Monday, October 26, 2015

I Bought The Lettuce!

Such a sweet-faced boy.
A week or so I wrote a post I called "Lettuce" about a horse I was considering buying.  In a nutshell, it was about my tendency to overthink/ overanalyze damn near everything, which, instead of helping me make decisions, actually paralyzes me and leaves me spinning in circles of doubt. (Suzanne Adams, if you're reading this, may I join the Convicted Over Thinker's club?)  The post was called "Lettuce" because a fellow crazy-horse-girl friend saw the colossal amount of time it took me to decide on a head of lettuce and totally understood why I would analyze something like buying my next horse eighteen ways 'til Sunday. 

So many wonderful readers commented and offered words of advice and encouragement that moved me closer and closer to making the decision. A longtime reader of AWIP, who goes by the name of Fiberchick, said something that galvanized me and gave me the impetus to finally do the deed. She said, "Buy that lettuce and enjoy the salad!"

So I bought the lettuce. His name is Indy, also known as LJS Endeavor if you want to get fancy. He's a 7 year old grey Oldenburg gelding, and he's just a big bundle of sweetness. He is the equine version of a big, fluffy puppy, he loves people, and he looks at everyone with an adorable little boy face that seems to say, "Hi! I'm Indy! Who are you? Wanna play?" 

He's got a great brain, which is what really attracted me to him in the first place.  When I rode him the first time a pony came running up behind us, bucking and snorting.  Indy just cocked an ear.  One time I rode him in the outdoor ring on a cold, windy, drizzly day. No issue for Indy, he couldn't have cared less. One day after a lesson I took him away from the ring and the other horses for a walk in the fields.  He went on the buckle, looking around with interest but no apprehension. He didn't care one bit that he'd left the rest of the herd behind. 

The biggest selling point, however, was the day  I took a lesson on him and rode abysmally.  I mean I was galactically awful. I couldn't find a distance even if I'd had a GPS. That poor horse had to get us out of one jam after the other, and he did it without a single complaint.  No snarkiness, no grudges, although God knows either would have been justified.  He just continued on to the next fence.

Hi!  Is it playtime?

There's a nearby horse park that I love riding at which has lots of trails and cross country jumps.  Indy's been there, done that, and gone through the water complex, which was another huge point in his favor.  I love doing hunter paces, and I'm looking forward to going through water without a half-hour discussion first.  God bless the Sainted Mare's heart, she did NOT like the water.

I've been concerned that when I did get my next horse that I'd do the comparison thing.  I've stopped worrying about that.  This is going to be such a different journey, there won't be any grounds for comparison.  I'm thinking it's like my kids. They're both wonderful kids, but they are vastly different personalities, and comparing them to each other would be pointless.  Good brains aside, Indy and Sug couldn't be more different, and that's going to be the fun part of this journey.  Sug was 12 when I got her, and most of her job was  teaching me.  Indy is younger, and while I will definitely be learning from him, I'm thinking I'll be teaching him as well.  I always felt Sug and I were peers.  I have the sense that in this new partnership I'll be more of the Mom figure. And I'm totally good with that.

So, to Fiberchick, Karley, Anonymous, Lindsay,  Liz, SprinklerBandit, Marissa, thestorysofarequestrian, and Kitty Kat, a huge thanks for your encouragement and support!

I bought the lettuce. And now I'm going to enjoy the salad. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Getting My Goat...

The other day Noah and I were driving down to the barn.  Noah has his driver's permit and was behind the wheel, so for a good portion of the ride any conversation was limited to my observations about his efforts.

Once I'd lowered my heart rate and breathing and felt sufficiently confident that we were not likely to die, we started talking about less life and death stuff, like how our weeks were going.  Noah is very low-content, and will never use 12 words if 2 will suffice, so his recap took about a minute and a half.  It went something like this, "I went to school; it sucked. I had cross country practice and two meets.  I lowered my time in both.  I have to work Friday night." 

My recap was a bit more long-winded. (I am a high content person.  When I can say something in 2 words, I'll still use 50.  I blathered on about work, the amount of travel I had to do, the questionable decisions being made by my superiors, whether or not I should buy the horse I was considering, my frustration with my health issues, what to make for dinner that night, and all the assorted flotsam and jetsam rolling about in my overactive little brain.

(Note: If you want someone to listen to your troubles and pat your hand and say "Poor baby" Noah is not your guy.  Emotion is not his thing.  His response is to an emotional outpouring is normally more likely to be something between Mr. Spock's "That is highly illogical" or "Suck it up, Buttercup.")

After a while I stopped my verbal vomiting and the car was quiet.  Out of nowhere, Noah says,
"You should get a goat."

HUH????  Where the actual hell did that come from?? I had no earthly idea where the kid was coming from.  My inner dialogue went something like this, "A goat?  Why a goat? I have nowhere to put a goat. What did I say that made him think I needed a goat? What kind of goat? A Nubian? Australian mini? Should I get a bunch of goats and start an artisanal goat cheese business?"  Aaaaannnnnnddddd it's off! My brain, perpetually on overdrive.

After that little mental meandering I managed to circle back to ask him why he thought I needed a goat.

"You know how some trainers get goats to calm high-strung horses? Like thoroughbreds at the track? You need a goat."

Anyone know where I can get a goat?

Friday, October 16, 2015

My Happy Place...

You know, the whole riding thing is wonderful. The feeling that you and your horse are communicating and working together toward a common goal, or just out there having fun together.

I love riding, but sometimes I think I love just hanging out with the horses more. I love the grooming, the grazing, and just standing there with them in their stalls and breathing them in. I like making them feel good by massaging them and scratching their itchies. Just seeing them enjoying something makes me happy.

I absolutely adore Tiki, the horse the kids ride. He's just such a special boy, and one of the most social horses I've ever met. I could hang out and play with him all day and not be bored. This is a video my son took the other night, and I look at it whenever I'm stressed or in need of a smile.

Because how can you not smile at this?

Sunday, October 11, 2015


I've been looking for a new horse.  I mean, I've been looking for a while now, but before it was more like a kinda/sorta/maybe it'll happen/waiting for the right one to fall in my lap (not literally, I bruise like a peach). I still think it'll happen as it's supposed to happen, but am now at the point where I'm proactively putting myself in a place to make it happen.

That being said, I haven't wanted to blog about it.  It just feels weird. Maybe it's because it feels like I'm cheating on Sug by taking a step that concretely places her in the past. Yes, I do know she is in the past, but there's a difference between accepting a fact and beating your head against the brick wall of it.

Maybe it's because I don't want to announce anything until it's a done deal. Maybe because blogging about it makes it real. Maybe I'm afraid that people will say something negative.  I'm not really sure what the heck my issue is, exactly, but that's probably the short list.

So I've found a horse that I like a lot.  He's in my barn, and I've had the opportunity to lesson on him and hack on him several times.  He's young, and very green in many ways, but he has a fabulous brain and a very good sense of humor, which is the main characteristic I'm looking for.  He's great in the ring, willingly jumps anything you point him at and doesn't hold a grudge if you botch the distance, hit him in the mouth, or lose balance and crash down on his back. He's very happy to hack out in the field or go on trails.  And he loves people, and clearly want to be someone's pocket pony.

That being said, I've been over-analyzing things to death, which is what I do.  About everything. Often to the point of paralysis. I'm doing that now about this horse.

A friend of mine has been a wonderful sounding board throughout this whole process, listening as I go through my feelings:  I'm used to older, more educated horses; would I be able to teach a young horse?  I'm in a good program and would have the support of my trainer and barn manager and others to guide me through the process, so that's a plus.  Would I have the patience to take my time and teach him?  I've been pretty good with my kids, but a 1200lb child is a bit different.  I mean, I'm used to getting on and being able to do a leg yield.  Will I have the patience and willingness to teach a horse how to do a leg yield?  Or will I get frustrated easily because I'm trying to do a leg yield and he's not understanding what I'm asking?

My concerns are more about my abilities, or lack thereof, not about the horse's.  I want us both to be happy together, and we won't be if one of us is constantly worried or frustrated.  If I get him I want to raise him right, to be a good parent.  Make sense?  I mean, we all make mistakes as parents, but to my way of thinking the goal is to raise kids that needed less therapy than you did.  I don't want him needing the equine equivalent of Dr. Phil.

I like this young boy a great deal, but haven't yet fallen in love with him.  And part of me has bought in to the whole romance novel/Hallmark "You'll know when it's right" crapola.  However, I did not love Sug when I first tried her.  It was more of a "She's nice, very forgiving, this could be a good match for a year's lease."  I didn't fall in love with her immediately, and even after I leased her for a year and loved her to pieces I waffled about buying her. I worried that she was older and that I wouldn't have time with her, that she'd be plagued with senior horse issues and need a fortune in management, yadda yadda yadda.  I mean, if I waffled about her, a horse I'd had and loved for the better part of a year, it's okay to waffle about a horse I've only really known a couple weeks, right?

So I've gone on and on about this with my friend.  Most recently we discussed the topic while we were at the local grocery store picking up items we needed for dinner.  We were in the produce aisle, and I was trying to choose the right bag of romaine hearts.  My daughter likes romaine hearts, as do I, but I don't like my lettuce too leafy.  I like it crisp.  So finding the bag with the right ratio of green leafy stuff to crispy bits meant I picked up damn near every bag to examine it to the nth degree.  The entire lettuce-choosing process took about 10 minutes, during which time my friend stood patiently, taking it all in.

I was still going back and forth about this horse when we were back at the house preparing dinner, dissecting every tidbit of info I knew about this sweet boy from every angle I possibly could.  Finally I just looked at my friend and said something along the lines of, "I just don't know what to do.  I suck at making quick decisions."

"I know," she said.  "I've seen you buy lettuce."

Well, there you have it.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Lack of Support...

Have you ever left the house and realized you forgot to put on deodorant?  Or brush your
teeth? You're on your way to work and BAM!  All of a sudden it hits you and you think, "Aaaack, I forgot my deodorant! I'm going to be the malodorous person in the office and co-workers will be forced to mouth-breathe around me!"  Horrifying, yes?

Something like that happened to me on the way to the barn the other night.  I was driving and had an itch, so I reached over to my right shoulder to scratch it.  My fingers caught on my bra strap and the strap gave way much too easily.  "That's not right,' I thought, and tugged on the strap again.  Again, it stretched with little effort.  Ruh-roh!  Not good!  I realized I'd forgotten to change out of the comfy sleep bra I sometimes lounge around the house in and in to a heavy-duty sports bra.  This is an error of GALACTICAL proprtions when you're sporting a huge set of fun-bags and need a bra with the kind of support that could hold up the Brooklyn Bridge.

My brain went into overdrive mode, because I was supposed to have a lesson and there was NO WAY I could do that given the level of boobage bounce that would undoubtedly ensue.  I needed a solution, and I needed it fast. WHAT could I possibly use??  My brain remained stuck on that loop for a while until the solution finally presented itself.  Polo wraps!  I would bind myself with polo wraps!!

So when I got to the barn I ran to my barn manager to tell him the situation and that I would be a bit late for my lesson and why.  (Needless to say he laughed his ass off.)  Then I ran to my trunk and grabbed 4 polo wraps.  I needed to do barn laundry, so I had one pair of black polos and one set of the pink ones I'd used on a breast cancer ride I'd done a while back.  Okay, no biggie, no one would see. I holed up in the bathroom and proceeded to go to work.

I did the first black wrap in criss-cross fashion across my chest, thinking Lift and Separate, kinda like the old Cross Your Heart bras. Wrap 2 started with another criss-cross, then I wrapped the polo around the Girls to hold them down against my chest. You know, Cross Your Heart meets compression sports bra. It was a good start, but not sturdy enough.  Clearly sterner measures needed to be taken.

So I used one of the pink polos to do another round of binding. I was starting to feel as if I were engaged in an act of self-mummification.  After that I still needed a bit more support so I finished with another criss-cross/bind maneuver.

As I was out of polos, four wraps would have to do the trick.  "Better than nothing," I thought  as I put my shirt on and looked at myself in the mirror.  First off, I looked like a giant box of Good & Plenty licorice candies. I also looked like I was wearing my cross-country protective vest under my shirt.  Definitely not a good look. 

All in all, my hastily constructed pseudo-bra did the job admirably.  I'll admit I had visions of the wraps coming undone during the sitting trot and trailing out from behind like a ridiculously long trail of toilet paper. I'm happy to say they held together, even through the jumping part of the lesson. 

It's not like I'd ever recommend polo-mummifying your boobs over wearing the right bra, but if you ever find yourself in a bind (pun intended) the polo wrap thing is a viable alternative.

You're welcome.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Adventures in Learning to Trailer: The Maiden Voyage of the HMS Valium

RJ is not convinced this is a good idea.
If you've followed this blog you may remember that sometime back in February I bought a trailer. You can read about it here.
I didn't have a horse, but bought a trailer anyway, because, well, why the heck not?

Once the weather turned nicer and the glacier that had formed over the trailer had melted (thank you, Mother Nature!) I began with the business of learning to actually drive the thing.  Because taking a couple practice runs with an empty trailer before putting an actual horse in it seemed like a pretty reasonable course of action. If you're so inclined, you can read about some of those adventures here. And here.

This weekend I decided it was time to take my first trip with an actual horse in the trailer.  Mary-Ann, my friend who'd bravely accompanied me on my first test drive, asked if I wanted to meet her at a local park where there are miles of trails and cross-country obstacles.  Sounded like a good idea, so we settled on a time and I went into planning mode.  Because that's what I do.

I made a list of what I needed to do to get the trailer ready.  I made a list of what I needed to have in the trailer.  I made a list of what I needed to do with RJ before putting him in the trailer. Then I checked my copy of Cherry Hill's Trailering Your Horse to see if I was forgetting anything.  Then I went to the barn and did everything on my lists.  My son was amazed by all the effort I was putting in for, as he put it, "a 10 minute drive."  He also jokingly suggested that I should consider taking a valium before setting out. BAM!  The trailer now had a name, the HMS Valium. (We name our vehicles in this family. Doesn't everybody?)

I got to the barn about an hour and a half before I was supposed to leave, as I am paranoid and figured that there would be a million last minute details to take care of.  I hooked up, checked and re-checked and re-re-checked things, and then loaded RJ.  RJ, bless his heart, looked highly skeptical of the morning's goings on but climbed willingly into the trailer despite any misgivings he may have had.  I'll admit I was nervous - the 10 minute drive has a really big hill with a twisty-turny road. I was having visions that my truck wouldn't  make it up, that the brakes would go on the way back down, or that my driving would be so bad that I'd get to the park and find RJ with multiple wounds from scrambling to stay on his feet.

Am I a bit neurotic?  Yes.  Without a doubt.  To ease my neuroses I turned to my phone and searched through my music until I found something inspirational.  Normally I'd go for a little AC/DC, but in this case I chose Wagner.  Yep, you read that right. Wagner.  I chose his Ride of the Valkyries, because if that doesn't give you a kick-ass "ride off to battle feeling" nothing will. Plus, I figured if I was pretending to be a Valkyrie I wouldn't be all in a twitter about driving the damn trailer. So off I went, the strains of Wagner wafting out of my open windows. I got some odd looks as I went through town, and a few more when I pulled into the park, but none of that mattered as the first part of the journey had gone without a hitch.

Thing went easily on the way home as well.  The parking area at the park is large, and there is rarely any need to back up.  All I needed to do was drive in and do a big loop so I was facing the drive out, and then pull out straight to leave.  Easy-peasy. When we left for the park the road was wide open and I had no cars following me on the way over.  On the way back it looked as though I had a funeral procession behind me, there were so many cars. I didn't let it bother me,  I just concentrated on keeping things slow and smooth for RJ. The only hiccup came when I turned on the small country road the farm is on.  The road is narrow, and there are some blind turns and rises. I  around a bend and was faced with 2 aged bikers in full Tour de France regalia teeter-tottering along as they tried to make it up the slight incline.

Seriously, these two were 75 if they were a day, so God bless 'em for doing what they were doing, but they gave me fits!  They were riding one-third of the way into the road, just wobbling away, and clearly had no idea I was behind them.  I was trying to figure out if I should just stay behind them and risk getting plowed into  if a car came around the blind bend. Or if I tried to pass and accidentally whacked one or both of them with the trailer and send them hurtling into the roadside brush.  Then I thought maybe I should hit the horn and alert them to my presence so they could move over and let me pass.  Then I worried that beeping might cause one or both of them to drop dead of a heart attack. So I stayed behind them, inching along at snail's pace, hoping they didn't stroke out in the 100 yards it was going to take to get to the driveway.

I'm happy to say the HMS Valium and her crew arrived home safely (as, I'm hoping, the septuagenarian bikers did as well). I was feeling such a sense of accomplishment I took my daughter over to our favorite local restaurant for a little celebration. Driving one's horse in a trailer may be no big deal to some, and I'm guessing those folks may have been doing it for so long they don't remember what the first time felt like.  To me it felt a bit like when I had my first child and had to take him home from the hospital.  Number one, I was amazed that anyone was stupid enough to trust me with this poor innocent soul's life. Number two, I was suddenly aware of all that can go wrong on the road.  Driving suddenly became WAY. MORE. SERIOUS.

So there you have it.  Trip #1 is in the books, and I'm looking forward to many more successful outings in the future.

Time to celebrate!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

One Year Later...

My sweet girl.
Saturday, August 1st marked the one-year anniversary of losing Sugar.  I could feel anxiety creeping
in as we inexorably moved toward that particular square on the calendar.  I'm not sure when the apprehension started.  Probably in May or June.  It was tension at that point, but by July it was emotional roller coaster time.  I'd be fine, then I'd be on the verge of tears.  I'd wake up in tears, or feel them start up as I tried to fall asleep.

The sense of impending doom that I'd felt in the months after the accident returned.  If the family rode bikes, I was sure a car would hit one of us.  When I traveled for business I was positive the plane was going to fall out of the sky.  Every trip down the highway felt like it would be the last; that we'd end up in a heap of twisted metal.  (That probably wasn't helped by the fact that my son had gotten his driver's permit and I was typically the one who was with him when he practiced.  In hindsight, perhaps I should have delegated that duty to his father.  That would have meant less practice for the Boy, but might have prevented the permanent crescent shaped dents in my passenger side door panel.)

Fear of imminent catastrophe aside, in general I was improving.  I didn't go to pieces every time the horse I was riding tripped.  I was jumping courses, not 2 or 3 fences at a time.  While I didn't know if I'd ever get my mojo back, I was starting to think it was a possibility. A woman I think a great deal of told me that when she lost her heart-horse it took about a year for her to really feel better.  It wasn't that she stopped missing her boy, I think it was more that things stopped hurting so badly and it felt okay to move forward towards a new normal.  At least that's what I took her words to mean.  I could relate. Although  I still missed Sug terribly, I was starting to feel that I was ready to begin the next phase of my equestrian life.

A wonderful gift from some
wonderful people.
I started seriously looking for another horse. For a long time I'd kind of half-heartedly kept an eye out for something, but now I was searching in earnest.  I was sending links to horses I was interested in to my trainer, and reaching out to people online when I saw something that looked appealing. At one point I had it in my head that I needed to find my next partner by the anniversary date, but thankfully realized that putting a deadline on finding a horse was like trying to put a deadline on finding your life-partner.  Just doesn't work. Still, I was looking. That was progress.

My trainer has been a rock throughout this whole process.  He's found two lovely, safe, and forgiving horses for me to borrow until I find the right horse.  I've worried that he'll get sick of looking for me, but I really shouldn't have.  He's almost more picky about finding the right fit than I am.  We've found a couple that have looked right "on paper" but were not right, for one reason or another. He won't allow me to settle when I see something that could maybe work, he's adamant that we look until we find the right one.  For example, he found one that I tried and felt very comfortable on, even though he was more of a hunter ride than I can normally pull off.  When we asked if the horse was good on trails or on hunter paces the answer was an emphatic "NO."

I wavered, thinking that he was a very nice horse and I was comfortable on him and enjoyed riding him, so maybe I should make an offer. My trainer set me straight, saying that we could not compromise, that finding a horse that could horse show, trail ride, go on hunter paces, and forgive my ammy blunders was possible and we would search as long as necessary to find it.  "Your horses are your children," he said.  "This is really important for you. We look until we find the right one."  I'm so thankful for him, not just because he's found great horses for me to continue riding, but for his patience and understanding while we look for the right horse and try to rebuild my confidence.

I think what kept me sane the last few days before the anniversary was that the kids and I were away for several days at a horse show.  Finding the money in the budget for an away show does not often happen, so if we can do one it's a big deal.  Being away with our barn and spending entire days with the horses was therapeutic for me.  Watching Sophie and Noah compete, as well as supporting the other riders who showed, kept me busy and my mind away from sad memories. When I did have a sad moment, I'd go spend some time loving on Tiki or RJ until the heartache passed.

Sophie and Tiki

Noah and RJ

The kids did well at the show.  Soph rode Tiki, and they were Champion in two divisions.  She won the first championship on Saturday, the anniversary, which felt right, almost as if Sug was helping from above. She won her second on Sunday.  Noah rode my horse, RJ, who he'd only ridden 5 times before showing him.  He got a 4th in a big class on Saturday, and a 4th and an 8th on Sunday.  He also won an over fences class with 48 entries.

Sure, the weekend had its sad moments. The last time I'd been to that show was with Sug, so that tugged at my heart.  Memories of the accident and the aftermath would suddenly surface, and I'd have to concentrate to push them away.  Watching the kids, seeing their happiness and pride in their horses and accomplishments, helped to push sadness aside.  If I'm honest, I also felt Sug's presence so strongly all weekend.  Feeling she was there in spirit helped me so much, and I think it helped the kids as well. She had always taken such good care of "her" kids, and I could feel that she was continuing to watch over them.

So there you have it.  This is where I am.  Moving forward, slowly but surely.  Missing my girl, but comforted in the knowledge that she is still with me, even if it's only in spirit.  Feeling that I will find the right horse, and knowing that while my new friend won't be Sug, that will be okay.  She took care of me while she was here, and I truly feel that she takes care of me still, just in a different way.  And when I find my new friend, I feel she'll help me to know it, and she'll let me know it's okay to go forward.