Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Learning Curve

Zeus and I have been on the road (thanks to our trailer!) and we've spent the past few weeks going out and about, experiencing new places, jumping new jumps, and he's getting braver with every footstep. I couldn't be prouder of this guy.

In about 3 weeks, we'll be taking part in our first USEA Sanctioned Event together - his very first horse trial. This means we ride all three phases in one day: Dressage, Cross Country and Show Jumping. It's a lot for a youngster like Zeus, so we've chosen an event that's relatively close to home and is known for being inviting and a good experience.

Even though I train other horses for a living and teach other people to ride, one thing I am always trying to improve on is myself. How can I ride better? How can I be more effective not only with Zeus, but with all my other horses? And how can I ride Zeus so he is at the best of his ability and continues to grow?

Yesterday, my mom and I ventured up to Millbrook, NY, and I had a lesson with well-known upper level eventer Rebecca Coffin-Vickery. Rebecca has been in the sport of eventing ever since I can remember, she's always had a very solid reputation, and her results speak for themselves. Basically, if you're competing in the same division as Rebecca in an event, well...first place may already be spoken for.

Rebecca had asked me previously about Zeus, and I told her his history and what I've done with him thus far. She had a few other riders tag along with us so Zeus wouldn't feel that he was alone while we were working, and she herself rode another youngster.

Zeus surprised Rebecca by being alert but calm, and able to focus on his work even though he'd never been at this farm before - even after she told the other two riders that they could head back to the barn. We worked on a ton of things and I loved that she got specific - weight in my outside stirrup, shift inside hip forward....just tiny nuances that fine-tune a ride that make it transform from good to great. It was so intense that Mom commented later, "I'm not sure who worked harder - you or Zeus!"

I can't wait to go back for more, and am hoping I can squeeze in another session with her before our eventing debut.

At the end of our lesson, Rebecca sized up Zeus and said, "He really is a nice horse! He certainly has a good head on his shoulders and he works hard for you."

He certainly does.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Southern Belles & Wedding Bells

Last weekend, Matt and I left TMF in the very capable hands of our friend Carla, drove to Newark, and hopped a plane headed south.

It was off to the Knoxville, TN area for the Wedding of the Year!

That's right - Matt's brother Jeff finally decided to settle down with a lovely southern belle by the name of Wendy. I adore Wendy because she adores animals, and actually makes a living by rescuing dogs people no longer want, and finds them great homes. We need more people like Wendy.

It was expected to be wickedly hot, and it actually was quite lovely - even though it rained a good portion of our stay! But, the clouds cleared and the sun came out just in time for the nuptials. Good thing, since the ceremony was held outdoors!

And now, a photo montage for your viewing pleasure:
My nephew CJ, niece Hannah, and nephew/ godson Jackson. I find it slightly hilarious that there's a sign that says "WEDDING!" with an arrow behind them. Really? I thought they were heading for some NFL tryouts or something in those getups.

Here's awesome hubby Matt with Mom-in-Law Kathi. We heard all about "the last wedding," which happened to be ours, the photographer was busy taking photos of the church windows and the carpet and stuff that he forgot to take photos of the moms coming down the aisles (I can see my own mom nodding her head in agreement while reading this!). So Kathi requested that someone please please please take a photo of her coming down the aisle with Matt. You'll notice sis-in-law Ba also whipping out the camera, so pretty much our entire side of the aisle was going all paparazzi in order to capture this moment. Don't you just love her hat, by the way?
Ahhh, happiness. I love it. The bride admitted to being really nervous, but as soon as she reached the end of the aisle, all was well. These two even cracked some jokes up there and seemed to really enjoy the ceremony, which of course made the rest of us enjoy the ceremony.
One of Wendy's dogs was also a guest at the wedding, as well as an honorary flower girl/ angel/ pup of honor. Mya was a very good girl and while she was interested in snuffling/ eating the flowers and not terribly interested in sitting still, she was an essential member of the wedding party.

And she ate all the chicken fingers the kids didn't want at the reception. Now that's not being wasteful, way to go Mya!
The vows. Too cute. The minister looks like he's plotting a bank robbery.
Smooches! These two do not take passion lightly, let me tell you.

Oh! And the minister is off and running, exit stage right!

I realized once we got home that it doesn't even look like I attended. There are no photos of me! How could I forget to get a photo, of myself, in Tennessee? I was so busy taking pictures of everyone and everything else. Ah well. I think the professional photographer got some pictures, so we'll soon have proof that I was, in fact, there!

Some other fun stuff from TN:
I love that they call that run-down pile of wood a "mall."

There was a strip of road, I think in Pigeon Forge, that was like a mini Vegas without the gambling. It was the most peculiar thing - one moment there are cows, shanties and antique tractors, the next moment you come upon this.
I have no idea what's in there. Or if it's right side up.
And somehow the Titanic managed to make its way to Pigeon Forge. Oh look! There I am! In the side mirror!
The Titanic just isn't complete without a glacier and water splashing at the front of it.

Evidently, the Hatfields and the McCoys have since made up and taken their drama on the road, and are now making one heck of a profit. Good for them, I say!
One of the best things about our trip, aside from spending some quality time with family, was the view from the gorgeous (and giant) log cabin we stayed in. Purdy.
Ok, so maybe the term "cabin" doesn't apply. Log mansion? I also like this photo, with the view and Hannah and CJ on the couch, detoxing from the wedding excitement.

Good times in Tennessee. And congratulations to Wendy and Jeff!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Tadpole Relocation Project

Let me start off this post by saying....we are suckers.

Big time.

We are now deep in the throes of summer. Do you remember all those whiny posts earlier in the year about all the snow? And then the rain?

Well, all of that water accumulated and resulted in a miniature pond at the lowest point in one of our fields.
"Oh darn, left my snorkel back in the barn again..."

Topaz loves to make a cameo.

Anyway, that little pond was much bigger a few weeks ago, but with the sunshine and warm temperatures, it began to shrink. It wasn't until the size got smaller that I decided to wander over and check it out.

And there were little living creatures in it.

Tadpoles had taken up residence in there, and their negligent parent frogs had just left them in there to essentially roast in the sun. We're talking hundreds upon hundreds of tadpoles, swimming everywhere! Matt said, "What are we going to do? We can't just leave them in there to boil!"

Like I said, we are suckers. Enter buckets and a few fish nets from my days of tropical fish.
"I'm going in!"

We're ready!

Here are the little darlings (ew) swimming around in a bucket, no idea how close they were to perishing. You're welcome.
The Tadpole Taj Mahal

We moved them to our little mini stream that runs through the back of the field, where they'd be free to stick around or float their way down to a bigger pond/ stream that then folds into the Ten Mile River.
Arrivederci, little guys!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Saddle Up!

I have been completely remiss in blogging for the entire month of June. Sadly, I have no excuse other than, well, it's summer. If I'm not in bed and asleep, I'm running amok, riding horses, teaching lessons, and generally having no life that doesn't involve a pitchfork or chaps.

Luckily for me, I have some wonderful friends who not only understand when I can't call them back, or if my emails are one sentence long, but these friends also add a whole new dimension to our lives here at TMF. Like Cat Evans.

I've known Cat for roughly two years now, and I am constantly in awe of her wisdom, intelligence, and sense of humor. What I've learned most recently about her is that she comes from a family that values mentoring, as her father mentored members of the community and Cat has followed suit.

Now, even though she's all the way in California, she has reached out to me and has helped me develop and moreover support what I think is one of the best ideas to come out of our little town of Wingdale. Through some brainstorming and many excited emails, we are so proud to announce....

What is it? It's a chance for a child in our area to learn to ride who may not otherwise be able to afford the cost of lessons. One child each month will be chosen to receive four lessons at no cost to them. At the end of the four weeks, they can choose to continue the lessons at a discounted rate.

We have always looked for ways to give back to our local community, and I never imagined that someone from so far away would be the catalyst to get such an ingenious opportunity rolling in motion. Because of Cat, kids in this area will get a chance to discover horses.

Do you have a child who might like to ride? Or do you know someone who has a child who could benefit from this? Send them a link to this blog, or click the link above. We also have the application available on the TMF website.

I can't finish this entry without sending a huge virtual hug and a thank you to Cat, without whom this couldn't be possible. Not only is she a mentor for these lucky kids...she's also a mentor to me.