Friday, December 31, 2010

The term "fun show" is an oxymoron.

Or maybe I'm the moron. I'm riding Brumby in a fun show on Sunday. Right now, it doesn't seem like much fun considering I didn't know about it until a week ago and was instructed encouraged to enter in the last couple days.  Since I didn't end up showing last summer, it has still been about 20 years since I rode in a horse show. And really, at 12 I had no concept of embarassing myself or worrying about what others thought.  That came at 13.  I'm doing it precicely because it scares the pants off me. I want the challenge of showing, and especially the goal-setting that comes with it. A good way to start the new year, right? So I need to get over myself and just do it. This show is the perfect (read: safe) start. But fun?? Ask me on Monday!

It is designed as a show-clinic with classes on the flat for various levels, a dressage test (training or level 1, you think I'd know!!!) and jumping at various levels (can't recall if there are different classes for hunters and jumpers or if it's all hunter-ish courses). Plus, the judge provides enhanced feedback for rider and horse development.  January in Ontario is typically cold, so horse and rider turnout won't be up to show quality -  no one will be bathing or braiding their horses and riders will dress for the weather (though it reached 7ºC/44ºF tomorrow and hovering around -2ºC/27ºF on Sunday, so it will be quite warm).

Apparently I'm doing one flat class, the dressage test, and the 2'6" over fences. All things I can handle without much fuss on most days. Except my hands seem to have lost their feel lately, bringing back the neck tucking, and I haven't jumped many full courses on him period and none for the last few months. All this with spectators. And cameras. And judging! Ugh...what have I done?

Well, it's a guarantee I'll learn something and that guarantees a successful day.

 I have some new lesson video from last week that I just started going through. Here's a short clip of our warm-up gymnastic. My coach progressively adds more elements and raises the height as we go. I haven't had a chance to trim some other segments yet.

I was very happy to get new video as it really helps me put together what I'm doing (and doing wrong) and what I need to work on. I'm still getting behind the motion sometimes over fences, like here. It's a shockingly powerful jump, even when the heights are low and I'm green to jumping so I don't have the timing and coordination put together yet. Still, we are much further along than last year.

Gymnastic warmup.

I hope everyone has a good time bringing in the New Year. I'm looking forward to reading your adventures in the year to come!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

D.I.Y. Bit-warmers

This year, I got the idea that I wanted to make myself a bit warmer. I get tired of trying to use water in the barn washroom which a) takes forever to get warm enough, b) is therefore wasteful, c) invariably gets my hands and/or leather wet. So, I set out to design my own.

I have been using magic-bags a lot lately for various back issues, so I thought why not make one for warming bits. Turns out, they exist already but cost about $12.95 each. Still determined I could do it myself, and make some Christmas presents out of the idea, I went to the fabric store and bulk food store to get my materials.

Have I mentioned that I haven't sewn anything in YEARS? Almost decades. But I actually like creating "stuff". I learned to knit a number of years ago and just loved the feeling of watching a fabric slowly materialize. Kinda the same with sewing, I think. My husband; however, is quite a good sewer. He's made several dog coats for the foster dogs, custom gaiters for his steel-toe rubber boots, a compass holder etc. So I begged for a refresher and off I went.

All the materials laid out and ready to go.

You think in a whole store full of fabrics I would have found a nice one with a small horse theme. The only horsey fabrics I could find had huge horses that you wouldn't see in a small project like this one. So I opted for something universally winter-esque.

I made a rectangle of plain fabric to form the inner part of the warmer. This was stuffed with a mix of barley and buckwheat - both grains that can handle a minute of microwaving at a time and happen to smell nice when heated raw. At least I think so...the horses seem to agree! Then I make an outside case out of the patterned fabric. This way, you can wash the outside part if it gets yucky. The outside part is mainly a rectangle with a long strip out the side. This strip just helps keep the warmer from sliding off the bit. It doesn't even need to be tied, wrapping it around a couple times does the job.

I  messed up the bobbin, occasionally. 
But with some technical direction, 
I was back on my way.

I made a proto-type first, then worked on a more refined version. I somehow missed taking a picture of the best one but my boss (a horse owner) loved hers and exclaimed that she was surrounded by creative genious. She also thought I could sell them for $15 a piece! Apparently everyone at her barn wants one.

Here is a photo of my proto-type on an old bridle of mine I used for fitting purposes. In later versions, I made the width of the inner magic bag wider and finished the tie string properly.

I'm still using my prototype and it works very well, even though it isn't as good as later versions. So easy and definitely useful! Hopefully the horse appreciates it as much as I do!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Looking Forward

There comes a point when you feel so behind on updating your blog-life that the thought of bringing readers up to speed is somewhat daunting. There is a certain rhythm and pace to blogging, at least for me. Once I lost it, it seemed ever harder to get it back. I tried a couple times but I still didn't manage to get the groove back.

As a result, I decided that I needed to stop worrying about what I hadn't blogged about. Stop feeling like I needed to provide somewhat of a continuous narrative. Sure, that would be great, but too much has come and gone to record it all. Who cares anyway? Mostly me, lol.  So, I'll move forward.

I will say that the last little while has been challenging. Work is pretty good but I am still the new fish with a lot of expertise that is, in part, tangental to the unit. Still, I think I'm adding a lot and they are adding something to me as well. Some of the dynamics of the interpersonal relations are interesting on many levels, so it's been a learning experience, to say the least.

I've had some challenges with family relationships which made this Christmas season feel strange. I still hosted a wonderful dinner for many of my family members and had my Mom and her husband spend Christmas eve with us. It is a very nice thing to have the ability to welcome overnight guests without much fuss.

Dinner was awesome, if I do say so myself. We had a local turkey from the same source as the chickens we've been getting for a few years. These birds taste happy.  Now, I know that might sound horrible to some of my vegetarian readers. I understand.  Maybe I should do a post on my choice to eat meat. Anyway, these birds live a good life, are not mass-produced, and are raised close to where they are slaughtered.  They get to move while alive. So yes, they taste happy. 
They look pretty happy too, even in a 
poorly composed photo of a partially 
carved turkey. This baby was 21.5lbs.

My husband has become quite the saucier and made the best turkey gravy EVER this year. His diligent basting resulted in a moist and beautifully golden bird. This year, I was in charge of stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, and general menu preparation and organization.

We have about 8 litres of stock prepared and frozen in 1 litre packages and 4 good-size packs of turkey meat - meals for a rainy/lazy/busy/lonely day. I keep hinting at my husband what good risotto that stock would far he is pretending to not get the hint. We both know he does and I know I'll get to eat his awesome risotto made with our awesome stock soon!

I hope everyone had a nice holiday season. Hang on to that which is good in your life.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What's in a Name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

I memorized practically that entire play in high school and could speak "Shakespeare" like it was modern English. I was the weirdest combination of nerd and pot-head (for awhile). I once smoked a joint with a friend, in a field at night, and recited Hamlet's "to be or not to be" soliloquy by heart. It was the first time she understood the meaning behind the words.

But I digress.

Have you ever re-named a horse?  I'm thinking mostly about barn names but I'd be interested in hearing about any re-naming experiences.  Was it easy or difficult to come up with a name you liked better?  If the horse was known to people at your barn before you re-named him, did they continue calling him or her by the old name even though you re-named him/her? Did people eventually come around? How long did it take?

Let me hear your stories of re-naming horses.