Sunday, July 26, 2015

House Post: Living Room Couch

This is going to be a very short post that does not properly encapsulate the agony of trying to find this damn couch.

My fiances parents are the loveliest people ever (I seriously hit the in-law jackpot.) Even after doing so much for us already, they wanted to get us a housewarming gift. A few conversations later and we decided on a nice couch.

Fiance had his heart set on sectional, which is...not my style. However, he also wants to keep all the wall-to-wall carpeting in the house, because he hates hardwood floors, because he has no soul. So I figured: he can have a sectional, and I will win my hardwood floors.

However. Our living room, while quite spacious, is not a modern living room. It is a 1928 living room, and in 1928, they did not envision monstrous sectionals. We measured the walls, and we started visiting furniture stores. And more furniture stores. And mooooooore furniture stores.

First of all, 90% of all of them were too big for the space. Another 5% were out of the budget. Of the remaining 5%, 4% were ugly.

Finally, we arrived at a couch we both liked, with the measurements we needed, and we ordered it. And then we waited. I've never bought grown up furniture before, so it was a revelation to me that you couldn't just go get it from the warehouse. (Okay, I honestly can't remember the last piece of furniture I bought new that wasn't IKEA.)

Friday, the new couch arrived!

Before! Fiance was way less than impressed with my need for a before picture.

After, with bonus excited pup.

And the final arrangement. I even got the coasters out of their box so we could use them on the nice table from his grandmother.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

A few blog posts from the wider world this week.

Mind Your Melon from Stories From the Saddle
Every time, every ride.

Hunters vs Eventers from Hand Gallop
I laughed really, really hard.

Keeping Me In Sight from If the Saddle Fits
Beautifully written perspective on a military family's sacrifice, with horses.

Young Event Horse from Pony Express
Neat overview of an event I've always been curious about, and gorgeous photos besides.

Friday, July 24, 2015

What are these spots on my horse's neck?

A few weeks ago, I noticed these spots on Tristan's neck. I've thought about it on and off since, and I can't figure out what they are.

Two adjacent spots on the left side of his neck - can you see them, just below the bottom end of his freezebrand, and above the wet hair? 

This one's a little harder to see, but: look at the corner formed by his wet hair, just up from the bottom of his neck. Now track up. It looks almost like a coffee ring on his neck.

On the left side of his neck, it's almost like the hair is thinner and darker simultaneously. On the right side, it's just discolored.

One theory is that they're just weird bug bites. He has always reacted excessively to bug bites, from huge seeping welts to hives.

Another theory, and I am leaning toward this one, is that these are reactions to his IM Pentosan shots. But three separate spots would mean that the oldest of them is at least 3 months old. I don't remember seeing them even two months ago, much less three. It's possible I'm just wildly unobservant about things that are not his legs, but I don't think so.

Any guesses?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Water, Water, Everywhere

Sunday, it rained on and off all day. We were predicted to get thunderstorms, but it seemed to rumble and rumble without any real payoff other than a few brief showers. At about 6:45, when I headed out to the barn, it was clear and not too cloudy, though damp from a passing shower.

I got to the barn at about 6:55, and it was already raining hard. By the time I got inside - and mind you, I parked right next to the door, so we're talking a distance of ten feet - it was raining as hard as I have ever seen it rain in my life.

Taken out the door of the indoor.

I called the barn owners and asked if they wanted the doors closed - yes, please! I remembered that a few weeks ago the door to the indoor in particular had been left open during a bad rain and part of the footing had washed out.

It was raining so hard that the roof was leaking from the sheer force of it. Tristan's stall had two or three spots were drips were coming down. He was so mad. He kept dancing around trying to get out of the water and glaring at me like it was my fault. He finally found a way to stand that kept him perfectly dry.

Mind you - we're not talking even a real leak. Drops of water, inconsistently. That should tell you something about much Tristan hates rain.

I stayed about an hour grooming and tidying my tack trunk, and the rain eased up - a good thing for a lot of reasons, not least of which was that it was rattling the barn and indoor roof so hard I could not hear myself think. I've never heard it so loud. The rain stopped before I left, and I stood by my car watching the next storm come in across the valley. I am not a huge storm lover; thunder typically wigs me out. This was totally mesmerizing. The lightning streaked toward the mountaintops, and then the thunder rolled through the valley like giant tearing paper with an earthshaking boom at the tail. Slowly, lines of mountains disappeared as the clouds rolled in. I left before it got there.

I got home, and it started raining again, hard, not long afterwards. Then at about 10pm, when we were getting ready for bed, we lost power. I called in the outage and started checking Twitter and Facebook and yup: severe thunderstorm and flash flood warnings.

And I saw this photo. That's 2.5 blocks from my house, at the major intersection with Main Street. I drive through there every day. See those blocky things in the middle ground, on the left? Those are the tops of 4' tall granite columns. Unbelievable.

Our house is on a hill, and while we had some tiny leakage into the garage due to an old, dry, semi-rotted rubber seal on the bottom of the garage door, everything else flowed downhill to create flash floods right downtown.

The adjacent town where Tristan lives was even harder hit. Here's a blog with photos of some of the roads; almost all of them are ones I take every day. The first photo is the reverse of the one I took the next day, trying to get to the barn.

So out of the 5 different roads I can take to the barn, only one survived the storms intact. It means tripling my commute - going back out to a major road, down several miles, then doubling around through back roads. Even those roads are not in great shape, with cuts and washouts bitten out of them. At least I can get there, though - there are a few houses that were completely cut off.

I knew that Vermont was prone to floods, and there have certainly been many bad floods in this area in the past - from the 1927 flood to Tropical Storm Irene - but this was my first personal experience of it!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Last night, I drove around the many, many washed-out roads to get to the barn (about which more later). I was meeting someone who wanted to look at my trailer at 6pm, and I got there at 5, so I longed.

It was, to say the least, dissatisfying. Tris was not particularly interested, and showed only glimmers of good work. He was capital-L-Lazy, and would not step out in the walk and kept hopping into the canter in the trot.

He settled into a lovely trot going left, finally, nice and stretchy but never settled in going right, even after some canters to get him warmed up and blowing. He just looked uncomfortable, stiff, and discombobulated. I couldn't place a specific problematic area: I watched his hocks, his front feet, his stifles, his back, everything to see where he was not using it effectively or not weighting properly. I was stumped. I can't describe it any more than he just wasn't using his body well, at all. His legs were clean, cool, and tight, his back was not sensitive, nothing obvious was out of sorts.

So who knows. It's possible he's been stuck inside the last few days and not getting as much moving about time as he needs. He's definitely due for his Pentosan, and that niggling in the back of my mind about hock injections has started again. We'll see.

Between that, the fact that the people who came to see the trailer did not buy it (they were lovely, but it wasn't right for them, sigh), and the tripling of the length of my barn commute due to washed out roads, not the best night ever.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


I've been in a sort of funny place with my riding. I want to and I don't want to. I crave the feeling I get while riding, but I'm currently exhausted and overbooked, and the idea of getting everything together to go to the barn just to be hot and sweaty and miserable is not appealing, when there's SO much to do at home. So Tris is just sort of hanging out not getting a ton of exercise right now.

It's not like Tris has been neglected; far from. I've gone a few times to pet him on the nose, gather supplies, etc. Other things on the horse front are moving along: I'm washing his winter blankets, and have started showing the trailer. If all goes well, I'll sell it by the end of the week.

Arya's separation anxiety issues have been spiking, too, so it's doubly hard to leave her alone on my days off with her, when she cries and shivers and glues herself to my leg as soon as I start making motions to leave. We may be on the right track to helping her out, but that doesn't make it any easier to see her so miserable.

The house is moving right along. We're in a sort of weird decision crunch right now; the electrician comes on Monday to start rewiring, so I'm picking out ceiling fans, bathroom fans, and trying to line up other things to get done next week so that we're in the right place for rewiring.

We're finally painting in the master bedroom, too, and I am happy with the test color. One more wall to prep & sand, then prime, and some detail work for the priming to do, and then we will finish with a first coat around the room.

In short: not terribly exciting. I have things I want to blog about and ask, but 99% of my at-home internet time lately has been taken up by endless trawling through home improvement blogs to think about what rating ceiling fan I really need, what the Vermont code is for fire walls, and the relative R-values of insulation. Whew.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

A few nice posts from the equestrian blogging world.

First, a general heads up: if you follow Hillary at Equestrian at Hart through a feed reader (like I do), you'll need to re-add her blog as she had a glitch when swapping back end platforms!

Transformation Tuesday from DIY Horse Ownership
A particularly well-illustrated and explained transformation of...a fancy riding mule!

If I ever go riding on the beach, I am convinced this is exactly how it would play out. o.O

Teaching your horse to smile from Wallace Eventing
What. I'm doing this.

Friends and congrats at the Pan Ams from Guinness on Tap
Really neat inside story of a dressage rider at the Pan Am Games.

Horses don't understand betrayal from A Gift Horse
Absolutely spot on, and really important to remember.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Explain to me: fly bonnets?

We are finally entering serious bug season here in Vermont. (Though, it has been getting into the low 40s and high 30s at night, so maybe that will ease off again.)

Once upon a time, Tristan wore a fly bonnet for every outdoor ride. See, when bugs land on his face, he loses his little mind. He flings his head in every possible direction. He snorts. He prances. He shakes and shakes and shakes.

He is remarkably tolerant of me using a dressage whip to flick them off, so that's often what I do, along with riding when the bugs are less, or inside, or just sucking it up.

(I just looked and looked and can't find a photo of Tris in his fly bonnet, so you will have to take my word for this.)

Here's the problem though: the fly bonnet does not stay on his head. No matter how I snug it under his bridle, no matter how I wrap the string around the straps of the bridle, no matter how much I reach forward and tug it back into place while we're riding, it does.not.stay.put.

Relatively quickly into every ride with it, he gives a really good long shake, and it flies off, usually falling forward over his eyes. Thankfully, he doesn't care all that much, but it's next to impossible to get back into place from the saddle, and then it's even more dislodged, and stays an even shorter period of time, etc.

It's a cheap basic fly bonnet that I probably bought at Dover Saddlery at least 10 years ago, before they were all cool. White, with cotton fabric ears and crocheted cotton headpiece. It has tassels that used to be longer before someone trimmed them, something about they were hanging in his eyes and looked terrible. :P

This one, in white.

What am I doing wrong? Is Tristan just not meant to be one of the cool kids who can accessorize with a fly bonnet? Is it a fit problem?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

It's too nice outside, I can't dressage

Tristan's dressage-ing has been going really well. That's the good news.

The bad news? It's too gorgeous to stay in a ring. I just can't. I keep driving to the barn with careful plans and thoughts and blah blah...then I pull up and I cannot stay inside.

So last night I stopped back by my car to grab a granola bar so I would not sugar crash after a long day at work...

Good patient pony, if confused.

...and then attempted to take my first horse selfie ever with horse (and like my third selfie ever and all the others were to do things like show off my new helmet or show my mother my new glasses).

Tristan: wtf. Me: ...I have no idea what I'm doing.

Yeah, not so much. The light was just so gorgeous though.

Then we walked around the field.

And I still couldn't make myself go inside.

So we walked down the road.

And down the road some more.

And I know you will all appreciate when I say that I deserve a goddamn gold medal for not galloping up this hill every single time I'm at the bottom of it. Siiiiiiigh.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Fitness Wednesday

Because I kind of hate the "weigh in Wednesday" thing.

I am not a naturally sporty person. I played sports in school, right up until high school, but they were the kind that a) I was already good at and b) didn't take much practice or conditioning.

I loathe running. I fucking hate it from the depths of my soul. It is boring, painful (ugh, my knees), and I am just not built as a distance runner so it never gets easier, just a smidge less miserable. Like, 10 steps in I hate it and want to stop. This is not about hitting a wall.

Gyms bore me. I am almost never going to be the person who thinks "ooh, I'll go mountain biking/climbing/whitewater rafting" on a regular basis. I don't mind hiking in the sense of long walks in the woods on gentle inclines, but there is a point on every mountain hike when we hit the part where it's all rocky and straight up and shitty and I turn into a three year old and everyone hates me and I hate myself and I want to die. So sometimes I'll hike when that rocky part is like 15 minutes. Any longer than that and I want nothing to do with it.

Riding is really my main physical outlet, which explains why after the worst winter ever I started for the first time feeling kind of like I was not as fit as I wanted to be. Part of that is yes, I have some extra weight, but that's never been my top concern. I'd rather my body do the things I want it to, when I want it to, than weigh a certain goal amount. I want to do right by my horse, to feel energetic instead of lethargic, and to just generally be healthier.

Hence the "fitness Wednesday."

So I'm going to try and report in semi-regularly about how I'm doing about that. Mostly, I want to make better choices: about what I eat and how much of it, about how I move my body and how active I am. More deliberation, less instinct.

For the past few weeks I've been tracking what I eat using My Fitness Pal, with a twofold goal: to make sure I don't overeat, especially sugary things, and to make sure that I'm meeting broad nutritional goals - iron and vitamins in particular. My iPhone also has a steps tracker, so I'm trying to increase that a little bit every day - not always hit that magical 10k number, but just, do better. Take another long walk, or force myself to ride, or take the dog out. Anything to keep my body moving.

Anyway - that's my very loose, vague, and unspecific manifesto!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cushings Update: Summer Edition

After reading this blog post from Flying Free, I realized it's been a while since I updated on Tristan's Cushings. For previous entries, check out the Cushings tag.

This is definitely one of those "no news is good news" situations. He's been doing amazingly well. He's maintaining on 1mg of pergolide a day, and eating it without any difficulties. After the Wedgewood Pharmacy scare, there have been no problems with the supply of the drug itself.

Showing off his summer condition.

Right now, he's on about three flakes of hay a day, 1/2 Q of Blue Seal's Carb Guard in the morning and at night, and about 3 hours of grass a day. Remember, he does not have associated insulin issues, so he's still fine to have access to grass. We're careful about what grass he gets and how much of it he gets, but there's no physiological reason he can't have it. The barn was unbelievably good about getting ready for grass turnout: he and the other Cushings horse got acclimated to grass in 5 minute intervals, adding on 5 more minutes every other day, for two weeks until they got up to an hour.

One of the main reasons that we first suspected Cushings was because he just would not gain or keep muscle or fitness. I'm really happy to report that both of those things are dramatically improved this summer. He came out of the winter in beautiful condition (even after the worst winter ever!), and with a careful conditioning program has bounced back amazingly well. His summer coat is shiny, fine, and soft, with not a hint of coarse growth or overgrowth.

Conformation shot, early June

Saturday night, for example, he had a solid 55 minutes of trot set work in intervals, with about 8 minutes of canter in short bursts (30 seconds - 1 minute at a time). He finished barely winded, and only sweaty under the girth and under his bridle. o.O

He often feels muscle-tired but not winded or overly tired, like he's had a good lifting exercise and would like to be done working on those muscle groups, but not overall body-exhausted. That's to be expected, since he's working on a higher and higher degree of collection with each ride as we ease back into more intensive dressage work.

In short - knock wood - I have my horse back. Whew. :)

Monday, July 13, 2015

How do you calculate & pay your board?

I've been at quite a few barns now, and I've had my board calculated differently at each of them.

At my first barn, I paid after the fact for lessons on a monthly basis. I also worked at that barn regularly because I was flat broke, so the amount I owed each month was very different, sometimes by hundreds of dollars. I kept a running tally myself, but I can't for the life of me remember how they let me know how much I owed. I think it was verbal, honestly. Everything at that barn was verbal, which is amazing considering it was the tightest-run barn I've ever been at.

Barn #2 I only paid two months of board, one of those a sacrifice month due to leaving without notice, so that doesn't count.

Barn #3 was precisely the same base amount each month. There were no extras. I used an outside farrier, a different vet, and never lessoned with the barn's trainer. When I took lessons it was with an outside instructor and I paid that person directly.

Barn #4 was also precisely the same amount each month, and it included four lessons per month, as required. I am still really torn on that system. On the one hand, it was terrific to have a guaranteed weekly lesson, and I really improved quite a lot under that system. On the other hand, my schedule could be unpredictable, and when I missed a lesson it wasn't easy to make up. When Tristan was off for so long, I did some lessoning on other horses, but not consistently. I built up a HUGE bank of lessons that was basically money left on the table, which was hard.

My current barn does it my very favorite way: they invoice me. It sounds so sensible and business-like that I'm amazed I've never seen it before!

F'rexample, here's my July board bill. It's all itemized out: fecal samples, the farrier visit, and the basic board. When I work off lessons, that's accounted for, as are lessons or training rides or other services. They're also dated, so when I file these I have a really good records system. I love it. I also love that the barn covers the farrier and bills me monthly. It baffles me, I have to be honest, but I do like it. It eliminates one of the "did you leave a check?" conversations each month.

Every barn I've ever been at I've paid by check, though. If I could pay by credit card, that would be truly living the dream. I would love to add the points to my stash, especially right now since I'm saving up for the honeymoon in travel points.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

House Post: Master Bedroom

This is not entirely the post I hoped to write about the master bedroom. Sigh.

So: as mentioned previously, there is a lot of wallpaper in this house. Eventually, I want it allllll gone.

The first room we are doing will be the master bedroom, for two reasons. First, the carpet is disgusting - the pad underneath is so old it crunches when you walk on it. Like you can feel it sort of grind under your heel and it makes this noise like a dying cockroach and also it is this green color that ugh.

Second, I would like at least one room to be nice and done and then I can have a nice bedroom and be done with it and move on.


We left the master bedroom empty when we moved in, and have been living in the other front guest room for now, which is no hardship at all because it is only a smidge smaller than the master and is right across the hall.

So here is the workflow: remove wallpaper, patch cracks, caulk windows, prime, repaint, pull up carpet, move furniture in, have lovely new bedroom.

Step 1: Remove Wallpaper

This was the easy part!

The top vinyl layer peeled right off with fingernails. No problem at all. Kind of fun to do, actually.

The bottom paper layer then steamed right off. Tedious, but simple and straightforward. (Did I mention my in-laws bought me a wallpaper steamer for my birthday? <3) Get it wet, shimmy it off with a putty knife, move on.

Total time elapsed: about two days, or say about 10 hours.

Then we hit a brick wall known as "ancient wallpaper paste."

See, it's not enough to get the wallpaper off. You have to scrub off an additional layer of wallpaper paste underneath, or, apparently, it traps moisture and in a very short time your pant peels right off and then you are back at square 1.

Common wisdom says: most wallpaper paste is wheat-based, so it should dissolve with water, or at the very worst some dish soap, or vinegar. Wipe it off with a sponge, it'll take a while but it won't be too hard.

I say: hahahahahahahahaha. *sob*

I tried: hot water, Dawn, dishwashing soap, vinegar, vinegar + Dawn, vinegar + dishwashing soap, 3 different kinds of "wallpaper paste removal" products. I used a sponge, then a stiffer sponge, then a scrub pad, then a grout brush, then a heavy-duty brush that attached to the end of my cordless drill. I soaked it, left it, soaked it, left it, and tried again. No change.

Fiance and I worked hard for 2 hours and got about a four square foot area done. Yeah. I know it's still there: I can see it, a thin gummy film over the paint. It clings so fiercely that when it is gone, so are the top two layers of paint.

I hesitate about sanding it off, because while I have good evidence that the wallpaper was applied in the early 1980s, I have no idea what's underneath it, and I am being extra-cautious. It may come to that yet.

So, back to the internet. I now have a new array of chemicals and will keep spot-testing until I find one that strips this #@!#!%$##@ stuff. Until then...we are stalled in this room, though by no means on the house at large. There's TONS of other stuff going on & coming up in the next few weeks, including the Big One: rewiring the house from basement to attic.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Here are a few blog posts from the wider world this week.

How an ugly duckling learned to fly: a story from the Spanish Riding School from Trafalgar Square Books
Love, love, love.

How we've changed since we started eventing from The $900 Facebook Pony
Really great thoughts, eloquently expressed.

Let's Be Friends! A Few Tips for Introducing Dogs from Team Unruly
I read this, and then took Arya to the dog park a few days later. It was great information to have in my head. Luckily, Arya is wonderful with other dogs, but it was good to really analyze and see how she interacted appropriately with new dogs, from greeting well to apologizing sensibly when she got a little too puppyish.

Constructive criticism vs. public shaming from Fraidy Cat Eventing
Excellent thoughtful breakdown of the overly-critical equestrian culture on the internet that we've all seen.

A must-have trailer accessory from Equinpilot
If you haul, you should read this, about stabilizing systems. I have one on my trailer and adore it. I wouldn't haul a bumper pull without one.

Friday, July 10, 2015

If Horse Blog Posts Had Clickbait Titles

I can't be the only person who is wildly, irrationally annoyed by clickbait titles, right? You know, the ones that one aunt/cousin/high school friend posts every 20 minutes? I see one on Facebook and I want to throw things across the room. They're just so obnoxiously sensationalist.

So I've been trying to fight internet idiocy with humor, and over the last few weeks have played a little game with myself, trying to come up with horse blog posts titles a la Buzzfeed (or Upworthy or any of the other nausea-inducing fake news websites out there, hi yes, I'm a snob).


Here are a few I've come up with.
She Thought She Had Packed Everything for Her Show - You'll Never Believe What She Forgot!
They Took A Long Spot - What Happened Next Will Take Your Breath Away!
6 New Half Pad Trends You Have to See to Believe!
3 Simple Steps to the Perfect Topline - Overnight!
Only '90s Kids Will Understand: Do You Remember These Trends in Breeches?
You Won't Believe These Galloping Boots Until You See Them in Action
This Shocking New Hunter Derby Jump Changes Everything
5 Examples of Mismatched Tack That Will Make You Lose Faith in Humanity
This Is The Most Important Photo of a Horse Standing In Its Field You'll See All Day
That's all I've got for now. Any more from you all?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Evening Ride

I have this problem: I keep making careful plans, and then I get in the car to drive to the barn, and it's beautiful. Then I make the last turn, and I look down across the fields and the mountains and the light is just so and I pull up to the barn and I just physically can't stand the idea of riding inside.

So we go outside, and we play in the fields, and I regret nothing. So maybe it's not really a problem...

Yesterday: got up 3 hours early, worked 2 hours at the food coop for the member/worker program, did 9 hours at the day job, got home, did 2 loads of laundry, took the pup to the dog park, then settled her in with dinner and headed back out to the barn.

On a whim, I put Tristan in his jump saddle, because doing the everyday tack blog hop made me remember how much I love it. It's just such a classy saddle.

The most majestic of donkeys.

It also provided a different kind of exercise for me, because its stirrups are set to jumping length (though not XC length) and I have been riding almost exclusively in my dressage saddle. Immediately a different feel.

We worked up and down the big gallop hill, mostly at the walk, but a bit of trot at the end. This horse, you guys. He hadn't been worked in 5 days while I was visiting family, and last night I asked for a trot in an open field and he listened perfectly: strong into the bridle but took a half-halt from my core, moved out happily and cheerfully once he got the idea. There was a time asking for more than a walk would've resulted in a flat gallop and bucking fit.

We wandered a bit, and then I realized that there were pretty new jumps set up in the outdoor ring. And I was in my jumping saddle. And there were some straightforward crossrails set up on the diagonal.

So how was I supposed to resist that?

I asked for an easy trot, bridged the reins, and he practically stumbled over the first crossrail. He shook it off, and I didn't want to end on that note, so we circled back around to the other crossrail. I asked for trot a little further out to get a good establishing forward rhythm - which was totally ruined when he realized we were jumping again and went WHOOOOOOOOO.

Or, as much as Tristan goes like that anymore. Basically he got strong in the bridle, a little more upright, and tried a few canter steps. It was a lovely jump, though, and I felt secure in my seat if a little overly defensive. So then of course we had to do them in succession, two on the diagonal.

I was just supposed to walk away from that?

Jump 3 was suuuuuuper strong and long, and I got way left behind and had much too strong a hold of his mouth, which he let me know in no uncertain terms was unappreciated. He landed nose down and crow-hopping, I yanked his head up and said oh hell no, and put him back together.

Jump 4 was perfect. Strong and smooth and nailed a lovely bouncy canter on the correct lead off the landing.

I called it a day on that, and we walked around the ring for a few more minutes, and he did not want to be done. He locked on to every jump we went buy and when I dropped the reins took me to the base of an oxer. I think he wants to jump again!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Hard Decisions: Selling My Trailer

I bought my truck and trailer in the spring of 2008. I had saved up money, and I was expecting to head off to grad school in the fall. Possibly anywhere in the whole country! I scoured Craigslist and all the classified ads I could find, and I found an older, serviceable truck and trailer that I loved. The idea was to put my own belongings in the truck, and Tristan's in the trailer, and away we'd go! It didn't happen quite like that.

I loved being a person with a rig, that tantalizing possibility. I loved having the extra storage space in my trailer.

Tristan in the background, Tucker in the foreground.

I'll be honest: I hated driving it. Hitching up the trailer and then loading my horse in sent every single anxiety demon in my brain into coke-fueled overdrive.

I am a great hauler. I am cautious, steady, smart, and I can back that entire rig anywhere. I am prepared and experienced. But I still spent every trailer hauling drive white-knuckled and nauseated. I couldn't sleep the night before. I am insanely jealous of people who just hitch up and go. It seems so free.

So I've always had a love-hate relationship with my rig. It was such an incredibly useful thing to own. Such freedom and so many interesting things were possible!

However, the combination of my life, my schedule, my finances, and my aversion to hauling all mean that I haul out only once or twice a year. I know there are lots of you who would go somewhere every weekend. I wish I were like you, but I have to accept that I'm not.

Last night, I brought up a tupperware of Tristan's winter blankets for storage. I opened the door, looked in the trailer, tossed in the tupperware, and had a moment of blinding realization. It was time. After two or three years of hemming and hawing, I was ready. I felt it in my gut. I am desperately sad about it, but I also have no doubts at all.

So, I have sent out some emails this morning. Over the weekend it'll go on Craigslist. It's time. I'll set aside the money I sell it for (I'm not looking for a lot anyway) as seed money for the future, and go back to hitching rides for the few times I head out.

If anyone is interested in buying it, email me at beljoeor[at]gmail[dot]com. I'll deliver anywhere in New England and most of New York for no extra cost.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

House Post: Horse Laundry, or Living the Dream

Our house came with one washing machine: an older Kenmore, inefficient and top-load. It was a workhorse but could also die at any moment. There was a dryer hookup but no dryer.

We knew we would have to buy a washer and dryer, and had budgeted accordingly. A friend was buying a new washer and dryer - apartment-sized and a better fit for him - and sold us his barely used, HE washer & dryer for a fraction of the cost of new. Excellent!

Then I had a stroke of genius: could I double-plumb the washers?

So I started.

Things I had to do: replace the shut-off valves (the original 1920s copper valves had finally given up mid-install), bifurcate the drain pipe, bifurcate the intake valves, rewire the dryer plug, trim the new drain hose to size, and reconfigure the dryer vent hose.

Five hours and four trips to the local hardware store later, I had achieved laundry nirvana.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

A few posts from the horse blogging world this week.

Growing up Sadie from The $900 Facebook Pony
I love this - well-illustrated and explained, the path of a baby horse.

Cushings/PPID Primer, Part 1 & Part 2 from Paradigm Farms Retirement
I've written a lot on this blog about my own learning process with Cushings, but this is a really good summary.

Jesus, Take the Wheel: Adventures in Learning to Trailer (Part 2) from A Work in Progress
This made me laugh and laugh. Trailering is not for the faint of heart!

Throwback Thursday: Learning to Jump from Hand Gallop

A Relaxing Trail Ride? You Be the Judge from Saddle Seeks Horse
Eeeeeeeep. Gorgeous photos, though!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Boosting the Signal: Gift for Lauren

As a reminder, there's still a collection to help Lauren out, organized by Tracy of Fly on Over.

Please consider donating.

Lauren is blogging in a heartbreakingly eloquent way about her circumstances, so if you are not caught up, visit her at She Moved to Texas.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Rainy Day Dressage Calisthenics

So granted, it's not Texas-level, but Vermont just saw its rainiest June in over 100 years. Thankfully, my barn has an indoor - like most nicer barns in the northeast - or we would never ride, ever.

We've moved on from strict conditioning rides to dressage and strengthening rides. I am for 30-40 minutes each ride, which is about the limit of his muscle strength and mental tolerance right now. At the end of an intensive ride, he's very body-tired but not terribly sweaty or winded.

Generally, things are going really, really well. We've had a couple of utter shit rides, but on the balance they've been pretty good.

Two days ago, we worked on stretching and coming up over his back and connecting his hind end by getting and staying forward through all three gaits. I got some really nice canter steps out of him. We're in a weird place right now where small circles are actually easier for him, almost, because it's less for him to think about when his body is sprawled all over the place. I've never been in this place before, but when I put him on a 15m circle he's much more bouncy and together. 20m and he flails and trips and just can't even.

Last night, it was all about the lateral work. I started him off in-hand, getting big steps over behind, then backing up, then stepping in the other direction. Under saddle, it was all about the leg yields while warming up, then turns on the hindquarters (blah) and forehand (much better). Those resulted in a horse with a better idea of where his shoulders and legs were, and we stepped up to small circles and teardrops at the trot, then shoulder-in and haunches-in. I tried to keep mixing it up, sometimes using a short diagonal to swap bend, sometimes zig-zagging in leg-yield, sometimes coming back to the wall after a circle and staying in haunches-in.

I'm not going to pretend any of it was show ring quality, but he felt terrific as he worked through it: rounder, deeper into the bit, more connected to my hands, gradually lighter and more able to be responsive to my aids.

Let's pretend this is artistic and not just poor quality. Shine and great condition!

I'm really happy with both his progress and my own schedule right now. The only thing I wish I could add into the mix is more hillwork, but the rain has been so bad the fields are flooded.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hand Gallop Blog Hop: Every Day Tack Setup

I am a creature of habit, and prefer to have minimal changes to my routine. It's a big deal when I even swap bits. I honestly can't remember the last time I bought a new saddle pad - 3 years? 4?

Nor do I really know/remember what type of bridle and saddle I ride in? I know the brand, but not the exact model. #sorrynotsorry.


Everyday dressage outfit.

Albion dressage saddle. I don't know which one. I bought it used at Pelham Saddlery about 5 years ago. I adore it. It fits me, it fits him, it is comfy and puts me in the right place. It has a small tear on the seat that was well-repaired. I paid $1,200 for it. Bargain. On the saddle itself: basic leathers, basic fillis irons.

Roma fleece half-pad. My most recent purchase, actually, to help cushion his ever-changing back.

Basic dressage saddle pad. I own 3; the one on him in this photo is the only one I bought new. The other was a $5 used tack store find, the other was a hand-me-down that I got the same year I got Tristan. Go ahead, cringe away.

Smartpak dressage girth. This one, the basic one. It's been a workhorse for as long as I've owned the saddle.

Stubben dressage bridle; padded, straightforward noseband. It has a flash attachment, but I don't really use the flash. (I have in the past, but not right now.) I like it. I bought it on sale at Equine Affaire years ago, for around $150, which was something like 75% off. It is not buttery soft but it is solid and quality. It has tooth marks on the noseband from an asshole barn dog four barns ago. Sigh. In the bit: loose ring French link with lozenge.

Not a great picture, sorry, but jumping attire.

Things that are the same: saddle pads, leathers, irons.

Passier PS Baum all purpose saddle. My baby. My first and only saddle for years. Bought for $300 from a barnmate, 30 years old when I bought it. Total workhorse. Hard as a rock. No knee or thigh roll to speak off. Slippery. Totally out of style. I adore it.

Basic girth. Dunno what type, but it's nylon-y and elastic on one side. Basic fleece girth cover, because I am picky about fleece on girths and it classes up the cheapo girth a little.

Dover Circuit Figure 8 Bridle. On clearance, $60. Yep. I really like it, actually, except it's a little small for Tristan's face so the figure 8 straps are always on their top holes.

Dover galloping boots. He only wears these for XC, because if he rubs a rail I want it to sting. I am a bad mom.

Dover bell boots. Ditto the above.