Friday, February 26, 2010


I feel like this was created about me.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Things I would blog about if I weren't too tired to be witty...

  • Kates potential new horse:
(I don't have a picture of him handy, so this will have to suffice.)
I don't hear anyone complaining. 

  • Why this picture:

        Has anything in the world to do with this picture:
  • And two excellent, excellent posts from Eventing Nation and Three Days Three Ways. I WILL go back on touch on those, hopefully tomorrow, as I've been meaning to blog about my favorite thing in the whole world:

the dressage pyramid- and how many times I've had to smack myself (and others) in the head with it the last few weeks.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

On horses and personality...

I have a brother. His name is Vince. Vince is a musician. Everyone say "Hi, Vince!"
This is the face Vince makes when hes trying to convey to you that he is unamused.
You may recognize it.
Mostly because I make the exact. same. face. 

I posted a picture of Vince's unamused face because he is probably going to make that face as he reads this blog post.
While Vince may be my brother, I am a horse person and Vince, well, is NOT. 
And by NOT a horse person, I mean really NOT a horse person. However, since I moved to Nashville, almost four years ago, I've been slowly grooming him to at least enjoy being in the vicinity of horses. I figure he might as well get used to being around them, because for the passion which with he hates them, he will inevitably end up marrying a horsewoman. Thats just the way life works, isn't it? Just like I'll marry a poor musician. And likely, a percussionist. Because I can't STAND percussionists. But as much as they make me crazy, it is a lifestyle with which I am comfortable, so I figure its a no brainer. And something about karma. Ah, karma.
So anyway, I'm grooming Vince for his future life with one of my horse friends, so whichever friend decides to marry him, you can pay me the training fee after the wedding when you realize what a good job I've done.  
(Small interlude- spell check tells me horseperson is not a word, but accepts horsewoman. Coincidence? I think not.)
So, now that you have some insight into my brother's complete non-horseness, are you wondering why I gave him such a stellar introduction? Of course you are. 
Since I've recently begun dragging my brother to more and more horse-type-events, he has stared to appreciate them more and more, and not to long ago, he shed some light on what made the difference. When I was a kid, I rode at a lesson barn, on school horses and I rode hunters. So, the only time Vince came to watch me ride was at horses shows- where horses were randomly drawn from a hat, so he didn't know who they were (not like he would have known, at that age, even if the horse was MINE), and all I did was line-angle-line-angle and then walk, trot, canter, reverse, repeat and the whole goal was to look JUST LIKE everyone else in the ring. No wonder he was bored! At least when I went to his baseball games, I could go play on the jungle gym!
An example of little-bitty Lauren doing a hunter class at a barn schooling show!

I managed to convince Vince (ha, conVINCE) to come take pictures at our first Mounted Patrol Desensitization Clinic last spring, and he actually got really into it! Who could blame him, though? As he explained, it was like a real-life video game- 

There was a purpose: scare the crap out of your horse complete the obstacle course. 



There was drama:
Sam decided he was. not. going. over. the. bridge. 
Ari tried to convince him it was okay. 
There were guns. GUNS!
Yes, this is, in fact, me... shooting a gun. While sitting on my horse. 
And he's looking on with only minor concern.

He also realized that we usually come with food:

And serious ass-kicking capabilites:
So, that was the first time I ever heard him convey minor interest in the whole riding thing. 

He also realized that we're not all psycho. We actually have interests outside of horses. (Okay, thats a lie, but we fake it really well.)

When he got dragged went to Easter Dinner at Henry Horton (our favorite new holiday tradition), he disclosed the real reason he could finally begin to understand the whole horse thing. (Yes, ladies, he UNDERSTANDS. SNAP HIM UP!)
Easter at Henry Horton. Many lovely horsewomen. 
And DJ and Vince.
Thanksgiving at Henry Horton. All horsewomen. 
And Vince. He couldn't even find ONE non-horse friend to bring with him. 
I'm grooming him for my friends, and he doesn't even try to return the favor. 

Oh, what? You were waiting for The Reason? 

Its not as exciting as you want it to be. 

He is just now finally understanding that horses, like dogs, have their own personalities. They're not just walk-trot-canter-reverse-line-angle-line-angle robots. Now that hes hanging out with the same people who have the same horses, he is able to laugh at the stories about the silly things they do and input things that they would be thinking and all that. They're like... friends of friends. 

Of course, we've always known that. 

I remember the first time Mom saw Ari since I'd moved him down to Nashville. It was last year, actually, so it had really been awhile since she'd seen him. It was one of the times he was being kept inside during the day because of his uveitis flair ups. We were on our way back from Chattanooga and I'd called Anita to let her know we were close and if she'd leave Ari in a little while, I would treat his eye and turn him out. So, we got there maybe ten minutes after everyone else had gone out and Ari was PISSED. He was banging on his stall door, pacing, hollering and just generally having a tantrum. 

When I came to the door, he actually greeted me in his horsey way, and I opened the door and put his halter on. He let me treat his eye and then I stopped as I was about to lead him out and talked to Anita and my mom. He waited patiently for about a minute and then stomped his shod foot right on the metal door ledge, which make a sound like a gunshot. We all jumped and  turned and looked at him and he had this look of sheer indigence on his face. My mom laughed and commented on how she had NEVER seen a horse display so many different emotions... especially not in such a short time!

So, the reason I bring this up today is because Ari was displaying one of the many facets of his personality today. If you've ever met him, you know that he is lazy, unconcerned with much of anything and usually is so un-enthused that he drags his toes when he walks. When Stacy brought Taco out for a hack, she ended up having to work pretty hard to keep Taco from running circles around Ari. 

This portrays his normal levels of enthusiasm. 

Not today... oh no. Today was like walking a kite up from the pasture. When we finally made it to the barn, he turned circles in the crossties and yelled and acted generally feral. 

I decided to longe him before I rode. That was wise.

When I sent him out on the line, he SQUEALED! He SQUEALED, ran off and bucked like a banchee, then galloped around 'till he was good an tired. Or at least winded. 

I was hoping you could see his nostrils flaring in this pic, but you can't, really.
So use your imagination.

Anyway, I got on him, fairly certain that I wouldn't die. He was not GOOD, by any stretch of the imagination, it was remotely like sitting on a ticking time bomb. BUT, I utilized that to practice my meditation and took advantage of his... um... forwardness... to get some really fabulous dressage work. I had to stay cool, calm and collected and just really work on not getting frustrated and taking it out on him. 

Sure, I really wanted to smack him upside the head with a 2x4 and yank his stupid, screaming, head-tossing face off, but I didn't. And that's what counts! I actually really got him to "sit" in the back end and get so light in the front that I could feel his toes flip out before they hit the ground. It was neat! His canter transitions were smooth as silk, surprisingly, and he seemed to be using himself better than normal. When Ari's working nice and light and balanced like that, I tell him that if he keeps it up, he can be just like his role model, Taco the Wonder Horse when he grows up.
Stacy and the lovely Taco strutting there stuff at MTPC '08 

So anyway, today was a test-your-patience kind of day. 

I also clipped Brandy. Brandy has the most violent reaction to clippers that I have ever seen in my whole life. They don't even have to be on. She just has to SEE them. If my clipper box is out when she comes in the barn, it is OVER. 

So, I drugged her out of her mind to do a modified trace clip on her, much like Ari's, only way worse, since I was racing the clock and she woke up enough to run away from me before I could do the final touch ups. But the important thing is that she is considerably less yak-like than she was, and I should be able to bring her back into work without her getting drenched every time we think about doing something remotely work-like.

Yes, I even put her two sides in close enough vicinity that you can see how not-even-at-all they are. 
Life happens. 

The good news is, there's a saying:

"You know what the difference is between a bad clip job and a good clip job is?"
"Two weeks." 

Also, notice how much hair she is missing? That is how much hair was attached to my body when I finished clipping her. 



Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I'm so excited! Cedar Hills Pony Club in Pulaski has invited me to come teach a clinic for their pony clubbers. They're an older pony club, but have previously had some problems, and they're re-establishing under new leadership.

One of the new leaders is Rebecca Billard, who is the trainer of Lyra's new owner, Olivia. I REALLY enjoyed meeting Rebecca and Olivia when they came to try Lyra and I have been down to Partridge Hill, Rebecca's farm, a time or two since then. Not far from Partridge Hill is Colonial Hill, Eleanor Parks' farm, which has a new XC course with 18", 2', BN and up fences. It is REALLY nice to school there- I hope to bring my students a few times this summer.

Anyway, my clinic date is March 20 and Rebecca sent the flier out today after we got all the pictures, my bio and the times/prices sorted out. Here is her lovely flier:
Click to expand

I'm really looking forward to it! I'm very honored to have been asked- maybe this will open up some new opportunities, too! If anyone is interested in having a lesson, contact Rebecca- I just got word that the clinic is already more than half full and she just sent out the email this morning! WOO!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ah, horse shopping...

No matter what you EVER hear me say:

I. Love. Horse. Shopping. 

Sure, it makes me ABSOLUTELY crazy 80% of the time, but I thrive on being on the edge of crazy, if you haven't noticed.

I do most of my horse buying in the super-duper cheap range, but every once in a while I get to spend more money- and is there anything better than helping someone else spend their money?

I thought not.

I'm shopping for an old friend of mine right now from NY. Her range is quite a bit more than I usually spend and I also get to talk to some people I don't usually shop with. I bet I've talked to 10 people in the last week who I know in passing or have gotten their name from someone I know. I'm looking for a fancy hunter, and I usually work with the low level hunters or the eventer types, so I'm really not shopping with people who know me really well.

So far, I've noticed 3 kinds of people, and I SURE know who I'm going to come back to!

 The first are the people who don't have what I need in the barn but are more than willing to find those horses, bring them in and try to get a cut. Or don't have what I need but offer me something that "yeah, could work" and then ask what my top price is and it just happens to be that price tag. They make some phone calls to people I've already contacted (effectively driving those people insane as well) and try to take on my job.

I may be "new" to this area, folks, but I know the "right" people, and I'm efficient and thorough. Just ask me, I'll be glad to name names privately. I guess I should add this in here- this is not a BAD or wrong thing to do, per se, its just annoying to a young professional capable of doing it on her own.

The second are the people who don't have what I need in the barn, but are gracious and very willing to give me the numbers of people who do. They know that I'm working as the buyer's agent and don't try to infringe on that- they just pass me along and wish me well, sometimes offering helpful hints, buyer bewares or fun stories on the way. 

I love and truly appreciate these folks. They've been where I am and they're doing the best they can to help me. I'm not a threat to them, so they're willing to give me a shove in the right direction and offer a little support so I can get my feet wet. There have been two of these people who have been the biggest help- one I've worked with quite extensively in other facets and the other I just know in passing, she's helped me with Ari some at some local hunter shows but ALWAYS stops to say hi when she sees me and answers my emails and phone calls- neither of these ladies has ever made a penny from me and it won't matter if they do- they're just genuinely nice, trustworthy, well established horse people. 
The last is the group who has what I need in the barn, doesn't care that I'm a small fish and treats me just like they would treat another big name trainer. I talked to two people on the phone tonight who I have never talked to before and stayed on the phone with them for 40 minutes each, just swapping stories and learning about each other. I talked to another two who are Very Big Names in the area and had already saved my number in their phone so they answered with a personal greeting. THAT is service. They offered full disclosure on their horses for sale (a big deal) and they're priced reasonably with records to back it up. I love that.

This makes me WANT to go shop, to introduce them to my client, to spend money with them. And that is why these are big names in the area- they exude that aura. That first group about had me quitting before I'd begun.

Also, I'm dog sitting at the barn for a few days. I should have taken some pictures of the snow this morning, but I was busy with Anita's smaller four-legged crew. I'm staying at Anita's for three nights and next month I'm staying at Amy's for a week. I will tell you right now that there is nothing more wonderful than walking out the front door in the morning and already being at the barn. It makes my heart smile in the midst of this misery.

We have more snow on the ground right now and I just feel stranded. I can't get much done with the horses and don't have a truck and trailer to go anywhere even though I'm in the vicinity of several very nice arenas. It is absolutely painful for me to think about. I'm hoping to buy a truck this summer, it just needs to happen- its time.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Having fun with your horse and building confidence...

I'm blessed with a horse that puts up with just about anything I throw at him. Unfortunately, I sometimes shove him to they wayside because he needs to go school dressage or "its not worth it to ride him if I can't get something accomplished" and often, I feel that way, but when Robin asked me today "Whos your favorite horse to ride on the trails?" I wasn't sure if she was talking to Carissa or myself, so I said "mine?" which they both interpreted as "I prefer to ride my own horse on the trails."

Well, thats not true, but then I thought about it, and 99% of the time, if I'm doing something- I'd prefer to be sitting on my own horse. Now, there are sometimes when he is not appropriate, but sometimes I don't give him enough credit. When we did the Harvest Party/trail ride/poker race, I didn't really want to ride, but didn't have much choice. Of course, I had a large group with me to keep an eye on, and I had decided to ride Arizona.
Ari playing leader... his favorite position, until things get scary!

Then Amanda started having issues with her horse, Tex, so the option was to send her back or trade horses. I was regretting my decision to bring Ari, but then thought about it- Amanda is a lovely, solid rider and Ari is pretty steady on the trails, especially in a large group, walking only- and then I had not a qualm in the world about putting her up on him. She had a great time on him for the rest of the ride while I fought with Tex.

Amanda, obviously feeling quite uncomfortable on Ari... not.  
Me and Tex, far left, while Amanda leads the crew on Ari in the middle

In November, Julie and I decided to do a Musical Freestyle Pas de Deux at the Stones River Pony Club dressage show. At this point in our lives, we decided we needed a little "Independent Woman" kick and called it "Better Off" and put together a stellar soundtrack (thanks, Vince!) Never happy with normalcy, we donned blond pigtails, spray painted stars all over our kids, put ribbon in their tails, wrapped them in multi colored polos and laughed our heads off while we performed. Neither of our horses so much as flinched at the close quarters with each other, the spray paint and stencils, the PA system... 

Ari and Gilbie getting worked up before their big show...


And since we were the last riders, to make SURE we made our point, we did a dressage victory gallop:

I can open and shut any gate on the farm with him, he's moved cows, will load in any trailer I point him at or turnout with any horse I throw him out with. When he stayed overnight at Amy's for the Poplar Place trip, he hadn't been turned out in four days- he was having a tantrum while she turned her horses out, so she offered to let him go out with one of her perchie crosses, Abe. They ran around like they were best friends and then settled down to eat within five minutes. 

Two or three years ago, we had a games day at the farm. Kelly Wallace (then Schaffer) and I were the only eventer-type folks there. One of our games was musical fence posts. Because of our horses superior gait control, we were the last two in the game. When the music stopped, we were side-by-side across the pasture from the last post. We both performed perfect turns-on-the haunches and were instantly galloping headlong towards the last post. We got there at the same time, laughing hysterically at our horses' handiness.  

When Niki was still at the barn, we would gallop down the trails without a second thought, over hill and dale, and call it "conditioning." Now, I call it crazy.

He gets dressed up for Halloween every year:

Ari as the one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater
Ari the pirate (he actually still had two eyes in this picture)

Oh, did I mention he only has one eye?

I actually had the photographer from a dressage show I took him to last summer ask if I wanted his eye photoshopped back in when I ordered pics taken from his bad side. 

Here's some stills from our last jump lesson, just to round out his abilities:

Anyway, the point of this whole tirade is because I've heard this from several different people lately, and I feel like I should address it:

"I'm totally brave on other horses, just not my own."

I think people are ashamed of this fact. Guess what? YOU'RE NOT ALONE. 

There are things I will do on the craziest horse on the farm that I will not do on my horse. Why? Because I KNOW what he is capable of. I have ridden him (or not ridden him) through the WORST things I have ever ridden (or not ridden.) I KNOW that he is more than capable of plastering me across the nearest tree/fence/jump/rock and will not hesitate to do so. He is fit, he is smart and he is QUICK.

But you know what? Sometimes we just have to let GO of what makes us afraid of our own horse and deal with it. We worry because we don't want to mess them up, because we don't want to ruin what we have by pushing to hard, by ruining the peace of the comfort zone we're standing in.

As Ari began to lose the vision in his left eye, I had some INSANE falls off of him. I was on my guard all the time with him. I was scared. But guess what- I'd made a commitment to him and now he was mine to deal with.

You can see how covered with mud I am- I fell off TWICE at this show! 

I leased Lyra while we dealt with his health issues and she gave me some much needed confidence back. I would tell Amy about Arizona in our lessons, and when Lyra sold and I was debating what to do next, horse wise, I told her I was thinking about getting Arizona going again. Her response, knowing what she knew, was "I don't think thats a good idea- its hard to get past a history with a horse." 

I mulled over that for a little while, but then I had to make a very big decision- I had to LET GO of the past and focus on the future if this was going to work. I had to take my brain, which telling me every time I cantered up to a jump on him "we might crash, we might crash, we might crash" and just totally shut it down. And I made the decision to do that. To give up the fear and embrace the now.

I came off of him in one of our first jumping lessons with Amy. It was stupid- I was worried about the filler on a jump and jumped ahead of him and he stopped. I fell off. I got back on. At that point- I said "I'm not falling off of this horse anymore. This is stupid." He had a runout at another lesson, not far after- I then told myself "We're not running out anymore. If he's going to stop, he's going to stop in FRONT of the jump, with me on his back. Period." 

No, its not that easy, in case you're wondering- I figured out why I was falling off/running out, talked to Amy about what to do to fix it, did/do exercises to help me and study, study, study how to make things better. And they are getting better. The next step is "no more stops," but that has some other pieces to go along with it. 

And while I haven't had any run outs or falls since I "decided" not to have them anymore- am I going to get down on myself if one happens? I'll feel bad, but you can't dwell on it. Dwelling has NO place on horseback. You have to live in the moment, not hold a grudge, don't take it personally. If you ride with me, you'll hear me say that over and over- especially if you ride a mare. 

My good friend Megan told me something at my first away event with Lyra- she is a big follower of Jane Savoie- and she talked about positive visualization. If something scares you, just picture it going well, over and over. Your dressage test, a certain XC fence, your stadium round or even just walking through a certain gate on the farm, past the pond, through the creek- whatever it is, you can't think about what will go wrong- you have to picture it going right. It really does work. 

There was a fence on the course at KY Classique that I was really worried about with Brandy. It was a silly fence to worry about, but it was the first big solid fence on course, headed away from the barn. I could see it from where we grazed and I let it gnaw at me until I KNEW we were going to stop. When Amy and I walked the course, I looked at it and pictured the most perfect, bouncy gallop up to it, and then "1-2-1-2, BOING!" and galloping off. The next time I was out grazing, I stared at it and though "1-2-1-2, BOING!" and guess how it rode? Yep- "1-2-1-2, BOING!" and on to the next. The rest of the course was like clock work.

Luckily, Stacy caught it on camera- not the best picture, but it gives me warm fuzzies every time I look at it because I remember the feeling of "that ride."

So, anyway, the reason I posted this today is because this is what I did with Ari today:

Yes, I took him on a bareback trail ride. I had actually brought him up to do a dressage school, but ran out of time before I was planning to ride with Robin, so decided to take him out instead.While he doesn't LOVE trail riding, he actually was striding out pretty well for him and had his ears up the whole time.

Sure, he tried to turn himself inside out one time, but I just sat there and rode it. It wasn't a big deal and it didn't effect him five second later (he has a thing about birds, apparently...)

Did we accomplish anything that will help us in the dressage ring? Nah. 

Did I enjoy spending some time with my best buddy today? Yep.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Winter blues...

I'm sick of:
  • Mud
  • Poopy muddy ice balls in tails
  • Mud
  • Poopy muddy ice balls on legs
  • Mud
  • Standing water
  • Wiping my nose
  • Winter storm advisories
  • Numb fingers and toes
  • Two pairs of pants, three shirts, winter coat, balaclava, neck gaiter and hat 
  • Muddy boots
  • Taking twice as much time to get half as much accomplished
  • Scraping the mud off your boots in order to walk
  • Finding the holes in your boots when you're submerged past the point in mud
  • Mud, in general
  • Wearing a helmet over a fleece hat
  • Scraping the mud off your boots in order to ride
  • Scraping the mud off your HORSE in order to ride
  • Unblanketing to ride
  • The sores on my nose from wiping it so frequently
  • Reblanketing after you ride (soon to be followed by shedding season woes)
  • Mud under my fingernails and caked on my hands
  • Losing boots in mud
  • Near falls in mud
  • Filling the stupid bucket to fill the toilet tank because the water in the bathroom is frozen
  • Mud
  • Cold
  • Cleaning the mud off stirrups after you ride before you run them up
  • Taking boots off in order to go in the bathroom
  • Changing out of mud boots into riding boots/half chaps in order to ride
  • Trying to find a place worth riding in
  • Trying to make it all day at the barn without going to the bathroom so you don't have to fill the stupid bucket 
  • Having to go to the bathroom so bad you're crossing your legs because you waited TOO long and then having to fill the stupid bucket!!!
  • Mud
  • Trying to get warm once you get home
  • Finding the motivation to leave the house in the first place
  • Last, but not least.... mud. 
Today, Sam and I played chicken with the four wheeler as it was coming down the driveway. Abby veered before Sam did. Sam thought I was insane, but he held his course! Then he stopped for some kisses.
He obviously has huge issues with fear. 

Bo also gave Abby and I quite a show making sure he was EXTRA dirty for Anita and Jerry this evening. 

I will have to do a whole post regarding the barn dogs some day soon. Send me your best barn dog pictures!

Oh, and here's Jazz with her new haircut! When I get desperate for money bored, I offer to do extra things to make some cash keep myself busy- cleaning tack, trimming manes, cleaning sheaths- whatever. Amanda and Lynette asked me to do Jazz's mane and it came out a tiny bit shorter than Miss Amanda would probably like, but I LOVE it... and it'll grow back!
Plus, Amanda got a cute, new short hair do this fall, so only right that Jazz should match!
Amanda's cute new hair cut a couple months later, and covered by a hat, but I just had to post this adorable picture!

Also, one day, when I'm really bored, I'm going to keep my finger on the shutter of my phone camera all day one day and just snap pictures of things horses have spooked at.

Today I had to convince Skippy that the pond was not going to eat him. The same one we walk by every ride. But today... it had ICE!

I mean, I don't know if you've noticed, but its been really darn cold for a few weeks... that pond has had ice on it for a LONG time...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Some rainy day quotes for you:

From Lynette:

"Women are angels. And when someone breaks our wings, we simply continue to fly......on a broomstick. Flexibility- it's a good thing."

"Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning the devil says 'Oh Crap, She's up!'"