Last Call For Volunteer Hours

Well all, it has been a fun challenge for me to put on this year. I’m passionate about volunteering and I try to fit it in when possible between work and motherhood. I feel like a broken record, but honestly these events can’t go on without the feet on the ground lending a hand instead of mounting up.

I want to thank everyone who got out there and helped even for a single hour this year. Events are hard to put on and it always makes me sad when I see posts begging for volunteers. Of course, there is always a flip side to that and I have worked in adverse conditions with an ungrateful crew a time or two and that puts a bad taste in one’s mouth for the entire affair. Fortunately my own positive experiences outweigh the bad and it seems like that was true for all of you this year as well.

It is the last call for hours for the challenge. I have Emma with hours in December. Anyone else?

Next week I will put together that stats that I have and announce the Champion and Reserve Champion as well as their prizes. I hope those who participated enjoyed it and that everyone who won something along the way have gotten some use out of their prizes.

Happy New Year to all!!


The Only 2019 Goal I Need

Work with the elderly and you are bound to get a lot of life advice, asked for or not. Some relationship related, others about life in general. I chose this patient population because I enjoy talking with those who most people don’t make time for. The life stories from a different era are fascinating.

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of stories, some sad, most funny and I have received a lot of advice. There is one piece of advice that keeps coming up from both those who fell ill at a young age and those who remain vital even into their 9th decade on this planet.

That advice?

Do the things you want to in life while you are young and healthy enough to do them. Don’t wait or some day you’ll wake up and realize you can’t do it anymore.

I’d heard this advice a few times before it really sunk in. One of my favorite patients is a small, elderly Scotsman. Every visit he would tell me how he was working towards the one thing he wanted the most: to fly home to Scotland one last time. He was afraid too though due to an incident in the airport on a prior trip elsewhere. Everybody told him he was ready and able to travel. His family plotted a way to make the trip easier on him. He hemmed and hawed and put it off.

And then, just as he was ready to book his flight, he suffered a massive stroke and lost the use of the left side of his body.

His dream of flying to Scotland one last time was over. He waited too long.

I still see him every three months and I still look forward to talking with him, but his visits now have an aura of sadness about them. A finality.

Things happen and dreams falter and fizz out.

Don’t wait. Time won’t slow down. The world won’t pause for you. Someday you’ll wake up and realize you can’t do the one thing you really wanted to do.

For the last five years I have done one thing: work. Fifty hours a week, 52 weeks a year. I’ve taken one stay at home vacation. I’m on call 24 hours a day, 363 days a year taking only Wyatt’s birthday and Christmas Day off and even that makes me feel guilty. I work because the work needs done. I work because I’ve always worked. I got my first job at 16, worked through undergrad and even had a part time job in medical school.

But I’m learning the work can wait. The world will go on. Patients will still be there.

My one goal for 2019 is to live. Simply live. Do the things. Make the memories. Have the experiences.

To let myself live without guilt, judgement, fear.

To go to a show even if not fully prepared and enjoy the simple fact that I can go. What’s the worst that can happen? We knock every rail down or refuse three times and get eliminated? Big deal. Do the thing.

To stare at the sky, a mountain, the ocean, a forest more and the computer screen less.

To stop being mean to myself. I try so hard to always be a cheerleader for everyone. To boost others up. To push them towards their goals. Yet I then turn around and tell myself I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not skilled enough.

To embrace the life I have knowing full well what the end can look like and how quickly it comes up. How one moment can deprive you of everything.

So in 2019 I’m going to live more, work less. Go for it even if it may be ugly. Jump the jumps. Ride the trails. Take time off to be silly with Wyatt, to explore the world, to plant a garden.

Simply to live before I run out of time to do so.


Every Ride, A Better Outcome

If you celebrate, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. I was thankful for some time off work to be with family. I also ate entirely too much but I declared it a guilt free day and allowed myself to indulge. And indulge I did!!

I also took this entire week off, minus Friday which is my surgery day and is booked full for me, to stay home and enjoy Wyatt time. Nothing beats being with my buddy.

We make the same selfie face. Scary. I may be more like Doofus than I thought.

Monday was all planned out for a trail ride to break the monotony of flat work in the swampy arena. It is too wet for me to feel comfortable jumping though I do miss it and hope to get some jump time in soon. With rain in the forecast the end of the week, it may not happen until spring. Or I find a covered arena with a trainer who will respond to me.

But then Dusty got home super late after removing plastic from a Boykin’s stomach and it ruined my chance. It was back to the arena and neither of us were too thrilled with it.

I set up the first exercise from the Jumping book: two parallel ground poles set to be ridden between as a focus for circle work. The goals: symmetry, geometry, rhythm, bend.

An older picture of Gem doing the same exercise

H’Appy was being a puppy on a string through the entire tacking process. He never pawed, ate the cross ties or tried to eat me. It was his best behavior to date and I felt good enough about him to forgo lunge work before mounting.

It was a good choice. He was calm, never put a hoof wrong and listened the entire ride.

He was also pokey, behind my leg and doing his best to get away with a western pleasure shuffle instead of an actual trot. My legs were screaming at me by the end of the ride. I may need to buy a crop for days like that if they continue but for now I’m happy to have a horse who wasn’t bucking, trying to run off or fling his head into the next county.

Trying to eat my sweater. The guy is a love bug but also really annoying at the same time. He makes me laugh all the time.

The exercise went pretty well as far as the goals were defined. He was rhythmic, had bend when I asked properly and stayed on the circle I created. I really need to unlock my upper body and remember to look around the circle and plan better but that will come.

I was smiling the entire time and laughed at his attempts to get out of work by sucking back. It was such a good feeling to trust he wasn’t going to do anything stupid and be able to correct him and it not turn into a fight. We will likely have rides like that again, but he is starting to come back around.

Gave the horses a bale of hay as a treat. They all came to investigate the huge fluffy piles.

I eventually grew bored of the circles and became a rebel by creating figure eights, going over the poles and going around them to not include them at all. Variation is the spice of life and all that.

At the end I decided to give the canter buttons a try. I haven’t purposefully worked on the canter in a while and was thinking maybe some canter work would spice him up. I was wrong. He remained pokey the pony.

They weren’t interested for very long. Pete wandered off to graze after a mouthful or two and H’Appy mugged me for attention. Gemmie stuffed her face though

He did give me prompt canter transitions though. They were hollow and head up since the trot was sucked back and behind my leg but he was prompt and didn’t try to run off with me so it was a win for the moment.

The entire ride was exhausting and way too much work but it was also a ton of fun. Someday we will reach a good balance of energy levels. For now I’m thrilled to be enjoying him and getting to work once again. If it ever dries out I’m dying to get some time over sticks again and to continue to build his fitness so that come spring we can get some solid work in and maybe hit up a show.


A New Addiction

This is not horse related. Fair warning up front.

It should surprise no one who reads this blog that I don’t like to spend money. I don’t have collections of nick knacks and have just enough clothing/shoes to not be naked on the regular.

When I do buy something, I tend to buy quality which generally translates to expensive. This seems counter to the whole “I don’t like spending money” statement, but in reality it makes sense because buying quality equals longevity and cheaper in the long run. It’s why I’m still wearing clothes I bought when first out of college 14 years ago that aren’t ratty and full of holes.

Wyatt is still feeling crappy after over a week. Waggy is snuggling with him to make him feel better

Having champagne taste and a deeply ingrained hatred to part with my money makes the entire shopping experience rather amusing for others and exhausting for me.

Until now. Now I have an outlet for my shopping needs that satisfies my lust for expensive goods while keeping a healthy chunk of my money safely in the bank. I think I’m addicted. I may need an intervention.

Maybe I shouldn’t even pass this little secret on. It could be damaging to others. But what type of person would I be if I didn’t spread the word a little?

All this non stop rain is driving the animals inside to find dry ground. We found this cutie in Wyatt’s Halloween candy bag munching on a lollipop. Thankfully the cats didn’t find him first and we relocated him to the shed

So what is this new shopping experience that has my blood roaring through my arteries, my cheeks flushing with excitement?

Model home auctions.

Hear me out. Or don’t. It’s your loss in the end.

You know all those new, cheaply built neighborhoods that are spreading across what was once rural America like a parasite? The ones that level old fields, clog two lane roads and pave the earth? That destroy trail systems and cross country courses?

Yeah. I hate them too.


Once all the lots are sold, the model home goes up for sale. This is the home typically at the entrance to the neighborhood that is built and decorated like someone is already living in it to entice prospective buyers into picturing their own family filling the rooms. They are decorated like in a magazine with paintings on every wall surface, knick knacks on any available flat surface and each room chalk full of gorgeous high end furniture.

Wyatt worked hard fundraising at school to win a snow cone maker. I was pleasantly surprised that it actually worked

This home is the last to go and once it is sold…well all those decorations and furniture items need to go too. They do this via auction.

Here are the rules:

  • Everything must sell. It doesn’t matter how low it goes. It must and it will sell
  • You have to take it home right then so if you are looking for big furniture items, make sure you have a truck or trailer
  • If you bid and win, you buy. Your bid is a legally binding contract to buy. No excuses. No exception.
  • Pay attention because some items are sold in a big lot for one price and others are sold together but with a “per piece” bid. Example: two mirrors are sold together for the winning bid of $100. Two chairs are sold together with a x2 multiplayer so the winning bid of $100 is really $200. An expensive mistake if you aren’t paying attention.

Ok, Sara. That’s all good but how does this play into your hatred to spend money?

Ah, friends. This is where it gets good.

I went to an auction the Saturday with my mum and dad. There was a nice dining room table and matching buffet and I’ve been looking for a new table for over a year to no avail. Nothing has been worth the money. These were very nice and went for a good price, but not to me. The bid topped out well over what I wanted to pay which for reference was like $150. Yeah, I’m cheap.

My mum and dad were a bit frustrated with me when I’d pass on something very nice for $40 because I refused to spend over $15 for it. I think I nearly caused my mom to have a stroke a few times. But I didn’t walk away empty handed. Oh no. I got one hell of a deal on what I held out for and now I am addicted to this process.

The first item I bid on was a bit of a ridiculously large table lamp. It’s covered in a burlap sack and will look good with the farm house decor in my living room. I was the only one to bid and got it for $20.

A lamp

Any guesses how much this runs online? Keep in mind everything is brand new. This was a non lived in home.


Yup, I got my lamp for $210 off. Google it yourselves if you think I’m lying. It’s on overstock right now.

And that folks is just the beginning.

I lost out on some beautiful mirrors that would have matched gorgeously but it was a x2 multiplier and went higher than I was willing to go. Then I lost out on a few other items that started higher than I wanted and I never even made a bid.

What I really wanted was the dresser and nightstand they had in a spare room. My own bedroom set is a mish mash of furniture from my great grandma and my brother’s hand me down, so all older than I am and not in a cool antique way.

I ended up winning the bid on both. The nightstand for $50 and the dresser for a somewhat gut wrenching $210.

Dresser. It looks a heck of a lot nicer in real life

Guesses as to their MSRP?

$350 and $1,400 respectively.

Yup. I got a $1,400 brand new, name brand, solid white oak dresser without a single blemish for $210!!!


I then lost on a gorgeous horse painting but won the two bird prints for $10. No clue what they would cost, probably around $40-50 at Hobby Lobby or such store.

They look nice above my washer and dryer and for $10 can’t be beat

In the end I came home with 5 high end items for a total of $290 and a value of just over $2,000 to buy the same stuff, in the same condition (brand new) online that same day.

Yeah….I’m an addict now. If anyone is in need of new home decor or a gift for someone else, check out your area for model home auctions. My town is growing at a heart breaking rate, so there are auctions almost monthly. You bet I’ll be at the next one. This satisfies my need for high end purchases at bargain prices and my house is looking nicer already.


And Sometimes the Sun Shines

Wyatt has been really sick all week. Fevers getting to 103F sick. Missing school sick. It means a lot of sleepless nights and worry and extra snuggles on the couch.

It also means that for the first time in five years I called off sick to work on Tuesday. Calling in sick is really difficult when your work is based on patient care and you have a schedule booked until the middle of next month. I ended up blocking off the morning Tuesday and then opening my much looked forward to Friday off (I refuse to do surgery the Friday before Christmas to avoid an onslaught of calls over the holiday) so that I was still seeing people in a timely manner. Maybe I really am a work a holic.

Lots of snuggle time for a typically very active boy


I had ridden him Sunday with plans to ride again Monday evening, but see above about sick child. Tuesday morning was free though and while Wyatt played a computer game snuggled in a blanket, I snuck outside and grabbed H’Appy. 

This time things were a bit reversed with him.

While I was tacking him up, he started getting really antsy in the cross ties. This continued to escalate until he began rearing. Seriously this horse doesn’t need a new bad habit. I went exploring to see what on earth he was so upset about and found the answer pretty quickly. Pete was hanging out by the pasture gate staring inside the barn.

His new memory foam lined girth is in the middle. I will review this once I’v had some more rides on it. I have two useless girths now to figure out what to do with

Having never had a horse so darn attached to other horses before I’m at a bit of a loss how to deal with him. I thought a minute. While I didn’t want to reward him by letting him off the ties, I didn’t need a rearing asshat in my barn aisle either.

I decided to snap the lunge line on him and make him work. This meant the ultimate insult: walking him through the same gate Pete was at, through their pasture and then into the arena all without getting to stop and be with the horse he was so antsy about seeing. He surprised me by following me in with barely a head shake in protest and behaved well on the line.

Once I was done with that, we walked back through that same pasture past Pete and Gem, into the barn, back in the cross ties and then proceeded to finish tacking up and repeating the walk back to the arena to ride.

Doofus will learn to be a real horse.

I’ll just ignore this corner with all the other girths I have. For someone who doesn’t collect tack, and only has two saddle pads, I have apparently collected a mass of girths. 

The ride itself had little to write about which is a major win since it’s been over a month since I last wrote that. He waited patiently to be mounted, dealt with my routine of shifting my seat around/getting into two point to stretch my legs down/fidgeting with the reins and moved off sharply when asked.

I worked him mostly in the trot to reinforce what we did Sunday and he was a bit pokey and needing encouragement but was otherwise easy going. He asked to canter only a few times and came back to trot after only 1-2 strides which was a 95% improvement from two days prior. And even though he wasn’t as “barrel horse prospect” like, his trot remained in front of my leg and responsive.

This is where I get a little confused on what to do. I want to reward him for being well behaved under saddle and for H’Appy the best reward is stopping work. Ok. I understand that. On Sunday that translated into an hour under saddle before he listened well enough to call it a day. 

Since I have no medial from Tuesday, you get life updates. We took Wyatt to a hockey game and now he is asking to be on a hockey team. Which makes sense since it is the most expensive sport he could have chosen. Sigh. 

Tuesday he gave me what I wanted immediately and so after about 15-20 minutes I gave him his pats and got off. He wasn’t tired and didn’t break a sweat but it seemed the right time to stop to reinforce that being good is easier than being naughty.

My issue is that all summer I did just that and kept the saddle time short when he listened and I think it led to a very angry H’Appy when I did lengthen the rides and introduce some extra work. He is super smart and while that plays in my favor for training, it is hard when he figures he knows what is up and it changes on him. I want him to know that work can and will mean longer, more difficult rides mixed in with easier days. 

The biggest thing I am trying to figure out is how much pressure this dude can take and how often. I already know how he reacts when he feels over faced and I don’t particularly want to repeat that again, but I also don’t feel like being stuck at w/t for the rest of my days trying to prevent an argument either. 

A rare photo of the two of us

Of course, it is raining again so I won’t be testing out some theories I have brewing in my mind until the weekend and who knows which horse I will have under me come then. One thing I do want to return to is the 101 Jumping Exercises book. I think I made it to exercise 7 before I retired Gem and we never got to the actual jumping part of the book, but the ground pole work was really helpful in keeping the session physically low key (most were done at the walk and trot up to that point) while still giving us both something to focus on and working the brain. 

I know hacking is an option, but right now I have no interest in hacking out in the pasture with Gem and Pete. It took me years to be able to ride Gem with Pete loose in the field and she was never attached to him at all. If I try this, I fully believe it is setting H’Appy up for failure and right now building trust in the partnership is more important than lengthening my ride times. 

So we will see how this goes. For now I am thrilled to have a mostly willing partner back under me with his evasions and threats bottled back inside and I am really looking forward to playing around with him and testing some things out.  

Still really love this meat headed goofball. 


Lets Get Ready To Rumble

After weeks of snow, sleet, ice, and rain Sunday dawned gorgeous with a high of 60F, blue skies and warm sunshine. I had picked up the new saddle Saturday morning and there was no way I wasn’t going to take it for a spin. 

H’Appy was unusually calm walking in from the pasture and getting groomed. I tried to time the ride to happen right before his typical mid morning nap and I thought maybe the early morning warmth had taken the edge off of him. Yeah – I was very wrong. 

The saddle arrived Friday, but I got too caught up at work to make it there before closing. I made sure to be there first thing Saturday morning though. 

The saddle fit just like the consignment one and he once again stood perfectly still with nary an evil eye or gnashing of teeth as I did up the anatomic, memory foam line girth. After struggling with the stiff, new billets for a while, I had him tacked up and ready to go get his work on. 

He was gain calm as I walked him to the arena, but that cool exterior dissolved as I fumbled with the half broken arena gate. He squealed. He tried to pull away and run back to the Dynamic Duo. He was in general a Big Orange PITA. I made the smart decision to throw him on the lunge line first, you know to avoid death and all that, and he was visibly vibrating as I hooked the lunge to his bit and twisted the reins through the throat latch. 

I found a dandelion blooming. So pretty amongst the brown winter grass

The moment I stepped away he exploded. He took off at an amazing gallop, digging into the soft arena footing more and more as he tried to pick up as much speed as he possibly could. His tail was flagged higher than I’ve ever seen even my Gemmie do in all her Arabian glory. He was bucking. But you know what? He stayed out on a perfect lunging circle, kept his inside bend never once put any pressure on the line, and kept an ear on me. So while yes, he wasn’t really actually behaving very well, he was being as polite as possible about his out burst. 

Eventually he settled, and I began asking for transition w/t/c and when he was finally not finding every excuse possible to go cantering off, I switched directions and we began again although much more sedately. We were just about done on the lunge line, when he decided dragging his nose in the dirt was a good idea. He nearly kicked himself in the chin several times and then eventually managed to snag his reins and break the throat latch which, while annoying, is better than breaking himself or the reins sine I could still ride. 

At that point I brought him in and walked over to the mounting block where he proceeded to stand perfectly still while I checked his girth, tightened it a hole, and mounted. In fact, he remained perfectly still until I asked him to walk on. Bonus points for him being a good boy. 

The saddle really is a gorgeous chocolate brown. The more orange toned saddles clash with his coat color. 

From there I knew he really didn’t need much of a warm up. I mean, technically he probably could have used a cool down he was breathing so hard already, but I wanted to test out his attitude under saddle at the walk before moving on. I asked him to walk on, making sure I concentrated on my position and keeping his body between my aides. I let out several deep, slow breaths to try to erase any tension and got working on a large, full arena figure 8. He was listening pretty good, but I could tell he was feeling pretty ADD and needed things changed up frequently, so I began working on square turns as I made a serpentine down the arena trying to fit in as many turns and straight lines as possible. 

Big Man did pretty good. He had a very strong pull towards the gate where Gem and Pete had wandered over and were standing judging us with heads hung over the gate, but I gave him extra praise for keeping his crap together and not throwing a tantrum when we turned away  from them. 

His coat is finally starting to shine like a new penny. 

He was relaxed enough and doing his best to listen. I love watching his ear swivel back to check in with me. When we went to trot, it fell apart a little but honestly he kept it together way better than I anticipated he would. He offered to canter and it took longer than I would have liked to convinced him that I did in fact mean to trot, but he didn’t pull any bucks, head shaking or curling behind the bit maneuvers so  I considered it a win. On my part, I really made sure that I sat tall, slowed my posting and relaxed my arms. I have the bad habit of asking for the trot and then shutting it down with my arms being too tense and I didn’t want to continue to make that mistake. 

Starting to sweat 

Once he gave me an actual trot circle without breaking to canter or halting, I gave him a walk break wherein I praised the crap out of him before picking it back up the other direction. He wasn’t too thrilled with going back to work but eventually he got the memo that trotting was the easiest answer and we called it a day after nearly an hour of saddle time. He was really tired that night for dinner, barely keeping his eyes open to eat and even chose to forgo his typical 5 minute post meal wood chewing.   

For being the first actual ride in 40 days (last ride that wasn’t a saddle fitting session was 11/6/18), he behaved better than I had hoped and while it wasn’t a super fun ride, I felt like we actually accomplished a few things: staying straight, focusing on me even with your BFF at the gate, trotting really does mean trot and not canter or tranter.  

While I rode, Wyatt went fishing and caught his own lunch. Love this little man more than words can say

I’ll write about the saddle in a future post after I’ve had a few rides in it so I can give it a proper review, but for now I’ll just say that it fits us both really well, is super comfy and that Luxe leather upgrade was worth every penny. 


A Waggy Filled Update

Oh man, I’ve been avoiding this topic too. I can’t seem to find a way to forgive myself. So many things went wrong the day I ran her over with the tractor and bush hog. Wyatt and the dogs were supposed to be inside while I mowed and Dusty worked on fences.  I’m pretty paranoid when it comes to the tractor as it is so hard to see everything when on it and I’m so focused on the path I am mowing. 

My beautifully goofy girl

As I was turning to go up the hill, I saw Wyatt out of the corner of my end and immediately slammed the tractor and bush hog off. He came running over to ask a question and the dogs came with him. Hey had left the house when he did and followed him into the pasture. Before I knew it all three of them were crawling onto the tractor and I yelled at them to get off. I agreed to drive Wyatt back down the hill to the gate and then he had to go inside or with his dad. I switched the tractor back on, thankfully leaving the bush hog off or this would be a very different story, and pulled slowly forward gripping him tight around his waist in fear he would fall off. Waggy had apparently stayed by the tire and she was run over by the back tractor tire and then trapped under the bush hog. 

It was a scary bad day. 

We knew immediately that she had broken her back left leg and took her to Dusty’s clinic for radiographs and to make sure that she didn’t have any additional trauma we were not aware of. Turns out she had a comminuted fracture to the femur and Dusty had her into the orthopedic surgeon the next day for surgery where she received a plate, pin and circlage wire. She left with instructions to remain on cage rest with assisted walking for bathroom breaks for 6 weeks. 

Puppy Waggy was the cutest fur ball

The issue was that even after the repair she still wasn’t bearing any weight to the leg which is atypical. Dusty began working on PT stretching and ROM exercises as instructed but something wasn’t right. Then a week after surgery, Waggy became even more painful than prior and a new radiograph confirmed our fear: the intramedullary pin had backed out and was causing soft tissue injury with ROM of the hip. The surgeon couldn’t get her in for two weeks, which was pretty unacceptable, so Dusty removed the pin himself. Waggy was immediately improved with the pin removed and no longer cried out in agony with any little movement. 

One of my favorite pictures of Waggy and Dusty

However, she still refused to bear any weight on the leg and when Dusty tested her sensation she did not react to any stimulus below the knee. He took her to a neurologist to confirm what we now already knew: the sciatic nerve was damaged. Whether it was from the accident or that pin, we don;t know and it hardly matters anyway. The neurologist was optimistic the nerve would heal given enough time and so Waggy went back to the clinic to remain on cage rest.

Dusty brought her back home 12 weeks post injury. The bones were healed and there wasn’t any improvement to be gleaned from being in a cage any longer. The nerve at that point had improved to the just above her ankle level which was a quicker recovery than expected. The biggest issue is that she walks on the top of her foot, dragging ti against the ground as she has no proprioception to tell her to correct and and even if she did the muscles required to correct it aren’t getting any signals to function. 

Waggy makes room to snuggle. You can see her left foot bandage here. 

This has created a bit of a cycle of trauma to the foot. If left open, she rubs the skin raw and the nails off which bleeds and gets infected. If we keep it bandaged up, she gets a yeast infection and toes get raw. We have tried two different braces to hold the foot in the correct posture and allow for weight bearing to occur on the pads, but the force they exert on the leg to do so creates large pressure sores and then we are back to treating open wounds all over again. 

Her current status is bandaged and dragging the foot. This is a nightmare in this wet weather as the bandage can’t get wet so every time she goes out she gets the foot stuffed into a plastic bag. In case anyone else ever has to do this, the heavy duty IV fluid bags work really well and last the longest. 

She has grown into a gorgeous young dog

We are giving her as much time as we can to declare what she needs. Amputation? Maybe. I know lots of dogs can handle being three legged and losing a back leg on a big dog is better than a front, but her right hip isn’t good. Its been bad since we brought her home, but radiogrpahs always come back clean. She limps on the right after long exertions and we have known from the time she was 6 months old that that hip would be her downfall in old age. Losing the left leg would be devastating to the right and would significantly shorten her life. I’ve researched dog prosthetics and while they are made, the literature isn’t good on them. They don’t work as well as in humans.

For the moment she will remain with all legs attached, but the time for regeneration is ticking away and we haven’t seen any improvement since the initial jump from the knee to ankle. The neurologist gave it 12-16 months for full regeneration and I am fine with waiting as long as we keep infection at bay, wounds to a minimum, and a happy dog throughout. Waggy has remained her loving, happy, friendly self through it all which makes it even worse that this was inflicted by the human  who was supposed to protect her and provide her care. She isn’t holding a grudge although she does refuse to enter the pasture since the accident. 

Time will tell and we are constantly re evaluating what is best for her long term. She is only 1 1/2 years old and still a pup.


Duke Energy Coming To Ruin My Life

Well, I figure I need to write this out now that the cat is sorta already out of the bag and all. Clear up some details and such.

Back in October we received a certified letter from Duke with a proposed substation development about 1/2 mile to the north of our house. This would then create the need to run a new 110kv line from the substation to an already established line 1 mile to the south of our house putting our house directly in the middle. 

Unfortunately, we work full time and the letter required a signature upon receipt so it sat at the post office. The first Saturday after notification, I ran to the local post office to retrieve it only to find out our local office is only open from 9-10 am on Saturdays and it was 11 am. By the time I was able to get the letter, the original town hall meeting was past.

Luck was on our side this time as hurricane Matthew hit the night of the meeting delaying it to a date we could attend. And attend we did.

The view from the house looking at the main pasture. The proposed route would either go along the tree line (removing all trees) or 200′ down hill from the trees and right through the pasture

I’ve never been to a town hall meeting before and had no idea what to expect. Duke was out in full force with the church room filled with various stations: there was a large blown up map of the proposal, a real estate specialist, the engineer for the towers, the engineer for the substation, an interactive online map to zoom in on your property, a table set up to write letters of concern, and various other employees scattered around to answer questions. 

I started right away with the map proposal. There are 10 different routes the new power line could take and two of them involve us. I really wanted to gather as much information as I could before I got all Doomsday about the project, but what I learned didn’t really help matters in that regard. 

The line coming our way. Our property is in red with the star. 

Here is what I learned that night:

1) The line would have a 68′ easement with restrictions for what plant material could live inside it. Small fruit trees, vegetables, and native grasses were all approved. Any trees outside the 68′ easement that posed a potential to fall within it would also be cut down. Livestock is permitted to graze within the easement. 

2) They spray an nonspecific plant killer, basically Roundup, along the entire easement to kill all vegetation.

3) No structures can be within the easement. Fences are permitted to cross the easement at a 30-90 degree angle, but can not run parallel within it. Any fence must have a gate and Duke provided a key.

4) Duke would have 24/7 access to the easement without providing prior notice.  

Zoomed in on just us. You can easily see that the proposed line runs right down the driveway which would then be parallel within  the easement.  This would mean that they would need to move the driveway. 

With that information, I began to ask questions.

First and foremost, our driveway was within the proposed easement and would run parallel within it. I pointed this out and was told “well you can’t have a driveway there” Uh huh. Well, my driveway already exists so….

The engineer pulled the real estate guy into the conversation at this point and he attempted to talk in circles while I continued to ask very pointed questions. First he told me ” Duke has to leave your property the same as they found it so if you have a driveway to access your property, Duke would need to create a new one for your use”.

And where would this new access point be?

The issue here is that our front entrance is narrow. Someone must have split off and sold a 4.5 acre parcel of road front property years ago as ours now enters via the drive and then fans out behind it. The only way the driveway could be moved would be to pave the front 3 acre pasture but even at that we would lose the electric gate that provides us security. When I pointed this out and the loss of pasture/hay it would cause I was told “horses can graze in the easement” Uh huh…but they can’t graze on asphalt which is what the entire front 3 acres would become so….

Continue lines of BS and circular talk. 

Red line shows the only possible place for the driveway. The drive is double wide and asphalt so they’d have to put in the same, but I’m not even sure there is a way to do that with the direction the drive takes without re routing the entire 1/4 mile long drive or taking out the tiny strand of trees, the horses only natural weather break in that pasture. 

My second question was about the access Duke would have to this part of our property. What if our horses were grazing when they came in and they got out? Response “Yeah, that does happen and Duke will reimburse you the cost of the animal”  Uh huh…and how much is my emotional destruction when you kill my equine partner worth? Or worse yet, how much is Duke prepared to pay when a car hits a 1300lb horse and everyone dies? 

My last question was about the pay out. If they wreck 6 acres of my land, do they pay the $12,000 an acre we paid a year ago? I doubt it. The real estate guy was vague. I told him I’d gladly let him run the line for 25% commission off all money earned on the line. He wasn’t up for that. Then I told him he could have the entire place. Build the substation right here. Buy me out for what we paid plus any increase in value for our upgrades and we will move away. Nope on that too.

A Google image I used last year to plan out the combining of pastures. #2,3,4 have since been combined as have 5 with 6 (extended into the blue by 6) and 1 with 7 (still working on extending into the blue behind 7). The line would take out all of 1 and run through 2 and 3 leaving us with the smallest sections in the back only during construction with the hope that we could eventually use 2 and 3 again in the future. 

I had other issues. If they took out all the trees at the top of the hill which they proposed to do, would they pay the $10,000 to put in a horse shelter since they removed all natural shelter? Would they pay to board all three horses during construction since the entire property would be open and fences removed during the project? What about the run off of Roundup into the pasture killing off swathes of grazable grass and into the pond at the bottom of the hill killing the ecosystem and poisoning the fish  my son catches and eats?

After hitting all the stations, speaking with everyone and gathering facts, we ended the night by writing letters to Duke stating all the above concerns not to mention the aesthetic loss and the complete destruction of wildlife habitat (owls, osprey and foxes live in those woods) and loss of property value. They ended the meeting saying that the line would be chosen in the first quarter of 2019, land purchased in the second quarter and construction to begin in 2020 and last through 2022. 

Not one to sit on my laurels, I immediately reached out to the real estate agent who sold us the property and the attorney who did the closing to a) find out what our rights were if we could prove the seller knew this in advance and didn’t disclose it and b) any information about ways to fight it. 

In regards to a) Duke didn’t send any information out until the letter we had received so if the seller had insider information we can’t prove it. As for b – he recommended reaching out to Forever Upstate, a local conservation agency. I called them the very next day, but they were a dead end stating that Duke can plow through even conservation granted land. I did learn from them that I can create an agreement with Duke to self manage the easement which can prevent the use of Roundup and allow a healthier environment. 

My only hope in all this is that maybe they’d pay us out enough that I could afford a complete redo of my arena. It is the only silver lining I can find. 

My next step was to reach out to a local land use attorney, but again I reached a dead end. He has fought eminent domain cases for nearly two decades and unless we have federal/state backing for a historic property or some endangered species on the land, we were basically SOL. He is more than happy to take our case if they come our way to help increase the purchase price and has been very successful in that regard. His name is in my back pocket in the event it gets that far. 

At that point I felt like I was at the end of the road until Bette messaged me about another attorney who was involved a few years ago in a  very large case against Duke and won. I immediately contacted him, but you guessed it – dead end. While he was a part of the project, he only did so because his own house was going to be 900′ from a 50 acre new station. He did give me a new avenue though. Apparently, Duke needs approval from the Public Service Committee and that won’t happen until the route is finalized. This gives me a chance to get the entire project shut down or at the least convince them to go another way. 

I’ve printed out the formal protest letter and we will be hitting up all the houses on our route to get them to write one of their own. His project was stopped due to 700 letters and 50 people speaking out and there is no way we will have that many, but anything is better than nothing. 

I won’t go down without a fight. 

The next step for Duke is to come out and do a land survey with us present to point out all our issues. The only two ways the line can run through our property are to either a) take out all the trees along the big pasture hill top or b) run right through the pasture. Both have pros and cons. Personally, if they have to do it at all, I’d prefer the tree route. It ruins the natural shelter our horses currently have, but will have the least impact on the actual pasture and would make resale easier as it would be barely on the property line. IF they run through the center of the pasture, the trees are maintained but who wants to look at high power lines right through the middle of the yard? The construction destruction, noise and loss of pasture use would be worse going that way. 

I’m crossing my fingers and going into the meeting armed with all the expenses Duke would have to pay if they came our route hoping that it will convince them to go another, cheaper way. 

It devastating, stressful and pisses me off that I am having to do this after 15 years of saving and planning and dreaming of a farm. I love this property. I love the way it is laid out, the large pastures that ensure year round grass when rotated appropriately, the sunrises behind the hilltop trees and the sunsets over the fishing pond. My heart breaks as I envision the view, the loss of use and the destruction of a high power line running through the heart of it. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was tucked away at the back or came through a small corner. This would run the entire length of the property. 

We will see how Saturday goes.  


Boot Camp Canceled

Riding during the winter was easier when I lived up North. Pretty much every barn had an indoor arena and while some were smaller and more difficult to ride in than others, the footing remained dry and you were out of the elements. While living in WI, I would ride indoors down to -5F which allowed me to ride pretty consistently year round. Indoor arenas are almost unheard of down here though there are a smattering of covered arenas which serve to protect you from the rain in the winter and the worst of the sun in the summer. 

Watching H’Appy and Old Man Winter play is one of the highlights of my days. At 28 Pete still whoops the young H’Appy’s butt on the regular after H’Appy initiates a game of bitey face which Pete escalates to rearing, chest slamming and galloping. 

This past weekend we got our first snow storm of the year. Since moving here in 2013, we have always had one week of nasty snowy/icy weather and then a return to sunny and mid 50s temperatures. I’m not very hopeful that this year will follow suit. It has dumped rain in huge quantities since September and there is no end in sight with another 1.5″ predicted for this Friday again. The ground is a soggy mess and my arena is currently under ice.

While the arena stays firm under the onslaught of rain and I don’t mind riding through puddles, this mess is going to take a while to clear out before I can use it again. 

All this made me stop and think on Sunday about my training arrangement. The barn is an hour north where they got more snow than down here and I was nervous that perhaps dropping him off wasn’t the best use of my money. I reached out to the woman via text verifying that she does in fact have a covered space to ride in so that he would get worked the agreed upon 5 days a week. Her response was that she didn’t but I could still bring him up. I really do not see the point in paying to have him sit in her pasture/barn for a month and not get worked. He can do that for free at home.  I’m glad I asked her and I am a bit miffed that she didn’t say anything first. I would have been really pissed had I taken off work, driven all the way there and then be told he wouldn’t be getting 5 days a week work.

My new normal routine of hanging blankets out to dry. I do not miss this part of northern living though I am now glad to have an excess of stalls to use for hanging cold, wet blankets on

This means no boot camp until probably after the holidays and into the new year. I’ve reached out to the local trainer only 30 minutes from my house that has the cross country course and a covered arena hoping maybe she has a spot available to take us on. It probably makes more sense to go with her anyway since she is the one I hope to transition to for lessons once we have our sea legs back under us. This way she knows him inside and out. We will see what comes of that. 

Thankful I have a barn this year to use. The horses have been kept inside more nights than not recently. H’Appy is a bit of a nervous wreck inside and paces more than anything, but with so much practice he has started to calm down and now finishes his hay every night and half the water in his bucket. 

There are a ton of options for trainers over in Aiken and their weather is more stable than ours two hours northwest. A lot of the top eventers in the NE winter there and the Aiken Facebook page is a constant stream of requests for temporary housing for humans and horses from now through March as people flood the area for winter training and showing opportunities. I’m not sure my timing is all that great for getting in with a trainer there plus the prices sky rocket in the winter. Plus it is 2 hour away and would be very difficult for me to find the time to head down for a lesson. It is a back up plan I hope to not have to engage.

Wyatt had to be picked up early at school the day after his birthday. He tried to make it up to me by drawing me pictures. It might have worked. 

Meanwhile I am awaiting the arrival of my beloved new sticky leather saddle. The tack shop lost power with the winter storm and will hopefully be back to normal today or tomorrow. I might be able to sneak up there after work tonight if it has come in, but if not my Friday is now free so I can make the trip in the rain then. This weather pattern of sunny and mid 50s Mon-Thursday and then 30s and pouring rain Fri-Sun has settled over the area since early October and will not go away. It is depressing and makes building a relationship with the hairy orange beast difficult. I’m also looking into the option to pay to use the indoor at the trainer’s facility and haul over there to work him a few days a week so that at the very least we are working on our hauling skills, working in a new environment and get some saddle time in as well. 

Cold wet weather means lots of snuggle time on the couch. 

Not all is lost, but 2018 sure is starting to kick my butt and I’m finding my typical resolve to always find the open window when a door closes begin to wane a bit after all that has been thrown at me this year. I still need to do my Waggy Tails update (she is generally ok, still happy, still wagging but her leg is dead and we are up in the air whether to give it more time or amputate) and Duke Energy coming to do a site visit planning to ruin our entire property with a new high voltage tower line through it which I’ve tried numerous ways to fight and am hitting road blocks every which way I try. I’ve tried to write a post about that numerous times, but each time makes me want to vomit, so I stop. Fifteen years of plotting, planning and working hard to make this dream come true and after a short 10 months of living the dream it all comes crashing down. My nerves are on edge and being completely honest, this boot camp for H’Appy was what was pulling me through the rest of this year. Now that that seems to be gone as well…well lets say I’m not a great person to be hanging around right now. 

Waggy tired herself out playing in the snow and spent the rest of the day curled in a Waggy sized ball on the couch

 But again…all is not lost. I have some tries left with Duke, a new situation potentially in the works for H’Appy and that sticky leather luxe saddle on its way. Always look for the open window folks. I swear it is generally there. 


2018: A Review of Sorts

This time of year, blogs get flooded with year reviews and recaps. I love them all. With old familiar blogs, it is a way to remind myself of their journey and relive those happy and maybe not so great moments with them all over again. For newer blogs I just found, it is a nice way to quickly catch up. 

Who remembers this little guy?? He recently showed up and won a schooling jumper show in October. Still full on pony attitude but looking really good.

My year was not really that great. It could have been, maybe even should have been, but it plain old wasn’t. There isn’t a whole lot to do a month by month blow by blow recap of, so instead I’m going to try to sum up how I feel the year went, lessons I have learned, and where it puts me heading into the start of 2019. 

I’m going to select my favorite picture of each month from the blog to re share.

Gem and I conquered this ditch together in February on a xc school. It was the only jump I attempted that day.

The start of the year had me really focusing on Gem and improving my own consistency when it came to riding her. I set a goal of three rides a week and it really paid off through the beginning of the month.  With the recent move to the farm and having access to the arena and lights, there really was no excuse not to.  It paid off too through January and February. Gem was calmer, more willing to go to work and I felt like we were really making progress. 

March. Schooling rounds at FENCE. We did three 18″ rounds and Gem never said no to a single fence.

Except life happened, I needed to buckle down and study for my surgical boards and we decided to renovate the arena, a project that still isn’t completed and may never be.  My consistency flew out the window, Gem started showing signs of ulcers for the first time ever and after a 45 minute ride where all I got to do was try to reinstall the halt for the umpteenth time, I finally decided to listen to what the mare was shouting at me. After 9 years, thousands of conditioning miles, a 100 mile endurance completion,  a 30 mile Ride and Tie Championship completion, one amoeba level CT, and two schooling jumper shows, it was time to retire Gemmiecakes to a life of getting fat and happy in the pasture with her BFF Pete. 

April. Bette, Trainer and I headed out for a fun trail ride on our bay beasts. PC: Bette

That led me into the frenzy of horse shopping, not a fun or cheap experience. You would think living only 2 hours from Aiken and 1 hour from Tryon (home of TIEC and WEG), horse shopping would be a piece of cake. Nope. I ended up choosing Eeyore, now H’Appy, and brought him home with a clean PPE in early May.  We had a fun two weeks together and then he ripped his hoof half off with his shoe leaving him lame for nearly six freaking months. Currently he is healthy if more than a bit feral from all the time off and vacillates between amazingly fun and easy to hell horse extraordinaire. Depending on the day, moon cycle, status of his friends, and how desperately I am in need of a good ride. 

May. My first between the ears picture on H’Appy. Better weather, better attitude, better fitness. I want this back!

And that brings us to the here and now. Not where I thought I would be and not where I really want to be, but at least he is healthy and sound once again. The attitude can be worked on. 

What Went Right

  • Retiring Gem. Hands down this was the best decision of the year. Since retirement she has become a love bug. She nickers for me when I’m out doing yard work. Walks to meet me in the pasture. Begs for scratches. It’s a bit sad to see her lose her top line, butt muscling and abs but her mental health is the best it has ever been.
  • Consistency. The beginning of the year saw me really buckle down and ride three days a week regardless of how tired I felt after work, how cold it was or the dark. A lot of that was due to having and arena and lights which made riding in the evening possible. Gem was more willing work each time, knew what was expected and had more fitness. Of course that went out the window when I became horseless all summer but the lesson was learned.
  • Buying H’Appy. Ok, so the jury is still out on this one. I’ve spent so many hours re watching the test ride video of myself, looking at pictures and running every second spent with him during the test ride and PPE through my head looking to see if there was a red flag somewhere that warned me of his recent behavior. And there isn’t. If I were to find him and test him again (as he was then), I’d still choose him. The six months off have made him a bit feral but I believe he can come back from that. Time will tell.
  • New farrier. He is hard to get in touch with at times and scheduling is a bit touchy but his work is top notch and he is extremely patient with H’Appy. he has started coming out when I’m at work as long as I leave the horses in and even puts them back out after. Seriously can’t say enough good things about him. I love him even if my bank account does not.
  • Lameness Eval. I dragged my feet a long time before I made the appointment. It served to confirm my thoughts: Saddle fit and hoof issues. This let me let go of a deep fear that I purchased a lame horse unknowingly. 
June. Went cross country schooling on the orange beast. He was really well behaved, tackled everything I asked of him and it only took me half way through the two hour school to relax, let go of past baggage and enjoy myself. 

What Didn’t Go So Well

  • H’Appy. Yeah he is on both lists. I’m not sure I could have done much different to prevent his hoof coming off. He was being stalled at the time and out in the smallest back pasture for short periods when it happened. He had the shoes on he came with and I already had a farrier appointment set for them to be redone. Sometimes crap just happens. The spiral leading to six months off before shoes could be put back on sucked and led us to where we are now.
  • The arena project. My arena is awful. It sat unused and uncared for for six years before we bought the place and we new it was going to be an issue. I tried to do it myself. Fail. I hired someone to get rid of the vegetation and grade it. Fail. Now I still have vegetation but with the added bonus of really deep spots and valleys. We have called out three arena pros and each one has no showed the appointment even when we took off work to meet them. It’s a mess. Then only bright spot is that it dries really well and with winter here it should be passable until spring.
  • Training. I fell off my Trainer’s schedule from April-November due to work commitments, horse shopping and then lameness. When I finally got things in order to lesson again it was clear things weren’t going to work like they used to. All parties agreed a new situation would be best at least for a while until the basics got smoothed back out.
July. My favorite picture of Doofus. He is grace. 

Lessons Learned

  • Throw away expectations. One of the biggest issues with H’Appy is that I expected A and got B. I clung so hard to A for too long which did neither of us any good. By taking a step back and looking at reality an actionable plan can be made.
  • Trust my gut. Always in all things. I knew my original farrier wasn’t going to cut it. I knew his feet were the root of his issues. I knew my saddle wasn’t working. I’m not always right and I make more than my fair share of mistakes, but when my gut says something I need to listen.
  • Exposure is key. Getting out and doing things goes a long way in the training process. H’Appy is a pretty amenable dude in general and is happy to go out and see the world. The more times he goes the better he gets. He wont magically be a great traveler or show horse without the experience to get there.
  • Form a tribe. So I admit to being ornery in general and hating all these new hipster terms, but this one I like.  I didn’t need one for endurance, but having a support network is proving paramount in this whole jumping thing. Trainers, fitters, farriers, vets. Surrounding myself with those I trust, who I know have my best interests in mind and who want to see me succeed is what makes this thing work. I’m really starting to gather together a solid group: I love the fitter I worked with, my farrier is amazing and the lameness vet was pretty solid. I need to hone in on my training situation next. 
August. Wyatt started school this year. I can’t believe how fast the time is going.

2018 can best be summed up as a transition year. To the farm. To a new horse partner. To a new discipline. I’m finding myself surrounded by new people and looking for new knowledge and experiences. 

September. Trail hand walks to continue doing something with him while laid up waiting for his hooves to grow.

Going into 2019 I’d really like to get things on the training front hashed out, settle H’Appy mentally back into work and build his fitness so he can’t use that as an excuse to complain. That should set us up really nicely to make some sort of competition plans for the spring and fall which I really hope includes an amoeba level HT at Full Gallop. Its 18″ and only three mandatory xc fences plus a w/t dressage test. It shouldn’t be unreasonable to do.

October. First trail ride with Doofus. All in all he did really great for our first solo outing on new to him trails. More trail time would be fabulous. 

And that is that. Maybe not the best year but a lot happened and a lot was learned. Everyone made it out alive too which hasn’t been the case for the last several years. That is something to celebrate.

November. 5th Annual Thanksgiving Waterfall Hunt. Yellowbranch Falls.

This month is going to see H’Appy off to training boot camp for at least 2 weeks. I’m really hopeful that it goes well and sees us getting back on track and heading into 2019 in a much better place with each other. He has a lot to teach me both in and out of the saddle and I hope to get the chance.