Riding Here, Riding There

I’m riding everywhere with my equestrian teammates at Bethany College this fall. Our collegiate Hunt Seat IHSA team will be competing this Saturday and I feel absolutely excited! This is our second show of the season. My first show went unexpectedly fantastic, and I brought home a yellow third place ribbon to hang in my dorm! Riding at the stables here is vastly different from my pastures at home, but I absolutely love it. I look forward to every lesson with my instructor and pick up additional rides whenever I find time and an available horse.

I miss Madam and Adam dearly, as much as they miss the apples withering out of season and rotting on the trees. Luckily I had the opportunity to return home for the occasion of fall break. Madam and Adam whinnied when they saw me return and eagerly greeted me at the corral gate. I dug out my exercise saddle from the stable (which I also wish I could bring with me to college), tacked up Adam, and went for a ride. My life changed drastically from our county fair days and bringing home a red ribbon in the fair judging class this August. All of these events occur splendidly, however, and I certainly accept the change. I returned to college in a new vehicle so I can drive to the stable for riding and work study whenever needed (and I NEED horses very much!).

One of the drawbacks to my college life is the lack of available hours and energy towards working on this blog. I still complete my assigned papers without any episodes of severe procrastination, but unfortunately I just cannot materialize my thoughts into words when facing a blank ‘New Post’ template. I shall have to make a greater effort to write often, and to write about exciting things.

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I just edited a photo of Adam and I riding over Fall Break. I plan on printing it out and hanging it on my dorm wall.

I just edited a photo of Adam and I riding over Fall Break. I plan on printing it out and hanging it on my dorm wall.

Two Birthdays

How I Spent My Birthday (June 1st):

Today I discovered the thrill of jumping into a blissfully warm swimming pool (but still cooler than the current outside temperature!) fully clothed. My French teacher hosts a picnic at her house at the end of the school year for her upperclassmen French students. I happily attended and spent the early afternoon having fun with my high school friends and discussing our excitement for tomorrow’s graduation ceremony. Unfortunately, I neglected to bring a swimsuit because I did not realize her pool would be open for swimming. The other guests, however, happily solved this problem for me. While dangling my feet into the water from the pool deck, I suddenly found myself falling though the air and hitting the water. I was not upset in the slightest. Who wouldn’t seize the opportunity to swim around for a few seconds…minutes…an hour? It’s a party! To make the occasion even better, today is my birthday! I turn eighteen years old today! (Guess what else? I share a birthday with Marilyn Monroe! Isn’t that neat?) After returning from the party and drying off from the impromptu swim my parents greeted me with a few wrapped boxes. Upon opening them I found a zebra striped tanktop and pajamas, a pair of jeans, a t-shirt that glows in the dark, and a plastic critter tote to keep my guppies in during tank cleaning or transportation. Finally, to finish off my day, Dad drove me over to the stable. I saddled up Adam and galloped around in the field. We sailed over a lot of the new cross-country jumps I stacked up during the past week. I am pleased to report that he tackled the 2’3″ jump behind the stable without any problems. When I find two perfectly sized logs I’ll raise it about two more inches. After clearing that jump, Adam pretty much understands where he is headed. He clears another fence on one side of the upper pasture before continuing up the hill. At the top of the hill sits my two newest jumps, the first eight inches high and a twelve inch one following it. Both fences will be raised to around 2 feet high once I haul enough logs over there to complete them. After completing today’s ride, I am pleased to report that Adam jumps rather well. He appears to understand the task expected of him and put effort into clearing fences.

My birthday was not the only special day celebrated during this week. Adam, as of Mat 30th, turned fourteen years old! Since school ended for seniors on the day before, I only had to attend a graduation practice in the morning. After practice I could spent any amount of time desired at the stable.

How Adam Spent His Birthday (May 30th):

Early in the morning, Adam presumably eats in the pasture. Since this is his most enjoyed activity, he spends as much time as possible consuming grass. When the temperature rises, he returns to the barn and stands in the shade besides Madam. He really does not care to leave. I arrive at the stable and carry my tack outside. Adam watches as I approach him with a lead rope, clip it to his halter, and lead him out of the stable. Before anything else I present him with a large carrot, fresh from our home refrigerator. Happy Birthday! Adam gleefully accepts my gift and it quickly disappears between his lips. I tack Adam up, close the stable door, and prepare to ride. Since there is an optional Senior Picnic held for my graduating class at a nearby park, I decide that Adam and I could take a nice trip along the roads and through the park. After making sure I bring a lead rope along and clip it to his halter/bridle, I lead Adam into the yard from the pasture. I lock the gate behind us, check my girth, and ride onto the road. Adam has not ventured along the road since his last county fair trip. He cautiously observes his surroundings and steadily travels along the familiar route to the park. He passes a barking dog, but this does not agitate him too much. Adam keeps walking, makes another turn, and continues past a farm with its pastures teeming with cows. The cows and Adam briefly exchange gazes from afar. Adam does not care too much. He begins to show annoyance after traveling a few more feet. After hearing noise from a large, loud piece of farm machinery Adam pins his ears and steps backwards. I urge him onward. Adam circles twice, tosses his head, and finally presses forward. He is within visible distance of the next intersection and, to his dispair, the upsetting machine. Adam, fed up with this travel plan, plants his four hooves firmly on the pavement. He refuses to move in any direction. Coaxing with my dressage whip does not entirely work. In the end, I have to dismount and push him around in the opposite direction. Walking him away from the terrible machine still does not fully calm him down. Fearful of getting thrown onto the road, I decide to walk Adam home instead of riding him again. When we return from the disastrous trip, I remount with plans to ride over cross-country jumps instead. Adam, however, desires to protest my decision. While riding in the lower pasture he scoots over to the gate and rubs his shoulder up against it. He looks out towards the road. This behavior is usually his way of expressing “I would really like to see what is out on the road today. Let’s go!” I keep Adam moving forward his attention switches back to the jump before him. He clears this one. By the end of his cross-country workout, sweat drips from nearly his entire body. After walking around the corral to cool down, I untack him. Then I hook up the garden hose to the pump and treat Adam to a bath. Adam, familiar with the hose, stands quietly. The bathing process indicates that today’s ride is over. Now he has the freedom to spend the day’s remainder either standing in the barn or eating. He stares at me with his comical bug eyes while I put all of my tack away, lock up the stable, and walk towards the van to drive home.

The ending to both birthday segments remains the same: jumping in the field! While it may not be Adam’s favorite activity, it sure beats walking past a petrifying farm machine.

Thank you, Adam, for fourteen years of great memories. I know we have many more spectacular stories ahead of us in the future.

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Adam and I race along the art room hallway. At my school, every senior in an advanced art class has the opportunity to paint their own design on the wall. This is my contribution.

Adam learns that an exercise saddle is meant for...exercise.

Adam learns that an exercise saddle is meant for…exercise.

It’s Winding Down

Who else eagerly awaits post time for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes? I know I am! After watching Orb’s Kentucky Derby run I’m anxious to see if horse racing will have another Triple Crown winner this year. I hope for a Triple Crown practically every year from the Kentucky Derby to the Belmont. It would feel amazing fora horse to achieve the Triple Crown during my lifetime.

Although the Preakness is exciting to anticipate, it’s minor news compared to the joyous event rapidly approaching: Graduation! I completed my senior track season (with a best 3200 meter run time of 12:15!), started my wall design in the art hallway, and currently have a tally reminding me precisely the amount of days until summer liberation. Each senior in an advanced art class is alotted a portion of the hallway surrounding the art room for a personal design. I submitted my design requests a few months ago and they were successfully approved. At this moment I will not reveal any further details (although common sense dictates horses’ involvement). Only future pictures will provide release from the anticipation. ūüėČ

While I desperately survive high school’s end, Adam and Madam spend their pleasant days munching on the delicious pasture grass. I had to replace the bottom of Adam’s grazing muzzle since he wore it ragged last year! Although unhappy about the repair, his founder risk is greatly reduced. With afternoons free from track practice and glorious weekend weather, I have plenty of opportunities to drive over to the stable. In the pasture I piled up stacks of logs into jumps resembling a miniature, timber steeplechase course. After riding Sunday evening I can happily report that Adam cleared them much better than last summer. He is physically capable of jumping them when he wants to enough. Somebody shouldn’t be so sour! Adam really did not know what to make of Prom day.

Adam! You cannot eat my pretty flowers!

Adam! You cannot eat my pretty flowers!

Upon my eventual release from this time-slowing school building I will drive over to the stable again. I plan on constructing another log jump in the upper pasture before taking Adam over it too. Then I might raise the height of another log jump by the woods’ edge. He barely knocked it during the last couple rides, and when he did it was mostly from an ‘eh-I-quit-I’m-tired!’ mentality rather than actual incapability of handling the height. When this occurs, Adam occasionally even glances towards Madam. She, chomping away at the grass and steadily regaining the weight lost during wintertime, hardly pays him notice.

I am still sitting in my third class of the school day. Three down, five more to tackle. Well…attend. For the lucky, leaving seniors we mostly have either finals’ review or in-class discussions to complete. I am currently writing a research paper entitled Race-Day Medications in Thoroughbred Racing for AP Language & Composition. Every keystroke contributes, and at the present state I am highly satisfied with it. Then I must craft an accompanying powerpoint and discuss my topic in-class. Yay! The entire class, scheduled first in the morning, is a captive audience for my horsie presentation. To those students, bored and pleading in advance to end the school year already, I apologize in advance for extreme overenthusiasm.

I can barely believe that I have mere days left of high school. At the present time I’m focused on days until the weekend (Preakness Stakes!), days until Memorial Day break, days until final exams’ end, days until graduation. Yet after my senior year officially ends on graduation day, I’ll probably be staring Adam and Madam in the face with a puzzled expression while asking “Where has the time gone?” That question, most certianly, is a complicated topic suited for a later blog entry. For now I’ll just wish my best luck to Orb in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes. I’ll be watching him run on television after returning home from work.

Equine Affaire!

From Saturday morning to Sunday evening I explored the heavenly tack stalls and demo rings of Equine Affaire with my best friend and her mother. Picture every little horse-obsessed girl crowded into the same expo area. Entire buildings were filled wall to wall with booths selling any equine necessity (or want) imaginable. I saw two stalls offering jewelry customized with hair from the purchaser’s own horse. Many more sold show clothes. I saw a Western Pleasure top priced at $5,000 with the rest wavering around the $2,000 to $500 range. Thankfully I brought enough money with me to spend on my dream shopping excursion! However, I should also be thankful that I left my savings account intact. If not, I might have felt tempted to return with this majestic piece of art:

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Outside a merchant sold aluminum horse sculptures.

The lady working this booth let me try a Western sidesaddle.

The lady working this booth let me try a Western sidesaddle.

Along with the maze of tack shops, Equine Affaire gave me an opportunity to attend demos and seminars. I heard a veterinarian speak about alternative treatments for laminitis such as acupuncture. A trainer’s seminar specifically dealt with cuing a perfect lead change. Another featured horses navigating trail obstacles and how to improve their trail performance. By the end of the last seminar I could not wait to try my plethora of new knowledge on Adam! I just wish Equine Affaire had a seminar on training horses who bite.

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This Thoroughbred is an example of astoundingly artistic grooming skills.

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There’s a different scene on the other side.

Examples of different horse breeds were on exhibit. I saw enormous, regal Fresians and had the opportunity to pet one on its soft nose! Then I snapped a picture of its contrast: a baby miniature horse.

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Baby Miniature Horse

This trail demo gave me valuable training advice.

A trail horse navigates through an 'L' during this demo.

A trail horse navigates through an ‘L’ during this demo.

In my room I laid out my full collection of treasures. The shiny metal object inside the blue jewelry box is a silver stock pin. Dark blue halter fleecies are inside the plastic wrapper to the left of my brown paddock boots.

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The stockpiled treasures

I could add an infinite¬†amount of exciting details to this post. Unfortunately, if I could type¬†everything, my readers would not see another blog update for a month. I can note that on Saturday evening I attended¬†Fantasia, a performance featuring extraordinary dressage, reining, drill team, and trick riding horses. I saw Icelandics prance around a pitch-black arena with dancing sparkles affixed to their legs. A Cossack trick rider hung from the saddle as if being dragged, then flipped himself back onto the horse again! Another slid underneath his horse’s stomach and back up the other side! To dressage horses and riders dressed in African savannah themed attire performed a freestyle to Lion King songs.¬†Fantasia reminded me of the incredible feats possible with practice and a superbly trained horse. I smiled before the trick riders’ act when the announcer stressed “Do NOT try this at home!”

The excitement continues. I cannot wait to test out my new saddle pad and girth on Adam. The double bridle will hang on my wall of tack for a lengthy amount of time before I consider bringing it anywhere near him. Equine Affaire, my highest anticipated event of the spring, concluded. Now I’m just spending my days until graduation working, riding, and running for track.

Four Days Away

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are the four days this week which must pass quickly. Early morning on Saturday (6 A.M. to be precise but I don’t mind waking up early!) I will be traveling with my best friend and her mother to Equine Affaire in Ohio! For anyone unfamiliar with Equine Affaire, it basically equals a Comic-Con type convention for horse lovers. There I will watch incredible performances such as Fantasia, which feature horses doing all sorts of astounding feats. Of course there will also be breed exhibits, demonstrations, and…a vast array of vendors for all of our tack shopping desires! I wonder if there will be anyone there selling racing tack. A new saddle pad for my exercise saddle would be great! Also on my list of crucial purchases are paddock boots and additional show clothes for college. No matter what booths we’ll be peeking around, however, I guarantee that I will return home with an exciting souvenir.

I feel absolutely thrilled knowing that the event is this weekend! When we return from the horsie adventure I will be sure to upload intriguing photos and write about my experience.

Overweight Horses – A Serious Problem

This is an interesting article on overweight horses. I can vouch that grazing muzzles work well. It kept Adam at a manageable weight for over two years now!

Tack n' Talk

It’s that time of year again, daylight savings, taxes and yes, fresh, spring grass pastures.  More importantly, it’s time to deal with the problem of the overweight horse.  In a 2011 study at the University of Nottingham, England, it was discovered that nearly 54 percent of the horses examined were overweight!  This study showed that these horses were maintained on grass and hay, showing that grain or concentrates are not needed to produce an overfed horse and that pasture grass intake must be carefully regulated to manage body weight.

fat-horse

There is nothing wrong with pasture grass for horses.  Horses are just so good at grazing and today’s grasses contain such large amounts of carbohydrates, problems can occur.  The typical grazing horse spends roughly 70 percent of his time in grazing activity.  As an example, 17 out of every 24 hours is in grazing.  The remaining 30 percent is devoted to sleep, play…

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OH SNAP!

Saturday evening I eagerly arrived at the stable with a digital camera in my hand. I set it on a fence post and angled it out towards the pasture where I planned to ride Adam. I figured I could catch a great riding video and take photographs from it to post on this blog. Specifically, I hoped to include pictures of my snazzy exercise saddle in action. Adam and I breezed along the pasture stretch in both directions. Approximately five to ten minutes later I dismounted to end the video clip. Instead of finding a recording in session, a block of text stating ‘Storage Full’ greeted me. I scrolled through the saved files and found Christmas photos and my senior pictures taken over THE SUMMER. Sigh… I had a deleting spree to look forward to upon returning home. In the end I took about forty seconds of useless footage before the camera quit.

I turned the camera off, set it aside, and did not give it another thought. I untacked the exercise saddle, deciding to use my all-purpose English saddle and go over a few jumps. Again, Adam and I returned out to the pasture. When I gathered the reins and crop in my hands and nearly placed my foot in the stirrup, Adam swung his head around in attempt to bite me. Instead of chomping down on my arm his nose poked into my crop. He pinned his ears, backed away, and¬†fidgeted¬†for at least thirty seconds until I could mount. I checked his tack and could not find any plausible evidence of it causing him pain. Attributing the incident to Adam’s usual behavior, I continued riding. He rode fine, even clearing a few of the jumps set up in the lower pasture. Then, when taking a jump, Adam knocked the top rail to the ground. We kept cantering to the upper pasture and then turned around by the trees. I rode Adam back to the jump, dismounted, and replaced the rail as usually done. Then, while mounting again, Adam tried the same trick from earlier. He turned to bite me and I prepared to retaliate. However, this time he managed to bite my sweatshirt and right forearm. He did not let go so I shouted “QUIT!” and attempted to pry his teeth from my arm. This must have spooked him because he released my arm and bolted off. He tore along the corral to the upper pasture and bucked once. This was enough to fling the reins over his head. Adam kept galloping. Nearly five strides later a front hoof stepped on the reins, snapping the bridle apart in three places. Immediately I saw the cheekpieces and everything below slide off of Adam’s face and hit the ground. Adam, with a facial expression as shocked as mine, ran some more before stopping to munch on some grass. The browband and connecting throatlatch were the only pieces of tack left on Adam’s head.

The black bridle I looked forward to using in a show this year is now severed on both sides between the cheekpieces and headstall. The end of one rein buckling to the other tore too but with a leather punch it was easily fixed. I merely added another hole and trimmed off the torn end. That was actually a double bridle and came with a set of curb reins (which I never planned on using until a show). I never used it as such yet, so the second set of cheekpieces were removed. They still hang in the stable’s tack area with the padded dressage noseband (not used for that ride, thankfully) and a flash noseband attachment (which I also rarely used, if ever). The crucial part of the bridle, however, is severed. I do not have any plans to repair it, for I do not want to risk overlooking any weak spots and having it break again.

Thankfully Adam did not injure his mouth or trip over the trailing reins. That, at least, I can be grateful for. I’m also very lucky that I survived the experience with merely a bruise on my arm.

Dad caught Adam first. I grabbed another bridle, the halter/bridle combination with a pelham bit, from the stable and bridled Adam again. I rode for the remainder of the evening. Adam did not try to pull any additional terrifying stunts. He obeyed every cue with utmost precision and even cleared a jump beautifully. Not even a nibble bothered me while I led him back into the corral for untacking. I wondered whether Adam was satisfied with the disaster caused yesterday or if the ordeal taught him a lesson.

This past evening I seriously pondered the second possibility. Adam did not bite again. I can only guess how long he will refrain from this signature vice. For now I’m just glad I could end the weekend with a positive ride.