Mar 29, 2011

Pet Peeves

It has been gloomy, cold, snowy and very unhorsemanlike (made-up word) weather here in Nebraska. I have nothing to blog about that is horse related. But I do have something on my mind.

The phenomenon of Facebook has allowed us to communicate with the world in ways that we used to only do under our breath. Many times, that results in "vaguebooking".

Vaguebooking, by definition, is "an intentionally vague Facebook status update that prompts friends to ask what's going on, or is possibly a cry for help." I don't fall for those anymore because I don't believe that definition to be true. I think people do it just to get some attention or feedback.

Vaguebooking is just one of the things on Facebook which bug me. But it is like a soap opera. I keep going back for more. Outside of Facebook, there are other things that bother me. Some pet peeves, other things that just fall in the "annoying" category. I thought I would list ten which I could think of today.

1) People text me for the sole purpose of telling me to call them. Huh? If you picked up your phone to text me, why not just hit "call" instead! Don't put the onus on me to be the caller and look like the bad guys if I don't Call.You.This.Minute!

2) News videos without text. Scanning, I see a story that looks interesting and when I click, it pops open video. I don't have time to listen to some talking head telling a story. The headline caught my eye; the first paragraph will tell me if it is of interest to me or not. Don't make me load video AND watch a commercial to get to the point.

3) Passwords with a required length, capital letter, numeral and some sort of symbol – all in one. And then have the audacity to suggest it be something I can easily remember. Huh? I don't even know what half the symbols mean. I'm a horse person, not a nuclear physicist writing formula.

4) Placing my order on the drive-thru speaker of Burger King and being interrupted by the order taker before I finish speaking. I have 2 kids and a hungry husband; I have their order in my head and I am trying my best to articulate it. When interrupted to ask what SIZE of drink; I lose my entire train of thought. Would it kill them to circle back around to that at the end?

5) Raisins. They ruin good oatmeal cookies and bread pudding. And always seem to be a surprise.

6) Mini-vans. Enough said.

7) Horrific misspellings or grammatical errors. I'm not talking the occasional typo-o or writing "road" instead of "rode" in error. Or even those who use text words instead of complete words. I am talking to those who probably have a red line under every other word indicating a spelling error and hit "send" anyway!

8) Voice messages. Weird, since I recall getting my first answering machine and how I could not wait to see who called. Now voice messages bug me because I have to go listen to an annoying voice directing me to enter pass codes (see #3 above) to get a 75 second message which is going to require me to return the call and go through the same spiel. So between item #1, item #3 and this one, you can see that phones just really bug me.

9) Shaking hands with the congregation following "Peace be with you". I have just sat here for 30 minutes watching a mother blow her child's nose or some old fart scratch at the back of his neck at what appears to be a bug bite and now we are asked to shake hands. I'm no germ-a-phob; heck, I probably let the dog lick my hand before I left for church and at one time I WAS the mother wiping the kid's nose. But this tired old tradition just creeps me out.

10) When flying, a person sitting in the seat in front of me who feels they need to recline. Don't they know they have now put their head on my lap? I am one who likes to cross my legs. And I do. Ooops! Did I bump your head? Wake you up? Sorry. And I switch legs again.

Oh, there are more that I'll share on another slow blog day. Perhaps you have a few pet peeves you would like to share, too.

Mar 26, 2011

It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature

The week of Expo, the Big Fat Lying Weatherman (BFLWM) predicted a humdinger of a snow storm. The headline in our local paper read:

“Potent storm could bring foot of snow to Nebraska”.

It made good press because besides our little expo, the boy's state basketball tournaments were scheduled to start that week, bringing families in from all over the state. Around here, when its a slow news day, the press likes to report on the weather.

Do you know what we got for snow that week?


Feeling a bit cocky that our Expo went on despite the predictions of doom & gloom weather and I posted the following on Facebook. As you can see from the comments, I was warned.

Yesterday, without much hype or warning from the BFLWM, we woke up to about 4 inches of snow on the ground; the big, wet, sloppy stuff hanging from the tree branches. Having no place I really needed to go and no plans to cancel, I did take a moment to appreciate its beauty, hoping it would go away very quickly. But Nooooo! As if one day wasn’t enough, Mother Nature is giving us some more of it today. Windy is NOT happy. After a couple weeks of consistent riding, she is missing much of her winter coat. I’ll probably go out and blanket her this afternoon. Poor girl.

Yesterday, despite the snow storm, I hooked up the trailer to fetch Windy. She has been with Brenda Messick for two weeks, getting a spring tune-up, specifically working on collection when trotting and loping and lateral moves. I was thrilled with how far she had come last week when I went for a lesson and if I thought a week made a heckuva a difference, two weeks has been incredible.

In her indoor arena, Brenda demonstrated some of what they worked on this past week and then it was my turn to ride. Even as I am typing this, I am not sure I am going to post the video or not. When I rode my mare, it was like driving a new car with super-duper power steering or driving a stick shift for the first time. I can't explain it. It takes only the lightest touch with my hands or legs and Windy responds. I felt like I was learning to ride all over again. Once, on the video, Brenda asks me to post. I seriously did not remember how to even start the rhythm and certainly couldn’t hit the correct diagonal as I was trying so hard not to bump her with my leg or pull out on the reins.

What Windy has gained from these sessions with Brenda is a softness that I have yet to find with my hands. My horse is now light years ahead of me on the learning curve. And I am thrilled! I am looking forward to continuing lessons with Brenda. I still have so much to catch up on; so much to learn.

You can find Brenda's blog at Horses Are Our Lives.

Mar 23, 2011

This & That

In my quest to put as much time on Butter as Brenda is putting on Windy, I believe I am falling behind. Quite a bit behind. My evenings this week have been full of family or work functions, only allowing me a little time on Monday and it wasn't real productive. I did pull Blue out for a little workout. Then Case hopped on Butter and galloped her around the arena. I wish I was as comfortable on her as he is. We took the horses out for a little while and rode down our trail into the pasture.

Now the weather has returned. The bad kind. It is windy and cold and the weather bug says 33 degrees as I am sitting here. We have a fire going again in the wood stove. There is rain and snow conditions predicted the next couple of days and into the weekend. March weather is so unpredictable.

I did pull my big trailer out of storage this past weekend. Having it here at home makes me feel a little closer to spring. My calendar is filling up with riding plans – more than I can possibly do. But spring rains will dampen some of those opportunities. So if I can make half of them, I'll be doing well. Windy comes home from the trainer on Friday. All dressed up with no place to go… yet.

Mar 19, 2011

Getting Her Groove Back

As you may recall, I dropped Windy off with her trainer, Brenda Messick, on Monday to begin her spring tune-up. There were a few things specifically that I wanted Brenda to work on with her. First, being her lope. Simply put: she can be quite lazy and strung out. Now with all due respect to my horse, it’s kind of like disciplining a kid: once I let her get away with it, she gets a little attitude when I ask her to comply. So boot camp helps me to help her.

I also asked Brenda to work on her sidepass. I don’t know if it is my ask or her give, but we have a hard time keeping the back end moving with the front end. She also hasn’t had the best manners at the mounting block lately, so Brenda should keep that in mind while working with her as well.

As riders, we have all heard the saying “you are always training whenever you are riding.” I consider it more that I am applying what I know when riding my horse. I don’t know what I don’t know; and some of the stuff I do know, I have difficulty applying – so let’s just say some of us still need trainers. While I can say I ride a lot, my “training” is limited to what I know AND what I feel comfortable doing. There are some thresholds I am nervous about pushing her through and that is where Brenda fills the gaps.

I thought it would be fun to show you the pictures from her session yesterday. They speak for themselves about her progress under Brenda's program.

I love how collected she is in all of these pictures. And in the close-ups, you can tell that Windy is really concentrating on doing what is asked of her. You could see her ears flicking to Brenda's voice; listening for her cues.

And the best for last....

The video: By keeping her collected, you can see her really working her hindquarters. I just loved watching her movements. She looks like more than "just a trail horse" here! This, after just 5 days! Imagine if I put her in training for 90 days! Ah, but I'd miss her too much. When I rode her later that day, the feel of her under me was incredible. I hope I am able to do her justice when she comes home. She'll stay with Brenda for another week. I'm looking forward to my next session with her as well.

Mar 17, 2011

Back to the Real World

Months and months of preparation go into Expo and just like that, in three days, it is over. The first day post expo, we are high-fiving as we reflect on everything that went right. Then the next day or so, we start The List. You know those pesky items that didn't go so well that we can improve upon next year.

I took Monday off from work to recuperate from the long weekend. The only thing I had planned that day was to drop Windy off at my trainers, Brenda Messick. Some of you may be familiar with her blog Horses are Our Lives. Brenda has put some nice touches on Windy in the past. Then a year or so passes and I start to get a lackadaisical attitude; I'll give an inch and Windy will take a mile. Sometimes it is nice to just have someone else work with your horse and take the cobwebs out from between their ears. Specifically, I want Brenda to work on keeping Windy in a nice lope; she tends to drop out of it on a whim. I also have a hard time keeping her together in a sidepass. Those are just some of the things Brenda will work on and Windy will come home a better horse until I ruin her again. J

In the meantime, I am working with Butter. Actually, I probably should have sent Butter to Brenda's! Having been ridden primarily by my youngest son since he was 6 or 7 years old & Butter was 4, she has picked up some bad habits; gotten hard mouthed and is terribly buddy sour. What a treat to have these traits all show up in one horse. The lack of softness is what bothered me the most with her. When she gets pissy, I don't have any technique I can go to and bring her around. Pushing her will send her up in the front; if I try circling her and she fights the bit with all the pressure she can muster.

The first evening, I saddled her and put her in a snaffle bit. She was pretty hot, so I let her loose in the arena to buck it out and boy did she! I didn't want to give her that much room with me on her, so we moved to the round pen before I mounted. She was really worried about the herd and I could only take her a few steps away from the rail at a time; going one panel length further with each half-circle. After what seemed like hours, we finally made it around the perimeter of the round pen. I stopped her and started working on flexing her. Raising the rein to tip her nose toward me, releasing the moment she would release. Before long, she softened up to where she would flex almost to my knee. We'd circle again, stop, back and flex (big yawn). Now I know why I pay a trainer to work with MY horse.

Yesterday, we started in the arena and there wasn't quite as much sassiness as there was that first night. I swore I had worked her a half hour & glanced at my phone and only 11 minutes had passed. We did more of the same, this time trying to get her to move her hindquarters as well, hoping to accomplish some forehand turns. I did have better luck with pivots; it wasn't pretty, but she moved. I quit after 30 minutes. Not quite ready to go in, I saddled Baby (Gasp! Two rides so far this year!) Not that she is any easier of a ride, but I had a need for a little more activity so enjoyed posting her big trot for another 15 minutes.

Tonight I had a much better ride on Butter. I bought a different snaffle bit with a little better fit and she rode most of the evening on a loose rein. She only stalled out on me a couple of times and never pulled too many of her earlier shenanigans. I am in no way fixing all that is wrong with her; I don't know that I could. But I am getting some softness to her which will provide me with a much needed tool when she cops an attitude.

In reply to some of the comments from you all with regards to Butter getting cut from Craig Cameron's demo, I have to admit that I wasn't disappointed. Although he put on a great show during the Extreme Cowboy Race, his demos were a bit disappointing. He just didn't seem to be having any fun. He was snarky and appeared unengaged. A friend mentioned that perhaps he needs a break from people for awhile and I would have to agree. If you aren't enjoying what you are doing, what's the point? You also asked if he was successful with the horse that replaced Butter? Well, he got his attention after awhile but it wasn't in a way that the average Joe could work through it. But the horse was standing still and Craig showed this to the audience by standing up on the saddle. And then the horse moved. And Craig Cameron ate dirt at his last Expo performance of the weekend.

The weather here has been in the 60's! Of course there is wind to go with it, but it's better than snow and ice like Gray Horse Matters has been getting. Hopefully the nice weather patter will head her way.

Mar 14, 2011

Expo Recap

Where do I begin (name that song)?

This was my sixth year being on the Expo planning committee and I have to say that from an operational view, it couldn't have been better. Working with the same people for six years really helps develop a fine oiled machine. Not saying it wasn't without a snag here or there, but most of the time, resolution is quick and easy. (The above picture is of our expo chair, Cindy Vossler and her son, Colton, and our treasurer, Sandy Powell after a long first day.)

Our headliners this year were Van Hargis, Jimmie Munroe, Monty Bruce and Craig Cameron. Van was a return guest, having been one of the first clinicians I booked when I worked that area in 2006. He is as kind and gracious as he was then and from the audiences' feedback, he was once again received very well. His practical applications of horsemanship could translate into cow work, trail riding or showing. I believe he was the crowd favorite.

For those who don't know Jimmie Munroe, she is a champion barrel racer and instrumental in starting the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. I want to be her when I grow up. Since she isn't that much older than me, I had better start working on it! A kind, kind, kind lady, soft spoken but with a strong presence; all beautiful traits for any horseperson. I met Monty briefly, but unfortunately didn't have the opportunity to sit through any of his performances.

Butter was supposed to be in a Craig Cameron demo on "problem horse". She has a few, but what I mentioned to Craig is her lack of softness primarily due to being ridden by a kid all her life. He told me he "can't fix that in an hour" so Butter got pulled. Instead Craig worked on a buddy-sour Morgan, which I guess is fixable in an hour.

When we started planning Expo and had signed Craig Cameron, we really wanted to have an Extreme Cowboy Race (ECR), but were having a hard time getting the sign-off from Craig's people. So we went ahead and put it together as best we knew how & were ready to roll it out under another name when we got word that Craig was on board. In a little over two weeks, I had twenty some riders signed up and the Extreme Cowboy Race worked into the schedule for Saturday night.

The course was posted for contestants early Saturday afternoon and they were allowed to walk it on foot prior to the event. The goal was to successfully follow the pattern, passing through the 13 obstacles. Contestants were judged on each obstacle, their overall horsemanship and time.

I had a really good time leading up to the event; talking with many of the contestants via email or phone as they contemplated signing up for the event. Plus there were a handful of Horsetalers who also entered the competition. Logistically, I was nervous, because I scheduled it in an arena that doesn't have as much seating as the one we usually use for our Saturday night feature, but due to the obstacles, I needed to be able to shut it down for early set-up. We used ushers to seat people to gain the most use of the 1,000+ seats and for the most part, it worked out fine.

The event itself was exciting and entertaining. The riders are brave souls to want to get out there and try this with their horse and I admire their moxie. They rode hard and strong and should be proud of their try.

I was surprised and disappointed when Craig said the winners would not be announced until his first presentation the following day – that surely would not have been my preference -- but I was happy those top contenders showed up to receive their awards on Sunday morning. As planners we try to expect the unexpected, but sometimes we just have to roll with the flow. There was no way we could remedy this one on the fly. (Winners: Juanita Serafina & Karen Harris (tie for 4th), Shelly Henderson (3rd) and Bryan Schronk (1st). Not pictured, Dr. Barry Littell (2nd).)

After the event on Saturday night, we planned to have a little get-together with committee members, Horsetalers and friends. Although I helped arrange a room for the party, they surprised me with a birthday party. How fun is that! I love having a birthday at Expo time. And thank you all for thinking of me.

I took this morning off for a bit of reflection and recovery. It was a great Expo.

Mar 13, 2011

And the Winner Is......

There were 37 comments. I used the random number generator to pick my winner. It was..... number 21. The 21st comment was by Sarah Hansen!

Sarah Hansen... come on down.
You are the winner of my CSN Store giveaway!

Sarah lives here in Nebraska and is a fellow Platte River Rider and belongs to my Horsetales list serv. I just spent some time with her at Expo this past weekend.

Thanks, all, for your comments -- today & everyday. I enjoy reading them and getting to know more cyber friends. I am so happy you found me!

(Sarah, I'll email you the info tomorrow. Expo news coming soon.)

Mar 12, 2011

Expo – One Day Down

Its early morning of Expo, Day 2. I have a couple hours before I need to be over there; so enjoying some coffee and catching up on the news.

As far as Expos go, so far so good. There has been no major issues and everyone I have spoken to seem to be enjoying it. Van Hargis has had a real warm reception. He has been here before and was very popular with that country boy charm. I sat through some of Jimmie Munroe's barrel racing clinic and one of Craig Cameron's presentations. Still want to see Monty Bruce and there is still time.

There are a lot of great vendors. I bought a pretty bling belt and have my eye on a new saddle pad.

Butter seems unfazed by Expo. Before I left last night, I took her to the round pen for lunging. She was curious of all the excitement, but not spooked. Hope her attitude continues; I would hate to see her stress out.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway by commenting on the prior post. I'll draw for a winner tomorrow.

If you are in the Lincoln, Nebraska area – come on down to the Nebraska Horse Expo!

Mar 8, 2011

A Giveaway!

There are lots of things happening… First off, its Horse Expo week! Yeah! Starting tomorrow our volunteer staff start moving in vendors and equipment to be ready for the big spring event. Besides working Expo, I am taking Butter this year. She will work with Craig Cameron in his "problem horse" demo. Poor Butter. Poor Craig. But the rest of the time, I'll be walking the floors of Expo making sure my schedule stays on track and answering questions and directing people to venues and kissing horses' noses.

It's also a milestone birthday this week. But hey, it's only a number. I told a good friend recently that if the second half of my life is as good as he first half, bring it on! I used to say that I didn't feel a day over 28. Well, the kids have aged me; now I don't feel a day over 32. Horses keep me young.

So heading into my “golden years”, I will keep this thought in mind (crediting Jane Savoie):

Somewhere behind the rider I've become,
The trainers who pushed me,
The people who believed in me,
The long hours of schooling,
The falls I've taken,
The ribbons I didn't win,
The tears and broken bones,
And the horses I've given my heart to,
Is the little girl who fell in love with the sport
And never looked back.
I Ride for her!

A Gift for You

Just in time for my birthday, I was contacted by CSN Stores to provide a giveaway to my readers. Is that great timing or what? I have surfed through their online store and sure wish I would have found them when I did my home makeover last year; I found flat panel TV stands which would look great in our living room. CSN Stores have offered to provide me with a $40 gift certificate to award any one of my readers. They have a ton of merchandise for you to choose from; I am sure the winner will find something to enjoy.

How to Enter

To be eligible for this prize, simply leave me a comment telling me how you found my blog.

Did you follow my website to my blog?

Or click over from someone else's blog roll & if so, who's?

Or perhaps you Googled horse trails and got me.

No right or wrong answer, just curious how you found me.

I'll choose the $40 winner on Sunday, March 13

by doing some sort of random drawing or number generator.

Enter today & good luck!

Mar 6, 2011

My Favorite Place

This week's Sunday Stills challenge is to photography our favorite place. It was easier to think about that place than it was to get there to photograph it. But hey, it's a challenge afterall, so I ventured down the hill to my husband's shop. Scary, isn't it?

Once inside, I have to crawl over lawn mowers and around whatever car he and his buddies have torn apart today. Ah, but there it is. A bit of paradise tucked away for the winter.

So clean, so pristine among the oil stained rags and engine parts scattered upon the various work surfaces.

I open the door and peek inside. It's dark and cold. The battery was pulled for the winter. But the air fresheners strategically placed to combat the smell of a NASCAR pit team has prevailed.

My horse trailer. My summer home on wheels. My getaway. My favorite place.

Mar 3, 2011

Just What I Needed

The Nebraska Horse Expo is just a week away and there are still some loose ends to finish up for Expo and for work. I just hope I don't call one of our partner companies and identify myself with "horse expo" rather than my employer's name. The phone has been ringing so much lately on both accounts.

It's been a weird weather week. One day, cold and damp, and the next will find the temps creeping up to almost 60. I took off on one of those days. Had some Expo errands to run and then stopped at the DMV to license the new commuter car. By the time I got home, the wind had picked up and temperatures plummeted. I rode bareback in the arena for a little while, but it certainly wasn't what I envisioned earlier that day.

Today was another taste of spring and no wind! I went out to the corral to fetch Windy. Baby, our draft horse, walked toward me and then stopped in my way. I was going to move around her and then thought to myself "when was the last time I rode her?" I am guessing the summer before last? What the heck. She dropped her big head and neck as I slipped on the halter.

I tied her off while I got the tack. We don't have a draft horse saddle, but I use an Abetta with a fiberglass tree. It seems to be wide enough with a light pad. A few years ago McCain bought me a nylon headstall – lime green – for Windy. He didn't know it was draft horse size, so it became Baby's bridle. So with her lime green headstall and purple and blue nylon saddle, she certainly wasn't making a fashion statement but she did look dressed up enough to do the job.

I took her in the arena and unclipped the lead from the halter. Baby isn't particularly a tall horse; standing just under 16hh. But she is big and could be powerful, if she weren't overweight. So I wanted to take a little of the fresh off her before I got on. I clucked and started her free lunging; literally taking the buck out of her.

After about 5 minutes, I climbed aboard. I didn't have a mounting block, it was a big stretch, but she stood like a gentle giant. The stirrups were a tad short, but I wasn't getting down and doing that again, so we got by. I kissed her into a walk on the rail and she dropped her head and nicely collected herself. After a few laps, we moved into a pretty little trot.

She doesn't neck rein, so at first, any time I was turning her, it'd be with a plow rein. I started applying a little outside leg with the rein, occasionally touching her with my spur. Finally, by the end of the ride, she was moving as decent as can be expected, off my leg.

I didn't overdo it. She was working up a good sweat just the little bit we worked. But it was good for her and good for me to give her a little time every now and then. The ride was different than I expected to do today, but just what I needed in its own way.

(Jenn (at AK Pony Girl), I thought of you and The Mare today. She reminds me so much of my Baby.)