Sunday, December 30, 2012

Schoolmaster at Work

Only the cutest horse ever
Due to it being miserable yesterday (like25f and windy), I put off going to the barn until the late afternoon. One of Steph's more advanced clients was there, and because she is freaking insane a nice person she offered to help Cuna and I with some jumps. I tacked him up in a hurry, threw his quarter sheet on, and did the world's shortest warm up as I slowly lost feeling in my feet.

The exercise was a crossrail with placing poles down the center of the arena, right hand rollback, single crossrail, left hand rollback, single crossrail. Pretty simple, especially at this height. My giant schoolmaster didn't even have to leave the ground for any of the "jumps".

Attempt #1: Cuna was sticky over the crossrail with poles, but I kicked on and we made it. I let him canter away from it and towards the next crossrail. He got long and flat, I got disorganized, and I think we had one straight stride headed towards it. I pushed my hands into his mane, gave him a kick, and realized that I was quickly running out of runway as my hands slid towards his ears.

The sucker stopped at a crossrail that he could have stepped over.

I couldn't be mad--after all, the approach was genuinely horrible and he just stopped square in the middle.

We circled around again. I established a quality canter. I send him forward, brought him back, kept him up, stayed in the middle, and settled to the "fence".


Wha? Grrrr. I kicked him to tell him it was naughty, but our coach for the day had me leave the jump alone. We did some more canter work, added some transitions, and then headed back to the first crossrail. Cuna felt more alive, more ready, more forward. We cantered through the whole pattern with no problems.

Then she made the first X a grid (bounce to a one stride) and jacked all the singles up to 2'9". I made sue I had Cuna balanced and prepared. He jumped through the grid like a champ, took an excellent canter, and the singles were like clockwork.

Hacking in the snow
Oh Cuna, I <3 you. Yes, he -could- have stepped over that crossrail and let me get away with an insufficient warm up on a very cold day coupled with a bad approach. He could have, but he didn't. Because I fixed the warm up and improved the approach over crossrails, it was just perfect over jumps. What a stud.

DON'T FORGET!!!! Tomorrow at midnight is the deadline to enter our 'Tis the Season photo contest. 
Winner announced in early January!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Ammy Hour: Meet Kate!!

Here we go again! I want to continue to spotlight adult amateurs who love horses and how they make it work. We all know the challenges of horse involvement--time, money, stress, life, etc. Here's a look at how Kate from the Adventures of Lucy tackles full time work and one very special mare. 

1) You’re at dinner with work colleagues. How do you introduce yourself?
I've been working at my current job for about six months but I made quick work of the social scene and feel pretty comfortable around my work colleagues, so I'd just say, hey guys! I am kind of an introvert but work very hard to hide it. If I am at work and meet someone I don't know, I walk right up to them and shake their hand even though I really don't want to!
2) But what you really meant to say was this: 
"Where's the menu?" (what can I say, I love food)

3) Tell us about your horse: 
Lucy is my 6yo OTTB mare. I got her as a 3yo almost fresh off the track. She had no idea what leg meant and didn't know how to steer, if that's any indication of what I had to work with :D She is either a total sweetheart or a complete nut job...good thing she's really pretty and very talented. She is the definition of a pro ride and I am absolutely NOT a pro, so we do the best we can! Some days it isn't pretty but we do have moments of glory.

4) How did you meet him/her?
She belonged to a 15 year old girl who had no idea what she was doing with her. In fact, she was downright petrified of her, which is kind of ironic because at the time, she hadn't put a foot wrong! She was just huge and gawky, and had zero training since retiring from racing. Anyway, this girl had gotten her off the track and then didn't really do much with her. Lucy dropped a huge amount of weight and condition and by the time I met her in October of 2009, she looked like she needed a major upgrade, and fast. The whole reason I met her, though, was that I was trying to start a little photography business so I had advertised free sessions for people who would be willing to let me use the images to promote my business. Lucy's owner responded, and I went out to photograph her other horse. After I was finished, she mentioned she had this thoroughbred that she had just gotten and asked me if I wanted to meet her. At that point she had been off the track just a couple months and looked a little thin, but nothing alarming. She was very cute but at the time, she wasn't for sale so that was really the end of it! In November I started looking for my own horse after leasing horses my whole life, and the girl contacted me to tell me she wanted to sell Lucy. I was originally shopping for a horse between the ages of 5 and 10 that had a good foundation (and I love chestnut geldings so that was what I had in mind!). The owner was persistant, though, and I ended up trying her one night in the dark in an outdoor with no fence around it in the middle of the woods in a rural town with more cows than humans. The horse had no clue what I was asking, but she was so sweet and so honest, and wasn't bothered about all the other horses getting fed while she was out working in the ring. I fell in love with her (and also felt compelled to buy her because by then, she looked like CRAP and the situation she was in was not a good one). She passed a vet check that cost me more than her purchase price that weekend, and came home the next day!

5) What have you done together?
Well, the first year or so was challenging because she had ulcers and I kept procrastinating getting them diagnosed because I wasn't sure if it was really ulcers or not. I finally got her scoped and then she went through a month of treatment. I wish I had done that right off the bat because maybe that first year wouldn't have been so, um, painful! I got tossed many many times. Then we dealt with saddle fit issues, then crazy heat cycles, but after a whole lot of chiro and saddle fitter visits, and some mare supplements, we finally got on the right track.
By year two, I had learned how to sit the buck/scoot/spin/leap and we were making some progress. We went to some hunter paces, started trail riding (and she loved it!), and even did a little hunter show in the summer. Winter came, and "Winter Lucy", as I like to call her alter ego, returned with much fanfare. She was kind of a huge psycho. We both made it through, though!
This year was the best by far. I have always wanted try eventing and this year we finally got out there and did it! We had so much fun and Lucy was GREAT. She hates dressage, so that is what we really need to work on, but she is a super jumper and very brave XC. We kept it very simple, showing in the "Elementary" division at unrated events, but my main goal was for her not to be overfaced, and to have fun! She is still extremely challenging on some days, but I treat each day like a brand new book, and never hold yesterday against her, no matter how bad she was.

6) Where are you going together? 
Umm, some days, I feel like we're heading right for the edge of a very tall cliff. But other days, I see glimmers of hope and think that we could go quite far. I don't think she would have any problems doing the upper levels with the right rider, but I am not that brave! If we got around BN safely I would be thrilled. I think Novice would be the furthest I would go.

7) How do you finance the addiction? 
I have a wonderful full-time job that I get paid well for, but I work extremely hard. I also run a design business on the side, making customized ornaments, painting saddle pads, doing logo and web design, etc. I work constantly! I also rough-board to keep costs down. My day starts at about 6am and ends at about 9. Here's my typical day: I get up, get ready for work, go to the barn in heels and a skirt, exchange my heels for my muck boots, clean my stall, put my heels back on, go to work for 8 hours, go back to the barn, change into riding clothes, ride, cool the horse out and put her away, feed the rest of the horses (it's a co-op; my job is afternoon chores and feeding), go home, walk the dog, make dinner, take care of any design work that needs to be done, snuggle the hubby, collapse.

8)  How often do you ride? 
I try to ride at least 5 days a week. If I don't, I usually have a crazy horse to deal with. But there are weeks where I just don't have the energy to ride every night, so she either gets the day off or I will give her a good grooming, or lunge in side reins. Some days we go for a walk in the woods, me leading her instead of riding. For two and a half years, I had the most wonderful woman half leasing Lucy but she recently bought her own horse so it's all on me now!

9) What’s the single biggest thing that helps you achieve your goals? 
Well, my husband is extremely supportive of my insanity and I also really never give up on anything. There were days that I fell off twice in one ride because she was just being so outrageous, but I always, ALWAYS get back on unless there are extenuating circumstances. What can I say, I am as stubborn as my horse is.

10) If there was one thing you could say to people getting ready to join the ranks of riding (or re-riding) adults, what would it be? 
Horses are truly a passion! If they're in your blood, you can't avoid it :D Being an equestrian is part of who I am. Even if I sell Lucy eventually, I will still always be a horsewoman and I am sure I will always be involved in horses in some way. It's such a fun sport with many many different ways to get involved. There is something for everyone.

11) Bottom line:
Horses keep you humble and if you don't have a sense of humour, things are going to be tough! But overall: 1. I'm bonkers. 2. so is my horse. 3. we're kind of perfect for each other!!

Kate and Lucy are a fun pair to keep up with, and if you hadn't noticed, Kate has an appreciation for fine photography, so definitely check them out if you're not friends already.

I'm definitely inspired by the people I'm interacting with putting this series together. There are so many cool ways to connect with horses and the effort to stay engaged when the parental paycheck is gone is fun to explore. Want to be a part of the series? Know someone who should be? Contact me either by email (on the contact us page) or through the comments.

Don't forget!! We're closing in on the last days to enter the 'Tis the Season photo contest. Entries close at midnight on 12/31. There's a cool prize and you'll get featured here, so send your entry in today! 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Holiday Squeeze

It's that time of year again. You know, weather gets nasty, industry slows down, hours get cut, all that good stuff. I have more pony time, which is a perk, but sometimes (like Christmas morning), I find myself driving to the barn and trying to figure out how on earth I'm going too come up with the money to buy gas the next day. As I concoct a scheme that is almost plausible, I hear a noise.

Yes folks, my tire exploded. 7am Christmas morning.

Because I am the calmest person ever, I pull over and start getting ready to change the tie while having a melt down over the fact that I now need an ENTIRE SET OF NEW TIRES AND CAN'T AFFORD GAS.

Cue nice man in giant mobile-car-repair truck pulling over and changing my tie for me, for free, in like 5 minutes, on Christmas, because he is a nice person.

So yeah. Money is tight. Work is hard to come by.

The good news? Cuna is adorable.

We had one of out best dressage rides ever today, right down to lateral motion.

And you know what? I just need one tire. I even have some time tomorrow to take care of it.

Breathe. Relax.

I know I stress about money and it's always extra tight around the holidays, but I'm finding ways to make it work. Anyone have creative side job ideas? How do you make it work when money is short?

PS You're running out of time to enter the 'Tis the Season photo contest!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ammy Hour: Meet Nicku!!

It's time for a new series! I want to spotlight some adult ammies and how they make it work with horses. Let's face it: we all know the challenges. We all know what gets in the way. Here are some people who do the horse thing, the life thing, and still have to pay the bills.Without further ado, meet Nicku of the Polka Dot Periodical. I've always admired her--she balances a passionate horsey love and mad skills with a real person job, while being very social and staying involved with her church. She's never mentioned having a superwoman cape, so she's going to kick off our series in which we explore just how a successful adult ammy makes everything work.

1) You’re at dinner with work colleagues. How do you introduce yourself? I love working full time so very much, there's no where else I'd rather be tonight than this! Oh, what do I normally do after work? I ride horses. English style, no that's not the saddle with the horn, jumping colored poles, you've seen that on TV probably when you watched the Olympics this summer, no? But enough about me, did someone order wine yet?
2) But what you really meant to say was this:
If I could make money in horses, you bet your bottom that's what I'd be doing, but since that's nearly impossible to do here in Northern CA and not live out of my horse trailer I work my tail off so that I can afford to own a horse, take lessons and compete here and there. I actually am at the barn for at least 2 hours a night after work while you're home eating a nice dinner and watching American Idol with your kids, I am (and always have been) an Eventer, I jump stuff on my young horse that I trained myself that is solid and scary at high rates of speed, you'd actually think I was insane if you saw it. 
3) Tell us about your horse: Pongo is a 16.3, 6 year old, LOUD leopard Appaloosa gelding out of the Confetti Farms line of eventing appies. He's competed BN eventing successfully and schools at Novice/Training level. He's snuggly, sassy, bossy, proud, brave, smooth, smart and just all around fun to look at and be around. TOTAL momma's boy. Definitely not a beginner's ride, but he's appropriate to my level of riding experience. 
4) How did you meet him/her? We met in upstate New York in September of 2007. I found him on It was true love at first sight. He was 1 year old and had an incredible presence about him that was so fun. He galloped full-tilt around his paddock, tail flipped over his back like an Arabian showing off and jumped a bush for absolutely no reason, that's when I knew, he HAD to come home with me immediately. I remember my parents asked me "...and what exactly are you going to do with a yearling stud?", I said, "I have no idea, thank goodness I have a few years to figure it out, eh?!"

5) What have you done together? Pongo and I just do life together. Having him since he was a baby meant I really never had an agenda for him. I always wanted him to tell me what he wanted to do versus me tell him what to do with his life. I got lucky though and the eventing genes from his granddaddy are strong, he is a cross country machine! We've competed BN eventing, schooled through Training Level, jump ~3'-3'3" at home and at jumper shows too on occasion, we do a lot of natural horsemanship work and love a good trail ride. Some of our highlights this year were getting a 29.5 in dressage at our last show (earning us 1st place out of 17 riders), schooling Training Level cross country jumps and clinicing with two-time Olympian Hawley Bennett. 

Kypped from recent youtube vid
6) Where are you going together? This year, Novice level, possibly Training by end of year. I would really like to do a Training 3 day on him maybe in 2014, but I have a super busy, full-time professional job, 45 minute commute to work both ways, wedding coming up August 2013 and God willing, we really want to have kids in the next couple of years. I try not to make too many plans in my equestrian life and just take what comes, I only have one Pongo and I really want him to last a long time for me, I just love riding him so much, so we're just going to see where the road takes us, no rush! 
7) How do you finance the addiction? I am blessed to have a good paying job. But, that is really a result of my Dad teaching me that to have horses, I'd better have a solid career, so I had to focus on school and work 100% for a few years and not own a horse. I had to catch ride/take group beginner lessons (OUCH to the prelim rider ego), do whatever I could to ride on the cheap/free until my paycheck was big enough to afford to lease and then eventually own a horse again. Even then, that meant buying a nice baby horse in 2007 and waiting *patiently* for him to grow up/be the trained horse I always wanted. I also am marrying the most wonderful man who has his act together and is extremely supportive of the horse addiction both emotionally and financially. I ask for gift certificates and other various horse things at every holiday. My parents are trained that Pongo gets a Christmas gift every year :P This year he asked for a Back on Track blanket.

8) How often do you ride? 2-3 days during the week and 1 weekend day usually, then my trainer rides Pongo 1 day a week

9) What’s the single biggest thing that helps you achieve your goals? Keeping my goals very flexible and reasonable. 

10) If there was one thing you could say to people getting ready to join the ranks of riding (or re-riding) adults, what would it be?  Buy, or ride a horse that is appropriate to your current skill level (take an excellent cue from Aimee and snatch up the oldie, but goodie schoolmaster, have some dang fun, get your confidence sky high). If you work and ride, you probably (honestly) cant afford to fall off and get really injured riding a flighty horse or a project horse. I've had a few little things happen here and there and it is miserable trying to focus at work after a concussion, or sit in a meeting with a stiff back from getting bucked off. Safety first - and that means being properly matched with the right horse, doing activities that are appropriate to your level and working with a trainer who can help you. As a result of my falls I really dont ever ride other people's horses that often or horses I am unfamiliar with - I just cant risk something happening to me and it affecting my job/livelihood.

11) Bottom Line: Dont get caught up in what everyone else at your barn, or on the blogs are doing (I mean for reals, how DO THEY go to EVERY SINGLE EVENT offered and every clinic and schooling and not go broke?). Own it that being an adult-ammie rider, especially one who has to work full time, means you probably arent going to play by the same rules as someone who doesnt work, or has oodles of disposable income and that's OK. You'll probably always be either short on time or money or if you're like me, both time AND money AND oh yeah, most days energy too...but that doesnt diminish your passion and ability to excel at the sport. Do what you can each day (whether that's having a great lesson, or just realizing you need a night at home with no riding because work kicked your butt) and if you feel like it wasnt enough, try again tomorrow or the next day! Always go at your own pace, this is supposed to be fun, right? Oh and wear your helmet, every single ride, no exceptions. 
Many thanks to Nicku for taking the time to share! 
Any tips? Special ways you make it work? Things you have to give up? Want to be the next featured ammy? Hit me up in the comments or through our contact me page (just under the header). 

PS Don't forget to enter our contest!! Entries are open through 12/31.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mad Cuna Love

In my early days with Cuna, I made a comment about just how amazing he was, and one of my favorite eventing blogs, Team Flying Solo, responded, "Now you're starting to understand Mad Solo Love."

What she meant was that crazy, all-consuming passion for an animal because of the incredible amount of trust the two of you have been able to develop. It seems almost silly, but the once you experience it, you know what I'm talking about.

Due to my Cuna fixation, I've noticed a trend among bloggers who have what seems like the same horse that I do. They're big, red, touchy, and OTTBs (and one QH). They aren't easy. They aren't everyone's ride. They wouldn't necessarily effect another rider the same way they do their own. Without further ado, I give you: THE CUNAS.

The original, the one that started it all:

I suspect all of you know him, but he's an opinionated red QH gelding who exceeded everyone's expectations and took the Team up the training level eventing.

He isn't an OTTB, but he's an exceptional guy. Full of sass, ready to work, and just the right horse for his owner.

She coined the term, "Mad Solo Love," which I interpret as "Mad Cuna Love". He's red. He's tough. He's everything an event horse could ever be.

That brings us to Cuna, logically.

You've all watched Cuna teach me the ways of a jumping rider. He took me from cross rails to our present awesome all by just being himself, day in and day out.

He's by turns goofy and noble, gentle and swashbuckling.

He's big, he's red, he doesn't bend, he hates dressage, and I think he is the best horse ever.

I'm not alone. There are more! Meet Amy and Steady, of Slow and Steady wins the race. I always liked Steady, but once I got Cuna, I began to understand what Amy was talking about. Like Cuna, Steady spent a long time at the track. Like Cuna, he's seen pretty much everything.

Like Cuna, he's big and long and hot.

Like Cuna, he gives Amy confidence and takes her places she couldn't imagine.

Like Cuna, he has his own silly meltdowns over ridiculous things that you just have to laugh at. 

Cuna, Steady, and Solo are part of a group of amazing red horses that make the world better just by their very existence.

I was impressed that there were three Cunas out there, but I've since began to realize there are more.

My first inkling was this handsome fellow, a giant red dude by the name of Charlie. He's big and stiff and generous and I just fell in love. His owner and I can laugh about the many skin ailments of our gelded princesses, their high standards of tack and care, and their incredible giving natures.

Charlie is taking his mom some pretty cool places. They finished out the year at novice and are getting ready for some fun adventures. Every time I read about Charlie, I feel like I'm really reading about Cuna. It makes me laugh, but it reminds me that other people can share our adventure.

But wait! There's more.

Meet Dandylonglegs. I stumbled across his blog one day and the more I read, the more I laughed. Why? He's big. He's red. He's an OTTB. He's opinionated, sensitive, and willing. He's stubborn and stiff and careful.

He's Cuna, just the young, green version. I love watching this pair progress because I feel like I'm watching Cuna's education. He's already an awesome horse, but I have a feeling he's only going to get better with age.

As if that wasn't enough, just a week or so later, I was introduced to another Charlie. The first time I saw a picture of him, I just started laughing.

His long neck. His straight back end. His cute little face. He was on the track a long time, but he just came off.

Lauren, his owner, started a blog for him, and I sure hope she sticks with it. He may be young and green, but I think we have another Cuna in the making.

So there you go! I adore my Cuna Matata, but don't give up just because you can't ever have him. There are other people out there with different versions at different ages. I love OTTBs anyways, and there is a very special place in my heart for this big, red, inflexible ones who take good care of their owners, regardless of their development stage. Their goofy devotion leaves their owners with no choice but to indulge in mad Cuna love. 

Did I miss anyone? Who else has had that horse that just suited you so perfectly that you knew you'd found the one?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Whoop Whoop!!

I have a couple of cool posts in the works right now, but in lieu of those, I wanted to share our lesson video from yesterday. In honor of the fact that is it awesome, I put it to music. Enjoy!

And yes, we are jumping a 3'3" oxer with no hands.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2012 Year in Review: Hakuna Matata, my Friends

It's been a wild ride this year! I was getting pictures ready for this post, and I had to just take a minute to be grateful for just how far I've come this year, both as a person and as a rider. I haven't made a lot of material changes, but the immaterial progress is pretty fun to chart. Let's give it a shot!

January 2012. Handwalking.

January was cold and dreary. I was riding with Izzy. She scared the crap out of me. I loved watching her and dressing her, not so fond of being in the saddle. I thought things were normal and carried on as usual. I was working a ton for our instructor and made lots of excuses not to ride.

February 2012. Too cute.

Along came February and with it, a giant red gelding.

Cuna opened up new worlds for me. I loved him within days of meeting him and became more and more obsessed as time went on. It was on his back that the final decision to sell Izzy was made. He carried me through it all like the gentleman he can be. We were jumping crossrails and little fences and I was scared stiff, but he took care of me.

March 2012. We are champs.
March was an interesting month. I went to Thermal with the barn and was able to hash out my feelings about Izzy. I also realized that Cuna wasn't just my temporary loaner horse: he was the one for me.

I picked up more hours at both jobs so Izzy could come back to the barn and Cuna could stay with me through the sale process. We went to our first show together and won the 2'6" jumpers.

April. One of my all time fav pics
April was all about building a partnership. Cuna and I explored the world together. He had to start with square one as far as reeducating me, but like a couple of hopelessly annoying teenagers, we did everything together.

We hacked. We galloped. We jumped. We babysat. We played with tack and Cuna learned to model.

May. My favorite Cuna pic ever.
May brought a new set of challenges. We hauled out of state to go XC schooling for the first time since my wreck. I was disappointed in my ride, so I focused on jumping.

After two weeks, we got the best jumping pictures of our lives together.

Cuna looked amazing in his summer coat and we were gearing up for the show season.

June. Rocking the course. 
June was XC schooling round two. I started learning how to trust my horse and we did our first ever racehorse gallop.

We went to a jumper schooling show and I started to figure out that this whole competition scene could be fun from the saddle.

July. "Just hang on".
July brought our first out of town show and our first official event derby together. Cuna taught me what it's like to ride an XC horse and exhibited the advantages of strong bits.

It was my first ever ride around the course on a horse I hadn't trained, and it was amazing. We snagged a ribbon on our first-ever BN after moving up from intro because I finally realized that we could do this.

Steph headed up to her summer base camp, but Cuna and I spent the (smokey) summer hacking around and really enjoy our all-access-pass to the local hills.

August. Champs again.
August came in with a bang! Cuna got his hock injected the last weekend of July. We took a series of dressage lessons so we could be more competitive at BN at our upcoming trial. I was mentally prepared, and Cuna brought the awesome. After the best dressage test of our career, we went double clear in stadium and XC and brought home the goods.

I was completely thrilled. And I wanted to move up.

September. Freely forward.

September saw us headed up to summer camp for a weekend away. Cuna and I jumped some of the biggest and most technical course I have ever done and we had a blast the whole time. We hacked in wooded hills, grazed in green pastures, and leaped giant things without a second thought.

Although we were mostly on our own back home, we spent lots of time building condition and enjoying our time together. Anything that could be done on horseback was just better on a big red TB gelding.

October. Last solo hack.
October brought changes for us. We were moving to a new barn to continue the trend of working and riding with our most favorite coach.

We rode through the hills and took in the scenery, then packed up and headed to the new home base.

November. Best canter yet.
November saw us in regular lessons and jumping bigger and harder courses than before. I began increasing my technical knowledge and Cuna was going better all the time. He responded well to the improvement in my riding.

Despite my assuring everyone that "I didn't buy him to do dressage", Cuna and I hit the dressage hard to improve our balance and collection for jumping.

It paid off. 

We're on to December! I was going to wait until later in the month to do this, but we're officially done showing for the year. We don't have our gorgeous hills on demand any more, but we've been busy adventure hacking through subdivisions and even occasionally riding in the sandbox.

I made several sets of goals for the year and threw them all out the window, so I don't have a lot of concrete comparisons to make. That said, I started the year on Izzy, terrified of crossrails. I'm finishing it out jumping 3' courses and (and 3'3" singles) confidently while getting ready for what promises to be an exciting 2013!! 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tack... Again...

Cuna and I are making huge strides forward. Our dressage ride on Monday was quite lovely, actually, and we're on the schedule for a jump lesson later this week.

That said, we lesson infrequently because I can afford it infrequently. As such, it is in my best interests to improve as much as possible in between the lessons.


I love how I rode that big oxer for the first 2/3rds of the jump. As Cuna starts to come down, I unfold and bump him with my hands.

Bad form.

Tomorrow (or Thursday, since I've already overbooked tomorrow), I am hunting down a very complex piece of tack: an old stirrup leather. I'm going to put it on his neck and hang on to it over the fences so that if all else fails, I remember to stay in balance over him and keep my hands forward.

It's a simple fix to a hopefully easily correctable problem, but it's the next big position issue I want to take down so we can keep advancing.

PS ENTER OUR CONTEST!!! Entries are open until 12/31, so hop on it while it's hot. ;)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

It Be Right

I've been working extra shifts, riding lots of ponies, and running. Cuna and I escaped to the hills on Friday, and it was amazing.

He unloaded like a champ, was quiet at the trailer, and then lead the way on a loose rein in a new place.

And then we trotted!! He was a nutter and I had a ball.

After the ride, I felt so much calmer and more centered. Life is crazy and stressful and I can't fix everything, but at the end of the day, there is nothing better than looking though red ears and knowing everything is going to be ok.

I would ride this horse through the apocalypse and know he'd take care of us.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Feeling the Pull

Suffice to say, sometimes the rest of my "normal" life gets away from me in the form of laundry, dishes, house cleaning, and seeing non-horsey friends (apparently some of them still like me?). As such, I firmly resolved to not go to the barn today. It's the only day this week I'm not working there and a break is good for everyone.

So Handsome

But I kept picturing this face.

Needless to say, I'm barn bound this afternoon. Who needs laundry anyways?

Especially in this weather... it didn't freeze last night and we have bugs coming back to life. Hellooooo 50f in December. Where have you been all my life?

The plan is jump and practice keeping my hips out of the saddle, my eyes up, and my hands steady. Those of you who watched our last video know that I tend to unfold early and then lose my hands, so I want to work at that over lower fences and see if we can't fix it.

Of course, that would mean foregoing this.

Jump? Hack? Both?

So many options when you have the world's rockingest old red horse.

Don't forget!! There's still time to enter our photo contest! I didn't mention it before because I never can remember to put all the information in one place, but the prize (!!) is a $15 smartpak gift card for those of you in the US. We will figure out an equivalent prize for those of you in the great blue (or white, ahem CANADA) yonder.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Contest!

Tis the season for naughty nurses

I was going to host the 'Red Horse Fashion Awards' due to the fact that Cuna is currently getting ready for a walk off with another friend's red horse on FB. Then I realized how much more fun it would be to make it a team event, so here goes: welcome to the first ever:

"Team Sprinklers of Change: Tis the Season Holiday Photo Extravaganza Contest"!

Which is to say, IT'S PICTURE TIME!!! And CONTEST TIME!! And A PRIZE!!!

Here's how it works.

1) Pic the cutest candid shot you have that goes along with the phrase 'Tis the Season. It doesn't have to be Christmas--it could be 'tis the season for falling off. Be creative! Be edgy! Be entertaining! I'm specifically looking for candids--best action shots is a whole contest unto itself, but who wants to do that when it's wet and raining and winter?

2) Email that pic to me at by December 31, 2012.

Tis the season for pony loving
3) Here's the fun part: if you're like me and you always enter awesome pictures in online contests, but HATE all the ensuing vote-begging that the winners do, guess what? IT'S JUDGED!! No votes necessary (unless there is a tie).

Let me introduce the judging panel:

SprinklerBandits: Me. I love all things equine and pretty in pictures.

Cedes of Change: Our photographer! She has an eye for photography and loves all kinds of animals.

TeamFlyingSolo: Our guest expert! She has an eye for art, a hatred of all things trendy, and some impeccable taste.

We will be judging pictures the first week of January and posting the winner (or tie breaker!) the week following!!!

If you submit a pro photo, YOU MUST OWN IT. Anything obviously watermarked or stolen looking is disqualified.

No porn of the human variety.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Anatomy of a Jump

I promised myself I would back off of this crazy post overdrive, but I had a jumping lesson today and for maybe the first time in my life, I'm quite pleased with how I rode over a giant oxer. Omg! Blogging time.

For the quick version, you can watch our videos here and here (or just hop over to the 'Keeping up with Cuna' page).

For the long version... wow. I've certainly never ridden a perfect jump and Jimmy Wofford would argue that it's never been done. That said, I've been around jumping and the works of J Wo and Georgie (as some eventers call him) to know what a good jump looks like. I haven't ridden many of them, mostly because my giant horse is only now getting to the point where he actually jumps with me... so there's that.

Anyways. I now have on video, one jump that I quite approve of. The first two jumps in the series (second vid) are not awesome, but we saved it. :)

So let's have a look!

Jump looks really big from this angle

Approach! We just landed from a one stride on a trot-in grid. We hopped the crossrail, cantered the 3' vertical, and are aimed for the center of a 3'3" oxer.

My hands are on Cuna's neck, giving him freedom. My leg is under me, my heels are down., my eyes are up. Cuna is getting ready to launch.

Butt muscles, engage! 
And we're off!

As Cuna brings his hind legs up under himself and pushes off, I've let the reins loop, but my hands haven't moved. My foot is more home in the stirrup than is necessary for arena jumping, but my leg is under me.

If you removed Cuna from this picture, I'd be landing on my feet. That means that I'm in balance over my horse and not hampering him at all. :D

My eyes and his ears are all business.

<3 this horse
Stretching! Cuna is pushing off his hind legs, sending his energy up and forward. My hands are still in the same place and my butt is out of the saddle, but my leg is still under me. My back is flat and my crest release looks good. :)

You can see Cuna's balance in the symmetry of his hind legs--they are evenly weighted. His knees are up and tidy, which is why he's such a safe jumper.

Flight! Cuna's hind legs have lifted off and I must say, we look great. :) His front end is square and he has room to spare, but he's not over jumping and wasting energy.

My leg is under me, my heels are down, my hands are quiet, and my seat remains out of the saddle, following his motion. Steph has been really emphasizing getting out of the saddle and allowing the horse to jump up to me, which encourages a round jump, instead of me sitting tight and scooting with my seat, which encourages nothing good.

Descent! We have hit the midpoint of the jump and are just starting to head down. My hands are still, my leg is steady, my eyes are up, and my seat is still out of the saddle. I ride in an XC saddle (it's what fits), so my butt is running into the cantle here, but I'm up off Cuna's back.

Doesn't his tail look great?

Tail cascade
Landing! Cuna has touched down with one front leg. My eyes are still up and we're both moving on to the next thing, but I don't love my position here.

I'm a careful XC rider, and it's showing--I've already opened my upper body and started to sit down on Cuna to get behind the motion. This is excellent technique for uneven terrain and solid jumps, as it keeps me in the center no matter what.

For show jumping, I'd like to keep my body angle more closed and my seat out of the saddle longer, which allows him to finish his jump and be more round through his back, which allows him to be more careful with his hind end. As it stands, this is improvement for me, but I'd like to be sharper and more polished.


Finish! As we canter away from the jump, we're both prepared for what ever is happening next. He's pushing off with his hind end and we're in a great balance. My leg/heels/hands have mostly stayed the same.

It's not perfect, but it's as close as I've been in a while. Other thoughts? I know not all of you are jumpers, but I'd bet you're all striving for perfection of some kind. How do you feel when you get soclose to making it?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Huzzah for BITS!

Thanks to all for some good boot advice and opinions yesterday! I'm not even to the shopping-  and trying-on- phase yet, so I'm sure we'll get to cover it again. I'm sort of surprised that only one person had worn the Volants...

Only the cutest horse ever

Anyways, many thanks to Ellie for the new blog header. Not only does she take kickass pictures--she also designs stuff for me. Winning!

As I was admiring all the rocking pictures Ellie has taken for me, I thought I might as well illustrate something near and dear to my little tack 'ho heart: BITS!!

I like them. All of them.

Here are some I use regularly with a description of their action and application.

D'aawww. Photo by me.

We'll start with the most basic. This is an eggbutt. The mouth piece is a Dr. Bristol, so double jointed, but instead of a softly rounded bean, there is a flat plate for the center piece.

I use it on Cuna for dressage, hacking, and every day stuff. I use the eggbutt because Cuna is a nervous worrier, and he likes the stability that a fixed-cheek bit provides. I use the Dr. Bristol because he's built very long and heavy on the forehand with a low set neck, so it's incredibly easy for him to brace against me. The plate gives me just a little bite that reminds him to be soft without hurting him or backing him off the bit.

Photo by Ellie
Here's another look for us: a full cheek happy mouth mullen.

I used this bit CONSTANTLY when I started riding Cuna. The full cheek is fixed, which keeps it very still in his mouth, while the plastic mullen mouth is very forgiving. It's a very soft bit.

I picked it because Cuna and I were just getting acquainted. He is very particular about his mouth (fair enough, right?) and I didn't want to piss him off while we figured things out. It didn't give me a lot of brakes and we had no longitudinal flexion, but we also pretty much eliminated his trademark head tossing as an objection to the rider's hands.

A fixed cheek also provides some steering control by putting pressure on the horse's face, which makes it an excellent choice for young/green/obtuse horses as it gives them a bit more information and won't allow the bit to slide through the mouth the way smaller models can. Ever seen that happen? Yeah. Not pretty.

Fuzzy photo by me
A sort of bastard cousin to the full cheek is the d ring bit, commonly seen in hunter circles. It gives the stability of a fixed cheek like the full cheek or eggbutt, some of the steering control of the full cheek, but the smaller size and sharper look than the full cheek.

I think d's are pretty. They do have one distict drawback: those corners. Reins and/or cheek pieces tend to slide around them and then get stuck. I haven't seen a horse react badly to that, since it's a fairly small motion, but it's kind of a pain.

This particular full cheek is a single jointed slow twist. It's the go-to bit for one of the horses in the barn who has a lovely neck and well set head, but gets a little strong while jumping. She doesn't need to poll pressure that helps Cuna, but the corrugated surface reminds her to be soft without using leverage.

Photo by Ellie
Some of you remember Izzy... She is the opposite of Cuna. While she went fine in a fixed cheek bit, I always wanted to encourage her to chew the bit and salivate. To that end, I put her in a loose ring french link with a central "bean" and a copper mouth.

The loose ring gave her some motion to play with. The bean instead of the plate kept everything very soft to keep her from curling behind the bit, and the copper is supposed to encourage salivation. It worked for her.

Cuna HATED this bit. It was too narrow for his big, squishy lips, so it pinched him. Fixed cheek bits rarely pinch--loose rings can. To each their own?

Photo by me
Today, we played with a full cheek waterford. If you haven't seen one of these, well, they're pretty cool. It's a whole series of connected links that are softly rounded. It isn't severe, but it doesn't give the horse anything to lean on.

We borrow it from one of Steph's clients who has a green horse who is very stiff, but he curls behind the bit if anything touches him. It works really well for him, but Cuna?

Not so much. Although he liked the fixed cheek, he was pretty sure the mouth piece was just something to carry around and ignore. He doesn't lean--he braces. Not the same.

Photo by Ellie

That leaves us with my current go-to jumping bit. It's a happy mouth mullen pelham with connectors.

Cuna gets very strong while jump big fences and PARTICULARLY while running XC. It's his joie de vivre, what can I say? While yes, I agree that you should be able to ride any horse in a snaffle (and we have/can jump in one), there's no sense trying to beat the joy out of him. His passion is what makes him great--I just have to roll with it.

The plastic mullen makes it a nice, soft mouthpiece, but the curb action of the pelham gives me a little more control. Before you purists complain, YES, I know the connectors muddy the action of the bit, making it neither curb nor snaffle.  I know it's more proper to ride with two reins.

You know what else? Cuna likes those connectors. He dislikes the two reins. He apparently didn't read the book.

Needless to say, I love bits. I've actually bought bits that I don't have a use for just on the off chance I need them in the future. What are you guys using? How often do you change bits? Anything cool I need to add to my inventory?
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