Two Years

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A friend sent me this over the weekend. It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since Foster and I’s last outing, a clinic where we aimed to get around our first Training level showjumping course.

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While it wasn’t without its blips, I’m still pretty effing proud of having at least done this with Fosterpants, despite nearly peeing my pants in the process. (Two one-stride combinations, max height/width fences, and a horse without a motor- I shudder to think of it still!)

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This was also the one of the few clinics I did with Foster, and I think I learned more from it than any other clinic I’ve done before- those lessons still stick with me today.

Because this makes me happy, I will reuse it for eternity

Because this makes me happy, I will reuse it for eternity

Part of me is also a little sad that the only “competition” I’ve done between now and then is the little GaG CT I did with Smitty back in October. Of course when it comes to horses there is no such thing as plans written in ink, but somehow I imagined having done just a bit more over the last 24 months. How on earth have I kept this blog going otherwise?

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Still, one day I hope to get back there, jumping all the things, even if I have to convince myself not to be a total weenie in the process.

clinic canter

It’s all about the journey, right?

A time when I had bigger balls. Kind of. Actually I remember being terrified walking that course.

Let’s Discuss: What’s your range?

Last week we discussed ponies versus horses, and both the cultural and sometimes ruling limitations that stop ponies from being more popular in the english disciplines. So today I’d like to ask the more personal question- what is your perfect size, and why?

Ivan and Foster were both 16.2h and uphill, and Smitty is fitting right into that category and will likely get much bigger. While it’s a lot easier to market a larger horse, I’m finding his constant growth (.5″ from September to December) a little disconcerting.

Already more like wrangling a giraffe at 16.2h | PC: Studio in the Stable

Already more like wrangling a giraffe at 16.2h | PC: Studio in the Stable

When I was horse shopping, I was looking at anything from 15.2h to 16.2h, though there were exceptions of course. I really quite like riding the shorter guys, in fact, and if I didn’t want to jump I’m probably stick to something 15.2 or 15.3h tall.

A 17h horse I tried in KY...

A 17h horse I tried in KY…

.... and a 15.2h pony from the same day

…. and a 15.2h pony from the same day

For me, I prefer to jump something a little bit taller than 15.1-15.2 hands simply because the fences look smaller from a bigger horse, and my balls went MIA a long, long time ago. Otherwise, I feel like my leg is ok on a variety of horses and would be open to a more vertically challenged prospect.

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XC schooling baby Smitty

What about you? What is your acceptable range in a mount? How does your chosen discipline affect your preferences? 

Thankful: A Fosterpants Update

Has anyone been wondering what their favorite spotted pony has been up to recently?

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If you were curious, mostly he’s been getting fat and fluffy. Both good things going into winter, but a little bizarre to see through my theres-always-a-show-around-the-corner eyes. He’s been enjoying the life of a trail horse, exploring the woods and paths of the Civil War era plantation on which he lives.

Or, lived.

Unfortunately last week, Foster’s mom contacted me to let me know that her work schedule had gone in an unpredicted way, and she was no longer able to give him the attention he deserves. Life and horses don’t always mix, and sometimes you have to give up something very special to you in order to take care of higher priorities. I was gutted to hear this news, and knew it wasn’t an easy decision for her to come to.

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Fortunately I have a friend who knew someone looking for a horse, with the hopes of trail riding, some natural horsemanship, and maybe walk-trot dressage tests or the occasional western show. So I got her information, and passed it along to Foster’s mom.

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What she later told me is that when the woman hopped aboard Foster, her heart both broke and soared. I knew exactly what she meant, because that’s just how I felt when I saw her ride Foster the first time. It seems yet another match made in heaven, and on Sunday I loaded Foster up a second time to take him to his new home. He walked straight on like it was the most normal thing in the world, walked off the trailer an hour later and casually looked around his new home.

I made sure all seemed settled and then drove off once again with an empty trailer. Foster’s new mom sent me the cutest text saying how she rode him later that afternoon and just how much she loves him.

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There’s so much to be thankful for, even when life doesn’t go the way we thought it would. I’m thankful to Foster’s previous mom for loving him as she did. I’m thankful to his new mom for falling in love with him. I’m thankful to Foster for being so special, and so easily loved. His family seems to have grown by another person, and I’m grateful for all of them.

Foster by the Numbers: A Timeline

Tomorrow I do a PPE on a potential new horse. So in hopes that tomorrow I start a new journey, with a new partner, I thought it would be worth looking back on all that Foster and I did together. No matter how tomorrow goes, whatever new horse I end up with has some serious shoes to fill. And not the expensive, corrective type, please.

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Foster – ‘Before’ Photos

Posting Foster’s ‘Before’ photos as a reference, since at the end of this week he’ll be switched over to Purina Ultium and I should be able to start tracking his progress.

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Though the vet thought he was underweight, this photo was taken 2 days after the appointment, and I think while his topline and rear could be a little more buff, his weight looks fine. I think maybe he was just drawn up from the cold that day- it was 20 degrees colder than the day before. I’m not sure how much chunkier I really would want him to get.

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Here’s the photo that is most interesting to me. The two rectangles are the exact same size, centered according to the point of his croup. Looking at this, it’s obvious that Foster’s left side really is less developed than his right. So even though that left hind is stronger than it was a year ago, there is obviously a lot of room for improvement in the muscle tone there. If the theory holds from this diet experiment – better nutrition/vitamins > more muscle development > stronger left side > straighter traveling horse > no more haunches falling to the right.

Will be repeating this process in a couple weeks to see where we are!

Being Thankful

Cue the Thanksgiving-themed post about being thankful. Sorry, not sorry.

But seriously, isn’t it important to take a moment and remember all of the blessings in our lives? This year has been one of emotional duress for me and my family, and so in this season I feel it is especially important to recognize all that we have that is dear.

The Husband
This year we celebrated 5 years of being together, and our first year of marriage. I can’t say how thankful I am for our time together and these memories, and for having someone in my life who is so patient and understanding. It doesn’t hurt that he can also tell the difference between a leg yield and a lengthening, and I continue to be impressed by his support of my hobby.

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Family
This weekend, we’ll be celebrating the birthday of a loved one that has spent as much time in the hospital as out of it, and we are so thankful that they are once more doing well. I’m thankful to have a better relationship with one of my parents. And I’m thankful for bonding with my Grandmother over Outlander, and the knowledge that I am not the only one in this family that goes crazy over all things Scottish.

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Career
Another turbulent part of my life this year. But somehow, I managed to land a position with one of the top companies to work for in the country. I am still shocked that I’m here, but I am immensely grateful. It still amazes me that this is where I ended up, and that I do work that I really love. And let’s be real, I’m incredibly thankful for this job because it allows me to afford a horse, and that, to me, is a big deal. So many, many thanks here.

Thankful for wearing grown-up clothes again

Thankful for having an excuse to wear grown-up clothes again

Friends
It’s been a year of weddings for many of my friends. I feel blessed that I am been able to be a part of some of them, and I’m glad to see them happy in their married lives. I’m also thankful for making new friends this year, mostly through horses, and I sincerely look forward to getting to know these people better the rest of the year.

Thankful for moments like this... (aha, don't kill me!)

Thankful for moments like this… (aha, don’t kill me!)

Foster
You knew this was coming. This has been a big year for Foster. I’m thankful for finding a barn where I think he is happy and healthy. I’m thankful that he has become so confident on the cross country field, and that he has matured so much in the dressage court. I’m thankful for his boisterous, puppy-dog attitude and for the affection he gives me when I groom him. I’m thankful for being able to see him grow, and cannot believe it’s been almost 4 years that we’ve been a team. Here’s hoping for many more.

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Moving Up

When I was younger, the decision to move up was solely based on whether or not I could get around a course at that level. Our dressage was crap wasn’t pretty, our skills not confirmed, but I could get around a Training level cross country course without any faults, and that was the measure of success we held to.

Merry at the Ark Horse Trials

Merry at the Ark Horse Trials

Upon my return to the realm of competition as an adult amateur, I decided I was fed up with the days of just ‘getting around’, and redefined success as a competitor. To me, success is putting in a dressage test I can be proud of, jumping around a show-jumping course in a non-scary and tactful way, and giving my horse a confident ride over cross country. That is not to say that mistakes cannot be made, but that at the end of the day I am not embarrassed of the way I rode my horse and that he is better for the experience.

Cross country is supposed to be fun! Photo by High Times Photography

Cross country is supposed to be fun!
Photo by High Times Photography

Since I bought Foster as a just-turned 4 year old, I have had the reins for his entire career. No one else makes decisions about what he does or when he moves up, though certainly I try to be open minded to advice when knowledgable advice is given. Our first event was at the maiden level (video below), and we trotted almost the entire course, and racked up time faults galore, but I could have cared less. We campaigned at the Beginner Novice level for over a year and a half, as we struggled to find confidence and rhythm on a cross country course. When he cantered around a Beginner Novice track with ears pricked the whole way, and came in over 30 seconds under time, I knew we were ready to move up.

And now as I consider moving him up again, I pause. Foster has now completed 3 Novice level events, and proved he can rock around a harder Novice course and still come in with confidence and spunk. He has schooled Training height fences, and training combinations. His dressage is rocking along, and with some tweaks to my warmup, I hope to break into the 20s soon.

Training Jump, yay!

But.

I know that part of me wants to move up to Training so badly, because I’ve always sort of put it on a pedestal. I hated that I didn’t get to compete more at Training with Merry, and in my mind it is the first real test of a non-green horse. Training level demands bravery, fitness, and finesse in a way that Novice only occasionally hints at. And I am more than eager to prove my horse can answer those demands.

There are still elements of Training that he hasn’t mastered. He hasn’t seen corners, or chevrons. He hasn’t got confirmed lengthenings (granted, two separate trainers have commented that he may never have great lengthenings). So do I trust that when asked, Foster will answer the new fence-type questions?

I’ve been hoping and planning to move up to Training in the spring, but I feel at war with myself, trying to judge if he is ready versus trying to judge whether it’s my ambition just saying he’s ready. But if all goes well, we will conquer lengthenings this winter, and I will find a facility to expose him to more training cross country questions. The latter is tough, because I can’t think of any schooling facilities have corners and chevrons available to practice over. We’ll just have to do our best to prepare, and I will have to trust Foster to continue to be confident in his abilities and my riding. And if it doesn’t go well, we’ll come back to Novice without regret. Because at the end of the day, success is still about him, and not me.

How do you measure success? When do you decide to move up?

Photography Friday: Ponies

Yet another archive dump… Sorry again!

Anyways, horses have been an obvious subject for me as a photographer, ever since I first picked up a camera.

From the beginnings of studying photography and developing with film…

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to attempting to take my new knowledge out to the races…

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and all over the place photographing friends and trying to capture special moments. Trying, to capture the elegance,

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the power,

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the bonds,

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and the sheer happiness that horses give us.

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Needless to say, it’s been a wild ride, but I sure do love it!

I’m doing 2 different shoots this weekend, so I’ll have some new material soon! Have a great weekend!

Unofficial Blog Hop: Transformations

I’m jumping on this blog-hop wagon (thanks to Life of Riley for the idea!) because progress has been on my mind a lot recently. We’re going through one of those annoying phases where it seems like we are going backwards a bit (mostly related to the whole getting-crazy-deep-distances issue, and my sudden intimidation of both airy fences and fences with crap loads of filler – sidenote: maybe I’m just a chicken shit?)… anyways.

I keep telling myself, this is just another phase, and just like in the past we’ll come out of it the other side and be better than before. Looking back on where we’ve been is one way to assure myself of this. So here’s our transformation post, before and after Fosters!

Foster:

Foster Jan 2011 in his sales pic

Foster Jan 2011 in his sales pic

April 2012

April 2012

May 2014

May 2014

 

Dressage (trotting):

Feb. 2011

Feb. 2011

Nov. 2012

Nov. 2012

April 2014

April 2014

 

Dressage (canter):

Feb. 2011

Feb. 2011

Nov. 2012

Nov. 2012

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April 2014

 

Showjumping:

June 2012

June 2012

Sept 2013

Sept 2013

Dec. 2013

Dec. 2013

 

Cross Country:

Feb 2012

Feb 2012 – first XC school

Feb 2012

Feb 2012

Oct. 2012

Oct. 2012

August 2013

August 2013

November 2013

November 2013

April 2014

April 2014

So that’s it. 3 and a half years of ups and downs, but a lot of progress when I look at the first and last pictures in each set. Our bond has definitely grown, and he’s been able to give me confidence that I could never have in my past horses. I’m sure we’ll get through this latest phase and be moving forward again soon!