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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
Ugh. Can I say that a million more times? Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
How about all of you? Any major breakthroughs lately?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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 😉
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!
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!
Was it during my first trip to my Aunt’s farm when I giggled with glee feeling the silky hair of the various dogs, cats, horses and goats?
Maybe it was a little later when I began to stay for long weekends/week with her and my uncle riding, camping and canoeing.
Perhaps instead it was in 8th grade when a blonde haired prepubescent version of myself was sitting in class drawing barns and stall layouts with a squiggly hand during class instead of taking notes.
Later? During high school when I would take long drives out to the country to clear my head and breathe in the sweet scent of clean farm air? Or in college when I leased a horse and pretended I knew what I was doing?
In all likelihood it started in the womb. In any event, the desire to live with space has been deeply ingrained in me for as long as I can recall.
I remember doing my junior year of college in Rome, Italy. I was living in the heart of the city in an apartment and walked or took a bus or train everywhere: school, the grocery store, the colosseum. My ears were hit with a constant barrage of noise from all directions. My eyes saw concrete in every direction. My nose smelled the dirt and grime of a centuries old city.
Taking advantage of the ease of European travel, I flew out one weekend to London and stayed in a hostel bordering a magnificent park. Once I wandered into it, feeling grass under my feet, smelling flowers, watching ducks and swans laze in the pond, I finally breathed again. I knew right then what I wanted most in this world: a small corner to call my own where it was quiet, peaceful and green.
A lot happened upon my return home to the States. I met Dusty. I graduated. Got married. I lived in suburbia then moved to the city for school and back out to suburbia for residency. I got Gem and explored the woods on horseback. I never lost that urgency to have peace and quiet. To sit outside my house and hear nothing but birds, the wind through the trees and the humming of the natural world.
Moving to our current home was a step in the right direction. With 16 acres surrounding us, there were no nosy neighbors or pesky HOA presidents to yell at you for your grass being 1/4″ too high. However, the property sits on the corner of two busy roads. The traffic can be heard in our bedroom even with the house being 1/4 mile back from the road and surrounded by large, ageless trees. There is a constant barrage of noise, people and the energy of dozens of people going places and doing things.
It is the opposite of peaceful however the horses were home and it was super close to my work and family. It was sufficient. But then Irma came along and while we suffered no damage, she brought with her a heaping dose of uncertainty and a fear that was rooted in lack of control.
Irma put me on a mission. I wanted my own place in a peaceful corner of the world. I wanted to sit and relax on my front porch and not hear the world buzzing around me. I wanted a place to decompress from my day and live life a little slower.
Thankfully Dusty was on the exact same page.
What commenced was a frenzied search of every online site we could think of. Property without houses, full on horse facilities, property with a house but nothing else. Lake side property. Mountain property. Wooded property. Hills, flat land. If it was for sale we looked at it.
Dusty fell in love with some. I fell in love with others. Our biggest concern was that the properties were falling into two groups: huge swaths of land with run down, nearly demolished trailers or tiny parcels with massive, ornate homes. Neither were what we wanted, but we spent hours upon hours looking at property, touring modular homes and various stick built builders locally exploring our options. It was both exciting and exhausting. How could our budget allow for such a wide variety in offerings? Would we ever find a suitable place within our budget and our radius from work within a good school district?
The search continued until the Sunday of the Windridge Hunter Pace. I mentioned that I had an important meeting at 2 pm that made me have to rush a bit once we finished. That appointment was with a realtor to look at three very different properties in three different cities: acerage with a small house, property bordering a lake with no buildings, and a mountain top house with a pool.
We met first at the acerage with a small house. I was skeptical. The house was just about as small as we could squeeze into and it was on the edge of our radius in an area I knew nothing about. My heart was already sold on the mountain top house in the city I really, really wanted to live.
The route took us down country roads brimming with golden rod along the ditch. The farther we went the skinnier the roads became until eventually the lines disappeared. We turned off the road and down the driveway which wound past a goat farm and kept going until it dead ended in a clearing with the house to the right and a seemingly endless pasture straight ahead.
My heart stopped. I knew I was home.
We poked around the house a little, but it was so small that it didn’t take long to survey it all. While it is small, it was built in 2014 with new appliances and an open floor plan.
After the quick look inside, we piled into the truck to drive to the back of the property. The front half is all pasture, but there is equal amount, maybe a little more, in woods that run along three sides and the rear. There were several trails that led down through the woods and we walked a couple that followed a creek with a small waterfall leading to a large meadow in the back. Apparently the original owner would damn up the creek back there to water his cows.
By the time we got back to the house I was done. We cancelled the other two appointments and got busy drafting our offer. It was a tense 24 hours waiting for the reply and we went back and forth a bit until reaching an agreement.
You’d think we would have gone out and celebrated at that point, but the drama and stress were just beginning. This has been long enough, so I will stop here and get into the rest later but so far we are set to close mid November. I’m holding my breath a bit and not dreaming too big since it has been such a rough go, but I already have plans for the property. I’ll fill you all in as the time gets closer and closer to closing.
As of Tuesday afternoon the plan for the week was to have Wyatt take my lesson slot Wednesday evening and I would go playing around cross country on Sunday instead of taking a lesson.
Well, I sorta finagled a way to do both thanks to a combination of things playing out just right. Here is my recipe:
First, give up your riding time for your kiddo.
Then promptly forget you did the above and agree to help a friend at the same time on the same night.
Have hubby agree to take Wyatt by himself to said lesson to avoid canceling plans.
Now here is an important ingredient: hubby comes down with a nasty GI bug that keeps him up all Tuesday night with diarrhea and vomiting and makes him stay home from work.
Hubby is now too incapacitated to drive Wyatt so you need to cancel plans with friend.
This gets a little tricky. By some stroke of luck, end up with a weak work schedule ‘t want to stauncthat lets you leave at 4:15pm when you are typically happy to leave by 7pm.
Realize that since Dusty is already home and you’ll be home by 445 and have already had to cancel your plans with your friend, that you may as well take Gem with you and lesson after Wyatt.
Bingo! You have yourself a lesson with no guilt trip and no hard feelings specially when you let sick hubby pass out in the truck the entire time.
I have zero media of me from the lesson because sick hubby was passed out in the truck, so instead you get Wyatt pictures. He got to do a lot more trot work this time and had a lot of fun.
Meanwhile, I got Gem ready and headed up hoping to sneak in a nice warm up before my turn came around. Unfortunately, just as I entered the ring Wyatt told Trainer he was “very much done” and so his ended and mine began.
I went into this lesson with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. Having had so many wonderfully relaxed rides at home, if this lesson went downhill I was prepared to exit stage left and figure out what was going wrong: was it the venue, the saddle since I ride dressage at home and jump at lessons, was I more tense during lessons than at home etc….
I needn’t have worried though. All the hard, monotonous, boring basic work at home is finally beginning to pay off. The flat work warm up was glorious. My position got a grade A+, heck, I was even told by Trainer, the position Nazi, that I could have my picture in the Pony Club Manual. I was beaming after that compliment! Having an actual solid base of support makes riding so much easier, who would have thought? I’ve also been playing around a lot with my seat as an aide and Trainer noticed that too. Gem was behaving pretty nicely as well and stayed calm and relaxed. There were times she tried to take over and speed up, but my half halts were actually getting through. We didn’t spend much time on a circle and instead focused on a larger area of the arena with small circles thrown in here and there and I think that really made a difference too.
Some quick bullet points on the flat work before I move on to the amazingly awesome jump exercise she had us do.
Elbows need to come farther back than I think. They have improved and are much more fluid than before, but need to come back more. More. More.
The amount of aide needed to get Gem to listen is pretty loud right now and Trainer was ok with that. At least she was listening. However, we will need to begin working on being able to quietly talk to her and then eventually whisper.
She was super impressed with my two point. I told her all about the 2ptober challenge and she loved it. I think she is going to introduce the idea to her other students.
Using my body position to make life hard on Gem when she wants to speed up is a great tool. I tend to always tip a bit forward which gives mixed signals to Gem as I’m asking her to slow down. By sitting up straight or even leaning back slightly my body weight can help drive home the point that I do want her to slow down.
Trainer liked my timing with half halts to keep Gem in a rhythm however I need to get better at my release. I tend to hang on way too long which defeats the purpose. She said I can only hold it for 3 seconds. After that I need to either escalate the aide or praise Gem for responding.
After the small amount of flat work it was on the what Trainer called “the maze”. It looked like a lot of fun and didn’t disappoint at all. Basically it was a hidden grid work exercise. Trainer felt that Gem was taken aback by the never ending straight line of jumps in a traditional grid pattern and hoped that this little game would make it interesting but not back her off. I didn’t realize it had been 2 months since we jumped last, but I was excited and never once, not one single time, was I scared or backed off. It is an amazing feeling after so many years of being scared.
Trainer doesn’t like letting horses walk over or look at jumps since you can’t do that in a competition, but she always makes a point to let Gem so she doesn’t feel like we tricked her by changing up the rules. The first few times we walked the zig zag through the maze to let Gem see it all. She gave the one standard the stink eye, but remained calm and relaxed. After that it was time to get our jump on!
Round 1: Enter the right hand chute and exit over the small cross rail.
The first time through Gem tried to run out going left like we had walked through it. Trainer is always getting on me for not spying exit points and preventing them. I needed to add more left leg and right rein to keep Gem straight and centered. Gem did pop over it, but it was backed off and hesitant as always and she was rewarded with an eye roll and “you could walk over that” from Trainer. The next time was better, but Gem was still unsure of herself and the exercise.
After a few times through, we moved on.
Round 2: Enter the left hand chute the opposite direction and exit over the grey cross rail.
Gem was much better over this one. She didn’t hesitate or try to run out which was a good feeling. She wasn’t locked on or trying to pull me toward the jump, but she was behaving and going over with a nice canter after.
After going over this a few times Gem began to get pretty revved up and tense in our trot as we circled around to approach again. In fact, she was nearly out of control a bit so we returned to some flat work. In Trainer’s words: Gem needs to know that you are in control of when, how fast, and where her feet move. I was to halt from the trot and not let her walk off until she relaxed. I think this got through to her because after doing it a few times she decided listening was more fun that having to stop every 2 ft.
Round 3: Come in from the right side over the brown vertical, 2 strides, out over the red and white vertical.
This is when Gem decided that this game was one she wanted to play. The first time over I was to walk it. I did, however Gem decided to jump the verticals from the walk so we decided she didn’t need the walk introduction any more. I exited going right and came back around the maze to do the two stride entering at the trot and letting her canter through and after.
The next time Gem locked on and pulled me through that two stride like she was an old pro. I was so stunned that I completely stopped riding after the exit and our canter away was hideous. We did it again and I could barely contain the beast under me. She locked on several strides out, cantered in, flew through the two strides and cantered away. I was grinning from ear to ear and may have let out a whoop of glee or two. Trainer is embarrassed by me I am sure.
Round 4: Green cross rail to grey cross rail on a super steep angle.
Things started getting technical here. The key to this exercise was all in the approach. Trainer was nice to me and laid down two ground poles to make a runway for me to aim for the first couple of times. I needed to pay attention to where I made my turn off the rail to enter the grid which was a one stride between the two cross rails. With the ground poles to help, we made it over without an issue. Once she removed them, it became much harder for me to plan where to hit the first cross rail and make it out over the second one.
By this time Gem had decided she didn’t need me anymore as well. Mare had turned on her tubro boosters and was flying around wit her neck arched and snorting like she was the shit. Trainer and I were both laughing at her and her new found glory. The issue was that she wasn’t listening to me very well and decided that turbo charged cantering was the best way to get through the grid.
This earned her a lot of trot halt transitions as we made our way around the arena to hit the one stride angled cross rails again. She wasn’t too pleased, but it made her rideable. Of course, once she locked onto the jumps it was game over, hang on for dear life and hope I don’t fall off. She was in BEAST MODE. Trainer shouted as we cantered away that I was now riding “cross country Gem” instead of “stadium Gem”.
Round 5: Put it all together in a course. In right side chute with exit over green cross rail, turn right and make a small circle then enter the other chute and exit out grey cross rail, turn left then take the two stride vertical, turn right and end over the angled one stride.
Or at least that was the way it was supposed to go.
I entered through the chute and Gem locked on as soon as we entered the wings. She picked up the canter and soared over the green cross rail and hand galloped away. I made the right hand turn, but by the time I stopped laughing and got her under control we were half way down the arena. I got her settled and turned around then did the second chute with the same exit. I managed to get her turned much sooner and headed towards the two stride vertical. I was laughing so hard and asked Trainer if this was what she envisioned the course looking like. There was nothing she could do but laugh as well.
Her point here was that it is a fine line with Gem right now. Obviously we don’t want to teach her she can run away from the jumps and ignore the blob on her back. However, this new found love and confidence over jumps is such a joy to ride and see that we don’t want to staunch it either. It is much nicer than riding the hesitant and backed off Gem. We let her go this time, but will begin dialing her in soon.
We hit the two stride and thankfully, the exit runs smack into the rail so she had no ability to run off. The angled grid though. Well, that was all my fault. I over shot my turn off the rail to enter the line, something I am very bad at doing, which put us too far to the left. The first cross rail was fine but it shoved us up the standard for the second one. Gem thought about refusing and had every right to, but I think she was having too much fun so she jumped it at the last second. On my part, when she began to refuse I got sent forward, thats what jumping ahead of the horse gets you, and when she popped up I was in no way prepared. Thankfully I only flew straight up out of the saddle and plopped back down however I did manage to ht her in the mouth pretty good.
Trainer had me circle around and do the one stride again. This time I set us up better and we went through no issues. Trainer remarked that she could throw up a 3ft fence and Gem would have soared over it. Mare was launching herself. I was sad I got no pictures.
At the end Gem was a sweaty beast who was extremely proud of herself. She had taken that maze like a nascar driver on crack. We will need to figure out a way to let her have fun and build her confidence while not running at mach speed. The good news is that she never touched or knocked down a single rail even with our slip shod approaches and rocket launches.
It was the most fun I have ever had on her and we were both very pleased with ourselves at the end. Gem pranced back to the trailer with her neck arched and a spring in her step. She thought she won the Olympic Gold Medal. In my mind she did. It is such an interesting feeling on her. When she understands what the game is, she lights up and attacks it like a monster that needs obliterated. You can feel the difference in her. I had my cross country, mildly out of control, Gem in that arena and it felt so good. Yes, she was not listening or slowing down much, but I was never scared because I knew she was going to go over the jump. Maybe a little too fast. Maybe a little too high, but she was going over. Such a different feeling than the squirrely, backed off, maybe I will, maybe I won’t Gem. Now I need to learn how to ride that. I was left behind pretty much at every fence and I need to learn to be a bit snappier and less defensive. In my defense though I have spent 7 years with the backed off Gemmie and needed to be defensive to driver her towards the jump and stay on when she ran out at the last minute. Changing this is going to take time.
Monday night I was determined to ride regardless of the spitting rain and 9000% humidity. Work was hectic and busy, but I have found that riding on Monday night helps my week feel better in general and I am not feeling the end of the week “want to lay on my couch in my pajamas and forget the world” pull towards my couch.
Upon leaving work, I got Wyatt from his pre school, fed and hayed the horses, and made dinner so I could let it cook in the oven while I rode. Right after I plopped it in the oven Dusty got home and took over playing with Wyatt so I could go ride. It was spitting rain and I didn’t care. I was going to ride.
Gem warmed up really well. She was either tired or in the mood to play along because for once she waited for all my cues instead of trying to trot when I want to walk and canter when I ask to trot. Maybe the two days a week riding is starting to pay off?
I didn’t spend much time walking since she was listening really well and actually bending in the corners and around my circles. My inside leg on her side to help with bend is still resulting in her scooting forward, but Monday night I was able to counter it with a half halt that she actually listened to.
After walking a little I worked on her turn on the haunches again. Mare had spent some time thinking that one over and was ready and willing to move her big butt this time without the pinned ears and angry faces. Moving to the left was easier than to the right and after a few cues she decided she would appease the annoying blob on her back and just keep going one direction all the way in a circle. Mare is too smart, so I began alternating right then left then right then left. I always have to stay one step ahead of her.
From there I asked again for the walk and got up in my two point for the challenge. She was much calmer this time, lowered her head and trucked along as I dangled above her wondering how long it had been and surely it was already 10 minutes and I can quit. Um…yea it was 57 seconds. Ok…try again. The second time I made it 1:22 before a combination of sheer boredom walking around aimlessly like that and a burning in my peroneal tendons conspired to make me sit. I’ll take it though. Almost a full minute longer than my baseline.
Then it was time to trot. Gem picked up the best trot I have ever felt from her. It was soft, it was light, it was floaty and best of all she was listening, bending and easily brought down by tightening my core or sent forward by a simple change in my posting. I was grinning like a fool. We circled, did serpintines, did figure 8s, and since she was being so darn good I had her go down the long side of the pasture at the trot with the goal being maintaining the pace and rhythm and she did it wonderfully. Typically a big open straight away would see her zooming along by the end or breaking into canter. Not Monday.
The original plan was to do more canter work, but the trot was so amazing, and usually goes down hill after cantering, that I didn’t do it. I should have. It is the only way to improve, but the work we did was light years better than any other ride I’ve done all summer and early fall that I didn’t want to ruin it all.
It was a good time to end too. Once I got her tack off and her let loose again, the oven timer was going off and it was time for dinner. It worked out pretty great.
I’ve also had my little dilemma for the week solved for me. I had Wyatt scheduled for a lesson Tuesday evening and myself on Wednesday. Tuesday morning I got a text saying that the arena was too wet for a lesson. Kinda odd since he is only doing walk on the lunge, but there may be rules in place regarding footing that I am unaware of and it isn’t the first time rain got my plans cancelled. Well, when I got that text I figured I’d just give Wyatt my Wednesday lesson time and then plan to hit up cross country with KC and her friend on Sunday. I rescheduled my lesson to next week and all is well. Now lets hope the rain stays away so I can go on Sunday!