Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Canada Day Riding

I spent the morning of Canada Day doing what I love best: RIDING! Both of my parents rode with me and the bf even came along and agreed to take some photos. Here are my favourites!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Olympic Excitement

Is anyone else getting really excited for the Olympics? I'm super excited. Expecting a few very early mornings to catch some of the equestrian events.

Also, hoping like crazy that my hero, Ian Miller, is chosen to be Canada's flag bearer. It's the man's 10th Olympic games! Unfortunately, he's been eliminated from CBC's fan's choice for flag bearer by a margin of 11 votes (lost to Simon Whitfield).
Ian Miller and Big Ben (my heroes)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Back to Blogging

I took a bit of a break for Megan and Scarface for focus on school and for a few personal reasons, but I'm back again. I'm pretty sure I said that last time, but I guess I'm just an inconsistent blogger all around. Anyway, it's been nearly 3 months since my last post (yikes!), so there is a lot to catch up on!

In April I attended the Mane Event in Red Deer. As usual, it was really great! I got to audit some great clinics by Scott Hofstetter (hunter/jumper), Cindy Ishoy (dressage) and Michael Richardson (horsemanship). I got something great from all of these clinicians. Scott Hofstetter was really engaging and was a real pleasure to watch, listen and learn from. My biggest lesson from him was "be prepared." Don't show up to the clinic (and by extension, the practice pen or show ring) without your spurs and crop in case you need them (which I definitely do). And be prepared to think! Don't just do your course, then zone out. Watch the other competitors and learn from their mistakes so you don't have to make the same ones. Pretty basic advice, but always good to keep in mind.

It was a real honour to watch the Cindy Ishoy clinic, because she is the first Olympic rider I've had the opportunity to see in a clinic setting. She was really great and really emphasized the fitness required by the horse, especially at the higher levels. She also emphasized not to let your horse goof off when you're practicing at home because then you can't expect them not to goof off when you go to the show. For example, she was very adamant that riders not let their horse scratch his face on his leg while stopped and that the horse be paying attention, even when they are just walking to catch their breath. The biggest thing that I got is that I realized Scarface needs to be more forward in his downward transition. He was trained to completely shut down in downward transition, which results in comments like "Stop Very Abrupt" on our dressage test last year.

I also found the Michael Richardson clinics I attended interesting. Michael gained a very different perspective of riding after he became a paraplegic. Instead of being able to physically push horses to do what is needed, he now needs to rely on much more subtle seat cues. The biggest thing I took away from his clinics is how to use my seat cues to improve my free walk. It's about riding actively instead of just sitting there like a passenger!

Other than that, I've just been riding a bit when I can. I took three weeks off riding to prepare for my final exam last week, which definitely showed when I rode on Saturday. In fact, I fell off Scarface for the first time (not counting my 'hasty dismount' last year when I landed behind the saddle, scaring Scarface half to death). Completely my fault though. We had warmed up and Scarface was being pretty good (a bit stiff to the left, but I'm going to get his teeth done pretty quick to see if I can rule that out first before I consider changing bits or anything). Then we cantered up to our first little jump (a 12 inch X rail). Our canter turned into a gallop, then a dive right, correction, dive left, correction, hesitation, big jump and finally a big kick-out with the back end. I lasted through the jump, but by then I was so far out of position, when he kick-out his back end, I went sailing over his left shoulder. Luckily, the ground was freshly harrowed and I managed to land on my back and roll. Not even a bruise (except my ego)! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Clinic Recap

On Saturday I gave my first clinic! Let's just say Friday night was spent doing some furious planning and serious freaking out! I agreed to do clinics on both general English riding and showmanship for a local(ish) 4-H club. I was in 4-H when I was younger, so I know that it's an awesome program and I was definitely interested in giving back (not to mention it will look great on my vet school application).

Sorry, I have no video or pictures, so this is one super long, text-filled post! I apologize in advance!

Friday night I was feeling much more nervous about the riding portion than the showmanship, but in the end it was the opposite!

To make sure everything started off on the right foot, I got a flat tire while driving down the MAJOR 4-lane highway on my way to the clinic. Talk about a great start! I know how to change a tire, but that highway is so busy and there was hardly any shoulder, so there was no way I was going to try it! I called roadside assistance to request a tow-truck to come do it and they said it would be 40 minutes. 5 minutes later, as I was dialing the number of the 4-H leader to say I'd be late, a SUV pulled over and a man and his son got out and offered to change my tire. Oh my gosh, things like this never happen anymore. I've changed my tire twice in the city (once in the Mr. Lube parking lot) and no EVER stops to help. But these 2 awesome guys stopped and changed my tire right there, despite the cars whizzing by at 120 km/h (70 mph) non-stop. Seriously, these guys made my week. Possibly month!

So once I finally made it to the clinic (only 10 minutes late), I started my first clinic! It's a pretty small club and a lot of the riders were gone and/or only ride western, so I only had 2 girls in my clinic, 10 and about 12. One girl is what I would call an 'advanced beginner'. She had obviously been taking additional lessons and was pretty solid in the trot. Her canter gave her more trouble though; she had trouble picking up the right lead and she tended to pump with her upper body. Oh my goodness though, her lower leg was absolutely gorgeous! Natural talent there and a ton of focus already.

The other girl was green as grass! I think she had only ridden English a handful of times before and her horse was a lazy old ranch horse. She sure was a cutie though! She had so much trouble keeping an even trot and she was a bit weak, so it was often tough to tell what diagonal she was on, especially when she could only keep a trot for a relative short time. Plus, when it came to the canter, her horse was so lazy she would kick and kiss and either be lucky and get a canter for a quarter of the arena or have to stop because she was so out of breath. But in the end she got a half loop around the arena and we were both very happy!

I tried to keep things interesting by doing lots of different things with the girls. They trotted circles, trotted around the arena, worked on the canter in a large circle, worked on the canter in the full arena, trotted a circuit through some cones and even practiced the two-point at the trot. I also had them do some equitation patterns, which I think taught them a lot about straight lines and even circles. All-in-all, I think it went pretty well for my first time! The leader said she saw a definite improvement over the clinic.

Next was showmanship, which turned out to be a lot harder than I expected. I had 4 kids for this one and 2 of them were brand new and had no clue of what showmanship was about. It was really difficult to try to teach them how to do showmanship at the same time as they need to train their horse to do showmanship, since none of the horses had any clue about showmanship either. I swear I must have said "this will come, you just need to practice at home" a hundred times. I saw some improvement and I drilled all of them on their quarters and reminded them "The judge is always watching. Don't stop showing until the judge hands in their card!" and "Smile!!"

I felt pretty bad because one boy had a pretty green horse and the horse kept spooking and moving away when I would walk around it to do the inspection. He was pretty upset after, so I told him it has happened to me in a show (true story) and that he just needs to get the horse used to it. But it's hard when you're only 12 or so!

But it made me feel pretty good when one of the girls I had for both clinics practically begged me to come back the next day and teach her more! I told her there were other people coming to teach and she replied "yeah, but you're better." Can't get a much bigger complement than that!

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Gah! I'm so nervous to be giving a 4-H clinic today! I'm trying not to dwell on the gory possibilities and instead stay positive and focused, but it's hard! Wish me luck that I don't get eaten by a bunch of 12-year-olds! If they give me any lip, I'll just make them go without stirrups! Ha! Seriously though, I think I'm well enough prepared, but it's tough because I'm not 100% certain of their riding level, so I have to be a little flexible! Anyhow, I still have to get dressed and brush my teeth, so wish me luck!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I'm a bad horsie blogger...

Hi guys,

Sorry for my random absence. I just felt a little overwhelmed and a lot depressed since I have so little opportunity to ride with my horse 2 hours away and no indoor arena. Anyway, I'm over it and back to my horsie blogging.

So what has happened in the last couple months?

1. Generally studying my face off at university. Yep, I've been busy, but I really enjoy most of my classes, especially reproductive physiology. For example, today in lab we dissected cow udders. It was a little gross (smelled like death/rotten milk), but soooo interesting. I will never forget for the rest of my life what a gland cistern looks like! I think if I get into vet school, I may specialize into reproductive stuff.

2. I got to job shadow a local vet during reading week in February (3 1/2 days). No horsie stuff (*sad face*), but lots of other cool stuff. I got to watch a kitty spay, help do urinalysis, watch semen testing of bulls and even preg check so cows. It was very cool, especially since they were only a couple months from calving, so I could feel heads! I'm definitely going to ask if I can come back and job shadow some more in the summer.

3. I went to the NRCHA (national reined cow horse association) judge's clinic. There's a very good chance I will never show in cow horse classes (although my dad is continually trying to convince me), but I find it super interesting to learn how to see things from a judge's perspective. I learned a lot, so it was definitely worth it. They even let me and another girl come free since we're part of the university judging club (it probably helps that my dad is on the board of directors)! For those of you who don't know about cow horse, here is a video of my parents' stallion, CD Ben at the Canadian Supreme in the hackamore class, where he was the open champion (sorry, had to brag just a little!).

4. I've ridden once or twice since my last blog post. No major wrecks, no major breakthroughs. Just hoe-hum, trying to get through winter without losing my mind due to lack of riding!

But I do have some other exciting news! My dad and I sometimes trailer over to a neighbour's indoor arena, where quite a few other people come to ride. I'm always the only one who rides in an english saddle (it is cattle country, after all). Anyway, I've kind of gotten to know another girl around my age who rides there and gives lessons to some younger girls. She's a barrel racer, miles away from what Scarface and I do, but she is a very pretty rider and knows her stuff pretty well. Anyways, she helps out giving clinic to a local 4-H club once in a while. This club wants to put on an english riding and showmanship clinic and she asked if she could give the club my name. I said okay and now I'm going to be giving my very first clinic on Saturday! I'm super excited and super nervous! The leader said that the girls are fairly novice, so I think we'll focus on flatwork equitation (which is what I know best anyway). I'm think body position, picking up diagonals without looking and making nice round circles, but I'll kind of play it by ear once I get there. I'm so excited, I feel like I'm taking a big step within my riding career. (Just so you know, this is just a volunteer thing, so I'm certainly not claiming to be a professional or anything!)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Watching Horses Isn't Half as Fun as Riding Them

So on Sunday I sat in my parents' house for 3 hours watching our 5 geldings stuff their faces with hay for my "social behaviour during feeding ethogram" for my animal behaviour course. I love my horse and I enjoy watching him, but after about 20 minutes I started to get stir crazy. There's only so long you can sit on chair, staring out the window and occasionally writing notes such as "4 approaches 5, 5 moves away" or "5 walks past 1, 1 pins ears" without starting to wonder how people can possibly do this for a living. I just had to keep remembering the people going even more boring things, like resting behaviour in dairy cattle.

On the bright side, after watching the horses eat all morning, my dad and I then trailered over to our neighbour's indoor arena to go for a ride. Scarface was fairly good, but he is out of shape from all the time off. He was pretty good while we worked on serpentines and figure 8s. The biggest problem we had was that he was being very dead-sided when I was asking for sidepasses or turns on the forehand. I think next time I will put on my spurs so that he can understand the aid better. I used to always ride with spurs, but since last summer I've been trying to stop using them, since they cause me to bring my heels up quite a bit, but I think he will recognize the aids more clearly with them, so we can establish what I want before going back to asking without spurs.

Once again, Scarfie was pretty good about being in the indoor arena, although we did have one little incident. I was too hot, so I was trying to go to the end of the arena near the viewing area to hang my coat on the fence. Scarface was being scared of the manure tub, so I was letting him have a look at it before asking him to go closer to the fence. While he was looking at the tub trying to decide if a goblin lived in it or not, the arena owner's wife walked into the viewing area and let the door slam closed behind her. This was too much for poor Scarfie and he did one of the fastest 180s of his life! I think he tries to be a reiner when he is scared, either doing a fast spin or backing up halfway across the arena. The arena owner then proceeded to call him "Scare-face" for the rest of the afternoon.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sometimes I Love University...

Despite the piles of exams and assignments and the overwhelming stress to be good enough to get those grades I need for vet school, there are days I love university.

Case in point, my plans for Sunday are to sit outside and observe horses for about four hours. For credit! I'm doing an ethogram on agonistic behaviour in horses. Which means I have to sit and write down all aggressive interactions between the horses and then write up a paper on it. I know some of you will be offended because this is for my food animal behaviour class, but none of the horses I'm studying will ever be used for food. I'm just using it as an excuse to watch my horses. I'm pretty sure you could study your hamster, as long as people somewhere use hamsters for food!

Come on Scarfie, help me get that A!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reading Week Plans

Reading week is coming up forme in less than a month and I'm already booked up! The first weekend, I'll be going to an NRCHA (national reined cow horse associate) judge's clinic. I don't plan on judging or even showing reined cow horse, but my parents are pretty into it and my dad is on the provincial board of directors. I think it would be awesome to be a judge some day, maybe through AQHA, maybe through whatever association I'm a part of at the time. Beside, I just love to learn stuff!

Then, during my week off, I will be volunteering with one of my parents' vets. While she's not a horse specialist, she does work with all kind of animals and I'm sure I will learn a ton!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Horse Physiology Video

This video documentary is absolutely amazing! If you are interesting at all in horse physiology, it is definitely worth watching. Not for squeamish people though!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Video Time!

I realized I'm never posted a video of me riding on my blog. So here you go! This is from Scarface and my very first dressage schooling show last summer. I wish my hands were quieter in this video, but that's why we took it, so we can improve!

Please keep in mind that we are just transitioning into trying out dressage and over-fences, so we still look like we belong in a AQHA hunter under saddle class with the low poll and lacking forward movement (seriously, that was forward for Scarface!). Also, please excuse the clucking (I know, a no-no in dressage) and very enthusiastic posting, we were working on going forward.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pictures from the Farm

When I was out doing chores for my parents while they were on holidays last week, I took a few pictures with my "good camera." I thought I would share them. I had fun playing with the portrait setting!

This is Chic, who I will hopefully be riding a bit this spring and summer (she is getting bred this year though, so it won't be a long-term thing). PS: Do you think someone is in heat? :)

This is Cass, our little survivor. My parents bought her mom at an auction down in Billings in February. The man who hauled her (she came from Texas) didn't know when the mare was due and was supposed to get back to my mom when the mare decided to foal in the middle of a giant snowstorm at the end of February. Cass froze off part of both her ears and froze her one hoof really bad (it was touch and go for a while), but now she is happy and healthy and very sassy!

This is Clara. She's a half-sister to my coming three-year-old Lily.
Cass (right) and the third filly, Kylee, who is super cute! It's funny because my nieces all wanted to name the babies after themselves and my parents' had three fillies, one for each girl!

Scarface, looking handsome (and young)


More Pepper

Teto - the nosy one

Hootie, who was not impressed I made him stop eating to take his picture
Scarface and Pepper sharing their dinner

Monday, January 9, 2012

An very excellent Christmas present

Now, I know we should all be done with our Christmas present posts (heck, we're done with New Years), but I have one more. My wonderful boyfriend didn't know what to get me for Christmas because I guess I am a little on the picky side (ok, I like everything to be absolutely perfect before I buy it). So he decided he would take me shopping for whatever I wanted. Naturally, we went to my favourite tack store (Yay Greenhawk!), where he bought me these for my vet kit: a stethoscope and a veterinary thermometer.
Ready for vet school someday?

And he talked me into letting him buy me a new Charles Owen JR8 helmet, even though it was more than I wanted him to spend. But it's just so pretty and it was his favourite that I tried on. I haven't ridden in it yet (I think I'm going riding on Thursday), but I've been wearing it around my apartment like a complete horse-nut/dork. My excuse is that I have to break in the memory foam, but really I'm just excited.

Loving my new helmet!!

The sale girl at the tack shop informed me that Charles Owens are super popular right now and that I looked ready to win! What do you think?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Another Spook and Pretty Pictures

Scarface and I had another notable spook yesterday, but this time it was entirely my fault. I was at the farm alone doing chores for my parents and spent the afternoon playing around with the horses. I dicided I was going to hop on Scarface bareback and walk around a little bit. Well, I forgot (seriously, I think my brain is on holidays) that I've never ridden Scarfie bareback before. So I lead him up to my make-shift mounting block (an overturned water tub) and everything is fine. I climb up on top of the block and everything is fine. Scarface is wondering what on earth I'm doing up there, but he's fine. I go to get on, get one leg halfway over his back and gets spooked and takes off at a trot. Since I wasn't even close to being on, I slide my leg back over and landed on my feet, still holding the reins (yay me!). Now Scarfie is completely freaked out and worried. I imagine him saying "WTF Megan, you forgot the saddle and you could have killed me!" if he spoke English. The next half hour was spent with me convincing him it's ok to stand next to things with me standing on them, then convincing him I can touch him from up there and it isn't scary. In the spirit of safety, I decided to postpone actually getting on him bareback until someone (aka my dad) is around to hold him while I mount and drive me to the hospital if things go horribly wrong. My silly, spooky horse.

Oh, and here are some pictures of Scarface looking especially handsome in the bridle. I should really take some pictures in his good bridle so the reins and headstall actually match, but I still think he looks very handsome!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Little Spook that Worried Everyone Else Way More Than Me

First of all, everyone should check of Equine Guelph's Lameness Lab! It's very cool.

I've had Scarface since he was three, making it a total of about 8.5 years (he is officially 12 now) and in that time we've definitely gotten to know each other fairly well. He still surprises me sometimes (like how much he loves being my niece's walk-trot horse or when he is abnormally calm), but all-in-all, I usually know what to expect.

My dad and I trailered over to the neighbour's arena the night before New Year's to go for a little ride (Friday night). Another family was riding as well, so altogether there were 4 riders and 1 man lunging a young horse (I think it was a 2009 baby). The arena owner was sitting in the viewing area at the end of the arena watching. I was warming Scarface up and just working on getting him back into shape after his time off. I didn't notice, but while I was at the far end of the arena, the owner let in a dog and was playing with it quietly in the viewing area. Apparently Scarface didn't notice either because when as we came cantering down the long wall toward the viewing area, he saw the dog that wasn't there before and came to a dead stop. He stared at it for a minute and then I thought he was fine and asked him forward again. Instead, he started motoring backwards at high speed, convinced that there was some kind of monster in the viewing area. I let him look for another moment, then asked him forward again, but he was having no part of it. By this time, everyone was watching us and the man lunging (also one of the dog's owners) was asking if everything was ok and called the dog over so Scarface could see it and see that it was in fact a dog and not a monster. That helped and a bit later Scarface didn't mind going to that end of the arena.

But the moral of the story is that everyone made a bit of a big deal about it and I was kind of embarrassed. Everyone at home and at and barns I've boarded at have known Scarface well enough to not be the least surprised when he spooks, but I don't know the people around this arena that well, so they aren't used to it yet, even though I'm sure I've told everyone how big of a chicken Scarface is.

Do your horses have any weird quirks that other people don't quite know how to react to?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone had a good night and didn't party too hard! I though this would be a good day to post my goals for 2012 and a mini review of 2011.

So 2011... The biggest highlight for me was my return to the show pen after 4 years without showing. Not only that, but in a new discipline! It may have only been a small dressage schooling show, but it was a great stepping stone and has reminded me just how much I enjoy competing. 2011 also saw me return to university to pursue a degree in Animal Health, which will hopefull transition me into vet school. Definitely better than working (except that I'm always broke).

2012 Goals
-Dressage: -Attend another dressage schooling show
                 -Score about 55% in training level (bonus)
-Hunters: - Take Scarface through his first combination
               - Jump Scarface at 2 feet
               -Attend a hunter schooling show
-Other: - Attend a minimum of one clinic
            -Take a jumping lesson with Scarface

Happy New Year from Megan and Scarface!
I think these goals are all very do-able and I'm excited for the year ahead!