Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Wonder Woman

Yesterday I took a moment to introduce myself to new followers on my photography Instagram page @lizstoutphotography and realized that the photo I chose to share was one I never really got around to sharing on my social media pages. It had been my every intention to share several photos from that day on this blog, but then the barn project took off and - like so many things this summer - my plan to share the photos was forgotten amidst the chaos.

Now that things have settled though, I'm looping back around. It's fun to find time to share and do all of those forgotten things.

In the spring of this year, I was contacted by a popular magazine in West Virginia, WV Living with news that I had been chosen as one of the recipients of the WV Wonder Woman award for 2019. It came as a complete surprise!

I was interviewed over the phone for 30 minutes and asked a slew of questions about what I love about West Virginia, why I chose to remain in my home state, and what motivations lie behind my love of photography. At the conclusion of the interview, I was asked to provide a few headshots so they could select one for my bio that would run in the fall magazine when the cohort of 2019 WV Wonder Women were announced.

I asked the interviewer what she had in mind so far as a headshot. Did she want one of me with my camera in action? Or maybe one of me partaking in one of my outdoors pursuits in one of my favorite WV places? Or something with one of the horses (which she'd asked me quite a lot about over the course of the interview)?

Her preference was for several options with the horses.

While I knew I had several competition ones, I realized I didn't have any portrait-style shots of me with the horses. I'd always wanted to take some, but just never got around to it. However, with a reason to take some now, I took the initiative to get some.

And so, with the help of a barnmate from my previous barn, these images were captured. Thanks again, Chelsey!

20190528 Headshots with Horses_77
Of course I had to use a western headstall for the only QH!
20190528 Headshots with Horses_91
Griffin's blowing forelock kills me. I love that each of them has their ears up for this photo!
20190528 Headshots with Horses_84
My favorite of the bunch.
20190528 Headshots with Horses_88
I'm only just noticing (literally 5 months after the fact) that Q has grass in her mouth in many of these. D'oh!
20190528 Headshots with Horses_45
I only cleaned their faces for the photos LOL.
There is a ditch drainage through their favorite pasture at their old barn that they love to stand around in like hippos. I never realized how much iron was in the wet soil around that drainage until I brought them home and all of the red-orange staining from the mud on their legs disappeared for good. I also love that they're basically never muddy like this any more! Dry lots for the win.
20190528 Headshots with Horses_42
This frame immediately followed the one above. I am howling with laughter because Q was SO mad at Griffin because he was standing so close to her. She stomped her foot in agitation and gave one of her best mare glares. Stan took the same moment to also express his displeasure that he had to share such close space with Grif. Meanwhile, poor Grif is simply happy to be in the moment, oblivious to why the others are grumpy.
This photo encompasses all of their personalities in a nutshell and it makes me laugh so, so much. It's also photographic evidence for why Grif is sectioned away from the other two in the dry lot. Q and Grif just can't handle sharing closed quarters with him!
20190528 Headshots with Horses_56
My boys <3
20190528 Headshots with Horses_58
The very best boys
20190528 Headshots with Horses_57
Stanley is such a ham!
20190528 Headshots with Horses_95
And a few shots with my lady
20190528 Headshots with Horses_99
Such a good girl

I didn't know which of the images the magazine would select, but was excited to see the final article when it ran.

20191004_174952

It was an honor to be one of this year's WV Wonder Woman recipients. Doubly so because I had a good excuse to finally take some photos with all three horses!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Throwback...

The title of this post has multiple meanings...


The first of which...

is to say that after throwing my back out around the writing of my last post, I'm happy to report that it's finally feeling up to snuff again! I'm still not using my standing desk at work (long periods of standing still aren't the easiest), but I am able to move, walk, ride, and do barn chores without issue again. Muscle relaxants are AMAZING. And acupuncture helped relax all of the other parts of my back so that the area of acute damage could heal more easily. It feels SO FREEING to be able to go about my normal routine again!

The second of which...

is to finally report on the chiropractor visit the horses had in July! Because ultimately this blog is a chronological journey of my time with horses and being able to look back on these details is beneficial.

In fact, the chiropractor visit precipitated me bringing the horses home for good. Progress with the barn was NOT moving at the pace Dave or I had anticipated, so I put off bringing them home. But then local friends scheduled the chiropractor and I figured, what the heck. It would be infinitely easier to Do The Things if the horses were home.

FB_IMG_1571962440606
Photos have nothing to do with the post, but I finally got around to editing (some of) my personal images from autumn
This is the classic Lindy Point view of Blackwater Canyon

I brought Q home a day or two before the boys, and ultimately trailered the boys straight to the barn where the chiro would be. I then went to immediately fetch Q, who was pleasantly surprised to find Grif and Stan at the end of her short trailer ride!

The chiropractor was from the western side of the state. He was really straight forward and happy to tell us as much as we wanted to know about what he was doing, and he was good about narrating each step. I wish I'd written things up more in-depth right after to capture more of his thoughts, but c'est la vie.

I let him know that minus Q's May 50 at the Biltmore, all horses had pretty much been out of work for most of the year and Q had done jack-diddly since May. Ultimately, what he'd be seeing in them would be whatever their natural baseline was from their turnout situation.

FB_IMG_1571962451474
Blackwater Canyon from a different viewpoint at Lindy

I'm happy to report that none of them had any serious issues at all! I mean, I suspected as much, but still, it was nice to have that confirmation and to learn a bit about each horse's natural state.

Griffin was up first. The chiropractor did a quick evaluation and found that he was out in his poll, C2, 3, and 4 on the right side, and the left side of his pelvis. With some quick minor adjustments to all, he was much less reactive and walked off a bit freer than he had moments before.

Stan was second. I noted right off the bat that he was parrot-mouthed and had some minor pigeon toeing of his forelegs, knowing that these might play into any "offness" he may have. The chiropractor quickly evaluated him and found that he was slightly out in his wither and topline, but was otherwise good. That was great to hear since Stan had done the least of any of my horses up to that point in the year! A couple of quick adjustments and the old man was done.

Finally, it was Q's turn. I shared briefly about the vettings at Biltmore as the chiropractor evaluated her. Of all of my horses, Q reacted the most dramatically to his palpation, especially around her poll. Finishing his evaluation, he noted that she was out in her poll, the left side of her neck, her withers, topline, and back end of pelvis. By the time he was done adjusting her, she didn't react at all when he palpated areas that had been sensitive moments before.

FB_IMG_1572050328996
Looking over Randolph County from Middle Mountain

The biggest recommendation he had for me following my horses' adjustments was to use liniment before and after my rides to help keep their backs freer under saddle. I hadn't heard the recommendation to use it prior to my rides - and honestly haven't been great about remembering to do it - but I have given it a go a few times. I can't report any crazy differences to this point, but who knows?

I also haven't noticed any huge monumental changes in my horses' ways of going since the visit. Although, I will say Q seems a bit more comfortable in her body when I interact with her from the ground. Having just had my neck adjusted pretty dramatically by the human chiropractor a couple weeks ago, I can relate!

Since our July visit, the chiropractor has returned to Canaan monthly. I haven't fussed with getting my horses adjusted again because I haven't been riding with great frequency or noticed any of them acting as if they have any problems. All the same, it's nice to know he's here so often for others for if/when I want to have any of the horses adjusted again.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Easing into a New Norm

I finished the barn only to be completely inundated by what feels like 80 million photoshoots. Something about autumn and trees and pretty leaves? Regardless, while I've had "more time" to "do things" my time has temporarily been consumed by photography. It isn't the worst!

AdobeLightroom
Blackwater Canyon from Pendleton Point - cell phone photo because I haven't had time to edit my personal DSLR photos yet!

To the defense of everyone wanting to cram in a photoshoot during autumn, it has been a really stellar year for color. Like, I can't remember the last time things were this gorgeous. My daily commute and outside time is spent extending grabby hands toward gorgeous trees, gaping my mouth open and closed like a fish in shock and awe, and babbling incoherent noises about how gorgeous everything surrounding me is.

AdobeLightroom
Sunrise from Table Rock - cell phone photo because I haven't had time to edit my personal DSLR photos yet!

My gratitude for this place is overflowing. I just... Damn.

AdobeLightroom
My backyard Saturday morning *insert all the heart-eyed emojis*

Despite photography-consumed time and my autumn prattle, I have been riding a bit more lately! It's amazing what I'm able to do with a little bit of time when I don't have so many "unfinished" construction projects.

20191014_124953(0)20191014_13034720191014_13055720191014_13180020191014_132102

Last Monday, I took the Q mare out to play around in the neighborhood and enjoy a perfect autumn day. She was absolutely perfect!

AdobeLightroom20191014_13330120191014_13373120191014_13414320191014_134315

We went up and down the mountain a time or two, galloped through fields, and gawked at trees. Through everything, she was a solid, reliable partner. Such a difference from where she used to be! (Evidenced by all of the happy, forward and/or listening ears in every photo above!!)

I find myself enjoying riding her and looking forward to the time I spend with him as opposed to feeling apprehensive/anxious about what her mood will be like. I'm getting excited for a winter that I can focus on honing her responsiveness and developing her abilities undersaddle.

20191018_12484720191018_124850(0)20191018_125125

Last Friday, a girlfriend and I took Stan and Q out on a lovely 7.4 mile ride. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that it was the first time I'd trailered the horses off-property since bringing them home.

Because both horses are barefoot right now and I haven't dialed in hoof boots for Stan yet, we were a bit restricted in trail options. The choice we ended up making wasn't even one on my radar when we headed out that morning, either! But sometimes last-minute plans are the best plans.

20191018_12595520191018_132749

We had a perfect ride in which we saw approximately zero other people except in the parking lot. We had equal parts trotting and walking with one long canter stretch. The conversation was rich. The time spent in nature with horses was much-needed. The horses really seemed to enjoy themselves. And Q - who led the whole time! - was (once again) perfect! I really couldn't have asked for a more enjoyable ride.

On Saturday, amidst a wealth of barn and farm chores, I began clipping the horses.

20191019_131205
Feeling fresh!

Yes! Clipping! It's so exciting to be able to do this and not worry about the horses being too cold this winter. If I need to change blankets or whatever, it's only a short walk instead of a 50-minute drive!

I'm starting each horse off with just a bib clip and may upgrade each to an Irish clip (or more) as needed. This means everyone can be more comfortable, I can be less stressed, and - most of all - I don't have to worry about planning my winter workouts around how sweaty/not sweaty my horses may become. I'm really excited.

Unfortunately, my clipper batteries seemed to have kicked the bucket permanently after clipping Grif and Stan. Ugh. Sorry, Q! But I'll get a new battery soon enough and everyone will match. 😂

20191019_181357

On Saturday night after a long day of chores and copious photo editing, Griffin got to enjoy a workout at home. The first of many such workouts, I hope!

We enjoyed a steady warm up of walk and then trot, ending with a bit of canter in each direction. From there we worked through 6 trot poles for a time before adding in cavaletti work and eventually a few XC jumps!

20191019_183339
We jumped the lower left side of the pile
20191019_183350
He looks so chill about his accomplishment. I was psyched he handled it with aplomb because a similar jump gave him pause at Loch Moy in 2017.
20191019_183447
He was literally trying to eat the tree 1 second prior... Sigh.

Griffin. Was. Psyched. He's been begging to work for awhile now and it was like he knew he was going to get to go be a jomp-jomp horse again when I tacked him up. (Or maybe it's because I exclaimed, "You're going to be a jomp-jomp horse again today!" when I pulled him into the barn? lol) He excelled at the trot poles, merely cantered over the 18" cavaletti, and didn't hesitate ONCE at our three XC jumps - two of which we'd never attempted before.

20191019_183730
IN MY OWN BARN EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

I wasn't even going to attempt the two new jumps on this evening, but he was being The Very Best and the ground conditions were primo, so I decided to add them in. I gave him lots of verbal encouragement and kept my leg on during our approach to help guarantee he knew without a doubt that we would be going over the stacked skinny logs and the wood pile. Much to my pleasure, Grif sailed beautifully over both! Such a good boy.

Unfortunately, by the end of barn chores post-ride, my back - which had been feeling increasingly tight after a very labor-intensive day - was not in a good place. I took NSAIDS, soaked in warm water, iced, had Dave massage it, etc., to no avail. By the following day, I was worse and the day after that I was no better. But fortunately, I was able to get to the doctor for some Rx meds to help relax my muscles to see if I gain some relief. Today, I see the acupuncturist. I'm genuinely hoping that between the Rx and the acupuncture, I find some relief and relaxation of those angry muscles. Being such an active person with a back strain is not fun!

20191019_134325
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Tomorrow morning, I'm finally (after a 2-month phone-tag) getting my hay tested! This is the last puzzle piece before I can start dialing in my horses' diets and supplements. I'm really excited to dive into it all.

Following the hay testing, I'll be (if my back allows) heading to Cape May for my annual raptor banding girls trip. Eeee! I haven't seen Mandy in a year and am very excited to spend several days with her. I'll be sure to put together a photo-heavy raptor post when I return for those of you who love them.

So...yeah! I'm working on getting back to a semi-regular blogging schedule - both writing and reading. It's a bit odd to come up with something beyond barn posts again, but I am eager to get to it! With luck, I'll find time to write about a backlog of things like seeing the horse chiro, the Mary Wanless and Janet Foy clinics, the blogger camping trip to Assateague, and more.

Stay tuned!

Friday, October 11, 2019

A Video Tour of the Barn

Just in case anyone is tuning in for the first time, here is a chronological list of links to all the past posts leading up to this point. (WOW. I didn't realize how many there had been!)


And now, without further ado, enjoy this silly video tour of Starlight Lane Farm's barn. I'm awkward and not a great videographer - there's a reason I stick to still photos, y'all. 😂

Also, big thanks to Austen for making a fantastic intro blip for my babbling and whole-heartedly encouraging the ridiculous music selection. 😂 A series of ridiculous videos may be in my future...

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Starlight Lane Farm est. 2019

We're finally FINISHED!

20191006 Autumn and SLF_37

Well, mostly. No project is ever truly finished. But beyond settling on a happy organization scheme for all things (something that always takes me a good year+ to decide for any space I occupy), Starlight Lane Farm is no longer "under construction".

20191006 Autumn and SLF_40
Those chevron back doors tho...
20191006 Autumn and SLF_41
I definitely don't hate 'em
20191006 Autumn and SLF_52
LOL to Griffin's slow feed net on the ground in his frustration of having to deal with it.
And yes, Grif is now the isolated one when in the dry lot. Q has decided to test the waters of bully and was laying into him pretty good. Everyone is REALLY happy with this new arrangement though! #winning

September was a whirlwind month. I attended three weddings and traveled to California for work during the month. So, while things were moving forward with the farm, the time I had available to write about them was minimal. I had every intention of updating about our progress again within a week of my former post (on Sept. 5), but we all see how that worked out. 

Following my last update, the exterior stall doors were finished and I installed latches.

20190904_191027
Bottom halves + latches + no more temp tape blocking the doors SUCH A LUXURY
20190909_182603
Double doors and latches; this was temporary until I could figure out a way to latch the top doors from the inside to prevent walking around every time I needed to open/close doors
20191008_172553
Latch for the top half of the door is accessible from inside the barn. I'm a fan.
20191007_174439
This way, I can open the top door then easily access the outside latch

The shingled area under both eaves was completed.

20190928_072049
I cannot explain to you how nice it is to see a finished exterior when I look out my doors/windows from the house

The final pile of topsoil was spread, seeded, and mulched. 

20190903_165132
Observe the pile of topsoil (left of center) growing grass
20190908_154515
And now it's gone!
20190908_160637
I was super motivated and seeded and mulched the area immediately after the soil was spread

The dry wall was hung, we waited forever for the mud to dry, and when it finally did, I painted and started nesting as soon as the paint was dry.

20190904_191639
Wall one up...
20190909_183238
Wall two partially complete...
20190910_173902
BOOM. All dry walled and awaiting extra coats of mud to finish
20190910_173919
A nice space!
20190921_095449
Painted! I mixed two neutral colors Dave had leftover from other jobs to avoid buying any paint. Ceilings are BITCH to paint. Oof! But as soon as I was done, I put up my saddle racks and the bridle rack. WHAT A LUXURY.
20190921_095505
Interim version of the space. Feed area to my right, tack in front.
20190921_095521
Medicine cabinet and shelf thanks to my Dad!
20190921_095602
IKEA towel bars behind the door. Still have one more I can put up...
20190921_095544
I love that they all collapse back along the wall to allow the door to open
20190921_204804
No too shabby! And I love that the mirror helps bounce light within the space.

After that, all that was really left was to lay the wood floor - something I knew wouldn't happen until after my trip to California - and get my fence installed - something I wanted to complete before my travels.

And so, in the days leading up to my trip, I spent close to 25 hours building my fence. I had a mentor for about 7 of those hours, but the rest were solo. This fence has been A Problem over the past few months. Due to the nature of everything involved, I'm not going to go into the details on here. Suffice to say, when the dust settled I was left spending more time and money on the damn thing than was necessary. But hey, at least I learned a new skill?

20191008_181048
Gate separating the two pastures.
20191008_181059
Top line of the fence
20191008_181120
Gate into pastures from road
20191008_183717
Brace assembly... Look really closely and you'll see two monarch chrysalis
20191008_183737
Close up of the chrysalis. We've had one hell of a monarch year. The caterpillars built chrysalis EVERYWHERE. I had to relocate so many! Fortunately, most of my relocated ones hatched!
20191008_183818
Happy little paradise.

It was beyond satisfying to turn the horses out to pasture for the duration of my time away from home. They were so happy to be out of that damn dry lot. I never, ever intended for them to have to be in that dry lot for that amount of time without the freedom to graze or move about at liberty. Ugh. Even in the winter months they won't have to spend 60+ days exclusively in the dry lot!

Once I returned from California, I got right to work laying the wood floor. Dave gave me a quick tutorial on all things and I dove in. The end result isn't perfect, but I learned yet another new skill, got to utilize some flooring that would have otherwise gone to waste (it's been sitting in the basement for 10 years lol), and I have a gorgeous little tack and feed room as a result.

20191001_184102
A hot mess, but also, more than halfway done!
20191001_184059
Talked Dave into helping me with the final row of flooring which was a bit trickier than the rest
20191001_195008
Still need to trim the windows and the wall where it meets the floor, but eeee!
20191001_195021
Awaiting the final row of boards in this photo

Finishing the flooring was the last piece in the puzzle. It knitted things together so well and I couldn't help but grin really huge as I stood staring at the floor, the tack room, the aisle, the stalls, the barn. My dream as a reality.

20191010_124325
Looking down the aisle! Gotta get the remaining sheet rock outta here, but beyond that - she's DONE.
20191010_124343
Looking down the aisle from the opposite end
20191010_124356
I expect these double doors to remain closed most of the time. I'll likely park my wheelbarrow down on this end, too.
20191010_124423
Eeeee! Still have a lot to accomplish in here, but I'm really pleased with the space.
20191010_124411
Just needs a few more touches...
20191010_124438
Happy happy happy
20191001_195125
Center stall (Q's)
20191001_195138
Stall across from tack feed (Grif)
20191001_195152
End stall (Stan)

Since finishing the flooring, I've basically had a perma-grin on my face. I have set about making lists of all the things I want to accomplish to further "nest" and settle into the space. It is still, and will continue to be, a work-in-progress, but all of the big pieces are in place now.

20191006_191639
And MORE tack/feed room photos. Redundant, but TOO BAD.
I eventually want to put a futon where the chairs are and a low bookshelf below the right window
20191006_191659
Next week I also plan to put a counter over the feed cans to combine supplements etc.
I built little rolling caddies for each feed can to make them lots more mobile and minimize scratches on the floor.
Scratches are inevitable and I'm totally cool with them happening, but I'm gonna minimize the likelihood where I can.
20191006_191745
The pile of nonsense in the far corner is the result of zero organization and 100% a shove-things-in-one-area mindset

It feels pretty surreal to look down at the barn daily and see a "completed" picture. What's more crazy is knowing that the endless "to-dos" revolving around finishing the thing are accomplished. Sure, there are little organizational things to address, but those are the kinds of things I've always expected to fall slowly into place as time necessitates.

My brain finally has time and space to ponder conditioning ride and soft competition goals again. It's so nice to shift my mindset back toward riding instead of the perpetual "create, construct, complete" thought patterns that consumed me during the past year of planning and executing this endeavor. There will always be work to do now that the horses are home, but having the extra burden of building the damn thing off my plate is really refreshing.

20191008_211130
My favorite view right now...
AdobeLightroom
It's just so pretty!
20191008_174748
Hacked his mane off this week. Just couldn't stand it long. Oh well.
AdobeLightroom
Sunset dog walks with Staniel. Can't wait to watch the seasons change from between these ears!

Realizing this dream and watching it come to fruition has been, well, a dream come true. While I felt certain I would bring my horses "home" at some point in my lifetime, I never imagined it would be when I was 30. There simply aren't enough words to express how unbelievably grateful I am for this opportunity and the reality that is having my horses at home.

I can't thank my husband enough for helping make this dream a reality. He took a simple sketch and turned it into something so beautiful and beyond my imagination. He made the long process more stress-free for me than I ever imagined, too, something I am really appreciative of.

I am also insanely thankful for my neighbor, Dan. Without his encouragement, guidance, and kindness, this entire thing could not have happened. I will never ever forget the ways he helped me to make my biggest dream a reality.

And so, the barn saga is coming to a close. I'll certainly post updates on the tack/feed room as I finish it up this winter and settle into the space more. And, per the request of several, I will be scheduling a video post for tomorrow!