Monday, September 30, 2013

A Thoroughbred Kind of Day

Not every day can be a great one, and unfortunately today was one of the bad ones for Charlie. Right from the get go he was snorting at things that didn't exist, and I knew, sadly, it was probably going to turn into one of those days I'd end up scrapping my grand exercise plans and just see how much I could salvage from the ride.

When we got to Kate's house (which has a small ring I use in the backyard), the other neighbor's goats were there hanging out with Kate's horses. Oh joy. Cue meltdown. I'm pretty sure Charlie had never seen a goat before and, as he was already on the lookout for the killer rooster from last time, trying to convince him that these four cute fuzzy beings wouldn't be running out to attack him with their funny horns and little waggly tails was quite difficult. We stood there for awhile while Charlie snorted at them and stamped his foot, head high in the air. At one point the goats came right up to the fence in front of him to check us out, but overall they couldn't have cared less. 
Killer goats
After lots of reassuring Charlie started breathing normally again so I steered him to the ring area to start working. Lots of circling and keeping him moving was the only way to keep his attention; he was still giving those goats the evil eye, even though he could barely see them. I kept bending and counter-bending, doing walk-trot-halt transitions and working him off my leg to try and get him thinking. When he would actually focus on me we got some lovely trot work. 

Every now and then, though, I could feel him slowing down like he used to when he was distracted and didn't feel like working so I kept pushing him forward and turning different ways to keep his mind busy. 

I figured after a little while that I'd try the trot poles I had laid out earlier. Even though that usually makes him excited and more difficult to control, I hoped it might bring his mind back to where his feet were and what we were doing. It worked really well. The way I had laid them out there were two lines of three trot poles each set on the diagonals so we could trot over them in a figure eight. At first Charlie tried to jump the last two and he would get quick on the out, but after a few times he calmed down and trotted nice and fairly evenly in both directions. 

I was pretty happy with that and gave him a short break then on a loose rein, but I really wanted to do the poles one more time before stopping (I don't like him to be able to anticipate when we'll be done). Well he was not impressed with that idea and proceeded to do the unthinkable: he refused to go forward, shook his head around when I squeezed with my legs and then he reared! The nerve!!! I wouldn't stand for any of that and really let him have it, immediately yelling at him to get up and kicking him into a forward trot. That behavior is completely unacceptable and I wanted him to realize that all it would do for him was earn him more work. We did everything again, trot poles and all, until he calmed down.

After winning that battle I was ready to call it a day so we headed out of the ring and down the driveway toward home only to meet up with the wandering goats again. Like clockwork Charlie's head went straight up. We made it down the driveway but it was difficult. 

We would have been fine then except a series of cars came up behind us and, while Charlie is normally ok with them, he can think they're spooky when he's alone or on edge already, especially when they go by a little fast. The first set of cars was able to pass us without major incident, just a little butt tuck and sidestep from Charlie, but then two more groups came (I swear, it's like they knew my horse was being a jerk, the road is never that busy) and with each one Charlie got worse and worse, shaking his head up and down and jigging. I could tell it wasn't real spooks, he just had extra energy and was frustrated, looking for any excuse to act out. I was trying not to make a big deal of it, unwilling to start another fight; just keep walking forward.

Well then he started using every opportunity to "spook" (a trash can, a mailbox, a dead possum, a wet spot of pavement) and refused to go slower than a jig, I said "ok, obviously you're not ready to relax and go home so let's trot!" (I know, I'm such a mean mom but if he wants to go then we'll go). 

And trot we did...for the next twenty minutes. That is how long it took for me to reach through the Thoroughbred nonsense and reconnect with the Charlie who actually has a brain. Honestly, I didn't care how long it took as long as he came back to me and stopped being an idiot. It's not like we were doing anything he hadn't done before. So on we trotted, right past the house (that's right, Charlie, not stopping) and down the road further than we'd ever gone before, passing lots of "scary" things but I refused to let him stop or dwell on them. Forward was the only option. I didn't turn around until he calmed down, realizing it was using way more energy to snort and spook at things and be an idiot than it required to behave, and then we trotted (nicely) all the way home.

My mentally beat pony
In the end Charlie was listening to me and his head (literally and figuratively) was down where it was supposed to be. Whew! What a workout for both of us. He was sweaty but not blowing...just very mentally exhausted, poor guy. Hopefully the next ride we'll be back to normal. I still love him, this is just part of what it means to have a Thoroughbred!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Weekend in Maryland

This past weekend I went down to Maryland to visit my best friend, Emily. It's two weeks until her wedding so I went down for her final dress fitting and, of course, to hang out and do horsey things. :)

On Saturday after the fitting we went to Shawan Downs for our first ever steeplechase, the Legacy Chase (don't know how two such horse-crazy girls never managed to watch one before). It was so much fun! A lot like the polo Dan and I used to go to in Newport atmosphere-wise, with lots of tailgating and preppy people, except they were races instead of a match. It really made me want to try it sometime.

Today we got up bright and early to go see some of Emily's friends from her barn in California compete in the Capital Challenge Junior Equitation Competition. In a class of 77 riders, two girls from her barn got 4th and 5th which was awesome! It was really fun and inspiring to watch everyone compete, lots of young talent and beautiful horses (and lots of $$).

In the beginning, though, one of the competitors had a really scary looking fall and actually knocked herself out. Her horse valiantly tried to save a really bad distance and ended up crashing through the back of the oxer, actually breaking the rail in half and falling over it to his knees which tossed the rider on her head/back. She ended up being ok with only a concussion and no other major injuries, thank goodness, but she didn't move for awhile and then when she did wake up she immediately started screaming incoherently. 

The part that scared me the most was that there was no ambulance on site. There was a horse ambulance, but in such a large competition in a dangerous sport like riding, how could they not have a people ambulance?! It took a good 20 minutes before one got there; it was a really good thing she wasn't more critical.

The rest of the competition was only eventful in a positive sense with the sheer talent of the horses and riders. Unfortunately my camera was not very good at capturing any decent jumping from so far away in the dim lighting but here's one shot so you can at least see the gorgeous jump course:

After the show we traveled over to Emily's barn to go for a ride. Unfortunately, as horses have a tendency to do when you have big plans for the day, both her horse and the one I was supposed to ride were injured so we had to go to the Plan B horses. Hank, the horse I rode couldn't have been more the opposite of Charlie: a round, sloooooww warmblood that needed a lot of leg to keep going; Hank the Tank I affectionately called him. He was still a lot of fun, but I am not used to riding something so lazy (or lazy at all for that matter). I prefer horses with go so I really wished I had spurs, but I made do with a crop. It was good practice for me, but my legs will definitely feel it tomorrow. The most fun part was that I got to jump a mini course, which I haven't done in forever! I surprised myself by getting over half the distances almost spot on, and when I did mess up (a few I really botched) Hank was a sweetheart and really helped me out. What a good boy :) I can't wait to start doing courses again; I miss it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Buffing Up

It's time for winter stock up! Yesterday Dan and I got our workout helping Jan unload and stack four wagonloads of hay, about 350 bales total, in preparation for winter.

Wagon #1
Asher came along with us and was a very good boy. We're doing our be to expose him to everything we possibly can and so far so good :) Here's the loft once we were all finished:
With all that hay stacking I was a little sore and tired today so I just did some groundwork refreshers with Charlie rather than ride. I'm trying out some new exercises Jan taught me to help Charlie relax and lower his head and yield his hindquarters, some John Lyons stuff (he's a certified JL trainer). Seems to be going well so far, although Jan swears that with a horse that throws his head up, if you allow a loop in the lead rope the horse will automatically lower his head; I'm not so confident about that yet. Maybe it only really works if the horse starts to fight you. I still have to apply some pressure to get Charlie's attention and then release once he gives a bit, then he'll lower his head nicely.

Charlie himself has been buffing up a bit too, although I realized yesterday it's been quite awhile since the last conformation shot. Sorry! He's starting to fill out with muscle, especially in his butt and shoulders as well as his lower back/pelvis. His neck is much less scrawny too.

Darn horse, wouldn't stop looking at me lol
He still has a ways to go but here's a picture from last winter for comparison (mind you, he had his winter coat then so and you could still see his ribs):

Dec 2012
And, just for cuteness' sake, I'll end with some pictures of Asher :)

Goin' for a walk with Dan and Uncle River
Exploring the creek
Nap time!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The new addition

Ladies and gentlemen meet the newest member of the family!

Well, the extended family, if we are being technically correct (my parents adopted him on Monday night), but he's close enough to my own family especially since I will be the one taking care of him most days for the foreseeable future.

Asher is about the cutest thing going, 12 weeks of pure golden puppy goodness. A birth defect left him with no tail and a urethral malformation (that has since been surgically corrected) but his laid back inquisitive personality is to die for and he is so soft you just can't help but cuddle him. He really doesn't act like a puppy, and it's impossible not to fall in love with him at first sight.

For me, he's going to temporarily satisfy my desire for a golden puppy, which is the next dog on my list (not that I don't absolutely adore Emma, and we're not in the market for a puppy anyway, but a golden is my dream dog). Asher will therefore be my surrogate puppy and, as such, he's coming everywhere with me (which is perfectly fine by my parents, the more socialization the better!) :) 

Today I took him to Connie's to meet her puppy, Judy (instant BFFs!), and Charlie horse (completely unfazed) and then over to the barn to meet Jan. From there Asher and I drove over to Tractor Supply to get him some more puppy food. Everyone turned to mush over him; how could they not? 

Best buds
Passed out at the barn
Tomorrow Dan and I will spend some more quality time with him, maybe have an Asher/Judy playdate....I anticipate this puppy will not be leaving my side :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

The other side of me

One of my favorite hobbies since I was a little girl has been doing artwork. Believe it or not, after deciding I didn't want to go to med school, I actually changed gears and went to Chicago where I earned my masters in medical illustration. As a medical illustrator, I learned to produce things like this:
Tendon transfer surgery
 And this:
Transmission at the synapse
And this:
Limbic system

.....but what I really like to do is this:



Recently, after leaving my job at the animal hospital and moving to PA, I've had a lot of extra time on my hands (between submitting job applications) so I've decided to use that time to refocus on my fine art. After all, it really does make me happy, and perhaps I could even make some money.

So I've been doodling and painting and in general just having fun. Kate (of lucysquest) actually was the one that inspired me to try painting some saddle pads after I was lucky enough to get two of her handpainted pads as a present one year. She is incredibly talented. If you haven't seen her designs you really should check them out here :)  Anyway, I started dabbling with one or two pads for Charlie; I figured a compass rose pad would be nice seeing as how his registered name is Wayfinder:

Well no sooner had I started then I got hooked. It seemed the more I painted the more designs kept filling my head and I really had a hard time stopping (I finally ran out of blank saddle pads).

On Saturday, as sort of my Lancaster County premiere, I took all of my saddle pads as well as a few canvases and several notecard sets to a local heritage festival with my mom and sister who were also selling handmade items. My goal was to get my name out there for custom work, although I figured it would be nice to sell something. Well the selling part was kind of a bust, only sold a few card sets, but then again it wasn't a real horsey crowd. However, the exposure was decent and many people took my business card. Hopefully I can get some private commissions out of it. I started up an Etsy store, too, which I hope may bring in a little something (TimpsonIllustrations).

A shot of our booth
My section
My mom was selling some handmade clothes as well as these really cool tea and wine cozies out of repurposed sweaters. Each design is unique and I think they'd make great gifts so I think I'll help her set up an Etsy store of her own.
Tea cozies
Wine cozies
My sister, Meg, has her own small business where she makes scarves, bags and other accessory items (Gema Creations). They both did well, selling several items, and we all had fun hanging out together on such a beautiful day (well, until late afternoon when storms started rolling in so we packed it up early). I'm hoping maybe we can find another show or two to go to together again in the near future.

Scarves and bags from Gema Creations

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Farm girl

Felt like a true farm girl today: from mucking for and feeding/watering 30 horses to working the 1960s tractor and spreading manure, I got to do all the "dirty" work as Jan was away this weekend and left me in charge. It actually was really relaxing...

Can't beat the view: happy horses with harvest moon sunrise backdrop
I had hoped to see some of the resident baby deer on the way out to spread manure but, alas, no luck
Me and that trusty ol' Yanmar 2000
I could get used to this life (shhhh don't tell Dan)!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sore butts, happy hearts :)

This past weekend we had some gorgeous fall weather so my mom, Kate M. and I decided to take advantage of one of the last weekends before the start of hunting season to go on a nice long trail ride. Across the road from my house is a county park with several miles of trails, the Money Rocks County Park. The park sits on the top of the mountain and has several beautiful rocky outlooks over the valleys. The story is that a couple hundred years ago locals would use the natural rock formations to hide gold, hence the name: "Money Rocks." Many people have carved their names there too, some dating back to the 1850s or more.

A view from the top (
Growing up right across the street from the Money Rocks (before it was even a park) I was over there all the time. Since becoming a park the trails have all been cleaned up and marked (which makes it much easier to not get lost). You do have to watch out, though, as it is pretty rocky in many places and there is no true map of the trails so you have to have a decent sense of direction or be willing to potentially walk 10 miles in the wrong direction if you try a new trail.

Mom and Kate are hopeless when it comes to directions (they willingly admit it) so it was delegated to me to keep us from getting lost. Luckily my sense of direction is a little bit better than theirs, but the horses always know the way home anyway. Charlie happily led the way, only pausing uncertainly at a small stream and at a scary rock pile (but he followed willingly enough once Buffy showed him it was ok), then he was right up in the lead again. Eventually, once we had gone a decent way out into the woods, I decided it was time to veer off the trail we had been following and cut back up on an adjoining one that headed back the direction we needed to go. Didn't want to push the horses too much.....

Well, let me tell you, those horses got a workout. No sooner had we turned onto that trail than it started going up....and fast! You see, this park is on the side of a mountain (or what we would call a mountain in PA) and while most of the trails meander up and down and around, apparently I found the shortcut one that went straight up the side of the hill. Direct route home, yes, but boy was it steep! I could have sworn at some points we were going at a 45 degree angle. Once we started up it, though, there was no way to turn around. It would have been much more dangerous to go back down, what with all the rocks.

Charlie was such a champ! He saw that hill and plunged right ahead. Even when we had to navigate around big stones and fallen logs he took it all in stride. Every time we thought the trail was leveling out, we'd turn the corner and up it would go again but Charlie didn't bat an eye. I knew he was tired (so was I, for that matter, being in two-point for what felt like 10 minutes straight), but he never asked to stop. When I did try to let him rest 3/4 of the way up he didn't want to.

When we finally reached the top it was crazy to look back down over where we had come. The horses were huffing and puffing, and poor Mom had to get off and fix her saddle as Poppy was sweaty enough that it slipped almost down to his hips. Oops! But we made it!
Mom and Poppy: We made it!
The way back was much easier after that. The trail came out on the road a few miles from home. The horses still (surprisingly) had energy so we got in some good trotting and cantering as well.

An (uncharacteristic) view of Charlie behind everyone else
I'm estimating that in total we probably went 9 miles or so (I was kicking myself for not remembering to click "Map my ride" on my phone to track our progress for real). Oh well, next time.

Charlie got a nice bath when we got back, a treatment of SoreNoMore and some bute with dinner. I'm sure his butt was still sore the next day, but we were all happy and I really think he enjoyed himself. (Those borium shoes were also a lifesaver.)

It was such a relaxing and beautiful ride, I can't think of a better way to have spent a Sunday morning :)