Riding/Horses

3 Day Adventures with Horses Blog Hop: 3 words

Three Day Adventures with Horses posted a great idea for a blog hop: What three words best describe your horse?

Opinionated

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Working wasn’t on my social planner for today

Anyone who has met Gem for even the briefest of moments immediately comments on how opinionated the mare is. Not only does she have an opinion about everything, but she also feels the need to express it. Oh, and she is always right by the way. It wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t always seem to have the opposite opinion as I do. The jump is scary – it is the same plain cross rail you have seen a dozen times.  I need to be going 10 mph – no you don’t Gemmie we are in an arena. You are stupid – no, I’m not Gem and that is just plain mean anyway. It doesn’t help that she is so dang smart as well, but it would be nice if she just went with the flow a little every now and then.

 

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Still not in the mood to work

Honest

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While she won’t make up for my mistakes, she also isn’t dirty. Here I stuffed her at the jump last minute. She said no. 

Gem tells it like it is and I never have to worry that she is being overly dramatic. A hang nail doesn’t cause her to be three legged lame. On the flip side, she also isn’t so stoic that she will keep going with one leg missing. I can 100% trust that when she tells me something is wrong, that it is. This fact was really helpful in the endurance world. I never spent time second guessing or stressing if she was off physically, mentally or metabolically. She’d tell me if she was.

She isn’t mean about anything and won’t pull a dirty trick, but she also won’t hand me anything either. I’ve had to work for every tiny minuscule improvement I’ve gotten from her.

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Aloof

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Road block last summer while mowing the pasture. She never even glanced my way. Never came up to say hello.

In your pocket, she is not. It took me three years to get her to open up even a little bit. Most days she still stands in the pasture and watches me walk to her. Some times she still runs and hides behind a tree. Rarely, she meets me at the gate with a nicker. She tolerates grooming and if she could roll her eyes I am sure she would every time I give her my bug hugs and lots of kisses. Mostly I annoy her with my affection. She isn’t a goof ball, she isn’t nerdy. She is just…all Gem all the time and I love her for it.

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Still my favorite equine

This was a lot of fun!

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Riding Nash

I was bound and determined to ride Gemmie last night. It was gorgeous out, dry and the best part? Daylight!

Except then I saw someone fishing on our pond and had to go talk to them and let them know we bought the place and it wasn’t ok to trespass. See, we need a perimeter fence. I’m thinking 20 foot tall razor wire. Too much?

Then Wyatt wanted to ride which I’ll never say no to. I had to put the new bridle together which took way too long to figure out. Those pieces were so small! He looked super sharp in his new pad and bridle though so it was worth the effort.

Wyatt’s favorite color: neon green and black

By the time he was done riding it was pitch black and I lost motivation to tack Gem up by that point. Instead I just hopped on Nash. In Wyatt’s 14″ saddle. It was a tight squeeze.

If you all thought I was bad at taking pictures, look at any from the Hubby. They are all either blurry or out of center. 

It was my first official ride on Nash and he was a snot. Nothing terribly bad but he took a bit to convince that I did mean what I asked for. He walked great and halted with the barest breath, two very important things with Wyatt, and really wasn’t that bad.

But when it came to trotting….yeah I couldn’t get him to do it. I think I got one or two steps total. And my legs were killing me from pony club kicking the crap out of him. Ugh.

I was smiling the entire time. Even squeezed into a kids saddle

I think most of it was the saddle. I couldn’t really ask well and the first time he finally did trot I was so out of balance in the tiny saddle and super short stirrups. As soon as he felt my balance off he slammed to a halt, again just what I want for Wyatt, and then refused to trot again. So it’s a work in progress. His canter looks amazing and I really really wanted to ride it. I may need to get a crop.

He is a pretty good boy having not been asked to do anything for many months

I’m hoping that once I get in my own saddle and work with him more that he goes a lot better. If not he will earn himself a ticket to boot camp, but I don’t think it will be necessary.

Smile for the camera Nash!

He is a fun little guy and he is smart. Even when he was being a snot I just laughed. I have no fear with him and while I don’t think it’s good for me to ride him too much or too hard due to size I do think he is a huge confidence booster even for me. We will see what all we accomplish in the future, but I really want to do w/t/c and maybe some 18″ jumps with him. He should be ok with me on him for that.

As for Wyatt he is dealing with his own fear issues and getting better every time. Nash stops so well and takes so much effort to go above a walk that he has no real risk of getting run off with. Wyatt’s biggest issue is that he is 5 and everything he does is full force. He is really hard on Nash’s poor mouth and Nash responds by stopping and/or throwing his head around both things that frustrates Wyatt. Hopefully he learns to be easier on the reins soon. Otherwise he is enjoying walking around and is getting the hang of steering and stopping.

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Seems Like Forever

Since I had a decent horse post to publish. Ugh. Rain has been my nemesis lately and while the arena drains amazingly well, the constant downpour is not fun to ride in. And I do this for fun.

Add on top of that both a husband and a kiddo positive for the flu (anyone want to guess who was a bigger baby when sick?) and you have one great equation for lack of horse time.

Hopefully everything gets back on track soon as Gem does so much better with twice weekly rides at a minimum. I’ve got some plans coming up I’d like to actually participate in, so the viruses and weather better start cooperating.

Today it is supposed to be 70F and tomorrow 75F but then the rain comes back for the weekend yet again. It is really killing me.

In the meantime, we managed to open up the left side of the property into one large 15 or so acre pasture for the horses. I’m anxious to see it green up as part of it is fescue and the other is Bermuda which is my least favorite southern grass. Fescue needs to be planted in the fall though so until then we have to live with it. Right now we have some really beautiful fescue greening up throughout.

The horses weren’t complaining though. I missed most of the happy shenanigans with full on racing and galloping. I promised I wouldn’t inform the blogosphere that one bay mare got outrun by one tiny little roan pony. By a lot. I may have laughed at her.

Now on to the other half of the property. This side is much harder to combine, but we are working on it. The surveyor just finished up so we know exactly where we can run new fence line and now the debate commences in which to do first: change over the interior fencing that I hate or put up the antisocial, stay the poop off my lawn, perimeter fence.

Always something. I love it. Stay dry fellow east coasters!

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Hello Fresh

I was not paid by Hello fresh for this. I pay them, in fact, to get my food. They don’t even know I exist beyond getting my money. This is all my opinion and should be taken as such. Your experiences may vary. 

Food is my down fall.  Coming up with what to buy makes me want to poke my eyes out with a blunt object. Actually shopping for it is my own personal form of Dante’s Inferno. Did you know that you move the same object seven times before you eat it?? Shelf to cart –> cart to register –> buggy to car –> car to inside the house –>counter to place it is kept –> back onto the counter to use it –> then onto your plate. Ridiculous!

At the end of 2017 I began looking into my options for a healthier, fresher way to eat. Paleo? Keto? Whole 30? Stop caring and become fat? Nothing was hitting the mark for what I wanted which was a way to eat better and spend more time at home (less eating out which is something I waste a crap ton of time and money on every month) all while increasing our food range in regards to flavors and meals. Not too much to ask, is it?

Who doesn’t like receiving a box every week?

Finally I hit on the meal kits which have flooded the market. I did a bunch of research, asked my friends for their experiences and landed on Hello Fresh. Mostly because their menu options were more regular food items that I could envision my son eating. I signed up for the family plan which has a minimum of four servings per meal and began at three meals a week, then switched to two meals a week because this farm didn’t come with a money tree.

I’ve been using them for over a month now and have to say I love it. I was skeptical as I am wont to be in general, but it has surpassed my expectations. A quick run down for those who don’t know how it works:

  • Every week you get to choose what meals you want. The family plan is the most limited in terms of options. I get roughly 5-6 meals to choose my two from. The menu is set for 3 weeks in advance, so you don’t need to remember a specific day, but you do need to choose by the Thursday the week before or it defaults for you.
  • You also pick the day of the week Mon-Sat you want it delivered. I chose Monday to make the beginning of the week better.
  • I come home from work to a lovely big box filled with my week’s meals on my doorstep. Yum!
  • There is a nice Hello Fresh app that makes all this super easy
Neatly organized inside the box

What I like about the service:

  • No shopping!! Well, that is not 100% true because I only get two meals a week, but it does limit my shopping significantly. I wish they had a 4 meal a week option because that would eliminate all my meal shopping.
  • The meals come in separate bags in the box with the exact ingredients needed for that meal. When I want to make the cheesy hamburgers with onion jam, all I need to do is pull out the brown bag labeled with that meal and grab the meat. The bag contains the exact amount of garlic, peppers etc…
Each meal fully contained in its own brown bagThe food has all been extremely good tasting and fresh.  I was a bit worried that the meat would be poor quality and the veggies near out of life, but so far that hasn’t been the case at all.

 

  • Easy to cook meals. I am not a chef. I don’t aspire to be a chef. The meals on the family plan with Hello Fresh have been simple, do not require a bunch of cooking tools I don’t own and the cook times have been spot on.
Easy to read, large recipe cards
  • I can replicate the meals on my won. Aside from a few meals that have some generic “southwest spice packet”, most of the meals have been with regular ingredients that I could easily make on my own outside of the service in the future.
All the ingredients needed inside the bag. They do not supply butter, oil or sugar. 

Some of the cons:

  • No left overs. The meals are filling and nobody leaves the table hungry, not even my husband who eats enough for four. There aren’t many meals with left overs for the next day though so I do end up having to plan more meals for the week versus cooking on my own where every meal can last two or three days.
Food pictures gross me out, but I can’t not post them after writing all about food. So here you go. Mega turkey meatballs. 
  • Needs more veggies. The meat portions are spot on, but they are pretty stingy when it comes to the veggies. More of them would be nice. For instance, when the meal comes with a salad all it is is spring mix lettuce. No cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers etc…Veggies aren’t that expensive and it would level up the meal.
  • Speaking of salad, they need a new “dressing”. A squeeze of a lemon and olive oil isn’t a dressing. It is gross. I make my own dressing anyway and substitute that, but for the price they could have you make a vinaigrette or something edible.
  • Chicken and pork only. This is a family plan problem as my friend who does the classic has seafood and steak options that I don’t.
Cooking away
  • Prep time lies. While the cooking times have been spot on, the prep apparently assumes you are a chef. 5 minute prep time, my butt. These meals are being toted as taking only 30 minutes to cook, but mine take about an hour. It is going a bit faster now that I am in the groove, but yeah…double the prep time in reality.
  • The app/website is finicky. Every time I update it, it kicks out my log in and then claims I don’t exist. I then have to call the company and have them fix it.

All in all I am really enjoying the entire experience from choosing the meals to receiving it to the cooking and eating. Wyatt has enjoyed all the meals except the BBQ chicken which I figured he wouldn’t as he doesn’t like BBQ sauce. We are full, there is sometimes enough for me to take for lunch the next day and it makes me happy to see my box and cook something real. I am learning a lot of new techniques and Wyatt is enjoying a mom who actually cooks.

The delicious finished product that Wyatt chowed down on. 

I’d highly recommend trying it. My cost is $8.75/serving/meal which is probably a bit higher than if I bought it all myself for some of the meals, but way less than eating out which is what we are using this as a substitute for. Try getting fajitas at a restaurant for $8.75 and have them be half as tasty as the pork ones I made at home.

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Sucking it Up and Getting it Done

When I first started endurance I jumped in head first and learned as I went. My first 25 was funny in hindsight. I showed up having had no dedicated conditioning. In fact, I had never even ridden Gem solo on trail at that point. Most of my “miles” were riding three days a week in the arena at the barn.

So there I was. Wintec AP saddle. Leather girth. AP cotton pad. Leather bridle and reins. No electrolytes. No clue what her heart rate was.

But I did it. Rode all 25 miles, fell off at mile 21 when she spooked because I was too tired to stay on, but we completed. Took 8th place in a big field too. Of course I had no clue that meant anything because the ride did awards for up to 6th only.

This little black bunny randomly showed up at our house last week and is living under our shed. Its curious where he came from because he is obviously a domestic bunny as no wild ones are big and black. But our house has a 1/4 mile driveway and is in the center of the 30 acres so he would have had to hop a very long way to get to our shed.  I’m worried about the little guy though. 

The point is I went out there looking like an idiot and completely clueless, did the thing and came away much more educated because of it. I traded the leather bridle for a nylon halter bridle. Bought electrolytes. Learned to take her heart rate. The next ride went better. And the next after that better still.

For some reason this hasn’t crossed over into jumping and eventing. I’ve tentatively put dozens of shows on my calendar and then talked myself out of every single one of them. I’ve convinced myself we aren’t ready. Maybe we aren’t. Probably we aren’t. But I’ll never know unless I go out there and do it.

Pete watching me through the trees as I cut that tree down with the ax.

There are a ton of schooling series going on right now. In fact, winter is my best shot at low level, low stress schooling shows. I saw another one pop up in my news feed and decided to do it. They offer an 18″ amoeba level three phase and it is only 2 1/2 hours away in GA.

Sure we are going to look green. Sure we are going to be out of place. Sure there is a 75% chance we will get eliminated in xc due to refusals. But I won’t know if I never try, so I double checked that Dusty was off that weekend and signed up. They are hosting an hunter pace on Sunday as well and I really want to do that in addition to the HT Saturday but logistics are killing that a bit. It is just far enough away that driving back and forth two days in a row doesn’t make any sense yet it is too close to home to justify a hotel for an overnight stay. Technically I could do what I did for endurance and sleep in my truck, but I have done that in the winter before and it sucks. No interest in freezing my tail off all night and then riding a hunter pace in the morning. It is worth it for an endurance ride, but not for that.

It started pouring buckets overnight Saturday and didn’t stop until after lunch Sunday. Sunday morning it was a nice icy mix too. Yuck. It did give Wyatt some great puddles to play in Sunday afternoon though

So…we will see if we die at the end of the month or not.

Farm life

A New Bridle for Gemmie

The left side of the property has all been connected and opened up for horse use. We were going to introduce them to the new space Sunday morning but it alternated pouring rain and ice pellets until mid afternoon. Winter GO AWAY. The right side is trickier to connect all five pastures as there are two wooded sections separating some of the pastures.

When I got home on Saturday, I saw Dusty in the front woods opening up an area to connect the pastures through. I got out and said hello and was greeted with him complaining about needing a chainsaw. I asked what he needed one for. The trees were all small. I went on to tell him to use the ax. That’s what people did before chainsaws were invented, right? Easy.

Well. He didn’t like that and pointed to a tree telling me to use the ax and cut it down. I bet him I could do it and put a new bridle versus an ultra marathon race entry for him on the line.

The tree in question

A while later and I had won myself a new bridle.

Bye, baby tree

Now to figure out what I want! I actually think I am going to get a new girth instead. I’ve been eyeing the TFS Stretch Tech girth for a while now and am not really liking the fit of mine. It keeps the saddle snug and in place, but when I put my hand along it, the front 1/4 is loose and all the pressure is along the back 3/4s. Its in part due to Gem’s anatomy, but I think it is also the material the girth is made out of.

Regardless of what I choose to get, it was won with my own sweat and the death of a baby tree. Sorry about that baby tree.

Riding/Horses

Windridge Cross Country School

When Trainer invited me to a cross country school I was really excited…until I found out the venue was going to be Windridge. Not that I have anything against the facility. It is gorgeous and rolling. It’s not a schooling course though. They have nothing below starter and all the jumps are beefy. However, they started a new winter series and announced an 18″ division. I said yes banking on the fact that those new jumps would be out specially since they were to host the first event the previous weekend and another the next Wednesday.

Beautiful morning to be out on my horse

When I pulled in and looked around though there wasn’t a single 18″ fence to be seen. I knew immediately this wasn’t going to be about jumping.

It ended up being a great day even if I only jumped one actual cross country fence in 1 1/2 hours. Gem jumped four others without me (someone else climbed up) though so she got some good schooling in.

Trainer had me use a neck strap for the first time and now I am addicted. Seriously, how did I ever jump without it??

I’m not really sure what has happened to my mare, but guys…it’s been eight years in the making and holy crap does it feel amazing. We started by warming up walk and trot in a flattish section of the field. Less than a year ago this simple task would have been a complete disaster full of spooks, bolts, hollow tenseness and probably me getting dumped.

Not Saturday. I’m starting to feel like a broken record but….it’s all so new to me! She was relaxed, forward without rushing and listening perfectly. Our transitions were spot on and it was overall pleasant. Trainer was impressed!

Shedding has begun in full force

The other girl with me was riding Training level so while those two got a few jumps planned out, I wandered over to the warm up fences. They have three stadium fences and a few log piles and I popped Gem over the stadium fences a few times going both up and down the slope.

Then we moved on down the course and Trainer spotted a little red fence with a log on top and wanted me to try it. I couldn’t. I completely wussed out and handed the ride over to the other girl who was asking to try.

She promptly fell off.

I felt bad yet slightly vindicated. Does that make me a bad person? Probably.

Several attempts later she got her over and then promptly stopped asking to ride her. Sorry, Gem. Few people ask twice to take your ride.

Not me, but it is Gem going over the starter sized jump on like the 12th attempt. 

As we wandered around I could tell Trainer felt bad. She knew there wasn’t anything I was going to jump out there and didn’t understand why the 18″ fences hadn’t been put out.

I told her I was ok though. I knew it was a risk going there and I was just so happy with how rideable Gem was remaining with big open spaces, lots of standing around breaks and another horse. Any one of those things would have resulted in a terrible ride as recently as last summer and yet here she was being fun. I had no regrets.

So instead she had me working on riding Gem deliberately, getting walk-trot-canter transitions throughout the field along a specified track. We were working on the tasks between the jumps which is something that has always terrified me with Gem’s history. It was fun and Gem was being so good. We cantered and trotted up and down hills and around jumps all with the focus on me being deliberate with the track and Gem maintaining the same pace regardless of the terrain.

The only thing I am brave enough to jump at Windridge

Eventually we found the fake ditch I had done last time and she had me work Gem over it going both directions. Gem was hesitant and this is where my biggest learning point of the day came in.

Trainer told me that I actually have to give Gem permission to do what I’m asking her to do or else it isn’t fair. I tend to ask them get super defensive and in effect block Gem from answering correctly which is counter productive. To be fair to myself, when it comes to jumping Gem isn’t always honest and I respond by riding defensively in order to, you know…not die and die. But it isn’t helping

So I approached it again, put my leg on, grabbed the neck strap and asked her to jump. She was still squirrelly and hesitant but she went over and didn’t get punished by my rigidity. The next time she went even better.

That’s when the second learning point came up.

Trainer asked me what I’m focused on going over a jump. It’s been many months since I’ve looked at the jump (at least one bad habit gone?) and I do look out in the distance. My answer? “I’m focusing on not dying” she laughed and said it’s time to start focusing on my exit. When I jump I’m so focused on just getting Gem over that I forget to ride the backside. When I took the ditch with a very specific exit strategy, Gem felt more confident as a result and we had a much more balance ride.

It all boils down to me being a better leader at all times for my not very confident mare.

Muddy soup Gemmie used to have no interest in stepping in, but will now happily trot through

From there it was on to the water complex which had a broken pump so had mostly no water in it. More broken record here, but a few short months ago there was no way she would have stepped into this let only trotted through. Saturday though she did. I got nailed again for being tense and not letting Gem do what I asked of her, but once I loosened my death grip on the reins and let her trot she was floating and amazing.

We practiced trotting through, turning right, picking up the canter and cantering back to the starting point. The wheels fell off here a little as Gem took it as a race back to the beginning and then got cranky when I made her do simple things like have steering ability and not fall on her face

We followed the other girl around for another 20 minutes or so of watching her knock the socks off the Training level course. I’m not sure what her goals are but she was hitting the mark every single time out there.

After just over 90 minutes we called it quits and I waited for the next group to show up. A student of hers that is doing her first 1* this year was coming to ride Gem over some starter level jumps and I was excited to watch and learn. Part of me wanted Gem to be amazingly perfect and fly over everything, but another part wanted her to have the same issues with a better rider so it wouldn’t be all my fault for how she is. Mean? Maybe?

Also not me, but a different “not me”. 

Trainer jacked all the fences up to 2’3″ height and Gem didn’t say no and made the height look easy. Guess it’s time for me to man up and get used to a bit height sticks.

Then they moved to the course and a simple bright blue starter roll top. It took several attempts but she got her over. It was super eye opening to watch her go with this near pro on her. What I can feel under saddle looks about the same on the ground. Gem is squirrelly. She doesn’t go straight very well and I could see her thinking about noping her way out of it with each stride. It took a ton of leg to get her to go over. Once she popped over the first time she got super proud of herself and Trainer laughed telling the rider “let her think she is an Olympian after that”. The next time over she hopped it no problem and raced away like the king of the world.

 

Then they tried the starter box but Gem never went over. It was the largest she ever saw and it wasn’t going to happen. You can get an idea from this one though how she goes left a little, then right, then stops. You just never fully know where her body is going to be.

 

There was a starter green bench next to it and they re routed to that instead.

 

 

 

I talked to the rider on the way back to the trailer and she had good things to say. She had a lot of fun on her, but admitted she was difficult. She felt bad because she couldn’t stop having contact all the way up to and over the jump because the moment she would soften Gem would take that as an excuse to duck out. I know that feeling all too well and I struggle with it. But Gem is smart and hopefully she learns that going over is easier than saying no.

The other thing she commented on was the fact that Gem has no clue to look for jumps yet so each time it catches her off guard and she is surprised. Gem is so busy looking every where but in front of her that she never sees it coming. Her last horse took 6 months of solid xc schooling to learn to look for it so all hope isn’t lost I suppose.

I left wishing I could leave Gem with her for a month of training. Not only do I not have the cash for it but she is in college and couldnt do it anyway. Maybe this summer when she is on her break I can ship Gem off to her. Something to think about.

Regardless, Gem got more than a 15 minute ride in Saturday and some serious education 🙂

Not sure why I torture her like that