I am a videographer in Portland, Oregon with a love for all things horses. Originally from Minnesota, my childhood was spent on racetracks across the Midwest. I am currently training my dream horse with hopes of excelling at dressage and Parelli. I have a Cairn Terrier, Ellie, and an old cat named Winston. I am fortunate to have a pretty nice boyfriend who understands and supports my love of horses. My blog helps keep a record of my successes and failures and helps friends and family enjoy the journey with me.
So I went to the barn early this morning to beat the heat. We had a record setting 90 degree day...for us in the Pacific Northwest...that is hot! Maddy is sweating before we even do anything. We get into the arena and I play some games and get her feet moving. I get on and we ride around for a bit and I am thinking, "Man, she is so relaxed, look how low her neck is....OH MY GOSH! She was going down to roll! She is on her knees and I hop off. She got down and it was like she remembered her saddle was on and she just looked at me and I said "What are you doing?" She gave a big sigh and stood up. I didn't really know what else to do, so I just hopped back on. So the lesson for today.....Relaxed is good, but not TOO relaxed. We had a pretty good ride after that.
I had a dressage lesson on Monday. I have been trying to ride her on the rail and work my walk trot transitions. I didn't realize how much worrying about keeping her on the rail was ultimately throwing me off balance in the saddle, which would make Maddy either speed up or slow down. After the clinic this weekend, Clinton Anderson recommended just letting your horse go where ever they want as long as they keep their gait. He said, "just put some miles on them!" So that is what we did. Within about 5 minutes, she was at a great trot, lowering her head, and rounding her back. She was doing small figure eights on her own between the gate and the large door and slowly she started spreading out to a fairly large circle around the arena. I felt so relaxed in the saddle. It was nice not to be tugging her back to the rail. We went for about 10 minutes and it felt so amazing. When you feel that kind of harmony with your horse, it is pure exhilaration. I gave her a little break and we were off again. Honestly, I leased a great dressage horse last summer, and this trot on Maddy felt better. I just can't stop thinking about our next ride. Things are really starting to get exciting.
I could watch flying lead changes all day! This is a quick video post of Clinton and Mindy working the crowd. Today was excellent down in Redmond. We rolled in a little late because Derek and I are just not morning people, but we made it in time for the trailer loading demonstration. In about an hour and 20 minutes he had a 2 year old colt named "Monty" actually walking into the trailer on his own. He started out rearing and pulling his owner all over the arena. Clinton just got his feet moving, did lots of approach and retreat near the trailer, some squeeze game all around the trailer. Then he worked him over the ramp, then slowly in and out. The key was letting him rest in the trailer, then he backed him out and worked him hard near the trailer, loaded him again, let him rest and petted him in there. Suddenly the trailer was the place Monty wanted to be, so he went right up in there by himself. It was very cool. After the clinic, I got a picture with Clinton and Mindy. She really is just a gorgeous mare. He saw her picture on a magazine cover in Austrailia when she was just 4 months old. He tracked down the owner and said he had to have her. He was just 17 at the time and scrounged up the $3,000 for her and she has been his "mate" ever since. Clinton was great, meeting with everyone and patiently listening and taking every question. If you ever can get to one of his tour stops, I strongly recommend it. We really had a great weekend.
My boyfriend and I are down in Redmond, Oregon this weekend attending the Walkabout Tour with Clinton Anderson. Clinton is a natural horsemanship trainer originally from Australia. He moved to the States ten years ago and has been teaching people how to gain respect from their horses at various clinics and with his show, Downunder Horsemanship, on RFD-TV. I get a kick out of him. He has a pretty good sense of humor and obviously is very passionate about what he does. I was pretty impressed with him today. He really went non-stop all day. When he wasn't in the ring, he was signing autographs in a booth and answering questions. Even after his long day, he told everyone he would stay after until every ones questions were answered. Now that is dedication! The tickets to the Redmond event were free and he gave lots of his products away. They had a raffle as well and all the money goes to a therapeutic riding program in Texas, so I have to buy one tomorrow.
Today he worked with Sherry Cervi, a two time World Barrel Racing Champion, to demonstrate some techniques for better barrel racing. He worked with a 6 year old Thoroughbred from the track that he referred to as a "crack head" because she was so amped up. By the end of the day, after at least an hour of lateral flexion drills and one rein stops, he got her to trot easy on a loose rein. She was a trembling mess when she first came in and it was great to see the transition. He did a great liberty demonstration with his mare, Mindy. This is a picture of her laying down on command when they were all done. It was really beautiful to see horse and human so connected, I got tears in my eyes. I told my boyfriend it wasn't about the amazing performance, it was really just the way she looked at him. I know that sounds a little cheesy, but I think as horse owners, we all strive to get that "look", that understanding.
We are looking forward to tomorrow. There is a trailer loading demostration I want to see. This is a shot of Clinton signing someones boot.
There is no doubt Curlin is an amazing horse. He won the Preakness last Saturday by a nose over Street Sense, the Kentucky Derby winner. Prior to his defeat in the Kentucky Derby, he ran three races and won them all by a combined 28 lengths. In other words, he smoked them. The sad fact in all this, Curlin is trained by Steve Asmussen who has a history of drugging his horses. He has had 22 failed drug tests on his horses and 21 of those failed tests were on horses that finished in the money. On one of the failed tests, the horse had 750 times the allowable amount of a undisclosed substance. Asmussen claims that he had no knowledge of the drugging and thinks other trainers have conspired against him to take him down. I think this is very unlikely because most of his peers are guilty of the same offenses. Everyone in the industry knows the penalties for drugging horses are small fines and very rarely a short suspension. The Louisiana Racing Commission suspended Asmussen for 6 months in 2006. Trainers mix up drug cocktails called "milkshakes," containing sodium bicarbonate, water, and sugar. This delays the fatigue factor in racehorses. They add some steroids, maybe a little cocaine, and a little Lasix. These horses run and don't feel pain, and jack-ass trainers like Steve Asmussen continue reaping positive media attention and praise for their success. The American race industry sucks. There is no regulation. Each state determines their own rules and we are the only country in the world that drugs horses to this extent. In most countries, if trainers are caught drugging horses, they are banned from the sport. In a week, the test results will come back for Curlin and some other Preakness horses. We, the public, will never know who tests "positive." The test barn will discuss results with track officals and the trainers, Asmussen will pay his $500 fine and smile as he goes to cash in his million dollar purse. It is just one of many dirty little secrets. When are we going to let our amazing thoroughbreds run on natural ability not drug induced frenzies?
My dad trains and races quarter horses in the Midwest. For the most part, he hits Canterbury Park in Minnesota, Prairie Meadows in Iowa, the Woodlands in Kansas and various tracks in Oklahoma. He has his first race of the season this Friday. For as much as we have had our differences, I am still proud of him and rooting him to do well. Looks like he is running a 3 year old gelding named "Holiday Heart," ridden by Keith Davis in the one hole going off at 7/2. Throughout his season, I will chart how he does and post pictures and comments about the racing industry, because there is just so much to talk about! I will be travelling back to Minnesota in two weeks, and I plan to spend plenty of time on the back stretch of Canterbury Park.
This weekend I audited a Level 2 clinic by Ann Kiser. I got a lot of good information and ideas for things to work on while riding. Ann talked about direct rein and indirect rein, leg yields, and lots of horse psychology. We also learned a game the Parellis teach called "Tit for Tat." Basically you choose a point in the arena you want to get to, aim your eyes and bellybutton that way and if at any time your horse drifts, you let them go a couple steps and then you re-direct your horse 90 degrees. Keep going until your horse walks in a straight line to your focus point. If you get there, stop, pet, and give a break. Sounds like fun right?:-) I have to say I was kind of looking forward to seeing some good performances by Level 2 horses and I was sadly disappointed. I don't like to bag on other horse people, because we are all in this together, but I am not sure how some of these students even passed their Level 1. There were 5 horses out of eight that were at times completely out of control and then the owners didn't seem to handle the situation with much "savvy." Two horses bucked while people were riding and one girl was constantly rattling her lead rope at the horse with no clear idea of why she was even rattling it. If anything, it made Maddy look like a Parelli superstar and her bad behavior, very manageable. After seeing these horses, it seems like there is no standard when it comes to passing Level 1. I wonder if any other Parelli people out there have seen similar things and share this frustration. This week, I filmed and mailed out my remaining skills I needed to pass to get my Level one. After seeing these Level 2 horses, I am pretty optimistic, but it will feel like getting a gold star on your homework, only to find out later, the teacher put one on every paper.
Sunday was a girl power day. Two girlfriends and I hit the road on our Vespas and cruised out to a town called Troutdale for some lunch. We rode back home along the Columbia River. It was a little chilly, but great to get out there. We are thinking of doing a weekend up in Seattle for AmeriVespa in July.
Donna over at A Velvet Cage posted an online interview so here is what she asked and how I answered.
1. Why do you blog? I blog to specifically to keep a journal of my progress with my new horse. A lot of my friends and family live far away and I wanted to create something for them to enjoy the journey with me.
2. Is there an event or relationship from your life that you would say helped define you as an adult? I think going to school overseas really changed my perspective on everything. I came back adventurous, open to new things, and not afraid to leave everything that feels comfortable behind.
3. Is there something you cannot currently do that you would like to be able to? I would like to have a horse trailer so I can go on weekend riding adventures in some of the fabulous parks around Oregon. Also would like to be fluent in Italian.
4. What makes you laugh? Stories from my youth, good friends, and my little brother.
5. If you could travel back through time and view any moment, what would it be, and why? I would like to go back to November 1, 1938 and see the match race between War Admiral and Seabiscuit. Growing up on the track, I love to watch horses run. The racing industry has problems, but when I see them come down the stretch, I get goose bumps and this swelling of joy that almost makes me want to cry. I would love to stand at the wire at see that race.
Maddy is showing off her new, used saddle. I bought the Wintec Pro today from Glisan Street Saddlery. Linda is so great over there. She shows Arabians and knows just about everything there is to know about tack. When I first started thinking about getting a new saddle, I was really set on the Wintec Isabell. In talking to Linda, she said when the Isabell first came out she was selling about 20 a month and the maybe 3 Pros. Now she is selling 15 Pros and maybe one Isabell. She says the Isabell really tilts your pelvis forward and very few people can ride in that saddle. She said if you have any type of lower back issues or knee issues, the Isabell is definitely not the saddle for you, go with the Pro. So she talked me into a much more affordable saddle and I lucked out because she had a used 17 1/2 that looked brand new. Yeah!!!
Finally, after 6 months of ground work, I had my first lesson where I was on her back the whole time. It feels good to be back in the saddle! I am riding in a rope halter and reins and my homework for the week is one rein stops on the rail and lots of walk trot transitions. My trainer wants me to forget about steering and focus on bumps to keep her on the rail and if I want to turn, do it with lots of little bumps. Also, lots of loose rein. That is really hard for me. I hate to give up that feeling of control, but she is doing really well and if she gets going too fast, I just do a one rein stop. Michelle also checked out the used Wintec Pro I am thinking of buying. She liked it and thought it fit perfectly.
Linda over at Glisan Street Saddlery in Portland let me take home a Bates Caprilli and a Wintec Pro. I tried both this weekend and I think I like the Wintec better and it is a third the price! I have a lesson tomorrow and going to have my trainer take a look. I rode it the Wintec today and think that is my saddle. It feels really great and I like that the stirrup straps don't have buckles that rub on your inner thigh. I also like the synthetic fabric so I don't have to clean it and I like how you kind of "stick" to it. This is the first saddle I have bought for myself, so I am excited to get something that fits perfectly.
So my mom and her boyfriend, Cliff, just returned to Minnesota this week. I really miss them and hope they move to Oregon someday. I consider Cliff my step-dad even though they are not married. He watched me grow up and was always a "dad" to my brother and I while my real dad was busy womanizing and going from racetrack to racetrack. Cliff did dressage and had a beautiful 17 hand thoroughbred named "Porsche." I kick myself for never learning about it when I was younger. I always thought dressage was for people that didn't know how to ride:-) At least that is what my real dad always told me. So now in adulthood, I turn to Cliff for advice and suggestions about my new found passion. Christmas 2005, he gave me the best present I have ever received from anyone. He listened when I talked about my dressage saddle and went out and bought a gorgeous bridle that matched it perfectly. I love that bridle. I love it because he "heard" me when I talked about what I was doing with my life. He knew I didn't have a horse yet and I had just started my dressage lessons, but he listened and knew where I was heading. So I am posting some pictures of my family tonight, because I miss them terribly and I just smile when I see these photos of their visit. They tried out my Vespa, which had me holding my breath...my mom went too slow and Cliff went too fast, but it is still in one piece. Cliff just bought a motorcycle and my mom wants a scooter. I think I have turned into the parent, because this scares the heck out of me:-).
At the Ann Kiser Clinic last week, a photographer ran around and got pictures of us doing our thing. It is nice to finally have some shots of Maddy and I together. I like this one just because my hair looks good. I am not quite sure how. I was so tired on Sunday, I just rolled out of bed and went. My mom and her boyfriend Cliff had flown in from Minnesota the night before and after the clinic on Saturday, I was exhausted. Clinics are a lot of work! Things are progressing with Maddy. I am focusing more on riding. I am using just a rope halter and lead rope for now, which at times is a pain and you have to anticipate turns and get your tosses right. Also I am saddle shopping for a new dressage saddle. My old one along with an Australian Saddle is on consignment at the tack store. Looking forward to lots of good stuff in May. Clinton Anderson is coming, I am auditing the Level 2 Ann Kiser clinic, and I will have my new saddle. Good times.