Thursday, December 21, 2017

It's that time of year again...

When show series start posting their dates for the upcoming season and I get my calendar out with a sharpie.

The local dressage schooling show series just posted all of their dates including their year end championship. I'm hoping they'll allow competitors to show out of trailers this year. Financially it is way better for me, when it's just 20 minutes away. Otherwise, my costs double with the requirement to get a stall for the weekend on top of class fees. I'd prefer a smaller, grounds fee if they need something else.

Since I'm now taking lessons I want to commit to the show series. It's once a month, technically two shows a weekend (Saturday and Sunday). I'm hoping to do once a month. I'm hopeful that with lessons our canter won't be embarrassing.

Other show dates I'm excitedly waiting to drop are the combined trials at Hunters Run and all the endurance rides. There's a lot to look forward to in 2018. I've even joined AERC for the first time as an incentive to get out and do the LDs enough to make the membership worthwhile. I've even joined the Green Bean team. I'm not sure I'm going to be doing the Distance Derby again this year. I haven't seen any mention of it being redone for 2018 as I think the organizer is too busy running the Midwest Mounted Archery group. And I haven't been able to get involved in that as much as I'd originally wanted.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

And for my Northern Hemisphere friends, Happy Solstice to you and the return of lengthening days!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Earning Her Keep

So we've had a few days of snow now, and something that I've wanted to do, and that Eric has been wanting, is for Gwyn to help plow the driveway. I have a skijoring harness that should be fine for our homemade plow and today we did a couple test runs and a short training session.

I think it was pretty successful. We've got a while to go before she could do the whole driveway, but little experiences are important. Exposure is important.

The first attempt neither Eric nor I were prepared, really. And we probably jumped the gun.

I did make sure that we had a quick release system in place. Eric held the ropes that were threaded through the harness and would drop them on my command.  This way, if Gwyn freaked out, she wouldn't have a giant wooden plow racketing along behind her.

She did get away the first time and then I had to trudge around in a foot of snow to catch her and she was having a blast, tail flagged over her back as she pranced around the pasture.

Third attempt I think? I finally started to document it.

Pause for praise and love from an increasingly tired and cold Hazel. Plus proof that Eric pets the horses.

Gwyn kisses Hazel

Kisses for me

And selfies

Final attempt.

You can kind of see her opinion of the whole matter.

After we had her drag it a couple times (and she did!) I worked on some desensitization and she did really well.  See the video below!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Holiday Card photo shoot

I like having seasonal photos of Gwyn (and Saffron if she's in an amenable mood). So this past weekend was my chance! The farrier was coming out in the morning (Gwyn's abscess is finally grown out, huzzah) and it was -snowing-.

It was a lovely fluffy snow, tiny flakes, very dry, the kind that creates a thin mist on roads when the wind blows and hardly accumulates or sticks to anything. Very atmospheric.

Anyway, once the farrier was done, I left Saffron locked up in her stall with some hay and took Gwyn to the resting pasture (note to self, either find someone who can fix a leather halter, or buy a new leather halter, the crown buckle is broken)  I had a brand new Santa hat made just for horses that I got at the tack store on Black Friday (worth it!) and my camera. I was ready.

"Hey human. Get back here. DON'T LEAVE ME HERE, LADY."

"I see you, with that black contraption you keep on your face. I am not impressed."

"My nose looks smoochable, but you do not get to smooch me."

"Hey Mom, you didn't mention there was grass under the snow over here!"

*Mare faces*

"Hey Saffron? Where'd you go?"


And here was where I finally was able to get her to face me AND stand still. Because the action shots weren't really cutting it.

"Omnomnomnom, Mom!"

Once I was satisfied I had a decent photo, I went and grabbed Saffron, who was VERY eager to get to the pasture.  I let them both hang out until it started to get dark so they had a change of scenery for a bit.

I made that! With google's help.

Thank you! Blogger Gift Exchange!

Somehow, in the chaos that was this weekend, I missed a package arriving.

But when I started pulling out of the driveway this morning with the girls packed in the truck, I saw it and grabbed it before heading out. Once I dropped Kaylee at school I eagerly tore into the box, definitely making note that there was an envelope on the outside that I should open first before seeing the contents, lol. I hadn't even left the school parking lot yet.

Awww, smart and crafty? Thank you!  But now I'm also VERY intrigued. (Because I did listen and open the envelope first!)

YES! Wooohooo!

Okay, so, this is awesome. Because 1. I love purple everything. And 2. this has been a 'want' for a while, but not a justified need.

So I am VERY very excited to be even MORE coordinated when we're out on the trail and at endurance rides. Plus, it's the english style cantle bag that fits over the saddle which should be more secure  and stay in place better.

Regardless of reasons, THANK YOU, Laura! I most definitely love it and I can't wait to use it. In the short term I'll probably stow hand warmers and hot chocolate, lol.

Pop on over to visit her blog here!  And many thanks to the Printable Pony, who organized the gift exchange, now in its fifth year!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Rider Forms the Horsee

Back when I started riding with Jim in Washington, he gave me a book to read. It was pretty dry, but ended up being very informative of the theory behind the lessons I got from him. I regret not blogging more thoroughly about my lessons with him, as he was an excellent teacher. After we all left the first barn and I moved north and he moved south with horses, it became harder to get him to me for a lesson and very expensive with travel compensation thrown in.

Anyway, he liked to say that the rider forms the horse. Everything we do as a rider is conveyed to the movement of the horse in some way. The trainer that I'm working with now has the same philosophy. I had my second lesson today and I'm hoping this marks the start of a breakthrough.

Some history:
I have had a recurring issue with Gwyn. She does not like to turn left and the faster we're traveling, the more she resists the bend. Not so much on the trail, but enough that when I attempted a dressage test that involved cantering, we ended up outside the ring on our counter clockwise canter circle. It was a disaster. This one issue is why I haven't attempted to really do serious showing because what's the point until I fix our left turning problem? When she spooks, she spooks to the right. If we're turning on a jump course, she doesn't want to go left. She drops her shoulder a lot when we do left circles. You get the picture.

At first I thought it was somehow related to her snakebite or eye damage (all on the left side of her face). Then I thought it was because I wasn't strong enough creating wall with my right leg. But nothing I could think of was fixing it. And so until I could get us both back in regular riding and budget in regular lessons, we focused on trail stuff where turning left really isn't that big of an issue when your horse is willing to follow a trail regardless.

Today, I traveled to the trainer's place. There is a $25 difference to trailer to her versus having her come to me. I live maybe 2 minutes away. It's worth the $25 savings. Eventually I will ride to her, which she says is possible. I decided to make sure that loading would be stress free and set up a temporary pen around the trailer. Gwyn has always loaded really well when I provide a barrier like that. She did balk briefly but I brought her around again walked her up to the entrance to the trailer and the damn mare self loaded like a pro. I made sure Saffron had some hay to munch on while we were gone since I was keeping her in the dry lot, which is harder to escape from, and off we went.

Fluff Mare is groomed and ready to hop on the trailer. Well, not hop. It's got a ramp, there's no hopping needed. 

Winter fuzzies. 24/7 turnout for the win. Surprisingly, today was pleasantly warm! Perfect winter riding weather.

Getting ready at Trainer's. There were lots of new horses to see and hear!
I got there as her previous lesson was finishing (which I knew about).  Gwyn was very up and alert. I tacked her up without issue and went back to their winter riding area for the lesson. Trainer does have an outdoor sand ring but waits for the ground to freeze before using it so that there aren't a ridiculous amount of ruts and potholes.

Trainer started with groundwork and reinforcing the giving to pressure and standing quietly as a reward and release. Every time Gwyn wanted to get 'up' and giraffey about the other horses she had to move her feet. Within a few minutes she was standing very still, head low and foot cocked when she wasn't being asked to move. Then it was my turn. I need to remember palm down and release. I'm in the habit of getting into a battle of strength with her and I shouldn't be.

Then it was time to hop on and we worked on having Gwyn stand still after I mount, which is admittedly, a bad habit that I've allowed for a while.  So I got on and off a few times. If I got on and she walked off, we immediately backed up and she had to stand still. Then we worked on me fiddling with my stirrups for a bit and making sure her feet didn't move until my feet were in the stirrups. This will be something I need to work on at home.

Then it was back to working on the 90degree turns and my position and I told her what I was practicing at home. I get very bracy which makes Gwyn really bracy and it's all a hot mess. I do really well looking where we're turning but instead of lifting my rein for turning, I open my hand and keep it low, which doesn't help Gwyn turn. This is slightly different from how Jim had me working with Gwyn, which was with that leading rein. I'm getting better results with the raised inside  rein.

My turns to the right were excellent, but to the left she was still dropping her shoulder and falling in. Then Trainer pointed out that when I look to the left, I actually look to the left and downward, where I look up and to the right. My left arm is also VERY sticky compared to my right and my left shoulder is 'up' compared to my right. When I focused on opening the distance between my shoulder and chin when looking left all of a FUCKING sudden Gwyn stopped dropping her shoulder and we got BEAUTIFUL light bending to the left.

So all those damn issues seem to stem from me. And goddamn if that isn't relieving, LOL. I can work on myself, I can do excercises to limber myself up and strengthen that left side.

And the rider forms the goddamn horse.

After that we worked on lightening the halt with a trot, halt, stand, back up, trot on exercise. My goal was to not haul on her mouth. I sit back well enough for the halt but I pull on her mouth too much. My goal is to be lifting my hands not pulling back. And you know, as soon as I started doing that I got light, on contact, square and nearly prompt halts from Gwyn.

We ended on a very good note with a light, responsive and balanced halt. I untacked and Gwyn self loaded once again. I'm hoping with these monthly lessons that the repetition of positive loading experiences will just cement in her and this will become consistent.

So yay!

Tuckered out (but only kinda)

Reindeer antlers for goofiness

I started mucking the runs only to realize that Gwyn had gone into her stall and couldn't be seen... She was helping herself to hay, the naughty creature.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Day 30 - My Future with Horses

Day 30- Your future with horses

From Clover Ledge Farm

Husband willing (no seriously) I will be at least around horses forever. My plan is to keep Gwyn forever, finances willing, even through retirement. If we've got the means once she's retired, I'd like to get another Standardbred for riding. I don't know when that will be, hopefully not for at least another 10 years.  Gwyn is young, she's got lots of years ahead of her if she's treated right and I fully intend to be there for all of them and give her that quality of care. There's no reason (for now) that she can't be ridden for at least another 15 years.

My goal for Gwyn is to have her be that horse you look at in the pasture and go THAT horse is 30?!?!?!

I want that. I think we can do it. I want that mare to give pony rides to my grandkids.

Luff you, snozz face
For myself, I want to be like Jane, the woman who fostered my love for horses. She was in her 70s and dragging hay bales around. I want to have 40+ more years of horses in my life. Whether that's always going to be with having horses on my own property is up in the air, especially if we move back to Washington. But I want there to always be horses.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Day 29 - An equine related trend I do not like

Day 29- A style/trend in tack/riding apparel that you don’t like

From Clover Ledge Farm

Okay, I'll be honest. I went a totally different direction at first. Thank you reading comprehension for failing me.  *deletes first post and starts over*

I guess I'm not a big fan on having a huge amount of junk on a horse's face, whatever the discipline. But honestly I'm kind of a 'do what works for you and your horse' person and I tend not to pass judgement on things outside of my wheelhouse. I might side eye them, but I'm not gonna judge until I can back up my opinion with facts.

My other post had pictures. It just also had nothing to do with tack or riding apparel  😅

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Nov 25 Ride

Fairly self explanatory. I've chosen at least what I consider to be interesting snippets. Keep the volume low, the wind can really whip up in the farm fields and I basically live surrounded by now harvested fields with minimal trees to break it.

Notable moments:

1:45  My cross over point from my neighbor's yard
2:25  Gwyn fusses over water and mud
3:00  We get onto the private road
3:20  Gwyn spooks at a no trespassing sign
4:10  We practice our lesson stuff then cross back to the neighbor's property
4:45 The view from 'up on the hill' down to our property and over the marsh and neighbor's pond
5:05 Coming back to the barn and our yard and a tour around the house plus bonus Saffron

3.1 miles and 1.03 miles, YTD 39.65

The weather has returned to its mild mannered self and I am taking FULL advantage. Plus I need to practice for my lesson this Saturday (WHEEEEE!!!!)

On Saturday the 25th, I decided to ride up in the farm fields. I do have permission to ride on the properties that I was on and I pointedly stay off the ones I haven't gotten permission for yet. Some frustratingly put up no trespassing signs AFTER I rode out there once so I do suspect there are trail cams. Anyway. Have some screen grabs from my helmet cam. Once I get the video uploaded to youtube, I'll share it.

 I got 3.1 miles of riding in that day and covered a decent amount of ground. I also worked on getting Gwyn on the bit. It was really productive for a trail ride.
Tonight I did 1.03 miles in the arena and then a jaunt around the pasture before calling it a night. Since during the week I basically get home after dark I've resolved to just ride after the kids are in bed. It's really pleasant and I'm enjoying it a lot more than I expected.

A confused pony who would like her hay now thankyouverymuch.

How I ride at night when there's minimal to no moon.

We can see pretty well!

UGH. Okay. Naughty donkey. So I decided to pick the first exercise from the ground poles and jumping exercises book by Cherry Hill. I figured it would be something to practice and give us a purpose (other than practicing the principles from my lesson) for the ride so I wouldn't just feel like we were toodling.

I set the book and my new measuring tape (JUST for measuring jump distances!) to the side of my 'mounting block'.  Saffron came over and PICKED UP THE BOOK AND STARTED FLINGING IT.

So I chased her around the arena. I got a REALLY nice canter out of Gwyn while doing so and was pleasantly surprised! Like, a canter that I would need WAY more leg to maintain and felt very nice underneath me.  Gwyn has a long way to go to really have the stamina for a good canter but this is a HUGE step up from where we were! She's definitely gaining muscle, we just need to keep working more frequently than before!

After I was done doing arena work we practiced Standing By The Gate So Your Rider Can Unlatch It Without Dismounting.  This took some time and required going back to basics (Yes, you can walk straight on the side without swinging your butt in and away from the fence) (Yes, you can stand quietly by the gate without swinging 90 degrees to face the gate)  Eventually I was able to unhook the gate and open it. From there we ventured out into the pasture, leaving our lights behind.

Up on the Hill, looking down at the arena. Right side is my solar powered flood lights, left side is the barn lights.
 We toodled around the pasture and I wished for less clouds and more moon. Then it was back to the arena to turn off my lights, take a selfie in the dark and go untack.
A good Goober Pony repping that sweet purple Two Horse Tack!

Day 28 - Helmet

Day 28- Helmet or no helmet?

From Clover Ledge Farm

*points to title*

The science backs it up. I really have nothing further to say on the matter.

Have I ridden without a helmet? Yes, but by far 99% of my time in the saddle is while wearing a helmet. If I fall off and hit with some part of the helmet it is immediately replaced. It's not something I will ever shortcut.

Helmet. Always.

Plus, there's so many styles to fit heads and budgets. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Day 27 - You Know You're an Equestrian When....

Day 27- You know you're an equestrian when….. (Give 5 original ones)

From Clover Ledge Farm

1.  You don't understand why people consider lame to be an ableist term.
2.   The apple trees in your yard feed the horses more than you.
3.   You consider the quality of the jump for any deadfall trees you see as you drive.
4.   You can spot horse fencing a mile away.
5.   You don't really want to rent a horse at a ranch for a horse vacation, you'd rather bring your own!

Day 26 - Riding Pet Peeve

Day 26- Biggest riding pet peeve

From Clover Ledge Farm

Hmm, let's see.

Probably my biggest pet peeve is trail etiquette. I dealt with it directly during the hunter pace. Basically, if you are riding in a group, and another group of riders is obviously choosing a faster pace than you are, let them pass as early as possible. It's not fair to anyone to just mosey along and never acknowledge the people trailing behind you.

I haven't seen this with endurance riders. Their goal is to move down the trail and get back to camp as safely and sanely as possible.

I have not seen the same courtesy in the hunter pace and it's really annoying.

That's my biggest thing. I haven't really been super involved in enough disciplines lately other than those to have any other pet peeves. I'm pretty far removed from the irritating side of horse ownership and showing. Yay horses at home!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Day 25 - Dream Trailer

Day 25- Your dream trailer

From Clover Ledge Farm

2+1 weekender

Boom. That is all.

Something like this.  Or alternatively, this company that makes reverse slant loads in either a goose or bumper pull.

I really do like the trailer I have right now though. It's a 2H straight load Eclipse with dressing room. It's got lots of room for Gwyn and she loads into it REALLY well compared to a 2h slant that we failed over and over with. If needed I could set up a sleeping bag or cot in the trailer and sleep there if I really didn't want to tent camp. I proved that pretty well at Oak Leaf Run this year, even if I did opt to stay in my tent, lol.

I enjoy roughing it, strange as it may seem, so having a mattress and a gooseneck trailer isn't that important to me.  But my ideal would be that 2+1. I could easily camp in the trailer without changing the stalls, we could bring the ATV with us to rides and that would be an asset for ride managers.

Anyway. That was easy :) 

Day 24 - Best Riding Friend

Day 24- Your best riding friend

From Clover Ledge Farm

Okay, so we're doing this chronologically because different phases (and states) of my life have had different friends.

High School

I was a very solitary rider. I didn't fit in well with the other girls in the pony club because they all went to the same school while I was from 'the wrong side of the tracks'.  They all had the benefit of riding together and being in classes together for years. Not to mention I started later, so I was stuck with the younger girls, while my peers were in more advanced lessons. It rankled.

But there was a saving grace in Jane's Grand Niece.   (Background: Jane was the very generous lady who made horses possible for me. She went to the same church as my family which is how we connected. She got me into Pony Club)  For the 4th of July every year, Jane's family congregated at her farm in Connecticut. Her grand niece, Jill, was also a rider and I basically lived at Jane's house when Jill was there. There is no exaggeration. I would bunk in one of the spare rooms or in the bunk beds in the converted barn. We would catch fireflies in the horse pasture while the family set off fireworks and go on long trail rides every day and finish it off with an ice cold dunk in the spring fed, shady pool. Summers were glorious. Jill and I were opposites, but we found a commonality in horses.

Graduate School

In college I didn't have time for horses and while I tried to catch Jill if she was visiting from New Hampshire, we drifted apart as our interests pulled. In graduate school I discovered livejournal and the horse community therein. I connected with a lot of people that I still follow and talk with today. One fateful post led me to meeting Cheri, whose husband was also an engineer. She had four horses and needed a riding buddy. I was basically local and so a VERY deep friendship formed that has lasted to this day. If I had to pick anyone of the people I'm talking about today, Cheri would be the Bestest of best riding friends.

From many years ago (This is Nyx)

Cheri this July 2017 with Nyx still. And one of her granddaughters!

Cheri is old enough to be my mom. In fact, she has a daughter who is only a couple months younger than me. But we really connected. I went up to meet her horses and we went on a ride through the old orange groves of Florida and just... hit it off. Even our husbands were friends and we had a weekly dinner date with them and eventually an additional weekly dungeons and dragons session. Cheri and I would ride ALL the time. We went on SO many adventures. Like riding in a hurricane. Or getting pulled over by cops while on horseback.  We charted out the back roads of her town and explored as much as we could. We got to help defense research. I drove her to the equine hospital when Stella was colicking and held her tightly when she made the decision to put her down. I took shifts with her when Gwyn nearly destroyed her eye and then got bitten by the rattlesnake. I helped her back Gwyn and Nyx for the first time and she taught me all she knew about starting horses.

I cried when we left Florida because I was leaving dear friends behind. And I cried again when she offered Gwyn to me after her house was struck by lightning. In her words, she knew I understood Gwyn and would treat her right. Every time we visit Florida I visit with her. And I'll call her every once in a while after Gwyn and I have had a notable achievement or just a really good ride. She trusted me with her baby and I intend to never betray that.


When I first moved Gwyn to Washington I searched for a good barn that would be reasonably near both my work and my home. I ended up with a triangle of sorts and at this barn that seemed to have it all. All day turnout. An option for a stall with a run. Indoor arena and outdoor arena. Part self care to save money. Right on a pipeline trail and in the heart of horse town without getting too rural.

The owners lived on site but they also employed a barn manager who lived in a tiny apartment in the barn. That person was Cortney. She and I hit it off the way Cheri and I had. Cortney is the one who took me to my first endurance ride (eventually) and I agreed because I'd been reading Dom's adventures with it. Cortney introduced me to Jim, who is my most favorite dressage trainer of all time. The barn situation eventually turned sour and we all went our separate ways to new barns, Cortney to her parent's place and eventually to her own acreage in the Cascades, Jim to another barn that he could train out of, and me to a barn closer to home as my job had poofed with cuts to the FDA funding. I was also pregnant and realizing that I might not be able to do a self care boarding situation while 40 weeks pregnant.

Cortney's mom was my truck and trailer the whole time we were in Washington. She took me to horse shows and to new barns when I had to move She was the Washington grandmother for Kaylee and it was her house that we landed in for holidays when we didn't fly to see family on the east coast. She was the one I trusted for the first time a non-parent put Kaylee to bed while Eric and I were on a date. They were my second (third?) family.

2011 on the Pipeline trail with Cortney

Back to the barn, also 2011

Thanksgiving 2012, Cortney, Comet the family pony, Me, Kaylee and Cortney's sister

Also Thanksgiving 2012, with Washington Grandma. Kaylee loved her

On my very first LD, at Mount Spokane Endurance ride in 2014.

Last trail ride ever with Cortney  D: D; D;   We rode from her house to the logging trails on her mountain, out by North Bend, WA, where they got scenery shots for Twin Peaks.

The Cascade foothills.  Cortney on the left, Blaine on the right.
That last picture segues me nicely into my other section, the people I hope are friends but I'm never quite sure.

Blaine is someone I met at my final barn in Washington. She's totally cool, a geek like me and just plain down to earth. We never hung out outside of horses but I think if we had stuck around Washington that would have happened. She's the one who made my stall signs and door signs for the critters and the kids. She did a quality job and if you want something similar, please let me know and I can pass you her information. Don't worry if you're not local, I ordered them after we'd already gotten to Michigan.


There's Jennifer, who I'm starting to think is going to be a good friend. It's just hard that she lives about an hour away. She just got a rescue gelding, named Pie, and we're already planning on horse outings. She's come over a few times with her daughter and we have a lot of other stuff in common, which is great! Again, just distance.

In April I rode the intro distance with M at Brighton and later she was the ride manager at Metropark Express where I timed. We seemed to get along well for endurance horsey stuff. I expect that will a relationship that is only fostered at rides, mainly because we don't live near one another. She's another scientist though, so that's an extra foundational pillar.

Same for the W sisters, who I did the hunter pace with. We met through the endurance community, but are unlikely to have commonality outside of that.

There are some people I met through the distance derby but (AGAIN) they're on the freakin' opposite side of the state and now they're all getting into mounted archery and holding clinics where I can't easily get to them with kids. They're fun people, but with the advent of the mounted archery stuff, I feel like I've been left in the dust and that's frustrating. And with no boarding barn here, I'm unlikely to make friends who are very local. I am cautiously reaching out to a girl who's very local who is in a facebook riders group and so far we've missed each other on a few events, but maybe one day. She leaves for a year overseas in a couple months though, so I'm wary to put much energy into it.