Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Happy birthday to me :)

Now those of you who know me irl or even who've been following the blog for a while (thanks for that btw!) might be questioning the subject line a bit because, well, traditionally my birthday falls in July.

And so it did this year too :)   But Stephy and Paula decided that for my birthday they would take me wardrobe shopping.

Now this too might raise a few eyebrows since it's generally reasonably well known that I have less than no fashion sense (yes this is possible -- whatever I pick is *worse* than whatever I started with; it's a horrible downward spiral) and I also despise clothing shopping.  So not something most friends would think of making a gift of.

But given how much I enjoy it (read avoid at all costs) an expedition was rather desperately needed, and at least with the two of them I was bound to spend most of the day laughing.   And Steph has more than enough fashion sense for just about everybody I know put together, so there was actual hope of coming out looking somewhat put together.

So this seemed like a good idea.  But in July, when my birthday actually occurred, Steph was busy dressing everybody in her extended family for her sister's wedding.  And August was crazy busy with showing.  And by September Paula was back at school.   So between the three of us, this was the first day we could all arrange.

Somebody asked me once how I keep any of my friends living the crazy schedule I do -- I keep my friends because most of my friends are the type of people who are as busy as I am!  hahaha so they get it.  And we just schedule each other in weeks in advance if we have to :)  It works.  For the ones who matter, it works.  And the ones who don't matter, well now they hardly qualify as friends do they?

Alright, so now we understand why I get a birthday in October.  And how shopping came to be a "good" thing...  hahaha

I taught in the morning so Stephy came and rode as well.   Paula joined us at the barn and I took them and Hailey over to see the new place (ummmm more about that in its own post :) -- gorgeous day out, seemed a good time to show them around :)  

So we dropped Hailey back at the current barn after our exploration and headed out shopping -- but like all dreaded things, shopping is to be avoided till the last possible second.  So lunch came first :)   mmmmmm yummy lunch.   Of course after lunch I felt more like a nap then shopping, but Steph was energized enough for all of us so off we went.

And it was surprisingly painless.  Paula and I mostly wandered and mocked the more horrendous fashions, while Steph bravely disappeared into the darkest depths of the store, every once in a while popping out to hand me something and let us know she was still alive, before disappearing again.

Every once in a while I'd get shoved into a box to try on a mountain of clothing -- and trust me -- this is a mountain I've no interest in photographing much less climbing!   But being the good sport I am, I went along with this with only a modicum of whining >;-P  Met one sales lady who was a bit of a nightmare, but other than her they basically all took one look at Steph on a mission and left us alone -- I'm sure they were looking at me and being eternally grateful I'd brought my own personal shopper and they wouldn't have to try to fix my lack of fashion.

Sadly, our shopping expedition was cut 3 or 4 stores short by them closing.  awwwww.  I was devastated, let me tell you.  Or, you know, grateful.  I always get those two words mixed up.  English is a tricky language after all *g*

So in the end I had a reasonable collection of clothing that means I don't have to do this again soon AND it actually looks good :)   So Stephy saved my first impressions *g* and I'm good to go.   Sweet.

Now no birthday is complete without ice cream.  This might be a July thing, but I argue it holds for all times of year.  So we def needed to detour through a Baskin Robbins for ridiculously sized ice cream.  mmmmmm ice cream...

So reality entered in for a bit and we went back to the barn to take care of the horses.   Fastest night check EVER.  But having three people who know what needs to be done and can divide and conquer helps a lot.  Horses fed, watered, wrapped and blanketed in like 15 mins.

Why the rush?  Well cause Stephy and I had decided while sitting in BR that we wanted to go to the movies.  The movie that started an hour and 15 mins after that conversation.  While we were 30 mins away from the barn that's 20 mins from the theatre.  AND needed gas.  And when I got to the gas station the pump wouldn't work because the attendant was on his own planet and neglected to push the button till I got annoyed enough to push the call button and wake him up.  So yeah, little tight on time.

Paula decided she had to be all responsible and go home and study or some foolish thing like that, so *after* helping with chores (cause that's the kind of girl she is) she totally ditched us (cause that's the kind of girl she is :)

So Stephy and I made it to the theatre right about 7:15.  Bought our tickets and junk food (cause you know, we hadn't had enough of that yet) and got seated just as previews were starting.  Perfect timing really.

Movie was Footloose and it was SO much fun.  I wasn't really expecting to enjoy it all that much, but it seemed the right flakiness level to finish off a fairly silly day.  But I really enjoyed it.  Up there with Grease or Dirty Dancing in the dance-chick-flick category.   Just leaves you smiling and feeling like blaring the music on the way home.

Which is precisely what I did.

So thank you ladies for such a fun birthday!  And a lovely deviation from my usual reality :)

All you Need to Know about Government Bureaucracy:


Pythagoras theorem: ...........................................24 words.
Lord's prayer:....................................................... 66 words.

Archimedes' Principle: ........................................... 67 words.

10 Commandments: ............................................  179 words.

Gettysburg address: ............................................   286 words.

US Declaration of Independence : ....................       1,300 words.

US Constitution with all 27 Amendments: ..........      7,818 words.

EU regulations on the sale of cabbage:.......              26,911 words.


Sort of puts things in perspective doesn't it?

Happy Birthday Mum!!!

Today my wonderful mother turns, as every woman must at least a few times in life, 29 :)

In related news, I've decided I need one of these tags for every part of life:















Happy Birthday Mum!   Love you :)

Thanksgiving Weekend :)

So Thanksgiving weekend was absolutely amazing!  Thanks tons to Hailey for looking after the barn for me -- greatly appreciated!

Weather was, well about as perfect as it gets really.  Bright, sunny and warm!
Temp according to my car :)

Went up to the cottage, one of my favourite places in the world to spend time, and got there in time for an amazing dinner :)   mmmmmm sooooo much good food.  Sweet!
What can I say?  I was HUNGRY!
So anyways the whole weekend was just about perfect.  Relaxing and fun and good company.  Finally had a chance to play with my camera a bit :)  Pics will eventually be on FB, but it's currently not letting me u/l anything.  Boo.  Anyways - fav shot of the weekend:

Can't decide whether this one is cool, creepy, or both :)

Had a good laugh when we were out on the boat...  Knew where we were and how to get home, but not exactly how to get where we were going -- so don't they whip out the GPI (ummm that'd be official plural of GPS :) on the various iphones.  Out in the middle of a lake in the middle of nowhere - staying at a cottage with no electricity - yet somehow the smart phones save the day.  And sure enough, they got us where we were supposed to be going :)


Ugh - sorry about the orange -- pc I'm on has no editing software.  Boo.  Maybe fix another day :)   But you get the point *g*

Had an even better laugh on the way home though -- didn't feel like sitting in crazy traffic, so pulled off the highway north of Barrie.  Now I know lots of ways home from Barrie, but they all start in the south end.  Pulled out my map book (remember those?  pre-nav/smart-phones/etc...  pieces of paper all bound together -- they have images of maps on each one and you have to flip between them to follow any particular road :) anyways - planned my new route, stopped for gas, and good to go.   Problem is, new route didn't go where the decade-old map book said it would.  Fail.  And at least two streets I was on had "turn here for road X" signs -- neither one of which led to road X.  Sheesh.   Anyways at one point I just had this feeling that something was very wrong and I was more lost than I should be...  Finally figured out -- the sun was on the wrong side.   I should be going south or west and the sun was on my left side at 4pm.   Fail.  So I turned around and went back to the last "turn here for road X" sign and basically ignored it and just kept driving.  Navigated by the sun till I found a sign pointing toward a town I knew was in the right direction and then followed that.   But at one point it hit me how sad it was that with all the technology we'd had on that little boat in the middle of nowhere, I was navigating using the sun >;-P   Sheesh.

I did, however, make it back with enough time to feed my horses *and* sneak in a short hack :)  Yeah me.

What did you learn today?

(from GRS blog :)

So they say you should learn something new every day.  They did NOT say it has to be something important.  hahaha and I freely admit that the VAST majority of the "something new"s I learn are, well, shall we say less than useful.  Often bordering on the edge of "waste of brain cells".

But today's  something new was reasonably entertaining.  Time will tell if it's actually useful or not, but definitely caught my attention.

So I was having a dressage lesson and we're trotting around our pretty little 20m circle.  Horse is through and connected and working hard and technically doing everything right, but we were missing the "wow" factor.  And honestly, I didn't think much of it, because I'm not even entirely convinced she has "wow" in her.  After Zel, my "wow" setting is kinda high - not necessarily reasonable for a teenage horse with tons of holes in her training who's not even really fit.

But regardless, I'm trotting around trying to gain a little more suspension and we've tried all the usual tricks (I'll tell ya - after last week's shoulder-fore through cavelletti exercise everything seems easy!) but the magic is somewhat lacking.  And then my coach comes up with the most random instruction I've ever heard:

"Make her outside ear go forwards."

Ummmm sorry?   I don't think I know the aid for that!  hahaha but he was on the edge of frustrated so I figured I'd better just figure it out...  Now Athena is very manourverable.  I can put any leg in any position you want it - shoulder in/out, renverse, traverse, head up/down forward/back, any combination of the above.  All no problem.  Admittedly the lateral work isn't competition quality yet, but at least the legs go where I ask them to :)   But move the outside ear forward?   I can get some horses to give me floppy ears, and I can almost always get them to flick their ears back on me.   But forward?

My first thought was to flick my dressage whip up in front of her outside eye -- pretty sure that'd work.  But also pretty sure that was *not* the look he was going for.  And he wasn't really feeling like tolerating me being a smart ass today so I quashed that plan.  Most days I can get away with it, but not always *g*

So I sit there and I fiddle and I play (getting such instructions as "not both ears, only the outside") and eventually by some fluke I'm quite certain I had nothing to do with (oh wait - take credit for flukes!  Ummm yes, I did that and I did it on purpose!) the outside ear flicked forward.  Cool.

But alas, was only for a stride.  Played around a bit and got it again, significantly faster.  And this time it held for a couple strides.  And those strides felt remarkably improved.  And then we lost it.

Rinse and repeat.

Eventually I get it for most of the circle.  And all of a sudden, with that outside ear pointing forward we have incredible suspension and this lovely floaty trot I didn't even believe she was capable of.  We found the "wow" factor.  And better yet - we could even repeat it going the other way!  Sweet.

Apparently that is, in fact, a fairly common side effect when you get all the aids together for brilliance -- the outside ear comes forward while the inside remains focused on the rider -- but this was the first time *ever* I've had a coach focus my attention towards that as the goal rather than the byproduct.   Interesting experience.

So now I've learned today that all my years of telling Stephy not to watch her horse's ears was apparently wrong -- she was just watching for the magic to happen :)

hmmmm or maybe not.

From what do pheasants feed?


So Wednesday was a brilliance or disaster kind of day...

Steph, the awesome student who came to help Hailey and I at Cedar Run despite the stupidly early start, had asked if I would take her out to school xc.   Totally reasonable request and, let's be honest, I *like* schooling xc - and if it's just one student, that means I *have* to ride too.  The things I do for my students :)

hahaha ok so where to go?  Well first we were going to go up to Myrddin and hop around there -- which would've been fine.  It's close, they have a ton of new jumps, and I know the property inside and out.  No problem.  Except that I wasn't thrilled with my last xc school, and since there's a very realistic chance this'd be the last outting of the year I wanted to make sure it was good.  And I wanted help.

So when we were up at Grandview I asked Bob if he could fit us in -- I usually go up there a couple of times a year for xc schools and it's always a good experience.  I love the variety of jumps and his coaching style - so it's a good combination.  And he's kewl with me bringing students along so that's always a plus too.  And despite short notice and a rather limited available timespan, he fit us in.  Sweet.

Loading Athena is always, ummmm, an experience.  *sigh*  But fortunately this time she got on with only minor grief - maybe 15 mins instead of 2h.   And Lissy's a pro so she just walked herself on and away we went.   On time even.  All good.

Until we're driving down Trafalgar and all of a sudden the truck and trailer start lurching in a big way.  And my digital trailer break readout starts jumping around wildly.   Not fun.   Get pulled over and stopped and go check on the horses.  Truck and trailer are still hooked up correctly; no warning lights or anything disconnected.  Horses are both shaking and clearly anxious (understandable - so was I!) but seem otherwise ok.  So we chill them out and then continue.  Stopped again right before getting on the highway just to check and both horses were once again calmly munching hay.   Strange.

Rest of the drive was entirely uneventful.  Got to Grandview and unloaded - both horses relaxed and happily grazing -- a HUGE difference from Athena's last outting!  Pull the boots off and...  Both of Lissy's hocks are scraped.  :(   Booo.   Not seriously enough to need stitches, but seriously enough that she's in no shape for a ride.  SO glad she had the boots on - can only imagine what would've happened without the extra padding!   No idea what caused it; my first guess was she tried to kick A and lost her balance.  Although my coach mentioned once he had a similar experience with a horse who freaked out when a bee got in the trailer.   I never saw anything but who knows?   What is obvious is that for whatever reason when we were going in a straight line at a consistent speed, all of a sudden all her weight went against the trailer door and her hind legs slid under her (think sitting).  Poor girl.   The trailer door is now seriously warped out.

Since she doesn't need the vet and movement will be better for her than standing and she's happy grazing along, I tack up Athena and we take both horses up to the sand ring.  I briefly considered offering Steph Athena since the whole reason we were there was for her to go xc, but both she and I know that my horse of choice has never been *her* horse of choice (and vice versa) and that her catch riding one of my horses on xc is likely to be ummmm less than successful.  

Start warming up and when Bob gets there, explain about Lis.  He takes a look too and agrees with her walking along and offers us cleaning supplies when we get back.  Sweet.  So I give the 30 second rundown on Athena's history, explain some of the challenges I've been having with her, and mention our goal of starting at PT next year and if all goes well upgrading to T mid-season.   He starts us out over a tiny show jump fence on the wheel of death, that grew every two or three laps.   It wasn't nearly as accurate as I'd like -- our wheel was somewhat lopsided at times!   But at least we started consistently hitting a distance and landing on the correct lead.  So that's a start.  Then had us do a mini-course (really mini - 3 fences set at about E height).  First attempt was rather disastrous.  Second attempt after he made a few changes to my position was brilliant.  We're either *really* on or *really* not.  hahaha.   And sometime before show season starts I need to shift the balance so that the ON is a whole lot more frequent!   But it was really great to have some feedback not just about her but about me.  Because obviously the better I do it, the more I'll be able to help her.  Most of the time it's all about training her but I really appreciate when we can fix me in the process *g*

Ok and out on XC.   Jump a few E fences with some discussion about how to get/keep her butt underneath her so we can actually get to the base of the fence with some power.  First course a little iffy.  Next one with the PT fences thrown in, much better.   Switch fields...

And leave my brain behind.  hahaha   Seriously.  Was embarrassingly bad.   Not the riding - that was actually mostly getting better.  No, what was bad was how *many* times I could jump the wrong fence.   So he set a course that included "go through the gap and jump the pheasant feeder".   Ok, now I have absolutely no idea what a pheasant feeder looks like.   M had one at her place that she called that -- I always called it a mushroom.  Mostly cause, well, it looks like a mushroom.  I know - I'm creative that way. Only problem?  No mushrooms in sight.   There's a round coup off on an angle that could be a mushroom-top flat on the ground...  There's a triangle house/coup like thing.  And there's a palisade.   Now the palisade is in the gap and has a slight drop to it (which was also in the instructions).  So I point - 'over there?' -- yes.  Ok fine.  Go jump my course.

"Great job, but wrong fence.  That one's much harder than what I wanted you to do."  hmmmmm oops.   "I wanted you to go through *that* gap," pointing to a different tree line, "and jump the pheasant feeder."

Oh ok, "the one over there?" I ask, pointing to the shortened mushroom.  "How do you get there?"   What can I say, it looked like an awkward line.   "Just follow the path," he told me with an implied "you idiot" hahaha.  Oh... Ok.   Off I go.   And it *was* an awkward line.  Very awkward.  And we landed slightly out of control.   But eventually got it back together and finished the course.  

Return to coach.  "You really don't want to jump that pheasant feeder do you?"  Frig.   Only one fence left.   And I can see how both ways I was pointing would've seemed like I was pointing at it.  And sure enough there is a *much* easier approach to it with a newly mowed path.   "I was *trying* to make it easy for you..."  Really, at that point there's no way to salvage the situation -- although now I know that pheasant feeders can be round OR triangle shaped, but they always have the mushroom post under them *g*.  There's your educational moment for the day.  And for the record, we jumped it beautifully.   We also got a TON of practice with the icky turn to the sharkstooth that we did following each of the wrong jumps *g*   So when we see that on competition, we're set!  hahahah   But I can't remember the last time I went off course, so to do it twice in a ROW -- when there are only 3 fences to choose from at that -- well that's so bad it becomes funny.   Only saving grace is that Bob's taught me before and knows I'm not *usually* a complete idiot.  >;-P   That and at least I made *different* mistakes each time.  Points for creativity!  Hey - I'll take em where I can get em.

And on the plus side - I got to jump several extra fences, one of which was an ok size.  And that's the first palisade I've ever done with her too.  Yeah us.

On to the ditch.  Which she shows no fear at but goes through rather than over.  hmmmm less good.  Try a couple more times and she does it better each time.   Was having some control issues at this point, esp going downhill, but they're flatwork not jump related.

Alright, on to the bank.  A couple E fences spread out to get us going then up the bank and back down again.  No prob.  Except that 3 strides in front of the first E fence she grabbed the bit in her teeth and nosedived.  Yeah - a little terrifying.  It took me a good 10 strides to get her back after that (that may not seem like much, but it felt like forever!  And if there'd been a second fence 2 strides later, we would've been in serious trouble).  Show jumped the second one - it was beautiful, but really I rode it like stadium rather than xc.  And the banks both ways np.   We got a new course in the same field but with all the PT fences instead of the E fences.   The jumps rode well and I was starting to find the right balance there, but the in-between was a battle and a half.  That whole big loose-ring snaffle thing again.   Doesn't give you a ton of power when your horse turns into a runaway freight train.  Ah well >;-P    Cantered her over the T ditch a few times - perfect.  She learns fast this one.

But at this point, while clearly the adrenaline was still there, she was lagging.  So I mentioned to Bob that I didn't have much horse left and we shortcutted the rest of the random jumps (which, let's be honest, she'd've done just fine) and headed over to the water.   Water will be an interesting challenge for us I think.  She goes in just fine, but can't seem to figure out how to *keep* moving once she's in there.   We jumped in and out over a little stad fence a few times, but the jump in, canter through, jump out....  Well I never did manage to maintain the canter all the way through and the jump out out of the trot was, shall we say, less than pretty.  *sigh*   So we got a good effort and left her on that.

And pretty clearly if we can get our act together in the other two phases as well, PT will be a totally appropriate starting place next season.  So pretty stoked about that.

Head back to the trailer, give Athena a bath (with only a *minor* meltdown at the washstall), then trade horses with Stephy and cold hose Lissy's hocks (she was not thrilled at that, but not horrid either).  Then thanks to Bob and Sarah got her cleaned up and thoroughly slathered for the ride home.

Have to admit I was a little concerned.  How to load these two horses with only two people?   I usually like to load Athena first so no horse is trapped in the trailer while she plays her games, BUT it takes two people to load her.  And with the trailer ride up being so scary, I wasn't sure either one of them would be willing to get back on *sigh*.   So I decided to try Lissy first -- she's such a sweetheart.   And she thought about it for a second, but then she followed me on, quietly as could be.   Athena took a while longer, but even from her there was no drama (now to be fair, she was *rather* tired at this point :).   Both horses loaded and treated and we could go home.  

Fortunately without incident and they both unloaded beautifully.   I did call the vet the next day for Lissy, just to be sure.  He agreed that it was superficial and put her on just-in-case antibiotic and anti-inflammatory meds.  Figures she'll be good to go early next week.   Phew.

But yeah - best xc ride of the summer for me and got some much needed fine tuning.  So pretty excited about that :)