Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Trail ride

On Sunday I took Stella on a trail ride, I knew she had been trail ridden a few times before, and I wanted to test out all her buttons.  For this ride I went with a friend that had a seasoned trail horse to help us through any problems.  I also picked a location that had a little bit of everything.  I wanted to see how she handled hills both up and down, mud, and water crossings.  

First test, tying to the trailer.  I really hate horses that spin in circles tied, don't tie, or are a foaming mess in a new location.  Stella passed this with flying colors.  I can't tell you how many times we've gone trail riding and some moron shows up with their horse banging and kicking on the trailer and rearing and pawing being tied up.  100% of the time they are on a gaited horse and as soon as their ass hits the saddle they are speed racking around, yet they wonder about their horse's bad behavior.  

Second test, scary shiny Culvert.  Fail.  Had to get a lead by it.

Third test, mud.  FAIL!  We stopped dead at the first dozen mud puddles and refused to cross until our lead horse went first.  The next dozen we crossed first by JUMPING them.  After that she gave up and accepted mud as a part of her life so PASS!

Fourth test, distance.  Stella didn't have any problems getting far away from her buddy, or her buddy leaving her.  She was also content to stand on the trial and take a nap.  PASS!!

Next up, water!  Although Stella lead the entire way (due to our slightly unenthusiastic lead horse) she came to a screaching halt at the first water crossing and actually started to back up.  I got her to cross on the butt of our lead horse (who could apparently now be in front just to make sure the water wasn't going to suck her under) and Stella carefully put each hoof exactly where the other horse did, just in case.  I had picked this location and trail because there are at least a dozen water crossings and as we crossed each one I upped the ante until she eventually boldly walked through the water while in front and without even a hesitation.  The end of the trail was 1/4 mile actually up the creek and she plowed through with enthusiasm.  PASS!!

Our biggest challenge had nothing to do with trails, but with actually making it back to the trailer itself via a detour through camp.  Every manure bin, fire pit, truck being hitched, dog barking, horse tied to a rail, bridge, oncoming car, wheel barrow, was cause for stopping and staring and waiting for our faithful (and even slower) companion horse to catch up and take one for the team.  I now know that those kinds of things are what Stella needs more exposure to, and she's going to get a real eye opening experience at her first horse show in a few weeks.

Overall I was very pleased with Stella.  She was cautious and pragmatic but eventually came around to being brave and obedient which means we are on the right track and she is capable of assessing her situation and listening to her rider.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Horse is Never Wrong book review

I'm pretty sure I said like 2 years ago I was going to review the book, The Horse is Never Wrong, by Mary Pagones.  I'm really not that slow of a reader I swear.  First, let start off by saying I'm pretty sure I have no idea how to do a book review.  Do you do it in school where you summaraize the entire book and basically give away the main story?  Or do you do it spoiler free?  I guess you're going to get my own version of a book review, with a big dose of introspection.  This book hit home a bit for me.

This book is about a girl named Heather, who has been diagnosed with ASD (Austism Spectrum Disorder), by her school psychologist.  It follows Heather as she starts to take lessons at a local riding stable, and as she learns more about herself.  As a horse person I appreciated reading a book that had horse stuff in it that wasn't God awful.  Heather doesn't show up for her first riding lesson ever and ends up riding into the sunset on the brindle stallion that nobody else has ever ridden before, and she doesn't win a major race on a breed not eligable to be entered.  She, and the reader, learns about the right way to do things, about dressage, about jumping, and about taking lessons on the appropriate horse for her skill level.  This book is a good way for a horse crazy young adult to learn about horse things from an author who has ridden an actual real live horse.

Now, let's talk about what I didn't like, here's where it gets deep folks.  Heather reminded me a bit of myself as a young person.  I felt the same sense of being the awkward outsider struggling to understand friends, enemies, and the intricacies of school.  It was uncomfortable looking at someone who had some of the same thoughts and feelings that I did.  Who struggled to understand why someone would pretend that they liked you, only to use your knowledge to pass an exam.  Why girls always seemed to run in packs.  Unlike myself, Heather was neatly labeled as being different and thus wrong, and went to lots of counseling sessions which frankly pissed me off.  I felt sorry for her.  Her she had to sit with someone who spent the entire session telling her she was wrong, and patiently trying to have her act like a normal back stabbing high school girl.  Who told her she was fixated on riding and it wouldn't do her any good.

In the book luckily Heather doesn't listen to her psychologist, and she eventually discovers that she belongs in the horse world, where she was welcomed with open arms and the only thing people cared about was how well she rode the horse she was on.  She had something in common, she had something she did well, and all of a sudden she didn't have a damn bit of trouble making friends.  I didn't think that this book helped people understand Autism, I think that is a misprint.  I think it helps people understand that labels suck, mean girls are everywhere, and you just need to find where you belong.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Coal Country (and horses, duh!)

Over the weekend I accompanied a friend on a road trip deep into Kentucky along the West Virginia border.  I think I was there to poke her with a stick in case she fell asleep at the wheel.  Her horse was in training with a very well qualified endurance rider (if you call riding like a gazillion miles at the FEI level and racing semi broke Monglian ponies qualified) and she was headed down to pick it up.

Here's the truck in a Wendy's parking lot.  This was the scenery everywhere.

This was also scenery, this is coal country.  The coal moved around via barges on the river and trains that seemed to run all night long.
The endurance trainer's father is sort of the town historian and he has been collecting historical memorabilia from the town for so many years he built a small museum in a little A frame house to contain it all. This also served as a guest house for people visiting so we basically spent the night in a museum which is kind of a childhood fantasy.    Unfortunately there was no magic tablet and nothing came to life.  Boo.

I got to head out with her on a training ride on one of her 50 miler horses, an adorable grey.  He was happy to do his job, surefooted, and easy to rate.  He was happy to walk, trot, or gallop and if I asked him to walk up the hill he walked.   So many trail and endurance horses are either only happy in front, or in back but he was happy anywhere.  Training is important even for the trail, and being able to ask him to not surge up a hill is a sign that someone has put a lot of thought into his training.

Before we headed out she found out I was an eventer.

Ohhhh, so I can do my big hill, it usually scares people but you'll be fine.


I even tried to tell her I was a weanie eventer, but no dice.

I would like to say the scenery on her private property was beautiful but we were going so fast it was pretty blurry.  Trail riding in the Kentucky hills is kind of like riding on a roller coaster.  You have that long slow climb up the hill (or in our case that long really fast climb) and then you kind of lean back, close your eyes, and wonder how your mistakes in life brought you to these circumstances.

It was actually really fun, I've ridden hills in Southern Indiana otherwise I probably would have curled up into a fetal position and rolled off the side.   I started out in horses trail riding so I feel very at home on the trail, for me it's something that is relaxing and fun.  In technical terrain you just have to relax and trust the horse to put all of his feet in the right direction and being on an experienced horse I felt at ease.

I have to say that Endurance is probably the closest sport to Eventing.  You have to be a little crazy to want to do either sport, and is a snorty little arab fit enough to do 100 miles really much different than a snorty big OTTB fit enough to gallop at 550mpm?  I never understand why endurance riders say they are afraid to jump but they have no qualms taking an arabian with questionable brakes 50 miles up the side of a mountain.

I had a great time and I think if I wasn't a weanie eventer I might be a weanie endurance rider.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


 Hello all,  Life has been busy and I have not felt I've had anything worth blogging about.  Or that my blog is particularly interestin...