Friday, October 15, 2021

Accomplishing Goals

aim high

One of my goals from when I first brought ZB home was to canter bareback through the pasture with flowers braided in her mane. 

Which probably doesn't sound that hard. 


To make that happen, these things had to come together:

  • Let baby zb grow up with enough proprioception to move across uneven ground safely
  • Develop her canter to something balanced enough to do on uneven ground safely
  • Learn to feel confident and relaxed enough riding bareback that I don't just slide off
  • Show up to the barn when the sun is up
And maybe to most people, those things aren't insurmountable. 

tiny barn dog not stoked

Ms. Zoebird is a lovely trotting horse. It wasn't until she spent the better part of this year in pro training and can comfortably do a first level test that I actually felt confident enough with her canter that I wanted to take it out in the field regularly. Prior to this year, she required such a high level of fitness to do it that yeah I didn't make it happen. 

It still never felt like something I wanted to do tho. I'm not about forcing my hobbies anymore. I can have goals, but if I don't get on and immediately think "this is a good idea", I just don't do it. Let's just say that when I sat on my very round horse in exercise tights, cantering never seemed like a super great plan.

I'm a long ways out of the trendy horse world right now, but I have a fabulous group of friends who kept saying "brockamp pad" like it was some sort of voodoo that would help me. 

I'm all in favor of voodoo, but 0/10 do long lead times on non-custom items. 

And then I found this:

Relevant points: PURPLE, less than half the price of name brand, can be at my house in 3 days. Sure, it's not the "THE PAD" but let's be real. I've never seen a real one so I won't know the difference. Worst case scenario, I end up with a pretty purple bareback pad. 

So that happened.


Naturally, I dragged Alyssa out to the barn with me immediately. 

warm weather

Hopped on with zero prep and went straight to the field.

don't mind if we do

And rolled straight into the canter


It was the most natural thing in the world. 

cold weather too

It's my new favorite thing. We have a long, dark, cold winter ahead with a cheery purple bareback pad and a whole new toolbox unlocked. 

i am a leaf on the wind
watch how i soar

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Always Be a Unicorn

Photo edit by Beka

When you have a Zoebird, there are certain things you can do that normal horses really can't. 

One of those things is throw a little girl a unicorn birthday party. 

(Note: none of the children are mine to share so I'm not showing faces/action shots, EVEN IF THEY HAVE REALLY CUTE SMILES.) 

We started mid-week with a quick dress rehearsal. 

Well no. It started with me saying "I'm throwing a unicorn birthday party" in front of a friend and she immediately volunteered to bring her sister and help. 

Then we did a quick dress rehearsal. Turns out the $20 etsy horn needed a little reinforcement to prevent a rather unfortunate flopping situation. And we picked correct sparkles. And made a plan. 

When party day arrived, #teamunicorn was on site early to get all decked out.

the ideal horse model

We (they--let's be real my only contribution was a tail braid) got everything ready, then took the world's most adorable unicorn out to walk around and do a final fit. 

We did a couple quick tweaks to dial the outfit in and it was go time with Alyssa was on hand to document!

I mean. ZB is a really damn cool horse and her love of the littles is possibly the most adorable thing I have ever seen. 

They petted her and learned how to feed her treats (and brought BAGS of carrots and apples so it was 100% the best horse day ever). 

And then we did pony rides! 

Pro tips:
1) BO suggested the indoor to contain the party participants. This was an excellent idea.
2) A 3 step mounting block is not tall enough to get the littles on your percheron cross (but helpful parents are great for this!)
3) Remember to ask the parents to bring helmets, because your adult size helmets will be WAY too big (glad I thought of that one in time!)
4) Should definitely ask everyone to wear closed toe shoes. Again. Did not think of that. 

It was a really fun time! The kids were so excited and the parents helped manage the chaos (as did Alyssa and co--it's definitely a lot to throw 10+ kids and their non-horsey parents into a barn situation). 

And ZB. 

not pictured--actual children

By now, you know she is the best horse ever. 

But like. 

Not a foot wrong. The whole time. My proudest moment was having a little girl up who simultaneously LOVED Zoe and was COMPLETELY TERRIFIED. We were in the farthest, darkest corner of the arena and every child not-on-Zoe took off running straight at her AT FULL SPEED. 

I stopped dead. ZB didn't even flick an ear. 


Just taking care of the scared little girl on her back. 

You guys that is the cutest thing I have seen IN MY LIFE.

I'm living for these photo edits

I'm certainly not planning to get into the unicorn party business*, but it was so much fun to make a little girl's day memorable. 

Local unicorn team. Should have made Alyssa get in the picture instead of take it.

*No one tell ZB I said this. She is living to be a party unicorn.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Faithful Friends

There are some animals that you look at. 

There are others that look back at you. 

Lewis was one of those. From the time he came home at 11 weeks old, he was a force to be reckoned with. Intelligent. In charge. Determined. 

When men sat down on the couch, Lewis would walk up and stick his nose directly in their crotch.

To see who backed up. 

wasn't usually him

When I wouldn't let him outside, he'd bark at an imaginary squirrel to rile up the other dogs, then casually stroll out the now-open door while they lost their minds on a wild goose chase through the back yard. 

Less accomplices, more pawns

After a very serious CTJ moment about "we don't chase horses" on one of his first visits, Lewis became my faithful barn buddy. 

He never was a fan of posing with ZB

The barn was our time. Well. Sort of. He had more friends at the barn then I did. To this day, he knows more people at my barn than I do. And they know him. When my life started falling apart, late nights at the barn were me, ZB, and Lewis. Always the boss of us. 

He never suffered from a lack of personality--one of my favorite moments was when he strolled past me in the barn parking lot with the entire bin of Mrs. Pastures horse cookies in him mouth. 

And went and set them by my car to take home. 

He wasn't a dog. He was my dog. My dude. The one who got me. The one who showed up, cheered me up, and kept my world moving, even while everything was crashing down around me. 

He was always thinking, always judging, always bossing. He knew what he wanted and he knew how to get it. 

He was turning 13 this year but he was strong and sassy and just took a few more naps than he used to. This spring, I even said I wanted to get a puppy while Lewis was still young enough to raise him. 

Because I wanted any dog coming in to my life to learn from Lewis about how things were and how things needed to be. 

there appears to be a shortage of bowls

puppy must learn to remove ALL SQUEAKERS

This summer, he slowed down a little more. He didn't go on long walks. I was more careful about not taking him to the barn when it was hot. 

But it was ok. 

It had to be ok. 

I needed him to be ok. 

the way corgs use couches

Except when my SO called as I was headed out of town to say that Lewis didn't eat breakfast. 

I turned my ass around and took him straight to the vet for bloodwork. 
no buddy. mum's not ready.

Bloodwork. Then imaging. Waiting for specialists. Hearing bad news. Hearing worse news. 

"We can treat it, maybe", followed by the quality of life talk. 

Drugs. So many drugs. Buying fancy treats and canned food and god fucking dammit we can fight this. 

until we can't

A few short days later, he told me it was time. 

Farewell, my friend.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A Little Bit Rock and Roll

I'm re-teaching myself how to train right now, and it is so much fun. 

I've spent a long time in the same rut. The english sport horse world is cool and challenging and diverse and allllllll my bad habits are formed around a couple decades of experience doing the same thing. 


If say, I'm trying to bend around a turn and I'm not quite getting the response I want, I have this muscle memory that goes INDIRECT INSIDE REIN (terrible idea, 0/10 recommend) that makes the shape of the horse look the way I want it to look while the horse goes crooked and I continue my bad habit of relying on my hands. 

I know enough to know how to pull it together and fake it on a ride. I don't even have to think about it.

Faking it does not make us better. 

And see. I'm spending a lot of time in my life breaking out of ruts and changing behavior patterns. Learning to recognize dysfunction in it's expression and adapt my approach to do better. 

not related but this horse is cute AF

For me, it starts with changing my surroundings--if I physically remove myself from a rut, I can be more aware of when my behavior is sliding back that direction. In life, that means taking myself out of situations that I know are problematic for me. On horseback, that means dropping the trappings I'm comfortable with and learning to ride a different way. 

Next I set goals--what does success look like today? Tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Next year? If my long term goal is "canter bareback through the fields with flowers braided in her mane", what steps do I need to accomplish to arrive there? (Might start with "rideable canter idk").

As I move towards the goals, I start watching for patterns. Which behaviors move me closer to my goal and which move me farther away? Which behaviors that I exhibit make my life better and which are just learned dysfunctional coping mechanisms? If I ride 6 days a week, but every ride is exhausting and draining and non-productive, am I gaining anything? Am I better served by riding less often and keeping a fresher mind?

The thing that can drive me insane about western riding is the total lack of hundreds of years of theory and a "one true way" sort of approach that comes along with the more classical disciplines.


That means I have to feel it out as I go. Find my own way. 

Lead, but softly. 

Strength tempered with understanding. 

Progress in balance. 

There are things I can respect and take away from the sporthorse masters. There is plenty to learn from newer schools of thought. 

At the end of the day, I need to find the things that work for me. I need to be the leader that my horse wants to follow. 

There's no trail to glitz and satin and recognition. It's a step by step process of creating the horse I want to ride, the person I want to be, and the partnership I want to be party to. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Looking for Release

I see horses as a mirror that allows me to see into my subconscious in ways that very few other things do. 

What drives me. What motivates me. How do I talk to myself about it. How do I think about myself because of it. What am I trying to gain.

What am I willing to give up to get what I think I need. 

We can psychoanalyze that all day (and it's fascinating on a certain level), but the practical ramifications are interesting. 

I took Zoe down the ditchbank the other day. She was predictably slow away from home, then a little scooty wanting to go back to it. She can be mildly herd bound if she's not getting out regularly and she definitely does better if we do a couple rides with a buddy before I just launch into a long solo ride as we lose daylight. 

And like. 

She wasn't bad. She was a little jiggy. She stopped when I asked her. She wanted to be pushy, so I pushed her into a shoulder fore down the trail and she was like MUM UR SO MEAN THIS IZ HARD BOO but she did it. 

I knew that I didn't handle it well. I didn't really establish myself. I didn't train my horse. I just totally abdicated all responsibility, had a crummy ride back, didn't school it, didn't reassure her. I felt irritated, then untacked and went home. 

And when you have an actual disney horse, you can do that and she's still great the next time you see her. But maybe you don't take her down the ditch bank again because your coping skills are just not that good right now and you're having a hard time. You know that SOMEONE needs to school her, but you need it to not be you. 

So you play in the arena but GODDAMN you want her dialed and soft and ON IT right TF now and since you ride like ass (a conservative assessment), she's kind of stiff and heavy and not super engaged. It's ok. It's not terrible. She's not flipping you the bird, but like. Things aren't right. 

I went home. It's cold. I'm tired. The SO says "how was Zoe" and I have to explain to him how actually, she was pretty good. It's just that I expected a lot. And demanded a lot. And didn't give her any release. 

And actually what I interpreted as "her being heavy" was really "me refusing to give". 

And "her being stiff" was more accurately "me being rigid". 

As I explained all that, I realized that stupid mirror thing was happening again. She's fine. She's just being a horse. But when I don't have the emotional capacity to provide good training, she's going to be a bit lackluster. 

When I respond to her responding to me with an unyielding YOU WILL GIVE, all I'm doing to her is what I do to myself. 

Which is never give myself room to fail. I demand more, push harder, get through it, and when I do that, I penalize myself for my very humanity that is begging for a little mercy. 

I'm hard. I'm strong. It's a weakness. 

She's better than that. She's so just... I dunno. Inherently kind and pure. She brings her whole self every day and does her very best. She deserves someone who says "you can have an off day and it's ok and you're still my #1". She has earned that a thousand times over. And it's true--she can have those things. She just needs me to recognize it. 

She needs me to release.

Now switch the pronouns in that statement. Like the mirror does. Show me how I talk about myself. 

What am I willing to give up to get what I think I need.

I can have an off day and it's ok. That's a really hard concept for my overly-driven, very-intense self. 

I can tell my trainer that I need her to put a few rides on zb and then we'll take a couple lessons. 

And then I can go to the barn after work and ride my beautiful disney horse in a halter. Feed her cookies and say I'm sorry. 

I'll do better for both of us. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

2020: A Year in (Unusual) Review

My favorite part of blogging is the perspective I get from looking forward and looking back, especially at the end of the year. Usually I go through month by month and link to my favorite posts and put the best pictures of the year together and come out like "wow, you really did something" and "look what you need to do to move forward". 

Look who goes barebacksies in a halter!


I think we've all been living in the same 2020. I didn't even blog every month. Barely every quarter. 

Rather than doing a monthly summary, I'm going to roll with the 2020 summary post I've seen making the rounds, that I believe is credited to Alberta Equest

2020 Summary

What's the best thing that happened to you in 2020? 

Personal: HAHAHAHA OH MY GOD. Um. I'm an extrovert. I'm REAL BAD at shutdowns. I have a VERY HARD TIME with like. Not leaving my house. My life being out of control. It has been really hard for me to work through isolation (/living with my own idiosyncrasies) and seeing how those issues impact the BF (we live together) and how my own character weaknesses create my biggest problems. 

So like. I have a whole new appreciation for my own flaws and a roadmap forward to working on them. 

Also some great new coping mechanisms. 
is truck collecting a mechanism?

Equestrian: I spent a lot of time away from the barn this year. That solidified for me why it is I go there, which has been really good. I didn't have an amazing achievement, didn't go to a show, barely took lessons, but I really am starting to feel settled/comfortable with the way my horse fits around my life right now. It's not what it used to be but it's still very much something that matters to me. 

I was really struggling with the lack of proficiency I feel when I'm riding at a lower level than I remember being able to, but it's letting me take the pressure off and just enjoy my personal horse. It's a new thing for me, and damn, I like it. 

What's the worst thing that happened to you in 2020? 

Personal: I really dislike the passivity of saying things "happened to me" when I am an agent of my own life and I like to think I have some influence on the things I put myself in the position to have happen to me. Obviously, the whole pandemic didn't "happen to me", it happened to the entire world and I'm just a very small, very privileged part of that. 

But a lot of things kind of just happened this year. 

I guess for me it was having people I care very much about be isolated in a way I can't overcome and know that they have to be alone for reasons out of both of our control.

Equestrian: I watched a couple of friends go through really challenging situations with their horses and wasn't able to be there with them/for them in the way I would like to. 

What was your biggest purchase in 2020? 

Personal: Ummmmmm we'll go ahead and call my beloved Truck Truck a personal item. I was the sort of kid who had a dream truck and gave zero fucks about fancy dress parties and now I can officially say I have the truck of my actual dreams. It's a strangely lucid thing that I am really excited about. Almost offsets how expensive trucks are. 



Equestrian: I keep saying I dialed back the horse spending this year, but a quick review shows that I bought bought a jump saddle and a western saddle. So there's that. I made it official with a loaner jump saddle from the ever-intrepid Roxie's mom and then when we decided to get a little ranchy, she pointed me in the direction of a saddle that actually fits ZB really well. In an odd twist for me, I didn't sell any other saddles to accommodate the purchase either so I should probably clear some inventory... soon. Maybe. Iunno what else am I going to put in my garage... 


What was your biggest accomplishment in 2020? 

Personal: I'm on a challenging career track in a male-dominated field and I had some huge professional achievements this year. I could give you some work highlights and things I am proud of, but at the end of the day, the thing that matters most to me is having the respect of my crews and leadership. I feel like I'm in a really good place with that. 
putting that horse girl carhartt coat to work

Equestrian: Ummmmmm. Well. My goal with Zoe is always just to have a pleasant, well-rounded horse that I can bomb around on and she came through in a major way this year. I've been on the road a lot, my barn time is limited, and every time I see her, it's just solid, consistent fun things. 

So. It's not a show highlight. It's a life highlight.


What do you feel COVID robbed you of in 2020? 

Personal: Friendships. Oh my god. It's not that you can't have friends in the time of covid, but the little get togethers and spontaneous hangouts and the quick weekend road trip to see people I care about are all just gone. I care about my friends and I hate that in order to protect each other, we're forced into an all-encompassing isolation. 
gonna eat this sad pizza by my sad self

Equestrian: I could say I was kind of dabbling with the idea of going to a show, but realistically, that wouldn't have happened this year with how other pieces of my life played out. In a lot of ways, I am singularly lucky that my horse life was minimally impacted by the larger tragedies swirling around us this year. 

Were you subject to any COVID impulse buys in 2020? 

Personal: HAHAHA see also my entire amazon account. 

Equestrian: I can actually pretty much justify both the saddles I bought as things that would have happened anyways. I got a really pretty pad that I definitely didn't need but #yolo. Ummmmm oh yeah there was also a COVID sale for hufglocken and I got a super nice Mattes pad too. A draft size western bridle. At least 3 girths. 
it just occurred to me how funny it would be to put all the impulse buys on her at once
but who has the time?

It a little bit bothers me that I'm publishing this in 2021 but that's one of those things I'll just have to let go. We're moving forward. Things are good. I have a few more low key goals. Maybe next I'll write a post for that! 
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