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,

dressage

 

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

Screen shot 2014-04-28 at 12.17.02 PM

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!

Lesson Review: Dressage

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Really this lesson ended up being more like a training ride/lesson hybrid, but it was worth it all the same. Eliza got there just as I finished warming up, and offered to hop on Foster briefly. I always think it’s great when she gets on him, because he seems like such a tricky horse to ride and for me to explain, that sometimes I don’t know how to translate what I’m feeling into the right questions.

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Immediately, Eliza was surprised to feel how ‘stuck’ he is in his neck. I’ve been able to mask a lot of this tension with the way I ride him, but we really need to get to the meat of the issue before we can seriously consider collection and more advanced work, because the connection is not perfectly clear when he is bracing with the base of his neck.

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Other remarks included how wiggly he is, and maintaining activity behind instead of letting him shuffle his hind legs like he’s wont to do. While Foster just tends to be a bit crooked, the crookedness is pretty specifically located in his hind end, and he likes to throw his haunches right instead of put weight on his left hock. And as far as the activity goes, she was much more adamant about reminding him to be active with subtle whip cues, and when he was really coming through behind, it was very noticeable!

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In the last 10 minutes, I hopped back on and tried to get a feel for what she was discussing. I definitely saw the difference in the canter, and we worked on the timing of my whip aid to keep the canter ‘jumping’.

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So overall, an informative lesson slash training ride. Sometimes the perspective from the ground is just as valuable as being in the saddle! I’m probably going to ask Eliza to do a proper training ride on him sometime in the future. Do you do training rides? What do you like about them/maybe not like?

Show Recap: Hunter/Jumper Land Overall Impressions

So now you’ve read the run down of our first and second days at our first real hunter/jumper show, and you’re probably sitting on the edge of your seat with anticipation wondering, “what now? Will they make the jump (pun intended) to hunter/jumper land permanently? *gasp*”.

Let me end your pretend anxiety and say, probably not. However, I was thoroughly surprised to find that I did not see evidence of many stereotypes I had in my head of the hunter/jumper crowd, and that I would certainly be willing to enter a hunter/jumper show again, if only for a day rather than the weekend-long shebang.

Here are the overall Pro’s and Con’s I experienced over the weekend. In hopes that I won’t offend any hunters out there, keep in mind that this is a first real H/J experience for someone who has only done Dressage and Eventing for the last 10 years.

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The Pro’s:

Warm up
These trainers have obviously taken the time to school their students in proper warm-up ring etiquette, and it showed. Calling fences or inside/outside, as well as staying out of the way when standing, were all observed. Considering that I was warming up with people mostly half my age (yay 2’6″ classes!), this was all the more impressive. I feel like at any typical event I am the lone voice in the warm up arena and have been known to yell at more than one person for not calling out their warm-up fences. So, eventers, let’s get our act together.

No snobbery
I’ll be honest, I fully expected to see a bit of hunter/jumper princessness while I was here. Instead, I saw a lot of down-to-earth people and comraderie amongst the competitors.

Adding/scratching classes is awesome
Especially for people who can’t make up their minds (*cough* like myself, Sunday morning), this was a great feature to the show. The downside of course being that nothing can be scheduled down to the minute like at an event, but it still comes in handy.

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part of our badly abuse class-sheet

Legit Jumper Courses
This was pretty cool to see. The level of difficulty was exactly what was expected, and I thought it was still fair throughout the different heights. It might have been neat to ride through a triple combination, but that’s about all that was missing from the courses. Thumbs up from me!

Footing
Also known as water/drag all the things! These people mean business about footing, and the water trucks and tractors came and went so much they had it down to a science.

Turnout
All the pretty ponies, and all the pretty people! And even though I am fond of wearing my Ugly Boots and Ugly Pants to horse shows, it was kind of nice to pretend to be part of the fancy crowd all weekend.

The Ugly Boots (shown here) came along for the trip, luckily the Ugly Pants (also shown here) stayed at home

The Ugly Boots (shown here) came along for the trip, luckily the Ugly Pants (also shown here) stayed at home

No timers
Obviously for the hunter classes, there’s no obnoxious buzzer sending you on your merry way. Not gonna lie, at the end of day 2, this was something Foster and I were seriously appreciating. Thank you, hunter gods, for not asking us to be relaxed and fast. Thank you.

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The Con’s:

The Wait
I know you were expecting this. Waiting around with no schedule sucks. To be fair, I understand why (note my earlier comment about scratching classes), but there is definitely something to be said for knowing exactly when you are going, and being able to plan your day accordingly.

Inconsistent Judging
Maybe it’s my uneducated eye, but I could not find rhyme or reason between the  different judges. And really, I’m talking about flat classes. Where I thought I saw a relaxed ‘hunter-type’ with big strides, swinging movement, and relaxed demeanor, the horse that was clenching it’s jaw and avoiding contact by head-tilting pinned. Or in another arena, when I though a horse and rider produced a nice outline/frame, the horse that had it’s nose to the sky placed. I just couldn’t understand how the scoring was done, and this was a bit frustrating- adding to the mysteries of hunteryness.

The Clothes
And specifically, the rules about what’s OK and what’s not. Your boots need non-functioning laces, the saddle pad must be fitted (or non-existent, the route we went), your breeches must be knee patch, etc, etc. In the (mostly) form-follows-function world of eventing wardrobe, some of these things just made my eyes roll.

Feeling sneaky riding in Full-seats that don't look like Full-Seats!

Feeling sneaky riding in Full-seats that don’t look like Full-Seats!

Confusing class descriptions
Again, totally based on my ignorance as an eventer, but seriously- who comes up with these names? Even checking the state’s Hunter-Jumper Association doesn’t immediately describe what a Special Hunter was, and asking multiple people about the difference between Special Hunter and Pre-Green Hunter didn’t seem to clear up the difference. So. much. confusion.

Photography
It was pretty amazing to see how much more expensive the photography was at this C rated show than it is at any event. And sure, maybe it’s because the clientele are willing to pay that prices, in which case, good for the photographer. But hot damn, that’s a lot of money! Maybe I’m just bitter because they got 4 photos of me, and they were some of the worst photos I have seen in my life. I watched the videos, I know our level of awkwardness wasn’t quite that bad. Maybe next time, Mr. Photographer.

Foster and one of our 2 4th place ribbons!

Foster and one of our 2 4th place ribbons!

Overall Take-away
When it really comes down to it, this weekend was a wonderful opportunity to get in the jump arena in a low-pressure kind of way. I was able to somewhat successfully implement and learn a new technique, expose Foster to new types of fences, and take in a lot of knowledge about a new discipline. I learned a lot about what my horse can handle, and where his fitness limits are, which, though frustrating at the time, is really useful in preparing for future competitions.  So all-in-all, this was a good experience and I’ll be keeping an eye on the hunter/jumper calendar next year in case another opportunity comes up to visit hunter/jumper land again!

Tonight, we return to the world of dressage with another lesson with Eliza. Until next time, hunter/jumper land!

Show Recap: Hunter/Jumper Land Day 2

So, having already established that poor baby Foster was almost debilitated with exhaustion from the day before, I had to come up with a new game plan for Day 2 of our Hunter/Jumper experience. The original plan was to do a couple more jumper classes, but I knew ‘go fast’ and ‘jump big’ were not tools in our tool box that day, so a change of plan was needed.

Foster naps in his stall

Foster naps in his stall

At first, after much discussion, we decided to do 2’9″ Schooling Hunters, and be damned that we would be up against professionals. Not like we were going to place anyways. Then there were concerns that we wouldn’t have time to get ready, and switched to Adult Amateurs. I got on and soon saw that there was no waking up Foster enough to do the 2’9″ fences (that ring also was the one decked out in astro-turf, filler galore). So I scratched again. I suppose there’s something to be said for being able to swap classes, even if you’re driving yourself absolutely bonkers over it all (I despise wishy-washyness, even in myself).

Another day of hunters! Also, tents. We like tents.

Another day of hunters! Also, tents. We like tents.

The final decision was that it would be best for him if we took it all the way back to 2’6″ and do the Special Hunter division. Our first flat class, yay!

Cue the waiting around, and getting hot and bothered about hearing that our arena was being held for 30 minutes at a time. But finally, our time came.

I was relatively pleased with our first round, in that at least we weren’t moving at a complete snail’s pace (though admittedly, still pretty slow), and we got about half our leads (the video chopped off the first half). My friend C had just shared with me a wonderful trick that I decided to implement- Step, Lift, Look. So for trying out something new for the first time in a show arena, I was pretty OK with that! Otherwise, obviously, we got in pretty darn deep to a couple fences, but whatevs, we had a mulligan another round coming up!

Round 2 made me really happy. We got all but one of our leads, and I am debating tattooing Step, Lift, Look on my body. One deepish distance that resulted in him jumping totally over his shoulder again, but I’ll take it! Who knows, maybe my horse could do the hunter thing.

Last came the flat round. Since I came off of our second round huffing like a grampus (seriously, I was as winded as when I come off XC! Not pretty!), I was just kind of going to let him poke around wherever he felt comfortable. So we loped around, and earned ourselves a pretty little 4th place ribbon for our efforts.

After that, I took poor pony back to his stall to cover him in liniment from head to toe, and bubble wrapped him for the ride home. Since then, he’s had two days to chill and recuperate, and tonight he’ll get a nice stretchy walk/trot session and lots of carrots and pats from me.

Next up, I’ll share with you my eventer’s perspective on the whole show, and would I do it again. Until tomorrow!

Show Recap: Hunter/Jumper Land Day 1

Since I’m suffering from major horse-show-hangover still, my normal one-giant-huge-recap post is going to have to be broken into a few pieces.

I’ll start at the end though. At the end of this show I am so, so proud of my horse. No, we didn’t come home with arms full of ribbons, and we didn’t even go as well as we normally do. But he proved to me how much he is willing to take care of me, and try for me, and that’s something you just don’t find in a lot of horses.

OK, back to the beginning.

My schooling Thursday over the 3’3″ fences ended up being pretty craptastic. There was a ton of traffic around the jumping arena, and pairing that with the fact that I was there by myself, staring at these huge airy 3’3″ oxers meant that I started over-riding things, and we have a couple really ugly jumps. So of course in my efforts to end on a good note (we did), I spent a lot longer riding than the 25 minute ride intended. A lot longer.

No I don't ride this hunched- loosening up my soulders

No I don’t ride this hunched- rolling my shoulders to get loosened up!

Then Friday we get to the show, and I realize that hunters have a very special place in their hearts for fillers. Fillers, and in particular, astro-turf. Astro-turf boxes, astro-turf poles, and of course your run-of-the-mill roll tops were everywhere. These fences looked giant too! So, I hopped on the less than plucky pony (since he’d jumped two days in a row so far), and jumped again. Another super special ugly fence that I thought might give me a black eye, another couple to end on a good note, and we called it a night.

Foster in his hunter get up (i.e, cross country saddle with no pad) and me in the full hunter outfit- FS jods and all!

Foster in his hunter get up (i.e, cross country saddle with no pad) and me in the full hunter outfit- FS jods and all!

So, the Foster I got on Saturday was already super tired from my cocked-up jumping efforts the 3 days previous. This was absolutely not the way I had planned things, but there it is. So I decided to bring everything down a notch. Instead of Adult Amateurs 2’9″, we did Special Hunters 2’6″. Instead of a 3′ and 3’3″ jumper class, we did 2’9″ and 3′. I still wanted to make this a positive experience, and that seemed in the best interest of everyone.

Donning our 'hunter' bridle and new show shirt!

Donning our ‘hunter’ bridle and new show shirt!

Special Hunter 2’6″ was interesting. Considering how tired we were, and that jumper classes were ahead, I was glad to see the expected outside line to diagonal pattern of a hunter course. Since we were still mastering leads over fences, I just did simple changes. Here’s how that went:

Somehow we earned ourselves a 4th place ribbon for that class, even though he jumped over his shoulder almost the entire course.

Then tired pony had to to his first jumper class. We waited around for ages, continuing to expect them to be done and moving on any minute (since when does it take 45 minutes to do 3 rounds in a jumper class? what the what?). Foster proceeded to get even more tired. It was a proper jumper course though, full of roll backs and a few related distances. We went in a little low on gas, and again, Foster jumped over his shoulder and even started bringing down poles (unusual). You’ll see in the video a few simple changes, as well as a few times when I say ‘eff it’, and stay on the wrong lead in order to keep his momentum up.

The last class of the day was our 3′ jumper class. I knew we were running on fumes, and I decided that if he started crashing fences, we would pull up. With all the waiting and not knowing how things worked, I’d been in the saddle for over 4 hours, and we were pretty ready to be done. But I did realize that he would need some more speed (especially since he did the last course at a snail’s pace). No bothering here for simple changes that would slow us down, we were just going to see how it went:

Ha. While we were moving more forward, that’s about all I can say for this video. It took everything I had with my legs to get him going, and he tried so hard to do what I was asking. I still can’t stop laughing at our almost-disastrous attempt over fence 5. Instead of jumping over and across the oxer, my poor boy jumped straight up and landed immediately on the backside of the fence, sending me sky rocketing out of the saddle as a result. Somehow though, we were able to recover and scrape through the rest of the course.

And so ended Day 1 of our hunter/jumper initiation. Foster, while absolutely exhausted by this time, saved my butt all day long. While it was some pretty shitty riding on my part, he piloted me around and did his job with a pretty good attitude. Proud does not even begin to describe how I feel for my horse.

Up next, wishy-washyness and more hunter goodness.

 

Getting desperate

For a lesson, that is. I feel like I’m at a point in Foster’s training where I’m chasing my tail. Instead of progressing forward, I’m routinely checking in and picking at tiny nuances that are appropriate for the level we’re at. Case in point- I’ve been meaning to work on lengthenings ALL YEAR. Have we? Nope!

Getting Foster ready for another lengthening-less ride

Getting Foster ready for another lengthening-less ride

So I’m ready for a lesson. Many lessons, in fact. Even if it’s temporary, I would like to start some kind of program where we are pushed to work on things outside our comfort zone. Like jumping combinations, and lengthenings. How the fritz am I supposed to move up to Training if we aren’t even practicing Training level things? Corners, coffins, triple combinations… I mean hello?! Wake up Britt and smell the sawdust- it ain’t happening at this rate.

Mane is show ready finally, with no show in sight

Mane is show ready finally, with no show in sight

In an effort to get on the right track, I have a dressage lesson scheduled for Saturday morning. It’s been since December when I last saw Eliza, and I am very curious to see what she thinks of where we are now. And I am a little ashamed of not progressing much in the last 6 months. I guess craptastic weather + traveling + new barn + weight loss + mystery swelling are excuses, but still…

Also, my horse is a dirty pig. Another good excuse for not lessoning?

Also, my horse is a dirty pig. Another good excuse for not lessoning?

But I did say *many* lessons. And since 1 lesson does not many lessons make, I am on the hunt for what to do. Since I am gone every weekend in August (that’s right, every. weekend.), trailering out to our regular lesson place is not an option. So, I may be looking to what’s available at my current barn. Lots of trainers come in for various boarders, and I’ve just got to choose who to ask. But herein lies a question- is a lesson a good thing no matter what, or does it really matter who the trainer is? When you are desperate for feedback, does it matter who the eyeballs belong to? What do you guys think? How do you decide?

Catching Up: The Horse

I have been more than remiss with this blog for the past week, and so, I apologize. The good news is, a lot has been going on and so I have stuff to talk about!

Sorry y'all!

Sorry y’all!

Since our 3’9″ awesome-tastic jumping efforts a little while ago, things have gone a little downhill. As has happened in the past, summer has stolen a tiny part of Foster’s brain and run away until Fall. So, since I hemmed and hawed over a Calming supplement last year, and never did it, I’ve bitten the bullet and ordered SmartCalm to try out for the season. The theory, as I’ve been told, is that in the summer the horses sweat a lot (duh), and through the sweating process magnesium leaves the body. Magnesium is an active ingredient in calming supplements, and a supplement will help replace the mineral faster than the horse would normally replenish it. Hence, more sweat = more crazy/twitchy horse, more magnesium = calmer/less spooky horse that hopefully I won’t want to kill. We’ll see how it goes.

Please, please work!

Please, please work!

In other news, I also received my new saddle! It is oh so beautimous and pretty and shiny and new! I’ve ridden in it a couple times, and while I feel fine posting in it, I am still trying to create the muscle memory for sitting the trot. My legs in my old saddle definitely crept forward into a chair seat, so that is what I am trying to fight with the giant thigh blocks I now have. Will take some time, but the end result will be oh-so worth it!

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Other than his spooky moments, Foster has really settled into the new barn and we are loving the rubber footing! Between that and the new saddle (which really makes Foster lift his back in a way I haven’t felt before!), I think he is a happier horse already. Just hoping we will get back on track with the spookiness, and then I think this summer will be a positive one for our training and progression. At least here’s hoping!

 

What’s in a name

A couple days ago Eventing Nation posted a fun article about horses with names that come to mind after 5. While I am not the most superstitious person, I grew up learning that there are a couple things that will bring luck to a horse- one being big ears (big ears make big jumpers!) and alcoholic names.

Scrumpy Jack, named after a British hard cider

Scrumpy Jack, named after a British hard cider

So of course when I got Foster (then named Pilgrim- lady did you not read The Horse Whisperer?!), I started thinking about what boozey name I would brand him with. On The Rocks was taken, Kahlua and Creme too girly, so I looked to my favorite liquor- whiskey, for inspiration.

Kentucky Gentleman is my husband and I’s go-to whiskey for a nice mixed cocktail, or night out camping, and I think it’s a perfect fit.  And since neither Kentucky nor Gentleman really rolls off the tongue as a barn name, we’d call him Foster for short. That’s Australian for beer 😉

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So what about you guys? How did you come up with your 4 legged friend’s name? Was it planned, or did it happen in a more organic manner?

Pre-Show Prep Part III: Getting Prettyfied

When you have a grey horse, or a horse that is 50% white, like, I dunno, Foster, getting ready for a show takes a little more effort than just knocking the dust off.

When you have a horse that loves to turn himself green, brown, and other sordid colors, like, I dunno, Foster (!), getting white white becomes a whole ‘nother story!

Ick, just.. ick.

Ick, just.. ick.

Luckily, friend A was a professional groom in another life, and has spent much of our shows together teaching me the fine art of not-looking-like-a-redneck-hoodlum. A.k.a, how to groom your white horse 101.

Step 1: Shave the legs
This is a step that has to happen long before the show, maybe even before the entry goes in. About 1-2 weeks out, so the hair has a bit of time to grow back and avoid lines, I clip all 4 legs, blending the hair at the knobby parts so it’s not as obvious. Foster [used to] love laying down in his stall, and so stained knees were a trademark of his. Clipped legs make these stains easier to get out, leaves less hair for dirt to cling to, and overall provides a nice, sleek silhouette that helps the overall picture.

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Step 2: Pull the mane
This is kind of a ‘duh’ for anyone showing in the English disciplines. While admittedly I am super lazy in the winter and let the mane grow to John Wayne pony lengths, for shows I like the mane to be about 5-6″ long.

Step 3: Trim the face
I know it’s becoming increasingly popular for chin whiskers in the dressage ring, but I personally prefer the well-manicured look of a trimmed up profile. Nose, jawline, bridal path, and if I feel like it, ears, all get the buzz cut treatment.

Foster got his cute little nose buzzed last night

Foster got his cute little nose buzzed last night

Step 4: Wash the pony
Kind of a no-brainer here, but again, definitely required for a mostly white pony like Foster. Scrub-a-dub-dub!

Step 5: Purple the pony
This is the fun part. I fill up a small bucket with water, and pull out the handy-dandy Blue Lotion. Dab the dabber into the water until the water turns a deep purple (it doesn’t take much). Then, sponge the purple water all over the pony, until pony is as purple as a My Little Pony. Scrape off excess water, and let dry. If the tail is white as well, dunk that into the purple water as well. Ideally, we do this process the night before, and wake up to find a beautiful, sparkling white steed in the morning!

Best friend to white horses everywhere.

Best friend to white horses everywhere.

Post-purpling Foster- look at that white!

Post-purpling Foster- look at that white!

Step 6: Braid the pony
Another big ‘duh’, depending on what type of show you are going to. The fun part about braiding a paint is mixing the colors together! It does mean you need bands (or yarn, if you’re skilled- I’m not) in multiple colors though.

Step 7: Powder puff
Right before stepping out into the dusty show ground, Foster’s legs get a big puff of baby powder. Again, this helps them stay white and keeps the dust at bay. I’m not a big fan of show sheen because I hate the slippery feeling of it, but I think at a really nice show I would show sheen too at that point.

Powder puffed legs in action

Powder puffed legs in action

And there you have it!