Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It's not often that I brag about my major...

It's not often I brag about my major. Generally, I tell people "I have a useless degree."

It's kinda true. Really, as a major, Equine Science is not likely to land you a job. At Murray, you don't actually have a major, you have an area- Animal/Equine science. That means you don't have a minor, and it also means you're grouped in as an Agriculture major. And it also means you get to take a lot of classes not directly related to equines...

I grew up as a member of the upper middle class, from the suburbs of Chicago, graduating from a high school aptly nick-named "Preppy Ridge" by our rivals. I thought FFA (that's Future Farmers of America, in case you're like me) had gone the way of the dodo bird, and the closest class PR offered was "child development."

So, when I signed up to be an Equine science major, let me just tell you. I had no. idea. what I was getting into.

Lets just say that on Day 3 of "Intro to Animal Science" when Doc Davis, a man who was skinny as a bean pole, stood well over 6' tall and had a handlebar mustache and southern drawl that almost required a translator, hefted a black trash bag onto his desk, I couldn't begin to fathom that he would pull out the entire reproductive system of a cow. Clearly, unattached to the bovine donor.

...I'll let that sink in for a moment....

Doc Davis could also jump, flat footed, from the floor the table he taught behind, ate chalk on a regular basis and washed it down with Coke. Yes. He's still alive. No, we're not sure how.

Anyway, what brings me to this subject is that today, I decided to install a dimmer switch in our living room. I had asked my brother to do it and then decided I would just do it myself. I called him when I ended up with an extra wire and he ended the phone call by saying "I'm impressed that you managed to do this yourself!" Now, before you go all independent horse woman and defend me, I routinely call Vince for things like "Will you google soandso for me, my computer is being slow." or "I'm lost downtown and don't know which way is north." as well as "I'm at Nippers Corner and the engine fell out of my car." or "I'm at Judy's and my brakes quit working." So he's pretty used to me being whiny and completely UN independent.

So, when he said that, I simply replied "Well, I learned how to do it in college." He missed a beat and said "really?"

What, don't most majors learn how to wire a light switch? No? Huh.

I got to repeat that line twice more- once to the guy at Home Depot and once to Amy when I was on the phone with her.

Then it occurred to me. Being an Ag major really teaches you SO MANY different THINGS. I'm not going to go all FFA on you (yeah, it still exists, and it's a pretty impressive organization.) But why should I try to sum up what they have already done for me? Here's their mission statement (I edited out the word agriculture several times, to impress upon you the things it teaches, despite its relationship to agriculture):

FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success.
To accomplish its mission, FFA:
  • Develops competent and assertive leadership.
  • Increases awareness of the global and technological importance of agriculture and its contribution to our well-being.
  • Strengthens the confidence of students in themselves and their work.
  • Promotes the intelligent choice and establishment of a career.
  • Encourages achievement in supervised learning experience programs.
  • Encourages wise management of economic, environmental and human resources of the community.
  • Develops interpersonal skills in teamwork, communications, human relations and social interaction.
  • Builds character and promotes citizenship, volunteerism and patriotism.
  • Promotes cooperation and cooperative attitudes among all people.
  • Promotes healthy lifestyles.
  • Encourages excellence in scholarship
And their motto: Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.

I never really jumped on the FFA bandwagon, I grew up in 4-H and understand it better, but as an ag major, you pretty much learned how to be an FFA advisor, so you embrace the above, whole heartedly.  I guess being in ag doesn't so much teach you one vocation.. it teaches you how to be a person. 

A quick gander at the curriculum for an Animal/Equine student at Murray reminded me all the classes I had to take.

I learned to weld, wire a light switch, put together a small engine, lay block, survey land, plant a garden or landscape a building.

I had lessons on how to balance a ration, we learned how to make spreadsheets and websites, as well as write a resume, thank you letters and how to interview for a job.

We discussed current events, learned to teach, do research, work with small and large animals, do minor surgery, manage a farm, make and follow a budget, how to identify and test soil, how to write a speech and give it... with confidence.

How to make a plan and market it, parliamentary procedure, cattle insemination, how to work independently and not take no for an answer...

There is really nothing we don't touch on in school... and maybe just because it was my major and I don't know what other majors learn, but by golly, being an Ag major is pretty stinkin' cool.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Leslie Law: Day 2

Today was a good day. Doc was hyped up out of the stall but settled nicely into his typical "holding" shape, as I struggled to improve him, Leslie asked if "he could have a sit on him." I couldn't get out of the saddle fast enough. "YES! Please! How many holes should I drop my stirrups?! Can I get you a tea?"(Okay, so not that last part, but...)

Doc made him work for it a little, too, but of course, he ended up getting some really excellent work out of him. He had him lifting and using his back and his back legs really flexing under him. After he rode him for awhile he got off and actually took my hand and showed me how I should be using my inside rein to supple him while pushing him through. That was absolutely brilliant for me. I need him to come over everyday and remind me how to do it.

When I got back on the change was amazing. Doc was very mobile in all of the parts of his body and super springy. He had me do a lot of giving and taking of the reins and then stretching- Doc would drop his nose all the way to the sand but still be "boinging" through his back. I hope I can remember the feeling and manage to recreate it effectively. I was able to actually ride with my hands UP! instead of pulling down and back! Wow! This I've been trying for forevvvver!

-Even though he feels like he's behind my leg, he's not- it's just because he's holding. It's not that he needs to go more forward, he just has to let go through his back and neck and then he will feel as though he's going more forward as he's stepping out more.

-Put him in the shape and ask him to believe it- until he does.

-Horses like Doc are like ducks- on top of the water, you just see a smooth picture, gliding along... but underneath his feet are paddling furiously away!

He liked Doc a lot. He was a little disappointed when I told him he was 11. :) Said he was a trier and had the right disposition- which is 50% of the battle. When he cantered him he remarked "oh, this is quite nice, huh?"

First exercise: same 5 9' poles as yesterday. He quickly raised the jump and Doc was very readable. The first time through the poles he wanted to charge through a little. The second time, he  charged over the first two poles and then balanced back nicely.

-After that, as Leslie said "That rhythm is carrying you to the first pole very nicely, isn't it?"

Next exercise: small vertical with a little cabin filler underneath, on the circle, to practice landing on the correct lead.  Practice opening rein to have him follow hand around on the circle.

-"You have to hold your body. It's okay to miss. We all miss. I miss a lot... but I don't advertise it to the world by tipping my body." So there.

Next exercise: liverpool with a small oxer next, again riding off a short turn on a small circle.

 -Short turns allow us to ride to a deeper distance, creating a better jump. Again with the leads, the horse following the our hand around on the circle.

-Everyone has straightness issues, its something you have to work on all the time. It just only gets as bad as you let it get.

Next exercise: short course of a 6 stride bending line around the corner, halt, about face, back to a 5 stride rollback turn (just like where we had our run out at MTPC!).

Doc was great down the first line, the second line I rode in a steady 6, landing, taking a step and then making a sweeping turn. That whole "land and do something" thing coming back to bite me! The second time I was able to open my left rein, make the turn and do it in an easy 5. The arena was freshly drug so I was able to see my tracks after I finished and actually compare the two rides.

My leg position was much better today- maybe not in the grid, but Leslie made mention of it over the other fences- I think when I rode I little more forward it made it easier for him to jump out in front of me. The late-night tidbit from Heather to shorten my stirrups a hole didn't hurt either. ;)

I got lots of good comments about the Docster from different people which was nice.

I consider myself exceedingly lucky to have ridden with three different 4* riders this year and have a trainer who prepared me to ride competently and represent myself well with all of them.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Leslie Law, Day 1

Ok, so, a brief rundown of things I took from LL today:

First exercise: five poles set 9' apart. Then last pole up to a fence.

Second exercise- simple placing pole, jump, placing pole. Spaced the same on either side, jumped up and then down.

Third- "Good" four stride line that ended up being tricky, riding in a short 5 or long 4 due to uphill, deep sand, "first line-itis" etc. Around to a four, to a two.

Everytime you put change something with a TB, it's like putting a cold hand on your back- their reaction is back down, head up, run. You have to keep at it until your leg "warms up" on their sides and they relax and supple.

6-8 good steps and then a transition is far better than 21 steps that continue to decrease in quality.

Down transitions to fix the balance.

Lots of lateral work to supple them into your hand. Riding the head is no good because anytime you ask for a change- like... turn off centerline... you're screwed.

Placing poles to require the horse to place his feet correctly between each pole and maintain their own balance to stay out of trouble.

Eventers like to jump with the arc beyond the fence (for XC), so asking the horse to make the bascule correctly over the fence will keep the poles up in SJ.

Practice riding courses. "Any moron" can get into a grid and ride out of it, at the end of the day.

My lower leg still sucks- he had me raise my hands up- even though I wasn't balancing off of them, carrying them low still gives me some support through my reins, and lifting them makes me find another source- aka my lower leg.

I need to be able to think on my feet faster- if he's short to fence one, ride the smaller stride down the line. If he's forward and balanced, ride it on through.

When my position is better in the air, I will be able to land more organized and carry on quicker. Right now I spend the first stride after the fence getting my bearings and instead of making good decisions.

For my own reflection: I still like to be super passive on Doc. His canter is so balanced that often I just sit there and wait for the fence to happen. This happens most when it is an exercise requiring accuracy, I figure he'll sort it out. I need to ride off my eye and not just sit like a lump on a log. In the words of Kyle: "If you see a distance, ride to it!" "Maybe I don't see a distance?" "You're right too often to for me to believe that." JUST RIDE THE HORSE, LAUREN.

My wonderful group! Me on Doc, Becca on Merlin, Andi on (the other) Doc and Chelsea on Wally!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Are you where you thought you'd be?

S'bout time for my yearly blog post, don'tcha think?

Someone posted a thread on the COTH forums asking where you were compared to where you thought you'd be at this time, and it got me thinking. (Enough to post a blog, even!)

I think I spend a lot of time thinking about how I feel like I'm scrapping my way along and feeling somewhat sorry for myself that I don't have access to big $$ and nice horses and sponsors etc etc, but alternately, I find myself INCREDIBLY fortunate to be where I am. I have excellent students that I truly enjoy being around, very supportive friends and family, use of a facility that is lovely and beyond my wildest dreams and access to wonderful instruction.

Most recently, I was graced with the opportunity to own a horse that I thought would be way out of my league and I'm patiently (ok, ok, maybe not so patiently, but not because of him, just because I'm frustrated with myself!) learning to ride a much classier animal than I'm used to. Exactly the step I needed at this point in my career.

I have to remind myself that a VERY SHORT time ago, I had no eventing experience and would have been happy to make it around a BN event without an unlucky stop. (Oh, Ari...) I was lucky enough to take Ari novice and get around clean at his last show before lameness caused his early retirement, which, as devastating as it was, put me in a position to move on to a horse that could move on up the levels. Timing is everything...

Four years ago, I bought an unlikely eventing prospect out of a cow field in Amish Country- now I have an incredible horse who I've brought along myself who willingly drags my uneducated butt around training level events and keeps getting better the more I learn. She was just broke enough to start eventing about the time I had to give up my leased horse.

My leased horse was a mare who was far nicer than I needed and more technical than I probably could ride, but brave and honest to a fault and I was able to cruise around a couple BN and N learning the ropes with a horse who was not ugly or dirty. Exactly the ride I needed at the time.

I took Lyra to our first event in April of 2009. I've come a long way since then, in hindsight, including bringing another youngster up to BN level from scratch in a little less than a year, reminding me how much fun the early journey is, and encouraging me to keep improving the quality of the horses I'm riding.

It's a weird dichotomy, don't you think? Professionally, I'm so far ahead of what I thought I could ever have. Riding wise... on one hand, I have no standing goal of "Oh, I want to go to the Olympics!" or "I want to do a 1* by the time I'm 30." But on the other, I want to go as FAR as I can, as FAST with that I have available as I can without being dumb or dangerous. Every once in awhile I have to step BACK and look at what I've done and gained in a short time and the amazing opportunities that have come my way and know that it will all pan out the way it should....

*anxiously taps toes*

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


My favorite bridle!

Bobby's bridles are great quality at a decent price and look good, whether you take care of them or not!

Both of my brown show bridles are Bobby's (well, most of pieces are, anyway), and a lot of my students have them also. The leather is great, the padding looks wonderful and they tend to fit true to size- my horses actually wear HORSE size, not cob!

Murphy and Jazz sporting their Bobby's bridles.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Best of Craigslist, take 2!

Remember this awesome warmblood mare from my last Craiglist bashing post?

She actually looks kind of nice now!

She may be a nice horse for someone!

Then, there is this guy.

The ad reads:


Incredibly, this horse is a whopping 18.5 hands tall.

With renowned breeding, Roman horses are rare and according to a quick google search, the horse conformation and breeding expert, Virgil, states this about them:

"From the first, the foal of a noble breed steps higher in the fields and brings down his feet lightly. Boldly he leads the way, braves threatening rivers, entrusts himself to an untried bridge, and starts not at idle sounds. His neck is high, his head clean-cut, his belly short, his back plump, and his gallant chest is rich in muscles. Good colours are bay and grey; the worst, white and dun. Again, should he but hear afar the clash of arms, he cannot keep his place; he pricks up his ears, quivers in his limbs, and snorting rolls beneath his nostrils the gathered fire. His mane is thick and, as he tosses it, falls back on his right shoulder. A double ridge runs along his loins; his hoof scoops out the ground, and the solid horn gives it a deep ring."

Here is a photo of the breed standard:

Thankfully, he is 100% coggins free, and the vet must feel pretty strongly that he is because he was given an incredibly rare certificate stating his coggins-ness-less.

As most 18.5 hand stallions are, he is as gentle as a St. Bernard.
He also loves to be Barebacked.

(Other images that comeback when google searching "bareback" are not appropriate for ANY eyes... of course, in this area, anything is possible.)

So, anyone looking for a nice project horse, whip out your checkbook and get ready for your 18.5 heathen to come home, corral, wagon and all!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Super exciting weekend!

Amy came out to give a clinic on Saturday, and I think we ALL had a great time. I was super excited about all of my students improvements during their lessons, so I thought I'd give them kudos for their great moments:
  • Amanda on new horse Zara jumping 2'6" for the first time confidently (and maybe 2'9"!)
  • Shannon cantering jumps on Pumpkin flawlessly!
  • Leslie trotting over crossrails on Sam in good style!
  • Kelly starting to "put it together" on Scout and understand adjustability!
  • Jess understanding available energy on borrowed horse Clair, jumping 3'3" from a trot!
  • Kellyanne SOARING over a 2'9" oxer on 14 hand Pumpkin- both of their biggest jumps to date!
  • Olivia getting the right lead on Major on the first try! Lets keep it up!
  • Tori and Snickers keeping up with the BN group in the clinic even though she was nervous about it!
  • I should mention that Rion trotted over his first cross rail and we saw the first glimmer of "getting it" on his very last effort. :)
Special thanks to Amy for making it all happen!

Amanda and Zara!
Kellyanne and Pumpkin at their first show together a few weeks ago
Tori and Snickers over a big coop at Butlers Bend!
 I also heard that Miss Ansleigh had a great time at the clinic she attended today, jumping a 2'6" course on HER new horse, Classic, while little sister Diana rode Ibn around in the grass, and I'm assuming, cantered in the open! 

 We also tried a new horse for Hannah today, a super cute polka-dot pony named Apache, who we are hoping will be a good match for Hannah to event and just enjoy riding, and Hannah's mom to trail ride!

Plus, earlier this week, Julia had her first jumping lesson on Cowboy and he took to it like a duck to water! Look for his eventing debut this spring!

 AAAAAAND lastly, huge congrats to Panther Springs Riders at Flying Cross- Megan had a FUN, CLEAN XC on red-headed wonder, Mia and I'm told Stacy had a great, clean round on Doc.

Congrats to ALL my friends and students on a fabulous weekend!

Friday, September 16, 2011

T3D: Fun things!

Of course I've been conditioning all summer, that's part of life with a draft cross, I found, but I'm definitely logging more saddle time on Brandy now than I have previously. In fact, I'm doing my 20-minute post-dressage hack as I type this with my right thumb. Not kidding. Anyway, the neat part about that statement is that that means I'm not desperately trying to keep Brandy on the bit with both hands as we hack. Which means she's walking. Flat footed. Which actually has never happened before. I think it's a combination of 2 reasons- I did notice a vast increase in her willingness to walk when I started riding her in the Micklem bridle, and I also mentioned to Amy that I hoped the more hacking I did with her, the more she might understand that it's okay to Just Walk. I'm hoping that is finally the case!

I am fortunate (?) that Brandy's normal walk is quite forward, so there is no kicking her along, but IF she's walking and not jigging, her gait is usually quite animated- something that would look nice... Oh, say, pulling a cart. Imagine that. But today she walked like a normal horse on a loose rein! That makes me happy! Roads and tracks will be much more pleasant if she keeps that up!

The other fun thing is her dressage. She's no grand prix horse and definitely not a warmblood, but I've never brought a horse as far along as her and it's just COOL. We're currently installing leg yields for the T3D and she's really starting to enjoy trying to answer the questions I'm presenting her with on the flat. We knew that would be the case, it's just been a long road to get there. Since I grew up with NO dressage background at all, I'm learning with her and it just never ceases to amaze me what these horses, even the most unlikely ones, are able to come up with when you find the right buttons!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ari's still lame

No surprise there, right?

Anyway, I'm considering SI injections. Anyone out there have any experience with these?

My vet and I discussed Lyme, PSSM and SI issues again. He thought the first two were possible but not probable and he actually was the one who said "You know, we did talk about SI issues, it might be time to go that route." So... I'm wondering if it is. And if it's not... whats another $300, right? I mean, I'm just going to be paying on my vet bill until the end of time.

Weigh in, horse friends.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Thus begins the road to the Training 3 Day.

Thiiiiiis is an entry. Not just ANY entry, though. See that upper right hand corner where it says T3D? Yep. A lot of things have to happen between now and trotting out for phase A in 40 days or so, but I am EXCITED!

My goal is to document as much as possible for you and me both, and since a conversation with Amy (my fabulous, wonderful trainer) this morning has my conditioning schedule planned out and my entry goes in the mail tomorrow, I guess today is the "Start of the Road to the T3D."

Well, I guess technically it started in... 2008? Three years and three horses ago.

Initially, my goal (along with a dozen or so others) was to run the T3D in 2010. I was supposed to run it on Ari. At this point, Ari may or may not be destined to run training. He may or may not be destined to be sound enough to be a lesson horse... I don't know... but in the meantime, I've been blessed with an incredible, unlikely partner in Miss Brandy, aka SPF's Big Idea- aptly named by Susan minutes before I sent her first entry in to KY Classique in 2009 after selling my first (successful) eventing partner, Lyra.
Lyra at our first Novice (and last show together)
Baby Brandy, just 8 months under saddle at her first BN
I'm sure most of you know her story, but in short, she was a (ubercheap) Craigslist purchase, intended to be my lesson horse for a couple larger adults who wanted to trail ride. After all, a draft cross should be pokey and quiet right?

Wrong. Brandy is forward, quick as a WHIP and um... expressive (aka opinionated.) However, she is also brilliant to jump, so our dressage has been hit or miss, but she has taught me SO MUCH about jumping and XC and given me oodles of confidence!

So, assuming my entry is accepted etc, my basic conditioning schedule will include riding 6 days a week. Two days of dressage with a 20 minute hack out on the hills, one jump school with a 10 minute hack, one day of trot sets (3x5), one day of canter sets (3x5), and one day of walking hills for about 45 minutes. I'm certainly open to amending this as needed, so anyone with experience, please chime in! Brandy is a drafty, but not very heavy. She's fairly easy to keep fit, so she's not your typical draft, but she's definitely no thoroughbred!

We did our trotting 3x5's today and, as always, Brandy was delightful. I did, however, learn that she knows how to count. Maybe not while she's trotting, but after two minutes of walking, she's DONE and she knows it, and don't you try to tell her otherwise!

Brandy's "pre" picture

As for my "ground crew," I'm very, VERY lucky to have my friend Megan in my crew. She has decided not to show so that she can be there for me, and I can't tell you how glad I am! She's also excited to attend the clinics etc, but I just know I'm going to be relieved to be able to know B is in good hands in between phases.
I'm hoping Stacy (the queen of the T3D herself) will be around to help me, and Julie (groom to IEA's 2010 T3D Winner) as well.

I know I'm going to be relying heavily on Stace and Amy to educate me in the next few weeks, and any one else who's done a T3D, please, I need your guidance!