Saturday, March 30, 2013

Riding Ninja Reminder!

The contest entries close tonight! Winner will be posted on Sunday, so get your entries in if you want to win a sweet prize from Riding Ninja Apparel.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Guest Blog

So my person comes to get me today and I'm all:
Watch it! I'm in agony.

And she's all "What's wrong Cuna?" and I'm like:
Let's play pony club. You figure it out.

And she's all, "OMG YOU HAVE A FAT LEG!!" and I'm going:
Correct. Now fix the zen master's fat leg.

She was all about jogging and prodding and getting advice and even had the nerve to make me hack around since I was "sound" and "needed to move".
But I won.

You're just jealous of my wraps, Roxie.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Riding Ninja Contest!!

I work at two small businesses and am a huge fan of entrepreneurs. I also love fun riding clothes, and when I ran across the startup company, "Riding Ninja Apparel", I was hooked. 

My fav. If you buy the last one in my size, watch out.
What's not to love? Their whole line is in kind. Lots of gorgeous horses and fun ninjas jumping and doing dressage. There's a color and style for everyone.

I'm currently rocking a light blue jumping ninja hoodie and loving it. It's a feminine cut with a light weight fabric that will be amazing for those cool summer mornings that aren't so very far away. Want to see it? Pictures are coming! 

The owner of Riding Ninja Apparel agreed to run a promo contest right here, in order to celebrate kicking off her clothing line. 

So here's the deal: follow this link to the Riding Ninja store and pick your favorite item. Leave a comment on this post (right here, on my blog) letting me know which one it is. At the end of the week, we'll have a drawing and one lucky commenter will get a free Riding Ninja tshirt!

If you want a second entry, share this contest on your blog or facebook and then comment here with a link to your share. ;) Entries close at 11.59pm on Saturday (3/30/13). Good luck!

Like Riding Ninja on facebook here!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Our Photobook

[there was a link to a photobook here but the company I used asked me to remove it]

Lots of fun stuff coming up (if I can ever find the time to write any of it down.) Just thought I would share today's project: a book to commemorate my first year together with Cuna.

Someday, I'm want to do one of those blog2print books I always get emails about. Anyone tried those? Seems like a cool way to track progress as well. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Back at It

Back in the saddle
We're moving forward. Cuna is better in work, so we're easing back up to our normal workload.

Yesterday I set up some wee tiny jumps (cross rail and 2'6" vertical) and just practiced cantering in from a half seat. He picked all the distances and I just had to wait for him without jumping ahead.

It is kind of hilarious how much he loves to jump. If he thinks we're doing flatwork, he fusses in the contact, flips his nose about bugs, and skitters around. The moment I point him at a jump, he's forward, straight, and all business.

Today I put on dressage tack for the first time since he tied up. I wanted to see how he felt more than anything--he hasn't wanted to really sit and push off his right hind and I wanted to know if it was a pilot problem or if he was weaker.


Total pilot problem.

We had a great warmup, and then I was able to sit his trot for the rest of the ride. He reached for the contact and pushed from behind and was just delightful the whole time. You know, as delightful as a dressage-hating stiff horse can be. ;) Another rider commented on how fancy he was looking.

I am looking forward to showing him off this summer, but my car is back in the shop again (yay...), so we'll see what the finances allow. Looks like we may be having a later start than anticipated.

Honestly? As long as I can have rocking rides at home on my wonderful old man horse, I don't care. He makes every day worth it.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Taking a Moment

Fellow blogger Emily (of Ammy Hour fame) is going through a terrible situation that I can't even imagine dealing with. My heart goes out to her family and I just wanted to pause and remind everyone to hold your loved ones close. You never know about tomorrow.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Scare

Given that some of you are Cuna fans on facebook, I figured you were owed a bit of an update.

What chestnut princesses are wearing these days
On Saturday morning, Cuna and I went for a trot in the hills with our eventing buddy and her fancy young thing. We've been conditioning with them this year, and Cuna always goes out hot and jiggs back to the trailer while the young thing calmly walks. He loves his hills almost as much as I do. :)

Saturday was different.

We started out normally, but then instead of racing the young thing, we followed him. When we reached the top of the hill, Cuna was huffing and puffing while the young thing bucked. As we continued, Cuna sweated profusely and lagged behind the leaping, pracing, dry young thing. He never quit or slowed down--he just wasn't racing to be at the front.

We walked down the steepest hill and started the trek back to the trailer.

Cuna was polite and slow, neck arched like a fancy western pleasure horse. He stopped to poo and didn't race to catch the young thing. He wasn't breathing hard, but his respiration seemed more rapid and shallow than normal. The lather on his neck didn't subside, even in the cool breeze.

Our eventing buddy is familiar with Cuna's proclivities and she was just as struck by his behavior as I was. He was not himself, not at all. He didn't want to step over the little gate to get out and he really didn't want to get on the trailer. I knew his hocks were getting back, but I had never, ever seen him like this.

I took him home and he almost fell out of the trailer. His steps were slow and short and his expression was dull. I almost cried as I curried him dry, picked his hooves, and looked for anything abnormal. His hocks seemed fine, but he didn't want to pick his back legs up at all and he shuffled back to his stall.

When I went home, I did cry. "I think I broke my horse," I told my husband. "I don't even know what I did."

Finally, I got a call from the barn. The possibilities were running through my head, none of them good. Cuna wasn't himself. There wasn't really a good way for this to play out.

The caller was one of Cuna's former owners and one of the most obsessive horse people I know. Nothing slips by her. We talked about Cuna's behavior and how he'd been in the hills. "I think he tied up," she said.

The pieces fell into place. It had to be a mild case, because he could still move. It explained the sweating, the lethargy, even the odd posture on the walk home. His back and hamstrings were rock hard and he was visibly uncomfortable.

I ran out to the barn and fed him all the carrots we had in the house.

The face of a horse who HATES handwalking
Since then, he's been on a steady regime of NSAIDS, electrolytes, hand walking, and warm blankets. Today, finally, he came out like a normal horse. His hips were swinging and his overreach was back. I think there's another day of handwalking in his future, but we're going to slowly start back to work after that.

We have no idea what caused it. He's never done it before. Here's hoping it never happens again. Now I have a set of data points to work with, so I know what it looks like if I see it again.

I know it sounds dramatic, but I thought I was going to lose him. I have never seen him like that before, and I am so happy to have him back.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ammy Hour: Meet Shannon!!

It's time for another round of one of my favorite series, Ammy Hour! I interview the coolest people I know, the adult amateurs that make the whole "horse thing" work with real life, real responsiblities, and real horses. I've been reading Shannon's blog at A Work in Progress almost since I started blogging, and it's fun to learn a little bit more about her. Without further ado, here's Shannon!

1) You’re at dinner with your peers. How do you introduce yourself?

      Hi.  I'm Shannon

2) But what you really meant to say was this:

Hi.  I'm Shannon and I suck at introductions. I live on a farm where we raise chickens and ducks and grow all our own fruits and veggies.  I have two kids, a 4 year old daughter and a two year old son.  I studied animal behavior in college and used to work for a university, but I've now retired to be a broodmare. My passion is training dressage horses. No, they're not the ones that race. No, they don't jump, either. *Sigh* Yes, they're the "dancing ones", like Romney's horse.  No, I don't get paid for it or win money. Who wants another glass of wine?

Spider also has killer fashion sense
3) Tell us about your horse:

Now that's something I can talk about all day!  Spider is an 18 year old, unregistered Thoroughbred. He's currently showing 3rd Level in dressage and we're working on moving up.

 I don't know much about his past, as I purchased him through a broker and never spoke to his previous owners. I know he was a jumper, I know he doesn't have a Jockey Club tattoo, and that's about it.  But, his past doesn't matter to me.  He is one of the most willing, kind, and trainable horses I have ever met in my life.  When I sit on him, I can feel that he wants to work just as much as I do.

Now, that isn't to say that he's always well behaved!  If he gets confused or feels like he can't do something, he can throw a temper tantrum with the best of them!  But, once the tantrum is done he comes right back to me and it's over.  He also hates to travel and hates new people.  It makes showing a challenge, but he's never malicious about it. He's just a spaz.  I find it endearing.

4) How did you meet him/her?

I met him when he was 11 and I was still riding sale horses. Spider had been a jumper, but soured and was being sold as a dressage prospect. I was supposed to be riding him to sell, but I fell in love with him within two weeks and knew I had to have him.  Everybody said I was crazy to buy the spazzy, soured jumper, but I'm glad I did.

5) What have you done together?

Well, not much on paper.  I bought him just after I had broken my back in a riding accident.  Three months after I bought him, I was let go from my job riding horses and had to go back to a "real" job.  So, I had to work a 9-5 desk job at a university, while retraining this spastic Thoroughbred jumper I had just bought!  We putzed around at First Level for a couple years, then I got pregnant.  That pretty much derailed my "plan".  And then, just when we were getting back on track after my first child was born, I got pregnant again!  So, our show record is less than stellar, for obvious reasons.

But, when it comes to things outside of show records and paper accomplishments, he and I have done it all.  This horse has seen me through the greatest upheavals in my life.  He came to me at a time when I had just broken my back, and had just been diagnosed with an auto-immune disease.  He saw me through my transition from Pro to Ammy, he saw me through my two pregnancies, and then he saw me through my transition from Academic to Farmwife. He and I go on trail rides, then we hang out in the back yard and have cocktails.  He gives my kids pony rides and he packs me over little jumps (I'm not a jumper, but he's very forgiving). He's just a really great all-around horse.

6) Where are you going together?

Well, the short answer is that my goal for this year is to have him do a Prix St. Georges test.  Score doesn't matter, I just want to do it.

The long answer is that we're going as far as we can go.  I want him to do Grand Prix.  I want him to teach my kids to ride.  But most of all, I want him to always be my partner.

7) How do you finance the addiction?

I have a very understanding husband!  Three years ago I "retired" from my job at a university to become a stay-at-home mom, so he foots most of the bills.  I raise chickens and ducks that I sell to pay for lessons and extras and do a little farm-sitting for friends, too.

I also try to save money where I can.  When I "retired", the horses came home to our farm to live, which saves a ton of money. And I usually only take a lesson once a month or so.  The horses are barefoot and pastured, so that saves money, too.  Although, they are not barefoot and pastured just to save money; I personally believe that living in a pasture is a healthier lifestyle for them and not every horse needs shoes.  The money saved is just an added bonus!

8) You balance a combination of kids, work, and school while maintaining an adult relationship. What top three things help you stay focused?

#1 would have to be horses.  Horses have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  They've been there through all the big milestones in my life, all the ups and downs.  They're my constant, my religion and my therapy.

#2 is my kids. I want to share my passion for horses with them, because I think horses have so much to offer kids in terms of learning important life lessons, but I need to be on top of my game to do that.  I want my kids to learn the discipline and work that goes along with having these wonderful animals in your life, so I need to lead by example.

#3 is definitely alcohol!  Nothing helps you reboot like a nice glass of wine or a cocktail in the evening!

9) On top of the above challenges, you are riding through an injury. What keeps you strong and motivated day to day?

I'm just too dumb to quit!  It's never occurred to me to throw in the towel, even on the days when I'm sitting on my horse in tears thinking, "Who am I kidding? I can't do this."  I've sacrificed too much and come too far to quit now. I'm too stubborn for that. Besides, without horses there would be a huge hole in my life.

10) How often do you ride?

As often as I can! Usually around 4 times a week, sometimes 6 times a week, sometimes a week or more passes between rides if I'm sick or my back is bothering me.  One thing I've learned is not to sweat the numbers.  Just bring the same consistency and quality to every ride.  Your horse remembers what you taught him.

11) What’s the single biggest thing that helps you achieve your goals?

Again, I'm just too stubborn and dumb to quit!  I keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter what.  I may not get there quickly, I may take a roundabout path, but I know if I just keep plugging away I will eventually get where I want to be.

12) 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?

Don't let anybody tell you what you can't do.  Many people think you need a fancy horse, expensive equipment and a trust fund to succeed with horses, and they'll try to tell you can't do it without those things.  Don't listen to them.  All you really need is passion and a love of learning.  And don't forget to have fun.

13) Bottom line:
There's a saying, "If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life".  I try to live by that saying.  When things start to get difficult, I just remind myself that I am so lucky to have all these wonderful things in my life: my family, my farm and my horses.   I wouldn't give any of them up, so I might as well slap on a smile and enjoy this crazy life.

Many thanks to Shannon for participating. Do you know someone who should be featured here? Would you like to be? Contact me through the comments or at sprinklerbandits at gmail dot com. 

Stay tuned! I will actually wrap up the Tis the Season contest here shortly (winter funk, I tell you) AND we have a new contest upcoming that I am super excited about! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fancy Pants Dressage

Cuna and I have taken two whole dressage lessons this year in an attempt to be the butt-kicking-ist novice team to hit the horse trials in our neck of the woods. Our most excellent instructor took a short video from the first lesson. 

When she took the video, we were working on sitting trot with no stirrups. I had to focus on about a million things at the same time, but Cuna was responding really well.

Here's a quick close up more for an overall gear shot than anything. Taking screen caps is hard on a slow computer, let me tell you.

We borrowed a dressage saddle and that style of breastcollar fits him a lot better with that saddle. Plus it matches. Win win. Not to worry folks: it's also borrowed.

He's decked out in bell boots as per farrier orders and wraps to keep him protected. We use white wraps to give the most amount of contrast possible to make it easy for our instructor to see him.

The more we move along, the better it gets. Cuna relaxes into the contact as I get steadier. To my great surprise, sitting the trot was not incredibly hard. Our instructor kept pushing me to ask for more trot.

She said not to ask for more trot than I can ride, then watched and said, "You ride well enough. More trot."

By the end of the lesson, I couldn't feel my thighs and my arms and core felt like Jello.

I love this. 
So worth it.

Check out my fancy dressage Cuna!!

I'm going to have to snag a photographer for solid dressage shots here soon.

I mean, who doesn't want to see more fancy Cuna pics? Helloooooo sexy.

I have to hand it to the DQs out there. This is pretty intense stuff and we're not even doing cool tricks yet. Any one else playing dressage and figuring out just how much work it is?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Booting Call!

It seems like every rider has a different idea of when/how/why to boot a horse, and I find the debates intriguing. I've always had my own opinions on the subject and I have a bit of a boot fetish, so let's look at why we boot horses.

1) Boots offer protection to the horse's legs.

Cute in his fluffy boots
That's it. I don't believe that boots support anything. When deciding if you want to boot, ask yourself, "Do I want to protect my horse's legs?" and go from there. Haha. The trainer I ride with has had two different horses completely deglove their front legs from an overreach injury without boots on. Her rule: All boots, every time unless there is a driving reason not to. Her idea of a driving reason is the horse who kicks enthusiastically when wearing hind boots. It's not worth the injury risk to him.

I can get behind that. To me, it makes sense to put a horse in front boots regardless. That's a horrific injury that a $20 set of boots can prevent. I like those odds. It's probably not a big deal if you only ride on level, groomed surfaces, but given that Cuna and I spend most of our time trying to escape that environment, we go with it.

That said, putting dirty, sweaty boots on is disgusting and unsanitary. That means after pretty much every usage, I have to scrub the boots. In an effort to save labor, I quit putting hind boots on Cuna this past summer.

Hind boots for a reason.
Guess what?

He interferes behind.

Boots it is.

Fluffy bell boots for a red princess
And then, due to some work our farrier is doing, I was forced to solemnly swear to use bell boots, every time, every ride. It's a pain, but it beats pulled shoes and disintegrating hooves.

So there it is. Cuna goes in full boots or wraps every time he works, plus bell boots. He also gets bell boots for turnout if I have a reason to think he'll act like a nutter. It's a philosophy that works for me. What are some other boot ideas that work for you? Does anyone not use them?
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