Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My little (western) pony

Yesterday was such a beautiful fall day I couldn't resist enjoying it with Charlie, even though Monday I worked 10 hours and so far on Tuesday I had started at 6 am at the barn where I mucked and fed and then rode 4 horses leaving around 11:30 only to go work outside from 12:30-4 at Job #2...I was a little tired...

As a result I decided to try one of Connie's western saddles for my ride, rather than use my jumping saddle, so if Charlie acted up I'd feel more secure, especially since we'd be out alone. Unfortunately neither saddle fit Charlie well, damn high withers, but I was able to at least rig one of them up with a wither relief pad similar to with my English saddle that seemed to do the trick, at least in the short term.

I had been wanting to explore some of the trails behind Connie's house since they had started to develop the lots there and I was curious if the nice trails still existed. There was one in particular I wanted to find with a small water crossing since Charlie has some water issues. We ended up finding it and the trails back there are just as nice as I had remembered. However, I guess because of the construction and new water runoff pattern the small creek was now just a mud pit :( I didn't figure this out, unfortunately, until I had gotten off to coax Charlie to go through what appeared to be only 1" of surface water on foot; actually it was 1" of surface water concealing ankle deep disgusting mud and rot. We went across once along the side and were fine; it was on the way back that I discovered it wasn't all solid ground and we both got covered in grossness. Charlie, bless his heart, trudged through right beside me. Good boy, bad Lauren; what a ruin of a lesson. 
Looks quite innocent, covered with leaves
After scrubbing myself clean with handfuls of dry leaves and finding a stone from which to mount up we were off once again. It was peaceful 90% of the time. Charlie did have one moment when he wanted to jump a little log across the trail and I forgot I couldn't jump in western tack so I got nailed in the gut by the horn and then slammed on his back. Needless to say he wasn't happy about that and gave some good bucks afterward (thank god for the western saddle to help hold me in!). After that he was a bit excited and while cantering up one hill he grabbed the bit and took off, doing his classic "running buck" which is pretty much a round and bounding leap after leap, like a carousel horse on speed. Whenever Charlie tried to speed up after that I would pull a quick one-rein stop and turn a 180 in the other direction. He figured out pretty quick that the goal was one speed, walk, and when I said whoa I meant it.

All in all it was a good ride, and I was really glad for the western saddle. I love my jumping saddle, but especially when going out alone on the trails (which is mostly what I'm doing around here right now) you can't beat the comfort and extra sense of security of a western saddle; it is so much easier to sit through bad behavior in that than in my close contact!

I've been wanting a western saddle for awhile, but I think I'll have to seriously start looking for one of my own so that I can continue riding safely this winter without having a ring. I miss doing ring work (never thought I'd say that!) and feel that Charlie is slipping a little without it, but I'll be darned if I won't continue doing what I can to ride this winter without one! 

Doesn't he make a dapper cow horse?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Kids say the darnedest things

While riding back home this afternoon Charlie and I passed a couple of boys playing noisily in the woods and this is what I heard:

Boy #1: Oooo horse! You should run!
Boy #2: Yeah go fast!....Hey, can you make him stand on his back legs?

If only they knew...hahaha

Friday, October 25, 2013

Brrr

Oh snap! Cold snap that is:
That's under armor weather right there
Iced over water buckets
Frost-tipped grass
Can't fall hang out for just a little while longer? I'm not quite ready for winter....


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fun and games

On Sunday my barn had a cookout/party complete with lots of yummy food and horsey games. So I decided to bring Charlie, and Connie brought Gi, to have a little fun. The only thing is, with all the stuff that's been going on in my life I haven't been able to ride like I've wanted to...as in, Charlie had the last week and a half off. Oops. :/

I figured that might make for an "interesting" day but I was committed and had told people I'd be bringing him so I doped Charlie up with some extra vitacalm and off we went. He loaded perfectly and wasn't overly excited when we got there. Connie and I put the boys in the indoor while we got our stuff ready, then I spent some time with Charlie in the round pen before hopping on for a quick walk/trot to see what we were working with. So far, so good.
When we got outside Charlie was a little more excited. I walked him around the ring on the ground at first to let him see the place. He was pretty hyped about there being horses in the surrounding fields, and then at one point he spooked and scooted forward and Judy (Connie's dog) dashed into the ring barking and trying to "herd" Charlie back into behaving. He usually is ok with this at home and doesn't mind dogs, but he was already high and so wasn't too thrilled so he actually reared in response. Eeek! I was worried he'd flip out and accidentally strike her, but once I got him to stand still and ignore her she stopped running around and we got it under control. Poor Judy, just trying to help.

The first game was Simon Says; pretty basic, only at the walk/trot since there were less experienced riders in the ring with me and Charlie needed something easy to start. We won!
Pretty much a simple flat class, good practice for Charlie
The second game involved trotting up to a couple of barrels and getting your horse to eat only a certain number of carrots on the top of each one before hurrying back to the start/finish line. Charlie liked this game...food!!

Unfortunately, although Charlie was really good at the game, they started giving pony/cart rides around the ring at that time and he basically went berserk. You'd think he'd never seen a mini horse in his life and that the cart was going to eat him. His head was practically in my lap and so I had to call it quits because we were jigging all over the place everytime the pony got near and Charlie was close to losing his brain entirely.

Jan and Buster giving rides
Luckily I had Gi to ride too since Connie is just now getting back in the saddle after her accident a few months ago. I rode him in a few games: another round of the "carrot barrels" (he wasn't too good at it) and an "egg and spoon" race. It was so much fun! He's a good boy, even if he doesn't steer :P
Me and Gi
Carrot Barrel races
Gi in the carrot barrel races
video
 
 
Egg and spoon races
video

At that point, Charlie really started acting up for Dan, who had been holding him for me outside the ring; Gi wasn't nearby and the Killer Mini kept reappearing and Charlie just couldn't handle it. So I had to bail from the games and take Charlie into the indoor for a little "brainwork" and some time away from everything to calm down.

Connie and Gi, back together again :)
Overall we had a ton of fun. Not too many people showed up for games and, personally, it wasn't quite as successful as I would have hoped, but I mostly just wanted Charlie to get the experience of trailering out someplace and being around other horses and activity (and this was the perfect low key way to try that out). It's my fault he hadn't been worked in a week and a half; if he had I think we would have been much better. But, on the other hand, he didn't completely embarrass me, which I was slightly worried about. Next time will be much better and I'm determined to keep up with riding him on a regular basis, even if I get busy. Next year, we will be showing for real!

Hanging out after the games, happy as clams


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Life's About to Get Busy

Another reason it's been so hard to post lately is that I now have three part-time jobs. Yup. Three.
  1. Mucking/feeding/turnout at the barn plus training horses at least 2-3 days a week
  2. Assisting in corn research at Pioneer, a local research facility, 8-20 hrs per week
  3. Seasonal sales help at Target, starting in November (I had applied for this job before I got Job #2, but didn't hear back from them until I already had started the other job)
Pretty soon I know this means I will be working my socks off, but I think I can make it all work together and I'm hopeful that it will help me save up some money while I wait for Dan or myself to land something more permanent. I would have preferred one more full-time job but, hey, this is way better than nothing.

I still have my fingers crossed for this dream job that has been flirting with me from the wings for several years now (I won't spoil you with any details unless it becomes more definite, but it would involve art and horses so, therefore, it would be perfect), and Dan has had several semi-promising leads lately. Hopefully something good will come our way soon! Or maybe we could just win the lottery.

My Best Friend's Wedding

Part of the reason I've been so busy lately is that last weekend my best friend got married :) Dan and I spent a long four day weekend in Maryland for all of the festivities and boy did we have a great time. On Friday myself and a few other girls took Em out to the Baltimore Aquarium for her bachelorette party, non-traditional but a forever-long dream of hers, and then we went out for an awesome dinner and some drinks.
One of my aquarium favorites, of course
I am also completely fascinated by jellyfish. These were new to me: upsidedown jellies
On Saturday the girls got our nails done and then had the rehearsal in the morning followed by a rehearsal dinner at night, buuuut in between I had arranged for Part II of the Bachelorette Party, a surprise trip down to DC to see Cavalia!!



I had reserved tickets for Emily, myself, her sister and her mom (all horsey people) and so, of course, we all had an amazing time. I wish I could have taken pictures, it was all so spellbinding, but you weren't allowed any photography during the show. Let's just say that if you ever have a chance to see any of their shows, do it! You won't be disappointed. I had seen their original show once before when I was in Chicago and the things they do with the horses, live music, lights, and choreography is beyond magical. My favorite scenes have always been the ones at liberty, and in this show there was one part with seriously 30 horses all loose on stage at once. Simply amazing. And there was much more water in this show as well, which added a really unique twist.

A view of the awesome stage before the performance got started
On Sunday, despite questionable weather reports and a bit of drizzle in the morning, the sun finally came out a bit just in time for the ceremony. All of us girls had gotten our hair professionally done which is always fun and makes you feel special (mine, btw, lasted perfectly through the whole night of dancing, plus I slept on it and wore it the entire next day looking perfect....those stylists are amazing).

The beautiful venue: Cloister Castle, Lutherville, MD
The entryway into the castle
Emily looked so beautiful and the ceremony went off without a hitch (including my Maid of Honor speech, phew!). It was a smallish wedding, but I think it was perfect, and everything came together so nicely. Honestly it was one of the best weddings I've ever been to and I am so happy for Emily and her husband. Dan and I couldn't have had a more enjoyable weekend. :)

The wedding party
Me and Emily :)
Dan and I

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Hay"-ven

We got our first load of winter hay delivered the other day and Connie snapped this picture of Charlie who thought it was his own personal smorgasbord:

Nom nom nom

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Best friends, back roads and baby horses

Yesterday my best friend, Emily, and her mom came up to visit so we could go riding and take advantage of the beautiful fall weather. She is getting married this weekend -- eeeee!!! -- and her mom is in town for the week to spend time with her before the big day. Since everyone is furloughed in DC, including Emily, and there isn't much for them to do down in her neck of the woods, and since the weather was perfect, we moved our original Thursday ride up to yesterday. Who could resist 70 degrees and not a cloud in the sky? The sudden 20 degree drop in temperature made Charlie a bit full of himself, but a good gallop in the beginning tired him out a bit.

I took them all over along the beautiful back roads near my house so Emily's mom could see the Amish farms and animals in the fields. She is from California and so she had a blast. Plus, she loved how we could gallop up and down the roads without worrying about cars....I would have taken them in the woods but bow-hunting season has started so the trails will have to wait for another time. Here are a series of shots from our ride:

Charlie leading the way
A field of the cutest Haflingers
Babies!!!
Sooo adorable
Buffy loved them...
...Charlie was petrified
"If I stand absolutely still they won't see me"



Such beautiful countryside






Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fun in the Sun

Those of us on the east coast have been experiencing somewhat of an Indian Summer recently, with temperatures in the high 70s and 80s, so I was pretty excited today when one of the women from the barn, "A", asked if I wanted to trailer with her over to a local park to take the horses for a ride and a swim.

I was a little hesitant at first, since I don't know this girl really well and I was afraid Charlie might be a jerk and embarrass me (in front of this girl who has three nice horses, one of whom is currently a local OTTB hunter champion), but I decided it would be fun and I should take advantage of every opportunity I can to go out with Charlie. Even so, I did give him an extra double scoop of Vita-Calm before we left, just in case. :)

On a quick side note: Charlie started the day off great by snapping out of his nice leather halter before "A" arrived to pick us up and proceeding to trot away down the road. AWESOME. I had decided not to use the rope halter (which I've been using  to try to teach him not to freak out with tension on the leadrope when he's tied), in favor of his pretty leather one. At least then he'd look more respectable. Well, he looped it around the hitching post and snap snap snap! Off it came. I was really surprised: the leather didn't break, the metal did! So much for leather being safer....anyway, off he went so I ran for his rope halter and took off after him, held up my hand to stop a car, and then called and he (moraculously!) turned around and came cantering down the road right toward me...Probably looked pretty impressive to the people in the car... I actually turned away and sent him down the driveway because he was slipping on the road a bit and couldn't slow down to come up right to me. When I got back down to the barn he was eating grass and, with a shake of some grain, came right up as if nothing had happened. GREAT start to the day.


Once "A" arrived Charlie was back to normal and he loaded almost perfectly - he keeps getting better and better with that. He also immediately fell in love with "A's" little paint pony, Jack, who she had decided to bring along instead of her big horses since he would likely be the most calm and level-headed companion for Charlie.
Pony butts!
When we unloaded at Marsh Creek Charlie was looking at stuff but wasn't crazy, a little jigging but only until we got in the woods. "A" knew the trails pretty well and led us on a really nice little 5-mile hike (well, Charlie led, under her direction).



At one point we got to a big open field and we decided to canter. Charlie was great!! We only had one argument when, after making a complete loop of the field together, I told "A" I wanted to try it again once more with Charlie and she decided to stay back and give Jack a rest. Charlie was good at first but when we reached the other side of the field (probably about two football fields away) and realized that Jack wasn't with him he started to panic. He spun around and called out, looking frantically for his new BFF. When Jack called back, that set Charlie off and he started to bounce and spin, calling out nonstop, and even reared a little, but it was more like he just didn't know what to do with his body and was trying to figure out where the pony was rather than a reaction to me. I turned him in circles a few times and gave him something to do until he focused on me again, then we trotted the length of the field back to Jack. The whole trot back Charlie kept whinnying under his breath, kind of cute actually, but he listened to me and didn't take off so I was proud. I guess that was asking a lot of Charlie, but now I know his limits.

There's Jack!
The coolest part, though, is that before all this happened I got to gallop Charlie for the first time on a flat expanse of land....it was awesome! Not as awesome as racing Gypsy, my favorite old grey TB, but still pretty cool. He may not move his legs super quickly but he can cover some ground!

After that we continued through the woods until at the end of the ride we got to a beautiful little boat launch area where we could let the horses play in the water. Charlie hesitated only for a second, but once Jack went in and started playing Charlie was right there beside him. Then when I asked him to go out deeper he went right on ahead. I was afraid of going out too far and having us really swim (I wasn't prepared to get soaked) but I think I'll have to try real swimming in the future because I'm pretty sure Charlie would have done it.

Playtime!
This is fun!
A and Jack
All in all, not a bad way to spend the day :)