Thursday, April 29, 2010

Images from home

As you probably know, I hail from a small town in coastal NC. But you may not know that my native county is also home to the Corolla Wild Horses. See, horses really are in my blood!
The herd welcomed a new addition three weeks ago. My mom sent me some pictures of the new baby and I thought I would share them with you.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Apparently 2,000 WORDS and 2,000 CHARACTERS are very different things...

(just because I like pictures, and I'm betting you do too)

D sent me a contest that I could enter to win a trip to the WEGs. As some of you know, I am DYING to go! Absolutely DYING! But as you also know, I am broke. Very very broke. In a constant and perpetual state of broke, thanks to my ownership of Granite, the crappy economy, and my career field of government. So, I am still holding out hope of somehow saving enough to allow me to go for at least a day or two, maybe camp or something to offset some costs. This has yet to be determined. But in the mean time, hell yeah I'm going to enter every contest or drawing for a trip the the Games that I can!! But, apparently the "Tell us why you ride" contest put on by Ariat, asked for a 2,000 character description, and I wrote a 2,000 word essay... Freakin fabulous.
So, I'm not sure how the modified version turned out or if its even submitted correctly (their webpage is being dreadfully slow! and it hasn't shown up yet), but you win based on votes. So, go, vote for me PLEASE- you get to vote once a day until May 15th (I'll update this as soon as I get a link to my entry)! Your reward, if I win? is guaranteed amazing blog coverage of (the 2 days that I am at) the World Equestrian Games. In the mean time, get a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) and enjoy my extended version of the "Why I Ride" essay (yes, its slightly dramatized, but not much!):

“Why I Ride.”

“Why I ride” is not so much the question as it is the answer. It is “Because I ride” that I do most of the things that I do in my life.

I began riding when I was six years old when my mother signed me up for my first riding lessons. I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of riding horses as first, but as Ralf Waldo Emerson put it, “[riding] is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and, once it has done so, he will have to accept that his life will be radically changed.” From my very first lesson, I was hooked. I became obsessed with horses and spent my elementary years galloping in the sandbox and managing my imaginary stable, in addition to attending weekly riding lessons and relentlessly begging my parents for a horse. It took me until middle school to shed the title “horse girl”. My early years were spent in a dreamland of horses, because I rode.

When I was ten years old, my parents agreed that if I were to get all A’s in school that year, that I could finally get a horse. Bonnie was a 17 year old thoroughbred mare; but to me, she was my friend, my babysitter, my responsibility and my dream. While other kids were saving for new shoes or a bike, I was picking stalls for lessons or bussing tables at my father’s BBQ restaurant to earn money for board. I first began to learn responsibility, because I rode.

I met my best (human) friend at the barn. I didn’t like her at first, but after spending eight hour days at the barn together, we quickly became inseparable. We organized horse shows, horse weddings, and camp-outs. We nursed broken hearts, got lost on never-ending tail rides, and planed our dreams for the future. I had the most amazing childhood, because I rode.

As high school approached, I began to ride more competitively. I would get to the barn as quickly as I could after school to utilize every ounce of daylight to ride. I took my riding goals seriously and trained hard. I missed cheerleading practices for horse shows and spent many Friday nights at the barn braiding and packing the trailer. I pulled long hours of work saving to afford to compete in horse shows. I loved the nervous butterflies that I felt before the winners of a class were announced and I loved the feeling of satisfaction that I felt as I secured another blue ribbon on my mare’s bridle. I learned dedication, because I rode.

High School wasn’t all fun and games. As I learned the ropes of love and loss, I always had the constant support of a horse. Through breakups and rejection, fear of the future and pain in the present, there was always my sanctuary: the barn. I spent many late nights sitting on a stall door listening to the rhythmic chewing of hay and the soothing snuffles of the horses. I cried many adolescent tears into the soft yet solid neck of a horse. I knew that everything would be alright, because I rode.

Before I knew it, I was staring college in the eye. I knew I wouldn’t be able to work as much and there was no way that my family could afford to keep my horse without my help. I made the heartbreaking decision to part with my Bonnie. We were fortunate enough to be able to place the 24 year old mare in a forever home with a loving family where she still resides, but this didn’t prevent the day that she left me from being one of the saddest days of my life. Selling Bonnie was not unlike selling a part of my soul. I was forced to learn when it was time to move on, because I rode.

I wasn’t able to ride for my first 2.5 years of college. I was barely able to support myself and couldn’t afford to ride with the college equestrian club or take private lessons. I was home sick, depressed and lifeless without horses. I had never been so lost in my life. I found comfort in the arms of the wrong man and lost my identity completely. I realized that I was only myself when I rode.

In my junior year of college, I put myself in the right place at the right time by taking a job at the local tack shop. I figured that if I couldn’t ride, at least I could spend time around saddles, blankets, boots and horse people. There, I met the person who would set the events in motion to bring horses back into my life. She offered to take me on a trail ride, then to let me free lease her horse. My boyfriend didn’t appreciate the time I had been spending with the horses. I found the power to leave him, because I rode.

Back in the saddle where I belonged, I approached college graduation. I had always known that I would pursue a Masters degree, because horses are expensive and I needed a career that could fund my addiction to the majestic animals and equestrian sport. I began submitting applications to graduate programs and praying to get in. I knew that hard work in classroom would be the only way that I could live the life I wanted to: a life surrounded with horses. I graduated from college with honors and was accepted into a graduate program, because I rode.

I lived the next two years of my life on little sleep, lots of caffeine, and weekends of adrenaline filled riding. I was working hard towards a graduate degree and the life I had always dreamed of.  Everything changed about a week after I was awarded an academic scholarship. I happened to find an advertisement for a colt with my dream bloodlines and looks to back them up. He happened to be listed for the exact amount as the scholarship I had just received. Granite was as a goofy yearling who owned my heart from the moment I met him. I thought I would never love a horse as much as I had loved Bonnie, but that changed when I got to know Granite. He is hilarious, he is loveable, and he is not unlike a 1,000 pound puppy dog. He was the craziest, most irrational and heartfelt decision I have ever made.
As a full time grad student and employee, I bought a yearling with a college scholarship, because I rode!

As I pushed to finish my graduate degree and find a job that would support my irrational decision to buy a horse, Granite did his job of growing up (and being cute). He quickly became my inspiration to complete my degree at warp speed and begin to spend more time with him. I graduated with my Masters degree at the age of 23, because I rode.

Unfortunately the economy tanked and my degrees didn’t quite get me the big-shot job that I had once hoped that they would. I work in my career field but in a very entry level job, for which I am over-qualified. But, I am grateful because I have a job and am able to keep Granite. It is a daily struggle to support myself and him, but I am determined to give him the best life I can. I usually have to pass when my friends suggest a night out on the town, a vacation, or a trip to the mall. I have been saving for months to afford to get him started under-saddle. I have sacrificed a lot of freedom in my early twenties, because I ride.

Although, I have to make a lot of sacrifices to own my horse, I have never regretted a moment of our time together. Seeing my horse is the highlight of my day. When I am not with him, I am reading about training tips or riding exercises. I have taken up a quest to get fit before I begin showing him that now has me running about 15 miles a week. I have started volunteering for the local 4-H horse club. My life is surrounded with horses, just as I always hoped it would be. I have dreams of Granite and I being successful in the hunter ring, but those dreams are flexible, because as long as I am riding Granite, I don’t care what we do. I am me, because I ride. I am happy, because I ride.  
 (My perfect boy!)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lets Go Becky (Holder that is)!

I'm going to sound like Eva here when I say that, thanks to social media, the Rolex is much more real to me this year. While its easy to feel "in the loop" with events such as the NFL Draft (Trent Williams to the Redskins? eh, I guess I'll take it) because they are nationally televised and permeate the usual print and radio media channels, it is more difficult to stay in abreast on the action taking place at our equestrian sporting venues. But this year with the invention of Facebook "Fan" pages, my decision to finally give in and sign up for Twitter, and following BTB and other such blogs, I actually feel more connected to events such as (my personal favorite) the Washington International, Rolex, and WEG!

All of this to say, I have actually paid attention this year and am thrilled to announce that Becky Holder (inspiration for my, now, 16 week venture into becoming a fit rider!) is in 2nd place (after Karen O'Conner) after the Dressage. Go Becky!

Becky Holder and Courageous Comet 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

And Kindergarten Begins...

Granite began his training yesterday!
Yesterday Becky began working with my boy. Granite has lived there for almost 10 months, but Becky and Granite don't know each other too extremely well because he is pasture boarded (out 24/7) so they don't get a lot of time to interact. Becky spent yesterday doing some ground work with Granite in the round pen and got to know him a little more and got a feel for what work I had done with him.
Today when I pulled up to the barn after work, I looked for Granite in the pasture as usual. He wasn't there; I immediately start to panic. But then, I looked up and realized that Granite was in the round pen, and Becky was on him! I squealed with excitement and managed to put my boots on (sock-less) while driving down the driveway so that I could sprint out of the car and to watch her ride him!

OK, I was really jealous that it wasn't me up there, but I don't want to ruin anything-- so it is best this way.
Granite is more stiff when being asked to bend under saddle than he is on the ground.

He also had no clue what Becky is asking when she asks him to walk on. Turns out he responds well to the reins on his flank, but not to side pressure. I assume this is because he has had so much practice working on the lunge and being led from the shoulder. Becky said that will be the main focus of tomorrow's lesson. This is why I have her, I don't have the patience or skill to get him to understand how to move from the leg (forward and laterally).

I hope Granite gets better and better. He is still my elephant (we should have named him Horton). Very S-l-o-w and easy going. Nothing seemed to phase him at all today. The horse is really steady. But, I do hope there is some impulsion in there somewhere (hello Granite, you are supposed to be a jumping horse!!! duh!)

In other news, everyone is so in love with Reno! Becky REALLY likes him. I don't think she likes Granite nearly as much--- boo. But I love him <3

Oh, one more thing. We measured the big guy today and he is 16.1.

That is all.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Why yes I am the Coach of the 5th best 4H Judging Team in NC, thanks for asking!

Yes, I'm like the only one who looks thrilled. But really, my team did SO well, how could I not be thrilled? So... wanna hear how it all went down? I thought so.

Friday, I bust out of work at 12:00, because my boss is pretty awesome sometimes. I head down to the capital and pick up some stuff for work because I was heading that way, and I got off 4.5 hours early, and I'm just nice like that. Then I met Eva and we ran 4.5 miles around a lovely lake. I want to re-locate there so badly, but thats another story for another day. Then, I booked it another 1.5 hours east to Martin County NC for my 7:30pm coaches meeting. I got the run-down on the schedule and all then headed to meet my team to let them know which classes they would be judging the next morning.
They had to judge:
Aged QH Geldings
2 yr old QH Mares
Mixed Sex Field Hunters in Hand
Mixed Sex Saddlebreds in Hand
Western Pleasure
Hunter Under Saddle
Saddle Seat Pleasure
Walking Horse Plantation Pleasure
Western Horsemanship

It was a long day and I locked my keys in my car (thank god my parents came up to meet me for my birthday and had the ONLY spare-- what great luck). I wasn't allowed to talk to my kids AT ALL during the competition, so it worked out nicely that I got to see my folks and even watch a Miniature Horse show at the Ag Center next door to the Community College where my kids were competing. The day wrapped up about 9 hours later and the awards ceremony began by the "official" judges giving their placings and reasons. During this time some of the judges recognized some outstanding contestants... 3 of them? were mine!! Then they gave awards in a few different categories: 1) Halter Individual 2) Team Halter 3) Performance Individuals 4) Performance Team 5) Oral Reasons Individuals 6) Team Oral Reasons and 7) Overall Team
we had a 4th place individual in Halter a 5th individual in performance and a 6th individual in reasons. We also got 5th team in performance, 4th team in oral reasons and.... 5th team over all-- at the STATE competition, against teams that have done this before, and practiced for much much longer. I am SO. Proud! It was a great experience.

In other news. THIS
was the #1 halter horse... I disagree (I mean I placed him first because he was clearly better than the others). He is HUGE. This picture doesn't do the amount of muscle on the GELDING justice. He could barely trot and I highly doubt he is even rideable. Its gross and he will be lame before long. Look at those little legs having to bear that kind of weight. This is sad breeding if you ask me, not halter winning... Thoughts?

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Beautiful day for a Friday

"A horse is the projection of peoples' dreams about themselves - strong, powerful, beautiful - and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence."  ~Pam Brown

I'm heading out to the Judging Competition today! First, I'm going to stop and see my Best Friend and go for a run with her around a Lake! Then I  have a coaches meeting, a meeting with my kids, then sleeping. Judging will take place for 12 hours tomorrow.

Sunday at 1, Eva and I will head out to go get my Nephew, Reno. How exciting! I can't wait to fill you all in on my weekend.

Until then, I leave you with a lovely quote and photo of my boy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

And apparently I AM an adult!

haha! That just makes me laugh, me? an adult!

Anyway, let me back up. As you may have noticed mention of, I am the proud coach of a 4-H Horse judging team. While I use the word "coach" lightly, because my "kids" probably know as much, if not more than I do, they have to have a coach and I am technically that person. I have basically served as a point person in the development, organization, and coordination of the 4-H Equine Team and subsequent 4-H Horse Judging Team. The "kids" or 4-Hers as it were, range in age from 14-17. 3 of them come from families that own their own farms and all of the kids have qualified for and competed in the 4-H Southern Regional Championship Horse Shows (in case you didn't grow up in 4-H, Regionals is a big deal). All of that is to say that my kids are awesome and despite my lacking as a coach, I think they will do wonderfully at the competition.

The brief overview of the 4-H Horse Judging Competition goes like this:
The kids must judge approximately 8-10 classes. These classes are made up of both halter and performance classes. These can range from quarter horses, arabians, saddlebreds, draft horses, ponies, paso finos, reining, hunter hack, saddleseat, horsemanship, western pleasure... you get the point. "Fair Game" runs the gammat and the kids have to be prepared to judge a diverse range of classes. On 4 of these classes, the kids must provide oral reasons. These reasons are given one-on-one with a "professional" judge a few hours after the class takes place and the kids may not use any notes. After the competition, the kids are judged 1/2 on their correct actual placings of the 8-10 classes and 1/2 on the reasons they give for those placings. The kids are judged on an individual and team level and the top individuals and top team coach will go on to the Regional competition.

This is the first time that 3 of my kids will ever compete in a judging competition and we have only been practicing for about a month. Thankfully a Judging "Judging" who also happens to board with one of my kids has been helping us for the last couple of weeks. She has been a life saver. She comes up with great activities for helping the kids practice giving oral reasons. She also gives great feedback and knows how the judges will be judging the kids. She was priceless in helping us.

The competition is on Saturday. I have a coaches meeting on Friday night and the competition will last ALL DAY Saturday. I was asked to stay over night in the hotel with one of the kids because there was no adult to stay in her room. I looked around trying to figure out who could serve as the extra adult then realized that, apparently, I AM the adult. Haha! Saturday is also my 24th birthday and because the competition is not too terribly far from my parents' house, they plan to come watch the competition and see me on my birthday. I am looking forward to it. I am nervous for my kids but know how intelligent they are. I am really lucky to have been given such a mature and talented group of 4-Hers. Wish us luck. I hope to share pictures and good results with you next week!

To meet my team and check out a bit more about 4-H Horse Judging, check out their website.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Big-Boy Birthday Bonanza!!!

Happy Birthday to the Sweetest, Goofiest, Big Gran-Man, Pony Ever!!

My big guy is FINALLY 3! Today is his birthday and I love him soooo much. Is it silly that I am proud of him for, uh, growing?

I don't have much time with him today (Last 4-H Judging Team practice before state competition this weekend) but I bought him some treats and plan to go shower him with love and a couple of cookies. I also bought him some bell boots because...
Someone got his first pair of big-boy shoes yesterday! He was great and walked off like he had been wearing them all his life. The farrier barely needed to shape them, he said Granite's hooves are nearly shoe shaped already. He also noted that our "special fin" aka club foot is looking better and better and may be a normal angle after a couple of shoe settings. I know a lot of people are swearing by the barefoot trimming and until yesterday, I had never had shoes put on a horse of mine (with the exception of Karma, but D had her shoes set and we did TONS of trails through all sorts of rocky terrain). But, I am very confident in my farrier who knows much more than I do about horse's hooves and he thinks the safest thing for Granite's tendons in his "special fin" is to keep shoes on the fronts. So, I am doing as told and my baby now has new kicks on his front feet. Being that he is a huge klutz, I asked the farrier if bell boots would be a wise idea. He told me it definitely couldn't hurt. So, he will get a pair of pull-ons today (He lost his pair of velco-on bell boots during evening #1 in the pasture).

I have a back-log of blog topics to share, but today we will have to settle with wishing my Prince Charming a happy 3rd birthday. He is now ready for our next adventure-- riding! As soon as his trainer heals (she broke her nose riding a crazy greenie), my boy will start going to school and learning to me my partner under-saddle! Wish us luck!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Lesson from Hell....

Last Thursday I managed to outrun the rain. Under ominous skies, my 45 minute drive from work ended at the lesson barn. The barn was one of those pre-manufactured barns. It was very clean and organized. The instructor was a very pretty young woman (around 30ish).

She greeted me mildly and showed me where I could sit my saddle. The she had me fill out a three page waiver. The first page was your standard waiver, the second asked for all of my health insurance info in addition to doctor's phone number and address. The third page asked for my date of birth, height, weight, if owned a horse, if so, for how long, how long I have been riding, my highest level of competition, and it felt like every other question in the world. It was a little extensive. I tacked up the 22 year old pony (ok, he may have been 15 hands) who was shedding like a demon (obviously) and the trainer promptly told me where I could find a broom to sweep up his hair.

Once I tacked him up, we headed to the arena. From there I spent the next 45 minutes feeling like a small child attempting to coerce her pony into moving forward. This entire time the only advice the trainer offered was... "more impulsion". Honey, if I could get this poor pony to move any faster, I would! We managed to pop over a few jumps (a monkey could have gotten this school master to jump, it was literally idiot proof... if you could keep him moving). I felt like a moron that I couldn't get this poor horse to move. Perhaps she hated me, or truly thought I was horrible, because I do not exaggerate when I tell you that I was offered ZERO feed back. It was the most expensive pony ride I have ever had! I wanted to cry, and in fact after I pulled out of the driveway, I did.

But my story is not quite over. After finishing our lesson (I assume it was done bc the instructor said "I guess thats enough" then walked out of the arena leaving me to walk the pony out), I went back in as was shown to the wash rack. I untacked and rinsed the pony off then asked which stall was his. I was then told to go ahead and hand graze him for a while before putting him up. Como Whaaat? Yep, I hand grazed the horse in the drizzling rain --that had started while I untacked-- for about 15 minutes before putting him back up. Then I was given a bottle of murphy's soap and a sponge to clean the bridle.

When I was done, I handed her a check and RAN to the nearest exit. After crying on my way out, I spent about 3.5 minutes contemplating my future with horses. I really left feeling that I was not worth this woman's time and that is why she offered no feedback or instruction. Then I called my best friend, Eva, and she helped me to realize that sometimes you don't jive with everyone. She mentioned that I am not in the best geographic region to find a trainer I love, and that perhaps I don't need a coach until Granite and I begin jumping. Granite has a trainer and yes, I will take lessons with her on how she is training Granite and how I can continue to bring him along, but I really hoped to find a coach that I could turn to for advice about my own abilities (or lack thereof).

As an aside about the lesson from hell, turns out the "pony" belongs to my beloved farrier. His daughter is also an instructor at that farm! And three days later, I learned that I am distantly related to this trainer by marriage. Haha-- what are the odds?

So, I am taking a moment to step back from the trainer search and re-group. I will get back at it later into the summer. Perhaps it just isnt for me right now...

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Tragedy in the NC Horse Community

Early yesterday morning a fire broke out at a Chapel Hill barn, Foxwood Farms. Before the flames were discovered, the fire had apparently burned through the roof of the barn. 13 horses were killed. News coverage on the story can be found here.

As if this weren't heart breaking enough, today I found out that one of Granite's half sisters died in the fire. I am facebook friend's with the owners of Granite's sire and she had photos and an RIP message about an 8 year old mare named Love Ya Mean It aka Buttercup. Then I put the pieces together and realized that she had been one of the horses to die in the fire.
BUTTERCUP (2002-2010)

My thoughts are certainly with her owners. If she is anything like my boy, they lost a gem yesterday.

Upon looking at the Foxwood website, I realized that Granite's 5 year old full brother was being offered for 1/2 lease at the farm. I don't know if he is OK or not (I think 9 or 10 horses had been in another barn and were moved to safety). I have emailed to ask if anyone knows. I can only hope he is OK, he seemed like such a nice boy!

Y'all do me a favor and keep everyone who loved these horses in your thoughts and prayers. I know this tragedy is being felt through out the entire NC Horse Community. It certainly makes you remember to be grateful for what you have; and I have Granite.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I make it rain

And I'm not Lil Wayne either. My super powers to create precipitation rest solely on my ability to schedule a riding lesson. A few weeks ago, I decided that while I adore Becky A. and Applewood Farm, that perhaps I was more of a hindrance to her than anything else and scheduling was becoming too much of a bear to attempt to establish a trainer/student relationship. I began an internet scavenger hunt to find a trainer that:
A.) had a positive reputation
B.) trained successful hunter/jumpers
C.) was located within a 45 minute drive from my home/work
D.) was accepting new clients
E.) allowed me to ride "lesson horses"
F.) could teach in the evenings or on weekends

Is that too much to ask? Apparently, yes, yes it is. I received ONE response from my search. After approximately 2 weeks, she and I were able to schedule a trial lesson and today was the day. After about a week of hot and dry days (and a subsequent pollen assault) the world apparently rallied to pray for rain. They got their wish and it is currently sprinkling while threatening to thunder storm. I have yet to call and see if it is raining 45 minutes east of here (where her barn is ever so conveniently located). I think I will call in about ten minutes. I am praying that she has an indoor of which I am currently unaware. I wouldn't be so disappointed if this didn't happen EVERY TIME I schedule a lesson and if it didn't take 3 weeks to find a free day in my schedule that coincides with a free day in a trainer's... I am really thinking that the fates would rather me take up table tennis or air hockey at this point, because riding lately, has become more of a struggle than I had ever imagined.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Things that make me go.... GRRrrr!

1. Verizon Wireless who has left me sans phone for FOUR days now despite my super-duper-amazing-covers- everything-including-earthquakes-and-avalanches-insurance plan. Their sorry excuse for customer service is positively deplorable.

2. Duke Basketball who beat the Cinderella team by 2 points in the National Championship last night. They are a rich, snobby, private school and I just can't garner any fellowship toward entitled people, let alone a campus full of them.--- Go Heels!

3. 90 Degree temperatures in APRIL that are making my poor poor Gran Man sweat all day as he is still holding on to the last layer of winter fuzzies that mom just can't seem to curry off just yet.

4. Not Knowing if my best friend's (hopefully) soon-to-be Baby Morgan will pass the vet check today and not knowing whats going on because I don't have a phone. Fingers crossed for good news folks!

5. Rained out lessons that seem to occur with frightening regularity. I have a trial lesson scheduled with a new trainer scheduled for Thursday and what do you know? The high temps are supposed to break and give way to showers on Thursday evening, go fricken figure!

~ Now in better news, I sat on my boy bare-back last night for the first time ever. A friend of mine held Granite while he grazed and I got to sit on him and bask in the thought that in less than a month he will be going into training and I will be actually riding him at long last!