Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Gloomies

 After going to Renegade over July 4th weekend (post still in draft about that) I just had a succession of bad things. 

My truck's transmission died on our way home from Renegade, thankfully after dropping Gwyn off, so we were close to home and while I didn't need a tow in the end, I definitely limped it home and limped it to the dealer a few days later. The chunk of change to stick a new transmission in the vehicle meant that my retention bonus from work could not be used for fun things like a new saddle, but instead, paid for most of the transmission. 

I haven't hauled since. I think I'm scared now. What that means is that I haven't been out on a trail ride. 

I made this at Pony Club Camp as a teen (CT)

Immediately after Renegade, we had a client audit at work, so I was super busy with that and as soon as that wrapped up we were notified that the FDA was exercising a surprise inspection for two weeks (!!!!) so work craziness continued and I barely saw my horse. 
Where I spent most of my teen years in the winter (CT)

Then I learned that Jane passed away and panicked about the cost of plane tickets to fly to Connecticut only to be reassured by the Best Wife that I should shut up and buy them because I obviously needed to go. I proceeded to feel unnecessarily guilty and awful about regret as I grieved, and that definitely impacted me wanting to go to the barn.
And where I spent most of my teen years in the summer (CT)

As soon as the FDA inspection was over we dove into performance qualification of the HVAC system for our new manufacturing spaces. Today was the end of week four, we have more weeks to go. 
The gateway to paradise (CT)

Looking up to the upper pasture and the 'riding ring' I used (CT) 

All of this to say... Gwyn has been neglected in the attention department. I hit the weekend so exhausted that every time I've thought to plan a trail ride, the idea of hooking a trailer up and packing to go anywhere is just exhausting.  Most of my rides lately have been in a hackamore, which was absolutely a dopamine purchase and I HAVE NO REGRETS.

Seriously, so cute.

The lavender with purple overlay is *chef's kiss* perfection

Some times I've gone out just to groom because mentally that's all I have the energy for. 

Even the kids helped

I have been consistently attending physical therapy for an hour, every three weeks or so with a lady who specializes in riders. This is to address knee and ankle pain. As I fix one thing my issues seem to migrate to the next adjacent body part (helloooo hips).  However, I've been fairly diligent about my at home exercises and I have noticed improvement in riding and generally in how I'm moving. This has also now led to me adding in pelvic floor therapy because let me tell you, it's NOT fun to have to worry about peeing any time you sneeze or... you know... half halt or try to relax and ride into a canter that's absolutely giant. Until that first appointment, I've been adding in hourly kegels throughout the day. 

What was fantastic tonight, however, was coming into my riding lesson with Ralph.  I told him upfront that I was hoping to have a lesson where I could walk away feeling like I had a win. That work had been shitty and stressful, and I needed tonight to forget all that shit.

So we worked on Gwyn's weak side canter departs. 😂😂😂😂

But you know what? She was the Best Mare Ever. 

She was lazy at first, offering the most western of jogs until Ralph told me to wake her up with some canter. I disagreed, and pointed her at one of the numerous cross rails scattered across the arena. That did the trick, hahaha. 

She's still anticipating pain on that left stifle and hock so achieving that left lead canter has been hard for me. What it took was counter flexing to the outside, really booting her butt to the inside and just pony club kicking. By the end of the night I was able to soften that cue, and the goal is to not have to so obviously flex to the outside eventually, but she needs to learn to actually canter on the left lead when I ask. The right lead was better and that was where she really found her motor. 

What was amazing to me was that it felt easier to ride her canter than it had before I started doing my millions of kegels. It was easier to sit up and not fetal position or go into two point. She really needs me sitting balanced and on her, not off her back at this point. 
It is hard to get a selfie with her whole head.

Ralph described it like a game. She likes playing the game and getting  the right answer. She was BIG MAD when she wasn't getting the right answer, but she also likes to win the Game against me, which is often her dropping her shoulder or ignoring my leg. At one point she was blasting through my inside leg down a long stretch in power canter and I was asking her to rate a bit and stay on the rail. She was aiming instead for a small vertical so I decided, "Okay mare, you want to aim for a jump? We're gonna jump." 

Ralph said afterward that it was like her eyes got real big. She was not expecting me to still assert that I had influence in what we were doing. The next time we cantered around that long side she was very respectful of my leg and where I was aiming. 😁 After that it was more like a partnership between the two of us. She had to get over her "game time" and really get down and focus. After drilling the left canter depart (again, her weak side), she started offering it as counter canter when I cued going right. So she was trying so hard to answer the question. Goober got lots of verbal praise and neck scritches. 

We did a lot of breaks to jump in between the canter and it really felt like I was getting my sea legs back, so to speak. As a kid I was fearless. I'd drop my stirrups, knot my reins and just point Clyde at a set of gymnastics and go through hands free. It felt so amazing to do. My body knew how to fold and I could feel the line. I felt that again tonight. It's getting easier to trust that Gwyn can jump with me and thus I can release and keep my eyes up. 

I won one of the saddle covers in a giveaway from Bel Joeor and this has to be my favorite embroidery design, seriously y'all

Anyway, a lot of what I talked about body wise and biomechanically is stuff that I've been discussing and working on with my physical therapist. And I'm just buzzing with happiness about how well it's tied together tonight. And how much I can feel my body being more capable. It's such a nice change from where I was. 

Anyway, it's been a wild mental swing for me this week. I'm just happy to have some good brain chemicals, rather than awful brain chemicals like yesterday. Huge difference. Enough that I had energy and motivation to actually BLOG ABOUT IT. Whaaaaaaat. 

What wins have you had lately? Let's celebrate the wins!

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Jane, In Memoriam

Jane Pastel (1925-2021)

I'm a firm believer that teens need an adult mentor in that teen's special interest who has exceedingly high expectations of that teen. Jane was my mentor as a kid. We attended the same church, which is how we met.  The church was holding an auction fundraiser and I had donated my meager drawing skills listing off that I was best at doing horses (lol oh tween me) and could work off of a photograph. 

Jane was the only one who bid on my services and she invited me out to her house to meet Barron and Pooh Bear.  Barron was an already ancient chestnut, Morgan gelding, arthritic and cranky and nearly toothless. Pooh Bear was a spit fire black Shetland gelding going gray in the face with age who absolutely ruled the roost. Both were absolutely doted on by Jane. 

Up until that moment, my little bits of horse exposure had been the occasional pony ride at the fair, or as a treat, a birthday trail ride out of a massive trail ride business somewhere near UConn, and summer riding lessons at UConn as an 11year old. I was a sponge that had read as much as I could and all that was left, was the hands on stuff. Jane's vast amount of knowledge was this treasure trove that I soaked and immersed myself in. 

She had been raised in the British Pony Club style, as had some of her kids. She taught me how to brush a horse and in what order (curry comb, stiff brush, body brush, soft brush). She told me I should get to know the horses first before drawing them for her. What a clever woman.  My dad and I would come out on the weekend. I would brush both Barron and Pooh, my Dad learned how to clean the stalls. I would dump the wheelbarrow for him (he has polio in a leg and the terrain was too rough for him to do it himself). 
Jane and her husband, Harvey, ca 2008 at my wedding in Groton, CT

One day we arrived and Jane informed me that she had a new horse that I should go meet. I remember it was a cold, late winter day. The ground was frozen but what greeted me was a very friendly, bay gelding who I was informed was named Classy Clyde. He was a Standardbred, off the track pacer and Jane had found and acquired him. I was informed, if I was to ride him, I would need to join the local Pony Club.  And she would pay for everything about him except for my Pony Club membership and his Coggins every year. Eventually, I became her trusted farm sitter, caring for the horses when she'd take her annual trip to the UK to visit a daughter who lived there. 

I rode him a little that really cold day and he was honest and steady and I decided then and there that bay standardbreds were my most favorite horse in the world and I wanted nothing else. This dude occupied a little piece of my soul. And I like to think that he decided I belonged to him too. 

Jane would pick me up after school in her big red diesel truck. Sometimes with the horse trailer in tow if I was going to a pony club lesson. Clyde took me through my C-1 until I finally left for college. Every winter I'd come home and hope to be around for Jane's Christmas Party. As a teen it was a fantastic time, held in her old farmhouse with multiple levels of floor as rooms had been added on over the years. There'd be caroling around the piano and I'd always escape out into the frigid air to visit the horses, already tucked in for the night, munching on their hay. 

I spent my summers at her house, cleaning stalls and riding for hours on the trails that connected into Bolton Notch State Park and Valley Falls Park. I knew that valley in and out and Clyde and I would head out and we'd just leave the trail and explore because I knew I'd always be able to get home. It was contained wild space, to a degree. I'd love to go back and ride those trails again, just to see them because they were such a quiet, tranquil space for me. 

2008, dancing at my wedding
Later, when Erica and I were engaged, we took engagement photos at her property. And when we did pre-marital counseling we were asked to identify a married couple we admired and looked up to. Jane, with her husband Harvey, was our immediate response. Or at least mine, and it didn't take long to convince Erica why. Harvey and Jane were married for what felt like ever. He was a retired surgeon, absolutely brilliant, kind man, and spent his retirement affectionately pinching Jane's bottom, playing tennis, and building beautiful, delicate model airplanes out of balsawood and rice paper or intricate origami pieces of art. There was so much love evident with the two of them and it was so obvious that something they were doing was right. They were lasting, they communicated and their love just continued to blossom. He passed away in 2017. 

It was because of Jane's tutelage that I felt confident diving into home horse ownership. I wouldn't be the equestrian I am today without her. She demanded skills and knowledge out of me and I rose to meet her expectations. Her confidence and trust in me was so crucial to me as a teen. Even if I'd fuck up at school (and I did... my resulting punishment was me delaying getting my drivers license), having Jane and Clyde was a constant in my life that I could rely on. 

Jazmin on Pooh (L) me on Clyde (R)

I kept meaning to write to her. To call. And realizing I can't anymore, that my procrastination cost me the chance to say hi and good by one last time, to send a purposeful thank you.... Fuck that hurts.  At least I can make the memorial service. 

RIP Jane. Harvey was probably impatiently waiting for you. I'm glad you're reunited with him again.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Trout Lake Endurance Ride June 11-13

Most of the endurance rides I will go to this year are on the other side of the Cascades. The one that isn't (Creek to Capitol Peak) is not one that I have a desire to attend (AERC, not EDRA and near Olympia).  My summer is getting packed enough that one endurance ride a month is plenty. I'd like time with my family thankyouverymuch. 
For this particular trip, I went out solo. Cortney and her mom had arrived the day before but I couldn't spare the time from work. Cortney did recommend that I cross the pass first and come down on the east side rather than take I-5 into Oregon and come up across the Columbia River. Apparently the bridge across is scary AF when hauling. The travel time was near identical and I suspect my way ended up being faster because I wasn't going through Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and finally Portland. It also happened to be far more scenic.
Heading south at Ellensburg in scrubby desert.

Coming into Yakima. There was a sign pointing out Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier but the heavy rain clouds obscured the view.

After Yakima I passed into Yakama Reservation land. There are some herds of horses on this land that occasionally get rounded up by the BLM for sale. I saw a few small bands dotting the hills.
Then down into Klickitat Canyon where the road followed the canyon edge, slowly descending to the river bottom and then climbing back out in a similar manner. Crazy road. Beautiful. But I took it slow and carefully. 
Then into the hills again where the evergreens returned and desert receded and the rain came in more constant moments.

Then down into Trout Lake with heavy cloud cover and rain. I couldn't see much. I was apparently missing a LOT, as I discovered the next day.
I stopped in Trout Lake to top up my tank (self service, old timey gas station!) before heading to ride camp to find Cortney and Friends. Ride camp was in a field just north of the horse camp at Mt. Adams, so we were roughing it but water was scattered throughout camp as well as numerous portapotties.

I immediately regretted not bringing any kind of muck boot. My feet were immediately wet and soaked through thanks to the tall grass of the meadow. Next time I'll learn. I hope. 
Sue Summers was the ride manager with Sue McClain as the Ride Steward.

Trout Lake was formerly used as the Pan-Am FEI endurance ride. The trails are gorgeous and the permit to use the space had expired and it was apparently super tough to regain. Sue Summers has worked incredibly hard to get the trails back up and running again. This particular ride had 25, 50, 75 and 100 miles of distance. The trail was near identical to what ran for Pan-Am. EDRA is hoping to get a national qualifier back out here. It's exciting.
The horses got tucked in for the night and most everyone went to bed early. Cortney was riding in the 50 and they had an early start in the morning. I was planning to ride the 11 mile trail and didn't need to be in the saddle until 9 am. 

I did get up in time to see Robin and Cortney off on their 50. This was going to be Reign's first 50 mile ride. We did have some drama when Reign came trotting back into camp without Cortney and promptly put herself away in her pen. We got them reunited and thankfully Cortney was fine. 
After that I snuggled Gus, the fawn that Cortney and Trudy had found on the side of the highway, getting rolled around by the wind of passing cars. There were cliffs on both sides of the highway and he was unresponsive. They took him, and called Cortney's husband to bring goat milk replacer. He slowly perked up over the course of the weekend, getting literally nursed back to health. He was cute, and fearless. 

Next I helped our camp neighbors mount up for the 25. There was another incident with poor K and her gelding. She completed the first loop but opted to RO. Her friend completed though!

After seeing everyone off, I went back to bed. I was starting to get a headache and I just didn't want to bother. So I took some ibuprofen, climbed back into my sleeping bag and passed out for another hour. I woke up feeling AMAZING. I had some breakfast with Trudy and Alexis (Cortney's sister) then we started tacking up to hit the trail!
The clouds cleared up as we got on and the sun was shining. The weather was absolutely fantastic as we started through the forest.

We slowly climbed and the forest opened up, the ground vegetation clearing to open forest. Then we entered old burn zone with giant twigs just jutting up into the sky with no needles or leaves.

I got to test my new pommel pack!

We had peekaboo views of some snow scattered hills in the distance, about what I was expecting to see, but no grand views yet.

We turned a corner on the loop and I just shouted in surprise, because there, hiding in plain site, was Mount Adams. It had been to our backs the whole time, or hidden behind nearer hills.

As we followed logging and forest service roads views of the volcano came in and out of sight. The sun was warm but not hot and occasionally it smelled like christmas when we came across freshly chipped fir trees cleared for the ride.

Trudy and Alexis

We rode at a nice, working walk. My ankle didn't bother me, thankfully, but I did wish we had done SOME trotting. My lower back was sore.

The Purple Ho I am

But really, I love this set up

Gwyn wasn't even sweaty when we were back at camp, and definitely did had energy to go do more. I untacked and gave her hay and water, then hopped into Alexis' car to go to Vet Check 2 because Cortney needed some crew support. 

Usually Cortney doesn't have crew, so us helping her was a nice mood boost for her. I babysat Reign and made Cortney eat a banana and drink some water. The day was heating up and some horses were being pulled at vet checks. Cortney was the last rider out of the vet check, which was fine. Her goal was to keep baby Reign moving happily along at her steady trot and not sour her on the 50 mile distance.
Reign eats like it's her job.

See you back in Camp! They had 12 miles left to do and while Reign was a little unsure about being tacked up AGAIN, they hit the trail and completed!

More Gus snuggles

We hung out under the shade of the pop up tent and Gwyn guarded her hay from the deer that came to scout where the best hay would be left when camp was packed up. You can see her brown body through that tree.

I took another nap. I love ride camp naps. 

Cortney was the last 50 to finish, but finished with time to spare! We cheered when the 100 mile rider finished too. Then we passed out, exhausted.

On Sunday morning, Gwyn flat out napped. See, ride camp naps are great

We packed up amid rain showers on Sunday and headed home.
The cliffs near where Gus was found

Mt. Adams is hiding in the clouds

Cloud Iridescence!

Back in the canyon

Cortney had wine to pick up, so we detoured through apple, grape, pear and cherry orchards to the winery. 
And then we detoured to the Best Tamales in the US, Union Gap, WA

But travel through the pass added 90 minutes to the trip home. It was ridiculous.

I got home later than I wanted, but did my due diligence in getting Gwyn settled in. She hopped off the trail bright and perky. She loves these weekend trips and I'm so glad I have a horse that wants to be there with me, who'll chill on the high line and stuff her face and nap and then motor down the trail without a foot out of place because that's what we do

Eventually I'll get some of that go-pro footage edited. Eventually.