Monday, December 28, 2020

Blog Hop: 2020 Summary; COVID Edition

Saw this on Raincoast Rider's blog and loved it. Thanks to Alberta Equest for putting the original together!

What's the best thing that happened to you in 2020?

Personal: Slowing the F down. I have wanted to reduce my chaos and just coast along without over-committing myself for several years now. Call it aging or whatever, but the pace I maintained in my daily life during my 20s is not something I really care to keep maintaining. I've had friends jokingly call me Hermione for years because I do so many things it's akin to Hermione and her timeturner in Prisoner of Azkaban. It was fun - and easy! - for awhile, but no longer. I now crave more "boring" in my day-to-day life. COVID granted me that in spades. 

Horses: Having them HOME. Nothing beats this. 

What's the worst thing that happened to you in 2020?

Personal: Busting the F out of my left shoulder. That injury persisted much longer than I anticipated. I was released from PT in November and am doing much better, but it still plagues me during certain movements. A big goal of mine for 2021 is to regain and improve mobility throughout my body. 

Horses: I didn't write about it on here, though I did take more than enough media to document it, but Q going through my fence 3 times on two occasions was definitely the worst. She's fortunately FINE beyond superficial cuts to every leg, her chest, and her face, but it was pretty terrifying to come down to the barn to find her outside the fence, the boys inside the fence, and her face bleeding all to hell. 

To this day, I do not know what triggered her to panic in such an intense way. I set up trail cams, but captured nothing. My three hypotheses are: coyotes, a bear, or Stan being an unholy asshole. All are more than plausible. re: the animals, I don't think either predator was doing something outright threatening to the horses. I suspect it was just a youngster(s) being curious about all the smells and such around the barn and the presence freaked Q the hell out. Bears drive her into a blind panic. If coyotes did young, dumb coyote things, I could see the same happening. re: Stan. Well, he's a complete and total asshole about food. Perhaps he lunged after her pretty good and it sent her through the fence? I'll never know. All I can do is thank my lucky stars the fence did what it was supposed to in not butchering poor Q, and hope to goodness it doesn't happen again!


What was your biggest purchase in 2020?

Personal: The refinance of my barn/property loan. Or, perhaps because the closing costs for that were wrapped into future payments, I should say new truck tires. That needed to happen, but oi. It hurt a bit! Oh, and tying with the tires (remarkably enough thanks to a RIDICULOUS sale) I also scored the mattress I've been eyeing for literal years for next to nothing. I'm SO happy with that purchase and sleep so much deeper and fall asleep more easily now.

Horses: A new(to me) Specialized Ultralight saddle. 

What was your biggest accomplishment in 2020?

Personal: Slowing down.

Horses: Riding 600 miles in a year. I don't know that I'll set such a goal for myself in the future, but it was sweet to accomplish this year. 


What do you feel COVID robbed you of in 2020?

Personal: Jan's visit. The only direct contact I had with COVID-positive humans (who had both tested negative 48 hours before I was in contact with them but then tested positive 36 hours after I saw them) occurred right before Jan's visit, so I was stuck in a two week quarantine instead of getting to play horse with Jan. Not the worst thing in the world to have to cancel, but still such a bummer! Fortunately, neither Dave nor I contracted COVID. (Which leads me to wonder if my sickness in March was COVID? Sadly, I'll never know because there were no tests available at that time.)

Horses: Off-farm events/competitions. Though, in some regards, I'm really not too mad about being robbed of these for a period of time. 

Were you subject to any impulse buys in 2020?

Personal: That mattress was definitely an impulse buy. But seeing it marked down ~$1000 due to double sales was too good to pass up! 

Horses: The saddle was a bit of an impulse buy, but it was something I'd lusted after for literal YEARS. It fit me, it fit the horses, and I got a stupid good deal on it because my friend opted to not keep it after buying it new and riding in it only a few times. 

Unexpected silver linings in 2020?

Personal: All of the time at home to putter around my property doing chores was so very good for my mental and physical health. 

Horses: Spending all of the time on trails without any push to do something else was just the slow down I needed. I feel pretty rejuvenated with horse things as I end the year, and am even more committed to going forth into the future to do whatever seems most FUN for the horses and I. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Hindsight is 2020: A Year in Review

What is there to say about 2020? It certainly wasn't what a single one of us expected! Despite the total and complete shitshow that much of the year was,  I think most of us made the best of it. For me, making the best of it was luxuriating in my suddenly open, blank schedule. I direly needed to slow TF down from my normal go-go-go mentality/life. And with a clear schedule and minimal obligations, I slowed way down. 

Slowing down allowed me to step back and find a ton of gratitude for my life. An empty schedule coupled with time to slow down and reflect lessened my typical stress and anxiety. It gave me space to sit with the multitude of stresses and anxieties that 2020 delivered us each passing day. I was also able to sit and hold space for both myself and those close to me as we all stumbled through the trials and tribulations of the COVID pandemic and the dying Trump presidency. 

A screenshot of my farm from a drone video earlier this year. Little piece of paradise on high.

Many of the goals I set for myself at the start of the year didn't come to fruition. But I don't see them as failures at all. They were all just put on "pause" due to the state of the world around us. And while they can't necessarily be counted as successes for this year, I've done my best to find and focus on the positives of each goal below whether it is accompanied by a ✔ or a ✘. 

However, before I dive into the year-end status of my horse goals, I have to take a moment to say this: I am so insanely, beyond belief, ridiculously grateful that I was able to complete my barn project and move my horses home last year. Ohmygoodnessgracious. I was grateful last year, but my gratitude hit new heights this year as everything shut down. My gratitude continued climbing as real estate in Canaan sky rocketed from all of the DC people fleeing to West Virginia. The realization quickly dawned on me that if I hadn't bought my lots and done my project last year, the lots would have been purchased this year and would have homes built on them in the next 2-4 years. I have never been SO happy with the timing of a decision in my whole life. Universe, you have my eternal thanks for that bit of fortune. 🎔


✔ Work off my seat and legs with more precision
✔ Hone dressage and school training and first level movements
✔ Establish a very solid "forward" button so I don't have to nag
✘ Take some lessons
✘ 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

Photo by Justin Harris

Well, it ain't much, but it's forward progress all the same! And honestly, several of those checkmarks above were obtained during the final quarter of the year when I opted to hunker down and finally focus on minutia. We still have a long ways to go on my quest to improve myself and this horse, but I feel great about how we're ending this year. There will be ample time to pursue the paused goals next year. 

The majority of 2020 was spent trail riding and finding joy in being outside away from people and things. And I don't regret that one little bit! I spent more time riding Grif than Q or Stan this year because he can be a handful when he gets excited (and while I have friends that can handle his shenanigans, it simply isn't fair to them to ask them to when they could have a more carefree ride on Q or Stan.) As of this writing, Griffin has completed 345.75 trail miles and climbed 90,980 feet (17.23 miles) over the course of those trail miles. Definitely our biggest year yet and his fitness is absolutely amazing for all of the work he did out on the trails. 

The thing I'm proudest of this little gelding for this year wasn't even something on my radar: camping. We did one overnight camping trip at the start of October. It was a gorgeous trip made all the better by the fact that Grif is finally adult enough to not scream every 10 minutes while in camp. It made me more happy than I imagined to find this out! 2021 may very well involve a lot more horse camping now that I can count on Grif to not annoy the living daylights out of everyone else in a ¼-mile radius.


✔ Work off my seat and legs with more precision
✔ Hone dressage and school training and first level movements
✘ Take some lessons
✘ Complete at least one endurance competition
✘ Ride 400 non-competition miles this year (but so close!!!!)
✘ Go to a dressage schooling show

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Q had a great year. She was more relaxed with herself and her environment than I've seen her since bringing her into my life May 2012. That wreck in June that botched my shoulder was quite a hit for her confidence though, and we're still doing what we can to dig our way out of that hole. Fortunately, even though it's taking time, it isn't nearly as rough going as the things we've already overcome in our time together. 

Q tackled 356.4 miles on trail this year. She climbed 104,980 feet (19.88 miles) of elevation through those miles. While this didn't meet my arbitrary goal of 400 miles for the year, it came really damn close! And as I originally suspected that goal would be a bit of a stretch goal, I've got to say I'm really pleased with where we ended up. Especially considering that these miles were obtained purely for my own pleasure and not due to any endurance races.

While I doubt I'll ever quit getting out and racking up trail miles with this little mare (it's my happy place), I don't know that I'll ever have a set mileage goal for her in the future. Because, well, she really seems to enjoy the controlled environment of dressage work so much more. (Can you hear Austen crowing with delight from wherever you are? I can.) The pressure placed on her for dressage work is pressure she's so much more interested in coping with and working through than the pressures she encounters in other environments (like the trail). 

Q enjoys working in a controlled environment. While still stubborn (that Morgan side of her really shines through), she is so much more willing to work through the difficulties of what her rider is requesting during dressage work than basically anything else I've ever asked of her. During the series of dressage rides these past couple months, she is relaxed, happy, and dare I say interested in what we are doing. So um, I guess I'm going to have to take a greater interest in dressage in 2021. (Hush, Austen.)


✔ Rack up some trail miles and have a ton of fun
✔ Ride 150 miles this year
✔ Improve his caudal hoof and make him happier barefoot


Ah, finally, three for three, 100 percent goal completion! It doesn't hurt that I made Stan's goals more achievable than all of the goals here except Kenai's. #oldmanlife 

Stan had a really wonderful year. He's got a live-in girlfriend. All the food he could want (but rationed so he hasn't looked pregnant with twins at all since moving home). And he doesn't have a hard job at all. In fact, he seems to rather enjoy being a professional trail horse for all of my friends. 

And ohmygosh y'all, this horse has given the priceless gift of horseback adventures to some truly appreciative people this year. I love, love, love, love having a horse like Stan in my barn. I can trust him with basically anyone. It is a gift to have him and a gift to see the unadulterated joy he provides for others. From my neighbor who hadn't ridden in 43 years, to Willa who is just learning, to Lesley who mounted back up for the first time since a catastrophic accident on horseback years and years ago. Watching every person's face as they fall in love with Stan and the joy of riding has been one of my absolute most favorite things about this ridiculous year. These friends are the reason Stan was able to meet the mileage goal for the year (ending with 201.06 miles and 57,379 feet (10.87 mi) of climbing). Sometimes it takes a village!


✔ Maintain mobility through lots of steady exercise
✔ Keep happy!

20201202 Snow Dogs and Grif_8

Kenai slowed down a lot this year. Fortunately, his mobility hasn't declined much at all. He's getting around just the same as the start of the year, but the frequency of his outings has lessened. And while I have certainly had to put my foot down and guide him into this new chapter of our lives, he has made a fair number of the decisions for himself. Classic husky. 

What does this mean? It means that when we head out on adventures, he may or may not deign to join us. He is now an out-and-proud Porch Dog™. Leaving the porch for anything is questionable these days. Going on a walk? Okay. But only for part of the walk. Once he's gotten his fill, he turns his sassy, independent ass around and heads home to continue sitting on his porch and surveying his kingdom. Going on a horseback adventure? Doesn't matter how many times you ask him, he will. not. leave. the. porch. Dog knows what he wants and what he likes and that is that, y'all. 

So, obviously, I bought him a new bed just for the porch. He loves it. And at this point in time, I anticipate that he'll be enjoying many, many years from his perch on the porch. I think that's pretty awesome.

I think Kenai's favorite days all year were my trip with Q to Salt Fork. He absolutely loved having me all to himself for a weekend, getting to chill on my queen air mattress all day while I rode, and lounge around camp like the good boy he is the rest of the time. I hope to include him in similar future trips and may very well plan a few of those trips just for him.

An unsurprising yet unexpected side effect of my working from home for the past 9 months is that Kenai has become an absolute Velcro dog if I'm in the house. If I'm working on a computer or reading in a chair, he's right beside me. If I move, he carefully watches where I go and if I stay within sight, he'll stay where he is. But if I go out of his sight, he'll follow. While endearing, it's also a bit troublesome because he has a horrible tendency of lying right behind my work chair. Which is on wheels. You can imagine how that ends. Despite the numerous run-ins and run-overs with my chair though, he still insists on maintaining his velcro behavior. I don't know what either of us will do when I finally return to the office. 


✔✘ Adventure often and continue socializing in many situations

Photo by Justin Harris

Taiga enjoyed plenty of adventures this year, just without the socializing. She's still the sweetest dog I've ever had the pleasure of sharing so much of my time with. And so fun to photograph!

Sadly for Taiga, she didn't get out on quite as many off-property rides this year. For a suite of reasons  that are for both of our benefits, but I'm still sad she couldn't join me for more. She so loves to go-go-go. The biggest off-property ride she joined was for the Spruce Knob camping trip Chris and I took with the horses. We did a very remote 14.25 miles and Taiga stayed right with us the whole time. I was so impressed and thrilled with her. And was sad for her when we opted to return the next morning instead of pursuing day two of riding. 

Overall though, Taiga had a pretty great year. Her humans were always home and available for cuddles. She continued to be the queen of her little kingdom (the one acre of yard within the invisible fence). And - bonus - she learned respect for cats. Her education about the world isn't advancing nearly as fast as Kenai's did by her age, but all in all, she's got it pretty good.


✔ Find balance through time management/scheduling
✔ Maintain good mental health and physical fitness
✔ Be financially cognizant and boost my savings
✔ Minimize my social media usage; become more purposeful when I do use it
✔ Organize and streamline my photography hustle
✘ Work towards being able to do a handstand
✘ Climb more
✘ Bike often

At the start of 2020, I was most excited about kissing my work commute goodbye. Little did I know I'd be kissing that commute goodbye in an entirely different way! In fact, I have yet to fall into a new routine with my work commute because I've been at the new office building only a handful of times this year. 99% of my work time has been spent teleworking since the middle of March. And I don't hate it. I'm a social introvert who is very self-driven, so for me, working from home hasn't been too big of an issue. It's brought about its own challenges, certainly, but those have been workable. I'll honestly be a bit sad when I'm back in the office full time. (Not because I'll be forbidden from teleworking post-COVID, but because it would be kind of silly for me to telework when I live a whopping 7 minutes from the office.)

Obviously, my hope of achieving better time management so that I could pursue my many passions looked a bit different this year. I definitely found the quiet and the balance I'd been hoping for. But I also didn't pursue two of my passions (climbing and biking) much at all due to my shoulder injury that persisted from late June through November. (And obviously didn't meet my goal of handstanding, either.) It was a huge bother to be limited, but I'm really grateful for the experience with my physical therapist. I learned so much about my body's strengths and weaknesses and have been working hard to strengthen the weak areas. With luck (aka continued work), I'll hopefully see fewer injuries in the coming year as I strive to keep my body strong in more functional ways.

20200814 Sods Sunset Horses_146
Just cantering along enjoying the view.

I've got to be completely honest - in so many ways, the social isolation from the pandemic was so good for my mental health. I have slowed my previously manic pace down to a snail's pace. My weekends were free for the majority of the year. I spent a ton of my time at home, puttering around the house and farm. When I wasn't puttering about doing chores and the like, I was often settled in my papasan chair in the loft reading. My work days consisted of waking, working, spending my lunch break puttering, and then spending my evenings either puttering, riding, reading, or some combination thereof. My weekends were full of puttering, horses, and more reading. It's been beautiful. My stress and anxiety is at an all-time low in my adult life. Now, the trick will be maintaining this once the world settles into post-COVID norms in the coming years...

Never forget the husky backpack!

Since June, I have dramatically reduced my usage of social media. After a whirlwind of chaos and stress on Facebook in June, I opted to take a hiatus from the platform. That hiatus has continued to stretch into the present, and I honestly have no plans to end it. I lurk on Facebook about once a day for 2-5 minutes and use the marketplace. Beyond that? Fuck it. Do. Not. Miss. I'm still quite active on my Instagram though, and on my social pages for my photography. It's a beautiful and healthy balance for me. I spend most of my time on IG smiling and laughing and learning. That's what those platforms should be.

While I didn't boost my savings this year as I hoped, I also didn't deplete them. I built more cognizance around my budget and finances, a process that is never-ending. I was also able to refinance the loan I took out for the barn project last year and cut my interest rate in half. This action alone will help the future of my budget so much. It will give me more budget flexibility in the coming years for both savings and fun (schooling competitions? Yes, please!).

Laughing at Grif being a dork. Moreso now because Willa captured his forelock in such a fantastic state.

2020 was not the year I expected. But I took what it handed me and made the most of it. My gratitude for living in the middle of nowhere and having my horses at home was at an all time high all year. Not for one moment did I take for granted those good fortunes, and I did my very best to share them with others in as safe a way as possible throughout the year.