Friday, November 16, 2018

The Magic of the West Virginia Highlands

Alternate titles: Recognizing Childhood Dreams; Griffin and Q Drive Cattle; The West Virginia Tundra

A new girlfriend, Emma, asked a week or so ago if I'd be interested in riding the horses in the Sinks of Gandy in the near future. Her family owns quite a bit of land up there, and she'd always dreamed of traversing it on horseback. Familiar with the area because my family has held a lease nearby her family's land for decades and I have visited the area she wanted to ride for various conservation efforts as a part of my current and past jobs, I didn't have to think about my response, "YES!"

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Heading in through private property inholdings past lots of gorgeous red spruce

The Sinks aren't far from Canaan Valley where I live. The area harbors a lot of similar climate to Canaan and has always been a favorite place of mine as a result. Something about these high elevation areas with red spruce forests and completely bizarre plant life compared to what you'd expect at this latitude just makes my soul happy. Both Canaan and the Sinks area a sanctuary for plant life more akin to what one may find in the tundra and the Arctic Circle, not the temperate Appalachian forests found between 38-39°N latitude!

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Where the forest ends and the open pastureland begins

Part of the land Emma's family owns is one of the most unique ecotypes in the world. So unique that only a handful of places like it exist anywhere on the planet. Balsam fir and red spruce litter the landscape surrounding a high elevation swamp that harbors plant life known to the Arctic circle. Karst (limestone) outcroppings litter the hillsides of the knobs, and the headwaters of several rivers begin right on the property! 

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One of the old homes and rocky karst outcroppings

In the 1800s when the economy was booming with the timber industry, the area was extensively clear cut and used to graze cattle. Trains carried the timber away, dropped the cattle off, and then picked them up before the harsh winter weather settled in. Emma's great-great-something grandfather was known as the cattle king thanks to the thousands of head of cattle he ran over these lands. With the advent of the automobile, the steel industry, and the coal industry, the booming timber and associated train industries died away from this area by the 1920s allowing the land to rehab and forests to regrow around much of it.

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Beautiful clear skies!

Today, cattle grazing is a still key component to keeping the environment intact. The sensitive swamp has been fenced off to exclude them from that area, but a small herd still grazes the surrounding area through the summer months.

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Finally on her family's property

Emma and I opted to park the trailer out on the main USFS road and ride into the property. It gave us more mileage and helped guarantee I wouldn't booger the trailer trying to turn it around in an area I'm not as intimately familiar with.

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The headwaters of the Gandy come out of the hillside behind Emma & Q

Following the initial keyed gate to the property, we had to pass through many gates on our way to her family's property. Multiple private properties exist on the road, all surrounded by the national forest. After 5 or so gates, we were finally on her property!

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Climbing up to enjoy gorgeous vistas

I immediately demonstrated to Griffin, who hasn't had close encounters with cattle before, that the cows would run from him with little effort on his part. We would walk/trot toward them and as soon as they turned tail away from us, I'd stop and turn Grif back around. He understood and released the little bit of tension he was holding onto from initially seeing the cows. Q watched bemusedly the whole time.

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All smiles in our happy place. Aside: the cattle behind us would be the first we would drive later!

Emma wanted to climb up both knobs on the property to enjoy the views. I was game for absolutely anything, completely overjoyed to have the opportunity to ride in the area at all!

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Looking toward Blister Swamp with the Gandy headwaters (yes, that tiny trickle) below us

We marched up Big Momma and did a circuit around the top, enjoying the views in every direction. Emma shared stories of her family and childhood the whole way while I ate up both the history and the scenery.

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Haystack behind, homestead below, Blister Swamp just out of frame to the right

As we completed our circuit, looking toward Haystack, the second knob we would climb and ride around, I took the opportunity to leg Griffin into a hand gallop across the wide open space at the top of the knob. Emma and Q followed close behind.

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Enjoying the views...and the cows

Both of us giggled at the complete joy of running on horseback with 360° views of our most favorite area in all the world. I even dropped my reins and spread my arms wide for a few strides, smiling and laughing at the amazingness of the moment. As Emma and I both noted, "This definitely doesn't suck!"

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WV Highland vista <3
The rock outcroppings in every photo are karst, or limestone, which is indicative of caves! Many caves litter this area and county.

As we descended back down, we observed Emma's parents and family friend had arrived to sort the cattle for travel back to their lower winter pastures.

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And again

Emma called out to her mom to see if they'd like us to move the closest group of yearlings toward the gate. She answered in the affirmative. Emma told me to head low and push them toward the gate while she stayed high to prevent them from breaking.

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Ahhhh such a happy place!

Neither I nor the horses have ever driven cattle! Emma has done it on foot for years though, and I've read enough books, seen enough movies and documentaries, and been around enough livestock to have a pretty good idea of how to accomplish it all. Honestly, much of it is similar to the liberty work I've done with the horses on the ground so far as body language cues go!

And so Emma on Q and I on Griffin set to driving cattle for the next 45 minutes or so!

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Really cool karst boulders on the opposite hillside - biggest I've ever seen!

First, we drove the yearlings through the gate into the smaller field where they would be sorted and loaded onto the trailers. Next we helped keep the larger herd from breaking away as we pushed them through the opposite gate. Then Emma sent me back up Big Momma to turn a stray cow down the mountain while she went to try to usher in an old cow who hadn't come in with the main herd.

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Happy hearts

From there, I headed back out toward the main field to help encourage another old cow who had a limp before helping Emma escort one final big girl out of the field and into the sorting area.

IT WAS SO COOL.

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Calm down, Q. Calm down.

Nothing crazy, no running or crazy breaks from the herd, but totally satisfying to get to truly WORK cattle from horseback. With the two men on 4-wheelers, her mom on foot, and us on horseback, the large majority of the herd was where they needed to be in no time at all. 

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I so wish I had more photos! But I had to stay ON it.

I finally thought to look at my watch once we'd finished with the cattle and realized we had better start heading to the trailer if we wanted to be on the road before dark! Daylight wasting time is the worst.

So Emma bid her family farewell and we struck off.

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See the cow? We drove her down off the knob shortly after this.

The cherry on the cake for the day was getting to see my first WV golden eagle as we left. The species has overwintered in the WV highlands for years now (they travel down from Quebec), and we have reason to believe some may even be persisting through the summers, breeding and nesting. I have seen ample trail cam footage from the State wildlife agency, but had yet to witness a GOEA of my own in WV. It was SO cool to finally check that off my list!


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Long shadows, golden light, and spruce forests

I'm looking forward to a spring trip with Emma to continue exploring and enjoying the area with the horses. The early-winter landscape was gorgeous, but the late-spring landscape will display an entirely different facet of beauty Emma and I are both keen to appreciate from horseback.

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My loves

The whole day was absolutely magical and I'm so grateful to Emma (and her family!) for the experience. Both of us agreed that our souls were happier and our mental health in a much better place than it had been at the start of the day. Something about horses and time in the mountains is so very healing and fulfilling. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

25 Questions

I've got a lot of Potentially Huge things brewing, so until I get those under wraps to a point where I can write about them, I'm going to [continue to] take advantage of some fun prefab blog content. Thanks, Amanda.

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This post brought to you by several month-old photos of one incredibly muddy Griffin

1. Why horses? Why not a sane sport, like soccer or softball or curling? 

The last sane sport I did was swimming. I'd still swim if it hadn't completely botched the soft tissue in my ankles. I miss it all the time. Horses, skiing, and swimming were my first loves. Two have carried forward into my adult life and along the way I decided to adopt some other not-sane sports like rock climbing and mountain biking. Nothing sane interests me much! And the lessons I've learned from horses are superior to any I've learned from any other activity in my life. Horses scratch an itch nothing else can quite reach.

2. What was your riding “career” like as a kid? 

I rode ponies and horses that a few of my parents' friends had for awhile. It was sporadic but quieted some of my persistence about wanting to ride. Eventually I would take once weekly lessons for many years before my friends all got their own horses and I could go ride with them.


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Ancient photo of Stan and I at one of the very few horse shows I did as a teen.

3. If you could go back to your past and buy ONE horse, which would it be?

I have him. Stanley. And I didn't even have to buy him, his old owner gave him to me.

4. What disciplines have you participated in?

Barrels, cutting, western pleasure, English pleasure, endurance, eventing, dressage.

5. What disciplines do you want to participate in some day?

Polo and vaulting! But from a more realistic standpoint: I'd like to get Griffin on cattle for either cutting or penning and I foresee much more endurance, eventing, and dressage in my future.

6.  Have you ever bought a horse at auction or from a rescue?

I bought Q the weekend before she was heading to auction, but that's the closest I've come.


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Demo! And 4th grade Liz. 

7. What was your FIRST favorite horse breed – the one you loved most as a kid?

Arabians. Demo was an Arabian cross and I was obsessed with him.

8. If you could live and ride in any country in the world, where would it be?

Honestly, I'm pretty damn happy right where I am. But if I were to take a sabbatical somewhere, maybe Chile or New Zealand. I want to see the country from horseback.

9. Do you have any horse-related regrets?

I wish I had developed patience and an understanding of how to communicate with horses sooner. I wish I'd had access to dressage-based training sooner, and I also wish I had understood how powerfully my emotions played into my interactions so that I could check them at the door earlier in life.

10. If you could ride with any trainer in the world, ASIDE from your current trainer, who would it be?

I'd really love to spend a concentrated amount of time with Mary Wanless and hammer out my rider biomechanics. I find it fascinating. Additionally, a focus on that type of work has really changed my riding the past few years and to be able to be drilled on it by one of the best would help me become the best I could be and enable me to troubleshoot future issues with more ease.

11. What is one item on your horse-related bucket list?

Ride at the Biltmore and/or Vermont 100. The Biltmore Estate is GORGEOUS and I'd love to spend hours riding on it, and I absolutely love the northern Appalachian range and would simply enjoy riding in that region.

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He thoroughly rolled on both sides...

12. If you were never able to ride again, would you still have horses?

If I were in a situation where the horse would have to be boarded, probably not? There are so many other things in my life that I could put the money toward and time that I could spend doing other things. I would still love horses and seek interaction with them, but I think I could achieve that pretty easily without owning my own.

13. What is your “biggest fantasy” riding goal?

Riding my horse across the country from coast to coast. Linny Kenney really inspired me years ago when she rode Sojourner across the country. It's pretty crazy and I'll likely never do it, but that's why it's a fantasy.


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A not-quite-as-muddy Q, forever the horse who humbles and teaches me...

14. What horse do you feel like has taught you the most?

Hands down, Q. She's a challenge for me. A big challenge. But through the challenges she's presented, I've learned more about myself and my actions and reactions than ever before. The lessons I've taken away from my time with her so far have benefited every aspect of my life, especially my interactions with others.

15. If you could change one thing about your current horse/riding situation, what would it be?

I really wish more options for local competition venues and trainers existed. It takes me a good bit of foresight and planning to be able to make it to the events I go to currently. I would also love to audit more clinics and volunteer for more shows, but it's hard to do these things when the travel sometimes is more than the time I'd actually spend at the event.

16. If you could compete at any horse show/venue in your home country, where would it be?

I'mma stick with endurance on this one because it's more within my realm at the moment. I would really love to ride the Big Horn one day or any of the Pioneer rides.

17. If you could attend any competition in the world as a spectator, what would be your top choice?

I'd honestly love to see the Olympics.

18. Have you ever thought about quitting horses?

Ugh, several times. But it's usually just in dark times as an exasperated outburst/thought. There's never any real power behind the thought.

19. If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the horse industry, what would it be?

I wish horse welfare was more of a priority at high-level events. In both eventing and endurance, there have been a slew of issues in recent years and I really wish the governing body would implement measures to avoid and minimize the likelihood of these things happening again.


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"Woman, how dare you ever refer to me as a 'dumb decision'!"

20. What’s the dumbest horse-related thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well?

Oh, goodness... I guess taking a chance on a VERY UGLY baby Griffin. NO ONE thought he'd amount to much and everyone is astounded at how very nice he's turned out. And, as I told the daughter of one of his soft landings before coming to me, "He didn't get this way overnight and he may not have become this with someone else. I put a ridiculous amount of time into this horse and that alone has resulted in what you see today."

21. As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?

Becoming seriously injured. My sense of mortality grows greater every year.

22. What horse-related book impacted you the most?

So many! But I'm going to go with the one that made the biggest difference early on - Monty Roberts' The Man Who Listens to Horses completely boggled my mind and changed the way I viewed and interacted with horses. Thanks to that book, I started to realize that a lot of the training methods I'd witnessed to date were quite abusive and unnecessary. There was a gentler way to do things that worked with the horse's natural instincts instead of forcing them to comply with our every whim and desire and causing them a lot of pain when they didn't. His way of explaining how horses observed and reacted to the most minute body language from a human helped me realize that I could stand to do a lot more listening instead of just expecting a horse to do as it was told. I was fortunate that I had only ridden "made" horses up until the point I read this book (early teen years), but it still made me feel bad about the ignorance I'd been living in up to that moment.


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Why does he only pose majestically when he's disgusting?

23. What personality trait do you value most in a horse and which do you dislike the most?

I really value a horse who is eager to show up for work and the day's adventures. Griffin has taught me how incredible it is to have this trait in a horse and I have so much fun with him as a result.

Upon pondering traits I dislike the most, I realize that they all revolve around having a distrust of people which leads to a lack of respect/confidence in people. And that isn't the horse's fault, that's the fault of the shit human who taught them that, directly or indirectly. So excluding those types of learned traits, I'd have to say a horse who is lazy by design. I hate a horse who is a push ride!

24. What do you love most about your discipline?

Endurance: it allows me time alone with my horse while enjoying some of the most gorgeous scenery. I love seeing SO MUCH of the land without having to watch my feet every step.

Eventing: I freaking love XC lol. Shocking, I know. Though equally, I really enjoy the minutia that is dressage because it is teaching me to be a better rider and it's so very fun to mold the horse into its best self.

25. What are you focused on improving the most, at the moment?

My rider biomechanics, my understanding of how they affect the horse, and my understanding of how to troubleshoot the communication between myself and the horse under saddle.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Blog Hop: Things I’ve Learned from Other Bloggers

The community of horse bloggers is a pretty amazing thing. It is especially amazing for someone like myself who lives in a rural area with limited resources/knowledge on most of the equestrian disciplines. The topics raised, journeys shared, and discussion generated from blog posts over the years has taught me an infinite amount, exposed me to more than I'd ever be able to otherwise, and has made me sit back and think critically about myself/my journey more times than I can count.

Sara started a pretty sweet blog hop outlining how she's been influenced and educated by members of this blogging community. Below are those who have helped jump start my knowledge and understanding the most in recent years.

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1. Austen and Emma's no-nonsense way of writing up lessons and shows was the biggest catalyst for me getting over myself/my fears and really pushing forward to get lessons of my own and pursue some schooling shows. Lessons and competition - especially within eventing and dresssage - were things I've always dreamed of doing but just lacked the mental wherewithal to follow through.

Reading their straight-forward approach to analyzing lessons, clinics, and shows changed my whole mindset about lessons and competition. Prior to this, I would get so caught up in my own head, perceiving every tiny thing as such a huge personal affront when it absolutely wasn't. This in itself is odd because when it comes to my other sports - skiing, mountain biking, and climbing - I don't take things personally at all and often throw myself into the lion's den so far as critique and lessons go.

While it is incredibly difficult for me to find the time to make it to clinics, lessons, and competitions because of travel/finances, when I am able to make it out, Austen and Emma have been so very present and supportive of my endeavors. It's been amazing to finally fulfill my dreams of getting involved in these disciplines, but to have such incredible and supportive cheerleaders has made the experience significantly better.

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2. Jen and Jan's dressage lesson and show write-ups have been paramount in helping me better understand concepts within dressage and have kindled my personal fire for the discipline. Previously, I was beyond intimidated by it. The way these ladies break it down and write about it just makes sense to my brain. I used to view dressage as this crazy-hard discipline full of jargon and concepts way beyond my comprehension. Despite competing at levels higher than I know I'll ever pursue myself, I read their training and competition write-ups and really get it. It's such a cool feeling to "ride along" with them based on their narrative alone. As a result of my increased comprehension of this discipline from their expertly written experiences, I'm now able to think more calmly and critically through things with my own horses.

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3. Megan's posts about Mary Wanless and rider biomechanics absolutely fascinate me. I've been picking through Mary Wanless' book The Natural Rider for ages now, so these things aren't completely foreign to me. However, the way Megan writes up recaps from clinics etc. with Mary Wanless/her teachings has really helped me see the book and the concepts in a new light. I freaking love shit like that.

And, of course, Megan's posts on biomechanics are a great segue into bettering my dressage training. I've worked hard to change my own rider biomechanics the past two years, and these posts have really helped cement my comprehension and implementation of how I should ride and what I should be able to feel during certain movements. I think it is so very cool how the tiniest of changes - especially in the positioning of the pelvis - can completely revolutionize my riding.

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4. I thoroughly enjoy following along with Teresa's journey with Carmen. Teresa picks apart her interactions and relationship with Carmen in a manner that is so very fascinating to me. Q, my mare, and Carmen are so very similar in personality-type and it's very interesting to read along and learn from the way Teresa handles such a sensitive horse. The parallels between the two mares jumps out at me every single post. Teresa's breakthroughs and setbacks with Carmen - and her complete honesty about everything along the way - have helped my relationship with Q so very much. It's really comforting to know that I'm not alone in my struggles with a Very Sensitive Mare.

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5. Of all of the posts I've saved in Feedly over the years, excluding the bloggers listed above, Amanda and Olivia's have been pinned the most. Both have broached various thought-provoking topics over the years that have really made me step back and think about horses, training, trainers, and my thought-process on each of these in more depth. I love that each author has a way of triggering such a critical thought process in me. Of all the epiphanies I've had about horses/horse training, a large portion of them have come from the thinking I've done as a result of the posts these ladies have shared and from the discussion generated as a result of those posts.

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Thank you, ladies, for all you've done to help me further my education and knowledge of all things equestrian.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

New Boarder

Long time no write, eh? I'll be frank, life has been very chaotic for me and my desire to write in this space has been nonexistent. The short of it is:
  • I had travel for work and followed by a short personal vacation
  • Work ate me up when we got sued [again] on a project I've been dealing with for 5 years now
  • I took a mental nose-dive due to work being a complete stress-fest (18 months and counting!) and fully embraced my burnout and opened up about it (so very wonderful to receive so much support!). Immediately after this...
  • I headed out on a vacation determined to get my head firmly back in place and return with actionable solutions to carry forward in a better light....
  • Only to have my mountain bike stolen from my car on the very first day of my mountain bike centric vacation (Fuck You, Louisville.)
  • The rest of the vacation didn't fare much better: found out we were missing a key component for our stove and couldn't cook as we'd planned; it rained the whole time we were in the desert which botched any hopeful plans of doing what we wanted to do without bikes (climbing); we were delayed by 6+ hours on our trip home due to snow and a impressively flat tire (biggest blowout I've ever had!) And thus my goals of becoming less stressed were completely obliterated.
But I'm home now. And ohmygoodnessgracious, IT FEELS SO GOOD. I'm never leaving again. I swear. (Not really.)

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Behold. A very filthy pony thanks to so much rain this year. In the months since the horses have been living in Canaan, we
 have had 29.9 inches of rain. For reference, last year's total annual rainfall for Canaan was 65.58" and this year's total as of
yesterday is already 65.76"

But seriously, I had THE GREATEST first day home ever. Everything settled beautifully back into place and I tackled my WHOLE to-do list - and it was a whammy!

One of the bigger things on the to-do list for my first day home was to put the wheels in motion to get the horses integrated into their winter boarding situation (i.e., move them down the road and get them introduced into a new [huge] herd). 

So, color me shocked when I not only set the wheels in motion but tackled the whole damn thing! BAM.

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An even more disgusting Stanley. With a freshly banged tail because kid
has SO MUCH HAIR and I'm sick of dealing with it + mud.

Just like that, I find myself a boarder again (as opposed to self-care at a friend's place as I had been since June). And damn, it feels SO good to have them in a situation like this for the winter. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED caring for them and doing it all myself - truly! Caring for them myself gives me so much peace and helps me wind down at the end of the day. BUT! The mish-mash of a setup I had wasn't the easiest ever, and while I am BEYOND grateful I had it, I'm glad to not have to worry about needing so much foresight and planning to accomplish small tasks for awhile.

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And, ironically, the grey horse is the cleanest in the group!

The horses introduced to the new herd easily enough, which I'm so very grateful for because this is  the biggest herd any of them have ever lived in at 20-some horses. The other horses are composed of 2 different herds (owned by the same people) and were only thrown together yesterday - so the entire social dynamic is very up in the air right now, which is damn near perfect for my three entering such a new situation.

The first thing all three of my horses did upon turnout was to gallop a few strides, add a couple of bucks for good measure, and then immediately drop and roll (the other horses were on the far side of the field making zero attempt to approach my three). After rolling, my three ran to the closest group of horses where they did the initial circling-of-the-wagons circle trotting and smelling ritual. After that they quickly separated themselves from the others and began grazing with no drama whatsoever.

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Another shot of his new shorter tail. I regret nothing.

The herd will be in the big field for a month or two until the weather becomes too inclement. At that time, they'll be moved a couple miles back up the road to a barn with an attached arena for the winter (and the herd will be pared down and separated once more into two locations). They'll come inside every night and be outside every day so long as the weather isn't total arctic hell. They'll receive their hay ration in stalls every night and get grain in the AM and PM. With the exception of Stan, they've never had such a royal setup for winter!

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In the new field! And choosing to walk away from the boys to greet me.

I'll be able to work off some of their board by mucking and the like this winter. This is fantastic because I plan to be out there an awful lot anyway and it'll be great to knock the cost down and get a workout in the process. I used to love mucking stalls - it was my first job! And how I met Stan.

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Also choosing to come greet me!

But the biggest excitement? That damn arena. Helloooooo winter workouts and lessons! No woes about arctic winds, snow, or light if I want to ride in the evenings any more. I don't mind the cold, but those other elements are definitely what keep my riding motivation in check most winters.

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No interest in saying hello. Also dirty again.

If I have my druthers, Griffin and Q will come out of winter with a beautiful fitness base of dressage and arena work and be ready for a new year of competition possibilities in their respective discipline realms. Stanley will hopefully get his fair share of riding as well, but with few to no competition goals he will mostly serve as an escape for me and a steady eddy for friends that are adventurous enough to wander about the winter wonderland with me.

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Happy horses grazing in their new field.

I'm excited for this change of pace and am eager to get in some lessons through the winter months. This will be the first time I've had an indoor arena to enjoy since owning horses! Fingers crossed for a fun, riding-filled winter!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Life Lately

For the second summer in a row, work absolutely consumed my life. As of this past week, I was able to venture out on the "other side" - at least for a time. I'd like to think it's for good, but I'm not that naive - especially with current trends, leadership, and society's penchant for lawsuits these days. I've been fitting things in here and there with the horses, but overall, August was a pretty slow month for us.

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Don't let his ears fool you, he begs for these cuddles and smooshes his nose into my shoulder/face to assure he gets them

Stan had a tragic (for him) abscess in his left hind that sidelined him for 7 to 10 days and ultimately resulted in me pulling his front shoes. If he was going to be lame, he may as well be barefoot and lame so his feet could have a break from shoeing cycles. He came sound shortly afterward and we're now into our second and final shoe cycle for the year as I know the weather and temps will take a dive near the end of this cycle. I've enjoyed a handful of carefree rides on the big guy of late. Nothing makes me smile quite like a ride with him.

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Post-ride one day right before fighter jets buzzed us 200 feet off the ground for their usual training exercise through Canaan
Are your horses fighter jet proof? Mine are! lol

Q is doing great! Big spooks seem to be a thing of our past and she's much more reasonable about life these days. We're in a much better place with one another and it feels so good to have arrived here. Every ride we have is better. We still have a lot to work on, but now those things are more fine-tuning and actual physical work as opposed to confidence-building mental exercises. I'm excited to work through new exercises with her in the very near future.

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Endless giggles trotting through the pond. 

Griffin is also doing well. I've slacked off on his workload partly due to lack of great facilities to work in, but also because I don't have a future competition on the calendar to help motivate me to get out and structure my rides with him as much. These days, we head out on happy meanders, maybe some gallops, perhaps a bit of structured dressage playtime or a jump here and there, but mostly just enjoy time spent with one another. He hasn't forgotten anything, we're just enjoying this little plateau for now instead of continuing to climb the many mountains on the horizon.

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This is what so much of summer has looked like here! I pulled Q and Stan's fly leggings right after this photo.
Grif and I had just returned from a ride in which we were thoroughly and completely soaked by a pop up storm.

While the horses are all 50-75 lbs lighter than I'd like to see them, they seem happier overall this summer than in past ones and my relationship with them is better than it's ever been! I moved them to Canaan for good in June. We were at one place for the month of June and part of July, and then we moved down the road 'just a titch', as we say in these parts, to another friend's place where they've been to date.

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Lurking.

This is the first time in my history of owning horses that they've been on anything other than 28 acres of amazing pasture. This time last year, I had them in a diet pen for about 2 weeks trying to get control of their weight! Now, they're on 2-3 acres of pasture and, not surprisingly, they definitely don't need a diet pen!

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Riding in a field of golden rod before mushroom hunting

They're not in the sorriest of states by any means (despite my continual stress over it), but they certainly don't look as plump as I'm accustomed to and are not where I prefer to keep them weight-wise. Anything beyond what I consider "normal" makes me fuss and fret. But the good news is that I'm learning, and I'm definitely grateful for relatively easy keepers whose weights bounce back quite quickly with the proper amount of calories! They've been maintaining/slowly gaining for almost a month now which is a great indicator that I'm nearly "there" with a feeding regiment that works for them! Despite the worry figuring this out has caused me, it's been a pretty fun puzzle; nutrition is so very fascinating to me!

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Club ride! LC on Stan

I finally made it out with my riding club for a ride this past weekend. It was in Dolly Sods which made it much easier on me to attend! I had a prior commitment in the morning that meant I would have to play "catch up" to the ride, but that was fine by me! It enabled me to ride fast for a time instead of walking the whole day.

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Stan navigating Dolly Sods with LC

Dan asked if I would mind if LC, a new trainer to the area who hopes to stay long-term, rode one of my horses for the ride. I happily agreed, eager to finally meet this woman I'd heard so much about from Dan, Chris, and Aimee who are smitten with her. Long story short, riding with her was WONDERFUL - and she adored Stan (just like everyone). Everything she said about horses and training resounded strongly with me, and her resume is impressive to boot with ample experience in hunters/jumpers, eventing, dressage, sane natural horsemanship, and some western disciplines. I'll consider myself lucky if my knowledge of horses is where hers is in another 30 years.

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SETTLE DOWN, Q! (She stood here for 15 minutes calm as a cucumber.)
Dolly Sods interior stretching out behind her. Reminds me of the Badlands

Pending a more permanent living situation, LC is hoping to remain in Canaan for the foreseeable future. She sees a niche she can fill with horse training and lessons; I couldn't agree more! She'll not only benefit beginners, those seeking someone to start young horses, and those with problem horses, but she also has a skillset that will benefit more advanced riders and horses. It is my hope that I'll be taking lessons from her in the very near future - something I am absolutely over the moon about.

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Our typical vista of Canaan Valley.

I love living in this area so very much, but it definitely makes improving my horsemanship and riding much more difficult because my access to quality professionals is very limited and comes at a cost (both time and money). It seems I may have the very thing I've hoped and wished for for so long plopped right into my backyard. Fingers crossed that LC can find a good place to rent and ample clientele to remain here for awhile!

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When the mountains on your wine glass match the mountain views in front of you

Beyond horses and work, I've found time to bike a lot, climb a little, hike with the dogs, book some photoshoots, travel a little for work/play, and spend a copious amount of time with wonderful people who make me smile and inspire me to be a better human.

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Baby bakasana on top of Seneca Rocks. If you think it should be a full bakasana, I welcome you to give it a go while staring
 down at a ~900-foot drop! The fin of rock I'm standing on is not more than 5 feet wide at any point. This is Seneca's south summit,
the north summit is behind me and is accessible by hiking.
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A moody landscape. Seneca Rocks is just behind the tree in the foreground down in that valley.
Photo taken from Roaring Plains Wilderness in Dolly Sods.
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Dave and I from our campsite enjoying the above view.
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Kenai (and Taiga!) ready for an adventure.
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She is the posing-est little dog. Golden hour light looks so good on her.
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Yeahhhh... I'd been inside working and came out to the porch to find this. Dave reports they'd been this way for 30 minutes or so.

I've got a bit more travel coming up for my best friend's wedding in Moab before settling into late fall and early winter. Dave and I have a garage project we're hoping to finally finish before we leave and when we return I'll have a handful of commitments to follow through with - one of which will have a very huge effect on my future! Positive vibes from now through the end of October are very welcome.

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A different perspective of our home.

It's going to [continue to] be a whirlwind for another few weeks, but every part of that whirlwind is something I'm looking forward to. Best of all, autumn is here, which is my favorite time of year to get out and ride! And you can bet I'll be fitting rides in as much as possible amidst the controlled chaos I love to live.