Friday, June 25, 2010

The Tale of Two B's

Remember how I was rejoicing in the sanity and maturity of my youngster? What's that saying...famous last words? Yup, that about sums it up. Lately (yes the last forever that I haven't posted) my boy has been going through what I call his adolescent rebellious stage. Hang on to your britches kids cause you're in for a ride...

This unattractive phase began with a turn and bolt in the ring one pleasant afternoon while cantering. Being the naive and trusting mother that I am, once stopped, three strides later and in the middle of ring, I immediately thought, OMG there must be a grizzly bear in that bush. Though I've never seen a grizzly bear in a residential area in Northern Virigina, OK or ever, I knew that my little pumpkin would never try to duck and run without a legitimate reason. Not my horse; he's perfect. As we stood there, my body still straightening out from the 90 mile an hour whirl, I studied the surrounding. There was no growling, no rustling, not even a snicker from the surrounding squirrels. Then I looked at B's eye. This was a new look. A mischievous look. Right there it began: I was the mother of a teenager. Ahhhhhh!

After preparing for an increase in my grocery bill and demanding he not sleep til noon, I worked him like usual. Everything chugged along fine until around a week later when we had a discussion over standing without crossties while having his tail trimmed. Never an issue in the past, my little Ferris Bueller decided it was his day off. With a zip of the clippers, his head turned a quarter of inch to gauge my distance to his lead rope and he was off down the aisle. My only saving grace was that he is 12 feet long and 2000 pounds, not exactly a speed machine. With my pink pumas I dove at the rope and stopped him in his tracks. Well, not really. I was wearing pink pumas but it was more of a flailing like a caged animal in a desperate attempt not to have to rally race my horse down the driveway. Regardless, it worked. Two times later–teenager–we finally sorted the tantrum out and he stood quietly. For the first time ever, and I mean EVER I even had to slap him on the chest, at which point he jumped and looked around like a giant bee had stung him. If any of you watch south park this was B's Cartman moment...whatever, I'll do what I want.... Ugh.

All of this tom foolery was leading up to our defining who's going to be the pack leader moment. Once again, around a week later, I headed out to the barn on a Sunday morning for a quick ride before spending the day with my parents who were visiting from Canada. Thank the baby jesus I did not invite them. They are both horse people, as I grew up on a farm, but I think even they would have reached their limit with this episode. It was a slightly chilly morning compared to the previous few days and I noticed he was drying from the light rain during the night's turnout. The moment I put him on the cross ties I knew I was in trouble. His eyes were as wide as saucers and every move I made caused him to twitch somewhere. As any of you who have been following my adventures know, B is cold backed...some days more than others. Today was one of those days. Normally I can get the girth up to the fourth hole while ease while on the cross ties. This day I could barely get it to the first. Oy. As I walked him into the closed up arena I put on Norah Jones in hopes that it would have the same effect on B and it does myself...sleepy time. When you're riding a giant, selectively sensitive youngster sometimes survival involves grabbing at straws. I took my time walking him and slowly did up the girth but I knew this was probably not going to be good...and it wasn't.

Per usual, I mounted up at the block and even gave him two mints as he stood, which we had previously agreed meant that he would play nice. Within one stride he broke that contract rodeo bronco style. As you guys know I've ridden this multiple times so I'm familiar with the routine. My train of thought within the first 10 seconds is always do I bail or not? As he bounded up and down I looked for a soft place to land. Yep, dumped. I rolled onto my thigh and butt and scrambled up to ensure my safety. After leaning on the front of my thighs for a minute I walked over to grab B as he stood at the other end of the arena staring. I'm not going to lie, I was pretty mad and he sensed it. As I pulled him forward he said, hell to the no and took off crow hopping again. Here in lies one of the hardest things for a rider in my opinion: keeping your emotions at bay to ultimately get your point across to the horse. He stopped a few moments later and I swallowed my anger and said, "It's alright, come here, you'll be fine." Really, I wanted to kick him in the teeth. True, I'd have to be a rock star ninja even to attempt this, but I think with the adrenalin pumping through my veins if there was ever a time that was possible this would be it. I did the ceremonial thing and grabbed the longe line. As B went around in circles I watched the mischievous eye that first reared it's ugly head a couple weeks earlier. Though I longed him w/t/c for a while I could tell it wasn't doing anything. I knew I could longe him for ten days straight and it wouldn't matter it. The only way to resolve this was under saddle. When I got back on him he was going to do it again and this time with more determination.

With this in mind I brought him back to the mounting bloack, tied up the longe line and got ready for battle. This was it. It was either he or I. As I put my foot in the stirrup I readied myself for a defining moment in my youngster's life. If I fell I knew, having been through this kind of test with many a yongster before (thought none over 18 hands!!!) that if I didn't win this round his challenges would never truly disappear. With reins so short that his ears were practically in my eyes we stepped away from the mounting block. True to form, within one stride we were rodeo bronco style hard core. I planted my heels, pulled on those reins with everything I had and maintained the mantra, " The only way I'm going down, is if you go down first." Probably eight or nine giant leaps later we stopped. Like two cowboys meeting in the middle of town: wah wah wah do do do...the ultimate stand off. We stood there for awhile just staring each other down. As I allowed him forward one step at a time we looked at each other: wah wah wah do do do. We eventually got out on the rail and actually had a quality ride filled with lots of lateral work and lengthens. I'd be lying if I didn't say he was a giant bucket of foam by the end.

Since that moment B has been pretty darn cordial. We had another bucking explosion in a lesson weeks later but in his defense we were schooling flying changes, which is all new to him. Plus, the change was clean, so as anyone who has taught changes before knows all is forgiven after a clean flying change. ;0)

Just so you don't think B's all bad we did go to a show at First Level for the first time a couple weeks later and placed second out of 14 horses with a 66 percent. He hadn't been off the property in over a year and he was like a rock star veteran the whole time. :0)

Oh youngsters...I think much like children, after having one you're never the same person again but if you're lucky enough you wouldn't want to be.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Comfort Zone...Finally

Isn't it great when your baby finally starts growing up? You don't even have to answer that. It is. Well, at least for me anyway. I know some folks enjoy the allure of the unknown and the beginning of a new relationship. I am not that person. Like in my non-horsey life—I've been married for almost four years—and life has never been better. I like my comfort zone and I like choosing when to stray from it. I now know that look in B's eye that means gather up the reins or die, and the feeling he gives me right before he's about to step into his sassy pants. I've learned that immediately after I mount he doesn't get to walk with his nose on the ground only to build up momentum that results in being thrown out my comfort zone, which from 18.2 hands is pretty much out of any zone. Oy. Thankfully, B has played nice and now we barely even have to walk around in-hand before each ride anymore. Last week, the temperature finally jumped into the 60s and the sun peaked out. With only a normal workout inside first, I was able to take him on a long walk up and down the driveway without incident. The horses across the road that used to appear like mountain lions have now turned into kitty cat like distractions. Here's to growing up B!

Monday, January 18, 2010

B versus the Poles

I walked into my last lesson and saw four poles perfectly lined up beside the wall. It was dun dun dah...pole night. The last time B and I wandered over these white sticks was probably a good two to three months ago. Game on! Before B and I could take our first trek over, they had to be lengthened out a good foot or so. The horse before us was vertically challenged, by that I mean he was under 17 hands.

The first time we walked over, B hit every single pole. Yup, every single one. Nice. I thought, well, he's just warming up, I mean, come on, it's below freezing out here. The second time he hit only three. Yahhh progress!

With that success, we proceeded to the trot. After hitting at least one pole each time he attempted them at the walk, I'd be lying if I didn't admit to having thoughts of him landing one the first pole, rolling into the next three and doing the splits. Not that I don't faith in him or anything. It's probably similar to having a child competing in a sport that isn't really his or her forte. On the outside you have to be all, "you're going to be awesome little suzy, I know you can do it!" But, on the inside you're thinking, oh sweet baby jesus don't let little suzy trip and smash her face as she's running down the court.

In any event, we got through the poles with only one tap. Break out the party pants! After all the smashing you may think, were they adjusted correctly? Being ever the inner cheerleader for my pony that thought may have crossed my mind, except for the fact that my coach set them out. All riders know the greatest commandment of them all: Though shalt not question thy coach. Regardless, she was getting her workout adjusting them each time and the truth was when B was paying attention he floated over them quite smoothly.

After many rounds of poles I knew his hooves were no longer black. Oops.

During a break my coach turned to a gal watching and said, you can always tell horses that are going to be good jumpers because they never touch the poles. Hey! What are you saying? My dreams of jumper stardom were dashed in that moment. He can't be perfect at everything, right? Wrong—secretly I blamed his less than steller pole performance on the fact that his feet were due to be trimmed that week. Yes, my horse is a super, perfect genius. There is absolutely no bias here at all. Can't you wait until I have kids?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Sky is Falling

OK, I already know what one of my New Year's Resolutions is going to be. I'll give you has something to do with my blog...apologies for my randomness. 2010 I'm going to be a blogging suparstar! I finally bought a new fire wire cable and was able to upload B's final Training 4 test. If you're looking for a fun distraction from work, here ya go!

B survived his first snow falling off the roof experience. I should correct that. I survived B's first snow falling off the roof experience. Even more impressive. ;0)

I think it took all us Northern Virginianers by surprise when we ended up with six inches of snow the first weekend in December. Say what? I know, right? I've been down here almost 5 years and I have become accustomed to the sprint to the grocery store the minute we hear the word snow and the inevitable morning after of green, green grass staring back. Imagine my surprise, when I pulled back the curtain at 8 am and couldn't see my deck. Twilight zone.

It was just my luck that the snow would make the roof of the indoor arena home until 5:43 pm last Monday, two minutes before my lesson. I longed B as usual. By the way, now I only have to walk him on the longe before getting on, that's some serious progress. Anyone who has been following this adventure for awhile knows that B and I are still working on the kinks of him being cold backed at times. Cold backed meaning I get on and he says, Holy Mother of God what is on my back?? I'd better start bucking right now!! We've been able to successfully avoid that situation for many months now and I'd like to keep it that way, hence the weaning. The new step will be just walking him around the arena. I'd better be packing mints. Oy yoi yoi, I'll keep you posted on that one.

Ok, so the first batch of snow fell while I was longeing B. He jumped a little, but not too bad. Of course, literally 5 minutes after I'd put my foot in the stirrup half the bloody roof fell down. At least it felt like that. In two strides B was from the right side of the arena to the left. B's ears were in my face as the snow continued to fall. Watching the chunks in horror B was so scared he started to shake. At this point, myself (yes, still in the saddle thank the baby jesus), my coach and the other gal in the ring are chanting "It's OK B, it's OK" knowing full well that it's not really OK, the roof does sound like it's going to collapse. The next 45 minutes of my lesson consisted of a whole lot of sitting trot. The snow keep falling and B was worried, but at least I could comfort him to the point of accomplishing some decent trot work. A friend of mine was watching this exercise in survival and listened as my coach said, "It' s up to you if you want to work the canter," at which one my friend replied, "Oh she gets a choice?" My immediate reply? "When your horse is over 18 hands you get the choice." Point well taken. There would be no canter that night.

All in all I was actually really pleased with B's behavior. He very well could have said, I think I'm going to die,I'm out of here, but instead he said, I'm pretty sure I'm going to die, are you with me mom? When I replied, you'll be fine that whole trust thing kicked in, in my humble opinion this moment separates the men from the boys.

Don't you just love those rides were your heart jumps into your throat over and over again? Me neither, but such is life with a baby. Alas I stayed in the saddle and B learned that the sky didn't actually fall. Don't tell him, but there were a couple moments when I was sure that chicken little wasn't lying after all.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Two Years and Counting

On November 30, Belotti and I will celebrate our 2 year anniversary. Awwww. I know, right? As the flashback goes, it feels like only yesterday that I walked off the plane into chilly Milwaukee, Wisconsin, into the barn that held the other half of my heart (my husband shotgunned the first half two years ago). For a nostalgic dip, I decided to make a video photo montage of his first year under saddle.

It's heartwarming to think that just over a year ago, B timidly walked up to the stall door when I'd arrive and now the moment he hears my voice he nickers with ears perked. As you guys know, there's nothing better than that. :0)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Exit Stage Left

Beamer has been very busy these last few months, but now things are starting to settle down. Whew! We had two more licensed shows, which rounded out our season quite nicely.

Foxcroft was in April and the first day's weather was nothing short of miserable: Windy and rainy. The warm up was on grass and the bluestone ring was a swamp. As we approached the ring I had that moment of, he can either say I'm not sure about this Mom, but OK, or the dreaded hell no! Thankfully, B was true to his character and put his faith in his mother. B gave his best impression of a Saddlebred for the first half then settled into the splashing. The only thing that wasn't happening was the stretchy circle. Can't really blame him there. One splash and he could lose an eye. For our second test we were even luckier and it was full on raining. Oy vay. B once again pulled through. We even managed a 65+%. Wa hoo!

The weather at the Morven Park show in September was slightly least it wasn't raining. B was a trooper as he chugged around the ring like a veteran. Sunday the sun came out. Wa hoo! We rode Training Level 4 test as this was our last chance to qualify for the regional championships. B felt very together and the test felt pretty darn harmonious. We managed to pull off a 74.4% and first place! Woot! Not too shabby for a 4-year-old's first year out. Yahhh B!! That was our second qualifying score. As a professional, I had to obtain two scores over 68% while Amateur's need 62%, just a tad difference. ha.

Once I qualified, the question was, do I really want to drive all the way to Lexington again this year? Hmm....I was so undecided that I even asked for input on my facebook page. After much debate I decided to end things on a high note and exit stage left. B is still a youngster and I want to make sure he enjoys the journey as much as I. Til next year show ring!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Teenage Angst turned Teenage Stardom

First off, GIANT apology for my blog-slacking especially when I have so much news.

B survived at his first overnite dressage show in Lexington, VA. Yahhh, B! I packed everything up on a Thursday morning and my husband, Teddy dawg and I headed up to the big show grounds with Beeburr in tow. When we arrived after our 3-hour trek I was extremely happy to see that not only was B bone dry, he had eaten almost all of his hay along way. Always a relief for an overprotective pony mother.

We found what we would call home for the next four days. When B walked off the trailer he stood and stared at the grounds for a good 5 minutes. Thankfully, at no point did I see the crazy eyes. Whew. After having a rather "enthusiastic" mare in my previous show life it was a big relief to see his reaction was that of curiosity rather than intense, I'm going to kill you in your sleep, fear.

A couple friends from the barn had already arrived, so that was a comforting surprise for both B and I. We placed B in his concrete palace while we unloaded everything. I threw him a flake of hay and after looking around the stall and being somewhat fascinated by the little black horses bouncing up and down across the way, he began happily munching. Praise the baby Jesus.

The previous two weeks I had worked 12 hour days to make up the time for Lexington, which meant being up at 4am and home at 8pm (after riding) so my body decided that waking up 6am on the show travel day was just not happening. Hence, we arrived much later than I had planned. I was finally tacked up and ready to go around 7pm. We were riding in four different rings over the next three days, which meant I had to ride in all of them that night. Good times.

We started in ring 8, which was indoors. We wandered into the ring right as couple of tween riders being directed to fly around the ring as fast as they could. OK, so maybe they weren't being told exactly that by their trainers, but that's what it looked like. Have you ever ridden in a dressage warm-up ring with tween riders? Think Twilight on horse back. I swear they are out for blood. I quickly discovered it is not so easy to make a quick turn on an 18.2 hand, 12 foot long, 4-year-old Oldenburg. Actually, it's down right impossible. All I kept thinking was this little girl on her warp-speed pony was going medium canter right under my horse. In between this there were of course random Dressage Queens of varying ages, shapes and sizes. How was B taking all of this commotion? I think he found it rather amusing. He certainly has gained some serious confidence. At our first "pretend" show in March he would tuck his bum in when horses passed and scoot away. Now, not so much. Another tween came right up behind us on her belgian cross (?) and B kicked. Did I get mad at B for this behavior? No. Frankly, I was getting annoyed with everyone coming to close and trying to pass right on right. Secretly I said good boy. Does that make me a bad person? Probably not, right? Does the fact that I wished he had drawn blood make me a bad person? OK, I'll give you that one. ha ha. I'm kidding I swear....

The next day we were showing in Materiale and Suitability in the coliseum so that was a big one on the list. I'd heard many a horror story of horses freaking out when they go into the coliseum so I was fully prepared for some antics. Nope. Not B. The only thing B didn't like were the giant blue garbage cans he had to pass before entering the ring. I didn't like them either. So there. We walked, trotted and cantered around there like he's been there his whole life. Yahhh B!

Our last stop was the ring on the mountain. Seriously, a mountain. To this day, I barely know how we, and the other 500 horses, made it up and down without rolling over. B was pretty cool with this ring too.

I finished the evening up with some purty braids and tucked my boy into bed.

I'll just give you some of the highlights because if you read my blog regularly you know that even the highlights mean this entry will probably go on for another four pages. ha...sorry

Friday: Show day. Dun dun dahhh!!! I was sooooo psyched because my coach decided to make the long haul up to Lexington to help myself and the other five or so students she had showing that day. Materiale and Suitability were our challenges today. B was super, uper, duper UP in the warm up. For the first time since probably the initial canter I did on B many months ago I was a little nervous to even canter. I sucked it up and asked him to roll and roll he did. We went in the coliseum and rocked the house. Yeee Yahhh! We ended up a really close second—71.7 percent pour moi and 72.2 for the winner—out of eight horses. It was a super long class too. It lasted about 35 minutes. After about the fourth lap in the canter I decided to let B fly. I figured if he's cantered this long it's the least of a reward I can give him while in the ring. He bounded around that ring like he was on a pogo stick. It was really fun. As for suitability, we missed the's a long story. I was just happy he was such a star in Materiale. Check on the video on the right by the way.

The rest of Friday we relaxed and cheered on our friends.

Saturday we had Training 3 and Training 4 to tackle. Training 3 was early in the morning on the mountain. B and I warmed up beside the ring with about 50 other riders and horses of all ages and levels. To be honest, B just wasn't with all. He felt like a firecracker ready to explode. All that sense and sensibility had been drained out of his body and he was ready to be a 4-year-old. I dug in as best I could and practiced our w/t/c and figures but as I walked over to the ring I knew he wasn't really paying attention to me. The buck just outside the ring after the judge ring bell said it all. Hang on to your hats kids it's going to be a wild ride. We made it through the first trot and canter tour without too many fireworks, but then came the left canter tour that starts right in front of the judge. Well, we made an impression. 18 hands of fury leapt into the air landing on the wrong lead. OK, OK we can recover, right? I brought him back and asked again. B jumped even higher into the air this time but at least we got the correct lead. We continued on our merry way with the pattern ending at our halt salute. The judge was at least smiling. Nothing is worse than when your horse asks like a total brat and the judge gives you that stern look like teachers used to give you in class when you misbehaved. She seemed pretty psyched that I stayed on...ya, me too. Needless to say I was holy disappointed and my score reflected this feeling. I didn't actual check my score until after my next test, which turned out to be a really good thing.

So, the second test. That was it. It was on. I figured if B had enough energy to leap all over the ring like an F'in gymnyst then he had enough energy to work. My motto, you wanna dane? Oh, we'll dance. I channeled all of this disappointment and frustration into productive serious riding. Our warm up for our Training 4 test was a battle of wills. B was throughly convinced that his role in this new venue was to play and show off to all his new friends. B was not stressed—at all. He thought this was fun to do whatever he wanted when he wanted. I felt like I was dealing with a 16-year-old girl who was convinced she knew everything about life and was going to go out and party with her 20-year-old boyfriend because he's cool. Time to lock the door and throw away the key. B and I had a non-verbal discussion for about 15 minutes. Every muscle in my core burned by the end of it. He finally figured out after a whole lot of firm, non-allowing aids that play time was over. We finished our warm up in the covered arena as it was getting rather steamy. I finally felt he was actually with me. We went in the show ring and did what we came there to do-rocked. B was the star I knew he could be if he was properly motivated (ha). Once again, a frustrated parent seeing a child with a wealth of potential wasting it on some useless distraction. The result? 71.2%. Aaaahhhh yaaaaaa. That's the pony I know and love.

Sunday we rode the 4-year-old test and it was a non-event. B was rock solid, but he was tired and it showed. Our score wasn't great, but it could have been awful and I wouldn't have cared. B and I had already far surpassed our initial goal of our first licensed show—be sane, happy and smile along the way. Layer an over 70% score and I'm down right bubbly.

Since the show, B and I have been living on the trails. His walk has already started getting more free in the shoulders and he's mighty perky when I arrive. We even had a little crow-hopping episode in the field while I we were cantering, as I wasn't able to get him to slow down before we started going downhill, but guess what?I didn't bite it!! I was able to get his head up and he stopped. That's probably the biggest accomplishment of them all.

We started work on our flying changes last lesson, so that was a blast. Just testing the waters and it seems they are just about the perfect.

Every day I watch B grow a few more brain cells and I'm amazed as I see my little guy growing up. Then a bunny runs by on the trail and B leaps out of his skin and I'm reminded maybe he's not so grown up after all. ;0)