blog hop · warm up

RTR Blog Hop: Training Exercise of Death

Racing to Ride wants to know: What’s your least favorite exercise?

Sigh.

This is an easy one.

Warming up.

I fucking HATE warming up.

Tristan needs a long warmup, at least 20 minutes. He’s old. He’s lazy. He’s creaky. He’s usually pretty pissed off to be under saddle.

this picture was taken 9 years ago. it still applies.

The first 10 minutes of any ride, ever, no matter what, are really frustrating. He balks, he flips his head, he crawls along like a slug, he flings his shoulders everywhere, he slams me into walls and trees, he tries to turn back toward the gate or the barn, he sighs heavily and dramatically.

At 15 minutes, I see glimmers of hope, a little bit of softness, a little bit of responsiveness to my leg.

At 20 minutes, I have a normal horse, if lazy and not always thrilled.

Please understand that he has been this way since I first swung a leg over him. He’s not in an undue amount of pain. He’s certainly not being tortured. He’s getting a basic amount of exercise that, once he gets into it, he really enjoys. Once he is warmed up, he can really be a ton of fun, and as the work improves and he gets better, he gets a certain swagger of confidence and pride. Trust me on this.

But for whatever reason, Tristan’s outlook on life has always required spending the first 10 minutes of every ride telling me I can go to hell.

I admit, it really tests my motivation some days. Ok, lots of days. I often put on music and set my emotions aside and just KICK. And then we get to the other side and it’s fine. But I do have to pause for a moment and grit my teeth before I swing a leg over.

blog hop

TRM Blog Hop: Barn Pet Peeves

Thanks to Catherine at That Red Mare for this one, which I have been pondering for some time, trying to separate out the petty things from actual legitimate concerns.

What is your biggest horse related pet peeve? (Try and keep this one more about the horse itself. Things like spooking at nothing, dirty stoppers, refusing to load, etc.).


Horses with no respect for a person’s personal space. I include in that list horses who ram into you while leading them out, horses that crowd you at the gate in pasture, and horses that lunge at everyone passing by from their stalls. The mare next to Tristan haaaaaaates me, and lunges at me teeth bared almost every time I walk past her, and she managed to get her teeth on my shoulder a few weeks ago. NOT OKAY. 

And secondly, what is your biggest equestrian related pet peeve? (This is less about the horse and more about the people in the industry. It can be anything from hating the aisleways in the barn not being swept, the wait times between classes, or even things like rollkur).


Being invisible.
Let me clarify: I am at a barn that in many ways has a weirdly split personality. During the late fall, winter, and early spring, it’s sleepy and quiet. There aren’t that many boarders that ride regularly, and 9 times out of 10 I have to turn on lights when I get there and I’m the only person in the ring, because I ride after work.
Then, late spring through early fall, the barn becomes home base for the trainer again, and it’s bustling. There are a lot of people with a lot of money and very fancy horses – and I become invisible. For them, the barn is a place where they come for lessons, or keep their horses in training and visit occasionally, or come for camp, or lots of other things, but most of them temporary. The majority of them – even the ones who come for months, or regularly for years – don’t know my name.
I’m also a bit conscious that they don’t particularly want to interact with me, so perhaps I reinforce this in a way – I’m friendly, cheerful, and try to be approachable but I’m clearly not part of their group, and I don’t ever want to butt in, so. There you have it.
The barn staff is awesome. Generally I get to know the working students as well. There are a few other boarders who are around more during the summer, and there’s a local college that rides out of the barn now. I know and like all of those people. It’s that extra layer of people who have $$$ warmbloods that they send south to Florida for the winter, and – I guess I have hangups. (I’ve written about this before, in regards to our barn’s adult camp.)
(Oh, and people who talked to their horses in baby talk. I get cute nicknames, I get a certain change in tone, but for the love of God the cutesy faces and mincing gestures and the high-pitched squeals JUST STOP ALREADY.)
blog hop · organizing

Viva Carlos Blog Hop: Planner Post

I love this blog hop, because I love my planner. Here’s the original post.

I use a very, very specific kind of planner made by a company called Quo Vadis. It’s a style of planner I first fell in love with 12 year ago (eek) when I studied abroad in France in college.

Basically, you buy the outside cover and then keep buying refills for it. This cover is going on 5 years now, and is a bit beat up but for something that is handled basically constantly it’s doing greate. The stitching at the binding is worn and the cover is a bit ink-stained but other than that pretty good.
Size wise, it’s 5″ wide by 6 3/4″ tall. I measured. That makes it roughly the size of a paperback book; a bit wider and a bit shorter. It’s a great size to fit into my purse. 
Right when you open it up it has a good space for stashing things. When I took this picture, it was a pile of receipts I needed to file for work reimbursement. Underneath are my grocery list for the week, my financial planning for the year (using the 30 day system, I book out any purchases over say $15 so I don’t go on spending sprees), other notes, and a sticky note with my monthly budget as a reminder.
The inside, though, is what makes me really love this planner. 
Each page is one day. I have a to do list in the main text, with a box next to each item. X means it’s accomplished. X with a line to the right that ends in —> means it’s been forwarded to the future. X with a —| means it’s been canceled all together. As you can see, due to the empty squares, I’m not always perfect with this. Sometimes I’ll leave them on the days they’re originally scheduled for and flip back to catch up on previous lists.
The scheduling function above is mostly to keep track of personal appointments; work gets managed through a different system. The Priority box on the top is big overall stuff, like visitors coming, a big event day at work, something else that I need to remember for that day. The Notes section at the top keeps any number of things – books I want to read, plans for dinner, you name it. 
These are fairly light days because they’re weekdays. Days off get the whole page filled. I have learned that once I fill up the lines, I can’t make myself put anything more on the list for that day. I have to relax. Type A problems, I guess. I usually try to make items actionable steps; I’ll give myself a number of blog posts to write, or a specific task to accomplish, or in some cases a length of time, so something like “laundry 1 hour” or “email 1 hour” or “tidy bedroom 20 minutes” or “unpack 1 box books” so that I can check it off and move on.
One of my favorite parts of this planner is the bottom outside corner. You can see it on these pages. The corner tears off, so that you can just flip right to the current day. At the end of the year, it’s all torn off.
I’ve used this planner system consistently for about 8 years now. When the year is done, I write the year on the binding and file the old one. Since I keep so much on these pages, it can be fun to look back and track when I did things, or what I was doing. I try to take time in December to do a year in review; I skim back through, copy over any books that I’d noted or general things, and add them to my GoodReads list or other bigger lists or just ditch them.
blog hop · grooming

Blog Hop: What’s in your grooming kit?

I am super horribly way behind the ball with this blog hop, but damn it, I’m doing it anyway.

(I’m so far behind I don’t remember who started it – sorry? If it was you let me know so I can credit!)

Anyway!

Once upon a time, I boarded at a barn where the only thing you were allowed to have outside of your tack trunk was one pair of tall boots. That’s it. My tack trunk is an old wooden chest that served as my great-great-uncle’s tool chest, and as such it does not have modern conveniences like space for full grooming kits.

So my grooming kit was this small bucket that, if I tipped it sideways, would slide into the tack trunk. The problem with that was that you had to tip it just right, and even if you had the knack of it, half the time everything in it would fall out. I put up with it for years, because lo, I am lazy as shit.

Then, a friend who was riding Tristan on and off for me bought me a proper grooming kit, because by that time I was boarding at a different barn that did not care if my grooming kit was outside my tack trunk, and she took pity on me, and I think she hated the part where all the grooming tools fell out half the time. The story of my riding life is basically set to “I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends,” like the time Hannah cut Tristan’s boot velcro straps that had been too long for like 5 years.

ANYWAY.

For a few years now I have had a proper grooming tote, and what do you know? Having organizational cubbies actually means I keep this thing pretty darn organized.

Left to right: hoof pick, curry comb (pro tip: buy a child’s size if you have tiny hands like me, it’s much easier to manage), shedding blade (this lives in year round; when he’s not shedding, he’s muddy, and fuck if I can remember to cycle it in and out), stiff brush, soft brush, mane & tail brush, soft face brush.

These are the standards; right now, I’m stuck with the shitty Vetrolin liniment because I could not find Sore No More for a while. I got the EquiFuse in my Blogger Gift Exchange package last year and when I remember to use it I love it. The detangler lives in the grooming box because I will frequently spray it on his tail even when I have no intention of combing it out; it helps keep things from getting too bad.
This time of year, I also do a quick spray of detangler on his shoulders every few days to help keep his blanket from rubbing.

I always keep some array of meds and/or treatment things in the grooming kit. Right now, it’s this fabulous Vitamin E ointment because I was treating Tristan’s fly sheet rub with it, and No Thrush, which is this nifty powdery thrush stuff I’m trying out and like quite a bit.
Not pictured: a small towel that I usually keep there just in case, and generic Tums. I’d run out last week. I use the Tums, I’ll be honest, mostly as a placebo for myself. I will sometimes feed them to him before the ride if he hasn’t had his grain, or if he’s looking a little iffy I’ll feed them after the ride. In theory, they form a buffer and help prevent ulcers, which totally works in some horses. In practice, when he’s 100% fine but I can’t make my anxious brain shut up, I feed them to him and it helps. He eats them like treats, and they have zero negative effect and some small positive, so.
blog hop

Blog Hop: 25 Questions

Jumping on the bandwagon so late there might not even still be a bandwagon. That’s just how I roll lately.

1. Mares or Geldings? Why?

Geldings. Mares and I do not work. I’ve only ever enjoyed one.

2. Green-broke or Fully Broke?

Aspiration: fully broke.

Reality: green broke.
Tris was basically still wild when I started working with them – he did not know how to be groomed or pick up his feet. I helped put him in a squeeze chute at the rescue to get his shots.
Training him has been a remarkable experience but every time I sit on a trained horse, I feel so much better about myself. I feel like I do actually know how to ride.

3. Would you own a “hotter” breed (ie. Arabian, Trakhener, etc).

Nope. Not my style. I prefer a kick ride to a pull ride.

I mean, I would like to do a little less kicking, TRISTAN, but I am not mentally built to enjoy a horse with a bit of an edge.

4. What was your “dream horse” growing up?

Black mustang stallion. I had it all planned out, you guys. He was going to be untamable by anyone but me and we would go on moonlit adventures and I would spend hours crying into his silky mane.

I got the mustang and the crying part right, I guess?

5. What kind of bit(s) do you use and why?

I’ve gone over the bits of my past before.

Tris currently goes in a loose ring double-jointed snaffle for dressage and trail riding, and a full cheek double-jointed snaffle for jumping. He hasn’t needed anything more in a long time.

6. Helmets or no helmets?

WHY THE FUCK IS THIS EVEN A QUESTION?!

WHY WHY WHY.
Jesus Christ, people, it’s 2015, buy a goddamn fucking clue already and wear your helmet.

7. Favorite horse color?

Hm. I am honestly not sure I have a favorite. Maybe a nice bright blood bay with a blaze.

Or, really, secretly I think we would all answer this question as that lovely dappled iron-grey look but as we all know grey horses are all about getting your hopes up and then getting gradually disappointed.

8. Least favorite horse color?


Paint. Any variation. Meh.

9. Dressage or Jumping?

Dressage, no question. It has the kind of problems that my brain likes to solve.

10. How many years have you been riding?


Ummmmmm. 20+, I think, on and off.

11. Spurs/whip or no spurs/whip?


Both. Every time I go without, I regret it. See also #3 above.

12. Your first fall?


Big rawboned QH lesson horse; I was in a semi-private lesson with another girl, her horse took a nutty and my horse did a patented little hop and twist. I landed on my feet, directly next to his head, facing backwards, still holding the reins. Still not sure how. I ruined the effect when my knees buckled and I then sat down on my ass almost immediately.

13. When was the last time you rode and what did you do?

Last Friday night (goddamn it); worked on loosening Tristan up and then on his canter, particularly getting better quality up transitions.

14. Most expensive piece of tack you own?


My dressage saddle, for sure. But even then it is way less than what most people consider expensive for a saddle. I paid $1,200 for it. It’s a used Albion.

15. How old were you when you started riding?

I’m honestly not entirely sure. 10, maybe? Middle school.

16. Leather or Nylon halters?

Personally, I prefer leather for their oh-shit-breakability, but I have nothing personal against nylon.

17. Leather or Synthetic saddles?


Leather. Again, nothing personal against synthetic. I owned a Wintec saddle for a while that I still wish had worked out. It didn’t fit Tristan, but it was great to bomb around in and not worry about.

18. What “grip” of reins do you like?


Hm. I have yet to see a webbed dressage rein with stops that didn’t get all crappy after a while. I love my rubber reins on my jumping bridle, but not for every day use. I really kind of hate laced reins. I like the idea of plain leather reins but not the actuality of them.
I wish you could still find plaited reins. Actually braided, not laced. I loved those.

19. English or Western?


English. Western saddles make me feel like I am trapped and give me panic attacks.

20. How many horses do you currently own/lease?


Just the one, thank God.

21. Do you board your horse? Self-care/full board? Home board?

Boarded at a barn I love.

22. Have you ever had to put down a horse that you loved?

Not personally, but I was a strong advocate for the first horse I ever truly loved to be put down. He was in terrible pain and no longer comfortable even in a field, and he stayed too long before his owner was able to make the call. Someday, I’ll decide for Tristan.

23. How many saddlepads do you have?

Ummmmm…three? Four? Three in regular rotation.

24. Slant-load trailer or straight haul?


Straight. I buy the argument that slant loads are uncomfortable for most horses.
(Really my ideal is open & loose in a stock trailer, but that is a semi-rare thing in the northeast.)

25. Why do you ride?

It keeps my brain on an even keel, and when I ride, I can’t think or worry or stress about anything. I just ride. It’s like when I sit on a horse there’s a minute adjustment and all of a sudden all the tiny watch gears inside my body are well-oiled and run smoothly again.
blog hop · product review · shopping

Favorite Products Blog Hop

Jumping on the bandwagon for this fun blog hop from Breeches & Boat Shoes.

What is your favorite equestrian-specific product that you use when you’re at the barn?

I think it might have to be my Oster Mane & Tail brush. I confess, I don’t clean out Tristan’s mane and tail as often as I should, but every time I do I LOVE using this brush. It’s just one of the best-designed tools I’ve ever used around horses.

I actually own a full set of the Oster brushes – they lived in my trailer as my second, traveling kit – but I find the brushes so-so. The mane & tail brush is a thing of glory and a joy forever.

What is your favorite non equestrian-specific product to use when you’re at the barn?

Probably something medical. I’d say a toss-up between vinegar (for White Lightning & other hoof soaks), saline (for some idiot pony’s eyes), and molasses, though the smell makes me gag.

In actual happy things to use – I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m in a good mood when I have to use any of those things – I’d have to go with my iPhone + headphones. I’ve only recently come around to listening to podcasts while riding and it’s such a great way to kill all that walking warmup time that Tristan needs.

What is your horse’s favorite equestrian-specific product to wear or use?

Cripes. None of them? No, wait, never mind.

I have this tiny little face brush. It’s maybe 4″ long, and it has the most flexible, softest bristles you can imagine. Tristan loves his face brushed, and I bought this for him almost eight years ago now. It was during his first, awful colic – which maybe I should blog about someday, but it was as bad as it gets – and I was on a rare break from the barn, at the tack store, buying extra medical supplies mostly. And there was this brush at the register in a box with others of its kind, and I was so strung out and tired and worried and sad and all I could think was how much he loves having his face brushed and how soft it would be.
So while I often brush his face with my regular body brush, on special occasions I take out this small wonderful brush and spend a long time just brushing his face. He leans into it and tips his head for me  and sighs happily.

What was the best equestrian-related gift you were ever given, and why does it mean so much to you?

It’s not a great picture, but can you see the small horse statue in the photo? It’s a raku horse made by Lindsey Epstein, who is an incredibly talented artist and was the barn manager for a previous barn Tris and I were at. (She appears on this blog incognito as both a teacher and occasional rider of Tristan a few years back.) Lindsey makes these gorgeous horses, and due to the quirks of the glaze they often come out in all sorts of different and unexpected patterns. This one came out looking like Tristan: all roany. It was a Christmas gift several years ago from a very dear friend, and it has occupied this spot on my desk in three different offices now. It’s the combination of unique, thoughtful gift and the much-beloved people involved that makes this so special.

If you had the ability to create any product or anything to make your time at the barn better, what would that be?

Try as I might to devise a winter riding apparel plan every year, there is literally nothing on earth that makes going to the barn in 12 degree weather better. Nothing. So, if I could wave a magic wand and make that happen, that would be nice.
blog hop

VCBH: My Cubicle



Most of us work for a living (wishing I didn’t have to), some of us in way swankier places than others (right now thinking of all my friends who work at places like Google and Salesforce.. le jealous! all dem snacks!) Anyways I am curious for a pictorial tour of your office or cubicle.

I work in a museum, doing a wide variety of education/programming/community relations type of things. I am not in a job where I spend all day, every day at my desk. I do a fair amount of travelling around the state, and even just moving between different facilities and different spaces in the facility depending on the needs and events of the day. I actually have two offices, but am much more settled into one than the other, since I typically spend only 1-2 days a week there. (Trying not to give too many details to preserve some semblance of anonymity on the internet, though if you tried you could easily find out!)

Anyway: here’s my office, which is actually its own proper room. While I don’t have a window, my chair sits where I can see out my door and through a window onto a very pretty grassy area.

I am one of those people who really has to settle in to a place to decide how and when to decorate, so the stuff on the walls has grown up over a period of months to years. I add to it every so often.
I work from a laptop, because I am so constantly on the move. It’s not the best, ergonomically speaking. I’m thinking half-seriously about buying myself some monitors and a keyboard and setting up more of a docking station. I tend to keep papers I’m working on immediately to my right, as well as my to-do list for the day. I have a few horsey things scattered about – my mousepad is Tristan’s face – but not too many. I live out of that file cabinet to my left and usually have my feet propped up on a handle at any given time.
The bookshelves to the left have a bunch of different things: binders for larger projects, extras of any of the forms/sheets/postcards/envelopes that I might use, reference books, an emergency kit for collections, spare banners/posters for various annual events, and usually extras of whatever exhibit peripherals we need at the moment
It’s kind of a mess, but yeah. Map of Vermont, that I refer to quite a lot actually since we’re always trying to plan trips or events so they make sense as we move around the state. Dinosaur of a printer that just will not die. (You know you work in nonprofits when…) If you turned left again you’d see the white board that I use to keep track of longer-range projects, as well as a complete run of our museum’s scholarly journal back into the 19th century. Partially there’s nowhere else to keep them and partially they’re a good reference. When I have an intern (maybe about 1/3 of the time) he or she sits at that table, which makes us quite cozy.
The setup was done for me when I moved into the office and I’m still trying to figure out how best to use the space. It’s a slightly awkward size, and my furniture is limited in quantity and variety. I’m always trying to find new ideas but rarely have time to execute them.
I also tend to work at the front desk of the museum on a regular basis, and in the spaces just outside my office – there’s a big calendar I have to update regularly, and I work out of the kitchen for our events, and then of course the main exhibit itself, as well as the research spaces and so on and so forth.
That’s my main event room, where I do most of my programming. In the midst of our busy season a coworker and I will set this up and break it down (we have tables & chairs in storage that you can’t see) multiple times a week.