Miscellaneous Shenanigans

The Anonymous Foxhunter

I have good news but that will have to wait for a later post…in the meantime, I’ve been writing a lot and riding consistently(ish). Gotta prep for my D rating in Horsemasters Pony Club! In short, all of my rides could be described as: 1) transitions and 2) STOP PINCHING AT THE KNEE GODDAMMIT! Not terribly interesting to write about.

But what IS interesting (and hilarious) is my new favorite Youtuber, the Anonymous Foxhunter. And as spring begins, it’s the perfect time to take her advice to heart and start that long, slow distance work on the trails…

In other news, I am super pumped for our hunt ball this spring. I will be wearing this black dress because I already own it, and thus it is already paid for. Byron, on the other hand, will be testing out his brand-new wedding tux.

Not Byron in the photo, to avoid confusion—that’s my little brother and me

My hair is about twice as long as in this picture now though, so I will be doing my own updo and reliving my Homecoming and Prom days when I would have a bunch of my friends over and do their hair for them!

My Life, Uncategorized

Wedding Schmedding

After a year and a half of being engaged, the big day is approaching in May and I feel much less curmudgeonly about it than I did at this time last year. I was so overwhelmed by all the ridiculous nonsense you have to decide as a bride-to-be. Here are a few examples of actual exchanges I have had with various people involved.

Florist: So what are your colors for the wedding, hon?
Me: Um…I don’t know, like…wedding colors?
(I found a different florist who understood what I meant by that)

The one I went with has a really cool shop

Me (to invitation printer on Etsy): …simple, clean and elegant would be best–not too many curlicues or flourishes, and not too much mixing of different fonts to “look” vintage. It would also be great to throw in a little quirkiness without going over-the-top. For example, I LOVE the RSVP card you have listed at the link below with the choice of titles from Mrs. to Marchioness. Even a nod to the fact that it’s a library wedding could be fun (like a due date RSVP card or call card) but I’m not set on that idea 100% since I can see where it could get a little cheesy.
(So–elegant, but not too elegant. Quirky, but not cheesy. Please, read my mind.)

Byron ended up designing it and I filled in the text

DJ: So…hypothetically, let’s say the moment for the Electric Slide presents itself.
(I just find that funny to think about)

Me: So between all the pattern and colors for the tablecloths, I have literally a million options?
Caterer: Yes, you can customize it to your colors exactly!
Me: Ok. Mom, pick a color.
(she chose slate gray–thumbs up from me)

Byron: Can we put a new washer/dryer on the wedding registry?
Me: No.
Byron: How about a TV stand?
Me: No.
Byron: How about adding to your horse fund?
Me: It’s NOT POLITE Byron!

After much grumbling I agreed to a “bridle” shower/steeplechase tailgate party–though I stipulated no gifts and NO PENIS HATS

I suppose this is why wedding planning exists as a career–it’s maddening if you’re not the Barbie Dream Wedding type! I am glad that I gave myself a lot of time to sort it all out…

Riding Adventures

A sneak peek of spring

Today was one of those freak pleasant days in the middle of winter that make you remember spring isn’t all that far away, so I seized the chance to ride. The ring was slushy, and I  nearly lost a boot in the mud trying to catch a lesson horse who did NOT want to be caught, but who cares? Beats work any day.

Per my instructor’s hint that a stronger core would lead to easier downward transitions, I’ve been doing some daily ‘homework’ with a crazy gymnastics video I found online (as well as my usual nightly Yogamazing). It’s been kicking my butt! Good thing is it did pay off with the transitions.

Lesson rundown:

  • Warmup: Lots of changes of direction and transitions between walk-trot
  • 5 steps sitting trot, 5 steps rising while adding some 20m circles
  • 20 strides trot to 20 strides canter a few times
  • 5 steps sitting trot, 5 steps rising, 5 steps in two-point while doing serpentines and figure 8s
  • Cooldown: transitions from walk-halt-walk, then long rein walk

Prior to riding with this instructor I didn’t really do exercises like the 5 steps sitting, 5 steps posting, etc. but it REALLY has helped a lot with the downward transitions, which have always been challenging for me when riding sensitive horses. On the Shire I leased briefly, downward transitions were pretty darn easy…not so much with the Thoroughbred, who would run through my hand and plod around on the forehand if I didn’t ask just right. With the TB, I usually just let the reins run through my hand a little bit so he had nothing to lean on, which did stop him, but didn’t really help with the leaning on the forehand.

Now I know how to keep my hands “in a box” in front of the saddle, sit tall, stretch down in the heel, and close my leg (thigh, knee and calf) briefly to get a nice, balanced transition. Before I didn’t get that it was OK to use the whole leg.

We also worked on proper bend, which is another one of those seemingly basic things that has eluded me for years. Amazing how sitting on the OUTSIDE seat bone allows the horse’s INSIDE hind leg to come under. It makes total sense and it works like a charm. My dear instructor earned her lesson fee today.

Once all the Pony Club kids, moms and siblings rolled in after my lesson, I also had to coax a small child down from trying to scale the 8-foot fence into the round pen. He was just about over the edge when I saw him. It’s a miracle these things always seem to sort themselves out just in time with a barn full of horse-crazy kids…never a dull moment.

Riding Adventures

PONY CLUB PONY CLUB

No hunting updates for a while, unfortunately, since I used up all 6 of my caps (though I did go car following). My latest riding adventure actually didn’t involve riding at all–I attended my first Pony Club Quiz (horse knowledge) meeting and potluck dinner.

I’ve been super excited to join Horsemasters, which is Pony Club’s adult education/volunteer recruitment arm, since my instructor told me about it a few months ago. I feel like I say this every couple months on my blog, but I know there are holes in my riding and horse management knowledge. In the past I’ve tried dressage to get at the riding issues, and though I enjoy learning dressage, focusing on it exclusively makes my type-A, overachiever, obsessive head explode with all the ways I’m terrible at it. Hence this year’s approach–going back to basics and getting the riding education I wished I knew about as a kid through Pony Club.

Flickr: Five Furlongs/CC

I brought juice for kids and wine (Mommy’s juice) for parents because I figured that would be a fast way to make friends. Wined and dined for a little bit with the parents, and then I took my place in a circle with the D (lowest level) Pony Clubbers. Yep, criss-cross apple sauce with three kids and an older Pony Clubber about my age to teach us (okay, yes, she was slightly younger than me too, age 20).

At first I felt a little ridiculous. I had brought my wine glass over because I thought there would be other adults but as it turned out, the other Horsemasters adults were not at this particular meeting. I slid my glass over on the side table, and got on with the day’s topics of discussion: tack, turnout and horse sports.

If there is one thing I really enjoyed about school it was being a total teacher’s pet. I was always the first one with my hand up, a regular at professors’ office hours, and the only one who refused to speak English in foreign language classes. (Teacher’s pet, total suck up…you say tomAYto, I say tomAHto). I soon found myself in my element as we went round-robin around the circle, naming obscure bits of tack and aspects of horse and rider turnout. Once we moved on to horse sports (foxhunting in particular) I totally schooled those eight-year-olds.

I mean, I shared my knowledge with the next generation. And I learned some new things from them too–for example, did you know that Pony Club is adding hunter/jumper and Western as disciplines to specialize in? One of the young girls in the circle scoffed at this development, saying that “Reining puts wear and tear on horses’ legs” and that she “hates hunter/jumpers.” The instructor gently set her on a less sassy track but I really had to keep myself from laughing…I agree with you, girl! (Not that all hunter/jumpers are awful, but if I had done Pony Club instead of hunter/jumpers as a kid I would be a way better rider!)

This will be me at a rally one day!
Flickr: Dominion Valley Pony Club/CC

Anyway, I ended up having fun. It felt like being at summer camp. I just have to remind myself–A) I look younger than 24, so I don’t LOOK totally out of place even though I may feel that way, and B) there’s nothing wrong with sitting criss-cross apple sauce with a bunch of elementary and middle school kids, especially if we all end up becoming Prelim-level event riders!

Rants

5 things I don’t get about equestrian blogland

So, confession: I started this blog when I was feeling kind of stuck with my old blog and disenchanted with the equestrian blogosphere in general. I was tired of the contests and blog hops and the endless pontificating about saddles fitting or not fitting (I get it; it’s frustrating, but also terribly uninteresting to anyone but you and your horse). I decided I was going to leave all the nonsense parts of blogging behind and just blog FOR ME. No blog hops, no “X Things That ____” type articles, no validation needed from anyone. I am a blogger, hear me roar kind of thing.

But I miss the pageviews, okay??

 I know that in the grand scheme of things, my old blog’s pageviews and comment count were pretty insignificant. But once you’ve experienced the “They like me, they really like me!” high of comments, or randomly woken up to one of your articles on the front page of Reddit, all you want is another hit (or 1000) to make you feel like all the hours of trivia and navel-gazing are worthwhile.

Click to enbiggen

So today I’m going to revert back to my comfortable old “X Things That ____” style. And in the spirit of cantankerousness, my theme is various things that drive me nuts about the equestrian blogosphere.

And before you jump down my throat (all one of you out there) I completely recognize I am part of the problem. But it’s my blog so I’m allowed to complain. So there!

Trends du jour

Have you ever noticed how one person buys XYZ…and then suddenly EVERYONE is buying XYZ? (coughOGILVYcough) Oh the commercialism! Stop! You do not need one more saddle pad!

Following trends does not a rider make
Flickr: carterse/ CC

Mango Bay belts

And while I’m on the subject of trends, there is one that I find infuriating enough to merit its own section.

Mango Bay Design

They’re just belts, for crying out loud. Sure, they have horsey patterns, but otherwise they look like what came free with the khakis from Kohl’s my mother bought me in middle school.  Why is seemingly every equestrian blogger obsessed with them? I have no idea.

How in the world can you afford ____?!

Custom saddles, custom boots, training rides, show after show after show–first of all, why? And second of all, how? I know that there are reasonable answers to these questions but my initial reaction when I hear of extravagant expenses like these is always WTF?!

That’s not to say I am immune from boot envy.
NY Social Diary

The pressure to comment just to comment all the freaking time.

A few times I have seen bloggers mention something like, “Oh, so sorry I haven’t been keeping up with commenting but I have been reading everyone’s blogs.” Seriously? Do people have a list of blogs they read and feel like they must comment on every single post? I guess it’s fair if you want people to comment in return, but doesn’t it make life so boring if all the comments are nonsense placeholders like, “Your horse is so cute” or “Loved this”?

It also peeves me (a lot of things peeve me, you’ve probably intuited) when I see bloggers who respond individually to every single comment. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Stop making the rest of us (me) look bad.

Trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result

I’m totally guilty of this (though I didn’t really write about my struggles because I’m a big old weenie), but it’s so obvious when you’re looking in from the outside, and you read about a rider being unbearably nervous every single ride, or a horse being consistently mediocre (or sometimes, spectacularly terrible) at shows or other outings.  

Why are you torturing yourself with this horse/this discipline/etc.? I just want to comment. But I don’t. Instead I just grab the popcorn and await the trainwreck. And I bet most blog readers/writers would be lying if they said they haven’t ever enjoyed a little schadenfreude themselves!

Well, now that I’ve insulted and alienated anyone who is reading…what bugs you the most about the equestrian blogosphere?

EDIT: One more pet peeve, after a friend reminded me of it. Moving up from 2’6″ to 2’9″, or 3’3″ from 3′ is not as big a deal as people think it is!! If your horse can stand over the jump, he can probably jump it from a trot. It’s generally the person who makes a big deal about moving up in height, not the horse.

Ahhh. It feels so good to let it all out there. Especially when I have so few readers to blow up at me.

Hunt Report

Opening Hunt

From my last bout of posting you may be wondering about how Opening Hunt actually went!

Well here is my writeup for Horse Nation. And here it is republished in Foxhunting Life.  (that was an honor!)

I didn’t mention it in the story, but it’s a miracle I actually made it to Opening Hunt at all. It was an insane couple of days because on that Thursday, I got a piece of sawdust stuck in my eye at the barn and couldn’t get it out. Being an eager young journalist incredibly stupid, I decided to go to Washington International Horse Show in DC that night to interview the pony steeplechasers anyway. My eye was so swollen I looked like Quasimodo and when I was getting my press pass, immediately the security people asked me if I was ok and if I wanted to go to the first aid station. So I did that; it didn’t help. I interviewed the kids and their parents anyway and they were polite enough not to run away screaming. It was all I could do to stay long enough to watch them actually race–my eye hurt so badly that my head was pounding and my stomach was starting to turn. Somehow I managed to get the photos I wanted despite not being able to really see what I was photographing.

Unloading showjumpers on the streets of DC

Totally normal…

My favorite shot of the night…the next generation!

Go ponies go!

I was in such pain I didn’t sleep and I went straight to the opthamologist in the morning. He flipped my eyelid inside out, and removed the tiniest speck of sawdust–the size of the point on a pin. I couldn’t believe something that tiny was making me so miserable. But hey–I could see again, so I got some rest and then went to the barn that night to get Seven Up bathed and braided. It took way longer than I thought because he wouldn’t stand still for me, and I was at the barn till 9:30 pm. I was so frustrated with Seven and so focused on getting the job done that I completely forgot to call Byron and let him know I was coming home late. When I did get home, he was so worried and on the verge of calling the police…he thought I had been in an accident, or maybe that something bad happened at the barn, but he had no idea how to find me since my phone was dead and I was at a barn he hadn’t been to before.

Note the blurry cross ties. HE WOULD NOT STOP FIDGETING.

Did I mention that the next day (Opening Hunt) fell on my 4th anniversary with Byron? Oh man. What with the medical emergencies, foolhardy journalism and missing person case, I put that poor man through the wringer that week. He was going to come take photos as an anniversary gift but I excused him given the circumstances.

And that’s the FULL story of my first Opening Hunt.

P.S. — The braids were acceptable, but not as nice as I was hoping. Apparently this is because I pulled his mane with one of those blade things as opposed to a thinning comb. Oh how I hate pulling mane on a horse who won’t stand still!!! It took me three or four hours just to get the braids in since he was weaving so much. On the bright side…someone did say I had a “nice tail.” (I think he meant my horse.)

Kinda crooked but good enough for my first time ever braiding.

Miscellaneous Shenanigans

Guess who won horsey Christmas?

I hit the Christmas jackpot thanks to my fiance, a riding buddy who dropped a hint as to what would be the perfect gift, Horse Nation, and my family, who never fail to disappoint with weird horse doodads they find in New Hampshire.

Absolutely beautiful vintage sandwich case.

Byron gave me an absolutely wonderful sandwich case with a thick glass flask and sterling silver box inside. I love it!!!  (Even if he does call it a “foxhunting lunch box.”) He also gave me a “foxy” stock pin with tiny ruby eyes. He wins Christmas this year.

I got to test out both on my last hunt of the season. Probably for the best that I have to wait to use it again, because I need to have the dry, cracked leather straps on the sandwich case replaced.

And what Christmas would be complete without a completely weird gift from my non-horsey mom and stepdad? Look closely, because the Christmas mare and foal appear to be swaybacked and wormy.

Also got some cool horsey gifts from my Horse Nation Secret Santa:

This year was also the first that I succumbed to horsey decorations on the tree. Why fight it and try to seem like a normal person? The bits hanging on the wall right when you enter my house kind of reveal the fact that an insane horse person lives here. I gave my fiance an ornament that looks like him riding his favorite lesson horse, and I just put a bunch of bits and things on there just because it’s better than letting them sit in boxes.  The shoe in the middle belonged to my horse in high school.

Merry belated Christmas everyone! What did Santa bring you?

Riding Adventures

I have been hunting, I swear!

So…total fail on blogging after every hunt. I’m going to cut myself a little slack though, because at points this fall I was working two jobs and studying for my Series 7 broker exam…so riding in my free time took precedence over writing in my free time.

Now I have used up all six caps I purchased in addition to five or so free cubbing days, and I am most likely done hunting for the season unless I get special permission to ride as a guest. (A possibility, but not guaranteed.) Last January I would have been absolutely thrilled at the prospect of hunting once, twice, or MAYBE three times in 2014, so I am really pleased with how the year turned out.

I learned many new and important things. For example: safe galloping position, the beginnings of an auto jumping release, and the fact that tying a stock is actually not that difficult. Other, less conventional lessons learned: the necessity of making sure your girth is REALLY tight before moving off, mounting an ADD horse from the ground (learned that one in tandem with the girth thing), and how to WALK through ditches as opposed to leaping through them (OK, I only succeed about 50% of the time on that one).

Proof that foxhunting=sunshine and rainbows

Now that it is cold and I’m focusing more on lessons in the arena, I have also learned that foxhunting is TERRIBLE for your overall riding! I find myself leaning forward and tightening my hips, resulting in lots of unintentionally fast trips around the arena on horses who think I am telling them to run like Smarty Jones. Oh, and did I mention my neuroses about riding unfamiliar horses, my fear of being run away with, or my “first-jump-phobia” which has led to countless refusals, runouts, and bunny jumps? Good thing I am working with a saintly and tough instructor who will help me channel my inner Lillie Keenan.

Opening Hunt: Possibly the worst jumping I have ever seen myself do (Photo: Robert Keller)

In addition to hunting adventures, 2014 was extra special because my fiance caught the riding bug. Over the summer he took weekly lessons and got really good at walking, posting the trot, steering, and even went on a few walking trail rides,  but once he was starting to canter he had a bunch of work things that made it hard to schedule regular lessons. Now I think we are back on track and we just had our first group lesson together. I love seeing how happy he is in his lessons, though it’s slightly infuriating how naturally riding comes to him!  I think part of it, though, is that unlike when I was learning to ride, I now know what kind of instructor to send him to so he will learn correctly the first time around, and not let bad habits become ingrained (like me!).

2015 promises to be another fun year with riding. Since I’ve found it is totally doable to hunt without your own horse, I am saving up to join the hunt as a full member. I’m also planning on joining my local Horsemasters chapter (Pony Club for adults). I never got to do Pony Club as a kid, and as I’ve alluded, there are many strange gaps in my riding education that I would like to fill in. (For example, I have no fear jumping a coop out hunting yet I have only the faintest idea of how to get a horse to come round on the bit.) I have also resolved (officially!) to volunteer more, and I’ve already made concrete plans to do so.

Hooray for another year of riding…may this one bring bigger jumps, longer gallops, and fewer concussions than the last!

Miscellaneous Shenanigans, Riding Adventures

The Bane of Manes

So Opening Hunt is next weekend and I am SOOOO EXCITED!

I have lined up a horse to borrow as well as transportation. I’ve ridden this saintly horse several times before, including a lesson where I learned some ways to improve my galloping position, and how to ask for a flying lead change (something I have always wanted to learn but never really needed to considering I never showed much), so I feel confident about using him. I have my melton, canary vest, stock tie, and magical hairnet, so I feel confident about how I’ll look. I also FINALLY resigned myself to the fact that my favorite watch is gone forever, and got a cheapo replacement so I won’t be late like the last two times I’ve hunted (only one of which I wrote about…oops).

The one thing I am NOT so confident about is braiding manes. I’ve watched a lot of videos so I understand the basic idea, but I’ve never actually done it.

I French braid my own hair nearly every day though, and I’ve got a week to practice…so here’s hoping Seven will look like this:

COTH

And not like that one person who shows up at a schooling show feeling really proud for braiding…until the braid ends up sticking up in all directions, falling out, and frizzing up to such a degree it would have been better not to try in the first place.

The day of Opening also marks my fourth year together with Byron and my last anniversary as an unmarried lady. Byron gave me his blessing to go hunting in the morning before we celebrate (not like he had much choice in the matter). Is it wrong that I’m not sure which I am looking forward to more–exploring local wineries in the afternoon, or outriding and outlasting all of the noobs who retire after an hour? Granted, I’ll be on a horse that could hunt in his sleep…but still!

This week I’m also riding (not hunting) a horse a local instructor wants to get back into work and sell. He’s a much different ride than the guest/husband horses I have been riding lately…he’s a chestnut 8 y/o Warmblood cross who is a very forward show hunter type. He’s only around 15hh but there is so much movement in that ground-covering daisy-cutter trot!

It’s funny, but in the ring when they get quick, I get nervous and tense. Yet out in the hunt field when everyone else is doing it,  it’s exhilarating. So, provided that he doesn’t do anything too naughty, I think this will be good for my confidence.

Hunt Report, Uncategorized

Conquering the Ditch of Death at B’s

Today I rode L’s horse Blue (more on him at a future date–it’s an amazing story I plan to write and submit around). It was an exciting day for me since it was the first time I got to wear all of my secondhand/homemade informal season finery! I scored a used Grand Prix jacket for $50 (ended up being a total of $80 since I had to have the sleeves lengthened), used Tailored Sportsmans for $30 ($50 with alterations), a used white ratcatcher shirt for $10 and I made my own stock tie (materials: $7). Of course I forgot to ask someone to take a picture of me though.

Hounds were moving off at 8, so I woke up at 5, spent 30 minutes fiddling with my stock tie, and arrived at the barn to get my horse ready at 6. Turns out that with a non-gray horse and tack already clean, you need next to no time to get presentable, so I put Blue in a stall and tried to make myself useful (the operating word being “tried”).

I picked out stalls (successfully) but in the dark, I spilled about a third of the wheelbarrow’s contents off the side of the manure spreader.
Blue pooped in his stall and rolled in it.
The owner of the barn spilled water from the trailer’s tank ALL over her breeches.
We nearly took down B’s fence trying to get through the gate to park the trailer.
And on top of that, it looked like it might rain.

Needless to say, we were late. Thank God I have one of those easy Real Women Ride hairnets because if I had to figure out hunter hair, we never would have gotten there. (Good thing foxhunters don’t care about your hairstyle anyway.)

There were a couple of other stragglers who knew the direction they most likely went, so we hacked on the road and caught up with the group soon enough. We ran this way; we ran that way, then doubled back and did it again. Good thing was the skies were clearing–bad thing was that it was starting to get hot in my layers! Oh well, better to be hot and look proper.

Soon the pace settled down to that stop-and-go that happens when nothing is really going on except some horses walking slower than others and having to trot to catch up, which makes everyone behind them trot to catch up. A breeze started picking up…it really turned out to be the perfect fall day.

Except for the Ditch of Death.

Up to this point, we had crossed a couple streams with no major incident. Blue is really good about being careful where he steps and can actually listen when he’s revved up from other horses in front of him. But this ditch was at least a 45 degree grade, about 20 feet down and a larger hill up, and horses were trotting and cantering on the other side. Even though it wasn’t my turn to go just yet, I knew Blue was going to catch up whether I was with him or not.

I looked down the ditch. I looked up the ditch. I heard my internal riding instructor yell, “DON’T LOOK DOWN, OR THAT’S WHERE YOU’RE GOING,” in my mind. So I looked where I wanted to go–across the ditch–grabbed my “oh s***” strap, and I think I might have closed my eyes.

I’m not exactly sure what happened in between, but I found myself and Blue–still attached!–but stuck in a bramble on the other side. I kicked him on, accidentally cut off the woman hosting our hunt breakfast later–oops–apologized, elated–We made it! Good boy Blue!

Apart from that, the rest is kind of a blur. A couple hounds got stuck in someone’s field fenced with hot wire so we had to stop and open the gate. I held the gate-opener’s horse for her. Hounds nearly came right up on a fox but didn’t get it–that was a lot of noise but not much running. We rode past a scenic outcropping of rocks where I had seen a picture of a fox gone to ground during cubbing. Mostly, Blue treated the whole thing like a bore, napping on the reins at checks and trying to put his head up his pasture-mate’s butt  when he walked in front of us.

We hunted about two hours total, then headed back to wash horses (love trailers with a water tank!) and load them up to go to I’s place.

With every turn in the driveway revealing another amazing part of the property–a pond with a fountain, literal amber waves of grain, an impeccable ring, a BARN WITH CHANDELIERS IN IT–I became more and more convinced that I needed to figure out a plot to get these people to adopt me somehow.

The food (quiches, bacon, sausage, hash browns, etc. prepared by the host’s personal chef and housekeeper…oh, what a life!) was simple but it hit the spot. ESPECIALLY the macaroons for dessert. Chatted some, saw photos of one of the Master’s steeplechase horses, showed off my engagement shoot pictures on my phone and generally had a great time.

One of my engagement shoot photos

Sorry if this post is rambly and has no structure. I just want to get the details down before I forget.
I am SO LUCKY to be able to do this at such little expense!!!