Thursday, March 28, 2013

Goals for 2013 Show Season

I was asked recently to think about what my goals for the 2013 horse show season are. I had to pause and really think about this one. What are my goals? Last year was pretty simple. It was Mario's first show season, so my goal was to have clean classes and help build his confidence in the show ring. I wanted to make sure that his experiences in the ring were positive. Setting goals to achieve is an important thing for any sport because if you don't have them, then what the heck are you working toward? I have a couple of goals for 2013.

1. Win a class. This may seem like a "duh!" of course that's a goal. But I really want to take that victory pass once this year. Easier said then done, but we can do it. Our best ribbon last year was a second place but I really think we have the capability to win one this year.

2. Shake the nerves. Sometimes I get myself so worked up that I have to be perfect and not make mistakes in a class...that well, I get nervous which causes me to make mistakes. I really want to work on keeping this whole show thing in perspective and have fun with it. I do not have to be perfect. It is OK to make mistakes, the world will not end if I do. I think this will also help get us to goal #1.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Here goes nothing...

I met my personal deadline and fired off a couple of samples to the horse publication today. And now, I wait. It's hard to believe that it was just a week ago that I decided I'd give this a try. In just one week, I can feel myself being more at ease with a blank screen. A week ago this terrified me. But now I eat, sleep, and breath possible topics for my next blog post and dream about articles that I'd like to write about the horse industry.

The profile that I wrote about my fellow barn mate was completed this morning after a long night of writing and re-writing. I wanted to make sure I did justice to someone that I admire so much. Even if no one saw it but her. It was important to me that I told her story in a way that would make her proud. Talk about nerve-wracking...I sent the write-up to her for approval before I submitted to the pub as a courtesy. I anxiously awaited her response and was relieved when I read it.

So that is that. The first step is completed but hopefully it's the first of many. I've discovered how much I enjoy this. And I have to say, it's so much more fun writing about someone else other than yourself. Being able to talk to someone, ask them pointed questions, and use their responses to help shape their story is so much darn fun. Fingers crossed I get the opportunity to do it again!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Writing, Writing, Writing

Today I'm working offline on a rider profile. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, one of the riders at my barn has agreed to let me write about her. This write-up will serve as one of the samples of my work that I plan to submit to a horse publication (tomorrow!) in hopes that they'll offer some freelance writing opportunities to me. It will be a long night tonight, but my friend has taken great care in her answers to my questions; she's given me a lot to work with and I hope I do her justice. If she gives me permission, I plan on posting it here for my readers.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Show Season

Today is the first day of spring. Looking outside here in New Hampshire you wouldn't know it. Instead of those first traditional signs of spring we have a fresh blanket of snow covering everything. 12" of it. Mother Nature may throw snow at us, delaying our spring time warmth, but she can't stop the beginning of horse show season! It is so here and I am amped to get out there and show my horse.

The list of shows for Mario and me is a bit unknown at this point but one is a definite: Devon ( I went to Devon for the first time last year and just had the best time. It's the one horse show that I can think of off the top of my head that has top-notch hunter/jumpers and saddle seat contenders. The show organizers want exhibitors to be there and it's apparent. There's "Devon Club" every evening (free drinks and food), they deliver a goody basket daily to each barn containing horse and people treats, the footing in the ring is excellent for the horses rain or shine, and the town itself has lots of fun shops. It's a good time!

Some likely shows that we'll attend are:

UPHA Chapter 14 Spring Premiere
Springfield, MA
(no website available)

Bonnie Blue
Lexington, VA

Greater Boston Charity Horse Show
Topsfield, MA

Syracuse International
Syracuse, NY

Lexington, VA

Mario started working differently in the off-season and we made the decision to switch his division this year. When you have a young horse, you have to let them tell you when they're ready and what they want to do. So the schedule for 2013 will really be decided by my trainer (I'll be going to Devon, however, even if my horse is not!). I'll  keep you posted on our progress as we get into the season.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How We Came to Be

"He can take you to the store!" a woman's voice exclaimed from the porch. My horse trainer and I looked at each other with grins creeping onto our faces, we shrugged, and walked toward her. We still joke about that to this day.  Oh, you need a gallon of milk? Mario can take you to the store. Mario is my horse and this is the story of how we came to be.

The woman who called to us from the porch is the manager/trainer at a famous American Saddlebred breeding farm in Kentucky. When it was time for me to find a new horse, this was the first stop that we made. As we got to the porch, she started giving us additional details about the horse she wanted me to try.

"The Brian Horse" she called him, was a four year old gelding who came to her from another breeder. When he arrived on her farm, she decided he needed some "extra work" and sent him to a Mennonite in town for some additional training. While there, "Brian" went all over town pulling a buggy ("He can take you to the store, you see!"). Not exactly a big selling point since I was looking for a show horse, but I guess if times got tough, it was good to know that he could be my transportation.

"He needs to be loved," I remember her saying.

We walked into the barn and I took a peek into the one stall with the open door. Instantly, I knew what she meant. I saw a timid, chestnut horse with a white star on his face and a kind eye. He needed some weight, and definitely, yes, some love. OK, a project I thought to myself. He wasn't much to look at, but judging a horse before you get him out of his stall is a mistake.

When it was my turn to ride him, I knew right away that I liked the way this horse carried himself. Some horses will "hang on the bridle" and the rider has to carry their horse's head around with the reins. It gets heavy fast and it's not a fun ride. This was not a characteristic that I was interested in having my horse possess. Brian set his head all on his own and didn't require much from me. I was happy with the way this was going. It was hard to wipe the smile off my face as we struck a trot. Now it was time to see if he could take both canter leads.

Brian was not broke to canter, so we headed to a bullpen and I had to run him into the canter. It was not pretty but he did take both leads eventually and my trainer said it was workable. He had also never worn a full bridle (a requirement for the show ring and some horses refuse to wear them). This was a risk if I chose to take him back to New Hampshire. A project.

When we left the farm that day, I really didn't want to leave Brian there. But there were a couple more appointments to keep and that was the right thing to do. I tried out additional horses and there was one that I had to consider. He was completely finished and could have gone to a horse show that day. He was a nice horse, kind and easy to ride but he didn't have that "it" factor for me. My trainer said she'd be happy to have either of them in the barn and that the decision was up to me. I had to get back to New Hampshire for work and she was staying in Kentucky for a horse show. She told me to think about it on the plane ride home and to let her know when I made my decision.

For me, it never really was a decision. As hokey and cliche as it sounds, that horse chose me. Broke is boring and why do it if it's easy? There's no challenge in that. I had a gut feeling about this guy. As soon as we landed and the pilot gave the OK to turn on electronic devices, a wave of panic came over me, what if someone else scooped him up already? From the plane, I called my trainer on the phone.

"The Brian Horse." I told her when she answered. 

I'm going to call him Mario, I thought to myself as I looked out the plane window. I realize it's sort of a silly name. I named him after the Nintendo game character. It just came to me and I decided to stick with it.

That was a year and a half ago. Below is a video of our very first ride at home together. He's green in the video, that will be obvious! But the parts are all there. I love this guy. Choosing to bring him home was the right decision.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A New Challenge

Last Friday I contacted one of the horse industry publications that I subscribe to offering my services as a freelance copy editor or proofreader (my comfort zone). I received a response from the editorial director with news that I hadn't anticipated. They are looking for freelance writers (so outside of my comfort zone!).

She asked if I could provide samples of my work. I replied honestly saying that I really hadn't written much more than a cover letter since I graduated from college. So I offered to profile one of my fellow horseback riders and my horse trainer and submit them as samples. She thought this was a great idea. It would give them a feel for my writing style and I would see if it's something that I enjoy.

But there's a bit of a problem! See, there's a reason why I haven't really written much since graduation. I remember not getting a job right out of college as a result of a review of my writing. From that day forward, in my mind, I was a crummy writer. Admittedly, I didn't exactly "live up to my potential" in college. I got by and did OK but spent a lot of time on "extracurricular activities." But this is something that I'd really like to do. I want to put the work in to get better.

So, I asked one of the ladies at my barn if she'd be willing to answer some questions and let me write about her. She agreed and I spent the weekend thinking about what direction I wanted this write-up to go in. I came up with a handful of questions and sent them to her. She'll get her answers to me by Wednesday. That's where I am at this point. But wow, this is hard. Just coming up with some pointed questions was not easy for me. Admittedly, I could be making it harder than it should be. But only because I have that nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that I can't do this. I think I can. I am determined to do this.

This blog post is an attempt to dust off the cobwebs and get writing. I know that it's not very good, but it's a starting point! It is the first of what will be many to come. I will be writing daily for the next month as a challenge to myself to get better with each post. I am going to mostly write about horses, to get myself in that frame of mind. I know this blog is supposed to be to update you, my family (my only readers) on my happenings and I apologize if horses don't interest you. I'll try to throw some other stuff in now and then. But for the next month, it's horses baby!

Side note: If you know of a good resource or two related to writing improvement, please share it with me. Thank you!
the wisdom's in the trees, not the glass windows - j.j.