Saturday, December 5, 2015

Getting To Know You...Indy

Hello.  Whatcha doing?
OK, I suck.  I admit it. A year and two months after I lost the Sug I finally tell you I've bought a
horse, and then I disappear for a month and a half.  All I can say is this is my busiest time of year at work, and between the travel and working late I'm happy just to find time to get to the barn, let alone chronicle what's going on there.

So let me catch you up... Indy and I have spent the last 6 weeks getting to know each other.  It's kinda like when you first start exclusively dating someone and you're trying to learn everything about them: Do they like coffee or tea? Spicy food or mild? Are they comfortable in large group situations or do they prefer to be more private? Cats or dogs? Football or baseball?

Here's what I've learned so far: Indy is intensely curious. You pretty much can tell that by just looking at his face, as he's got a wide-eyed "Who are you? What's going on? Are we going to do something fun?" expression.  If he's on the cross ties and sees someone outside, he all but stands on his tiptoes to see what's going on. If I go into the tack room, I come out to find him leaning forward on the ties peeking around and trying to see what I've gotten up to.  Where other horses might spook and wheel away from something new, he stops, snorts, cranes his head to get a better look at The Big Scary Thing, and is then likely to walk up and sniff it.  If we're walking somewhere, he wants to stop and investigate everything we pass by. Every.damn.thing.  He can be a little ADD in this respect; he's so interested in everything that at times it's hard for him to focus.

What's going on over there?

He loves people, and wants to be the center of attention, kinda like a big Labrador.  He reminds me of my daughter, Sophie, in that regard.  All energy, all "Hi! I'm Indy. Wanna be my friend? Wanna play? I know fun things to do. " If he's alone on the cross ties and sees someone is near he will break out every trick in the book to get their attention and entice them to come over.  If I'm next to him and my attention wanders to something else he'll nudge me until I focus on him again.  It's like the "Mom. Mom. Mommy. Ma" scene from Family Guy.  He's adorable, and I swear he uses that to his advantage when he does something naughty, just like Sophie does.  He gives you that face, the one that says, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to. I just couldn't help myself. You still love me right?" It's hard to resist that kind of face.

He's a snuggle bug, and loves hugs and kisses.  He loves having the kids fuss over him, and he's got his own harem of young barn girls that dote on him.  He's started nickering to me, and not just when I come in to the barn.  After I'm done untacking and grooming him I'll put him back in his stall and then clean tack.  When I go to say goodnight before I leave he'll often give a high pitched nicker, as if he's saying, "You're back! Thank God! I was lonely!"  He sometimes does it when he's on the cross ties and I leave him to go get something, as if he's afraid I've abandoned him.

Snuggles with Sophie

The harem

We're learning how we fit together under saddle.  He's been used to someone else riding him and the way their aids were given, and now he has to figure out what I'm asking him.  Same thing for me.  It's like learning a new language.  Or driving a rental car.  When you get a rental, at first you spend a lot of time learning where the different buttons are, like the windshield wipers, gear shift, radio tuner, and the mirror adjuster doohickey.  You learn how hard you need to press on the gas pedal to get a reaction, and the same for the brakes.  You play with the wheel to see if you need to over-steer or under-steer.  Indy and I are at the rental car stage.

So that's where we are.  Getting to know each other and trying to figure out who we're going to be together.
Momma's Boy

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.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Reality Bites...

I woke up this morning and my first conscious thought was, "Oh crap, it's only Tuesday."

Score one for the Power of Positive Thinking.


My next thought was, "How long until I can leave for the barn?"

OK, moving towards the positive spectrum, in the sense that I am working towards achieving a positive goal.  Makes sense, yes?

New idea for a t-shirt: "Work, the speed bump between waking and getting to the barn."

Must get working on that.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Best Damn Show Shirt Ever!

Cute, right?
The other night after riding I was turning the horses out and realized I'd run out of fly spray. I'd thought I had more, but as per Murphy's Law, I didn't. Cue last minute dash to try and make it to the tack store before they close.  My local Dover Saddlery is often open until 8pm, so that's where I headed.  Even gave them a call to let them know I was coming and what I needed so it could be waiting and I could get out of their way by closing. (I've worked retail and know what it's like when you want to go home and someone comes in at 7:59 and you close at 8:00).

I had literally just walked in the door when Sarah Jane, one of my Dover BFFs, yelled to one of the other associates to "Get Amy that shirt!"  (Is it just me, or does everyone get attached to the folks that work at the tack shops they go to?  I swear I love and rely on mine like I did my Labor & Delivery nurses.

The girl brought over what looked like a very nice wrap collar show shirt with contrasting fabric inside the collar and cuffs.  I couldn't tell what the pattern was - it looked vaguely Vineyard Vines-y,  until Sarah held it up.  That's when I went nuts.  Wine bottles and glasses!! Red and white!!!  On navy or purple backgrounds, with matching contrast stitching.  AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!  What a perfect blend of  two of my favorite things, horses and wine!!!  Honestly, I think I may have been jumping up and down with excitement.  Or doing the pee pee dance. At my age it's a toss-up.

Seriously, how perfect are these shirts???


They are part of the Essex Classics Talent Yarn collection, and are made of high-tech fabric with mesh panels for ventilation and contrasting stitching for a subtle pop of color. They have anti-bacterial and deodorant magic to help you avoid show-stink, and UV sun protection.  Even better, they come with Scotchgard stain resistance - less slobber stains, yay! They also have collar snap repositioning. I have no idea what that even is.  Kinda like when you're buying a car and you don't know half the stuff the salesperson is telling you it has, let alone if you'd ever have a need for any of it.

The shirts are fitted, so keep that in mind if you choose to order.  If you like a looser fit, you'll probably want to order up a size.  At $129 they're a bit of an investment, but if you're addicted to horses and wine, there really couldn't be a more perfect show shirt. 

I'm not showing at the moment, so I don't really need one.  Other than the fact that I neeeeed one because, really, they're perfect. 

Conundrum.  Maybe I can wear it to work...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Shades of Dances with Wolves...

Kissy-face with Cantissimo
OK, I couldn't think of a better headline than that.  I suck at stuff like that.  I may be in Publishing, but I'm lucky to have editors that come up with the catchy phrases.

Moving on....If you're older than 30 you may remember a Kevin Costner movie called Dances With Wolves.  Costner plays a Civil War hero that is sent to a remote Western outpost with nothing more than his horse for company.  (After seeing the movie, 90% of the female population would have given their right ovary for the privilege of accompanying him, civilization and creature comforts be damned). While he's working to rebuild the abandoned fort he becomes somewhat of a curiosity to a local wolf, and Costner, devoid of companionship, begins to develop a relationship with the animal.

A local tribe of Lakota Sioux on a buffalo hunt spot Costner interacting with the wolf and are intrigued by the lone soldier.  Knowing that one soldier inevitably means more, they try to befriend Costner to find out what the US Army plans, and by the way, had he seen any buffalo recently? Costner becomes a friend to the tribe and they give him a Lakota name, "Dances With Wolves." Much to the chagrin of the female movie watching public, Costner's character then falls in love with a white woman taken by the Lakota as a child, called Stands With a Fist.

Sorry for the lengthy babble, you know how I tend to blather on. Anyway, one of the things that become popular at that time was trying to come up with a Native American for yourself.  You know, 'cause what the hell, right?  We take Buzzfeed quizzes to find out what Disney character we would be, why not try to figure out what our Native American name would be?

What made me think of this was the other night when I was at the barn with friends I was loving on a new horse who had just arrived. He kept putting his nose up to mine and I would kiss it every time he did.  My friend laughed and told me to stop making out with the horse. That reminded me that several other folks have made comments like that over the years,  that made me flash back to the whole Native American name thing.

Mine would be "Makes Out With Horses."

Bumping muzzles with Junior

Smoochies with Moochie

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jesus Take The Wheel: Adventures In Learning to Trailer (Part Two)

Practice makes perfect.
In a previous post I shared that I'd bought a trailer and was learning to drive it, and was relying on the help of friends to help get me road-ready.  The second time I took the trailer out I asked Dad to help, as he had lots of experience trailering boats and motorcycles and other stuff.  Plus the man had once taught me how to drive a car, so this seemed like a logical idea. We'd already been there, done that, so to speak. Clearly I'd forgotten how some of those early driving lessons had played out. More on that later...

My parents live across from a church. So I figured I'd drive out there on a Saturday afternoon, get some more highway experience on the way over, and then Dad and I could practice backing up and three-point turns in the empty church parking lot.  You know, since there was a lot of room to maneuver and all that.  I don't mind sharing that I was hoping for a little heavenly guidance as well. Jesus take the wheel in the literal sense and all that.

Saturday morning Dad called and told me he was worried about me negotiating the turn at the bottom of the highway's off ramp.  "Ummm, okaaaaaaayyy," I said, thinking I'd practiced a few the week before and it was a simple stop at the light at the bottom of the ramp and go left after you get three-quarters of the way through the intersection kind of thing.  "I think I should come to the barn and drive back with you," Dad told me.   Here's the thing: My Dad is the wonderful kind of person who lives to help people.  He loves to feel like he's been instrumental in making someone's day better. What am I going to do, say no to making my Dad happy?  Nuh-uh.  "Sure Dad, Noah and I will get the trailer hooked up and be ready to leave when you get here."

He called me from the road 15 minutes later. "I spoke with Father Chester," he told me. "He says it's fine that we use the church parking lot and he wishes you good luck and God bless."  Well, alrighty then. Not only did we have a special dispensation and a blessing from a priest,  we were going to be in God's parking lot.  I'm thinking that in terms of good mojo it doesn't get much better than that.  Confidence was high.

Trailering over from the barn went well.  Dad was a font of helpful advice and info such as what to watch out for when stuck next to a tractor trailer, what trailer behaviors/sounds were normal, and how certain things would feel once the trailer was loaded.  That all changed when we got to the church and started working on backing up.  It was then that I remembered something about learning to drive with Dad. He tells you what to do, and if you don't/can't do it he loses patience quickly. (I started flashing back to the catastrophe that was him teaching me to do hill starts in my Mom's manual Jetta.  It took years of therapy to get over that.)

It was 85 degrees and even hotter on the blacktop.  Noah, Dad, and I were all sweating like hookers in church. I had to pee, and Dad was yelling at me, "You gotta get the feel! You gotta feel the wheel!" In all honesty, I couldn't get mad at him.  It was hot as hell and he'd had open heart surgery 4 months prior. But I can't concentrate for shit when I have to pee, nevermind when I have to pee and someone is yelling at me.  I made an executive decision to take a brief break. I jumped out of the truck, told Dad to sit in it with the AC on while I ran across to their house to go to the bathroom. When I was done using the facilities I grabbed one of my parent's jumbo travel mugs and filled it with his favorite summertime adult beverage, apple cider and vodka, and brought it back to him. 

Confused Labrador face
While Dad happily worked on hydration, I asked him to take on a supervisory role while Noah gave me instructions.  The Boy actually understands the whole backing up thing and can explain it pretty well, so I figured we had nothing to lose.   I was ready to start again when Noah came up to me and said, "You understand how this process works, right?  It's basically a pivot.  The hitch ball is the fulcrum, or central point in the rotational system."  Bless his heart, he actually pulled out a piece of paper from the glove box and began drawing a truck and trailer on it. I took this all in with a blank look on my face.  You know the one, looks kinda like a confused Labrador? That was what I looked like. "Sweetie, that's great," I said,  "Here's the thing, though. Right now Mom doesn't need a physics lesson, Mom needs to know which way to turn the damn wheel."

So we persisted. Dad was initially a bit put out about being replaced as Advisor in Chief but Noah buttered him up by very strategically  "consulting" Dad before giving me advice.  Plus Dad had his libation, which certainly helped make taking a managerial role more palatable.  I'm not going to lie and say I did well. There were a lot of failed attempts, a lot of backing and straightening and backing and straightening some more. There was a lot of cussing and several appeals to my Higher Power for assistance. (None was forthcoming).  Several times I got so creative with my language I half expected to be struck by lightning, especially given the fact that this was God's parking lot.  (That may have been why the aforementioned assistance was not forthcoming).

I was finally able to manage a smooth 3-point turn and we decided to quit on that high note. Noah and I took the trailer back to the barn and then headed home, where we met my parents and I made a nice dinner to thank Dad for his assistance.

I've since practiced trailering several more times, taking longer and longer trips on back roads, state routes and interstates.  I've driven over to the local horse park,  practicing backing and three-point turns between the large farm equipment parked there. (That might be worthy of a post. I haven't decided yet).  The kids keep me company, and we're having fun with the whole experience.  Pretty soon I think I'll be ready to actually haul a live animal. I'm thinking maybe a guinea pig or something small.  You know, baby steps and all that.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Driving Lessons, Equestrian Style...

My son Noah recently turned 16, and in New Jersey that means you can get your driver's learning permit.  Which basically means that the parent of the fledgeling driver needs either a bucket of valium to remain calm while instructing the newbie, or a damn good stylist to cover the gray hairs earned during practice sessions.

Noah has been practicing in my truck, which is good because we'e in a lovely large cocoon of metal, and bad because it's my new truck and I know it's going to get dinged up and of course I want my baby boy protected but I'd really still like to keep my new truck dent free.  Deeeeeeep breath.

Today I let him drive home from the barn, which is a half hour trip, much of it on the highway.  It was after 8 on a Friday night, so traffic was very light.  I buckled into the passenger seat, took a deep, cleansing breath,  and prepared to be a calm and collected font of driving knowledge.

Here is some of the advice I gave him:

When we were merging onto the highway: "You're gonna need to give it more leg." (No kidding, that actually came out of my mouth).

When going up a hill: "More impulsion!" (I even clucked for good measure. Again, totally unintentional).

Coming in to a downhill turn: "Whoa. Whoa. WHOA!"

Before a dog-leg turn: "You're gonna want to half halt and balance up before entering the turn."

During the dog-leg turn: "You're bulging to the outside - what do you need to do?" (Thank God he didn't say to apply stronger outside aids).

Again, this stuff was just coming out of my mouth, 100% live streaming.  No lie.  I wasn't planning any of it.  You know how it is. When you're a horse person every other aspect of life is seen through the equestrian filter.

To give the kid credit, he didn't bat an eyelash and he didn't need me to translate a thing.  He did fairly well for a newbie.  Has a bit of an issue with keeping the pace consistent - he tends to rush or back off a lot.  There's no middle ground with him.  He has the same tendency when riding, so maybe if he improves one he'll improve the other.

PSA - If you live in Northern NJ and are on Routes 78 or 287,  you may want to avoid a champagne colored Chevy Tahoe. Just saying.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Jesus Take The Wheel: Adventures In Learning to Trailer (Part One)

Hide your women and children!

So I have this trailer now.  It’s no longer mired in ice, so I’ve begun taking it out to practice, with the idea being that I should get as many mistakes as I can out of the way before I actually put live animals in there. 

A few folks told me to just hook the thing up and go out and practice. That wasn’t going to work for me. The way I saw it, that’s not how I learned to drive in the first place. (Here are the keys, Aim. Have at it! The highway’s just down the road on your right.)  I wanted someone who knew what they were doing with me for the first few times. 
My friend Mary-Ann went with me the first time, bless her brave heart.  The kids and I had been practicing hooking the trailer, so by the time she got to the barn Noah and I had hooked up and ready to go.  We made it down and out of the long driveway with no trouble (kinda weird not to be able to see anything but white metal in your rear view mirror) and out on to the closest main road.  I was busy congratulating myself for making the sharp uphill turn it and when I heard Mary-Ann say, “The speed limit’s 50. You have to do at least 50.”

Now, I’ve never had that kind of issue with speed limits before.  Mostly I have to slow down to get to the posted limit. I don’ recall ever needing to speed up.  However, dragging a big box around made me a little conservative, so every now and then you’d hear Noah or Mary-Ann remind me to speed up until finally Mary-Ann said in a tone that brooked no argument, “No, really.  You have to go 50. Now. Step on the gas pedal.”
We drove over to a local office campus with several large parking lots, figuring since it was a Saturday there would be ample room to practice backing and turning without too many casualties. The lot was wide open so I worked on backing up into parking spots. We were just about to start with K-turns when a little white-haired man in possession of a uniform and a very official attitude came out and asked us to leave the premises. I’m not sure why, but this struck us as hysterical for some reason. 

After our eviction we got on the highway for a bit, and then popped off to go to a road that Mary-Ann said was perfect for working on K-turns. It was basically shaped like a T, and Mary-Ann had me stop on the top-left side of the T and back the trailer down the long stem of the T, then pull up to the right so I was straight on the top right side of the T, and then back the trailer down from that way.  This did not go well. At all.  I sucked.  I think I might have tried to do this about 20 times in each direction to no avail. Which made me tense.   And flustered.  And irritable.  My vocabulary was getting more colorful by the second, and I was incorporating my Higher Power’s name in expressions that could have gotten me smoked by a lightning bolt had said Higher Power been paying attention. Mary-Ann did her best to remain patient with me and Noah did his best to avoid laughing. (Smart Boy).
Finally I half-assed it in a way that we could call marginally successful and we left it at that.  We got back to the barn, unhooked the trailer, and heaved huge sighs of relief. Mary-Ann headed home ( and probably poured herself a large adult beverage) and Noah and I drove home, feeling that we had a good number of successes and knew what we needed to do to get better.

More about the 'getting better' stuff to come.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Truly Fabulous Horse Show Swag...

Whoa!  Two posts in one week!  Can you stand it?  Must be some new record or something.

Today's blathering is on the topic of prizes.  You know, the ones you or your spawn get if you happen to have a good day and you wind up with a $1.00 piece of blue nylon telling you, "You done GOOD!"

Coolers or silver plated whatnots (plates/frames/cups) are awesome, but a: they kids and I don't typically show at that level, and b: if we did, I'm not so sure we'd be getting those kinds of ribbons.  So we play at the more local level, for the most part, and I'm really happy with the direction the prizes are going.

I mean, shows have a hard time making money, so I'm gonna say that the fact that they give prizes at all is pretty damn fantastic.  Because a ribbon may fade, but a coffee cup or candy jar can go off to college with you.  No joke.  Both my kids will go off to college with a full set of coffee cups.  I'm thinking they can use a couple for their intended use, then repurpose the others into pen holders, hair tie organizers, or flower pots.  (Whatever, the last one could happen, although they better not be growing anything funky in them!)

Anyways, I've noticed that show management has gone and seen the light.  Yeah, kids make up a good portion of the active show population, it's true.  But if you look carefully at the folks who are sitting on top of horses, sweating from activity and nerves, and looking as if they are going to vomit, you're going to see a lot of adults.  What's the connection here?  The age thing.

Who is paying for the horse show?  An adult.  The adult who is parenting or the adult who is riding.  What do adults who are paying for the whole galactic ally expensive horse thing do?  They drink!  They drink to exacerbate the pain of writing astronomical checks, or to alleviate nerves or because that night's lesson (or any of them in recent memory) didn't go to plan.  Or just because hanging at the barn/show with the other inmates at the horse-crazy asylum and sharing an adult beverages is a good thing.

Crap, this post was not supposed to be so log.  Here's the point: Horse show management is finally recognizing who pays the bills, and is tailoring the prizes to them. PREACH!!!!! Sing Hallelujah!

I offer as evidence....

Yay!  Bring on the vino!
We went to a show where they were giving the wine glasses above as prizes for winning a class.  I told the Boy, "No pressure, honey, but Momma needs a new set of wine glasses."  Luckily the Boy had a very good show, and I got my wine glasses.  SCORE!!!!

Mommy's sippy cup

One of my favorite shows is right up the road and one of the masterminds behind it is a very cool lady who actually reads this blog (Hi, Lena!!).  Lena is a true genius.  She has great stuff for the ponies and kiddos, but she also knows that Mom and Dad (aka The Bank) need a little recognition as well.  The Child did well at one of the shows, and after she won a class Lena walked over to Sophie to hand her the blue, and on her way over she handed me the wondrous invention you see above.  SWEEEEEEEETTTT!  (See, I told you she read the blog!)

And to further expound upon Lena's brilliance, look at what she gave to the series Reserve Champions.  A chair!!  Seriously, this is great on so may levels.  As a parent of a rider, you need something to sit in during the hours of "hurry up and wait" until the spawn goes in the ring for the 2-5 minutes they actually spend showing.  Or, if you are the person that is showing, you need something to catch you as you slide bonelessly off your horse, as well as something that will hold you as you a: suck deeply from an oxygen tank or b: hydrate yourself with an adult beverage. (In which case, see above).  And it comes in handy if you have multiple children with activities, or the equestrian child participates in other sports.  The little beauty above has come in handy at several soccer/lacrosse games.

As you can imagine, I've been lobbying our trainer and barn manager to go to these shows as often as possible.  You can never have too many wine glasses.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Role Models...

Soph doing her thing.
You know, having a kid is a complicated thing.  As a parent you're supposed to teach your kid right from wrong even as you continue to make your own mistakes.  You  try to lead by example and hope that in the end you've done more good than bad and that you've raised a decent human being.  Notice I'm not setting the bar overly high here.  I said decent. I'm not expecting the next Bill Gates or Mia Hamm (Although that would be nice. Think of the horses they could buy me!)  I just want them to be good, happy people.

Sophie is now 13, a tricky age at best. Some days we're besties. Others?  Not so much.  Those are the days of  the eye rolling/foot stomping/aggrieved sighing variety where you start to think piercing your nipples and pulling your lower lip over your head would be less painful.  (Yeah, I went there. My blog, my rules.) To paraphrase a friend of mine, many days we're like boxers, punch drunk and just bobbing and weaving and praying to make it to the end of the round.

I think Soph and I really do like each other (Yeah, that bold statement is probably going to swing back and bite me in the ass somehow).  I am continually amazed by her. One second she's a somewhat goofy 13 year-old freckled chatterbox.  On a soccer pitch she's laser-focused and a fierce competitor. Heaven help you if you think you're taking that ball from her.  She's a strong field general, communicating with her team, setting up plays. She has growing pains in her joints that that sometimes leave her hobbling when she walks on the pitch, but she plays through the pain and when she runs down the field you'd never know she was hurting. 

Same thing happens when she rides.  The goofball goes away and she has the intense focus of someone years older. She analyses every move she and her horse make, and rides as if she's thinking five steps ahead all the time.  Me? I'm just thrilled to get to the other side of each jump alive.  If I were to be honest, on one hand I'm totally in awe of her ability to do that, and on the flipside I'm just a bit envious. (Okay, more than just a bit.)

I tell her how she impresses me quite often. 

At the World Cup 
with show jumper  Marco Kutscher.  Squeeeeeee!

Last Sunday were on the way to a soccer match and had stopped at a highway rest station for a Starbucks fix.  As we were climbing back in the truck Sophie says, "Mom, I'm so proud of you for getting this big truck and learning how to drive the trailer.  You are not afraid to try new things, even if you're scared."  She then went on to say how cool it was that I worked so hard to be able to afford to ride, and that I'd started my blog and parlayed that into writing for Horse Junkies United.  She thinks I'm cool because the HJU connection has allowed me to cover competitions like Devon and the Zoetis Million and most recently the Longines FEI World Cup in Las Vegas. She thinks that the fact that I get to talk to and interview famous riders that we watch on live streaming and FEITV "is, like, totally awesome!!"

She inspires me to be stronger, physically and mentally, to go forward even when it hurts.  She's watched me get an EMBA, do I think from that understands the importance that education offers in terms of getting to a place where you can afford to realize a dream. I think she sees from watching me that you can be a woman that succeeds at work in a man's world.  That you can have a family, a passion, and a career, but that it takes a lot of  hard work and you have to go after it, not wait for it to come to you. That you can try new things, even if they scare you, at any point in your life.

Her comments absolutely floored me. ( And damn, did I wish I'd recorded them!) They also got me to thinking: So often we think of sports figures, business tycoons, or other famous folks as role models. I think it's pretty cool that my kid and I found role models a little closer to home.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Horseless Horse Show...

What do you do when it's a gorgeous Spring day, you're finished with your homework and it's the one day a week when you don't have soccer and/or riding? 

If you're my daughter, you set up some jumps in the front yard and spend an hour pretending you're a famous show jumper.  I think she pictures herself as McLain Ward's Rothchild, because they are both small and feisty and damn good jumpers.

I call this clip "The Jump-Off" as it's clearly a shortened course. The fences are 3'9" and 3'6".  No big deal if you're on a world class show jumper.  More of a big deal if you are a 5'2" girl, albeit one with springs for legs.  "Don't video!" she said to me. "I'm not at my maximum height."  (In case you are wondering, so far that's been just over 4'."

What do you do when you're bored with jumping the high stuff?  You start asking yourself some technical questions, of course.  Can you lengthen and shorten?  Are you quick enough with your legs?
Clearly it's time to set up some gymnastics.  Jim Wofford would be proud.

"The Bounce"

"Bounce to a One Stride"

"Going the Other Way"

Seriously, the kid never stops, bless her heart.  If she were a dog, she'd totally be a Jack Russell. No joke. She asked if I wanted to try a course or two.  Uh-uh. Nope. Taking a pass on that one.  The kid got me to do a cartwheel the other day and I damn near killed myself. 

No thanks, kiddo. I choose life.  You jump, I'll video.  

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.