Friday, September 14, 2012

Thank you Lord for bringing me Rocky.

So things have been going pretty good in my life lately, something which is both surprising and amazing.  One of the reasons I feel this way has definitely got to be Rocky.

Once again I am late to the punch in reporting on how our show went, but it's a good way to introduce this post, so I forgive myself.  (Hopefully you forgive me too.  After all, remember the title of this blog...?)

Our last-minute show at Langley Riders went so incredibly well.  Like, better than I ever expected.  After the Willoughby show I figured that, laid-back as the Rock may be, he was still going to get a bit "spicy" in public and need a fair amount of work and exposure before we'd be successful at shows.  After all, his owner informed me that the last time he'd been shown was in 2011 at the Sporthorse show - in the halter classes only.

Well.  I was wrong.

He took to the Langley Riders grounds like they were his own home arena.  And we proceeded to kick butt big time.  We wound up with firsts in equitation and hunter under saddle (both of which were classes that, if asked which classes I'd specifically like to win, I'd have named - eq because it's judged solely on me, meaning that perhaps my eq isn't as bad as I expected??  And HUS because Rocky was bred for it!).  We also won the pleasure pairs class which was fun, I'd never done it before.

Then we placed second in discipline rail and third in english pleasure.

I have to say that I think I was actually the victim of a little bit of breed bias - in my favour.  This is a bizarre thing to me.  I have spent most of my career riding arabs and arab crosses and fighting the breed bias.  At this show, the judge was a QH judge, and in a couple of classes I feel fairly strongly that she purposefully looked the other way during some of our minor disobediences.  Discipline rail is a good example.  Early in the class they called for turn on the forehand, which we hadn't practiced at all (had never attempted, actually).  Asking Rocky for it confused and frustrated him and he began acting up.  (It was also the end of the day and you could pretty much tell he'd kind of had it.)  Anyway Rocky threw his little temper tantrum, and the whole time, the judge stood firmly with her back to us.  Then they asked for a counter-canter, which was something else we hadn't worked on - it took me a couple of tries to convince Rocky that the wrong lead was REALLY what I was asking for.  The judge awarded us a second place.  Maybe she honestly didn't notice, but I find that hard to believe.

Anyway.  The whole experience was fantastic.  I love this horse SO MUCH.


Warming up

In class

Picking up our ribbons!

Anyway.  All in all, a great day.  I was very happy with the people running the show as well, other than the announcement that show coats were usually mandatory - seriously, for $8/class, you think I'm going to crack out my $200 show coat??  No thanks!!

So I am looking forward with great anticipation to the Sporthorse show next weekend.  I sent in my entries so we're all set.  I decided to skip the halter classes and only show for one day, reducing my costs drastically as I don't have to pay for a weekend stall.  I'm showing in 2 english pleasure classes (19 and over, and coloured horse), 2 hunter under saddle classes (also 19+ and coloured), and the 19+ equitation.  I tried to enter the classes that would give us the best chance at success.

There is another show at Langley Riders the following weekend, a trophy show which could be fun but we'll see.

So I've been thinking a lot about what I'd like to try and accomplish with this horse.  In my mind, I am still an event rider, even though I've only really done dressage for the last *cough*decade*cough*.  When I first met Rocky I thought the same thing - he'd be a killer lower-level event horse, just on the strength of his temperament.  But... if my time in Calgary's jumperland taught me much, it's that jumping really isn't my thing.  Eventing appeals to me more than jumpers but in truth I think I'd always be battling my fears... which is fine when you have time and energy, but maybe not so much with my lifestyle.  Plus, truthfully, Rocky is not ever going to be much of a dressage horse.  Lower-level dressage, of course, because frankly I will always believe that dressage will help any horse.  But it will never be that easy for him.  He naturally wants to carry himself a bit downhill, with a flat-kneed stride.  So, I figure, why not play to his strengths and try AQHA for a while.  I worked at an AQHA barn in my formative years so while I have never personally competed with a quarter horse, I am very, very familiar with what they are looking for, and Rocky would be killer.  So... I think I've decided to give it a try.  After all, it's probably one of my strengths too... I am a very good show rider, I am great at finessing a fussy horse around a ring making it look like the desired "pleasure" to ride.  (Of course with Rock it doesn't take much finessing!)

I guess then that's our goal.  Next year I will keep doing the schooling shows and aim for maybe another Sporthorse show and try for an AQHA show - though I won't complain if I have to wait until 2014 for that.  They are super competitive so I definitely want to be ready.  In the meantime I may try to find an AQHA barn and/or trainer to hook up with.

I may also do some hunter shows, and aim Rocky toward AQHA hunter over fences.  But that won't be the focus.

It's so nice to have some goals, some things to look forward to.  With everything that's happened over the last year, I will take anything positive that I can get.  This horse is something I will always be grateful to have in my life, a chance I never ever thought I'd get in a million years.  I love you Rock!!

Me: "Rocky, let's go for a ride."
Rocky: "om nom nom."

Friday, August 10, 2012

Horse show time again!!

This post is super late but I did take Rocky to the Willoughby show last month. It was good. The show was PACKED... super busy. We got a 3rd in eq and a 5th in pleasure. Rocky was a bit high, did have one moment where he decided to just take off, but all in all not too bad. Although... pretty much every canter transition involved a minor crowhopping fit. Guess I know what we need to work on, lol.


So... looking at the pictures, I was actually kind of dismayed. I seriously lack polish, and it frustrates me. I know that it's because all the horses I've had in the last several years have been greenies, I've spent all my time trying to train them rather than work on myself. Well, now that I have a horse who will semi-reliably do what he's asked, I can concentrate on improving my own equitation and technique. I want to start lessons again soon.

 I am taking the Rockster to a last-minute show at Langley Riders tomorrow... my first show there. I think I'm going to have to break out the show clothes, all the pics I've seen from their other shows, everyone seems to be dressed up. At any rate it'll be good practice for the Sporthorse show in September. There's a show at Windsor on Sept. 9th that I may try for as well, just to get a bit more practice in before Sporthorse. We'll see.

 I'm so happy, though :) Things are still pretty crazy in the rest of my life, so it feels really good to have something like this to focus on.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Yet more crazy changes

So... if you read this blog regularly, or even if you only stop by once in a while, it may seem like my life is insane and all I do is bounce around like a lunatic. This would, in fact, be the case. Maybe it wouldn't seem so crazy if I updated more often, but in truth it probably still would...

Anyway a million things have happened since my last update. I am back in BC, working on settling in at a new place in Cloverdale. Somehow I find myself working a ridiculous job that was supposed to be a part-time, low pressure kinda thing, but instead is turning out to be 5 days a week and crazy. I'm not happy about it (the pay is abysmal) but for some reason I am reluctant to walk away and find something else. Who knows what will happen with that. In the meantime at least it's evenings and weekends so I get to spend my days with the boys... can't complain about that.

More importantly, on the horse front, I have several pieces of news that are much more interesting than my career (or lack thereof :D ) First, just as I was coming back to BC, Jessy asked if she could have miss Moira back. I was thrilled to say OF COURSE!! So they are back together and happy as clams. Moira looks great, I can't wait to see them showing again. Some pics of the SuperPony:

In other news, I myself am getting back into riding again too, and I am beyond thrilled :) When I first came back here, about 2-1/2 months ago, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I didn't want to own a horse, I definitely don't want that kind of responsibility right now. But I didn't really want to do a part lease or something, or even a free lease. I decided to just kind of look around and hope the right opportunity would present itself. And it has :)

A very nice lady approached me about riding her horse, a 16.1hh appendix QH gelding. Now as you probably already know, QHs are not my thing... I have spent the last several years with Arabs and TBs, particularly the hot and crazy ones. So needless to say I jumped at the chance! :D

 This is Rocky, and he is adorable as heck, and SO MUCH FUN to ride. I don't have to constantly worry that my horse is going to spook out from under me. He does what I ask, when I ask it - usually, lol. It's a strange and wonderful feeling!

How strange to ride a horse that's already trained, that doesn't have issues I have to overcome. Plus, he's just so cute!

Rocky with his brother Harley. Love! <3

Anyway... we are already planning to go to the Willoughby Saddle Club show at CVP on July 22nd. I can't describe how excited I am. If you recall, my last show was a dressage show on Gia that left me so dejected I thought about not showing again. To be able to just go and show without worrying is going to be such a treat.

All in all, there has been so much change that it overwhelms me often. It's getting better with time but I still have my good days and bad days. I am trying very hard not to focus on what I have lost, and instead look at this is a chance to start over and do what I really want. I'm trying to stay positive. I'm also very, very grateful for everything in my life, positive AND negative. It's what makes us who we are.

Hopefully I will be able to update more often, can't wait to document my progress with Rocky (going to start him over fences soon, maybe we can even do some horse trials next year!), and this blog has been seriously lacking in recipes lately ;) Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Just an observation...

Stella is just about 16 hh (maybe 16.1). A whole hand taller than Gia. But she doesn't really feel that much bigger when I ride her. It got me thinking... maybe it's something about the way I'm built, but I've ridden all sizes of horses and seem to fit them all about the same way. (For the record, I'm not terribly tall, 5'3". I don't know what I weigh anymore but more than I want to... plus I'm busty for my size...)

Anyway, examples:

Me on 14hh (Moira)

Me on 15hh (Gia)

Me on 16hh (Stella)

And me on 17hh (Sam)

Now, I realize that I tend to gravitate toward a certain type of horse - more of the Arab and TB type. That may be why the height doesn't feel different, if the body type is the same no matter what the height.

Anyway, like I said, just a random observation :)

Stella - the story so far

I knew Stella very briefly before she became mine. The first time I laid eyes on her I was blown away... the trainer brought her into the barn and I was immediately googly eyed. THIS was a fancy mare. I begged to stay and watch her go. It became very clear that she lived up to her stereotype as a "chestnut Thoroughbred mare" - hot and high strung. But a lovely mover when she relaxed, and not spooky to speak of... just a worrier. It was at this point that I was informed that she was for sale...

Fast forward about a month, and here we are. Stella has been with me for almost 2 weeks now, and I just adore her personality. She is sweet, friendly, affectionate and personable, but she is definitely hot and anxious under saddle. She longes meek as milk but as soon as you get on her, the energy level goes waaaay up and her busy brain takes over.

I think some basic dressage work will be very good for her... I feel like she was asked to do too much too quickly, and now she is always expecting to be hit with that same pressure again. I am focusing on lots and lots of boring flatwork, trying to get her to relax (she has a tendency to move a bit like a sewing machine when she gets tense - lots of up and down movement, not much forward). She is 100 times better at the canter than at the trot or walk. But no matter how "up" she gets, she doesn't make me nervous, because (unlike her predecessor Gia) she doesn't really spook at all.

Even in this quick video taken just after I got on, you can see that she really wants to curl up behind the bit. It's going to take a LONG time to get past that. For now, I don't really care how she goes as long as it isn't behind the vertical... so we spend a fair bit of time trotting around inverted, and I don't care because at least that way I have contact with her face.

You can see how inconsistent she is in this trot video (and also how agitated she gets - notice the snorting and bit chomping). I just try to stay as quiet as possible. Seeing this video made me cringe because HOLY COW I am posting all over the freaking place. Yikes. I really need to work on posting more quietly.

Anyway I wanted to show these videos as hopefully the beginning of our journey together. I'm in no hurry to accomplish anything special, so it might be a long journey, lol... but that's okay.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Welcome to Jumperland

Calgary is famous for the Stampede, a huge rodeo held every year. But if you know me, you know that I couldn't care less about rodeo... or cowboys... or country music (shudder). Instead, I am thrilled to now live so close to Spruce Meadows, a world-renowned show jumping facility that I have seen a million times on TV but never once dreamed I'd be able to actually visit.

I was able to actually go to the Masters, a huge international show at Spruce, last fall. Going there was overwhelmingly amazing. I didn't expect to be able to get so close to these riders who have always been my idols. Even the arena seating... you can actually sit right on the wall to the arena just like any other horse show. I wasn't expecting that.

At any rate, having Spruce as such an integral part of Calgary's identity means that the vast majority of english riders out here are jumpers. And I do mean the VAST majority. I personally am not a jumper rider, I've been almost exclusively a dressage rider for many years now. Dressage is a passion of mine. I evented in my younger years and it was fun, and Gia and I were heading toward the hunters, but it has never been my "thing". In the last several years I haven't jumped any higher than 2'6", and other than eventing (which I did through Training level which I believe is 3'3"), I have never competed in a jumper class. I've shown hunters, but never jumpers unless it was the show jumping phase of an event. And I haven't evented since 2001 or so.

So, needless to say, I am a big weenie when it comes to jumping :D

I have met up with a great group of ladies out here who all compete in the jumpers at various levels from 2' all the way up to actually competing at Spruce. Over the last few weeks I've ridden a variety of horses which has increased my confidence level greatly. They put on a weekly jumping lesson on Thursday evenings which has been a blast, and has really pushed me beyond my comfort zone, with various levels of success.

Robin and Sam at a recent jumper show

Me and Wall-E, my normal jumper night buddy

When in the midst of a group of riders, it's much easier to be brave :) While I've had my bad days (my last jumper night consisted of convincing three - count 'em, THREE - different horses that refusing was the best option), in general I've impressed myself by at least PRETENDING to not be nervous over jumps that I would never attempt on my own. Not that they were major, but when you haven't jumped in years, a 2'6" brush box is a pretty scary thing.

So I guess I am officially becoming a member of Jumperland, after many years in Dressageville. The other major surprise?

This is Stella. AKA Red Stilettos. And she's my birthday present.

How did this happen?? To be honest, I'm not entirely sure :) I had no intention of getting back into horse ownership so soon after moving. I am not nearly settled here yet! But here we are, and how can I complain? She is just so lovely. She's a 16-ish hh TB mare, 8 years old (if I recall). She was bought at auction, dumped by someone who really did a number on her. She's quite an anxious mare, expecting to be punished when she's ridden. Luckily my experience with Gia (and many other hot horses before her) makes me the perfect type of rider for horses like this. (Which is good because that always seems to be the type of horse I end up with, lol...)

I can't wait to see what we accomplish! Right now my goal with her is just getting her to realize that I'm not going to ask her anything she can't handle. I see lots and lots of boring trotting in our future, until she realizes she has nothing to worry about. And then... we'll see!

I will, of course, follow her progress here on the blog. A chestnut TB mare? Should be an interesting ride :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Change... will do you good

Guess it's kind of a good thing I named this blog "No Time to Blog"... that way, when I go months without updating, the title kind of explains why? :)

Yes? No?

Well, it HAS been months since I updated. And so much has changed!

I find myself in a very strange place. Where it is flat and dry and always sunny. And coooold.

Obviously I am no longer in BC. I'm actually in Calgary, AB, and if you'd have told me this time last year that I would be here, I'd have laughed like a loon. You DO realize it gets down to -20, sometimes even -30 in Calgary? And the snow...? And the wind....? No thanks!

And yet... here I am. I've been here almost a week now. Luckily, the weather has been quite welcoming so far, sitting between 5 and 10 degrees during the day, and between 0 and -5 at night. And beautifully sunny.

Other than the weather, it hasn't been entirely smooth sailing... when I arrived I was greeted with a plumbing problem so bad (so indescribably, disgustingly horribly bad) that, for the first 3 days we didn't have a shower and the toilet only barely worked, and then on the 4th day the toilet gave up altogether and we were effectively bathroom-less for about 36 hours. Needless to say I was a bit freaked out over this.

But it has been fixed and everything has been scrubbed with superpower-strength, harsh toxic chemicals within an inch of its life. And now I can take baths and showers and... well, you get the idea. It's a step forward.

It is taking a lot of getting used to, being here, and I admit that I may not have been handling it well. I never handle change well. But... today I met some nice people and got to go riding for the first time in months (I sold Gia and leased Moira to a riding school in preparation for this move... not an easy decision, and one I am still sad about) and I began to feel a bit more like myself.

The one person who is coping very well is Tiko. Don't know why but he's thriving here. He makes friends everywhere he goes.

It's been so gorgeous out that we take lots of walks. It's so different here from BC, or from home. Up the street from our house is a nice little park that actually has an outdoor ice rink. So strange and fascinating to me.

In my stress and freaking out over moving, I have been doing a lot of cooking and baking to pass time and try to calm and focus myself. I have a couple of recipe posts I want to do soon.

I guess that's all for now. I am trying to remain optimistic about the future, even though it isn't really in my nature :) But any change, especially change this massive, is hard on anyone. And only time will make it easier.

In the meantime... at least I'll enjoy the sunshine!