Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Poorly Braided, Tail-Chasing, Bouncy-Trotting Mess

Bart: I thought you said you wanted a challenge.
Lisa: Duh. A challenge I can do.

That's about where I am right now. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will be riding Marve in the schooling show next month. And I'm already getting nervous.

It doesn't help that I've been feeling kind of bipolar about my riding lately. My lesson last week went really well, as did my ride yesterday. But the other rides throughout this last week were not so hot, which is frustrating. And I'm just starting to realize Marve and I have some very real challenges in store for us at this little show, including:

1. Convincing Marve he does NOT want to chase down the horse in front of him and ride right. on. its. tail. This has the potential to be a big problem at the show. He's fine until I ride him behind another horse, and then he decides he just HAS to become best friends with the horse's butt. That, coupled with his huge strides, might make our classes kind of...interesting. I do not want to be that girl constantly circling to get away from other horses. I also don't want to forget everything else about my riding for the sake of holding him back. So I need to work on this.

2. Sitting trot. This is another tough one. Marve has a horribly rough, bouncy trot. Some of the girls at the stable told me they have a hard time posting to it. (Although, wtf?) At the last show I entered at this stable, the judge made us sit to the trot and go around and around forever. Which is fine on a horse that doesn't have a hellish trot. I can sit to Marve's trot okay if I slow him down (is that cheating?) and get him nice and round (if I'm lucky), but if he gets excited and speeds up, there's enough room between my ass and the saddle for a little league game. I've been practicing, but I'm afraid all the practice in the world isn't going to save me from 10 straight minutes of bouncing around on an excited TB at this show.

3. Showmanship. I've never entered a showmanship class before, and while I didn't expect to get a blue ribbon, I didn't think this would be too difficult. And then I realized that Marve seems totally unwilling to trot in hand. He just stares at me and takes big TB walking strides while I jog along, begging him to trot. I've never encountered this before, so I need to find a way to convince him to trot along next to me. Any suggestions? Besides this issue, I'm also stressing over the emphasis on appearance. I can't imagine what his poor mane will look like when I'm done braiding it, not to mention that he is gray (why why WHY can't he be chestnut or bay?) and perpetually dirty. All the currying in the world doesn't seem to get him super clean looking.

Well, I guess I better get busy practicing half halts, sitting the trot, and braiding instead of stressing over this little show. Again, I am excited, just a little nervous Marve and I will become a spectacle of poorly braided tail-chasing madness on show day. I'll keep you updated on our practice and progress!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

All Thumbs

So where have I been? What's been going on? Sorry about my absence. I had yet another houseguest, and then work and life and all that jazz just piled up and I neglected this blog. But I'm back now.

So...some financial crisis, huh? I have to say, I'm glad I decided to lease Marve instead of going full out and buying a horse. I'm not running for the hills yet, but if this economic crisis gets much worse, who knows what will happen to my job. I feel more secure and comfortable leasing Marve without having to worry about supporting a horse 100%. And even the half lease is taking a noticeable chunk out of my pay every month -- this lease costs more than double what I was paying for Mae, plus I'm still taking rather pricey lessons, with plans to add some private sessions. It all adds up and I'm relieved I don't have the financial burden that comes with full horse ownership right now.

So you know that horse show coming up next month? It looks like I'm definitely entering it. I'll do equitation, pleasure, showmanship, and maybe one more. I haven't yet decided between intermediate or advanced; I'll talk to my instructor about that one. I'm excited because even though it's just a tiny schooling show, and I'll probably be riding around the ring with kids again, it's still going to be a test of what Marve and I have been working on. So I'm looking forward to it.

Oh, but I have to learn how to braid now. This is completely new to me. When I entered a couple of little shows as a kid/teen, I was riding my Arab mare, so her long mane made braiding unnecessary. I don't know how I'm going to pull this off. I don't exactly have nimble fingers and I can't even do anything with my hair, much less braid a neat little row down the neck of a 17-hand Thoroughbred who hates to stand still for 20 minutes to be groomed, much less braided. Sigh. So we'll see how this goes.

More later on on my show goals and the challenges, both big and small, we still need to overcome!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Lesson Success

My lesson this week went so, so much better, and my instructor definitely had some good things to say about my riding. I certainly didn't get everything right, but at least it didn't feel like everything was wrong. I was really pleased, and I think I've finally learned a few tricks to help get Marve (and me) on the right track. He and I have definitely improved together over the last few weeks -- sure, sometimes it still feels like we have an unbearable distance to cover before we're where I want us to be -- but I figure a noticeable improvement in this short period of time can't be anything but good.

In a previous post, I mentioned that a girl at the barn said she thought the lesson riders were "messing up" Marve and his training. Well, she stopped by the ring to watch my lesson for a little while this week. Then, when I was untacking, she said that Marve looked great in the lesson. "Hopefully," she said, "with you riding him three days a week, you'll be able to get him back into his old form."

I admit I was flattered. Before, I worried I was one of the riders contributing to the problem, but maybe in reality I can help him to improve. (Well, we all know that HE really is the one helping me improve, but since he can't talk I'll just pretend it's all me, ha.)

So a good lesson, a good day.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Poorly Braided, Tail-Chasing, Bouncy-Trotting Mess

Bart: I thought you said you wanted a challenge.
Lisa: Duh. A challenge I can do!

That's about where I am right now. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will be riding Marve in the schooling show next month. And I'm already getting nervous.

It doesn't help that my riding has been uneven lately. I haven't written any updates in a while, and it's been tricky because I guess you could see I've been feeling a little bipolar about my riding. My lesson last week went great. My ride yesterday was awesome. But all the other rides in the last week have been really rocky and I felt frustrated for not doing well.

Plus, I am just starting to realize this show is going to be trickier for Marve and me than I thought. Here are the challenges we need to work on:

1. Convincing Marve he does NOT want to chase down the horse in front of him and ride right. on. its. tail. I made this #1 because it has the potential to be a big problem at the show. He's fine until I ride him behind another horse, and then he decides he just HAS to become best friends with the horse's butt. That, coupled with his huge strides, might make our classes kind of...interesting. I do not want to be that girl constantly circling to get away from other horses. I also don't want to forget everything else about my riding for the sake of holding him back. So I need to work on this. It was better the last few times I rode, but sometimes he will revert back to his tail-chasing ways and he becomes difficult to bring back.

2. Sitting trot. This is another tough one. Marve has a horribly rough, bouncy trot. Some of the girls at the stable told me they have a hard time posting to it. (Although, wtf?) I have been practicing sitting to his trot with mixed results. If I slow down his trot (is that cheating?) and get him nice and round (if I'm lucky) then I don't have a big problem sitting to his trot. But when he speeds up or gets a little excited, there is enough room between my ass and the saddle for a little league game. And my position looks horrible in general. Not cool. In the last schooling show I was in, the judge made us go around and around forever at the sitting trot, so I'm kind of dreading this.

3. Showmanship. I have never entered a showmanship class before, but I figured it might be fun. Uh yeah, and I'm just now finding out that Marve seems totally unwilling to trot in hand. I've tried everything but he just walks along with his huge Thoroughbred stride and stares at me and I jog along, pleading with him to pick up the pace. I've never dealt with this before -- usually, if I'm leading a horse and ask him to trot, there's no problems. So I don't know how to fix this. Any help? But almost as embarrassing as the trotting issue is the general emphasis on appearances. I can't imagine what his poor mane will look like when I'm through braiding it. Plus, he's gray (why why WHY couldn't he be chestnut or bay?) and perpetually dirty and no matter how much I curry, he doesn't exactly look show quality.

I guess I better get practicing -- on half halts, sitting the trot, braiding, etc. -- and not get too worked up over a little schooling show. Again, I'm exciting about it...I'm just also a little nervous. I'll keep you updated on our progress.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bitching My Way Out of a Paper Bag

First, some good news: I no longer get nervous when cantering Marve, and he hasn't been running away with me. Yay! The last few times we had a pretty nice canter and I always felt like I was in control. This is such a relief. We've even been cantering the full length of the arena with no problems -- previously, I stuck to a lot of circles because going large got him all excited and quick. So I don't know if I've just been lucky the last few rides, or if my slightly increased confidence is helping both of us have a better canter. My position is still crap, of course, but that's another story. :)

Now let's move on to yet another delightful tale about the snooty girls at the barn. Or should I say the queen of snooty girls.

For the most part, these teens have been vaguely polite to me in recent days. One in particular -- she's 18 -- seems pretty cool and I definitely plan to keep bugging her with questions because she's a great rider and knows a lot.

But then I had an encounter while riding in the indoor the other day. A girl rode in on a big fancy horse. I gave her a smile and said hi.

Her response? The most withering ice queen look I have ever been given in my life. Okaaaaaay. So we rode around in silence for a while.

And then, when we were both walking, she approached me and started spewing these super insulting comments, implying just vaguely enough that maybe I've never met an equine before and might be confused as to how I ended up bouncing around on a horse at that moment in the first place.

I could go into detail about the whole exchange, but it was so immature and stupid -- and would probably get me all fired up again -- that I don't even want to bother. Rest assured that it was uncalled for and it was ridiculous. I think I handled myself pretty well because I wouldn't just sit there and take it. I asked her to back up her statements with actual observations of my riding. Which she totally couldn't, of course, so that shut her up. But I also had to really fight not reply with something equally snotty and mean. Must. Be. Bigger. Person. (And am, physically and age-wise, ha.)

Anyway, the whole thing left me feeling shocked and furious. What the HELL is going on with these brats at the barn? I never encountered girls like this when I was growing up. Where I came from, you were likely a nerd if you rode horses (cough cough), but these girls are like the bitchy prom queen/cheerleader types on horseback. The whole thing pissed me off so hard that I was thinking that no matter how well everything else is going in this lease, it's not worth it to put up with that kind of shit from girls not old enough to vote. Or maybe even drive.

As I rode, something kept bothering me about this girl. Even her face made me angry, and I didn't know why. If a random person saw her on the street, they'd surely think she was pretty. But to me, her little face, her eye makeup, her expression, everything makes me think of the stereotypical mean girl you'd see in a cheesy high school movie. Just everything about this chick -- from her appearance to her actions to her tone of voice -- is a cliche, synonymous with "hot bratty high school girl." Was that why she looked familiar to me, because I've seen her counterparts in trashy movies?

About halfway through my ride, though, the heavens opened up and I realized who she was. OMG! Earlier in the summer, the barn hosted a dressage show and I dropped by for a few minutes to watch. I was at one of the stable's information booths, which was manned by an adult and a teenage girl (enter ICE QUEEN). I chatted with the woman for a few moments about the stable and volunteering, and then, not to leave her out, I turned to the teenager and said, "Hi! So do you volunteer here a lot?"

This girl responded by narrowing her eyes, tossing her shiny, shiny hair over shoulder, letting out a jesus-christ-you-are-dumb-as-shit sigh and then saying, "I OWN my own HORSE" with such venom in her voice that frankly, I was almost impressed. Then, just before scowling and turning away from me, she muttered under her breath, "God. Some people don't know anything."

I am not kidding. That is how it went down.

You know how you're always reading about jaws dropping in shock, and it's usually hyperbole? Not in this case. My mouth literally was hanging open as I stared at the wake of this girl's insane bitchiness. I was rendered utterly speechless. The adult at the table kind of gave me a shrug, like, "At least you haven't had to sit with her at this booth all day."

I have met some bitchy people in my life. But this little snot makes all of those other bitches look like they can't bitch their way out of a paper bag. (And, by the way, I typically don't like when the term "bitch" is applied to women, but when I see or think of this ice queen, the rest of my vocabulary is temporarily erased.)

So THAT was the girl bugging me in the arena. When I saw her at the booth, I might have pegged her at about 15 -- though I am really bad at age estimation -- but on the horse, with her helmet, she seemed like she might be older. I don't care if she's 13 or 17 or 26 or whatever, her behavior is completely inexcusable.

Even so, I felt better for realizing this was the same girl. It's all her problem because she's horridly unreasonable, and it has nothing to do with me. Or with any of the other girls at the barn, for that matter.

I rode around happily for the rest of the time. No way was I going to let some misguided little girl wreck my ride. And, while it's not very zen-like for me to think this, I realized that one day she's going to have to pay for how she treats people. Eventually, her behavior is going to catch up with her, somehow, some day.

Until then, I will kill her with kindness. Either that or with a low, guttural "Who the fuck do you think you are?" when she says something offensive. You know. One of the two.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Horses and Houseguests Don't Mix?

I had an old friend from college visiting from out of town this weekend. We had a blast, just hanging out, reminiscing, and hitting the town a little. Very fun, and it was awesome to see her. She is not horsey -- none of my close friends are -- but I was still kind of excited about taking her to the barn and showing her Marve. I emailed her before she came to visit, explaining that I had to go out and ride him once during the weekend to exercise him, so was she cool with coming out with me? She never responded to that email, but since we both tend to get caught up in our day jobs and don't write back right away, I didn't think much of it.

But then when she was here, it became apparent she had no interest at all in joining me. I ended up going to the stable alone once to ride Marve while she just hung out in my apartment.

I was disappointed, I admit it. The situation also reminded me that as awesome as she is, and even though we always have so much fun together, if something doesn't interest or concern her directly, she won't have anything to do with it. And that annoyed me.

It wasn't like I was asking her to spend four hours at the stable with me. I told her it was a 10 minute drive, tops, then I'd ride for 45 minutes, and then we could go. But she still didn't muster up the interest to join me. I can think of many non-horsey, out-of-town friends of mine who would love to come out to the barn and watch me ride Marve. No, horses might not be their passion, but they are my friends and they would genuinely like to have a glimpse at one of my hobbies. Just like I might know nothing about fencing, karate, pottery making, etc., but if I had a chance to watch one of my friends in action in that sort of hobby -- for a measly 45 minutes -- I'd love it. It would let me get to know my friends a little bit more in a new way.

But you can't force someone to be interested in something, and it's better she hung out at home instead of coming along and moping, I suppose. Plus, she cleaned my whole kitchen while I was gone, including all the greasy remnant of our failed tofu experiment from the night before. So I really can't complain.

When I came home and saw the sparkling kitchen, it somehow reminded me of when we were in college and a lot of people on campus got the idea that we were a couple, partly because we were always together and partly because we went to some gay/lesbian alliance meetings to support a few of our friends. So when I came home to my apartment, I joked with her that it's too bad we're both boring heterosexuals, because otherwise we'd have an awesome relationship: I'd go horseback riding and come home to find that she had done all the domestic chores!

Ah, well. I am very content with my SO, who is completely unhorsey but still listens to me blabber on about my riding without letting on how bored he is. And he sometimes comes to the stable, and he also offered to be my assistant -- as much as he can -- at the schooling show next month if I enter. So I guess I have it pretty good. It just disappoints me my friend had zero interest in something that makes me so excited.

Oh, and my kitchen is dirty again, by the way. Darn it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

You're Doing It Wrong

Ever notice that by taking riding lessons, you are effectively paying a load of money for someone to spend a solid hour detailing all the new and unique ways you manage to fail?

Had my first lesson on Marve since the start of the lease last week, and I was really excited. I'm taking group lessons and there were supposed to be 3 other riders in my class, but none of them showed up on this night. That meant bonus private lesson, whoo hoo!

But my excitement was short-lived. I thought Marve and I had been doing pretty well together, but I guess I was wrong. The instructor had a million things to comment on and gripe about. I felt like I couldn't do anything right.

Now, I do like my instructor. She is not unduly harsh or negative, but she most certainly will point out my flaws. Like, ALL of them. Sometimes, when she keeps pointing out the things I'm (still) doing wrong, I feel like crying out, "But don't you know that this is HARD???"

Obviously, I don't want to pay for lessons only to have the instructor coddle me. I want to get better, and I want that objective feedback from a knowledgeable professional. But I guess sometimes my little feelings get hurt and I wish I had just a smidge more positive feedback. I think I got one compliment the entire lesson. Yes, I'm a whiny baby. But I don't like to think that I'm a disaster and not good enough for Marve, either.

For example, Marve hasn't been stretching or accepting the bit as readily as he once did. Someone at the barn told me she thinks he's being "ruined" because the BO is now using him regularly in lessons. This girl believes not all the lesson riders are good enough for him and are changing him for the worse. I can totally buy that, but I also worry that I'm part of the problem and I'm contributing to his possible downward slide. Sure, these kind of issues come with the territory with lesson horses, but since I'm riding him three times a week I don't want to be a triple bad influence, if that makes sense.

I guess there's not much I can do except keep trying, practicing, working, and listening to my instructor....even if she isn't exactly handing out the shiny gold stars my over-achieving self so dearly craves.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

You Still Need Lessons?!

Yesterday I had two people, on completely separate occasions, ask why the heck I still need riding lessons. Because, really, don't I already know how to ride a horse by now?

Ah, well, how do you even begin to go about trying to get them to understand? I tried to draw a comparison to playing tennis/painting/playing a musical instrument -- no matter what your level, instruction is helpful -- but I don't think it did any good. If I can get on a horse and ride around without immediately falling off, then I'm good to go, right?

It reminds me of being kid, when other kids would say, "Oh yeah, I totally know how to ride a horse" because they were plunked on a pony at the county fair or went on a trail ride once. As a kid, this made me kind of angry because they were so clueless about what really goes into riding...now, I just know they're clueless. Like how I'm clueless about so many other things in life!

My cantering with Marve is slightly better, if only based on the fact that I'm no longer afraid of him running away and I'm starting to not care about how bad we might look to everyone else. I figure getting over those issues is half the battle. Riding is such a mental exercise as well as a physical one, and once I believe I can do it, it makes a difference.

I suspect, however, that my little fantasies about the dinky schooling show need to be put on hold. Marve has such huge gaits and really tears around the arena sometimes. Yeah, I can slow him down and get him into a nice steady gait, but really his stride is just huge, and I can't picture him calmly going around in circles in that arena with 10-15 other horses at once. Sniff, sniff. What's that I smell in the air? Disaster!

As always, we will keep working on it. And "it" = everything.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Secret Riding

My ride on Marve this weekend didn't go quite as well as I'd hoped. No major problems, but we just didn't feel entirely in sync. Maybe it was because there were several other riders in the arena and I was working hard to avoid them and couldn't always do exactly what I wanted, like get on a 20m circle and spiral in/out to get Marve to to relax and start to flex. Also, I still feel self-conscious having other people watch me ride. I don't know why; I consider myself pretty confident in other areas in my life, but when I get to this stable I feel like I don't measure up.

We're still having some trouble on the canter. I only cantered a few times, mostly because I felt kind of bashful about looking bad in front of those girls. I kept wishing I could practice in private, but I need to get over that, and fast. As much as I want to ride in total isolation with no on watching me and judging me (minus my lessons, of course), it can't happen.

Plus, and I know this is stupid, but I keep wondering how I'm measuring up to the other people who ride Marve. I am half-leasing him, but he still gets used on my off days in lessons. I worry I'm the "worst" rider he has. This seems especially wrong since I get to ride him 3 days a week, so in theory, I should be the rider who works best with him. Yeah, maybe that's kind of a goofy line of thinking, but there it is.

Despite all my paranoia and realizations that Marve and I are far from perfect, I can't help but start fantasizing about the little schooling show coming up in a few months. I know I'm getting ahead of myself, but I like thinking about the show because it gives me some solid goals to work on. I'm already wondering whether I should enter the intermediate or advanced division. I entered intermediate last time, but I was thinking I should probably do advanced this time around. It makes sense since I am leasing and have more time to practice; plus the advanced division is full of the oldest riders, so I wouldn't be bopping around the ring with a bunch of 11-year-olds again.

(And yes, there are times when I think it's so ridiculous for me to want to be in the show at all since I'm an adult, but the show is for all ages and does attract some adult riders. Also, after I rode in the last show, I had a woman come up to me and tell me she was glad she saw me riding because she's considering taking lessons, and seeing another adult riding in the show inspired her. So there's that.)

The downside about the advanced division is that it tends to be full of teenage girls all decked out in impeccable show clothes, and somehow these girls are all riding a clone of the same bay Thoroughbred. And in general, they're pretty darn good. Marve and I still have a lot to work on and I'm not sure whether we'd be as steady and consistent as all those other advanced horses/riders...so maybe we still belong in intermediate? I guess I'll see what my instructor thinks. You know, when it actually gets closer to show time and I get confirmation that I can even ride Marve in it. :)

Anyway, now that I have a few days before I can ride again, I keep thinking of all the things I could try at the canter, ways to improve my position and get Marve to relax, etc. Right now I can't wait to get back on and start some canter work...but then once I'm in the saddle under those watchful eyes, I chicken out. I should probably just pretend no one is watching me at all, and that Marve and I are just working on things alone.

Geez, I feel like I'm a self-conscious middle schooler all over again. Maybe this is what happens when you spend your time at a barn full of teenage equestrians! Or maybe it's just me. In any case, wish me luck. And a better canter position while you're at it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sweet, Sweet Deception

This is not horse related, but it's so ridiculous I just had to post it.

Allow me to set the scene for you. A few days ago, I was busy working surfing websites when I noticed an ad featuring a nice big ear of corn on the side of the page. Now, I am very anti-advertising, and I don't think I have ever clicked on an online ad in my life. But for some reason this one caught my eye. It said, "High fructose corn syrup has no artificial ingredients."

Hmm, I thought at first. There's a clever way to show that "no artificial ingredients" or "all-natural" are essentially meaningless.

But then I noticed the ad said something along the lines of "Get the facts at SweetSurprise.com."

No way, I thought. This can't be what I think it is.

I clicked on the ad to go to the website and ohhhhhhh yes it is. SweetSurprise.com is part of a marketing campaign arguing that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is just dandy. After all, it is nutritionally the same as table sugar, has no artificial ingredients, and has the same number of calories as table sugar. So, duh. GET THE FACTS, people, and wise up that HFCS isn't, you know, an industrially processed disaster being pumped into practically every type of processed food there is.

Here are some gems from the website. In the Q&A, the answer to "Are sugars bad for your health?" starts off by saying that sweeteners have been tested and approved by the FDA. It also contains nice language like, "Excessive consumption of sugar could lead to adverse health effects just as excessive or unbalanced consumption of many otherwise safe food ingredients could potentially be problematic for some individuals."

But what about the benefits of "nutritive sweeteners," you ask? Oh, they've got a whole list of the benefits! They include, but are not limited to: creating improved mouthfeel, helping baked goods brown, and contributing to the volume in ice cream. Also, honey is not healthier than high fructose corn syrup.

I am not totally above HFCS, by the way. I still cave and buy bad-for-you snacks, including those with HFCS, even though HFCS and partially hydrogenated oils are the two biggies I work hard to avoid. (Oh, and aren't most of the cheapo beers now made with HFCS? So it's probably in that High Life in my fridge, ha.) And overall, I am a TOTAL and complete sugar nut. So when I have a sugar binge and cram my face full of organic Newman-O cookies, I know what I'm doing is still really bad for me, even if I'm eating organic evaporated cane juice instead of HFCS.

But still. HFCS is evil, in my opinion. And this market campaign is like super-duper evil. I think the folks who rely on the cheap sugary goodness of HFCS for their paychecks are getting freaked out by all the trans-fat bans and realize that their number is next. As it should. There is no reason for HFCS to be in our food, except to save money for the people making the food.

So there, you learned something about me. I'm a HFCS nazi. I also cram my face full of Newman-Os and could never, ever be a PR person for HFCS. Even if they tried to buy me off with sweet, sweet snacks.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

First Ride

When I got to the stable for my first official ride on Marve as part of the new lease, I was really nervous, and I didn't even know why. Maybe I was still afraid I wasn't good enough of a rider for him, or I was feeling uncertain about all those snooty teenage girls hanging around the place. I don't know, but I definitely felt nervous. And it didn't help that when I showed up and started grooming and tacking up Marve, no fewer than FIVE of those teenage girls pretty much stood in a line and just stared at me the whole time. I was like, ummmm hi guys. I really don't think they intend to be so unfriendly, but it sure comes across that way. Anyway, they didn't help my nerves because I felt like they were judging my every move and I kept worrying I'd make some stupid mistake or forget to do something.

In any case, I got Marve ready without incident and took him to the indoor ring. It was a beautiful day so people were riding outside, but I wanted to stick to the indoor for the first time, especially since I haven't ridden him outside yet. Also, I lucked out because no one else was riding in the indoor. I couldn't believe I had it to myself -- that is pretty much unheard of at this barn.

I led Marve over to the mounting block. Still nervous. I stood on the block and thought about how horses can sense your tension and I didn't want to screw up our ride before it started. So I took a big breath and then it out in an audible exhale. And guess what Marve did? He let out a big sigh of his own! LOL. I don't know if he was really more relaxed or just wondering what was taking me so long, but he made me laugh and I felt better, so I got on.

We walked around a bit to warm up and then we started trotting. Marve looks awesome trotting and is pretty willing to stretch/bend, which I like. The first few times we rode by the mirrors I couldn't stop staring. I just thought we looked so good together! Of course, in reality I knew I was an uncertain re-rider with not-so-hot equitation packing an extra 25 pounds and wearing a hot pink thrift store t-shirt, but still. I just felt good riding him.

I was also thrilled to be in that huge arena without having to navigate around other horses. So we spent a while doing serpentines, broken lines, etc. just to enjoy the space. Marve was great. I can certainly see that I need improvement, but I can get better.

That is what is so awesome about this -- I feel like riding Marve will make me a better rider. In the last year I've tried so hard to improve my riding, and sometimes it feels like I never get anywhere. But I think I can learn a lot riding Marve, which is exciting.

I had planned to only walk and trot for this first ride, since it's his canter that has made me nervous in the past. In all honesty, I wasn't worried so much about falling off as I was about falling off and having Marve run back into the barn and all those teenagers realizing that the clueless re-rider couldn't hack it on her first day. Silly, I know. But after a little while I decided to face my fear and try the canter.

We only cantered once in each direction, and just a few laps around a 20-meter circle each time. But I did it, and there were no problems with him getting too quick or being difficult to bring back. It wasn't pretty, though, because his head was up and his ears were back. I'm not sure what I was doing to make him so unhappy...I wasn't hauling on the reins or anything like that. Maybe my weight wasn't entirely balanced or something. I definitely need to work on that, but I'm sure we'll get better.

I mostly need confidence, and once that comes, things will improve. I'm only starting to realize just how much those early experiences of me riding horses/ponies who ran away with me are affecting my riding today. I think I will always be a little apprehensive about cantering a new horse, but it's something I can deal with.

Overall, I am thrilled and optimistic. I love the stable's facilities and location. I can even handle the know-it-all girls, who probably won't be so bad once I get to know them. I'm excited about Marve and what he can teach me, and I'm already antsy for the next time I can get out there and ride him. Which unfortunately is a few days away. But I love how excited I am! I'm so glad I decided to do this lease.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Champagne of Beers

Oh, and here's a story some of you may appreciate. This weekend, my SO invited a couple of his friends over to celebrate a recent job transition. It would just be a few of us and we decided to do a champagne/sparkling wine party. I was in charge of picking up the champagne...and yes, I only got decent stuff. No one was harmed in the consumption of Cook's or Andre, ha.

But then one of my SO's friends came to the door carrying a case that even from a distance looked suspiciously familiar to me. He explained that he wasn't a champagne drinker so he brought some beer...and since it was a champagne party, he brought THE CHAMPAGNE OF BEERS. Otherwise known as Miller High Life. So now we have even MORE of this stuff in our house! Awesome. And I'm only half kidding, ha.

Also, the evening may have involved me sitting there saying, "Oh, wow, this is like, super fizzy champagne" while everyone laughed at me. It was fizzier than usual, I swear! Apparently it might have been because that particular bottle of sparkling wine was produced with the Charmat process, and maybe the previous bottle wasn't? I clearly do not sit around sipping champagne all the time so I'm no expert. :)

Or at least I can't now, since there is more High Life in my fridge. Good times.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Transition from Mae to Marve

Well, it's September, which means my lease on Mae is unofficially over. "Unofficially" because the owner would still like me to continue riding, so I don't have to stop, but I think I've already come to terms with the lease ending. I love Mae. I think she's a great horse and I will miss her, but I'm not sure how often I'll get out there to ride her anymore. I'm not even sure I want to commit to once a week, to be honest. I guess I'll wait and see how I feel before making any decisions.

I'd also like to sort of apologize here for anything not-so-nice I might have said about Mae's owner. Since she's returned, she and I have met at the barn a few times to chat and work with Mae together. Even if the owner has done some things I don't entirely understand (like just leaving me to ride her horse while giving me almost no info, not contacting me or the barn owner all summer to check up on Mae, etc.), I now see there is no denying how much she loves Mae. I think the owner means well and wants Mae to be happy and healthy and have the best. This is part of the reason why I feel okay backing away from the lease situation, because at the least, I know Mae still has her "own" person to come take care of her and love her.

I only rode Mae once this weekend, and when I left I didn't realize it might be my "last time." I didn't leave a note for everyone else at the barn or anything. It's not like I think I won't be going back ever, but it feels weird, like I just up and left without saying goodbye. I guess I have a hard time with transitions and change, huh?

Speaking of transitions...the lease with Marve at Other Barn is official! (Am I going to have to call it "Primary Barn" now?) I start this week. I'm nervous. Will I do okay with him? Will he run off with me at the canter?

But I'm also super excited. Oh, and for those who asked, Marve is a huge Thoroughbred, about 17 hands. Gray. I'm not sure how old he is. I know he did a lot of jumping and dressage before he came to this barn. I don't believe he's an OTTB, but don't quote me on that.

I think this is a good move for me. Wish me luck!