Thursday, July 23, 2009


I will be leaving for vacation for 1 week. I may have internet or I may not. So if you don't see a post from me for a week, well you know that I don't. It's so hard to unplug!

Armani will be going to a show - without me! Expect a full update on that and more later!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Horseless Friday: Snapping Turtle Nursery

Recently I stayed home sick from work. I went out in the yard to sit in the sun. But look what I discovered! Two female snapping turtles were laying eggs in our lawn.

Our house is built in a pine swamp. Up until four years ago the woods went right up to the house. The previous owners cleared out four acres around the house to facilitate the sale. So I've surmised that these two ladies were probably born in the vicinity of our lawn, years back when it was a wooded swamp. Now they had returned to lay their own broods.

We also found this toad making tracks away from the snappers. He obviously did not want to be lunch. Can you see him?

There are two types of snapping turtles: Common, such as these two girls and Alligator such as my husband remembers from when he lived in Alabama.

Snappers can "snap" fingers and such. So I was careful around the girls. They came back many times over 5 days to lay more eggs. After they were finished we roped off the entire area to make a "turtle habitat". We didn't want the lawn crew to crush the eggs. Eggs incubate from 9-18 weeks.

A few days later we found a baby in the drive way. Obviously she was from an earlier laying. We brought her back into the swamp and she seemed right at home. Perhaps we'll see her again many years down the road.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Armani the menace

My mother says Armani's name should have been "Dennis the Menace". It is hard to emphasis this enough. Armani is a serious troublemaker. Yes, I know, many people have horses who are "trouble". They haven't met Armani. Armani is "that horse" at the barn. The one the other owners refuse to lead or have their horses turned out with. The one people walk all-the-way-around when he is cross tied. And no - I'm not proud of it. I'm proud that with consistent discipline he is better than he was.

Some highlights from his past exploits:

- He escapes frequently, often more than once per day. This is still a problem. Latches, knots, tall fences and electric are no obstacle.
- His vices are mares - especially "blondes" (palomino, dun...) - and food. He is a devil at supper time.
- After escaping one day, he jumped into the much larger stallion (now a gelding) paddock and picked a fight. Armani was slammed into a telephone pole fence post. It broke. The fight continued. I had to break that fight up all alone. Oh ya, and Armani tried again days later.
- He got bored while stalled at his first show. Undid a slide latch and a kick bolt and went for a romp around the grounds.
- At another show I was in the dressing room when I felt a nose in my behind. He had untied himself from the trailer and climbed half-way into the dressing room with me.
- He was a confirmed nipper when I got him. That's now better. For the first time, I let a child pet him at a show.
- Once I had him cross tied. I turned away momentarily. I let my guard down. When I turned back he reared and socked my nose.
- He is obstinate under saddle and he can argue all day. During one long argument he nearly knocked himself out by hitting a tree head-on.
- While I was on vacation last year, he wouldn't let himself be caught. When he finally was caught, he pinned the teenage barn girl against the fence and kicked her.

So it is with considerable trepidation that I answer calls from my barn owner. "Oh, Hi... Is Armani being good?... Oh, dear... Oh, no... I'm awfully sorry."

This time he had gotten lose. He alluded three people and got into her vegetable garden. He ate the lettuce but worse - he ate the tomatoes and broccoli too, she told me. Who knew horses ate broccoli?

My vacation is coming up next week. I dread the calls I'll get while I'm supposed to be relaxing on the beach...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Show Report: GMHA June Show - Saturday (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1...
I finished my lonely lunch of shame. Armani fell asleep. I guess he was feeling more relaxed with the whole show thing. I shrugged off my self loathing. I love being at shows and I was going to make the most of it. I spent the middle of the day wandering around, watching people I did not know ride. I saw some great tests and some bad ones. I took inventory of the male riders. I noted which were attractive, which were too attractive, and which wore rings. I even shopped for my mother as well.

I also noticed that for some people, dressage requires the same amount of prep as a Super Bowl. I saw many coordinated teams. The trainer and the "prep" rider wore headsets. Just before the class, the prep rider dismounts and the nervous owner is thrust aboard. A groom wipes her boots and adjusts her collar. Then after some parting words of wisdom from the trainer the horse and owner go through the motions. More often than not, the horse had a more unpleasant expression after the rug was pulled out from under him, so to speak. They would go through the test wringing their tail and occasionally resorting to hopping as the out-of-shape owner pants and flops about. Then as she exits in tears, the team is ready to support her and exclaim that it was the best ride so far.

I began to wonder if some horse people really are like used car salesmen. And I began to feel pretty proud of myself and other owners like me, doing it all ourselves and smiling as we lost out to major league teams.

My instructor finally arrive. That's right, I was a volunteer groom too. I followed her around with my magical bag of stuff: rubber bands, safety pins, tape, baby wipes, drinks - you never know what you'll need just before she goes in the ring. I observed that the ring I would be riding in was partly under water. I also watched a friend get disqualified after her horse shied at the water and left the ring. Hmm...

My mother arrive with a friend and my brother. I wasn't expecting my brother too. Finally, I had my own entourage! I pranced about with my chin up as we watched. When it was time for me to get ready, they offered to help. Suddenly I felt a need to "be my own man". "I'm OK." I insisted, "You guys watch the show."

I hustled through my process. Armani and were ready much too early. I was concerned about warming up too long and not having enough horse left. So we took things easy. When I found out my ring was running ahead, I happily told the steward "I'm ready as soon as you all are." The judge, probably just as happy to keep things moving, agreed.

I briefly considered a self inflicted "no joking at the judge before the test" policy. Na, I was doing things my way or be damned. "Good Afternoon!" I said. The judge was eating a pastry. Armani was drooling as he often does. "That looks yummy. And I think Armani is hoping you might share." I winked. She smiled and laughed. "He does look like an easy keeper."

We began our test. I rode as if I were at home. I didn't care of my corrections were subtle, I just wanted to make them and get things right. When I ride a test, everything else goes away. There was no puddle. My mother was not there looking nervous. My instructor was not watching shrewdly at E. My friend was not taking photos. My brother was not sitting nearby trying not to look bored.

As we left on a long rein, reality came back. My instructor, never one to butter me up, said it looked like a pretty good ride. My friend took some family photos. The scores were running late. So I untacked and let Armani relax. "You did well, Stinky." I told him sternly. "I suppose I won't ship you off to the sausage factory." A lady rider about to leave in her finery glanced at us with horror. "Yet..." I added ominously.

I kept myself away from the office for a while. We watched some more friends ride. I felt in my element. Finally, while my family made a potty stop, I slipped over to the office - alone. I needed to "man it up" again. My score was posted. I did not have to scan down very far. I was second in my very large class with a score of 63.93% - less than 1% behind first. Well I missed out on an engraved vase. But I was still very happy. I retrieved my red ribbon and my test.

"Capable pair." the judge had commented. She'd given us 7s on our canter, free walk, and halts. "Those are my favor things too." I said to myself. I met my family back at the bathrooms. Not one to boast, I kept my ribbon in my pocket until we got to Armani's stall. I nonchalantly hung it up. "That's not yours is it?" my mom asked in disbelief.

"No, I stole it." I pointed to the next stall. She looked upset. "Just kidding. Anyway, I guess we might as well hang it up." There were rainbows of ribbons up and down our isle. "Have to keep up with the neighborhood."

Next... Sunday... and a managarie of photos.

Show Report: GMHA June Show - Saturday (Part 1)

Continued from Friday...

After my leaving the show grounds late on Friday, I finally got home, ate, and slept - sort of. I still have a hard time sleeping on show nights, although it's getting easier every time. I'll post about some tricks separately.

My Saturday class was at 9:18am. Actually it was supposed to be on Friday. But did I mention that my entry had been mixed up? Yes, that was the first of many things to go wrong.

So I arrived at the grounds around 6:00. It was very quiet, except for horses eating and the scuttling of grooms. I made my way through the temporary equine city to Armani's stall. It quickly became apparent that I was the only non-groom in our little "neighborhood" that morning. Most were teenage girls. They moved nearly silently with down cast eyes. They avoided my gaze and mumbled (if anything) to my cheerful "Good morning!"s. They hurried about with pitch forks and buckets in blue jeans and muck boots.

My husband was out of town. My mother was planning (threatening?) to come watch later. My instructor's first class was not until 2. So I was completely on my own with my horse. For someone social as me, it was very disconcerting.

As it got later, riders and owners began to arrive. I could tell because they were already dressed and much louder than the grooms. I got dressed myself, in the middle of the isle. The bathrooms were far away and if I changed in my stall Armani would "help". People politely looked away. I heard two riders complaining about my next judge. "She expects to see Grand Prix at Second Level!" one shouted defiantly. Hmm... This doesn't bode well for us, I thought.

Our first class was in ring 4, far across the grounds. We were there just before 9. I watched one lady leave the ring in tears after her horse spooked and cantered on the wrong lead - twice. But I felt better as soon as I found that the gentleman ring steward was friendly. Some of the other riders eyed me cautiously as I asked him about the how the ring was running. I laughed "I hope you don't mind all my questions." as I entered the ring. He said "Oh we'll answer them until you are at 3rd level. And I expect to see you back here then!"

"You will!" I grinned.

As I walked up to greet the judge, Armani spooked at her booth. So much for pride. "Good morning!" I said cheerily and laughed "You don't eat horses, do you?" She vaguely smiled and shook her head.

We rode a pretty nice test. Much better than Friday's class. I was pleased. I knew we probably weren't perfect, but I was confident we were at least a 60%. People clapped politely. One of Armani's veterinarians had been watching and greeted us. The ring steward complimented us as we left. I was feeling quite flushed with pride as we untacked. I hustled to the show office as soon as the scores were posted. Thrilling with anticipation I scanned the list... down... and down...

There we were, in last place, just after the lady with the spooking and the wrong lead. Well at least she could feel better now. We had scored a 53%. Disheartened, I picked up my test results. The judge was primarily critical of Armani's self-carriage and contact. She hadn't liked his canter or free walk either; my favorite things. I ate my lunch alone with my horse. My lunch was perfectly packed and precisely planned to deliver maximum nutrition with minimal stomach upset. I can do anything I put my mind to, I insisted to myself. Was I wrong to think we did fairly well? Shouldn't we be able to do even better? I resolved to give my all on our next test....
Continue to Part 2...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Awards & Tags catch-up

I'm just a rider who happens to blog. It is an inverse relationship. The more I ride (summer) the less I blog, and vice versa (winter). So here is a little catch up. I certainly do appreciate everyone who notices this little blog. And I always want to say "Thank you!" and give a link back. Since I'm way behind, I won't tag anyone else. But if you'd like a tag and a link, just ask in the comments!

1) Thank you, Grey Horse Matters, for the "Honest Scrap" award!

She writes a wonderfully thoughtful blog about her's and her daughter's brood of horses. She also has a great perspective on topics of interest to the "aging rider".

2) Thank you, Behind the Bit for tagging me with the post "But enough about you..."! Stacey, a research librarian, writes about the two horses in her life, in addition to informative posts on equestrian topics. Her blog is by turns confessional, funny, and educational.

Unless you are interested in reading about me, the rest of this post might be a bit boring. It's OK if you skip reading my answers to the quizzes. Seriously, I won't cry, I'm tough! You'll come back next post, right? *sniff*

Honest Scrap Award

Ten things about me that you most likely don’t know

1) I love other animals besides horses. Particularly cats and spiders. I catch spiders in the house and release them outside - with my bare hands!
2) I am (mostly) fearless and like to try new things. But...
3) I dislike deep water. I swim poorly. And I hate getting water in my ears.
4) Despite that, I love sitting by the ocean and lakes... Just not in them.
5) I love high humidity and warm weather. Strangely, I ended up living in Vermont.
6) I stopped riding during college due to lack of funds. I only got back in the saddle a few years ago.
7) I do not have a natural seat or balance in the saddle. I'm tall, weak and top-heavy.
8) I feel like I'm more natural with horses on the ground. If I could choose only riding or interacting with horses on the ground, I'd choose the latter.
9) While in a mostly male college, I got into competitive Player-vs-Player video games. I still play occasionally.
10) I have a need to be the center of attention. I tell stories and make bawdy jokes. I dance in grocery store isles until my husband pretends he isn't with me.

"But enough about you..."

1. What are your current obsessions?

Work and horse shows.

2. Which item from your wardrobe do you wear most often?
My black Ariat brand clogs. They go with pretty much everything.

3. What's for dinner?
Ribs recipe from "Good Eats".

4. Last thing you bought?
I bought Ralph Lauren polo shirts on clearance at TJ Maxx and 3 "going out" dresses. I wear the shirts to the barn. Maybe some day I'll actually wear the dresses.

5. What are you listening to?
I listen to NPR a lot. I also listen to music on

6. If you were a God/Goddess who would you be?
I'd like some super powers. Perhaps flying, talking to animals, and vanquishing my enemies. Can I get a Goddess made to order?

7. Favorite holiday spots?
As young working people, we don't have a chance to travel much. But I'll be going back to Long Beach Island, NJ this summer.

8. Reading right now?
My husband bought me Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I'll read that on the beach. I've read the original naturally.

9. Who or what makes you laugh until you are weak?
My husband, the Gram Norton show, the Daily Show and Colbert Report.

10. Who's your Hero/Heroine?
I was asked this in a job interview once. I believe I said "Madonna!" and when they looked aghast I quickly added "oh and um... my mom."

11. What's the thing that always makes you smile?
My cat, "Baby".

12. Favorite Film?
Probably the original Star Wars trilogy for the nostalgia.

13. Care to share some wisdom?
Food is meant to be eaten. Never be afraid to try new foods.

14. If you were a tree, which one would you be, and why?
I'd be a white pine. It is tall, thin, and full on top.

15. Name fictitious characters who made a lasting impression on you.
Holy from Breakfast at Tiffany's. Katharine Hepburn's character from Bringing up Baby.

16. Four words to describe yourself.
Funny, intelligent, opinionated, educated. I don't flatter myself, now do I?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Show Report: GMHA June Show - Friday

Do something often enough and it starts to become second nature. So with considerably less trepidation than our first show, I entered my first recognized show - ever: The June Dressage show at GMHA

Among the other things I had to contend with:
- I promised to play "groom" for my instructor.
- My horsey friend from Connecticut was visiting.
- My mother was also planning to come watch.
- My husband had gone to his parents'.
- I was overworked and did not have a lot of ride-time that week.

Photo Caption: Armani and I ford the river on the way to our class.

Friday: we misplace our girth and ourselves

Friday we arrive with my instructor, who was showing 2 other horses that day. We were forced to park all the way across the grounds from our stall. I checked in and got directions. I found what I thought was my stall empty. I settled Armani in. Funny - no one delivered my shavings yet. I ran back to the show office and asked for some to be delivered. Then I hustled to help my instructor. After her classes, I had an hour to prepare for mine.

I ran back. Still no shavings. I asked to have more delivered. And I'd forgotten my girth. I ran across the grounds to her trailer, got the girth, and returned. When I was all tacked and about to depart a lady walked up to us.

"That's my stall!"

"I'm sorry." I said "But this is where I was directed. Perhaps there was a mix-up?"

"You're coming with me to the show office, now!"

Now normally I'm a pretty affable competitor, but I was standing there in my finery, half-way out of the door. It should have been pretty obvious that I was going to ride. "I'm going to my class now. I'm sorry. You'll have to go to the office on your own. Talk to (so-and-so) and tell them (me) sent you. I'll stop by the office afterward. Now please excuse us."

We tried a new thing for us: Dressage Equitation. The junior and senior classes and been combined. I chatted with a nice junior rider. Her Morgan was poised and quiet. Armani was high as a kite.
"She's only 5!" the young lady told me.
"Oh." I said. "Wow... Mine is 7..."

I thought we did well enough. But we placed 4th out of 4. But I was happy to have survived without tasting the dirt. My instructor was heading out. I loaded my stuff into my car. Then I drove back to the office.

We had taken the wrong stall. But the manager had set the lady up with the stall we were supposed to have. Well no harm done. I hope she enjoyed her 2 free bags of shavings.

By the time I unpacked and settled him in it was 8pm. As I left, I passed 6 ladies at the end of an isle sharing wine and laughing. "Now you ladies are doing things right!" I laughed as I headed out for the night...

Continue reading Saturday...