Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful

It's Thanksgiving 2015.  Today I'm thankful for:

- My family
- My friends
- My amazing horse
- My horse's amazing caretakers and their lovely facility
- My career which pays for this horse habit
- My truck
- My new-to-me trailer
- My farm's newfound gymnastics collaborative where we set jumps for each other and video tape our progress:


(excuse the last distance, we did it all again and nailed them.  So good!)

So, so much to be thankful for this year.  Life is blessed.  <3


NEW TRAILER!

So.....this happened last week:

Umm...YEAH.

Me

I got the truck this summer brand new, so I told myself I'd wait until spring or so to look at trailers.  I had a finite amount of cash to throw at a trailer, and enough to buy one outright, but certainly not a brand new gooseneck. And I wanted a gooseneck for many reasons most folks already know about, so no need to get into it.  But getting one on a budget means that I have to settle for either 8-10+ year old rigs, or a special circumstance.  So when that special circumstance popped up two weeks ago, I jumped on it and rode it all the way home. 

This is Adam!  It's a 2010 Adam 2-horse all-aluminum trailer that was custom built for its first owner.  The original owner was older and decided to stop traveling with her horses, hence her putting this rig up for sale.  Finding a 5 year old lightly used trailer in my budget was rare, so no way was I letting this one go when I stumbled across it online.  It's been very well kept and is a super nice little rig!  The horse area has plenty of room for Soonie and a buddy without being too big, and the dressing room (which is totally for me) has some very nice perks.

STAIRS!! And storage boxes! And a free mattress!

Walk-through door to horse compartment


So let's just talk about the stairs for a second....GENIUS.  The woman who owned it originally ordered those installed so she'd have an easier time getting up into the gooseneck.  At first I wasn't sure about them, but they are legitimately wonderful.  I've always loved a straight load over a slant, and since a side load or 2+1 arrangement was out of my price range, I was happy with this arrangement.  And I talked them down off the original price, so I got a relatively new-ish trailer AND the B&W GN hitch installed in my total budget.

Soon approved

THIS TRAILER IS BEAUTIFUL AND I OWN IT OUTRIGHT!  Time for all the adventures!




Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Action photos

Photos from Sunday's open house!  Soonie and I participated in the jumping demonstration and were on hand to answer questions about the Thoroughbred charity and the new Hero Horses program.  Beautiful photographs by Katherine A. Turnbull Photography.





Hero Horses

Since moving back to the Mid-Atlantic area I've had the pleasure of getting involved with a Thoroughbred charity and their budding veterans' program, Hero Horses.  It's just getting off the ground, and I'm really excited about future possibilities.  Currently they're offering periodic training days at the farm, where current and former military members can come out and learn about working with horses and working on the farm (and do so if that's what they're interested in).  They have also offered yoga sessions on the lawn and introductions to equine massage.

Not that they expect people to become equine massage therapists, but the general idea is to give folks an environment that is quiet and peaceful, where they can focus on their own healing or inner peace through the various activities offered.  The program is completely free and confidential, and run by part time volunteers.  So naturally, and since it is still getting off the ground, I see a lot of potential both for improvement to existing programming and introduction of additional programming if we can get the volunteer support.

One program that has me extremely excited is the use of round-pen techniques with veterans.  Round penning techniques have different names depending which "Natural horsemanship" or "horse whisperer" school one follows (such as Monty Roberts' "Join-Up" or Clinton Anderson's "Method" or Parelli's "Crazy Town Circus Show," whatever that's called)....I think us more practical types just call it "groundwork."  

Personally, I'm a fan of Buck Brannaman's techniques.  Also Warwick Schiller's groundwork techniques, as he seems more practical, down to earth, and not insane marketeers like some of those previously mentioned in the above paragraph.  Ultimately, good groundwork is just a solid understanding of the equine language, and proper application/timing of pressure and release of that pressure.  It's a great training tool, it's something I've used for year when I first start working with any horse, and it can have huge benefits for people as well.  It's about establishing connection and breaking down barriers.

The military and the government agencies tasked with supporting veterans are struggling with how to best address and correct the rampant trends of suicide, sexual assault, and other issues such as depression that are taking a massive toll on our military members.  Equine-assisted therapy is becoming more recognized as a legitimate way for folks to heal, to find solutions to what is troubling them.  Saratoga War Horse is one organization that is using round pen/groundwork and retired racehorses to help veterans.  Check out the videos below to learn more about their program, how/why they started, and the work that they do:


You can also view the full, 27+ minute HRTV documentary about Saratoga War Horse

Those in charge of our Hero Horses program are interested in my idea of doing something similar (though on a smaller scale), probably a two-day clinic offered at different times throughout the year.  We have the horses that would benefit, we have the round pens, we have the people who want to help.  Now it's probably just a matter of working out the details/logistics and making it happen.  If we can get it going, I want to invite our base leadership to experience it, so they can understand it and help spread the word.  We're a military-rich area, a horse-rich area, and I feel like this could be a useful initiative that could potentially help a lot of people (and horses!).

For many years I've been wanting to combine my love of horses (particularly the Thoroughbred) with my love for the military and those that need help.  This looks like a fantastic opportunity to do just that.  I'm hoping to contact Saratoga War Horse in the near future and ask about training for additional volunteers, to see if we can establish a relationship with their program, network, and benefit from their knowledge in this very unique venture.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

NOOOOO!!-Stirrup November

Every time I sit down to blog recently, my mind goes blank and my motivation goes out the window, so I end up with a "this is what we did today.  Yay." summary post.  So, to my handful of followers, I apologize profusely for the dry and somewhat routine info.  Someday if I have time and energy, I want to blog about the following things:

- the recent Swiss ban of draw reins at FEI competitions and a very fun, lengthy discussion on the current and future impacts of the animal rights movement on horse sports (seriously, I'll try to pare down my 60+ page thesis to a readable blog post for you)
- Sweet Sixteen: my riding goals then/now
- Maturing as a horseman and how priorities change
- Getting involved with a Thoroughbred retraining charity and their new veterans program

So on to that boring summary stuff, Soon and I rode in the dark a couple more times this week.  Which you will note...I said during the week which means I actually dragged my sorry ass to the barn after my crazy work schedule IN THE DARK and rode IN THE DARK.  That means I'm motivated!

Since it was near 80 degrees yesterday, I elected not to do much with Soon when I got on.  He's got a full winter coat and I really didn't clip as much as I could have, so asking him to work hard probably wasn't going to be super comfortable.  But I still made it productive because I figured that was a perfect time to pull my irons and finally participate in No Stirrup November for the first time in like 10 years.  So no stirrups in the dark = "motivation, wow!"

Item A: photographic evidence that I did in fact yank my stirrups off my saddle
Now, I'm no stranger to working without irons, I grew up doing the equitation so we regularly had lessons without our irons.  Back then we also had No Stirrup September, since our state and regional medal finals were mostly in October.  So if you were in that program, Fearless Leader Trainer took your stirrups and you didn't see them all month.  At all.  Ever.  I kept regular no stirrup rides up as a pro as well, because it's good to do.  But after my two-year hiatus from riding and coming back as an ammy, I haven't worked much without my irons and that needs to change.

I felt ok trotting around.  Actually I think I felt great and very solid (pleasantly surprised at my no stirrup skills after such a long time), and was able to get Soon forward and round, but I could only do a couple of minutes before I called it a night.  I am very unfit.  More motivation for me to get back into my gym routine...which was going well until my last trip.  So I'll be getting that going again and I think things will come together pretty quickly.  I see plenty of no stirrup work coming this winter.

In other news, Soonie and I are doing a jump/grid demo tomorrow for the farm's open house.  That should be fun.  He was great through it last week.  I figured today would be good to do a simple line and put one of the fences up a little bit to give him another confidence boost prior to tomorrow.  I don't think the grid will get bigger than last week (which was pretty tiny, barely 2'6"), but if it does I didn't want him going a few months not having jumped anything over 3'.  So I set a steady three stride line, popped through it low to warm up, and went through it a handful of times.  I think we ended somewhere around 3'3" or 3'6".  Easy peasy. 

Just doesn't look that impressive in a photo
In the grand scheme of things, I've not done a lot of height with Soon, he's never been over anything more than 3'6" (and that we've only done a couple of times), but I think he actually has scope for much higher.   He feels the same over that as he does over smaller fences.  He uses himself very well.  He sailed over the Novice log cabin like it wasn't even there, he was hardly trying (my rusty eye is assuming it's Novice, it could be Training?  Eh maybe not).  I'm excited to be able to focus more now on lessons, and challenging him more both with course complexity and height.  He could potentially be my Low A/O jumper after all, who knows!

Also, I am totally stoked that my office is allowing me to try a modified work schedule on Mondays/Fridays (insane events/visit permitting).  I'll go to work at 0530, clear out the paperwork with nobody bothering me, go ride around 1000 or 1030, and be back in the office by 1:30pm to work until things are done, probably around 6pm-ish.  Longer overall day, but I can go directly to the gym after work, or directly home to dinner without worrying about going to the barn afterward.  And of course this allows me to ride two more days during the day, with daylight and warmer temps!  It's just a trial for now, but fingers crossed that this will work out.  I don't always love my job just because of the insanity of it, but I do absolutely LOVE the people I work with.  They are the best.

That was weighing much heavier on my mind than I wanted to admit to myself, because I was visibly upset/annoyed by it, and once we sat down to discuss options and came up with this solution, my attitude about life improved about 400%.  It's somewhat scary that riding/training has that much affect on my happiness.  I'm very thankful though that my colleagues are willing to be flexible for me, couldn't be more grateful!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Grid day!

I was so happy to hear that some of the folks at the barn were doing grid work today.  I was even happier when Soonie and I got to join in on the action!  It's hard to do grids/gymnastics on our own, it's so much nicer with other folks helping as ground crew.  We haven't done much grid work in the grand scheme of things, and I'd like to change that.  So when I was told they try to have regular jump days now where we set grids and courses for each other, I was pretty tickled.  Regular gymnastic sessions outside of lessons?  Wow, things ARE getting serious! ;)


Today's grid was a Jim Wofford Special: a set of four trot poles to a cross rail, 19' to a vertical, 20' to an oxer, and 18' to another vertical.  The goal here was adjustability, to help the horse set himself lengthen and shorten on his own.  We started with just the trot poles, and slowly added elements one pole (then jump) at a time until the whole line was set up.  Both Soon and his jumping pal were spectacular.  No issues through the grid whatsoever, which is great considering that we really haven't done grids consistently....ever. 

Full grid in the background
And given his minor breakdown over trotting four trot poles (set on a circle) in the warm up area, I was even more curious to see how he'd be through the grid.  We worked through the trot pole/circle issue and got his confidence back up before heading to the grid.  He was foot perfect through it, and I was reminded how adjustable he over fences, and how much he seems to love it.  Pole work he could take or leave, but the jumping is way more fun for him.  He felt great today.  :)

He was pretty chuffed with himself
Also...fingers crossed for lights!  There may be a chance to get some lighting installed so we can at least flat in the ring at night.  Please oh please oh please...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dancing in the Dark

First off...having just witnessed American Pharoah's brilliant Breeders Cup Classic win, I have to say it: WHAT A HORSE!  I just sat there grinning like an idiot, what a truly memorable and moving performance from a truly great horse.  We won't see another like him for some time.  I am thrilled for all his connections, and happy that he came home safely and capped his brilliant career off with a huge win.  What a privilege to witness this story.

So on to me...I went back to the office this week and with the changing seasons (and tomorrow's time change), this is my new reality for riding after work:



....that's right.  Darkness.  Darkness everywhere.  The one downside to this facility is that there is no indoor, and no lighting.  I knew that getting into it, and made the choice to board here knowing that I'd have to figure out the winter riding conundrum at some point.  I've lived in this area without an indoor before and survived several winters, but I was riding full time and did so during the day, when it was warmest and the ground thawed.  So now I'm left with a very serious issue of how to ride during the week with a very time-consuming full time office job, where my schedule is not my own.  I know other people make it work so there has to be a solution.  So far my options are:
  • Ride first thing in the morning (will be difficult when things get cold and the ground gets frozen)
  • Go to work early, leave early (HA!!!!!!!) and ride before the sun sets (not likely)
  • Go to work early, take three hours around lunch time to ride, and stay late at work (ideal for riding for light and temperature, but I think the office schedule/dynamics will prevent this from being a regular option)
  • Ride at night in the dark and learn to love it 
That last one Soonie and I have already done twice now with success.  With the barn lights on and the barn door open, I can see (barely) to the end of the arena so we were able to do flatwork without much trouble (and by "much trouble" I mean he could see, I kind of couldn't, but we lived).  It actually makes me focus much more on feel, which I guess is good?  Just very, very different.  Soon didn't care; the first night was kind of freaky with the deer bounding around in the nearby field, but we got over that with very little drama.  That said, soon it'll be too cold to leave the barn door wide open so I would still need to find some work lights to use outside if I'm stuck riding at night no matter what.

And to be fair, last night I did stop at the end of the ride to enjoy the view of the night sky.  Can't say I've ever done that before.  There was something about sitting on my horse's back and looking up at the stars that was especially peaceful and memorable.





...I just hope I don't have to do that on a regular basis, that's all.  

In other news, the farm is home to a Thoroughbred retraining/rehoming program and is having an open house next week.  I'm assisting with that as well as with their budding veterans program, so I'm pretty excited about that.  I got asked to do a jumping demo with Soonie, so today I set up a ground pole exercise, a simple crossrail and vertical to start popping him back over stuff, since I don't think we've jumped in at least a month and a half.  He was spectacular, as usual.  He gave me some lovely lead changes on the flat, was mostly steady and soft over fences as well (with another lovely swap when asked for).  He did try to take the flier to the first canter jump, but was low enough where I made him wait and eat it; one chip got the point across and he was very adjustable and much more patient to the rest of the fences.  We only did a handful of jumps, as I'm hoping to do more tomorrow.  Then flat this week (in the dark?) and quick refresher over fences on Saturday, and we should be very civil to the jumps for Sunday's open house. 

Perfect horse is always perfect

Monday, October 26, 2015

Back to Business

I just spent the last six weeks down in Alabama for work. This was the longest I had been away from Soon, so it was sort of an experiment to see how we both did.  I had a good friend ride Bubba when she could, so he got done a couple times a week while I was gone, and got a little extra downtime. 

Final report card:  B-, both of us.

I was okay since I was busy with classes, and assignments, and all that professional development shit, but I think my attitude took a turn around week three.  I stuck it out and did well, but I would have preferred regular pony time.  I am spoiled.  Sue me.


Soonie made it a full seven days (the longest I've been away, coincidentally) before he got Time Out.  Apparently he started cribbing like a fiend, nonstop, after those seven days and could not be convinced otherwise, so they had to slap a cribbing collar on to get him to knock it off.  I've avoided those with him only because I put one on him for about a month back in 2013, and he WOULD. NOT. STOP. CRIBBING.  It's like the strap caused more anxiety and he would honestly ignore his food in order to sit there and hang on the wall.  He was seriously unhappy and lost weight.  So he's gone without the collar ever since and been ok, but they didn't want him cribbing that much with the fall weather and the increased risk of colic.  So Dunce Collar went on and apparently he was fine with it!  Great success!

Derpy Derp
It's a different design collar and I quite like it, actually.  It's effective and he seriously hardly attemps to crib with it on.  There's a big block under the throatlatch that engages well to prevent the actual sucking of air, and the collar itself is made of wide, thick leather that has yet to rub him at all, which is nice.  He's going to stay in it until he can prove that he's over the incessant cribbing phase now that mommy's home (if that was even the issue).  If he has to live in it for awhile, I'm fine with it.



Also, I got home after the long 13-hour drive, dumped my stuff in my house, got changed, and went to go ride Soonie (because priorities).  He's been spectacular and feels great!  We've had a couple of fun hacks out in the woods (he practically dragged me to the woods, he apparently likes crunching through leaves or something), galloping around the farm, and even a very polite and lovely dressage school yesterday.  He feels the good kind of fresh, so I think the mini vacay did him good.



Unfortunately I came back from the Deep South to find a furry yak in Soon's stead, and I may have overreacted slightly...

Literally me
So yesterday, my first full day back, I bathed, clipped, and pulled Soonie's mane...


...so Horse no longer looks feral and homeless.  Productivity, yeah!


Monday, September 7, 2015

Saddle Demo Discussion - Hold on to your butts!

You know...so I posted this the other day, then took it down thinking I didn't want controversial/negative feelings from those I know who may read this...and then I realized there's nothing negative about this post.  And if I can't post thoughtful discussion on my blog, what's the point?  So here we go.

 Tad Coffin came out recently to do a saddle fit clinic and demo.  First off, let me first thank and compliment him and his staff for their generosity and professionalism in coming out to speak to folks about their product, and doing such a thorough demonstration.  They have a great desire to inform and educate, and that is extremely admirable.  This was truly a wonderful experience and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had it.  If you're thinking of having him and his team out, I highly suggest it because some horses will probably benefit from it.

I'm somewhat familiar with his theories regarding saddle trees and their design, as well as his innovations.  The folks at this barn have had particularly great luck with his saddles and their performance on their horses.  They swear by the tree allowing more freedom of movement, relieving back soreness, and having the potential to transform horses.  Now I don't consider Soon to have back issues - he has always been willing to come forward and bring his back up.  He has a well-developed topline (for his training level) and strong back thanks to a lot of systematic schooling.  He has not been sensitive to the touch or reactive during back palpation.  I was strictly curious to see if there was a big difference in his way of going in the Tad Coffin Performance Saddle, as there will come a time in our future when a new saddle is in order, and I'd like to educate myself on our options.

And truth be told, even after the demo, I don't know if I'm any closer to a decision on buying the TCPS or not.  My jury is still out, and it's going to take a longer look and lots of demo rides for me to be convinced that this is the correct answer for my horse.

Tad did a lovely and very thorough discussion of his beliefs regarding saddle design and fit.   And I honestly agree with every one of them.  He backed it up with photos and anecdotes from his test horses and how they improved using the technology he developed.  He compared his technology to the seemingly antiquated design of other saddle trees used today.  It was a well thought out, academic discussion and very thought-provoking.  They were also very upfront with some "preposterous" statements that they made, and how they were going to prove them.  I can't remember all of them, but here are a couple:

- Saddle fit needs to be based on the dynamic, moving back of the horse, not one standing still in the crossties.  Yep, I agree with that.
- Because a correctly traveling horse assumes a similar, common position in motion, these saddles will work on every horse.  Nope, don't agree with that at all.  Maybe that's just me being stingy and old-fashioned, but I've read enough reviews to know that not everyone has success with these saddles, just like not everyone has success with any other saddle on the market today.  Not every horse is completely the same.  They are all individuals and there are cases of horses not going as well in these as they do in other brands.

But one point he and his staff highlighted during the talk was that if the horse is moving freely forward, using his back, and was traveling free of tension, then "you're golden!"  And I thought to myself, Well, this makes me feel slightly better about my current saddle and that I'm maybe not a completely horrible person, since Soon has (in my amateur opinion) checked those boxes.  I honestly felt pretty relieved because I know I've put a lot of thought and effort into developing Soon carefully and as correctly as I could, and based on that guidance, my saddle was working for him.  That was until we got to the barn and it was Soon's turn.

Tad examined him visually and then felt his back, and actually told me that he hadn't seen a back that sound on a Thoroughbred in quite some time, and that was rare (yes I was very pleased to hear this from him!).  The back looked strong and Soon wasn't reactive, until he got to the lumbar region and there was some sensitivity with stronger pressure.  Hmm, that is something to watch.  And to be fair, Soon and I had taken a walkabout during the height of the activity that ended with him spinning around and rearing (!!!!), so that may (or may not) have had something to do with his tension.

Yep did this only not on purpose and definitely not magical

Tad put his saddle on and proceeded to ride him for about 35 minutes.  I think the scientific method part of me wished that he could have seen the horse go in his normal saddle with normal routine, make observations, and then try the TCPS.  Or vice versa...either way, see the horse with the old tack before trying the new.  That said, he was extremely generous with his time, and put a great deal of effort into each horse he rode.  Like a true horseman, he didn't rush the process and let the horse tell him how long they needed to work.  And yes, he absolutely rides my horse way (WAY!) better than I do, I'm the first person to admit it!  Soon got lovely and soft and swinging.  You can see Tad's ride on Soon in its entirety below:


And my ride on him immediately afterward (clearly I am not going to the Olympics any time soon):

One thing Tad noted during all of his rides on various horses was the "lightbulb" moment, in which the horse acknowledges the freedom the saddle is allowing in his back and the horse relaxing into it.  That's when they start to move more freely forward, start lifting the back more, etc.  This seemed to be about 10-15 minutes into the ride, depending on the horse.  Some got there faster, some took much longer depending on their individual issues.  I was told Soon's not moving as well in the very beginning of the ride was back soreness...The only contention I have with this is that I don't think I've ever seen a horse come out of its stall, off the trailer, or even out of the field and being as loose and forward as it is after a thorough athletic warm up.  They're athletes.  As athletes, we all have a specific warmup routine that is designed to get the body ready to perform.  So while yes, I know there is that "lightbulb" moment for horses that aren't used to experiencing freedom in the back or aren't allowed to use themselves correctly (either due to riding or tack limitations), all horses still need to warm up.  I think expecting any horse to come out and look as good in the first minute of the ride as they do 20 minutes in is pretty unrealistic, honestly.  Again...my amateur opinion.



SO. LOVELY!

Equally lovely.  Tad Coffin ladies and gentlemen


He was lovely when I got on, but also keep in mind:  he had just been ridden by a Gold Medalist who has a knack for bringing the best out in horsesSo I don't know if he felt great because of the saddle, or felt great because of Tad's excellent riding, or felt great because he was actually warmed up...But I found it interesting he mentioned that he felt Soon only had two positions: very long/low, or up and short, and didn't have anything in between, which is where Tad wanted him to be.  That's funny, because a lot of the work my trainer and I did last summer/fall was all in getting him moving up and out, because he was kind of stuck in that poll-level-with-withers outline.  Soon usually loves a more huntery outline.  Another interesting comment was, "He doesn't move like this in your CWD!"

I don't know...doesn't he?









And maybe that's me being a dull-witted curmudgeon, I don't know.   Also, it's worth noting that I had a dressage lesson the day after the clinic, and I was not excited to see that Soon was visibly back-sore that morning.  Very sensitive to the touch and flinching at even the lightest pressure, which he has never done.  That could simply be due to him going in a different saddle for the first time in two years.  Or because Tad had him really using himself for a longer period than Soon is used to.  Or maybe that was due to the Airs Above The Ground shenanigans from the day before.  Or maybe (maybe?) it could be because the TCPS actually did make him sore.  Or maybe a combination of those things, I don't know.  All this testing and trial is due to the fact that horses can't talk.  And I can't pass judgement (for or against) the TCPS based on just one ride.

Let me also state that I am open to new and/or unconventional methods!  If I sound skeptical about any of this, it's not because I'm afraid of what's new.  As a runner (jogger), I tried nearly every shoe, piece of equipment, training, and therapy option out there to deal with severe shin splints.  And after over a year of trial/error/doctor visits (and specialists telling me to just take up swimming), do you know what I found worked best for me?  Barefoot running.  As in completely barefoot, no shoes whatsoever.  It's the only way I can run consistently, comfortably, and injury-free.  Been doing that for five years with no major injury.   Put shoes on because I had to for work, ran regularly in them, and shin splints immediately developed.  I know that one trial experience does not mean that piece of equipment is the solution.  So many shoes I tried felt great in the store.  I had so many running specialists tell me that shoe was going to solve all my problems.  Only weeks and miles later did I realize they weren't right for my body.  BOTTOM LINE:  I'm not afraid of an unconventional, outside the box solution to a problem.  I guess my issue with the saddle is that I'm not sure there is a problem in the first place.  

Yes, I am seriously considering a Tad Coffin saddle for Soon, but not before I ride in one over a longer period of time and better observe/compare Soon's way of going in both that and my CWD, and now well he does in the TCPS over time.  Thankfully there are a couple (both close contact and dressage varieties) available at the barn for me to try when they're not otherwise being used, so hopefully we'll be able to take a closer look at them and whether or not they're the solution.  Because the asshole amateur in me is saying that my CWD is not as awful as they want me to believe it is.  I have two years of a horse that has not been back sore and has not been moving crappy telling me he's ok with it.  But if in our trials he tells me that he loves the TCPS, then that is the way we'll eventually go, and at that point I will be happy to do so.

At the end of the day, I am beyond thrilled to have a double Olympic Gold Medalist ride my horse and have my horse look that amazing under such a great rider.  Tad is a truly gifted horseman, a wonderfully soft and talented rider who could probably get on a sawhorse and make it look like it's going Third Level.  He and his team are also very passionate about their saddles and improving the lives of horses.  I sincerely appreciate them taking the time to come out, to teach and demonstrate their technology, and giving so much of themselves to the attendees.  Yes, I have my reservations about this saddle and whether it will work for Soon, but I'm open minded and will be interested to see how things go from here.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

MOAR PHOTOS!

Here are a few more photos from our interview.  :)







Finished Interview! :)

 Public Affairs finished the video feature on Soon and me! :)  I cannot thank them enough for the opportunity and the love they poured into this project.  I think it really showed.  It's difficult to capture things in a short clip, and they got all the important parts in to create a beautiful piece that I am very proud of.  I'm feeling extremely thankful and blessed to show the world how wonderful Soonie is!  :)

Captain Equestrian
Captain EquestrianAirmen are so much more than they appear in uniform. Airmen come from all walks of life and Captain Lindsey Colburn of the 11th Wing is no exception. Captain Colburn has been flying way before joining the Air Force in equestrian sports.Produced by TSgt Nick KibbeyPhotos by SSgt Chad StrohmeyerAssistant Videographer by SrA Jeff Lander
Posted by Joint Base Andrews on Friday, August 28, 2015



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"They've earned it."

As a teenager, I idolized the riders competing in the "Big Eq" (major equitation) on the A-Circuit.  I fawned over show results in The Chronicle, I followed top horses and riders, and worked like a dog at home to hopefully be as good as that some day.  I did the equitation on the state and regional level, wishing it was the big time.  Those big name riders and their famous equitation horses were major celebrities to me.  Missy Clark was like a goddess in my Equitation Dream World.

But let's talk about one horse and rider combo for a second:  Sarah Willeman and Grappa.

James Leslie Parker photo

These two were the epitome of classic equitation in my eyes as a teen.  Sarah was (I am sure she still is) a lovely rider, with the perfect build, feel, and style.  She was matched by her equally talented and stylish partner, Grappa.  Grappa's record in the equitation world is almost unimaginable:  in ten years, he won seven national equitation championships with various riders, in addition to many top ten placings and major equitation titles at top horse shows across the country.  He was, and still is, a living legend in the equitation world.

Meet Grappa:  Grappa Retirement Video

So color me thrilled when I stumbled upon Sarah Willeman's website not too long ago, and discovered that he's living the high life in retirement.  Willeman's former show stars appear to all be retired with her on her home farm in New England.  The old guys are fuzzy, barefoot, and outside as much as possible.  They go hacking.  What a lovely thing to see such great horses, beloved by so many of the sport's fans, doing so well after life in the show ring and being horses.  Hats off to the Grappa Lane crew.  I don't know Willeman or her family or staff, but they certainly seem to have priorities straight.  The horses look incredible, and even at 28, Grappa still looks stunning.  I'm sure lots of top horses get retirements like this, I hope they all do.  It's just extra special to see horses you followed for several years doing so well.  These horses gave a lot to the sport and the fans, it's gratifying to see them given so much in return.  I hope Soonie looks that good at 28!  ;)

Grappa Lane:  Retirement with a view

"It’s a good life, and they’ve earned it."

Interview Photos

Here are some of the photos the crew took from our public affairs interview.  They are beautiful, and I told the photographer he has a future in equine photography if he's looking for any side jobs!  ;)