Friday, September 24, 2021

Role Models

I've taken pictures of this off and on for months and keep forgetting to share them.  I think this is interesting.

Big Moose has long idolized Jared.  This started when he was just a young sheep and he'd follow Jared around until Big J had enough and would gruffly run him off...and it usually didn't take long ;-).  And if Big Moose even thought to look at one of Jared's "wimmens", he'd get forcibly run off.  He was equal parts in awe and in fear of the head "ram".

While the main flock stays mostly together and comes and goes as a group, Rocky and Jared have always preferred to spend a little more time grazing and less time loafing.  I regularly see them out in the front field or even way out in the back by themselves and frequently in the middle of the hot afternoons.

Now there appears to be a third.  Big Moose is on the left.  I haven't seen Jared chase him lately, but maybe Big Moose is still thinking he's safer hanging with the number two in command ;-).


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Ultimate Rockstar Status

I'm sure there was some significance to Frankie's name when he was registered, but I have to admit that Frankie's Rockstar would not have been my first choice.  However, if you have to have a self-fulfilling name...Rockstar ain't a bad one to have.  If there has ever been a better 'first time at a Combined Driving Event experience'...well, Frankie definitely filled Handy's huge shoes.

There are several videos over on Instagram.  My long time friend Amy came to reenact her long time ago role as groom/navigator and she did an awesome job narrating the videos of our warm up for dressage and cones, the actual tests and the warm up for the marathon.  There are also a couple videos of the cross country course and a peek at two hazards.  I'll link them at the bottom. 

We arrived Friday afternoon and Frankie quickly settled in.  We did a short drive later in the afternoon so he could stretch his legs and get a look around.  We were able to drive around the outside of the dressage ring and he got to look at the judges huts and the white chain fence around the ring - no problems.  

There was a briefing and course walk after that and we took Auntie Reg with us on the golf cart and she has the bruises to show for how fun that was ;-).  John and Reg came to cheer us on and took care of Bea the whole weekend and made her experience fun and as low stress as possible.  Bea was of course the real star of the show.

After the course walk we headed out to walk the cones course.  You can walk it as many times as you need to to get it straight in your mind and plot your route through.  My goal going up to the event was to go "double clean", meaning we didn't knock any balls down and didn't have any time penalties.  After I saw the course I decided I was just going to be happy if I didn't get lost :-o.  

The next morning we put on our city clothes and headed over to warm up for dressage and cones.  Frankie had a great warm up, staying nice and relaxed and looked like a million bucks.  Our dressage test was a good solid training level test and he stayed nice and relaxed and didn't have any issues with the ring or judges.  

From there we moved over to the cones course and even though I'd walked the course five or six times, I was very concerned I was going to mess things up for us.  It was a complicated course with several tricky obstacles and lots of really tight turns.  

It's fun to go back and watch the video and then remember how he looked driving cones back at the spring show.  So Much Improvement.  He did a great job making all the tight turns and we didn't knock a single ball down.  We were a few seconds slow, but I didn't care.  I was very proud of both of us.

After we were finished up and had Frankie taken care of, we made our first trip out to the hazards to start plotting our routes through there.  It was 90 degrees (!).  We made one trip around, thankfully with a golf cart, and decided to do our second round after dinner when it was a little cooler.  I made one last quick trip around the next morning.  There are a couple of videos that show a glimpse of two of the hazards and they are fun to see.

Now I should mention that we were not the only horse event at the Hoosier Horse Park over the weekend.  There was also a mounted shooting event taking place in the indoor arena.  Horses, balloons and black powder pistols.  In an echoing metal building.  Right on the road we had to take to the safety check and start of the marathon.

I didn't really even give it a thought as we listened to the loud blasts all the way over in the stabling area all weekend.  As we headed past the arena on the way to the safety check on a quiet Sunday morning, right next to the arena, out of nowhere, "BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM..."  I nearly fell out of the cart.  Frankie never even flicked an ear.  It was almost surreal.

We passed our safety check, did a nice relaxed warm up and then it was time to go.  "Ten, nine, eight...three, two, one. Have a great trip!"  Section A was just roads and tracks and we had a blast heading off into the woods.  Frankie, never having driven through tight woods and narrow trails, was fantastic!  He even drove off the "Oh sh**" hill without a hint of hesitation.

Even with the heat, Frankie had no issues in the vet check after Section A and as they counted us down to start B, I was just so incredibly grateful to be there, doing something I honestly thought I'd never do again.  On to the hazards!

The first hazard was a natural looking woods, brush and unpainted fences obstacle.  We trotted up to it and around the tree.  As we approached the first fenced chute I let him walk to get his bearings and get around the tight turns and then we had an open spot he willingly picked up the trot again and out we went.  

This is how we handled each hazard. If he was concerned about something I let him walk a few steps to get his confidence up before asking him to trot.  If I felt like we weren't safe to attempt something at a faster rate, I asked him to walk until we were more open.  The pictures above were of the second hazard.

The third hazard was the covered wagons.  You can see it in one of the course walk videos.  I was super excited to drive this one.  It's a gorgeous obstacle.  We trotted through the entrance and straight up to the first wagon.  He wasn't sure he wanted to drive under it and hesitated for just a second or two before bravely walking under.  We walked under the second covered wagon as well and by the third he was trotting without hesitation.  

The fourth hazard was big colorful plastic tarps stretched between fence posts. I think there is a video of that hazard, but I need to get it from John and I'll share it later.  I don't remember him even looking at that one.  So brave and smart!

The last hazard was the stockade, also on one of the videos.  He didn't hesitate going into the stockade, but the turns were tighter than I'd realized and I asked him to walk much of it so we wouldn't hit something and end our great trip on a bad note.  As soon as we were clear of the tight turns he immediately charged back into a trot and we headed to the finish line.

My fear going into this was that Frankie was going to be overwhelmed by the distance, almost 10 km.  Our summer schools had been a bit brutal with me feeling like I was working almost as hard as Frankie just to get some minimum mileage in.  He loved traveling the trails and actually got easier to drive the further along the course we got.  He never dropped his head like he was tired and we passed through the final vet check with flying colors, even in the heat.

Even though we were too slow over the weekend to even think about beating anyone, we did finish with a solid dressage test and no penalties other than time in cones and marathon.  A couple drivers didn't make it through cones.  Adding to that his safe, steady, pretty and incredibly fun drives throughout the weekend, I'm calling Frankie a big winner.  Definitely a Rockstar.

A huge thanks to everyone who helped us do this.  Leslie Cashion did an outstanding job not only getting us ready to be there, but also running things from the ground for us throughout the weekend and taking the awesome pictures above.  John and Reg...for everything they do and especially caring for Bea.  Amy for the super fun videos and excellent grooming and navigating and Saint Tim for, as always, doing "the heavy lifting".  

Note: Tim didn't get to see much of our marathon run because he volunteered to help out on Sunday when he heard they were short on volunteers.  It was fun to pass him at the road crossing on course :-D.

Here are the videos from IG.  I hope you can watch them.  Amy did a great job with the running commentary!



Thursday, September 16, 2021

Prepping For Our Final Exam

As I sat out in the barn cleaning harness last night I thought back to the spring when a friend and I were cleaning and polishing harness for a silly little online benefit horse show.  We sure didn't need to do all that work.  It was going to be videoed with a phone and uploaded to Facebook.  No one would ever have noticed if it was clean or dirty.  We did it because that's what we did when we used to go to horse shows.

The online show was definitely a silly little show.  I never even received the ribbon Frankie won.  Still, I thought if I pushed myself to do this monthly online show series, at the end of the summer I'd have an encouraging series of videos hopefully showing how much improvement we'd made through the season and in the fall maybe we would be ready to go to a small Standardbred show.  

What wasn't silly about the show was that it clicked something in my head, or maybe my heart, to pull up my big girl pants and Go Do Something.  I was already feeling guilty enough about having a nice horse and good equipment and a supportive husband and doing nothing.  How much worse would I feel in ten years looking back...wishing I could have a do-over.  There could be so many better endings to this story.

Frankie and I worked hard all summer.  Very hard, especially considering it was summer.  After our positive experience with the Lexington Carriage Classic in June, I decided to focus on trying to get him us ready to go to a full Combined Driving Event in the fall.  It's fall...and we ship out tomorrow morning!  We are going to the Indiana CDE.

While I'm hoping most of the event will be just as I remembered from almost 20 years ago, much of the required equipment has changed.  In the olden days we could trot out wearing ball caps on the marathon (cross country) section.  Now we need helmets and safety vests and medical arm bands.  "Added to cart."  

I've been using Handy's old green harness pads for training and kept trying to pick a new color that better suited Frankie for his own set.  Nothing really struck me and as I've mentioned before, I am horribly sentimental.  We will be headed out on the marathon course on Sunday with all of our new safety gear...and Handy's vintage pads.  I bet they're going to have as much fun as we will!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Hiding Out

 "We've had a meeting and that puppy needs to go."

That puppy is now called Bea.  Bea can be added on or modified in many ways so she's already following in the footsteps of Miss Tilly/Weaslie/Tilly Bobby...with Little Bea, Sassy Bea, Bea-bop...

Bea's exhausting, but currently sitting quietly in the kitchen while I type this up and is happy enough to sit in a crate while sheep or horses are moving around the barn.  She mostly sleeps through the night and (knock knock) she hasn't had any accidents in the house.  In the grand scheme of puppy life, I think we are doing really well.

I was worried she might be too much for Kate anymore, but I think Kate kind of likes having her around.  Maybe not so much her as a puppy, but I think she really missed having a dog friend and I sure hope she teaches her some good lessons and shares a lot of great stories about Hank, Salt and Weaslie. 

Bea's pretty excited about cats and chickens, but she's learning.  Betsy smacked her last night and that settled that score.  I wish Possum would do the same, but for as tame as Possum appears, she's still a spooky half feral cat who'd rather flee than fight.  I have a feeling she has a few different name adaptations for Bea that I probably couldn't share here ;-).

There have been tons of pictures on Instagram.  I'm going to copy a few favorites here for posterity.  I wish it was easier to blog from my phone.  I know that's the biggest issue.  I type out mini blog posts off and on throughout the day over there.  Definitely not the same, but better than nothing.


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