Quarantine

Remember that time I rode my horse and blogged and had a life outside of work? Yeah, it was also in the pre-global pandemic times.

Those who have followed along with my brain melting down over on Instagram are probably a little more in tune with what’s been happening, but I’ll summarize because we’re all a little brain melt-y right now.

Someone is enjoying this

Essentially, I work in emergency medicine for a large medical school/health system that staffs 10 hospitals with 250ish physicians and 75 NP/PAs. In a “regular” year, we see about 350,000 patient visits. This is not a normal year. I’m in analytics and business intelligence which in short regular speak means if there’s a metric/data piece, I handle it. I track… everything. And during this time? I track all the things, all the time.

It’s meant some long days, but nothing compared to my clinicians who are on the frontlines, putting themselves at risk. All I can do is sit at home and try to support as much as I can. It’s meant that riding my horse has slowed way down and fallen down on my priority list.

I did discover this diagnosis someone had, which was entertainment for a few days at least

Last week I managed to make it out three times to ride – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We had an awesome jump lesson Saturday I’m excited to write about sometime (maybe) and played with our new bit on Sunday. I probably drive everyone around me crazy, but I just freaking love this pony. He’s so game, so much fun and each ride we figure each other out a little more. I hope we have a chance to get out this summer – I already know he’s going to be a total blast XC.

Unfortunately, Sunday was also my last day at the barn for a while. My (awesome, fantastic) roommate is an inpatient pharmacist who has now been assigned to an ICU floor full of COVID suspected/positive patients. She stays out of patient rooms and does her best, but I have to operate under the assumption that she, and therefore I, have been exposed.

My barn is a fantastic place full of amateurs – many over the age of 45-50. My barn owner/trainer is the primary caretaker for her 87 year old father. Other riders are nurses, scientists, mothers – people who can’t afford to get sick or take it home to their loved ones.

I realized last night there was no way for me to justify going to the barn right now. A shitty decision? Uh, yeah. The right decision? Absolutely, 100%. I would not be able to live with myself if something happened due to my need to ride my horse. It’s a privilege and a luxury, it is not a right. I would feel like the world’s worst hypocrite working in EM with a public health background, scolding people for not respecting quarantine, only to turn around and decide I’m better so I can go see my pony.

Someone had some epic bed head on Sunday

I don’t have a single sign or symptom, nor does my roommate, but in these times… I don’t think you can be too careful.

So, for the next few weeks, I’ll be here, at my computer, working, trying to keep our hospitals open and running as efficiently as possible, staring at photos of Iggy on my phone and waiting for the day that we can all emerge on the other side of this.

Continue Reading

Things I Bought & Liked

Along with the new horse has come a number of new items, mostly small one off things that don’t necessarily need a full post review.

Etsy Blanket Tags

I didn’t like any of the plastic or metal tags I could find online to identify Iggy’s blankets. So I went a different route – keychain tags. I placed a custom order with ___ and within a few days I had adorable light blue and navy blanket tags (color coordinate or don’t bother thank u very much). I sprayed them down with a coat of ScotchGuard and off to the barn they went. It’s still early, but I’m impressed. They’re easy to spot versus some of the small tags and they’ve stayed readable and clean despite their light color and the mud swamp we now live in.

Stall Sign from PalletsbyCatherine

I don’t think there’s much to really review for a stall sign, but… here is it? Iggy was looking like the poor temporary kid with a piece of paper with his name on it on his stall. None of our stalls have true nameplates, but all the other horses had pretty painted ones, so I decided Iggs needed one too. I ordered his from this Etsy store and it came quickly and is so cute.

Schneiders Adjusta Fit V-Free Midweight Blanket Liner

IGGY APPROVES

A few weeks ago the temperatures did their Indiana thing and dropped something like 30 degrees overnight, meaning we had a few days with highs in the single digits to teens. AKA the days I question my sanity for living here. Iggy had a sheet and a medium, but no heavy and I had a moment of total panic realizing that nothing I had was going to be warm enough for my horse. In a blind fit of ‘take my money’, I ordered a 280g liner from Schneiders with two day shipping. It showed up the next day and has been used a half dozen or so times since.

They run a little big so I ordered a 74 and while it’s a smidge tight around his chest, any bigger would have been too big for him. It has holes for straps to be fed through that keep it in place and make it pretty universal in terms of what blanket you use it with. My biggest annoyance with it is that it has a closed front, but I also get that an open one would add bulk there. My annoyance is 100% my own laziness of having to unsnap crossties to put it on.

While it doesn’t feel indestructible, it also doesn’t feel cheap and so far it’s held up well. If it was something that I was going to use daily all winter, perhaps I’d have different feelings, but for something that should get < 20 wears per season, it’s perfect. It doesn’t seem to slip around at all, which I appreciate, and hasn’t caused any rubs or other issues. Each time I’ve pulled it off of him, he’s been toasty but not overheating underneath and I’ll totally admit I’ve wrapped myself up in it more than once. I have only used it with a 200g medium over it, but I’m sure it would work just as well with other weights. I think it’s a really good option if you live somewhere you may not need a liner full-time and you can’t beat Scheniders sales.

EquiFuse Gleam Moisturizer and Shine Serum

I have no great tail photo because #mud so instead please look at the length of my horse’s eyebrow whisker

I feel like I’m the last person to find out about this stuff, but wow. No matter how rats nest-y tails have gotten this year (uh mud dreadlocks are a thing), some of this and a Wet Brush have just about any tail in the barn looking lesson worthy. And it smells so good. I’ve converted about half the barn and already purchased the rest of the EquiFuse line and now I’m just counting down the days until it’s bath time.

Continue Reading

Auburn Eventing Online Auction

Many of y’all know I’m an Auburn alumna (and if you didn’t, I’m genuinely amazed because I’m about as obnoxious as they come). I didn’t ride while I was there, either NCAA or recreationally, and I definitely wasn’t eventing at the time, but it’s been really fun to see the Auburn Eventing team be so successful. (A team that didn’t exist when I was there!)

They currently have an online auction going until Friday, March 13th at 6PM CST. If you’re in the mid-atlantic/southeast, you don’t want to miss it – it’s chock full of lessons, schooling days, LRK3DE tickets, and gift cards for all kinds of things (bags of feed, farriers, coaching). Some things (like a schooling pass to Morven Park) don’t even have a single bid on them yet.

Unfortunately none of the lessons are close enough to me to take advantage of, but if you’re local enough, it’s a great chance to get a great deal and support a great time while you’re at it.

Continue Reading

Work’s out forever

School is not out forever. Well, it is for me because I’m not going back, but mostly that’s just the song stuck in my head right now. Reason being, work feels like it’s out forever. That’s right, we are also on the ‘work from home indefinitely’ train. Which means I still have to, like, work, but I also gained an hour and a half of my day back from commuting and I don’t have to wear pants.

It also means since I live 16 minutes from the barn (8.6 miles exactly, thank you very much) I can squeeze in trips between calls and work and that’s just awesome. Today I went out to give him his Adequan shot, smear goo on his feet (scientifically accurate), give him lots of snoot kisses and insert cookies into mouth. I wanted to ride, but then I came home and COVID-19 proceeded to (continue) to take over my life and I didn’t come up for air until 8:30pm. Have I mentioned how much I love working in emergency medicine?

When they tell me they need daily analytics for testing and screening that don’t exist

Right now, we’ve got daily “COVID-19 Incident Command” calls and I’m on the “Action Task Force”, which makes me feel like a Power Ranger or an Avenger or something, but also means phone calls 7 days a week at 8am. That’s cool M-F, but like, couldn’t COVID just operate during business hours and let everyone have a break on the weekends?

APPARENTLY that’s not how viruses work which is really just rude. So, despite day 1 of home office and making to the barn, no actual riding took place. Luckily I’m still riding the high of two great rides this weekend and tomorrow… well, I have no idea. As much as I’d like to schedule rides and make plans, the truth is this is emergency medicine and things are day-to-day right now.

But they will NOT take my CT (which will be entered as soon as I decide on a show name… tick tock…) and Sharon White clinic from me! (UNIVERSE THIS IS NOT A CHALLENGE BY THE WAY)

Continue Reading

Midwestern Spring

The first weekend that dawns sunny and warm(ish) is always one of my favorites – like a sign we’ve (almost) done it, almost survived another midwestern winter. I saw almost because, inevitably, we will have one more miserable cold snowy spell. My first winter here it happened March 31st and I nearly revolted.

The truth pains me a little

This weekend was that weekend though – sunny, perfect, high 50s (even hit 60 on Sunday) and everyone at the barn had the same giddiness about them. (Side note, once upon a time I would have absolutely mocked anyone who told me high 50s was ‘warm’ or ‘nice out’, but this is what the midwest does to you I guess…) I had a lesson on Saturday, where we finally (!) got to jump some.

Spoiler alert: my pony is perfect. Also, so much fun. He even got elusive compliments from my trainer. We kept it low and simple since we still don’t know each other well and he’s still pretty out of shape. We’re getting there though – a few weeks ago he couldn’t hold his back lead around any corners, but this weekend he only lost it a few times when things got hard and he got tired. Or, uh, I pulled him off it. Mostly I couldn’t stop giggling because he’s just so much fun to ride. Our lesson was mainly focused on overcoming my natural tendency to stick my hands in my crotch and curl forward when I don’t see something/he gets quick/literally anything happens. Which is… not helpful. And then I promptly jump up his neck, which being literally pony sized means I’m at his ears. Instead I think I’m going to be hearing to push myself back, lift my chest, pick up my hands, and stop leaning for the foreseeable future.

This is my barn, pinch me!

Sunday was seriously even nicer out. It wasn’t quite bath temperatures, but I wasn’t able to resist washing legs. I figure if they walk through snow and cold mud in turnout, some cold water isn’t going to hurt them. Even that much was a drastic improvement.

Me, when anyone compliments any of my tack

The barn was absolutely hoppin’ and it was so much fun. I’m at a different barn than Doc was at and it’s 100% eventers and, with the exception of one junior, all amateurs. We have a few other juniors and pros who haul in for lessons, but the boarders are all a super fun solid group of ammies. Everyone was pumped to ride outside and we spent a long time in the outdoor meandering, chatting and goofing off before getting down to work. The ground wasn’t quite dry enough to hack on the cross country course, but even being in the outdoor is an upgrade and I’ll take it. We had an awesome dressage ride and Iggy was downright sweaty at the end of it. He’s apparently set a goal to be the very last horse in the barn to shed out and hasn’t lost a single strand of hair, I’m convinced.

“Bad at the standing still game”: a series

SweatyPants got a looooonng grooming session with all the new products and things I’m trying out after that – all the EquiFuse things, some Pure Sole Hoof Mud for his soft feet, cookies, liniment, BOT and then stuffed full of apples and carrots for being the best boy. I ended up staying to clean tack while chatting and not getting home until close to 7pm and it was honestly just the perfect weekend I needed.

THIS THOUGH!

T-minus two weeks until our (schooling) show debut and three until we get to ride with Sharon White!

Continue Reading

Lessons at a walk

I had already paid up and scheduled my lessons last weekend and was so looking forward to some one on one instruction with Iggs. Until, of course, I got on Saturday morning to find him off at the trot. Like, WHY HORSES WHY.

Well, why is because we are in the middle of switching joint care (Equioxx to Adequan) and his delicate tootsies need front shoes. Good, no acute injuries, but now I had two paid for lessons and a horse who wasn’t going to go do all the things.

Spent most of his theraplate time mugging me for cookies

So, I had a dressage lesson at the walk. Sounds nice and easy, right? WRONG. It was stupidly hard because everything happens in slow motion and it let Kira focus on every tiny thing my body and leg was doing. We did a lot of change of pace within the walk, bending, and working on the transition between the medium walk-free walk-medium walk. The latter being a place that is so easy to give away points in a test. It was actually a great lesson, especially with riding such a new horse. It gave us a chance to slow everything down and figure each other out. There’s no reason (well, rider error) this horse shouldn’t be pulling in 8s and 9s on his walk work this year.

Kira also worked a lot on my leg – within 45 seconds she’d picked out my ongoing issues. Raising my heel to use my leg and turning my toe out: these shouldn’t sound new, because they aren’t. Did we magically solve them? Hah, no. BUT I did come away with a really good new way of thinking about the first one. Essentially, she explained to me that my raising my heel to use my leg is a result of my horse not being reactive enough to my aids. I’m having to raise it to add leg because he’s not listening to my “whisper”. And if I keep doing it, I’m essentially going to untrain my horse to notice that whisper and he’ll only listen to me raising my voice. Lightbulb moment.

I’ve never had a horse react more strongly to BOT products. It’s like sedation for this horse.

Not in that I’m untraining him, but in that I was able to catch myself doing it so much faster. Instead of leg-raise heel-nag, it was ask quietly-ASK LOUDLY-get reaction.

We didn’t have quite the same breakthrough on my toes outward turn, but that’s no surprise. Caroline (Doc’s owner, old trainer) figured out years ago that comes from my hip flexors being tight. The only thing that’s going to solve that issue is stretching and long-term consistent work. It’s definitely gotten better, and hopefully will just continue to.

Old photo, hilarious photo, but plz look at toes 90 degrees to horse

A super interesting thing was also not noticed with my leg (yes, I know that phrase makes no sense but hang with me here). For years, my lower leg has been too far back. “Push your leg forward, Holly” is a refrain I hear in my sleep.

What’s that? My leg two counties away?

Now if you’ll remember, I got my dressage saddle about four days before we retired Doc and my monoflap jump saddle is brand new (and potentially going to work this is an entire other post oh my god I cannot even anymore). And in talking to Kira, we realized that in both saddles… my leg was never out of place. At least in the sense of going too far back. Fascinating stuff.

Which leads me to wondering if my “perfect fit for me” County Conquest was actually somehow shoving my leg out behind me.

It’s long sold and off to a great new home, but it’s definitely left me thinking – did I spend two years fighting my saddle without even realizing it?

Continue Reading

A tale of two companies

As I’ve alluded to the last few weeks, new horse has meant new purchases because he doesn’t fit into anything. Like… that lovely Devoucoux monoflap? Yeah. That one.

I bought it because I was in talks with Devoucoux about how we could make it work, it was a great deal and I was confident in it. Needless to say, it’s been… an ordeal. I’m not going to publicly say all the things I’d like to say but I’m not quite a happy camper. And am faced with now selling the saddle I’ve owned for uh, two and a half weeks. AWESOME.

IT’S SO PRETTY ITS NOT FAIR

Unfortunately, despite it not being a great fit for Iggs, it’s the perfect fit for me and I’m obsessed with it. Meaning as much as I’d like to pack my toys and go home and never touch another Devoucoux… here I am shopping for a different one.

Seriously, is there anything less fun than saddle shopping? (Yes, there is, don’t answer that question)

On the plus side, I went out on a limb after doing all the reading and e-mailing back and forth with the Horse Bit Bank and ordered the Bombers Happy Tongue Loose Ring. A++++++ in customer service for Horse Bit Bank, by the way. They responded to all my emails and questions promptly, shipped it quickly, helped me ensure it fit properly and have overall been a pleasure to work with. Saddle companies, TAKE NOTE PLEASE THANKS.

I’ve now ridden Iggy in it twice and it’s safe to say we both love it. He’s so much happier and consistent in the contact and we had some of our best work last night. So much so I’m actually already considering ordering the Happy Tongue Beval as our jump bit. And I’ll 100% order from HBB again. Iggy was never bad, per say, in his french link loose ring, but he also played and played and played with it, liked to either toss his head or go behind the vertical, and just didn’t seem totally… happy? As opposed to our rides where the head tossing was a minimum, he was so easy and happy to push into the contact, and (thank God for the sake of my sanity) the free walk involved no “CLANK JANGLE CLINK CLANG” the whole way.

Looks sharp in his new breastplate courtesy of Remus and Michele (although the Remus hair seems to have brought the attitude with it…)

We’re off to lesson with Kira Connor this weekend while my trainer and half the barn and everyone I know is at Pine Top (ITS FINE I’M NOT JEALOUS AT ALL REALLY IT JUST HASN’T STOPPED SNOWING BUT IT’S GREAT REALLY PROMISE). I’m looking forward to finally having a formal jump lesson on the Iggster (is it weird I want to read that as hamster and now that might be his new nickname…?) and getting a good baseline of where we’re at right now.

Happy Friday, thank God for that.

Continue Reading

Busting at the seams

It’s no secret to anyone who met me that I might be a little bit of an overachiever. I have a ‘no’ problem – as in, I am bad at saying it. And this flaw leads to weeks like this one.

I love my job – I love publishing research, I love working with clinicians, I love presenting our data and using it to improve outcomes and quality. I have ongoing projects, I have one-off project requests that pop up weekly (daily?), I have large scale executive level projects and I have pet projects and ideas I want to dive into. I could also spend 80 hours a week doing my job and never get everything I want to done.

Like this!

This leads into education – I’d love a second masters degree or a doctoral level degree, but I’ve reluctantly filed those away. Doesn’t stop me from wanting to get a graduate certificate though – and I would be dumb to not take advantage of the free tuition I get working for a university.

Then comes life outside of the office. Horses, house, hobbies, friends, dating. I bought the house last year and I have an Excel sheet 56 items long of things I want to do. Some of that is limited by financial resources, but a lot is just limited by the time to do it all. Then along with the house, one of my favorite hobbies is refinishing furniture for the interior. I have three pieces sitting in my garage/living room right now waiting for me to have time (ok, and some warm and dry weather OMG) to finish them. Or uh, start them.

This is living in my living room while it awaits its makeover

The horse demands an obviously large part of my attention and time, and rightfully so. I love riding, I love competing, I love the push to get better and constantly improve, be the best I can. Even going BN, it also requires a base level of fitness from your horse to safely get around – meaning, I have to be more than just a weekend amateur to get the necessary conditioning in on an older horse.

As soon as I have a dressage lesson (last night, omg my abs) or a jump lesson, I’m reminded how much I need to be in the gym. My back sobs at me to get my core stronger, my legs scream that they need more, my cardio could stand to be better. My hip flexors are tight as hell and need yoga classes. My body condition overall loves seeing my chiropractor consistently.

Also snuggles

I try to be a person who does more too, because I have other interests. I’m in Junior League, because I wanted to be more involved in my community and it’s a great group of women – but it takes up time too. I have friends I try to stay in contact with (most live out of state so at least I don’t feel guilty not seeing them in person?) and I’d like to not die alone with my unfinished furniture, Jack Russell and yoga mat. Meaning, finding the time to date. Which means finding the time to shower (I mean, in addition to normal duh, I shower), do my hair, put makeup on. I love makeup and cute clothes, sue me. That means finding time for drinks or dinner or coffee or whatever.

Then there’s the ‘others’. I like reading, both books and articles. I try to stay informed on current events, science, world news. I have a list of podcasts, Netflix series and movies on my listen/watch list. I want to learn how to sew, I want to make my own browbands, I’d love to be a better cook. Or uh, cook at all. Other than like, grilled cheese and chicken fingers. And sleep. Of course I can’t be one of those people who happily functions on 5-6 hours of sleep. I need 8 to function and my body is really happier with 9.

And swimming with manatees and kayaking

The truth is there just aren’t enough hours in the day for it all. While I know this as a factual matter, it doesn’t make it any easier. I hate having to prioritize things even though I know it’s a necessity.

This isn’t a typical post, but it’s the frustrations I’m feeling right now. I’m figuratively busting at the seams and at least getting it all out on paper makes me feel better. Anyone else feel like they’re in this boat?

Continue Reading

Pony Club

You know what I love about Iggy? He’s little. Holly sized. Fun sized. Cute and snuggly sized. Doesn’t-hurt-your-ankles-to-dismount-in-winter little.

You know what now drives me bonkers about Iggy? He’s little. So little. Too little for all the things, little.

Why has this frustration come about?

Two things: pony dressage reins and 16″ girths.

I said it. I thought I was bringing home a normal, albeit on the smaller side horse. Instead I brought home an oversized Labrador Retriever. You know what you get when you google 16″ girths? Dog harnesses.

Or when you find an actual option for horses, they’re either $200 or made of questionable material and a lack of roller buckles (WHY?). And none of them come in brown, meaning I may be going XC in a very appealing combination of brown saddle/black girth this spring. Much fashun, so style.

Don’t get me started on pony length dressage reins.

(Actually, Nunn Finer makes pony length reins in their soft grip which is what I like and will probably buy, but they’re also the same price as the horse ones which seems wrong for 12″ less material…)

Trying to take conformation pics was a struggle…

My saddle pads are… mostly do-able on him, although he could probably wear a pony size pad too. Cob size bridles abound in my tack box. (Yet his cob halter doesn’t fit in the throat???) Thank God 74″ and 76″ blankets are at least relatively easy to find.

Does this mean I can join the ‘cool ponies who do cool things’ club even if mine technically doesn’t measure? Current members I know of are Jen and Allie, but I feel like membership is welcoming.

Continue Reading

A Weekend of Ponies

It felt so good to have a pony filled weekend in my life again. Of course it wouldn’t be an Indiana weekend without experiencing multiple seasons in 72 hr stretches, but nonetheless it was a great one.

Friday morning started off at the super pleasant temperature of -3° F, aka a ‘feels like’ of -16° F aka too freaking cold to exist. (Canadians, shhhh.) It also started with wrangling all the things as I loaded barn things, work things, dog things and ‘I live in Antarctica’ things to get out the door by 7:30am. First stop was the vet clinic (my vet is a mixed practice, so one side sees Finn the JRT and the other sees Iggy the Small Unicorn) to drop Finn off for a dental. (This was preceded by re-scheduled bloodwork due to my dog deciding the vet is TERRIFYING the week before and needing to be drugged to get in the door… the same dog who went to work with me at a vet’s office for a year…) I got him inside, dropped off, and planned to be back for him around 2-3pm.

My lead rope was frozen into this abstract sculpture Friday morning

From there, off to the barn to meet the large animal vet to give Iggy a once-over, just to establish him as a new patient and get a baseline. There were also two horses seeing him for injuries and about a dozen getting health certificates to leave for Pine Top next week. This also happened at 9am just as everyone was turning out, feeding, breaking ice in buckets and did it mention it was negative degrees. To say it was moderately controlled chaos is an understatement. Iggy handled the whole thing with aplomb, barely opening his eyes as he dozed in crossties. We got a report of “healthy, but out of shape” so like… same. More conditioning for everyone, coming up.

Of course while I’m at the barn in the midst of this, the small animal vet calls – Finn’s bloodwork has come back and it’s… concerning. He had some iffy numbers about 6 months ago, but since it was a snapshot in time, we decided we’d repeat later and decide then. Well this was the repeat and not only were things still not great, they were trending worse. Scratch the dental and instead we got a referral to an internal medicine specialist (who we’ll be seeing next week). This meant back to the vet to pick up the dog (who decided he was traumatized by the entire situation… this is my eyeroll).

So abuse, much torture

Saturday and Sunday were, thankfully, far less eventful and far warmer – mid 40s and sunny which felt amazing. Tim Bourke was in town teaching a clinic at the barn, so I hopped over to watch some lessons both days before riding. He’s a great teacher I’ve always enjoyed riding with and even auditing I got some really good things to take home (I guess I can’t say take home if I was home?).

OMG i have a leg! And dirty boots that need to be cleaned.

Iggy was a perfect unicorn because of course he was. Despite being stuck inside due to ice that turned into soul sucking mud, he was more than happy to go to work. He’s a little more out of shape than I initially realized, so we’ve got some conditioning to do, especially in his hind end. I realllllly want an Equicore system after Jen wrote about it, but with Finn’s vet bills TBD it’s not exactly in the cards right now, so I’m going to DIY some version based on Amanda’s.

For fun on Sunday, one of the juniors in the barn and I decided to stick Iggs. Sure enough, he’s just as little as we thought – right at 15.0h, maybe a touch over. No wonder I’m out here buying cob things and 20″ girths!

SO LITTLE

Our workout plan (…for both of us) starts tonight and I feel like he might not be quite as happy about it as he was when I just came and shoved cookies at him… The price of playing XC buddy.

Continue Reading