Friday, August 31, 2012

Barrel racing!

Today was a furlough day, so I went out to the barn. The plan was to work canter circles and transitions. But I got there, and there were barrels in the arena.

And one thing sort of lead to another.

Why didn't anyone tell me how much fun barrel racing is?!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Revisiting old addictions

This past weekend I was a judge at a model horse show, the Sweet Onion Classic in Walla Walla. I really don’t know where to start explaining this. The Hobby, as it is known to insiders, is a world I mostly left behind after college. I had a big-kid job and a real horse that needed attention. And I wasn’t living with my parents anymore, so I didn’t have a studio space, as such. So model horses just quietly drifted out of my life, like so many other hobbies that I started to find vaguely embarrassing during my long transition to legitimate adulthood.

For the uninitiated, here’s an overview. Most little girls have owned at least one or two Breyer horses, loved them and played with them, broken their delicate legs, scuffed their lovely paint, and slowly given them up in favor of makeup and boys.

But not all of us do that. Some of us carry that love of model horses beyond puberty. We find that there are others like us all over the world. (Thank you, internet!) We begin thinking of our models in terms of acronyms:
  • OF = Original finish (still bearing the paint job from the Breyer factory).
  • CM = Customized (a plastic horse that has been repainted and/or repositioned).
  • PSQ = Photo show quality (I can’t think of a non-model-horse way to explain this. So click here to learn about photo shows.)
  • LSQ = Live show quality.

It’s that last one, LSQ, that was the topic of the weekend. A live model horse show is not like comic-con. It is not a convention (although, yeah, there are conventions). It is almost like a real horse show, except it happens indoors, on tables, and on a much smaller scale.

I had the very distinct honor of judging all of the performance classes at this particular show. My main task was to hold in all my exclamations of “Pretty horsey!!” and take my job seriously.

So, for instance, in the dressage class, we had three entrants. An entry would generally consist of a model horse in tack (with or without a rider doll), a piece of arena fencing showing a letter, and a note card explaining what level and what movement the scene was supposed to be showing. I had to judge on a variety of criteria to place the horses. The tricky thing about being a model horse judge is that you have to understand both worlds, because you are judging as if it were the same class in a REAL horse show in addition to judging the models for workmanship. You need to know whether or not martingales are allowed in training level dressage. You need to know which lead the model is on. You need to be able to decide if the position of the model is an accurate reflection of the movement. Then you need to decide if that horse, if it were real, would score higher in a real event than the others in the class.

Insane, I know.

Because I am much more in the REAL horse world right now than I am in MODEL horse world, I was very picky about tack being placed correctly for real life riding. For instance, there was a really excellent, graceful entry in the dressage class. The model was absolutely appropriate for the test and level she was supposed to be depicting. The tack was the most realistic miniature English saddle I had ever seen. It was better made than many REAL saddles. Unfortunately, the owner had placed the bridle so that the bit couldn't possibly be in the horse's mouth, so I had to put her at the bottom of the placings. It really does come down to nitpicky stuff like that when all other things are equal.

Back in the day (high school and college particularly), I used model horses as an outlet for the part of me that wanted to buy every animal on Dreamhorse. If I couldn't own the real thing, I'd just paint a model to look like it. I probably customized hundreds. Somewhere, I still have a mountain of photos of models I painted back in the day. Small sample:

And some more show photos from Shana and Bethany:

Super detailed western entry. He won several classes.

This was "other performance," I believe. That reddish horse in the middle is the giant puppet from the stage version of War Horse. There are two dolls inside it working the levers—it should have won on cleverness alone!

Entrants make final adjustments while I prepare to judge.

Cool native costume had real mink fur!

So many pretties!

Reserve performance champion, me, and performance champion...

Gaming entries. Notice the note cards with each horse so I know what the game is supposed to be!

Native costume class. It was really, really hard to choose! The beadwork on some of these was mind-blowing.

This was an entry for "natural trail." Everything about it was perfect... except for the fact that I have never met anyone who liked to trail ride in their best show clothes!

I hope Shana puts this on again next year. I might even bring a few of my old beauties and see how they stack up!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Santiam Cascade: Successful in spite of ourselves

This weekend was great because this ride was a real “non-event” overall. I like being able to go and not have too much drama! The heat was the main thing. On Saturday it was 42 when I got up at 4:45 a.m. and 95 when I left camp late in the afternoon. I opted not to stay the night again with the temperature swinging like that!

The worst thing that happened was my own dumb mistake. I left Blue’s halter on overnight. He woke me up once banging around in his pen, but when I looked out there, he was upright and the pen was upright too, so I went back to bed. Well, at 5 a.m. when I went out to catch him, I realized he wasn’t wearing a halter, and I had forgotten to bring my spare. So I got out the flashlight to try to find the halter. I was turning over hay and poop piles. I walked all around the pen inside and out in case he had flung it somewhere. But I just couldn’t find it. I was wasting a lot of time and getting really frustrated.

Well, lo and behold, there it is in the grass near his hind feet. I reach down to get it and his foot comes up with it. He must have gone to scratch his ear with a hind foot or something, because one of the strands of the halter was wedged into his shoe between the hoof wall and the shoe itself. I couldn’t get it out of there no matter how much I yanked and wiggled and prayed, so eventually I just cut the rope on both sides and left a little piece of it in his shoe. I was a little worried that it might lame him like a rock in the shoe would, but there wasn’t a farrier in camp at that time of day, so I just went ahead and risked it, hoping it would fall out on its own over the course of the ride.

Luckily, the halter was just big enough that I could tie the part I had cut back together solidly enough to get us through the day. But now I have to get another rope halter. I loved this one! RIP fancy ebay halter.

So don’t get complacent about halters. Just because I’ve left him unattended in a halter 100 times doesn’t mean that lucky number 101 couldn’t be a disaster. Blue could have seriously hurt himself if the halter hadn’t slipped off of his head. He might have spent the whole night with his hind foot tied to his ear. He might have fallen, gotten tangled in the panels and broken a leg. He might have freaked and hurt one of the other 40 horses in camp.

After solving the halter problem, everything was normal except I was about a half hour behind in getting ready. No time to do good stretches or force myself to eat much. C’est la vie.

Blue was a bit naughty at the start, but he’s still no Otto. He jigged a lot, so I would turn and one-rein stop and work him. If I hadn’t had to deal with that stupid halter, I might have had more time to warm him up and get the jigs out before the start. As it was, I didn’t know where the trail was, so I needed to start with the group visible to get me out of camp. We did a very fast couple of miles once we started, then he relaxed and set a nice pace the rest of the morning. I caught up to Beth, who was riding her “slow” horse, Sparrow. Her “slow” horse was just a hair faster than Blue would normally go on his own, so that actually worked out nicely. By then, Blue had gotten all of his jigging out, so we would let them get away on the parts they did fast, but we’d end up catching them again because we just keep a steady pace all day long.

(Quick sidenote: Kara warned me that it would be dusty in Sisters. She did not exaggerate.  The water coming off of me in the shower on Saturday night was not only tea-brown, but also opaque. I was FILTHY.)

The footing reminded me a lot of Madam Dorion (sand and powder-dirt, and gravel roads at times) except that there were rocks hiding under the dirt in some places, so we had to be careful. We are still not as good at it as Heather and Quincy, but Blue is getting better at believing me when I pick a part of the trail to point him down instead of letting him go clattering through the worst spots.

I always think of the year that Heather and I did HOTR with me riding Otto. There was a gopher hole that she didn’t see until they were literally on top of it. Quincy is such a well-trained dressage horse that Heather somehow got him to do a sidepass in mid-air. You wouldn’t have believed it if you had been there. I aspire to that level of trust.

The views at Santiam were amazing. I wish I had taken pictures of the mountains and the rock formations.

By the time we got back to camp for our 45-minute hold, the temperature had risen roughly 40 degrees, and I desperately needed a bathroom. Other than that, all was well.

Better yet, Kara and Sunny came off their hold at the same time as us, and rode together for the whole second loop. Thank goodness, too. Sunny, while not fast, was willing to drag the extremely skeptical Blue back out of camp. The loop purported to be 10 miles long. It felt much shorter, even with both horses dawdling along, and stops for water and a boot malfunction.

We vetted through the finish, and the vet (same person as at Bandit) had nothing but nice things to say. Extra electrolytes on board made a world of difference. Blue EDPPMFed his way through the entire ride.

You may also remember that I sewed loops onto the bottle holders on my saddle pack to hold two syringes of electrolyte applesauce. They worked really well except I will need to start duct taping the syringes shut. The cap came off one and it spilled out. The other three I had throughout the day stayed fine without tape, so it will mostly be an extra precaution. I think the modification is a success, generally speaking.

Back at the trailer, the temperature was rising without pity. I set Blue up at the trailer with hay, mash and water, and set myself up with lots of icy water, an apple, electrolyte pills, vitamin water and a couple small pieces of jerky. And then I more or less collapsed onto the air bed for the next two hours, even as the temperature in the trailer went past what I’d consider safe, strictly speaking.

I made the decision to head home and not face several hours of this heat followed by a plunge into a freezing cold night and another early morning.

Packing was even more of a chore than usual in the extreme heat. I was really weak and out of it, and probably not 100% good to drive. But by then my heat-addled mind was made up. I was packed and loaded by 4 p.m. I stopped at the Subway on the edge of Sisters and headed up the mountain, hoping for the temp to drop as the altitude rose.

It didn’t really. But at least the sandwich was good.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Summer has arrived (in August)!

I think we may have to drop down to an LD at Santiam and hope for cooler weather at OR 100 in September.

What do you guys think?

I guess if we started at midnight, maybe...?