Monday, December 21, 2009

Once a band nerd, always a band nerd

Throughout my academic life, I was a band nerd. I can’t remember not singing, and fell in love with the French horn in 5th grade. 

A few months ago, I went to my high school reunion. Beforehand, many classmates found me on Facebook, and knew my childhood horse-hobby was now my career.

But Amy Burean, now Laures, knew me as a music person. She asked if I still played. I had to answer “no, I haven’t played consistently in years.” She seemed surprised, considering throughout school I played with pretty much any group that would have me. My excuse? The intensity of my working student positions, then starting Straight Forward Dressage, had kept my schedule in a constant state of flux, and my horn in its case.

Recently, things have become a lot less hectic. Show season is still messy, but once the championships are over, things settle down. Thanks to SFD's amazing staff, I find myself running my business, instead of my business running me.

So I decided Amy was right, and picked up my horn again.

Before long, I was craving the camaraderie of other band nerds, so I found the Chester County Concert Band. Half way through the first rehearsal, I knew this was worth rearranging my schedule for. It felt like coming home.

Playing horn again is fun. I now fully understand the position of my returning-to-riding students. I find myself a little insecure about my abilities, but a whole lot less worried about it. I want to get my lip back, but I’m not going to make myself crazy to be the best horn player in the world. I’m going to enjoy this trip through the band room.

I see this in my returning-riders. For them, being in the barn is the point. They enjoy their time with the horses. When they show, they are delighted when they do well, and know that if they don’t, the sun will still shine. Even if the judging isn’t favorable, they still love sitting on their horse, because that is the point.

One big problem of working in a performance-based industry, like horse trainers, actors, musicians, professional athletes, and consultants, is you are only as good as your last show, last performance, last game, or last day’s work. The pressure to always do better, or at least not worse, is enormous. Your groceries depend on it. It’s easy to loose sight of the point.

But on Wednesday nights, that pressure is gone. I am just the new horn player. The smell of slide grease and the sounds of saxophones soothe me. I count my measures of rest, watch my accidentals, and do my best to hold an unwavering tone quality on long notes. My playing is free from the pressures of music scholarships and professional music that burned me out in college. I am free to just relax, have a good time, and to love to play.

By the end of rehearsal, I find myself a bit more mentally balanced, and ready to be a better trainer tomorrow. I guess I’m still a band nerd.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fire Drill

By Cara Klothe

Back in October, our insurance agent, Bob Bishop, scheduled a fire drill for our local fire company. 

As a horse owner, I found the evening informative and very eye opening.  We all hear tragic stories about fires destroying barns, and we share the goose bumps from hearing about the poor horses that are caught inside. But after the goose bumps are over, I know I personally get wrapped up in competing and training and the day-to-day stresses that go along with owning horses. I forget how lucky I am to have my horse alive and healthy. I digress; this is getting a bit morbid!

Back to the drill --

Close to 20 fire fighters arrived (fire truck and all) at the barn. This was a hands-on experience for the fire fighters. It included the usual pointing out exits, fire extinguishers, power sources, hay storage areas and the other typical things a fire drill goes over, and much more.   

Bob Bishop gave a very good presentation on barn fires, highlighting the typical dangers and complication unique to barn fires. The presentation included a map of the farm that clearly showed the safest area to put the horses in the case of a fire. 

But getting horses to the safe area is a major problem. The horses don’t want to leave their home with a stranger in a big yellow suit. Understandable, somehow I see Ockie, and many others having a problem with that. Bob’s suggested remedy was to use a towel over the horses head as a blind fold. 

Most of the guys (and girl) had no experience with horses, so they practiced putting a halter on, placing the towel over the horses head and leading. We thought we would be nice and let them practice on Saint Clyde. Clyde was an angel as usual, he stood perfectly still while firefighter after firefighter took their turn haltering and leading him. 

To get everyone really involved Bob proposed a competition (what do guys like more?).  We took Clyde and Toby to the indoor and divided into 2 relay teams. The firefighters had to put their jacket and helmet on, then put the halter on the horse, cover the horse’s head with a towel, and lead the horse to the other end. At the other end, they would switch gear and the next person would have to halter and lead the horse. The first team to get though everyone correctly won. The team with Clyde won mainly because Toby (aka Houdini) kept throwing off the towel no matter how they tried to secure it.

All in all it was a good night and very informative. We can all rest easy(er) knowing if, heaven forbid, there is an emergency our horses are in good hands!

Top 10 Exercises to Become a Better Equestrian

This forward made me laugh, so I thought I'd share it with everyone :-).  Exercise #8 is a bit too true....

10. Drop a heavy steel object on your foot. Don't pick it up right away. Shout, "Get off, Stupid, GET OFF!"

9. Leap out of a moving vehicle and practice "relaxing into the fall." Roll lithely into a ball and spring to your feet.

8. Learn to grab your checkbook out of your purse and write out a $200 check without even looking down.

7. Jog long distances carrying a halter and a carrot. Go ahead and tell the neighbors what you are doing - they might as well know now.

6. Affix a pair of reins to a moving freight train and practice pulling to a halt. Smile as if you are having fun.

5. Hone your fibbing skills: "See hon, moving hay bales is FUN!" and "No, really, I'm glad your lucky performance and multimillion dollar horse won the blue ribbon. I am just thankful that my hard work and actual ability won me second place."

4. Practice dialing your chiropractor's number with both arms paralyzed to the shoulder and one foot anchoring the lead rope of a frisky horse.

3. Borrow the US Army's slogan: Be All That You Can Be -- bitten, thrown, kicked, bucked, slimed, trampled, frozen...

2. Lie face down in a puddle of mud in your most expensive riding clothes and repeat to yourself, "This is a learning experience, this is a learning experience, this is ..."


Monday, November 30, 2009

Eclipse's Glamour shots

So, I've been Blogging here for months, and just now took the time to figure out how to add photos. So I'm going a bit nuts. Eclipse, Ensign's Grace's awesome Morgan stallion and my faithful show companion, had a boudior photography session last August (c'mon mares, isn't he hot???).  This little stallion has so much presence, and Catharine really captured it well. Thanks Catharine!!!

What an active hind leg. On a Morgan. Who needs huge warmblood size or purchase price??

His "Big Boy" bridle

Powerful little man, isn't he?? (Yea, I'm in love).

He had only been doing half-steps a few months when we took these. He has the most incredible mind, and a nicely active hind end.Plus a great tail :-).

Friday, November 27, 2009


My red mare rocks. Plain and simple, she is the most amazing thing on hooves, a total joy ride. Yes, I am totally biased, but then, everyone should be this in love with their own horse. That’s the point, right?
As a pro, this is not the norm, at least not for me. I end up with the unwanted problem children no one else wants, and envy my client’s really fun horses. Until now.
At the beginning, I guess Venus kinda fit that description. She was born at a small, quiet racehorse breeding farm. They had a broodmare who wouldn’t settle live cover, so they tried AI, hoping that if she carried that way, she would be more likely to carry live cover the next season. The result was a bright red half-warmblood filly, and they really didn’t know what to do with her.
I first met Venus on a frozen late December day. She was a gangly, homely 2 ½-year-old filly who was afraid of her own shadow. She was all legs, with a bit of a straight shoulder. Her neck was a little short, and her back so short I thought she would hit her hip with her shoulder blade. But she did have nice hip angles, and the price was right, so I bought her.
At first meeting, she warned me of her nervous nature with a huge, deer-in-the-headlights look. She plastered herself to the back of her stall when we came in. After a little scratching, she decided I was ok, but the other human with the large black nose (or camera, as it was) was NOT ok.

Here she is a 2 1/2, all legs and angles. It isn't a great growth stage, but what a hind end!!

We trotted her around on the frozen ground, and her movement was nothing to write home about--not much bounce and not much bend at the knee. But she kept a steady tempo despite the hard footing. When she reversed, she tucked her hips underneath herself. For the price, I decided to gamble. 
In January, I took her home. She was completely overwhelmed. After 25 minutes and a lot of carrots, we got her into her new stall. I was beginning to think I’d need to carry her over the threshold. Then she called to everyone who walked in the door—horse, human, cat, dog, everyone. She was a 15.3hh doorbell. Actually, she still is.
I groomed and petted her and let her grow up. One unseasonably warm March day, I arrived as two horses were being turned out. One of them bounced a bit in anticipation, floated across the spring grass, then lifted into a powerful, suspended canter. It took me a minute to realize that was MY horse. Somehow that collection of spare parts could really move.
Because of Venus’ timid nature, her early training took a lot of time. No matter what that body could do, I had to train her mind or I would never unlock her potential. When she was confident, she was amazing. When she got tense, her gaits became short and running. Until late in her 6-year-old year, amazing didn’t show up much.
Sometime in her 6-year-old year, she decided that the safest place to be was on the bit. When she competed in that mode, she was fabulous. Then I’d salute, and she would look up, see the judge, and startle. It was like she hadn’t seen the judge before. Funniest thing I’ve ever competed.  

Venus, her 6-yr-old year

At Devon, of all places, she gave me a glimpse of coming attractions She arrived two days early as a companion for a 4-year-old, and was a bit overwhelmed on day one--for anyone who hasn't been to Devon, the show grounds is really, really busy. But day two she handled it all like a finished horse. By day 3, she went into Suitability and rocked my world. Her back was so connected to my seat, it felt like I was moving her legs. I could add suspension, change tempo, anything I wanted.
I was still in the zone when we all stood in line up. Eleven of us competed, so one of us would leave empty handed. They kept calling numbers, and we stood there, getting more and more bummed, thinking “wow, it must have felt better than it looked.” Then they called her number, and gave her a pretty red ribbon. I was totally blown away. That ribbon lives in my small collection of “special” ribbons. 

This year she stayed home to train. The walk-canter-walk is going to take some time to get relaxed, so I decided we didn’t need to show second level. I really enjoyed having one horse that I could work with without a show-calendar-dictated timetable. She had 6 weeks of slow hills while she recovered from Lyme’s Disease, but despite that she is still on track to come out at 3rd next year, unless I decide to stay home and train again. We’ll decide that in spring.
In the mean time, I’ll enjoy the ride.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I don’t get into this holiday. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t feel thankful for all of the wonderful things I have. I do. Compared to my days of living in a one-room cabin and shoveling literal shit for a living, I’m very thankful for all I have.

But I have two beefs with the holiday.

First, the food. To celebrate thankfulness by insisting someone slave in the kitchen to make nasty, soggy, over-cooked bad 50’s food—that just doesn’t cut it for me.

Who eats green bean casserole any other time? Mushroom soup on green beans with fried onions on top? Be thankful your stomach doesn’t explode. Don’t get me started on 7-layer salad.

Second, the social networking sites. I enjoy seeing what’s up on Facebook. But really folks, does your family really need to log on to see you are thankful for them? Show them with your actions, and give me quirky, articulate prose to entertain me on Facebook.

Ok, I’m done ranting now. Eat yourselves silly.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thank you letter to the YDHTS Committee

November 13-15 found me, and 60 other professionals, huddled under a blanket in Hassler's covered arena watching some quality training. The event was the 5th annual Young Dressage Horse Trainer's Symposium, an invitation-only event created to encorage trainers to openly discuss the traing and competition issues we face every day.

The event was a fabulous experience. I enjoyed every minute--the training, the Saturday night dancing, my roommate, everything. I was going to pen some riveting prose about the weekend, then realized I already had, in my thank-you letter. So here's the letter.

Dear YDHTS Committee, Harmony Sporthorses, and Hassler Dressage,

I attended this year’s YDHTS weekend, and wanted to say a huge “thank you.” In a word, this weekend was simply inspirational.

This is my first year attending. I had considered applying in previous years, but did not. Like most dressage professionals, I have attended many, many educational events—from USDF L program, to USDF Instructor Certification workshops, to intensive training weekends, and more clinics than I can count. In past years, my thoughts have been along the lines of “this would be good to do, but how much knowledge can I get from one weekend?” Coming just after the end of show season, I’m usually looking for a weekend getaway that has nothing to do with horses. My tanks are usually a bit depleted.

So why this year? Honestly, I didn’t think it through in as much detail as previous years. I just sent my stuff in, and when I found out it was fully sponsored (thank you thank you thank you), I couldn’t use “broke at the end of show season” as an excuse, so I came.

I was expecting to watch a lot of nice young horses be trained, horses that were awesome, but not really in my frame of reality. When I saw Aesthete and Steinway on the ride list, I was sure that was all it was going to be, pretty horses with correct training, doing amazing things, that are fun to watch but really don’t resemble the kinds of training issues I see on a daily basis.

I was wrong.

Don’t misunderstand, Aesthete and Steinway are amazing. But this weekend differed from past clinics when I’ve seen these two horses go. This weekend we talked about the issues these horses, and all of the other horses, face. In most clinics, the horses are given some exercises that make the horse better, and we all go “wow.” In this one, Ingo and Scott went a step further, and said “this type of horse tends to do this, and because of that we need to do this.” That simple step of explanation did two things. First, it confirmed my eye. Second, it let me see get past the quality of the horse, and relate the training issues directly to horses in my barn with similar issues.

Ironically, the timing that kept me from applying previously is perfect for this clinic. The end of show season usually leaves me exhausted and a bit burned out. Now I’m fully recharged, and looking forward to a winter of training. The timing couldn’t be better.

But even beyond the horses, the attention to little details put me at ease. All of the tables, at every meal, were round, which encouraged conversation with more than just one person. The roommates were selected by age, which gave me a roommate with a similar perspective on the horse business. And the porta-potty trailer was hands down the nicest portable bathrooms I’ve ever seen.

Since coming home, I have been able to apply what I learned, and my horses are directly benefiting. This weekend ha s impacted my training more than any other single-weekend event of my training career.

Thank you.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Remembering Why We Do This

Red Bridge Farm, SFD’s home, is surrounded by homes. Forty years ago, Ted Gorman, our landlord, bought a 400-acre dairy farm, converted the main barns for horses, and sold off house-sized parcels. He sold to some really nice folks. This Saturday, we invited them over. We introduced our neighbors to a few of our horses, showed them a little dressage, fed them cake and punch, and gave the kids (and some of the adults) pony rides.

This all started as a good public relations idea, you know, giving back to the community. But by 5:00 Saturday, I was beginning to wonder if maybe we got as much out of the experience as the neighbors did.

Training for dressage competition is pick-on-yourself-every-day kind of work. Even when it all flows and you win the day, there are still things that could be just-a-little-bit better. Training for the elusive “10” keeps us so detail-focused that sometimes we forget the point.

What is the point anyway? Simply put, riding horses is fun. Tweaking the horse-human communication until our aids are virtually invisible, while channeling all that power, is the most amazing rush. That is why we do dressage, not for the $2 piece of satin.

Championship season tends to steal the fun.

But seeing the kid’s huge grin during the pony rides—that was fun. Watching the wonder on our neighbors faces as they learned to safely give a horse a treat—that was fun.

The demo horses caught the mood. Clyde and Victoria, Laura and Oberon, and Cara and Ockie demonstrated first level, third level and PGS for our neighbors. I’ve seen these three combinations compete all season, performing for perfection-minded judges. This audience was different. These folks were here to enjoy the beauty of the horse’s movement. This was going to be a different kind of performance.

Boy did those horses perform. I haven’t seen that much bounce out of Clyde, suppleness out of Oberon, or pure joy out Ockie in any of their performances this season. Our audience, all non-horse people, commented about how much fun the horses were having.

Afterwards, as we all decompressed in the barn, the riders basked in the pure fun of their rides, without worrying about the scores.

What a great way to end the season.

Well, almost end, the Big Fall Show is next week. More about that next time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Show Season from the Owner's Perspective

Secret, the super little mare that has been cleaning up all year, belongs to Linda Butz. Linda is a first-time horse owner, and Secret a barely-handled 5-year-old in December of 2007, when Linda bought her. Watching their bond grow has been something right out of a made-for-tv Hallmark special. Here is her take on the show season. Riding a horse like Secret is a privelege, and having an owner like Linda is just icing on the cake.

2009 Show Lessons from a Dressage Novice

By Linda Butz

I came into my first dressage show season completely uninformed. I had only owned Secret for a year and I had no idea that she decided she wanted to be a dressage horse! Other than seeing the freestyle at Dressage at Devon once, a local schooling show (where Secret was a disaster, but at least she got on and off the trailer), and the Big Fall Show as a spectator, I had no experience with showing. I had a lot to learn!

Ange and Laura had the show season planning meeting in January for everyone at Red Bridge and I remember being amazed by Victoria F’s show folder. Of course, I promptly put one together and it was a life-saver during the year. Otherwise, I’d have forms and test booklets everywhere. I remember everyone talking about schooling shows, rated shows and the “holy” BLMs. I didn’t have a clue what a BLM was! Then there was the Morgan circuit, Arab circuit, etc. I read Ange’s show booklet until it fell apart.

In March, Ange and I had a discussion as to whether I was more interested in ribbons or scores. My answer was, “ribbons, of course!” I was determined that Secret wasn’t getting a snazzy brow band until she won a blue. Of course, she accomplished that the week before we were to leave for Mason Dixon and one of my friends hastily produced a green jeweled brow band made by one of the kids she knew. It was gorgeous but took some hot gluing during the show to hold it together. After Secret took the training level championship, the “real” snazzy brow band had to be green, which it is. It also matches Ange’s eye shadow, but that’s another story.

As the season went on and I learned more about our warmblood competition, I realized that scores are more important than ribbons. I learned that placing behind the warmbloods wasn’t a bad thing and sometimes we sneaked in front of them or at least gave them a scare. I learned to keep spreadsheets listing venues, scores, and judges, file forms with the two breed associations (it’s lovely to have a dual registered horse), write checks(!), chat up the show secretaries, volunteer whenever possible and always thank those who were volunteering at any show.

I got to experience the wild Arabian circuit. There’s always something to watch from horses pulling carts to the western disciplines to saddleseat to native costume. Catherine and I are pining for a native costume for Secret although it might take us all winter to get it on her since she’s afraid of her fleece-covered halter. Catherine will also have to ride her because in native costume classes one enters the ring at the canter. Arab shows have barn parties, crazy outfits (not that boring dressage black and white) and lots of bling. Dressage is shunted off to a side ring—the main ring has all the crazy classes that I can’t begin to understand.

After dragging myself home from a couple of shows I learned the importance of food. We can never have too much water as it’s easy to get dehydrated. Cold cuts for sandwich fixing works out well as the food at the show grounds is never spectacular, if it exists at all, and we’re always grabbing something between classes. We wouldn’t get through without popcorn, M&Ms, and trail mix. I’ve learned to take a bucket back to the hotel to raid the ice machine in the morning and to leave the cooler at the showgrounds. I still come home exhausted and hungry, but happy I got to spend multiple days with my horse and my horse friends.

At first it seemed that one-day shows were much easier. For a multiple day show, there’s the packing (grain and hay are heavy), unpacking, setting up stalls, feeding, picking stalls, filling water buckets, walking the horses, bed check, and then getting up and doing it all over again. However, after a few one day shows, I learned that having a horse that doesn’t like to stand on the trailer by herself means that I cover miles of ground while she grazes so forget eating, bathroom breaks, or anything like that! Now I’ve come to love a show where she has a stall in which to relax and a chair on which I can sit! One day or multi-day, I love having that intense time with my horse and I think she enjoys it as well. It almost makes walking into the barn at 5:30 a.m. when it’s 40 degrees and we got lost trying to find a Dunkin’ Donuts open at that time so we could at least get coffee worthwhile. I always am greeted with nickering. Of course, it usually means, “I’m out of hay and I want my breakfast and some fresh water while you’re at it,” but it warms my heart nonetheless.

It’s been an interesting season. We did a ton of shows to get Secret the experience she needed and she responded beyond our wildest dreams. I’ve become expert at tack cleaning, horse bathing, staying out of Ange’s way on show day, and holding the show coat and test book. I learned how supportive everyone is at Red Bridge. The fun comes in cheering each other on through good days and bad. Showing has given me the opportunity to get to know everyone at the barn. We’ve rejoiced in wins, commiserated when it didn’t go well, and mourned when one of the horses gets hurt or goes lame and needs to stay home (after the entry fees are paid, of course). It’s been a wild ride. Only the Big Fall Show remains. I can’t wait for the break but I know I’ll be excited to see the 2010 season begin.

Do we have a date for the 2010 show season planning meeting???

Monday, October 12, 2009

BLM Results

The BLMs is always a big deal. Lots of horses, lots of tension, plus it's the first show with cool nights, which usually brings out the frisky in the ponies. Boy, did it come out.

But first the good stuff. Secret, Dream, Ockie, Flika (for the most part), were all the good girls we expected them to be. They and their human counter-parts turned in solid rides, letting the judges see their training.

Ockie and Cara stood 6th in the PGS championship class. Flicka and Laura were 5th and Secret and I were 8th in the training level championship class. Dream and Anita had two solid championship rides that put them just out of the ribbons both times. Secret ribboned in each of her training level rides, incuding a blue for training 2 on Friday with a 70 and change. We are waiting to hear if she was high-scoring Arab for the show. Oberon ribboned in all of his third level rides, and allwed Laura to actually RIDE, and not just steer and hope. He wins most improved, as we expected him to be overwhelmed, but even with all the pressure, he stayed obedient for the most part, a nice show of maturity on his part.

Silly and Merrick, the ones we were concerned would have trouble with the high-excitement of this show, did. Merrick, in usual Merrick atheltic form, got himself so excited he ended up with a sore back. Carol has impressive sticking power, I must say. Silly was also pretty excited, but her tension comes out as running with an occasional spin, giving us a really fast championship ride on Friday. Don't want to tie up that ring any longer than necessary. . .

Then there's the stage-fright boys. Eclipse, the perfect boy, managed a stone bruise last weekend, and had to stay home. Dosysky, Anita's GP horse, had a minor colic on Monday and began treatment for ulcers, so she decided to keep him home also.

That's the facts folks. Stories to come later, once I get the laundry under control.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Four Training Days Left....

This is it, down to the wire. BLMs are next weekend, and we have four training days left. That's it. A whole year's plotting and planning, and it is almost over.

The good news is two of the four are ready. Secret has been schooling like her usual, perfect, try-my-heart-out-every-stride self. Eclipse is the rock-solid good-boy he always is. They will show the judge what they can do, and then it's all up to the judge's opinion.

Then there's Silly and Merrick. Silly is my horse, which means when it comes to showing, she usually gets the short end of the stick. At home I know what I'm getting, but she just does not have the road miles of the other two. So her inexperience will come out either as additional gaits or tension. We'll find out on Friday.

Merrick has been working better and better every day, and lately it has carried over to the show ring. Then yesterday his dramatic nature overcame, and he limped just a little (What do you mean you are off??? My sanity needs those FOUR TRAINING RIDES!!! ). He has a suspicious crusty spot at his right hind coronet band, and when I touched it, he fired a warning shot at my knee. Hopefully it is an abscess, and will burst completely and go back to work in time.

In the mean time, I'm forcing myself to give the horses this Sunday off. I'm keeping busy looking for my desktop. I hastily buried it when I compressed everything into two four-day work weeks. Then used my stolen time to run home to my high-school reunion (Has it really been 20 years???? No way. All these people have kids and grown-up jobs. I couldn't have gone to high school with them...). I'm sure my desk is under here somewhere. It is brown, I think.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Crazy mind

Most of the time, my mind goes bzz-bzz-bzz, like an ant on caffeine. Running a horse business encourages this – there’s the horse care, the training, the medicals, the clients, the lessons, the schedule, the event planning, the insurance, the budget, the promoting, the staff relations, the list goes on and on. Often I feel like I have 6 pots boiling on a 4-burner stove.

The schedule has been quite busy the last couple of months, which feeds my manic tendencies. Thanks to the help of Cheryle, Laura, Carol, Cara, Doug, Shirley and Adolpho, most of the time I can keep all of the balls in the air. But then there are times when it all begins to unravel.

Like recently. A small series of blond moments tells me I’m stretching a bit too thin.

Yesterday, I mixed up when Laura was going back to school, and rode her training horses for her. Oops.

Sunday, I came to the barn in sandals (normal for this time of year), but without socks. Socks are kind of essential with tall boots.

I re-arranged my entire Tuesday to make it to the chiropractor, for an appointment that was scheduled for Monday.

Friday remembered half-way to the barn that we were doing promo photographs, and wearing my striped breeches on a really wide horse will probably accentuate my chair-seated tendency. Yea, let’s go publicize those photos all over the internet. Maybe it’ll make the horses look better, that they can be pretty in spite of my leg position???

Sunday I managed to get the laundry folded and in a basket, and put it down in the living room to do something else, then did something else, then something else. Doug graciously rescued the laundry from becoming a cat bed.

Ironically, even with this completely disorganized mind of mine, when I get on a horse to train, the noise goes away, and my mind settles. Training is the only time my mind calms. In August, shows have slowed a bit, so mounted work has focused on training instead of show prep. Which is probably why the unravels have been comical instead of frustrating.

After this weekend the schedule settles down a bit, and hopefully so will my crazy mind.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

From Laura

Laura Juniewicz, SFD's glamorous assistant, said she had a submission for our newsletter. She was pretty secretive about what she wanted to write about, but I trust her, so I said 'sure, I'll run whatever you write.' I really didn't know it was going to be this flattering, but thanks Laura!!! Hiring you was one of the best business decisions I've made.

My Pilgrimage to SFD...One Year Later

By Laura Juniewicz

So there I was a radiology student, in school full time and insanely in the middle of doing her L judge program through the USDF when I got a phone call from a fellow candidate that I had gotten really friendly with at the L activities and at the DVCTA Adult Team Show. Ange asked if I would be interested in coming to her barn to teach part time as her business was growing and she needed some help. I was firstly flattered and thought it would be a good match because in discussions Ange and I had we agreed on a lot of theory and saw things in a similar light. So I went to SFD and rode Sam and Clyde who were lots of fun and well trained. After being there a couple weeks, and after talking it over with mom I asked Ange if I could move my horses to SFD and so my journey began.

I had offered to do feedings and in discussing things with Ange I could see she was as meticulous as I was about my pony’s care. So what did I do? I promptly left my ponies in her hands and went to work my week at Dressage at Devon as the trophy and awards coordinator. But I needn’t have worried as my ponies were fine and survived the week.

So my first few months at SFD were interesting for me and I learned a lot about myself and about others. One of the first things I noticed about SFD was how tight knit the group was and how supportive they were. But it took time for people to learn to trust me as an instructor and as a trainer. And I could hardly blame them. After all, ninety percent of the time I try to audit someone before I take a lesson and sometimes it’s a gamble. But the time it has taken has been well worth it because I have gotten to see the progress in the group at SFD and they’ve gotten to see me and how I work and function. Training and teaching is not just about the process or the learning, it is also about trust and about building lasting relationships. After all, not only is one placing themselves but the welfare of their horse in my hands when I teach or train them and their horses.

The support of the group at SFD is unlike anywhere I’ve seen with such a mixture of levels of different riders. Everyone supports one another and I think it’s great! When we go to shows, it’s all about the team. There is such group support and you can feel your group of cheerleaders rallying behind you. Plus we bring great food or know the best places to stop for more food!

I really felt that support (as well as did my mother) when we had to make the heart wrenching decision to put Solitaire down this year. Everyone at SFD was so supportive, kind and caring. It made something horrific slightly easier to know that you all were there for us.

It is so nice having the support of Ange for me professionally. We joke competitively with one another, but it is so nice to have regular, knowledgeable eyes on the ground. We both are similar but also bring different things to the table. Between her and everyone else at SFD whom I get to teach or ride with on their pony, it makes me so grateful that I cannot even place it into words. But I know I look forward to going to the barn each morning! J

Looking back over the year, it was a great year! I passed my x-ray boards and became an R.T.! Ange and I passed the L program. Additionally, I have so many memories associated with SFD that make me smile. Taking my mom’s new horse to her first show, Merrick splashing himself in the face at Fiddler in the huge lake from the horrible rain, and Anita and Dream qualifying for BLM’s. Victoria Franzen and I driving to see Rocky, Pene, Secret and E show at Quentin. Going to get ice cream after Blue Goose shows. It’s all the little things and the great horse moments that make me smile and happy that Straight Forward Dressage is my home.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Show food

I love pre-show anticipation, not just about the ribbons. Of course, I want to do well and bring home lots of high scores, but the way I see it, 50% is preparation and 50% is luck at the moment (I have had many quite colorful examples of bad luck, but that’s for another blog…). By this point in show season, either I know my mounts are prepared or I’ve canned the show season to stay home and train. So for me, show anticipation takes on another angle–the food.

Showing as a kid, if you told me a show grounds, I could tell you the nearest fast-food restaurants. Maturity, and a husband who can REALLY cook, has improved my culinary tastes. Add Linda, Secret’s owner, who believes both commiserating and celebrating require linen napkins, and pre-show anticipation becomes very sweet.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First we have to pack to proper road-trip-stall-side munchies. We just cannot show without SmartFood White Cheddar popcorn. Animal crackers and trail mix are also essentials. Add some granola bars, apples, carrots and grapes, then wash it down with Smartwater for Ange and Coke for Linda, and we are set. Usually there’s a small bag of M&M’s somewhere, but white breeches require me to limit my quantities.

Of course we have to pack something for lunch, and my preference is good-old fashioned peanut butter and jelly. PB&J represents one-handed comfort food at its best. Today’s PB&J is a bit more grown-up than years past, though. To start, Doug bakes excellent bread. Last weekend, for fun, he took my leftover fruit and mixed it with honey and sugar, making an amazing jelly, so last weekend’s PB&J were especially tasty. Linda, not to be outdone, brought some chicken club salad from the farmer’s market.

Then there’s dinner, and of course I have my favorites. NJ has the most incredible Italian restaurant, Villa Barone's, and I’m sure the food tasted better coming from a very yummy waiter. In July, Linda and I split an appetizer, dinner, desert, and a bottle of my favorite wine. NJ also spawns an awesome ice cream parlor, Swal’s Ice Cream, on Main St in Allentown.

Lexington, VA’s long haul is softened by Southern Inn, which is hands-down my favorite restaurant ever. It’s so good, last weekend we went there twice. The appetizers show the chef’s amazing talent with cheese. The Cornbread-Stuffed Roasted Chicken Breast was incredible, and the Blueberry Napoleon was so good I actually used my fingers to get the last of the sauce (in public even). To top it off, they stock one of my favorite beers, Delirium Tremens. Does it get much better than that?

The schooling shows aren’t exempt either. We can’t haul to Blue Goose without the trailer drifting into Bruster’s Ice Cream on the way home. We are all card-carrying Sweet Rewards members. There’s a perfect trailer parking spot behind the shop.

At this rate, all that weight I carefully lost this spring will be back plus some. Good thing show season slows down in August, or I’ll never get back into my show clothes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Right Leg

A couple of months ago, I visited Dr. Dermatologist for my twice-yearly strip-search. As a red-head, I am destined to be inspected, poked, prodded, and dissected. This used to be an annual event, carefully coordinated with the end of show season, but 18-months ago I made the mistake of showing up with a sunburn (yea, not a good idea ...). So now Dr. Derma and I catch up twice a year.

Dr. Derma searched for something called a "suspicious mole," and suspicious moles require removal. The last two were on the inside of my calf, so I rode with a sponge padding the inside of my left half chap. This year's removal was on the back of my left thigh, right were the edge of the full-seat breeches rub. Not a good spot.

I padded the stitches with layers and layers of gauze and paper tape--of course I have to use paper tape, I have sensitive chestnut-mare skin--and went about business as usual. At least I thought I was.

Then, on Tuesday, a student snapped some photos of me riding. When I saw those shots, I thought, "Who was that on my horse? It couldn't be me. There's no way I sit that far off to the left. Nope, no way. Must be the Evil Twin." Well, Evil Twin must be exorcised before the weekend, as filming for Super-Duper Secret Takes on the Warmboods Episode 1 begins on Saturday.

I'm a riding instructor, so I know how to fix this--ride without stirrups. So I did. And since I ride a lot of horses, I got LOTS of practice time. Maybe a little too much, or so I thought on Thursday morning. Ouch. Not only did my right thigh hurt, so did my tummy muscles, but only on the right side. Maybe the stitches did get me a little off to one side. Maybe.

We packed up for the show on Friday, and I distinctly remember packing my new-and-improved right leg. But somehow on Saturday I couldn't quite find it. In warm up, I kept grabbing the SOS strap to pull my seat deeper in the saddle. Once my right thigh started really complaining, Super-Dooper Secret would lengthen her neck and float.

And float she did. To two blues and a red, with scores from 67-70%. Go Secret! Next stop, Eastern Arabian and East Coast Championships. I'll make sure I pack my right leg for that trip.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hi everyone

Ok, folks keep asking for the stories behind my ponies, so here we go.

This weekend was a bit crazy. We hosted a schooling show on Saturday, loaded up 4 horses and went to Fidler Run recognized show on Sunday, the Tuesday took 4 horses to Blue Goose schooling show. Next week we go again, taking the black girls to NJ Horse Park for the weekend. It's show season, let's show!

Eclipse (AKA Studboy), Ensign's Grace's premier stallion and the love of Kate Farris' life, had a full dance card,
competing in all three shows. He finished with 5 blues and one red (the wonder pony was getting a little tired ...), and is now qualified for BLMs in October. More than one judge commented on the happy harmony between he and Ange. Then, to further entertain his friends, the silly pony pulled a bottle of U-7 out of the trailer, bit the top off and started slurping it up like it was a well-deserved cold one.
Eclipse is enjoying a light week and hacking, then will get hard at work polishing off his freestyle demonstration for ODMHA in September.

Secret, (BR Danny's Secret) was not to be outdone, competing in both schooling shows with 4 of 5 rides in the 70's this weekend. I couldn't be more thrilled with this little mare's progress. Linda Butz really has a gem here--18 months ago she was mowing grass in a pasture in Wisconsin. She has a work ethic that just won't quit. I get to show her off again this coming weekend at NJ Horse Park.

Silly (show name Anisette) and I worked out our warm-up issues (too much, too little, where the heck is just right??) on Saturday in anticipation of this weekend's show at NJ Horse Park.

Laura isn't going to let me get all of the limelight. She judged all day Saturday, took two horses to Fidler Run on Sunday, then joined me at Blue Goose.

Her horse, Oberon, and Eclipse continued last year's tradition -- Oberon was 2nd to Eclipse in one class, then made Eclipse take red in the next. She had her maiden competition voyage on Flika (show name My Valentine), her mom's new horse, and earned blue and red for mom, with 64.8% and 66%.

Then, just to contine to show off, Laura and Rocky, Liz Dobrinska's horse, won both intro classes at Blue Goose and brought home the Intro High Score neck sash.

Then there's our students. Most of the barn came out for our schooling show, with so many scores into the 60's I can't do them all justice here. Anita and Day Dream joined Laura and I at Filder Run, qualifying her mare for BLM's. Victoria Franzen joined us at Blue Goose for a blue and a yellow ribbon.

As the saying goes, great fun was had by all.

Once I get my laundry caught up, let's do it again next weekend!