Monday 28 April 2014

Mane Event/Rob Gage Clinic

 I woke up quite early Sunday morning and saw the weather was looking a little iffy for the outdoor things I had planned for the day, I decided to head to Red Deer to the Mane Event Expo and catch the morning clinics. I literally hopped in the truck about 10 minutes after waking up - impulsive, much? ;)

I made it there just in time for the first group in the Rob Gage clinic. For those not familiar with him, here's a short bio I found online (stolen from a COTH posting, his website appears to be down at the moment)

"He is best known as a top Grand Prix rider, having won the AGA Rider of the Year in 1985, the West Coast Rider of the Year 4 times, and going to the World Cup Finals 3 times. However, he is also a top coach. His students won over 30 year-end equitation medal finals, including the USET finals twice. He currently is a "R" judge and course designer, one of the main judges for, and gives clinics all over the U.S. and internationally."

Similar to Saturday's Rolex fiasco, I sat absorbed and nearly motionless for the next 4 or so hours. From an auditor's viewpoint, I really, really enjoyed this clinic. First off, I think the organizers did an excellent job putting the rider groups together. There wide mix of riders and horses, but everyone fit well in the groups they were assigned to. In the intermediate group there was everything from professional hunter riders on greenies to a (very talented) girl on a pony, in the advanced, giant warmbloods to a super cute 19 year old appy, and even the upper level group (who are all beautiful riders) brought a couple of horses that were green at that level.

Bad pic of the lower level course - as you can see, lots of tight turns, bending lines, and related distances were the order of the day.

As for the instruction, again as an auditor, I'd say it was top notch. He's not afraid to tell it like it is and can be super blunt, but on the flip side he's also very enthusiastic when the riders get it right. He's also excellent at explaining step by step what went wrong (or right) and why - I decided I might like him when he 'cantered' around on foot through the course pretending to be one of the horse and rider combinations to illustrate a point about choosing the right line and using your aids at the right time. The day was all about seeing your distances and planning your lines efficiently, and started with exercises similar to the ones we worked on in my lesson Saturday, then moved on to full courses. I felt like his critiques were really fair, and loved that he spent a lot of time explaining WHY he didn't like something, He also wasn't afraid hop in the saddle to really show you what he meant or school a horse. Think a slightly more laid back/approachable George Morris (but only slightly :)  The focus was a little more towards jumpers, but he did review parts of each round and tell you how he would score it as a hunter judge and why. He's all about giving the horse every opportunity to do a good job. If a rider took a different line or added or subtracted he wasn't overly concerned provided they had a good reason for doing so and it benefited the horse. He mentioned several times that he loves to see a 'thinking' rider - one that will adjust to circumstances rather than just sticking with plan A - and stopped a few riders to praise them for good horsemanship type decisions made even if the end result wasn't 'pretty'. That being said, there were definitely big bonus points to be found for perfect style and distances and he was very quick to compliment those with beautiful and effective equitation! You also DID NOT want to misjudge a fence more than once :)  He's very detail oriented and insightful, and has an amazing eye. Hi steaching style really worked for me as an auditor, and I picked up tons of little tips I'll try to use in my own riding.

Exhibit B - why you don't get more photos. My real camera was stolen recently and iPhone is simply not up to the task. Proof though, that I did try to get you a picture of the cute little appy!

After the clinic, while I was eating lunch, he happened to sit near me and I was also was super impressed to overhear him making a point of personally tracking down and thanking all the 'behind the scenes' people in a very genuine manner. He also made a point of saying hi to me and asking if I enjoyed the clinic, and spent quite a bit of time chatting to some young girls and signing autographs for them. Very classy. I'm still a little scared of him, though :)

I was a little ambivalent about going to the Mane Event this weekend - I feel like G and I have overdone expo type things in the past few years, and it's starting to feel like it's the same demos and vendors year after year, plus the price of admission and parking seems to increase every year. Also, it's usually WAY overcrowded and not always the best environment to sit and learn much. I have to say, the expo part itself met my expectations and was a bit of miss for me, but the clinic itself was well worth the drive and the price of admission - I wish very much I could have made it to more than one day and will certainly make an effort to see Rob Gage again if the opportunity arises.

Saturday 26 April 2014

It Must Be Rolex

True confession time: I didn't get out of bed this morning. At all. I tuned into Rolex cross country day on my laptop via the USEF Network, and that was that. By the time it was over at 1:30 my time I was about equal parts starving, running late to get to my lesson, and totally inspired. Amazing horses, amazing riders. What I wouldn't give to be a tenth that talented and fearless!

Even with my late start, I still made it to my lesson with time to spare. This guy was waiting for me:

We'll never go to Rolex, but there must be some kind of ultimate cute pony competition he'd be a shoe in for :)
 Sorry for the lack of picture variety, we're still riding in the dark, non photo friendly indoor because the ground isn't dry enough to be outdoors in the sun quite yet.
This was my third time on Splash. You'll probably remember him as the one who is always ever so slightly behind your leg, something I find truly annoying. At any rate, off we went, me still motivated by Rolex videos and Splash motivated by nothing. The tipping point was the bazillion laps of two point we worked on. Two point is a workout, and Mr Splash has it all figured, slowing to a creep the instant you get your butt out of the saddle- surely no one can balance in two point AND kick him forward, right? That's where you're wrong, little buddy. I'm just as lazy as you, so you need to keep up your end of the bargain. I got seriously irritated, and while he may not have been on the Rolex program with me, he at least decided to wake up and attend today's lesson program :)

Then, on to the jumping. Today was a little different in that rather than riding courses, we just rode specific lines and worked on playing with striding. I'll admit I was a little apprehensive about Splash's ability to make a 6 stride in anything less than a 7, so I chased him fairly aggressively the first time. From then on he was totally with me and on his A game. We played with adding and leaving strides, then moved on to a 6 stride bending line. Would you believe we nailed it in a 5, 6 and 7 the first tries? And then a 4. I know that's not a big deal to some, but for me it's basically unheard of that I would attack a fence (on an angle even) to get a 4 when I could just as easily do it in a safe and  lazy 7 :) We moved on to some other lines and strides with out issue and then the lesson was over all to quickly. Even Splash seemed a little surprised to be having quite so much fun and threw in a couple of cheeky, 'feelin good' bucks towards the end of the lesson.

I feel like I rode a lot better today than last week. Probably a typical rider thing in that if you give me enough to do I'll forget to get caught up in the little things and just get on with it and get it done!

Ultimate best part of the lesson though, was on my way out of the ring when the little barn girls ran up and gave him treats and were like "Splash! You were SO awesome! I want to ride you next time!" and he really seemed so proud of himself :) I'm not sure Splash is used to being the object of anyone's admiration LOL

I know I've sort of mentioned he's not my favorite ride, but I have to admit the little dude's growing on me.


Sunday 20 April 2014

Saturday Lesson Recap!

And Checkers makes a return appearance! I was so happy to see my name next to hers on the board - I really like her and she is defintitely my favorite ride at the barn.

Looking deceptively sweet here. She's super reliable and good at her job, but I love her for that opinionated chestnut mare thing shes got going on..
In other news, I seriously have no idea how the barn schedules lesson horses - I think I've ridden all of them (except the little ponies) by now and it's never the same horse back to back. Part of me is happy because I am constantly having to adjust to a new horse and probably am becoming a better rider, the other part of me really misses having a bigger connection with any of them.

So, while it was super nice to have a forward thinking horse again, I had a bit of adjusting to do to get where I needed to be for that over enthusiastic jump of hers. Honestly, I even have trouble getting in the right place int he saddle on the flat with her - it's OK, but I feel like I'm on the verge of tipping forward always, where on the other horses I feel solid.  Checkers is funny, the little warm up cavaletti gets jumped the same height as the 'big' jumps in the combination (about 2'6" tall and equally wide, so not big at all for people braver than me! :) At any rate, if you can ride one nicely, you're good to go for all of them, she'll give you the same jump every time.  First round was not my best - instructor said last line was optional as I was riding to it, so I considered circling, then changed my mind at the last minute and went for it without planning overly well and ended up on a funny stride in. We got seriously lost in the middle of the combination, ending up too deep the second part, where Checkers saved the day, but I got jumped out of the tack and ended up on her neck and almost minus a stirrup or two. Regrouped somewhat for the third jump, and managed to ride out looking somewhat together. Since I scared myself a little and also felt bad for poor Checkers dealing with me, I opted for a 'safe' round the second time and left out the last line. Not my best effort, but I'll take it. I'm such a perfectionist it's going to drive me nuts until next time, and even though Splash and I had a couple of good trips through a similar line a few days ago, I'd love a 'do over' on Checkers - I feel like we rocked the flatwork, but I owe her a  better ride over the jumps.

Saturday 19 April 2014

Moondance Alexander is for real, guys

I had my lesson today, and after, innocently asked about whether the barn has boarding space. I'm missing Ginger and buying a second horse at some point is also an option. I have no big plans to change the status quo at the moment, but maybe soon. I'm still weighing options and enjoying my lessons for now :)

Anyways, the reason this is even part of my post is that the response to my question was "yes there is room, but you need to be a competitive rider to board here." I guess you had to be there, but the rudeness and emphasis on  'competitive' left no doubt that it isn't just a matter of wanting to attend shows, it's a matter of actually being competitive at said shows and bringing home some recognition for the barn. And I obviously don't make that cut. Ouch. Cut from the team without even trying out! :) Cue embarassing and awkward moment...seriously, it was a scene out of a really bad horse movie. Here I thought it was all terrible script writing, but it really does happen. Moondance Alexander, I take my bad review back! Your story really is at least partly true and inspirational. I feel your pain! I did get the giggles on the drive home, planning how I'd steal Checkers and hide her in my backyard for the summer then come out and win at the big show in the fall (which coincidentally is at the same place as the one in Moondance Alexander - freaky, hey? ;)

Honestly though, if I wouldn't fit in it's better to know that ahead of time. There are a lot of barns with around here with a similar outlook, so I'm left wondering where all the serious adults ride who want to advance and compete but aren't necessarily talented enough/don't have the horsepower/are too busy with other things to be super competitive at this point in time, if ever. Since we're likely talking about the majority of the riders in the working adult population, I know there are a lot more like me out there riding somewhere! If you've already got a great trainer who supports your goals, go hug him or her now. As for me, I'll be the kid who wants it bad, but is hanging out on the bench (for now). Anyone got Don Johnson's number? ;)

ETA: Oh boy, just was re-reading the synopsis for the movie and noticed Moondance's horse in the movie is named Checkers as well. Too funny....

Thursday 17 April 2014

Reasons Why I Should NOT Have Another Pony

Actually, I can't think of any.

Or at least any that matter enough to me to stop me from temporarily losing all logic every time I'm sent pictures of gorgeous Welsh D's for sale. There are a lot of really nice prospects for sale at the moment!

This is Sasha, she's a 4 year old mare, 14.2hh, just started under saddle. And yes, she's for sale if anyone out there (besides me) can't resist a nice pony. She's from the same farm I bought Ginger from and having met her in person, I'd say if anything she seems larger than 14.2hh - she tends towards more of a leggy athletic build. Or maybe it's just that cob personality that's so larger than life making me remember her as taller!

Anyway, here you go, some pretty pony pics for the long weekend:


Wednesday 16 April 2014

Hey Grouchy! Just Go For A Ride, Already!

Today was one of those days where it just felt like the world had a grudge against me. I haven't been feeling quite myself for a little while and today I just wanted to hide in bed, catch up on sleep, and eat about 10lbs of chocolate. So, of course I got up and went to work :) Seriously, though I'm feeling so done with working all the time and not having a real life :(

At any rate, after getting through the day, Plan A (the sleeping/chocolate/hiding in bed one) still seemed like a really great idea. Especially when my train was late, and time was getting really tight to make it to the barn. The stubborn side of me luckily came out at the last minute I got seriously determined to get to the barn - past experience reminded me how much I would hate myself later for missing a lesson. Of course then I got stuck in traffic for half an hour....

Once at the barn, the big surprise was I was assigned Splash again. I'm starting  to get a bit of a complex - I seem to never have the same horse twice! Am I such a terrible rider the horses all have to take turns? :)

 In reality, I think there are a few horses at the barn with off and on soundness issues, and a few more who don't jump overly high, and a few more who are kid size, a few more who are super safe and slow for the more beginner riders...etc etc. It seems to be a process of elimination - whoever is left over is my ride!

Splash is actually a good guy, you might remember him from a lesson I had a few weeks ago:
So cute
 He's a small (15hh or so) drafty type guy who is a little funny to ride. He's the one likes to hide behind your leg and also do that awful head-in-the-air inverted joggy trot thing if you let him, then get "spooky" and try to scoot. I would not be surprised to hear he was a bolter in a previous life. He wears a standing martingale for obvious reasons. He's pretty sensitive and can be fun but the behind the leg thing drives me a little nuts. Both times I've ridden, he's way better by the end of the lesson, but the beginning is painful. Not my favorite, and the trainer brain in me would love to see if he can be sorted out with some consistency. For now, at least he's cute :)

We had a fun little course to end off with - Wednesdays I end up with more advanced riders, so this time I went last with the jumps lowered a bit. It went really well - the course was a bit tricky with some interesting turns to a skinny, a corner, and a combination with three one strides in a row. Super fun because the jumps were smaller and less intimidating to me, but I had to be 'on' and plan well ahead to make the turns and lines.

All in all, SO happy I convinced myself to get out and ride - my day is totally redeemed.

Except then I went outside and saw this. Yes, it snowed during my lesson. Apparently the world still has a grudge against Alberta, at least :)


Saturday 12 April 2014

Lesson Recaps

Oh yeah, in between obsessing over horse farms I've been riding a bit too :)

Last Wednesday I snuck out of work early to ride this guy:
Meet Riley!
Riley is ginormous. For real - I'm guessing 17hh or so. He also has a ginormous personality. He's a big goofy guy and it's impossible not to like him. He waits at the gate to say hi and loves attention.
As for the ride? Well, once I climbed up there and got over my fear of heights it was actually sort of fun. I found him quite difficult in that my short little legs leave me feeling a bit like a jockey on him and make it really hard to get any sort of leg on him or feel like I'm riding effectively. The saddle I was given to use on him is also hard as a rock and sadly I think something with the way he moves and that saddle left my back (OK my tailbone) in agony and I had to bow out of the lesson after the death by sitting trot part and before the jumping. It's discouraging and I was upset, because I'm sure my doctor said a year at the outside for things to heal up, and it's been a year.  In related news,  I am a super impatient person :) I really like Riley, but I guess it's not meant to be at this point in time - I do not want to go back to carrying a pillow around lol.
But he's so darn cute!
This weekend, it was back to Raleigh. (Yes for real, Riley and Raleigh - thank goodness they don't look alike!)
Also known as "The Dude"
 My tailbone still felt not quite right but Raleigh is basically a mobile couch, so I was pretty sure I'd survive :)

Sleepy boy. Sadly, he attempted to sleep through most of the lesson too.
I had an alright lesson on The Dude. He was feeling quite lazy, which sort of made my life difficult until I acquired a crop. More like a magic wand though because you just need to hold it in your hand and suddenly sleepy pony is ready to get to work! Funny how that works. He's not the stereotypical kick along lesson horse - more he just has his preferred pace and its not overly adjustable - for example at a trot if you want more forward he's just inclined to think about a canter, or if you want him to collect a little he'd like to try to jog or walk. At least with a crop in hand his thinking is instantly more to the forward side of things and he doesn't make you nag. We had a great little course, lots of bendy lines and a rollback, plus at the end a gymnastic exercise with 5 cross rails with a stride between each. As you can guess, I struggled a little with getting enough forward for that last line. We did it without issue twice but if I had another do over I'd be bolder going into the line rather than trying to make adjustments part way through.

 I also miss Ginger very much and with spring finally arriving I'm wishing I could teleport home and hit the trails with my very special pony. She's doing great - I'll see if I can get G to take some good pictures for the blog next time he visits her.


What Does Your Dream Barn Look Like? Part 1 - Exteriors

Disclaimer: I am a total nerd when it comes to design and architecture - I love it! I'm one of those people who mentally renovate every space I enter and build imaginary homes on the vacant lots we drive by. With G and I still shopping for the perfect property, my barn planning has been a bit in overdrive - to the point where I maxed out the memory on our laptop with barn images and my sketch books are full :) But, rather than inundate you with a million ideas and pictures, I might just make this a weekly thing. I was going to keep up with the weekly book reviews, but I haven't been reading much I'd want to recommend and hate writing negative reviews...

So, to answer the title question. My dream barn is:

- small - 3 to 4 stalls max
- nice, but not over the top fancy
- practical
- bright and airy
- large aisleway for working/grooming
- walkout stalls with attached paddocks
- has a washroom and tack room
- easy to keep neat and organized
- grooming area/washbay
- separate hay storage (I'm allergic to the dust and worry about fire)

Because I am a geek AND was working in an engineering job, I drew things like this on my lunch break:

Our AutoCAD version was more for plans and diagrams, giving you limited styling tools, but you get the idea
And I spend more than a few of spare evenings at home doing this:
Obsess much? ;)

Now that we've established my crazy obsession is real, lets move on to a few professional ideas. Unfortunately, most of these photos will be uncredited as I've collected them over a long period of time and don't recall most sources.
Love the idea of exterior windows the horses can hang their heads out of. Love the shingled look, but sceptical of durability - my horses have all LOVED to chew on cedar.
This is a garden shed, not a barn, but I saved it because I love the idea of having casual front gardens and landscaping and having the not-so-attractive sacrifice paddocks partly hidden behind the garden area.Word of warning - the foxglove in this picture is poisonous so not a good choice near a barn - you'd have to be careful to pick horse friendly plants

On the west coast, the weather is such that it's a toss up between a closed barn and a shedrow. This has both. Also, I really like the siding and the air flow to the stalls

Such a great idea - a covered spot to keep the rain/snow out of the stalls, but not so large that it requires posts to hold it up, keeping the area nice and open and bright.

Again, not a barn, but what a nice barn entrance this would be with the neat window and covered area. Just make it level entry and change the door....

Funky, but classic. I'm not sure of the color, but the style intrigues me. Also like the idea of a loft space with lots of windows - maybe a lounge area or office?

This appeals to me as a field shelter. Cute, useful, and has a little spot to store feed and tools if need be. Put a gate across the front of the stall and you'd have a tiny barn prefect for a single horse.

Kind of along the lines of my first drawing - nice big centre aisle and classic looks.
These are just a tiny portion of all the ideas I've collected over the years - hope you've enjoyed.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

You Know You Want A Pony!

I got an email from a contact who has this lovely little Sec D for sale, if anyone out there needs a pony (I know I do! ;)

She's 5 years old, 14hh. Still green under saddle, but quiet and safe. Has been driven quite a bit, and was started by a professional over the winter. It sounds like he took her out on the roads and trails and she did great. I know the breeder and have met and ridden this mare's dam and she's as pretty and sensible as they come as well. I won't lie, I want to buy her myself, but am not sure this is the right time for that!

I'm happy to pass on contact information if anyone out there is interested. (Except, you shouldn't be looking at her, because she's all MINE and Ginger totally needs a mini-me ;)


Saturday 5 April 2014

The Dude Abides

Checkers appears to be scaling back to the little kids and walk/trot, so meet Raleigh, my new ride on Saturdays:

Sweetest guy ever

Raleigh is a 1/4 percheron/TB cross, a cross I'm super familiar with because Lainey had the same breeding. His legs are just as crooked as the picture shows, he's got sarcoids all over him and a terrible clip job, yet he's still a handsome boy. He's also a total dude. You know the kind: super laid back and easy going, the guy who gets along with everyone and cruises through life happy as can be. 

He's all over a lot bigger than Ms Lainey and even Ginger - I felt like a midget on him. My lesson started off slow, in every sense of the word. The Dude needed to be convinced a shuffling jog sort of thing is not a trot. Being the easy going guy he is, he starting moving out and cooperating fairly quickly. The huge surprise with this guy is that he can MOVE. Seriously, you'd never guess it to look at him, but there is a dressage worthy trot and canter hiding in there - once you get him forward, he naturally comes up off his forehand, and WOW - the only horse I've ridden that compares is a friend's ex Grand Prix schoolmaster. He's not that fancy, but close. I think that once upon a time, someone spent a lot of time training this guy. I tried my best to sit that big movement well.

Later in the lesson, the very best thing in just about forever happened. I trotted a bit through the lines I wasn't sure of, and had a couple of sticky moments, then went back and cantered the entire course and I HAD FUN. So much fun, that on the last line where I could have done a conservative 5, I went for it and did a forward 4 to the biggest vertical - the one making me nervous earlier in the lesson. That's NOT me at all :) It's so silly to admit, but I get a little choked up and emotional thinking about it (happy tears!), because it's been years, probably since my first pony, where I've had that feeling where it's all just plain fun and there are no worries at all. I had to work to get the lines and distances, and my position sucked at times, but The Dude put in an A+ effort and didn't even think about letting me down - more importantly I didn't chicken out and let him down either.

It's still a little intimidating to me to tack up and ride a different horse so often, especially when I feel like I'm being pushed a little beyond my comfort zone in the lessons. It's a little unnerving on my own horses to tackle new things, and even more so on a new ride. The great thing that I'm hoping will come out of this are more rides like today's, where I just have sit back, have fun, and roll with what the day brings. 
Come to think of it, I need to do that in all aspects of my life ;)

Thursday 3 April 2014


Conveniently enough, the Farm and Ranch Show was taking place last weekend at the convention centre just a few train stops from my work. G and I had tickets for the rodeo, but I`m getting to be a softie and felt bad for a lot of the animals. I can admire the amount of talent and hard work you`d need to even think about being competitive, but I was left feeling a bit blah about the whole thing. On the plus side, my lack of interest left us tons of time to check out the trade show and all the super nice trucks and trailers. A lot of it was more ranching related than horse farm related, but I got some nice ideas for stall fronts and feeders and of course saw some beautiful tractors!

These will do nicely, thank you!
The horse breed demo was the Friesian, and there were some lovely ones in attendance. We checked out the horses available in the performance horse sale as well, and I have to admit to falling in love with a couple of them. We didn`t get to stay to watch the horses go, but if it was anything like the one I went to last year, it`s a good thing. There`s one horse I still can`t get out of my mind! Last year they did a halter type class, then got on and rode a pretty difficult pattern complete with lateral work and flying changes, then on to a trail course type thing, then went and cut some cattle, then did some roping. At the end of all that, they picked up feet and  loaded and unloaded the horses so you could see how they were on the ground. The judges scored and placed them on conformation and performance, then they had the sale. I got the feeling these were truly well rounded horses you`d expect to do well in any environment. They also sold for decent money - $10 to 20k.
My 2014 favorite ``MCR Simply Chips`` I have no clue about quarter horse breeding, just thought he was cute :)

Since I absolutely love the welshies, it`s unlikely I`ll end up with a quarter horse at home. I have tons of great friends who love all things AQHA, so it would be great that way, but somehow I`ve just never had the same level of interest. So, every time I attend a western type event, I get interested in trying it with Ginger. Not so much the straight up reining patterns or speed events, but maybe reined cowhorse would be cool. When we first started Ginger, I had a trainer who trains arabians and part arabians in reined cowhorse ride her. She`s amazing and did so well with Ginger, but she moved on to bigger and better things very quickly and competes in the US and Canada quite successfully now. Ginger LOVED the idea of pushing cattle around and having a `job``, and of course sensitive mare really liked me riding her more off my seat on a looser rein. Believe it or not, she also has a jog to die for.

I`m lucky to be living in an area that is hardcore ranch country but is also close enough to Calgary to be hugely influenced by the dressage and show jumping scene there. I admit to feeling a little lost right now as far as my horsey goals go, but thankfully there`s no shortage of inspiration all around me.