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Friday, December 21, 2012

2010 World Equestrian Games (WEG) - Part 1

I have been meaning to do a post about my adventures at the World Equestrian Games, and I just found some photos I had handy on this computer. There are lots more but if I wait until I remember to send them over this will never get done. So, without further ado - the WEG!
I picked up this promo brochure way back in '08 and had it stuck in my bedroom mirror. I thought it was Rich Fellers and Flexible but the blaze is wrong. ETA: Sapphire and Mclain Ward, thank you to reader L. Williams!
The minute I read in Practical Horseman that Lexington/the Kentucky Horse Park had landed the World Equestrian Games for 2010 (which I think was in 2007), I was determined to go. No way was I missing such a  huge event located only six hours away! Never mind that tickets would be expensive... and lodging, if I could find it, even more so: I. Was. Going. Right away I planned on watching the 3-Day Eventing, as I'd thoroughly enjoyed that at the Atlanta Olympics. I've seen some famous show jumpers, and I do love that, too, but there's just something so cool about being a spectator on a x-country course, even if eventing isn't "my" equestrian sport.

I watched the horse news carefully and found out when tickets would be going on sale. Then the prices were announced - ouch. The dream began to slip through my fingers, as I added up the cost of tickets, gas, food and lodging. By spring of 2010 I'd kind of given up on the whole thing, I'm afraid. But never fear, it was Facebook to the rescue! I found an old friend of mine going back to elementary school. We had lost touch years ago and I was tickled when she turned up on social media. I was even more tickled when I learned that she lives not 10 minutes away from the Kentucky Horse Park. I couldn't believe it - would she be willing to have a weekend guest? YES!

Once I had a bed to sleep in, the rest fell into place. My mom graciously agreed to buy me tickets for Saturday and Sunday as my birthday gift. My friend said she'd feed me dinners. She even said she'd drop me off at the KHP so no need to fork out $20/day for parking. It was on!

I arrived in KY Friday night and my old friend and I had a great reunion (we still like each other, whew :-). The weather, if I recall, had been a bit iffy, but Saturday dawned sunny and pleasant, perfect for horses and riders on x-country and spectators, too. I got up and dressed and out the door in record time, anxious to be at the Park. My friend dropped me off at the entrance, as planned, and I started to walk.... and walk.... and walk. I'd forgotten that it's a loooooong way in from Ironworks Pike! Lots of people joined me from the parking lots, though, so I felt pretty smug about saving my $$.

I bought my ticket and entered the park right by the main grandstand. The horses had already started on the course, and I followed the crowd right to where hundreds of people had gathered, at the Head of the Lake water complex. Folks were really packed in and it was hard to see, but I didn't care - I was THERE, hurray! When the first horse came through I think I cried. Wow, what a grand partnership and those horses are so freakin' BRAVE! Full of run and jump, just point 'em in the right direction and by golly, 98% of the time they're gonna go over it, whether it's down a huge drop they don't even know is coming, a log they can't see over, or some other insane creation that no right-minded rider would ask a horse to negotiate. But as eventers will tell you, they aren't normal!
(Not my photo, found online)
As the day went on, I figured out a couple things. One was to keep going until I found a place to stand where I could actually see something. My best view of the water turned out to be alongside the galloping lane going in. After I'd had my fill of that, I decided to find some other jumps that weren't quite so popular. Another tip was how to - believe it or not - actually capture some halfway decent photos with my iPhone. Viewing my frustration, a fellow spectator gave me the tip of hitting the shutter button just as I heard the horses' feet go "thump" upon takeoff from the ground. Hence,  I was able to get these:

Not too bad, right? I don't know who the first two riders are but that one with the "cottage" jump is Philip Dutton. It was late in the day and I believe he was the last US rider on x-country, and had a fault-free round which we badly needed.

Speaking of spectators, one of my most favorite aspects of x-country day - out of a truly magical  day that I spent literally in horse heaven, just awed and overjoyed to be there - was talking to my fellow onlookers. I am not shy and retiring so everywhere I went and sat or stood for a while, I struck up a conversation with someone nearby. Quite often they weren't even from the U.S. I met people from Great Britain, Australia and Germany (who spoke excellent English). I met a professional photographer slung about with giant lenses and camera bodies. I met people who were decked out in full (expensive) casual horsey regalia, like Hermes scarves and Dubarry boots, and others who had on well-worn jeans, scuffed paddocks and a battered fleece. Regardless, it was just such a treat to be surrounded by so many fellow horse-lovers. I did talk to a few people who didn't know much of anything about horses and were there because it was a "big event" taking place nearby - good for them!
Photo courtesy of
The crowd that day was a record, some 55,000 strong if I recall. The perfect weather certainly helped and I was thrilled for the organizers. Now, out of that enormous crowd, are you the least bit amazed that I ran into someone I know? The horse world is only so big, I guess! :-) And unsurprisingly, it was the horse I recognized first. This was not a competitor: no, it was someone in foxhunting attire who was serving as an outrider. She and her lovely B/W Pinto gelding were standing in one place, on hand in case of a runaway or other mayhem. I thought, hmmm, that pair looks familiar... I went up and yes, they were from the Bridlespur Hunt Club right here in my neck of the woods, and I'd actually been hunting with them twice. The lady is well-acquainted with my friend who used to be very active in the hunt club and though I had to remind her we'd met, she did remember me. I was really delighted when she gave me her "volunteer lunch" that she didn't want - having checked out the prices in the food concession stands, I was more than happy to snarf down a warm baloney-and-cheese sandwich, broken potato chips and some crumbly cookies.  (Yes, I'm a cheapskate and will eat almost anything that's free.) I did attempt to feed the horse one of the cookies, lest you think I'm a total pig...
Becky Holder and Courageous Comet - somehow missed seeing them, unfortunately, but one of my favorite TBs! I think I missed them because Comet was injured on course and had to retire before they got to "my" area at the time. Photo courtesy of

In Part 2 I'll cover Stadium Jumping day and the rest of the many delights at the WEG!

Changing a Light Bulb?

I just saw this over on a new blog I've been reading (Horse Country Chic), and the author in turn obtained it from Chronicle of the Horse. TOO funny! I believe my favorite is the one regarding show jumpers...


ENDURANCE RIDER: Light bulb? Do you mind, I'm trying to get my horse's pulse / respiration / hydration levels to respectable levels. Once that is done, I have another 50 miles to go before I can even think about changing a light bulb. Um, any chance that the light bulb could assist me in my conditioning regimen.....

DRESSAGE QUEEN: Me! Change a light bulb? Are you joking? I couldn't possibly be expected to subject myself to such a menial task. Change it yourself. Oh, and wash your hands when you are finished. The very thought!

CLASSICAL DRESSAGE QUEEN: These things can not be rushed, but must be approached slowly, with great patience, and adherence to the principles laid down by the classical masters, otherwise the light bulb will not attain its true potential, but will forever just be a shadow of its true self. Never, ever, use any type of gadget when changing the light bulb. That is an offense to the principles of classical light bulb changing.

EVENTER: Hmm, as soon as my arm is out of this sling broken after falling off at that large stone wall (whilst riding Prelim cross-country) I'll change it. Until then, deal with the dark. It will put hair on your chest. Only prissy Dressage Queens require lights, anyway.

SHOW JUMPER: Why on earth would I need to change a light bulb when the whole world knows that the sun shines out of my ass. Why, when I release over a jump, the spectators are practically blinded.

HUNTER PRINCESS: Change the lightbulb? Surely the groom handles that part? I mean how else would my six hunters get braided? If I MUST change the lightbulb, surely my trainer will climb up the ladder first to make sure it is safe? And then of course, my groom will hold the ladder as I climb up, and make sure all the dirt is dusted off my boots as I ascend?

BACK YARD HORSE PERSON: Do I have to do everything??!! Oh yeah, I guess I do. Well, I’ll get to it as soon as I’m done mucking stalls, cleaning and filling the water tank, cleaning and filling the water buckets, raking and sweeping, stacking the hay, setting up for night feeding, cleaning my tack, picking out manure from the paddock, brushing and exercising the horses, and whatever else needs to be done

NATURAL HORSEMAN: You must instill respect in the light bulb, so that it sees you as the Alpha light bulb, using "Light Bulb Dynamics (TM)" (Video available at $99.00 on my website). Once you have done this, you will find that there is really no need to change the light bulb at all, but that the light bulb will, with very little coaxing from you (using the patented "Light Bulb Coaxer" designed by me - $49.00 each, for an extra $49.99 you get the video thrown in) will behave as all good light bulbs should.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The One Where I Want To Punch Something

Dear readers, RiderWriter is pretty angry right now.


Because I just opened FB to discover a post from Chronicle of the Horse, with a link to an article about Kelley Farmer debuting some new Hunter Derby horses this past weekend. How nice for her but big deal, right? Well, it WAS a big deal when I read the rest of the title:

Kelley Farmer Has A New Crop In Action At Lake St. Louis Hunter Derby


Needless to say, I was not there. Oh, no, I was sitting in my house not doing much of anything, completely oblivious to the fact that there was a $25,000 USHJA Hunter Derby going on 10 minutes away. Which would have been only the second real Derby I've ever gotten to see, having enjoyed every second of the first one. And where Kelley Farmer showed up, all the way from Wellington, to win the thing with her top horse Taken and roll out her new ones.

I am just ill. 
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's Kelley and Taken. The ones I didn't see win. 
Now, I did know that there was a H/J horse show this weekend. I'd seen the trailers on our main drag, and I do try to keep up with the schedule at the National Equestrian Center. But I thought it was just another Winter Series show, not a big whoop-de-doo with a HUNTER DERBY.

*Goes off to stomp something, and breathe into a paper bag*

Just so you all know what I missed, here's the article. Have fun reading it. I'll have to settle for hoping you would have enjoyed my write-up, too, had I simply been there. I tried to call the NEC to see if they might be doing any more of these any time soon/the next six months, but they're on holiday break. Take it from me, there was no mention of this event on their stupid website. It's not helping that I already missed the other big Derby this year, too, at the Charity Show because of "something" I had to do at the same time. I forget what it was but I hope it was important!

Alright, I guess I've calmed down now. My blog has to be good for something. :-) It's only a horse show... And my next post will be about a really special horse show that I did go to! 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

BB&G, Part 3 & Self-Critique, a la George

Bet you thought I was done talking about B. Barns, but nope, there are still more tales relating to this establishment! (

I distinctly recall the 4-H meeting when some of the kids' parents joined us because Trainer had a special announcement to make. I was very worried because I think I had heard she was losing her lease on the property. But no, she was much excited, bubbling over with big talk. A sort of blueprint document was spread out, and little 3-D paper buildings plunked down: we were looking at plans for the new, improved BB Luxury Equestrian Estates development! Huh?? Our Club President's dad was a developer, I knew that much (they had two horses at the barn) and apparently he was the one behind this grand idea. There would be a huge, round indoor arena, several barns, improved pastures, and a number of homes.
I didn't quite know what to make of this. I didn't think Trainer had a lot of money, so I didn't know how it was all going to work, but I sure hoped that it would because I really loved my barn life at BB&G, the 4-H Club, and "my" lovely girl American Mare. Trainer was an excellent instructor and I learned a ton about riding and horse care from her. She was generous to a fault, never even charging me a fee to ride her horses at shows or for her time at them; I showed for the cost of entry fees and trailering. She genuinely loved horses, loved teaching and was a huge advocate of 4-H. For those qualities alone I would remember her fondly.

Long story short, sadly, the Luxury Equestrian Estates never were built (although the property today, is, in fact, covered in large homes). I assume Trainer had a falling-out with President's Dad, and/or he couldn't get financing. Trainer, kids and horses were forced to relocate, and the whole establishment picked up sticks and moved to a new facility about 15 minutes away. It was a far cry from the old one, unfortunately. Not much turnout, one ring, and a barn. The whole thing was surrounded by busy roads.

I continued taking lessons, doing 4-H and showing. We didn't just go to 4-H shows, by the way; we went to another series of local unrated affairs as well. These were held at a place called Freedom Farms. I liked the fancy ribbons they gave out there, and it was an appropriate level of competition for me.

I actually have one picture from a 2'6" jumping class taken when I was around 15, the only actual real photographer's photo I've ever gotten of me at a show. But I refuse to share it on the grounds that you would instantly lose all respect for me - yes, it's really THAT bad. :-) I would like to think it was just "a moment in time," but I have a distinct feeling that any jumping photo of me ever taken is going to have my toes out at 90 degree angles... and probably a lot of other faults. (I know I have mentioned the toe thing before. Here's the deal: I can sit on the floor, put the soles of my feet together, and lean forward until my head touches my feet with my knees all the way on the floor. Now those are some funky hip joints! So I walk/stand very duck-footed and have always struggled to turn my toes in while riding. Nowadays nobody seems to care much but back then... whooo. Not good.)

Every time I look at this picture (that no, I'm still not going to show you) I crack myself up imagining what George Morris would have to say if I submitted it to Jumping Clinic. After he had wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes, he'd write something like this:

"This rider needs to work on tightening her leg. Her heel is down, but I can see daylight between her knee and the saddle. I have never seen a toe turned out that far - it is well beyond the maximum 45-degree angle. Returning to small crossrails and no-stirrup work would help strengthen the leg.

The rider is not so much as jumping ahead, as simply standing in the stirrups. Her hip angle is far too open and she has not let the thrust of the horse close it. Her short release is okay, but one hand is far higher than the other. Her eyes are up and she is looking for the next jump.

This horse is merely stepping over this little jump and has a bored expression. I cannot evaluate her form accurately with this small fence, but I would like to see her knees more even. The mare needs some groceries and she should be braided and her hooves polished, even for a small schooling show. She needs a better-fitting browband as well.

Whomever thought it was a good idea to attire a teenage girl in a loud, white/blue/black/red plaid coat, jodphurs with garters and paddock boots should be taken behind the barn and shot. This outfit is not appropriate for her age and looks ridiculous. Also, the excess stirrup leather needs trimming." 

I was riding the chestnut OTTB mare who was the other main lesson horse at BB&G.  She was a stereotypical opinionated redhead and we really didn't get along all that well (Patty Flower mostly rode her, in fact). I fail to remember her name, which tells you something. At any rate, she was a hard keeper and didn't have a lot of bloom to her coat. She could jump 3'6," though, and her front end sharpened up over bigger fences.

As far as my hideous outfit, it's called "I borrowed the jacket from Trainer and therefore the price was right." Picture something like the above, except with a narrow red thread, tailored in luxurious 100% polyester double knit. You could wad it up into a ball and stuff it into your backpack, and upon extraction it would instantly spring back into coat-dom. We knew I needed tall boots, but having had no luck thus far finding any off the rack (and my long-suffering mother sensibly refusing to get customs), I was consigned to paddock boots and jodphurs even though I know now I was definitely too old for them. I remember thinking the paddock boots, which had punched toe caps, were really pretty spiffy.

Regarding the standing in the stirrups - I have no idea why this was going on. I have a few snapshots taken of me jumping in a lesson (at night, in a dusty indoor, so not exactly the best quality) and I'm not doing it in those, and certainly my instructors have never mentioned it, so I think it was a function of nerves/a flat-jumping horse/what have you. I may have weirdly-assembled hips, but they do bend! :-)

Towards the end of my career at BB, I started riding a new school horse, a fugly-but-cute bay gelding named Little Brown Jug. Mare was pretty much retired; she'd developed a large and painful sarcoma or melanoma under her tail, and Trainer was trying to get another foal from her (she'd had one in the past, a colt whom T kept and stood as a H/J stallion). Jug was a TB, but had a full-sized horse head on a pony body. The story I got was he had been starved as youngster and his growth was stunted. We got along very well, fortunately.

I have a distinct memory of my last class at my last show ever as a junior rider. It was a 4-H show and Jug and I were waiting for our turn on the outside course. The sky was fast-darkening with an approaching storm. To the sound of rumbles of thunder we made our way around the jumps; Jug was a good jumper but being so small, he made 3'6" feel like a lot taller. Up and over we flew (with me being jumped loose over a couple of fences that had to have been at least 3'9") and as we finished I remember thinking, "Well, this is it. Who knows when I'll ever show a horse again?"

It took twenty years.

(Story coming!)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Horsey Quotes

“Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of Solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and, once it has done so, he will have to accept that his life will be radically changed.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are a great many horse-related quotes out there, but this is one of my favorites (as I whole-heartedly agree with the sentiment!). Another is:

"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man."

This one is often attributed to Ronald Reagan, who was fond of repeating it. It's also attributed to Winston Churchill, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Dr. John Abernethy and Woodrow Wilson's physician, Dr. Gary Grayson. Now, I don't know about you, but I've never heard of the latter two gentlemen. I always figured Winston Churchill was the one who said it. Or maybe it was M.C. Self, writing in Horseman's Encyclopedia in 1946 (a famous and well-regarded tome), who said it first? 

Well, no, apparently not! The ORIGINAL author of this quote appears to be the Duke of Beaufort. Unfortunately, there have been a lot of Dukes of Beaufort, but I think they're talking about this one, the 10th Duke:
He was quite a horseman, helping establish major horse shows, serving as Master of the Horse for three British sovereigns, and also serving as Master of the Beaufort Hounds for many years (this is the hunt of choice for the royals - I've seen plenty of photos of Prince Charles, Camilla and the young princes out with them). In addition, his family seat is Badminton House - yes, that Badminton, home of the horse trials. The Duke died childless but thank goodness his relations have kept the estate in the family, and the fabulous 3-day event venue as well. So I think it's probably safe to assume that he was indeed the first person to come up with this apt saying.*

This isn't really a quote, but I've bet you've all heard the words, "It's just a horse." I've also heard it applied to both of my dogs and my guinea pigs. ESPECIALLY my guinea pigs ("You spent how much at the vet, on a RAT??!?"). Don't you just want to slug people sometimes?
And finally, I really appreciate this sentiment:
"Horses are not my whole life, but they make my life whole." ~ Author Unknown

Yes, they sure do. :-)

I encourage you to find a couple of these quotes, with nice illustrations, and many more at this entertaining site. Lots of neat stuff on there!

[*Researched via and Wikipedia]

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Polo in St. Louis

Note: I started this post a couple months ago and set it aside. Time to finish! You will hopefully be hearing a lot from me in the next few weeks as I realized I'd like to hit the 50-post mark for 2012, since that's how many I posted in 2011... We'll see. I'd better leave myself something to write about in 2013!

Last Saturday was a beautiful day for a polo match, sunny, warm and breezy. The crowd was out in full force (over 1,000 spectators!) for the biggest charity event of the season. Admission was by the car load and all the funds generated went to a local and extremely reputable children's organization.

The St. Louis Polo Club is the second-oldest in the nation, having been founded in the late 1800s. My good friend has been involved for the last few years, taking lessons and playing in some lower-level matches. I myself took a lesson two years ago and rediscovered why I abandoned my position as a team alternate during my first year of college: it's REALLY hard! I couldn't lift my right arm for about a week afterwards. The people who get good at polo practice, practice, practice, believe me. It may be an elitist sport but it's also a lot of work!

The Busch family (as in Anheuser-Busch), scions of St. Louis, have long been involved in horse sports and helped found our foxhunting organization, the Bridlespur Hunt Club. They also have owned many top-notch hunters and showjumpers, among them the fabulous Miss Budweiser. Nowadays the Busch family's equestrian focus is on polo. William K. Busch, better known as "Billy," purchased land and barns formerly owned by the hunt club and constructed his own polo grounds, called Blue Heron. This facility is about a quarter mile from my friend's farm which makes it extremely convenient for her (and me).
I have attended a number of matches now and they're really a lot of fun. I always dress up (hanging around with multi-millionaires, one of whom flies his helicopter in for matches, will do that for you) and if my friend is going to be working a goal zone I usually manage to persuade someone else to come with me. On this particular day it was my son:
He was delighted to have an excuse to wear a Polo shirt to polo. ;-) Hunter actually is on the list now to be a "flagger" at matches, i.e. work the goal zone, and he was able to do that on another occasion. Since it was his first time I went with him - I'll tell you about that experience in another post.

For this match we were merely spectators. As always, I was mainly interested in the ponies: their tack, manner, way of going, attitude, etc. Here's a cool shot from the St. Louis Polo Club website:
There was a spirited discussion not long ago about polo over on the Fugly Blog. A lot of people were agitated about the amount of gear the ponies wear, particularly the draw reins; it certainly can look like overkill. However, having played the sport a bit myself, I can attest that every piece of tack truly does have a purpose. I sure appreciated the stopping power of double reins and draw reins, not to mention I would not care to be bashed in the face by an up-flung head in the heat of play.

And those ponies - let me tell you, they LOVE their job. The girls (they're mostly mares) are excited and enthusiastic every time they're ridden out. I've never seen one with ears pinned, with a wringing tail, being balky or exhibiting any other sign other than that they're delighted to be in play. Furthermore, if you've ever read the Rudyard Kipling short story called "The Maltese Cat," you'll suspect that some of these ponies know more about the game than their riders do! I believe it.

Here's the "Winner's Circle" photo from this match:
The players will often invite their kids up on the platform, which is nice, as long as the youngsters are not sprayed with champagne or beer. Those sort of libations are extremely popular with polo players, especially after a hot match!
Son and I again with the winner's podium. Kraftig is the new brewery that Billy B. has founded, following the buyout of the family firm by In-Bev. (In case you're wondering, I stay pretty much the same color year-round - no St. Tropez tan for me. I burn to a crisp without gallons of sunscreen.)

This picture is from another awards presentation after a match. It's of my friend and two of the winning players, with their "trophy" art. I took this and it's now on the STL Polo website. I can assure you that it's probably the ONLY example of my stellar photography on the Internet, other than this blog...
If you live anywhere near where people play polo, I suggest you check it out. Not all polo is played by high-flying types, either; I gather that many clubs are distinctly more rough-hewn and people of all income levels/types of horses get together and play. It's a great spectator sport!

BB&G, Part 2

It was a cold winter's night when I happened to look out the window of my trainer/4-H leader's home and saw a scene much like this one. Yes, I really was the one who first saw it and no, it wasn't the grotty home I was standing in that went up in flames (though with the general level of care lavished on the place, it would have surprised no one). It was the other, older and currently unlived-in house on the farm that was blazing away. This was located about a quarter mile away down the lane which is why nobody had noticed until then.

I had never seen a house on fire and I was shocked. I think I stuttered and pointed and then finally got out the words, "The house is on fire!" followed by, "NO, NOT THIS ONE!" A dash for the door did ensue amongst my fellow 4-Hers, but it was to see the sights, fortunately not because they thought themselves in imminent danger. Any plans to discuss the care and feeding of the senior horse (or whatever topic we had been assigned) were instantly dismissed, of course, and the rest of the evening was spent watching the police, firetrucks and firefighters deal with the "disaster." The truth was, nobody really cared; local teenagers had been using the place as a party joint and it was just as well that someone's (possibly) careless cigarette had burned it down. The house was quickly reduced to ashes and the general attitude was, "Good riddance."

The house fire was but one of many memorable moments during my 4-H career. Here are some others which didn't involve property destruction:

Horse Bowl
I think I mentioned that I joined our brand-new Horse Bowl team right away. Horse Bowl, for those who are unfamiliar, has nothing to do with this; no, it's a game- show type of event with teams competing to answer equine-related questions quickly and accurately. You ring in and if you answer correctly score points; points are also subtracted for wrong answers, so you have to feel confident before hitting your button. My good memorization skills and love of minutiae served me well in this endeavor. Team members were assigned areas of specialization, though, and unfortunately I was given the dry and uninspiring topic of "Nutrition." I would have been much happier with "Anatomy," "Lameness," "Tack," or pretty much anything else but that's what I got. So I studied my little heart out learning things like the ten essential amino acids (I still know most of them...) correct Ca:Ph ratios, and ration-balancing, which I particularly hated because it involved math.

Our team did well enough one year to make it to the State championship. We didn't win but I acquired the nice little trophy that stands on my Horsey Shelf. Being in Horse Bowl was a great experience and I recommend it to any young equestrian. (Still going strong in NJ - here's the website)

Every year a 4-Her participating in Horse Project (and I would imagine other projects, too) had to prepare a report including visual aids to be presented first to the club. It could be on any horse-related topic you chose, and you were judged individually, not against anyone else. I think we received evaluations ranging from "Poor" to "Superior." If you did well enough you could advance beyond club level. Luckily, I've never had much of a problem with public speaking but some kids had a terrible time.

I remember two of the presentations I did in particular. One was about equine teeth - I still recall a lot of what I learned - and the other was on Lipizzan horses. That one was particularly fun because I had a slide show from when I went to Vienna to see them at the Spanish Riding School. This presentation was a huge hit. I received a Superior score in the club, a Superior score at the County Finals, and earned myself a trip to the State Finals, where I also received a Superior (yes, I was very nervous there!). I always wonder if anyone else in NJ 4-H ever had photos of the real Lipizzaners as part of their presentation? Here's the trophy I was awarded at State:
They were very smart to make these out of Armetale - no polishing needed! 
Horse Shows
I have to say my favorite aspect of being a part of 4-H was - the horse shows! Our shows were held at our lovely county fairgrounds, where there were at least two standard rings and an "outside" hunter course, on the grass. I really didn't know what to expect the first time I went to a 4-H show but I quickly learned. Some people were very serious competitors, had nice horses, and were pretty cutthroat. Others were content just to be there with their little backyard ponies and have a good time. I guess I fell somewhere in the middle: I liked to win, and I got to ride some pretty good horses, but I always tried to be complimentary to others and help out when I could. 

Well, MOST of the time. There were two people in particular who I remember vividly from 4-H showing, Navajo Saddle Blanket Girl, and Sandra J., who I very happily could have strangled on numerous occasions. Sandra J. and I had History behind us. Her mother had been my Brownie Girl Scout leader and a nastier woman has never lived (even my mom agreed). She played favorites with her daughter all the time, which drove me bonkers, and Sandra herself was a spoiled rotten brat. Then, to my everlasting dismay, the family acquired two horses for their little darling (actually a horse and a pony) that they kept in their backyard right down the street from me. I wrote about this here. If I didn't despise Sandra already this definitely did the trick.

Sandra belonged to another 4-H club and was always at the shows. 4-H classes were separated by age, not ability, so we would wind up in the same ring a lot. Sometimes she would beat me, and sometimes I would beat her. I'm afraid I was rather pleased when the latter happened. In particular, I recall a certain Sr. Equitation on the Flat class.... 

It was the last show of the season and I was riding a bay OTTB mare called "Mom's Apple Pie," "Mom" for short. This girl belonged to Trainer's Daughter and was her Big Eq/Maclay horse. Mom sure had the ability for 3'6" but she was HOT, hot, hot. (Trainer's Daughter did okay on her but they never made it to the Garden) To ride her, using TD's Prix de Nations saddle, no less, was a real treat and I was determined not to screw up. Mom was behaving, I'd managed to force my toes in every time I passed the judge, and things were going fine - until we were asked for the right-lead canter. I can remember exactly what happened. I cued her for the canter depart and Mom went UP, not forward. I asked again - same result. Finally, on our third try, I got her settled enough and away we went (thank God on the correct lead). Unfortunately, the judge had seen the whole thing. I knew any chance for a ribbon was gone.

So imagine my utter shock when I not only placed in the class, I was awarded the BLUE RIBBON.    I burst into tears and flung my arms around Mom's neck. This was a good-sized class, by the way, with at least 15 riders (prob. more). When I was leaving the ring I spied Trainer, who was laughing and shaking her head. She came to meet me at the out gate and said, "All I can say is I guess the judge liked the way you handled that blowup, because she was definitely looking RIGHT at you when it happened." 

So there, finally, is the story of the old blue ribbon hanging in my BR. It's special because it represents the pinnacle of my junior equitation career, and because I beat Sandra J. to earn it. :-)
The top of the rosette reads "MC 4-H," for Monmouth County 4-H. 
Navajo Saddle Blanket Girl rode a horse that was badly groomed, and badly in need of about 100 lbs. She had a permanent scowl on her face and never talked to anybody. She used her crop too much, too. She actually won a lot of ribbons but I was not alone in my disapproval of her appearance and methods. One day we were doing a class on the outside course. 4-H had a rule that if you were jumping, you had to have the chin strap on your hard hat down. All we had then was the little elastic bands, but they had to be under your chin. This class had around 10 or 12 people in it, and one by one, everyone had issues on course: refusals, run-outs, even a couple falls. It was just a mess. Amazingly, I managed to get around okay (I don't remember what horse I was riding) and the only other one who did was NSBG. Guess what?? She forgot to put down her chin strap! I was awarded first place, solely because of that. Ooooooh, she was mad! I think she would have liked to bash me a good one with her crop, never mind her poor horse.
Our goal for the county season, which consisted of three or four shows, was to qualify to show at State during the NJ State Fair. I actually did qualify two years, in at least two classes (Hunter Pleasure for sure, I think Sr. Equitation on the Flat, and some over-fences class as well) - but wasn't able to attend the State shows due to timing and cost. It's okay, I still feel lucky that I was able to participate in 4-H at all!

P.S. Something possessed me to try Googling the name of my 4-H club and to my astonishment, I found a digitalized newspaper article from Nov. 18, 1980 that mentions the club. The officers are listed and I was the Secretary! I have ZERO recollection of that so it's pretty funny...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wait - What Was THAT???

This past weekend we experienced freakishly warm weather here in Missouri. When I saw the temperature was supposed to be 70 or above, my thoughts immediately turned to riding. Hmm, where could I go? I got in touch with my friend and hurrah, she wasn't busy and said I could come over and swing a leg over LiRoi! Even though I knew we'd only be walking, I was very glad I could go. "Leafy" is the Giant Warmblood guy I wrote about here. I volunteered to help if he needed clipping, which I had a feeling would be necessary; he's always been hairy, but with the development of Equine Metabolic Syndrome he has really turned into a yak. Last winter was so mild that he had to be completely body-clipped at least twice and he's never blanketed.

I turned onto my favorite road going towards my friend's farm and felt my spirits lift. As usual, my head was on a swivel taking in all the properties that I pass on the way. One is my old H/J lesson barn, and the others are private establishments, but all have pastures with horses in 'em so I like to check things out.

I was zipping past this one place when I suddenly caught sight of Something Different. This farm had been for sale for a long time, and it's really gorgeous: you can see the real estate listing here (those of you on the East or West coasts feel free to laugh yourselves silly over the price.... I know what this place would run in your neck of the woods!). At any rate, the For Sale sign was missing and instead someone new clearly had moved in. Because guess what I thought I saw grazing???

One of these:
Well, okay, maybe the horse wasn't rainbow-colored but it sure as heck looked like a Gypsy Vanner. :-) I did not have time to stop and investigate, but planned to do so immediately upon leaving my friend's farm...

Sure enough, we found poor LiRoi sweating all over his shaggy and curly self. His leg hair gets so long he practically has feathers and the rest of him is not far behind. My friend broke out her two pairs of Oster A5 clippers and a half-dozen freshly-sharpened blades and we went to work. Oy! I should say tried to go to work... it was slow going. The damp, thick hair was not very cooperative. I managed to get his chest and between his front legs done but my arms got really tired and the clippers really hot. All we wanted to do was maybe a little trace clip; he's really not being ridden and we just wanted to give him a bit of relief as the weather is not supposed to cool down for another 10 days at least.

We gave up and threw a bareback pad on Leafy, and I climbed aboard for a little walking "trail ride" around friend's farm. She saddled up her other horse. I hoped that the dear boys would behave themselves as I'm not exactly in riding shape, and all I had was the leather loop on the front of the pad if things went south (it's a western-cinched Parelli bareback pad - no stirrups - actually very nice). Fortunately, the horses were fine and we had a nice little ride.

As soon as I left I made a beeline for the driveway of the suspected Vanner home. Sure enough, while LiRoi has fake feathers, these horses have real ones and they are indeed Gypsy horses!
 Pasture to right of driveway - mares and youngsters
Well, hello little fuzzball. Can you even see where you're going?
I've only ever seen one Gypsy horse before, so I was very intrigued. I know that the Brits are laughing all the way to the bank over the stupid Americans who think dime-a-dozen hairy cart horses are The Coolest Things Ever, and the fact that some of us are willing to pay astronomical prices for them, but I must admit, they are pretty neat.
 There was another bunch of horses in the left-hand pasture:
All told, I counted 18 horses, a pretty sizeable herd. I hope that the owners know what they're doing and aren't planning to make a million bucks riding the new trend. I was curious to see some prices so found this page on Equine Now:
None of these are from this farm as the city is wrong, but yep, they're definitely up there compared to what, say, AQHA babies sell for around here (not much). Like I said, I hope the farm does well and I don't see a herd sell-off some day. Regardless, it was a lot of fun to see these horses!