Monday, February 1, 2021

January Highlights Reel

Writing and sharing in a lengthy-formal(ish) format just hasn't been something I'm motivated to do for some time now. Instagram is much more up my alley these days. I'm afraid I've turned into quite the quiet little blog lurker and not so much of an actual blogger of late. That stated, I still do enjoy this space, and I still want to try to document life here. Just with less frequency. Which, honestly, feels appropriate because I have three mature horses who are not making new and exciting break throughs every time I work with them as they were when I started this blog over a decade ago.

I am hoping that warmer months will find me writing a titch more often to recap fun adventures. But until such a day arrives, I'm going to work toward writing monthly "highlight" posts. I've no idea how the format of these will end up, but to begin, I'm going to do my best to succinctly cover multiple topics that were unique to the month in question. Let's dive right into January...

A True West Virginia Highlands Winter

For the first time in 10 years, Canaan Valley is having a true Canaan winter. As of this writing, we have had 74 inches, 67 skiable days, and 40 skiable days with ALL terrain open/skiable. In the next 48 hours or so, our hyper-local fearless forecaster is calling for another 12+ inches. For much of December, I didn't see the grass in my yard. We had a thaw around New Year's that showed off the grass for 48-72 hours, but then the snow returned and I haven't seen grass since. I'm not mad about it! (Though I'll admit to being tired of playing the game of Find-a-Shit in the dry lot when I do barn chores following all of these snow events...)

Rime encrusted fence, trees, everything
Rime encrusted branches
Rime encrusted house
Grffin and rime covered trees as viewed from my reading "nook"
Gorgeous views from the front of the house as viewed from the window in my office. Bonus points for spotting Taiga in this shot.
And stunning starry nights. I'm still impressed my cell phone took this photo. Bonus points for spotting Kenai. 

We have been skiing our legs off and making the most of it so far! From cross country to downhill, it is a great time to be a skier in Canaan Valley. The new management at Timberline Mountain has done a truly stellar job revamping that mountain over the past 9 months. The mountain's terrain is skiing better than it has in decades thanks to a team who truly understands how to make snow (because we cannot have downhill alpine skiing here without supplemental man-made snow) and how to groom it for customers. That, coupled with a new high-speed detachable 6-pack lift that took the lift ride from 13-17 minutes to 5-7 minutes? Zero complaints from this chick!


I'm also getting in plenty of XC skiing - 34 miles so far. And quite of few of those miles were on trails I haven't been able to enjoy in several years. Thanks to the supplemental exercises my PT gave me to focus on to improve my biomechanical weaknesses, I'm skiing stronger this year than I ever have before. It is such a fun feeling to scoot down the mountain with more control and finesse than I previously knew. Apparently, strengthening my gluteus medius was something I should have done ages ago...

The happiest version of Kate. Except for when she's sailing.
A bemused Justin and a completely-pissed-at-all-of-us Christopher whom I'm still cackling at for his utter disgust on this morning, which I hadn't had the pleasure of seeing in its full glory for well over a year. No one does cranky like Chris does cranky. He later thanked us for the ass kicking uphill pace, I swear!

Down-Time for the Horses

Following a year where I rode 600 miles, Q traveled 360 miles, Grif 357, and Stan 205, all of us have enjoyed time off this January. This is 100% facilitated by the fact that I couldn't get my trailer off this mountain right now if I wanted to. (Yes, if there was an emergency I have plans in place, but for recreational things trailer travel is a no-go.) The horses really don't seem to mind all that much. They're enjoying the down time and holding their weights beautifully.


Grif and Stan play every day. In fact, I've never really seen Stan play the way he plays with Griffin. see, Stan is a bit aggressive with his play tactics, and this has scared off many a potential playmate in the past. Grif isn't too particular though. And starved of his playmate from the many years we spent at our last barn, Grif was desperate enough for a playmate to risk egging poor Staniel into playtime - even when Stan's "play" looked more like bite-your-face-off-with-force for a time. It took the two geldings a bit of adjustment to redefine what "play" was for each of them, but once they solidified the meaning, it was game-freaking-ON.

And now it's all play, all the time, every day. 

20210109 Horses in Snow and Rime_12
These first two photos are the most representative ones of their play; after these couple shots, they decided to play meekly without all of the rearing and kicking out at one another.

I missed the sequence before these shots, but Grif snuck in a cheap shot bite on Stan's ass, so this is Stan telling him off for that. Below, Grif gets offended that Stan told him off and executes a swift roundhouse double-barrel kick in Stan's direction. 

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Poor Q, y'all. She just doesn't understand this "play" business. Sure, she'll run and buck and enjoy some airs above the ground (of which she's really improved during her time at home, poor thing is very earth-bound normally) if she's been cooped up or not ridden for a period of time. But for the most part, when the boys play Q stands somewhere out of their way and gazes off into the distance. I imagine she's contemplating how her life choices resulted in dealing with two hooligans who would rather do the above instead of, I dunno, mutually groom one another? Graze? Nap? Participate in horse yoga? (Q is the stretchiest damn horse I've ever witnessed. Just this morning she dropped into a downward dog that even I was jealous of. I also had no idea a horse could drop into such a deep down dog until I witnessed it with my own two eyes!)

20210109 Horses in Snow and Rime_3620210109 Horses in Snow and Rime_22

I've had the horses inside a lot more often recently than I've ever had them before both to keep them comfortable and to minimize the number of times I have to play Find-a-Shit in the dry lot after new snowfall. While Stan may be the only one among them who has a history of being stalled this frequently at some point in his life, all of them are taking it remarkably well. I'm so very impressed. Q seems to think it's the greatest thing on earth (girlfriend loves super predictable environments, and there isn't much that's more predictable than life inside my small barn for her). Grif has learned how to keep his stall neat and orderly just like Stan. In fact, both boys will forgo peeing in their stalls and wait for me to come let them out into the dry lot during their stalled stints. They trained me quite quickly to do this for them! I was an easy study though because anything to minimize cleaning horse piss out of a stall pleases me greatly. 


All in all, the horses are doing just wonderfully. Games of Find-a-Shit aside, we're weathering this winter pretty contentedly.


The above section/statements aside, there have been some fun horsey adventures taking place up here on this mountain this winter. Give me the snow, I'll give you the skijoring. And I'll encourage you to bring friends to share it with because it is so. much. fun. In fact, instead of waxing on poetically about how much fun it is, have a bunch of photos instead because I was able to get my pro photographer friend Justin Harris to join for a few of our outings. 

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Tack Room Feng Shui

I like having barn cats because they terrorize my mice and keep the presence of rodents at a minimum. This is super valuable to me as I've had several pieces of tack ruined by mice in the past. However, with barn cats come cat shenanigans. Which, fine, cats gonna cat. But I draw the line at climbing my saddles and scratching them up. NOPE. These new kittens had an absolute PARTY jumping/climbing my saddles near the end of 2020. In an effort to quell that behavior before the damage became worse (e.g., the kittens continued gaining weight as they grew, made saddle jungle gymming a new regular exercise routine), I rearranged the tack room to make climbing my saddles a much less attractive activity. 

Sansa (formerly Brienne, but damnit, that is not her personality, so a change was in order) and Arya
and all of the dirt their fluffy asses drag into my tack room. 

And it worked! The cats actually seem to like this feng shui more, and so do I! It's much more conducive to doing things within that space - especially when Kate and I are both doing said things. 

But of course, moving the couch was only the tip of the iceberg. With the couch in a new place, I decided I needed to rearrange some of my artwork, redo my gallery wall (with some of Justin's photos, of course!), and build a small shrine for Miss Norah as I've threatened to do since her disappearance in July. She was just the coolest cat, and I'm still so sad our time together wasn't longer.