Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Christmas Miracle...

I figured that was an apt title given the last time I posted.

It's not for lack of ideas. I have ideas all the time.  Something will happen and I start composing a post in my head.  It just never gets actually written down.  Mostly because of the whole work-life balance thing.  Which will be another post altogether.

I hope you're doing something fun for the day. Like celebrating with family, dysfunctional or not.  My family is entertainingly dysfunctional, like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates - you never know what you're gonna get. So I will be celebrating with wine.  Wine adds another level of interesting to things, don't you think?


We do a family holiday card every year.  I started out including Sug the year we got her. Made her wear antlers and a Santa hat, which she handled with her usual equanimity.  Each year we did a new card, adding new equine family members as the kids grew from ponies to horses.  Past cards included Cookie, the wonderful pony we borrowed from my dearest friend, James, Tiki, Mooch, and RJ.  As the kids grew taller, so did the horses.

The year Sug passed the holiday card featured Tiki, the unicorn we were fortunate to lease, and Mooch, the first horse to have the job of babysitting me after I lost Sug.  Last year was Indy's first appearance. Mooch had left to go to another family, so we had RJ, a wonderful, gentle soul who had become mostly Noah's partner. Neither would subject themselves to the indignity of wearing holiday headgear of any kind.

This year's card has Indy, who has just celebrated a full year with us, and Mooch.  RJ sustained an injury and is now retired and living the good life in North Carolina.  In a stroke of good fortune, Mooch's family was looking for a new home for him so we bought him and he's been with us since June.

Yeah, there's a lot to catch you guys up on.

So here's this year's holiday card, and a few pics from our photo shoot (which is a fancy term for freezing your a$$ off while some poor soul from the barn you've coerced into becoming a photographer takes a few pictures.)

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and just general wishes of good times and happiness to you!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Wait. What?!? Does He What? -- The Follow Up

What?  I'm a guy. It's what we do.
Just wanted to give you all an update on how Indy's been doing since we'd found blood in his urine. While the vet felt the issue was due to excessive 'self-pleasuring,' we still took the precaution of taking urine a week later just to make sure there was no infection.

Rather than have the vet come again I elected to get the specimen myself.  I mean, how hard can it be to get a urine sample, right?

Harder than you might think, it seems.  Indy normally pees as soon as I put him in his stall after we ride. He grabs a bite of hay, takes a swig or two of water, circles a couple of times and pees in the upper left corner of his stall.  So after we rode I went in his stall with him, little plastic cup in hand.

Indy was very happy to have me in his stall.  He was not interested in dropping trou, however. Rather, he wanted to give me a tour of his stall.

Indy: Mom! (nudge) Mom! (nudge) Look!  This is where I keep my hay.  See? That's my hay.  All mine. I love my hay. NomNomNomNom.

Me: It looks like very yummy hay, sweetie.  Can you pee for Mommy?

Indy: Mom! (nudge) Mom! (nudge) Look!  This is my water.  See?  I have two buckets.  I like to swish some of my hay in my water so it tastes better.  

Me:  That does look refreshing, sweetie.  Like when Mommy makes tea. How about you drink some water and then pee, okay?

Indy:  Okay. Sure.  Look over here!  Here is my feed bucket.  Sadly, it's empty.  Maybe you could get some more grain for me?  I love grain.  No? Okay. Look what I can do with my bucket.  I can bang it against the wall. Bang! Bang! Bang!  Man, that's fun!

Me: That's amazing, Indy.  You are such a smart boy.  Now can you show Mommy how smart you are by peeing in the cup?

Indy: Sure. No problem.  This is the corner I like to pee in.  See, I circle three times, then I put my butt against the back wall and my head against the side wall and then I pee.  Hey. Wait.  What's with the cup?  What are you doing back there?  That's a bit personal, Mom.  You need to respect my space, remember?  I respect your space, you respect mine, right?

Me: I know, sweetie, but this is an exception.  I need you to pee in the cup so Doc can make sure you're healthy.

Indy:  Oh, okay.  Why didn't you say that earlier? Here you go!

I think it says something about the the kind of day you had when the high point of that day is successfully catching your horse's pee.  Really, you would have thought I'd climbed Annapurna, I was that chuffed with myself.

The tests came back normal so there's no infection.  The vet's conclusion to the whole incident was that the blood in Indy's urine came from my boy getting excessively jiggy with his man-bits.

Geldings.  Sheesh.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Wait. What?!? Does He What?!?!?!?

Post-ride selfie
Life with Indy is never dull.  Every time I think things are rolling along smoothly, we hit a metaphorical speed bump.

Sophie and I were at the barn the other evening and were putting the horses away after a nice, uneventful ride.

Indy has a post-ride routine.  He goes in to his stall, takes a long drink, and then goes into the top left corner of his stall. He circles a couple times, positions his butt on the back wall and his front end on the side wall so he's sort of cattywumpus across the back corner, and pees.  He does this every time. Without fail.

I was putting his halter on the hook by the stall and just happened to look up when he was peeing and my eyes damn near bugged out of my head.  His pee was a muddyish red in color.  My first thought was that maybe he was dehydrated, and was making a mental note to reach out to the vet and check in with the barn manager about any changes in his drinking habits when I looked down at the shavings and saw they were bright red.

I rushed into the stall to get a closer look and it was definitely blood, so I called the vet.  He asked me if I was sure it was blood. Seriously?? I'm female. We're pretty much experts at the whole "blood coming from the genital region" thing.  I texted him a picture of the shavings and waited for him to call back, feeling much like I did when RJ's junk had swelled to 3x its normal size (refer to my dick pics post.).

Yep, that's blood

Meanwhile, Indy was quite happy that I was in his stall and came over to chat and search for treats.  Then he positioned himself so I would scratch his withers, noodging me with his shoulder and turning his head to look at me as if to say, "Mom, stop standing there.  I itch. Scratch me."  He'd just peed blood, and I was expecting him to at least look uncomfortable, but here he was, bright eyed, eating hay, and shoving me with his nose for attention.

The vet didn't think it was an emergency and came out the next day to observe Indy and take some blood and urine for testing.  There was no blood in his urine and he was still acting normally, with no indications of discomfort whatsoever.  'Carry on like you normally would," was the vet's advice. "I'll call you tomorrow with the results."

I was already at the barn when the vet called the next day.  "The blood work is fine," he told me. "There is a slightly elevated level of protein in the urine and it is a bit concentrated, but nothing that points to anything alarming.  The white cell count isn't elevated so most probably it's not an infection.  No signs of kidney stones either."

I was heaving a sigh of relief when he asked "Does he masturbate often?"

My brain short-circuited. Just went completely blank. WHAT.THE.HELL?  When my brain clicked back on thoughts started spinning through at a million miles an hour.  My first thought: How would that even be possible?  Followed quickly by: He doesn't even have opposable thumbs!  Then: Has that tarty mare down the aisle been teasing my innocent little boy?

Belatedly I realized my vet was still speaking to me.  I shook my head to clear it and asked, "Wait. What?  Does he what???"

My vet: "Does he masturbate often?  Does he get an erection and whack it against his stomach?"

Me: "Ummmm, nooooo.  I mean, I've never seen him do that."

My vet: "Oh, he did it several times while I was in his stall." 

Me: "I guess he just finds you more attractive."

The vet thinks the issue may be caused by something called a urethral rent. He explained that is a "blowout" tear in the urethra cause by high pressure in the penis. (Yes, I totally giggled when he said "blowout" because I am mentally a thirteen-year-old).  The rent can heal on its own, or in some cases require surgery.  Since Indy hasn't had any recurrences, we're hoping it will heal on its own.

I did a little Googling on urethral rents and some of the results referenced equine masturbation.  Apparently stallions pop wood around 18 times a day, and geldings around 12-13 times.  I also learned that at one time there was an electrical device designed to prevent stallions and geldings from bopping their baloney. I'm not even kidding. Check out the picture below. (Is it me, or does it look  a little bit like Pessoa lunging rig?)


Who knew, right?  So what now?  Why do I feel I need to have "The Talk" with Indy?  And how would that even work?

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Effing Cavaletti and the Bleeping Oval of Despair...

Instruments of Satan
Ever have something you just suck at?  Just flat out, no holds barred suck at?  I mean, you try and try and try again and despite a herculean amount of effort you find yourself reaching the Ninja Master Level of Suckitude.  (Yes, I know,  I'm not exactly Peggy Positive all wrapped up in buckets of sunbeams right now. I'm having myself a good wallow. Don't worry, it'll be over soon and we'll be back to our regular programming).

Anyway, cavaletti.  The point of this rant and the bane of my existence.  For some reason these dinky little white poles supported on x's rattle my cage something fierce.  Despite the fact that they are only a foot off the ground I feel compelled to ride down to them as if they were a 4' oxer.  Prone to overthinking and overdoing, much? Guilty as charged.

The jumping portion of our last lesson started with my trainer asking me to canter in a circle over two cavaletti, one set at 12 o'clock, one at 6 o'clock. (First of all, my circle was more like an oblong.
Did I mention I sucked at geometry, too?)

I totally chipped the first one, leaning so far up Indy's neck my chin rested on his poll.  "No worries, kid! You'll nail the next one," I told myself.  Nope.  Chipped that one, too.  And the next one.  And the one after that. And the one after that.

Indy, bless his heart, soldiered through without comment.  My trainer did not.

"Amy, stop leaning at him."


"You leaned at him again."


"Lean away."


"If you continue coming at it like a freight train and then climb up his neck you're always going to chip."

Leaves long, like from a mile away. Just for the sake of variety

"Amy, it's not even a real jump, it's a canter stride!  Just find a rhythm and let him canter over it. Stop trying to find a distance."

I felt like this...

When we stopped for a breather Indy looked back at me and his look clearly said, "Ma, just sit there.  Do nothing. Enjoy the scenery. I got this. If we do it your way we'll be here all night."

It took 8 hours (or at least it felt like it was that long) before I finally got two of them correct.  HUZZAH!!! Sound the trumpets!  My trainer wisely decided to call that portion of the lesson a wrap.

After that we built up to jumping courses.  Which went pretty well.  Apparently I can't jump anything 1' high set on a circle, but can jump things that are 2' - 2'6"and set at different points around the ring (For the most part. We had a couple of whoopsies).  Indy and I even ROCKED an inside turn back to some planks.  We weren't supposed to do the inside turn, we were supposed to do a roll back. Small GPS issue brought on by on-course brainfart. The fact that we weren't actually supposed to do it was probably way it went so well.

So you know how a couple posts ago I made a joke about Indy's show name being changed to Dickhead?  Well, it looks like my new nickname is gonna be "Chip."

I can hear it now: "Now entering the ring, Dickhead, owned and shown by Chip Vodraska."

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dickhead Returns

Too cute to be called Dickhead.
A while back I wrote a post about our family's use of nicknames and the fact that Indy may have
thought his name had been changed to Dickhead. (He's young and blessed with ADD and I have a tendency to communicate through the use of colorful language).

I find that things with Indy follow a pattern.  Lots of really good behavior and then some not-quite-so-good behavior.  Like tonight, for instance, was one of the latter.  It was a gorgeous night, we'd had a lesson on Sunday that was not one of our best (totally my fault) and I thought a trail ride would be a low key experience for us both.

And the trail ride part was great.  The beginning and end parts, not so much.  When we left the barn I noticed the outdoor ring had a new wall jump that looked like it came from a giant Lego castle.  There was also a round pen with poles set like a pie cut into a bunch of pieces. Some of the round pen walls had fallen and were laying on their sides.  Did either of these new items in the ring bother Indy?  Nope.  He marched right up to investigate, sniffing them and noodging them with his nose.

Round pen and pole exercise. Or Pie. Take your pick

The issue came when we left the ring. I went to steer him left and he planted his feet and refused to budge.  The issue?  A patch of grass he walks over pretty much every day.  Heck, he GRAZES on it darn near every day!  He snorted and refused to go near it, backing up, hopping up and down, and trying to wheel around.  We went back and forth for a bit, and eventually he gave in and we went over it.  Maybe not the particular patch we were fighting over, but we went forward over grass that was very close to the patch we were fighting over.

Then we wandered around the farm and on the trails, and that was wonderful.

And then we came back and I got the bright idea to bring him over to the offending patch of grass to CONFIRM the correction we'd made.  Big mistake. HUGE. What can I say? I'm a dumbass.  We argued.  We discussed the issue at length. He cited reasons why we shouldn't go over the grass, I contended it was the only acceptable outcome. We expressed our divergent opinions, crossing over the driveway and every damn blade of grass except the ones we were squabbling over.  As you can imagine, my language was a bit salty.  I may have called him Dickhead again. (I did. Several times. I felt the situation warranted it. I have opposable thumbs, so I get to make those calls.)

The Grass Patch of Doom. 
Clearly terrifying.
I decided it was time to try something different.  I know you're not supposed to get off, but that wasn't getting anything accomplished so I got off.  And started to do some ground work, moving his haunches and front end, getting him to back up or come to me, just to get him to listen to me again.  At first he was resistant, but I persisted and he became softer and more willing.  We did our groundwork for about 10 minutes, on the offending grass, no less. (He didn't seem to have a problem with it once I was off him, the little booger).  Once I felt he was completely focused on me and what I was asking him to do, I got back on him and walked him up to the Grass Patch of Doom.  He hesitated, but went over it. I made a fuss over him, jumped off, and let him grab a few bites of grass.

Maybe conventional wisdom says I shouldn't have gotten off him, but the way I was doing it wasn't working.  I felt the need to reframe the conversation, and in this situation it worked.  That doesn't mean I should or will get off in the future.  It just seemed like the right thing to do tonight.

And we're okay now.  He got lots of kisses and scratches and he put his head in my arms for a long hug.  I said I was sorry for calling him Dickhead, and he told me he may have been over-reacting about the whole grass thing. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Where Did That Come From? The Mystery of the UEB

Pretty, yes?  Wish I knew how I got it.
We're equestrians.  We work with 1200lb animals with minds of their own and often very little
respect for personal space.  Factor in there are all kinds of ways to get hurt: Falling off, getting stepped on, getting kicked - these are some of the realities we face.  And let's face it, all of those things are gonna leave a mark.  Usually a pretty impressive one.

That's not what I'm getting at here. I'm talking about the everyday bruising you see and have no idea how you got them.  You know, the ones your significant other sees and says, "Yikes, what did you do to yourself now?"  The ones where you look at your (insert body part here) and say, "I don't know." 

It's sad, but true.  You really have no earthly clue as to why your (insert body part here) is a Rorschach blot of red, blue, purple and green.  No clue. Nada. Nothing.  Bupkus.

It's like when you were in college (or for some of us, more recently) and went to a party.  You'd wake up the next morning and at some point, maybe during a shower or while getting dressed, you'd notice one, two, or maybe a constellation of bruises and have no recollection of doing anything to cause them.  So you'd check in with a friend, hoping (or maybe not) that they could enlighten you.  Maybe a fall while table dancing, a botched keg stand, or an overzealous attempt to learn to Nae-Nae.   Most of the time the cause was just random drunken clumsiness.   The verdict?  Unexplained Party Bruising.

Well, I'm not drunk when I'm at the barn.  I'm not, I swear.  (Alright, I may have the odd glass of wine now and again, but only after I'm done.  I'm a safety-first gal, you know!)  So why the heck can't I ever remember how I get all these black and blue blotches all over my body? 

Unexplained Equestrian Bruising.  One of life's little mysteries.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Momma's Boy

Hello Momma!
Nothing's better than your horse showing you that he loves you, right?  When a nicker greets you the
second you walk into the barn, well, that's the best part of the day, isn't it?  The bright-eyed, ears-forward "Hi Mom!" look is, to me, better than wine and chocolate combined.  And if you've followed this blog, you know how I feel about wine and chocolate.

Indy is an extremely people-oriented horse, and he has definitely identified me as his primary person.  He loves my kids, but I am very clearly his MOM -bold, capitals, and underlined.

He doesn't just nicker or whinny when I come into the barn, he shrieks: "MOM-MEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"  It's kind of adorable, and it makes me melt.  You gotta love it when someone's that happy to see you.

And when our horse comes to you in the field, that's a great feeling, right?  Like they love their grass and horse time, but they love you more. Sug would come to me when she saw me at the fence. More often than not Indy will see me, shriek, and come flying over in a gorgeous extended trot with his mane and tail flying like a shampoo commercial. 

Other signs Indy is a complete Momma's Boy:

When he grazes, most of the time he likes to be next to me. Right next to me.  As in almost on top of me. Every now and then he'll raise his head to noodge me, like he's making sure I'm still there.




If he's on the cross-ties and I leave, he often yells for me.  If there's something scary, like the big fan they brought in to help cool the barn during the hot weather, he starts whinnying as soon as I leave his side.  I can walk the 10 feet to the other side of the aisle and he'll do a rumbly little whinny
.  If I leave his sight the decibel level and intensity escalates until he can see me again.

He was so funny at a horse show we recently went to.  I walked around the front of the trailer to get something from the dressing room and he started hollering as soon as he lost sight of me.  The second he saw me through the dressing room windows he stopped in mid-yell, jammed his nose against the window and exhaled loudly, as if to say, "Oh, thank God. I thought you'd left me."  (I know, anthropomorphize much?)

If I come to his stall when he's eating he will actually leave his feed tub and come over to me.  Have you ever seen a horse do that? I haven't.  Maybe it was because Sug wouldn't leave her food unless I was covered head to toe in Stud Muffins, peppermints, and Oreos.

I mean, on one hand I love that he's so attached.  On the other I worry that he's got separation anxiety and there's something I need to be doing to make him more self-assured.

What does you horse do that shows you he/she loves you?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Field Trip For Indy

Where are we, Mom?
I have a (relatively) new trailer, which I call the HMS Valium.  When I first got it I did not have a horse.  Pretty much the whole "cart before the horse" cliché.  As you can surmise, I did not get to use my trailer much.

Then in October I got Indy.  When I took him to get a pre-purchase exam there was much drama surrounding the loading process. Indy wanted absolutely nothing to do with the Great Big White Box.  When we moved to a new barn in October, my trainer and I thought rather than fight with him we'd see if he would like a different type of trailer (mine's a bumper pull with a rear loading ramp, theirs is a 3 horse with a ramp on the side.)  He didn't.  He didn't want to get on that trailer and when we arrived at the new place he came flying off it like his hair was on fire.

Over the fall, winter, and spring I worked on his trailer issues and learned some natural horsemanship from the lovely Dom Nawrot of Thumbs Up Horsemanship.  I want to do clinics and trail paces, so I need Indy to get on the trailer with no histrionics or bribing. I also figured learning natural horsemanship would be a great way to understand Indy better and bond with him.  We took our time and didn't push him and now Indy has no issues whatsoever getting on and off the Great Big White Box.

Dom suggested that before we take him somewhere serious like a show we should take him on a quick trip "around the block" to give him a good, low pressure experience. That went well, so last weekend we decided to take him to a horse show about an hour's drive away for some schooling.  It gave me a chance to get some more trailering time under my belt, it gave Indy a chance to spend more time on the trailer, and it also helped give him some exposure to a horse show without the stress of competition. (As far as I can tell it was only the third show he'd ever been to).

Noah and Indy paying close attention to Dom's instructions

My son Noah came along as moral support, another set of hands, and to make sure my nerves didn't get the best of me. While we were on the road he regularly reminded me to "Breathe, Mom" and "Go wide around the turns" and "The speed limit is 50, Mom. You should try to do that." Thanks in large part to his efforts we arrived in one piece. The second we opened the trailer Indy stuck his head out, looked around like Dorothy after she landed in Oz, and proceeded to holler his little gray head off.  He yelled, someone else would reply. Indy hollered again, somebody else would holler back. Have you ever seen the Disney movie 101 Dalmatians? Remember the Twilight Bark?  It was like that. For about 20 minutes. Non-stop.

We brought him over to the rings to graze and Indy visited with everyone who would stop to talk with him.   Since I haven't shown in over 2 years and didn't want my nerves to affect Indy I asked one of the barn's working students to school him. Call me a wuss if you want, but the main goal for the day was for Indy to have a good experience, both on the trailer and at the show.  The schooling ring was insane and  Mike's calm demeanor worked well to keep Indy focused.  He also took Indy out for a school around the jump field, and you know how sometimes it's just nice to see someone else ride your horse? Where you can just gawk at your horse and think, "Pretty horsie. MY pretty horsie." This was one of those times. Mike is tall and graceful and Indy's dapple grey coat and silver/grey mane and tail looked gorgeous in the sun.  Sadly I was too busy staring that I neglected to get any pictures. DOH! Mom fail.

Hanging with Indy and Noah all day was great.  Noah was my rock: He served admirably as parking and exiting consultant, scouting out the parking spot where I would have the most room to back the HMS Valium up if needed.  When it was time to go he did a little recon and found a way for me to wiggle out without having to back up. (I have terrible Trailer Reversal Anxiety). He made sure that there was always an adequate supply of Oreos for me and mints for Indy. Most importantly, he kept me laughing and relaxed (or as relaxed as I get) which in turn helped keep Indy relaxed.

So our first real "field trip" went off rather well, and I'm kinda looking forward to our next excursion.  My barn-buddy Dave tells me I'm on my way to becoming a "Bad-ass Mother-trucker."  I like the sound of that - think it comes on a t-shirt?

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Four Words I Never Thought I'd Say...

I like jumping these things, Mom. 
If you've followed this blog at all you know I consider myself a big old chicken when it comes to
jumping. I would never have called myself a particularly bold or confident jumper, but at one point in my life I was jumping 3'. Then I channeled my inner lawn dart and tried to force my head through the first level of the Earth's crust while at a horse show. I've been working on finding my missing mojo ever since.

Some might ask why I continue jumping.  Hell, I ask myself that all the time.  Especially since I love flatting.  I've always loved it. I love trying to make a round, rather than oblong, circle.  Seeing if I can get a shoulder-in that is actually on three tracks, rather than a shoulder-vaguely-moving-in-the-right-direction.  I love that moment when you can feel the horse's back come up and the hind legs swing through.  I love all that stuff.

But I continue the jumping thing to challenge myself.  Because I don't want to give up yet. Because I want to get my mojo back.  Because I want to prove to myself that I can do it, dammit.

So here's the thing: I.Love.Jumping.Indy.  Love it.  He has this stride that makes finding distances feel easier.  Or maybe he's just smart enough to find the distances for us.  Probably a little bit of both.  I don't know how to explain it.

When we're flatting, his stride is long and not as adjustable as I'd like.

Me: Indy, we're shortening your stride now.
Indy: I have a 12' stride.  Why should I shorten it?
Me: Because sometimes we'll need to.
Indy: I'm a hunter. We do 12' strides. 
Me: Noooooo. You're a hunter/jumper/equitation/dressage/hunter pace/all-around horse and sometimes you will need to shorten your stride.
Indy: Pfffftttt. I have a 12' stride. I'm a hunter. Relax, Mom. I've got this.

When we're jumping, I can shorten his stride effortlessly. Or lengthen it. No discussion.

I don't do that control freak/ micromanage him like I've done in the past. I mean, yeah, I do it sometimes, but nowhere near as often.  Not every fence.  Has your trainer ever told you to just let go and "melt" to the distance?  Before Indy the only way I'd have been able to melt to a fence would be by wearing a parka while riding at noon in 90 degree heat.  Let go?  No chance in hell of that happening. Apparently with Indy I've found I can "Let go and melt."  Or "Let go and let God." Kinda feels like the same thing at times.

And Mr. ADD does not see any trolls, dragons, ring gnomes or other nasties when he's jumping.  Nope, all he sees are the fences in front of him.  Mr. ADD becomes Mr. FOCUS.

Who are you calling Mr. ADD? 
So now I don't dread that portion of the lesson when the flatting becomes the jumping.  And if my trainer asks if I want to do something again, or do another course, I do it.  Most of the time without that little voice in my head asking, "Are you sure that's a good idea? We survived the last course, maybe we shouldn't tempt fate."

I'm not saying we're gonna be doing the high performance hunters or the 1.20 jumpers any time soon, but I am definitely saying I love jumping Indy.  Which is a pretty big step for me.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

What's In A Name...Or Nickname

 Of course I'm paying attention to you.
Like the Shakespeare reference in the title?  Makes me sound edu-ma-cated, doesn't it?  Am experiencing
the need to feel I know something about something, because I am learning I know squat about horses.  Indy has been a great teacher in that respect, and every day I learn something new from him. Kinda like when you have kids and after they leave the toddler stage you think you've gotten the whole parenting thing down and then they become teenagers and you find you are pretty much just bobbing and weaving and trying to stay on your feet.

Anyway, the name thing.  We're big on them around here.  We name our cars, my trailer, the house, even the panini maker (Aunt Gilda, if you must know. Long story.)  Not only does everything have a name, but it usually possesses at least 2 or 3 nicknames.  This can often confuse people who don't know us that well, as evidenced by one of Noah's interactions with his kindergarten teacher.  She asked everyone in the class to tell her their parents' names.  One by one the kids said Jane, Bob, Bill, James, Susan, Nadim, etc.  When it was Noah's turn he piped up with, "Jackass and Hun."  Which resulted in our first experience with parent-teacher conferences...

Some examples:

Sophie: Toots, Soph, The Child, Soapy Grapes
Noah: Bud, Curmudgeon, The Boy, Sheldon Jr.
RJ: Big Man (because, at 17.2 hh, what else?), Moose, and (when he's being a boob) The Great Git

Jackass, Hun, Toots, & Sheldon Jr.
My husband's car is German, and we call it Otto.  Mine is a Chevy Tahoe, which felt so monstrously big when I got it I started calling it Sully, after the monster in Monsters, Inc.  Sully is also frequently called Da 'Hoe, which makes The Boy cringe, which is half my reason for calling it that. My trailer is called the HMS Valium.

And then there's Indy.  Indy has picked up several monikers in his short time with us.  He is called Baby Grey, Monkey Face (no idea where this one came from), Momma's Boy (in the good way), Little Man, and Stinky (again, no idea why as he smells quite nice).  Depending on the day and his behavior he's also been called Turd, Lackwit, DammitHorse, Little F**k and Dickhead. After our past several rides he's probably sure his name has been officially changed to Dickhead.

When my vet was doing Indy's PPE, he commented, "A bit ADD, isn't he?"  I tend to agree.  Indy's attention span is all over the place and his impulse control often leaves much to be desired. And while it can be tempting to interpret these behaviors as indicating lack of intelligence, it's really the opposite. Indy is one smart cookie, and I'm learning it's my job to figure out ways to keep his agile mind busy and focused on me.

Brain games for Indy

Anyway, clearly I was doing a crap job of it this past weekend, as the ADD was in full force, which meant there was a lot of "AAACKKK, a troll!" or "EEEK, my shadow!" or "OH NO! Horse-eating water trough!"  Which meant there was much neck-riding and cussing from Mom.  Hence Indy's name change. 

I can't wait to hear it announced at horse shows. Can you imagine? "Joining us now is Dickhead, owned and shown by Amy Vodraska."

He's so darn cute it's impossible to stay mad, though. 

Future posts will be focusing on How Amy Is Learning to Positively Parent Her Precocious Pony.  Stay tuned.

Such a cute face

Thursday, March 31, 2016

I Had A Kick A$$ Lesson!

Why you think so much, Momma? 
It not good for you!
Quite frankly, I wasn't expecting a lot from tonight's lesson because I'd missed a few days of riding
because of a business trip, and my back was killing me from lots of windshield time and trying to wedge myself into the little rental roller skate I was driving.  Great attitude, right?? Way to start off on a good note.

Inner Me: Let's set the bar low, Aim. If we use survival as the goal, anything better is icing on the cake, right?? HOO-RAH! Positive thinking in action, girl!

I had some time to watch some of the lessons before me and some of the riders were finding some of their courses challenging. 

Inner Me: Well, crap.  If the good riders are having a rough time, what they heck is my lesson going to look like?  Maybe I should pull the aging adult ammie card and suggest a flat lesson today.

Yep, that's me.  Just BRIMMING with confidence.

Given the crappy inner monologue going on in my head, it's amazing I even got on Indy, who was being a bit more ADD than usual.  Which I took as a sign that maybe we really should just do a flat lesson.

I don't know what changed.  Maybe that I just stopped overanalyzing it.  Before I got on I made the decision to take Indy aside so that I could do some groundwork and get him focused on me.  Then I got in the ring, warmed up with lots of lateral work and transitions to keep him listening and thinking about my aids. I also thought about what I was doing every stride.

Inner Me: Make sure you keep the rhythm steady.  Inside leg to push him in the corner.  That didn't work well, more inside leg next time.  Try a transition to trot. Hmm, no response off the leg.  Add more leg. Still doesn't work.  Add spur. Whoops, that worked!! Ok, let's do more trot-walk-trot transitions so we can get him thinking more forward from the leg. 

The flat part of the lesson went very well.  He's getting stronger and more balanced, and I'm feeling stronger and more balanced.  The lateral work is getting better; when we leg yield his shoulder doesn't get to the track 10 minutes before his butt does.

All that was good, but the part that jazzed me the most was the jumping.  We've been doing lots of cavaletti work and today's jump session started off the same.  We were doing well with those, maintaining a rhythm and jumping out of stride.  The my trainer told me to catch one of the "real" fences after the cavaletti.

Inner Me:  Wait!  What???  No, we do cavaletti. ONLY cavaletti. No real jumps!  (I know, hard to believe that I once jumped 3', huh?) 

I didn't stop question my trainer.  I just went and did it, and it went well.  Before I could congratulate myself on coming through unscathed my trainer told me to do the cavaletti, the real jump, and then two more real jumps, set as  a 7 stride bending line.  (In the interest of full disclosure I should tell you the jumps were the height that the ponies were jumping, 2'6". Maybe not real jumps for most folks, but I'm writing the blog so I get to call 'em real jumps.)

I nailed it.  I mean, was I Medal or Maclay perfect?  HELL no!  But I did the numbers and made my distances.  I'd no sooner finished that course than my trainer gave me another, adding one more jump.  We did that well, too.  I even managed to make a couple decisions about pace and line without dithering and ruining our momentum.

Inner Me:  Shit!  This is the 5 stride line! Need to move up. LEG!!!! Ooohhh, that worked well.  Amy! Concentrate on the next fence, you dope!  It's the 7. Aaack, came in a touch too strong, bending out should help. Oh, yay, that worked too!

Again, was it like watching Amanda Steege or Tori Colvin?  Not by a long shot.  It was pretty much Get 'Er Done riding.  But I got it done without feeling like the wheels were going to fall off and I was going to die throughout the whole thing. 

My brain is a funny thing. It either works for me or against me.  (Sometimes I think a pre-ride lobotomy would be helpful.?  Today it worked for me.  Now I just gotta figure out how to get it to do that again.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Indy Update

Indy and Noah out for a stroll
The trouble with only being able to post once in a blue moon is that there seems to be sooo many

stories to tell. Which I find overwhelming.  Which makes me put off writing.  Which means more stuff happens and there is more to write about.  And then I can't think of what to say, even though there is no rule that says every post needs to be funny/witty/interesting/ earth-shaking/moving/motivational. If you've been following for a while, you've figured out that my brain goes like a crack-high hamster on its spinning wheel, loop after endless loop.  If you're new to this blog, now you know.

Anyway, enough about me. Let's catch up with what's ben going on with Indy.   We've been doing some trailer loading practice and ground work with him.  He loads, but sometimes it's a big production and if I'm going to hunter paces or lessons on my own, I want him to be able to self load. I don't want it to be a long, drawn out conversation, and I don't want to have to bribe him on.  It's not that he's afraid of the trailer, it's more of an "I don't wanna do that" kind of thing.  So we've been working on that with a trainer named Dom from Thumbs Up Horsemanship, and he's doing extremely well.  We haven't had a ton of practice time due to crazy schedules and short winter days, but now that it's light longer I anticipate some more chances to get better.

The ground work has been super fun. I figured it was a great way to get to know Indy, and to bond with him outside the riding and grooming thing.   He's done groundwork before with his previous Mom, and he clearly loves it.  You can tell he thinks he's playing with you. We've worked through some of the basic stuff on the leadline, with Dom doing the work initially and then letting me try.  Our last session we went out in a square pen and did some at-liberty stuff, and it was amazing to seem Dom get him to the point where a small shift of her body got him to change direction, come to her, go away. 

It's like she's doing some Vulcan mind meld thing and the two of them are communicating telepathically.  When I try it's obviously not as good, but the feeling I get is really cool.  It really is like Indy and I are so focused together, so connected.  It's like that feeling you get occasionally when you ride and you and your horse are on the same page and everything you do feels effortless, like you are thinking something and your horse is already doing it.  My hope is that bonding this way on the ground will build the kind of relationship that translates to our under-saddle efforts.

Dom and Indy: A meeting of the minds

As far as the actual riding thing goes, Indy continues to get stronger and more balanced.  RJ, the horse the kids had been riding, has been injured so Indy has been doing triple duty, which is not something I'd normally want to do for a young horse, but he's handling it brilliantly.  We're gradually adding more lateral work and asking him to accept shortening his gaits.  Yhe lengthening part he's fine with, the shortening?  Not so much.  We're exposing him to more and more questions in his jumping so we're keeping the fences low and easy for now.  He seems to love Sophie, which doesn't surprise me, since she's so tiny and light and "flow-y." (Is it horrible if I admit I'd give an eyeball to be able to "flow" like she does?)  If this sharing thing keeps up much longer I think he's going to become her horse, not mine.

We continue to learn about him.  For instance, he needs his turnout.  Over the winter there were a lot of days when turnout was impossible, or there was limited time outside. Time on the merry-go-round (walker) doesn't cut it.  He needs outdoor horse time.  A cooped-up Indy, not surprisingly, is a very fresh and silly and dragon-spotting Indy, on the cross-ties and in the ring. All horses need their turnout, but with Indy it seems to be a night and day difference kind of thing.  No turnout = crazy pony. Turnout = totally chill pony.

He has a definite "I'm done" button.  If we have to wait for someone to jump a course a couple times or if my trainer and I discuss something for several minutes he'll think he's done and will complain when I send him out to go again.  I need to leave the ring in the middle of a ride because I need to pee (hello, middle aged woman with two kids, thank you!) he lets me know he has no intention of going back into the ring.

Indy: "Wait, what?  You want to go back in?  No. we're done.  We came out. You got off. That means we're done." 

Me: "No, it just means Mom had to pee.  It happens.  Quite frequently.  You need to get used to it.  Now we are going back into the ring and we're going to jump over stuff."

Indy: "I want to speak with my Union representative."

We've been working on it and he's learning that he's learning he doesn't call the shots. Sometimes you can absolutely tell he's thinking he went from a pretty cushy life to boot camp, but he's such a sweetheart and really so eager to please the little hiccups are really non-issues.

So that's it.  That's what we've been up to.  The 5 minute recap of the last couple of months. Nothing earth-shaking, just your day -to-day horse stuff. Which is fun. And good.  And, to many of us, as necessary as oxygen.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Pics I Thought I'd Never Send...

Okay, I'm going to go on record as saying I do not get why people send naked photos of  their junk to other people.  I mean, really?  Let's count the ways that could come back and bite you in your (very exposed) ass.

FACT: Amy is not a fan of dick pics.

I bet you're scratching your head and wondering how in the hell this will circle around to something about horses.  Don't worry, we'll get there.

This is the story in a nutshell (BWHAHAHAHA! Sorry. Had to do it.): RJ, the big bay the kids ride, hurt his hock.  As a result I have to cold hose him, wrap the hock, and apply a standing bandage to that leg every day.  Which means I'm spending a lot of time in the general vicinity of his man bits.  It's not that I'm staring at them, mind you, but, well, they're there!

Anyway, one night I was wrapping RJ's boo-boo and I happened to glance up. His nether-region looked a bit more prominent than usual, but again, it's not like I spend time staring at it so I wasn't really sure.  So I went back to the wrapping, glancing up at his sheath every now and then.  Here's a bit of  the internal monologue running through my head:

"Geez, that looks big. Oh Good Gawd, I'm checking out my horse's junk. GACK!. No seriously, that doesn't look right.  He doesn't seem uncomfortable, though. Hang on, is the right side larger than the left side?  Is that normal for him?  How the heck would I know that? It's not like I've measured the damn thing!"

At this point I'd decided that it did look bigger than normal and was trying to figure out next steps.  Should I call the barn manager or the vet, or both?  Then I realized that either would be likely to ask for more information, such as if there was heat or if the swelling was hard to the touch, for example.

"RJ, don't take this the wrong way, but Mom needs to grope your grapes for a second."  RJ turned and raised an eyebrow at me as I palpated his package, but didn't give any indication that he felt violated in any way. 

More internal monologue: "OK, it's not painful.  That's good. It's warm, but not hot. It's firm, but not hard. Good grief, I sound like I'm buying a damn melon!"

I decided to reach out to the barn manager first.  Before I pressed the call button it occurred to me that describing what I was seeing would not be as effective as showing her. Moments later I was under RJ's belly with my phone and  telling his boy-parts to say cheese. (Note: If you ever find yourself in this position, do yourself a favor and click the flash on first.  Makes a difference. You're welcome.)

I sent her a couple photos with a text that went something like this: "I never thought I'd be sending anyone pictures like these. I'm not that girl. But do you think RJ's sheath looks swollen?  And does the one side look bigger than the other?"

Can you imagine sitting at home and getting a text like that?  Zoinks.

So that's how I wound up sending my first (and last, God willing) dick pics. 

(FYI: Apparently it's not uncommon for a gelding's sheath to swell while he's on stall rest. You learn something new every day!)

Saturday, February 27, 2016


Happy birthday, Mama.
Yesterday, 2/26,  would have been Sug's 20th birthday.  It's been a year and 7 months since I lost her, and the anniversary days are still hard.  Now that I think of it, I guess they always will be. 

So it was kind of a bittersweet day.  I was sad because I missed her, but happy that she'd been in my life.

Not that things haven't gotten better. They have.  I still cry, mostly when I see pictures or remember a special moment, but the tears are not as frequent as they used to be, so that's good. (I know it is good, but I still feel a bit guilty. God, I wish I could shut my brain off sometimes.)

The Boys, Indy and RJ, have been so good to be around, bless their sweet hearts.  Spending time with them and learning their quirks and personalities has been so healing.  Their personalities are nothing like hers, which is good.  I don't feel like I'm tempted apples to apples comparison.  Kinda like when you're a parent; you just can't compare one child to the other. 

I do notice the differences. You can't NOT notice them. For example, riding and working with Indy, a relatively young and inexperienced horse, is completely different that working with an older horse like Sug, who knew her job down to the ground.  It's a different journey altogether, and that's what's been so healing.

So I'm just going to add this little video, a silly little one that shows why this unflappable girl was such a special part of our lives.  You could just do things like this with her, which was only one of the reasons why she was so special.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Paying for the Ponies: The Importance of BSIH

I found myself writing out checks this morning. One check for monthly board, one to the farrier, one to the vet, yadda yadda yadda.  Each time I wrote another check I found myself gulping at the amount, and by the time I was done writing checks and tallying up the damage to my checkbook I was feeling rather faint.

Financing this ridiculously expensive sport is no easy task, and God knows many people (partners, friends, parents, strangers) wonder why we are so comfortable spending such obscene amounts of money.  My husband I were swimmers in college; I know he wishes on a daily basis that the kids had taken up our sport.  My justification is that I finance my horse habit myself.  When my husband and I got married, he wanted to do what his parents did with their finances; he wanted a joint account for all our joint expenses, and then separate accounts for our special interests. His Dad has a boat and loves to fish, and his Mom loves to go to the casinos. They each take a bit out of each paycheck to put towards their hobbies.  So that's what we do.

As it turned out, when we got married neither of us had a hobby.  It wasn't until years later when I started to ride again and got Sugar that I needed to have a "boat fund" of my own. I promptly named my new account the Sugar Stash. (Cute, right??)  I manage the account myself, which is dicey at best since numbers and I aren't exactly sympatico. (You'd know this if you ever saw me trying to count strides in a line).  To make matters less stressful, I went back to relying on a method I learned from my college roommate, one she called BSIH.

BSIH got me through most of my college career with no issues. When we started dating back in college, my husband was an accounting major. Once we'd been together a few months I decided to take shameless advantage of that fact and asked him to balance my checkbook, a chore I hated with a passion.  While he did so I sat on a nearby chair and watched TV.  Every now and then he'd make a noise and I'd look over to see his eyebrows raised, and an incredulous look on his face.  As time progressed I noticed the noises were more emphatic, his face was getting redder and redder, the vein in his temple was pulsing, and his eyebrows were practically meeting his hairline.

Finally he turned to me and said, ""

"Oh," I said, quite proud of myself. "That's Bank Says I Have."

He was beyond words. His face clearly showed that such a thing was completely incomprehensible to him. Honestly, the poor man was speechless for a couple minutes, just stared at me with his mouth opening and closing like a guppy, as if he wanted to say something but just couldn't figure out what it was.

"How? What? How?" he stuttered. Finally he got control of himself  and managed to ask how exactly BSIH worked.

"I enter in each deposit or debit and add or subtract accordingly.  Then every now and then I check to see that everything matches up.  After several transactions I compare what I have to what the bank  says I have.  Whichever is the lower number is the one I go with. I haven't bounced a check yet!"

We've been together 25 years, and the man still hasn't quite recovered from the shock of that revelation.

I've been back in the horse world for 8 years now, paying my horse-related bills from my own Sugar Stash. I've successfully used the tried and true BSIH method of accounting for all of those 8 years.  And I haven't bounced a check yet!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Godspeed, Levi

Last night my friend had to make the difficult decision to put her horse down. She is, of course, devastated, and my heart breaks for her.  I'd be lying if I said seeing her go through this did not bring back memories of losing Sug.

If ever there was the embodiment of a solid citizen, Levi was it.  I only knew him for a year, but in that short time, I can honestly say I never saw that sweet horse put a foot wrong.  Levi knew he had a JOB, an important JOB, and that was to take care of his mom and keep her safe.  You could see that every time she was on or around him.  He took the same care with her daughters.  Her oldest would take him into the show ring and he'd do everything he possibly could for her.  Again, I didn't know him long, but in the short time I did I never saw him give less than his all for his people.

When you see a friend go something hurtful you want to try in some way to make it better, even though you know there's no way to do that.  I'm trying to remember what helped keep me going through my own loss, and if any of what I learned could help her in some way.

I'd tell her to grieve in whatever way she needs to, for however long and hard she wants.  It's okay to curl up in a ball and cry, or to rant at the injustice of it all.  It's important to take time for herself, to rely on the support system in her life so she can grieve as she needs to and then take that step towards healing.  To talk about her sweet boy with friends, as much as she can or wants.  It helps to purge the grief and to remember the wonderful times.

I'd tell her to write her thoughts down, to look through old pictures and videos, and to just let the feelings wash over her.  That it's okay to sit in a dark room holding his halter or blanket, or to sit down on the floor and howl until it feels like she can't breathe.  I'd tell her it's gonna hurt for a long time, and not to let anyone tell her there's a time limit on grief.  I'd tell her that it's going to always hurt, and she's always going to cry, but that given time the good memories do start to outweigh the grief.

There's a song from the movie Meet the Robinsons by Rob Thomas called Little Wonders that I love, and I listened to it a lot when Sug passed.  It feels appropriate to share some of it here:

Our lives are made in these small hours
These little wonders, these twists and turns of fate
Time falls away but these small hours
These small hours still remain

I'm so glad my friend had those hours with her special boy, those memories together.  I only wish she'd had more of them.

RIP, sweet Levi.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Conversations With Indy...

Huh? What are you doing?
Is that rectangular thing a treat?
I've had Indy a little over two months now, and while we're still very much in the getting to know you
phase of our partnership, we're starting to understand each other more.  Communicate better. Understand each other's language, so to speak.

You know how horse owners tend to anthropomorphize their horses, assigning voices to them?  How we'll cheerfully tell a friend not only what our Precious Pony did that day, but also what Precious Pony thought about the activity and anything they may have said about it.

In my posts about my mare Sug I'd often include her thoughts and feeling about our adventures, as to me they were as clear and understandable as words on a page.  I had no doubt about her opinions, and had no qualms about sharing them with others.  I'm starting to get to a point where I'm starting to "hear" what Indy is saying.

If I'm standing and holding him and talking to someone he starts to noodge me with his muzzle and I hear this:"Mom. Mom. Mom! Ma! Mama! Mommy!!! Ma!!!"   When I finally turn to him to tell him to stop, I hear, "Hi! Hi Mom!  You've been chatting forever - didja forget me?  I'm right here. Is it time for treats?"

There's when he's on the cross ties and I need to run into the tack room to get something, or god forbid to the bathroom.  If I'm gone longer that 3 minute's I'll hear the sound of cross ties hitting the wall.  Then I'll hear him fidgeting.  If I'm not back at that point I'll either hear the sound of pawing or a short whinny.  When I return his face clearly says, "Oh thank God!!!  I thought you'd left!  Or forgot about me! Or died!  I was soooo lonely. Is it time for treats?"

Then there's when he's on the cross ties and I'm grooming him. Then it's a running commentary. "Oh look!  There's my friend Ray-Ban. Hi, Ray-Ban!  And there's RJ.  Hi, RJ!  Hold it. Is Ray-Ban getting treats?  Hey, Ray-Ban's mom, can I have a treat? PleasepleasepleasePLEEEEEAAAAASSSSEEE!"

When I'm grooming him he'll often twist around to look at me and I swear I hear him say, "Hey Mom!  How was your day?  Mine was good. I ate hay.  And went outside . And ate hay outside. Could you get the curry comb a little more to the left?  Yes, there. Ooh ooh ooh ooh yes!  That's the spot. And there's another spot over on my withers, can you get that one?  And my belly's itchy, too.  Can you do that?  And is it time for treats yet?"

And of course we have our ongoing discussion about the troll in the corner of the indoor arena.  That conversation goes like this: "Troll alert. There's a troll in that corner!" No, Indy.  There are no trolls. Trolls don't exist. "Yes! Yes, they do!  And they eat horses! Especially gray ones." No, Indy, there are no trolls and here is an inside leg telling you to get in to that corner. "Nononononono! There are trolls and they OOOFFF!!! You were serious about that inside leg thing. Okay, I'll move over, but if we get eaten, it's your fault."

If we are having a jumping lesson and we've stopped to wait while someone else does the course, sometimes Indy feels that means his quarter is up and the ride is over. When it's our turn I'll use a little leg to tell him to move off, and we'll have an exchange like this: "What?  Again?  No, we're done.  We stopped. We stood. That means done. No, I don't want to canter anymore.  OOOFFF! Again with the leg! Alright, we can canter if it means that much to you. But after I wanna talk to my union representative." 

There was also the time this Christmas when I asked him to wear antlers. He was less than pleased.

Oh my God!  Mooommmm!  This is soooo embarrassing!
What if one of my friends sees me?  I'll never live it down!  

Friday, January 1, 2016

To Gift Card or Not to Gift Card...

I'm glad holiday season is over. Not just because of the whole who's gonna cook what and where thing, or whose family is going to send the drama level to Defcon 1.  That is stressful shit, sure, but let's face it, finding the right gift that will make your loved one's face light up with joy is probably the most stressful part of the holidays.  I'm sure we've all agonized over a purchase, the gremlins SHOULD I and SHOULDN'T I perched on each shoulder offering their conflicting opinions.  

I remember buying a baby bouncy seat for a pregnant friend. I swear, more thought went into this than into the planning of the invasion of Normandy. Should I get the one that vibrated, or the one that didn't?  If I got the vibrating one, would that mean the baby would never fall asleep without the vibrations? If I didn't get the vibrating one, did that mean the baby would never fall asleep, or my friend would have to bounce that kid herself until her arm fell off from overuse?  Should I get the one with the umbrella thingie, or the detachable toys?  What about the ergonomic one?  (Seriously, have you seen the weird positions babies sleep in?  Ergonomic, schmergonomic. Babies are contortionists.)  By the time I bought the damn seat I was exhausted. (In case you're wondering, I got the vibrating one.  I figured my friend needed a sleeping baby and could fix any fallout issues later in the game.)

I've given myself at least 4 strokes trying to figure out the Perfect Gift to get my mother for the last umpteen years.  Same for my husband.  They both think they are easy to buy for.  Bullshit. People who say "Oh, no need to buy me anything, I'm fine!" are a huge pain in the rump.  You have to get them something, as you know if you listened to them and didn't get them anything it'd come back to bite you in the ass for years thereafter. But you can never figure out what exactly they want, because they never tell you.  So the whole gifting thing becomes a crapshoot.

That's why I love giving gift cards.  They're great. I feel they tell the giftee, "Here's free money to spend on whatever strikes your fancy. Knock yourself out!" There are those who would disagree with that, those who feel gift cards are a cop out designed to make the gift giver feel good about themselves while putting as little thought into the gift as possible.  My mother falls into that camp. She feels that giving a gift card shows a lack of regard.  Pffffffttttttt.

I completely disagree.  I think they're brilliant.  I hate to shop.  Malls give me the twitches. And hives.  There are only two places where I don't hate shopping: Tack shops and Barnes & Noble.  I could spend hours in either.  Give me a gift card to Barnes & Noble and I'll wander around, breathing in the wonderful smell of paper and ink, picking up book after book and reading the synopsis on the dust jacket, laying some aside in a must-have pile and others in the maybe pile.  

Same thing applies to tack shops.  A gift card to a tack shop means that not only can I go in and wander around to my heart's content, but I can now look at the dress sheet/breeches/helmet/halter/blanket/boots I've had my eyes on and find them more affordable.  Whole new vistas and opportunities open up!  Where before I may have only been able to consider necessities (Indy needs a new halter), now I have the option to consider luxuries (maybe that shipping halter I've been lusting after). Or at least a wider variety of necessities.  Instead of looking longingly at the Tredstep Symphony breeches, maybe now I can try them on with the intent to actually buy them!

A new safety vest, maybe?
A new safety vest, maybe?
My husband, mother-in-law, and my recently-converted mother, have all realized that gift cards are really the most thoughtful gift to give me. They know it's not just a gift, it's the whole experience. The enjoyment of  formulating  a plan of attack for post-holiday sales at my favorite tack shops.  The fun of  pulling out catalogs, and spending time leafing through to find the dog-eared pages with the items on my horsie wish list.  

A gift card is not a thoughtless gift at all.  A gift card gives the giftee the ability to make a fantasy a reality, and to revel in the process at the same time.  I love the fact that every time I look at my horse wearing his Horseware turnout rug, I know that my loved one's thoughtful gift helps keep my four-legged baby warm.

* Note: I published another version of this on Horse Junkies United, and then edited that piece for this post. So if you feel as if you've read it twice, that may be why.