Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Cinna & the Drone

One of my only caveats to buying DH a drone for his (very early) birthday gift this year was that I wanted him to video me working horses. Not that I think the videos will be particularly riveting, I just think it's a unique perspective (on top of being a good training tool). Over the last few weeks, every time he takes the drone out, I had him "buzz" the horses so they get used to the sight and sound (mostly the sound because it's annoyingly loud).
Saturday the weather was nice enough that I wanted to work Cinna at home as well, but the arena still hadn’t been dragged. So Sunday morning I begged and pleaded, and DH headed out to try to start the tractor. I say try, because it’s been very finicky lately, and Sunday was no different. While I did all the chores, he tried various methods of getting it started. Finally we gave up and pull started it with one of the trucks (never my favorite endeavor!). While it was running, DH got both the arena dragged and the dry lot scraped a little. While he did that, I just played with the horses.
It was still pretty chilly and breezy when he finished up, so we went back inside to let the arena dry out a little more. After a few hours, it was as warm as it was going to get (although still breezy), so I layered up and headed out. I spontaneously decided that it would be Cinna’s trial by fire with the drone – she’s exceeded my expectations with everything else so far, so why not this? I shot off a message to one of my group chats about my plans, and was met with healthy skepticism. And by healthy skepticism, I mean they immediately started laying claim to my possessions if I died. What else are friends for?
Carly, you like the name of our group? Thanks for the inspiration haha ;)
I pulled everybody in (the last thing I needed while I was trying to ride under the drone was my idiot geldings running around adjacent to the arena) and walked Cinna out to the cross-ties. I had doubts about the intelligence of my plan when her first reaction upon leaving the barn was to dolphin leap through the air squealing and then slip in the mud and almost go down. She was pretty ‘up’ in the cross-ties, but did let me get her tacked up without any major incidents. I booted her up all the way around with my new favorite ME dressage boots, and promptly remembered she hasn’t worn rear boots when that set off a round of leg shaking.
The boots do make the outfit though, let's be real. 
We made it into the arena and commenced with a little lunging to get her focused on work and express any remaining ya-yas. DH fired up the drone, and spend most of our warm up filming at varying altitudes and distances from us in the ring. This prompted a few… unscheduled departures as she attempted to flee the scene at top speed, but she always came back when I asked, and eventually worked quietly W/T/C on the lunge no matter what the drone was doing overhead.
Very sassy.
In the interest of matchy-matchy, I put my new blingy turquoise bell boots on Cinna (even though they don’t 100% match the ME boots so it makes me twitchy). They lasted less than 10 minutes. Unfortunately even though I got mediums (since my horses are fairly normal sized without being either midgets or gigantors), they were a touch too small for Cinna. This made it easy for the fasteners to fill up with the sand arena footing, causing the Velcro to be…. Less than effective. It also didn’t help that Cinna has an insane overreach, and kept grabbing them. After the third time she tore one of them off, I caved and pulled them both off. In the process, I noticed that she ripped one of them pretty badly – boo. Very disappointing since that was the first time I’ve actually really used them. Oh well.
I had DH pull the drone down when I went to get on. My primary goal was to have a useful work session. If we could send up the drone and get some fun footage, that was just a bonus. She wasn’t thrilled about standing still at the mounting block, but I waited her out and she eventually stood quietly for me to climb on. She still felt pretty lit under saddle to begin with, and she had a complete and utter meltdown on one side of the arena (DH had set his drone on an overturned water tub on the far side of the fence). I had him move it, and got her brain back to me with a lot of changes of direction and bend.
Our initial canter to the left was a shit show – she was absolutely convinced she COULD NOT turn left at the fence, and almost hit it several times. So we regrouped, and attempted some right lead canter. She was a superstar, so after some more changes of directions, I tried the left lead again. Much better! Steering was back and fully functional.
WTF even is this maneuver horse?
She was woefully out of shape (as am I, obviously), but at the end when I felt more comfortable, I loosened up and even pushed her a little for one last trot pass up the long side of the arena. She felt SO GOOD and as I grinned from ear to ear, I knew DH had to have gotten some good shots of it (I brought the still camera too, just in case the drone thing wasn’t happening).
We had a nice long cool-down period, and I told DH to send the drone back up. Pretty sure he was convinced I was going to die, but he did it anyway. She flicked an ear at it and had a few tiny jumps, but overall, she stayed focused on me and trusted that things were okay. She was being so good I even worked on our free walk a little (giving her rein to play with is not always something I’m willing to do in the beginning of a ride). Before we quit, I even did one big circle of slow trot and a centerline, just to give DH practice with trying to follow patterns with the drone. She deserves all the cookies in the world for being such a tolerant baby horse! This video is just some walking when he sent it up the first time -- the one with trotting and centerlines is longer and hella boring so I need to edit it down a bit!
Ride #15 in the books – love this horse.
Although apparently my friends were kind of sad I didn't die.....lol.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Year-End Awards and Escaping the Arena

Last Friday was the 2016 awards banquet for my local GMO, the CDCTA. Although showing wasn't a major priority for me in 2016, Ruby did manage to rack up enough scores to garner the title of Reserve Champion at Training Level. The fun thing about our GMO is they give you choices for the year-end awards. For 2015, when both Topaz and Ruby won awards, I got some fun Irish knit anti-sweat sheets, which are perfect for horse shows (minus the fact that they're WHITE -- I have teal dye and keep meaning to dye at least one of them teal.... lol).
Ruby sporting her 2015 awards
White looks terribly on greys -- can we all agree on that?
This year, one of my choices was a helmet bag, which was perfect! I sold my last helmet bag as part of a set when I was planning on replacing everything with the Kensington black ice pattern. However, the cost of the Kensington stuff (and the availability of the helmet bag) had delayed my purchase. And then I ended up with all the fun Art of Riding stuff, so I was kind of holding out for a helmet bag that matched my current set. This helmet bag should get me through in the interim, and it's surprisingly spacious! Plenty of room for my gloves and hairnets and bobby pins and whatever other junk I want to shove in there.
Yay for horse show swag!
Although I knew about the year-end award, the night still offered some surprises! I've served as the VP for the club for the last year, but our current President was nearing the end of her term. She had served as the President for several years, and was definitely ready to pass the torch. Last fall, she and several of the other board members talked me into accepting the nomination for President (which I qualified with the caveat that I would step aside if anyone else qualified really wanted it). No one else had a burning desire, so I now officially have my own gavel and the responsibility to run meetings. Scary thought, huh?

The biggest surprise of the night was receiving the President's Award -- while I would volunteer with a smile no matter what, it was really touching to know that my efforts last year didn't go unnoticed, and that I am considered a dependable club member who can always be counted on to lend a hand.
The awards banquet kicked off a really great weekend. Saturday, some barn friends and I escaped the arena for a mini-trail ride. Although we only got out for about half an hour, it was still really fun. It was cold and windy, but layering helped -- a little. The woods felt great, and the footing was fine. The open fields were a little cooler, but it was worth freezing a little to have some wide open space!
Ruby started off very calm and forward, but in the places I usually let her trot and canter, she got a little antsy. While trotting and cantering the hills is great conditioning, I need to remember to make her just walk sometimes. After she got amped she was very hard to settle, and spent most of the second half of the ride jigging, because she wanted to GO. After we made it back to the barn, I took her into the arena and burned a little energy trotting and cantering in there for a bit.
Best way to end a Saturday night? Spending half an hour unwinding in the hot tub with DH after a delicious steak dinner. Yum!
And then sleeping in on Sunday morning. That's nice too.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sparkle Helmet has Arrived!

Because Riding Warehouse rocks my socks off, even though my helmet was backordered, they still had it shipped out within a few days of placing my order... yay! (as opposed to that time I bought something from Schneider's and it took them FIVE MONTHS to ship it to me).
See my excitement?!
To celebrate, I wore it around my house for an hour, and then headed to the barn. *side note, when DH got home, I was wearing it with my work clothes -- he just looked at me, shook his head, and then walked away.... hahahaha. *
This is probably the most selfies I've ever taken in a single day.... hahahaha.
I haven't had a chance to work Ruby since her epic trot poles (I kid), so I was concerned she might be fresh. Not to worry, I had fancy new sparkle helmet to protect my brain in case of shenanigans! But Ruby is always perfect. Love that horse.
She had a few moments where she wanted to rush and get tense, but overall, she was lovely! Historically, we've struggled with maintaining correct right bend (and when I say we, I mean me, because this was a problem with Topaz too). It's something I've really been concentrating on in the minimal amounts of rides I've been able to put in over the past few months. On the plus side, tonight I noticed that it was much easier to maintain our right bend without too much effort most of the time. The down side? I broke our left bend.... haha. So now I need to work on them both equally! Another good thing, the right lead canter is feeling better and even more adjustable now than I think it's ever been. I think riding bareback (especially at the canter) is helping me feel more balanced and confident overall, which is translating into helping me focus on individual parts of my body in the canter (which has historically been an issue for me).
We ended on a good note, with some nice lipstick. It's been a whopping like 4 days without rain, and I don't see any in the forecast between now and Saturday, so I'm hoping to FINALLY get a real trail ride in!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Queen of the Trot Poles

Despite the beautiful and unseasonable weather on Saturday (63 and sunny, what what?), I didn’t get to take advantage of that by riding outside… still too mucky. Unless of course you count the combined five minutes I spent bareback on Cinna and then Ruby trying to photograph the embroidery on the back of my If the Bonnet Fits custom bonnet… haha. 
Cinna was only marginally cooperative.
My arena at home would probably have been fine to ride in by the afternoon if I could have dragged it in the morning – but unfortunately I can’t be trusted driving the tractor unsupervised (starting it is kind of complicated). It wasn’t too bad for my attempted photoshoot of Otto and Cin, just a little squishy. After I got the photos I wanted of the bridle, I tried to get some of the embroidered ears on the bonnet. 
When standing on the mounting block precariously leaning over her back with an expensive DSLR wasn’t getting the shots I wanted, I made a poor life decision. I climbed on bareback (sans expensive camera, because apparently I am more careful with my camera than my life?). Yes, bareback, on a very green horse who hadn’t been worked in two months. While no one was home. When it was unseasonably warm and sunny in January. Do it for the ‘gram guys. After getting a couple of mediocre cell phone shots while she wandered around the arena, I decided that was probably enough potential danger for one day. And luckily, one of the shots from my camera turned out okay (see above), so it was a win-win situation. 
Such a good baby horse.
I had half-heartedly hoped it would dry out enough to take Ruby out on the trails or in the field when I got to the barn that afternoon, but alas, still standing water and muckity muck everywhere. So I consoled myself with a few more shots of the bonnet. 
On Sunday DH came out to the barn with me, so I decided it was a great time to set some poles and let Ruby stretch her legs. Since she’s not super fit, I tailored the workout accordingly. We did W/T/C both directions, both with and without the side reins loosely attached (on the longest hole), and only went over the poles about every 3rd or 4th circle with lots of walk breaks. 
Yes, I look like a hobo, #sorrynotsorry

I intentionally set the poles a little wide so she’d have to work a bit to make it over them at the trot. I don’t utilize poles nearly as often as I should (mostly because I’m too lazy to get them out and set them up and then put them back), but I really enjoyed watching Ruby work through the exercise both mentally and physically. And hot damn did DH get some really amazing shots! 
The rest of our Sunday was spent playing with his new drone (I’m using the term ‘our’ loosely, obviously). I did step in to help him edit some of the videos, because the software that came with the drone was pretty complicated and DH is not what you’d call super tech savvy. Unfortunately it’s not super visually appealing because in the dead of winter, everything looks sort of gross. But hopefully as he gets more confident at the controls (and the horses get used to it), he should be able to get some fun footage of me riding!
Like a big kid on Christmas :)
Getting the horses used to the drone.
Sorry about the music in the video (was sample music from the computer), but this was his very first flight!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Welcome to the Family!

Don't worry, it's not something that eats. I have plenty of mouths already. No, what I'm welcoming to the family is a gorgeous piece of tack that I've been coveting for what feels like ages.
As a confirmed member of tack hoarders anonymous, I'm always on the lookout for interesting and beautiful pieces of tack to collect. When I saw Otto for the first time, I was instantly smitten. I commenced annoying the shit out of Aimee (in the comments of every blog and social media photo featuring Otto) until she agreed to sell him to me whenever she was downsizing. Or trading up. Or whatever it is us tack hoarders do.
While I was in Puerto Rico, she tagged me in a sale ad for a similar bridle in brown. It was cheap, and the wrong color, but I thought it might be a fun dye project and give me something to blog about when it's too cold/wet/whatever to ride. Tragically, after dealing with a seller who went MIA and refused to ship, I had to file my first PayPal claim and spend weeks trying to get my money back.
Clearly bored with my shenanigans haha.
It all worked out okay though, because the mutual enabling that went on while she shopped for jump saddles meant Otto came to live with me! It was a very serious transaction -- the notes section of the PayPal invoice was filled with promises of tender loving care, copious photographs, and offering first right of refusal/helping me choose his new home if he ever leaves me.
It was funny to me how instantly recognizable the bridle is, and how popular. I feel a lot of pressure to live up to! Cinna is no Courage, but she'll try to do the bridle justice. That is, if it ever dries out enough to ride...