Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Most Boring

I'm sorry! I've got nothin'. I have been doing interesting and exciting things, like some shopping at Everything Equine and a few rides on my horse in which I have once more been thrilled with the way the Pentosan is going. Tristan is now officially barefoot!

Today is Arya's one week anniversary with us and she is so many wonderful things! She is also a capital-P-Puppy. When she's not snoring on the couch she is bouncing off the walls. All of them. At warp speed. So between managing her, managing my job (yesterday's "day off" was a 14 hour travel day...), and carving out time for my horse...I have zero mental energy left to blog right now. I keep writing posts in my head that somehow magically don't appear on the internet. Get on that, Google!

Here, have a photo from this morning, how I found the boyfriend and the puppy after I got out of the shower. They were both sound asleep.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Woman Who Knows A Horse: Woodford Reserve Bourbon Commercial

I am seriously torn about this commercial, which has started stalking me around Hulu Plus. (Surely their metrics can't be that good, right?)

I really don't like bourbon, but I think I know how to pick a horse. And picking a horse isn't about picking a winner. And I am reasonably sure - no, I'm completely sure - that the kind of guy who tells me that he thinks I'll pick him because I think he's a winner is a guy I should run far, far away from.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Puppy Picspam

What's that, you say? You wanted some picspam of the new puppy? Happy to oblige!

Throwback Thursday

Mud Season, 2006

Yeah, that happened.

Crowdsourcing: Sticking tongue out?

Over the last few weeks, Tris has developed an interesting new habit. I'm less than wild about it.

In short: when the bit goes in his mouth, he sticks his tongue out the left side of his mouth. There is an ever so slight crossing of the jaw that accompanies it. Mostly, it's just the tongue, pushing out the gap in his teeth.

Not much! And not badly. But it's definitely happening. Degree is the same whether there's active contact with the bit or whether the bit is just sitting there.

I don't have good feedback on whether it happens when he's really through and engaged. I know it happens when there's some contact but not engagement, though.

Evidence. This is about as bad as it gets.

I am hoping that it's because the bit is too thick in his mouth. I have plans to get him a thinner bit: either this Sunday at Everything Equine, or online from Smartpak if I can't make it there/can't find what I want.

Any other thoughts?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

4 hours later...

I think Arya is settling in well.

Sound effects: snore, sigh, snoooooore.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Trailer Inspection & Saddle Fitting

Spring cleaning all around!

First, Sunday, the trailer went in to get inspected. It was an hour of highs and lows.

High: Hitched that sucker up on the second try. BOOM. I take a great deal of pride in my ability to handle my rig.

Low: The electrical socket on my hitch on the truck has rusted such that the plug for the trailer did not go in all the way. So the trailer brakes did not get power.


Luckily, when planning for my rig I was very conservative: the truck can haul and stop the empty trailer under normal conditions. Which is what we had to do, over dirt roads, down steep hills, around a few tight corners, and then into the lot at the mechanic's.

High: Backed that sucker right up in there.

Low: Looked around at the neighborhood and decided I should totally empty the trailer before leaving it. I have accumulated a LOT of crap in that trailer. More spring cleaning on the list!

A portion of the crap.

On the way home, I swung by Autozone out of curiosity. The truck has a date with the mechanic on Tuesday anyway - it has a bit of an oil leak, ugh - so I figured if I could pick up the right part they could swap out the electrical hookup for me too.

Can I just say: that may have been the first time in my LIFE that I have entered an auto parts store and been treated like an intelligent adult? Something abut muck boots + breeches + muddy coat + mussed hair + baseball cap set me apart. I was also able to intelligently describe what I wanted and they admired my truck when we went out to double-check the right part. Excellent experience all around: I will definitely go back for future stuff!

High: The part I needed was only $15 for the high-end version, and one of my new friends at the store told me if my mechanic charges me more than $20 for installing it he is ripping me off and I should tell him so. High five, random dairy farmer dude!

Then today: saddle-fitting!

I spent a solid 30 minutes outside with curry comb and shedding blade trying to get some hair off of him, and he still looked like a homeless ragamuffin at the end of it. SIGH.

 A cute homeless ragamuffin, at least.

Saddle-fitting went exceptionally well. One of my favorite things about Vermont is how genuinely lovely all the horse people I've met are. My barn manager, trainer, farrier, vet, and now saddle fitter. We'd actually met some years ago, when I lived in Vermont before; she was the first person ever to fit Tris, and advised me to buy my jump saddle. So it was terrific to see her again and find she hadn't changed at all.

It was also terrific to find that my assessment of his saddles was spot on: both were a good overall fit, but both needed adjusting, the jump saddle much more dramatically than the dressage saddle. 

I am somewhat ashamed that when I pulled out the jump saddle - which I haven't ridden in for about 6 months - it was badly in need of conditioning. Oops.

A pricey, but excellent, couple of tasks checked off the to do list. While the fitter was working on the dressage saddle, I conditioned my jump saddle. Then it dried out. Then I added another layer of conditioning. Then another. (!) I've brought it home to keep it up. Ack.


I am not sure how much riding I will get done this week (PUPPY) but Tris will be a beginner lesson pony tomorrow, then he's going to be a pretend IHSA horse on Saturday for the local university. 

\For the record: dose 3 of 4 of the Pentosan loading dose was today.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mud Season Hack

May I add: only about 100 feet of the whole thing was flat. Tris was puffing like a little engine when we headed home on the last long uphill. Tired boy!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Pentosan FTW

Tristan is halfway through the loading dose of Pentosan, and Saturday night was my first chance to get on him in a proper dressage school to test his new stage.

I'm thrilled to report that I noticed a HUGE difference.

Incremental changes are always the hardest to keep an eye on: over the years, Tristan has been ageing, and getting less fluid and supple, even with long warmups and all the exercise I could do for him. His long layup before and after surgery didn't help. It was hard for me to confront the fact that he's ageing: not that I ignored it, but more that I redoubled efforts to help him work through it, not quite acknowledging why.

Saturday night I got on, and we walked at a good clip for 15 minutes on a long rein, our usual. I picked up the reins and started in some basic lateral work to loosen him up behind the saddle: again, usual.


I put my leg on and I had a fluid, through horse. His leg yield was so fast and so scopey I completely forgot to manage it and I'm afraid it wasn't very pretty, but whooooosh we went across the entire diagonal. Then we went back. Then we zigged and zagged back and forth. Then we did shoulder-in and haunches in and he was stepping waaaaaaaay over in the back.

Then we went for the trot and immediately he felt straight, through, and springy through his hind end. Same thing laterally: zooooooom across the diagonal in the leg-yield, stepping under through shoulder-in and haunches in.

Then canter: up and down instead of that flattish gait we'd been working to improve. Near-immediate hints of softening through the topline to the right.

To say I was ecstatic would be putting it mildly!

Let me be clear: it wasn't a great ride. I was so taken aback by the horse I had underneath me that I flubbed many things. There were suddenly many more things to gather up and different ways to ride. I played a bit with some of our cornering exercises, controlling the outside shoulder, and we made some progress.

But after 35 minutes, I stopped. He had gone farther in his warmup than he has after a full hour in recent weeks. I had been adding leg-yield responsiveness in slowly over the last few weeks, hoping to work up to going across the diagonal, but he just wasn't crossing over sharply enough even after warmup. Saturday? ZOOM. Right away.

We finished by going outside to the outdoor ring and doing our first long lazy trotting and cantering around, nothing much, just to say we were outside. The footing is still a bit deep but nothing terrible, and it is drying out beautifully.

We'll take it a bit slowly, because with such dramatically increased flexibility and range of motion comes  new torque on his muscles. New ways of going, new building that needs to be done.

And we're only halfway through - who knows how much better he'll get?!

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Taken many years ago, but still awesome. I wish I knew why that gray bar was there - ah well.

Today I have planned: puppy supply shopping, long road hack, dropping the trailer off at the mechanic.

Tomorrow I have planned: spring cleaning for my tack trunk, dressage school, saddle fitting.

Tuesday: PUPPY!

It's going to be a good couple of days.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy News!

This isn't exactly horse-related, but often horse people are dog people.

This sweet little girl will be coming home with us next Tuesday.

She's a five month old Boxer/Labrador cross, and will probably mature to about 40 pounds. She's puppy-ish but very sweet, curious but snuggly, and overall just what we were hoping for. We had a long application process that checked references, required a home inspection, and interviewed us both separately, but we passed!

We're going to call her Arya. :) Let's hope she likes the barn!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Quiet Still Point

I've had a busy, difficult week. Deadlines are crowding my brain at work. Evenings have been filled arranging details for something that might come to fruition next week - but has been stressful and worrying in the meantime.

Last night, I made it to the barn at 7pm through sheer force of will. I put one foot in front of the other, and I kept going. I told myself I'd just keep going and I'd go as far as I felt comfortable.

I got the grooming box. I pulled off his sheet (thanks, Vermont, I thought we were done with those?). I curried, and curried some more. I used the shedding blade. I chatted with the barn manager on the phone, who had called to update me on a few things.

45 minutes later, the muscle ache in my face and jaw from grinding my teeth had faded. My shoulders had loosened, despite grooming hard. I could breathe easily again.

I never did get to ride, but I didn't need to. I just needed to escape.

The barn manager's news was great - she gave Tristan his second dose of Pentosan on Monday, and used him in a 30 minute beginner walk/trot lesson on Tuesday. She couldn't stop raving about how forward and fluid he'd looked. She said she'd never seen him like that.

I won't be able to ride until Saturday night, but that was awesome news to get. It sounds like the Pentosan is helping. I'll report back if that's the case.

Sunday: drop off the trailer at the mechanic
Monday: saddle fitting

We'll see what next week brings. Just keep swimming.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Taken this morning, April 16, at 8:15 am.

It's still snowing.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Boston Strong

In 95% of first-time conversations in the state of Vermont, one person asks the other: "Are you a native Vermonter?" or some variation on that question. Migration is a huge issue throughout the state's history; all that coming and going, especially in the last few decades, means that it's rare for a person to have more than one or two generations in the state. Those with longer genealogies wear them as a badge of pride.

The right answer to the question is that you are from Vermont; the next-best-thing is to prove, somehow, that you wish you were. I tend to equivocate, and say that I came up for college, and lived here for a few years; then I left; now I'm back.

Today, someone asked me the question and I said firmly and proudly, "No. I'm from Boston."

One year ago today, I was frantically flipping from channel to channel, listening to NPR, refreshing Boston.com, refreshing Facebook, refreshing Twitter. I had friends running the Marathon. I had friends watching from the sidelines. I had been a spectator myself, many times.

Everyone I knew was okay, but I remember the feeling of desperate heartbreak, and distance, and deeply personal grief like it was yesterday. It still is yesterday, in a way.

It turns out not everyone I knew was okay, after all. Two days later, a man I had known as a boy - in passing - in the hallway - in the cafeteria - never too well but well enough to picture his face immediately when I heard - was killed. His name was Sean Collier.

Thank you to the helpers, and may Boston continue to stay strong.

Mud Season Hack (Again)

Sunday was an hour of road hacking with a friend - up, down, up again. Tristan was jigging his way downhill again so I did get off and handwalk him. I am a bit frustrated by finding the balance between "nice big forward walk home" and "jig jig jig until you trip." Sitting deep and quiet is one thing; hauling on his mouth to no effect is another.

That said: at about the 45 minute mark he gets much better. He eases into it and focuses on the road ahead instead of the barn behind. The solution here might be just to keep him out for longer. Possibly this Sunday we can hit another road and do 45 minutes out, 45 minutes back.

Before then, we need to get back in the ring. I haven't schooled him outside of a lesson in 3 weeks, yikes. I am the worst. I just keep getting to the barn and tacking him up and then being physically unable to set foot in the ring, so we head outside instead.

Monday was shot #2 in his loading doses of Pentosan, and this should start to be the tipping point of feeling better - this week or next. We'll see. Tonight the temperature will drop about 40 degrees and we'll get an inch or two of that-four-letter-word-that-starts-with-s. Then tomorrow spring will arrive for good. (I know I keep saying and thinking that, but eventually it has to be true, right?)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Horse Finances

When I moved from Massachusetts to Vermont, I took a 25% hit in salary. I knew what I was doing, and I traded up in job, lifestyle, and overall happiness.

That still didn't make looking at the cheerful Turbo Tax comparison of 2012 and 2013 any easier!

However: that hit means that for the first time ever, I am enjoying a decent tax return. Some of it is going into the black hole in my budget labeled "brother's fall wedding." ($500 and counting, and let's just say that the bridal shower plans - in which I must participate but do not have much of a say - are making me feel faint.)

The rest? The rest is going toward the savings account that I have had for several years now. It is labeled "Someday Farm." That savings account was gutted with Tristan's surgery (it was one of three savings accounts that vanished in a puff of smoke in 3 months) but I have been slowly, slowly adding to it. Interest on other savings accounts. The odd extra money from the budget. 

It's not much, but every bit counts. Tristan turned 19 on Friday, and my driving, overarching goal in life is to give him a farm to retire on. Somewhere he can have acres of grass and a turnout shed and nap on sunny knolls in the afternoon, and a barn I can visit in the middle of the night to kiss his nose.

I'm still far from that goal, but it's not totally out of the question. By that time, the savings account will have been named Someday Farm for so long I might just get a real, actual sign for the road and call the place that after all.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Worst March Ever. Officially.

First: it snowed this morning. Snow. White stuff. Frozen. Coming from the sky. On April 9. FML, you guys. This winter just will not die.

Second: the National Weather Service has issued the official news. March 2014 was the coldest in Vermont history. (or at least recorded history, which in some areas dates back to 1892.)

Temperatures were between 8 and 13 degrees below normal. The average temperature around the state was between 18F - 22F. 

No wonder our heating bills have been out of control.

Our Commercial Moment Blog Hop

From L at Viva Carlos.

What are you buying next? Not your "Wish I could" list but your actual practical pony shopping list. And if its a high ticket item you are saving for what is it and when do you expect to order/get it?

I have two big-ticket items coming up in April, but neither is technically a purchase. Both of Tristan's saddles are getting reflocked on April 21, and most likely on that same day his trailer will go in for inspection + repairs. Saddles will probably be $255, and I've budgeted $500 for the trailer.

After that, it'll be tickets to Everything Equine, and while I'm there I'll be looking for a new bit for Tristan: loose ring but thinner through the mouth than his current bit. Say another $75 for those two.

Longer term, I need a new car at the end of the summer (I've been saving for this for a few years now, and expect to have about a 50% down payment), and then this fall I'll be shopping for a new riding helmet. I'll probably go with an International, but I'd like something a little nicer and less bubble-headed than the schooling helmet I wear now.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

In Just-spring

when the world is mudlicious
and puddlewonderful

says e.e. cummings, to continue the poetry kick.

Two very good rides. Long road hack on Sunday, with some short bits of trot interspersed. We stopped at a big puddle of runoff to see if he would want to take a drink (he loves his puddles), and he took a long drink, then splashed and splashed with his nose, curling his lip in disgust every other splash when water went up his nose. I forgot to turn on the GPS app, but I would estimate we were out for about 60 minutes.

Monday, a lesson. We focused on hind end action: both in flexibility and in push. WT put out poles, and wanted me to capture the feeling of that push and that activity in going all the way around the ring. When I was losing it, and falling into nagging, I was to go back over the polls. It worked really well. He was really motoring around, and sitting back, and lifting through his back.

In between, the focus was on really.going.straight. Lining everything up and not letting him trick me into overbending instead of really stepping through in the shoulder-in and haunches-in.

In all, I felt really good about where I had him. I felt less good about the consistency of it: keeping him there. And I felt not so good about my own position, which was sloppy at times. In particular, heels! I've usually been pretty good about them, but I am doing far too much pointing with my toes and pushing off the balls of my feet.

After the lesson, the barn manager gave Tris his first Pentosan injection. It was a lot - 6ccs - in the muscle, and I had bought a slightly larger gauge of needle than is usual (20). So he definitely felt it, but was very good. I think we'll have to get further into the loading dose before he shows any results, but I'm optimistic.

Rest of the week:
Tuesday, rest
Wednesday, longeing (maybe? work event that might keep me late)
Thursday, hack
Friday, dressage school
Saturday, rest

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Poetry Month Day 6: William Rose Benet, "The Horse Thief"

I discovered this poem while reading up for this series. I love it. It's long, but absolutely worth it.

"The Horse Thief"
William Rose Benet

THERE he moved, cropping the grass at the purple canyon’s lip. 
His mane was mixed with the moonlight that silvered his snow-white side,
For the moon sailed out of a cloud with the wake of a spectral ship. 
I crouched and I crawled on my belly, my lariat coil looped wide.

Dimly and dark the mesas broke on the starry sky.        5 
A pall covered every color of their gorgeous glory at noon.
I smelt the yucca and mesquite, and stifled my heart’s quick cry, 
And wormed and crawled on my belly to where he moved against the moon!

Some Moorish barb was that mustang’s sire. His lines were beyond all wonder. 
From the prick of his ears to the flow of his tail he ached in my throat and eyes.        10
Steel and velvet grace! As the prophet says, God had “clothed his neck with thunder.” 
Oh, marvelous with the drifting cloud he drifted across the skies!

And then I was near at hand—crouched, and balanced, and cast the coil; 
And the moon was smothered in cloud, and the rope through my hands with a rip!
But somehow I gripped and clung, with the blood in my brain aboil,—        15 
With a turn round the rugged tree-stump there on the purple canyon’s lip.

Right into the stars he reared aloft, his red eye rolling and raging. 
He whirled and sunfished and lashed, and rocked the earth to thunder and flame.
He squealed like a regular devil horse. I was haggard and spent and aging— 
Roped clean, but almost storming clear, his fury too fierce to tame.        20

And I cursed myself for a tenderfoot moon-dazzled to play the part, 
But I was doubly desperate then, with the posse pulled out from town,
Or I’d never have tried it. I only knew I must get a mount and a start. 
The filly had snapped her foreleg short. I had had to shoot her down.

So there he struggled and strangled, and I snubbed him around the tree.        25 
Nearer, a little nearer—hoofs planted, and lolling tongue—
Till a sudden slack pitched me backward. He reared right on top of me. 
Mother of God—that moment! He missed me … and up I swung.

Somehow, gone daft completely and clawing a bunch of his mane, 
As he stumbled and tripped in the lariat, there I was—up and astride        30
And cursing for seven counties! And the mustang? Just insane! 
Crack-bang! went the rope; we cannoned off the tree—then—gods, that ride!

A rocket—that’s all, a rocket! I dug with my teeth and nails. 
Why, we never hit even the high spots (though I hardly remember things),
But I heard a monstrous booming like a thunder of flapping sails        35 
When he spread—well, call me a liar!—when he spread those wings, those wings!

So white that my eyes were blinded, thick-feathered and wide unfurled 
They beat the air into billows. We sailed, and the earth was gone.
Canyon and desert and mesa withered below, with the world. 
And then I knew that mustang; for I—was Bellerophon!        40

Yes, glad as the Greek, and mounted on a horse of the elder gods, 
With never a magic bridle or a fountain-mirror nigh!
My chaps and spurs and holster must have looked it? What’s the odds? 
I’d a leg over lightning and thunder, careering across the sky!

And forever streaming before me, fanning my forehead cool,        45 
Flowed a mane of molten silver; and just before my thighs
(As I gripped his velvet-muscled ribs, while I cursed myself for a fool), 
The steady pulse of those pinions—their wonderful fall and rise!

The bandanna I bought in Bowie blew loose and whipped from my neck. 
My shirt was stuck to my shoulders and ribboning out behind.        50
The stars were dancing, wheeling and glancing, dipping with smirk and beck. 
The clouds were flowing, dusking and glowing. We rode a roaring wind.

We soared through the silver starlight to knock at the planets’ gates. 
New shimmering constellations came whirling into our ken.
Red stars and green and golden swung out of the void that waits        55 
For man’s great last adventure; the Signs took shape—and then

I knew the lines of that Centaur the moment I saw him come! 
The musical-box of the heavens all around us rolled to a tune
That tinkled and chimed and trilled with silver sounds that struck you dumb, 
As if some archangel were grinding out the music of the moon.        60

Melody-drunk on the Milky Way, as we swept and soared hilarious, 
Full in our pathway, sudden he stood—the Centaur of the Stars,
Flashing from head and hoofs and breast! I knew him for Sagittarius. 
He reared, and bent and drew his bow. He crouched as a boxer spars.

Flung back on his haunches, weird he loomed—then leapt—end the dim void lightened.        65 
Old White Wings shied and swerved aside, and fled from the splendor-shod.
Through a flashing welter of worlds we charged. I knew why my horse was frightened.  He had two faces—a dog’s and a man’s—that Babylonian god!

Also, he followed us real as fear. Ping! went an arrow past. 
My broncho buck-jumped, humping high. We plunged … I guess that’s all!        70
I lay on the purple canyon’s lip, when I opened my eyes at last— 
Stiff and sore and my head like a drum, but I broke no bones in the fall.

So you know—and now you may string me up. Such was the way you caught me. 
Thank you for letting me tell it straight, though you never could greatly care.
For I took a horse that wasn’t mine!… But there’s one the heavens brought me,        75 
And I’ll hang right happy, because I know he is waiting for me up there.

From creamy muzzle to cannon-bone, by God, he’s a peerless wonder! 
He is steel and velvet and furnace-fire, and death’s supremest prize;
And never again shall be roped on earth that neck that is “clothed with thunder” … 
String me up, Dave! Go dig my gravel! I rode him across the skies,        80

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Poetry Month Day 5: Thomas Buchanan Read, "Sheridan's Ride"

I almost named Tristan after Sheridan's horse in this poem. His name was Rienzi, renamed Winchester after his arrival at the battle, and today he's taxidermied and on display at the Smithsonian. (He doesn't look as grim as you'd think.)

"Sheridan's Ride"
Thomas Buchanan Read

UP from the South at break of day, 
Bringing to Winchester fresh dismay, 
The affrighted air with a shudder bore, 
Like a herald in haste, to the chieftain's door, 
The terrible grumble, and rumble, and roar,         5
Telling the battle was on once more, 
And Sheridan twenty miles away. 
And wider still those billows of war, 
Thundered along the horizon's bar; 
And louder yet into Winchester rolled  10
The roar of that red sea uncontrolled, 
Making the blood of the listener cold, 
As he thought of the stake in that fiery fray, 
And Sheridan twenty miles away. 
But there is a road from Winchester town,  15
A good, broad highway leading down; 
And there, through the flush of the morning light, 
A steed as black as the steeds of night, 
Was seen to pass, as with eagle flight, 
As if he knew the terrible need;  20
He stretched away with his utmost speed; 
Hills rose and fell; but his heart was gay, 
With Sheridan fifteen miles away. 
Still sprung from those swift hoofs, thundering South, 
The dust, like smoke from the cannon's mouth;  25
Or the trail of a comet, sweeping faster and faster, 
Foreboding to traitors the doom of disaster. 
The heart of the steed, and the heart of the master 
Were beating like prisoners assaulting their walls, 
Impatient to be where the battle-field calls;  30
Every nerve of the charger was strained to full play, 
With Sheridan only ten miles away. 
Under his spurning feet the road 
Like an arrowy Alpine river flowed, 
And the landscape sped away behind  35
Like an ocean flying before the wind, 
And the steed, like a barque fed with furnace ire, 
Swept on, with his wild eyes full of fire. 
But lo! he is nearing his heart's desire; 
He is snuffing the smoke of the roaring fray,  40
With Sheridan only five miles away. 
The first that the general saw were the groups 
Of stragglers, and then the retreating troops; 
What was done? what to do? a glance told him both, 
Then, striking his spurs, with a terrible oath,  45
He dashed down the line 'mid a storm of huzzas, 
And the wave of retreat checked its course there, because 
The sight of the master compelled it to pause. 
With foam and with dust the black charger was gray; 
By the flash of his eye, and the red nostril's play,  50
He seemed to the whole great army to say, 
"I have brought you Sheridan all the way 
From Winchester, down to save the day!" 
Hurrah! hurrah for Sheridan! 
Hurrah! hurrah for horse and man!  55
And when their statues are placed on high, 
Under the dome of the Union sky, 
The American soldier's Temple of Fame; 
There with the glorious general's name, 
Be it said, in letters both bold and bright,  60
  "Here is the steed that saved the day, 
By carrying Sheridan into the fight, 
  From Winchester, twenty miles away!"

How Many Stalls Have You Cleaned?

While I did chores on Monday, I let my mind start to wander. I thought of all the times I've done chores over the years: all the horses I've lead in and out, all the water buckets I've dumped and filled, all the sweeping I've done.

I started to do the math: how many stalls have I mucked over the years?

The first time I had a regular shift of chores was January 2006 - August 2007. Let's say that before that time, I had done ~25 stalls at summer camp and at miscellaneous riding barns before I owned Tristan.

That regular shift did not include mucking out, but it did include picking stalls. Let's say that 3 stalls picked = 1 stall mucked. Let's say that I did 100 days of work during that time; it was a 30 stall barn. So that's 1000 stalls during that time. I also did ~30 days of actual stall mucking, averaging 8 stalls per shift, so there's another 240.

From August 2007 - May 2013, believe it or not, I did not do a regular chore shift. I mucked stalls occasionally: when I wanted to pitch in by doing Tristan's, when I took him off property, or when I was helping a friend. More often I picked out Tristan's stall. Let's say during those 6 years I mucked ~50 stalls.

Since May 2013, I have done probably 40 or so days of work, averaging 8 stalls each time. So there's 320 more stalls.

All told, that adds up to 1,635 stalls mucked in my lifetime. That seems really, really low, actually!

What about you? How many stalls do you think you've mucked out in your lifetime?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Poetry Month Day 4: William Henry Ogilvie "The Pearl of Them All"

This is a poem I discovered while getting ready for posting all these, and I love it.

"The Pearl of Them All"
William Henry Ogilvie

Gaily in front of the stockwhip
The horses come galloping home,
Leaping and bucking and playing
With sides all a lather of foam;
But painfully, slowly behind them,
With head to the crack of the fall,
And trying so gamely to follow
Comes limping the pearl of them all.

He is stumbling and stiff in the shoulder,
And splints from the hoof to the knee,
But never a horse on the station
Has half such a spirit as he;
Give these all the boast of their breeding
These pets of the paddock and stall,
But ten years ago not their proudest
Could live with the pearl of them all.

No journey has ever yet beat him,
No day was too heavy or hard,
He was king of the camp and the muster
And pride of the wings of the yard;
But Time is relentless to follow;
The best of us bow to his thrall;
And death, with his scythe on his shoulder,
Is dogging the pearl of them all.

I watch him go whinnying past me,
And memories come with a whirl
Of reckless, wild rides with a comrade
And laughing, gay rides with a girl —
How she decked him with lilies and love-knots
And plaited his mane at my side,
And once in the grief of a parting
She threw her arms round him and cried.
And I promised — I gave her my promise
The night that we parted in tears,
To keep and be kind to the old horse
Till Time made a burden of years;
And then for his sake and one woman’s…
So, fetch me my gun from the wall!
I have only this kindness to offer
As gift to the pearl of them all.

Here! hold him out there by the yard wing,
And don’t let him know by a sign:
Turn his head to you — ever so little!
I can’t bear his eyes to meet mine.
Then — stand still, old boy! for a moment …
These tears, how they blind as they fall!
Now, God help my hand to be steady…
Good-bye! — to the pearl of them all!

Mud Season Hack

Starting off my April goals with a long hack last night. It was high 30s, not windy, and sunny. Snow was melting, Tristan was fresh, and the sun was out! I jumped on bareback with his XC bridle.

I have to get a better picture of the house up on the left, because I covet it.

One of the barn owners' husbands repairs boats. In the winter the tarps flap
all around and provide an excellent desensitization tool!


This was supposed to be a photograph of the culvert & ditch fast
with runoff, but it turned into a neat optical illusion of Tristan the Dala horse.

In conclusion:

That max speed 8.9mph would be the moment when we tried to go up onto some back roads. I saw tons of sap buckets on trees and thought they would make a good picture, so I pushed him forward though the snow was still quite deep. He was less than thrilled.

Then we rounded the corner and the farmer and his family had a massive tractor they were using to collect the sap, and Tristan decided he was DONE. We had a little whirling stomping dancing fit, and then I turned him back at the tractor (which the farmer had helpfully turned off) and he realized it was going to be ok after all.

The farmer's two young daughters (maybe around 10 years old) were helping collect sap and it made their day to meet Tristan.

That said, we still turned back off those roads to head elsewhere, because there were some late season snowmombilers going to town in the fields and Tris was not thrilled.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Poetry Month Day 3: Ted Hughes, "The Horses"

I run hot and cold on Ted Hughes; he was Sylvia Plath's husband, and I generally find him a bit opaque and modern. But he wrote quite a bit about horses. This one is probably my favorite.

"The Horses"
Ted Hughes

I climbed through woods in the hour-before-dawn dark.
Evil air, a frost-making stillness,

Not a leaf, not a bird -
A world cast in frost. I came out above the wood

Where my breath left tortuous statues in the iron light.
But the valleys were draining the darkness

Till the moorline - blackening dregs of the brightening grey -
Halved the sky ahead. And I saw the horses:

Huge in the dense grey - ten together -
Megalith-still. They breathed, making no move,

with draped manes and tilted hind-hooves,
Making no sound.

I passed: not one snorted or jerked its head.
Grey silent fragments

Of a grey silent world.

I listened in emptiness on the moor-ridge.
The curlew's tear turned its edge on the silence.

Slowly detail leafed from the darkness. Then the sun
Orange, red, red erupted

Silently, and splitting to its core tore and flung cloud,
Shook the gulf open, showed blue,

And the big planets hanging -
I turned

Stumbling in the fever of a dream, down towards
The dark woods, from the kindling tops,

And came to the horses.
There, still they stood,
But now steaming and glistening under the flow of light,

Their draped stone manes, their tilted hind-hooves
Stirring under a thaw while all around them

The frost showed its fires. But still they made no sound.
Not one snorted or stamped,

Their hung heads patient as the horizons,
High over valleys in the red levelling rays -

In din of crowded streets, going among the years, the faces,
May I still meet my memory in so lonely a place

Between the streams and the red clouds, hearing the curlews,
Hearing the horizons endure.

The Barn at The End of Our Term

I can't get over how amazing and weird and amazing this short story is. Did I mention it's weird?

Basic premise: Presidents of the United states are reincarnated as horses.

It's a fascinating, weird read if you just know horses and a smattering of American history. It gains satiric brilliance if you have a more thorough knowledge.

The Barn at The End of Our Term

Selected paragraph:
'Well, I for one have great faith in Fitzgibbons. I think he is a just and merciful Lord.' James Buchanan can only deduce, given his administration's many accomplishments, that this Barn must be heaven. Buchanan has been reborn as a fastidious bay, a gelding sired by that racing great Caspian Rickleberry. 'Do you know that I have an entry in the Royal Ledger of Equine Bloodlines, Rutherford? It's true.' His nostrils flare with self-regard. 'I am being rewarded,' Buchanan insists, 'for annexing Oregon.
What did you think?

Quarter 1 Review

Per my overall 2014 goals: how am I doing so far?

Tristan's Goals

1. Get fit and rebuild muscle.

So far so good! Definitely adding muscle.

2. Strengthen dressage, particularly the canter.

Hmmmmm. Well, we're on our way. He's stronger in the canter, but it's not yet a better canter.

3. Work on jumping again.

Not yet.

4. Do a few tests at a dressage show.

Not yet.

5. Complete a group trail ride.

Not yet.

(to be fair, 3-5 were projected for later in the year anyway, so I'm not yet behind)

My Goals

1. Get fit!

Very mixed success. Technically, I have lost weight and do feel a bit stronger; in reality, I'm still not doing enough to incorporate exercise into my daily routine.

2. Find a schedule and stick to it.

Despite weather-related crappiness, this is actually starting to develop well. I'm planning a week at a time and mixing up my rides, and getting out 5x a week to do something with him.

3. Take more lessons.

So far so good! Averaging about every two weeks now. April will be tough, but I have my fingers crossed.

4. Rebuild emergency savings.

Hahahahahahaha. Ha. In March I had a vet bill, trailer registration bill, truck repair bill (inspection + a few small things after the winter); in April, I will have saddle fitting and trailer repair. Maybe this summer?

5. Be better organized with barn stuff.

Baby steps. I have reorganized one bag's worth of stuff in the mud room. I can't get to my trailer yet. Weather is supposed to improve through this week, so maybe it will be bearable to haul my tack trunk out in the sunshine and clean it out on Sunday?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Poetry Month Day 2: Rudyard Kipling "White Horses"

I find Kipling at times over-wrought, and this poem definitely has elements of it, but he knew his horses.

"White Horses"
Rudyard Kipling

Where run your colts at pasture?
  Where hide your mares to breed?
'Mid bergs about the Ice-cap
  Or wove Sargasso weed;
By chartless reef and channel,
  Or crafty coastwise bars,
But most the ocean-meadows
  All purple to the stars!

Who holds the rein upon you?
  The latest gale let free.
What meat is in your mangers?
  The glut of all the sea.
'Twixt tide and tide's returning
  Great store of newly dead, --
The bones of those that faced us,
  And the hearts of those that fled.
Afar, off-shore and single,
  Some stallion, rearing swift,
Neighs hungry for new fodder,
  And calls us to the drift:
Then down the cloven ridges --
  A million hooves unshod --
Break forth the mad White Horses
  To seek their meat from God!

Girth-deep in hissing water
  Our furious vanguard strains --
Through mist of mighty tramplings
  Roll up the fore-blown manes --
A hundred leagues to leeward,
  Ere yet the deep is stirred,
The groaning rollers carry
  The coming of the herd!

Whose hand may grip your nostrils --
  Your forelock who may hold?
E'en they that use the broads with us --
  The riders bred and bold,
That spy upon our matings,
  That rope us where we run --
They know the strong White Horses
  From father unto son.

We breathe about their cradles,
  We race their babes ashore,
We snuff against their thresholds,
  We nuzzle at their door;
By day with stamping squadrons,
  By night in whinnying droves,
Creep up the wise White Horses,
  To call them from their loves.

And come they for your calling?
  No wit of man may save.
They hear the loosed White Horses
  Above their fathers' grave;
And, kin of those we crippled,
  And, sons of those we slew,
Spur down the wild white riders
  To school the herds anew.

What service have ye paid them,
  Oh jealous steeds and strong?
Save we that throw their weaklings,
  Is none dare work them wrong;
While thick around the homestead
  Our snow-backed leaders graze --
A guard behind their plunder,
  And a veil before their ways.

With march and countermarchings --
  With weight of wheeling hosts --
Stray mob or bands embattled --
  We ring the chosen coasts:
And, careless of our clamour
  That bids the stranger fly,
At peace with our pickets
  The wild white riders lie.

 . . . .

Trust ye that curdled hollows --
  Trust ye the neighing wind --
Trust ye the moaning groundswell --
  Our herds are close behind!
To bray your foeman's armies --
  To chill and snap his sword --
Trust ye the wild White Horses,
  The Horses of the Lord!

April Goals

So, what's on the docket for April? (per my 2014 outline)
Start hacking regularly, whenever possible. Plan on minimum of 60 minutes out for each hack, 2x per week. 
Pull shoes, if all goes well, and get back to barefoot. 
Continue schooling under saddle, fine-tuning dressage. IF jumping is a go, jump 1x every two weeks minimum. 
Possible events for riding or volunteering: GMHA Mud Ride (April 26-27), VT Everything Equine (April 26-27)

More of this, please.

This should be do-able! Good job planning, me from the past.

Jumping will be attempted as soon as my jump saddle is fit: right now, it's looking like April 21 for that.

Hacking will commence in earnest this Thursday, 4/3.

Dressage is already being fine-tuned.

Probably I'll be headed to Everything Equine instead of the Mud Ride: Tris is going to be a school horse for the local university's IHSA mock show (just the riders on the team, which is new, getting used to the style of an IHSA show) on 4/26 and he's not quite fit enough for 15 miles anyway.

Talked to the farrier last night about pulling shoes and going barefoot, so we are on track for that.

It's a very low bar of goals, but I'm happy that it should go well anyway!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Poetry Month, Day 1: Robert Frost's "The Runaway"

Happy Poetry Month! I love poetry, and am always seeking out more poetry about horses in particular. So for April I thought I'd do a poem a day. I'll start with one of my favorite horse poems of all time.

"The Runaway"
Robert Frost

Once when the snow of the year was beginning to fall,
We stopped by a mountain pasture to say 'Whose colt?' 
A little Morgan had one forefoot on the wall, 
The other curled at his breast. He dipped his head 
And snorted at us. And then he had to bolt. 
We heard the miniature thunder where he fled, 
And we saw him, or thought we saw him, dim and grey, 
Like a shadow against the curtain of falling flakes. 
'I think the little fellow's afraid of the snow. 
He isn't winter-broken. It isn't play 
With the little fellow at all. He's running away. 
I doubt if even his mother could tell him, "Sakes, 
It's only weather". He'd think she didn't know ! 
Where is his mother? He can't be out alone.' 
And now he comes again with a clatter of stone 
And mounts the wall again with whited eyes 
And all his tail that isn't hair up straight. 
He shudders his coat as if to throw off flies. 
'Whoever it is that leaves him out so late, 
When other creatures have gone to stall and bin, 
Ought to be told to come and take him in.'

March Goals Wrap Up

Here's what I wanted to accomplish in March, per my 2014 outline.
Spring shots & teeth. Get the trailer registered and potentially taken out to get inspected/repaired. Re-up my US Rider  
Continue topline & fitness, but we should be well on our way by now: capable of a full 60 minute lesson without too much exhaustion on either part.
Pretty darn good, actually!

Spring shots and teeth, done.

Trailer registered! Alas, it is going approximately nowhere until the snow melts. Perhaps mid-April. As soon as I can, I'll get it to the mechanic. I won't re-up the US Rider until it looks like I'll be hauling Tristan somewhere: probably May.

We're both very capable of a 60 minute lesson. In March, I noticed a marked improvement in his fitness and recovery. My own fitness is proceeding slowly but I am trying to add some things to the mix to help that. It's going to hit 40 today, and sunny, and I can already feel my energy improving.