Monday, August 31, 2020

Shifting into the Next Chapter

Let's just rip this band aid right off shall we?

I have decided to retire Q from competitive endurance.

It's a decision I've been pondering for over a year. My downtime due to COVID-19 has only helped solidify it for me. 

Repeated comments about Q's way of going have made ride vettings feel a lot more like Russian Roulette than a routine double-check of the horse's condition. Fortunately (and very gratefully!), I received an absolute wealth of information about how to help resolve Q's gait at last year's Biltmore 50. It was eye-opening and amazing to learn so much about how I can help my favorite little mare. I worked through much of what those wonderful vets recommended for me and had hoped to give things a go for No Frills this past April, but then - as we all damn well know - the pandemic struck, life changed, and endurance competitions were put on pause.

While I was a bit bummed at first knowing any ride season I could have hoped to have had was not going to happen for 2020, I opted to make the most of it and just enjoy riding my horse. And you know what I've learned during this slow down and lack of endurance rides? I really don't miss the hustle and bustle of competition much at all. 

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Being put "on pause" this year has given me time to reflect on why I was attracted to endurance from the beginning. The answer? Camping with my horses, seeing beautiful terrain from horseback, and riding oodles of miles (at relative speed) across that terrain. Simply put, I wanna camp and ride fast through the wilderness. 

And you know what? I absolutely do not need a competition aspect to do those things. I also don't have to ride a set number of miles in a set amount of time to enjoy those things. This seems like such a simple realization that I can't believe it took me the amount of time and thought it did to reach this point. But I'm here now, and it feels really damn good. 

I'm already planning a series of 1-2 night adventures with Q this fall to make the most of the remaining months of warmer camping weather. I'm also carefully planning my camera setup for said trips, in a new effort to get some fun, high quality shots of Q and I riding in these beautiful places. Hopefully, I'll have a wealth of fun, new stories and trails to share in this space as the rest of the year unfolds. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Magazine Worthy

A local buddy of mine runs a regional outdoors magazine and has been asking me for months to write a horseback piece for it. Writing about horses on this blog is one thing, but writing an article for a general audience of non-horse outdoors folks for a magazine is a completely different challenge. The magazine editor didn't love my meager ideas for a piece either. Ultimately, I passed along the creative writing torch to my friend Chelsey and opted instead to just provide photos for the article. 

Most of the photos I provided were culled from past adventures I've shared on this blog. Riding around in gorgeous West Virginia makes it easy! However, I knew that I would need to have a few more high resolution DSLR photos to share (the other photos were all cell phone shots that can't be blown up too big). Prior to the due date for the photos (last week), Kate and I planned an evening ride to the edge of Dolly Sods to get what we hoped would be good sunset photos. 

Other than forgetting my stirrups in the midst of packing, the rest of the evening was perfect. The weather was in the low-mid 70s, the amount cloud cover guaranteed that we'd have gorgeous photos no matter what happened, and the area I chose to setup and capture shots was completely vacant of other people. Getting my camera packed and schlepped out there wasn't as bad as I'd feared either - in fact, I'm hoping to plan more staged photoshoots in beautiful local places this fall. 

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The shooting began with me getting photos of Kate. I knew there was a chance of one of the photos making the cover of the magazine, so I figured I'd focus on getting some nice options of Kate for that.
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Yeah, kinda hard to believe we get to call this home. 
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Qdle and her happy ears makes me so happy.
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Once I had a suite of shots of Kate (far more than I'm sharing on here today), I popped on my two horses for some photos. I rarely get photos riding them - especially hi res ones - and had to take this opportunity.
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Even if my stirrups (set for Kate that I was too lazy to change) were a little long for me lol
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Q and I have no future endurance ride plans. In fact, I've retired her from it. We're gonna make our own rides and come up with some incredible ride photos.
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I really need to crop this closer, but honestly I hadn't noticed until I was pulling images in for this post, but my huge grin in this shot is kinda awesome. Grif was bounding through the grass and taking it so seriously despite being SO EXCITED. He makes me laugh.
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Hi. I'm Liz and I'm a complete goofball. Almost always. Especially when riding. Even when riding without stirrups and with a big backpack full of camera gear (obviously the latter is not pictured here).
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My most favorite part about horseback riding in remote places? Getting to enjoy the view while moving out over terrain. It beats looking at my feet all the time!
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All of the heart eyes for this grey hunk.
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So fun fact, I've never stood on a single one of my horses until this moment lol. I've only ever stood on one other horse (maybe two??) before and only opted to do that because she was a big draft cross with ZERO go and ALL whoa and it seemed like the safest time to try it. Grif was a little uncertain (note his ears lol), but he was such a good egg. 
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Grif taking a moment to enjoy the view.
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Q stared off into the distance for the longest time. I think she was hearing hikers heading out of the Sods.
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Quizzical ears and giggles
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So once we got one-on-one shots, Kate asked if there was any way to get us both in the shot running together. I popped the camera on the tripod, set up the shot, and set a timer with intervals. And it worked out super well. It helps that Grif is trained to go to the tripod and stand and wait will I mess with settings! 

This shot was the favorite of the magazine editor and will be the cover shot for the fall edition of Highland Outdoors.
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Personally, this was my favorite of the two of us!
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Out at the turn around point for our shots. North Canaan Valley below us, Timberline housing development on the slope down to the Valley. And Dolly Sods extending back behind us and out of the shot to your right.
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Happy girls. Happy horses.
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Cantering off for the next round of interval shooting amidst plenty of giggles.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Manic Monday

Each week, I think about writing. Each week, motivation to put together a coherent post slips to the wayside. But lo, I have been doing things. Lots of them. I just can't be bothered to get my brain to piece them together in an enjoyable way to read. Maybe one day I'll regain my mojo in that regard, but for now, I'm going to stick to my strengths and just overwhelm the blog with photos + captions. 

Oh boy. Here's a throwback lol. This is from sometime in July when Kate was house sitting for our neighbors. She made us a kickass dinner of amazing Mexican recipes. We called it Christmas in July because of the Christmas tree, which we obviously turned on lol. Pandemic life in our small very rural community looks a lot different than it usually does, but the small little "safe" groups we spend time with are so amazing. While I miss the regular potlucks our local community had (40-100 people depending on the weekend), these small dinner parties of 5-7 we've had since this all began are really terrific, too. 
Manic Mondays are more than a blog title. They've become a regular Monday evening ritual for Kate and Willa and I. Willa expressed a desire to get out riding more when she was helping my brother with some auditions while he was still here. I took her up on that and now we spend Monday evenings gallivanting on horseback.
Kate is there, too. 
And these totally magical and majestic geldings.
And post Manic Monday ride, we sit on the front porch sipping beverages and eating charcuterie boards and laugh our asses off about RIDICULOUS topics. It's the best. I love these two ladies.
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Jump jump boi has been jump jumping
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It's about time for me to rearrange the jumps though.
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I'm impressed with my ability to hunker down. It looks like my head has been photoshopped lower lol
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The happiest jumping ears!
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Oh Grif. 
Most of y'all with gardens have an issue with far-too-plentiful zucchini. Well, I have volunteer spaghetti squash. And they're fecking EVERYWHERE. I'm going to be dropping them off on people's door steps pretty soon.
These two haven't been as photographed this summer, but they're still here. Still happy. Still eager for adventures.
I love them so much.
The gladiolus have been AMAZING this year.
So many fun colors! Now we have more purples and reds.
FINALLY had the vet out for vaccines. This was the only photo I took. 
Norah was predated (best guess) by something (owl, hawk, yote) at the beginning of July. I'm still sore about it. She was the COOLEST cat. Ever. Hands down. Hard stop. But I hate mice damage to my shit and mice are a part of barn life. SO, enter Brienne and Arya. They're from a local feral cat colony and now live in my tack room until they get bigger. This is my final attempt at having barn cats. I'm hoping a very slow introduction to the barn over a months-long period will help increase the likelihood of them being here long term. If something happens to them though, I'm done. I don't like raising bait. 
Date night views during the pandemic. Our first night out since everything began! Everyone was distanced on their own blankets outside and all staff was masked. It was a really pleasant evening. 
Griffin every morning.
Goofy selfie for a socially distanced work team building day. Our new supervisor set up the MOST FUN scavenger hunts for us all around Canaan. We were able to work together in a socially distant way to build team cooperation. For a small office with a close knit staff who have missed seeing one another, this was AWESOME.
Christopher got a new bike. He told me he wanted to break it in half. So we went out and gave that a try. Good news, no one broke anything! lol And we found oodles of chanterelles for dinner. 
This overexposed husky came with us. 
A small local wedding I shot a few weekends ago. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL AND SO MUCH FUN. Can small intimate weddings be a thing forever please? I'd happily photograph them forevermore.
Part of Kate's birthday present from me. A shirt with her new logo (that I designed!) I also got her a trucker hat. 
We put up more hay. 
And laughed WAY too much. These guys are a riot whenever they're together. 
Post hill gallop, we pose. 
Almost back home and Willa goes, "Can I trot more?" And took the lead. I was so proud.
Dan came over to geek out over feet with me. I love working with and learning from him. 
Then we went on a ride.
Dan rode Q for the first time ever!
I cheered and laughed so hard when I saw this in the Valley.
Baby chicken of the woods! One of my favorites.
That feeling when you're just ready for grooming to be over so you can go trotting.
Morning vibes.
Old men enjoying time on the front porch.