2019 Goals Update

Some actual progress in August!


  • Get to First Level – well, we’re officially not going to show at First Level this year, but I feel pretty good about more of the pieces now; I’ve been reading the tests and playing with some of the movements in our rides and we’ve got all the pieces, it’s just a question of putting them in a row. (Isn’t it always?)
  • Take 12 lessons – now at 11/12, with #12 already scheduled.
  • Volunteer at 6 events – 1/6, no more yet
  • Get & share 1 video per month of rides – got some video from August! It’s not great. It was a shit ride. But it is useful.


  • Finish house interior work – nothing in August, scheduled to pick back up in September
  • Finish funding emergency fund – DONE!
  • Pay off vision correction surgery – 92% done, going to try to stretch this to finish in September, we’ll see
  • Try 24 new recipes – Up to 22/24 with mango and grapefruit freezer jam the new ones!
  • Write 20k on Morgan book – 8k words written, and I have both made an initial commitment to write an article (!) and scheduled another talk for a group of experts that I’m sure will run me ragged but in a GOOD way (!!!)


  • Get to 500 sales on Etsy – 370/500 (honestly this was a helluva reach goal and I might actually make it???)
  • Separate website and social media for business
  • Take accounting class
  • Develop 3 new patterns – calling this done
  • Have a total of 7-10 items for sale – much less invested in this goal now, as it doesn’t seem to be the right path for the business right now

Pondering Joint Support

I don’t have any real conclusions as yet, but I’m evaluating Tristan’s overall joint support program.

The basic facts:

  • Tris is 24, though a relatively lightly-used 24; he was started at 10, and did low-level eventing for his first eight years and low-level dressage the last six.
  • We’re asking him to work harder than he’s ever worked before right now, and he’s starting to act out in ways that might be pain-related (or they might be brain-related)
  • On the other hand, he’s also got to keep in work to stay healthy and happy and I’m not ready to retire him, so dressage-as-physical-therapy is the name of the game for hopefully many more years yet.
  • His current diet is very minimal; he gets a little bit of grain, a ration balancer, electrolytes, Prascend, and vitamin E. July-September he gets cetirizine to fight his allergies. The rest is hay and grass.
  • Current joint support is monthly Pentosan injections that have been spotty since about January.
  • Spring 2018 he did a lameness eval with our vet just to make sure everything was okay. He flexed “mildly” positive in both LH & RH in the trot, but nothing to write home about – basically old man stiffness that the vet just shrugged at.
  • He has had several chiropractic evaluations and three different vets have all told me that they basically adjusted nothing and he was fine in that department.

What I’m thinking about:

  • For sure we are going to have the general lameness vet out in probably September to do a general review. I don’t have a specific complaint, just a general “he’s kicking out more than usual when we ask him to move forward, but really mostly in the warmup”
  • We are definitely going to re-establish a firm Pentosan schedule for him, probably do another loading dose (1 shot per week for four weeks) and maybe think about every two weeks instead of monthly.
  • I’m also considering Cosequin ASU; he had a brief trial on that about a year and a half ago and went spectacularly well on it, but I didn’t keep him on it long enough to get a strong proof of causation, just correlation. (I got a free tub of it through a giveaway.)
  • The biggest question mark is whether the vet recommends joint injections. Question the first, which joints? (Probably hocks.) Question the second, with what? I’m wary of steroid injections given his (mild and completely under control) Cushings.

So, here we are. Pondering.

Anyone have anything they’re doing right now that they’re really happy with?


To show or not to show?

Please note:

I wrote this entire goddamn post before double-checking the show date and realizing that I have to work that day so there’s no chance of me going to the show. Awesome. Enjoy my meanderings anyway.


Mostly, lately, my answer to showing has been “meh.” I don’t need the expense, stress, or fuss.

I said I would try and get Tristan out at First Level this year. I’ve been working pretty hard toward that. (Not as hard as I should, as always.)

Pro column: it would be an actionable thing I could do, something to measure our progress outside of a lesson.


Then again, in the last couple of rides the wheels have not just come off the bus they have disappeared to another goddamn county. Like, I’m not even sure we ever had wheels.

Con column: completely embarrassing ourselves.

There’s a home schooling show coming up on the Sunday before Labor Day. It’d be in a ring we ride and school in all the time. Fizzy show atmosphere without the expense of hauling out.

Pro column: easy and relatively cheap (like $50 or so all told)


But what’s the point? What do we even have to prove? I’m in a nasty little mental cycle right now – a lot of people are out and showing and doing cool things and getting better and so on, and I just keep trying to convince my horse to please for fuck’s sake accept the bit and bend.

Con: general life malaise

Though, it’s always nice to find an excuse to wear the fancy show clothes. If I can find them. And get them clean.

Pro and con: show clothes

Decisions, decisions.

morgan history · Uncategorized

Some Writing Progress

Image result for morgan horse linsley

Longtime readers may remember that for some years now I have been poking away at a research project about the history of the first Morgan horse. It’s a fascinating tangle of history and myth.

Earlier this year, I put a tentative shingle out to say that I would talk about my research if anyone was interested. I give other talks on other history topics fairly regularly as part of my job and as part of other research I’ve done, but I felt more nervous and guarded about the Morgan research. It’s something that is well-worn territory for many people, many of whom feel very possessive and intense about it, and I didn’t feel right stepping on toes. But finally I said to hell with impostor syndrome and put myself out there.

I did it partly to see what the audience would be, and partly to force myself to focus my thoughts and sharpen my research. And then 2019 happened, and, well, I haven’t had nearly the time or mental space I thought I might.

But last Friday I gave my first talk. And having it on the horizon meant that a week and a half ago, when I sat down to coalesce all the thoughts and ideas and research notes I’ve been compiling for so many years now – I wrote 6,000 words in about five hours. I walked away from my computer, dazed, and then the next day wrote 2,000 more, and continued to edit and refine those words over the course of a week. Then I wrote a book outline, because spilling all that out on paper meant I could finally see the shape of the project.

My goal for 2019 was to write 20,000 words, and to be honest – I’d given up on that. But all of a sudden it feels within my grasp again. I still need to keep sitting down and pouring out the words, and I still have a million loose ends to chase, but writing that out – and then giving the talk itself – was a huge boost to my confidence.

Here’s hoping I can keep building on that success, because I have two more talks scheduled for the fall, and I can feel, deep in my bones, the itch to write – finally.

lesson notes · Uncategorized

Lesson Notes: Hopping Over

Trying slowly to get back into the swing of things, here.

I have been lessoning pretty regularly, for sanity and chipping slowly away at that idea of trying out a First Level test in the fall.

Yesterday, we had a really terrific, really tough lesson. A trainer once told me years ago that as you progress further and further along in training, the balance shifts from you working hard and the horse not so much, to the horse working hard and you less and less.

I feel like our lesson moved us further down that road, or maybe I’ve been getting stronger because I’ve been riding so much lately, but boy, Tristan was TIRED at the end of it.

We worked on a lot of things, but the one I want to record had to do with straightness & bend on turns – circles, corners, and diagonals. In particular, Tristan falls haunches in going left. He’s stronger and less crooked and more supple going right, but he still needs support.

So we worked on loading the inside hind by “hopping” him over, especially going left. Basically, as I asked for a slight bend, use my inside leg behind the girth to really target and activate his hind end and get it moving over, independent of his front end. As we approach the corner, I kept steady in the outside rein and then used my inside leg to give a quick, sharp aid and really aim for crossover with his hind end.

To the left, we really made this a true HOP – we wanted him to really jump and respond, because he was so crooked to start. The hardest part for me was anticipating and keeping the outside rein steady while I did that – I tended to drop it, and then he moved his whole body over or even got more crooked. To the right, I still had to get some of that feel, but not make it a real jump.

We started with it on a circle, and then (as a huge thunderstorm blew through the area) went down to the indoor and started long diagonal serpentines. Short side straightness, set him up for the corner with a good strong “hop”, then continue that feel around the turn to the diagonal, set him up straight on the diagonal, and open him up for a more extended trot. Then approaching the far corner, take him back, get the other bend, “hop” him into the corner, straight down the short side, and repeat.

I LOVED this exercise. The extension down the diagonal jazzed him up, and the precision of aiming for the diagonal each time really forced me to be clear and quick with my aids. We started to develop – not a true extended trot, but a new trot with more in it. Loading the inside hind also helped him sit more and gave him more lift in the front end as we went across that diagonal.

At the end of it, he was TIRED but after starting off very cranky (and having one spectacular buck/bolt that I grimly hung on through and turned into a VERY deep trot 10m circle; S. said “it’s a good thing you’re really ballsy about riding those”) he was game and willing right through, which was important for me to see because it felt like he was really understanding what we asked of him and he was feeling like he’d succeeded.

Did I mention TIRED?



Horse Trekking in Ireland

As some of you may have seen, I spent almost two weeks in Ireland earlier in July. It was semi-last minute for me; my parents had planned the trip together, and my mom asked me to go with her instead. So, bittersweet, but as my mother frequently reminds us, she gets anything she wants right now – and also, I wasn’t going to turn down a trip to Ireland!

The majority of the trip was a planned tour, with hour-by-hour plans in various parts of the country. That is not my usual style of traveling, but it did mean that up until about the week before, I genuinely had no good idea of where we were going, which was kind of…freeing?

The one thing I did know was that the second Friday of the trip would be a free day in Galway. So I started hatching a plan to find a way to get on a horse on that day.

I did a fair bit of Googling before I left, and tried to pick a stable based on a few things: relative location to Galway (since I would not have a car), relative professionalism of a website (maybe some people are more trusting than I, because holy shit some of those websites?), AIRE accreditation (Association of Irish Riding Establishments, which seemed like it would give some measure of baseline accountability), and the options they offered.

After some sifting, Moycullen Riding Center ticked all the boxes. It was 7.5 kilometers from Galway center, so a reasonable taxi ride, and everything else lined up and looked reputable. I was particularly interested in the bog rides, because that felt more Irish, somehow. Plus, it was right on the border of Connemara, so I had high hopes for good horses.

I sent them an email through their website and waited…and waited. And never got anything back. Whoops. But – I was pretty determined, so once we were settled in Ireland, I called and left a message for them, about a week before the ride. I heard back a few days later, and they had a ride for me!

I got my upfront questions cleared: yes, they provided helmets, and all stirrups had toe cages, so I didn’t need to worry about only having sneakers. They asked me what level of experience I had, and bless them, they took my word over the phone that I was an experienced rider who was comfortable with walk-trot-canter. Judging by the number of horse trekking establishments we passed in other parts of the country, there were a lot of stables out there being very optimistic about (mostly American) tourists.

It took me two days to convince our tour guide that yes, I was going to do this, and yes, I was going to be fine. I think he’s used to the people he shepherds being complete fucking idiots, and also he was miffed that I was skipping the things he had planned for our free day, because he apparently did not think “free days” were an okay thing to have, even if the trip itinerary said otherwise. (I did not like our tour guide.)

On the Friday morning, I took a taxi for about 20 euros out to the riding stable, and well, there I was. I don’t have photos of the stable because it felt creepy to take them, but it was British-style shedrows around a small outdoor – maybe small court dressage sized. There was a lesson going on when I arrived (very early) and it just felt so good again to smell and see horses after almost two weeks away that I just watched the lesson and breathed. I liked the trainer, I loved the horse (a smart gray Connemara who had some spark to him but was very obedient) and I felt a bit for the rider, who was clearly verrrrrrry green. But doing generally okay.

When the time came, we all filled out liability forms, had a quick conversation about our actual riding experience, and got fitted for helmets. There was one other experienced rider, an American eventer from North Carolina, and then three others: a local woman with mixed experience (lengthy experience but a nervous rider), and two men who had never sat on a horse before.

The horses seemed to come in two types: big heavy cobs that looked half-asleep or cute little Connemaras that were too small for me. I started to fidget and get a big nervous, and then someone led a tall bay out from around a corner and gave him to me, and I was relieved. And then I saw he had a gag bit in, and I got a smidge nervous again.

My horse was introduced as Failte (pronounced fal-chuh, I never did get the hang of Irish pronunciation), an Irish Sporthorse/Warmblood cross. (I never did figure out what type of Warmblood, only that the trainer had a very dismissive view of warmbloods generally.) Despite the gag bit, we spent the first 20 minutes of the ride establishing that yes, I was going to put my leg on. He also did not want me to touch his mouth, but that was somewhat understandable with the gag in, so after establishing that he was a sensible sort of fellow, I generally gave him a long rein.


A few minutes into the ride, we split the group up, and the trainer and other eventer and I had a nice long run. It started with a trot of several minutes along a dirt road, and then we turned off the road into the bogs. I was second in line, and the trainer turned in his saddle and said “Just take a good hold of them, then. Keep him steady.” My face must have communicated something, because quickly added that generally it wasn’t a problem but if I really let him go, if he really got a good extended gait going, he could be hard to stop.


Well: I shortened the reins, I did a quick check of my jacket to make sure that everything was zipped and ready, and when the trainer in front of me cantered, I did too. It took me a moment or two to convince Failte that’s what we were doing, but once I did he gave me a lovely, polite, rolling canter. I stayed up in two-point for it, with my knuckles on his neck. Just in case he tried anything, and I was also watching the ground: we were on an established trail, but it was narrow, and we were definitely in a bog.

It was lovely. Really, truly, wonderful: gray skies and a good fast horse who took a half-halt nicely but was willing and ready to give me more if I asked, and beautiful rich green views as far as you could see.

We came back to the walk and picked our way up the last descent on a hill that gave an incredible view of the whole bog area. We let the horses have some grass to eat, and after a short break, while waiting for our novices to catch up, we headed back down the hill.

Total, we were out about 2.5 hours, mostly riding on narrow dirt roads with bog on either side. In many places we could see piles of cut peat from farmers getting ready for the winter; the trainer said in rural areas like that one, as many as 70% of the farmers still used peat to heat their homes in the winter. In the distance ahead of us we could see the Connemara mountains; to one side, a long, wide lake.

If anyone is going to Ireland, especially in the Galway area, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It was a very welcome space for me to get back on a horse, escape the tour, and see gorgeous things I would not have otherwise.




August 2019 Goals Post

Well, let’s see if I can dust this thing off.

Original Goals Post


  • Get to First Level – so; I’m not sure? we have some pieces there, some pieces not.
  • Take 12 lessons – now at 10/12
  • Volunteer at 6 events – 1/6, no more yet, but I have hopes for the fall
  • Get & share 1 video per month of rides – got some video from part of a July ride


  • Finish house interior work – not much movement on this, and there won’t be until the fall
  • Finish funding emergency fund – 90% done, will finish in August
  • Pay off vision correction surgery – 83% done, on track to finish in October
  • Try 24 new recipes – I’ve honestly lost track of where I am, let’s call this 20/24
  • Write 20k on Morgan book – giving a talk in 2 weeks, have to start putting my thoughts together


  • Get to 500 sales on Etsy – 342/500 (honestly this was a helluva reach goal and I might actually make it???)
  • Separate website and social media for business
  • Take accounting class
  • Develop 3 new patterns – I’ve listed three new options for customized items, so calling this good I think
  • Have a total of 7-10 items for sale – much less invested in this goal now, as it doesn’t seem to be the right path for the business right now