A Good Example

You know what I was trying to explain yesterday? Well, last night proved a good example.

It was cold. Extremely cold by SC standards with a nasty wind on top of it but I wanted to get a ride in before the five solid days of rain in the forecast. I didn’t really have much of a plan going in likely just continuing to get comfortable with his canter and transitions into and out of it.

Preparing for five days of flooding rain. At least it will be almost 70F

I wasn’t even thinking as I brought everyone in for dinner and then threw Gem and Pete hay while I took H’Appy out to ride in the arena. He was perfectly fine until we entered and he looked around realizing they weren’t in sight.

It’s been a long time since I’ve left them inside while I rode and it didn’t even dawn on me it would be an issue. As he spun around the mounting block it quickly sunk in that I had my hands full.

After working a while to reinstall that standing still was not negotiable, I mounted up and we walked off. He was tense and felt ready to explode but I knew it was just being nervous out all alone in the world. I didn’t agree that he should feel that way, but I understood.

The footing may suck but at least I have lights

I forced myself to remain as calm as possible, making sure my weight was in my heels and my hips were open and allowing him to relax instead of getting tense and creating more tension in his back. One piece of advice I got a long, long time ago and stuck with me was that the rider and horse should always equal 10. When he comes out at a 2 I need to bring the energy in myself up to an 8. Last night he was already a 9, so mine needed to be a calm and quiet 1.

We walked. He cried out for his friends a few times. He curled behind the bit and shook his head. I thought about how to react and how to help him.

Circles. Bend. Square turns. Walking over ground poles. Halting a million times. Always keeping him moving. Always making him check in to see what we would do next.

Gem says she is sick of dark winter nights too

It took a while but eventually he started to halt when I asked with a light squeeze on the reins. Lots of praise.

A while later he started to walk off again without a tantrum. Lots of praise.

A while later he lowered his head and relaxed.

Ride over.

Dusty worked hard with the help of my dad to get this stump out. It was nice to get rid of it

It wasn’t the ride I had planned or really even wanted. I wanted to canter. I wanted to trot. More importantly though I wanted yet another positive experience to continue to build his trust in me. I wanted him to continue to learn that I’m fair and I’ll reward good behavior.

I’ll hop back on him again Friday after work. I haven’t decided yet if the horses will go in the barn or not. I need to work on him being able to ride all alone, but I also don’t want to blow his mind so I think I’ll leave them out and maybe try an every other ride situation.

I’d also love to trailer out to my old Trainer’s barn to string together some jumps in a small course. It would test his brain off property which is something I haven’t done since July, so hopefully I can squeeze that in between Dusty working Saturday and celebrating his birthday Sunday.


A More Mental Ride

Not this type of mental…though he has plenty of that too

Gem was a pretty straight forward ride. Okay…those of you who have met her can stop laughing now. Seriously. I’ll wait.

Done? Good. Lets move on.

Honestly though, while she was a twisty, turny pretzel and was OPINIONATED about literally everything she could formulate an opinion about, the actual act of riding her didn’t take up a whole lot of my grey matter. A huge part of this was due to the fact that I had been riding her for almost a decade and knew exactly how she would respond to any stimulus, or lack of one, but most of it was due to the fact that Gem had one response: get tense, hollow and speed up. Put leg on? Speed up. Take it off? Speed up. Ask for bend? How about we speed up instead. Point to a jump? Lets go faster! You get the point. I had to focus a lot on what my body was doing and how I was asking for things, but it wasn’t what I would call a puzzling ride. A frustrating one, mostly, but not mentally challenging.

Don’t listen to her lies. I’m easy like a Sunday morning.

Maybe it will make more sense as I start talking about the Big Orange Butthead.

So apparently I call him Butthead a bit too much. Last night Wyatt was hanging out with H’Appy along the fence after dinner and I hear him say “Hey, Butthead, how are you tonight?” Oops.

I find H’Appy to be the polar opposite of Gem in nearly every way. Which was sorta the point of getting him. Where she was physically challenging to stay with, he is a pretty easy and comfortable couch to sit on. But where she was a bit of a mental coast, he requires me to call in to service tiny neurons that have been hibernating for a long, long time.

My rides of late have been a lot of mental checking in with myself and trying to figure out the pieces to his puzzle and not only in a “is he lame again or just being lazy?” scenario. It took me a long while to figure out the best plan of attack, and then actually convince myself to do it, during his early ride temper tantrums. I need to sit silently, calmly and ignore the bejeesus out of him while expecting him to do what I am asking. When I do that and ignore all his evasions and keep on carrying on like he is behaving under me, he very quickly settles down and does what I ask of him. Not letting myself get bated into a tug of war game I can’t win is hard, but worth the self restraint.

As I ride him and he starts to shift his reactions under me, I am always having to think “Okay, he is now doing this so what can I do?” He gets both easily distracted and easily bored, so I can’t just power around the arena at the trot for an hour and call it a good ride. Transitions are a must. Changing geometry, different patterns, new shapes are a must.

Blurry jump photo because I’m proud that we are jumping again

I’m not really articulating my point very well here and it is frustrating me as I try to write this. With Gem I got on and I rode. Not always pretty and not always well, but I rode and I checked out on my life and it was easy in that regard. With H’Appy I end the rides feeling a bit mentally tired from always checking in with my position, my aides and then coming up with solutions to keep him engaged and working. With him this shifts throughout the ride multiple times as his energy levels and dedication to the effort waxes and wanes which keeps me always thinking, planning and changing it as it progresses.

Sure, having a trainer would help relieve me of some of this, but I am really enjoying this new to me part of riding I never had before. When Gem was new to me I was a lot less educated than I am now and I just fuddled through it. With H’Appy I’m really trying to approach him more systematically and make new mistakes rather than repeating old ones. It means I’m a bit more fatigued at the end of the ride and having to do more research on exercises to work through, but it also means that my comfort level with him is expanding and I am learning a lot about both of us.

I feel deep down in my gut that H’Appy could turn out to be an amazing horse for me. Just enough difficulty to keep me learning, growing and not getting complacent, but easy enough to regain my confidence and feel able to explore new adventures. I also have a nagging and very depressing sensation that he will not be sound enough for long enough to ever reach that potential, but I am trying to drown that voice out. Time will tell how all this plays out, but for now I ‘m enjoying the mental workout he gives me even when our rides last all of 25 minutes.


Wow…It Has Been Awhile

I’m sitting outside my work having locked my keys inside the building with no way to get home or back in. Editing may suck on this because I’m using my phone with frozen fingers.

That gives you a bit of insight on how crazy life has been for me lately. My brain isn’t functioning very well.

But I’m still here as are the horses. At least 90% of the horses. H’Appy keeps losing pieces of himself in an attempt to drive me to my grave.

I rode him Friday when I saw the above and I think he was ever so slightly off in that hoof. I texted the farrier who had no idea how he could have managed it but there isn’t anything to do so I’m mindfully ignoring it while squirting Thrush Buster up there and painting the hoof with keratex. He is either going to live until he is 50 to plague me or die in the next year. It’s a toss up.

The ride itself was pretty good despite my concerns over the hoof. I added a 2′ vertical along the opposite rail of the cross rail and managed to clobber it a few times before making it over. Typically he is pretty careful and excited to jump and the times he hasn’t wanted to leave the ground were when he was hurting which is why I think the hoof hurt him. Dusty said it wasn’t there that morning so whatever he hit it on happened during the day.

Anyway. I continue to be pleased that he never says no to a jump or takes a second look and our rides have followed the same theme of late. Namely his early ride temper tantrum continues to be a thing of the past but will show up once he gets fatigued which I understand. More conditioning work once weather allows will help that. Even when it does show up he isn’t as committed to the effort as he once was and I’m quick to end it as soon as he caves in so hopefully he is learning that good things happen to good ponies.

Canter work is also a priority for me. I really really want to start cantering courses but in order to do that I need to get a whole lot better at steering and controlling my body in the canter on the flat. I think once I get more comfortable in the canter itself and learn to set the poop down instead of bracing through the stirrup, the course work won’t seem so intimidating.

In other not news, Pete and H’Appy continue to play much to the annoyance of No Fun Gem.

And really that is all. Life is boring around here folks. I’m currently gathering my surgery cases for case submission as the final part of my boards certification process and that is about all the stress I can manage.


In Search Of

Shopping is my nemesis. I’m cheap and prefer used to new, but I like high quality goods that will last long enough to delay the shopping experience a good healthy while. I’ve already dumped more into H’Appy’s current tack set up than I did in total over 10 years with Gem, ugh.

There are a few more pieces I’d like to change out though which means more shopping and spending more money. Before hitting the various online and app based used tack places to search through crappy ads with bad pictures and important information missing , I thought I’d hit up the blogging community. You all are much better tack hoarders than I am and I was hoping to snag some used items from one of you instead of a complete stranger.

The two items I’d really like to snag right now are new irons and a set of iron covers. Seems like I need to do a better job protecting my new precious saddle with its luxe leather. The iron covers are nicely priced on Etsy and I am fine ordering from there, but maybe one of you makes them and wants some side hustle money? I’d buy the Bates ones, but they are purple and I’ve already sunk low enough to use navy. Purple is not going to happen. Seems like once you start down the purple road your brain turns to a purplish mush and you go insane.

Not this color or pattern, but something soft and fleecy like this to protect the flaps when my irons are run up.

Irons are more difficult to figure out. The Bates saddle I took on trial before ordering mine had wonderful stirrups on them. Unfortunately I wasn’t smart enough to take a picture or ask the brand before returning the saddle. I’ve done some research and I believe they were the Compositi wide bed with shock absorber like below:

The ones I tried were silver but they had the wide foot bed with the arrow to show which side the iron belonged on. Of note, they were on backwards.

I’m not set necessarily on that specific brand, but I really liked the wide foot bed, the aggressive tread and the slight give it had. The only two things I wished it had were a 90 degree eye so it laid correctly on the leathers and were a bit heavier than the plastic composition.

They aren’t even that expensive online, but again maybe a blogger has a pair they aren’t using and want some cash with show season around the corner. Anyone have anything similar they want to sell before I buy new?


Changing Expectations

For the past several months, the very thought of riding H’Appy brought about much trepidation. Bringing him in from the field was never an issue, much unlike his predecessor who hid behind trees on the regular, but once in the cross ties a fight to keep all my appendages in functioning order and attached to my body would ensue.

He would paw. He would eat the cross ties. He would whip that big orange head of his around and try to bite me. He would weave side to side trying to squash me against the wall. He would try to step on me. Tightening up the girth was an adventure always leading to pinned ears, angry faces and homicidal ideations on his part. You can imagine how that set the tone for what was to come on both our parts.

Don’t listen to her! She is telling lies!! Lies I say!

Last night was the perfect night to ride. The day had been sunny, warm and dry. The arena is still partly under water from the deluge earlier this week, but it was workable. I wanted to ride. It gave me pause though because the timing was not right. I’d have to bring them in for dinner and let the others out while I tacked him up. Or I could bring only him in and tack up before feeding but then the others would be hanging by the gate. The last time they did that, H’Appy started rearing in the cross ties so bad I threw him in his stall.

But I wanted to ride and a quick check of the weather showed rain today through the weekend. This would be my only chance this week and Hubby had agreed to cook dinner so I could ride. I drew in a deep breath, changed into riding clothes, grabbed his halter and decided I was not going to tip toe around his schedule. I was going to ride.

I told the hubby to take a video and I’d grab stills, but he didn’t remember so you get blurry pictures in the dark again.

And you know what? He came up to me in the pasture and led in quietly. He stood int he cross ties while Gem and Pete stared into the barn feeling starved and deprived. He let me brush him all over with a cocked hind leg. I grabbed the saddle and he looked at me, but didn’t move. I tightened the girth and saw nary an ear flick in my direction. We waked off to the arena, through the gate and past his friends, and he never once planted his feet, pinned his ears or tried to eat me.

This was the third ride in a row where he was a GOOD BOY.

This one turned out really good though!

I went into this ride wanting to work on the canter. I hate the canter. My entire riding life has lived in the trot and I am very comfortable there at 12 mph flying down twisting, single track trails, up and down hills and over streams. I’m not so comfortable at a 6 mph canter in a flat arena. Time to fix that. He was already in a listening mood, so I worked a while at the walk to loosen us both up and working really hard on my seat.

My seat has two modes: rigidly braced and loosely driving. Neither are good. I really want to correct this and focus on a light, following seat at all gaits so that I am more neutral in the saddle unless I am asking for something instead of either blocking or yelling. So at the walk, I really concentrated on this. I’ve gotten pretty good at not being rigid and braced at the walk, but it has recently swung to me trying to move for him and that drives us both crazy. Last night I really allowed my hips and lower back to relax while sitting tall and sucking my navel in and just moving with him.

Canter zoomies…go fast…but hey at least I have proof that I look up and look at that hind leg reaching under him. If he was being ridden by someone who knew how to ride, he’d be a pretty fancy little chunk.

This will be super shocking to you all, so brace yourselves here. By doing this, H’Appy gave me a wonderful forward, marching walk that was in front of my leg without me forcing it and he even began to stretch down into the contact. It was a baby stretch down, but man did it feel good! I completely messed it up by not having contact to reach into, but baby steps here folks.

He is trying to reach for a contact that isn’t there. Sorry, buddy! On the plus, my leg is actually beneath me instead of lock kneed and toes in front of his shoulder. Progress!

After a brief trot tour to see how he was going to react to transition work, a bit of head tossing but nothing major, and it was on to the work of the night: the canter.

His canter button is really amazing. Sitting a few steps of the trot, bringing my heel ever so slightly back and a light graze on his side and he is off! I focused hard on having a quality trot before asking for the canter and some times managed it and sometimes not. Over all though he was ok. I forgot to steer the first few times and ended up nearly plowing into the arena fence, but he was game to keep trying. I worked him left and then right concentrating on forcing myself to sit deep in the saddle versus being braced and rising ever so slight out of the saddle, lowering my hands that want to come up to my chin, letting my legs hand loosely but on so as not to nag him…oh and that whole steering thing.

I think I’ll keep him. He may not think the same about me, but such is the lot of a horse.

I’d give myself a B- overall. Nothing horrendous happened, we picked up the correct lead every time, and I managed to keep his flubby body in the canter until I asked to trot at which point he told me to screw off and halted instead. Steering needs a lot of work. Sitting deep needs a lot of work. Not letting him plow onto the forehand or go flying off into the distance needs a lot of work.

But I kept my head screwed on, thought about my position, planned somewhat ahead on my track of progression and had fun.


Removing Pressure

In the interestingly ironic and yet predictable way that life works, I made the same mistake with H’Appy as I did with Gem that I swore I would not do.

Namely, I ignored the fact that we didn’t know each other and jumped in head first only to land on that head in short order, figuratively speaking.

Super weird confession time. I never used to make my bed. Didn’t see the point if I was just going to get in it again. Ever since cleaning lady has started coming and making the bed I can’t go to sleep in a messy one any more. Apparently Smokey Cat agrees. She has claimed this sunny spot for her afternoon naps

With Gem, I was bold, brave and stupid. She was green, lacked confidence and intelligent. It led to a lot of fights, tears and declarations of a sale that never happened. Things didn’t improve with her until I moved to WI, had her in my back yard and was forced to slow way down due to 90+ hour work weeks and no sleep.

When I unloaded H’Appy I was timid, cautious and a lot smarter. He was bold, brave and wicked intelligent. It led to a lot of fights, a few tears and a declaration of a sale a time or two. Thankfully I’m extremely stubborn and hate giving up, so he is still with me.

The thing is that even promising myself I wouldn’t push things too fast, I still did. Here I was with this new orange horse who I paid way too much money for and I felt this internal pressure to now do all the things with him. I bought him specifically to do all the things, he was purported to be able to do the things, and I had a bit of a need to prove to myself that some issues were truly a Gem issue and that I wasn’t the worlds worst rider.

This handsome fella with his professional side eye and crazy mohawk.

So I pushed this new to me horse in a new to him environment to do things. It didn’t go very well.

I’m a slow learner, but I can learn and so right now as we get back under saddle and moving forward again, I’m taking all the pressure I have placed on us off.

I’m riding as able and working on what feels right to me in the moment. Some days that is jumping. Others it is simply walking with a few trot transitions thrown in. If he is listening well and calm, I canter. If he isn’t, we walk and halt and work on square turns and halting off my seat.

I want him to learn that I am fair, predictable in my requests yet persistent and a voice that can’t be tuned out. I want him to trust me not to get himself killed and I want him to continue to be bold and brave, two characteristics that made me choose him over others.

It means a lot of small rides with small questions scattered with bigger demands and higher standards.

To that point I went to ride Friday afternoon and found a compliant gelding in my cross ties. He had new shoes put on Thursday and I’ve learned to give him bute in his dinner the day the farrier comes to help with any soreness from the procedure. Of note, farrier is much happier with the status of his feet these days and thinks we may get him out of pads eventually.

Love my farrier. He comes while I’m at work which relieves more stress than I can describe here. He shows up, texts with me, then offers to put them out after he is done. He is never allowed to move or retired. Ever.

I had one thing I wanted to really work on: the backside of the fence. You see, I have this annoying habit of being so insanely happy to just get over a fence that I celebrate and throw riding right out the window as soon as we get over. When I jumped earlier in the week, I found myself careening around the arena going nowhere and I thought “hmmm…maybe I should do something about that”

So Friday I kept the small cross rail and added a single ground pole 180 degrees opposite of it on the rail. I wanted to trot over the jump and the pole and by adding this I not only had something to aim for (helping my lack of steering) but also something to make me come back to a trot.

H’Appy was feeling good and argued that cantering was both more fun and easier than trotting politely. This translated to more work for him but that’s his fault. After warming up using the arena at large, I started going right taking the crossrail at the trot, cantering away keeping my eyes on the ground pole, bringing him to a trot before it, trotting over, trotting to the crossrail and repeating. They were far enough apart to be taken straight and then bending after versus creating a circle including both elements.

A ground pole. Thrilling media I know. I really need a solo shot for my birthday this year.

Or at least that is what I tried to do. He thought launching over the ground pole and trying to fly off into the distance was a better plan.

It took a while but eventually he was trotting the pole and the crossrail going right. His canter felt so amazing though that I let him canter the exercise a time or two before taking a walk break and switching directions.

Guys, that was the first time I cantered a fence with him. It felt AMAZING! That’s a whole other post though because I have a lot to say about it.

Going back to the left was once again a discussion that we can’t rush to the good part and canter the entire thing. It took a long while to get him trotting it and once we had it down I trotted around three times and called it quits.

He was starting to get that horse sweat smell and was breathing pretty hard at this point so it was the perfect time to end it. I gave him a ton of praise as we walked back to the barn.

Such a handsome guy.

It was super fun and rewarding. I’m learning to be a lot more strict with him and planning ahead really helps that. I don’t want to drill him with the exercise but I think the idea of it is something we will continue to work on for a while to help us both out.

I also think that while I’m missing having lessons, for right now I’m not going to sign up for any. For one, chubby wouldn’t be able to handle an hour long session right now at his fitness level and I don’t want to cause injury or stress by asking him to do something he isn’t physically prepared for. I’m also liking having the ability to adjust on my own per how we are both feeling. This ensures a positive outcome versus riding with someone who wants us to do x even though we just aren’t able that day.

I’m really starting to enjoy this orange beastie of mine and looking forward to the future.


Yelling Back At The Storm

Darkness falling.

Exhaustion after a long day of treating feet and a preceding night of poor sleep.

The Dynamic Duo hanging over the arena fence to watch the show.

Gale force winds picking up out of the blue.

A missing right front shoe.

Not the look I was hoping for but it works

All obstacles thrown at me last night and last year I would have let any one of them stop me from riding. But I’m really trying to embrace living more and so instead of calling it quits and retreating back inside, I saddled up and rode anyway.

H’Appy is getting used to me and I am starting to get used to him as well. Part of the issue is that he has a naturally much larger stride than my little Gemmie and I need to let him do him without shutting it down all the time. The other part of the problem is that his head can be pretty firmly up his butt at times and he needs convincing that I really do mean what I ask.

Watching the sun set from his back isn’t a terrible thing

Like trotting nicely instead of trantering or slamming down to a walk in a corner because he doesn’t want to any more.

It is getting there though. We didn’t have the typical first ten minute fight. Instead he came out really good and then after I gave him a walk break he decided returning to work was optional.

Sorry. It isn’t.

They have 15 acres in the pasture to roam and graze. Why stand right there and drive the orange butthead crazy?

We worked on the second exercise which is a single ground pole in the center of a figure eight (so in the middle of the long diagonal lines) working on staying straight across the diagonal, slicing over the ground pole at an angle without losing rhythm, and having proper bend in the far turns.

It took a few turns through the exercise to get him listening, but once he caved in to the work it was really great.

My night time jump crew

Then I decided to let him walk which was right about the time Dusty got home from work and entered the arena to talk/watch. H’Appy decided this meant he was done (it had been maybe 20 minutes) and he clung to Dusty (who he hates by the way) to save him.

Asking him to trot again was a bit rough and that is when most of his evasions came out: curling behind the bit, shaking his head, rooting. I rode each out (man but I do love this saddle with all my heart) and eventually he relaxed once again.

If you think I suck at taking pictures, have a look at these by the hubby. Blurry and dark, but look we cantered!

Which is when I decided to jump him for the first time in like four months. I had set a 2′ vertical but as we approached and he locked on I wimped out and turned him off. With Trainer’s anger ringing in my ears for teaching him to say no, I asked Dusty to make it a cross rail and he attacked that like a super star.

After we trotted in to the fence, he cantered away very much proud of himself for hopping over it. We did it a few times each direction and then I called it a night.


He really likes jumping and I think I need to suck it up and grow a set so I can ride him better over fences. The baggage is real but he is teaching me that he will say yes when I ask. It’s what he does on the back side that I need to worry about more than the approach or going over but I can only work on that if I, you know, let him go over the darn thing.

It should be nice enough to ride again Thursday and as long as he either gets a new shoe or is sound in the boot I plan to set up a small course with my four jumps and play around with him giving him a fun day.

Happy jumping ears. Maybe if I stopped trying to jump it for him, it would go better. Sigh

Much to work on, much to celebrate.


2018 Volunteer Challenge Winner!

First, thank you to all who participated in any way you could. This challenge was really fun to host all year and gave me something to look forward to each month. I love shopping for other people and finding interesting and useful horse themed gifts was a nice challenge for myself.

I wasn’t able to get all the data I wanted. Most people didn’t give me the event name or job performed, so I don’t have a lot of interesting information about the most popular venues and jobs. I can say that cross country jump judging was the most performed job, for the most number of hours.

There were an impressive number of hours donated over 2018 and I really hope everyone who participated enjoyed their experiences and that all those organizers recognized how lucky they were to have you all lending a hand.

I’ve been wracking my brain for the perfect gift to give out for the Champion and Reserve Champion. The winner already got some pretty cool things along the way and my first idea wasn’t going to work out. I think I finally have it though and I am really excited to announce the winners and their awards.

First – we have to work up to it though by looking at everyone’s participation:

Everything Pony – 4 hours

Holly – 4 hours

Teresa – 6 hours

KC – 4 hours

Betsy – 7 hours

Carly – 9 hours

Amanda (beljoer) – 12 hours

Olivia – 16 hours

David – 16 hours

Amanda C – 17 hours

Sarah O – 19 hours

Emily – 21 hours

Naadia – 26.5 hours

Bette – 46 hours

That is a lot of people doing a whole lot of volunteering. But enough about that…..time to announce the Reserve Champion who is none other than:


She put in a whopping 77.5 hours and even traveled half way across the country to get those hours in. Congrats Amy!

My original plan for you was to create a book out of your blog posts and send that to you. I made one myself a few years back from my adoption blog and it turned out really neat. I love having a hard copy of my posts and pictures from that time in my life and it is my favorite book on my shelf.

But….unless you want to send my all the original, high res photos I can’t make it work. I made a small trial book online and stole some of your pictures from the blog, but they are not high enough resolution to print well. So I guess, if you want this you could look back through your top 20-25 posts and send me the pictures (I can steal the text from your site) and I can still put the work in to design the book.

Your other option, which isn’t nearly as personal or cool, is a mohair girth/cinch to match the reins you won in Q3. I’d just need to know what style (western cinch or english girth) and the size and I can get that ordered to match the reins.

Your pick! Just send me an email to let me know which you want.

Now for the Champion of the 2018 Volunteer Challenge:


Emma went out there and donated 85.6 hours! That is nearly 4 days worth of volunteering this year. Congrats Emma!! I am blown away by your effort. I’ve had to wrack my brain a bit for an award for you and it took me a while to track things down, but I think I have it all sorted out.

Right before my beloved corgi, Hero, passed away in 2015, I reached out to none of than the Dressage Curmudgeon to get a portrait drawn of him before he left me. She did an amazing job and the picture lives framed on my wall by my bed. I adore it.

My Hero. I still miss his face every day.

Emma, for all your hard work this year, I have ordered a pencil portrait from her of Charlie. Or well, I guess anything you want (how about a H’Appy portrait instead? HAHAHAH!). I’ve pre-paid for the portrait and will text you how to get in touch with her to sort out exactly what you want her to draw (well, once she gets back to me with her contact info that you can use)

I hope everyone who participated enjoyed it as much as I did this past year. I’m not hosting again, at least not this year maybe I will again in 2020, to let my bank account rebound a bit, but I still want to encourage everyone to get out there and lend a hand. Remember: these events can not be put on without a horde of volunteers doing the work so please next time you debate competing or volunteering maybe give volunteering a second or third thought. Your local event organizers will love you for it.


Pinch Me…No Wait. Don’t

If this is a dream, please do not wake me. Sunday was hands down the best day I’ve had in months. Maybe a year.

Wait…who’s brown butt is that???

The sun was shining. There wasn’t a cloud in sky. Temperatures rose to almost 70F and this happened:

Gem was umm…less than enthused when I grabbed her from the pasture, groomed and tacked then loaded her up. She did not agree that retirement was over.

I’m not even sure how this came about. One minute I was talking to Dusty while scooping horse poop out of the stalls and the next Wyatt is asking to go on a trail ride on Gem.

This big guy is slowly breaking my own walls down and teaching me to trust

Um..I think it took me all of 15 seconds to hatch a plan to make that work. The next day we were loaded up and heading to my favorite trail system with my favorite bay mare and blonde boy.

She looks good in blue stars

For the first time in my life, I hauled the horses tacked up. It seemed the smartest thing to do rather than fuss with them at the trail head in opposite sides of the trailer. It worked out fine and we were unloaded and mounted up quickly.

Life is different through this set of ears but I’m learning to love it for what it is

Before I knew it we were both mounted and walking down the hill to enter the woods. I chose the grey trail, which isn’t one I typically use, because it is mostly a very wide gravel access road. This way Dusty could easily lead Gem without worry of being stepped on.

Letting the pro show him the ropes over the scary bridge

And everything just went…perfectly.

Happy ears and an eager to explore attitude. Two great traits in a trail horse

H’Appy generally likes to lead but he is still inexperienced on the trail and had two instances when he just said he couldn’t handle it: over the entry metal bridge and again at the hairy creek crossing. Both times Gem quietly took the lead and maneuvered through the obstacle with her head low and teeny tiny strides.

No better view than my sons back on my favorite mare out i

If it was possible, Gem made me lover her even more on this slow two mile ride. She was a saint. All her typical spooky behavior, her need to go always faster, he hatred of mud and water, it was all gone. She knew Wyatt was on her and was a newbie. She walked through ankle deep mud that, had I been on her back, she would have either forced me to bushwhack around or would have jumped over. Not for Wyatt. She was so amazing. I can’t even describe how it felt watching her take such good care of him.

Wishing I always had this behind me on the trail

H’Appy did pretty excellent himself. He led most of the way up the steep hill on the way out. He made me laugh as he would be walking forward all eager and then would look back at Gem like “Are you coming? Move it! There is so much to see!!”

Coming back down he was happier to follow. I don’t think he wanted to turn around though

You see, while Gem is a killer endurance machine and ate that 100 miler for breakfast, she walks at a whopping 1 mph pace. Honestly. No joke. I walk faster than she does. It made endurance tricky as I could never give her walk breaks. She either trotted or stopped to eat otherwise we wouldn’t make time. H’Appy has a solid 4 mph walk without trying and I can get him walking at 5 mph if I push. Gem had zero intentions of keeping up with that.

Excuse me but does the Appy make my butt look big?

Once we made it up the hill, Wyatt declared that he wanted to turn around. We were one mike out and that’s about as far as I figured he would get. He is six, horses aren’t his go to and walking it boring. But he had a smile on his face the entire time and had fun and that was what was important.

My heart was so full

We turned around, much to the dismay of H’Appy who desperately wanted to see what was around the next corner, and made our way back down the hill towards the trailer.

The look I wanted at the end.

We ended back at the trailer with three very happy people and two well behaved horses who never put a hoof wrong. My heart was about to burst with happiness.

These three making dreams come true for me

I can’t imagine having more fun riding with anyone else no matter the pace, distance or location. Wyatt tackled two bridges, a creek crossing and deep sticky mud and smiled the entire time. He asked if he could do an endurance ride with me and while Dusty is more than up for jogging alongside for 25 miles, he would have to get comfortable trotting to make it work. Maybe in time. For now, I have no plans and no schemes. If he never rides again I’d still be happy to have had this one trail ride with all my loves involved.


Journal Prompts

Kat asked in a comment Wednesday about the prompts I am using for my nightly journal. I’m not sure how interesting this will be for everyone, but she asked and it is easier to answer this in a post than in the comments.

Journals can come in many forms and with just as many purposes. For me, I want to use it as a way to focus my life a little better and grow a happier head space. Life is hard and always will be. Not every dream I have dreamed has come true and some have died very painfully. Some days are mundane and boring. In years past, I have been able to go through life with a, while admittedly not go with the flow personality, at least an attitude of “bring it, lets see where this next road leads, life is a journey until the very end” mentality. Not in 2018 though and I want the mental space I was in for most of 2018 to die a hard, cold death.

This bird gave me some pretty hard silent judgement as he watched me struggle on my run

With all of that in mind, I set out last weekend to figure out what was missing in 2018 and how to bring it all back in a healthy, low pressure way. When I bought a small notebook to write in I sat down and thought about the best use of it. What was my purpose in maintaining a journal? Was it to track habits? Write down dreams? Write about the details of my day? Have a safe space to complain?

I already have a bullet journal that I use to track to do items, Wyatt’s schedule and certain habits. This lives at work since my home life has very little to do items and I spend more time at work than at home. I didn’t really need another version of this at home.

Writing details of my day went right out the window too. I mean, there are only so many times I can write “got up, went to work, worked, came home, went to bed” before it becomes a lesson in insanity. Plus, the entire reason to do this is to clear my head space and focus on the positives more, so complaining, no matter how poetically done, would defeat it before it began.

We celebrated New Years by shoving cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory in our mouths New Years Eve. It was delicious.

Ok, so what was left? I took to my phone searching for journal apps, of which there are dozens. I downloaded a few to try and quickly deleted them all. While I loved the feature of inserting a picture from the day, that function cost money and I had zero interest in paying for it. Plus, I missed putting the pen to paper in the very literal sense. What I did find though was an app that laid out the journal in grids. I hated every question they asked (very existential BS type questions), but I liked the idea of paring my day down into discrete prompts that let me focus on what I thought was important. The bonus was that it would allow me to journal quickly and efficiently, two things I need right now to make anything function in my life.

With all that back story, if anyone is still reading, kuddos to you. The prompts I came up with focus on celebrating the small wins each day. They may make little sense to others but here they are to finally get to the answer to Kat’s question (which she is probably regretting asking by now):

  1. Three things that made me happy today.  Setting the tone right away to focus on the positive has been really helpful so far.
  2. What problem came up and how did I solve it? This has proven to be my favorite prompt so far. It is so easy in life to feel inadequate and impostor syndrome has plagued me since I left residency. Thinking over my day and finding a problem that I solved, no matter how small, really boosts my self pride.
  3. What was my favorite part of the day? No matter how bad or mundane a day was there is always a bright spot. Be that a really good sandwich at lunch or a major victory won. Again, all about finding the good in every day to create a more positive attitude.
  4. Three accomplishments from the day. Small things, big to do items knocked off, heck just managing to get through the day at all. This one is all about feeling good about a day well lived.
  5. Did I complete yesterday’s three tasks? This may make more sense later in the list, but did I complete each of the three items I wanted to.
  6. Family time. This prompt reminds me to focus on what really matters to me- my family. Did I call my mom? Eat lunch with Dusty? Snuggle on the couch for movie night? Work invades my life way too much. Time to shift the focus back to what is important.
  7. Did Wyatt do anything new today, say anything funny?  When you are 6 everything is a new experience and one of the best parts of being a mom is watching him grow and learn. It is surprisingly easy to forget the small stuff that happens every day in his life. This prompt gives me a space to write those memories down.
  8. How were the animals today? I’m not sure I’m going to continue with this one. The point is to write about H’Appy in a way that isn’t achievement based. I track my rides and care in my bullet journal but want to write about my overall interactions with him. I need to work a bit in the wording of this one as I go along.
  9. Overall feeling about the day. How did I feel the day went? How was my mood?
  10. Three things to do tomorrow. This will make #5 make more sense. Since my bullet journal lives at work and I’m probably the most forgetful person on the planet, I want to write down a quick list of things I really want to get done.
  11. Bonus: Summarize the day. I quick little jot down of my feelings of the day, what I thought went really well and what made me excited.
Pete’s old man face makes my heart melt. When he gives me that puppy dog, cute old man gaze I drop everything to do whatever he wants. Some day I’d love to have a retirement farm for old horses. I really love old horses.

As you can see, all these prompts are to help improve my head space and I don’t leave room for negativity. I’m not trying to white wash my life in happy lies here. Trust me, my brain is very, very good at remembering the crap parts of the day and giving me hell over my mistakes. These 10-15 minutes are made to help me retrain myself to think positively at the end of the day.

The prompts may change over time as I hone them down to what works for me. Ideally I’d love to leave room at the bottom to glue in a picture from the day, but that requires printing of pictures. I’m terrible at doing that so I don’t know if it will ever get done or not.