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!)