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
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,,  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!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Baby Steps...

Tiki's "Paparazzi Pose"
I'm very happy to report that through the kindness of friends we were able to find a new barn and a new trainer.  The kids wanted to stick with the hunter/jumper discipline, and this trainer is one that I'd been aware of for years as a very equitation-focused trainer.  I'd been under the impression he only coached really serious juniors looking to do the big eq, so I'd never thought to approach him in the past.  In any case, a friend who'd trained with him as a junior and knew we were looking introduced us. The kids and I took a couple of lessons with him, really enjoyed them, and lo and behold, found ourselves with a new trainer and a barn to call home.

Our new trainer knew our story and that we were homeless and horseless. He told us he felt that we needed to take our time and really look around to find the perfect horses, and not feel pressured to buy the first thing we see.  He had a horse that had been taking a vacation from the big eq and jumper rings, and he thought that teaching the kids would be a good way to give this horse a new, relatively stress-free job and get the kids back in the saddle at the same time.  So the kids took a couple of lessons on the horse, Tiki. He seemed to like them, they liked him, so now we've got one problem solved for the time being.  They still miss James, but getting to know Tiki has been therapeutic for them.

Tiki is a jewel.  An absolute jewel.  He's got all the "buttons", so the kids have an opportunity to learn from a horse that really knows his stuff.  Quite honestly, we're extremely lucky, as he's a way more accomplished horse than I'd ever thought my kids would be on - talk about being in the right place at the right time! Sadly he's short-term solution, as Noah is so tall that he's practically too big for Tiki already, but for the next few months the kids are getting to ride an equine master.

A horse at the end of the rainbow
Tiki is ridiculously smart, incredibly inquisitive, and loves to be very engaged with his people.  This big boy has personality to spare, and man, does he have presence.  When he walks into a ring, you know it!  I love watching the kids on him - he goes around the ring with his ears pricked all the time. When he canters, he looks like he could be a medieval knight's battle charger - you can picture him with all the armor and everything, cantering majestically off to defend the kingdom.

He does what I call his "Paparazzi Pose," where something catches his eye and he brings himself to his full height, head high and ears fully forward.  You can almost hear him saying, "How's this angle?  Are you getting me from my good side?"  He has a hatred for arborvitae, possibly a relic from his equitation days, and eyes them with deep suspicion.  He is keenly observant, and knows where everything in the barn or ring should be.  If you so much as move one of the mums decorating the jumps, he knows it, and you can tell he's wondering why no one sent him a memo alerting him to the change.

Tiki is also gray, which has been an education in and of itself.  We've never had a gray before, and are finding that everything said about keeping them clean is no exaggeration.  Especially as Tiki seems to make it his mission to roll in every pile of poop he comes across.  I am buying Cowboy Magic Greenspot remover by the gallon.  And the hair!  I know that we came home covered in horse hair after a trip to the barn, but it was brown, and not very noticeable. Spending any time around a gray means you come home looking like a dandelion that has gone to seed, and that gray hair gets on everything!

So while things are getting back on track for the kids, they are not quite there yet with me.  I thought I'd found a horse, but right before he was scheduled to be vetted the owner decided not to sell.  I'm really disappointed, as I liked him a lot and was really excited to learn from him and give him a good home.  He was another one with personality to spare, with a great attitude. He went around the ring with ears pricked, ready to do whatever you asked of him.  "You want to trot? Super, let's trot.  Oh, you'd like to canter?  Off we go!  You want me to jump from underneath the fence? Sure.  You 'd like to leave out a stride and a half?  Okay, hang on!" He was also fun on the ground, kind of like an impish 6 year old boy that noodges you for constant attention, the kind you can't resist because they are so gosh-darn cute.  I'm really bummed it didn't work out, but we all know that's they way of things sometimes.

As much as I'm happy for the kids and love being around horses again, I do have to confess it's been a bit rough emotionally.  It's odd, as I so love watching the kids on Tiki, and really enjoy seeing how they are enjoying their lessons, and I love grooming him and kissing on him.  I'm happy for the kids, but at the same time it's hard to be in a barn and not see Sug's face waiting for me.  It's weird not to be saddling her up for my own lesson.  It's funny, I'll be driving the kids to a lesson and I'll be looking forward to it, and then suddenly I'm blinking back tears.  Someone who I respect greatly told me it took her about a year before she could think of her beloved boy without getting choked up, so I'm using this as a benchmark.

So there we are.  Getting back in the groove. Moving in the right direction, one baby step at a time.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

ISO: Saddle Time

True.  Sad, but true.
I need to start riding again. Soon.  Or bad things will happen.  Seriously.  The kids agree. No horse time is making us all cranky.

I thought not going to the barn would give me all kinds of time to do projects I'd been meaning to around the house.  Nope.  Not working out that way.  Redecorate the basement family room?  Nah.  I walk into a Homegoods or a furniture store, look at all the options and go fetal.  I would love to pay someone with taste to decorate for me, but really, any extra money I have is going toward a horse.

I meant to organize my closet.  I didn't. It still looks like a FEMA site. Same thing with the Tupperware cabinet.  I also thought maybe I'd work around the yard, spruce things up, maybe put some Fall decorations up.  Hasn't happened.  Yard still looks like crap, and there are no seasonal decorations to hide that fact.

My husband is the only one that's happy.  He's excited that we are spending more "together" time.  That pretty much means we are all going to the gym with him at night.  I get on the elliptical and do weights, the kids go do their thing, and my husband gets on a bike for an hour.  Together, my butt!  Which, by the way, has not gotten any smaller, gym time notwithstanding.  (I did start taking a belly dancing class again. I'm hoping that'll strengthen my core for when I get back in the saddle.  Plus it's good for a laugh.)

My husband is also happy that I am home cooking dinner every night again.  The man likes a good meal, and when we were riding he got home cooked meals only on weekends, and was left with leftovers or a crockpot creation the rest of the week.   I used to love cooking before.  Now?  Not so much. Figuring out what to cook every night has become a chore.  Tonight, in desperation, I did something with Ramen noodles that I haven't done since college.  Don't ask.  It wasn't pretty.

This Betty Crocker/June Cleaver thing ain't working out so well.  It's getting to the point where I'm ready to strap on my helmet, hop on my bike and ride around the neighborhood making horse noises.