Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Equestrian Blogger Gift Exchange or A Mysterious Xmas Miracle(!)


The equestrian blogger gift exchange event that Tracy at Fly On Over organized last year was so much fun. When I saw she was kind enough to host another one this year,  I was super psyched to participate again.

It is every bit as fun to arrange the gift you send, as it is to receive yours. Looking forward to the report from my giftee. :D

Sooo, I got a call from my dad on Christmas day, saying he was on his way over for our holiday meal, and he had a package addressed to me. What???

Apparently, an ex-neighbor from my last address, (where I lived well over three years ago) called my dad when he couldn't find a number for me. A package had been delivered across the street, and was sitting forlornly on the porch of my old house, now unoccupied. Thank goodness for nosy ex-neighbors, otherwise that package would never have made into my hot little hands.

(There was actually another xmas miracle. Every single one of the eighteen fresh eggs my girls donated for the caesar salad deviled egg plate peeled perfectly. Every. single. one.)

Dad arrived and handed over a box from Dover saddlery. Pretty much always a good thing to get something from Dover so - yes - that must be mine. All mine. I tore it open, thinking that it might be from my Secret Santa.

Inside was a fresh, white, pristine dressage pad. A thing unheard of in these parts for, well, since I moved onto the farmette. No house = no washer/dryer, so I don't have many any opportunities to wash filthy horse items where I borrow my laundry access.

Underneath the pad was a beautiful horseware winter hat and scarf set - something I would never get for myself, but have admired when window shopping.

After fondling (and trying on where appropriate) my gifts, I dug around looking for a clue about which of you sent it and found -

- nothing. So sad that I can't thank you specifically. Please fess up - whoever you are, and thanks so much for the lovely, thoughtful gifts.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

You don't know what you've got til it's gone...

I'm heartbroken.

One of my all time favorite bloggers - Teresa from Journey with a Dancing Horse - has had an absolutely horrid accident at her farm, and lost her beautiful Andalusian gelding Steele. To make matters worse, if that could even be possible, the incident was caused by a thoughtless and negligent neighbor who couldn't be bothered to be responsible for his dogs.

Steele was as gorgeous, smart and sweet a young horse as anyone can ask for. What's more - Teresa is a great deal of the reason he turned out so well. She got him a little over two years ago as a baby, and has done a magnificent job preparing him to be her riding partner. She had just backed him this past May.

Teresa's thoughtful, tactful training was just beginning to reap rewards. Their story is a great education in how to bring up a baby. It has been a joy to follow their progress.

Until now.

Please drop in and let her know you're thinking of her. And don't forget to hug your horses.

The Flyaway Horse

Oh, a wonderful horse is the Fly-Away Horse-
Perhaps you have seen him before;
Perhaps, while you slept, his shadow has swept
Through the moonlight that floats on the floor.
For it's only at night, when the stars twinkle bright,
That the Fly-Away Horse, with a neigh
And a pull at his rein and a toss of his mane,
Is up on his heels and away!
The Moon in the sky,
As he gallopeth by,
Cries: 'Oh what a marvellous sight!'
And the Stars in dismay
Hide their faces away
In the lap of old Grandmother Night.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

In the Arena #156 - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind...

"Riding is a metaphor for life lived well and wisely."
 "The virtues needed for riding, are the same as those for an ethical life."
Charles de Kunffy

Next week will make one year since I packed the trailer and headed up to Maryland for a clinic. Five days of much needed instruction, and one-on-one time with Val. I had high hopes...

Hopes which were dashed before even mounting up once. A combination of extreme nerves (excess equestrogen) + poor judgement + not speaking up for my horse, led to a badly broken arm, eventual surgery, four months out of work and near financial disaster. Not exactly what I had in mind.

As soon as the doctor cleared me, I managed to hop on Val for a handful of rides. Mostly because I feared if I didn't do it then, I never would. Sadly, progress ended there.

Gradually, life began to feel overwhelming. The implications of being injured again practically paralyzed me, as I use my body to make a living. Catching back up financially so I have a hope of building my house in a little over a year, felt impossible. Nothing seemed engaging enough to warrant blog posts. I was teetering on the edge of depression. I slept too much and ate too much. :(

With some time and perspective under my belt, I realize now things weren't all that bad, or drastic, or boring. In the "down time" I built a chicken coop, and raised a dozen hens up from day old chicks. There are two new garden beds, and lumber + plans to fence the garden for protection from critters and weather.

On the pony front, my trimming skills have steadily improved. Val's feet look the best they have since I pulled his shoes. Val developed a few new skills too. He reliably comes from the back of the pasture when he's called (cookies!), backs up 10 - 12 steps on hand signals alone (a long way from the cookies) - unhaltered - and his behavior being led now is perfect, even with big distractions.

If I learned one thing from the arm incident - it was that I needed to reinforce (and be consistent about) the concept of personal space with Val, no matter how exciting or disturbing things get. A big, costly hole in my training was revealed.

Despite the positive developments, I was still down in the dumps, having trouble with motivation on the riding and blogging fronts. And every day that went by made it that much harder to tack Val up, or sit down and hit the keyboard. Something had to give.

Two weeks ago my riding buddy N emailed me with details of a clinic only a few hours away, with Charles de Kunffy. Auditing was affordable, so I signed up. I'll do a full clinic review in an upcoming post, but suffice it to say my mind is blown. Mr. de Kunffy is one of the last living links to the old masters of classical dressage, and it was an absolute privilege to watch him teach for a day. His clinic was the key to unlocking my riding block... Thank you Mr. de Kunffy! :D

I am constantly amazed at what a mental sport riding is. Attitude is everything, in riding. Attitude is everything, in life.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

In the Arena #155 - If the good lord's willing and the creek don't rise...

Indications that life is finally back to normal again: (five long months since the big snap)(in order of increasing importance)

3. Fully employed once again. I'm back to swinging the heavy hedge trimmer, manhandling the trencher/edger machine and slinging sodden bags of mulch. I've never been so happy to be so tired at the end of the day.

*It seems like recovering from immobilizing of a limb for so long is trickier than a broken bone + surgery. The arm looks and feels normal now. My hand is still regaining lost muscle, and the numbness slowly receding.

2. All chores are being achieved single-handedly, and in a timely manner. I can move hay bales, empty feed bags, and best of all, give Val a thorough trim, two-handed, and solo.

*This last development is important for a few reasons, so humor me while I digress...

Our last farrier visit didn't go smoothly. At all. Disclaimer: it was wretchedly cold, and Val hadn't had his monthly Pentosan shot, (we were waiting for the compounding pharmacy to get it back in stock), so he was uncomfortable.

My farrier arrived in a hurry and stressed out. This was a perfect storm of not-goodness. Val and W got into a battle of wills which ended up with my horse refusing to hold his (arthritic) hinds up, and W manhandling him - cowboy style. (P.S. - Val is an angel when I trim him - every time. And it takes me easily three times as long.)

I know that W believes in how he handles horses. I know that he is an equine professional, with many more years of experience than I have. I am respectful of both of those facts.

I also know my horse - better than anyone else on this earth. He is never just randomly an a$$ for the hell of it. If he acts up, it's because he hurts or he's scared. The last time I didn't listen to my gut about what was best for my horse, I ended up with a broken arm, Val suffered a laminitic episode, and my life was basically turned upside down.

So - I gave Val a full trim Tuesday, knowing we were seeing the farrier this week. I'm planning to pay W for a consultation, and guidance on any corrections. This is how things will be from now on. I can continue learning about trimming, and W will be around if troubles crop up that I can't handle.

1. Best for last! Back in the saddle for real - post injury rides 2 and 3 this week. It feels so good to be on my horse again. SO good.

I'm riding bareback. Val's topline is non-existent, and his saddle won't be comfy until we build it back up. My goal is simply to increase our fitness slowly, at the walk for now, and focus on biomechanics (mine) and Val moving out with energy. Most importantly, me being clear and consistent with my requests and aids, and Val responding immediately and softly.

So far so good, with some fluid turns on the forehand and backing. Val seems very happy for things to get back to normal. He gave me a nice grooming during post-ride tack cleaning the other day. Later on he happily cantered back from the far end of the grazing pen when I called, bouncing to a stop right in front of me with a satisfied snort. Supreme cuteness.

Arena footing - perfect

Lady - you best be retrieving a cookie!

Check out the lipstick on my goofball of a pony

It feels like we've got an opportunity for a fresh start. And there aren't any funds in the foreseeable future for lessons or clinics. I'm going to have to dig deep, step up to the plate, pull on the big girl panties... etc. I've begun to quell the anxiety that built up from not riding for so long and sustaining a horse related injury. I've reorganized goals and priorities to be more realistic. I'm hoping to regain the joy that riding my horse should be all about.

One day at a time...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

In the Arena #154 - Laissez le bons temps rouler!!

Happy Fat Tuesday! Don't know about you all, but I'm giving up complaining about the weather for lent, which doesn't start until tomorrow so.... I AM F*CKING OVER IT!

There - I feel better. Time to catch up.

After the less than encouraging set of x-rays in January, I researched homeopathic remedies for bone growth, and ate those babies by the fistful. At the final appointment (!) Dr. Dreamy cleared my arm for regular activities and raved over the plentiful new bone.

So, the arm is mostly back to normal. There were issues with my hand feeling weak, and with a scary amount of numbness once I ditched the brace, but that's improving daily. The broken arm saga is officially over. Bye-bye Dr. D... parting is such sweet sorrow.

That was right about the time the most recent bout of cold + wind + snow/sleet/freezing rain-fest started. I have (finally) returned to work - weather permitting. I love my job (landscaping) but making a living has been trying lately. Too many days we can't work, and too many when we can work, that are super miserable to spend outdoors.

Yep. That's my girl in a flowery hooded doggy raincoat. SO excited to wear it (not)...

This past Sunday brought a brief visit from the golden orb in the sky - finally time to hop on the pony. First ride since October. I tacked Val up with the bareback pad and scrambled on - admittedly a little apprehensive about putting my full weight on the arm. It felt so good to be on my horse - I threw my arms around his neck and gave him a giant squeezing hug. Thought bubble over Val's head said 'Oh - get on with it lady!'

We happily tooled around the arena, did some circles and turns on the forehand, but mostly - we tested out our new tack acquisition. Val now officially sports a Micklem Competition.

Disclaimer: There is no room in the budget for indulgent tack purchases here. Nor do I believe in changing tack every time you encounter a problem. However, everything I have read - much of it from you my fellow bloggers - suggested that this bridle would be a good fit for Val. I've always thought he had issues with the noseband on his old bridle, and getting him to accept contact has been a struggle. With Smartpak's generous return policy in mind, I went for it.

The Micklem is anatomically designed to be comfortable on the facial nerves, and to stabilize the bit in the horse's mouth. Also, Val has a big tongue and a low palate. All three times he has worn it, he was chewing to beat the band, and made lovely lipstick. The turns on the forehand Sunday were like butter. I'll need a few more rides in it to confirm, but I have high hopes that some of what I assumed was bad riding might have been discomfort. Fingers crossed.

Stay tuned for upcoming posts about this year's garden (theoretically), and a project related to some new additions - coming soon to a farmette near you!

Handsome - even with the yak hair
My favorite view

ummmmm - cookie please!!
 ♥♥♥ (hehe - forelock resembles a toupe)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

From the Farmette #9 - State of Emergency...

Our state doesn't do winter weather that well, hence the state of emergency. I think inland received some pretty hefty snow totals, maybe up to a foot. We got sleet, followed by freezing rain and sleet over night. Temps went under freezing just in time to keep the trees and power lines safe. We finished up with a nice coating of snow. Snow that hides a treacherous icy layer underneath. Driving is a super bad idea. So it is an emergency, if you're stupid enough to drive.

There were a few hangups the morning after. The front door barely opened because the saggy, frozen stiff awning was in the way. And then there was locating and excavating frozen poo balls... Val helped on this one.

It wasn't a pretty snow, so there likely won't be too many good photo ops. I'm just happy that all the critters are safe and accounted for, and that we have heat and water. I made a big pot of lentil soup and a pomegranate cheesecake (what - I have to keep up my strength - it's a state of emergency! ;D) yesterday, so we're good to go here in the Shimmy Shack.

They call this mackeral skies... signifies approaching precipitation. Yes. Yes it does.

Snow pix are better when it's sunny...

He literally froze his a$$...

Frozen on the outside...

...but not on the inside. Who doesn't love when the water flows? :D

Hot mashes for breakie ♥

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

One of the benefits of throwing caution to the wind....

Stuck inside (again) due to weather. This time sleet, freezing rain, and eventually snow. Driving is hazardous. Walking on my porch is hazardous (waiting for the salt to work) so I'll be farmbound until the smoke clears. Those of you who deal with this crap on a regular basis, I.don'


A few months ago my book club read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, debut novel by Rachel Joyce. To quote the back of the book, "It is about all the wonderful everyday things Harold discovers through the mere process of putting one foot in front of the other."

The book was enjoyable, but that's not why I mention it.

While in the midst of reading, I came across a post over at 7MSN, one of my very favorite blogs (me and about five hundred other readers lol). I was absolutely enchanted by the story of Hannah and her donkey's journey - walking the entire circumference of their home country - Wales. 

Come to find out Hannah has a fundraising campaign going to raise the money needed to write their story, and make a film as well. The Kickstarter teaser blew me away...

Crazy town. A sign from the universe? Reading a book I would never have chosen, about letting it all go, listening to your inner voice, following your dreams no matter how crazy they may seem to others, and then through the beautiful randomness of the interwebs, there is this woman in real life, letting it all go, listening to her inner voice, following her dreams no matter how crazy they may seem to others...

I'm generally not a pledger, but how could I not? I felt a real connection to this wandering artist and her donkey. There was an email this morning saying she made her goal of ₤28,000 with a day to spare, (!!!) but there is still time to help her upgrade production values, and hire more local folks to work on the project.

If you're seeking a bit of inspiration in the midst of this dark, dreary, seemingly endless winter, do yourself a favor and visit Hannah and Chico across the pond in Wales. It will make you smile. :D

(borrowed from Hannah and Chico via 7MSN)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Many Happy Returns!

(edited to add Val didn't get this cake - it's an internet creation - but he would love it!)

Friday, January 24, 2014

In the Arena #153 - She says jump, I say how high...

There was a method to my madness. Dragging the paddock yesterday allowed me to "spy" on Val overnight. My last after dark visit to thaw the remote water bucket showed that Val had barely moved. This morning I could see he had rampaged around some. There were several trails leading into the run-in, as well as missing water and hay. Not anywhere near what is usually consumed, but a safe amount.

nom, nom, nom... guarding is hungry work!

staring + chewing, better than just staring

The sign that Everything Really Is Okay Now was when he followed me around as I picked the frozen manure, resting his head on my shoulder and sighing. I loved on him a bit, and served up a tasty hot morning mash surprise.

Newest theory is that maybe there's an animal, possible dying or dead already, holed up out in the marsh at the back of the property. In the rare instances when it has gotten this cold, for this long, I've run across frozen critters that crawled into bushes and pampas grasses to survive.

Whatever it was, my sensitive boy was very disturbed. Perhaps because he's an only horse, he takes his guarding the perimeter duties very seriously. Standing in one place staring I can handle. Not eating and drinking in sub freezing weather  - a recipe for disaster.


Just before Polar Vortex 2.0 triggered the 24 hour obsession, Val and I spent a fantastic afternoon together. First we did a bit of at liberty ground work, sans treats. Just praising to reward his attentiveness. Walking, halting, turns on the forehand, a bit of trotting. He stayed at my shoulder and seemed happy to be doing something together. I was happy to be doing anything horsey besides grooming, cleaning or worrying. ;D

Then on a whim, I pulled out the jump standards and a few poles. I set up a ground pole initially. After spooking as I brought the equipment in, Val investigated everything; knocking over the standards, lipping the cups, rolling the pole. He walked around the standard rather than through at first, so I grabbed a few cookies.

After walking through several times, I asked him to trot. He got a funny look on his face - oh, I remember this - rocked back on his hocks and waaaay over jumped the pole. Such an effort - it totally cracked me up. Val's not prone to expending extra energy, so he was having fun.

I know if there aren't pictures it didn't happen, but I purposely didn't bring the iphone out because I wanted to really focus on Val, not documenting. I don't have the tack, or the desire to jump Val, and his prior vet advised his jumping days were over, but playing around with free jumping some cross rails would be a nice way to change things up a bit, get some exercise, and enjoy ourselves. We'll have another chance for pictures...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Unencumbered by the thought process...


Maybe he has OCD?

Maybe he's psychic?

Since 9 this morning, and as of this writing, Val mostly has not strayed from the far left corner of the paddock.

I knew something was up, when he didn't follow me straight into the run-in to eat his breakfast. Two hours went by and the breakfast pan and hay were still untouched. Water too. Very uncharacteristic. Val has never willingly missed a meal since I have known him. In these temperatures, barely above freezing, this situation worried me.

He eagerly ate the cookie I brought him, and had produced manure, so I took him a flake of hay, and let him be for a while, confident he'd get bored, and return to the run in for his breakfast and water.

No dice.

On to plan B. Mid-afternoon, I brought him a bucket of water, and coaxed him to it with apple slices, which he gobbled eagerly. I dropped a few slices into the bucket. He quickly fished them out. Dropped in a few more, and he drank as well.

I walked Q the Jack Russell terrorist out into the wild yonder, hoping to flush a napping deer family, which was my guess for the source of the obsession. I reported back to Val that the coast was clear. It did not seem to matter, and he stayed put.

Next I dragged the ring. This accomplished two things - smoothing and softening the sand, which gets rock hard in the sub-freezing days, and giving Val some exercise, as I spun around near his obsession spot. He's moving just fine btw.

I'm planning one more flashlit visit before bed, to see if he has come to his senses. I'll take a hot kettle to thaw the water bucket - it's supposed to be in the low 20's overnight, and that small bucket will surely freeze solid otherwise. I want to believe that he will be sensible; go to the shelter, eat hay to stay warm, and drink water when he's thirsty.

I want to believe, but I'm not 100% on it... Anyone else had a horse act like this? What a flipping knothead...

No one wanted to move this morning...

WHAT'S THAT???????

Do you see what I see?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

(almost) WW

(shamelessly re-engineered from the interwebs)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Back to glass-half-full land...


Yesterday's post was intended to read - disappointment x irritation x impatience. Mostly impatience. But definitely not petulance. Sorry.


How about a little farm tour? Welcome to Val's realm.

Run in barnette with attached tack room

Where the magic happens... ;D

Val's stuff

Where we ride...

Hay storage I


Hay storage II

50 bales + giant jollyball (which can be scary or fun - you never know)

Pasture in progress...

♡ My favorite hayburner ♡

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...