Sunday, January 29, 2012

A little bit of background

As a child, I regularly begged my parents for riding lessons. As part of a non-horsey family this became a nearly impossible task. Growing up in northern New Jersey just outside Manhattan, there were a number of places to take riding lessons, but they were not immediately apparent to the non-horsey set. At age 5 I began ballet, and by age 8 was performing with local ballet companies. Still I continued to ask for riding lessons, as did my older sister. I do remember going with Debi and my father and watching her ride. It wasn't lessons, but an hour rental to ride around a ring. She would also occasionally go on trail rides at a local park when she was a little older. Debi had a lot of Breyer horses which I used to gallop around when she wasn't home. This resulted in broken legs that my father was constantly repairing. In the years that followed I continued with ballet 6 days a week and added gymnastics to the mix. Still no riding lessons. Cheerleading, French Horn, school plays, etc. Then FINALLY when I was 15 my father came home and said that he had signed me up for riding lessons. This did not make my mother very happy. I think she just was completely opposed to the idea, concerned that it would take time away from ballet. Since my parents didn't know anything about horses or riding,my father selected a small riding center that he passed on his way home from work. Reinbow's End Horse Farm,a hunter/jumper barn in Paramus, NJ. This was a lucky find. While the barns were somewhat rundown, the horses seemed fine, at least to my novice eye. There were school horses and boarders two riding arenas and access to trails. I remember my first lesson as clearly as if it were yesterday. Rima, my instructor, tacked up Louis, a cute little bay horse while I watched. When we went out to the ring I was taught how to mount. My stirrups were then taken away, and there were no reins. For the first few weeks I would be on a lunge line without reins and stirrups to develop a seat. Only then would I be allowed to have reins. While at age 15 I was a bit insulted by the whole lunge line ordeal, years later I realized that this was the best way to learn how to ride. I am grateful to this day for that start. I rode at several different barns over the next few years, riding and showing owners horses. It was a great opportunity to learn to ride different types of horses. Then between high school and college I was exposed to warmbloods, dressage and evennting for the first time as a working student in Pennsylvania. My knowledge continued to expand, and I started to gravitate toward eventing. Following the position as a working student I worked at a small breeding farm, learning how to start young horses. College slowed down the riding a little bit, although as an undergraduate student I helped establish a riding club that included weekly lessons at a hunter barn. A brief move to Texas got me involved in eventing again, and I began to really enjoy the intricacies of dressage. By the time my husband and I moved back to New Jersey a year later, I was fully hooked on riding again! I started to ride regularly again during graduate school, purchasing a two year old Dutch Warmblood/appaloosa filly (Jenny)whom I hoped to event. I worked with a great trainer who rode for the Bermuda event team. She was tough and no nonsense, but my hard work was rewarded with the opportunity to ride many horses. Jenny was not overly fond of jumping, so I began to focus on dressage....and became completely hooked! This is Jenny's last show before she was retired due to a chronic injury.
I boarded her at a farm near Suki where she lived sadly only 6 more years, to age 20. I had to have her put down in June 2008 due to strangulating lipomas of the gut. Surgery had been an option, but with her age and potential for recurrence and a rough recovery I decided not to do it. Jenny gave me everything she had and was a wonderful girl. While harder for me, it seemed kinder to have her put down. She was buried on that farm in the big hilly field that she loved. January 29, 2012 Suki has been super muddy the past few day, which is understandable having been for two days prior. Tonight she had a cut on her head over her left eye. It's in the area where there is little hair growth and i think that skin is just not as tough. It certainly seems thinner than the normal skin. Now the areas on her back and sides that only have a small amount of hair appears to be very thick, and she does not have any problems. The skin around the eyes is more delicate under normal conditions, so perhaps it is just more noticeable because of the lack of hair. This time of year the moisturizing is extremely important because the skin, especially on the right side of her neck gets very dry. Nikki has been a delight to ride for the past couple of days, which having not ridden in a week due to illness was especially nice!

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