Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Life is...

...sometimes difficult. It just is. So as not to render this blog completely obsolete (just mostly), I am fighting through the fog to post.

This week, November 17, was my 1 year anniversary of owning Armani. I intended to have a video ready that covered the highlights of the last year but it was harder to find the time to work on it than I thought and so it's not ready yet.

I can't believe how far I've come with him in the last year. I wish I had documented better but such is the way with living life. Although Armani still has issues with leading from time to time, I now know and understand him enough to work through it and be confident that I can work through it, even when he's reverted back for some unknown reason.

Under saddle, things are pretty great. We have typical baby issues but he's generally teachable. Armani isn't very spooky but he does have persistent issues with certain corners of the indoor arena, now that we are stuck back in there. It makes it difficult to have him bending properly, especially to the left, which he is sticky about as it is. Pretty normal stuff, for the most part.

In lieu of a more thorough post, here is a video of a recent lesson, one of our last outside. It's good to be back working gymnastic lines etc. after focusing on showing courses all summer. We both need this kind of work.

Lesson. Late Oct 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Rather Shallow Post About Ribbons.

If you are showing and, say, over the age of 14ish, the inevitable question becomes what to do with the ribbons. You can't just throw them out, can you? After all, even if I only enter one division (4 classes) and place in every class, I've probably "paid" about $100 per ribbon ;-) if you total coaching at the show, trailering, braiding, and show fees. And that is a conservative amount, depending on your level.  Not that you should total it that way...but it is one metric ;-)

Yet I also can't (and don't want to) put them on my bedroom wall like I did as a child.

I envy those with a barn of their own to put them in, like Littlekeebler:

It seems so appropriate and not cheesy at all in that context!

My ribbons collected with each show and I did display them on my locker in the tack room for a few days after each show but then they came home and sat on top of my wardrobe of riding clothes...in the basement.

Ok, so my basement is nicely finished and my riding wardrobe area is not exactly basemet-like. Still, they sat up there, on top of the wardrobe, unseen.

I had idly mentioned to my husband that I should do something with those ribbons but didn't know what, since it seemed superficial and juvenile. He agreed that I couldn't just dispose of them and we mentioned some possibilities but it was extremely non-commital as we were doing other things at the time.

And then one day I came home from the barn, brought my stuff downstairs, and saw this:

Doing laundry is just a little sweeter now that I get a reminder of what a great season we had in educating both Armani and me to the show world. We realized success that I never thought I would be capable of - we finished the season as Reserve Champion Green Hunters (7 shows) and fourth in the Hack Division with only 3 shows entered in that division. I will remind my American friends that in Canada red is 1st place.

In the Greens we were beat by a 10 year old school horse and they happened to attend a few shows that had a ton of entries (hence more points) that we did not attend. I will come second to that combo of experience from horse and rider any day. The fact my 4 yr old with me as his rider who hasn't shown since a child and never in hunters, did so well is amazing to me. He is number one no matter what as far as I'm concerned. What a horse.

On another note, now that I've seen this, I think one of my h/j pet peeves might be tiny ribbons by some shows and huge ribbons by others. While I love the massive ribbons and "hate" the tiny ones (really, most of those champion ribbons don't look like anything much especially when they use black!), I would be happier if they were at least consistent.

Told you it was a shallow post! Heehee.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hunter Princess Blog Hop - An Annoying H/J Trend.

Having just completed my first show season, I am new enough to Hunter Land that I am not too annoyed by anything just yet, nor am I "in the know" enough about the trends, as I stuck to very classic hunter turnout. Sure, I wish the shows would always base the striding on a 12' stride (sometimes they've used 11.5'). But I know they do that to be "kind" to our greenies (I showed Green Hunter this year), so it's not really annoying.

I do find poor sportsmanship annoying, but that certainly isn't the exclusive domain of hunter/jumpers!

One thing I do find  annoying, and I will admit it's rather petty, is the trend around here to have nameplates on everything.

Now don't get me wrong, when I bought Armani last year, one of my biggest little-girl thrills was getting him a halter name plate. I was actually almost disappointed (although very appreciative) when my friend bought me one as a Christmas present. I just wanted to pick it for myself and hers wasn't what I would have chosen. So I got an "everyday" leather halter and a nameplate of my choosing. Gotta fulfill the dream, you know.

From haltertags.com. I highly recommend
these tags - excellent quality and they do 
custom work such as name plate size.

When I bought my first new saddle the year before, I was thrilled to have my own nameplate on it. However, that is as far as I go with plating my tack. I certainly have had the urge to put name plates on everything, especially when I thought I lost my $250 girth...but I have refrained. I figure if someone wanted to steal the girth they would simply remove the plate. Although it also means that a good samaritan wouldn't know who to try to track down. Hmm.

I've seen hunters at shows with name plates on their bridle, girth, standing martingale, and saddle.

Admittedly, I stole these from the internet at large.
I don't have any creepy stalker photos of fellow competitors' name plate excess.

I find it a little much. Mostly, I find it distracting, much like the extra bling that Lauren mentions in her original post. Perhaps also a little too...I don't know, self-important?

What do you think? Do you like having plates on some tack and not others?  All of it? Has it ever served a practical purpose or is it all mostly just the same sense of pride you get from your first halter or saddle plate?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Honolulu Skillet Beans

This is a recipe that I haven't made for a long time. I thought of it again when I read Shaheen's post (Allotment 2 Kitchen) recipe for  black beans and pineapple stew.  She wasn't thrilled with the result of her dish and it reminded me just enough of this one to make me want to try it again.  Tonight was a night where I had nothing planned for dinner and not much to work with - the perfect night to bring this dish out.

The original recipe comes from The Moosewood Collective's Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.

When I read the recipe over I felt that it wasn't particularly blog-worthy. This is not fancy food! It is what I would call a "garbage meal" which is my affectionate term for recipes that are great at using up loose ends in your fridge and pantry to prevent waste.  It is a great vegan option for a fast weekday meal that can be thrown together with only pantry items or embellished with some veg if you are so inclined.

I will post the unadulterated original recipe ingredients first and follow with my suggestions and the liberties I take. The procedure is the same. The ingredients will seem odd but they work.

Honolulu Skillet Beans
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tsp cooking oil
4 Cups cooked beans such as Roman or small pink, red, or white beans (2 16oz cans)
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce*
2 tsp prepared yellow mustard
2 Tbsp catsup or tomato paste
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1 tsp ground cumin
grated peel of 1 orange
3/4 Cup fresh or canned crushed pineapple
*In place of hoisin, you can substitute 1 Tb molasses or brown sugar, 1 Tb white vinegar, and 1 tsp of chili oil or hot pepper sauce.

My modifications:
Beans - I use cans of mixed beans, mostly labeled "bean medley" in these parts.
Hoisin - when I fist made this as a starving student years ago, I didn't have hoisin (odd since I lived in China town...) so I used the substitute version. I remembered today that I actually preferred that version. Today I decided to do both and it worked well. I just can't resist an opportunity to put molasses in things.
Sauce - I recommend doubling the sauce. That is a lot of beans and even more than doubling the sauce results in barely coated beans. I don't measure unless I'm baking, so I take many liberties in mixing this up. It's forgiving. I also add a good dose of pineapple juice. Why waste it?

Forgive the bad photos. I was hungry and just don't have the lighting to set up good food pictures. Meh, that's real life.

In a skillet, saute the onions in the oil until soft and begining to brown (if using mushrooms, I add them at the start too).

In a small bowl, stir together all sauce ingredients including cumin. 

A collection of condiments you can mash together for this sauce. 

Add beans, pineapple and sauce to the pan. Bring to a simmer and heat, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or so.

Serve. I usually just have it straight up since it's a simple, fast meal, I usually don't have patience for more. I think it would go best with a naan-like bread or maybe brown rice.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Serious Quest for Balance. It's a Journey, Alright.

This is a long one but I hope you read and comment anyway. It took a lot to write.

The quest for balance is a familiar one for pretty much every equestrian I've ever known, to greater or lesser degrees. Certainly for us amateurs who do not make a living in the horse industry, this is an issue. It is so much a part of living life with horses, in fact, that I wouldn't even blog about it unless it reached epic proportions. What I've been struggling with is balance on a broader scale.

Have you ever failed to realize how much you were depleting certain aspects of your life until you were so deprived you felt utterly drained? I know, pump the brakes on the drama, right?  But seriously, that's how I felt for most of August, only it took me some time to realize exactly what my problem was. I'm going to try to write about this without getting overly personal but hopefully personal enough that something will come of it, at least for me. Psychologists failed to prove the theory of catharsis long ago but I stubbornly maintain there is something to it.

I don't really know what form this will take and I'm rather inclined to just let it out and see, rather than structure it. We'll see how it goes..

Fact: Alex is really not a social guy. He's friendly and funny and would do just about anything to help someone he cares about. Ok, so his jokes are sometimes just a little too smart and it can be hard to get them right away sometimes (or maybe that's just me), still, he is wickedly witty. People like to have him around and generally when he's around other people he has a good time. It's not that he doesn' like the people we would socialize with. Yet when I want to go out with friends or have people over, I think it's fair to say he isn't particularly interested and often completely disinterested.

Fact: I love hanging out and interacting with other people. I do not have the highest social needs either, although I definitely need it much more than he does.  If I'm around people long enough, I will crave some alone time...just not weeks of alone time.

Alex and I are truly best friends, so it's easy to get caught up in having our social needs come down to each other.

And mostly that's ok. It's also somewhat unavoidable because between work, barn time, Alex's activities etc., there just isn't a lot of time. I have good relationships at work now, though that wasn't the case until fairly recently (my old unit was anything but social) and I usually get to socialize with barn friends, so it's enough to keep me going. Unfortunately, I haven't been great about seeing my other friends much and that is, in part, what started to weigh on me.

Why didn't I just start reaching out to my friends? Well, partly it's a self feeding cycle of "nothing comes of nothing" whereby if you don't make an effort, neither will they. The friends I'm thinking of have a sort of organic way of getting together that doesn't always require planning whereas I need to plan things to make it happen. It helps that many of them live within walking distance of each other. When I did find myself with free time, I was reluctant to contact them because I didn't want to seem like I was inviting myself along, or else that I considered them an afterthought. Neither of these are true, as I discovered when I finally laid it all out.

Putting these thoughts within the context of this summer and it starts to make some sense why I was feeling restless.

Now, let me go back a little. Remember when I first started with Willie and he had upward fixation of the patella (locking stifles) and Dr. B said to exercise him 6 days a week?  I spent months doing just that. I had a single-minded determination to help him. I was driven and focused on that one thing (well, there was work and stuff too but not with that heat-seeking missile type focus. Ever.). I knew it was hard on my marriage and I barely had a social life other than barn people.  I thought it would be worth it because his stifles would get better and that would be the end of it and life could return to "normal."  It did get better and I went to 4-5 days a week for a few months. Then he started head-shaking and I spent months trying to diagnose and fix the problem.  Somehow, I still had the drive. We'd come that far, after all.

That period of time drained me. I cried all the time because a) I felt guilty. I was pretty sure it wasn't my fault but couldn't shake the thought that maybe it was. And even if it wasn't, surely everyone else thought it was; and, b) I knew if I didn't find a way to fix him, no one else would.

The life of a horse on your shoulders feels every bit as heavy as its 1200lbs.

I was reaching the end of my determination and feeling at a complete loss. I was having a hard time accepting that I couldn't change Willie's problems but was on the verge of acceptace, when I received a very important email. In it there was an honest understanding for what I was going through, beyond the specific issue itself. They didn't judge or even offer advice but did give me perspective. It helped alleviate my guilt because there were other people out there in the world (who know me to a degree but really don't know me, and certainly had no vested interest) saying that sometimes effort and love and giving all we have is not enough to help another creature. And that sometimes there just isn't an answer to a problem - we want a firm diagnosis but that doesn't always happen.

They didn't say when the right time to stop was, knowing I had to learn this for myself. I was at that point anyway though, so it was perfectly timed. The exchange made me feel not quite so alone and gave me confidence in the decision I already knew was before me. As I write this out, I realize just how much that meant to me. I hope I expressed my gratitude appropriately but I expect I was too wrapped up in things to really pause and see the big picture. It's actually taken me this long. So thank you. Thank you so much for reaching out to me, it meant more than I can ever say.

note: I haven't revealed who sent that email because I am not sure they would want me to. You know, all the hoards of my followers asking for advice and all (actually, there are many more people that read than comment, believe it or not). But they know who they are and if you are comfortable saying so, please feel free to comment.

Whew! So I had a little Willie healing moment there.

All that to say, the whole ordeal made me fully realize this tendancy I have to be super determined sometimes. I'm not sure I can control it and I do neglect other things in the process, but it's there. I am also generally pretty hard on myself in terms of expectations. Which means no matter what I do, whether I focus on my goal or try to keep up with other obligations, I am always falling short somewhere.

I realized years ago that positive reinforcement doesn't really do that much for me but I feel criticism or negativity quite keenly (which is not to say I can't handle it, I can). For me, a compliment is translated as barely being adequate. It's hard to explain but I feel like it's just status quo when someone tells me I did something well. Or I think "phew, I didn't screw that up" and then I move on without recognizing the praise. No, not without recognizing (that would be rude), but without truly feeling the pleasure of being recognized for a job well-done. I don't take it to heart. Sometimes, I think people who say positive things about my work (in any realm) might be lying. Or they are just so clueless about the work I do (because that isn't their expertise) that it looks overly impressive to them when in reality it's about the simplest thing I've ever been educated to do. Like a Mathematician who is new to riding and witnesses a leg-yeild for the first time.

Now, finally, to the context of this summer. Being my first summer with Armani and having Alex home, I realized it was a good summer to show him well. As in, not just a few throughout the season, but to do around 6-8 shows and really give him a good start in that world. Granted, I'm only doing the bronze circuit since it's the only one to have a 2'3" division (silver/trillium starts at 2'6") and I didn't think my 4 year old should show higher than 2'3" this year. Still, showing is showing and if you're going to do it, do it well.

Turns out I had a ton of energy when it came to planning, learning, organizing etc. for shows. Looking back, I don't even know what happened to the time. I do know I was enjoying myself and pretty jazzed about what we were accomplishing.

In hindsight, I recognize the same ├╝ber-determination to reach a goal that makes the weeks and months tick past somewhat blindly.

I don't know what the breaking point was, exactly.  It initially presented as an unsettled feeling with respect to my marriage. There are actual issues going on there, as there are likely to be from time to time when you've spent 14 years together. I just couldn't shake the discontent and it was disproportional to any of the real marriage growth/change issues. Anyway, it took me awhile to realize it wasn't really about the relationship in and of itself much at all.

I was disatisfied with the relationship primarily because it had to be everything for me. And I had to be everything social for my husband as well. A slight exaggeration, perhaps, but neither of us had any significant social contribution from other people for months, aside from work and fleeting moments at the barn for me and the climbing gym or swimming for Alex.

My restlessness and discontent was largely a desire to just go out and HAVE STUPID FUN!  I am really very responsible and do have a lot of pressure and responsibilities, I think I just reached a point where I needed to just act my age (which is an awkward age, in a way) and remember I can let loose sometimes too.

I did just that last Saturday and feel loads better. Well, I sustained a few mild injuries, but aside from that it was a much-needed night out. More importantly, I told my friends where my head was at so I feel like now I've turned the tables in terms of managing this balance. Finding the time is, as always, going to be a huge challenge.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Gettin' to be that time of year.

When life gives you peppers, roast 'em!

This picture is actually from last year 
but Hazel looks so pathetic I had to share.

We make lots of salsa and sauces and pepperonata. We STILL end up with a massive quantity of peppers, even though we eat a bunch on salads pretty much daily. First world problem, to be sure. When I have that kind of "problem" there is only one thing to do.

This is also an old pic (lazy blogging!) but I don't think I've ever posted it.
I have a much nicer grill now ;-)

I roast them until they have a good well rounded char on them. Pro tip: when making roasted peppers, it is much easier to peel them after they cool, better still if they have been cooled and refridgerated for awhile. Skin comes away much easier.

Remove the skin. The back of a knife can help.

That's lot of roasted pepper!

What is it all for, you might ask? I vacuum seal pouches of these roasted peppers and freeze for use throughout the year (that's kale in behind).

The peppers are a medium hot variety (Crimson Red) and work well in so many dishes. I will use them in pasta sauce (tomato or alfredo), chili, dishes featuring the peppers as centre stage, pasta salad, pizza...the sky is the limit. A great way to add the taste of summer to the February blahs.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Not sure what to say, really.

Since that crazy clinic crash, we have been fine. A little stiff, to be sure, but really and truly fine. My main concern has been a bit of mud fever, not the aftermath of the accident.

Armani and I have had 2 more successful shows. That seems like a lot in just the four weeks since but he gave me no reason not to enter and the next one was on the same grounds so I thought it would be good for both of us psychologically. I only did the green hunter division in the first show after, which at this point is only a hair more than a typical lesson - he's well fit for it.

Here we are showing off being Hack Division Champions
 and Green Hunter Division Champions.

I have to say I've been very proud of myself for perservering despite what happened. That sounds like I'm over-stating things but I know many of you guys know what it's like. I just refuse to let the fear take hold but make no mistake I recognize it hovering at the edges.

Work has also kept me extremely busy, every day has been full-tilt with a high amount of workload and most of it highly cognitively taxing. Not to mention that I am helping out with night chores at the barn more than normal. I usually only do Friday nights but it's been hard to find people and there are other changes happening so I've been stepping in to help. It's too much, though. I'm sure there aren't many people who have the kind of career I do who also work part-time at night, lol. It's not a hard job and doesn't take that long but it gets me home way too late, especially since I live 30 minutes from the barn. Fingers crossed we find someone soon.

I'm still cooking some good food! I even take pictures of it with the intention of blogging...
Then a bunch of time goes by and I look at the photo and think "that looks good, too bad I don't remember exactly what it was!"  I think these were fish cakes. Or lentil patties. Pretty sure that's a lime-garlic aoli with a drizzle of basil dressing. Positive those are pea shoots on top. Recipe blogging fail, yes?

Hopefully I can get back into the rhythm of it soon. (How many times have I said that now?)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Erynn Ballard Clinic - What Not to do!

I am riding in a clinic with Erynn Ballard today and tomorrow. Today's ride was this morning. I was a little disorganized in terms of "stuff" but otherwise ready and excited. Things started off really well. After a little flat schooling at the canter where we worked on the horse carrying themselves, we started working some fences.

Armani was great for the first bit. After our first fence, Erynn said if we could do 8 of those we'd be winners. We know this :-)  I didn't post about it but we were champions at our last show in both the hack division and the green hunters.

She had everyone halting after each fence, so we'd do a single, halt. Then single, first vertical of a diagonal line, then halt in the line. Then do the invitational, diagonal line, and halt after. Halting in the line was new and weird for us since he knows his job is to go forward and jump stuff. But we did it ok.

Then, the next time through, we were supposed to ride the whole line and halt after the oxer. Armani started thinking about that halt early and I wasn't really there with enough leg since he never breaks gait and, well, here is the result...

I recommend full screen for full horrific detail.

We are both ok at this point. I am hoping we will both be ok in the morning too.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Equine Service Providers

Since I have had Armani, I had the same farrier do his trims and basically had the same routine. I would schedule the appointments and show up early and my friend (who works at the barn) and me would work together to bring all the horses in and out for their trims and re-sets. It worked well for both of us, plus this was helpful becauae if I ever couldn’t be there she wouldn’t mind handling Mani for me since I always help her out with client horses (which is part of her job).

That is until she decided to switch farriers before our last trim. She had asked this other guy what she thought of one of her horses’ feet (a TB with stereotypical bad TB feet) and he basically said they needed to fix them right away. I’m not going to get into the details of that decision. For me it came down to logistics – it was easier if we both used the same farrier. This “new” guy was very experienced and did a lot of horses at our barn, so it didn’t seem like a big risk.

Even still, I agonized over the decision. If there was one word I would use to describe how I like all things horse-related it would be consistency. Consistency in training, conditioning, and care. I made the switch anyway. 

At first I thought his feet looked great. They looked a lot smaller than before but he still had a wonkin’ big hoof. They also did the nicest bevel on the edges. It looked fancy!  But (and you knew this was coming), for the last 4 weeks, Armani has been ouchy on gravel for the first time since I’ve owned him. So is my friend’s barefoot horse (not the TB) and a number of other horses at the barn. So, it was back to agonizing about what to do. 

Granted, I’m sure if I stuck it out I could talk to this guy and get Mani back where he was. At the end of the day, I never had a problem with the work before the switch, so that should tell me what the best thing to do is.

Therein lies the rub. Of course I knew there was a chance he could refuse to take me back as a client but I didn’t really think that would happen since I only had one trim done by someone else, I told him it was only logistics, and he said no hard feelings. Haha, right. 

He is, quite understandably, reluctant to take back a client that might just keep switching. He doesn’t know me all that well yet, so he can’t know that I’m not like that unless I had big issues with the work in which case I wouldn’t use that farrier again period. In the end, he agreed to be my farrier again.

This whole situation got me thinking about how funny the horse world is. Imagine if you went to a different grocery store one day and the next time you went to your regular place, they shut the door and said they don’t want your business? Ok, I realize this isn’t the same thing but the principle isn’t that different. What about your hair stylist? Or massage therapist? It just seems odd that someone who relies on clients would deny a client simply because they went somewhere else once.   

I could understand if we were bad clients such that anyone would be right to deny their business. In the horse world, it seems the service providers (trainers, farriers, etc) are the ones who call the shots, not the ones who are paying the bills. The idea of customer service is a bit backwards; at least that’s how it seems to me sometimes. A major factor in our economy is competition. I tried out the competition, liked my previous provider better, and went back. Isn’t that a sign of success? In fact, isn’t that better than if I just ignorantly chose one person and stuck with it only because I didn’t know any better?

Interesting questions, to me anyway. Have you had experience with this kind of thing (horse-world or otherwise)?  

Looking forward to having my rock-cruncher back.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Massive Catch-Up Post.

Many interesting things have been going on that I would have loved to post about on their own. At this point, I’m hoping a brief-ish update on some of them will get me up to date and ready to talk in real time. Hah!
  •  Third show was great. I think it was a better representation of how an average show will go than either of my previous two. I was relaxed and on my game. We pinned 3rd, 5th, 2nd in the over-fences and 1st in the under-saddle. That 5th was due to taking out strides on two of the lines and knocking a rail down. Over a measly 2’3” jump.  Ahem, oops? Obviously I forgot to ride that class and let him go around in a giant flat stride. Honestly, it’s so smooth I’m still learning to tell when he’s lengthened too much. That class taught me more than the other ones put together though!
  • My vet thinks Armani has “stress induced narcolepsy.”  I had a couple weird experiences where he went down on his knees, rather slowly, then got back up like nothing happened. Then I got a text one morning that he did it again in the early morning being led to turnout. This was all within a week of the Canada Day fireworks, which really stressed Mani out. He regressed for a few days in terms of his leading and other odd behaviours we had worked through. It’s not a narcolepsy that you have to worry about them falling asleep under saddle. Basically, the stress combined with sleep deprivation induces a type of narcolepsy whereby when they are relaxed the horse falls asleep for a second, causing a knee buckling and then they get up like nothing happened. Next year, I will try ear puffs and possibly a bit of Ace since it’s not just the noise, they see and feel the fireworks too. He could also grow out of it as he gains experience and his world gets less scary. Armani isn’t spooky in the usual sense but he is sensitive and worries about things.
  •  My husband is amazing. In many ways, for sure, but I’m just so amazed at the support he’s given me as I get my first few shows under my belt. I soured him on the whole horse thing for a bit through the Willie ordeal but he’s really been there for me and Armani, even though he’d probably rather be climbing (or running, or swimming). He knows I’ve been working towards this for years with two horses before I got Armani, plus once he’s away in the field again next year it’s not going to be easy to compete.
  • My coach is amazing. Last fall/early winter, we had some scheduling consistency issues as I got used to my new horse and she got used to getting back into teaching with a young baby and all that goes with trying to establish a career while wanting to be there for her baby. We’ve hit our stride and are mutually flexible when needed but have the consistency I need.
  • While I love my boarding barn, I’m getting tired of being alone most of the time. There aren’t really other people my age around and only one other hunter rider who is 17 and never out at the same time. When she is, she doesn’t say much. Actually, there is one other competitive h/j rider but she doesn’t ride with anyone, ever. She has her posse helping get ready and coaching and isn’t much for mingling. I’m kind of longing for some camaraderie. At the same time, I don’t necessarily want to be at a barn with a more diva atmosphere than mine (and that’s probably most of them).
  • Alex and I spent a few hours Saturday afternoon at a BBQ at my coach’s stable. It was one long sales pitch from the beginning (not so much from my coach, although she’d love it if I came). It was expected and well-meaning so it wasn’t too off-putting.  I didn’t expect to be as swayed as I was. Time for a pro/con list, I think. For now, the decision will go nowhere because the price of indoor board there is madness and I’m getting a great deal right now in exchange for doing night chores on Fridays and sometimes as backup. The deal far outweighs the work I do. Plus I don’t really like change and I really love it where I am, except for a few things.
Now, on to the garden!
  Sphinx moth on the house.

This picture was taken in darkness, it only looks like daylight because of the flash.
I thought the bolt was a frog. Oops.

It was so hot today, there was really only one option after work.

Overview of part of the veg garden. The jungle begins!

Plum tree (second year, no plums thanks to drought last 
year and cold spring). Fruitless, but healthy.

Grapes!(Lucy Coolman).

Zebra tomatoes. Not sure if they are green zebra or red/orange zebra.
I'm sure we'll figure it out as they ripen!

Cucumbers! Looks like a good year for cukes
so far. Which means lots of pickles. A good thing
since we have a growing distribution list!

First pepper is ripening. This is a Crimson Red - supposed to be slightly-to-med hot but tends to cross-breed with our other peppers so can be anything from no heat at all to quite firey. No matter, it goes on salads and salsas alike!

Hardy Kiwi. So excited to see what these will be like. 
No idea when they are supposed to be ready.  :-)

Five-fingers Eggplant. 
Lovely, have been eating them for a couple weeks.

Raspberries! We've harvested quite a number already. Best eaten immediately.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Lessons from the Show Ring.

I generally have the philosophy that the show ring is not for schooling. Of course, with a young horse and a green-to-showing rider, a whole lot of learning will take place. But I feel that once you are in the ring, you are there to perform and therefore you ride to that aim. A good theory, when things are going reasonably well.

What happens, though, when you are well within you and your horse's training and things fall apart? I learned this lesson last weekend when my second show with Armani went quite a bit differently from our first.

The day started off on the wrong foot. I had only managed 4 hours of sleep, thanks to braiding late and being a little unsettled the night before. Then we were off to a late start (not because of us, Mani marched on the trailer right away). We loaded at least 15min later than planned. Despite this, we arrived on-scene in good time, if a little tight.

I didn't really like the venue from the moment we arrived. This wasn't necessarily a fair assessment given my lack of experience but it was much less professional looking than other shows I've attended. For whatever reason(s), the vibe wasn't there...or rather was there in the form of a massive horse-eating generator.

Coach V got on first to warm him up. She felt that he wasn't really there for her, even toward the end of the warm-up and prepared me for the fact I would have to really be assertive with him. I wasn't surprised. I got on and got a feel for him. I have certainly worked through worse ADD with him, so I was feeling reasonably comfortable.

Then came our turn to do our warm-up in the ring. V took him in and worked a few patterns. The ring was small and an odd dimesion (very square) for my non-educated brain. I was thinking hard to orient myself. Then I got on and she gave me a course to ride. Invitational, diagonal, outside, diagonal, outside. Typical hunter stuff. I rode to the invitational and then promptly forgot where I was going, so I headed to the outside line. This line was set to be ridden the other way, so I pointed him to an oxer backwards!

Normally, I would have had enough space to realize the error and gently circle him away but as I came around the (very tight) corner, I only had a couple strides to the fence. I realized my error and Mani felt it right away as a strong half-halt. But we were right in front of the fence and he's a good boy, thinking his job is to go over, so although he backed-off big time, he ultimately tried to go over.

It was a great effort, but with no forward he crashed his back-end through the fence. My coach has never been so mad at me and she thoroughly told me so. She is a very positive coach but I am learning she will give it to you when she knows that you know better and have f'd things up for your horse. I am actually good with this; I care more about Mani's education than my own ego and she isn't disrespectful or over the top.  Nothing she could say would make me more angry at or disappointed in myself than I already was.

I worked him over the pattern, properly, and he was fine. I had to really be there to the fence he crashed but we did the course without issue. My coach was noticeably relieved and softened, "Ok, you recovered that a lot better than I thought you would, so just take that to the ring."

We had to wait for the pre-novice division before our turn. My first class in the ring started with invitational and right to the line I crashed. The jump I crashed was second in the line (being the oxer I crashed backwards). Armani refused the first jump in the line - his first refusal ever - and I just kept going, circled him around and he refused again. So we were dismissed. Loudly. It might have happened anyway, but I feel that the tight corners didn't give me and him enough time to "discuss" that he was going to the scary fence.

I left the ring and was debrifing with V and I asked her if she would take him in the second class. She hesitated - she is pretty adamant her students learn to ride their horses through stuff that comes up. We met eyes and she agreed. I said that it is more important right here and now that Armani get a good, confident experience through this. I had obviously messed up and didn't want my owner guilt to ruin his experience.

The course, of course, was different but when they went to the problem line, V got him over the first part but he refused the second (the jump he crashed). Then he refused a second time and they were eliminated. While I never thought I'd see that happen, it was validating because if V couldn't get him through it, I had no hope.  The difference is that V's round schooled Mani back to good and they pinned 1st in the next class!

I was back on for the under saddle class of the division. I couldn't have asked for a better ride, Armani wasn't always comfortable with the surroundings but he was very obedient when I asked him to relax and not pay attention to the things that were bothering him.

The class was almost over - we were doing our last round of canter - when as we headed towards the spectator end (scary generator end) Armani broke to the trot. It was barely a break before we were back in canter but the canter was on the wrong lead. I actually think if I hadn't gotten his canter back so quickly we might have had the correct lead. Either way, the judge was looking right at us. We got 4th. Alex says we had no chance to make a mistake because the judge watched us the whole time. I guess after 2 eliminations and a 1st the judge is trying to figure out what's going on?

That result was a little disappointing because the ride was so superb up til then. But that's horses and especially baby horses. I was very happy with how he/we got our stuff back together.

It was also a big wake-up call that I can't compete on no sleep. Alex has made me hire someone to braid for the next show, so that will help I hope.

Oh, and no pictures from the day. There was a photographer but I can't seem to find out who she was.

Instead, I will leave one from the first show. I like this a lot. We aren't perfect but really he just looks like the green baby that he is. I like that my body is where it should be, I'm supportive yet out of his way. I love that I'm smiling.

I was watching the video from my first show and I said to Alex, "Do you think I will be able to pull that off again?"  He replied simply, "It's up to you."  I loved that response, he's exactly right. And it starts with taking better care of myself the night before.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

First Show: What Worked; What Didn't.

My second show was supposed to be ysterday but it had been a fairly steady rain/drizzle since early yesterday and Armani is barefoot so I don't want to risk a slip and an injury. He works quite happily in the rain though, so that will be a big advantage in the future when and if I breakdown and get shoes on him.

Overall, the logistics of show day went rather well.  I had a lesson in the morning and then went back to braid just before turn-in time. It was freezing cold, so I didn't bathe. Fortunately, Armani is pretty clean and shiny anyway. I managed to get the prep done and everything packed in pretty good time. I think I was in bed by about 11pm.

Here, I am just going to say that from the time I got up at 4am until we arrived home, the help of my husband was absolutely indepensable. I'm not just saying that to suck-up, either. He walked Hazel and prepared a perfect protein-rich yet light breakfast when I myself would have had a hard time doing that since food was the last thing on my mind. He also did numerous other things to make sure I had everything I needed. At the show grounds, it was even more important to have help.

He held Armani while I registered, ran to and from the car to grab things I forgot, wiped green foamy slobber from Mani's mouth several times, and used his own bare fingernails to scratch the sand from the bottom of my boots when I remounted for the u/s portion. (yes, I will have a hoof pick on hand next time so he doesn't have to do this! One of those things you don't think about when you haven't done it before!).

Now, to sum up.

What Worked.
Well, pretty much everything worked out just fine and there was nothing that flat out didn't work. It came down to refining what I had with me.

What I had and didn't need.
There were a few things I didn't end up using but I think I will probably continue bringing, just in case. There wasn't anything that I recall being definitely a waste of space. Here are the details on the "excess."

- Cloths. I used one big microfibre cloth for Armani's slobber and giving my boots a wipe before entering the ring. Since it was a large cloth I was able to use different parts for the 2 tasks.
- Food. Yes, that's right, of all people on earth it is surprising that I didn't eat much until back at my barn around 12. This will obviously depend on what divisions/classes I am entered in and the time between them. I did nibble about 1/2 a Lara bar in between warm-up and the start of my division, which was exactly right for making sure I didn't crash (a big issue for me) while still being light in the tummy and easy to force down.
- Water. It was freezing cold, so I didn't drink very much but will certainly continue to bring the same amount of water/gatorade, if not more. Total fluids brought = about 5 litres. The beauty of extra water is that you can use some to wash things in case you need to, or dampen a cloth to wipe your boots etc.
- Braiding stuff.  Thankfully, I didn't need to re-do any braids but just because I didn't need it doesn't mean I won't bring it to every show, just in case!

What I needed and didn't have.
 Again, nothing devastating here but a few things of note.
- Cooler/dress sheet. In theory, the day was supposed to be around 18C(64F). The reality was that it was closer to 10C(50F), so we were really quite cold. I made a mistake by not bringing a proper cooler to keep him warm-ish after warm-up. I did thankfully have a wool blanket that I use for him once it's in the 0C(32F) range, but it is small and really only covers his back. I typically take the saddle off then put this cooler on, so with a saddle on it looked a bit silly but at least it was something (this was another example of something I had Alex run to the car for).  I'm not sure what I need for these types of shows - my normal cooler is too heavy/warm, so I was thinking a dress sheet of some kind might work.
- Warmer clothes! Again, since it was unseasonably cold it wasn't nice to be so cold. As a rider, I wasn't too badly off since I was kept warm with my bow-flex Armani.
- Warm beverages! I wished I had a thermos with some hot hebal tea or something to sip.

I also didn't have a couple things I forgot to bring but didn't need. Such as my lunge line. I didn't miss it, but will still try to remember to bring it to future shows, just in case. They are useful for more than lunging, so I think it's a good idea to have.

I feel like now that the first one is over, the rest will only get easier. I do expect things to change quite a bit once I'm showing in the heat. Ugh!

I've got the bug, though, and I'm rather annoyed at having to scratch yesterday. I might try to do the show next weekend although it wasn't on our plan, so we'll see.