Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Carrying On

The first week of January things were really going great. I was finding a rhythm with the horses, and I was so excited to maybe be able to slot some time for updating the blog more regularly into my schedule.
Photos after a good ride that week on Ruby.
And then we lost Rufus and my momentum just...crashed. And then burned. That week was already shaping up to be stressful at work, and adding his loss to my already overflowing plate forced me to compartmentalize and shuffle my feelings around to be dealt with later while I focused on fulfilling professional obligations and pretending to be a fully functional human being.
I worked from home one day when human interaction was just too much, and I looked out the window to see Jack laid out flat, not moving at all. I was still a little sensitive from losing Rufus and I was CONVINCED Jack was also dead, but naturally he was just napping and in reality was VERY ANNOYED that I woke him up. 
And then the weather got shitty - first cold, then wet. We needed the cold for some property work (moving stuff without sinking the trucks in the mud) so at least on that front we've been getting things done. We also should be able to start the garage work soon (the concrete contractor was actually supposed to come out last week but it snowed, then snowed some more). The last time I saw my arena footing, it was very very wet, and the current blanket of snow and ice won't help much once it finally melts off. So I'm going to proceed under the assumption that I won't be riding in it for a little bit.
The ice storm did make even dead grass look pretty neat. 

We had a very heavy, wet snow that made for some beautiful photos but a particularly awful commute, on a day I HAD to be at work to teach a training.

The horses are enjoying resuming their vacation, and are taking their job of hay hoovers very seriously. Jack seems to be wintering better than usual, which is probably due to the extremely mild temperatures we've mostly been enjoying (with the exception of the last few weeks), and also his $$$ alfalfa, which he adores and the other horses covet haha.
The dogs are their normal goofball selves and can always make me smile -- although the loss of Rufus and accompanying changes seems to have set off a renewed bout of separation anxiety for Cici.
I've been baking a lot, which is great for everything but my weight.

Also used a hack I found online to use a lighter to reattach broken pitchfork times since I can't seem to ever remember to stop and buy a new one! 😆
I'm not letting the weather get me down -- that's just Missouri in winter. We are getting some nicer weather this weekend so I might see about hauling out to ride if I can find somewhere that isn't ridiculously muddy. Aside from that, not much going on. Work is going almost suspiciously well, but I suspect that's mostly a natural outcome of finally being in an organization that prioritizes professional development and actually like...rewards high achievers. It's weird, but good. Now to focus on a way to add riding back into the delicate juggling act that is my schedule! And who knows, maybe I'll recover some of my momentum and pick this back up as well 🙃 I'm trying, anyway.

Thank you to anyone who slogged through that rambling, nonsensical, sort of update. If I could, I'd give you a delicious homemade cookie 🍪

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

WW: Rainbow Bridge

Photo by Pam Langrish
We lost our best boy, Rufus York, this morning. I'm sure the many, many dogs I've loved and lost greeted him at the Rainbow Bridge, including his daughter Snickers.
4/16/06 - 1/8/20
Photo by Pam Langrish
Back in his "well-padded" days.

"Helping" my friend with work

Letting the students dress him up at one of his many vet appointments

Last Sunday night, just an average photo of his favorite place - at the bottom of a pile of dachshunds. 
"We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan."
Irving Townsend

Monday, January 6, 2020

New Year, New Me?

Just kidding, I'm gonna be the same old inconsistent blogger in 2020. But I did think I should try to get off to a good start, and I have actually ridden TWICE already in the first week of the new year, so we can start there :)
DH accidentally left his door unlatched one night and Jack had an aisle party.
He very helpfully pooped ON the manure fork though, so there's that. 

Last week Friday I got home from work and the weather wasn't awful, so I grabbed Cinna. I knew before we even made it to the ring that the ride was going to be a shit show, but that's okay!
When the giraffe comes out like that in the cross ties, better hold on 🤣
DH wasn't home from work yet, and believe it or not, I DO have some sense of self-preservation, so I decided a lengthy lunge and then walk-only ride would probably be in our best interest. She was explosive on the lunge line and in hand, but she did settle in and we had some nice work at the walk. Annnnnnd then DH got home and let the big dogs out, and they charged the fence barking. The yard at the new house is a lot closer to the arena, and they hadn't been out in it while I was riding yet. Cinna decided to expediently vacate the area. I managed to stay with her, laughing the whole way. After the dogs went back inside, we did manage to find some relaxation and end on a good note.
Missing some legs here 🤔 

How we felt after the ride 😆
It was still a productive ride, even if not in the way I hoped. She hasn't been in regular work and the weather has been all over the map, so just getting her out was a win in my book!
Robot vacuum cleaner = more time for me to ride while it does my housework for me 🤣 new favorite purchase!
We had more nice weather yesterday, so I managed to meet up with a group of friends for some trail riding! We went to Three Creeks Conservation Area, which DH and I did manage to visit back in 2018. I was a bit underwhelmed on that trip, but we parked at a different trailhead and ended up getting some direction tips from a rider/hiker pair who were on their way out as we were tacking up.
Adventure pony!
I opted to ride in my Ludomar after I saw it being used on horses in the Witcher (which I binged a few weeks ago, lol) and it reminded me how much I liked that saddle -- although I really do need to get a sheepskin cover for it!
Stuck with the trail hackamore though, didn't go full Spanish on the bridle (although I *did* consider it!)

With some better guidance this time, we were able to navigate several of the loops and rode through some of the namesake three creeks. There were a few rocky and hilly sections, and Trigger struggled a bit. He's getting a bit too old for some of the more difficult trails, so next time I may need to see if DH is ready to step up to Ruby and I can bring baby brain Cinna.
Ruby was a little unsure about her new friend Mikey the mule

But she definitely liked her little mini-me, another opinionated little bay mare also named Ruby!

My poofy vest and fleece tied around my waist was an unflattering look lol

Aside from Trigger getting a little tired, we had a lovely time! Good company (several ladies I know through the local GMO), and we couldn't have asked for better weather (50s and sunny!). We ran in to a few hikers, and some with dogs, but everyone was very polite! The equisense tracked about 2 hours 20 minutes, although quite a bit of that was standing still (the group as a whole had some small tack issues that had to be addressed).
All in all a really good start to 2020! Hopefully we can keep up the momentum and I can get the horses fit so lessons can resume :)

Monday, December 23, 2019

2010s Photo Challenge

May as Well Event posted a really fun photo challenge to share one horsey photo for each of the last 10 years. This was SO HARD for me because a) for a significant portion of that time I had 5+ horses and b) I have LITERALLY thousands of photos I love, of just the horses or of me riding, due to my 2010 graduation gift of a nice DSLR and then my penchant for amateur photography and/or demanding that DH photograph even the most basic of rides. So just understand this was agonizing, lol.

Photo by Quadropod Photography
2010 is actually the perfect time to start this challenge, as it's when I bought my first Andalusians, which changed the trajectory of my life forever (no exaggeration, I'm not trying to be melodramatic). I bought them in June, immediately sent Tres off to a trainer, she showed successfully at Andalusian Nationals, and then I took her to a show solo in October. It was... not a great experience in that I had no idea what I was doing and she was still super green, but things really clicked for us in this hunt seat equitation class and I will always love this photo of her (please ignore whatever it is I'm doing, which is clearly not hunt seat equitation 🙈).

Photo by Bob Langrish
In 2011, I didn't ride much. I ended up winning a breeding (which created Cinna) so Tres was bred and then I had a training partnership start Topaz. Things in my professional life were starting to unravel and that occupied most of my mental energies, so riding took a backburner and I played "doting owner" for a while. I still had some great experiences, including watching Topaz at her first dressage show, and then taking both Tres and Topaz up to Chicago to be photographed by Bob Langrish, which was a once in a lifetime experience that I still pinch myself over.

2012 was definitely the year of Cinna. I spent the spring obsessively reading every foaling book I could get my hands on and plying my vet with questions. He was very sweet in dealing with my neurosis, but gently advised me that I wasn't likely to see the birth. Jokes on him, Tres waited for me to get home from work and then foaled at 6:30 pm like a civilized mare, with her head in my arms. In typical type A fashion, I had literally everything imaginable ready in the barn, including a fully charged video camera and the DSLR, so I have many lovely memories of this experience. Except the video isn't fit for public consumption because I got really excited and swore a lot 🤣🤣🤣 bringing up a baby taught me a lot, and I'm looking forward to doing it again someday.

By 2013 my professional life had evened out, so I made it a point to get back in the saddle by taking dressage lessons. The trainer who had started Topaz moved away, so I decided it was time to buck up and ride her myself. I found a great new instructor and we made some great progress before she also, you guessed it, moved away (are you sensing a theme? There's a theme 🙃). I had a lot of really good experiences lessoning and showing, and I learned a ton. I also learned how tolerant Topaz was of my shenanigans, like when I took her to a fun show with a costume class and rode her sidesaddle in my prom dress and tiara while she sported a sparkly pink unicorn horn.

Photo by Timelock Photography
2014 is when I buckled down and got a bit more serious about dressage. I started to feel a little less like an imposter playing dress up on a horse far nicer than she deserved and more like somebody working hard and making slow but steady progress (although I still suffered from crippling show anxiety). We worked really hard and although I know it's not about the ribbons, winning this first blue was an emotional experience (there's a 99% chance I'm crying in this photo while thanking this mare for taking such good care of me).

2015 was the year of point chasing - I decided the only way to get over my crippling show anxiety was to show so much it couldn't possibly be scary anymore -- which worked! By this point Ruby was going reasonably well under saddle, so I spent March-November hauling out to 2+ shows a month, showing each horse (Topaz and Ruby) in at least two classes per show, mostly alone. Trial by fire, if you will. Along the way I made some great new friends, visited a lot of show venues, made great memories, and best of all, I got the anxiety mostly under control. Second best of all, both horses and myself received sweet year end swag 😁🎀🏆 (there needs to be a horse show ribbon emoji!).

In 2016, Cinna turned four and I got a little more serious about putting rides on her. I sat on her a time or two in late 2015, but with Topaz and Ruby occupying most of my time, she sat around a lot in between sessions (which actually works best for her brain, so no complaints). Early in 2016 I made the incredibly heart-rending decision to sell Topaz and Tres, because 2015 really made clear to me that even keeping two horses going was hard with my schedule -- four was just not possible. They deserved more than to be pasture ornaments, and I found the perfect home and was able to sell them together. Of course, selling my two more trained horses meant I was back in the perpetual loop of green horses. Joy! This was also the year I started blogging, after a few months of obsessively following a few blogs and deciding that people in the blogosphere were pretty dang cool.

Photo by Susan Horner
By 2017 I had burned myself out a bit from the show ring, so I focused a little more on getting out of the arena, whether it was trail riding or hunter paces. I branched out in the blogs I was following and I got pretty interested in the idea of dabbling in endurance with Ruby -- unfortunately that never went anywhere, because I struggled to find someone local to help me figure out the first go at it, and all of the rides I could find were 5+ hours away, typically over terrain that required shoes. But while I was still toying with the idea, Ruby and I logged MANY miles on the trails at the old barn (god I miss those trails 😭😭) and I grew to appreciate her sense of adventure on a whole new level. We found our happy place that year motoring along the trails. If I'm keeping track of years correctly (I may not be at this point lol), I did resume lessons with another instructor ... Do you know where this is going? She moved away 🤷‍♀️

In 2018, I was determined to start doing more with Cinna. I had fallen into an endless loop of never taking her anywhere because she was unpredictable and quite a bit more excitable than Ruby had been (Ruby was literally PERFECT even as a green baby so she kind of ruined all other babies for me 🤣) and then in turn she was unpredictable and excitable simply because she hadn't had enough experience off the farm. My favorite event was a 2-day Centered Riding clinic -- she came out the first day a TOTAL maniac, but settled by the end of the ride. The second day she came out exactly where we'd left off and we were able to be so productive. The clinician commented on it several times, we basically won 'most improved' (because to start with I couldn't get her to stop whirling like a top hahaha). I also connected with a great instructor who meshed with my "lesson when my footing is rideable and I have $" philosophy - while I'd love to have regularly scheduled lessons (monthly, weekly, or even biweekly would be a DREAM), I'm still sorting out where that can fit both in my life and in my budget.

2019 was not a great year for me in terms of riding. We had horrific weather winter into spring and by the time it settled down, we had started building a house, which occupied most of my time, thoughts, and dollar bills 😆 I did sneak in a few rides here and there, but steady progress was nowhere to be found. Despite that, I got a lot of enjoyment out of my daily interactions with the horses, and really savored the few riding experiences I did have. This photo was from winter storm Gia, which dumped 24+ inches of snow on us over a weekend in January. As a contrast to how difficult that made chores, I made it a point to pull Ruby our for an impromptu bareback snow photoshoot in my front pasture. As always, she was up for anything and I think this photo just captured the sheer joy I get from calling these magnificent creatures mine. Even without the riding, they still enrich my life in immeasurable ways.

This was a fun little stroll down memory lane, and it makes me so excited for 2020!  Now that the house is done and my lesson budget is a bit more flush (shout out great new job! 🤗), I'm hoping that 2020 is full of education and growth. And many more beautiful photos!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Worth the Wait

So in the house building process, there were a few small areas that I really wanted to splurge on. One of those areas was the backsplash (below) which I am still completely obsessed with and it makes me SO HAPPY every time I'm in my kitchen (which I also adore because there's so much space and storage and there's a DISHWASHER!).
Also the under cabinet lighting we went with turned out pretty sweet!
Another splurge was my glass panel closet sliders, which turned out so well and everyone who has visited has complimented :) but I've been keeping another splurge a secret - handmade wrought iron horse head door handles for those doors!
During the building process, FB definitely knew from my frequent Google searches that I was building a house and starting targeting advertising to me with fixtures and furnishings and whatnot. There's a really funny story with that when FB decided I was interested in octopi and wouldn't stop showing me octopus rugs and mirrors and tables and door pulls (there must be people out there REALLY serious about octopi lol), but some of the other targeted marketing was really on point -- including when it showed me an ad for these handles on Etsy.
I of course immediately fell in love with them, but they were spendy. I went back and forth on them, and I didn't actually decide to go ahead and buy them out of pocket until the week before we moved in - we were under budget on the house and I had just started getting the new higher paychecks from my promotion and I decided that this was something worth treating myself on 😁 #noregrets

I ordered them the last week of September and they took 6-8 weeks to be made and then another 3 weeks coming here on the slow boat from Russia. They showed up last Friday and it was actually a very busy day, so despite my inclination to install them IMMEDIATELY, I had to wait until Saturday night haha.

Voila! I love them, and they're the perfect finishing touches for the house!

I really thought we were done with the construction posts, but since things got wrapped up so quickly and under budget, and also DH and I both got pretty big promotions this year which definitely helps our overall household budget, we decided to go ahead and build a garage :) that was on the 5 year timeline, but we might as well go ahead and get it done now while the whole place is already torn up from the other construction haha. So that might make an appearance in future posts!