Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Location, Location, Location

Yet another blog hop -- Seems to be the season for blog hops. As a person who loves maps and learning more about the inner workings of other places, I had to get involved with this one!

My Area

West Virginia

Randolph County, West Virginia

You can see how heavily forested the state and the region are and how dense the forest is in my area especially

The Tygart Valley runs north-south and is where most of the population is concentrate; I'm in the northern/northeastern part of it trending into the green area. The eastern part of the county contains portions of the Monongahela National Forest. In the county to the north, Tucker County, in the dense green you can see the topography of the Blackwater Canyon. The densest green area to the east on the WV-VA line is where the Old Dominion 100 course is.

West Virginia is 79% forested. While the state is known for industries such as coal and timber and, more recently, oil and gas from the Marcellus Shale, we are slowly trending in the direction of green energy and eco-tourism. It's a beautiful place to live that is largely not like the stereotypes depicted so often in movies, television shows, and on the media.

Cost of Keeping Horses

  • Trim - $30-45 depending on your practitioner
  • Shoes - $80-120 for four shoes depending on the farrier
  • Pasture board - $45-250 depending on whether you know someone with land or it's a legit "facility" (of which there are very few, most people own or lease their own property and don't board)
  • Full board - $250-350
  • Full training board - $400-1000 depending on the trainer (all western-focused)
  • Hay (round bale) - $40-60 depending on delivery options, seller, and type
  • Hay (square bale) - $4-8 depending on quality and delivery options


To be completely frank? It sucks. Haha. You've got to have good humor about it or you won't survive.

In 2006, we were on the Farmer's Almanac list for Worst Weather.

I tried for years to move away (applied to over 40 different jobs in an ~18 month period, none in WV), but it just didn't work out that way. I'm really happy now and I'm accustomed to the weather so I make the best of it.

From usclimatedata.com
We have four distinct seasons and, by and large, the warmer temperatures are more prevalent than cold. Winters are typically very snowy (though they do seem to arrive later and depart earlier every year; for those bitching that this is total farce, just talk to a ski resort employee! Resorts used to open in mid-November and go through mid-April, now it's mid-late December through early-March) with the occasional arctic blast, summers are hot and humid, and fall and spring are topsy turvy at best with temperatures often fluctuating 30-40°F in a single day between morning/evening and the afternoon and rain/snow showers intermittent throughout. Humidity is lowest during fall and spring though, which is a wonderous thing.

Four seasons in Canaan Valley State Park
Photos my own.

Due to the topography (the valley and the Allegheny front), our spring, summer, and fall often have mornings thick with fog that burns off between 10a-noon depending on the day. Rain is prevalent and frequent during most months of the year, but is greatest in spring and summer. In Summer 2015, it rained (in some capacity) for 37 straight days. (How fun.)

Despite it all, the state is absolutely gorgeous 99% of the time. You've seen my photos through the years that prove this statement.

Riding Demographic

Western disciplines reign. The large majority of my local friends and the riding club I'm a member of ride western and practice cutting, penning, or backcountry packing/travel with a few barrel racers thrown in for good measure. There are a couple endurance riders, too, but nearly zero English folks. I'm always the weird one riding in my "little" saddle with my "tight pants" and "fancy boots" and a helmet.

Other Notes

Public land to trail ride and condition for endurance on is PRIMO. This state is very odd in that fact. I LOVE living so close to opportunities like that. I ride largely on private land from the barn; I can ride out from the barn and have access to 20 miles of trail with lots of elevation change that's mine-all-mine to train on during the non-hunting season. The catch is that I surrender it for ~2 months of the year to the hunters. Not a bad deal at all.

Dolly Sods looking out over Canaan Valley <3

This area is also absolutely GORGEOUS. I'm an hour trailer ride from Canaan Valley, Dolly Sods, the Seneca-Spruce Knob Recreation area, and other areas on the Monongahela Nat'l Forest. For endurance training, I really couldn't ask for anything better. It's an absolute mecca of conditioning possibilities.

Frustrating Issues

The small (nonexistent) availability of trainers and facilities to practice the things I'm interested in (dressage/jumping) is absolutely frustrating. Additionally, not having anyone nearby to ride with who is knowledgeable of what I'd like to pursue is also frustrating. I don't have "eyes on the ground" to help me learn basically ever. I'm forced to video with a tripod or beg friends to come photograph so I can analyze later. Makes it really hard to develop a feel for things in dressage and correcting positional issues and getting the timing of things perfect with jumping is much trickier. It's really quite remarkable I find any success at all in these disciplines when you consider how much time I spend alone.

jumpinggriffin (14 of 20)
Rare photo day!

For the lessons I do pursue, I'm currently trailering ~4-hours one-way. I want to explore other options an hour closer, but it's hard to commit to "trainer shopping" for someone who will be a good fit for both Griffin and I when I have to commit a minimum of 6 hours of my day to commuting to do so!

Also frustrating is the lack of equine-focused business. I have a Tractor Supply Co. and a Southern States for "tack shops" and only one vet to choose from. While I generally shop online and I do enjoy my vet, sometimes it wouldn't hurt to be able to shop around a little for items and answers. Getting Griffin outfitted with a jumping saddle in the next 6 months is more difficult when I can't test fit for either of us. And only one vet facility means I'm limited to what they can offer for services (which is an awful lot for a small area like this!) and appointment time slots (and they're insanely busy because of the large area they service). Also, I really wish an equine chiropractic or acupuncture practitioner were closer.

Photo by Becky Pearman; used with purchase

However, I'm a multi-passion person. While this area isn't the greatest for dressage/jumping training opportunities, it is absolutely amazing for endurance training, rock climbing, mountain biking, and skiing. I love that I don't have to travel very far to be able to have primo access to some of the best climbing and mountain biking in the country! Additionally, it is incredibly cheap to live here which allows me money in my budget to spend on travel (horse and non-horse) and competitive horse pursuits out of state. I love that I have so many options to fulfill my passions here, even if I have to travel a little for some of them.


  1. Your weather and description sounds like here! Carmen came from Virginia and I loved how beautiful it was. I really want to go back and explore the area.

    1. Holler if you're even back this way. Lots of WV and VA bloggers to show you around =)

  2. i always love all your gorgeous photos. and i totally hear you on the frustration in not having many opportunities for training nearby. it's still damn impressive what you've managed to accomplish on your own tho!! fingers crossed things work out this weekend!!!

    1. This weekend is so on the rocks!! I really want to come, but I really don't want to risk getting stuck somewhere with the trailer and Griffin! Looks easy to come over...but when I'm coming home is the huge ??? right now as there are 1 to 3 inches of snow and ice predicted for the worst part of my drive that happens 3 hours in... I'll decide tomorrow!

  3. Plus traveling for trainers means you get to see meeeeeeeee! ;)

    <3 WV. Totally taking advantage of skiing this year!!

    1. I DO get to see you haha. And yes, please come ski.

  4. The differences between northern Virginia and WV are striking! We're so close and yet so different! I really feel for you on your search for a trainer - it's tough enough when there are a lot of choices but I can't even imagine having to go so far.

    1. C'est la vie for me. I'm trying to do my best to really focus on the homework I"m given when I can get lessons! I just wish I had local eyes on the ground that knew more. Hopefully will fix that for dressage in the spring!

  5. I taught at a summer camp in West Virginia and I found the area terrifying. I was always convinced I was one flat tire away from a The Hills Have Eyes sort of situation. I'm sure your part of the state is better though. I love how pretty it is where you are and the trail access is amazing.

    1. I've literally been chuckling out loud over this comment for going on three minutes. I lived a jaded lifestyle of no flat tires until very recently. Now I seem to get them all of the time! I now drive with an air compressor in the car that I can plug in and fill up my tires at will. I also have a full size spare on the 4Runner. No room for one in the Subaru or I'd have one there, too!

      The southern coalfields are definitely kind of terrifying. It is a different world down there. Beyond that, the state is pretty freaking friendly...as long as you're not in a car with government plates! My coworkers have had a number of rude things yelled at them while in fleet vehicles.

  6. Oh, man, I so feel you on the beautiful and affordable location but fewer local resources problem -- although you're vastly more remote than where i'be landed (west and north of the house you saw)! Totally agree that it's a generally good tradeoff, though.

    1. The whole John Muir bit about the mountains calling...I feel that more and more as I get older. I don't think I could handle being far from them =)

  7. I find it so incredible that you make do with so little resources! I can't imagine driving HOURS just for a lesson.

  8. Your home is even more gorgeous in person and I am jealous of the trail access you have. I'd trade easy access to trainers for not having to trailer an hour to ride on a trail any day.

    You really do have to embrace winter to survive with any sort of happiness. When we lived up north we snowshoed and went tubing to enjoy it. I was horrible at skiing although it was enjoyable. Once Wyatt is a little older we will have to come up and introduce him to snow and all the fun it can bring.

    1. Ski patrol has made winters WAY more enjoyable and bearable. I'm so sad we've had so many mild winters since I joined patrol.