Thursday, December 14, 2017

Honoring and Grieving the Past

When my dear mare, Sparky, passed away in 2014, it took me a while but I finally created a shadow box for her with her barn halter (she is buried in her show halter), some of my favorite ribbons, and a few pics.  The box was moved from our rental house, to our new house, and has just been sitting in my office, propped up against the wall.

I bought another shadow box for Snappy not long after she passed, but it also took me some time to put it together.  I don't know, maybe I just wasn't ready to take down her halter from the hook in the tack room or pull down my favorite ribbons.  I just wasn't ready and I didn't want it to just sit on the floor either.

Over the weekend, I finally put it together.  The shadow box itself is different than the one I got for Sparky, so it is harder to arrange things, and I am not as happy with how her halter looks.  Oh well.

As I was making it on our large kitchen bar area, I said to my husband that I had no idea where to put them.  There really isn't room in my tack room and I didn't know that I wanted them in the house.  He thought I should hang them with the ribbon display in our (daylight) basement, which of course was the perfect place.  Thank you, husband.

We enter the house in this area and keep our coats and shoes against another wall area, so there is comfort in seeing these shadow boxes every day.  This coming spring, we will seed in the soil over Snappy's grave next to Sparky, and then the entire area can be mowed and both their grave markers will be there.  Every time I drive into my property, I look over at their graves and feel comfort that my mares are still "with me".

Sometimes it is the little things that bring healing to our hearts.  💓

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bitting Miss Ellie

It seems that there are as many opinions out there about bits as there are horse people.  ;-)  Not to mention the large (and pricey!) options that have surfaced over the past several years!  I have always favored a French link mouthpiece for my horses and generally have stuck with a loose ring or eggbutt ring.  That is to say, I have started with a loose ring and found that my horses have preferred the stability of the eggbutt instead.  Snappy was even fussy in the eggbutt and I tried a French link boucher which finally seemed to be stable enough to keep her mouth happy.  Any excess bit movement appeared to give her tension.

So, my personal preference is to start with something I think tends to work best (such as the French link eggbutt) and follow the horse's lead.  With Ellie, she was in a loose ring with a flash in the pics I received before I bought her.  I don't use flash nosebands (just a personal preference as I don't see a need for them) and she was SUPER fussy in a loose ring, so we moved to the eggbutt literally in the middle of the first ride LOL!  A lot of her fussiness went away, but she still had an incredibly fussy mouth.  Now, much of that is because she was so green when I got her and she just needed time.  

Ellie's bit set up at her birthplace farm, though I also saw a pic from February 2017 (when they started her undersaddle) with an eggbutt and Micklem).
But even over time, she still seemed fussy to me.  On a whim,  I switched to a more curved shape of the JP French link eggbutt, after raiding my bit box to see what I had that she might like (before I spend money haha).  There was a noticeable difference, so OK, I can fall for the idea that the curved shape gives her more room for her tongue.  But the bit still seems kinda thick for her tiny mouth.  It is easily a 16mm when she could use a bridoon like 14mm.  I tried Dreamy's Stubben French link (which really has a more oval shape lozenge center instead of the traditional looking French link) and while it looked much better in her mouth thickness wise, she wasn't thrilled.

The JP curved French link

Oh look, it finally snowed LOL!  (And I clipped her bridle path)
I am leaning towards a Neue Schule, but hot damn, who wants to spend $200 on a bit that my horse might not like?  Yeah, I can probably resell it and recoup some, but ugggg such a pain (and stupid Paypal fees!).  I found a bit bank in the UK which allows you to trial bits for a month, so I am considering that.  And it comes out to only about $160 USD to purchase, so a little bit of savings if I do keep it.  I also found a random person on FB who is selling the exact bit for £50 (which is like $67 USD), but she won't mail to the US blahhhh.  That is crazy since I would pay exact shipping but WHATEVER.  For $67 I could easily resell that sucker for $100 and still do well LOL.

Snow pony!
But then our last few rides she was been lovely soft and quiet with the (cheap) JP bit.  She is even stretching out and seeking the bit (yay mare!) and then I'm like, calm yourself and just give her time.  I don't know.  The bit still  looks too thick to me and it squeaks (!!!!) which is super annoying hahaha.  It's like you want to FIX ALL THE THINGS but frugality and the idea of patience gets in the way hahaha.  A bit change is easy when it is for something already in my bit box, but I have a hard time justifying it when I don't want to spend that much money on an unknown.  

Love her!
No indoor, no problem!  We've got snow tires haha!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Product Review: Mango Bay belts

When I finally caved last year and bought the super cute Annie's Equestrienne show jacket for dressage that I had lusted after FOREVER (because TEAL), I wanted a cute matching belt.  I have used a plain black leather belt for showing pretty much all my life, so I thought it was time to upgrade!

Of course, trying to find the right color teal was rather impossible at first.  Eventually, I found a cute Mango Bay belt that seemed like it would work well.  I like the idea of supporting a small business as well.  
Not a perfect match, but pretty close!
 And I couldn't just buy one, so I bought a couple haha.  Because I have no willpower.

It doesn't seem they sell the top one any longer (I am wearing it, so I snapped a pic!)
I have to say, these belts are super well made.  I wasn't sure about the double loops at first, because other (lower quality) belts I have worn in the past never seemed to stay tightened.  However, the Mango Bay belts don't budge.  I have worn these with my breeches to ride in and also with jeans, and they are great in every situation.  

The only thing I can say is that the brightness of the pattern does fade a bit.  You can see in the photo above of the three pics from the website versus a pic of my actual belt that the black does fade.  I have owned these belts since early summer 2017 (so probably about six months) and worn them A LOT, so I guess it is to be expected.  It certainly isn't a deal breaker for me, but there is a subtle change in the color.  Also, there is a slight bend in the webbing where it folds into the loops, but again, not a deal breaker and doesn't affect the belt in any way.

So if you are looking for a cute belt for yourself or as a gift, check out Mango Bay!  They have a few belts on sale for only $10 right now, but I did not see any specific Black Friday or holiday deals.  And I am not compensated at all for this review (and I make no money off affiliate links or any of that), this is just because I like the product and like to share!  

And side note that is sort of related: I finally made myself organize my belts in my closet because I couldn't stand it hahaha.  I am way too organized for my own good (trust me, it's a blessing and a curse) and I finally decided to hang two horseshoe hooks for my belts.  Much better and much easier to deal with!  :-)

After!  Now all belts have a home!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

As much as I dislike winter in Maine (I am a solar powered girl and I crave the heat!), I do enjoy Christmas.  Growing up, we always had huge family Christmases.  Every year since I have owned a horse, I enjoy a bareback Christmas Day ride on each of them.  I love seeing the excitement in my children, and even though the 13 year old is slightly jaded as only a teenager can be (His response to his grandparents when they asked what he wanted?  Money.  Hahaha!), the two year old is completely in awe of every aspect of the holiday.  There is nothing quite like the magic of the holidays through the eyes of a child.

So here are a few fun things we do around the farm to decorate.  I always buy plain wreaths for the barn and house and add my own bow and ornamentation!  

This is a random bit in my collection, but those are Snappy's shoes!

The bit and shoes were Sparky's way back when!
At age thirteen when my first horse, Sparky, came into my life, I decorated a plain stocking with her name in white puffy paint.  So, of course, now every horse has had one over the years.  I still have Sparky's and Snappy's tucked away, and I just made a new one for Ellie this fall.

As I have written before, we abut a Christmas tree farm, so we always get to cut our own to bring home!

The tree looked so pretty with just the lights, I nearly wanted to leave it like that LOL!  

But, we did decorate it two nights later.  The baby inherited all of the "safe" ornaments to hang on the lower branches (read: soft and unbreakable).  He was TOTALLY into it and hung them all up himself LOL!  He is obsessed with having the lights on and calls all the decorations and tree a "Chrussmuss party" hahaha!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Sugar High

Ellie has been coming into her own over the past month, and I am super proud of her.  Our little show on November 19 was cancelled, so we missed our second debut in WT pleasure/eq classes and ground poles haha, but hopefully (as long as it doesn't snow that day), we will have another chance in December.

Hunting season in Maine means blaze orange for the horses!
One of the biggest things I knew I needed to address was standing still for mounting.  She's always been a little "twitchy" about it, and because the horses are home and I don't have people around (besides my husband, but he's usually not in the ring with me), I knew I needed to fix this issue.  Not only is it unsafe for a horse to not stand still to be mounted and move off only when asked, but I want a reliable horse that I don't have to worry about and always need a ground person for.

Inspired by Carly and her luck with peppermints with her adorable Opie, I figured what the hell.  I broke out the sugar cubes (I tend to stick with horse cookies, but I had bought sugar cubes for Snappy just before she was put down and I figured sugar would be better with a bit), stuffed my pockets full, and off we went to the ring.  I never normally feed treats with a bit in the mouth, but this was an exception.  It took her a few tries to understand that when I stood on the mounting block and she stood still without swinging her haunches away, she got a sugar cube.  Hmmmm....only took one try to understand that she also got one when she stood still while I actually swung a leg over.  I mounted/dismounted several times and everything clicked for her because SUGAR.

Oh how nice to have a horse who is so food motivated LOL!
Reaching around for her sugar LOL

The next ride was much the same, only she stood immobile on the first try and that was that.  The third ride, again she was perfect to mount, but then she would randomly halt and look back at me expectantly.  Hahahaha she totally is smart enough to realize that halting somehow equaled treats.  She got over it easily though, which was good. 

Our next training issue to address was trailer loading.  I got a freebie when I moved her home in September, where she jumped right into the trailer first try.  I have a step up and she just followed me in.  Our first outing for the KMF trail ride, she hesitated a little but got on the second try.  Our first little horse show a week later, she flat out refused to get on the trailer, and only did so when I finally asked my husband to stand behind her on the ground.  I wasn't expecting her to refuse and I didn't have time to really do a training session, so I resorted to him just standing at her butt and poking her LOL.  It was the same when we left the show, and I had to have the BM help me load her while I poked her butt from behind.  I need a horse that I can do everything with by myself so it was time to tackle this training issue.

I hooked the trailer on the truck last Sunday for the day in order to put in some practice.  I had no idea what she might decide to try, but I feel the best way to teach trailer loading is when there is no pressure, no place to be, not time constraints.  I figured I could always do some work first and then put her away and try again later on if needed.  I did NOT want to get into a power struggle. Trailering horses is already a dangerous activity even if the horse loads fine, so I wanted this experience to be as stress free and calm as possible.

Mid morning I took Ellie out to the trailer straight from the pasture, with a dressage whip and a pocket of sugar cubes.  Having witnessed all manner of trailer loading "techniques" in my lifetime, with people using an assortment of tools from lunge lines around haunches to brooms, shovels, etc., I teach horses to load in a trailer in a very simple manner.  I tap, tap, tap their left side/shoulder and once they move forward, I release the pressure (stop tapping).  Notice I said tapping and not hitting, smacking, or whipping.  I honestly don't think making a nervous horse MORE nervous about trailering works well, but that's just me.  I am not a horse trainer, just someone who has seen enough to know that I'd rather take a simple and quiet approach.  The tapping is irritating enough to be annoying but not done in a way that causes pain or nervousness.  (I have been lucky with my horses over the years, as Dreamy self loaded without issue and Sparky was always fine.  I did have to work a bit with Snappy when I first got her, as she was convinced that she was unable to get into a step up haha.)

My trailer is set up as a large box stall in the back, so there is plenty of room for a horse to stand, take a good look, and step in without issue.  Also, when I tie her in on the left side, I can easily walk out the back to shut her in without having to squeeze under a bar or between a horse and the side of the trailer.  Dreamy liked to ride loose in the box stall, while Snappy preferred to be tied.  So far, I have tied Ellie but maybe eventually she will prefer to be loose?  I guess we will just have to see!
No trailer loading pics because safety before media.  But this is what happens when I try to take a photo of my horse.  She follows me haha!
So I stood just up inside the trailer against the left side.  She swung her haunches around towards the left side of the trailer, thinking if she was perpendicular to the trailer or even swung her haunches out enough, she would be free of the annoying taps.  Nope, I just jumped down to the ground level and soon got her standing straight, looking into the trailer.  Good mare, here's a sugar cube each time you stand here without swinging or backing up.  I thought it might take some time to convince her to step in, but within a few minutes, she placed a hoof up inside the trailer.  GOOD MARE.  More sugar cubes.  Granted, she took it right out again, but it was enough for her to understand OHHHH this is like the mounting game.  If I move forward into the trailer, she stops tapping AND I get a yummy sugar cube.  I swear I could see the wheels turning, because next thing I know, she hops right in!  YAY!!

We stood for a moment in the trailer, though I didn't tie her.  We walked out (she LEAPS out, but we are working on that too haha) and I walked her around the rig to try again.  I took maybe ten seconds this time before she hopped in.  GOOD GIRL.  We did this twice more for a total of four times loading, and then I put her away back to her pasture (with a few more sugar cubes for good measure, of course).  The third and fourth time I tapped her once and she stepped right in.

My husband was surprised I was back in the house.  "Did you load her yet?" he asked.  

"Yup, four times, and I am going to do it again this afternoon, so don't unhook it."  I admit, it took much less time than I anticipated.  But she is a smart mare and motivated by food, so it wasn't that bad.
Spoiled horse!
Before I rode that afternoon, I tried it again.  This time she barely hesitated and I only raised the dressage whip towards her shoulder without even touching her.  She hopped on and off four times again.  The only problem I found was she wanted to immediately get off the trailer and get back on because SUGAR CUBES.  But I made her actually stand still once she loaded before I would give her a treat and I limited the second session to just one cube each time she loaded haha.  I will definitely be doing this at least once a week when I have time to hook the trailer.  I hope we don't have trailer loading issues, but at least I know to always keep a stash of sugar cubes handy!!  ;-)

And another first for Ellie was "jumping" over the world's tiniest cross rail.  Last weekend it was a bit windy, so I stuck her on the lunge line just to be certain she was going to be sane.  She walked and trotted calmly (which was AWESOME), so I figured I would try her over the crossrails that are still in the ring.  She trotted over the first one, but then she finally decided to jump the next try.  I made her do the two crossrails in each direction and then I got on.  After a lovely little ride, we went over the crossrails while I was actually riding.  She was perfect!  I cannot WAIT for when we start jumping for real.  At this point, the ground is fairly frozen and our rides are limited to walk/trot.  

Things are getting pretty serious.

Friday, December 1, 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017 - COMPLETE!

Whew!  Thirty straight days of writing (with an extra post thrown in) was a lot of work!  Thank you to those of you who played along, whether it was every day or here and there.  As an English teacher, I always welcome chances to write and to encourage others to write!

I even made a little badge for you if you'd like to post it on your blog!  ;-)

I am not a graphic designer, so this is the best I could create haha!
Make sure your check out all the participating bloggers if you haven't already!  

Amy at Quantum Chromatic Abberation
Martidoll at Fat Buckskin in a Little Suit
Sara at The Roaming Rider
Olivia at DIY Horse Ownership
Sarah at Ambershade Stables
The Fox Rider at Feral Red Horse did a few posts
And L at Viva Carlos linked up her 30 Day Challenge prompts from 2001

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Day 30 - Your future with horses

YAY!!!  Thirty days of posting for NaBloPoMo!  Here is the final entry!  This was fun and helped keep me focused through the month, but yeah, I am definitely feeling some writing fatigue!  :-)

In the immediate future, I hope to continue bringing Ellie along so she trusts me and we build a partnership.  I prefer the slow, systematic, patient approach, so while she is going to be six next June, I don't feel the need to push her because of her age.  We have all the time in the world.  I do hope to get her out more to little shows next year, putzing around at maybe Intro B and C at the local dressage shows and then becoming confident enough in jumping to do some little three phases.  Maybe I'll try more of the H/J shows to do pleasure and equitation classes, since I tend to put MUCH less pressure on myself at those types of shows than in dressage/eventing.  Maybe someday we will try a Morgan show, but I don't know if I want to do that type of showing any longer.  Mostly it would just to see how she stacks up against the breed nowadays, but I don't know.  I just want to get her out and about.  Long term, we will probably try driving at some point, maybe we will chase cows.  I definitely someday want to show her sidesaddle someday.  She is certainly bred to be a versatile mare, but it just depends on her and how things go in our training over the next several years.  Obviously, I like doing ALL THE THINGS, so I see our future being full of fun adventures.

Cute photos just because!

I hope to start lessons soon as well.  There is a (not really local but close enough) eventing instructor moving to a new (to her) farm in December and she plans to start giving lessons there in January once the facility is set up and the horses are all settled in, so I am hoping to get Ellie down there maybe once a week, but at least twice a month.  There is an indoor and the instructor can do both dressage and jumping lessons, which just makes my life easier.  I know her from being around at the same shows and I have seen her students and watched her instruct, so I am hopeful it will be a good match.  She is 50 minutes away, so it won't be easy for me.  But I am hopeful.

With Dreamy, I just want to keep her happy and healthy.  She will be 27 years old this coming year, which means I have now owned her for fifteen years (holy cow).  I am not naive to the fact that she is mortal, but I simply cannot see my future without her at the moment.  It dawned on me the other day that she was going to be turning 27 and I actually started crying.  I don't know, I think I am still too emotional about losing Sparky three years ago, Snappy this year, and I just want Dreamy to keep being a retired pasture puff forever LOL! 

I can safely say that I will probably own horses and ride until the day my body doesn't allow it (and I am sure I will then still try hahaha!)  Horses are a part of me and always will be.  I think my future with horses will be much the same as it is now, riding and showing and having fun.  

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Day 29 - A style/trend in tack/riding apparel that you don’t like

I definitely am not a huge fan of the weird bridles out there lately.  As I have written about before, I love tack, I love browsing online for tack, I love looking at Instagram pics of horses/tack, I love buying new tack.  But man, the style of bridles lately is just not for me.  It doesn't bother me that others love these new styles, but to my old fashioned eye, I just cannot put any of this on my horses.

I love the classic, sophisticated, refined look in a bridle. On a side note, I searched FOREVER to find a new dressage bridle last year without a flash.  Seriously, it is like never mind if your horse actually needs a flash or not (mine don't!), but let's just put one on every bridle because no horse can do dress-ahhhhhhggggggge without one.  OMG.

I had a hard time looking at the Micklems at first, but I admit they grew on me.  I bought one once in a weak moment and neither Dreamy nor Snappy liked it, so I sold it two years later.  Maybe Ellie would like it, but too late for her haha!  I also dislike the weird drippy browbands, so I just die a little inside whenever I see one.  I just...I just don't get it and I want to push it back up where it belongs LOL!

Why so drippy?  And I have seen worse, this was just the first one I saw in my googling effort.
Clearly I am becoming a curmudgeon in my young(ish) age.  But holy cow, the new fangled bridles out there are  JUST.  NO.

Yep.  Pretty much.
PS of Sweden for $342?  No thank you.

What the ACTUAL eff?  That noseband thingy is just ugly AF.  All I can see is the weird pattern of leather, so to me it does nothing for the horse's pretty head.
Stubben, my most favorite brand of all time, what have you done?  AND priced at $520?  UHHHH NO.  
It only looks mildly horrific from the front, but that crownpiece and browband made me a little twitchy....
I feel kinda sad lately about the stupid fads in bridles.  I admit I do use Dark Jewel Design browbands and have nothing against a little sparkle, but the newfangled shapes of the bridles lately just horrify me LOL!!

PS - It's OK if you like the looks above.  I still like you.  ;-) No judging on what others choose to use, I personally just won't buy it!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Day 28 - Helmet or no helmet?

Always a helmet.  Yes, I have ridden without one before (the few times I showed saddleseat), but even I know that was a stupid thing to do (on a young horse, no less).  I don't mind wearing a helmet, I don't have any vanity about helmet hair, and they honestly really don't bother me.

I am not a helmet nazi, going around on social media calling people out over not wearing one, because I keep my comments/thoughts to myself.  But I do admit my heart drops when I see someone without a helmet and I was SUPER thrilled when USEF passed their new helmet rules.  

Riding is a sport full of risks and I think it is smart to minimize the risks when possible!

Definitely the only selfie I have ever taken of myself and not immediately deleted hahaha!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Day 27 - You know you're an equestrian when…

You know you're an equestrian when... (#withfunhashtags and a gif edition haha)

5.  You can get totally swept down the rabbit hole that is Smartpak supplements online (or whatever else equine related online) and do entirely too much research and clicking around about diet, nutrition, and supplements.  Every so often (though not recently), I get it into my head my horse needs XYZ supplement or what-have-you.  #whyyesihave27tabsopeninmybrowser

This is nothing.  That's only 14 tabs.
4.  You have a tube of Banamine in your purse.  And when it falls out onto the Dunks' counter, the cashier's horrified look just makes you snort laugh.  #askmehowIknow #thismayhaveoccuredmorethanonce

Lately, the Banamine has emigrated to the catch all thing next to my purse.  Yes, I took this photo just for this post haha.  
3.  You consistently and automatically use the terms off fore/hind and near fore/hind to describe the tires on your truck.  #mymechanicthinksimaweirdo

2. Your barn broom wears out once a year.  You've never needed to replace your house floor broom.  #truestory
Photographic evidence that I had to go back to 2009 on my Facebook to find haha!  Old barn broom (right), new barn broom (left).  This pic could be taken every year.
1.  You catch yourself analyzing the gait of every animal you come into contact with.  And you admit to yourself that one of your barn kitties has a really decent medium trot and lovely uphill canter that your horses will never probably have.  #catswhododressage

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Day 26 - Biggest riding pet peeve

This is sort of a tough one!  There isn't much about riding that truly peeves me, because I just work hard and try to do the best I can for my horses.  One thing that does drive me kinda nuts when it rains what feels like every single day in the fall and my "ring" (aka, a flat corner of the turnout paddock/field) turns to slippery mud.  It dries out fine in the spring and summer, but once it turns colder, it just doesn't dry out well.  It's just a bummer because there is nothing I can do about it.  Eventually, I will have enough money saved up for a real ring with fantastic drainage!  Until then, I'm just patient and creative about where I ride (and cursing the rain, under my breath haha)!

I don't post pics of my kids much on social media, but these are just too darn cute not to share!  We were doing turn in and the mares always get a cookie each before we go back inside.  

Ellie: Oh, hi tiny friend!  I see you have cookies!
Ellie: I like you and your truck, too!
Dreamy: Do you have more cookies, kid?

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Day 25 - Your dream trailer

Ohhhhh, if money wasn't an option!!  

I like our trailer because it serves several functions, but I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to give it to my husband as his cattle trailer and get my very own real horse trailer.

Our trailer!

Still love it even if it is not my "dream trailer"
Previously, I owned an Eby stock trailer and loved the quality.  I would do another Eby three horse slant (or 2plus1) with tack room and living quarters.  I don't need the living quarters, but it sure would come in handy!  This is my dream trailer after all!

It was hard to find an exact pic of the Eby I would want (I assume it's a special order), so here is at least the base models for the two I like.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Day 24 - Your best riding friend

For many years, I had three riding friends: one who was local and we rode/lessoned a lot together, one who I did most of my showing with and who lived a little further away, and one who was in a neighboring state so I didn't see often.

Funny things happen when you get divorced, improve your life tremendously, and then suddenly one day find yourself with a new partner.  Some friends cannot handle it and leave you behind.  I get it, this is part of life and I don't blame anyone.  I avoid drama at all costs, but when others create it, there is not much I can do.  And at my age and stage in life, I just don't have interest in drama or negativity or acting like high schoolers.  No thank you!

Local riding friend's husband is a high school friend of Jason's, and he made it extremely clear he was not happy we decided to get married.  (I mean clearly, I am a terrible, terrible choice in a wife LMAO!) To be polite and not get into the horrid details of the way he acted, let's just say he caused so many problems about it all that he ended up refusing to be in the wedding just a month beforehand (as did local riding friend just afterwards - can't blame her I suppose, since I didn't expect her to choose me over her husband) and he is now known as the Disgruntled Wedding Planner.  Seriously, what can you do but laugh at such immature buffoonery?  It is sad, mostly for my husband who thought he was a real friend, but the DWP made the choice to act the way he did.  I think he figured it would all blow over and all would be forgiven, but he was downright cruel.  There was absolutely nothing I could do to improve the situation (besides break up with my now husband - yeahhh no) and now there just really isn't a reason to be "friends" with people who are so hurtful, immature, and cruel.

Horse show friend ended up starting an affair and cheating on her husband (going on three years and this is not the first affair sadly but is the most "serious" if that can even be said about an affair), which made me super uncomfortable (such as: she brought the boyfriend TO THE HOSPITAL THE DAY AFTER I GAVE BIRTH to my now two year old son and just three days later her husband texted to invite us to a surprise birthday party for her - which I sweetly declined and blamed the fact I had just had a baby by c-section.  Honestly, I just didn't know how to handle the entire situation and didn't want to be a part of it.) Despite trying to be a supportive (yet baffled) friend, we have now drifted apart which is probably for the best.  We used to bond over our awful husbands and I think the fact I moved on from my bad first marriage and improved my life (while she has the situation she created...) made it hard in the end.  We are still "friends" on Facebook, but she stopped returning my texts a while back and I just didn't push it.  

Thankfully, the riding friend in a neighboring state is rational and sane and kind, so we are still friends!  LOL!  We have been friends since just after college (even though we attended the same university, we didn't meet until AFTER we graduated - weird!).  She hasn't done much riding over the last several years, but she does have two lovely Standardbred geldings.  I am hopeful that if I keep pestering encouraging her, she will carve out the time to work with them, because she does want to get back into eventing.  She is a wonderful horsewoman and will do well, but she's gotta make time for herself.  I know firsthand how hard that can be, so I am certainly not judging!  The only downfall is that we live just far enough away from each other that we cannot easily see one another and we don't have opportunities to ride together right now. 

The hardest part about keeping my horse at home, living soooo far away from everything, and not currently having an instructor (which is going to change soon, but more on that later!), is that I don't have regular contact with any horsey people.  The girls I grew up riding with no longer ride or own horses and none of my college riding buddies are remotely close by, even though we are all friends on Facebook and such.  Besides the one horse show friend above (in the love triangle affair), I have shown my horse alone since college.  There are decent horse people here in Maine I have met in various capacities, but no one I have pursued as a friend, not because they don't seem like good friend material but...I don't even know how to make friends at my age LOL!  And honestly, I simply seem to have bad luck and trust people too much (and then get hurt), so over the past few years I just keep to myself.  It is just easier that way and causes way less heartache! 

Ah well. Here's a cute pic of Ellie so this post at least some media!  
Thank you, tiny orange barn kitty, for always being so helpful on our rides.  Thank goodness Ellie is (mostly) good about a cat darting around.  #wewillbepreparedforcatsintheshowring

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Day 23 - Critique a famous/well known equestrian jumping round of your choosing

Normally, a critique would imply finding fault and being critical.  I don't exactly feel I am one to judge ANYONE'S ride, so instead I am going to compliment!  I am also going to do a dressage test and a jumping round, because I do what I want.  ;-)

You can say what you want about training methods and the Dutch and all that (NOT a fan of rollkur here!), but it cannot be denied that the WEG 2006 freestyle test performed by mare Blu Hors Matiné and rider Andreas Helgstrand was one of the best ever.  That mare is positively dancing!  This is my all time favorite video and it still brings goosebumps no matter how many times I have watched her.

Secondly, I have to go back to Daryl, because she is simply amazing and I want my leg to be as steady as her's someday.  Here she is at GMHA with Rosie, a TB mare she has brought along from a timid horse who quit at tiny crossrails to placing 4th here at Intermediate (in a field of 24!).  Daryl created what you see here and that is amazing (with Denny's help, of course!).  ;-)

Happy Thanksgiving!!  Enjoy your day and eat lots of turkey and pie, as I am planning to!  LOL!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Day 22 - The importance of riding in your life

While I try not to let my horses run my entire life, well, they kinda do.  I mean, yes, I got to work as a teacher, I take care of my children, I like to read and write, but otherwise everything else is mostly about the horses.  My career was carefully chosen so that I would have time off in the summer to play horses (no lie) and my life (when not at work) revolves around chores and the two year olds nap time!

Riding is important in my life, but even more than that, HORSES are important in my life.  I don't even know what I would do with my time if I didn't have horses.  I think I have a hard time relating to other people because they don't have horses, and while that used to bother me, I have begun to accept it as I nudge towards forty!  ;-)

I don't know if I can adequately describe it in words how horses define me as a person.  It is not a hobby.  It is who I AM.  Horses are as much a part of me as being a woman is a part of me.  Horses challenge me, make me whole, keep me sane, give me confidence, and allow me to be ME.  

I have wondered sometimes why I am the way I am and why I chose the path I did.  There are really only two things I can say with certainty that I can do well: teach and care for horses.  Basically, growing up I was a good student because I liked school and I worked hard.  I found success in the classroom and therefore it seemed like a natural fit to become a teacher.  So when I sometimes stress and think about changing careers, I think to myself what else could I even do? Of course, this is silly, because I am sure I could be successful at something else, but teaching is natural to me (note I didn't say easy but sometimes it can feel that way).

It is the same with horses.  I am not a great rider, and sometimes barely a good rider, but I like it and I work hard.  Same as with education/teaching, I have had success with horses in a variety of ways, so it just fits me.  Again, caring for and riding horses just seems natural to me (and again, not easy but sometimes can feel that way).  Horses give me something to do, something to organize/think about/evaluate on a daily basis.  I need that for my personality.  And there is just something about working with horses that goes beyond making me feel empowered and competent; I don't know what the word might be, but I know without horses in my life, I would not feel complete.

In writing this, it dawned on me that I created an assignment about this very topic for a class I took back in 2012, through the Southern Maine Writing Project, called a Learning Biography.  In my seventeen years of teaching it was by far one of the best professional development experiences ever; we explored ourselves as writers and how to teach writing more effectively, and in the end we earned college credit and the opportunity to become "teacher-consultants".  I chose to do a digital story for this assignment (basically write the essay and then set it to photos), the first I had ever tried (and have subsequently assigned digital stories to my students).  It is called Because I Grew Up With Horses.  Now that I watch it again, it's a little silly and definitely could use better technology skill haha!   Definitely going out on a limb here!  Ah well, I am sure most of you can totally relate to what I am saying.  Enjoy!

*Side note: This was from my previous life, different last name, different farm...

The small child you will see is now thirteen (!!!!).  The husband mentioned is the ex-husband hahahaha!  Horses came long before him and certainly came after him! ;-)

Learning Autobiography from Elizabeth Sanborn on Vimeo.