiculous together, but I'm going to go with adorable for now.  They were pretty good buds by the end of our little adventure.


We also managed to get one of my favorite pictures of me and my horse.  I think the expression on both our faces sums up how much we love getting out in the open!


We'll be teaming up with Amy, Sugar, Ethan, Gitano, and our friends Chrisie and Caprioso (you remember her beautiful farm) for the Ride for the Cure this weekend.  Bays for Boobies has raised $1,695.00 so far, and counting!  Thanks again to all of you who have supported this effort.  I promise lots of pics of the horses in all their pink finery.  If I have my say, they will look like life-sized My Little Ponies.

Happy trails!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Home for Montel, and Susan G. Komen Ride for the Cure

So I am resurrecting the blog, but for a couple of very good reasons.  Actually, it's because I need your help with a couple of things.  (Isn't that just like me?  I don't call or write and then I turn up asking for stuff...)

First up:  One of my most favorite horses is in need of a forever home.  You may remember him from here, and here, and here.  He's a German Brandenburg, 25 years old, 17hh, and he is a former Grand Prix horse who trained with McLain Ward.  He's caring, wise, sweet, sensible, and really a pleasure to have around the farm.  Once upon a time he was Tucker's best friend. When he retired, he came to live at the farm where I used to rent a cottage, and I would tell him all my troubles when I got home from work.  He is an excellent listener.

He is pasture sound and he would be suitable as a trail horse - afraid of nothing (literally, I once rode him bareback through a pack of motorcycles on a dirt road) and really good company - but he would not stay sound in work, due to some very old suspensory injuries.  If you know of anyone who can help, you can contact me and I'll put you in touch with the farm that is arranging for his adoption.


Second:  This awesome lady and I are Riding for the Cure, with the Central and South Jersey Susan G. Komen Foundation.  I love this ride for two reasons, one, it's a cause that is near and dear to my heart (literally, my boobs are right there), and second, I get to dress my horse up in pink like a life-sized My Little Pony. In all seriousness, I have some very dear friends who have survived breast cancer. They have touched my life and made me a better person, and I am sure glad that they made it through so I could meet them.

Tucker at last year's ride!
So, [here it comes, it's a shameless plug, brace yourself] if you are so inclined, I'd love to receive a donation on behalf of the foundation.  Or, if you're in the area, I would love it even more if you and your horse come and join my team!  Seriously, the more the merrier.  You can visit the Bays for Boobies page here to join our team, or visit my page here to make a donation.  And thank you.

(p.s. -- I will do my best to give you a Tucker update shortly.  I have lots to tell.  He's doing wonderfully at the moment and sends his love to his fans.)