Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Rings of Fire

October 7, 2017

Last weekend was the BEST! 7 days later, I’m still gushing.

Jigs and I participated in a two-day De-Spooking Clinic thanks to Fairwinds Farm in Rhode Island. The clinician, Bill Richey, is a national mounted police trainer with 30 years’ experience as a mounted police officer and trainer.

It was two fabulous days filled with lights, sirens, fire, smoke bombs, magnesium flares and a few close lightning strikes (provided free of charge by Mother Nature). The clinic ended with a mock extraction drill. It was so much fun we all pleaded with Bill to let us do it again and again.

It is thrilling be part of a team of riders and horses hurrying toward a car with lights, sirens, and a barking German Shepherd. What a rush to trot alongside a moving “police” car!

Unlike other clinics I have attended, where the focus was on individual obstacles and riders, the structure of this clinic used herd instinct to get our horses through increasingly complex (and scary) obstacles in a way that became “boring” for both horse and rider.

Don’t get me wrong, there was still a lot of “leg, leg, leg,” and “get off his mouth and sit back if you want him to slow down,” but working the horses together allowed even the most nervous horses to become comfortable with each task. I was amazed at how quickly Jigs crossed fire and moved through smoke with this method.

Jigs and I attended a versatility clinic a few months back. The instructor was good but Jigs never went willingly near the fire. I did not expect to be able to do it last weekend, let alone cross THREE rings of fire on our own AND go through a curtain of smoke AT THE SAME TIME. While Jigs wasn’t crazy about it initially, he did it over and over again until it was ho-hum.

There was classroom time too, complete with Science and PowerPoint. Before saddling up we were instructed on how horses perceive and the basics military drills, which is critical for Mounted Police units.  I learned to pay attention to how Jigs reacts to obstacles at different heights so that I know what to expect, allowing me to correct avoidance before it is too late.

My only regret of the weekend is that I did not get many pictures and none of Jigs actually walking through the rings of fire.

If you ever have a chance to attend one of these clinics, go for it!  It is a blast! No really, a blast complete with flares and smoke bombs!

FIRE!

FIRE!

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Boring Old Orange Smoke

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Marshfield Fair Horse Versatility

September 1, 2017

We didn’t win the first-place buckle; we didn’t get the red ribbon, but I’m thrilled with our yellow Marshfield Fair Versatility Ribbon. My goal was to finish better than 5th as in past years and we did!

Marshfield Fair Versatility

Marshfield Fair 2017

More exciting was that we were the only horse and rider to accomplish three clear rounds!

The course contained a technical obstacle that required slow and careful steps- a “merry-go-round” with boards set on a barrel with jump cups. The goal was to go all the way around without knocking them down. Navigating it required concentration. Until round 3, it had tripped up the faster and more accomplished riders.

The funny thing is we had practiced a similar setup at home and, every time, Jigs knocked down the cavaletti. I think he thought he would get extra points treats for hitting them.  I was shocked at how careful he was at Marshfield. One of the other riders even complimented me on how “careful” he is with his feet.

Jigs “careful” on his feet? As great a trail pony as he is, he is not the most sure-footed animal at the barn.

I wonder if he knows the difference between, pardon the cliché, “horsing around” in the ring and competition?

Or maybe he understood me when I told him before the first run, “there’s a bag of apples if you go all three runs clear.”  He is a clever hungry pony.

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Got Apples?

Once the better riders figured out they couldn’t rush the merry-go-round, they easily beat my time.  While slow and steady doesn’t win the speed events, it was good enough for a yellow Marshfield Fair Ribbon!

Read the Instructions

July 23, 2017

I’m not the most patient or the most graceful person.  I don’t always exhibit common sense. That’s not the greatest formula for developing and maintaining an equine relationship. But Jig’s is tolerant. Jigs is forgiving. And I suspect Jigs finds my awkwardness amusing.

Despite my shortcomings, we have become nearly competent at navigating obstacles over the years. This is good for judged competitions that consider correctness more important than speed. Unfortunately, most of the competitions in our area value speed over correctness. If you complete the obstacle, credit is given. How is not a factor.

We will never be fast. Jigs is capable; I am not.

Last weekend we attended a judged ride where speed was only a tie breaker.  We approached each obstacle slowly and I remembered to breath. Except for a slight bobble at the gate and and my poor aim on the paper and bean bag toss, we were solid.

Collected enough points for second place.

Judge Pleasure Ride

But we could have had a another point had I read the directions all the way through.

At sign up we were handed an instruction page and told to read it. I got through three quarters before something distracted me. I put the paper in my back pocket intending to finish it later and promptly forgot about it.

The last sentence was “remember to turn in this paper at the end of the ride…”

Oops.

It was a good lesson. This human has another thing to work on.

July Ride

Obstacles

May 26, 2017

The local trails were closed April and most of May due to mud. We managed to get off property on weekends but had only the ring during the week on those rare days I got to the barn early enough to ride. Boring, except someone had set up and obstacle course!

Jigs was delighted. He loves balancing on the teeter totter and rocking back and forth. He seems to enjoy the obstacles.  Or, more likely they are a spot to stop and rest. I can confirm he REALLY likes the rest part.

We haven’t competed much in the last year or two. Too slow to be serious, we focused on trails.

Jigs did seem to enjoy playing with obstacles, so last weekend we hooked a ride with a friend and traveled 2 ½ hours south to an event in Connecticut.  The course was amazing, complete with a real suspension bridge. I did not expect Jigs to go over it but it was a non-event. He crossed it like a pro.

However, he balked at the teeter totter. Really? Who knows what goes through that sorrel head of his…

At the end of the day, we finished the course near perfect….knocking over the side pass pole was on me, not him.  Despite our slowness, we did well enough for fourth place.

I guess there will be a few more competitions in our Summer.

 

 

 

Lazy Spring Fever

March 27, 2017

What winter? Barely any snow.  Then came March: snow, cold, more snow, cold. Rinse and Repeat.

The calendar tells me it is Spring; but step outside and it is not. The trails are a mix of mud, snow, and more mud. We are staying off so they are not damaged.

Did I mention I hate ring work?

But trotting in circles it is.

Ugg.

At least we got to trailer to an indoor with soft footing and protection from the wind.  More trotting and maybe a few strides of canter.

Me:  “I’m not sure….”

Jigs:  “Come on, you can do it…”

Me:   “Let’s slow down and practice trotting on the outside.”

Jigs:  “Canter?”

Me:   “Not yet”

Jigs:  “Please?”

Me:  “…..okay… canter”

Jigs:  “Do I have to?”

SIGH…..

SNUD

February 20, 2017

SNow + mUD = SNUD

Two days above 50 degrees have turned my local trail to a slushy mess; I’ve decided it is best to stay off.

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I ride regularly in a network of community trails shared by runners, hikers, dog walkers, mountain bikers, and families.  Ten years ago, it was mostly horses, hikers, and during season, hunters, on the trails. Occasionally we’d come across ATVs. Almost always polite, they would stop, shut off their engines, and let us pass. Never bothered my horses much.

A lot has changed in ten years. The buffer of privately owned woods surrounding the conservation area are now subdivisions filled with mini-McMansions.  One of my favorite trotting trails abuts a house. Just three years ago, it was in the middle of the woods.

Those of us who ride regularly are hearing rumblings that we may be told horses are no longer welcome. Complaints about hooves damaging trails, manure, and safety of non-riders have surfaced.

Some of my fellow riders have ridden these trails for over twenty years.

Is it fair?

I’m not sure that matters. There are more of them than there are of us.

Trail riders in heavily populated areas must change habits or we will be denied access. That means staying off trails in mud season, removing manure from trails, and remaining polite as we approach non-riders, even when they are not polite to us. We are the ambassadors of our sport and of our equine companions.

To ensure equestrians retain access to trails, we must support them through advocacy and maintenance. How? Represent equestrian needs at local meetings. Spend time volunteering for cleanup days.  Membership in organizations, such as Bay State Trail Riders Association, that advocate and maintain multi-use trails is a great place to start.

If we do not do this, horses, like ATVs, may no longer be allowed and horses on public trails will become a distant memory.

Saddle Fit

January 19, 2017

Jigs has gotten “girthy” of late so I had the chiropractor/saddle fitter out yesterday.  A bit of adjustment to Jigs and shims, along with a new girth, and all should be well.  This saddle will work fine for both of us.

I ordered the Total Saddle Fit Shoulder Relief girth from Amazon. It should be here tomorrow, in time for the weekend.

He also recommended cantering more to build up Jigs’ hind end. And poles. (Jigs does drag his toes.) Poles are a game to Jigs- he has the mistaken belief that the object is to STEP on them.

Did I say I HATE ring work?

I did and the chiropractor suggested an alternative: hill work. Stopping on steep inclines will force him to use his hind quarters more. That we can do.

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