Tuesday, February 28, 2017


I've said many times that managing Tristan's brain is harder than managing his body. His body is not exactly easy to manage either, but his brain? Well, he had a decade of looking out for himself, four years of wild roaming and then six of nothing but unreliable or neglectful humans. Only this year have we been a team for as long as he was solo.

He'll never be a ride-every-day horse. That mostly works out for me: I don't have a ride-every-day life. There's a lot of gray in between that high-maintenance horse and a pasture puff, though, and I've struggled with finding the right balance in the moment. It keeps changing, and a lot of the changes now are directly tied to his 22 years of hard living.

pretty darn good right now

Right now, though? Knock wood, I've found a sweet spot. I'm balancing the hard 60 minute fitness rides with the 20 minute dressage intensives with the 30 minute longeing sessions with the 45 minute hacks - and the days off in between. He is really and truly a horse that's happier and goes better when he's had time to process and rest.

February was a great month for building on success in all areas, but at the end of last week I longed him and he was just not happy. So we backed off. He got two days in a row off for the first time since early January, and then he got a road hack on Sunday and his brain was already a bit better. I was on a roll with house work on Monday, so he got that off, too.

Tonight, we'll ease back in with a light longeing session, and then tomorrow back in the saddle for some trot sets & fitness work. I'm working hard to make days off and light days conscious decisions that I make based on the horse in front of me, and it's paying off in a big way.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

House Post: Man Cave Progress!


Previously, we were plastering and sanding forever, and I skimcoated one wall.

My in-laws came to visit again last weekend, and huge progress was made!

So here's the before:

It looked like that for a couple of weeks, as we added & sanded layers of plaster in an agonizingly slow process.

Then: primer!


Not only paint, but TRIM!

Then we cleaned up all the random extra things in the space. It was glorious. The room is now mostly empty, mostly clean, and alllllmost done!

- paint the trim
- flooring (carpet + some tile around the door)
- one last light by the door (you can see it above M's head in the last picture)
- covers for the recessed lights
- furniture!
- longer-term: build a (dry) bar in the corner where the green wall meets the blue wall (summer)
- longer-term: work in crawlspace underneath, to include insulating the floor joists (summer)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Weekly Blog Roundup

Jumping in the fray: bits and dressage, a story of development and principle from Guinness on Tap
This is flat-out spectacular. Well-written, well-sourced, and well-argued.

Baseline gaits from A Enter Spooking
Good thinking about how a horse with bad gaits makes upper level work harder.

Endurance Essentials Web-Based Course from Endurance Introspection
This looks COOL.

Tornado from She Moved to Texas
Extraordinary and awful - I'm so glad everyone is ok. Lauren also does a nice job of putting everything in perspective, too.

When should I clip my horse? from If the Saddle Fits
This is something I've struggled with and still think about a lot.

Horsepower: Getting Energy Under Saddle, When and Where You Want It from Trafalgar Square Books
Terrific illustrations and descriptions of energy under saddle - something I've been working on a lot lately

And a non-horsey read: Handling the Long Valley, from The Simple Dollar. I read personal finance blogs & websites on a pretty regular basis, as a way to keep myself focused on my own personal finance goals and try to have a healthy relationship with money. I like The Simple Dollar, and I liked this essay in particular, about staying focused on goals even in the period of time when it feels like you aren't making great progress.

Friday, February 24, 2017

March Madness 2017 Bracket!


The poll results are in, and we're ready to start voting next Wednesday, March 1.

In order, our seeds are:

The Pie, from National Velvet
Beauty, from Black Beauty
The Black, from Walter Farley's Black Stallion
Hidalgo, from the movie of the same name
Sleipnir, from Norse mythology
Ashleigh's Wonder, from the Thoroughbred series
Merrylegs, from Black Beauty
Artax, from The Neverending Story
Flicka, from My Friend Flicka
Brego, from Lord of the Rings
Flame, from Walter Farley's Black Stallion
Smoky the Cowhorse, from the Smoky the Cowhorse book series
Joey, from War Horse
Angus, from Brave (Disney movie)
The Colt from Old Regret, from The Man from Snowy River

SO, what are our next steps?

You can participate in this tournament in one of two ways.

1. Just follow along and vote and root for your favorite horse. All that means is you check back here regularly and keep voting!

2. Create your own bracket for a little skin in the game. Originally, I thought that the winner might get the cash pool but it turns out that's kind of illegal and also not easy to manage - it would mean you would all have to give me the money and I'd have to keep it and there were no easy online tools to do that.

So here's plan b: you donate an entry fee to a GoFundMe account. At the end of the tournament, all of that money is donated to the winner's equine-related charity of choice AND the winner gets a bunch of awesome prizes. Now, I don't know what those are yet, so consider this my recruitment post: do you have something you want to offer as a prize for our contest? If you donate something, then I will waive your entry donation for the tournament.

Our first prize is one that I will put up: a custom quarter sheet, made to the colors/pattern of your choice and your horse's measurements! I'll do a roundup post soon when I've collected more prizes.

If you want to create your own bracket, here are your steps.
a. Donate a sum of money (minimum $5) to our Equine Charity GoFundMe account.
b. Save the bracket image above and make your predictions; use MS paint or something else to fill in who you think will win each match, and ultimately the whole tournament
If you want to enter everything from scratch and use an easier tool, here's a bracket PDF; you can use a screenshot to save it as an image.
c. Email your completed bracket to beljoeor@gmail.com. I will then post it on our tournament page for everyone else to see that you've officially entered, and link back to your blog. I'll also double-check at that time to make sure that you've made a donation to officially enter.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


judgey-faced awkwardly-posing mustang

We are full on in the seeding portion of the March Madness 2017 Tournament, deciding the best fictional horse.

Make sure you get your vote in before midnight tonight!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

March Madness 2017: Seeding Competitors

Here is the exhaustive list of nominated competitors for Best Fictional Horse Ever.

Please choose six from the list below.

All votes will be tallied up; the top 16 will become part of the tournament, and will be seeded according to their vote count.

This list was created from your suggestions and then added by me trolling the amazing Wikipedia article of fictional horses, where you should go if you want to lose a few hours of time.

I know it's long, but it's going to make an awesome tournament!

Voting will close at midnight on 2/24, and I'll seed the winners according to the number of votes they get, with ties broken at my discretion. The bracket will then appear on Friday, February 25, for us to get our own brackets ready!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Reminder: keep proposing fictional horses!

Tomorrow I'll run the poll that will seed our competitors for March Madness 2017, but in the meantime, there's still some time left to suggest competitors!

You can suggest as many as you want, so name away!

I also wanted to open up for discussion an excellent point that Lauren made in the comments on my original post: should we consider Misty of Chincoteague fictional? I had listed her as such in my initial post but Lauren pointed out that she was based on a real horse.

I think there's an interesting argument for the book-version of Misty being very different from real-life Misty, and she might still qualify, but I'm willing to be persuaded in either direction. What do you think?

Monday, February 20, 2017

February Lesson Recap

I could sum up this entire lesson pretty easily:


But this is a blog, so I will elaborate.

Overall, this went really well. I'm really happy with how responsive Tris was, and we were both tired but energized by the end.

Things I need to remember:
- Especially in the warmup & early on, establish my baseline for my aids. I have a bad habit of asking ten times to get one response in leg aids. It's not like I don't know to ask once, get an answer or bring the thunder. It's that bad habit stuff. I need to be more conscious of this.
- Keep my hands forward and a loop in the reins early on to not let him for a second think there's resistance to him going forward. It doesn't matter what he's doing with his face. Just GO.
- Strong into the corners, strong out of them.
- Use diagonals but don't let that energy jam into the corner. Flow through them!
- Be thoughtful, deliberate, and firm about the use of bending and counterflexion, in two different ways.
--- First, in corners: bend into the corner, straighten out of it, almost to the point of counterflexion. Particularly useful for short sides: bend, straighten/counterflex, bend, then GO down the long side. Also useful in shorter cycles on a 20m circle; bend on the curves of the circle, counterflex on the points (where the circle touches the wall).
--- Second, in half-halts. BEND, almost over-bend, strong bend, but ask and then done. Keep inside leg asking to access his inside hind at the same time. Keep contact with the outside rein and keep that inside leg active: bend and step up INTO the outside rein.

In particular, we got one wonderful canter: found a whole new gear and he LEAPT forward, sitting down, up and charging with real impulsion right up through his back down a whole long side. It was not unlike the compressed canter approaching a jump, and my body for a second wanted to get ready to two-point so I didn't follow nearly as well in my seat as I should have. But I know the canter is there and mostly how to get it again, and I am happy with how it felt.

I was not able to replicate this quite as well in my schooling rides later that week. I erred too much on go go GO and not enough with finesse so there were some really ugly moments in the middle. But I was able to pick him back up and finish well, so I will count those as learning moments.

I really wish I could even manage every two weeks, but that's not going to happen, so that's it until March.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

House Post: Let's Talk Dining Room

As I type this, the man cave is making giant leaps forward, but it's not ready for primetime yet. So we'll have to recap that next week, or possibly the week after.

This week, I am seeking your advice & thoughts on the dining room. It's going next.

Previously, we pulled up the carpet, replaced the light fixture, patched the holes in the ceiling, and pulled down some of the wallpaper, but that's it so far. The bulk of it needs to be done still.

Here's what it looks like right now.

The fourth wall is almost entirely french doors.

My husband wants badly to keep the stenciling underneath the wallpaper, but I strongly suspect that won't be possible. In the small amount we've already pulled off, it's clearly pretty badly damaged, both by holes and by plaster near the ceiling. Odds are there are other bad parts on the rest of the wall that just can't be saved - or would require extensive cleaning and inpainting to look decent, and that is soooooooo not in the budget. If the budget extends to art conservation, that will go toward the mud room mural.

So, what to do?

For a long time, my best idea was arts & crafts wainscoting. In this scenario, we'd make custom wainscoting out of maple lengths all around and either a) paint it or b) stain the wood and paint the wall behind.

Here's the style I'm talking about, in a few variations.

I don't see us going too high with it - maybe mid-level to the windows. Not shoulder-height as in traditional styling. That always feels a bit crowded to me. (Though we could have a whole stylistic conversation about whether it's truly arts & crafts wainscoting if it's not so high?)

Then I saw these pictures, and cue heavy breathing.

Now I'm not sure what to do.

I think I need to start sketching this out, maybe? What about one of these art deco fans in the middle of the larger wainscoting from my first idea?

Am I just getting waaaaaaaaay too complicated?

So the options are:
- art deco wainscoting, and if so, white, all wood, or wood frame with paint behind?
---and if the above, dark paint on the top or the bottom? color scheme will stay the same: maroon & cream
- something more elaborate like the middle examples?
- art deco wainscoting with a fan design in the center?

Which would you do?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Weekly Blog Roundup

Valentine's Day Contest from DIY Horse Ownership
Go and enter to win cool prizes!

Busy Mind vs Thinking Mind from Zen and the Art of Baby Horse Management
An incredibly thoughtful reflection on the different types of horse brains. Tris is definitely a thinker: slow to react, but committed once he does.

Nevertheless, She Persisted... from A Work in Progress
These are hilarious and I so hope this becomes a thing.

Weekly non-horsey read: Autonomy & Domestic Dogs. My dog, Arya, while wonderful in many ways, may never go off-leash. She is lightning fast, very sensitive, and her recall is mediocre to poor. I've never had a dog that couldn't be off-leash before, and I'm so jealous of all of you who can just count on your dogs to stay with you. The handful of times Arya has slipped her leash, she has sprinted for the hills before I could even blink or draw breath. Reading that article made me think about the ways I'm failing her in letting her control her own environment and life despite her inability to go off-leash. I'm upgrading our planned yard fencing in project for this summer.

Friday, February 17, 2017

March Madness 2017: Nominating Competitors


The winner of our theme for March Madness 2017 is...best fictional horse!


It was neck and neck between best YA horse book and best adult horse book throughout, but best fictional horse came through with 10 votes. A plurality, not a majority, but that's how we run the rules of this contest!

Bring on Pegasus, Misty, Black, Blaze, the Pie, and on and on and on!

Comment on this post. Nominations will be open until midnight on Tuesday, February 21. On Wednesday, February 22, we'll start seeding the tournament by voting among these suggestions. The top 16 vote-getters will advance to the tournament.

[if you're choosing something a bit more obscure, it might help to add a little bit of context for this round. when we get to actual voting, I'll do a paragraph or so about each horse so people can either remember or learn for themselves, but for the shorthand voting to get to the tournament a few words of additional info might go over well!]

I will start the nominating with....Ashleigh's Wonder, from the Thoroughbred series.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

March Madness 2017: Choosing a Topic

Okay! You've all suggested some awesome topics, and now we vote to choose: what will the them of March Madness 2017 be?

Choose wisely. Or randomly. Whatever you want!

Voting will be open until midnight on Thursday, February 16. On Friday, February 17, I'll announce the topic winner and then we'll nominate competitors. (See the whole tournament schedule here.)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Horsey credit cards

I've had the same credit card for many years - basically, since the first time I got a card. It's served me well, but for a variety of reasons, I'm looking to get another one and let the old one sit empty. It'll still be useful as a large credit pool, helping my overall credit score + history, but I'm not loving the rewards right now.

I'm looking at other credit cards and what benefits they offer, and I started to wonder: what are my options in a credit card that would give me horse-specific rewards?

Once upon a time, I had a Dovery Saddlery card. I signed up because it gave me a great signing bonus and I needed/wanted a backup card, just in case. I never really used it, even though it promised rewards. I see that credit card program is still active, but I'm just not sure it would be worth it for the things I can buy at Dover.

Now, if there were a SmartPak or Riding Warehouse card with good benefits, I'd be all over that! But alas, nothing yet.

Right now, I'm leaning toward an Amazon card, but I'm curious - do you use a credit card with benefits for horse purchases? Which one?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

House Post: Office Curtains

I'm seriously torn on these, in two ways. They looked so perfect in the store, but I am not in love with them in place. I think I want more beige or gray tones than cream.

I also can't decide whether to leave them floor-length or hem them.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Weekly Blog Roundup

The Warm Up by Jane Savoie
I'm kind of neurotic about my warmup, and this article is a great focusing read.

Your non-horsey read of the week: This is what it's like to come to the United States as a refugee. Part memoir, part reporting, about the author's family's flight from Russia, where they were targeted because of their Jewish faith.

Friday, February 10, 2017

March Madness 2017

A few years ago, I did a March Madness blogging contest in which we all voted and through process of elimination, declared The Black Stallion to be the very best horse movie of all time. It was a lot of fun, and still one of my favorite longer-term series I've ever done on this blog.

This year, I want to do it again, and make it bigger and better! Here's the plan.

Phase 1: Choosing a Topic
Wednesday, February 15

I'll generate a short (4-6) list of topics we can use as our theme for 2017, and put up a poll. The topic with the most votes advances. If you have ideas for a theme, please leave those ideas in the comments of this post.

Phase 2: Nominating Competitors
Friday, February 17

In the comments on this post, help populate our choices - give examples of whatever theme we pick so that we can all vote on them.

Phase 3: Seeding the Tournament
Wednesday, February 22

I'll compile a poll of all of the nominated competitors. You'll vote for 5. The 16 choices with the most votes win, and are seeded according to the number of votes they receive. Ties will be broken at my discretion.

Phase 4: Announcing the Bracket + Putting Some Skin in the Game
Friday, February 24

Here's where this gets fun. On this day, I will post the final, seeded bracket. If you just want to watch and vote, then get ready!

If you want to make things a little more interesting, here's your chance. You will have until the end of the day on Tuesday, February 28, to submit your imagined bracket - how you think each voting round will go, right on down to the final. If you submit a bracket (like officially submit it, instead of just draw one up for your own fun), then you should also chip in $5 to the tournament's GoFundMe page.

At the end of the tournament, the bracket winner gets the amount that's in that GoFundMe page. It might be $15, it might be $150. I don't know - it's an experiment!

Phase 5: Voting
Wednesday, March 1

Throughout the month of March, I will run 2-3 contests a week, giving each one 72 hours to garner votes. Single elimination wins: the winner of each round advances. At the end of March, we will have crowned a champion, and one entrant will go home with a boatload (or possibly a spoonful) of cash.

Any questions? Any suggestions for themes to get started?

Monday, February 6, 2017

How to hang up a longe line

Here's a technique taught to me by my first trainer, and one I've faithfully followed ever since. I actually cringe when I see longe lines just hung up loose, even if they are neatly coiled.

Step 1: Your longe line is a mess. No matter how careful I am while longeing, by the time my horse is back in his stall, this is always what my longe line looks like.

Step 2: Smooth the whole thing out, and fold it so the loop is down and at the bottom of a large coil; this is about two feet long, total.

Step 3: Coil the whole thing up, being careful to keep it flat and smooth. I do this step over my arm, and just laid it down on the tack room floor for photographic purposes. Leave the snap as a tail, about half as long as the coil itself. Once you get to know your longe line and have done this a million times you'll get a sense of how long to make the coil to get the optimal tail length - but there's really no wrong length as long as it's shorter than the coil.

Step 4: Double the tail OVER the coil, a few inches from the top.

Step 5: Wrap the remaining tail around the top of the coil - snug but not tight, so that the coil stays together but not so tight that it's distorting.

Step 6: When you've got a tail that's a bit longer than the remaining height of the top of your coil, come around from the back and up and through the top. If I'd just gone through from the back, it wouldn't be as secure: you want that last wrap around the side of the top before you go through.

Step 7: Pull tight! You've basically made a knot, and the bulk of the longe line means that it's tough to make it too tight. (Not impossible, though, especially with those nylon longe lines! So be careful.)

Step 8: Hang your longe line neatly from the snap. Gravity means the knot will stay.  You can also slide a hook through the knot itself if the hook is too thick for the snap; it's not quite as secure, but it works.

Does anyone else hang their longe lines this way? any other techniques that leave a neat and secure longe line?

Sunday, February 5, 2017

House Post: Making more work for myself

The man cave has one wall that we did not take apart. It's the wall that goes back to the house.

We had in fact left it entirely untouched - except there were two problems with that wall.

Problem the first: it had a LOT of holes in it.

Problem the second: it was textured like a 1980s ceiling.

Options for what to do, in order of time + effort:
a) leave it entirely alone and just paint over it.
b) patch the holes
c) skimcoat the entire wall with mud

If you've been following any of my house posts, you know which one I chose.

Yeah, the one that required the most work. It actually could've been far worse: the plastering took maybe an hour, and so far I've put about an hour's worth of sanding into it. Maybe another hour of sanding and then some careful additional plastering and it will be ready to prime.

The rest of the room is baaaaaasically ready to go at this point, just needs some sanding up near the top and some sponging, so painting is maybe-sorta-kinda on the horizon?

(I'm not driving this project; my husband is. It would've been done weeks ago if I were in charge, but I am practicing patience and letting my husband make his own choices and set his own priorities which I'm told is a good thing for a marriage but is mostly making me completely fucking insane.)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Weekly Blog Roundup

On being a good example from Hand Gallop
This is just superb. Yes. Literally the only area of my life in which I love working with kids is at the barn. There are so many good things we can pass on by example.

Stall design opinions needed! from Stampy and the Brain
I feel like at one point in my life I spent every free moment designing my dream barn. Now, I haven't kept up with what's current or trendy. So I'm really interested in the options here.

Your non-horsey read of the week is the back catalogue of Bad Advice columns. It's a roundup of the worst and most obnoxious questions from advice columns around the internet, with precisely what you want to say to them. Try reading one; you'll be hooked.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

2017 Goals: January Recap

So, how did month one go?

Horse Goals - original post here
1. Put hands on my horse 5x a week - close? sort of? January is tough for this, between cold weather days + snow days. I'm not happy with how well I did, and think there's room for improvement.

2. Be less perfunctory - yes, pretty much (how's that for perfunctory?)

3. Aim toward dressage schooling shows - ok, there's only so much I can do for this in January... and also 1/2 of this goal has already been spiked because the first home show of the year is on the day after my brother-in-law's wedding in Texas. So not only do I have to visit Texas, I have to miss one of my two show opportunities. This goal is not off to a great start.

4. Take more lessons - January, check! February's is scheduled.

5. Horse-specific income stream / funding emergency fund - Tristan's emergency fund is now at $425/$1500, and my overall emergency fund is at $7,600/$12,000. No real progress on the income stream other than some hard thinking.

6. Do more thoughtful work - I am pleased with the January schedule I did, and the Boston Public Library posts. I'm happy with some things I've written going forward.

7. Get more media - so far, this one is a fail, unfortunately

Life Goals - original post here
1. Pay off car - on track for November 2017, with some anticipated stuff coming in that would make this sooner, but I'm not counting any chickens before they hatch, so suffice to say it's on track

2. Read 75 books - 12/75 down:
The Last Mortal Bond, by Brian Staveley
The Beautiful Struggle, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin
House of Spirits, by Isabel Allende
Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
Creativity in Museum Practice, by Linda Norris and Rainey Tisdale
Old Bones the Wonder Horse, by Mildred Mastin Pierce
International Velvet, by Brian Forbes
Life on the Road, by Gloria Steinem
The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
The War I Always Wanted, by Brandon Friedman

Meta-commentary: still too many white men, but I'm pleased with the way I'm alternating between fiction & non-fiction. I've got the next 8-10 books lined up. Reading is pure escapism right now, and I'm hoarding books like there's a nuclear winter on the horizon. (Which there kind of is, so I'm also hoarding food. I make no apologies for my coping mechanisms.)

3. Revive history blogs - I've got Amblering sort-of on a weekly schedule, and that's about all I can manage for that, but I hope to deepen and improve on the quality of writing and thinking there; Figuring History still on hiatus.

4. Do better about food - mixed success? I'm cooking more, and meal-planning better, but god damn I still cannot force myself to eat vegetables on a regular basis. I can honestly feel nausea rising even thinking about it. Also, my food processor was part of the Cuisinart recall so that spiked my plans to make more fruit smoothies.

5. Decorate the house - office done, that's all for now.