Thursday, March 14, 2019

An Annual Ski Haiku Story

Heading out alone
Without plans or direction
I climbed the mountain

Left, right, left, right, left
Gliding with steady rhythm
I traveled along

My thoughts were my own
I found calm in the forest
Observing the trees

I reached the first ski shelter
And enjoyed "mountain water"


I sat for a time
Sipping, thinking, enjoying

I put my skis on
And began climbing again
Still without a plan

When I reached Roundtop
Snow began falling anew
I smiled as I watched


I snapped some photos
Observing distant figures
Emerging from snow

Adam and Paul, friends
Descending from the mountain
I called a greeting

As I had no plan
I opted to follow them
Back down the mountain

We zipped down the trail
Whooping and hollering joy
As we made our turns

Back at the shelter
We greeted many more friends!
A pleasant surprise

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Chatting and smiling,
We discussed where to ski next.
Off to the orchard!

Across the mountain,
Over a creek, through the woods
We emerged up high

Powder everywhere
It was completely untouched
Gleeful, we climbed on

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Upward and upward
To the top of the drift line
Smiling skiers climbed

Then, one at a time
They each enjoyed powder turns
Smiling all the while

I captured their joy
Moments of raw happiness
Preserved in photos

20190304 Dog and WG Snow Day_14520190304 Dog and WG Snow Day_12220190304 Dog and WG Snow Day_10420190304 Dog and WG Snow Day_10920190304 Dog and WG Snow Day_12720190304 Dog and WG Snow Day_13420190304 Dog and WG Snow Day_144

The sun descended
And the skiers followed suit
Smiles on every face

Drinks and snacks were shared
As we reflected fondly 
On each perfect turn

While some continued
Back up the mountain for more
I bid them adieu

Left, right, left, right, left
Gliding with steady rhythm
I traveled back home

A night without plans
Became just what I needed
Funny how that works

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Dreams Become Reality: Part III - Design Modifications

Because what's a plan without changes?! I fully expected there to be changes throughout this process and I'm sure there will be more. I'm having a blast with the entire process though, so working through these things has been been enjoyable for me.

Roof Modification

A big thank you to everyone who commented on the last post! I enjoyed the conversation generated from it all.

Coincidentally, one of the design points that was commented on the most - roof runoff to the trough & potential toxicity of the roof runoff - changed within a few days of publishing the post.

Dave has been crunching numbers and sketching different design options all this time and asked me one morning, "Are you set on having a roof to match the house?"

Without hesitation, I replied, "Absolutely not! Why? What are you thinking?"

"Well, would metal be okay?"

"Hell yes. You'd originally noted that it would be a lot more expensive. That's the only reason I gave up on it."

"Well, when you look at the number of trusses necessary for shingles vs. metal and you think about the ease of installing the metal panels vs. the shingles and then consider the life of the metal over the shingles, I think metal is going to be the way to go. I've still got to look at a couple things, but I'm pretty sure it won't alter your budget more than $1k."

"Sweet! Metal it is. Pick whatever color you think will look best."

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Looking toward the house from the far corner of the property. Can't wait to repeat this shot next year once the barn is in.

Ah, the joys of having a contractor for a husband! And the fortune of knowing his opinions about colors for this barn (and most structures) are very in-line with my own likes/preferences. In fact, other than requesting that the trim be a contrasting color to the rest of the structure, I've given him full control of selecting the colors for the whole thing. I'm kind of excited about the surprise of it all.

Fence Modification

The second change that has come up is for the fencing. Originally, I'd planned for hi-tensile electric to be installed by a professional crew. They prefer to install uncoated wire and the cost of having them install coated wire was exorbitant, which was why I left it out of the plan. I recognize the pros and cons of coated vs. uncoated, but was comfortable with my decision to go with the uncoated because my horses have lived issue-free in fields with uncoated wire for their whole lives. It's just what is common around here. With limited options to board a horse, you take what you can get. 🤷

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The barn will be where the center of the photo is in a few months!

While there is still a possibility for more changes so far as who will be doing the installation, the new and current plan allows me to upgrade to coated wire with some pretty intense cost-savings! I'm very excited about this development. As long as my HOA doesn't nix it, things should be good and I'll have an electric fence with brown coated wire.

Location of the Barn and Dry Lot

A few nights ago, the excavator was able to come out for an updated site visit with Dave and I ...yet another snow-covered site visit. D'oh! But he has so much expertise that I wasn't very concerned about the snowfall causing difficulties.

We marched down to where I foresee building the barn being, which involves most of the earth work. I told him that I was willing to part with my big beautiful beech tree to make site prep easier, something he'd asked about during our first meeting. It's a beautiful tree, but it has some early signs of beech bark disease and will die one day because of it. He nodded along and said he was surprised it didn't look worse, as most trees in the area that size have succumbed to the disease in more dramatic ways already.

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My pretty beech tree

I also noted that I had changed the layout of the barn by 90° since his last visit in the fall. The center aisle would now be perpendicular to the road bench instead of parallel. This would mean more difficulty sloping the land to allow access to the big double doors which caused the excavator to groan a little.

He asked if there was any way to turn it back. I noted that I really preferred to keep it as it was to help protect the horses/stall openings from the weather. I was aware it wouldn't be ideal to have to do the earth moving to make it this way, but it benefits the horses so much more.

The excavator calmly pointed out how much more earthwork would be involved and the whys and hows that made it trickier, more expensive, and less ideal to achieve my vision. Dave and I nodded along, grateful for his guidance and expertise.

"That makes sense," I agreed, "So, without totally blowing my budget out of this realm, do you have any recommendations for how we can do it and keep the aisle and overhang in such a way to protect from weather?"

He stepped back, thought a moment, and replied, "Well, how do you feel about moving the structure up the slope into the field a little bit? You'll lose a little pasture by doing this, but it will be a lot easier to do. You'll probably even save some money by doing it this way and will be able to leave that beech you like so much."

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On the opposite side of the property - what will be a natural XC jump!
The tree survived a past trauma and now grows horizontal before shooting back upward.
It's larger than it appears here and I can't wait to clear out the landing and approach.

I thought about this for a few moments. I was hesitant because I really wanted to preserve as much pasture as possible!

Observing my wheels turning, the excavator proceeded to explain where the downslope side of the building would be in relation to the current surroundings.

I listened, still thinking, and walked to the point he indicated for where the downslope edge of the building would sit. "Okay, I'm going to walk into the field. Tell me to stop when I reach what you envision the upslope edge of the building to be." I knew the dimensions of my building, as did he, but estimating how far to walk in relation to the current slope of the land while trying to also visualize it becoming a flat slope (Pythagorean theorem & trigonometry, anyone?) wasn't as obvious to me as I knew it would be to him because he does it for a living.

I walked uphill until he told me to stop, and then turned around where I was, trying to get a feel for how the building would look on the landscape and how much pasture I'd be giving up.

The excavator noted how the dry lot would line up in relation to the barn and pointed out how the earth removed for the barn could be used to level out the dry lot area. I nodded along, noting to myself how the change wasn't that significant and that it wouldn't result in too much pasture being given up in the grand scheme of things.

"Okay," I finally agreed, "This change works for me." He smiled.

We continued to discuss construction of the French drain and the dry lot and what I should put in my submissions to the HOA's architectural committee. Overall, it sounds like the slight change in the layout will only make things easier and possibly cheaper. Definite wins.

20190310 Starlight Lane Farm layout
Keep in mind the trees "in the field" are actually just shadows. And the French drain will pipe the water further away, but the
majority of the excavation will be as above. The pipes won't require as much impact past that point.

Oh, and uh, I guess I have a farm name? It helps that the road the farm is on has such a pretty name. I'd wanted to make the
name something with "starlight" because our views up here on a clear night are absolutely unrivaled. I keep referring to it as
Starlight Lane Farm though, and it's sticking.

Dave asked for the excavator's opinion on things to do with the trees that would still need to be cut, sharing that he'd been having trouble finding boards of the correct thickness to line the stalls with. The excavator grinned and said he had a portable mill and would be happy to mill them on site for us for $0.55/board foot.

Dave looked at me, I looked at him, and we grinned. The boards won't be completely cured as is the preference, but for lining the interior of the stalls and the hay storage area that little bit of shrinking  won't make a big difference.

It thrills me to no end to be able to use some of the trees we cut within the structure itself! Cherry and maple-lined stalls? Don't mind if I do! (Worry not, I already talked to my vet to guarantee that cherry heartwood isn't toxic to horses like the leaves/fruits/stems/pits. The maple is all Acer saccharum (sugar), which doesn't have the toxic properties of it's cousin A. rubrum (red) it seems.)

I doubt the uncured wood will work well in the tack room to save some dollars there, but either way, Dave plans to finish it with lovely wood floors and walls thanks to some leftover material he has from building the house 10 years ago! I can't wait to add splashes of color to that space with all of my tack and horse-related art. Eee!

If the schedule holds, we'll break ground on everything at the end of May. So stay tuned for future updates!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Winter Riding Compendium

Winter is such a hard time to keep the blog updated with our riding goings-on. It is such a hit-or-miss time that is complicated by 6-day work weeks (ski patrol + normal job), turbulent weather, sickness, short daylight hours, and - new this year! - abscesses.

I love to include photos when blog, but sadly this time of year is generally not very photographic as far as riding goes due to: the drudgery of most of the workouts (very basic exercises), the darkness that consumes those workouts due to complete lack of an indoor, and very dirty horses that live outside 24/7 with zero access to a warm-water washrack.

Nonetheless, we HAVE been riding. I've documented those rides in writing in my day-planner, noting time, mileage, and anything else memorable. In a perfect world, I'd like to have Q legged up for a 50 in the middle of April. But considering the complications listed above, it isn't easy!  However, with longer days firmly in the present and DST coming up on March 10 (huzzah!), the future is bright (literally and figuratively) for more riding.

So, to sum up what's been happening in the world of my horses and riding the past three months, I give you my training notes and monthly summaries.

December (12 rides; 4 hours, 47 minutes)

Dec 2018 rides

Q - Following the lesson with Griffin on the 5th, much of the month was spent practicing homework. We successfully learned turns on the haunches, and Q excelled at them! She learned them more quickly than Griffin by a long shot. Additionally, we put in a lot of long, slow hours in the back field climbing the hill again, and again, and again. The ground was wet throughout the month (not a surprise) so marching up and down that hill was a great way to pass the time in a way that benefited her body without worrying about bad footing.

Riding off into the light

Despite the footing and the meager amount of riding, I am still so pleased with the progress Q made this month. All of these small rides are really adding up to build her confidence and trust which makes a world of difference in our relationship. She nickers upon seeing me and meets me before Griffin does at least half the time - something I never would have imagined happening! It's such a good feeling to have this improved relationship with her.

Grif - The lesson was such a great start to the month. We worked on lesson homework all month with the addition of lots of hill climbing. It was very basic work, but it really helped him to begin re-establishing the topline he lost during the late summer/autumn months. His TOH improved greatly, but still lacks the ease that Q can execute it. Regardless, I am grateful to finally HAVE a semblance of TOH on this horse as it was the most basic of things we struggled with for so long. The curse of not having an instructor and eyes on the ground to help me work through things!

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A new-to-us teal pad, thanks to Austen!

Stan - Living the cushy semi-retirement life through the winter, this guy only had to suffer two rides in December. He helped me exercise the dogs and generally just enjoy life.

It's a hard life being a pasture puff, just ask Stan.

His weight was okay, though not as plump as I'd like to see him this early in winter considering how much hay he usually eats. Unfortunately, returning after a summer away did not guarantee he kept his higher status in the herd. In December, especially, he was chased off the hay more than I'd like. Fortunately though, things have seemed to balance out as the season has gone on and he's looking lots better.

January (20 rides; 13 hours, 47 minutes)

Jan 2019 rides

Q - Lots of ponying happened this month as a way to get work in while making the most of the short daylight I have after work. Something is far better than nothing so far as workouts go during the winter! Bonus, we fit in one 12-mile rail trail ride where she led for more than half of the ride.

She was very impatient once we turned for home and became very rushy and then spooky over nothing because I wouldn't acquiesce to her requests to race home. We definitely need some solo miles to work through this.

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Proof that my horses have been clean some this winter.

Overall, I was really pleased with this little horse this month. The ride on the 28th, following several rides that we practiced homework from the January was pivotal. Q was super fussy and anxious the whole time, but she still tried her heart out to listen to what I wanted. There was a lot of bit clanking as she thought about what I was asking. We had some good lateral work at the walk, which worked just as I always dreamed it would by keeping her fussy mind busy focusing on me. This prevented her from spooking or doing other stupid evasion tactics that are not enjoyable to ride through. I'm very hopeful that as we continue to practice and hone her responsiveness to my seat and leg, and her strength and coordination with lateral work improve, I will be able to prevent huge blow ups on trail when she becomes nervous by keeping her mind focused on me/the work.

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Celebrated his "gotcha" day at the end of January! He's been in my life since 2012.

Grif - So many hills, and so much homework practice! His topline and overall body condition continued to improve.

At our lesson, I ended up only riding for the first little bit before handing over the reins to LC. It was wonderful to see her work him. I learned so much by watching her, listening to her explanations, and asking clarifying questions of my own. He was a little bit confused at first, but quickly caught on to what she was asking, further proving to me that I am the weak link - which I very strongly suspected and was not the least bit surprised by! In fact, it was really exciting to see him move so well for her because it means if I can fix myself (so much easier without the whole spoken language barrier bit lol), then he will improve.

Since that lesson, I have modified the position of my lower leg a little bit and practiced all of the other homework LC gave me. Griffin and I both are doing so much better.

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Those ribs are officially out of sight now. 

Stan - Just one ride this month to get the dogs out and about for a good evening of exercise. He was very amenable to everything, though very pokey and lazy unless I prodded him forward with lots of enthusiasm. I can't be too upset about this though as it's what makes him such a perfect horse for friends to enjoy.

February (8 rides, 6 hours, 40 minutes)


Q - This was definitely the hardest month so far for riding of any kind. I feel like a lot of the progress I made with Q (and Grif) was setback. I was sick on and off from the end of January through the middle of February three separate times. Couple that with wet weather that prevents crossing the stream to the high pasture to fetch the horses unless you're in hip waders, and it was really a bum month for riding.

Free lunging because it was windy AF

Fortunately though, the final week of February granted us lots of sunshine and NO precipitation. Praise be. I forgot what any semblance of dry ground was like. I'm made up for lost time by getting out more frequently in the longer evening hours.

The biggest wins to date have been our two most recent rides incorporating the cavaletti. She has a tendency to be so very worried they might grab her legs that she always rushes and flings herself over/across them. On the first day, I talked to her and reassured her and praised her endlessly as we walked back and forth over one set to a ground pole. Within a shorter time than I imagined, she sighed and released all of the tension from her body. She was still a bit looky-loo about the surrounding environment but without the tension. She walked over the pole like it wasn't even there and then tackled the 18" high setting with just as much relaxation. The next ride, she wasn't concerned at all. Huge win!

Werkin' it.

Grif - The end of January and the first week+ of February were a down period for Griffin due to an abscess. Ironically, a barnmate's horse had an abscess that lasted about the same amount of time in the same hoof, immediately preceding Griffin's. I monitored the hoof and just waited it out, & by the second week we were back in business.

In general, Grif has been a lazy ass this month. I think it is a combination of warm weather days with his winter coat and being bored with the work we are doing. In years leading up to this, we had a lot more variety in our lives with access to lots of trails and jumps. Until we return to Canaan, we don't really have trails and I only brought my cavaletti and some ground poles down to Elkins because it is such a chore to transport all the jump standards and the XC ramps.

All the same, his strength is building and his body is showing that off little by little. I feel really good about the progress we have made, even if I have had to carry a whip on more rides to encourage his sluggish butt along.

View from the top of the hill I've climbed so many times this winter.

Stan - Just one ride again this month. He was eager at first to have my full attentions - until I started tacking him up! Then his body language was quite indignant toward my ministrations. How dare I deign to do anything more than give him his daily grain ration and release him back to the field?! Tough titty, Stan.

We did a few circuits of the very small trail loop on the property and even did some work over my 18" cavaletti. In true Stanley fashion, he balked at each cavaletti the first time I asked - something he's done since he was 5 years old whenever I want to jump him. Once he gets it out of his system, he's much more willing though, and we proceeded to trot and canter over the cavaletti several times. I had a huge smile plastered across my face as always from riding him.

Mugging me for treats last Wednesday night. 

The only other Staniel-happening of note this month was his first choke. It did resolve on its own after 20-25 minutes but, ugh. It was stressful. I was grateful to have my vet to text with throughout because it was so different from what I'm used to. Q and Grif have had mild chokes many times. They always resolve on their own after a few short minutes, and I feed the sloppiest fucking mashes ever to help prevent it. Stan, in a hold-my-beer fit of glory, managed to choke on a super sloppy mash because he attempted to bolt it down. He developed this bolting habit with his food last fall when he was in with a herd of 20 horses for a month (ugh) and had to compete a little bit for food (double ugh).

It sucked to watch him struggle through it because he was so uncomfortable and not stoic about it. He paced and paced and fussed and fussed, and every minute or so his neck would spasm and contract in the worst way. His eyes screamed pain and fear with each spasm. Finally though, right as I was about to have the vet out instead of on stand-by, it passed. He gave me a cold shoulder as if I had caused this horrible thing, then promptly cocked a hind leg and took a nap. Fortunately, he seems to have 'made himself a memory' from it as he hasn't bolted his food since.

: : : : :

My 5 day spring weather preview began with this surprise rainbow in the morning. I very rarely get to enjoy rainbows from the front of my house!

After having a solid taste of spring last week, I felt renewed and ready for the predicted 5 to 10 inches of snow followed by single digit temps forecasted for the weekend and into this week. It's early March, after all, and this weather is fully expected and normal. And honestly, considering the craptastic winter we've had from a snow perspective, I'll gladly welcome the opportunity to ski something more than loose granular and ice for a few days!

The weather will break soon enough and riding will be easier. Still, considering my schedule and all of the things that make this time of year so much more difficult for riding, I'm pleased with my 40 rides and 25+ hours in the saddle! I was feeling pretty down on myself about not riding at all until I looked back at the overview of each month. It's not as bleak as my mind wanted me to believe.

I keep reminding myself that in a few short months my ponies will be in my backyard and I'll see them every single day. It'll be so much easier to fit in rides once my commute drops from 50 minutes to a 200-foot meander! Until then, I'll be making the best of what's around and riding as often as I'm able.