Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year End Wrap Up!!

Well, It's that time of year again...time to look back and see exactly what we did through the year that was productive (and in some cases not!) and if we stuck to any of our initial goals planned for the year.


First, let's start with what I accomplished this year...I rode all of my horses as much as I could. Buddy went to five horse shows at Second Level and came away with 7 Firsts, 4 Seconds, 1 Fourth, 3 Fifths, High Score Second Level and a Reserve High Score Petite Mount!!! DJ went to his first lessons in over a year and plans have been made for next season. Khakie has continued to improve his dressage basics and there may be an outing planned in the next couple of months. Because of this, I have been enlightened about physical fitness and healthy eating. Next year is going to be even better because of it, but more on that later.


I also completed my Paralegal Certification at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. It was a great experience and am hopeful for this new opportunity to provide me the finances I need to keep doing what  love :) This also gives me the ability to be a Notary Public and at the same time I'm re-learning French and Russian and just now beginning German. I have to say I'm having a great time and will definitely make a shout out to MindSnacks, my App that helps me learn all these fun languages! 


Now, time to rehash this year's "resolutions" to see how I did! Blue will be for completed tasks, Red for uncompleted and Underlined for resolutions that were edited.


Resolution/Goals for 2011

  • Finish the requirements for my Bronze Medal - Nope, hopefully next year!
  • Qualify for the USDF/GAIG Region 1 Championships and Arabian/Half-Arabian Sport Horse Nationals in whatever level I choose to compete at this year - I did! Second Level Amateur for both and received a Dover Medal in the process :)
  • Continue going to lessons, clinics, and any other form of continuing my education in dressage - Unfortunately, no clinics this year but did try to stay as current on my learning as I could which included lessons every other week and coaching at horse shows.
  • To keep improving myself with every ride on every horse by maintaining patience and an open mind - I've decided to change this one from a goal to an everyday riding motto
  • Lose 15lbs to fit into my beautiful new show coat - Achieved! but after the holidays I really might need to do this again :)
  • Generally be healthier with food (portion control) and exercise (actually doing some besides riding!) - this one can be added to the weight loss one because if I hadn't done that, I wouldn't have lost the 15lbs
  • Go to a play/concert  - currently scheduled for January 19th - Not only did I get to go see the Lion King but I got to see Spamalot as well...too much fun!!!
  • Enjoy more activities with my family
  • Finish at least 10 books this year - This is a biggie! Not only did I complete this one but I tripled it! Here's a list of all of them:

January
World Fall: Book 2 of The Seven Circles Trilogy - Douglas Niles
The Goddess Worldweaver: Book 3 of The Seven Circles Trilogy - Douglas Niles
February
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister - Gregory Maguire
A Lion Among Men: Third Year of the Wicked Series - Gregory Maguire
March
Mirror, Mirror - Gregory Maguire
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
April
Lost - Gregory Maguire
Ghosthunting Virginia - Michael J. Varhola
The Dark Tower: Treachery - Stephen King (Graphic Novel)
May
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 - Allan Moore & Kevin O’Neill (Graphic Novel)
The Girl Who Played with Fire - Stieg Larsson
June
 On Stranger Tides - Tim Powers
 Prince Caspian - C.S. Lewis
 The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - C.S. Lewis
July
The Silver Chair - C.S. Lewis
The Last Battle - C. S. Lewis
August
Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom - Joe HIll & Gabriel Rodriguez (Graphic Novel)
Tiger’s Curse - Colleen Houck
Tiger’s Quest - Colleen Houck
September
The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follet
October
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark - Guillermo Del Toro
November
Dreamless Issue #1 - Bobby Crosby & Sarah Ellerton (Graphic Novel) 
Tiger’s Voyage - Colleen Houck
Atomic Robo FCBD Edition - Brian Clevinger & Scott Wegener (Graphic Novel)
Eragon: Inheritance Book 1 - Christopher Paolini (Audiobook)

December
Eldest: Inheritance Book 2 - Christopher Paolini (Audiobook)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll (Audiobook)
Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll (Audiobook)
Witch and Wizard: The Fire - James Patterson 

  • Get a new job that will help better support my love of the big 4-legged beasties - Still currently working on that one :)
All in all, I'd say it wasn't too bad of a year! Although I lost some special people in my life, I know they are looking down on me and are proud of the person I'm becoming. I have some exciting things planned for next year that include the ponies, fitness, and some other adventures, but I'll talk about that in the next blog...bis sp├Ąter (until later)!!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reflections, Revelations and Relaxation!

Thanksgiving has come and gone and I'm only a couple of pounds heavier because of it...joy! That's not too bad because Christmas is only mere weeks away and I KNOW I will just keep adding to the pounds I happily lost this year. But besides fabulous food and family bonding, I thought (as I do every year at this time) about the things I was thankful for. Family of course tops the list while my boys (ponies and puppy) are a close second. I said a quiet prayer for the ones not able to be at Thanksgiving this year...my grandmother (although she passed a few years ago, she was always with us at this time and loved this holiday), my friend Kay, and my Uncle Mike we lost last month to pneumonia although he was a survivor of Vietnam and Throat Cancer. I miss them all greatly even though I know they look down on me every day. But I think besides just people, I am thankful for the experiences I have been able to have this year whether they be equine or not. I love my family, my boys and my life. It seems to just get better all the time!

Enough of the reflections, onto the revelations! The day before Turkey Day, I was able to squeeze in a lesson with Lynn on DJ. It's always so pleasant taking DJ out, he is the perfect traveler. I'm talking self-loader, no drama, hauls like a dream perfect traveler. And with just me and dad, it makes the whole process a lot easier. Well, we got there and started warming up and then it was immediately off to work. The first lesson was just an evaluation. Because she knew what she was dealing with now, we immediately started on bending and flexing exercises for his tight little body. Travers, renvers, shoulder-in and half-pass were repeated through the entire session of trot work which really seemed to get easier since the last time we came for a lesson. The canter work started on the forehand and sluggish. After some editing (i.e. fixing how the rider was using her reins to speak to her horse, sitting up and back in the saddle, and working on getting his hind end more active and underneath him) the canter became more up and out and active! Hurray!!! We ended with some nice relaxed trot stretching and a plan for next time...do everything we did in the lesson and the flying changes shouldn't (in theory) be so...exuberant :)

The part of the lesson where Lynn addressed my hands can be considered my biggest revelation. It was fascinating! She stopped me, took my hands and showed my little things that she did that spoke volumes on the reins. I had always thought I had quiet hands, and apparently I do but that is the problem...they are too quiet. I can move my fingers but only in just a couple of ways which obviously wasn't doing the trick. Now I have a whole arsenal under my belt and boy, are they helpful! Since the lesson, while riding both my boys I have been kicking myself to remember the techniques we discussed in order to be more effective in the saddle. I'm happy to announce, I have a had some pretty fabulous rides lately!

After Thanksgiving, I decided to take 2 days off for myself. No riding just checking on the boys and administering meds when needed. My mom and I decided to brave the mall on Black Friday and managed to survive with 1 Christmas gift and a few very good deals on sweaters for us :) Then I got sick and had to take another day off. I started back yesterday with some great rides which was a lovely way to start "back to reality".

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Out of Retirement...

It says on my blog that I do in fact own two horses. But if anyone out there has actually read my blog, I mostly talk about the accomplishments of my black horse, Buddy. I even spent a full entry on a fabulous horse that I ride that doesn't even belong to me. My poor little purebred hasn't gotten a nod all year! Before I get started, let me talk about DJ (aka "Little Man") a bit. DMD Don Juan+/, known in the barn as DJ, is my 14.3hh purebred Polish bred Arabian whom I've owned for about 11 years now. He is my equine soul mate! It was love at first sight when we were introduced years ago by a good friend of mine and at the time his owner. After acquiring him for my 8th grade graduation, DJ and I tackled the show world in a variety of ways...we started off with the rated Arabian circuit in the disciplines of hunter pleasure, equitation, sport horse in-hand and under saddle, show hack, working hunters and dressage. At the same time we also did local/rated hunters, jumpers, eventing and dressage. My pony was a show machine! From 2001 until 2006 many championships, year-ends and national titles were won. But at the end of 2006, Little Man looked tired and was beginning to have issues with his stifles. This ended his jumping career and because of certain politics on the Arab circuit, we decided that the main focus would be dressage. From 2007 to 2010, DJ had been in consistent training with few shows in between but was constantly taking a back seat to Buddy and a couple of other horses I was showing at the time. I even had a lessee for him for a year that did a great job with him working Training/First level until she bought a horse of her own. Even after the move to North Carolina, DJ still took a back seat to Buddy's and mine continuing education.

Now to present day, DJ has been schooling really well especially with the work Lynn has been introducing to Buddy and I. I have tweaked the way I ride him and his methods of going but I knew if I wanted to slowly bring him back to the show ring in hopes of finishing my Bronze Medal (that I have been trying to finish for, um, 4 years?!?!), it was time to bring him out of "retirement" and into the lesson ring. So, yesterday I easily threw Little Man on the trailer (and yes, that is a HUGE thing with me since Buddy's trailering is such an ordeal!) and trekked over to Chapel Hill to introduce my love to my trainer. He took everything like the champ he is after not being off the farm in over a year, some pretty gusty winds, and a rather agitated Warmblood mare running around her paddock screaming. I was so neurotic about making him happy and this being a positive experience that we arrived an hour before my lesson. The good thing was I was able to graze him, walk him around, stretch him and warm him up peacefully with no one around before the lesson. Then Lynn came out and it was time to begin!

She looked him up and down, said he was cute and got right down to business of what we were going to accomplish in this first meeting. I explained that I never expected him to be an FEI horse because of his age and conformation but my main goal was to see if she thought we could be show ring ready for 3rd level by next season or if I should just continue to ride him leisurely and let him enjoy the beginning of his retirement. She wanted to see him go so we did a couple of laps and then delved right into fixing the mincey steps and aiming for strides that I am used to riding on Buddy. Amazingly enough, that issue was fixed rather quickly with adjustments to me that he heard very clearly. We worked on loosening his naturally tight little body with circles, shoulder-in, traveres, and renvers. This led to work at the canter which we stopped after only a circle or two to discuss what needed to be fixed in this area. Lynn wanted him much more up in his shoulders, she liked how adjustable he already was in his speed but it needed more consistency and true push from behind. It took a bit but the canter slowly morphed into the canter I had been searching for for some time. I was thrilled! He was obedient, quiet and listening. In saying this, I should have probably mentioned that DJ although is my pony love, he is also a perfectionist with a "little man" complex (hence the nickname!) and he most definitely an Alpha-male. So, it's not always easy to introduce new training techniques or work on things that challenge his body. To be able to go through this with no objections was great! We finished up the lesson by going back to the trot, setting the rhythm we were happy with and working on the half-pass. The left side was beautiful with great flexibility and adjustability. The right side took some work but got better with every try. Afterwards, we let him finish with some nice stretchy circles which he really enjoyed. After this evaluation lesson, Lynn and I discussed it and decided that this was totally do-able with a lot of little tweakings that could be done over the winter, I could get him show ready for the spring!

This makes me so happy! Even if it's only two of three shows next season that's totally ok for me. I want him to be happy showing again and not let any pressures for qualifications or championships taint our experience. He has nothing left to prove to me besides being able to successfully complete Third Level Test 1 with maybe a couple of 60% scores. If not, it won't break my heart :) My little man is back in action, look out show world here we come!!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

NCDCTA Labor of Love...A Real Labor of Love

The NCDCTA Labor of Love show marked the end of this year's show season. With lack of money and schedule conflicts from my paralegal class at UNC, I don't really have time for another show. With that being said, I had to make this one count and boy did I work my tail off to do so!


This horse show was meant for experience since Buddy and I have already qualified for Sport Horse Nationals and GAIG/USDF Region 1 Championships. There was just one more goal to be obtained...the elusive USDF/Dover Saddlery AA Medal! All Season, I have come in 2nd in the Medal classes, narrowly missing this achievement each time. I wanted that Medal BAD!!! But I planned to make this a productive training weekend as well as a successful showing.


We arrived Friday around 2 and set-up pretty quickly because Lynn got a tack stall which most of her students ended up sharing. After settling in and checking-in at the show office, I decided to take Buddy for a hack/school in the covered and indoor arenas since that is where we would be competing. My light and stress-free ride did not really go as planned...Buddy was EXTREMELY tense and a little spooky in the indoor which lead to very difficult canter work including a concrete neck/mouth and dropping out of the canter regularly. With that came frustration, stopping, backing and head swinging, ugh!! I ended up getting off and checking his bridle just to make sure that nothing was majorly wrong.  Nothing was, so I worked on getting him soft on the ground then remounted and tried again. He seemed to relax enough to get through some canter work without fussing and did some nice counter canter loops as well, unfortunately the simples were still lacking but better than when we started. I decided to end it on a good note seeing as how we had early ride times on Saturday. Back to the stalls we went to get dinner and a bath for Buddy. Home was the next destination since ride times were mid-morning and Bud needed braiding.


I'm not gonna lie, the next morning I was a little nervous. I was praying that we would not go through the same warm-up we had had in the coliseum last night during the test. But I gathered my nerves trudged down to the barn and started the normal morning chores trying to be positive. I just have to add that I love showing in NC for many reasons but one of my favorites is that at most shows, you can get a nightwatch for your horse. Which means someone checks him multiple times a night, leaves little notes on the report card stapled to his stall and gives breakfast! But, I digress, the first class I was on my own for warm-up since it was 2-2. Warm-up was MUCH better, he was calm and soft and adjustable. We went into the test and completed a nice test with forward impulsion and some minor tweaks like softening his neck in the canter, 10m circles were a hair large and centerlines...ugh! But anyways, it was a successful test and the judge thought so too, a 65+% with a  1st place ribbon. I was stoked! What a great way to start the day! The 2-3 test was about an hour later and this time I had help from Lynn. Apparently, when I go into the warm-up I tend to forget how to ride my horse but I am quickly reminded what my purpose in the saddle is again (especially when Lynn is on the other end of the microphones!). We had the BEST warm-up I have EVER had on Buddy. He actually felt like a true 3rd level horse, eek! I went into the test feeling confident of our amazing work. Too bad Buddy had some other ideas. The ring that our second test was in was by the road and of course this weekend happened to be the first NC State game of the season, so the road was filled with game-goers, tail-gaters and "pre-gamers". Buddy immediately became super tight and lost all of the good juices we had gotten in the warm-up. The judge saw it and gave us a 61% with a 4th place. Not bad but not really what I was hoping for. Buddy was unbraided, bathed and put back in his stall in front of his fan...he was a happy camper. I spent the rest of the day with the other members of NSTC cheering on rides and listening to Lynn coach. Overall it was a fulfilling day. Everyone went to the barn party that evening and had a good time with some good laughs :)


The next day was the crucial day...Dover Medal class at 1PM! I was nervous, excited and focused...maybe too focused. I (Me! Can you believe it?) was very tight because of the pressure I was putting on myself and it showed in my riding. I had trouble keep him soft and loose and swinging. But Lynn kept trying to get me to get him to relax. She had to leave me early because she had another student in the ring at the same time who needed her more than I did. We went into the indoor to do our test (where we had had the bad warm-up on Friday) and started off pretty well, all until we got to the halt. Next was the back-up...I said back-up.....oh, for the love of pearl, I said BACK-UP!!!! That was what it looked like and there was no, zip, nadda back-up. I tried walking a few steps forward and tried again but it just was not happening and it kinda went downhill from there. The simples were done through the trot, the canter was tense and boy was he strong! I came out of the test very disappointed but the judge did stop me at the end of my test to tell me that "those things happen, just keep going and make up the points in the rest of the test". What a nice guy! Dad waited around for the score since I was the second to last one (and he loves to surprise me with my score/ribbon, always has!). I was not hopeful at all and became a tad mopey since I blew my chance at the Dover Medal but I was already planning ahead for my last test (at 4PM...UGH!). My dad came back with the test, I took the test from him and noticed the paper was funny. I opened the test and inside this is what I found:


HALLELUJAH! I actually managed to best my field of other amateurs to get this beauty!!! Granted the score was a 61% but Mr. Schmutz, the judge, was very positive and said overall the test wasn't bad except for the halt and to keep working! I was so excited I marched the test down to the warm-up where Lynn was schooling another student to show her. Needless to say, there was lots of smiling, hugging and squeeling :) I stayed to watch my barn-mates do their last rides but had to head back to get Buddy ready for his last ride. I went into this warm-up with confidence renewed that we could get through this. The warm-up was short and sweet to conserve the last bit of Buddy's energy and off we went into the test...to the ring beside the road. If I thought the first test was tight, boy was I going to be surprised at this one! Buddy managed to find a water drain next to the ring that he managed to miss in the  first test. Let's just say that was all he could think about and he was CONVINCED it was going to suck him up... 
Giraffe and Camel are what come to mind for that test! It makes me laugh now but I was just exhausted after the ride and I really couldn't be mad at him since we did get the medal. It was the end of the show and he was genuinely scared. On a good note, Kay Meredith LOVED him! She gave him some really super marks and comments, not so bad all in all even though the score was a 59%. Overall, not a bad way to end the show season!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Raleigh Summer Sizzler...I mean...Dressage Show

Well, we officially got through another show! Granted this had to be one of the most uncomfortable shows to compete in because the heat was totally unrelenting, but we got it done! I really don't have much to complain about, I was done both days by 10AM with scores in hand by 10:30, not too shabby. Ok, onto the good stuff!

Upon our arrival on Friday, we (being my normal pit crew of me, mom, dad and the puppy) almost melted trying to get Buddy cool, comfortable and situated in his temporary weekend home while trying to set up the tack room. It was a sweltering 103 out! I felt bad for the poor hunter riders who had a show going on at the same time/same venue. Those girls looked miserable! Then the mind-boggling thing was that there were people schooling their horses in this heat. I mean I understand the hunter riders, they had to school they were competing on Friday. The dressage show didn't start until Saturday. And, I also understand that some horses need to get schooled at a show (to get energy out etc.) but come on, couldn't you do it in the morning or the evening when there is a less probable chance of you or your horse suffering heat stroke?!?! I just don't get people some time! Excuse my rambling...now back to the show! After everyone/thing was settled (i.e. Buddy had a bath/dinner and the tack room was show weekend ready), we headed back to Creedmoor to take care of the other ponies before turning in for the night.

Saturday morning came early since my first test was at 8:21. I was prepared to warm-up all by myself since this was for Second Level Test 2 and really just a practice run before the "important class". I was just putzing around the ring when to my surprise I heard a loud voice telling me to sit up and ride my horse rather than lolly-gagging around! Lynn had come early and was helping me out :) Nothing like having an early morning "where did you learn to ride?!?" lesson before my class! Apparently, I had completely forgotten how to warm my horse up that morning. Thank goodness for early coaching :) We really schooled the canter and got him up in his shoulders before I was called by the ring steward for my test. I went in and ROCKED that test. It was forward and uphill yet collected and I only had one tiny, itsy-bitsy problem. I completely forgot where the heck I was in the free-walk...oops! I wandered aimlessly in hopes the bell would ring or just by chance I would go the right way. Alas, I did not and the bell rang. Other than that it was a great test and Lynn was super proud of our start to the day. Unfortunately, our judge did not agree and gave us a sad 58%. We still managed 2nd place but I was rather discouraged by the score. But I chose to move on since I had another test to complete and another judge to try and impress!

The next test came rather quickly and again Lynn and I schooled the same keys things we had earlier that morning, uphill canter, slowing the shoulders, and the most important "KEEP MY REINS SHORTER!!!" It was time for the test and I made sure to read my test again so as not to have another mishap during the walk tour. I managed to complete the test without any errors but left my overall ability to ride a phenomenal test outside of the letter A...ugh! I got tired and lost my half-halt that kept Buddy engaged for the simple-changes and the counter-canter was ridiculously rushed. The judge this time was very fair and gave me a well deserved 60+% which put us in 5th place. I was less than .5% away from getting my last qualifying score that I need for the GAIG's...ugh again! Lynn and I discussed the game plan for the next morning in order to raise those scores to where they should be. The rest of the day was spent socializing with our neighbors Jim and Louis of Hounds Run Farm, watching Lynn schooling some of her other students and just enjoying the horse show atmosphere. We did need the occasional break in front of the fan seeing as how it was 102 on Saturday. In the evening I decided to talk to M & M Tack Shop about the dilemma I was having with my Trilogy Debbie McDonald Series Saddle, this ended with a full saddle flocking/adjustment/test ride of my updated saddle. And yes, it needed ALOT of work! It is still not perfect but definitely much better than where we started. Afterwards, Buddy got another bath, an apple and a kiss goodnight.


Sunday morning brought much cooler weather and a very determined me. I normally am not a superstitious person but I decided to bust out a necklace that was given to me by my maternal grandmother who was extremely supportive of my riding (she even helped my parents purchase DJ back in 2001). I asked her for a little extra help that morning! I was on my own for my first class since again it was only 2-2, my warm-up for 2-3. I was hoping that with the cooler weather I would have an upbeat slightly lofty Buddy to deal with, but to my regret I did not. I had cranky stiff Buddy that was not very pliable, bendable or even very ridable in warm-up. I was riding under my judge from the second test yesterday, so I wanted to prove to her we could really put in a much better test than yesterday. So in we went at 8:04, it was overall an accurate test but lacked pizzazz and decent half-halts. I was pleased but not overjoyed. The judge did notice that we had improved, Buddy and I received 1st place with a score of 63+%! She gave us the points where we deserved it and in other places dinged us for the mistakes. Overall, it was a fair assessment of a lack luster test. Lynn arrived in the middle of the test and saw exactly what we needed to jazz up the next test...


9:20 rolled around and we immediately went to work in order to unlock his hind legs. With a longer frame we checked right and left flexion and bend then progressed to leg-yield and half-pass in order to really get his hind end rockin' and rollin'. This made a HUGE difference in the quality of work for the second test. He became free and light and forward...yeehaw! We really buckled down on the simple changes and the counter-canter trying to make them softer, but quicker with a neck that resembled jell-o rather than concrete. It was time to go in and do my test. Little mistakes were made such as careening around my 10m canter circles (oops!) and 1 break in the second counter-canter half circle (doh!) but other than that I was extremely pleased with this test. It was definitely the best 2-3 I have ridden this season! This was a new judge and we seemed to impress her because not only did I get my GAIG qualifying score but I got it with a 65% and 2nd place in a BIG class! I was so excited it was ridiculous and so was Lynn :)


So, overall it was a great weekend. I got the scores I needed, placed in every class, met some new friends, fixed my screwy saddle, had bonding time with my wonderful gelding, got some great insight from my Trainer, spent quality time with the family and managed not to die of heat stroke in the process! Not bad if I do say so myself :) Until next time!



Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Finally...Another Post: Lessons

Jeez! It feels like I haven't posted anything in forever! Lots of things have happened since the horse show. Tick bites, allergic reactions, lost shoes, thunderstorms, and unbelievable heat waves have altered the boys work out schedules but with careful planning I have been able to do my best. I also lost a great friend of mine to an equestrian accident. Kay was one of my good friends from the horse show world. She will be dearly missed and I really can't say enough good things about her. But, I know that she is looking down from heaven at all of her loved ones and smiling because that's just the kind of person she was :)

RIP Kay Foy Culbertson Robertson
April 28, 1966 - June 6,2011


photo

But this blog was not meant to be sad, instead it was meant to talk about lessons. Whether they be lessons in life, which Kay gave many of or just lessons in general, they are always helpful. Kay's greatest lessons to me were about looking on the bright side of life no matter what curve balls were thrown your way. She also enforced the open heart policy, being nice to everyone and accepting them for who they are. These are things I will always remember because of her.

In the horse world, I had a lesson yesterday...a riding lesson that is. It was my first one since the horse show in Pinehurst. I thought that even with my setbacks in May and June, I had been doing ok with keeping up with my "homework". Apparently, that was just it, I had done an "ok" job but now it was time to crank up the heat. Lynn said two important things that I can take away from my lesson: 1) I am a marshmallow and 2) if I want to win at Second Level I need a dressage horse not a half-arab pretending to be a dressage horse.

For the first point, I will admit I am a marshmallow. I have a squishy center that definitely needs some toning. Without the proper muscles (that which I am currently laking), I cannot keep up physically with Buddy's training especially if I want to help him progress up the levels. Granted I have spent the past couple of months dropping some weight but I have not spent the time strengthening my core. I have always been petite but after the move to NC I did pack on a little more and told myself I would start working out to fix that problem. It has been a year and 4 days since we moved here and I have not stepped foot in an exercise establishment. So, that is my goal for the next couple of weeks, to tone up a little before the Raleigh Summer Show.

The next point sounds a little prejudice against Arabs & Half-Arabs but trust me it was not meant to. It was meant in the sense that she wanted more than what would be acceptable at just the breed shows. Lynn wanted Buddy to sit and lift more than was originally required of him for him to be able to compete and win against the other horses at the open shows. Even though we have already done an open show and faired pretty well at this level, she wanted us to push for more so that instead of just doing fair we could top the class instead. That will be a goal until the next lesson in two weeks.

So with all of these lessons in mind, I will keep plugging along and try to implement all the lessons I have learned of late to keep improving! Until the next lesson :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Dressage in the Sandhills

Well, my first open show of the season has come and gone....and it was a FABULOUS experience!!! To start the story a little earlier, let's begin the Saturday before the show when I threw Buddy in the trailer and trekked over to Chapel Hill for one last lesson with Lynn. It was really quiet at the farm since I was the only person having a lesson that day. We started with the usual warm up of flexing both sides and making sure I could talk to all the parts of his body. Something was just not right from the beginning, we were stopping every couple of strides and when I went to put my leg on, his sides were rock hard. He had pooped in the trailer and was eating hay when I opened the door so I doubted he was colicing, but I expressed my concern to Lynn and we took it a little easy in order to watch him. Unfortunately, easy was not really all that easy! We worked on regulating his trot, showing more in his travers, more fluidity in the turn on the haunch and then came the canter...what a disaster! He was so far behind my leg I ended getting a whip to keep him moving. We worked on collection with straightness, circles and then the simple changes. Usually, the lessons are 45 min., but on our easy work out we did an hour...jeez! Buddy and I were exhausted and I was completely disheartened. I felt unprepared for this show and honestly considered scrapping the whole thing, but it was paid for and we were going.

Over the week, my rides slowly improved. I body clipped him on Monday, had a less than pleasant ride on Tuesday (probably due to the new haircut), thunderstorms were held on Wednesday so no riding, and Thursday definitely had better moments. Friday was the big day, I packed the trailer loaded up the Boo and off we went to Southern Pines! We arrived right at the end of a pretty intense thunderstorm that had delayed the show for an hour and a half. Buddy was unloaded and settled in immediately into his new (well rather old stall, they were established in the 50's!) stall. We met Lynn and some of our new neighbors then went to the hotel to tuck in for the evening and get ready for the next day's classes. We did get to use a really cool service that I had not been exposed to at any of my other overnight shows...Overnight check-in was done by a lovely woman named Linda who during the course of the night would check in on your horses, refill water if needed, give more hay, put on/take off blankets, feed breakfast and call if your horse was acting peculiar, and all of this was $10 a night...what a wicked deal!!!

Saturday morning was rather uneventful, we said good morning to everyone, walked Buddy around the track since the show grounds at Pinehurst is actually a sulky track with a polo field in the middle. The show rings are set up along the outside of the track  and the warm-up on the other side of the track and the polo field. Buddy was also introduced to the golf course behind the barn, where there was a tee for one of the holes right behind his stall! Next was stall cleaning and then braiding for the first class at 11:11 (the wish time...I admit I did make a wish that the weekend would go well!). Buddy warmed-up like a champ and off we went to our first class Second Level Test 2. It started off a little sticky since the rings were a mucky from the rain the day before and because of the invisible ring monster in the corner near M, but other than that was a rather pleasant test. I was stoked when I saw that I had tied for first place but it was even better that I had tied with a woman who I used to board with and had taught me when I was a beginning student at Woodlawn Stables in Alexandria, VA. I lost the tie but still ended up second with a score 63%! My next test was around 2:45 and I had asked Lynn to coach since it was a GAIG qualifying class. We got out to the polo field about a half hour before my class, and she whipped my butt into shape...more collection, shorter reins, more shoulder-fore and plenty of half-halts. Buddy felt Fantastic!!! I went into the class and had a total brain fart :( The test went well but I somehow forgot most of the stuff Lynn had just worked so hard to hammer into my head, UGH! I finished and Lynn said that it went OK but to bring the camera my father had videoed my ride with to her trailer once I finished taking care of Buddy. I went back to the barn, untacked, washed Buddy down, and fed him dinner. Then Mom and I took the camera over to Lynn's trailer and plugged it up to her flat screen. We watched the test twice, the first time was for Lynn to commentate on every movement, the second was to see if I could do it to prove to her I knew what to fix. That was a great learning tool. I knew exactly what I needed to fix and had my homework to think about before doing the test again the next morning. Afterwards, we went to the office to pick up my score. I ended up in the bottom of my class but with a 64+%!!! First place had a 68% so we weren't too far off and I got my first score for the GAIGs :) We went back to the barn, tucked Buddy in for the night, set breakfast up for Linda to give and then went out into Southern Pines for a celebratory dinner!

Sunday morning came quickly since we had to pack up at the hotel and my ride time was earlier than yesterday. I had studied in the hotel room my three major bullet points and was ready at 8:30 for my warm-up ride with Lynn. Buddy felt AWESOME, unlike anything that I had ridden the week before, at the show or probably ever from him. I really felt like we belonged there! We walked into that ring and owned test 3. We showed our mediums with clear collection afterwards, shoulder-in to renvers were clear, the reinback was less tense, turn-on-the-haunches were marching, walking with done with purpose, simples were light and the counter canters were less rushed. We (me, mom, dad, and Lynn) were extremely pleased!! I couldn't wait to get my score but we went to get some breakfast and then headed to the show office. I went to the score board and my heart fell. Not only was I again at the bottom of my class but apparently this judge did not appreciate my ride at all and scored me a 59%. I felt like I had been beaten up, I read the comments and there were some good moments but overall she felt that we lacked the idea of true collection. Lynn did not think it was all that bad but could tell I was upset. Unfortunately, she had to leave right after in order to get home to teach her Sunday lessons. So I was on my own for the last class. It looked like it was going to rain so we packed everything early in order to be ready to leave after my rather late ride time of 3:42. Luckily, many competitors opted to scratch in order to get on the road early so I was able to move my ride time up. I went through the same motions from my warm-up that morning and was ready to ride test 2. Poor Buddy was exhausted and tried his best but was very slow and broke for a step in his counter canter. I praised him at the end and thanked him for being such a good boy this weekend. I ran back to the barn, cooled him off, put the tack and my show clothes in the trailer and then got Buddy on with his well earned Banana :) We parked the trailer with him in it to wait for my scores by the show office. It was only a couple minutes and I had my last score and ribbon in my hand. I came in second again just like the day before but unlike that morning, the score was much higher with a less than thrilling test (62.6%)....whatever! The comments were similar but the marks were higher. We left after that and Buddy was more than excited to see the barn when I opened the trailer door. He was such a good boy, I don't plan on getting on him until maybe Wednesday. It was a great show, with really good learning experiences, new and old friends were enjoyed, and great scores at Second level including a GAIG score. Not a bad start to the open show season...until next time!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

First Show of the Season :)

It only took me two weeks to write this but at least I'm getting to it! So the first show of the season has officially been accomplished...let's do a quick run down:

Friday evening, we arrive at the Raleigh Hunt Complex (aka "the State Fairgrounds") and find our stalls with my friends Kay & Foy Robertson and the crew from Ginn Farm Dressage & Sporthorses. I was super excited to see my friends since I did not show at all last year and these guys, well girls, are an absolute blast at a show! The set-up proved to be a little difficult. The stalls are kind of a mess since they are like off-roading in a 10x10 area. Setting up a tack stall ended up being very creative ;) Buddy settled in right away and became quite attached to his neighbor Little Buddy (Kay's Pintabian gelding). Then it was back home for an early night since Saturday was supposed to start early with braiding and a bath.

Saturday morning did start early, but not as early as originally planned...something that anyone reading this should know is that every Arabian show I plan on going to (it happens every single time) rain is always in the forecast. Wouldn't you know it, it torrential rained the evening before making the rings not a total disaster but something that would not keep your show-ready pony very clean. So, I made the command decision to forgo the bath (something that I have NEVER done for a horse show, schooling or rated!) and just decided to take him for a long walk and braid him up for his 8 something AM ride time. Buddy was extremely relaxed for everything that morning so warm-up time came and all was going smoothly. First up was Second level test 3, the tougher of the two tests I signed up for. I met a couple more friends in the warm-up, did some chatting while stretching and proceeded with a leisurely warm-up. It came time for my test, I heard the whistle, went down the centerline and started my test. Unfortunately, I only got through the halt, salute, medium trot, shoulder in right, renver left, medium trot and the beginning of left shoulder-in transitioning over to renver before the horse in the ring next to us stepped on the chain ring and knocked over one of the wooden letters right next to me and Buddy. Needless to say, that was the end of poor Buddy's brain. I managed to get him back and continued on with the test as best as we could. The rest of the test was semi-accurate with only breaking in both counter canters which were extremely tight to begin with but we managed to finish. At the end of the test, the judge called me up to her stand to tell me that she got lost during my test and thought that overall Buddy did a great job for it being an already very difficult test without adding the incident that the younger horse. All of that ended with a 64+%!

The next test was only two hours later, I had hoped that this would give Buddy some time to forget what happened earlier that morning. Alas, it did not. The next test we were doing was much easier but he never let go of the tension he had acquired from the morning. It was again semi-accurate but lacked pizazz that he had originally shown before he lost his poor little brain. We also lost the function of a half-halt as well as our simples. For this class, we had the same judge as we did in the morning and she must have seen something promising because even with tension and plenty of "boo boos" we still earned a 61+%. I grabbed a blanket from the trailer since another terrible thunderstorm was in the works for the evening, tucked Buddy in and set off for home.

Sunday morning started very unpleasant. My allergies were in full swing and I could not see or breath without discomfort. Mom gave me 2 allergy pills which did not appear to be Benadryl but Oops! it was the CVS generic equivalent instead (this will become a problem later on in my story). So after meds and coffee were had, it was back to the Hunt Complex. It was another wet morning but I had some renewed hopes that it was a new day, new thought process, no more show nerves and overall it was going to be a great day with great tests. Nope, I was wrong. My very-drowsy allergy meds had started to kick in and getting ready to warm-up was remarkably difficult. After I finally got Buddy and myself ready to ride I was exhausted, how was I supposed to accomplish a Second level test like this?!?! Maybe Buddy would be sympathetic to my issues...again wrong. The tension was back and worse than ever. I had no strength to try and deal with his issues and all of my corrections were too late making me disrupt the next movement. I literally warmed-up until the car horn was honked in order to keep myself from exiting stage right off of Bud. We got the test done but man it was not pretty! Lots of hiccups including breaking again in the counter-canter, shallow travers and lazy simples. The new judge was very gracious with some encouraging compliments and a score of 60+%. After that ride I had to crash in the car for a nap because the "Benadryl wanna-be" was kicking my butt! Two hours later, I awoke very refreshed and ready to try again. I was thwarted one more time by the fates. For our last ride, I just had no horse left. Buddy had spent all of his energy being tense that I had nothing left at all for Second 3 which requires so much of the horse. It was depressing. We did a super short warm-up and went in for the test. It was just not something Buddy usually puts out in the show ring. We had the same judge from the morning who still had nice things to say about me and my black horse but she crucified us on more than one movement.

In conclusion, we got through the first one. We came home with four blues and High Point Second level so maybe it wasn't all bad :) Buddy and I had high and not so high points but we have run through the new tests in a relaxed environment and qualified for 1 class at Nationals so far. We have our homework and I have a lesson scheduled next weekend with Lynn before we leave for our next outting. This one will still be small but it has more pressure because it is a USDF show and I may be making an attempt to qualify for Regionals for the first time at 2nd level as an AA, eep! I'll be sure to keep this blog updated after my next lesson and of course after the horse show. Until next time!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Boot Camp Day 2 & 3: Plenty of "Ah-ha!" Moments

Granted I am writing this a couple days after the last day of boot camp, I have my reasons....I was exhausted!! I have been taking lessons for many years but I have not had the opportunity to do a cluster of lessons in one shot like I did this weekend. It was so worth it! Now onto the nitty gritty...

Day 2 
When I came back on Saturday morning, Buddy looked very well rested in his new stall. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, he called when I got out of the car (Yay! my horse still loves me even after I put him through the ringer). I was one of the first rides since the rider before me had to cancel her first lesson due to a severely pulled hamstring. It was cool but Buddy was fresh and ready to work. We used the same warm-up of making sure he was loose and swinging before testing out his bend-ability. He went right to work making my life slightly easier. Lynn had me start to put him together more and more with "core half-halts" in order to lift his shoulders. She also gave me two new weapons to use when he started to get stiff of tense due to the level of difficulty in the work:

The first tool was giving in to his bracing. During the transitions, I have formed an unfortunate habit of helping him brace in his head and neck in order to achieve roundness. I had to let this go during the exercise and not touch his face at all during transitions. It initially resulted in a high neck nose out transition but the back legs stayed active without disrupting the flow. When added with a slight massage of the rein (versus the steady and firm hold) our transitions did a 180 in look and effectiveness! Yippee!!

The second tool is called the "bending sliding" rein. This is merely keeping the current of your hand to his mouth alive with tiny half-halts coming from each rein in order to keep him soft and supple. It is mostly done with the upper body and you know your doing too much with your hands if the horse's nose starts wagging. This concept was not the easiest to me but when applied correctly I got great feedback from Buddy. I felt it was much easier in the canter although it was more difficult for him. Buddy was fantastic! He felt light and supple by the end and put in no arguments about the difficulty of things asked. I was so proud! He had worked so hard I was forced to give him a small bath but at least it had warmed-up enough by this time. Buddy spent the remainder of the day in the paddock outside his stall so he could watch Lynn's lessons for the rest of the day (another excellent learning experience for him ;) ).

Day 3
Today was the moment of judgement, could I put everything that I had learned this weekend together to make Buddy travel like the third level horse I wanted him to be. Again, Buddy showed no signs of distress in his new surroundings and had even taken a strong liking to his handsome neighbor across the aisle, Costello. On a quick side note, you have to love Mother Nature. She gives us warm and sunny the first two days and pouring rain yet still warm on Sunday. So now it was muggy and my glasses begin to fog...awesome! But we keep on trekking. We mount up in the rain but thank goodness for her covered arena! As soon as the warm-up started, I knew Buddy was starting to feel the work. He was not as supple or easily bendable. I eventually had to permanently implant my spur into his side to keep him moving forward. Along with this I had to remember my new position in the saddle with long loose legs, elbows closer to my ribs, core activated and pelvis more forward. Now I had to incorporate this without forcing Buddy into roundness during transitions, keep him bent and activated with my seat/core/legs and keep bending sliding at trot, canter, circles, leg-yield, half-pass and mediums...UGH!!! This was HARD!!! Buddy was tired, sore and grouchy! It felt absolutely awful and times and I would get frustrated when he dropped out or just stopped refusing to go forward (after watching the video though, it rode much worse than it looked). Lynn kept me cool and talked me through it reminding me to be sympathetic to him since this was still technically new and very hard on top of that. Boo also showed his frustration through multiple sneezing fits which ended up ripping the reins from my hands. At one point, she asked if I wanted to quit since he looked mentally fried but I said lets give him a minute and try one last time. It was just what we needed. I was able to regroup and picture the canter exactly how I wanted it while Buddy was able to take a mental breather. I collected myself and him asked for the canter and got the beautiful result of a lovely up transition, elevated shoulders, active hind legs and true collection. HUZZAH!!! With that we called it quits and lots of praise and a banana was had afterwards :)

Lynn was extremely pleased with the progress we made over the weekend and admitted that she threw quite a bit at us but we rose to the challenge. We have our homework and are going to work on it for the next month since the first show is just a couple of weeks away! The only thing I regret is that no pictures were taken during this experience...this just means I will have to take twice as many the next opportunity I have :) Until next time!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Boot Camp Day 1: Where did those muscles come from?!?

I really cannot express my excitement for this training excursion that I am doing this weekend! Today was the first day of what I have dubbed "boot camp" for me and Buddy. We traveled to my trainer's farm, North Star Training Center, to spend three days of training at her farm while she is home from Florida. I spent the entire morning cleaning tack and packing the trailer with all of the essentials that Buddy would need to stay in Chapel Hill (tack, feed, hay, blankets, etc). We left around 12:30 to get there about 45 min. before my first lesson. Unfortunately, the traffic gods were not in our favor today and dealt out very poor drivers the entire way there. With only 15 min. to get Boo tacked and warmed up I pulled him out of the trailer and threw the tack on. Our five minute warm-up was surprisingly relaxed, elastic, and pliable. This was definitely a plus for what was about to come!

The major focus of the weekend is going to be stretching both Buddy and I out. Stretching up and down became the newest addition to my mantra. In stretching down, I was to work on rotating my knee inward towards my saddle to help reinforce my half-halts and quit my lazy chair routine that I tend to get with my legs. This stretched all of the muscles in my thighs as well as some very hidden/dormant muscles all the way up into my groin...ouch! Stretching up entailed strengthening my core in order to sit up and get my bum more underneath me versus behind me. Describing it in words is hard but riding it is even more difficult!

Buddy's bend-ability was his focus which required tons of lateral bending with exercises of over- bending/outside half-halts to get him to really fill up the outside aids as well as half-pass/leg-yield/half-pass to make sure that it was working. This was done and both trot and canter. We started to wrap things up with some medium/extended trots to enforce the soft forward and back with true lengthening. My trainer had us finish with some much needed/deserved "bending" stretch downs...boy what a work-out! Buddy was an absolute star! He tried every step and didn't fuss or argue about the level of work at all. I was surprised and extremely pleased for such a rushed arrival and warm-up!

When the lesson was done, my dad (who is also my trailer chauffeur and camera man) helped me unpack the trailer and get Buddy settled in his new house for the weekend. Buddy has a large stall in the main barn with a (much larger than the one at home) automatic waterer, private patio (small attached paddock) that looks out into the covered arena and tomorrow will have access to his own grass paddock! What a lucky boy! His neighbor across the aisle is very handsome chestnut warmblood who seemed very interested in Buddy's arrival.

Tomorrow morning starts day 2 of the boot camp and I have taken my Advil since my "undeveloped core muscles" and quads were screaming by the time we started to drive home from NSTC. My lesson is at 10:15, meaning I have to be at the farm by 9:30 so it's up bright and early on a Saturday morning to do some serious learning and I'm completely stoked to do it :) Until tomorrow!   

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

February in a nutshell

February was an interesting month...between snow, rain, lessons, ambulance rides, and doctor's appointments and crazy wildlife, it's been a little chaotic! Snow and rain are a total bummer when it comes to riding. Especially because the construction of the covered arena does not start until summer/fall, my riding is primarily done in a grass arena or a hilly paddock for conditioning. But them's the breaks! Mother nature is a fickle one and I don't want to make her any more lethal than she already is, so I accept her forecasts and work hard to work around her.

My lesson from Lynn happened at the beginning of the month when she made her first trip up from FL. The glory of the half-halt and the uphill canter were our focus and though it was not easy, great moments were definitely had! More to come later about our next set of lessons and future show plans.

The ambulance ride was not for me but for my father. To make a long story (12 hours in the Duke University ER) short, there were 3 trips to Durham, lunch in their fantastic cafeteria, 3 EKGs, 1 CAT scan, 1 MRI and 1 spinal tap that resulted in the procedure being repeated 3x because they had trouble getting to my dad's spinal fluid ending with 0 idea on what caused him to be there in the first place...Oi! What a day! But I do have to say, the doctors and all of the staff were fantastic! They were kind and gentle with dad but quick with results and showed real concern when listening to our questions and opinions.

Doctor's appointments came for me when I started experiencing back of the head headaches that were affecting me during the day and made riding very uncomfortable. It was eventually concluded that I had either a migraine/muscle pull that ticked off one of the lymph nodes in the back of my head which was causing my rather irritating headaches. After a shot of "super anti-inflammatory" and some lovely muscle relaxers that did much more that relax my muscles, I am back with fewer headaches, less neck pain and most importantly back in the saddle!

As far as the wildlife goes...it's as I stated previously, they are crazy! First, (something which I wish I had pictures of) our neighbor's 4 miniature donkeys and mountain goat got loose from their contained area and were making a field trip up to my barn. Rounding them up was a sight to be seen! In the end, everyone was returned to their appropriate living quarters and I can now add "donkey wrangler" to my equine resume! Next, our Russian ducks have decided to live between two ponds during the day which made everyone nervous thinking that they left permanently or worse had been killed due to our next wildlife problem. A fox has setup shop in one of the corners of the farm. He is quiet and shy but has a bum leg. Every once in awhile, I will see him laying down in the corner of the dirt paddock while the horses are out. It doesn't give me the warm fuzzies but I have come to the conclusion that he is just doing this for company, but I'll have to keep an eye on it. We are also overpopulated with vultures due to a deer that died on near the pond. Although they don't necessarily cause any problems they choose to leap into flight every time Khakie and I are on a trail ride...the poor guy is starting to get a complex! Last but not least is our newest inhabitant. Yesterday, I saw him/her moving through the back 5 acres (aka the hill arena) and boy was this sucker HUGE! Now, I love me some turtles but there was no way I was getting too close to this one! He/She is now residing in our pond and I think we may be in store for more of her kind and less of the ducklings this Spring :(


Here is the closest picture I could get of super turtle!
Now for current news...This weekend, Buddy and I are taking a training adventure down to Lynn's farm for 3 days of training. I think I will be completely exhausted by the end but I'm hoping to have a couple of break-throughs during this time. I am going to try and write everyday with it like a training journal and hopefully include some more pictures too! We have to start getting into show shape since the first one is the second week in April (eep!). Well, until next time!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Gaited Dressage Wonder

I think today, I'm going to take a minute to talk about a horse that does not belong to me but I have been riding for the last couple of years. Although, I have been schooled and competed in saddleseat, it is not my first choice of discipline. But Khakie (aka KO, blonde pony, Khakie-man, turd etc.) is a different case. Due to his up and down health over the last four-five years from multiple illnesses, it is crucial that Khakie gets exercise six days a week. His mother, a close friend of the family, is a super busy business woman and needs help keeping him exercised. So, here's where I come in! Khakie had solid gaited training when I first started riding him and I got better at understanding his gaits/cues with time and the help of a gaited trainer. When the sicknesses came, there was lots of rehabbing done which meant starting from the beginning and helping him learn some of my cues as well. This is how its been for years. His mother has also branched out a bit with some driving lessons for her and KO and she asked me to do a little dressage with him just to keep his mind busy. That was all I needed to hear! First came the figures which was not all that easy dealing with a horse who has only ever gone straight in his entire riding career. Next came the laterals: leg-yields, shoulder-fore & shoulder-in. He was not all that enthusiastic with travers, but we're getting there. Walk pirouettes are really coming along and boy is he a champ at backing! My favorite thing thus far though is definitely the canter. Poor Khakie! Many times this horse has attempted cantering under saddle with different riders...me, a Saddlebred trainer, a TWH trainer, an eventer, a dressage professional, etc.and each time the outcome was very similar to that of a crab, legs moving rapidly sideways/diagonally/semi-straight. It was not comfortable or pretty to look at, so for awhile we ditched the idea. But since moving to NC and currently lacking a ring, I have had to get rather creative in my riding. We have a 5 acre open lot at the back of the property which is currently not in use so I have claimed it as my "hill arena" and only dry place to ride after rain/snow. With this I have been able to help in Khakie's cantering dilemma. After 6 months, Khakie can officially and confidently canter straight on the correct lead and perform 20m circles with ump and enthusiasm, HUZZAH! Now we still have our days where he acts like the red-head w/ blonde hair that he is with his little fiery temper but those are far and few. He goes to work trying to attempt whatever tasks I put in front of him being gaited or dressage and because of his quick thinking picks them up with ease. It makes me proud that a horse I have learned on can still learn from me and be good at it too even though it is not very conventional to his breed. Move over Warmbloods and Arabs, Khakie's hot on your tails!

Although this is not a lovely picture of him under saddle being the gaited dressage phenom that he is...it shows that Khakie is still very good at something, taking naps in the mud!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

First blog of the new year...Yay! Well, let me start with Happy New Year! I hope anyone reading this had a safe and fun night last night bringing in 2011. Unfortunately, that was not the case for me and my mom. Although we did not suffer any safety issues so to speak, our way of bringing in the "New Year" was far less than happy :( Since moving to NC, we have learned many new things about our new neighbors including that there is no such thing as a leash law with dogs, no one feels the need to lock their car/house, and there is always reason to carry a gun! But one thing we were not aware of was the annual lighting of fireworks at private shindigs in the hours leading up to the actual event of the New Year celebration. Needless to say, the horses did not handle the festivities all that well. To make my story short, we spent from 6:00pm to 12:20 in the barn blasting the local pop station to drown out the "works", hand walking in the barn aisle, and feeding Hilton Herballs (perfect sugar free cookies to feed in occassions like these!) until the fireworks ceased and the air was no longer filled with smoke. We got home around 12:30 and promptly crashed, only recognizing the holiday the next morning. At least today we were together as a family, relaxed most of the day and ate a fantastic meal to top it off! Not too bad ;) As a plus, my dad also gifted me and my mother with tickets to the Broadway production of The Lion King at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) this month....I cannot wait, sooo excited!!!

Enough of last night, now to the good stuff: New Years Resolution and Goals! I have decided that I am not breaking things down into specific goals for me or my ponies but instead just general goals that I hope to be reasonably attainable and not just in my riding life but in my personal life as well. Enjoy reading them and maybe as time goes on and if you keep reading (lets hope you do ;)) you can watch...er, read that I accomplish a majority of them!

Resolution/Goals for 2011
  • Finish the requirements for my Bronze Medal
  • Qualify for the USDF/GAIG Region 1 Championships and Arabian/Half-Arabian Sport Horse Nationals in whatever level I choose to compete at this year
  • Continue going to lessons, clinics, and any other form of continuing my education in dressage
  • To keep improving myself with every ride on every horse by maintaining patience and an open mind
  • Lose 15lbs to fit into my beautiful new show coat 
  • Generally be healthier with food (portion control) and exercise (actually doing some besides riding!)
  • Go to a play/concert  - currently scheduled for January 19th
  • Enjoy more activities with my family
  • Finish at least 10 books this year
  • Get a new job that will help better support my love of the big 4-legged beasties :)
Until next time, Have a great start to 2011!