Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Importance of Exercise

For Christmas Zoe's previous owner surprised me and gave me some wonderful gifts. I wasn't expecting anything, so this was a nice surprise! I got a beautiful saddle pad with the Oldenburg breed logo, a training and health care log book, 2 Christmas stockings (now hanging on Jimmy's and Zoe's stalls) and a magazine focusing on the Oldenburg breed. I love the saddle pad and will use it for our first show next summer.

It's funny with the stockings. Jimmy's was normal size, but Zoe's was small, signifying that she is the baby. At least that is how I interpret it. Everyone at the barn made a big deal that Zoe's stocking is so much smaller than Jimmy's. They of course are anthropomorphizing that she is going to be jealous about having a smaller stocking. I think it is funny. Zoe doesn't even care. She is getting lots of peppermints, which is her real concern. I think peppermints are her favorite treat. I am pretty sure this is the first time she has ever had peppermints.

I have been very diligent to make sure Zoe is getting plenty of exercise this week, despite the cold. I have lunged her every day. On Saturday I free lunged, then lunged in side reins, then rode. She was very good! I worked on downward transitions. She is quite bad at halting, so I will focus on that for the next month of rides. I figure that will be an important concept to have in case she decides to buck and bolt again. :-)

Jimmy has been communicating that he hasn't wanted to be messed with. At least that was the message over the weekend. I left him alone on Sunday. Last night he was acting more eager to be worked with, so if it is not too cold tonight I will ride him. I think it's important to listen to your horse and make sure he is approaching things with a positive attitude. Believe me, it is not fun if your partner isn't happy.

Here's to wishing it could be spring already.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Concept of Time and Holidays

Has it really been a month since I last made a post?? Time is a funny thing. I do think time goes faster the older you get. It has nothing to do with fun. It just whips out of control until you have no sense of past, present, or future. You only know it is when it is. All week I have had trouble remembering what day it was. Maybe it has to do something with the fact that there have been holiday parties for us to go to every day since Sunday. On Wednesday we went to 2 parties in one night. It has been fun meeting new people. Wouldn't you know it that last night I chose to sit at a table occupied by horse people! They were complete strangers in a whole room of tables and strangers, and I went straight for that table. Weird.

Speaking of horses, let's get to the point of my rambling. It's been bitterly cold, so my actual ride time has been at a minimum. I did ride both of the kids last weekend. Jimmy has been doing absolutely wonderfully. I am ecstatic with how soft and supple he has been. He's even been a foaming machine! My last ride on Zoe was an adventure. The girl decided she needed to get some kicks out and took me for a wild ride around the indoor arena. Twice. I stayed on out of determination not to be thrown into a wall or get hurt in front of spectators. I'm proud of that. Anyway, Zoe showed me I have to keep her well exercised and make sure she gets her kickin' time without me on her back. :-) I've been making sure to work her extra this week. I'll finally have time to ride again this weekend.

What's the other topic? Christmas shopping. Ugh. I just realized 2 days ago that Christmas is next week and I better start shopping. Now I have no idea if my gifts will arrive on time. I may be forced to go to mall hell. Please, no, don't make me go.....

Bad news is that my father is in the hospital right now for a blood clot in his lung. Thankfully it doesn't seem to be life threatening (or is it?). He'll be in for the next few days. Talk about adding some holiday stress.

We had our small division party today. I was so stressed out from having meetings all morning and not being prepared for the party at all. It was potluck with a small gift exchange. The gift exchange was a hoot. More fun than last year. We had our traditional video of a hearth fire projected on our big screen, a step up from the small TV we've had it on in the past. The crackling logs and flickering flames make our celebration atmosphere special. It's very cool. Anyway, in the gift exchange I got a TGI Friday's gift card. I think I will give it to my parents. :-)

I finally get a haircut tomorrow.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Additional Update

I see that I skipped over reporting on the last show. I think it is important to note that Jimmy and I came away with 3 blues and a red ribbon! The show was a pleasant show, except that it was rainy and cold the whole weekend. The venue was really nice, though. Jimmy was actually quite sick of the show season by then. Every time I tacked him up, the more resentful he got. By Sunday afternoon he did not want to be riding dressage tests anymore. We got our red ribbon that ride. It was actually a horrible ride. He pulled the whole time and never relaxed for any movement. It wasn't much fun at all. We got a very low score, and the lowest collective mark I have ever received for submission -- a 4. We were riding Second 2. Our best ride was the first ride of the weekend, Second 1. Jimmy felt soft and responsive during that test. Although I rode it very conservatively because the footing was wet and I was worried about slipping. The judge was very difficult and we didn't get 60%. However, I was still very pleased with how we rode and felt very good about the test. I did get my qualifying score on First 3. Now all I need are qualifying scores at Third level and I have my bronze medal. Unfortunately, I don't think Jimmy will take me to third level in his career. I will have to wait for Zoe to be ready. That's okay, because I think Zoe and I are going to kick some butt when we start showing.

The Long Haul

Wow, I have been so busy during the day and evenings that I haven't had a moment to post. Sure, a lot has happened in the last month. I've had some great rides on Zoe. She is so much fun. Jimmy is on his winter hiatus, which means nice, easy rides during the week and getting out on the trails whenever possible. He is likes that schedule.

The new barn is, well, still in the early stages of getting a routine down for the place. They've done tons of construction that is getting close to being finished. Finally got mats in the stalls, and the horses love them. Many more are sleeping when I come in at night now. Jimmy and Zoe both seem much happier. They also got automatic waterers installed, the aisleways have been asphalted and have rubber runners on them, and they are building a pole barn to move hay and shavings storage. In a sense things are settling into a nice routine. This is nice for the horses. For me, I am still in a tumult. I have been working as the evening barn manager since October 1. I've had my frustrations and I spend long nights there working my horses and doing the chores. I am actually worn out from it. Therefore, I am not sure how long I can continue in this role. I want to be able to get home at a decent hour at night, or even not go out there at all if I am too tired. In the end, my time and sleep is more important than saving the $$ from the board. I don't think they would let me cut back my responsibilities and still get a break. So I am thinking this may not work out in the long run. We'll see.

This past weekend I went to St. Louis to see the Spanish Riding School of Vienna. Check out their tour blog if you visit the site. Some amazing talent -- both in the horses and the riders. I enjoyed every minute of it. It was also great to see MG again. I have so much fun with her and am glad she is willing to do fun horsey things with me.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Clinic Update

Had a great clinic this weekend. All the babies are looking so good! It was wonderful to see all of them. They are all being ridden like adult horses now. What a change. I was especially anxious to have David ride Zoe. This was her first outing since June. She hasn't yet accepted the contact with the bit and showed her protest by throwing her head up and trying to rear. Yet, when she settled in, she looked spectacular. I don't think the head tossing, etc are major issues, but I am glad David had this argument with her and not me. This was the first time she was really ridden with the expectation of having and keeping contact. I've only ridden her three times since she has been back to work, for goodness' sake. In that regard, she did remarkably. And based on my past experience with her, she will protest new things until she is comfortable it and it only takes persistence, consistency and patience with her. I can do that. :-) I've ordered a new bit for her, polo wraps and bell boots. Only an extra $150 this month. Anyway, I can't get away with keeping her on the too small, too narrow bit I got from her previous owner. I think that is keeping her from accepting the contact. So I have a new 21 mm KK ultra loose ring Aurigan metal bit coming on rush this week. I hope to have it by Tuesday and will ride her again then.

This week I am focusing on preparing for the final show of the year. I'm riding Jimmy in 5 classes, again doing Second 1 & 2 and I added First 3 & 4 for good measure. I hope it's not too much for us.

Friday, September 30, 2005


Shoot, I still have a backlog of stories to tell. This week at work has been hell. We started with a major system outage on Monday morning. It lasted until Thursday, and we are still monitoring everything closely, fixing all the little problems still hanging around. Ugh. The poor systems people, especially the DBA, had it the roughest. It was just bad.

I guess it's a good think I have a backlog of stories since this week was all about the system outage, and it rained a lot, and I couldn't do much with Jimmy and Zoe. But I am going to start with the recent stuff, which happens to be the most upsetting for me. Perhaps I never had a chance to bubble over about the fact that Zoe's heel completely healed and she was back to work. That has been the greatest. (Although there is a very BIG story in there that I have yet to tell.) Anyway, because of the rain, she and Jimmy have been in their stalls quite a bit this week. She is a youngster, as we all know, and has lots of energy, especially if she has had to stand around for days. Finally she was let out of her stall yesterday evening. I came to the barn after Pilates to clean stalls. When I had finished cleaning, I did my usual check of the horses. I brought Zoe into her stall and checked out her heel. And wouldn't you know it, she had ANOTHER cut on the same heel that just recovered from that kind of wound. AARRRGH! This cut wasn't nearly as bad, but a flap of skin was hanging. I almost burst into tears right then. Instead, I gathered up all of my medical supplies from the previous wound, brought her out of her stall, and cleaned up the cut. It was a fresh cut, luckily much more superficial than the previous cut. She likely was let out into the slightly muddy, rather small paddock and started running and bucking around like crazy. She either is interfering from behind, smashing her hind hoof into her front heel, or there really is something that she has a habit of hitting with her front right leg. Regardless, I am SO HAPPY that I am moving the horses to the new barn tomorrow morning. I can't wait. In the meantime, I am wrapping that foot again to give this a chance to heal. I really hope I don't have to do that for very long. Just long enough to get the wound closed so it won't reopen with movement.

Okay, now that this post has depressed me so far, I should tell the story that is really missing.

It has to do with finally bringing Zoe back to work. Zoe was staying at a friend's barn while I was gone for a week. I think I already posted about that earlier under "Equine Affaire". When I brought her home, her injury was completely healed. The next day I started working her. I entered with a plan to work her on the longe with side reins for 1.5 - 2 weeks and then to start riding her again. She did very well on the longe line. I had already had a great ride on Jimmy, so she was my last horse to work that day. I was so please with her, I thought what harm could it be if I just got on her back and walked around a little bit? She was calm and sensible in the side reins and had a chance to blow some steam. So I unhooked her from the side reins and mounted up. We walked halfway down the arena and then the ride got...uhm....faster. We were in the outdoor arena with all that tempting grass alongside it. She was not happy to be walking away from the grass. She started bucking. I started saying okay, go over here and let me get off...and she kept bucking until we got to a pile of cavaletti on the ground at the short side of the arena. She headed straight for the cavaletti that were spread about 4 feet across. As she neared them, I tried to get her to turn in towards the arena, away from the cavaletti. She kept going straight to the cavaletti. I prepared for her to jump, but then she stopped with her front and her hind end went up, my behind came out of the saddle, and as her back feet came back down she sprawled across the cavaletti. My behind came back in the saddle, but I was immediately thrown forward violently and then she must have twisted a bit and I fell off on the right side. I landed in the grass in a heap. I think I landed on my feet and then fell over a bit. But I didn't really have time to register how I landed. The most immediate thing my brain registered was that her hind legs were heading straight for me. In a split second I visualized her crashing into my spine or my head. My body automatically adjusted itself, positioning my right thigh in the path, a buffer to my back and other easy to break body parts. The next instant I felt 2 thunks on my thigh. It made my whole body shake THUNK! THUNK! Instant pain. I jumped up immediately, had a chance to moan "Owwww" and grab my leg, register that Zoe was standing a few feet away looking at another horse over the fence in a bewildered fashion. I limped over to her as my thigh smarted smartly and I realized my middle finger on my right hand was badly sprained. How do you sprain just one finger? I told her I should get back on her right away, but my leg hurt too badly. I instead grabbed the reins, which were still in the correct place, fixed the left stirrup that had swung over her neck to the right side (was my foot stuck for an instant?), and took her back over to the arena, limping. I grabbed the side reins and told her that if I couldn't ride her, then she was going to be worked A LOT more on the longe. I longed her until she was noticeably pooped. She was so good! Even though she was tired, every time I asked for more from her she gave me more! That made me feel pretty good. She didn't mean to hurt me or buck me off. I don't think she knew she could do that. And hopefully she knows she can do it, but if she does do it, it means a lot more work for her and it's not worth it to her.

I had a chance to work her on the longe only once since then. This was after I audited a clinic with a well-known trainer who has trained many of the young horses in this area. I couldn't afford to take Zoe to the clinic ($250 right now was way too pricey). But I got to audit, practice on other people's horses, and go home and try it all on Zoe. We covered a lot of ground work exercises that gets the horse to pay attention to you and help you get control over the horses direction and movement. Zoe did quite well with the exercises. Since then I haven't had a chance to work with her much. It has been raining a lot and the indoor of our current barn is horrible. It's hardly lit and is never watered. So it is a dusty, suffocating place. On the rainy days I let Jimmy and Zoe run around in there, and I even 'cowboyed' them once -- meaning I did a lot of ground work with a tarp, plastic grocery bag, etc. That was fun, but it's not the fitness work they both need. It's no wonder that after a week of that Zoe was a nutcase out in her tiny drylot. Again, I couldn't be happier about moving to the new barn with big pastures and daily turnout in big, open spaces. They also have a great indoor with new footing and an outdoor that's almost finished with new footing (if only it would dry out a little so they could finish it!).

Those are the significant happenings this week. My next post will be after the move into the new barn. I hope I am gushing with excitement about it.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Equine Affaire

I'm a bit behind on my writing. I was out of town last week at a conference. That trip alone has a monolithic post behind it, but I am not sure I want to get into it. Suffice it to say that my employer insisted that the large number of staff going to this conference must take a chartered bus on the 10 hour trip and that although this was a money-saving tactic, it turned into a nightmare when the bus broke down 3 hours from home. We were stranded in the bus for an additional 5 hours, at the side of the busy freeway with huge semis roaring past us. It was dark outside. We crawled home at 2:30 AM. Oh yes, and I got a terrible cold that night.

My second trip of the week was a planned fun one to the Equine Affaire event in Louisville, Kentucky. I unfortunately had to go with a bad head cold, stuffy nose and sore throat. I found out that you can't buy 24 hour Sudafed off the shelf anymore. You haven't to get it from the pharmacy window due to the overwhelming number of meth addicts who buy it up. Since I never got to any store during pharmacy hours, I was stuck with the huge, take-every-four-hours pills that they still sell on the store shelves. They worked, but I felt like I was constantly taking pills.

My favorite part of Equine Affaire was watching the George Williams dressage clinics. He is a really great instructor, and the horses in the clinic were just beautiful. My favorite session was on preparing the horse for piaffe and passage. George rode one of his horses, Marnix, in the demonstration and he gave instruction to a demo rode who rode beautifully and had a gorgeous mount. I can only hope to ride that well one day. We sat only a few feet from the arena. What a treat to be so close to these beautiful animals and talented riders.

The evening event "Pfizer Fantasia" was really delightful as well. The highlight for me was the musical freestyle ridden by George Williams on Marnix. However, there were many other talented riders and entertaining acts. Some incredibly well-trained horses performed tricks and stunts that were really unbelievable that a horse would do that. I also enjoyed the Kentucky Miniature Horse Club performance with their minis pulling them around in little carts choreographed to music. Now I know what I can do with my mini once I get one.

There is so much more to talk about from Equine Affaire, but I am too short on time to record all of it. It was just great being surrounded by horses of all kinds for 3 days. I had a great time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


I made a decision last week to move Zoe and Jimmy to a new barn. I haven't been looking for a new barn for them, but the right circumstances came up. New owners came to town this summer and bought a previously Western barn. They are dressage riders and are trying to recruit dressage riders to the barn. They also sold their California property and have resources for making some excellent improvements to the barn. The place has 37 acres for turnout. They are putting in new footing in the indoor arena (which is larger than indoor at my current place), and grading and putting in footing in a new outdoor arena. They will also have a light for the outdoor.

Possibly the best news for me is that since I am at the barn with my horses for several hours a night almost every night, the owner is offering me a free stall! I can be there for the final barn check and just be around in the evening in general. It is nice that this is worth something to the owners. The biggest change for me will be that I won't have to clean any stalls or do any chores!! I won't know what to do with myself at the barn now. Seriously, though, I will actually have time to devote to both of the horses consistently. What a wonderful thought. I plan to put a lot of time into working Zoe this winter, so this is really important to me.

Another attraction to the facility is that this place will likely host clinicians, eventually shows, AND they plan to build a full, regulation size indoor dressage arena next year. What a luxury this will be! Turnout on pasture every day, stall cleaning included, indoor/outdoor arenas, new tack rooms.... How could I not move? I am very excited about it. We move in October 1.

The sad part of all of this was telling Sam that I am leaving. I know he relies on me, but I have to do what is best for me and the horses. Luckily I told him I was leaving before another boarder who boards 2 horses there told him she is leaving on October 1 as well! So Sam is losing 4 horses in October. Ouch. I promised him I would pay full board for one stall for October. That only helps a tiny bit, but at least it is something I could do for him. Despite all of that, I am still excited about moving to the new place.

Monday, August 29, 2005

By The Skin Of My Teeth

I wouldn't categorize the show this weekend as a huge success, but I did somehow manage to accomplish one goal. I won the USDF/Dover Adult Amateur Medal for riding Second Level, Test 1. I got a really nice medal and a $20 Dover gift certificate. I have no idea how I got this. The test was one of the worst ones I have ridden. I went off course twice! But the judge was very encouraging, especially when I suggested I should just be excused. She wouldn't let me! She said I was riding a nice test so far and to just think for a moment about the test to get back on track. It worked. And I just barely scraped by with a score good enough to qualify for the medal. I was shocked when I found I had won. Somehow I had achieved that goal. All the rest of my tests were judged by another judge who didn't like Jimmy, so she never gave us a qualifying score. I still think I rode better than I did in June, so while it sucks that my scores were lower, she was seeing some issues with Jimmy that weren't present in June. J was extremely tense on Saturday and jumping out of his skin basically. I had problems with him breaking into the canter when he was supposed to trot, or flying like a bat out of hell for the medium canter. In other words, he was strong and tense. So I can't argue with my scores, but I still rode better overall. I even rode second two for the very first time without a reader. I had one second when I forgot what was next and Jimmy messed up at that point, switched canter leads and I got 3s for changing rein and counter canter because I decided not to correct it. I was mad at myself for that one. I should have corrected it immediately and saved the counter canter score.

For me, the Dover Adult Amateur Medal signifies never giving up in a dressage test.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Not So Bad

Zoe got her cast off last Tuesday -- what a relief for both me and her! Doc said it has healed extremely well, "better than could ever be expected". I have to keep the leg bandaged until the proud flesh is gone from the heel cut, probably another few weeks. That means she has to stay in her stall that long. Ugh. It isn't the easiest thing to bandage her up. I have to put medicine on her heel, cover it, then wrap the foot with vetrap. She paws all the time, so before you know it the toe is worn off and she starts working to get the whole foot bandage off. I've tried duct taping over the vetrap, but yesterday she had that off when I got there. Good thing it takes 2 days for her to get it off. I am changing it every 2 days, so luckily it seems that it is exposed only for a few hours before I change it. We still expect her to heal nicely and to have no permanent damage. I have to count my lucky stars for that.

Jimmy is progressing nicely. On Sunday I rode through 2 of the 3 tests I'll be riding this weekend. It was a huge workout for Jimmy, but it did help identify some things we need to work on. He is very sticky at the leg yield, especially to the right. I also need to work on the travers and continue with the simple changes. We'll do better this weekend than we did at the last show, so I already feel good about where we are. There is always something to improve.

One issue with Jimmy is that he doesn't like it when I ride with a whip. He gets tense and tends to rush around. It isn't any fun to ride him at all. I tried riding with a whip last night to help get him to move away from my leg at the leg yield, but all he ended up doing was pulling against me and rushing into a canter. It really seemed counter-productive. I dropped the whip after a short time and kept up with the light ride. At the shoulder-in he still doesn't want use his hind in, so I struggle to keep his shoulders over. He just pulls through me the entire time. I'm sure we'll get better at it.

I am looking forward to this show and dreading it at the same time. I look forward to seeing my scores improve, but I am anxious about forgetting the test or messing up. As long as I am having fun with Jimmy and feel that we did the best we could for that test on that day, then it is a success. The competitive side of me wants to get 70%+ on everything and clean up all the classes, but that really can't be my focus. I would be a huge ball of stress if that is how I approached it. Jimmy would be stressed out, too, and he doesn't like to be stressed out. Thank goodness my darling husband will be coming with me. He keeps me together more than he knows. Now if only he could read my tests to me!

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Good and the Bad

Had a clinic this weekend. Since Zoe is still in her cast, she stayed home for this one, so it was just Jim and me. I should have known from the start that Jimmy would not be a happy camper on Saturday. He didn't want to load in the trailer and was quite persistant about it. However, after about 5 minutes of disagreements, he did go in nicely. We hosted lunch at AW, so I took my time and ate with everyone else (I was the first ride after lunch), then went and tacked Jimmy up. Our warmup consisted of one walking lap around the outdoor arena, and then DB showed up. That was my second signal that Jimmy wouldn't be a happy camper. He didn't get his preferred warmup time! He can be pretty unforgiving about that.

And so this ride was set with the tone of an unforgiving older horse being crotchety about not being warmed up properly. He did okay with the early part of the lesson, when we were still in "warm up" mode, but as soon as we switched to work mode he got tense. For the next half hour we would try to encourage him to release his jaw, supple, come through. For the next thirty minutes, I felt like I had a brick at the end of the reins. He was not about to be loose and relaxed for me. We tried shoulder-in and he did it with his head stuck out, and when I asked him to supple, he got more tense and slowed down. We tried simple changes with more resistance. DB wanted me to ride with a whip to get him to move forward -- it only succeeded in making him quick and more tense. It was not fun at all. Finally, he gave me permission to drop the horrid whip and Jimmy relaxed a bit. He still refused to be supple and through. I couldn't wait to get off of Jimmy. Halfway through I wanted David to get on him so he would understand that nothing I did made Jimmy relax, but I tried to work through it myself. Our very last simple change was decent and then the lesson was over.

Unfortunately, a bad ride affects the rider emotionally. I was depressed the whole time afterwards. I felt awful and nothing was fun after that. At least I could focus on videotaping the other rides afterwards and that kept me from sulking a bit. Too bad the other rides were the babies. That made me think a lot about Zoe and how behind she is. Stuck in her stall for 2 weeks. Even with that, she was already behind the others. I felt like I am wasting her. She should be out there showing her stuff already! But then I remind myself that I have only been riding her since April. The others have been ridden for about a year now. Next summer is going to Zoe's year. And looking forward to that makes me excited.

I take Zoe to the vet tomorrow morning to have the cast removed -- FINALLY. I am more worried about the rub sore from the cast than I am about the heel at this point. It is a nasty sore. I hope there is no scarring and no damage of other parts due to the rub. Of course I am anxious for the confirmation that she will not have any lameness or any problems with the leg. I hope to heaven she is 100% after this. That beautiful gait.....

Oh, I should end on my positive note, and that is Sunday's clinic on Jimmy. It started out better with him getting on the trailer. However, an unfortunate thing happened and that is that the lead rope slipped off his back and he stepped on the end of it with his hind leg, felt the pull backward and pulled his head up and started backing out like a maniac. He hit is head on the trailer, taking a tiny bit of hair off above his left eye, but worse is he back 3 strides out of the trailer and smacked his rump against the corner of the barn doors. Huge tufts of hair stuck on the edge of the door. He scraped off quite patch of hair, but it was all superficial and caused no real problems. He went back on the trailer with no problem. So, before Sunday's lesson I made sure to warm Jimmy up the way I normally do, nice and slow and long and deep. We had a perfect warmup and by the time DB got to us, he was stretching over his back nicely and being very cooperative and happy. My old Jimmy was back. We had a quite nice lesson. Shoulder-ins, travers, leg-yield, simple changes, walk pirouettes all were done well. Jimmy just felt great. Our timing for the simple changes has improved a great deal, so I do expect better scores on those in the next show. Whoohoo!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Proud Moment

Stuff like this makes me soar for hours. I am so proud and feel such a level of accomplishment when good things are said about my horses. The chiropractor came on Sunday and worked on Jimmy. She said this was the best he has ever been, and she has been working on him for years. His back was in excellent shape, his "normal" bad spot on his hip was hardly reactive, and he was good all over. She was really impressed. I felt validation for my training and reassurance that I am riding correctly and training him correctly. It feels so good! I was noticing on Saturday how well muscled he looked. His topline is strong and fleshy. His neck muscle is well-defined the full length of his neck, and his withers have a nice, sloping shape to them. A few months ago the dressage trainer commented on how well his hind end is muscled now. Jimmy keeps getting stronger and stronger. But, really, having a good chiropractic exam was the pinnacle of compliments. We've been through very ouchy times, mostly caused from my old saddle that just paid for Zoe's vet bill. But the ouchiness kept us from progressing. Now we are flying! I do owe it quite a bit to my new saddle. That was well worth the time and money to get a well fitting saddle. In fact, Jimmy has now muscled out so much in the withers that the saddle should be adjusted to fit it better. I'll have to look at doing this in September.

Anyhow, the compliments yesterday made me so happy and feel as though the time I put in to being consistent is well worth it. I never thought I would be a "good" dressage rider, but I see now that I can be damn good. It does take work and time, which my husband is not so happy with, but putting the work into it is my dream. Jimmy is such a great partner, and I don't know if I'll have a horse like him ever again. Zoe is going to be much different to train and ride, so I want to enjoy Jimmy has much as I can now. I want to succeed with Jimmy to our ultimate ability. Yes, I think now I am a driven rider with goals and a training plan. That's the difference from 2 years ago.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

My So-Called Good Fortune

According to my husband, I am the luckiest person on earth. Yesterday the vet bill arrived. The damage is $1122. That's about what I expected, but doesn't cover all of the follow-up costs -- medication, removing the cast, coming out to check on the swelling of her knee. The "lucky" part is that on that very same day I received the check for selling my old dressage saddled. After commission to the shop that sold it I cleared $1040. So, amazingly, I have the bill pretty much covered. I just had to trade a saddle for the vet fees. Quite honestly, it has made me relax a bit. I was pretty worried how I was going to pay for all of the costs. I didn't intend to use that $1040 to pay for vet bills; I had intended to use it to pay down a credit card (that included the cost of purchasing my new saddle). But I have to admit that this seems like a pretty perfect use of the money. So one small crisis adverted.

Other good news today! The chiropractor came to work on Jimmy. She said he is the best she has ever seen him. She worked on him last month and he was even better than last month. I find that pretty amazing. I also think it is testament that I am training Jimmy properly and that we really are getting better and better with each ride. I have been concentrating on keeping Jimmy straight and bending through properly. I have also been working on getting him to use his back in the canter, improving the quality of the canter. It's nice to feel that my work has been making a positive difference. It makes the time I am putting into it worth it. We should do well at our show at the end of the month. What a great feeling.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

No Bill Yet, So I Am Happy

Underneath I am worried as all heck about the bill for Zoe's treatment. I haven't been able to build my emergency horse funds yet. I have $400 extra only, and that was really for emergency board. So I am looking at my finances to try to figure out how I can pay what I expect to be a whomping bill without using any credit. I already know I will have to divert funds from paying down other debt, but at least it will only be temporary. I'm tired of having tight months. With the income we have, we shouldn't have tight months, so I don't really understand it. Well, in a sense I do because my goal has been to have no consumer debt and I have been putting in hundreds and hundreds of dollars a month to achieve this. We are almost there, but need another year. Extra bills take away from this goal and that is why I worry. But we will be fine, so I can be happy. We get to go to Disney World in January. :-)

My rides on Jimmy have been good this week. I've been practicing the advice from Tom V. and it is helping. Keeping him straighter and bending more true makes a difference. We've had better transitions and really good flying changes! I think I'm getting it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

$1,000,000 and Climbing.....

....the amount of money you need to support your horse habit.

I'm finally recovering from my weekend, which theoretically started on Friday with a vacation day. I had the day off so that I could ride in a clinic with Tom Valter, an expensive clinician who comes to our area periodically. My ride was scheduled for 11 AM at a barn about 45 minutes away.

The phone rang at 7:50 AM, right after my husband left for work. It was the owner of my boarding barn. Zoe had a bad cut on her leg and he thought I should call a vet right away. I know it's bad when Sam says to call a vet; he's not usually one to call a vet immediately. I get on the phone with my vet's office. Doc is on barn calls on Fridays, but they said if I could get Zoe there this morning that he could come back to the clinic to look at her. They didn't know when he would be able to get to my barn to check on her otherwise. I knew she needed stitches, so I wanted to get her to the clinic soon; however, I didn't want to lose my lesson with Tom (I'd still have to pay the clinic fee!). I asked whether I could bring her in at 3 PM instead of this morning, but they insisted no, bring her in this morning.

At first, while still at home, I thought I might need to leave Zoe at the barn and let Doc make the barn call when he could. When I got to the barn and actually saw the injury I knew I had to get her some medical attention right away and forget worrying about missing the clinic. So I made several calls around and got the clinic organizer to let me change my ride time to the afternoon. One problem solved at least. Hey, I wouldn't be losing my $110!

The next thing I had to do was prepare Zoe to take to the vet clinic, which happens to be about an hour away. She was walking fine on the injury -- a deep cut to her right front heel. The blood had clotted and there was very little bleeding, but there was also a lot of dirt and debris around the wound. So I very gently washed it off, cleaning it with soap and betadine. Zoe was patient with this and didn't move around a lot or protest. I got the the outside of the wound and surrounding area cleaned off as best as I could. I didn't attempt to lift the flap of her heel and clean the inside of the wound, which appeared to have much more debris in it. But I am not a vet, so I didn't attempt to do anything that had the potential to cause more harm than good. I covered the wound with a sterile pad and wrapped the foot and ankle with vet wrap to hold it on. It took about an hour and a half to do all of this, but I was finally ready to put on the shipping boots and get on the road.

Do I really want to go into details about getting to the vet clinic?? I guess I have to. I called my friend who was just at the clinic recently to get directions. There was road construction on the way and a bridge was out, so I needed an alternate route. She gave me very good directions. I followed them, but at a crucial point convinced myself I was wrong and got on the highway -- going the wrong way! I went 14 miles out of my way, but got back to the point where I made the error. Now I still wasn't convinced I was on the right road, so I called my husband who very gratiously looked up the area on mapquest. I told him the road I was on and the crossroads and after 10 minutes of thinking I must be going the wrong way, he confirmed that this was right! Whoohoo! Going well so far.

I got to the part of the route with which I was familiar from previous trips to the clinic, but when I hit a four-way stop, I had another doubting moment. I felt I was supposed to take a right at this stop, but I couldn't remember for sure. I called my husband again. He frantically looked at the map online (remember, he didn't really know where I was trying to go). A big truck came to the stop behind me, so I had to make a snap decision. I went straight. Wrong! So I had to turn around about a mile down the road, come back to the stop sign and take my turn. By that time I was only a few miles from the clinic, but it felt like this trip had been going on for hours and hours. I gave a call to the vet clinic to confirm yet again that this was the right way. They said it was and I relaxed a hair.

When I got to the clinic at 11 AM they wanted me to sign a paper first thing saying that Zoe is my horse and I assume financial responsibility for her. (i.e., Sign my life away.) Then I went out to get Zoe and brought her in. The next greeting I get was from a barn manager type who said, "No one told me you were coming until just now." I didn't know what to say, but she made me feel guilty for some reason. She also made me question whether the Doc knew I was coming. I thought perhaps she was the one who does the initial assessment of the wounds and would be cleaning Zoe's wound. She had me put Zoe in a stall. I asked whether I should leave my unprofessional bandage on or take it off. She just shrugged and said probably leave it on. Okay. Next I went back to the front counter and asked, "What's next?". Everyone up there gave me blank stares. What the?!? I asked for "Jackie" as that is with whom I had been speaking this morning. They just said they didn't know where she was and that the door was closed so maybe she was in town. Whatever that meant. I left thinking that I would be getting a call soon enough.

I got back to town, picked up Jimmy and drove to my clinic. We got there about 2:00. Not bad. I had my lesson, which went pretty well. I think T.V. was a bit impressed with how much we have improved since the last time he saw us. Well, as impressed as T.V. can be, I guess. He still complained about my dirty bridle. I didn't clean my tack that morning as I had planned to do due to the emergency with Zoe. I told Tom too bad about the dirty tack. He didn't pick on anything else. We did a lot of work on the right rein. Apparently, that was his theme this weekend. So we cantered for what seemed like a loooong time to the left so that I would use the right rein connection. I got the picture.

Before loading Jimmy back up I gave the vet clinic a call. The person told me I would get a call when my horse was ready to go. She wouldn't say whether Doc had seen her yet or not. If I didn't hear from Doc Friday evening, then I should call back Monday morning to find out what was going on. Uh, I don't think so.

I took Jimmy home. Called my husband, who agreed to come out with me to drive up to the clinic to check on things. We got to the clinic after 8 PM. I looked in the window of Zoe's stall and saw that she still had the same bandage I had put on to take her there. It was apparent that Doc had not come back to tend to her. I was enraged. I found someone in the barn feeding and asked how I could talk to Doc. She said he was up at the house. I told her I brought my horse in this AM and no has tended to her yet. I demanded to see Doc. By this time was crying. She gave him a call and he came down a while later. While waiting, I walked Zoe around, crying and angry.

Long story slightly shorter, he tended to her and said she would need surgery. The cut was deep and in a place that stitches wouldn't be able to hold. She would need a cast and 2 weeks stall rest. She was ready to come home on Sunday. She's doing alright in the cast, which comes up to about her knee.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Agility Trial

This weekend I volunteered with the local dog club to work their summer agility trial. I was the scorekeeper -- responsible for entering in all of the scores and times and preparing the paperwork for the judge and AKC. It was pretty cool. I got to be in the coveted RV -- with air conditioning and satellite TV. No one gets to come inside the RV unless they are a member of the trial committee.

I learned a lot about scoring the runs and rules for agility trials. It was a great learning experience. I would have liked to have been able to watch more of the runs. I got to see about the first 4 or 5 dogs of each class before I had to run back to the RV to start entering their scores. Now that I know more about agility and am handling a dog in agility watching the runs is a great teacher. It is interesting how people walk through the course before the runs begin. What are they focusing on? They look like idiots waving their arms, turning in circles, talking to an invisible dog. However, these are important planning and visualization moments, and the people who do this well are usually the ones that get the Qs. Well, it really depends on whether your dog feels like going through the course that day or not....

All in all, it made me excited about the idea of one day competing with Fred. We of course have to wait for a CPE trial to be offered in our area (becuase I am not traveling great distances for this). We are supposed to have a CPE match in January and our first CPE trial at the club a few months after that. That's a great target time for me and Fred. Most of the trials in our area are AKC, and my poor mixed breed dogs are excluded from such events. I think they are afraid the mutts will crush the expensive purebreds and all those people will stop buying from breeders and get their competition dogs from the Humane Society. What a tragedy that would be to find fun homes for the millions of homeless pets.

I did leave the trials feeling more confident that Fred and I have potential. We couldn't have any worse of a run than some of the people at this trial. There were quite a few dogs running out of the ring, ignoring the handler, hamming up to the crowd, etc. However, I am confident that if Fred did get distracted that I would be able to get him back to me and we could finish the course. It just may be a while before we move out of Novice A.

I have always said that the horses are my real priority. I do the agility and obedience with Fred because I love working with him. But I do it for fun only. I ride the horses for fun, too, but I have bigger goals of competition with them, especially with Zoe. So my money and my time (but especially my money) go to the horses. Heck, if I could, I would quit my job (assuming independent wealth) and devote my full time to training horses and dogs. That would be the perfect life for me.

And maybe I'd have to move to a place that has a little less humidity in July. Nah, I think I'd miss the cornfields.

Crap. I let the secret slip.

Welcome, Ed! I know you won't be able to resist reading my boring blog on my horses and dogs now that you know it exists. So, read up! You'll be sad to find that I don't rail on any work issues. I write this so that my focus is on my real passion and I'm not stressing about work. I hope you like horses well enough.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

So Hot!

It's heating up again. Thank goodness for central AC. We have it set at home for 79 degrees, but it is enough to keep the humidity out. I wouldn't be able to sleep otherwise and the dogs would probably be miserable.

A barn friend emailed me. Jimmy lost a shoe; looks like his back right, the one he tends to lose the most. I noticed last weekend that it looked a bit crooked. Hopefully he isn't lame on it (she said he looked fine) and I can ride this evening. Hopefully it cools off so we don't die of heat stroke while riding!

I love summer, and I can even stand the humidity, but I have to admit I don't like riding when you and your horse are dripping with sweat and we haven't even saddled up yet. It's not like I can wear cool shorts to ride in. It's full seat breeches, tall boots, and a helmet. Not exactly the coolest workout clothes, but at least they protect you from other incidental injuries. I do love my Irideon riding wear.

That's all the time I have for my post today. I have to get out to the barn now!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Clinic Update

Had a long week of being out of town and no riding. :-( It's so hard to do that! It's especially hard when you are stuck indoors for massive amounts of time and have no free time to exercise. Plus they feed you high fat, rich food. By the end of the week I just wanted to run, ride, and eat plain, boring food.

So I got home exhausted and stayed exhausted into this week. However, I did ride Jimmy and Zoe in clinics with David Blake this weekend. I had great rides on Jimmy. On Sunday we were so engaged and through (Durchlassigkeit). It felt great. I think we get better and better every day. Saturday I lunged Zoe and David rode her. What a sight. She is so cute. David made her look like she has steering and balance in every gait. I rode her on Sunday (not in a lesson) and she did feel like she has steering! Her canter was pretty good, but going to the right she just did not want to bend. Anyway, I didn't want to worry about that right away. It was so hot this weekend that the horses (and I!) were tortured with working in it anyway. All in all, it was a good weekend.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Dog Training

I'm excited about teaching my first dog obedience class this fall. I met with the training director last night and my co-teacher to go over the new curriculum. We are teaching "Obedience for Agility", a course centered around fun games and building skills and partnership between the dog and the handler. It should be fun and a challenge at the same time. It is tricky thinking about how to break down a behavior into trainable units and be able to explain that to an inexperienced handler. I think I'll be successful at it.

Meanwhile, I haven't seen Zoe or Jimmy since Monday. I am starting to go through withdrawals! After pilates tonight I will go out to ride Jimmy and clean the 2-day neglected paddock.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Weekend Report

When I am on vacation I usually stay away from the computer. That means I fell behind in my blogging. Last week I had the week off. I started it out by taking Jimmy to a dressage show in June 25th. We competed in First 4 and Second 1. The First 4 ride was going well and I felt good about it -- until I realized I had just cantered Jimmy on the wrong lead for 3 movements! Aaargh! He never does that! Aaargh, aaargh!! So I was marked with a 1 for all 3 movements. Took my score down to 52%. Well, I can hardly be mad since it was my stupid mistake. I just wasn't riding the test the way I should. It was a learning moment. It was better news for my Second 1 ride. I knew we wouldn't be perfect with this ride as I still had 2 trouble areas -- the simple change through the walk and my shoulder-ins becoming neck-ins. I rode the test well enough to get a qualifying score, 60%! I got 4s on my simple changes, and deservedly so. But I got some decent scores the rest of the test. My shoulder-ins were a bit abrupt so those were maybe 5s (I don't remember exactly), but I started the test off with an 8 for my halt, salute! I'll ride both of these tests again in August and hopefully receive high 60s or even 70s.

Since Zoe broke her side reins and I haven't ordered new ones yet, my work with her has been on the light side. This past week was also terribly hot and humid and really hard to get good riding in. I tended to ride Jimmy in the morning first and by the time I finished with him it was too humid to do anything more except my chores. One day was so hot I don't think I even left the house. That was a boring day. I did ride Zoe one time on Thursday and that was an interesting ride. I lunged her (w/o side reins) and then rode. She was fine for walk and trot. When I asked for canter she started bucking all around and going out of the arena into the grass. We just bucked around and around, but as long as we were going forward, we kept going. Finally she stopped bucking and we did some nice trot work. All in all it was about 15 minutes, but it sure was exciting. Okay, not exactly how I planned the ride to go. Thankfully I had a good seat because no one was around at the barn and it would have been bad for me to get hurt. She didn't get me off her back.

July 1-3 I went down to Kentucky to help my friend with her horse. She has been doing an amazing job since I was there last month. She started lunging with side reins and doing stretches for the horse. A wonderful difference. Ellie was soft and supple at the trot and MG was doing so well getting her to relax and use her back. I had her start adding in some canter. Ellie has been going for years on the trail where it is only necessary to balance on a straight line. A few months ago she couldn't even balance on the circle at a trot, so you can see she is re-learning how to balance in all of her gaits. Therefore, the cantering on the circle is not easy for her at all. On the lunge she wants to trot faster and faster and is reluctant to take her canter depart. MG has to work at using half-halts to slow her down and puch her into the canter at the same time. Usually Ellie loses her mind about this point. But with patience she is able to do it. When MG is on her back, Ellie has the same tendency. She tends to ignore the canter signal and chooses to trot rapidly instead. MG has some really good canter departs to the left that lasted 1-2 steps of canter and fell back to trot. When we changed direction, Ellie wouldn't even try to canter, and this was supposed to be her good side. MG had to work until Ellie actually responded to the canter aid by cantering. She worked at it for a long time. Finally, I had her go along the straight side and ask for it on the long line instead of on the circle. She eeked out a canter that way, and she was able to stop after that. It is going to take her some time to teach Ellie balance at the canter, but she works with her every day, so by August I expect she'll have it.

While in Kentucky I also got to see a Lakota Indian Naming Ceremony for the rare white buffalo calf born at Buffalo Crossing. That was really cool.

And since fireworks are legal in Kentucky, I also saw some amazing neighborhood fireworks displays. I thank god that fireworks are not legal in my state. I'm not thrilled with the idea of your drunk neighbor shooting fireworks at/near your house. I prefer to be a few miles away from the actual fire part.

4th of July celebrations with my family consisted of a lot of food and dips and people sitting around watching rerun television. It was really boring. I wanted to play a board game or cards but there weren't any games in the house! I couldn't believe it. Since I had eaten only a granola bar for breakfast and had worked both the horses and skipped lunch, I pigged out on all of the vegetables and dips. I had a yummy portabella mushroom sandwich off the grill. And my aunt's mom made this delicious fruit layered cake thingy that was light and fruity. I loved it. I ate the leftovers from that at lunch today. I didn't have the willpower to eat only half the leftovers and leave some for myself tomorrow. Oh well. Oh, and we didn't even watch the fireworks display. By that time it was cold and drizzly and we just wanted to go to bed. We didn't even get to go swimming in my uncle's pool because it started raining as soon as we go to their house.

All in all, I can't believe that it is already July. Why does time have to flip by so fast?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

My Poor Fred

I take Fred to the vet for his health screening for the Delta Society Pet Partners program. What a great charitable reason for a vet visit, huh? Some of my bad weekend luck must have leaked over.

I get to the vet and stand in the entry hall. On the dog side is a pit bull leaping and jumping at the entry door. I keep Fred close and wait for the handler to get the dog under control. I am hoping that he takes the dog to a chair across the room, away from the door. Fred is 100 lbs. and long. They aren't leaving too much room between the door and the chair. I wait. They stay in their seat. It appears that the pit bull is under the handler's control. So I open the door and Fred and I enter.

Fred wants to sniff the dog's nose. I have him on a very short lead, but his body is so long, that all he has to do is get one step ahead of me (his shoulder in front of my leg) and turn his neck toward the other dog. That's what he does, and the other dog didn't like it. Fred's nose gets about 2 inches from the other dog's nose and it leaps out and bites Fred on the nose. Not only does it bite him, but it holds on. This dog has got Fred's nose in it's mouth, Fred is crying in pain, and the pit bull doesn't let go. Finally the handler gets the dog to release. I mean, this wasn't a quick bite and release warning. This dog grabbed and held on.

Fred is bleeding all over the lobby as we quickly move to the other side of the room. I look at Fred's nose and see the bleeding and scratches. I say, "oh no!" as the vet and vet techs come running. They move me into a waiting room immediately. As we go, I turn to look at the handler and I say (not angrily), "You know, you could have moved your dog to the other chair, away from the door, if your dog could be dog aggressive." The woman at the counter looks at me angrily and says, "That is MY dog, and she has never been aggressive to any other dog before!" I look at her and reply only, "Okay." Really thinking, Well now you have a dog aggressive dog on your hands. Good luck.

Fred didn't seemed too phased by the bite. I don't think he understands what happened to him. He was still happy with all the people and attention. He was in pain and kept wanting to be close to me, but he never seemed scared or aggressive himself. He's an amazing dog. I got a free exam because of the ordeal.

The other dog's owner had to stay for Animal Control to come to take a report. This dog now has a report filed on it, so I feel better. What I really hope is that the owner is more careful with who handles her dog and she is more aware of the dog aggressive tendencies that are bred into pit bulls. I hate it that it was a pit bull that bit Fred. I especially hate it because we own a pit mix and hate the reputation to be justified. We trust Stella, and yet we make sure we keep her out of any situation that could lead to bad things like dog aggression. Because you never know with the breeding. We don't even let Stella and Fred stay together during the day. They are separated unless we are with them. We don't know what Fred might do to piss her off and what she would do to him if she "lost it". That is being a responsible owner. I don't feel this woman at the vet's office was a responsible owner. My vet said that the dog will have to muzzled whenever it comes back to their office. I hope the woman now internalizes that she has a dog aggressive dog. Again, this dog bit and held on; it didn't do a warning nip or quick bite. That's being dog aggressive. Scary.

Fred's wounds are healing well. I'm not sure if he will have any scarring. The vet said there is a chance. Time will tell if he becomes more wary of other dogs around him. So far I haven't noticed any change in him.

Please, everyone, be responsible pet owners!

Just Call Me Chip

My first trailer "accident" happened Saturday, June 18. By the way, this was also my first full day of real ownership of Zoe. I officially bought her on June 17! I was loading up the baby to go to a clinic and she decided to act up -- would go willingly into the trailer and then back out just as fast. We worked on getting her to stay in the trailer once loaded. It took about 15 minutes of smacking her on the butt every time she thought she would shoot out the back. Finally she stayed quietly in the trailer.

Well, until I went to close the butt bar. Just at the moment I was about to hook the bar with the small metal exposed piece that slides into the lock, she stepped back. And of course the damn metal end of the butt bar hit me right in my left front tooth. Blew the corner of the tooth away. Thankfully it didn't hurt one bit. I never felt an impact or had any pain. It just made a clean hit, enough to explode the corner of the tooth into my mouth.

Zoe should thank her stars I didn't have a knife or gun in my other hand. She would be hamburger on the driveway. Instead, I calmly took her the rest of the way out of the trailer and put her in her stall. I was fuming inside. I called my husband to tell him what happened -- I hadn't even looked at the tooth yet. I really wanted to know if I had to go to an emergency room or if I could go on to the clinic and get dental attention on Monday. Since it wasn't that serious - no pain, no blood, most of the tooth still there - we decided I could wait. So I loaded up the horses and went on to the clinic.

Ends up that chipping a tooth was only the beginning of a bad day.

Warming up Jimmy for his lesson, he is fine. Wait 5 miuntes as I chat with the trainer, and when we start again he is limping. What the...!?! We decide it is better not to work him. So I am out $50 and a much needed lesson before next weekend's show.

I'm warming up Zoe on the longe with side reins. All is going well. She looks great. She picks up the canter and throws in a few bucks. And breaks the outside side rein. Damn. More $$ going out my pocket because of that horse!

At dinner that night we are having a good time. I've had 2 glasses of wine. After dessert I am standing at the counter talking. One hand gesture and I break an empty wine glass on the beautiful marble countertop. Damn.

I go to bed and hope that's the end of my bad luck.

Next day, horses load picture-perfect coming and going. That's the way it should have happened yesterday. Jimmy is fine for his lesson and we have a good ride. I still need to work on my simple change through the walk. He's a plow! Zoe is wonderful. She longes perfectly (in borrowed side reins). David rides her for the first time in canter. How beautiful! And she is so well-behaved and accepting! It was a good day.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Happy Anniversary

Tuesday, June 14th was our 2nd Wedding Anniversary. Unfortunately, I was totally overbooked and barely got to spend any time with my husband. That was awful and next year I will make sure to take our anniversary off so that I am sure to have time to spend with him! He even made a gorgeous, yummy dinner and then I was almost an hour late getting home, so he ate without me and my food was cold (it was still yummy!).

Needless to say, the anniversary wasn't that memorable, but the next day we spent 3 hours talking on Instant Messenger (maybe the reason I had to work until 8 PM that night!) and had great sex that night. And the next day. And the next...and....

I love my husband very much and would never want to live this life without him.

Happy Anniversary, My Love!

Tomorrow's the Big Day

It's been a slow week with the horses. I have been extra busy and also paid some attention to the dogs. I am excited about one accomplishment this week. Fred and I have been certified as Delta Pet Partners. I attended the handler training workshop on Saturday (8 AM to 5 PM!) and Fred was evaluated (and passed!) on Sunday. It was fun and now Fred and I can visit nursing homes, schools, hospitals, and other places a therapy dog may be beneficial. We get an official badge and dog tag, and we are covered by the Delta Society insurance.

The people in the workshop were all women, which is pretty typical. For the most part they were nice, but one in particular rubbed me a little the wrong way. It's hard to pinpoint why I felt that way. I guess I didn't really like the way she talked about her dog. Of course everyone wants to share stories about their beloved pet, but she just told strange stories. For instance, the dog loves small children but has some other behaviorial things that, to me, made it unreliable. I don't know if the dog passed the evaluation or not. I saw the dog waiting for the evaluation and it was a fluffy border collie mix. Supposedly it is a laid back dog, but breeding would suggest otherwise. Anyway, I shouldn't judge. I hope they were successful and they bring happiness to people's hearts when they visit.

So that was my weekend, meaning that there was no time for riding. I spent a lot of time at the barn cleaning the strange scrapes on Jimmy and Zoe's hocks. Luckily the scrapes are healing better now that they are being cleaned regularly. I was worried that it was some kind of fungus or something, but it appears to be just some similar scrapes they got from somewhere in their paddock. Scrubbing with Betadine and spraying with Blue-Kote seems to be doing the trick.

The other things that took my time away from the barn:

I took a vacation day on Monday and spent the entire day and evening cleaning the house. Really. And it's not that noticeably cleaner either. Argh. I'm trying to get the house in shape for when a friend comes to visit at the end of this month. I need more vacation time to prepare for vacation!

Tuesday I had to clean 4 stalls and feed the horses then go to the last agility class of the term with Fred. I couldn't miss that! Fred loves agility. When I got to the class I was sure I wouldn't take any dog classes for the rest of the summer. I took Fred to 2 classes this term and assisted a class. It was too much. It kept me from the barn on Mondays and Tuesdays. I'm trying to prepare for the shows and keep Zoe on her training schedule. The horses win out over the dogs in priority.....

I had to work late. Didn't leave the office until 8 PM. :-(

Pilates until 6:30 PM. Then I got to ride Jimmy! After almost a week off, he still warmed up well and did everything nicely. I was worried about making him sore, so I didn't work him too hard. We have another clinic this weekend.

Pre-Clinic Cocktails. I'll drink instead of ride! But the BIG NEWS is that at lunch time on Friday, I will officially buy Zoe!

Oh, I also want to record that I had my second solo ride on Zoe last week! We only went off into the grass once. (that's an improvement) At first I was worried she was going to be difficult because when we walked along the edge of the arena by the grass she really wanted to eat it. I didn't let her eat and she was shaking her head and shaking her head. We kept on, and eventually she started concentrating on riding forward with me. She still feels like a drunken sailor underneath me, but she is so sensitive and floaty. It is a blast riding her. I'm looking forward to riding her in the clinic this weekend and cantering for the first time!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

First Solo Ride

I rode Zoe Saturday without "supervision". I'm getting tired of waiting to have someone present so that I can ride the baby. I don't have the luxury of having someone around the barn when I am there. So finally I decided to take the risk.

Zoe is doing great on the longe line since I took the stirrups off. (See earlier post.) She still likes to canter the best and it takes some asking to get her to transition back down to a trot, but she is listening better and is more relaxed. I'm happpy with her improvements on the longe. So after longing her I climbed on. Steering is still lacking, so a few times she trotted right out of the arena onto the grass. We just turned right back to the arena. I rode her only for about 10 minutes at walk and trot. She really was an angel. I will probably ride her more often now.

I think I have the Second, One memorized now. Jimmy and I practiced it on Saturday. The only movement I forgot was the medium canter after the collected circle. I'm excited we'll have it down for June 25. Reading over First, Four now makes that test seem so easy! But my problem is losing my focus during the test and messing up that way. I am determined to have good rides on the 25th. Jimmy is ready for it!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

A-C Serpentine three equal loops width of arena, no change of lead.

I got my entry ready to mail for the June 25th show. I am definitely riding Second Level, Test 1 even though my trainer said that is the most difficult test of the level. It's part of the Adult Amateur award program, so I have to try it. If I get high score on it at 3 shows this year, I qualify for National Champion. It's a small, small possibility, but it is fun to try for it anyway. I'd get a medal and a gift certificate at the show anyway. Wouldn't it be cool to get that? Better than a plastic curry comb.

Zoe is still doing great. She isn't rushing like a maniac anymore, but she does still have the habit of speeding up. I think she is getting over it. Thank god I didn't ruin her and it was just the banging stirrups. I finally broke down this weekend and bought Zoe a new bridle. The gawd-awful nylon thing she had was just soooo bad. I mean, I know I am going to buy her next month anyway. So now she has a Lemetex from Switzerland with flash noseband. It fits her well and she seems to like it just fine.

I haven't been able to ride Zoe since before the clinic. I am getting a bit anxious to be riding her more, so I am very near starting to ride her on my own. I don't think anything will happen, but with babies it is so unpredictable. I just haven't gotten the nerve up yet to risk riding solo the first few times. After that, I am sure it won't be a big deal at all. I guess if she is going to throw me or injure me, it should be before I buy her. Then I can always not buy her.... Well, I don't like that idea anyway.

Jimmy has been doing well, as usual. I am surprised how much we improve each time we ride. I ask him to do more and he does it. I learn something new, and he does it. Last night as I was leaving the barn I was wishing Jimmy would never get any older. I would be happy with life if we could have this working partnership for the rest of our lives. He brings me so much joy, confidence, and satisfaction. I owe this horse so much. So it is sad for me in a way to bring along this youngster as a "replacement" horse. It makes me go slow with her, which is probably to her benefit. I do hope she is another Jimmy and that this time because I know more, she and I will be able to go further than Jimmy was able to take me.

But what am I talking about? That sounds like past tense already when I refer to Jimmy. There is no telling yet how far Jimmy will take me, so I better not start writing him off yet.

In other news, I inadvertently blew off the dog agility class on Tuesday. I can't believe I thought this week's class was cancelled, when it is really next week's that is. I feel bad about it because Fred enjoys the class so much. I hate to make him miss something he loves to do. I didn't tell him my mistake, so maybe I get away with it this time. It just means we better practice the next two weeks.

I'm trying to decide how much dog training stuff I should do this summer. I really feel the horses pulling me away from the dog training. I'd like to take a break from the dog classes, but I'm supposed to teach one this fall, so I am afraid of being away for 3 months. I still have to decide.

Pilates last week was fun. It seems easy, but I think that start us out doing easy stuff. I think my core is pretty strong from riding and the other work I do, so they need to take it up a notch tonight. These semi-private lessons are expensive, so I do want to be sore the next day!

Signing out.........

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Driving You Crazy With Stirrups

Another clinic weekend with David Blake. He came in the nick of time for me since for the past 2 weeks Zoe has been acting nutty on the longe line. She was hurrying around the circle and constantly popping into canter -- on the wrong lead -- and wouldn't slow down easily. It was driving me nuts and I was running out of things to do.

Consequently, it was a few weeks ago that I added stirrups to the saddle in which I longe her. Made sense since I was starting to ride her more. But you get the idea where this may be headed.

David longed her on Saturday, and she was displaying the same rushed behavior. He didn't have an explanation, though he was worried there may be something physically wrong, but no real indication what that might be. We didn't ride her on Saturday. On Sunday before the lesson I took the stirrups off the saddle because I was suspecting that they might be driving her nuts. Lo and behold, I longed her and she was perfect! She still tended to speed up, but she slowed down more readily and listened better.

I think the banging stirrups were driving her crazy. I told David I would give the credit of "fixing" her to him and not to simply removing the stirrups. But we all know what really happened. I haven't longed her since Sunday, so I will do that today or tomorrow to make sure the problem has really gone away.

Jimmy, on the other hand, was excellent as usual. I have so much fun riding him. We are working on our canter serpentines and simple changes. Next month I am riding second level for the first time. I hope I get qualifying scores! Basically, I better not make an error on the test. That tends to be how I lower my scores. Jimmy scores pretty well on his movements, so it does mostly come down to rider error.

I'd like to design a computer program for practicing dressage tests. Something that will let me control a horse figure around an arena in a test pattern, or will let me type in the movements in order, or let me draw each movement on an arena. That would be very helpful for me to memorize the major movements and sequences. If only I had more free time. Yeah, my free time has pretty much gone out the door since getting a second horse.

Oh yeah, I start Pilates lessons on Thursday with my husband and I am doing a Yoga Fitness class Tuesday evenings. Add that to my dog training club classes on Mondays and Tuesdays. No wonder my house is a mess. And I am supposed to run a half-marathon in January.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Zoe in April

This photo was taken of Zoe around April 24, 2005. She is just about to turn 3 years old.

Photo of Zoe in pasture.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


I just returned from a great weekend in Kentucky. We went to the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. It was a bit rainy and on the cold side Friday and Saturday, but Sunday was sunny and the ground had dried considerably. It was a lot of fun this year. I spent my $500 budget on horse accessories and got things I needed. The horses were fantastic as well. There were quite a few eliminations by the end of the day Saturday, so the Sunday stadium jumping was shortened. It is still amazing that these horses are crazy enough to go over these huge jumps. I guess that's from the perspective of a dressage rider.

Sunday evening we went to stay with my friend who just moved to Kentucky about a month ago. She has a great house in a great town about an hour from Lexington. I was really impressed with the area. Her horse is boarded at an old saddlebred barn, which is interesting. The barn has an indoor riding track that goes around the stalls. One end is big enough for a 20 meter circle and the long sides are sufficient for doing shoulder-ins and leg yields. The wider long end can accomodate zigzag leg yields. It's a good situation for her. She moved from a barn that had no indoor riding facilities at all and she did trail riding exclusively. She's finding it a bit frustrating to be in a place where her horse has to be willing to bend. I think Ellie forgot she could bend. I gave my friend a dressage lesson and rode her horse a bit. Ellie is not used to having contact with the bit, so she will have to get used to accepting the bit and being soft in the mouth. MG certainly has her work cut out for her. Hopefully I will be able to come down once a month this summer to help her along. Plus, it is a great place to visit.

Last night I finally got to ride my main horse. He is so great. He came up to me in the pasture and looked happy to see me. It was a nice feeling. The baby, however, tried to stay just out of my reach the whole time. She was afraid I was going to put her away. I was only interested in riding Jimmy. We had a great ride, but he did seem a little stiff to the left. I am worried that he is developing arthritis in the left hock. Something to keep my eye on. If I can ride him every day or every other day, he stays flexible. It's these times when he is on rest for a week that he comes back stiff. Well, the weather is supposed to be gorgeous through the weekend, so we will get plenty of riding in!

Friday, April 22, 2005


Barnsitting, like housesitting, but with a lot more work involved. My good friend has gone to the Dressage World Cup Finals in Las Vegas and I stayed home to take care of the horses. Boy, I wish I were in Vegas. They have VIP seats -- 2 rows back from E with free drinks and eats. The best riders in the world eating with them, at the hotel pool with them, and on the streets with them. Wow. I am more jealous than I thought I would be. It is really inspiring to watch these riders and horses. Plus, Las Vegas weather has got to be better than what is happening in the midwest right now.

But I must say that I do love taking care of the horses and barn. It's about the only time I can get out of bed by 6 AM without a problem. I even jog around the yard a bit while I'm feeding. And although my sleep pattern is totally out of whack, I still feel good during the day. Yesterday I had to spend 4 hours at home to take a nap in the morning because I was so behind in sleep, but that's just because I haven't been getting to sleep until 11:30 PM and my dog woke me up several times every night because he was nervous about sleeping at a strange place. He may be a 100 lb. dog, but he is still a big sissy. He loves to be around the horses, though. He is so happy in the mornings to go out and feed with me. He jumps and struts and smiles and plays with everything. It is a great way to start the day.

I look forward to the day we finally have our small farmstead on our 18 acres. Getting up for horses is the best way to get out of bed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Even better! I had a GREAT ride on Jimmy. I'm learning more and more and Jimmy responds to me so well. I can't wait to compete this summer.

Zoe was SUPER!! Her trot floats you along, even as a young, unbalanced, barely backed 3 year old. She was calm and willing the whole time. I tell you, she is going to be a great horse. I hope I can buy her in June. I'm planning on it. I'll try to get some video up here in the next month.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Riding the Young Horse

A wonderful experience yesterday! I rode Zoe for the first time on the lunge. She was an angel. She cared more about trying to rub her face on my friend's shoulder than about me being on her back. The last time I was on her, my friend just walked us around for a few minutes. This time I was out on the lunge and we trotted. It felt much more like a real ride! The fact that she didn't act up, didn't stop, didn't spook and was just calm and collected (though very baby-wobbly) is a good sign! I'm very excited about her.

Not to ignore my main horse, Jimmy.... He's been going very well and I am pleased with our progress. I will start out riding First Level Test 4 and do Second Level Test 1 at our first show out this season, which will probably be in June. If I score well enough on First 1, then I am into Level 2 for sure! I'll have the scores I need in First to qualify for my bronze medal. I'll just need to get two scores over 60% in Second level, and then I am on to third! It's amazing to think about, considering it took me 2 years to get through Training level. By the way, his sinus infection is totally cleared up and he will be off the antibiotics on Sunday. That's good news.

Needless to say, a ton of my time is spent with the horses. My husband isn't that thrilled about that, but he is so supportive and likes to see the progress, too. He is really the most wonderful man I could have married.

Next week the Dog Training Club classes begin again. I'm taking Fred to Agility 1 and Rally-O Intermediate. And I am assisting a Puppy Kindergarten class. That's 2 nights a week that I won't be able to do much with the horses. Mondays I won't even be able to go to the barn. I have until 7:30 PM on Tuesdays to go to the barn and take care of things. It's going to be a challenge with the weather turning so nice! I'll have to take vacation time on Tuesdays so I can leave work early! Whoohoo!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Stinky Snot!

This weekend my horse developed a sinus infection indicated by some rancid smelling nasal discharge from his right nostril. It is quite disgusting. The good news is that it is not infectious to other horses. Bad news is that it could be a long process to rid him of the infection. He is already started on a course of antibiotics and got a shot of penicillin and an IV of antibiotics to start his treatment. !0 more days of giving him 24 pills a day, and hopefully he is better. After reading about equine sinus infections online I worry that he could be on antibiotics for months and end up having surgery to put a drain in for flushing his sinus. Sounds expensive, doesn't it? Check out this article from HorseCity.com, "Clinical signs, diagnosis and treatment of Sinusitis explained" at http://www.horsecity.com/stories/120400/hea_sinisitis_ML.shtml. It even has a picture of what his nose looks like.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Digging Deeper

The new horse. I am about an inch from being a certified crazy horseperson. Yes, that means I have a trial ownership of a three-year old Oldenburg filly. She's a fantastic mover, but her disposition makes her a difficult horse to work with. All of the professional trainers that I have taken her to so far have said she is going to take a lot of time and effort and will be a challenge. Shouldn't that be enough to make you walk away??? Perhaps, but since I am so close to being a certified crazy horseperson those warnings make me want to prove what a great horseperson I really am. I can be the one to make her into that really super dressage horse and everyone will be impressed with my ability to handle and train challenging horses. Well, that's the fantasy anyway. The reality may be more of a frustrating road than I am willing to dream of right now. Anyway, I don't own her yet, so I can still have a fantasy. I'll post pictures and a video clip as soon as I have some.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Everyone Needs Another Horse

I have a chance to buy an untrained 3 year old. I love the way this horse moves and she gets along great with the horse I have now. I've been working with her for about a month. It's not the best time for me to buy a second horse, but as the title points out, everyone needs another horse. I started out very neutral about the horse. I'm worried about the money it will cost to keep her, in addition to the purchase price. On the other hand, she would be a great horse to replace my aging gelding, who turns 19 in March. I would be responsible for her training. That takes a lot of time and patience, not just a lot of money. And I am not ready to retire Jimmy yet.

On top of all of this, my husband and I are about to close on 17.83 acres in a few weeks, so we are putting out a ton of cash for that. I don't really have the cash around to buy this new horse, but I am sure I could scrape it together. It's being able to scrape together the monthly costs that is a bit of a concern. I know it can be done, but do I want to do that? Will my husband silently be mad at me for putting our money to another horse? Silently? Probably not. I did already tell the owner that I didn't think I could afford to buy her. I offered her a lowish price -- she didn't say no, but she didn't accept it either. So I am still working with the horse until March. And I feel myself coming a bit attached to her, and that scares me. I like the idea of owning her. I like the idea of competing with her. I think she would be a great horse. Can she be MY great horse??

Friday, February 04, 2005

A Picture's Worth A Million Words

Hopefully the final post on the infamous pet portrait saga. Finally the substitute photographer called me back. I only had to leave a million voicemails and be as sweet-sounding as I could be to convince her I wasn't out to sue her. Once she called -- leaving a message on my home phone at an hour that I likely wouldn't be available to answer -- she was apologetic and confessed she wanted to do anything to please us. She'd give us another sitting for free. All we wanted was some reprints of another shot that was at least frameable and giftable and to get on with our lives. We weren't about to go for another sitting. No way. We didn't want to do any other business with this person. So now we are waiting the 6 or whatever weeks it takes for her to get reprints done. Supposedly it will be mailed directly to our home. I'm not totally confident that we'll get what we think we will, but all I can do is wait.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Welcome ESLPLANET.COM users

This site is now the destination for eslplanet.com. As a budget measure, we are consolidating sites for better use of our resources.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Portrait Saga Continues

A short update on this saga with the pet portraits. Still after calling almost daily, the photographer has not returned any calls. I talked to a live person once. He said she tried to call me back on Christmas Eve. Who in their right mind would make a business call on Christmas Eve? Furthermore, none of my caller ids on any of my phones indicated a call on Christmas Eve. So now we have a "professional" photographer avoiding a customer and outright lying. This does not bode well for what the final resolution will be here. I get angrier and angrier each day I have to leave another message. I try to be nicer and nicer sounding in my messages so she does not think I will rip her a new one when she finally does call. I just want new prints! Arrgh!

The only positive thing that came out of this was contact with the REAL photographer, who IS a professional, and who has gone out of our way to make up for the circumstances. So on one hand I can still believe that there are decent professionals in the world.

I think my next step will be to complain to the pet store that sponsored the portrait taking. They should be taking more responsibility with this. I shouldn't have to be dealing with this!

Monday, January 03, 2005

New Year

It's the new year! Whoohoo! We've had unbelievable weather since Christmas. It has been 60 degrees Fahrenheit like every day. This is bazarre when you consider the previous week was -15 with windchill, and we should be getting snow on the ground and having ice storms. Why is the weather so messed up??

It has been a great holiday this year. I got 10 days off work, my sister is here from The Netherlands, and it has been all fun times. My in-laws gifted us with a whopping sum of money to help us with the down payment on our 18 acres. I started crying right there. They are such great people. We close on the property in March. In the next weeks we will lock in our interest rate. I hope it is still low.

So, in March we will be farmers. Well, we won't actually be farming, but we will have a real farmer farm for us. Let's hope soybeans do well this year! That will help finance our seeding for pasture and hopefully pay the taxes on the land. In five years we may be able to start building our dream house and barn!