Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Long December

Last year we spent a cold, long December in Florida. Without my sweet Pie and Sovereign to keep me warm and with no oil paints in sight, I did what every horse-lonely painter would do - I picked up my laptop and snuggled up on the sofa with my new best friend, Photoshop. Honeysuckle Faire Custom Posters was born! Over the next twelve months, I had the amazing opportunity to design custom horse (and sometimes dog and people) posters for old friends, new friends, and family. I thought I would share some now. Above, is a surprise poster celebrating the amazing Cody, from Bay State Brumby to the talented and always helpful, Bill!

Above and below, Lilly and Laz, of Bay State Brumby and Sweet Horse's Breath, my patient and kind and unbelievably helpful first guinea pigs in this fun poster journey.

Sweet Kacy over at allhorsestuff held a fun contest and gave one of my posters as a prize. Even Song at Mountain Music Even Song Paints on the trail won the contest and then she worked with me to give a surprise poster to one of her boarders. The surprise posters are really fun to do. Even Song shared the story of Royal Tardez on a recent post.

These two posters were designed for my blogging friend, Kate, at A Year With Horses. Kate's dear, sweet Noble with the lovely ears was a kind, perfect horse for 30 years. I cried while designing these. Noble was a special boy - I really felt his loss here after reading about him on Kate's blog for a few years.


My step-daughter, Sage, and boyfriend, Aaron, started graduate school at Shepherdstown this past summer. I thought an Arts and Crafts/concert-like poster was the very thing!

More of sweet Kacy's kind gifts to others!

Above is a fun sweet sixteen poster for Madrid, an aspiring Broadway actress.

And, of course, the gorgeous boys.
Thank you everyone for all your kind comments and support with these posters!!!!
This year has given us more record cold temperatures here in sunny Florida. Again, without my sweet Thoroughbreds! Oh no - what is a horse riding painter woman to do? Stay tuned...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

You got to make the morning last

Today was rainy and cold, just like last Sunday. I went to ride Mac, the Appaloosa gelding. He was very good for me on Wednesday. We successfully circled the lake twice on that day after early stubborn turn-arounds. Today, I am sad to report that we didn't make as much progress. I have only ridden him in the bitless. He tries to pull many stunts in the ring. I think he is used to frightening his lesson charges in the corners by side-stepping and pretend "shying". I got him to work through that by leaning over and dropping the reins while patting his neck. That sounds weird, but he has these buggy eyes and I don't think he can see too well. I like to lean over so he knows that I am there with him if he actually is scared. He stopped the silly side-steps and walked through the scary corners perfectly. Then, I sat back and pushed him through the corners seated properly. He was very good and obviously smart enough to get this exercise. I know he is attached to his ring from all the lessons there, so I wanted to take him outside to see if we could bond a little like we did on Wednesday. Sadly, just getting him through the gate to the lake trail was a feat this morning. I had a sinking feeling that I wasn't going to be as successful as I had been before, so I kept trying to ask for little things he could do well. Unfortunately, he kept making each goal smaller with each try. I walked him down the first straightaway on a loose rein. He got to the end and then wheeled around and attempted to head back toward the gate at a fast walk/jig. We did this a number of times in both directions away from the lake gate. For the first few minutes he would increase the distance, but after he figured it out, he started to decrease it before his quick return attempts. There is a steep hill leading down to the lake and I used the hill to work him in serpentines. He seemed interested at first, then, he was done with that and started rushing the hill, diving for grass - just being ill-behaved. The barn owner's daughter (age 8?) was out walking around in the lake area so I enlisted her help to be a "lead pony" for me. I encouraged her to make small talk (we couldn't really hear her because she got so involved in her conversation that she was walking way up ahead of us!). I gave him the reins and he plodded along super well until we made it 3/4 of the way around the trail. Then, stubbornly he wheeled around again in a nervous frenzy. I decided to make our return in a calm manner more important than finishing the full trail in the direction that he obviously didn't want to go. By asking for small circles, serpentines, and figure eights we did finally return on a soft (fake - looked soft, but really wasn't), long rein, but I was frustrated because it was clear that he wasn't happy throughout the whole process. That irks me a little, because it seemed like Mac enjoyed the ride around the lake on Wednesday. It was a damp, depressing day in Florida punctuated by a frustrating ride. I heard Feelin' Groovy on the way home from the barn and made a mental note that I felt many things, but not groovy.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I might keep you for my own

Today was an amazing day in Florida. The temperatures were finally warmer. Brian and I ran on the beach this morning and then I headed up to Janet's house for a trail ride on the unbelievably sensible Danno. To say that Janet and Ted got a brilliant horse is really an understatement. Danno is an 8 year old registered Quarter Horse who is as calm and quiet as he is pretty. I groomed him in his stall and tacked up with Janet's western saddle and my bitless bridle. Janet was on her lovely gelding, Diablo. I apologize, as usual, for my blurry cell phone photos. I didn't know Danno and was afraid to chance the bigger camera. I did not need to be so careful. Danno is the only horse I have ever met who actually is bombproof. Really. He is. I have never seen anything like it before.

These first photos show us heading out through Janet's horsey neighborhood. We were allowed to walk right through the front lawns to get to the trail. And, no worry about manure droppings. Wow! All the street names are horse themed. Right after this photo was taken, above, the house to our right opened their automatic gate. It made a loud squeaking noise and Danno looked at it and walked on calmly. I can't even imagine Pie or Sovey encountering that!!!

Here we are entering the woods. Janet is looking back to see if we were coming. Off to the left, there was a royal blue tank high up in the air with green metal legs like a 20 ft water tower. Janet said that it was a squirrel feeder. If Pie and Sovey saw that they would have folded up into puddles.

Above, we are entering a Palmetto trail. The Palmetto leaves made scratchy, noises but nothing worried the unflappable Danno. At one point I had to dismount to move a tree that was blocking the trail. Remounting was going to be a farce because Danno is fairly tall. Janet pointed to a "tree stump" which in Florida speak meant a grouping of smaller Palmetto bushes. I literally climbed into this clump of bushes and swung on. Danno was so good even though it really was dense there with underbrush. I was getting all freaked out inside with worry that I was going to get covered with "Palmetto bugs" aka roaches! Eeeek!
Below, is the cute little boy giving me the listening ear.

Here is close up of his adorable mane and face. Janet and I used to ride together and feed the horses Spanish Moss at her old boarding stable. I forgot that. Today, she grabbed handfuls of Spanish Moss for silly Diablo. He turned his head around eagerly and munched away. Kind, quiet, Danno hadn't learned this naughty trick yet, until Auntie Julie (with Janet's permission) taught him. He had a few nibbles by the end of our ride.

Here is my shadow - western saddle with horn, bitless bridle and yes, I have on my English helmet! What a mismatched rider I was. Who cares? Danno didn't mind in the least.

Every house was decorated for Christmas, below, and most houses had scary sheets over their bushes to protect the plants against the unusual frosty temperatures. Danno didn't mind decorations or sheets. Good boy!

Well deserved post-ride grazing!

Thank you Danno! Your heart is as big and kind as your barrel and legs look in this picture. (He really isn't this big - my camera distorts things!)


Here is a photo from today that Janet just sent me that isn't blurry. Hysterically, I am so camera shy - you can see me attempting to get out of her view finder by holding the very end of the lead. I guess it didn't work!!! Danno looks great in this one. Janet just now reminded me that both riders and horses managed to hold it together through some tense moments today when a loud and too-close-for-comfort train passed by us. Neither Diablo or Danno reacted badly at all. We sure had a safe and happy ride.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Book 'em, Danno"

Here is a photo of the sweet gelding, Danno. We met him yesterday afternoon. My friends, Ted and Janet, just brought Danno home to their lovely barn and house.

Janet on Diablo and Ted on Red, above, are friends I met in the winter of 2008 here in Florida. While I was still in Pennsylvania, I received a heart-wrenching email from Janet that they lost their other horse, Colonel on Thanksgiving day this year. He had a seizure while Janet was riding him and folded up under her and started bleeding violently from his nostrils. The vet arrived within minutes and realized that he was bleeding internally and was blind. He must have had a brain aneurysm. Poor Colonel was only 6 and obviously, Janet and Ted were devastated. They found the adorable Danno, a registered QH, and brought him home this weekend. Brian, Maizie and I headed over to meet him yesterday. Janet and Ted live in a horse community where all their neighbors have horses in their backyards! How lucky is she? Her horse, Diablo, seems to be enjoying his new pasture mate. Janet invited me to come back to ride Danno this week if it ever warms up. She doesn't have a bit for him yet so I am going to bring the bitless bridle. We were laughing because she has a bit hanging in her bathroom as decoration (her house is beautiful!) and she thought she was going to have to use that!!!

Janet's house is near this mecca of retro yumminess - a Krispy Kreme!!!! We had never been to a real Krispy Kreme before. We had only sampled the original glazed in boxes from the grocery store. The "Hot Now" sign was lit and the unbelievably kind man behind the counter spoiled us up with the usual complimentary "first visit" free samples.

Needless to say, we bought a dozen to take home after these first three! I also purchased the signature, retro coffee mug that is perfectly sized for a 1950's amount of coffee. Heavenly. A perfect day in CHILLY (look at Maizie's outerwear) Florida.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Everyone is helpful, everyone is kind

The last days that we were in Pennsylvania I squeezed in rides on my sweet Pie and Sovey. Both days were windy and cold, yet the boys were good for me. Of course they were - making the parting all the more sweet and all the more sorrowful. They are getting wonderful care from my mom and from our new farm helper, Melanie. Melanie dropped out of the heavens to take amazing care of our horses for us.
Now we are in Florida and I joined up with my friends locally to ride. You can barely see me in this photo, above, taken on Thursday. I am riding the sweet Appy mare, Lakota, across the lake with Chelsea and her adorable Velvet mare. My friend, Alisha, owns Lakota and took this photo of us. I met my Florida horse friends in 2008 on an online Horse Forum. Back then I rode a sweet Thoroughbred mare, Red, at their old stable. They have moved to a new facility with fabulous trails and access to a nearby horse-friendly community park. Red did not move to this barn so I have been riding Lakota and another Appy, a gelding named Mac.

This facility is pretty amazing given our location. We vacation in an area of St. Petersburg that really isn't "horse country". We are practically on the beach and proper pastures and horsekeeping is more suited to Ocala, 100 miles north of us. This new barn is 6 miles from our condo and is located on a street with many other horse facilities. They all share a network of trails. Above is a photo of their enormous ring. I feel terrible because I am not interested in the ring one straw and I know that it is nice and everyone else is very into it. I am just not a ring person.

I stayed in the ring as long as I could stand it and then asked if I could head out around the lake. Chelsea and Velvet joined us. I didn't take my camera, so I retraced our steps later and shot these photos. This is the lake from the other side.

Here is the bridge we took to more trails. My little Lakota had only crossed the bridge one time before, while being led, no less, but on this day she crossed over with zero problems like the good girl that she is.

As soon as we reached the other side of the bridge we were in this long tunnel of palms and pines and Palmetto bushes. Chelsea warned me that there were crazy squirrels that boldly jump around on the Palmettos and scare the horses. Then, she mentioned that there was a dog kennel on one side of us and other horses in a pasture on the left AND A ZEBRA IN THAT PASTURE TOO!!!!!!!!!! A ZEBRA!!!!!!!! Well, of course, I was very excited to see the zebra and could not focus on riding very well. I knew Lakota was a little nervous because her ears were pricked way up and stiff and her eyes were bugging out at all the new sights, but she followed Velvet's calm lead. We circled around onto a street and there was the ZEBRA (!) peeking her/his little head out of a stall window in a boarding barn. Lakota's heart was beating so loud, but she wasn't scared of the zebra at all. In fact, she was looking in the opposite direction at a field full of llamas! When I returned later to take a photo of the zebra and the llamas, I found these cutie pies, below, in the llama field!!!!! Where did everyone go?

I never did find the zebra again, but here in the shade, were the sleeping, spitting llamas. They did not like my picture-taking!

Today, I rode Mac and got drenched in a rain storm. Our weather hasn't been too warm yet. In fact, after the rain I was on the phone with my mom and she said that it was 57 degrees in PA and raining and I realized that it was 57 degrees here and raining! We are all getting a cold front tomorrow, so I don't think I will get any riding in.
I brought my bitless bridle down with me and Alisha welcomed me using it on her horses. Lakota was an angel in it, but Mac ran off with me!!!!! Yes, it is true, however, I wasn't on him yet!!! He ran off while I was leading him out to the ring to ride! Alisha uses him for lessons and he has picked up quite a few naughty lesson-horse habits. He took off this morning and I did catch him, but not without giving a nearby rider a scare. I felt awful and embarrassed. When I finally got on him he did shy and try to pull a few stunts, but ultimately calmed down perfectly. I think he was testing me, but I was nervous on the ground when I was leading him back to the barn in the downpour! I am so much better on a horse than on the ground.
I am very excited to tell about the promise of upcoming riding adventures, but I will wait for my next post!