NaBloPoMo Day 30: My Future With Horses

Ugh. This post should be easy to write. Yet I have now deleted it four times. The issue is that I really don’t have a clue what the future holds. The only solid answer I can provide is that horses will likely be in my life for many years to come. Otherwise, why even go through the torture of farm shopping?

Gem will be retired within the next 3-5 years which puts her in her mid 20s and us having suffered with each other for over a decade. It will be time even if she is mentally and physically still able to be ridden. She will have more than earned her last several years eating grass and being sassy in the pasture with her BFF Pete.

The next 3-5 years will be similar to the last one. Lots of lessons, some small local shows and gradually making some small steps of progress in our way of going. My end goal with Gem is to show at the 2’3″-2’6″ level and be able to canter in the dressage arena without being complete idiots. We are now at 2′, so I think it should be within our grasp to move up 6″ more in the next 5 years.

But after that? I haven’t the foggiest idea. I’m sure I’ll get another horse. It is just that I have no clue what the horse will be or what my own free time is going to look like. Wyatt will be 10 years old and I am sure he will have activities and sports and things of his own for me to attend which will all detract from any riding time available. I don’t judge others and how they make their families work, but in mine our hobbies do not trump anything Wyatt related. Heck just this past holiday weekend I sat waiting in line for Santa Clause and missed any chance to enjoy the 60 degree sunny day for riding. Wyatt trumps it all and I never regret my decision to watch him play at the park instead of ride. A lot depends on what he gets into, if he wants to ride or not and how much time I have outside of that. Work, Wyatt, me time. Its the way it goes in my life and I am happy for it.

Time will tell where I go beyond Gem. I have said ever since Wyatt was born that had he come first I never would have gotten Gem. It is very difficult to balance it all, but I also really need that riding time to maintain my own sanity so I’m sure the post Gem era will look a lot like the current one with a lot of lessons, some stolen time to ride with friends and a sprinkling of shows here and there. I just hope the next horse forgive me a little bit more in my own greenness.


NaBloPoMo Day 29: A Style or Trend I Don’t Like

I’m probably the absolute last person to talk fashion or trends mostly because I have zero fashion sense and couldn’t tell you a current trend if you offered me free full training board for a year.

When it comes to tack and apparel I’m a less is more type of woman. I really don’t like a lot of strap goods hanging off a horse and don’t even get me started on bling. Most brow bands these days make me want to rip my eyes out. Adding blinged out stirrup irons, helmets and saddle pads and eek.

There is one trend that I don’t understand and perhaps you all can fill me in. What is up with the skull caps with the cover that is lifted up like a visor of sorts? Why does the cover sit so high? Why not pull it all the way down on the helmet? It reminds me of boys in the 90s sagging their pants so you could see their underwear.

I don’t get this. It looks like the cover doesn’t fit right and while I sorta understand it on this blinged out (my eyes are bleeding by the way) helmet, it is also done on boring black ones. Why?

Other than that, to each their own. Just make it safe.


NaBloPoMo Day 28: Helmet or No?

Yes. Helmet. Always.

Honestly there isn’t a whole lot more for me to say on this topic. I wear my helmet every single time. No helmet? I don’t ride.

Endurance is pretty far behind the times when it comes to rider safety. Most rides in the SE and the ones I did in the Midwest only require a helmet for juniors (under 16 at start of ride season) and “recommend them” for all others. I’ve been to rides where people don’t wear a helmet and I have no clue what they are thinking. If I was a ride manager I’d require it. In fact, I recall an entire Facebook thread on the endurance group a couple years back where people were complaining that managers were starting to require a helmet for all riders. It shocked me the excuses people came up with.

Personally I’d love to see endurance make safety vests a requirement as well. The risk level is nowhere near that of eventing or really even of stadium jumping, but there is a level of risk higher than the other arena based disciplines and I believe the safety requirements are pretty non existent currently. Endurance is still rooted in the days of minimal governing body involvement and a strong “don’t tell me what to do” attitude which is fine except when safety is concerned. I mean this is the sport that recently put k tape on the banned substance list. For a sport that is dedicated to horse welfare a little bit of rider welfare wouldn’t be amiss.

But I suppose that is a bit off topic.

Helmet. Yes. Always.


NaBloPoMo Day 27: You Know You Are an Equestrian When….

Oh boy am I ever sucky at these sort of things. These pretty much pertain to my own lifestyle as a rider, so the mileage for others may vary. Here goes….

You haven’t made your bed in years, but your horse is spotless for every ride. Yup, thats right. My house is a mess, my bed goes unmade and there are toys everywhere. But Gem is sparkling clean for every ride. Good thing the Hubby isn’t a neat freak.

You have a full two car garage and both cars live outside. The garage is currently full of hay, so the nice vehicles get to live under the oak trees and get pinged by falling acorns. Gotta have dry hay though!

When house shopping you spend 10 minutes running through the house and two hours walking every inch of the property. We told our real estate agent that the house was secondary to the property. None of them believed us until we walked it. They quickly regretted agreeing to come along as we touched through the grass and woods.

You find yourself making comments on grass variety and getting into a heated debate on the merits of Bermuda versus fescue. I’m not a gardener and yet I find myself now very knowledgeable on winter rye, Bermuda coastal, fescue and Timothy grasses.

You balk at the cost and time commitment of soccer then sign your kid up for pony lessons while scouring the internet for a suitable pony. Um….yeah.


4th Annual Thanksgiving Morning Waterfall Hunt

Four years ago a friend gave me a hiking guide book to waterfalls in SC and eastern GA. At the time we were living here without family and I declared a new family tradition: every Thanksgiving we would choose a new waterfall to find and spend the morning hiking. Once my family decided to relocate here, we kept up the tradition by spending the morning hiking and working up an appetite for my mom’s wonderful dinner. Every year the pictures at the falls are my favorites of any I’ve taken.

This year I picked Kings Creek Falls in Wallhalla and we were not disappointed. I believe this was the best one yet!

I love old, moss covered trail signs

What makes these even more interesting is that the book gives only basic directions usually from a random seeming intersection of two main roads. Finding the trail head is typically half the battle.

My three boys tackling the leaf covered, narrow trail

The book is typically really good at giving trail directions from the trail head though and so far the descriptions are pretty spot on.

The entire trail was covered in roots. I was really proud of how well Wyatt navigated the trail on his own. 

The weather was pretty chilly Thanksgiving morning at around 40F, but once the sun decided to come out the world righted itself and we all warmed up.

I love this photo of him!

What has been sort of sad is that each year our canine companions have changed. Since beginning this tradition we have lost both Hero and Bones and gained Einstein and Waggy Tails. This was Wags’ first waterfall hunt and she had a blast.

Einstein lost all his off leash privileges this year.  He will always come back when we call him, but he hikes by maintaining a large circle around us, never staying on trail. It is due to his hunting breeding. We have tried for 3 years and have never been able to get him to stick to the trail or parallel to it. 

Wyatt is a pretty awesome little hiker these days. He has gone up to 3 miles on up to moderate intensity trails no issue. Once he gets bigger and is able to go farther we wills tart to plan overnight excursions.

This was a really neat little wooden bridge. Waggy has no concept of edges (she falls off the couch and our bed routinely) and when I stopped on the bridge to take a picture she tried to bulldoze through and fell off it! Thankfully she wasn’t hurt. 

This hike was 1.4 miles round trip which was a bit shorter than we would have liked, but ended up with enough difficulty that we went pretty slow. Any farther and we would have been late for dinner!

As we made out way upstream and got closer to the falls, I began wondering what they would be like. The book provides a picture but it isn’t the best and you just never know. I was figuring there would at least be water in it with the wet year we have been having. Last year we were really nervous with the wildfire burning all around us and the severe drought.

The cascades coming downstream from the main falls. Seeing this much water made me really excited.

The trail itself started to get really muddy the farther upstream we went too. All were really good signs that there would be water at the top.

Wyatt did really good at navigating the slippery sections

In fact, I was beginning to wonder if it had rained there while being dry back at home as all the leaves were pretty damp.

He insisted on doing it all by himself too

And then we rounded a bend in the trail, climbed over a few tall rocks and past a fallen tree and saw this:

Kings Creek Falls

It took my breath away to be honest.

One of my all-time favorite pictures now!

The waterfall had created a bowl of rock around it with the sounds echoing back onto itself. There were so many small crevices and side falls created in the wall of stone that the overall effect was a water song that went right through me.

We let Einstein off at the falls figuring he would hang out around us there no problem and he enjoyed the time to swim and play with Waggy. He is a natural born swimmer and can’t stay out of the water.

poor dog started shivering in the icy cold water though
Waggy on the other hand hates water and barely lets her feet get wet. 

We have learned over the years to bring a back pack with a towel and a complete change of clothes for Wyatt as there i son way to keep him out of the water.

The boys all learned that the water was icy pretty quickly and didn’t stay in too long this year

After he played around in the water, we snapped the obligatory family photo in front of the falls. Comparing how big he is getting each year is always fun for me. Someday i’ll make a little book with all the pictures in it and give it to him. Maybe when he graduates high school.

All three kiddos played for about 15 or 20 minutes before they got too cold to enjoy it anymore. At that point we dried Wyatt off and changed him to start the hike back to the car.

The sun decided to make its way over the mountains on our way back and it warmed up 20 degrees as we made our way to the car. The sun felt really good on our cold hands and toes.

I love the look on his face. No clue what he was thinking about and I am not sure I want to know
Waggy is getting so big

We made it back to the car without incident, got home for warm showers and off to my mom’s for dinner. This tradition is one I look forward to all year long and I am already trying to plot out next year’s adventure. Soon we will run out of waterfalls close enough to get to without either waking up insanely early or camping overnight. Then the whole game changes 🙂


NaBloPoMo Day 26: My Biggest Riding Pet Peeve

Hmmm…there are quite a few small things that get to me. Remember I’m a rule follower to a fault, so basically any time I see someone breaking a rule it drives me a bit crazy.

I’d have to say though that the thing that bothers me the most is when a rider or horse person in general fails to realize that there is always more than one way to do things and that unless it is abusive or harmful in some way please shut the poop up and leave me/others alone.

For instance. There I was minding my own business hanging with Dusty and Wyatt off to the side between my 18″ and 2′ jumper rounds at the show. This teenager was lunging her very lame horse in the dressage arena with the things head tied down. The girl’s mother comes walking over and here I am thinking she is going to tell her daughter to leave that horse alone, but no. She comes up to Gem and informs me that I should clip her because she looks unruly.

Um? Excuse me? Shut up and go teach your daughter how to be a real rider who doesn’t use gadgets on a lame horse to get it to appear round and leave me and my yak alone.

Beyond just being plain old fashioned rude though there are those who think that their opinion is not only correct but needs to be heard as well. I personally don’t like treeless saddles yet I don’t go around telling those who use them they are wrong. Because you know what? I’m 99% sure everyone is just making this crap up as we go along anyway and we are all doing our best to figure out what works at the moment and changing it as needed.

Yes, there are certain things I don’t agree with yet that doesn’t mean that those things don’t work for you and your horse. It just means that it isn’t something I’d like to do for mine. So go ahead and do your thing. Oh I may very well be silently judging you and your choices, but I will also understand that there is more than one way to do this thing and will keep any comments to myself.

A good case in point is my best riding bud S. The two of us couldn’t manage our horses any differently. She rides bitless and in a treeless saddle. She supplements the crap out of her horses and doesn’t feed any grain. She is very holistic in everything with her horses and prefers small amount of land and many horses. Me? I’m a treed saddle, bit in mouth, complete feed grain, no supplements, small number of horses with a crap ton of land type of person. We get along splendidly and each let the other do it their own way with no interference unless the other specifically asks.


NaBloPoMo Day 25: My Dream Trailer

My current trailer is an Eclipse 2 horse bumper pull straight load with a ramp. It is a really nice little trailer and after some inside modifications to help with organization, it is nearly perfect for my every day needs. Since I generally trailer out to lessons or a single day show (or to trails alone in the past), I don’t need anything larger or more substantial to haul around. Anything bigger would be a bit of overkill and the hassle of driving a larger rig for just one horse outweighs my grabby hands wanting a full LQ trailer with all the bells and whistles.

Look past the handsome gelding to the trailer in the back ground. 

However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my eyes open for something just a tad bigger for when I do go to overnight shows, an endurance ride or hopefully for the day Wyatt gets into it and has a pony he needs to bring out and about as well. If he does, then hubby would get back into it as well which would make our two horse too small.  I’d plan on keeping my current trailer to use for when I’m going to a lesson or local show alone and having the other for when we all go out and about or for overnighting.

I know the exact trailer I want too. I’ve had my eye on it for nearly two years now and every time a used one comes up I send the link to hubby who inevitably replies “not the right time yet”. Once we get some other big purchases completed, this one will finally have a turn.

Taken from the internet

My dream trailer is a Sundown 2+1 goose neck. I love everything about this trailer. Everything.

I’m not into slant loads and it is very difficult to find a trailer to hold three horses without it being a slant however this little dream boat solves that issue. The rear is a regular two horse straight load with a ramp. That would allow me to use it alone or with only two horses like my current trailer. The glory comes in at the +1 part which is a third horse stall in front of the other two with a side ramp entrance. It is big enough to allow a full sized horse, but would also be perfect for a Wyatt sized pony to chill in the box stall style area.

In front of that is a tack room that then leads into the goose neck portion where the mattress could be placed. The tack room is large enough to act as a dressing area as well and if the box stall is empty a cot could easily be placed in there for additional sleeping space.

The way it is set up makes it only slightly larger than a regular two horse straight load which suits me well.

It is perfection and some day it will be mine.


NaBloPoMo Day 24: My Best Riding Friend

When we moved to SC in 2013, I knew nobody. Making a new friend as an adult in a new place is difficult. Add to that a toddler, being the employer so can’t make friends with work mates, and not being into things most people like such as drinking and watching TV and it was looking pretty dire. After six months of riding alone, I took to a local FB endurance group asking for someone to ride with and a woman named S responded.

What grew from that is a wonderful friendship that is still going strong 3 years later and has blossomed beyond trail riding together to spending time having lunch dates, going to Grand Prix shows and buying WEG tickets together. When her horse recently coliced, I ran out there in the dark and hand walked her horse while she called her vet and gave her moral support through the ordeal. When my first farm fell through, she was there to listen to me whine.

Her knowledge base is invaluable as well. She knows every trail, endurance ride, manager, vet, farrier and show ground within 6 hours of here. When we found our next farm, she knew the entire history of the place based on previous shows it held there. I don’t know how she does it, but she knows just about everything regarding horses in the southeast.

We don’t always see eye to eye and we haven’t actually ridden together in well over a year now, but no matter what we talk about or how long it has been we always pick up right where we left off like no time has passed at all. I am so glad she responded to my plea.

I don’t post pictures of other people without their permission, so no pictures for you. Believe me, she does actually exist though!


NaBloPoMo Day 22: The Importance of Riding in My Life

Riding is my sense of self.

All day long I am a mother, a physician and surgeon, a boss and a business owner. My mind is always whirling with decisions to be made that impact the lives of people even if those people are only my family. Financial decisions, medical decisions, raising my son decisions. Always something to do, something to give, something to worry about.

When I ride though I am just me. For that hour I am Sara. Not Doctor, not Boss, not Mommy. Just plain Sara working towards goals and building skills that only impact my own life.

While I am on Gem all the outside worries float away and my focus is on breathing, sitting up straight, moving my leg back. I conquer my own fears, feel myself grow as a person and obtain skills I didn’t have before.

To be 100% honest it is my time to be selfish. I know riding is both a financial and time suck on my family which is why I try to be as frugal with both as possible. I need that time though. It is the only time I am just me fighting my own inadequacies and learning to grow.