Posted in 2017 Reading Challenge, Uncategorized

2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #30

As we get deeper into the challenge, we are finding out that some earlier books may have fit into these later categories a little better. That is one issue with the way we are approaching it by going straight down the list. This one was up to my mom and as her usual she chose a good one.

A book with pictures: Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton

Brandon Stanton moved to New York with a project in mind. He would take 1000 pictures of the people in the city documenting each neighborhood and those that lived there. This turned into a social media storm with his popular Facebook page that he turned into this book.

The book is filled with pictures of people he met on the streets of New York City with small blurbs about each one. They encompass the homeless, the heartbroken, the dreamers, the business men and women, the rich. It is a telling picture book of real life.

I had already been a follower of HONY on Facebook although I had turned off notifications over a year ago due to them clogging my newsfeed. This book is mostly pictures and small blurbs whereas his Facebook page and his second book dive deeper into the lives of each person he photographs and interviews.

One picture really stood out to me. It is of a late middle aged homeless man, a close up of his face as he peers into the camera. The caption is along the lines of (sorry, I don’t have it memorized) I may be homeless and an alcoholic, but I have a dream. I want to go fishing.

I’m not sure why that struck me so hard, but I found myself lingering over the caption and the picture. Maybe it is because the dream is so simple for most but out of reach for this man. Maybe it is because the dream to go fishing is so small compared to his greater needs of shelter, clothes and food and yet it is what he clings to. Maybe it is because it makes you realize that everyone has a story, everyone has a dream, everyone is a person.

The book takes about 10 minutes to go through and is 10 minutes worth spending.


Posted in Uncategorized


It’s no secret that I love to volunteer. Not only is it a great way to give back, but there is a lot you can learn by sitting on the sidelines and lending a hand even if it is just to learn how extremely hard it is to run an event.

Back in the 90s and early 2000s, I spent my time competing in whitewater slalom. My event was the women’s closed canoe and it was my first introduction to amateur sports. Running a race was not so different than running a horse event in that a lot of volunteers were needed to fill a large number of roles: gate judges, timers, start and finish gate, scoring, safety boats. Since most of the races barely broke even by the end of the weekend, there was no room to pay anyone for these jobs.

The whitewater world had a simple solution: make working the event mandatory. Each race day was split into a morning and afternoon session. As a competitor you get two runs with the best score kept. Unless you were competing in a class in both the morning and afternoon, which was rare but did happen, then you were assigned a job for the session you weren’t on the river. So for instance, if my class ran in the morning then I was assigned a gate to judge all afternoon. If someone shirked their duties they were eliminated from the race. It set it up so nicely that the event coordinators never had to worry about a lack of help running the race.

Now I understand that this system wouldn’t work in most horse disciplines and especially in endurance and eventing where I have some degree of exposure. Technically you could force those in the limited distance division to work after completion but that’s a bit unfair since the 50s and 100s wouldn’t be able to. I don’t even see how it could work at a horse trail with all three phases running in a single day.

But I do believe that giving back to your sport is important. Not even important. Vital. Just take a minute to think of the last horse event you competed in, no matter the discipline, and all the volunteers it took to run it: the ring stewards, bit checkers, scribes, jump crew to reset jumps, jump judges, timers, announcers, etc…. I’ve seen local to me events nearly beg for help and still run it on a skeleton crew.

I’ve heard a ton of lame excuses why people don’t volunteer. Honestly, they all suck no matter how much you think it is viable. You can’t tell me that in an entire season there is no way you could find one Saturday or Sunday to spend time at an event lending your hand wherever it was needed. I won’t buy it.

While the mandatory work of my whitewater days is not likely possible in the horse world, I do think that there is a solution. One that probably wouldn’t go over very well, but one I wish were a reality. If it was up to me I’d make a mandatory 8 hours of volunteering a part of maintaining membership. So if you wanted to renew your USDF, AERC, USEF, whatever else exists out there, membership in 2018 you would have to show proof of 8 hours of volunteer work at an event within that discipline in 2017. That’s one single day out of an entire year.

I’m sure there are a lot of reasons people wouldn’t want that to go into effect, but the truth is that without volunteers there wouldn’t be a show to attend. Or at least not at the price point they currently are if they’d have to pay people to do the work. So the next time you have a Saturday or Sunday without plans and there is a local show going on, offer up your services in whatever capacity they can be used. Give back to the world that you love so much and help keep these events running.

Posted in Riding/Horses, Uncategorized

Our First Cross Country Outing- Part 3, Cross Country

Ok, more dragging this out 🙂 Here is the moment we have all been waiting for…

I followed Trainer out the back gate of the arena and down the grassy hill. I really had no clue what to expect. I had never seen any cross country fences there before and was uncertain what was about to happen.

Gem was obviously happy to be out of the arena and took advantage of the grass to stuff her face because, you know, her crazy owner may ask her to do anything and she needed her energy. My stomach was doing flips that would make an Olympic diver proud.

We stopped in front of a small stone wall. Trainer explained that she typically does not let horses see the jumps beforehand, but given Gem's personality she didn't want her to think she was being tricked and to go ahead and let her sniff it. At first I was like "sniff what? This pile of rocks? What are we jumping?" Then it dawned on me. We would be jumping the pile of rocks. Ok…Gem hates things like this. Like down to her core hates it. With a passion.

I walked Gem over to it with a knot in my stomach expecting her to go sideways at any moment, but she just stood next to it and looked around like "what's the big deal here? Where are we going now?"

I would have been happy to sit there in the sunshine all afternoon and call it a day. Seriously, I'm not brave. Trainer however is and wont take my wimpy crap too much, so she told me to circle around and pick up a steady trot. "Remember to steer and add lots of leg."

I turned Gem away, picked up a slow trot and prepared to jump it. I was scared shitless. Not gonna lie. I've taken Gem on so many miles of trails and dozens of hunter paces and she has never once liked even walking over anything solid out and about. Jumping a log across the trail was always an impossible feat. Adding to it, the approach was in the shade and had a super long grassy lane leading away from the jump between the trees. My biggest fear out on course is that Gem is completely untrustworthy in big open spaces. She tends to look for monsters that don't exist and spook at random. Trotting through a field has always been a big risk as she zigs and zags and jumps out of her skin at absolutely nothing.

I swallowed my fear like a rock in my throat and pointed her to the rock pile. I'm pretty sure Trainer was holding her breath waiting for a train wreck.

Gem trotted happily and loosely up to the wall, remained steady and even and hopped over it like no big deal. Then she picked up a beautiful canter and floated away. All this with extremely limited input from her rider who was in mortal terror sitting on her back like a useless monkey.

Trainer looked shocked. My jaw was on the ground. No theatrics. No issues. No unsteady "maybe I'll go right, no left, no stop, no forward" squirrelyness. Trainer just said "huh. Um. Well. Ok. Come back around the other direction where you'll be going from light to shadow. Be prepared because the change in light can back horses off. Lots of steering. Lots of leg."

So I did. And Gem repeated her performance of nonchalance professionalism.

My face split in a grin that would make a jack-o-lantern jealous.

Trainer stood there with her jaw on the ground. I could tell she hadn't really planned much more than attempting to get us over the rock wall. I mean, I don't blame her. I would have bet the farm we would have taken an hour to get over one single solid jump. And even then it wouldn't have been that safe or pretty.

"Ok…. I want you to jump the coop into the pasture then. It's narrow and wide so be prepared." It was also the highest I had ever jumped to date.

I brought Gem around and lined up. I was a bit timid. I mean, a coop? Solid triangular shaped wood? And the tallest to date? I put my leg on and Gem took it like it didn't even exist. Holy shit mare. What is going on?

"Go jump the stone wall again"

"But I'm inside the pasture. How do I get back out?"

"Over the coop"


And this is where Trainer's master plan finally came to light. We were now inside the pasture. The only way out was either back over the coop or over a jump I didn't know was there at this point, but would be introduced to soon enough. I had to jump the coop to leave the pasture.

She had me exit over the coop then take the stone wall again this time stringing them together. I was to let Gem canter if she was controlled enough to do so. Honestly at this point Gem began to tell me I was useless in this whole partnership and that she had this. We cantered.

We turned around and repeated the wall to coop to enter the pasture again and I've never felt anything so wonderful in my life. If that is what stadium is supposed to feel like, I've been missing out. I finally understood what Trainer had been telling me all along – act like the jump is just in the way of point A to B and ride it like it doesn't exist. For once I could. Gem just trotted or cantered along and never once even held back. It was AMAZING.

Once back inside the fence, we walked over to two railroad tie fences. On the left was a teeny tiny one that up until that point would have sent me into cardiac arrest, but now looked a bit wimpy. Gem proved me right when we went over it and she barely stepped it.

Given that response, Trainer made us do the larger one next to it. Now this fence gave me some major anxiety. It was really big. Big enough that she couldn't just step over it and would have to jump. My crutch of being able to crawl to a walk and step over it was gone. At this point Gem had begun to think that she knew better than I did (she was probably right) and was just starting to lose her breaks a little as well.

I had wanted a trot which is my other crutch, but three strides out she disagreed and broke to canter then flew over it.

Having yet to expose her to something that phased her, Trainer had us jump out over the coop and then turn left down to the driveway to come at a new fence. We flew over the now easy peasy coop, but then I completely pissed her off when I turned her prior to the stone wall and she had really wanted to go over it.

Seriously I have no clue where this horse came from. Mad that I didn't let her jump? Flying over solid natural obstacles like she was a pro? Huh??!

I got her turned down the driveway and met the new fence: a small but very wide railroad tie at the top of a super steep, short hill. The hill doesn't really show up well in the picture, but the approach was short due to the 90 degree turn off the driveway, headed straight up and then continued up on the other side.

Again, my Wonder Woman mare didn't even bat an eye at it. Except now we had an issue. Gem had decided she had no use for me, my half halts or my steering. She galloped up the hill and locked on to anything she thought she could jump. Um, no mare. I'm still the navigator.

I turned her back around and approached the jump going down the hill. This was much, much harder for me. I had to sit way back and wait patiently. Since I tend towards jumping too early, this was an exercise in fighting myself. We did fine over it, but I lost all ability to steer going down the hill and we ended up hitting a tree. Oops.

Back around and back in over the uphill jump and then Trainer had me halt to set up a plan. As I was chatting with Trainer about what we were going to do Gem started to wander, then trot and went right over to the coop in glee and fully intending to jump it. No mare. We are standing still now.

The plan was thus: uphill jump into the pasture, small railroad tie, loop around to the large tie, coop, stone wall.

I came up the hill and it was apparent that I had lost all steering and most of my brakes. Gem was having fun and had tuned me out completely. We barely made the turn to the small tie, which she then just stepped over in disdain, and by the time I turned her back to the larger tie I had lost all control. She broke to a gallop and we were off.

I freaked. I mean, this whole Gem having confidence thing was new to me and I had zero trust that we would make it over and not die. I turned her off it and Trainer wasn't very happy. I explained that I had zero control and felt really uneasy about jumping like that. She was okay with that decision but told me I needed to take control way before the jump or else I'd teach Gem to run out.

Not wanting to end on a bad note, she had me go back and try the tie again, but this time make her halt right after. Well, the halt after took 5-6 canter strides as Gem was locked onto that coop and had no intentions of doing anything but going over it. I did get her to stop though, then picked up the canter and out we went over the coop and ended over the wall.

I forgot to mention that all the times we did the coop and wall I whooped in joy. The first time Trainer, who remained inside the fence, asked if I was ok. I was more than ok. I was elated. I was having the time of my life. I never wanted it to end.

As I loosened her girth and ran the stirrups up, I was shaking. A bit adrenaline, a bit overwhelmed and lot excited. Neither Trainer nor I ever expected that out of Gem. Trainer walked over and exclaimed "You have an event horse!" I think she was as happy as I was.

I have no idea where that came from. She had never shown any interest out on trail before. A log on trail makes her jump 50 feet sideways. She balks in the arena over the smallest fences that she has seen a million times and yet when presented with solid obstacles on varied terrain with wide open spaces or with treed lanes, she took them like a pro who had done it all in her sleep. I'm floored.

I am a little scared of the beast I awoke within her. Trainer said that a lot of gymnastics are in our future to teach her to slow the poop down and wait for instruction. Guys, the future is wide open!!!

Posted in Uncategorized

Talk to Me About Cross Country Vests

As I get ready to embark on my first cross country outing tomorrow, it occurs to me that I do not own a vest. Trainer is lending me one for the schooling day, but if all goes well and we manage to not die on our first outing I will eventually be needing my own.

I’ve done some preliminary research because who doesn’t hate that person who goes online to ask a question they could have just googled instead. Or is that just me? Anyway…  I’ve read about the difference between the BETA and ASTM requirements and have looked up lists of available vests on the market today. This just made my head spin.

From what I have read and the little I have seen out and about, I have gathered a very short list of things I know I want and the rest is so up in the air that I am taking to the blog to ask all you for suggestions on where to even begin. The big issue I have is that the local tack shop only carries the Tipperary ASTM certified vest and that goes against one of the items on my list, so I can’t go try on  bunch and see what I like.

The AECs aare back in Tryon next month and I have signed up to volunteer two days. Last year they had a small vendor area and I am hoping it returns as well. If I can get some good opinions here then I can go armed with some info to try on as many brands as I can get my hands on.

Here is what I know I want (or at least think I know I want):

1.) BETA approved
2.) Not air
3.) Off the shelf. I am pretty average in my measurements and do not need a custom vest as my starter
4.) Some basic color choices would be nice, but it does not need to get fancy
5.) At least a little cool. It is so insanely hot and humid here that I worry most about heat stroke in a solid vest than how I look or what color the thing is. I know they will all be hotter than not wearing one (much like a helmet), but safety is more important. If I can find one that offers a little better heat dissipation that would be great.

And that is about it.

So…any pointers, tips, suggestions, recommendations? Please lay it on me so that I can go armed with information and ready to try on all the things.

Posted in Goals, Uncategorized

Second Quarter Goal Review

Six months into 2017 already? I know it is horribly cliche, but seriously, where does the time go? I remember as a kid thinking it moved like molasses. As an adult I feel like I blink and a year has gone by.

It is time to check back in on the goals I made for the year and see where I am at and if they still even really apply.  Scratched out goals are ones that I either completed (one time things like bringing the horses home) or ones that no longer relate to us any more.

Gemmie Life Goals

FOCUS – With Gem it is going to be all about finding the right balance of being with her and not being away from the family too much. Success!!! Pretty much all horse related family stress has gone away since she has been home and in fact things only continue to improve as we have been able to get Pete back into the fray as well. 

1.) Bring her and Pete home.   

2.) Start riding consistently 2 days a week.  Sorta, kinda. I’m no longer allowing myself to ride at home which puts a damper on things, but I have been getting out consistently. 

3.) 1-2 long trail rides a month, preferably with friends.  Yup!!


4.) Make it to 1 lesson a month.  I’ve been getting in about 2 a month and loving it. 
Gemmie Competition Goals

1.) Complete a 50 mile endurance ride towards our decade team award.  No longer any interest in this and removing it from the list. 

2.) Complete a Ride and Tie of any length.  Same as above. 

3.) Make a decision on what to do about her 100 mile bronze medal.  Decision was made last quarter. Not going to go for it and I am perfectly happy with that decision. 

4.) Make it to a dressage show and not make a complete fool out of ourselves.  I did a dressage test at a CT, does that count? We even managed to get a decent score. 


Me: Life Goals

FOCUS – For me it is going to be all about striking a better balance in life. Currently, I feel guilty when I don’t ride and guilty when I do. I haven’t taken an actual vacation longer than a long weekend since 2007. I haven’t seen a doctor in 4 years.  We went on a sorta vacation to CA in April, I’m taking more time to work out and be healthy and while work right now is nothing but a big ball of stress, overall things are much smoother. I still need to get a doctor though.

1.) Stop feeling guilty about self care time.  50/50. I enjoy my work outs at the Y but there is still always that nagging guilt about not being home with the kiddo

2.) Run 2 days a week minimum.   I work out two days a week. Currently doing spin on Tuesday and weights on Thursday. 

3.) Ride 2 days a week.  Mostly!

4.) Establish with a primary care doctor and get a physical. Still hasn’t happened.  

5.) Figure out just what I want with my relationship with Gem. Is it okay to back off and just putz around? Do I need to have some set competition/training plans to feel satisfied?   I’m very happy with what we are doing right now. Some trail time, a lot of learning and some new show/competition goals. All reasonable for our level and time constraints. 

6.) Continue with my pen pals. Add two new ones from new countries.  Still writing. 

7.) Create a smashbook for Wyatt.  Yeah, not going to happen. Haven’t started it yet, still can’t find it from moving and now the year is half over. Maybe next year?

8.) Find a trainer that I can work well with in regards to approach, personality and

scheduling. I love trainer J!

Me: Competition Goals – none of these matter to me anymore
1.) Complete a half marathon.  

2.) Complete a full marathon.  

3)  Host a Ride and Tie.


Half a year done and looking back to where I was in January, I am completely different. I never thought I would have completed a CT, have cross country schooling on the horizon and a possible full on horse trial in the fall. This is really why I don’t like making goals because so many factors ebb and flow. I think for 2018 I will do only quarterly goals so that when things change I can make amendments.

Posted in 2017 Reading Challenge, Uncategorized

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #26

Halfway done and nearly on track to finish the entire challenge by year’s end. This one was on me and I knew I wanted to grab a biography. Which one was not as clear, but I found one that seemed to fit the bill. My mom was not so enthusiastic at first, but ended up really enjoying it.

A book with a character’s name in the title: American Legend: The real life adventures of David Crockett by Buddy Levy

David Crockett grew into a legend, but first he was a man.  A man who loved the wide open spaces that the newly formed America had to offer. A man who lived for hunting, travel and the odd military battle. His life was not without its misfortunes, however much of his life was due to this own errors in judgement and inability to manage his own accounts. He lived a life in constant debt even after spending multiple terms in Congress and becoming a well known author.

His need for constant motion, his hunt for fortune and land, and his need to pay off debt eventually led him to Texas and the Alamo. Many people only remember the legends that surrounded the best known frontiersman, but he led a life that brought him out of the woods and into celebrity.

As a biography goes, this one was both informative and very entertaining. I didn’t know a whole lot about the frontiersman prior to reading this book and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. The author presents David Crockett in the raw, without glossing over the negative nor dwelling on it. By the end of the biography, I felt like I had a sense of the man as a whole with all his positive and negative attributes presented for inspection.

I really enjoy a biography that includes letters or other form of personal correspondence from the person as I feel it gives you a real sense of the person and this one did not disappoint in that regard either. There are several passages from letters or speeches that David Crockett gave and many more quotes from his peers of the time.

The novel reads quickly as well without too much time spent belaboring any one point in his life which ranges from his early childhood to his death at the Alamo. The author also tries to give motivation behind Crockett’s decisions, which while it is mostly conjecture, flows well with the narrative of his life.