Thursday, July 28, 2011

Our first show!

OK – technically it isn’t MY first show, nor is it Blu’s first show.  But TOGETHER it is OUR first show where I rode him in the classes.

It was pretty damned cool!

We went to Gilroy to Woodmyst Farms for an All Breed Open Schooling Show.  That meant it wasn’t just Arabians or Half-Arabians, there were all kinds of horses there from Percheron's to Ponies!  The Western Pleasure classes were scheduled to start after lunch so we didn’t have to get up TOO early to prepare.  That was nice.
Blu and Nazz - buddies

We (Todd) brought 5 horses.  Zoey (the above mentioned Percheron was actually in our trailer – and we happened to park next to a trailer with the teeniest Ponies – quite the juxtaposition) and James (a Warmblood) were at the show for exposure to new things.  Then there was Rocky – an Appaloosa (but not Bill’s Appaloosa named Rocky – it’s a different horse).  And, of course, Nazz and Blu.  Rocky, Nazz and Blu were the three that showed.  Todd rode Rocky, Sharon rode Nazz and –big surprise- I was on Blu.

When we pulled the horses out of the trailer I walked Blu around a bit to get the kinks out and let him check things out.  He did the usual snorting and had his head way up, looking around.  We circled back to the trailer and watched as Zoey was brought out and listened to all the comments about her size – especially from the pony owners next to us!  Then Blu and I went for another walk, this time to the main arena.  As I was walking up to the arena I spotted Kim, my wonderful Sister-in-Law walking towards me!!!  I was SO excited to see her.  She’d been up at my house Friday and Saturday with Tim and Ryan and I’d gotten to spend time with her Friday night – watching my lesson videos and talking horses.  I’d hoped she’d make it to the show, but wasn’t counting on it.  It is a long way to drive, I know!  So seeing her there made my day!

She got to check out Blu in person for the first time, and I’m happy to say that she likes him.  She also brought her camera which turns out to be great because I didn’t take ANY pictures at the show.  What’s with that?  So these photos and video are courtesy of Kim.

The show was a popular show.  I think a lot of the popularity had to do with the fact that months of shows were cancelled and people weren’t travelling with their horses due to the EHV-1 outbreak and this was one of the first opportunities to get back out into the show ring.  Regardless, it was low key for us (and everyone) and fun.  To ride in the show we buy one ticket per class and hand over the ticket as we ride into the arena for our choice of class.  This way we don’t have to sign up for specific classes and can pick a class at the last minute.  I’d bought 3 tickets figuring I’d ride in two Walk/Jog classes and one Walk/Jog/Lope class.    The classes I ended up riding were:

Class 28 was Western Pleasure – Maiden Horse – walk/jog only
Class 30 was Western Pleasure – Open – walk/jog only
Class 31 was Western Pleasure – Novice Horse – walk/jog/lope

Since I didn’t ride on Saturday – Sharon and I had spent the day getting ready for this show and Watsonville packing the trailer and washing the horses – and Todd had ridden him on the trails during the week (Blu’s first trail ride EVER!) he wanted to get on him first in the main arena during the lunch break.  Todd worked Blu through a couple exercises, got him comfortable with one spot where there was a red post on the rail that Blu didn’t like and then had me get on.  It was my first time on Blu in a week and it was heaven.  I just smile each time I get on him (and every time I think about it).  I only got one circuit around the main arena though before they said they were turning on the sprinklers so I moved over to the warm up arena.

In the warm up arena before my hat troubles

For this show I wore my full “show outfit” (show boots, chaps, show pants, bling top, cowboy hat) so I could have a trial run to make sure everything worked OK before I had found out the hard way at the Watsonville show.  I’m glad I did, too, because while I was in the warm up arena the one malfunction I had was with my hat.  It wouldn’t stay on in the breeze.  I had a bunch of bobby pins holding it on (or so I thought) but alas I had to reach up a couple times to keep it on.  Kim ended up running the hat back to the trailer and trading it off for my “bling” baseball cap.  Sigh – It doesn’t work for the “Western Pleasure Look” but better to find out now when I have time to try to come up with a solution (glue!?!) before the Watsonville show.

At the lope

I worked Blu  He wasn’t perfect, mind you, but he picked up the correct lead more times than not!  Yeah!

Hanging out with Todd and Sharon waiting for our class to be called.

For all the classes Todd decided that we needed to ride with the martingale – the thing around his neck that has the rings in it for the reins to go through.  Todd wanted to be sure that Blu knew to keep his head at the right level.  When he told me we were going to keep it on in the classes he said that we weren’t going to go for ribbons, just experience, because a horse with training equipment is judged below one without.  So I figured even if we did awesome we wouldn’t get any ribbons.  (Of course I had hoped that we might come home with something – because WHY do this if you’re not trying to win?)  But we’d get the experience we both needed.

When they called Class 28 I was ready.  And I wasn’t full of nerves.  Blu was calm, I was calm.  It was actually quite amazing because it was unlike any of my past shows with Cre.  I used to get jello knees as I was riding into the arena at the posting trot and worried I’d fall right out of my saddle with my nerves.  So to not have them for this show was pretty cool.  It’ll be interesting to see if that continues with other shows.

At the jog in our first class

The class was a walk/jog class for Maiden horses – that means horses that have never won a blue ribbon.  We certainly qualified!  I had a really enjoyable time in the class.  Blu did well, I think I did ok, too.  The judge came up to talk to me when I was in the line up after the class was over – on occasion in a schooling show a judge will let some riders know what they could do better, or what they liked.  In my case she let me know that I needed to sit back a bit and that it would help Blu slow down.  I know she’s right.  I’ve heard it before that I lean forward too much.  So for the rest of the show I tried to concentrate on my posture.  And I can tell I was a bit successful because Monday my core muscles were sore – proving I’d been working them!
Now the topper to the fun class was the fact that they called my number out for Fourth place!  I’m pretty sure there were at least 8 horses in the class.  I remember looking down the lineup and counting 8.  There we were in our first class, with training equipment, and we got a ribbon!  Awesome!

Receiving my first ribbon on Blu

I don't look TOO happy do I?

The next class I entered was another walk/jog class.  This one was an open class, so anyone could enter it.  Sharon, Todd and Teresa (yep, Teresa from our Deadwood trip!) joined me in this class.  Blu and I had another nice ride.  This class had a lot more horses in it, I remember the ring steward saying that we wouldn’t all fit on one side of the arena.  Blu and I didn’t win anything in this class but we did what we'd come to do - rode well and didn't have any problems.  I was very pleased. 

I’d originally thought I’d ride in class 33 an Arabian/Half-Arabian only class with Sharon but when I walked out of the arena after class 30 the very next class was a lope class for Novice horses – those who hadn’t won 3 blue ribbons.  Again – we certainly qualified.  And because I’d forgotten exactly what class I’d planned on, and I was feeling really good, I literally said “what the hell” and turned around and went right back in the arena.

I figure going right back in didn’t give me a chance to get nervous about being in a class where I’d have to strike the lope!  And I was right.  Of course, the work in the warm up arena helped too, knowing that I was able to get Blu into the lope, on the correct lead, and on the rail, not a corner.  So I put everything I’d learned from Todd into my brain and went for it!  We weren’t flawless, but we were WONDERFUL!  Blu got the correct lead BOTH directions, the first time!  The only problem I really had was when we were going the second direction (his bad direction) we were going a bit fast and I could feel myself tightening up a bit so I said (out loud, to myself) “breathe” and Blu promptly broke into the jog.  Doh!  But I learned from that.  NEVER, NEVER say anything out loud to him, unless I want him to slow down.  Luckily for us the judge didn’t see it and asked for the walk before I could get him back in the lope.  Phew!  Close call! 

I was beyond surprised to hear our number called out again in this class.  We were awarded 5th place!  In a loping class!  How cool is that?!?

Blu strikes the lope

When we were done with our classes it was time to chill out on the rail and watch Sharon ride her two remaining classes.  It was nice to watch Sharon and Nazz ride all cool and collected.  Even when the judge had them lope twice the same direction.  Normally a class is performing in each gate (walk, jog, lope) in both directions.  But for this class they did everything all the same direction then came and lined up.  The judge walked up to Sharon (I found out later) and talked to her bout that and when the judge realized what she’d done she had everyone leave the line up and go the other direction!  Sharon and Nazz handled it very well.  And got third place!  Yippee!

A GREAT first show for Blu and me.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lesson with draw reins

Saturday I drove down to see Blu for the day.  It was a fairly uneventful drive but I’m always on the lookout for unusual sights.  It might make for an interesting topic on its own, now that I think about it.

Today I saw sky divers.

I even drove by a circus near Livermore but luckily that wasn’t a preview of my lesson to come.

Since it was a daytrip I didn’t spend a lot of extra time at the ranch, but I still got a lot accomplished. 

In case anyone is wondering, preparing for a show isn’t just about riding.  Having a trainer makes things a billion times easier, that’s for sure, but to get ready for a show I still have to 1) have the right horse  2) have all the tack and people clothing that’s required 3) have the horse clothing and equipment necessary to keep the horse comfortable and clean 4) have all the appropriate paperwork completed, signed and mailed with copies of my horse’s registration papers as well as copies of the two competition cards I have to have (Arabian Horse Association and United States Equestrian Federation) and last but not least 4) PAY for it all!

The previous weekend Sharon and I had worked with Todd to pick the classes we planned to enter in the Gold Coast Arabian Horse Association (GCAHA) show in Watsonville August 12-14.  This weekend we signed all the papers and picked some TBA (To Be Announced) classes that weren’t officially scheduled but that we hoped we’d be able to request.  Once we had them identified I called the show Secretary and reserved the TBA classes. 

The GCAHA show will be the first “rated” show that I will ride Blu in (Todd was the only one to show Blu in Santa Barbara and at Rancho Murieta Blu was just a spectator) and I’m really excited.  And yes, I’m also nervous.  I now totally understand Sharon’s worries about disappointing the trainer if you don’t do well.  I used to tell her not to worry about it, but now that the ‘boot’ is on the other foot I should really eat my words.  Because I’m really worried about screwing up!!  But I’ll do my best to remember my words to Sharon, and our mantra all along has been that we’re doing this for FUN!

Along those lines, and to get a bit of practice in, we’re planning on going to a schooling show in Gilroy this Sunday.  A schooling show is a much more casual type of show than a rated show.  It is judged, but the competition doesn’t count towards a horse’s points accumulation (his official show record), and you can use training tack, which you can’t use in a rated show.  I hope that we’ll perform well at the schooling show – not necessarily that we’ll win but that we won’t screw up and Blu will get the right leads in the lope!  That is my personal goal for the schooling show.   How it goes will then tell me what I need to work on before the Watsonville show. 

Oh yes, I did actually RIDE during my visit! 

Getting back on track….I had a GREAT lesson.  Blu has improved yet again, and in just a week this time.  I’m going to have my work cut out for me in keeping up with him.  He’s getting ridden 5 times a week and I’m just riding once or twice a week.

Sharon was nice enough to film my lesson.  I shortened it into just a couple minutes of video – I’m sure no one wants to watch the whole thing. 

In this lesson I needed to work on getting Blu into the lope, and on the correct lead.  Last week Todd had talked to me about collection and that when Blu was fully collected in his jog if I released and held my body appropriately it would “allow” Blu to move into the lope (I'm simplifying of course).  To me this was critical in that I wasn't “asking” Blu to lope, I was “letting” him.  And to me that meant he would want to do it and it would be mutually beneficial.  So this week I was thinking about that and when I told Todd that the conversation had made an impression last week he said “that was LAST week!  He’s already moved on.”  Yikes!  See what I mean about I’ll have my work cut out for me keeping up with him?! 

This week we were in draw reins (they’re reins that are clipped to rings on the cinch and go through the rings of the snaffle bit to my hands).  That means I have two sets of reins.  The regular reins and the draw reins.  It makes coordination a challenge, to say the least.  The draw reins slide through the bit and don’t have direct contact and the regular reins were much looser than I’d been using before.  But it was good for me to ride without feeling like I had a firm hold on his mouth.  Different.  Challenging.  As is almost everything it seems. 

So much to remember!  And it changes quickly, too.  Yikes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I hadn't seen Blu in a month

This weekend was a “Horse and Hound” weekend.  Angus came down with me to see Blu.  He started out riding in the back seat of the truck, but moved to the front seat.  I think he was lonely in the back since Annie wasn't with us too.

Angus kept an eye on the road for me...

But eventually got bored.

Angus is really an easy keeper when we’re down at the ranch.  I can tie him on a long line to the Willow tree and he can watch me while hanging out in the sun or shade.  He stays on leash, but we did walk down the barn isle so he could meet Blu.  Angus jumped up to put his front feet on the top of Blu's stall door.  Then hopped down immediately.  I think Angus was surprised at what was on the other side!   But Blu put his head over the door and Angus tentatively put his head up and they sniffed each other.  Then Angus gave Blu’s nose a little lick and I figured it was a good start.

Angus would have preferred to be right next to me while I was grooming Blu, but he hung out on the lawn instead.

My lesson was great, too.  A month has gone by since my last ride.  I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire lesson.

Having a young horse makes me think twice about some things – but I’m learning that after four months with Blu having a young horse isn’t nearly as “scary” as I thought it might be.  Of course, I know it's because I’ve got a great trainer and he has done some fabulous things with Blu.  

I say this because as I was doing some solo work while Todd was working with Nazz I felt confident and thought Blu was in a good spot to ask for the lope.  So I asked and he went right into it on the correct lead.  I was really happy!  A month ago I wouldn’t have asked for the lope without Todd watching with an eagle eye.  But Blu is learning in leaps and bounds and it just felt right.

I’m also happy because when Todd saw us loping he didn’t immediately tell me to stop because I was on the wrong lead, or was doing something horrible or anything!  Yeah!

Monday, July 18, 2011

My new (to me) show saddle

I just have to laugh that I’ve spent months looking for a saddle far and wide.  I’ve looked on Craigslist, eBay, and other websites that sell new and used saddles.  I’ve gone to many stores in multiple states. And I have had friends on the look out as well.  In the end, it was a friend that found it after we got back from our vacation

On the 4th of July, Sharon was at the Half Moon Bay Feed and Fuel and saw it at the front of the store.  She texted me and even though we didn’t know what kind of tree it had we decided to take it for a fitting.  She picked it up on the 9th and brought it down to the ranch.  It was sitting on a saddle rack when Todd saw it and he thought it was going to be too narrow.  But when he looked at it closer he thought it had promise because its construction gave the leather more flexibility and he thought it might change shape once it was on Blu.  So the next step was to put it on Blu without a saddle pad.  Todd looked at it from many angles, put his hand up between the saddle and Blu’s back and he said it fit!

I then added a pad and saddled up for my lesson.  I wanted to see if he moved freely, or had any rub marks or inappropriate sweat voids after working in it for an hour.  And I had to see if it was comfortable for me too, of course.

The saddle turned out to be super comfortable.  It’s an Equitation seat and I settled into it nicely.  It was a nice fit though I’ve got to work on finding the correct stirrup length.  It was on the shortest setting and I’d changed it to quite a bit longer, but it needs to be adjusted until I find the right length.

The saddle came with a matching breast collar and bridle, which is great - more tack I don't have to buy separately.

Looking at the positive from all of the saddle shopping – it did help me learn a bit about Western saddles.  I’m no expert, far from it in fact, but I do feel like I understand about the tree, rigging and seat better than I did before.

Now to find my best options for cleaning it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Riding horses wasn’t the only thing we did

We spent time at the Lodge catching up on all the goings on.  We played dominoes.  We sat on the Lodge porch in rocking chairs.  We walked to the river to see how high it was running.  We sat on our cabin decks reading books.  We killed Mosquitoes with the electric bug zappers Sharon brought for everyone.

And of course we all met up each evening for cocktail hour at one of the cabins

And enjoyed our own quiet time relaxing outside the Lion Shack

When cleared snow so we could drive out through Cascade.  Oh wait - did we really?

We managed to sneak in some time playing in the snow

Ken and Rob spent most of their time fishing. And since I rode while Ken fished we only had one opportunity for me to get a photo of Ken with a fish, though he caught many.   I didn’t get any photos of Rob with any of the many fish he caught.  Even with the high, fast water it was a very good week for the fishermen.

Ken fished the overrun river.  There was sand there last year.

Ken with a spawning Cutthroat Trout

I brought my fly rod up to Sheepherder Lake and hiked around part of the lake to try fly fishing in a few spots, but there were no fish rising and Tom said that there hadn't been any fish caught there recently.  It was kind of fun to bring my fly rod up on the trail ride in a rifle scabbard, though.  (If you go back to the trail ride post to the picture of us riding down the green hillside and zoom in you'll see me in the peach shirt with the scabbard on my saddle.)

Emilie, Sharon and I did go fly fishing one evening with Tom and Ken.

During a trail ride we’d crossed the river and were seeing some beautiful 16” Trout in the clear water.  But with the changing mood of the river by the time we got back with our fly rods the water was murky and we didn’t catch anything.  But we did have fun casting and practicing our fly fishing skills.

Here I am fishing with my new Hardy 4wt fly rod.  Boy do I like it!

Tom shows Emilie a bit about fishing with a fly rod

Emilie tries it on her own

Sharon trying to entice a fish out from under the bank

 And through it all I took pictures of the scenery.

Sunrise at Tyndall Meadows

The falls at Erin Creek

 The Deadwood River valley

Looking towards Rice Peak

Looking towards the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness

The old mining town of Deadwood

 Isn’t it awe inspiring how beautiful Idaho is?!  And now you can see why we go back to Deadwood Outfitters every year for the last 15 years or so.

Maybe you’ll join us next time?!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ride to the hot springs

Sharon and I in the hot springs.

A ride that I’d not been on before was down to the hot springs down river from the Reservoir.  It was a very nice ride that (of course) ends at a hot spring!  The ride is a level, gentle one.  I didn’t have to shut my eyes once! 
  We started the ride by trailering the horses to the trail head, 

and crossing a wooden bridge on horseback.  

Due to winter tree fall it did require getting off the horses and leading them over some boulders and under a fallen tree. 

At the end of the trail (for the horses) we tied the horses up to trees, pulled our lunch, bathing suit and towel out of our saddle bags and continued a short way on foot (our own).  There were two ways to get to the hot springs; one was across some slippery rocks the other was up and over those rocks. 

We ate a bag lunch and went to the “ladies changing room” which, of course, was walking up and around some boulders and changing behind them.  

Tom didn't wait to put on a bathing suit - he went in wearing his Wranglers!

The hot springs have been modified a bit to allow for some nice soaking.  Some unknown person mortared some rocks to help form two pools and they also funneled the water into the pools by stuffing flexible tubing into crevasses where hot water came out and directing those tubes to the specific pool.

There were three temperatures.  Warm, hot, and scalding.  By having the scalding water drain down the rocks it allowed it to cool a bit so you don’t burn yourself.  The other two temperature waters combined to fill the pool with a perfectly comfortable temperature water.  I’d guess it was about 90 degrees – I stayed in the pool for about 30 minutes before I got too warm. 
We played around some - setting Edward to work with the scrub brush 

But eventually it was time to hit the trail.

It was the only trail ride I can remember where we rode alongside the river almost the whole way. 

It was very beautiful and the water was crystal clear and rushing hard.  

Don't you just love the sound of hooves on a wooden bridge?!

I'm already looking forward to doing that ride again!

Trail Rides at Deadwood

We went on trail rides.  Hours and hours of wonderful rides.

While on the Porter Creek trail Tom told us about the area’s mining history.

Teresa on Zumbo

Rob – He only rode once – I don’t have a front view of him though, too bad.

Emilie on  Frank

Bill on Flash

Sharon on Tiny

Sharon and Bill (and that's Joy hiding behind the tree).

Me – the trouble with being the only shutterbug is that if I want to prove I was somewhere I have to take the picture myself!  J

We rode up mountains

And we rode through snow - You can hear it crunching under the horse's hooves.  I can chalk up another "first" at Deadwood.  It's added to "swimming on horseback" with Erin many years ago.

Crossed rivers many times - someone forgot to lift their legs and got their boots wet (but I won't say who!)

Through beautiful meadows in the middle of the forest

We spotted Elk and Moose – but have no pictures of the Moose

We relaxed during our trail rides

Sharon and I posed by Sheepherder Lake

Group shot at Sheepherder Lake

Edward and Toby

But alas, when riding these mountains, what goes up, has to go down.  

At the top of the ridge to Sheepherder Lake there is a short level spot where girths are checked (they were checked just before we climbed UP) to make sure they're still good for the ride DOWN and the saddle won't slip.  Once we were all good to continue we walk the horses on a path barely as wide as they are and go down into Sheepherder Lake.  Somehow the videos don’t do the “pucker factor” justice.  And the break between the two videos is a section of washout that I just couldn't hold the camera and continue filming for.  I needed to hold onto the saddle!!

Part 1

Part 2

When we’d get back from our rides we’d find horses in the strangest places. 

That’s the filly “Cayenne” behind the boulders at the lodge – eating Dawn’s flowers!