To kick off May, I joined my coworkers for what would be the first of many social gatherings sans masks this month. What an utter delight it has been to be around people again! Despite West Virginia's many backwoods ways, our vaccination campaign was well done. As of this month, everyone I know and interact with is fully vaccinated.
I took Q with me on this camping trip - because why not? She's a camping pro and I wanted to bring my pony!
She was absolutely stellar the whole weekend. Totally point-and-shoot on the [lack of] trails nearby, going wherever I asked - even when it was walking upstream in the river for about a quarter mile! (When the banks are too dense with vegetation to pass through, you make due.) Ultimately, the riding wasn't what I'd hoped it would be (my first time to this spot), so Q enjoyed a lot of grazing in camp.
|Heading to the first dead end of the day lol|
|And then to the next dead end.|
|And then back to camp.|
|Where's Q? Can you find her?|
|How about now?|
|I didn't tie her the whole time. She just meandered and grazed. Such a good mare.|
|You can see the leadline and extender (yellow webbing) here that I tied to her just in case she tried to book it lol|
|The dogs also came and Kenai spent some quality time begging from his favorite chumps. Pity they both know better than to feed him scraps. Taiga was smarter about life and spent her time nomming deer bones that were near the area.|
|"Oh, I see you have a porkchop over there. I would also like a porkchop. Can I have your porkchop?" - Kenai, probably|
|Q in her fake electric pen post dinner.|
Favorite Pieces of Spring so Far
Spring is my favorite season. The return of the flora and fauna, bright, vibrant colors on the landscape, and turbulent skies make for such stunningly beautiful moments. I'm going to let the photos speak for my love of spring here...
|A successful morel hunt!|
|My first time finding these delights in my county.|
|This dogwood was STUNNING.|
|Nice view of a bend in the Dry Fork|
|I was stabbed countless times by four species of thorny vegetation to get these - TOTALLY WORTH IT.|
|Spring deliciousness about to become dinner.|
|Ramps and morels!|
|Add some cheese.|
|And then YUM.|
|Kenai's hearing loss means I'm stared at a lot more intensely these days lol|
|A low quality photo of a high quality bird. Scarlet tanager.|
|Spring ephemeral ride.|
|The various vibrant greens of spring are my absolute favorite.|
|Love, love, love|
|My sweet old man.|
|He is the cutest.|
|The newest flower bed right after planting!|
|And my key for myself lol|
|I was doing barn chores with no plans of riding on this evening. But then I looked up and saw the craziest, colorful light playing across the western horizon and I knew I had to go see it closer.|
|And hot damn am I glad I did. The mist rolling past from latent rainstorms played the sunset light across the sky and landscape in a wholly new way. Just wow.|
|I will forever love taking photos of this old cabin at sunset.|
|How is this even real life?|
|From-scratch biscuits and gravy. Pork from my friend's farm.|
|And a Kate and Griffleby!|
|And the Blackwater Canyon.|
|Grif and his tree.|
|I killt it. 10 miles later and she was too tired to even lie down!|
|Q and I about to head out on a ride with Chris and Ivan.|
|The first outdoor dinner of the year with friends.|
|AND THE MOST PRECIOUS PIGLETS EVER OMG|
|I squealed an unreasonable amount. It scared the pigs. But then they came to investigate me anyway.|
|Barb and Priscilla - the mommas.|
|I loved the piglets so much that I went out the next day with the DSLR to take more photos. I wish they'd been as cooperative with the light as they had the night before, but c'est la vie.|
|These pigs live THE BEST LIFE. They're out on more pasture than my horses are.|
|It's a pretty sweet life. Born here, grow up here, and then will be butchered on site, too. As traveling is the most stressful part for most local farm animals, having the butcher shop setup on site is HUGE.|
|Can't wait to eat two of them later this summer at my friend's wedding lol They're cute, and I adore them, but I also adore eating them and feel no guilt about it because they live a truly kickass life.|
|This is Ferdinand. He was born on the farm last year. Such a big boy now!|
|And this is the new bull, Buster. Or, more affectionately, Bust-a-Nut. Use your imagination.|
|He is a COMPLETE doll baby. He LOVES attention and scratches.|
|This is Bessie, Ferdi's mom. She's a little more selective about who gives her affection, but she really loves her owner.|
|Kate and her momma and I went on a ride together finally!|
|Back porch pre-dinner drinks.|
|Front yard dinner. Tons of various veggies and a perfectly cooked pork tenderloin.|
|And finally, post dinner drinks, fire, and horse grazing. Pure happiness, if you ask me.|
|An early morning rainbow! The sun was barely up when this sucker started lighting up.|
|That second one gave it a go, but didn't become much.|
I haven't been on a beach trip that wasn't centered around something to do with birds and conservation work in...a really, really long time. I haven't swam in the ocean in... Gracious. Nearly two decades? I surprised myself on this trip by swimming in the ocean and lounging on the beach a fair bit. It helped that the temperatures were never above 75°F! Not ideal beach weather for many, but it suited me just fine!
We met up with family and I spent a fair bit of my time documenting my cousins' growing families. I have zero desire for my own kids, but I enjoy others' children quite a bit. I was so happy to be able to document their time together.
|Getting the boat put in. Unfortuantely, we were there during the gas shortage nonsense and didn't get to use it as much as we foresaw.|
|Talking about fish already, I presume lol|
|Helter skelter getting ready to head out.|
|Dinner outside with a yummy drink.|
|First time eating out together since a picnic last year sometime.|
|Talk about beach front....... This is low tide.|
|Vivienne's first time in the ocean.|
|Love this high five. My cousin had just gotten off the phone where he was offered a new job. Emotions were high and we were all so excited. Here he is high-fiving his wife after telling his parents about the good news.|
|Brother and cousin with cousin's daughter.|
|She's her daddy's twin.|
|Those big ol' eyes tho!|
|Doing beach things. This was the day that I may or may not have binge drinked as fast as I could following the worst meeting of my 10-year career....|
|Mommas and babies!|
|Annalise isn't ready to smile on command yet, but her eye contact was spot on!|
|I guess being this weird skipped my parents generation. Oh well. They're stuck with us.|
|Cedar smoke settling into a bourbon drink.|
|If you see these, buy them. OMG amazing.|
|Proof that I was on a beach!|
|And further proof that Dave and I are total weirdos.|
|This stunning momma. Identical twin boys on their way late summer!|
Our First Dressage Lessons!
My big goal for this year is to hunker down and focus on dressage with Q and Griffin. I finally have the time and finances to pursue it, and I'm so excited! Some of the logic behind this decision revolves around the fact that none of us are getting younger. Anything we can do to build better strength and mobility with proper, functional movement will greatly benefit us. Recovering from my shoulder injury last year hit this fact home hard for me. I've also thoroughly enjoyed the PT I've pursued, and anything that builds on it is just gravy.
Right now, I'm taking lessons with an assistant trainer at a GP trainer's barn in Virginia. Her lessons are more affordable and for the level of instruction I need at my n00b stage, the teaching is absolutely perfect. I've seen the GP give lessons in the past and really liked her teaching style. Her assistant trainer (AT) is quite similar and I absolutely loved the instruction she gave me with each horse.
(I was going to create gifs of the lessons, but as we're a month out from them now and I still haven't done that I'm opting to just link the entire lessons below in playlists.)
The first lesson was on Griffin. I warmed him up for her and introduced her to him and our background. Between observing our riding and hearing our story, the AT verbalized a VERY accurate picture of where we are and where want to go. Absolutely nailed it.
She had me work Griffin through all three gaits before we spent time at the trot practicing the classic spiraling in and spiraling out exercise. The AT's steady stream of feedback allowed me to get some really wonderful work out of Griffin. After implementing the spiraling in and out exercise at the trot and canter, we then moved onto the "clock" exercise: a 20m circle with 10m circles to the inside at each 12, 3, 6, and 9 if you visualize the 20m circle as a clock. Once again, thanks to AT's constant feedback, I was able to get some truly lovely work out of Grif. I also received what - to me - were a surprising number of compliments on my riding. All in all, the entire 45 minute lesson was very enjoyable and I felt like I had plenty of gas left in my tank to tackle my next lesson with Miss Q.
Not surprisingly, Q's lesson was a much more difficult ride. Mares, opinions, blah blah blah. 😉 But, as with Grif, the AT put together a very quick and accurate picture of Q and quickly tailored our time to benefit us the most. (Q even graced AT with several examples of her expert teleporting skill due to a very terrifying ~3-inch sunspot in the arena footing.)
While the exercises Grif and I did will also benefit Q, due to Q's opinions and lack of care for my aids on the day of the lesson, we spent the entire lesson working on controlling her haunches. First we rode a box with halts at the corners and then asked her to move her haunches over before striking off in the next straight line. Q was having NONE OF IT at first. She would not stand still. Fortunately, I now find her strong opinions and resistance absolutely comical and pursued the AT's instruction with quite a bit of good humor. With time, patience, more evasions than you could shake a stick at, and eventually a stick (dressage whip) in hand, we had Q listening (begrudgingly) to my requests. (Oh the mare glares I received! LOL)
Once we had Q a bit more onboard with the day's tasks (dressage whips are such beautiful aid enforcers!), we moved from halting in the corners to half halting and then transitions from walking the exercise to trotting it. Q still hated me/AT/life/everything and steadily pursued every possible evasion she could, but the hamsters in her brain really did hunker down and get to work. Her teleportation/spooking absolutely disappeared and she lowered her poll and neck more than she ever has during work. So while she may not have been completely agreeable to the days agenda, she ended up delivering some really wonderful work. It was really cool to get so many glimpses of what she's capable of when I can take her powers and use them for good.
Despite her opinions about having to truly "work", I very much believe Q enjoys this new pursuit. The predictable, stable environment of a dressage arena suits her personality much more than time on trail ever did. The hardest task going forward will lie with me as I do my best to stay ahead of Q's very quick, clever brain. If I can manage to do this, I think I'll have a very flashy little entry-level dressage pony on my hands! And, provided I can achieve this daunting task, I very much think I would enjoy showing Q one day. Until then, we focus on the journey!