Friday, September 27, 2013

This is what I need you to do

It's about that time of year. The horses are getting their winter coats back. The top show jumpers are already itching to get to Wellington. Barn hands wonder daily whether or not they should wear their fuzzy socks to work, and Starbucks is bringing back the Pumpkin Spice Latte. But, the most important thing about this time of year, excluding the fact that Starbucks is bringing back the Pumpkin Spice Latte, is the annual Dover Saddlery Photo Contest. Yes, you heard me right. One of the top sellers of English equine equipment started their photo contest the other day or so, and I, being an emerging hobby photographer, decided to enter again this year. That $250 gift certificate will be mine. Just think of all the saddle pads that I could buy with that.

What I need you to do is take the time to go vote for my pictures, or, if you planned on entering but haven't done so yet, make sure that you enter your photos ASAP. They're letting you enter as many photos as you want this year, too! I haven't entered all of the photos that I want to, but I'll post on here what I've got entered for now, and I'll get to the rest later. I have put the title of the picture in the caption. Put the caption, exactly as it is typed, into the search bar for the contest. The picture should show up. If not, whatever, just try another one. Here is the link to the contest: The horse world has a myriad of great photographers, young and old, and I think they all deserve a thumbs up, so don't hesitate to vote for other awesome photos too!
Hi, Ben
"The Bombproof Horse"
The Girls

Monday, September 23, 2013

NOPE. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope

I don't have the patience or self confidence to bother with a long description of my lesson. It was bad. That's all you need to know.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I'm sorry, did my awesome jumps offend you?

If they did, I don't care! I've been waiting a long time to be able to put those jumps up, and it was worth the wait. Miss S finally let us set up the new jumps in the big outdoor and they look awesome. There are so many colors and combinations. It's all just so lovely. Here are some crummy, iPod pics of them.



Of course, however, the jumps were set up after the lesson so no jumping them until next week. I'm fine with that though, my lesson was awesome. It seems that the hunter/jumper gods visited me once again, and while I was not perfect (Oh mighty hunter/jumper gods, please hold my lower leg in place . . . and give me a new saddle; I really need a new saddle, thanks!), I was still very happy with my ride.

I was on Baby yesterday, and we warmed up in the grass area by the driveway. It's gonna be a pasture soon, so we're enjoying it until then. Of course Baby just isn't giving a hoot about leg (I could literally hear Miss E screaming at me "ENERGY, ENNNERGGGYYYY!"). Lots and lots of squeezing and lots of lots of soreness while I'm talking about that. We go to canter, and Baby gives me the "Really?" look. Oh, she was pushing it. Finally get her to canter, and we tried this sit for half a lap, two point for half a lap, sit again, two point again exercise. If you ever struggle with your two-point after the first two steps of approach and take off, do this. Sit for half a lap, two point for half a lap, and just do it. It honestly works, and, if you're doing it right, it'll strengthen your legs and open your hips.

We finish our warm-up and go into the big arena to get some jumping in. At this point, Baby is just like, "Oh, we're in here? I guess it's time to gallop!" Um, no, Baby, it's not time to gallop, it's time to listen to and respect my leg and seat cues just like it's been for the last 45 minutes. She confuses me at times, she really does. We get to doing some lines. First we trot in, canter out, then we canter in, canter out. She's doing these lines perfect, and maintained a nice pace in between. I was staying down and loose, but of course that darned lower leg was going back and forth like a pendulum. I have to remember to squeeze with my calf and keep weight in my heels.

We went to go do courses, and that's when Baby really wanted to pick up speed, but at least she actually listened to my seat cues at that point. She moved back when I moved back, and I must say that, overall, the lesson was a huge confidence boost. Being able to pick apart what I need to do better rather than only focusing on the bad and getting frustrated with myself is a huge thing for me. I need to focus on being a better rider instead of beating myself up for making beginner's mistakes. I am a beginner; I have a lot to learn, and those mistakes are simply part of the learning process.

Speaking of mistakes, my saddle. Oh, woe is me, woe is me, I have already become annoyed with my saddle. I'll be honest, it was an impulse buy. Shelby got a saddle, so I decided that I just had to have one, and oh Lord, that was a mistake. It was a huge mistake. So, my beloved accursed Stübben is officially for sale. Siegfried, 16.5" deep seat, flap is too forward for my leg and seat is too hard for my bottom. The knee rolls are dry rotted (previous seller wasn't entirely honest), but they're pencil knee rolls so padding isn't even of importance. One knee roll was ripped open (don't ask, another mistake that I have learned from), but you can't see the tear when you're riding. You might as well rip the other one open, get out all the dust, and then stitch the two back up for aesthetics. Medium tree. Would be a perfect training, schooling, or show saddle, and it's not falling apart for at least another century (there are two things that would survive a nuclear explosion, and they are 1) cockroaches and 2) Stübbens). $350 OBO.

Miss S has a couple of saddles sitting in her tack room, and they aren't being used. I would like to look at the plain flap one she has, and I've been meaning to ask, but I just forget sometimes. Eh, what are you gonna do.

Getting back to the actual lesson, I got a flying lead change out of Baby. Yes, you read that right, Baby did an awesome and timely flying lead change, and I barely had to ask her. Ah, this horse is perfect! I also switched horses with Cassie at the end. She got on Baby and I got on Skye. Let me show you Skye.

Yes, that is Skye, a little 14hh pony that Cassie has been riding for almost a year now. I felt like I was going to crush that poor animal. I am AT LEAST 30 pounds heavier than Cassie. Skye was not having it. I could tell that she wanted me off of her, not to mention she's been getting lazy with Cassie the last couple of lessons. Talk about leg. I finally got her moving and took her over a jump. You would have laughed if you had been there. Look back at that picture and tell me where that pony's neck is. Can't find it? Don't worry, you're not crazy. She has the shortest neck. I went to two point and put my hands forward. I could have easily touched her ears. I was odd. It was really odd.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A tribute to a friend

I've only recently thought about this, but I want to take a moment to thank a friend. To whomever is reading this, odds are, you don't know my past pertaining to horses. Few people do; there isn't much of a past actually, but that past is very thing that influenced where I am today.

I've loved horses since I was born, probably even before that, but, up until I was 13 years old, I had ridden a grand total of eight times. I'm not exaggerating. Two of those rides were on vacations, five were at a week long horse camp, and the last was at a friend's house on her two OTTBs. Horses were something that I loved beyond all reason, but I never knew how to pursue that passion. I thought you either had a horse or you didn't; there was no in between.

It was in sixth grade, before those lucky seven first rides, that I met Caroline. She was my best friend. She was my absolute best friend, and I wish that we still had that friendship today, but I guess things change. Anyway, we were best friends back then, and, of course, best friends share everything, right? Well, sometime towards the beginning of the year, Caroline mentioned that she took riding lessons.

Let it be noted that I was still under the impression that you either had a horse or you didn't, so the concept of riding lessons was absolutely foreign and unreal to me. I thought she was lying at first. Riding lessons, pfft, that doesn't make any sense, I thought, but the more she explained it, the more elaborate the picture became.

A long lost flame was suddenly sparked inside of me. Apparently passion doesn't die easy. I was obsessed with horses once more. For the three years prior to meeting Caroline, I had just quit on horses. I thought that I just wasn't as fortunate as other people, and if I couldn't have one, then I had to just give up. My dad had a friend whose pony I loved, but I'd only seen her twice. Caroline was the catalyst for everything. She took me to her barn one time, and I got to meet all the horses. Sam, Jeanette (or Janet, I can't remember), Charlie Brown, Lucky, Hobo, Tootsie, and the rest that I can't remember. She urged me to take lessons with her, but my parents said, "No". I had been begging for a horse since I was two-years-old; I was used to hearing "No", and it's a word that I loathe to this day.

Even though I couldn't take lessons, I still wanted to learn. I read books. I read many books. I hate reading, but I read those books cover to cover. I was eager to learn. I wanted to just have my own horse and take care of it and love it. I wouldn't stop talking about horses. Everyday at lunch consisted of two things: my current crush and horses. I swear, my friends probably wanted to rip their hair out (I actually want to apologize to everyone who knew me in middle school; you were a tolerant bunch). Today, I try to talk minimally about horses so as not to cause ill feelings between my colleagues and me.

Sixth grade year drew to a close. I wrote letters to Caroline over the summer; she sent me my first Dover Saddlery magazine (and so began my addiction to saddle pads . . .). I was happier than a camel on Wednesday when I got that flimsy catalog, and I kept it for years until it became so decrepit that I had to throw it away. After that summer, I didn't talk to Caroline much besides here and there, and the friendship just kinda died. I wish it hadn't. I wish we had every class together from seventh grade up through my current eleventh grade year. I wish I could have had at least one lesson with her. I wish I had been more persistent with my parents. I wish I had yelled and screamed and pounded my fists on the floor so I could have done the one thing that I loved the most, but none of that happened. The cards fell where they did, and it wasn't until two years later, after begging and pleading, that I was able to finally take lessons for the first time. They weren't with Caroline, however, and I have always felt guilty for that.

After all of this, I guess the one thing that I really want to say is thank you, Caroline. Thank you for influencing me to do the one thing that I most wanted to do. Whether or not that was intentional doesn't very much matter to me because without you I wouldn't be where I am today. I would not have met so many other great people, and I would not be typing this blog right now. You are an amazing person, and I am forever indebted to you. You pushed me that one, big first step towards my goals, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Don't ride him like a hunter!"

Even though I am a hunter trying to ride a hunter course and making a mediocre attempt at making this horse move like a hunter, I can't ride him like a hunter. Easy, right? Wrong! It's actually unreasonably difficult. Let me explain.

Today, I rode Splash. How that happened, I do not know, but it happened. Splash was a WP World Champion in his younger years, and he's not really suited to hunters (which I don't really care about because he tucks like a beast over jumps). I had to push him so much, but, surprisingly, not as much as Duke (ya know, the bred, raised, and trained hunter pony). I've really been focusing on squeezing more with my calves and letting my weight fall down and around my horse as opposed to pinching at the knee and putting all my weight on that one joint. It's a work in progress, but it was definitely better today than it's been my last couple of lessons, especially over fences.

I was really proud of just how improved I was over fences. Weight fell right down, core support, hands forward with contact. It was so beautiful, and it felt beautiful. I will admit though, my canter today was a bit difficult, especially the weight in the heels, plus I still came up too early on most of the fences. We'll get there; I know we'll get there. Do you know how I know? Keep reading. You will know how I know.

So, out of the blue, after I get Splash to canter nicely over a couple of fences, trainer yells out, "Okay, let's all switch horses." I looked at my girl Fifi and said I was riding her new horse Sanibel. Sanibel is Fifi's RPSI 4-year-old, and I had wanted to ride her since I first saw her undersaddle. Oh, she's a nice horse. Just look through some of my other posts. She's the dark brown pinto with minimal white. Fifi agrees, so I hopped off of Splash, adjusted the stirrups, and got on Sanibel. I walked her a bit. I trotted her a bit. I cantered a bit . . . and then we jumped. I swear, in that moment you could have convinced me that I was the long lost love child of Rich Fellers and Reed Kessler. I felt so friggen professional. I was on a warmblood, I was jumping, I was in my half seat, my hands were nice and smooth. Everything felt so amazing. I want that horse. I want that horse so bad. I turned to my friend at one point and said, "Thanks for letting me ride your horse when she was tired!" I know for a fact that Sanibel would have thrown me if I had ridden her the entire lesson. Fifi is definitely a better rider than me (and probably wants to rip my head off for riding her horse), and she handles Sanibel well . . . but I will probably reminisce over those 10 minutes on that mare until the day I died. I shall refer to it as, "The day George Morris realized that someone just might end up being better than him." Kidding, Mr. Morris, it's only for laughs *insert innocent smiley face*.

A couple of random pics so you know what I'm working with. 
Sanibel and her mommy
Sanibel <3
The only picture I have of his "English Trot"
Splash in all his glory

Monday, September 2, 2013

Now what?

Oh lawd, prepare yourselves for an emotional rant that may or may not include colorful language.

So, I had my third and most likely final lesson with Miss E this morning. Transportation is too difficult to get. My dad can't take me every Monday because he has work most Mondays, and even when the lessons are after school he still doesn't like the idea of me getting a ride with someone else. Personally, I think he's just being stubborn, but I'm still the child so I have basically no say. The whole idea of riding at Miss E's was so I could be in Pony Club, get a rating, compete, move up my rating, and then have something to present to an upper level rider when I apply for a working student position. Pony Club gives me an advantage over other riders, not to mention it was a part of the tried and true method that was suggested to me by someone who knows what they are doing when it comes to horses and competing.

Now I'm at a point where I have to find a show barn that does shows at a higher level, and there aren't many barns around my area that I know of. The first one that I had in mind was a woman who doesn't have the best reputation as a person, but she is a phenomenal trainer. I was kind of excited about getting in contact with her, but then I realized that her barn is 40 minutes from my house, and my dad would not drive me that far every week. There's another barn right down the street that goes to bigger shows, but my dad doesn't like them, so they're a no. The only other options are a barn that my friend's sister rides at or I have to convince Miss S to go to some bigger shows, but Miss S just isn't that into showing and I doubt she'd trust me alone with one of her horses at a show umpteen miles away.

Anyway, all of this is sort of thrown on top of me after a bad lesson. I hate to use profanity when I write, but, my sitting trot was shit. My jumping was shit. My circles were shit. My hands were mega shit, and the list goes on and on. It doesn't matter how many times a person says, "You did well," or, "That was great!" If one thing goes wrong more than one time within those two hours or so of riding, I quit. I had two refusals today. Read that, TWO REFUSALS. I know it doesn't sound like much, but I was doing basic jump patterns. I jumped the fish, I bended left, I jumped the chess. That was it, but I could barely make it out of the fish alive. The fish was, what, 18" off the ground? I was flopping forward like a fish out of water, and then I was coming up so soon. I can't tell you how many times Miss E yelled, "Stay forward!" I wanted to beat myself over the head with a log. I was so frustrated and angry with how I was riding. Luckily, I didn't take it out on poor Jazzie. She just goes along with me on her back. She doesn't complain, just keeps going. Only time she acts up is when I let her, i.e. the two refusals and her racing towards the jumps.

It makes me want to quit. I can't tell you how many times I have thought of quitting. I'm so sensitive to everything. I just can't take it most days, and I always think that the worst case scenario is going to happen. Be happy that you do not have my mind. I don't know what to do now, or I know but I don't know that I know. I'm lost, just like I was at the beginning. Once again, I have found myself completely and utterly lost and confused.

On the upside, I took my camera with me. No pictures of the baby, but I did have a friendly and semi-attractive model to photograph (just kidding, Shelby, you're beautiful).

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