Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Lion's have it - Liberty and Eagleville

Day 1

The June 21st weekend brought the Liberty Lion's and Eagleville Lion's charity shows. I flew down on computer in tow to continue to work during my traveling that afternoon. I was lucky to get the exit row alone and got a lot of work done as planned.  And, I connected on a few tele-conference calls during my layover. I just may have gotten more work done than if I had been in the interruptions emails or phone calls on an airplane.
B just hanging out at
Main Gate Farms

Due to my late arrival in Tennessee, I did not get a practice ride.  Instead I met up with Bourbon on the show grounds that night. We were at the Shelbyville Ag center for the Liberty Lion's show.  Last year it had poured cats and dogs in my class.  But this evening it was blue skies. However not very many trailers were in the parking lot when I arrived. Hmmmm, not gonna be a very big show - not like last year.  That's disappointing.   Wonder why? As we got closer to the opening anthem, the count situation did not improve. It was going to be a quiet show. Maybe 10 trailers in the lot. A few horses in each class, if the class wasn't cancelled altogether.

Hannah warmed up B, and then I rode too. It wasn't pretty. We were in the parking lot on the stone and riding a sloped lot. Cars were entering, people walking around, and I was not getting a very good feel for him.  After B went through DQP I rode again in the warmup area. It was better, but I felt a little off. Without a practice ride and coming off the plane right to the show didn't sit well with me.  On the other hand watching Hannah warm him up, he looked awesome. Even better than just two weeks ago. Amazing!  No longer do I have to worry about head shake (or lack of) B has big time game in that category. And he's getting stronger and lifting more in front. Still work there, but improvement for sure.

By the time my class was called only three horses were lining up to go into the big oval.  Me on my junior horse, along with two aged horses....ummm and they were big time winners, one was even a World Grand Champion!  Yikes!  I guess I was destined for a third place before the class had even begun. LOL.  And that's exactly what I received. My ride was okay, but not great. At least that's how I felt.  Hannah said we looked great. And it was good to see me slower and not flying around the ring.  (What me, flying?)  So, some bonus and progress. But a little deflation of spirit.   Lesson learned, put B in his junior class where he has a fighting chance at a top ribbon.  On the other hand coming in 3rd behind Wayne Westbrook on Firecracker, and Pushers Secret Rose, a WGC, is not shabby. :). Hello!

After the class I joined Carlan, who had come to watch me show.  And we headed over to the Calsonic to watch the 4H show with her girls.  There were more horses here than at Liberty.  It was fun to watch the kids ride patterns, and I cheered on #420, a little girl in pink whose horse was just ear floppin' along.  She didn't place, but I went up to her afterwards and told her I loved her horse, it was the best one out there. Her name was Fairy. And she certainly was a precious, ear floppin' little fairy for sure!  

I called it quits by 10:30pm and headed to Jane's to hit the hay. (Figuratively, not literally).

Day 2

On Saturday I woke and headed over to Hannah Pulvers Stables for my practice ride. They were working horses as usual when I arrived. B was brought out and I watched as Hannah warmed him up. She gave me some instruction on holding my hands much further down, and in the subtleties of providing light corrections. B is progressing, and his cues are more subtle and so I need to learn that too. And he's learning to carry himself more too. So I need to be way better in the cue and release action. This is great news...but definitely a change for me.  I now need to catch up to Bourbon on my learning and lessons. He gets weeks, I get minutes. Soak it in quickly!

As I took to the rail for my practice ride, it felt funny to have my hands so low and in front of the horn. I felt like I was tipping forward. As I picked him up into the flat walk, he rose in front and my seat still felt funny but a little more upright. I focused on keeping my hands where I was told, pressure in my thighs and to release. For heaven sakes, release!  It felt different, but as I rode I began to understand how that helped him with freedom of his head.  And his shake. I corrected in the curve and released. Well, most of the time. For the other instances, I did it quickly after I was told to do it.  :)  But I was starting to get it. B is so progressed. It definitely is me who needs to catch up.  So glad I got my 1on1 time with Hannah and B.  I am thankful for the lessons! (Now if they can only stick!)  I hung around to watch another young girl get her lesson on a beautiful black colt named Leonardo deCaprio...and learned more just listening and watching her lesson.

Afterwards, I headed out to meet up with Anne Frank. Two of her mares had babies this week...and they we're both Jose babies.  Since I'm partial to those Jose's (that's Divas daddy too) I couldn't wait to see them.  A little tan colt and a big black filly. Sweet!   Only a few days old. We went into the stalls, pet the mamas and tried to touch those soft newborns. They were shy and nervous, but I touched each one and coo'd a bit to them.  What a cool experience. Thanks Anne for being so gracious for the opportunity. Wonder if one day one will be mine (can you say pretty black Jose filly!?), and I'll look back on this moment with a smile.

Go Packers! This just may be my new favorite pic of B.
Love the way the sunset makes him copper! @ Eagleville.
(purchased from Sid Abernathy)

I caught a mid afternoon nap at Jane's and then was off to show number two of the weekend.   Eagleville was less than 20 minutes from Jane's. They say its the oldest walking horse show in Tenneessee.   My heart leaped for joy as I turned into the grassy park-it was FILLED with trailers, cars, horses and people. Yeah, tonight were gonna have a horse show folks!  I found the Hannah Pulvers' trailer and parked my car under the shade of the big oak trees.  The sun was beating down, and it was hot.  B was tied in the hot sun sweating. I asked for him to be moved to the shady side of the trailer and felt much better for him.  I swear he gave me a look of gratitude.

The ring at Eagleville.  Warming up
before the show started.
I then took a walk up to check out the ring. I loved was small, makeshift and country!  Yes, this was what a true Tennessee one-night show is supposed to be like.  My heart was happy.  I watched folks warming up in the ring and then headed back to the trailer to get dressed.  Tonight I would be in Packer and green. A new outfit I picked up this summer shopping with Kricket, with serious bling. I felt that was the right outfit for this show.  Everything felt better tonight. Even the heat was almost bearable.  I tried to stay in the shade and stood still to stay (kinda) cool in my leather chaps and cowboy hat.

My class was number 7. Lucky number 7.   Bourbon looked good under Hannah as he was being warmed up  And I felt good riding him in the warm up area too. Well, except for that little bucking off incident due to a performance horse spooking. THAT little trick is gonna have to stop! Second show in a row now.  Bad B.

Soon we were heading into the show ring...Packer colors and all!  The sun was setting but still out. I could see the crystals from my shirt reflecting in the under-rim of my cowboy hat, like a mirrored ball.  I it too much bling?  Nawwwwww!   I picked up on the reins and we went in shaking hard.

The spectators were right along the edge of the ring. Some stood inches away rail-side, some had lawn chairs, there was a bleacher section on the south and a gazebo in the center. People were walking, babies were tossing toys, smoke from the BBQ stand was lofting, so many moving things....but B flicked his ears, and kept on walking and shaking. My hands were where they were supposed to be, and I tried to remember to release. As I rounded the bend the HP team was there cheering me on, and reminding me to breath, release, use your left leg, keep him on the rail....good job.  And as I headed into the other bend Hannah was instructing, keep that speed, looks really good, get off the rail. Huh? Should I stay on the rail or get off the rail or breath!?   Ha ha ha.  I guess all of those things.  We took the flat walk, running walk, reverse, flat walk and running walk. As I came through the bend again they called for the line up and I heard Hannah say "take the whole way" I stayed on course, I released and let him ear flop right down the straight away, right in front of the judge one last time, as if to say...lookie here judge.  And, then into the lineup we went.

Watch the ribbon presentation on ReporTV at: Bourbon's Reserve Ribbon pick-up

After a few minutes the judge's card was in. The blue went to - Line Item Veto. A greatly beribboned horse with a WGC title.  And, for reserve .....number 1146....everyone looked around as the announcer continued....."Watchin for the Storm".  Me and B!  I pulled out, looked around, omg where do I go?  The ribbon girl waved, and I turned back around behind all the horses still in the lineup and shook our way over to our reserve ribbon pickup. I grinned at Hannah as I about that!?  Yippee....much better feeling than last night. Woot woot. I received many compliments on our ride.  To my delight, Bobby Richards (who found, broke and started B for me) was impressed and came over to say I had a "great showing" and that B looked great.  And, my friend (and Brenda's) Jack Heffington, who owns The Scoop walking horse magazine, kindly offered that he thought I won that one. And that he noticed a great improvement in me and B this year. :). Thanks "Heff".
B gets a Reserve!  Woot woot.
You can see my bling shirt in the back. 

The rest of the night was spent socializing, hanging with the HP customers and team, watching horses getting warmed up and enjoying a few cocktails.  I watched some more classes....many pleasure classes were on the show bill, so that was nice.  Dr Jana Anderson won her class on Endeavor, and the HP contingent collected many more great ribbons.  I also spent some alone time lovin' on Bourbon. And unfortunately, it all ended too soon.  Tonight was really fun, not just because of my ribbon, but because the show was so active, I knew so many people, and got to share some laughs with the HP gang. Fun fun fun.   Goodbyes were said as I pulled out of the show parking lot and onto the highway.  I wish all the shows were this much fun.

Our next showing will be for the big July 4th weekend.....and Scott is coming too!  Yeah, can't wait!  Until then....keep on walkin'. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Jane snapped this shot of me having
coffee and blogging on the porch
swing one morning.
Saturday morning I rose early to overcast and cloudy skies. I am beginning to think my luck may be running out, and that rain is definitely in the forecast for today. But as the morning progressed the sun came out, blue skies appeared and it teased us a little bit. I got up, had my coffee and texted Hannah to confirm a morning practice ride. Then I jumped in the car and drove the 45 minutes to Shelbyville to see B.  My drive was met with rain drops and sunshine. Boy, who knows what today will bring. The weather is literally changing by the minute. 

When I arrived at Main Gate Farms there were already multiple cars parked by the arena. I pulled off into the grass and and killed the engine. I pulled my hair back into a pony tail, put on my baseball cap, and pulled on my riding boots. I then headed into the barn through the doorway near Bourbon's stall. As I rounded the corner, I noticed his stall was empty, so I progressed into the cross tie area. "There you are!  Good morning B," I said, and B perked up and turned his ears towards me, and gave me a little hoof pawing hello. Candy was there with him, tacking him up. I gave him a pat and looked into his eyes. I swear he looked just a little lazy eyed, and I wondered if he had got a good night's rest after last night's big class. 

Who would have thought this day
would end up in T-storms!?

In no time we walked out of the tack area, down the long row of white painted stalls (I think there are 36 stalls in this aisle way,  18 on each side), and into the large cedar lined riding arena. The arena is set up with an observation deck at the center for customers to sit and socialize, and a round pen on one end. There were numerous customers sitting at center ring watching Hannah ride Absolute Sky. He's her lite shod horse, and is pretty awesome to watch up close like this. He steps really high and you can hear him snort his way around the ring. It feels electric charged. One of Hannah's customers took him for a spin that morning, much to her delight. I passed on the chance, but took a rain check. I wanted to focus on B and he was already getting warmed up as I watched.

I jumped up on Bourbon next and off we went.  We dog walked at first, and then after one lap, I picked him up into a slow flat walk. He felt really good, was soft in my hands, and snapped and shook. I just enjoyed the ride. I focused on keeping him at a slow walk all the way around the ring. I checked his nose and gave a release. I  could feel him rise in the chest and get a little snappier at the knees. He does this really cool thing once in a while where he just hoofs it. I can't describe it well, but he snaps those knees and really grooves. It's pretty amazing and powerful. All in a very good way. I love it.  We're having a great ride. Hannah gives advice and instructions along the way. We're doing good today. I feel good about my ride and I feel like we're progressing on this whole learning journey. Maybe this weekend is a big breakthrough for me, for B, for both of us together.  I walk him for a while to allow him to catch his breath. Then I pick him up and work him again. It's so smooth. It's so fun. And it's all so over before I want it to be. But it's almost noon, and the horses going to the show tonight all need their show baths. And so they take B from me, and back down to the wash rack. As I watch Bub lead him away, his little tail swinging left and right to his stride, it's like my whole heart goes with him.  Bye B. . . .
Jane and I at the Bluebird Cafe.

I quickly divert my attention to the other customers who are there, before I get too sad.  I watch a few clients ride their horses and then we make plans for a Mexican lunch down the street. I give Hannah a hug, as she won't be at the show with us tonight, and say our good byes. Then off to lunch, which is always a great opportunity to learn more about the others who are on a journey much like my own. We swap first walking horse experiences and tips of the hobby. And we all share our deep appreciation for what Hannah is doing with our horses and for improving us as riders. I hope she realizes how much she is appreciated and respected by us all. It reconfirms for me that B is in a good place and being well taken care of - just as I would take care of him at home. 

After lunch I head back to Jane's to take a nap. I'm exhausted and I thought I'd feel better tonight if I could just rest for a few hours  When I arrive I find Jane and Jean are out in the front lawn grooming Jean's horse, Clever. So I stop and chat for a while. Its really nice to catch up with Jean.  Then I head to the house for that quick nap.  The heat gets to you, and it sneaks up on you fast. I've learned to constantly drink water down here, or you'll get light headed in an instant. When that happens, it's over. 
Waiting in line.  McD in hand
to tide us over until we get in.

I stretch out on the bed and watch the ceiling fan go round and round. The next thing I know, my alarm is going off. I guess I was tired. I lay there for a while, thinking about my ride from last night. And I wonder if I could have done any better. He felt good. I guess I was hoping he'd earn a better ribbon. As I thought about it, I remembered that they post the judges scores online.  Since this is a bigger show, there are actually 3 judges, and the three scores are put together to get to the final ribbons.  However, online they post each of the judge's individual scores. Hmmm, I wonder how B faired by each of them, I wondered if I really wanted to know.  I exhaled, reached for my iPad, typed in the walking horse report URL and pulled up the judges cards for his class. And there in the cards....B had received a second placement by TWO of the judges!  Woot woot!  In fact he had even been placed ahead of the horse that won the class in the eyes of one of the judges. Well that certainly was validating.  We had done a good job. Frankly, we probably did an outstanding job, especially considering that it's hard for unknowns like me and B to get high ribbons in classes like this, at such big important shows. I was delighted!  And so proud of B. 
Can you tell which one
is Jane?

I think I walked with a little more spring in my step as I got ready for tonight's classes. I was excited, and determined to go in focused. My enthusiasm was only dampened by the black clouds that came rolling in as I pinned up my hair and rouged up my cheeks.  Darn it!  Will this blow over?  Yikes, it's pouring and lightening. On and on the rain pelted the window. And my cheer faded.  I came downstairs just as Jane came bursting through the front door, wet and laughing. OMG this does not look good.  I texted Bub to find out if the show was on and he said yep, horses in the ring. My class wasn't until later, but the show's early versatility classes had begun, and B and the HP team was on the grounds.  Well, okay I better get going. So I finished up, and ran out between the raindrops to the car.  However about 10 minutes into my drive, Bub called back with the cancellation news. I guess the heavy downpour that had been in Franklin, just reached Shelbyville and the horse and riders were sent running for cover.  B was back in the trailer, and they we're going back to the Main Gate.  So much for riding in the ring tonight. :(.   I made a U turn and headed back to Jane's. 

Mark Germino on stage....
singing about Antique shopping!
We decided to make lemonade out of these rain soaked lemons, and got ourselves fixed up and went out for some country music. Our destination was The Bluebird Cafe, a famous spot for music writers to showcase acoustic songs they wrote and test out new material. We waited in line for over an hour for the chance to get into this small, intimate place. And then enjoyed an evening, up close and personal with Mark Germino.  He played his new material, to test out on the audience. He was funny, and his songs were playful. One was about columbine flowers, one called 'wow, I was just laying there', and one about a man waiting (not so) patiently on his ole lady who was shopping in the antique store.  LOL, I could have seen Scott relating to that one!  

So in the end, the rain tried to take away a good time, but we found a new path....and the weekend ended up being a great mixture of riding and rich music. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Columbia gold

It's the last weekend of May, and I am once again on my way to Tennessee. This time I'm really excited, as I will be riding at Columbia. I have never been there and I have only heard what a great show and track it is to ride. And whenever I hear about it, it is quickly described as the "mini Celebration".  (For my non-horsey friends, the Celebration is the largestest walking horse show of the year, where the biggest competition happens.)  So this comparison means a lot.   Columbia should bring in some wonderful horses, so it should be a good show to watch and ride.

My Friday morning was a blur of leaving home, catching my flights, worrying through a delayed connection, dropping by Carlan's to pick up my show outfits and rushing to Hannah Pulvers Stables for a practice ride on B.  I arrived at 130pm, late, but Hannah graciously provided me with a lesson. She already had Bourbon warmed up and so I watched her for a few laps, and then climbed aboard myself. I have to say it was an awesome ride. He was snappy and shaking and I was thrilled. Hannah had said he was working well this week....and it felt like it.  I continue to be amazed by Bs progress with Hannah and her team!  After my ride, I hung around to let myself relax at bit after the morning rush, and enjoyed watching B get his 'show bath'. I think I enjoyed it as much as he did. And he smelled so good afterwards. ;).  I talked with him for a while, while he hung out on the cross ties to dry. But it was getting late, and the HP team was putting on the final touches to pack and leave for the show. So I departed.

BBQ lunch from Sonny's.
Pulled pork w/coleslaw!
My next stop was the Winners Circle in Shelbyville, where I picked up a hat raincoat. If your hat gets wet it basically ruins it. And that can get expensive. It had been cloudy and threatening rain all day. I figured if I had hat protection, it wouldn't rain. Right?  Btw, it was a good gamble...we had beautiful weather all night at the show. Whoops, I should have given the spoiler alert.

Then I was off to Jane's to freshen up. And within minutes I was driving to Columbia. The drive was beautiful. Rolling hills and green green green. In 45 minutes I was there, and unpacking my show hat and chaps. As I stood by my car unpacking my outfit, I made a last second decision to change my color scheme. So I went from green and gold, to black and gold. It was a new top that I had picked up for a steal at a tack swap this winter. Very pretty Connie's Customs. Filled with crystals from the waist down on the peplum. Different, and sparkly. I think this will look nice out there on that big white track, as a contrast.  Then I pulled out a new gold show pad for B to wear.

Bourbon was in class 11. So I had time before his class and I watched.the country pleasure class and the aged horse trail class, which were 2 and 5. Afterwards I went to get dressed and off to the warmup ring to catchup with B.  He was already being warmed up, however he was being a bit of a handful. Obviously, he did not like the performance horses in the warmup ring with him, and kept scooting and trying to run off.  As I watched I just kept thinking that I hope there are no performance horses in my class. (that's a joke, cuz the classes are specific to the type of horse and shoes and such...again for my horsey friends, there would never be this kind of mixed class).  Whew.  Well after much warmup....since he was behaving so badly, up I went.  But I have to say he was an angel for me. Maybe it was because he'd been worn down, or maybe because all he wanted was for me to be up there. :). Yeah, I'm totally positive it was the later. LOL.  Hey, a girl can dream!

After what seemed like a long, fussy wait, (bourbon can be quite fidgety waiting around) my class was finally called, and up to the ring we went. I entered the ring second, behind The Honey Badger. (what a fun name for a horse!)  As I entered, Hannah wished me luck, and in I went.

The ring is a large oval, the track is a hard packed footing, and the center ring has a huge gazebo for the judges and their entourage. The track is edged with a tall white painted cement wall, and there is stadium seating on one side and a large grassey knoll on the other for spectators to set up lawn chairs or picnic blankets. It's very cool!  The whole place seems to be cut right into a hillside, and feels like a bowl, with the spectators along the sides and the track at the bottom.  The sun had gone down by the time my class came up, and so the flood lights were on, and it was bright and all lite up. That's perfect for those crystals on my show short. :). They'll be catching that light, so we'll twinkle our way around the ring.

Bourbon at Columbia.  Scott was able
to watch over the internet steam.
My ride was wonderful.  Despite Bourbon's antics during the warmup, he was an angel in the class. I started out slow and he just shook his head and felt timed up. As I came around the first pass, Hannah said that our pass was perfect, so I concentrated hard to keep him there.  It was a lot of give and take, but he definitely was ready to work, so it was easy to keep him there. We made it through the first way of the ring, and then turned around.  Then it was the flat walk the second way. It was a large ring and I could feel him getting tired just as they called for the running walk. Oh, I asked him for some more. On the far curve I started to talk to him, 'common B just a little more for me, almost done can do it.  You're doing so well. Common B let's go!". And I squeezed him up and released my grip a little, and he rose up in the chest and picked up speed.  "that's it B, good boy".  And around we went. Maybe a little too fast, but I feared slowing him, as he just may take that as the signal that we were done. So I urged him on.  They finally called for the line up. Whew, that was a long class, in a big ring!  But, it was exhilarating and fun, and I was so happy with my ride.  I parked in on the north side, right next to The Honey Badger. Hi Jordan!  We talked a bit about our rides.  I smiled. I was so happy. Clean ride. B really worked for me. No tripping. And I was still in the saddle.  The ribbon didn't matter, I personally had a big accomplishment with my boy.

As the ribbons were called we earned third place. A gold ribbon to match our gold color scheme. Jordan and The Honey Badger won the class. A great little Jose filly. But, I like to think we gave them a run for it. I really couldn't have asked much more of B. I need to slow down and make sure he stays timed up and shaking hard, but all in all, Hannah said it just may have been our personal best ride ever. Yeah!

I took B back the the trailer to be broken down, and did the same for myself. I packed up my chaps and hat, and then immediately made a detour for a country ham sandwich. I realized in that moment how hungry I was. I watched a few classes while I ate. Those who told me about this show were right. I watched some beautiful animals enter that ring tonight.

Saturday will hopefully be another opportunity to strut our stuff. I think it will depend on the weather. It looks like potentially bad storms. And the show is outside. We're planning to go to the PWAT show....all pleasure horses. Fingers crossed mother nature cooperates.