Sunday, February 16, 2014

We're still happy & healthy - new life phase

Well, I think two years since my last post makes it pretty evident that I won't be blogging anymore...

But just in case anyone was wondering or still has this subscription somehow, I thought I'd give you an update.

It's amazing to me that I started this blog just before I graduated high school. I wrote about Bailey, who we'd just sold. Months later I wrote about my last ride on him, and the next day I found out he had just been put down after a pasture accident. I wrote about buying Pandora, training her, and later selling her. I wrote an awful lot about McKinna, because this blog was about her in the first place! I joined Pony Club and rated up to C2 about as quickly as I could, and almost went for the C3 until I ran into my first real collision between academics and horses. (Much as I love horses, academics have pretty much always won.) McKinna went from a broke-but-not-trained horse who trotted around with her head in the air and could barely canter to a smooth, powerful horse capable of cruising around Training-level fences like it was nothing. She turned into a real dressage horse with a Real Canter. And I had an awesome, awesome time.

Since I last wrote, what's happened? I graduated from college and moved all the way across the country to start a PhD in Biology at Harvard. It's been great fun so far, though I haven't yet found a riding situation. It's a bit of a bummer to not see horses on a regular basis, but don't worry, I'll get there. McKinna, of course, has stayed back home in Oregon with my mom. She's never going anywhere!

McKinna and I had an awesome time last year, and though I didn't have time for a recognized HT, we did go win a Novice one-day horse trials and had a blast while we were doing it. We got in some extra cross-country schooling, too. (Sorry for the slightly blurry last pic. I think there was some sunscreen on the camera lens.)

Second fence on course

Crossing the finish flags at the one-day HT

Conquering the Training trakehner one last time!

We also went to a dressage show and managed respectable rides at First 3 and Second 1. I was quite pleased we didn't fall down in the counter-canter!

Happy pony after our rides

And then, well, I left her behind and drove across the country to start graduate school. In December I flew home for the first time and - despite having caught a stomach virus and being fairly sleep-deprived - I headed to the barn my first full day home. I wasn't feeling up to a real ride, but I did cruise around bareback for a little while.

After I recovered, I rode quite a bit. No jumping, but plenty of dressage, and all the buttons are still there. She's a truly wonderful horse. It felt like a fun conversation with an old friend. Still remember haunches-in? Yep. How about a nice canter? Sure. Canter-walk-canter? No big deal. So much fun.

Mom has been riding a lot more now that I've given up my monopoly, including some pretty awesome trail rides and adventures in the ridiculous snowstorm that hit Oregon in early December. They've just moved to a new barn, where McKinna has happily settled in, though according to my mom she's not quite convinced there aren't ghosts lurking in the arena corners.

So all is well and everyone is happy. And at least for now, that will be the conclusion of this blog! Perhaps someday, when I get my next horse, I'll begin another. You never know.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Back in the Groove?

Happy New Year, everyone! I actually went to a party last night, like a real college student and everything. I sipped my cinnamon whiskey, joined in the pull-up contest (sadly the ladies did lose, with a combined total of 17 to the boys' 45...the perils of hanging out with mostly rock climbers - the women can do pullups, but the men can usually do more!), and had a good time with fun people. 2011 was a great year for me, and I'm looking forward to what 2012 brings. I hope you guys all have a wonderful year as well.

I took a long-overdue dressage lesson with Leslie on Wednesday this week. Actually, it was a bit of an event - another boarder at the barn and my barn owner both took lessons too, so my mom and I came out to watch their lessons and everyone had a good time. We also brought cookies, hot chocolate, and tea, because we love Leslie.

Over the last few weeks, I'd been riding more often. Maybe three times a week, up from the once per week I'd been doing for pretty much the last six months. Still, that's not very much, especially compared to last winter when I was riding five days a week with one or two of those days a lesson. So I was very pleasantly surprised when, at the Leslie lesson, McKinna appeared to have lost nothing over the last six months.

Some lost fitness? Sure, she got tired more easily, so we kept working chunks short and gave her breaks. But everything we worked on in that lesson, from leg yields all the way up through trying some haunches-in at the trot and a walk-canter transition, felt beautiful. Like we never left off of training. Seriously, this horse blows me away all the time.

So we're just going to keep on trucking. I'm feeling encouraged about regaining our fitness and building back up to improving our training once more. Lately I have really been enjoying focusing on the walk, encouraging McKinna to really use herself properly, doing lots of suppling through lateral work. The fun has come back for me in the mental engagement part of riding, which is a really nice feeling. I'm feeling like I'm ready to start jumping again...which I'm pretty sure we haven't done more than maybe once since June.

Went out to the barn to say hi and longe her a bit yesterday. She is cheerful as can be. Furry as all get-out, of course, though maybe not for long. I gave her a little strip-clip on her chest and neck before the Leslie lesson, and it helped, but I think it's going to have to get expanded. Another lesson is on the schedule for next week, and a Pony Club clinic over the weekend. Maybe I really am getting back into the groove.

New year, new goals? Not really, at least not in the formal sense. It pains my inner goal-setter to even say that, but still. I'd love to go Training at Inavale this year, but if I find myself unable to put in the time and work to do it well, I'll be happy to go Novice again. I'd be thrilled if I could compete at more than one event, but since I'll be traveling to events specifically to do data collection for my thesis, I'm not sure if it'll happen. Mostly I just want McKinna to continue being the happiest and most wonderful horse around, and I want to keep enjoying my time out at the barn with her in whatever way that happens.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fall Update!

I swear summer gets shorter every year...blink and you'll miss it. Maybe that's because I seem incapable of doing anything with my summers other than stuffing them full of activity?

Anyway, here I am, about to start Week 4 of classes.

First things first: McKinna is doing well! To be honest, I've been averaging about 1 ride a week since...well...Inavale, in June. Turns out it's awfully hard for me to motivate myself to work hard on riding when I'm throwing everything into my research, and that definitely didn't get any easier when classes started. McKinna certainly doesn't mind this life of leisure, though!

We had a visit from the chiro last week, which I think made a big difference. McKinna had been fairly cranky about saddling and just wasn't into working - I didn't think much of it because I was so busy not being into working either. I hopped on for a little stretch-everything-out ride on Wednesday, and my mom has ridden a couple times since then, with positive results. Back to happy, ready-to-work pony.

Am now realizing that I never updated you guys about Inavale. The short story: it was fabulous. Dressage was pretty good for us, a little tense but not bad. I think we were middle of the pack. I was a bit concerned about XC because our entire XC-schooling of the year consisted of hopping over a few logs in Devin's back pasture, but I wasn't too worried. After all, this is McKinna, XC Rockstar Extraordinaire, we're talking about.

 My favorite fence!

She did not disappoint! We blazed around that course and she took everything in stride, including a brand new ditch with very scary light-colored gravel on either side and a two-stride combination in the woods with a bit of a light-to-dark element. Double-clear, naturally. That moved us up to fifth.

If you'll recall, stadium was our downfall last year. So I was understandably a bit nervous coming into stadium on Sunday! I had a few things going for me, though. McKinna was overall a MUCH happier horse, because we decided to learn from our mistake last year and stable in one of the open pole corrals instead of a totally closed-in temporary stall. Huge difference. 

 McKinna's good-morning stretch in her pole corral

Also, we spent a good chunk of last year working really hard on our stadium to get up to C3 level, doing 3'3 courses and the like - so a Novice stadium course, even Inavale's fabulously decorated fences, looked pretty tame.

Even though it did have the dreaded horse-eating piano fence as fence #7.

Well, let's just say I needn't have worried.

We went in there and McKinna did her job. A little nervous, sure - but never any question about going over the fences. I did ride a little extra hard to fence 7! A clear round for us moved us up to fourth for our final placing.

So that was Inavale. Lots of friends and family came out to spend time with us, and I had a great time.

Other than that, nothing too exciting in horse-related news. I spent two weeks at the end of the summer doing paleontology field work in Eastern Oregon with my lab, which was ridiculously fun and also exhausting. At the moment I'm having a bit of a hard time juggling all my responsibilities. I've got a lot of short-term, recurring deadlines (classwork, mostly), a lot of Really Big Important Deadlines (mostly research projects and scholarships), and the handful of other things requisite to daily life like eating, doing laundry, and getting over a cold. So far I'm doing okay, but I've been spending a lot of time going between "Okay, I can do this" and "Aaaargh how the hell am I going to survive this term??"

Which, you know, sounds pretty much like I do every term, so I probably shouldn't worry too much. Maybe someday I'll learn to give myself a balanced schedule. On the plus side, I had a great ride tonight. It was sunny and crisp out at the barn, McKinna was cheerful (and insanely fluffy for a horse who was body-clipped a month ago), and I had a really nice dressage school. Felt good to get some solid work in.

I'll get up some video from Inavale for you guys to see. Other than that, don't hold your breath for frequent updates (I'm having a hard enough time treading water as it is!), but I'll check in when I can. Let me know what you guys have been up to! Maybe tomorrow evening I'll spend an hour or two getting caught up on everyone else's blogs.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The End-of-Term Crazies....

May or may not be getting to me.

Yes, that is me galloping with a nerf gun. (Last week, when the weather was not doing its best impression of FREAKING FEBRUARY. IT IS JUNE. STOP RAINING, DAMMIT.)

Yes, that is a semi-accurate rearing horse skeleton that I may or may not have drawn in the midst of writing a giant term paper.

I had a lovely ride Monday night and tonight. McKinna is content to be worked a few days a week, and to be honest I'm thrilled with how well she's doing considering the lack of concentrated attention I've been giving her. She's still fit, she's still strong, I can go out and work on some nice canter lengthenings or trot cavaletti and she is perfectly happy to go to work, and she retains the stuff we work on too. It's great.

Horse trials at the end of the month! My brain is completely occupied with school right now but I'm sure I will start getting very excited about the HT shortly after finals are over.

A week and a half to go!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Hey there! It's been...a goodness.

The rally went super well. We did the Horse I division, which goes up to 3'3. I was particularly excited because I discovered that McKinna has an ADJUSTABLE canter. In warmup I could send her forward in big gallopy strides, then close my leg and sit up a little and collect to short, bouncy strides. Very exciting. Very new.

She jumped her heart out for me and was a fantastic girl. A rail or two here and there, but overall it was great. The take-your-own-line round was spectacular, including a ridiculous rollback to a one-stride line that had to be jumped at about a 45* angle. We did take the first rail (because we didn't land on the right lead for the rollback - argh! - and had to drop to a trot before picking up the canter again), but McKinna jumped it like it was no big deal. Love her.

Anyway, life's been a bit crazy for me as always. School, mostly. Midterms. Research. Homework. More midterms. And it doesn't look like it's going to let up much at all anytime soon. It's all fun and exciting stuff, which is good. I've been riding regularly and having a great time. Adding alfalfa to McKinna's diet was the best decision ever (have I written about that?), because now she's got seemingly endless energy but she's not stupid-hot. She's just ready and willing to go to work with plenty of enthusiasm, and I can really feel the difference when we're jumping. So I've been riding probably an average of 4 days a week, which isn't 100% ideal but it's pretty good.

And on that note, it's time for me to officially take a little break from blogging. (The 'unofficial break' being the fact that I've been posting extremely sporadically anyway.) I've got a lot of stuff on my plate, and I don't like having one more thing nagging at me for my attention, even though you guys don't complain! So I'm going to not worry about the whole blogging thing for a little while.

It's possible that I'll be back soon, or maybe I'll just post once a month, or maybe I won't come back until into summer vacation. Who knows? I'll see what I can do.

Hope all of you are having a wonderful time with your horses. I definitely am!
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