Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Eternal Optimism of George Morris

Its been a few days since finishing the George Morris Clinic in Windsor Nova Scotia. I'm STILL exhausted.  Bone deep, dragging, exhausted in mind and body.

Every rider had two choices: improve (within his framework) or leave.

I listened to him preach and bark orders. He rode rough-shod over people up one side and down the other, and today I realize the miraculous. George Morris is an optimist, an eternal optimist.

He believes you can do better.  He believes your horse can go better. He believes you can do it classically, without flash or gadgets.  He believes everyone with the courage to step in front of him can be better.  He will do and say whatever it takes to demand, convince, bully and march you kicking and screaming into being more than when you first appeared in front of him.

Every horse and rider that I saw went better by the end.  The riders rode more classically, the horses went more softly but more bravely.  Every horse he sat on went better during that time.
And through it all, he wants you to rise to the challenge.  Dig deep and try harder.  Give more, be bolder and take risks.

At 79, George Morris doesn't need travel teaching clinics in random places anymore. Most don't. Denny Emerson certainly doesn't, and I admire him to no end.  George doesn't need to hop on strange horses to feel them out and work his magic. Hell, he'd be better off not doing so.

So, for all his bluster, bravado and curmudgeonly demeanor, why bother?  Optimism. Eternally believing that there are riders who want to rise to the occasion. Eternally believing that he can make riders glimpse the greatness in their horses and themselves is the only answer.

And if George Morris, the man himself, believes you can be better?  Who are we mere mortals to argue?

Immense thanks to DMF Productions for bringing this clinic to our neck of the woods.  It has changed my perspective in ways I have yet to process.

Monday, 29 May 2017

The Return of the T-Rex

So, its been a while.

The Hippo and I are still here, but there were plans in the works that required serious attention. (Pause for dramatic effect)  End result?  We just bought and moved onto our own farm.

Yes, you read that correctly.  We bought a farm for the horse that was SUPPOSED to have been a resale project.  Well played, big mare, well played indeed.

This, of course, expands the cast of characters and also the potential for mayhem.  So, let me introduce:

  • Aaron, my infinitely patient husband, farm caretaker and baker.  Animals love him but don't respect him, there's a LOT of animals...
  • Elliot, the English Cocker Spaniel aka 'The Tiny Tyrant'.  He tries to loudly rule the world but really only rules Eddie and annoys the cat.
  • Eddie, the English Setter aka 'The Spotted Dork'.  He's an adolescent whirlwind of fur, hugs, chewing and enthusiasm; when he's not sound asleep on his back.
  • Klein, the ancient cat aka 'Mr Peepers', who REALLY wishes the Tiny Tyrant would stop with the flying tackle pounces
  • Jasper, Essie's companion, aka 'The Ghetto Unicorn'  Mashing burrs into his mane and forelock isn't just a game, its a calling. He won't stop until he has a giant burr-filled dread lock that stands up on its own in a strong wind. 

And now?  I need a truck, a trailer, and a farm name

Aaron?  He needs a ride on mower, and soon

Friday, 14 October 2016

Delusions and an Inner Child

Well, color me shocked!  We finished the year with some jumper classes!

Back in the spring, I half jokingly declared a year-end goal of hitting the 0.9m (3') and 1.0m (3'3") jumpers at the season finale indoor show.  It didn't seem too likely (or frightening) at that point since (a) it had been cancelled last year and (b) we'd never jumped higher than 3' so odds of being ready enough seemed slim and none,  Its good to have stretch goals though!
Odds of success?  Unlikely
Except August hit and we were ready to try Pre-Training eventing (3') at least in terms of schooling around it without worrying about time.  Hm ...

And then we missed our upgrade opportunity due to weather and the gods.  (About which I'm still grumbling a bit.  Smart choice, right choice, blah blah.)

Then in September, I found out that the competition is ON!  Annnnd there went my inner 16 yo in need of wish fulfillment.
Woman, you're in your 40s but why let that stop you?

So there were two opposing thought trains in my mind:

Path 1:

  • 3'3" is only one hole higher on the standards, and the horse doesn't care about the height.  
  • Life is short.

Path 2:

  • You haven't competed the horse over a 3' course. 
  • Jumper courses are significantly more technical than Eventing Stadium courses.  
  • You haven't competed over a 3' course in a decade
  • You've never successfully competed higher than 3'
  • The Fair is probably the toughest competition venue within 3 provinces
  • Your coach thinks you're a little nuts for doing this
  • Its an expensive competition
  • The horse has never been to an indoor competition
Guess what I opted for?  Path 1, of course, because see inner child above.  

Wait, HOW wide is the maximum???? 

I'm not completely crazy, I needed to make sure I'd ride forward instead of yank in front of a maxed out spread fence.  So, out came the measuring tape and the schooling fences built to max spec with a long approach. 

I mean ... we had 4 weeks to get ready.  Plenty of time right?
Yup.  PLENTY of time

Monday, 26 September 2016

Life Lessons and a Hippo Transformed

(Note, this isn't in my usual light tone, feel free to skip if you're looking for self-deprecating humor)

I know the Hippo and I have been MIA this summer but it has been BUSY.  That and I haven't been able to nail down something brewing internally.

The Hippo has transformed over the past year.  She's sleek, fit and generally happy with life and her job.  I've even had people I respect saying "I need a horse like her".  Being who I am, it feels like they must be screwing with me or just being nice.  At this point, she's pretty much a keeper.

Me, on the other hand?  I'm struggling.  I feel like I'm running out of time to progress in my riding. Sounds silly right?  We all have the rest of our lives to improve our riding, if we really want to do so. I'm only in my early 40 but there's something most of my riding friends don't realize.

My mother died of cancer at 49, I just turned 43.

So, this weekend I attended an eventing clinic which brilliantly clarified what we're doing right and what I want. To our credit, the Hippo and I have created a really solid partnership.  We trust each other and we haven't come close to hitting our limit.  Its lovely.

But what do I WANT?  I want to be GOOD.  Not good for an amateur.  Not good for a rider in her 40s. Not good for a 3' rider.  I want to be good, without qualifiers.

I want it but today I'm exhausted

I want it but the road looks so long and daunting

I want it but there's so many changes I need to make and my body lets me down.

I want it.

And just in case I'm on the short timeline, I have 5 years.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

'Scuse me, I need some technical support

When I'm not riding, I'm usually on a computer.  It makes sense considering I provide tech support in my 'real life'.  You know what a couple decades of technical support has taught me about horses?

Life is SO much easier if the problem is me. I can fix me, or at least improve.

I can change my approach, learn something new, RTFM (read the 'fine' manual aka a book) take a lesson/clinic, go to the gym, even change disciplines.  There's soooo many options.

But an inherent bug? It takes a ton longer to deal with. If it can be fixed at all.

In software, someone other than you (usually) has to go find the problem, work it out, test and hope they haven't triggered any unintended consequences in the process. Sometimes, the problem is an inherent limit that can't be fixed without going back to scratch.  Sometimes, the fixing the problem exceeds the physical limits of the machine and there's nothing to do but work around the problem.

And horses are really no different in that respect.

So when a problem crops up with my horse, and the problem is me?  Its a very good day indeed because there's always hope.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Countdown and Cross Country Vests

Its almost here! Its almost here!  The first horse trial of the year!  Not that I'm excited or anything, but OH MY GOD its like Christmas in June.

Ready everyone?

Tack has been cleaned and boots polished. Laundry is ... ongoing.  Sweet merciful god, the laundry, its unreal how much gear is required for one person and one horse to go off property for 2 days. Then again it doesn't help that I tend to bring back up items in case of bad luck or weather.

Lets total it up shall we?

  • Horse: saddle, bridle, reins (2 sets), breastplate w/ martingale, neck strap (2), saddlepad (2), halfpad, xc boots (4), bell boots (2), stadium boots (2), cooler, rain sheet, fly bonnet
  • Rider: helmet, breeches (3), show shirt (2), show coat (2), gloves (white and black), dressage whip (2), jumper bat, Sun shirt (2-3), riding boots, spurs, overshoes, rain boots, sneakers, boot socks (3 pr) ... 

On second thought, we need to not do that.  I might start adding it all up $-wise and have a stroke. 

One of the things I had to dig out of a box after a long winter was my XC crash vest. This means I've been sitting around wearing the bloody thing to re-mold it to my shape somewhat. So I've been reminded of a basic tenent of XC vest manufacturers

XC riders do not come with large breasts installed

Contrary to this belief. guess what I have? This makes my XC prep entertaining and a bit R-rated.
  1. Wiggle into vest, squeeze elbows firmly to sides and try to reach zipper with fingertips
  2. Reach into vest, grab sports bra strap and haul tits up into position, repeat on the other side
  3. Tug vest down, check that tits are still firmly squashed under chin
  4. Attempt to climb on horse while unable to lower chin to see where foot should be aimed for stirrup
  5. Hum 'Ride of the Valkyries' loudly as you rampage around the course.
  6. Mutter 'Remember the vest adds 20lbs' when you look at photos.

Seriously, who needs an air vest when I have these? 

Trying to take it off is even worse

Friday, 22 April 2016


So, yeah, its been muddy and the hippo is back on 24/7 turnout and been loving it.
We're ramping up for competition season. like everyone else in the eventing world.  For us, this means adding lots of marching up/down hills and into the nearby lake.

I love the lake. Water practice + clean legs + not getting frostbitten fingers from leg washing is fantastic.  I haven't seen clean legs on my horse in ... a while.

Just ... too close to reality

Post lake, clean legs, great time to examine legs and feet extra closely.

Me: "Come on big girl, pick up a back foot"
Horse *start to lift* "NOPE!" *stomp* *mare glare*

Repeat a half dozen times.  Huh, weird. Try other side, same thing.
Start running down the checklist.  Was she sound walk, trot and canter while riding? Check. Reluctant to move forward? Nope.

Poke around the hind end.  No sore spots.  Stifles?  Nope, just the usual ticklish. Etc.etc. down the legs until I get under the back of the ankles.  Warm.  Hmm

Me: Poke back of  pastern
Horse: *STOMP*  *offended mare glare*
Like this, only MORE offended
Mud fever flare up, gotcha, message received.  Diaper rash cream to the rescue, saving us all from the hippo's chapped ankles and chapped ass attitude!  Now for the exciting part, getting the cream on her ankles.

Having had multiple cases of the dreaded 'chub rub', I try to apply the cream with the gentlest of touches.  How does the mare react?

twitch, Yank foot away and LEAP sideways "OH MY GOD YOUR KILLING ME!!!"

My horse, aren't I lucky?

*sigh* repeat until the first layer is on each foot.   This takes a while, resulting in scattered paper coffee cups, spilled coffee, dogs fleeing to the four points of the compass and severe eye-rolling on my part.

Go back for the 2nd layer and she stands quietly, "No big deal mom, why you sound grumpy?" What a friggin' weenie, good thing I love her.

Enough diaper cream for a daycare's worth of chapped asses