photo by
Tales of Taco the Wonder Horse and his ammy rider on their way to a Training Three Day

Monday, February 28, 2011

Spring Starts Now!

Although the month of February brought terrible weather and a pesky hoof abscess for Taco, within the winter doldrums have been opportunities to prepare for spring. 

Take, for instance, the MSEDA annual meeting in Louisville, where the educational session speaker was Daniel Stewart.  He took us through a day-long program that began with sports psychology strategies and ended with a series of fun balance board exercises.  He taught us all how to simulate various gaits and positions on our own two feet, and took volunteers to help demonstrate how to unite our minds and muscles in mock dressage tests, stadium rounds, and, finally, a cross county course.  I really wanted to try the XC course so I overcame my misgivings about embarrassing myself in public and gave it a shot.

XC dancin' with Danny... I look like a fool, but it was fun! (photo by Hannah Hubsch)

The weekend ended with a lovely awards dinner at the Kentucky Derby Museum and an interesting meeting of members.  And I won the Alta Vista Farm XC schooling door prize-- thanks Mary Lowry!

Then Taco's new saddle came.  It is a Black Country Tex Eventer, the same one as our old one but a size larger.  Oh, and it has a gold stripe on it.  It is extremely pretty.

I ordered it through Trumbull Mountain Saddlery in Vermont (which, coincidentally, has our old saddle for sale). After I rode in the new one a little, Kate Wooten came out to adjust the flocking so it is sitting on Taco's back perfectly.  So far, I love it!  I don't think my lower leg is swinging back nearly so much, which was the point of getting the new one.

Then Taco got a haircut! The weather is warming up, but his coat is still thick and we want to avoid his staying wet and getting chilled.  So I de-furred him.


Notice anything on his butt?  Look closer...

And, because he is now more nekkid than the day he was born, he has a special suit to wear.

Why me???

Finally, I got myself excited for the season by making my annual volunteering trip (my 5th!) to Pine Top Farm Advanced Horse Trials, February 25-27.  Readers of this blog might remember that my trip last year did not go smoothly.  After years of an excellent safety record, the event logged several serious accidents on one day-- two of which were rotational falls at fences where I was judging.  I was deeply shaken, as were the wonderful organizers, Glenn and Janet Wilson, and many others who were present that day.  Like the riders who were injured, however, I felt it was important to go back this year as part of acknowledging that my enjoyment of the event can continue even after an uncommonly difficult weekend.

The Frog Pond at Pine Top

I am so glad that I returned this year!  The weather was perfect, the horses were impressive and beautiful, and, as usual, I learned so much.  On Friday I scribed the Advanced dressage tests for Sandy Osborn ("S") and jump judged at the coffin complex.  I scribed for Intermediate and Preliminary all day Saturday, and then jump judged all day Sunday.  The courses rode very well and the few partings-of-company did not lead to injuries.  I enjoyed visiting with the Wilsons and friends I see there every year, and I left feeling excited about the start to the season.

Tools of the XC fence judge's trade

Next week we go to Aiken for Spring Break!  I will update as much as possible.  And, as usual, send your questions to Taco!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ask Taco: Getting Oneself Fit

Q. Dear Taco-
I've been in event horse training now for about three months and I have heard that I will be entering in the N3D and T3Ds in the future.
From what I understand the long format takes quite a bit of strength and endurance. I'm feeling a little over whelmed and fear that I might not be fit enough. What do you do to prepare yourself for the A,B,C, and D portions on XC day? How many hugs and cookies do you think I could earn if I do very well in such an event?

I've been told there is a strong possibility I will get to see you in Sept. Fingers Crossed!!
from, Toby the Cow Pony
A. Dear Toby the Cow Pony,
Yes, you are correct that the long format takes strength and endurance.  But there are two consolations in this, my friend.  First  of all, you are a cow pony for goodness's sake, and you were bred for those long days. Endurance Day at a classic format event is nothing compared to long days riding the range as your family has done for generations.  
Have your rider read this book.
Second, once you go through a conditioning program, such as the one in this post from last August, you will be so strong and fit that all of the other work your rider asks you to do will seem easy.  You'll be able to trot Roads and Tracks all day!  And you will have done the speed work to make Steeplechase a breeze (that's a horse racing term, which you might not know because you are a cow pony).

I hope that the above reassurances put your mind at ease.  But if you are still concerned, there is something you can do.  I have my very own exercise routine, TacoCize (TM)*, that I do in my pasture, when I'm feeling like I need to work out.  My pasture is about 6 or 7 acres, and it is longer than it is wide.  I'll do sprint sets several times back and forth.  I just start at one end, cover the length of it, and start back again.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  I get an extra cardiovascular workout by shouting to my neighbors as I run (this has the added benefit of getting their attention).  Sometimes I'm getting ready to TacoCize right when Stacy arrives and wants to bring me in, but she understands when I go ahead and do it anyway.  She acts mad but I know she's just kidding.
You can see me in the middle of this picture with my pasture stretching out behind me.
So don't worry about all the hard work, and you can always add in the workout I described if you wish.  I know you will be a great Event Pony!  I look forward to seeing you this fall.

Best wishes,
P.S.  If you do well in one of those events, or even just try a little, the hugs and cookies are unlimited.  Really!