Sunday, February 26, 2012

Grace's New Ride!

I have a 3 horse slant load trailer! Not just a trailer but a Sundowner! I’ve been looking at trailers on Craigslist for at least a year now, knowing that I wanted to upgrade. While my little Circle J straight load is great for local trips, I wanted something bigger and newer for hauling down the freeway to shows. I was also in need of a walk in tack room. Half of my tack is in the small under manger compartment of the Circle J with the other half strewn throughout our house. I’ve been borrowing one of Sarah’s trailers for shows which has given me a chance to get comfortable hauling a longer trailer but meant lots of packing and unpacking from one trailer to another. I love my Circle J, but could not help but to yearn for something bigger and better.

 The Sundowner fits the bill and then some. I know the trailer from Jeanni the previous owner and I always thought it was a classy looking ride. Grace’s first trailer rides were in Penny’s big Sundowner so she has no issue loading and unloading with the rear tack. I remember when I brought home the Circle J and the second time I loaded her she refused to get in. In an emotional outburst I told her “I’m sorry that I can’t afford to buy you the Sundowner Princess trailer you deserve, but this one will have to do.” Jeanni showed up to help me load Grace in the Circle J. Grace loaded up for her on the first try and Jeanni was quick to point out that she had no emotional tie to the situation. I will admit I was pretty frazzled by the time she got there. Soon after I had Grace loading into the Circle J on her own just by throwing the lead rope over her back and pointed to the trailer. Still, I’ve always wanted to get her the Princess trailer that she deserves.
The opportunity to buy the Sundowner presented itself last weekend. One of Sarah’s students had upgraded from the bumper pull to a living quarters trailer. I knew I wanted the Sundowner, but didn’t have the available cash to purchase it. The owner of the trailer offered it to me on payments; he said he wanted to keep the trailer in the barn family. We agreed to a payment that I knew I could comfortably make, but still I had that nagging thought in the back of my mind that I had just agreed to take on more debt. I knew that my husband wouldn’t be thrilled as he wanted me to pay the truck off before taking on another payment.

Now this is where the magic happens! I had an overdue annual review at work on Friday. I LOVE my job, not kidding here I really do! I love what I do all day long and I actually miss it when I take time off. In the last few months my team and I have received appreciation and recognition for what we do. That to me will always go farther than a paycheck. I received high scores on my review but was not expecting a pay increase as the company is waiting to become cash positive. So I was pleasantly surprised when my director slid a piece of paper across the table to me with my new salary listed on it. The pay increase divided by 12 months equals EXACTLY my monthly trailer payment. I love manifesting my own reality!

Rear saddle rack

Swings out!

Walk in tack
How did I ever get all that stuff into the little trailer?

The trusty old Circle J will be looking for a new home soon

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Belle the Horse Dog

I rolled out of bed at 6:00am this morning with the wild idea that I might sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee by the fire before going outside to feed Grace. While daydreaming under the covers about moving slowly on a Saturday morning I forgot to take one thing into consideration – Belle theHorse Dog. I am convinced that Belle and Grace have some sort of agreement worked out and it goes something like this; Belle gets me to feed Grace before the neighbor’s horses get fed and Grace won’t kick her in the head. Belle, who had already been out to do her business within the last hour, sprang out of bed as soon as I started to stir.

After starting the coffee I got to work on the fire with Belle attentively watching over me. Anytime I looked in her direction she spun around and ran for the door. Keep in mind that this is 6:00am – on a Saturday. I am in the office at 6:00am during the work week, so sleeping in until 6:00 is a real treat. Grace is fed no later than 5:20am 5 days a week, so in preparation for the possibility that I might sleep in on Saturday I always throw her a little more hay on Friday night. With the coffee still brewing and my dog waiting at the door I gave in, there would be no relaxing until Grace was fed.

I suppose it is really is my own fault that Belle is like this. I made it her job when she was 8 weeks old to feed Grace with me twice a day. Being the herding dog that she is, Belle takes her job very seriously. She had only missed a handful of feedings over the years when she was sick or injured and we wouldn’t let her go outside. Even then she managed to get past my husband when she was recovering from Ivermectin poisoning; with limited eyesight she found her way up to the pasture.

Belle had made it very clear to me that she is a horse dog. She accompanies us on most of our rides and takes on the role of lookout/bear bait when we head down the trail. Years ago I had her enrolled in an agility class which was held in the indoor arena of a local barn. Belle was a stellar student, often getting frustrated with me for not keeping up with her. One night we were in the middle of a course someone brought a horse out into the attached round pen. Belle broke off course ran to the gate and sat waiting for someone to let her in with the horse. She let everyone there know that she had a job to do and didn’t have time for playing around. She had a unique relationship with Grace and has claimed Grace as “her” horse. There is no better illustration of this than the greeting I received from my loyal dog last weekend. After getting home from the horse show I unloaded Grace and tied her to the trailer so I could get Belle. She hadn’t seen me in 24 hours so I was expecting a big celebration when I let her out of the house. I opened the door only to see a flash of blue heeler run past me; headed straight to the trailer. Only after she confirmed that I had indeed brought her horse come did she greet me before hightailing it up to the pasture for feeding time. At least I know my place in the herd.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Schooling Show 2.18.2012

I believe that Grace and I just had one of our most successful schooling shows yet. This is not something I measure in blue ribbons or high points, but in the way each ride felt. This was the first time that I was in “the zone” 90 percent of the time in the ring. I credit a lesson I had with Sarah last week where I finally understood that I had to ride each and every stride. This weekend I was able to carry that into my classes.

On Friday at the show grounds I had the best warm up; Sarah later said she was afraid to talk to me in fear that it might interrupt my focus. The arena was full of other riders which gave me a good opportunity to work in traffic. Grace worked really well for just getting off the trailer, it didn’t take me long to get her supple throughout her body. After my usual first day at the horse show warm up, I put the reins in one hand and put Grace on the rail. I was thrilled with how well she worked, no rushing, slow and steady. I was having such a good time I didn’t want to end the ride. This might be the first time that I have felt like I could jog my horse all day long.

I started Saturday with Showmanship, which is not my favorite class but I have decided that it is good for me so I force myself to do it. Showmanship gives me the chance to get stupid out of the way which I successfully did by completely blowing my quartering. What I did get out of the experience was the reminder to get into my body. I don’t usually lunge Grace in the morning at a show, I have this idea that I need to save her energy for the day, but I started to rethink that when I took her to the warm up ring. Grace started to dance, and when I corrected her she stood on her hind end. Instead of going down the tension road with her, I accessed the breathing I’ve been learning in yoga. I then used my body instead of my hands to guide her as I practiced my showmanship pattern. I found that as long as I carried myself with confidence and acted like I knew what I was doing, Grace stayed calm. When it was our turn to run the pattern she was on the ground and I was thrilled that she didn’t blow up on pattern.

I rode my rail classes one handed and with each class got a better feel of staying in rhythm with my horse. There were times I had to put Grace back together, but by the last class I was keeping her together for longer periods of time. Much to my surprise we were starting to place in some of our rail classes, not something I had anticipated in that group. The walk jog pattern class included a serpentine around a set of 3 cones. I had not practiced the pattern at home and when I asked Grace for the jog I could feel her anticipate the lope. Of course – this MUST be Western Riding! It was a great opportunity to remind her of who is in charge in the show ring. I ended the day before my last two classes as I felt like we had accomplished what we were after for the day.

I am really appreciative that Sarah talked me into attending this show series this winter. With each show we have made improvements and I feel like we will go into show season more prepared than we ever have been in the past. Good thing since we will be attending our first breed show this year. One of our local AQHA affiliates is putting on a rookie show in June which will also have novice amateur classes. It promises to be low key and offers a day of clinics prior to the show. There is also the Regional Experience show being held in August. I’ve been on the fence about going to those shows, mainly in fear that I will embarrass myself stepping up to that caliber. I’ve decided to let go of my stinking thinking and I will instead start to walk my own talk and believe that I can do this. I think I can, I think I can….

Monday, February 6, 2012

It’s a good ride until I get greedy

Grace and I have had some stellar rides the last few days. The weather has been picture perfect, sunny and up to 60 degrees. I dragged the arena on Saturday morning and had first tracks for our ride that morning. I rode in the bridle and bridleless both days and thought I had filmed some of our best work yet. Much to my disappointment the video turned out blurry, so tonight when I had the right SD card, I set off to capture what we had been working on.

The jog work was really nice, I’m able to steer Grace all over the arena with just my body. My free hand is starting to make sense to me; it turns out having my elbow bent like I would when I ride two handed isn’t just for looks, it makes a huge difference in my balance. I’d still like to see us both loosen up and not be so stiff, but then again I have to remember the giant strides we’ve made in the last year.

I could have stopped there and called it a day, but we had such a good lope the day before without the bridle I just had to try it again. Grace gave me 5 strides of a really nice in the ground lope before breaking to a jog. I should have listened to her then, and known that she was working hard. But no, I had to push it – this happens every time we achieve something new – I get greedy.

I pushed Grace past the spot where she felt the need to break, she then lost her balance. Since I wasn’t able to pick her up with my hands, she started to rush. Fear stepped in and I used my spur stop to bring her to a halt. We loped off again, had a good stride or two before it fell apart again, this time when I asked Grace to stop she let me know loud and clear that I had pushed it too far. I didn’t get on her case because I knew immediately that it was my fault. I got caught up with the bells and whistles and stepped away from the foundation. The difference this time is that it only lasted for 30 seconds, before I got off, but the bridle back on and fixed the damage. I hope there is a day in my horsemanship journey when I can learn something new without getting greedy with it.