Thursday, November 26, 2009


My family and I are celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow instead of today because Mom had to work, but I thought that I would take the time now to mention all of the things that I am thankful for.

- First and foremost, I am thankful for the life and the talents that God has given me. Despite what I may think sometimes, there is a purpose for me in this world.
- I am thankful for my family and my friends who will stand by my side no matter what.
- I am thankful for my boyfriend...even if we don't always see eye-to-eye because at the end of the day we still love each other and that's all that matters.
- I am thankful for Emmy. I am thankful for my dad scraping up the money to buy her and board her for so many years. I am thankful for all that he and my mom have given up for me to be able to do this. We don't have an unlimited bank account and so I am thankful for the sacrifices that my family has made for me.  I am thankful for all of the lessons, the shows, the late nights and early mornings that we spent together. I am SO thankful for the little misfit mare who everyone thought was "crazy" and "hopeless." I am thankful that she stayed sound long enough for us to prove them all wrong. I am thankful that, to this day, when I call her in the pasture she still lifts her head up, looks around and whinnies. I am thankful that some things never change.
- Having said that, I am also thankful for Johnny...even if he wasn't the "awesome, competetive, sporty" second horse that I was dreaming of buying after Emmy. Sometimes you just get what you get and I got him. He may be a "strange" breed and need a lot of re-training, but his generous personaility is something that I don't think I've ever really seen to such an extent in a horse. No matter what, he always comes out of the stall and tries his hardest, he forgives you for anything and everything, and I don't even think he knows how to hold a grudge (unlike I am thankful for all he has taught me and all that we will continue to learn together.
- I am thankful that both of my horses are happy, healthy and sound.
- I am thankful for my own health...that I have never been seriously injured by doing what I love.
- I am thankful for my school, my new trainers and IHSA. They all have given me the oppertunities that I might have never gotten otherwise.
- I am thankful for my job. I love it, every minute of it. I am thankful for all that I have learned from it.

From Emmy, Johnny and myself, HAPPY THANKSGIVING to everyone!

Emmy and me at our last Classic together. She was 20 years old (and still full of herself), coming back off of a 6 month suspensory injury layoff and won third out of 27 entries!

Johnny and me this fall.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One good exercise, two good rides

Last week after our IHSA show we took a break from riding for a couple days to let the school horses have a rest. Instead of our normal riding Hunter class, we spent an hour in a "theory" class, watching videos of lots of different hunters and comparing why we thought some were better than others. For anyone who follows the hunter ring at all, you know that Rumba, ridden by John French just won the Hunter Derby Finals with three STELLAR rounds over some really cool jumps. To see the video, CLICK HERE

Anyway, along with that, we also watched some of the 1998 (?) Maclay Finals. We picked apart the course and analyzed how some riders set their horses up correctly or incorrectly for the questions being asked. Last Thursday, we decided to tackle some of those same questions in our class, and M set up a course of ground poles and flower boxes to see where we all were. Let's just say that lots of people had trouble...including myself, although M admitted after the class that she had been the most proud of the way I handled the very spooky horse that I was riding. We decided to ride the same horses again today and work out some more of the kinks. Todays course was a course of jumps that asked many of the same questions. Here is a diagram below (don't make fun of my awesome Paint drawing LOL)

We started in a two point or half seat at 1) over a single trot pole and then made a left hand turn to 2) three 9ft trot poles. This was to set up our horses tempo and pace and see if they were behind our leg or not. From the 9ft rails we made a LEFT hand turn around fence 5 and continued down center line to fence 3) a single white plank vertical with a 7ft take off and landing rail, which required a more collected trot then the 9ft trot poles. After landing fence 3, we turned inside fence 7 and trotted up to fence 4) a single yellow flower box flanked by two white plank standards. After 4 we were to canter halfway down the line and then bring our horses back to trot to jump fence 5) a brown riviera box with a rail on top. Landing in canter, we continued over pole 1 again and then turned to fence 6) a single white plank vertical. We jumped that and then rode a bending line back over fence 4 in the opposite direction before continuing for fence 7) which was a single red flower box set right against the rail. After that, we cantered down the long side to fence 8) a white oxer with a yellow flower box and then continued back around to jump fence 5 from the opposite direction and rode a bending line to fence 9) another single flower box. To finish we were to canter down the rest of the diaganol and halt on a straight line.

Again I rode Cruz, the spooky little Thoroughbred whom I have become really fond of. We seriously rocked this exercise...he didn't spook or stop at a single jump and our oxer fence was BEAUTIFUL! I was so happy with my ride and so proud of him! I want to set this same kind of thing up for Johnny and see how he does with it :)

Speaking of Johnny, after class I went out to ride him and worked him in draw reins for about 15-20 minutes, just walk/trot/canter so that he could feel them and figure them out a bit. I didn't want him to get sore, so I didn't ride a whole ton off them (not that I ever really do...) but I just wanted to kind of set a "perimeter" for a frame and then softly encourage him to stay with in that perimeter. I will tell you this though...for the first time ever he really kept his back up and underneith him, and his canter had moments of super round brilliance where he actually got BOUNCY. Not only that, but we also got our right lead canter on the first try :)

I'm home now for Thanksgiving break so I wont get to see Johnny again until Thursday (I'm driving up Thurs, Sat and then going Sunday to see him when I go back to school for the week...we are doing our Thanksgiving on Friday because Mom has to work) but I think I'm definetly going to set up some exercises to work through with him. I think that it's time now in his training to start asking him some harder questions. Clearly, since he did so well at the show, trotting over some small verticals is something that he's got under control and it's time to start teaching him some more things. What an adventure this all is!

More tomorrow...I stopped in to see Emmy, who is super fat and super filthy from living out in the field. I think she's getting bored with retirement though...Dad says she's cribbing all the time (she's always cribbed...just never obsessively) and on everything she can. Not a good sign :( Pookie pony wants to be ridden again? I will have to get down and dirty tomorrow to get all of the ten layers of mud off her and take her out for a hack :)


Sunday, November 22, 2009

CVF Pictures

As are some photos from the show...links to the YouTube videos soon to follow!

Showing off our ribbons!

A blurry Johnny wearing his blue! (below)


Sleepy baby! He was soooo tired...and yes, that is my girth that he's laying on. I saddled him up and ran to the office to see what split I was in, came back and he was passed out! Turns out that I was riding in the second group, so I just went in, undid the girth, lifted the saddle off and just left the girth for when he got up. He didn't even flinch.

My boyfriend surpised me!


Johnny plays in the hunters!

Yesterday my friend L and I packed up our stuff and our horses and headed out to Chagrin Valley Farms for their hunter show. We decided only to show on Sunday (Academy day) since neither of our horses was really ready for the Saturday show. Since Johnny's only gone over fences twice at a show (both times with stops...the very first time we schooled great and then couldn't even make it around the course) I decided to shoot low...low level class with low expectations of him. My biggest mistake in the beginning of his show career was thinking that he was going to come out of the field and be kind of competitive. Thinking back on the Chagrin Classic and the Kiwanis Show, each time Johnny had a stop to a jump was because he was looking at the people around the ring and not at the jump in front of him. I knew that the big plexiglass "wall of windows" at CVF was going to be a potential problem for him, but I also knew that he's gotten to the point where he's not greenly over-jumping fences any more, so when picking a division I knew I wanted something that was going to make him put out a tensie bit of effort, without being so big that if his mind went ADD we were going to get a stop too it. In the end, I went with (dun, dun, dun....) walk/trot/canter 18" hahaha. It sounds so silly but it was the perfect class for him. Trotting wasn't penalized, nor was cantering, so tracking to the left we could canter, and to the right we could trot if he didn't land the lead (which he hasn't been lately -.-) and it wouldn't be a problem. It turned out to be the perfect idea!

We hauled in Saturday night and didn't get a chance to school until almost 11:30pm when the jumpers finally wrapped up. L and I rode in the warm up ring and Johnny jumped a meduim sized cross-rail, low vertical, and then maybe a 2'3" vertical (all with flower boxes under them) without ever even looking at them...a BIG step up from when I am used to with Emmy! We cantered in to all of these jumps off the left and he was absolutly perfect! He wasn't even trying over the 2'3" fence, and just sailed over it, right out of stride...also a big step up from where we started! He still tends to jump more "up" than "across" the jumps, but maybe some work over low oxers will help tune that up a bit and teach him to reach a little more.

Sunday morning, L and I got up early to school in the show ring. Johnny was pretty tense going in and inspected the "wall o' windows" with great curiosity. It was actually really funny because he just stood there watching people walk back and forth and following them with his head. He's a smart boy though. After a few good sniffs and a long, comtemplative stare, he decided that the windows were just fine with him and so we went along on our merry way. We stratigically schooled at the 2ft height because I wanted him to go into his class and be like "oh! this is easier than we practiced!" He was pretty good...he stopped once at the out of a line and got in BIG trouble for it for two reasons. First of all, it was a dirty stop. Down right dirty. He trotted right up to it with his ears perked, happy as a clam and then SLAMMED on the breaks and did the dirty "duck and cover" spin that Emmy was so famous for.  Second of all, the jump was seriously small enough for him to walk over. There weren't any flowers, nothing scary that he might spook at...just plain white poles in a semi-empty arena. I was like "oh HELL no..." caught him with a left bearing rein, right opening rein, and a jab to the side with my left leg. I seriously think that my quick reaction to it really surprised him, because he stopped mid-spin and bounced a little with his front legs. And then just to make myself perfectly clear, he got a good slap behind my leg with my hand and he KNEW he was in trouble then. He bounced again and when I turned him back towards it he lept into a canter and sailed across it like "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I was just kidding...really!" On the back side I let him canter through the corner and then slowed him quietly to a stop so that he wouldn't learn to run away from it. When he was still, I stroked his neck and made a BIG fuss about what a good boy he was. I must have gotten my point across, because he didn't even think about stopping again for the rest of the day. He's old enough now and has enough mileage schooling that its really just unacceptable for him to stop at a stick on the ground and I believe that I made that perfectly clear today. Mind you, I am the first to stop and assess things when there is a legitimate reason for him to be stopping, like if he's a little unsound or the jumps are scary or he's maybe getting pushed a little too far to fast, but thats definetly not the case here at all. He was really just being rude.

After our schooling, he got to head back to his stall to munch hay while L showed her horse in the 2ft Adults. They did really well...2nd in the Warm Up, and 4th in their first and second trips. Then it was Johnny's turn. My goal for the day was for him to just get around the course quietly...I stuck with my low expectation plan and just wanted a clean, decisive ride, and thats exactly what he gave me. Both trips were really great and he only looked at the window once around the first turn, but I quickly got his attention back and we had two nice, quiet, clean rides. I was very pleased! When the placings came out, we got the icing on the cake! 2nd in the first trip and 1st in the second trip out of a 5 other horses (the division got split into A and B we placed out of the 5 in our split...eleven total in the division.) I was so proud of him! He wore his blue ribbon on his bridle all the way back to his stall and got showered in kisses and cookies!  I'm so proud of him! We're going to try to get to most of the winter schooling shows so that both horses can get some more mileage. It was a great show day!

Pictures coming soon!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

IHSA continued...and some photos!

As promised, here is the second installment for our IHSA adventure last weekend:

Sunday of the show dawned super early as usual. The horses had to be ready to school by 6:30, so all of our team was up before the sunrise (aka: 5 am) to make sure that they were fed, cleaned and prepped before heading to the ring. C and I were running the barn again and had to make many last minute changes to the schedule. Two of our horses had mysteriously come up lame the day before (for the record, we take REALLY good care of our blew and abcess a few days later and the other was seriously faking it because he was just fine come Tuesday -.-) so we had to sub in some horses that we would have rather not had to use. Before each show, we sit down in the barn and make a saddle fit list for all of the horses that are going to be showing that weekend. Once the list is made, we post it in the barn aisle so that anyone who is tacking up will just be able to glance at the list and know that tack goes on which horse. Many students (including myself) loan their jumping saddles to the club for the weekend so that we don't have to break into the school's stash of Wintecs for the horses that we can't fit in a nice saddle. Let's face it, no one wants to equitate in a Wintec and the school doesn't have enough nice jumping saddles to have one fit every single horse (over 60 horses!) so we all pitch in and bring our personal saddles. This year, we had lots of loaned saddles...almost ten I think! They were all very nice brands, Pinnacle, HDR, Pessoa...we try to get the best saddles we can for people to ride in. The problem Sunday morning was that, since we had so many horse changes, our original saddle fit list had basically gone to hell. C and I spent the entire day running around trying to find saddles that would fit the "new" horses without taking a saddle from a horse in an overlapping was really tough, but our IHSA president, N, complimented our work after saying "I have no idea how you girls did it, but you pulled it off because not a single horse came to the ring late and each one had a well-fitting jump saddle." I was pretty proud about that :)

For my flat class on Sunday I drew Harper, a horse that a) I've never sat on and b) likes to pull people around the ULTIMATE weakness. I won't lie, I was super nervous going into that class and the way that M (our coach) was talking to me tipped me off that I was point rider. I'm pretty sure that as soon as M saw the draw list she was probably like "Omg...why did I pick her as point rider?" I was pretty determined to pull it off. The first way of the ring was great, I sat up and kept my shoulder tall, and Harper stayed balanced and quiet. Unfortunatly, we got a little boxed in down the long side (I have no idea how that happened...usually I have really good ring management...) and that lit him up a little. He didn't want to settle the second way of the ring and he was literally DRAGGING me around in the canter. I braced my back against his the best I could and used the corners for a chance to rebalance with a strong lifting inside rein and and a big ol' half halt. Once again, going into the placings I had NO IDEA how it was going to turn out...if we pulled off first it would be a miracle. Lucky for me, it must not have looked so bad because we ended up second and I was thrilled! M seemed happy too, she told me after that she had gotten a little nervous the second way of the ring, but was proud that I had held it together :) At the end of the day, LEC was team champion again!! What a come back after our terrible first show!

To change pace a bit, here are some photos that E and S took a few weekends ago while they were riding Johnny. I was home that weekend and so all I have are some photos, but they said he was really good for them :) E is in the blue and S is in the purple (bottom picture)

Johnny and I are packing up today and heading over to Chagrin Valley Farms for their horse show this weekend...wish us luck!!


Sunday, November 15, 2009

IHSA Show - Saturday

"Cuz the party don't start 'til I walk in..."

The IHSA show this weekend went really great! Our team rode EXCELLENT and M picked all of the right point riders because Saturday we ended with almost a perfect team score...49 points, over 15 points ahead of any of the other teams. I just so happened to draw a gelding that is part of my Hunter class ride string, so I was really familiar with how to ride him and (as my friend N told me) I "look really good on Cruz." He can be a bit of a spook and because of that, we've never used him before in IHSA, so I wasn't sure how he was going to be. During his first class (with another rider) one of the team banners fell, which sent him leaping sideways and his unsuspecting rider ended up in the dirt. My best friend C and I were running the barn, so I didn't get to see it, but it made me worry a little because I was the next rider on him. As we walked through the ingate, I used my forefinger to scratch his neck. He eyed the wall once (where the banner had fallen from) and then proceeded to be absolutly perfect for the rest of the class! Some of our downward transitions were a little abrupt, so going into the line up, I wasn't really sure how the placings were going to fall. There were 7 girls in the class and 6 ribbons to be had. I held my breath all the way until there were three riders and just two ribbons left. Second place was called. My heart was seriously beating in my ears. Had we really ridden that badly? The announcer came on and called first number! My good little chestnut Throughbred pulled through and we won our Intermediate flat class!

More about Sunday to come!


Friday, November 13, 2009

Horsemen vs. Riders

Courage is not the absence of fear. Stupidity is the absence of fear. Courage is the ability to acknowledge fear and then let it dissipate from your mind.

With our second IHSA show quickly approaching (tomorrow is course set, schooling and prepping!) I've been thinking a lot about the differences between horse people. For our IHSA shows, we always braid our Open and Intermediate division horses because it makes them look professional and this year, only three other girls beside myself offered to braid horses for the show. I thought to myself "that's it?" out of a team of 40 girls, only 4 know how to braid? To me, any person who shows should know how to braid a mane. It's part of learning horsemanship. Anyway, it got me thinking. In my mind, there are two types of horse people: those who are "riders" and those who are "horsemen."

Horsemen (or horsewomen if you want to be politically correct) are the kind of people that always put the horse first. These are the ones who forge their way to the barn in all types of weather (be it monsoon, tornado or snow storm) because they can't bear the thought of their horse a) standing in a dirty stall b) not getting turned out or c) all of the above. These are the ones who know exactly how much hay and grain their horse eats, they now how to give shots and manage a deworming schedule...these folks are the down and dirty, the ones who manage every aspect of their horses well-being. These are the ones who, in the saddle, take responsibility when things go wrong, like a missed distance to a jump. Instead of "my horse is being a jerk" they answer with "I dropped my shoulder at the fence." After all, 90% of mistakes are the riders fault right?

Then there are the riders. The type who put themselves first, who want to ride the horse and go home and who don't at all mind skipping a day at the barn when the weather isnt just right, never mind if Tubby is going to be standing in a filthy stall all day weaving from boredom. The rider prefers to pay someone to know how to take care of their horse rather than to know it themselves and in the ring, most mistakes are blamed on the horse. This is not to say that the riders are bad people, but they arn't horse people.

Over the summer, I made a really great friend while traveling as an A circuit groom for a local hunter barn. She is the epitome of horsewoman at the highest of levels where the horsemenship of clients has been replaced by grooms. All summer she traveled with her Junior Hunter mare and a second leased Junior Hunter gelding and even at the most prestigeous of shows, her first and foremost concern was the well being of her horses. Although she payed for a groom at shows, she almost always took care of her horses herself. She was there every morning, sometimes as early as 5:00am, to braid both of her horses manes and tails. She tacked them up herself and wrapped them when she was done. During the day, she made sure that they got out for walks and for plenty of grazing time. She was a little bit of beacon of light for proof that horsemanship is not dead among the junior ranks.

So which are you? I have become a horsemen for two reasons 1) out of my love for the animal and 2) out of necessity. Growing up in a household of 6, money was never truely abundant and although my parents tried their hardest to support and provide for each of their children, we had to learn to be resourceful. My first horse (Emmy) was purchased for $700 from a local riding stable because she was a crazy Thoroughbred that no one could ride. Looking back on it, she was definetly too much horse for a 13 year old kid, but I loved her anyway and in return she threw her heart over every jump for me. When I wanted to start showing, I taught myself how to braid and used to get up early to braid other peoples horses in order to make the money to pay my entry fees. If I close my eyes I can still feel myself standing on a bucket in Emmy's stall for hours at a time, trying over and over again to get the mane and tails braids right. No one ever taught me how, I just watched over a few shoulders and practiced. When Johnny came along, I realized that I couldn't afford to pay and have the vet come out and give two horses their yearly and bi-yearly vaccinations and so I asked a vet to show me how and have been doing it ever since. Sometimes, we learn to be horsemen because we have to be, but it's the ones like my dear friend, who learn because they WANT to learn, that give me the most hope :)

Which are you?


Monday, November 9, 2009

Pictures of Johnny

My friend Meghan came out yesterday to take some photos of Johnny...they came out really nice! Of course, he still has his shaggy hair because I haven't body clipped him yet. This was one of those amazingly warm November days so we went outside to take pictures...the footing was pretty bad still, but Johnny was a trooper!


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Video Update!

Sorry I've been blogging so sporatically lately...

Here are a few videos of Johnny from the end of October. E is riding him while I tape...

The first if of Johnny and E cantering a few circles around me in the arena...he has since started to stretch down a little in the canter...we're working on it!

Second is E riding Johnny through an exercise of bounce ground poles...I think I have a better video of it somewhere. I will upload that one when I get a chance, but in the mean time, here's this one!

More to come!