Saturday, March 27, 2010

My P-A-L-N

Things are slowly falling back into place.  I was able to get caught up on several things over the past week, so I'm not feeling as guilty about putting those things off in favor of schooling my horse, which is by far more important than buying groceries (I've been wanting to drop a few pounds anyway) or getting one's hair cut (its way too long!) or getting a repairman out to fix my dryer (that's what air was invented for!).  I've been able to make it out to the barn all week and although I wasn't feeling 100% still, we muddled through and Bastian made it totally worth it.

Tuesday was I think the best ride of the week, by the end he was light and pushing from his hind end, we were doing some awesome transistions.  Wednesday we jumped a cross-rail a little, and Thursday I had my lesson.
I've felt off balance and while balance is important in all aspects of riding, it is something that I have to be especially aware of with Bastian.  So the lesson started out on the lunge and we got me sitting up correctly and not throwing my body away at the canter.  I have a tendency to just kind of kick and close my eyes while repeating silently to myself "please canter, please canter, please go, please?? PLEASE!" 

As soon as I straightened up my back however and actually sat where and how I was supposed to, I put my leg on for canter and he was like "Yes Ma'am."  Which totally translated into my ride this morning.  Our canter departs were so much improved.  I just had to focus on keeping my body where it belongs. 

Our lesson on Thursday ended beautifully with some trot and canter work off the lunge, I really needed that lesson to get myself back on the right path. 

Anyway, I'm feeling pretty good about our upcoming show season.  My goals are to:
  • Have fun
  • Win a year end award through one of the organizations I am a member of
  • Qualify for Dressage Regionals at Training and First Level in the Adult Amateure Division
  • **Possibly attempt a BN event in the fall**  (and this one is a huge IF)
I know, having fun is a total cliche, but I have not had a fun show season in many a year.  So far so good on that goal, I enjoy going to shows with the people at the barn, they are a great, supportive bunch.  I look forward to more fun times when it is actually a decent temperature at a show instead of 30 degrees....

Goal number two makes me sound like a spoiled little kid, I know.  I want the pretty ribbon!  I have watched others earn year end awards all my life and I've always wanted one.  It shows that I was consistently good all season long.  I've honestly never had a horse that I could do that with before Bastian.  He is the first horse I have owned that will actually be competitive and do well in the areas I am aiming him at.  And I don't mind if I earn a Reserve Champ in a division, its a still a year end award.  So hopefully we'll totally rock the 2' hunter division somewhere! LOL.

Number three is part long-time goal for me (as I decided to really pursue dressage two years ago) and part bandwagon.  All the cool people I know have gone on to qualify and show at Regionals in dressage.  I wanna play too.  I think that we have a good chance of qualifying at Training and an okay chance at First (I am gonna have to ride my tookus off to do it).  I don't think we have a snowballs chance in Hade's of winning the championship classes.  I'm seriously doubting even being in the top 5.  Top 10, closer to ten in Training? Maybe.  First- ROTFL, I'll be an "also ran." It would be nice to not be in the bottom five..... LOL.  But it is a total social event and while I love competing and showing, I get a total kick out of watching my friends compete and being there to wipe their boots, braid their horses, clean stalls and applaud when they win.  So maybe we won't be competitive at Regionals, but this goal really goes back to goal one: Have fun.

Number four is a HUGE maybe.  I mean huge.  This is if our jumping is steady and wonderful all summer.  I feel comfortable moving up to 2' 6" and someone else has successfully taken him BN at a recognized show.  I might not get to this one until late spring of next year, which is fine by me.  I have no need to rush anything.  I want to take my time and do it right.  But I don't see why someone who isn't as wimpy as me couldn't take him BN.  He is a goer when fences are involved, as long as you keep your leg (it doesn't even necessarily need to be "on"), he'll jump.  I'll definitely be doing some starter events and mini-trials at the 2' level. 

I'm really just completely jazzed about this year.  I have a great horse, a decent income and my summer off to focus on my riding. WOOT!

I am sending in my entry to ride in a Hunter/Jumper clinc on April 17th with Cindy Foster.  The clinic is being held at my barn, so I feel like it would be a bit of a waste to not ride since I don't have to trailer there. 

After that May is shaping up to have our first two "official" shows of the season.  May 8th at Grand Haven (schooling dressage) and May 16th at Erie Hunt and Saddle Club (hunter/open show).

Bastian is doing his part to get ready too.  Today he let me finish pulling his mane.  I love the way it stands up, I think it makes him look European.  Not everyone seems to agree with me though..... lol  

Look at all that fuzzy hair!  Only a month to get him shedded out. :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Privilege

Yesterday I was able to clambor aboard Bastian and ride for about 30 minutes.  My stomach protested the entire time, but I managed to keep everything where it should be. :)  Bastian was a good boy, we had some lovely canter and popped over a tiny cross rail a few times.  He seemed to be in a very good mood, which in turn put me into a good mood. 

It never seems to fail in that regard, when I'm not feeling 100% on the up and up, a visit to the barn to see my horse whether I end up riding or not instantly cures me.  Yes, I assign human traits and qualities to my horse, don't 99.9% of us?  This  however does not mean I think my horse is smart.  Practical?  Yes.  A Problem Solver? Yes.  Lazy? Yes.  Not that it keeps me from referring to him as smart, it just a natural thing to spout off all his wonderful traits when I talk about him.  Yesterday when I got to the barn he was outside.  His pasture mate was in a lesson and he had missed out on finishing his morning hay before getting to go outside and play (which I am told he did rather robustly).  When he saw me coming to get him, he whickered.

Bastian isn't that vocal of a guy, so my heart swelled.  He whickered at me. That is the story I am letting myself believe, rather than he was wondering where his pasture mate was (they seem like good friends) and the fact that he was pulled away from what was probably the most delicious hay ever (Bastian is a vaccuum when hay is invovled).  Nope, he whickered specifically at me because he was so happy to see me.  He loves me.  

So with that, I would like to share this wonderful story.  I found it posted on the internet a few years ago.  There is no author named, so if this is you, speak up, I'll give you credit.  I'm not a big fan of these types of things usually, but this version made sense.  Enjoy. :)

To have a horse in your life is a gift. In the matter of a few short years, a horse can teach a young girl courage, if she chooses to grab mane and hang on for dear life. Even the smallest of ponies is mightier than the tallest of girls. To conquer the fear of falling off, having one's toes crushed, or being publicly humiliated at a horse show is an admirable feat for any child. For that, we can be grateful.
Horses teach us responsibility. Unlike a bicycle or a computer, a horse needs regular care and most of it requires that you get dirty and smelly and up off the couch. Choosing to leave your cozy kitchen to break the crust of ice off the water buckets is to choose responsibility. When our horses dip their noses and drink heartily; we know we've made the right choice.
Learning to care for a horse is both an art and a science. Some are easy keepers, requiring little more than regular turn-out, a flake of hay, and a trough of clean water. Others will test you - you'll struggle to keep them from being too fat or too thin. You'll have their feet shod regularly only to find shoes gone missing. Some are so accident-prone you'll swear they're intentionally finding new ways to injure themselves.
If you weren't raised with horses, you can't know that they have unique personalities. You'd expect this from dogs, but horses? Indeed, there are clever horses, grumpy horses, and even horses with a sense of humor. Those prone to humor will test you by finding new ways to escape from the barn when you least expect it.
Horses can be timid or brave, lazy or athletic, obstinate or willing. You will hit it off with some horses and others will elude you altogether. There are as many "types" of horses as there are people- which makes the whole partnership thing all the more interesting.
If you've never ridden a horse, you probably assume it's a simple thing you can learn in a weekend. You can, in fact, learn the basics on a Sunday, but to truly ride well takes a lifetime. Working with a living being is far more complex than turning a key in the ignition and putting the car or tractor in "drive."
In addition to listening to your instructor, your horse will have a few things to say to you as well. On a good day, he'll be happy to go along with the program and tolerate your mistakes; on a bad day, you'll swear he's trying to kill you. Perhaps he's naughty or perhaps he' fed up with how slowly you're learning his language. Regardless, the horse will have an opinion. He may choose to challenge you (which can ultimately make you a better rider) or he may carefully carry you over fences - if it suits him. It all depends on the partnership - and partnership is what it's all about.
If you face your fears, swallow your pride, and are willing to work at it, you'll learn lessons in courage, commitment, and compassion in addition to basic survival skills. You'll discover just how hard you're willing to work toward a goal, how little you know, and how much you have to learn.
And, while some people think the horse "does all the work", you'll be challenged physically as well as mentally. Your horse may humble you completely. Or, you may find that sitting on his back is the closest you'll get to heaven.

You can choose to intimidate your horse, but do you really want to? The results may come more quickly, but will your work ever be as graceful as that gained through trust? The best partners choose to listen, as well as to tell. When it works, we experience a sweet sense of accomplishment brought about by smarts, hard work, and mutual understanding between horse and rider. These are the days when you know with absolute certainty that your horse is enjoying his work.
If we make it to adulthood with horses still in our lives, most of us have to squeeze riding into our over saturated schedules; balancing our need for things equine with those of our households and employers. There is never enough time to ride, or to ride as well as we'd like. Hours in the barn are stolen pleasures.
If it is in your blood to love horses, you share your life with them. Our horses know our secrets; we braid our tears into their manes and whisper our hopes into their ears. A barn is a sanctuary in an unsettled world, a sheltered place where life's true priorities are clear: a warm place to sleep, someone who loves us, and the luxury of regular meals. Some of us need these reminders.
When you step back, it's not just about horses - it's about love, life, and learning. On any given day, a friend is celebrating the birth of a foal, a blue ribbon, or recovery from an illness. That same day, there is also loss: a broken limb, a case of colic, a decision to sustain a life or end it gently. As horse people, we share the accelerated life cycle of horses: the hurried rush of life, love, loss, and death that caring for these animals brings us. When our partners pass, it is more than a moment of sorrow.
We mark our loss with words of gratitude for the ways our lives have been blessed. Our memories are of joy, awe, and wonder. Absolute union. We honor our horses for their brave hearts, courage, and willingness to give.
To those outside our circle, it must seem strange. To see us in our muddy boots, who would guess such poetry lives in our hearts? We celebrate our companions with praise worthy of heroes. Indeed, horses have the hearts of warriors and often carry us into and out of fields of battle.
Listen to stories of that once-in-a-lifetime horse; of journeys made and challenges met. The best of horses rise to the challenges we set before them, asking little in return.

Those who know them understand how fully a horse can hold a human heart. Together, we share the pain of sudden loss and the lingering taste of long-term illness. We shoulder the burden of deciding when or whether to end the life of a true companion.

Author Unknown

Friday, March 19, 2010

March 19th 2010 Hello Sunshine!

The sun is out and is beautiful!  Now, if I weren't sick I would be enjoying the weather 100%, as it is I think I'm only getting about 65% enjoyment total. 
I'd like to take this entry to tell a bit about my horse, Bastian (fitting as he is the reason I started this blog). 

Bastian is a 6 year old Thoroughbred gelding.  He has a big old blaze and one white ankle on his left hind.  He stands 16.2 HH and I suspect he will have another tiny growth spurt before he finally stops growing.  His half brother had a growth spurt around 7 or 8 and gained about an inch or so, though I would be quite fine if he stopped where he was.  16.2 is quite large enough for me. 

I bought Bastian in 2005 from a lovely breeder in Maryland who breeds for Hunters, Eventers, and Ponies.  So my guy has never raced.  I got him at a discounted price because he a kind of wonky foot, but it is only wonky if you look at in the right light, the stars have aligned and the moon is setting by 6 PM.  Basically, it doesn't affect him one bit and you really do have to look to find it.  I couldn't pass up the deal though.  A good friend found him for me and called to let me know I should take a look at him. 

At the time I was looking for an Event Prospect.  I wanted a baby so I could bring it up and teach it correctly (all my previous horses had pretty much been crazy fixer-uppers, I figured it might be nice to start with a clean slate instead of one with boatloads of issues, more on them later!).  So I drove the six hours to go look at him, an untouched 3 year old in a pasture.  It was his eyes that really drew me in.  So I paid my bill, and he loaded beautifully into my trailer to leave the only home he had ever known.  We trailered 2 hours to Wilson College where I overnighted him before the 5 hour trip home.  When he arrived at their facility, he calmly walked off the trailer, down the aisle and into his overnight accomadations.  He screamed twice, searching for someone familiar.  No one responded, so he gave up and ate his hay.  When I came back the next morning he was covered in shavings from having layed down to sleep.  I took this as another sign he was keeper, a young horse taken from the only home and buddies he has ever known and he was totally relaxed in a new and very busy environment. 

(Bastian ready to come home!)
He loaded right up on the trailer again (wow, right?  He is a CHAMP) and we drove home.  Arriving home, I unloaded him and brought him out to our pasture.  My 30 year old Arabian mare (then 27), Goldie, was waiting to welcome him.  They greeted each other, Bastian trotted around for about 3 minutes and then he settled into graze.  Again, he seemed completely unphased by the change in environment and his new buddy. 

I had the vet out a few days later to look over him (a post purchase vet-check) and make sure there wasn't anything obvious that I had missed.  He loved him, but was concerned only because he thought he was drugged.  LOL, had I not known the breeder and had my friend not been the one who helped me to find him I might have given validity to his concern.  So he passed with a clean bill of health.

From that day in May of 2007 (Kentucky Derby Day, actually), Bastian and I have been through quite a bit.  And I'm not talking about "he always spooks at the garbage cans" or "we just can't get our left lead" kind of a lot.  I am talking about major broken bones (me) and major disease (him).   Alas, the remaining history can wait for later posts, onto the present!

As I mentioned earlier, I am sick. :(  I've been sick since Tuesday, so after a successful for Bastian, but unsuccessful for me ride on Wednesday, I had my trainer/instructor, Kristen, ride him for me both yesterday and today.  Yesterday he was a bit of booger, ignoring half halts and leg.  Today he was a gem, his stride had become more elastic, he was much more responsive to both leg and half halts and he was engaging his hind end a bit more.  There is still a lot of work to be done, but he's a smart cookie and truly does aim to please. 

Hopefully I will feel up to riding tomorrow, the weather here is truly gorgeous and we've been able to work in the outdoor since Wednesday.  I hate that I am missing the nice weather!