Tidbits from Christine Traurig

Earlier this month, one of the local dressage clubs hosted their annual symposium; this year’s clinician was Christine Traurig. My employer sponsored the event, and the organizers offered to let us bring the mobile unit to the venue. My coworker ran the mobile all weekend (because I went to Closing Hunt on Saturday) but I popped in to “help” on Sunday.

The symposium’s theme was “Through The Levels”, and they featured pairs of riders from Training/First Level on young horses to riders tackling the upper levels. I didn’t get to watch every session (because I did do some work), but I thought Christine was a great teacher. She challenged riders in a fair way and took time to explain her methods and reasoning to the crowd. I got the most out of watching the lower level riders and took away several nuggets of wisdom.

  • Young horses need a supportive leg and forgiving hand.
  • Young horses should be ridden in spurs so they get used to them.
  • Be patient! Wait to give cues until horse is ready. (This was one of my favorite pieces of advice. When I’m practicing a dressage test, I often get caught up in making the transition so prompt that it’s ugly. There’s no reason to hurry when you’re practicing- practice will eventually lead to quick and accurate transitions.)
  • Rhythm is the foundation of all dressage. Don’t forget about rhythm at any level!
  • Your arm and rein are one unit.
  • Transitions are finished when your horse isn’t in a hurry any more. (This was another favorite! I used to have a trainer who would tell me to “minimize the running” in transitions.)
  • Outside hand should stay low and back so you can set a boundary for the shoulder.
  • Your seat is the mediator between leg and hand; it has a supportive role. Young horses don’t have the back strength to be ridden with lots of seat.
  • Willingness to go forward must be present in all work.
  • When correcting a horse, make the correction an exercise, not an abrupt punishment.

While I didn’t have the full experience of auditing, I definitely got some good stuff out of the symposium!

Guess the barn dog breed!

My two dogs almost always accompany me to the barn, but it’s my cute-in-a-weird-way Corgi/Dachshund mix Buttons that gets almost all of the attention. It’s easy to see why- Buttons is small but sturdy, friendly, and not slobbery. My other dog, Lurky, is also relatively small, not slobbery, and very friendly. But he has a long coat that often looks disheveled after spending time outside and has an unnerving habit of staring and panting at a person long after they’ve stopped petting him. He also looks vaguely worried all the time.

Johnny and I got Lurky in 2011 from my first boss at the therapeutic riding center. She was moving out of the state to care for her elderly mother and couldn’t take her dog with her. She hadn’t had the dog very long. He’d been dumped at the center a few months before she elected to move. She took him in, named him Lucky, and took him to the local vet for appropriate care; the vet estimated he was between 6 and 8 years old. We agreed to take him from her because we thought that Buttons, an exuberant puppy at the time, could use the steadying influence of a quiet older dog.

Lucky eventually evolved into Lurky (a much more suitable name, as he lurks around almost all the time) and he’s been an indispensable part of our family for the last eight years. He’s a great dog. Lurky is patient and kind to other animals, whether it’s puppies chewing on his ears, kittens swatting his tail, or horses sniffing his fur. He rarely barks, reliably comes when called, and never jumps on the furniture or touches human food that’s within his reach. We didn’t train him to behave this way; he came this way.

Lurky’s clearly a Heinz-57 kind of dog. The vet officially has him down as a red heeler mix, but we’ve always wondered what else is in there. He has some heeler-like characteristics, but many of his physical and personality traits aren’t associated with the breed.

Some of Lurky’s defining characteristics are:

  • Long, soft fur
  • Calm temperament
  • Low energy level
  • Average intelligence
  • Enjoys company of other dogs
  • Low shedding
  • About 22″ tall
  • Weighs about 35 pounds
  • Not territorial
  • Very rarely barks, but makes lots of weird noises (like clucking and whining)
We clip him in the summers because he gets miserably hot.

Some of these could be age-related (he’s somewhere between 14 and 16 now if the vet’s original estimate was correct!), but even as a younger dog he wasn’t very energetic or excitable.

When Amazon had sale on dog DNA tests over the holidays, we bought one, collected saliva samples, and eagerly awaited Lurky’s results. What’s your guess about Lurky’s breed mix?

I wasn’t super surprised by the results:

  • 25% Australian Cattle Dog (red heeler)
  • 12.5% Chow Chow
  • 12.5% Golden Retriever
  • 50% from breed groups terrier, sporting, or herding

I can definitely see the Golden Retriever in his gentle temperament and long, luxurious coat, and I’m sure his size and color are influenced by his Australian Cattle Dog family members. Of course, his breeding isn’t really that important- what’s important is that he is A Very Good Boy.

Did you guess Lurky’s ancestry correctly? Have you ever done a DNA test on your dog? Yourself?


Miscellaneous updates

I haven’t been blogging regularly (for months, really) because I feel like my life is currently very boring. After Marrakesh died, I lost motivation to do much with the horses at all. The things I did do felt very mundane, especially compared to the excitement of a baby horse. I rode Moe in dressage shows. I made more of a effort to work with Candy. I tried to get ready for hunting with Gina.

My life hasn’t suddenly become more exciting, but I want to write about it anyway. So, what’s been going on?

  • I’ve taken a few lessons with my neighbor on Candy. One of my foxhunting friends is taking lessons with her every other week and inserting myself into her lesson has made it fun and affordable (for me, I’m not sure if she thinks it’s fun when Candy is dolphining around the arena). It’s been helpful to have someone who knows both Candy and me well offering advice and tips.
  • Hunting season is underway, although I haven’t been out much. My clippers died about three-quarters of the way through clipping Gina, so she looks hideous. I borrowed a pair of clippers from my neighbor, which died about five minutes after I turned them on. Gina’s neck and barrel are clipped, but her hindquarters are not (save for one wide swath on her left flank). I took her out third field last weekend, which was really fun; I’m too embarrassed to hunt first field like usual. A replacement blade is on the way, so maybe the season can be saved.
  • Gina has completed the 25 hours needed for the first level of recreational riding awards from The Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Incentive Program! My neighbor joked that I’m going to need a letterman jacket for all the patches I’ll get. (Moe needs about 5 more hours to get one and Candy earned hers in 2017.)
  • Johnny and I finally painted a room in our house, two-plus years after moving in. The entire house is beige- ceilings, walls, carpets, even the countertops in the kitchen are beige-ish. It’s the most boring nightmare you can imagine! We painted the spare bedroom’s ceiling white and walls Behr’s Charcoal Blue. It looks great and has inspired us to work on more house projects in 2019.
  • I implemented a vegetarian-for-dinner rule for weeknights back in January. I was inspired by a recent episode of 1A about veganism; it was easy to get Johnny on board since we’re both undiscriminating eaters. This has been a big success! I’m expanding my cooking repertoire, the amount we’re spending on groceries has decreased, and we have way less food waste.
  • I added blue to my hair! My hair has been purple since last summer, but I added some blue to the bottom of it and love how it looks. I think I’ll go totally blue the next time I have it colored!
  • Johnny and I have been fostering a couple of kittens for the local animal rescue, which has been both fun and extremely cute. They leave for their new home this week, and I’ll miss them!

I have more to write about my lessons on Candy and a couple of products I want to review. I’m optimistic that I can commit to blogging at least twice a week- and now that I’ve put it in writing, it’s official, right?


Equestrian blogger gift exchange

Printable Pony’s annual equestrian blogger gift exchange is one of my favorite things in the blogging community. It gives me a chance to find new blogs I wasn’t familiar with and allows me ruthlessly abuse my tack store discount in pursuit of the perfect present! This year, I was The Frugal Foxhunter‘s secret santa and Eventing Saddlebred Style was mine.

Teresa’s package arrived yesterday evening! It was stuffed full of goodies- let’s take a moment to appreciate the truly impressive amount of candy that’s in this box. There’s at least a dozen Reese’s peanut butter trees and what seems like a hundred peanut butter cups. Reese’s peanut butter candies are Johnny’s favorite, so I promptly hid them in my closet lest he eat them all. (That’s a real threat; the man ate a two-pound bag of peanut butter trees in one day last month.)

Under all the candy were two pairs of Sock It To Me socks, one which featured llamas and the other with foxes! Like every horse person on the planet, I am perpetually in need of socks. I’m excited to wear these- they look comfy and I love the designs! Teresa also included a very funny coloring book of farting animals and a brand new set of colored pencils.

Thank you, Teresa, for all the great gifts! And a huge thanks to Tracy at The Printable Pony for organizing this gift exchange every year. If you’ve never participated before, you should absolutely do so in 2019. You won’t regret it!

The evolution of goals

I’ve always struggled with goal-setting. It wasn’t something I practiced much when I was young. I never sat down with a trainer or coach or teacher and discussed what I wanted to achieve or how I would do so. Usually, I’d decide I wanted to do something- compete at a show, attempt a Pony Club rating, enter the state agri-science fair- and I would do it. Sometimes it would work out. I had a lot of successful shows, I was a C-2 Pony Clubber, I won the state agri-science fair. There were more times it didn’t work out, though. I failed my C-2 rating once. I had lots and lots of terrible-to-mediocre shows. It never occurred to me that I could be devising better plans and practices for accomplishing things I wanted to achieve!

This sort of laissez-faire attitude about goals has persisted in my adult life, despite the fact that I know a lot more about goal-setting than I used to. Over the years, I’ve attempted to fix that attitude. I set them enthusiastically in 2017, 2016, and 2015. And I accomplished many of them, and that definitely felt good!

Scenes from this weekend’s New Year’s trail ride.

Looking back on those goals is helpful, because I have the perspective of time to show me what did and didn’t work over the years. Setting a ton of ultra-specific goals does not work for me. More general goals that have multiple paths to success is better for me. I’ve also noticed that over time, my goals have become less demanding. Instead of saying, “I will lose 50 pounds,” my goals are now things like, “I will go to yoga class three times per week,” and “I will eat at home five nights per week”. These softer goals are better for my mental health, I think.

Horse-specific goals are harder for me to set these days. Moe and Gina basically have no competitive goals; I would like them to remain sound and happy and suited for trail riding and hunting as long as possible. That’s not something I have a ton of control over, though. I can make sure they have appropriate veterinary and farrier care and are kept in good condition. But they’re still old. Candy is difficult for me to get excited about. I should probably sell her because I don’t like her that much and have yet to persuade Johnny of the necessity of a fourth horse. Candy intrigues me and I continue to plug away with the same dogged optimism that permeates the rest of my life. It’s hard to be enthusiastic and set lofty goals for such a tough horse, though.

I also don’t have any huge, ambitious goals right now. Things like a USDF Bronze Medal seem so far away as to be pointless, and while once upon a time, my life goal was to ride at Kentucky, I’ve concluded that’s unrealistic and possibly too scary. I love foxhunting, enjoy trail riding, and don’t feel like I need to accomplish anything. I’m happy (even if parts of this post don’t sound like it, haha), and isn’t that the ultimate goal?

That’s not to demean my fellow bloggers to who are all about the goals- please don’t read it that way! I love seeing what people are doing and how they’re doing it. It’s inspiring and it often gives me new ideas and perspectives. I can’t wait to see what’s accomplished in 2019, whether it’s earning a Silver Medal, moving up to a new level, or simply enjoying the ride.