Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What a weekend

Armani and I spent Fri-Sun at horsey "boot camp". Well we were really at the GMHA show. It was our first recognized event. So it felt a little like boot camp.

A real post is coming soon; with lots of pictures. Unfortunately, my computer refuses to turn on and is awaiting a visit from Dell. A teaser:

- We attempted to set a Guinness Book record for "Greatest number of silly things gone wrong at the horse show".
- We made friends and shamed stuffed-shirts with our exuberant "bonne humeur".
- I was mistaken for my own groom (my imaginary groom).
- I disguised myself as a dressage princess with my entourage of family and friends.
- Though a daisy among orchids, we made light of our selves.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Armani's first jumping lesson

Armani's very first official jumping lesson, and my first one in 15 years, has been brought to you by:

I didn't have an assistant to photograph us jumping. Which is unfortunate because I dressed to the nines. Even George Morris was impressed. Ok, he regretfully couldn't make our debut. Or he might have thought my sky-blue plaid breeches with the navy full seat to match my new navy Ralph Lauren knit were a bit too much. But I got them on clearance, which in my opinion, can be justification for many things. I even polished my old field boots for the occasion.

I had told my mother about our lesson. So I called her to see if she was ready to come watch. "I'm busy now. Can I call you back in 5 minutes, Honey?" *click* But she didn't. Ok, so apparently she forgot about it. So much for our photographer.

It was also Huey's jumping debut of sorts. We made it a group lesson. A young lady who works at the barn rode him. Huey and his student did well. Although I expected that he would be a gentleman. But the big surprise was Armani.

Everyone could tell Armani enjoyed jumping. His ears were forward. He was alert and rode gamely. He snapped his knees up neatly. He did not even rub a rail. He was honest even though I felt rusty with my distances. We were the first to try each challenge. He rose to the last challenge of cantering an in-and-out with two two-foot verticals, twice, just to make sure it wasn't a fluke. I predict more jumping in our future.

It's like riding a bicycle.
Apparently my body still remembers how to jump; even though my brain was "Duh?". My lower leg was steady, my release automatic, my distances almost always accurate; as long as I didn't over think things. My instructor was complimentary. Although I think it is a testament to her teaching. My previous jumping lesson was 15 years ago with the same instructor. Back in those days she was the ringmaster as 5 young people careened over jumps with no stirrups or reins. It was all about laying a foundation.

"Remember that?" she asked as I dismounted.
"I didn't want to give you any ideas." I laughed, "Those were the days before anyone thought about liability insurance."

As I hit the ground I felt my back muscles fold up like an accordion. "Ouch. And I'm not as athletic as I was when I was 15." Time to hit the tube of BG...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Enjoy the show but leave Fido at home

I love when spectators come to a horse show. Whether they are a supportive horse-spouse, kids, parents, or pure spectators; I think the more the merrier. There are a lot of "rules" for behavior at a horse show: Calm voices, silent cellphones, watch children's fingers. Everyone I've seen seems to know those things already.

So I was sad to see this article (on the track in this case):

The horse, Rich Camelot, an 8-year-old Standardbred gelding had just completed a training jog when he was attacked by a dog Sunday (June 7). The horse bolted and struck a large metal trash bin. Although he was treated by a veterinarian on the scene, the horse died.

Of course, I don't know the particulars. Did the dog "attack" or did he just get too "playful"? But here is what I do know. I've seen dogs at every horse show I've attended in recent years. Most are leashed. But some are not.

Not all horses are "dog broke" and any horse can be unpredictable. Riders and horses are already under the pressures of competition. Vicariously, even the quietest, nicest dog can get carried away. A leash can break, or your normally quiet puppy may bark a lot in the excitement. In my opinion, the horse show is not a dog park. Enjoy the show, but leave the dog at home. Everyone, including the dog owner, would have greater peace of mind.

photo credit

My own recent experience
I've had a lot of dog encounters trail riding. Most recently a loose dog approached us. "Oh, he likes horses!" the owner shouted from the yard. The dog suddenly bounded happily into Armani's back end. Before I could react, we were off like a bullet. In moments, we were a few hundred feet down the road with Fido snapping at our heels, Armani leaping and kicking, and the owner vainly calling "Fido!" behind us. After a ways, Fido finally got bored and jogged back to his master.

The point is, Fido "liked horses". Maybe his master has horses, or Fido has seen them before. But any dog can get carried away. Armani has seen lots and lots of dogs. But any horse can react quickly and without thinking.

At a recent show
I saw not one, not two, but three un-leashed dogs roaming around the warm-up ring. I didn't want to be a "Dressage Queen" by going to the office and causing a scene. But concern for myself and my fellow competitors compelled me to act. I tried a more tactful (or passive-aggressive?) approach. I conversationally, but loud enough to be heard, spoke to a passing rider. "Good morning! Wow, a lot of dogs here today, huh? Does your horse like dogs?"

"Oh yes.", she said. "He's so quiet. They never faze him."

"Oh that's wonderful." I praised, "You're so lucky to have a horse like that." I started to raise my voice a few decibels, "I hope everyone's horse is used to dogs. Mine can sometimes get explosive if they get too close." I paused for effect before adding cheerfully, "He kicked one recently."

After I circled the warm-up two more times, I noticed all the dogs had mysteriously disappeared.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Show Report: Morton Farm Dressage

Armani and I just got back from the schooling show at Morton Farm, the Dartmouth College Riding Center. It's a nice facility; white fences and red barns. The warm-up is conveniently next to the show ring. So I was disappointed to hear that, due to low turn-out, this would be their last dressage show for the year. They will be hosting some hunter/jumper shows however.

This was our first outing of the year. We did Training-1 and 2. Armani was nervous and looky. But he remained under control. We scored 55.6% T-1, 2nd out of 4. Comments on contact and submission.

Between classes we had an hour long break. I was sweltering in my jacket. We retreated to the trailer for a drink and a snack. I was proud to see him starting to doze. How far he has grown from the wild youth I bought at auction.

We revived ourselves for our second test. We scored 56.5% T-2; 4th out of 6. Armani still had enough "spirit" to try to run off with me at the canter. More comments on submission. Perhaps we should take up endurance?

A confession

I've discovered how challenging it is for the "adult amateur". I got out of work late but I still had to clean, practice and pack the night before. After a fitful sleep, courtesy of an ear-ache, Tylenol PM and banishing my ever-supportive husband to the couch, I got to the barn at an uncivilized hour. Loaded Armani. Fortunately I wasn't driving and had a friend. But she was just as "on her own" as me. And it was her first dressage show. I found myself in the unfamiliar position of "experienced showman". Plus we traded off babysitting duty on the accompanying 7 year old. Between the lead rope and holding the kid by the collar (can you halter train children?) I didn't even have a hand to take photos. But seeing my friend's delight at winning her first class was worth while.

Oh and I always pack tasty treats, a la sophisticated "picnic" at the horse show. We sure could have used a hand. There was plenty of food. Will grooms work for food?

Another confession

(Puts on her fireproof suit.) The judge was someone I've taken lessons with regularly. There aren't many schooling shows in a day's drive. My horse and I both need mileage. We were offered a ride. I discussed it with everyone involved. I asked to be entered "hor concours". But the show secretary said that it wouldn't be necessary as it was a small, relaxed schooling show. The judge - trying to make me feel better I think - insisted she'd be "mean" to me. So I put on my bravest face and showed anyway. I planned to be honest if asked; though no one did. But in my own mind, I pictured a total stranger in the booth. However, I still felt a bit awkward. I've always prided myself as a friendly and honest sportsman. Was it immoral of me? Would you have minded if you were there? Or perhaps I'm being too much of worrier?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Maybe it is stress?

They say you will go gray if you work too hard. Perhaps Armani is trying to tell me something?

I've blogged about Armani's white hairs before. He's been developing more small spots and roan patches since. There is now a large roan area on his neck, and he has a white shock in his forelock. Perhaps he wants to look like a distinguished gentleman?

Actually, searching online revealed that these white hairs are fairly common. There seem to be a number of explanations out there. Discussion on Chronicle Forums

It sounds as though the factors that cause this are not really proven. They are what they are. Will they grow? Will they shrink? It'll be interesting to see years down the road.

Have you seen this on a horse? Did it change as it aged?