Monday, 30 December 2013

Therapeutic Riding - I Love It!

Today was my first day back at the therapeutic riding barn. I'm so, so grateful to be able to step back into one of the things I really missed when I moved to an office job - my shifts at the barn! There have been plenty of changes since I left three years ago, but of course it still feels the same. Some of the horses are old friends whom I'm very happy to be able to care for again, while some are strangers who I look forward to getting to know. There are numerous staff and policy changes, but I do believe I'm going to fit in just like I never left.
Cutest little fjord. I've missed him and his muddy ways!
 Our local barn is run on provincial funding along with commercial and private donations. They've managed to build a great program over the course of the years and serve as a model for organizations across Canada. The benefits to working for a place like this are many: they're super efficient and organized, there is little to no drama, the horses receive the best possible care, and the staff and volunteers are all very good at what they do. They also have some pretty nifty facilities (an indoor!) that staff are allowed to use during non program hours. The program mostly caters to school age children as well, which of course only adds to the fun. Plus, you are supporting a really great cause.

The 'big guy'. He's a Belgian/QH cross and used to be my exercise horse. My hips ache again just thinking about it :)
At the moment, they have eight horses who will be mine to care for 3 mornings a week. I usually volunteer a training ride once a week as well, so it works out just about right as far as having lots of time for my own horses yet not feeling like my entire life is taken up with horses. The pay, like any horsey job, is not the best - but hey, I'm getting paid to spend time with the coolest kids and horses in town! (Also for the sake of honesty, I have a tech career that allows me to not starve :)


Saturday, 28 December 2013

Life Updates/General Ramblings

Ginger is unfortunately not coming this weekend - the hauler couldn't find anyone else to share the ride so we're hopefully going to see her next weekend instead. Otherwise I've told G we're buying another horse to bring so the hauler will just make the trip already. Yes, I am feeling super impatient.


I had an update on Lainey over Christmas and she continues to do really well - they just sent a quick note and video. I'm guessing it's a 3'6" jump course and they look fabulous. I won't lie, I was a teeny bit jealous and had a little pity party, thinking of all the hard work I put in training her and the big dreams I had, then thinking of how I don't even have a horse to ride at the moment. Then I was back to reality and thought of the many many lessons and training rides they've also taken to get where they're at. There's always so much hard work behind those impressive videos. I miss her and her crazy mare attitude, but selling her to such a great home was the best decision.

Older pic of them having fun trying her out :)
I'm wondering what Ginger's going to think of coming from the land of winter and knee deep snow to the land of people walking their dogs in T-shirts and shorts. She'll probably have to spook at their crazy selves for a bit ;)

We had a nice lead up to Christmas with a few days in Banff. It was a nice way to break up the drive, especially with winter road conditions being what they are. It's so incredibly beautiful there - I would live there in a heartbeat given the opportunity and a billion dollars to buy a home there with room for Ginger.
View from Sanson Peak looking over Banff AB. Elevation about 7200ft. Named after Norman Sanson who apparently rode his horse up there over 1000 times for weather readings in all conditions. We hiked a little of it and those horses (and Mr Sanson!) must have been TOUGH.

We have a couple of places booked to go look at with a realtor mid week. One is a cute little 5 acre hobby farm type place with direct access to the best trails for Ginger and I. For G, it's walking distance to his favorite little restaurant/pub. I like the restaurant too, because they have a safe area to tie your horse while you come in for a bite :) The second place is the same farm we've been mulling over for months now, the 12 acre one with a huge barn but no house. It's only about a ten minute drive from our current house, so there would be no hurry to build if we wanted to wait. I'm not super excited right now, because I think we're both quite picky and happy enough where we are. It's going to be a bit of an ongoing thing, I think, until the right place finally jumps out at us. (Basically, don't get too excited yet, but it's always fun to look at horsey properties, right? :)



Thursday, 26 December 2013

Odesseyo!

As we drove into Vancouver, I was feeling a little down and out. The day was dark and rainy and gloomy, all the things I associate with a west coast winter and dread coming back to. 

This felt kind of majestic and Christmas-y

This.... not so much



We made a quick stop at the hotel, I had a quick shopping trip to cheer myself up, and then we headed off to Odesseyo. The huge tents are set up at the Olympic Village site on False Creek, so super easy to access especially if you don't mind taking the Skytrain.
View from our room, looking up Robson Street. The shopping is good there! :)

We ended up arriving a little early because I was excited and there was no way I was going to be late :) From the moment we walked on site, workers were going out of their way to greet us, ask us if we needed anything, and wish us a fun evening. Pretty cool. We went inside and waited and G was pleased to find tables set up and Heineken on offer at a reasonable cost. 

Eventually we found our seats. Our seats were great, about midway up and facing the center of the stage. Honestly, though, I don't think there was a bad seat in the whole place and if we were to go again I might be tempted to save money and go with some cheaper seats - the sight lines would have been pretty much the same.

The actual show was super fun  - I'm sure its all part of the act, but the performers really did look like they were having the best time out there, as did the horses! For super serious people looking for impressive training or tricks, there is a possibility you could walk away a little disappointed. There was a lot of basic round pen type work and some not overly technical (or well executed) jumping and dressage. I loved it anyways, because it was more just about having fun with horses and reminded me of all the fun and silly things we used to do with our ponies when we were kids. The trick riders were of course excellent, the acrobats were absolutely amazing, and the centerpiece of the show, the horses, looked like they were having a great time. One little Arabian in particular made me smile over and over again because he was obviously so excited to be out there and have fun he could barely contain himself :) He would get carried away showing off or trying to get the other horses to play, then suddenly realize he had missed the plot and was going the wrong way, look all panicked and have to quickly try to find his place again. At one point the horses were supposed to be travelling left, do a spin, the continue left. He somehow got lost and went the wrong way after his spin, then ran back to his spot, did the spin and continued on to try to catch up. Kind of like me in an aerobics class :) The problem? The rest of the horses were done the act and standing in a line facing the audience and every one was just waiting for him. So cute. 

I've been to Cirque de Soliel shows before, and the feeling was very similar - lots of fun and high energy but very professionally executed and run. The 'stage' is pretty cool and has a large projection screen behind it making it seem even larger, and at one point even filled with water to create the effect of the horses running in a waterfall. Sorry about the lack of horsey pictures, but they don't allow you to take photos during the show and there really wasn't much I thought picture worthy in the parking lot. You'll have to trust me - they have 67 gorgeous, photo worthy horses :)

I really enjoyed the whole show, and G gave it two thumbs up as well. As we all know, he's an animal lover and likes horses so that helps. He sort of felt like he'd seen the horse stuff before at the various clinics and shows I drag him to, but he really liked the music and special effects and he particularly loved the acrobats and trick riders. When I told him I was writing a blog post he really wanted me to tell you it was 'unbridled fun', so there you go - it was 'unbridled fun' lol.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

We got home after supper last night, just in time for Christmas. We had a fun and safe trip home and I have a couple of posts planned soon (Odesseyo included!)

I hope everyone has a wonderful day :)




Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the big day! I work half a day then I head off to the airport in Edmonton to pick up G and start driving home. We're going the spend a Rocky Mountain weekend in Banff, then we head off to Vancouver for Odesseyo, then we venture home and back to 'real' life and (literally) greener pastures.

It's a little bittersweet to leave all the good friends I've made here, but I'm beyond excited to be back at home doing the things I love. There are no guarantees that I won't leave again in the future for more work, but if there is a next time I'm picking somewhere where I can bring Ginger, if not G. Oh, and somewhere where the windchill today isn't -50C ;) This little non horsey time out has been good in that for the first time in my life I've really been able to take a step back and evaluate this crazy hobby. Take away lesson: It's not only a hobby I don't ever want to give up, it's a lifestyle I'm going to continue to embrace wholeheartedly.

Ginger's transport is still a little up in the air in that the date could change from Dec 28th or January 7th depending on what other bookings there are. Obviously I am crossing my fingers for the 28th, but either way, I'll be seeing her SOON!

I've also got some lessons booked in the New Year so I will have some help getting the Drama Pony back into a reasonable work schedule. I booked her annual vet checkup and vaccinations with my favorite vet this morning. I'll admit it all feels a little surreal - not only making plans with my horse, but since when does my hometown have a dressage instructor AND legit boarding? I can't help but feel like I'm currently in some kind of really excellent alternate reality.
The photo on my work computer desktop...soon I'll be seeing the actual Ginger :)

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Christmas Present!


I found out this morning G is taking me to see Odesseyo  in Vancouver on Christmas Eve! I'm super excited. It may not have been on my Christmas wish list but it is the most perfect gift that I would have never thought to ask for - totally over the top, non practical, and involving horses  :)

For those unfamiliar with Odesseyo, it's the new show from the folks at Cavalia. Here's the link to the website if you'd like to know more:

http://www.cavalia.net/en/odysseo/about-show

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Christmas Wish List



Since it's the season for gift giving, here's what I'd get if was going to play Santa to myself and Ginger (and wasn't already getting the best Christmas ever by going home to my honey AND my pony!!)

1. Boots for both Ginger and myself. As mentioned previously, I really covet a pair of brown riding boots for myself. I still haven't taken the plunge because I have perfectly good black ones that refuse to die :) Ginger, however, has NO BOOTS AT ALL - poor poor deprived pony :(. I think I might be the only person I know who doesn't own any sort of leg protection for my horse beyond some really snazzy purple polos from when I was about 12 and the usual vet wrap and bandaging supplies for injuries.



2. A nice leather halter for Ginger. I've looked around and not been overly successful finding something that fits her right and is nice quality. Her head is a bit funny. Imagine an Arabian head on steroids and that's what we're trying to fit. Big oversized forehead and jowl, normal horse sized cheek pieces, and probably a cob sized nosepiece. She's also a delicate princess so no cheap, stiff leather that will rub her face.
Ginger with her old halter. Lainey broke it the ONE time I tried to dress her up nice for pictures. Sibling rivalry? ;)

3. A tack trunk. I've never had one since I had my horses at home forever and just had room set aside in the basement and my own little tack room in the barn. I'm thinking something simple and classy to hold Ginger's basics. This could be a DIY project once I am home and am reunited with my power tools.

4. As mentioned on a previous post, an oversized browband to match the bridle that matches her saddle.
This browband in OS to go with her otherwise normal sized bridle.
 --->www.stubben.com<--- LOOK HERE, G!


5. Waterproof winter riding pants. If I could find a pair that are actually waterproof but NOT super slippery I'd be a pretty happy girl. Ginger would also be happy to have a waterproof quarter sheet. West coast weather means that I am riding in the rain more often than not, so more often than not, we both end up with cold and wet hind ends. Not a nice feeling :)
V Bandz Water Proof Quarter Sheet.
A random Google search turned this up. While the pink is pretty bold, I love the idea of it being high viz and reflective because I have a short hack along a somewhat busy road to get to the main ring and back.



Wednesday, 4 December 2013

5 Day Challenge: Day 5

21. Favorite classes to watch

Some of the big jumper classes are so fun to watch. It's inspiring, but so far beyond me that I don't guilty like I should be at home practicing or frustrated that I'm not at that level. Eventing and Dressage are both my actual favorites, but there's a little bit of the 'I wants' involved when I watch those, so I enjoy them best when I feel like I'm in a good place riding wise and can actually put some of the things I see and like to good use in my own riding :) I have a friend who does combined driving and the one show I attended was amazing!
Grand Prix at TBird, Aug 2013

22. What’s in your cooler at horse shows?

Mikes Hard Lemonade to share after a hot day. Tons of water for me, apples and carrots for me and my horse, and usually a few cookies or treats to keep G happy. For actual meals, I'm usually too nervous to eat and G loves hot dogs. I will never cook them for him, so he's actually very happy to fend for himself and hit the food stands at shows  ha ha

23. One thing about showing (or riding in general) you wish you could change?

At shows- my nerves. Those should be in my control to change. In general and a wish more beyond my control? The cost, and the relatively small number of people involved. I wish horses as a hobby were more accessible to everyone and more of a mainstream sport - less of an 'exclusive' world.

24. Your ringside crew

Greg. He's the best.

25. Best prizes

I love prizes! I once got a nice show photo of us, another time some nice brushes with my horses name on them for our year end awards. Horse treats and gift certificates are great too, as are coffee mugs and horse or human clothing with the show/barn logo. I might be the only person I know who doesn't go for ribbons and trophies. I don't really have a place to put them so I prefer something practical I can use. Maybe once I have a barn large enough to house a nice tack room I'll put some of those ribbons on display and get a little more excited about them.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

5 Day Challenge: Day 4

16. One thing you’d like to change about your horse

I'd make her a lot more confident/sane. She's come a long way, but there are still days....

17. Your horse’s future

This is ever changing. I know she'll be with me for life. Two years ago I would have said I wanted to event her, now I'm pretty sure it's not her thing. I have my heart set on dressage for sure, but even that gets her pretty stressed out, I think because she tries so hard to be 'perfect' that it's very hard to teach her and correct her without getting her anxious. If she was a person it would go something like this:

Me: "Wow Ginger, you are doing this so well, but you know if you used your hindquarters a little more like *so* you'd find it easier."
Her: "OMG, I suck. I am terrible at this. You hate me, I can tell." "This arena is scary and now I'm basically all alone in here and potential barn kitty prey because you hate me and won't keep me safe"
Me: "Settle down...you're fine. See what I showed you? It helped, right?"
Her: "Yes, but I can tell you still hate me because I didn't figure that out on my own. I'm a total failure. To try to make up for it I'm going to use my hindquarters like that ALL THE TIME. Then I will be perfect and you'll love me again"
Me: "OK, lets just go back and do this other thing - you're really good at it!"
Her: "Yes I am! I am awesome at this! But I can do it even better! Check this out!"
Me: "I appreciate the effort, but that's not really something we can use in a dressage test"
Her: "OMG, I suck. I am terrible at this. You hate me, I can tell. But check out this neat trick I just learned with my hindquarters..."

Depending on what we're working on, this scenario can literally play out a few times a minute and it's exhausting for both of us, I'm sure. Our training rides outside of lessons are more low key - she is less anxious because there is less of a focus and I`m pretty patient...I`m quite content to keep the peace and do 5 minutes here, 5 minutes there, rather than 45 minutes of more concentrated work, so we may just get there yet via the really slow and steady route.
 I thought that was just 'her' , and she's so kind and polite it's easy to just keep on and make fun of her 'drama', but after seeing how she is on the trails (focused on a mission and loving it!) I'm wondering if we can't explore some competitive trail or something instead for now. I'm not ruling anything out in the future, but I'm pretty sure she doesn't want to be a serious show pony at this point in time.

We're contemplating a second horse for now to satisfy my more driven side and my desire to event :)

18. Your worst show ever

When I was a kid, a friend and I took our ponies to a local show. We really had no clue and the people were not overly friendly or helpful that day either. I didn't show again for many years, because it seemed overwhelming and with the way we were treated I thought I'd better wait until I could put in as near of a perfect class as possible. Little did I know in the intervening years, the 'crowd' at that show had completely changed and now they are the most helpful and supportive bunch you'd ever hope to find.

19. Favorite horse show venue

I've never shown at a big venue...mostly just smaller, local type shows and clinics. As a spectator I've been to Spruce Meadows and it's amazing, but a little overwhelming. We went to Thunderbird this summer and it's gorgeous and a little less intimidating to navigate. On a more local level, High Point Equestrian has some pretty impressive facilities - if only I had a million dollars (truthfully though, I think you'd need substantially more to live/board there :).
http://www.highpointequestriancentre.ca/

20. Your show day routine

It been a while. I usually bath and get the horses looking their best the day before, then show up early in the morning to braid and do the finishing touches the day of. If there are patterns of any sort to learn beyond the norm( I do the odd trail class or equitation pattern where it's posted day of), I'll do that prior to my morning ride if possible. I always get the horses out and about over the show grounds in hopes they'll be able to see everything and settle in prior to our classes.  I don't get dressed into my show clothes until just before the class. G usually comes along to hold horses for me and generally keep my nerves steady. I'm usually too nervous to eat, so part of the tradition is a big, over the top dinner later on :)

Monday, 2 December 2013

5 Day Challenge: Day 3

11. Critique your horse’s conformation
I bought Ginny partly because she was the 'type' of horse I really, really like. Breed didn't really enter into my search at first. I'm no expert, but I can tell you what I like vs what I wish was improved.
- Love her head. Love the little bit of a dished profile and the big, expressive eyes.
- A little 'meh' on the neck. It could be a teeny bit longer and less thick.
- That back - my number one dislike - it's long by any standard, although I do feel it's put together alright otherwise and is strong.
- Shoulder. I'm OK with it. It's big and I wish her neck tied in more nicely.
-Hindquarters. Again, meh. They're nice enough, but proportionally look a little too light compared to that big front end.
-Legs/feet. Her legs are one of her strengths. They're very correct and she's probably the first horse I've owned that honestly moves completely straight. Her feet are awesome. I'll be surprised if she ever needs shoes or anything more than a basic trim.
-General. I don't think she's what the traditional cob breeders ideally look for. She's very tall and not overly wide and cobby. She's pretty light in bone for a cob. But overall, I liked her because I felt she was a nice compromise between athleticism and strength.

Not an ideal confo pic, as her front end is closer to the camera than the back, but you get the idea

12. Horse’s favorite riding exercise

Trails. Hands down, she loves them. In the arena, she finds lateral movements pretty easy, and loves to try to show you her extended trot.

13. Favorite spa day products

Cowboy Magic anything. Smells great and works even better. For Ginger the whitening spray is extra handy for those socks.

14. Three best things about your horse

She's very kind. Not a mean or grumpy bone in her body.
She's smart. It's a double edged sword for sure, but since she's so honest so far her talents are used for good rather than evil.
She has an amazing work ethic. Honest and will give you 110% any day of the week

15. Favorite picture of your horse:

This one is so...her. "The OMG what are you doing? I can't stay away"  curiousity with the "will the camera eat me? I'm ready to run"  drama :)

Sunday, 1 December 2013

5 Day Challenge: Day 2

6. Favorite Equestrian Book and Movie:

    I'm all over the map here - almost every book I read or movie I watch that has horses in it, I'll say  "That was the best EVER!"...Until the next one. I'm going to use the more impartial G as my guide here and say that he sat and watched "Buck" with me twice and really liked it too. He also will sit and watch my recordings and dvds of eventing...not the dressage though :)

Books? Maybe Jimmy Wofford's "Training the Three-Day Event Horse and Rider". You can't go wrong there.
Fiction? Maybe Fiona Walker's "Well Groomed". Totally trashy and silly, but fun and I love the horsey characters and the fact the main character competes at Badminton, etc.
As a kid, Walter Farley's "The Island Stallion" was where it was at for me.


7. Most common riding misconception:

That it's easy! It's the hardest sport I've ever tried...I dare any one to take a dressage lesson on a green horse and say otherwise.

8. 2 riding strengths and 1 riding weaknesses:

Strengths: Quiet and very very patient. Good sense of timing.

Weaknesses: The past 3 or 4 years, my weight. I was fit and slim my entire life without really thinking about it, so it's been a bit of a learning curve as far as proper eating and exercise habits go. I know there are tons of examples of good riders out there who carry some extra weight. I don't think I'm one of them - I have much better balance and am much more effective without. I think Ginger probably feels the same. I've slowly got rid of the majority of it over the past year or so, with only a little more to go. And it's NOT coming back...ever :) Next up? I need to address the anxiety...

9. Least favorite thing about horses and/or riding:

The barn drama. More directly related - the vet calls.

10. What do you feed your horse?

I try to keep it pretty close to 'natural'.
At home, I feed my horses plenty of low sugar local grass hay, as well as a timothy/alfalfa mix from Oregon in the winter. It's about 15-20% alfalfa, and just beautiful hay. I have slow feeder nets so they can eat all day.
Ideally, they are mostly on pasture in the summer. They get a little bit of ration balancer when the other horses get their grain.
With Ginger, she can be a little bit of a harder keeper, so in the past I've supplemented with beet pulp and a high fat grain mix as needed.

The pony mocks my attempts to provide ultimate pony nutrition and convinces everyone she is starving by eating fir trees while my back is turned.