Gina Is Bored…And A Pinto?

As I headed out to ride yesterday, I was certain G would enjoy a very pleasant morning of conditioning work. After all, we weren’t going to be in the arena, I wasn’t going to do anything to mess with her mind (e.g. counter cantering), and she’s always seemed to enjoy cruising around at a moderate speed. 

Well, that was last week. This week, she was apparently bored to death with trotting, cantering, and hand galloping in a big loop next to the back barn. Sure, I incorporated circles and serpentines and lead changes. But  big mare was totally done with this. I could just hear her thinking, Serpentines? Really? Like I don’t know how to do this. So much for a fun day! My coworkers commented to me about how nice she looked, so at least there’s that.
I came home after my ride and promptly took a very cool shower (we’re in the midst of a permanent heat wave) and readied myself for the Pinto World Championships. They hold a leadline class for challenged riders- which I think is just fantastic- and, of course, we took a dozen students. It was a great, great experience. I can’t say enough good things about the gorgeous horses our students rode or the pleasant horse handlers leading those mounts. The crowd cheered for each and every rider. The students rode away with huge belt buckles, a poster, a t-shirt, a DVD of their ride, and a hat. It was amazing, and every one of those riders was more excited than I’d ever seen them before. Super. 
Though all of the horses I saw last night were very Quarter Horse-y stock types, I found out a couple of weeks ago that nearly any registered horse can be registered as breeding stock Pinto. Seriously. Look. Gina, in fact, is doubly qualified, thanks to her registration with both Jockey Club and Oldenburg. (Thought: register G with every possible organization, then advertise her as “OCTUPLE REGISTERED!!!” Yes, excellent plan!!) So while Miss G’s white markings are limited to those two hind socks, I could register her as a Pinto, compete at Pinto shows, and win belt buckles all over the place.
Lest you think all Pintos are the stock types seen last night, Pinto has actually organized their horses into four categories: hunter, stock, gaited, and pleasure. That means if I competed with G in the hunter-type division, she would be up against other Thoroughbred/Warmblood-looking horses. I don’t know if all Pinto shows are as diverse as the World Championships (I would guess not, but I don’t know.), but they have things like dressage classes and discipline rail (for when we get the counter canter mastered). No, really.
So perhaps next year, when G and I have mastered First Level and jumping quietly and counter cantering, I’ll register her as a breeding stock Pinto and win myself a gigantic belt buckle at the World Championships. Hey, you never know!

“Get something for Miss Gina”

“Get something for Miss Gina. Love, Mom” was the only thing written inside a card I received from my mother yesterday. The card also included a check; generous and, though it shouldn’t have been, surprising.

I always forget my mom is a horse person. She had a gray Arabian gelding on whom she rode hunters for a few years- his name was Romeo. There is a picture somewhere of a very small Stephanie perched atop his little gray back. My mom rode intermittently throughout my childhood, although she gave up taking lessons in favor of toting me to lessons and horse shows. About twelve years ago she was riding around our farm aboard a Quarab gelding (my first horse-sized equine) named Buster while I poked along on Sadie, a pleasant Quarter Horse mare. Something spooked Buster and he threw my mom. She broke her collarbone and hasn’t ridden since. She continued to take me to lessons and shows, often acting as a groom. She made sure my boots were dusted off and my pinney was on properly. She walked hot horses while I guzzled Gatorade after a hard cross-country round.

My mom met G last month when she came to visit; she was appropriately impressed and took an immediate liking to Gina. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that she sent me some money with the instructions to buy Gina something nice, but I was anyway.

Onto the fun part: like most horse owners, I budget carefully to make sure my horse’s needs are met. Board, feed, hay, farrier, worming, vet- I meticulously manage my money to make sure Gina (or Moe, or whatever horse I have) doesn’t want for anything. (In college, when hours were low at work, I always went to buy Moe’s feed before going to the grocery store. Sometimes this left me with $10 for food for two weeks, but Ramen noodles are ridiculously cheap.) My monthly expenses don’t leave me with much leftover money for fun stuff, so I keep a list around for when a relative or friend asks what I’d like for my birthday or Christmas. Or for when I get an unexpected windfall.

Here are some highlights of The List:

Classic Leather Halter: I’m a big fan of leather halters. They look sharp, last a long time (if properly taken care of), and most importantly, will break! Sure, breakaway halters will do the same job, but I think they look tacky.

Plain Raised Bridle: I like simple bridles. The best bridle I ever bought was one purchased for $20 at a silent auction. Nothing fancy about it at all. With regular cleaning and conditioning, it lasted me for years until it disappeared after I loaned it to a former polo teammate. The bridle Gina came with is a hideous padded noseband monstrosity. It’s black, which I hate, has a loop for a flash noseband (the actual flash is missing), and worst of all, has white padding. White. Talk about fugly. Needless to say, it looks disgusting. I would never, ever take her to a show in it. Thanks to my mom, I just might buy this very plain (but elegant) brown leather bridle.

Saddle Pad: Since the shaped saddle pads never, ever seem to be able to fit my saddles, it seems I’m destined for a life of square pads. I like that these come in so many festive colors. I’d definitely get the pink and green for schooling. And get it monogrammed. What?? That totally fits Gina’s princess attitude.

Peacock Irons: The saddles I’m riding in these days are both on loan. One is a very nice, very expensive Passier dressage saddle kindly on loan from my trainer/friend, Anne. One is a relatively uncomfortable, extremely odd-fitting all-purpose saddle on loan from the equestrian center. (Most of my tack is on loan from them. Some of my tack was taken by aforementioned polo teammate- he has bridle, saddle, pad, girth. Other tack is in trunk in Tennessee, which my father refuses ship due to expense. So I’m having to piece together a collection, again.) The all-purpose currently has kid-sized leathers and irons on it, since most of our clients are children. The saddle is never used in the program, so I’m free to use it as I wish, and I currently wish to replace the irons with Stephanie-sized ones. Peacock irons are a must for me; Pony Club instilled a healthy fear of being dragged without them.

Tipperary Helmet: Pony Club also taught me that riding without a helmet equals certain death. While my Western riding friends have proven this to be sometimes untrue, I generally keep protective gear on my head. That said, I won’t tell you how old my current velvet helmet is. (Side note: isn’t Velvet Helmet the best band name ever?) It needs to be replaced and I’ve had my eye on this Tipperary for a while. It looks awesome and reviewers rave about its comfort and airflow. Sign me up, because it’s 90+ degrees in Oklahoma.

There are a million other things on my list, including a lovely Stubben jumping saddle I’ve wanted for years. (I told Johnny that he should definitely get me that instead of an engagement ring, should the mood to propose strike him.) Will I buy any of the things on my list with this recent windfall? Maybe. But I’ll probably just end up buying G a giant bag of carrots instead.

Gina Has Babies!

G’s former owners finally mailed her Jockey Club papers to the equestrian center last week; I received them Thursday and spent the remainder of the week puzzling over them. The papers certainly shed a bit of light on G’s past- she came to Oklahoma as a two year old in 1999. Over the next ten years she went through four owners before winding up at the program. 

The most curious thing to me about the papers was a stamp on the front bearing the words “International Sporthorse Registry/Oldenburg Registry NA”. A quick Google search turned up the official website of the organization, which maintains stallion and mare books and coordinates inspections and performance tests for sporthorses (like Oldenburgs, Hanoverians, Holsteiners, etc.). Apparently, G is registered in the ISR’s main mare book. Hmm. I figured this meant she definitely had some foals out there- why else take the time and money to register her?
I found an outdated website (we’re talking 2006) of the sporthorse ranch G had been sold to as a two year old; lo and behold, there’s my horse listed on the “Our Broodmares” page (she’s Kimberly K). And just look at that wittle bitty baby pony pony at her side! Awwww. 
ADORABLE.
After a little more clicking around, I found some pictures of G’s foals as four-year-olds. There’s Kassandra (the foal pictured above), a pretty chestnut mare with a big floaty trot (just like G!):
Just like mama!
I also found Koko, who is the spitting image of Gina. 
Exactly like mama.

Both of G’s daughters are by a gorgeous Oldenburg, Wradar. Weirdly, he lives about 5 miles away from me. 

It’s my belief that the sporthorse place was breeding G and Wradar to produce dressage horses. G has beautiful movement, and Wradar is some kind of super-champion who holds about a zillion titles. (Seriously…go check his page out.) I’d be curious to breed her to another Thoroughbred and see what comes out- maybe a super eventer!
It’s been fascinating looking into G’s past. I hope to uncover some more pieces to her puzzling life by researching information on subsequent owners, but this is a pretty rad start.

Dressage Work

It’s been a dressage sort of week for G and me. We met with Anne Wednesday and today to work on transitions. Even though her transitions aren’t bad, both Anne and I agree that they could be better. Besides, transition work is fantastic for building strength. So good all around!

Wednesday I rode in the dressage saddle- have I mentioned the dressage saddle? It’s Anne’s old saddle, a beautiful Passier. Words can’t properly describe how amazing it is; it’s soft and supple, fits G perfectly, and is quite possibly the most comfortable saddle ever made. And it puts my leg in just the right position for dressage work (which is kind of the point of a dressage saddle, I suppose). Anyway. Riding in the Passier makes dressage work that much better, since I can better utilize my leg and seat. We rode for about a half hour, working mostly on trot to halt and halt to trot transitions. Gina decided she knew what was best and would immediately back three or four steps after halting. I’m guessing this is a habit from being shown hunters for years. We eventually had a very nice collected trot to halt and a decent halt to trot, which made both Anne and me very pleased. The best part of the ride by far was taking her at a walk and trot over the ground poles. She was happy and relaxed and really seemed to enjoy the opportunity to stretch her neck and back out over them. What an improvement over last week!

Today I saddled G in the all-purpose (a Regent on loan from the equestrian center, since a former polo teammate decided to keep my old saddle on permanent loan) and we did a lot of canter work. G’s definitely stronger to the left than the right, but she put in excellent work in both directions today. We worked in a figure eight for most of our ride, circling two or three times and then performing a simple lead change in the middle. She had some really beautiful changes and stayed lovely and collected on the rail, too. I’d moved a set of jump standards out next to the last ground pole in our line, so Gina took a good look at it while she was stretching over the poles. She gave them an anxious look, like she was thinking What are THOSE doing here??, but walked very quietly over the poles in both directions while I had my feet out of the stirrups and the reins on the buckle. After one look at the standards she was totally over them.

Today’s Gina-quirk-of-the-day was my dog, Buttons. Buttons is a little half Corgi, half miniature Daschund mix puppy who’s about 5 months old. I take her to work with me sometimes, but today was the first day she’d be out and about while I rode. She trotted right along with G through our entire ride, until we started cooling out, walking and talking to Anne. Buttons got a little overzealous and nearly got stomped/kicked a couple of times! Gina was surprisingly chill though, even when Buttons jumped up and nipped at my foot! She bounced off G’s front leg and G did nothing but snort and stomp her hoof. Totally nonplussed. When I dismounted, I took off my helmet and buckled it onto a stirrup. All of a sudden, G started, spooked, and galloped off in a frantic circle around the arena, apparently put off by the helmet bumping against her side! She was eventually caught and calmed down, but Anne and I couldn’t stop snickering. What sort of horse is fine with a dog jumping around it but not with a helmet on its side? Funny mare.

Conditioning, Ground Poles, and Heat

View from the top. 🙂

After Monday’s blow up, I thought it best to give G a positive ride before attempting anything remotely resembling a jump. I saddled her up Wednesday evening and set off for a nice, long conditioning ride. The equestrian center has a huge hayfield where I frequently school a couple of cross-country jumps, but it’s currently waist-high. It’s also full of holes. Not the best combination. We settled for a large, flat grassy area behind one of the barns and had a lovely ride. G felt strong and energetic and eager to work. We did a five-minute walking warm up, staying nice and loose before moving to seven minutes of trotting. We took a two minute walk break and then picked.up a canter for seven minutes.

This is where I must briefly digress into a discussion on G’s awesomeness. Most horses I’ve competed on are total psychos when it comes to cantering around in a grassy area with a rider in two point. Darling Moe (my TB gelding), for example, gets more and more excited and as a result, gets faster and faster until he’s having flashbacks of the track. G, on the other hand, picks a nice forward pace and sticks with it. I can settle into two point, give her a loose rein, and enjoy a nice ride. It’s pretty deluxe.

We cooled out after our canter work because the heat index was in the 100s. G had a nice hose down and a good roll. She cooled out nicely, so it seems she’s getting in better shape. Hooray!

I got up at the crack of dawn Thursday to ride before the sun heated things up too much. Anne met me at 7:30, and after a beautiful warmup, we got going on some trot poles. G walked over them in a very relaxed way, but fell apart at the trot. She was anxious and unhappy, but went over them a few times. She finally relaxed a little bit by the fifth or sixth time trotting. I’m taking this as a good sign. We still have a long way to go, though.

G’s had the weekend off since it’s been wretchedly hot. I’ll drag myself out of bed early a few times this week to beat the heat for sure; oh, summer. How I hate you.

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