Friday, 31 July 2015

Hard life for Hippos

I've noticed a pattern lately.  I walk out to the paddock, halter in hand.  The hippo's head first in the water tank. I call out her name, her head yanks up.

She stand there looking glorious; bright eyes, pricked ears, mane lightly ruffled in the breeze.  And then?  High tails it to her buddies, with her fellow hippo just a little bit closer to me than she is.
This is NOT what I act like, seriously

Evidently the Hippo wants a vacation.  Her 4-5 day work week, composed of dressage schooling, limited hopping over jumps and seaside hacking, totalling a maximum of 8 hours?  Yup, too much work.  I mean, its practically abuse to make a hippo work this hard. After 7pm at night too, what an uncivilized hour!

You too can help an overworked hippo

Off I trudge/limp, through the mud, to catch the hippo. The hippo is making discreet head motions at her buddy.  "Take that guy.  He's bored.  I'm sure he's bored and he's 6 inches closer than I am"  I pull out the hard core ammunition.  Mini carrots.  

Here Not-the-hippo, have a carrot!  (Hippo gives me a squint-eyed look)  Here Not-MY-hippo, have a carrot! (Hippo looks indignant)  Here hippo, have a halter, then a carrot. (Hippo looks resigned and munches)

Off we trudge (well, she trudges.  I limp) together back through the mud across the field for a night of grooming. massage, ditch hopping and light ride.   Because, hippo has a hard life!

Its a hard knock life for hippos

Thursday, 30 July 2015

TBT - A Tale of the Giant Chicken

Since Throwback Thursday is a thing now, I think I'll use it to tell some older stories of times and horses past.

Back in the swamps of time, when I was a much younger T-Rex, I rode the Giant Chicken. He was big, with mottled grey plumage and utterly unpredictable about jumping.  You know those amazing horses that can jump from anywhere?  His gift was that he could stop from anywhere, including ON takeoff.  The Chicken could (and occasionally did) stop standing on his hind legs partway through launch sequence.

Failure in launch sequence is disturbing

Of course, I did what any young T-Rex would do.  I learned slowly, verrrrry slowly.  I was sure I could fix the Chicken.  With enough positive experiences, re-training and encouragement, I could convince him that jumping was the way to go!

Come on Chicken!  Jumping is fun!!! 

And maybe changing the environment would help too?  He wasn't reliable in a ring, with jumps that fall down.  How about we switch to eventing?!?  I'd always wanted to do eventing! Cross country looks super cool!   With a rider inexperienced at XC riding and a chicken of a jumping horse, what could go wrong?

Seriously, SO stupid
And go eventing we did! The one serious advantage was that there was no penalty for trotting jumps. This was awesome because when a horse isn't reliable over fences, speed is NOT your friend.  The faster we went, the faster he could stop/prop/spin, the more likely I would end up a doing a good impression of a lawn dart.

Remember Lawn Darts?   They were awesome.  Best Darwinism experiment ever!

Canter canter canter, trot trot trot, kickkickkick. Come on Chicken!  Off we'd go. Spook at the photographer in the bushes. Hop this, evil eye that, usually with at least one stop around course.  Both of us sweating from anxiety.   Me: Is he going to jump?  Him: Am I going to jump?

Then came our shining moment in eventing.  Heading out on XC with my coach's word's ringing in my ears, "If he tries to stop keep your shoulders back, leg on and kick him over.  He'll jump it"  She really should have said "When he tries to stop" but bless her for being positive and supportive no matter what. (See Reg?  I still remember)  We get about half way around the course to a 2'9" solid gate.

SCREECH! On come the brakes. SqueezeSqueezeSqueeze KickKickKick Its not a refusal if he doesn't step backwards/sideways.  And then the miracle happens! He goes over the gate!

Except not the way you think.

 I feel/see him lift up one front leg, wave it in the air and then put it down on the other side of the fence.  Oh ... crap.  Now he is straddling a solid fence. Vet bills and crutches wing through my tiny brain as I continue to push forward, if he goes into reverse we're screwed.

Up comes the other front leg, wave and place on the landing side of the fence.  And repeat for back half of his body.

I sigh, we continue around the rest of the course. Canter canter canter, trot trot trot, kickkickkick. Come on Chicken!

At the finish, my coach's words?  "When I said to kick him over the fence, that's not quite what I meant"

You think?

Did I mention I had the Chicken for 13 years?  Yup, I was that slow to learn.

Monday, 27 July 2015

T-Rex and Company Storm a Beach

Its raining.  AGAIN.

The rain this summer, Jurassic God, the rain.  Over here on the east coast every 2nd-3rd day its been ground soaking, deep sucking mud creating, unspeakable rain.  I've been waving my tiny arms with fistfuls of cash at my house painter.   Still, he's been unable to get enough clear weather to repaint the exterior of my house, which is almost patchy enough to pass as a giraffe themed fashion statement. Too much animal print for me though, even if it was my kind of style. (Also, giraffes make a T-Rex think of food which doesn't help with trying not to eat all the things)

When the weather stayed clear yesterday afternoon, almost everyone miraculously materialized at the barn.

Readers: Oh, you were all going to work on dressage together? That's lovely.
Hell no! Time to hit the beach!

Now when the average person thinks of riding to/on the beach, they picture something idyllic

A bit of this ...

With a little of this thrown in

The hippo is getting really good at all this. Lead or follow, she doesn't care.  She does wonder how & why everyone is so much smaller yet faster though.  (Note to hippo: Its ok honey, we're both built for comfort, not speed.)  But there are a few equine velociraptors in the group. Those would be the experienced XC horses, for whom a beach trip is a mission.

Make way, coming through! Go Trace Go!

Go all the places, do all the things.  If its a ditch, cross it.  If its an obstacle, jump it.  If its a hill, climb it.  If its a beach, storm it. So, by the time we get to the beach, its a lot more like ...


(Three velociraptors, a hippo and a pygmy hippo charge into a (sand) bar.  The first velociraptor says ... )  Help a T-Rex out, I know there's a joke in here just waiting to be written

Anyway, lots of galloping in the sand for the experienced horses, cantering and hanging out in the waves for the hippo and the pygmy hippo. Then the long march home of a good ride with tired happy horses. Good day, good company on a very rare unrainy Sunday this season.

Friday, 24 July 2015

We Have A Problem

Have you ever noticed that you have a 'type' that you gravitate to as a rider?  You know, the kind of horse you look at and ...
Did you SEE the trot/jump/ass/canter/"fill in the blank" on that horse?!?

Don't lie to me.  We've all seen at least one (dozen) where we've groaned indecently and plotted what organ to sell, how many and who we could get away with harvesting from. I've done it, you've done it, we've all done it. More than once, a significant other has been in the room wondering why you've never made that particular sound looking at them.

Horses, they're a drug.

We're addicted.

You could plaster them with labels like cigarettes.  "Warning. May cause financial, mental and physical injury.  Can be life threatening. Visit your health provider before buying horses and associated paraphernalia"  We'd rip off the labels without batting an eye to get a better look at the animal underneath and sizing up what gear would look best.

Family of horse people:  There's no rehab.  No intervention that will last.  Its lifelong. Get on board or get out of the way.  It COULD be an actual drug habit, you know, like nicotine, cocaine or heroin. (Note to self, heroin is nicknamed 'horse'.  Perhaps not the best example)  Granted, an actual drug habit MIGHT be cheaper in the long run but less socially acceptable.  Also, in theory, horses are less likely to land you in jail.  That depends on the choices you make to support your equestrian habit.

You know, as riders, we're picking 'the other hand'? Right?

I mean, how many of us are doing this?
Years of training, loads of $$$$$

And how many of us are doing something closer to this.

Years of training, loads of $$$$$

And yet, when we have a breakthrough, or a particularly fun ride...  the rush?  That flood of adrenaline and satisfaction? That glorious feeling of unity between two partners that see the world totally differently and yet communicate in sync for that brief time? Its a high that takes days to come down from and we'll spend months chasing it.

Is it worth it?  Abso-friggin'-lutely.

Think I'm nuts? Meh, screw it.  Don't care. I'll be over here training my hippo to dance, who's totally my type, which I'll explain another day.

Don't ask which one of us this should be.  Seriously.

Stone Age Inspiration from the T-Rex Eventer

I have a few heroes in equestrian sport.  It should come as no surprise that they are even closer being to fossils than I am.

Meet ... George Morris, now in his mid 70's.  Since I did start off in the hunter/jumper world, back when the world was new and the continents where still one, George was one of the first greats to shape my perspectives on riding with deeply inspirational and motivating words.  Words like:

See?  Clear, memorable language 

More than once I got back on THEN went to the hospital. Now I lie there for a minute and consider my chosen 'hobby' ... 

Ok, he didn't say this one but it was US Show Jumping team life for eons!

Meet ... Denny Emerson, now in his early 70's. (Anyone see a pattern?) I was only introduced to his writing and ways a few years ago but still deeply influential on how I train.  He writes, rides 5+ hours/daily most days, broke his neck a few years ago in a riding accident and came back to riding after 6 months in a halo.  He's still riding, competing and developing green horses. 

(I've written him to blame him for my return to riding and the aquisition of the hippo.  He replied "Happy to be a bad influence")

Keep your f$%%^& head up, you sloucher!!
Posted by Tamarack Hill Farm on Saturday, July 18, 2015

Rosie "before".
Posted by Tamarack Hill Farm on Friday, June 12, 2015

Rosie "after".
Posted by Tamarack Hill Farm on Friday, June 12, 2015

Oh, and is incredibly active on facebook.  If you aren't following him, DO IT.  Its a daily kick in the ass.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Introducing the Dancing Hippo ...

Its gotten to the point that I should properly introduce my partner in crime, the Dancing Hippo.  As I said recently, she's gorgeous, solid and athletic; with the bonus that she makes my T-Rex tail look smaller.   I mean, look at that face!  Its adorable!

Soft eyes & flappy ears get me every time.

The Dancing Hippo is my dressage prospect. When I got her, I intended to train and sell fairly quickly.  Turns out she requires a lot more time in the finishing process.  Not so much like clay sculpture, a lot more like marble.  Going to be beautiful but takes a little (lot) more time.
The hippo doesn't respond so well to rushing things...

Hang on, you say?  Thought you were the T-Rex EVENTER?  What's with this prissy, dancing, dressage bullshit?

Well, back in the stone ages, I used to event and jump. (See what I did there? har dee har har) Blah blah blah, hit the ground a few too many times, horse that wouldn't jump consistently, horse without brakes, bills to pay, getting old, stupid knees, and don't forget gravity (that unforgiving bitch)

So, I converted to dressage.  Its an endless puzzle, the methods go back to the dawn of time and NO obstacles. Awesome, its elegant, and perfect for the mildly obsessive.  (Note to friends of the T-Rex, stop laughing at 'mildly'.  Let me have my delusions)

Buy the hippo. Train the hippo. Find out that the hippo is utterly steady about obstacles.  Not so much about open doors, weird sounds or ponies in zebra fly sheets ... again I digress.  Six months in, slowly add in poles, then raised poles then low crosses etc.   Some call it 'desensitizing', I call it the 'boiling a frog' method.

Evidently the hippo enjoys cross training ... and now we're scheduled to drop a toe into the eventing world.  I get my dressage, she gets her obstacles and hopefully the T-Rex doesn't fall into a tar pit ...

Someday soon ...

Twitchin' T-Rex

Have you ever seen the movie Hoodwinked?  Remember Twitchy, the coffee loving squirrel? Twitchy and the T-Rex have a great deal in common.  We work fast, LOVE coffee and ... How shall I put this?  Get a little twitchy.

Every damn morning

Technically, I'm a little jumpy/twitchy at the best of times, but oooooh do I love that over-achieving rush of sweet caffeine through my veins.  I mean, I recently had a homemade double shot cappuccino that was so good I considered trying to marry it. That mug was clutched to my chest, the warmth seeping into my bitter little heart like true love. (It burns! It burns!)

So ... I like my coffee.

Then there's the Dancing Hippo. She's not a fan of weird unexpected sounds, they make her a little twitchy.

When 1200-1500lbs of hippo gets a little twitchy, its difficult to miss.  Now add in an over-caffeinated T-Rex.

*hippo twitches*
*T-Rex twitches*
*hippo twitches at T-Rex twitches*
*T-Rex twitches at hippo twitches at Trex twitches*

See a pattern? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Its not like I don't 'know' the solution.  Its easy!  DON'T TWITCH.

Primitive Lizard brain + caffeine +gravity = twitchtwitchtwitch

So I think I've come up with the perfect solution for the twitching problem.  A seatbelt and Xanax, or at least a seat belt and tequila.  Definitely leather full seat breeches and tequila in the short term.

Anyone up for a margarita?

Monday, 20 July 2015

T-Rex for Dinner, Party of Millions!

What a beautiful weekend it was.  Bright, warm, a few days without rain.  Perfect for a ride to the beach for the T-Rex and her trusty steed, the Dancing Hippo.

Have I introduced the Dancing Hippo yet? Big, gorgeous, solid and athletic; with the bonus that she makes my T-Rex tail look smaller.  The end goal is the dressage ring, but cross training is a good thing.  (She's also nicknamed the Dramatic Hippo, but I'll get to THOSE stories)

The dancing hippo has moves 

Anyway, back to the weekend, head off for the beach with a friend.  We head down hill and over dale (Sorry 'bout that Dale :D)  and to the woods path shortcut that takes us off the road.

Remember how I tend to forget one little detail here and there? I forgot my bugspray.

And people think an angry TRex is scary!

The hippo?  Her's lasts for days,she's good.   I forgot my bugspray COMPLETELY. And the shortcut is close shrubbery, and swamp, and rocks.  So, its walking only. The hippo is picking her way along the trail happily, I am flapping my tiny arms like a maniac.


Do we turn back?  Of course not. There's beach riding to be had, hills to rampage, ditches to jump, tourists to startle and dogs to antagonize!  But, of course, there was the return journey with a tired hippo taking her sweet ass time moseying along.  In the meantime, its time for the second course of T-Rex for the mosquito hordes.

So, if anyone is looking to jump start a T-Rex cloning program.  I would recommend the collecting mosquitoes in the East Lawrencetown area.  Verrrrry good change of DNA there.

Soooooo itchy....

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Saddle Shopping ... What's a T-Rex to do?

Ah, the saddles of the English riding world.  How do I describe the hell that is saddle shopping? 

 Imagine you are shopping for the PERFECT pair of jeans. You know the kind: perfectly fitting, not too loose, not too tight and comfortable for prolonged periods of time. Not prone to pinching or rubbing you the wrong way, if you get my drift. (As in owwww, not ohhhh). Now, expect those jeans to fit two different species equally well.  

Welcome to the rider's dilemma.

I mean it's tough enough for the stereotypically slender rider with a small tail. When you're a T-Rex?  On a budget? Sweet Jurassic. 

Years ago I was lucky enough to find a dressage saddle that fit horses like a dream and accommodated my tail beautifully.  And 2nd hand to boot. And it was adjustable. God, I loved that saddle. I was keeping that saddle until I fossilized. Seriously, trying to suggest a different saddle would get your head bitten off.   
Can I buy/borrow/use your saddle?

And then it got stolen out of my car, which meant saddle hunt (Yes, I drive. Even a T-Rex has to get around).  

So, several saddle trials later  I finally found a reasonably priced replacement of ... the same brand and model I had before. 

This is easier, trust me

Evidently, saddles have evolved on a different path. Take up archeology. Way easier, possibly cheaper. 

T-Rex out. 

Friday, 17 July 2015

T-Rexs Don't Understand Electricity

Two great things about the barn I am at:

  1. The horses aren't afraid of T-Rexs.  Always a bonus.
  2. They're making improvements to things like the electric fencing.  Keeping the horses in their turnout area?  Double bonus 
Except that I have a loooong history with not understanding electricity.  I 'm positive my electrical professor in University gave me a D to be rid of me.  (I mean GAVE!)  He knew I wouldn't go into electrical.  The electrical portion of Physics courses was always hell too.

Oh, Daddy T-Rex had a loooong history of doing his own electrical repairs while forgetting to shut off the power and other such things. His electrician had to beg him to stop, but I digress.

New fencing goes up, new charger.  Horses go "Well shit!  That's worth keeping distance from."  I go trudge through the rain and the mud to get my horse who proceeds to shoot through the gate.  Huh, that's new.

Groom, ride, groom, go to turn back out. I make my horse stand while I'm opening the fence, she's jumping and twitching in time with the clicking of the fence.  (In fairness, she can be a drama queen about weird sounds)

Week goes on, she continues to be a dork about the fence.  The more dorky she is, the more I work on making her walk slowly in and out the gate. (without a ton of success I might add) And then we have a night where she bolts into the paddock (between clicks) while I'm unhooking the top wire.  

T-Rex is roadkill, on crutches the next morning and PISSED.  Everyone loves an angry T-Rex, don't they? Much muttering about "Stupid horse"

A few days later, the barn owner is there while a couple of us are putting the horses out.  She strolls over, looks at how the fence has been unhooked and spots the problem. Wires are unhooked and wrapped around the METAL fence posts.

Metal fence posts. 

God Damn It! 

Electricity flowing down metal posts, through wet ground and up through metal horseshoes...

Not so stupid horse ... very stupid T-Rex 
Anyway, I always miss some little detail about electricity.  (and managed to zap myself again just the other night...)

Adventures of a T-Rex

Last left you with mention of my tiny brain, which will be a recurring theme.

A couple weeks ago, I tried to ride my 17h horse under 17h-ish fallen tree.  For the non-horse world, I tried to ride 5'9" horse (at the shoulder) under a 5'10" fallen tree.

This is not what happened.  

This is what DID happen.
"Crap, crap, crap, AW CRAP!"  SPLAT! (did I mention that this was the squishiest section of mud on the ride?)

I mean, I did duck as low as possible over the horse's neck. But between the head and shoulders, there's only so much a T-Rex can do... There might have been some magical thinking at work.

T-Rexs, we're still out there!

You might've heard that dinosaurs were extinct, especially the T-Rex, but I'm here to tell you we are alive and well!

How can you claim to be a T-Rex, you ask?  Easy enough!  Let's look at the defining characteristics of a T-Rex shall we?

  • Big head?  According to a lifetime of frustrated hat shopping, that's covered. Well, barely covered depending on the manufacture of the hat but you get my drift.
  • Big tail? Ummm (checks mirror)  According to the family/friends consensus that Sir Mix A Lot's anthem "Baby Got Back" should have been written for me ... check!
  • Little arms? Well, that used to be a joke. Then I took up yoga for a while.  I found out that there was a whole series of seated poses where your hands were supposed to reach the ground. As in flat palms....and bent elbows.  I could only reach with my fingertips. 

That's not even getting into my carnivorous tendencies or the fact that it took me years to realize I was a T-Rex (hello little brain!)