Monday, November 28, 2011


This is me committing to a new goal.  By doing it publicly it will bind me a little more and make me do it.

I want to practice yoga every day for 365 days.  That's right, a solid year.

Some days it may only be for 1 minute.  Other days it may be for 100 minutes.  I just want to commit to doing it every day for a whole year. 

I've always dreamed of being more flexible and more in-tune with my body and capable of doing some of those outstanding handstands/headstands/balancing moves.  This is a start. 

I'm certain I will branch out and dabble in other types of yoga, but I am choosing to being with Ashtanga.  My first goal, of many little ones throughout this process is to be able to do this:

So here's to committing, flexibility, and positive life changes that will inevitably result from daily yoga practice.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A peaceful Sunday shoot-out

Today I went out to take Stan on a peaceful Sunday ride.  This turned into quite the predicament.  As I was grooming the dirtiest horse ever, I noticed there seemed to be an excessive amount of traffic on the little one-lane road I would be riding along for a mile to get to the riding arena (since I can't ride in the woods till the new year due to hunting season).  Hmm, Sunday traffic is awful different around here.  So I hop on and we head out despite it.  Stan handled all the traffic beautifully.  A lot of the cars didn't.  I was screamed at, honked, at, and given many a dirty look.

Arriving to the area with the big-scary-good-for-nothing trash bin where Stan always gets nervous the cars are thicker than ever.  Greeeatttttttt.  He was doing really well though and was seriously going to walk by the big-scary bin.  And then this woman comes out of the church about 25 yards ahead of us wearing the most offensively bright turquoise Christmas vest (come on, woman, turquoise isn't even a Christmas color!).  Cue: Stan freak out.  Ears pricked.  Neck arched.  Nostrils blowing.  Body stiffening.  Back end scooching in reverse.  Body pivoting into the road.  Me urging him.  Me failing.  Me yelling at vest-lady, "Your vest is too bright!  He is afraid of the bright color!"  Cars getting angry.  Me leaping off frightened horse.  Frightened horse still freaked.  Me stalking towards the offending vest-lady in agitation since she was barring my path.  Vest-lady speaks: "Where do you live?!  You need to go home now!"  Good grief!  What a bitch!  As if the vest wasn't enough...  People in cars yell and curse.  I get Stan off the road and into the church parking lot.  Vest-lady continues to accost me: "Where did you come from?  Where do you live?  You can't be here!  You need to go home now!"  Me thinking of a million smart come backs,  thoroughly agitated and confused with vest-lady.  *confused look*  Vest-lady: "There is a man on the loose in the woods over there *points behind us* with a high-powered rifle.  He's on the loose and on a rampage!  They rerouted all traffic from the highway (a two-lane) over here!  You need to go home!"  Hmm, well, this is curious.  Good thing I didn't actually follow my notion to ride on that trail today since hunters aren't out on Sundays...  That vest still sucks.  *Stan is nomming happily on grass; vest-lady gets in her car to leave not waiting on me to speak*

Well, brilliant.  Crazy man with a gun is on the loose, I'm stuck here because of traffic and hesitation to ride anywhere near that wood line.  Juuuust brilliant.

I ended up calling Jack's wife Vicki to "escort" me home.  It went well and [obviously] I wasn't shot/run-over/etc.  Little freaky.  But makes for an amusing after-the-fact anecdote, no?

And Stan, by the way, was convinced this was the greatest ride ever...  I walkz down buzee road.  I iz gud boy for all zee sillee carz and angree pepulz.  I no run awayz from scuree trash monsturr.  Brite colur scarz me.  Mom getz little mad and then getz off me.  I eat nummy grassez.  Mom takz me to more nummy grassez.  I eat.  Nom, nom, nom.  Ladee comez and followz me while I walkz like a gud boy all zee way home.  Short 2 mile ride at a walk with a grass eating intermission, yep, what horse wouldn't like that?

Friday, November 25, 2011


The future of my current job is officially bleak.  While I am saddened by this I am also forced to think about what I can potentially do come January 1 to keep me busy and put money into my bank account.

Option 1: The unbelievable happens and my job gets an extension & life resumes as per the norm.
Option 2: I get my dream job out in Jackson, WY (I applied for a position out there last week on a whim.  Its 6-month temporary but involves necropsies of ungulates and seems to suggest that I would also be working from horseback.  Can you say "Liz's dream job"?!  Even if I would be working in the snow and cold...)
Option 3: I become a pro-patroller at Canaan and get paid to do what I've been training to do these past six months.  This would involve either car-pooling or finding a friend w/ a spare room [and dog friendly] so I wouldn't have to drive back and forth all the time since my car is a flop on gas in the winter.
Option 4: I explore options as a vet-tech.
Option 5: I volunteer and help out the local equine vet on her rounds as something to do to get me out of the house.  I'd learn lots, too.  And, no, I don't want to go to vet school.  The stress would kill me -  both in-school and work-world.  Being on-call constantly and working 50-80 hours/week wouldn't suit this chick.
Option 6: Go back to assisting a dog groomer/bather.
Option 7: Tutor.
Option 8: House-sit, baby-sit, pet-sit to rake in any and all potential cash.
Option 9: Exercise folks horses.  Though the economy is so pooey that folks probably don't have the cash to pay for this.  If my car were a little better on gas monetary reimbursement wouldn't be such an issue, but alas, my MPG sucks.

Options are good - very good.  And obviously I have multiple ways and places to volunteer to keep me busy.  Busy shouldn't be a problem.  But I need some cash-flow to continue to pay for my OSU courses && put away into savings.  Silly economy, can you fix yourself already?  Or, rather, silly politicians, can you quit blaming one another and just work on helping people - that is why you were elected, right?

Anyone have any other ideas for me?  I refuse to work in fast-food, Wal-Mart, etc.  If I'm going to work, I'm going to do something I love and enjoy.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Horsehair bracelets

I love horses.  I love crafts.  So why not combine the two?

Several of my favorite equine owning friends will have a sentimental gift to last the years.  Most bracelets only contain hair from one or maybe two horses.  One set (2) contains 4 different horses though!  I find those to be the prettiest.

These bracelets are simple - for now.  I have been practicing with hair + wire + turquoise/jade/etc. in addition to practicing a 5 stranded braid.  I've got a book on some of the SUPER DUPER complicated horsehair braiding, but hello, I barely have free-time as it is!  Maybe one day.  For now, these must suffice!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


At ski patrol training lately we talk a lot about tension vs. traction and we tend to use a lot more tension.  Traction is something we tend to only use for mid-shaft femur injuries, but tension can be used to realign the body or make an attempt to realign a bone or joint that is out of whack.  All of this talk about tension made me realize that for the past six months I've been really tense.  My muscles are tight and rarely relaxed enough for me to calm down 100%.

This. Must. Change.

One of the big triggers for me that made me realize the tension I've held in my body is my riding style of late.  (And by "of late"  I mean these past six months.)  It just doesn't feel as good as it used to.  Not as effortless.  I come away hurting.  Going back to riding Stan helped a lot.  Riding a balanced horse is very pleasant, but it still doesn't come with the ease it used to. (By the way, Orion is looking and feeling a lot better and has put on lots of weight!  His new mom is working with him using alternative and natural methods.  More on him here.)  

I rode Stan bareback the other night on a whim.  It made a big difference for me.  I even went so far as to buck-up and ride a few jumps bareback.  I impressed myself with that pursuit - I was seriously expecting to end up on the ground.  Boy was I surprised to find it was a lot easier for me to jump bareback than in a saddle.  I even went so far as to line him up for a jump and then drop the reins and extend my arms out on either side.  Success.  He launched himself a few times and I stayed on.  I wasn't as sore as I expected the following day.  The reason?  I was more relaxed riding bareback.  I managed to trust my abilities and ease into doing what I loved the way I used to instead of obsessing focusing on every little thing.

My healthier diet change has brought about many more dreams at night.  Luckily, no nightmares.  This has left me feeling mentally restless while my body does tend to be somewhat rested.  But now, for the past month-ish I wake up many mornings with a sore neck, tight jaw (that I sometimes can't open without a little massage), and more recently, headaches.  Waking up with a headache is the ultimate worst start to your day.  They're hard to move past.

Over the past couple days I've noticed how tight the muscles in my neck and jaw are and have practiced releasing and relaxing them.  That persistent little headache eases away a little each time.  Hmmm, maybe I should freaking chill out?  The job stability/grad school/real world worries have had me tense since the beginning.  I guess I thought I would ease into it and things would go away.  Errr, wrong.  I need to relax more than I'd thought about things.  Make an active effort.

I'm going to try to put yoga into my life a little more frequently.  Try to get myself on a schedule with it.  It will help me out in all the aspects of my active life (riding, skiing, etc.).  I'm exploring my options for which type of yoga I'd like to pursue, or maybe I will do Pilates?  I know riding books for both exist, but I want to figure out the best exercises - where best = most successful.

So here's where you, the reader, come in:
Have you tried yoga or Pilates for relaxation, riding, or both?
What do you find to be most successful?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gatsby Horse @ Auction Broker

I'd noticed this boy last week and posted him out on my Facebook and since reading Adventures in Colt Filly Starting's post today I feel I should throw out his information for others in my area who are close and may want him.  (As for me, I have not the money or the time this boy deserves at this point in my life.)  His name is Granville.  They are offering him up for $6,000.  I hope he finds the home he deserves, the horse market these days is very sad.  As a friend stated the other day, "I wish people could be more responsible and not breed everything that has a uterus or balls", crude, but so, so true.


11-15-6 - Bay Warmblood gelding blaze 3 white socks approx 16.1 hands and 6 or 7 years old w/t/c takes a jump branded back hip which looks like a RPSI/Rheinland brand.  Reportedly wound up here because the owner didn't pay board - we do not have the papers yet so placing without them.  They do have proof of purchase for horse. 
Video jumping first jump 2nd jump and eval of moving off leg
With the amount of inquiries we don't know how to offer him fairly to everyone.  He is an opportunity of a lifetime and a fraction of what they sell for.  They have decided to still allow our clients the opportunity to purchase him rather than sell him through their other outlets that deal in/specialize in higher priced horses. 
Just in received information that this horses sire is Gatsby and his name is Granville.
Color: blk/br Height: 17.0

Gatsby pedigree picture and info passed the 100 day stallion performance test in 2007 held at Paxton Farm in Batavia, OH. Gatsby is approved for breeding in the BWP, CWHBA, RPSI, and Old/NA & ISR. In what the judges called, \\The best class of stallions ever,\\ Gatsby scored a 9 for character, 8 for temperament, 8 for willingness to work and 8 for general jumping aptitude.
Available we have had many inquiries  Reinlands typically are very expensive jumping horses usually commanding a 20 - 50 thousand dollar price tag.
Info from last owner:
He had a passport and papers. He was awarded Premium foal. He is a super sweet boy. He was born in Oregon. Granville is 3/4 TB and 1/4 WB. He was purchased for $4,500 as a yearling. He was always best marketed for dressage or eventing. He is brave and willing. He comes from a long pedigree of dressage horses, his mom was also a dressage horse too.


Anger at the lack of consistency....  Legit need one of these stress balls right now.

That is all.  =)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Real-world ups and downs

Flipping back through blog entries for confirmation, its now officially later than it was the last time I got my extension to stay at this job longer.  The last extension came 7 weeks prior to what I thought would be my last day.  Now my new last day is a mere 6 weeks away and I have not been called in for those magic words that will mean I get to stay.  I'm getting nervous.  I like this job a lot.  I feel like I've made a big difference doing what I'm doing.  I'm learning so much.  I really don't know what I will do if it is over.

I'm looking and applying for other jobs here and there, not many, and not frequent, and I'm not going after them full-force.  But I'm trying, sadly trying, but trying.  Ideally I'd find something nearby so I could continue my on-the-hill ski patrol training at Canaan.

Time will tell.  

Had a brief moment of ohgodI'mgonnadie last night.  Town was a shiny slick of black ice and I sorely underestimated the whole "bridge ices before road" concept.  I was beyond fortunate that no one was near me at. all.  Crossed a bridge, car took out from under me (Toyota 4Runner, mind you), 180 in one direction, 180 in the other direction, 180 turned 360 in the first direction again, stall out facing oncoming traffic in. the. middle. of. an. intersection.  Oh boy, oh boy, can you say adrenaline rush?  Couldn't feel my legs for a moment due to it!  Thank goodness for distance between me and others and the ability of others to come to a halt where I failed to do so!!  Note to self: 4Runner does not ice skate well.

I was beginning to get a little down, first the thought of my job ending, and then a near wreck....  

But then I went to the riding club meeting last night I run into the Backcountry Horsemen rep. for our state.  Her first words to me were words I'd spoken to her back in October, "Take me, mold me".  She has set up an opportunity for me to go to NC/TN in Great Smoky Mountain National Park (a place I [surprisingly] have not been to) for a Leave No Trace Master Educator Course, a combination Leave No Trace Trainer & Pack horse course, and a LNT Pack course practicum - on the AT! For those who may be unaware, horses aren't allowed on the AT (Appalachian Trail in case you have forgotten from my previous posts).  But we are helping to maintain the trail so horses WILL be allowed for this special occasion. 

Big flippin' deal, y'all.  

It will encompass about 3 weeks of my June 2012.  I will emerge with a huge new set of skills I'm pretty psyched about, too.  Learning how to pack horses and travel in the backcountry with them is something I've dreamed about being able to do since I was really little.  I never realized how much work it entailed until I started putting a potential 3-day trip together in my head and on paper for this summer.  Obviously it never happened.  There were just too many details and it drove me mad that I wasn't comfortable with all of them. So I ix-nayed the idea.  Now I will learn, and I will be prepared in the future.  It will allow me a little more freedom to do some things in the future.

Life's back on the positive side now.

The real-positive side actually.  I was contacted by a rep. from Mountain Khakis this morning, a company whose products have gotten me through nearly all of my outdoors pursuits for the last 2½ years with flying colors, I stand by them all the way [seriously, CHECK THEM OUT], and she asked me if I would be interested in being the female Ambassador feature in their 2012 magazine.  Seriously?!  Wow.  Flattered, psyched, and more than happy to do it!  I'm working on gathering photos and a write-up currently.  I suppose I shall have to update y'all later when it comes out!

So my downs have been countered with two ups.  Karma?  Who knows, but I'm going to roll with it and keep hoping for some more good news about life and what it entails in the next few months.

Boots & Food

So the decision between the Sorels or the Muck boots...  I'm leaning toward the Sorels only because I don't know that I would have the opportunity to USE the Muck boots for what they are intended, not right NOW anyway.  Granted I may end up getting them anyway. 

The Sorels are rated to -25F and the Muck to -40F.  Its rare to get into negative temps in West Virginia; and rarely EVER below -10F....  So the Sorels are a more solid choice for that reason.  And I'd be able to wear the Sorels in more situations vs. the Muck would be better for work/riding only.  But the Mucks are 100% waterproof all the way up and the Sorels don't quite have that going for them.  And the Mucks would be great for all future work/potential grad school/etc.

Rawrrrr decisions!  But yeah; probably going to get the Sorels.

In other news, I have managed to eat super healthy lately thanks to some recipe ideas from Lee at Fit Foodie Finds.  I've been eating a great breakfast every morning consisting of rolled oats, oat bran, chia seeds, cinnamon, a banana and some almond butter on top.  Can you say delish!?  Lee has done the same stuff so if you're interested definitely hit her page up (recipe link at top) and look at her pictures of the food because she does a far better job that I would!  Haha.

I also found this great "detox" smoothie recipe on Pinterest that I've been diggin' on lately too.
  • 1¼ cup pineapple juice
  • handful of spinach leaves
  • juice from ½ lemon
  • ¼ tsp. grated ginger root

And my big favorite right now that I've only had the pleasure of indulging in once was the below:

An omelet with arugula and garlic on a bed of spinach and arugula with citrus dressing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Seriously my most recent obsession - why don't I live in Canada!?  We're coming up on an election year which always makes me swear up and down I'm moving to Canada, add Heartland on TV to that, and the fact that its flipping GORGEOUS up there, aaannnddd that mules are more popular up there and I'd kind of like to have one of them eventually in addition to my endurance horse...  Oh Canada, why must you be so difficult to obtain citizenship?  Can't I just promise to be a good steward of the land and learn your national anthem?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Pinterest has taken over my world - as I knew it would.  And its a good thing!  This giant do-it-yourself crafty movement that is going on right now is one of the few positives to this crappy economic situation.

Christmas gifts galore!  Seriously, I am a crafting-Christmas-master at this point in time.  Prior to Pinterest my craftiness was excluded to knitting hats mostly, with a few earring crafts on the side.  But now, NOW I am a craft-aholic.  Bring it crafty world of do-it-yourself!

For the bulk of my Christmas gifts I am creating horsehair bracelets for all of my equine friends in possession of their own horse - and perhaps some for those equine friends like myself, who don't have their own but are avid horsey people nonetheless.  I regret to say I do not currently have photos of said bracelets as I would like to complete most of them first.  Several of the recipients follow this blog, so if I'm going to post photos of said gifts I would like them to be in mass so no one can pick out theirs.  (That way its still kind of a surprise, right?  Most of you are aware this gift is happening anyway.)

Another gift for three lucky ladies that have guided my horse-care through my time with Orion, and who have provided me amazing equine opportunities over the last year will be receiving another something special - and another beautiful craft.  I don't know that they follow this blog, but whether they do or not I -sadly- will not be posting photos of these gifts until after they are given.  It is killing me to not post photos until later!  But this surprise I want to keep locked up for another month.  Lets just say they involve horses, wood, and transfer mediums.  ;-)

Other projects for myself and others that I am currently working on/have almost completed were inspired by the below:

Hurrah for the craftiness of life.

What crafts or Christmas ideas do you have planned??

PS - If you don't know what Pinterest is or would be interested in getting into it, comment saying so and I'll use the few invites I have to hook you up!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Throwback Thursday

I doubt this series will be a weekly thing - but when I need some filler and come across some sweet pictures I'll throw it in!

His neck is sooo skinny compared to his head!  Partially due to the cribbing surgery.  But despite it, *squeal* I love this photo and the memories it evokes!

Stan and I at our very first (hopefully not our only?) limited distance race - a 30 miler.  The two people that were very experienced endurance racers that were nice to me complimented me on Stan's condition time and time again over the 24 hour-ish period.  They both were beyond impressed with the time and work I'd put into training and a little astonished that I was only doing the 30 mile.  ...which makes me curious, if I'd done the 50 would I have been DQ'd?  I'd have had the opportunity to get another shoe put on...or get a boot before a trot-out.  Or would I have trotted out before getting that done and still been DQ'd?

I was so, so, so thankful for the praise of those two people.  Especially the gentleman that helped me out with a ton of things at base-camp.  His wife was nationally known for endurance - oh how I wish I could remember his name! - and therefore he knew his stuff.  He told me at the pre-race vet check how amazing Stan looked and moved, and how he could tell just from looking at him that I'd put a respectable and responsible amount of training into him to prepare him for this race.  And boy, had I!  March - August 11, 2007, 1 to 3 hours a day, 5 to 6 days a week!  Snow, rain, fog, heat, night, day.

The kind lady lended her support on the trail.  She was near me at the start.  As we spaced out and headed up the trail - after I'd lost my riding partner due to her horse throwing a bucking fit - the stranger-lady ended up very near me.  I forget how the conversation started, but it led in this direction:

Me: This is my first time, I'm not sure how to pace the race properly.
Kind lady: What kind of training have you done to prepare?
Me: Well, I was training on the originally planned-for course that got nixed due to endangered species stuff - so stuff just like this, rocky and steep and rolling, 5 or 6 days a week for the past 6 months.
Kind lady: Then go for it!  It sounds like you're really ready and can handle it, just listen to your horse!
Me: Thanks!  *giving Stan some more rein to let him strike off after the other front-runners*

I didn't see her again on the trail.

Oh, and for comparison, here's Stan now.

MAJOR difference!  Chunker.  Granted, he was 5 then (I think) and now he's 9.  So he's completely matured and filled out now, not to mention he's not getting the poo ridden out of him!  Oh, Stanley, you were so slim and chic five years ago!  Ah well, change can be good.

Monday, November 7, 2011

More jumping

The only editing I did was adding the title clip, text overlay, audio clip, and clipping out of all the slow transition parts.  The first clip were our first couple jumps after the warm-up.  The second clip are the last five or six takes.  The greater lighting quality for this video definitely shows my self-taught-ness; I'm somewhere along the learning curve, as is Stanley.  We're learning to read each other still.  The first two jumps in that second clip he had some giddy-up I wasn't ready for, as he'd been a gentleman prior.

These videos are my first rough editing attempts.  More to come I hope!  This little phone is pretty bomber!  I'm going to ask for a GoPro for Christmas - yeah, that's right whitewater paddlers, the equine world uses those babies, too!  [And I will subsequently use it for skiing & climbing amongst other stationary pursuits!]

The first song is a clip from Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum and the second song is Transmission94 by Bonobo for any who are interested.

And this is how we ended our ride, we're kinda broad in our interests. ;-)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Jumping Stanley!

**all media in this post compliments of MY PHONE!, no, seriously, the camera in this thing - and the microphone - are seriously wow-ing me!**

I'm pretty certain I've stated before how Stan dislikes ring work greatly...unless jumps are involved.  Thursday evening was only our second ride in a long while and he proved his point to me again!  [Only after being the spookiest horse EVER about every tiny thing prior to ring work; well, the first spook was warranted - a newspaper blowing down the street...a big one - but the other spooks, to noises and things he'd seen before were silly, he was just all amped up from the newspaper still.  Silly boy.  I told him how silly he was, too, so he knows.]

I need to make these stirrups shorter...but lack the tool to do so currently.

After opening the gate to the ring from his back (because he's a very good boy) I lugged out things sitting in the little announcers booth to create a lame-o jump.  Its the best I could do though!  I then figured before mounting I'd walk him through it so he could see it was okay, since in the past he's had a tendency to balk or slam to a halt.

He absolutely would not budge and would not walk over it.  I tried three times and then told him, "Fine, we'll do it how we always have done things, just get on and go for it."  And we did.  At a walk.  I walked him towards the X, about 7 inches, and he stopped at it for a second, then did a standing jump over it.  Hmm, I thought, well cool.  Did it at a trot a few times.  Excellent.  Time to move it up.

Alas, the disarray and sadness of this riding facility - the only outdoor 
one around here is even more awful looking on film.  

This was jump height #2.  About 18 inches (~0.45 m) - yes, metric conversions for those readers who have a real measuring system, unlike the US who demands to be difficult; can you sense my ire with our system?   Walked again to it for the first go.  Same response, a standing hippity hop over.  Excellent!  Good boy!  Trotted this jump 3 or 4 times and then decided to get real crazy and turned it into an oxer that came to about 20-22 inches (~0.5 - 0.55 m).  Trotted the oxer from the get-go.  No issues there either!  Good boy, Stan!

I even got super crazy and decided to take a video!  I apologize for the poor lighting, but hey, its a video of me riding, NOT something that happens EVER.  Perhaps I should ask for a small camcorder for Christmas....hmmm....

Constructive criticism is much appreciated for my riding.  I've not had but two jumping lessons and am mostly self-taught for everything else as I've not had a formal riding lesson for 9 - 10 years!

Seriously loving this horse more than ever.  He's such a good boy and is doing so well at all I'm asking him that is new and different from before.  Seriously thinking hard on a good place to build jumps to practice more of this - its SO FUN.

I can't BELIEVE this turned out so well from a CAMERA PHONE!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Riding Stan

When someone asks me what kind of horse I want my first response is typically “a tall one”.  This is usually followed by the asker saying, “Why?” and me responding with, “I just like tall horses”. 

After finally gaining a ride on Stan the other day, I know why I want a tall horse.  I’ve spent all my time since February riding horses that might reach 15hh – if they’re lucky –  and time riding ponies.  Riding Stan, who is a solid 15.3hh, and may even be 16hh, the other day was uh-mazing.  (I scored a hack on a thoroughbred mare a couple weeks back and was astonished at how her strides just ate up the ground, but tossed it aside as a thoroughbred thing.  Silly, Liz, its just the nature of a typical taller, longer legged horse.)  Stan’s trot was huge and flowing and better than I remembered.  It absolutely gobbled up the ground in front of us.  I have no difficulty realizing why he was so talented in the LD race we did years ago.

After conditioning Orion this summer and attempting to get him to pick up the pace and trot faster to make better time, I realized this past Sunday that it wasn’t that he wasn’t putting out effort; he just didn’t have the stride that Stan does.  I wasn’t accustomed to a horse with a shorter stride after years on Stan.  Stan barely puts out, and he’s eating up the ground.  Its AMAZING.

I guess I’m just a little addicted to the thrill of speed. ;-)  But not like I used to be though.  In five years and time of owning my own horse, I have learned a LOT.  I have made a lot of mistakes, but I’ve learned from all of them.  I’ve become a better horse person for all of it.

I could tell Stan was a little baffled by my new altered riding style and behavior towards him while riding.  Our ground interactions are very similar to the way they’ve always been, but riding?  Big difference.

Difference #1: All my tack is different.  New saddle, new saddle pad, new breast plate, different bit.  The girth and headstall are the same. 

I’ve self-taught myself a LOT about bits over the past months.  I used to just ride horses in whatever bit their owners deemed necessary – or not necessary in the stead of a hackamore or bitless bridle.  Having a horse of my own meant I had to start making decisions and learning though.  Looking into what I’d ridden Stan in for all those years I’ve discovered it was an Uxeter Kimberwicke with a port.  The information I could dig up on this bit revealed it to be a very harsh one in the hands of someone inexperienced, though multiple sources stated how it is often a bit chosen for small riders on large horses they may need more control over.  I feel this last reason is probably why it was the chosen bit I rode Stan in most often all those years.  Now I have him in either a simple stainless steel broken snaffle or a sweet iron French d-link.  He’s not half as responsive to the light pressure I’m used to giving him with these bits.  By the end of our ride though he was responding a bit better – but I still had to ask more than I am accustomed.

The Wintec saddle and Toklat breastplate probably don’t make a huge difference for him, but the saddle in particular does for me.  My beautiful, wonderful, amazing Crosby is really in disarray – something else I’ve learned over the past few months via the internet.  The flocking is pretty much shot, not giving poor Stan much padding against my bony butt all those years.  He never had back soreness though – which I would like to attribute to my riding ability a little bit since people have noted how centered I am through the years (another concept I didn’t get until recent months).  Mostly it probably just helped that I’m a featherweight and he’s a big boy.  No matter my riding ability, I’m more comfortable in my Wintec now.  And the Toklat breastplate, with its fuzziness (and awesome bright redness) is probably a twinge more comfy than the simple leather one of past.

Difference #2: I’m much more aware of my seat, my hands, and my communication to Stan.

Riding such an unbalanced horse – Orion – for most of the summer really screwed with my seat.  A lot.  People had noted previously how centered I rode.  Then I took a centered riding lesson on Orion, learned more about centered riding in general, and realized how poorly I was now riding in comparison to former days.  I was still leaps and bounds above beginner riders, but I was over-compensating for my horse’s poor balance and killing my form in the process.

I’ve noted since riding balanced horses as of late, how much more comfortable and improved my seat is.  How easy and instinctual it is for me to keep that imaginary line shoulder-elbow-hip-heel no matter the gait.  How posting is suddenly not this awkward dance between horse and I, but this magical ease of movement.  How with my seat alone I can really adjust how the horse moves beneath me.

I’m more aware of my hands.  Of contact or lack thereof.  The bulk of my horse-related upbringing involved western-style riding, but the English side of it all is something I have looked into and practiced lately.  I’m incorporating it all into the way I ride dependent upon my situation and I think its really aiding my communication with the horse better. 

Both my improved awareness of seat and hands helped Stan the other night.  (I’m now riding with blunt spurs instead of a crop as well which helps as the tiniest of nudges with my heel brings a greater response from him than the crop ever did – and I feel SO much more attune with this aid than the crop.)  The ride began with him being very hesitant and very resistant to the less harsh bit.  By the end though, through my seat especially, I had him calming back down from a canter (which eats up the ground even more awesome than the trot, oh. my. goodness! *squeal*) with 60% less effort than I’d had to put out at the beginning of the ride!

I still have SO much more to learn though about myself and about the horses I will ride in the future.  I’m more horse-obsessed than ever before though.  All this new knowledge that was left unturned under a rock somewhere pre-horse-ownership has sparked my love of all things equine so much stronger than before!  Aaaaah, its not healthy!  lol

What kind of horse do I really, really want though?  A leggy desert horse.  (Yes, I'm more than aware these horses don't reach outrageous heights; they have so many other attributes I'm fond of.)  You know, the “hot-headed” type.  Except that stereotype of being feisty is something I admire.  I mean…I’m a redhead I share the same stereotype, haha!  But seriously, as an experience horse person, I understand how to adequately care for and understand an Arab, and I really, really, admire and love how finely-tuned they are to the world around them.  Flighty and feisty?  Maybe, but that’s fine with me.  It will make me so much more attune to myself and my actions and communication.  And the bond these horses have with their owners is something more that I think is amazing.  One day in the next couple years I’ll find my Arab.  We’ll start slow and work our way to the top as our bond builds.  Definitely something to look forward to.

Maybe a bond like this redhead has with RB Cavalier (more here)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Meditative Driving

Lately I’ve done a lot of driving.  To Morgantown most weekends (90 minutes one way), to NJ and back a few weeks ago (6-7 hours one way), to and from another local place to ride (25 minutes one way), and back and forth to ski patrol training (35 minutes one way).  Except for ski patrol, I’m almost always by myself – well, Kenai and I. 

I used to really dread an oncoming trip in the car.  The long drive, the monotonous road, the dealing with crappy drivers who suck.  Not so much now.  I still get peeved when people suck at driving (i.e. not putting on their blinkers and just randomly slamming on their brakes at the last possible moment – or slowing, slowing, slowing, slowing, turning without indicating it), but overall I’m really happy to get out and drive.  It gives me time to myself.

The longest drive – to NJ – was made possible with audiobooks.  This was a first for me and I’m definitely hooked.  It made all that time in the car seem like NOTHING!  I definitely need to walk around a Barnes & Noble perusing for some more audiobook ideas soon!

Shorter drives I spend thinking or belting out all the lyrics I know to songs on the radio or one of many on my ipod.  Bless that little device, it keeps me sane.  And bless the poor dog who has to listen to me as I experiment with harmonies!

I mull over so many things in my head with nothing but Kenai (who sleeps most of the time) and the radio to keep me company.  I’m able to sort through things in my mind and make better sense of them; to organize my life; to arrange a to-do list; to sit and be content with how lucky I am and how many things are amazing in my life.  I never dreamed driving would be so meditative for me, but I’m glad it is.