Friday, December 30, 2011

Coming Back Together

In all the craziness in the month and a half leading up to finals, I had very little time to play with Royal. Little tiny sessions and walks here and there, but nothing substantive. I never like to start anything that I won't be able to come back to quickly, so I felt it was better to leave Royal to his own devices and start doing stuff again during winter break. Which is now. And something has changed, which is that Royal is FAT. Really, really FAT.

I don't have any good pictures of his front profile, but Monday night I rode him bareback and felt like I was straddling a redwood. Seriously, how does this happen? How does this horse go from needed a cup of corn oil per day to maintain his body condition (in addition to grain, hay, and plentiful pasture) to round on barely any pasture in a little over two months? My horse is weird.

So I've been working on getting us back into riding shape. All my riding muscles are out of whack, which makes it easy on both of us. Neither of us are particularity fit, so we're getting it back together. It's mostly been Freestyle riding and liberty, and Royal has not lost his good brain. I played with the Steady Rein concept (lift the rein in order to slow or ask the horse to stretch) and he picked that up well. He's not so good as maintaining the stretch, but we're getting there. Since the only place to ride is the arena, it can get pretty crowded in there quickly. We're all learning to make do.

I've also been practicing my two-point position. I want to have a steadier leg over jumps, if only to not distract Royal. This means lots and lots of practicing on the flat and over pole/cross-rails. It's fairly easy to maintain at the walk (although my calves are getting a serious workout), but a bit harder at the trot. It didn't help that my barn owner was also riding her mare (who was in heat) at the time, so Royal was very easily distracted. And it is somewhat had to steer in two-point. So, things to work on and improve.

It's dark this time of year, although we're had unusually warm temperatures and barely any snow, and what little we get melts almost instantly. No one is sure what to make of it, so we manage as best we can. But I am thankful for the indoor arena.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas/Happy Solstice

Well, finals are done, there's barely any snow on the ground, and it's time to party. Even Royal was festively dressed.

Not anymore though. Hasn't really been cold enough to warrant the blanket for a while.

Time to kick back and party.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In Lieu of an Actual Post



Line on LF hoof from where the abscess blew out.

A leopard at the MN Zoo

Napping foal at the MN Zoo

Leopard at the MN Zoo

Three napping bears at the MN Zoo

My cat not happy about his newest fashion accessory

That's all for now! Back to studying

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Been Busy

My life will just not slow down. Tests, papers, Thanksgiving, traveling, and general mayhem leave little time for Royal and even less for blogging. Nothing of interest to note on the Royal front, but I will try to continue my Adventures in Amateur Academia when I can. That may not be until after finals are over (gulp!).

In the meantime, one of my favorite Christmas songs:


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Adventures in Amateur Academia: Part 1

I go to school, but I never learn what I want to know. - Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes.

Teaching is hard, especially when your students won't listen to you. But I'm getting ahead of myself. As with most stories, it makes the most sense to start at the beginning.

In August, a family moved their new horse to the farm. The horse owners of the family consisted of a mother and two of her daughters, none of which had ever owned a horse before or even ridden much. No horse-sense whatsoever. And they bought a flashy painted Arabian-mix, who turned out to be very neurotic and barely trained. Anyone who's been in the horse world for a while know this is a recipe for disaster, and disaster it became. When they actually tried to ride the horse, he bucked them off. Again, they had no real horse experience and no idea what to do.

So, my barn owner and I went into action. She offered to do groundwork with the horse (she does Clinton Anderson) and I offered to give them riding lessons on Royal. I figured it would be a good base for them since Royal is sensitive but no longer explosive. In a pinch, he'll listen to me. Plus, I thought their horse moved a lot like Royal so it would be good to learn on him.

The first lesson was a nasty shock to me. Not only had one of the girls decided not to show up, but the mother's husband was there. He was a real piece of work, being rude to me and the ladies. He didn't see the point of all this groundwork and lessons; just get on and hang on. I had to fight the urge to tell him what a terrible idea that was and instead tried to stress the important of a well-rounded horse and rider. I don't think I got through to him. I had all three of them get on Royal and do very basic things: one-rein stop and passenger lessons at the walk. None of them could sit well and all lost their balance quickly. Luckily, Royal was a very good boy and tried to help them out as best he could. Although the dude had to eat some humble pie when he accidentally cued Royal to trot and didn't know what to do, even though Royal gave him a slow trot. But, they all seemed happy enough and the ladies wanted more lessons.

I was cautiously optimistic, but had a bad feeling.

To be continued...

Farewell West Point

Yesterday, Linda Parelli's magnificent horse West Point died. I don't know any details yet, but heard it was an accident. My condolences to Linda and everyone at the ranch. Westy was a joy to watch and I learned a lot from him.

You amazing horses need to stop dying. First Gogo, then Hickstead, and now Westy. It's too sad.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

8 years

November 8th was my birthday and the 8-year anniversary of when Royal really became mine. What a crazy time it's been, full of ups, down, zig-zags, and flip-flops. I've posted before about how I found Royal and of our first tumultuous year together, and I think it's fair to say that I sort of rescued him. He would never have made a safe camp horse, and the farm where I bought him has seen been raided by the MN Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation. It's still in operation, but on a tight leash, I think. But the reality is much more than that.

The truth is, we saved each other.

The year before I met Royal was the toughest of my life. My friends turned on me, and I was being bullied in my small private school. I was depressed and suicidal, even trying to figure out the best way and place to kill myself. No one would care, I figured. I thought my family would just go on and no one would miss me. All I had to do was do it.

There was one problem: I hadn't owned a horse. The only thing that kept me alive that year was that I had not completed my life goal of owning my very own horse, and I wasn't going to let myself die before that happened. Whenever things go too bad, I just thought of that horse. I didn't know what it would look like, but it existed in my mind and that was enough to keep me going.

After seventh grade, I changed schools and my parents said the money that would have gone towards tuition would instead go toward leasing a horse. I decided on the barn that had been my favorite horse camp, and that's where I was introduced to Royal. I knew from the start that he was a problem project horse, and I think that was actually just what I needed. Something more important than all my emotional angst and needed my help. Royal once crawled out of a 3'x1' trailer escape door... and followed me right back into the trailer 10 minutes later. Soon after starting to work with him, I was the only one he would let near his hindquarters. He trusted me more than any other human.

Of course, that wasn't saying much, as the post above illustrates. But there was something about him that made me think he was worth it, and I still think that. He tries so hard and has a genuineness about him. I remember our first bareback rides where he had to figure out how to move so I wouldn't get all bounced around. He shortened his normally huge stride and gave me his best western pleasure trot. We've learned how to watch out for and take care of each other, especially while jumping. Our performance at Steepleview was the culmination of everything we've done, and I've never felt so happy as when we flew over that last cross-country jump. We did that together and nothing can take that from us.

I've been so privileged to have him in my life, and I can't imagine life without him.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Winding Down

The weather keeps getting steadily colder and my schedule keeps staying busy. I've found a few things to do to amuse myself and do some semblance of a good deed, but I don't want to write about that now. Mostly because I have no idea how I feel about it. But in the meantime, I've still been playing with Royal and we're trying some new things. Like ground driving

In a circle

And on a straight line.

And our old favorites, like bareback rides on the dirt road.

Life is good.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


This past week was a dozy, with tests in every single class and a lab report and a lab journal due, so I was quite busy. And sick. I also got sick. I think I did okay on most of the stuff, but we'll see.

Royal and BJ got pedicures on Monday, and they did really well. Royal has a groove around his left front that I'm pretty sure is from the abscess blowing out the coronet band. It looks odd but cool, and he doesn't have an extra sensitively in that hoof. In fact, he's doing great. Yesterday was the first time I've ridden in a week, so we started out in the arena, playing with impulsion and faux-bridleless riding before moving on to Finesse. I've been using my halter with Finesse reins instead of a bit, mostly to give both of us confidence and it seems to be working. Instead of focusing on where Royal's head is and if he's moving in the right frame, I've been trying to make sure we have a good connection. If he goes above the "bit", I just lightly bring my inside hand up in a suspension rein. If he goes back from it, I bring my hands back in an effort to keep the connection. Kind of combining Karen Rohlf's ideas and Game of Contact. And so far, it appears to be working. Royal's getting better and better about maintaining the connection and wouldn't ya know it, all the nice physical attributes come along with it. Sweet.

I worry about him getting arena sour, especially with winter coming up, so we went for a walk on the road. Which turned into a trot, then a walk, then a trot, then a canter, then a gallop. All intentional and all fun. When I first asked him for a gallop, I could him hesitate, almost going "Really?" Yes, really, Royal. We came back to the canter for a while, then turned around and galloped again. And it was amazing. I just started laughing, so pure was my joy as we flew down the dirt road. And Royal loved it too, wanted to do more. Not in a tense way, but in a fun way. It was great for both of us to just let loose and go as fast as we wanted. And even though that was pretty fast, I think Royal's got another gear in there. We'll probably have to wait for next year for it.

I did have to put a stop to it, as I didn't want him to get too tired or sweaty. And Royal, to his credit, moseyed back to the farm on a loose rein, totally relaxed. I'm pretty confident that he enjoyed it as much as I did, and he'll want to do it again.

Ah, Royal.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Arrival of Fall

We had a bit of a heat wave the last couple of weeks and it was nice, sort of. Royal's been getting his winter coat, so unexpected heat waves can be hard on him. But mid-week, fall arrived with a bang. Temperatures went from the 70s-80s to the 50s-60s. I've been pretty busy, but still went out to the farm for some Night Riding. One of the perks of having an indoor arena at the farm. I found the big door open despite the cold and wind, and tried to close it. What followed was me pushing against the door with my 115lb. frame and growling "damn you, static friction!" under my breath. Despite my efforts, I didn't close the door, but the wind wasn't too bad in the arena.

After getting Royal, I realized he'd gone tramping through BOTH kinds of burr bushes, big and small. So, I had to get those out before I tacked him up and started out. After our first circuit around the arena, I saw that the moon had risen and was visible from the door. Well, I suppose it was a semi-good thing I hadn't been able to close the door.

Sorry for the crappy pics. My cell phone apparently does not like taking pictures at night.

After that, we did a basic little warm up before playing Seven Games with a little cross-rail. Friendly, Porcupine, and Yo-Yo/Squeeze went well, but my combination of Circling and Driving sent Royal in hyper-mode. It started well enough, but soon he wanted to canter around the small little circle, which was just not possible. We had a little discussion about the appropriate speed for tiny cross-rail, and finished with a little Game of Contact/connection with the reins. He's still learning that Finesse is supposed being where we hold each others' hand, not where Royal flips out and Renee gets frustrated. He made some great progress, so I ended on a good note.

This afternoon, we had another light ride. Some wtc, with another little bit of rein connection, which he did fantastically at. After a little bit, I really felt him stretch into the contact, but without leaning. Something I've never felt before, and it was cool. I feel like we're really coming together.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Gogo, of Eventing a Gogo! was euthanized today. Her tendon injury reached the point where she was no experiencing a good quality of life and her owner made the difficult decision to let her go. It is a very sad day and the world has lost a wonderful being. :(

I started following the blog last winter, and reading about Gogo's adventures really made me want to get into eventing. I checked it religiously for updates about Gogo's condition and was very much hoping she'd get better. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

Gogo was a mare who was equally talented and quirky, who showed immense promise until a small slip changed everything. I am so sorry for Andrea and wish her the best during this difficult time.

Rest in peace, wonderful Gogo.

Friday, October 7, 2011

MN Hunt Cup

Sorry for the quietness. I've been totally swamped with papers and tests for a while, and all my writing energies have been tapped out.

But, I still find time to have fun with Royal. Last Sunday, we headed down to the Long Lake Hounds for the Minnesota Hunt Cup. Basically it was kind of like Hunter Pace. They had six 2'6" brush fences set up in a half mile loop with lots of undulations. You could enter in different categories, each with its own optimum time. They had different speeds for Beginner Novice, Novice, and Training and the goal was to get as close to the time of your level as possible. Not faster or slower. The goal was to help people practice pacing themselves and their horses.

So, I thought it sounded like a great idea and we headed down there for the Beginner Novice category. I had to turn around twice because the facility didn't believe in signs or posters or mailboxes. Once we got there, I unloaded Royal, registered, warmed him up and went to the tent. The course was around the bottom of a big hill, and if you stood on the top of the hill, you could see everything. After letting Royal get acclimated, it was time for our practice round. The course started with a long downhill stretch before you turned right to the first jump, which was a bunch of brush encased in a bright yellow box. Royal got very bug-eyed and I knew about five strides out that it wasn't happening. No big deal, we just circled around and popped over it. The rest of the course went smoothly, even though he gave a couple over jumps the stink-eye. Even though the round didn't officially count, they still timed us and we came in at 2:30, with the optimum time being 2:40. Close!

Our real timed round went even better. Royal didn't bat an eye at anything. He wanted to go really fast, but wasn't out of control. We had a time of 2:20 (it felt like we were going at a slightly faster than normal canter) and I was very satisfied with that. After cooling him down, we headed home. It had been a great experience and a good end to our show season.

But a surprise was waiting for me in the mail. I left before my division finished and had no idea what the placings were. So imagine my surprise when this came in the mail...

The fanciest ribbon I have ever won. We placed second in our division! Apparently a brisk canter is the right speed for us at BN. I couldn't believe it, and this thing is especially fancy.

Sorry for the crappy quality (stupid cell phone). That's the button of the ribbon: a little painting of a hunt scene. Sweet! And from a schooling show. I've never seen anything like this before, even for Grand Prix show jumping.

Of course, Royal was very bored when I tried to get his picture with The Fanciest Ribbon Ever. Why should I care?, he asks. And of course it doesn't matter to him, but I still think it's awesome.

If they hold this again next year, I am totally going.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vet School Application Drama

Lots of quietness on the Royal front. I haven't had much time to do anything and when I do have time, I get sick. I've been battling a very annoying cold for a few days now, and it's really sapped all my energy. I haven't had too much energy to play, although I did get a nice ride in on Saturday. Royal was a dream, just totally perfect.

But another time sink has been my vet school application. When I took the GRE, I knew I was taking the revised test. But what I didn't know was that it would take a long time to get my results, longer than the vet school deadline. I didn't realize this until after I took the test, and by then it was too late. So, I figured, that's it. The vet school won't accept it, so there you go. But a meeting with my adviser revealed that they would accept my score as long as everything else was in by the regular deadline. Which is Monday. So I've been scrambling to get everything ready: my personal statement, tallying up experience hours, and getting my letters of recommendation. So far, my letter writers have responded admirably, and it appears to be going smoothly. So, we'll see if all the drama ends up being worth it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Where To From Here?

I've done a lot of thinking about what the future holds for me and Royal. Even though we didn't pull off a Disney movie finish, I still felt like it was an extremely successful weekend. I really want to keep going with eventing, even if we never get a ribbon.

The question become, how do I mesh competition training and Parelli? So far, the official Parelli line has been that you don't do anything even remotely related to competing until you graduate Level 4. This is the equivalent of mastering 3rd Level dressage and be able to do flying lead changes bridleless and canter half-passes while ground driving and trailer loading at liberty, when it all comes down to it. I think it's patently ridiculous to require that before doing BN and Novice eventing. To achieve Level 4 with Royal, I would either have to go down to the Centers, which is becoming more and more unobtainable to the non-Parelli-Professional, or continue toiling away for what will probably be another 4-8 years. Neither option is appealing, so I'm not doing either.

This summer I did a sort of half-and-half. We did lots of competition-type training, but with a lot of Parelli techniques, and always with Parelli philosophy. Confidence is number one, reward the slightest try, and always keep things fun. I feel like our relationship vastly improved this summer. Instead of chipping away at tasks, I had lots of specific small goals surrounding the shows and travels. Things like jumping ditches, going through water, various jump heights, beginnings of dressage, getting my new trailer, etc. I really don't think I would have done any of that if I hadn't been so focused on competing. I've also begun to see what Royal is truly capable of. I always knew he was special, but he has really risen to the occasion this year. So, I feel it was a really good decision.

But, it's been a quiet couple of weeks. I've been busy with school, volunteering at the Humane Society, work, and this weekend I audited a Karen Rohlf clinic. It was cold and windy, but so worth it. She had so many useful simulations and concepts that I'm still bouncing around in my head. She creates a very good bridge between Parelli and dressage, and I think it will further add more to my and Royal's journey. Hopefully I'll be able to ride with her next year.

I've been having some short and quiet sessions with Royal. Just online or liberty session, although today we tried to do some riding today. But it was cold and rainy, and I didn't feel like Royal was really connected to me. This sort of thing seems to happen about once a month, for whatever reason. He was really distracted and not "all there" so we just had a lots of undemanding time and retreat. Eventually he came out of his shell and we had a short ride, just doing passenger lessons and circles at the walk. After which, he returned to his usual goofy self and tried to eat some paper.

Ah, Royal.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Steepleview Professional Pics!

I made the decision to have professional photos taken at the horse trial and I'm so happy I did. Neither of my parents are not very good at the whole "action pictures" and wouldn't have been close enough to get good ones anyway. So, credit to DG Phtotography for some awesome pictures! I was so happy that they got the run-out photo and plenty of other "special" moments. Because the HT was full of those.

I joked that I would have some... interesting facial expressions during the jumping and it turns out I was right. I'll have to work on my poker-face-while-jumping this fall/winter/spring. Also keeping more contact with my leg, since it looks a lot better when it's not wildly swinging around.