Posted tagged ‘aging’

Mid Summer Blues

July 27, 2014

Summer has been awkward at best- full of kids, work, and not as much riding as I would like-different from the past few years. Circumstances change. People change. Routines change.  A subtext of disappointment is running in the background like a virus.

And there is MUCH work to do. I have only two weeks to clean up brush and pressure wash the house.  It should be a day job but I still worry I won’t get it done.  I’m a bit lazy.

Over the past 30 years I’ve become comfortable being alone.  I don’t envy others’ relationship dramas. I prefer solitude like the introvert I am. But when there are projects like this to be completed, I can feel a bit lost. It is times like this when I think it would be nice to have someone to help figure these things out.  So I end up procrastinating.

It’s funny; I’m not like this at work.  I’m obsessive about getting things done. As a student, I completed papers and assignments days early.

I’ve never pressure washed a house before. So like the younger generation, I turned to How to Videos on YouTube. It seems easy…..

We’ll see.

My grandsons have used YouTube how to videos to mixed results. There are several skateboards in the cellar in various states of disarray.

Maybe I have time to hire someone….


June 18, 2014

Persistence  sometimes pays off. Jigs and I spent the last two months practicing the rope gate and the pedestal in preparation for the NEECA Versatility.  The result was we now do both well.

We nailed the gate Saturday!  One of the judges noticed a hesitation.  She was right, we did hesitate, but we did it and our scores were as high as they could be with me riding two handed!

No pedestal, bummer.  We were so ready.

Our performance was good enough to win the Novice Division!  Whoo Hooo!

NEECA Versatility 6-14-14

NEECA Versatility 6-14-14

I am really proud of my little red pony!

Judges’ feedback was my scores would have been higher if I neck reined and rode one handed.

This was the first competition where my horsemanship skills were judged. I faired a bit better than I expected.  Yes, we did miss the obstacle with the lead changes.  We got one lead, not the other.  My fault, not Jigs.’ I didn’t pick up the canter quickly enough because I was not committed to cantering at all. I’m just excited that we did canter!

I have two videos of the performance and I can see where we need to work. That’s what I like about Versatility, there is always something new to work on.

So I’m at a crossroad. Should Jigs and I work on neck reining? I’m worried I’ll have to move from my snaffle to a shank bit. Not sure I want to do that. One trainer referred to it as moving to a grown up western bit. Will that change our relationship? Will it be too much pressure on us both?

He clearly enjoys these events. So do I. But do I want to do the really (especially for this old woman) hard stuff to get to another level?

Last night Jigs and I rode down to the water so he could play. He enjoys hacking the trails too.

Maybe, just maybe, we can do both.


May 24, 2014

I never liked chestnut horses.  They are too common. Uninteresting.  Was never a fan of Secretariat because he was a chestnut. It didn’t matter that he was a perfect specimen and ran faster than the wind; he was the wrong color.

Like many horse fanatics of my age, I grew up reading The Black Stallion and Misty of Chincoteague series. No chestnuts for me.

When it came time to get my first own horse, I wanted a bay. And then we got to the dealer’s barn and I saw him: a black and white appaloosa.


Freedom – 1977

He was beautiful. The bay barely registered.  Freedom and I spent the next years together exploring and learning. It was perfect until college came along and I had to let him go.

I was hooked on appaloosas, fascinated by their colors and versatility: horses of a different color.

I was in my 40s when I was finally able to afford another horse. I wanted an appaloosa.

Knowing my limitations, I found one on a hack line at a local riding stable.  He rode quiet and had a snowflake pattern like Freedom, only he was a chestnut roan instead of black. Suffice it to say, Pepper was nothing like Freedom.  He rode well, but on the ground, was dangerous.  And I quickly gained firsthand knowledge about the connection between uveitus and appaloosas.



Pepper taught me more about horsemanship than any other horse. For that, I am grateful. I still miss him.

When the time came to get another horse I decided in order-

1) no appaloosas

2) no chestnuts

Then I met Jigs.  His personality is bigger than chestnut.  It was the first thing I saw about him as I walked around the barn to meet him. He looked at me with a “here I am” stance.  “Aren’t I handsome?”

DId it!

Did it!

He was.

“Jigsy” rode okay, but was pushy. “He doesn’t understand that natural horsemanship stuff, you can teach him easy enough,” the horse agent said.  Natural horsemanship, I thought?  He was plain in your face rude.

Nevertheless there was just something about him. I’m not even sure I realized he was chestnut.  Or that he had a split ear. I took him on trial. Both my barn manager and  trainer thought I was nuts.

Over the years Jigs has become my partner, my friend.  We’ve done so much together and we have more to do. I rarely think about his color; it is immaterial. To quote one of my favorite author/trainers, Mark Rashid, “a good horse is never a bad color.”

Last Clinic Day

April 13, 2014

Yesterday was the last versatility clinic.  We skipped the week before and opted for the makeup session so we could attend a local competition.  The clinic has helped- Jigs and I had 3 clean runs with times good enough for 5th place.  Angel took 2nd!

It was a beautiful day yesterday and we trained in the outside ring next to a major highway with lots of motorcycles and trucks rushing by.  Oh, yeah, and behind the farm is a parachuting school.  You could see the jumpers floating down through the trees.  In short, there were a lot of potential distractions that did not seem to bother Jigs. (And  yes, we loped both directions!)

What did freak him out were the horses cantering around the ring with the flag.  Who knew? So we worked it.  He definitely was freaked when Angel’s head disappeared beneath the flag. After a few minutes he was comfortable with the flag hitting him all over.  It’s amazing how the little things can be approached with patience and a calm voice.

Jigs is a steady horse though. Not much fazes him.  We were fooling around with the obstacle that has the wet noodles coming up from the ground.  One of them got caught in the rear cinch and came away with us.  I didn’t notice it because Jigs never complained. The only clue that I had something was off were the folks on the sidelines laughing at us.

But the reason for attending the clinic was to learn to side pass left and do the gate.  We are still weak on the left but have made improvement and we have new tools.  To the right we are stronger. Yesterday we learned a new way- back through the gate.  We did it,  not gracefully, but we did it twice.  Again, we have another tool to apply.

trying the gate

The dreaded gate

In June the clinician is running a versatility.  Angel was already entered.  She really is a good competitor, but I am not. Yesterday I was talked into entering the novice division. Speed will only be one factor unlike the local competitions we normally attend. In this event correctness is more important.

It’s a tall order for us, but we have a few months to improve!

The Gate

March 30, 2014

Saturday Jigs and I trotted over the obstacles and even jumped a few times. (He still thinks the object of the cavaletti game is to STEP on them.  In his mind he’s 100%.)

And yes, we cantered a tiny bit.

The gate was one of the reasons for attending the clinic so we spent time on it.  We do almost okay if we approach the gate and side pass to the right.  No so much to the left. My right leg is weak and he takes advantage, ignoring and running through my hands.

I got help from one of the clinicians.  He quickly saw my issue.  I was trying to side pass instead of moving his hind end over. Baby steps before running. Amazing at how clear things become if you break them down into smaller bites.

We’ve got homework this week.  Rather than focus on the gate, we’ll practice moving haunches to the right- the gate only after that is perfected.

He also noticed I favor turning to the left.  “Turn right, not left.”

More to work on… Jigs and I can do this.

Learning to be patient

Learning to be patient

Fear… Again

March 1, 2014

Ah horses.  Always something different; always something the same.

At the end of every winter, I’m fearful of cantering. Too much horse. Fear of cantering after a winter of walking and maybe a little trotting if the ice isn’t too bad.

Last weekend Jigs and I had a great lesson. This week it was … not great. The horse that showed up wasn’t my Jigs. I got a forward, let’s go, buck into canter horse, I haven’t seen in…. okay never.  As my friend reminded me, “you have to ride the horse you have.

The clinician told me, “when you come up the long side ask for a canter.”  Took me four times at a fast trot before I did.  Jigs shook his head and kicked out.   I executed a one rein stop.  “Keep him moving forward, don’t reward him with a stop.”

“My fault,” I admitted, “my seat says go, my hands say no”  

He agreed. “Try again.”

I trotted around 5 more times before trying . “Ask for a canter now.”

Jigs picked up a fast canter and we flew down the long side.

“Now try the other side.”

I trotted around counter clockwise a few times.  I kissed to Jigs, but never cued with my leg (lack of commitment again). He took one awkward stride and popped up.  I slowed him down. “My fault again.”

“He picked up the wrong lead and was just trying to correct himself,  try again.”

I did. Jigs dropped his his head and crow hopped to the center of the ring. My foot came out of the stirrup and my seat out of the saddle.  “JIGS cut it out,”  I shouted, all the while thinking, I’m going off.  I’m going off. No. NO  I AM NOT. I found my stirrup and put my butt back in the saddle.

“Don’t stop, you’ve got him. Trot forward.”

We did.

“See, you can ride through it. He’s just feeling good and is a little fresh.”

“Try again.”

“We may have a saddle fit problem,” I said panting. “He’s got white hairs along his back.”

“Is it new?”

“Yes, but we’ve done a few hundred miles in it.”

“But you haven’t ridden much this winter?”

“Only on weekends…”

“He’s just being fresh. He’s been cooped up all winter unable to run. The soft footing feels good to him and he wants to go. You did it in one direction, you can do it in the other.”

We worked on obstacles for a while, messing up and around the gate.

“Ready to canter again?” the clinician asked.

“Nope, I’m just going to trot around for now.”

And we did. Jigs was moving under himself and dropping his head correctly.

“He looks real relaxed and is nice and soft, going to canter now?”


This conversation repeated itself at least three more times.

By this time I was TERRIFIED of cantering. Jigs really wasn’t relaxed. He was spook shopping near the gate and being a general pill.  Trotting, albeit trotting fast, was good enough for ME now.  Jigs was really sweating- the first time all winter.

I would like to say we finished the lesson with a well executed canter but I didn’t even try.

After the lesson, the clinician ran his hand along Jigs’ spine. “He’s not back sore.  May not be the saddle,  but next time you can borrow one of mine if you want.”

“Thanks, but  I may not be here next week because I have another commitment.”  Likely he was thinking, yeah sure, the old woman is going to wimp out.  But I really do have a meeting next week.

My friend and I discussed it on the way home.  I made excuses- Jigs was being fresh. He doesn’t usually act like this.  This winter it’s been too slippery to ride. It was more of a yahoo let’s go issue.  We were not riding enough. But it didn’t make a difference-  the fear is back.

When we got to the barn she admitted, “when he dropped his head, I thought you were going off for sure, but he wasn’t too bad, he stopped.”

We’ve worked through stuff before. (There was the time he gave out three big bucks when someone dropped a barrel behind him.) We’ll figure it out. Maybe. I hope. We have to.

But I’m not young anymore. Hell, I’m not even middle age anymore. I break too easily. This is going to be hard.

Last summer we were trotting, cantering, I even have a photo of us galloping- all four of Jigs’ feet off the ground.  Now I have to work up the courage to get back to where we left off last autumn.  So much for learning to open gates and side passing….

jigs and me runninglets go

Over Thinking

February 23, 2014


Warm.  Yesterday. Today. Yeah.

It’s now the big snow melt.  Icy mud.  But who cares?  Spring.  It will be here in less than a month!

And it is lighter at end of day. Not that I get the benefit with my work  schedule.  But spring and, soon to follow, summer are coming.

Yesterday was the first installment in a Versatility Clinic up in Orange, MA. Too much ice and snow to warm up, but Jigs behaved himself, sort of.

I learned that I have huge holes in a few areas (like stopping, cantering, side passing….), but was pleasantly surprised at how well Jigs did. We stood, all four feet atop a pedestal- twice, but somewhat by accident. Wish we had a photo  but when we tried to do it on purpose in front of the camera, I fell apart. The clinician said –“you do better when you’re not thinking about it.”

That’s what happened at the Eastern Regional Ride. My brain got in the way. Jigs ran through my hands and the obstacles.  The year before we were having fun and my brain was shut off.

So why does the brain interfere with feel? Instead of being in the moment, I get thinking about what’s next and cue too early, too late, too stiff, or not at all.

This is really hard, but I suspect really worth it.

A Tale of Two Weekends

January 19, 2014

Versatility back to back weekends were, pardon the cliché, a tale of two cities- one covered with mud; the other with snow.

Last weekend I pulled my trailer with my new car for the first time. Lights worked great. The backup camera made hook up quick and easy. BUT the yard was soggy from hard rain the night before and the trailer’s front break locked.  I literally dragged the empty trailer though the mud and down the street until it released by backing up in a parking lot.

The yard is still scraped and rutted from the fiasco- quite the mess. Both trailer and new car (less than 1300 miles on it) were mud caked.  (Trailer still is.)  When the weather clears I have a lot of work to do….

But I did make it to the barn to get Jigs. The new car pulled like a dream.

There were a lot of excellent riders at last weekend’s event. The course was challenging, but it was possible to get though it quickly. Jigs and I got a descent time, 100% 1:50 seconds, but not good enough against riders and horses that compete regularly at speed events and national level shows. We are just back yard buddies fooling around having fun.

Today Carolyn, Helen, and I traveled to New Hampshire for another Versatility. Rather than rain the day before, this time it was snow.  Carolyn drove. (Thank you, can’t say that enough.) The roads in Massachusetts were clear but once we got to the New Hampshire line, not so much.  And it was lightly snowing.

GPSs are great tools but sometimes they send you to odd places. And there are a lot of odd, almost roads in New Hampshire.  We ended up down the wrong end of the road where the event was but it was not passable due to deep ruts and washout.  I must say Carolyn is the world’s greatest backer upper! Kudos.

We finally reached the barn manager for directions and thought we were all set.  Not quite… There was still an unsanded, unplowed hill between us and the venue.  The barn staff was waiting for us at the bottom of the street. They already had called the sand truck and wanted us to wait until it had passed.

We gladly obliged. Once sanded, the hill was a non-event.

What a nice bunch of folks! The staff and owners were gracious and welcoming. The indoor was small and the course well laid out.  I don’t think it would have been possible to yahoo through it and do well.  Times were slower than last weekend but Carolyn and Angel got 1st place, Jigs and me 2nd, and Helen and Violet 6th!  A big day for the girls at Bearfoot.

I like doing the obstacles, but I’ve come to realize I will never be a competitor in speed events. I am not strong or brave enough to win. I do want to become more confident and a better rider but I have no desire to go  too FAST.

This year I want to participate in more judged rides, the ones that are not races. This means learning to be technically correct.  Speed may break a tie, but if you do the obstacle correctly, your score will reflect it.

Here’s this year’s to do list for me (and yes, Jigs, for you too)

1)      Make sure Jigs has a saddle that fits him correctly (Still a problem I’m afraid, even with saddle #5)

3)      Side pass to the left

4)      Open and close a gate correctly

5)      Improve our lope

6)      Finish teaching Jigs to hand me things that I drop

If we do these things, we will accomplish a lot.

Jan 14 Versatility Mason NH Angel 1st Place Jigs 2nd Place

Jan 14 Versatility Mason NH
Angel 1st Place
Jigs 2nd Place

Almost Winter

December 14, 2013

Winter is almost here. It’s an old story of early darkness, glasses full of deep red whine wine, and early turn ins. (Yawn)

Blah Blah Blah….

The year will turn. Light will return. We will ride again.

But for now, it is snowing…

With Jigs’ winter coat, white hairs have comeback- behind the shoulder, along his spine and loin. Like last year.

Big sigh.

I think his new saddle fits. It’s got shorter, gaited bars (23 ½”). He absolutely floats when he kicks into his high gear at the trot- beyond extended.  But still, I worry. It has more rock than his old saddles.

Another Big sigh.

Saddle #5….

It was 14 degrees today. Fahrenheit. We did the Pine Grove loop with friends. It was laid back and slow except Jigs was THE naughty sorrel pony, refusing to stand still for mounting and spooking at a white van.

Really Jigs?

I swear he laughs at me….


Either that or he was getting back at me for forgetting to bring the apples I bought for him for winning some ribbons a few weeks ago.


He knows.

He always knows.

The family and I leave for Disney next Thursday.  9 of us!  The logistics of it is daunting: 4 kids (one of them a month old), my mother, my two daughters and a son-in-law.

It’s supposed to be 82 degrees when we get there. (Did I say it was 14 degrees today?)

I must say I’m looking forward to the sun.


November 6, 2013

It’s dark at 5 again. Where did the year go?

We ended the season with an ACTHA ride Saturday and the Eastern Regional Trail Ride on Sunday.  Mixed results. We ribboned at the ACTHA ride but there was a mix up due to a tie. I should have been 5th or 6th, but was given the 4th place ribbon. The ride could have been organized better.

Ta Da

Sunday was, well…  Winning the year before made me tense. I was worried we would bomb the obstacles and we did. Self fulfilling prophecy. We were horrible. Jigs was, well, he lived up to his name, rushing through everything to hurry up and catch friends.

It started with THE GATE.

Last year it opened from the left side. We can side pass pretty well to the right and did the gate almost perfectly. This year it opened from the right, requiring a side pass left. It’s our weak side. I knew it. He knew it. The result wasn’t pretty. At North Brookfield, if you can’t do the gate, you can’t do well.

That was pretty much the case for the rest of the obstacles.  And in between, there was no still. We battled the whole ride.

It was not fun.

I have thought a lot about it since Sunday. I think I felt pressured to do well and couldn’t relax. The year before we were just foolin’ (horsin’) around. We joyfully played through the obstacles. The judges saw that and our scores reflected a relaxed horse and rider having fun.

Sunday, I was tense, so he was tense.

My issue, not his.

We have lots of stuff to work on this winter.

“Big sigh” says Jigs.  “More leg yields….”