"Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so, he/she will have to accept that his life will be radically changed." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I've been told to adopt Wisconsin's state motto, "FORWARD!" while riding.

Monday afternoon was incredible.  I left work around 11 and headed up to the barn.  I hadn’t used the trailer since we got to Milwaukee and it’s funny how excited I get about driving it.  Buying that gooseneck was a good idea.  Charles took a boarder’s horse, Finn, to get some experience.  Finn is green to eventing, but really has a talent for it.  Anne coached us around the field.

We drove about an hour northwest of the barn to a lovely boarding facility with a cross country schooling field out back.  Tyler was all about being out yet managed to keep his manners.  He warmed up over the stadium jumps in the field and then we moved on to a small corner made of rails and a barrel to a small novice bench.  The bench caught him by surprise off the turn from the corner, but he got it after that.  He jumped the bench the best of everything in the field.

The water complex had everything we needed to practice.  It had been recently dyed with AquaShade and Tyler has no issue with bright blue water.  He still thought he should play in it and splash everyone.  Tyler made a good example of why water is fun and Finn quickly joined us.  We trotted through the water and up the bank and then through the water and out over a rail/kayak jump. 

There were two areas with log combinations, again no issue as long as Tyler’s rider keeps him straight!  Twice we had a long run up a hill to a skinny log.  Twice I ending up giggling after letting Tyler stretch out and run. 

We jumped a few other objects and called it a day after both boys proved to be very good.  The weather had been perfect and it was so nice to hang out with Anne and Charles for a few hours.  It’s very lucky to have a variety of wonderful horse people helping Tyler and I.

We leave for the Silverwood HT on August 6.  I feel well prepared for it and am looking forward to Tyler having a comfortable and successful outing.

6 weeks down, 4 to go!

While sitting in the Milwaukee airport this morning waiting for my first of two flight connections home, I got to thinking about what this summer has taught me so far.

First, it’s hard to keep up with a blog! I should blog every Friday, but I’m finding that Friday nights are the time when I can catch up on the sleep I’ve missed during the week. I know some people read this and think, what the heck? I know it’s not the most exciting writing or story telling in the world, but I will appreciate having this all written down many years from now. When I moved out of my apartment in Virginia, my dad told me to take pictures of the place because I would forget what it looked like. He’s right! I hope that this blog helps me remember what an incredible summer I have had in Wisconsin.

Secondly, I have wonderful friends all over the country. My co-workers who are local to Milwaukee have been so gracious and generous. They’ve invited me into their homes and lives. You always hear of southern hospitality, but the midwesterns are just as good. My traveling co-workers have been tremendous fun lately. And my friends back home have proven to be loyal and, as always, extremely reliable.

Last week was a hoot. Tuesday night I met up with Chris, Duane, Ramon, Detroit, and Rob at an upscale entertainment complex which had bowling! We bowled three games. My first was a disaster, the second was ok, and I almost beat Detroit in the third game! 

Wednesday was a peaceful evening at the barn with Tyler. Rob came along to keep an eye on us. As much as I love a busy barn, the escape to a quiet barn and countryside during a hectic work week makes everything better.

Thursday was the big storm! We had at least four tornadoes within a four county span. Anne called me as I was just getting on the highway north to the barn. She said not to leave downtown Milwaukee and she was right! Within the 15 minutes it took to get back to the hotel, the storm had arrived. I can’t explain the wind and rain that pummeled the area for a few hours. Nearly 8 of us from the project passed the time playing Euchre (crazy Midwestern card game) and of course there was beer! Around 9:30, Danielle convinced us to meet her and some friends at a bar not far from the hotel. Somewhat unexpectedly, Ramon and Detroit tagged along with Rob and I. It was a riot. Everything outside was drenched and many, many basements flooded. There had been 8” of rain that evening. We found two german bars and proceeded to watch the storm move out from there. I can definitely say the storm was gone by 2am. The hangovers, however, were just staring for the guys. 

Marshall, Detroit, Ramon, Rob, Donna, and John play Euchre in the hotel bar during the storm.

Friday at the airport was hectic! The runways were flooded with rushing water and so the tarmacs were closed until noon. Using an array of trains, planes, and automobiles, almost all of the travelers made it home Friday night. I went to the barn and had a nice afternoon with Tyler. After that, I headed north to Diane’s. We had a marvelous dinner, she can really cook! I took Diane up on her offer to stay overnight. Saturday morning she took me to my new favorite Wisconsin tack shop. I made it out of there without spending more than $50!

The afternoon was very warm, so Tyler practiced a few things and called it a day early. Tyler has been such a good boy for the staff at PCF. Everyone comments on how well behaved he is and how cute he is! There’s no denying either of those facts, not it my mind anyway. Tyler doesn’t despise the wash stall as much as he used to. In fact, I think he almost tolerates his daily hosing.

For the three years or so I’ve known Donna, I’ve heard about her monthly poker night with her friends. Finally, I got to join in on poker night! It was a blast! The women were great fun. Once again, I found myself being welcomed into a group and quickly forgot that I was an outsider. The drive to Donna’s house is about 90 minutes, so I stayed over that night. We went to a great local diner for brunch Sunday morning before I went to PCF for a lesson.

Because of the rain, the horses had not gone out for a day or two. Tyler definitely had a reserve of energy! He was a spit-fire know it all on Sunday, but jumped great. Charles had us doing demanding courses; each jump required attention and set up for the next one. We rode with Rachel and Butter and it was a very nice way to spend the afternoon.

I had hoped to go into work Sunday night to get a jump start on the week since I would be cross country schooling on Monday and leaving for home Thursday. Unfortunately my sinuses decided against that plan and I spent the evening watching a great episode of True Blood and chicken noodle soup.

As for the XC schooling Monday… well that deserves its own blog!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tippecanoe or jumpdacanoe!

Yeesh, I skip one weekend of blogging and feel like I have so much to write about!  Last week was busy for the work social butterflies!  We played cards Monday by the pool.  The guys like that after a day of travel.  Tuesday night, Danielle and I met up with Max, Rob, and Detroit at a new bar after I rode.  We had a great late night out!

Danielle, random shopping cart, Max.  I have no good explanation for this.

Wednesday after I lunged Tyler, I met up with Marshall and Detroit for Detroit's hockey game.  I can't remember the last time I watched a hockey game in person.  It was fun!  There was a bad storm passing through which caused several blackouts while the players were on the ice.  Oddly though, the scoreboard never lost power!  
The Mullett Ice Center

Thursday night was nothing too exciting thankfully.  I rode and then went out for dinner.  Four activity nights a week and riding is a lot!  And I do actually work during the day.  Random work photo for last week is of Max's suede shoes with a classy snaffle bit ornament.

Friday afternoon I had a stadium lesson with Anne.  Tyler was superb!  He had been outfitted with a pair of full pads on his front hooves the day before.  Now instead of landing so short, he was jumping out over the fence and landing where he should.  It made a big difference between fences with a related distance.  We took another try at the aquaduct/wall and after one refusal (my weakness) we crow-hopped over it!  Tyler is feeling wonderful with the combination of hock injections and the pads.  Anne gave us a nice 3 stride line and Tyler was straight through the whole thing with no problems.  We're not schooling all Novice height fences, but getting there.  I'm seeing a lot of improvement in our technical skills around the courses.

Stupid me gave myself my yearly sunburn Saturday morning.  I went out to the pool before all the kiddos showed up and laid out for an hour or so.  My back and the back of my legs were red!  Yes, I had sunscreen!  At least that torture is over.  My farmer's tan is fixed but I've got some funny tan lines now.  

People keep asking about the weather here.  It's been about 82-90 degrees for the high with decent humidity.  It's not comfortable, but much more tolerable than the weather back home or in the south!  The locals say it's warm here this summer.  Last summer I remember being out around the 4th of July in Milwaukee and wearing a jacket at night!  

Saturday was about as warm as it gets for my tolerance to be outside.  Tyler and I did a course of poles and worked on turning and straightness for about 30 minutes.  Once again, he was a good boy!

(This is why I can't wait so long to blog!  I have a lot to say and I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot.)

Saturday night Danielle and I drove out to Tianna and Becky's house warming BBQ.  A bunch of 20 somethings sitting around on the deck with old school tunes and food!  We were there until 1 or so and would have stayed later if I didn't have a lesson the next day.

Tianna, Becky, Danielle, and sunburnt Chelsea.  My cell phone needs a flash!  We're still really cute.

Anne  and I had hoped to drive to Silverwood to XC school on Sunday.  The weather and timing didn't work, so we went out in the field.  Tyler was great!  We jumped a few obstacles that caught my attention when Anne said to jump them, but Tyler didn't care.  He jumped the canoe either direction without a care.  We also jumped a very mini version of a weldon wall (ditch before a wall).  There's video of our day, thanks to Charles.  I need to convert two files, upload it, and post it!   Anne commented that Tyler knows his job on the cross country course and that he deserves lots of credit for not holding a grudge.  I jumped up his neck over a fence and he went anyway.  Tyler also didn't care the next time we went over the same fence.  He's always been very forgiving!  I'm feeling very positive about this fall.

 The canoe.  We jumped going up and down hill.

The mini weldon wall. 

As of now, my plan is to run BN at Silverwood in a few weeks.  I'd like to do BN at the Fair Hill starter trials on September 11.  The move up to Novice could happen at Burgundy Hollow on October 3 and another Novice run at Plantation or Waredaca at the end of October. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A little run and jump fixes everything.

My lessons over the 4th of July weekend were disappointing.  Tyler destroyed a fence and wasn't his normal abnormal self.  Because Tyler isn't living on the side of a hill anymore, I'm working very hard to keep him fit.  We're doing lots of trotting and supplying exercises.  It's unbelievable how much the flat terrain changes a horse's fitness.  I'm not saying that was the main concern of last weekend.  I don't like it when the actions and reactions I am used to aren't there. 

Tyler is still a bit hmm, condensed to the right.  At the trot and canter I can feel that he's not quite sure of the feeling.  He hasn't been off, but it is a noticeable difference.  

After three straight days of working flat rides, I was able to take Tyler out to the back field for a lesson with Charles.  AHA!  My horse showed up.  He was bright eyed and bushy tailed.  He moved around the field like I've never felt before.  Tyler was strong and confident.  He cantered down the one (and maybe only) hill without hesitation.  We started over a simple log, trotting back and forth.  Then we added a nice log oxer to the line and Tyler was superb!  I was a smiling fool.  

Charles said I have a secure position for cross country (let's not show him the Plantation photos).  That was a big compliment.  Charles was also happy with Tyler's strategy towards fences.  We decided to move through the usual trouble making obstacles for the lesson.

Tyler did the step up, it's not quite a bank, with no problem.  We had to do a lot of half-halt work the entire lesson.  As Sally has taught me, I have to get the correct canter for Tyler to jump from.  This requires a half-halt, or four, at the right time.  Tyler likes to canter a few strides before the step up and it was the right opportunity for me to learn when to half-halt for balance, but still send Tyler forward.

The step down was no problem.  I was able to ride it without getting in Tyler's way on landing.  We went up and down the step quite a few times to practice keeping to the base and eyes up.

The ditch was comical.  It's more like a Plantation ditch on the BN course, a dent in the ground.  The logs on either side can roll to adjust width.  Charles told us to canter to it as he didn't think Tyler wouldn't have enough oomph from the trot to clear the ditch.  I had to laugh because that's so true!  Charles set a cone about 4 strides out on either side to mark where I needed to have a last good half-halt to set Tyler up.  It worked so well.  The checks put enough Tyler in the right balance but I was still able to keep a correct forward motion.  As the set up improved, Tyler's jumps improved. 

We moved on to a stone wall with I'm not sure Tyler even noticed.  Lastly, Charles set up a 9 fence course to run.  It was AWESOME!  It's those two minutes that remind me how much what riding means to me and how I can't imagine do anything else.  Tyler was spot on and made me giggle when I realized how happy he was after the lesson.

Today's lesson was inside due to the 2 inches of rain from last night.  We rode with Kim and Parker.  Again, Tyler was great!  He had Saturday off and felt strong today.  We worked on getting a 6 or 7 stride line as the rider determined.  We also focused on the rider keeping eyes up.  Eyes up - heels down.  Eyes down - heels up.  Tyler was very rateable today and I appreciated that.  We had a few lines that were a forward 4 or 6 and sometimes I had to take a collected 5 or 7 to make sure that we got the right distance for us.   I was proud of Tyler for taking the oxer and vertical one stride off a tight turn without hesitation.  Again, I was thrilled with how well we worked through the lesson.

I had a very proud owner moment when Charles came down to Tyler's stall and dropped off carrots for him.  Charles said that Tyler is a good egg.  Tyler is a good egg and he reminded me of that this weekend.  

Sometimes Tyler has to pull me out of a slump.  When he does, he puts me on cloud nine.

4th of July

It was a wonderful, quiet weekend.  Saturday night Donna invited me to a friend's family picnic.  We had amazing food and sat around the fire pit.  At 9:30, we could look out over the corn fields and see a firework display in each direction.  The Stopples were great hosts and I so appreciate their generosity.  Oh, they had 5 bags of pine cones we all tossed into the fire pit.  It's amazing how entertained adults are by blazing pine cones.  Later on, we had sparklers and fireworks to play with.
Burn, baby, burn! 

Sunday morning was a second chance to jump Tyler around.  The heat and humidity forced us to back the lesson down a smidge.  The midwest has not experienced any heat like the east coast had this week, but it was warm here.  Tyler and I are handling it well.  I'm going through G2 like a crazy woman and it's working.  Anyway, Tyler was ok on Sunday but he didn't quite feel like himself.  He's been adjusting to the hock injections and it's a baby step process.

After our lesson, I headed about 8 miles north to a co-worker's home.  Diane invited me to spend the afternoon with her and her husband.  We spent a bit of time with her 5 horses.  Diane owns a QH, paint, two fjords, and Buster the mini!

Buster in the Garden - courtesy of Diane Wattson
Diane is a little concerned he'll be on my trailer back to PA.  She should be!

 We BBQ'd chicken, roasted corn, and of course had potato salad for the all-American 4th of July dinner.  It was so nice to just sit back and relax for an afternoon.  Diane is a avid dressage rider who is at training and first level with the fjords, Davin and Arin.  

I went swimming with Donna and Pat in the pond on Monday.  I jumped off the bridge, about 8', into the pond on the first try! Haha, I told myself, "C'mon, you're an eventer, get going!"  We floated around for awhile.  I forgot how much floating and swimming relaxes me.  I slept like the dead that night!

The bridge.

Tyler and I did a lot of flat work Tuesday and Thursday.  Wednesday I lunged him and was pleased to see him step into his canter departs.  He needs to be stronger and we're working our way towards that.
I decided to enter BN at Silverwood HT in Wisconsin on August 7-8.  It will be a two day event with dressage and cross country on Saturday and show jumping on Sunday.  It will be our most formal recognized event to date.  We hope to school there this week or next if schedules permit.  Depending on the schooling, I may move him to Novice.

It was a short week at work with the holiday.   Only a few of the guys traveled in.  I was glad Rob and I weren't betting on the Phils-Braves series.  It's going to be crazy busy this week.  Everyone is in town plus an additional seventy client resources.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Work, ride, party! (Part 2)

Goodness, it's been a crazy week.  Between the College World Series, a broken truck, SummerFest, and one destroyed jump, I'm happy that everyone is in one piece.

We made all our deadlines at work this week.  It was a week where we had a big deliverable almost every day.
Big deadlines make us a little crazy, especially Ramon.

Monday and Tuesday night I watched the College World Series with Rob.  His South Carolina fightin' chickens were playing for the nation title and won it all Tuesday night in extra innings!

Rob missed the first two innings thanks to a broken diesel.  We were driving home from work and someone pulled out in front of us.  After slamming the brakes on, the gas pedal didn't work! The truck was running, but we had no power.  Somehow we rolled a few feet off the highway to the shoulder.  I called Marshall who came out and took a look.  Unfortunately, he couldn't find an easy fix.  Andy's brother has a shop in the area and towed the Green Giant over there.  

 Rob and Marshall under the hood.

Green Giant on the flatbed. :( 
I got many updates as Wednesday went on.  They brought a Ford guy in, tore the entire front end apart chasing wire connections, and agonized over blown fuses.  So what caused this?  Around 4pm, they found an earring of mine which had slid across the dash on Friday and disappeared.  When the brakes were hit hard enough, the earring landing in an open wire harness connector and shorted everything!  Now with the earring far, far way from the truck, the Green Giant is back in tip top shape.

Since I didn't make it to the barn Tuesday, I made Rob go with me to the barn in case of emergency.  Had a decent flat ride after some silly nonsense and disobedience.

Rob and Tyler.

Thursday was a crazy evening!  We had a dinner of our project manager's upcoming wedding.  Starting off an evening with $5 unlimited wine is never a good idea.  (Let me add, this is the 5th we've done this.)  After a huge dinner and wine, a dozen off us headed to SummerFest.  

 Fireworks at SummerFest.

Yesterday, Tyler and I had our first jump lesson at Pigeon Creek.  He started off through a gymnastic well.  We did a loopy four jump course, much like we would do at home.  The last fence was an aquaduct/box with arches at the bottom.  Tyler peeked at it in mid air the first time.  The second time he gave a big effort.  The third time he slammed on the brakes and wouldn't take off.  We came around again and he demolished half of it!  I'm not even sure how he got caught it in.  I mean, there were slabs of jump all over.  Thankfully he had boots on and only gave himself a minor cut.  I know what to add to my agenda now.  The rest of the lesson was fine.  Let's hope Sunday's lesson is less destructive!