2017 Reading Challenge

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Book #22

We have gotten a little out of order depending on which book becomes available first and the winner this time went to my mom with her next pick. I really enjoy the prompts that leave a lot of room to enjoy a book that suits your tastes. 

A book set in the wilderness: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

It is 1920 and Mable and Jack have been handed a heavy blow: their first child is still born and the grief that washes over them is complete. Being around family and watching their nieces and nephews run around is like a dagger to their heart. When Mabel reads an advertisement for cheap land in Alaska, she urges Jack to sell his stake in the family farm and move. 

They find themselves in a wilderness that fights back against their attempts at taming it and every attempt to create a homestead only reminds them that they are 50 years old and without a child to help them. 

Then, during the first snow of their second winter, right when Mabel thinks it would be better to drown herself in the icy river, a spark springs between the two and they build a snow girl complete with Mable’s red mittens and scarf. 

The next day they are visited by a young girl in the woods wearing the mittens and scarf with icy blue eyes and skin that does not melt the snow. Storms fly around with her anger, she throws handfuls of snowflakes in the air and she leaves every spring to only return again with the next snow fall. 

The burning question remains to them: is she a real orphan girl or a snow child brought to life by their longing and love? 

When Mabel remembers a Russian fairy tale book depicting this very thing, she reads through her old copy with bated breath and a sickening heart. 

The story dances with the fantastical: do snow sprites exist or is this just an extraordinary young girl who has learned to survive in a land that is hostile? By juxtaposing human needs and drama, like the death of a very real human father, with images of unearthly occurences, she dances over deep snow barely leaving a foot print and never sinking even when everyone else falters even in snowshoes, the author paints a picture that allows the reader to believe what they wish. 

This novel left me feeling a little haunted. So many gruesome scenes of hunting and trapping animals played along with the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness left me both reeling and in awe. In truth, by the end I wanted nothing more than to pack up and head north to tempt my fate as a homesteader in the Alaskan frontier. 

The theme of love lost, dreams abandoned but never fully forgotten and the desperate need for a future are hard, real and leave the reader feeling exposed. The truth behind the snow child is never fully revealed giving the reader an easy explanation for either scenario. 

I highly recommend this book to all. 


Product Review

Product Review: Absorbine Botanical Body Rinse

Last winter I purchased a bottle of this on a whim then I quickly learned that it is illegal in endurance and it sat in my trailer unused. After her 100 I knew we wouldn’t be competing for a while, so I rinsed her down with it and then promptly forgot it existed until this weekend when I took advantage of an indoor wash rack to fully bathe the wild mare. 
Nobody paid me or asked me for this review. I personally purchased the product on my own. 

What is it? According to the bottle this is an after rinse full of healthy essential oils to soothe sore muscles, relax tissue and invigorate the skin. 

How do you use it? The bottle is highly concentrated. You can either add 10mL to a bucket of water or add some to a spray bottle and mist the horse down. The bottle has an easy to read volume indicator on the side so pouring the amount is fairly fool proof. I added the recommended amount to a bucket of water and used a sponge to wash it over her entire body.

Results? For starters it is 100% Gem approved which is saying a lot. She isn’t a supper touchy feely mare and puts up with my grooming because she has learned over the years that she has to. With this stuff, however, she practically tries to crawl into the bucket as soon as she smells the stuff. She grabs at the bucket, paws the air and in general acts a fool. I’m not sure if it is the smell alone or a combination of the smell and how it makes her feel, but the mare loves this stuff. 

I can’t say if it soothes her tired muscles or not, but it smells a lot like human lineaments like Bengay and Biofreeze so I’m assuming it has that same surface dilation and cooling effect as those human products. She sure loves it being splashed all over her and that is atypical for Gem and water. I’ll go ahead and assume it feels great. 

The smell is amazing too. It’s very strong and will make the sponge smell for a long time afterward, so don’t use your regular sponge for it especially if you are in endurance as it is illegal to use before a race. 

When I used it last summer, the BO texted me after she had dried and said she needed sunglasses to not get blinded by Gem. My current picture wasn’t in the best light to show it off, but the shine is amazing and lasts a long time. The hair is left silky and smooth too. 

Would I recommend it? Yup!!! Gem loves it and I love the visible results. Be careful that you don’t use it close to an endurance ride as the scent lingers and you might get pulled. I’d for sure use it after a strenuous workout and plan to use it after her show as a reward. Go try some. You won’t regret it. 


Jumping Solo

The rain cancelled my Monday lesson and there seemed to be no time to get another one scheduled. Trainer doesn’t teach on the weekends and Monday is really the only evening she teaches late enough for me to make it after work (I could do a Tuesday but that is my kickboxing night). With the only other Monday being Memorial Day, I was out of luck for one last lesson before the show. 

Wyatt loves coming and playing in the giant sand box

No worries though, the arena is always available and only 30 minutes away so Sunday I loaded up Gem and we headed out. There was someone else using the jump arena with jumps set at like 57′ (ok, really they were all set to 3’9″, but they might as well been set to 57′) and I was unsure what the etiquette in that situation was. She had just walked into the arena as I unloaded and I knew they probably wouldn’t be riding that long at that height. I decided to waste some time by practicing my braiding skills using the videos you guys so helpfully provided for me. Turns out I suck, so we will see what happens show day. I may lose my temper and roach her yet. 

By the time I was done fiddling with her mane, the lady was done riding. Out of curiosity what is the etiquette? I’m sure I can ride in there with her, it is public after all, but what about jump height? I’d think it would be rude to change them but there were a ton of jumps up and she had been using them all. Do people just wait until the other is done or do they take a few for their own use? 


I tacked up, thanked everything living and breathing that the 46″ girth fit her perfectly (thanks everyone for that suggestion!) and lowered everything to 1’9″ which was the lowest they went. 

Taking a good hard look but never stopping moving forward. I’ll take it.

I’m really trying to figure out a warm up and decided to work on what Dom commented about in my dressage post: brakes, rhythm, bend. I started with a bunch of halt transitions and guys she is really starting to get it! It is taking less and less to get her to halt and she is not moving until I ask. I was so happy. 

It wasn’t long until I asked her to trot and this time I worked on using my posting to send her forward and bring her back working on a square and using the long sides to send her out and short to bring her back. She was distracted by everything outside the ring, but listened well and so I asked her for some bend in a circle. That’s a work in progress, but going right is coming along nicely. 

After that it was time to jump. I gave the hubby my phone to take some pictures and I was off. My stomach only knotted a little as I made a crappy approach to the first jump, but I grabbed some good mane and kept my legs on. I also remembered how voice driven Gem is and I talked to her throughout telling her how good she was. 

Hubby is like the worst photographer ever. Enjoy his finger in nearly every frame.

We trotted everything and she never once refused, ran out or did anything bad. She wasn’t super locked on or pulling me to any jumps, but she wasn’t freaking out and trying to dodge them all either. 

It was amazing!!!!

It was also the exact thing I needed going into this weekend. It was a big confidence booster for me that she can go in and be sensible. I really have no clue where this new found calm mare came from but I adore it. I really feel like we are going places ūüôā

Her ears are forward!! Not back in me or grumpy. This is huge!!

I had wanted to work on our canter some, but she had been so good and it was about 9,000F out with 1000% humidity so I called it quits and bathed her instead. 

Post bath Gem is not a happy Gem

I am so excited for the weekend! Ride times come out Wednesday and then I’ll determine if I go the night before or not.

Me being super excited after we finished and she hadn’t touched a rail, backed off from a jump or run out one single time. Elated best describes it.

Where Have I been?

Drowning. Almost literally.

It started to rain Saturday night around 10 pm and then decided not to stop until Thursday morning around 7¬†am. This wasn’t a nice gentle sprinkling either. It down poured. It caused flash flooding. There were tornadoes. It was bad.

Taken Saturday before the rain came in
Thankfully though the ground around here is some magical mystical stuff that allows for standing puddles of water 5″ deep to be absorbed within an hour of the rain stopping and within 24 hours the ground is firm and lovely once again.

I took advantage of the forecast to mow the pasture Saturday. It needed it as our two can’t eat enough to keep the grass down. My capris rode up and this is the tan I ended up with.
Also thankfully, the guy who cuts the hay field in front of our house came by on Saturday and baled it all. This means I can ride at home one again, well at least until it grows up again. Looks like the local hay production was really good for first cutting this year. Hopefully the rain will continue throughout the summer and they can get second and third cuttings this year. Current prices are looking at $13 a bale right now for anything not crap fescue or even worse bermuda which is still floating around $6-7.

My mowing buddy
So that is what has been going on. Rain. Water. Flooding. Cranky mare face who will not leave her shelter if there is any rain coming down at all. A bored Pete who hates being out in it alone, but doesn’t mind being a real horse and getting wet either. A bored and cranky Sara who really wants to ride to practice for the show next weekend, but can’t because the arena was closed and it wouldn’t stop raining.

After nearly a week of rain, her mane is now a gross mess of tangles. Not the best timing.
Hopefully, the 30% chance of rain all weekend translates to sunshine and I can trailer to the arena to get one last jump ride in before the show. I can practice the dressage moves at home in the hay field, but I don’t have any jumps. The wonderful thing is that the arena is actual public and owned by the city and has no entry fee. Its amazing to have free access to a dressage arena, jump arena full of jumps and another arena without jumps.

Ready or not next weekend we will be showing!


2017 Reading Challenge

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Book #21

This will be a super short review. The next prompt was back to the mother and followed on the tail of two really good reads.

A book from a non human perspective: White Bone by Barbara Gowdy

I’ll be upfront: I only made it through the first 50 or so pages. Then I gave up, so I really can’t give a full synopsis. Here is what I gathered:

Mud was born under extreme circumstances to the M elephant herd. Her mother was bit by a poisonous snake during labor and fell on top of Mud in her death. The other elephants in the herd attempted to free Mud from under her mother’s body, but were unable to do so and abandoned her to her fate. She managed to not only survive, but escape as well and was adopted by another herd, the S herd.

Her early years were marked by the worst drought to hit Africa in 65 years along with the presence of humans intent on slaughter. Rumors begin to fly of a safe place where humans aide the animal instead of hunt them.

That is the farthest I got, but my mom actually finished it and informed my that the book only goes downhill from there.

The book is told from the elephant’s perspective and as such is an interesting concept. As a general rule, I avoid all animal books since they historically all end poorly and from what I gathered, this one is no exception.

What was so wrong with it?

In my opinion, any book written in a way that not only requires a 3 page glossary of made up terms to start, but also at least one very lengthy footnote per page to explain made up concepts, is just written poorly. I get the creativity in the book, but the author made up so much stuff that it was impossible to keep up. Having to take a pause to read a paragraph long foot note to explain the concept of the Great She Elephant and their theory on the afterlife is cumbersome and detracts from fully engrossing yourself into the narrative and this occurred on every single page for the first 50 I made it through. By the end of that, I was so tired of reading things that made no sense that I cashed it all in and stopped.

I’m not sure what her full intent of the novel was. I’d guess it was about the cruelty of humans and the ivory trade, but due to the overly intricate invented elephant society, that was completely lost. In fact, she made the characters so unlikable in personality and the narrative a constant onslaught of misery that I found myself not really caring if they managed to survive or not.

0/5 from me for this book.




Things I Learned Owning My Own Business

Three years ago I made the incredibly rash decision to quit my high paying, pretty easy job and start my own practice for a 40% pay cut, more stress and longer hours. That was smart. In my defense, not only do I come from a long line of people unable to work well with/for others, but my old boss was stealing from me and making my life emotionally and mentally hell. It was quit or have a stroke at age 32.

The going was really rough for a long time and even now that things have settled a bit and my schedule is staying fuller, there is always, always something to worry about. I’ve learned a ton though in the process and thought I would share some insights.

  • If you want to work for yourself to work less hours, you’ll be bitterly disappointed, at least in the early years. When you are your own boss there is no such thing as paid vacation or sick days. You either work and make money or you stay home and go broke. At my old job I took two weeks vacation and one week for continuing education every year.  In the three years I’ve been open I managed to take 3 long weekends and 4 full days off in a row total and that was for a work conference. If I’m not there, I’m not making money. So I work.
  • Sick days don’t exist. To expand on the above, nobody is paying you to curl up on the couch and feel sorry for yourself. You go to work. I’ve taken one sick day in three years and that was when I was vomiting non stop.
  • There will always be more work to do. At the end of the day your pile of stuff to do will be ever present. This really got to me early on. I needed to be done with everything, everyday. It isn’t possible. You have into learn to be ok with putting things off until tomorrow then bumping it again when a new top priority item comes up.
  • You have to learn to leave work at work. As with the above, it is really easy to never stop working. With so much to always do, it can be hard to turn it off. You have to force yourself to clock out or you will burn out.
  • You have to learn to sell yourself. I know, you are amazing at what you do. But here’s the thing. Nobody else knows that. Not yet. Get prepared to sell yourself and your skills all day every day. Eventually your work will speak for itself, but in the beginning you are a nobody. One of the best pieces of advise I go twas to not hang the shingle and expect the phone to ring. I spent every Friday for months taking bagels around to referral sources and introducing myself. It was hard to do, but it got me business.
  • Stay true to yourself.  Chasing easy money is very tempting when you are broke, but trust me, you will regret it later. Stick to your own morals and beliefs. People will trust you better when they know where you stand, so don’t be afraid to take that stance. It may turn some people away in the beginning, but the long term will pay off.
  • Always be kind. But stay firm. In business, it never pays to be mean. People talk and they are far more likely to complain or bad mouth you than praise, so be careful. You are more than allowed to fire someone from your business, but do it nicely and make sure it is worth it to not only lose that person, but also their entire social circle. Likewise, the customer is not always right, sometimes they are just trying to rip you off. Stay positive, don’t get dragged into a fight, but also stay firm and don’t get taken advantage of.
  • Be prepared to go broke, make some money and go broke again. Starting your own business is a risk and hopefully it plays out well for you. In the beginning though, you will go broke. It will seem like the worst idea on the planet and you will question your sanity. Stick with it, make changes as needed and hang tight. If you put your all into it, have something decent to offer and work hard it will pay off in the long run.
  • You have to have long term goals. In the beginning, just staying around long enough to pay your bills seems a hard enough task, however, if you don’t make long term plans you will burn out quickly. Its very stressful to always worry about paying the bills and getting more clients, so take time to envision what 3 years will look like, 5 years, 10 years.
  • Don’t forget to enjoy it. Its hard work. You work nearly non stop and even when you are at home you are thinking about work. I get it. But you started this business for a reason, so enjoy the ride. Celebrate little victories along the way.

How Fancy Do I Need To Get?

Two weekends stand between me and the first horse show I have ever entered (I don’t count endurance rides as shows). As far as training preparation, we are where we are. I have one more lesson scheduled to fine tune some things and then that is that. We will enter at A, give it our best shot and see what happens.

Gear-wise I’m pretty good I believe. I ordered a 46″ jump girth from Riding Warehouse and then saw a nice white polo for only $30 so that ended up in my cart as well. In fact, I ordered a small and medium so I could just return the one that didn’t fit. The only thing left is to call the venue and see if my Road ID band is sufficient or if I need a medical armband.

I know it is “just” (wow do I hate that word) a schooling CT at the amoeba level and that it is low key and meant for people just like me who haven’t got a clue. However, I believe in dressing for success or as some say “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” My wardrobe is limited by my budget, so I will be in my field boots, white breeches for dressage and tan for jumping, black gloves, my black tipperary helmet and white polo shirt. Probably no belt unless I manage to find one between now and then that doesn’t cost my left kidney (seriously, why is a strip of leather 28″ long $50??)

What I can do though is spruce the mare up. I’m just not sure what all that really entails. She will get a bath full of shampoo and conditioner the day before we leave for the show (no clue as of right now when that is, depends on ride times) and will get her usual thorough grooming right before we tack up. She will be shiny and clean.

I am not 100% sure what to do about her mane. It is long and luxurious and I plan to keep it that way. No roaching, trimming or pulling for one show. She needs that mane for her every day, live outside life. Running braid? It looks easy enough to youtube and figure out but looks a bit tacky to me. Can you do button braids with a full mane? Will they look ok or just like super big gremlin fur balls down her neck? Suggestions?

Her tail is long and I do plan to cut that straight and shorter than touching the ground as it is now. Do I have to dye it? I’ve seen a lot of DIY tail dye posts on blogs. Is that needed? Do I have to cut around her butt? She is pretty bushy up there. I don’t like it when it is trimmed too much,¬†but it would probably be better for her not to have a butt-stashe going on, right?

Her feathers, ear hair and whiskers are staying. I doubt I’ll get all the wax out of her ears as she hates her ears being messed with, but I will try to tidy them up and she will be in a bonnet so that should limit her exposure.

Anything I am missing? Do I need to learn how to do a quarter mark? I want her to look presentable and not have our turn out make a bad first impression.

Thanks for any suggestions!!!!



Health and Fitness

Fitness Update

The local YMCA waived the registration fee back in January and offered a 20% discount if you signed up with a friend or family member who does not live with you. That made the price $48/month and that was hard to pass up and certainly way below the price of any specialty gym in town.

First 100F day of the year!!!
In February and March I speed dated. Each time I went I joined a different class. My goal was to figure out where my weaknesses were (my entire body as it turned out) and what classes were both enjoyable and provided results. I didn’t make it to every class they offered, but I did make it to every class they offered during the time I could go: after 6pm.

Now I have my two favorites that I go to every week plus a couple of back ups in case I either can’t make one of my days or I’m not feeling it that day. It’s been working great for me and I absolutely love the two classes I do regularly.

Hubby got me a saddle stand for Mother’s Day. The top two tiers swivel and have a bar for saddle pads. This was really needed as we only have 2 saddle racks in the trailer and 4 saddles. There are also bridle hooks, so I can start moving some of those out too.
So what have I tried?

  1. Cycle/Spin: this was the first class I really wanted to do and was the first class I swore I’d never do again. The work out is great for both my legs and cardiovascular system and I am sure it would greatly benefit my riding. However my lady bits hurt for 10-14 days after and there is nothing worth that. I talked extensively to a good friend who teaches spin 4 days a week and she told me that none of the padded shorts or seats work and I’d have to build up a callus. Sorry but I have no reason to want a callus there. Next!
  2. Zumba/Cardiodance: I’m lumping these together because I say no difference in the two classes. I wanted to like them so bad. What’s better than dancing your way to being fit? Eating pizza, but I digress. It just wasn’t a good fit for me. The dancing was fun although frustrating when I had no clue what was going on, but my issue was that I never got my heart rate up. Even when I did manage to, by adding jumps and squats as the like to the dance, by the time it got there the song ended. I saw zero benefit so it was out. Next!
  3. Water aerobics: Being the youngest in attendance by a solid 40 years was my first red flag. The water was frigid and stayed that way. The work out was minimal and honestly I would have been better off swimming laps. Next!
  4. Group weights: to be fair to this class, I tried it after I found my favorites, so it had pretty big shoes to fill. We used dumbbells and for the first time in my work out history, I got bored. Like stare at the clock the entire time bored. I went up in weight but the exercises were just not my thing. Next!
  5. Glutes and Guts:¬†I liked this class. 30 minutes of hard hitting legs, butt and core. It was hard. It was fast. It was at 5:40 and extremely stressful to try to get to. If I happen to get out of work a bit early I would do it, but I generally can’t get to the Y much before 6.
  6. Kettle bells with D:¬†This was a so so class. Hard yes, but we only did 8 exercises in the hour and I left feeling like I didn’t do enough. Mostly arms and some squats thrown in. No cardio work.
  7. Kettle bells with M: this tiny little woman kicked my butt. I loved this class and it was in my rotation until I found another I liked better. It is in my solid back up list. This class does something in never heard of before: tibotta. It’s 8 sets of 2 exercises with 8 reps. One exercise is cardio, the other strength. Example: 8 bicep curls with the kettle bell followed by 8 mountain climbers and then repeat until you’ve done it 8 times. Each set is harder than the last. I always left sweaty and out of breath. Too bad it runs at the same time as my all time favorite.
  8. Yoga Flow: the Y offers 6 different styles of Yoga, but only one during my times. I love yoga and this one is a slow stretch and relax class. It always makes my body feel loose and stress free. I attend when I’m just not up for the other classes or when it’s my time of the month and there is no way I’m working cardio.

We borrowed a tractor and bush hog from a friend and are clearing the back acres of over grown pasture. Landlady claims there are only 8 acres back there, but there is no way. I bet it is more like 16.
The two best classes for me?

  1. Body Combat: hands down my favorite and I go every Tuesday baring something getting in the way. A mix of kickboxing and core strengthening this class kicks my butt every week and leaves me sore for days. Each time I think I have beaten it, it hits me back even harder. We punch, we kick, we jump, my heart feels like it is going to beat out of my chest and I’m breathing harder than I ever did running. We work on combat moves: hooks, upper cuts, jabs, crosses. Not only is it a great work out, but it is my weekly stress relief. Love, love, love.
  2. Group Rip: this is my Thursday class. It is pure strength training relying on high reps and low weight. I want to tone but not get big muscles so this is perfect. We do 120-145 reps for each muscle group with both a bar and plates and dumb bells. My entire body shakes like jello by the end.

The combination of intense cardio on Tuesday and strength training Thursday is working out really well for me right now. I look forward to both days and my body feels stronger and leaner than before. I know it has helped my rising quit a bit. I only ride 1-2 days a week and should be sore or feel weak with so little saddle time, but I don’t. I feel great. I


Almost There: Gear Check

For some reason I think that if I spread out the purchases over several weeks it won’t seem so bad. Doesn’t make a lot of sense since all the money comes from the same source, but anything that helps this inherently cheap person spend money without having a stroke is good. 

The list of things I needed to get was pretty extensive. I tried to do the internet used tack route, but I got burnt and wasted money and have been a bit hesitant to try again. Instead I’ve been trying to go cheap but new with the idea to upgrade in the future. 

So far I’ve got:

Synthetic tall field boots: I actually really love these. They fit me really well and after two rides and two days wearing them around the house they no longer hurt anywhere. I do find it a bit harder to sink my heel down in them as they are still a bit stiff but I’m getting used to it. $68

Black with white padding cob sized, unknown brand bridle with reins. I had to creat a new hole in the cheek piece but otherwise it fits Gem well. I’d love to replace the reins and brow band at some point. $40

Dark brown stirrup leathers. I grabbed these last minute at the tack store and didn’t look at the price tag. If I had, I wouldn’t have bought them. I’m glad I did though. The are wonderful: soft, flexible and padded. They will be pulling double duty on both saddles for now. $70.

White all purpose pad with black trim. This was a difficult purchase for me. White pads are boring and I didn’t have a lot of selection in person and didn’t want to get anything online that I was not familiar with. I ended up just getting the cheapest one I could that had some nice padding and trim. $54

Noble Outfitters black gloves. Personally I hate riding in gloves unless it is extremely cold out. I tried on some Roekels which were lovely but too pricey. These gloves are just ok. They fit my hand well but I wish they came over my wrists a bit lower and I’m just meh about them. The price was right though and since I plan to only wear them during a show and only have one show on my summer schedule, they will suffice. $22.

Breeches. Ah. Nearly as bad as girth shopping and twice as bad as jeans. Trouble is that I am in between sizes and that just makes the fit hard. I finally got a pair of Irideon Hampton tights with knee patches and a sock bottom and they fit pretty well. They are a bit looser than my Irideon Synergy and Issential tights (all three are size medium) but generally fit very well and are comfortable. $79

So far my outlay is $333. I don’t think that is terrible given everything I have purchased. I could have gone a bit cheaper on the leathers and pad but I adore the leathers and think Gem will appreciate a bit of padding between the saddle and her back. 

What’s left?

  1. Jump girth. Heaven help me if the 46″ doesn’t fit. The tack store was out of that size so I need to go online and order one. Soon. 
  2. A white polo shirt. I’m trying my best to avoid buying a real show shirt because a) they are entirely too expensive and b) I refuse to buy anything that is see through and every white show shirt I have come across has been completely see through.  Not happening.

Not too shabby and hopefully I can snag these two items this week. Then I should be all set!


Dressage Practice 

For Mother’s Day I only wanted one thing: to trailer to the equestrian park and practice my dressage test. Dusty was all for it and we ended up bringing Pete along too.

My two favorite butts
I had two goals for this ride:

  1. Practice my warm up
  2. Run through the test and see what we still need to focus on

If endurance only taught Gem one thing it would be how to travel. She unloads and immediately gets started eating and relaxing and doesn’t fidget while I tack her up. After a quick moment to get her dressed, we wandered up to the dressage arena to get started.

It has been extremely wet down here this spring. The puddles made for good practice getting Gem to ignore everything but me and the work at hand. Also, I was wishing there was a small dressage court to practice in, but we made do in the large one.
For goal #1, I had a plan of action: work on a million halts to get her understanding that I really do want her to stop moving until otherwise instructed and then work on rhythm. It can be a little frustrating riding Gem at times when she seesaws between over reactive to the smallest leg aide to sluggish and needing a dressage whip. Each ride is different, but with enough warm up time, I can get her moving in a much more steady manner.

She was skeptical as to what I had planned and I believe she was pleasantly surprised that all we did was halt, walk and trot.

I got to work on halting first and began down the long sides asking her to halt at each letter which helped give me a visual as to where we were and how long it took to get her halted properly. She was really responsive on Sunday and it didn’t take very long to get her stopped exactly where I wanted with less and less rein. So much better than any prior ride!

Then I moved her out to the quarter and center lines and that wasn’t so great. She still halted, but it was really hard to keep her square and not shove her butt around. A continued work in progress.

Once we had done a dozen or two walk-halt-salute-walk transitions I asked her to trot. Mare wasn’t in the mood to work any harder than she had to and began in a lovely western pleasure jog. It took several demands on my part to get her moving forward and then she began to get racy and braced. No Gem, that is not the correct answer either. Tone it down. Eventually she settled into a decent, although still lacking much of a spark, working trot.

Having found a rhythm I could work with, I began to fiddle with bend. Neither of us are particularly good at bending although going right is coming along nicely. My main focus in the circles was shape, size and consistency which are all things I can control to gain points on the test. I’m not naive enough to think I will fix our bending issues in the next two weeks, so my focus is more on what I can control: shape and size.

After that is was a run through Intro B. The first time through was pretty nice. Gem was relaxed and played along with my requests and I rode decently enough. I found that it really helped to speak out loud to myself (not something I can do during the actual test): start looking ahead, sit up taller, ask now for walk, turn your whole body etc… It made me quit focusing on the movements so much and just ride my horse the way she needed to be ridden.

Dusty wandered over at that point and I asked him to grab a video as we ran through it again. I immediately wished that I had him secretly doing it the first time because as soon as I knew he was videoing, I got tense and began to ride like crap. Sigh.

For her part, Gem began to anticipate what was coming and tried to bulldoze through me. Me being tense and braced through my lower leg didn’t help matters at all, but I was a bit frustrated that she couldn’t just do the thing since she had just done the thing and did it well enough. Apparently, she figured we could be done a lot quicker if she just raced through it and she knew better than I did.

If you feel like watching paint dry isn’t boring enough, you can watch me ride Intro B like complete crap for just over 3 minutes below. Its riveting stuff for sure.‚Äč There is a lot to pick on although I’d be happy if I could just relax my upper body and release those elbows. This is just suck a different picture than pre lessons it is almost unreal. 

‚ÄčAfter that we were done. Gem tried hard for me and was such a good girl overall. Light years from where we were before and given how infrequently I ride (1-2 times a week) our improvement to date has been pretty awesome. I really wish I had a before video to show, but it was so ugly I didn’t want proof of it. The mere fact that we haven’t gotten in a real argument in months is testament enough. 

Wyatt jumped on Gem then for a few circuits around the arena and afterward it was time for Pete to have some fun.

Pete hasn’t been ridden off the farm in three months, before that it was about 18 months. He walked right onto the trailer as if he did this weekly. He is such a good boy.

Dusty mounted and they walked off no big deal. If I hadn’t ridden Gem for that long and took her someplace new she would be a freak. Different horse, but annoying nonetheless.

Dusty headed up to the jump arena and I dropped the rails as low as they would go. I was surprised to find that the lowest is 2′ which means that the vertical I did last week was 2′! Not a major deal to some but a big huge deal to me!! It didn’t even look big at all. Hopefully that means that the 18″ cross rails at the show will look tiny.

I missed their warm up due to playing with Wyatt but did manage to catch them jumping. Pete adores jumping. It is his calling in life.

I tried to convince Dusty to sign Pete up for the jumping tests at the show. They are only $25 a round and I figured they could do one or two but Dusty isn’t interested. Mostly because he owns even less show appropriate gear than I do and has no interest and buying any.

We left the equestrian park with two very good and happy horses and it was the perfect way to spend Mothers Day.