Thursday, December 8, 2016

Haiku Farm Photo-Heavy Blog Hop

Aarene over at Haiku Farm started this blog hop; I always enjoy periodically publishing content like this for newish readers to learn more.

Here are the directions Aarene shared:

Answer the questions (below) on your own blog, and leave a link to that post in the comments here. In your post, invite readers to answer the questions on THEIR blogs, and link those blogs to yours AND to here. Let's see how far this can travel! Pictures!  Let's see lots of pictures of people and horses!

*  Introduce yourself! 

Cape May 2016-77
Holding a hatch year female northern harrier (my spirit bird), Cape May, October 2016

I'm Liz, a late-20-something West Virginian who pursues multiple passions avidly, horses being but one. (Add skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing, photography to round them out.) I am a biologist by trade, though I'm the kind of biologist who does more technical writing than fieldwork.

*  Introduce your horse(s)!

Their stats (age, breed, name, discipline) are in the right column, but...

October 2016

Griffin came to me in January of 2012 as a "project" (You can sell him!) / (You can learn from him!) / (If you hate him give him back to me!) from a friend who had rescued him from less than ideal circumstances the previous summer. Spoiler alert: I learned from him. I loved him. I kept him. I trained him from the ground up to do basically everything he does today. We're currently pursuing dressage more seriously with hopes to also pursue jumping.

October 2015

I brought Q home after a weekend cowboy clinic where she was lent to me. Someone had "left" her at the cowboy's farm and he was trying to sell her. She was due to go to auction 2 weeks after I rode her. He didn't really like her (and his daughters called her "that psycho/crazy horse". I ADORED her -- especially her canter. I worried about owning two horses, but ultimately gave in. She became my endurance horse completing her first LD about 2 months after I brought her home She's since gone on to complete many more rides, including her first 100 at the Old Dominion this summer. She's since suffered a suspensory tear and is now receiving a year off. She's improving though, so I hope that trend continues and we'll be back at it in 2018.

December 2016
(And yeah, he's a muddy mess, but I took this photo just for this post after coming up empty handed in my quest to find an older one in >1,200 photos from 10 years ago of this horse. In other news, yay for so many photos?)

I rode Stan during my high school/college years. I dipped my toes into the endurance swimming pool with him for the first time in 2007. From late 2011 - July 2016, I didn't ride Stan or even visit him. I thought of him often, wondered how he was doing, but dismissed the thoughts rather quickly because I knew he was in great hands with his owner. Well, color me shocked when his owner contacted me late July of this year to say he was "getting out of horses" and asked if I wanted Stan? Um. Yes! I hardly had to think about it. And now, my OG is back in my life. My main goal for him is to keep him fit and healthy. I'm riding him mostly for pleasure at this point and he's essentially on a part-time free lease to my sole lesson student (I used to have more but my horses decided they hated being lesson horses so I had to change things) until she gets her own horse in the spring.

*  What's your favorite horse sport?  Do you cross train in other activities?

2016 Old Dominion 100 June 2016

I have largely pursued endurance during my time as a competitive horseback rider. It fits my love of the trail, time alone with my horse, and riding for hours and hours. It also fits into my lifestyle of living in an area absent of arenas and trainers very well because trails to train on are plentiful. I've competed in rides of 25, 30, 50, 55, and 100 miles.

Griffin Dressage-12
Schooling dressage at home November 2016

I'm also pursuing dressage. I've wanted to get into this discipline since learning more about it a few years ago, but it isn't exactly easy for me to get lessons in dressage considering I have a minimum of a 2.5-hour drive (one-way) to be able to lesson with a trainer with any kind of merit. I have one lesson under my belt so far (a 4-hour one way drive) and have another one planned soon if the weather cooperates.

While totally new to dressage, I firmly believe that it is the backbone of all disciplines. Endurance horses with dressage backgrounds/cross training are infinitely more comfortable to ride and also seem to be more free of injury than those without. When I school jumps after warming up with dressage, I have a much better ride than I would without. Additionally, if I'm to have any hope of bringing Q back to endurance, she will absolutely HAVE to be balanced and evenly strong throughout her body (she is rather crooked at the moment) before she can go forward.

I am beginning my foray into this new world with Griffin, who is my perpetual Learn New Things Together partner (I'd never started a horse from the ground up until him). Griffin's insatiable need-to-please coupled with athleticism makes the learning endeavor fun. I hope to apply lessons I learn with him to Stan and then to Q (the problem child, or maybe it's because she's a mare) with time.

jumpinggriffin (14 of 20)
Schooling jumps at home Sept. 2016

I have always loved jumping and wanted to do it since I was a kid. However, showing has always intimidated the hell out of me until very recently. To this point, I am entirely self-taught with aid of copious Q&A sessions through sharing of emailed photo/video to Nicole. Griffin LOVES to jump. He's a natural at it, too. With any luck, I'll make it to some formal lessons sometime in 2017.

*  Who else in your family rides?

Tried to find the one photo I know I have of my brother on a horse, but no luck! He's also been on Griffin once before.

No one rides except me. I've had my brother and mom on a horse on occasion, but it was never anything lasting. Dad rode as a kid, I believe, but that didn't last either. I'm the crazy one.

*  What's your proudest equestrian accomplishment?

OD 100 finish line at 5:11a June 2016

Completing the Beast of the East for my first 100 mile endurance ride is hands down my proudest competitive accomplishment to date. It was a lofty goal to tackle - I'm really not sure why I decided to make such a crazy decision! But it went well and left me wanting more. More 100s, more OD trail, more miles and hours in the saddle.

January 2012 vs. October 2016

Beyond competitive accomplishments, I am insanely proud of Griffin. I have never trained a horse from zero to hero before him. He knew how to lead and would get on and off a trailer when he came to me. Nothing more. I've done everything with him and when I think back (and read back) to what things were like 4½ years ago, I am continually floored that he has become what he has. It's beyond my wildest dreams, for sure.

*  What was your lowest moment as a horse owner/rider?

Day 0 vs. Day 60 comparison of Q's suspensory

Most recently? Receiving the unexpected news that Q had a proximal hind limb suspensory injury. It wasn't at all what I anticipated as the outcome of our lameness evaluation and dealt me a really hard blow that took several weeks to grieve through and come to grips with. I haven't been so shocked by anything with my horses like that in a very long time. In writing and in most conversations with people, I exuded optimism, but it took a lot longer to get 110% on board mentally with that fa├žade.

*  What's the most important small thing you ever learned in a lesson?

Screenshot 2016-09-03 11.13.18
Learning from Stephen Birchall in Maryland, August 2016

With the fact in mind that I've only one major lesson with a professional (at the end of August to boot), I've got a small library to work from. But I think the small tidbit that Stephen told me at the very end of our lesson about Griffin's embouchure needing to strengthen with the rest of him takes the cake. It doesn't shock me to learn that a horse would need to strengthen those muscles, but I'd just never thought about it before. Griffin immediately went to rub the corners of his mouth on his leg at the end of the lesson which made Stephen note it to me. *ping* A lightbulb flashed to life above my head. Makes total sense! And makes me appreciate even more why dressage is a slow, steady process of learning and not something that one can develop overnight.

*  Do you have any riding rituals or superstitions?

Stan and I at our only show, August 2006

Not really. I've been wearing certain bracelets more this year made of green aventurine and howlite most often. I'm not a very superstitious or ritualistic person beyond making sure my mental checklist of tack and gear is complete.

*  What are your short term goals for yourself/your horse?

10032016_Griffin Jumping (9 of 10)
Schooling jumps at home October 2016

With Griffin: Compete in dressage by the end of 2017. I'd also love to get a formal jumping lesson in 2017.

With Q: Get her healed and back under saddle during the last half of 2017.

With Stan: Keep him healthy and fit. If time/budget allow, do an LD on him in 2017.
Myself sans horse: Volunteer at a dressage and/or jumping and/or eventing competition this year be it for the event itself or as a groom for a friend.

*  Long term goals?

RBTR 50 August 2015
More 50s and 100s (I hope with Q!) // Pursue dressage through a few levels with Griffin. I'd also love to compete in the jumpers with him. If those two things go well individually and I can get some practice on a XC course, I'd love to eventually pursue eventing with him. I think he would LOVE it. My limited access to resources to lesson and practice will determine the pace of this goal. // Keep Stan fit and healthy. If the stars aligned, I'd love to do a 50 on him.

*  If time and money were no object, what is your dream equestrian vacation?

Pose 5 (2)
One of my senior pictures from April 2007

I've had a goal for years to take a trip to Mongolia to ride horses (and camels). I'd also love to take a riding safari in Africa. I have a friend in Patagonia who runs a tourism business that features horses going into the backcountry; I foster a dream of volunteering my medical, equestrian, and language skills to work for them for a few weeks. It would help them and be a great trip for me! I have also dreamed long and hard (and even planned routes) about riding coast to coast in the US like Linny Kenney did on Sojourner.

*  What kind of horse activities were you doing 10 years ago?

An eerie and not planned resemblance to the above photo! August 2006

Ten years ago I was riding Stan almost exclusively. I would ride him several times a week and mostly just gallop around the trails spending as much time riding as I could. During the later half of winter 2007, I began conditioning Stan for my first foray into the endurance world.

*  What kind of horse activities do you think you'll be doing 10 years from now?

First check at the OD 100 June 2016

Endurance, I sincerely hope. I also hope I'll still be involved in dressage and jumping. And I really hope to be bringing along another young horse from the ground up.

*  What is the quirk about your horse that you like most?

Or, you know, he's just sometimes IN the tack room. December 2016

Griffin: His need to watch me when I'm in the tack room. I make a point of tying him nearest to the door with just enough slack so he can peak around and watch me. He loves to keep an eye on me and be near me.

Q napping while cars line up behind us waiting for the parade to pass, not pictured are about a dozen firetrucks in front of us
sirens blaring, lights flashing, people running amok, July 2012

Q: Um. The mare doesn't really have quirks. She's been a tough nut to crack so far as her personality goes. She's got a lot of issues from the cowboy who trained her before I got her, but she is amazingly level-headed in situations she's experienced with me alone (read: parades with loud firetrucks, flashing lights, people running amok, balloons, etc.). So I really like that while a fern or large leaf may spook the hell out of her, other scarier things only illicit an ear flick.

September 2010

Stan: Gah, I can't even think of quirks about him. He's so easy going! I suppose I like that he's easy to love. My mother adores him, Lauren adores him, and Nicole fell quickly for him when she rode him over Thanksgiving.


  1. A clean copy of the questions for those who want to join!

    * Introduce yourself!

    * Introduce your horse(s)!

    * What's your favorite horse sport? Do you cross train in other activities?

    * Who else in your family rides?

    * What's your proudest equestrian accomplishment?

    * What was your lowest moment as a horse owner/rider?

    * What's the most important small thing you ever learned in a lesson?

    * Do you have any riding rituals or superstitions?

    * What are your short term goals for yourself/your horse?

    * Long term goals?

    * If time and money were no object, what is your dream equestrian vacation?

    * What kind of horse activities were you doing 10 years ago?

    * What kind of horse activities do you think you'll be doing 10 years from now?

    * What is the quirk about your horse that you like most

  2. I really enjoy learning new tidbits about bloggers whenever they do things like this! ☺

  3. Even though I know a lot of this, I still loved this blog hop! The photos you chose are excellent :)

  4. Love all the pictures, you have such a bright and contagious smile (: Totally going to do this blog hop also!

  5. I love all the back stories! Thanks for hopping with us.

  6. Love this! I hope you see all your goals become reality.

  7. <3 <3 <3

    And seriously hope we see you again soon!!

  8. I'm in awe that you are working with three horses and work and give lessons and do so many other things!