Some really great stuff in today’s lesson, so a few quick bullet point notes from it.
I put Tristan’s Back on Track hock boots on him 30 minutes before and for about 8 minutes of the walk warmup, and am pleased with that decision. There was less stiff-legged flailing, I think.
I struggled a little bit with consistency in his forward response early on. Later, I got it down, but I need to establish it more firmly and earlier.
For maybe honestly the first time ever (?!) there were long stretches of work in the trot that went better when I was sitting the trot. I sat it as a bit of an experiment and while often that makes him suck back and get frustrated, today it meant that I was actually able to gather up that energy in my core and help him cycle it through and really deepen the connection. Tons of lift through the base of his neck and it felt effortless to keep my elbows soft and keep him upright through corners.
We’re knocking at the door of some canter breakthroughs, and at the very end of the lesson played a tiny bit with lateral work in the canter cued through my seat. The first time I thought “well, here we go” and shifted my seatbones I let out an involuntary yelp when he said “okay, sure” and just zipped sideways. All that work in keeping our leg yields straight and snappy has started to pay off!
Overall, I need to find a way to get more conditioning mileage without souring both of us. I did a nice 30 minute march with some flexion work last night, and that seems to have helped support today’s lesson, but I need to start adding wind to him so he we can actually have that canter breakthrough – so he can hold the canter for long enough to tinker with it more. (Not lost on me that he actually is decently fit for his age, the season, etc., so I also need to get better about using some of that fitness when it matters. Not all the time, obviously, but occasionally it’s okay to get him truly good and tired.)
I don’t know that I have an obvious or clever answer to this one, because Tristan’s favorite thing, the thing I buy more of than anything, is pretty straightforward.
Yup. Easy call. From day 1, other treats just have not measured up. And from day 1, I mean, the first time I met him he was still so wild and headshy I spent a solid hour sitting in his turnout and talking to him with my hand outstretched holding a mint to start the trust process.
Contrast that with our ride last week when I halted him in the middle of the ring and took out my phone to stop the timer app. My hand brushed a dog poop bag in my pocket, which made a crinkle noise, and Tristan spent the next several minutes shuffling his feet around and whickering and craning his neck back to me because he was convinced there was a mint in my pocket. Sadly for him, there was not. (Probably I should have stopped him and made him stand still but it was hilarious and adorable, so there, I let it go.)
One of the unqualified good things about the last few months is that I have committed to a regular lesson time on Fridays, and reached at least some kind of equilibrium with Tristan around that time.
For better or for worse, I have scaled back my non-lesson riding quite a lot. For better, that means he’s spunky and full of energy and actually much more willing to cooperate with the harder work we’re doing in the lessons. I am having to think and work to ride a slightly spooky, slightly naughty horse that needs a light hand. That’s never been my strong suit, and especially not with Tristan!
For worse, it means his fitness has slipped a little bit, which means that for example, last week, when I rode on Thursday night, he came out of the gate on Friday sluggish. It also means that some of that excess energy has bubbled over in not-helpful ways, such as his bucking fit that launched me a few weeks ago.
It’s a tough balance for any horse, but an older horse with a history of uncooperative behavior especially. What level of work does he need to keep him healthy, and what level of work keeps him happy? Those are often two things in tension with each other. It’s sort of the inversion of the problem that can happen with higher-octane older horses, who may need more work mentally than their bodies are able to keep up with physically.
This week, I’m going to try stepping up his riding schedule a tiny bit, and he’s probably going to get a training ride on Wednesday. We’ll see what that results in this Friday!
Anyone else struggle with the brain/body divide with their horse?
I think I am finally starting to crumble. As introverted as I am, it was bound to happen later for me than for others, but my brain is finally starting to sour on this whole thing. Isolation is one thing, the constant every-tiny-mistake-is-doom state of a pandemic world is taking a boulder-sized mallet to my anxiety.
Yesterday, the news of Jane Savoie’s passing hit me pretty hard. I did not know her, only in passing, at a few parties, in and out of our barn. I never rode with her. But many years ago, I saw a PBS Nature episode called “Horse and Rider” and she was featured in it. I was enthralled. Not long after that I read a marvelous book called Conversations with a Prince, in which she plays a small role. Eight years ago both of those things came full circle when I came to my current barn. So even my infitesimally small connection to her has played a big role in my life.
I had a long and not great day yesterday. Some of the reasons were my fault. Some of them were out of my control. All of them piled up. I made myself ride anyway, just a half hour or so, my first time in the saddle in the new year. Usually I do a New Year’s Day ride, on the theory that starting the year that way is a good omen, but this year I was in travel-related quarantine.
He was wonderful. My brain was quiet the entire time I was at the barn; it is the only time my brain is ever quiet. I need to remember that.
We have not been working on the house too much this year, apart from the emergency bathroom renovation, but I have been tidying up a few small things here and there lately.
The small table in the foreground is one I grew up with that my mother was relocating as she gets ready to move, so now it lives in the sunroom. There are a few things I need to continue tweaking about the sunroom; the footstool you can see in the back left needs a better home. To the right of this image is a corner that has accumulated random things that need to be sorted out.
Not strictly speaking house work, but I’ve pulled out a few UFO crochet projects to work on while WFH. This blanket was (is?) a wedding gift for my brother, whose oldest child just turned five. So, long overdue. I’m about halfway through it now. I have to sit in on a fair number of large statewide committee meetings for work and I just turn my video off and listen and crochet away.
Over the summer I impulse-bought a pressure washer and my husband did about half of the deck. You can see the difference pretty clearly. The plan is to do the second half this summer and then re-seal the whole thing.
One short but helpful project was to dig all the weeds & crap out from this section of the yard, which was where we stored the wood for the fire pit, level it off, and put these pavers in so the wood would not rot into the ground the way it had been. We then filled up the length of it with wood we pulled from the brush pile in the back lot and had an easy access for the fire pit. We did a bunch of fires this summer with friends over takeout food, for a safe activity during that brief quieter window.
I also did a little bit more work on the bathroom, which was an intensely frustrating project, but more about that next week.
I did end up writing goals in several categories, though I won’t share them here as I have in past years. Rather, I’ll do a monthly recap post on how things are going generally.
I will set out a few aspects of the goals here, though.
One of them is to write more. I have some word counts that will work across my various outlets, and hope to write at least a little bit every day – blog, personal, academic, whatever works, as long as I build the habit. I’ve fallen into some shortcuts and poor writing tics over the years as email rather than longform took over my output, and I hope to reverse that. Expect more words in this space in the new year.
Another goal is to read more, and with more intention. In years past I’ve easily read 75-100 books; this year being what it was, my focus was very poor, and I ended shy of 50. I also fell off with tracking my books. I’ll bring myself back into accountability through ways that have worked in the past such as GoodReads. Toward the end of this year, I began reading more and more physical books rather than ebooks, and that helped a great deal with my focus.
I’ll blog a little bit about my reading, probably on Saturdays, especially as some of it will be horse reading, obviously.
Here are some of my reading goals for the year:
one book in French
five books about horses
five books about Vermont
five books from the “to be read” pile
one book of poetry
five books by authors of color
three books about museums
five award nominees (Hugo, Nebula, Dragon, Pulitzer, etc.)
two books about science
three books about organizing/politics
three memoirs or biographies
If you add all that up, it ends up with 39 books, so room still for purely personal and fun reading.
Obviously an awful lot of things about this year sucked. I am currently in a phase of “do I really have to wake up and shower and figure out what to eat and then clean my kitchen every single day?” Depressingly, so far, the answer is yes.
If I’m being honest though, a lot of other things were great. Biden won the presidency. Working from home with my dog for company is awesome. My loved ones are safe and healthy. My job is secure and even prospering as we pivoted to remote work. I took on some cool community positions that mean I’ll be able to do really good, really useful work, and I won election as a Justice of the Peace in my small city. A bunch of my social things translated well to Zoom hangouts, and I am particularly delighted with a small community of cool people I have assembled around a book series that I love.
Tristan and I had an up and down year; we had a really terrible debut at First Level that wrecked my confidence in riding in a way very few other things have. He dumped me not once, but twice. Despite that, he’s also going spectacularly well right now. We seem to have tapped into some better way of understanding his body, and he is regularly giving me soft, floaty trot work and starting to organize his canter in the same way. Granted, it is still coming with the daily threat of bolt&spook temper tantrums, but – I will take that trade-off.
My little saddle cover business also took off this year, continuing a growth that was consistently between 100% – 150% all year, and I feel like a lot of pieces I’ve been experimenting with for a while came together. I added in more designs that people liked, I streamlined pieces of my process to make it faster and easier, and I did some mundane bookkeeping and organizational work to keep things more standard.
I’ll blog later about 2021 goals, but here’s my final wrapup of my goals for 2020, a bit early, because who doesn’t want 2020 to end early?
Ride a First Level test at one of the two barn schooling shows – done. sucked, but done.
Take notes (however brief) on every ride – got about halfway through the year with this, sigh
Clean tack at least 1x a month – nope
Volunteer at 3 events – WHAT events?
Take 25 lessons – definitely
*Reach goal: Go to Crossfit 100 times (or roughly 2x a week) for additional fitness – This got a bit rocky with our second round of closing, but I feel confident in saying I hit 100; for most of the summer & early fall I was going consistently 3x a week. I have not been since Thanksgiving. I MISS IT SO MUCH. Fuck you, COVID.
Keep up with monthly expense/revenue tracking – sure, enough
Maintain 100 listings in the Etsy store – I was never able to crack this consistently; 90 is about what I could keep up with
Mustang gear goes live – nope
Sponsor 5 riders – nope
Table at a horse show – sigh.
*Reach goal: Get to 1000 sales on Etsy – uhhhhhh yeah, crushed this, with a count right now of 1295!
Try 25 new recipes – Definitely long past 25, calling this done
Try making: croissants, eclairs, cinnamon rolls – eclairs are my Christmas Eve plan and croissants are my vacation week plan!
Declutter in February – eff it, calling this done, I’ve done a ton of decluttering
Finish 5 craft projects – sure, I guess, I’m calling this done
Finish upstairs bathroom, front guest bedroom, and nook room – nah, all work ground to a halt after the bathroom finished
*Reach goal: submit Morgan article for publication – lmao remember when I did my own research? sob.
Goals that I did not put on the list but accomplished anyway:
did a fuckton of political organizing
got COVID tested four times
got elected to local office
re-organized my entire office to work from home, made a ton of upgrades
hit a bunch of financial goals that were not projected until 2021
explored a lot of local state parks & trails, did way more hiking & dog walking than usual
did not lose my mind or murder my husband after spending so much time together, honestly, underrated accomplishment
I’ve been absolutely swamped with orders, which has been great for my self-esteem and ability to stay ahead of vet bills…and bad for my free time.
So I’m not doing any widespread sales, except a limited-audience one I’ll announce here & on the email list (which you can join if you want a heads up on other BJM news, since I don’t post about it here all that often).