Winter woes in Cajun land

Winter has finally arrived in Louisiana. In fact, we had a snow day yesterday. I think we got about 1/4″…and they closed schools. Of course, it was all melted by 9am.

That snow had me feeling grateful for my new stalls, though. Chip grew a full blown winter coat sometime around mid-October and was sweating his butt off (literally) just standing in the pasture. And riding in 80 degree temps with a winter coat…well, that just wasn’t working out, so he’s been body-clipped for a couple months now. Not to mention, we’ve finally got his feet in order, so it’s awesome to have stalls for the ponies every evening.

Blanketing is still an issue, though. Our temps can drop into the 30s at night and back up into the 70s during the day. Each morning I agonize over whether to let him freeze in the morning so he’s comfortable during the day, or be comfortable in the morning and sweat in the afternoon. I wish I could run home at lunch and adjust his blankets, but that’s not an option. Anybody else have this issue? Drop your suggestions below–I greatly appreciate it!

Anyway, check out the Product Reviews page–I recently ordered a Kensington stall guard from SmartPak for Chip’s stall. Spoiler alert: I loved it so much, I ordered one for Wynni’s! And, Chip also reviewed Snaks 5th Avenchew Unicorn treats.

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Make the world your happy place

I’m gonna let y’all in on a little secret: I do NOT have my shit together. Not even close. Every morning when the sitter arrives, I apologize for the disarray that is my house. I mean, she’s used to it by now, but I’m still mortified every morning.

And I just might be the worst sales person on the face of the planet. Let’s face it, I’m not selling ice to an Eskimo any time soon. I might be able to talk him into a nice parka, but that’s only if they’re on sale. (Given that I work in insurance sales, this does not bode well for a successful career.)

And then tonight, I had a horrible ride on Chip. He was so tight and full of tension and yet still lazy (HOW is that possible?!?), and try as I might, we never really did get a relaxed, swinging back. Oh, we got some relaxation, but it was meh at best.

I know some people look at me and think I’ve got it altogether. I know this because they tell me so. Let me reiterate: I DO NOT HAVE MY SHIT TOGETHER. However,  I AM so incredibly blessed. There’s a lot I don’t have, and I still have wants and desires that I’ll never be able to afford, but I’m happy with what I DO have. And that’s the key. Be happy with what you have. Focus on the positive. Build each other up.

As an Army wife, most of my friends are spread across the country. Social media is often my only source for connection with other equestrians. I recently discovered a couple of small businesses operated by some amazing women, and I applied for an ambassadorship for their companies. I actively seek small Instagram accounts and write at least one encouraging comment on someone’s post each day. This small step brightens my day, and it’s made meaningful impact in my life.

So that’s my challenge to you: Find the positive in your life, and share it with others. Let’s make this world our happy place.

The circle of death

Sometimes the answer to a problem is so simple, you overlook it.

Yesterday, I made my mecca to Holly Hill to get Chip’s monthly pedicure. Since it’s a 2.5 hour one-way haul, I try to make it a worthwhile trip and squeeze in a lesson or a XC school. I try to stick with the same instructor, so we can have continuity, but Julie was at a horse show. I was contemplating a hack instead with Amy when a lady walked up and asked if I was the one looking for a lesson. I affirmed, yes, I was seriously needing some stadium help. When she said, “well, I haven’t drank my beer yet, so…” I knew she was my kind of instructor. I told her I was fine with her drinking while she taught–who am I to deny her a cold brew on a hot Saturday afternoon?

Stupidly, I had decided to wear shorts this morning & planned on changing into my breeches when I got there. And then even more stupidly, I walked around and got hot & sweaty before changing. So, there I was, in the back of my trailer (because that dressing room gets freaking hot if the a/c isn’t hooked up), balanced on my toes, trying to shimmy into full-seats without falling over. Y’all, I love my Kerrits Sit Tights supreme, but stuffing my sweaty legs into those tights took me longer than it did to tack up my horse.

Chip was pretty anxious out in the ring. There was a lot to look at & he was the only horse out there. Since he wasn’t eager to stretch right out & walk on the buckle, I picked up the contact and immediately began asking him to step into the connection. Unfortunately, he was so distracted by everything around him, he wasn’t really hearing me. As I was about to begin my typical fix for that, EI (eventing instructor–I didn’t ask her if I could publicly announce her name on the world wide web) asked me if I’d ever ridden the circle of death.

It probably goes without explanation, but, on the off-chance you live in the barren lands without instruction (been there myself), you might just not know what the heck the circle of death is. And it probably sounds pretty intimidating. Will I die? Will my horse die? Ultimately, it’s just 4 poles on the ground (or small jumps) placed in a circle. And you ride that circle. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, that simple little exercise shows you really quickly if you really have your horse on the aids.

Circle of death

We started off just on a small circle, and EI had me supple Chip by simply moving his shoulders in and out of the circle with some counter-bend thrown in there. Chip quickly got the gist and finally relaxed, so we moved onto the circle of death.

I very quickly realized that I wasn’t looking around the circle, focusing too much on the oncoming pole and not planning ahead. This resulted, as EI observed, in a square, rather than a circle. By looking ahead and working on keeping the bend, rather than worrying about where the poles were, my circle improved dramatically, and it was time to move to the canter.

Luckily, Chip, like most OTTBs, has a great canter, so after a few trips around, EI told me to break off and hop over a small vertical off the left lead. We had a beautiful canter all the way. And then….I saw the long spot. WE HAD AN ENTIRE STRIDE LEFT AND I LAUNCHED MYSELF UP MY HORSE’S NECK. And Chip being the superstar pony, who was going to be so sweet and put in that stride said, “well, ok, mom, if you think we take off here, I’ll jump.” I should’ve ended up on the ground. Instead, we cantered off on the other side. I was mortified.

So, EI pulled the top rail off and set it as a placing pole. And this time, I told myself, no matter what, I would not jump ahead of my horse. And I didn’t. But I still threw my shoulders ahead like we were jumping a grand prix oxer instead of a 2′ vertical.

We swapped to the right lead. And this time, as I cantered up to the fence, I told myself to just wait. Lol, and so did EI. I could hear her shouting, “wait! Wait! Wait!” with every stride. I didn’t worry about the distance, I just kept Chip’s canter steady and waited. And, IT. WAS. BEAUTIFUL. So we did it again. And EI asked me if Chip had enough left in him to ride a small course. He did. So we did. And we jumped around in a quiet hunter canter, and I only threw my shoulders forward once.

I have lessoned with some pretty famous instructors: Lucinda Green, Jimmy Wofford, Stephen Bradley, Kristin Schmolze…and they’ve all put a grid in front of me. And grids work. They definitely have their place. But sometimes, it’s the simplest solution that has the most effect. Fix the canter, and the jump will happen.

My take home lesson was to keep the canter quality and then just sit and wait.  The quote of the day was, “When you think it’s time to jump, you still have another stride.”

The Cajun Eventer Series, Transformation Tuesday (blog 3)

So here we are in May, and I’m now avoiding Facebook because the sight of so many friends in full-swing competition season is utterly depressing. I’m so happy for their successes, but it’s killing me to be so out of the loop.

Area V has, oh, about 7 horse trials a year, maybe. Probably 5 of those are within a reasonable driving distance. We missed the two this month because Ryan’s in the field. (His new job? In laymen’s terms, he’s an observer-controller for troops training for deployment–to sum it up, he’s gone. A LOT. Like, I’m effectively a single mom for weeks at a time.) That means we have to wait until September for the next recognized horse trial. Which, tbh, is a good thing, as we’ve not schooled XC since we left Aiken.

If you’re not familiar, Chip was a sales horse that I fell in love with and decided to keep as my own. (Made possible by a very gracious Lara Anderson, who deserves a blog post of her own) We’d capped off the season with a successful run at training level at Pine Top before I finished out my pregnancy, and then started back at BN to rebuild his fitness and confidence once I’d had Reagan.

But now we’re in no man’s land, and I’m reverting back to amateur status because I’m working a *normal* full-time job.

I’m trying to figure out how to ride when Ryan’s gone. I lose so much progress when he’s in the box because I can’t exactly leave Carson to baby-sit the baby. If any working moms have any suggestions, I’d be glad to hear them.

I did get to ride nearly the whole month of April due to a break in the training cycle. Here’s the difference two weeks in work makes:

I did make acquaintance with another eventer in the area through my Area III connections, oddly enough. Funny story how we met, but that’s another blog. Chip and I have a date to meet up at her place to XC school next month–it’s only a 3 hour drive, LOL. (If you missed the previous post, EVERYTHING is a 3 hour drive down here.) We’ll use that to gauge our progression & the next weekend is a schooling trial, where we’ll run at BN just to get Chip’s feet wet, literally and figuratively, as it’s been several months now since we’ve run a trial.