Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Clearing

We made it. Whew!

In all actuality, the storm was kind to us. While there is a lot of flooding around us with the Ten Mile River, various streams and creeks, and the many power lines down (2500 or so), we were prepared and managed quite well.
Saturday afternoon the rain began. It rained in earnest once darkness fell, and continued well into Sunday afternoon. There were a few gusts of wind that made us hold our breath, along with flickering lights...and then things quieted down. We thought we were out of the woods and were quite frankly shocked that our power was still on and working. We had white water rapids in our lower field, but it was expected and receded in a matter of hours.
A few hours later as darkness fell again on Sunday night, the winds began to wail. Just as we discussed what we wanted to have for dinner (from the already-prepared foods I made in case the power went out), the lights flickered, dimmed, and then were gone.

"Oh, MAN!" I heard from the living room.

But we were prepared. Candles and a board game became our entertainment, and we slept well with the hum of neighborhood generators acting as our noise machine.

24 hours later our power returned. We feel very fortunate, as we have friends nearby who are still without power due to the downed power lines and snapped trees.

Now that the storm is behind us, it's time to look ahead to Fall, and the next big thing: the King Oak Horse Trials for Zeus and I, being held next weekend. It's crunch time!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Meet My Arsenal

In the wake of yesterday's post, I am busily getting ready for the weekend. We feel really prepared and while there's still much to do, we're in a good place.

I wanted to share some of our must-have items.
1. Black Beauty
This puppy can hold about 50 gallons of water - necessary if we are out of power for a few days. Most people don't know how much water a horse requires - let alone four of them. This will be filled, along with several other jugs, buckets etc.

2. R2-D2
Mom and Dad happened to have a second wet/ dry vac, and just because I mentioned that we might go buy one, Mom said, "Oh gee, come take ours!" I think it's older than I am. But it works. So in case of basement flooding, R2-D2 will come to the rescue.

3. Bucket Bonanza
They kind of speak for themselves. Lots of water storage!

4. Oscar the Grouch
So I went to Walmart today, thinking I could get everything before the hysteria started. Guess what? They told me they "just don't carry raincoats." Well thanks, Walmart, way to go! Luckily, with R2-D2 came a raincoat of mom's that I remember her wearing when I was a little girl. I imagine little children seeing me wander around the neighborhood will think Shrek or Oscar the Grouch is approaching, but if it keeps me dry, what do I care?

5. Rachel!
Rachel is our August Saddle Up Scholarship recipient, and she came over today to help move jump poles and get things like buckets ready! Isn't that fantastic? She was a huge help with some not so glamorous jobs.

So there you have it. We are buckling down and shutting the gates at noon tomorrow, just like the NYC transit system. Be ready - we will be.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Batten Down the Hatches

I have breaking news.

There's a hurricane coming.

Please join me in saying, "Oh come on, Mother Nature, is that the best you've got?!"

Just kidding - don't say that. She gave us a spanking this winter, and she's coming at us with a paddle now. She just loves to keep us on our toes, doesn't she?

I remember a big hurricane years ago - Hurricane Gloria. I was 5. My family just sat in the living room, with no power, watching the storm rage around us. It was scary but exciting at the same time. No power meant we could make a tent and camp out in the living room with sleeping bags!

This time around, it's just as exciting but in a bit more frantic, "Holy cannoli I have so much to do!" kind of excitement.

From hereon out, this isn't going to be a silly blog post. Just to do my part, I'm listing a few things that you lovely readers who may be in Irene's path might want to have at the ready - whether you have horses or not.

  • Decide on your plan. If you do have horses, choose whether they'll be in or out of their barn during the storm. There are mixed reviews about this, but for my personal comfort, my horses will be staying in, with the barn doors closed. We are inland and I feel safer with them in our sturdy, dry barn, out of the way of debris that can fly around and injure them. If you keep your horses out, identify them by attaching info to their halter or mane.
  • Have lots of water! We have a well, so when the power stops, so does our well. We are filling every conceivable bucket and trash bin (not used for trash) with water so the horses have plenty if we're out of power for a few days.
  • Have your equine, canine, feline, and human first aid kit handy and stocked! Also have an ample supply of hay, shavings, grain, dog/ cat food, etc, in case you can't get out for a few days.
  • If it's not nailed down or cemented into the ground, bring it in! I am stashing everything in our storage shed and spare barn - jumps, jump poles, mounting block, wheelbarrows, garbage bins. If it moves, it moves inside. No wheelbarrows will be flying past our window. Our neighbor's kiddie pool riddled with holes might, but it wouldn't be the first time.
  • Don't forget about you! I am spending part of tomorrow preparing food for us for a few days - stuff that is easily heated up or can be eaten cold. We have BBQ Chicken and veggie tortellini on the menu, and lots of snacks. I don't know why, but when there's a big storm, people always shop like maniacs for eggs, milk, and bread. I guess everyone makes French Toast when there's a disaster. (Ok, that was funny!)
  • Don't be stupid. Wandering out in the midst of a hurricane is not a bright idea. I am giving the horses each at least 2 buckets of water and tons of hay with deeply bedded stalls, so in the event that I can't get out there for hours at a time, I'll know they'll be ok.
We are very fortunate to have a generator that we purchased in the wake of an awful storm in March of 2010. So our fridge and other appliances can run as normal even when the power's out, thank goodness.

So be prepared and be safe. Oh, but I forgot the most important rule to abide by:
Hit up the liquor shop and stock your bar.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


We had an earthquake! An honest to goodness earthquake, right here in NY!

By the time people read this blog entry, it'll be old news.

Here's how it happened:
I'm sitting on the couch, having a lovely lunch of pasta, baked ham, and cauliflower in a sour cream cheddar sauce. I stop moving, because I think I feel the couch moving. And then I ask Matt, "Has Monster (our cat) ever gotten stuck under the couch?!" Matt: "Huh?"

And that's when I noticed it. My drink was moving on the table. It was rocking back and forth!

Matt entered the room and I had the most peculiar look on my face (or so I'm told). Matt asked what happened, and I said, "I think we just had an earthquake."

Matt: "Naaaaaaaaaah."

Me: "Yes, I think so! The couch was moving!"

We both comment on how weird it is, Matt contemplates the house virtually imploding, and then we go about our day. And then I decide to check the news.

Sure enough - earthquake!

In all seriousness, I hope all the people and animals near the epicenter are ok. From what I've heard, the earthquake was closer to the earth's surface, so that's why the quake was felt from so far away.
As you can see, the horses were traumatized just minutes after the quake. I went out to check on them, and they didn't have a care in the world.

Well, except where the best grass was.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pace Yourself

Hunter paces are always a blast. Especially when your horse thinks he's part rocket ship.

Zeus has only done one other hunter pace, which we completed last fall with gal pal Karen. It was all new to him, so he was just fine ambling along and taking in all the scenery. Now that he's a bit more savvy to the whole cross country thing, he takes great joy in leaping around like a gazelle because he's having so much fun.

Today we had the pleasure of attending the Golden's Bridge Hounds North Country Pace, not too far away in Amenia, NY. New barn resident Snoopy (yup, still have to blog about him but he's pictured above!) was teamed up with Liutas. Don't they make a dashing pair?

We especially liked how the man running the start timer popped out of the brush (literally) and made Zeus freak and catapult halfway across the trailer field - what a way to make an entrance!

Other than that, the four of us had a great time traveling over open fields, pretty woods and past breathtaking scenery.

Even better than that, our ride was good enough for a 5th place finish, in the largest division of the day! Snoopy and Zeus are congratulating each other in the barn and have already rolled in the muddiest spot in the field to celebrate. As they should - they were both magnificent. Rocket ship notwithstanding.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Happiness in Jump Form

I have to admit, I love schooling. I basically get to ride cross country without any of the hype or pressure of an event, having a great time with Matt and/ or my mom and various friends tagging along, like it's a party over jumps. And if we jump a fence that's a bit wonky? Well, we can turn around and do it again.

So today Matt and I went over to Stonegate Farm, home of good family friends Margaret and Michael Korda. Stonegate has a fantastic course with lots of options, and jumps for Beginner Novice through Training Level. I hadn't had Zeus on an outing since our eventing debut at Riga Meadow, so getting out and about in a low stress environment was important.

The fences are incredibly well tended to, and we had a wonderful warmup over some stadium jumps.
Stonegate has some scary-ish looking show jumps for green horses, so it was a great opportunity to let Zeus check out some imposing stuff.
And then we were off to XC!

We did most of the BN course, with Zeus happy and not batting an eye. It's definitely a bit more challenging than the course at Riga Meadow, but great practice for us in preparation for King Oak in a few weeks.
Zeus also did his first trakehener - basically a ditch with a log over it. Ditches can be tricky for green horses, but a baby trakehner is a good way to get a horse started over ditches. This photo cracks me up with my chicken elbows, but you can see Zeus really checking out that hole in the ground! He jumped it like it was a giant effort, but he was super willing! The second time we went over it, he was like, "Oh yeah, I can handle this, no problem Mom!"
Good boy, Zeus!
The rest of the school was a blast and a half. Zeus thought so too.
Special shout out to Matt. Aren't his photography skills awesome?! I'm so impressed when I look through the camera when we get home, to see all of this beautiful shots.

Next weekend, we're off to a hunter pace with Zeus' new BFF Snoopy, which will be great fun. Good times to be had in August!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Birthday Boots

Yesterday was my birthday, and it was a great day! The weather was heavenly, I received over 100 birthday greetings from friends and family (and more are still coming in!), and Matt took me out for a fabulous birthday dinner at a restaurant called Aurelia in Millbrook, NY. We both thought it was a sign when the restaurant shared the same name as his paternal grandmother, and she would have been delighted - the food was outstanding! I had polenta for the first time. I had no idea what it was (and had to look it up when we got home) but it was delish.

I got some lovely flowers from my brother Jay, Sis-in-law Kristin and niece Emily, as well as a pizza dinner and cake this past weekend:
A book I've been dying to read from Mom and Dad...
And some other cute little things.

But what I asked for most, were things for Zeus. Is anyone surprised by this? Anyone?

I didn't think so.

My older XC boots for him were leather which were great, because they didn't soak up and hold water. But, each boot had 4 or 5 buckles and keepers on each one, making putting them on a squirrely young Thoroughbred quite an athletic endeavor.

Mom and Dad snagged these faboo brushing boots from Bit of Britain for his hind legs.

And Matt, after many hints (catalogs circled, pages folded down and left on his computer desk, at his place at the dinner table, in his work bag), I got these fantastic front boots for Zeus. They're very high tech - the blue circles are actually air holes that allow air to circulate so Zeus' tendons don't heat up, yet they provide solid support and protection.

I was ecstatic over all the boots. It's almost as if someone had handed me a pair of Manolos for my horse. Matt rolled his eyes and said, "But these things are for your horse, not for you!"

Ah, but they are for me! Because we can then go and do fun things like this (6 second video):

Every year since I can remember, I've always had an ice cream cake for my birthday. Now that I'm a grown up (Wait. I am a grown up, right?), it is no different- the responsibility just falls to Matt instead of my parents.

So off we went to get a cake. When the nice ice cream lady asked me what I wanted it to say, I gave her a bit of a blank stare. Telling her it's "Happy Birthday to me?" That's weird.

I looked at Matt and said, "Well, most of my gifts are for my horse...." and then it hit both of us.

Happy Birthday Zeus!
The Cake Lady thought we'd both lost our marbles. We sat at the window, snickering and really quite pleased with ourselves.

It was delicious. And we're still laughing over the Zeus cake.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Millbrook Recap

Saturday, Matt and I went to the Millbrook Horse Trials to watch the Advanced riders go, and to walk the course. As predicted, Matt then looked at some Beginner Novice fences and said, "Psh. That's nothin." My plan worked!

It did backfire a tiny bit, and I realized it when he looked at a few Advanced jumps and said, "I bet Zeus could do these."

One step at a time, babe. Although he did jump our ring gate which was 5'1'', so technically, yes, Zeus could do those.


I think one of Matt's favorite jumps was a max width table, fence 11 on course.

The height isn't so bad.

It's the spread. Matt said, "I think Jesus had the Last Supper at this table."

After the table, he was so astounded by it that he needed to take a break. This bench was a lovely spot, it even had pillows for your comfort.

Matt loved seeing the Big Guns - Phillip, Boyd, Doug, Karen, Buck....and cheering them on by name. Because you know, we just call them by their first names around our house. There was a minor tantrum when I told him Boyd trotted right past me to the start box on Neville Bardos...as Matt was elsewhere.

But all of that being said, the best way to show you some amazing riding is by the little montage I put together this morning. I should be more productive, but I'm going out to ride 2 horses now. Promise.


Sunday, August 7, 2011


Matt and I went to Millbrook Horse Trials yesterday to watch the best of the best riders in the country ride in the Advanced division. As predicted, there were many exclamations and comments that only Matt could make, some of which I'll share soon. I got some great video of the jumps and the rides, so I've got to upload them and see if I can conjure up some media magic.

In the meantime, we had our own obstacle today. Zeus hasn't done a water obstacle yet, and if I'm entering King Oak, I do believe there's a small water element on course. We're very fortunate that we can ride in certain places in our neighborhood due to great neighbors we're lucky to have. One such neighbor has a lake. Yup.

Water obstacle? How about a lake? For added difficulty, we tossed in some sailboats for good measure.
Zeus, who isn't a big fan of walking through a puddle, wasn't too keen on going in. I can't say I blame him - there's no end in sight to that water. However, with a little bit of coaxing and some moral support from big brother Snoopy (who I *still* have to blog about!), in he went - and he didn't want to come back out.
I figure if we can handle a lake, we can handle any water element on a XC course!

After a few trips in and out of the lake, Zeus would point himself at it without any prompting from me, and trot in like it was a fantastic game. He'd then splash through the water with his nose down. Matt said it was like watching a child discovering the joy of sprinklers.

I wonder if we'll be the first horse and rider team who gets eliminated because my horse will not get out of the water at a horse trial.

Stranger things have happened...!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Dotpower = Star Power

This week has been a week of change for me, but also a week of opportunity. The horse world is a small world, but it can also be a place of support and joy with some wonderful people and of course, the wonderful horses themselves!

A few weeks ago, CANTER New England contacted me about training some horses they had taken in and fostered after the racing season was over last year. I was delighted and honored that they contacted me, as I have the greatest respect for this organization - what you see is what you get. They're knowledgeable, experienced and are purely there for the horses. There's an open line of communication with not only future adopters, but with people who adopted CANTER horses years ago. I had a fantastic adoption experience with them myself - my beloved Zeus came from CANTER, and he's proven to be the horse of a lifetime.

This week, I worked with two mares, both of which are up for adoption. These lovely girls are named Dotpower and Dewamere, and they are absolute dolls. I can't tell you how much these horses touched my heart, as well as friend Carla and Nonnewaug Agri-Science student Summer, who came along for the day to lend a hand and get an OTTB experience.

I'll chat about Dewamere in another post, but for today, I'll let you enjoy Dotpower. She's a petite 15.2 hands but with all the potential in the world. The below video was from our visit, and I think it should be noted that she did all of the things I asked of her without hesitation. This was the first time she had a saddle and rider on her back since she left the track in November 2010.


She is a star in the making. Don't you just love her?

ETA: Dot does go to the right, but I couldn't seem to get that footage into the video! This was my first time using video editing software, and I'm still a bit clumsy with it. The next time, expect pyrotechnics and all sorts of whiz-bang-boom special effects. Maybe.