Farm life

Finding Stress Relief

Life has been pretty stressful lately. Nothing is new there, life is always stressful, but this week it just all seemed to accumulate more than usual. Yesterday it boiled over and I just had an obscenely bad day. 

By the time I got home all I wanted to do was curl up in bed in the fetal position and forget the world. 

I fed the horses, poor mud covered and ignored souls, and happened to look over at the shelter. While many people tell me that their shelters remain empty even in the worst weather, my two prefer to remain out of the elements as much as possible. With all the rain we have received, they have spent hours upon hours inside staying dry. One look at the ground and I was appalled. Too much to apparently remember to snag a picture, but the ground was not only torn up but was also knee deep soupy mud. 

Something needed to be done, so instead of fading into the oblivion of an early bed time I dragged the boys to Home Depot to see what we could do. I really want to put pea gravel in, but we had neither the time to dig all the way down and set the stone properly or the money to get enough to cover the 200 sq ft shelter floor. 

Instead we settled for some sand. We bought 30 bags and covered the ground to help with drainage and hopefully keep there hooves and legs out of the worst of it. Poor Dusty hauled those bags and dumped them for me. This was halfway through.

Perfect solution? No, but I’m really hoping we eventually return to more normal rain fall amounts. Prior to the recent deluge the ground was remaining perfect in there. It’s hard to cope with the 5″ of rain we have had in the last 3 weeks. 

While the boys were playing in the mud and sand, I grabbed the riding mower. The pasture is going to seed in places and the horses are just not able to keep it all eaten down which is resulting in over grazed areas and tall regions where the grass has gotten too fibery for them to want to eat. It was time to mow. 

First time on the riding mower

I headed into the pasture and began to mow as the sun threatened to set. About 15 minutes and a few stripes later I came to a screeching halt. 

Look at how tall the grass has gotten! All the rain plus the two entire days they spent inside the shelter to avoid the rain really helped it grow

I had run out of gas. Ugh. 

I left the mower in the pasture, mush to Petes delight as he promptly went over to explore, and headed to the gas station. I wanted to mow dammit. 

Twenty minutes later I was back in my mower making my way up and down the pasture. 

It was a little slice of heaven. 

Watching the sun set behind one of the several ancient trees on the property

I sat on that mower as the sun set and stars peeked through the small breaks in the clouds. I listened to the songs of the birds that were loud enough to overcome the mower. I watched as Gem and Pete grazed. I breathed in the smells of freshly cut grass, clover and wild onion. 

All my stress melted away. All the emotions of the day were replaced by a deep inner peace. 

Gem and Pete grazing at the far end of the pasture while I mowed. They are equally grateful for some sun

The boys went to bed long before and it was just me and the pasture. Mowing is an intensely satisfying activity for those who need instant gratification. Watching the pasture go from unruly to even and well kept is nearly addictive. I didn’t want to stop.

As night fell, my world shrunk to the size of the headlight and any remaining concerns about my day, life and future were eliminated. All that mattered was lining up the tracks and mowing. 

Rhino keeping an eye on me

Unfortunately I needed to stop eventually. I got about half way through and it took 2 hours. I was worried about running out of gas again, there is no gas gauge, and having to push the mower all the way home which is a really long way to be pushing a dead mower. 

I’ll mow again tonight and finish it up if the rain holds off. 

I love living on the farm. It feeds my soul. It brings me peace. It helps settle the world. 



2016 ended with the region being 10 inches in the negative in precipitation. The local lakes looked like tiny puddles surrounded by acres of sand and red clay. Wildfires broke out as the seemingly endless days of clear blue skies and sun stretched on into the forecast.

The water should go to the tree line. This isn’t even as bad as it got. 

The winter came and and it was mild. Mostly warm and dry. We got one day of slushy ice and that was winter. Not the norm and it only added to the deficit.

2017 however is trying to make amends for the errors of the recent past. Not only has it been raining, it has been storming. Soft ball sized hail, tree splintering lightning and deluges have been an almost weekly occurrence. Just last weekend we got 4″ of rain in 24 hours.

The region is positive 5 inches for 2017 which is pretty astounding since we only started getting rain in March. January and February were as dry as the last year. That means that overall we are now only 5″ shy of where we really should be. Still a desperately large volume but we seem to be heading in the right direction.

This was the extent of our winter and it lasted until 12 pm

Unfortunately SC is just not that…umm…tough when it comes to the weather. I mean, when it is nice, sunny and warm 300 days of the year, what’s the point in suffering during those rare days when it rains, snows or is cold? I get it. Sort of.

An example: it was calling for severe thunderstorms. Maybe some hail. Schools let out at lunch. For rain. Really?

This has made riding lately difficult. Indoor arenas are unheard of and covered arenas are few and far between. My scheduled lesson for Sunday got canceled due to the rain. The arena was still under water come Tuesday when I could get there with Gem, so it got backed off to Sunday of this week. Weather looks like even more rain tomorrow then a break and rain Sunday. I’m not sure if any rain cancels lessons or if it was just the absolute downpour we had in store and got that did it, so we will see.

Wyatt chose my cake. I don’t think I’ve seen gummy worms on a birthday cake before

I also can’t ride at home right now. The hay field is mush and not only would it destroy the hay, but it wouldn’t be particularly safe footing either.

It may be time to hit the trails again if I can find some that aren’t under water. It’s bad timing with so much to work on and not that much time, but there isn’t anything I can do about it so I’m trying not to fret.

In the meantime I’ve been spending money as if I had it and am now anxiously awaiting my packages to arrive.  The sun needs to return to the south or I may just go broke.

Einstein loves having extra room to run
2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge: Book #17

I’m not so sure this would have been my pick and I’m still unclear why it was my mom’s but it was, so I read it. It was a quick read for sure.

A Book You’ve Read Before That Always Makes You Smile:  There’s a Wocket in my Pocket by Dr. Seuss. 

So….not sure how to really write anything up about this. I’m pretty sure everyone has read Dr. Suess. This is not my favorite one of his. I’m, quite partial to the Foot Book and Oh! The Places You ‘ll Go.

A little kid, presumably by the drawings, is introducing the reader to the house he lives in and all the creatures he finds everywhere he looks and there are plenty.

At the end, spoiler alert I suppose, he mentions that nobody else may see them, but he does and chooses to believe it. Dr. Seuss, always one to expand your imagination.

Its a quick read as is all Dr. Seuss and a easy escape from reality.



Shopping…I Hates It

For some reason I thought shopping for horse clothes would be an entirely different and way more exciting endeavor than for street or work clothes. 

Turns out I was wrong. 

Having made my eyes bleed looking through online used tack ads without really having any idea what I needed, I decided the better course of action was to head to a tack store and try on all the things. 

First stop was the Farm House. It’s about an hour from me, but boasts a massive sale room that looked promising. My first mistake was letting the hubby and kid come along. It was a race to see which one got bored the quickest. 

Barely stopped myself from buying these beautiful bad boys. I didn’t dare look at the price tag. Everything in the store was way over priced.

I wandered around the regular floor then headed to the sale room. Wow. So much stuff. So cheap. I found a gorgeous show coat originally $300 for only $20! I hoped it would fit but it was both too wide and too long. I debated getting it and having it tailored but I have no real clue how a show coat should fit and I doubt a tailor would either. 

They also had tall boots for only $40, but again not in my size. The lady helped size me in boots and it turns out I’m a pretty easy fit. I do have very small ankles but the Ariat Heritage Contour fit me really well in a 6 regular. I’m now scouring the internet hoping to find a pair used. 

Everything I touched was well over $100 and I was not in the position to drop that much right now. Maybe later if I decide to stick with this I can upgrade things. 

I was there about 90 minutes when I started getting texts about both men being bored, so I didn’t get to try on any shirts or breeches to see what may fit. 

We went home and ate lunch and I put both boys to bed and headed to the closer tack store: The Tack Shop. I figured the prices would be lower since it isn’t so close to TIEC and is in town versus the middle of expensive horse country. I was right. 

The ladies were so helpful. They shoved breeches at me until I had tried on every type in the store. Turns out I’m an odd fit. When the waist fit right, the legs were super baggy. When the legs fit right, I could barely snap the buttons. Just like blue jeans. I hate shopping.

I never actually found a good fitting pair. I started with a size 28 since my thread bare, more holes than material, Tuff Riders are a 24 and while they still fit it is a bit obscene. Half the time they were too tight. The other half too big. 30s were almost always too big in both waist and legs except in one pair where I couldn’t even buckle them. 26s were almost always too tight in the waist but great in the legs. Ugh. 

She finally shoved some tights at me and started with a medium but those were too big. I tried on a pair of Kerrits full seat micro cord breeches with belt loops in black and they actually fit really well everywhere. I was hoping to get a pair in white just because, by they only came in tan or black. I had her go ahead and order the tans ones so I knew I had at least one pair I could show in for both phases of a CT. Buying used is going to be really tricky since nothing apparently fits me. I wear a size 6 jeans and medium skirts. This shouldn’t be that hard. 

Riding had been going really well. I’ve been keeping an inner monologue: quit hanging on the inside rein, slow the post instead of grabbing her mouth, sit taller, turn the entire body with the turn, seriously stop hanging on the inside rein etc… we even cantered both directions without it being a complete shit show.

The Tack Shop also has a consignment section and had several pairs of tall field boots, but none in my size. She wrote down what I needed though in case someone comes in with a pair later. 

I never got around to trying on show shirts because that is my last concern and I still need to verify if I need a coat or not. Hopefully Trainer can help me out here when I ride with her next. 

I did buy something! I wasn’t going to, but the ladies (one was the store owner) spent over 2 hours with me going over tack requirements and clothing plus shoving pants at me to try. I felt bad leaving empty handed. I grabbed a Jump girth and a set of brown stirrup leathers. I needed them both as they weren’t super expensive. I’m hoping the girth works. Nearly everything causes chafing except mohair. Mohair is pricey though and so trying this one first. She had a one very similar back when I rode her English and never chafed with it. So here is hoping it will work

I came home, found both boys still asleep 3 hours later, and put out an ISO ad on some Facebook sites for the remainder of what I need so hopefully someone will have something useful and not expensive because….

He is getting nearly big enough to use the stirrups. Kiddo might get his own pony sooner than I thought

I went ahead and signed up for my first ever CT on June 4th!!!!

I’m super excited. It will be Intro B and 18″ cross rails in stadium. I think we can at least safely do both without looking like complete fools. 



Spend All The $$$

There is a fun schooling show in May that I would love to attend. They have an amoeba level class that is intro dressage followed by 18″ stadium course. I really, really, really want to go. Trainer is an enabler and told me to sign up with Gem (I think the hubby sorta hates her 🙂  It is also super close so I could go the day of and return that same evening = less money and more family time.

The problem?

Spending the last four years fine tuning my endurance gear leaves me with absolutely nothing horse show appropriate. At all. Even my riding attire is all sorts of wrong.

I sat down to figure out what all I would need before being able to even attend a local schooling show. Turns out the list is pretty long and even buying most things used is still outside my current budget.

Gem needs:

  1. Jump girth. This needs bought ASAP anyway so I can actually use the saddle outside the barn where I can borrow one from Trainer
  2. Leathers for jump saddle. I borrowed my black ones off the dressage saddle for the lesson but that won’t work at a show. Something about needing to match and all.
  3. Stirrup irons for jump saddle. Showing stirrupless is not an option. Or at least not one I would be stupid enough to try. I know myself and I know I will be too nervous and type A about timing to want to deal with taking irons off the dressage leathers and putting them on the jump saddle.
  4. Leather bridles x 2.  The whole matching thing again. With a black dressage saddle and a brown jump one I need a bridle in each color. I used to have a lovely brown one that fit Gem well, but I can’t find it. I’m pretty sure I know where it was hidden when we moved, but that still leaves me needing a black one.
  5. Appropriate saddle pads. My red square pad is fine for lessons, but is not appropriate for either phase. It has big pockets for use on trail. Can you stop and eat a sandwich mid course if you get hungry? Something tells me no.

Nothing about this is legal.
I need:

  1. Tall boots vs paddock boots with half chaps. Apparently tennis shoes and fleece leather covers or mesh chaps aren’t allowed. In lessons I use ancient Ariat tennis shoe type riding shoes that are brown and my black mesh endurance half chaps. Trainer’s eyes bleed a little when she sees me. I’m leaning towards tall boots since I’d have to buy both paddock boots and chaps and the cost for boots (non custom) wouldn’t be a whole lot more.
  2. A shirt with a collar. Comfortable cotton endurance ride t-shirts are prohibited. I don’t think I’ve worn a collared shirt in like 20 years. I don’t even own one. Or maybe I’d need an actual show shirt? I don’t know.
  3. Real breeches.  You know the type with belt loops and not made of stretchy lycra? Yeah those type. I don’t have a single pair. All tights all the way. And my tights are black, so I can’t even hope to use them and not be noticed.
  4. A…gasp…belt. Um…I think its been even longer since I’ve worn a belt. With anything.
  5. Hair net.  I think I’d need this. I’ve got long hair now. Maybe easier to chop it off, but its been such a patient process to grow it out. Seems a bit hasty for a single show.
  6. Jacket?? I’m pretty sure I can avoid buying one of these for schooling in the SC heat. I think all local schooling shows would prefer if you have one, but will waive it in the heat anyway. I think. I need to do a little more research on this one because jackets are pricey. Even used ones.

All sorts of show ring wrong
All said and done, that is a lot to purchase with only a few weeks to do it, so its looking about 99% reality that I’ll miss this one. Perhaps I can get the stuff together in enough time to make a late summer or early fall schooling show. At least my helmet is appropriate and since I have no intentions of taking Gem in open fields to fall jump over solid obstacles, I won’t be needing a vest any time soon.

I supported my endurance collection by selling off a bunch of stuff I had that didn’t work well for Gem, like a Wintec AP that fit us both horribly, bits she hated and the like. I have absolutely nothing to sell at the moment and $60 in my horse PayPal account. My endurance gear will have to be ripped from my cold, lifeless hands before I part with any of it.

Part of the problem is that I don’t even know what I want or would like. I don’t have a good tack store near me to go try on a bunch of stuff and I can’t really afford to waste money on shipping. I honestly don’t even know where to begin. Ugh.

What I really need is someone who is familiar with all this stuff to pity me and become my personal shopper. I’m scanning online used tack sites and facebook pages and plan to read as many tack review posts as I can on the blogs I follow, but I could really use a real live person helping me shop. Any takers??

2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge: Book # 16

It has been a while since I did a book review. I thought I would get a lot more read on my trip, but most of the time was spent exploring or at the conference and I couldn’t read while the kiddo slept as I usually do because we shared a hotel room and the light bothered him.

My mom had no interest in choosing a book for this prompt as it was extremely outside her comfort zone. I chose it so I would have something for the trip and then she got the next two.

Since this is also a genre I don’t typically read, I ended up just gong to the library and browsing. While they shelve their books like a typical library, alphabetical per author, they also add stickers to the spines to show the genre. I looked at the books with a UFO on the spine and picked one at random that sounded interesting.

A Book Involving a Mythical Creature: The Brothers Cabal by Jonathan Howard

Horst Cabal thought he was quite dead, and dead for good, until he was risen by a diabolical team of power hungry politicians. He was a little disappointed to find that he was no longer dead. For their part, those who brought him back were also disappointed when they soon figured out they had chosen the wrong Vampire. This one had a conscience and had no interest in being their Lord of The Dead.

Horst soon finds himself in the midst of a plot to create a state of monsters: werebeings, vampires, zombies and the like. In order to help stop this plan he brings his brother, Johannes Cabal, back from Hell, where evidently Horst had previously sent him. Johannes is a necromancer and apparently a good one at that, no longer amused by bringing brainless zombies to animation, he is looking to bring people back from the dead with body, mind and soul intact.

Together they create a team that is hopefully, for the humans on the planet anyway, capable of stopping the evil plot at hand.

First, this is apparently the second book in a series. It did stand alone enough to make the experience enjoyable, but there were several instances where I wished I had picked up the first one instead. So, please read the first one first.

I really enjoyed this book. While it was not my typical genre, it was extremely well written with a big heaping dose of satire and humor thrown in. The satire part put me in mind of my favorite series, The Disc World by Terry Pratchett, and helped the otherwise heavy text flow.

The author was obviously writing for those who were very familiar with this type of book and even mentioned in an early on footnote that reading Lovecraft would probably be a good intro to his books as well. I’m not a fan of Lovecraft, but I was still able to follow the plot and understand most of the intricacies presented.

The novel is long: over 300 pages in hard copy with closely set text and single line print. It took a while to get through. At the end though, I found myself adding the first book to my list of books to read once this challenge is over.

If you are into this type of novel or are looking to test the waters into it, I highly suggest reading the series, though again, please start at the beginning since I believe it would make a lot more sense.



Falling in Love With Gem All Over Again: Jumping

Gem earned a walk break after all the canter work. I let her meander around a bit as Trainer set up an exercise for us.

4 trot poles leading up to a jump standard without any jump.

First up was the above: 4 ground poles through jump standards with no jump. She was nice and picked ones with a center stripe to help me be centered.

The first pass through we just walked and um…well I didn’t steer at all and we weaved through them like a drunk sailor and it was embarrassing. I’m not even sure what happened. Gem didn’t hesitate. I wasn’t nervous. I just didn’t ride. Ooops.

Second time through I actually rode and did my best to keep her between my legs. I really am not particularly good with the whole straight thing. I think I’m going straight, but then I see my tracks in the footing and it is really bad.

Anyway…once we went over it in each direction at the walk we picked up a nice, even trot and got busy trotting over them. Steering was much better and Gem can handle trot poles like a pro. Trainer liked what she saw enough to add a small cross rail (no clue the size but I think it was set to 18″ or maybe 2′) at the end.


This kinda blew Gem’s mind. She was so focused on the ground poles, that the jump just snuck up on her and she freaked. She went over and Trainer was really pleased that she responded with a yes answer, but she wasn’t liking it and it was too much. Trainer then removed the ground poles and left a placing pole and we did it again.

This time Gem focused on the jump and we went over it without much issue. But then the wheels fell off because….da da da…I stopped riding …again.

It was like I was so focused on keeping Gem straight to the jump, sinking my heel down and keeping my leg on to get her over the jump that I just didn’t really know what to do with myself after and we just kinda skidded around and did whatever on the other side.

Gem really isn’t much into jumping and she counts any hesitation on my part as a good excuse to just not do it. She is the queen of dirty stops and run outs. I’ve learned to really sink my heels down, look up and away from the jump and push her on. All that takes all my concentration and then I apparently like to celebrate the fact that I didn’t die and actually went over the jump with my horse instead of on my own.

This made Trainer not so happy, so we worked hard on me continuing to ride after the jump and keeping Gem straight afterward.

She did this by creating a shoot with ground poles after the jump

We came at it again, but this time I had to go straight after the jump and finish riding it. It went much better and Gem was a really good girl through out. While the mare HATES leg during flat work, it takes a crap ton of it to get her over a jump and I had to remind myself to use more leg, more leg, more leg.

Trainer dropped the first cross rail and added a second one to the middle jump standards allowing Gem time to get used to a new placement. She kept the original placing pole and dropped the two rails from the cross rail on the ground between that standard, so we had to go over one pole, two poles next to each other and then the jump. Gem was not happy with this. The first placing pole was no issue, but she really did not like how wide the two together were and was staring at that so hard that she never saw the jump. Once we were over the poles she was smack up against the jump and had to go from nearly a stand still. More leg, more leg!!

The final configuration.

Once we didn’t completely mess that up, she raised the first cross rail back again and we were told that once we did that right we were done. I went into the exercise with as much leg as I could, sank my heels down and told Gem she was a really good girl. By this time she had gotten used to the first cross rail and went over no problem, but the did hesitate at the second. She went over though and cantered away. Somehow we managed it the first time and that was it.

Lesson of the century, over.

I was so happy with Gem. As soon as we went a few canter strides straight way from the jump I leaned forward and gave her a massive hug. I’m sure the little pony clubber having her 3’3″ lesson after me thought I was crazy for acting like I just won the Olympics having completed two cross rails, but it felt huge to me.

Trainer laughed saying that Gem gave the horse equivalent of an eye roll and looked like a teenager just embarrassed by her mom. I don’t care. I know she secretly loves it.

I was a little anxious untacking her to see what the saddle had done. I wasn’t 100% sure of the fit and with all the canter and jump work, if it was going to slide around it would have. I was happy to see that it was exactly where I had placed it to girth up. All previous jump saddles have ended up on her neck after that much canter work. When it was all off, she had perfectly smooth hair all around and no sore spots. After an hour of hard work, something would have been tender had it not fit well. I think it is a keeper!

What Went Well:

  • We jumped a jump, I stayed on and nobody died.
  • I wasn’t nervous. First time ever jumping without a knot in my stomach
  • Trainer complemented Gem on her brain here. She said one time she thought Gem was going to add an extra stride in to make the jump , but instead she just lengthened her stride to make it happen. Really smart horse. If she didn’t hate jumping so much, she might actually be really, really good at it.
  • I kept my position, didn’t get jumped out of the tack even when she superman launched or chipped in really bad and didn’t catch her in the mouth (if it hasn’t been apparent this is one of my biggest jumping fears – nailing my poor horse  hard in the mouth)

What We Need to Work On:

  • Riding. Like…really riding. I already know with Gem that she will not go over anything without a superhuman amount of leg, so I don’t stop riding before a jump, but I tend to completely quit right after. No more of that.
  • Ride straight away from the jump. We aren’t advanced and working on angled jumps or big courses, so I need to ride straight away from it.
  • My approach kinda sucked. I either turned her way too early or too late. I eventually got it right, but it needn’t have taken me so long.
  • More leg. Always more leg.
dressage, Riding/Horses

Falling in Love With Gem All Over Again: Flat work

(This post and the following were written and scheduled to go up prior to saying goodbye to my Scrabs. It seems an odd juxtaposition to have such a happy and loving life type post the day after the other published, but in real life this lesson took place on my birthday, the 13th, and we said our sad goodbye on the 14th. I wanted the Scrabble tribute to post first though)

Not one to be overly gushy and mushy, but wow….Gem restored all my faith in her times 1000 and it is wonderful. This horse. She gives me everything she can, sometimes in ways I don’t know what to do with, but she is honest as the day is long and I am loving getting the chance to ride her.

Maybe my little come to Jesus talk with her during our last ride really did the trick, maybe all my lessons have given me more confidence and tools in my toolbox to work with her, maybe the new saddle (did I mention I got a new saddle for my birthday?!? squee!!) worked magic, maybe the new venue changed her attitude, maybe Trainer is just that amazing…or maybe, and more likely, all those things clicked into place to give me the best ride I have ever had on my Gemmie in seven years.

I started off a little worried, then began to smile, then grin form ear to ear, then full on little school girl giggling. I think Trainer thought I lost my mind. Maybe I did. I don’t want it back.

Thorowgood T8 Jump. Adjustable out the butt, fits the hard to fit mare and my butt loves it.
Delicious dark brown leather pared with synthetics so I don’t have to be anal about cleaning it or riding in the rain. I adore it.

The lesson was broken up into a flat work session the first half and a jump session the second. This post would be way too long to write both up, so I am splitting it in two. I learned SO MUCH that keyboard diarrhea is imminent.

I was a little concerned with the fit on Gem. It seemed too narrow at the gullet, but it didn’t rock and the balance was spot on. The panels fit her like they were custom made which was not surprising as the dressage T8 I have does the same. The flocking was a bit much in the rear, but it is brand new and it should settle with use. I’m going to give it a few months of rides and then have a saddle fitter come in and adjust as needed.

Trainer hadn’t worked with Gem since the very first time at my house where Gem was her typical spazzy, tense and not listening oh-my-God-any-leg-means-gallop self. I think she was a bit nervous. We began with walking with a purpose and created a smaller rectangle in the large jump arena. Right way she could see the difference in Gem and I: I asked Gem to do something and expected it to be done and Gem was respondeing by doing it although sometimes begrudgingly.

The angle is helping any but she really has become a little portly. Ignoring that though: look how shiny she is. And dapples!!!!

We began with walk-halt-walk which is Gem’s worst thing ever. She really sees no point in stopping just to go again and Trainer even laughed about it remarking how she could tell that Gem thought halting was something other horses had to do. She could tell Gem was annoyed because she knew we would just be walking on again and what was the entire reason for doing this? For my part, she had me ask in a small series of quick bursts starting small then escalating to let Gem know I meant business but not create a tugging war with the reins. Eventually Gem acquiesced to the request to halt more promptly and we moved on.

The flat work half focused on one thing: adjustability. Gem and I worked hard at home on rhythm and it paid off as she picked up the nicest working trot that was fluid and forward but not braced or rushed. In fact trainer exclaimed that she was very cute when she behaved and had really nice movement. Maybe we wont completely fail at this English stuff after all.

Wondering what new form of torture I have in store for her

We kept on the smaller rectangle in the center of the arena and began to work on that adjustability thing. It was SO MUCH FUN!

Trainer had me think walk and really, really slow my posting down, sit up tall and tighten my core all while not touching the reins at all and I could feel Gem slow down nearing the walk. Right before she actually walked, I was to amp up my energy and send her on in the trot.

My timing was not quick enough in the beginning and we ended up walking a good bit or I would add too much leg too soon and we never really sowed down. It took a few circuits around before we got the hang of it. When we did though: magic. Gem began to really tune in and all I had to do was change my body posture and my energy level and she would slow then speed back up. Trainer then had me work on going from a working trot to an extended trot the same way.

Pretty soon she had us alternate between working, extended and slow trot at each side of the rectangle. It was a blast. Gem was relaxed and thankful that I wasn’t touching her mouth and really listened, coming back immediately and going forward with gusto but remaining relaxed. Holy crap! I didn’t know she had it in her and it was SO MUCH FUN. Have I mentioned how fun it was??? I could have just done that for an hour.

Right before tacking up. The angle makes her look way less rotund.

After we played with that in both directions, we moved on. Drilling Gem is never a good idea. She is wicked smart and once she learns something it is time to move on or she will get bored and find something else to amuse herself with. Typically, I don’t find humor in the same things she does.

Next was canter work though and I immediately lost all my zen and relaxation. Trainer saw the response in Gem and asked me what happened. I told her I got tense. She told me to relax.

Part of my canter issues comes from my own misunderstanding that canter = faster. Since I can go a million miles an hour at the trot, I don’t really want to go any faster in the canter. Trainer is working hard to break this thought process and for me to think of the canter as shifting to a new gear, but maintaining the same speed. It is helping…a bit.

All my prior work at getting Gem desensitized to my leg cue for canter has paid off though. She can be cued with the outside leg without completely losing her head now. We picked up the left lead and while we did canter and I didn’t pull her face off, we also completely lost any steering we had.

When Gem canters, she just goes wherever she darn well pleases, bulging out a shoulder here and her hindquarters there. Trainer told me to put my outside leg on her and prevent the bulging out, but when I did Gem went wildly careening at a million miles an hour. Or so it felt. Trainer understood my dilemma. Gem is hypersensitive to the leg and believes it means go faster at all times. We have come to terms with this at the walk and are beginning to understand it at the trot, but the canter is currently in the crapper. It did improve a bit and we went both right and left, but it is going to take a long time before it is pretty. Or rideable. We will get there.

The mare likes selfies as much as I do

And that was the first half of our lesson. I was so proud of Gem. She came ready to work and while she was still highly opinionated and her typical self, she was honest and tried hard for me when I did my part and rode correctly.

Trainer had a lot to say about Gem as well. This was only her second time seeing her in action. Her thoughts:

  1. Gem is a super cute mover when she wants to be
  2. She is really sensitive to my leg and we need to work on getting her to understand that I can touch her and it not mean forward
  3. She has a massive canter stride. She was really impressed with how much ground the mare covers in her canter and mentioned it a dozen times during our canter work. Maybe that also plays into my canter issues.
  4. Gem doesn’t like to be surprised by anything. It is up to me to give fair warning about a change like in a transition or direction to let her know what is coming up soon.
  5. Gem is very in tune with me. If I’m tense, so is she. When I relax she will too. I have to be better at controlling my own self before I can expect her to do the same.
  6. Gem likes being in charge. When I get firm about one aspect, say pace, she will try to take charge of another, say direction. This was most prevalent at the canter when she picked up the gait and lead I requested, but then decided she had all the say in where we went. And I let her because I get all flailing and forget how to ride when I canter.

Things I did well:

  • She didn’t correct my position at all. I did ride with less leg than in my prior lessons, but she soon learned why and we are compromising at the moment. She stated that my leg position was perfect for where Gem is at right now and will take time to be allowed to bring it back and around her without causing tension and anxiety.
  • My elbows were the best yet, still need work but I’m counting this as a win because she only had to tell me to bring them back half as much as before and the alterations I made were minimal versus massive.
  • I rode my mare off my seat. BIG HUGE IMPROVEMENT FOR US!!
  • I used circles correctly like I learned last time out. Gem actually bent around the circle and it helped to rebalance her.

Things to improve:

  • I need to begin to work on getting my seat completely independent from the rest of me. Currently its not so much.
  • Continue to improve in my transitions. Don’t throw her away going down and don’t run her into it going up.
  • Canter work. Lots and lots of canter work. Transition, speed, steering. All of it. One big thing she told me is to never let Gem canter from a bad trot. This sets up a bad canter and then I’m immediately having to correct it.
  • Keep Gem focused. She tended to get bored and look around for something to do. I have to keep her mind busy, but not overwhelmed. This is hard for me as I tend to either drill or let it slide.

Up next…the jumping half!!!




Rest Easy Scrabble. I Miss You.

One more day
One more time
One more sunset baby I’d be satisfied
But then again
I know what it would do
Leave me wishing still
For one more day with you
– Diamond Rio

Scrabble joined our family as a scraggly, sickly 6 month old barn kitten in September of 2004. We were stopping by a friend’s house a few weeks before our wedding which is why I remember it so clearly. He wandered out of her barn and right over to me purring loudly and meowing a hello. I snatched him into my arms and looked over at Dusty, then my fiancee, and told him that we were getting a cat. He could take him to the clinic and treat him then bring him to his house which would soon be our house. Dusty wasn’t too enthusiastic, but he really couldn’t say no three weeks before we were married and so Scrabble came to live with us. We named him Scrabble because we were playing the game a lot at the time.

We used to have a ping pong table. It was next to impossible to play with Scrabble. He made it interesting and more fun!

Scrabbie was a wonderful cat. Friendly to the point of being dog like, he always met me at the front door when I got home. For the last 13 years, he has been the first face I’ve seen when returning home. Whether I was just gone to the mail box or away for a month, he was equally happy to see me again.


He followed me everywhere. I can’t recall the last time I looked down and didn’t see him. Or didn’t have him curled up in my lap within 30 seconds of sitting down. He even entered the shower with me and stood patiently just outside the water stream getting sprayed until I was done. When I would be outside he would always been in the window looking out at me. If I went to the front, he would too.

Scrabble was friendly to everyone. He was never mean to any house guest, be it a person or animal and welcomed Echo, Bones and Einstein into our home with warmth. He loved everyone. He was the only cat to allow Wyatt to touch him and never held a grudge. He didn’t knock things over, pee outside the box or destroy the furniture. He was just a great guy to live with and was so easy going.

Above all else he was my cat. He tolerated Dusty because Scrabble liked everyone, but he always watched over me, sat with me, loved me. And I loved him back. He was the best cat I will likely ever have.

Always watching me. I was never out of his sight if he could help it

Dusty diagnosed him with kidney failure 2 1/2 years ago and gave him 6 months to live. He fought and fought and clung to live until he just couldn’t any more. One benefit of having a vet husband is that he can put him to rest at home without a scary car ride being the last thing he remembered. I held him close and hugged him as he slipped away.

He adored the cat tree and would sit up high watching everyone

I love you Scrabble. My heart is broken and my world a little less friendly without your bright face and big, round orange eyes keeping close tabs on me and making sure I am ok. I keep looking for you under my feet, around the corner and waiting for you to jump in my lao when I sit down. I miss you, but I am so glad I got to have youth me for nearly 13 years and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Rest easy, my big man. Say hello to Bones and Hero for me and I’ll see you again someday.