Thursday, December 23, 2010

#51 (or, Lots of Cool Photos!)

Apparently this is my 51st blog post so I thought I would go all Dave Matthews and title it as such. Just can't resist the subtitle though; had to pull you in somehow! I have several bits and pieces to write about, but most can be expressed best through pictures, so here goes!

I finally finally finally finished my final jewelry project--a hollow form barn. The piece ended up taking somewhere between 35 and 40 hours, but it was worth it. I love the piece! Absolutely love it! And I don't usually feel that way about my pieces. There were several big hurdles toward the end (ahem, my adorable little rooster weather vane broke off in the eleventh hour!), but I pulled it all together by the time the studio closed Sunday evening. Here are some photos:

The back has a selection from a poem I love by Marge Piercy (To Be of Use); it says "The work of the world is common as mud. Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust. But the thing worth doing well done has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident." Very fitting for both the piece and how I feel about my life and work :)

I was able to squeeze in two Christmas gifts-earrings for my sister (sorry, forgot to photograph them before sending off the package) and a mustache necklace for my sister-in-law. I did a brush finish on the front and printed the back with a floral pattern. I then used liver of sulfur to give it an oxidized finish. It's a fun piece that I hope she'll enjoy:

My dear friend, Linn, commissioned me to create four pieces for Christmas gifts. She is meeting three of her best buds for a concert on New Year's Eve and wanted a music-inspired piece to commemorate the event (they are avid concert goers). I came up with a small guitar cut-out that I made in the "window style" I perfected this summer. Each one is a bit different, and I patterned the metal. The backs are all stamped with the date of New Year's. Here they are:

She was pleased with them (yea!), and she got me the most amazing gift-- a portrait of Caesar and Topo! I teared up when I opened it! This is definitely one of the most special gifts I have ever received! Linn is very supportive of my "new ventures" in life (i.e. working less and riding and making jewelry more), and it means a lot to me that she respects and even admires my choices so the painting was all the more meaningful. The artist is a friend of hers and has painted horses for years; she asked her to put Topo into the painting, and I think it's just awesome! Thanks, Linn!

In farm news, the boarders at my barn got together to build jumps as a gift to our barn owner/trainer. It's been a pretty tough year for her with both of her horses having significant (career ending) injuries; she's been horse shopping for months, and just this week found "the one", a Holsteiner/TB eventer that she brought home today. We presented her with the jumps this evening, and she was so happy! I am glad she has a horse with which to jump them! Good things! April, Shannon, Megan and I set up a course with them and did some jumping. I was bareback so I didn't do as much, but we did jump our first skinny panel! Caesar stopped twice (mostly my fault), but I stayed pretty solid in my seat despite being bareback which I was pleased with. We went on to jump it pretty well; lots to work on but a good start!

Here's a photo of the jumps in progress (Shannon and Mike are quite the artists!): Photos of all of them to come soon.

Tomorrow will be dedicated to wrapping presents and cleaning house (hopefully with a hack on Caesar thrown in). I can't believe it's already Christmas (you too?), but it always comes so soon. We'll be spending the day with Mike's family and surely enjoying some really great food. Next week, we are off to Shenandoah, VA, with our good friends, Attia and Phil; just two nights, but two nights that are much needed and deserved :)

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Mike and a newly outfitted (and slightly indignant) Topo say "Merry Christmas"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What's a Christmas-gram?

In the words of Buddy the elf: "I WANT ONE!" I do realize that this is the second time I have mentioned a Will Ferrell movie in my little blog, and while I would not consider myself a huge fan, I do like many of his movies. And Elf, well, I enjoy Elf very much! This is likely due to the fact that in my first two years of teaching, my two mentors/best buds, Kate and Beth, made it a ritual to watch and quote the film several times during the holiday season. It helped me appreciate the movie all the more.

Tonight Mike and I are addressing holiday cards and wrapping gifts so some time with Buddy the elf seemed perfectly appropriate. I'm sort of ambivalent about the holidays. I love celebrating for the usual reasons--cookies, gift-giving (and, ahem, receiving), Christmas music, sparkling lights... But it also causes me a bit of anxiety. I tend to start thinking/worrying about what gifts to give around mid-November, but wait until, oh, Decemeber 10, to actually begin any shopping. Then I spend the week leading up to Christmas procrastinating the gift wrapping (I loathe wrapping). Enter Mike, who is quite a good gift wrapper :) This year is no different, but I might be a day ahead which isn't so bad!

Today was my last day in the jewelry studio, and it was quite productive. My final project is FINALLY done. I had a few melt-downs this week and ended up having to put an additional 8 or so hours into the piece in order to complete it. Alas, it is really awesome, if I do say so myself :) I finished four pieces that a friend commissioned and was able to sneak in two gifts for family members (though I had hoped to do a few more, I am glad I got these in). Photos are in order, but the photo-storing computer is on the fritz at the moment, so that will have to wait till another day.

Riding has been pretty low key lately due to the freakishly frigid temperatures. I am one who will ride outside in almost any conditions but there have been several days lately where the ground was too frozen and the wind was too wicked to do any sort of hacking. Alas, bareback in the indoor is as good as it gets, but we are still having fun! The boarders at my barn got together to make several jumps as a gift to our barn owner/trainer. They look fabulous (I can't take credit for much!), and those deserve photos too!

Happy holidays to anyone who might be reading, and I promise photos soon!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bareback bliss

December has descended and with it came a severe drop in temperature. Around mid-day Wednesday, the temp in the the Baltimore area dropped from 62 to, oh, about 40 (which means the temperature at the farm, also known as the Carrollmuda Triangle dropped to 35). YIKES! The ponies fared well, but it's definitely time for those heavy weight blankets to be pulled out. Caesar is still sporting his au naturel blanket as I haven't made a move to purchase clippers or hire someone to do it. That probably served him well this week, but he needs to get some of that fur removed! For a Thoroughbred who spent several years racing and then several more as a stall boarded horse, he has fully acclimated to winter outside 24/7 (or at least his coat has)! Seriously, he is so fuzzy that when I look down at his neck while riding, he seems like a different horse (a not so narrow horse, ahem :)

This week was very busy and loooong, and it was made longer by the fact that I only rode on Wednesday and Friday. I hate it when that happens. Alas, those rides were quite good. I had initially planned for last week to be week 2 of a relaxed two-week schedule (read: bareback and hacking only), but then I had the opportunity to work with my friend Cherie (awesomeness once again!) and to do a clinic with Sally Cousins (fun and confidence building!). So on Saturday and Sunday, I just did some walking and bareback dressage. Caesar was a champ. My rides this week were not only few and far between but they were brief: 35 minutes on Wednesday and 30 minutes tonight. But...they...were...awesome :) And I have a few theories for why.
-Riding bareback really helps me achieve a better position and better control/use of my seat and leg aides
-I spent about 10 minutes just letting Caesar walk at a slow pace on a long rein, asking only that he stay straight and focused. With the weather so cold, any horse can benefit from slow walking to warm up.
-Then I gathered up the reins a bit to achieve some light contact and asked for a forward, in front of my leg walk (which we have been working on a lot in the past two weeks).
-After 5 minutes of this, I asked for some suppleness and even more connection and, bam, I got it. He was moving around all nice and forward and round like a dressage pony. A bit more walking like this and then onto the trot. While there were still ugly moments (um, my down transition from the canter bareback is still a bit bumpy which leads to loss of connection to say the least), the ride(s) was fantastic!
-I focused on relaxing my overactive right leg and engaging my lazy left leg more (thanks for the tip, Cherie) which seemed to help achieve more symmetry in both the walk and trot. I also focused on using my core to elongate my legs and stretch through my heels (a visual image that worked well). Each time I did this, I really felt Caesar's back stretch up.

While I don't prefer to ride for such a short time and I really don't prefer to ride in the indoor (though I am SO grateful to have access to one), these two rides this week were phenomenal! A year ago at this time, my riding was an absolute disaster. I am not exaggerating. I could barely get Caesar to walk around the indoor straight and forward. And the trot was a continual banking in or falling out. It was terrible. From November to January I lived in rider anguish thinking there was no hope. ICK! So of course when fall hit, I got a bit nervous. Even though I have made so much progress this year, I still feared (and, honestly, still do) that we would be sucked into the vacuum of bad riding this winter. The streak of bad riding probably had little to do with it being winter, but being stuck in the indoor from November to March surely did not help. Flash forward to tonight when I would have been happy with straight and forward (leaps beyond last year), and what do I get? Caesar was forward, straight, balanced, rhythmic and supple for most of the ride. And that felt like a million bucks :)

So, check plus for good rides this week! I have a jump lesson on Sunday so I'll actually pull out a saddle for tomorrow's ride. But the days of bareback riding will continue. In fact, I've put this Thinline bareback pad on my Christmas list:

I've been borrowing a friend's bareback pad for over a year, and I feel both Caesar and I deserve an upgrade :)

In jewelry news, my final project, a hollow form barn, is in the works. Hope to get some pictures up soon. I am hoping to get some Christmas gifts fashioned soon as well as a few commissioned pieces completed for my dear friend, Linn. It will be a busy few weeks in the studio!

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading!