FENCE Cross Country Schooling

For some reason this post has been eluding me. I’ve written it probably half a dozen times and deleted each one. One was too upbeat for reality. The next too depressing. The following was way too boring and the one after that lacked any detail at all. I don’t know.

The short of it is that KC and Pilgrim traveled down to FENCE to meet up with Trainer and me for a day out cross country schooling. Nothing terrible happened. I didn’t fall off. We jumped everything we were supposed to except for that green bench of doom which I opted out of. The fences were fun, varied and all starter level sized: a log flanked on both sides by trees, a roll top, a bank, a hanging triple log pile and then some odd bench/roll top/box thing. The terrain was complex and varied as well.

So I should be writing an exciting post about how Gem jumped them all, how I was committed to the jumps and not scared (minus the green bench of doom) and how I even pointed out jumps I wanted to do and asked Trainer if I could. All good things.

Instead though I’m stuck on the fact that Gem very nearly tried to kill me multiple times during this outing. Well, that’s a bit melodramatic but the mare seriously wanted to dump me and tried every trick she could come up with to succeed. When all her tricks leading up to a fence failed to produce the desired result, at one point we were approaching the roll top coming off the bank on a left hand turn and while her head was pointing at it her butt was swung left and was parallel to the jump until about a stride out from it, she turned her attention to the backside and began dolphin leaping and bolting.

KC grabbed some good shots through her Cambox. I’m too computer illiterate to figure out how to embed the gifs she sent me here, so instead I took screen shots with my phone and you get those instead. If I ever figure out how to do it the real way, I’ll post the footage of us jumping.

Before anyone starts yelling “she is in pain!” She isn’t. Her tack fits fine. He teeth are fine. She doesn’t have ulcers. This is just Gem. A Gem who doesn’t want to play the game. A Gem who is bored waiting for her turn. A Gem who wants to go trot and canter down the trail and not stand and wait or worry about the take off or landing. It’s a Gem not interested in what I asked her to do.

This little red jump was one I saw myself and asked Trainer if I could do it. I was happy with myself for finding new jumps and being comfortable with them. Now that bluish grey roll top in the foreground? KC and Pilgrim ROCKED over that coming off a novice sized roll top just off screen. They looked so good out there!

On my way home I talked to Trainer and asked her what my chances of going to a HT and finishing the cross country course were. Her answer? None. So I scratched my HT in December and need to re group. I’m not ditching Gem or my hopes to event. We just need a ton more schooling for the both of us and I’m fine with dumping my money in lessons instead. I signed us up for a jumper show (our first ever!) this coming weekend at our training barn. I think spending money on dressage or jumper shows is better spent right now than a full blown HT.

Typical Gemmie. We had already gone over this same jump a few times, yet here she is caught on film spooking at it right before take off like she had never seen it before and how dare I surprise her that way? She still went over it though.

It was a good outing overall and I realized a lot of things. I’m not scared of a lot of the jumps anymore. Some still get to me and I’m in no way ready to go up in xc height beyond starter, but a lot of the starter stuff wasn’t looking too bad. That’s a big deal for me. And Gem can do it. She can do it well and without issue when she decides to. It is the getting her to decide to that’s the issue. Trainer told me I need to ignore her shenanigans on the front side of the jump and teach her that twisting into a pretzel isn’t going to get her out of jumping it. The issue is always complicated though.

One of my biggest issues with her is getting her to focus. We will be coming up to the jump on either a long or short approach and be lined up straight and there Gem is looking left, looking right, looking behind her in some magical yoga pose until we are slammed up against it. Then she is all “whoa now hold on a minute what is this thing in my path?” and takes a hard look then decides to go over or perhaps not. Trainer is on me for not using my legs more to keep her between me, but any leg equals “go faster” to her so then I end up with this freight train half bolting half spooking still not focused on the jump under me. And she is both smart and athletic enough to pull some wonky crap right before the jump to get out of it, so running her at it isn’t a good idea.

We will get there. Just not this season. Maybe next?



Heart Versus Brain

Farm shopping has turned into a rollercoaster of emotions. The high as a new property is located, the internet stalking of photos and google earth imaging, the unstoppable imagining of what life would be like there. Then comes the crest of the car as we schedule the appointment and turn our car onto the drive followed by the seemingly inevitable crash as the reality doesn’t match the imagined. The big old BUT that wasn’t mentioned prior to looking. The prison a mile down the road. The house 10 ft from the main road. The lake separating the property in an unmanageable way.

The entire process has been emotionally and mentally draining as well as time consuming and we are struggling with the thought of settling to just be done with it all. The issue is that I’m not sure what to even settle on. Amount of land? School quality? Distance from work? How quiet it is? I don’t even know anymore what it important and what is not.

The crux of the issue is my coming to terms with reality. The reality of where we live and what the area is becoming. Nobody wants 30+ acres around here. They all want 6-10 acres, maybe less. Tiny farmettes that give the illusion of country life without giving up on the amenities or requiring much effort in up keep. Larger plots are getting sectioned into smaller ones and sold at high rates. You mention a farm to an agent and they send you 3-5 acre plots with massive houses. That’s not what we want. I’m not sure we live in the right area to get what we want. At least not with a 30 minute or less drive to work.

This dream I have held within me for two decades may never come true. That’s a hard pill to swallow. But the truth of the matter is that the dream was created so many years ago. Back when commute times, school quality and resale value weren’t even terms I knew existed. Back when I didn’t have a job that required a location close to hospitals, pharmacies and labs. Back before I made a whole bunch of decisions that led to where I am now as an adult with a family to raise and business to run.

My heart still wants the dream I concocted when I was 10: 100 acres of pristine land bordered by woods and a creek, horses gleaming in the sunshine, no noises outside that of the earth moving and breathing around me.

The problem is that my brain is screaming at me about commute times, school quality, the time suck of having to maintain that much land on top of working a full time job and raising Wyatt.

Dusty and I have been doing a ton of talking about this. I’m not the only one involved here. Maybe we should settle for something smaller, closer to town and in a great school area. Plan to live there 20 years then when Wyatt goes to college beat a hasty retreat to the mountains. Get our dream then.

Of course life loves to throw curves all around us and who knows if we would ever be healthy enough when I’m 55 and he is 60 to want to retreat to the mountains. Who knows what life will be like in 20 years. Maybe we will be looking to move to the ocean or into a townhouse or across the world. It’s hard to make plans for a week from now let alone two decades.

Why be in a hurry? Wait until the perfect farm comes up even if it takes 5 years. Ah. We can’t do that. Wyatt begins kindergarten next fall. I don’t want to make him change schools. No, it won’t kill him. I moved a lot when I was young and it didn’t do me any harm. But I’d rather not if I can help it. No farm land is available in our current school zone so I’d rather move by next fall. Seems possible but not with what is on the market currently.

It is a lot to think about. A lot to ponder. Looking at a long held dream through the glasses of reality isn’t pretty. It is hard to give up on a dream. To light the match and throw it on. Maybe it is too soon to be talking like this but after 3 months of hard core searching and one dream farm being ripped away from us, it is hard not to take a step back and re think the plan. Re evaluate the necessities from the wants. Figure out what makes us happy as a family and what is expendable.

We have a second showing of a place today. This place is nice. Really the only issues are the schools aren’t that great. Well, the elementary and high school are good. The middle sucks. It’s also closer to a main road than we’d like. A bit noisier than we’d hoped for. I don’t though. The rest is pretty nice.

Then we have a showing at another place next week. Wonderful schools. Quiet road. But the land is smaller than I want. 30 acres but only 12 in pasture. Oh and the state prison is a mile down the road. Not sure how I feel about that. Pretty house though. I don’t know.

Currently I just hate everything and want to move to a different state and start over but I have roots here. My parents. My business. My husbands business. This is where we are now.

Time to move on and figure this thing out.

2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #37

We are so close to polishing off the regular challenge books. This one was back to my mom again and she picked a solid read.

A book set around a holiday other than Christmas- The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Three women living life the best they know how. Each is satisfied with where they are and who they have surrounding them until one by one each has that perfect life stolen from them.

Cecelia Fitzpatrick is a stay at home mother of three wonderful girls who rely on her for everything. She keeps the household running, is parent of the year at school and runs a tupperware business to boot. Her husband is moody, has bouts of severe depression and travels for work, but she loves him dearly and believes she knows everything about him.

Then one day she finds a letter addressed to herself with “in the event that I die” written on the front. She finds this odd but is ready to forget it until her husband makes a point to return early from his trip and spends the night rummaging through the house frantic to find it. When she tears it open, the secret it reveals threatens to tear everything she knows and loves apart.

Tess O’Leary lives with her husband and young son in Melbourne where she runs an advertising firm along with her husband and cousin. While others may find the relationship strange, she relies on the presence of her cousin to help stave off her social anxiety. In fact, her cousin is more like a twin sister and stays over most nights at her house. Then one night, her husband and cousin come into the house and announce that they are in love. Her life is ruined.

Rachel isn’t living her perfect life. That would include her daughter who was murdered at a young age. However, she has found solace in her 2 year old grandson who she watches several days a week. The birth of her grandson brought her back to life and while she still hunts for the person who murdered her daughter, she now has love again. Until her son and daughter in law announce that they are moving to New York City for two years.

As the women try to piece their lives back together, their lives begin to intertwine. What will each woman do faced with the new facts of her life? How will she pick up the pieces and carry on?

This novel was a wonderful read that kept me hanging on and wanting more. In fact, I found it truly hard to put it down and really enjoyed the fact that it took place in Sydney, Australia over the Easter holiday week.

While each of the women overlap lives with the others, it was done in a seamless and realistic manner that didn’t feel contrived or forced. I’m not typically a fan of the die hard, tough woman and was a little cautious reading this, but the characters all have their own flaws and are well rounded individuals just trying to do the best they can.

I don’t want to ruin the plot here. The letter isn’t opened until half way through the book and I wasn’t expecting what was to be found within. As it unfolded, I began thinking about what I would do in each of their shoes. Would I react the same? What would my actions be? How would I respond?

I highly recommend this book.



Farm life, Uncategorized

Well That Dream Died a Quick Death

Ugh. Can I say that a million more times? Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

Ok…moving on.

So the farm is dead. I was pretty depressed about it when it all came shattering down, but now I’m okay with it. Not in a “well, gosh I dodged that bullet yay” okay with it way, but more of a “totally not allowing myself to get screwed and oh yeah I’m not in a hurry so shove it seller man” sort of way.

Let me back up because this entire process has been complete shit. I rarely swear on the blog, though I tend to have a truck driver more swear words than regular ones mouth in real life, so you know it is bad when I do.

Before we got going looking at properties we reached out to the local lender known for covering properties of this size (did I ever mention the property was 67 acres????) for pre-approval. We knew what monthly mortgage we could afford, but weren’t really sure what loan amount we would be qualified for. We talked to an agent, gave her our information and got back a budget to work within. We felt pretty proud that we had been good consumers and did our homework.

Then we found this property and made the offer which was countered and we accepted. Reaching back out the to lender we were told that she was out for the week and nobody else could be assigned to us. Pretty crappy, but we just moved on to the next bank. That is when we realized things were not so good.

Our first dilemma was that the value of the property was in the land. Yes the house was new, but at only 1300 sq ft it really wasn’t worth that much. Regular lenders won’t mortgage when the land is more valuable than the building. We weren’t giving up yet though. We reached out to other lenders who typically handle the larger properties and everything seemed to finally be smoothed out until they got all our paperwork and realized Dusty had only purchased his business in July 2016. They require 2 years of business taxes when you are self employed even if you draw a regular salary from the business. That meant that his income, nearly double mine, was completely thrown out. My business has been around long enough, but the double whammy came down when they saw my salary. I take a minimal salary and pay myself in commission based on the profits of the business that month. Well, they can’t rely on commission so only my salary was taken into consideration. Which meant we now qualified for a shack in the ghetto.

Que up the drama, the anger, the frustration. Finally, after Dusty worked tirelessly contacting dozens of lenders we found one who would look at everything we made together and gave us a really great offer for a mortgage. The deal could move forward.

After all of that we decided to celebrate by announcing it to the world. I mean, we just jumped through about 1,000 hurdles, uploaded close to a million documents and got the mortgage secured. Surely this thing would go forward now.

The inspection went smooth as silk. The house was built in 2014, so we didn’t expect anything less. The only two things pending were the land survey (8k out of our pocket, let me choke a little on that) and the appraisal.

I didn’t even know when the appraisal was going to come in. The current owner had bought the place less than 6 months ago, so we weren’t concerned about it coming in for the price we were needing. It was pretty in line with other properties listed in the area for that much land. Imagine my surprise when the appraisal came in 25k less than what we agreed to buy it for. That is a huge deficit.

Now, I’m not one to cash in my chips and walk away without a fight. I’m also not one to enjoy bending over and taking it and I refused to pay out of pocket to make up the difference. Our realtor, who had been amazing to this point, started to get on my nerves as she kept insisting that the property was worth the asking price and that the appraisal was just really crappy. That may have been very true, but after an awful experience being upside in our house we bought during my schooling and taking a 45k hit when we went to sell because the market crashed after we bought it,  I refused to be on the shit end yet again and pay more than what this was worth.

The seller insisted he had an appraisal from when he purchased it that was for “well over asking price” though he never coughed it up. My response was that he could then find someone else who may be lucky enough to get an appraisal higher than ours was for, but I wasn’t going for it.

The truth is that while we both adored this property, it wasn’t perfect. There was no barn. No proper fencing. No arena. No garage. The house was one bedroom shy of what we wanted. We were willing to overlook all these things and spend a few years making upgrades and improvements, but not on top of having to cough up 25k in addition to our down payment. It wasn’t worth it.

We said a sad goodbye to all the plans we silently made in our heads for this property and are now looking again. It sucks. I’m frustrated and sad and a lot of other emotions all rolled into one big ball of mess. Nearly tasting my own farm has made me hunger even more for it, but not enough to get screwed. I did learn one important lesson, get the appraisal before paying for anything else. Period. And now we know our exact budget and know what lender we can use, so that is good.

Now let me just go and drink my emotions away…..







WEG 2018

Living just shy of an hour from TIEC, there was no way I wasn’t going to get tickets to go to WEG in 2018. No freaking way.

TIEC opened up sales on Saturday for residents of NC and SC. All session, all week, event passes and day passes were offered over the weekend. Now some people were complaining pretty loudly about this fact but I thought it was a great way to say thanks to those who support the facility year round by attending the less popular events, eating at their restaurants and shopping in their tack stores. Plus it was good PR for when all the tourists hit the tiny, sleepy town and destroy it.

I logged in on Saturday but the site was basically crashed from the high volume. In order to get the early tickets you needed to create an account with an address in NC or SC and have the verification code. I had no clue what the code was and never received it by email. By Sunday I was a bit panicked about it, but someone eventually sent it my way in a list of FB comments. Phew!

Looking at the prices I nearly choked. $1,000 for all events, $500 per week, $90 for a single day. There was a bunch of confusion on the day pass too. One description said it only got you in the park, but not in to see any events. Another said you would get seats for every event that day. I emailed the company for clarification and was told the current pass being sold for $90 would grant seats to all events going that day.

I chose Sept 20th which is hosting para dressage, vaulting and show jumping and ordered two tickets, one for a friend. The oddest thing about the entire sales to me is that you couldn’t select your seats. Your ticket purchase only reserved a spot and then they will go through in November and randomly assign seats based on the time stamp of when you purchased. They promised to keep group sales together which I why I bought them for my friend. Yeah, that sounds like nothing could go wrong.

But anyway as of now I should be there on 9/20/18 in case any other bloggers will be there. I’d love to meet up! I am hoping to be there more through volunteering but that is all up in the air at the moment as well.

If the farm purchase goes through (not looking likely at the moment), we will be closer to 90 minutes away so I doubt anyone would want to, but anyone would be welcome to crash at my place and avoid hotel fees. Keep it in mind as it gets closer!


The Biggest Change in My Riding

It isn’t my lower leg position.

It isn’t my fluid elbows.

It isn’t my shoulder posture.

It isn’t in the use of my seat as an aide.

It isn’t in the more consistent rein contact.

PC Bette Mann

All of those things are important and visible changes that have made big impacts on the way I communicate my wants to Gem. Each has come with a lot of hours of practice and retraining muscle memory, however none are the most important change I’ve made to my riding since I started taking lessons.

PC Bette Mann. Better position though I still need to bring my lower leg back and sit more forward in the saddle. 

In fact, the change wasn’t even purposeful on my part or taught by Trainer. It isn’t visible. It isn’t easily tracked in pictures. The single most important change in my riding has been my ability to think while riding.

I love how Gem always has an ear on me. That is likely because I talk to her near non stop. I was watching KC go over her course here. PC: Bette Mann

I have found myself with a near constant running conversation in my head as I ride on the flat these days. “Shoulders back, you are leaning forward” “Oops, I’m hanging on the reins, let go and soften.” “Turn those shoulders into the bend” “Crap, Gem’s getting fast, half halt”. With so many new tools in my box to work with, I am now able to problem solve instead of being reactive to her behaviors. Not only does this allow me to be a proactive rider, it forces me to analyze in real time what is working and what isn’t so that I can make positive changes and turn a not so great start to a ride into a good ending.

Taking the ditch!!! PC Bette Mann

Sounds pretty silly to put in writing, but it is true. Being able to sit there and analyze is a big improvement for me because not only does it mean that I have the ability to fix some things, but it also means that Gem and I have reached a point in our work together where I don’t need to focus my entire attention on her and can now allow some of those precious few brain cells to think about myself, my position and my aides. It is a really big step for us as a pair.


This new habit of actually thinking while I ride instead of having crickets chirping upstairs became obvious during my jump lesson for the fact that it was absent. When I jump my mind tends to go quiet and I return to my old habit of being reactive. This is mostly due to the fact that Gem requires all my attention still over jumps. I need to give her support and a straight entry while making sure she sees the jump and is focused on it and then I need to focus on giving her a big release and following her regardless if she pops straight up over it, stalls out in front or takes a flyer. After it is all about the big huge pats and praise for a going over to build her confidence. This all leaves me no room to focus on my position and I am back to being reactive.

So excited to be on the other side safe and sound. PC Bette Mann

My goal over this coming winter is going to be building enough of a foundation over jumps that I can reach the same point where I am on the flat. I’d like to be able to plan better, make sure I’m sitting well in my two point and not supermanning it over and preparing my exit strategy a little better. I believe we can get there and that it will be a pivotal point for us moving forward into next show season.

Going over it the second time with a big handful of mane. PC Bette Mann

How about all of you? Any major breakthroughs lately?


Ditches and Water

Sunday morning dawned super foggy and humid. Gem sorta blinked at me when I grabbed her halter and led her out of her pasture. She had already been ridden three times last week which was a record high ever since Wyatt was born. Pre W, I rode three times a week regularly but that has dwindled since he was born. Anyway, she calmly loaded up with a sigh wondering what on earth I was up to.

Cross country courses are beautiful

What I was up to was a cross country schooling day with KC, her friend Paula on her gorgeous mare and Bette who was sans horse and likely regretted it once I talked her into climbing on Gemmie.

I knew going in I wasn’t likely to jump much. Windridge was built for competition not schooling and the jumps are beefy. Definitely too much for Gem and I right now, but I wasn’t going in order to get a bunch of jumps in. I wanted to play in the water mostly and hang out with some wonderful people. Having the horses at home is great, but is also isolating so any chance to ride with others is an opportunity I try not to miss.

Even when all the jumps make you want to pee yourself

My biggest question though was how Gem was going to warm up. Not only did she have friends around doing their own thing, but she had just had a baller jump lesson on Wednesday. Would she still be all squirrelly to the first few jumps? Yes. The answer was yes. She still looked hard and tried to stop but a solid foot in the ribs sent her over. I circled her around and she took it the next time like a normal horse.

She is getting really fit between all the flat work and jumping

I was really proud of how rideable she was in general. No shenanigans even when KC and Pilgrim scooted off to jump real things or when they took off cantering for their approach and we trotted around or stood watching. Gem stayed light in the bridle for me in her trotting and never once tried to scoot away or blast off. She also never spooked one single time. Even had we not done anything else all morning, it would have been a success.

But thankfully we actually did things too!

KC and Pilgrim upper left and Paula on Billie Jean lower right. I loved Paula’s mare so much I was tempted to plop her o my own trailer and take her home

After warming up, we headed to the water complex. The only other time I went cross country Gem was not so sure she agreed with the idea of trotting through the water. This time she took it like it wasn’t ever an issue. We trotted back and forth a bunch of times enjoying the cool water splashing up on both of us. The day was already getting pretty warm.

From there the group headed to the banks which were huge. I watched as Pilgrim attacked them like they barely existed. He is a really neat gelding and I can’t wait to see where KC and Pilgrim go from here. They both have the potential to go as far as she wants to.

Let’s see…after the banks we attempted to find something that Paula and I felt comfortable jumping. We tried heading over to some ramps and roll tops that seemed promising but up close they were too much for either of us. KC wandered off to have some fun and at that point I realized I was likely not going to do much more. The jumps were just too high for me, but there was unsuspecting Bette being our ground person. I asked if she would like to hop on Gem and tackle whatever she felt comfortable doing. I’ve never had the chance to see her ride, but I know she is a great rider and has so much more experience than I do. I figured she may as well do something with Gem since I was just sitting on her.

Bette getting to know Gem. 

Bette hopped up and um…I’m not sure she would elect to do so again, but she didn’t hop right back off two seconds later with a scowl either so that’s a win. I wasn’t very helpful either and basically told her “leg on makes her go faster on the flat so avoid it, but you need a lot of leg to jump”. Yup, solid advice 🙂

She worked Gem for a while trotting around trying to find that elusive soft feeling that I’ve fought to get for years. Gem was a little pissed that someone new was on her who didn’t know the Rules of Riding Gem. They managed to reach somewhat of a compromise eventually and headed over to play with the warm up fences. I felt a tiny bit better when Bette exclaimed that Gem was a very hard horse to ride. She is so wiggly and athletic that you really never know for sure where she will be from one stride to the next. She rode her very well and I’d let her on her any time. Not sure she would say yes though 😉

Playing around the warm up area. Bette took her over both cross rails and Gem was pretty good. A bit squirelly, but she went over. 

I felt bad at this point. KC was chilling with us newbies instead of off jumping and I didn’t want to hijack her schooling. I knew she had wanted to do some bank work too so after a bit we wandered over that way. I hung back and walked with Paula getting to know her as Bette super trotted off to catch up with KC. By the time I made it over Bette informed me that Gem now does ditches so it was my turn to climb back up and give it a go.

I was oddly not even that nervous. Once Gem decides she is up for it, I know nothing will stop her and all I need to do is not fall off. I watched KC and Pilgrim kill it over a little course of hanging log, starter cabin, BN cabin and then the ditch. They make it look easy!

Ditch!!! It was the nicest baby ditch too because it had the width but if she made an error she could have stepped in it and not killed us both. 

Then it was my turn and Gem hoped over the ditch like a pro and then promptly cantered all over the place afterward like we were both drunk. I did my patented “get elated you didn’t die going over and stop riding after” move and grinned like an idiot. Not good, but hey! I’m learning.

Once more over and everyone was done for the day. We walked back to the trailers and loaded up to go home. I think I only jumped four or five times, but that was fine with me. Gem was behaving calmly and relaxed the entire time no matter what the others were up to, she trotted through the water and took me over my first ditch. It was a success in my eyes!

A great group of ladies to be out on a Sunday morning with