Punks Kid Rock is the registered name of my American Quarter horse gelding, Rocky. This blog chronicles our adventures together,
as well as stories from my horse past and, occasionally, a tidbit from my non horse life.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Talking to Horses

Remember those Equestrian Question blogs I was doing a while ago? I just remembered I stopped doing them at #14, and since I'm floundering for blog topic today I decided to get back in the saddle with number 15, "If you could talk to any horse alive or dead, who would it be?"

I debated Secretariat for a while. As arguably the greatest racehorse of all time, it would be amazing to even be in his presence.  However, I don't have much to say, and after the first few minutes of being honored to be speaking with him, I feel like the gift would be wasted. Plus, I don't want to hear if bad things happened to him, I'm sure they did but I don't want to know about it.

I want to talk to my first horse, Honey.

She died February 8th, 2009 and she was the first love of my life. I want to tell her that I'm sorry for not getting a second opinion sooner, I'm sorry for not leaving her home like she wanted that last semester and that I selfishly wanted her at school with me.

I want to tell her thank you for being such a great horse, baby sitting me when I was 13 and teaching me how to be a leader as I got older. I wish I knew then what I know now, but that's life and unfortunately we can't go back no matter how much we wish we could.

Most of all I want to give her a hug, smell her neck and tell her I love her. I want to make sure she's happy in horse heaven and not to feel bad when I feel sad. I want to tell her I miss her but that I hope she has her pick of apples and oranges (yes, she loved oranges) up there.

She really was beautiful. Strong willed, opinionated but sweet and intelligent. She had a confidence in her stride that said she knew what she was about, and a softness in her eyes that made you feel like she saw your soul, and you were free.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Hey All,
I have to get ready for work soon but I wanted to put up a quick post so I don't get so terribly out of the habit of writing again.

I am working two part time jobs right now, which means I am almost done with a 13 day stretch of no days off. I was hoping to get tonight off, but alas, I was called in. Trying to keep my shit together so I can be professional and awesome at work, even though I felt a bit like crying when I found out I needed to go in tonight.

I have been working with Rocky on listening to my legs better, and it has been going well! The first two days I couldn't hold the reins in my hands without cuing him, so I left them draped over the saddle horn until I needed to pick one up to correct him. Today he did very well, doing circles wherever I wanted him to across the arena.  Yay!

Rocky was wonderful tonight, actually. He did all of the obstacles I pointed him at without fuss or spook, including a ditch filled with plastic bottles and the ever terrifying tarp on the ground. I praised him for his good behavior and took him on a nice trail ride which made him sweaty.  As a reward he got to graze for a while with his cooler on, happy boy!

Well, that's about all I have time for today, I hope you all are doing well!
I want to be here right now, with a yummy drink in a pineapple with an umbrella.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Ranch

Driving out to look at the Place of More Affordable Boarding, the landscape was lovely. Here in northern Minnesota, the trees are all turning colors with the fall chill and lending a bright atmosphere to the forest. I admired several horse farms as we passed them and had hopes that the POMAB would be just as nice. Upon arrival I noticed the arena, which was basically a fenced in patch of ground.

Willing to be forgiving, I gave a mental shrug and thought that we could handle the uneven ground of an untended arena.  Next there was a herd of minis in their dirt pen, crowded around a round bale. Cute little buggers, they made me smile and hope for the best. We pulled up near the barn were there was a row of spots to tie your horse. They were a little far from the barn and out in the open, but nothing unmanageable.

Man came out to greet us, I don't remember his name so I will just call him Man.  He was an aged cowboy, complete with weather beaten face and heavy turquoise ring. He shook our hands and walked us into the barn, stating, "Well, I don't know what you want to see, but this is it." The barn seemed tidy enough, nothing jumped out at me as a red flag.  Walking to the back, we could look out the back doors at the large pastures of horses eating on round bales and walking around.

Man pointed out one of his shelters, which had blown over in the wind recently.  He hadn't put it back up yet.  That was cause for some concern, I mean, why wouldn't you anchor your shelters down so they don't blow over and, I don't know, crush someone's horse? Strike one.

I asked about the trails on his property, having loved the look of them from his website. He sat back on his heels and explained that those photos were from a State Park they occasionally travel to, but he does have one small trail on his property. Otherwise, "People like to ride down the the bar. It's a good ride, maybe an hour and a half to get there. They've got frozen pizzas that aren't too bad and people will grab a beer while they're there." Okay, I could get on board with riding to get some lunch. However, the rest of the riding there was road riding.  In winter that means we would be stuck at the ranch without many options. Strike two.

Finally, I asked what was included in the price of board. Man stated, "I throw hay out." There was a pause while I waited for the list to continue. He amended, "and every once in a while I will glance out there to make sure your horse is still standing." Insert record scratching noise here. There are times when I can't get out to the barn for one reason or another for two weeks, and I want to make sure that someone is paying attention to his well being if I can't. Strike three.

For now, Rocky and I are staying put.  The ranch wasn't worth the price of not having the riding or the care that I want for my horse. If I lived just down the road or something, then sure, no problem, I could stop in on a daily basis to check on him. I like the care that Silver is giving him, and I will bite my tongue when she is being hypocritical or when her opinion is clearly the only one that matters. There are worse things than playing nice.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


As some of you may have noticed from previous posts of mine, there was been some tension up at my barn lately between myself and the barn owner. I feel like I can't do the right thing anymore and as though her opinion or perspective is the only one that matters. I do my best to admit when I'm wrong, but I hate being held accountable for stuff when the other person hasn't bothered to have a conversation with me about the whole story. I may still be wrong, but if I am allowed to explain myself I feel better about the whole bit.

These feelings have led me to casually seek out alternative boarding opportunities for Rocky. I found a place that is $35 cheaper a month than I am currently paying, and seems to have great trail riding. I am going to look at the place tomorrow, and I feel nervous/excited about it. I hope they have a good standard of care, but there are a few things I wouldn't mind losing to save some money every month.  If they don't blanket everyone in cold snaps, that's okay, I don't mind driving out to cover my boy. If they don't give grain once a day, I could probably let that go, too.  Grain is not a super important part of his diet, and not buying it would save me more money yet.

One thing that is really important to me is what type of hay they feed. I want a grass mix with no alfalfa if possible. With Rocky's HYPP, alfalfa could help trigger an episode and I don't want to chance that happening. Otherwise, a well maintained facility with safe fences, pasture shelters and a staff that pays attention would be great. Additionally, it seems like their riding trails intersect a river in a few places, which would be wonderful in the summer.

My current boarding barn may be getting an indoor arena this fall, and if they do, that is going to be a strong pull for me to stay. With the way winters can be around here, and especially the way this "spring" was (record snowfalls in APRIL), having an indoor would be awesome.

I am also worried about my mom's reaction, but I am trying to leave her feelings about me leaving our barn out of the equation. I feel like she is going to be upset that I am leaving because she enjoys riding with me, but will make it completely about my recent troubles with the BO. While that is part of it, I am also drawn to the possibility of more riding trails that are not limited during hunting season, have a river and to save the money.

So we'll see, I go to look at the other barn tomorrow evening and I'm pretty okay with things working out either way.

I love fall riding!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Dining Room!

Alright folks, time for a more upbeat post!

This March I bought my first home, and as the months have progressed I've done what I could to make the space ours. Recently the mirror in my dining room was bothering me. It was a 4' x 6' beveled edge mirror that took up most of the wall space. I wanted to get it framed to make it look better, until I thought about the cost involved in framing a mirror that size.

Instead, I purchased this mirror from Kohl's:
Enchante Quatrefoil Wall Mirror
I like the Celtic design
and I spray painted the frame white. The wall that it's on is dark blue, so the white frame pops nicely. Then I bought some attractive black picture frames, one 8x10 and then another with two 5x7 slots. Finally, armed with my camera, I went to the barn and did a photo shoot with Rocky.  Here are some of my favorites:
Handsome boy
He's looking all cute, hoping I'll let him catch me rather than making him run around the pasture some more.
And there were times he was really running, flying down the fenceline like nobody's business.

I took over 100 pictures of Rocky, trying to get the perfect shot. The first two pictures I tried to print in 8x10 size turned out to be a bit fuzzy when enlarged, so this is the picture that is now in my dining room:
I cropped the sides a bit when printing, and I like the way it turned out. After so much fuss getting Rocky's picture, taking pictures of my dogs to fill my other picture frame turned out to be much easier. It only took me maybe 5-10 minutes with each dog in my backyard to snap one I was happy to have in my dining room. Without further ado, here they are!
Bear, 2 years old
Gus, 9 months old
So there you have it, the beginning of my family wall in my dining room. I love my boys!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Panic at the Keyboard


I feel mentally awake but physically tired and I have a lot to say. I babbled to my husband but I don't feel like he gets what I'm feeling and pretty much just wants to sleep right now. So internets, it has come to this. Time to vomit my feelings in type and throw them out to cyberspace, even if no one ever reads it.

I'm 25 and in my life plan that I was thinking about 2 years ago and discussed with Justin (hubby) I would have been pregnant right now.  As in, we would have gotten pregnant in June or July so we could have a March baby so that after my 3 months of maternity leave it would have been June, when my mom doesn't have work for the summer (teacher) and could babysit.  Oh yeah, I plan this shit.

Instead at the end of June I quit the job I have for 3 years because it was giving me terrible anxiety and there is absolutely no way I wanted to be pregnant in a job where throwing teenagers who are kicking and screaming to the floor and holding them there happens on a daily basis.  I spent the summer working construction with my Dad, trying to get a job (any job, corporate or sales) with maurices. I had decided I wanted to work my way into being a buyer for maurices but for what I'm sure are multiple and varied reasons they repeatedly did not hire me.

I applied for many jobs, and finally Younkers hired me in a part time position. I get my first paycheck tomorrow for one week's work and I really hope it's decent. Because, oh yeah, we're pretty much broke right now too, and so we get to try to prioritize what we are going to be able to pay with this check.  Even when I had time earlier this week, I didn't go see Rocky because I wanted to save my gas so I could wait longer before buying more.

Justin is talking about getting a second job, which I hate because he already works full time and earns twice as much per hour as I do currently- minus the commission I get on sales but I don't know what that will look like in terms of actual money on a paycheck.  I would get a second job but this is only my second week at Younkers, working as a Lancome cosmetic consultant and so far I have had one day off since last Tuesday.

I also have pretty limited experience with cosmetics, and I have been trying hard to learn fast (my counter manager says she loves me and I'm a quick study) but I don't want to be there forever. My plan is to work in retail sales for a few months and then try again for an office career with maurices.  Something I can work an 8-5, Monday-Friday schedule with all the benefits of a corporate position.

So I can start having kids.  And make a good paycheck.  See how that went full circle?

I feel like I'm getting old and I'm terrified of what being pregnant will do to my body and I don't want to be old and exhausted running after toddlers and other people seem to survive it but oh my God it looks scary. But also awesome. And when I told Justin I felt like I was getting old he laughed and was all, "No you're not," and I said, "But it's different for men! You can have kids when you're 70. Not that I recommend it." and he was like, "You're fine." Which I know logically is true but it doesn't feel true in this moment. And then he just came down and apologized for not being understanding enough and was all worried that I was pissed at him. Which I explained several times that I'm not angry, just generally upset so I'm writing it out so he can sleep and then I can sleep.

Also, working at Lancome is making me really stare at my face and worry about wrinkles, which I have never really cared about before. Their products are also expensive (but seem worth it) and the other day I wore Mary Kay lip gloss and a customer asked what I was wearing and I brought her over to the lip glosses and desperately made up that the brownish one that looks closest to the one I had on was what I was wearing, and that's why they want you to wear only their products while you're working. It makes sense, I'd love to but I can't afford to buy the stuff.

We made our pre sale goal for our gift with purchase so I get to pick out an item, but I can't decide which thing would make the most sense for me to get.  Foundation? Eyeshadow? One of the more expensive creams?  And oh God, my counter manager is going to have to explain to me what all of the things she is going to be giving to me do. I get some free sample product because I'm a new hire... and I have never used most of the stuff in my life.  For example, toner. It tones your skin... um... and you put it on your face... ack.

I don't seem to be able to have much of a social life, either. I have messaged two of my "friends" a few times and they have both not gotten back to me. I know they're busy with other aspects of their lives but I feel like I really put myself out there (for me, anyway) when I said that I could really use some time with her, and she never responded.  I have one friend who will reliably be my friend.  Everyone else seems like they could care less most of the time. That one friend happens to be living in South Korea right now.

I was hoping I could get myself to cry here but so far no luck, just that nagging teary feeling. Sorry this post is probably really spastic and sad, I'll try to make my next one a lot lighter.

To end on a good note, I really like this song:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Too Many Mistakes

My dogs love to go trail riding with me. They get big grins on their faces and eagerly follow or lead me onto the trail. Here's a picture from last winter, of Bear ahead of Rocky and I on the trail.
Gus has gotten bigger, and has learned to stay out from under or behind horses.  Bear and Gus take great pleasure from prancing down the trail, sniffing out animals that have crossed the trail recently and running through the underbrush only to pop out on the trail again- great desensitization for Rocky. 

Unfortunately, my dogs are no longer allowed at the barn, through no fault of their own.  Nope, it's my fault that I can no longer take my dogs with me when I ride. 

The last time I brought them with me, Silver's three dogs ran over to greet us at my car.  This happens pretty frequently so I got out as usual and let my dogs out of the backseat. Gus popped out, landing in the middle of Silver's dogs. Two of them were smiling and wagging their tails.  The third was her English Pointer, Chrusher. Chrusher's lips curled back in a snarl as Gus immediately cowered on the ground, peeing. I told Chrusher no and to go away. Gus crawled across the gravel, licking everyone's chins.  Chrusher continued to snarl, so I told Gus to stop and return to me, which he did. I told Silver's dogs to leave again, and after a few tense seconds Silver's dogs wandered off.  Bear laid down in the car and refused to come out. I debated getting in my car and leaving after only being at the barn for 10 seconds. The half hour drive each direction, plus gas money and the knowledge that I really wanted to see my horse outweighed the negative beginning to our day. 

I figured the snarling would be done for the day and we could go for a peaceful trail ride. 

I should have listened to my instincts and just gone home. 

I got Rocky into the barn and was getting him ready to ride. Gus was in the barn with me, Bear was still hiding out in the car, although I left the car door open for him to come out when he was ready. Chrusher came through the barn, and began to snarl at Gus again.  Gus groveled again, licking Chrusher's chin and wagging his tail hopefully. Chrusher started to add snap to his snarl, so I told him no and called Gus back to me. 

To be fair, Gus did try to return to Chrusher a few times to make friends. However, Chrusher's snapping teeth were not okay with me and he was clearly not listening to my direction to cease and desist. When I stood next to him and said no, but he continued, I smacked his shoulders and said no again. He immediately stopped curling his lips and slunk off. One of the other boarders had Chrush come lay by her and I finished out the rest of my ride without issue.

I had almost left when Silver asked me in passing who got smacked. I told her Chrush had for snarling at Gus.  She continued what she was doing without saying anything else and I went home. A few hours later I got this email:
Wanted to finish talking to you about this while you were at the barn but since I was being pulled in 2 different directions at the time I didnt have the chance. Basically dont ever raise your hand to one of my animals ever again, this is their home not yours, your dogs are visitors and if Gus was putting his nose where it didnt belong Chrush has every right to growl/snap at him. I have been very patient with the boys, they are more than welcome here but if they continue to not stay where they belong at the barn with you or cause problems with my dogs then you will be asked not to bring them anymore. I would never hit one of your animals and you hit Chrush hard enough for me to hear him cry all the way out into the arena, remember that because I wont forget it.
Oh boy. I was in shock for a while, then I curled up and cried. The part about "continue to not stay where they belong" is her rule of no dogs by her house. Gus had a bit of a learning curve as a puppy but he was much improving in staying at the barn- he's only 9 months old now. Anyway. She didn't bother to ask for clarification on what happened, but I guess Gus was causing the problems and I should have let Chrush bite him. What I really should have done was either A) Leave right away or B) Ask Silver to do something about her dog. Although, upon reading her email I think she would have told me to do something about Gus. Who was doing everything he could to be submissive.

As far as the Cry heard into the arena, I didn't hear it. Maybe he did, and I missed it. Either way, and after much processing, I don't regret it.  Yup, I hit her dog. I did not beat her dog or hit him more than once. I hit him with my bare hand on his shoulder for repeatedly being aggressive to my dog without listening to my orders to stop. In my book his behavior was unacceptable, but from her email it sounds like he was in the right. After a lot of thought, this was my reply:

I sincerely apologize and will not bring my dogs up anymore. I'm not sure what you heard as far as a cry goes, I believe you but I did not hear it myself- I thought I more tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention but clearly this was not the case. Again I apologize and I won't touch any of your animals again. I thought it would be okay to tap Chrush because I have seen you tap Mickey with your farrier rasp for less than what Chrush was doing. I can see that I very much overstepped my bounds and it will never happen again. I'm sorry.

Mickey is one of her other dogs, a Lab who is normally the aggressive one- he doesn't like puppies and she usually introduces him to new dogs with a lunge whip in her hand. Why a lunge whip, you ask? So she can hit him with it if he is too aggressive. Indeed, the farrier rasp reference I made in my apology is true- she tapped him on the head with the handle of her rasp when he was growling at Gus. After that Mickey learned that Gus was not to be tampered with and was generally okay with things.

In her email, she did not forbid my dogs to go to the barn. However, if she's okay with her dogs being that aggressive to mine, it doesn't seem worth it to me. The part about "I won't forget it" worried me, too. So now she is carrying a grudge against me? Well, there is not much I can do about it now other than stick to my word. I haven't touched any of her animals since, and my dogs stay home now.

I wish things had gone differently, and looking back I can see many forks in the road where there were opportunities for a different outcome. Life doesn't work that way, and we can only move forward from the choices we have made.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I'm Back! Like Arnold but with horses...

Whew! I just realized that it has been way, WAY too long since I blogged last. My job changed so I don't have excess time on the computer anymore, and time just slipped away.

My last blog entry I complained about my program ending at work and having to switch to a different department.  Since then, I quit that job (Yahoo!) and have been spending the summer working with my Dad. He has his own construction company, and it has given me a great opportunity to spend time with my Dad, get a great tan, and learn some new stuff. Now that summer is coming to an end, I'm ready to begin a real career.  I'd like to go into fashion retail, and to get started I just got a position at Younkers as a cosmetic consultant for Lancome. I have my first day of training tonight and I'm excited to get started!

Now onto the real news: also in my last blog, I talked about not going to the ACTHA ride in June due to our tight finances.  Well, I talked about it with my husband and I ended up competing anyway! I am really glad that I did because Rocky and I did very well. In fact...

Yep, that's right, we got 4th place! Which I was not anticipating because we both got 0's for timing out of one of the obstacles. I couldn't pick up a hat off the ground from horseback fast enough because Rocky kept smelling the stick and getting his head in the way, so it took us longer than 30 seconds to complete that obstacle.  I was really proud of Rocky, he was wonderful for the entire ride and all of the obstacles. There were 7 obstacles, each with the ability to earn of score of up to 20- 10 for the horse and 10 for the rider. Out of 140 possible points, we earned a score of 107 with two pluses. Keep in mind that 20 of the points I missed were for going over time and earned no points for that hat obstacle.

How was your summer?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I Am So In Debt (AKA, the Story of my Life)

Hello fair readers!
My posts have been lacking in quantity lately, and here is a post to explain why! My program at work is pretty much over, and I have been moved to a different program.  For the last several months I have been trying to find a new job, but alas, so far no luck. Now that I have been moved, I am more eager than ever to move on. However, the new position is not very conducive to post writing /cough so that is why my posts have become a bit spotty.
I have a fledgling dream to go work for maurices, (purposefully left lowercase because that is how they are branded), and work my way up the Buying ladder. I think that would be an amazing job to have, I would work normal hours and *gasp* make some money. Their starting positions make more than I am after three years in my current job.  Unfortunately maurices has passed me up for two positions now, and I am waiting to hear about a third.
I was just awarded Employee of the Month status, which leaves me feeling conflicted. I'm happy I got it, but it makes me feel even more stabby about my income. I am so tired of barely scraping by every month, weighing the cost of going to see my horse against the rise in gas prices. Panicking every time anything unexpected pops up, like owing MN State taxes $800 or taking the dogs to the vet... Both of which we are supposed to do this month. I also want a job where I work normal working hours rather than the odd ones I work now, giving me more time to see my husband and plan after work activities with all of my normally scheduled friends.
All this leads to my decision about the next ACTHA ride at the end of this month. It seems stupid to spend the tiny amount of "extra" money we have (which as I mentioned previously, is more than spoken for this month) on a trail ride.

Sometimes being an adult sucks. Also, someone please hire me! I swear I will do a great job. My four legged family (and, hell, my two legged family) would be super grateful.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

ACTHA Ride, Day 2

Sorry for the delay on this post! I meant to write it earlier than this, but life got in the way.  Anyway, here is your synopsis of my second ACTHA ride:

The morning of day two, Rocky was ready to go after I finished the rider's briefing. The weather was much nicer, without the blinding winds of the day before and with some sunshine!  Everyone was in much better spirits simply because we weren't squinting through the wind and rubbing our icy fingers together.  It's amazing how much better a sunny day will make you feel!

When I got the obstacle sheet, I was excited- these were obstacles I was overall confident we could do well on!  Our first one was was "Perfect Picture."  We were to ride between two cones, stop, and pretend to take a picture off to our left.  The horse was to stand quietly.  I used my real camera and took an actual picture, you can judge its perfection:
Through the trees you can see Lake Shamineau, complete with ice floes.  Rocky and I both earned perfect 10's from the judge for this obstacle, although once we looked through everyone's scores, this judge seemed to score everyone highly.  Still, I feel like we would have earned the 10's regardless. Rocky gave me a soft stop and stood patiently while I unzipped my camera from its case on my hip, took a picture, and put the camera back.

The second obstacle was Wagon Wheel.  Four log type cavalettis were in a circle on the ground, each slightly raised in the center of the circle.  Ribbons were tied in the middle of the cavalettis, and we needed to step over the outside (lower) part of the cavalettis.  Rocky was not sure why there were cavalettis in the middle of the woods, so he gave the obstacle the stink eye for a minute before agreeing to go over them. We lightly tapped the last one, otherwise we were clear. We both got 8's from the judge.

Third we did an uphill challenge, which was judged on how well horse and rider walked up a decently steep hill. The judge for this one was very picky, she didn't score anyone above an 8 all day. Rocky and I both got 7's, which I was pleased with when looking over the scores and seeing how everyone else did.

Trot Weave was next, where we trotted through four poles set in a straight line. I felt a bit uncoordinated for this as Rocky's trot was more forward than I anticipated.  He also was surprised to see the judge's sweatshirts in a pile to the side of the poles, but he went through pretty well anyway.  He got a 9, and I got a 8.

Number five was an L-Back.  This obstacle was poles laid on the ground in the shape of an L.  You ride through it, stop, then back through the straight part of the L.  I felt like Rocky was a little crooked in front of the L when we stopped, so I kept trying to edge him one way, then correct that to edge the other way.  He listened to me until we were almost to the turn in the L, where he moved too far to the right and didn't stop at the poles.  He stepped over them, which I blame on myself for asking him to back at different angles every other step.  The judge marked him down a bit for it though, giving Rocky a 7 and me a 9.

Last, we had to walk through a puddle. Originally this was going to be stepping into Lake Shamineau, but with the ice on the lake they decided to use the Frog Jump puddle from the day before.  This was the obstacle I was most concerned about, as Rocky does not like to walk over/into things that are new to him. We went last, and I used the time waiting for my mom to finish by backing Rocky up and then moving him forward to the cone.  My plan was to walk Rocky around the puddle for 30 seconds so he could look at it, and then use the last 15 seconds of the obstacle to ask him to step into it.

I asked Rocky to move toward it, and he did with his ears pricked.  He seemed confident, so I abandoned my plan and let him walk to the puddle. He paused briefly, then walked easily through it.   I was so proud of him!  Walking down the trail away from that last obstacle, I tried not to cry thinking about how well he had done for me that day. I rubbed his neck a lot and told him he was a good boy.  We both got 8's for that one, but I think the judge heard me when I exclaimed that usually he struggles with stuff like that, because Rocky earned a plus, too.

At the end of the day, we earned 99 points out of 120- just four points shy of first place!  Unfortunately, the scores were very close again, so we earned 8th place and didn't get a ribbon.  
I was very happy with the way we performed in our first competition weekend, and can't wait to try it again.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

ACTHA Ride, Day 1

I'm baaaaaaack! And super excited to share my weekend with you all!  This last weekend I did my first ACTHA (American Competitive Trail Horse Association) rides, and I am really proud of how it went.

My mom and I drove out to the ride location on Friday night, arriving around 6:30 pm. We put our horses out in their paddocks, unpacked the horse stuff in a tie stall and then found our lodging. We stayed in a bunk house with showers, toilets, and electricity!  Gotta love "roughing" it!
Here is Rocky in his paddock on Friday, he handled unloading with aplomb.  He backed out of the trailer, alertly checked out his surroundings, then walked calmly with me to his pen.  The horse directly behind him in the picture (in the green blanket) is a 30 year old Arabian gelding named Ace- more on him later!

After unpacking all of our stuff, we tacked up and rode around the arenas for a bit.  I did some ground work first to help him adjust to the new location.  His attention was constantly being pulled to other things with all of the other horses plus the new surroundings, and he was a bit edgier than normal. He snorted at a picnic table, for example, but decided it was not a horse-eating picnic table after getting to smell it.

After the height of his nerves was dissipated, we rode around the outdoor arenas for a bit. We went into the one with less people at first, until I discovered why there were so few people using it. The footing on the property as a whole was generally sandy, but the arena had a lot of deep sand.  I could feel how much harder Rocky had to work to even walk through it, and it was deep enough that I started to worry about someone pulling a tendon.

The other, larger outdoor arena wasn't quite as deep as the smaller one.  The outside rail was the best place to be, but the middle was bogged down with sand.  We worked in a lot of circles, doing figure 8's at a trot and then cantering a few 30 meter circles.  Rocky was still more excited than usual but in a manageable way, so we ended there for the night.

Saturday morning was cold, about 50 degrees with 40 mph winds.  I hadn't brought long johns so I only had jeans on the bottom, on top I wore a T-shirt, sweatshirt, and my winter jacket. The wind was the worst part, blowing up the dirt and sand while making everyone squinty and cold. At the end of the day I was picking sand out of my eyes and ears- not pleasant!

My barn owner, Silver, came to the ride with her Quarter horse stallion, Tucker, and her Arabian gelding, Walker. Silver's mom, Jane, rode Walker while Silver rode Tucker. My mom came with her Norwegian Fjord gelding, Tapper, and another barn member came with her Friesian sport horse  Haley. Together with a friend of Silver's who was riding her GORGEOUS Friesian mare, we made up the 2nd group to leave at 10:15 am.
Haley, Friesian Mare, Walker, Rocky, and Tapper.
Here is our group photo at the end of the ride on day 1. This is everyone except for Silver, who took the picture. I captioned it with the important information, mainly, the horses' names. :)

Before getting into the ride specifics, I'd like to note how the scoring system works. Horse and rider are scored separately for each obstacle.  These scores are then added up into one final score that determines what your placing is for that ride. You or your horse can earn "pluses" which means that you did something extra in a good way.  If two people's numerical score ties, the tie is broken based on the number of pluses that were earned. A score of 1-4 is considered below average, 5-7 is average, and 8-10 is very good.

Now onto the actual ride! Our first obstacle was a green tarp we were supposed to go over. For those of you who read my blog regularly, you'll know that Rocky does NOT like to walk over things he hasn't seen before.  He refused to go over it within the time allotted, which was 30 seconds. He earned a 4/10 for his refusal, and I got a 7/10.

Obstacle 2 was cantering from one cone to another. We were to trot to the cone, canter, then drop back to a trot after the second cone.  We picked up the canter a little late- my fault for a late cue- but we still both earned 8 points!

The third obstacle was a turn on the forehand.  This obstacle was located in a terrible place at the top of a hill, in the middle of a four way intersection of trail. There was a length of hose in a circle you were supposed to put the horse's front feet in and then pivot around, but it was too big of a circle and messily placed.  The whole thing was not very well set up.  Rocky stepped into the hose without an issue, which had been worrying me. I think I rushed asking him for the turn, wanting to finish in time.  I should have relaxed, paused after his halt, and then taken my time tilting his nose before asking for him to move.  He went in a general circle, but I think it's fair to say we just botched that one.  Rocky earned a 4, I got a 6.

The fourth obstacle was a campsite!  There was a tent set up that we were to walk around in a circle.  At one point you walk within four feet of the tent between it and a tree.  Rocky was alert, and as I asked him to walk toward the tent he started to shy a little away from it.  Once he saw the path between the tent and tree, he marched through with confidence and completed the obstacle without a problem.  We both earned 8's for it, and I got a plus.  I believe my plus was for guiding him gently when he started to shy.

Campsite obstacle!
Our second-to-last obstacle was called Frog in the Pond. You walk up to a puddle and halt next to it. The rider then tosses a stick into the puddle, causing a splash. Your horse is to stand quietly for this, then walk on without issue. I was the one who messed this one up.  I was concerned that Rocky would try to shy away from the puddle, so I kept looking down to make sure we weren't getting too close. The judge had said to keep your eyes up except for when you toss the stick- my bad! Rocky got a 10 for his calm stop, he waited patiently without caring that I threw something, and walked off nicely. I got a 7, most likely for my eyes. Oops!

Final and sixth obstacle!  This one was on the far side of their sandy arena.  The wind howled across it directly at us, so I closed my eyes against the whipping sand and let Rocky take me where we needed to go.  I am so glad I spent the time I did working on opening and shutting the gate at Silver's!  For this obstacle we didn't have to shut it at all.  You open it, hold it open for 5 seconds, then ride through it leaving the gate open. The judge commented after we finished that it was very nice- very nice indeed, for we both scored 9's!

At the end of the day, Rocky and I got an overall score of 88 out of 120 points. The top score for our division, which was Pleasure, earned a 100 that day. I got 13th place out of 19 riders.  Silver got 8th, and her mom got 5th. My mom got 2nd in her division of Scout out of 6 riders, and our barn member got 4th in Scout.

I was happy to complete the ride and earn some good scores!  Next time I will not rush through the obstacles, trust Rocky more, and work on the few things that need some fixing.

Coming soon, Day 2 of our ACTHA ride!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Chock Full of Excitement! The Countdown Begins!

What was months away is now just three days from today! My first ACTHA ride is this Saturday, and I am pumped! I had a great training session with Rocky on this last Sunday morning, and it feels like he has his brains back after getting a two and a half month vacation this winter.

He walked out of the pasture with his head level, calm eyes and a can-do attitude.  We have been working on turns on the forehand and the haunches, and he has been doing much better lately.   When I would ask for a turn on the forehand in the past, he wasn't rotating around one front foot very well. I discovered that if I tip his nose in, the movement clicks for him and he rotates like a champ!

The next challenge was getting him to turn on the forehand with his front legs in a square of logs. Rocky was confused, and kept trying to walk over the poles rather than follow the movement I was trying to achieve.  I went back to ground work and helped him figure it out there by making him back up every time he tried to go forward.  I also rewarded him and stopped him for each correct step, working our way up to rotating 180 degrees around the square.   Then I got on him and did it again.  After about 20 minutes I could rotate his hind end, ask for a side step on the forehand, then rotate his hind end again going both directions.

It also helps Rocky to get a break from doing exercises that are new and he has to think about a lot. Once he understands a concept, I am learning to do a less intense lesson like transition work to give him some time to process.  After giving him some time away from the new lesson, I'll go back to it and make sure it sticks.  So far this has worked really well for me and he seems to be retaining the information without becoming frustrated by too much repetition.

I think we have a decent chance of doing well this weekend, fingers crossed!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft, Wizardry, and Advantageous Public Education

I've been thinking.  It seems that wizarding schools only start taking pupils once they reach the ripe age of eleven.  It made me wonder about a few things, such as, do wizards or witches from magical families go to muggle school until they're eleven? If not, is it up to their parents to teach them math, writing, reading, etc- all of the skills necessary to take magic classes- or is there some sort of non magical school for children who are magical but not yet eleven years old?

If magical children do not attend school of any sort before their eleventh year, what do their parents do about child care? Not everyone is wealthy enough to hire a full time babysitter, much less attract house elves or the like to watch their kids.  I think in the case of the Weasley's, Molly was a stay at home mom while Arthur worked at the Ministry of Magic.  What about single parents? I'm thinking about this too much, aren't I?

Still.  I want to know. Who teaches the magical children the basic schooling required before they head off to Hogwarts or Durmstrang?  I don't remember there being an "arithmetic" class, but at least basic math skills are required for classes such as potions.  Harry, Hermione and Ron are always writing a few scrolls' worth of essay for History, but they all had to learn basic essay writing before Professor Binns could assign them such a task.

In Harry's case, he didn't know he was a wizard until Hagrid found him on that sad little island with the Dursley's, so he went to whichever muggle school the Dursley's sent him to until he came of age- same with Hermione.  What about Ron? Or Draco for that matter, his family had money and could have hired a tutor or something.

In the end, I'm pretty sure wizarding schools took advantage of not accepting students until they had already learned the basic schooling required to start their courses. I'd imagine it is also easier to start teaching self control and discipline to eleven year olds versus six year olds like our muggle system.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Best Nickname EVER!

I thought I would let you guys know... I have a new alias. I can now be known as (drum roll please):

Ginny Weasley. Or Ginny Potter, if you got that far in the books. (and my husband even looks a bit like Harry!)

I recently dyed my hair more red than the usual hint of red nature gave me. Some clients I work with declared that I look like a Weasley- specifically, Ginny Weasley. They looked at me for a moment, unsure if they had just insulted me or not.  I think my grin and sincere, "Awesome! Thanks!" relieved their worries a bit, which then prompted a spirited Harry Potter discussion.  So to celebrate my favorite new nickname, here are some fun Harry Potter things!

It's a cake! 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

How About Some Sunshine?

Alright, after the last two sad posts, I could use a little pick-me-up.  Other than doing shots of Sour Apple Pucker, listening to rock music and making banana muffins, rotelle casserole and peanut butter chunk cookies. Not that I did that last night or anything. (Totally made me feel better, by the way.)

So! Here are some things that make me oh, so happy.

Okay, this is Jensen Ackles in an out take from Supernatural. Which, if you aren't already watching, GET ON THAT.  It's on Netflix.  Jensen is gorgeous, it's a good song, and if you don't appreciate the two, you should check your pulse.

In keeping with the Supernatural theme, here's a wonderful quote from a man I quite adore, Bobby Singer. Who wouldn't love being able to crap margaritas? It's a public service, really.

 You may be getting a hint that I am a bit of a nerd.  My last DnD character may have been a Dragonborn. Plus 10 EXP if you can tell me what that is, and 5 gold for being awesome.

 I want this in my house.  I may just purchase some sticker letters and make them myself...
Joss Whedon, creator of amazing television such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. If you haven't seen them, add that to your list we already started. You're welcome.

The Worst Text

"Will you let me know if you hear from Sam? There were some explosions at the Boston marathon."

My heart clawed at my throat, giving me a thick, choking sensation.  Tears pressed at the back of my eyes as I valiantly tried not to panic.

What the hell? Unfortunately, I live in a post 9/11 world and I knew in my gut that someone had intentionally done something to hurt the runners, the cheering crowds, whomever happened to be close enough to their destruction.

"What?! will do, please do the same for me!"

I started thinking, rapidly trying to calculate Sam's chances of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  She was in the third wave of runners, right?  That means she should be okay, if they set the bomb off at the end of the race but when the first wave was finishing.  Unless it wasn't at the finish line, and it was set off in the middle of the race sometime.

"You ok? please call or text asap if you can."

I darted downstairs and waited impatiently for my computer to start up.  Sam had talked about being able to track her progress in the race online.  I would find out what happened at the marathon and when, then go to her blog to find her race number and figure things out from there.  I mumbled under my breath a lot, drumming my fingers on the keyboard while I gained internet connection.

And then...

"I'm fine I finished before all the chaos."

Big breath out.  I stopped desperately scanning Boston marathon reports and closed the browser.  I didn't want to hear about the people who hadn't been as lucky as me, whose texts were going unanswered. I forwarded Sam's response to our friend who alerted me to the disaster in the first place.

"Thank God."

That night, a television character I was very attached to died on the show, and I wept silent tears for almost half an hour.The next day, driving home from the barn I broke down and cried again, thinking about how easily Sam could have run 10 minutes slower, or her friend at the marathon could have been 2 minutes slower.

I am so, so glad the worst text I got that day was, "Will you let me know if you hear from Sam? There were some explosions at the Boston marathon," and not empty silence.

I saw this on a Facebook, and Cam Saliciano said it, but I agree wholeheartedly:

I don't want to know his name. I don't want to see his face. I don't want to know his life's history, his back-story, who his family is, where he went to school, or what he liked to do in his spare time. I don't want to know what "cause", if any, he was fighting for. I don't want to know why he did it, or may have done it, or what possessed him to carry out his actions. I don't want to know. Because that's what he really wants. I'll be damned if I'm going to give him what he wants.
Put him on trial, but don't cover it. Tell me when you decide to jail him for three lifetimes - because that number matters. That's the number of lives he has to now pay for. That's all I want to know about him. Nothing else.
Instead, tell me about the first responders who ran towards the fray, within seconds, fearless. Tell me about the ones wearing the yellow volunteer jacket, or the neon police vest, or even the ones in the regular everyday t-shirt who became a helper. Tell me the story about the first responder who held gauze over a wound until they made it to the hospital. Tell me the story about the volunteer who held the hand of the injured spectator until they got into the ambulance. In six months, tell me the story of those who lost a limb, who beat the odds, pulled through countless surgeries, and are learning to walk again. Tell me the story about the love, the compassion, and the never-ending support of thousands, millions, of people who support the victims here. Tell me their stories. Tell me everything you can, because they are the ones that matter. Tell me of the good that they have done, are doing, and will continue to do, regardless of... No, not regardless of, in spite of. In spite of that someone who would do them harm. Because that's what freedom in this country means. It means coming together in the hardest of times, even in the face of unfathomable adversity, to make life better for all those around us.
Tell me the good stories. That's all I want to hear.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Littlest Things

...can make the biggest difference. I'm really sad tonight, I got some bad news I was hoping would turn out differently.

Rocky's sister Philly has ring bone in her right hind foot.  She's three years old and my Dad just bought her from the same breeder/trainer that I got Rocky from.  Apparently last winter Philly kicked out in the round pen, hitting her foot on the steel bar and injuring her pastern. Since then she has gained extraneous bone growth around her pastern and going over her fetlock.

The vet says it is only a matter of time until she gets arthritis, and will need to have her pain managed on a regular basis for the rest of her life.

My Mom has made the decision to send Philly back to the breeder/trainer, as supporting a horse who will never be able to be worked hard or who will eventually live in pain is not part of the plan. It's too much money for a damaged horse who is so young.

I'm sad because a three year old filly with so much potential will never be able to be used for more than light riding, and there are not a lot of homes for horses like that.

I'm sad because at some point, she will get arthritis and experience some level of pain on a daily basis.

I'm sad that someday, she will likely have to be put down because the pain will become unmanageable, and she will not be comfortable as even a pasture pet.

I'm sad because I have been so excited to work with her, to spend time with her and get to know Rocky's sister.  Now she is leaving for an uncertain fate.

I understand the decision to sell her back to her breeder and on a purely practical level agree with it.  I just can't get her soft eyes out of my head.

Also, This:

This song plays in my head all the time, especially, "This girl's in every song I sing, she's in every song I write."

And this feels like summer:
I want to roll my windows down and cruise, too.  Soon!