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Friday, July 12, 2013

Liebster Blog Award

Thanks, Jess at Hopeful Jumpers for throwing this my way - I'm glad to play along as it's fun to learn new things about each other!  Similar to Jess, I'm going to take the blogger's lazy way out and invite anyone who reads here with a blog of <200 followers to accept the award, and have fun with it, too!

HOW TO ACCEPT THE AWARD: The Liebster Blog Award is a way to recognize blogs who have less than 200 followers.  Liebster is a German word that means beloved and valued.  Here are the rules for accepting the award:
  1. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog.
  2. List 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions given to you.
  4. Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
  5. Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or fewer followers to nominate and include links to their blogs.
  6. Go to each blogger's page and let them know you have nominated them.
11 Random Facts About Me:

1. Despite growing up in New Jersey, a fact of which I'm very proud, I do not "tawk like dis." An occasional "cawfee" slips out, especially if I've been around my relatives, but generally people are shocked to learn I'm from the Garden State. I also don't look remotely like Snooki or other "famous Jersey Girls." :)
2. I'm a huge fan of Secretariat and have a number of cool collectible items featuring him, including photos (taken by both famous photographers and regular folks), plates, stuffed animals, sculpture, etc. 

3. The Secretariat collection is not too odd (I guess it is if you're not a horse person), but I also have a large  collection of stuffed guinea pigs. Believe it or not, there are enough of them out there that I can refuse to add ones where the toy manufacturers think cavies have tails. Argh!
Attention Ty Toy Co. - Do you SEE any tails???
4. In February I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. RA, for those who don't know, is a chronic auto-immune disorder that causes inflammation and deformity in the joints. White blood cells attack the synovial membranes, which makes it quite different than the far more common osteoarthritis, which affects the intra-articular surfaces of joints. The good news is that I have a much, much better prognosis than those who were diagnosed with this disease only ten years ago, due to the wealth of new drugs that been developed. The bad news is the drugs are horribly expensive and might not work. Everyone is different. My treatment goal is no pain and no joint damage so we are pressing forward. Right now, I'm taking an inexpensive, low-tier drug that is finally helping after taking almost three months to build up in my system... I was getting mighty discouraged. It is very hard to remain positive when your feet, knees and especially hands hurt too much to do practically anything (get dressed? Hah. Bras and tucking shirts in = hardly happening). Now you know why I haven't been blogging, i.e. typing, much. 

5. I went to Europe twice in H.S. but haven't been back since. Really, REALLY want to visit Scotland!

6. My favorite color is carnation pink.
7. My junior year in H.S. I was on the indoor track team. My barn had no indoor, and riding was postponed; I missed running and jumping, so I figured if I couldn't do it on a horse I'd use my own two legs. I was made into a high jumper, and was fairly mediocre at this - better at jumping a horse, for sure!
8. I love to read and read books that run the gamut from romance (Rosamunde Pilcher) to war non-fiction (WWII, Civil War) to blood n' guts thrillers (adore Jack Reacher, and anything by Harlan Coben). 

9. The most famous people I've met, as in actually talked to, not just seen in person, are the actors Cliff Robertson and Frank Langella. You may or may not recognize their names but I know you've seen them in the movies. Mr. Robertson is best-known for playing the title character in "Charly," (1968) and more recently, Uncle Ben in the Spiderman movies. Mr. Langella has been in tons of movies as a supporting character, but played Nixon in "Frost/Nixon," for which he was nominated for Best Actor in 2009. He's good at creepy guys, LOL. This makes sense because the time I met him was back stage when he was playing "Dracula" on Broadway (photo below). My mother has known Frank since H.S. (she dated his best friend!), so she always gets to go back stage when he's in NYC.
He was some pretty hot stuff back then! 

10. The most famous person I wish I'd met, but will forever regret not at least seeing in person, is Princess Diana. I simply adored her. I did get to meet her butler, Paul Burrell, when he came here repping his furniture line. He was lovely and gracious. 

11. My internal body clock would like to be permanently set to "Bedtime 1:00, Wake Up 9:00." This has wreaked havoc with my on-time arrival performance at every job I've ever held. ;)
11 Questions Given To Me:
  1. Favorite color of horse? Grey. (Duh!)
  2. Favorite place to trail ride or horse show? Trail ride on a beach. Haven't done this yet bareback in the tropics, but it's on the bucket list.
  3. Most embarrassing fall? Off the runaway Arab at Little Hope Ranch.
  4. If you could change one thing about your horse what would it be? That it was mine, since I don't have one! :-(
  5. Biggest riding challenge? Lack of core fitness, and complete physical inability to turn toes in.
  6. Favorite dinosaur? Stegosaurus. 
  7. Favorite holiday? Easter. Joyous church celebration, cute animals, yummy candy.
  8. Thing that you are most afraid of? Having no family. 
  9. Roller skates, or ice skating? Ice Skating, I've always loved it. But I canNOT roller blade, which I don't understand!
  10. Favorite board game? Life.
  11. Art museum, zoo, science museum, or amusement park? Science museum.

11 Questions for Bloggers I Nominate:

1. Describe your dream horse.

2. Favorite breed of horse?

3. Age you started riding?

4. Most embarrassing fall?

5. Item at the top of your Horsey Bucket List?

6. Favorite famous race horse?

7. Riding discipline you would most like to try?

8. Piece of tack you covet?

9. What other pets do you have?

10. Favorite song/artist to listen to at the barn?

11. Your horse's favorite kind of treat? 

P.S. I'm sorry for the disjointed look of this post, but I've spent over an hour wrestling with the HTML and I officially give up! 

Friday, June 28, 2013

IRH IR4G Riding Helmet

I fully intend to continue my KY/Rolex travelogue (when I have time), but I have to interrupt and tell you that I finally bought a new helmet and I LOVE IT!!!! Believe me, it's been a long road and a LOT of looking but I'm very happy with what I got. In case you think I haven't done my homework, here's how it went:

I made the mistake of trying this on first, at the WEG in 2010. You probably recognize the Charles Owen AYR8. Of course I loved it and it fit great. Problem: way too much $$$.
So then I went to the local tack shop, where I found this, the Ovation Deluxe Schooler. This is a very popular helmet, and it also looked and felt great. It is also a very good price, only $50.00

I was on the verge of buying one of these when I decided I really, truly wanted something a little more upscale that wasn't billed as for the "entry-level rider," and that I'd be happy to show in (what can I say, I'm not even riding right now, much less showing, but I like to plan ahead :-)). So I did some more looking online/in catalogs and thought this IRH Elite would be good:
When I tried this on, however, it didn't fit. Ugh. But this other kind of IRH, the ATH SSV, did fit and looked pretty good. Seemed like it might be a bit hot, though. My current helmet is so well-ventilated that I've been spoiled.
This is where I left things for quite a while. I looked at sales now and then trying to find a killer deal on the SSV but nothing really came up. Then I thought I'd wait until International Helmet Awareness Day (IHAD). Then, only a month or so ago, along came the new Dover catalog, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a brand-new offering from IRH that was a perfect copy (they're good at that) of the One-K (out of my price range). Hmm... I was VERY interested.

I was even more interested when I visited the Riding Warehouse website for the first time (I think I Googled the name of the helmet, or followed a link from somewhere - not sure) and found the helmet for $30 less than Dover's price. AND - yes, they were discounting them further on IHAD! SOLD. Even though I'd never seen one in person, or tried one on, I had to have it. If it didn't fit it would go back, no matter how great it looked, as I'm not up for taking chances with my head.

It came today, and pending a test ride, I have to tell you I am THRILLED. It fits and looks great, snug but not headsplittingly-tight, and no mushroom head - really comes down nicely on the noggin. The harness is comfy and easily adjustable. It seems to be very well-ventilated. Here's an amazing thing: I knew the liner was removable, but it actually comes with an extra liner, which will certainly come in handy for really hot days! It also came in a nice drawstring bag. Again, I haven't actually ridden in the thing yet but I will be sure to report on performance when I do. As for now I could not be more pleased!

P.S. If you want one of these helmets, hurry up and call Riding Warehouse as their current stock is very limited. State Line Tack also has them for a good price as well, though.

Friday, June 14, 2013

"Thoroughbreds For All" Event in KY

Oh, dear... I am sorry I've been absent from the blogging scene. I have been expending a lot of creative energy over on my Millcreek Spreaders Facebook Page (hope you'll pay it a visit!), so this poor blog has fallen by the wayside. However, I am ready to get back to telling you about my trip to Kentucky in April.

The first event I attended, held the Friday night I arrived, was "Thoroughbreds For All." Sponsored by New Vocations Racehorse Adoption, this featured evaluations both in-hand and under saddle of some of their current horses by internationally-renowned 4* eventer Philip Dutton, former top jockey Chris McCarron, a Lexington veterinarian and an eventing trainer. I drove (at a rapid rate; I always seem to wind up having to jet around Lexington because I spend too much time yapping with the friend I stay with) to the farm and thankfully my phone GPS got me there in good order, because as usual it was down a winding country road and very easily missable. This is the second year the event has been held and they had a huge turnout of people!

Here's the view down the barn aisle. Of course I made a beeline to see the horses, even foregoing the tasty-looking buffet until after they had been inspected:
Naturally I fell madly in love with one of them. This guy was such a character - you could tell he will be some lucky person's total pocket pony, as he wanted nothing more than to engage with humans:

His name was English Major and I really hoped he would be one of the featured horses of the evening. But even without seeing him move, believe me, I was ready to throw him on a trailer and take off! (Note: He wasn't even grey. I guess I'm partial to chestnut with chrome, too. :-)

After I'd visited with the barn inhabitants, I had the pleasure of meeting up with none other than Stacy K., author of the Behind the Bit blog. I've been reading there for at least three years and was quite excited to hang out with her in person! It's not often that I get to attend events like this with a fellow equine enthusiast who really knows what's going on. We enjoyed the dinner buffet and settled in on the bleachers in the arena.

The first demo was Chris McCarron riding a TB fairly new to the NV program. This horse was being extremely looky-loo, I'm sure because a crowd on bleachers did not normally accompany his lessons. No doubt he fancied himself right back in the paddock at the track. Chris unsurprisingly dealt with him quite admirably, though Stacey and I agreed that neither one of us would want to ride a recently off-track TB in similar conditions.
Next about six horses were brought out in hand and walked and trotted around for the "judges." I found their commentary absolutely fascinating; I know quite a bit about conformation, and have some knowledge of how function follows form, but these folks picked up on all kinds of stuff. Plus, they were quite interested in the horses's background. For example, check out this stunner:
What a GORGEOUS boy! Really nice confo, too. Unfortunately, Philip and the vet made it quite clear that they would have serious reservations about putting this guy into any kind of sporthorse training. Reason being, he never even made it to the track due to ongoing suspensory issues (unspecified) to both fronts. Really a shame... I hope he finds a wonderful home with somebody who just wants to trail ride or do very low-level stuff, and love on their "Black Stallion" eye candy.

This one had a perfectly stunning head:
I get a kick out of TBs with very Arabian-looking heads, as they seem to be throwbacks to the three TB ancestors. Of course you can't "ride a head," as the saying goes, but rest of this fella wasn't bad, either, and he was one of the horses they brought back out under saddle. I was disappointed that my pal English Major didn't come out either time (more about him at the end).

Here are some pretty poor photos of the horses being worked:

The riders were all pros and they had a good time putting three of the NV horses who we'd seen in hand through their paces. All W/T/C'd around for a bit and then were challenged with some jumping. I'm not certain if any of these horses had even been walked over a pole before. However, a pole started them out, then little crossrails, then a straight fence and believe it or not, these brave riders then asked the newbies to negotiate an oxer. You can see that in my photos. Not big but when a horse has never even jumped before the results can be interesting, to say the least!

Mr. Chestnut Arabian Head turned out to be a nice boy. He had a good trot and an iffy canter the judges said would improve with work, but he had no qualms about hopping over the jumps. A little bay mare whom the judges had been lukewarm about in-hand also did a great job, jumping in good form, and if I recall correctly actually wound up getting the best assessment overall for sporthorse potential. She was pretty nondescript-looking but again, you can't judge a book by its cover, especially a horse!

All in all this was a terrific event. I came away feeling like I had a much better handle on how to evaluate a TB for H/J/eventing potential (should I ever have the need, and let's hope I do). If you have the opportunity I highly recommend attending!

P.S. Regarding English Major: Sometime last month NV officially offered him for adoption on their website. He went quickly... color me unsurprised, if sad that he wasn't coming home with me. :-) Here's their cover photo of him - is it any wonder someone snapped him up?

Monday, May 6, 2013

I Have a Favor to Ask... and Rolex/KY Preview!

Well, I'm back from Kentucky and of course I had a PHENOMENAL time... looking forward to telling you all about it, just as soon as I can download pictures from my new camera! In the meantime, I have an announcement: My Rolex trip was not "strictly pleasure." I have a new freelance job and I was doing a little business for them while I was gone.

I'm sure you know what this is...
Phew, I can smell it from here. Not to mention, all that manure had to get from the stalls to the pile somehow. How many teetering wheelbarrows full of poop have you accidentally dumped? I can remember crying a couple times when I did just that as a kid. Nothing like half an hour of hard work winding up back on the ground.

Nope, there's definitely a better way than wheelbarrows. As far as that stinky pile, there are many things you can do with your horse manure. Keep heaping up the teetering mound and hope it doesn't burst into flames, have it hauled away, properly compost it or - spread it on your fields, before or after composting.

And speaking of manure spreaders, guess who is the new Public Relations Consultant for one of the companies that makes them, Millcreek Spreaders?

I will spare you any further commercials, but suffice it say, this company is run by great people and they make a great product (with an excellent warranty) right here in the USA. I am proud to be working for them.

Here's where you, my faithful blog readers, come in. If you're on Facebook, I would be extremely grateful if you could visit the brand-new Millcreek Spreaders Facebook page and "Like" it. They had zero social media so I'm starting from scratch. Hopefully you'll enjoy the content I'm posting or sharing, so please feel free to like that and/or share it as well.

In addition to that, or if you're not on Facebook, I'd love to get your answers to a few questions. Grassroots marketing survey!

1) Have you heard of Millcreek Spreaders? If so, how?
2) Have you ever used any kind of spreader? What brand? What did you like/dislike about it?
3) If you were in the market for a spreader, how would these factors rank in your consideration:
- Recommendation from a friend
- Quality
- Price
- Ease of use
- Reputation of company
- Celebrity endorsement
4) Where might you research your purchase? E.g. online via website, Facebook, ask a friend, etc.

And finally, how would you like to win an iPad Mini? Millcreek is a sponsor of the Riders4Helmets iPad Giveaway! They had a booth at Rolex and were taking entries there, but luckily you can also enter on their website. They're giving away a body protector and a bunch of gorgeous helmets, too!

THANK YOU for taking the time to do any of these things. It will really help me out! I already know a lot more about poop-flinging than I used to, that's for sure. ;-)

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And now back to our regularly scheduled programming. A little taste of what I saw in Lexington:

Monday, April 22, 2013

How To Meet Calvin Borel

It's really very simple. First you go here...
then you notice a not-too-tall guy who looks extremely familiar, and realize that you watched him on TV winning the Kentucky Derby the year before, and then you nearly faint, and then you pull yourself together and try to act cool and wait until someone else asks if they can get a photo with him, and then you shake his hand and smile like a grinning fool when he puts his arm around you and his wife takes your picture...
and then you send it to all your horsey friends and they're really, really jealous. :-)

Yep, I met Calvin Borel at the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center (MMSC) in 2010 during the WEG! I actually had been told he was going to be in the MMSC trade fair booth signing autographs later that afternoon, and the employees and volunteers were very excited to meet him. Since I was on my way out of Lexington I was very disappointed I would miss seeing him. What nobody knew was that he was going to drop by the Center (which is in the KHP) before he went to the trade fair. I was happily looking at horses in the barn when all of a sudden I turned around and there was Calvin!

The rest happened just the way I described. We were all kind of tongue-tied but Calvin could not have been nicer or more friendly, and his wife was a doll, too. She was also an expert at taking people's photos with her famous husband. I can't imagine what that would be like... I think Mrs. Borel probably gets a fair amount attention herself, though as she is taller than her husband and an extremely attractive young blonde.

One of the OTTBs in the barn. I especially noticed this one because he was a) grey and b) had the most Arab-like head I think I've ever seen on a TB:
After my barn tour I stopped by the MMSC office. I really wanted to scoop up this mailbox and spirit it out to my car but I think they might have noticed. I did get Calvin to sign a poster of Big Red that I bought from them, though. 
After I left the MMSC, I had one more stop planned before I headed back to St. Louis. It, too, was related to Calvin Borel: I went to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum. I am going to try and post about that visit before I leave for KY this time so you all will feel ready for the First Saturday in May!

*            *             * 
P.S. I may go back to the MMSC on this trip to Lexington, but I'm not sure if I'll have time. I will definitely be stopping by their booth at the Rolex trade fair, though, to see if any other celebrities make an appearance on their behalf!

Friday, April 19, 2013

2010 World Equestrian Games (WEG) - Part 2 - Behind The Scenes!

I apologize for the long delay in posting the second half of my WEG discussion. I finally managed to get into Photoshop at home and find some more pictures. Doing this has definitely gotten me psyched up for my Rolex trip, needless to say!

This table was the second jump by which I stationed myself on WEG Cross Country day, after trying - and failing - to get close enough to anything at the Head of the Lake water complex. I think people staked out spots there at about 6:00 AM (no doubt it will be the same for Rolex).
Anyway, once I got the hang of when to hit the shutter button on the iPhone, I actually managed to get some fun pictures.
You can baaaaarely see the simply enormous ditch before this fence  - it was wide AND deep!
As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my favorite things is how excited the horses are to be on course. I never get tired of watching them gallop by!
A lot doesn't go smoothly on x-country courses. Here's someone I caught sadly meeting the end of their competition at a ditch (the rider may have actually fallen in it, I don't recall):
You can see by the sky what a gorgeous day it was for WEG XC. What a blessing for participants and spectators alike! (I will be packing my raincoat and Wellies for my Rolex trip, though, as I will be out on course even if I am slogging around in muck.)
Unfortunately, the next day dawned cold and rainy. I was extremely grateful I'd thrown my raincoat in the car at the last minute or I would have been truly doomed. As it was, I hadn't thought to bring a down vest so I piled on literally every top I'd brought with me. I was also glad I had my paddock boots since they kept my feet pretty warm. I would have been dying in the sneakers I'd worn the day before.
 The stadium jumps were gorgeous, of course...

and the winners were deserving and proud. Unlike most of the spectators, I stuck around for the medal ceremony:
Afterwards I got to thinking about the warm-up ring. I had left my assigned seat and wandered around the stadium a bit, and caught a glimpse of it. The riders were going back in that direction after the ceremony. I wondered if maybe, just maybe, I could go over there... I figured it would be guarded and I'd never get near but I had to try. Guess what - no guards. Here's who I spotted first:
Why, I do believe it's none other than New Zealand's Mark Todd, one of the Eventers Emeritus at these games! Demonstrating good horseman's behavior, his main concern was getting blankets on his tired and patient mount. He was oblivious to me snapping photos and I dared not to even say, "Congratulations." (NZ finished third)

Here is the second-place Canadian team, doing a group photo with their coach David O'Connor. It was weird seeing one of the best American riders ever a) not riding and b) coaching somebody else. No worry: he is now the new American coach, back where he belongs.
And last but not least, I was truly thrilled to lurk not 12' feet away from the champion British team, who were doing a TV interview with a reporter! I actually captured some of this conversation on video, too, but due to technical ineptitude I afraid I don't have it for you. After a couple minutes I was shooed away from the scene by a volunteer, but it was very cool.
Yes, even though the goofy (undoubtedly custom-made and extremely expensive) British hunt cap William Fox-Pitt is wearing adds a few inches, William Fox-Pitt is extremely, and I mean EXTREMELY tall. Very pleasant and polite, too. His height only adds to my awe of his eventing accomplishments, because imagine the potential for lawn-darting when you're so far above the horse's back.

I made one last trip through the shopping area on my way out of the Games, stopping to admire these bracelets. Only slightly out of my price range, LOL.
After another very long walk, I arrived tired and happy back out front of the KHP where my friend would pick me up. I'll be seeing this sign again soon, though, and I can't wait!

Rolex, Here I Come!

Been a little busy lately, helping Son plan and carry out his Eagle Scout project. All went well and I'm extremely proud of him. However, my busy-ness has not prevented me from laying plans to finally, FINALLY make it to Lexington for ROLEX!!! Yahoo!
I wanted to go last year but started a new job in April, so leaving town for several days was not in the cards. So despite much hemming and hawing, rearranging and feeling guilty on my part, the tickets are bought for the weekend phases, the vacation from work is secured and the lodgings with my friend (same one who kindly housed me for WEG and the National Horse Show) set up. I've also notified a couple other bloggers of my acquaintance that I'd like to meet them there. Wendy (From Racehorse to Showhorse) and I got together the last time I went down to Lex, but I have not met Stacey (Behind The Bit) so I'm looking forward to that. Maybe I will trail around after her in the shopping venue watching her scoop up lots of goodies.
My own shopping is probably going to be limited to a Rolex t-shirt. I already have a cool hat from WEG, so I'll get a Rolex pin to add to my collection that I have on it (WEG pin and NHS pin). While I might not be actually buying much, you can bet I'm planning to try on or sit in some fun stuff, like helmets and high-end saddles. I've read that my bony rump will undoubtedly love the butter-soft environs of a CWD, for example, so maybe sitting in one isn't such a hot idea - I don't think a saddle like that is ever going to be in my budget, alas!

I debated a great deal over what ticket to purchase for the stadium jumping on Sunday. The most coveted seats are those close to the ring, but I finally opted for sitting up higher in the grandstand underneath the covered part. Rolex has a bad habit of being rainy and I didn't want an excess of water to spoil any part of my fun. I'll be sitting towards the in-gate end of the arena which I'm hoping will facilitate me being able to scoot over to the warmup ring, either during the competition or directly afterwards. As you will see in my next post - World Equestrian Games (WEG) Part 2 - doing the latter yielded some up-close and personal photos of Very Famous Eventing People, which was a lot of fun.
I have also gone all to pieces and purchased an actual camera. No more relying on my trusty iPhone for photography! My budget was miniscule, so it's nothing fancy, but I'm hoping it will be useful enough for some decent jumping and galloping photos. It does do HD Video so I'll be filming a bit, too.  Probably nothing will emerge as good as this...
but I will certainly try. I think my favorite part of watching eventing is seeing the enthusiasm on the horse's faces when they're going XC. My plan is to track down Wendy and her husband Matt and see what they are shooting. In case you think they don't know what they are doing, may I present the cover of the brand-new issue of Practical Horseman... photo taken by none other than Matt Wooley!
I'm just tickled for him and Wendy - it's actually his second Practical cover, too. Congratulations!