Saturday, August 29, 2009

Horseless Friday: Mount Ascutney

I climbed Mount Ascutney with a friend and my brother. Ascutney is a good day hike. It took us about 3 hours to reach the summit and 1 1/2 to walk down. We took the Weathersfield Trail. The Cascade Falls are halfway to the summit. The second half of the trail is steeper. There are a rocky outcrops along the trail with good views.

Little Cascade Falls form a deep gorge near the trail head.

Lichen grows on an uprooted tree.

Cascade Falls

Looking over the edge of Cascade Falls
Mottled rocks

An impressive boulder 3/4 of the way to the summit

Lichen and moss grow around a cairn near the summit. The trees are mostly stunted evergreens at this elevation.
The view from the West Peak

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Huey gets a shoey

Huey's name is great for rhyming.

Huey, hooey, pooey, phooey. Anyway...

Huey lost a shoe. Our farrier is retiring. So we spent a good 5 days trying to find a replacement farrier. We finally got one who came from 45 minutes away. Huey had never been hot-shod as far as we know. He fell asleep for his trim, looked up when smoke filled the barn, then went back to sleep. What a wild Thoroughbred.

Have you noticed how hard it is to find farriers? Like getting a plumber or an electrician. I could be eating cold Campbell's Soup in the dark, up to my behind in water - and I'd still have to wait.

When I was in high school, they encouraged us all to go into "intellectual" careers. The "safe" jobs of the future were in computers. Funny, I know a lot of computer people who are continually laid off. I know college graduates without jobs lined up. And give me 5 minutes and I can get someone from outside of the country on the phone to fix my Dell. But I have to wait days for a farrier to replace a shoe.

Think we were hoodwinked? Or am I waxing populist?

That lovely photo is from one of my favorite blogs Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog. Visit that link to read about the history behind the photo. It is really amazing.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Show Report: Dartmouth hunter/jumper

Armani and I went to our first hunter/jumper show at Dartmouth Riding Center. We'd been there before for a dressage show. I think Armani remembered the place.

It was a very hot day. Between rounds, horses and riders were lining up in the shade of the trees. Armani was very relaxed; a little too relaxed. I had to really keep him motivated. A few people complimented my "quiet" and "seasoned" show horse. My horse is a quiet campaigner? Surely someone had slipped him a few beers.

My long suffering husband accompanied us. He took photos. Afterwards, I reviewed them. My butt... my butt over a jump... my butt leaning into the trailer... my butt over another jump...

"It was boring." he said. I'll spare you those photos. Here is one of the front of us.

We got one 2nd, two 4ths, and two 6ths. There were a good number of riders in our cross-rail division on good horses. So I was pretty proud. I like the farm and the friendly atmosphere. We plan to go back.

Riding on the beach?

The sun, the surf..

The mud...?
I have always wanted to ride on the beach. A remnant of Hurricane Bill swept over Vermont the other day. It made a little "ocean" right here in the outdoor dressage arena. But it was a good opportunity to practice riding in water with Armani. I tried to hear the sea gulls and imagined margaritas were awaiting us.

The "deep end" of the pool was about 6 inches. Surprisingly, Armani didn't fuss as much as I thought he would. After our workout, we made a detour through a swollen stream. That washed some of the mud off of his legs. But his belly and my face were still covered. We both required showers. Don't people flock to spas for this treatment?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Record Number of Horses Surrendered to MSPCA; Assistance Needed

The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) at Nevins Farm is receiving a record number of surrendered equines and is seeking adopters as well as donations for the horses' continued rehabilitation and medical care.

Go to the MSPCA at Nevins Farm Website


Monday, August 17, 2009

What happens when I walk one way

...and my horse walks the other way.

I was leading Armani. He saw an irresistible patch of grass. I wasn't paying attention and got the rope around my hands. This is what happened: little rope-burns all over both hands.

They aren't too bad. But at the time it hurt badly enough that I thrust both hands into his slobbery water bucket to cool them. The little burns on my finger tips making typing challenging. Not to mention the embarrassment of making a "beginner" mistake. Now I know why they told me to always be careful with the lead rope in 4-H.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fair Report: Windsor County Agricultural Fair

Alternate titles:
"Dressage Divas gone wild"
"And now for something completely different"
"Ladies laissez-faire a la fair"
"Show horses shown-up"
"Flags???! We didn't practice this!"

We went to the Windsor County Agricultural Fair's horse show. A friend has been borrowing Huey on occasion. So Armani and I invited them. It was Huey's first time away from home since we bought him last year.

I thought it would be a fun, casual experience. We didn't have a clue what we were in for. We got the program when we arrived. Apparently we were competing in a gymkhana! Hmm - I wonder if we could pirouette through the key-hole?

Throw caution to the wind! We signed up for every event offered! We arrived just barely too late for "Egg & Spoon". Dang! We did Key Hole, Barrels, Flag Race, Pony Express etc. It was a very warm day. So after the first few minutes of nervous excitement, both horses snoozed between games.

We saw many quiet horses. We stood out a bit. The other horses were in western tack.

We met a few interesting people. We chatted with my barn-owner's neighbor whom we'd met before. We met a nice couple with a mother-and-son pair of Peruvian Pasos. We met another nice couple who were just there to watch. They said they watch many horse shows in the area. So perhaps we'll see them again. Armani liked getting his nose scratched by the lady. She had a dog brush with metal bristles. Guess what's on his Christmas list?

Both boys behaved very well. But boy were we shown up! We traded back and forth between second-to-last and last place in every event. But we had fun! Guess we'll need to practice before next year.

Armani runs around the barrels. At first he thought we run away from them.

Chugging to the finish line. Can't seem to find 3rd gear.

Huey hustles to the finish. He earned some praise for OTTBs from the crowd.
"What the heck is that?" 3.5 minutes on the flag race might be the new "World's Worst" record...
Huey shows Armani how we do flags.Happy losers

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Show Report: Xenophon Farm Dressage and Combined Tests

In this post, you have the opportunity to play "Judge for the Day"!...

We visited Xenophon Farm in Mass for their June 28 show. It was our first time there. It was also significant for two reasons:

1. It was our first show over fences.
2. It was my first time driving the trailer to a show.

We left in the early morning. We followed my instructor's rig down the interstate. She had three horses. Armani rode in my new trailer with his half-brother, whom she owns. Imagine, my first long distance haul and I was entrusted with a horse I don't even own! My husband kindly offered to ride down with me, so that I'd have another person in the truck just in case. The ride was relatively uneventful except that the young half-brother kicked at stop lights. Ugh.

It is a medium-small farm. The facilities are nice. But it was a bit crowded. They had 2 dressage rings in the morning, 1 in the afternoon, plus 1 jump field. In the morning there was no warm-up ring. Armani and I tried to warm-up in a 20-meter paddock they had open. The classes started at 8am and ran well into the afternoon - which made a long day for out of state travelers like us. But it was otherwise a nice place with friendly competitors.

Armani and I signed up for Training Test 2 and 2 foot jumpers.

First dressage...

Armani was very keyed-up for dressage. I got him under control but he was very distracted and his brother was whinnying. I was really disappointed by our score: an even 50% and last in the class of 10 or so - our worst score all season. But I knew we didn't do very well. Would you like to play judge?

So what do you think? Here's what I thought... The score was close to my guess. After the class I thought we'd get like a 55%. Armani is a naturally up-headed horse. You can see him bob his head a few times. He does that when he's nervous and distracted. More of a warm-up would have helped. I did have my rein shorter than normal. If he'd responded to my aids then I could have allowed him to take the rein contact forward and down. But I never had more than a half-pound of pressure in my hands. The judge's comments seemed to suggest I had hard hands - something of a pet-peeve of mine - so I was really bothered by that.

Oh and did you see him fart near the beginning?

But now on to jumping...
I was already bummed out from dressage. My husband pushed me, "I came here to see you jump." Oh no. Am I becoming a ribbon junky? Just looking for my next fix....?

...I felt better perched on my little jumping saddle with the other riders. I remembered my jumping days in 4H fondly. Armani popped over the fences well. He over jumped most of them. He didn't want to slow up. We just did the group "warm up", which was a bit like a demolition derby. It was exhilarating. I had "ears" in the crowd. Afterward they told me a few people commented favorably on my equitation. Well so much for dressage for that day at least. I happily concluded that we should do some more jumping.

Anyway, it was just a schooling show and we were there for fun and experience. The rest of the day I helped my instructor. Armani and my husband fell asleep at the trailer. I was happy to see them relaxed.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Horseless Friday: Hot Dog!

On Fridays I do a "Horseless" post. This Friday is a tasty review. I follow the blog of fellow Vermonters at Sugar Mountain Farm. They raise pigs and package family piggy products. I love to eat anything piggy. So I had to try their hot dogs.

I selected a package. I also purchased Vermont made potato bread buns. My husband and I shared our hot dogs with my mother and brother.

We cooked them in an iron frying pan. The casing is natural. It browned pleasantly and had good "snap". The dogs had an even texture. They were easy to chew but also had enough toothiness. The flavor of the pork was mild, slightly sweet and lightly spiced. The spices were a bit like mild sausage spice. My mother said they tasted "Christmasy". We tasted the maple and also thought we tasted clove or mace.

Toppings varied by individual preference. Being a good half German, I had mine with "the works": sauerkraut, pickles, onions, mustard - but please - no ketchup!

Everybody liked them. My brother who is notoriously hard to please, ate two. They were gone before I could take pictures. So I borrowed pics from the original blog.

Since we enjoyed them so much, I'm very happy to give them a "plug"! I bet they'd be even nicer on the grill or over a campfire. Next time! You can find out where to buy them if you click here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

New saddle?

I got Armani when he was coming 5. He was 14.3hh. Last week he turned 7. I remeasured him. He is convinced the stick will bite, so it's hard to get him to stand straight. But he is nearly 15.1hh barefoot. He's also gotten a good deal broader and stronger.

Before and after pics from last year. He's even grown since then, so compare to these pics from this year.

His saddle is the Windsor "Greenline" I bought for him originally. We've had it reflocked twice too. But over time it hasn't been sitting as well. At this point, I think the tree no longer fits. My instructor has been pressuring me to buy a new saddle. She says it is tipping me. Yes, I could have the tree tinkered with some. Or...

She owns a Windsor "Olympian". I've tried it a few times now. (After I practically had to pry it off of her! She loves this saddle so much you'd think it were George Clooney she was riding.) I love how I sit in the saddle. The seat is softer than mine. It has more substance in the pommel area, in front of my seat. Hartmeyer Saddlery is the only place that imports the "Olympian".

Armani's opinion

Armani loves air flocking. BUT - neither of these saddles come with air. The only companies I've been able to find with air flocking are Wintec/Bates ("Cair" is standard) and Schleese ("Flair" is an option).

I tried every dressage saddle in the Wintec/Bates brand. I did not like a single one. Though I do own one for jumping. I'd like to try a Schleese "Link", but no one sells Schleese near me. And I cannot find a used one with air flocking in my area.

What I'm thinking

I'm going to make some phone calls. I want to order a Windsor "Olympian". Then I'm hoping Anthony Cooper can install Flair in it. He installed Flair in a Windsor "Elite" for a friend. Afterward my old "Greenline" will go up for sale. More or less both saddles cost the same new. So if I can sell my "Greenline" for a fair used price, I won't have lost too much money on the deal.

Good idea? Sound crazy? I'll post more once I make some calls and see what the various sales people say.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Show Report: GMHA June Show - Sunday and picture wrap up

Continued from Saturday...

Sunday I arrived early hoping to fill a scratch in any Training Level class. Unfortunately, no such luck. So Armani and I rode around the grounds and warm-up ring. My visiting friend, was our personal photographer. She captured a lot of great pics. I have plenty of nice pics of us. But somehow I find myself drawn to the "bloopers". And so I'll wrap up my journal of the weekend with a picture mash-up.

Sunday in the warm-up ring


Armani has spotted a Fjord. He loves blondes.

Armani is heartbroken. The Fjord turns out to be a gelding.

My brother pats a dog in the audience.


On Saturday, Mom pats Armani, who mugs for the camera.

Just to prove we don't always look silly.
Is Armani planning to eat those flowers?

Halt at X.


White spot on his flank



Armani's bare feet

Looking over to the FEI ring

Talk to the hand

Watching the freestyles, my brother tries to not look bored

Armani lets me know what he really thinks of horse shows!