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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010: The Year of Lucy Fur

Looking back and taking stock of 2010, it seems every memory involves some antic of my sweet faced Beagle, Lucy Fur: the canine spawn of Satan.  Within days of adopting her as a puppy, I realized she would never be an old dog, but she would be a happy dog for every day of her life.  In her third year, she left many marks as evidence of this theory.

Anyone who has seen Lucy tearing, leaping and bounding through the snow, green grass or woods can not help but understand true pleasure.  Her frantic yelping after a new scent is the very definition of pure passion.  When Lucy bestows her friendship upon a person, they wear it like a knighthood.

As Lucy's custodian, I battle for the balance of keeping her safe and allowing her the independence to be the happiest dog alive.  How well do I succeed?  Well, lets see...

Lucy wakes up around noon and crawls out from under the microsuede throw and goose down duvet on her queen sized bed.

Lucy maims another Rope Toy before...
...taking a nap.
Quite refreshed, Lucy plays with [terrorizes] Tinkerbell...
and practices her carriage dog skills.
Practice makes Lucy Fur-fect in the Picnic Class at VLCC.

"What a well trained* Beagle!"  [* see: bribed]
A true lover of music, Lucy attends raptly to Debbie Knoll's picnic class recital...
[Busted by Lori Schoenhard's lens.]

And finally,
 Lucy guards the dreams of sleeping nephew.

What does Lucy have to say about all this?  "Woowoo!" of course.  Happy New Year.  Woowoowoo.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Hatred of Mowing and Shoveling

I used to hate mowing my lawn.  Until it started snowing.  Then I hated shoveling my driveway.  Until is was 95 degrees and the humidity was 85% and I was mowing my lawn.  Then one day, I took pride in making patterns in the lawn.  It looked lovely.  When it snowed, I remembered how I loved to play in it as a child.  So, I decided that shoveling snow was playing in the snow.

I stopped hating both mowing the lawn and shoveling snow.

The added bonus is that mowing in oppressive heat and humidity and shoveling snow in sub zero temperatures is awfully brilliant exercise.  No expensive gym memberships for me, no!  Just my trusty Lawn Boy and my Bog Boots and I can feel the burn of calories.

Real life exercise.  You've got to love that.

Here is Red Green demonstrating another great byproduct of the lawn mower:


And a tutorial on shoveling snow, that is informative and entertaining...


Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Carriage Driving Gloves














When it comes to gloves for work or play, you need the right gloves for the job.  It is so difficult to find good carriage driving show gloves: they are too bulky, the seams get in the way, they are hot, the leather is either too coarse or too flimsy.  So In search of the best carriage driving show gloves...

I have worn a pair of Banana Republic driving gloves for years and I love them.  They are super light which gives me a better feel of the lines, plus they are cooler than any other glove I've ever tried.  To top it off, they are very stylish.  Remember, with leather, you get what you pay for.  Another tip: you want the glove to fit snugly, so try on lots of gloves and find your average size.  With driving gloves, look at the area across the back or palm of the hand and compare it to the wrist.  Look at your hand and compare it to the photos.  More expensive gloves are more contoured.

Here is a good selection of moderately priced gloves:
http://www.leatherglovesonline.com/np/MensGloves-ByStyle-Driving.htm
http://www.leatherglovesonline.com/np/WomensGloves-ByStyle-Driving-ed4010.htm#page=details

Maybe automobile driving gloves are not to your taste.  You want something classic?  Stop by Dents, purveyors of fine leather gloves since 1777 as well as the current sovereign's coronation gloves.  They have a good review of glove leathers and grades that is quite enlightening.  For instance, did you know that the finest gloving leather comes from wild hogs in South America?  Peccary, hairsheep or deerskin, Dents is a fascinating cybershop:
http://www.dents.co.uk/pages/Leather%20Gloves.asp

Closer to home for the chaps is Paul Stuart, Chicago, who also offers a gorgeous peccary glove...http://www.paulstuart.com/product_info.cfm?ProdID=4632&ProdCatId=1003&MainCatId=14&HEADERMENUID=1&SUBPRODCATID=0

Finally, if you are like me and want it all: there are super sexy peccary driving gloves.  Ines is the place for both sexes, and has all kinds of other gloves that have nothing to do with driving that are worth a look...
http://www.inesgloves.com/articlesid/31633/languageiso/EN/SHOP/Detail/My_special_Peccary_Driving_Gloves.htm

So, if the glove fits, buy it.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cornucopia of Gratitude

My Sister, My Brother & Me, Thanksgiving 09

My sister asked me yesterday if I would be with her in the delivery room for the birth of her baby in February.  I got all lightheaded, nauseous and faint.  I told my dear, darling, precious sister that I couldn't even be in the barn when the mares foaled and instructed that my job began when the afterbirth was removed.  "Oh," she laughed. "I forgot about that. Never mind."  But I was more than pleased to be invited to witness this blessed, event, even though my tolerance for other people's pain is expressed with my head between my knees.

This Thanksgiving, my sister will not be allowed to handle any of my kitchen knives: she once cut her finger badly with my rapier paring knife and I nearly fainted.  Someone asked, "Should we take her to the ER?" And my sister replied, "No, she'll stop hyperventilating once the blood is cleaned up."

Wit is ever plentiful when my family gathers in/crams into my house for holidays.  My brother will announce that he is really not going to take anyone to the emergency room that day.  Clumsiness resulting in medical attention also runs in the family.  The food will be divine and our faces will be tired from smiling and laughing.  Even discussing religion and politics seldom can mar the conviviality of our feast.

My little house will be full to the eaves with my nephews laughing, screaming, beating on each other, the smell of roasting turkey and all the homemade fixins, my aunt's Corn Thang [the only thing the grown children might fight over], her woes about the impending apocalypse of economy, weather or society in general, the entire contents of my sister in laws's 2 fridges transported from Chicago: just in case, you never know, we might, run out of food, Lucy playing with the boys and then somewhere about six pm on Saturday becoming nephew over-saturated, seeking refuge under everyone's feet, add to that some horse riding for the boys, maybe a carriage drive, too and I simply can not wait.  I love it all.

I'm not sure how we concocted to not be stressed, or fall fowl of the typical family holiday traumas.  Somehow, we've got the recipe just right.  Next year, we'll add a little more whipped cream on top with the addition of a baby.  That my sister will produce without any help from me.  Thank God.

Wishing you bountiful gratitude and kind regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Whitmorr Topaz

Villa Louis Carriage Classic Novice Driver Champion, 1999

Trail Ride

With Jennifer Steensen

Whitmorr Topaz became a part of the family when she was a 2 year old.  It took my mother that long to find her.  Bob Riley and my mother spent two years looking for a horse to suit my mother's idea of a show horse and broodmare.  They looked at lots of horses in lots of states.  It was a good thing Bob was patient and loved to travel.  My mother was picky.

My mother came close to buying several times, but Bob always vetoed her for some reason.  Usually it was for some conformation reason, after all, that was why he was there: to help my mother find the best possible horse.  If I remember correctly, mother was going to buy a mare that they both agreed on, but...Bob wanted to go one last place, so they headed off to Whitmorr Farm and came back with Topaz.  Bob was tickled.  Mother was happy with the filly, even if she wasn't as showy as the other mare.  She trusted Bob.

Well, as with most things, Bob was right.  Topaz performed admirably in the show ring.  She never misbehaved or gave my mother one iota of trouble and I know that was Bob's first priority in helping find Topaz.  But it was as a broodmare that Topaz performed at the highest capacity.  She produced six wonderful foals including my own beloved Major, Don Pecos and Ace.

Then, of course, there are the dreams, many of which were born on her back.  She gave Jennifer Steensen her first ride.  She taught many little girls to ride with poise.  She inspired a therapeutic horseback riding program.  She gave me my first carriage driving championship, wowing the crowd with her ability to defy gravity and float around the arena.

Topaz had a big, forward way of going which disguised her 14.2 hands.  Her stature disguised the largess of her heart.  Not a day of her life was spent outside her aura of loveliness.  She gave us her service with sentience, grace, nary a demand nor protest.
This morning, she walked through the last gate of this world, leaving the paddock of my life emptier because she's gone, but richer because she was here.

"Warm summer sun shine kindly here.  Warm summer wind blow softly here.  "Green sod above lie light, lie light.  Good night, dear heart, good night, good night." Mark Twain

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Winter Closes In: Hibernating With Carriage Driving Fodder

With colder weather on its way and Christmas coming up, I thought I'd alert you to some reading material.  Any carriage driving enthusiast should read the following historical books: A Manual of Coaching by Fairman Rogers, Driving For Pleasure by Francis T. Underhill, Driving by the Duke of Beaufort, The Private Stable by James Albert Garland and Driving As I Found It by Frank Swales.  All are still as relevant as Shakespeare.  Santa might have to dig a little to find them, but Amazon and ebay are enterprising elves.  Original copies will set you back one to several hundred dollars, but they are all worth holding in your hand.  Reprints are he next best thing, but try not to buy the photocopied paperbacks.  The quality is awful and disrespectful to these grand books.  You can find several of them available for download, which is nice but there is nothing like leafing through the pages of these historical tomes.

For the grandkids, Sue Greenall's Animal Lovers' Bed Time Reader or her latest, Animal Lovers' Bedtime Stories.  These are lovely books to encourage and inspire children to have animals as important elements of their lives.

If it is audio visual material that you need to inspire 2011 carriage driving plans, check out anything by Tim Maloy available for purchase online at: http://www.cavewoodproductions.co.uk/store.html If you aren't familiar with Tim's name, do a search on this blog and view some of his excellent video shorts.  World Four In Hand Championships 2002 from Jarez is available on VHS from Driving Essentials and is excellent.  I have not see the Aachen 2006 Championships yet [ehem, Santa], but I'm sure it is equally as thrilling.  You can order that online through: http://www.aachen2006.de/HighlightDVD_e.htm

Search Amazon.com for carriage driving

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Precursor to Modern CDEs

CARRIAGE AND HORSES DERBY IN HAMBURG


Things have certainly changed in the last 40 years. This is archival footage from Germany, circa 1965. There are lots of things to spot: How many VWs can you count? Name the vehicles. How many current ADS violations? [Click on the photo to load video.]

It is wonderful footage and my kind of sport. Higherst rregards to British Pathe for preserving it for our viewing pleasure.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Archival Footage from British Pathe

HACKNEY HORSES


A sweet little film about Hackneys...got to love them. [Click the photo to load film.]

An apology about blog fodder: I've been having computer and internet problems recently, so apologize for all the substitute blog entries. I hope to have this corrected soon. thanks for sticking with me.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Blog About A Blog















Here is a link to my good friend Todd Frey's blog. Todd inspired me to start this one and I still enjoy all his posts. This particular one is about an outstanding restoration of an important piece of carriage driving history that will be of interest to anyone who likes to see pretty antiques restored to their glory.

Thanks, Todd.


Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipty
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sex, Clothes and Montana

The addition of the Popular Posts gadget brought me interesting information about my blog and its readers. According to the top 2 posts, you lot like blogs involving any level of sexiness best.

In order to feed your need for sexiness, go visit J.L. Powell's website. They now have a short video that shows the clothing in motion-Mr. Just Luscious [you wondered what the J and the L stood for, yes?] Powell flying, fly fishing, riding a horse, hunting and camping with Montana starring as the view. It is one minute and twenty one seconds of the sexiest, most heavenly, most breathtaking, sighing...

Go:

Enjoy a swig of the Sporting Life from that double hip flask , strap on some English bridle leather, mount your horse and feel the warmth of the cashmere lined J.L. Powell style.

Oh, yes. Oh, yes, indeed.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

That Poem in Tim Maloy's Film




In Praise Of The Horse by Ronald Duncan

Where in this wide world can man find nobility without pride,

friendship without envy, or beauty without vanity?

Here where grace is laced with muscle and strength by gentleness confined.

He serves without servility; he has fought without enmity.

There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent;

there is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.

England's past has been borne on his back.

All our history is in his industry.

We are his heirs;

He is our inheritance.

Ladies and Gentlemen - I give you the Horse!

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Rocking Civilization with Tim Maloy and Carriage Driving

A new film by Serendipity's favorite filmmaker...

Driving Trials - A Time For Change from Tim Maloy on Vimeo.


Thanks, Tim!

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wild


Did you notice how long that woman's hair is? It would be hard to miss Charlie in the show ring.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Bit On Bits




















Carriage driving clients are always asking me if they should change their bit to help their horse's performance. If they are not using a mullen mouth Liverpool, I generally say yes. If they are using a Liverpool, I tell them to change the way they use the bit to improve performance.

Too few people understand how bits work and too many people resort to them as a method of control. I have seen too many horses pulling the vehicle with the bit and too many riders stopping their horses with it. "I need a more severe bit, my horse doesn't respect this one," makes me want to sob for the horse and throttle the owner.

Any bit is severe when it is operated by uneducated hands. That is why I always suggest a mullen mouth: it takes work to be severe. A snaffle can be so easily misused. It works like a mutcracker with the jointed end poking into the roof of the horse's mouth. A double jointed snaffle has two places to poke. The bar of the mullen places equal pressure all through the mouth, which reduces discomfort by uneducated hands.

Think about this. What do you use that bit for and why? Is it a valuable tool to communicate with the horse? Are you using it to help your horse or control your horse? Does your horse willingly open his mouth to take the bit or do you stick your fingers in his mouth and pry it open? If the latter is the case, I will suggest that the horse has no problem with respecting the bit. He has a problem trusting you.

Case in point: Don Pecos stopped willing taking the bit when he was bridled. I thought that was strange. I made him take it. We drove. We worked on correcting his counter bending problem with the whip. Over and over and over. All spring and summer. The last few days I have been focused on this bit idea. I concentrated on driving the bit instead of the horse. I used my shoulders to mirror the bit through turns. I felt Don Pecos, but I focused on the bit. We had lovely drives. Yesterday, Don Pecos opened his mouth and took the bit when I offered it to him. And he bent to the right. And he forgave me.

I hope this bit [you know me] of accidental sagacity will help you to understand and inspire you to listen to your horse. That is the key to improving performance. Always.

If you would like to schedule a Serendipity riding or carriage driving lesson on bits, contact me. Your horse will thank you.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Driving Trial at Holker Hall on Horse & Country








Tim Maloy has done it again with a superlative program about the recent British Driving Trial event at Holker Hall in Cumbria that is available for viewing on Horse & Country:

Holker Hall is owned by Lord & Lady Cavendish and one of the few estates in England still family owned. The program highlights the local sponsorship of the event that is testament to how equestrian events can be relevant not only as a homage to our heritage, but as a unique marketing opportunity.

Maloy does an excellent job not only of presenting the beauty and dedication of the sport of competition carriage driving with his outstanding camera work, but also gives keen perspective from exhibitors, volunteers and sponsors with his excellent narrative. Kudos again, Mr. Maloy!

For more information on British Horse Driving Trials at Holker Hall:
For more information on Holker Hall: http://www.holker.co.uk/metadot/index.pl

Enjoy!
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.


Monday, October 18, 2010

The More Things Change

Not wanting to read any current and ultimately depressing news, I trawl through the New York Times Archives. Accidental sagacity found me an article from 1894 detailing carriage and horse sales, betting issues at racing association and results from a driving club race. With horse drawn vehicle sales recently at Waverly and Martin's and the close of harness racing at Prairie Meadows, I find there is nothing new on this earth but ourselves...


It is always a delight to read that a Morgan park gelding sold for $4,500 over a century ago.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Most Agreeable Howard Kietzke






Howard and Mo
[Imagine me, resplendent in cream, sitting next to Howard.]









It is impossible to look at Howard Kietzke without smiling. He is so full of good humor and agreeableness, the result is contagious. My favorite Howard story, so far, happened at Villa Louis Carriage Classic this year.

I was packing up in a hurry to get over to watch Concours d'Elegance of the 30th Anniversary Show because I knew it would be spectacular. Howard, who was stabled next to me, walked up and asked me if I would ride with him in his heavenly sporting gig for Concours. My heart did a flutter, I said I'd be honored in a shaky voice and then nearly cried I was so touched by the invitation.

We decided I should wear my cream jacket and hat. Howard's high gig is red, black and has a cream panel and floats. I have never felt more like royalty as I did riding next to Howard in that gig. Howard drove Mo, his big bay Friesian cross perfectly suited to the sporting vehicle and we glided into the arena.

Concours is judged as the most elegant turnout of the show. With more than 100 turnouts at Villa Louis 2010, it was a high honor to be in the ring. There is only one winner in Concours and waiting in the line up watching the turnouts called off, thanked and dismissed not hearing Howard's number called, I looked at him and said, "You might just have this!"

The very picture of humility, Howard said to me, "It is very difficult to beat a George IV." He was referring to Mary Jo Stockman's elegant, formal and also perfectly turned out vehicle.

In the end, it was only Howard and Mary Jo left in the arena. Howard was right. It is very hard for a sporting vehicle to beat a formal one and Mary Jo took the top prize. I was thrilled to sit next to Howard and hear the crowd's response with a roar of applause when his number was called. I think they disagreed with the judges.

Later, I had the opportunity to talk to Marsha Himler, who judged the show. I asked her about judging the Concours, being careful not to mention I was in the class with Howard. She told me it was one of the most difficult classes she had ever judged. In the end, it came down to the very trifling point that Howard was wearing a boater instead of a top hat. She could find no other reason for making a choice and that is what judges have to do: make a choice.

So, it came down to the difference between Ascot and Henley. Boaters are the mens hat of choice for Henley, but not for Ascot. A sporting gig would have been found at both events, but not the boater. It is all about elegance. Henley is as much a part of the social season as Ascot and it would be wrong to wear a top hat while lounging along the river. I am uniquely qualified to say this as I have been to both events many times in the past.

Still, no one was happier than I sitting next to a most agreeable man in a beautiful gig, driving along the Mississippi River at the 2010 Villa Louis Carriage Classic. Thank you to Howard for his second to none friendship.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

More Villa Louis Photos by Laurie Renda

Gambler's Choice with the Ferrari




















First Place
Reinsmanship
Open Horse
















Working Pleasure

























Fifth Place Picnic Class with Lucy Fur
The Menu:
Bread, Cheese, Fruit, Cookies, Tea
Lucy had a bone, but preferred to help herself to the cheese.
She also sampled the picnic to our right and ran over to
Theresa Burns' picnic site to see if there was also better food there.





First Place
Working Pleasure
The Sublime
Martha Stover
and Tyngwndwn
Lovespoon
a.k.a. Lisa



















Theresa Burns & Four In Hand:
Fancy, Moonbeam, Gus and Jay












Pat Hartell driving
Powerpoint



















Open Horse Line Up With Villa Louis Mansion Peeking Through Trees

Thank you to Laurie for these fine photo memories!

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Friday, October 8, 2010

WEG Driven Dressage

Much to my delight, you can watch the WEG on 2010 Altech FEI World Equestrian Games either in live streaming or recorded: http://www.usefnetwork.com

Isbrand Chardon's test was near perfection and Chester Weber's horses are near perfection. I did feel Chardon's test was more technically correct than Weber's, although the two men tied for first place, which has never happened at WEG. Watching the competition it is clear these two men are far beyond their fellow competitors in skill and quality of horses.

The European turnout is disappointing low, but that does not surprise me. In fact, it is typical of them, in my humble opinion. Which does not keep me from being a Europhile, but vexes me nonetheless.

Looking forward to the Marathon tommorrow. Try to catch some of it if you can.

Kind Regards.
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidenatl Sagacity Corporation company.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

World Equestrian Games

For some excellent coverage on the driving competition, go to Jennifer Singleton's blog at the Carriage Association of America: http://carriageassociation.wordpress.com/

She has diagrams of the marathon obstacles, photos of presentation, which our very own Golden Boy Chester Weber won, with Jim Fairclough and Tucker Johnson finishing second and third respectively. A great start for Team USA, even though this is an optional phase of the competition and the scores do not count for the championship phase.

Weber drives dressage this afternoon with a score to beat of 35.97 by the reigning World Champion Isbrand Chardon of the Netherlands.

NBC is airing the Marathon on Sunday in their coverage of WEG beginning at 4pm, but check your local listings to make sure. I can guarantee it will be thrilling!

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

End of Summer

Don Pecos pours it on at the 30th Anniversary of Villa Louis Carriage Classic












Now that the heat is gone from summer, the colors are fading along with the evening light, there will be more time for blogging. It has been a full speed ahead carriage driving show season from Columbus Carriage Classic to Skunk River Driving Trial to North Star Morgan to Metamora Carriage Classic to to Hickory Knoll CDE to Iron Horse to Villa Louis Carriage Classic and back home for New Moon Carriage Classic. The Serendipity Crew has fostered friendships, made some new ones and, of course, made memories at horse show auctions. In fact, I think Serendipity should start marketing the "unique auction skills," as Cynthia Lawrence waxed euphemistic.

Summer 2010 will be highly regarded as the Year of Lucy, methinks: Midnight Meanderings in Michigan, Tennis Ball Thief Apprehended in Broad Daylight by Technical Delegate During Carriage Show, Beagle Participates in 3 Picnic Classes at VLCC... If you have the excellent fortune to meet Martha Stover, ask her to tell you about the Lucy Chronicles and much hilarity will ensue.


Picnic Class
at Villa Louis Carriage Classic
Photo by Lori Schoenhard











For more fantastic photos of Villa Louis Carriage Classic, go visit Lori's Zenfolio:http://lorischoenhard.zenfolio.com

Time to start making plans for the future, watch this space...

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Juan Munoz Diaz and Fuego XII in Freestyle Dressage at WEG 2010

Not the best videomanship, but still an exceptional bit of what those of us not at the World Equestrian Games are missing...

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Monday, August 30, 2010

English V. Western

This is a very well done presentation of two disciplines.

Enjoy...


Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Where Is My Caballo Bonito?













Accidental sagacity has paid me another recent visit and none too soon. Don Pecos and I have been working all summer to correct some issues. He wants to counter bend to the left all the time. He has been having trouble with consistency in both stride and cadence. This horse is in supreme condition, is an awesome athlete.

The problem, I knew, must be with me.

I work extremely diligently to allow the horse to be brilliant. I do everything in my power to ensure that I drive with my whole body. Still, I was doing something wrong and engaged the wonderful Theresa Burns for help. "Please watch us and see if you can see what I'm doing wrong," I told her. She watched and watched and watched.

"I can't see anything, Michelle," she said. "There are moments of perfection, but I do see the inconsistency you are talking about more often." Confirmed in my theory that it must be me, I asked her to drive Don Pecos.

Theresa is the softest, gentlest, sweetest whip I've ever known. Don Pecos loves her and responds well to her hands. He relaxes and becomes more consistent, but not the gravity defying masterpiece of equine idol that he can be. She drove, I studied.

"There is such a fine line between holding him too tightly and throwing him away," she said. "I don't know what else to tell you."

I got back on the box seat. "Where is my caballo bonito?" I asked him. "I know you are in there." I took up the reins, asked him to collect and then asked him to stay collected by using a firmer hold on the lines and added more strength throughout my entire body.

"OOOOO, yes, like that!" Theresa exclaimed. There was my horse. Burnished copper gold coat covered sinew and grace, dancing in the sunlight. There was Don Pecos.

The morale of the story: I wanted to be soft, gentle and sweet like Theresa, but what Don Pecos interpreted was a passive partner. When I took more responsibility by increasing my participation, we became in sync.

"I was wondering where you were, bella senora." Don Pecos said. "I knew you were in there. Somewhere."

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Whipping the Horse Into Shape

Don Pecos, I am happy to report, is only leaping out of his skin when I touch his sides with the whip about 15% of the time now. Usually this only occurs at the start of our sessions. I can get him to lengthen his stride and guide him almost exclusively with the whip after the initial freak out in each gait. Because it feels different when I touch his sides at the walk, jog and trot. Apparently.

To regular readers and those who know and love Don Pecos it will come as no surprise that he is a conspiracy theorist. "Human! Alert! That bridge in the middle of the grassy park has no reason at all to be there! It is a trap! Abort! I will run for our lives 90 degrees in the other direction!" Don Pecos doesn't have a problem with bridges that go over water. "What clever humans they are. I don't like to get my feet wet, so they build a bridge. Sweet of them, really."

"Human! Alert! There is a nefarious pile of ground poles at letter C that wasn't there yesterday! It's an Ambush! Activate Hyperspace!" When I assure him it is only pile of ground poles, he eyes it, still suspicious, and after a great deal of snorting, walks off remotely resembling quietly. But every time we pass "C", he picks his feet up very high, just in case the bandits hiding in the pile of ground poles shoot laser beams that can cut off his legs.

Thus, I amused myself trying to stay in the gig today with Don Pecos's 0-40mph shape shifting avoidance tactics. Oh, how I love that little lunatic, but it really helps that he is outstandingly beautiful, athletic and sweet.

I hope you had time to enjoy this gorgeous late summer day, too.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Voice of God

The Grace of God: The Major General



















I am not a church going person. I'm too sarcastic for organized religion. Intelligent design does not make sense to me. I like Buddhism a lot, but I'm too lazy to practice it. I think Jesus was a really cool guy, but as far as virgin birth goes, well, I'm not sold.

However, if you distill religion down into its basest denomination: belief, then I can be very devout. Some people believe they can hear the voice of God in music and I'll agree. I hear the voice of God through the horses.

Before you hit Unsubscribe, or label me a heretic, let me explain. In God's country you will usually find horses. If you own a horse or two or five, you will often need more money than God. When you have to say goodbye to them the final time, you will know God's will. See what I mean?

If you have a relationship with God, it might be guided by a pastor/priest/rabbi or other such spiritual leader. The horses are my spiritual leaders. All my greatest joys are as a result of their teaching. They carry me and my burdens of life with grace. I see a different world when I look at it in the reflection of their eyes. "When I bestride him, I soar."
[Wm. Shakespeare channeling the voice of God.]

Because I work so closely with horses, I can read them and sometimes even communicate with them. I open up my mind, heart and soul, ask the horses for help determining the solution and quite often, it comes. Sound crazy? "She's gone all Freaky Animal Communicator on us!" Imagine those words coming from your pastor/priest/rabbi/etc and replace 'God' for 'the horses'.

Teaching and training horses and their people is not a job to me. It is a calling. It is what I was born to do. It is not easy and God knows I'll never get rich doing it. But he also knows that is not why I do it. I'm not zealot material [ see paragraph one: too sarcastic & lazy], but I do my work religiously. There but for the grace of God go I.

I hope you can find the 'voice of God', however you define it, somewhere, today.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Driving the Whip














Another excellent weekend of carriage driving lessons in Cedar Rapids spoils me for choice on blogging material. Not even Mother Nature's attempts at dampening [with a morning of showers] the spirits of the participants could prevail over the wide eyed, beaming smile AHA moments. A couple of seasoned whips attended for some experience with the Michelle Blackler Method of Reinsmanship and left with what looked like inspired to moi.

I used a teaching tool that has become indispensable: driving the clients. I give them the ends of the reins and ground 'drive' them around with and without contact to demonstrate the process from the horse's point of view. Then I turn it around and have them drive me, reacting as a horse would to their cues. If they cross their mid-line with a turning signal, I cross over with my legs, not 'bending'. If they are too heavy on the reins, I pull back. If they loose contact, I rush forward. If they don't support the outside rein through the turn, I slice it.

The exercise really opens the whips' minds to their own responsibility in balancing and supporting the horse and coordinating their cues. Add to that a great deal of hilarity about the 'naughty pony' [me] and the lightness with which their own horses responded and you have the screenplay to Whips Dancing With Equines.

Ahhhhh. I love my job.

Lessons are available during the week at our home barn in Granger and again in Cedar Rapids, hosted by Laurie Renda on September 3rd and 4th. Come add some polish to your reinsmanship for Villa Louis and New Moon Carriage Classic, or just as a gift for your horse.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tandem Driving Fools

"I always look upon a man who drives tandem as a fool; he makes two horses do the work of one and most likely breaks his silly neck." ~Major General Sir C. Teesdale, R.A., V.C., K.C.M.G. remembering the birth of the Tandem Club

But when two women drive tandem...

Theresa Burns came to the barn to play today and we hitched Don Pecos and Ace as a tandem. I might add that it took three attempts to actually get to the barn as a torrential downpour was working its way towards washing out all roads leading there. Which meant we were stuck in the small indoor arena with a tandem, not enjoying the open air. Still, driving tandem at all is an impossible, intoxicating treat, and after the first harrowing few minutes, things were going rather well.

I was driving with one hand and as Ace tends to get a bit too heavy on the bit when I drive in this manner and I was tiring, I passed the ribbons over to Theresa, who adopts a two handed method that I absolutely must learn, because Ace settled right into her hands softly. We ventured out into the sloppy, saturated driveway when the rain subsided and both horses made great strides through the naturally occurring water hazards [enormous puddles] and stepped out like a seasoned tandem.

"Oh. Gosh!" Theresa pronounced. "They have power steering!" Quite unlike their performance in the pair configuration, where they are way too strong and way too forward. "This is Great!' Said the beaming Theresa. "This is just Great!"

"There is no reason, however, why a tandem should be a particularly dangerous or useless mode of conveyance...Nothing could well be more pleasant than for two great friends who do not quarrel more than three times a day to make a tour through a hilly district...and all the elements of open air enjoyment." ~Major General Sir C. Teesdale, R.A., V.C., K.C.M.G.

I should like it said that Theresa and I are great friends in the making and on no account would either of us see fit to argue more than three times a day, if at all.

"If there be a small degree of danger connected with the pastime, and a man must needs be a fool for liking it, long may there be many such fools in England to keep up all its sports and exercises as well as tandem-driving." ~Major General Sir C. Teesdale, R.A., V.C., K.C.M.G.

Suffice it to say we spent a damp, humid morning smiling like fools, driving darling Morgan horses tandem in a cornfield that is Iowa: a long, long way from England and a long time since the Major General's words first gave credence to the sport. If you have the nerve and a good instructor, you should try it sometime.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sexiest Carriage Driving Competition Alive: Iron Horse 2010

Under the Illinois Sky: A Competitor on the Cones Course



















The Poster Boy: Chester Weber, Making Four In Hand Everyone's Dream













Eight Fours












Just trying to catch my breath from Iron Horse: stunning, stunning, stunning. The Venue. The Obstacles. The Show. The Competitors. The Horses. The Appetizer for the World Equestrian Games. Mmmm.

Sexiest Carriage Driving Whip Alive: Chester Weber. Sexiest Carriage Driving Event Organizer Alive: James O'Rourke, III. Sexiest Carriage Builder Alive: Todd Frey. There is nothing left to be said, except, get out your wallets and send each of these men a check so they can keep doing what they do best to promote the sport of carriage driving. Nobody does it better...

There goes my breath again.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Updates from Tim Maloy

Tim Maloy of Cavewood Productions has been busy documenting equine disciplines this summer and new snippets of his outstanding filming can be viewed at:


Check out his Reining Video: Cowboy and Cowgirl bedecked Brits: utterly fabulous!

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Raindrops Keep Falling














A few sprinkles did not deter Becky Simpson and Merry Legs from taking a lesson in Carriage Driving Body Awareness in Laurie Renda's All Weather Footing Arena, Cedar Rapids, Iowa yesterday. Not kidding when I say All Weather Footing...this arena is amazing.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Moon Carriage Classic Prize List Online

It's done! At last! Now I can move on to something else! Thank all the Gods I've been praying to!


Go see for yourselves! Fill in the entry form! Send it to me! We are going to have a super spectacular show!

Also a big shout out to Theresa Burns for all her assistance on publishing the PL, converting it multiple times into a PDF for me because my antiquated software wouldn't.

And WELCOME to Theresa and Harley Weyer to the show committee! Hurray! And WELCOME to Howard Kietzke as NMCC Announcer!

I am so excited!

Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Backstepping at Skunk River

One of my friends once commented that combined driving events looked like motocross with horses. This weekend at Skunk River Driving Trial it seemed like he was right on the mark. With all the rain we've been having lately, the Wellies worked overtime and Tim Maloy would have been in filming heaven. The horses, the vehicles and especially, the backsteppers were covered in mud, head to toe.

The course at 3G Farms is quite challenging and pretty, with lots of rolling hills, an idyllic water crossing and tight turns around trees. The hazards are well designed with interesting angles and complex gates. You can tell that a great deal of thought, care and work has gone into this course and it sits well into its surroundings with a very organic feel.

Gaining experience as a backstepper [OK: navigator. I just don't think that has as much kudos as backstepper] is a great way to get a perspective from the back of the vehicle. As a whip, it gives me a unique insight into how I drive or rather how I should drive. I also have even greater respect for those individuals who keep the vehicle on track and on the ground. Today, I did not want to end up on the ground, or rather in the mud. Thakfully, I stayed on the backstep.

Humidity was an additional trial, too. Some of the horses came in from the marathon puffing and all of them very hot. Bless them, with the muddy conditions, pulling the vehicles on a challenging course was even tougher. Slather on the humidity and it was hard going. Thankfully, there was a slightly overcast sky, a whisper of a breeze and cool showers to refresh all the equines. Not to forget to mention the bevy of volunteers it takes to put on a combined driving event, who have to sit in the sun or be eaten alive by mosquitoes to do their jobs.

The show was not without incidents, but these were handled with apparent seamlessness, which, of course is the hallmark of a really great show. So, a big "Thank You" and "Congratulations" to BITS [Best of Iowa in Traces Society], everyone at 3G Farm, and all the volunteers for their endeavors to make Skunk River Driving Trial a show of which we can be very proud.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ode To Columbus Carriage Classic




















The 2010 Columbus Carriage Classic is now history and what a lovely show it was. Organizer Nancy Osterhaus and her team continued the tradition of excellence that is synonymous with the show. The pork dinner was sublime as always, the Caribbean pool party was a nice addition to social activities and highlighted the gorgeous pool that we'd never seen before, but sat at the edge of the show. Frey Carriage Company held their annual reception on Saturday night, which is ever a treat for the carriage driving fraternity with great vehicles, accessories and accouterments on display. The weather held for us and gave us excellent driving under sometimes sunny, sometimes overcast skies with a soft breeze.

But what must stand out above all else is the company. We were stabled with Milady Martha Stover [who could not win a ribbon that wasn't blue, and took Concours d'Elegance Honors with the superlative Lisa, her welsh pony] and the Zaettas, Marilyn and Jerry [who we are now energetic fans of], Vicki and Jim Bodoh and Micheal Scott. Reuben and Florence Franz were there to greet us and looked after my family who came to watch on Saturday by giving them their extra sponsorship passes. Lucy was on high social butterfly deportment and endeared herself into the hearts of many. [In fact, Lucy spent two nights in a hotel, while I camped.]

Laurie Renda and Harold Ault helped Don Pecos and I through the show with very respectable placings in an insanely hard Open Horse Division. It seemed everyone was at the top of their game and I think we did a fine job of impressing the Canadian judges with our Midwestern carriage horses. I know I was proud to be in such good company in and out of the show ring.

I spent a bit of time drumming up entires for New Moon Carriage Classic and the response was very positive. The date, one week after Villa Louis, is a sticking point, of course, but after giving my pitch to those who were dubious, they warmed to the idea. I certainly hope that I can put on as good a show as Nancy did last week. Between Columbus and Villa Louis, I have a high bar to achieve.

Thanks to everyone who made the Columbus Carriage Classic possible. Your hard work and determination are not lost on the Serendipity team. I look forward to returning next year. Alas, that is all the time I have for reminiscing on to Skunk River this weekend, North Star next week and Metamora the week after that. Blogs many be few and far between, but I'll try to write at least a couple.

Hope you are enjoying the summer so far.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Road To Columbus


Lucy Fur at 2009 Columbus Carriage Classic











Wisconsin. To the Columbus Carriage Classic, which is this weekend. Don Pecos and I have been working very diligently to get ready for the highly competitive Open Horse Division. When I started showing in carriage driving, I always had time to get the horse supremely ready for the show. Nowadays, it seems not. I constantly say to myself, "I wish I had two more weeks."

Don Pecos is buff as he's ever been. His coat is like copper glass. Inside his little body, the big engine purrs. My one concern: he is stiff as a board in harness. I cannot get this boy to bend. And I know he can, because he is like a corkscrew when I ride him. And in the pair, he was, at times beautifully bending. I've gone over and over this in my mind to discover what is the problem and or the solution. I'm getting nowhere on this puzzle.

I call in the big gun, my dear Theresa Burns who tells me it is nowhere hear as bad as I make it seem and all will be well. I feel so sorry for people who don't have Theresa Burns in their lives. So, Lucy, Don Pecos, and I are off on Wednesday to Laurie Renda's to teach some lessons, meet Harold Ault and break up the long haul to Columbus. Then on Thursday in Columbus we will join my other dear friend Martha Stover, her glorious Welsh pony: Lisa, along with Vicki and Jim Bodoh, Micheal Scott and a host of other carriage friends.

Added bonus this year: my brother and his family along with my Dad [who is traveling up to Chicago from Kentucky-yeah, that is strange; but related to the Nut Farm business] are going to join the group and camp with us for the weekend. For the first time in many years, we will spend Father's Day with Dad. At a horse show. I'm sure Dad is thrilled. But I certainly am.

Columbus, Ho!
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Accidental Sagacity: Adult Riders
















"No hour in the saddle is wasted." Winston Churchill

The days of summer, although longer in the sun's perspective are always too short from mine. The warm weather has brought several new clients to the Serendipity riding lesson curriculum and I've seen accidental sagacity at work. These women all have the horse love gene and have been riding for years. They found Serendipity through a desire to be better riders for their horses. What they discover about themselves out of the saddle is an added bonus.

Self awareness is the foundation of a good rider. Balance in the saddle, mental focus and an understanding of form and function are so important and seldom taught in riding lessons. How often have you heard an instructor say, "Heels down!" with no explanation? The most common result of this instruction is to push the foot forward to drop the heel, compromising the leg position under the rider's seat. "Shoulders back!" seldom opens up the solar plexus to improve coordination and balance between the rider and the horse.

So often I see riders struggling with their own bodies while riding. Their ankles are over extended, lower legs in front of the girth, pelvis tipped backwards, spine at a forty five degree angle in front of their hips, shoulders collapsing on the rib cage, with the whole shebang compromising the function of the spine. Yet, they labor on because of the horse love gene. They say to me with legitimate concern, "My horse is really stiff on this side/direction." "My horse won't step out at the walk/trot." "My horse has trouble bending."

When they begin to understand how to use their body to accommodate the physics of movement and participate effectively, the horse 'magically' supples, steps out and bends. At the end of the lesson the horse looks at me and lets out a big sigh. The rider is ecstatic. Whenever I am confronted with this, my heart goes all a flutter and I fall in love with my own life's work all over again.

This week, I got the equivalent of a dozen roses and a box of chocolates from my work. One of these gals sent me an email saying she was practicing good posture all day long and she had grown an inch since her lesson. [I'll bet anything her friends will secretly surmise that she's had cosmetic surgery.] Another wanted to cancel a lesson because she had a really bad day at work, but didn't. She left the barn after her lesson smiling, relaxed and said, "Wow. I was having a bad day. Now it is a good day."

That is accidental sagacity on its finest form.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Promoting the Sport of Carriage Driving

When I tell someone I do carriage driving, the first thing that comes to their mind is a white Victoria parked outside a church waiting for the bride and groom. The second thing is an old Vis a vis parked outside the state capital or in Central Park. I've started saying that I do competition carriage driving and that seems to spark their imagination. But it seems that those of us who participate and are passionate about this sport need to get together and develop a marketing strategy to build awareness for carriage driving.

I was discussing this last night with Harold Ault, Theresa Burns and Harley Weyer over dinner and wine. [Always the best way to get an idea blooming!] It was a fascinating conversation, not simply because of the quality of the company, but also because of the diversity of driving experience around the table. Harold, of course is the carriage collector and has been parked out in front of the church and the capital on many occasions, in the typical person's knowledge of carriage driving. Theresa has been involved in carriage driving pleasure shows and combined driving events and has considerable experience driving multiples. Harley came to horses after a lifetime of wanting them and now has a team of draft horses that he uses to farm his land. [Which is probably about the coolest thing. Ever.]

We agreed that educating the public about the history, and the subsequent evolution of the sport was the key to bringing more people to it. Did we solve the problem of how to do it? Well, we have a start and that is the New Moon Carriage Classic to be held in Perry, IA on September 18 &19, 2010. Because the city of Perry has been so enthusiastic about hosting the show, we must take this opportunity to draw in the crowds and wow them. As organizers of a carriage driving event, there are so many details to attend to, that often the promotion to a wider audience is an after thought. Not in this case. We are dedicated to a bigger picture while putting on the finest show possible for exhibitors, for spectators, for Perry.

If you have special skills or talents that might help us achieve this end, please let us know. Come be a part of carriage driving history that is thriving today and striving for tomorrow.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity
www.hossbiz.com
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.