Saturday, July 29, 2017

Life Experiences: Part 2

So as I said, there would be continuation from my last post, regarding all of the life experiences that I've had recently. Thunderbird was awesome, and the clinic was even more so, but both pale in comparison to this.

I bought a house!

Now when I say that, I had immense amounts of help from my family and could not have done it without them. But my name is officially on this house and I am the primary homeowner. This also means that the mortgage shows up on my bank account and makes me die a little bit inside every time I look at it, but I could not be happier with this house!

Overhead shot of the property

The house is approximately 1,700 square feet, and it sits on 3.5 acres of land. As you can see in the picture, about half of the acreage is just pasture, then there is a dry lot with shelter and an automatic waterer, a hay barn, and there is an arena out back which is approximately 120ft x 200ft. Which is seriously a bigger arena than I've had in some boarding facilities!

Dry Lot
The whole property was clearly designed with a horse person in mind. There are gates connecting the dry lot and pasture, and a gate going between the pasture and the arena as well. 

Hay Barn/Dry Lot

The hay barn isn't huge, but comfortably holds 1-2 tons of hay, and is conveniently located right next to the dry lot and pasture gates.

Shed/Tack Room
Out behind the house, butting right up against the arena, is a tack room/shed. They have water and power run out to it, so it works quite nicely as a tack room, especially being right next to the arena so you can just run out to grab something only a few feet away.

Arena gate

And then there is absolutely nothing better than looking out your back door to a view of the huge arena in your backyard. 

Last but not least, my absolute favorite picture:
Gorgeous sunset, and my gorgeous horse

Charmer moved out to the property about 2 weeks ago, and neither of us could be happier. I still get goosebumps every time I step out the door and see his face waiting there for me. This whole property is a dream come true for me.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Life Experiences: Part 1

I swear at some point I will actually start blogging more than once a month (if that). What a crazy month that it has been for me though! So crazy, in fact, that I will have to write more than one post on it.

To kick off the post, I got to have a really fantastic experience with my barn. They went up to Thunderbird from 6/26-7/2. I have been working at the barn for the last few months and they decided last minute to take me as a groom! I rushed to get my passport together, and make sure that I had everything I would need, and we went off to Canada!

This was my first experience at an A-rated jumper show, and just WOW. The atmosphere, people and horses are all fascinating to be around. It took a couple of days for me to adjust to the environment of these shows and exactly how to keep our barn running smoothly, but everyone at the barn was helpful and patient while I got the swing of things. By day 3 I was having a blast!

We brought 6 horses on the trip and there just happened to be 6 people too - which never happens. I learned the ropes of how warm-up rings work at these A-rated shows, got a pretty good handle on how to time everything out so that all horses and people were ready for their classes, and even got to experience making sure a hunter looked flawless before heading into his rounds (no hunter braiding for me though - thank goodness!).

I met all sorts of really incredible people, and gushed over some fancy horses (1.40 amateur horses - I'm looking at you), but I would have to say that the highlight of my trip was watching my trainer compete 3 times in the Grand Prix arena.

Being able to personally know someone that was riding in that arena, and have them personally know you back, was such a cool feeling. Plus there is an incredible sense of accomplishment and pride knowing that you got that horse ready. You put it's studs in, groomed til it shined, and tacked that horse up. I don't really know how else to describe it, but it was such an incredible feeling.

I loved the whole experience and environment of the show (once I figured out what I was doing) and had an absolute blast. If nothing else, watching my trainer rock it around the 1.20, 1.25 and 1.30 classic, made the whole trip worth it.

The next weekend, after the show, I ended up taking Charmer to Sun Valley, Idaho for a clinic. It was supposed to be a clinic and derby, but the derby was cancelled due to lack of entries, so we just got a couple of fun days to learn in the clinic. My usual trainer was the clinician so she had a really good handle on exactly what Charmer and I needed to work on.

The first day was an arena day (unfortunately there is no media from the first day). We started out with just flatting to warm up as a group. Charmer actually did way better than I expected him to do considering it was our first time trailering out, staying overnight and asking him to show up to play the next day. I knew that my #1 priority all weekend was to give him a job, and have a plan. Or at least to fake it til I make it. When he wanted to be stupid or silly, I gave him a job. Sometimes we did serpentines, other times we did circles, and sometimes we just worked on transitions. Once he figured out that I had a plan (for the most part) and was in control, he settled in really well. He would stand fairly patiently while the other horses went around and did their courses, and he would perk right up to go jump his course.

He still has some racehorse moments, but the better plan that I have, the better he responds. When we have another jump coming up, I will still point him at it and he will figure out his job, and then when there isn't another jump in close proximity, I would ask him to halt or circle to rebalance and check back in.

We both still have a lot of work to do, but we are definitely heading in the right direction.

On day 2, we graduated to the cross country field. I have only ever taken Charmer in a cross country field twice. The first time was in a field with about 10 jumps in it and only 1 other (very experienced) horse on about a 1/2 acre of property. The second time, it was a much larger environment, but we spent the whole time just getting him to calm down, and by the end of that trip we only jumped 2 cross country fences. So this clinic was a big challenge for us in that regard.

First off, we wandered through the water, and he got in by himself, and significantly faster than last time. Then we trotted and cantered through the water for a while just to get him thinking. Honestly once he figures out the game of going through the water, he actually enjoys it a lot. He gets quite sure that he is the best at water.

Spy that CWD in this photo? That is another fun thing that happened this month

Then we were off to do a mini course. Various fences from intro height to BN. Honestly the first time we went out it was not great. I was looking down at every fence wondering where I was going to end up, and I had no real faith in him. He was being honest as could be, but without any guidance from me, we stopped at the first half a dozen fences. Finally my trainer handed me a whip. We talked about the fact that all he was doing was asking the question "are you sure?" at the base of the fence and I was whispering "yes? I think?" back to him. The answer he needs is "YES, I'm sure!". So at the base of the fence I tapped him with the whip and sure enough he sprung right over without an issue. 

We had a blast around a few more mini courses, and then opened it up to go into another field. Charmer had a nice racehorse moment in between a couple of fences, but he checked back in after a minute or so and then we finished our course. 

The fences became more and more actual BN height, but Charmer didn't even bat an eye. As long as I was there, telling him that I wanted to go over the jump, he was right there with me. We had 3 more real racehorse moments during the rest of our XC ride, but at each and every one, he came back in about a minute. We got quite familiar with the use of a pulley rein, but we also worked on the concept of cruising position. It is really hard for Charmer to understand, because when I go up to just "cruise" along and not give him input every stride, he tends to speed up, thinking that is what I want, instead of just staying the same. That will be something really good to work on with him, but overall the clinic in Sun Valley was a huge success! First real clinic for me or Charmer in the books, and I cant wait for when our next one is!!!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

So Many Updates!

Wow! I cannot believe it has been over a month since I last posted. This post is going to be a monster, considering I am covering a big month of happenings for Charmer and I, so buckle up! First off, I audited a Karen O'Connor clinic on April 1-2, then Charmer had several weeks of his pro training before having a fun schooling show on April 22nd with one of his trainers, and then I had my first lesson on him after his 3 weeks of pro training, and then I played with Charmer over his very first cross-country jumps!!

We will start off with a brief recap of the KOC clinic. This was my first time auditing a clinic from KOC, and while I have definitely heard some brutal stories about her in clinics, everyone walked away from this clinic without any tears. Karen definitely is very up front about her opinions of you, your horse, and well, basically everything. She will tell you if you are royally screwing up, and she won't let you forget it. I ended up jump crewing for her practically the whole weekend, along with a few other friends who were auditing as well. It was kind of nerve-wracking, because she never really told you the exact height or spread she wanted, she would just say "raise that jump" or "widen that oxer", and we would all just kind of have to guess what was the most appropriate height for the class.

The one thing that I definitely took away from Karen's clinic is that, if you are brave enough to clinic with her, you need to be ready for her to uncover every single one of your flaws in your riding. She is blunt and honest. If that is not the style of riding that works for you, then she is not the clinician for you. When she finds what you need help with though, she gives some really incredible pointers on how to improve. I saw at least 75% of the pairs that rode that weekend increase drastically in at least one area of their riding.

I did however, see the brutality that I have long heard about KOC. Being a part of the jump crew on the ground, I was almost never more than 20ft away from Karen, and I heard everything. She definitely will mutter some choice phrases about your riding under her breath if you are really doing things wrong. I also watched one horse and rider fall due to her pushing a concept that the horse was not quite ready for (in my opinion). Also, if you are claiming to be able to ride at training/prelim level, and you do not have an established flying change, she will ding you hard on that. She got after nearly every rider in that group for the fact that they did not have a lead change.

I also witnessed another horse rear straight up because of the way in which Karen was pushing the rider and horse to do something that the horse legitimately could not understand. For every rider/horse pairing that worked with Karen's ideas, it was an incredibly fruitful clinic, but she does have a teaching style that may not work for everyone. I think a clinic with her might really benefit Charmer and I down the line, but I would have to have a healthy dose of bravery to enter my first clinic with her.

Now to move on to Charmer's show with one of his trainers! The barn that Charmer and I are trained at puts on several schooling shows every year. When one of them rolled around in April, during Charmer's month of pro training, I jumped at the opportunity to have one of his trainers ride him. Trainer CP offered to pop him around some courses for me, and I was thrilled.

Charmer has really been learning a lot of manners during his time with these trainers, and it was facinating watching them go around. It also helps that apparently CP really enjoys jumping him, as she told me after their first round.

They first started in the 2'6", and I could really notice the difference in how Charmer goes. He was much more controlled and thoughtful, instead of just "RUN AND JUMP AND BE WILD". He pulled a rail with a lazy leg, but overall the course was calm, quiet and beautiful.

Then they entered a 2'9" round, and that is where I really noticed how much Charmer's confidence has improved. He was not backed off, or strung out coming into any of the fences. There was no wild, scared look in his eye when he was faced with a line or a fence that was new or different to him. He took every jump in stride and came back to CP after every jump. He had two lazy rails in that class, but that will get better with more practice and time.

The day after the show, I ended up having a lesson on him. It was the first time I had ridden him since he first went into pro training. And I was shocked. I basically looked like one of those little kids that is on one of those fair ride ponies with just this stupid look of glee and excitement on their face. I just walked and trotted and cantered around, and it was incredible. He was so light in the bridle and so quietly forward.

I basically just let him run around with his head wherever he wanted because I was just so thrilled to have this nice forward horse on my hands. SG told me that I needed to actually get his head down and ride and things, but even she understood just how excited I was about how he felt.

We did a little course, and I have never felt so confident. It was also easily the most fun I have had in years. We nailed our distances, and only had like two little run away moments (which were SO much more mild than they used to be), and just had a grand old time.

Also for the first time in years, I actually left a stride out. Yes. That's right folks. I did a 6 stride in 5 strides. I am pretty much infamous (especially on Charmer) for putting in more strides than I should, but after I put 7 strides in the 6 stride once, SG told me to actually let him go. So I really let him go. And basically every stride had a lead change and it was huge and fast, but we did a 6 stride in 5 strides, and even though SG made me actually do it again, correctly, in 6 strides, it was kind of a miracle for me to have actually left a stride out.

After my lesson, I went on vacation for 10 days (DisneyWorld. It was a blast.) and Charmer continued his training. When I came back, I really wanted to take Charmer over his first XC jumps. I have had this horse for almost two years and I want him to be an eventer, and yet I have never taken him over any XC jumps. So I decided that Sunday was the day. I got him ready, tacked him up and we went out to the XC field.

We did our first ever solid fences, and he rocked them! Then we graduated to attempting our first banks (both up and down), and our first ditch.

And we might make an eventer out of this horse yet. He is a complete superstar with banks. Up is no big deal whatsoever, and down is also no big deal. He has decided that he is basically the best with banks. Which I totally love, because banks are one of my favorite things to do on cross country, especially with a horse that does them well.

Ditches were a bit of a scarier question for him, and he was not thrilled about going over it, but after a lot of patience and coaxing, we did it 3 times, and I think it will only get better with practice! 

Gotta end with an awesome bank picture because banks are apparently what we do best. 

Well if you made it through that whole long monster of a post, I applaud you. It has been a big month for Charmer and I and I cannot wait to see where the new few months will take us!

Saturday, April 1, 2017


So here is the exciting news that I eluded to in my last post! Charmer and I have moved barns. We are now boarding (for the time being) at the barn where we take lessons, and for this month, I have been able to put Charmer into pro training - which means he is going to get at least a dozen rides by our favorite trainer this month, along with a few other high level riders and trainers that work at the barn!

I wish I could have said something abut this move ahead of time, but we were in a bad boarding situation and I couldn't risk our barn owner knowing about anything. To give a little background, the owner was still feeding the horses and things, but a lot of things had gone down that made the barn owner and I not get along whatsoever, and it turned into a little bit of fear for my own safety as well as my horse's.

But on a happier note! This move is exactly what we needed. I was a little hesitant on how Charmer would react to moving from a large dry lot to a 12'x12' stall with turnout (there are runs but they are flooded right now). Everything seems to be going really well though! He is loving the fact that he gets grained twice a day at this barn, as well as four feedings of hay. He seems like quite a happy little camper about his situation right now actually. Plus we picked up a back on track mesh sheet to help ease a little bit of his occasional back soreness, and I think he likes that as well!! I am excited to see if it helps him long term after wearing it for a while.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Vets, Tack, Excitement

Tonight, Charmer has a vet/chiropractor appointment. Mostly a routine "get all the things back in line" checkup, but also checking up on a few things to ease my paranoid, nervous, crazy horse mom brain. Assuming all goes well in his appointment tonight, I will have some very exciting news coming up tomorrow. I cannot say anything until all of the i's are dotted and t's are crossed, because the situation is somewhat delicate, but suffice it to say, I am busting with excitement and nervousness about it right now.

This is my face about our exciting news 😁

Also there is a new piece of tack that is gracing my plain bay horse's face. I haven't gotten the chance to ride in it, but it is a new noseband from Uisce Saddlery. I first heard about them from SprinklerBandits blog and got a sudden itch to get one. I have wanted a white padded, fancy stitched noseband for Charmer for quite a while now, and that seemed like the perfect thing to order. It arrived in just under 3 weeks, within the time frame she gave me, and the quality is great! Not to mention that the stitching and the white padding look fantastic against Charmer's plainer-than-plain bay face. I can pretty much guarentee that this will not be the last item I am buying from Uisce Saddlery! Hopefully someday I can work up my courage to get a color padded noseband, but I'm not quite gutsy enough yet. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

WSH Icebreaker Show: Photo Dump

I am basically too tired to do a real write up on the show that we had on Saturday, but in order to sum it all up - the day started a little rocky, but once I got on and we got to work, Charmer was a superstar! We had some of our best rounds to date. We kept our brains in our skulls and we ended up being one of only a handful of horses all day that did not buck, bolt, spook or refuse at anything. Also, every pole stayed up! Charmer did not even try to take anything down. Lots of people commented that he looked really nice, and calm. So yay for a successful show and I hope you guys enjoy this photo dump.

Rocking our warmup
Trotting through puddles
Power trot
Loving the burgundy and navy look
Crossrail king
I love the mountains in these pictures
Eating up those 2' jumps
"2'3" and scary fillers? Psh, easy."
Snappy knees
"Oxers are no big thang"
Wow look at me actually looking up!
Ever so careful hind end
He rocked this turquoise oxer line
Just stepping over little square red oxer
Lots of refusals from other horses at the scary flowers
But Charmer didn't even blink!