Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Year End Awards

So even though we didn't show all season, Ronin still ended up with some year end awards!

He was 5th in the BEST series only doing 3 of the 9 shows.

5th Place BEST
Baby Pad with very nice embroidery (I like the Year of the Horse style!)

Ronin's kid picking up his prize

And he is also 5th in the Overall MHSA Regional Adult Amateur Hunter division only doing 6 shows (the winner did 18!).  We were 5th in the standings for the MHSA Adult Medal too.

Very proud of him and hopefully next year we can have a full year with no abscesses!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

MHSA Championship Show and Braiding

So I was planning on doing the final show of the season with Ronin, but I got a little carried away with braiding for the show.  I normally just braid my barn's horses, but the horse show association running the show posted a message on Facebook that they needed braiders.  I'm happy to braid a few extra and I told them that I was only available to braid for Saturday since I was planning on showing Sunday.

Low and behold, they really needed a few braiders.  We typically do not braid for these types of shows, but this was the championship show, so we wanted to braid to properly show off the horses.  I had 5 to braid from my barn for Sunday and 1 for Saturday.  I ended up getting 3 ponies from the horse show association then 3 more from my trainer's friends.  Then the night before the show, another friend from another barn called and said she needed 4 braided as well.

Oh the life of a braider...lots of work, but I enjoy the quiet time with the horses.  The solitude of being at a barn with just the horses and ponies.  All of the ones I braided were very well behaved (I had one pony that did not want me near the wither bone, but some breakfast in the morning fixed that).  So here is my approximate schedule.  I am by no means the fastest braider; I am actually quite slow and I really wanted to make sure that I did a good job.  Hopefully these people will then use me in the future, which would be some very much needed income to help pay for 1, horses, 2. Grad school, 3. Husband's law school debt, 4. small things that I want to buy.

Friday Night
Braid 3 horses who were showing in the first division of the day at 7:30am.  The trainer told me that they wanted to school the horses in the open schooling before the show, which was from 6-7am.  Which means I wanted to be done by 5:30 so they had time to get the horses tacked up.  I also braided their pony that was showing a little later that day.  I did 4 manes and two tails by 5:30am, so I was quite happy with my timing.  It takes me about an hour to braid a mane and one of the horses had a very thick mane, so lots of braids.

Hour break with a sorta nap in my car, but it was too cold outside so I gave up on trying to sleep.

Start braiding ponies that were showing later that day.  The pony divisions weren't starting til at least 11am, so I did these starting a little later so that they were not in their braids too long.  I had 5 ponies to braid that day, all manes and tails.  I had two ponies who were keeping their manes in for both days, so I wanted to do those ones later.  I had a very good plan going in and only had some minor changes due to a pony coming to the horse show a little late (but not really).  I was also asked to do an extra tail, which is awesome.  Finished around 2pm.  I had a few breaks here and there.  The rider of one pony I was braiding wanted to ride during the schooling break, so I finished the mane, took a mini break, and started braiding another mane while I waited, then went back to do its tail.  So there was lots of walking around to the different barns.

Worked out pretty well, but OMG! my back was hurting pretty bad from braiding so many.  My fingers and hands were fine, but my mid to upper back, right between and below my shoulder blades were killing me.  I called my friend who was putting Ronin on the truck for me to not do it.  There was no way that I was going to be able to get Ronin ready to show the next day.  It would be one thing if I could literally just get on my horse and show, but the thought of setting up his stall, getting him settled, hacking him that day, and the whole prep of getting him ready to show was just too much and I decided to scratch.  It just wasn't fair to him to not give him the time he needed to show well.  Also, one less horse to braid and one that I don't get paid for, lol!

I went home, showered, took some naprosen (generic aleve), and went to sleep for a few hours.  My only thing is that I couldn't sleep!  I was too up thinking about the next day.  I wanted to sleep til 7:30pm, but only rested til 7pm and just decided to go back to the show.  The show is only 20 minutes from my apartment, so that was really nice.  I also had a back on track back brace that I had purchased at a discount with my friend at the horse expo a few months earlier.  It is a lower back brace, but I put it on my upper back.  It has ceramic powder in the material which is supposed to help with circulation.  I figured it couldn't hurt and we'll see if this actually works.

I had one pony that the owners said didn't rub and that I could do him early.  He had a super short mane, so it was really quick.  I also had another horse that I could do early since I wasn't planning on doing any extras for Sunday.  The trainers were really understanding that I was already booked for Sunday and doing these two early was necessary.  The horse also needed the tail done, but I won't do tails before midnight and did it later.

I was done with the two manes from other barns and started on my barn's horses.  I had three manes to do and four tails.  So I did the two manes who were showing first thing in the morning then went back and did the three tails who were showing early as well (2 from my barn and the other horse).  The last horse I had wasn't showing til a little later, so I wanted to do him last.  Also, the three tails had fake tails and those took me some time to get in.  One horse had the most beautiful fake tail.  Super long and thick, so I really had to attach it securely since it was quite heavy and I wanted to distribute the weight on the tail bone.

Finished with the horses showing first thing in the morning and did the third horse's mane.

Took a break and slept on a bench in the tack room of the barn where it was heated and quite nice.  There was a nice cushion and two pillows.

Braided the tail of the last horse who was there.  I was also asked to braid the tail of a horse who was doing the second class, so did that really quick as well.

I talked with the other braider at the show who is a professional and does a lot of braiding in the Mid Atlantic area.  He liked my braids and asked me if I was willing to braid at other shows and how far I was willing to travel to braid.  I was so thrilled to receive such a high compliment from a top braider.  I told him I was only willing to stay local, PG Eq Center, Owings Mills, and maybe Littletown, PA, but I was not willing to go to Culpeper or Lexington, VA (just too far).

Riders start arriving and getting horses ready to school.  I went with my friend and watched the two horses school.

I walked the course with the two riders showing in the medal final.  The last two horses I was braiding were not arriving til 8:30am so I had some free time to watch the equitation finals.  I was able to watch one rider show and receive 4th out of 18!  It was her first medal final and she was a little nervous.  She has a young TB who is still quite green.  He was perfectly behaved and she had a good round with just a couple of mistakes.  She flatted well and we think her flat moved her up a little in the standings.

I ran back to the barn to start braiding my last two horses.  One mane and another mane/tail.  I quickly braid the one mane since the horse was showing relatively soon.  The second horse I was going to braid went for a quick hack, I had one other tail to braid (pony who was showing both days), then I started my last one.  I finished around 12:30pm.

Things I am thankful for:
1.  Well pulled manes (thank you to my trainer who pulled most of the manes from the barn I ride at - she did an amazing job)
2.  Clif Bar Builders Bars, Vanilla Almond - low glycemic index, lots of protein: long lasting energy and keeps me full!
3.  Horses who stand still and basically fall asleep while I braid
4.  Back on Track back brace...I am happy to say that this worked wonders on my sore back.  After about an hour of wearing it, my mid back was quite happy and wasn't sore at all.  I felt great all day and plan on getting more gear, especially if I'm going to braid at some of the bigger shows.  The only finger that cramped on me was my middle finger on my left hand.  My thumbs are a little sore, but not bad.
5.  My barn mates and trainers.  They are like family.  This was a great way to end the show year with good rides in the medal final, good prizes in the divisions, and year end championships.

Braiding Montage
Things I want to change in the show association for next year:
I have a big problem with the way the show association is run for this program.  I feel that this program, the Regional program, is a good fit for people on a budget.  Most of the shows are quite affordable and those people do a very good job of keeping it affordable ($200 season stalls for 8 shows, low prices for classes, etc - you can't beat it).  What erks me is barns who are willing to show their horses every weekend and do 20+ shows.  In order to be competitive, you have to do so many shows and our barn just isn't willing to ride our horses into the ground.  If you have that kind of money to do that many shows, go show in the big time divisions.

I am going to talk with the association and see if they are willing to put a limit on the number of shows that will count towards year end.  The championship show qualifications is based on your top 10 shows, so I will ask that the year end awards is also based on  your top 10 shows plus the double point championship show.  That way, it is quality over quantity and more people are willing to come to the last show.  And if you have some off shows, you can do more to replace those ones.

As a side note, my trainer bought some breast cancer awareness charms to put in the horse's manes.  I do not know details, but I believe she knows a few survivors and a few who are currently undergoing treatment.  Here is a up close pic:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ronin loving life

Ronin, being a 17h TB is often seen by other people as a giant horse. I have had him mistaken as a warmblood several times because, let's face it, he is quite big and has a big chest.  There is no narrow, scrawny TB in him.  For me being 5'10" and mostly riding warmbloods when growing up (I rode mostly TB's to start, but when switching to equitation, WB's were mostly ridden), I fit the beefier WB's better than the TB's.  But with Ronin, my leg fits quite well and there is no problem.

The last few weeks, Ronin has been feeling great.  We have been riding quite a bit and lots of grooming.  It is starting to get cold again and his coat is starting to grow.  So the vacuum has come out again to help get him a little cleaner.  Let's just say, I LOVE the vacuum.  I curried him last Sunday then pulled out the vacuum.  I just use a shopvac that my mom bought for me at Walmart and I just purchased the metal attachment.  The metal horse attachment works so much better than the little plastic one it comes with!

A few weeks ago, we had the Bernie Traurig clinic and Bernie suggested that I ride him in a tom thumb (small shank) rubber pelham once or twice to school him over fences.  Ronin gets a little excited to jump and will rush through the corner causing our lead change to be late behind.  If he stays straight and balanced, he has a great change.  So we worked on that.

After my ride, I let one of his favorite kids get on to walk him out.  Ronin loves this kid.  She says hello to him every day, loves on him, grooms him (even picks his feet!), and gives him treats.  Ronin has always loved small children despite his size.  He is especially gentle and careful around them.   Here are some pics of him with the kid:
Sunday cool out with the kid

Kid having a bad day and just wants a hug
He has a few other kids at the barn (kids of moms who ride) who also love on him.  He is such a lucky boy for having so many of them to love!

He also did a show back in July and there were therapy classes going on.  They needed horses to be donated, but I thought that he might be too large and difficult to get on.  One of the horses they were going to use would not stand at the mounting block (which is a large metal ramp) so they couldn't use him.  I had just finished hacking him and said that they could give him a try.  Ronin stood perfectly still while the program manager got on him side saddle and laid on top of him to make sure her student could get on.  His rider has cerebral palsy and has very limited use of his legs and uses both leg braces and forearm crutches.

Ronin had the time of his life.  He loved it!  The man riding him was the nicest person I have ever met.  He loved Ronin and kept complimenting him and saying that he felt like the horse knew him.  Ronin walked around for the rail class, played red light green light, and did the trail class which consisted of walking through a shoot of poles, weaving in and out of cones, walking over a pole, halting and backing.  The man was so thankful that I let him ride Ronin and he took pictures after his ride with his ribbons.  Here is a shot of us walking in the warm up arena so that he could get used to making Ronin walk, turn right and left, halt and back up:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Busy Busy Busy

I know I have not been able to post in awhile but here is an update. Ronin is doing great. After having the summer off with abscesses, he is back in full work and doing quite well. Here is what I have been up to the past couple of months:

Getting Ronin back on his feet
After an abscess in each foot and time to heal, we put glue on shoes on his front feet so that we didn't have to nail them on and to let his feet rest. He has been very sound and happy in these shoes and after a few failed attempts, they stayed on for a full 6 weeks (the first time, they didn't bond well to his hoof and came off after only 5 days). I just had his second pair put on Wednesday and hopefully after 6 weeks (if they stay on), we can go back to a normal shoe.

Back to School
A new addition to my life is that I started Graduate School. Crazy, I know. I am attending the Illinois Institute of Technology, a University in Chicago, but I am doing the work online. It may sound like a for profit organization, but it is not. It is a regular graduate program that happens to post most of their programs online. The only "in person" thing I have to do are exams, and I can go to a community college to have those proctored. I am about half way through the semester and so far I am really enjoying it. I am working towards a Professional Master's Degree in Food Process Engineering, which will go hand in hand with my current job working for the FDA. Bernie Traurig Clinic Last weekend, my barn, Tag Along Farm, hosted

Bernie Traurig for a 2 day clinic.
Ronin and I participated in the 3' section at 8am both days. The clinic was awesome. We had a completely full clinic and tons of auditors. The clinic was four 2 hr sections with 8 people in each section. He had a great PA system that allowed him to speak into a mic and each rider had a headset and the auditors had a speaker so that everyone could hear without him having to yell for 8 hours. Here is what we did over the two days.

Day 1
Tack Check - Bernie talked to each rider to get some background on each rider and horse and to check tack. He likes soft bits and made notes of which horses had a stronger bit to watch to see if he wanted to change it. He made sure each horse had its bridle and saddle set correctly, spurs on just above or below the spur rest (he did not want spurs on the ankle of the rider - which is one of my biggest pet peeves), and tight girths. He made some minor adjustments of cavesons and bit settings, but for the most part, everyone was ok.

Flat Work - our flat work consisted of lots of transitions from trot to halt and canter to halt. We worked on having a responsive horse who was listening to the basic aids. He made a point to mention that in order to have a rideable horse, the horse has to do 4 basic things: go forward instantly from the leg, come back quietly from the hand, turn left and turn right. One thing he really insisted on was basic flat work. I come from a barn with more dressage basics, so my downward transitions have more leg involved than what he wanted. Well, what worked better for my horse was to use less leg in the downward transitions. He really had us brace our heel down and slighlty forward and off the horse to make sure our horses were not getting mixed signals. I sometimes have a hard time getting Ronin to slow down, especially while jumping, just because he gets excited to jump. So this worked much better and had Ronin listening very well.

Cavaletti/Small Jumps - After flatting for quite some time, we worked over mostly cavalettis making sure our horses were listening to our 4 basic aids. We would trot over a cavaletti, move left of a point on the ground (flower) then right back to the center of the next cavaletti. We did this both directions. We then moved to a fence where a cavaletti was set 3 strides from a small 2' vertical set on the diagonal. We worked on getting the horse straight and not diving around the corner. The fence was set across the long diagonal and on the landing, there were only about 3 strides before the turn and the audience was in that corner. Most of the horses wanted to dive left and cut the turn. We worked on opening our right rain over the fence to guide our horse straight and set up for a balanced lead change if needed. We then added on to this by changing the line to a 4 stride and adding a cavaletti on the bend before the straight line in three strides. We then continued around the corner to a small oxer on the diagonal and then halted. We finished by doing the same exercise, but instead of halting, we continued to another oxer in a bending line, continuing right and over the first cavaletti and halting.

Overall work - This type of work really got our horses listening to our aids. Most of the horses were pretty fresh (8 horses cantering in our indoor is possible, but some got very excited which made others excited). We have a good size indoor, but 8 is a lot, but we did it.

Bernie talking about position in the air

Day 2
Since we had done a lot of flat work the day before, we started off flatting ourselves and warming up our horses. We did about 15-20 minutes on the flat, practicing what we had learned the day before. Then it was right into jumping. We started off with a 75' line, trot in and canter out in an easy 7 strides. We continued with this but cantering in in an easy 6 strides.

Bending Line
We then moved to a bending line that was set on a center track 6 strides. We were not told what it was measure or walked in, and to ride off our eye. The first girl went and did a wide easy 7. I did a slightly more direct route and did an easy 6. Everyone else did the wide 7. After discussion, Bernie wanted us to do slightly wide of normal in a forward 6. We did this several times as the track was getting a lot of people and we needed to really work on both pace and track. The hard thing with bending lines is that there are so many variables: how you get in (forward, tight, normal), angle (left to right, right to left, center), pace (forward, slow, normal), etc. Bernie wanted us to jump the first fence so that were were angled to just slightly wide of normal so that we could have a nice forward (not fast) pace.

Moving on
We then moved to an outside normal 4 stride line and a long gallop to a single diagonal oxer. After everyone mastered the pieces (set at about 6" lower than the height for the section), we put the whole course together and did it twice (at height). Every section did the same work, just at their respective heights. Everyone started small, then for the course work, did the height of the section. We had a 3', 2'9", 2'6", and 2' group.

It was a lot of fun, but I am exhausted. I was also ring crew for the other groups and was on my feet for the rest of the day helping to set jumps, change tack as needed, and keep the clinic running smoothly. The first day, we had a wonderful dinner, catered bbq, and Bernie had videos for us to watch and a Q&A session. The next morning, I got up really early (too excited to sleep) and went to the barn to clean up (water bottles in the ring, take trash out, take manure from the ring out, sweep, etc.). Then I got Ronin out to clean and start getting ready, helped set the ring, then got on for my session.

The crew with Bernie
Bernie was great to ride with.  He really paid attention to detail and the first day, I was singled out to show an automatic release.   My trainer from California teaches it as the most correct release and has all of his students practice it.  Bernie actually emailed my old coach to compliment him; which he was ecstatic about.  Bernie also thanked the owners of the farm and me for holding the clinic.  I was so happy to be there and it was a great learning experience.

removed the two rider's names...

Example of Automatic Release (pic from 2003)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Still a little side tracked

So I know it has been awhile since I posted, but that is because after Ronin's abscess healed in his left front, he got another in the right front.  He was very sore.  So back to stall rest and wait for the abscess to pop.  It took two weeks of soaking and poulticing and a very unhappy horse when it finally popped right next to his heel.   Once it was healed, it took almost a week to get an appointment with a farrier to put shoes back on.

The farriers are having a very tough time this summer in Maryland.  They all say that they are behind in shoes and getting emergency calls almost every day with thrown shoes (some half off or ripping up a lot of foot).  With all the flies and the dry weather, the horses are stomping off their shoes.  I am very happy that I bought Ronin some fly boots to try and help with stomping.  It seems that you put on fly spray and 2 minutes later, the flies are back.  Finally got shoes on him yesterday and lunged him and he looked great!  I think he was very happy to be able to work and move around besides just hand walking.  He was very happy to be able to back out in his field.  He was so tired of stall rest!

So now it's time to get him back to work for the end of the show season.  We missed a lot of showing, but I'm looking forward to just having some fun for the rest of the year.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Well, you can't always have success...there are always bound to be bumps in the road and Ronin and I have hit several right in a row.

I was planning on doing two shows in June and two this month as well.  Life has had other plans for us.  Right before the first June show, Ronin got new shoes and got a bad nail in his left front.  He was good the Friday before the show, so on the trailer he went.  Saturday, I pulled him out to work him midday (since we show late) and he was quite lame left front.  We pulled the nail and let him rest for an hour and pulled him out again to see if he was any better...nope.  So packed the foot and home he went.  So the next week, I packed his foot in hopes it was just a bad nail and gave him NSAIDs, but he got progressively worse.

That Friday, he was crippled lame - as in it looked like he had broken something.  He is a wuss when it comes to pain, so we pulled the shoe to alleviate any pressure that the shoe was putting on his foot.  His whole outside bar and toe were sore, so I packed his foot and kept him on some NSAIDs.  The next time I saw him, he was much better.  Still sore on the outside and toe of his hoof.  Since he went from sound the week before to crippled lame, we think it was an abscess.  After another week of packing and NSAIDs, we finally put a shoe back on and he is perfectly sound and happy.

So, now it is three days before the first July show.  Even if he was sound, it wasn't fair to bring him to the show this weekend.  One of the girls at the barn who also does the AA hunters with me is at a wedding, so they said that I could take her horse to the show.  Perfect.  Give Ronin some time to recuperate and I would still get to show.

However, life had other plans for me.  I was hacking a horse at another barn and almost done flatting.  I was cantering across the diagonal and going to do a lead change when the horse tripped and couldn't catch himself.  Down he went, to both knees and all the way to his head.  He almost went completely over, as there was dirt behind his ears, but thankfully, he didn't completely fall.  I 'lawn-darted' into the dirt, falling directly onto the right side of my face, right shoulder, and right leg.  It happened so fast, I have no idea what actually happened, but from my injuries, this is my best guess.  When the horse fell, I immediately got up, saw that the rein was caught around his right front, fixed that, then just stood there dumbfounded.  What had just happened.  Once I had caught my breath, I saw my left hand.  I also seemed to have landed with my left hand in a fist since it looked like I had broken my left hand.  There was a giant bump right behind my index knuckle.  So to say I was a bit terrified was an understatement.

Someone came from the viewing area, who had seen it all happen, and grabbed the horse to let him walk.  I went in to wash my face and the BO called the horse's owner to let him know what happened.  The horse is fine; he was given some NSAIDs to help and checked several times to make sure he was ok.  I however, went to the ER and got to wait 3 hours before I was seen.

Thankfully, one of the adults at my barn drove me there and she is a saint.  She and I are 'horse show moms' to each other at the shows since we show in different divisions and she is always there for anyone at the barn.  We got all signed in and she got me some ice for my hand and head.  My hand looked really bad, but my head also didn't look so good.  After an hour, my eye started to turn colors and it looked like I was going to have a pretty good black eye.

After several hours, we finally were taken to the back so that I could be evaluated.  They x-rayed my hand and did a CT scan of my head.  After another hour of waiting for results, no broken hand and eye socket was fine.  Only a concussion.  So now I am on rest for a few days to treat my bumps and bruises and concussion.  I will be icing often and using quite a bit of Arnica.  Arnica is one of the only homeopathic remedies that I think actually works.  It really helps to heal bruises and thankfully, I have 1 and 1/2 bottles of it (thank you Lauren for putting me on to this...only thing that really helps bruises heal quickly).  See bottom for progression of black eye...if you don't want to see it, don't scroll to the bottom.  As a rider, I'm pretty used to seeing bumps and bruises and don't mind it.  It is sort of a badge of honor among riders and I find it pretty interesting to see how the body tries to heal itself.

So after a pretty horrific fall that could have ended a lot worse, just a concussion (which is nothing to sneeze at!).  I am so happy that I always wear a helmet.  And on that note, happy Helmet Awareness Week!  I will be going Saturday to buy a new helmet since Dover Saddlery up to 20% off helmets!

...and now for the photos.  My friend took photos throughout the process from when the black eye was just starting to form.  I have taken a few photos of it the next day too.  I have an awesome ice pack holder that allows me to velcro it around my head, so it is perfect.  Also, if anyone was wondering if those alcohol ice packs work, they do.  Really nice as it gets cold and almost gel-y, but breaks up nicely and conforms really well, especially to an eye since that is not an easy place to ice.  It is one part rubbing alcohol to three parts water.  Put into a plastic bag and I also double bagged it.  I made a few so that I could rotate them out.

From in the hospital to the next day...