Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We loped this weekend

My view

It was so cool.  I’ve been looking forward to it for a while now.  I knew it would be a challenge, since he’s such a green horse.

Sunday was easier than Monday, but they each had their moments.  I’ve been walking and jogging Blu so far, and have been learning a lot, and hopefully have been teaching him some things, too.  Or at least he’s learning to do what I ask, even if at times I don’t know what I’m asking!

For example - there was one time Sunday where Todd yelled “free skate” to Sharon and me as he ran off for a couple minutes and wouldn’t you know it, I ran into a situation where I was trying to get Blu to jog on the rail away from the gate and as I bent him around my leg and tried to move him to the rail he bent his nose all the way to my toe and stopped.  Wouldn’t budge.  I tried bending him the other way, squeezing/kicking him hard, pulling both reins, just about anything I could think of.  Nothing worked.  I finally got him going again and he did the same thing again.  Sheesh.  I was laughing out loud and asked Sharon to see if she could see what I was doing wrong – KNOWING I must have been doing something wrong – and she gave me a couple pointers but they didn’t work.  I bent my head down and rested it on Blu’s neck in defeat and just laughed.  What could I do?  Luckily Todd came back shortly after that and he laughed too.  Turns out, just like a computer, sometimes you need to “reboot” a horse!  I’d been giving him too many signals, kicking, bending, pulling, leaning, etc and he didn’t know which command to use, so he just “froze.”  It was actually really funny.  And Todd’s analogy was perfect for me.  So I sat back.  Took a deep breath.  Loosened my reins.  And relaxed.  Then I started over.  Gathered my reins and squeezed my legs asking him to walk off in a straight line.  Something really simple.  And it WORKED.  Voila!  I rebooted Blu.

Once that episode was concluded Todd asked me if I wanted to lope.  I immediately answered SURE and had a big grin.  But then, since it’s been so long since I’ve loped any horse (seriously since January) I asked Todd “remind me how to lope” and he refused.  He said I know exactly how, and to just do it.  So I did.  Because of course I know how.  I was just nervous.

And I’m thrilled to say that Blu got the correct leads both directions.  Todd’s been working on that a lot since the Santa Barbara show.  And it shows.  This isn’t to say he was perfect.  But I had a blast.  He was super fast (especially compared to how I’ve been riding for the last couple years) and a bit erratic.  Though I can’t blame the erratic behavior on him – I was really loosey-goosey in the saddle.  My lower legs were moving all over the place.  I wasn’t sitting properly so I kept loosing my footing in my stirrups, and was unsure of my seat.  But Todd got me through all that.  I stayed on – not that there was really a question – and got him to lope on the correct lead a couple times each in both directions.

It was heaven.  Ok – well, maybe not heaven.  But it WAS really cool.

Watching Sharon in her lesson

Monday was a repeat of Sunday’s lesson, but with more loping.  I did some “zen” bending – getting Blu to lower his head while I was circling him in small circles off my inside leg and inside rein.  When he’d drop his head an inch I’d give him the inside rein and switch the leg to the outside leg.  Todd had showed it to me Sunday but I wasn’t really getting it then.  Monday, after having a bit of time to think about it, it made more sense and worked better for me.  So, once I’d done a bit of that Todd looked at me and said “ok – lope out of that circle and I did!  Better control today.  My legs were much less lose (I’d also adjusted my stirrups and Todd worked with me to get a better leg position which I think was the key).  Though I was far from perfect.  And Blu wasn’t used to my body position, or movements, so it took some getting used to for him.  I’ll say that, rather than just that he was a little troublemaker.  Because he challenged me a couple times.  Once he bucked – I don’t remember what I did at that time to cause it – Todd thinks I might have squeezed - and regardless that isn’t acceptable behavior.  The other time he just wasn’t having anything to do with loping correctly and I needed to take up the challenge and MAKE him do what I was asking.  He got the wrong lead once, but I got him back on the right lead, and I got him to work through his issues and have a nice period of smooth loping.    Hehehe. It was fun.  I didn’t want to stop. 

But I did stop.  We ended on a very good note.  Todd told me I was a better rider than I thought I was.  At one point in the difficult period he asked if I wanted him to get on and lope Blu and I said no – I wanted to work through it myself.  I was actually proud of myself for that, because I didn’t just get off and have him take over.  And at the end, when I stopped Blu I asked Todd if he wanted to get on Blu to work him and he said no.  He told me I did a fine job and there was no need for him to get on.  I was really happy about that.

All in all, it was another highlight for me to remember in my journey to getting a show horse out of a green horse.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Saturday dawned overcast

2/3 of the tanbark

We spent a couple hours moving the tanbark from the driveway to the back yard Friday after work.   We probably got through 1/3 of the pile and it just covered part of the section by the pool.  The pile didn’t look as mountainous as we thought it would (which let us hope that we’d truly finish moving it all in one weekend) and we were still wondering if 5 yards would be enough (plus the 1 yard we got last weekend).  Only time would tell.

1/3 of the pile covered just this section

We’d ended our Friday night by having a shot of Tequila with our neighbor Kari who was celebrating her daughter Gracey’s graduation. 

Saturday we turned on the heater for the pool since there was no way the sun was going to heat it up enough to swim this weekend.  We HAVE to get in the pool on Memorial Day weekend.  I don’t think we’ve ever gone this long without already having at least one swim.  We were thinking that the pool was probably going to be warmer than the outside air.  (We were right.)

So, while the pool was heating up Ken and I spent another couple hours moving tanbark.  Ken compared the pile to a gas tank – you know how it seems to stay on Full for a long time, then once it gets to the half-tank mark it drops like a stone?  That’s what happened with the tanbark.  We were cruising along and all of the sudden we only had a few wheelbarrows left.  Yikes – it truly wasn’t enough to do everything we wanted, but it was close.  We’re both satisfied with what we got accomplished.

The dogs were locked out of the pool area - to their dismay

The timing was perfect.  We finished with the tanbark as the first drops of rain started to fall.  Yep – RAIN.  Sheesh - and 2pm was the luau party Kari and Stephan were throwing for Gracey’s graduation.  Luckily they have a great party house with a spacious gathering area so the rain didn’t put a damper on the party. 

Stephan did an awesome job smoking a 43 pound pig, too.  That porker was DELISH!  We had a great time hanging out at their place partying.

When we left it was steadily raining, we had a heated pool and hot tub, so we did what any self respecting person would do.  We went swimming.  Actually, we started out in the hot tub but the pool felt really nice too, so we got in.  It was probably 78 degrees – and since it was 56 degrees outside it felt GREAT!  I took a picture because the waterfall was steaming, too.  Looked like the hot tub.  It was crazy.

Does this look like Memorial Day weekend weather to you?  Me neither!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Will summer never arrive?

The first thing I want to say is Happy Birthday to the Best Mom in the World!  My gift (besides what should hopefully be delivered to you at your hotel) will be NOT singing "Happy Birthday" to you.  Aren't I nice?  :-)

I’ll always remember the weekend I moved to Roseville. It was the first weekend in May and I had my 3-horse trailer full of boxes (a mover moved the big stuff) to unload and the temperature was 105+! I would unload a couple boxes then jump in the pool. (Repeat until trailer was empty.) I thought I was going to die since I’d grown up in the Bay Area where the temp was considered  hot when it got in the 80s. But since that initiation by fire I’ve loved the heat and nothing has felt as hot since.

That said, a few weeks ago I saw a weather report on TV that mentioned that this year we’ve had only 2 days in the 90s (we DID???) and none in the 100s yet. Normally we have had something like 7 days in the 90s and 2 over 100. But it also mentioned that last year we didn’t have ANY days over 90 or 100 in May. So, maybe this is the new May weather? If so, yuck!

There's the tanbark and notice it is NOT a sunny day...

We haven’t been able to jump in the pool yet, and we still don’t have our patio furniture out!  It keeps raining.  And is 60 degrees. What’s with that? It’s the Memorial Day weekend.  However, it will help with the load of tanbark we had delivered this morning.  Shoveling, wheelbarrowing (is that a word/verb?), and raking tanbark in 100 degree weather wouldn't be ideal.  So I guess I shouldn't complain and will enjoy my Memorial Day weekend.

And speaking of Memorial Day weekend...I have borrowed (with permission) a portion of an email from my CIO because it struck a chord. I wanted to share.

In case that you were unaware, Memorial Day, originally called “Decoration Day,” is different from Veterans’ Day in that it is a day of remembrance for those who have died or been killed in our nation's service. The Memorial Day “Red Poppy” tradition was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields” by Major John McCrae, a Canadian military surgeon who saw horrific fighting on the Western Front near France during World War I. His poem reads:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Regrettably, Major McCrae was killed in action in 1918. However, in 1915, inspired by Major McCrae’s poem, a Miss Mona Michael, replied with her own verse:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

Miss Michael then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money raised going to benefit war-orphaned children, widowed wives and veterans in need. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies and to this very day their “Buddy Poppy” Program continues to sell artificial red poppies made by disabled veterans.

You will very likely see veterans offering little, red, artificial poppies this weekend – at traffic lights or at your local grocery store. If so inclined, please consider making a donation and wearing your red poppy with pride.

Have a nice Memorial Day Weekend everyone.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A quick jaunt to see Blu

I guess there really is no such thing as a ‘quick jaunt to see Blu.’ 

All week I’d been looking forward to riding Blu.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a lesson because Todd was going to be out of town.  But I knew I’d get to ride, at least.  So it was good enough for me to make the drive.

Sharon wasn’t going to be able to get there early.  She had a bunch of stuff to get done.  But we hoped that we’d at least get to see each other.

I left home at 8am knowing that I’d make it to the ranch between 10:30 and 11:00am, depending on traffic and the route I chose.  I took 80 to 680 this time and had fairly good traffic.  I arrived at the ranch at about 10:45.  As expected it was quiet.  I was the only one there. 

With the EHV-1 (Equine Herpesvirus-1) outbreak every horse owner, ranch owner/manager, Vet and Farrier is on high alert.    If you Google EHV-1 you can find lots of information about it, but here are two excerpts from the local equine vet (Loomis Basin) postings on Facebook to give you a brief overview:

Current Herpes Update: Here are some highlights from the recent USDA and California State Vet Reports, as well as some information that our clinic has received on our own cases (please remember that there is sometimes a lag in the reporting of this information to the regulatory sites). The USDA reports 7 horses total have either died or been euthanized due to EHM. California is the state with the highest number of horses potentially exposed at the show (54 of the 308 horses were from California). Other strains (particulary the non-neurotropic strain) of EHV-1 have turned up positive in the mass testing effort that is going on, including one horse from a ride in Santa Ynez and one horse here in Placer County. Seventeen horses are now confirmed with the neurotropic strain of EHV-1 in California including an additional Placer County horse that is being treated for significant neurologic disease. The other positive horses in Placer County are doing well and are expected to make a full recovery. Our hospital is still free of any diseased or suspect horses, and we are conducting business as usual, with explicit precautions being taken to keep it safe for all.  

Current Herpes Update: The good news is that there have not been any newly diagnosed cases in California horses for the past 2 days. Everyone seems to be doing a great job of keeping this virus contained. There is one new positive case in a Nevada horse that is now hospitalized at UC Davis for neurologic symptoms; he was not at either show, but acquired the infection from his barnmates when they returned home. This serves as a good reminder to stay current on rhino/flu vaccines even for the horses who do not travel or show.
With this going on Mike is keeping an eagle eye out and came over as soon as I got out of my car.  Since I don’t have exposure to other horses I don’t have to worry (too much) about transmitting anything to the horses here.  But it’s nice to know everyone is on alert.

With all my thoughts revolving around the EHV-1 outbreak I didn’t think about any other possibilities for issues.   I knew Blu had been sick with a cold, but he’s been getting better and Todd has been working on his right lead all week.  His nose was almost 100% clear today and he looked good.  I had been looking forward to saddling him up.  So I was really disappointed to find out Blu and the Farrier had issues yesterday and he didn’t have any shoes on!

I found out later that Blu wouldn’t stand still and there wasn’t anyone available to hold him so the end result was that Blu had no shoes.

His hoof without a shoe.

Hmmm.  This really sucks.  Now I’m here and I can’t ride Blu.

Uh.  Drat.  Yeah.  Drat. 

Blu walking in the round pen

I thought maybe I could work him in the round pen but when I brought him there and trotted him around a couple times he didn’t look comfortable.  Duh.  I mentally hit myself in the forehead and stopped Blu.  Imagine when you’ve torn a fingernail and a part of your finger is exposed that isn’t normally.  It’s sore, right?  Now imagine putting all your weight on that sore finger.  Now walk around on it.  Not a fun thought, is it?

What to do now?  Treat Blu to a relaxing day.  That’s what.

I spent a couple hours grazing him on his lead line (I couldn’t let him loose in case he decided to run around and then hurt his hooves).  I also washed his mane and tail.  I knew that his tail was kind of dirty after the show and could use a good washing and figured it wouldn’t hurt to do his mane either.  It all air dried while he grazed.

Grazing on the short stuff

He wanted longer grass

When it was time to put his tail back up I realized that I didn’t have my stock of vetwrap with me.  Doh!    It’s long enough to hit the ground and he was likely to step on it and pull some out.  So I had to put it up somehow. 

I had a new style (to me) tail bag that is the kind you divide the tail into three strands and put them inside their own tube-thing and then braid them all together.  I did that, but again, it was too long.  He’d step on it and then he’d pull the WHOLE thing out.  Yikes!  Not good.  What to do???  I decided to loop it upon itself and let Todd know that I’d done a half-assed job and ask him to keep an eye on it.  (One of the drawbacks to being 3 hours away – I can’t just pop down and re-do it tomorrow.)

There was nothing else I could think of to do since I couldn’t work Blu.  He didn’t need a full bath, and besides, it was still foggy and was only 60 degrees.  No need to give him a chill just so I could spend more time with him.

So at 1pm I decided to hit the road.  At least I’d get home early.  I took I-5 back home – I didn’t want to worry about congestion through the Bay Area.  There were a few bottlenecks but I made it home in under 3 hours so it was all good.

When I called Ken to let him know I was coming home I found out that he’d pitched a complete game!  It was a surprise because another guy had been asking for a while to be starting pitcher for a game but he didn’t show up (grrr).  The Giants played the Cardinals.  The Cardinals are one of the best teams in the league.  And while the Giants lost, it was a very low scoring game.  I wish I could have been there to watch.  Because of course I would have stayed home if I’d known I wouldn’t get to ride and could instead watch Ken pitch.  I love watching him pitch.  He's so good at it from all those years playing Strike-Out with Brett I'm sure.

But alas – hindsight is 20/20.

It was 75 and sunny at home so I relaxed outside on the patio for a couple hours reading a book on my Kindle.

All in all a very nice weekend.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

No more horse shows for a while

Coming back from Santa Barbara is kind of like the day after Christmas.  You realize you have 364 more days until the next time and it’s so depressing!

I'm planning one more rated show – in Watsonville in August – and hopefully some schooling shows before then.  But really the rest of the summer will be spent getting Blu ready for next season’s show schedule. 

However, it isn’t like I have no more plans for the summer.  So I don’t know why I feel like the summer is already over before it’s really begun.  Sheesh.

This weekend was mostly spent at home with Ken.  Friday night we went out to dinner at Chili’s.  We haven’t eaten there in a while and I was craving the Chicken Ranch Sandwich (with the sauces on the side).  It’s nice to go and hang out in the bar, watch a game (the Sharks playoff game!) and have a cocktail while eating dinner.  We aren’t regulars, but we do go fairly regularly, if that makes sense.  We enjoyed watching the Sharks beat the Canucks – but they’re making the series a nail biter.  They’re now down 3-1.  They have to win 3 in a row.  Go Sharks!  (update - boo - they lost their bid to play in the Stanley Cup)

Saturday Ken and I worked in the yard.  I took the camper off the truck so we could go to Sierra Rock and Gravel to pick up a yard or two of tanbark.  The rain has really put us behind schedule in getting our yard ‘summer ready.’  We got the first load of tanbark and spread it out on the little hillside in the ‘main’ part of the yard.  It didn’t go nearly as far as we thought it would.  We debated about getting another yard but when we looked around we realized it was going to take at least 4 more yards of tanbark and we just weren’t prepared for that right then.  I called and found out they have free delivery if we get 5 yards so we decided to set up a delivery next Friday so we’d have the whole weekend to spread it around the yard.

We now had a pretty view out the family room window with the fresh tanbark.  And I cleaned up the tables and chairs on the patio.  All we needed to make it a true summer weekend was a barbecue.  So we went to the grocery store and picked up some supplies of course!

The Giants game started at 4pm Saturday and it added to the ambiance to have the game on the radio while we hung out and drank beer and ate chips and salsa.

The dogs relaxed on their beds in the sun, we relaxed on the chairs.  I had my Kindle and Ken had the paper.  When we got hungry Ken fired up the barbecue and I got some fresh corn on the cob ready (it conveniently came in our Farm Fresh to You produce box on Friday).

We were satisfied that we’d gotten some yard work completed, some errands done, and some quality relaxing time accomplished.

A perfect Saturday.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Santa Barbara Day 5 - Sunday

We’d all decided to sleep in and have a leisurely travel day.  That meant waking up whenever (to glorious sun), gathering when we were all ready, then going to breakfast.

Ken and I were up earlier than most so we went to the barn to feed breakfast to all the horses.  While it was sunny today (yesterday was slightly foggy/overcast most of the day) it was quite a bit breezy and cooler than the other days.  We left their blankets on.

When we got back to the house everyone was ready for breakfast.  We were going to try a new place (to us) but they were closed.  (Gosh- what a surprise – a restaurant in Santa Barbara was closed during a peak eating hour.)  So we went back to Farmer Boy.  Today I had “The Dumpster.”  It was hard to get past the name, but it was worth it.  It was a scramble with bacon, ham, sausage and cheese.  Yum.

After breakfast it was time to pack everything back into the trailer.  It was the reverse of Wednesday, but with more labor available.  Sharon, Todd and I asked our ‘lucky’ assistants to help.  Most had never packed a trailer after a show so I wasn’t sure how well it would go.  I had visions of Sharon and I needing to spend another weekend re-organizing the trailer after shoving everything in willy-nilly.  But nope.  Our assistants were awesome.  We worked as a team so perfectly that the trailer loaded up nice and smoothly and in record time.

All of the sudden everything was packed and it was time to go home.  I was really sad.  The weekend was so much fun I didn’t want it to end.

Saying bye is hard, too.  Even if I know I’ll see them a week later (or more).

But alas, we had to say bye.  Todd pulled out first.  Ken and I were next and Sharon and Bill and Nancy and Steve were last.

Heading home on 101

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Santa Barbara – Day 4 – Saturday

How do I top yesterday?  I don’t know.
Friday was such an amazing day that I just don’t know what would top it.  But I gave it a darned good try.

That said – I’m also a very superstitious person and worry that saying how happy I was yesterday is asking for trouble.  But hopefully it will be ok.

Today there were no halter classes, but Blu was in the 3rd class of the morning so it was another early day.   Blu’s class was supposed to be the 4th class of the morning but the Show Hack class was cancelled.  The show started at 8:30am and we needed time to get Blu ready.  He’d gotten the dreaded green spots on his belly (why did I get a horse with white again?  Didn’t I learn my lesson with Cre – who was ALL white?  I guess not.).  I brought him over to the wash rack and hoped that he wouldn’t mind a cold belly at 7am.

He didn’t.  He again surprised me when he accepted being tied up at the wash rack (a lot of horses will balk at going to the wash rack because they KNOW that the wash rack means cold water on their body) and let me spray his belly and legs.  I scrubbed him and he cleaned up well.  I then brought him back to the grooming stall and rubbed his belly with a towel to help the drying process.

While his belly dried I worked on prepping the rest of him. 

Some of the things I’ve learned recently about show grooming tips have been pretty cool.  I thought I’d share in case it helps anyone else.

The first is how to keep a tail clean yet not have it get all full of kinks.  So, to explain this let me tell you that up until very recently, to keep a tail clean I would wash it, let it dry, then braid it and loop it up into a fairly small knot just below the tailbone (which extends about a foot and a half past their back) and wrap it with Vetwrap to keep it clean.  To someone who doesn’t know what we’re doing it looks pretty odd to see a horse with a tail that ends in a kind of stump.  But when you get to unwrap it for a show it looks fabulous so it’s worth it.  I’ll always remember Nancy trying to talk me into putting Cre’s tail up and I kept saying no.  I liked it loose and natural.  But eventually she wore me down.  When I eventually unwrapped it his tail touched the ground and was pure white – not yellow-ish.  I was hooked.

But the problem with this method is that it leaves the tail all kinky from the braiding.  And when you go into the arena you don’t want the horse to have a kinked tail.  So I observed others and learned some tricks.

One trick is to use a flatiron to straighten the hair.  Yep – the same flat iron that we use to straighten our hair.  I pull the vetwrap off, unbraid the tail and then use the flat iron on it to straighten it out.  However this leaves another dilemma.  If the tail is really long it will drag on the ground and will then gather dirt and debris and make all the work I did to clean it useless.  So, how to keep it clean and not kinky?  That was another conundrum.  Again, I studied other horses at the shows and saw that they would braid just the end of the tail up to the top of the tail.

I’m not sure how well this will translate to the written word – but basically, I would gather the tail up and go to the last 6 inches or so of it.  From there I would clump it together then divide it into 3 strands like I would if I were going to braid.  I then bring it up towards the top of the tail where the tailbone is and where some of the strands are just coming out.  I’d gather some hair there and would join them to braid them together.

When the 6 inches are braided together with the top of the tail it is in a big loop and doesn’t come in contact with the ground.  When it’s time to go into the class you just pull the small braid out and run the brush through it quickly and voila!  You have a clean, non kinked tail ready for the show ring!

As I write this I’m thinking I should take some photos next time to document it.  There have to be others out there who didn’t know this trick. And maybe photos will make more sense.

So, where was I?  Oh yeah – getting ready for the morning class. 

Today is the championship class.  We had to have competed in the Half-Arabian Western Pleasure Junior Horse class yesterday to qualify.  We did, so Blu could compete in today’s championship class.

Since he wasn’t perfect yesterday I wasn’t expecting a lot today.  But he surprised me.  I love it when that happens.  Again – I don’t want to jinx things, but he sure seems to get the idea pretty quickly.  And he doesn’t freak out about things.  (yet)

Today’s class was great.   

I was so proud!

Western Pleasure Junior Horse Championship Class

Blu in the Championship class

I’ll admit to hoping that he’d place a bit higher up then he did because (other than his speed at the lope) he did really well and one of the other horses broke into a jog while it was supposed to be at the lope (a big no-no).  But I guess the judge 1) didn’t see the other horse break his lead or 2) remembered yesterday and held it against Blu or 3) didn’t like Blu (gasp – how dare he!?).

The judge checking the headstall

Regardless of how he finished I was thrilled with his performance.

And heck – I am not complaining!  I have a horse that did supremely well.  He has only been under saddle with Todd less than 60 days and only had 12 rides with Nicole before that.  And I wasn’t even expecting to be able to show this weekend.  I’d been figuring that August in Watsonville would be his first show.

So it’s all good.

There we were – Blu’s class was over and it was just 9am. Since we were done competing we had free time like we’ve never had before.  None of us had eaten breakfast yet.  We got Blu put back in his stall and headed off to Farmer Boy Restaurant for breakfast.  It’s been around since 1958 and serves a hearty breakfast – I recommend it if you’re ever in Santa Barbara and are looking for a good breakfast.  I ordered eggs over easy with bacon (extra crispy) and sourdough toast and made my own breakfast sandwich.  (Isn’t it amazing how many places don’t actually offer a breakfast sandwich? – I’ve learned to make my own.). 

After breakfast I thought it would be kind of fun to drive around Santa Barbara and show Ken the sights.  The weather wasn’t perfect and I certainly didn’t know my way around.  But my Droid had GPS and Nancy was willing to go with us so I figured we could at least do a 10 cent tour.  I didn’t want Ken to go home and say he hadn’t seen anything but the showgrounds.

We drove along the ocean and stopped so we could say we walked along the beach.

In Santa Barbara 

We drove by out the Courthouse – which has to be one of the prettiest buildings around.  But we didn’t get out of the car.  Next trip I get Ken to join me I will do my best to get an actual walking tour of Santa Barbara.  If nothing else – he’ll have to check out the bar that has something like 100 beers on tap!  That oughta be appealing!  Haha

Back at the showgrounds it was lesson time.  Nancy and her filly got a lesson in the warmup arena and then I got to ride Blu in the big arena.  He was WONDERFUL.   A very nice jog, no looky-loos, no bothers with other horses coming up on him.  It was all just a great experience.  

Lesson in the main arena

When the lessons were over it was wind-down time.  We did a small bit of organizing the tack room in preparation for loading up on Sunday, but really, we just relaxed.  We went to the main arena and watched some of the afternoon classes.  We checked out some of Blu’s future competition by watching the Half Arabian Western Pleasure classes.  I even saw one of the horses I’d been thinking about buying!  The show world is a small world so I wasn’t totally surprised. 

It was a horse that I’d been emailing the trainer about, but when I had a chance to go see it (down in Southern CA) the mare had already been sold.  I still went to their barn but I looked at a different horse and wasn’t interested. 

Watching this mare in the arena made me really happy I’d chosen Blu.  I’ll leave it at that.

We got hungry about 4:30pm so we decided that Sushi would be yummy.  But I have to say that dining in Santa Barbara is a LOT more difficult that it should be.

All of us absolutely love sushi so it was an obvious choice.  And we quizzed one of our friends for a recommendation.  They told us where the best sushi in SB was, so off we went.  But what the heck?!  It was closed.  On a Saturday!  And not just to open later in the evening, but closed on Saturdays!  We could see someone in the back, but they were definitely closed.  Grrr.  We called the friend who’d recommended it and got their second best place.  We got in our cars and drove to the other end of State Street.  But we had to keep on driving.  It was closed too!  Grrr…..  On to the third spot.  What the heck?!  They were closed too.  0 for 3!  But they were scheduled to open at 5:30.  It was 4:50pm.  No place to hang out waiting (no one was willing to go into the liquor store in the strip mall and buy beer and hang in the parking lot.  Sheesh).

So we utilized a different person’s recommendation (non sushi).  It has an odd name.  Marmalade.  Turned out to be pretty darned good.  And open.  Imagine that.

Thus concluded another satisfying day.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Santa Barbara – Day 3 – Friday

Ken and Bill are here!!!!!

Today Sharon and I were all about our men.  Both Bill and Ken took Friday off to fly down to Santa Barbara and join us for the show.  They’re wonderful! 

When they’d chosen to join us we’d looked up the available flights.  The flights were both a blessing and a curse because of their time.  Ken was flying out of Sacramento and Bill out of San Francisco.  Neither city had a direct flight to Santa Barbara.  But they did have an early morning flight (so they’d be able to spend the most time with us) to LA with a connecting flight to Santa Barbara.  And coincidentally they both departed their airports at the same time and in order to be able to take the same flight from LA to SB.

Things worked out all the way around.  Ken usually has poor flight experiences, but this time things worked out well.  (Except that it was a 6am flight out of Sac.)  He got up at an ungodly hour, but when he parked in the economy lot and got out of the car a security guard was driving by and stopped to see if he wanted a lift to the terminal.  How about that!  No waiting for the bus for Ken!  Door to door service.  Things were looking up.  His flight was on time out of Sac and he arrived in LA with time to grab a bite to eat and then meet Bill at the gate for the flight to Santa Barbara.  They shared a cab to the showgrounds and were dropped off at the front entrance within sight of our barn.

Sharon and I were prepping our horses when Nancy spotted them.  I heard Nancy say “they’re here” and I shot out of the stall like I was on fire.  Sharon and I both ran.  Totally a scene from a romantic movie!  It was absolutely AWESOME to see Ken.

I was having a good time before they arrived.  Afterwards it got even better.  I don’t think my smile ever left me.

I spent a bit of time showing Ken around the showgrounds (he’d never been to Santa Barbara or the showgrounds before).  There was a lot of me pointing and telling him stories from previous visits.  I showed him where we’d been stabled before, where I’d been in a class before, described what how crowded the place used to be in the past compared to this year (a big change, most likely due to the economy).  All that kind of thing.  Oh – and we also got a bite to eat at the concession stand.  But then it was back to the business of showing.  I had a saddle to clean and a horse to get ready.


Todd has a really neat, classic bosel with horsehair mecate (reins) that is really old.  I confess to not remembering exactly how old, however.  As mentioned yesterday, the tentative plan had been to show Blu in it, but it was just too soon.  I mean, Blu hasn’t even had 60 days with Todd, and only about 12 rides before that with Nicole, so even the fact that we were coming to Santa Barbara with the ‘thought’ of showing was ambitious.   So when Todd was working Blu in the warm up arena he made the decision to go with the snaffle.  I was totally fine with it.  I’m 100% behind Todd and his decision to make Blu’s show experience fun and to not make mistakes that could take a lot longer to repair, rather than to push something that really should wait.

Once Blu was worked it was Nazz’s turn to get ready.  His class was before lunch.

Sharon in the warm-up arena with Equus Farms barn in the background.

If you’ve never been to a show, or wonder what it’s like.  There’s quite a bit of ‘hurry up and wait’ and there is a whole bunch of ‘did you hear what class their on’ when trying to listen to the loudspeaker for the ring steward who calls the classes.  And I SWEAR – every time you absolutely NEED to know what they’re saying over the loud speaker someone drives a truck, or a tractor, or a watering truck or a wheelbarrow, or something nearby so you can’t hear the critical part.  So of course you need to then go closer to the arena and ask anyone who looks like they might be paying attention “did you hear what class they called?” and then you realize that you haven’t been in a time machine and that you really DO still have 4 classes until it’s ‘time’ and you breath a sigh of relief and go back to the barn to continue whatever you were doing before your heart stopped.

There’s a whole lot of that happening at shows.

So, once we knew what class they were on we were prepared to go to the warm up arena.  Nazz was right on schedule.  That’s important when you’re the groom!

Being the ‘groom’ means you’re responsible for keeping track of time so you’re warming up at the right time.  So that you’re not going in the arena with your horse’s tail in a knot.  So the rider doesn’t have sunglasses on their face when they go in their class.  So the horse doesn’t have a noseband or other inappropriate tack still on.    To do all that we have a groom bag that has clean brushes (to brush off the dust that might have dared accumulate during the warmup), a damp cloth (for wiping clean whatever needs to be wiped clean), Pepe Show Spray (to shine the horse’s coat), a brush (to make sure the mane and tail are at their best), rubber bands (you never know), screw driver (Chicago screws hold things on tack and you don’t want one of them to come loose at the wrong time), and anything else we can thing we might need.

Here’s a pic showing Sharon and me as grooms before Blu’s first class.

Sharon heading into a class

Once they go in the arena there isn’t anything else we can do but watch – or if you’re the trainer, you have a second of coaching each time they ride by.  This picture is of Todd waiting for Sharon to come by.

Todd on the job

Sadly, during the class it became apparent that Nazz’s back was sore.  It wasn’t fair to him to keep showing him, so Sharon scratched his remaining classes.  It was a total bummer, but it was really good to know that he was just going on the “DL” as Ken put it.  He was on the disabled list vs ‘injured reserve’ where you’re out for the year.  Nazz just needs some time to get over his sore back.

The lunch break started shortly after Nazz’s class and I used the time to get Blu all gussied up so he was ready to go for his class.  I’m sure I’m saying this a lot, but he is both a young horse and new to me, so I don’t know what to expect.  That said, we didn’t know if he’d need 45 minutes of warmup before his class or 5 minutes.  Better to ‘hurry up and wait’ was the decision – so once Blu was prepped for his class Todd got on him and worked him in the warmup arena.

In the warmup arena

He did pretty darned well.  Todd said “I think we’re going to show this guy” or words to that effect.  I’m glad the video wasn’t running because I probably squealed with delight!  (I knew it would be a question mark up until it was time for him to go in the arena)  My horse was going to show!!!!!!!

In the warmup arena

I have to give Sharon a million thanks – she asked Bill to be the official photographer for Blu’s first class, and she asked Ken to be official videographer.  That meant that I could focus 100% on watching my horse in his first class ever.  Absolutely perfect.

It was totally amazing watching Blu come into the arena for the first time, seeing those flashy legs and face and the pretty movement.  I fell in love all over again.

And yes, I cried.

Blu entering the arena in his first class ever.

Calm and cool

My baby - he looks so young to me here

Into the lineup.

And in the interest of full disclosure – and that I want this to be an accurate representation of my experience – Blu didn’t have a perfect ride.  I edited the video to show only his first direction.  But I didn’t edit anything out of the first direction - I just edited his second direction.

I know I’m biased, but I think I can still be a little objective.  Besides – I need to have something to compare to later, right?!?  hehehe

His first direction was pretty darned good.  Heck, two weeks ago he wasn’t even able to jog.  He could only trot, and it wasn’t that comfortable.  I was able to get a couple jog strides, but really, it was 98% trot with 2% jog two weeks ago.  So, watching him have a complete jog in the class was breathtaking!  He looked in control, and had very pretty movement.  I could see the promise.

His lope was a different matter.  Even in his ‘good’ direction he was fast.  The other horses in his class were quite a bit slower than he was.  But he got the correct lead (If you want to know about leads, try this website:  Leads) , so I was thrilled.  Over the moon, in fact!  To me, his first direction was fabulous!

They reversed and it was looking good.  But when they called for the lope Blu and Todd weren’t in a good position.  They were coming up on the announcer’s stand and another horse was on the inside just to their rear so I’m sure Blu felt boxed in.  He still isn’t used to horses coming up on him from the front or rear.  Regardless, he couldn’t get the correct (right) lead.  It was a bummer, but Todd handled it perfectly.  He would bring him back to the jog in one stride and try again.  He never over reacted, he just worked him (schooled him) until he got the correct lead without making a big deal about it.  So I don’t think Blu ever got the feeling of ‘oh crap – this sucks’ he just kept working.  It was good to see.

When you’re riding in a class I can tell you sometimes it feels like 20 minutes, or 2 minutes – depending on your ride.  But this one was about 5 minutes long.  They trotted into the lineup at the end of the class and I was ecstatic.  

I can’t describe how happy I was.  But I can say that it all just felt ‘right.’  And I had my husband there at my side.

And my best friends (and a ribbon - hehehe)

So, how do we finish a day like today?  Dinner at The Boathouse per a recommendation.  Great company, good food, good atmosphere and good cocktails.

The perfect end to a great day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Santa Barbara– Day 2 - Thursday

For this show we had three horses showing.  Little E, Nazz and Blu.  It was a combination of rush time and relaxing time.  Heaven.

Little E



Little E was in her halter class this morning.  Todd was at the barn at 6am washing the filly and prepping her for her class.  The bummer about halter classes is that they are always in the morning.  It means extra early arrival times and baths in the morning because no matter what, they seem to manage to get green marks on themselves overnight.  Even if they’re put up in bubble wrap.

Even saying that, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s so much fun to be involved.  Halter classes are very lively.  The handler trots the horse into the arena accompanied by whoops and hollers from the audience.  They set the horse up on the rail until the judge is ready and then the handler brings the horse into the center of the arena and sets the horse up again – getting it to stand in a particular stance that sets them off to their best advantage.  They use a halter whip which they wave in the air (they don’t whip the horses, just the air to get their attention) and the halter’s lead line (leather) which they wiggle and move (also to get their attention).  Once they get the horse set in its stance, if it’s really nice and the audience is fired up about it everyone yells.  I think this is to tell the judge it’s a popular horse– or it could be to get the horse to be even more hyped up.  But since this year is the first year I’ve ever watched any halter classes I have no idea if I’m right – or blowing smoke about all of it!  But regardless, it’s a blast to watch.

So, all that said – Todd took Little E into the arena and we yelled our appreciation.  Since she’s a Half Arabian she competes against some very dissimilar horses.  I don’t know how the judge decides what is most appropriate (each horse is judged individually on their conformation) but I can say that the horse I thought would come in last came in first.  So everything seemed backwards.

Todd walking Little E to the arena

Walking in the arena

Todd trotting Little E

Once Little E was done with her class she was done for the show. This show only had the one set of Halter classes.  So it was ‘one and done’ for Little E.

We were able to spend the morning getting Nazz prepared for his classes.  Of course he doesn’t need much prep.  He’s the consummate professional.  I think he soaks up the adoration we shower on him.  He enjoys the grooming especially.  And I have fun grooming him.  I hope that Blu learns to enjoy it as much as Nazz does.

Anyhoo – Nazz was in two classes Thursday.  One class Todd rode and the other Sharon was up.  They had beautiful rides in both classes. 

Nazz and Todd

Loping with Todd

In the lineup

Sharon and Nazz

I brought my ‘big’ camera to this show – my Nikon – because I thought I’d been slacking on my photography during the last few shows with my Cannon.  The benefits of the Cannon are that it is small and it can take video.  The Nikon is an SLR and I’ve got a nice all-around lens that allows for some decent telephoto photography without having to do much editing to the photos afterwards.  That is a good thing because about all I know how to do on my digital photos is crop.  So if you’re ever wondering if I’ve altered a photo you can rest assured I don’t know how– so it’s highly unlikely!  Someday I’ll learn PhotoShop.

Once Nazz was done with his classes for the day it was time to do a bit of prepping on Blu.  He needed his hooves ‘done.’  And by‘done’ I mean sanded so they’d look really pretty (yes a boy can look pretty) once they were polished.  We haven’t done this to him before so we weren’t sure how he’d take it. 

Turns out he took it just fine –though Ken says his expression says otherwise.

I took Blu over to the wash rack for his bath.  It’s just across the isle from our stalls so it was super handy to see when it’s empty.  Yet again Blu acted like and old show-pro and stood nice and quietly throughout the bath.  I even got to use my new bath accessory – a funky looking item that actually DID keep the water from running down my arm into my armpit and soaking my shirt (anyone who’s ever washed a horse knows EXACTLY what I’m talking about).  The Off-The-Cuff thing is totally cool.  I highly recommend it.  After the bath, I put Blu’s new cooler on (the robe-like blanket I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned previously) and rubbed his belly with a towel to help it dry.  When he was all dry I put on his new head to toe sleezy (the lightweight lycra blanket designed to keep him clean).  But alas, I didn’t think to take any pictures of him wearing either.  Maybe next show…

We were all done with our show prep for Friday so we had free time on our hands.    Shopping!  I think it’s a requirement for all show attendees to make a visit to Jedlickas – you have to be sure to visit their consignment building too, outside across the parking lot.  I just love walking through tack stores anywhere I go.  There’s ALWAYS something that I just ‘need’ (sorry Ken!).  This time it was my very own bit.  We had hoped that Blu would be showing in the Bosel but it wasn’t looking too positive.  He’d only been in it a couple times and while his head position was great, it had rubbed a sore spot on his nose and his nose was still a bit too tender.  So it was a great excuse to shop for a show quality snaffle bit. 

It’s gorgeous!  Even if I do say so myself.  (though I didn’t take any photos of it by itself so this is a cropped image to show it.)

I also got an equine exercise ball for Blu – but it wasn’t full enough and he put a hole in it pretty quickly. Alas, while Blu enjoyed it, he only enjoyed it for about 5 minutes.

Time flew with all the fun somehow it was 6pm and Nancy was here!  Yeah! 

The Three Musketeers were together again in Santa Barbara!