Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It's The Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
The stockings were hung from the chimney with care
With the hopes that Saint Nicholas would soon be there
The children were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads
And ma in her kerchief and pa in his cap
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap
But one of the children was gone from their bed
And a slice had gone missing from ma's loaf of bread
Away to the barn she had flown like a flash
Made her way to the stall, and undid the latch
The sweet smell of hay flooded the air around
As four turning hooves clopped across the ground
When what to her wondering eyes should appear
A fat, chestnut pony with one eye and one ear
With one clubbed foot on a stocked left hind
With some hair missing and a rear end too wide
At the sight of the pony, the child gasped
And then, to some higher being, she asked
"By god, what is this? I didn't ask for this thing!
"I asked for a horse that'd clean up in the ring!
"This pony's worth nothing. I'd rather be broke!
"I'd rather start riding my grandmother's goat!"
Arms folded, face red, the girl continued to pout
Then she noticed an envelope as she was about to walk out
On the front was her name written with grace
She grabbed it and opened it, not lacking in haste
It read: "Dear daughter, you shouldn't be up
"Then again, I shouldn't have left the papers in the truck
"The minute you saw them, I knew that you'd know
"That a horse would be waiting in the Christmas morning snow.
"He's not handsome, I get it, but you weren't specific.
"Besides, horses are expensive on this side of the pacific
"And I know you don't like him, but hear me out
"There's a method to my madness and you could go without
"His missing an eye and an ear and registration
"But his talent goes beyond many horses in the nation
"He's one of those horses whose breeding shouldn't have been done
"But he's also the one you can learn a lot from.
"Be gentle and appreciate his big, kind heart
"For he is the type of pony that gives everyone their start."
For a moment, the girl frowned at her father's attempt
But she knew he was right; she understood what he meant
So she looked at the pony and her mouth refined
Because in his one eye it was happiness that shined
The barn light went off, and light on her feet
The girl went back to bed and gently fell asleep
In his room, pa smiled having seen it all
And whispered, "Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas to all."

Photo by wallfox.net

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Accursed Emotion

I should do a sad story for you guys, but not this week. You're lucky this week. 
Her hands were tense, and her mind was busy trying to get the side pass. She struggled immensely.

“Come on, Bentley,” she growled.

Beneath her, the big warmblood moved every which way that he so pleased. He fell too much to the inside, crossed his legs like a confused ballerina, and moved forward when his rider bid him not to do so. The girl was flooded with emotions of anger, but Bentley just snorted, licked his lips, and ignored cues.

“Rabecca, you’re getting frustrated,” the trainer warned.

The girl, Rabecca, got snippy. “Well this stupid horse isn’t listening to my cues,” she snapped.

Rabecca asked for the side pass again as she spoke, and when Bentley refused to do the movement, his rider gave him a sharp bang on both sides with her spurs coupled with a forceful tug on the snaffle. Poor Bentley couldn’t take that kind of treatment to his sensitive body. He bolted forward, bucking and kicking, and taking his rider with him every step of the way. Rabecca lost her reins, but managed to stay on Bentley through the fit. He eventually settled in a far off corner, huffing and puffing. As Rabecca picked up her reins and attempted contact, the horse curled his nose in and speedily backed up in resistance. His tail swished furiously.

“Get off,” the trainer said, grabbing Bentley’s bridle.

Rabecca quickly hopped off the back of the horse. “I’m sorry,” she said weakly as tears began to fill her eyes.

She stepped back from Bentley as her trainer got on and started to school and reassure the unjustly punished animal. The two were silent for a while as Rabecca cried at her wrongdoings and the trainer pondered ways to explain the negative effects of frustration.

“It won’t do you any good,” the trainer finally spoke.

It was obvious that she was improvising.

“What won’t?” Rabecca asked.

“Frustration.”

Rabecca looked up at her trainer for a moment. She schooled Bentley in a circle at the trot. She kept a gentle contact, but Bentley was still annoyed. His neck was very tense and his movements lackluster in comparison to what he usually did, but still the trainer was persistent. She moved him forward and asked gently for a bend, to which Bentley became more and more giving to as the circle continued. When he was supple, she asked for a canter, and Bentley didn’t complain. He moved forward with eagerness and pizazz as if the whole world was watching, and he craved their curious eyes.

“I could get mad at him when he doesn’t bend,” the trainer began again, “But that wouldn’t be right. I don’t like that he doesn’t bend, but if I’m not doing my part as the rider, then there is no reason to punish him. I adjust my cue.” The trainer sat deep, and Bentley stopped on a dime. She looked at Rabecca, “Think about what you’re doing and do not get frustrated.”

She hopped off and handed the reins to Rabecca who was still letting out the last of her tears. The girl stood up, but her gaze lay on the arena sand. Even when she mounted, her eyes were focused on her hands or the pommel or Bentley’s ears.

“Pick your head up,” the trainer said.

Rabecca looked up, and glanced at her trainer for a moment. Her trainer simply nodded. Interpreting the movement, Rabecca asked Bentley for a trot, to which he stepped into with calmness and grace. She circled him in the center of the ring for a lap or two and then moved to the rail. As she came around the corner of the short side, she asked him for a side pass. Bentley simply fell to the inside. Rabecca’s body tensed and her mind became busy again. She moved her seat away from Bentley, which only threw the horse even more off balance.

“He’s not doing it,” Rabecca cried.

“Because you’re not asking him correctly. Support, Becca, support!” the trainer replied.

Rabecca circled around again and asked for the side pass again and Bentley fell to the inside again, but as they passed the center of the arena, Rabecca adjusted and got Bentley to do the movement for three decent strides. He soon fell right after the third stride, but Rabecca was determined. She relaxed herself and corrected Bentley, and he side passed perfectly to the rail. A huge smiled made a trip across Rabecca’s face, and her trainer gave three big claps.

“That’s it, Becca!” she happily yelled.

“I didn’t think he was going to do it so well!” Rabecca yelled back.

Her trainer laughed a little, “Success only comes to those who believe that it is possible!”

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fashion Thursday: The Water Horse

Okay, I know I didn't post last week, but I wasn't able to go to the show and my work day was shortened and I had an essay to write, so from Wednesday to Saturday, I quit on everything, but I am alive and well, and we had our barn Christmas party on Sunday, and that was a lot of fun. Even cleaning the pasture was nice because it was warm, and warm is good. I rode last week on Tuesday as well, and I tested out my camera. The video quality isn't fantastic, but it's good enough that you can see me and my equitation, so I'll make sure to get a full video the next time I ride.

Now to what really matters, fashion! This one is called "The Water Horse" because I was going for a a nautical theme, but I'm not sure if I made that obvious (read: I missed the boat and got on an entirely different boat).


1. Kule Fraser Crewneck Stripe Sweater
2. The Tailored Sportsman TS Low-Rise Breech
3. Sperry Top-Sider Summerlin Watch
4. IRH Elite Extreme Riding Helmet
5. Factory White Button-Down Shirt
6. Snaffle Bit Belt
7. Ovation Flex Sport Field Boot

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Show Day Remix featuring Horze Equestrian

Pretty complicated title for a fairly basic post. I had a wonderful show today, and I'm going to tell you all about it because this is what my blog is for. So, after my ride on Wednesday, I was feeling pretty pumped for this show, like, major pumped. I was so ready to kick booty, and, if I do say so myself, I kicked a considerably large amount of boo-tay.

I spent Friday afternoon and night with my trainer and Fifi. Fifi, Izz, and I had a sleepover in Miss S's play room. This is basically the ritual for every show. Spending the night with Miss S and some friends is a major part of the horse show puzzle for us. I rode Friday at the show grounds right after school, and I was feeling okay with how I was riding. My new gear had just come in, and the boots were pinching my ankles a bit, but it wasn't horrible. I was riding centered and confident, which is always good. The stiffness was there though. It wasn't as much as it usually is, but it was there and it was bothering me. It starts to hurt now when I get stiff in the hips; that's basically how I know that I'm stiff in the hips and not able to use my seat.

The funniest part of that night was when I asked Miss S how many students we had riding in the show, and she just replied, "20," with the straightest face. I put a hand on her shoulder and almost used her full name. 20 students? Really? We took 15 to our first show and vowed to never take more than 10 with 12 being the absolute limit, but no, she just had to break the pact. That's alright, I'm fine with that. Totally chill with double the work load to do in one day. No resistance is coming from my end.

I was also having trouble with the jumping thing. We're still at this point where I can't convince myself to squeeze with my upper calves over the jump. I should just super glue my legs before every ride. Then there was the whole coming up too early, not getting in two-point soon enough, yada, yada, yada deal that just kind of pissed me off, but it's not the end of the world. There is always room for improvement, and improvement is only possible with effort. I have plenty of effort to give with a dose of pure stubbornness to sweeten the deal.

Saturday morning came, and it was like 40°F outside, and I was just like nope.

You think I have time for this?
Odd part was that it got warmer, but once 1:00pm hit, the temperature just dropped. Come on, Mother Nature, have you ever heard of this thing called mercy? I didn't school in the morning, but others did. It had rained overnight, so all of the classes were indoors. I was kinda bummed. The lady who runs these shows has gorgeous jumps in her outdoor arena, and the footing is really nice, but the rain just ruins that for everyone. We school, we clean, we prepare, and then at some point the actual show started. I was in the barn doing chores, but I heard our horse's names being called so often. I shed one manly tear of joy (not really, I just wanted to type that so badly). All the lead liners did fantastic! We gained so many of them after the end of the summer this year, and they are all so adorable. I really do hope that they all keep up with horses because they could be very good at it.

I get to my first class which was Beginner Rider W/T/C, and another rider was on Baby in Walk and Walk/Trot, and I literally just went into the ring and got on with the angriest face because I was supposed to be in Walk/Trot with Molly, and I don't even know what happened. Something got messed up in the office or something like that, so the class started without me even though I was there waiting. Anyway, so I'm angry and nervous, and I got on Baby, and moments later the class started. I had my focus face on, but I didn't really know what was going on. I didn't know that they had split the Canter class, so half of the people were in the center, and I somehow just ended up on the rail first, so I just went. I'm pretty sure that the judge forgot to ask us to trot one way. As per usual, we went to the left first, and we all know how Baby is on her left lead, but today . . . oh my goodness, today she was so close to perfect that I literally just wanted to bend down and hug her in the middle of the class. She picked up the lead without a fuss and went around the ring so round, slow, and relaxed. I had to push her a couple of times. She was going that slow. Then there was me, the other half of the equation, suddenly figuring out how to properly sit a canter even though I've been having trouble for Gad knows how long (I seem to always do this at shows, it's annoying). It was the same exact thing to the right, cool, calm, and collected (we use that term loosely). We won that class.

Next was the jumping and oh Lord, you may have to read twice. Miss Cool Calm & Collected turned into Miss I'm Going To Win The Kentucky Derby If It Kills Me when the jumping came along. She's never been a calm horse when it comes to courses, but I know we must have looked hilarious out there, missed leads, awkward two points and all, but she was listening to me, and that is something that I value. No matter how excited or nervous she gets, she listens to what you ask her to do so long as you get it relatively close to the cues that she has been trained to react to. We didn't place at all in that class.

After that, we had a break, and I watched everyone else go in Baby/Green, then it was the Pleasure Horse/Pony division. We won the flat class and got a second in jumping. Even though she was still rushing and nervous, I finally managed to get those dang cues close to right. Not a single refusal and only one lead that I couldn't fix, but she jumped everything with  no fuss, so I'm happy. My two-point was better than in Beginner Rider, but still somewhat awkward. We're working on it. That is my main focus for now, two-pointing, which means that I'm going to be doing a lot of it during my ride(s) this week. We placed second in the over fences class.

I have another show on the 14th which is bigger but not too formal. I won't be able to wear my fabulous (and I do mean fabulous) new half chaps, but I do get to wear those Tredsteps again. Best breeches in the world. Those half chaps are of very good quality as well. Thank you, Horze and Tredstep, for keeping me functional and fabulous at the barn!

In regards to next year and shows, Miss S had to put me in my place. We had a long discussion (i.e. I was lectured for two minutes) about what I want to do next year and what I actually can do next year. Note to self: If you want to go to big shows, have big show talent. She told me that I was setting myself up for failure, and, as harsh as that sounds, it was really true, so my goals have gone back to the Hunter Derby because that's much closer to where they should be at this point. She wants to do one weekend of HITS right at the end of the show season. I think the last show is in August or September, and then she wants to do Pinto Worlds in 2015 MAYBE. It's still on the table, not something definite, but, if you want my honest opinion, it would make a lovely graduation present.

Look at my little champion!

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Doubting of Doubts

This week's story is actually a real account, so I hope you like it!

I can remember sitting down one Saturday, turning on the TV, and flipping to the channel on which the Breeders Cup was being broadcast. This was odd for me as I wasn't big on daytime television nor was I a fan of any sorts when it came to horse racing. I was simply bored that day, and, while the Cup didn't cure my boredom, I still watched for one race. I'm glad I did.

I'm a kind of gambler; I bet my pride, and my pride is not something that I plan on losing anytime soon. I was sitting there for this one race and watched as all the horses made their way to the starting gate. I hadn't bet anything yet, but I had distinct favorites before the race even started. Funny thing is, I don't remember which horses I liked. What I do remember is a jet black colt who has stuck with me for years. I don't think he had much white on him; he was just black. He was tall, lean, pure racing Thoroughbred stock, bred and raised to the nines.

What gets me about racing and all equine related sports is that you never know what you're going to get. You can bred the very best to the very best and still get a dud, all that money down the drain due to a thing as simple and complex as genetics. I thought this colt was a dud. Sure, he was pretty, but his resistance at the gate and general dislike of his situation told me that he wasn't up for the job. I don't remember the odds, but I don't think he was anything special. He was the middle man.

As the last one in, his disagreement held everyone else up. They finally got him between the gate walls. They shut the doors. The track went silent. What was he thinking then? Was he determined? Was he scared? When it comes to horses, there are two things you can be sure of in a stressful situation: they are annoyed, and they are hungry, but there was something more in this horse. I didn't know it then, but by the end of the race I was sure, and slapped myself in the face forever doubting him.

When the gates opened, he stumbled. He managed to stay on his feet and with his jockey, but a stumble out of the gate is a huge setback. The rest of the group went off, and the opinionated colt spent most of the race playing catch up. I paid him no mind; he was a dud.

Have you ever had the universe put you in your place? I can say that I have, and it was during that race. The colt, the black, the dud came charging to the front of the pack like a cheetah on the hunt. He surged ruthlessly from dead last to first place without a single flop. There was no stopping that horse; he was on a mission. He won that race and the props of being a Breeders Cup winner.

Of course, while everyone on the TV screen in front of me is cheering and clapping and sending congratulations to the owners, I was sitting on my couch wondering where in the hell that little speed demon came from. I still don't believe it; it was a truly surreal moment, but the colt's win sends a message to me.

The odds are important. The bloodlines are important. The conformation is important, but, when it comes down to it, no horse can do well without attitude. It's the attitude and the heart that are the secret ingredient in the recipe for a successful athlete, animal or human. You can have everything playing against you. You can have the worst cards in your hand, but sheer determination can be enough to get the job done.

For such a prestigious run, that black colt was pre-christened with the name Pluck. I've always been of the impression that when someone doubts you, it's your job to prove them wrong. I wish Pluck knew how well he proved me wrong.
Pluck, son of Vinery's leading Stallion, More Than Ready. (c) Breeders' Cup

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Okay, I change my mind.

You would think after getting so excited to have my stirrups back that I would relish the moment that they were once again on my feet. Honestly, nnnnnope. I couldn't stand those darned things during my ride tonight.

It started out fine when we first got on. We were just walking around, and I was relatively comfortable. We decided to ride outside while there was still light and then go inside when it got too dark. So we get out there, right, and we start trotting, and I just quit. It was so wrong, so awkward. I first had to lengthen my stirrups, but they are still uneven, so I was rather angry about that. The longer stirrups do help, though, and that was one of the things that I had planned to do by the end of last month. I push off of my stirrups so much and then scrunch up my leg. That is no longer acceptable (as if it ever was), and I plan to work on that a lot over the next month now that I am riding twice as much.

Getting back to the actual riding part, we're out there walking and trotting (and my sitting trot was boss by the way). I'm over there trying to stop myself from posting off of my stirrups (and breaking at the wrist and leaning too far forward and being too much on my butt). Then we move onto this line right, and good lord, I swear I will never get my lower leg in place. It's basically impossible for me. I tel myself to squeeze with the calf, but once I go over my mind just goes blank, and I do what instinct tells me to do. On top of that I was coming up too soon too. You know what, don't smite me. The last time I jumped was over a month ago. I didn't trust myself to jump without stirrups, and I think it's fair to say that was a justified fear. We did that line, I dunno, six times, and Baby was perfect. She went low and slow like the HUS horse she is. I guess not jumping for a while is useful.

When the sun finally quit on us, we went inside, and Miss S had me work on Baby's left lead, ya know, the bad lead, the "I am completely able of doing this round unless you replace me with a different horse" lead. Yeah, that lead. She was a poop at first, but, at some point I relaxed and it became easier to just flow with her and get her going round, and we did get a lap or two of a good, rounder canter. It wasn't perfect, but I am happy that she slowed down and fell on her behind as quickly as she did and then maintained it. That on top of the fact that she seemed happier made me happy *insert adorable smiley face*.

We did a bit of lead change work which was men, and that's where the lesson ended. I am pumped for this show on Saturday, and Fifi is taking Molly, so I asked Miss S if I could do just one itty bitty equitation class on the pony, and she said yes. If no one takes pictures of me this time, I will probably cry. I like pictures. Pictures are nice. Pictures show progress, and progress is nice, too.

On a side note, I ordered a bunch of stuff on Monday, and it's supposed to get here tomorrow. I'm so excited! Next on my list is a new helmet, a Thinline half pad, and a pair of floral breeches (these will be featured in tomorrow's outfit, but, if you're curious HKM Palermo Floral Breeches).

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