The Honey Tree – Snow Edition

Woke up today expecting a bunch of snow.  The storm from hell has been forecast and we were living in dread at the thought of more snow.  Especially when the last bunch of the crap had almost all melted.  But this morning -no snow!  Yay!  The time of the storm had been moved to 10am from 7am.  I was hoping to get our errands out of the way before it started, but we didn’t make it.  It started snowing just before we left for Target so I could purchase a new crockpot.  The lid for the old one broke, and I use it all the time, so I wanted another one. 

Then we tried to go to Circuit City so I could buy another cable for my modem, but it’s already closed.  I’ll have to wait until Monday now and get one from work.  The price is better at work, anyway.  I just wanted another one this weekend because both of the ones that I have are having issues. 

Then it was on to lunch.  We wanted to try the new Mexican place in Novi, but alas, after fighting snow and stupid drivers to get there, it was closed.  They don’t open until noon, even though the door was open at 11:40.  The snow was coming down fast and fierce at that point, Dean decided he wanted breakfast instead of lunch, and I just wanted to be much closer to home, so it was off to the Honey Tree in Walled Lake. 

The Honey Tree is a variation on a coney island.  I like it because they have lemon rice soup and a fairly tasty Greek combo platter.  It’s also cheap.  Dean isn’t so fond of it, but it’s hard to mess up breakfast unless you are the Ram’s Horn, so he didn’t care if we went there.  There were only a few brave souls there, and by the time we left, it was pretty empty.

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Nice Valentine’s Day table decorations.  Hey, wait, that was last weekend!

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Bread!  Always a winner when I’m at the table

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My soup.  I like the Egg Lemon Rice here because there is no chicken. And it has a zingy lemony flavor

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I asked for a cup.  I got a bowl.  I didn’t complain

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Dean’s breakfast.  Who cares that it was lunchtime.  Look at all of that greasy goodness.  Also included was a side of 3 pancakes.

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Greek combo platter. 

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Yes, those are dreaded canned green beans.  The carrots were fresh, the spinach pie was not so good, but the fattening pastitsio and the mousaka were quite good.  I love the eggy gooey stuff!

The service was very good today, and the wait staff was pleasant.  I think it’s because of snow shell shock.  Or maybe they realize that it’s going to be a long, boring day with all of that snow raging outside, and they better get some tips now, while there are customers willing to venture out into the crappy weather.  The meal was $24, including a generous tip.  My coffee mug was never half-full, let alone empty.  That earns a good tip from me every time!

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Our backyard during the Great Storm of ‘09

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Yuck! Just STOP snowing!

Walk, Walk, Walk, Walk

Summer                         From Horses

Argh! Last night we worked at that ever exciting gait – the WALK.  Yes, for quite some time, we walked.  And walked.  And walked.  Why? There was a letter put out explaining how important the walk is in a Classic class, and that the judges should conduct them by asking for a reverse and a WALK!  I hate reversing and then walking.  There is something exhilarating about hearing reverse and TROT.  Finding a place to trot through the center of the ring and not crash into anyone is just so damn much fun.  And here the odds of me getting to do that with Nyk have just been reduced to about zero.  At OKC, at any rate. Boo hoo.

There is just something about the walk that I don’t like.  It is the hardest gait, especially at a show, because you never know when your horse is going to get distracted and try to take off on you.  It’s a gait that can blow up in your face at any moment.  The trot is the easiest, and aside from getting the correct lead and keeping the horse collected and in motion, the canter isn’t so difficult, either.  It’s the walk, with it’s massive potential for failure, that makes things a little tricky.  Argh! 

We also spent a lot of time on transitions.  They are another weakness.  I don’t sit through them.  I stand up in my stirrups.  Or I let the horse take a few trot steps when cueing for the canter.  Or I don’t bring them to a complete walk when transitioning from either the trot or the canter.  Lots and lots of stuff to work on.  First show is at the end of April!  Argh!

Cruising Along

From Horses

Thursday, the weather took a violent turn for the frigid.  It was very windy, and the temperatures plummeted.  Yuck.  We are supposed to get slammed by another snowstorm Saturday, something else to look forward to.  Yuck.  I am really hating this winter and wish it would just go away.

I drove out to the other barn, and was told that I had a new project.  At the home barn, that is usually not a good sign.  It means that I will be riding something a bit over my head.  Here, though, it meant that there were some new horses in residence, and I would be riding one.  They happened to be Morgans, and the one I rode was a world champion eq horse.  Gunner has a face like Nyk's, but he's about twice as tall.  He was a very nice horse, and he was a lot of fun to ride.

I rode with a show bridle, with the curb rein through a martingale.  I was a little off balance the first way, which is a switch, and I think that maybe I am spending too much time strengthening my left side.  I worked on getting him bridled, by pushing him up with my calves and keeping a soft but steady pressure on the reins.  I tried so hard to not jostle his mouth during transitions and standing diagonal changes.  I thought my hands were getting a little less heavy, but I ended up with a blister on my pinky, so maybe not.  We also worked on dropping from a canter to a trot and grabbing the correct diagonal, but I messed it up almost every time! So frustrating.

I had to drop my stirrups at the canter, and then pick them up again a few times around later.  This used to really freak me out, but now I am getting ok with the idea of cantering around with out them.  I should really try this with Blondie, as she now has the slowest canter of any of the horses I've been riding lately.  She has pretty much stopped being an idiot, too, so I have been enjoying riding her.  Now if only I could teach her some better stall manners.

Dancing Horses, Not!

Howie       From Horses

Tuesday was Nyk's turn for a work out.  We changed his tack to a regular martingale, and when I got on, he crammed his head way back.  It was so cute!  We spent a lot of time walking, but after we reversed, I just couldn't keep him bridled like in the first direction.  We also worked on smoothing out his canter, which was a little fast and choppy.  Nothing ground breaking here other than discovering that he can bring his head up just as far a Blondie can.

Wednesday was not such a good day.  Woke up with a terrible pain between my shoulders, which is still twingy and sore.  I wasn't sure at first if I could even go to the group lesson, but I thought that a little exercise might loosen it up a bit.  The theory kind of worked - either that or all of the pain relievers were finally starting to kick in.

Got Blondie ready and went out to the arena with Sarah and Zoe.  We were walking next to Sarah when Blondie had one of her moments, and her panicked spook caused Wildchild to jump, too.  It was pretty funny! Whatever imaginary terror was going to eat Blondie was going to eat Wildchild, too!  They were both fine after that, but I really got after Blondie when she did it.  She doesn't get silly as much any more, because I think she has finally figured out that it only results in her getting worked harder.

D was there, so the lesson was a little more high energy than normal.  We did a lot of reversing, either at a trot or a walk.  The first time, Blondie started racking and she would not drop into a trot.  She also got off to a sluggish start, by not trotting when I asked, and since my back was bothering me and I didn't think it was fair that I was doing all of the work, she got a stern reminder with the whip that she needed to be moving a little faster.  She broke into a canter and it took a round to slow her down to a trot. 

Then we had a how slow can you go cantering contest.  I think Blondie won that one handily.  She has a nice, slow canter now, and even M said that was the most collected and the slowest that she's ever been.  Then we tried to canter pirouettes, and that didn't work at all.  Blondie can hardly canter a circle, let alone perform some fancy dancy dressage movement.  It was still interesting to try, but I just don't understand how to get her counter bent and keep her cantering in a tiny little circle.

Making Head Way

DSC_0062 - Share on Ovi

Argh – I’m having computer problems again.  Let’s not even discuss it, but my PC has to be wiped and reloaded.  I think I am going to have the guys at work set up a wireless connection for me, so I can just use my netbook.  That might cut down on some of this down times because my computer needs to be disinfected….  Of course, the stupid netbook would not connect through the cable modem – wtf?  After spending 30 minutes on a tech support call with Comcast, I hooked up my old laptop, and then brought the Acer downstairs to get some writing done.  Imagine my surprise when it latched onto one of the neighbor’s unsecured access points – why couldn’t it have done that before I wasted half an hour on the phone????

Quick horse update – Wednesday was the group lesson.  It was cold again, so we didn’t get the horses too worked up.  We were supposed to start by practicing halts on the rail, but Blondie was having a blonde moment and she started getting a little light in the loafers.  I don’t know if it was  because of the rain pinging on the metal roof or what, but M told me to not even fight with her and to just go trotting.  Blondie was fine after that.  She was good at the canter and even stood in the middle while some of the other horses cantered.  Because of flooding from the melting snow, part of the arena is blocked off.  It’s a pisser because the temps have dropped again and everything else is frozen solid.

Thursday was a drive out to the other barn.  Arnold was being naughty, so S was actually riding when I got there.  It is interesting watching the way different people correct naughty ponies.  S is more of a lateral, bendy, twisty, half-pass type of rider.  Until she sent him around the rail, smacking him on the rear with her hand.  Man, it sounded like that stung.  Silly pony!  Just behave and you don’t have to work so hard!

I rode Tag again, and he was starting to frustrate me at the walk.  He kept burying his head between his knees.  I thought maybe I was holding too much draw rein, but S came over and walked beside me, showing me how she keeps his head up at the walk.  She told me that she does that with him to keep him light in the bridle and thinking.  She really gave the reins a pop – it wasn’t soft, it was very insistent.  M has done the same thing, but I just didn’t get it before.  I didn’t really get it on Thursday night, either.  I did get it Friday when I rode Blondie.  Wow! What a difference!

S had me practice dropping from a canter to a trot, but I kept clucking at Tag and getting him all worked up.  I am used to having to cluck a lot at Blondie.  And even at Nyk.  Tag doesn’t need all of that annoying noise, apparently, and it was getting him going.  I wasn’t as nervous with his bigger trot, and was kind of liking it, but S had me slow him down and have him stop being a park horse.  Which is good, because I didn’t want to have issues with him when he got too big for me to handle.

Friday I rode Blondie because M fixed Nyk for the show.  No problem – I love to ride both of my ponies!  I got on Blondie, immediately took contact with her mouth, and didn’t let her drop her head.  For the whole lesson.  I just keep giving the little pops that S showed me, giving and rewarding when Blondie stopped pulling at the bit.  I was totally amazed – I have been trying to get that horse to hold her head up for 3 years, and I haven’t been able to do it.  Finally, I feel like I am making some progress here.  Her nose was stuck out, but M told me not to worry about that.  When she’s wearing a show bridle, the curb bit will tuck her nose in.  I think she was a little surprised about it, too. I know that D was surprised on Sunday, when I kept her head up again.  Man, I feel like the past 6 months have finally paid off.  Let’s see if I can do it again the next time I ride her!

The Friday night lesson was very frustrating because not everyone in the arena was in control of their horses.  Two of the kids out there don’t even pay attention to what is going on around them, and with the smaller floor space available because the far end is still not dry, that is not a good thing.  There was almost an accident because one of the girls was off in la-la land.  I was kind of glad to take Blondie back to her stall before something happened out there.  Pay attention, for cripes sake!  One of the girls even shows, but she still doesn’t know how to find a place on the rail when there’s traffic in the ring.  Argh!!!

Bravo! – Valentine’s Day

Because I had a coupon for a free dessert at Bravo!, we decided to go there for a late lunch.  We haven’t been there in a while, and I wanted to see what their seasonal offerings were.  The pork roast looked good, but I decided not to get it, because it didn’t come in a lunch size.  With soup, entree, and dessert, oh, and don’t forget the bread, a dinner size plate is too much for me, even keeping leftovers in mind.

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The lunch menu offers a satisfying number of options.  I was a little torn between the shrimp in the spicy sauce and the spinach and cheese filled tortellini, just to mention a few.

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Dean’s Lobster Bisque – this is one of the seasonal offerings.

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Italian wedding soup!  A little salty, but still good.

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Here’s a close up – it’s nothing like Grandma used to make, but I guess it will have to do.  Even Dad’s is better, but don’t tell him I admitted that.

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Piping hot bread fresh from the oven!  And weird orange olive oil to dip it in.

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There are two different kinds of bread – one with basil and other spices, and one with a nice, firm crust.

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Dean’s lunch – Diavolo Shrimp.  I would have gotten it if it didn’t have a cream sauce.

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Mediterranean Penne, add shrimp, delete feta.  Yum!

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This was a great dish.  The pasta was pleasantly firm, and the sun dried tomatoes gave it a nice zip. 

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Dean’s Apple Crostada.  I was too full to even try to steal a taste.

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My dessert – it had tiramisu, chocolate chip bread pudding, and a chocolate cake.  Oh, and lots of ice cream.

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I liked this a lot, but I could not finish it.  The bread pudding was my favorite.  The cake was my least favorite.  Next time I will try to get Dean to split it with me, mainly because he hates bread pudding.

Dinner was $52 with the tip.  Not too bad, considering I was so full I felt a little sick.  The restaurant was extremely busy today, so the service wasn’t up to snuff, but the manager did come over to check on us.  He also got to get me a refill on my coffee, as he was the third person I asked.  There was a long lag between getting the bill and the waiter coming back to pick it up, which didn’t make any sense since there were about five couples waiting for a table.  Overall, it was a good, not great, Valentine’s meal.

Academy Show & the Return of Winter

Bentley and a really big road pony From Horses

Today did not start with a lot of promise.  After our spring tease, winter has returned with a vengeance.  It was snowing when I got up, and I immediately started freaking out about getting to the show on time.  Stupid, really, since it didn’t start for 4 hours!  I got off to an early start, and was glad I did.  They hadn’t done anything to the roads other than throw down a bunch of sand.  Wasn’t very effective, if you ask me.  Driving sucked.

Made it to the show in a little over an hour – it usually takes about 40 minutes to drive out there.  I arrived as M & D were lugging the tack in – I grabbed my saddle and a tack box and started thinking about getting Nyk ready.  He was a little irritated with me because D had just tossed a flake of hay into his stall, and all he really wanted to do was eat.  Honestly, that’s all he ever wants to do.  He is one hungry little pony, and it’s starting to show at his waistline.  His blankie is stretching in ways not anticipated by the manufacturers.

I was in the first class, which was split because one of the trainers had two riders but only one horse.  Bummer.  I didn’t get to ride with Laurie.  I think that is one of the first times since I started going to the academy shows that we weren’t in the first class together.  Boo.

I thought that Nyk did a great job, but the judge disagreed.  We changed his tack at the last minute and used a regular martingale instead of the draw reins, because his other riders today have a tendency to bear down on the draw rein and bury his head between his knees.  I thought it would be a great way to practice what S had shown me on Thursday (post coming soon) and was glad that we were trying something new.  I did keep him off the bridle, and I thought he looked really cute.  He cantered and didn’t quit like at the last show, and he flat walked.  The judge gave us a second place, and that is the first time that we didn’t get a blue in that class.  I was a little bummed, but when M said after that she didn’t understand the placings, I decided that it didn’t matter. 

The eq class was next, and Nyk was a little sluggish, but we placed 2nd, which is better than we have done lately in that class.  I tried to use a whip to keep his speed a little more consistent, but he wouldn’t walk in the warm up ring, so I decided not to use it.  I think I’m going to take my spurs to the next show and see if that keeps him moving along.  The judge called for the trot/walk/canter/walk, then had us reverse, WALK/canter/trot.  That changes things up, and I think only one other judge in the last 3 years has done that.  I blew my diagonal every time we dropped from the canter to the trot.  Argh.

The rail work for the pattern class was pretty solid, but we charged through the pattern.  I am determined to get this stupid thing right sooner or later.  Better luck next time, and as long as we aren’t last, I’ll be happy with my progress.

Some of the other kids rode Nyk, too.  Audie had a little trouble with the canter, but she let herself get boxed in behind Harley in their first class, and then she couldn’t get him to canter.  Or walk.  She did have the cleanest pattern, I thought.  Nyk was good with all of the kids.

I didn’t linger, as it’s Valentine’s Day and I wanted to get home so Dean and I could go out to dinner.  I also wanted to stop and pick up a iPhone because I can upgrade my phone today, but that didn’t happen.  Even though I was told that I could keep just my data plan and not add voice when I called and asked last week, I was told today that you have to have a voice and data plan with the iPhone.  I haven’t decided if it’s worth the extra $30 a month just for the privilege of dropping another 200 bucks on the phone. 

A Fleeting Glimpse of Spring

Medallion 2008

Yesterday it was unseasonably warm.  What do you think I wanted to do after work?  Go see my ponies!  It felt really weird not having to bundle up or open up the hand warmers, and I know I’m going to miss it when it gets cold again – which is supposed to be tomorrow.  Wah!  I want it to be spring!

I rode Blondie in my lesson, and then just practiced on Nyk.  M rode Harley while I was riding Blondie, and she tried to show me how to do some lateral work.  With neither Blondie or myself really understanding what to do, I don’t think the lesson has sunk in yet.  One thing is starting to make more and more sense – go slow with new exercises, praise her often, and don’t drill on one thing for very long.  I am starting to learn a little more patience – hopefully the horse won’t get so frustrated with me.

Because of the warmer weather, Blondie started to get sweaty, so I walked her out early.  While she cooled off, I got Nyk ready.  I just worked him for a little bit, enough to get a walk/trot/canter in both directions and then practice the serpentine, where he totally lost his impulsion so it was really rough.   Since he is so fuzzy, I didn’t want to get him too hot and then have to wait an hour before he dried off.  He was being a good boy again, so I didn’t want to push my luck with him, either.

I am testing out Picasa to host my pictures since Google is going to take over the world.  Let me know if you have a problem viewing it.

An Early Whiff of Spring

MJMHA - Share on Ovi

Sunday, the temperatures were actually pleasant.  I headed off to the barn, thinking I would ride both horses.  When I saw Blondie in the pasture with her buddies, though, I decided to just let her play - it was pretty slippery on the parking lot, and I didn't want to try to bring her in.  I got Nyk ready, and it turned out that I was the only one, besides D, at the barn because of the tack sale.  I am trying not to spend any money, so I avoided the 45 minute drive out there.

Nyk was perfect, and I didn't work him very long.  He kept his head up, didn't pull on the bit, and picked up every gait requested of him.  He felt like a million bucks, so he got to go back to his stall to relax.

I was going to head home, but D asked if I wanted to help work the other horses.  He suggested that I ride Ritz, but because I lose every bit of confidence that I've built up after riding her, I declined.  He suggested that I ride Peanut instead.  Since he is a walk/trot horse, I thought that might be fun.  The only problem is that he is still recovering from being gelded last week, he's still bleeding, and he's still swollen.  I felt guilty at the thought of making him work.  D said he had to get out of his stall and exercise, so I got him ready.

Because he is stiff, he felt a little funny at first.  We walked a lot, and then moved to a trot.  He started to loosen up, and I started to feel more comfortable riding him.  He's a very sweet horse, and I hope he starts feeling better soon.  I would like to ride him after he's all healed up and I don't have to feel guilty asking him to work.

The Jacket of Doom

Harley - Share on Ovi

Harley

It was Nyk’s turn to work last night.  He was funny when I took him out to the arena – there was a jacket draped over the front gate, and he kept glancing at it with a strong suspicion that it was going to try to eat him.  He doesn’t spook at much, but last night he was feeling a little jittery.  Too much caffeine?  Or maybe the warmer temperatures are getting to him?  He was very leery down at the far end because he could hear the drips from the snow melting on the roof.  Very funny.

We got to work, and he continued to be distracted by the jacket.  M was going to move it, but I told her not to.  Every time we hit that end, he crammed his head back in the bridle.  It was making my job a lot easier, and he wasn’t doing anything other than looking at it.

I had a great ride.  With that jacket to help keep his head up, Nyk looked great.  M was not happy with my canter to walk transitions, though, so she had us practice that many times. I don’t think I ever got any better.  Then we tried the serpentine again, because I’m going to be in the pattern class at the show next weekend.  First attempt was just plain ugly, the second was better.  My loops were nice and even, but we were a little too quick.