Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Checking off the bucket list

Bucket list item:  Investment horse

What's an even worse financial decision than buying a horse for your personal enjoyment?  I think any financial advisor would tell you that is the concept of an investment horse, whereby your expenses and purchase price are LESS than the money you sell said animal for.  Despite finding four leaf clovers on the daily**, I have yet to win the lottery, so I figured chipping in on an investment horse would at least be a more enjoyable way to watch my money cease to exist.  I hate to jinx it but... I bought a teeny tiny part of a horse with Paige and she is uh-mazing.  Meet Solana.  And her freaking incredible hind end.

She is all of four years old and this was her first show where she marched around like a champion, walked the lines quietly and stood like an old pro in the trailer.  Paige gave her five days off a few weeks ago and she was lovely.  She is a phenomenal mover and I pretty much need to go to Virginia ASAP to sneak in a ride because yes, she is so easy that even I am allowed to ride her.  I think.  I mean, I know she is that easy, but I don't know if we want to junk up her fabulosity with my... certain je ne sais quoi style of riding.  Should I indeed win the lottery (hint hint, universe), she will be the first thing I acquire with my proceeds.  The second thing will be a tiny giraffe.
Bucket list item:  Aggressive fashion choices
Quick, what are the three acceptable colors for horse items?  If you guessed black, white and sometimes navy, then DING DING DING, you are a winner.  Lately I am breaking all the fashion rules (I mean, besides wearing riding attire to work, and the dog park, and the grocery store) and really going bananas.  And you know what?  I have some new favorite things.  These include:
-Short sleeve show shirts.  I still feel a bit like Mike Bolton from Office Space, but guess what?  Short sleeves are literally cooler than long sleeves, and I feel pretty confident about my usage of the word "literally."
-Shirts that have colors besides white.  My little Alessandro Albanese number that I got on clearance at WEF makes me feel like the horse show version of Donatella Versace which is simultaneously hilarious and empowering.  Lean in, indeed.  Plus Paige has one too and someday we will twin.  Perhaps this fall at a hunter pace?  Matching outfits count as a costume, no?
-The Argentinian Mane Bang.  This only sounds like an act from "50 Shades of Gray" and in fact refers to the perfectly manicured jumper mane.  It requires a Goldilocks-esque mane that is neither too thin nor too thick, that is then trimmed to an even length via clippers run across the bottom.  It also requires a steady hand and knowing when to say when.  I am working on those things.  Restraint is not my forte. That said, my mane bang game has been pretty on-point and when the day comes that I have to pull his mane for a hunter derby, my carpal tunnel and I will both be sad.
Please ignore the sad face on the rider.  He's a German Grand Prix rider that came over to help out while my trainer is out of the saddle, and clearly he is having a moment of realization he is on a baby thoroughbred at an unrated show rather than where he belongs.
We've actually done two horse shows recently with good results.  Those are our last shows for 2015, most likely, so we'll go ahead and save those stories for the long, cold days ahead.


Monday, July 27, 2015

2015 East Coast Tour, Northernmost Stop

If there is a better place than Vermont for a horse show in the scorching summer months, I certainly haven't been there.  The mountains provide an ideal backdrop and once you run out of roaming data approximately 90 seconds into your trip, the lack of internet/texting capabilities will guarantee a horse show gleefully devoid of contact with the outside world.  Wondering what's going on at work?  Keep wondering!  Curious about tomorrow's weather?  It's a surprise!

TT was a good boy during his schooling ride and earned his grass.  Note his fancy cooler.  I cannot reveal my sources but someone knew I really, really wanted a WEF cooler and procured one for me through entirely legal and unpaid means.  My friends are awesome.  After the grass I decided to take TT for a walk around the show grounds, feeling pretty swishy in our fancy cooler.  You know how they say the great thing about horses is they keep you humble?  "They" are right.  We got the a bridge crossing that had some kind of horse show/street urchin children throwing rocks and TT decided this would be a great time to rear and spin and run.  Bad news:  he got loose.  Good news:  a much saner horse behind him was not loose and allowed me to grab FF _ucker by the fancy scrim and chastise him.  Note:  I do not hate children but I do hate these children's parents.  Unattended poorly behaved children at shows should be allowed to be turned into the horse show office like loose dogs where they have to be reclaimed after paying a fine.  Or to tent 13, which appears to be where dreams go to die.  I understand not having a tent 13 because of superstition; I do not understand having the creepiest tent on earth set up as #13 to perpetuate the superstition.  That looks like the unluckiest place in the history of the world.  Admit it, if someone told you there were dead bodies in there, you would simply nod your head and agree.
Tucker was a really good boy showing with the trainer the first day and jumped the water without too much of a fuss.  Unfortunately, there was a bicycle seat malfunction the second day resulting in a broken limb for the trainer, so a really fabulous rider in the barn showed him for me (thanks, Louisa!).  For the weekend, it was on me to ride.  Eeek.  I decided to pull on my big girl pants and ride at the top of my comfort level.  Psych!  I did the .65m like the sissy I am.  The first day I rode too conservatively and had time faults (smallest surprise ever to anyone in the history of he world).  The second day I generally rode pretty well - we went forward, we stayed straight, my position looked surprisingly stable and I have an epic Missed-it Monday style photo from the jump where I thought an extra stride would be helpful.  It was not.  At the start of the course walk, which I conveniently skipped, the last fence was set going the wrong way and I heard the gate guy say it wasn't on the course.  This meant I did not jump it until long after I had pulled up and had a conversation with some people in the bleachers about it.  We circled back and jumped a beautiful jump, after which the announcer politely said "4 jumping faults and.... well, a lot of time faults."

At our next show, I believe I am being forced to stop being such an epic wimp and try the .8m, which I am fine with.  TT is actually easier in many ways in the show ring than everywhere else in that he has his own motor, but it is such a different feel that it takes some getting used to.

The highlight of the horse show may have been explaining the origin of TT Tucker's name to a new barn mate and having a neighboring person in warmup overhear it.  She looked at us with genuine disgust, was horrified to find out I kept the name and picked a different jump farther away from us to school over.  Good times.  Other highlights include the Mexican food... and the garlic bread.  And the ice cream.  And the grilled cheese. 

One of the fun parts of this horse show is it is set in a quintessentially New England town with smaller motel and houses for rent.  I stayed at a combination of the two in my own little hut.  As someone with 3 shared walls at my condo in Boston, it's always nice to have some extra breathing room.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Trail Ride: Katie 3, Tucker 0

Scene:  you're walking into the ring for the sole class you will be showing in at WEF.  It has been 18 years and 15 pounds since you showed here.  These 6 weeks are the most expensive 6 weeks of your life.  You take a deep breath, walk in the ring on your mellow horse... and then he spins 180 degrees and tries to abort the mission before it even begins.

Your trainer shouts "go forward in ANY direction!" and you do just that.  As soon as the forward is established, power steering (who am I kidding, it's steering that is appropriate for my vague "let's go that-ish way" attitude) returns and I'm able to ride the course without a glitch.  Taking my leg off at the halfway distance and leaning up the neck could be considered a glitch, I suppose, but my horse jumped all the jumps so we can all pretend I rode beautifully.

Usually horse people talk about taking what they learned at home and applying it at a show.  This time, I took what I learned showing and applied it at home.  Mind-blowing, right?  TT Tucker is not so much a fan of trail riding alone.  We compare him to Mango from SNL because he has some very clear opinions about where we should and should not go and cannot believe anyone would question someone as clearly important as him.  So when I struck out on a trail ride alone after our week of showing, this was the look I got:

Things did not get off to a phenomenal start when three barns from home, I had to get off to fix a curb chain that had come unhooked.  Note:  getting on from the ground is not as easy at 34 as it is at all of the years that come before 25.  We were actually going along quite pleasantly when we ran across a woman on a horse acting much like an unhappy Tucker.  She asked to ride along with us until they got back to their barn and Tucker thought that was just swell.  She was so impressed with how well Tucker behaved, but I warned her once we parted ways she would see some fireworks and not to call PETA.  I don't think she believed me.
We said our goodbyes and got about 50 yards away when Tucker realized that we were supposed to keep going ALONE.  If I could sum up his reaction in words, it would be "oh, hell no."  A few weeks ago this would have turned into me waiting for another horse to come along but this time I took Paige's words to heart and went forward in any direction.  There were still some of Tucker's classic stand and spin moves, but once I made it clear we were going FORWARD, I became more in control of which direction we went.  Subconsciously on all of our other rides, I had been thinking "we are going to walk the way I want to go" instead of "we are going to GO the way I want to go, at whatever speed is required.
My next challenge came, oh, immediately when a group of riders walked by us and then trotted away 100 yards or so.  Tucker was not pleased but did the equivalent of keeping his mouth shut.  Then, they galloped back at us and past us in the other direction.  I picked up a brisk trot and although we may have been going sideways, we were going sideways the way I wanted to go.
Finally, we got to a crossing where you have to cross between two pillars designed to prevent golf carts from driving on the bridle paths.  Every single time we pass through one of these Tucker likes to pretend it is the gates to hell and I am an idiot for going through them.  Anyways, after this particular crossing was an apparently very sketchy-looking tree.  I decided that spooking qualified as a gait and embraced the fact that we would be going very forward for several steps.
Shortly after that, we returned home.  I felt far more victorious than I did at the show (I know, I wasn't exactly victorious there which may in part explain my sentiments) and celebrated with an ears shot.
It was quite satisfying that someone else found our ride as exhausting as I did.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Winner winner chicken dinner

Long time, no see people of the blog world!  It's been hectic at work and at home.  Back to our originally scheduled program...

On Thursday, the struggle was very real for Tucker.  Two trips to the show grounds (and one long, long walk backwards) on Wednesday were showing their affects and Paige had to carry him around the ring a bit. 

The jump crew tent was it's usual three and a half sided horror show with the 10 guys inside moving around in completely random and unnecessary ways.  Such is life at a horse show, but after jumping around the first half of the course beautifully, Tucker took great offense at these guys.  The good news is he was about six strides out from a jump when he decided to take umbrage; the bad news is his combination of "not going there, not gonna do it, wouldn't be prudent"* and Paige's "you're going to there,"** they ended up sort of parallel to the jump about two strides out.  A circle was made and although Tucker was not especially enthusiastic about going that way, he jumped the jump and on they went.

WEF is over and I am now living vicariously through photos, hence there being a lot.

Somehow this put them in 2nd place out of 5.  I think one ended up not being able to show papers and was disqualified and the other two had enough penalties to be dressage scores.  I was happy because 2nd place pays pretty well and my Wellington bill could definitely use some help and Paige was happy that he was honest about all of the jumps, even though he was tired.

In my happiness I decided to take Trish up on her offer to try the Game Ready on Tucker.  The machine consists of some boots that circulate ice cold water through them while applying compression.  Within 2 minutes, it looked like some roofies had made their way into his water because he was OUT.  Lower lip drooping, head hanging on the cross ties and jarring movements every few minutes as he caught himself falling over.

After two second place finishes, I was getting greedy.  I wanted Tucker to show the 3rd day of the division so he could win champion.  This is really petty to admit, but I covet in the deepest realms of my soul a WEF champion cooler.  I covet it in every other realm of my soul, too, but it goes all the way down.  I tried to talk Paige into this being a good decision, horsemanship-wise, and she politely reminded me my horse was drooling.  We (they) ended up being reserve champion so I still got a pretty ribbon, and of course, a sound and happy horse which is the most important thing.  There is zero part of me that still doesn't want one of those coolers (pretty sure they rank higher on the status symbol list than even the Hermes belt du jour), but.... another time.  It's pretty cool my 5 year old failed racehorse who was doing the 2'6 hunters jumped around the 3'3 jumpers like it was no thing.

*A little SNL Bush senior for anyone?
**30 Rock?  No? 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Paige wins (almost) and I don't fall off

After spending Tuesday primarily working, Wednesday was a horse show day.  Yay!  This was the first day after daylight savings I actually had to get up for something.  Tucker's early morning bath may have been completed with my eyes half shut.  He went back and forth to the show like a Grown Up Horse, even on the way home when we were in the TOD and a brief downpour set in.  And the four horses schooling in Heritage's ring next to the tunnel all cantered out of their ring going the opposite direction from us.  There was a moment when it looked like things were going to get hairy, but some small shred of maturity kept all four feet on the ground.

Paige showed him in the thoroughbred jumpers which are at 1m.  This was probably the first full course he's ever done at this height.  Ok, it definitely was.  It was also the first time he's ever done a jump off.  He went around and was generally pretty brave and relaxed, although he still had his doubts about the jump crew tent.  He didn't look like he was overjumping wildly going around, but then I saw the pictures.  Turns out, he still didn't want to touch a rail. 

And guess what?  He got second place.  At WEF.  It wasn't a huge class but I'm guessing the other horses may have jumped a meter course at some point in their lives prior to that day.

Me, I showed in the ultra super special child/adult jumpers that are something like .8.  As I walked the course, I was fairly confident I could jump most on foot.  Paige instructed me to jump the middle of the jumps and she would be happy.  We had a moment at the beginning of the course (more in a future post because it was so educational), but he was great.  Brave, honest and coped well with me dumping him at half-stride distances and taking off my leg and sort of hoping he would pick a distance that could work without any input from me whatsoever.  The picture below is an accurate summary of our ride, conveniently blocking my competition vomit-face.  You'll notice my lower legs have gone out from under me and that I am doing some form of advanced karate with my elbows.

To give you an idea of the level of competition I was facing, the girl who went before me cried when she left the ring because she had a rail and told the apparently assistant trainer it was because "he (head trainer) wasn't there to walk the course with me!".  Before you judge her to harshly, I believe she was about 11.  The boy who went several trips after me was super distracting on his adorable yet fancy 13 hand pony and I'm pretty sure they won.  I went clean but had time faults.  It was my first return to the jumper ring after 17 years and I didn't forget my course so I consider it a success.  Paige reluctantly had to agree since I did jump the middle of the jumps but I think she learned a valuable lesson about telling me I was allowed to do the adds.  I got a beautiful wine-colored ribbon for 11th place, perhaps a nod to the fact it looked like I was riding while intoxicated.

The walk home was uneventful until the landscaping crew decided to wave a massive tarp near a pile of palm branches Tucker already deemed unreliable.  I thought he would get over it since we were almost home, but he was like, "there's stalls at the horse show.  Let's just go back there."  So after a fabulous day of horse showing, I dismounted and made him walk backwards for several hundred feet while a lady on a golf cart (who conveniently missed the rearing and spinning action) gave me the third degree on what I was doing.

We'll end on a high note with this lovely picture that is just so Florida.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Button installation

Since Tucker had been going so well for Paige and since I was in Wellington for the week, it was time for me to get to know Tucker 2.0 a bit in a flat lesson.  Despite getting drenched and some sweet blisters, it was awesome.  Paige had us working on things I haven't worked on since literally 1999 when I had my A/O jumper - spiraling in and out on a circle at the trot and canter and making square turns.  There were some wonderful light moments where his canter was so elevated (and plenty of other moments where I pushed the button wrong).  We worked on two poles set six strides apart and practiced doing the 5, the 6 and the 7... and Tucker knew how to do it!  Perhaps more remarkably, he did do it when I asked. Previously this would have been doable but the 5 would have been flat and flying and the 7 would be a disengaged crawl.  I didn't need to establish the stride length too far in advance and he stayed on his butt (except when, you know, I dropped my reins and took my legs off.  The struggle is real).

We did a jumping lesson the next day which was equally educational though perhaps more frustrating, mostly because Tucker is really honest and a tryer and I am a non-committal sissy to the jumps.  I have to say though, it was a much better feeling riding an engaged horse to a terrible distance!

My friend Theresa was also in town for the weekend, and we joined our wonderful hostess Trish and a host of other people for a fun night at the grand prix.  Driving over in the golf cart and parking in a show ring is a quintessential WEF experience.  Monty got Tuck some fancy new boots and me a new show shirt so we were all teed up for the week ahead.  He also gave me a beta version (modeled by him) of his hand-woven palm helmet visor.

 One of the many fun things about Wellington ("Camp Wellington" as Monty calls it, or "Disneyland for Horses" as my mom calls it) is many of the roads have equine-themed names - Appaloosa Trail, Equestrian Way, Draft Horse Lane, Halter Road, etc.  Off of one of the side streets is Great Dane Lane.  We stopped by to take a picture and we got to meet the resident dane, who was of course adorable and sweet and made me miss my own Zeus terribly.
Before anyone is too jealous of my excursions, please remember that I did still spend a good amount of time in front of my computer on MS just like in real life.  The setting certainly couldn't be beat, however.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly

As previously mentioned, we decided to call Tucker on his “I’m fast” bluff and steer him to the jumpers for week 9.  It is technically his second full week here, but more than a standard calendar, horse show weeks are how time is marked in Wellington.  Paige spent Monday convincing Tucker that he could move his front and hind ends separately (Tucker:  what?!) but also together when requested (Tucker:  WHAT?!).  She also tried to get him pushing behind without leaning on the bridle (Tucker:  WHO WOULD ASK THAT?!).  He jumped well enough to earn himself a spot schooling in the jumper ring on Tuesday.

I was very curious to see what Paige had to say when she called to report on the show schooling ride.  I did NOT expect her to say that he jumped really well and while most of the course was 2’9, there were some 1.1m oxers that they jumped because they were there and well, Paige is much braver than I am.  Oh, and one of them had a Liverpool** that they marched right over.  I have to confess, prior to this if someone had told me they jumped my horse over a large-ish Liverpool, I would have laughed in their face.  Tucker is generally pretty brave to the jumps so it’s not even the Liverpool, it’s just… well, frankly, I wasn’t sure he could even jump that big.  Monty awarded apples and carrots because he is awesome like that.

Wednesday the showed in the .85m jumpers and yes, surprisingly there IS a smaller class.  Other than having a small panic attack at a three-sided tent containing a jump crew, Tucker was a brave guy and went around clear.  Paige’s husband (also awesome) took some pictures and as you can see, it is not surprising he left all of the jumps up.  There are several more pictures of him jumping in his more usual form but all in all we were both very happy.

We entered him in the .95m class the next day but Tucker read the entry wrong and thought we signed him up for the 1.2m, so he went ahead and jumped the bigger jumps that were visible to only him.  Paige had told me he was brave and jumped very well, but I wasn’t quite expecting *this.* 

I have said many times I don’t care if Tucker is a hunter or jumper, I just** want a well-behaved horse that can do the adult division.  The adult jumpers go to 1.15m so I didn’t really want him to be steered to jumpers if he didn’t have the scope for that.  It was a very real question for all of us until this week.  Clearly he is not doing the 1.15m’s during this Florida, but it is fabulous surprise to discover what may be in there. 
*I know, we all “just” want a horse that behaves perfectly at home, at shows and on trails alone or with others with no prep.  A large part of why Tucker is doing this trip is an attempt to become one of these civilized unicorns.  Did I mention I extended his stay two weeks? I continue to laugh (cry) in the face of financial caution.  Really, he is making such great progress that I want the experiences to continue.  Also, it was 3 degrees the other morning, and who wants to go to the barn in that?  Are poor decisions due to bad weather tax deductible?  Because they should be.
**spellcheck insists Liverpool be capitalized.  It is not my doing.