Riding my horse? HAHAHAHA. You say that like it’s been warm enough to be outside here. Not for this displaced Southerner. (Or as they call me at work… ‘The Tourist’) The average temperature here for January so far has been 16 degrees. Too cold for me!
So instead I got a different way to get around. AKA my new car came!
And promptly showed up (from Texas) in the middle of 5″ of snow. Nothing like having the interior of your driver door covered in snow the day you get it. Also, OMG I totally get why people have all weather floor mats now. And all wheel drive. And snow brushes! Boot trays!
So instead of driving to the barn, I’ve been focusing on playing with all. the. buttons. and just getting to work in one piece. One thawed piece. Just in time for work to be totally over the top and in need of multiple 11 hour days. Ugh.
I did manage to have a lesson (sob) two weekends ago that went really well. Mainly working on bending and moving off my leg, but also just getting my head back in the game. Which, you know, I’ll have to do all over again when I finally get to ride again.
Well, it’s been a year, that’s for sure, for better and for worse.
The beginning of the year saw Fin come home, the greatest belated Christmas gift there was. I wrapped up 2016 with a count of the number of shoes I purchased: 16. 2017’s count? 15. Oops. It snowed in South Carolina. I got used to life with a dog, was still working in human healthcare and not riding. It was 80 degrees. Dad came to town and took me to dinner, we discovered alternative facts must have been what horses have been spooking at all this time, and I spent a weekend refinishing a free dresser. Discovered that when being read in on a confidential project saying, “it’s okay my only friend is my dog,” does not instill as much confidence as you think it might. Learned Fin likes to be vacuumed. Reorganized my closet, cleaned my baseboards and generally prepared for spring.
Went to NYC for a weekend with my best friends. Purchased expensive candles, saw the Carole King Broadway show, laughed way too hard, ate a lot of really good food. Cheered on the Heels to a National Championship!
Jump judged The Fork 3* and realized I was officially bitten by the eventing bug and it wasn’t going anywhere.
Went to Asheville, NC and spent the day hiking with a friend and the dogs. Fell into a waterfall.
Flew up to Washington DC for a week and visited multiple friends, bought a scrunchie, attended a wedding and… ate. Duh. Spent a day with our Life Flight crew on the helicopter and had one of the coolest experiences of my life to date.
Went home for Christmas, bought a new car, bought a saddle, bought three jackets to deal with real winter. Took the donkey on a walk.
Returned to single digit temperatures in Indianapolis, cried to myself. Took a blanket to work. Received the almost-last of the Black Friday purchases and wrote a blog post summarizing the entire year.
While perhaps not the horsiest of years I’ve had, once I ended up in Indy it became decidedly more so. 2017 was a big year of change – my first big job out of fellowship, my first move above the Mason-Dixon line, a transition from human medicine to veterinary medicine. I grew up a lot in 2017 and started to feel like I might actually sortof understand this adult thing at 25.
I realized the horses keep me sane when everything else in my life goes a little haywire. While this post may be more personal than equestrian, they’re all so interrelated in my life that I don’t think it’s possible to talk about one without the other.
Some changes were scarier than others, but I learned I can trust my gut, that I know myself better than I think I do and that I’m stronger than I think I am.
I gained confidence personally and professionally and realized I have the power to change circumstances that made me unhappy. While I’m nervously excited to creep towards the upper end of my 20s, I’m also at peace with a lot. I loved South Carolina, but spent a lot of my time there anxious and unsettled and while the move wasn’t one I ever imagined for myself, it has certainly provided some relief to those emotions.
Thanks to this great community, I’ve made friends all over the country, ended up in a new sport, developed an addiction to obnoxiously expensive Italian breeches and had a damn good time. Grateful that at the end of the day I am happy, healthy and incredibly blessed. Ready for 2018 – onwards and upwards!
I’ll be back in action soon (as I write this from my parents’ couch where I’ve taken not one, but two naps today), but since I left you last with the world’s biggest pity party, I thought a more positive update before Christmas was in order. Fitting, because Christmas came early this year…
First, the day I found out my car was totaled, I came home to my Secret Santa gift from Sarah at DraftMare which automatically made my day 100x better. I didn’t take any photos before I unwrapped it, but the dog had a great time playing with the wrapping paper (important things in life). She totally hit it out of the park with this adorable C4 belt (how did she know I’ve always wanted one?!) and matching socks (seriously, I love socks so much it’s not funny). And in navy, duh, because #navyornothing. Plus about 9832498 peppermints. AND I got a new blog to read.
As always, thanks to Tracy for coordinating all of us and realizing gifts are my love language. Well, gifts and sugary treats.
Then, the demo saddle I’d been waiting for from County came in… and it’s amazing. Beautiful. Perfect. And was less than I had expected.
It’s a 2013 17.5 County Conquest, but it must have been a demo because this thing looks like it’s had maybe 15 rides in it. My County rep was amazing to work with – she put up with the princess and the pea horse (he measures a medium, but wants to go in a wide…) and my short legs’ needs. It’s amazing how it feels to ride a saddle that actually actively helps you versus fighting one.
Finally (these keep getting progressively more expensive), thanks to the poor crunchy car episode, Santa (aka my bank account…) decided to bring me some new wheels. Doc probably appreciates this, since I jokingly said that with the new saddle, I’d just start riding him to work everyday. Conditioning work, right?
Luckily, we spared him this horror and I’m proudly the new owner of an Acura RDX. You know, just my dream car. Santa definitely spoiled me, that’s for sure.
Otherwise, we’re just over here enjoying vacation, two and four legged members alike…
I recovered from my nice strep session this weekend more or less and had grand plans involving a large (fun) purchase, riding my horse, finishing my Christmas shopping and other general life things this week, capping it off with our big Christmas party next Sunday.
Then I totaled my car Monday night. (If you don’t care to read my pity party, feel free to just know I’m okay and skip this. Doesn’t offend me.)
Rewind. I handle new employee orientation at my job and Monday night we had an evening session meaning I didn’t leave until about 8:15pm. I’ll spare the details (aka I’ve spent all day on the phone with insurance and don’t really feel like typing it out… again), but it was… not good. Bye-bye front end of cute Cadillac. I’m sore af, bruised the heck out of my ribs and managed to bruise one very specific spot on the outside of my right foot (???), but no major injuries. I hit my steering wheel hard enough for it to bruise and knock the wind out of me and nobody can figure out why my airbag didn’t go off, but I guess we’re just lucky it wasn’t worse. (And that I didn’t have TunaDog with me, since he comes to work with me relatively often.)
Within 45 minutes of looking at my car this morning, insurance was like, uh, yeah, that’s totaled. Cool guys. So, Merry Christmas, I get to buy a new car which was decidedly not in the budget this winter. What was in the budget? Clinics, lessons, saving up for event camp next summer…
I’m just pissed. So so happy not to be hurt of course and I know it could have been way worse, but pissed that all my fun horse money just flew out the window. Riding is my therapy, it keeps me sane, it has been the only thing I’ve really thrown myself into since I moved to Indiana. I left all my friends and family behind and I happily spend all of my time at the barn, at work, snuggling with TunaDog or sleeping basically. It’s not like car = never riding, but it definitely throws a wrench in my plans.
Plans like working all winter to successfully go BN in 2018. Like clinics with the trainers they bring in and consistent lessons with C. And that didn’t become impossible, but it sure as hell just became a lot harder.
I have some longer term plans (like 6 month range) that will help with the budget, but the next few months are are going to get pretty tight (plus it’s cold and I hate cold). Yay.
It’s obviously holiday season (if you missed that, you might want to consider exiting your cave because good food) and with that comes travel. All the travel.
I’m currently home in New Mexico for Thanksgiving until the 27th, quickly followed by a trip December 1st-4th and back home December 20th-28th. Leaving very little time for other things… like riding. On one hand, it’s the off season, there’s nothing big on the calendar looming and it’s nice to have time with my family (I am apparently a weird person who loves nothing more than hanging out with her parents). It’s beautiful weather here, the dog is overjoyed to have my parents’ big property to run free on and I reallyreallyreally love having someone else responsible for my meals. Like, really. Like, I got home Saturday night, but my parents were actually out of town until Sunday afternoon, so instead of going to get food or something to feed myself Sunday, I just waited for them to get home to get dinner. As my mother put it, I was lazy-hungry – too lazy to be seriously hungry. Truth.
The flip side is that the off season is the time to get good. It’s always been the time of year of torture – this is our chance to fix stuff, improve, put the work in that will pay off come springtime. So being gone 23 days in fiveish weeks? Puts a bit of a dent in that plan.
Instead of coming up with fun ways of trying to die on horseback, I’m just trying to keep up some semblance of fitness amongst all the pie and potatoes and birthday cake (five weeks = three immediate family birthdays). Instead of spending all my spare time at the barn, my life looks something like work, pack, airport, fly, airport, unpack, laundry, work, pack…
It’s not like these couple weeks are going to torpedo my goals for 2018 or set me back months and months, but they have a little bit of a sting. I want to be at the barn, working hard, putting in the blood, sweat and tears (k maybe not the blood). I want to come out at BN in 2018, ready to kill it. I want lower dressage scores and clean jump rounds and to meet the goals I set for myself.
But while 17 year old me would have focused entirely single mindedly on these things and let that little sting become something more, there’s a great thing about age – you grow up. And 25 year old me? Yeah, I can’t wait to get back. But I’m also not going to rush through the holidays and cease to enjoy the time with my family. There’s no expiration date on my goals, I’m not Cinderella, the clock isn’t going to strike midnight and turn Doc into a pumpkin.
So if it’s a little quiet around here, there’s your why. I’m probably at about 30,000 feet, on my parents’ couch or otherwise somehow entertaining myself. I’m going to enjoy these 23 days, feel lucky that I have a family to spend the holidays with and after they’re over? Well then the real work starts.
These are fun to read from everyone else, so I thought I’d add mine! For reference, I work from home most Wednesdays and Fridays, but occasionally other days during the week as well, just depending on meetings and current projects, etc. I’m in a business strategy/HR type role in the veterinary industry, so I’m pretty flexible depending on the time. My projects come and go, so certain times are crazy (um, last week?) and others are a lot slower (late summer this year). I’m also on call essentially all the time to deal with various HR things, so while I’m getting better about turning off my phone/e-mail, I’m always aware of it. I’m lucky enough to only be 20 minutes from my office, but I’m a solid 45 to the barn without traffic.
Doc gets Mondays off typically, his owner/Trainer C rides on Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday and I ride Wednesday, Friday, Saturday. This is all a little variable depending on C’s job, so I occasionally will pick up a Tuesday or Thursday.
Other things obviously vary – sometimes I have to work early or late (hi 7am Friday meetings!), sometimes the dog comes with me to work so I have to run him home if I’m going to the barn, sometimes the weather epically sucks and I go home and eat cookies. Such is life.
Things change a little bit in the summer when I have more light in the evenings or it’s really hot, but this seems to be the consistent schedule for now. Of course, I’m already planning on moving to a new house in the spring because I apparently hate settling in and I’m sure everything will change… again.
Since I’m still having fun writing about all horses of my past and present, TAAHH’s blog hop seems the perfect place to introduce Coorina.
If you ever read the old blog, you may have read the story of my riding accident. Probably will share that one again one of these days, but the short of it is I was 9 years old, trying a horse to buy and he bolted through a fence – and I went through a fence post. It was a relatively gruesome injury and I lost absolutely any trust and confidence I had in horses.
That’s when Coorina came along. She was a APHA mare owned by my aunt and uncle who had purchased her as a yearling in Iowa. They showed her all the way through the levels, including a Reserve World Championship in Western Pleasure by the time she was a 5 year old. When it became apparent I needed something that’s main interest in life was sleeping and eating, they knew she would be the perfect match. To this day, she is the laziest horse I have ever known in my lifetime.
She came home to live with us and took me from lunge line lessons, to walk-trot, showing at schooling shows where I would only go in the arena if my mom or trainer could come in with me, all the way through showing at the World Show level.
Looking back, I realize she was also probably one of the nicest horses I’ll ever ride. Mare could move, but she was also built practically perfect and that face – I can’t tell you how many times we were asked if she had Arabian in her. We won a bazillion (accurate number right there) halter classes, including some really awesome satin that any kid would have loved despite having to do nothing but stand there and look pretty (her favorite).
This is not to say she was perfect – she hated going hunt seat (probably because she was all of 15.1) and she was a mare. When I first started riding her as a terrified kid, she wouldn’t put a foot out of line, but as I started getting more confident or if others rode her, she was not afraid to express her opinions. Opinions about everything. Didn’t want to trot in showmanship that day? Didn’t do it. Learned how to grab the shank of her curb bit so she didn’t have to listen to me. Refused to do more than one lead change approximately every 20 minutes without turning into a witch. When Lucy came home, she made it very clear that she was in charge and Lucy better not try her. She was essentially a Real Housewife, if we’re being honest.
But, she also let me shimmy up the side when my trainer insisted I had to learn to mount without a mounting block (seriously, did you see how short my legs were? I was like a monkey gymnast). She’d also go on essentially no rein at all, draped to the ground.
In another story that’s too long for this post, she also had a Peter Stone model made of her, which landed us an article in Young Rider (anyone remember that magazine?!) Every once in awhile I see a Coorina model on eBay or Facebook and it never ceases to make me smile that my beautiful mare had an actual model horse made of her – talk about every kid’s dream.
When I started to get ready to move up to the 14-18 divisions and look for another horse (what would be Lucy), Coorina went back to my aunt and uncle to have babies. Her first was a filly by Real Bonanza, Sadie.
In typical Coorina fashion, one of the first days they were turned out, they went to bring her in for dinner and Coorina came loping up to the fence (the only time this mare willingly moved at a speed faster than sloths was when food was involved), stopped about halfway to the fence and realized… she had completely forgotten little Sadie. Because in dinner vs baby, those maternal instincts were having a real fight for first.
After Sadie was weaned, Coorina actually came back to us and became my mom’s amateur horse for a few years, where they were ridiculously successful because my mother can ride circles around me without trying. It’s fine, she likes chasing cows now and I like pretending to event, we’re all good.
Coorina’s second baby was Sonny, a gelding by Mark This Spot. For a mare who was a prissy western pleasure princess (she is literally known as The Original Princess Pony), both of her babies ended up being badass cowhorses.
Even once retired, Coorina was the mare I would hop on bareback in a halter and lope around like we were in the world show pen – she was that fancy. We lost her November of 2014 to some type of cardiac event. I was in my first semester of graduate school and it completely devastated me. I remember just laying on the floor of my apartment, unable to pull myself together. This was the mare who gave horses back to me. I have no doubt in my mind I would not have stayed with riding after my accident if it wasn’t for her.
Ironically for a blog named for mares, there’s another important guy in my life (sorry mom, he has four legs too). Fin (formally Bluefin Tuna Dog) is my Jack Russell Terrier/Corgi mix – colloquially known as a ‘Cojack,’ which I think sounds like something that plugs into a television. And today is Fin’s 7th birthday!
He came to me January of 2017 (literally on New Year’s Day) from the Carolina’s Russell Rescue. He had been surrendered by a family who said he was, “aggressive because he barked at and chased squirrels and rabbits.” Yeah.
I took one look at his giant, oversized ears and fell in love. I call them his radar ears. He’s almost perfectly half-JRT, half-Corgi – colored like a Jack, body/tail/ears of a Corgi. Personality swings wildly between the two.
He’s the best snuggler, the worst co-worker (I work from home, he sleeps on the couch), and yeah, we love to chase squirrels. Who doesn’t? Fin’s interests include: destroying stuffed toys, eating a variety of vegetables (carrots, squash, plain lettuce, spinach, green beans), stalking squirrels, rolling around in the grass, lounging in his swimming pool, playing with his Doberman best friend and going to Starbucks. Basically the bougiest dog of all time, right?
For a dog who should be the dream horse person dog, he despises them and does not get to go to the barn or any horse shows. Fine by me. Less fine when at my parents’ house and he is forced to see Lucy and Sancho the Mini Donkey.
Fin is the world’s biggest wimp and in our time together has overcome fears of the broom, the pantry door, my purse, the kitchen timer, the bathroom and most brilliantly, the hardwood floor. Yes, the floor. We are still working on all types of weather events and precipitation.
He has more coats and jackets than I do, courtesy of the clearance room at Farmhouse Tack.
If we’re being honest, it’s Fin’s world and I’m just living in it. Happy birthday buddy!
I guess my parents’ didn’t teach me super well, because while I won’t go get in a van for free candy, if you’re like, “HEY wine and ponies and puppies!” I’m like, OKAY LEMME BOOK MY PLANE TICKET. True story.
Also the story of how I basically sent Olivia a text like, “here’s my flight, THANKS!” and showed up at her doorstep. Okay, so more like outside in passenger pickup at Dulles, but basically the same thing.
But I don’t even care if it breaks every childhood stranger danger rule because we had SO MUCH FUN. I knew we’d be great when she picked me up and was like, “Sooo… we can go home… or we can go to the barn.” Uh, duh. Barn. Where I got to meet the cutest snuggly gigantic horse ever, Frankie!
Guys, he’s giant. Like, I don’t think anyone understands this, because you see Olivia on him and it’s like okay, sure he’s big, she’s tall, k. Nope. I’m like the size of one leg. Minus some draft horses, he’s legitimately the largest horse I’ve ever met in my entire life.
She schooled the humongous horse, we snuggled him and then she fed me Thai food.
AND THEN SHE TOOK ME TO WEGMANS.
If you are not familiar with Wegmans, you are missing out.
Saturday, first we stopped and she introduced me to Wawa. WHAT. Insanity. Gas station, but like… amazing. Coffee. Breakfast carbs. Ordering via computer to reduce the amount of actual human contact I have to endure.
Then we went to Middleburg, hereby known as Heaven on Earth. Seriously, the cutest town ever. All the pony things.
I made her try on Animo breeches, but they didn’t fit her (the shame, I didn’t start an addiction to $400 breeches). I sat in approximately 90382 saddles, of which I made her get 85% down for me while referring to her as, “tall friend.” (I’m seriously so sweet and nice of a person, right?!) I fell in love with every saddle I sat in that was more than $3000, because #champagnetaste #tapwaterbudget. We didn’t buy anything.
We drooled over properties for sale that cost more than I could dream of. I mean, it comes with 890 acres though? That’s a lot of bang for your buck.
I even got to dabble in my not-so-secret old lady habit – antique shopping! In which I played the enabler and made her buy a gorgeous copper pitcher and bowl. They’re totally practical purchases though – you can put things like sangria in pitchers and candy or carbs in bowls.
We went to a winery. Where there was a mini-donkey just roaming loose. Uh, hello did I mention heaven on earth?
Basically we just played with the donkey for like 10 minutes and then we finally tore ourselves away to go drink wine. What a rough life we lead, right? It was also like 9839 degrees and I wore all black like the displaced Southerner genius I am. Not.
AND THEN. We went to the barn. And I got to ride Frankie.
If I didn’t mention he was giant before…
So giant. Also had to put Olivia’s stirrup leathers on the very top hole.
Other than being impressed by his size though, there’s so much to love about this horse. He’s so freaking cool guys. I ride like a very small sack of rice on a horse and he was like, “Yes, of course, I would be happy to!”
When I asked for fancy things, he did them. When I just wanted to toodle around on the buckle and pretend he was a western please horse, he was all about it. I made him neck rein. It’s really a miracle anyone lets me ride their horse guys. I’m a total weenie and felt entirely comfortable on him, like you could ask me to go do anything and I would have been like, SURE.
It’s so so cool to see how far Frankie has come since Olivia has gotten him and you can tell it’s been a lot of hard work, but man, he sure makes it fun. I totally would have horsenapped him, but he’s like, slightly too large to fit in a carry on bag. (I totally had him on my side though, I fed him ice cubes because I ignore rules because I was trying to win him over)
And then we went home and ordered Chinese food and sat on the couch because we are the same person.
Sunday, Olivia had a lesson (recapped here) and my main takeaway was a) she can remember a lot of jumps in a short period of time (I take like 8 years to learn a course) b) her assistant trainer is super awesome and c) she’s seriously a fantastic rider who does not give herself enough credit. Her leg does not move when she drops her stirrups. Her upper body doesn’t do any of the bizarre things mine does. She’s great at making adjustments mid-course. No wonder they’ve done so well this year – she’s got it.
We finished out the day pampering Francis (he was less than impressed with getting his mane pulled), watching her assistant trainer perform chicken surgery (just a small leg procedure), and cleaning tack (she cleaned, I sat and watched her like the super helpful friend I am).
It was basically the greatest weekend and I can’t wait for her to come visit Doc and me in Indiana!
I manage to end up with a lot of bruises. Mostly from really stupid things. Half the time, I can’t remember what they came from. September, however, was a particularly moronic month for me, so obviously the correct response is to share it with the entire internet, RIGHT?
Upper right arm/elbow + outside right knee: Doc is crosstied in wash rack, I’m carrying small bucket with ACV rinse. He steps on the hose, I push him off, he instead steps on my foot. Proceed to, “OW GET OFF MY FOOT” and manage to trip myself backwards. Our wash rack has a 6″ or so lip on the front of it, like a curb, which in my tripping, I fall over. Doc spooks (aka pulls back like, “THIS GENIUS AGAIN”), knocking bucket out of my hand, which goes flying. At this point, I’ve landed on the curb, horse is hovering above me and bless his sweet, wonderful, sane heart, realizes nothing is going to kill him and he should freeze before he kills the small human beneath his large feet. I am soaking wet and accumulate an upper arm bruise that looks like I got socked, along with the outside of my knee. Can’t raise arm fully for three days. Praise the Lord for heating pads.
Inside left knee: So I have a pair of Monacos that have been straight hell on Earth to break in. Everyone who is like, “oh so easy to break in, so comfortable!!” YOU. ARE. LIARS. Or mine are just defective. Anyways. I try to make myself ride in them once a week or so (and they’re getting there, I will admit), but they still haven’t dropped enough to fasten the snaps at the back of the knee. No big deal, I think, I forget to do the snaps on my schooling boots all the time. Well, post-lesson, I discover the snap somehow migrated between my knee and saddle and has left me with a quarter shaped disgusting colored bruise on the inside of my knee. Cool.
Outside right knee/lower thigh: Leaving the arena on Tuesday, stopped to grab my water bottle off the arena rail. Doc decides he’s done and leaving right now, thanks, nevermind to the small human on board and proceeds to turn my leg into the post. Thanks buddy.
Honorable mention goes to the 4″ scratch up my left calf I do not know the origins of and the cut on my lip courtesy dropping my phone on my face.
On the plus side, I did not fall off the mounting block this month.