Monday, December 7, 2015

Seventh Heaven

I've mentioned previously my affiliation with Pony Club.  For anyone not aware, Pony club exists as a way for young people to get involved with horses, learning to ride and trying out different events.  It provides affordable lessons and the structure and opportunity to advance to anyone who's interested.  There's also a competition called Quiz, which is basically a trivia event on all things horse with three parts.  The first is a written exam (aka the sucky part), the second is tack id (aka i know what this is called but the name isn't on here what the ****?), and the third is an assortment of games (aka how am I supposed to act out splint bone in charades? They just keep guessing leg???). There is a regional quiz held early in the year, and the top individual scores  qualify for the national team.

Anyhow, my regional quiz was back in April, and two friends from my club asked if I would be interested in being on a team with them. It sounded like fun, so they had me talked into it before I knew it. Completely unexpectedly, I found myself finishing fourth in individual in my division and third in team.  Unfortunately, my other team members didn't make the cut, but I quickly found myself whisked off and the senior team were telling me what to expect if I decided I wanted to come to nationals in the fall.

My summer was a lot of riding and otherwise getting ready.  My semi-disastrous testing from back in August was the last piece of the puzzle I needed to attend to to solidify my eligibility.  I bought a bunch of the required reading books off amazon and spent the latter half of the summer and any extra time I had around classes to study.

All that lead up to the big event thanksgiving weekend (Canadian thanksgiving weekend, in case my American friends are confused).  Since my region was hosting, the travel wasn't far, and we got to have 2 teams of 4 members each at the C level instead of just 1.

I arrived at the hotel just before dinner was starting on Friday night, and dropped my bags in my room.  I met one of my roommates, and we headed downstairs to dinner together.  Conversations were a bit stunted amongst the whole group at first, but everyone began to settle in, and I was re-introduced to some of the members I had met once or twice at regional events.  After dinner was line dancing and then everyone headed back to their rooms to regroup, where I met the other two members of my team.  All the members from my region headed upstairs to the senior team's room to cram for the written exam, and there were a lot of flashcards I didn't know the answer to and the official designation of our team's anthem.

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This one. Trust me, it grows on you.

We stayed up hanging out (and some studying) until curfew, and then headed off to bed for the night.  Breakfast began bright and early and then more cramming before the written exam started at 9:00 sharp.  As expected, it was super hard.  If you manage to get a passing grade on written at quiz, you're usually one of few.  There were 'local color questions' about Spruce Meadows, the Calgary Stampede, and the Pan Am games medalists which had very few survivors, but other than that most of the test went okay. I had basically no idea on the questions about the pony club rules of competition, but I did well on conformation terms and came out of written markings 19th overall out of 68 competitors.  My teammates were ranked 1st, 2nd, and 4th.

Lunch and more cramming, this time for tack id.  Tack ID is either a blessing or a curse depending on your experience, and what you have for study materials. Basically, there is a table of fifteen numbered items and a sheet with twenty object names.  At the C level (mine), you have to match ten objects with the appropriate blanks.  At the senior (A/B) level, you have to name all 15.  This category is deceptively difficult because pony club doesn't use the descriptive names (ex. instead of identifying a noseband as a figure-8, you're likely to have to know it as a grackle).  I personally love tack ID, because I have a slight obsession with weird tack. By far the worst table was types of carriages.  I managed to get the sulky and the trolley, which put me ahead of most people.  To say it was the unanimous least favourite table would be an understatement. You're given ten minutes at each table, and I think there were a total of 15 tables, so everyone was starving and exhausted by the time it was all over.

So, we all carted off to Saturday evening's entertainment.  about 150 people all crammed into an arena for beef on a bun dinner and a working cow horse demonstration.  First was reining, and then working a cow.  It's always interesting to see different disciplines, and it was a pretty fun evening.  The night ended more or less the same, with everyone in the region cramming into one hotel room and studying for games.

Bright and early Sunday was breakfast and then waiting for games to start.  As we waited, they posted the initial rankings for team, which are based on the combined individual scores for each team member. Our team was doing well, so going into the games we got to focus on just having fun.  My favourite game was called sculpt it, which was basically pictionary but you had to sculpt the answer out of kinetic sand.  Collectively, our team did really well, and we were feeling really good about our chances by the end of the day.

After lunch was our other outing, this time to the world famous Spruce Meadows.  I've been there before, but it was still fun to have our run of the international ring.  Most of the team, myself included, rolled down the derby bank. It's even steeper than it looks. I couldn't imagine riding a horse down it!

The infamous devil's dike

AB South in the Water Jump

Finally, it was time for everyone to get ready for the big awards banquet. Our region coordinated, so we all had red and black on. The dinner was the best one yet, and before I knew it, the awards were starting.

The placings were announced, starting with the A/B division individual.  Our region did really well, with a few placing in the ribbons! Then it was time for the individual C placings.  The ribbons started at tenth, and it wasn't a long wait before I found myself accepting the rosette for seventh place in individual.  I was thrilled (but not technically surprised, since I had found out when they posted the placings earlier, but I would have totally ruined the suspense of the blog post if I'd said so earlier)!

And I'm modest, too

My team also fared well, with my teammates placing fourth, second, and first! It was awesome to work with such brilliant team members! Plus, the other Alberta south C team placed sixth.

Finally, the announcements came for team, and my team came first! We all got keeper plaques, grooming bags, and of course, red ribbons.

They posted initial team rankings before games started, and since our team was all in the top ten individually, we were ahead of the second place by 25 points, which is not insignificant at quiz.  Most of the differences in individual rankings were by tenths or hundredths of points.  Individual points contributes to the team score, but games don't count towards individual. By the end of games, our team came out ahead of the second place team by 27 points.  It was an amazing experience, especially for my first trip to national Quiz.

After my whirlwind first national quiz experience, I have all you wonderful bloggers to thank. The big benefit of following and reading the blogs of so many of you wonderful people is that I hear all kinds of tidbits specific to the various disciplines you all represent.  I was one of the people who recognized the Tevis Cup as an endurance race rather than a flat race on the written thanks to people like Saiph, and I knew a liverpool bit, and a driving apron thanks to Andrea, and countless other little facts thanks to my continued obsession with reading everything y'all have to say.  But probably bigger than any other specific influence, I want to acknowledge the pure awesome that is the Braymere Custom Saddlery Blog and its insane amount of reference material.  A weird obsession with tiny plastic horses is a huge asset for any national quiz hopefuls reading this.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Horse Rescue

Apparently my blog is now only for me sharing adorable videos I find on facebook.  I do have an event from September I'm still hoping I will get to write about soon, and something else exciting this weekend, so I'll have to ask you all to just bear with me as I attempt to survive classes. Cheers!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

EXCLUSIVE: Controversy in the Rambo Factory.

Just thought I would share this breaking news story.  Unbelievable, hiring these new employees of such unknown backgrounds. 

Haha, just kidding. Just wanted to share a video that made me smile this morning :)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Why I Don't Ride

I am looking, as is becoming a familiar feeling to me, at a ridiculously busy next few months.  It feels like the last year and a half has been either me dreading the start of a busy time, or impatiently awaiting whatever time I think I'll next be able to finally catch my breath. It feels right now like this might be my life from now on.  Just running from one thing to another. One period of insanity to another too-short interim break.  I really understand why this is one of the most common times in their lives when people sell their horses.

I should pause a moment to say this, I AM NOT SELLING MY HORSE. I got her when she was 3 and I'm planning (and hoping) to have her the rest of her life. 

Speaking of, look at adorable baby Jazz from her sale photo!

So classes begin next week.  And I am looking at excruciatingly long days for months. I'll be lucky if I see the sun, much less the little red horse.  At this point, it also looks like I might not be taking any lessons until the New Year.  Hello, life of a weekend warrior (goodbye, sleek, fit summer Jazz). 

In addition to my schedule restraints, I have a serious motivation problem.  At no point am I at the farm with my horse, wishing I were at home watching Netflix, and yet it's disproportionately hard to get myself changed and out the door to go see my horse.  If I'm seeing my friends during the day with plans to ride  later in the evening, the odds are about 50/50 that I'll make it to the barn instead of going out for food with friends (where I'm sure to bore and confuse my city-dwelling friends by talking constantly about horses anyway).  There's also a semi-regular shuffle of which vehicle is the farm vehicle.  The idea of moving around the many boxes and bins and bags that are all somehow necessary to my equestrian pursuits is enough to delay my drive to get out of the house by at least half an hour.

Is it just me? I hate how I can't just get out and do the things I know I'll enjoy.  I hate it.  But it's hard to change. Lately by the time I made it out, the weather's been turning bad, and the visit gets cut short because the horse is miserable (and so am I, what month is this, November? It's ridiculous).

And just to twist the knife a little, this summer I finally got to see firsthand how Jazz improves under regular work.  I was taking two lessons a week, and riding (ideally) two to three times outside of that, and preparing for my (semi-disastrous) PC testing.  It was so great to see how Jazz was getting stronger and suppler, and I was improving and making a real difference.  And then I got a bad cold, complete with a cough so bad I couldn't be at the dusty barn for longer than fifteen minutes.  My summer with Jazz ended with me hardly even able to see her as I tried desperately to get better.  And now? I'm not even out until after 5PM on the days when my schedule is good. I'm driving twice as far as I'm used to almost every day, and I'm having a total pity party for myself over all of it.    It's enough to keep me from being excited about any of it right now.  Here's to keeping my head down till 2016, and counting my blessings in the meantime.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bonus post: New Helmet!

My most exciting birthday present (from nearly a month ago, oops) by far was a gift certificate to go and buy myself a new helmet.  Here's a couple of photos of it in action (aka me holding Jazz's reins since I never seem to remember to request photos while I'm actually doing anything).

Mmm Charles Owen. I'd better start wearing pearls... (X

This picture turned out really awkward of me, but pony is extra cute. 

Fear itself

"...the  only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  -FDR

I have a fear. A paralyzing fear. And I have a fear of that fear. I very rationally should either not be afraid, or I should not do the thing that scares me.  This is apparently not my way. I also know the fear is my biggest problem, I tend to throw up my hands (figuratively... most of the time) and kind of try flailingly to somehow make it through.

This is the cause of significant issue due to the fact jumping scares the bajeezes out of me. And right now I'm doing it maybe three times a week (sometimes less). Last week I was in a private lesson where the flat was perfect and literally all of my wheels fell off the second the standards and poles got lugged out. I understand a lot of things in principle.  I know you just keep your eyes up, heels down, toes forward, squeeze tight with your lower legs, keep your back straight, follow with your arms, trot in canter out, downward transitions by stopping in your body not with the reins, breathe, blink, etc, etc, etc.  I also know I can know these things all I want as I make a decent line at a good forward trot, and proceed to do few (or none) of the above on the actual jumping part. The jumps where I manage to do things kind of right are not based on any actual skill, or timing, or learning. More or less fluke outliers, not worth considering in the scheme of my riding ability.

I had a riding exam about a week and a half ago where I went over maybe six jumps of the smallest possible introductory size.  I proceeded to fall off on my first attempt and be jumped way, way out of the tack on every single other. On top of this, I was told what has come to be my all time least favourite (non-life threatening) type of news.  Have you guessed it? If you thought, "Your saddle doesn't fit", then DING DING DING, you win! I just got this new saddle. I don't think I've owned it a month. It seems to be twisting. The prospect of saddle shopping is kind of strange in a way, because if I were doing it voluntarily I think it would probably be super rad (I think it would be comparable in excitement to if I were able to buy suuuper nice tall boots). But though saddle shopping means new saddle, it also means trying saddles (literally worse than scrubbing really scummy water troughs). I'm going to talk to some people, see if there's something I can do, maybe get it reflocked or something. That on top of the disaster that was most of the rest of the test, made it not the best day.

Fortunately, I did manage to pass my riding test! (Which qualifies me for a rather exciting event in the fall that I'm hoping to blog about!!!) Each movement of the required elements is scored out of 10, with 10 being excellent, 0 being you literally didn't even try, and 6.5 being sufficient (with a 65% required in order to pass the riding element).  My jumping recieved a 5.5.  5 is insufficient, and 6 is almost sufficient, so my jumping overall is almost almost sufficient.  I had a good laugh over that.  A 3 is rated as bad, so I'd definitely hate to see what a jumping score of 3 is.

I also had another pony club lesson two days later.  The exercise set up was two jumps  perpendicular to the rail and set off the track at E and B respectively, with one fence set up in the center of the ring on the diagonal. There were three of us riding, and one part of our warmup was a spiral in at the trot until we all ended up in a small circle nose to tail. It was interesting the different challenge of doing the exercise with other people.  Then, one at a time we worked over the jumps, starting at E, then the diagonal, then around to B. We started at a trot, and the goal was to get a canter transition over the poles and canter out, transitioning back to the trot between fences.  The first couple attempts I only managed to get the canter about a stride after the fence.  Then the other girls in my lesson both took a turn and I tried again with more success.  I was worrying too much about the fence when all I really needed to do was worry about timing my transition.  Really it's no different than working on the flat, trying to get a transition in a particular place like in a dressage test.  Tell that to the fear.  I also ended up doing the exercise the same, except only trotting to the first fence and cantering the rest.  It was a hot mess the first time, but the second I pulled myself together we actually accomplished it quite capably.  To go and show what a well behaved, excellent horse I have, she even did a flying change when she picked up the wrong lead after the second pole. Fancy mare.

I also, fortunately, know how to laugh at myself.  I was at a charity casino for my local equestrian park recently, and one of the ladies there showed us a video of her daughter's stadium round at a recent event.  She's a really great rider, and it sounds like she did really well.  I, naturally, responded by pulling up the video of myself at the first jump and showing it around.

(Here, enjoy a terrible quality cell phone video and take a moment to remember it's okay to laugh at yourself... that, and my horse is basically a saint for not completely turfing me).

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Here's What you Missed

Jazz got a new saddle! Her old one wasn't fitting right, so I finally found something that works! Unfortunately it's not exactly what I would have wanted, since it's a black synthetic, but the important thing is that it fits, so I can stand black tack for a while (can you say new bridle?).

I mean, more awkward pictures of horses probably exist.

Snapchats feat. one of the failed trial saddles.
I worked at an undisclosed location for a couple of weeks. It was a lot of long days, and a lot of missing my horse, but the paycheck  sure didn't hurt.

Mmm. Sideways spoilers.
I also celebrated my birthday the best way I could think of, by trying to give Jazz a beverage I am now able to legally consume (but wouldn't). I poured Jazz a Keystone light that was kicking around in the fridge, and she promptly swished it all over the place (and all over me) and then refused to go back near it (sadly,  no photographic evidence).

I also got bucked off a couple weeks back in a Pony Club lesson. The worst part was no one got video.

Plus another event that I think warrants its own post. Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Doubling up

After six weeks off, I had not one but two lessons last week, and two more this week! (and then I left this post behind in the drafts and so this was written some weeks ago in Mid-June. I decided to post it and then work on a more concise wrap up of my last couple months during my blogging hiatus.)

My usual trainer was riding Jazz for me while I was busy in May, working on w/t/c, a bit of contact and leg yielding to build up the muscles in her back.  She said it was probably good for her to have ridden Jazz herself, because she got a lot better sense of how Jazz feels and reacts to things.  We spent the entire lesson at the walk, working mostly on contact and some leg yields.  It's been really interesting seeing how Jazz is just starting to get the idea of contact.  She's taking baby steps with little tiny neck curls.  It's super weird to think this is the same horse who would lose her entire mind if there was even a teeny tiny little pull on the opposite rein when I tried to turn back when I was very first riding her.  Now she's doing cute little tiny neck curls.  It was a tough lesson for me, using a lot of riding muscles that were not impressed with me on their sudden work request.  I had a very looong hot bath with epsom salts (10/10 would recommend, epsom salts help draw lactic acid from your muscles).

Then, I drug my still sore self to my first Pony Club lesson on Jazz.  I've taken other Pony Club lessons, but back before I rode Jazz English, on another horse.  Now that we have our trailer, I finally got to go.  We also hauled for another girl from my barn who I hadn't met yet, and both her and her horse are really nice.   The instructor we have is a local eventing coach who has a great reputation.  It was really interesting to work with her, especially learning some more dressage-y approaches to doing things.  I personally blame Jen at Wyvern Oaks, and Karen at Bakersfield Dressage for my obsession with the idea of dressage.  I learned a lot, and we worked on a bit of w/t/c, and turns on the forehand.  I ended up getting a really nice couple of turns on the forehand once the new trainer explained how I needed to adjust to be clearer.  Jazz tends to throw her shoulders around a lot, so once she tried moving her shoulder, and then backing up, and then a perfect step.  The trainer also had a lot of nice things to say about my horse, such as "nice little mare", and "pretty", and "well balanced", and "she really thinks about things".  I always like to hear compliments about my horse.  Unfortunately, she also told me my saddle doesn't seem to fit correctly.  Sigh.  It's been lots of trips to the local consignment shop since then.

The following week I had another lesson with my usual trainer at home, where the main order of the day was spiraling in and out of circles, doing lots of the same work on contact and strengthening her back.

Pony club alternates lesson weeks between flatwork and jumping, so my second Pony Club lesson was jumping week.  After a good warmup and some refreshers on my position, we started with work on a trot fence. Jazz has a really short stride, so we did a lot of work on getting her to really engage and get moving forward.  Her canter runs at about 8 feet on average, so we also worked on extending her canter to something closer to the 12 feet I will be dealing with at shows someday. Then it got raised to a little baby cross rail, and we went over it a few times, before working our way up to a small grid.  It involved trotting over a ground pole, then trotting in and cantering out to a small cross rail, and finally cantering a third fence.  I had never actually cantered a fence before, so it was really awesome to get to try it! Jazz was awesome, but my two point is just slightly shy of abysmal, so the instructor gave me some exercises to work on at home to strengthen my muscles and develop more correct muscle memory.  The big one was rising canter, working on staying up for multiple strides, and then standing and sitting alternate strides.  It's also good for developing better rhythm. I felt much more in control working from a rising canter, and as a nice side note, Jazz picked up the correct lead after the fence every single time, and in all the rides I've had since.  What a smart mare!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A little mid-week pick-me-up

Smartpak has an awesome youtube channel with tons of funny videos, but this one in particular is too good not to share!

p.s. I'm not dead and neither is the Christmas pony, and we hope to return very soon to regular blogging!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Quarterly goals recap Jan-March/Second Quarter Goals

The first three months of this year have gone by faster than I could possibly have imagined.  I think I may have found the time to grab the occasional breath a handful of times in the first quarter of 2015, but I can't be sure.  Without further ado, the overdue analysis of my goals:

Make more horse time.  Too many excuses and not enough pony have been happening recently, and I intend to put a stop to it.   Success! The lengthening daylight hours especially have been a huge help in completing this goal!

Play with the Horse Ball.  Jazz's absolute favourite thing and I'm not even sure I've brought it out more than twice in the last year.  Plus a fun thing both on the ground and under saddle. I brought out the ball one day, only to remember why it had been put away in the first place after an immense half-hour struggle to get it inflated enough to be safe.  

Put the Western saddle back on occasionally. I kind of miss it.   Done and done! I had it on at least twice, one of which was  pony sharing with two awesome kids at my barn, and Jazz was an angel for them.  

Do something about my tall boots.  I need to bathe them in boot stretch or get room put in at the shoe repair place because they are much too tight on my calves.  Yes! I bought the most wonderful, most beautiful, bestest imaginable brand spanking new paddock boots and half chaps a few weeks back.

Tack store haul! I also got a new saddle pad and cookies!
Write a product review post or two.  Product reviews are the kind of post I will read 100% of the time I see them on my blogger dashboard, but I have yet to write one.  This one was a failure.  I attempted to write a review of leather care products and was starting to assemble the pieces and then pre-spring break crazy schedule and spring break happened.  
My personal favourite picture from leather care product review day. 

Think about a bitless bridle option. Since my horse needs her teeth done every 6 months at this point, it might be nice to have an alternative when her mouth hurts.  I do own a bitless bridle, but I don't love it and I'm considering a different type of bridle.  At no point did I even think about this at all.  There were too many other things on both the horsey horizon and the personal one.  

Try to talk less in lessons. Pretty self explanatory but a definite bad habit of mine. I definitely made progress, but this is ongoing, so I'll probably repeat it in another quarter.  

Show off the horse.  I have been telling many, many friends for a long time they can come meet my horse, but I have taken very few people out to the farm.  I may end up moving this goal to a different quarter depending on how our winter goes (I probably shouldn't introduce my non-horsey friends who have never ridden a horse to the crazy winter Jazz I know and love).  I had a relative come to visit just last week and we went for a farm visit.  Plus I shared her with the two kids at my barn mentioned earlier.  I like the idea of sharing her, so this will be another repeat goal.

Get better at leg protection. I will divide this one into two parts
a) use the brushing boots and/or open front boots I own much more often
b) polos! I have one set and I am honestly pitiful at wrapping them  Truth be told, I didn't do this, but in hindsight the last three months were not a good time for this goal, as we're lucky to be able to do a good flatwork session most days, so it doesn't seem that necessary to do boots.  This one will probably be back in the summer.  
And because I love sharing him, here's my cat, continuing to be deluded into thinking he's a person.  

Goals for the Second Quarter (April-June)

Survive the next month and a half.  There are huge time commitments coming up on the personal horizon.  May especially will be no doubt roaring along at 1000 miles an hour, and I think it's only fair to myself to acknowledge that fact and try to do my best.

See to it the horse is fed. I think I've mentioned here before that Jazz is prone to bouts of diarrhea that can cause a sore, rubbed bum. I had the vet out on her last episode, and one of the new management protocols we're trying out is more regular doses of her probiotic.  At very least every 2-3 days she needs to be fed a dose of it, and luckily C will be able to help on some of the aforementioned crazy weeks.

Get the horse photo ready.  Some important photos are being taken with the horse very late May.  Make the necessary arrangements (trailer loading practise, thorough grooming the days leading up to photos, cleaning tack, etc.)
Casey is always photo ready. 

Try to get pony exercised.  I'm actually taking May off of lessons since I physically do not have the time.  I have someone in mind who I want to ask if they'd be willing, so if possible, she'll be getting a little training and exercise.

June: Advance.  Make some progress with riding.  More work in non-lesson rides, less messing around.  Get some momentum going heading into our busier riding time in the summer.

Edit: Keep it positive.  It's come to my recent attention that I am often not good enough at talking up my pony successes with my real life horsey friends, and I tend to overemphasize our difficulties.  Work on that.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Apparently I accidentally published this with no title and didn't notice for a couple days. Whoops.

In our last installment, Jazz was fresh off a great lesson.  I promised a story about a lesson which was now almost a month ago. Oops.  I'm going to go ahead and make this the last time for now that I make excuses and cite my insane schedule, blah blah blah.  From now on, I'm just gonna write about what I want to write about and get back to basics.
No farm visit pictures, so here's my cat, Casey!
I had a lesson waaaaaaay back on March 8 I want to talk about.  I arrived a little late, and didn't end up having time to lunge beforehand, the first time I had not lunged before riding since I started doing so a couple of weeks before.  Started with all the standard exercises, but the real showpiece was the canter.  Right lead was business as usual, but left lead quickly became World War III.  Jazz was having absolutely none of it, pulling on her martingale, popping mini-rears, the works.  I had so much trouble, my instructor popped a lungeline on her.  After she got a canter on the lungeline, I got back on and tried to get a canter on the line.  Jazz had a couple fits and ultimately ended up bucking me off.  She threw a couple crow hops and I ended up with my left foot out of the stirrup and over Jazz's right hip, and Jazz pretty much stopped there, so I just slid off the right side.  Luckily for me, Jazz really doesn't have much of a buck, I just consider it a side effect of the martingale (she'd rather be rearing), and she doesn't appear to want to throw me, just teeter me off balance enough that I stop pestering her.  After that episode, my trainer got on and had just as much trouble with her attitude as I was having, but eventually she did coax a left lead canter out of her.  I have to admit that I felt a little better seeing my trainer having as much trouble with my horse as I was having.

He's a very talented cat, capable of being a lump and coveting your dinner at the same time.

I had one other lesson before I went away for spring break on the 18th which went different than I expected.  I had another commitment that ran long, so I was running very late to my lesson.  Luckily my trainer is awesome, so she had my horse caught and in the barn for me when I got there.  We got her groomed and tacked quickly between the both of us, and I got to do the majority of my lesson.  We spent the bulk of my shortened lesson working on leg yields off the quarter line at the walk and trot.  It was mostly okay, but Jazz was getting lazy, especially towards the end.  Jazz likes to shut down and turn everything into a fight as soon as she decides that she's done.  I ended up getting the crop out to encourage the forward a little, and Jazz started doing little rears.  I brought her into a tight circle every time, and we eventually got a little co-operation out of her (luckily right at the time my lesson was supposed to end).  As a really great bonus to a successful lesson, my trainer even said it was the best she's seen me ride yet.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Bestest or, Forever Catching Up

I returned from my trip to New York about two weeks ago.  Since then I have had 2845939572943 things that I have fallen behind on, and blogging was honestly not high on my list of things I needed to do.  Better late than never I figure, so prepare for a somewhat out-of-date update. I came home to a beautiful pony that I missed very much who was also at least 98% covered with mud.  

Naturally I took many pictures. 
 I have had a few blog-worthy farm visits since then, but since the best one ended with my phone dying, I was unable to take pictures except for that first visit, so please enjoy the remainder of my photos from that day, only usually slightly out of context.
Mmm, fuzzy photos
 I got out Sunday after I got back (Feb 22) and lunged, wherein Jazz was a whole week of icy pasture and no exercise worth of crazy.  She got super sweaty and worked up, and soaked through both of my coolers.  On the bright side, I got to try on my new cooler (scroll down if you don't want to wait to see adorable horse jammies!), and it is smaller than my old cooler, which would not work for a turnout blanket but kinda works for a cooler.
Return of the demon pony eyes
 Then, I had a lesson scheduled for Wednesday the 25th, and my trainer asked if I was still up for it due to the cold weather.  I debated just skipping it, but decided to go.  I got there early, and lunged before my lesson.  Jazz was super well behaved on the lunge, so I hopped on to warm up. Once my lesson started, I did the usual kind of warm up, bending and counterbending on the circle at the walk and then the trot.
Heavenly pony sunshine halo
Next order of business was moving to leg yields on the quarter line at walk and trot, and I was super pleased with how well she's starting to listen to the leg.  Next she was doing well enough to get to canter! Because she was both out of shape and a tad bit stiff, we ended up cantering whole arena.  She was still not super comfortable, so my instructor suggested I try a half seat, and that made a huge improvement.  Overall, it was great fun, and there were several moments when we were cantering where we felt really in balance and together, almost like we were one body.  I found myself thinking of  Saiph and a post she made a few weeks ago about the Centaur principle, basically feeling totally one with the horse.
Sooooooooo muddy
Jazz was so good in fact, that my instructor suggested we try leg yielding off the quarter line at the canter.  Jazz was reasonably co-operative, but tends not to make as much progress at the end of the lesson.  She is much more easily flustered when she's starting to be done with riding.  We decided to turf the canter leg yields for the day, and I hopped off not too long after.  Jazz got a nice mineral and probiotic dinner for being the best pony evar, and since it was just us, I closed up the barn doors and let her wander loose around the aisle.  It was sweet to watch her chasing the kitties and trying to open a tin of what she believed to be treats (it was stale chocolate chip cookies that I think have been there since Christmas).
This picture weirds me out.  Jazz has an infinite neck.  
Overall a pretty great ride, especially since I was considering just skipping it.    I had another lesson today (March 8), but I'll save that story for another post.  Enjoy the following spam of a) mudbeard the pony pirate and b) pyjama Jazz!

Indoor arena lighting + phone flash = ghost horse


Happy time change everyone! Enjoy your extra hour of daylight pony time (if you can manage to stay awake, that is)!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Adventures in London- Part 4- Wednesday

Precursor:  An unbelievably busy few weeks in my non-horsey life has seriously eaten away my barn time, leaving me with no posts or pictures of interest to share.  In addition to that, I spent the first half of this week on a trip to New York City with a very full schedule.  I very nearly wrote a post about what I saw at the Met, but decided to instead resurrect another nearly-finished-but-never-published museum post from my drafts.  Enjoy! 

I really need to write these London posts already before I lose what little momentum I have left on them, so be prepared for less detail than my previous posts.  Also, almost all of these pictures were taken at the British museum, where I was apparently not very good at taking pictures of descriptions of artifacts, so excuse the occasionally vague descriptions.

First up is a group of some sort of stone slabs depicting horses.  I thought these were the plaster castings of carvings from the parthenon, but I'm almost positive the parthenon ones are below.  Your guess is as good as mine.  I'm about 90% sure these are Greek.  
Apparently they didn't teach convoys of horses to leave a horse-length between their horse and the carriage in front of them in ancient Greece.

There were also many beautiful examples of Greek pottery. This type of pottery was known as red figure pottery, because the figures were the reddish-brown color of the clay.  The pots were painted everywhere except where they wanted the people (and horses) to go.  This was a newer style that became popular after the black figure style, which was just the opposite.  The figures were painted in black paint, leaving details such as the eyes in the natural color, as well as the rest of the pot.

Okay THESE are the plaster castings of carvings from the Parthenon.

The concept of naked riding just seems wrong somehow.  This carving depicts the lesser known Lord Godiva.

As much as any horse is cute, this horse is not cute. 

Whenever my horse stops to scratch like this while I'm riding, my trainer calls it an emergency itch.

Maybe your horse wouldn't be acting up so much if you had your heels down.
This next one was from some other temple that escapes me.

This was one of the top ten pieces the map recommends you see.  It's map approved.
If I remember correctly, it's the head of a chariot horse from the moon goddess' chariot (I think)

Scary parrot mouth
Technically these next statues aren't horses, but my blog has a place for the awesome and hooved.  The section on Assyria had lots of great horses in some of the better preserved stone in the museum.
"Khorsabad The Palace of Sargon

This area Mainly contains sculptures from the city and palace of Khorsabad, built for the Assyrian King Sargon II (721-705 BC). The pair of human-headed winged bulls stood originally at one of the gates of the citadel, as magic guardians against misfortune."

"Attack on an enemy town

Assyrian, about 865-860 BC

A high official, wearing an ankle-length coat of scale armour, shoots towards an enemy town.  A chariot waits behind, while a vulture plucks at the body of a dead enemy."

"Crossing a river

Assyrian, about 865-860 BC

Ashurnasirpal's boat is rowed across the river and hauled ashore.  The royal chariot is beside him and his horses swim behind. An attendant draws the king's attention to the captured town that appears on the next panel to the right."

There were also many panels depicting the lion hunt, which I apparently did not document the descriptions of.  

The african art also featured horse-shaped objects.

As did the Asian art

See the horses?

This next piece is technically not horse related, but it's incredibly beautiful and so delicate it shook whenever someone walked nearby.  

"Gilt silver openwork and filigree crown inlaid with kingfisher feathers and hardstones (some missing)

Late Ming-early Qing dynasty, 17th century AD

The decoration of this ornate crown of 'cage' construction includes flower heads, flaming pearls, dragons and phoenixes.  It would have been worn by a lady of high birth.  

Not all the horses I saw were exactly what one might call conventional...

exhibit A

Exhibit B
I also spied this bit in the exhibit on ancient Syria.

"Horse Riding

This horse bit has large bar cheek-pieces for attaching the bridle and holes for the straps.  The knobbed snaffle must have been uncomfortable for the horse but enabled the rider to control it with the slightest movement of the reins. There are considerable signs of wear at the junction of the two rings in the centre, indigating that this object had been extensively used before it was buried."

I was not good at documenting signs to remind myself of which exhibit was what on the latter half of my museum trip.  So I'm fairly sure all these photos came from the area devoted to the areas around ancient Syria and Iran. 

"Stone relief showing horses

This fragment was originally part of a larger Assyrian relief showing a team of horses drawing a chariot. The Assyrians campaigned regularly in western Iran during the 9th and 8th centuries BC, and horses were among the items of booty that they particularly valued for their chariots and cavalry."

"The Cordoba treasure

Important hoards of silver artefacts were deposited in the Iron Age, and hte example displayed here was found by chance in 1915 at the Molino de Marrubial, on the outskirts of Cordoba.  The objects had been buried in a pit, the coins and two lumps of silver were in the bowl with the rest of the hoard outside.  The treasure includes a torc, eight armlets,the head of a brooch (in the form of a pair of horse's heads), rough lumps of silver and other fragments. The coins, 82 native and 222 Roman, show that the hoard was buried about 100 BC. Some of the objects are damaged and distorted, and the hoard might well have been the stock of a silversmith."

Last but not least of the artifacts was the Lewis Chessman, another of the museum's top ten.

"The Lewis Chessmen

In 1831 a remarkable hoard of carved walrus ivory was discovered on the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles, Scotland.  It consisted of 93 pieces and included 78 chessmen, 14 large gaming counters and an elaborately carved belt buckle.  Eleven of the chessmen are at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh and the rest of the hoard is at the British Museum.  When found, some of the chessmen were stained red. The earliest medieval chess sets appear to have combined red with plain ivory rather than black and white pieces familiar to the game today."

The day ended off really rather well with a tour of Buckingham palace! No pictures were allowed inside, but suffice it to say it was amazing.  We were allowed to snap a few pictures in the garden out back.