Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I Did A Thing & Had Some Thoughts

When I made a list of goals for this year, I tried to choose things that would challenge me, but still be achievable. I set as many personal goals as horse goals, because I have a long history of getting nowhere with horses.
you have no idea how hard i had to twist her arm to get this photo
her: it's bad luck to wear the shirt before the race!
me: but we're not gross and sweaty yet JUST PUT IT ON

Then I made the mistake of mentioning to Roxie’s mom that one of my goals was to run a half marathon.


So I signed up. Months ago. I told myself I would train, but my running shoes were dead and the one time I tried to run, I ended up limping for a week afterwards, courtesy of said shoes.

Maybe that should have been a sign. Maybe not.
even Zoe thinks it's not a great plan

Regardless, three days before the race, I finally made it to the running store and bought shoes (on sale). The sales’ lady’s face made a pretty priceless expression when I told her I was “getting started” and that my goal race was a half marathon that weekend. But I digress.

So I went. And I did it. And I’m trying to un-jumble my thoughts about it, because apparently the post-race stupids are a real thing.
i also wore a donut like a tutu

1) Emotional awareness. Pre-race, I had about an hour and a half to kill by myself before my distance started. Now remember. This is a fun run. I did not train for it. I had no expectations of “doing well” and was simply out there to meet a goal I’d set for myself. No matter what I did, it was going to be a Personal Best, because I have simply never done this distance before in any capacity.

I spent the entire hour and a half kind of agitated and nervous. “Washing out”, we’d call it in a racehorse. I’d like to think that because I was aware of it, I was more able to make good choices and control it, but the truth was that I was really nervous.

And if I’m that nervous to do something like that on my own, how exactly am I translating that to my horse under saddle?
one of them trained. one of them is a blerch.

2) Conditioning matters. Obviously, I did not train by any understanding of the word. Conditioning and strength building are something I talk about in terms of horse development all the time, but actually feeling the effects myself put it in perspective I think.

I’ve been coasting along this year and not addressing rider fitness. That’s not ok.

this man was having a fabulous time

3) Individual goals are diverse and important--I get annoyed by all the online bashing of “she’s not a real horseperson because we have different end goals with our horses” stuff that goes around. It was real funny to watch that play out over 13.1 miles. Some people walked. Some people sprinted. Some people brought friends. Some people were alone.



all sweaty and grossified

4) Finishing together is awesome. In an event I could not possibly have planned, Roxie’s mom (who ran the full marathon, which started before the half) caught me about a half mile before the finish and then we crossed the finish line together.

We were going stupidly fast because she is a crazy person and I nearly threw up on her and/or the nice man handing out medals, but it was so much more fun to finish with a friend. And know that no matter what, I gave it my best on that day. It wasn't about who went farther or who was better--it was about accomplishing something together.

next let's accomplish buying custom boots together

As an equestrian, I find it very easy and even therapeutic to throw myself into the “horse” side of the equation every day, be that tack, training, planning, or what have you. All that is important, but it doesn’t address the human side, which is a very real problem.

For me, this means that I want to change the way I address sport in my own life--I want to be stronger and fitter and I want to figure out the whole race day mental game aspect. When it’s Zoe and I stepping into the show ring, I want to be a solid partner for her, not just blindly hoping she can carry my lazy ass through.
champion of finishing real slow

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I Went Shopping (again)

I've been promising a tack write-up, so here goes an explanation of Zoe's latest outfit acquisition. 
she is cartoon pony
Labor Day weekend was... stressful... so I voted to allow myself one good, solid splurge on related tack sales. I'd just started riding Zoe bareback, so I was leaning towards that Thinline Bareback Pad that I have wanted since the Izzy days. It was 20% off with free shipping, which is tempting. 


There was a local tack trailer (that I love) at a local show (that I was going to). I waited to pull the trigger on the pad until I got to the trailer to peruse their selection. I was the first customer up the ramp like WHAT HAVE WE HERE when the owner took the one bridle I've been drooling on for well over a year now and stuck it on the sale rack. 

It was still substantially more than the bareback pad. And I have a Zoe bridle. 

teeny supports local shows. unrelated man supports teeny.
Plus I explained how Zoe is a custom fit girl and the shop owner was 100% on board with letting me try it on her and then swapping out parts to get the fit right.

Plus notorious spend-thrifts Alyssa and Nadia were both on site. They always tell me no to everything (and are like "spend your money on lessons/shows" because they are haters) but they both saw the bridle and the sale price and went "yeah the bareback pad will always be there GET THE BRIDLE".

When hell freezes over, you don't question it. You just get your skates and go for it. 

 (Leah and T were obv on board as well. I believe they voted for "both".) 
my trunk is busy, ok?
Unfortunately, the downside to having a SMOOSHY FACE to shop for is that I don't have smooshy measurements memorized (yet) and I'm not solid at just eyeballing her size either. 

I pranced out to the barn the next day. Put the bridle on the Zoe. 
Zoebird is not impressed
...and found out that apparently it was dinosaur sized. Whoops. Fortunately, my mobile tack shop lady makes barn visits and when I sent her the photo, she brought me the next size down. Ladies and (maybe) gents, I give you Zoe in a horse sized bridle:
Dear bridle makers: if your horse size fits my 100% custom mare face, you are doing it wrong. 

So that happened. And that was certainly enough. I pretty well blew the stress shopping budget out of the water there. 

But I was wandering around the internet, as one does, and I ran across a saddle that Roxie's mom and I had discussed as a potentially good fit for Zoe. It looked like it would work for me. It looked like it would work for Zoe. It was priced at like 40% of what I'd expect given the brand and condition. And yeah, there were like 7 people in front of me in line for it. 

So I kinda forgot about it for a few days, then followed up. 

And got an invoice. 

And then a box. 
quite a box
A real big box. 
i should have made a better selfie face. oh well.
With a fancy dressage saddle inside. 

Again, I pranced out to the barn to dress up Ms. Zoebird.
baby mare!
And uh. Does she look like a fantastic little future dressage mare or what? 

I regret nothing. 

And if you're looking for my checking account, it's definitely not in the shallow grave in my back yard. HUSH YOU.

Monday, September 11, 2017

On Sharing and Oversharing

Blogging is such a funny part of my life. It's ostensibly a way for me to track my progress with my horse, but obviously I could do that just as easily with a calendar and a sharpie.

And I chose to do it here.

So there's more to it than just the static "this, then that" dry routine wrap-ups. I like people (usually), I like interaction, and I value the many friends I've made through the blogging world. For me, blogging is so much more than a training log.

There's a tension to it though--part of being public about this aspect of my life invites the internet to comment on it. For the most part, I'm pretty easy-come, easy-go about the unsolicited advice which is very definitely a part of blogging. I get lots of it. Most of it is well-intentioned. Some is humorously bad. Some is spot on. Some is malicious and/or crazy.
lil side eye for that
At the end of the day, that's just the cost of doing business (as it were) in a public forum. People say things. If I can't handle people saying things, then I need to not be quite as open and public about what I share.

Plus, I'll be the first to tell you that I love blog comments. It still amazes me that so many friends, strangers, and future-friends take the time out of their day to read what I have to say, and share their insights. Even rather-misguided comments usually give me a good laugh.
always find the fun
What's more, I am occasionally contacted by people (some I know, some I don't) who tell me how my silly horse blog helped them through a rough patch in their own life, horsey or otherwise. That's not something I take lightly. I aspire to be honest about the reality of horses and life as an adult amateur and the knowledge that it resonates with another human being across the world is one of those moments where I realize just how not-alone I am.

I am making some different choices in my life right now, and that has me questioning the hows and whys of my usage of social media. There are certain things I'm tired of sharing, that I want to hold on to as "mine and no one else's".

I go back and forth on blogging--it definitely takes time and energy to do well. Both of those are at a premium in my life right now. It also involves a level of vulnerability and honesty that I'm okay with some days and not others.
always ok with this tail tho
Ultimately though, the reason I'm still here is the same reason I started blogging in the first place--the people. Life is too hard to live in a vacuum, so having people come alongside and say "hey, I've been there too" is what keeps me going.

So thank you, Blogosphere.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Life in the Death Haze

I'm lucky I don't live in the parts of the US that are being wrecked by hurricanes, however, I do live in the part that's drowning in smoke from burning something in excess of a million acres this fire season alone. It's basically like living inside a chain smoker's lungs.
don't you seen the downtown skyline? the mountains? i swear they're over there


The sun doesn't rise.

The smoke just gets a lil brighter.

And since neither I nor Zoe wants to die of emphysema, we've been exploring things to do that don't involve increased respiration.
so round!!

Toodling is always on the agenda. Bareback toodling, even. I can say we're being productive and working on my balance and staying in the middle while building trust and developing Zoe's walk/halt/walk transitions.

Or I can be real and say while those things may apply, I'm loving every minute of having a cool baby mare that I can just pop on bareback with no prep and toodle with.
she's getting a bridle a month at this rate. 

And this is me we're talking about, so naturally there was some very-appropriate tack shopping.

(Me: I need to spend less money.
Me: I will not buy a specialty saddle for a baby horse.

I'll do a better write-up when things arrive. Promise. The stress shopping has been a bit... intense?



My smoke will go on, or what have you.

Which is why we took another day to keep it low key and play in the previously spooky indoor arena.

Question: what do smooshy noses not go on?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A Story About Baby Horses

Last Friday, Alyssa came over to play with Zoë and I. She's a super riding badass (who is going to championships at TRAINING LEVEL EVENTING this week omg) and she totally talked me in to riding my baby mare bareback for the first time.
also annual gameday photos
I toodled around like wheeeeeee omg imma die THERE ARE NO WITHERS HALP and ZB was perfectly fabulous. 

Then because I'm the best friend ever I was like ALYSSA NEEDS A TURN. 
yeah she just gets on my baby bareback in shorts and does this
After said fabulousity, Zoë stopped. And Alyssa was like "she's stuck" and I was like "pssh kick her you tiny penguin". 
oh yeah she's four and it's her first time bareback
Instead Alyssa messed around on her and I thought nothing of it and we all went on our merry way. 



So the next time I came out to ride, I hopped on and we were marching around at a going walk. 
no under saddle pics so admire her Zoë cuteness
And all of a sudden.

She stopped. 

Not just lost her balance.

Full-on planted her feet and grew roots like a hundred year old oak tree. 

There was no kicking or scooting or breaking her loose or changing her balance to move her. 

I finally had a barnmate ride over and loan me her dressage whip. 

We repeated that lesson many times that day.
the Zozo Brain
And the next time I rode her, I carried a whip from the get go and she never offered to stall out once. 

Babies are magical!

PS also don't assume your friend is just weak and can't kick because clearly that is not the case.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Training the Not-Hot Horse: Part the First

I've been contemplating writing a draft cross vs. ottb sort of comparison (because trust me, ITS WAY DIFFERENT), but the truth is that I haven't had Zoe two months yet and there is so much more for me to learn that I have no business saying too much. Yet.
thx google photos!

I think one of my favorite (and least favorite, haha) things about Courage was how hard he pushed me to learn and do better both by him and in my own life. It was a challenge, but I definitely think I'm a better horseman and human because of him.

The whole point of Zoe is that she's NOT LIKE THAT and I can just go DO THE THING.

But Ms. ZoZo Bird is still a horse.
my talking face ruins another great photo

And when Roxie's mom came out to play last week, I showed her what we were working on. We talked about where Zoe was at and what I was doing and why and what she's done with her drafties and why it worked.

That got me thinking.

Zoe is a lot of things, but none of those things is a thoroughbred with track baggage. Which like. Is the entire freaking point.
yeah never had a thoroughbred do that. twice. in a month.
But then why am I riding her like she is?

I mean, the "horse" thing transfers a lot--we take baby steps and build from the bottom up and do ground work and go slow. But there are differences. For example, I just spent four years riding a horse that LOST HIS SHIT if I ever sat down on him. So I just didn't. I'd do a happy lil jumper perch and go around off his back and everyone was happy.

But you know who motorcycles around COMPLETELY OUT OF BALANCE if I get way ahead of the motion like that?
pictured: not out of balance

Oh yeah a Zoebird lady. She actually prefers I sit down and give her half a chance to get her balance. In spite of being a big girl (15.2 and 1200lbs per the weight tape), she's soooooo sensitive to what I do in the saddle.

She's quieter than Courage, that's for sure. But quieter doesn't mean passive. Quieter just means I have to listen better and think differently.

And if I ride her the way she tells me she needs me to, the little lady tries her hardest.

And that, folks, is the coolest damn thing.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Free Jumping!

Look who is just the cutest!

We aren't doing any serious/under saddle/whatever jumping this year. Just occasionally little exercises to get her to think about her feet and her body in space.
trotting a vertical is very hard

It's so fun to watch her learning process!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

First Farrier Appointment!

Ok so technically calling this a "first" farrier appointment is a misnomer because obviously Zoebird is four and well taken care of, so obviously she has had her feet done before. I mean. Her former owner, a farrier, picked her feet up and hammered on them for me to show me that she was fine. 

You know. You take a baby horse from the forested mountains that she grew up in and drop her in the desert with a bunch of strangers and completely change the expectations for her life, and it's a bit stupid to expect everything to stay the same.

So anyways. Zozobird has fabulous Percheron feet. She's four. She's never worn shoes. She was definitely due for a trim.

It's stupidly hot (still) and the flies are TERRIBLE (don't get me started on dumping pig manure on fields right now) and work has been exhausting, so when I showed up at the barn and my friend was having the farrier out, I begged us an appointment so we wouldn't have to roast in the sun-toasted arena.
Anywhoodle. I'm that weird dork that asks a million questions of qualified professionals so I watched him work on a couple other horses and tried not to be too annoying, then we pulled out Zoe. 
#adultammystrong yes those are heels at the barn
I'd told him about the draft cross thing and when I said "momma was a paint" he started on like "paints tend to have trouble with their digital cushion like the one we just looked at" and then I said daddy was a Percheron and he was immediately "PERCHERONS HAVE AMAZING FEET" and then he looked at her and was like "omg yay percheron feet!" (my interpretation after a long hot day. not his actual words). 

I warned him Zoe was a baby with a baby attention span and baby issues. 

I didn't really need to. 
Zoe was all "o hai" and then a total superstar. We talked about transitioning from a mountain environment to the desert a little and we talked about her changing from teenage feet to adult horse feet--he commented that baby feet tend to be more spongy whereas adult hooves are harder. You can actually see the growth line of the grown up feet coming in on Zoe, which is pretty cool. 

He raved about her big, solid feet with excellent concavity. He also said that if at all possible, he likes to leave shoes off of babies so that they can keep growing and developing--apparently if the shoe helps them compensate for structural weakness while they're growing, then the foot kinda stops developing in the younger horses. I've never had a proper baby before so that was a fascinating insight. Good news is that Zoe is doing great barefoot, so we're greenlighted to continue on. 
unrelated photo of farrier and vet consult over a mobile xray for a different horse
I mean. It's probably silly to write up like "my horse got a trim and it was a total non-event", but it's just so weird to me to have the horse that's non-dramatic, well-behaved, and has awesome feet. Like. Awesome.

<3 Ms Zoebird

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A New Paradigm

A couple of people have mentioned to me that they noticed a shift in the tone around here when lil Ms. Zoebird came home. 
tail brought to you by Equifuse
It's true.

Courage and I had such a complicated relationship. Off again, on again, with twists and turns and ups and downs.
such hair <3
It's not that Zoe and I won't have our differences, because I'm sure we will. It's not even that we're in the glowing honeymoon phase of a new relationship, which we are.
tasty stick
Zoebird just brings a whole different energy. She's calm. She's so smart. She's a thinker. She shows up, she tries hard, and she's good to be around.
and she's fanceh!
She makes every day fun.
We aren't doing cool advanced stuff. We're doing baby mare stuff. You know. Steering. Ground work. Stop. Go. Eat cookies.

And yeah, I enjoy every minute.
even the goofy ones

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Total Eclipse of the Zoebird

Zoe's barn is at 99.6% totality for yesterday's eclipse. My plans to go north to 100% fell through, so I was at the barn watching with my best girl instead.

I know animals are smarter than people about not staring at the sun but I couldn't be too careful with Ms. ZB.

It was pretty cool--the temperature dropped ten degrees and it got darkish and we sun the sun snakes.
new fav pic of trainer
So much for theories of animals going berserk or whatever. None of the horses or barn cats cared at all. 
I knew I could count on animals to have good sense. 
cool light!
I look forward to seeing the photos from yesterday's event--such a cool time to be alive.

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