Thursday, January 31, 2013

LIfe's a Beach!

Literally sometimes...

If only life were as picture perfect as these pictures seem to be.

Two Saturdays ago we got unusually beautiful (for this time of year) weather. One of my lessons was a no show so we (some of the volunteers and another instructor) saddled up some horses and headed to the beach. It was very nice out and Makoto was quite content to just stand in the water. We did do some trotting, though:

It is looking to be another very nice day tomorrow as well. I gotta remember to bring the sunscreen with me.

One of my students had a pretty bad fall on Tuesday night. Her horse spooked and then ran off on her (ex-racer) and instead of relaxing she got a death grip on the reins and they did two and a half laps of the arena before she finally lost her balance and fell. Luckily her losing her balance also slowed the horse down quite a bit so while she is quite bruised up she is none the worse for wear (as the saying goes). It was a pretty scary moment and I've been beating myself up on what I should've/could've done differently to prevent the situation. Accidents do happen but our goal should always be to put safety first. I have felt out of depth with this student for a while b/c while she is actually a very nice rider she is very timid and fearful with little self-confidence. It was that very thing which most likely got the horse going in the first place, feeding off of her nerves. I think I've decided to pass this particular lesson to another instructor with more experience with younger kids than I have. I feel really badly about it but I think it is the wisest thing for everyone.

Other than that life pretty much continues moving forward at it's snail's pace. We are finally at February 1st. 4 months and counting.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

He's Legal!

After many many many internal debates (I seriously have no idea why this was such a hard decision for me!) I have finally gone ahead and registered Mr. Loki with the USEA. As you can see I decided to go with the name I picked for him from the beginning instead of his JC name. It seems so silly I know but I feel quite guilty for not using his race name. But, it's done so for better or worse we are now officially team Low Key! (Perhaps I should make that seem a little more subdued... naaaa, lol.)

Oh, and I also got him registered with the Thoroughbred Incentive Program (T.I.P.) I'm not sure if any of the shows we will go to this year have T.I.P. classes but the registration is free so why not take advantage of it? (Thanks Megan for getting my butt in gear!)

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Right Horse

The biggest thing, I think, when you're trying out a horse is it's got to be love at first sight. ~Boyd Martin
Silly, kissy-face photo. Sometimes I think our ponies must think we are all a little nuts!
 I love reading the Eventing Nation blog. It keeps me up to date on all the Eventing news going on around the globe and helps me feel at least a little connected to the Eventing world at large. One of my favorite writers for Eventing Nation is Samantha Clark. She has her own page on the EN site. Recently she did a pretty in-depth write-up from the MSEDA General meeting where Boyd Martin was a key speaker. The write-up itself was very interesting to read and I can only imagine being there in person would have been thrilling!

One of the most exciting (to me) things that Boyd talked about was how he chooses the horses he buys.
The biggest thing, I think, when you’re trying out a horse is it’s got to be love at first sight. If you’re riding it around and trying to convince yourself that it’s the right one then it’s not the right one. Every horse that’s worked out well for me I knew it within two minutes, and every horse that didn’t work out was one of those ones that other people were convincing me it was a good horse.
These words just make me feel so warm and happy inside! I still remember the first time I rode Loki and how it felt like the saddle just wrapped around me and I really just sank into him. It was probably the closest experiece to "love at first sight" I've ever had.

At the time my trainer really had Loki's half-brother, Monte in mind for me. I started out riding him and I liked him alright enough but after riding Loki I just knew with which horse I was going to be happiest. And it is just kind of cool to hear an Olympic-level rider basically saying the same thing... which is go with the horse you enjoy.

I really wish I had had this advice back when I bought my last horse. It would have saved me so, so much trouble!

Another one of my favorite quotes is this:
Better to want the horse you don't have than to have the horse you don't want. ~ Rick Meyer

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Guest Post

I was contacted a little while ago by Emily Walsh who is the Community Outreach Director for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance (try saying that five times fast!). She asked me if she would be able to write a guest post for my blog as Mesothelioma is a cancer that has affected many veterans. I agreed and now seems to be the perfect time to share what Emily wrote. Emily's post is directed towards veterans specifically but her advice is good for all of us. Cancer can strike anyone at anytime but maintaining a healthy lifestyle along with annual check-ups is our first line of defense.

From Emily:

Encourage Veterans to Stay Healthy

Veterans mean so much to this country.  Since the beginning of this nation, our veterans have sacrificed more than most civilians will ever be able to understand.  As a result of these sacrifices, this nation makes sure that the veterans are celebrated and honored for everything that they have done.  Unfortunately, people forget to tell the veterans that they should be taking the necessary steps to stay healthy.  In order for veterans to stay healthy when they return from service, they should eat healthy, exercise daily, and get regular physical examinations.

A Healthy Diet
When veterans return from service, they should make sure that they eat a healthy diet. Although it is okay to eat greasy foods in moderation, the veterans should be sure that most of the foods that they eat are healthy foods.  Healthy foods will include lean meats, fish, poultry, and colorful fruits and vegetables.  In order for veterans to find foods or a diet that is right for them, they should contact the Department of Veterans Affairs. The DVA has many resources and personnel to help the veterans to choose a healthy diet. 

Exercise Daily
Exercising will help the veterans in so many different ways.  Exercising will help them to stay healthy physically, and it will help them to reduce their mental stress.  Since veterans have gone through a lot of negative experiences during their service time, they will have the potential to have a lot of stress.  By exercising, the stress will be reduced; therefore, they will be able to live with less stress and anxiety.  

Regular Physical Examinations
When veterans are completing their service duties, they will be exposed to a lot of different chemicals.  These chemicals can come from different buildings, the air, or even in the water that they had to drink.  Therefore, when veterans return home, they should get a physical examination to make sure that their bodies are not ill from these chemicals.  Some of these chemicals can cause mesothelioma and the veterans will not know that they have this disease until they get a physical examination.  The physical examination should occur annually because some of the diseases may take years to develop.

Veterans have always made sure our country was safe; therefore, when they return home, we should encourage them to eat a healthy diet, exercise daily, and get regular physical examinations.

Also, I (Amanda) wanted to add check out WWEP. It is another great resource for veterans and for horses as well.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Only the Good Die Young

This past weekend my family suffered a tremendous loss. My husband's Aunt passed away after a long battle with cancer. I have always been a Billy Joel fan (I know I'm dating myself!) and he had a song with the title Only the Good Die Young and in this case it (the title not necessarily the actual song) seems very fitting. Aunt Carolyn was truly as good as it gets here on this Earth and she left us while she was way too young. We are of course very saddened by her passing but at the same time comforted with the fact that she is no longer suffering. We are so grateful for the time we had with her and all the blessings she brought to those around her. It goes without saying that she will be missed tremendously. R.I.P. Aunt Carolyn we love you and look forward to seeing you again one day.

Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Fred with their dog Gracie and two of my minions

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Eventers; We may be crazy but we aren't INSANE!

(Sorry no quote today.)

There have been quite a few things going on that I want to write about but just haven't quite had the time or motivation or something. I need to start making a list so I don't forget.

But, today I had the misfortune chance to go to the circus with a whole bunch of 2nd graders. (Go me!) Actually it was pretty fun other than being a little cold and worrying that I would lose track of one of my charges.

The "Big Top" from the bus window.
I haven't been to the circus since I was, I don't know, seven or maybe eight or nine years old. So while I knew what to expect I had really forgotten just what the circus was all about. This was a pretty small circus (just one small ring) but there were still quite a few impressive acts.

There were only a couple of acts involving animals. A 5 Zebra quadrille that was only unique because it was Zebras. Two elephants that just did a couple of standard tricks, a lion tamer and one giraffe.

The giraffe was pretty interesting. I'm pretty sure I've never seen a giraffe in a circus or any other kind of animal troupe before. He (definitely a male, lol) just walked around and "bowed" a couple of times by eating food out of a bowl. It was kind of funny to see the little halter attached to about a 25' lead rope. There was no making that giraffe do anything he didn't want to do. A couple of times the handler gave a little tug on the lead rope and the giraffe decided he wasn't ready to move yet and the handler (wisely) waited a few seconds and then politely asked again. I tried to snap a picture on my i-phone but as you can see below it didn't turn out too well. Unfortunately there were camera nazis all over the place so I wasn't able to get any good pictures.

Hard to tell but this is the giraffe "bowing."
 None of the animal performances bothered me except the lions. I have to say that that particular show bothered me quite a bit. I don't know much about big cats or anything but judging by the amount of cringing every time the "tamer" got near the lions with his stick or whip I have to imagine that they get hit quite often. Also, watching the lions growl and threaten the tamer every time he walked by was making me feel very uneasy. (Which I suppose is kind of the point but definitely not my cup of tea!)

The trapeze act has always been one of my favorites and I think in another life, under different circumstances I could have been a very good gymnast and would have loved to do something like that.

This brings me to the point of the title for this blog. There were two acts that were really fun to watch but OMG those people are INSANE. I think I'd rather ride the Rolex XC course than attempt either of these acts.

One act was the motorcycles in the steal ball where three people drive motorcycles around in circles at very fast speeds including occasionally going pretty darn close to upside down all without hitting each other or the two even more INSANE people who are just standing in the middle of the ball just waiting to get run over. I'm pretty sure I've seen something similar maybe on t.v. before but I had forgotten how really crazy that act is.
I found this picture on the net. Apparently this act is aptly named The Ball of Death

The other act is a little more difficult to explain so I'll just show you a picture from the internet:
Also aptly named as The Rings of Death
Let me just say that the guy running around the outside of the ring is clearly a few french fries short of a Happy Meal! No safety net or anything, either, but it was pretty amazing to watch.

So yeah, after today jumping over fixed obstacles at speed doesn't seem nearly so crazy anymore!

My very own 2nd grader and I waiting for the show to begin

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sometimes Sun

In most cases, the reason lies in the hand that bothers the horse. But as we know, there cannot be a good hand without a good seat, which enables the rider to use the legs efficiently. This again is a prerequisite for good contact between rider and horse.-Kurd Albrecht von Ziegner
I am learning a lot as I am "teaching." It's amazing how much you can pick up by watching someone else do the wrong and the right things either well or poorly. The horses here are very hard to get forward and in front of the leg. It really takes a strong and confident rider. On certain horse/rider combos I feel like I spend at least a quarter of my time just waiting for the rider to get the horse into some kind of trot or at least more than a zombie walk. 

This has led to me doing a little extra riding the past week and a half. Makoto was so bad through my last couple of lessons that I finally got on him after one lesson and spent a good 20 minutes just making him move, bend and do lots and lots of transitions. He pretty much had no bend to the left at all when we started. I tell my students it isn't anything I'm really doing differently it is my body language. I am confident and my body language translates to the horses and therefor when I tell them to move they (mostly) move. It's something that just takes time to develop I'm realizing and I do keep telling my students that if they can master the horses here they will do very well when they get back to the states.

Makoto is exceptional at reading body language.
Anyways, why the sunshine you ask? Well, we've had some very beautiful days around here for a change. The rain has stayed away and on Saturday I had a no show so we decided to take some of the volunteer kids down to the beach. I rode Makoto and it was truly a lovely day. I even did some trotting in the Ocean. I'm still waiting for some pictures, though.

I've also been getting to ride Mocha a little more than usual as well. I've done three days of no-stirrup work and it is starting to feel a little more natural. I had an ah ha moment the last time I rode him. It may sound kind of no duh but I realized my thighs muscles are more for keeping myself in balance than for "holding onto" my horse. When I let my thighs relax a little bit and concentrate more on my balance I am able to ride without stirrups much longer without the huge muscle failure I was getting.

I've also been making myself do some riding with no-reins, specifically some jumping without the reins. It's amazing how difficult that is! The first couple of times my body had no idea what to do with itself. But today I was able to go over a crossrail to a vertical not only without my reins but with my arms out to my sides. Hopefully this will lead to me having a more independent seat/hand!

Also the horses got to go out ALL day on Saturday. The guy who rides Sky all the time appears to have given up the draw reins and in all things just seem to really be improving out at the barn. I know the horses will be so so so much happier if they get more turn out and Sky's life will be so so so much better without those d@*^ draw reins!!

And as if that weren't enough. I also found out that we should be leaving here a full two weeks earlier than we expected. I mean I know it is only two weeks but I was still doing a happy dance when I found out!

Just imagine the dance I'll be doing when we finally get to the states!

Thursday, January 17, 2013


A good horse and a good rider are only so in mutual trust. -H.M.E.
Things have been a little hectic this week. My husband has an inspection on going all week and things have just been a little bit crazy. The weather has also cooperated all week (no rain) so I've had plenty of lessons. I even got to ride a bit. (Definitely more on that later!)

But, I learned an important lesson today that I really wanted to share or at least "write down" somewhere so hopefully I won't forget it. You see, I got some troubling news this morning when I opened an email from my Mom. A month or so ago my Mom had a mole removed from the side of her face and she finally got around to telling me that it is cancerous. She is scheduled for another surgery sometime in March. Of course I'm a little concerned but we won't know how serious it could be until after her surgery. My Mom swears it is nothing at all to worry about but we all know how Moms can be sometimes.

After reading my Mom's email I realized that one of the things she is really worried about is how much they might have to take off of her face and what that will look like for her in the future. I started thinking my Mom could literally douse herself in mud, shave her head or do any number of crazy things to herself and she would still be one of the most beautiful people I know. And this is when I had my lightning bolt moment, or the light bulb came on however you want to say it.

Aha!! I GET it now!
All the times my husband has told me how beautiful I am, when I've looked in the mirror and couldn't see it, he was telling me the truth. It's not that I thought he was lying, per se, but I just thought it was one of those things great husbands do, you know what I mean?

You see I was teased horribly back in the day. I was the kid who wore the hand me downs and glasses and had a horrible case of acne (That has lasted most of my life, quite honestly). I didn't know the first thing about how to style my hair or anything and basically for a couple of years my life was miserable. I don't say all this for pity but simply to say that is how it was and because of that I believe I've always had a skewed vision of myself.

But as I was thinking about how truly beautiful my Mom is to me I realized exactly how my husband felt all the times he has told me I'm beautiful and I've shrugged it off. It's the people that love us, those are the opinions that matter. Sure, I'm not beautiful compared to the world's standards but seriously how many people really are (without a little help from photoshop!)?

I guess what this all adds up to is just me learning to be a little kinder to myself, a little less critical and a little more positive. Because I want my Mom to believe me when I say no matter what happens she will still be the most beautiful person I know. She is the real reason I wanted to have kids. I just love my Mom to pieces and we have such an amazingly positive relationship and I can only hope that someday my kids will feel at least close to the same way about me.

I love you Mom! (I know you read my blog :) )

My Amazing Mom

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Fountain Of Youth

A good seat is a lifelong investment. It is a possession that cannot be lost. -Kurd Albrecht von Ziegner
I have discovered the fountain of youth. It is here in Okinawa. There is a reason people here are among the longest lived in the world. It is because time simply moves so slowly that I'm pretty sure it is literally standing still for long periods. Seriously, I know some of you are like wow, it's mid-January already! Over here it has been January for so long it feels like it should be March by now at least if not April. Weekends are the hardest. This whole day feels like it has lasted as long as a week.

My determination and mood have been ping-ponging about so much I'm about to have whip-lash. I seriously am not sure how I'm going to make it for 5 more months.

I did watch the 2013 Nespresso Battle of the Sexes on the USEF Network today. I was pleasantly surprised by a good internet connection. Horse Junkies United had an online chat session while it was playing and it was a lot of fun. Now that I know I might be able to watch some of the USEF videos I am going to try and go back and watch some of the George Morris Training sessions. Yay something to look forward to!

My sister did send me some photos of Loki-man yesterday. He is super skinny again and we are looking into what else we can do to help him gain some weight. The major culprit right now seems to be the poor hay quality (along with the severely oscillating temperatures). I know we aren't the only ones feeling the painful effects of the drought last summer. Loki will be getting some additional alfalfa pellets and/or beet pulp in his grain and I think I might add something to prevent/treat ulcers as well. Mindee did say that he looked healthy otherwise and was very sweet as usual.
Pre-groomed. Mud, mud and more mud! (But, dang what a sweet eye!)
Even dirty and skinny I sure miss that face. I am so in need of some equine therapy right now!!!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Starting the New Year Off with a Sunburn

Take your time. Relaxation is not fatigue or slackness. It starts in the horse's mind with trust and confidence. -Kurd Albrecht von Ziegner

As promised I have pictures from our annual New Years ride to the beach. It was very sunny that day and it caught me by surprise. Normally I am pretty conscientious about wearing sunscreen but I got quite burnt that day.

Apparently in the past the New Years beach ride has been something of a headache for the instructors but this year everything went pretty smoothly. (Only one rider came off while we were at the beach. It was Mocha's rider so I'm not surprised. He can be such a pony sometimes!) We rode about an hour through some neighborhoods to a very nice beach. We hung out at the beach for about an hour, fed the horses and then walked back home. There were more riders than horses so about halfway to and from the beach we stopped to switch riders.

We had a pretty nice time. The barn owner also made sure to let us know that the start of a New Year is the time to forget the past and move forward. I think this was his way of saying we shouldn't have to worry about the Prince issue anymore. He is still hoping for some compensation from the military but it shouldn't affect us at this point.

Speaking of Prince, things are looking up for him. Apparently there are several Japanese riders who have been pleading on Prince's behalf. They have asked the owner to try and save him so for now Prince has a reprieve. He is looking much better lately, too. He has put on some weight and there is a Japanese lady who takes him out of his stall (I can't say everyday b/c I'm no there everyday but everyday that I am there she has done this) and hand grazes him as well as gets him trotting some. We are now hoping that with some more improvement he may be safe for just pony rides.

Here's hoping the New Year will be an improvement for all of the horses at the barn!

On the way to the beach!

Switching riders half-way

We had quite the procession. It was like a parade.

Trying to get all the horses together for a group picture (Didn't work so well)

Me and a couple of my students with Adam, Makoto and Rocky

One of my students with Woods. She loves him!

Pony ride on the beach

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I Still Don't Know...

what I want to be when I grow up.  Okay, okay I know I'm already grown up so this is a silly statement. But, sometimes I still don't really feel like I've found my "thing." yet. Being a military spouse makes it very difficult to have a career. Constant moves keep you from being able to work your way up any kind of employment chain. Adding to that three children and it is easy to give up on the more conventional idea of a career.

But, I read this article from Chronicle of the Horse the other day about the George Morris training sessions. An excerpt:
One can never say that George H. Morris doesn’t lead by example. In each of the two groups working on the flat with no stirrups on Day 4 of the GHM Horsemastership Training Sessions, Morris himself put in a solid 20 minutes of no-stirrups work on one of the horses.
George Morris is 74 years old and still riding around for at least 20 minutes at a time without stirrups. So yeah, I don't know what I want to be but I definitely know what I want to be able to do! He really is an inspiration!

Unfortunately I haven't been able to watch any of the training sessions even though the USEF Network is streaming them here. Our internet is just so slow. Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes just to be able to watch a 10 minute video off of youtube!

Morris demonstrating stirrup-less riding.
I still haven't downloaded pictures yet so the New Years Beach Ride is still in the works but thank goodness today marks the return of routine! The kids are all back in school and I went to the gym. I'll be heading out to the barn in a couple of hours and before I know it I'll be able to scratch another day off the calendar!

I've also started reading The Elements of Dressage book. I figure I'll start each new blog post with a quote from the book while I'm reading it. Sort of a way to keep me motivated or something. Today's quote is:
Remember, the horse is stronger than you. Once he finds out that resistance may be a way to evade your control or even frighten you, you have lost a good part of your authority. You must convince the horse to cooperate. The horse must understand what you expect him to do. It's easier to handle one pound of brain than a thousand pounds of horsepower.                                                                                                 ~Kurd Albrecht Von Ziegner

Thursday, January 3, 2013

100 Day Challenge

I had a lovely time at the barn for the annual New Years Ride to the beach yesterday but I have several pictures I need to upload before I write about it.

But, in the meantime, I wanted to say how much I am enjoying the 100 Day Challenge that is being run by RRTP (Retired Racehorse Training Project).
The Retired Racehorse Training Project's "100 Day Thoroughbred Challenge" kicked off this week as four horses representing four Mid-Altantic Thoroughbred farms began a 100-day long training program on December 1.  The horses will be judged on conformation, movement, jumping ability and trainability by guest riders, judges, and online fans. They will appear at the Maryland Horse World Expo on the third weekend in January and the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo on the fourth weekend of February after which some will be offered for sale.  The horses will be trained together during the Challenge at Steuart Pittman's Dodon Farm Training Center in Davidsonville, MD.
You can read all about the project on the website linked here and above. Steuart Pittman has made two videos of each horse so far and I am completely awed by them. All four horses are completely different one from the other and Steuart does an excellent job of just figuring out what works for each horse.

My favorite so far is Suave Jazz. He's kind of the homeliest looking of the bunch but he just seems like such a sweet, hard working, smart guy. He raced around 70 times! (Of course it doesn't hurt that he is a plain bay much like some other pretty cool horses I know ;) )
Suave Jazz
The online favorite so far seems to be the little gray mare, Gunport. She has the least amount of previous training, having raced only once, and she seems to be more nervous than the other horses but Steuart and the girl riding Gunport are doing such a nice job. I can see why so many people are cheering for her.
I wish I could go to the Expos and see these horses worked in person. I hope that they all find very good homes after all this. They are ambassadors for the Thoroughbred breed and so far I'm pretty impressed!

Of course all of this has just made me very hungry; hungry to get home to my own OTTB and get to work. I watch these videos and think to myself "did I do that?" "Did I push too hard for this?" etc. I just can't wait to ride my boy again.

The other thing it makes me think is how much I would love to just do something like this for a living. I'm too old to really dream about being a top rider or anything but I would love to work with retraining TBs from the track. The more I read and here about this breed the more I love them!