Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fun With Film

Ok, so we all know NO ONE works in film anymore. But this is still fun...with Digital.

It's so easy to make your own movies of your horses. And what do we do when we're not riding and talking about horses? We're drooling over online videos of horses. Yes, a sick obsession!

You don't even need a video camera to film horses. You don't need fancy software or editing capabilities. Actually...you don't even need to own a horse! (You just need to go to a horse show!)

What you do need:

Digital Camera with Video Setting
Polaroid t1031 10.0 MP Digital Still Camera with 3.0 LCD Display (Orange)
This Polaroid Retails for only $74.99!

Home Computer
Apple iMac MC511LL/A 27-Inch Desktop
I love a Mac for Video Editing
Now, most of you reading this blog already have a computer. Many of you will have PC's with Microsoft Office. Did you know that within the Microsoft Suite there is Windows Movie maker? It's so easy to use and there are many tutorials to help you along the way. 

My favorite application is iMovie on the Mac. It's so amazingly fun to use. In addition, you can make your own music in Garage Band. Making your own music does take some practice. But again, it's so fun...you won't want to stop once you've started!

iMovie '09 & iDVD: The Missing Manual
A few notes on filming:
  • Make sure you are steady when doing hand held camera work. Or even better, use a tripod. You don't want to make your audience motion sick while viewing your movie. 
  • You need to get a written release if filming individuals for a sales video. For example, if you plan to use clips of someone riding in a barn promotional video, they must consent. 
  • Don't film children without asking their parents.
  • Be sure to give the horse some room in the frame. If they're running give them some where to run...film just ahead of them while keeping them fully in the camera's lens. 
  • While editing, play with the speed of the film. You can make the horse look very powerful and dynamic by doing some slow motion work. You can make it comical by speeding it up. 
  • Take out the fluff. If you think it's repetitive, blurry, boring or choppy...take it out. Better a short wonderful movie, than a long redundant one. 
  • If you plan to post your video online (YouTube for instance) make sure that your music isn't copyrighted. This is why I like to make my own music in Garage Band.
Apple Training Series: GarageBand 09

Video Examples:

Saphira's Liberty - Friesian x Arabian

Phoenix Rising - Friesian x Standardbred/Paint

If you're in Wisconsin and need a video done for your stable, business or sales horses. I'd be happy to film or edit your video. Brooke - brooke@friesiangrin.com.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Horse Stories - "Miracle at the Grave"

Thank you Patty for sending me this wonderful story! This makes me want to go hug my horse!

They haven't left us...they watch over us like angels.

Crystal's Chip was a world famous white Missouri Fox Trotter trick horse. As a stallion he was a regular in the Macy Day parade as well as the Rose Bowl. We rescued him years later in deplorable conditions. He was one of the kindest horse's I've ever had the privilege to care for. My friend adopted him from my rescue barn and they began a close and much needed friendship for both. 
Chip suffered from chronic laminitis and my friend did all she could for the year and a half they had each other. On a cold, windy January Saturday, she made the selfless decision to end his suffering.
My friend had a very hard time after Chip's death, very depressed and second guessing her choice as we all do at those times. Nothing we did or said could console her. 
On her Saturday morning visit, we walked back to the graves as we have done for years. My friend always brought apples and carrots for all of the three graves. On this particular visit, it was a cold, crisp March day. Not a cloud in the sky. As always, she would put her hand in the snow, and make a hand print in the snow on top of Chip's grave. 
As she bent over and put her hand on his grave, it began to softly snow. I looked up and realized that it was only snowing on her! I moved away and stood by the other graves and no snow! She moved to the other graves and nothing. She went back to Chip's grave and again it began snowing. 
We were both silent, not wanting to leave and both understanding what was happening. That in his way, this dear sweet horse was letting his friend know that he was okay. 
It never snowed again at Chip's grave, but that snow helped her heart heal.
Patty Simpkins
Greengate Rescue Farm 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

First Horse Stories

I've decided to start a series featuring the stories of people's first experiences with horses. My first installment is from Jamie who tells the story of her first horse Dallas. Enjoy!
Dallas & Jamie 

My first horse was a gelded chestnut quarter Arabian at 3 years old. His name was Dallas, he was broke but still on edge and one curious horse at that. I didn’t have any of the necessary riding gear and always rode him bareback with a halter and lead rope. 

The farm I bought him from told me he was a worthless horse and wouldn't amount to anything, well they were wrong! He picked up on every command very quickly and dominated lounging (walk, trot, canter, reverse). Dallas was not treated very good at that farm and I learned that he was pretty much afraid of the whip and did perfect on the line without it :)  

I spent hours upon hours with this horse and training him. He made me feel so good when friends told me that he is doing a lot better then when they first met him and for me to feel hopeless at times with him to see what he has become. 

Much of myself getting stressed with him was because I was told he was 6 when I bought him but turned out that was a lie.  

I started working with barrels around him and he did so great! Dallas would get so tight around those barrels and people at the farm were amazed. He was also a very nervous and jittery horse but I realized if I sang lullaby songs he would seem to slow down his pace and relax a little.  

There was no mean bone in his body, but at times would become stubborn and do bunny hops. This horse loved people and being around them or the other animals. 

I sadly ended up having to get rid of him and it is almost like he knew. The last time I rode him, we just flew and it felt like it was only us out there.  I switched off with my friend so she could ride and Dallas was not having it!  He was acting all goofy and nuts with her so I rode him out a little more, but that didn’t matter to him and he still continued to act like that with her.  

After that ride I still had time with him for two more weeks but decided that it was such an amazing ride that I didn’t want to spoil it!

Jamie riding Asti - The horse she currently leases. 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Curious Cause to Celebrate

I'm sure you think this is going to be a post about light and love and how great a summer I'm having with my metabolically challenged horse, Punchinello. Well, in a way you're right...but it's not for the reasons you think.

You can tell he's just not "feelin it." I'm asking him to stretch and he doesn't want to.

This weekend we had a little set back. Here's the story:

We went to a show at Sunflower Farm in Bristol, WI. This is a truly amazing facility! They have their own tack store, Saddler's Row and Snack Shop! Wow!

Amazing Sunflower Farm Facilities!

I had noticed that Punch was kind of stiff the week before. But I road him and had some great rides. He seemed to warm out of his "hitch." I also had the Chiropractor out to give him an adjustment about four days before the event. It could have been a multitude of things making him sore. Weather, a slight change in the sugar in his hay, not enough exercise or blah, blah, blah.

I loaded up in that morning and gave myself plenty of time to warm up before my first class...just in case Punch needed to stretch out a bit. He did feel stiff. He didn't want to do 20 m circles at the trot. We did some long and low work...he felt better. But every once in awhile I'd feel "something" not quite right.

Streeeeeeetch...let's loosen up Punchie!

I asked a friend to watch me work him a bit. She said it was like he was short striding behind but it was barely noticeable. Maybe a .5 on the lameness scale. Ten would be the horse is walking on three legs.

Well, five minutes before our class, the judge sent someone over to the warm up ring (which is right next to the show ring) to tell me that she thought my guy was sore behind and that she would ring me out (DQ me) if I entered the ring. I appreciate two things: 1) She was keeping an eye out for the wellbeing of the horses at the show. 2) She saved me the embarrassment of entering the show ring and getting DQ'ed in front of God and everyone.

Ears forward...I need to look up!

What I did: Gracefully left the warm up ring. Unsaddled my horse and told him what a wonderful, beautiful guy he is. I thanked him for being such a willing, good sport, even when he wasn't feeling the best.

What I wanted to do: Cry, stomp my feet and go off the deep end worrying that our show career was over.

What I did next: After my horse was taken care of I walked to the Judge's Box and thanked the Judge (in between classes of course!) for looking out for my horse. I told her I appreciated her being there and judging the show and I hoped I got to ride for her sometime in the future.

What I wanted to do: Walk up to the Judge's Box and tell her how, 'I'm not a bad horse owner. I would never ride a lame horse! Thank you for noticing his short comings...can you please convince the show officials to give me back MY MONEY?!!!! AND BY THE WAY...THE HORSE THAT'S ABOUT TO ENTER THE RING HAS HORRIBLE RING BONE...I KNOW THIS CAUSE HIS SHOER TOLD ME AND HE'S WAY MORE LAME THAN MY HORSE WILL EVER BE!!!!'

Deep Breath...Can I tell you once again that I really do agree with the judges decision. He wasn't 100%.

Maybe some long and low will do the trick?

Let me get to the part where we have a curious cause to celebrate. Here is why I'm so happy:
  • My horse loads into the trailer by pointing him in the general direction and telling him we're going some place really cool. In a Marmaduke voice he says, "Ok Mom...where we goin? Hay! I love hay! I can't believe you put hay in here more me! Num, Num, Num..."
  • Punchinello stood alone without any stall buddies near at the show and had NO issues with this what-so-ever. When I walk up to his stall he whinnied at me like I was his long lost Mother. 
  • I got to cheer on my friend who just started showing again after a long dry spell. This was her second Dressage show and she did amazingly well. I got to put all my energy in her direction.
  • I got to meet Katie, a friend of a friend...who is the coolest Polish woman EVER! She calls her 17 hh horses...Ponies. LOL!
  • My teen-aged daughter and her friend got to see how a true horse-woman handles disappointment and learned what sportsmanship really is.
  • Did I mention that it was raining...thank you to Punchinello who faked his slight lameness so we didn't have to do Dressage tests in a Thunderstorm. God bless his heart! *wink*
I've said many times that just because you're not in the ribbons doesn't mean you're not a winner. This experience gave me the opportunity to see the silver lining and be thankful for the great season we've had so far. 

I'm having to do away with self-doubt, which is really hard for me. I won't go through all the things I've thought today wondering if Punch really wants to show...or is actually healthy enough to do, even low level, Dressage. I'm going to put those thoughts away now and move forward.

Tonight I went out and gave my guy a massage and did some acupressure. He is still sore. But we both enjoyed our time together. (Except for the time I hit a really ouchy spot and he tried to bite me!)

I've also asked my daughter if she'd like to help me get him back to "fit" for the next show. She's lighter than I am and is happy to walk, and walk and stretch while riding. This can be a mother/daughter goal that will keep us close. 

My goal? There's a show at the same Sunflower Farms in Sept. I'm going to see what I can do the rest of the month to get Punch moving better. Then we'll see if he's up to going to this one, last, show of the season. I want to end on a good note.

Oh, and one more thing I'm thankful for. My daughter got some great pictures of us in the warm up ring. He looks happy and sound. Though...it could have been just that one moment in time.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Best Book for Riders

Sally Swift - Centered Riding

Centered Riding (A Trafalgar Square Farm Book)

"Sally Swift’s book Centered Riding, now a classic, was published in 1985 and celebrated its twentieth year in print in 2005. It's been translated into fifteen languages (in 2008, Korean became the fifteenth language) and has sold over 800,000 copies worldwide. In 1986, Sally produced two videos Centered Riding: Tape 1 and Centered Riding: Tape 2, which are readily available now in both VHS and DVD formats. A second book, Centered Riding 2: Further Exploration was published in 2002 and is following in its predecessor's footsteps with nine foreign language editions and 100,000 copies sold worldwide. The books and videos are available in many tack shops or can be ordered by contacting the Centered Riding Office." Taken from the Centered Riding Website

It's by far one of the best books EVER written to help the aspiring, seasoned and curious horse person. The reason I find this book so helpful is that it is written and illustrated in a way that gives you a clear picture of what proper riding technique should look and feel like.

Have you ever been riding and caught a glance of yourself in a mirror or looked at a picture a friend took at a show? You may find that what you THINK you are doing while in the saddle is very different from reality.

I'll give you a rather embarrassing example:

What this felt like was, forward & graceful. What's happening is my horse is loosing momentum and rhythm...and I'm trying to get him to move forward by lifting up my heel to cue him and leaning forward.

Um, no leaning forward doesn't make your horse go forward! Don't watch those cowboy movies and see men and women spurring their horses on with a "hee-ah" leaning forward and flapping their elbows around like a chicken, and think that's the way to ride. This just puts more weight on your horse's front end and makes it hard for them to shift weight back onto those huge hinder muscles. Sit up folks! Sit up! (I will also take my own advice.)

What would Sally Swift Say?

Sally would have told me to sit up tall like a tree. My heels are the roots of the tree and I want them to lengthen and sink them deep in the ground.

My hands are holding to birds. I don't want to turn my thumbs in or the bird's heads will clunk together. I want to gently hold them upright...without letting them fly away.

Sally would have told me to breath and use gentle vision....see everything around me and stop staring at my horses ears. After-all they're not going anywhere.

To find out more about Centered Riding you can visit their website at www.centeredriding.org.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Horse Summer in Review...and Not Over Yet!

I was thinking today how much I've done with my horse so far this summer!

As you remember, for a long time I couldn't figure out what was wrong with my Punchinello. We had cantering issues, lameness issues, weight issues and muscle tone issues. If you would have told me last year what a great season we'd have this year...I would have hugged you...but been skeptical. I thought EPSM was a death sentence for our riding career.

A Horse Summer in Review:

2 Weeks of Training with Nicole Trapp, West Bend WI
Midwest Horse Fa

1st Dressage Clinic, Racine WI

Horse-A-Rama Expo, Manitowoc WI

Midwest Horse Fair, Madison WI

2nd Dressage Clinic, Racine WI

3 Day Camping Trip, Castle Rock WI

1st Dressage Schooling Show - Racine WI (We got a 65% on one of our three tests! And picked up the correct canter leads!)

Our First Western Experience
 Friesian Heritage Horse Open Show, Manitowoc WI (We placed in almost every class and even tried our hand at Western Pleasure! First time with a Western Saddle on his back and we came in 4th against a multitude of different breeds.)
Racine County Pony Club

2nd Dressage Schooling Show - Racine WI (Scored a 72% on one of our tests...time to move up a level! No more Intro tests next year!)

Punch has let my, typically non-horsey, daughter learn to canter! (He couldn't even canter himself last year let alone teach a fairly green rider!)

This coming weekend we have another Dressage Show. Then I think I'll do another clinic at the end of the month...then...then...well, we'll see. :)
A Tired Punch after a Hard Day Dressage Riding!

I'm so proud of what we've done this year. I'm so proud of Punchinello! What a trooper! And we're a closer riding team after everything we've been through together.

Find a horse, a friend's, a stranger's, your own...and hug...that...horse!!!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pony Sweep Steed

I have mixed feelings on some of the equestrian disciplines. I could write at length about the mistreatment of race horses and the plight of the rodeo bronc. Let's face it there are bad people doing bad things to horses in EVERY discipline. But, that's not what this post is about.

This post is about a change of heart I've had while taking a closer look at what it means to be a Pony Sweep Steed. In other words, a pony ride pony. You see them at your local fair, carnival or child's birthday party, walking around in a circle carrying laughing and sometimes screaming children.

Happy & Healthy Jo-Don Farm Ponies!

At first glance I thought, "What a horrible life. I can't imagine walking around in circles all day." But a friend of mine whom I trust, and whose opinion I value gave me another way to look at these noble horses. Carla wrote the poem you see below and works the Pony Sweep at a place called Jo-Don Farms in Franksville, WI. Don Meyers, the owner of this educational and recreational animal farm has gone out of his way to save ponies that would have been slaughtered for meat and given them a new life.

I would like to interject one piece of advice here: All pony rides are not created equally. Please support the pony rides that have happy and healthy looking ponies!

Jo-Don Farm Ponies Out on Pasture - Great to See!
 Pony Sweep Steed - by Carla Fitzgerald

I'm a Pony Sweep Pony
Please don't look down on me
for my job is very important. 

I am the noble mount who marches
kings and queens in their royal processions. 
I am the brave stallion who charges the 
battlefield with his knight.
I gallop windswept plains with my
best friend the cowboy. 

I am the one that carries the jockey to a
victory in the winners circle.
I am the ethereal winged one who soars 
through moonlit skies with the fairy.
And I am the gallant one-horned beauty 
who safely escorts the princess through
the primeval forest. 

I am Spiderman's favorite sidekick.
One time I was a zebra and anther time...
I was purple.

My job is very important. 
I am a Pony Sweep Steed.