Monthly Archives: August 2011

Fling and Flying Changes

Although I have not been riding her (or anyone!) much, Fling continues to work well. I have decided to tackle the flying changes ‘head on’ and make them a focus every time I ride her.  Sometimes you just have to ‘do it!”

Her half pass trot work is very, very good –  in fact, she is doing a quite respectable half pass ‘zig zag’ now, and now I am working to make the canter half pass equally as good. I think that will also help her in her flying changes because part of her issue with the flying changes – and the half pass – is that she gets strong at the canter and does not want to listen to my half halts.

Marie also suggested that at this point she also needs to be stronger to the LEFT – which is a good sign, since for the past year, I’ve been focusing on the RIGHT.

I’ve been doing a ton of haunches in to the left, turn on the haunches to the left and half pass to the left, since she is weaker in those movements that direction and pretty much always has been.

And still, another issue with flying changes is she is still getting ‘wound up’ about them. I cannot do more than one flying changes on a straight line. We do one and it’s off to the races. So, for now, I am doing serpentines of three loops, with a flying change at each change of direction. You would think that would be HARDER, but with Fling it is actually much easier than doing them across the diagonal because I can keep her more in control through the bending. My plan – which may or may not work! – is to get her SO bored with doing flying changes this way that she will be less excitable when I start working on them on a straight line again.


Even hotter and still dry – and my manic decorating period

We have not had more than 1″ of rain at a time since last winter that I can remember. Temps have been 102-106 the past ten days or so. It’s brutal and I’m really worried about the horses. They seem OK now, but excessive hot weather can stress them and cause them to stop sweating, or colic, or even worse, founder. I have been riding very little – very unusual for me. Partially because I can barely make myself go outside before 7 p.m. and then all I want to seem to do is putter around. Also because I am in the midst of bathrooom reconstruction, and a also started a ‘manic redecorating’ phase. We’ve lived at our house for 9 years now and I haven’t done much to it in the past five years. Suddenly, I want to redo everything! Yesterday!

I love quality furniture. I also have very traditional tastes and prefer mahogany, finely finished furniture. But, given my very expensive horse hobby there is no way I can afford that kind of furniture. So, I have discovered new and wonderful places to find quality USED furniture and decorative items on the cheap. In fact, in a recent article, Money magazine had a list of items you should never buy new – and furniture, jewelry and vehicles topped the list.

In the past two months, I have purchased the following furniture at resale shops, Craigslist and ebay:

  • A brand new custom-upholstered sofa for the living room for $229
  • A small 1940s china cabinet for the soon-to-be-remodeled guest bath, which will serve as a linen closet, for $240. It will be painted white.
  • A small mahogany Baker end table for the den for $50. A new Baker table sells for around $1500!
  • A Baker vintage mahogany TV cabinet, which looks like a chest of drawers. I put it in the bedroom to put my ancient (by today’s standards!) television on – and put the DVD player in the space made for the television
  • A round mahogany end table for the living room for $60.
  • Two huge classic customed framed hunting prints for $50 each
  •  A funky French provincial looking buffet – which I will paint white – which will go in our guest bedroom (that doubles as my sewing/craft room) to hold my craft/sewing stuff, for $129.

And, my best finds:

  • A set of six 1940s Rockford Furniture mahogany Chippendale chairs in lovely condition (just need new seats) for $450
  • A Federal style 1940s mahogany china cabinet in very good condition for $225. Both of these items are being shipped from Michigan for about $500 for everything. I looked everywhere in town for Chippendale chairs and the china cabinet. Anything Chippendale started at around $300 per chair. And I could not find a china cabinet I liked for any price – the ones I did not like started at $500 and they were not in great shape.
  • A Drexel Chinese laquered china/curio cabinet for $500 that looked like it had been sitting on the furniture showroom floor the past 30 years.
  • A super heavy wing chair with mahogany trim on the arms and heavy carved apron front for $60. I could use it without reupholstering it, but probably will have it redone to go with my living room better. Labor for reupholstering will be $200 and fabric probably $100 but I could not even buy a chair of this quality today.

At this point I think every room in my house is in some sort of disarray. The spare bedroom is at least painted, but I have not started on making the dust ruffle/curtains/decorative pillows. And there’s not one thing hanging on the wall yet And the funky sideboard needs to be painted, but it is TOO HOT to paint. It just does not do well since the paint dries too fast and the brush marks don’t evenhave time to settle. Spray painting isn’t much better.

I guess my office, the living room and the kitchen are relatively done at this point. I even started taking the wallpaper down from our master bath in preparation for my next huge project – after the first of the year! I really have to make myself STOP starting new projects until ALL of the current ones are DONE!

I think once the temperatures get more reasonable (surely that will be within another month – surely!) and I can ride at will, my enthusiasm for decorating projects will wane!

But right now I am trying to figure out how to arrange living room furniture and am switching out all the light fixtures in there! Mike put one ceiling fan in last week and as soon as I can find fixtures I like, the rest of them will be replaced as well! Mike really hates it when I get in this manic periods! 😉 It means more work for him! LOL!



Heat, heat and more heat. And still no rain.

I am really beginning to feel like a character in Grapes of Wrath. We are now in the worst single year drought in HISTORY. On top of that, we’ve now had, I think,  15+ consecutive days of triple digit temperatures, and have had 26 total days of over-100 temps this summer. Normally we only have about three. There is little relief in sight. It looks like we’re heading to break the all-time record — which was 32 days back in 1980.

Truthfully, this summer didn’t seem so bad until about three weeks ago. The horses weren’t coming in at night covered in salt from dried sweat. But now they are, and the humidity has been oppressive the last few days. Fortunately, a nice breeze usually kicks up by 7 and riding hasn’t been miserable. But anything after 8 a.m. or before 7 p.m. IS miserable.

I am also very worried about our large trees. I’ve been watering the ones around the house, but we have three large oaks in the pasture and I am afraid they will die. They look OK now, but experts say it takes several years for a big tree to die, so the damage may not be apparent. When I had the water truck for the arena, I went out and watered them, but that’s been several months ago. This week I will try and cart our 30-gallon tank out in the tractor’s front end loader, but I’m not sure how much good that will do. But hopefully every little big will help.

We got a few small showers a few weeks ago that saved the grass JUST in time – but we’ve not had a drop of rain in at least a month and we are again in danger of losing our entire pasture.

I am still riding almost every day – but only riding one horse each evening, because by the time it’s bearable, I don’t have time to ride more than one. Hopefully that will be enough to keep them fit so they’ll be ready to do more when the weather breaks.

The cause of our drought and high temps has been a massive ‘high’ that’s been parked over the entire state and it’s sort of a vicious cycle. The drier it is, the less likely the ‘high’ is to move – and the longer the ‘high’ sticks around, the less likely it is to move.

The experts are now saying that weather patterns are such that they think by the end of August we’ll ‘escape’ from the high and get some much-needed rain and much-appreciated lower temperatures.

I have vowed to NEVER whine, moan, bi*ch, complain, pout, etc. EVER AGAIN when I can’t ride because it’s raining, or too wet. Promise.

In regular news, I am riding Faeryn up and down my small ‘hill’ to get her rear end stronger, and even backing her down the hill which she HATES. I figure if she hates it, it must be hard, so I make sure to do it several times! I am attacking the flying change issue again with Fling and we’re back to getting VERY excited and strong at the prospect. This will be our life’s work! Last night I got to try some passage – in that she got very excited because Faeryn and Faxx got a burr up their butts and ran around like idiots – in the heat! I used her extra energy and excitement to try the exercise Marie told me about to try and get piaffe. Fling thought I was crazy, but I got more steps in place than levade than usual. usually when I try to push her forward while holding her back, Fling goes UP instead of stepping in place. It’s just what she thinsk I want and seems most logical to her. I could EASILY train her to levade. Anyway, I praised her to the skies whenever she just MOVED her feet – in any sort of rhythm – without coming up off the ground. I got it several times, so maybe she’ll make the connection next time I ask and she’s NOT super wound up.

Although it all seems a little pointless because we can’t do fourth level until we can get more than one flying change at a time! She’s doing a good schooling pirouette (to the right anyway!)  but the flying changes are a challenge. Go figure!

Faeryn’s second outing at second level

Despite the fact we’ve been under a heat advisory almost every day the past week, I got up at 4:30 a.m. Sunday to take Faeryn to the Freestyle Farm schooling show in Fulshear – about an hour and a half away. I had a two-fold goal: First, to get another score at First level toward year end awards since we only have scores from two judges, and secondly, to get a score at second level to qualify toward the HDS Schooling Show Championships in Katy in December. I also wanted to see if we got comments about being behind the vertical or on the forehand like we did when she showed at the HDS recognized show back in June. I “think” those issues have been solved – but it is always good to get an unbiased opinion, especially since I cannot always ‘feel’ what is really going on.

Plus, our first outing at second level, back in June, was under a very nice, but overly generous judge and we got a 73. I wanted to see how we would “really” score! 😉

She got good scores with no comments about being behind the vertical. In the few times I could glimpse her in the arena mirrors during my warm up, she looked good to me in that department. So, hopefully that issue is ‘fixed.’ But, as I always say, in dressage, when you ‘fix’ one thing, something else ‘breaks.’ LOL!

Some of the most-repeated comments in this outing included “slightly braced’ and  ‘tightness in neck.’ Now, it did not feel that way to me, and honestly don’t think these things have been an issue before. A runner-up in the comments was “could use more thrust.”  That, I did feel and fully acknowledge. I felt like I did not have enough gas in the tank at this show. Whether it was the heat, a less-than-optimal fitness level due to our less-frequent riding schedule, or whether she was just _slightly_behind my leg – cannot tell.  I will say she was listening to my half halts – if she had not been listing – I could very well understand the ‘braced’ or ‘tight in the neck’ comments. Faeryn would much rather me do a half halt with NO reins at all – but she has had to learn to _accept_ the half halt through the reins. Much of my warm up consisted of trot/walk transitions – many, many many – to get her listening to my half halt AND to get her balanced back to her haunches.

So to ‘cut to the chase’ – she got a 65.483 on First Test 3 and a 63.714 on Second Test 1. Perfectly respectable – but, she can do better. 

She needs to ‘break through’ the ‘glass ceiling’ of 65% at First level. She had several 5s on both tests and when I can address those issues, there’s no reason she can’t score high sixties and maybe an occasional 70.

We are ‘throwing away’ points in our entry and exit halts. I used the small mirror in the warm up to address some of the problems with those – but they need to become an ingrained habit. She has gotten into the bad habit of halting and then swinging her haunches to the left. I think she does it more often than I realize and I have not taken every opportunity to tell her it’s NOT what I want. 😉 She needs to get stronger, especially in the canter. I need to start doing little forward and back transitions at the canter, and canter/walk and walk/canter. The other weak spot IS our simple changes in second level and I knew that going in – she really is not strong enough/ready to do them well yet. And that inspired another well-deserved comment from the judge.

However, all that said – I was very pleased with her. Those scores are respectable – especially her 63.7 (ALMOST a 64!) at second when she’s really not yet ready for the level.

Onward and upward. And now, could we please have more rain and less heat. Please.

The summer doldrums

It happens every year around this time. I get the “I am so tired of the heat” blahs. I don’t want to ride and I just ‘happen’ to find an abundance of ‘indoor projects’ that NEED to be done. 😉

BUT. I know I NEED to ride because a horse is not a bicycle. It can’t just be stored in the ‘garage’ until the mood hits. There are shows coming up in the fall, and goals to be met. And it’s definitely not fair to the horse to let him/her languish for a few months and then expect them to be at the same fitness level they were before.  And speaking of fitness level. I have been thinking about how to get mine fitter without pounding their legs. Mike takes his endurance horses to the beach and rides them at a walk in the deeper sand along the shoreline. But, I don’t have time to do that with one horse, much less three. He is at a definite advantage, since he can ride one horse and pony the other! I don’t think that would work – on oh so many levels for me! For one, I would get jerked off backwards when someone decided to go a different direction. And it’s not like I can explain to the ‘unmounted’ one that “we’re going to work on halfpass now, ‘kay?” LOL!

I could take them to a place near Bellville to swim laps. But, again, that would take an entire day, and I could not do it often enough to do much good.

Hills are great, but we have none. Or do we? I do have a pile of the nasty clay that was scraped off my arena. It is not a large hill, but it is a ‘hill’ compared to the surrounding topography. I started riding Faeryn up and down it the other day. Months ago, when I was pondering to my neighbor about what to do with all this surplus dirt, she said “Make a training hill!”  And I laughed.  But I am not laughing now. 😉

Until cooler weather comes, I have given myself permission to only ride one horse every evening. I really can’t bring myself to stick a big toe outside until around 7. And by then, when I get in my arena in the shade of the huge oak and pecan tree, and the evening breeze has kicked up, it’s almost downright pleasant. And I find myself in disbelief when I see the weather and they say it was 100/101 that day. But I suspect if I started at 5:30, I would have no trouble believing that.

But by waiting that late to start, I definitely only have time to ride one. And we arent’ eating dinner until around 9 p.m. these days.

But so far I have not heard any equine complaining about being ignored or neglected. 😉