Gus gets the OK from the vet

Today I had a good dressage ride.  Gus did everything I asked of him really well.  His counter canter is coming along, his leg yields were good, and I worked on some shoulder in.  I also started back on the sitting trot work today.  I have to be careful not to get him too sore, so I do it in bits and pieces.  He is staying relaxed through his back and allowing me to find a place to sit.  I hope to get the sitting trot WAY more solid before our first Prelim. in February.  All in all, his training is going along as it should be.   I am jumping 2 days a week (or 3 if I keep it low and simple).  I am now able to balance in my new saddle and am working on keeping a good canter to and from the fences.  He is jumping like a machine!  It is so much fun to ride the NEW GUS!!!! 

on a side note…….

Dr. Miller gave Gus a big THUMBS UP today during his lameness evaluation.  His back was a bit sore from all of the balancing exercises I have had to do lately,  but his flexions were great!  Dr. Miller couldn’t believe how fluid his movement even with his back being so sore.  He gave him his spring shots, an immunity booster, and pulled his coggins after his lameness evaluation.  We did the usual aceto-glucosamine injection series, and will add an injection of “legend” later this week.  His joints are all “lubed up” and ready to jump some big fences.  Tomorrow or Thursday I will set up some bigger fences and start to get him ready for the clinic with Becky.  I can hardly wait!!!  Jumping has become fun again.

Florida preparations have begun

Tomorrow Dr. Miller will come out to the farm where Gus is staying to give him his spring shots, draw a coggins, and perform his annual lameness examination.  Gus will get some sort of immunity booster for the trip, and will get flexion tests to determine whether or not he will need some type of joint injections or supplements for joint maintenance.   Dr. Miller will probably stop out once more before we leave in order to update his health certificate (to cross state lines), and to give him any other medications he might need for the long trip. 

On January 9th, Gus and I will get test out our new skills (and the saddle) in a jumping clinic with US olympic team member Becky Holder.  I am REALLY excited to get to meet her!  I have thoroughly enjoyed watching her and “Courageous Comet” compete over the last several years.

On Monday the 10th, the equine chiropractor will come out to the farm to work on Gus’s back in case he has any vertebrae out of allignment. 

On Thursday the 14th, Gus and I will be headed down 75 south to Ocala!!!

We survived yet another Christmas….

Santa has come and gone.  Reindeer have left trails of carrot pieces all over my carpet.  The trash cans are full of wrapping paper.  Random cookies and candies litter my house.  Toys and clothes and empty boxes are scattered all over the kids’ recently clean bedrooms.  Our checkbooks are empty, and our stomachs are full……but we survived.

Pucker up, Morgan!

Earlier this week, Morgan spent the night with Kate.  Wade thinks Morgan is really cool, and Morgan thinks Wade is just the annoying little brother of one of her friends. 

As the girls were lying in bed, Wade was telling everyone his “goodnights”.  This is how the scene played out….

Morgan and Kate lying in bed, all snuggled in for the night.  Ready to get started on their long “sleepover” chat session.    Wade runs in to give Sissy kisses.  He tells Kate goodnight and gives her kisses.  Then he climbs in bed overtop of Kate.  He says “goodnight, Morgan”, and tries to kiss her.  Morgan, with cat-like reflexes, covers her head with a pillow.  Cordial, yet completely grossed out.  Kate yells out, “Wade! Morgan DOES NOT need a goodnight kiss!”  Wade grins his ornery grin, and says….”Oh yes she does!”  Morgan buried herself deeper into the pillow, trying to avoid the annoying little boy with the puckered lips.  He could never quite get his lips near her face, so slightly dejected, he settled for a goodnight kiss on her arm.  I stood in the doorway laughing like an idiot.  Poor Morgan…..she never quite knows what to expect when she sleeps over.  She is 11 years old, and Wade is only 4.  I think someday she may wish she was a whole lot younger.  That boy is going to be a heartbreaker.

Our “Spelling Bee”

On December 14th my daughter, Kate, competed in the Waynesville Elementary Spelling Bee for the second year in a row.  Last year, as a fourth grader, she won the school spelling bee which qualified her to compete in the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee in Cincinnati last February.  She competed against 75 4th-8th graders for a chance to make it to the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.  Kate placed 7th place out of 75 spellers!  We were so proud of her.  Wade continued to call her “the spelling bee” for the remainder of the year.

On the 14th Kate won again!  She is only the 2nd student in the last 20 years to win the Waynesville Spelling Bee 2 years in a row.  She is once again qualified to compete in the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee in Cincinnati in February.  We are soooo proud of our “Spelling Bee”!

Ready or not……Christmas is here.

I haven’t wrapped any presents.  We didn’t decorate the outside of our house with lights.  I baked only a few dozen cookies —straight from a pouch.  No one in my household has sat upon Santa’s lap–(unless Jeff did and didn’t tell me about it HA HA HA).   I haven’t purchased or eaten one candy cane, and I have yet to be kissed under the mistletoe.  It is December 21st, and I am nowhere near ready for Christmas.   One might think that I have just been sitting around eating bon-bons and watching chick flicks for the whole month of December.  Even though that would be as far from the truth as the east is from the west, I cannot tell you why it is that Christmas’ arrival has taken me by surprise.  It’s not as if they have changed the date on me, but for some reason it has come too quickly.  Ready or not……Christmas is here……. and unfortunately there is no “pause” button.

David Stackhouse Saddlery

I just wanted to write a small piece about David Stackhouse, his assistant Lesley, and the amazing experience I am having because of them. 

As most of you know, I have been in limbo for about a year and a half with my horse,  Augustus.   During that time I tried twice, unsucessfully,  to make him into a solid preliminary horse.  I’ve always known that he has had the athletic ability and heart to make it past the preliminary level, but something kept stopping us.  At first I was having trouble with him rolling under in his bridles.  It caused a great deal of trouble in both the dressage arena and on the cross country course.  After I put him in 3 piece bits it got dramatically better, but I still was having problems keeping Gus out to the bridle while jumping.  He would “scoot” out from underneath me going around turns in the stadium, and would disappear from the bridle as soon as I would get into my jumping position.  I attributed the problems to him being a rusher or being overly excited about jumping.  

I know that most of you are thinking about the saddle already.  I just want to tell you up front that I already knew that my horse had a sensitive back after the first year of owning him.  I went to great lengths to find a dressage saddle and a jumping saddle that would fit both of us correctly.  I have my saddles checked several times a year for fit, and have them adjusted accordingly.  I spent many thousands of dollars on 2 very nice saddles, so I felt very secure in eliminating the “poorly fitting saddle” as the cause of my problems.

On my move up to Preliminary, as the trial and errors continued, his back started to get sore.  I had trouble with the sitting trot making  him so sore that he would pull fences in stadium and cause me to withdraw.  I put him on a supplement that was supposed to help with chronic back soreness.  We tried accupuncture and chiropractic work.  I used a “thin line” pad under my saddles.  It was May of 2010 when I gave up for good.  We had just finished a prelim dressage test with a 60 percent, and then Gus was so sore he refused a fence in the stadium.  He NEVER refuses fences.  I pulled him out of the competition and cried my way home from Lexington.  All I kept thinking was that I had always thought that this horse would be the one that went somewhere.  I thought he would be buried on my farm.  He seemed so perfect for me, yet I couldn’t get all of the pieces to fit into place. 

It was a horrible decision to have to make, but I put Gus up for sale in June.  No one serious ever called about him. 

The summer was filled with soccer, swimming, ICP requirements, and family activities.  It was a great break for me mentally and physically.  For Gus too.  I rode him a few times here and there, and kept him in good enough shape to get him sold.  In October I passed my ICP assessment, and after having watched a great deal of horses and riders throughout the process, I began to have my doubts about selling Gus.  He was so much nicer than so many of the horses I had been seeing throughout the summer, that I wondered if maybe I shouldn’t give him just one more chance.

It was in mid November that I hauled Gus down to Dorothy Crowell’s place in Frankfort, Kentucky for the final evaluation.  I asked her to be completely honest in telling me whether or not I should sell him or if she thought he could make it to Intermediate.  In the back of my mind I thought I already knew the answer.  Based on his inconsistency with the jumping, I figured she would tell me to get rid of him.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Not only did she tell me to keep him, but she absolutely loved him.  She had had all of the same problems with Gus jumping as I did—–when she rode him in my saddle.  In her David Stackhouse saddle, however, my horse became someone else.  His intense hatred for being out of balance (and for me being out of balance in the saddle) caused all of his issues while jumping.  The imbalance made him do crazy things and destroyed the rhythm of his canter on the approach.  All of these things I had attributed to my lack of ability or his lack of submission.  The first day I jumped Gus in her saddle was the same day I made a call to David Stackhouse.  I told him what my problems had been, and the dramatic difference the saddle had made in the way my horse moved and behaved while jumping.  The horse became so quiet, rhythmic, and rideable that I had trouble at first knowing how to adapt.   It was fantastic!

Thus began my phone calls back and forth between Dorothy, David, and Lesley (David’s assistant).  Within a week or so, David and Lesley had arranged to meet me in West Virginia for a saddle fitting.  My family hopped into the truck and hauled Gus to a show grounds for the fitting.  David and Lesley fitted us for a new saddle, and then drove back to North Carolina to start the process of making the saddle.  Due to the timing of the — USEA convention, they were able to get my saddle made in time to use it as a sample at the convention.   And just as they promised, I had my saddle just a few days after the convention ended. 

The saddle arrived in the mail on Friday, and I was riding in it Saturday morning.  Not only was it beautiful, but my horse was soooooo happy in it.  He was relaxed and soft through his back,  and his jumping was phenominal.  I felt in perfect balance over the fence, and my leg was able to stay just where it was supposed to.    His back was not sore afterward either.

Gus and I have started this whole new adventure together.  Just when it seemed like the journey was ending for our partnership, it was just getting started.  Gus and I are headed to Ocala in just a few weeks to begin our 2011 show season.  I will be training with Dorothy and working toward getting Gus to the intermediate level. 

None of this would be possible without the guidance of Dorothy, who was able to see and diagnose the problem, and David Stackhouse (and Lesley!) for creating a saddle for me and my horse that will completely change our riding.  Their customer service, before and after the delivery of the saddle, has been outstanding.  They were a pleasure to work with, and I hope that Augustus and I will make them proud in Ocala this winter!

Gus’s temporary home

This winter wonderland that we call Ohio has once again forced me to move Gus to an indoor arena in order to get ready for Florida.  Fortunately I have been teaching some lessons at a nearby barn with an indoor.  The owner has some open stalls and allowed me to come over for a while so that I can get some good rides in before I leave.   Gus seems content in his temporary home, and I am thrilled to be able to ride him in a big arena—-since my outdoor arena may be under snow until March.

The saddle is here!

Yesterday I returned home from shopping just in time to see the UPS man backing out of my driveway.    I rushed inside as Jeff carried the big box inside from the porch.  My saddle was here!!  I took it out of the box, along with a million packing peanuts, and couldn’t believe how pretty it was.  For all of you that don’t know much about saddles, just take my word for it.  The leather is fantastic.  I did my prescribed 5 coats of olive oil, and then I had to apply the special lotion that came with it.  I finished the final coat this morning.    Then I threw Gus and all of his stuff into my trailer and drove over to my friend’s indoor arena to try it out.  The saddle was great……I, on the other hand, have a great deal of work to do in order to get used to the new change in balance.  Gus stayed relaxed through his back, and seemed to be happy in his new gear….for what I paid for it, he’d better be happy.

Friends in high places

Today we took our truck to a  friend of ours who just happens to work at an auto glass repair shop.  Talk about lucky!   He fixed it in an hour, and gave us an amazing price.  I couldn’t believe that I got off that easy.  The total cost from the tow truck and the new windshield came in under $200.  I was very fortunate.  It’s good to have friends in high places 🙂