Monday, February 27, 2012


In a nutshell, that sums up my weekend - I am SORE.  But it is a happy kind of sore.  Every time I raise my arms, the aching shoulders remind me that the t-posts are all set.  Each grip of a pen with the responding sore hands brings to mind the endless insulators that are now snapped or nailed into place.  And my thighs - oh sweet heaven, my aching thighs and abs remind me that I lived up to big goals in my riding this weekend, and it makes me grin through the pain!

Saturday was filled with riding - after we finished driving loads of t-posts out back to subdivide the big field.  I started off with Jonah, who had even better flatwork and the best jumping thus far.  I set up a tiny vertical for him instead of a crossrail, and he definitely jumps better over the vertical.  At the end of the ride, we cantered the approach and he took it in stride, finding the perfect spot.  I was so pleased I hopped off, loosened his girth, and let him be done.  He has already gained a bit of weight, which tells me he is a much easier keeper than I had suspected - he just needs to get it on a regular basis.  We upped his grain again two nights ago in accordance with our plan to gradually increase him, so we are almost at his full ration now.

Samson got ridden next.  He only has one half-leaser at the moment, so he is in need of some extra rides to get and stay fit.  I joined Susan and Robyn in the front field, and we decided to go exploring in search of the power lines in back of the property.  Sure enough, we found a gorgeous stretch of wide open land to explore.  They headed back to the barn, but Samson needed some more trot work, and I found the perfect trail to do it on.  There is an awesome little cleared trail that steadily climbs uphill, has great footing, and it perfect for making him really work his hind end.  We trotted to the top, then wandered around to the power lines and then headed back. 

Last, it was April's turn.  By the time I was tacking her up, I was already a little tired.  Then I realized my last ride of the day would be my no-stirrups ride....yikes.  Thursday night I had worked her over fences, which was pretty interesting.  I used to ride my favorite pony at the old farm without stirrups over fences quite frequently, but April has a much different style over fences.  The good part is that it forced me to stay quiet in my seat all the way to the base of the fence.  The bad part is that she kept shooting off on the landing side of the fence, which can be a little hairy without stirrups.  Amazingly, I made it through the entire thing without coming off, and ended with a really good fence, both on the takeoff and landing sides.  So needless to say, I was already sore before getting on for Saturday's ride.

I decided to forgo jumping in an attempt to save what was left of my muscles.  It was basically one of those "setting myself up for success" things - I knew I didn't have enough in me to stay on.  The flatwork, however, was glorious.  I worked on counterbend, in an attempt to free her up through her shoulder, and when I switched back to asking her for true bend she was soft and supple. It was one of those rides where every little movement had a bit of magic in it, and I hated for the ride to end.

Sunday was super productive in terms of farm progress.  We had a glorious volunteer that spent two full days with a chainsaw clearing the back paddock.  Robyn and I got all the cedar posts ready for the polyrope by nailing in insulators, then snapped caps and insulators on every t-post.  My favorite electrician added an exterior outlet for me to install my new fence charger, and will be back soon to eliminate our last dreaded extension cord permanently! 

So today I am sore, tired, and dragging a little.  But the cumulative result of our efforts is completely worth it.  I am working on uploading some short videos of Jonah to share his first week.  He is such a cutie, and we really enjoy him!!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Friend, The Inspiration....or Slave Driver.....

Ahh, yes - this blog must be opened with an introduction of praise (and perhaps mild resentment....) to my dear friend Robyn, who decided to set an ambitious goal for Lent this year.  She vowed to give up her stirrups for the next 40 days.  You can check out her blog post detailing her goal here.

I applauded her, meanwhile thinking that I was a lazy schlub for not committing to do something of a similar nature.  Well, lo and behold, she suckered me in.  We showed up at the barn last night, and sure enough, she tacked up and cast her stirrups aside. 

I watched her going around on her big warmblood gelding, working so hard to sit his HUGE trot, and shook my head in appreciation of her determined nature.  Finally, I said screw it - I'm jumping on the bandwagon.

Now, my first problem with the entire affair is the fact that A) I am shorter; B) a tad bit chunkier; and C) FAR more uncoordinated.  The thought of mounting my mare without stirrups, even with a mounting block, is beyond me at this point.  So I did "cheat" and used my stirrups to get on and warmup before I decide to fully commit. 

Off came the stirrups.  Let's start the insanity.

Surprisingly, it went far better than I would have expected.  I had initially boycotted the entire idea, being worried that I might revert to old habits of rotating back on my butt which drives my mare extremely forward.  Amazingly enough, she was soft, supple, and beyond tolerant.  As a result, I was able to sit properly and absorb a fairly easy trot to sit, since she was using her back correctly, for the most part. 

I discovered several things throughout the ride.  A) My tendency to have what Robyn calls "linebacker arms" seemed to fade away while sitting the trot.  Ironically, everything becomes so much softer when I am not posting.  B) The only time I rolled off of my seatbones and onto my butt was towards the end of my ride, when I was tired, sloppy, and starting to fall apart.  Note to self: figure out what it is about posting that causes me to shift that around....I am going to do some experimenting with stirrup length.  So overall, I think there are many positives to be absorbed through this experiment of casting the stirrups aside.  So I am joining Robyn in her quest (or kamikaze mission, we'll see which....) to abandon the stirrups.

In other news, I rode Jonah again last night.  I am doing 15-20 minute rides on him for the first week or so, and we will start increasing it as he gets fit.  However, I couldn't resist hopping him over a tiny crossrail a time or two.  What a joy he is to jump!  He hops it like nothing, and canters off with the smoothest canter.  He has been the little sparkplug to getting me back into the swing of regular riding, and I am truly enjoying him.  I am thinking we might have to pick a show to take him to in March sometime if he keeps progressing this way.  He is going to be a little rockstar!!! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Anything is Possible...Right??

Yesterday was a long yet productive day.  I awoke to my new alarm clock - this amazing combination of gradually increasing light and sound - ready to tackle the day and get into the new routine.  An extra horse means a little extra time for morning feedings, flipping around pasture arrangements, etc, so I made sure to allow myself an extra buffer.

Jonah is settling in well.  He is the bottom man on the totem pole.  In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Samson when I first got him, and I can't help wondering if he will come into his own once we get him feeling better.  I have a sneaking suspicion he could have ulcers, so I am debating a few different treatment options to test out the theory.  He was integrated into a small herd last night with Samson and Rosie, and I quickly discovered he would be chased off his hay if his pile wasn't put out pretty far away.  Poor guy - he was standing in the trees with his head hanging low; didn't even attempt to fight for his food.  No wonder he has a hard time keeping his weight up.

I tacked him up for a light hack last night.  I know he is seriously out of shape and on the skinny side, so I don't plan to do much other than get him going at this point.  He was good about pretty much everything.  A little fussy about taking contact, but not nearly as heavy on my hands as the other day when I tried him.  When he picked up his left lead canter he threw in a couple little bucks, but it was minor and the second I threw out a verbal correction he settled into a relaxed canter.  He is a lot of fun to ride; not intimidating in the slightest.

We busted through the remaining chores, and I had about 40 minutes til rushing to dog class with Toby (aka not-so-tiny-Terror), my golden retriever.  I tacked April up and headed out back to get in the second ride of the day.  She was really good overall.  I am working a lot on relaxing through my arms and carrying my hands correctly, and I have found that she really appreciates the difference of a softer contact.  It has really started to eliminate a lot of the issues we were having, and I feel like we are making tiny improvements with each and every ride.  I am working really hard on continuing to reverse my automatic reaction of going to the inside rein.  Two and a half years of being taught the opposite on Delilah has been really challenging to overcome, but I think I am starting to make a little progress.  I find myself becoming more and more aware of when I am doing it, so correcting myself has become more frequent.

It has been a weird couple weeks overall.  I know that I need to get a couple of lessons in - that always helps.  But it seems like everything has been beating my up a bit lately.  I feel insecure about the entire Jonah situation - doubting whether I did the right thing.  He has yet to get a single compliment, I'm not a trainer by any stretch of the other than getting him fat, what can I possibly do for him??  I fight the inevitable insecurity in my riding ability, always wondering when I am going to "get it".  Sometimes I feel like riding is the most unnatural thing in the world to me.  I look at my friends and how easy it appears to be for them, and I wonder when everything will finally start to click for me.  I wonder when my seat will become independent of my leg, when I will quit burying my hands in my lap, tensing up and having football arms, falling back on my butt instead of sitting correctly on my many things I wonder about.  I wish more than anything that I had the time and money to fully devote myself to developing as a rider, every single day, on a regular basis.  But then I look at people like Kelsey and realize that it can be done without a trainer holding your hand 24/7.  But can it be done for everyone?  I can't help but think it is extremely rare.  It is a natural talent to feel everything that is going on underneath you, and sadly it is something that I have yet to really develop.  One day, I hope....

For now, the best I can do is what I am doing.  Time in the saddle, time on the ground reading, watching, listening, and learning.  Anything is possible if you set your mind to it....right?

Jonah's arrival on the farm; Monday, February 20th

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Living on the Edge

You know, sometimes in life, you just have to take a leap and find out if it will pay off.  That's exactly what I did this month.  Robyn and I have taken on a project pony, who we have renamed "Jonah".  He is a 15.2 TB/QH cross that has eventing experience, a pretty sane little mind, and basically just needs a little TLC to get back to his former glory days.  He is an easy enough project for us because he has already done a lot, but he has been sitting around going downhill for quite some time.  I stumbled across him completely by accident, when I went to pick up t-posts from someone.  They told me he was for sale, and I spun it around in my brain for awhile, asking questions, looking up old videos of him, and basically mulling it over.  Then the owner threw out the idea of trading him for free in exchange for riding time on another gelding she owns, so we hatched a plan to make it all work by teaming up - me, Robyn, and Kelsey. 

So we have projects lined up!  Kelsey has a gorgeous TB gelding on her farm that she already got a ride in on, and Robyn and I have our little guy who had a laid-back day of beauty yesterday.  He is good-natured, and I really enjoyed riding him when I tried him yesterday!  We have put him on Amplify, as he is definitely in need of some weight gain, and we have a plan in place to slowly increase his feed to safely put the weight on him.  I have a sneaking suspicion he might benefit from a good worming and ulcer regimen as well, but we will see how things go step by step. 

I have had a blast riding April the last few times.  Last night we rode in the open field since it has been so wet.  It is really tough riding on such a steep hill when you are out of shape.  My legs were aching trying to hold myself in the correct position going downhill, but my muscles need some serious work anyway.  We have had some great rides.  Last night she started trying to break into the canter when we were trotting up the hill, but she really listened and quieted when I asked her to stay at a forward trot.  I was so pleased, since the last few weeks have been pretty irregular for our riding regimen, with all the chaos going on.  I am really looking forward to being back in the swing of things.  It feels like things have finally started to fall back into the regular routine over the last week or so, and it has been a tremendous relief!

I am so incredibly fortunate.  We have an incredible farm, amazing boarders, fabulous horses, and talented trainers.  I couldn't ask for more, and I am looking forward to the spring with so much excitement!  It is going to be a phenomenal year!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Ray of Sunshine

I was having a slightly morose day yesterday, as I was feeling a tad stressed about everything that has been going on lately.  I almost blogged about it, but then I determined to make the best of it and give it a little perspective.  It never fails that once I take a step back and really evaluate the big picture, things fall into place as being slightly smaller and less complicated than I typically imagine them to be.

My night went really well - smooth sailing at the barn, then a really fun puppy class with my golden and Robyn and her rescue pup.  I determined to get a good night's rest, and look at things with a new perspective this morning.  And what a gorgeous morning it was!  The birds were chirping, and there was the tiniest hint of springtime in the air when I let the horses out, even if it was still a bit chilly.  I realized today that daylight savings' time is only a MONTH away!  March 11th, 2012 - I am living in anticipation of that day!  It is amazing, the time constraints that daylight put on my life.  I cannot wait to have more of it.

So I decided to try to organize my list of priorities and projects, instead of letting them swim around aimlessly in my overtaxed brain.  Most of it is farm-improvement related, rather than riding goals, but I feel like those projects are the pressing priority because once the major things are done, they won't need any further maintenance.  Then I can move on and focus 100% on my riding goals.

My first goal is to finish subdividing the farm and adding additional fencing.  I am still working on the actual plan for where I want the particular fencelines and gates to go, but I have determined for certain that we will be putting in one more paddock.  Along with that goal will come the need to clear more timber.  I received official permission to completely clear trees, grind stumps, and plant everything to the left of the middle fenceline at the farm to make separate paddocks.  This will give us three paddocks surrounding the existing grass pasture, not to the mention the area in the front that can be re-set as a spare grazing area as well.

My second goal was actually inspired by Robyn.  She mentioned needing to practice an actual dressage test, so I am scheming up a plan to get a "real" dressage arena economically set up at the top of the field.  Since we are nearly out of daylight savings time, we only have a month left of needing to ride in lights, so I would like to move the existing temporary arena to the back field and put in an actual dressage arena with boundaries and letters.  I would like to do this in correllation with the re-fencing project, because fencing in the back field arena will also allow us to close it off for seeding, which will be coming soon.

I am hoping to have the above projects completed this months, with the exception of maybe the dressage arena, depending on how much it will cost.  I also want to start spreading our composted manure on the first two fields I am planning to seed, which will most likely be the mare field and the big field.  The goal is to have them pre-fertilized, tilled if necessary, or aerated, and then seeded by early March.  I want to allow both fields a full eight weeks of rest before putting horses on them - especially the mare field, since it will be newly established grass.

The third project will be to expand our gravel driveway.  I am still debating the necessity, since we are just around the corner from escaping winter.  We might be able to get away with not doing it, but only the next couple weeks will tell us for sure.

It doesn't seem so huge when it is all laid out on paper.  But the trick to everything is being able to balance the finances to make it all come together.  I found an incredible deal on the polyrope fencing, and two huge boxes arrived yesterday, full of polyrope, insulators, and splicers.  I start picking up miscellaneous t-posts this week - 20 here, 20 there, from some great connections we have made.  The rest will have to be purchased at the cheapest place I can find.  Then comes the trial of figuring out the best way to extend the existing electric fence to where we are hoping to get it to.  It will more than likely involve installing another gate, which means another trenching project.  There are all sorts of hiccups you tend to find along the way, as these projects start to come together. 

Riding has been difficult to squeeze in lately, which is frustrating, but somewhat expected this time of year.  With the rain, the new boarders moving in, and Robyn's surgery, the last week has been a bit of a lost cause as far as serious work goes.  I am hoping to set a few showing goals soon.  I just discovered a cross country clinic at the end of the month that is with April's former owner.  It would be really cool to take her, but it is pricey.  I would be happy to pick a simple dressage show or combined test just to get out and about at this point.

That's the majority of life at the farm.  I am looking forward to more rays of sunshine in the days to come.  Here's to tackling projects and finding motivation to plug on through!!!!!!