Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wuffles the Wonder Pony

Time for another video from the archives! Woot!!

This is the only video I have of my not so illustrious show career with the one and only Goldie. Goldie was my first horse, she was the 2nd horse that we (being my parents and I) looked at. I was 12 at the time and thought I knew what I was doing, I mean I had read a lot of books, so I must have known what was I was doing, right? And my poor parents, they had no clue what they were getting themselves into.

Here is what they were thinking: "We let the girl buy a horse, by the end of the summer, if not sooner, she'll be sick of taking care of it and lose interest and we can sell the thing and move on with our lives."

Sorry mom, sorry dad, it didn't quite work out that way! Its been 18 years now since I entered into horse ownership and I haven't looked back since....lol

So, Goldie was the second horse I looked at, the first was I think a QH who had done his time in the ring and was very beginner friendly. They were asking $1000 so he was much to far out of my price range. I had been given permission to use my college savings fund to buy my horse, so I had $600 to work with. I had never ridden before except for pony rides and lessons were not going to be part of the financial equation. So you can already tell that we were setting ourselves up for success....or not.

Goldie is an purebred arabian mare, chestnut with a lovely flaxen mane and tail, a blaze, three socks, an inside heel on her left hind and a coon tail. She stands 14.1 3/4 inches tall. She had belonged to a local vet along with seven other Arabians and they had all been rescued from a situation where they had been neglected and starved and abused. The way the story goes, he was so angry that is horses were confiscated that he took all of their registration papers and burned them. I've done as much research as I am able to do and have pinpointed a few horses that could be mine, but the Arabian association is a bit snooty and was not very helpful. They had me in tears once after I had called (remember that the internet really didn't exist in 1992 when I bought her and we certainly were not able to afford it even if we could have gotten it at our house). So I've never known her breeding or "who" she was.

I think that she was either a dressage horse or a hunter, she never moved like a saddle seat horse and her gaits were never slow enough for western. But she knew everything, moved off your leg, flying changes, etc. etc. Now, had I know what I was doing, we would have been unstoppable, but I was a kid with no guidance, lots of guts, and no clue what it really meant to get a horse soft and round and moving forward. She tolerated me, but we had our issues and problems.

Some of our highlights:
Highest jump ever cleared: 4'
Lowest Dressage Score: 46.3% Training 1 (I thought dressage was like a hunter equitation pattern class....)
Highest Dressage Score: 64% First 4 (when we were 25)
Best Horse Show Placings: 1st at the Chataqua County Trail Riders Judged Trail Ride and the first horse in their history to score a 100% perfect score (when we were 28), 4-H District IX Horse Show 1996 5th place Hunter Hack Pony (our first year showing english!), 4-H District IX Horse Show 1997 5th place English Grooming and Showmanship, 1998 District IX Horse Show, 8th place Pony Trail, and 2008 EHSC Open Hunter Pleasure Horse, 6th place out of a class of 20, this one is awesome because we were competing against HORSES and she is a PONY. They wouldn't let me show her in the Pony classes because I was an adult. (Yes I get it, I would be competing aginst younger kids, but you can't compare a ponies gaits to a horses and expect a judge to be fair)

In our lifetime together, we have competed in Western Pleasure/Eq, Hunters on the flat, Hunters over Fences, Evented Baby Novice, Dressage through first level, and Games Classes. Goldie loved jumping and she LOVED games. She knew her business in the game ring and if you don't believe me (which I don't know why you wouldn't) check out the video on my facebook page, I can't put it on youtube because it has a fun song with it and I don't want my audio to be removed, of her just a month ago. First off, she is 30 years old, looks pretty damn good huh? Second, just watch her, she knows the games and she knows what to do, you can just see her trying to tell the kid "just hang on, I've got this!"

She is currently stabled with my previous instructor and is still teaching little kids how to ride.

This is the only video I have of her and me, it is from a schooling hunter show at Wilson College, I believe in 2000 (maybe 2001?)Anyway, I was very happy to be riding her, it was a looooooooong horse show, the judge was spending about 30 minutes on each flat class, which was ridiculous. Which worked in my favour because I was perhaps the only one that did not break gait during the class, we cantered the gazillion laps without stopping, which was a major issue for everybody else. I mean we did two full laps at sitting trot, what judge at a local tiny show does that?

Anyway, again, be wowwed by my horrible equitation and yes it was an equitation class and I won with that awesome performance. Note the classic attire. I was going through a bit of a "hunter phase" where I wore jeans and full chaps and if I was at Wilson paddock boots and a helmet, but if I was at the barn where I was boarding my other horse, it was a ball cap with my ponytail through it and sneakers. Yup, I was cool. Also, I am pretty sure I was working at the barn that day so I was in barn work clothes too so that when I was done with my class I could go back to slaving away for Wilson College and yes, it was basically slave labor.

I was overweight throughout my college career so I guess I don't really need to keep harping on that, but it just makes me look that much more ridiculous on her, she is tiny, I'm huge!

My shoulders are hunched, my leg isn't back enough, my elbows are out and I needed more fluency and control in my post just to name a few obvious things. Jumping I was actually doing pretty good until that fourth fence, I got ahead and she said "have fun, you wanna jump ahead, go for it, without me." I remember I hurt my wrist pretty badly, but i got back on and made it over the fence. She was just so compact and short through her neck, that if you even a titch ahead of her she stopped, she is a smart little bugger. So I came off of her a lot, which had led to some of the hang-ups I have with jumping. I've eventually learned to keep my shoulders back and not ahead, but the mental damage is done. I had some other jumping nightmares that really did me in, but this laid the groundwork for me to be the way I am.

So this is my sweet little mare. I ended up being fairly lucky with her when I stop to think about all the crazy stunts I pulled and all the things we did together. But I guess that's just life, I think 99% of horse people can look back on their younger days and say "Did I really do that kind of stupid stuff?" And thankfully we all had stellar ponies to do that crazy stuff with.

Final thought: Why Wuffles the Wonder Pony you ask? My friend had a trailer that she had bought used, it had the horse's names painted on each side and one of the horse's was "Wuffles." I know, we've touched on the whole name thing before, but Wuffles?? Really?? Seriously?? So Goldie became Wuffles the Wonder Pony just because it sounded ridiculous.
Wuffles, where does one even come up with a name like that??

Monday, July 18, 2011

Barrel Racing

So, I think I need to buy a barrel horse and ride on the rodeo circut for a year. I say this everytime I come back from the rodeo, but seriously, if those girls would just take the time to learn to ride effeciently and control every part of their horse's bodies, damn would they be unbeatable.

I saw one horse that had the raw speed to be really really competitive, she was booking, but her turns lost her so much time, she could have had a 14 second run and instead it was 16 and some change. It was a little painful to watch.

So all I need to do is find a barrel prospect, apply some dressage training to get him or her using themselves properly and bam! I could go to the rodeo finals and win like a million dollars. I mean really, why am I drawn to the one discipline where there is NO MONEY. None, sometimes you don't even get pretty ribbons....and then you read the judges comments and you feel like crap. Ah, dressage, the love of my life and the bain of my existence....

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Tale of Melkor the Mighty

I promised some awesome older videos and here is the first one, I hope that youtube doesn't block the music I added to the video....

Meet Melkor. I bought him as a 13 year old, at the time he was called "Red." If you don't get the novel reference of his new name Melkor, look it up. I liked calling him Melvin and eventually after I saw Madagascar, Melmen. He was a total Melvin, a total nerdy kid, but such a sweetie! I broke my own rule by buying him, I bought a Quarter Horse. I've never cared much for the breed, they are just not my style and I do not care for the QH show circut, english or hunter, or for the rampant lack of good breeding which has led to lots of conformational trainwrecks, Melvin was a good example of this. He was "line-bred" to Hobar-Tek (not sure on the spelling anymore) quarter horses and he was originally from Arizona, where he was given the brilliant and very Quarter Horse name: "Amberjacks Be Nimble." Right. Awesome. Sorry QH enthusiasts, I just don't go for your names......Paging Mr.Sonny Bar Smokin Impressive Big Chex Zips Shiny Cash. And I know that most people don't like or get my horse's names, so whatever. Just my opinion. :)

Here is what I do like about QH: their mentality. Melvin was very tolerant of me and my bad riding. He never spooked. He never bucked. He had an excellent mind. So that is the redeeming quality of the QH.

Anyway, his owner before me was an old 4-H friend, he had originally bought him to use in Hunters and then by the end of his 4-H career he was board with hunters so he rode him in the games division. I believe that he also used him for team penning sometimes too. So when I actually bought him, he hadn't jumped for at least a year and was in game horse mode. I bought him in October, and we went to our first event in May. So we had lots of work to do!

Aside from being a conformational trainwreck, Melvin was also blind in his right eye. He always had runny eyes and eventually we figured out that he couldn't see a darn thing on the right. That just makes his personality so much cooler. Waradaca was our first event, our next event should have been the LHPC HT in June, but we had a very wet spring and the event was cancelled. So our next event was the EHSC HT where we went Novice, this picture is of us going over one of the max height/max width Novice jumps. He was awesome at the event, but we did not place. At this point I was still showing in the Open division because I still working in the idustry and trying to make it as a professional. After that I ended up moving from Erie back to Chambersburg and we kept jumping and schooling and he was doing very well, I was going to do one more Novice event at Difficult Run and then move up to Training. Which was bad decision making there too, yes I could make it around a course, but I was not a strong enough rider to actually be doing that level. My dressage stunk, I don't care how high you can jump, without having solid dressage basics, you shouldn't be jumping fences that are over 3'. Its one of my qualms with the eventing world, I get that the majority of events hate the dressage phase and just "get through it" to get to the jumping phase, but seriously guys, put on your big girl panties and learn how to ride dressage, it will make your jumping much better and wouldn't it be nice to have a respectable dressage score?? And I totally used to one of those people who was like "dressage is dumb." Okay, I'm getting off my soapbox now.

I digress. I was supposed to do the event at Difficult Run, but we never made it. He started landing funny when we were jumping, more on the left than on the right where he had always landed square before. He was off :( after about a week with no improvement, I took him to Charlestown Racetrack to get xrays. He had arthritis in both front fetlocks. The vet gave me two options. Bute him and event for the rest of the year and then he would most likely be permanently ruined and lame or retire him, he was I think 17 by this point so I chose option B and retired him. It took about a year or so for him to fuse, so then we started focusing on dressage, I had moved onto the next trainwreck of a horse Craige (he'll get his own blog coverage) and so he eventually made it New York and is someone's forever trail horse, she loves him and is taking wonderful care of him. He is very happy.

So here is our video of our first ever event together at Waradaca in Maryland. I like their course, it was simple, friendly and inviting. Lots to pick apart in the dressage, I understood the theory behind having the horse's head "down" and "on the bit" but did not know how to properly achieve it (obviously! look at his poor head!) I was too stiff everywhere, which is partially show nerves and partially just how much I stunk. I was also way overweight. I'm still on the heavy side, but here I was over 200lbs, sorry, I have a thing for food...its yummy and is my downfall. Right now I'm about 175 and need to drop some poundage, so I was not fit and not helping him out there either.

Lets see...poorly planned transitions, bad geometry, no throughness or connections...I'll just stop there, and move on to the stadium. But overall our dressage stunk. Thank goodness he was a point and shoot jumper. Seriously, every jump I am off balance, behind the jump or ahead of the jump and he just takes care of me. Which totally boosted my confidence and my ego, I thought I was an awesome jumper....which as it apprantly turns out was not in any way true... I'd also like to mention that while we dressaged in a french-link loose ring, we had NO brakes jumping and the only way I could keep him slow and get him to listen (because I didn't understand about using your core) was to ride him in a double twisted wire gag. It is one of my all time most favorite bits because it is just mind boggling. By the time we were schooling for difficult run a year later we were using the french link to jump with too, we had figured out a few things by then.

But he was honest and he did not refuse, we had one run-out in our life and it was a narrow up-bank at Erie, I didn't steer him to it so he was like, hey, why don't we just go around it? Wouldnt' that be easier?? And then there was XC, um, we had not schooled XC before, this was pretty much his first time dealing with any kind of XC fence. And what a champ he was. There is one jump where I get way left behind! But he just kept on trucking. It was our jumping that got us our 7th place ribbon at that show. But what a great guy. I'm hoping that Bastian will one day be as cool as him, he has the same left hind leg marking as Melvin. That was Melvin's only white marking and its Bastian's only white leg. Bastian also has the same blaze as my pony Goldie.

So I hope you enjoyed our XC video. More fun videos to come!

I did get to ride Bugs again today and it had definite good moments and some definite bad moments. Good Moments: down transitions were good, canter was very controlled and uphill
Bad Moments: she tried to buck me off two times, not totally sure why, but it freaked me out a little, the second time I was more prepared and yelled at her and then she was fine. Not sure if she was a little ouchy somewhere or just decided to have a cranky moment.

And she did not feel tired at the end of our half hour session, this was the first time she felt like we could have done more so maybe she is starting to get more fit.

And finally, Bastian is almost home! He is now working at Wolf Creek Stables with my friend Tawny as a Hunter Lesson horse and is very happy with life. I can't wait to go visit him!

Till next time!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Variety is the Spice of Life

There isn't a whole lot to report, but there is more than one would think.  I've ridden Bugsy a total of 4 times now and all I have to say is wow.  Here is why:

1) I feel like a beginner on her, LOL, I ask for the canter, she does a fast trot, I try to turn left and she keeps going straight, the exact same way those smart but tricksey little ponies do to little kids.  I've gotta really have my stuff together, which is a little frustrating because I didn't  realize how in sync Bastian and I really were and how used to each other we were.  He lets me get away with A LOT, which is totally awesome, but well, in this case, not so great.  What is good is that as long as I keep playing around with my legs and reins, I figure out how to make her turn and make her trot or canter.  I'm bad about only using one leg or one rein when I turn/steer and not supporting with the opposite rein/leg, Bugsy has been sure to point this out to me....isn't that sweet of her? :o)

2) Bugs is actually wonderful in the fact that she completely ignores my overactive lower leg, I'm working really hard to keep it as still as possible, but I know its nothing even close to what it should be, but she has yet to care.  She is used to being ridden in spurs and with a whip, I don't wear spurs for obvious reasons and I may have to start getting used to riding with two whips so I have more support when I do want to use my legs, but I also think we both just need to figure each other out some more, two whips is a handful (pun intended).   Bastian is like that every now and then, I ask for a trot or canter and he just gives me the big middle hoof because he's been blocking out the excessive leg movement,  he is much better at paying attention now, so I'm hoping that Bugsy and I will eventually come to that realization.

3) I'm actually getting to experience real collection and light fluffyness!!!!  Eventually I will have a core of steel.  Bugs likes to be on her forehand and being that she's out of shape, its a STRONG halfhalt every stride.  But for now both of us have to work our butts off in order to keep it together, which, when we get it it is awesome!!  Its the maintaining it that we need to work on.  We don't maintain the light fluffyness and collection for super long, but those half strides and couple of seconds of it are enought to make me want more!  Hooray for the frustration of dressage, lol, its that one second of bliss that make us go through the 100 hours of yuck,  perhaps we need to rethink our decision making paradigm...

4) If everything goes according to plan (I know, I know, famous last words....) I will have the opportunity  to show Bugsy next year!  I know, awesome, right??  This works out great because my friend Gwen is also going to show her next year.  Gwen wants to show Training Level and I'd like to try 2nd and 3rd.  I know what you're going to say, the whole two level rule at Dressage shows, but never you fear, we've got this worked out.  Most of the shows we go to are two shows over one weekend, so Gwen will show her one day and I will show her the other day.  Everybody is happy, and we get to split hauling and stabling fees.  Perfect plan, right?  I know, I thought so too.

Sunday's ride was wonderful because we didn't have any "horrible" beginner moments and when we were done, Bugsy seemed as pleased as I did with our progress.  On Monday, since it was a holiday, I decided to celebrate by making an extra trip out the barn to ride, so I met up with Gwen and I rode Bugsy and she rode her awesome Quarter Horse RW and one of the newer boarders at the barn, Sandy, came out and rode with us too.  It was a wonderful way to spend a Monday morning.  We had a good ride overall, I think both of us were a bit tired doing two days in a row, so it started out great, then we got a bit sloppy in the middle, then I made sure that I had it together and we finished nicely, but it really drove home the point of keeping it together every stride.

My mom came and visited me this week, so I coerced her into going to the barn with me so she could meet Bugsy and I would get to ride again.  I rode outside for the first time with Bugs, which was a little intimidating for me.  Ever since I had my three bad riding accidents, I've been more hesitant to ride outside, which I realize is a completly mental hang up on my part (based on the horses that I do ride, they are all good outside).  Bugsy didn't care, (she wasn't wild about the flys, but I can't really blame her) and she was very well behaved.  After I relaxed about being outside, I was able to really focus on our down transitions.  I tend to completely take my leg off when I ask for a downward transition.  So I really focused on keeping my leg on between the canter and the trot and they were much less abrupt,  and we actually went forward into the trot instead of canterstopgotrot.  So it is possible!

I was supposed to ride Bugs in a lesson on Friday, but she was a little ouchy from the drastic weather changes we were having that day :(  I was really looking forward to getting a bit more education on her.  I was still able to have my lesson, I rode my friend Beth's horse Devlin (who is also currently for sale: http://www.equine.com/horses-for-sale/horse-ad-1073601.html) instead.  He was a blast!  He is so in tune to your core it was unbelievable, as soon as I engaged my tummy muscles he would slow down, it was pretty cool.  If I wasn't in the financial tangle I was in and was in the market for an event horse, I would snatch him up!

It also made me realize more about my partnership with Bastian.  Compared with Devlin and Bugsy, Bastian is almost hyper sensitive and much lighter in his contact.  You'll get a beautiful gait, he'll be "on the bit" and moving forward and then you put an ounce too much weight in your left stirrup and bam! its gone and we'll spend the next five laps around the ring trying to get it back.  Both Bugs and Devlin were a bit more accepting of my bobbles in balance and they are heavier in the contact, which is better suited to my riding style.  Its made me much more aware that when I do finally start back to riding Bastian, I've got to really really really focus on keeping my balance every friggin' second.  Of course, the horse I have is exactly the kind of horse that is going to be most difficult for me to ride.  Le sigh.  Oh well......I still love my B-man and I can't wait to get back to working with him in the fall!

Also really cool.....another of my friends at the barn is helping me to convert my old VHS onto DVD format, which means I will have some very amusing and horrific riding videos to share including my first BN event with my Quarter Horse Melvin where he had NEVER gone Cross Country before in his life.... awesome, oh to be young again!   Bet you can't wait!!