Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Not Until Your Homework is Done.

It's happening. The clocks have changed, the air is warm (ish), the sun is shining (ish), spring entries are opening and I'm starting to get polite emails from event coordinators asking for volunteers.

Maybe I put my horse in a medium last night but it doesn't matter, spring is here!

Last week groups of people in the barn started trekking out in groups to our local watering hole (literally) to de-cobweb and shake off the winter blues. Sigh, except me.

Does anyone else get annoyed by their real person jobs that preclude taking time off to frolic in a cross country field? Or get annoyed that it's still dark by the time they leave work because they just had to work that late? And forget about me... I have to study twenty or so hours a week until May. So when a ride was set up for me and a date figured out to finally go cross country schooling I had to say no and I grumped off to find solace (?) in my books and meetings.

Pardon my French, but fuck being an adult. What the hell did I want to grow up for when I was eight? I wanted to stay up later. Well now I'm staying up until midnight studying. HAPPY? Anyway, it was the right choice and I tried not to feel left out. But Facebook, that cruel bitch, had other ideas.

Everyone else:
A barnmate on her OTTB. Gee, that looks fun.

Ooh look, iced tea!!
Everyone else:

Nat, one of Runkle's besties, and his girl Sydney.

You don't even want to know what this is.

Kimberly and her cute cute cute baby, Sebastian.


Paint with all the colors of the wind.

I just threw up in my mouth a little.

One day it'll be my turn. ONE DAY.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Show Ring Ready

Normally when I competed (now coming up on two years ago... oi) all I cared about was how my horse looked.

Braided, bathed, and all the blue shampoo.

I was meticulous about my bathing, braiding and grooming. And I was just doing schooling shows. Lexy, my last competition partner, had chrome for DAYS and I loved showing it off. Maybe I vainly hoped it would distract from our dressage...

I think this is the one time she wasn't braided.

As for the rest of it, I was a lazy piece of shit. The tack wasn't crusted with dried grass slime, but that's the best I can say about it. Brass was definitely not polished. And, um, forget about my saddles. I never touched them. I went to a schooling show at Plantation Field, on of the last of 2013, just after Boyd Martin had broken his leg and was out of commission for awhile. I had all the riding prep done, but my tack hadn't been touched in weeks. In my defense, I had just had a huge exam!! Of course I get to the show and realize that not only is Boyd dressage judging at the show but he was judging my ring. I flew into frantic preparations to try and clean off my grimy leather with a wet papertowel (I do not advise)*.

Plz to be ignoring my untucked shirt. And I did dressage in that helmet.
The biggest issue when I'm showing isn't the tack though. It's me.

My very first recognized horse show I was wearing a lavender polo (because I couldn't find white) and my navy Tipperary helmet which is a vented ugly as sin piece of headgear. My horse looked so much nicer than me the pictures were a little embarrassing. And we definitely did NOT score well.

Someone felt bad (or was horrified) by my turnout and gave me some hand me down show clothes,  so there was a small uptick in how I looked. At least I was wearing a white shirt with a belt, even if that white shirt was a too small. I never bothered wearing a coat because I didn't have one that fit, and my hair was too short to put in a hair net but too long to be left alone so I just had little pieces hanging out... I'm embarrassing myself.

While I had the right (or at least, more right than they were) clothes, I still had issues with keeping clean. I hate changing into breeches when its hot. I feel like I'm getting ductape stuck to everything and I'm constantly trying to peel it off. It's all very uncomfortable. I used to wear swishy warmup pants over them, but those got lost (or outgrown) so I just wore my breeches.

They definitely suffered.

By the time I went into the dressage ring I usually had been slimed at least once, spilled a jug of water on myself, gotten mud on my pants from trying to put in studs, and occasionally marked myself with boot polish. And chances are my shirt was full of hay from earlier in the morning. Walking disaster doesn't begin to cover it.

Technical fabric? We are truly in the future.
Now I want to look as nice as Runkle though. I don't want to be some stained slob on top of a perfect pony. I want us to match. I bought a showcoat (THAT FITS). I have tallboots that fit. I have a real show shirt and A TIE. I saw someone across the pond competing with a tie not a stock and I was so enamored with the idea I'm copying it and no one can stop me. F the stocks. I'll wear a tie like a real man.

I don't want to admit how long it took me to tie this.
I'll wear a hairnet. I'll be clean (ish). And we'll both be fabulous.

*I clean my tack once a week now. Honest. Sometimes more! So it is getting better.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thank You for Stopping

When you're a rider competing over jumps the number one priority is making it to the other side.

We spend countless hours working to make sure the horse goes no matter the distance, filler, or approach. Eventers go cross country schooling and jumpers build complicated courses at home so that nothing in the arena will surprise them. Hunters go so far as to school the actual course before they jump it in their official class.

So it might come as a surprise to say I'm really pleased Runkle is learning when to stop.

March is finally shaking off the last of winter. But a couple months ago, when we were still stuck in the indoor, we were coming to a line off a short approach that was an oxer to a vertical. I was worried more about the line than the jump we had to jump first to GET to the line. We got to an absolutely horrible spot and I felt Runkle's front feet come off the ground and I honestly didn't see a way we'd make it over the jump clean. I slipped my reins and grabbed his mane and prepared to take down the entire jump in a clatter of rails and jump cups.

Artist's rendering.
But then he decided no, better not, and put his legs back down without touching a single thing.

I'm not saying the goal shouldn't be to get across the jump 100% of the time. And I value a horse that has 'a fifth leg' as the saying goes. Runkle definitely has one. And maybe a sixth; he's gotten out of some hilarious situations. But sometimes the horse does need to stop. Sometimes I, as a rider, have done such a shitty job that I totally deserve the 20 penalties I have coming to me. Occasionally it's a team effort.

I've had a horse absolutely crash through a jump. He was taught to go no matter what, and it always ended okay for him because a pro was riding him and she rarely makes mistakes. Because she's a pro. But I'm not, and I felt the same sinking feeling as his front legs came off the ground and I knew we wouldn't make it to the other side safely. That second might be the worst on a horse.

9.5 for the stuck landing.
The last horse I rode was fantastic at self preservation. I'm convinced most mares are. They're not gonna hang their neck out for you and do something stupid because you told them to. Let's face it, they rarely do something because you told them to anyway. Lexy and I were cantering to a chevron when I rode past the distance and she decided it would be smarter to just... not.

So in my lesson this weekend when I got surprised by how fast a jump came up and did absolutely nothing to fix it (in fact, I took my leg off and leaned like an idiot) I wasn't annoyed when he stopped. Every once in awhile it's the smartest thing to do.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Hurry Up and Wait

Soooo I didn't post last week. And I didn't run out of time, I wasn't busy, none of my normal excuses. It just came and went and honestly nothing is going on.

Due to circumstances outside everyone's control the infancy the 2016 show season at my barn hit a bit of a speed bump. A bunch of stuff got cancelled so we've just kind of been farting around at home. Add to that that it SNOWED last week for some reason and I feel like we've just sort of stalled (pun... intended?)

Christmas Day. Please note, that is a t-shirt.
Relatively speaking, we were incredibly lucky this winter. Yeah, it was in the teens for a couple weeks. Yeah, we had a huge blizzard where we got a season's worth of snow in thirty six hours. But it was 60* on Christmas Day and Runkle's been shedding since January so on the whole it's been very mild. Which I appreciate.

Two weeks later. Snow.
That doesn't mean both Runkle and I aren't super ready for the time to change.

I did buy some crap I'm pretty excited about. My good friend A has an extensive horse library and she's lent me several books, one of which is about in hand work. If you walk past my cube at lunch I'm probably reading it. So I finally broke down and bought a nice lunge cavesson, and I'm starting to accumulate the other accouterments (side reins, surcingle, long reins). I'm really looking forward to adding a day of non riding work to Runkle's regimen to help build his topline as well as our relationship.

I've witnessed first hand that racehorses go through an awkward period of letdown between 6-12 months off the track. When I got Runkle he was used to galloping two miles and eating three buckets of grain a day. Ripping a horse out of that and saying "okay, you get one third of that and p.s. you eat grass now mostly" ends up making them look like crap.

Runkle in racehorse mode.
There was definitely a period where he looked like poop and I thought "oh F, what have I done."

What look how scrawny and sad he looks??
I was paranoid about it, fussing over his grain and obsessing over how many holes I had to go up on his girth. I got him a corner feeder with a lip because he was dumping the standard feed pan all over the floor and losing a large portion of his grain. I scrutinized how much hay he was eating and how much he was running around in the field, and how huge his blankets draped on him.

By now I should accept that my trainers know more than me and I need to stop worrying. Neither of them seemed super fussed and attributed it to 'letdown' and promised that come spring, everything would be sorting itself out.

And god dammit they were right.

A sporthorse is born.
Runkle's ass is HUGE. His blankets are tight in the shoulder. He has learned the joy of grazing and hoovers his grain like a champ. I'm actually a little worried about when the spring grass comes in because I don't want him to reach hippo status.

So yeah, this was rambly and not focused, but I guess that's where we're at right now. Waiting for the season to start, waiting to go schooling and spend long hours braiding and grooming and hauling all over the East coast. Pardon the tired metaphor but it's the calm before the storm, and unlike a blizzard I'm way ready for it to get here!