Sunday, December 9, 2018

Metamora Wassailing Celebration

I think I've previously mentioned this, but I live just on the outskirts of a very horse-central town in Michigan. Their activities revolve around horses and it's like... magic for a horse crazy person like myself.

They have a Horse Celebration at the end of summer and have breed displays and draft pulls. There's a yearly barn tour of the fancy schmancy barns in the area. Pretty much the Metamora Hunt members are likely also the Metamora Chamber of Commerce members and so what they say goes and I'm totally okay with that. It's their thing.

Saturday, November 24, 2018


My friend L (who I've known since Livejournal blogging days...) has recently retaken up lessons along with her 6 year old daughter E. It's at a new (to them) H/J facility between Detroit and Ann Arbor. She was talking about how nice it was and I was instantly jealous of the indoor arena, lol.

It's been awful weather, much colder than usual for November and doesn't look to be changing any time soon. I'm all for conquering the weather, but it's always nice to be able to take that out as a factor every once in a while.

So I joined L for a lesson today :D
Mare face at me after I ran her over a curb. Sorry Gwyn

But because we were stopped in Metamora for gas, the people gassing up next to us of course own the local tack shop in Oxford and gave her horse treats.  Of course.

It's a beast of a drive for a lesson (1hr 15min) when I have much more local trainers but riding WITH a friend was a great motivator. And the price was pretty damn reasonable. It's not Grand Prix Gold medal trainer AA quality, but at least it's eyes on the ground, correction and focus on some basics. It was a VERY productive lesson. I have them so few and far between that they end up always feeling super beneficial. 

Oh hai Mom, we're in a barn. Do I live here now?

Gwyn warmed up well. I hand walked her once around the arena just to get an idea of her head space, which was pretty much "I'm chill HEY WATCH THE FUCKING WHIP IT'S IN MY FACE" after which she was mare glaring me something fierce, so I think I hurt her feelings.

I told Trainer AL my goal was working on consistent connection in the bridle and canter departs. That pesky inside leg to outside rein was once again the solution. What I need to figure out is how to reestablish that throughness and connection when I'm at home without eyes on the ground.

What I'm recalling from today is using inside leg to establish movement through the outside, but steadying in the outside rein, and lifting my inside rein to block her shoulder from falling in. A lot of the time I was visualizing almost a shoulder in down the long side of the arena which set us up nicely for bend in the corners. It wasn't consistent, but it was SO much better than usual.

We did a simple figure 8 exercise at the trot, using the pole to change trot diagonals. Super simple stuff, but good basics for me and for L, who is still working on rebuilding that muscle memory for picking up correct posting diagonals and stuff. My personal goal was to go over the pole as quietly as possible while keeping connection consistent and my rhythm steady.

Then we worked on a bit of canter. L's lesson horse is a super packer and one of those horses who just knows that word, so they had to spell it out around him, lol. For me, I got Gwyn into a good, steady working trot and in the corner sat back and just cued with my outside leg and by golly Gwyn just hopped right into a canter and promptly lost it a few strides later. But holy hell that's probably the best I've ever set her up for a canter departure and it felt amazing. I went around and tried again and this time immediately supported her with inside leg and we got a nice canter down the length of the arena and I asked for a trot before she lost the canter. Lots of pats for a good mare.

We switched directions and it was not as pretty. Lots of crowhopping and head tossing and biting at my inside boot. It was odd though, she kept trying to volunteer the canter with the slightest aids, so she wanted to do it, but as soon as she'd try, it obviously hurt, and she couldn't get the leads behind. I didn't push her on this side.

 Trainer AL also saw some soreness same as AA and wants me to put her on MSM. I'm not sure I'm ready to go there but this does let me know I should get the chiro back out for her SI. We didn't ask for much more canter from her since she was not feeling it and finished off with some trot poles, which would help her out. She set the four poles at about five feet apart which definitely made Gwyn change up her stride but she did well. That's another thing I want to more of at  home. And it helps to have some measurements to work off of. 

You can see L's daughter, E, cooling down their lesson horse. It's E's reward for waiting for Mom to be done with her lesson.

I itch my face on youuuuuu

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

In which I may have had a heart attack...

I came home from Costco shopping on Sunday to a terrifying sight. Gwyn was flat out on the ground in the pasture, with Saffron standing nearby (you can kind of see her white nose against the pine trees). I slammed to a stop in the driveway, with Kaylee in the back asking me if everything was okay. I rolled down the window...


She didn't respond. I told Kaylee we were going to go make sure Gwyn was okay. Then, as I watched, Gwyn's hind feet twitched, like that twitch you get as you're falling asleep? Then I watched closer and I could see her belly rise and fall. Then I noticed that all four feet were twitching.

Fucking mare was passed out dreaming about running somewhere. She didn't actually 'sit up' until Kaylee and I were out of the car and into the pasture walking toward her.

So we took pictures. And all the while I hear just this faaaaaint groaning under her breath before she just gets up because we've interrupted her beauty sleep.

Later, I convinced Kaylee to go out and ride and she was super adorable and was practicing everything she's been learning in her riding lessons. She even rode bareback for No Stirrup November with me! And then she fell off Gwyn for the first time ever (she's okay) while trying to two point with no stirrups at the trot. 

Birds Eye View of the Arena that Isn't Long Enough. It's barely a rectangle. I need good exercises to do that don't require length. Like legit there's not enough room for Gwyn to jump more than one jump at a canter without suddenly needing to turn. I really want to find a giant arena to ride in that I could trailer to.

I untacked Gwyn in the arena and she ground tied by the gate for no good reason while I pulled weeds because my arena is also the best nursery for baby trees and thistles.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween Throwback: A photo essay

Picture, if you will, a decade younger me. It was 2008. I was living in Florida, recently married, just out of grad school, looking for a job, and spending time with my friend Cheri.

She had four horses, Stella, Blanche, Gwyn and Nyx at her house. We had met through the equestrian group on Livejournal (remember that?) and hit it off immediately. Her husband was a NASA engineer, mine was a NASA engineer. We were both flighty, horse obsessed and despite the fact that she is literally old enough to be my mother (her daughter and I are the same age) we were best friends and still are to this day. We had a standing TV and dinner night together at their house every week to watch House and Lie to Me and we played Dungeons and Dragons on the weekends. She and I would ride together at night because that's when it wasn't ridiculously hot and we lived for the full moon nights to ride through the lovely scented orange groves. I would ride Stella and she would ride Blanche, and eventually we'd pony the babies (Gwyn and Nyx) during the rides too.

Life was fantastic.

Below  this cut is lots of medical talk, euthanasia and very very graphic images


I don't want anyone to be taken by surprise.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Oak Leaf Run 2018



So if you recall (or if you're a new reader), Oak Leaf Run 2017 was a cold mess of a rainy weekend where I significantly regretted my decision to not sleep in my trailer but stuck it out in my truck tent.

This year, the forecast was SIGNIFICANTLY better, if  a bit colder. Colder I can deal with so long as I stay dry.

It was still a ridiculous shit show and things tried to go wrong everywhere, hahah.

My goal was to be packed and leave home by 11 am.

You should be laughing. I did not leave by 11 am. In fact, at 1230 I received a text from my daughter's school saying this:

Parents - please come pick up your (JK-8) child from the lower campus immediately. An email with more details will be out soon.
Cue panic mode. I was just about to hook the truck to the trailer ( soooo close to leaving) so I busted ass in the truck heading to her school. This was their version of a lockdown, unfired bullets had apparently been found on the upper school campus and they were evacuating so they could search the grounds. WTF. 

I dropped the kid off at daycare, called the spouse to inform him the kid was taken care of and safe, and then went home to finally hook up and load. It was at this point that Saffron snuck through the open stall door while I was haltering Gwyn and bolted for the green grass of freedom. She is much more wily than Gwyn and easily escaped under the single strand of not hot electrobraid I use as a 'load up quickly Gwyn' pen. This effectively showed Gwyn exactly how to defeat the pen and she also promptly escaped.
Not how I wanted this day to go, lol

Thankfully, a bucket of a  handful of grain caught Gwyn and Saffron usually follows Gwyn so I got them back, reset the fence a bit lower so Gwyn couldn't repeat the performance and Gwyn loaded right up.

I was finally on the road by 1:30. But panicked because I couldn't remember exactly how to get to the park from the highway and google maps makes my phone auto turn off. So I had to have my husband send me directions (which he sent using a link to... wait for it... google maps) but I was able to screenshot the directions before my phone shut off again.

Then we were finally off! And I could feel a cold coming on...

The drive itself was uneventful, thankfully. It was cold, mid 40s, so I had a cooler on Gwyn in the trailer. It started to rain as I reached the west side of the state. Thankfully, it was never a huge downpour, and by that measure alone I was amped for the weekend. Plus I had much better rain gear this year, lol.

Alicia was already there when I arrived. We had adjoining campsites so it was like a great, big commune of camping. She'd invited an extra person as well, so the three of us had a blast. I didn't get many pictures. But it was a pretty neat set up.

Silver Creek County Park has great equestrian camping facilities. Each campsite has at least two spots to high line and the posts have bucket hooks for water. They've got water pumps spread through the camp ground as well as pit toilets. It's all really wooded with tons of pine and oak trees everywhere (hence the name of the ride). The ground is very sandy and it drains well.

I spent the weekend in the tent and I was pretty toasty. I made sure to have a hat to wear to sleep and that kept me really warm. Between my down sleeping bags, my Alki thermal blanket, and some thermal pjs, I was pretty toasty despite near freezing temperatures.

Gwyn did come off the trailer with a bit of blood on her nose, but when I had the vet check her out (thanks Mary!) she deemed her fine, just probably from a bonk in the trailer. Phew!

Saturday dawned cold but clear and I settled in for my timing duties for the day. No one was riding the 75 this year, so it was just 50s, 30s and a 15. Alicia rode the 30.   There was also a 25 LD offered at night, 5pm start. It was a long day! I was timing from 7:15 in the morning to 9:30 at night!

The weather was great, but people really had to be mindful of cooling their horses just right so they wouldn't tie up.

We did have some drama when one of the comp riders fell off RIGHT before they came into camp for their first hold. The lady's chin met her horse's knee and it split open. The woman had to be convinced to go to the ER where she received a ton of stitches. We had a bunch of nurses helping (fortunately) and they took one look at the lady and went "we can see INSIDE your chin. That's bone. You need to go".   Amanda, Alicia's friend, drove her to the ER. She came back in time for the potluck and was fine. But hoo boy, that woman wanted to go out and do another 15 miles.

Endurance riders are crazy. ;)

Sunday I planned to ride the novice, 15 miles. When I got up my cold was even worse, but I figured I could push through. I got Gwyn ready and hopped on for the start. We blasted through the first mile. She was spicy and just really wanted to move out on the trail.

Then we crossed the creek and hit more twisty trail and my lungs were on fire. I couldn't catch my breath and my right calf was immediately cramping. It was so painful to have my foot in the stirrup. There was one other rider with me and I told her to go. Between the cold air, the cold in my chest, and the cramping calf in the first two miles? I was done. There was no way I'd be able to keep up a decent pace to finish reasonably.

Instead, I strategized a way to have a nice trail ride, lol. The trails at Silver Creek are fairly well marked and I was able to navigate off of the ribbon marked path and get back to camp and Rider Option. I have no regrets about the decision.

Gwyn felt great. She was tackling the trail like a beast but she also wanted to go far faster in the deep sand than I was comfortable with. I felt like shit and would not have been riding my best. Given my asthma is triggered by being sick and being in cold air AND being exercise induced... it was like a formula for dying.

We moseyed our way back after spending a very beautiful October morning in the woods. I packed up camp and really eyed my cot before packing it up as a nap was super tempting. But I also wanted to get home at this point. I was not feeling well.

I got home around 4:30. I unloaded the necessities, prepped Gwyn's mash for dinner and went inside to shower.

Then I crawled into bed and passed out until 8pm. No joke. I helped put kids to bed, took some nyquil and was out again by 10pm and slept until my alarm for work on Monday. I'm still sick so obviously I needed the rest. I'm glad I chose to stop. Super super glad.

I got everything I wanted out of the weekend. I had a beautiful fall trail ride. I got to go camping with my horse and my friends. The weather was on point. We had lots of laughs and adventures. It was a great end to the competition season for me.

Modeling a sidepull from Two Horse Tack that we were sent to try. I rode her bareback through ride camp in this on Saturday! It seems to work well, though I definitely want to get some more rides in with it for a more thorough review. 

I was sent the sidepull to try in exchange for promoting their products, and if you're interested in purchasing anything from them, you can get $10 off with the code Ambassador17

Rye at the finish

Saturday, October 6, 2018

We came, we rode, we got soaking wet, we had a blast

What did not occur until we were done with our ride
I've mellowed considerably since my last post. Mainly because I went for a ride. Though politics are quickly intruding on my equine chill.

The weather reports for this weekend were awful, the Hunt Pace that I had planned on going to got delayed to next weekend, so I'm really not going to it because I'll be at Oak Leaf Run. And suddenly that's fine.

I instead thought I'd do Brighton to Pinckney. But that got moved to next weekend and I'll be at Oak Leaf (seeing a pattern?)

Suddenly not having anything I was looking forward to doing more than Oak Leaf has made life okay. Instead, I pestered Alicia (ok, not really, she's an easy sell) to see if she wanted to ride Saturday. The weather report showed a small break in the percentage chance of rain starting at 9am and I was damned if I was going to miss that window.

We ultimately decided on meeting at Ortonville Rec Area, which would be nice and wooded. And with the weather cooling off, the bugs would be gone (but not mosquitoes). I had to drive my Mom down to Brighton early that morning so I pretty much drove down there and back, then immediately hooked the truck and trailer up and worked on loading Gwyn.

Gwyn, was a jerk.

She found the ONE spot where my 'load up quick' fence was not fully blocked (and honestly I didn't realize it wasn't fully connected) and escaped to gallivant across the property. I had been forward thinking and was wearing my rain boots so I didn't get too wet. Eric noticed I was having trouble and came out just in time to see me finally get Gwyn loaded and standing still. He was highly amused at her ability to turn around in my straight load. She's ridiculously flexible for how large she is. I was not nearly as amused because my ramp was starting to get slick from poop skids and I had fallen.

I finally got on the road and it started to rain in earnest. I met Alicia at the camping lot and we both got out and went... 'Um... is that thunder?'

So we waited out the lightning and thunder under the pavilion without unloading the horses while Alicia made reins out of rope because she'd forgotten hers (but at least not her girth...)

With the most dangerous part of the storm over but the rain still insisting on falling, we unloaded and tacked up.

And then proceeded to ride for an hour and forty minutes. LOL.  It did stop raining as soon as we got on, but the branches above us shaking dripped water the whole time. And then 40 minutes in the skies opened up again and we just embraced the rain. It was wonderful. It wasn't too cold, high 60s and I did have my rain jacket so I wasn't utterly soaked though my saddle will need some TLC for sure. We did a ton of hills, but mostly stuck to a walk because the trails had a ridiculous number of plum and baseball sized rocks. We had to pick our way carefully up and down.

Gwyn had some.. moments. One of which was her spooking at a leaf landing on her butt. Another was a small buck while walking down hill because a fallen clump of leaves touched her leg. We were laughing SO HARD.

And since it got cut off, 6.13 miles in 1h43m, 1800 calories burned

We got back and the skies cleared up, LOL.  We both immediately tossed coolers on the horses and let them graze and cool. They were both steaming.  It was a great day. I'm glad I did it. Doing this loop is GREAT for hills. It'll be good conditioning and I intend to repeat it even solo through the winter.

It was good for my soul.

And then I went home and took a nap. 

Monday, October 1, 2018


Warning: There will be whining

The farrier came out wednesday evening for the regularly scheduled trim. I had already pulled the horses in earlier since I was going to be out looking at commercial properties for my new business. He immediately told me he was concerned with Gwyn's feet and wanted me to stop riding. Period.

Let's talk about a heart dropping moment there.

I was confused, because she had been foot perfect on varied terrain the previous weekend and wasn't acting sore or off at all. There was what I considered to be her normal chipping and flaking as she naturally wore her hoof down. The farrier wanted to put her in shoes.

He told me why and it made sense at the time but the more I think on it and the more research I do, the more I really REALLY am unhappy that I agreed to shoes. I don't think it was the right choice for Gwyn. She has always had a hard time keeping shoes on and I fear that I'm just asking for more wall damage the next time she yanks them off her foot.

Well, she has aluminum shoes on now, which so far look good. But I was told to not do my 30 mile  rides I had planned for this past weekend at MetroPark Express and then in two weeks at Oak Leaf Run. Also no hunter pace on the birthday weekend.


I've been reading up. On Friday I changed up Gwyn's feeding. She's no longer going to get grain, just some timothy pellets and beet pulp pellets, soaked. I'll use up what supplements I have but from this point on she's getting moved to CA Trace (it's been ordered).  I bought some soaker boots for her feet since it looks like there's a bit of thrush so she got to soak in 1:1 water:apple cider vinegar for a bit.

Back in bell boots again too

The vet is coming out tuesday for fall shots and I'm going to ask her to test for any kind of IR. Gwyn is plump, and I want to make sure we don't go down laminitis or cushings territory. Xrays in June showed a beautiful coffin bone but thin soles. We are still, apparently, dealing with thin soles.

I'm getting a second opinion on her feet later in October, which is when the nearest barefoot trimmer around me is available. She doesn't normally come up to my area except for that weekend so I jumped on the chance. She's also a boot dealer.

My plan is to get the shoes pulled and put her in hoof boots and pads only if we're riding. She should be fine otherwise in the pasture barefoot. She's BEEN fine in the pasture barefoot.

So I'm grumpy. My fall/birthday horse plans fell apart.

A cold, foggy morning at Metropark

I did try to get a grazing muzzle on her to limit the fall grass sugar high but that was a fail. It's lying, wet, in the middle of my pasture like a giant FUCK YOU AMY. She was SO pissed when I put it on her.

I did have a great day Saturday timing at Metropark so that was great and then Alicia rode on Sunday still and got FIRST! So that's AWESOME for her and I'm super happy for her! It's only her second ride, the first was at White River with me. She's hooked, it's official.

I'm going to ride on my birthday weekend. And I'm taking her to Oak Leaf but I'm not doing the 30. Probably just the Intro, so long as it's offered on Sunday.  Ugh.

So that's mainly what the radio silence has been for (aside from being totally inundated with starting my own business, but that's a WHOLE other post)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

WEG Day 3 - Course Monitoring and Individual Grand Prix Dressage

This was another long day. I signed up to be the course monitor which was basically a glorified babysitter for the cross country jumps while the public walked the course. We were meant to keep them off the galloping lanes and off of the jumps. Fair enough. 

Sector 3 (pink) and 4 (green) map of the course.

Sector 2 map, upside down

The whole freaking thing, including how it relates to the TIEC location
Before the course opened, I decided to walk the course and get a good idea of what the rest of the jumps looked like. This was really my only opportunity to see the rest of the course until other pictures were available on social media. It was a long, hot walk, but pretty neat. I did not see it all either.
Start Box

Part of the Longines water jump, this closest jump is part of the longer route

The skinnies through the water sprayed water off the sides. Neat!

Jump 1

Bird feeder and squirrels

Bird Feeder

Course Designer Capt. Mark Phillips on the phone while surveying his course last minute

Jump 2

Jump 3

Jump 4

Jump 5

Jump 6

I really liked the variety of the water jumps that were on this course. I thought they were cleverly designed to pull in aspects of North Carolina life.
Jump 7

Jump 8

Butterflies Skinnies combination, Jump 9
I have pictures of 10 from a previous walk on a prior day.
Jump 11

Jump 12

My jump! 13
Once I got to my jump I set up camp for the day. I basically left my camp chair under the jump every night so I wouldn't have to lug back and forth out on course. Worth it. It was hot and humid and a surprising number of spectators walked the course. They were, by and large, worried about water since I was basically at the farthest point from TIEC. I didn't have anything to reassure them. I had no idea.

I had lots of questions about which route riders were likely to take, which I did know, based on what people had been walking. 13 was trickier than it first appeared because you have toadstools forcing a specific line. Plus the tables are so giant that you can't slice them diagonally without creating problems. But the direct bending line was 4 strides and change as walked by everyone. They checked and rechecked the distance.

Around 2:30 Nigel came to retrieve me and bring me back to Volunteer HQ. I was pretty toasted at this point but I definitely wanted to watch the final couple rides of the Individual GP Dressage. I also finished my shopping in vendor village and acquired a new Trauma Void helmet.

I caught the final couple minutes of Carl Hester's ride and sat in a somewhat shaded corner for everyone after him.
Edward Gal - I have been pronouncing his last name incorrectly for a LONG time

That smaller screen in the lower right was showing the test movement but it was usually behind by a couple movements

Wheee, levitating Zonik!

Patrick Kittel

Laura Graves and Verdades

Waving to the roaring crowds

Sonke Rothenberger and Cosmo

Charlotte Dujardin

Also, let's be real. I'm not skilled enough to properly nitpick. I don't have the eye yet for that. Sure the obvious bobbles I can spot, but these riders were top notch. And in general it was just a pleasure to watch some really nice horses be ridden really well. And I didn't have to worry about watching a kid or other folks getting antsy. I could take my time and do what I wanted to do. It was very enjoyable and relaxing.

Big pats for a good job

Isabell Werth

After that, with Isabell Werth doing a damn fine job to snag Gold, I bolted from the stands before the medal ceremony to grab dinner with my meal ticket and then waited forever for the bus to take me back to parking. It was a pretty great day.

And, I was forward thinking! So whoever gets paired with me at the gift exchange will get a couple souvenirs from WEG!

That night I made it back to my campsite and asked if they had a cabin available, which they did. So I grabbed that for the night. I had AC. I had my own shower and bathroom and NO ANTS. (The ants were vicious M-Fers)

It was perfect. I was able to pack up my tent items without them being super wet from the incoming Hurricane Florence and get some good quality sleep before having to be up super early for Cross Country day. I basically drove to my shift ready to be on the road, which was the way to go, ultimately.