First Horse Show Ever! The Play By Play…

Horse show 006

Horse show 009

Thanks to my husband for missing football to be my photographer.
Thanks to my husband for missing football to be my photographer.

So I decided at the last minute to sign Baron up for a schooling show near my barn. The show was originally scheduled for Saturday but was moved to Sunday because of rain. So Sunday morning I put Baron in the round pen and let him stretch his legs a little, then bathed him and gussied him up for the show. It took some serious scrubbing and copious amounts of Mane N Tail shampoo to wash the Georgia red clay off  his white socks. Loading him took longer than expected and I arrived at the arena later than I would have liked. I was so nervous my hands were literally shaking, and I had to get my number, tack him up and change into my show clothes in about 15 minutes in order to make the warm up. Somehow I got myself and him dressed and ready just in time for about 5 minutes of warm up.

Honestly, Baron did not even need a warm up. He was perfect from the minute we arrived at the showgrounds. (I, however, was a hot mess.) He was relaxed, ears pricked with interest but not headstrong at all, and he seemed to be enjoying the other horses and the commotion around the arena. I could not have been happier with him. He did everything I asked easily and with a happy attitude. You would have thought he had been showing his whole life. I guess a little schooling show is pretty tame compared to the racetrack!

So, on to our classes. I entered Beginner Level 1. First class was Walk-Trot Equitation. I rode terrible. I was still flustered from arriving late and my focus was off. We placed 6th out of 6. Kind of embarassing, but hey, that just gives me more gumption to improve.

Second class was Walk-Trot Hunter Under Saddle. By this class I had improved my focus and I was actually concentrating on riding well. We placed 4th out 6. May not seem like a great finish, but I was stoked!!! We moved up two places!

Next class was English Pleasure.  We placed 5th. Not a fantastic placing overall, but Baron did so well with the new environment that I could not be any happier.

There were only 6 people in my classes, and only one other horse. Everyone else was an eight year old on a pony. Those eight year olds are hard to beat with their adorable show ponies! One problem I had is that Baron’s stride is so much bigger than a pony’s stride that I was constantly running up on top of the ponies. I kept having to circle around or cut across the arena so that I was not right up on a pony. I think this definitely affected my focus. Instead of concentrating on riding well I was trying to be polite and not run up on the ponies! Next time I’ll try to have Baron at the front of the line to avoid this problem. 

I am planning on doing another show October 24th. It’s the same schooling group and I’ll do the same three classes. I had such a great time, I’m definitely doing it again!!!

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My awesome trailer puller.
My awesome trailer puller.
The midget trailer I'm going to pull.
The midget trailer I'm going to pull.
It's pretty nice on the inside.
It's pretty nice on the inside.

It cost me a pretty penny, but I’m finally rigged up to pull a trailer.  I had to have a wiring package installed in my vehicle that would connect to the trailer lights and brakes. I’m leasing the trailer from my barn owner. I figured leasing it is cheaper than buying a new trailer. I can’t drop a couple grand right now.

I rigged the trailer up (had to have some help from my trusty barn friends) and pulled it empty to get the hang of it. This is the first time I have ever pulled anything, but surprisingly, it wasn’t bad at all. That might have something to do with the fact that I never went above 35. Ha ha. I should put a sign on the back that says, “Just pass me, because I’m not going any faster. :)” Next step will be pulling the horse trailer with an actual horse in it.

In other news, I have entered Baron in a show on Saturday. I am questioning my own sanity, because I have ridden all summer very frequently, but I have not been taking lessons. But by the time spring and the new show season roll around, I will be PREGNANT. Like big pregnant. So I want to go ahead and do a fall show instead of waiting another year and a half.

I only registered for 3 classes- Walk/Trot Equitation, Walk/Trot Under Saddle, and Walk/Trot Pleasure. I registered for Beginner Level 1. That’s as low as you can go. I think we will do fine. I’m not expecting ribbons; I just want the experience!

I think my husband is going to the show with me to play photographer, so look for pics and an update after the show…

Pictures…

Me and Zeke in Hatteras
Me and Zeke in Hatteras
Me and Zeke, Makani and Cody
Me and Zeke, Makani and Cody

These are the pics from my beach ride while on vacation. They were taken on a cell phone, so not the best quality. I would love to take Baron to the beach. It was such a great time!

Since I found out I’m pregnant, I’ve been trying to ride Baron as much as possible, at least 3 times a week, because I know that I’ll have to stop once I get bigger with the pregnany. (Side Note: I hate being pregnant.) My riding really has improved in the last few months, although I’m still a beginner. I like to keep track of my progress and my goals, so here they are.

Accomplishments:

1. I’m much more comfortable posting on Baron now. I’ve been concentrating on leaning slightly back and sitting deep in the saddle when asking for a halt, instead of pitching forward like I used to do. I’m not perfect yet, but my downward transitions are improving. Also, at the trot my hands are steadier. It’s not so complicated for me to post and steer at the same time! I used to concentrate so hard on posting that I would forget to steer and Baron would veer off wherever he wanted to go.

2. I can canter (although not very well)! We’ve been cantering out on the trail rides (in a Western saddle) and even though I’m a little tentative, I’m getting more comfortable with the motion and relaxing while he canters. The last time I rode Baron in the pasture, he wanted to canter and I let him, and I rode pretty well, even in an English saddle. I do still get nervous because I’m afraid of him getting too strong and me not being able to slow him down, but he did great this last time. I was able to half halt him down to a trot, although I did have to really pull him back. I understand now why jockeys have to have such amazing upper body strength. 1200 pounds is a lot to rein in!

Goals:

1. I want to improve my lower leg position at the trot. I feel like my lower leg, especially on the right side, is flopping all over the place and my heel is creeping up. Really need to work on that.

2. I need to get better at cantering. Right now I have no form. I kind of canter in half seat, but I’m still fairly unbalanced and it wouldn’t be hard to unseat me. Just like trotting, I have to keep at it and get used to the new motion. Funny thing is, I could canter pretty well on Magic, the QH I leased, but Baron is so much taller and his stride is so much bigger that it’s an entirely different feel.

3. I want to learn to get the right diagonal without looking. I can usually tell when I’m on the wrong diagonal because I feel “off” in the saddle, like I’m coming up crooked when I rise out of the saddle. I want to continue to develop that feel, so that posting on the correct diagonal becomes second nature.

So I should be starting up lessons again soon. I think I’ve finally worked out my trailer situation. Will do a post about that soon…

There’s nothing better than beach riding.

I’m on vacation in my hometown, Hatteras Island, North Carolina. I grew up here and my family still lives here. It’s half fishing village, half resort town and it’s got spectacular sunsets, laid back vibes, and some of the most beautiful beaches on the East Coast. I have a friend who works at a barn here as a guide taking tourists on beach rides, and she was nice enough to take me out on a ride for free! We rode about 30 minutes on a trail that leads out to the beach and then we rode down by the water for about an hour. It was glorious. Wind whipping my hair all around my face, waves crashing on the beach, the horses eager to canter on the hard packed sand down by the water. Absolutely glorious. I am now determined to get Baron to a beach somehow.

But first I must gush about the horse I rode that day. His name is Zeke and he’s a bay 15.3 Appendix gelding (will post pics soon!). He looked almost exactly like Magic, the bay mare I leased before I bought Baron. I liked him immediately. Every once in a while I come across a horse I “click with.” It’s just like meeting men. Sometimes I meet one I am immediately attracted to and I’ve noticed it’s the same with horses. As I began to groom him, he whipped his head around and swished his tail. He did not like the stiff brush I was given to use on him. Another guide at the barn said, “Be careful. He’s not crazy about that brush and sometimes he kicks.” I wondered why no one had bought a softer brush to use on him. I’m big on respecting the horse and allowing him to maintain his dignity, so I traded the offensive brush for a currycomb and then smoothed him out with my hand. He was much happier. 🙂

Then the guides brought out his tack and I was surprised to see that he is ridden in a pretty severe bit, a corkscrew I think, but I’m no bit expert. It was thin and very twisted. I said, “Wow, that’s one hell of a bit you’ve got him in,” and the guide responded that he gets a little strong sometimes. Now keep in mind that this is a barn that takes tourists on beach rides. Most of these people have been on a horse once or twice in their lives and have zero riding ability. I could just imagine nervous riders yanking on his mouth all day with that painful bit. I made an extra effort to have quiet hands and stay out of his mouth that day.

Keeping with the theme of  the dignity of the horse, I’m reading a great book called “Hope…From The Heart of Horses” by Kathy Pike. She’s a Counselor/ Life Coach who uses horses in her work to help people move through personal issues, anything from low self-esteem to overcoming abuse or fear from past trauma. What I find so interesting about it is that she isn’t really using the horses in her clinics. Every horse has the option to leave a session at any time, and many times the horses find healing from past abuses as well. She allows the people in her clinics to choose a horse to work with, and she  has found that invariably people instinctively choose the horse that can teach them the most. For example, a person who has trouble setting boundaries will choose a pushy, domineering horse that forces her to define her space and defend it. Or a person with a background of abuse will unknowingly choose a horse with a similar past of ill treatment.

She also conducts riding clinics that are designed to integrate mind/body/spirit. I am a firm believer in chiropractic, massage, craniosacral therapy, and reiki, because I think energy imbalances in the body restrict a person’s ability to progress as a rider. I have to be balanced mentally, physically and spiritually if I’m going to achieve the kind of “oneness” I’m looking for in my riding. Obviously, that’s an ongoing process and part of the continual challenge to become a better rider. I’m really interested in Kathy Pike’s work on this subject and I want to learn more.

She talks about an experiment she read about in the August 2007 issue of Horse Connection. People were sent into a round pen with a horse and told to basically think good thoughts, like focus on love or gratitude. The person would be hooked up to a heart monitor as would be the horse. The  observers saw that, almost invariably, when the person’s heart rate changed as a result of the chemical reactions going on in their brains because of the positive thinking, the horse’s heart rate would change to match the humans and the horse would often approach the person. Fascinating! Anyone who knows beans about horses knows that they are sensitive creatures who can pick up on human energy whether negative or positive. This experiment gives that idea the approval stamp of science! 

I’m definitely going to try this with Baron. I’m going to let him graze in the round pen, and I’m going to sit in the middle and think good thoughts. I’ll let you know what happens…

Random Horse Thoughts

I used to think of myself as something of a hunter/jumper snob.  I was only interested in Thoroughbred type horses  and English riding. I thought English riding was harder, meaning you can’t throw anyone on an English saddle and take them on a trail ride and expect them not to fall off. Being the Type A perfectionist that I am, I had zero interest in riding Western because I considered English riding to be more of a challenge. That perception is starting to change. I mean, hell, look at barrel racers. Those peeps can ride the hell out of some horses and look good doing it. I have zero interest in barrel racing, but I’ll give credit where credit is due.  Also, I have to admit that my obsession with English riding is partly due to the clothes. Oh how I love the breeches and tall black boots. I just feel like such a bad ass walking around in tall boots.

Second random thought: I wish I had unlimited time and money. There are so many adorable horses for soooo cheap. With the sucky economy people are selling horses left and right and it is entirely possible to get a great horse on the cheap! Even cheaper than what I paid for Baron, and he was a steal! I would love another horse to work with, but this time I would want a little western horse, like a really flashy paint. Then my husband or non-horsey friends could come ride with me.

Third Random Thought: I completely forgot to write about the best part of the trail ride on Sunday. We came to a place in the trail where it gets really wide, and Baron and I were leading. His ears were pricked forward and he started to trot. I let him and he just trotted and trotted for the longest time. I was having such a good time, I actually starting laughing out loud. That got him excited and he picked up the pace and there we were, me laughing and him trotting happily along on a gorgeous trail enjoying a perfect Sunday morning. That is one of my favorite memories with Baron so far!

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This weekend we did a 3 hour trail ride at Kennesaw Mountain. Baron was fantastic. I think he enjoys trail rides because he was relaxed and was content to lead or follow the group. He didn’t spook at a number of things that were potentially scary for horses (a bridge, runners with dogs, stupid runners who come up quickly behind you and don’t say a word!).

The big news for me is that I found out I’m pregnant. You may remember that I have a one year old little girl and I was DONE having kids. I was so happy that my little girl is getting less dependent on me which means I had more time to ride and spend with Baron. I was going to start showing Baron in the spring, but that’s clearly not going to happen. My due date will be around May, so instead of trotting around an arena and winning ribbons, I will be giving birth and taking care of a newborn.

I do plan to ride until I am about 6 months along. My husband hates that idea, but I told him it was not up for discussion. Baron has been coming along so nicely lately (lowering his head, bending at the poll, giving a nice, rhythmic trot) and I’m not willing to put that progress on hold until I absolutely have to.