Sunday, November 19, 2017

Day 16 - Favorite Equine Memory

Day 16- Your favorite equine memory

From Clover Ledge Farm

My favorite memory is when Gwyn came off of the trailer after being shipped from Florida to Washington. It was the moment when I finally had a horse that I could call my own and it was an amazing feeling. And since we were already familiar with each other, she remembered me and wanted me over the shipper. It was great.

A close second is the relief when she came off the truck in Michigan and I didn't have to be here without her.

Day 15 - Talking to any horse

Day 15- If you could speak to any horse, dead or alive, what would you say?

From Clover Ledge Farm

There's going to be a bunch of posts. I had a ridiculous week and didn't have the chance to sit down at a computer.

I would want to talk to Clyde again and tell him why I left and never really came back and did anything with him again once I left for college. I'm sure he had a great retirement, but I missed him and I didn't get to do what I wanted to do with him in retirement (ie. love on him every day) and he died before I could bring him home.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Day 14 - Dream Farm/Barn

Day 14- Your dream barn/farm

From Clover Ledge Farm

I really like my little farm that I have right now. There are a few things that would make it a dream property that really make this whole thing wholly unattainable, but here we go!

  • Access to trails right off property. If we could back up to state land or a park, that would be spectacular. Even being closer to a rails to trails that's equestrian friendly would be swell.  I would consider this property close to access were it not for the incredibly busy road I live on. It's only about a mile and a half to an access point, but too much of it is on a road with a 55mph/90kmh speed limit.
  • A round pen for those extra sassy days
  • A covered arena.
    • It doesn't even have to be fully indoor! Just being covered would extend my riding significantly!
  • A larger arena OR a flat grassy space for some jumping
    • My current arena is good for flatwork and dressage. I can't really get super large figures, but it's big enough to canter around in and get a couple good 20m circles in. 
  • Shorter commute to work
    • It took me 70 minutes to get home today with traffic. Without traffic the drive is 50 min.

That's it! Haha, 'that's it'. 

But seriously, I've got a small barn, 3 stalls, hay storage and water and electric in the barn. It's perfect for the number of animals I want.

Non horse related Wants:
  • Greenhouse
  • Chicken Coop
  • Covered Trailer Storage area
  • Two pasture shelters for the summer pastures

Some of those are things we can add to the current property and may do so

Monday, November 13, 2017

Day 13 - Video of Me and Gwyn

Day 13- A video of you horse/you riding

From Clover Ledge Farm

I don't really have boots on the ground for videoing me while I ride, so the most recent video I have is from a trail ride I took where I video'd myself riding, only it's not of me, it's just of Gwyn and she's being a very brave pony and going clompity clomp on a very long bridge.

There might actually be more recent video, I just haven't uploaded it to youtube. Lemme dig around my google photos.

[Time elapses]

Maybe not, lol.

The below video is from 2011, which is the the most recent horse show video I have of myself, riding Intro Test A and B.

This is Test A and was abysmal because I didn't carry a whip, thinking she'd be more forward, like she usually is. Nope.  I carried a whip for Test B.

Ah, here's footage from the Hunter Pace back in October

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Day 12 - Favorite Coat Color

Day 12- Favorite horse color

From Clover Ledge Farm

There are five different colors of spots on this mare. Also, she camoflages mud easily.
Love me that bright bay tho...
Despite having a very uniquely colored horse now, I'm a HUGE fan of a good bright bay. Honestly, I like most coat color and it'd be a shorter list to write out which coat color I'm not a fan of (Buckskin, chestnut and Gray, though I'd be a fan of gray if they stayed that fun dappled gray but they all go white in the end)

What has been fun is learning about coat color genetics. Appaloosa is funky, splash can get you a dead foal, gray is dominant and sorrel and chestnut are the same don't even try that here.

Sorry, I really can't wax poetical on coat color. This is all you get. I'm going back to making my brilliantly orange quarter sheet for hunting season riding.

Day 11 - Go Horse Shopping!

Day 11- Find a horse for sale online that you would want to buy

From Clover Ledge Farm


This will be in two categories; for the girls, and for me

For the Girls:

I want a been there, done that pony for the kids. One who is super safe, who will tolerate anything and will babysit them if they choose to learn to ride. While Gwyn is protective of the kids, she doesn't take care to watch them first and foremost and can still be spooky, or will move into them in the aisle. As a bonus, this pony in the ad is practically down the road.

For the record, my husband walked in on me while I was writing this entry and had the ad up on the screen and immediately went "WHAT IS THIS?>!?!?!?"

If you can't tell, we're not getting a second horse or pony any time soon. LOL.

For me, if I ever get another horse, it'll be back to standardbreds for me. I loved Clyde so much and everything I've read of other people's experience with the breed just confirms it for me.

I kinda really like this guy and he seems like a sweety. I like his eye. I'd scoop him up now if I could and call him Tobias.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Day 10 - Friends and Family vs Riding

Day 10- How your family/friends feel about your riding

From Clover Ledge Farm

Do you see that expression? That's the face of a man who has just realized that this is his future. It's a grimace. LOL
The big one here is Eric. He is a double edged sword in that he recognizes that having the horse and riding makes a big impact on my mental health. I am happier, more easy going, less irritable and more patient with the kids. He has admitted these things, on multiple occasions, and in writing.

But horses cost money and that man gets anxious when money is not where he wants it (mind you, not low, just not where he wants it) There is no tangible benefit, the horse does not earn us money, it just consumes it. So he gets grumpy but has yet to seriously suggest that the horse go away.

Kaylee likes Gwyn, but she's not as into horses as I was at her age. I can tell. She doesn't need to be out there every day. The horse is always around. I let her ride when she wants, but that's rare.

Hazel, on the other hand, is just an animal lover in general, and wants to be out in the barn with me. She helps with chores. She feeds Gwyn and Saffron. Of the two kids, Hazel is going to be my riding buddy I think.

My Mom is amused that I actually followed through with my determination to have a horse and a farm. She knows it's what I always wanted and damned if I didn't get it in the end.

Friends are amused. No one is surprised though. I made no secret of my love of horses and it's as much as part of me as my hair color and penchant for singing broadway and disney music at the slightest provocation. If they don't accept that about me, they're not my friend.

Thursday, November 9, 2017


Pardon me while we take a break from the regularly scheduled bloghop for my lesson run down and note review so I can remember what to work on!

My riding lesson was today and there's not much media of it, just selfies while I wallowed in self pity because the weather was slightly nasty.

This is my "I am not impressed, weather" face

"Ewwwww wintry mix! NOOOOO"

Okay, but seriously that's it. I should have set up the camera to record it all but didn't think about it. I was more concerned with dressing warmly.

I wore:
  • thick wool socks that were compromised the moment I put on mesh, summer weight paddock boots and stepped outside
  • Kerrits winter tight
  • merino wool baselayer (I'm still wearing it, it's so soft and warm)
  • fleece vest that I got from when I was a volunteer at the Seattle Aquarium (roomy yet warm with zipper pockets!)
  • My columbia jacket, rated for super cold weather (I was sweating in the house)
  • A balaclava I got from Meijer and wore for the first time today. 
  • half chaps
  • ariat maxtrax zip up boot (not happy so far with the fit but still breaking them in)

I was SO WARM!  :D :D :D :D :D

But seriously, I was warm enough I didn't need gloves.  The balaclava was perfect. I pulled it down off my head when I put my helmet on, but it kept my neck and ears protected from the wind. I'm a fan!

I think this is my new default for winter riding, barring the shoes, the wind goes right through em. I still need to work on gloves, but this is an amazing start.

It was rainsnowing when I left the house and I grumbled my way across to the barn. Gwyn saw me grab the halter and threw me the middle hoof and left. She knew. She knew. But it didn't take long for her to be amenable to capture (like a minute... haha) I curried the mud off, brushed where she was dry and started dolling her up. I wasn't sure what I'd be doing so I stuck polos on her front legs, partly because I was cold and partly because purple.

Trainer AML arrived as I started to get the saddle. I signed her liability release and we got to know each other. She watched me tack Gwyn up and was pretty much getting the feel for Gwyn's personality and how we worked together.

I hopped on and started warming up. I talked about what my goals were (eventually eventing, but for now solidifying the basics) and what issues I knew we had (dropping the shoulder, bending, feeling very dead to left leg, working on the bit).

Right away we started to tackle the shoulder/bending/working on the bit/straightness stuff.

Good stuff:
  • My seat is excellent (FUCK YEAH!), I am well balanced and sit up
  • I look where I'm going instead of at my horse
  • My hands are soft with caveats**

Basically, I want Gwyn to have self carriage, and that can be taught. I want Gwyn to know that when pressure is released, we relax. To that end, she's having me do some weird stuff to get the feel and overexaggerate the movement.  We started with just the concept of giving to pressure. She had me hold my hands out, palms down and WAY up high and immediately release when Gwyn dropped her head and took a step back. This became the foundation for back up. And by the end me just sitting up and raising my hands was all it took for Gwyn to step. But she's wiggly.

So then we worked on me feeling the connection between the rein and her hind leg. So my right rein should be cuing her right hind leg to step in and under herself. There's a certain swoop feeling when she truly steps in and across, versus sidestepping. The goal there was cue with the rein until I feel the swoop. Then get more and more together.

Again, and I've heard this from so MANY sources, control the feet, control the horse. So there were some deer moving through the woods during the lesson and Trainer AML got to see some of Gwyn's spook scooting and we used those same basic principles to get her focused and get her back and straight and listening to me as the herd leader. I have a habit of pushing or pulling Gwyn where I want her to be, and that just sets me up in a battle of wills with a part appy mare.

Then we did the 90 degree exercise. Basically instead of doing circles, I make very geometric movements around the arena and steer like I have a steering wheel. This is all to give me the feel and I have the suspicion that this will eventually be very subtle but I have to retrain old habits.

Let me tell you, doing this exercise, picking random 90 degree turns to take, all of a sudden I felt Gwyn start to carry herself, she was in a rough frame and we were straight in the contact before and after turns. She wasn't falling in or bulging out. I swear it was like magic and the horse and rider I knew we could be was starting to emerge.

A lot of the stepping under exercises I can do on the ground as well as in the saddle, so this gives me a lot to work on and practice until my next lesson (scheduled for december!)

All in all, I really liked the lady. She was tough but praised when you got it right. Just what I like. 

Amusing Anecdote: Saffron was NOT happy about the new lady and tried to run her down. Trainer AML just used her equid knowledge and sent Saffron off. I have never seen the donkey like that, but I think it's because Saffron knows where she is herdwise with us, and she was trying to suss out the new person, who firmly said "Nope, I'm also higher than you"   Saffron sulked in a corner of the arena for the rest of the lesson. LOL Then, by the end, came over to play nice.

Day 9 - Injuries while riding

Day 09- Any injuries that occurred from riding

From Clover Ledge Farm

Mostly bone bruises and sprained ankles and battered egoes. I'm pretty lucky in that regard. I've come off a fair number of times, but I like to think that I'm fairly adept at landing...  😄

I obviously replace a helmet when necessary, and other than needing advil more than ever after an unplanned dismount, I'm still fairly bouncy.

So nothing totally noteworthy.

And let's hope it stays that way.

Day 8 - About the Barn

Day 08- A little about the barn/stable you ride at

From Clover Ledge Farm

I ride at home! This has been a dream come true for me and it took some sacrifice to get here. If you want to know more about the farm than what I talk about in this post, please go to my farm blog at Firefly Ranch!

I chose the name Firefly because we're big fans of the show by the same name (It's where we got Kaylee's name, after all). And then our first summer here we were just swarmed by fireflies. The sky is lit up and sparkling all early summer. It's magical.

The property is on 5 acres in southeastern Michigan, minutes from Metamora Hunt Country.  The majority of the property is pasture with three different areas for rotation. There is a 3 stall barn, hay storage, a tack/feed room and a grooming stall. There is a small sand arena that was professionally put in by the previous owners and drains like a dream. Each stall has its own run off the barn, with an overhang, though I need to suss out why the overhang roof is leaking right now. Grrr.

The house is gigantic with a partially finished basement, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths with wonderful vaulted ceilings in the master bedroom, living and dining room. The first time we toured a house in this town, I knew that's where I wanted to be. The original house we saw sold before we were ready to make offers, but then we toured this house and I fell in love. It was still available when we were ready to buy.

Picture from when we went to look at it on a cold late winter/early spring day

Back of the house

The hill in the winter pasture


Hay Storage

When we went back to do an informal walk through with the owners so they could tell me about everything since they'd set up the horse stuff on this property. Early Summer.

Sand arena

Grooming stall though lately I use it for storage

Plus hitching post!

I've managed to keep the pastures nice, though the winter one could use some improvement. They're good enough that I don't bother feeding hay in the late spring, summer and early fall. It keeps feed costs nice and low. I feel a bit bad though because the property is not as nice as when we got it, but the previous owner literally ran her business out of this property and this was her job. I'm hoping to add more property maintenance in now that Hazel is older.

We do have a big hill (Big for this area of Michigan, lol) so Gwyn maintains a bit of fitness walking up and down it. I'll lunge on the hill for extra oomph and go up and down it while riding. I've set up a small cavaletti in the front pasture and hope to add more. It has the most maneuverability and decent enough footing to be a grass jump field. Otherwise, I'm limited by how the property is set up with the jumps I can have.

I really love this place. It's small and just the right size for us. The commute is a killer to where jobs are, but we had to make a tradeoff in commute time, affordability, and availability of horse property.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Non Bloghop post :D Of pictures!

There's a light off the barn pointing toward the arena and then two in the corners shown. It gets lit sufficiently well to ride and lunge! The black lines are where I set up the trot poles. Not to scale (Obvs)
Tonight I got the kids in bed early (thank you fall rollback!) and decided that I was going to lunge. I lunged Gwyn on Sunday after the thunderstorm but since I have my lesson on Thursday and I've been super inspired by watching these video blogs from a trainer in Ireland, that I was going to commit with Gwyn.

Sunday was kind of hilarious. I got most of it on camera, but suffice to say that Gwyn was NOT careful over the trot poles I was lunging her over. She was stepping on them, skipping them, it was a disaster. A hilarious disaster.

Tonight I resolved to lunge her on the flat, since it was dark out. I do have some flood lights to light the arena. See the diagram! I figured it might not be lit well enough to do pole work.

She worked pretty well for it being cold and dark. I focused on rating her trot back from the giraffe zoomies down to a forward trot with impulsion that had her really use her back. She was moving really well so I thought, what the heck, let's see how well she does with the poles. 

Saffron was racing around us with super donkey zoomies, which was hilarious and I REALLY wish I'd been able to catch it on video or in a picture. She was joining in on the lunging!

Anyway, we got closer to the trot poles and I sent her over them with a nice forward, but not giraffe zoomy trot and she. just. floated. Her back lifted her, she was careful, her feet went exactly where I wanted them to be. In disbelief, I sent her through again. Perfect feet, great lift through her back, again.

We did it a couple more times, she never touched a pole. I praised her and walked over and gave her scritches. We switched sides and boom, a repeat going the other direction.

The only thing I changed before I left the previous session was changing the poles to alternate raised ends. That's it. I didn't change distance at all. I think she just has to actually think about her feet when there's an added challenge level and it was too boring and easy for her to do on Sunday.  We took selfies at night and I resolved that this was not so bad and maybe I'll start riding at night during week. I walked back to the house a bit cold but elated that it worked so well.

Selfie with the phone flash.

Selfie in 'natural' light, far from the floodlights.

Selfie in the floodlight. It's a nice bright white, solar powered! I only turn them on when I want them on so they stay well charged.

Also a bonus for winter riding, the happy mouth bit is not super cold, LOL. I feel no guilt when I put her bridle on.

The trot poles that she was better at night over than in the day time. Dork.

Day 7 - Favorite Ribbon

Day 07- Your favorite ribbon won at a show and why

From Clover Ledge Farm

This, for me, is really easy to answer. Clyde and I struggled through Pony Club. As an off the track pacer with only Pony Club instruction we made slow progress through the levels and showing. There was one 3 Day PC Event where I was begging the Technical Delegate to let me continue with the Stadium Phase (It was a true 3 day, Dressage on the first day (DQ'd because I brought in a whip), Cross Country on the 2nd Day (too many refusals) and then Stadium.

Anyway, this isn't about that event, but it does kind of inform you, this horse and I struggled. I remember being at Pony Club camp and we had to switch horses and I was practically gleeful at how easy it was to canter the horse around and around and around the arena.

So back to the story at hand.

Every fall, a farm would host a schooling show with flat and jump classes. It was very popular with the pony clubbers. If you entered the series of the same category you could qualify for a champion ribbon.  You had a flat class, W/T/C, then jumping and maybe a third, I can't remember it's been well over a decade and a half. But I entered all the classes. I dolled Clyde up and into the ring each time we went.

He jumped his heart out, we were on point and we came away with the Reserve Champion Ribbon. Some of our critics were there watching, people who would ask my parents why they didn't just get me a better horse when they saw us struggling in lessons. At this show, they congratulated us on how far we'd come and how well we did. Suck it, Glastonbury. I was a chubby middle class kid on a free horse who could barely canter competing against upper class kids who wintered in Wellington and Ocala on 5 figure ponies. And I fucking won.

That is my favorite ribbon.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Day Six - Favorite Tack and Clothes

Day 06- Your favorite tack and riding clothes you have (brand/color/other details)

From Clover Ledge Farm

Okay. So as a VERY fluffy rider it is nigh on impossible to find things that fit and fit well without costing an arm and a leg.

So far, I am loving the size range of SmartPak pipers. I have a pair of show breeches and a pair of bootcut breeches (in purple!) that fit really well. I'm trying to respect our budgeting needs though, so I haven't gotten more.

Pretty much if it's available in purple, I will go out of my way to acquire it.

I love the Two Horse Tack set I got for Gwyn. It fits her well and seems durable so far.

My saddle I love too. It's a Thorowgood, fitted to Gwyn before we left Washington, though I should have the fit rechecked. I just need to find a saddle fitter. It is an all purpose though, so if we get more serious about eventing and dressage my plan is to get a dressage thorowgood.

I make my own saddle pads, don't really have a favorite brand. Um.

Like I said, things are hard to find in my size without being expensive, so I buy on the cheap where possible. Like my tall boots that I got for half off retail from Tack of the Day.

I also love the unicorn horn I have for Gwyn. That was a mother's day present a few years ago.

Eh, talking about stuff like this is not fun when you're fat.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Day 5 Blog Hop for NaNo

Day 05- Your first fall

From Clover Ledge Farm

I'm gonna break this up into two categories:  My first fall and my first fall off of Gwyn.

My first fall was when I was taking lessons at UConn. We were learning how to canter or do sitting trot or something and I just could NOT figure it out. They pretty much had me drop my reins and hold onto the pommel of the saddle to pull my butt into the seat.

Long story short, it didn't work. I didn't really develop a good seat until much later and many more lessons on Clyde. I did have a spectacular fall at UConn though, that ended with me at the ER and on crutches because I bone bruised my hip. Thankfully that's the worst I've ever had falling off a horse. It's not the worst I've ever had horse related though, that honor goes to Clyde and getting him to cross a bridge and he stepped on top of my foot. Not just the toes, the whole foot. No break but I couldn't walk on it for a while and used crutches until it healed.

Now, the story about the first time I fell off of Gwyn is hilarious.  Gwyn was still basically a baby and being broken and this was in Florida when she still belonged to Cheri. We were riding in an empty lot of land that was for sale and it was all overgrown grass. Like past the draft horse belly high. Gwyn and I were in the lead, just trying to enjoy ourselves when Gwyn tripped. Her feet had gotten tangled in the grass. She went down to her knees and I kind of rolled over her shoulder and gently landed on the ground.

Gwyn didn't know what to do. This was the first time anyone had fallen off her and boy was she concerned. Like checking up on me concerned. She hadn't moved her feet since I'd left the saddle and was sniffing me. I backed her out of the tangle and went in search of some kind of elevation in order to remount. But this is Florida and old orange groves and that was easier said than done.  We walked back out to the dirt road, which was a few inches lower than the grass but it wasn't enough to give me the height advantage I needed to remount.

Cheri ended up getting off to give me a leg up. She hoisted and up and into the saddle... and over the other side I went. Falling off Gwyn for a second time in less than ten minutes.

At this point Gwyn just looked perplexed and impatient. Like, "Come on guys, this isn't a very fun game, get back to riding already"

We ended up using the bed of a pick up truck from Cheri's husband as he drove by and all was well.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Day 3 and 4, Horsey Blog Hopping

Day 03- Your best riding

This is a hard one for me. I personally don't feel like I've had a day of best riding. I know I have so much more to learn and grow with and any progress I've made has been so small and gradual that it's hard to see the changes unless I compare it to where I was years previous.

The biggest thing I can think of is when I was in regular lessons with Jim and I was able to get Gwyn working consistently on the bit during the lesson. It's something I struggle with and that Gwyn struggles with. I'm not sure she has the muscle strength to do it right now because of how long we've both been out of regular riding work but I'm hopeful that I can change that.

I say that as all my plans for this afternoon are shot because it's thunderstorming. I was going to do a lunging session with her with some raised trot poles to help start redeveloping her topline.


Maybe I'll get it set up for tomorrow.

Day 04- A ride that impacted your life

In general, riding is impactful broadly for me. I am in better moods after I've ridden, regardless of the quality of the ride and having horses around acts like an antidepressant.

Probably the most impactful ride was the one that I was forbidden from doing. When I was pregnant with Hazel, the blood clot and subsequent blood thinners meant that riding was really not a good idea. All of my doctors said to stop.

I tried to follow orders and worked on trick training and clicker training. I took Gwyn for hand walks on the trails while Kaylee was at preschool. But ultimately I found myself really not feeling good and ended up having an anxiety attack at a prenatal visit. Too much had been pulled out of my control and I wasn't able to cope as well since my usual coping mechanism was part of the things I wasn't allowed to do.

There was a glorious february day. I had a window of an hour or so where the temperatures climbed into the 50sF. I told Eric I didn't care anymore and that I was going on a trail ride. He knew, bless the man, that I needed it. So we made a deal, that I would check in regularly, and if I missed a deadline, he'd call 911.

It was the best damn ride. Gwyn was a little snorty, but seemed to realize that this had become something special and she better not blow it. We were all by ourselves and it was just... wonderful. I felt better prepared to tackle the stressors of the clot aftereffects. I found a doula and I took back control of my pregnancy as much as was possible.

And I started riding again. No more than 30 minutes, always lunging first to evaluate Gwyn's excitability. I aborted at the first sign of funny business from her. And if I was alone, always with a dead man's switch, checking in with Eric regularly. It was a life saver.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Day 2: BlogHop for NaNoWriMo

Day 02- The last time you rode a horse and what you did

Storm Clouds on the horizon

This was just a few days ago, probably more like a week now (Oct 24), and I wrote about it then! It was a bit of a toodle, with the intent of becoming something more but never really got there due to external factors. Gwyn and I did work on things and I feel like we were pretty efficient, especially given that I was limited on time.

I still want to know whose trail camera I found. I hope it was the neighbors who gave me permission to use their property as access to the farm fields. I still need to ask them for permission to cut back some weeds so I can get to the farm fields.

Oooh, I should text them now (done!). I also need to call the dealership and get the Big Blue Truck an oil change (also now scheduled! woot). And schedule a trailer maintenance.

Sorry, went a bit stream of consciousness there.

There's lots on my mind though. Maybe since I already wrote about this ride I'll just word vomit. That's mostly what NaNo is about anyway :D

I'm planning to ride this weekend. It's supposed to warm up, which is exciting. And be dry, which is even more exciting. If I can get up to weed whack I'll stay on property, but I might ask Eric if he's good with me going to a trail. In which case I'll stick close to home and do the Polly Ann or Watershed Preserve. Watershed preserve would likely be pretty in the fall, but so would Polly Ann. Polly Ann would be flat, so good for moving out, Watershed is a bit more technical but has WAY less trail, so it could become repetitive. They are about equidistant from home so drive time is negligible.

What I'd LOVE to do is start at the Leonard trailhead and go north and have Eric drive the truck up to the General Squier trailhead. It would be a one way ride and some decent training miles! (a little over 5 miles)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

NaNoWriMo: Blogger Style!

Day 1 - When & Why You Started Riding

 My mom has pictures of me at the local fair, you know, the one that comes to the suburbs and sets up in a parking lot, not even in a field because there's no open field big enough, riding the ponies that go around the modified hotwalker at a glacier pace.

I was obsessed with horses for a long while. I pestered my parents enough that my birthday presents were often trail rides at the local-ish riding stable. And then finally a series of lessons through the summer program at the University of Connecticut when I was ten. And I'd beg to go to camps where I could ride horses.  I have a picture somewhere of me at Asthma Camp (no joke! lol) that happened to have horses and I got very attached to a nice morab.

Then a lady at my church kind of heard that I was horse crazy. She invited me out to her farm where I met Baron and Pooh Bear, an ancient chestnut morgan gelding and a nearly ancient spitfire little black shetland. She taught me how to groom them while my Dad cleaned their stalls. It was under the pretense that I would draw Baron and Pooh, since she had won that in a church fundraiser auction. I did eventually get her a drawing.

But then one day a new horse showed up. He was a big, beautiful bay Standardbred and we just... connected. He was off the track, but he had the most wonderful heart and personality. I was the only one who could touch his nose and his whiskers and he whinnied every time he heard my Mom's car.

I started riding him. And he was mine to ride. No one else's. Then Jane, the old lady, suggested that I join the Pony Club. They were Proper. She had already taught me how to groom the Proper way. 

So I joined the local Pony Club and started taking regular lessons. Jane would pick me up after school in her big red diesel truck and I would ride, either in her kind of grass arena or on the trails behind her property that connected to a local state park. I had miles of trail to explore. I was distance riding before I knew what distance riding even was.
My 'arena', not level, single dirt track, a couple of homemade jumps
 But I joined Pony Club and Clyde and I learned together. And we evented. Clyde LOVED cross country. Not so much dressage. He had trouble cantering and not pacing (off the track, remember) but we made so much progress together. He's who I credit with how well I ride now.

Standardbreds Can't Jump? I never knew that was a thing. This horse was excellent at it.

I threw my all into Clyde and Jane and Pony Club. They helped me survive my teen years. My one regret is that I wasn't able to take Clyde for his retirement. He lived out his days with Jane, she was forever homes for nearly all of animals so I know he was loved until the end. But she always said that I could have him if I had a place for him. I got Firefly too late. He had already passed.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

1.5 Miles at home!

A coworker pointed out today that my truck's tabs were out of date... uh... oops?  I didn't have much to do at work, and I could renew online since it was past the expiration date (my birthday...) so I skipped the last couple hours of work and headed to the secretary of state. That didn't take long to do as there was barely a line and I was on my way home. It was blustery and occasionally raining but I found myself longing to be in the saddle and not minding the weather.

As I talked with Eric I mentioned how I could totally get in a quick ride if I didn't have to pick the girls up from daycare and he asked if I could be done by six... It was 4:50 pm and I was 5 minutes from home. I totally could do it.

Anyway, I got to ride :D

Rain Clouds on the Way
I ran inside as soon as I got home and peed, grabbed riding pants and headed downstairs to get my boots and two new bits I ordered. I wanted to use one of them today to see how Gwyn like them. She honestly doesn't appear to have a super big preference for what's in her mouth, at least not so far as I can tell, and I want something to remind her that she is supposed to turn when I ask her.

For now I tried the happy mouth french link three ring elevator. I've been using a french link baucher and she's been good in that. I've also got a mullen happy mouth 4 ring elevator. I was worried they'd be too small, but it seems that 5 3/4 fits her. So yay!

Anyway, I groomed quickly, tacked up and then took a very reactive horse outside to mount. I had to grab my step stool from the trailer but she was good and stood still, even if she was quivering from the wind and Saffron being upset about us being outside the pasture.

With a very forward walk we went out to the front pasture and did a circuit around. I could FEEL her wanting to spook, and I hadn't gotten any wiggles out with lunging (no time) so rather than stay by the road with all the cars and trucks driving home, I took her up the driveway to see if we could access the farm fields behind the neighbor.

Unfortunately, the brush has grown up a bit too much for our usual crossover spot, but the soybeans are all harvested so getting back out there will be possible, I just need to clear a spot. I tried a few other areas and walked into a trail cam spot. Oops? At least I was wearing my safety orange. I think I'm going to prioritize my safety orange rump rug creation.

I love this view.
Once the field turned out to be a bust I walked Gwyn back down to our property and decided to work on some road desensitization. I eventually want to be able to cross the road and ride on the high school property perimeter. Rush hour, even in Dryden, is still too much for Gwyn though. As I was coming back down I saw that Eric had arrived with the girls. I walked out to the road on the neighbors driveway and then to ours on the grass strip we have between pasture and road. Gwyn was okay, but very jumpy and much more spooky. She had been nearly relaxed after the trip up to the field and back. We stopped to say hi to the kids and again, Gwyn relaxed. Hazel wanted to follow us but Eric herded them inside the house. It wasn't pleasant weather really to stay outside with the kids.

Gwyn and I went back down the driveway to stand by the road a little bit while cars passed. Then I decided we'd work in the front pasture instead of having to get off, go in the pasture and get on again for the arena.

I focused on sitting up for myself, but also kept the thought of impulsion from behind driving Gwyn forward into my hands. I wanted bend and steady contact. We were infrequently achieving that when I was lessoning with Jim. I didn't have any steering issues in the pasture, which is good and Gwyn was stretching down a lot starting to seek contact out.

Time to be done!
I also worked on posting evenly and slowly and rating her back with my seat during the trot rather than hanging on her mouth. After a nice trot circle I had her hop over my cavaletti and she was lovely!  We did lots of serpentines and changes of direction. Then I went back to the walk and tried to get a good working walk, again with that impulsion from behind and bend through her body.

I thought it was a good ride, but having eyes on the ground will be more helpful. I've finally contacted a trainer and have a lesson scheduled for the beginning of November. She'll come to me for the first one at least. I hope it's a good fit. She's not specifically a dressage or eventing trainer, but at this point we need more of an all around person (or dressage) to help us out before getting into specifics.

My cavaletti. I have supplies to make one more, which I should probably do at some point.

So there's that! We walked back and I untacked. The horses were upset I left without giving them dinner, but they're nothing compared to what Hazel would say if I fed the horses without her... And I was back in the house at six pm on the dot! As agreed.

It was a good way to end the day :D

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Oak Leaf Run 2017

What. A. Weekend.

And now that it's been a week, I have time to sit down and write about it!

My parents flew in from their new state of South Carolina, partly to help Eric with the girls while I was away, and partly because they were trying to stay busy until it was time to close on their new house. I took Friday off and cleaned the house a bit while packing up for the trip. I got on the road a couple hours later than I intended, but I honestly wasn't in a huge rush and I knew I'd be arriving before dark, which would be an improvement over the past two years, lol. 
Even though I wasn't planning to ride competitively this year, I WAS bringing Gwyn, come hell or high water. The drive over was great. We just reactivated the wi-fi in the truck so I had signal the whole way and listened to podcasts or talked to Eric as he drove home from work. The truck had wifi the whole weekend so I was able to check in with family when I had time (which was like.. .never)

Gwyn seemed to know that we were there to have fun. I got the highline set up first thing with hay on one end and water buckets on the other to encourage Gwyn to move around. She figured out she could move back and forth pretty quickly. The camp site was all sand and easily drive throughable. I like it! And right by the bathroom (the green building behind the haybag)

Toward dusk with the tent set up now with rainfly. I knew it was going to be rainy. I was hoping what I had would be enough (hah... hah... hahahahahah)  I figured I'd hunker down in the horse trailer if I really needed to. In fact, I purposefully swept it out and laid down my outdoor rug in the trailer just in case. I used it as a changing room. So roomy!

To keep an eye on Gwyn I stuck reflective wraps on her legs (loose) and braided in a glow stick to her mane. She was wearing a leather halter and also a rope halter. I used the leather halter for the high line rope.

Ride meeting on Friday. The weather was surprisingly mild for mid October in Michigan. 

My tent. This year I decided rather than layer on the blankets and cushions and sleep on the truck bed, I was going to bring the cot. It was the best decision. I had my sleeping bag and two blankets and I was plenty warm.

But then it was like this ALL DAY.

Camp site in the rain.The trail went past this site ALL day so Gwyn had to watch all the riders going out. It was either great training for her, or just pure torture and meanness on my part. I can't decide which. I know which one Gwyn thinks it is.

Us volunteers (I was the ride timer all day) hung out in the pavilion. Thank goodness for the pavilion. It would have been a miserable day if we hadn't had it. Papers stayed (mostly) dry and there were picnic tables for dry seating.

While it was raining all day, it wasn't ridiculously cold, which was good. I had brought my muck boots so my feet stayed cozy warm and dry, which pretty much kept me happy. I had a poncho but it started ripping halfway through the day and basically became useless. I wish I had remembered my rain jacket or an umbrella. Next year.

Cute horse I was asked to keep an eye on while his rider ran to the bathroom. He stopped eating to watch her go and wouldn't eat again until she came back. It was sweet.

The long wait into the night. This year was the first year Oak Leaf (that I'm aware of) has had a 75 mile ride. There was one rider who did the 75. We also had a planned 25 mile LD evening ride, which would have been amazing to do. The trail markers the ride manager's sister cooked up were amazing and reusable! Two people decided to do the evening LD. So we were still working through the Saturday potluck (Soooo much food!)

The rain got heavier and then it started to get windy AND thunder and lightning! Our riders persevered though! The rider finished her first 75 in the pouring rain and thunder and horse was still ready for more. Apparently she had been boasting at the last ride that she had never had to compete in the rain.

Don't tempt fate, kid. Look what it did to you. TO US.


The next morning I woke up to no rain on the tent (which kept me dry!) aside from what the wind was blowing down from the trees. I helped call the start for the Sunday ride since I actually had a voice and can project really well. Then, after breakfast, I decided that I was going to ride my damn horse regardless of weather. It was still spitting and pouring rain in spurts so this was a big mental hurdle I had to deal with.

Gwyn seemed relieved when I started tacking her up. I hopped on and rode out on the camp loop and came back in as riders were starting to come into their hold. The ride manager got my attention and asked if I wanted to help unmark trails since I was already mounted.

Um. Yes!

So I was handed a bag and instructed which loop would be a good one to do (since I did want to get home eventually and had a 2.5 hour drive ahead of me) So Gwyn and I unmarked some of the trail (Creek View Loop)  This was REALLY good practice for Gwyn, who was very confused at first why we kept stopping. Then she realized we were stopping at the colored streamers. THEN she started poking them all with her nose. She figured the game out! We pulled down plates that were stapled to the trees and the ribbons that were clipped to branches. At one point I dropped a ribbon and hopped off to grab it. Getting back on was also a good lesson for the Goober who had to stand still. And yay, with a decent bank I can still mount from the ground, all good things to know and do.

Loving on me while I try and pack up. She also knew the carrots were kept in the truck.
I was given a nice bottle of cider as a thank you when we got back. It's pretty much been decided for me that I time these rides that I can get to. I don't mind. It's a relaxing weekend, even with the rain (and my period, dammit) and this time I got to both help out and go camping with my horse and just be without kids for a little bit. 

The first trail I did was the black loop through camp. Then I took down trail markers on blue. The tiny heart is where my campsite was. It was about 2 miles all told of riding, but wonderful and relaxed and chill. And it stopped raining while I rode!

The drive home was uneventful and I came home to two sick kids who very much missed me, though Hazel was MAD at me for a bit and wouldn't let me touch her or play with her until nearly bed time.