Saturday, December 31, 2016

Weekly Blog Roundup

Some links for you in this holiday week.

Temptation and Doubt from Bully and Blaze
A dog blog but horse-applicable, with many many thoughtful things about risk management and the dangerous things that we do.

And a horsey response to the above: On Risk and Responsibility from Journey to 100 Miles

The Season of a Good Dog from The Collie Farm
This is a beautiful tribute to a working dog and to life on a working farm.

A non-horse read for the week: The Man Who Cleans Up After Plane Crashes. Difficult but worthwhile read, with a lot to think about - especially about empathy and compassion even in the most terrible of circumstances.

Friday, December 30, 2016

2017 Horse-Related Goals

I've actually been drafting this post for a while, both in paper notes and then via draft blog post. Last year, I didn't do goals. I am usually a goal-oriented person and thought it would help to be more laid back. Well, 2016 was a dumpster fire. I don't know how much was correlation and how much was causation (surely my lack of goals didn't elect Trump?) but I do know that being laid back does not work for me.

So here are some goals I'm setting for my equestrian-self in 2017.

1. Put hands on my horse 5x a week except when I am out of town.

This shouldn't be hard, but in 2016 I let his semi-retirement and my house projects dictate to me. I told myself (not untruthfully) that he was happier just chilling out, and that I would be happier if I made progress in other areas of my life.

But you guys: I am 8 minutes away from my horse. I've timed it. There is ZERO reason I can't spare 30 minutes just to go out and groom him even if I don't have time to ride or do anything longer. I need to get back on this. It will have the added bonus of increasing my non-riding ratio, which will make him a happier pony.

2. Be less perfunctory, in all areas of my life.

Part of being too busy and too laid back simultaneously was that I let myself get away with too much. I didn't groom thoroughly. I honestly can't remember the last time I cleaned my tack. Probably early summer. I have nice tack, good tools, and there is no reason I can't spend a little bit of extra time taking care of the details. If I am going to do something, I need to do it with intention.

3. Aim toward dressage schooling shows.

I'm not sure if the budget will allow off-property shows, but I need to make a commitment to both in-barn shows. I need to ask for the time off to make theme a success instead of winging it and hoping I can get away from work in the last two weeks.

4. Take more lessons

Even if it's once a month, I need focus again. I am so stupid lucky to be at a place with great instruction. I need to make this a priority in my budget. Commitment to this will mean that I probably can't justify any off-property showing (one show = 5 lessons).

5. Find a horse-specific income stream. Corollary: fully re-fund Tristan's emergency fund.

I don't know what this is. Maybe it's something I make and sell. Maybe it's a small part-time job. Maybe it's looking at the ways I currently get extra sources of income. Whatever it is, I need to refill Tristan's emergency fund, which functions more as a slush fund and less as a true emergency fund as this year I bought new breeches and other new riding equipment for the first time in a long time...and got a little carried away. That needs to swing back.

6. Do more thoughtful work.

This is something I'm putting into practice across my life. Less triviality, more deep thinking. More focus. More thinking about goals.

In my horse life, it means I want to be proactive instead of reactive when I write on this blog. I want to read more and digest that and share it with you all. I want to concentrate more on the slow and steady work in dressage rather than freaking out and changing course three times a week.

I've taken some steps in my personal life - I've deleted Facebook from my phone and am reading more, doing more hands-on creative projects, making a careful point to follow one thing through instead of multitasking.

7. Get more media.

I ride by myself 98% of the time, so not conducive to having current video or photographic evidence that I do, in fact, ride my horse instead of take pictures of him looking adorable in his stall, or take between the ears shots.

I need to work harder at bullying my husband into coming to the barn to take pictures of me, or always asking friends who visit to take some quick pictures of us, or teaming up with Emilie to do joint sessions. (That worked really well this year!)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Still learning

I've signed up for a lesson next Monday - trainer is coming back from Florida for a little while and we're doing a sort of clinic. So I threw my hat into the ring, which means that after a week and a half off from death flu, I had to get back into the saddle with a vengeance and tune him up so we could get through a lesson.

The good news: I was able to breathe, we picked up where we left off, and I was pleased with both his willingness to work with me and his fitness. (inasmuch as you can tell these things from a 35 minute light dressage school)

The bad news: I put my stirrups back on the saddle because I figured I would not get the most I could out of the lesson if I was riding without stirrups. My posting was...not great, after 6 weeks out of practice.

On the other, other hand, I did get a re-confirmation of something I've been working hard on, which is keeping my hands still while posting.

It seems stupid to even report this as a thing I'm working on. At a certain point in your riding education, you are supposed to have an independent seat. And you keep your hands still. Well, I definitely have an independent seat, but I have always struggled with true fluidity in my elbows.

One of the first things that R. called me on about my riding was that when I posted, I didn't truly flex my elbows, and as a result my hands bobbed a little bit as I posted. She worked hard on me to really understand that, and like magic, when I truly flexed my elbows and my hands stayed still and Tristan got instantly more secure in the bridle.

I've ridden with a lot of trainers, and not a single one of them has ever said anything about my hands. Clinicians get a pass, but not my regular trainers.

So I worked on my elbows a lot while re-learning posting, in anticipation of R. calling me on them again next Monday. Which meant we also worked on keeping Tristan steady in contact, which was a much-needed thing (as always).

I'll keep him on a fairly busy schedule this week, then update his clip and do a light ride on Sunday, and we'll see how Monday goes!

Monday, December 26, 2016

2017 Life Goals

I know this is mostly a horse blog, but you put up with house renovation posts too and I need to put this down somewhere to hold myself accountable.

This is not the car that needs to be paid off. This is my old car, which I adored and still miss. It had character and guts and would have run forever. Also, it was totally paid off.

1. Pay off car

It's my last remaining debt apart from the mortgage. I paid off my student loans before I bought the car. On track to do this next November. I'd love to do it earlier, because that's money that could be routed to other savings, or to the mortgage. I really hate debt.

2. Read 75 books

I accomplished this in 2016, though largely due to my book-a-day pace on the honeymoon. It remains to be seen whether I'll have reading time like that in 2017, or if I'll be squeezed at the end of the year.

You can follow along with my challenge on Goodreads, where I am pretty active. I read mostly fantasy, science fiction, memoir, and history.

3. Revive history blogs

Chiefly, this is my museum-focused blog Amblering. I am turning more and more toward writing in my day job, which is a nice shift, but I am rusty and need to both re-focus on my career writing and my history writing. I have content out the wazoo for this, but need the discipline to gather it and write it out.

4. Do better about food

Back on the budget wagon for grocery shopping. (Last week, I spent $75 on groceries in one transaction. $75!!! Past me is nauseated and horrified.) Back also on the healthy food wagon. 2016 was the year of comfort food because everything sucked. Also, there was an all you can eat cruise in the middle of it.

5. Decorate the house

For all my renovation work, I suck at the actual finishing touches. I have been known to leave walls bare for months, and struggle to find a cohesive theme and/or make thoughtful choices about the look and feel of a space beyond paint color and some furniture. So this goal may involve getting photos printed, rounding up all the unframed art in the house (we bought a lot on the honeymoon), doing a furniture inventory and maybe repainting some lamps and (god help me) re-upholstering a chair or two so they are fresher. And, um, not falling apart, in the case of one best-beloved reading chair.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Weekly Blog Roundup

I have been sick all week, and when my body has felt better my brain has been totally unable to focus, so you're just getting links instead of links + commentary. Probably you're all glad!

A Ride Through London from House on a Hill

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry merry!

I have been laid up with some kind of death flu that has rampaged through our house. In the decade we have been together, I have never known my husband to run a fever, and this week he spent three days feverish on the couch.

Considering I can't take a deep breath without hacking up a lung, I have not been riding. Last night, though, I finally bought Tristan's present (the biggest bulk bag of mints at Walmart; he's easy) and a frame for the next-to-last art piece to go in my office.

I LOVE IT SO MUCH. I can look up from my computer and see Tristan's goofy cartoon face. ❤️

As ever, huuuuuuuuuuge kudos to Emilie from because pony for doing the cartoon. (click through there for the full version)

I'm hoping she reopens commissions in the new year because I'd love to get one of each of my animals and also offer one as a giveaway for you all. I love this that much. She's got some awesome things planned for the new year and I can't wait to see where she goes!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Sometimes I do cool things at work

This is a Civil War-era parade tack set that belonged to General George Stannard. He probably had most of it made as a matched set after the war.

Stannard was in command of the Vermont Brigade, several regiments that were positioned at the wheel point of the Union line on the third day of Gettysburg. Some of his historians argue that it was his quick thinking in swinging two of his regiments to send enfilading fire into Kemper's Confederate brigade that ultimately signaled the death knell for Pickett's Charge.

I got to spend some time examining the condition of the tack as well as giving much more specific information about the pieces that were included so that they could be more thoroughly described in our system.

In this one I'm taking a closer look at the stitching on the saddle covering. The underside was lined in a really interesting floral fabric and the whole thing was handstitched. 

And here I'm taking a closer look at a padded seat saver that was attached to the saddle. The saddle underneath is a pretty typical McClellan cavalry saddle, and they're not the most comfortable things. Stannard had a custom leather cover for the seat that was padded with wool or felt.

The set also included a crupper, padded breastplate (you can see a strap of it in the bottom left corner of the second photograph), matching bridle, running martingale, and saddlebags. It's faded now, being 150+ years old, but the leather was still in pretty good shape, and it must have been something spectacular when it was new.

I also got to design a new saddle rack for this and for another sidesaddle that we have.

This is not a typical part of my job, but it's going to become more common and I'm excited!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

House Post: Midway

I count years for the house from the anniversary of our closing date, which was May 8, which puts us a smidge past the halfway mark through year 2. In my year 1 roundup, I listed things that needed to get done in year 2. So, where are we on that list?

- finish garage (and by extension, basement reorganization) 

Some small progress on the garage space, and on reorganization.

- gut weird back room and turn it into a man cave

HUGE progress! Not done yet, but probably/hopefully January.

- strip wallpaper and repaint: back bedroom, front bedroom, office, front hallway, nook area/game room

Nook area/game room is next, after the holidays, and front bedroom will depend on the tricky timing of not having houseguests for about 8 weeks after ski season. Maybe March?

Front hallway...we'll see.

- conserve front entryway mural

Haven't touched this, BUT a conservator friend will be here in late January / early February, so I am hoping to have her look at it then.

- sleeping porch: repaint, replace glass panes, finalize furniture arrangement there

Haven't touched this.

- most remaining radiators stripped and repainted (will probably hold on sun room and living room for now)

Haven't touched this. At this point, it will be a year 3 project because we can't do this while the heat still needs to be on and it will definitely be on through May, ahahahahaha, Vermont.

- landscaping and yard, including some raised beds for gardening

General landscaping...meh.

- drainage work along the north side of the house to prevent flooding problems

Yeah no. Next summer, for sure.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Weekly Blog Roundup

First, a news article that is kind of blowing my mind:

Make-up of equine gut bacteria altered by exercise, study shows
It's preliminary, but basically: the kinds of bacteria in a horse's gut changed dramatically immediately after exercise. I wonder if this could be linked to colic & ulcer histories?

Also, 8 year old me wants the horse pictured in the article, a Mangalarga Marchador. Sigh. (adult me says: no mares, and no grays)

Really thoughtful rider's journey through different understandings of what "frame" means when we talk about it.

Winter is here so I ditched my saddle from PONY'TUDE
This is my January MO as well! I often use a bareback pad just to protect my breeches from hair and dust, but I love the warmth + connection that a bareback ride provides.

How to dress a draft horse from The Jumping Percheron
Practicality rules the day! I liked this a lot - not just as an approach to outfitting a draft horse, but any horse that's not a leggy Thoroughbred or chunky Warmblood.

And a non-horsey but still very useful read: Rollout sugar cookie tips, from King Arthur Flour

Friday, December 16, 2016

Product Review: Noble Outfitters Softshell Riding Pants

Noble Outfitters Softshell Riding Pants
MSRP: $99.95
I paid: $67.46, at Riding Warehouse, on Black Friday

I've been on the hunt for new winter breeches for close to 18 months now. I have an old pair of Devon-Aire breeches that are thinning precariously, and have a hole in the knee from a bad fall on the ice at the end of last winter. Plus, going through a whole winter with just one pair of breeches is both a precarious state of being AND really gross.

Winter breeches were my #1 request from my family for Christmas this year, and my parents obliged by telling me to pick out whatever I wanted. I chose these based on a couple of factors: price, looks, the softshell outside, and my experience with a few other Noble Outfitters products - namely their Perfect Fit gloves, which are my new favorite thing.

These arrived last week and I've now put 4 rides on them. I have some mixed feelings.

Overall? They're pretty great. The softshell outside really does work to repel hay and other things that you might pick up at the barn. It does get dusty, but what clothing doesn't?

They're reasonably warm, which is to say: as warm as one layer of fleece + top fabric can possibly get. I've ridden in temperatures from 16f to 36f and while at 16f I was glad I kept my legs underneath the quarter sheet they were still fine for walking around while tacking up, etc. Once in the saddle, they were flexible and accommodating in all the right places: I never felt like I was held back or cinched up too tightly.

I'm not sure the knee patches actually do all that much? They felt super-sticky right out of the box but after a week of wear are not nearly as sticky. I've ridden in them both with and without stirrups, for a plain walk around, a more thorough dressage schooling, and some trot sets. I didn't notice any extra stickability, per se, but I also stayed in the saddle just fine, so...there's that?

Here's their real problem: they sag a little bit. I have to pull them up occasionally when walking around home or the barn. They're not as bad as the Pipers (sigh, so much potential, so much sagging) but it's still noticeable. I wish they came in a Long version; I think what's happening is that the slim fit of the legs (which is perfect! hooray for sock bottoms instead of velcro!) is tugging them down as I walk. So a long would give me just an inch or two of extra fabric and keep that from happening. But basically no one makes winter breeches in long, so I am SOL on that one.

In short - I would recommend them for their price point and for their intended purpose. They're still very workable. They're just not perfect, but then - nothing is!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: What is this bit?

As spotted in the barn tack room. It's hollow and rather lightweight. What type of bit is it, and what does it do?

(I'm quite sure it's being used with trainer knowledge and approval, at least if it does in fact belong to the horse whose bridle rack it sits on, which leads me to think it's a thoughtful attempt to address some issues with a tricky mare. This isn't an anti-gadget snark by any means.)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Blog Hop Raffle Results

You might have forgotten that I did this, but I definitely didn't!

The winner of my horse clipping blog hop is...

Ashley of The Feral Red Horse!

Thanks, Ashley! Check your email!

I hope to do more of these in the new year, so keep an eye out.

Thanks to everyone who participated, commenting or participating in the blog hop. It really helped me to think through what I'd do with Tristan. I ended up doing a modified Irish clip; I had every intention of doing a full Irish clip, but as I started in on his shoulder I didn't like how thin the hair was, and I kept thinking about blanket rubs. So I clipped down his chest and onto his stomach a bit, but not over the shoulders.

Here he is halfway through.

And here you can see a little bit how it turned out. I don't love the line on his neck - I'd like to go up more to his throatlatch - but I'm happy with the rest of it. And I'm happy with the way he's cooling out.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

House Post: Recessed Lighting in the Man Cave

House work has been pretty darn slow, actually. I'm focusing on organizing before getting into any big new projects, and working through the "little things" list. I've been on a good roll lately of putting away 3 things each night, big or small, that have ended up in not the right place. Sometimes this is just tidying up, and sometimes it's further organizing.

So this is a thing that actually happened a couple of weeks ago and not much has happened since. My dad and I put in recessed lighting in the ceiling to replace the old gross fluorescent lighting. It looks terrific. My husband and I have since pulled all the old staples from the ceiling and are ready to put up the vapor barrier...someday. With the arrival of winter weather, this room has become really awful to work in unless you turn on the space heater. So we'll see when we actually get around to it.

I've also put in foam sealant around all the windows, so the room is just about as insulated as it can get until we work in the crawlspace.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Hanging Horseshoes

Tristan has been barefoot most of his life. His dalliance with shoes was directly connected to his coffin bone injury, and that was only about 18 months all told, many of them in glue ons.

I only have one pair of his shoes. They're winter shoes, appropriately enough. They have borium heel studs and rubber rims to prevent snowball formation.

I've had them on my nightstand for the better part of two years, trying to decide what to do with them. Last night, after hanging some artwork in my office, I finally figured it out.

I'll hang them just like that, in that spot. Right side up, because I'm not superstitious and think they look stupid upside down.

Here's what I can't decide: do I keep the rubber rims in them? On the one hand, the look is very meh. On the other hand, I'm a completist.

What would you do?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Blog Hop: Bloodlines

I'm a horrible person, because I can't remember the exact name people are using for this blog hop but...I keep reading these really neat posts about equine bloodlines, from OTTBs to all sorts of other breeds and I'm over here, like...well, Tristan definitely has ancestors?

Fun game: cover up his freezebrand, put him in front of people, and say, "what breed?" Then watch their faces. I've gotten Andalusian, Morgan, Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred, the list goes on. (No one has ever guessed "dachshund" sadly.)

It's funny because what even is going on there with that conformation? sigh.

So I thought I'd link to a few posts I've done before about where he comes from, which is as close to tracking his bloodlines as I'll ever get.

Blog Hop: History of a Horse - about the Callaghan HMA where he was rounded up
Rescuing Wild Mustangs in Maine - about Tristan's rescue, and how we met

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Blog Hop: Location, Location, Location

Courtesy of Sarah at A Soft Spot for Stars, which was a new blog to me!

Tell me about where you live. Are there any frustrating things about your area? What is the weather like? How does the cost of keeping horses compare to where I live?

I live in the best place on earth: Vermont.

Top of the App Gap in summer.

Vermont has everything you could possibly want: gorgeous scenery, a great community of people, and a way of life that is conducive to actually being a human being in the world. I could go on and on, but I love it here. Obviously.

Horsekeeping-wise, it has some really great features as well. The density of high-quality trainers is like nothing else except maybe certain winter watering holes. To name a few of the most well-known: Denny Emerson, Jane Savoie, Laura Graves, Tad Coffin, Steve Rojek, and I could go on. The less famous trainers are also superb. There's something in the water here. 

The facilities are good, too. You can find something to do every weekend in every discipline, though you'll have to drive a bit to get there. The Green Mountain Horse Association is a national treasure.

The weather...kind of sucks.

True story: I stepped outside of the house this morning and thought "oh, wow, it's way warmer than I thought it would be!" It was 30 degrees. It will be like this until mid-April. Think serious investment in winter riding gear, and every time you step outside for 6+ months it's a slog. It snows pretty much every day in the winter, and most of January & February will be into the single digits or below zero overnight - and there's about 3 weeks there where that's the pattern during the day, too. There's a reason half my barn decamps to Florida from November - May.

That said, we have about 3 months out of the year when it is just gorgeous and that makes everything worthwhile.

Commute-wise, we're talking country. 30 minutes or so to drive most places. Further afield for anything specialized. But at the same time, many Vermont towns have a downtown where you can get just about anything. I live close to the capital of Montpelier, which has three bookstores, two movie theaters, a million different restaurants, and a lot of great shopping options, all on two cross streets in a city with a population of 7,500 (which makes it the ninth largest city in the state).

That's another thing: it is tiny. Everyone knows everyone else. You can get end to end - the long way - in 4.5 hours. There are dozens of towns with fewer than 500 people in them. The largest city in the state, Burlington, has a population of 42,000. The entire state has fewer than 500,000 people.

Cost of living is a bit tricky. I lived in eastern Massachusetts for so long that it all feels cheap. At the same time, average salary here is not great. I took a 25% pay cut to move up here and it will be at least another 5 years before I get close to making the same amount. Yay, nonprofits! But here are some figures.

House Prices: $100,000 - $250,000 for something basic; get closer to ski country or second home territory and it goes up quickly. $350,000 will get you nice land + barn. [context: we paid right in the middle of that range for our 2800sf city house with great bones that needed some work]
Boarding: $300 - $600 for stall board. I pay $550 at probably the fanciest barn in the county, which is worth it to me because of the extremely high quality of care.
Expenses: $50/trim, $60/lesson, $150/shoes, say $150 for a basic spring shots vet checkup.

Frustrating: It can be small, sometimes. There are no Targets in the entire state. I don't have much public/private divide. I work for a prominent organization, and I am a public face for that organization, so my name is in the news somewhat regularly and I often find myself having work conversations in the grocery store. I love what I do, so I don't really mind, but I'm sure some people would find it awful. 

For me, though, it's a feature of Vermont: it's a place that really respects and supports the whole person. There really truly is a depth of community here that you can't find elsewhere. People are passionate about things, and they're profoundly welcoming and committed to making the world a better place. I value that especially, right now.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Weekly Blog Roundup

Couple of blog posts for your reading pleasure.

Grand Canyon Mule Ride and Part II from DIY Horse Ownership
I cannot get over how awesome this is.

Holiday gifts for an equestrian from Hand Gallop

Can you help? from Because Pony
I get to see the adorableness of Emilie's animals almost every day, but if you're not following her adventures you're missing out. Take this survey and tell her we want more Crumble pictures

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Transition Within Gaits

I have been going to the barn but only riding sporadically. Mostly, I'm really loving free longeing right now, and so is Tris. It gets us both moving and enjoying each other's company, and he is really looking substantially better from start to finish. It's not without its flaws - for one thing, he is refusing to track left consistently, which is about half brattiness and half some body soreness - but it's working for us.

That said, I did ride last night, for a solid hour, which was a lot for us. Usually I'm on for 20-40 minutes, depending on what he needs that day and at what point I see a good quitting time.

Last night, I free longed for 15 minutes (mostly walk and trot, some canter), then tacked up. We did lateral work at the walk for another 15 minutes, then picked up and worked mostly in the trot for 15 minutes with some moments in the canter.

He was feeling good from the free longing: his trot was bouncier and more uphill right out of the box. I took that opportunity to really work more on getting him to sit, and for that I pulled an old exercise out: transitions within gaits.

I'm not necessarily talking about collected-medium-extended; frankly, Tris doesn't have that kind of finesse in his gaits. That's certainly one way of transitioning within gaits, and it's something like what we did, but we did the much broader version of it.

Which is to say: in the trot, I slowed him down and shortened his stride in a gradual way down a long side, held it through a short side, and then opened him up again down the long side or the diagonal. It was taught to me by a working student some years ago as: bring him down, using half-halts, to when he's almost ready to break.

When you hit that point - when you're suspended and need to make a decision - you can do one of two things with it. When I'm working on getting Tristan forward, I then rocket him out of that moment. I drop him down almost to a walk and then make a BIG ask to go back forward. Repeat frequently, as many as ten or twenty times in one lap. It has the dual effect of sharpening him to the leg and making him really frustrated at being told to slow down, both of which make a more forward pony.

The second thing you can do is hold it, and that's when you're aiming more toward a collected trot than just a slowed-down one. Because if you hold it, what you're really trying to do is maintain energy even in a shorter-strided gait, which is the essence of collection. When I'm doing that I keep the half-halts going and a strong leg, I work on suppling and keeping him soft in his mouth, and I use my core to ask him to sit.

We alternated doing that with more lateral work, and then started combining the two into spiral circles: slower and slower trot as we spiraled in, bigger and bigger trot as we spiraled out. That had the benefit of teaching those same lessons while getting more bend activity in the hind end. At the end, we played with sitting down more in the canter for just a little bit.

After an hour of work, he was pretty tired! His respiration took probably 30 minutes to come down while I fretted. We walked around under tack for a while, and then I handwalked him in his cooler for a while longer. He cooled down reasonably well but was still breathing a bit too heavily. I finally put him in his stall and left him quiet for 15 minutes, then checked again. This time, I checked with a stopwatch in hand instead of just counting seconds in my head; it's way too easy to count in time with his breathing and think that his respiration is higher than it is without empirical evidence!

With that final check, he was down to 16 breaths per minute - still higher than I want, but for an out of shape 21 year old horse who'd just worked harder than in the last 5 weeks, I decided it was pretty good.

That said: I did all of this without stirrups, and this morning, I discovered that I might actually have abs underneath the 5lbs of post-election belly fat?

Saturday, November 19, 2016

House Post: Dawn of the Man Cave

I don't have anything like a coherent write-up for you, sorry. But I will share a before and an in-progress photo of the current project that is taking up all my free time: the conversion of a weird back room of the house to a man cave for my husband.

(I already have an office and a library/craft room, so it's only fair!)

Here is the before, from the real estate listing.

Oh, yes.

What are you looking at?

Let me make you a list: a cardboard fake-drop ceiling, fluorescent shop lights, faux-wood particle board paneling, the ugliest curtains you have ever seen, a GIANT bar (5' deep, 4' tall, 10' wide), asbestos tiles, and utility carpet.


It's 12x20, so not a small space, and it's the room by which we enter the house - the door you can see just at the right edge of this photograph goes out to the back deck and to the driveway. It has until recently served as a sort of dumping ground. My husband put a lot of his stuff back there but since it also had no heat source it wasn't a terribly useful or comfortable room.

So, what have we done to it?

That's pretty much the same view, just zoomed out a little more, and centered instead of aimed left.

We have:
- torn out the old paneling and the sheetrock underneath and the crappy fiberglass insulation underneath that
- torn out the old ceiling
- cut out all the old shelving and the weird bar thing
- pulled up the old carpet
- picked up the old tile (yes, it's asbestos; they are all intact, not crumbling, and were no longer glued to the floor. I picked them up carefully with gloves and a respirator, double-bagged them, and consulted with the local waste management district on a hazardous waste disposal plan)
- pulled out the old fluorescent lighting
- replaced the old insulation with Roxul for a higher R-value, added an extra layer of insulation to the ceiling
- put up a vapor barrier (nonexistent before)
- dropped (most of) the outlets from the middle of the wall to the floor (you can see them if you squint)
- added recessed lighting to the ceiling
- replaced the old sheetrock with new

Still to do:
- finish sealing off the window & door frames with foam
- remove the staples from the ceiling strapping, put up vapor barrier, put up sheetrock
- mud and paint everything
- replace the flooring; currently deciding between carpet and tile w/ area rugs
- reframe windows & door
- decide on a heat source: space heater? baseboard electric? extend the radiator system?
- furnishing; we will need a pull out loveseat and a dry bar

LONG term still to do:
- insulate the floor; this is part of the godawful crawlspace project that I am trying to pretend doesn't need to be done but really will have to be on the schedule for next summer, ugh.

Total time elapsed so far: about 4 weeks; maybe about 7 solid days of work within those weeks.

I have lots of process pictures so in weeks to come I'll go into more details about the pieces of this project. I hope (?) that by January we will have a finished space.

Weekly Blog Roundup

A couple of posts from the blogging world. Some of these may be older than last week; I sorted through a couple hundred blog posts that I hadn't yet read while I was burying my head in the sand.

How to protect your horse during hunting season from Clover Ledge Farm
In Vermont, a horse is killed every year during hunting season. Sometimes it's by a kid, and everyone feels terrible, not least of which the kid and their mentor. Sometimes, it's by an adult who really should have fucking known better. It still keeps happening. Here are some good tips you can use to try and keep it from happening.

Annual raptor post from In Omnia Paratus
Ok, not horsey at all, but from a horse blogger and STRAIGHT UP AWESOME.

Meeting Bob Baffert from Cob Jockey
Fangirling like whoa right now.

Fourth annual equestrian blogger gift exchange from Fly On Over

Your non-horsey read of the week:

‘How Much Suffering Can You Take?’
An Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, then a 112-mile bike ride and then a marathon. The Quintuple Anvil Triathlon is five Ironmans in a row.

Friday, November 18, 2016

No Stirrup November

I'm still struggling, but on Tuesday I suited up for my first ride of November.

I actually thought, well, I should make my body hurt as much as my heart and brain. Maybe that will be distracting. So I took the stirrups off my saddle.

Confession time: I'm kind of loving it.

Yeah it's not this green anymore. Mostly putting this in because I need something to break up the text and we both look happy and focused.

I longed him first, to warm up his back. I pushed him through his fussiness, let him get a few good bucks in, and once he was moving freely and easily I brought him back in and jumped on.

I didn't quite plug in to my seat in the trot, and as a result he never really came through his back. I get that. I was ok with it - I was not exactly helping him.

But it felt good to just focus, fiercely, on something. I didn't check my phone. I didn't swallow back bile thinking again and again about people I love(d) who have embraced hatred. I just kept pushing myself to keep trotting, to follow the motion.

Wednesday, I was sore. I worked a 13 hour day, so no barn. Thursday, I went back out and did the same thing: longed, got on, pushed myself through.

Both rides mapped out about the same, 10-15 minutes longeing, 25-35 minutes riding, 10 minutes cooldown. Both times I was glad I had clipped him - he was warm but cooled out quickly.

[repeat caption from above]

Thursday, things went better. I felt more plugged in, had found a better way to engage my core and soften my shoulders to follow. I asked Emilie and the barn manager if I was leaning too far back; consensus seemed to be that I was sitting too far back in the saddle, but not necessarily leaning.

I spent a few minutes thinking that through as I listened to my body's feedback, and I found that I wasn't engaging my core quite enough and was sitting just a hair behind the motion. I settled my seatbones in but kept my upper body soft, and worked that through for a bit.

I'm sure it's no coincidence that toward the end of that trot work - which I interspersed with short canters whenever I was getting too tired - I got a couple steps at a time of lovely soft throughness.

I'm sure it's also no coincidence that last night was the first in 10 days I haven't woken up with an anxiety attack from a nightmare.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

getting there

I'm still not okay. I'm way more okay than a lot of people. I'm white, middle class, cisgender, straight, employed, pretty mentally and physically healthy, and all sorts of other things that give me bucketloads of privilege. I am so keenly aware of that.

Like any woman, I've experienced my share of sexual harassment and assault, and the worst of those incidents have been running through my brain on a loop for some time now. Now on top of the video loop is a chorus of people sneering at me, telling me it was my fault, that they can't wait to do that to other women and to hurt other people. It hurts a lot and my brain is not coping terribly well with it.

Yesterday, on my day off, I only intended to do one or two sheets of drywall to keep plugging away at a house project, and I couldn't stop. It made sense. It was occasionally vexing, but it was not difficult or complicated. Measure, cut, hang, screw. Do it again. See clear progress. I just kept going.

So I didn't get to the barn until 7pm. I hadn't ridden in a week, because - clear signs of depression, ahoy - I didn't want to.

I went just thinking that I would sit on him. I didn't do that. I forced my hands to pick up a longe line, and after five minutes I couldn't. So I checked all of the gates and doors in the indoor, unclipped the longe line, and we ran around together for 30 minutes.

Tristan was really happy to bomb around. We jogged next to each other, and played tag, and he took off bucking and farting and even, once, adorably, squealing. He rolled and rolled and then came up to me blinking pathetically to ask me to brush the dust off his face. We worked on body language, me directing him from place to place, and on proper free longeing as he worked in a circle around me.

Once he'd cracked his back with a few good bucks, he showed off a lovely floating trot and his walk opened up, which made me feel marginally better about my benign neglect. I mean, he still has shit for a topline, but he is not actually suffering.

It was a good way to spend some time. I smiled and even laughed once or twice. We both needed that.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

we do what we can.

New Hampshire is still too close to call, but looks like it will go blue, for Hillary Clinton and new Senator Maggie Hassan.

Last night, all those hours I spent knocking on doors felt wasted. Today it feels just and right.

I'm not sure when I will be back with horse content. Sooner rather than later, probably, but I need to spend some time figuring out how to help our most vulnerable Americans first.

Monday, November 7, 2016

On Hold

Your regularly scheduled blog content is on hold while I spend the next few days knocking on doors in New Hampshire to try and prevent fascism.

(Translation: canvassing for Hillary Clinton)

see you on the the other side of the war.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

House Post: What to do about this steam pipe?

Not a terribly exciting question, but one of interest to me.

See, the longterm plan is to get all of the radiators in the house sandblasted and repainted. We've done two so far. This summer was a bust in terms of getting them done; the house will be much further along for next summer, and that will be one of my main focuses. (We can't do them during the winter because then not only do we not have heat in a room for a few weeks, it's a PITA to cap off the steam pipe.)

Steam radiators work by having a furnace in the basement that superheats water, turns it into steam, and then sends that steam through pipes to the radiators. The hot steam works its way slowly through the coils of the radiators, heating them up, expelling extra air from the regulator at the end, and then condensing back to water at the bottom of the radiator and draining back down to the furnace, where the whole thing starts all over again.

We are really happy with the steam heat system, overall. It works amazingly well, heating up the house quickly and thoroughly, and after a little bit of adjustment I even find the sounds of the system working to be pleasant and reassuring.

In order for the steam to travel up to the second floor, many of the rooms on the first floor have steam pipes in the corner. They're also an additional source of heat. All of those pipes are currently painted to match the walls behind them - mostly cream or beige, matching the radiators themselves.

What to do about the steam pipe in my office, the first downstairs room we've renovated with a steam pipe?

Taking it out would be a HUGE hassle, so whatever I do has to be in place.

Right now, my best thought is that I could sand the paint off and repaint it to match the radiator, a chrome color. But I worry that that will be too distracting. There's also the fact that the paint might well contain lead - so I'll have to be VERY careful about the dust.

I can leave it as is - the paint is in more or less fine shape and the cream does work with the blue behind it. It's halfway behind a chair anyway, and the way you enter the room means your eye is not drawn to it.

What would you do?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Weekly Blog Roundup

First and foremost, a public service announcement.

Are we 10000000% clear on this?

Peoples' lives depend on this election. Literally. There are people out there right now, alive and beloved, who will die if Donald Trump succeeds in repealing the Affordable Care Act, in making abortion illegal, and in ignoring police brutality. There are people who will become second-class citizens, who will lose their basic human rights, and who will suffer in ways that most of us cannot even imagine.

This is not amateur hour. Get out there and fucking vote on Tuesday.

Find your polling place here. Make a plan. Bring a friend. GET IT DONE.

And now, to your horse-related content.

2pointober: And the winner is... from Fraidy Cat Eventing
A hard-fought contest with some awesome results! I'm thrilled that I actually completed this year.

My horse died because of my manager's negligence from Ask a Manager
This is HORRIBLE. I would walk out of that job and never come back. I'm grateful that I've always had workplaces and managers who have been very accommodating when Tristan needs me. Thankfully, there is a good update here.

Let's help the horses from In Omnia Paratus
If you've been following the news about the Dakota Pipeline protests, it might surprise you to know that there are a number of horses on site, and they need help.

Trailer Spiffing from WeanieEventer
I don't miss doing this with my trailer at all. It's hard work that has to be done regularly. This is a great guide to some of the basics.

When do you label your horse? from Poor Woman Showing
Really interesting question. I've been thinking about my own answer to it for a little while and I don't have a good one yet.

And totally unrelated to horses but so very on-point for anyone who was a girl in the 1980s/90s: American Girl Dolls Ranked by Betchiness

Friday, November 4, 2016

Decorating the Office - Equestrian Style

Now that my office is FINALLY finished (in fact, I am writing this blog post on my own computer at my own desk like an actual grown up!), I need to think about what and how to decorate the walls.

Most of my horse-themed art will go up on the walls. I've previously reviewed the various pieces I own here.  I'll also be putting up my Kendall's Spavin Cure poster and getting a high quality print of the amazing cartoon of Tristan that Emilie drew for me.

So far, I know I'll be adding these World War I cavalry propaganda posters to the walls. I'll download the high-resolution TIFFs from the Library of Congress and bring them to my local print shop. At 11x17 sizing, even on good paper they'll only cost a few dollars each.

I also have a chair in the office that, longterm, needs to be reupholstered. When I do finally get around to that, I'd like to add a throw pillow that fits with the theme. Maybe some horsey fabric on

Obviously, my ribbons will be hung up in the room. I don't have so many of them that I can or should think about other ways to display them besides hanging. Someday, maybe - but for now they'll go on the curtain rods.

How do you decorate in an equestrian theme?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Horse Blogger Meetup in Vermont This Weekend!

Juuuuuuust in case anyone feels like making a last-minute trip to Vermont to hang out with awesome people!

We'll be hanging out at my house Saturday night, then brunch + barn on Sunday.

If you would like to join us, shoot me an email or leave a comment here. I'm at beljoeor[at]gmail[dot]com.

(you'd better believe there will be recaps next week, so conquer your pre-FOMO by coming up to join us!)

Monday, October 31, 2016

2pointober final results...


I commented on Emma's blog last week that my Week 3 time was 3:05, and that I was going to shoot for the moon and try for 5:00 as my final time.


5:12, baby!

Yeah, I know that's pathetic, and it probably won't win me anything, but I don't care. I'm actually pretty damn pleased with it.

Next stirrup November!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

House Post: Final Office

Moved the furniture in this morning and calling it done.
(well, done-ish. still needs curtains, and the woodwork could use more scrubbing, but CLOSE ENOUGH)