Thursday, January 29, 2015

Goals for 2015

Goal: the object of a person's ambition or effort;
an aim or desired result.

I realize I am a little late in the game to be stating my goals for 2015.
I have pretty much known all along what they are in my head, so I haven't really bothered to put them down on paper or type them out online.
They aren't lofty or huge or unobtainable by any means, but they are important to me.
And that's all they need to be.


1) Develop a 'Confirmed' Canter

I am borrowing this 'confirmed' term from the Dressage people, because I feel like it really expresses what I am going for here. It was defined on COTH as when a horse "gives the right response nearly all of the time, when asked correctly", "without any extraordinary preparation or unusually loud aids".

This is a two-part goal.

Part One:  Develop clean, balanced, non-dramatic canter transitions.
No flailing, head-flinging, bucking, ear pinning or running away.

Part Two: Be able to maintain several circles of quality canter.


Because Paint horses can canter. 



2) Jump an 18" to 2' Course

At a trot or a canter (or a combination of both), I would like to be able to jump a course (18" to 2' foot), be organized, have straightness and rhythm, and for Boca to have fun and enjoy doing it. This can be at home, in a clinic, at a show -- I don't care. I just want to achieve it somewhere, somehow.


More this, less costume.



3) Put More Fitness on Boca

Maybe I am too used to a history of riding thoroughbreds or TB-crosses, but damn I have never had a horse that has been harder to get fit! We have 5-6 miles of trails right off the farm, but I'd like to get Boca out on some 8-10 mile rides and get his fitness level up. And do more trotting and cantering on rides. Mostly we just walk and that is not going to cut it long term. We need to up the ante.


Many more miles of this.


4) Beach Ride!!!

This is not an if it's a when. Last fall, a friend and I had plans to trailer our horses to Cape Cod and ride on the beach. Two times we picked a date, two times we got rained out.  This spring/summer we will not be denied.  There will be pictures!!!


Boca and I are going to ride on this beach.
This WILL happen.



Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How NOT to Survive a Blizzard

As you may have heard, the Northeast was just inundated with a winter blizzard that included record snowfall for some areas of Massachusetts. Luckily, my town received *only* somewhere in the area of 20-30 inches

20-30 inches, but hey, who's counting.

Now, some may assume that after a lifetime of dealing with blizzards, that Floppy Ammy would have some coping mechanisms in place to deal with these circumstances.
You would be Wrong.

I think I tried to hibernate away the reality of this storm. My actions could also be explained by a raging case of PMS. I am not proud of these actions, but the truth is that I survived the blizzard of 2015 by consuming an ENTIRE half gallon of Friendlies' Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream in under 24 hours. And then napping/sleeping intermittently for about 19 of those Hours.



I did not shovel. I did not check on elderly neighbors. My only explanation for my unseemly behavior is that I truly think my body tried its best to hibernate until Spring.

Wouldn't this make you want to hibernate too?

In any case, it didn't work, and I re-emerged, blinking, into a sunny, snow covered world filled with kids sledding, neighbors shoveling, and people cleaning off cars.

I suggested a family walk, to get the blood flowing and so I could re-join the land of the living.

Hubby & Puppy

The cuteness

We frolicked a little in the snow, and I felt a little bit better about life.

I am the Queen of the World  (yes, that's a street sign)

...Until I found out we're getting another 8-12 inches of snow on Monday. #FML


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I was a NYC Horse Carriage Driver

Back in 2004, almost 11 years ago, I was a horse carriage driver in New York City.


The year was 2004. I was 27 years old, living in Queens and working in Manhattan. I worked in the Marketing and PR department at the Central Park Conservancy, the non-profit organization responsible for managing Central Park. The offices were at 60th Street and Fifth Avenue, at the bottom of Central Park, directly across from the hack stand for the horse carriages.

Every day I spent my lunch hour hanging around the horses. I struck up a friendship with one of the drivers. His name was Basil; he and his brother owned their own carriage and worked for themselves. He encouraged me to get my license and drive carriages as a part time job.

At the time, the industry was dominated by two groups, the Turkish and the Irish. The Turkish guys mainly came over to America to get an education. Carriage driving was a means to an end. The Irish guys came over to work and have a bit of fun. For them, carriage driving was the end. There were very few women drivers. I think I was one of  only 3 or 4 women, out of approximately 200 licensed drivers.

Getting licensed by the state of New York was no joke. There were two written exams to pass. I remember the content of the exams as mainly focused on horse health, how to identify and prevent incidences of colic, lameness and tying up, etc. You were expected to know medical basics, such as heart rate, respiration and body temperature. If you passed the written exams, there was a final in-person exam given by a state licensed veterinarian, at the stables. You stood up in front of the Vet, and were expected to answer any question that may have been covered in the context of your studies. Once you had your certificate stating that you had passed all your exams, you had to go down to the board of Consumer Affairs to be issued your license.


Once you had your license, you had to get taken on by one of the carriage companies. I had made friends with the Irish guys, they had taken me in as one of their own. I had an Irish last name, I had proved I knew what I was doing around horses, and by sheering dint of hours spent hanging around chatting with them, they knew I was serious.

The guys took me to meet their boss, Neil Byrne. Neil owned Byrne Stables on 37th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues. Neil was a card-carrying SAG (screen actors guild) member, and had supplied horses and carriages for the film industry. He and his horses have appeared in TV and movies such as The Age of Innocence and Sex & the City.

Neil's stable was mostly Standardbreds, purchased from the Amish in Pennsylvania. Neil did his own blacksmithing, so stayed away from full drafts, as the lighter horses were easier to shoe. The guys each had their own horse that they drove daily and were fiercely possessive over. 

I have to say, in my experience, the people involved in the carriage industry truly loved their horses. The carriage industry was the first time I ever saw smartpaks in use. One driver had bought them for his carriage horse and was so excited to use them. There was absolutely no drugging and no masking of lameness, ever. Neil had an arrangement with a farm in upstate New York, where his horses were retired to after their career as a working horse was over  Occasionally, the guys would make the 4+ hour drive on their off day to go visit their retired horses.

My stint as a carriage driver was short. I worked nights for about six months, in addition to my day job. But I have to say, it was one of the most fun jobs I have ever had. I had a couple get engaged in my carriage, I loved telling tourists about the history of the park. There were summer nights that the park was filled with fireflies as I drove past such icons as Bethesda Fountain and Tavern on the Green.


Just one more chapter in the adventures of a floppy ammy.

 

Monday, January 26, 2015

SNOWMAGEDDON 2015

So, I woke up to THIS on Saturday morning, which was unexpected and also completely unwelcome, as I had hoped to ship over to the fancy indoor this weekend.

Seriously???

The puppy, on the other hand, was completely delighted, as he loves snow. We went on a short walk, and I tried to take some pics, but Jersey is fast as hell, plus I was juggling his leash, my cell phone and a pair of gloves. So, fail.

One decent pic.

#Fail

Artful Puppy Prints in Snow

I was 100% mentally committed to riding this weekend, come hell or high water. So, when I got to the barn, I threw on my trail bridle, my "oh shit" neck strap, my bareback pad and a wool cooler and headed out on the trails. Per usual, Boca had not been ridden in 6 days. The horses had not yet been turned out, and I don't know if he's ever seen snow. Which made for an interesting trail ride.

He was definitely wired for sound. The visual changes in landscape and the unusual sounds of snow blowers and snow falling from branches definitely rattled his brain a little bit. He called for other horses as we walked down the trail, which he NEVER does. We had jigging, a few half-rears, and a very white-eyed, concerned pony. Of course, I have no photographic documentation of our ride, as I had one hand on the reins and one on my "oh shit" strap.

I will say, we did manage some trotting and 2 canters, and we were able to walk home on the buckle with our brains in our respective heads, so I will call that a win. At this point, I'm just trying not to lose any and all fitness for both of us. Improving what we've got will have to resume in the spring when we go back to having a ring to ride in and weekly lessons.

 In other news....
We are expecting SNOWMAGEDDON 2015



Yes, that's right. We are expecting 24-30 inches of snow in the next 24 hours.
Hubby has beer, I have ice cream, puppy has us, so I expect we will all survive.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Thermal Imaging

Yesterday when the saddle fitter visited, I forgot to get updated thermal images of my saddle fit. The saddle fitter took them, I was just too busy geeking out over her greyhound to pay attention to, ya' know, what she was actually there to do.


The cuteness! D'oh!

In lieu of current pictures, I thought I would share with you the thermal images I do have from our original saddle fit session, which was back in August 2014.

Here is the initial image of the saddle, as I had purchased it. Ideally, you want to see an even contact along the underside of the saddle panels, with no pressure points. My saddle was definitely not ideal, with the back left panel barely making contact, and a weird pressure point midway.

Before


When she got into the guts of the flocking of saddle, over time, the wool had formed into some really compressed, hard balls. She took out the old wool and re-flocked my saddle with top quality, new white wool.

The resulting thermal image of the saddle panels, after re-flocking with new wool, shows a more consistent, even contact.

After

I haven't reviewed the science behind thermal imaging as it correlates to saddle fit, but hey, it looks cool!

Also, a PSA to all you other horse people out there in winterland...

You may want to make sure you discharge the static electricity built up from all your layers of clothes rubbing together before touching your horse's FACE.

OMG WHY DID YOU ELECTROCUTE ME???
WHAT DID I DOOOOOOO??

Umm, yeah. Sorry about that Boca.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Visit From the Saddle Fitter



Today was the scheduled 5-6 month visit from the Saddle Fitter to re-check the fit of my saddle. My saddle is a used 17.5 Black Country Quantum. It is wool-flocked, so it can be adjusted to fit Boca.





I pulled Boca in to get him ready for the fitter. It is the first time I've really taken a good look at him without a blanket on in weeks, and I have to say, I'm really happy with what I see. He has definitely put on weight and condition. I'm using a supplement called Bioflax 20. It advertises itself as support for coat, skin and hooves. I'm really happy with it. That shine is all natural.  I haven't brushed him in 4 days.




Look at that ba-donk-a-donk. There is some junk in that trunk, Mmmhmm.


Also, for the record, my horse thinks he is a mare.


Oooh yeah, caress that flank baby

My saddle fitter showed up and, in addition to being awesome, she now has a greyhound therapy dog. Of course, I completely geeked out over him.


Jacques, on his dog bed, with his electric blanket 

The great news is that my saddle still fits well. Only minor adjustments to the flocking were needed.


Tools of the Trade
My awesome saddle fitter at work. Jacques in the corner.

Boc and I are good to go for a few months. She would like to see me ride in it next time she is out. Oh, and those cow kicks he has been firing off lately? Not caused by saddle fit. Cheeky little bugger!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sidebone

Back in an earlier post, I shared with you how I came to acquire Boca.
When I did a fairly basic and rudimentary PPE, the only finding that gave me pause for concern was the presence of some significant sidebone on his left fore.
 
The Mount Everest of Sidebone

Lauren from SheMovedtoTexas mentioned in a comment that it would be interesting to share with you what I had learned about the condition. I should first give you all a disclaimer that what I learned is a mish-mash of stuff I heard over the years in a number of barns, the input of the vet that did the PPE and some online articles sourced from google. This is by no means veterinary advice and should not be taken as such.

Sidebone is defined as the ossification of the cartilages in the lateral portion of the hoof.
These cartilages are part of the anti-concussion mechanisms of the hoof. Sidebone usually occures in the front feet, and is thought to be more common in the heavier breeds (drafts and draft crosses). Occurrence in the lighter breeds is usually the result of conformation flaws or unbalanced trims. Sidebone is not typically thought to be a cause of lameness, unless part of the bony mass fragments and/or interferes with the joint.

Sidebone's nasty cousin is Ringbone, which I know less about, but is NOT a diagnosis you want to receive, and would be a deal-breaker on a PPE. It is usually very performance-limiting, to the degree that a horse diagnosed with ringbone may be pasture sound only.

So, how did the presence of Sidebone on the xrays affect my purchase decision?

I took into consideration my goals, which include low-level all around English pursuits. I know I want to jump, but I don't see us ever doing higher than 2'6", which most horses are physically capable of. If my goals had included eventing Prelim, the sale might not have gone through. 

I also took into account that Boca was a horse with a $1500 price tag. He appeared to be an otherwise sound, sane gelding, of a decent age, in the 16h range. Finding another prospect with those qualities was not going to be all that easy.

Lastly, with his good looks, super sweet personality and sensible nature, I knew that if he was too limited in ability, that he would have vast re-sale appeal. He could easily be some 4H kid's first horse or a mature lady's trail companion.

But mostly, I just took a gamble. I made an educated guess and hoped for the best.
So far, so good.



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

True Confessions: I Hate Hairnets.

Something occured to me the other day as my co-boarder and I unloaded our horses at the fancy indoor. As I watched my co-boarder grab her helmet and her hairnet, 
I realized it hadn't even occurred to me to BRING a hairnet.

Which made me realize I have something to get off my chest:

I HATE HAIRNETS.
WHEN DID HAIRNETS BECOME A THING???

NOOOOOOOO

Now, granted, I think we have established that I am no threat to Andre Dignelli's squad of Super-Eq riders. But, when I returned to the show ring in my 30's, I had no idea there were established, unwritten rules of turnout that included the use of hairnets. And neither did my trainer, who had last been a force in the Hunter show world sometime in the 1970's.

Now, another fun fact about me is that I have always had big hair.
A lot of thick, long, big hair. My high school nickname was Slash.


Take me down to the Paradise City

And so, in my return to riding in the 21st century, I chose a helmet that actually 
FIT MY HEAD, and merrily rode along with my hair in a bun behind me.


Ignorance is bliss

Imagine my surprise and chagrin when I moved to the Hunter Show Barn and was promptly met with looks of horror and disdain when I continued to ride with my hair in a bun. My helmet was promptly declared unsuitable, and another was obtained that would fit with my giant ass hair inside my helmet. This required feats of engineering that would astound MIT students at the post-doctorate level.

This is where my hatred of hairnets came into play. I could not, for the life of me, figure out a repeatable system to wrangle my hair into a hairnet and shove the whole hot mess up into my helmet. It was itchy and uncomfortable, and there was a lot of poking the hairnet elastic up into the brim of my helmet, where it would bunch, itch and sweat for the remainder of the day. I could not take said helmet off and face the whole process again. So I was hot, itchy and miserable. I promptly refused to wear a hairnet for anything other than showing, which made me a barn favorite (not) in the aspiring A-circuit hunter show barn.

Which brings me to another gripe. If we are putting such emphasis on helmet awareness and safety, why are we encouraging a practice that sacrifices correct helmet fit in order to serve fashion??? As long as your hair is neat and tidy and not blocking your number, I see no reason why it should be required to be up in your helmet.

I am all for THIS:

If it is good enough for the British, it's good enough for me.

Maybe I'll start a grassroots movement to change society's norm in the show ring.
Hairnet Haters of the world, UNITE!

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Queen of Questionable Decisions

Hello human. Where you bring me???

I am the queen of questionable decisions when it comes to horses and riding.
This is why I own a virtually bombproof horse, so I don't die as a result of said decisions.

I haven't ridden my horse in a ring or with a saddle on in about, oh three weeks or so.
After a week of temps with highs in the 20's, our outdoor is frozen solid.
So today, even though the weather was a balmy 51 degrees, riding in our ring was out.

Many of my co-boarders decided to use the indoor across the street. The downside to that is that the indoor is dark, tiny and has stalls inside the indoor, from which horses scream at you as you ride by. Fun.

As I was standing in the aisle, debating what to do, another boarder pulled in with
her truck and trailer already hitched up. This woman has negotiated a flat fee to
ship in to a local indoor that is GORGEOUS - amazing footing, awesome jumps,
well lit and huge.

Yes, this is their actual ring. *drool*

So, without further ado, when she asked me if I wanted to come along,
of course I said yes.  Of course I would load up my hairy, unclipped yak
of a pony that had not been ridden in 8 days, take him to a strange indoor
and ride.  What could possibly be wrong with that decision??? AMIRIGHT???

I wish I had pictures and/or video of this gorgeous barn and my ride.
But alas, I do not, because I was busy dealing with my fired-up pony.

I have to say, he is such a good boy. He definitely had a huge hump in his back,
and he started off firing out karate-kicks when I got on. Then he tried to run away
with me, which was also hilarious. My poor red pony is really not gifted in the
athleticism department, so his antics were actually quite funny.

Hiyah! I am the Karate Horse!

Because I feel pretty confident that I can ride whatever he throws at me,
I don't get nervous or upset at Boca's antics. I actually find him hilarious,
and my ability to laugh at him and his ridiculousness keeps me loose and
relaxed. I was proud of myself for not pulling, for keeping my shoulders back,
my chest open, my heels down and my hands soft. I did not do tense,
hunched, pulling, monkey-humping-a-football position, which I consider a win.

It was definitely a lot to throw at the little red horse, and he really is a saint.
Once we got past his fresh stage, he really went quite well.
He did not do his crazy, twisty-neck open-mouth resistance once,
which I consider progress. I was seriously tempted to pop over a few of their super
nice fences, set at 18" and 2', but as he is super unfit, I settled for a few quiet laps of walk-trot and called it a day. I stuffed his face with treats, told him what a good boy he was and put him back on the trailer.





Thursday, January 15, 2015

My 5 Favorite Horse Photos

I was nominated on Facebook to share my 5 Favorite Horse Photos,
So I thought I would share them on my blog as well.

Gantry 2008
This is Gantry, aka Rhumball.
For a short time I was a yearling groom at a very high end
thoroughbred racehorse farm in KY. Rhumball was my favorite
yearling out of the 5 colts I groomed. Rhummy went on to set a Belmont track record, is a graded stakes winner, ran in the 2012 Breeder's Cup Sprint, and has lifetime earnings of $848,331. But he'll always be my goofy baby :)


Boca 2014
This picture is from Boca & I's first schooling show.
I love my smile and his pleasant expression, and his 
mane blowing in the breeze against a bright blue sky.



Lexi 2013

Cantering bareback through the snow!
Enough said!

Boca 2014
Boca's 1st time jumping, at the Halloween Hunter Pace.




Louiseville Luminary 2008
Cuddling with my other favorite colt in KY 2008.
Sure wish I knew where this boy is now. :(


So there you have it!  What are YOUR 5 favorite horse photos?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Halloween Hunter Pace :)

Like most of the rest of the blog-o-sphere, I am currently in hibernation,
waiting for winter to pass. This year I am strangely accepting of the fact
that I am only riding once a week.  I am not fighting it like normal.
Things are unusually kum-ba-ya over here.

Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya

I am embracing flannel jammies, watching tv and cuddling with my dog.
My horse is fat and hairy, I am fat and hairy, and it is all good.
The days are getting longer, we have had no snow to speak of, and
daylight savings is only 7 weeks away. I can hang on.

To keep you all from dying of boredom, I thought I'd recap one of my most fun adventures from this fall - the Halloween Hunter Pace.


I have always wanted to do a hunter pace, since the days when I was a small lesson child. Now that I have my own horse and my own transportation, I get to do exactly what I want, almost 100% of the time. I can't tell you how awesome that is!

Luckily for me, I have a super fun partner-in-crime at the barn that likes to do all the crazy-fun pony adventures that I dig.  Like taking our horses swimming, going hunter-pacing in costume, and riding in a Santa Parade.

This year, when the local Halloween Hunter Pace rolled around, I was so ready.
My friend suggested we go as Superheros, which I thought was a great idea.
The weather for the day of the hunter pace was super nice.  We did the Pick-and-Choose division, as Boca had never jumped (at least not to my knowledge) and I didn't want to limit my friend's fun.

All suited up and ready to go.

Now mind you, my poor horse is in Costume -- WITH A CAPE -- because I am a horrible horse mom and like to torture him.


And, I had never asked him to jump before, but the facilities were so nice and the jumps were so inviting, that I just HAD to try a few!


And so, the first time I jumped my horse was in costume, including a cape.
And he was an absolute ROCKSTAR.

He was willing to jump pretty much anything I pointed him at.
Granted, I didn't ask him to jump more than 18", but he happily jumped
painted crossrails, flowerboxes, and logs on course.

My friend and I had an absolute blast.



We won 4th Place in the Pick & Choose Division.
Optimum time for our division was 1h 35m. We came in 1h 38m
And we won 7th place for our costumes.


Can't wait to do it again this year!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Galgo Espanol


If you read my earlier post, my husband and I did not set out to adopt an exotic breed not native to the USA. We picked out our dog because he was little and we liked his eyepatch. Kids, don't try this at home.

When the adoption coordinator mentioned that Jersey was not a greyhound, but actually
a Galgo Espanol, that didn't register with any special significance to me. 
But the behavior of the dog we brought home did.

Jersey at the kennel, USA

Jersey is my first sighthound, which in and of itself was an education.
Sighthounds are an ancient breed, bred to hunt independently, with little involvement from their owner, other than being turned loose. As such, they typically have less of a drive to please. While affectionate with their people, they are often polite but aloof with strangers. And if not properly socialized, they can become very timid or fearful.

Into our lives came this skinny little dog, full of fear, that had absolutely no idea how to live in a house or be a pet. His behavior was so bizzarre, that I turned to the internet to learn more about what his life may have been like.

Jersey in Spain, dirty and semi-feral.

The modern day situation with the Galgo Espanol is a tragic one.
I liken it to the situation with underground dog fighting in America.
Although banned in most of Europe, in Spain, live hare coursing is still permitted.
Galgos are bred carelessly and used for sport by Galgueros (Galgo Handlers).
Conditions are often squalid. Rescues report that they are often kept in dirty, windowless shacks and fed stale bread and water. Conditioning sessions involve being tied by rope to the backs of cars or ATVs and being made to run up to 10 miles at a time.

Conditioning. Looks fun, no?

The Hunt

Successful Galgo Gets to Live Another Day

In their native country, Galgos are viewed as 'trash dogs' and are considered disposable. At the end of the hunting season, tens of thousands are dumped on the side of busy roadways. In a country the size of Pennsylvania, some estimate that 60,000 are abandoned each year. But often, their fates are much worse. Galgos that do not perform well are often disposed of in more "traditional" methods, such as being shot, hung from trees, thrown down abandoned wells or set on fire.

Many rescues have opened to try and help the situation, and word has been getting out to Europe and the USA to greyhound rescue groups. A very few greyhound non-profits will take in the occasional galgo and place them in homes in the USA. Maybe it was fate. Maybe it was luck. I don't know, but I am damn glad I ended up with this little dog.

When he first came home Jersey was like living with a hairy little alien.
He discovered our bedroom upstairs, and for months (literally months, like 8) he did not come downstairs. We fed him upstairs on the landing outside the door. He would spook violently at the slightest noise -- he would scrape his own toenail on the concrete and shoot sideways. He would not let anyone other than my husband and I touch him. He was especially afraid of men and would backpedal rapidly if one approached him. But with us, he was gentle and sweet. He never barked, and he never played, but he was perfectly housebroken, and loved to go for walks on a leash.

Life as a pet :)

I think what helped was that hubby and I never pushed anything. Hubby had never had a dog before, so didn't really have any expectations. I was the neurotic one that worried over every little thing, but mostly we just laughed at the crazy creature that shared our home. And over time, he got better. He learned that the world was not such a scary place. He learned to have fun, and he trusts us implicitly. Jersey is spoiled beyond belief, and will never want for anything.

Daddy's Boy

Today, rescue groups are getting the word out, both at home and abroad. Relationships are being formed between Galgueros and non-profits, so that more dogs are finding homes after hunting. Education outreach is in place to teach young people in Spain that the treatment of Galgos matters. More happy stories are coming out of the shelters. 
Hope is spreading.

#Snuggle-buddy for Life

SOS GALGOS, the rescue that Jersey came from: http://vimeo.com/30983565