Saturday, April 6, 2013

Keeneland! Must mean Spring is here!

One of the best treasures in Lexington is Keeneland and all the beautiful horse farms in Kentucky.  Lexington is a well planned city where they have protected the farms from urban sprawl.  It's just minutes away in any direction before you pass mares and foals in the fields.   Just beautiful....

I've been trying to capture some of the beauty of the area and expanding my visual art into videography.  My expensive cameras are capable of recording high definition video - in fact, these cameras are capable of creating full blown movies.  So I want to see what I can do with it.  The hard part is that these cameras cannot auto focus when filming movie clips - I have to focus by hand.  That takes practice!  But the benefit is that I can control the exposure and do some very creative things with the light.  I like to think my inner Steven Spielberg can come out...

All my clips I purposely keep short, for the short attention span of people these days.  Here's is one of a napping foal at one of the farms where we were doing some work...

And this one is about a foal who was born prematurely.  He's owned by the people who own Eclipse award winner She Be Wild.  He's by Arch out of Trappings (She Be Wild's dam) which makes him a 1/2 to She Be Wild as well as making him 3/4's to Breeders Cup Champion and the only horse to ever beat Zenyatta, Blame!

This next one is just for fun with Amos.  Matt and I were experimenting once again.  We attached a camera to my truck with a fisheye lens on it.  Then we took Amos and drove by many landmarks in downtown Lexington (UK campus, Transylvania campus, Mary Todd Lincoln home, Rupp arena, Red Mile, etc).  It's longer than most my videos - over 3 minutes...

Lastly, this one is my most favorite...  It's all the activities that go on at Keeneland in the mornings.

ok - this one really is my last.  If you liked the pony in the Keeneland video - you can learn a little more about him in this short clip...

I hope you enjoyed the videos!

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Road To The Horse

Yesterday was a soggy, rainy day.  I couldn't ride and we couldn't take photos...  or could we!   Thanks to Fran Jurga posting on Facebook about The Road To The Horse as well as another FB friend Marti McGinnis (owner of HappyArt), I felt the urge to go.  So I dragged Matt out to the Kentucky Horse Park.  He had no idea what this was all about.

We ran into a few friends and clients with their families.  It was going to turn into a fun filled afternoon!

The only trainer of the four in the competition that we were familiar with was Dan James of Double Dan Horsemanship.  We had met Dan James at the Steeplechase last year where he performed a demo.  I  had never seen anything like it!  He and his horses were incredible!  Here's a photo from his demo at the Steeplechase.


Here is Dan during the Road To The Horse...  His horse (everyone had an unbroke 3 yr old gelding) was difficult and probably needed a slower pace for learning things.  He gave a lot of double barrel kicks in protest.  Dan pretty much had to lead him through the entire obstacle course that he had written on his shirt so he wouldn't miss anything.

I soon learned the other trainers were amazing as well!

Probably the trainer with the most PR was Obbie Schlom.  Obbie is an 18 yr old girl with the wisdom of an 81 yr old horse trainer.  She's incredibly mature for her age and amazing in her talents as a trainer.  Watch her videos and friend her on facebook!  You just have to love a girl whose personal ride is a mule...

The other US competitor was Sarah Winters.  Some of you may be familiar with her Dad, Richard Winters.  He has a show on HRTV and offers his own horsemanship clinics as well.  Sarah was excellent!  I think I liked her training style the best although I have to say I liked all of them.  Her horse performed very well!

Her horse was such a curious thing and wanted to smell and eat most everything he came across during the obstacle course.  But he did everything except going up on the platform.  Also, she was the only trainer to ride using a halter instead of a bridle.

Lastly, was the eventual winner.  Guy McLean from Australia was amazing!  He was great with his horse, added a lot of humor for the audience and he built up his horse's confidence as the ride went on.  I loved it!  So did the crowd and the judges. 

The order of finish for the competition was 1st place, Guy McLean; 2nd place Obbie Schlom; 3rd place, Sarah Winters; 4th place, Dan James.  But everyone was a winner, especially the horses and it was a treat for all of us in the audience to see such excellent horsemanship!

As a final note, and to end on a bit of equine humor...  please watch Guy McLean on his A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. horse Spinabbey  (the Seabiscuit part and the show jumping are my faves)...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

As Requested... Video!

 I bartered with Matt.  I'll video tape his golf swing if he video tapes me riding Ollie...  Ollie and I are still very green but we pretty much did nothing for most of 2012.  This is our last video at work as a reference.

Ollie's biggest issues are fidgeting a lot, keeping his focus on what we are doing and accepting contact with the reins.  We've only been working on moving in the gait that I've asked for (he likes to go up in gait) and keeping a round frame.  So here is a short video of us where I can see a lot of improvement and I can also see that we have a lot to do yet.

If anything, we're much more comfortable with each other!  I just love this guy so much....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It's An Eventing World

Ollie and I continue to progress and again I have no new photos or video.  Sorry about that!  He is holding a round frame longer and longer.  When he's all sassy he gets super round.  He can be such a pretty mover!   I know, I hear ya - video!  I will say that we don't always have perfect days.  One day our ride consisted of us going round and round in circles.  I'm trying to keep him at the gait I have asked him for.  He likes to go into trot before I ask for it.  So we circle until he walks again and we head into whatever direction we're facing at the time he decided to walk.  We must've looked silly but pretty much that's all we did for our ride.  On the flip side, our next ride was terrific!   I'm sure I'll have more days like that, especially with the grass greening up and giving him more sugar in his system.  I like the horse I have right now and I keep wishing the grass won't start growing again.  :)

In other news, Matt had a photo of his as the cover of the February issue of Practical Horseman.  That's the photo at the top.  We plan on going to Rolex again this year.  It's so much fun to photograph!  And we may have another photo in an upcoming issue of Practical Horseman.  I'll let you know!  It will be of this horse and rider but not this photo...

Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice (aka Happy)
Eventing is a big sport in central Kentucky.  So many people do it!  We have two public areas where riders can practice x-country jumps.  One is Masterson Station Park and the other is The Kentucky Horse Park.  So many of my friends take part in it.  Even my vet competes in eventing with her OTTB!

As you can imagine, many retired race horses are retrained in eventing.  They excel in the sport!  One of them is a horse I wrote about on a blog post a couple years ago, Sour.

Sour was owned by Adele Dilschneider and she had him on the Kentucky Derby Trail.  You may remember her name as she co-owned Blame with Claiborne Farm.  I'll really refresh your memory with this photo - Blame is the only horse to have beaten Zenyatta...
Blame has a nose ahead of Zenyatta in the 2010 Breeders Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.
At any rate, Sour wasn't competitive at the track at the higher levels of racing.  They didn't want him to go into the claiming ranks so he was retired from racing and put into an eventing home this past December.  His new owner found this blog and contacted me to tell me she had him now!  He's learning to be an eventer!

He's in South Carolina and seems to be having the good life there!  How much fun does that look!!  Jumping logs on the beach!  He's been renamed "Sur" because he's now a southern gentleman (and who wants to own a "sour" horse!). They hope to make the Thoroughbred Celebration Show in Virginia this year.  We can cheer him on there and many other shows!  I love that!

That's it for now.  I promise I'll get photos and video of me and Ollie soon!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Need A Favor: Gustas McCrae

Gustas McCrae (right) with is buddy Jacie Mae
Today I'm going to blog about a dog.  He's a special little dog to me.  I first met him when he came to the Lexington Humane Society with his buddy.   I thought he was the most adorable dog EVER.  The LHS tried to adopt him with his friend.  However, life got in the way and Gustas came down with an ailment and had to go to the quarantine area of the LHS.  While the two dogs were seperated, Jacie Mae found her forever home

Gustas came back to the adoption area and kept hoping to find his new home.  But no one fell in love with him.  Month after month, when I would go to photograph the animals at the LHS, I'd see Gustas there still waiting.  I made it a point to sneak him into my pet photography when I could.

It's like he was made for the camera! Such an expressive face and those ears!  Those beautiful big ears!

Recently, I saw that Gustas continued to be looking for a home.   During the holidays, I'd post his photo on people's pages who I knew were looking at adoptable dogs online.  I felt so sneaky...  and hopeful at the same time.  Maybe one of them would take him home!  But of course nothing happened.

Finally, I had enough.  I called for a family meeting.   Matt, Amos, Monster (the cat) and of course me.  We talked for a long time about bringing in Gustas.  We made a list of things we'd need to work on.  Gustas, evidently, had been attacked by another dog while at the LHS.   He's a little gun shy about other dogs and protective of his hind end now.  We believed, and from our experience, that we could work it out between him and Amos.  It would be work for us but we felt it could be done.  Then we looked at our cat.  Monster is 12 yrs old.   He's very independent and he's not afraid of dogs.  He completely controls Amos who weighs 80lbs more than him!  However, Monster is a bit funny about who he approves and who he doesn't.  During the 2 yrs that my elderly frail feline lived with us, Monster would stay away from home except for an occasional visit.  Once my cat passed away, Monster felt he could come back home.  For good.   We do not want to change his feelings about it.  So we concluded that Gustas (or any dog or cat for that matter) could not come home to live with us with our current situation.

To make me feel better about it, Matt promised to help me with a dedicated photo shoot for Gustas.  It's my hope that getting more photos of him out to the public will help him find his forever home.  Below are some of the photos from our shoot:

Finally, I want to ask you a favor.  Please share his information.  I made a cute video that can be shared (see below) or just share my blog post.  Either way, I would appreciate any help in finding this guy his forever home.  Thanks!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Be Patient And He Will Figure It Out

I'm so excited about Ollie!  I had a lesson with him over the weekend and he was a star.  I came home and couldn't stop babbling about it.  I love what we're doing!

It may sound very basic to all of you.  And it sounds basic to me.  In fact it's all things I already know.  But putting something into practice and reading about it are two entirely different things.

Our lesson began with me on Ollie and Ollie telling me that all he wants to do is trot. This is very typical behavior.  That's all fine and good except I wasn't asking him for trot.  There we are in the riding ring he knows well, with his best buddy hanging his head out the window watching us, everything around us is familiar and comforting to him.  He had no excuse for wanting to go fast.  He just felt he was in control and was going to dictate to me when we trot and when we walk.  This just isn't going to work out in the long run. 

George, my instructor, had me take one rein and hold it on my thigh, causing Ollie to go into a small circle and we would hold that position until he walked and I immediately released the rein and we would walk off in whatever direction we were heading at that moment.  We did this every time Ollie decided he wanted to trot off.  I would alternate reins so our circles would always be different. Ollie caught on quickly...  I felt like I could see the wheels in his mind working it out, "If I trot, then the bit will hit the bars of my jaw and I go in an uncomfortable circle.  When I walk, that nuisance goes away.  I think I'll walk!"  The moment that walking became his idea was the moment of joy for me!  We did this so methodically, and without any drama or arguing.  It was like an "ah ha!" moment for me.  I can communicate with my horse!

Then we got to where I was asking Ollie for trot.  He'd move along just fine, then he'd get to a spot and speed up.  We did the same procedure as before but instead of getting him to walk, I was just getting him back to a nice working trot. 

The best part of our lesson was working on his self carriage.  George told me that I need to get rid of the running martingale.  I told George I'm all about it!  I need to get rid of it if I ever want to go to a dressage show!  The problem is when Ollie throws his head up and takes the bit.  My martingale is very loose so it is only effective when Ollie is very head high.  Read:  it makes me feel better even though it's not doing anything 99% of the time...

At any rate, we worked on getting a round frame.  And boy did we succeed!   We would travel in a mini version of our arena with 2 long sides and 2 short sides.  As I traveled down the long sides, I would tip Ollie's nose to the outside with my outside rein but maintain our travel in a straight line with the inside rein.  When Ollie gave with his jaw, I immediately released the pressure from the reins and he would trot off in the most gorgeous fancy dressage horse frame.  I was peeing in my pants with excitement!  At first it was only a few strides, then he held it longer and longer.  George told me that soon enough he would be doing it all of the time.   I was exaggerating the release of the reins.  In time, it will be much more subtle.  George wants me to be very clear in what I'm asking Ollie to do at this point.

This is all so basic but I'm moving forward with Ollie and I'm thrilled!  George told me I could do everything in our lesson at the canter as well but he recommended that we work on his frame at the trot for now as he builds strength along his top line.  

George also caught me moving our mounting block a few feet to my horse rather than leading my horse to the mounting block.  So he gave me some homework to steer Ollie to the mounting block.  It'll be a good exercise for our groundwork.  It'll probably be helpful in loading him onto a horse trailer too. 

I love what we're doing!  I know it's basic but it's huge in our book.  This year is going to be great!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Year and New Goals

This isn't a post about resolutions and listing my goals.  I just don't have that many specific goals that they need listing.

Rather it's about keeping on with my big goals and moving forward.  In particular with my gray horse.  We started out last year pretty well and I was excited about it.  Then we were thrown a little curve ball in the midst of my busy time of year and I never got us back on track.

Well it's a new year and I'm determined to get back to doing something with my horse.  Dressage is what I prefer to ride and learn more about.  The problem is, I haven't found a dressage instructor around here.   I know they are out there.  I just haven't found that person yet, especially one I can afford.  I don't want to just let Ollie sit out in a field and do nothing.  It does him no good.  He starts annoying the other horses and getting himself into trouble when he's not working.  I want to set him up for success and put him into doing something.  Anything!

So we are beginning to work with a natural horsemanship kind of guy although he probably doesn't like to call it that.  His name is George Smok and he works and trains many of the babies at the horse farms in the area.  He's an avid polo player and best of all he's a friend of Buck Brannaman and organizes Buck's clinic here in Lexington each year.

George will help me work with some basics with Ollie and develop a strong foundation for us to move on.  Right now, we are just working on having Ollie move away from pressure and to understand how to move only the body parts I'm asking him to move.  Ollie's a quick study!  Best of all, George really likes Ollie!

The things we are practicing now is all on the ground for now.  I am learning to drive him forward, to go when I ask him to go (not when he thinks he should go), to turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, change direction on the lunge line, etc.  These are things that will help me in many other areas down the road.  We need to practice but he and I  pick up on it pretty well. 

So I'm feeling pretty good that we are doing something again. We don't have an indoor arena so we are subject to working only when the ground isn't frozen.  Thankfully, that hasn't been much of a problem especially in the afternoons when it's sunny.

We will keep you posted on our progress!