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Here’s Bennie

Bennie in living color

Bennie in living color

A bit of a rush job on this one, but the quality didn’t suffer for it. All I can say is, after all the horses I’ve done I never realized how complicated a dog’s open mouth could be! Undaunted, I powered through it and it painted itself just fine! I didn’t make any mistakes that had to be corrected, but if I had I would say once again that the ability to go back to the substrate in watercolor on Aquabord™ is what makes me such a fan of this wonderful painting surface. I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to fix something, which in turn makes for a lot fewer things to fix.

Remember Critter?

critter

He’s getting a companion–a gift commission from the gal who owns Critter. Here’s the drawing:

Pencil drawing on Aquabord™ of "Bennie"

Pencil drawing on Aquabord™ of “Bennie”

This is Bennie, who will most likely look a lot better in full color. There’s some camera distortion in the original photo which I can’t do much about, but I did manage to straighten the posts that are behind him. I think he’ll be right in the viewer’s face when I’m finished, which is of course where every good dog should be!

Breezy and I took a little trip to the woods with Wendy and Rain. This was not our usual walk through the woods…

Here’s what Breezy and I usually do:

Tanya, another trainer at Willow Tree, went to an enormous amount of trouble to create a little hunter pace course out in the woods. She cleared the trail, gathered and set up little jumps of logs and brush, and even fastened arrows to the trees to direct riders to the next set of jumps. My trainer, Karin, decided that Breezy was bored with his usual dressage routine and needed a little playtime. She nominated me to take him out to the hunter pace.

I wasn’t sure how he would go, since the last time I jumped him on nice groomed arena footing he unceremoniously dumped me. He was a low-level eventer at some time in his past, so jumping solid obstacles out in the woods would not be exactly foreign to him. Only to me!

Wendy and I headed out and our trip began somewhat ominously. August is the season for the huge flies we have nicknamed “bombers”–they are about an inch long but fortunately fairly slow and clumsy. However, fly spray does absolutely nothing to deter them and their bite is probably the mother of all fly bites. We were persecuted all the way down the lane to the woods, and it continued after we entered. Breezy and I just stepped over the first little jump because his mind was totally on fly defense and not on jumps. He hopped over the second one, and on the third decided to be an overachiever, jumping about three times the necessary height. And so it went for the rest of the trail–a jump, a pause to bat down bombers, another jump, some hippity-hopping around to escape bombers, another jump, a bit of whirling around in the trees to foil bombers…

I think between us Wendy and I actually managed to assassinate five or six of the pesky bombers, but they had so many in reserve that after we went around the course twice I decided to call it a day. It was a fun ride though, and we’re looking forward to doing it again when it’s a little cooler and the flies are (hopefully) gone. No photos of this adventure–too busy batting away flies to bother with a camera.

News flash!

This just in–

Acceptance letter from Art at the Classic telling me that my oil painting “American Troika” has been accepted into this year’s show! I had two paintings in last year’s show and wasn’t so sure they would want to accept only one but we made it! This popular horse show, the Draft Horse Classic, is strictly for the heavy horse breeds and the art show that accompanies it showcases all aspects of them. The organizers of the art show have a strong preference for draft horses in action so maybe that’s why American Troika appealed to them. In any case, I’m just so pleased to be in this show!

"American Troika"--a draft trio pulling a tourist wagon on Mackinac Island.

“American Troika”–a draft trio pulling a tourist wagon on Mackinac Island.

Yesterday was the third and final performance of the Rockin’ Riders dressage quadrille (see previous post for info on the quadrille) and the other three of us had decided that our quadrille leader, Kim, deserved some really cool recognition for her efforts. She came up with the theme, put the music together, choreographed the entire thing, made the costumes, and put up with the three other “boss mares” in the group who all thought they knew (but didn’t necessarily know) what they were doing. The result was pretty spectacular as we resonated with every judge we appeared before, and brought two of them to tears! We decided one of my small Aquabord™ paintings would be the perfect gift.

Now for the hard part–the logistics of getting the source photo. We wanted a nice action photo of Kim’s mare, Sydney. But it takes more than just the photographer to stage it. A “chaser” is quite helpful. But the situation of keeping it a secret from Kim, meaning she shouldn’t be at the barn, and a willing “chaser” also being available somehow did not present itself, and time was running out. Kim had mentioned a while back that she would someday like a full-size oil portrait of Sydney, but we hadn’t done anything about it. Last Tuesday we were both at the barn quite early in the morning, and I quickly thought I would pretend that I was talking about her plan for a portrait, and mentioned that I had my camera and why didn’t we see if we could get something interesting. The plan was to wait till all the mares had been sent out to pasture, then let Sydney stew in her stall a while until she was really anxious to get out there with the rest of them. I would wait at the end of the lane leading to the pasture for her to come charging at me and get as many photos as possible as she flew by. It worked like magic.

I only had four days to get the painting done, but got ‘er done in two. Some kind of record for me, but then I had never had to rush one before either. We presented the portrait to Kim after our performance yesterday and the usually reserved Kim was visibly moved. That was enough reward for us–just to know that she realized how grateful we were for all her time, thought, and efforts.

Here's the portrait of Sydney racing to meet up with her herd mates.

Here’s the portrait of Sydney racing to meet up with her herd mates.

Quadrille!!

 

Back in early spring four of us formed a dressage quadrille team. We had never done this before, and it was “fraught”! I had just acquired my new mare, Charm, and she was not fond of drill team-style riding. Didn’t like other horses coming at her. Didn’t like being squashed among three other horses. Expressed her opinion by bucking, snarking, weaving, snapping, tail swishing, ear pinning and any other number of horsey rebellion tactics. Another horse was intermittently lame (read: of uncertain status to guarantee appearance at a horse show). A third (another mare) decided that this was the year she would be in heat about every other week. Which meant she preferred to stop every other minute to pee whether she was part of the quadrille or not. Can’t have that happening in a show! The fourth horse was a pretty good egg. Thankfully.

Here’s a pic of the former trouble maker this past Sunday at the Willow Tree show where we (now known as the “Rockin’ Riders”) presented our debut performance of our quadrille. She doesn’t look like a trouble maker because miraculously in the last week before the show she decided to get with the program.

 

Here I am with Charm, who is looking like a proper dressage horse. Quiet, obedient...

Here I am with Charm, who is looking like a proper dressage horse. Quiet, obedient…

For the quadrille our leader chose 50’s rock and roll for music and poodle skirts for a costume. There was some doubt at first about the poodle skirts but they too miraculously turned out to be perfect for the theme. The class we entered was an “anything goes freestyle”, which meant that we could come up with the most creative costumes we could imagine and that we also could create our own choreography rather than following the patterns of a standard dressage test. We worked on costumes and choreography pretty much up to the last minute with the thought always in the back of our minds that we would muff the timing or the horses would help us mess up if we weren’t capable of messing up by ourselves! But the miracles continued, and on Saturday we had a near perfect performance and got a score of 80%! Here’s a little sampling of what we looked like–

Perfect single file down the center line.

Perfect single file down the center line.

Perfect timing on our crossing where each pair meshed with the other.

Perfect timing on our crossing where each pair meshed with the other.

Perfect start to a pinwheel in front of the judge's booth. Even the horses' legs were in sync!

Perfect start to a pinwheel in front of the judge’s booth.

Four abreast down the centerline.

Four abreast down the centerline.

These photos are from Sunday’s performance which, while good, had a couple of bobbles in it and lowered our score by about 4 points. But that didn’t matter because all of our months of hard work and pain and frustration paid off when everything came together in the end way beyond our wildest expectations. 80%–that’s practically unheard of! When the judge stands up and laughs and smiles and claps for you (two judges–a different one each day) you know you got something right!

If you feel inspired to watch the whole thing, you can entertain yourself here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRT22NAlhl0

The last two weekends were horse show weekends for me, two days at Reins of Life in South Bend, IN and three days at the Fox River Valley Pony Club horse trials in Barrington Hills, IL. First off, the most important thing from the artistic point of view–I completed five new Aquabord™ paintings while I was at these events, so I’m here to show them off! All are available for purchase, $35 each plus shipping. Details on my website.

Two bachelor stallions from my mustang trip.

“Sparring”–Two bachelor stallions from my mustang trip.

Two more bachelor stallions. Go, boys!

“Pursuit”–Two more bachelor stallions. Go, boys!

Scopey bay from last year's FRVPC show.

“Scope”–eponymous scopey bay from last year’s FRVPC show.

Another bay, this one from Fox Valley Saddle Association mini event.

“Effortless”–Another bay, this one from Fox Valley Saddle Association mini event.

Elegant palomino from last year's FRVPC show.

“Elegance”–Classy palomino from last year’s FRVPC show.

As anybody who has followed my blog for a few years knows, it wouldn’t be a benefit horse show at Reins of Life without some mud. Who would have thought, from this gorgeous vantage point?

Reins of Life's pristine dressage ring.

Reins of Life’s pristine dressage ring.

Until you looked here–

Except for the puddle at A

Except for the puddle at A

But no matter, Reins of Life had what I love to see–very happy riders! A smile says it all.

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And one talented little rider may be going horse shopping soon.

Cutest kid on the cutest pony will soon be outgrowing her steed from the looks of her legs!

Cutest kid on the cutest pony will soon be outgrowing her steed from the looks of her legs!

Fox River Valley Pony Club had been dodging rain successfully for the entire week, so setup in the field was a breeze. Nothing worse than trying to set up or tear down your booth in the rain. Here’s what it looked like in the dressage warmup area the first morning (all that green and one would think this was Ireland, not northern Illinois).

Morning weather tease

Morning weather tease

Warmup area gets crowded when you have 250 horses entered.

Warmup area gets crowded when you have 250 horses entered.

"Green as grass"

“Green as grass”

The next afternoon, near the end of the cross-country phase, this happened…

Rain. Wind. Thunder. Lightning. My booth, behind the white truck. It survived unscathed.

Rain. Wind. Thunder. Lightning. My booth, behind the white truck. It survived unscathed.

Riders who were out on the cross-country course had to hurry back to shelter as quickly as possible. A few of them ended up in the indoor arena, which had already been set up for a big dinner party that night. Normally horses in an arena are an expected sight, but the tables and chairs added an air of oddity to it.

Horses in the dining area!

Horses in the dining area!

Shades of red seemed to be popular eventer colors this year. A lot of hot pink among them.

Pretty in pink, two more to come.

Pretty in pink, two more to come.

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Pink was nice, but some preferred orange!

Pink was nice, but some preferred orange!

The last day, I took some time to go over to the grass course where the upper level stadium jumping was held. I got some great photos, and also some quite unexpected ones. You never wish a bad round on anyone, but when it happens it can make for some pretty dramatic stuff. Here’s the sequence, starting with a successful effort–

Here's what it's supposed to look like.

Here’s what it’s supposed to look like.

Here’s what happened to another pair:

Rider can see trouble coming...

Rider can see trouble coming…

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Uh oh...

Uh oh…

frvpc6-20-crash5frvpc6-20-crash6frvpc6-20-crash7frvpc6-20-crash8frvpc6-20-crash9

And don't forget to let go of the reins...

And don’t forget to let go of the reins…

Both horse and rider walked off the field and didn’t look any worse for wear, just disappointed that they had been eliminated. As Chicago Cubs fans like to say, just wait till next year!

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