Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"How Good Riders Get Good"

Denny Emerson's book How Good Riders Get Good is a must-read for any equestrian. People who are new to horses, and those that have been riding for years will gain valuable insight from Denny.

Personally, I enjoyed his straightforward writing style, and his obvious knowledge and wisdom about horses, horsemanship and so many of the disciplines we all participate in. Reading How Good Riders Get Good was more like having a conversation (although one-sided!) with Denny.

My favorite parts of the book were where he used personal riding experiences to highlight a particular point. For those of you unfamiliar with Denny, he grew up in New England, won a gold medal with the United States Eventing team, won a Tevis buckle in the 100-mile Western States Endurance Race, with all sorts of other equestrian accomplishments in between.

In addition to Denny, there are also interviews with other good riders - explaining their journey to the top (because as Denny points out - we are all individuals and will need to make choices that are right for us). Some of the riders included in this group are: Courtney King-Dye, Jane Savoie, Clinton Anderson and Peter Wylde.

So equestrians, as winter settles in, and you re-assess your goals for the 2012 season, go pick up a copy of this book and read it. I guarantee that it will help you make smarter choices with your horses in 2012 - just as I can guarantee that I will be going back to reference it for years to come.

For more information on Denny Emerson, visit him at Tamarack Hill Farm or find out more about the book at his publisher, Trafalgar Square Books.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

CT Morgan's Turkey Trot






Last week, I helped Connecticut Morgan Horse Association (CMHA) with their Annual Turkey Trot at Bluff Point in Groton, Connecticut. You could not have asked for better weather - it was sunny and warm, and I think everyone had a great time. I know I did! The money we raised through registration fees at the Turkey Trot funds CMHA's Sue Brander Sport Horse Scholarship. To find out more about CMHA, visit their website!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The English Countryside



I've always wanted to visit England. When I was traveling with the National FFA Organization, we went to Scotland, Ireland and France, but missed England. Its on my to-do list. I've also always wanted to go on a horseback riding vacation, thats on my to-do list too.

Today, Secret and I made our own little "English Riding Adventure." We were riding through one of the fields, and came across some of my grandfather's sheep, who were also enjoying the unusually warm and sunny November morning. It took them a little while to notice us, I was trying to sneak closer to get a better picture, but then we scared them.

The surprising part of meeting the sheep, was that Secret was not afraid of them. She checked the other pasture, to be sure the cows were not out, and then gamely walked toward the sheep. The sheep were not so convinced, and took off. We let them go.

For a couple seconds there, I pretended we were riding through the English Countryside instead of at home!

Its been an awesome weekend for riding here in Connecticut. I think mother nature is taking pity on us after dumping all of that rain. Although the fields and trails are really muddy, its sunny and beautiful. I went for a long ride on John yesterday, and a long ride on Secret today. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thankgiving!


I hope that everyone has a very happy and safe Thanksgiving with their friends and family.

I think this time of year spurs everyone to reflect on the past year, and what we are thankful for.

Today I am thankful for:

- My wonderful horses, they are athletic and talented, but also have great personalities! I am very lucky to have three horses to ride.

- My family and awesome friends. Without the support of everyone, I would not be able to achieve many of my dreams.

- I am thankful that my parents have a barn where I can keep my horses (otherwise I couldn't have them) and that they take care of my horses when I am off on adventures.

- It goes without saying that I am glad to be healthy! Knock on wood, I will keep cancer as a distant memory!

- 2011 has been a year of adventure for me. I rode my horse in Acadia National Park, went whitewater kayaking in Montana again with First Descents, and ran the two-hundred mile Colorado Relay on the First Descents All-Camper team. Plus I rode my horse in lots of other fun places, thanks to my friends.

Be thankful and enjoy your day!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jersey Devil Part 4






On Friday night, only two people had slept in the bunkhouse at the gun club. Saturday night, the bunkhouse, with around 30 beds, was filled. I was one of the people who moved inside!

Sunday morning dawned with a clear sky; you could see all of the stars. I went out to feed the horses at six and they were both happy and dry in the trailer.

Later in the morning, we headed over to the vets to trot-in for the 25-mile ride. Both horses were cleared to go. As we tacked up, John had the strangest expression on his face. He was pretty sure we should be headed home. We never rode two days in a row at a competition.

We rode out of camp around 9 am, and knowing we were doing the same 25 miles we had ridden on Saturday, made it pretty low stress for Meg and I. The fact that the sun was out and it was not raining did wonders for our spirits.

The trails still had decent footing. Of course, there were tons of puddles, but we could trot along with few issues. I could tell John was tired, not so tired that he couldn’t complete the mileage, but tired enough that he recognized he had worked hard the day before. Ideally, he would not have had to stand around shivering before a two-day ride either, and I felt bad for that!

Because he was tired, we spent more time following Minnie than we had the first day. Both days, we spent some time with each horse leading, following and riding side by side. It was a great educational experience for both!

The sunshine and the previous day’s weather really made Sunday’s ride more beautiful and more meaningful. The lake we stopped to water at four times on Saturday was pretty in the rain; on Sunday it was stunning in the sunshine.

The most eventful part of the day happened when we were traveling down a paved road (see the picture above). A part of trail had washed out and the detour took us down this road. We were walking along at a relaxed pace since we had plenty of time, when Meg looked behind her and said, “Loose horse!” We both dismounted. It was Berit’s horse – the wonderful volunteer who had given us soup and coffee at the hold on Saturday. John had already met this horse at the hold earlier Sunday and did not like him at all. I had been holding John and Minnie while Meg went inside to get us food, when Berit’s horse came wandering over with another voluteer (he never stops moving I guess) and came a bit close to us. Luckily John responds to voice commands and didn’t do anything, but I could tell he was mad!

Back to the loose horse. We were both standing on the ground, facing the trotting horse. Meg outstretched her hand, said whoa, and the horse zigged and trotted past her. I knew he wasn’t going to stop for me. I carefully looked at his tack as he trotted closer to us – and made a calculated move. I grabbed his rein as he trotted past and dug in my heels, spinning him towards us and stopping him simultaneously.

John looked at me with disgust. If he could speak, I think he would have said, “What are you doing!! I don’t like him.”

I handed the loose horse to Megan, and took Minnie instead. The five of us started walking back in the direction we had come, hoping Berit was okay. One of the volunteers caught up in his truck, and he took Berit’s horse and walked him back to her. We mounted up and kept going.

We lost some time, so a bunch of horses caught up to us. This agitated John, but he dealt with it. Then Berit caught up to us and decided to ride with us, trying to slow her horse a bit since she was way ahead of time. This really agitated John. We worked through it, it was a long 7 miles, but I was proud of John for holding it together.

At the end of the day, we vetted out and started driving home. One of the other New England riders picked up our awards. John scored a 94.5 out of 100 for day two – but no lameness points! He lost a point on an interference, 3 points for his trot-out (he was tired!) and some points for not pulsing down (I didn’t try that hard, not wanting to get him cold).

I’m really proud of him, grateful to Meg for agreeing to this crazy trip, and looking forward to the 2012 ride season!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Jersey Devil Part 3


The picture was taken on Sunday - you can see how nice the trails were. Now imagine those with the weather report below!

Because of the winter storm and our southern location, the weather we were seeing was interesting to say the least. It was a mixture of cold rain, freezing rain and hail. At one point I looked down at John’s mane and there were ice balls covering the top. I glanced over at Minnie and her mane was also covered in ice.

We kept riding.

After 15 miles out on the trail, we arrived back at the gun club for the 20-minute hold. We pulsed down and did our trot outs immediately after arriving back at camp. I was worried that when we started standing still, John would get cold again and have problems. Both of the horses got through the vet check fine, we threw their other blankets on over the tops of their rump rugs and tack, and they stood there eating hay. Meg and I stood there for twenty minutes shivering.

One of the volunteers, a veteran rider, brought us chicken soup and coffee from the gun club (a warm, heated building). She told us not to go inside – that if we did, we would not come back out and we wouldn’t finish the ride. The chicken soup was wonderful and we truly appreciated her kindness.

When we mounted back up, to do the last 10 miles, we had several problems. The first was that at this point I was so cold I was barely functioning. My hands were frozen and I just wanted to sit down and cry. I was trying to put up a good front because this was my idea, and I had talked Meg into driving down here, but I was headed to the land of cranky people really fast!

Then, I couldn’t get my P&R card out of my pocket. John didn’t help by refusing to stand still. Finally I got one of the volunteers to take the soaked card out of my pocket so that I could leave camp. But neither horse wanted to ride back out of camp (can you really blame them?) After a little encouragement, I got John to lead us out of camp.

My hands were still frozen and I just wanted to quit. Who cares about the mileage, or the 7-hour drive down or any of the rest of it? But then Meg would be alone on the trail, and that wasn’t fair either. I looked down at John, he seemed pretty happy; I was the only miserable one.

I was complaining to Meg about how cold I was, and she gave me her gloves. I had attempted putting mine on before we left camp, but they were soaked through and my hands were also so wet and cold, John hadn’t wanted to stand quietly, I had given up on getting them on.

Somehow I was able to get Meg’s gloves on as we walked along. I immediately started to feel better, both physically and mentally. I could ride ten more miles, it wouldn’t be so bad. If we had survived the first fifteen, it seemed silly not to tough it out and finish.

The last ten miles weren’t so bad. The rain/hail eased a bit, and the horses trotted along happily. The trails were still great, just had lots of puddles. Ever since the monster puddle that John got injured in at Tessier last year, I have been slightly neurotic about puddles. If we couldn’t go around the edge of one, I slowed to a walk. This had to be slightly annoying for Meg and Minnie, but we all managed.

We got back to camp and blanketed the horses up. No need to sponge them off today! After we finished vetting out, we loaded them both onto the trailer in dry blankets. Luckily Meg was more prepared than I was and had an extra dry and waterproof blanket John could wear. Since she has a stock trailer, we knew they both would get a bit wet, but we also had the advantage of giving them each a box stall. We took their halters off, gave them hay and water, and went inside.

At this point I loved the gun club. I had a hot shower, more coffee and soup and felt like a new person. When it came time for awards, both horses scored a 98 out of 100! They definitely did not feel the rain the way we did. I don’t know how they broke the tie, but John was Reserve Champion with Minnie placing right behind him.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Jersey Devil Part 2


For those of you in New England or the Northeast, I think it is important for met to note that the dates of the Jersey Devil were October 29th and 30th. The weekend of the snowstorm. The picture of Meg's truck was taken after we had finished riding Saturday.

The rain started on Friday night/Saturday morning between 2 and 4 AM. When I got out of bed at 6 Saturday morning, the horses were both wet, but seemed okay. I fed them and watered them and they seemed perky. I checked John’s blanket and it had soaked through, but his hair was dry. I decided to take it off, figuring he would be okay.

I came back awhile later and he was shivering! I felt awful. I quickly layered him up in the anti-sweat sheet (to let the wet hair breathe) and then a waterproof winter blanket on top of that. I wondered whether I should pull him from the ride – he was really shivering and we needed to ride out in awhile. I threw more hay at him, trying to get him warm and kept a really close eye on him. My level of guilt was pretty high. Why did I sign us up for this again?

I left all of his blankets on while I tacked up, just rummaging underneath them trying to get all of his tack on. I was so cold that I couldn’t even do the girth – now my hands were shaking as I had also soaked through. One of the riders in the 50 stopped to girth him up for me. John was still cold (as was I), but Meg said he would warm up when we started moving, so I hoped for the best and headed to the start line with her.

It had taken me so long to saddle up and get John to a level that I was okay with, that we actually left ride camp 5 minutes after our official start time. However, no one caught us and we didn’t catch any other riders (and there were around 25 of us riding that day), so apparently everyone was having trouble getting out of camp in the cold, pouring rain.

The trails were great – sand and dirt based and even in the rain the footing was decent. We made good time and since it was cold and wet, didn’t really want to linger too long anyway. The other huge accomplishment for us was that Megan and I had not ridden together in a year and a half. The last time we had tried riding together, John and Minnie had been so competitive with one another; that both Meg and I worried for our safety. I had ridden alone a lot, and with others when possible. Meg had ridden with her sons. Both horses have matured a lot and come a long way in their training and we were pleased that they happily went down the trail together. The weird thing is, that even when we couldn’t ride together, these two loved being stabled next to one another at rides – and Minnie is the Thompson horse that gets along with John best. It was only out on the trail that we had problems.

In the saddle, things were not so happy. I was soaked through and cold. While John trotted down the trail with his ears up, I was doing my best to keep a positive outlook. He did have a waterproof rump rug on, so the majority of his body was dry.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Jersey Devil Part 1





The first picture is of a truck we followed for awhile before getting to ride camp in Pemberton, New Jersey. No, the road was not tilted, this truck was just slightly broken and slightly overloaded. He didn't move very fast. The final two pictures are of the cranberry bogs we passed on the way into ride camp.

After the Maine 25 ride, I was feeling bummed that our competitive trail ride season was over. It felt too short. I missed the Fryeburg ride in July when they cancelled it due to minimal entries. I skipped the Stamford Stampede in August to visit family, assuming I would be riding at Fryeburg two weeks earlier. I intentionally skipped VERDA, thinking that I would be riding at Tessier the next weekend. Then John jumped a stonewall, making himself lame and we missed Tessier.

With all of this rummaging through my brain, I pulled out the ride calendar to stew over it one more time. The only rides left on the calendar were in New Jersey – the Jersey Devil Competitive Trail Rides and the Mustang Memorial Endurance rides. I started scheming for ways to get John to New Jersey – I really didn’t want to go alone – especially since driving through New York City was on the route.

I happened to mention my scheme to my friend Megan in an email. She had already mentioned that she was also bummed ride season was over, but I knew that her sons (who also ride with us) had a fencing tournament and a piano recital the weekend of the Jersey Devil. Megan asked her parents to take the boys to their events (her husband had to work), the boys supported our decision to go to one more ride; we packed up and headed out.

Both of us entered the 25-mile rides on Saturday and Sunday. My thought was that it would be a great way to introduce John to a two-day ride, without the pressure of losing the first day’s mileage if he wasn’t capable of completing a 50-mile ride.

The drive down was going great until we got to the Tappan Zee Bridge, or more correctly, about three miles away from the bridge. Then we sat, for a long time. Luckily, being the end of October, it wasn’t hot for the horses in the trailer; we were just pretty bored. Finally we reached a sign that said there was an accident on the bridge, but when we finally got to the bridge, traffic was flowing fine and there were no signs of an accident. Welcome to New York City.

Then we hit rush hour in Newark. I tried to keep an upbeat attitude; after all, this was my idea! But the driving had to be pretty awful for Meg.

We finally made it to our destination. The “5 hour trip” took seven, but we both got pretty excited as we drove on dirt roads through the cranberry bogs to the gun club, sight of the Jersey Devil Competitive Trail Rides.

We unloaded horses, set up panels (you could rent panels and create a pen that way) and headed over to vet in. All in all, we were pretty happy, except that the forecast was calling for rain and that made us a bit nervous!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Quarter Sheets

As winter weather approaches (maybe not this week, but it is coming) I wanted to take a moment and share my thoughts on quarter sheets.

For those of you not familiar with them, quarter sheets are a partial blanket that cover the horses hindquarters while you are riding them in the colder months. They are great for keeping the muscles warm and allowing the horse to perform to the best of their ability.

In some advertisements, you see riders with the quarter sheet covering the rider's legs as well. I heard a personal account from a rider, that has led me to advise against this situation.

This particular rider was riding with the quarter sheet over her legs - there is velcro to attach it. Her usually reliable horse spooked, and she knew she was going to fall off. However, since the quarter sheet was around her legs/waist, she had a few precarious seconds before the velcro let go, when she was not sure how the fall was going to go.

My advice to any of you who ride with quarter sheets - save it for the horse and wear winter breeches or long underwear under your summer breeches. Several years ago, I also tried riding with the quarter sheet over my legs. As soon as I picked up a posting trot I found that it constricted my movement and stopped to put it back under the saddle. After hearing my friend's story, I will definitely be layering up and saving the quarter sheet for my horse.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

2nd Annual Turkey Trot



Connecticut Morgan Horse Association is hosting their 2nd Annual Turkey Trot next Sunday, November 20th at Bluff Point State Park in Groton.

This is a fun trail ride, bundle up and come join us!

The trail at Bluff Point is between four and five miles, with some ocean views. Coffee and lunch are provided and there are some fun prize donations again this year. Prizes include:

- Morgan hitch covers and stickers from American Morgan Horse Association
- A necklace, stall name card, stationary etc from Dana's Doodles
- A Breyer set from the Traveling Tack Room
- An English saddle bag from Indian Hollow Stables.

Cost is $25 for adults and $15 for youth, the Turkey Trot benefits the Sue Brander Sport Horse Scholarship Fund.

All breeds welcome!

For the registration form or more information, please visit:
www.ctmorgans.org

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Product Review: Marigold Spray

Last year, I got a bottle of EQyss Marigold Spray and really can't say enough good things about this product. For any of you horse owners out there looking for some extra help with your horse's coat, this may be the solution.

If you read EQyss' website, it says the spray is great for repelling dirt, adding shine, etc.

I'm sure that it does all of these things, but I have specifically used it in problem areas. Remi had some crud (a bug bite that turned into a bigger problem when I didn't notice it) in the crest of her mane. It bothered her terribly and she itched at it - rubbing out a piece of her mane. Fortunately, she has so much hair, that you can't really tell.

After cleaning up the spot, I sprayed it daily with the Marigold spray and it helped relieve the itching. I like to believe that its making the hair grow back faster too - but I think her hair grows fast in general.

I've also used the spray on some dandruff spots on John's hindquarters, and the top of Secret's tail. All three horses seem to get relief from the spray, and the trouble areas seem better for using the spray.

I rarely find products that I feel the need to "rave" about, but this one certainly qualifies!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fun In The Forest Trail Ride





The 3rd Annual Fun In The Forest Trail Ride to benefit First Descents (www.firstdescents.org) was held on Saturday, October 22, 2011 at the Silvermine Campground in Natchaug State Forest in Eastford.

Thirty-four riders from across Connecticut gathered to ride trails in Natchaug and Goodwin State Forests. This year’s trail included dirt roads, woods trail, and airline trail. Riders had the opportunity to stop at a boat launch in Goodwin State Forest and water their horses before continuing on the trail. Riding on the airline trail was popular with many riders.

The Fun In The Forest Trail Ride also has great prizes. Our 2011 sponsors were: Dover Saddlery, Absorbine, Horse Zens, Every Equine, BiSaddular, Knight Equestrian Books, Tamarack Hill Farm/Denny Emerson, Barnmice, Herbsmith, Alltech, Nicole Cloutier, Live For The Ride, Chaplin Farms, and Hosmer Mountain Bottling Company. Thank you again for your support.

The trail ride is a benefit for First Descents (www.firstdescents.org). First Descents provides whitewater kayaking and other outdoor adventure experiences to promote emotional, psychological and physical healing for young adults with cancer. All donations to First Descents are tax deductible, and the money raised at the trail ride will be used by First Descents to send a young adult cancer survivor to camp. This ride raised over $500 and the combined total of the benefit trail rides is $3,900.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Maine 25 Continued

Finally our start time came. We walked out of camp. John wasn't nearly as cantankerous about leaving camp as he had been at Pine Tree, and I took this to be a good sign.

We were riding alone, and I knew the other riders were two minutes ahead and more would be coming two minutes behind, I just hoped that I could stay alone long enough to get John calm and focused. I kept him at a walk.

Unfortunately, the group of six riders was not walking, and soon caught up to us. We heard them long before we saw them. And composure John had been gaining, quickly went out the window. I rode off trail, continuing straight instead of turning right, so that they could pass me. They yelled to me as they went the correct way to make sure I knew to turn around. We fell in behind them (a good distance back though!) and John calmed down a bit.

Soon, the Lasher's caught up to us. I let them pass, and stayed behind them for awhile, but couldn't get my pace right. I was always having to stop and walk. I decided to try and match their pace, and see if John could just stay behind them. This was very challenging for him, he really wanted to pass them, but he was managing to listen and stay behind.

This tactic was working well for awhile, until Joanna's horse tripped and fell on a rock and she fell off. We stayed with them while she got her breath back (wind was knocked out of her) and then continued on alone. Two other horses had passed us while I waited with the Lashers', and I did let John pass them.

This worked well, for about five minutes. We had been traveling down a dirt road, and were now required to cross a mesh wire bridge. You read that correctly.

The bridge was steel, or some sort of metal and was mesh - the holes were 1/2 or so, but you could see the water in the river below. John said, "No way!" And really, who could blame him.

I knew the two horses we had passed had been on the circuit a lot longer so we waited for them to catch up and then followed them over the bridge. I thanked them and passed them again.

At this point someone else on a Morgan caught up to us and her horse was another horse that "has to lead." This is when things got a bit out of hand. We were playing leap frog for awhile, with neither horse wanting to back down. It was obnoxious. I got frustrated and tried to pass her for once and all, and get a good distance between us. A few minutes later I could hear her horse, pounding up the road behind us.

At this point I decided that John was going to have to figure out that he couldn't pass every single horse and always be in the lead, or we were going to become that other horse and rider. I gritted my teeth, let her pass and then held John back. He was very angry. I found a couple more seasoned horses and tucked him in behind them and made him follow them. After a few minutes, he forgot the horse that had passed him and settled back into work, following the horses in front of us.

The hold was in the middle of a field and was kind of crazy. There wasn't enough water and horses and people were everywhere. I got John pulsed down within minutes of arriving and then went and trotted out for the vet. With all of our requirements met, we tried to stay on the outskirts, out of the fray, until our 20 minutes were up.

Soon after we left the hold, I met up with a Haflinger and mule and their riders. They had been in the group of six that passed me early in the ride. I tucked John in behind them and kept him there for the remainder of the ride. This was a great experience for him - he didn't mind following the Haflinger or the mule, and other horses passed us, but he settled back in to following his friends a lot quicker. He didn't get to lead at all, which was also a great learning experience for him.

We rode back into camp and headed to vet out. John didn't pulse down - he was at 46 instead of 44. This was the first time he hadn't pulsed down all season, so I was a bit disappointed about that. Otherwise, he vetted fairly clean.

After lunch they handed out awards. I think there were 15 horses in the 25 mile ride. John ended up second. I was very proud of him, and more proud of everything he and I learned at this ride.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Maine 25




Its been almost a month since the Maine 25 mile competitive trail ride, so its about time I blogged about it! We drove up to the North Waterford Fairgrounds (home of the World's Fair) on Saturday, October 8th. The Pine Tree Endurance Ride in June was also held at this fairgrounds, so we were very comfortable with the trip up and our destination.

Most riders had already arrived when we got there - they were also offering a 50 mile ride, so a lot of riders rode on Saturday too. We settled the horses into their stalls and then went to vet in (after a quick grooming - see the photo above).

Sticking to my tendency to worry and overanalyze, I was nervous about the vet in. This was John's first event since he leaped the stone wall and injured his leg, and I never had the vet out to look at the leg, I just took care of it myself. I worried about pushing him and re-injuring the leg.

I was also slightly nervous about being back at the North Waterford Fairgrounds. Our last ride at this location was a bit of a disaster. I didn't want him to come up lame at the hold again.

The vet in went fine, we visited with friends and tucked the horses in for the night. I decided to sleep in the barn, since the stalls at the fairgrounds are in the cattle barn, and John has a history of escaping.

John and Minnie (Megan's horse) turned into Benny and Benita beaver all night. They chewed the wood in the stalls nonstop. At 1 AM, I got up and gave them each another flake of hay, trying to get them to stop chewing. At 1:30 AM, they finished their hay and went back to chewing. I didn't get much sleep, and was very glad to see the large pot of coffee at breakfast.

Once again, I got John out too early before our start time. I only went out six minutes before I could start, but they were a very long six minutes. A lot of other riders were walking their horses around, warming them up. John just wanted to leap and dive through the air, I felt like I was sitting on a coiled spring. My only goal was to keep him as quiet as possible. I stayed near the start line and kept him moving in small circles. At one point I had him standing still when a group of six riders rode up. John bucked in place. One of the riders in the group just raised her eyebrows.

"Yup, its going to be an interesting ride..."

Continued tomorrow...