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Reflecting on March

Another month has flown by and with it has come longer and warmer days. I swear this year is moving faster than any in the past. Don’t blink folks. Overall the month of March was a pretty awesome one even with some blips on the radar.

This picture is probably my favorite of the month. The evening sun was gorgeous

The January and February reflection posts were really beneficial in helping me see the bigger picture of my life and to help focus me moving forward. I’m doing a lot better with my mental space having realized that I probably had a tad bit of depression after a really rough 2018 that saw every project I touched fall apart and a few big, long term dreams die a horrible death. I’m crawling my way back though and returning to the motivated, take no prisoners, life is too short to be so serious person I used to be.

Riding

Heading into March my big plan was to hit up the schooling H/J show. That didn’t happen and I’m 100% fine with that. First, the day before the show he had his hoof resected and second, well we have been making some really good progress at home and I didn’t think it was in his best interest to add a layer of stress right when we were on the brink of some pretty good break throughs. Show season here is in full swing and there are schooling opportunities every weekend, missing this one isn’t a big deal.

Also love this one. It shows his naughty streak while trying to play it off. He is full of personality.

With the dryer weather and longer days I was able to get in 10 rides which was nearly double what I managed in January and February. The rides were mostly focused on ground pole work which helps keep me on track with my plan and gives H’Appy’s little squirrel brain something to focus on. He started off with a murderous rage at being asked to nicely go over some trot poles, but now he is relaxed and easy going about any configuration I’ve been able to conjure. Likewise, the canter work is really starting to come together with moments of great relaxation starting to show up more and more frequently.

Needed new pads as his are not drying out between rides and are gross. I got bored with plain, dark navy and splurged on a bright teal. His bright orange coat is hard to match but it does pull this color off.

We did manage to squeeze in a lesson with a new trainer though I don’t think she is the one for us. While her techniques saw us have some pretty great breakthrough moments and she finally got me to understand a basic concept that was eluding me, her way of going about it didn’t sit well. I’ve now had one trainer be too nice and sugar coating and one be too aggressive and mean. I need to find something in the middle.

Heading into April, I want to try out a new training situation and already have a day marked off my work schedule to fit it in. At home, I want to continue working on relaxing the canter and add some more work out in the field to give us the option of conditioning hacks versus always being in the arena.

Running

Yeah..I quit. The butt hurt, PT took up more time and when I can only squeak in either a ride or a run, the ride will always win out. Sorry body, you lose.

Saw this lovely snake while bush hogging the back pasture. I was so glad I didn’t run him over. A Red Tail Hawk was circling over head and I probably sounded insane when I screamed “If You even think about eating my snake I’ll kill you!”

Heading into April, I see no change. Boards are coming up so my typical 830 pm run/walk on the treadmill while Wyatt sleeps is now going to study time. Perhaps in May. Perhaps not. I’m not stressing about this.

Work/Life Balance

This month actually went a lot better than I feared it would at the end of February. I did sneak in one full day off of work for a lesson, I completed my PT and in general had a much better out look on it all.

Work has started the spring slow down which always helps. Deductibles aren’t met yet so most people are putting elective foot surgery off until later in the year and this frees up my Fridays a lot more though studying is now ramping up for Medical Boards in May.

Dusty and I had our first date since November 2017. Yup, almost 1 1/2 years. We went and saw Book of Mormon which was hysterically funny, made more so by the folks who attended not knowing it was by the South Park creators and got all huffy about it.

Heading into April I already have two Friday’s booked out: one for my birthday and one for when End Game opens. Have I ever mentioned how much of a Marvel nerd I am? It helps that they are all extremely good looking.

Living Life

Well, I still haven’t booked that trip to Seattle, but I need to and this is a good reminder of that. My plate has been full with other things and it keeps getting pushed to the back burner, but I am running out of time to get early specials.

No major events happened in March, but we had a lot of fun in our day to day lives. With the longer, warmer and more importantly dry days, we are spending every possible second outside playing, working and getting stuff done. It feels good to shake off the winter blues.

Wyatt continues to work hard on building his own franchise in the back yard. I keep telling him that DHEC won’t approve it, but he doesn’t seem to let that phase him. Burgers to be offered soon!

I did lose another 4 pounds bringing my total to 9 pounds in 2 months!!! I have 2 more to get to my goal weight and then I’m going to have to figure out how to shift to maintaining.

Dusty did spring vaccines on time and without nagging which is a first. H’Appy was very interested in what was going on that didn’t include him. He is extremely nosy.

Moving into May, I want to get over Boards and we have an overnight escape planned in Atlanta in the middle of the month while Dusty runs 100 miles and Wyatt and I have a Mommy-Son getaway. I can’t express how excited I am about this simple one night away.

Favorite Part of the Month

Honestly, my favorite part is…me. My change in attitude and mindset has been life changing. I refuse to look at the negative, I’m learning that it is ok to revel in your own achievements and to let go of the perfect picture in my head.

Overall Feeling

March went really, really well. Sure we aren’t showing. Sure I’m not doing complicated grid work or cantering a 2’3″ course, but I no longer secretly hope H’Appy had colicked and died over night so there is that. Things are moving forward and each ride has a lot of small steps towards a happy and cohesive partnership in the no longer super far off future. I wish my lesson had been better and I wish I could say I have a trainer, but I’m working on that and enjoying the process while I do.

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Redemption

Friday left me kinda sorta pissed off. I know he can be a really great uncomplicated horse. I also know that he can have a stick shoved up his abundant derrière and on those days I wish I could ride with a 2×4 in my hand to smack him upside the head with.

That was Friday.

A rare ears forward picture. He is more mare like than my mare. Look at that mane – sticking straight up even with how thin it is. I may roach it. 

Typically I give a day off after a ride. I don’t know why. I’ve always done that even with Gem. The more I stewed about his obnoxious behavior the more annoyed I became though. He can’t be like that. There isn’t any pain. There isn’t any fear. I’m riding the same as I always do. It’s a decision on his part to not participate and I’m not playing that game any longer.

Saturday afternoon after I finished mowing pasture #2, I decided to ride. If he was going to be an a-hole he could work more. Simple.

Not snot. The pollen this time of year is disgusting. Thick neon green layers on every surface. Even up my horse’s nose

All the conditions stayed the same. It was hot and sunny. The ground pole box remained in the center of the arena. The horses were still out across the driveway. Same tack. Same rider.

Not the same horse.

He was like butter in my hands. Seriously the best horse I’ve ever ridden. He flowed like a gentle river. He halted square and immediately with barely a change in my posture. He trotted in the same rhythm through my entire exercise with only a few needed half halts here and leg there.

When I asked him to canter, for the first time in my life I felt a horse under me who was relaxed and balanced on all four legs instead of leaning and rushing. I could have cantered him like that for days.

He was so good that I exited the arena and tempted fate in the big pasture. He wasn’t nearly as good out there as in the arena and had a very strong pull towards the side closest the other horses but he didn’t protest, he didn’t ignore me and didn’t put a foot out of line.

Being able to snap a picture is a big win out in the pasture

We only walked. Baby steps and all that but we made it up and down the big hill several times before I called it a day. Some day it will be a great conditioning hill once we can safely and sanely trot and canter our there.

When he is like that I’m invincible on him. We could conquer anything. No 2×4 needed.

Poor abused beast having t o work two days in a row. 

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Whoah Boy We’ve Got Some Work To Do

Someone had some not so nice opinions about riding on the first hot, dry day of the year. Hint: it wasn’t me.

I can’t tell if he is getting dapples in or if he is just moth eaten and gross. I’m choosing to see dapples. Still need to figure out what to do with his zebra mane.

No clue what caused him to have such a large stick up his butt, but it was firmly lodged way up there Friday afternoon. I kept telling him that he was doing all of this to himself and if he insisted on being an a-hole well so be it. We would still be doing the exercise I wanted to do even if it took me an hour to get to it.

It was a simple enough exercise. I set up a box with four ground poles. Riding alone and not wanting to get off to reset the arena means that I tend to favor exercises that allow for multiple ways of riding over it. This simple box allowed me to go straight, make circles, and cut through the diagonal all without having to rearrange anything.

It was a real box until someone clobbered it and I was too lazy to get off and fix it

H’Appy had zero interest in working on such a gorgeous afternoon and made it well known to me to start. Lots of throwing his head around, pinned ears, curling to his chest and even a squeal or two of protest.

Eh. I’m over it at this point and figured Homeboy could throw his tantrums all he wanted. I have no idea how long it took but eventually he settled and returned to his lovely, rhythmic and slow trot that I love so much.

Finally settling down and getting to work

We worked over the box in all sorts of manners. My favorites were the diagonals and making a circle over them. His evasions are getting slightly humorous now as he is finding that nothing is working and I refuse to be bullied around the ring.

Once he was in defeatist work mode, it was quite pleasant. I’d work through the box a bit then go large and work on the canter and bring it back to the trot to work on the box again and around and around we went. I never got that beautiful slow and calm canter I had earlier in the week, but I know it is in there.

I’ve been eyeing the big pasture for a while now hoping to use the short but steep hill for conditioning work. The last time I had him out there he turned me into a lawn dart so I’ve been a bit hesitant to try again.

Spring is officially here and it is glorious

He was plenty sweaty and breathing hard when I called it quits in the arena, so I tempted fate. I’m not dead, so there is that. It wasn’t much fun though. He is so herd bound it is driving me crazy. I wasn’t brave enough to work him hard out there so I kept it to a walk. In doing so it allowed his mind to drift and he started screaming for his friends and any time I tried to turn him away from their direction he’d shake his head and threaten to pop up.

I’m not brave enough to deal with that. I made him walk in a big circle and once he did that without issue I hopped off. I’m not really sure what to do about that or if I’ll ever be able to ride him out there. I’ve got his number in the arena and know tricks to get his brain in the game and make him settle but the big open space is another beast.

Hopefully short cool out periods after arena work will all add up to positive experiences and an ability to push the envelope more with him. He has that tiny bit of a dirty streak in him that doesn’t allow me to fully trust him just yet. Maybe when he is 20?

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Folks, I Feel Like A Big Girl

Tuesday. Oh Tuesday. It’s become my riding day at home since Dusty has agreed to leave work early and get Wyatt which allows me to head straight home and ride before dinner. It’s really nice.

This week could have been a disaster. In fact, I could probably write it up that way if I tried hard enough to focus on the crap moments. You know what though? It wasn’t a disaster. It was actually pretty flipping fantastic.

My attempts to walk away and get a good picture were thwarted by a needy horse who couldn’t stand me being more than 30 inches from him

It started off terribly. The temps had dropped 20 degrees, I hadn’t worked him in exactly one week due to various excuses (sickness mostly but rain and farrier too), and all three horses had been lunatics in the field the last couple of days for no discernible reason.

He was nearly vibrating walking in and when Dusty and Wyatt came tearing out of the house to play with the dogs barking madly and Wyatt screaming in delight, well poor Doofus lost what little control he had. I hurriedly grabbed at the quick release on the cross tie as the whites began to show in his eye and he threatened to come apart at the seams. In the process my precious saddle hit the dirt and I just about lost it.

A scratch on the cantle. It makes me very sad. I conditioned it but now it’s scarred. Sometimes I wish I boarded.

And a month ago this all would have translated to a tense hot mess of a ride. He would have shaked that head, curled behind the bit and cantered off to nowhere all while screaming for his friends. And I would have become tense and frustrated myself. Probably had some tears and or choice words about him and ended it by stomping back to the barn.

But not this time. This time I buckled down, forced the knot to release in my stomach and ride anyway. Even while I walked him to the arena to lunge and the thought “I’m going to die” ran through my head.

He lunged ok. A bit wild but listened promptly to all my transition requests and didn’t pull on the line one time. I could see him thinking about it but he didn’t and I was so proud of him for that.

Trying to eat the tree by the arena gate. I’m not sure it is edible and keep telling him to leave it alone

When we returned to the arena fully tacked up, I felt the energy radiating off him and briefly questioned my life choices but you know what? As soon as I mounted he sighed into the work. It’s like he was waiting for something to do.

All antics stopped. Sure he was still a bit quick and reactive. Sure he tried to canter a few times when all I wanted was a trot but it was all acceptable given his high strung nature that night and not over top like in rides the preceding months.

I’ve found that working on the halt is a great warm up for him. The first time he always tries to blow through me and I have to get a bit more harsh in his mouth than I’d like to back up the halt aid. Then when I ask him to walk he shakes his head in annoyance at the pit stop. As I keep working on the halt eventually he blows out and will halt with only my seat and legs.

Once that happens I can get to the real work. Tuesday I started with leg yields on the straight and then into a 20 m circle. We are getting pretty darn good with the right bend. I’m really starting to get the feel for timing all my aides. A bend with the inside rein, pushing out with my inside leg while providing a slight squeeze on the outside rein to let him know I mean “over” and not “forward” and then a quickly applied outside leg to keep him moving and not stalling out. It works beautifully when I get the timing down.

The left is pretty meh mostly because my left leg still has Alzheimer’s and is pretty useless. I’m beginning to wonder if I had a stroke and didn’t know it. The difference in strength is almost embarrassing, but I’m working on it and I know it is me and not him.

In the past, when he has felt this energized I’ve gotten tense in the trot transition due to his propensity to shoot off like a rocket and ignore me. Or I avoid it and call it a day with walk work. Tuesday I forced myself to put away the past and do it.

What’s your problem?

The first time he started his annoying head shaking that let’s me know he wishes I’d go screw myself and let him be a wild horse galloping on the range. A half halt put him in his place though and I began work in the trot.

It wasn’t perfect. I let him veer off my planned path too many times, he tried to canter some and then eventually used a half halt as an excuse to halt.

But I worked through it, didn’t get emotional, didn’t let him bully me and after a much shorter time than usual he settled and we ended up having some really great work. I felt good enough to pop him over a jump as a reward before working on the canter.

The transitions are getting a lot better. Less rocket launch and more controlled which allows me to start the canter with control versus hanging on for dear life a few laps. He is getting more balance and more strength and able to canter slower and more deliberately which is way more enjoyable to ride.

My biggest issue in the canter at the moment is his decision to take all half halts as a true halt. I need to remember to add leg which is hard when I’m trying to use the half halt to slow but when I don’t he stops. I need to remember to use all my aids. It’s hard folks.

Still a no on a good picture. I told him that if he rolled with my saddle on he’d be glue

I got off him an hour later not feeling defeated as in rides past. I dismounted with elation. I rode. Really rode. I used my brain to work through things. He met me half way and came ready for work. Neither of us are perfect or advanced but we are growing as a pair finally and it is the best feeling. The future is getting brighter and brighter.

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My Heart is Full to Bursting

Tuesday night Gemmie was taking her sweet time licking her bowl out after dinner. Since the grass is now back in full force, they have all been reduced to a mere handful of the ration balancer. She isn’t particularly pleased by this turn of events and has taken to very pointedly licking her bowl for a full 5 minutes after she is done to prove a point that she is starving. You’ll see shortly that is she anything but.

I grabbed H’Appy and Dusty took Pete and we walked them out to the far pasture across the driveway leaving Gem to her anger licking. Wyatt was out playing in the yard. Dusty and I left the pasture and started walking back towards the barn to get Gem and put out the morning feed.

We stopped in our tracks.

No she isn’t pregnant

There was Wyatt leading Gem out to the pasture all on his own without us asking. He had taken it completely upon himself to stop playing, go into the barn, attach her lead, and bring her out for us.

My smile could not have been bigger. The fact that he stopped playing to do chores was mind blowing. The fact that he can get Gem all by himself was mind blowing. Gem is amazing with him. She tolerates his attempts to show her the world, walks in tiny steps avoiding his erratic path, and when he asks her to trot she trots with the teeniest steps imaginable. That mare is worth everything to me. She is irreplaceable.

My heart about burst.

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Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better

On January 25th, I noted a weird crack in the front of H’Appy’s right front hoof. The farrier wasn’t due out for another three weeks, so I shot him a quick text asking if I needed to worry about it. With H’Appy being sound he said to keep it clean and monitor.

At that next appointment he took a look and said it was doing fine. The hoof hadn’t grown much in those three weeks and he recommended I keep it cleaned out and use thrush buster or similar product. With the near constant rain and the mushy ground, it was a hard fight but it never seemed to get any worse and he was sound.

Farrier was due out again this past Friday and I sent him a text making sure he looked at that front right again. It was lingering and I don’t like things that linger.

I guess somewhat fortunately I was feeling like complete and utter crap Friday after a week of little sleep and a worsening sinus infection. It was bad enough that I bailed at work at lunch time to go sleep on my couch. This got me home in time to meet the farrier who I haven’t seen in about four trims now.

I was quite shocked when I walked into the barn and saw this

Ugh. It made my stomach go squee.

That crack had turned into or possibly always had been white line. I’ve never dealt with white line as Gem has amazing feet. H’Appy not so much.

I asked how this happened, mostly for my own education and partly hoping it wasn’t all my fault. Farrier thinks it’s multifactorial as most things are. Mostly, he came with poor nutrition and as a result poor foot health. He is still very very slowly growing out the hoof he came to me with and it is plain old not healthy enough to fight super muddy gross conditions. Add to that the fact that farrier had to pretty aggressively trim that hoof to cut back the elf slipper shape and relieve the mechanical laminitis that made him lame all summer, and now we had an unhealthy and extremely thin hoof wall standing in sloppy mud.

Basically we were screwed and lucky it was only this bad.

He cut it all out and cauterized the surrounding tissue to prevent recurrence. I’m to clean it and use my thrush buster every other day. There is no chalky substance left and with it being an anaerobic infection, getting air to it alone is a “cure” though I’m not taking any chances.

I thought of KC immediately and texted her that H’Appy wanted to be like Pilgrim. Hence the post title. I’m clever, aren’t I?

The good news here is that he is still sound so I can ride now that I’m back to feeling like a human instead of a zombie thanks to sleeping the entire day Saturday. The hoof is clean and hard and required only minimal resection. Farrier warned me though that with the location his hoof may start to separate and spread outside the confines of the shoe. If I see that happen at all, he is to be notified ASAP and will come out and either do pour in pads to get more weight in the sole and off the hoof wall (hard to do with him since he used to be so sole sensitive) or use clips to hold the hoof together (also hard to do with him since this is the shoe he typically rips off and ripping it off with a clip could cause major hoof damage all over again). Since neither option is a good one for him or my sanity if he should have yet another summer off due to a bad right hoof, let’s just all hope this heals uneventfully shall we?

I’ve ordered KC’s magical Wunderhoof and he will be back on a hoof supplement though nothing will be as good as the spring grass and sunshine we are now finally getting. Fingers crossed everyone that this is but a cosmetic blip on our spring radar. I really don’t know what I’ll do if he is out for the season again this year.

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Allowing Myself To Enjoy It

It took 15 years of planning, dreaming, scheming and researching to buy our farm. I had wanted a farm for much, much longer than that. As far back as 10 years old I was drawing barn ideas and pasture plans while in school. Seeing that dream finally come true was….

Deflating.

What?! Am I insane? Quite possibly.

You see, when you work that hard for that long to achieve one simple goal. When everything always led to this one moment. When all your energy, all your decisions, all your major life choices were made in such a way as to lead you here and then it happens, well there is a part of you that goes Now What Do I Do?

Or maybe that’s just me. I’m driven. I work hard to get what I want. I don’t stop until I do.

The view from the top of the big pasture looking back towards the barn, arena and the house. The back pasture sweeps down hill away from the backside of the barn to the fishing pond.

Last year I took all that energy and put it into working the farm. Mowing the pastures obsessively, keeping the barn gleaming, trimming fence line, edging, moving fence lines. I threw myself into being the best farm manager I could possibly be until I started to resent it. Started to burn out.

The winter was a blessing. It was so darn wet and cold that nothing could be done. Last fall’s tall grasses in rested pastures couldn’t be cut. Fence lines couldn’t be weed whacked. Plans to fertilize the big pasture were forced on hold until we hear from Duke so as to avoid wasting money on a condemned part of the property. Everything came to a halt and I could breathe again.

This year, as the pastures dry out and the spring grass comes in, I have vowed to stop. I am allowing myself to have an imperfect farm in order to enjoy this dream of mine. I mowed the big pasture Sunday and looked around at the sheer immensity that keeping up 30 acres of grass with only 3 horses grazing truly is. Our grass is hearty and grows year round. Something always needs mowed.

The pure joy of looking up and seeing your beautiful horses grazing

But I love it. I love the lay of our land. I love the barn and the old windmill. I love the well house and the fishing pond. I love seeing my horses out my windows. Saturday I spent the day sick on the couch and I looked up as Hubby walked Gem back to the pasture after dinner.

There was my horse walking down my winding driveway to eat grass out of my pasture. Everything I ever wanted.

A week of no rain and a healthy dose of sunshine has made the grass start growing again. The bermuda mixed in the fields is still dormant and won’t come alive again until probably May.

This year I’m going to enjoy it. All of it. Yes I will still mow the pastures to maintain their health. Yes I will still clean the barn and fix fences. But not to the point of hating the one thing I’ve spent my entire life working for. The work can wait. Life and happiness can not.