Sunday, March 15, 2015

F*&%k Winter. No, Seriously, F*&%k Winter. C'mon Spring!

No riding.  It's too cold and I already have my pajamas on.
Ok, so yeah, I know winter's almost over and Spring is coming and we had Daylight Savings Time and the days are longer and blah blah blah.  (Spring ahead, my ass. All I know is I lost an hour of sleep that day.)  Almost over doesn't quite cut it for me, because saying something is "almost over" means it is still here.

Why am I in such a strop?  Because winter is not quite gone, it's still cold, and for the umpteenth time I damn near killed myself trying to get out of my Under Armour. You know what I mean, the base layer you wear in the vain hope that you won't freeze your ass off. . You come home from a ride and you're all sweaty and you have to be a flipping contortionist to get out of  your sweaty Under Armour.  It's bad enough trying to get into it in the first place, but getting out of sweaty Under Armour requires the skills of a Chinese acrobat. Seriously, when I try to take my winter weight turtle neck off the neck hole is so tight I feel like I'm trying to hang myself.  Inevitably during the struggle to get my top off I trip on something and go down like a box of rocks. So then I am writhing on the floor, still trying to extricate myself  and swearing like a sailor. Cue the inevitable trip to the chiropractor, where I feel like I need to make something up because saying I threw my back out while trying to get out of my workout gear just sounds wrong.

My winter riding apparel usually consists of a base layer (Under Armour or something similar) and then a long sleeve technical shirt and a 1/4 zip pullover, which is usually made of fleece or technical fabric. Which brings me to another issue.  Why does every piece of technical/workout clothing make a mildly-fluffy middle aged women look like the Michelin tire dude?? Seriously?  We're trying to deal with work, the kids' schedules and the onset of hot flashes and hormone changes and you want to piss us off by making us feel fat?  You know one day we're gonna crack and force those skinny stick figures who design this stuff to eat dozens of donuts. An hour.  For a month.  And then we'll make them wedge
 
Not a good look.
 
Another issue riders who spend their winters in the frozen tundra face is shrinkage. As in, when you put on a base layer under breeches and a top, it feels like everything is a little bit smaller.  If you are already shoehorning yourself into a pair of breeches that are a size smaller than you really need (because dammit, you're not going to go out and buy the bigger size, you'll duct tape your mouth shut before you'll go there) this can be difficult.  As in, Chinese acrobat difficult.
 
For example, ever try to go to the bathroom with 2 layers on?  You can't wait until the situation is dire, because you know it's gonna take five minutes to wiggle out of your layers.  Then when you're done, you have to wiggle struggle back into them. This is why I hate wearing side-zip breeches in the winter. Everything's tight, so I have to suck my stomach in. Then I have to turn to the left side while trying to use my arm to push my boob out of the way so I can see the hooks and zipper.  Then comes the suck-in-shimmy-curse-pull-say-heartfelt-prayer-last-yank-before-you-pass-out maneuver and for a moment I'm giddy with success.  That lasts for a split second until I realize that I've given myself the mother of all wedgies and my underwear is halfway up my digestive track.  Sigh.
 
Then there's the whole temperature management thing that happens when getting the horse ready.  You curry, you brush, you comb, and suddenly things are getting a bit warm, so you take off your jacket.  You're fine for a few minutes until you actually get on the horse.  While warming up at the walk you start to feel the chill again, so you put your jacket back on.  That doesn't last long, because after five minutes of trotting you're breaking a sweat.  Off comes the jacket. Although it's never that easy. Nope, because you try to pull the jacket sleeve off over the glove, where it gets stuck. So then you're holding the reins with one hand while trying to pull the glove off with your teeth.  You get the first arm off and proceed to the second one.  This involves additional contortions where you then find yourself blinded because you've gotten your jacket caught over your head and the other sleeve is stuck on your glove and you're pulling and swearing and praying to God that your horse doesn't decide to spook at the cooler that's laying over the edge of the arena wall.  And now you've given yourself another wedgie.
 
So you've groomed and ridden and groomed again and where does that leave you?  If you're me, on the floor of my bedroom, kicking and pulling and yanking and cursing as I try to remove my sweaty Under Amour/sausage casing.  So yeah, I'm looking forward to Spring, mostly because my breeches will fit better without the extra layer underneath and I can indulge in the fantasy that I've lost weight.
 
 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Remembering "The Other Sugar"

The "other Sugar." Such a pretty girl.
Sometimes things come out of the blue and completely throw you for a loop.  I felt that way tonight when I opened Facebook and read a friend's post.  She'd written that her mare had sustained a serious injury and had been euthanized.  I'd be devastated to learn that any friend had lost their beloved horse, but this one?  This one hit very close to home.

My friend is someone I'd met through A Work In Progress, a fellow blogger who was originally from New Jersey and, in one of those bizarre coincidences life will throw at you, also had a mare named Sugar.  Through our blogs and Facebook friendship we kept up with each other's equestrian ups and downs, and shared news of our exploits with our Sugars.  We even met up when I was on a business trip to her area, and I got to meet her Sugar, a gorgeously voluptuous woman of color. (That was another thing we had in common, lusciously curvaceous mares!)  When I spoke of my friend and her mare to my family, I spoke of them as "the other Sugar and her Mom."



When my Sugar left this earth, my friend was one of the first to reach out to me, and she supported me from afar with words of support, both on the blog and on Facebook.  A few years ago I'd had a saddle pad trimmed with a pink and green polka dot ribbon and embroidered with Sugar's name.  After I lost the Sainted Mare, I wrapped that up for my friend and sent it up to her, thinking it would look wonderful on her "pinto pony" and that maybe it would be a way to keep the "Sugar connection" going.

A friend of hers left a post on my friend's Facebook page, and I think it does a better job of saying what I mean to say better than any words I can think up on my own.  My heart goes out to you, my friend.  I'd like to think that both our Sugars are up there together, comparing notes and swapping stories about their crazy mothers.

If you bury her in this spot, the secret of which you must already have, she will come to you when you call – come to you over the far dim pastures of death, and down the remembered paths to your side again. And though you ride other living horses through life, they shall not shy at her or resent her coming, for she is yours and she belongs there.

 People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by her footfall, who hear no nicker pitched too fine for insensitive ears. people who may never really love a horse, smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth knowing.
The one place to bury a horse is in the heart of her mistress.


Author Unknown

Godspeed, Sugar.  You will be missed.




Thursday, February 26, 2015

Putting the Cart Before The Horse. Literally.

My new wheels
So I just looked at the date and it's been an age and a day since my last post. Yikes.  Guess there's a
lot to catch up on.  So let me get started...

I still don't own a horse.  Just haven't found the right one. That being said, I've been super fortunate to be able to ride a horse named Presidential, who I call Mooch.  Mooch was coming off an injury and needed to have an easier job than his previous gig as a Big Eq horse, and I get to ride him until for a while until he goes back to that job.  Sadly, I don't have the bank account to keep him, but I'm enjoying the heck out of him while I have him.  He's a big ol' love bug, and wants to be best friends with everyone he sees.  I baby talk the heck out of him, which is something I never did with Sug, but it works with him and he seems to like it.  I think he really wants to be a Momma's boy, and he has an endearing tendency to take the the cuff of my sleeve into his mouth and suck on it.

The kids are still riding Tiki, the lovely grey boy we lease from my trainer.  He's wonderful, so full of personality and smart enough to do calculus.  He's quirky: He'll jump anything you put in front of him if you put him to the middle of it, but he's petrified of cavaletti.  I love that he has all the buttons, but that he's not push button, so the kids do really need to ride him.  Here's some video from the kids' first show on him.  I think you'll be able to see why he's such a treasure.

Noah and Tiki

Sophie and Tiki

So, the big news...I bought a trailer.  Yep.  You read that right.  I bought a trailer.  Didn't have a horse of my own or a truck to pull the trailer with, but I bought a trailer. When I told my good friend Tara, she laughed and said, "You literally put the cart before the horse!" I hadn't looked at it that way until she said it, but yep, that's what I'd done.

I now had a trailer, and needed something to pull it with.  Off I went to find something big enough to pull a trailer, yet functional enough to work as my business vehicle and my mom-mobile as I ferry the kids to and fro.  Managed to find a used SUV that fit the bill, and now all I need to do is take it to a trailer dealer to kit it up few things and I should be in business.  Well, at least in business enough to learn how to drive the thing.  Which should prove to be interesting.

I have to admit I'm a bit nervous about the whole thing, but determined as well.  This was something I always wanted to do when I had Sug, as I wanted to have the ability take off and do clinics and trail paces or just go wherever we wanted to whenever we wanted to.  I have wonderful friends who were happy to trailer me when they could, but you know, sometimes schedules don't align and it wasn't fair to them to bum a ride all the time. I suppose I could have gone with using a shipper, butI really just wanted to be 100% independent. Hence the trailer. I regret that I didn't do it when I had Sug, so I am doing it now.

Which basically means that if you're on the roads in NJ, well, you might just want to be extra careful around any horse trailers you run across. Just saying.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Horse People Aren't Like Other People...

This was originally posted on Horse Junkies United, but I figured I'd post it here as well.
 
Rearing Horse and Rider
When horse people talk with each other, we often find ourselves laughing at how we view the world versus how non-equestrians see it. For instance, other people see the spacers in sidewalks, we see them as cavaletti. Non-equestrians note the mile markers on highways, we count the number of "strides" between them.  Other people simply get on the moving sidewalks at airports.  When my son misjudged how to get on one, he turned to me and said he "chipped in." Most people politely wait for others to move out of their way.  Equestrians poke the person in the side, cluck, and say "Over!" (I'm not joking. One day while traveling for business I absent-mindedly did that to someone in the TSA line at La Guardia. The poor man I poked was so shocked he just grabbed his stuff and hurried off.)
 
I was reminded of this when my son was on a school trip in New York touring the Body Worlds exhibition in Discovery Times Square.  The exhibit is composed of preserved human and animal bodies and body parts that are preserved using a technique called plastination, which shows the inner structures, muscles and tendons and ligaments, as they would appear without the covering of skin. Pretty cool, seeing how everything under the skin works while performing a task, right? While other kids were noticing the various muscle groups in action, my son saw something completely different. He sent me the picture to the right in a text with the comment, "His heels aren't down."
 
Later in the day he sent a text from the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center: "Watching the skaters at Rockefeller Center.  They look like they're doing spiral-ins and leg yields. Excellent crossover of the hind legs."  That little observation caused me to spit my coffee all over my laptop keyboard.
 
A few days later we found ourselves at our favorite Christmas tree farm for our annual evergreen sacrifice to the gods of Yule (Or Amazon, depending on your viewpoint.)  Now, anyone else might look at discarded evergreen branches as garbage.  Others might look at them as greenery for wreaths or garland.  An equestrian, however, sees nothing quite so mundane.  Nope, an equestrian sees that pile of evergreen branches as a brush jump, specifically fence #1 in the Cherryville Farms 2014 Hunter Derby.
 
 
 

 And of course, there are the hay bales, which to most people might appear to be outlining the parking area for Christmas tree patrons, but to an equestrian is clearly fence #2.
 
 
Yep.  We're equestrians.  When your viewfinder in life is between two furry ears, you just see things differently.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Giving Back Update...

Just wanted to give a little status report on this so you all don't think I'm slacking over here.  So far I've donated every day this month.  Well, if I'm being honest, while I was traveling for business it got difficult so on several days I've had to donate a couple of times to make up.

This isn't a complete list (just what I can remember off the top of my head), but so far I've given to:

Mane Stream Therapeutic Riding
New Vocations
Second Call
CANTER MidAtlantic
Water.org
Land Conservancy of NJ
St. Jude's
Make A Wish
Midwest Horse Welfare
Victory Reins
Nowzad Dogs
A Cup of Joe for a Joe
Wounded Warriors
A Horse Tale
Mylestone Equine Rescue

So there you have it.  Just wanted to let y'all know I'm keeping my promise. :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Giving Back...

Luck is kindof a relative thing.  (Yes, Mom, if you're reading, I know kindof is not a real word!)  What might seem an unlucky negative at first might actually wind up being a very lucky good thing in retrospect.  The only example I can think of right now is missing your flight only to find out later that the plane crashed.  Okay, that's maybe a little extreme but that's all I can come up with and since I actually should be working right now I'm gonna run with it.

My point here is that it's all too easy to get into the mindset where you think your luck's been crap, you've been dealt a few unlucky breaks, or you're due for some good luck.  There's no judgment here, we all do it, right?  Just a fact of life.  It's often too easy to focus on the crap that's gone wrong instead of the stuff that's gone right.

I've been guilty of that.  Yeah, the second half of 2014 has not been blissful, to say the least, but you know what?  It could have been worse.  I'm reminded of that every time I read the paper, watch the news, or talk to people and find out what kind of crap they're dealing with.  So, instead of focusing on the bad luck, I'm gonna try to make some good luck.

We just had Thanksgiving, the holiday where we give thanks for what we have.  We are now heading into the season of giving, or the season of credit card debt, however you want to look at it.  With that in mind, and as a means of recognizing how truly lucky I am and honoring that, I am donating to a worthy cause every day during the month of December.  The donation may not be much, because I'm no Bill Gates (seriously, if I was, I probably wouldn't be writing this blog post, I'd be out playing with my 500 horses on my farm the size of Long Island) but every little bit helps, right? 

I'm asking for your help.  Not to give money, but to offer a suggestion if you know of a worthy cause, one where the money actually goes those who need it.  Doesn't have to be horse related.  I mean, there are a lot of well known organizations that I can think of to donate to - RED, Habitat for Humanity, Water.org,  and Heifer International come to mind ( I cannot WAIT to say I've given someone a goat!)  However, I'd like to support some of the organizations close to the hearts of the folks who have supported me (that'd include you guys, just in case you missed that).  So if you know of something, please pass it along in the COMMENT section below.  I can't guarantee I'll be donating to every organization that's suggested, but it would be good to know of as many options as possible.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The New Normal...

Meet Mooch
Good grief, it's been a while since I've posted!  Good thing y'all aren't holding your breath waiting for me!

It seems we left off with the kids and Tiki.  They are really enjoying getting to know him, as he's a way different horse than we've all been used to.  Sug and James were characters, but of a quieter sort, if that makes sense.  If he were a person, Tiki would be the one who walked into a room and everyone knew it immediately. He'd sit down next to you and engage you in a conversation about your feelings on Eastern mysticism, ask you to go skydiving the next day, and invite you to a class on painting watercolors the next.  

We've also found a pony for me to play with.  His name is Presidential, and he's a great big bay lovebug. I'm not 100% sure of his story, other than he was a Big Eq horse.  I think he had a small injury and needed to be brought back with a lighter job until he's ready to go back to 3' 6" land, but I may be wrong.  All I know is I am super lucky to have him for however long that turns out to be.

He's a big softie, and loves kisses and cuddles.  I've taken to calling him Mooch, as he reminds me of a guy I used to know; he was a big ol' football player, nicest guy you ever met, always had a small for everyone.  Not the brightest crayon in the box, but not the dullest.  Just an all-around good doobie.  And that's what this big bay boy is, so I'm calling him Mooch.  Or Moochie.  Or Smoochie-Moochie, because he likes to give kisses.  Seriously, I can't help but baby talk him, he's such a big mush.

Making out with Mooch
He's wonderful to ride, so well trained.  I feel a bit sorry for him, actually, as he's used to some pretty good riders giving him some pretty precise clues, and carting me around must be like going back to kindergarten for him.  He's such a love though, he tries his best to give me what he thinks I want.  The other night in a lesson my trainer asked me to drop my stirrups and sit the trot.  Well, as you know I've not been riding for a while, and my fitness level was pretty nonexistent to start with.  So basically I was bouncing all around up there like a total hot mess, and he was wiggling all over the place underneath me.  I mean wiggling like he had ants in his pants, which wasn't helping my efforts to sit the trot.  It took me a couple minutes to realize what was happening: He was desperately trying to figure out what I wanted, bless his heart!  He was giving me shoulder-in, haunches in, haunches out, everything he could think of in response to my rapidly shifting weight.

So Mooch is my new babysitter, and I'm so lucky to be able to experience what this wonderful boy has to offer.  That being said, it does feel weird and somewhat disconcerting to have a new partner.  On one hand it feels so good to be able to ride, to be able to groom and play with and just  "be" with a horse of my "own."  On the other hand, it's different, as I'm learning a whole new language as he and I navigate our way towards a partnership, and that language has a lot of different vocabulary.   And I miss the easiness of the old language, but at the same time enjoying learning the new one. Does that make any sense?

So that's where we're at.  Back to normal, or, perhaps more accurately, the new normal.

Mooch loves his treats!