Monday, May 31, 2010

XC Schooling!

I am too tired to write a full post, but I wanted to post two videos from our xc outing to Loch Moy. Caesar presented sound on Friday and Saturday, and though he had a few wonky steps yesterday, he seemed good to do some light xc schooling today (as I had planned an outing with a fellow boarder). He felt great, and we accomplished two big goals--water and a baby bank. Caesar has no issue with water, but I had never really schooled him in any; at our pipe opener, we had a stop in this murky pit, so I was a little hesitant about how he would do. No problem! We trotted in several times then trotted in and jumped a log out. Then we cantered in and jumped out! Very fun! He was great! As the video shows, I really messed up the jump out when cantering. Not really sure what I did, but I lost my stirrup and got up on his neck. Eesh! Kudos to Caesar for saving my butt (for the umpteenth time:)!

The second video is of this little house jump; it was probably somewhere between 2'3" and 2'6", which is big for me. The first time I jumped it, it felt perfect, like it came up "out of stride" nicely. He always jumps better over the more sizeable fences, I just have to be brave and trust him. This video is our second attempt, and, while not as good as the first, it's decent!

I'll write more tomorrow. Have a great Tuesday!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Briefings, brief things

Some random thoughts and happenings from today and yesterday:

-Soundness, I've missed you. Why don't you stick around, like forever.

-I might have a mild black eye. My horse's knee met my forehead. It was my fault, trust me, and it was going to happen eventually (read: I am haphazard; stay far away from me)

-Need a pick-me-up? Try blue mascara. But good luck getting it at Wegmans. You can get lots of other things like Chiavetta's marinade (which my friend Jen swears is the best around) and a good price on fennel, even these fun air popped corn puff things (made right before your eyes). But blue mascara, nowhere to be found. Any idea where I can get the stuff?

-The show Community is actually quite funny and so is Parks and Recreation, especially when Will Arnett costars.

-Premiere of Sex and the City 2 = gaggles of young women traipsing around Harbor East in way too short skirts. Eesh.

-I just love Anne Tyler, and I really love that she writes about her hometown. Oh, Baltimore.

-A student asked me upon meeting Mike if we call each other Boo and Babe. Ha. No, we don't, but maybe we should start.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Avoiding the blues

It's day seven of Caesar's lameness. I'm making my best effort to stay positive and upbeat rather than couple his lameness with my depression. I tend to be a pretty intense person, and if something isn't going well for me, say work or a relationship, I let it trickle down and through the rest of my life; I'm sort of a sponge that way. Before becoming a horse owner, I had managed to overcome this weakness pretty well, or at least I acquired the tools to keep it in check. But since getting Caesar, I've experienced this circumstance-based moodiness (I really shouldn't go as far as saying it's depression; surely it's not anything clinical) on a whole new level. If he's off, I am off, and all I can think about is how sad that makes me.

We had a really rough patch in the fall, first with him experiencing some chronic lameness issues and then with us having 10 weeks of dreadful rides, mostly my fault. I was sort of a terd that whole time. And since "coming back from the brink", we've been flying high. March, April and the first half of May were fantastic with fun jump schools, productive flat sessions, and relaxing hacks. In the past, I had told myself I had to do a better job of not letting my frustration take over my mind when Caesar was having issues, and here's my test. I actually feel like I am doing a better job this time, but I'm still pretty down and out when I think about it. Riding is extra difficult in this sort of situation, more difficult than most sports. Let's say you are a tennis player and you injure yourself. Of course you will be bummed because you can't play and rehab will be that much harder with a bad attitude. But with a horse, there's another level. When your horse is injured or out of commission, a rider carries both the anxieties and fears that come with caring for a creature/companion and the frustration over not being able to do the thing she loves. For me, riding is my thing, more than a hobby, it's become part of my livelihood. So I am of course heartbroken that I can't ride my horse. This week, I've watched other people's lessons and pretended it's me riding. When I am walking Caesar (about 10-20 minutes a day seems to help) I think about my dressage position and imagine we are leg yielding. On top of that, perhaps more than that, is my worry for Caesar. What if this isn't just a stone bruise or an abscess? What if it is something far more serious? What will happen to him and how will I cope? I know this all may sound selfish to someone who doesn't spend every day thinking about, caring for, and preparing to ride horses. But I think those of you who do get my drift. I want most of all for Caesar to be well but a very close second is my desire to be back in the tack (on him).

I went for a few bikes rides-Thursday, Friday, and today, and while they are no replacement for riding, the rides have been cathartic. I also went for a run today which felt great. I think making a more concerted effort to exercise, especially outside, is the best thing I can do while Caesar is off. Not to mention, I just need to be exercising more in general! Mike competed in a triathlon today, completing the run portion as a relay with two friends. He joked that I did my own little triathlon with my run, bike ride, and mini walk hack on Caesar. He then mentioned that he is thinking about running a marathon for his 30th birthday in January (he was a very competitive xc and track/field athlete, but this would be his first marathon). Maybe if he does that, I will shoot for a half-marathon at the same time. I know many folks who have done one with plenty of walking, which would be necessary for me :)

So really I must say that this weekend was pretty great, especially considering the pony problems. The weather looks to be very nice for the week ahead, and I have a few outings planned with friends which will be great. My friends Nina and Abby will be competing at Waredaca this weekend, and Jen and I are going as their grooms/fanbase. We've planned a cookout as an after party. Even if Caesar is still unsound, I think I'll really enjoy the horse trial, I always do. And then we'll have a family cookout on Monday. Hooray for cookouts! Summer is my favorite time!

I am making the most of my time with Caesar while at the barn. I am practicing my massage techniques (which he loves) and we are continuing to do some hand grazing as well as playing some games on the ground. I think he's really enjoying his "vacation"; he seems very content, and when I went to turn him out the other day, he lingered beside me for several minutes, rubbing his head on my chest. Caesar is not known for being very friendly to humans, especially when he has the option to be with his horse pals. So I was delighted by the fact that he seemed to choose to hang out with me for a little longer.

Hopefully I'll be writing soon about how he is once again sound. I really, really hope so :)

Here are some photos of Topo, who always seems poised for a picture!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This week's news

So much for my promise to be better about blogging. And really I've no reason to be taking a hiatus from blogging- my work schedule is more relaxed, my classes are over, and it's nearing the end of May (a very nice time to be a teacher :) Yet somehow over the past few weeks I haven't found (made) the time to just sit down and type.

I'm in a bit of a funk at press time as Caesar has made a visit to the land of lameness. He had been going so well, fantastic actually and then, bam, Monday he comes up lame. It seems to be his right hind, and there's no swelling or heat anywhere leading me to think it's a foot thing. And the fact that we did trot and canter sets on the (at times rocky) trails on Sunday, make me think it's a bruise. He was worse yesterday but a wee bit better today- sound at the walk but still quite lame at the trot. The farrier will be out on Friday to put the hoof testers on him, but I am hoping for a small miracle. I want to ride my pony!

Since I can't be in the saddle, I have been practicing some massage techniques on Caesar. We're also doing a little ground work and some hand grazing. That combined with the fact that I am soaking his sore foot makes me wonder if he's settling in to his new spa lifestyle. Oh man.

I took a nice bike ride today over to the lake; it was great to see so many different kinds of folks running, walking, and cycling together. I do love Baltimore. I am getting more brave about biking through heavy traffic, and I think I'll even attempt to bike to work next week, at least one day. That's a good goal.

Mike and I are making plans for the summer, and we hope to be in Mississippi for the 4th of July. We are getting the college gang together for a mini renunion at Anna's house. Definitely looking forward to that! I'm hoping to compete Caesar a few times in June; we should be fine as long as he's back to his old self by next week. Hooves crossed!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Return of the blog

Oh, Blogosphere, it’s been too long; what a absentee blogger I have been. Ironically, I’ve “written” a few posts in my mind, but I haven’t been so motivated as to type out my ideas. I’m waiting for that technology that just takes my thoughts and publishes them on several random networking sites…oh, that’ll be the day (blech).

Our trip to Kentucky was a good time with grand horse watching, good (horsey) shopping, tasty food and drinks and much needed hang out time with Mike! The week back was a little blurry; I had trouble getting enough sleep and work was always a day ahead of me. Not to mention we were preparing for our very first horse trial! Despite my anxiety over having 4 days off the week before the competition, I fell back into step with our routines nicely. We had a few nice flatwork sessions and a good cross country lesson (hooray especially considering our first one was a flop). The only real problem emerged the evening before we were set to compete. I though I would do some light conditioning with Caesar then hop him over a few fences in the ring followed by a few xc fences. He was more fire-breathing dragon that evening than the gently big pony I was growing accustomed to. He was jumping flat or flying over the stadium fences, depending on which way we jumped (towards the two mares on the xc course or away from them, ahem). And once on the xc course, he took several flying leaps at one point, making a gallop attempt toward the barn. All in all it wasn't so bad, I got him back under control and, let's face it, it's always good to have those moments where you realize that you really can ride (especially when they occur at home).

Caesar was super chill the day of the competition, much to my surprise. Our dressage test was the best we've had, and though stadium got a little speedy and on the forehand at times, it was good. The first 6 jumps of the xc course were excellent, but I dropped him at fence 7 and he had to scramble over, hitting his back legs on the fence. At that point he seemed to decide that he would make the decisions, and he rushed a bit at the next 4 fences. By the time we came out of fence 11, we were booking it, and I was worried. I was wise to pull him up and circle him in the open space before the last fence (no penalty incurred), and we finished fine. It was an educational ride for sure, but most of all, it was fun (even with the crazy jumping at the end). We ended up 3rd, and I was proud as a peacock!

Two weeks ago I treated Caesar to a massage (Courtney with Hands on Horses is fabulous!); he loved it! He's quite the snark so I was worried there might be some biting involved, but nope. He acted as if he was used to the royal treatment and almost fell asleep a few times! And every day since, he has been so lovely (even more so that usual). I really think he's more comfortable. We did our second horse trial at Loch Moy last Saturday. After a crazy morning (fellow boarder's horse would not load the trailer, reared several times and escaped and had to be chased for 10 minutes), we headed out solo (thanks to fellow boarder and father!). The wind was ridiculous; sandbags were in use everywhere (and horse were spooking right and left), but Caesar was chill as a cucumber. We had a great warm-up for dressage and I was sure we'd do fine, but when I got in the big ring for the last few minutes before my test, I got tense and worried. I love dressage, but I am not so comfortable in the 20mx40m ring with a judge staring at my every move. Despite the loose horse in the ring beside us and the sandbags and the sandstorm, Caesar was a prince. The test was, however, not fit for a prince. I held him tightly much of the time and tried to muscle him into a frame rather than letting him relax; we even had the bell rung on us (the judge saw my 15m circle and gave me the benefit of the doubt...if only it was that I had forgotten). I was bummed about my performance, but so pleased with Caesar! Our stadium round was the best we have had, and xc was a blast. He was so good--incredibly obedient and not at all offended by the little logs we had to jump! I was so pleased I forgave myself for the 47.10 dressage score (ewwwwwwwww...hopefully our lowest, at least for a while).

We had some nice flatwork sessions and got in some jumping last week. I am planning on laying low for a few weeks before doing a dressage schooling show in early June. My plan between now and then is to improve both my dressage and jumping by working on developing a strong lower leg. We'll shoot for 1.5 rides a week without stirrups. As of now, my base of support in jumping is in my knees and thighs, and my base of support in dressage is, sadly, in my hands. I think we need to go back to the basics--lots of stirrupless work, lots of walking hills and conditioning. Our goal for conditioning will be to establish consistency at the trot and develop an actual two-point position at the trot and canter. I need to pick up a training book or two to help guide the way (suggestions welcome!).

Back in the real world, work is going well. I found out that I will be increasing my time at school next year (a good thing) by teaching first grade math (which I am happy to say I am really looking forward to). I am dabbling with the idea of entering a certificate program in jewelry making at MICA...we'll see! And I just finished my final paper for my grad class (yea!). The next few weeks should be low-key. I hope to get in lots of riding, reading, and being outside. And, of course, blogging!

I will post photos and videos soon!