Fancy letters

Like any good Southerner, I love a monogram. The fancier the better, in fact. Particularly if they look like something from Leotine Linens because DROOL. Also like, #champagnetaste #tapwaterbudget to the extreme here. This drooling led me down a rabbit hole a few weeks ago, however, that ended both beautifully and affordably. Say what.

With the help of some artsy people and my trusty copy of Photoshop, before I know it, we had the logo now prominently featured at the top of this page.

Glad you asked, yes, I am wildly obsessed with it.

While traditional monograms would be three letters and a two letter would be first and last initial, I wanted something smaller than a three letter and I don’t love how U looks with a two letter monogram – so HM it became. The addition of the bit at the bottom to ‘equestrian’ it up and the perfect blue coloring completed it.

And then I just stared at it and giggled and sent it to all my friends to look at.

The next step was obviously to put it on ALL THE THINGS.

Which in this case, meant stickers.

Not the greatest photo… but STICKERS

So now I have all these stickers to stick on things. I’m like a 5 year old with a sticker book. Water bottles! Laptop! Corkboard!

Of course, the next step is to embroider it on all the things – I already have a bonnet in the works, I’m scouting out saddle pads, hell, maybe we’ll toss it on vest. The possibilities are endless.

And this is the story of how I gave myself a logo. For no reason at all except pretty letters and feeling fancy. Give me all your ideas of places I can now put it. A tattoo is not out of the question (JOKE, that’s a JOKE MOM I’m still afraid of tattoos because commitment issues). But like, a phone case with it? I need. (And that’s practically a tattoo because I’m a millennial and my phone is essentially another limb.) What else does it need to go on?!

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Normal is a relative term

I work for a veterinary organization so one of my big benefits is bouncing questions of “what is wrong with my animal” off the different techs and vets I see every day. I also get to bring said animal to work with me so he is well known around these parts. Which leads us to last week.

Well known for being a weirdo, but…

Since I got Fin the Dog, he’s been nearly perfectly housetrained. His other manners and skills may lack, but he’s been awesome about telling you he needs to go out from the day he learned where the door was. Last week, I kept noticing Fin the Dog was waking me up in the middle of the night multiple times – like 2, 3, 4 times. He sleeps with me (well, he sleeps in the middle of the queen bed and I am left to whatever remains) and while I’m a relatively deep sleeper, the motion of a 24lb dog LEAPING off the bed is enough to rouse me from whatever bizarre dream I’m in the midst of at that time. Naturally, seeing him standing at the door asking to go out had me up and taking him outside every time.

This is not posed. Dog thinks he is human.

After a few nights of this, I finally l̶o̶w̶ ̶l̶e̶v̶e̶l̶ ̶p̶a̶n̶i̶c̶k̶e̶d̶ chatted with one of the veterinarians at work and we decided to run some basic blood work, urinalysis, etc. to see what was going on. Because obviously I’m sitting here going, “My dog has a UTI. My dog has diabetes. My dog has cancer. My dog has a rare disease that is going to cost thousands of dollars to fix.”

I do not jump to worst case scenarios ever, why do you ask?

And… everything came back normal. Couple hundred dollars of testing to find out my dog is perfectly n̶o̶r̶m̶a̶l̶ healthy. Awesome. Fantastic.

But why can’t I get like, four hours of uninterrupted sleep here?

We were all puzzled, figuring it must be behavioral of some sort. Until last Thursday.

I was reading before bed and up later than normal since I was into my book, Fin asleep next to me in bed. He’s always been an active dreamer, chasing things and moving in his sleep, so that didn’t surprise me. What happened next though…

He barked in his sleep (quietly, enough that with the fan on and the nine pillows I sleep with, I wouldn’t have heard it if I was asleep) and woke himself up convinced there was a dog outside. LEPT off the bed, ran to the door and sat there asking to go out. To chase the dream dog that does not exist.

Which is the story of how I puzzled everyone at my office, spent money on perfectly normal testing and worried myself, all because my dumb dog barks in his sleep.

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Outlook optimistic

Despite all the temptations that exist right now, I’m on a spending freeze (cold snap?) due to some fun things this year is holding. They’re also the things currently pushing me to get off my couch and go jog or do something else to prevent from turning into a blob of human-ness in the off season.

Me, coming back from winter

Mainly, I got my deposit in for Event Camp which is as awesome as it sounds – four days with Sharon White, Tim Bourke and Leslie Law. It’s like all of my childhood dreams of horse camp, but way better. I’ve heard great things about riding with all three and I basically can’t wait for July now. (Except I can because whoa, out of shape and need to get that fixed.) It’s two lessons on days one and two, one lesson and one competition evaluation on day three and one lesson on day four of your choice (flat, XC or SJ). It’ll mean taking four days of my vacation time, but seriously would I rather be on horse vacation or off doing touristy things, uh no competition there.

Always would rather be doing this

We also have a Lucinda Green XC clinic scheduled for this spring, so essentially come hell or high water I will be there, although auditing or riding is TBD.

Otherwise, the schedule is still a little up in the air, but I’ve been rounding up some of the local options that have published dates. We have a lot to choose from this summer, so I’m excited to see where we end up. I’ll be playing with the budget and work dates to make it happen.

Bank account looking at me like…
  • March 24th – First Day of Spring CT at CAF
  • April 14th – Heartland CT at CAF
  • May 5th-6th – Penny Oaks HT at Hoosier Horse Park (we may not be ready to run XC, but we’ll see)
  • May 12th – May Flowers Derby and CT at CAF
  • June 2nd-3rd – IEA Horse Trials (also N/T 3 Day starting May 30th, so will definitely go down to volunteer!)
  • June 9th-10th – Lucinda Green XC Clinic
  • June 16th-17th – Day before HT Derby and Father’s Day HT at CAF
  • July 9th-12th – Event Camp!
  • August 11th – Summer CT and Derby at CAF
  • August 18th – Hoosier Hops Derby at HHP
  • September 8th – Fall Harvest CT and Derby at CAF
  • October 13th-14th – Fall Festival Derby and Horse Trials at CAF

So. many. options! IEA doesn’t even have their full calendar up either.

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Mental Walls (Literally)

Friday afternoon the sun shined and it was 60 degrees and it was GLORIOUS. Like, Vitamin D, yes please and ponies and seriously, I don’t think I realized how grumpy I’d been until suddenly I was seriously giddy happy. Sunshine, it’s a good thing. The arena footing was still a little more wet than I would have liked so we stuck to walk and trot work, but it’s not like we have any shortage of things to work on at those gaits.

I’m bad about my flatwork rides being the same old walk/trot/canter both directions so I spent some time on Friday morning reading up on ideas and other things to do and it paid off. I really focused on doing something every eight strides or so, trying not to go any length of the arena without doing something – transitions, shoulder-in, circles, leg yield, sitting trot, collecting/lengthening. It was awesome to feel the change. What started as a ride where Doc was behind my leg and pulled his nice ‘ears-pinned, kick at leg’ every time I asked for more turned into one of my favorite flat rides I’ve had on him.

By halfway through the ride, he was moving off my leg so nicely, working in a frame, really in the bridle in a way we struggle to get to. It wasn’t necessarily 100% consistent because #workinprogress, but it was a definite improvement over a lot of our rides this winter. The best part was the horse who refused to trot and only acquiesced with a sloth, legs dragging jog early on was light as could be off my aids and giving me awesome transitions. Definitely telling that I need to be doing more during my rides as opposed to just going around and around.

I saved you from having to listen to my baby voice, you’re welcome

Saturday morning was my usual lesson, although we were back in the indoor thanks to rain. Ugh. Still, I’ll take rain over snow and ice any day. Not quite as good of a warmup as yesterday, but neither of us likes riding indoors as much.

We worked on an exercise we also did last week with four poles/cavaletti.

To start, we rode through the bounce, picked a direction and went over both end poles in a sort of moon shape, and back out over the bounce. My biggest issues here are sitting up and keeping my collarbone up, surprise surprise. Once we got that done, we added a circle over the two end poles. I needed a lot more collection to get that done which is something that’s an ongoing work in progress too.

so far, so good

The last way we rode it was (is?) the most challenging for me: bounce, right pole, left pole, inside turn towards the wall, back over the right pole, left, out over the bounce. Theoretically, not awful. And most of it was fine, since we’d already ridden it two other ways. Until we added the inside turn.

An inside turn towards the rail in the outdoor? Fine. Don’t love it, but I can do it. Add an arena wall? Mental roadblock times 1000. Even though I know we’re capable of making the turn, I zero in on the wall, stare at it and convince myself we’re going to just, I don’t know, run into it? Crash and die? Looking past the wall and focusing on where we’re going helps, but there’s still that moment I see the wall as we start the turn and I lose my marbles.

DEFINITELY almost fall off your horse because you can’t SIT UP omg

I know it’s 100% mental because I managed to get it done today. It wasn’t pretty, but I sat up and wheeled that horse around like we were in a reining pattern and it felt good to end on a positive note.

That all being said, it definitely pointed out a mental weakness I need to work on. I’ve gotten over a lot of my fears and insecurities this last year, so it feels interesting to discover a new one, so to speak.

Also, SERIOUSLY STOP LEANING HOLLY this is why you eat dirt. Damn ground poles.

 

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Winter Riding Essentials

I liked reading Amanda’s winter riding essentials post so much, I thought I’d start a little blog hop with it or something and add my opinions, largely to have something to reflect back on in future winters.

If you recall, I was terrified of winter all fall. This is an update that says, “I’m surviving!” Really, I am. Riding as much as I’d like? Maybe not. But surviving nonetheless.

Uniqlo Airism Short Sleeve T

I really like these as base layers – I got mine on sale from Uniqlo for like $9 (if you watch their sales, they go on sale). They’re really thin and lightweight, but really silky feeling. I like them more than the comparable UnderAmour or other athletic branded tops. Originally, I bought them for summer riding, but they work well as a first layer year round.

 

UnderArmour Cold Gear Leggings

I’ve had these for a few years (fourish?) and I actually hate how they look normally, but I’ve found they make a great base layer for riding. They’re fleece on the inside and then are a slick, shiny fabric on the exterior, which makes putting on regular breeches over them much easier. They seem to fit under all but my tightest-skinny-day breeches (and might even fit under those if I would stop eating mac & cheese and ice cream oops). I like that rather than going out and buying winter breeches, I can just wear these under all my regular breeches. So basically saving money, right?

SmartWool Merino 250 Half-Zip

Copycatted Jen here, because that’s what I do when it comes to cold weather recommendations. She was totally right per usual too. I love this – it’s not scratchy or itchy at all, but quite soft. It’s lightweight and not too thick, but is really warm and does a great job as a base technical layer. I typically wear one of the Uniqlo tops underneath this, mostly to help not have to wash as often and keep it a little cleaner. This weekend it was in the 40s and I was more than warm enough in just this. I’m a US 12 and I ordered an XL in this because I don’t love really close fitting tops and it fits perfectly – enough to wear a t-shirt underneath, but not baggy.

Ariat Gridwork 1/2 Zip

Also a Jen recommendation, I picked this up back in October. It’s not quite as great of a baselayer as the SmartWool, but I do like it as an alternative. It was perfect this weekend for temperatures in the 40s and rain. The inside of it is a great gridwork texture that is really soft and cozy – I actually wear this around the house a lot! The sleeves are too long on me, but that’s typical of anything with long sleeves. I have the brown color above and I find it and the side seams quite flattering. It also seems to stay clean well despite horse slobber and mud. I also picked up this in an XL as well.

Mountain Horse Nordic Light High Rider

I picked these up used on Facebook, but Mountain Horse winter tall boots are readily available all over. These have been an awesome purchase – they’re lined in fleecy warm soft lining, the leather is hardy and they have nice grippy inside panels. The foot is clunkier than I like, I actually had to drop my stirrups two holes for these, but when I’m trekking through the ice and snow in the field to fetch my horse who refuses to leave his round bale, I don’t mind at all. The zippers are sturdy and they have nice zipper tab snaps at the top. I’m a 7 regular or full calf in Ariat boots and I have these in a 38 regular – they fit with room to spare.

Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket

Technically this is 800 fill, but I don’t think it’s nearly as warm as a 700 fill Marmot jacket I have. However, it’s super lightweight, easy to move in and washes well. I also really like Patagonia as a brand for apparel in general and think they have great quality. While this wasn’t warm enough over layers for the day it was 9 degrees, it’s been perfect for days in the 20s and above. This fits TTS in my typical Patagonia size large.

Patagonia jacket pictured

Back on Track Quarter Sheet

I picked this up on Black Friday for a great deal. I would have potentially rather had the all nylon one, but I haven’t had any issues with the fleece. It’s a little big on Doc, but I sized up for a few reasons – 1) he’s a leased horse, I wanted one that would be more likely to fit my next pony 2) everything online said they ran small and 3) there were limited sizes available for the price I got it for (like $80). I added some additional velcro in the front to snug it up and it hasn’t been an issue yet. I like BOT stuff and I do think Doc likes this sheet. He seemed to warm up well in it and we had fewer ‘don’t-wanna-tantrums’ than when I haven’t put it on, but that could also be attributed to 900 other things (most mare-like gelding EVER srsly).

BOT on my circus horse

I don’t have winter specific gloves, which hasn’t been a huge issue except for the day it was literally NINE DEGREES and I was frozen solid and let’s be real nothing was gonna help that day. I usually ride in regular athletic socks with the MH boots, although I also have some wool socks that have been awesome. My other saving graces have been big scarves I can wrap around my face and hide in and a cheap thin headband thing that covers my ears from Target that fits under my helmet.

Would love to hear your recommendations!

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Lots of doing absolutely nothing

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!

Just… no.

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!

It’s so pretttttyyyyy

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.

Yes, I turned kennels into my bookcase. Welcome to my office.

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.

So instead I just look at my very expensive tack room aka my dining room

 

This is totally a phase of eventing right?
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Magical fairytale glitter-filled experiences

Last Friday night, I got a group text from my trainer asking the Saturday lesson group if we would be riding the next day, despite the horrible-bitter-worst-ever cold (my words, not hers). After some grumbling (about cold, not ponies), it was decided we would breakfast at 10, then head to the barn. Any day that starts with a waffle is good in my book. The conversation then continued with the idea of riding in the snow. Immediately my mind is filled with thoughts of Instagram images like this…

Glamorous gallops through soft snow while I elegantly guide my majestic Saddlebred among snow covered evergreens…

Cough. Newsflash.

Not exactly.

I should have figured this out when the thermostat in the car read 7 degrees. Or maybe when it took me 10 minutes to pick my horse’s ice packed feet. But onward we went, because I was there for the Instagram, damnit. 

Did it for the ‘gram

We did have a perfectly nice jaunt around the outdoor waiting for the rest of the group, then the decision was made to head out onto the track and from there, one of the fields. In the process of heading out, Doc and I ended up at the back of the group.

And that’s where we take a sharp turn from my storybook-filled head.

Hiding

Immediately my horse is informing me that he does not want to be at the back, THANKSLADY LET ME GO I AM SADDLEBRED HEAR ME ROAR. I acquiesce and we catch up to the group, ending up in the middle. Then the brave members decide to go faster. And I’m like, guys, what is so wrong with a nice very small sitting trot here really? but trot we do. Until Doc decides I’m stupid and he wants to GOFASTER. I turn to my trainer and very calmly and matter of factly state that I am now nervous and what would she like me to do. Okay, good, ride continues, we just happen to be trotting next to everyone else’s walk. Not running away though, so there’s that. Just snot running out of my nose and watering eyes and BY THE WAY it hurts to breathe WHY DID I LEAVE SOUTH CAROLINA.

I’m starting to feel braver (or more likely, my common sense is just numb from the cold at this point) so off to the field we go. Where Doc decides he’s had enough of my former-western-pleasure-rider brain and he wants none of this. This culminates in a fun sort of dolphin-leap toddler tantrum.

The good news is my new saddle is very secure.

And when it was over? I looked at trainer C and said, “I’m done.”

Back to the barn we went. Well, arena.

Pics or it didn’t happen

Where we posed for photos to prove this did, in fact, happen. Where I realized my face was now so numb I could have had dental work done. Where J had so many layers on, she literally fell off her horse trying to get off.

It was a majikal experience.

That I really, really, really don’t need to repeat again.

How many days until summer?

 

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2018 Annual and Q1 Goals

I broke these into two pieces. Research shows goal setting is more effective when you use SMART goals, so I try to utilize those in my quarterly goals. But my annual goals? I like to think of those as themes for the year. They’re not specific, they’re not really even measurable, but they’re ideas I’d like to guide my year, allowing for the flexibility that I need (because my life has this way of changing in like, two weeks, ahem see: move to Indiana in 13 days).

Annual Goals 

  • Prioritize experiences over things
    • Money spent on lessons, clinics, learning and the occasional non-horse related things as opposed to money spent on another pair of breeches, a cute pair of shoes, etc.
  • Fewer, better things
    • Yeah, I stole Cuyana‘s tagline, whatevs. Obviously I can’t live with one pair of socks, but do I really need (another) candle? How many jackets does the dog really need? This goes hand in hand with the next goal…
  • Declutter life
    • More than likely, move 9 in 9 years is coming in the spring (locally, thank God). Despite this ridiculous number of moves, I still have a little bit of moving PTSD and too much stuff. I want to declutter all the stuff before I move it all… again. Notice all three of these are related.
  • Prioritize finances where they matter
    • Um, also relates to number 1. A lot. But more than that, I want to add more to my 401k this year, I want to pay more on my car, more on my student loans and add to my savings accounts. When it comes down to it, I need very few things at this point – food, gas, the regular living expenses. And yeah, it’s less fun to put money in a 401k than it is to see the UPS man deliver a package, but it’s also more responsible and now is the time to do it.

 

Quarter 1 Goals:

  • Ride even when it’s cold, don’t be a weenie amateur
    • I am a cold weather wimp. And while there are certainly times where it’s too cold to leave the house (ahem, -3), I also need to man up and utilize all the layers I own and the indoor arena. Even if it’s 20 minutes at the walk and trot without stirrups, or a bareback ride, it’s all going to help come spring.
  • Do not buy any apparel, riding or otherwise, in the month of January.
    • Uh, self-explanatory
  • Keep working without stirrups at least one ride a week
  • Eat real meals
    • Look, I’m not sure why I’m not allowed to subsist on quesadillas and popcorn, but apparently I’m not.
  • Move everyday 
    • Even if it’s just going up and down the stairs at work 7 times, I know this helps with the winter blues
  • Read 20 books
    • 13 weeks, 20 books. Should be do-able if I prioritize books over bad television.
  • Get a haircut
  • Have Fin deshedded once monthly
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Nov/Dec 2017 Goal Update

We’re obviously into a new year now, but I wanted to revisit these before moving onto 2018’s goals, which I’m thinking about while I’m on self-imposed house arrest because it’s too freaking cold to do anything.

 

Hiding from the real world like…

Horse/Riding

  • Improve dressage score at final show of year (Nov 11) – YES. Best score of the year.
  • Do not go off course/fall off at final show of year – Yup. Frozen, but stayed on.
  • Confidently get around BN course, however that may be – Never XC schooled, but did get around the BN SJ course well!
  • Find something to stop grazing muzzle rubs on smooshy nose – Fuzzy halter covers!
  • Work on not periscoping head around, and instead taking the comments from our last dressage test: “lower neck to connect through back” – Um. It got.. better? Ish? We’ll call it 50%
  • Work without stirrups every ride, increasing time – Not every ride, but between bareback and dropping stirrups, probably 80% of the time?
  • Ride bareback at least 3 times – Yup!

Life/Personal

  • Workout at least four times while home for Thanksgiving – hahahahahahahah. No.
  • Put money away for saddle fund – Yes! Not as much as I’d like (uh, thanks car), but something is better than nothing.
  • Read a book instead of binge watching television – I read some books. I also binge watched some TV. We’ll call it a draw.
  • Snuggle with Lucy horse at my parents’ house – Yesssss. Cookies and snuggs.

I’m calling that success. Granted… a lot of those were softball goals. But I’ll take the wins where I can get ’em. I’m working through 2018’s goals, breaking them down and figuring out where I want to be in 12 months, but there are some things still up in the air that throw in some uncertainty. Needless to say, they might not won’t happen before the 1st, but they’ll happen.

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How cold is too cold?

With all the talk of cold weather around the country right now and so many bloggers experiencing freezing temperatures, I thought I would repost this from a local veterinarian. A great scientific (!) look into the question, “how cold is too cold to ride?” Enjoy, stay warm and have a happy new year! We’ll see you in 2018!

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