Thursday, May 31, 2012

You knew you were an Equestrian when.....?

I have often wondered and pondered about when I would consider myself an Equestrian, and I think I have finally come up with the answer for me. I will be an Equestrian when I feel that I can ride the Canter with competence! So pretty soon!! Yay!!! Riding all gaits is, to me, the test of an Equestrian, as it shows a level of competency and skill. I will not stop learning, obviously, as my goal is to jump fences. How high? I don't know, guess we will see how I like it and how good I am at it.

But there are more "subtle" signs of becoming an Equestrian, and here are a few of mine:

That is the space between my steering wheel and the dashboard of my car. Clearly I need to vacuum my car, and clean it,(the fact that I have a filthy car may be another sign) but that is not the point. I have a huge aversion to having my car filled with junk, but as you can see I don't have any problem with the fact that I have not vacuumed it out the for several months.That stuff way down in that crevice, is HAY!!! Hay!  Hay? How in the world do I get hay all over my car? To the point that it is now stuck in crevices.

This is the only thing in the back of my car. My schooling helmet! You know for those days when a riding emergency arrises. Sometime I may be driving to check on one of the properties I manage, when I stumble across a horse that must be ridden right away. Actually I keep it in the car so that I always have it for my riding lessons with Kay.

(Again, I need to vacuum out the car. I see that now.)
These are the shoes I slip on to go to the barn where I change into boots, either muck boots or riding boots. And the rubber mats did not come standard with the Prius, I bought them due to all the muck we drag into the car every day.  Four seasons of mucking stalls, and sloshing through rain, snow and mud sure has taken a toll on the little Hybrid, but 134,000 miles later and we are still puttering along (Prius drivers putter because we are always watching the Mpg gauge to see how high we can go.)

I could have taken a picture of the callous in my hands from mucking stalls, the smattering of sawdust and hay on my office floor, or a picture of all the picture files on my computer that would show that a good 70% ,at least, are horse related. Then there is the fact that my hubby just takes it for granted that I will be spend my evening partially (hah!) at the barn. Etc etc.............

What are the signs that you are an Equestrian? And what happened to make you feel that you were in fact an Equestrian?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Priorities - whose are out of whack here?

This is what I hate:

That is a picture of the inside of a Toys R' Us store. See all those aisles filled with cheap plastic poisonous crap from China? I HATE IT!! There are also aisles of baby stuff; booties, onesies, cribs and strollers. Aisles of stuffed animals, and a whole section just for game stations. And inside the store, at least our local one, wanders a bunch of moms, some with kids and some alone. They stroll around, looking down every aisle, and seemingly enjoying spending their cash on toys that will break as you take them out of the mission impossible wrapping. I think if the actual toy was made from the same stuff as the plastic wrapping they would last forever! (I smell a conspiracy!)

Anyway; as I sped around the store looking for a suitable gift, I realized that although I have hated these places forever, I hate them more after becoming horse nutty. I truly can't stand it! As I was checking out, the cashier asked if I had a Frequent Shopper card, and I bristled and answered "no" in a voice that can only be described as Haughty. I realized my rudeness and stated "I will only come here under extreme duress." Really? Could I possibly have come come across as any more of a BeeYatch?

My kids are teenagers, 17 and 20, and so it has been a long time since I was forced to fake Toys R' Us enthusiasm, and I have clearly lost my touch. Let's hope that by the time grandkids come along (that better not be soon, ya hear?) I will have a semblance on self control and be happy to fake it again. I kind of doubt that since I have come to that stage of life where I am "honey badgering" a lot, meaning I don't "give a shit."

I have always had a hard time with the "super Mom's," and never really felt that I fit in with the mom and wife crew. You know what I mean because as a horse nut you probably don't either. They have long discourses on the benefits of Huggies vs. Luvs, and can tell you the nutritional value of any juice, and knows the school secrertaries name and brings in a cupcake for the Principals Birthday. I have NEVER been the classroom mom, and I can't really blame that on working, as I bet I would not have volunteered had I been home. I am just bad at that stuff. Sure, my house is fairly clean (I NEVER make my bed) I cook on a regular basis, but I feel no passion for that stuff. I have never looked at juice from a nutritional stand point, and I just bought the diapers that were on sale. Our meals are quick and easy, except for holidays or when I feel inspired, and I keep finding new ways to combine laundry loads to save time. (wow, when read in a row like that, even I am shocked!)

But.................................. Pippi is on 12% protein, she has 2 supplements from Smartpak (SmartFlexII for joints and tendants, and SmartMuscle Stamina for Muscle recovery), she eats high quality grass hay, has access to salt/minerals, and two buckets of water that is cleaned and refreshed daily. Her stall is cleaned daily ( I NEVER make my bed!!), and she has her own run that she can access on her own. She gets all the shots (my sons are behind), sees the farrier every 6-7 weeks, the Equine dentist once a year, and a Chiropractor when needed. We massage and use muscle ointments on her regularly. I can spend hours in a tack store, love tack auctions, will get up at the crack of crazy to be a show mom when Pippi and Miranda compete, pay loads of money for boarding (not so much now, love you Donna and Kevin) and lessons, feed, and tack and etc etc. I will talk your head off about Pippi, and horses in general, and find myself a bit bored when in the company of non-horsey people for a prolonged period of time. Seriously!

All this came to a head today at Toys R' Us, when I realized what a nut I am. Can you imagine how crazy my priorities must seem to those women who love doting on and shopping for their kids, while I am all about my horse? I love my kids of course, and I love making them happy, but my own personal true selfish happiness comes from doting on Pippi, learning to ride better and just being at the barn. I am not just a mom, and the part that is not, loves horse stuff. And that part is growing bigger as the kids get older, and as they need me less the mom gets to take a backseat a bit more. Let's just hope I can fake it better when in the company of non-horsey friends now that I have some insight into how obsessed and nutty I must seem. I mean; what kind of a mother would rather shop at Tractor Supply for her horse than Toys R' Us for her nephew?

A Horse mom, that's who!

Da Vinci's - Il Cavallo!

Above is the artwork by Leonardo DaVinci for a sculpture he called  "Il Cavallo." He never completed this piece, but 500 years later artist Nina Akamu did and you can read all about the process here.

The final piece is on display at the Frederik Meijer Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, MI.


 That last shot really gives some perspective as to the size of this sculpture. I am in awe!

Perhaps many of you have already seen this, but I just had to share. I have always loved sculptures as an art form, although I have none at my house, and I actually come from a long line of sculpturists. (?)

What kind of horse breed do you think this is?

Monday, May 21, 2012


What a great weekend it was. The weather was just super, and just proves that no one ever needs it to be more than  83 F. Just perfect with blue skies and sunshine.

I did not ride Saturday as the barn were in heavy preparations for the Mini Horse Show on Sunday. I had planned to go to that show, but ended up not going. My insomnia is driving me crazy, and I need any morning I can find to sleep in. Watching the clock tick until way after 1am is getting really old, and then waking up at 6am is making me feel really old. So on Sunday I snoozed till after nine, and had a great day working with my new Embroidery machine, and getting some walks in. Feel bad though, but I did help get things ready!! (still feel bad)

But on Friday I cantered Pippi on a lunge line! I had cantered Pippi on trail rides a few times (few!!), and it felt really fast at the time. I had not cantered her in an arena, thinking it would be too little space for me to get control over everything, and I had this fear that Pippi would just jump the fence if i did not turn in time. I mean, she IS A JUMPER!!! So after trotting for a while we put her on the lunge line, and off I went.
Cantering Selena feels like changing the rhythm and adding a bit of speed. Not enough speed to make it scary, just a tad. Kind of like going from rolling your bike, to pedaling your bike. Not big whoop, just a different movement.

Well.................... Pippi is a bit sticky at the trot (Miranda disagrees, so this might just be with me) and so I assumed we would have a slow start to the canter as well. I WAS WRONG!! Holy jetplane with super sonic boosters, and a hair trigger gas pedal. Did someone forget to tell this mare that she is a Paint? Hey, Pippi, no need for race track flashbacks, you never raced remember? No TB blood in you, so slow the hell down!! I felt as though I was about to fly right out of the saddle, and sail though the air in a great big arc before slamming into the ground. That did not happen, I was able to hold on, but slowed to a trot as soon as I could gather my wits (and find my bouncing rear.) Okay then, deep breaths, and we tried it again.
All in all we cantered four times, and the third and the fourth I was having moments of smooth riding (while trying to breath). It was a great beginning, and as I was getting a bit worked up, I decided to end on a good note.
Miranda then showed off by doing a perfect canter, bareback, on the lunge line with both hands on her head. Yeah, well, I can do cool stuff too............ like sew really pretty embroidery on my riding breeches. So there - in your face!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Inspired to be a better me; Ready and Able!

My Blogging pal Amy over at AWIP wrote a post called "They show us who we are..." True to Amy's brilliance the peace was wonderfully written and it really started me thinking.........

Pippi has taught me so much, and as Amy stated, we horse people tend to feel really connected to our horses and want to make them proud. In my case I want to live up to Pippi's expectations of me, in every way. Miranda has done such a wonderful job training Pippi for the two of us, and Pippi is always ready and able to work. I should be the same; Able & Ready!

The "Able" part has several components. Taking lessons and practicing being the foundation, but there is so much more to it.  Pippi is in tremendous shape, even though Miranda is in a cast. Let's face it; that just meant Miranda would ride bareback, jump lower fences and not compete. It did not mean Pippi was not worked as Miranda, who takes her equine responsibilities quite seriously, has been riding just about the whole time.
But what about me? Am I as physically fit as Pippi? Hardly!! But riding has inspired me to stay more fit, and to muscle up a bit. I need a stronger core to hold my positions in ways that helps Pippi. That is my part of the equation, be fit enough to stay out of the way when on Pippi's back. I need to learn the techniques and have the fitness to carry them out properly.

The "Ready" part is a bit more abstract as it involves a lot of noggin' work. Knowledge and attitude is key.
I need to learn how horses move, what makes them, and Pippi in particular, tick and learn. Plus, I need to learn more about proper care, health and diet for Pippi to be a responsible human companion to her. (this will be a lifelong education I am sure) Beyond that I just need to keep my head on straight, and make sure that I am mentally prepared and willing to give Pippi my whole attention. She deserves nothing less than my best. She is after all, literally carrying me on her back, and doing intricate, physically demanding skills for my amusement. Sure, she enjoys it too, but riding her is her way of paying us back for the grain, hay and tlc we shower upon her. We ask a lot of her, and she delivers. I should do the same.

These areas bleed into my non-barn life. Since I started riding, I feel more alive and ready to take risks in all areas of my life. I feel tougher, and just a little bit Bad Ass. And I like it. I really do!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Horse - A Horse will keep us together.

I mentioned in passing to my daughter that I was planning to write a blog about how horses have had such a positive impact on our relationship. We were on our way to pick up some lunch to bring back to my office, as she had stopped by to have lunch with me. Miranda, turned to me, with a mildly horrified look on her face and said; "Well, wouldn't that be kind of a .............LIE?" Okay......

So, I will write about how I think horses, and riding, has helped us weather the awkward, and at times painful, teenage years. Motherhood can be so rewarding, but let's face it, it can be a HUGE pain in the rear at times. With my oldest child, my only daughter, growing into an independent person (and boy, is she independent) we faced some potentially divisive times.
My own mother, a single parent, passed away when it was time for me to transition, leaving me facing adulthood quite overnight. I wanted the luxury of slow growth for my own children, but had no real skills or plan in how to accomplish the kind and gentle launch to adulthood that I hoped for. I feared coddling them, and I feared being too harsh. Not having a real precedent to look back on, I was fumbling a bit.

How does one raise a young woman to be kind, independent, strong, loving, fierce, fearless and patient? How do you keep them from the pitfalls of abusive first loves, failing grades, low self esteem, and bad body image? Just to mention a few of the things I feared, in no particular order. My fears would ebb and flow along with scary teen topics from Oprah, and the Today show.
I no longer recall why Miranda started riding. But we started out with her riding at a local "ranch." (We live in Ohio, so the quotation marks are necessary). The distance was too far for it to be a regular thing, so after a while we moved on to a local Equestrian School where we met Jenny. Jenny was soon to graduate, but those few lessons with her set the tone for Miranda's, and my own, attitude regarding all things equine. Jenny would stop Miranda, a super skinny and too-tall 10 year old, and ask; "Are you ready to get kicked, bitten, thrown off, stomped and potentially hurt today?" A smile would break, and Miranda would answer with full conviction "YES, I am!!" And I saw her, the future tough girl that I wanted. No fear, just gusto and joy.

 Miranda took rode for six/seven years, and then we leased and purchased our mare Pippi. She has fallen off, been kicked, bitten, stomped and hurt, but has dusted herself off and kept going. Pippi was as green as they come when we found her, and due to that was probably not the best choice of horse for us. Miranda had spent some time as an apprentice for a local trainer, and had some knowledge in how to train a horse. So we jumped in, together. Up until this I had been a show mom, you know "show up and applaude mom." Not a real horse mom. No mucking stalls, no dealing with the actual horse beyond holding a lead rope now and again, cheering and watching. A lot of watching, and talking and listening and watching some more.

I liked what a saw. Adult women loading, riding and leading, and sometimes fighting with, big giant animals. These women were tough, no holds barred, get the job done kind of women. They had attitude, and grit, and boy they did not take any 'tude' from anyone. I met every kind of horse women; the fakers, the rednecks, the rich and the poor, the uncouth, the braggers, the too kind, the too tough, the mean, the pushovers, the Parelli's, the Kuntry Queen, the drama queens, the list goes on. Mostly I met kind strong women, who would jump in an help a complete stranger with their unloadable equine (with more advice than can be asked for in a lifetime), try to catch a run away horse, and lend you anything they had to allow you to show. (There are negatives of course, like how hard it is to get one of these women to volunteer some time in the cook shack, but I will gladly leave that for another day.) And I thought it would be great if some of that "can-do" attitude rubbed off. I have to admit that I was rather happy when Pippi turned out to be a Jumper, as I prefer the more feminine elegance of English riding to the western grit of barrel racing. Not that you can't be girlie and "turn and burn."

Miranda being the one in the "know" about horses, she naturally took the lead in how to train and ride Pippi. I was support staff and that in itself was a true change in our relationship. She was the one who knew, while I was the follower. Sure, the buck stopped with me, as the adult, but Miranda took the lead. She taught me, and as I read and studied more we became better and better partners. We have had some ugly moments arguing about what is right for Pippi, and there has been some tense days. But when I look at Pippi I see the embodiment of a daughter/mother relastionship. We would have argued anyway as Miranda grew up, but Pippi gave us a common outlet and a reason to come back together. We knew that we both had Pippi's best interest at heart, and we both really wanted to be at the barn enjoying our time with our horse. There will still be some tense days, but we wouldn't be mother/daughter if the sparks didn't fly once in a while.

Miranda is today the kind, independent, strong, loving, fierce, fearless and patient (okay, that last one......?....) young woman I had hoped for, and coincidentally Pippi has many of the same qualities. Well, except for the fearless part, but we are all a work in progress after all. I wonder about the distance that may have crept in over the years, had we not had the common ground of the horse to keep us together. I look at other mothers and daughters, and I think that type of separate lives would have broken my heart. Many young equestrienne's have approached me and stated that they so wish their mom's were into horses, because that would have been so neat to share. (Miranda can tell them horror stories to take the dreamy expression and longing off their faces, I am sure). And I feel lucky.
Some day in the future, after Nursing school (which Miranda was just accepted to, YAY!!!), Miranda will buy another mount. One that fits her size better, and one just for her. Pippi will be ridden mostly by me then, but Miranda plans on showing Pippi for as long as Pippi can do so safely. Pippi will go live with Miranda at her future house, and I will go there to ride and train. That is the plan anyway. Of course that plan will have to be amended should Miranda move further away than a 20 minute drive, 'cause I am only letting ONE of my girls go at a time!!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

We Jumped!

Yeah, you read that right!

We jumped!!! Pippi and I Jumped!!! For realsies!! Totally jumped!! Miranda confirmed that it was an honest to goodness real freakin' jump!! All four legs off the ground at the same time, true lift off JUMP!!!

How cool is that? Really amazingly, spectacularly, over the top, cool.

We tacked up yesterday, and I was ready to get some great work done. I have been riding a lot more, and making progress. My trot work is easygoing now, and I feel more comfortable being in charge as a rider. Pippi really appreciates that, as she is a partner type horse. She knows right away if you are a pushover, and pushes you over. Her attitude is "if you are not sure, we are not doing it." Not sure you are ready to trot? Okay, walk it is! Not sure you want to go over that jump? Guess we won't! Pippi needs to be ridden as though you are totally sure of yourself, with your mind 100% engaged on the task at hand. You waver even a smidge, as in you wonder if she will jump, and you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hesitate, or lose focus, and Pippi is not with you anymore.
Kind of like a Tv remote, push two buttons at the same time, and nothing will happen. One message is clear; two messages, and they will be both be ignored.

So we were trotting around. I worked on keeping chin up, riding with my seat, and moving my arms but not the hands. Legs were good. I tend to slip back in the saddle, which makes my legs look as though they have slipped forward, when what most likely has happened is that I am sitting on my rear instead of on seat bones. I feel that I am making progress and Miranda seems to agree. Fun!

Miranda had put out some ground poles for herself for when she rode, and I was also going over them. She raised one side of one, and placed a bucket under it. I rode over it several times at the really low end, trying to get my two-point position right. Pippi was not jumping, just lifting her legs more. I then rode over the higher part and she did the walk-walk-hop. Clearly, my two point was not telling her to jump. Around we went; walk-walk-hop. Around again.
At this point I was determined to really set my body, get it off hers in time, and hold position. And I must have, because all of a sudden I feel "lift off." It was so different than I had anticipated. Much smoother than before when I have attempted this. Pippi just lifted us into the sky (all 18" of lift) and took me with her. Her body moved beneath mine, and than we landed. I was able to pick up the trot right away, and felt like a champ. The jump was like being smoothly lifted, almost as if by air, and then set down again. Exhilarating stuff.
I loved it, and can't wait to do it again. Pippi knows when I am ready, will not do things I am not ready for, and that makes me feel bolder. Oh - how I love that horse. She is my true teacher, with Kay and Miranda doing some great assists that is.