Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Viva Carlos Blog Hop: My Practical Wish List

Now that I'm seriously enjoying my time in the saddle, I want to buy ALL THE THINGS. Seriously, I think of something new I "need" every day. In all fairness, I do have a new-to-me horse, and while my tack miraculously fits Degen for the most part, I do honestly need a few things.

Here's what I came up with:

1. Hind boots for Degen. I have a pair of the Woof All-Purpose Boots that I use on the fronts, and I really like them. I've had my pair for about 3 years now, and they've held up great. They are pretty easy to clean (I just hose mine down and let them dry), are easy to put on and adjust, don't slip or retain water, and overall, I think they are a great value for the price.

2. White show shirt. I have this shirt from Riding Sport, but I don't love it. It shrank BIG TIME in the wash (at least that's my story!), and now it's just tight and uncomfortable. Any suggestions for an affordable, comfortable show shirt?

3. Leather Soap. I'm almost out and dying to try Higher Standards!

4. Bath sponge. Mine is gross. It's time for a new one.

5. Not really a "gotta-have-immediately-or-I-won't-be-able-to-ride" item, but I'm still playing around with bridles for Degen. My dressage bridle didn't fit Kwik and they have about the same size head so I figured it wouldn't fit Degen either. My cheap-O Suffolk Fancy Stich bridle fits him great but has laced reins (hate laced reins). I swapped out the laced reins for the black webbed reins that came with the dressage bridle so now I'm riding in a brown bridle with black web reins. It's ghettofabulous, let me tell you. I would absolutely LOVE a pair of brown rubber reins.

6. Also not needed immediately, but I would love a pair of wide-track composite stirrups. It would be great to have a bit more stability as I ease back into jumping, and alleviating knee pain would definitely be an added bonus. The Royal Riders are so expensive though! Anyone have experience with the Composti Reflexes or another cheaper brand?

I really want an Oglivy memory foam Jump half pad, but that is most certainly not on the short list of things I NEED at the moment.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Riding is FUN!

Once again, it's been a while, but this time I've just been so busy RIDING! I can't say enough wonderful things about Degen. He's such a great babysitter. I look forward to each and every ride, and I'm now riding with confidence and a smile on my face. I've been taking weekly lessons with E, Degen's owner, and she has me focusing on lengthening and strengthening my leg to develop a more independent seat via lots of no-stirrup work. I've seen a dramatic difference in my position in a short amount of time as a result, and I'm now riding a good bit of my dressage schools sans stirrups at the moment. I almost feel like I ride better without stirrups now!

 E graciously brought out one of her old XC saddles for me to use for jumping, and I'm loving it! It's an old Ainsley with a nice forward flap and great knee blocks. I feel extremely secure and just love riding in it. Degen and I did our very first XC lesson with A yesterday, and ohmygoodness, we had so much fun! We worked over a combination of logs and stadium jumps that were set up in the XC field, and I am proud to say I jumped my very first skinny and corner! We also did several mini courses, practiced cantering in and out of the water, and walked up and down the water bank. I'll admit, I was a bit nervous going into the lesson, but by the end, we were cantering all of our exercises with confidence. I had a blast, and I think Degen really enjoyed himself too. He's an old pro, and he really took care of me. Can't wait for the next lesson!

Sky and Degen

We've also got some show goals as well. There is a low-key dressage schooling show down the road from my barn at the end of May, and I asked E if she thought that would be something we could work towards. She thought that was a great idea and even offered to bring along one of her horses and pick us up on the way! I pulled my jacket out of my closet the other night, and it definitely does not fit anymore. Thank goodness it's a schooling show, but it's probably time to do some show clothes shopping!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

He's Here!

My handsome new man has landed, and I couldn't be happier! Degen stepped off the trailer shaggy, hairy, and FAT, but I couldn't care less. I do wish my barn had some sort of pasture board situation since that is what he's used to and I think that's what he prefers. He doesn't seemed to mind being stalled in the evening though, and they get plenty of turnout during the day. He settled in just fine, so I took him for a spin the very next day. He went straight to work without any sillyness whatsoever. We did lots of walking, stretching, and some trotting, and I even canterd a tiny bit in each direction. We even went on a solo trail ride to cool down, and he walked along and took everything in stride like a pro. March will be a month of conditioning. We both need to get back in shape before we can really start lessoning and really working hard so the plan is to do short flatwork sessions and lots of trail riding with some hill work incorporated into those rides.

We've also been playing beauty parlor! I pulled his mane after one of our rides and had him clipped on Sunday, and the transformation is incredible! He is now super shiny and looks like his fancy show horse self. Post-clip pics to come!

Straight off the trailer:

Mane pulled and cleaned up!


Friday, February 7, 2014

The Year of the Horse

Once again, I've been a horrible blogger. But to be quite honest, there really hasn't been much to talk about. After Kwik left, I just didn't want to be around horses for a hot minute. The whole thing was very emotional and I felt like a terrible horse mom, so I just enjoyed my holiday and time with my family in December. I took a work trip to San Antonio and a relaxing getaway to the mountains with my honey and some friends in January. It's been uncharacteristically cold here in the ATL, and I enjoyed a few days off from work due to the now-famous Snow Jam 2014.

I did try out an amazing little Hanoverian cross in December before I left for Tennessee. His owner bred and trained him, and he has competed in HTs at Chatahoochee Hills, Poplar Place, and Full Gallop, and she won the Area 3 Championships at Training level on him in 2008. She has since moved on to more advanced horses, and Degen has just been hanging around in the pasture for the past two years. A made the connection, and after trotting him around for 2 seconds, I could tell this little horse was super happy to be working again and definitely had a lot to teach someone like me. Degen is undoubtedly one of the nicest horses I have ever ridden, and even with no work for almost a year and a half, I felt very safe and comfortable. Unfortunately I was looking for a care lease and his owner was hoping for a paid lease, and it didn't look like this was going to happen after all. I spent most of January investigating all other options, and nothing was really panning out.

But sometimes things just work themselves out, and I'm happy to report that Degen is coming to the farm very very soon! This is the year of the horse, and I know this year will hold many wonderful horsey things to come for all of us. Happy happy Friday!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

One Horse

It's been an interesting couple of weeks to say the least. First, I successfully defended my thesis, and I now have my MPH. I can't tell you how great it feels to not have that hanging over my head!

Kwik had his mid-point checkup last Thursday, and there was some improvement at the trot. He was still crow-hopping and carrying on like a nutter at the canter. It's hard to say how much of that is pain and how much is being out of work for 4 months. Either way, it was clear that if he's sound enough to put back into work in the spring, I will have a helluva training project on my hands. So much so that I was afraid to even think about getting on him.

After a very long and honest talk with my vet, it came down to this: people like me get one horse. Sure, there are some of us working adult ammies that have their own land or have managed to find a boarding situation that allows them to support two ponies, but the majority of us are doing everything we can to have even one horse. Horses, just like dogs and cats, become part of the family, and we love them as such. But unlike dogs and cats, they also have a job to do, and they are too expensive to not earn their keep. When a horse can't do his job any longer, it's time to find him a new job they can do. With Kwik, I felt like I fixed what I could, but it's just not clear he'll be able to do the job I want him to do.

I decided to find Kwik a new home with someone that could give him a job he is physically capable of doing. I put the word out on Saturday, and by Sunday I dropped him off at his new hom. Kwik is now living with my good friend, S. He's going to hang out in the pasture until spring, and then S will gradually put him back to light work and see how it goes. This certainly wasn't a decision I made lightly, and there were lots of tears involved. But it was the right decision for both of us. I was pouring so much money and hope into something that just wasn't going to happen, and I was teetering on the edge of becomming disenchanted with horses. He'll still be a part of my life: I've been invited to visit and ride him, if sound enough, any time I like. I feel relief, and any time you feel relief after making a decision, you've made the right one. I certainly don't regret any of my choices. I've learned some valuable lessons (some the hard way), and I will be infinately more educated when the time comes again to own another horse.

In the meantime, I've decided to look for a lower-level packer to lease. A has already hooked me up with an exciting prospect, and I am scheduled to try him out after the holidays. I'm looking forward to becoming the best rider I can possibly be, and more importantly, rediscovering the joy of ridining. Bring on 2014!

Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year!!!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thesis and Thanksgiving

Wow, I've been gone for quite some time, although it only feels like a few weeks! Apologies for going MIA- I know that's one of the seven deadly blogger sins! To be completely honest, I think I needed a little break from blogging. There's only so much you can write about a horse that's livin' in up in the pasture for the next six months (well, 3 now). All is well in the Kwik front. I go out about once or twice a week to spend time with him. I pull him out of the pasture, and we usually go on a hand walk down the trails. He was jumpy and strong for the first couple of walks, but as soon as I learned to just enjoy the walk, he settled in and did the same. Now we amble down the trails together lazily- he plays in the leaves and stops to eat grass and I tell him what a good boy he is. Then we head back to the barn for a good grooming, he gets his brown sugar Pop-Tart (his new favorite!), and I turn him back out. That's about it! Some days he looks a little off behind when I watch him walk away after turning him out, but this might be footsoreness from our trail walks (can't avoid all the gravel!). I get reports all the time from other boarders and the barn staff about him running around in the pasture like a nutter, so I guess he wouldn't be doing that if he didn't feel good!

I've also been super crazy busy trying to complete my master's thesis. I'm defending on Wednesday, and I've been staying late in the office each night to write in the peace and quiet. I'm happy to report that I've just got to  put the finishing touches on the paper and tweak a few slides here and there, and I'm ready to go. I can't tell you how incredibly excited I am to be graduating. It's been a long time coming, and it will be nice not having that hanging in the back of my mind.

Despite looking at the computer for most of the day for the past two months and not having a ride-able horse of my own, I've done quite a bit of riding. Everyone at my barn has been incredibly supportive, and I've received several offers to ride and lesson on boarders' horses. My current favorites are Annie, my barn owner's horse, and Kwik's next-door neighbor, Sherlock. Annie has lived at Ashland the majority of her life and knows the trails like the back of her hand. She is the most trustworthy horse I've ever ridden, and she's been very good for me. On Annie, I get to sit back and enjoy the ride. She doesn't jump anymore, but she is a phenomenal dressage teacher. She's extremely hard to put together, and every step is a brain workout. She's challenging, and it feels fantastic when I get some good work out of her. Sherlock is the complete opposite of Annie. He's big, super fancy, and extremely easy to put together. His stride covers a lot of ground and you always feel like you're going somewhere-even when he's being lazy. I have to focus on asking him to move forward in a steady rhythm. I'm hoping to try him over some crossrails the next time M offers me a ride!

I did lesson on Annie with Ann several weeks ago, and we had a nice long chat about Kwik and his future as a riding horse. More on that conversation to come. Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Dressagin' with Sherlock- Copyright DPH Photos 

Exploring the trails with Annie and Adam

Monday, October 7, 2013

Safari Adventures

About a month ago, I was asked to travel to Lusaka, Zambia to conduct a laboratory assessment and provide training to the national syphilis reference laboratory to support efforts to scale up syphilis screening in the country. I spent the latter half of August and the beginning of September frantically putting together training materials, presentations, and packing lab supplies, and I finally had a moment to breathe when I stepped on the plane for my 10 hour flight to Amsterdam. This would be my second trip to Africa, and I was extremely excited and extremely anxious to do a great job. I'm happy to report that while exhausting, the trip went very well, and the laboratory learned quite a bit from us and vice versa. This will definitely be a wonderful partnership going forward. Unfortunately, due to the government shutdown, I am on furlough (more on furlough adventures later) until Congress passes a spending bill. I hate to lose the momentum from this trip, but what can you do?! Hopefully Congress can get their act together before this whole situation becomes even more of a debacle.

 Anyway, while the trip was extremely busy (like 14+ hour days busy) my colleague and I did manage to do some sightseeing on the day of our departure. We decided to visit Chaminuka Lodge, a private wildlife reserve about an hour outside of Lusaka. It was absolutely incredible! For about $80, you received two game drives, a delicious buffet lunch, and access to the lodge's activities (boating, fishing, horseback riding, hiking) and amenities (pool, amazing collection of African artwork). We made it in time for the morning game drive, and I'm so glad we did! It seemed like all of the animals were out and about enjoying the beautiful Zambian weather (nowhere near as hot as Atlanta). I saw plenty of gazelle and antelope, zebras (including a baby!!), wildabeests, buffalo, elephants, and giraffes (my personal favorite- they are so graceful!). Our guide took us by the lions' 20 acre enclosure, and we were able to spot a lion and lioness lounging in the shade. They were absolutely magnificent! Last but certainly not least, we drove by the Cheetah enclosure, and the guide invited us to reach out and pet them through the fence. I cannot even explain how cool it was to scratch a cheetah behind the ears. They are beautiful, awe-inspiring animals!

Osterich running away from the car

Chaminuka Lodge

The logde has an impressive collection of African artwork. This is just one wall from the gameroom.

Ready for the game drive!





Sleepy buffalo

Sable Antelope




My cheetah friends


After the game drive, I went for a ride in the bush! You heard me- I went for a horseback ride in the bush! It was the most incredible experience! The atmosphere was alive with the sounds of birds and cicadas, and we passed elephants and sable antelope as gazelle leaped in the distance. Edward, the steady little horse I rode, was born and raised at Chaminuka, and he knew his way around the reserve like the back of his hand (hoof). It was the perfect way to explore this amazing reserve. I spent the remainder of the afternoon eating a delicious lunch on the deck overlooking the lake and sipping a Mosi while perusing the lodge's art collection. Chaminuka was certainly an experience I will never forget!

Don't forget! Lauren's contest over at SheMovedToTexas to win a Horze winter jacket ends tomorrow!

I wanted to take sweet Edward home with me!