Sunday, April 25, 2010

Das Schedule

I haven't been out to see Bastian since Thursday of last week.  I had to go to Erie, PA on Friday for the weekend.  I'm back home momentarily.  Tomorrow I am off to Penn State Main Campus for the 4-H Horse Advisory Committee meeting so I won't be back to the barn until Tuesday.  My trainer is keeping Bastian going, she rode him Saturday and is riding him on Monday, but I miss my boy.  Too many days without my horse means that my mood plummets.  I'm holding steady and I think I'll make it to Tuesday night since tomorrow should be fun and Tuesday I'm showing all of my classes movies in school so its a no-brainer kind of day for me. :)

So, when I'm seperated from my ponies for any length of time, I start to speculate and plan.  Hey, if I can't be actively riding, I should at least be spending double that time thinking about riding, right?

So here is my proposed show schedule for this summer:

  • May 8th Dressage Schooling Show at Grand Haven
    • Training 1 or 2
    • Training 4
    • First 2 or 4
  • May 16th Erie Hunt and Saddle Club Summer Show I
    • 2' hunters
    • Trail
    • Pleasure
    • Equitation
  • June 5th EHSC Combined Test
    • 2' Division
  • June 6th EHSC Summer Show II
    • 2' Hunters
    • Trail
    • Pleasure
    • Equitation
  • June 11th-13th  Recognized Dressage at Grand Haven and WPDA Show
    • Training 4 (Qual)
    • First 4 (Qual)
    • Hoping to get my qualifying scores for regionals
  • June 19th (and possibly 20th) Up and Over Double Points Show
    • 2' Hunters
  • July 4th South Farm Horse Trials
    • 2' Starter Division
  • July 10th-11th  Horse Sports in Erie Hunter Jumper Show
    • 2' Hunters
    • $150 Pleasure Stake (Woot!)
    • Class 77, the Classic if I can find someone who needs a horse to ride for this class (no way am I jumping 2'6" to 2'9")
  • July 18th EHSC Summer Show III
    • 2' Hunters
    • Trail
    • Pleasure
    • Equitation
  • July 31st Judged Trail Ride in Tidioute, PA

That's all for now.  August will include some more Up and Over Hunter Shows and I am going to start looking for a recognized event for Bastian in the fall. 

Its going to be a very busy three months, but I am really looking forward to everything!  I am so very super excited to show Bastian this year!  Woot! Now its off to bed, only a day and a half until I get to see my boy again :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

FOB (Fans of Bastian)

Yesterday was a cold and snowy day, yes we had snow!  But all is forgiven because yesterday was also a Clinic day.  I was able to ride in a Hunter Clinic with Cindy Foster of Novelty Ohio.  She is currently based in Novelty at Foster-Jimenez Show Stables and winters at The Farm Down Under in Wellington, Florida.  I rode Bastian in the 2'-2'3 division and we had a blast. 

Cindy was not exactly what I expected.  I'll be honest, I am very skeptical and stero-typical when it comes to the Hunter world.  Sheesh, I've been avoiding it ever since I stopped showing in 4-H shows with my Arab (aka Goldie the wonder pony) about 12 years ago.  The stylistic politics along with horses that just don't look like they go right totally put me off.  I'm more of the dressage type, I want my horse up and responsive, not long and low about to trainwreck into the ground.  See, I'm stereotyping now, sorry!  But at the same time, to be blunt about it and drastically oversimplify, hunter = long, low, and (often times) heavy on the forehand.  Yes, I realize there are good hunters out there that are not heavy on the forehand, but just like you see low level self taught dressage riders with over flexion at the poll, you see a lot of lower level self taught hunters dying to have that long low movement that will pin only to see them throwing their horse away and they can't understand why they don't get lengthenings in a hack class or cleaner transitions, etc. etc.

Cindy made a point of saying that we would not be doing any long/low stuff on a loose rein during the clinic, she said (and I'm paraphrasing here) a good hunter is worked hard on the flat including Dressage (that dirty word!) work.  Transitions, lateral work, STRAIGHTNESS.  I was impressed.  I've come to realize after 20 years of riding that what we do in the show ring is way different from the work at home, I was one of those self-taught hunter riders when I was a kid, trying to get my Arab to go on the long low hunter rein and be perfect so that was how I schooled, on as loose a rein as I could and trying to not touch her mouth or move my body.  It never happened.  Goldie tolerated me, bless her heart, but at the same time I know she was saying "Really?"  She was the horse I started riding again after my broken back and I finally, after 16 years rode her successfully as a hunter because *ding* the light bulb had gone on about how to ride from my seat and how to keep a firm, but elastic and soft contact.  So needless to say, from the getgo I was ready to listen to what else Cindy had to say, so far she was a winner.

So the first half of the clinic was spent during flatwork, which while I thought was an excellent statement on how to train your hunter (which in itself is a novel idea for a clinic, usually you go away with just an exercise or two, this was a whole concept: flatwork=improved jumping), it was minimally redundant for Bastian and I.  There is no way to say this without sounding snotty, but Bastian and I have the basic flatwork down pat for the most part.  And I don't want to sound snotty, its just that we have worked very hard on our flatwork, I've had my trainer(s) riding him, then instructing me on a regular basis and we practice, practice, practice.  I still make a lot of mistakes, but for the most part Bastian and I can be steady steady steady for a Hunter flat class, transitions from the walk, go on a light contact, extend, collect, etc. etc.  So he breezed through all the flatwork, Cindy only had a few suggestions on my body position that were well warrented, but on Bastian's performance, there were lots of "very goods." :)

I think its all the dressage work.  Dressage makes you precise and aware, you have to ride figures, you have to steer more than just staying on the rail.  I am also a very firm believer that good flatwork/dressage make you a good jumper.  My jumping has stank all my life until I started riding with a Dressage instructor in North East, PA, Liz Sambor.  I would just canter (or gallop) up to a fence and hope I that 1) my horse jumped, 2)I stayed on 3)we landed on the other side.  Scary.  But anyone who saw me jump as a kid can totally attest to that.....I had more guts than brains.  

Above is Goldie and I practicing jumping at home (1994??).  Goldie had a nasty habit of dumping me at fences, no wonder when I jumped the fence before she did. (note the state of the art equipment and the fancy riding arena (aka "driveway")

Once Liz got me controlling my body more and able to ride my half-halts and get the horse listening to me so that I was in control my jumping got much better.   This picture is from a jumping lesson (2007) on one of her school horses, Sable.  Sable is awesome and if you don't ride with your seat it won't work.  Ride with your seat and she will do anything for you.  I love this mare.  But look at the huge difference, now I am balanced, my leg is secure, shoulders are up, eyes are up.  Beautiful.  Dressage did this for me. 

I have absolutely no issues with learning how to jump from my Dressage instructors (and likewise they don't mind teaching me).  When I get ready to ready to start riding Grand Prix Stadium, or make the move up to Intermediate and Advanced Eventing I'll seek out regular jumper/eventing coaching.  But until then my dressage will get me through everything I need to do and I believe it would get more riders confident over fences if they would allow the dressage to sink in.  But that is just my personal opinion, back to the clinic!

The second half of the clinic (It was about 2 1/2 hours, our time ran over) we got to the meat and potatoes, the jumping.  Which I what I was waiting for, I need practice jumping and while I will practice on my own, I don't do anything risky and it usually involves a lot of trotted x-rails.  We started out with trotting an X, I froze up my first time through which is pretty typical.  The next few times were better, then we did a simple course of three fences (all Xs).  He did nicely and even got his leads!  Woot!  Then she set up a full course: single, diagonal, diagonal, 4 stride line.  And she raised all of the jumps except the first fence of the line to verticals.  2'3" verticals.  Not 2', not 18", 2'3", followed by the words: "Katie, you can go first, canter the whole thing....."

I was meanwhile peeing my pants.  2'3" is friggin huge in my book now-a-days.  Not to mention I had to canter into the first jump, I have some major cantering jump issues.  I'm much better now, but it takes all my willpower to not panic sometimes.  What am I going to do though?  I know that both Bastian and I are capable of jumping this height and that I can canter fences on him.  So we go for it.  Our first trip through was sloppy.  We made it over everything, he rubbed two rails (he wasn't expecting the height) and by the end I was super tight on the reins, preventing him from getting his strides.  I had reverted to the old "hold on tight" jumping mode.  He is not going to take off with me.  That's not his M.O.  So I confessed my fear to Cindy, took a breather and then did the single outside to the 4 stride line and the line rode beautifully, I used my body to keep him balanced and rhythmic, he hit the striding perfectly and rounded over the second fence.  It felt great.  We ended on that.  I was estatic with him.  Its hard to not be proud of the bestest Chestnut Thoroughbred this side of the Mason-Dixion Line.  [There are some awesome Chestnut TB's south of the Mason-Dixion line so he can't claim "bestest in the world" ;) ]

Here is a total brag moment: By the end of the clinic, Bastian was starting to form himself a little fan club.  Cindy wanted to take him home with her and I heard through the grapevine that many other people were complimenting him on how nice he was.  I think that that is really cool.  I have never recieved compliments on my horses like that.  Of course my friends would say "oh, that looked good." But that is what friends are for and perhaps on that day one of my crazy reject horses was being good so instead of bucking/rearing/taking off, that tense tight trot did look awesome.  LOL But total strangers is a new concept and I am totally digging it. 

I would definitely ride with Cindy Foster again.  I enjoyed her teaching style and humour and how she held you accountable for your performance, she didn't pussyfoot around things.  I appreciate that in an instructor.  Also, a huge thank you to the Up and Over Hunter/Jumper Association for organizing the clinic and underwriting a portion of the clinic cost.

Bastian is enjoying a well deserved day off today.  I'm spending the day at home with my dog and cat who were starting to wonder if I did indeed still live in the house with them and cleaning and doing laundry.  Tomorrow its back to the dressage grind, our first schooling show at Grand Haven is May 8th, followed by the EHSC Summer Show I on May 16th where we get to test out our hunter prowess.  I can't wait!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Keep it Simple (KISS)

I had an AMAZE-ZA-ZING lesson on Bastian today.  Today was good enough to justify an added syllable in the word.  Let me preface my tale by saying that I woke up at 1:45 this morning sicker than a human should ever have to be.  I wasn't so sure I was going to work, much less ride in my lesson.  I went back to sleep and seemed better by the time I got up at 5 for work and managed to get through the day successfully. 

I was still holding out final judgement until the second I got on for my lesson, and thankfully everything worked out quite swimmingly. 

Today was a 50/50 ride.  My instructor rode Bastian first, then I got on for the last half of the lesson.  He was a gem!  I had mentioned before that he was being an NCP about jumping, just getting very quick and ignoring half halts.  Which is why Kristin rode first, to make sure all his NCP-ness was gone.  Before she started schooling him over some fences however, she totally taught him how to do flying changes!

Seriously.  Flying-friggin-changes.  They weren't perfect, but they were pretty darn good for a horse that has never done them under saddle before.  That right there just made my day, that to me means he has enough of the basics down to start learning some of the cool "tricks."  Woot! 

Then they jumped and he was the hunter angel I know he can be.  He was so perfect that Kristin had me raise the pole on one of the jumps to 2'9".  He knocked it the first time (just barely), and soared over it the second time.  He's A) never jumped that high and B) never got quick, he came in straight and smooth and took it like an old hat.  I was tickled pink.

Then it was my turn, so I climbed on and he felt wonderful.   Forward, light, responsive.  (I love it when Kristin rides before me, my horse is so awesome afterwards! lol)  Everything was great except I was having trouble keeping my left leg underneath of me.  It is the leg that I have limited feeling/muscle control in so its somewhat understandable, but without my leg underneath me, I can't jump safely and effectively. 

We shortened my stirrup up on the left side and voila!  My leg was magically secure.  Simple solutions are wonderful things.

This is also Bastian's third day with his new footware.  After spending six years of his life barefoot, with awesome feet, I broke down and agreed to put hind shoes on him.  I don't necessarily have anything against shoes, I see their value and their necessity in given situations, but I haven't had a horse with shoes in close to four years.  My pony hasn't worn shoes in 18 years.  Bastian's feet are still awesome, but he seems more willing to rock back onto his hocks now and he maintains that feeling longer than he did before.  So while I am sad that my horse is now a shod horse, I think we are both happy about the results so far.  I wasn't able to be there when he got his shoes, but the barn owner said he was very good. :) 

Only one month until our first Hunter Show.  We are going to Erie Hunt and Saddle Club for their Summer Show I.  So in preparation, I have started to practice my tail braiding skills.  I've never been very good at tails.  Manes I can do like nobody's business.  Dressage braids, basic hunter braids, knobby braids or running french, I got it.  Here is today's effort for the tail.  At least I've mastered how to do an outy french braid.  If I can just get this sucker tighter we'll be on to something!

Bastian's hind end is very much so enhanced by the braid, it makes him look super cute!

The last part of the day that made it super?  Finding out that I have points in the Up and Over Hunter Association.  Sweet! 
I'm pretty much in the bottom of every category I am elegible for, but I have points!!!  Here is the link:

LOL :o)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Plastic Flowers of Doom

The weather has continued to be 100% cooperative, we had a brief snow flurry on Friday, but since then it went right back to the upper 60s and has been dry and perfect.  This has been an excellent week for Bastian and I.  There was a lesson on Wednesday where we made some real progress on working towards staying steady and in self carriage.  I'm starting to get my body more un-twisted and am sitting more correctly.  Lots of grooming went on and Bastian is staring to look summer sleek in his neck, his haunches still need some work though!  Saturday, my instructor rode him and schooled over some fences.  He was being a bit of a nincompoop (NCP) about jumping when I attempted to school over a x-rail and then a 2' flower box.

He was actually pretty good over the x-rail, I was having a bit of trouble finding our distances at first, but then we settled into a rhythm and it felt great.  So I head for the flower box (we had totally conquered flowers in January!) and first he ran out, a sneaky, dirty, NCP kind of run-out.  So I regrouped, and I am not ashamed to say that I was now worried, I've had enough bad stuff happen involving horses, but at the same time I was determined not to lose to the fake, plastic flowers), and headed towards it again, smacked him with the crop and he jumped it like it was a three foot oxer and landed bucking.  Great.

Thankfully I kept my seat, growled at him and we went at the fence again. This time he took it almost like a regular horse, but I could still feel the NCP-ness lurking beneath the surface.  I went back to the x-rail and he was fabulous.  I decided that the flowers were tabled until Saturday.  He pulled the same stuff with Kristin, who, thankfully is not a wimp like me.  He was chastised and by the end of the session he was taking the fence beautifully.  Here is a pic of one of the fences right before he settled back into his "I'm a perfect hunter pony" mode.  He was ignoring her half-halts.   I wasn't being very successful with taking pictures.  I was either getting the stride before or the landing.  This was the only one I actually caught over the fence (and he was still being an NCP, but a very cute NCP! ) , he actually knocked the rail down this time around.

I love riding the day after Kristin, Bastian is always such a sweetheart.  So I avoided the flowers, but jumped the x-rail and paid very close attention to my warm up (which I had truthfully been somewhat ignoring on jumping days).  He was AWESOME.  Light, responsive, rhythmic.  So I did the classic hunter school of 15 minutes and then he was done.  I have a jumping lesson on Wednesday where the flowers will be addressed by both Bastian and I together, but I felt it best to wait for supervision for that one :)

Bastian really does live up to his name of Luck Dragon.  He is very, very lucky.  As a three year old, after I had owned him for just a scant four months, all of which were spent by me in the hospital and then on my couch (broken back, great story), the vet called to inform me that she felt it was very likely that Bastian had EPM.  Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis, that wonderful and still oh so mysterious disease spread by nasty little opossums.  He was dragging his left hind foot and when you looked at him from behind, this is what you saw, his left hip had actually dropped down quite a bit. 

This has since improved greatly.  I have had chiropractic and massage work done on him (and he positively adores his massuese, Marnee) and the hip is now back in its place, but the atrophy to the muscles is somewhat permanent.  He is never even when you look at him from behind, but he has managed to compensate quite nicely and he does not look or feel unsound because of his unevenness.  It took nearly two years for him to regain 100% "soundness" (I only use "" because he was never truly unsound, you should have seen him buck and play and run when he was recieving the Marquis treatment!)  But I do feel that the combination of circumstances that led to him never fully going into training until February of 2009 allowed his body to adjust appropriately. 

He also periodically wears a weighted hind boot on the left side to help improve the muscle tone.  The biggest challenge we have had to overcome was straightness.  He naturally wants to compensate with his right side, so I always have to pay extra attention to keeping him straight and when he gets tired, it gets really tough.  Unfortunately, my left side is my weak side (that relates back to the broken back) so its easy for him to pop out that way or ignore what I think are leg and weight cues that he should be listening too. 

But somehow we muddle through.  Now to focus on the week ahead.  Lesson on Wednesday and Friday, Clinic on Saturday.  Until next week, enjoy the weather!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Who's your Daddy?

Wow.  Fabulous weather.  It was almost 80 degrees here today and it is going to stay there until Monday.  That means three more fantastic riding days and a bath day, which Bastian is in need of.  He is very clean and shiny, but 6 months of cold weather and wearing a blanket and riding in a dusty indoor  = major dustiness under that hair.  And to top it all off, it is my Spring Break.  I don't go back to work until Tuesday.  Life is good.

Tomorrow he will be a sparkling, shiny, germ free pony.   For all of about 15 minutes while he dries, then its back to the the dust and dirt.  Such is the bath cycle of a horse.

Bastian came up sore on Sunday while I was riding, he just didn't feel quite right in his left front.  Monday I lunged him and he looked worse. It was a weird worse, he was willing to go forward, but you could see he was uncomfortable and I'm not kidding when I say my horse has the typical Thoroughbred wimpy streak in relation to pain.  He sees another horse get a cut and he gets sympathy soreness.  Tuesday I wasn't able to make it out to the barn, my instructor pulled him out and lunged/trotted him and he looked better.  The whole time we couldn't find any heat or swelling. 

Then we finally got a big answer to the puzzle on Wednesday.  Bastian is a vaccuum in regards to his hay, we have hay holes in the loft of the barn and that is how their hay is fed, it is thrown down into the stalls.  Bastian, I am told, usually catches his mid-air as it comes down.  When the barn owner was feeding, she noticed that he didn't even try to catch it.  So she watched him for a minute and as he went to reach down and eat his hay, he couldn't.  He had to slowly and gradually stretch out his neck to reach his hay. 

His neck was sore.  We are guessing that it was from his yearly shots that he got on Saturday AM.  So Wednesday I went out and loved on him some, groomed him (the hair was flying!), picked his stall, cleaned his water and gave him a gram of bute.  I left some bute for him to eat with breakfast too.

Today he was so much better.  He was still a little stiff, but worked out of it after about 10 minutes or so and we had a FABULOUS riding lesson (I was supposed to ride someone else, but since he was good to go, we went!).  We kept it simple and short just working on getting a good connection at the trot and canter and keeping it through our transitions.  It went quite swimmingly and by the end he felt 100% himself.  He still has a knot on both sides of his neck, the right side being larger.  I massaged and linimented him, which I thinik he rather enjoyed.  I left some more bute for him and I think tomorrow he will be even better.

Aside from my horse being off at the beginning of this week, it has been a good week.  I learned that my horse was born on May 4, 2002.  His breeder lost his papers and I will probably never see them.  (One day I swear I will own a papered horse that is current and IN my name).  Not that big of a deal to me since his registry is the Jockey Club and if your Thoroughbred doesn't race, they aren't really that interested in them.  They don't have breed shows for Thoroughbreds like they do for the majority of the other major breeds.  The USDF, USEA, and USEF don't care if he is blue-blooded-bred horse or a backyard mistake.  So papers are rather moot for me, but something that would be nice nonetheless.

I've just been celebrating his foal-day in the spring, but now I have a date.  *eep* I can't wait to celebrate officially!! :)

Bastian's registered name is, {are you ready for this?  You don't get a much better name than this, its so, so, hmmmm, mundane?}, Prince Aloft.  Yeah.  That's what I said.   His name now is Bastian Balthazar Bux, after the little boy in the book "The Never Ending Story" and his show name is "Luck Dragon" after Falkor, the Luck Dragon in the same book.  Falkor's philosophy was that he could accomplish anything "with luck."  I liked that philosophy so I figured it was good name.

Anyway, back to Bastian's name and family.  His sire is Luftikus, (Meadowlake x Andora).  Luftikus is a handsome chestnut stud standing at Taylor Mountain Farm in West Virginia.  I am impressed with the resemblence Bastian has to him, they have the same chestnut colouring and the same blaze and the same adorable freckle on their nose.     This is Luftikus -->;
The picture is from the Taylor Mountain Farm page about him.   What impresses me the most is that Bastian has that same expression about him and the same head.  Its a very calm, regal, and logical outlook on life.  Don't you think that Luftikus just looks like he's surveying his realm and he knows he's the boss.  A good benevolent boss, not a crazy psychotic boss.

Luftikus had 10 starts, earned $479,630, and was in the money all 10 starts.  He had 5 wins (2 were stakes), 4 seconds and 1 third.  Not too shabby in my opinion. 

Here is the summary of his career direct from the Taylor Farm Website:
  • Won the Lonestar Park Handicap G3 300,000
    • Equaled the track record 1 1/16, 1.40.4
  • Won the Tokoyo City Handicap at Santa Anita 75,000
  • 2nd in the Strubs Stakes G2 500,000 to General Challenge 1 1/8
  • 3rd in the Texas Mile G3 300,000 beaten by only 1 3/4 lengths to Sir Bear
I think it is pretty cool that he equaled a track record.  Bastian definitely does not have a gas pedal like that, or if he does, I haven't found it.  Bastian usually takes the slow route, perhaps one day, when we are eventing I'll uncover his gas pedal.  For now, slow is good.  Which reminds me of my friend's thoroughbred, he was a Buckpasser grandson I think (maybe son?  not sure and not able to verify at the time), but he was S-L-O-W.  Fabulous hunter and dressage horse, very expressive and moved beautifully, but he had no gas pedal, none.  I don't think he even hand galloped.  But I digress, the point is that I find it interesting when a horse with a gas pedal sires a horse that seems to lack one.  From what I read, other Luftikus babies that have gone on to race have done well.  I'm going to start paying more attention when I go to Presque Isle downs to watch the ponies run and if any have Luftikus in their bloodlines, I'm betting on them.  You have to support the family, right?

So that is how Bastian got the "Aloft" portion of his name.  Prince may just seem like a good title to put in front of a name, and that is an arguable point, but he really got the prince from his mom.  Bastian's dam was named, are you ready for this one?  Princess Eff.  Yup and I thought Quarter Horse names were weird.  Jockey club names are not that far behind....

Princess Eff is a 1988 Bay Thoroughbred mare, I don't have acess to her race records because I'm not a member of the Jockey Club or any of those other racing organizations that harbor those things.  So that is were the Prince came from in his name however. 

So that is how my horse came to be and to further the fact that he was a bargain basement deal, Luftikus's stud fee is $2500.  I paid 1/2 of that for Bastian as a three year old.  I think I did okay. 

This picture above is from Bastian's first ever horse show, but I think it shows that same look that Luftikus has.

One more of Luftikus, a pose that Bastian assumes only when outside playing sometimes, he is much too much of the gentleman to do something like that undersaddle.