Friday, March 27, 2015

Ammy Hour: Meet Gingham!

I have a fun line up of ammy hour interviews coming your way. This week I talked with Gingham of Pia & Prarie's Parade about how she makes life work as an employee, mom, wife, and ammy rider. Without further ado, meet Gingham!

1) You’re at dinner with work colleagues. How do you introduce yourself?
Well let’s see.  I was going to say something clever about being the only girl at a hunting/fishing outing (since that what’s my work folks do) but… well, I’m still on what appears to be a mostly extended maternity leave.  So right now my “work” colleagues are my cat and baby.  Both are kind of uppity about their dinners though so they’d probably introduce me as the tall lady who never feeds them on time

2) Assuming I pretend this is dinner with real work people… 
I’d mean to say “HOLY CRAP I HAVEN’T PUT ON A REAL BRA IN DAYS, and these HEELS!??? I’M JUST GLAD MY FORMERLY SWOLLEN FEET FIT IN THEM AGAIN.  (I might say something like “I wish I was with my horse” if I wasn’t already chugging my second glass of wine)

Ms Star
3) What is your history with horses?
I started out as a total barn rat, who after getting hooked on a weekly lesson courtesy of a former fox hunting grandma, started to clean tack and stalls in exchange for more lessons.  When my favorite schooling pony ended up for sale (she maybe bolted, and kicked and bit a lot.. but what pony doesn’t) I promised my (clever) father no French kissing till high school, no sex till college and grandchildren by 30 in exchange for bringing her home.

the one and only Pia
I agreed hastily.  Because I was 11 and boys were gross.  Anyway, Star was an awesome first pony.  She was surly and horrid but she jumped ANYTHING you pointed her at and she started my love affair with eventing.  By the end of our time together we had competed through 2nd level dressage and managed one start at Prelim (for the record she was 13.2).  In contrast, every other horse has proved a tad disappointing.  Star was totally sound, only wore two shoes, never got sick, ate two flakes of hay a day and that was IT.  Man I miss ponies…

When I went off to college I managed to ride and compete our of school’s team with the IHSA.  That is a truly unique and bizarre experience, but it scratched my horse itch and was affordable while I was busy studying.

After school, and a pit stop in NYC for a few years, I finally moved home and got back into horses for real. That’s when I found Pia - a really pretty, really opinionated Hungarian mare.  We struggled a lot, but like most mares she taught me more, and eventually taught me that we were not a match. Currently she’s with another ammy bouncing around cross country courses and going on trail rides.  It’s a win.

early Prairie
4) Tell us about your horse and how you met her.
Prairie is my current ride, and I adore her.  When I got her (basically Christmas of 2011) thought I was buying my next dressage horse.  I found her on my own while perusing lots (and lots) of online listings.  I was hypnotized by her trot and when after a couple months I still found myself comparing every other ad to her… I went to go see her.  I think I rode her for the first time on December 23rd, and by New Years I had sent the check.  It wasn’t a very rational purchase, but there was something about her I just loved.

they're so classy
5) What do you do with your horse?
About a year into our partnership, I started working Prair over small fences as cross training.  When she seemed to enjoy it more than 20m circles and other really, really boring low level dressage stuff, we slowly crossed over to Hunter Land.  We’ve spent the past two years getting (much) more relaxed and (much) more capable as low level hunters.  We’ve competed together once in the AA’s (3’) but mostly we bop around at 2’6” while we still get the whole polished-and-consistent thing figured out.

6) Where are you going together?
This is a hard question to answer right now.  Assuming prolonged soundness I would love Prair to be a solid 3’ Hunter.  I’m honestly not sure that will work, but we’ll see.  If it doesn’t, we’ll enjoy jumping lower things and find other fun stuff (like mountain trail and dressage) to keep us exploring together and learning.

7) What does success with horses look like for you?
I’ve never had the same goal with two horses, and I’ve liked that.

With Prair, success looks like finding work that she is happy, sound and relaxed in.  We have made SO many strides in the happy and relaxed arenas.  But sound is just now starting to be an issue (those pesky soft tissue injuries are just devastating).

he's a keeper
8) How do you finance the addiction?
I am (extremely) lucky that my husband doesn’t mind that a large portion of our salaries goes straight to the barn (and tack store.. and equine massage therapist.. and vet, always the vet).  We’re lucky to have some good property investments that throw off some rental income and that goes a long way to making it possible for me to even pretend I belong in Hunter Land.  I am really lucky to keep Prair in a full training situation in a really nice show barn, where I know she’s well cared for if the kiddo (or work) keep me from visiting as often as I’d like.  It’s not cheap, and every once in a while (like when I’m paying show bills) I fantasize about going back to a somewhat more affordable discipline…. But I don’t actually see that happening anytime soon.

cooler spam!
 9) What does your support team look like?
My support team is outstanding.  My husband is a HERO.  He knows I’m a better human when I get my barn time and even tolerates it when I try to spin shows as “vacations.”  Not only will he haul my horse across the state with me, but he keeps me fed and watered at shows, watches the baby while I ride and even feigns interest when I’m geeking out about whatever horse related purchase I’ve most recently blown our budget on.  He’s the most important part of the equation.  On top of that though, both his mom and my mom try to help out with childcare so I can get to the barn during the week, so that’s huge too.  More directly related I’ve got a great trainer who pushes me just the right amount and an all star vet who has really changed Prair’s body for the better.

pictured: not a barn in the PNW
10) What are your horse keeping arrangements?
Oops, I already answered this sorta.  Prair is at a really amazing facility about 45min south of my home.  It’s far (really, really far) and it’s meant that I only get to ride 3 times a week, but the program and the care is worth it.  She’s become a totally different mare since we moved there about 15 months ago.  Less anxious, less stressed, happy and willing in her work.  It’s been awesome.  Hopefully someday soon she gets the greenlight to actually enjoy their lovely turnouts again, but for now, she’s got a beautiful stall and gorgeous arena to enjoy.

11) How often do you ride?
Oops, answered this too.  Right now 3 days a week.  I’m used to seeing/riding my horses 5 or 6 days a week, but having our first kid has shifted the schedule a bit.  Now I ride twice during the week and once on the weekend.  It seems to be enough to keep me from turning into a totally useless heap of a rider, and Prair seems to enjoy the extra training rides when I’m not there.  If I could wave a magic wand I’d ride more, but right now three times a week is sustainable.

fancy mare
12) What’s the single biggest thing that helps you achieve your goals?
A sound horse.  LOL.  Just Kidding.. kinda

Sure is easier to accomplish things when you can actually ride your horse… buuuuuut aside from that, patience is key.  I’m rather Type A and sometimes I forget that my horses don’t care about yearend awards, or points, or even (god forbid) coolers.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten better about trying to eliminate my competitive-teenage-sports-mindset as much as possible.  Competition still frames my progress and helps me organize my goals, but trying to enjoy the (long, slow, sometimes backwards) process has become a larger part of the picture.

13) 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?
1) DO IT. It’s so good for the soul.

2) But unless you’re prepared to spend twice as much as you think you want to, find a horse to lease before you buy.

That’s my number one suggestion to those of us stumbling back into the horse game. :)

14) Bottom Line:
Basically, I’m not me without a horse to be with.  I’m grateful for a spouse who not only accepts that fact, but embraces and maybe even enjoys it.  I thought having a kiddo would significantly alter my horse life, but 8 months into it, I have still been able to enjoy a few lessons a week, a reasonable (if a tad scaled back) show season and my blog.  I might not be doing quite as much of those things as I was two years ago, but I’m just thrilled any of it fits into life with my fun little family.

Many thanks to Gingham for participating!! Do you know someone who should be featured on Ammy Hour? Is that person you? Either way, contact me if you want to be included.


  1. Prairie is so, so, so gorgeous! :)

  2. great interview! 'happy, sound and relaxed' - sounds like a winning combo to me :)

  3. If Gingham ever gets tired of her life, I will gladly take it! I want to grow up and be Gingham lol

  4. I love Prairie :) Gingham was one of the first blogs I started following (back before Prairie, it doesn't seem like 4 years, wow). She is awesome, fun to learn more about her.

  5. Yay! Love following their journey!!

  6. Love Gingham! Which is saying a lot, because really I should be much too overcome with jealousy to like her even a little bit. :)

  7. Thanks for the post! (and all the love!)

    amazing when you post all the pictures at once it looks like we are actually real Hunters. :)

  8. Love this series! And this is definitely one of my fave blogs too :)

  9. Love this series & the fab people we learn more about ☺☺☺

    LOVE her blog. LOVE this interview.

    Love all the way around :)


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