Monday, August 29, 2011


First, I hope that Hurricane Irene's destructive nature wasn't too much of a problem for my East coast blogger friends and that you and yours are OK.


My Husband's brother and sister-in-law spent the weekend with us. They were in town for a wedding. My sister-in-law, Pam, took riding/jumping lessons when she was a youngster. In fact, she took lessons until she was about 20 years of age. University, partying, and then working took precedence and riding was forgotten....for a while. When her daughter, Sandra, was about 10 years old, she decided to expose her to the magic. They took lessons together for a couple of years....until her daughter fell off and never got back on again. Apparently, it wasn't a bad fall, but enough to scare my niece. They stopped taking lessons. That was about 18 months ago. When Pam heard about Gem, she said that the next time she was in town she would love to meet him and perhaps take him for a spin.

Well, this weekend was "the next time". I was excited about her meeting Gem, but I was nervous at the same time. She's experienced, younger and petite; was I going to look like a flailing idiot next to Pam?

We were the only riders at the barn Sunday morning. Believe it or not, weather from Irene was paying a visit to Ontario and the winds were causing little mini tornado's in the sand around the barn. Pam signed the waiver and off we went to get my boy. I entered his turnout area - he was near the apple trees - and I called to him, asking him to come. And, he did! Pam was impressed that I didn't have to go get him. :-) After grooming, I let her hold his saddle to get an idea of the difference in weight between it and a hunter saddle. She was impressed that I was able to lift the saddle straight up and place it gently on Gem's back. When the bridle went on, she couldn't believe that there wasn't a nose band or throat latch and that there was only one ear hole.

The wind was swirling around us as we walked to the arena. Pam had no problem mounting Gem and was quite comfortable on him. I told her what his usual warm up was and off she went. I sat back and watched. I actually like watching someone else on Gem - it gives me an opportunity to see how he moves.

Pam struggled a bit with him pushing his shoulder towards the inside and his nose pointed outside. He does this regularly and I explained that pulsating the ring finger of her inside hand to get him to turn his nose inside, with the inside leg "on" usually works. She was a little unclear on the concept, which surprised me.

Pam and Gem doing a posting trot.

Before she tried to get him to a posting trot, she removed her sweater....yes, her face was flushed and she was starting to get a glow on. :-) Cantering was next and it only took two tries to get Gem going. It was after a couple of short canters, with her face red and with sweat across her brow, that she had had enough and said that she would like to see me ride. :-) She had been on Gem for a total of about 15 minutes.

Strangely, when I got on Gem I was relaxed. All of my anxiety had disappeared. I realized that Pam wasn't a "threat", she was just a regular me.

Gem and I were working it! Perhaps I was showing off a bit. :-) Our jog/sitting trot was smooth. We actually did some side passes at a jog - we aren't consistent yet, but Gem is getting so much better crossing over and remaining straight. When we loped, we went all the way around the arena - I felt comfortable, I looked where I was going and my butt was in the saddle each and every time we loped. Gem has started relaxing he head when we lope. Instead of holding his head out and pulling on the reins, he has starting to lower his head and round his neck a bit. I am not sure if that is correct, but is certainly seems more relaxed to me and sure looks pretty from where I sit. :-) To cool down, Gem and I did some turns using neck reining and some side passes. I threw in some backing up for good measure. I was on Gem for about 30 minutes and he was basically a gentleman the whole time. I felt good.

When we were finished, Pam shared that she had never tried side passes and liked watching it. Then she said something that blew me away. She said that Gem and I worked well together and that I looked like I had been riding for much longer than 3 years! :-) Admittedly, I was very flattered that Pam said that my skills are more advanced that she thought they would be. But, I think I was even more pleased that this round middle-aged body of mine had better endurance than her younger, trainer body (yes, she has a trainer come to the house once a week)!! ;-)

The wind finally died down early Sunday evening and left the most beautiful sky...

Sunday, August 21, 2011


This weekend My Husband and I went to Gananoque and did a tour of the 1000 Islands. It was our first time in that area. The weather was beautiful and it was a great way to decompress after a particularly stressful week. I can't remember the last time I was on a boat and the sound of the water was comforting.

Cormorants and Osprey nest

I had no idea how hardcore cottage country this area was!! I know....I must be living under a rock. :-) Cottages are perched on the smallest pieces of land out in the middle of the water while others are sprawling summer homes.

I laughed when I saw this. This cottage was right up against the bridge.

The tour we were on took us to Boldt Castle. The history behind Boldt Castle is a rags to riches story that includes love and tragedy. George Boldt was an immigrant and a self-made millionaire. Boldt Castle was to be the summer home of George and his wife Louise. When she suddenly died, all construction stopped and it sat unfinished for decades and decades.

Our destination, Boldt Castle.

Looking up from the front stair case.

Dining room


Front sitting room

The floors amazed me. Each room on the main floor had a different pattern.

The moldings were also different in each room.

Mr. Boldt's bedroom. It opened out on to a balcony overlooking the water.

Mrs. Boldt's bedroom, next door. I believe they shared a balcony. Mrs. Boldt had two huge double closets for her clothing.

Their ensuite. :-)

The guest rooms on the 3rd floor were unfinished. This is a closet in the one of the rooms. Note how tall it is compared to the door on the left - to accommodate long dresses and big hats?? That door led into a little sitting room.

Indoor pool!!

One of the back halls that would have been used by servants. I liked the tile.

Servants quarters on the 4th and 5th floor were small and had very small fireplaces and windows. It was sad to see the graffiti on the walls.

This is the boat/yacht house for Boldt Castle. It has been designated a historical site.

Underneath the castle was really fascinating. There were all sorts of hallways and storage rooms. You could almost hear and feel what it would have been like with staff running around.....

The grounds included an aviary and Alster Tower (used for entertainment), both shaped like castles. Well, what's a horse blog without something about horses! :-) I saw this picture in one of the displays. I wonder what kind of horses they are riding....

I love traveling back in time and seeing how lives were lived a century ago. It was a great weekend getaway and I appreciated the break. :-) You need to have these little breaks every once and a while to refresh yourself. I am looking forward to seeing my handsome boy though and can't wait for lesson on Tuesday!

Friday, August 12, 2011


I have been sore most of the week. My mid-section hurts when I laugh. My thunder thighs are still ache-y. And, strangely, my neck was stiff up until today. I haven't felt like this in a long time. No, I did not fall off. Our lesson this week concentrated on steering at a lope. Sigh.

Two of my classmates were mounted on horses that had careers as competitive reining horses. I am not sure of the background of the third horse, but it’s pretty obvious that he has had lots of training – he’s being used as a lesson horse to pay off some outstanding board bills, I believe. My classmates seemed to breeze through lesson on their trusty steeds, smooth as silk.

While Gem and I make an attractive looking team, our performance sometimes are not always attractive. :-) Lesson this week was one of those examples. The first order of the day was to practice neck reining. LA had us neck rein turning on the haunches. Gem and I have been practicing (with two hands) and we struggled through this portion of the lesson. It wasn't smooth, but I thought that we were finally getting it and working together. He wasn't walking off as much and we actually had a couple of good cross-overs. So, what did my classmates do??? Not only did they neck rein and turn on haunches, they SPUN their horses. Yep, they did spins. Sigh.

To help us learn how to steer at a lope, we were asked to lope a circle using only half of the arena. Within that circle, ovals were made, always going in the same direction - circle, oval, circle, oval, repeat, repeat. The goal for my classmates was to neck rein the changes in pattern, bending the horse’s head in the direction he was to go in, all the while keeping their butts in the saddle and maintaining speed. My classmates did a great job. It was wonderful to watch how fluid their movements were and it showed how far Jean and BF have come with their riding skills. Gem and I are still working on neck reining, so we didn't have to one-hand it. :-)

Here’s basically what my classmates' pattern looked like:

This is what our pattern looked like.


LA: Outside leg! Outside leg!
Gem: (shaking head) WTH are you asking me to do???
Me: I want you to go that way.
Gem: Then get your inside leg out of me!
LA: Lower your hands!
Gem: Stop pulling on me!!
Me: I don't mean to! I am all confused!
LA: Push him on! Don't let him slow down!
Gem: What do you want????
Me: I want you to keep loping.
Gem: Why???
LA: Left! Left! No, the other left!
Gem: Would you just decide what direction you want to go already?!!!
Me: Stop interrupting me! I am trying to concentrate on keeping my heels down, my butt in the saddle, operating the reins and doing the pattern.
Gem: That would be multi-tasking and right now you are doing a lousy job.
Me: You're right.

Gem slowed down to a trot a number of times during our routine and I had to push him back up to a lope. He showed his frustration with me with a lot of head tossing. We were not smooth as silk, we were more like lumpy mashed potatoes.

I was exhausted after our first attempt! My legs were starting to feel like jelly. My gut hurt! As we caught our breath and watched the others have another go at the pattern, I realized I was actually a little embarrassed at how poor my performance was compared to my classmates. They made it look so easy! That nasty little fellow Insecurity tried to whisper something in my ear.... but I shook him off.

LA gave me a little pep talk before we started our second round:

LA: I want you to just do a small circle. No pattern. Outside rein has contact on his neck and I want you to open up your inside rein as you lope to keep his head slightly bent to the inside. Keep him moving. I don't want you to think of anything else.

Off we went. The second round was much better. I didn't think about my heels. I didn't think about keeping my butt in the saddle. I didn't think about making a perfect circle. And, I didn't have to think about what the pattern was. Gem still did some head tossing and he wasn't pleased when I assertively requested that he keep loping. In spite of his resistance, we managed to do a couple of small circles at a lope! And, I stayed in the saddle! :-) I felt much better after the second round; not smooth as silk, but more like whipped potatoes instead of lumpy mashed.

Insecurity tried to join us at Burger and Beers, but I resisted letting him sit with us. :-) I have been left with homework. I am to practice loping small circles and at a walk I am to practice turning using neck reining. Yep.....I'll get right on that....soon....real soon... as soon as I can move without pain.....Now, where's my vodka soda???...

What was I thinking.....?