Tuesday, April 15, 2014

26 things you didn't know about Cash

I started off writing a post about our history, but it became a book. So figured I'd do 26 things about him - one for each year!

Another awesome pic courtesy of Lauren.
  1. Although I've ridden since I was 13, Cash is my first horse. I bought him for $1 when I graduated from college.
  2. He's a registered American Paint Horse. He's dual-registered as a Pinto.
  3. His registered APHA name is Midnight Dollar. I thought this was the dumbest name ever, so I showed him in eventing and dressage as Black Tie Affair. 
  4. He started out life as a reining horse, and won ROM points in the 2 and 3 year old APHA divisions. This early start in life came back to haunt him in later years.
  5. When I met him, he was trying to be a child's all-around horse. He was terrible at Western Pleasure.
  6. He used to absolutely lose his marbles when you went into an arena at a show. Sidepassing, half-rearing, bolting... it was truly a special thing. Getting into the dressage arena without blowing a gasket was challenging for quite a while!
  7. Cash used to be terrified of men. I remember one clinic we attended, the male clinician went to pat him on the neck and Cash bolted sideways/backwards without warning. I'm pretty sure he thought the guy was going to hit him.
  8. When I first got him, he didn't understand that he could go more than one speed within a gait.  The day he figured out he could do an extended trot, it was all he would do for a week! He was so proud of himself for figuring it out, lol!
  9. You could not touch his mouth, ever. We did dressage in a Happy Mouth eggbutt snaffle and getting even the lightest contact was always a challenge.
  10. Early on, I couldn't take Cash on trail rides. I remember one ride where we literally cantered at a walking speed for an hour, bouncing off of trees and nearly getting ourselves killed. Even now, Cash can only go out with one or two other horses, and starts to lose it if he's not in the front.
  11. He's an incredibly sensitive horse to ride. The tiniest shift of weight, or tilting of your head, and he'd respond. It taught me to be a very quiet rider.
  12. He never learned to trot through trot poles. He would canter them, every time, and he never touched a single pole.
  13. We never had a rail down in stadium, ever. NO TOUCHY THE JUMPS!!!
  14. Cash can't stand being clean. He is a professional roller and will often flip over multiple times to make sure he's completely covered. For shows, I would scrub and scrub and use QuickColor shampoo and  blueing to make him white, then keep him wrapped and blanketed, which he hated. As soon as we were done with the show, I'd make a mud puddle in his pasture for him to roll in - and he always got as dirty as possible!  
  15. Perfectly dirty.

  16. He only refused a fence once in his entire career. It was a Training level down bank into the water that took our half of our division. I was so surprised I forgot to ride and got us eliminated. Oops!
  17. Jumping out of the water was fine, however.

  18. Remember that arena thing? I could barely get Cash into the start box XC for more than a second. Fun times!
  19. I once took him foxhunting. I thought it wasn't the best idea ever, but I really REALLY wanted to go. As it turns out, I was right and it was a terrible idea - we spent the entire time fighting. We've never been again.
  20. Cash doesn't know how to eat a whole apple. He will only eat it if you cut it up into bit-sized pieces. Anything else would be uncivilized, clearly.
  21. We retired from jumping after an incredibly successful year in 1999, where we went from Beginner Novice to Training and were planning to move up to Prelim. Toward the end of the year, he was NQR behind, and one of the best vets in the country diagnosed him with arthritis in his hock. I spent several years trying to treat the arthritis, but nothing ever helped.
  22. Cash is not a snuggly horse, but every so often he'll asked to be scratched - usually right around dusk, just after being turned out or as I'm finishing up barn chores. He follows me around oh-so-politely, as if to say, "Excuse me...?" He will actually show me (with his nose) where the itchy spots are (usually his sides or legs), and then he'll sidle up to me so that I'm right next to the itchy spot - usually his withers or his butt. He'll spend 30 minutes or more pointing out the itchy spots, and when he's done, he walks away without so much as a thank-you.
  23. We showed second level once, at a schooling show, but we could do all the movements through fourth level with the exception of flying lead changes. He never quite understood how to do those. We also schooled baby piaffe a few times - so cool!
  24. Cash has 7 spots on his nose. I count them regularly (and poke them as I do), which he puts up with.
  25. Three years after being diagnosed with arthritis, I took him to a different vet for a second opinion, since nothing I was doing seemed to make him any more comfortable. This time, we got a REAL diagnosis - a bone lesion under the suspensory on his RH. The vet suspected it had started as a 2/3 year old during reining training, and it only flared up when the work was hard enough (i.e. jumping 3'+ and doing extended gaits). Despite 9 months off, it never fully healed, but he was still comfortable doing Training level dressage.
  26. Cash was a dressage schoolmaster until he retired at 19, with a mystery lameness high up in his hind end. He lived for three years an at amazing retirement facility called Paint Creek Ranch, and after two years miraculously came back sound. 
  27. Cash has always - ALWAYS - been at the very bottom of the pecking order at every barn I've ever been at. Most of the time I had to have him on private or semi-private turnout so he wouldn't get the crap beat out of him. The only horse he's ever been friends with (where said friend didn't beat the crap out of him) was Saga, who would even share his grain with Cash
  28. Cash usually waits at the gate for a bedtime treat. He just stands politely and looks cute until someone notices him and gives him something. So adorable!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy 26th Birthday to my Very First Pony

Cash turns 26 today. I'm amazed we've made it this far, since he's been so prone to all sorts of illnesses. He is my very first horse, bought when I finished college for the low low price of $1. I've had him for 18 years now, and we've done everything from Training level eventing to Second level dressage, jousting, and trail riding. He's been a part of my life longer than just about anyone or anything else.

I don't have a lot of pics of him because he was retired from competition by 2001, and digital pics were new back then. However, Lauren was kind enough to come over this weekend and take some shots of him so I would have some candid memories. As usual, she takes amazing photos and I just love them. Lauren, thank you SO MUCH for the beautiful memories. You captured him - and our relationship - perfectly.

So, so handsome. This shot is my favorite of the two of us.

Love this face!

More adorableness :)

Had to get one shot with the hair, lol!


Happy Birthday to the best Spotted Pony in the whole wide world!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Movin' on up (to First Level)

After our awesome showing at Training 2 and 3 (let's ignore my senior moments, TYVM), a couple of people asked if I'd thought about moving us up to First Level. I admit, yes I've had that thought, since it's really the next logical step.

(Caveat: I suppose the next REALLY logical step is to show him at Training at a recognized show - because face it, a schooling show and a recognized show just aren't the same thing. Maybe we could try to qualify for the regional USDF Championships? But I'm not sure that the year-ends are my goal here. Maybe? There are plenty of recognized shows I could go to, but they are quite pricey, and I really need to think about WHY I'm attending them if I'm going to go. That question isn't yet resolved, so I'll focus on moving up instead.)

Anyway, I sat down and checked out the first level tests earlier this week. Let's just say that we currently have NONE of the pieces needed to put together a first-level test. Sure, we can trot 10 meter circles and canter 15 meter circles (really!), but I'd never even considered asking Paddy for a lengthen  trot or canter, both of which show up in all three tests. Heck, I've spend nearly every ride trying to slow him down, not asking for more! First level also requires a leg yield both directions, and while he's great to the left, he still sort of gets stuck going right.

Oh well, I guess that gives us plenty to work on, right?

That being said, this is not a bad lengthen for a first try. Go Haffie Power!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Finally! Paddy & Red's Acting Debut

Remember waaaay back before Christmas when Red and Paddy were part of a video shoot for a Goodwill commercial? Well, the commercial is FINALLY out!

Here's the short version. Paddy gets to play the King's horse, and hubby is the guy in armor holding Paddy.

Here's the long version. Those are Red's ears at the beginning - he's playing stunt double to the chestnut that the little boy was riding, because the other horse wasn't interested in having a steadycam strapped to his back. You mostly get to see my hair.

Paddy's contemplating moving to Hollywood now to pursue an acting career. I think he wants to be paid in peppermints.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Senior moments (or, why we didn’t actually get first place on Training 3)

So in my last post, I mentioned that we had a couple of fabulous dressage tests at the show last weekend, and I also mentioned that for our second test we missed first place by one point. Normally I’d be like “Eh, we had a great ride, who cares!” but what I neglected to mention is that I went off course on Tr:3… which cost us two points.

Two points.

In other words, if I had remembered my damn test, we would have been first… by one point.

[Quick side note about how dressage is scored: Every dressage test has a certain number of movements, such as 20 meter circles or halts or trot-canter transitions. Each movement is scored from 1-10, 1 being “did not perform the movement” and 10 being “you just won the Olympics with this movement.” Certain movements have coefficients, so they are worth twice or even three times as many points. To get your percentage score, you add up the number of points you got, divide by the number of points possible for that test (every test is different), and multiply by 100. That’s how I got a 68%, but was only 1 actual POINT behind first place, which was a 68.4%. If I’d gotten the two extra points, I would have had a 68.8%.]

The EVEN SADDER thing is, I ALSO forgot Training 2. I’d practiced both tests to death the week before, and I even went over them several times in my head right before I went in the arena. Seriously though… forgetting two tests in one day?

Going over the test before going into the arena.

I’m blaming it on my advanced age.

Monday, April 7, 2014

4/5 Dressage show: We might finally be doing it right!

This weekend, we attended yet another schooling dressage show at Silver Hill. I signed us up for Training 2 and Training 3 over a month ago, and then spent the entire month panicking because Training 3 is almost all canter and we all know how much Paddy's canter sucks. But we've been doing nothing but practicing canter transitions and circles and changes of direction, and I'm pleased to say that it seems to have paid off.

This is our Training Level 3 test... we got a 68%. A SIXTY EIGHT!!!! That's a personal best! I will also note that I was ONE point (that's point, not percentage point) behind first place.

So I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Fuzzypony and I rode back-to-back for both tests, and I was the first ride of the day at 8 a.m. I arrived at the show grounds with Taran and Paddy all braided and ready to go around 6:30, and we sat around and drank our chai and nibbled breakfast while we waited for the sun to rise. We were on by 7:15, and did a generously long walk followed by our new warmup routine, which no longer involves careening around at mach one-Haffie for fifteen minutes. Lisa Bauman from Austin Eventing coached us again, and she commented that she was thrilled that she didn't have to hide during warmup, lol! Paddy was a little looky, since the sun was coming up and it was quite cool and windy, but he warmed up quite well and we went in promptly for our 8 a.m. start.

I love this pic... the first footprints in a freshly dragged arena, on our way down centerline for the first salute of the day. 

Our first test, Training 2, went really well except for our free walk, where he was really distracted. But we stayed balanced and relaxed (a big deal for both of us!!), kept a good rhythm, and mostly stayed focused. We ended with a 64.change% for second place, three points behind Fuzzypony, who had a super awesome ride for first place!

Left lead canter... I don't look braced anymore and we are both so much more balanced (and this is now our "bad side!")

We had an hour between our first and second tests, which was enough time to go back to the trailer, strip tack, take a bathroom break, then get ready again. Paddy was a little like "wait, WHUT AGAIN???" when we headed back into the warmup ring, and started off against my hand. Judicious application of lateral movements to activate his hindquarters, along with staying relaxed with my hand and not giving him anything to lean against, got him to a much more obedient state. However, Lisa noticed that he wasn't as active with his left hind, so we did a couple of 10 meter circles into shoulder in down the long side right before we went in for Training 3, then rode all the long sides during the test like I was riding shoulder fore. We had a sticky moment in the downward trot/walk transition where he really wanted to halt (poor tired Haffie!), and another where we cut the corners coming around the short side of the arena in left lead canter, but otherwise I could not have asked for a nicer, more balance, obedient test. I felt like it was a really good example of where we are at in our training right now. Woot!

I'm so much more relaxed too!

Hover Haffieeee! I love how balanced and awesome we look in this shot!

And that right-lead canter that we've been struggling with? An EIGHT on the depart, and SEVENS on the circle and downward transitions. H3ll to the yeah! Our uh, left lead canter, which I have been neglecting, wasn't as good. Oops.

And if that's not enough... the judge gave us a NINE on the final centerline. I've never gotten a 9 before, ever. I feel like bronzing and framing that sucker.

So yeah, that test was worth a 68% even, for second place, ONE POINT behind first. The first place horse actually ALSO got a 64% at First Level test 3... so he's basically way past Training level. I'm feeling pretty good about that!

Me and Fuzzypony. Paddy had his ears up the entire time for these pics (natch), but Taran required some bribery (note hand with carrot on left).

As usual, a show is never something that one person does alone. Many thanks to Fuzzypony for Paddy's awesome braid job (I promise to pull his mane more in the very near future), MC for coming out, helping groom, and taking pics (all these pics are courtesy of MC) with her friend M (M belongs to the carrot-holding hand), Hubby for providing water and a cheering section (!!!!), and Lisa for the awesome coaching as usual. It takes a village!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Haffies get tan lines too

Last fall, I did a weird field hunter blanket clip on Mr. Paddington, because his thick "I'm from Michigan" coat was just a bit too much for our comparatively mild Texas winters. It's been a great clip for him, kept him from overheating while still providing some warmth, so blanketing has been less of a chore. But now it's April, and while everyone else is almost done shedding out, Paddington has literally shed about three hairs. I think he's still waiting for that blizzard that he thinks will happen any day now.

Paddy's winter clip (we bathed him just before clipping, which is why he's wet).

 Alas, it's consistently in the upper 70s-low 80s during the days now, and poor Paddy is just cooking in the shag rug he's sporting. Last night I finally gave in and body clipped him. I know, I know, it's April, and I've probably ruined his summer coat. I have NEVER clipped a horse this late, but I think he would have finished shedding out sometime in July, so this seemed like a reasonable alternative.

The problem with clipping a relatively light-colored horse who's had a partial clip all winter? Tan lines! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Ignore my crappy clipping job and focus on the dual-colored Haffie. Snicker...

Paddington is diligently sunning himself to try to even out his tan lines. He's told me not to laugh at the unevenness too much because... well, see below:

The dangers of wearing gloves and pushing up your long-sleeved shirt sleeves when you ride. I guess we match now?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Paddington: Future Grand Prix Dressage Haffie?

Fuzzypony and I have been riding as much as possible in preparation for the upcoming dressage show this weekend. We haven’t been doing lessons due to time constraints, but I’ve got enough video and photos to know what I need to work on, so we’ve been muddling along fairly well for the past few weeks.

One of the things we’ve been working most on is shoulder-in to the right. He’s heavy on the left rein (ok, I hang on the left rein) but I have a hard time getting him solidly into the right rein. Enter shoulder in. Unfortunately, Paddy has a really hard time going this direction. He can do a leg-yield quite nicely, but asking for the minimal crossover that’s required of a shoulder in is just a hard concept for him. In reality, he knows what I want, but getting the LH working properly is just hard, since it’s his weaker hind leg. He often responds by either walking during an attempted trot shoulder-in, or getting a little light in the front end. I’ve always sent him forward when he gets a little light, because I don’t want him to think that picking his front feet up off the ground is an acceptable evasion.

So yesterday evening Fuzzypony and I were working in our grass arena, and Paddy and I were having a little discussion about left shoulder in. I felt him get a little light, so I sat up and closed my leg… and suddenly his butt dropped about two inches and his shoulder came up another two, and he was doing the most amazing elevated trot! It happened so quickly I wasn’t sure what to do, just kept my leg on, and then we were – not even joking – trotting in place! Y’all, I have never done a piaffe before, but Fuzzypony swears that’s what Paddy was doing. He felt so powerful under me – back up, haunches under him, like I could move him any way with just a thought… absolutely an amazing feeling. Fuzzypony tried to get her camera out to get it on video, but he only did it for a few steps before he downshifted to walk. And of course since I had NO idea what I was doing, I couldn’t get him to do it again - which is probably for the best, since piaffe is not a required movement in Training Level Test 3.

Even adorable when he's evading.

I’ve already talked to hubby about sending Paddy to my dressage trainer to be put into training full-time. He’s humoring me, I think. Obviously we have about a million miles to go between our rides this weekend and an actual Grand Prix test, but maybe he’s got the talent to do it?

Public Service Announcement: Paddington reminds you that you should never believe everything you read on the Interwebz, especially given that today is April 1. ;)