Saturday, February 25, 2012

"This is what horses are all about."

Today was one of those days that reminds me why I love horses. I came home from the barn with a new perspective on riding and my relationship with these wonderful animals.
I was invited to judge Triple Rise's schooling show today, and I accepted without hesitation (well, a little hesitation - me? a judge?). It turned out to be one of the most beneficial things I've ever done for my own riding. Sitting in a chair for almost four hours, carefully critiquing and evaluating each horse and rider's performance made me aware (painfully so, at times) of my own equitation and corresponding goals. Having to pay such close and critical attention to the competitors and weighing their strengths and weaknesses was really difficult - I mean, these are my barnmates! I know how hard they work and I know the areas where they are focusing and that made it hard at times to be objective.
This was all well and good for me on a nuts and bolts "fundamentals of riding" scale - I'll be able to take what I learned and observed judging back to my own lessons - but it was something Mike said after the show was over that caused me to really sit back and say "huh." The last riders were cooling their horses out and parents were coming over to talk to them as they were leaving the arena and getting their mounts comfortable. Anna's mother was there with a young girl (5? 6?) who I'm guessing was a cousin or something. The girl (Mercedes) was very intrigued with everything that was going on and asking about a dozen questions a minute. Mike was instantly charmed. He may not have any biological children, but his riders are his kids and he has a definite soft spot for youngsters. In no time, he had tracked down one of the smallest helmets I've ever seen, plopped it on Mercedes' head and was lifting her onto Cuervo's back. She could not have been more pleased - her grin stretched from ear to ear as Anna led her in a small circle. Mike said, as much to himself as to those of us standing with him, "Let's not forget, this is what horses are all about."
It was a poignant thing to say at that moment. After a day of competition, with some riders feeling jubilant as they strung up multiple blue ribbons and others feeling glum because they didn't win a single one, we all needed to remember that riding is not about awards or being better than others. It's not even about snappy lead changes or getting the correct number of strides in a line. It's about the thrill, the connection, the feeling of flight. Mercedes got her first view from the saddle today and I could tell from the look on her face that she liked what she saw. For those of us who have been riding for several years, it's easy to forget the novelty and excitement. I'm not saying we shouldn't push ourselves. I'm not saying we shouldn't have goals or be proud of our accomplishments - but I think we'd all be better off if, every time we climbed into the saddle, we did so with bright eyes, looking at the world from the back of a horse as if it was our first time.

Friday, December 30, 2011


Tomorrow is the last day of 2011. If you can tell me where the heck this year went, then you're smarter than I am. What a whirlwind of a year! By far the highlight was welcoming our little boy into the world. Second to that was the thrill of being back in the saddle after many months away - and discovering that it was easier to pick back up than I'd even dared to hope. So I didn't make it back in the show ring, so what? I have never been more grateful for my horses, my trainer and the wonderful barn family I am a part of. Even my son is in love with the animals and the atmosphere at Triple Rise.
It being the 30th of December, my mind naturally drifts to New Year's resolutions. It's been awhile since I made one that I had every intention of keeping, but now that I'm a mom (read: a REAL adult), I would feel remiss if I didn't set at least one goal to improve my life in the upcoming year. I can think of a million things I need to work on to be a better mom - a more solid bedtime routine, eliminating night-waking, get Henri sleeping in his crib...I could go on - but this is, after all, a blog about my equestrian pursuits, so I will try to stay on-topic.

Resolution # 1: Improve my fitness. If I may be so immodest, I think I bounced back from pregnancy pretty well. I don't feel as though I've lost a lot of ground, riding-wise, but I *did* hope I'd be at the next level by now - if I hadn't had a baby, of course. Back when I was in the saddle three or four times a week, riding was really all I needed to do to keep myself in shape. Now that I can only ride once a week, however, this is not the case. So, that said, I need to dial up the workouts. Even if I only start off by buckling Henri into his stroller and walking for a half an hour every day, that is surely better than nothing.

Resolution # 2: Improve my sense of pace and develop a better eye for distances. I'm hoping that being in better shape will improve some of my equitation faults (like still occassionally jumping ahead), but all the walking/jogging/Zumba in the world can't help you see and feel things like this. I can make some mistakes at 2'6", but if I want to make it to the next level (see Resolution # 3), I have to be spot-on here.

Resolution # 3: Be riding in Adult Amateur by the end of the year. Pretty much says it all right there. Bring on 3'!

Resolution # 4: Rapper. More specifically, work on his ground manners, fear of the washrack, and overall fitness. Sarah told me the other day that he is one of the worst-behaved horses she's ever seen - with people other than myself. This is unacceptable - but completely my fault. Yes, he will be 18 in 2012, but it's never too late to better yourself! ...At least that's what I'll be telling him as I try to haul him in for a bath.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Knowing is half the battle!

If not more so. I finally had a really solid lesson on Wednesday, thanks to finally acknowledging that I am putting undue pressure on myself to always be 100% awesome. Since I only have one day a week in which to ride, I try to make every moment count. Nothing wrong with that - until it starts creeping into obsessive compulsive, must-be-the-best-every-minute-of-the-lesson territory. Long story short, I finally verbalized that to Rachel and in doing so, laid the ghost, so to speak.
Wednesday's courses were challenging, but I felt up to the task. Lots of rollbacks and bending lines galore - and boy were they fun! Rachel said it was some of the best riding she's seen from me. Hopefully I can keep it up!

Monday, November 7, 2011

This past week...

...has been a fun one (blah lesson notwithstanding)!
Wednesday's lesson was...mediocre. For some reason, I seem to have developed a lead foot when it comes to long approaches. I keep my leg on unnecessarily after we've turned to our jump and so every stride gets longer and longer until - oh crap! - I can't see a distance whatsoever and Keenan is forced to take off super long or chip. I don't know when this started happening or why I can't seem to knock it off, but it's really setting me back - and making me look like an idiot.
Actually, I think I know how it's come about. I think I'm so anxious to have a good canter and keep Keenan in front of my leg that I forget that a.) a good pace DOESN'T mean you have to freakin' steeplechase over the jumps and b.) once I have the proper canter, I can stop squeezing and keep that canter. Sounds like the classic "Missy is trying to do too much and she's getting in Keenan's way" scenario. Hopefully knowing is half the battle.

Thursday kind of made up for a less-than-stellar lesson. Henri and I drove up to TREC to deliver a check that I had forgotten to leave the day before. Henri has been to the barn a handful of times before, but he has either been sleeping or too little to really be interested in the goings-on. Well this time he was wide awake and very interested!
When we got there, Rachel had just warmed up Keenan and was getting ready to school him over fences. Henri was fascinated. This was perfection, as far as he was concerned - he was bundled in mom's arms, enjoying the fresh air and watching something big move around. All his favorite things! After Keenan's workout, we visited him in the cross-ties and that's when the real fun began. I took Henri over to show him how we gently pet horses' soft noses. He caught on immediately and was soon stroking Keenan's nose all by himself. Then, before I knew it, his little hand made its way right up Keenan's nostril! Ewww, horse boogers! Fortunately, I caught Henri's hand before he put it in his own mouth and managed to wipe it clean. Keenan, bless his heart, didn't bat an eye - he actually seemed to enjoy the attention. He was sure enthralled by little Henri! In fact, he was so enthralled, that when I stepped back to talk to Kristine and Rachel, he reached out and started tickling the bottoms of Henri's feet with his upper lip. So cute! Lead line classes in a few years anyone?

Finally, we took Henri to my favorite tack store, Gallops, for the first time on Saturday. I had money burning a hole in my pocket and have been desperately in need of new show breeches (I ended up getting a pair of FITS Bekas in tan and a pair of chocolate brown Devon-Aires to school in). Henri enjoyed all the interesting things there were to look at, as well as the rich leather smell. He even took his first pony ride - well, a rocking pony, that is. Keep it up, my little equestrian!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's that time of year again!

Time for Racing's Greatest Day: the Breeders' Cup! Admittedly, I have next to NO idea about any of the horses who are racing (except champion turf mare Goldikova), but that doesn't matter. This is the event that solidified my passion for horses. The 1995 Breeders' Cup is my favorite of them all, and no Thoroughbred will ever come close to Cigar's place in my heart (well, Thoroughbred RACEHORSE, that is!).
Here's hoping all horses and jockeys have safe trips and that we see some true champions crowned this Friday and Saturday. And hey, let's bring back the iron horse - or, as they say, breed more Secretariats! Or Cigars.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Why do I go on eBay??

Someone needs to convince me that I don't need this model horse...

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Just when you think you're making progress...thud. Saturday's lesson was fantastic - I really felt like I was making progress. I was really aware of my decisions in the saddle and Rachel said I rode a "smart" course. Yesterday's lesson, on the other hand, was...less than great. It was one of those days when the real takeaway is a freshly illuminated mental light bulb and the hope that you won't make the same mistake again. I'll spare you (and myself) the embarrassing details - let's just say it involved having to grab mane through a gymnastic of crossrails because I dropped my reins. Yeah, ouch.
But I think I finished well and Rachel informed me that she wants me to get to the next level, so she's going to start pushing me. Okay by me!