Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 in Review

As I anticipated at the beginning of this year, it was a transition year with the horses. I didn't train or compete much. Instead, I focused almost solely on getting Starlight Lane Farm built and bringing the horses home. Achieving that life dream/goal at 30 years old is something I never thought possible.

While outings with the horses and outdoors adventures/trips were minimal this year compared to last, it was still an incredibly fulfilling year. The trade off of these things in order to bring the horses home is more than worth it!

So, let's see how things ended up with the goals and intentions I placed at the beginning of the year...


✘ Hone dressage and school training and first level movements
✘ Take consistent lessons with LC
✘ Establish a very solid "forward" button so I don't have to nag
✘ Cement "long and low" stretching
✔ School over novice height jumps, both stadium and XC (probably at home)
✘ (+) Make it to a schooling show of some kind
✘ (+) Cutting

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Ultimately, my rides weren't super focused on the nitty-gritty within any discipline this year. Nor did my finances allow for lessons once the barn project was truly underway. When I have ridden, I've focused instead on simply keeping each horse at a base-level of fitness by utilizing the terrain and not schooling discrete movements. As a result, I really didn't hone in any of the skills I'd hoped to work on with Griffin.

That said, Grif's topline is finally returning for the first time in ages! There is something to be said for getting out for regular hacks, marching up countless hills and mountains, occasionally jumping things, requesting leg yields around trail obstacles/debris, and high stepping through deep snow. In fact, with Grif's fitness finally back at a solid place, I've begun introducing regular lateral work into our hacks. On one particular section of perfectly groomed grassy trail, I now have him leg yield at the trot for the duration of the trail segment. It's a lot of fun and Griffin really seems to enjoy the extra concentration/work. I'm really looking forward to continuing to incorporate this type of thing into our rides going forward.


I'm still sussing out what next year will bring for Grif and I. At a minimum though, I will keep developing and honing his fitness level to bring us back to a level I feel we can compete. I'd really love to get back into the swing of things with competitions!


✔✔ Continue to build confidence
✘ Hone dressage and school training and first level movements
✘ Take consistent lessons with LC
✔ Complete at least one endurance competition
✘ (+) Ride 400 non-competition miles this year

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I can confidently, with 110% certainty, say that this little mare's confidence is FIRMLY in place after this year. Bringing her home and having her in my sole care has been The Best Thing for Q. My relationship with her and our mutual understanding of one another is at an all-time high. She is firmly settled and happy, which lends to ample confidence in so many other aspects of life. I really, truly enjoy riding her for the first time in years.

Beyond confidence, this year was huge in another way for Q: She successfully completed her first endurance competition since her torn suspensory in 2016. And the Biltmore was no gimme! I'm so grateful she healed so well that we are able to return to competition.

Q's gait for the vetting still proves to be problematic, however. While she isn't "lame" per se, she simply doesn't display a "normalcy" in her movement that vets are looking for at these competitions. Fortunately, the team of vets at Biltmore were beyond generous with their time and their knowledge and really went the extra mile to help me understand Q better and devise a few strategies for the future. My current plan is to [continue to] implement the homework they gave me and give endurance competition one more go in 2020. If vettings continue to be an anxiety-ridden piece of the puzzle, I'm going to throw in the competition towel on endurance and take my time/money elsewhere. I love this horse more than I love the sport and would rather put my time and competition finances into something that doesn't leave me riddled with anxiety. I can rack up trail miles on my own for free after all.

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I'm ending the year about 100 miles short of our 400 conditioning miles goal. But I'm completely fine with this. Like Grif, Q is finally putting a nice topline back on for the first time in ages. Between all three horses, I rode more miles this year than I have since moving to Canaan in 2017 (and when you consider I only had one endurance competition this year (compared with 3+ from previous competition years) my mileage this year is really awesome). I cannot tell you how good that feels! In fact, it shouldn't be a stretch to fit in more annual miles than I ever have in 2020.


✔ Rack up some trail miles and have a ton of fun
✔ Don't become a total asshole once moved home
✘ (+) Ride 150 miles this year

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Can we all just pause for a moment and thank the heavens that I've been able to properly mitigate for Stan not becoming a complete douchecanoe since moving home?! Because I'm really excited about this. Don't get me wrong, his level of asshole has definitely increased, but Grif and Q haven't had horrible cuts or bite/kick marks in months now - something to be truly psyched about. It's definitely been a learning process and a bit of an experiment figuring out the dry lot dynamics to reach this point, but we've fortunately come to a pretty happy medium.

Beyond successful management of behavior, Stan has had a pretty great year. He's racked up just shy of 100 miles under saddle on the trail and has continued to be The Very Best Boy for me and countless others who have ridden him this year. He is more than worth his weight in gold.


✔ Train to the invisible fence
✔ Maintain mobility through lots of steady exercise

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Oh, my old man. Kenai turned 9 this year. After a suite of stifle surgeries early in his life plus the continuing mystery of his skin issues since 2015, it's amazing he's doing as well as he is.

Mobility-wise, the old guy continues to do well. This year has had some marked changes though. Kenai no longer accompanies me for fast horseback rides (anything greater than a trot) or long hikes/bikes/rides (anything greater than 3 miles). If he has to go fast or go for more than 3 miles, he struggles to keep up and is really sore the following days. While I know he misses me when I head out on adventures with Taiga, the stress of leaving him behind is worth it to know that I'm helping to guarantee that he has a greater quality of life for more of his senior years.

Kenai continues to have issues with his skin/coat. Local vet practices all seem to be stumped by his symptoms and I'm nearing my wits-end with it all. I'm currently implementing the only thing I haven't done so far in the 3+ years of dealing with his skin and treating things holistically. There have definitely been some major attitude improvements since doing this, but his skin/coat problems are persisting. I've set a deadline of January to see if anything resolves or improves further before I will schlep my way over to northern Virginia to seek further opinions from new vets. Fingers crossed that we can finally put an end to this skin saga in 2020!


✔ Get out in crowded places more often to minimize her over-stimulation in these environments
✘ Take local course to fulfill therapy training

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Taiga continues to be a complete joy to have around. She is the definition of "sweet", and we absolutely adore her.

Since bringing the horses home, Taiga has had a very consistent exercise schedule. She accompanies me on most of my trail rides and is such a perfect little partner. While she wanders a bit, she's quite content to keep me in her sights most of the time and paces beautifully with the horses. Being able to exercise both her and the horses simultaneously is so fantastic! Taiga couldn't agree more, and has developed quite the little cavorting happy dance when she sees me with a tacked-up horse in hand.

While I certainly didn't get Taiga around and about in crowded places as much as I'd originally envisioned, I did get her out a fair bit this year and she is improving [slowly] with the over-stimulation of such environments. That said, this goal was initially placed with the intent of improving her behavior so that she could pursue/pass training to be a therapy dog. Having learned more about that program and the requirements in place for her to maintain the certification once she passes the test, I've dropped it as a goal. I simply do not have the time available to achieve the number of annual visits required.


✔ Bring the horses home
✔ Maintain fitness level
✔ Be financially cognizant throughout the year
✔ Purge, purge, purge
✘ Continue my yoga practice
✔&✘ Complete GRUSK 53-mile bike race (opted instead to do the 32-mile race)
✘ Climb more
✘ Bike often
✔ Maintain and build my photography side hustle

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Many of my personal goals in disciplines outside of horses were put on the back-burner this year. Barn building took far more of my mental and physical time than I ever would have imagined! But it was more than worth the sacrifices in other areas of my life to fulfill the dream of having the horses at home.

Mental and Physical Health
In the process of all of the barn-building chaos, I really hunkered down and focused on improving my fitness and mental health this year. Both are at a higher place than they've been in a very long time coming to the close of this year. Not surprisingly, improving both has gone hand-in-hand. Firstly, I finally tackled my anxiety this year in a big way. Balancing the mental-health/anxiety side of the equation has allowed me so much more energy to put toward other aspects of life like setting healthy boundaries, enabling me to hold space for others so that I can be a better friend/wife/daughter/etc., and it has allowed me more time to put toward my physical fitness.

In the past, my physical fitness has relied purely on my active multi-sport lifestyle. This year it has been more centered around "functional" fitness. Barn construction and the subsequent barn chores have helped me build a lovely baseline fitness I haven't had in quite some time. From building fence to cutting, splitting, transporting, and stacking 3-4 years worth of firewood to mucking 2x daily to hauling/stacking hay bales to riding the horses 4+ days a week. I find myself feeling stronger with every passing week, and I'm very much looking forward to having available time in the new year to pick back up yoga/climbing/biking with a bit more frequency.

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Finances & Purging
Knowing that Starlight Lane Farm was going to become a reality in 2019, I vowed from the get-go to be as financially cognizant as I could throughout the year. While I'll always wish I was better in this facet of my life, I have to admit that I did a pretty damn good job this year. It wasn't without numerous strange looks or snide remarks from people along the way, but c'est la vie. This is my life and in order to be financially responsible, I opt to budget pretty strictly. It doesn't have to sit right with everyone to be the right call for me personally.

I am so pleased to report that nearly every single thing on my "purge" list for the year has been successfully purged. The handful (seriously, less than 5) of items that have not moved on are those that I refuse to simply donate/give away because I know, with patience, I can sell them and reap a little bit of benefit from passing them along.

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And finally, my photography side hustle continued to do well this year. Even with the choice to shutdown my website domain in favor of exclusively using free outlets like Instagram and Facebook, I continued to gain bookings.

I really feel like I began to find my own "style" this year with my work. With every shoot, I was over-the-moon with the results. I've also reversed my problems of overshooting and having a hard time sorting/purging shoots. Now I feel like I'm shooting just enough to get what I want and not too much excess so that when it comes time to sort/purge photos for final editing, I don't spend an exorbitant amount of time on that step.

But most of all? I'm having a freaking blast with my shoots these days. The impostor syndrome that has plagued me from the get-go is really starting to fade and that is a really good feeling.

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All in all, while a bit of a transition year from what has been my past norm, this year was absolutely outstanding. Buying land, building the barn and fences, and bringing the horses home has been the most wonderful dream come true. It still feels surreal most days. My gratitude for being able to fulfill this dream is a predominant feeling with every day that has passed since completing the project.

I am so excited for 2020 and what it may bring. It will be my first year of having the horses home and will become the first year that I have my "old" life back so far as time management goes because, *drum roll*, come February my 40-minute one-way commute will become a 7-minute commute with the collocation of my office with CVNWR. This was not something I ever expected when I chose to move here in 2017 and is one of the greatest gifts the Universe could have ever bestowed on me. Regaining nearly 90 minutes of my daily life will mean more time for horses, biking, climbing, and skiing. I. Am. Psyched.

Thanks for reading along this year, and I wish each of you the very best in 2020!

Monday, December 30, 2019


With the decision to build a barn also came the decision that there would be a resident barn cat. We have enough of a mouse problem in our house that I knew the barn would have a healthy population, too. C'est la vie when you live in the middle of a field.

Before I could even think of acquiring a barn cat, however,  I needed to both finish the tack room and cease my autumn travel schedule so that the cat would have a fair chance to become acclimated without barn sitters coming and going.

My last scheduled trip was the second weekend in November. (And what a WONDERFUL girls weekend that was!) Once I returned home, I put out an 'in search of' ad on Facebook. "ISO: Spayed female cat to be a mouser for my horse barn."

Within minutes, a girlfriend of mine who always seems to be stumbling upon stray cats messaged that she was pretty sure she had a contender. I messaged her immediately to inquire further.

It turns out, the possible cat was the feral momma responsible for all of the kittens my friend has been rehoming the past several years. She even has a now-two-year old daughter of this momma cat! Naturally, I agreed immediately to take this little cat before the winter weather settled in for good.

My friend got the cat a spay appointment the day after our conversation, a Thursday, caught the little girl the night before (she was living in their shed with a possum!), and I rendezvoused with her Thursday afternoon to bring the little girl home.

Meet Nymeria. All 6.5# of her.
Driving home over the Eastern Continental Divide
Still high on drugs!

So, blog fam, meet Nymeria. Starlight Lane Farm's first employee. ;-)

Yes, I named her after a direwolf from Game of Thrones. #noregrets But it does suit her. Nymeria the direwolf was semi-wild (this cat is feral) and helped humans as needed while still doing her wolfy thing. Same-same for this little cat. I wanted her to have a huntress' name, and one that wasn't often used at that. Nymeria fit the bill very well. Bonus that she's grey!

When I brought her home and got her out of the trap, she immediately fled to a corner to hide from me. Which, duh. I had a basket/pillow/blanket setup for her, but it wasn't in a corner. I quickly rearranged things to make her a safe little cave-space. Fortunately, she's familiar enough with people to be okay with pets if she's in a contained place with you as long as you're slow and deliberate about your actions.

"I hate you. But I like this bed. But I also hate you." Nymeria, probably
Pre-couch setup hidden behind tupperware containers

She was pretty damn happy about her setup. Food and water were close by. The tack room is heated. She had a lot of peace and quiet. And the stupid human (me) didn't push her to do anything beyond stay quiet and heal following her spay surgery.

I spoke to her daily when I went into the tack room. She started meowing in greeting. I then would offer her my hand to sniff. When she started reaching to sniff me, I started offering her pets. Which she LOVED. Instant purr box.

And so my routine became feed the horses, muck, and pause for a few minutes to pet Nymeria before heading up to the house. With each passing day, I would pet her a little longer.

When I moved the couch in, the petting was taken to another level because I could sit on the couch and idly pet her while I read through things on my phone after my horse chores.

Happily in her corner.
Even on the couch when I put her there! Well, before she darted away to the corner lol
Happily enjoying the pets
A lot less fear in her eyes

Sometimes, the little weirdo would sit in her litter box (most definitely NOT using the bathroom) while I was on the couch. It was kinda hilarious.

Ignore the spilled paint on the box lol, it's been repurposed a lot
Oh hai there, Nymeria. Weirdo.

With the introduction of the couch, Nymeria began exploring more and even began sleeping in a new place.

Can you find her?
How about now?
Right between two saddles lol
Not so sure about me offering a pet in this new location!

After two weeks of healing cooped up in the tack room, I purchased a cat door to install. I didn't have the right saw blade though, so Nymeria ended up spending an additional week in tack room purgatory before gaining freedom. I don't think it was the worst thing though because she was able to gain a fair bit of weight. I was also able to get her more accustomed to my presence...

Hello little one. 
Don't worry. She changed her mind and thought it was pretty nice. Settled in and became quite the little purr box.
And then she wandered over to the couch, perched, and watched the horses eat their dinner.
It was adorable.
Yeah, she's a little cross-eyed. It's endearing.
It was nice that she felt comfortable enough to sit on the [other side] of the couch and hang out with me.

Finally, I got the cat door installed 3 weeks after bringing Nymeria home. I left the door off for a week so it was just a portal, deciding that this would be easier for her to become used to.

And I was right. I knew Nymeria was using it based on the evidence in the litter box and the disappearing food, but beyond that, I didn't know she existed. I didn't see her for a week!

But then I finally found her hideout:

High atop the tack room

She's basically lying the exact same spot she did in the tack room, but 11-12 feet higher. And she's been in that spot every time I've looked since finding it.

I am still trying to teach her that the cat door can be used with the door on it, but it's a work in progress. I think we'll get there though with the help of wet food. (I want her to have tack room access because it is the only heated space and I feel better about leaving cat food in the tack room than in the barn proper. We've got a lot of possums, raccoons, and skunks and I don't really care to feed them, too, on the off chance I don't close the barn door and they wander in...)

So while the cat door will take time to figure out (or not, and I'll have to come up with an alternative situation), I'm happy to report that she is already performing her mousing duties seriously. I won't share the photo, but she did eat and puke up part of a mouse on a stall mat for me. (LOL) I have never been so excited to see a puked up mouse in my life!

I'm looking forward to having this little lady on staff for many years to come and am happy to provide her room and board for her services. Here's hoping that she has a very successful career and that we share a great partnership.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Tack Room: A Slow Evolution

As I knew it would, the tack room is ever-so-slowly piecing together. I'm still putting off the inevitable work that will come from having to frame the windows and doors, but the remainder of the room is looking great!

Firstly, I added some IKEA trones (shoutout to Austen for this hack) for storage below my bridle rack and added a 2x2 shelf.

Little shelf in the beginning stages of organization. Lots of work to do still haha.

Then, I built a "counter" from scrap wood. This area is great for holding miscellaneous things and helping to prepare supplements and meds.

Silly little clock has been in my life since I was in elementary school.
Cross stitch was a gift from my late grandmother decades ago.

I also tossed a couple brackets and another scrap piece of wood above the door for additional storage. I've yet to do much more than hap-hazardly toss things up there, but I'm grateful for the space to do so!

Pads on more IKEA racks behind the door + shelf over the door!

And, finally, the largest change to-date - I finally got a couch!


While the red is a nice burst of color, the fabric of the couch doesn't lend itself to wanting to stay clean well, so I tossed a cover I had hanging around from a past apartment on it to help preserve it amidst the daily abuse that comes with being around horse tack, feed, and barn accouterments.


With any luck, I'll hopefully get the windows and door framed out before winter ends. I'm obviously not in a huge rush, but I am very much looking forward to the finished look that this will give the space. If I put it off much longer, my woodworking ladyfriend may do it for me! Fingers crossed? Lol

Stay tuned for continual updates to this little space. It's the ultimate She Shed and I look forward to making it more homey over time.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Snow Gallops

This post serves no purpose other than to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas by sharing some seasonal photos from a fun afternoon galloping Stan and Q in the snow atop my mountain.

After days of clouds and snowglobe-esque conditions, the skies parted and the sun peeked through towards the end of our ride. It was beautiful to behold the view afforded by clearing conditions. Days like these, when the trees are hoar frosted or rime iced, are my absolute favorites.

Merry, merry, y'all. Enjoy!

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I love Stan's listening ear on Barbara. He was SUCH A GOOD BOY for her. To her credit, she was taking my instruction more beautifully than I've ever had someone take it before. She grew up only riding bareback and this was only her second time in a saddle in ages - and the second time she LIKED the saddle. I used a lot of Mary Wanless and Centered Riding concepts with her and she picked up on them perfectly. Stan responded in like. It was SO COOL to see.
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Barbara's permagrin was also something to behold.
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Though no matter her smile, Stan is always FOCUSED with his Business Face when galloping!
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Seriously, this old man loves sprinting.
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And of course the snow princess was out and about with us.
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Look at all that snow flying behind them!
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Movin' it, Staniel!
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What a happy pair they are.
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And then it was my turn with this little nugget.
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Still the prettiest trotter...
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Q's GAME FACE. I love it. Also, I love that I'm to a place where I am comfortable letting this little mare gallop full out with only one hand on the reins.
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Zoomy Qbee.
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And now, Q catches on to the camera and becomes The Cutest Ever.
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Gallop spot #2 for the day.
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Stan also brought his game face to this location, worry not.
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Again with the listening ear <3 <3 <3
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Houston, we have take off!
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Look at that big smile!
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Pinch me. I can't believe I live here.
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His tail slays me.
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Tiny fox cameo!
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Austen, one day I'll have husky +gallops photos like you. 
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And we'll also have derpy outtakes of those photos....lol, Taiga.
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Hoar frosted/rime iced trees - my very favorite thing in winter
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Just living my best fairy tale life...
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Telling her to get up and GO.
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Smile means we've hit cruising speed.
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Those trees!
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And this pony!
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She's really gettin' up and goin' now!
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Speedy bullet
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Ugh. She's just the cutest.
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And here, we have Barbara being, well, Barbara. It's not hard to imagine us sword fighting as kids...
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Stan, bless you.
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Enjoying the Mt. Porte Crayon vista
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Laughing at Q's distaste for posing while standing still
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Her listening ear <3