Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An outing

This weekend was the county 4-H horse show, and our friend C was showing English for the first time. (She ended up high-point rider for the day - maybe because she was the only one brave enough to take on the English classes?) Not only was it her first time showing English, but it was also Bubbles' first time - and the pair's first time in an over-fences class.

In spite of a slap on the wrist from the judge for lack of quite-proper-enough English attire (time to go tall-boot shopping!), I think they did pretty well.

Although they both looked a lot more comfortable in their more usual gear! And right at home heading through the gate on the trail course.

The bridge was no problem...

The worst obstacle of the day for almost every rider was backing through the triangle cone set-up.
Walking the course

The cones may be innocuous looking - but they were set pretty darn close together. For most of the bigger-bodied horses the 45 second time limit kicked in a bit too soon.

This little gal was the only Junior to tackle the trail course, and she had a challenging ride. I didn't get pictures, because I was busy along with the rest of the spectators holding my breath!

But she stuck with it, and came back to take a purple in the Western Equitation pattern - a tough pattern that only one of the Senior riders conquered. Pretty horse, and a gutsy rider.

Heading back into the ring
to hear the judge's critique after trail...

It's been a long time since my 4-H days, and I was really surprised by how technical everything has gotten. There were points off right and left for minor stuff, and apparently tapping a pole or a cone at all is cause for a DQ these days. Goodness! But I did like the (I think) local show attire requirement that had all the competitors wearing white shirts. A good way to keep costs down for parents and level the playing field just a bit!

Book Review: The Eighty-Dollar Champion

I was lucky enough to win an ARC of the book below over on LibraryThing courtesy of the Early Reviewer's group. I've collected a number of titles this way - it's a fun program, if you're interested in getting your hands on new titles before or just as they're published. But sometimes it's a mixed blessing - even when I'm careful to request only those books that look appealing, sometimes there's a real dud in the bunch. Not this time, thankfully!

ARC reviewed.

I grew up on Walter Farley and C.M Montgomery's horse stories, reading about throwing your heart over the fence so your horse would follow; about the look of eagles. In Snowman's story, I found a return to that feeling.

A true rescue, purchased for $80 off the back of a kill buyer's truck, Snowman found a home with an immigrant Dutchman and his family. Over the next several years the big white horse and his adopted family leaped to heights and fame, stealing the hearts of an American public ripe for a humble hero of the people. For horseman Henry de Leyer, dubbed the "Flying Dutchman" by the press, the big dirty grey horse dubbed Snowman by the de Leyer children would provide the chance to live out a dream. In return, his jumping days past, the gelding was allowed to live out his life in comfort - a far cry from the violent end he was bound for so many years before.

In spite of the typos (ARC copy), this is a charming, heartwarming story only occasionally rendered pedantic by the shoehorning in of some relevant but slightly distracting block of big-picture history. If you're a horse-lover, or know one, this rags-to-riches story of the small-town horse and his family making good on the national stage is a lovely one.

Published by Ballantine Books, it will be available on August 23rd, 2011.

Monday, June 13, 2011

How I spent my summer vacation, pt. 2: Trailer refresher course

Vaccinations and worming weren't the only thing I wanted to get done before the mares' departure date - they're both gentle and easy to handle, but handled on a regular basis they're not. And neither of them is exactly what you'd call a seasoned traveler. The total times they've actually been in a trailer? Cumulatively less than a handful of fingers worth.

So, I'd planned to give them a couple of practice loading sessions - more for Solitaire's sake than Star's.

But time wound down until there wasn't much left...

A pretty face hiding a lot of stubborn.

As I'd suspected, Miss Solitaire was not an immediate fan of the whole getting in the noise metal box plan.

We spent quite a long time
in front of the trailer
contemplating things.

And quite a bit more moving the feet in front of it.

It didn't take too long before the trailer started to look a bit more appealing.

Using the dressage whip to reinforce staying straight, tap-tap-tap...
Being a bright girl, she decided inside
was less work and less annoyance than outside.

Star - who spent a fair amount of time semi-patiently tied to the trailer - baled in and out like an old hand first thing. Whenever Solitaire made some progress, she'd get a break to contemplate, and Star'd have a turn at being the monkey-do part of the monkey-see, monkey-do equation.

"Oh, all right..."
And once she was in, hey, it wasn't so bad after all.
Lather, rinse repeat...

Align LeftUntil in and out were completely old hat.

Of course, the bucket of grain inside didn't hurt matters!

Once she was all the way on and standing quietly,
she got to take a bite before I unloaded her again.
It wasn't bribery - just reinforcement that the trailer is a GOOD place.

Total elapsed time, somewhere under 2 hours...

Good girl!

Of course, there's no guarantee when her new owner arrives that she'll be as cooperative, but all things considered, I'd call it a successful, non-traumatic experience all round. And an excellent lesson in why it's a good thing to have horses that load nicely when you ask them to - had there been an emergency, or some essential reason she needed to get in the trailer by a particular time? Yikes!

***Special thanks to my mother, who patiently held the trailer door the whole time in a very stiff breeze, and still managed to take excellent pictures. You're amazing, and I don't say it enough!

How I spent my summer vacation, pt. 1

A lot of this spring's melt ended up in our basement.

Thankfully, I have wonderful parents who don't mind giving up their time to assist in major construction projects, and what started out a wet, mildew-y mess of constant seepage...

Apparently the initial stages were too depressing -
I don't appear to have any pictures!

partway through

...ended up with a completely revamped basement. Removing two walls, blocking off a hallway to create this lovely bookcase, and putting in floating benches for added storage transformed this whole space. I felt like I was on one of those Home & Garden network shows! My dad is amazing.

Special bonus prize!

He also mounted saddle racks - I now have a lovely, dry space to store a LOT of tack.

In between helping us downstairs, my mom reorganized closets, dusted, cleaned and fed us - I'm exhausted all over again just thinking about how much we accomplished in the last several weeks!

On the pony front...

These two ladies will make a pretty team, don't you think? The last of the mares, they're heading for a new home this week.

Getting an EHV-1 booster and worming out of the way

I would have had the farrier out, too, but wanted the booster out of the way before we introduced any new germs, so they'll be going to their new home slightly long-toed, but protected.

I snagged a few minutes on board - Sunny has had almost a month completely off, and he's getting more than a bit tubby on all that green grass. There's some serious riding in his future, but unfortunately not for another month or so.

Sunny being a gentleman with my mom

I'd hoped we could get at least one trail ride in. Unfortunately, days just seemed to race by. They're back at home, and I'm back at work. Vacation always seems like a different world, even when I don't actually go anywhere...

Pictures soon...

It's been a wonderful and hectic couple of weeks around here. I had two weeks vacation, most of which was spent in the basement dealing - hopefully successfully - with a water problem. But there was time to spend a few hours out with the four-foots.

My folks were here, and my mom got some great pictures. She was also fabulous helping with a trailer loading refresher course with Star & Solitaire who will be heading for a new home tomorrow if all goes well. They're bound for a trainer to become a team, and will certainly be a flashy pair of blacks. Not quite exactly matched, but close enough to turn some heads, I think.

Pictures to follow!