Blog .:. August 2009 4 Entries

Steward, there’s a ringer in my class!

24 August 2009 Comments

You know, since some show managers just don’t get it and aren’t writing specifications that exactly and evenly level the playing field so that little Suzie only has to compete against other little Suzies with the exact same training as her, on horses with the exact same level of talent as hers, we clearly need to adjust the entry blanks for horse shows.

I mean, it’s totally unfair for a barn to put on its own series and then allow its own horses and riders to show in them! Especially if the horses and riders are eligible in the divisions according to the rules! How rude!

You know what they should do? They should add a space to the entry blank where competitors can write in the type of horse/rider combination they would feel comfortable competing against. Show management should get a group consensus on what the rules should be, according to the competitors’ whims, and adjust accordingly. Plus, if some horse/rider combination wins more than half a blue ribbon, they should have to step up to the next division because they are ringers, I tell you, ringers!


You know, I remember competing in my age eq division against two girls who also competed in our local medal class, which was six inches higher than the age eq division. They were in the same barn as me, so I had a pretty good idea of what they were capable of and what sort of miles their horse needed, their confidence levels, etc. They were eligible for both divisions, therefor they competed in both. So did some girls from other barns. The other girls just didn’t win as much as these two. These two took first and second in the age eq with nearly clockwork routine, and the rest of us scrapped for third.

You know how many protests there were?

None at all.

You know why?

For the same reason no one complained if a trainer showed a nice, green horse in the low hunters to warm it up for its owner to ride in the Children’s hunters, even though the lows were also populated by just-off-the-novice circuit riders.

Because they were eligible. That’s how the circuit went. You know what you were likely to be competing against in each division. If you didn’t like it, you could enter a more restricted division. Or not show. Or whatever. But you couldn’t throw a temper tantrum because riders eligible for the division were competing in it.

If you want to protect little Suzie from competing against those better than her, you find shows that specifically restrict classes. It the classes aren’t restricted, then you have to be prepared for the fact that this year’s big medal final winner could, technically, come compete against Suzie in the “Pretend there are groundpoles between the standards” eq class. In which case, there would be no shame to Suzie if she didn’t win first, and major props to her if she did. If Suzie’s ego cannot handle that fact, and you’re incapable of teaching it to her… then you are the reason I want to buy an island, build a bomb shelter, and hide from the rest of the world.

If you really, honestly think something unethical is happening, take action—get the rules changed for next year. If you can’t do that because you have no influence over the circuit rules, don’t show on that circuit. If you can only afford to show on that circuit for whatever reason, then ask yourself if you would a) rather scrap for second or b) set up your own circuit with rules that are more fair to your goals (and hope no one complains about that) or c) just not show at all.

I’m not even going to point out that there are all sorts of reasons for people to compete in divisions for which they are “overqualified,” from schooling to training to nerves to just plain enjoying that particular division. Because what peoples’ complaints boil down to is: good riders apparently riding below their ability suck because they just want the blue ribbon. Really? And what do the people who want to kick the good riders out of the class want? The blue ribbon.

Tagged: Horse Shows, Horses

I wonder if I can take all of December off

22 August 2009 Comments

As I mentioned, work has been busy lately. It was like this in August/September of last year, too. In fact, I distinctly remember my tech lead telling me that all we had to do was gut it out until December, and [our primary client] work would slow right down. “They close the last two weeks of December,” she said. “It’ll be a cakewalk,” she said.

“I’m going on vacation the last two weeks of December,” my branch manager said. “We’re wrapping up all major projects before I go,” he said. “Work will be light,” he said.

You want to know what happened? Of course you don’t. Suffice it to say that this year the tech lead and I are saying “Just think… in December we’ll wish for this schedule to come back.”

This is oddly comforting, in a strange and inexplicable way.

It does not, however, stop my brain from turning into mush on Fridays. And so, tonight, when I went out to the barn, Gabi got a spa day. After I turned her out again, I decided to clean her bridle. And I mean I unbuckled everything, cleaned the straps, and put the clean pieces in a pile to sort out later.

Have I mentioned I come from a hunter background, where bridles have about 1/4th the buckles dressage people seem to think are necessary? Why the buckle obsession? My mind baffles. Not that it took much to baffle me today, but, nevertheless. Why the buckles?

I put the reins back on the bit. I put the cheek pieces on the bit. I try to attach the cheek pieces to the other cheek pieces, and can’t figure out why the buckles are on the inside. I realize I have put the first cheek pieces on wrong. I swap them around. I put the other cheek pieces on. The buckles are now on the outside. I’m pretty sure I’ve got it now, but then, I was pretty sure I had it in the first place.

I put the browband on. I wonder why the browband is backwards. I take it off and put it on again. I wonder why it is backwards. I take it off, turn it around, and put it on again. I wonder why it is backwards. My cheek pieces are backwards. I start all over.

This is not going well. I wonder if there is a help line for people who clean tack under the influence of mushy brain.

Things progress. I get to the noseband. It is a crank noseband. This is the first bridle I’ve used that has a crank, but I congratulate myself for paying attention while I took the bridle apart. I put the crank together and stare at it critically. The noseband is huge. I tighten it to its tightest hole and stare at it. Something is very wrong. No horse has a nose this big.

I take it apart. I put it together again. I take it apart and stare at the pieces. The strap must double again somehow, I think. There’s just so much of it. I fiddle with the strap. It doesn’t get any smaller. I wander over to another lady who I know rides dressage. I ask if her bridle has a crank noseband on it. I need a model, an example, a diagram that says “Push Strap A into Slot B.” Her bridle has a regular noseband. I wander back to the bridle and stare at it. Things have not improved.

I decide to put the flash on and call it a day. I will go home and look up “putting together bridles for dummies” on the internet.

I stare at the flash. It is awfully small. And creased, like… I stare at the noseband. I take the noseband apart and switch the flash and noseband straps around.

Ah ha. I give the crank the evil eye. I bet it was invented by someone who wanted more better buckles. Why the buckles? Have dressage people not heard of the elegance of simplicity? My inner hunter princess screams in despair.

Quickly, before anything else can go wrong, I figure eight the bridle, hang it in the locker, and leave the barn.

Probably, tomorrow I will find out the bit is upside down.

I have a user guide to write this weekend. Pity the poor users who have to read it.

Tagged: Horse Care, Horses

Sitting huge trots and other catchup

19 August 2009 Comments

For the record, I am not one of the lucky few who can sit a huge trot and look like they are just cruising along. I only say this to avoid false advertising, which is illegal, unless you are Big Box Store, and then it’s a “mistake.” Because we all believe $9.99 TVs were a “mistake” and not a marketing ploy.

At any rate.

A few weeks ago I was offered the opportunity to work with a young, green mare because her owner’s schedule is pretty busy right now. I talked with the owner, met the mare, had some time to get to know her on the ground (total sweetheart), and then lunged her for a few weeks since she’d had a little time off and I didn’t want to just hop on. I slowly added in riding, really just hopping on after lunging to walk her out that way.

And then I decide we’re ready to start getting to work under saddle. That is, trotting.

Here’s the thing. Gabi’s owner warned me that a couple people found her trot too much to handle. I had seen this mare going in the round pen. I knew exactly how big and floaty her trot was. In fact, I decided to have our first trot in the arena instead of the round pen because it was so big and floating. I had visions of centrifugal force tossing me into the trees if we trotted in the round pen.

It’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting into.

And yet, as I was still surprised to find myself posting up to the stratosphere and then radioing the FAA for permission to come down each stride.

Fortunately, Gabi is as sweet and sensible under saddle as she is on the ground. Her trot is an absolute blast to ride, and by the end of that first ride we’d both gotten more organized and started figuring each other out. I was satisfied that riding her trot was not going to be a problem at all. Of course, I still hadn’t thought things all the way through.

A ride or two later, I changed rein across the diagonal at the trot, started to sit, thought about it, and thought some more. About the time I was thinking “this is going to be ugly…”, I realized I’d been standing for two beats and the issue had resolved itself. I am a coward. I’m standing two every time I change rein now. I’m even posting into most walk transitions. My concern is that her trot is so big, it’s going to take some time for me to learn to really sit it. I just can’t imagine that she needs me trying to find my balance while she’s still working on finding her own. Even for two strides to change my diagonal.

I have a new-found respect for the people who can sit these big trots and make it look effortless.

Other than the sitting trot issue, though, things are going great. Gabi is a joy to work with, and every time I get on her, I can feel the improvement. In addition to riding Gabi, I’m also taking lessons on D., and the occasional lesson on an upper-level horse as my schedule allows, and sometimes being able to catch ride Rogue, the horse I leased last fall. It’s been an amazing month and, believe me, I know exactly how lucky I am to have access to so many quality horses.

Of course, in addition to everything going on at the barn, work has been very busy lately. Isn’t it typical that when I have all sorts of things I could post, by the time I get home it’s all I can do to wonder why rocking horses are shaped the way they are? I’m not complaining—I’d rather ride than blog—but I’m very amused at the inverse relationship between blog quality and barn time.

Tagged: Horses, Horses - Gabi, Riding

Revisiting Cactus Cloth

3 August 2009 Comments

I may have mentioned before that I am somewhat fascinated by cactus cloth and its ability to handle all grooming issues. From what some people have said, you can throw out your entire grooming box and just own a cactus cloth. When it’s not being actively used, it cures cancer. I mean, this stuff is reputedly magical.

I was curious enough to search online and see if I could buy some. A tool this awesome would be everywhere, right?

Apparently, no one has told the online tack stores about this magical tool, because it was much harder to find than I expected. And when I did find it, the shipping was going to be almost as much as the darn cloth. I passed. I am curious, but not that curious.

Until (you saw this coming, right?)... I walked into the local tack shop and they had cactus cloth for sale.

There is something to be said for instant gratification, so I bought it. I bought it even though the price was about the same as if I’d ordered online. Now, one could argue that if I’d just ordered it online when I first started thinking about it, I would have had it weeks ago. But you aren’t thinking right. If I’d ordered it online, I’d have had to wait for it to arrive. This way, I paid cash and had stuff. This is the Halt Near X theory of shopping: stuff in hand is way cooler than stuff in the mail.

Tack stores love me.

At home, I unwrapped the thing. It came with instructions. I stared at them dubiously. Instructions? What did I get myself into?

The instructions amounted to: soak and dry.

I soaked and dried.

I stared at the cloth. Was it supposed to look different? Because it didn’t.

I reread the instructions. They promised the cloth would be a “more manageable” size after drying. Not true. In the face of the evidence, I reached the only possible conclusion: I am the only person in the history of the world unable to follow the instructions “soak and dry.”

I tried again, with the same result. Then I threw the instructions away and took the cloth out to the barn because let’s be honest here—this is not some high-tech tool. It’s like a burlap bag on steroids. Besides, I was having doubts about any grooming tool that required instructions, and if I didn’t get it out to the barn soon, it was never going to make it.

I tried it out on a mare that I am riding—amazing horse—but whose itchy spot I haven’t yet managed to crack. Now I know—she loves having her hips and shoulders rubbed down with the cactus cloth. Will move around until I’m rubbing the right spot. Seems very pleased that she’s finally got me trained.

And I have to say it—this is my new favorite grooming tool. It really does work as a lightweight curry and rub rag all in one, and it shines up her coat better than a regular towel. I like it better than a brush on the legs, and she likes having her face rubbed with it. The only thing it doesn’t do it pick out her feet.

I’m not sure what the “soak and dry” step was supposed to do, but whatever it did (or didn’t do), the horse and I approve.

Tagged: Horse Care, Horses

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