Saturday, February 5, 2011

New Year, New Focus

Amber and I are both doing well. My dear red horse injured herself trying to reestablish the herd hierarchy so we've been doing minimal training up until about two weeks ago. Tomorrow we're doing our first lesson with Jean in about a month and a half.

As the old year fades into history and the new year begins, we are always reminded to look ahead and determine what our resolutions will be. I hate establishing resolutions because I feel like they create a tenuous balance between self improvement and self beratement when (not "if") they are broken. I'd rather create goals for myself so I have something to work towards and I can mark goalposts along the way.

Looking forward into this year, my main goal for Amber and I is to build a strong relationship. I don't know the step by step process in detail of how this will be accomplished but it will involve a larger commitment to working on the ground and in the round pen. I really enjoy riding, but I think that progress will follow the relationship so that will be our highest priority this year.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

MY horse

Today is the day I can officially call Amber "my horse." Whether you believe in fate, destiny, or God (as I do) we were brought together to be together from this day on and hopefully to celebrate many October 3rd anniversaries.

Surreal? Yes. Since I was a kid, I always felt like I was on the outside looking in. Wanting to take lessons, wanting my own horse. I went to rodeos and horse shows and read every horse book and magazine I could get my hands on, but all of that only intensified the desire. Summer horse camps were a tonic, but they couldn't cure the disease.

It has been 16 years since I read Misty of Chincoteague, the one that started it all. Thank you, Marguerite Henry, for penning such a masterpiece of children's literature. How many other little girls have read that book and wanted their own pony? Now I have the opportunity to live that dream. I thought it would take longer. When I joined the Natural Connection on September 19th of last year, I wanted to get back in to riding. I wasn't on the market for a horse, but little did I know that one month later there would be a horse on the market for me...

...and I fell in love with a skinny red mare, with a dirty white blaze. She was just beginning to grow her poor excuse of a winter coat and I had just come to Miran Farm a few weeks prior. But even through her dull coat and malnourished body the elegance and refinement bred into the thoroughbred still radiated. She needed longer than most to settle in to her new home so it wasn't until March that I began to ride her. She was a very simple horse to ride. Simple as in she only knew how to do one thing - go fast!

My experiences learning from Amber that I have chronicled in this blog have mostly been positive. If I ever get frustrated, I try to keep it to myself for the benefit of my readers and to not discourage others who would like to take on the challenge (and it is a challenge) of retraining an OTTB. There are a few entries where the frustration seeped out into the keyboard, but I have been taught to look for a positive takeaway from every experience.

And so the journey continues except now I am no longer the little girl on the outside looking in. I am the young woman flying through the fields, drinking the wind, crouched over the withers horse!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Courageous Comet at WEG

I stumbled across this article on It's always inspiring to see an off track thoroughbred have such a highly successful second career.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Winning isn't the only thing...but it sure feels good!

Part 1

Show day dawned bright and sunny. I was the first "competitor" to arrive at the barn getting there at 7:30am. You have to be prepared in case your horse decides to roll in a pile of manure the night before. Amber of course was as clean and prissy as she normally is, but I spent extra time prettying her up since you always want to make a good impression in a show.

We spent 45 minutes warming up, which looking back was a mistake. The first class was "green" hunter walk, trot. Complete disaster. I had to half halt every trot step and that didn't really work. Then she would either throw her head up or reach down for the bit. It was the most frustrating class ever since Frying Pan Farm back in March. I should have anticipated that since she was doing it towards the end of warm-ups. The judge for our schooling show was super nice. The great thing about schooling shows is that the judge will come over and tell you what you did well or what you could do better. There were 8 of us in that class. The first thing the judge said when she walked over was that she penalized horses that were fighting the rider. Great. That was all that happened for us in that class. So we didn't get a ribbon because it was indeed terrible and super frustrating. I can be my own worst critic, but for once somebody agreed with me!

Instead of doing the next 5 classes in the green hunter division I opted to scratch out of all of them, untack and turn Amber back out in the pasture. And I also scratched us out of hunter "pleasure" since there was no way we could have pulled off the "pleasure" charade on Saturday. I actually really enjoyed watching everybody else compete. I seriously contemplated not doing any more classes the rest of the day but one of my good friends came to watch so I didn't want to let him down especially after battling the Oatlands traffic.

I saddled up with a little more confidence later on in the morning knowing that the next three classes were equitation classes (judging the rider). I also had used one of my favorite little gems called Quietex which is a paste that acts as a calming agent for horses. This worked wonders at the FPF show in August and I think it may have helped on Saturday. We went in to the ring with no warm-up. The other riders were waiting on us. It was a good ride, not stellar, but good. Amber behaved like the little pseudo-hunter I've been training her to be. And unlike the last show, I posted on the correct diagonal within a few strides. I was off one time for half a stride but the judge didn't catch it. We didn't get pinned after the equitation walk, trot class but the judge had a few comments. She said she was looking for soft contact and she said only one of us picked up the correct diagonal immediately every time. She pointed at me! I was pretty sure then that we had gotten first in the walk, trot. Once you are on top in a class, it's easier to do well in the classes following.

The next class was equitation walk, trot, canter. I hit my diagonals and we cantered on the correct lead both directions. One of the great things about Amber is that she rarely hesitates to go faster. We were cantering clockwise and Ann riding Hank was on our inside struggling to get going on the correct lead. We were cantering along much faster than them (and everyone else) so I called out that we were going around on the outside so they didn't bear out on us. As we circled Ann and Hank, Amber got excited and bolted, head in the air down the straight end of the ring. Fortunately I got her under control to go around the turn and soon after that the class was over. I didn't know if that little antic had cost us placement or not but I was somewhat pissed that she had a racehorse moment during what was otherwise a good ride.

To finish out the adult equitation division, we had to do 4 jumps set at 18" at either a trot or a canter. Only Cathy and Maddy and me and Amber participated. I always start out the series with the intention of trotting the 4 jumps but Amber likes to rush them so we jumped the first one at a trot and cantered through the second one after which I brought her back to a trot to do the third jump then we compromised and she cantered over the fourth. Definitely not stellar but I knew that this would be our weakest class. We ended up getting first in the walk, trot, first in walk, trot, canter and second over the jumps which made us the Champion of the division. Our first blue ribbons and champion ribbon. Very exciting for me and also for Amber since this is the first "winner's circle" she has ever been in. :-)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Amber and I are gearing up for a show this Saturday at Miran Farm. I should say, I'm trying to gear her down for the show! No hilltopping or galloping through fields.

I need to figure out how to post video on this blog. Pictures don't quite do justice to how far she has come in the 7 months I have been working with her.

Tonight we had a lesson where we schooled over 12'' jumps. Yes, I know. One whole foot. Not quite like you see on TV with those Grand Prix jumpers getting over 6 feet. But as my fellow riders will understand it is hard to maintain rhythm and form on a green hunter.

I am confident that we have improved since the last schooling show where she was racing around the ring and I was holding on for the ride and steering!

More Pictures from Frying Pan Farm

Click picture to go to the Picasa Album. Thanks again to Stephen Reasonover for the pictures!