Posted in 2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #31

I’m so far behind in my review posts!! This topic was another broad one that spans any genre and time period. It was my mom’s pick again.

A book about an interesting woman – Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca

In the early 1900s, detectives were all the rage with the Sherlock Holmes novels just being published and real life detective hitting the streets. In New York City, the police force is in early infancy with a new, young commissioner at the helm when Ruth Cruger goes missing after leaving her family home to go ice skating, a task she did frequently. This time, however, Ruth does not come home and her father contacts every investigator he can find to locate her. The press becomes involved and the entire city is on high alert for the missing young lady.

Grace Humiston is a prominent female lawyer in New York City taking on the hopeless cases, those of the poor and those of the down trodden. Her storied career took her into the peonage cases of the farms of the deep south working with the US President to take down the system. Upon completion of this task, left somewhat unfinished, she picks up the case of a man on death row which drains her energy until she return to New York to find herself thrown into the case of the missing girl consumed by the fact that something was missing and she was the one who could find it.

The novel tells the real life story of a female lawyer in New York city in the early to mid 1900s. By all accounts she was a tenacious woman who refused to take no for an answer and worked hard for those she felt needed it most. She took no money for the majority of her cases and worked hard to equal the playing field having noted early on that those who could not read or write were easily taken advantage of in the system.

The book itself is a little confusing in how it is laid out. It begins with the disappearance of Ruth Cruger which occurs in 1917 and then back tracks the next chapter to Grace’s graduation from law school 10 years earlier. It continues along this path until the two story lines converge with Grace taking on the Cruger case. The book comes across as very disjointed since the main focus is Grace, however the Ruth case itself takes up more of the book. By the time Grace joins the case, I felt uninterested in much of it having spent so much time reading about her travels in the South to bring down the peonage system of keeping farmers in constant and impossible to overcome debt that now shifting to a lost girl seems to pale in comparison to her accomplishments in the South. Also, since every case presented is figured out by the magnificent Grace, when she takes on the Ruth case it is nearly predictable what the outcome will be.

I found myself disengaged from the book throughout most of it and hoping it would get to the point which is a shame since Grace has a very interesting story to tell about her life.



Posted in Uncategorized


The weather has been on constant refresh on my phone. I was living in FL when a tropical storm came through and that was scary enough. Now they are saying Irma will still be a category 1 hurricane when it comes my way Monday afternoon. I thought we would be well out of the path being so far inland, like we were in 2015 when Columbia flooded, but not this time.

We don’t have a barn and I’m not going to take away a stall offered to an evacuee from Florida or the SC coast just because I am nervous. Most of the barns around here, including TIEC and my trainer’s barn, have opened up for evacuees and are full already. It is amazing to see everyone pull together and help one another out. Wouldn’t it be nice if it could be like this always and not just in times of disaster?

But I am nervous. Without a barn to keep the Dynamic Duo warm, dry and snug they will be forced to be out in it. The electric fence we chose has been tested in hurricane force winds. The tape is fairly loose which allows the wind to go through it with minimal turbulence. My area gets high winds with gusts up to 50 mph in late Feb through March (the windy season) and we never saw the tape move at all through all of that. Baring a tree falling on it, I’m pretty confident the fence will be just fine.

The shelter, though. That is my concern. It has held up perfectly since we built it last winter even through the windy season when the tarp roof didn’t flap in the harsh gusts. We also added more reinforcement than the original plans recommended. But this isn’t a few wind gusts here and there. This is a category 1 hurricane with sustained wind and blowing rain. The shelter is their only dry spot out of the wind and rain, so if the tarp goes it will take away their only escape from the weather. Plus it will scare the crap out of them.

Not a whole lot we can do about it now. The tar is as secure as we can make it and has no holes or tears. We are adding more sand to the interior floor and will hope for the best. As for the horses, their halters will be on them and I am going to use nail polish to paint my number on their hooves and livestock paint to put it on their butts as well. If they do get out of the pasture, at least they will have identification on them in multiple spots.

A lot of people will have it way worse than we will. 6″ of rain in 24 hours isn’t so bad compared to what Florida and the coast will be getting. I’m holding off on closing my office down until I know for sure what is coming. Some sources are saying Tuesday and others are saying we will just get high wind and rain, but not at hurricane or tropical storm levels. I won’t close down for rain and wind, but if it is a category 1 hurricane I will. So much is up in the air right now. I can’t even begin to imagine those in Florida awaiting the arrival of Irma in her full glory. Mother nature is a force.

Hopefully all my worry is for naught and we will only get some nice rain to help with the slightly crunchy late summer grass and make for some nice mud puddles for the kiddo to splash in.

Posted in Uncategorized

Warm Up

While there were a lot of little things I picked up from my days volunteering at AECs, the biggest take home was in watching the warm up. Being stationed at Fence 6ab for Training gave me a front seat to the warm up arena and I made sure to watch what was going on over there in between riders at my fence and wallowing in self pity at being drenched by sideways rain in 60 degree weather for hours on end.

There were two main groups running training:  Professional riders on training level horses and amateur adults/young riders. The two groups used their time in warm up so distinctly differently that even a beginner like myself could see it. I don’t have a good comparison on how the courses went after these different approaches to the warm up since the weather turned ugly right after the professionals rode. Too many factors played into it to be able to make any correlation between the warm up and the course and I only saw the riders over one combination, but it was still interesting enough to make me ponder it all weekend.

So what was so different?

Both groups entered the warm up about an hour prior to me seeing them at my fence, so warm up time seemed about the same for both groups. It was in how they used that warm up time that separated them out. Of note, which I think is important, the vast majority of amateur/young riders had a a trainer at the rail giving the instructions as they warmed up, so how those riders warmed up was being generated by the trainer who is also a professional and yet they were doing it very different than the professional riders were. Something to think about.

The amateur/young rider group warmed up in a manner that seemed the norm from what I have seen and read.  There was a line of jumps in the center of the arena with several stadium type fences and a couple of solid obstacles and this group spent 85% of their warm up time jumping. They went over each one multiple times. A lot of these riders came to the jumps from various angles and approaches, but others just kept jumping the same ones over and over and over again. From my point of view, not knowing anything about the rider or the horse, it seemed like a whole lot of drilling and jumping efforts right before the course. But…I don’t do training level, so I have no clue if it was that much or not. It just appeared that way to me.

The trainers along the rail would yell various things like “don’t use a driving seat” or “hands down and forward” and “sit up until the base of the jump”. It gave the picture of the warm up being all about the rider. It was focused on working on the rider’s position, approaches and confidence. The time spent not jumping was spent milling about on the buckle. I saw a lot of trotting and same canter circles, but mostly it was jump then relax.

With the professionals, though, it was all about the horse. Unlike the prior group, the professionals spent 90% of their warm up time working on adjustability. They used the long sides to gallop and then would randomly bring the horse up at various points to a slower, more rocked back and collected canter. I saw the professionals jump maybe 3-4 times, once over each obstacle and that was that. The rest of the time they cantered, galloped and cantered some more. There was no milling about, on the buckle or trotting. They were either working on adjustability, doing a jump, or left the arena.

There are a lot of things to be thought about here. For starters, these are professional riders so yeah…they likely don’t need much work on themselves at training level when several had just been to Rolex this past spring. I’m sure they weren’t particularly nervous and this sure wasn’t their first rodeo, so working the rider kinks out wasn’t necessary. Unlike the amateur/YR group where many looked like they were about to lose their lunch off the side of their horse. I know if I had been there at the championship ride in those conditions, I would have needed all the confidence boosting a warm up could give me.

The biggest thing that got me thinking though was that trainers, who are professionals by nature of being a paid trainer, were dictating the entire warm up and not one had their student work on the adjustability of the canter before going over a course that had a lot of tight turns and bad footing. Having just watched the pros work solely on that one thing for 45 minutes, I would have thought they would have spent at least some time on the same things. While the riders were not pros, they were jumping the exact same course.

I’ll never know the reasoning behind it, but I do know that when I reach the warm up for my first cross country course that I’ll make sure to work on adjustability for a lot of it and jump just enough to get Gem thinking about jumping solid things.

Posted in Uncategorized

American Eventing Championships (AEC) Volunteering

When this event headed to TIEC last year, I scrambled at the last minute to volunteer and ended up having a really good time. So much in fact that I stalked sign ups to grab exactly the job I wanted and took my first actual personal day of the year for it and closed my office on Thursday.

Thursday saw me getting up at 5:30 am to make the hour drive to TIEC and sign in by 7 am. I was Cross Country jump judging all day and when I got there I was informed that Preliminary and Training would be running. I’m probably in the minority here as most people prefer the higher divisions, but I was a little bummed it wouldn’t be beginner novice. At my level, it’s nice to see the next level up and learn from it.

They gave each volunteer a chair to use. I was so thankful for that canopy as it at least allowed part of me to remain dry

I was assigned jump 22, a yellow roll top along the back side of the berm and one I knew right away wouldn’t pose any issues for the day. The approach was basically a turf race course lane with a skinny brush on the corner leading up to it and then the last fence of the course around the corner and out of sight.

Fence 22 – a preliminary size table. It rode really well all day. What was odd was that Fence 4, cabin corners, was above it on the berm. 
Looking out at fence 21, a skinny brush on the corner

While my fence was clean the entire morning, there was some pretty decent carnage at fence 9 which claimed quite a few victims with falls and refusals.

What was really interesting was seeing the horses at the end of the course. Most looked tired but still had the ability to go on, quite a few were dragging and a rare couple looked like they had been out warming up only.

The preliminary riders were pretty lucky. The weather was cool and would intermittently spit some rain, but nothing major and the footing held up really well. That wouldn’t be the case later.

Fence 4 up on the berm. There were a few times when both 22 and 4 were being jumped at the same time.

Once Preliminary ended, I booked it all the way to the other side of the course in the sand arena for Training jumps 6a and b which were two brush corners set at three strides on a tight turn. In order to set up correctly, the riders had to make a wide approach nearly hugging the arena fence.

Fence 6ab from my vantage point with the warm up arena behind it
Fence 6ab looking through the line. You can see the foot prints in the footing in front of 6a to show where the riders planned to approach a to make it to b which is the far left second fence. 

Training wasn’t so lucky. I had one fall and a few refusals at the b element, but that wasn’t so bad compared to the rest of the course. Around lunch time the sky opened up and it poured the rest of the day.

Training didn’t end until 6:30pm and I don’t think I have ever been so wet when in regular clothes before. It was cold too and the afternoon was pretty miserable. I felt so bad for about 30 horses who had to run during the worst of it. The footing deteriorated quickly and the radios were lit up with requests for footing assistance. The turf just isn’t mature and there are no roots to the grass. Once it got saturated it just peeled up making for really slick conditions.

Training got beat up pretty badly. For nearly two hours there wasn’t a single clean run and a lot of people were eliminated after four refusals on course. I know you can’t help the weather but that sucked for a lot of people who spent a lot of money to be there.

One of the many barns

What was the coolest thing about my spot though was that I watched warm up right behind my fence. I paid a lot of attention to how the different divisions handled the warm up. It was neat to then get to see those same riders come through my fence.

I’m not sure how many pros were riding as I’m not really into paying attention to that but I did recognize Don Schram, Becky Holder and a local pro Erik Dierks all in the Training Horse division.

Warm up

I thought my shift was never going to end. Finally at 6:30pm the last rider left the start and never made it to my fence before being eliminated. It was awful out there. I squelched my way back to my car hoping my feet would eventually dry out again.

Friday morning was early too but the rain stayed away so that was a blessing. I originally had an important work call at 2 pm, so I only signed up for the morning. The call ended up being rescheduled for October, not sure it constitutes as really important any longer, and I was wishing I had signed up for the entire day.

Friday I was scribing for the jump judge which is my favorite thing to do. It was made even better when I saw that Preliminary and Training were running in the morning so I’d get to see those I judged the day before again. Training had run from 12:15pm to 6:30pm on cross country with a massive list of competitors. Once I saw the order of go I was shocked to see how many were eliminated on course.

Scribing itself is super easy, but the real reason I love it is that I get access to the judge and that is always a learning experience. This time I also got to meet and chat with the course designer and that was my highlight of the entire weekend.

My view from the judges tower. It looked nasty out but the rain stopped early and stayed away until later that evening

After the first 12 riders went, the designer came over and looked at the sheet over my shoulder. He was really happy and I asked him what he wanted to see. His answer was a lot of rails down spread out throughout the course. He doesn’t want a bunch of clear rounds (course too easy), no clear rounds (course too hard) or to see one particular fence always coming down (a badly designed fence). The course was running perfectly to his expectations above. Later he also said he wanted 50% of the top 10 to have at least one rail down.

I noticed that jump 6 had a lot of rails and it seemed odd to me. Fence 5 was a two stride a b combo along the rail with fence 6 being an oxer after it still along the rail. It didn’t look difficult yet a lot of horses had rails down there. He explained that he set it at 5.5 strides and apparently nobody figured that out. To ride it right the rider would have to come out the of combination, which needed to be ridden pretty compact, and gun it to get 5 in there. Not many made it and would bury themselves deep and pull the rail.

It was fascinating to watch the course and talk to him about it.

Sadly, my time ended around 11. But….then I got to meet up with fellow blogger KC!!!! She met me at the judging tower and then we had lunch. She is super nice and great to talk to. Funny too!!! We watched a bit of the cross country course which was running novice and then caught the end of the Training stadium rounds before a long break.

Cross Country derby field
You can see the berm on the far left. We watched as one rider couldn’t get their horse to cross it. The only jump on this course for novice was at the far end of the berm. The rider eventually dismounted and retired from the course although not until the next rider was on top of her 

About that time she mentioned Bette was there competing in BN. Bette is another blogger but she doesn’t write very often. I met her one other time and she is amazing. We wandered over to her barn, found out her dressage wasn’t until nearly 5 pm and chatted for a bit making future horsey plans this fall.

It was a great way to end my AEC time. WEG will be here next year and I am for sure going to try to find a way to volunteer there too. I may just have to take the entire time off work for it and work every day for all the various disciplines if they will have me.

In case I haven’t said this loudly enough: GET OUT AND VOLUNTEER! If you need a selfish reason to do so, you can learn an absolute ton doing it (I have an entire post about what I learned) and meet some great people.

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Back In the Dressage Tack

I have minimal media so instead you get pictures from our latest hike to Chimney Rock, NC where Wyatt impressed the crap out of me hiking all the way to the top on his own. I can’t figure out the stupid new wordpress app to add captions to the photos so sorry they won’t be there.

In an effort to ride more often, I passed on my typical Tuesday run/workout and dressed in my riding duds instead. We won’t get better without practicing and now that the evenings are cooler I feel the urge to hop on her once again.

The weed field is still not mowed and my patience with it all is wearing thing. Not much I can do since I don’t own the place though. Instead I decided to ride in the pasture which not only solves the issue of the weeds, but also gives me fences. While it is still 3 acres, at least the fence line gives us a hard stop should Gem decide to bolt on me. The mere fact that they are there boosts my confidence quite a bit.

Typically I really dislike riding in the pasture. That’s her safe spot, her place of rest. But you gotta do what you gotta do sometimes and it’s my only option at the moment.

So anyway, last night I tacked her up in the dressage tack for the first time in months. My only goal was to work on my position. I need to train my legs to go back more instead of bracing out in front of me.

Gem wasn’t so pleased with my idea of riding after dinner in her pasture. She was moody and tense. Since I was planing on working on me, I didn’t really care if we did anything but walk. This was an introduction to working at home and my expectations were low.

I began walking her and immediately halted to check the status of my breaks. One thing I am really proud of is her halt these days. Before lessons, a halt was a suggestion she ignored. Now, even when tense or angry, she halts immediately with just the lightest aid.

From there I focused on my position. My upper body has really come a long way and gently following elbows are almost an immediate thing that requires no thought now. It feels really good.

My lower legs are now the biggest issue. I tend to move them forward and brace against the stirrup which isn’t good and this is a habit I really want to break before the end of the year.

The issue is Gem.

She hates my legs against her. Which came first, her hating it so I moved them forward or me having my legs forward making her hate it when they are back, is up for grabs but either way the result is the same. I move my lower leg back and under me and Gem tenses and speeds up. Riding a tense horse is no fun. Typically I’d move my leg off her and she’d calm down, but that would have defeated the entire purpose of my ride.

Instead I persisted. I kept my leg on and used about eight million half halts in an attempt to settle her. All I wanted was a calm and even walk while my legs stayed on her and I would be done.

Let me back up a bit. By legs being on her I don’t mean clamped or asking her to move. I mean having my lower leg under my hip in neutral alignment with my calf lightly against her side prepared to ask for movement. You know. Like a normal person rides.


At one point I thought I’d let her trot a bit to help her relax. Boy was that a bad idea. All I felt was vertical energy with no forward motion. No bucking or rearing. Just tiny little shuffling steps and all this energy being contained. I felt like I was riding a powder keg.


Back to the walk now adding in a lot of transitions. Even though she was really tense, she still halted perfectly every time. I was so happy with her and she got a ton of praise for it.

I decided against trying for any bend on a circle as actually using the inside leg made everything that much worse. Working on relaxation and acceptance of my leg walking in a big loopy circle with a lot of halts and changes in direction was the best bet.

After about 30 minutes she lowered her head and made it one way around without jigging or breaking to trot. So we ended it there with a lot of praise.

It wasn’t the best ride, but there was a lot to be happy with. Her halts for starters. The fact that I neither caved and took my leg off to avoid the issue nor lost my temper and persisted on a losing path. The fact that she relaxed and did what I asked at the end. Heck, the fact that I rode at all on a Tuesday at home.

I hope to slowly build on this ride and get her to slowly accept what I’m asking. I know that riding more often at home will help in general as she learns she has to do it. I’m not sure when my next lesson will be due to scheduling conflicts so for now at least it’s just the two of us figuring it all out.

Posted in Farm life

Bad Hay…What Do I Do?

When we moved here in January we were a little screwed in regards to hay. We needed enough to get us through until 2017 first cutting but 2016 was a drought year and pretty much all stores were gone. I managed to find some horse quality hay and while it wasn’t the greatest, it was good enough to supplement the green fescue in the pasture. The horses ate it fine with

minimal waste but I wasn’t thrilled enough to purchase again.

Once the first cutting was made, and it was a great spring for hay around here with with a perfect combination of rain and sun, I researched a new supplier and found a guy up north by the NC/SC border. Hay was $7/bale plus a $160 delivery fee, but it showed up green and delicious. I got 50 bales and was thrilled with the quality. The horses chowed down on it and all was good.

Gemmie is looking smashing these days. Other than the mare glare


I had a client mention that she had 1,000 bales of first cutting fescue they needed to sell to make room for their second cutting coming off the field soon. Her typical buyer is Clemson University but they started baking their own and didn’t need nay. She was selling it for $4/bale and lived only 3 miles from us. I told the hubby that it was worth a look at least as it would save us some money and we could stock up on another 50 bales. We went out a couple of weeks ago and while the bales were extremely loose (like a few completely fell apart trying to move them loose), they were green had very minimal stems and smelled like hay.

Not sure why she was so annoyed with me on Sunday, but she is still pretty

We loaded up the trailer and truck bed and filled our garage to the brim. I was happy to see a full stock of hay that I knew would last us at least through the fall.

Except I noticed the horses would not eat it. The piles I put out remain there untouched. The grass is starting to grow again with the cooler temperatures, but even the best spring grass is typically ignored for hay by our fat horses. For them to not even look our way as we put it out is odd.

Hay. Not as good as Timothy or orchard up north, but good for the fescue down here

So they hate it. We have plenty of the other first cutting left to feed them so it’s not an issue of not having hay to feed. The issue is what on earth I’m supposed to do with 48 bales of hay my horses won’t eat. I don’t think I can sell it. I mean my add would have to read “$4/bale fescue hay, first cutting, horse quality although my horse won’t eat it”. Who is going to buy that? It’s been such a great hay year that everyone is pretty stocked up for the year and a third cutting is basically going to waste as nobody has room for it.

I can’t keep throwing it out in the pasture just to watch it be ignored and then have to rake it back up. I have no idea why they won’t eat it. It’s green, smells like hay and has very little stems in it. It looks identical to the northern hay which is also fescue but for some reason they won’t touch it. Do I take 48 bales to the dump?

What do I do with all this hay??

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Thoughts on Confidence

Gem has been carting me around for seven years now and hopefully we have just as many more to come in the future. Our last outing on cross country got me thinking about my level of confidence.

I’m not an inherently brave person. I don’t seek high adrenaline sports or events to get my pleasure in life. I like challenges, but I like them within a normal view of safety. Horse riding in general, and jumping specifically, are inherently dangerous but there are lots of ways to mitigate that and create a relatively safe bubble. I’m not the person to jump on a new to me horse, go galloping across the fields and jump just because someone handed me the reins. In fact, I pretty much have to feel pretty secure before attempting anything on Gem which is a fact that bothers Trainer a little bit.

The interesting thing is that I was actually more confident before I began riding Gem although I would suggest that the level of confidence I have now is healthier.

My riding experiences before Gem were pretty extensive although not in a regulated training sort of way. I spent my youth riding all over the place: the mountains in PA, along the battlefields in Gettysburg, along the rivers in WV, and in Acadia National Park in Maine. These rides were never slow. I did more galloping, flat out racing and technical work than I have ever since. I rode my Aunt’s horses and to this day I can’t figure out if they were just that darn good or if my memory has faded out any issues I might have had. Either way, I felt invincible. I could cross fast moving, deep rivers and swim alongside my horse. I could travel down hills that made the horse slide down on their butt and back up the other side laughing. I never said no to anything although a lot of that had to do with the fact that my Aunt and Uncle were always there and were my rocks. This was multiplied by the fact that I had never, not one single time in thousands of miles of rugged terrain and break neck speeds, ever fell off. Not one time.

I grew older and ventured out on other horses and adventures without them: lessons, trail rides, my honeymoon riding in France.

Then I got Gemmie. Yes, a lot had changed. I was now an adult and had a lot of responsibilities as well as a healthy sense of my mortality. The first time I rode her, I had my confidence fully installed. I knew I could ride and this horse would be no different than any other. Except I was dead wrong. Gemmie did not (and still doesn’t) tolerate anything other than perfection.

It took all of a month, maybe less, for her to destroy my confidence and make me into a whimpering, fetal position riding freak. I fell off her at least a dozen times and felt so inadequate. I couldn’t even ride 10 feet down a trail with her at first without freaking out, falling off or crying. It was bad.


Since she entered my life I have learned to hook up and haul a trailer solo, rode countless miles alone on trails, went horse camping alone and with friends, started in endurance and completed a 100 and now I am jumping not only in the arena, but out on the cross country course as well. All things I never would have imagined being able to do.

Have I ever reached that level of confidence I had before I threw my leg over Gem that firs time? No. I think though, that that is a good thing. My confidence before stemmed from a lack of anything bad having ever happened before. Sure I knew you could fall off and in theory it would hurt, but I had never experienced the feeling before. Nor had I experienced the feeling of a horse not listening at all to you and doing whatever they wanted to instead. Or the sensation of the horse under you no longer being there because they have turned 180 degrees, dropped their shoulder and departed at 100 mph. All these things, Gem taught me.

But she also taught me to sit up, put my leg on and ride. Actually ride. My confidence now stems from the knowledge that I can handle the situation as it presents itself, deal with it and move on. I know what I can handle and what I can’t and move within that realm as it shifts and changes to allow for new skills and new challenges. I won’t be found galloping wildly down a lane with Gem, but that is okay. I can be found working on bend, grids and cross country fences with the knowledge of what I am doing wrong and how to fix it.

Confidence is a tricky beast, but I am glad I don’t have the same as I did before. The confidence that Gem has taught me is more solid, less easily destroyed by a single bad ride or experience and is a stringer base to work off of.