Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What now Mary Ann?

I think the title above was the name of a song, but I don't know for sure, and I certainly don't remember any other lyrics.  The phrase is meant to jump start my mind for fodder for another episode in the wildly popular "Squidgy" series.
...time passes...more time etc.

So the spouse and I took our little selves off to Fresno, CA  last Thursday night so we could enjoy three plus hours in the single cab of a Toyota Tacoma with three dogs.  There are few things in life other than that experience you should not miss.  We got to the motel in good order.  Placed leashes on all three demons and got out of the truck only to realize that only two of the malcontents were actually attached to a human, or such facsimile of same.  It couldn't be the blind dog, oh no, it had to be the little Brat Russell terrier, often know as the spawn of Satan.  So off she ran, with a 6' leash turning every so often to look back, give her version of the one finger salute, and take off again.   Did I mention it was midnight, in Fresno, and the beast was black?  Such a good time we had playing chase with her.  Down through the Barrio, and alley's, and sketchy streets Steve and I and our attached canine companions Emma and Blind Melon Carlos  raced, calling for our youngest child and encouraging help from the 'hood.  One happy man asked if he could help us.  I engaged him in polite conversation while 6'8" Steve vanished to another part of town.  When the  good Samaritan appeared, all  300 plus #'s and of good height with his pet, a pit bull cross, I squeaked that if he found the miscreant a phone number was on her collar and would he contact me.   Then I too vanished, rather more quickly than the spouse.  I'll come quickly to a close now, as I know you are breathless and near expiration from anxiety.  We returned to the motel parking lot and the creature sat there in the middle of the parking lot, covered in some indescribable filth, waiting for us like what up?  I couldn't even look at her.  Steve was weeping with joy, and I had to pee. 

Happily the rest of the weekend was relatively tame by comparison.  Steve designed his show jumping course in his weird short hand and then began to throw jump poles willy nilly all over the ring.  He bribed me to be his intermediary between the jump crew and his bad self.  You know I think what really happens is he gets me to ask the guys to put a standard next to each pole, two on a vertical, four on an oxer, six on a triple bar and some random number on a Swedish oxer.  When I have to ask them to change some standards around so the oxers match or something, they whine to Steve, who tells them not to listen the woman, she doesn't know what she's talking about.  I usually react pretty calmly about then and retire to the haven of some friend down in the barns who has alcohol.  Usually alcohol and red meat will cure me.  Not always.  Depending on the quality of the dinner we have the night of the insult I may or may not be of any help the next day.  This next day I was pretty much useless, except for the witty repartee' with my homies.

I have nearly 300 friends on FaceBook.  I hope they are all reading this, but like it is in so many embarrassing situations, they mostly are keeping their collective heads down and avoiding eye contact.  I'm also not sure I know all the almost 300 people, but it looks good anyway.  I have friends who have 1000+ friends - how is that even possible unless you do concerts or something?  FaceBook is an interesting phenomena.  I have contemporaries who evidently read 1984, and are convinced that FB is "Big Brother".  I don't care.  If they are interested in what I'm doing they are more desperate than I.  In any case I have reconnected with a LOT of friends from my wicked past, including two boy friends from high school, girlfriends from the era of marriage #1, and of course a lot of horse friends.  I mostly lurk and stalk, spooky, but I like it.  I'm practicing for when I can't get around on my own steam.  If any of you went to Dededo Jr. High, or Wettengel on Guam, don't you think FaceBook is a little like the Slam Books we had in Jr. High?  If any of you reading this went to either school in the mid-60's, or know someone who did, I want to hear from you.  Liz, this means you.

My peppermint mocha is kicking in and making me jumpy so I'll sign off now.  Peace.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Eventing is different

A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.

I have had some feedback on my  blog submissions.  I understand that my humor may not suit all, but that's where that business of "freedom of speech" comes in.  Happily, all the comments, with one exception from someone who admitted that only part of the blog had been read, were positive.  I like doing this so maybe I'll continue for the foreseeable future.  Lucky you.

I want to elaborate on the differences in training of horse and rider in the Hunter Jumper world and the Eventing world.  This is from my perspective of course.  In the simplest of sense, riders come in three formats.  1.)  The amateur who works in an industry other than horses to support their equestrian "fix".  2.)  The professional who feeds upon, that is to say, earns their "fix" money by teaching amateurs and, in the case of a big shot, who will also to instruct other professionals.  There is quite a hierarchy of who's who in professionals, but this may be better left alone.  I may need lessons again some day.  3.)  The third member is the lucky one who has funds from a) previous hard work and a justified retirement; b) a satisfactory marriage or divorce; or the very best c) the individual who managed to choose parents/family carefully.  For they will have managed all their lovely money wisely which allows the, um shall we say, trustee to enjoy life without that tiresome employment business getting in the way of life.  In the case of your type "A"  personality these individuals may be a conglomerate of any or all of the above riders.  Type "A"'s are usually good at what they do, but may not be that much fun at a party.

Let's talk a little about how eventing is different from shall we say hunter jumpers aka H/J.  At a  H/J show
your trainer may ride your horse in a few classes to settle the beast in to the new surroundings, because God only knows Fluffy has not seen the outside of the ring at home in like forever.  If you have a really good horse your trainer will always ride your horse, you will not, and you will be charged an extra training fee for the opportunity to have your horse shown by the professional, and ridden at home by anyone but you.  It's a confusing concept, but it does happen. 

Eventing is different.  You have to ride your horse in all three phases.  Yeah, you, personally.  I had a Jumper trainer a long time ago who showed up at an event to help me.  He was carrying his chaps and boots fully prepared to ride the horse in the "warm ups", and was horrified to learn that I would be doing all the riding and could only take help from him verbally.  Fortunately for all involved, the aforementioned horse had had a nervous break down the night before dressage and tore off all her shoes and for some reason we could not find a farrier.  But in any case, I didn't have to perform at all that weekend which was probably a blessing.

In the H/J world it is critical to have a properly turned out stable at a show.  In all likelihood you would never dream of competing at a H/J show without a trainer.  Depending on how much of a big shot your trainer is, there will be many stalls devoted to anything but horse housing.  There will be drapes which cover the outside of the show stables.  This disguises the fact that you have paid a huge amount of money for a 10' x10' stall made of plastic.  Then there will be mahogany tables, chairs and benches.  Brass lanterns will hang from the eaves.  The tack trunks will all be matchy matchy.  Sod, yes sod is purchased and placed around the custom decorated EZ-Up tent.  There will be an assortment of  plants and trees scattered about and some kind of carpet to give the impression you are "at home".  Never mind you are outside, probably in a field somewhere, with a stable full of horse poop and flies, the trainer with the most stuff wins.  People will want to ride with the big shot with the most expensive "stable".  That's just the way it is.  The last time I rode at an "A" rated horse show with a trainer I paid over $600 in entries, and about $1000 for the rest of the doo-dads.  And that didn't even get me there or pay for a place to stay.   It is at this point that perhaps you should glance over and reread the "about me" part that mentions the reversal of fortune bit.

At an event you may see some drapery, but usually not furniture, unless it folds up.  Occasionally you may run in to someone who is there to help, but it is usually a friend or a parent.  They are not paid.  If a training barn has a row of stalls, there may be a tack stall but rarely a grooming stall since there is a barn aisle to block.   A line of matchy matchy tack trunks may be outside each stall but there will always, always be a rogue trunk from another life that breaks up the monotony.

During the H/J show there is additional staff. In addition to the "trainer" there will be a gaggle of groomers, stall cleaners, assistant trainers, gardeners, longers, tack cleaners, psychiatrists and soothsayers.  Each staff member charges each horses owner a daily fee.  They spend all their time with the big shot, but they get a paycheck from someone else.  Interesting concept, but there you go.  I want to think that the groomer and stall cleaner at the last show I attended were paid $50 per day each.  That was for one horse.  That horse stayed for about five days.  You do the math.

At an event you ride your own horse.  You may have the friend or parent help in the stable but more than likely you will tack it up, clean it, put it away, feed it, give it water constantly and clean its stall.  With any luck your trainer will remember all of your ride times and make some kind of attempt to be at your warm ups to encourage you with sensitive comments and compliments galore.  Since you have to do all your own riding at an event, it is considered sporting if you also ride your horse at home.  This will probably involve devoting at least an hour a day in the saddle and requisite time cleaning your horse and hopefully your tack.  Count on two hours a day and all day on weekends.  I'm not sure why. 

At a H/J barn you are invited to visit when it is convenient for the trainer or his or her staff.  When you arrive your horse will be presented to you with all its tack on and shiny stuff on its feet.  You get on and cautiously make your way to the ring where the trainer or assistant will bark at you for 30 minutes.  You will be reminded that you must wear a shirt with sleeves, said shirt should be tucked in and you will wear a belt next time won't you?  Oh and keep your heels down.  You will most likely have a lesson of some sort every time you visit your horse.  After your ride you leave.  Period.  The barn will be closed on Monday.  Don't even think about visiting your horse on Monday.  It's just the way it is.  If the trainer goes to a show he or she will leave the Monday before the show starts on Wednesday.  It takes time to "set up".  The trainer will be gone anywhere from five days to six weeks.  It just depends.  Your horse may  go to the show for mileage.  There are trailering fees, stabling fees, grounds fees and day fees incurred as well as any entry fees for this education/mileage. 

Eventers should try to take a lesson once a week and more than that the week before the event.  You should also memorize your dressage test.  Over the course of the show season  you will ride the same dressage test over and over and over again if you stay at the same level.  But there will be the exception for one competition which is the one you won't have noticed that instead of Dressage Test A, you will be required to negotiate Dressage Test B.    It happens.  Therefore you should read about events you plan to enter in your omnibus* repeatedly and verify-verify-verify the test, the location and the date. 

Let me go on ad-nauseum about entering an event.  In the omnibus* you will locate an event you want to enter.  If you read about the event you will find that the show dates are listed.  The opening and closing dates are posted.  The opening date is about six weeks before the start of the competition and the closing date is about four weeks later.  You are supposed to send your completed entry to the organizer or secretary some time during those four weeks.  Sadly some competitors find those dates to be arbitrary and will ALWAYS send their entries late.  Now think about it for just a teensy tiny moment,  you are being asked to send your entry with your fees to the competition management at least two weeks before the start of the show.  In return, the organizer will have purchased or rented, shavings, hay, stabling and jumps.  They will have paid for someone to come design a the show jumping courses and design a cross country field with up to five different courses on about +/-100 acres.  They will pay to have a water jump filled, galloping tracks plowed and footing prepared.  They will have paid for transportation for all the officials and provided room and board for them.  They will pay for porta-potties, food vendors, tents, tables and chairs.  They may have to pay to use the facility, pay for a use permit and obtain insurance and deal with the governing body of the federation.  Oh,  all this is done before the event starts and it adds up to slightly more than your entry and stabling.  If you look at it from that perspective the $400 you are asked to pay for entry and stabling is small potatoes.  Next time you think you will just enter whenever, think about the financial risk an organizer takes each time they post an event in the omnibus*.  My my that was quite a little soapbox wasn't it?

I hope this clears the differences up between H/J and eventers.  I would explain the differences between dressage and eventing, but it's just too depressing.  Basically, in any horse sport you need money and a lot of it.  Next time you will be a little more careful choosing your parents.



*Omnibus:  This little gem lists all the events sanctioned by the USEA (United States Eventing Association) in the U.S.  The events will be listed by areas I-X.  The levels offered, the dressage tests being used, the length of the cross country, accommodations, directions, who the judges are (usually) and a time table are listed for each event.  Since these are made up by the organizer, there may be some revisions on the actual day, but the Omnibus will also tell you that this is information that was available on the day the publication was printed.  Hopefully if there are any major changes someone would let you know.   Amen.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mares Nest: I guess I gotta do show jumping

Mares Nest: I guess I gotta do show jumping: "It seems that these postings are listed from newest to oldest. This being the case, I should have started with this phase of eventing. If ..."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mares Nest: Who would read this?

Mares Nest: Who would read this?: "Ha ha you would. So my son in law (current rank...#1 of 3 but will probably fall in status soon enough) said he read that these guys wer..."

Revisiting Eventing v.2

Aha!  I actually have two followers!  Ok so well, one is me and the other is my daughter.  But now I have a "read" post and I guess in a very abstract way I can say I am "published".  Where's my Pulitzer?

Where did I leave off.  Oh right, I'd sort of finished the dressage overview and now I will succinctly describe the heart of the event, aka the cross country part of the competition.  If you've ever watched the track and field cross country, you are a leg up on what this phase is all about.  In a nutshell you get on a horse, you bolt out of a start box and you gallop out in a field and you jump fixed obstacles then you cross the finish line.  Amen.   Now certainly there is way more to it than that.  Certainly, but if someone were to ask you what equestrian cross country was you could say that and no one could contradict you.  If you have to always be right then you would say that. 

If, however, your interest is piqued read on.  So the day starts early because you either have to be on your steed and warmed up before your assigned "ride" time or you have to feed your horse, clean your stall, stress, yell at people or what ever you need to do.  The ride time is when the organizer has decided you must leave the start box and begin your cross country ride.  You are also assigned ride times for dressage, so you are told what time to be where to perform by some arbitrary method for two out of three phases, but usually you are on your own for the last phase when you are trying to pack up to go home, take off bandages, remove poultice and be in the ring to show jump before the starter has a stroke screeching for you to be "on deck".  But I digress.

Getting ready is a complicated ritual which involves getting dressed in your "lucky" breeches, putting your socks and boots on the "lucky right or lucky left"  foot first, digging through mountains of "I might need this stuff" to find your "lucky" whip and kissing the front of your helmet (I saw Mike Smith, race jockey, do that. At  the time of this writing, Mike Smith had ridden Zenyatta to a 19 out of 19 winning streak so I think it is a ritual everyone should adopt so here it is).  You need to take a couple minutes here to walk around and stress a bit.  If you have barn help, you will go watch other riders on course so you have yet another opportunity to freak out.  Then you have to clean your horse, unless you are a big shot and have someone who does that for you, then you have to put your horses boots on by yourself, because that's what is done.  Then you walk around and stress out a little but more.  Then the saddle pad, saddle, breast plate, running martingale and bridle go on.  Then the bridle comes off because you forgot to change the bit, because you always need a special bit for cross country.  Then you have to take the saddle off and reposition it, because you couldn't possibly have gotten that right the first time.  Then you run to the Porta Potty, because, well you figure it out.  Depending on just exactly how much of a big shot you are you may repeat this last bit several times.  Since smoking has become such a no no, you have to have the Porta Potty run to take up the time when you would have been aggressively chain smoking and being a cow to everyone.  

So then you figure it must be time to get on.  At this point you will either be about three hours early, or your time will have started and you will still be at the barn which is easily a 10 minute hack to the start box.  Once your time comes, they start the clock whether or not you there, and since it is a timed event it is bad if you are not there.  If by some weird set of circumstances you have a working, organized crew who will get you on your way to the warm up before your start time, you will get on your horse and make it say half way to the warm up before you realize you have forgotten your medical arm band* and everyone gets all excited if you forget your medical arm band* so you have to gallop madly back to the barns and begin a frantic search for it, because God only knows you couldn't possibly have put it somewhere where you could find it.  Then you will have to pee...again or whatever. 

Let's just assume from this point you eventually arrive at the warm up area in time to walk, trot and canter around and have a few warm up jumps from the practice fences provided.  Depending on how much of a big shot you are the few warm jumps will range anywhere from three to three hundred.  Much like in the dressage warm up, this is the best place for viewage.  I have very scientifically categorized and rated the turn out in this phase.  I could go on and on about it, but I do believe I will save that for a time when I need to get that bit of snarky off my back. Oh, turn out is the pleasing (or not) look you have assembled for your shirt, hat, breeches, gloves, saddle pad, boots etc. etc. etc. And how clean and shiny your horse is, and how clean your tack is.  Having been to Wal Mart, you  just use your imagination to envision the endless extremes and interpretations of what tasteful is.  Right.

So now you've done your warm up, and depending on who or if someone has helped, you either feel super confident and raring to go , or you are a mass of sobbing jello.  Now someone will bellow that you have one minute till your start time.  Which is your clue to go calmly to the start box where you and your horse will stand quietly while the time counts down.  When they say go you may leave the box and ;you should do so at a canter from which you can build on.  Not that any of that happens, but that's what is written in the books I've read so it must be true.  Anyway what really happens is you get about half way to the start box and your horse will realize that all the horses left in the warm up are it's best friends even though just a few scant minutes ago he hated all the other horses breathing his air and has spent an inordinate amount of time kicking, biting, and striking out at any and all who dare to come near.  And having realized that he has only you for companionship,  he will drop his neck in an amusing kind of wiggle and spin violently and high tail it back to the safety of numbers.  This will go on for some time.  Eventually you will get in the start box, and three, two, one Go! you will be off.

The course.  Depending on whether or not you are a big shot your course will vary by level of technicality and just plain difficulty.  There are several levels in which you can compete.  Common sense and a host of rules and regulations will dictate what level you are doing on this day.  Normally the course designer will have given you a couple "let's get going, confidence building" couple first fences at all levels.  This is also handy if you have begun your course way after the time has started and you don't have the opportunity to warm up as above.  You have a wide variety of fences to negotiate.  Among your options may be any of the following:  coffins, drops, water, ditches, fallen logs, broken bridges, banks up and down but regardless of the kind of fence they will appear h.u.g.e. and i.m.p.o.s.i.n.g and depending on how many of these things you've done really really scary. 

Now to make things even more interesting, you are allowed to walk your course as many times as you want.  You can wring your hands and gnash your teeth and analyze and over analyze and generally work yourself into a proper lather, BUT, you don't get to show your horse any of the boogies out there till you dart out of the box.  Sweet huh?  So off you go. 

The idea is to go exactly as fast as  the optimum time.  At the lower levels this could be anywhere between 300 and 450 meters per minute.  You will probably move along at this pace for four or five minutes, and you will have to allow for jumping which may involve a little preparation before a fence or combination of fences or turning situations and the like.  So you need to have a pretty good idea where you want to be on your "minute markers".  Minute marking is a time consuming, tiresome exercise whereby you walk your course with either a meter wheel or GPS and when you've gone say 350 meters and you're supposed to be traveling on your horse at 350 meter per minute you will make some complicated note as to where you are and know that when your stop watch goes off on the minute you should be at such and such a place.  You will do this for the rest of the track marking and memorizing.  Then you will meet up with all the other people in your division and you will discuss where the minute markers are and there will be a general consensus making your work of the last hour or two redundant.  Of course you must remember to turn the watch on before you leave the box or the whole exercise is for naught. 

If you have a stop, the time continues.  If you fall off you are eliminated.  If your horse falls touching shoulders and hip, even if you stay on , you are eliminated.  If you ask directions or are randomly given directions or suggestions you are eliminated.  If you thought this would be a good time to listen to your Ipod or talk or text on the phone you will be eliminated.  And don't even think about using a two way radio cause, guess what?  elimination.   So it's a good idea not to have any problems.  That way you can gallop around, jump the jumps, negotiate the finish flags and bore everyone spitless with your brilliant, worthy of Olympic coverage, once in a lifetime, foot  perfect round.

Now you will return to the barn and spend the next three to four hours cleaning, icing, walking, icing, wrapping, unwrapping, icing, poulticing, re wrapping and clean some more.  At about midnight you will return to the barn to annoy your horse some more with a evening stroll, a jog to see if there is any evidence of soreness,  and depending are what you think (not a good idea) you will unwrap, check for heat or swelling, stress, re wrap and fret the rest of the night.  If you are a big shot someone does all this barn stuff for you, but you still get to stress and fret. 

In the morning you will arrive at the barn a little bleary eyed from too much celebration/commiseration and too little sleep and repeat the midnight exercise all over again.  But now you will have the opportunity to practice your mind reading skills to ascertain when your show jump ride will happen.  Naturally there is a ton of material for this phase as well, so you'll have to wait for the next gripping episode.

Till then,

*Medical Arm Band.  A little form which is housed in a plastic jacket with six miles of Velcro that does not velk.    You fill the form out with lots of lies like your age and weight.  It will also list your non-existent blood type, your allergies, all your recordable accidents, which, depending on how big a shot you are, will not have enough lines.  It will also list your primary care physician, insurance and a host of personal data that you’d rather no one know about.  It will also ask for your name.  Sticky wicket, you have to wear your own arm band, not someone else's, even though you can’t find yours and you’re late and you have to be at the start right now.  The organizers and the police, I mean Ground Jury get really pissy if you aren’t the same person as is on your arm band.  You try to wear your arm band on your, wait for it, arm.  That’s why it’s called an “armband.”  You have to wear your arm band when entering any jumping phase at an event.