Getting in the Zone

Frat Boy has been a bit of a piss ant under saddle as of late. It is entirely my fault though and I own up to that. Life has gotten insanely busy as it always does this time of the year with work, school and the rainy season. Looking back Eeyore has been getting 4-5 days off between rides on the regular since the middle of September. I’ve long since learned that he needs more consistent riding than that to remain my steady eddy boy, so when I hopped on him last night I took the emotion out of it and rode him through his early shenanigans fully knowing that if I got my butt in the saddle more frequently I wouldn’t have to spend 20 minutes letting him blow off steam followed by getting 15 minutes of amazing work before he decides life is too hard to continue on and then dealing with a pissy pants boy again.

This past weekend was spent camping with Wyatt’s cub scout troop. It was a LOT of fun.

With the show looming in the near future and a 5 day trip to FL for work two weeks before it, I’m trying to squeeze in as much solid work as I can. I only have two weekends before the show once I take out the trip, so there isn’t much time. We won’t be perfecting much in the next three weeks but I can get him back into the mental space of working again which will go a long way to having a pleasurable experience.

To that effect I rode last night with the simple plan of working on his mental game and the right bend. Because the right bend is going to kill me. We are sufficient enough for our current level going left at the walk, trot, sitting trot and canter. The canter is becoming way more balanced and I can get several strides of a true uphill canter before he loses it due to lack of strength and stamina. He is trying and giving me his all and that is all I can ask for.

Look! We made a circle like shape all on our own

The right though? It is like his brain melts out. While he tries going left and is focused, to the right he all of a sudden finds everything else in the world so much more interesting to look at. He loses his relaxation the moment we change directions. Now, before all well meaning readers start yelling “Pain! Saddle fit! Chiropractor!” at me, I assure you all the horse CAN bend right. In fact he can bend himself into a pretzel when he chooses to. For some reason he has decided bending right is something he won’t do. I’m sure my own body is doing something different to the right than the left which adds to it as well. So we ride the struggle bus a bit that direction and I’d like to clean it up a bit before the show.

After about 45 minutes, I hopped off and declared that I will be riding him every day this week to get his butt back in shape and his head screwed on straight again.

Then I looked at the forecast.

Thanks Mother Nature. I hate you too.

Well, damn. Looks like he will get another 3 days off between rides. I need to hit the lottery so I can cover my arena and still ride in weather like this.

Outside of trying to get back into work mode, I’ve splurged on some new items online which should be arriving today – yay! – and then I need to make up my mind if I will be going the day before the show or hauling in the day of. It will rely heavily on my ride times which I am guessing will be later in the day as the show runs high to low and I’m in the lowest division. I have a lot of back and forth thoughts about this but am holding off exposing you all to my inner madness until I have all the information in front of me, so prepare yourselves for that nonsense.


The Times, They Are A Changing

It is probably a sign of mental growth that I had a lesson like I did last night and still walked away feeling proud of myself for getting it done. In a way it was a no good, very bad, terrible lesson and Past Me would have been all over lamenting about the jumps we literally crashed through (2 to be specific), the dozens of times I had to be reminded that getting left behind over a jump is a bad thing, and the complete twat Eeyore was at the beginning which led to me giving him over to Trainer for the first time in a long, long time.

But Present Me, while wanting to be real on here, doesn’t want to focus about all the ways the lesson was ugly and hard. About the times we failed. Instead, I find myself rehashing the praise Trainer doled out for me finding my grit and getting the job done. For the fact that I tackled jumps set to a height I’ve never done before, in a fun mini course of 6 fences including two pipe jumps and the coop and didn’t feel a single twinge of nerves or fear. Even when Eeyore decided that life was too hard and he would rather not thank you very much.

Pissy Frat Boy last night was still the best boy in my eyes.

Sure it was ugly, but as I thought about it last night I realized something. We are doing hard things now. We aren’t pitter pattering over a single 18″ cross rail anymore. My “Grand Prix (which by the way is my absolute favorite thing about Trainer AB – she always ends the lesson with my very own personal Grand Prix, an exercise that is challenging and pushes me out of my comfort zone, but that she has complete faith we can do) isn’t a two fence vertical combination anymore. No, my grand Prix last night was a doozie of a 6 fence course set with two 4 stride combinations and a skinny I had to slice at a pretty good angle. Of course it was ugly. This is all new to us! And you know what? We got it done. Left all the rails up (at least the second attempt, the first attempt had us take the entire first fence down with us oops). Made good decisions to regroup after I royally screwed up. At the end of the course I sat there laughing and saying how that was the ugliest stadium course ever and Trainer AB walked over and pointed out everything she was super proud of and ended by saying that a couple months ago I would have wimped out of the entire course. So yeah..it wasn’t a no good, very bad, terrible lesson after all. It was a hard lesson. It was a challenging lesson made no less so by a horse who was not with me for the majority of it, but we got it done and I learned a lot.

Want the nitty gritties? No…well too bad here they come!

It started off rough. Rougher than I can recall since that first lesson with Trainer AB way back at the beginning of summer. Frat Boy wouldn’t even let me mount which has never happened before. It took me four tries before he stood still at the mounting block. It didn’t bode well. It was an odd night for us. There was a beginner lesson occurring at the same time with a different trainer and while I know excuses are lame, Eeyore hates when another horse is in the arena. His brain gets shut down for some reason. Then there was the fact that the footing was sloppy and not safe in some regions, there were jumps everywhere, it was a cozy 45F and the black kittens were hunting in the grasses by the rail. I did my best to contain the powder keg under me, but when one of the kittens jumped on a post by the gate right as we went past causing Eeyore to bolt forward – I gave up, slid off and handed him to Trainer AB to work the wiggles out. She can do it without emotion and I can’t.

The reason I didn’t get a ride in Tuesday to prep for Wednesday. Mine is far right. it was supposed to be a witches hat but um…looks more like a pilgrim hat or a really bad cyclops. M is far left, Wyatt the cat, my mom the face, my dad Frankenstein’s face.

Fifteen minutes of cantering later, she proclaimed him “10% better, good enough” and handed me back the reins. He was sweaty, sulky and pissy at this point, but the other horse left the arena, the cats decided to play inside the jumps in the arena instead of hiding in the grasses, and his brain turned back on, so I worked him a little at the trot and canter to make sure he was tuned in to me and then we moved to jump work.

Now typically he suffers through dressage and then lights up when we move to jumping, but last night he was tired and sulking which resulted in him sucking back behind my leg and putting in the least amount of effort he possibly could get away with. It was tricky though because he had reverted back to his old behavior of “mistaking” any tiny rein aide to mean he could stop moving his feet. It was really hard work to get him to slow down his roll, move up in front of my leg, but still keep moving.

But we managed to get it together enough to start jumping. We began on a left bend cutting between the two pipe jumps and jumping away from the barn, then when that no longer sucked , we came from a right bend cutting between the two and taking the other pipe jump towards the barn before running through the combination as a four stride. The individual jumps were fine though Eeyore kept trying to take the easy way out by heading right and only sorta jumping the full pipe. This resulted in Trainer AB adding a rail above the pipe which meant that we couldn’t cheat. The first time through the combination, I felt him trying to run out to the right but a lot of right leg and left rein got us over the second one. We chipped in badly and I got left behind badly, a theme for the entire night ugh, but we did it. Trainer actually praised me for staring down #2 and getting it done, another theme of the night.

She added rails to the top of the pipes which made them even taller. When I asked her what height these are she shrugged and said “over 18″ I know that!” Very funny Trainer AB.

From there we headed over to an airy vertical. There was a second set of standards one stride out from this and Eeyore gets a bit hairy about empty standards. He expects a rail to jump and when he sees open air it confuses him. The first approach he was so focused on what was happening with those standards that he ran through the entire first jump scattering poles and standards alike. It was…special. I was about to get upset when Trainer chimed in that she thought I rode him really well through that and hoped he learned his lesson. She really has a way of knowing exactly when to keep me out of my own head. Love her. Have I said that before?

The second set of standards kinda blew his mind. He knows his job is to jump between them so when they are empty the hamster falls off the wheel

He did fine the next approach, though he remained sensitive and in this weird zone of behind my leg but when I got after him to move up he’d then go hollow and on the forehand and then when I tried to get him to use himself properly he’d go “oh ok I’ll just walk then”. It was a delicate balance I had a hard time following and it ended up with a lot of chip ins, me being behind the motion and then getting told to do better.

Once we didn’t biff that so much, she pointed us at the coop heading away from the barn. I don’t know what happened to me, but when she asked me if I was comfortable doing it I replied with “yep, we’ve done it before!”. Seriously don’t know where my bravery came from, but I liked it. We soared over that coop as the best jump we had done all night.

As we cantered back towards her, I knew Eeyore was pretty tired. I mean, it was his fault for being such an ass in the beginning and wasting all his energy, but still he was tired and I didn’t want to over do it. We had already gone beyond our lesson time, he was lathered despite the chilly temperature and we had done a lot of jumping efforts. So I spoke up! First time for that! I told Trainer AB he was feeling really tired and I didn’t think doing the coop again was necessary since we aced it the first time. She agreed and told me I was ready for our Grand Prix.

Our Grand Prix course for the night with Trainer AB explaining the correct way to ride it

It was a doozie of a Grand Prix too. She set up a skinny vertical in the center of the arena towards the back 1/3rd as fence 1. She wanted me to come at it at a sharp angle from right to left to give a big sweeping right hand turn to the four stride pipe combo, turn right and come back tot he skinny as fence 4 on a left to right angle to make a big sweeping left turn to hit the coop four strides to airy vertical to end. I knew I had to ride Eeyore pretty forward and my #1 goal was to NOT BE LEFT BEHIND.

How is was supposed to be ridden.

I casually mentioned to her that I have never done a fence on a n angle before and approached. The previous horse had peed a small lake right in front of this jump and Eeyore had eyes only for that. He slammed to a stop. Now in the past I’d get all scared about this and let him back off. Not last night. I made him face that jump and take it from a stand still. He was not getting the option to say no. So we did and took out the entire jump on the way through it. But again Trainer was full of praise that I made the decision I did and got the job done.

Not only was it skinny, but she wanted me to do it on a steep angle which gave very little room for pilot error.

We started over, re-approached fence 1, I rode backwards to it planning for another refusal and got left behind, made the turn and took 2 and 3 in four strides. Then…..

I forgot that I had the rest of the course to ride and blew past my turn back to the skinny. Oops. But….I didn’t freak out or panic, I simply made an s shaped turn to get back on line and this was one thing Trainer pointed out at the end that she loved about my ugly course. I didn’t circle. I didn’t stop moving. I didn’t cross my tracks. Sure I was off course but it wouldn’t have been a refusal, so we were still ok.

Back over the skinny now angled the opposite direction, sweeping turn to the left and over the coop, four strides to the vertical and we were done.

It was pretty ugly with a lot of chip ins, a lot of me being left behind and a missed turn, but you know what? This was the hardest course I’ve done, with the scariest jumps and the biggest heigth and we did it. It was gritty but we left all rails up and hit every fence.

Uhh….how I rode it.

So yeah…I’m proud. I’m proud of my tired, sweaty beast who had no interest in playing along but did it anyway. I’m proud of myself for digging deep and making choices, some better than others, throughout the course. Heck, I’m proud that I was still awake at 9:45 pm when the lesson ended. Ugly yes. But hell yeah for the rest.


Forward, Always Forward

A few of you gave the suggestion that I start halting after fences to get Eeyore to stop being all “Talley Ho!” after jumps. I always love comments and suggestions so thank you for taking the time to read and type out a response!!! I feel a little bad when someone makes a suggestion and I’m all like “thanks…but no thanks” plus this is a topic I’ve been meaning to write about anyway, so here you go…my explanation for why I do not use this technique with the Orange Butthead.

Stupid, why is this even necessary, disclaimer: I’m not a trainer. This is not an expose on how to train your horse nor is it commentary on your own/your trainer’s methods. You do you. This is how my trainer is training me on this horse in this moment of our education.

Way back when I showed up to my first ever lesson with Trainer AB, visibly shaking in fear and doubt, she had me start my typical warm up routine so she could watch the dynamic. All of 30 seconds later she called me out on the root of my woes with Eeyore: he doesn’t go forward and my tactics of halting, backing, and making a million changes in direction were only adding to this issue.

Anyone else remember this from late spring? I do. I don’t miss it.

Yes, his feet were moving but not in a valuable way. Mostly his energy was going vertical and when I did finally ask for a trot he would explode into it, shaking his head in frustration only to then be asked to change direction or walk again or even halt. After he did that, I would ask for forward again and he would go sideways or backwards or up mostly because when I did ask for forward he wouldn’t actually be let to go forward, or at least not for very long.

Trainer AB explained to me that her theory of training a future event horse is to focus on the skills needed to be safe in the most dangerous phase: cross country. While most people spend the least amount of time practicing the skill on a cross country course, you can instill the basic tenants of that phase into the horse from the get go even when riding in the arena most of the time. In her opinion, the safest thing to teach a young event horse is to go FORWARD always, forever, no exceptions, no questions.

By doing this, you teach the horse that when faced with a new question or experience, the go to response will be to go forward. Never seen a ditch? No problem, go forward. Never tackled a down bank? No problem, go forward. Never cantered through water? No problem, go forward.

Never seen a black pipe of death before? Doesn’t matter. Go forward.

As such, my first task with Eeyore was to get him moving forward. She told me to stay along the rail and use the entire arena, no more circles, no more serpentines. Certainly no more halting. If he was feeling particularly fresh, get him in a canter, get up in 2 point and coast around. My job was to keep him going forward along the path I chose which sometimes resulted in cantering with his nose nearly touching his flank as he tried to cut across the arena instead of staying on the rail. She didn’t care. As long as he was moving forward and his feet didn’t wander off the chosen path, he could go around like he belonged on the short bus for all she cared. That was his problem, not mine.

Of course, as time has gone on we have been asking more of him. He is no longer allowed to canter when not asked to and we are working on slowing him down and getting his balance better, but she never wants me to sacrifice the forward for this.

Angry Eeyore at an early lesson when he realized he wasn’t going to get away with his usual crap

The same concept has been true in our approach to jumping. She has explained, probably more times than she should have to, that as long as I keep him straight after a jump I am to encourage him to move away from the jump on the back side. We approach, I let him get his eyes on it and stay out of his way, we go over, and then my job is to get my legs on, steer and keep him moving. She wants him to learn to look for what is next on the horizon, again with cross country in mind since that phase encourages a forward ride.

Even when he feels like he is running off, her solution to me is not to halt or circle, but instead to put my leg on and focus on getting a quality canter out of him as we ride away from the jump. This works for him because he is inherently lazy and once he realizes that he is being put to work, he will stop.

A reminder of how Eeyore takes to being ignored. Also, I do not miss this dirt aisle.

Last but certainly not least in this equation is me. Most of his back side issues are me issues. I tend to black out over jumps then sit on him like a monkey once we land. When I focus, sit up and you know ride the back side he does too. Circling would help me for the fact that it gives me something to do but so does combinations and gymnastics which is why most of our lessons start with a small gymnastic before moving to a mini course. I ride way better when I have a second fence to aim for.

So that’s the long of it. The reason we don’t halt after each fence. Or circle. Trainer AB has a method and I’m not going to buck that with the results we are getting.


Jumping Away With My Heart

Folks. My heart is so full right now.

One of the issues I isolated on Saturday boiled down my own lack of miles jumping. It had been 3 weeks since my last lesson and I haven’t been jumping at home since starting to ride with AB early in the summer. Which is fine for the level I’m at but it also poses the issue of fitness and muscle memory. After it taking a few fences to get my body sorted out, I decided that I needed to jump at least once a week meaning that on my non lesson weeks I need to be jumping at home.

With that in mind I searched online for an exercise I thought was doable, fun, and would also address the other big issue of him taking off after the jump. I knew I didn’t want single fences. I’m also not super comfortable at setting up combinations since I’m not quite sure what distances to set and I don’t want to punish him by setting up something wonky.

After a few minutes of scrolling I found exactly what I was looking for:

The first jump was removed because I couldn’t find my 8th jump standard. It worked out fine to have the top three only and took the guess work out of striding between 1 and 2

Yesterday evening was cold and windy. Eeyore had every right to be up but he wasn’t. In fact, he was a bit pokey and I joked with M (built in jump crew is pretty awesome) that I need to invest in a crop. Because of this I kept the warm up pretty short. I did a couple laps of trot and canter each direction and then got down to the exercise.

The two far fences are set on a pretty steep angle but this picture doesn’t really show that. It made for a fun bending line between each fence.

AB’s words of wisdom ran through my head as I came off a left bend to the first fence: sit up, make him wait, keep him balanced in the turn, once he looks at the jump get out of his way, go over.

And you know what? It took some core strength but he stayed waiting until the base and then we popped over no big deal.

He tried to take off after but again her words came into my head: sit back, leg on, keep my core engaged and bring him back to me instead of me leaning forward into him and be patient.

Love this guy with every fiber of my being

And you know what? It worked. He definitely thought about running off into the setting sun but I kept myself strong and my body patient and he came up in front and waited. We went over #2 like it wasn’t even there.

He landed in a nice canter but I have zero clue how to influence which lead he lands on and flying changes are not in my repertoire, so I brought him to a trot for the bend to fence 3, kept him balanced in that turn and patient to the base and over we went.

He was being so good that Wyatt asked to ride him for the first time ever. Eeyore wasn’t thrilled with this task. I led him at the walk a little bit and called it a night.

He knew the game by now and immediately locked onto fence #4 (previously fence #1), trying to take off in the process but I just repeated everything I had before and it worked like a charm to give me a lovely effort over the last fence.

I was so thrilled!!! We did it one more time but he was being so darn good I didn’t want to drill it. M hopped on for a quick walk and trot both directions and then Wyatt did a short lead line walk before he got to go out for the night.

Being a Bestest Good Boy

This ride was so stinking fun! I loved the exercise because it really highlighted everything we need to work on: balance in the turns, patience to the base, a quick recovery on the backside and then refocus for the next effort. Eeyore finding his brain again really helped in the success of the ride but so did the fact that my own brain remained functional and I listened to my inner AB. It was really rewarding to feel him respond to me in the 5 strides between fences.

I can’t wait for my next lesson to show AB that I did learn from Saturday’s outing!


HT on the Horizon

Jinxing myself big time here, but…I’ve sent in my entry for our first ever HT!!!!!!!

My original plan was for a mid November HT that Bette is also attending because everything is better with a friend, but that plan derailed pretty quickly when I saw the classes were either 18″ with Intro dressage or 2’3″ with BN A. What I really wanted was 2′ with BN dressage.

Why be so picky? Well, Intro dressage was walk and trot only and I want to canter. I can canter, maybe not at an 8 and maybe not always that well put together, but I can canter and have worked really hard this year to go from being afraid to not only enjoying the canter but also being able to remain functional. However, 2’3″ is too much for me right now. We are working over 2’3″ fences randomly, like the coop at the barn and that house out on xc, but not a full course. The entire single day format is going to be a bit taxing on both of us as it is, I don’t want to add height as well. I was prepared to do the 18″ division anyway to enjoy the show with friends, but then Trainer AB said she was already scheduled at a different venue that weekend and well that was that.

Wyatt had a fantastic lesson last week and ended it by riding off on a trail ride with the other girl in the lesson. Without me. On his own.

She ended up inviting me to a show she already has a group going to the following weekend. It will be at Jumping Branch Farm a couple hours from me in Aiken. They don’t allow cross country schooling the day before which a lot of the other schooling shows allow. I’m a little bummed about that but Eeyore isn’t a spooky horse so we should be ok without seeing it in advance. The plan apparently is to head down there Friday, set up stalls, then trailer over to a local venue to cross country school and head back over for the night at Jumping Branch to show the next day. We may not be schooling on the actual course, but we will school something and maybe that will help? We will find out!!!

This doofus is going to see some big dreams of mine come true. Whether he wants to or not 😂

I’m super excited and a whole lot nervous already. I have zero competitive goals, so I really could care less if we end up last. I do want to finish though and I’m not sure what will happen out there. I’m a bit queasy even writing about it!! My tasks for now are to get into a real dressage court to practice the test at least a time or two and maybe try to get another xc outing under our belt as well but we will see. I’m going out of town for continuing education the second weekend in November so that limits things a bit plus my surgery schedule is already filling up solid for the end of the year rush which limits the Fridays I can take off to ride. I still have 6 weeks though, so I refuse to let myself panic.


Full Steam Ahead

Want to know the perfect recipe for an amazing cross-country outing?

1) Start with a horse who has decided that he is the bomb and no longer needs input from his rider

2) Add a rider who is riding as if they have never sat on a horse before

3) Complete it 10 minutes after mounting with a surprise appearance of your period which isn’t due for 2 more weeks and explains the headache, back pain and nausea you’ve been fighting all morning. Be thankful you chose your dark riding pants and have a dark saddle to avoid mortal embarrassment.

Off for adventures!

In all seriousness, even with some major issues it was a great outing filled with a lot of big deal firsts for me and while I did want to kill Eeyore a few times, he had his big boy pants on and well..I couldn’t ask for a lot more than that. Ok, I could ask for some brakes but details.

The water complex was surrounded by banks everywhere

Eeyore has been a bit of a tool lately. I’m going to say it is the cooler weather, the lack of exercise, and the fact that 30 year old Pete has awoken from his summer slumber and is picking on Eeyore non stop to play, play, play. It all has Eeyore a bit amped up. Trust me, he isn’t in any pain and his mystery right canter lead issue is a thing of the past. He is literally vibrating with excess energy which has resulted in the return of his cross tie pawing, trying to tear apart the trailer when asked to stand still and when I take his halter off to release him back to the pasture he flings his head and gallops like he hadn’t worked at all. I’m looking forward to a more consistent routine again and in fact he got ridden Friday, Saturday and Sunday and by the end of the ride Sunday he was a lot more polite about life once again.

M wanted to come watch and I tasked her with pictures. We warmed up over a simple small log hidden behind this larger log.

Trainer AB had invited another woman on her OTTB to join us for the outing and I was a bit concerned how Eeyore would behave. The last few times he has been with another horse he has decided he can not function more than 3 feet away from his new BFF. He must have learned something with our previous outings because this time he was a perfect gentleman about warming up far away, passing/being passed by the other horse, and waiting in the shade while she did her thing. He earned some big brownie points in the warm up which he then consumed during the rest of the ride.

Weee…Trainer AB is rather tired of telling me to stop hunching my back. It took only twice and I stopped so…progress.

It was pretty obvious from the start that Eeyore was happy to be out jumping and cantering around. He really lives for cross country. His exuberance and abundance of energy came out as a nice celebratory buck after each jump (ok..not a real buck more like dropping his head between his knees and faking it) then grabbing the bit and running into the sunset. He was jumping everything and anything just fine, it was the backside of the jumps that had me worried.

Look, I’m not that brave and I’ve finally gotten over wanting to puke looking at a jump. Eeyore has taught me that he will go over and that has boosted my confidence a ton. This new behavior really rattled me, I wasn’t riding all that strong and was fighting nausea and well it kinda turned into a battle of wills which isn’t a great idea.

Our first baby down bank. I think it is going to take me some time to figure out what my body should be doing

Still though, we did a line of three logs set at 4 strides which was a lot of fun. The first log was doubled and it caught him off guard a bit causing a stop the first time. After that he was game on though and tackled it with gusto. The line was a bit hairy because…well running away and all…but we did it each time both uphill and downhill and got a nod of approval from Trainer AB with a “well, sure you were getting run away with but you stayed the course and did each jump so it was good!”

After that line we moved to the bank complex which has a ramp leading up one side and then banks all around the other sides of the mound. They all looked huge to me. Trainer AB had us work on coming up the ramp then bending and going down the tiniest baby bank off it. The first few times Eeyore stopped at the lip and looked hard but he always went down without a fuss while I tried to figure out how to not be too far ahead yet not left behind.

Sorry for the quality but here we are doing the down bank

After that I thought we were done with banks because the others all looked above my pay grade, but nope. Trainer AB has more faith in me than I do. She had us trotting up the ramp then off over the bank at the far side of the complex. The first time Eeyore simply stepped off like a trail horse and Trainer AB said “Well, he made that way too easy on you. Come in with more power to encourage a jump off next time”

Which I did….


Ok..well…lets try that again….

Much better

By this point Eeyore had really decided that he was much better at this whole cross country thing than I am, which isn’t totally wrong, and really peaced out on listening to me. We would land and he would snatch the bit then run off. Trainer AB was telling me that I needed to sit up (always the answer), and kick on when he did that. We had a huge field to work with and where were we going to go? Make him work hard when he did that except I couldn’t convince myself to do it. I knew it was the right answer. I knew he would give up sooner or later because no matter how fit Frat boy thinks he is, he is lazy at heart. But feeling like I was already getting run away with and then kicking him was just not something I could convince my body to do in the moment.

She set up a nice little course for us next to help keep him thinking and responding to me versus tearing off. Fence 1 was a house, make a sweeping turn left to come to the bank then over the ramp’s tiny bank, then forward 4 strides to a log. I looked at her and blinked. The house? This house I was standing right beside? The house that is the biggest jump I have done to date? That house?!?! Yup.

I approached and uh…took a unique approach by clamping down and shutting my eyes hoping we’d make it to the other side. Probably not the best approach. We never did make that sweeping turn to the left because I had stopped riding upon the approach and Eeyore took full advantage of that crap. We stopped before we left the property though so yeah…proud of that HA!

You mean pointing at it and closing your eyes isn’t a good xc technique??

At this point I was really frustrated. I wanted to jump and I wanted to try that house again but I was really unsettled with his behavior. Trainer AB said he was having the time of his life and enjoying it and maybe it’s time to not be doing xc in a single jointed full cheek snaffle. She asked if I wanted to try another bit right then but I knew we weren’t going to be out much longer so I passed.

She wanted me to do it again but wanted a better approach to the house so she switched it up a bit. We did the double log jump we had done before then turned right to the house then left after to the down bank and the log. It went ok. I rode the house way better and we managed to keep it together but even Trainer AB agreed that Eeyore was only half listening to me and was charging forward like a horse going to war.

From there we had two more simple exercises to go. One was simply walking up and then down the huge, steep mound which he did without issue and the other was the water complex. We walked through first then trotted and then I got to canter through my first water complex!!!!!! It was so much fun.

Eeyore was pissed about the water complex. He loves water and he was hot. He wanted to swim and roll and was not pleased that I made him pick his damn head up and move

I don’t know. We’ve only been out xc once before and it was all new and I really don’t think he was being a jerk as much as just having a lot of fun and wanting to show off how brave and awesome he is. Which is fine just maybe tone it down a bit?

I had left the boys to their own devices at home. I returned and went to put my shoes away to find this in my shoe closet. Next time I’m taking the credit card with me.

Overall the outing was successful. We did our first down bank, jumped a large house and cantered through the water for the first time as well. He was game, brave and handled the stop and go format of a group outing way better than the last time. The jumps didn’t scare me at all but darn that behavior afterward sure did rattle me quite a bit.


Let’s Play….What Is Wrong With My Horse?

Ugh guys.

I’m not panicking. I refuse to panic.

Temps over 100F combined with a hiatus to study combined with cementing myself out of the barn all added up to over 2 weeks without riding. Eeyore occupied himself in the pasture galloping around, playing bitey face with Pete, rearing and having a good time.

Went to a friend’s house and she has a goat named Lucy who has the run of the place. Now I want a goat.

Last night I finally got to ride. The temps were cool, overcast and windy. Watching him vibrate in the crossties didn’t instill a lot of confidence in me so I plopped him on the longe and let him rip. Literally at times.

He bucked and reared and farted and had a good time getting his wiggles out to the left and then I asked him to go right and he tried to nope his way right out of that. I got him to go but he was sulky, barely picked up the canter and only kept going because I forced him to. I didn’t think much of it. He had had his fun going left after all.

I tacked him up and hopped on to find a very compliant and content poneh under me. Really guys, we have come such a long long way from this time last year. We trotted and cantered left to warm up then turned to go right and he refused to pick up the right lead. He never has an issue with leads. Ever.

Wyatt trotted in his lesson last week for the first time. He was petrified but he did it. I was so proud of him.

Eventually he got the right lead, then swapped then got it again then sulked and got angry ears. It was obvious he wasn’t happy but was he not happy in the right lead or just because he was working?

Back to the left and no issues. Picked up the left lead, held it, worked on the 20 m circle. No issues.

The right? Same pissy, not wanting to pick it up, lurching into it behavior that told me he was not happy.

Well damn.

In the trot he was fine. I couldn’t detect anything off and he was happy enough to move forward and we even didn’t completely suck on the circle, but he did not want to canter right.

Well damn.

But I’m not panicking. You are panicking. Not me. I’m not having flashbacks to all last year dealing with right side lameness. Nope. I’m moving forward towards my HT debut in November. Yup. I’m fine.

Being a mom means doing trash pick up on Saturday morning with your kiddo. I will miss these days.

My game plan is to get under Trainer AB’s educated eye and maybe her butt too and see what she thinks. He was perfectly fine 2 weeks ago when I rode him last which was a flat school at home. He has been looking happy as a clam running around in the pasture. I couldn’t palpate any pain, swelling or heat anywhere and I made sure to really palpate hard around his left hip and SI area as that has been touchy before though it didn’t show up as any gait abnormality instead showing as a sensitivity to being groomed in that region. I found nothing. No reaction at all. I don’t know.

He is due for shoes next week and I may put pads on him. The ground is concrete though my arena is soft and fluffy. Maybe he is just sore from that???


If he is still weird tonight I’m going to make an appointment with the doc who did his lameness stuff last year. At least she will have her notes as a comparison. It may be a one off thing. Maybe he is sore from his pasture shenanigans or the hard ground or from his playing on the longe or maybe he got kicked by Pete or Gem or maybe he fell or maybe a few hundred other scenarios and he will ride perfectly fine tonight. Hopefully it isn’t anything and I’m just being paranoid but I have a gut feeling I’m screwed. We will see.



So….uh….yeah I did a dumb.

Want to hear all the excuses first??

I can’t recall another time in my life where I felt so stressed, stretched thin, and run down. I’m distracted. Pre occupied. Barely making it through my day without a panic attack.

Medical boards are Monday. I’ve been studying for 2 months. If I don’t pass these, I lose my hospital credentials. If I lose those, I lose my ability to accept insurance. If I lose that, I’m out of practice.

So it’s a bit important.

But I’ve taken important tests before and I can typically handle the study pressure. Only this time everything is piling up against me.

Pete can’t wait for the cooler weather to finally arrive this weekend. He doesn’t do heat very well.

Last spring Dusty signed up for a surgical wet lab. He asked if I had any plans or reasons he couldn’t go. Nope. I knew my boards would be in October but the previous 9 I have taken to qualify to take this one (this crap is a money laundering racket) have all been on a Wednesday so I figured him being gone for a Fri-Mon wasn’t going to be an issue.

Then they released the date for this 6 weeks ago and it isn’t just on a Monday, it’s on the Monday of the weekend he is gone.

Ok….I can work around that. Wyatt gets basically no screen time but when given it he will be zoned for the day. I’ll be that parent and plop my kid in front of a movie and study. My anxiety level dropped.

Me last weekend studying while I sent the kids and Dusty off on a hike to get out of the house

Except I woke up in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago with the realization that I have to be at the testing center at 715 am that day. Wyatt’s school doesn’t open until 715 am and I haven’t figured out a way to be in two places at once yet. Panic level: crucial.

Thankfully my mom agreed to get up at o dark thirty to come to get Wyatt ready for school and drop him off for me. Crisis averted.

Ok…things were looking settled. I’d be able to study all weekend and make it to my test.

Then the cub scouts schedule got published and Saturday is a major community service project that Wyatt needs to attend. There goes my morning of studying. Frick. Still….it should wear him out so that l can study all afternoon while he naps and then watches a movie. Sanity still intact.

If only I could be this relaxed

You know what’s coming don’t you?

Except…M then told me that homecoming is Saturday night. Are you kidding me?!?!! It goes until 10 and Wyatt goes to bed at 830 and well I couldn’t take it anymore so I told her I’d take her but she needs to find a way home. I’m not waking Wyatt up at 10 pm to drive to pick her up and I can’t leave him home sleeping alone and I can’t ask anyone else to do it so screw it. I just plumb can’t do it.

So that’s where my mind has been. Frazzled and distracted and crammed full of useless medical information that only comes in handy for board examinations.

Which leads me to my dumb.

The cutest scout there is

Dusty had the contractor out to give an estimate for the aisle on Sunday. It was under budget so we jumped on scheduling it and were surprised the guy could do it Tuesday. Great! Not being able to handle anything else on my plate, I left Dusty to handling it and walked away to return to my books.

They came, they did a great job and were done Tuesday night with instructions to keep the horses off it until Saturday. Ok..no biggie. We have fed in the pasture before they can handle 4 or 5 days without coming inside.

A couple weeks late but still funny. It was 98F yesterday. It will be 97F today. Where is fall?


I didn’t take the feed out of the barn.

Or any buckets.

Or any hay to supplement the dead pasture in this horrid drought.

Or any of my tack.

Or any brushes, fly spray, first aid items.

Basically, the horses are feral and PISSED OFF right now.

Eeyore is throwing things around in the pasture and giving me the nastiest looks I have ever seen. That horse does not take to being ignored very well. Gem is happy we have left her muzzle off for now and Pete is just miserable that he has his winter coat and it is remaining near 100F still and I can’t hose him off because the hose is…..inside the barn.

So uh…yeah…I’m dumb. Don’t be me folks. If you know your barn is going to be out of commission, please prepare….take feed out and buckets and your tack and grooming supplies and fly spray needs and your sanity as well.

If Eeyore lawn darts me for my ride Monday after boards, I will have deserved it.


15 Years: The Cementaversary

15 years ago today I said “I do” to Dusty. Nobody could have predicted the trajectory our lives would take and even with the down moments, I’d do the whole thing over again.

I was 22 and he was 27. Such young kiddos.

Since that fateful evening we have lived in 8 different cities scattered throughout 4 states. It took 13 years but we finally managed to get our dream farm.

I decided to go to medical school, attended surgical residency, became an associate then opened my own practice. My eyes are set on a new path but it’s moving slower than I’d hoped so we shall see what life brings for me there.

Our honeymoon week long horse ride from the French Alps to the Mediterranean coast. The best trip of my life.

Dusty left a good associate position and entered the emergency work force, has dabbled in relief work, returned to the associate life and now has his own practice. His eyes are set on adding additional associates and practice locations. This weekend he is off learning a new surgery technique in the knee to offer his clients.

We have been through infertility and adoption together which marked both the darkest and brightest times in our marriage.

A hand print in cement isn’t as strong as the print he has put on my heart. Wyatt is the best part of my life.

Dusty started running while I was in residency and hasn’t stopped. I think he found his true love. He has gone from barely completing his first half marathon to having multiple ultras and a 100 under his belt. He continues to push himself and find new challenges.

You all know my hobby story quite well.

Now sitting here looking back over the last 15 years I’m wondering how it all happened so fast. It seems like yesterday but also like a lifetime ago that we were two young kids building a life together. It hasn’t been easy or a given. Life throws some shady stuff at you. It also isn’t a fairy tale, romantic movie or field of daisies. Marriage is work. It’s a conscious decision to remain with the person you love, to remember to love them in dark times when everything seems piled against you, and to look towards more than yourself and your dreams for the betterment of the couple as a whole.

Dusty got me a cement aisle in my barn. It’s honestly the best gift ever. No more dirt everywhere. I love it as odd as that seems to most of the people in my life. No jewelry or flowers for this girl.

I’d do it again a million times over and I’m looking forward to the 15 and where life takes us.


The Barn Debacle

When I last left off in Tear it All Down, my barn had one half without any roof at all and the other half with enough holes to mistake it for a planetarium. Oh and a rain storm in the forecast. We had already expressed our displeasure and set up a meeting for Monday night at 6 pm to have all parties involved. When we hung up we left it with “do not come to the property tomorrow to do work prior to our meeting tomorrow night”.

You can all imagine how pleased I was then to show up at 5:30 pm and see that they were a) already there and b) had been working all day. Sigh. Listening was not their strong suit.

Holes everywhere in the initial roofing job.

The main factor in all our issues, well other than plain old fashion shoddy work, was the fact that the company we hired sub contracted out the work to another outfit which created a lot of middle man communication. They both were present though that Monday night and got an earful from me about all the garbage, food waste, beer bottles, cigarette boxes, holes in my roof and the wood work that my 6 year old could have done better. Of course, they nodded in agreement. What else do you do when a 5’4″ rat terrier is spewing insults and pointing out issues for half an hour? I wasn’t pleased and they knew it.

The sub contractor pointed out the new side that was done that day (without permission I remind you) and asked if I was happy with the quality on work over there. He had fired the original crew of two men and had a new crew of six on the job. I took my time inspecting it. I went into every stall looking at it from all angles. Thankfully there wasn’t a hole in sight and the wood work was of professional quality as far as I could tell.

I told him it passed and that he could repeat it on the right side.

He smiled and said they already had removed all the holey tin and replaced it. I looked at him dumbfounded and went to inspect that side of the roof. It hadn’t crossed my mind that they would have done that since the wood hadn’t been touched and we quite specifically told him that the wood work had to come down and be replaced properly yet there I stood looking at the same crap job.

Look at the new wood. They didn’t cut it correctly so instead they used other pieces to span the ends and nailed that on top. You can see how some pieces are short, they aren’t square and well…I could have done a better job and I am not handy at all.

He asked me if I was happy and I responded with “No. Make this side look like that side in all aspects, wood work included, and I may be.” He grumbled something as I walked away.

That was Monday. That night it poured and they had not finished the roof which meant that the entire inside of my barn got drenched. We had unopened bags of feed in the feed room and apparently they aren’t waterproof because a week later when we opened one to fill the bin, it was moldy. As were the other 4, so we lost 5 bags of expensive horse feed because of them. I’m still a bit bitter over that. There were puddles everywhere and it took weeks to get the barn aired out enough to not be moldy.

Tuesday night I came home to find that they had “finished” the roof. The subcontractor was pleased as punch with himself until I pointed out yet again that the wood work had not been replaced. Instead he had them taken down, cut to span from rafter to rafter, and then put back up in double fashion. I was a bit incredulous. What part of “make this side the same as the other” was hard to comprehend?

Sub contractor was not happy. In order to do the wood work appropriately, he would have to to take all that tin off yet again, replace the wood, and then replace the tin. Not my problem. I didn’t do the original crap work, I wasn’t the one who proceeded to work when I was told not to, and I wasn’t the one who replaced the tin without permission.

This is where I was happy we had paid a small portion for supplies only because at this point, had we paid in full, he would have walked away and left it as is. As it was, we still owed him a significant sum of money and he wanted that money. Wednesday saw him remove all that tin for a second time, replace all the wood properly and then replace the tin for the third time.

Wednesday evening he waited for me to get home and inspect the new roof for what would hopefully be the last time. I walked in, approved the wood, and then saw a new hole in the tin. When I showed it to him, I could see him visibly deflate. He called his main worker who drove to our house straight away, removed that piece, replaced it and then we called it square.

Look at how light it is in there!!! I ADORE it. All of this light is coming from the 8 plastic tiles we added. Before this was a dungeon that even the lights wouldn’t light up enough.


He pointed to the judge’s booth attached to the arena side of the barn. We had not wanted this done because it didn’t leak and wasn’t necessary and we had told the guy we hired not to include it. Apparently that didn’t get communicated to the sub contractor because he had done it.

“I know we weren’t supposed to do that, but I didn’t know it at the time. Can I charge you for it?”


I explained to him that had the project gone smoothly and correctly without all the stress, the rain inside my building, the multiple conversations he didn’t listen to etc…I could probably be convinced to be nice and at least pay for the supplies he used to roof a building he wasn’t supposed to. As it was, no.

He left probably just as glad as I was that he would never be stepping foot on my property again.

In the end, the two day job spanned 10 days and was a royal mess the entire time. We lost bags of feed, had to deal with water inside the barn and they left behind tin that they stuck behind the barn and we didn’t find until a week later. The only thing that makes me happy are the new sun roof tiles we had them put it. They were more expensive but worth every single penny. The barn used to be a dark cave. I’m not sure why the original builder decided he had to make it for a snowy apocalypse, but that thing has no air flow and no light. The new plastic tiles let in so much light that I often think I left a light on in the barn. The farrier came out the week after this was all completed and even he remarked how nice the barn was with all the natural light. If you are ever doing your barn roof, you may want to look into these. I LOVE them.

So much light

You know what I don’t love though?

Dusty and I had joked that we would withhold $1000 of the money we owed until after it rained again. We didn’t because I’m not sure you can legally do that, but we were tempted. It hadn’t rained a single drop in the last 5 week until last night. It wasn’t a hard or long rain, but it was enough to wet the world a little. We have barn project #2 hopefully starting today (though that is already an issue god Lord but this barn is going to kill me) and the contractor was out last night to look things over one last time. Since I was in the barn, I gave a close look to see if anything had leaked. And….Pete’s stall has a leak in the roof. Everything else was dry and stable. Dusty shot a message off to the roofer but the chances of getting a response are basically zero. I am very tempted to sue his ass if he doesn’t respond and come fix the roof. We would win too but the headache of that is not something I need in my life which is already at 1000% stress level at the moment for a lot of things that I am not blogging about but probably should just to vent and get it off my mind.

Anyway…project #2 is about to start and it better go smoothly or I will tear this barn down with my bare hands.