Thursday, November 26, 2015


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


So.....this happened last week:



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


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...