Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Equestrian "Fashion"

It's that time of year when the mainstream masses decide to adjust their seasonal wardrobe and begin introducing fall elements into their ensemble rotation. Cooler temps and autumn tree-colors always inspire the non-horsey set to gaze longingly at the rider folks down the road who they see traipsing around the barn in gauzy dresses, bikinis, blankets wrapped and belted, and high heels so high that the wearer is more over-at-the-knee than her old retired equitation hunter. Wait, what? That's not what you wear to muck stalls, clean tack, and drag the arena? Yeh, me neither. 

I've been known to pipe up in the past in regards to the ridiculous nature of the haute couture approach to equestrian fashion. While killing time on Pinterest the other day, I decided, on a whim, to see what was out there for fall, equestrian style. I happened upon these little gems and could not believe my eyes. As someone who shares my disdain for 90% of what is popularly known as "equestrian fashion," I dedicate this post to Leslie Wiley. Proceed with caution....

I would really like to know just what this young lady
plans to do with a tennis racket, lacrosse stick, and golf
clubs while hacking out.

What is happening here? I have been known to take
a last minute potty break in the corner of Eddie's stall,
but I usually disrobe -- to some extent -- first. Plus,
spurs and Mary Jane heels do not mix.

Oh, that poor pony. Human lasso? I guess that's one
way to catch a horse.

Ladies, this is a "don't." Do not ever attempt to trail
ride while wearing nothing more than boots and lingerie. I
am terrified to even begin to imagine the amount of chafing that
will be going on there. 

There is a time and place for a stylish and well-fitted
shadbelly. That "time" and "place" would not, however,
involve satin shorts, red sheer tights, and suede
thigh-high boots. 

Starting with the head, this might be an equestrian fashion
"do." Yes, let's do retire the old velvet hunt caps to
recreational wear that doesn't involve actually being
on the back of a horse. But, once the eye travels
down past the shoulders, there is just too, too
much wrong, here.  I like the grey tights, though.
That's it.

Stock tie? More like stock "noose." You catch that on a
low branch while riding first-flight and you're a goner.

How many eventers do you see accessorize to quite
this extent while riding cross-country? Yeh, me neither. Plus,
if you do actually manage to place (and not get eliminated for
riding with an unsecured helmet strap), the ribbon goes on your
horse, not on your belt. 

That coat looks like a wooly blanket that is belted with something borrowed
from Captain Hook's wardrobe. Or Santa Claus's. Never ride a horse swathed
like this, unless you're after a "cushion effect" to soften the blow when you
inevitably dismount unexpectedly. Then, maybe this would work.
But fashion, it is not. 

Finally, an equestrian fashion "do"! You want to dress in equestrian style
and emulate the late, great Jackie O? Then buy a safe horse, take some lessons,
acquire the proper attire, and enter a horse show. All other pretenders
can go home and try again another day.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


....that fabulous coat. The guy wearing it isn't too bad to look at, either. ;-)

It's a Wednesday and the week is dragging. I really needed some Benedict to cheer things on a bit! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Plan C

Octoberfest it is! I came home on Monday afternoon, ready to ride, when I noticed a nasty gash on Eddie's left shoulder. You think I kid when I go on and on about how he is constantly finding new and ingenious ways to get out of doing work....but I manage to provide the proof and evidence to support that fact time and time again. He is not accident-prone, so I think he sensed my newfound excitement for a revised competition plan, and his shoulder took one for the team. Evil, evil pony. 

He is doing much better on the second day, with antibiotics and a healthy dose of Wonder Dust. I may not be able to use the 5-point breastplate or do any jumping for another week or so, but come Friday: the dressage tack is ON. No excuses!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Revise, Revise, Revise

I tell my students all the time, "Don't be afraid to make a necessary change in your process, preparation, or in your draft writing." Revise, Revise, Revise! The same is true for everyday life, as well. We plan something one way, then we have to resort to an alternate route when things don't go our way. Lately, things have been completely topsy-turvy in my world as the school semester has begun and, sadly, my dad had a medical setback in August that has him declining in health and becoming weaker and weaker as each day passes. He and my mom are here in Knoxville right now, so I can help stay with him at their house when I'm not teaching and my mom is at work. He is too unstable to be by himself for more than an hour at a time, so we've been trying to work out a routine between my schedule and my mom's work schedule so someone is always there. I haven't ridden Eddie once in the past 3 weeks, but then again I've hardly had the time to even see him or feed him either. I haven't washed dishes in my sink, done laundry in 2 weeks, cleaned my bathroom, mowed my yard, or even shaved my legs in quite some time now. But, when your family needs you, you don't think for even one second: you just immediately do what needs to be done. Things are tough here right now, so my competition plans, schedule, and preparations have been decidedly halted in their tracks. That's what I get for being so optimistic a few weeks back!

I had originally planned to get out and compete at Jumpstart in Lexington, but as the closing date has long since passed, and since the show is next weekend, I have re-routed to enter the Starter division (a nice, relaxed one-day competition) at MTPC horse trials in Nashville next month. The closing date is Tuesday, so I have one more weekend to see if it's a possibility afterall. If I don't set a foot in the irons this coming weekend, then I will by-pass MTPC and try to get up to Lexington to go Beginner Novice at the Octoberfest schooling horse trials later in the month. 

There are plans, and then there are always "plan B's" when those original plans aren't realized. I was frustrated the past few years for everything to just stop almost altogether because of my tight finances. Now that I can afford to do some competing, other obligations have arisen that I don't begrudge or grumble over. I wish things were different, obviously for my family's sake, but as it stands, I'll have to get out my show calendar and do some revising. Next time, I won't write in pen.....I'll just use a pencil and think positively.  :-)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"You Better Redneckognize!"

When you take three Tennessee eventers, two small dogs, one golf cart, and add a little hard core're gonna get some questionable behavior. Yesterday evening, while searching Chattahoochee Hills for Jodie's mom and Comet, we came upon the Land Rover driving course, whereby Julie wondered if "the golf cart would make it under the bridge and up that hill." Shockingly enough, the answer was "not even remotely." 

Julie and Jodie bottoming out in the mud under the bridge.

Spinning out and sliding sideways.

Giving up and going home.

I should probably make it clear that we tried to top that hill at least twice before these pics were taken. However, halfway up, I (perched on the back of the flailing cart) started panicking and said, "Let me off! Let me off!" (whence I got off the cart and sought the safety of the opposite bank). The concept of falling, being rolled on, and breaking a shoulder at AECs is frightening enough. But, when the "faller/roller" is a badly-driven golf cart in a struggling, kinda-inappropriate situation, that concept loses all respect and credibility. I'm sorry, but I wanted off that crazy train. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Eventers Who Look Like.....

A few weeks ago, I was watching an episode of the new BBC America drama, Copper, starring Tom Weston-Jones. Probably 15 minutes into it, I kept thinking, "This guy looks like someone." About 10 minutes later, it hit me: "I know who he reminds me of.....he reminds me of Boyd!"

Boyd Martin  ::  Tom Weston-Jones

Of course, this got me to thinking of other eventer/celebrity doppelgangers. 

Francis Whittington  ::  Eddie Redmayne

Andrew Nicholson  ::  Mark Harmon

Alexandra Green  ::  Blake Lively

Doug Payne  ::  Prince William

Sinead Halpin  ::  Elizabeth Banks

Will Coleman  ::  Keanu Reeves

Did I miss anybody? What other eventer/celebrity "look-alikes" are out there?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


It has been almost exactly 3 years since I was last tossed by Eddie. I can count on my two hands the times I've actually come off of him since the day I got him 7 years ago. We are usually simpatico, for better or worse. Yesterday was a real surprise, though. 

I have been excited the past few weeks at the prospect of finally regaining some sort of official event schedule this fall and (hopefully) next spring. I have been doing well with my fitness and getting out there and riding. I have been riding stronger and more balanced, with a lower-leg I haven't had since I was 21-years-old. Things are looking productive! Then, Eddie took over. 

I've been trying to get us into a regular jumping routine lately, since we've done tons and tons and tons of flatwork the past two years. Yesterday, we were working on a simple combination of a 2' vertical, bending line to a crossrail, then back again the other direction (from crossrail, bending line to the vertical). No biggie. However, Eddie was not my typical, plodding, steady Eddie. He was absolutely busting at the seams (literally busting....he has gotten HUGE this summer and the veins along his neck and shoulders were bulging like he's on freaking steroids). He was bouncing like a pogo stick and I just couldn't get him to move out and stretch down. You would think he was some over-amped, hot-headed warmblood, that lives in a stall 23.5 hours of the day, and not the 17-year-old QH on free-range, 24/7 turnout that he actually is. I kept working through it, and when he would fling himself at the crossrail, I just calmly sat tall and brought him to a halt several strides upon landing. I added a 2'4" vertical on another bending line after the crossrail, but he was going at it with his head in the air like he'd never jumped before, so I kept quietly bringing him back to a walk and circling until he calmed down. I kept remembering how effectively Francis Whittington handled a similarly hot horse at the Chattahoochee clinic last fall. He would not pull back on the reins to ask for the halt after the jump; he simply sat tall and deep in the saddle, just tightening his fingers on the reins. I am not Francy Pants, by any means, but I was trying to channel his controlled and capable demeanor as best possible. I finally got Eddie to jump decently by walking the approach, trotting a few steps out then walking upon landing. I came around from the other direction to take the combination from 2'4" vertical, to crossrail, to 2' vertical and I was going to call it quits if he was fine with that. I'd already been riding for about 40 minutes, as it was, and he was finally getting tired enough to come down a bit. We popped over the vertical and turned to the crossrail. Suddenly, he started jigging and bouncing towards it like a kangaroo, so I sat up on the approach and asked for him to halt about two strides out. He came to a slamming stop, grabbed the bit, reared up like he was in an old cowboy movie, twisted, sat down on his haunches, and I went flying off the right side as he leapt to the left. I landed on my right side (ok, to be honest, I landed on my right buttcheek.....which is why I'm happy, for once, to have a little extra padding back there), instantly rolled over to my left and up onto my knees, thinking Eddie just might have been coming over on top of me. When I sat up and saw him just standing there in front of the crossrail looking at me like he had no idea HOW I GOT ON THE GROUND (what a shock!), I wanted to kill him. But, I had the breath knocked out of me a bit, so I sat there for about 10 seconds and just took deep breaths. As I got my breathing back to normal and realized I hadn't done any physical damage to myself, I croaked out, "COME HERE." Eddie perked up his ears and walked right over to me, reaching his neck out so I could grab his reins, and politely standing there while I held onto his breastplate as I pulled myself up. He was as still and quiet as an innocent little angel. I brushed off my britches, picked up my whip, pulled the reins over his head, and walked over to the mounting block and got right back on. Within 30 seconds, we had circled and easily popped over the vertical, crossrail, to vertical like nothing at all had happened. Mentally, I was completely unfazed and looking at the jumps and cantering right down to them was almost therapeutic, rather than unnerving. I cantered him around a few times, asking him to lengthen out before the jumps, and he was moving much better from fence to fence after that. We jumped another minute or two, I praised him verbally and patted his neck, and then I called it a day. Was it a disaster of a session? I might have thought so, since I got thrown off. Did I salvage things and both Eddie and I learned a great lesson in the process? YES. 

I have been revisiting yesterday's ride in my mind, trying to figure out what was going on and what I need to do to fix it. One thing I've noticed this summer is that Eddie has really gotten very big, since I've been feeding him compressed alfalfa hay every morning, and he gets about 2 handfuls of Ultium in the evening (plus pasture grass and timothy/orchard grass hay whenever he wants). He looks great, but he's almost a little too fit and amped (note my previous comment about "steroids"!) and his attitude has reflected his diet lately. I don't want a scraggly, undernourished horse just so I can manage to ride him, but I am going to cut back on the richy-rich alfalfa and feed him more of a mixed grass balance. He loves the alfalfa, so he will be mad, but it's making him too intense. Even his personality has been more aggressive the bigger and more over-stimulated he's gotten the past few months. So, adjusting his feed schedule a bit may help even him out more reasonably. I also think he does something like this every few years, he gets it out of his system, and then he's fine. He is an animal, afterall, and I have to remember that. But, the one thing I did realize is that -- just like we say about riding the horse you have that day -- I need to be really aware of the way he's going when I'm riding him. When he's like a balloon in the wind, up and down and all over the place, he doesn't need to be jumping if he's not going to be safe. He's not listening when he's like that and it's a simple recipe for disaster. And, ultimately, I need to continue to get out there and ride regularly and work through it. I love Eddie more than life itself, but I need to quit spoiling him sometimes and I need to be THE RIDER.....not his #1 fan. I love him and he loves me, but if we're going to make a successful run of it this fall, I need to be the boss. Otherwise, Eddie is the big boss and I'm the underling employee, which is not the business relationship that will ultimately be safe and happy for all involved. Am I right? I'm battered and bruised today, but I am unafraid. Onward we go!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mission Kinda/Sorta-possible

We're back!

Well, it is official. I have printed and completed my entry to Jump Start Horse Trials, my first recognized event since October 2007! I haven't mailed the entry yet, since I'm waiting for a paycheck to come in next week, so my check won't bounce all over the KHP. But, plans are in place and I am getting the pony on track. 

Yesterday, we started our regular jump schooling in earnest. My jump schools the past year or so have been irregular and, basically, non-existent. I have not had the financial stability to entertain thoughts of show schedules and recognized events. When I don't have a hard deadline for a competition, things just kind of float along and happen or don't happen (as is usually the case). We haven't been completely sitting on our arses, but my schooling and preparation has been haphazard without a solid end goal. Eddie is 17 this year, so I don't jump him a lot when there is no reason to, and I've just not been able to prioritize competitions of late. That will all change at the end of September!

We're off to a good start in our return to jumping, at least. We jumped all the things and I didn't fall off, so I was thrilled. You might think those are small victories, but you don't know Eddie! In our school last evening, Eddie got things started with the "fake sore foot" scheme (which he's done before, but now I'm wise to). After I warmed him up a bit....just to make sure it wasn't a "real sore foot," he soon forgot all about that ploy and he focused on the "sideways skitter away from my leg" maneuver. Once we worked through his fussiness on the flat, things were looking good to pop over a crossrail. No big deal, just back and forth over a crossrail at the trot and canter, both ways. I then added a turn to a small vertical, going around from one to the other in a modified Figure-8 pattern. I trotted the turns or allowed him to trot through the transition, not asking for flying changes or anything fancy-shmancy like that, at this point. He is stiff and blocky right now since I'm just now getting us into a regular routine, but this isn't our first time to the game, so we ultimately know what we need to do. We just need some miles before we show our faces in Lexington next month. Add in a few lessons and a cross-country school soon, and we just might find we are actually prepared for our event and might even be competitive. need to get ahead of ourselves or anything. We did bust out a 45 in our schooling dressage test last weekend. I guess I just look at it as a sign of "needs improvement," and that's why the pony got pulled out of the pasture. Practice, practice, practice!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Quote of the Week

On fighting over a boy:

"I mean, the only pair of size eight Marc Jacobs orange leather platform sandals at DSW, that's one thing, but a boy? Puleez. The world is so full of those." -- Celia Rivenbark, You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl

Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic Spirit

Everyone is excited about London 2012! Last weekend, the annual BreyerFest celebration took place in Lexington, KY. In honor of this summer's games, Breyer chose the theme "British Invasion" to include all things English (a Beatles tribute band concert, Poppycock Parade, British Breeds Showcase, Best of Britain display, and the Hyde Park Petting Zoo....just to name a few of the highlights) . There were special guests, demonstrations, and contests galore! A local pony clubber, newbie eventer, and recent fox hunting convert -- Alivia Cotter -- attended the festival, taking home the top prize -- a brand new model of the incredibly adorable Brookside Pink Magnum -- in the Hair Fascinator contest. Now, we all know what a hair fascinator is, right? You know, the head pieces that have taken the place of traditional brimmed hats at all fashionable, high society activities across the UK? Still doesn't ring a bell? Well, maybe this will jog your memory. 

Anyhoo, the BreyerFest Hair Fascinator contest required young entrants to create a hair piece that contained model horses with a British theme. Below is Alivia's stunning, winning creation:

It even lights up!

When she is not busy out-styling the Duchess of Cambridge, Alivia can be found doing all sorts of fun things with her sweet little pony, Shadow.

Cross-country schooling at River Glen

More cross-country at River Glen

Hunting in 2011-2012 with the Tennessee Valley Hunt

All I have to say is that if it were more socially-acceptable for someone in her 30's to (still) collect model horses and handcraft fancy hats, then I totally would have been there in Lexington this year. If someone at Breyer gets ambitious and manages to persuade Benedict Cumberbatch to present the new War Horse model at next year's gathering, then I will be right down front -- possibly knocking 60lb 11 and 12-year-old girls outta my way. No, I kid, I kid.   But, really.....

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Oops....someone did it again.

Illustration by the incomparable and totally outrageous Graham Roumieu

I'm a pretty easy-going, laid-back, ever-smiling kind of person. But one thing that makes me go all "Bigfoot" on somebody is when a journalist makes a careless or lazy mistake in his/her reporting. Even here on my amateur, goofy, and personal blog/rantings, I do my research before I post a date, insert a name, or list details of a place or location. These are just simple, basic facts that I check once, twice, and, often, thrice before posting. I don't get paid to write my blog and I don't get any public recognition. This is my place to share with my friends, family, occasional visitors, and regular followers.When I'm this careful with casual compositions, I expect professionals to be particularly manic about the accuracy of their writing. Unfortunately, sometimes, bad writing still gets published (and paid). 

Case in point: I read a recent link posted by Perez Hilton about 20 openly-gay athletes at the 2012 Olympics. For someone who is very open-minded and moderately liberal about political issues and societal mores, I was pleased to see the recognition of sportsmen/sportswomen who have the courage to acknowledge their choice and live an open lifestyle. When I clicked on the link, it profiled a range of athletes (not just the horseback riders, people, so get over it), from tennis stars to track stars, and then I saw the obvious profile of the Netherlands' incredibly talented dressage rider, Edward Gal. Gal and his partner, Hans Peter Minderhoud, were a high-profile fixture at the 2010 WEG, so the list including him as an openly-gay Olympic athlete is a no-brainer. But, what horrified me more than watching a lycra miniskirt ride up the considerable backside of a 300lb woman in the checkout line at Wal Mart was the blatantly inaccurate and completely INCORRECT (embarrassingly so, for anyone who knows anything) biography listed with the profile. To quote: "Gal and his current horse, Moorlands Totilas, are dominant in the international dressage world. At the 2010 World Championships they won three gold medals and are expected to fare well in London." Well, that's interesting.....since Edward Gal famously parted-ways with Totilas a year and a half ago.....and, because Totilas isn't even going to compete in London at all (with or without Gal). It pains me that for a 3-line bio, the author couldn't even take the time or care enough to find information on this top-caliber rider that was more current and up-to-date than 2010. Are you kidding me?

I have to let this go. I just have to. Otherwise, it will make me insane, and the writer of this crap will blissfully continue to live a joyous and ignorant life out there, being none-the-wiser. He did his bit and slapped together a feature, then submitted it and it was published online. End of job, pay him his dough. But some small part of me dies every time a lie is published (and, yes, it is a lie when a complete falsehood is presented as stone-cold fact). I know that BuzzFeed isn't exactly Vanity Fair (and, I have to say that VF has shaped up since I blogged about this debacle a while back), but, if you're going to write something, then by gosh make sure that what you write is right. 

And, yes, I triple-checked the spelling of Totilas and Hans Peter Minderhoud (against at least three different sources) before I published this. It wasn't that difficult and I barely broke a sweat.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Low-key Luminosity

With all of the exciting hype surrounding Olympic eventing team announcements over the past few weeks, I think it has gone shockingly unnoticed what a wonderful and heartwarming addition Kristina Cook and Miners Frolic make to the 2012 British team. We hear lots about WFP. There is always primetime news surrounding Zara. And, Mary King is well-documented in a number of media outlets for her undeniable prowess as a stalwart member of many international and Olympic Team GBs. But, I don't think enough has been said of Tina. Now, she's no sentimental underdog; they earned their spot on this team due to a solid resume that includes team and individual bronze in Beijing, they were the European champions in 2009, and they most recently won team gold in 2010 at WEG. She and "Henry" have a dynamic history and an inspirational story. Much has been written and said lately of Boyd and Neville (understandably so), and many were heartbroken to see that Neville just wasn't ready for London this go around. I feel that, if you want a comeback story to root for this summer, look no farther than Tina and Miners Frolic. 

Tina has a long, successful history as an eventer, going back to her days as a junior rider for Great Britain. Jump riding is in her blood, as her father and brother both excelled in the sport of steeplechasing. But, of course, it is her time with Henry over the past 6 or 7 years that has made her an international star. However, their road together hasn't been all free and easy. 

At Badminton in 2005, Tina "came a'cropper" (as her fellow countrymen like to say) from Captain Christy at fence #25, an upright gate out of the Huntsman's Close. She was airlifted to a nearby hospital, with fractures to several vertebrae in her back, a very scary situation for any rider, as we all know. Tina made a strong and remarkable comeback to ride for Britain on Miners Frolic three years later at the Olympics, making them a frequent choice when it came to eventing team "go-to" riders. Unfortunately, Badminton hasn't been kind to Tina, as she fell from Henry there in 2010 at the water on cross-country, and Henry suffered an injury to his whithers that prevented him from competing in 2011. Tragically, in mid 2011 -- just nine months after winning team gold in Lexington -- Henry became ill with a life-threatening combination of colitis and endotoxemia (due to a bad reaction to an antibiotic used to treat his whither injury). While his condition was critical for a period of time, he slowly recovered and fully regained his health and strength. He didn't merely survive, he persevered, as he and Tina's 2012 record and their spot on the Olympic team proves. 

Photo by Josh Walker

All horse/rider combinations have their ups and downs. Everyone has a story of adversity overcome, and battles fought and won. But, I think that Kristina and Henry are a special story that warrants notice. In about three-weeks-time, there will be an outstanding collection of eventers to root for in London. Along with my eager support for Team USA, I will be cheering for Tina and Miners Frolic in Greenwich. They have nothing to prove, only a solid performance to provide for their team on their own home turf. Of many pairs you see galloping around in those 3 or 4 days, I would imagine that Tina will not simply be thrilled to represent Team GB for a second time, but will also be savoring every precious moment with her beloved four-legged partner that so easily could have never been. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hello, Hollywood?

So, after Wednesday night's broadcast of Rock Center that featured the amazing and heart-wrenching story of Boyd and Neville, it would appear that Hollywood is calling, and they are calling for a Neville-look-alike (a Neville-look-alike, with attitude). Enter, EDDIE....

Could he be Neville???

Eddie can run!

Eddie can jump!

Eddie's got star quality!

Eddie's got attitude!

With a face like that, the phone will be ringing off the hook. It's just a matter of time.....

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Will you......

....still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm --- 33?" 

Birthday party!

Carrot-molasses shreds and Ultium mash. Miller is the official taste-tester. 

Carrots inhaled. New fly mask is a perfect fit!

Quality time on a special day.

Yes, I still need you. And, YES, I still feed you! Luzaz turns 33 years old today and we had a little birthday celebration with him that included a "cake," candles, and a birthday present. He got a brand new fly mask. :-) Happy Birthday, Luzaz! Until next year......

Me and Luzaz, in our prime....

Combined Test at the Biltmore House, with our
official photographer/cheerleader/show dad!

The ultimate "Pony Club" pony!