2015 recap = nothing.

hullo friends.  it has been a long time.  i took some time to finally read up on some of my favorite bloggers and wow yous have not had a good year.  2015 kind of sucked.

it wasn’t the best for me either, for various meh-type reasons, but 2016 promises to be better.  for all of us, i hope!

small update: i have not competed this summer, not a single once.  i am having some fun with various school ponies, but to be honest i kind of blew threw my 3-year showing budget last summer, which was great because i had a horse to show.  nathan and i are doing fun things more often, i guess, which is cool.  hockey season has started, and i don’t talk much about it but it is a large obsession for me.  it has been rather warm so i am not prepared for it to be almost thanksgiving.  but my trainer, god bless her soul, has promised to take me fox hunting this year.  I AM SO READY.

for now, i leave you with gratuitous xc schooling video from woodstock, here in fabulous maryland.  love the linkle, he’s almost always a good boy.

i promise not to leave you for so long again.  ❤️

In which I earn my sticky nickname.

I’m BAAAAAAAAAAACK.

And I have fun pictures for you!

So we had a combined test at the farm a few weeks ago – we have one every spring, and home shows traditionally do not go well for me (see video still that serves as my bio photo, stage right).

This year we have many new school horses, and so when my trainer yelled at me for not entering said home show, I said go ahead and stick me on a school horse.  Whatever.  I have to be there anyway.

This was not the brightest idea, kids.

a bucking bronco

it was way worse than it looks.

This, dear friends, is Kramer.  I tried him when he first came to the farm, and he was lovely.  Happily went into the bridle, was bendy, not crazy, point and shoot to jumps, and generally fairly simple.  Great! we said.  We’ll keep him, he’ll be great for Equishare.

Things obviously devolved from there.  By week number 2, he was turning into a spooky little monkey.  The going theory is he just got overwhelmed, because it is not the quietest farm.  There are lots of horses, lots of kids, lots of lessons all the time.  It turns out he is much better with lunging.  What did I not do either time I rode him that day?  Lunge.  Yup.

Kramer had actually been getting a lot better with regular use, and the diligent work of one of our full-time instructors.  But a show with lots of people and ponies running around was just breaking the poor guy’s brain.  Which, really, was the whole point.

this went on for a while.

this went on for a while.

We started with a dressage test (Beginner Novice A) which actually only had one small disobedience, but was preceded by some bucking and a small rear-and-spin.  So that was fun.  But afterwards we took a little walk to take in the sights and check out the jump ring, and he happily traipsed around the property like he owned it.  Weirdo.

THEN we attempted stadium a few hours later.  Solid warm-up in the indoor, trek to the upper ring, and begin to pop over some fences with four other people in my class… and then it all went crazytown.  Bucking and hopping outburst, including one HUGE leap into the air capriole style.  So they clear the ring, so I can school him properly (it’s a very small ring), and he proceeds to have a meltdown.

In. front. of. EVERYONE.

Thankfully one of the teenagers caught it on camera (Thanks Deborah!!!).  Also big ups to resident safety mom Julie, who let me borrow her air vest just in case.  I actually fully expected to go flying, so I came prepared.  (I did not, in fact, go flying like I predicted but of course I’m happy to be wrong about that.)

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yup.

I think he wore himself out pretty quickly, because he decided he wanted no parts of going over brightly colored objects.

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and then we started running out! yippee!

He usually jumps around courses quite happily.  So this was an interesting development.

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hello, i am the queen of defensive riding.

And finally we jumped.  Popped over a couple times, so came to the agreement that I could just do my course and get it over with.  He was lovely, go figure.

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hey look, we found a butt.

 

Once he got moving, and forward, he was much nicer.

aaaaahhh much better.

aaaaahhh much better.

Hooray for getting mileage on the new pony.  Good boy.

Still here!

It has been a rough few weeks but I am still here… still alive!

My husband has been out and back to California for the Navy and is just finishing up a couple more weeks on orders and then he goes back to his regular job. Thank god for the Reserves, it’s the best of both worlds.

I have a post on deck about fixing my deck (har har) and some recipes. And of course, more about the ponies – I competed at Waredaca over the weekend and it was AWESOME!

Oh and there may or may not be a new little furry face to introduce you to… stay tuned!

Brace yourselves… winter is coming

I don’t really know of any other sport or activity where the goal posts are constantly moving further away than riding. The better you are, the more there is you still have to learn.

My hands continue to be a frustration. For one thing, my thumb is still hurting; I’m probably just impatient but I’m not entirely confident there isn’t something more seriously wrong. Brace for two more weeks. I can email my doctor before then if it gets bad.

I walked into the barn last Thursday and took a deep sniff… the air had changed and the smell was different. And immediately I felt all the dread, because if this winter is like last winter here in DC, I will never get to ride. I did get a lot of time off from work though, which is kind of fun. Your tax dollars at work.

Burns got his mane pulled, and he looks so handsome! We are very fortunate to have a student at the farm who is now a college freshman, and she does all things braiding, mane pulling, etc. Burns’ nice braids for the Seneca Valley show were done by her. She did his mane, too, and it came out great. It doesn’t hurt also that she’s super cheap for usual braiding standards. Burns is also getting super fluffy – he already have what most horses would consider their full winter coat, which means it’s soon going to be time to clip again. He had a trace clip last year done by one of the other instructors at the farm and it was quite wonderful, because he can be a sweaty, sweaty beast.

Our last few lessons have been generally successful, even though I feel like a sack of potatoes my last few rides. Last Monday I micro-managed enough to make him chip (he has always been a 100% long spot kind of guy) almost every fence AND make him mad. Usually his hissy fits have more to do with working when he doesn’t want to, so there is a definite improvement in work ethic that he is having a hissy fit about me keeping him from doing his job correctly. Doesn’t look well on me, though, hence feeling like a sack of potatoes.

But, you know, it was a 3′ course and several people said we looked really good, so, at the end of the day I can’t be too unhappy. It was just weird, because they were simple outside-diagonal single-outside-diagonal single and it was pretty terrible for my part. He was on point and amazing though.

Thursday was just all bad. At least it felt bad. This is where most of the frustration is coming from – I couldn’t get my hands out of it enough to be consistent. And funnily enough, I did steal a look in the mirror at one point and was impressed by my back/seat/leg shape (as in, I looked like a real dressage rider). Wtf mates. So maybe it felt much worse than it looked, and my trainer and I are just getting really nitpicky (these are not bad things). The downward transitions for everything though were just terrible. I have this terribly awkward habit of moving my hands back and just dropping my seat into his back… ready for this… sack of potatoes style. Yup.

This all solidifies my “constant lunge lessons” theory for all of the winter. I asked for one last night again and made solid progress. My trainer had me working on downward transitions again, but since I had no hands, at least I couldn’t fuss with them. She had me practice sucking his back up into my seat and walking my hips, and there were a few really nice downwards. We also worked a lot on sitting trot, in which I was getting the hang of not collapsing my upper body and still relaxing enough to stay with the motion, all while keeping my outside shoulder further back and knee loose.

Also holy crap she made me double post. This is something I make my students do all the time. I need more practice, because I failed miserably. I imagine I need to two-point more often as well. As well as work on galloping position. Sigh.

No stirrups november is going to be VERY necessary.

I guess the one nice thing is my trainer said after our nicest/last 3′ course last Monday we should just skip Beginner Novice and head straight for Novice. HA HA HA funny. (I need an actual nice dressage test first.)

Balsamic Tortellini

We all know what it’s like to have a full time job and also ride, and still have to keep a clean house and take care of family.  As if it’s not enough that you have to battle traffic on your way home, eat something so you don’t pass out, drive some more, get your ride in, and then drag your exhausted butt home because your trainer kicked your ass – your husband/child/cat wants to eat too.  Stop obsessing over the new online ordering at Panera Bread (guilty).

I like to cook, so I’ll try to share some quick recipes, under about half an hour or so, that will get your tummy full and back out the door to see your beloved ponyface, because everyone knows he’s your favorite anyway.

Sorry this one has no pictures – in the future I’ll be doing as much photographing as I can!

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el gato raul juanito espinosa… the cat

Friends, I live with a very… special… cat.

He's very photogenic.

He’s very photogenic.

When my husband adopted him 11 years ago, 16 weeks old from a shelter in Arkansas, they said he was a trouble maker.

“You don’t want this one,” they said.

“He’s annoying,” they said.

My husband says this is the only kitten that came over to him, and so that was that.  Nathan brought him home and named him Gato.

We call this "hot dog mode."

We call this “hot dog mode.”

My husband is Mexican.

Gato is spanish for Cat.  Yep.

He has his own Facebook page, which lists his entire formal name: Gato Raul Juanito Espinosa. He’s very famous. The personality on this cat has in turn saved 3 orange cats from shelters via my mother and my grandmother – they just loved him so much when he and I lived with my mom, that they went out and got orange males of their own. Of course, none of them really had the personality of Gato.

So demanding.

So demanding.

This cat will hold entire conversations with you, and he rules the house.  He’s very demanding.  I maintain that he chooses to live with us, and we are his friends.  Don’t call me a mom.  He is not my child, he is Gato.  The cat.

Pretty good for snuggles though too.

Pretty good for snuggles though too.

Not that long ago actually, a friend of mine pointed something out to me.  She had just met him for the first time, and I was trying to explain his name to her.  She is a pretty fluent spanish speaker, and I swear to George Morris she came up with what I think is the best most brilliant thing, ever.

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This is his domain.

“So that means Gato is like a title, right?”

Yes, he is EL GATO.  The most interesting cat in the world.

I don't always eat people food.  But when I do, it's Peruvian charbroiled chicken from Sardi's.

I don’t always eat people food. But when I do, it’s Peruvian charbroiled chicken from Sardi’s.

Overheard in the ring…

horse show warm up photoIf you come back with a test that says “needs more energy,” I will buy you a drink!

Photo by Serge Melki

I has a plan!

I think one of the things that has held my progress in check for a long time is not having very clear riding goals.  In high school I competed essentially to go hang out with horses and friends all day.  It wasn’t much different in Texas, when I was leasing a horse named Checkers.  It was just kinda like, okay go.  Get around the course, you didn’t die, okay cool.

Then I moved to Maryland, started eventing, bought a house, had no money, and I realized something.  Eventing is way too expensive to not visibly improve from event to event, even if that improvement is developing consistency.  If I’m going to bother with it, and bother to take two lessons a week, and not waste my and my trainer’s time, I need to have a clear cut plan and progression.

Yeah, so, I has a plan.

Short Term (Winter 2014-2015)

  • Improve and lighten my dressage seat – quieter hands, stronger back to minimize collapsing to the right side, open angle of hip to thigh to solidify lower leg
  • Improve sitting trot – catch more of the “upswing” and bring center of gravity back
  • A training level dressage test capable of scoring in the high 60s
  • Work on downward transitions and halt
  • Lots of gymnastics to strengthen and improve jump form
  • Stop using the martingale on the flat

Next Show Season (Spring-Fall 2015)

  • Complete an entire event without forgetting a test or course
  • Recognized Beginner Novice horse trial
  • A “move up” horse trial at Beginner Novice or a starter trial at Novice in the fall (This one’s a long shot, because I won’t bother to move up until I can actually complete events with no eliminations or memory lapses consistently)
  • One hunter show

Long Term

  • Renew CHA Certification
  • Qualify for the American Eventing Championships

Now, I’m not usually much of a planner, and I know as much as the next person what happens to the best laid plans.  I was actually feeling a little superstitious about writing them out, but my checking account needs real focus from me this year.

What are you planning to accomplish in the next year or so?

Photo “Blueprint” by Will Scullin

The Horsey Bucket List

Okay friends, you know what’s coming.  Every equestrian of every style has a “horsey” bucket list of all the weird crap they want to do atop a 1,000lb animal, or involving horses in some way.  Because if we didn’t, we’d be insane, right?

Well, I too have one of those lists.  And here it is.  Enjoy!  Give me suggestions!  Tell me about all the things you’ve done or want to do!

  1. Stay overnight at a big horse show.
  2. Go swimming with a horse.
  3. Play a game of polo.
  4. Do one of those vacation weeks at a working ranch.
  5. Jousting!
  6. Tour the UK on a trail riding countryside trip.
  7. Exercise ride a racehorse.
  8. Get yelled at by Our Lord and Master the all-knowing ever precise George Morris.
  9. Beat a pro in a horse trial.
  10. See the Lipizzaners AT the Spanish Riding School, IN Vienna.
  11. Get around a USHJA Hunter Derby Course.
  12. Go riding on the beach!
  13. Ride sidesaddle (there’s a theme starting here).
    Did this one in a lesson demo as part of the Maryland Horse World Expo!
  14. Learn to jump sidesaddle.
  15. FOXHUNT.
  16. FOXHUNT SIDESADDLE.
  17. FOXHUNT SIDESADDLE IN ENGLAND. PRETEND I’M ON DOWNTON ABBEY. COMPLETE LIFE AND DIE HAPPILY.

Photo “Searching low” by beaucon

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