House Post: Yard Work Wrap Up

I am going to try to get into the swing of these, if only because maybe that will force me into some more work to show you?

I am really terrible at yard work and having a lawn, and one benefit to mostly being stuck home has been that I have had the time and opportunity to try and get a little better.

So here, an assortment of small projects.

First: cutting waaaaaay back on a rogue forsythia bush and then rucking up and replanting the soil around its former base so it’s part of the yard again. The grass seed has caught quite nicely.

Then, see that fence in the background? It edges the yard and delineates the drop off for a quite steep hill down to a back quarter-acre lot that we also own and let run totally feral. It was in really tough shape. So we got a post hole digger and re-set several pieces of it.

Oh, and I also raked the whole yard pretty obsessively and cleaned out and redefined the bed of perennials you can see in one of those photos.

I also was gifted many perennial plantings from a friend and pulled out some old granite edging I had salvaged from a work thing to try and claim another part of the yard. I have more work to do with this to weed and keep adding plants so it looks more finished, but it’s a start.

And last but not least we had a fairly epic job of weeding to clean out & plant various garden plots. No photos of planting because I left my phone inside but here’s my husband weeding the herb garden.

I fell victim to the run on garden stores this year, so we’ll see what I am able to get in the ground (I did not start seeds, which was dumb of me).


Processing Time

Allow me to be the umpteenth million person to say: these are strange times.

It seems like I can never quite get everything going even moderately well at the same time. In the last week, it’s been work and the barn. Though I have the kind of job where you can never ever feel like you’ve done enough, I’ve actually been doing pretty darn well – using my time fully, thinking on my feet, taking care of loose ends. At the barn, I’ve been really happy with Tristan’s slow climb back to pre-closure fitness. I’ve been using up my scheduled time fully to groom him to a fare-thee-well, and after two weeks of rides he’s already measurably a little bit more fit.

(In another universe, last weekend would’ve been our First Level debut at our local schooling show, but mostly I don’t think about that. One of the nice things about having a 25 year old horse that you’ve owned for 15 years is that there are literal dozens of missed opportunities in our past, and they make this year’s sting a little bit less.)

On the other hand, other parts of my list are a real struggle. Things both important and not are getting left behind because I just can’t muster up enough brain power to focus on them and force myself through. I’ve had “vacuum living room” on my to do list for two weeks. It takes maybe 15 minutes to vacuum the living room. Last night when I did a kettlebell class I was actively grossed out by how full of dog hair the rug is. Did I vacuum after that? No. I played Stardew Valley for an hour before dinner. Or, I’ll just forget about things. Walk off with a slice of banana bread on a plate on the counter and discover it 2 hours later. Put something in front of the garage door, go inside the house to open up the garage, and then completely lose track of what I was just doing and never open the door.

I am stuck between the eternal feeling of “if I just wrap up these obligations/projects/to do list items then I’ll feel like I have a clean slate and get better balance!” and “but what if finding 8 new exciting projects will give me the energy I need to just be awesome at everything?” Both are equally unrealistic, especially for me.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about phases of quarantine. For me, they seem to last about two weeks.

There was the two weeks where I could not physically get enough sleep. I would sit down to read and fall asleep. I could not get out of bed in the morning. I would go to bed right after dinner and just pass out.

There was a two week stretch where I worked out, hard, every day. Every single day. I crushed the at-home WODs, I walked or ran with the dog for miles. I was antsy to be up and doing, I raked the yard endlessly, I cut back bushes, I re-seeded whole sections of the yard, I worked on the upstairs bathroom.

There was a two week period where I made four batches of chocolate chip cookies and only sort of worked out once or twice, but read a ton. I could not put books down, I could not get enough of them. I was ransacking my shelves to make stacks for when I finished the one I was on.

Right now, I’m in the middle of a stretch of not sleeping at all, really. I stay up until midnight, and my body won’t go back to sleep after my first alarm at 6am. For someone who usually needs 8 hours, minimum, my body is not happy with this, but it also won’t fix it. I haven’t had this much trouble sleeping since before grad school, 10 years ago now, when I was so constantly overwhelmed and stressed and exhausted that I completely fucked my body up and subsequently changed my entire lifelong relationship to sleep. (Prior to that, I’d been a terrible sleeper; during and after, I could put head to the pillow and drop off instantly.)

In Vermont, though our numbers are among the best in the nation by every measure, though I have my barn time and my gym time back (outdoor classes + Zoom classes, with an announcement expected soon about in-person), though I feel more secure about our grocery situation and have had a few carefully socially distanced visits (outdoor picnics for the win!)…it still feels like we’re holding our breath. I still feel like something broke that can’t or won’t be fixed. Maybe that’s dramatic. I don’t know.

Anyway, with that meandering. Tris is going well. I have actual horse content planned soon. Just needed to process my brain a little bit this morning.



So, as hoped/planned, I had my safety meeting with the barn manager on Saturday, and actually got to touch my horse for the first time since March 25. He got maybe one of the most thorough groomings of his life and really needed it – he’s been without a sheet for a week or two now and really enjoying his mud bath!

Safety protocols are…almost exactly what I had worked out for myself right when the whole thing was starting. The only real change or addition is to wear masks any time you’re not riding. As you can see, I actually was considering adding “should I wear a mask?” to that list when I first wrote it so none of the new rules are a surprise and they all make sense!

Vermont cases are actually even lower than they were in that first week when I was working out those guidelines – we’re only getting one or two new cases in the whole state per day, and only 3 hospitalized right now. One of those moments where being tiny (I remind you there are only 500,000 people in the whole state, and half of those in one county that is not my own) and verrrrrry rural has helped us out.

So, on Monday, I got back in the saddle! He was, exactly as expected, fairly stiff and wobbly. He’s a 25 year old horse who just had two months off with little to no work (longeing once a week) and is actually on limited turnout right now because of mud season (not enough dry lots to get all the horses out without destroying the fields). I also opted to take him off his Pentosan for the duration. (I’ve re-ordered it now.)

There was nothing truly drastic wrong, though, thankfully, and we did about 45 minutes of mostly walk work: part testing the buttons and part introducing some strengthening pieces back in. 25 was in the ring, with some light figures and about 8 minutes of trotting. Mostly on a loose rein, with gradual introduction of a shorter rein and some bending to try and get him to not flop around in corners and also to see where he was with that. Pretty much right back! All the resistance I felt was clearly physical/muscular rather than mental. Whew.

Then we headed out for just about 20 minutes of walking in the dry areas of the field, including some walking straight up and down hills. He was puffing good after our ring work, then recovered, then puffing again after the hill work. Pretty much what I expected. He loses condition with only a week off, no way was he keeping his level of fitness through this. The good news is he looks good – the rearrangement of muscles is still there, they’re just a little faded, and he hasn’t added too much weight.

The other good news is that if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that the last five years of our riding career have been one rehab after another. I am a pro at bringing this horse back slowly, and right now I don’t even have an injury to work around, just weakness.

The even more good news is that we’re getting 2 hour barn time slots, which is enough to actually linger a little bit, do some extra grooming, and not rush any riding time. Whew. So I have spots tonight, Friday, and Sunday, and then we’ll schedule for next week. The week after that Vermont is actually probably going to open salons & gyms, and while I know my barn will continue to be careful, I’m looking forward to adding some working/chores days and getting back into a lesson program.

I repeat: WHEW.


The Waiting Game

I have written and deleted an awful lot of whiney posts this week.

The short version: Vermont allowed boarding barns to open up last Wednesday (5/6). My barn has not yet opened up.

One of the reasons I chose my barn was their neurotic attitude toward horse care. I have never, ever been disappointed in the way they take care of Tristan, and have not had a single concern or qualm about the way they have taken care of him during the lockdown.

Logically, that neuroticism has extended to our current situation. Vermont is only seeing one or two new cases per day, and is frequently one of the few states named as safe to open up when you read articles about the various measures for such things. We’re testing literally anyone who wants to get a test, even if you’re asymptomatic.

So it’s hard to know that the barn could be open but is not, but it’s also paired with the knowledge that I trust them deeply. That does not make things easier, but it is the familiar feeling of this whole awful thing: nothing is the way it should be, even simple things evoke great discomfort, and there are no good choices anymore.

Repost of us as BABIES thanks to Joan from Flatlands Foto

I was able to see Tristan for 15 minutes on Tuesday, my birthday. I got out of the car and called to him in his turnout and I am not really a person who anthropormorphizes animals but I am absolutely clear and certain that he came to high alert immediately – that high neck, nose-blowing alertness directly at me as soon as he heard my voice. So that was gratifying. I fed him an apple, which he was grumpy about (I should recount the saga of Tristan and apples someday; they are star-crossed frenemies, but it was all I had at home), and petted him for a little bit, and then he wandered off to nose away snow and eat spring grass.

I also have a meeting at the barn on Saturday to get training on safety protocols, with an eye to a soft opening and some riding time next week. I don’t know what either of those things look like yet, but I remain hopeful.

In the meantime, I am walking the dog, baking, sewing, and working out. Reading intermittently – I’m either completely engrossed or grumpy about whatever I’m reading. Not really watching TV a whole lot – it’s just not my preferred way of zoning out. Tinkering endlessly with my home office setup. Occasionally poking at the upstairs bathroom without any real motivation. I’m not ready to go back to work in person (honestly I’d work from home forever) but wow am I ready for the rest of my life to come back.


Not feeling terribly hopeful…

I’ve seen from a few people that the governor of California has proposed a really bizarre and random list of outdoor exercise activities that people can now participate in.


I have so many questions? Like, what is “athletics”? And why clarify “singles” under horse riding? All of you doubles riders, you are SOL still! And some of these are still high-exposure. Tossing a baseball back and forth is like passing an infectious vector hot potato, and golfing requires a whole support system of peons to make it work, it’s not like it’s just you and your stupid golf clubs against the world, wandering alone on good pasture gone to waste. (Fuck golf, though, and I don’t care who this offends: it’s not a sport, it’s a shitty pastime AT BEST.)

ANYWAY, I don’t live in California, so I don’t have to devote too much brain power to actually figuring these things out.

Meanwhile, in Vermont:


Whomp whomp…considering the governor has already released the “Phased Restart Work Safe Guidance” for the next two weeks and riding isn’t on it, looks like we’re probably going to be into late May at the very best and quite possibly even June before riding is allowed.

Honestly, I could work from home for quite a while longer if I could just go to the barn again. (And the gym, holy shit, this whole “dessert after every meal, yes, breakfast too” is emotionally satisfying but not doing great things for my fitness.)


Help me figure out some new products!

I want to add more embroidered saddle covers to the Etsy store, so…help me out!

Here are the links to my current selection:

Monogrammed Covers

Breed Logo Covers

Personalized Covers

I want to add more options to all of those sections, but what should I add?

I don’t know anything about monograms (they are so not my style): are there any other popular styles that you like?

Any other breeds that absolutely should be there? (My offer on the breed logos stands btw – if you want one in a style I don’t have yet, I’ll make it for you for free, because that way I get a sample to photograph for the listing. So pitch me one!)

I’ve thought about doing a series of image outlines + your name (or your horse’s name). Something like the below.

Caballo Head Vectors, Photos and PSD files | Free Download - Clip ...

Or maybe an action shot.

show jumping emblem - black and white outline of horse and jockey ...

All ideas welcome!




Sometime last week – or maybe late the week before – I hit a new record: the longest in 15 years that I have gone without seeing Tristan.

Previously, it would’ve been about 3 weeks, max. I had a couple runs of those when he stayed in Vermont for a year while I started grad school in Boston. Even then, I’d drive up once a month and stay with a friend and spend a few hours with him in his field. This – this is unprecedented. I miss him like breathing. The earliest I can possibly see him is May 15, and that’s assuming we don’t get our stay at home order extended again.

My birthday is May 12, and I’m considering negotiating with the barn to maybe drive out and park next to his pasture for a little while, if I promise not to leave the car. We’ll see if that works. It’s depressing to have that to look forward to, but I’m clinging to it.

Some things are good – Etsy orders are off the charts, nearly pre-Christmas levels of ordering, which has been gratifying and is keeping me busy. Unfortunately, my embroidery machine broke down about 10 days ago, with a simple problem that nevertheless needed a technician to fix. The closest repair shop is in New Hampshire, which would have meant crossing state borders, which is strongly discouraged in Vermont right now. So I had to buy a brand new machine, which was as you can imagine pretty darn expensive. It’ll be amortized, business is still going really well, all that jazz, but damn, it would have felt good to build savings instead of pay down debt.

My kitchen is SO clean. I’ve been baking a lot, and because of my habit of buying flour 50lbs at a time and yeast in 1lb blocks, I’m still mostly fine in those departments. I’ve been walking the dog longer and further than I ever have before, and as a result she’s better-behaved on leash than she has been in years. I’m reading a lot of books I’ve had on my backlist. I still love my house, so it’s no true hardship to be in it. I am still fond of my husband, so there’s that too.

On the downside, I have this incredible smoldering anger toward people who are blatantly disregarding the stay at home orders in their location and still riding their horses. Some of it’s irrational – people have their horses at home, or they’re the only person at a private facility – and some of it is a staggering amount of selfishness on the part of people who are using this whole thing as a fun vacation with zero respect for local rules. Obviously, I have no control over it, and it’s not like anyone who’s made the decision to continue as usual is going to give two shits about my opinion – but I’m struggling with it.

I’m also deeply, nauseatingly worried about the state of my own job come the summer, the new fiscal year, and once the full picture of the economic fallout becomes clear. Logically, I can probably wrangle a working student position, I have savings, my husband’s job in healthcare is likely secure, and I will be okay – but I love my job. I don’t want to lose it. I don’t want to have to implement all those backup plans.

Plus, you know, my trip of a lifetime to Vienna. I’m still dealing with the fallout and the refunds etc. from that. And eyeing the professional conference I have in Las Vegas in September and wondering about that. And, you know, everything else in the whole entire world that is up in the air from moment to moment.

I know it’s already been said before, by everyone, many times, but I will add to the pile: this fucking sucks.


Weird Quarantine Thoughts

I just spent…well, let’s characterize it as an unreasonable amount of time…staring at this image and trying to figure out the bridle & reins.



What is he trying to do with those reins?

Stop the dragon? With one arm sort of weirdly back like that? Plus they’re still slack. So…not really.

You could argue that sweeping with the arm like that could work to give a hard yank on a curb bit, something with those super-long Western shanks.

But then that brings us to the bit/bridle setup itself. It’s…basically tied down to the poor thing’s mouth. Not hanging from bit keepers. And the chin strap is WAY too tight.

And there’s no bit groove, where is it supposed to rest? It just slides back into its mouth until it gags the poor thing? Plus that translucent film at the corner of its mouth looks delicate. How does it even slide, when it’s tied down that tightly?

It’s a pretty gentle bit for that hard of a yank and that nasty of a bridle setup, just a mullen mouth loose ring or maybe eggbutt.

On an unrelated note, why is there a buckle in the reins so close to the bit? Isn’t that just asking for a break?

And why are the reins so darn long?

Does this really bother anyone else or have I finally cracked?


Spend Your Stimulus Money on Horse Stuff

Obvious caveat: no, I was more responsible with our stimulus check, it went towards some heating bills and into a savings account on the chance that my job disappears this summer. But wouldn’t it be fun to spend it entirely like this?

The challenge: spend your $1,200 stimulus check entirely on horse stuff.

What do you buy?

Here’s my list.

First up, a pair of brown tall boots. I love the Mountain Horse Sovereign boots. I’d try to find them in that lovely two-tone brown they used to have. If not, this dark chocolate is also nice.

Cost: $395

Next, I’d probably go for a new helmet. It’s only been a few years since I bought a new helmet but the market has already changed dramatically. Among other things, it seems that IRH (my go-to helmet brand for many years now) no longer offers a long oval option, which is the best fit for my head. And no one makes gray helmets. I am going to have a really long ugly cry when I have to retire my current, best-beloved, gray IRH helmet. Some internet research suggests that the One K Defender Air will be a good fit.

Cost: $285

If I have money to burn I might as well get some fun stuff too, so let’s say I find some Kastel sunshirts on a good sale and get four of them. (In the old solid colors because holy shit what happened to this year?) If I could find the ones they made for a little while in merino wool, then bonus for that.

Cost: $200

The Hylofit System

Despite the general impression I give on this blog, I am not entirely immune to trends, and I want one of these REAL BAD.

Cost: $250

Barn Equine First Aid Medical Kit - Medium – EquiMedic USA, Inc.

That leaves me with $70, because taxes and shipping don’t exist in my fantasy world, so I’d take the rest of it and sink it into a thorough update of ALL of his first aid and miscellaneous grooming supplies.

What about you?



Wednesday Things

First: your petty complaints are giving me life. If you want to get something super tiny and first world off your chest, head to the comments on my last post and read everyone else’s. I laughed so hard and felt way less alone. Thanks, everyone.

I also wanted to give people a heads up that Andrea Waldo, event rider & trainer and author of Brain Training for Ridersa really excellent book about sports psychology for riding, is doing a series of workshops on that same premise. Andrea is a great human being and a great teacher and I can’t recommend these enough.

I reviewed her book and did an interview with her when it came out, so if you want to get a sense of the content and her personality, you can read those posts.

Book Review: Brain Training for Riders by Andrea Waldo

Brain Training for Riders: Interview with Andrea Monsarrat Waldo

Brain Training for Riders: Your Questions, Andrea’s Answers

If you want to sign up for the series, they start on April 20 and the Facebook event, for purchasing tickets, is here. The final workshop will be in Zoom.