Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tired and still so much to do!

Well I got nearly everything I needed to do today, done. First of all, I am so grateful for my wonderful friend Karen, she was such a huge help today.

I got off work mid-afternoon, after a trip to the greenhouses to grab some plants to beautify our booth. Well in my usual fashion "some" plants turned into LOTS of plants. A pot of pansies, a couple planters with petunias, a hosta like plant, some sweet smelling purple stuff and pussy-willow branches, and some cut flowers for a bouquet. Karen and I got her trailer all loaded up this afternoon and then we were off!

We lucked out because our booth was really near to the front doors where we had parked so we didn't have to cart everything very far. We got all of the big stuff in, pictures up, flowers in, carpet down, saddles on the stands and the mannequin dressed. Looks pretty darned good! I'm really proud of it. Tomorrow morning we'll finish it all off and then hopefully things will go smoothly! Just have to finish putting some photos up, set up the slideshow and perhaps do some last minute re-arranging.

I should have bathed Brigit tonight but I was honestly just too tired. So that means I'll get up early, bath, finish my laundry, pack and then load up and go again.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lots to do!

This week is going to be almost entirely devoted to preparation for "The Mane Event". Which is a big horse expo that happens once a year. You might remember that I rode at the Mane Event last year but ended up doing it by myself.

This year, we're going all out! A bunch of other ladies are joining me and we have several demo's throughout the weekend, as well as having a booth devoted to sidesaddle. Which means I've got a list a mile long of things to remember to do before hand and things to remember to bring. Luckily we'll only be 45 minutes from home if I do forget something and need to run home for it. We head up there to get set up on Thursday night....

Which means I've got two nights.... Oh wait... I'm teaching pony club on Wednesday... Ok one night to ride, bath, clean tack, get my stuff ready, pack the trailer etc. AHHH! LOL Nah, I think I've got a good handle on it actually, although I do have moments of feeling a bit overwhelmed with it all. It'll all work out though I'm sure.

We're planning on making our booth look like an old fashioned tack room. I found a used (aka cheap) rug that looks old & antique-ish. We have a plethora of saddle stands so we can cram as many saddles in there as possible. I've got some plants to spruce it up. A mannequin (or two) to dress up. Folding chairs & stools. A sidesaddle table cloth. I've printed off a bunch of photos to put on the walls and have a CD of photos for a slideshow. And I'm working on some descriptions for the saddles to give people an idea of the history and uniqueness of each saddle.

Any other ideas? Things I should bring or do?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Nice day for a walk..... Back to the barn....

Had a lovely ride down the ride in the sun yesterday. Brigit has some front shoes on now so it's a little easier to tour down the gravel roads without sore feet.

So the ride away from the barn was lovely.... Buuuut the ride home, not so much. We had a full on battle/melt down because "somebody" aka Brigit would NOT walk. Instead we had prancing, dancing ridiculousness. There really isn't any reasoning with the horse when she decides she wants to go home and NOW. So rather than letting the battle continue and being frustrated and ending up with sore arms, I got off and walked 1 mile home. And we walked at MY pace.

It was still a nice day for a walk! lol

Friday, April 22, 2011

My brain is TIRED!

So glad it's finally the weekend! Today is "officially" a holiday here but instead I signed up for a coaching workshop this week. It was fantastic and I sure learned a lot and met some great people. We worked on analyzing performance of both dressage & jumping horses & riders. Talked about how to develop mental skills (a bit of sports psychology) and designing a yearly competition plan and all kinds of other things! It was LOT all crammed into 20 hours but I'm sure glad I went!

Last night we had our first night of pony club lessons. 16 riders and their horses came for an evaluation so I can figure out where to group them for lessons. We sure have a mix of riders, right from very little, leadline kids just starting to ride all the way up to more advanced girls that have been riding for forever. It was a great night. We are so lucky to be able to use the arena that we do, it's huge and has skylights so it's nice & light... The only issue is it's so big I'm pretty "hoarse" by the end of the night from trying to talk loud enough! lol

One of the ladies I met at the workshop is a high level eventer and since I know very little about cross country jumping & fences, I asked her if she would come up to do a clinic or if we could come down to her. She thought that sounded like a fantastic idea and is excited to do it! I'm excited too!

The weather here has FINALLY smartened up and our snow is melting! I even have a few crocuses blooming in the front yard!

Anyways, it's time for a brain break, I'm off for a ride in the sunshine!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Our first dressage show!

I've officially followed in a few fellow blogger's footsteps and delved into the world of dressage. We've been practicing our test (Training Level Test 1)for the last couple of weeks and we've had some up's and down's at home. I really wasn't sure how it would go but I figured, well I'm entered and paid up, I'd better go. Our trouble spots have been the canter to trot transition and the stretchy trot & walk parts. The trot tends to be a bit too fast (in my opinion anyways) and the walk is not so straight and not as stretchy as it could be.

The cheap side of me originally planned to trailer down the morning of the show. Then I got to thinking.... Our first class was at 7:50 am.... How early am I going to have to get up?? Ick. So I coughed up the $ and trailered down the night before. It was a REALLY good idea because it SNOWED a bunch more overnight and wouldn't have been the best drive down. Plus it gave me the opportunity to school in the arena the night before, which was good because Brigit thought the fake flowers that decorated all of the letter cones were TERRIFYING at first. Once she got over that, we had a lovely, relaxed ride. The arena has this neat footing, it's white silica sand & cotton fibre so it feels really nice & springy to ride in! I'm also glad I went down the night before because I had lots of time to get Brigit and all of my stuff ready, much more relaxed than trying to come down the morning of.
I have to say, there are benefits to riding in a small arena all the time. You really learn to use your arena and go deep into corners. The ring was HUGE compared to ours at home, Must have been 20 m by at least 60 m or more. It was awesome to have some more time to get organized in between some of the movements (ie the canter half circle, to the trot, to the stretchy trot circle).

I didn't sleep well at all, I kept trying to remember the directions to get back to the barn from my friend's house (where I stayed the night) and I kept running through the dressage test in my head.

On to the show! So we show up for the warm up at 7:00 am and this time we're sidesaddle and everybody is looking. Now Brigit is ok with the fake flowers but she's terrified of the judges table....oh no. Back out of the ring to finish getting dressed and then we're in for the "Dressage Pleasure Hack". The class went really well but I had no idea what the judge thought of me riding sidesaddle. Turns out we got 2nd place! And the judge came up to me afterwards and said she was very impressed and she admitted that she had to check the rulebook because she's never had anyone ride sidesaddle.

Our next ride wasn't until 12:00, so I untacked & both Brigit and I had some breakfast. I learned a lot from watching everyone else's ride and listening to other trainers give their students tips. I noticed a lot of not-so-round circles and cut corners, something we've been really working on! The more I watched, the more confident I felt about our ride.

We got another warm up session before I went in for my test. I started at the far end and just wanted to focus on relaxation and that stretchy circle. I swear we almost had the heck/neck set of a reiner! Brigit was trotting and cantering around with her head nearly on the ground! Wow! ...And then we went to the other end of the ring and suddenly Brigit had decided she was terrified of the judges table...... Ooooh no. We're talking, totally counter bent, giving the hairy eyeball to the judge, going sideways et al. Oh well, not much we can do about it now! We walked up and down the holding area working on focus and a nice quiet halt and then it was our turn....

It felt like everybody came out of the barn to watch and boy was I nervous!! Our trot in and halt was great, except Brigit turned her head to look at something during the salute, darn! Brigit looked at the judges table a bit as we went past but was pretty good. I was so pleased with the whole test, our circles were round (although we need to work on our bend going to the right more), our transitions were dead on and smooth. The trot circle was SUPER stretchy and Brigit really lengthened out, the judge thought it was a bit rushed, which I agree but she was really reaching so I didn't fiddle with it too much. Considering it's our first test, I could't have been happier with it!
It's in my nature to pick apart my ride though and there's a couple places I'd work on improving. Our "free walk" across the diagonal wasn't totally horrible but I wasn't happy with it. It wasn't very stretchy at all and our pace was really inconsistent, something the judge noted too. After the free walk we had to trot at "C", right where the judge was sitting and all Brigit wanted to do was stare at the judge, she was totally counterbent and there wasn't much I could do about it without a leg on the right side! lol I could hear the judge say "resisting..." to the scribe as I went past. The rest went really well but by this time I was getting TIRED!

I was really pleased with ourselves! It went really smooth and only had a couple of minor hiccups. We got a big round of applause! I realized that were were up against some stiff competition and didn't really expect much in terms of placing considering it was our first time out. Because I teach riding lessons and do some tune up rides, I'm considered a pro, so I have to ride against the pro's (I don't mind).

Boy was I ever shocked & proud to hear that we earned ourselves 2nd place with a score of 65.208%!!!! Yay us!

I had a lot of fun at the show and I really understand why people love dressage! I think I may be hooked and will definitely be doing this again! The perfectionist in me loves the challenge of getting each element just right!

Unfortunately I have NO pictures of us!!! BUT there was a professional photographer at the show that takes amazing photos, I will be buying a few and I'll share them when I get them!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Field trip to the fish hatchery!

I have to say, this had to be one of the most interesting field trips I've been on yet!
The hatchery is run by the government and is used to stock lakes and ponds around the province to help create sustainable fishing. They mostly raise triploid rainbow trout.
Triploid (three chromosomes) rainbow trout are unable to reproduce, thus making it so they can't breed with native fish or become an invasive problem. To "sterilize" the fish and turn them into triploid fish, they are subject the eggs to a high pressure treatment.

We started off in the "egg" room. All of the shelves behind our tour guide contain little trays that are filled with fertilized fish eggs. They have fresh (cold!) water circulating through the trays to keep the eggs healthy. Someone has to go through each tray, every day, to pick out the dead eggs to keep them healthy. I think each tray contains somewhere between 5000-10000 eggs!

Then we moved into the fry area. (Baby fish are called fry) Each of these tubs contains up to 10000 fry. Everything is kept at specific temperatures (3-10 degrees celcius) to keep the fish healthy and growing.

Look at them all!

Once they get big enough, they move the fish into larger holding tanks where they live and grow big enough to be released. They're usually released when they're about a year old. One of these large tanks contains about 24000 fish.

We even got to feed the fish. I have to admit, we all reverted back to about 5th grade as we laughed and throughly enjoyed feeding the fish! They really get in a frenzy for the food.

Don't worry, they aren't crammed tightly into a small tank, they just like to crowd the areas where they know they'll get fed!

We even got to tour through the basement workings of the fish hatchery, the plumbing and cooling system is amazing!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What's white & fluffy and comes to visit in April around Easter???

If you guessed the Easter Bunny..... Well you're right but I was actually referring to THIS........

MORE snow. It's not very cold out but it sure is WET. I'm glad for my muck boots or I'd have wet feet today. All over the province there's flooding and this sure won't help things. It's melting pretty quickly but they're predicting more this weekend.

On a more positive note, look at how well my seedlings are doing!

The watermelon just sprouted (in the foreground) and from front to back in the planting trays you can see broom corn, canteloupe (not very good germ on these, only 50%), summer squash and lots of tomatoes. In the middle are zinnia & spring onion seedlings and at the back is the cabbage that I transplanted yesterday. I can't believe how much it's grown in only a day!! I think adding miracle grow to the water is definitely the key!
I can see I'll be doing more transplanting very soon!!!

I've got mini bell peppers and yellow cherry tomatoes planted too but they haven't germinated yet.... :S

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Show prep!

I need to remember to charge my camera for this weekend's show! For once I'm not nervous (yet) and feel like we're ready! I really believe the combination of the acupuncture, Adequan and getting teeth floated has done wonders! Brigit hasn't felt this relaxed and mellow in a long time. I was actually having to encourage her to pick up the pace a bit last night. Our test seems to be decent enough, although our stretchy trot circle is still giving us some troubles.
I fully don't expect to place a) because I'm riding sidesaddle, b) because I've never really ridden a dressage test before and c) because there will be a LOT of people there! But we're going for the experience, it'll be fun!

Lets hope the SNOW that they're predicting doesn't amount to much so I can get to the show and home without incident. Ick.

My habit is at the drycleaners and should be ready tomorrow or Friday. Brigit got a hair cut & whisker trim yesterday and is looking sharp and tack cleaning is going to happen tonight. I've realized leaving everything to the last minute isn't a good plan! Tomorrow is a bit of a write off as it's the first night of Pony Club lessons for the year. Excited and a bit nervous about that! There's 19 kids this year!!!

Still debating on whether or not to bath friday.... My lazy side says not to and my show-nut side says I should.

Seedlings seedlings everywhere!

I *think* I may have gotten a tiny bit carried away with my planting.... But oh how I love to watch all of the seedling sprout and get bigger. I'm very lucky to have a warm, bright spot to start seedlings this year, germination rates have been very good.

Thus far almost all of my tomatoes have sprouted; the striped paste, black krim and hawaiian pineapple. I planted some small yellow cherry tomatoes "Ildi" a week or so later so they've yet to germinate. All of the pumkins have sprouted and are HUGE already! I had to transplant them out of the starting tray already. I have two varieties, "Cinderella" and "Little Pump-ke-mon". No idea where I'll put them but that's besides the point. I started 6 of each for some reason, so friends will definitely be getting gifts of pumpkin plants among other things.

I've got TONS of zinnia, the spring onions are just starting to sprout, yellow zucchini, summer squash, cabbage and some broom corn are all up.

I also decided I was determined to try planting some melons this year! They likely won't amount to anything due to our short growing season but I can try! I have some yellow watermelon and cantaloupe started! I really hope I can get some fruit out of them!

Spring is slowly getting here, the grass is greening up in places and I can see hundreds of tulips bulbs peeking out of the ground...... But there's MORE snow in the forecast for the next week. Boo. I'm happy to have my little seedlings to tend to, it makes me feel like spring is here, even if it might not feel like it outside!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Annual tune up!

Poor Brigit had her annual vet check & tune up this weekend. She was none too impressed.
Well I think she enjoyed the acupuncture treatment, she suuuure was relaxed afterwards. She got a total of 31 needles and only had a few sore-ish spots but overall wasn't bad. More just a treat & maintenance thing now.
Then we did the shots. Brigit HATES shots and tends to tense up and flinch badly. She had two regular shots and then we gave her a shot of Adequan. I've heard really good things about it and thought it'd be worth doing now that Brigit's getting up there and we're planning on having a busy summer. You'd never know Brigit will be 18 this year and I'd sure like to keep it that way!
And we did teeth. I feel like a bad horse mom, I didn't have her teeth done last year but I really should have. She had some sharp points. I know better than to leave it for longer than a year!

Some of my lesson kids came down to learn about what the vet does. They all really enjoyed themselves and were fascinated watching our wonderful vet at work. They were really interested to look inside Brigit's mouth and see all their teeth.

Brigit got the day off to relax in the sun. I hope her neck isn't sore from all those shots! Poor girl. Better than getting sick though.

We FINALLY are having some spring like weather! Nice enough to sit on the back deck and enjoy a BBQ today and do some repotting of root bound plants. We have BIG plans for our back yard this spring too! Very excited to get started! Maybe all of the snow will be gone in another week....or so?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Love my saddle!

Last night I figured I needed to school in my sidesaddle, mostly for my sake and to get an idea of where we were and what needed some extra work.

I brought out the Aulton & Butler and I just love this saddle. The C&W is nice but this one is just "my" saddle. With the Cashel riser pad underneath is rides so nicely again. One day I'll save up the $ and send my A&B down to Lillian to have it re-stuffed and fixed up. For now this will do.

I don't know why but it seems that Brigit goes soooooo wonderfully sidesaddle. Some of the issues we have astride, completely disappear aside.

We're entered in a dressage show next weekend, doing the Training Level 1 test and I've been practicing lots! I doubt we'll place but I think we'll still put in a good test and enjoy ourselves. Our trouble spots are our trot to canter transitions, we tend to lurch into them with our head up and then settle into a canter. Our canter to trot transitions...Brigit would much prefer to just walk. And the stretchy trot circle is tough! But we're getting it.

I think I've also figured out how to JUMP!!!!!! HOORAY!!!! I shortened my stirrup up on hole (probably considered slightly too short) but it was so much easier to get my left thigh into the leaping head and maintain my forward position over the fence! I just trotted a few fences and cantered over one but I didn't get left behind once and my back isn't sore today! YAY!!!!

Monday, April 4, 2011

LEG! It fixes just about everything!!

So at my lesson last week the instructor was telling me to get my leg ON. I thought I had my leg on but once I understood what she was after.... I realized my leg wasn't "on" at ALL.

I've swapped to riding in one of my school saddles that has no knee rolls because I think my saddle is just too comfy and doesn't MAKE me ride correctly. The first day in the flat saddle, I felt like such a blob! But it's getting better & better as I ride more in it. I can actually FEEL that leg on or feel when it's not.

The more leg I added, the more awesome things got! Brigit's canter was more forward and regular, none of the head up/head down/head up/head down business! No discombobulated moments!

AND! The most amazing part was that we were able to get the stretchy walk AND trot!! I'd slowly let the reins slide through my fingers and she'd stretch waaaaaaay down. Hooray!!!

The weather has improved too! We're expecting a whopping high of +7 and it's bright & sunny out! Things should do a lot of melting this week. I noticed that the tulips right alongside the house are starting to peek out of the ground too!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Another snow day.....

We are yet again, the "victims" of another winter storm. Luckily it isn't very cold, only about 0 celcius but we sure are getting a pile of snow. It's starting to feel as if it will never end! We usually get some warm weather in March that melts all the snow and then another good snowstorm or two in April. This year we haven't gotten much warm weather so we still have mounds and mounds of snow. Does anybody from a warmer climate want to adopt me? I'll clean stalls! Dishes! Be a personal groom! Please?

Today I was supposed to head down to have a meeting with the other sidesaddle ladies that will be attending "The Mane Event" horse expo at the end of April. We needed to discuss what we were going to do for our demonstrations, what we all needed to bring and set some dates for practicing. The roads are just too bad today so we're hoping to do it tomorrow instead. It's definitely tricky getting everyone together considering our unpredictable weather and the distance between us.

I also decided, late last night that I was going to going to be brave and enter in the dressage show two weeks from now. EEEEK! They have a couple of flat classes and actual dressage tests. I entered in the "Dressage Pleasure Hack" (no idea what that is...), Road Hack and the Training Level 1 Test. I figured why not, might as well have a goal and something to aim for. I've never done a dressage test at a show before and only ever had a few dressage lessons, so this might be totally nuts but I guess we shall see!
The only part of the test I really have an issue with is "rising trot, 20 m circle at "A", lengthen reins and let your horse stretch down and out". Brigit is a bit too uptight to do that, especially if I'm trying to "post" the trot sidesaddle.... Hmm... Perhaps since I'm not going anywhere today, I'll go to the barn and practice, practice, practice!