Friday, June 18, 2010

Dragon's breath

It's hot. If it's not hot, its raining with no warning. You would think rain would bring so cool air, but no, it just makes it even more like a terrarium.

Now, if that doesn't explain why I'm cranky, go outside. Stay there for many hours. Do things that are physically exerting. Drink so much water you should be leaking it out of your eyeballs, but never pee.

Easier would be to have someone breathe on you all day. All day. Except for Monday, when the temperature of the outside air will be higher than the temperature of inside of my body. So maybe have a dragon breathe on you all day. Yes. A dragon.

Now tell me how you feel.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

MayDaze, Beech Grove and maybe even The Horse-show-that-wasn't. Part 2: MayDaze

Next up was MayDaze with Ari and Brandy. I had my faithful groom, Lisa, in tow, as well as my personal horse-hauler, Julie, and my private photographer, Mary. We had an AWESOME weekend. Panther Springs took up half the shed row, with Megan's two horses bigFlo and River, Amanda and Unafraid, Pam and her two youngsters, Brandy, Ari, a complementary tack stall, Kate and Rusty, Amy and babyFlo and Kate joePony plus her two friends. We're going to need a banner, pretty soon!

We got an early start on Friday morning to make sure I would have plenty of time to get two horses settled, ridden, bathed, braided, two XC courses walked, plus stadium and still have time to go eat and get plenty of rest.



We got loaded and headed for Lexington, smiles on our faces and happy horses. We should have arrived around 2:00, Lexington time, giving me MORE THAN ENOUGH time to do everything.


Sorry... you have to excuse my random bouts of maniacal laughter. You see, we had been on the road for about an hour when all of the sudden the trailer swerved violently and we all cursed. Loudly.

Julie pulled over and said "blowout." We all sprung to action, found the tire had sheared off the top layer and was still holding out the last layer, so we were still sitting on it, partially. We jacked up that side of the trailer and loosened the lug nuts. And then realized we didn't have enough clearance to pry off the inflated tire. Cute. So, the token male, Rick, wrestled that sucker to the ground and we were ready with the spare. And then we realized we couldn't get IT on either. So we got out the truck jack, jacked the trailer up a couple more inches and re-attached the tire. The horses were settled, we got back in the truck and commenced our trip, slowly and cautiously, as we were now operating without a spare. I called USRider- the horse-hauler's equivalent of AAA to see if we bought coverage if it was immediately available. No go, of course. Oh, as a side note, AAA will NOT help you if you have a loaded trailer.

Dontcha know, Murphy's law. Not ten minutes later, the spare we'd just replaced blew. Flat as a pancake. We were 5 miles from the Bowling Green exit, which, luckily, had many tires shops. So, as soon as we assessed the damage, Julie turned on her flashers and began creeping at 10mph for that exit. I was on GoogleMaps (thank you all that is holy for Google Maps and my smart phone.) calling the 8 local tire shops. The first one I called was the furthest away, but had 5 of the tires we needed and could get us in as soon as we could get there. I called the other 8 and NOT ONE could fit us in. Emergency or otherwise, they were too busy. Nice, huh?


They were about 5 miles from the exit, so we limped the 10 miles to the tire shop (took about an hour- yes, 10 miles at 10 mph) and nearly died a handful of times because people are jerks and don't know that slow moving vehicles with flashers USUALLY HAVE A GOOD REASON FOR BEING SLOW MOVING. That... and not one. single. person. flagged us down to see if we needed help. Not ONE.

As we pulled into the tire shop- they were WAITING for us at the entrance and waved us in and began IMMEDIATELY replacing the tires on the trailer. They pointed us to the meat n' 3 next door where we could see the horses from the window and we sat and had lunch while we waited, as there was nothing else to do.

Oh, on the horse side of things, when we checked the horses when we pulled in, Julie noticed that there was a little issue with the dividers in the trailer. You see, Brandy doesn't balance well when traveling, so she just SITS on the back of whatever trailer she is in. We smooshed her in the middle slant of Julie's trailer, thinking she would be held in place and not as liable to feel unbalanced. Also, 1300 lbs of Brandy wouldn't be sitting on the back door of the trailer for 4 hours.

Well, when Julie checked on them, she noticed Brandy had sat on the middle divider so hard that she had popped it open and was sitting on poor Ari! We had to unload Ari at the tire shop to get everything sorted out. He was quite happy to step off the trailer and graze for a minute while we shoved Brandy back in place. When we went to load him back up, we realized the right side of the trailer was already jacked up! He had to make a grand leap up into the trailer but did it with no problem. Good boy, Ari!

The funniest part of this whole ordeal (because when all hell brakes loose, all you have left is just to smile and make the best of it!) was watching the crew jack up the left side of the trailer- the side with the two horse heads sticking out! They were standing as far from the trailer as they could while Ari and Brandy attempted to taste anyone who came by! We were ROLLING. My good patient ponies- THIS is why we stop for dinner on the way home from shows and lessons and schooling- right guys?! It's just PRACTICE for emergencies like this!

 Ari was obviously very concerned...

SO... about 2:00 Lexington time (read: the time we'd planned to arrive...) we got on the road again, with only 3 hours left to go! I planned my afternoon, readied the forces and when we showed up in Lexington, we flew through stall setup and walking and settling the horses- Haley had bedded my stalls, she and Julie and Rick hung and filled buckets, fluffed shavings, threw hay and unloaded the trailer while Lisa and I walked the horses, unwrapped and directed things. The second they were in their stalls, Amy whisked me and Megan away on our course walk, which we did twice, then walked stadium, back to the barn to braid and try to get things ready for the morning. While I was walking, Lisa and Stacy bathed Ari and Brandy- this is not as easy as it sounds, of course, since Ari is a HEATHEN to bathe, earning Stacy and Lisa both cupcakes in the process! Brandy, of course, was perfect. I got done braiding in record time, we put the horses up for the night and went to Cracker Barrel where we, dazed and confused, made it through dinner and went to the hotel to go to BED.

Of course, I had the earliest ride times and I was mounted on Ari at about 7:45 on Saturday morning. He was a CHAMP. He walked up to warm up without so much as batting an eye at all the mayhem. His warmup was fluid, quiet, submissive and, thanks to our knock-down-drag-out fight the Thursday before, supple. Before they called me down to the ring I stopped and said to Julie, Lisa and crew "ok, thats good... can I just go home now?!"

 All smiles in warm up!

He went down to the ring and trotted around like he OWNED it. I had a smile plastered across my face and trotted down center line like I was entering the ring at Rolex. He put in the single most wonderful test of his life. I couldn't even believe he was MY horse.

Pardon the focus issues, luckily Schap is pretty smart and 
realized if she stayed zoomed out, it was slightly better...

(Ok, ok, I know it wasn't THAT great in the grand scheme of things, but DAMMIT, I'm ALLOWED to be thrilled with my pony!) When he stopped at X, I couldn't hardly salute for wanting to tell him how wonderful he was. Jim Graham, the judge, rewarded us with a 32.5, putting us in fourth!

 This is absolutely my favorite picture of the weekend. I may have it blown up to mural size.

His stadium was next and we had a nice warmup, but got caught off guard for our turn and had to rush into the ring.
  In warmup

He jumped clean (and brave!) but was a little brace-y in the bridle and I let him putz around the course like a short-stirrup pony. Regardless, it was a nice round that moved us up to tied-in-second place. Good thing style doesn't matter, right?!

Ari's such a goober. 

After a quick kiss on the schnoz, Ari got put away for the afternoon, looking QUITE proud of himself, by the way, while I got Brandy ready for dressage. She had been neglected that morning since we were rushing around to get Ari ready and was NOT happy with me. She let me know by being positively witchy in warmup and carried that right down centerline into our test. She was just positively unresponsive and not interested in playing the dressage game. I got through the test and could only shake my head. I was disappointed since her dressage at home had been fairly decent and if she had acted like that in the ring, we would have had a reasonable test, but she just wasn't mentally "there" and sometimes we just plain have bad days and thats that! If I'd planned better, I would have asked Amy to be there for warmup, but I figured I'd just have to work her down and settle her and sometimes its easier to just do that on my own... hind site. I know. I was, however, not going to be surprised if the comments on my test said something like "I really hope this horse can jump."

 Lauren: It's a good thing you can jump, Mare. 
Brandy: It's a good thing this is followed by jumping, Woman.

We got her back to the barn, undressed and un-braided and ready for XC. She had a quick and easy warm up for XC and then I volunteered to go early just to get done. She came out of the start box like a freight train and didn't back down once around the course. The first jump was a simple log to a house on the side of a hill. Then a down hill coop to a bank down that required a little bit of thinking- she flew over the coop- assessed the bank down and DRAGGED me through the question like it was something she did every day. No problem to the house in the woods, the steeplechase brush, the big, upright mulch table, the coop before the hedge, the ride through the hedge that might have caused a second look, passing the gazebo that could have been scary and up to the two fences in a hedge row on an incline.

As you lined up with the first element, it put you pointed directly at the jump judge for the second, which may have caused her to back off, but she just fired away, balanced herself to the second fence of the "combination" and breezed through, leaving me laughing! She came down to the barrel- ditch question without batting and eye (seriously, it went this fast in real life- I kept going "okay, B, there's a question coming up, lets balance and... okay... nevermind... you did good!" "Brandy, you need to look at... okay... nevermind! Good!"). She took the last half of the course with just as much ease as the first half- galloping on a loopy rein in balance and just hopping over whatever was in her way.


The jump before the water was on a downhill, making it look like you were jumping into the water until you were close to the fence- like she cared? She powered over, through the water, over the log on the other side and down to the last fence- a rather wide house that she LEFT OUT the last stride to and just flew over and through the finish flags.

Since our ride was at 3:00 in the afternoon, I was horribly worried about how she would be coming off XC- Julie and crew were there with a sponge bucket and a bottle of water for me and Brandy was being sponged and scraped and walked before I could get my pinney off. She was cool and walked back to the barn like she could have gone again. I swear she was asking if we could do training the next time! When we made it back to the barn, I tell you what, before I could reach for Brandy's halter, the crew from Panther Springs had her and me undressed and cooled off and I was off walking her before I could blink. The teamwork we had that weekend was the coolest part of the whole thing. I just LOVE the whole crew- no one wanted for anything for more than two seconds the whole weekend. It was hot and sweaty and tempers could have flared and we could have been snapping like crazy- but no- it was "Sit down, here's some water." "Let me get you your..." "Do you have this that and the other thing?" "Can I...?" "I already ______, all you need to do is _______." I'm telling you- it was SO cool.

By the time Brandy was cooled off, I was done for the day and jumped into service making sure Amy, Megan and Kate didn't need anything for their remaining rides. It was a long but successful day for Panther Springs.

 Amy getting Baby Flo prettied up for dressage

After everyone was done riding for the day, we did our BN course walk... er... drive. What you can't see is the wine. Or the Jack Russell. We drove the course so we could eat and drink wine and NOT have to walk get a real feel for the speed and distance between fences...

Note Supah Tex eying my cracker...
There's the Jack Russell! And Kate and Megan!

In order to *ahem* more accurately ride our course, Kate and I then took the golf cart back out and practiced nice tight corners, good approaches and accelerating in all the right places. *snort*

Sunday brought more early ride times- Brandy's stadium was shortly after 8:00. She was a rockstar- Amy says it was one of the best rounds she's seen me do- we had a rail down just coming off a funny distance. Had I had more "oomph" coming up to it she probably would have made it over, but as it was, we took it down.

The rest of the course was like clockwork and she got big pets and a tons of fussing for being a good girl. Of course, due to our dismal dressage, we didn't place, but I couldn't be more thrilled with her first go-round at Novice. Besides that, competition was FIERCE at this show- even if she'd gotten the same score as she did at MTPC last year, she would have been in something like 14th place. Amazing.


Ari's XC was next- I was a little nervous since he is not very reliable. As I was warming up, I just found this zen and said "We're tied for second. If he jumps everything, we'll get 2nd or 3rd. Just ride like you stole it. The course is easy and he's jumped everything out there. There is NO reason to stop." I think I was slightly hallucinating by then, but who's counting. I was cantering around, trying to find an adjustable horse and I stopped in front of Amy and just said "I'm so tired." She told me to buck up and got me started jumping. He was lovely in warmup, I was feeling good and I think I was partially too tired to tense up and cause any problems!

I was lucky enough for Stacy to be my starter, so with part of my support group seeing me out of the start box and knowing the rest was on course or waiting to meet me at the finish flags, I set off with Julie's trusty jockey whip- "hellbeater" in hand and a red or yellow ribbon waiting for me. Any time he sucked back, he got a spanking and by jump 6, he'd stopped trying to fool me into letting him stop. We had a little altercation trying to pass between a big table and a tree that was the most direct route to our next fence... he wanted to go right, I wanted to go left and we ended up nearly smacking into the tree in front of us... silly boy. We regrouped, headed to the next fence and after that, he was jumping pretty boldly, out of stride and without much motivation from me- only hellbeater. Ha.

You need to watch this JUST for his water entrance at 0:34.

He surprised me by looking at some things I didn't think he would notice- the tree, of course, but also a jump judge we had to canter downhill towards that really backed him off, the gazebo that I did assume he would take a good look at, but also the water jump just puzzled the heck out of him! He trotted in with no problem, but once he was in his eye... bugged out of his head and he just couldn't figure out what I was going to ask him to do! Once we made it halfway through he, while still puzzled, just figured I hadn't failed him yet and he might as well soldier on and get the job done. He cruised through the flags with no stops, but a little faster than optimum time.

They gave us a wide berth on optimum time, I assume because it's the first event of the season, so he probably wasn't all that fast. I think speed fault time was 4:45ish and he came in around 5:30, optimum time was 6:20ish, so the time allowance was huge. Unfortunately the person we were tied with came in closer to optimum, so we were bumped to 3rd, but if I had picked at him around the course, I'm pretty sure we would have had a stop, so I'm not even worried about it. If I can have another couple of confidence-building rides like that on him, I'll be very, very happy. :)

We had an uneventful ride home and got two VERY tired ponies turned out without much fuss. They actually both had laid down in their stalls overnight at the horse park, which really surprised me- when we got there Sunday morning, they both had shavings in their tails! They got a couple days off before they had to go back to the grind.

Next stop for us is the Hunter's Court schooling jumper show on June 26, and then probably Ari to Poplar in July with the group. Penny Oaks will be after that at the end of July.


Big thanks to Schap and Julie for dealing with me and my two horses and making sure everything was caught on video and being there to take care of us when we needed it! 

Also, huge and ginormous thanks to Mary Kinne of Darkhorse Photography for coming out to photograph me and Ari and Brandy at MayDaze. Mary and I went to college together and she took time out of her busy schedule to come spend the weekend with Schap and I. The only payment she requires is me helping spread her work and I'm happy to do that! If you're ever in Lexington and looking for your own personal photographer, contact Mary and let her do your pics! She's so wonderful! Please go visit her site and see some of the incredible work she has done! Most of the photos on this page are hers, four were bought from Xpress Foto and some were snapped by Stacy with her camera phone!

Monday, June 14, 2010

MayDaze, Beech Grove and maybe even The Horse-show-that-wasn't. Part 1: Beechgrove

Okay, this post is pushing ridiculousness in length, so I'm going to post it in parts...

All photos on this page are courtesy of Carissa Ramsdell, 2010. Her photos can be found on They are used with her permission, of course. She is available for portrait or event photography, please see her contact information on the website.

I think I'll work backwards, since I don't remember much about anything that happened before yesterday. At any rate, I'm getting my wish as far as career goals go. I've lost a handful of training horses for various reasons and picked up a ton of lessons, so I'm teaching more and riding less. Its a change, but I'm okay with it. The best part is that I have some seriously awesome students right now that I wouldn't trade for the world.

So, on that note: Beechgrove.

Every year the Beechgrove Hunt sponsors a cross country show- they have an 18" course, a 2'4" course, a BN and N course. I did the BN course with Ari one year and refuse to do it anymore. It's not something I would want to take a horse of any value around anymore. I guess overall it wasn't so bad, but the terrain was iffy and some of the questions edging on unfair as far as shadows and stuff. I rode a couple horses around the 2'4" course and it is reasonable, and I love their 18" course for the greenies- it's pretty inviting without being "log, log, log, log."

So this year I was lucky enough to have six riders! Amanda, Anna, Ansleigh, Nancy Taryn and Tori. We had a fairly uneventful morning getting loaded (we're getting good at this whole horseshow thing!) and on the road. I'm also loving that we have ample amounts of truck and trailer combos so I don't have to wrangle Anita into trailering duties anymore. I'm sure she doesn't REALLY mind not coming along, but I'm also pretty sure she misses coming with us. We were on the road on time and would have even gotten there a little ahead of schedule until I got the phone call from Laura, one of the moms who was bringing kid Ansleigh and horse Ronnie down from their home barn in Joelton- "we're about three miles from the exit and traffic is at a standstill..."

REALLY?! It's 8:00 in the morning on a SATURDAY!!!

Not much we could do about it, so we trucked on hoping it would clear by the time we got there. Ha. Not.

So, we waited... and waited... and waited... and waited... and about 45 minutes later (which was 15 minutes after we would have liked to be there) we started moving. And when we got to where the traffic was backed up?! There was NOTHING. Of COURSE there was nothing. *sigh*

The good news is that this is the least traumatizing bad-thing-that-happened at any of the three above shows.

The other good news is that it really didn't effect our day in the least, aside from the fact that we were all antsy in the cars and needed to pee pretty badly. The horses didn't even really got hot in the trailers.

Anyway, we got to the show, got checked in, introduced the SPF crew to the new members of our crew and went to walk the course. Everything seemed do-able, so we headed back to the trailers to tack up, get dressed and head to warm up!

The gang headed to warmup!

Everything went well, of course, until we made it to warm up... pretty much the SECOND we made it to the horrible warm-up on the hill, Jazz, Ronnie and Vanna all spooked at who-knows-what... a man eating leaf, most likely. Nancy and Ansleigh managed to stick to the tops of their horses... unfortunately Amanda took a tumble- the second time at Beechgrove! UGH! After that, everyone's confidence took a hit and we barely any managed warmup before I said "You know what? Lets just go show."

So, Anna was first in the ring with Paisley the Rockstar. She popped over everything with barely a glance, stopping only at the watermelon panel. She jumped it the next time over with no problem! Overall a lovely round by Anna and Paisley. Her next round was nearly flawless with Paisley having seen everything once already! Anna also braved the 2'4" course with Audrey and had a great clean round on her! So nice!

Next up was Tori and Audrey, who are usually great to jump over whatever is in front of them! Unfortunately, after Amanda's tumble, Tori was not up to her normal gutsy self and Audrey was taking advantage of that- stopping at many fences she normally steps right over- resulting in yet ANOTHER tumble, this time at the hay bales. Tori got back up and between me, her mom and the lovely horse-show-pro-mom Cathy, Tori's next round was much better! It always helps to have your eyes up, remember that!

We sent Ansleigh and Ronnie up next, again, lacking confidence and with a few issues at a couple fences, we had to retire at the rock wall to take a breather and regroup. The next time around, Ansleigh made it around the whole course with limited prompting from me and only the occasional greenie stop from Ronnie!

Nancy was up next, declaring that she'd take Vanna around without me doing it first! Overall, Vanna was pretty brave but more importantly- Nancy handled it all like a pro! Considering this was Vanna's first outing, Nancy's fifth or so time ON her in the last five years and her maybe third time jumping- they really had a great experience. Vanna made it around most of the course and then decided the last jump was NOT HAPPENING and were excused from the course with Vanna stomping and having a general hissy fit regarding doing something she "JUST DID NOT WANT TO DO." Mares. The second time around went much better, except that last fence! Vanna just didn't want to jump it! She eventually walked over it with a lead, grudgingly, but she did it! Overall a great first outing for Miss Vanna and Nancy!

I took Jazz around the course then, since Amanda was a little shaken, but then Amanda rallied and had two of the greatest courses I've ever seen from them! Jazz was a pro and Amanda rode so well!

Last but not least, Taryn took Paisley around and had two flawless rounds. The good news is that Taryn is now hopelessly addicted to riding XC. The bad news is that with XC comes dressage and stadium, and Taryn isn't convinced that she is interested in those two phases of eventing!


We sponged everyone off, packed up, headed home and unloaded in record time- I'm telling you- we're getting good at this horse show stuff!

We're thinking maybe an XC school at the end of the month, then off to Poplar Place in July for their schooling show! We can't wait!