Jul 4, 2011

Skip to the End....

I've clearly been a bad blogger, so I apologize to all those following my progress with my new mare.  Shit happens -- my job really got a little out of control there for awhile and I was working at all hours of the day and night.  Can I just tell you how tired I am lately? 

Then, the unthinkable happened.  My mare, who had been ranked 5th in the world in her division, ripped her front shoe off during a (particularly pretty) sliding stop, and strained her deep flexor tendon.  Cue the handwalking, cold-hosing and wrapping that all of us who've owned a horse have had the misfortune of going through.  Last month the vet okayed me riding and training her, but not my trainer.  Not yet.  Her tendon is not fully healed and too much strain could really damage it again.  I like how confident the vet is that any riding I do will not impact her tendon in any way.  If I thought about that in more depth, I might feel a little wounded by what it might imply.  I haven't, so I'm not bothered in the least.  :)

Well, onwards and upwards.  My mare has been back in training with me for about a month and her leg looks great.  I showed my first official show in June -- the first to count towards qualifying for affiliates before heading to OK for the Rookie of the Year competition.  Without really doing any sliding stops, and having one day in which Miss Gracie thought it might be a good idea to blast off on me and run out of control to her stop, we managed a consistent 68.5 score throughout the 4 days.  Not great, but nothing to be ashamed of either.  We were consistently in the top 5 rookie riders and seem to be poised to easily qualify for affiliates in September. 

Next weekend I have my 2nd show of the season.  My goal is (obviously) to score a 70, but I still seem to be having a lot of issues with my stops, so that may not work out.  My secondary goal is to not minus at least one of my stops.  Meaning - for all you non-reining folks - that I do at least one correct stop.  I'm consistently getting a zero (correct) score on all the other maneuvers, so that's just the next step.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Feb 4, 2011

Sue Canizares Ceramics - Blog Pause

 Okay, I'm totally going to do a little mom-promotion here. I figure she's spent so much time and money and patience on helping me with my riding career, that I owe her one (or a hundred).

If you don't know about Etsy, you need to get on that, stat. It's a great little online marketplace for artists to sell their work. I buy from there all the time because I like to support small artisans rather than your neighborhood Gap. Plus I really like the idea of getting unique, one-of-a-kind items. What can I say - I like to be an original.

Anyway, my mother is a very lovely, unique ceramic artist and she just set up shop on Etsy. The work she's promoting there includes some of her smaller, quirkier gift items. If you get a moment, stop by and support the mom who has worked so tirelessly for her horse-obsessed daughter over the years.

 

Feb 1, 2011

Dangers of Addiction - TackTrader

I am seriously (and dangerously) addicted to TackTrader.  The first thing I do when I get up is check in to see what's been newly posted for sale in the last 24 hours.  I'd like to say that I'm not simply doing this for kicks, but that I am honestly just trying to fill out my show wardrobe on the cheap.  That's a mainly true statement.  :)

Anyway, when I bought my mare I decided that I would only invest in quality pieces of tack and equipment.  I did things cheaply before and ALWAYS regretted those decisions.  Cheap leather and shoddy stitching seems to break before you know it and suddenly you're out a whole bunch more money than you'd be if you'd simply sucked it up in the first place.  But I didn't anticipate just how freaking expensive Western tack and show clothing is!  My mother and I had the misfortune of discovering this upon our visit to Oklahoma City for the NRHA futurity.  Ha!  And I thought I was going to score some awesome deals.  Yeah, good luck with that.  Instead I got sticker shock.  I mean, $350 as a starting price for headstalls?!  And there's even reins involved!  To say I was shocked is actually an understatement.

Undeterred, I decided I would still figure out a way to invest in the best quality for my mare.  And yes, I know that bling is not necessarily the thing for reining.  But my Gracie is just so pretty -- I think she deserves a little sparkle.

I know people like Ebay, but I think it sucks.  It's just a place for tack companies to resell at high prices, and those bridles which are listed at reasonable prices just get caught up in a bidding war in the last few moments.  I know that's just the way of Ebay, but I'm totally over that.  That's where TackTrader comes in -- it's like a mecca of amazing used show equipment that's in great condition.  And mostly reasonable prices.  If you act fast enough, you can eventually get what you want.  After about a month of searching (and studying what style of headstall would look lovely on my mare's head), I finally scored the headstall pictured above.  It's a used Champion Turf with some mileage on it, but kept in superb condition.  And the incredible amount of silver fit the bill perfectly.  Not to mention that I only paid less than a third of what it originally cost. 

Check the site out.  If you're serious about competing in the show ring, but are on a limited budget, it'll save you loads.  Now I just need to find chaps!

Jan 31, 2011

So It Begins...Mandating Helmet Usage

As I have predicted for a long time, we are slowly headed towards the requirement of safety helmets across all equestrian sports all the time.  So we're still pretty far away from that, but new regulations have been passed to require all riders showing at national-level dressage competitions in this country to wear a safety helmet, starting March 1.  This is kind of huge, guys.  I certainly thought it would take longer to get this type of ruling passed, and honestly the only reason I think it went through now is because Courtney King-Dye's accident is still pretty fresh in everyone's memory.

Essentially the terms of the regulation require that all riders will have to wear a helmet while mounted on any horse that is showing in any national-level classes (USEF/USDF classses).  Even in the warm-up arena.  Even a trainer who just pops on your horse for a moment to do a quick tune-up.  It will be mandatory.  And all riders 18 and under are required to always wear a helmet, even at the FEI level.  Which is not the case for senior riders (I mean over 18 riders) in the FEI division -- these riders can actually still opt out and simply wear the top hat.  So, it's clearly not perfect, but baby steps, people, baby steps. 

I, for one, am thrilled.  The more regulated helmet usage is, the more normal it will seem to people and the more people will think nothing of wearing them all the time.  I honestly believe that in the next five years we're going to see more and more movement towards a policy that will require all riders to wear safety helmets all the time, including international events, and including western divisions.  And let me tell ya -- that's gonna be a toughie.  No one has ever said a word to me about wearing a helmet in reining and I've never perceived any strange looks, but I do feel like the lone weirdo out there doing my thing.  I cringe when riding with the junior riders, their heads uncovered.  I just can't see how a look or a lifestyle should supercede my health and safety.  And here's how I look at it for me -- if just one person at the reining show looks at me and decides that wearing a helmet isn't as embarassing as they originally thought, then I've done my job.  Normalization is the first step in acceptance.

Jan 21, 2011

The Year of Zenyatta

So, the great Miss Zenyatta won the Eclipse Horse of the Year honors this year.  It was not unexpected and though I've argued that she just didn't wage the better campaign, and therefore didn't honestly deserve the HOY honors, I do truly think that if it came down to a choice between Blame and Zenyatta, I would prefer that she take the prize.  Many commentators argued that Blame beat her fair and square and deserved the title, and I get that point of view.  He beat the unbeatable horse.  That's a totally defensible position to take.  The problem is that in a few years people will remember Zenyatta and people won't remember Blame in the same way.  I wish I could say that HOY wasn't a popularity contest, but it sort of is.  Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra both revitalized a hurting industry and their fame reached far beyond the typical racing fanbase.  I feel conflicted in writing this, but I do think that between Blame and Zenyatta, Zenyatta was the right choice to make.  I still argue that her connections did her wrong by refusing to really challenge her station, but I don't deny that she was a great horse, worthy of this legacy.  As I've said before, I just don't think she got the opportunity to prove her real worth. 

In the end, I think that Goldikova should have been crowned the Queen, but she just didn't have the recognition in the States that she needed to earn her the HOY honors.  I held out a sliver of hope for her win, but it was nearly impossible.  I suppose that ultimately the Eclipse HOY award needs to go to a horse that has really touched the US hearts and captured our public's imagination.  Goldikova just never managed to reach beyond the avid racing public over here, and as such she just never had a chance.  But Zenyatta, in her own way, deserves the honors and I am proud to call her Horse of the Year.  Her name will live on forever in our racing history books and I will be able to say I saw her when....

Jan 6, 2011

Obligatory New Year's Post

I basically got a raging head cold on New Year's Day.  What a way to ring in the new year, eh?  So, while I stare bleary-eyed at the screen and dream of the day when I'll be back out at the barn, I figured what better way to recuperate than blog about last year and my goals for 2011.

First off, though I know this is more in line with Thanksgiving than New Year's, I want to just put it out there that I am so very, very thankful to have the support of my family who've helped me buy my first reiner.  This mare is a beaut and I am grateful to have her.  It was totally out of my reach to afford such a talented, competitive horse in the Hunter and Dressage worlds, but reining -- while pricy -- is not out of control by any means.  I am more than grateful to my trainers who took a soured dressage queen who adamantly announced right and left that she would NEVER show again, that she just wanted to have fun and made her realize that the two notions could actually be compatible.  Color me shocked....no, reallly.  I was that miserable with riding.  I can honestly say that I'm happier and more confident as a rider and as a person than I've been in years.  In fact, I can't remember the last time I felt this content.

Dec 28, 2010

USDF Changing Rules on First Level Sitting Trot

So, I'm late to the game on this one (see -- I really am blocking out news of the dressage world), but I just recently became aware that the USDF changed their rules to allow posting trot in First Level.  This is to take effect in the 2011 tests.  I was taken aback by that decision, though in retrospect I don't know why that should have been the case.  One can go on and on about how it's really for the good of the horse and his/her spine, rather than the dumbing down of dressage, but I find that very hard to believe.  I get the arguments in favor of posting, really I do.  It is better for the horse, in general, and I often post when warming my mare up for her reining sessions.  However, I also feel that it's not ridiculous to ask a horse/rider combination to be able to sit the trot in a First Level test.  You can practice a lot of posting at home, so as not to strain the horse's back, but in a show I don't see that it's a complete hardship to ask for sitting trot on the day of the test.  If you've properly muscled up and prepared your horse, s/he should be able to handle the sitting, regardless of dressage education and/or age.