Friday, April 20, 2012

Pippi snorts a kitten

When we arrived at the barn the other day, we stumbled across two newborn kittens. We knew that Maggie and Tipper were expecting, but neither was anywhere to be found. At first glance the black kitten looked to have passed, still attached to his umbilical cord, and not moving in the dirt. Then I noticed a slight movement and then a shudder. A neighbor had a knife and cut the umbilical cord off, and picked the little cold body up. Miranda had heard some small kitten cries under the barn, and her and the neighbor fished out another Silver kitten who was in better shape but also attached to his umbilical cord. No Baby Mama. It seems there are bad moms in the animal world as well. We held the kittens, and I rubbed the black one vigorously and he livened up a bit. Miranda called Donna, who came down and went looking for the wayward mom. Meanwhile we wrapped the kittens in Pippi's dirty towel, and Miranda held them to keep them warm.
Pippi became quite interested and knowing her fondness for cats we let her take a look.

"What is that? I want to see!"

"What does she have?"

"It's a Kitten, I love those, smells good."

"I am SO HAPPY right now, can we keep 'em? can we? can we? Please?"

"It's kissing me! It loves me. Smells so good."

"This one is my favorite. It loves me."

"That's so precious. It fell over."

Pippi was obsessed, followed us everywhere to see the kittens. Every few minutes she would stretch her neck way out, and curl her lip in a huge grin. Shaking her head, and then lowering her head softly to smell them some more. Wish I would have been able to film it. She followed us to the backdoor of the barn to sniff the kittens some more. The Silver kitten was snorted half way into her nostril, and Miranda had to stop him from crawling in. Pippi even tried to lick them.
Seeing Pippi so tender and caring made my heart ache for her to have a foal, although I know all the reasons not to breed her. She sure would make a great mom though. One can dream...............

We did find the trashy mama, and she accepted them back and let them eat. Silver ate fine, but the Black one was not latching on. We did not see them yesterday, but hope that Maggie's motherly instincts kicked in.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Meeting Peter Leone & Kim Jaussi

First off I want to show you the Picture Collage Miranda made for me on her Ipad (someone is really bored). So nice.

I placed it on my sidebar, but here is a larger version. As for the Cowboy hat look: I used to show Pippi in Western Halter classes as they were the first classes of the day, she was new to showing and it helped calm her down and gave her some show experience before being thrust into the arena. I felt rather foolish. The Cowgirl gear felt like a costume, a borrowed one, and as a "weedgie" I just felt silly. Kind of how you would feel in a Bunad I'd wager.

Back to Equine Affaire:
After the clinic on Friday I wheeled Miranda around the building, and we spotted Peter Leone talking to a small group. Miranda introduced herself when they dispersed, and he was warm, kind and very gracious. She explained who she was, that she was unable to attend due to her injury, and he said she should be proud to be picked "because she was picked from a lot of great videos." (Miranda took this to mean she was picked from a pool of great applicants, while I decided it meant that Miranda's videos were great (Proud mamma syndrome)) He did not seem happy with the clinic he had just put on, the time constraint was hard to deal with, and hoped that Miranda could perhaps attend a full clinic at some point. I told him that he should not feel too bad about this clinic as I had taken four pages of notes! I also told him that Amy, from "A work in progress," had taken one of his clinics a while back, and that she raved about it stating she was still learning from it. Leone asked Miranda to stop by his booth later to take a look at his new book, as it covers a lot of what he goes over in a clinic setting. We promised to do so, and parted ways.
Later that afternoon we did stop by the booth, Leone was not present at that time, but after checking out the book Miranda bought one. The seller explained that they are not for sale anywhere else yet, (pre-order available from Amazon, where you can peek inside the book too) and that a limited amount of copies had been sent to Equine Affaire from the printer in Hong Kong. At that time they had four copies left. She told us that Leone would be signing books again in the morning and we decided to definitely come back for that.

The next morning we arrived early for the book sigining, and had the pleasure of meeting Kim Jaussi, the co-author of the book. She was kind and talkative, and wrote a beautiful inscription in Miranda's copy of the book. She took down Miranda's contact information stating they would be in touch if/when they have a clinic or an event anywhere near our neck of the woods.

I missed the meeting with Peter Leone, but Miranda told me he was all smiles when he spotted her, saying "there you are." They chatted, he signed her book and they took a picture. He also made sure that they had Miranda's information.

As for the book, from what I have seen of it (Miranda is hogging it) it is really good. The lay out and diagrams are amazing, and according to Miranda the first hand account of his journey to the Olympics is fascinating. She is reading through it with relish, and taking her time, which must mean it is a great book. We both hope to attend one of his clinics at some point, and we are willing to travel to do so.

Before leaving Equine Affaire Saturday Afternoon I stopped by the Eclipse Aluminum Trailers,(use link to sign up to win) and took a look at the Trailer I hope to have some day. I picked up the code for 50 more points and was able to enter the "Win A Trailer" contest five more times. Sure wish a Trailer could pull itself. I would buy one right now if that was the case, but still need time convincing hubby that he needs a bigger truck. Our little Tacoma just isn't big enough. Any ideas on how to get hubby on board ladies?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Equine affaire clinic ( and Equestrian Peter Leone)

Friday was the Big Day that wasn't. The Day that was to be the BIG day, but due to Miranda's broken bones, became less Uber Cool, but still a really great day. After an interesting morning, where few things went right (I will not bore you, suffice it to say, Holy Scnikey), we made it to Equine Affaire in time to catch what should have been Pippi and Miranda's great achievement clinic.

Okay, so perhaps most people would say it was Peter Leone's clinic.

The clinic title was : " Schooling Hunters & Jumpers for Success: Exercises to Improve the Horse's Performance & Technique." 
("Mr. Leone is looking to select up to six horses and riders for this session. This session will feature a solid overview of the core fundamentals of track, stride, and riding the horse from behind both on the flat and over fences. Preference will be given to horses/ponies and riders who can command a 2’9 - 3’ course at a B horse show and above, and for eventers who show at Beginner Novice and above.")

We entered the coliseum in time to see the end of a Stacey Westfall clinic, and it was touching to hear her voice break when speaking of Roxy, the famous mare that passed a few months back. Roxy was Stacey's partner in the bridleless/bareback reining routine that has touched so many.

The arena was then changed to a jumping arena, and the jumps set up like this:
Four Jumps down the middle going Right to Left; Groundpole, Crossrail, Three strides, Oxer (Crossrail/fence) four strides, Oxer (crossrail/fence), two strides, Oxer (crossrail fence). A nice Gymnastics course. The fences looked to be set at 2'6". In the middle he placed two cavaletti and two small fences to form a circle uncluding the two middle obctacles.
Please to enjoy my feeble rendition:
So there we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the horses that The Olympian Silver Medalist believes are in the same sphere as our dear Pipster. In rides a Giant red horse, with a very skinny little rider. Then arrives a Big Black Horse, and then after a few moments a dark bay smaller horse. Miranda felt that the little Horse was about the same size as Pippi, and we later found out that he was 15.3 hh. (his Trainer sat behind us.) Pippi would have been the littles one, no surprise there as she tends to be the little one.

Peter Leone was introduced, and started his clinic asking the riders to circle the arena while he spoke and gave us a run down of what he called his "Riding Principles."

These are the things I took away:
"Less is more; less bit, less equipment, less exercises, less fuss." Leone stated that one should do what works, no less and more importantly NO MORE. Don't over complicate riding, it is simple, keep it simple, and use the least of what works for you and your equine partner.

"Horses like Routine, and comfort in repetition, but you must keep the work interesting." These are of course opposing goals, so the key is to "routinely integrate the unexpected." Do the same old thing in a new way. In different orders, in different places, with different obstacles.

Riding Principles: 1. Straight & Forward. Easier said than done. But always the main goal.

                           2. Ride Back to Front.

"The bulk of a horse is from its shoulder to its tail." People who try to control the front end should consider that they in fact only have "contact" with 1/2" of horse on either side of its mouth, only 1" of bit contact in which to try to control all that mass. Think of all the contact with horse you have with legs and seat, and remember that those are fundamental while hands are secondary.

Hind end is the engine; control the engine and the horse is yours.

"The shape of the horse arriving at the jump, determines the shape of the horse going over the jump." Flat, inverted, curved, coiled, etc.

And again: "Riding is simple, we want to get good enough to keep it simple."

Then he introduced the Riders and Horses (left to right):

Big Red Horse,10yo TB 17hh+, Showjumper, never told name (Big Red?), and Bridget, professional.

Big Black Horse, 8yo TB 17hh, EQ. Hunter, never told name (Big Black?), and Jody, 3-4 years riding.

Pheonix, age unknown, 15.3hh, Hunters, and Morgan, 12 years riding.

Leone wanted them to pretend they were in a Flat class, "let's check your positions, because Good Position Enables Good Function."

Say what? Good Position Enables Good Function. So that goes back to the idea of keeping it simple, and becoming good enough to make it simple. Sometimes when I am riding along for a few moments it feels so easy. I could just do it forever, and then all of a sudden it falls apart and it is difficult and frustrating again. I want to get so good that the easy is the main part. So easy that it is simple.

Bridget struggled in the flat class, she was tense, and upper body was rigid and locked. Leone told her to go "noodle arms." No flexing from shoulder down, lose elbows. Thumbs at 45 degrees. 45 Degrees?
Miranda and I looked at each other and smiled. This is Miranda's biggest struggle, she tends to puppy paw (hands flat, with thumbs in) while I tend to lose grip on reins. We can so do 45 degrees!! I feel this would help me keep a better grip, and Miranda has always hated the straight up (hold a candle, thumbs at the top) grip we have been told to keep. Leone knows that some Hunter Judges want a thumb on top, but feels that most will let you get away with this and that it is "better position = better function." And we agree! Keeping it simple!
Bridget was also told to "allow the lower leg to breathe on the horses ribcage." This sentences was a key for me. Breathe on the horses ribcage. Maybe due to my love of the English language, but this sentence sat with me better than "swing with the gait," or "move with the barrel of the horse." It meant: allow your legs to be with the horse, touch it, be connected, and breathe with it. And less "squeeze and rock with the movement." More grace, and less forcing your legs to touch and squeeze. Sit and touch. Got it.

Now on to Jody; her legs were good, her back and hands were good, but shoulders were slumped and head tilted to one side. Leone asked her to "ride like a peacock." This reminded me of my show experience last year. When asked what my plan was I had two goals; dismount when I was supposed to, and fake it 'till I make it. I wanted to ride Pippi as though those in attendance were in for a treat, the best horse ever, ridden by the best rider ever. I am proud of my horse and I wanted to ride with that pride eminating from every pore. Ride like a Peacock.

Leone had the riders do some stretching and losen up exercises with their horses. At the trot they were asked to ride forward while bending their horses to their mounts stiff side, go a few strides, release for a few strides and then do it again. Then the other side. Always starting with your horses stiff side.

On to jumping.
This section of the clinic was harder to follow, as the ladies sitting behind us decided this would be a great time to have a loud chat about what their dogs have been up to. I lasted for about seven minutes ( I know, I did good right?) before I politely told them that I could not hear the clinic, and they were very sweet and apologized. 
What I took away from the jumping portion was this; it is mostly the riders fault. All of it. The strides are off betweeen jumps, rider error. (not stting the pace) The inability to find the next jump, rider error. (not looking ahead) The horse falling out, rider error (not enough leg and closed rein on wrong side) Leone said to make your outside leg a "wall" for the horse to hit up against. Don't push, place and hold.

Leone said several times; "Negotiate with your horse away from the jumps." "Do not demand perfection three strides from the jump." He explained that three strides out is not the time to think about collection and head set, it is go time. If you are thinking about form you may send your horse the wrong signal, and take your own and your mounts concentration away from the task at hand, namely clearing a jump and choosing your path to the next jump. My interpretation: You "set your horse" during your circle, and once the jumping starts, you forget it. Set it and forget it. But as Leone pointed out; the shape of the horse arriving at the jump, determines the shape of the horse over the jump.

Now; the young girl rider in the class was tough to watch. Sure, she was young, and had not been riding long, and was probably a bit above her comfort level. But she did fine, and we learned a lot from what Leone adviced her. Which is the purpose for a clinic. If all went perfect, we would learn nothing and they would have called it an Exhibition, not a clinic. But what made it unbearable was her expression (pretty much from the get go), and general attitude. Donna smiled and said she could only imagine what I would have done to Miranda had she acted like that in a clinic, and laughed about how I probably would have marched in and yanked her off the horse. I felt bad for the girl, she was too young and inexperienced to handle the pressure, and in true teenage fashion she handled the stress by acting pouty and pissy, when she probably felt stressed and worried. Experience is more than hours in the saddle, it is just as much about emotional experience. Experience in handling things when things are far from perfect, and still maintaining joy of riding. "Be what you want your horse to be" is so much easier said than done. But if you want your horse to keep on tickin' when it takes a lickin' you must set the example. Young girls horse started out trying and working well, but as her mood sank so did his, and in the end he was refusing fences and his body language mirrored hers.

I will write more about what is was like to meet Peter Leone in my next blog (he was all you would want an Olympian to be). But will leave you with this:

With Equestrians like these Leone Brothers (Peter is in the middle), are we sure we need fantasy "Equestrian Ryan Reynolds?" I mean, these guys actually know how to ride. Just sayin'..........

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Google keeps removing me!!

So if you should go to my blog, and it all of sudden not be there, blame Google. I keep telling them I am no SPAM!! but they keep removing it, making me reactivate. Super Annoying! But I am not planning on shutting down my blog, so please just try again later should you find it missing.

 And Happy Easter.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Pippi + Miranda + Malin = 3 years.

As with most people in the horse world, we have come up against some craptacular people in the last three years. Those people have at times made it quite difficult to enjoy our equestrian world, but this post is not about them. This post is a tribute to the people in our lives that we have met only because we met Pippi.

It goes without saying that Pippi is our lives gift. We adore her, and even though we have had our ups and downs the three of us are a team and tied at the hip. It has been three years, today, since the first time we laid eyes on each other. As with most horse/human relations, it felt like Kismet when Pippi trotted over that rise and we first saw her. Miranda exclaiming "who is that?" in awe of her beauty, the wind picking up her long mane and Pippi trotting towards us. She was not the "right" horse for us, but oh was she ever the Right Horse for us.
So back to the Humans Pippi brought into our lives:
Donny: I am sure I have mentioned our good friend Donny in my blog here and there, but in case I have not been clear; Donny is a Fantastic person and a dear friend. He is adorable with his new fauxhawk, and way too kind. I worry constantly that he offers too much, as I just do not want to take advantage like so many has. We are lucky to have some of the greatest and most caring friends in the world, and Donny is a shining Jewel amongst Jewels. He is Miranda's best friend, and the apple of my eye.Yesterday he came down with truck and trailer and took Pippi to the barn where he trains, and gave her a great work out. Pippi does not get ridden by anyone besides Miranda and I as a rule. Sure, sometimes a person will come along and sit on her, but no one else rides her. So when Miranda broke her leg, and it became clear that her healing would take some time, plans had to be made for Pippi. She is at a critical stage in her training, it is finally coming together, and she is now a horse that knows her job and will do it. (I Know!! Can you believe it? after all the stop and goes and all the drama, she is now like, totally a Hunter horse, so amazing!!) So, clearly, this was not the time to allow her to stand around like a lawn ornament, no matter how pretty she may be. I can ride her, but let's face it, I am such a newb that Pippi would not really be kept in shape, or kept up to date on her actual skills beyond Trot, trot some more and trot a bit now. I can canter her, but without a large sandy arena I just don't feel comfortable.( We only have a field and with all the divets Pippi has put in it, and the tight space, I just can't get the nerve. Chicken? Sure) But I digress; Donny is Aaaahh - wait for it -mazing! He plans on competing with Pippi for us in late April, and we are excited to see how that goes. Pippi was a champ last night. A little confused by the new rider, but she went with it, and rose to the challenge. Offering flying leads, and all. I actually think this will be good for her, as she is way to emotionally tied to Miranda and I. As an example she actually licked my face when she came off the trailer back at home late last night. Licked it!! I had not seen her for a few hours, as I left when Donny was done with Pippi, and he then rode his own horses for a while. So when she came off the trailer and saw me, she turned, stuck her tongue out and licked me from chin to hairline. Thank God I am a middle aged woman, and had my Night blindness glasses on as half my face was covered in horse splittle. Btw, horse spit is a bit salty, just so you know.

Digress Digress Digress

Kevin and Donna: What can I say? They are family, and we just love them. And what's even better, they love us back. We have known each other for two years, seems like more, and live just a few blocks apart. They own 11 mini horses, that Miranda started showing with them. And after a year and a half of trailering us to shows, they offered to let Pippi move into their mini world. And we have now been there for six months without any drama filled incidents. We help each other out, we have each others back, and we truly enjoy every moment together. Kevin calls Pippi "my buddy" and Kevin and I are the raunchiest, most socially unacceptable pals on the planet. If salty language is not your style, you may want to stay clear of us at the Amish auction. Example: I bought a saddle rack, and Kevin yelled over "hey lady, love your rack." I answered, "well, thank you, it's real and spectacular!" We share a love of tools, horses, hard work, one liners and bullshit.
Donna is the embodiment of warmth. She exudes kindness and love, but has a backbone of steel. She thinks of the little things, and is always going out of her way to ease your day. I love doing things for her, as she always notices, and because it allows me to spend time with her. Who knew that mucking stalls could be such a pleasure shared? Donna has a real clever sense of humor, and can fire off some funny comments that catches me off guard. It is always a blast when she gets worked up enough to really curse!!

The three people mentioned above are without a doubt the best of the best, but I can not write this post without mentioning the most important gift Pippi gave me; my daughter Miranda. Pippi as allowed me to keep a very close, and fun, relationship with my daughter through the teenage years, through the drama, and through the inevitable separation that occur as your child grows up. With Pippi's help we have learned to have a new ever changing and growing relationship. One where we stand on a more balanced footing, and where we work together (and sometimes not) for a common goal. Miranda is the toughest, most hard working, caring and loving girl on this planet, and sharing these three years with her and Pippi have been a true gift. We do not always agree, but we have learned to respect each others opinion more through our "horsery."  And for that Pippi is worth her weight in gold.

The last three years have shown us the best of humanity and some of the worst. We have met some really great people, too many to mention, but all because "two people fell in love" (as the song says) with a horse.