25 Mimi Moments

In honor on Mimi’s 25th birthday this past weekend, I’d like to present, in no particular order:

“25 Mimi Moments: The good, bad, and random (because there’s no ugly about her)”

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Still one of the best days of my life: When this little grey mare came into it. I still get butterflies and chills thinking about it. The annual POA sale is run as an auction format, and my parents and I went back to Iowa with a list of ponies in the sale catalog to look at. Mimi was all of our first choice…and she’s been my #1 ever since.

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Little known fact: My father actually picked Mimi out. She grabbed his attention right from the get-go on our first time even skimming through the sale catalog, and she was the first horse we even crossed paths with at the sale when he saw her out in a warm-up ring being ridden by her owner. He’s got a major soft spot for that little pony, and she’s quite fond of him.

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We have a complicated relationship with jumping. When she was “on” she was a blast to jump, but she was the most dishonest jumper I’ve ever ridden. Because she’s so quick and squirrely, she could bury herself into the base of the jump, and then spin off literally at takeoff. There were multiple occasions that I went over the jump…and she didn’t. Some of it I now know was likely due to saddle fit, and too narrow of a saddle that pinched her shoulders. 

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Her most iconic gymkhana pose. She was an absolute blast to run through games. I really took my time with her, trotting and slow loping the patterns for a couple of years for her to learn them — skill before speed. So by the time I introduced the speed element, she had the precision down, and was an expert at flying around the last pole or barrel and absolutely launching. I’m holding on because otherwise, I very likely would have gone off the back of the saddle.

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She’s really loud. For a small pony, she has an incredible set of lungs, and an eardrum-piercing shriek that she makes full use of, especially in a public environment. Everyone knows when she shows up somewhere.

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She doesn’t find my shenanigans very funny. For years, I’ve tormented her as my personal “My Little Pony” with things like festive hats and costume classes, and her predictable reaction almost every time is, “idiot human.”

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She doesn’t actively like very many horses. She’s very independent out in the herd, and typically hangs out by herself. There are maybe a handful of horses over the years she has truly liked, although she’s a shameless, indiscriminate flirt during certain times of the year. Most of the time she’s either tolerant or indifferent, and then other couple of handfuls of horses she actively dislikes.

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Wiggle lips! She’s super-expressive with her lips, especially when she has itchy spots. Scratch her along her belly-line and it’ll send her into lip-wriggling ecstasy.

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Finishing the Man Against Horse 50 was one of my proudest accomplishments with her. It’s a really tough ride, and she never put a hoof wrong the whole time.

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We went all the way to Oklahoma for the biggest show of our career…and I forgot a class pattern for the first (and only) time, and she dumped me in the warm-up ring.

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My greatest accomplishment in her show career was earning her Supreme Championship. For a POA to get “supreme’d” as it is known, they have to earn a certain number of points in three different divisions: Halter, Non-Timed (performance), and Timed (gymkhana). And a certain percentage of those points had to come from what would be the equivalent of “rated” shows. She came to me with about half of the required Halter points, but she and I got all of the necessary performance class points together.

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Out of everything we’ve done together, endurance riding has been the favorite. She’s the absolutely happiest when she’s going down the trail in the lead, and allowed to comfortably move out. We did a couple of rides by ourselves, but her favorite was with one other horse, preferably behind her. She likes a trail buddy, but she wants to be in the lead.

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On our very last NATRC ride, she was well-behaved enough to earn me a perfect 100 horsemanship score. 

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She’s really well-trained, and incredibly soft in the arena. I can ride her in anything, including bridleless. But out on trail, she thinks snaffles are the best joke ever and gleefully runs through them. Either her s-hackamore, or something with leverage (kimberwick) reminds her she does have brakes installed.

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We didn’t do a ton of endurance rides together — 7 50s, and half a dozen 25s. She was a blast to ride in LDs, and we finished all of them, including a couple of Top Tens. We’re 4/7 on the 50s, but all of our rides together have been memorable. I always worried if 50s were too much for her, but only one pull was for her (a tie-up halfway through). Looking back, I probably didn’t give her enough credit, but I’ve always been overprotective of her, and so afraid of hurting her.

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She’s a desert rat, through and through. Every time we’ve gone up to the mountains, she’s definitely on way higher alert. Stumps and logs are suspicious, and deer and elk are equinivorous.

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As much as I trust her…she can also unnerve me faster than almost any horse out there. To this day, I still don’t enjoy riding her out around the barn neighborhood. She’s still very quick and can be very reactive in that particular setting, and I still have a hard time relaxing and enjoying this kind of riding with her. Give us the actual trails any day.

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She is the best camper. Years of showing gave her experience with standing around and waiting, and standing tied at the trailer. Her worst indiscretion is beating her haybag against the trailer.

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She’s naturally a very alert and attentive horse who notices everything. It was a really big switch going from pretty placid lesson horses to the spicy firecracker that she was — and still is. For years, I assumed that if she “looked” at something, she was going to spook at it, so I tended to be the “death grip, super controlling” rider. She’s a saint for putting up with me. Eventually I learned that just because she looked didn’t mean she was going to spook, so gradually did get more relaxed. Of course, she still had to keep me on my toes — I ate dirt more than once over being too relaxed and complacent, and she would pull a fast spin and teleport maneuver. 

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She’s really smart about drinking when she’s thirsty. Several times at rides, she deliberately stopped and moved off-trail to a hidden water tank — once, quite memorably, in the middle of a canter up a big wash with several other horses.

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She used to be absolutely terrified of cows. Then she learned they run away if you chase them. Cow aversion be gone. Now I have to keep her from trying to chase them down.

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She is sooo picky about her bits, and not shy about telling me her opinion. I’ve narrowed it down to 3 bits that she actually likes. All Myler, of course. Preferably the handmade ones with the sweet-iron mouthpiece. She’s the reason I got into collecting bits.

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Her feet are a constant source of aggravation (and learning experience) for me. They’ve never been great, although they’re now light years better than when I first took her barefoot. But I still have to really stay on top of things, and “self-trimming” is not a concept that exists in Pony World.

 

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She is the most interested, multi-faceted, layered equine I’ve ever been around. She can be a bit mercurial (sometimes sweet and cuddly, sometimes bitchy mare), but she has taught me so much about patience, thinking, listening, partnership, forgiveness, humility, confidence…most of my life lessons have been connected to her. She’s my best friend.

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Happy birthday, Mimi!

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This might be one of my new favorite pictures. I successfully captured the “essence” of Mimi. It’s currently being used as my lock screen background on my phone, so I see this perky face every time I pick up my phone.

I can’t believe my baby pony girl is a quarter of a century old. We have literally grown up together — she was 3, I was 11 — and she still delights me as much now as she did 20 years ago.

I love that she still has all of her pony sass and shenanigans, her opinions, her work ethic, and her heart.

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Playing with some barrels and pattern work.

I’ve been battling some slight lameness with her for the past several months — nothing obvious or particularly major, but subtle and consistent. I chalked it up to her age, and the likelihood of something like arthritis or ringbone. As it turned out, I’d just let her feet get away from me, and she just needed a good toe shortening and correction of some rather overlaid bar. (She’s a good example of where the “benign neglect and self-trimming” approach really doesn’t work. To this day, I still have to stay really aggressive and on top of her feet and trimming.) Once that was addressed, she’s been back to feeling 100%, and the last couple of weekends, I’ve gotten some amazing work from her.

In an effort to keep things interesting, I’ve been dabbling in learning more about Working Equitation after spectating part of a demo at an expo a few weeks ago. It looks intriguing, and it’s something I can see myself pursuing on the side, and as a way to cross-train my endurance ponies. Mimi and I already have all of the training down — much of it is very similar to what we did for years in the show ring, between trail courses, reining, western riding, and gymkhana.

So the past couple of weekends, I’ve been putting together mini-obstacles and giving them a try. Mimi is loving it. It’s something new, and it’s just different enough from what we’ve done in the past that she’s very attentive, and trying very hard to “figure it out.” Also helps that it’s done at a lot more speed than the slow, exacting trail course type of work, so needless to say, she’s totally on board with that.

So all of that to say that she doesn’t feel or act her age, and in her world, 25 is nowhere near full retirement age. So we keep going, as long as she’s willing and happy.

She got birthday presents. 

She also got “cake.” (homemade carrot oatmeal breakfast bars)

Through Their Ears

For curiosity’s sake, I sat down and started tallying up how many horses I’ve ridden. Taking into account everything from test rides of sale horses to endurance competitions, in over 25 years of riding, I’ve ridden 80+ different horses, and just in endurance alone, I’ve been fortunate enough to have the chance to compete on over a dozen different horses.

That’s a lot of different sets of ears through which I’ve viewed the trail, and a lot of “other people’s horses.” And I’ve learned something from all of them.

(And several others that I never got any ear!cam shots.)

 

Spring Fever

Lest anyone think I’ve forgotten about the pony, I can assure you she’s still doing her best to enliven my life and keep things interesting. And promote the idea that it doesn’t matter how old or semi-retired they are, horses never lose their capacity for self-destruction.

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No clue what happened, but I’ve gotten pretty skilled over the years at dealing with this type of wound/injury, and have the well-stocked first aid kit to prove it. Clipped, cleaned, and layer-wrapped in short order, and since she wasn’t lame, we still went on to have a nice ride.

Pretty sure that was payback for being gone the previous two weekends in a row.

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Plus, I had to play with my shiny, Convention-acquired new toys.

Verdict: I thought the Archer Equine saddle pad was going to be huge (“the saddle pad ate my pony”) but it actually fits really well with the Duett. Reserving judgment until I give it several rides and wash it, but for its initial trial run, I liked it.

Myler eggbutt, MB33 mouthpiece, is pony-approved, and she worked really well in it.

And I love the mohair reins. Great feel, and weight-wise, they feel like a perfect balance between flat braid reins and round rope rein. To me, at least, a lot of the flat braid are too insubstantial and light, but round yacht rope is just a little too bulky/thick. Plus the mohair is super-soft and feels really good, even without gloves. I know I’ve had really good luck with my high-quality mohair girths washing up really well and lasting a long time, so I’m assuming the same will hold true for the reins.

Happy Monday, all, and hope the rest of the week treats everyone well!

No Stirrup November, Lite

So I have to chuckle a bit at “No Stirrup November” and the idea of dropping one’s stirrups for the month. I’m doing good to ride once or twice a week…I definitely won’t be driving 45 minutes each way to the barn on a daily basis for that particular brand of torture.

Also, it’s been over a dozen years since I did any active no stirrup work. Something about distance riding and trail riding tends to bring about feelings of deep affection and appreciation for one’s stirrups.

But on that same token, I also realize I’ve let myself get a bit lazy and too reliant on the saddle/stirrups. So my goal will be to spend part of my riding time (on Mimi, in the arena) without stirrups. And to continue it beyond just the month of November.

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I survived 10 whole minutes of sitting and posting trot torture today

Let’s face it: the pony is a sainted beast who really doesn’t need anything more by way of “schooling” — and frankly, it just annoys her when I try — but that makes her the perfect “schoolmaster” for me to work on me. She doesn’t run off, she doesn’t spook, she doesn’t take (too much) advantage.

And the more I’m focused on me, the less I’m nitpicking or nagging at her.

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dressage saddle means time for the rider to be put to work

My core is practically non-existent, so working on an excavation project of discovering those muscles is my foremost priority. While no-stirrup work is theoretically great for building leg muscles, balance and core strength is also a huge part of that, so that’s really my primary purpose in this endeavor.

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skeptical pony is skeptical of her idiot mommy’s crazy ideas