meme · Uncategorized

30 Things To Know About Me

Okay, okay, jumping on the blog hop bandwagon here. Broken up with recent pictures of the horse and the dog, because walls of texts are nobody’s friend.

  1. I am a huge nerd. Huuuuuuge. Star Trek came up in my wedding vows. At one point in middle school I had memorized Tolkien’s Elvish dictionary. I have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Star Wars Extended Universe books. I attended Comic Con in San Diego on a press pass from Save Farscape. I could go on, but you get the point and are backing away slowly already.
  2. There are an awful lot of foods that I dislike that everyone seems to love. Popcorn. Wine. Ice cream. Steak. Vegetables. (Yes, all of them.) I was an extremely picky eater as a child, and some of that still carries over. I can get really anxious if I don’t know what I’m eating, though as an adult I’ve mostly learned to hide this.
  3. I bake a lot. I’m pretty proud of my baking skills and always enjoy expanding them. One of my quiet goals for 2018 is not to buy any bread, and so far I’ve been successful. I really want to try making croissants from scratch but I need more time to accomplish that than I’ve yet been able to scrape together.
  4. By that same token, I kind of dislike cooking. It bores me. I don’t like overly flavored things. The grind of figuring something out every night gets to me. I’d quite happily bake two loaves of bread and a batch of cookies and then eat cereal for dinner.
  5. I read constantly, mostly fantasy, scifi, and nonfiction. I average around 100 books a year, or about two a week. Sometimes I try to alternate fiction/nonfiction; lately, I try to avoid reading white men. If I’m stuck in a bathroom without a book I’ll read shampoo bottles.IMG_2544.JPG
  6. I know nothing about cars and can’t drive stick shift or change a tire. I don’t really get car lust. I drive a straightforward, boring car. I do the repairs the mechanic tells me. End of story. I can’t wait for self-driving cars. (Despite this, I’ve spent most of the last year working intensively on a research project about automobile history.)
  7. I quit all sports going in to high school and then spent four years trying as hard as possible to ditch gym class. Before that, I played field hockey and was pretty good at it, but took a decidedly un-athletic path from then on and other than riding, I’m more or less still on it. Physical exertion unrelated to horses is BORING and there are few greater sins in my life.
  8. Alias is my favorite TV show of all time. It hit all my buttons and I still to this day loathe Ben Affleck with the fire of ten thousand suns for ruining Jennifer Garner’s career.
  9. I’m really political. Really a lot. I’ve worked on a bunch of different campaigns. In college I was a member of the College Republicans, but the overall political climate has shifted so much that last year I spent many, many dozens of hours working for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
  10. I speak more-or-less fluent French. I did a year abroad in a city called Poitiers, taking graduate classes in medieval history. I still try to keep up with my language skills. They’re useful, living as I do on the border of French-speaking Canada.IMG_2552
  11. At one point in my life I thought I was going to go on to do PhD work in medieval history. My undergraduate thesis was on the crossbow and how it highlighted tension within the laws of war as they were understood in the middle ages. I got waitlisted for doctoral programs at a couple of places, and when I waited a few more years and thought harder about what I wanted I chose to do public history aka museum work.
  12. I’m still a military historian by choice. Not like “this regiment moved here at this moment” because who fucking cares, honestly. More like I think that war is one of the most fundamentally (and horribly) human things that we do, and it illuminates all the cracks and flaws and weaknesses and strengths of what it means to be human at any given moment in history. It’s a fascinating way to get at so many other fascinating questions. (See also, The Loneliness of the Military Historian, a note-perfect poem by Margaret Atwood.)
  13. My favorite book of all time is Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers. On paper it’s a mystery set in 1930s Oxford among a community of academic women. But it’s really about what it means to be smart, and capable, and independent, and how to relate to other people, and I kind of feel like if I keep reading and re-reading it forever I’ll figure out all the answers to life.
  14. I don’t have a favorite color. Yeah, I know. I’ve got nothing. I just don’t.
  15. I’m bad at nearly everything stereotypically girly. Makeup. Clothes. Kids. Drinking wine. Decorating. Talking on the phone to friends. Caring about…all sorts of things. I suck at it.IMG_2248
  16. Reality television, except cooking shows, gives me such a bad case of anxiety-by-proxy that I can’t watch it. Some people find the Bachelor fun and mind-numbing. It makes my skin crawl.
  17. I am of the opinion that the best Hollywood filmmaking, with a handful of exceptions, all occurred before 1960. Method acting ruined everything.
  18. My mother was an ER nurse who worked the night shift in a really tough city outside Boston while I was growing up. I never really got any medical sympathy growing up. If I whined that I didn’t feel well and shouldn’t have to go to school, I got a play-by-play of the gunshot wound victim she’d done CPR on the night before. I went to school.
  19. I played the cello fairly seriously through high school and college. I was never very good at it, but I did love it and the community it made me a part of. I liked full orchestral playing the best. I set it aside in college and haven’t really played since.
  20. I need 9 hours of sleep at night to feel human. Maybe even more. I hate it. It’s awful. But I’ve had to accept it over the years. IMG_2063
  21. There are a handful of things in my life that I cannot remember. It’s like my brain just flat-out refuses to keep them inside. One is which direction the sun rises and sets in. The other is how to play gin rummy. There are a few other things. It’s random and ridiculous and I’ve given up.
  22. I’ve crossed the Atlantic more times than I’ve crossed the Mississippi. I visited England when I was twelve, and didn’t get around to going anywhere west of, say, mid-Pennsylvania until I was nineteen.
  23. One of my ancestors was Susannah North Martin, who was hanged as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. I’m a direct descendant. I grew up not far from Salem and for a time visited regularly and often stopped by her memorial.
  24. Another of my ancestors, my great-great-great grandfather, was a Colonel in the Civil War, fighting for the North. He survived every major battle of the war, oftentimes in the worst of the fighting – cornfields at Antietam, Big Round Top at Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Fredericksburg, you name it. He never had a single day off from injury or illness. He was apparently fearless and slightly crazy. (Before the war he went to Kansas to fight with the Free Soilers. Just for fun, or something.) He came home from the war, married, retired to a farm, had a son, and was killed crossing the street a few years later. He was hit by a runaway team of horses, dragged behind the wagon, and then they all were hit by a train as they crossed the tracks. How’s that for life’s randomness?
  25. Actually most of my ancestry would make the stodgiest member of the Daughters of the American Revolution shed a proud tear. I have Pilgrims and soldiers in every single war and community leaders and they’re all Anglo and I have basically not a single ancestor who got here after, like, 1700, which I think makes me eminently qualified to say that the current crop of white supremacist fuckwits in the White House are racist scumbags who are full of shit and America should welcome anyone and everyone who wants to make a life here and do their best to be a decent human being and to try and make the world a better place. Anyway. Soapbox over. See #9 for your reminder.IMG_2092
  26. I am realllllly uncoordinated. Ridiculously so. I can drop things that I was holding perfectly securely not two seconds earlier. They just fall out of my hands. I took tennis lessons for a summer and played on and off through childhood (my parents are huge fans and now my in-laws are) and I can still swing to the left of me when the ball is coming to the right. There’s a decent chance I knock over, or nearly knock over, a glass at almost every meal.
  27. I’m really bad at decorating the places where I live. If it were up to me, I’d have, like, two things on the walls of our house. The concept of planning out decor baffles me. I see pictures of peoples’ houses with, like bowls of pretty things and little carvings and things on endtables and I think how on earth did you know to do that? My husband is the opposite when it comes to walls. 95% of the things on the walls of our house, he put there.
  28. I have a really good gag reflex – I’m not really squeamish at all – except for a few things. Litter boxes, for example. I refuse, categorically, to ever touch the litter box. Not my cat. The sight and smell of them makes me want to vomit pretty much instantly, and without fail.
  29. I’m also really good with pain. I had abdominal surgery – not for appendicitis, though they yanked my appendix out while they were there because why not – and never even filled my pain med prescription. I didn’t get – or ask for – pain meds for most of the 12 hours leading up to the surgery, which was in retrospect the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life.
  30. This was really hard to do. I think at heart I’m pretty convinced I’m entirely uninteresting.
meme

Ten Questions for May

When in doubt about what to write, pick up a meme!

This one comes from The Horse Is Not Black.

1. What are your summer goals?

I’d like to continue our slow-but-steady progress in dressage; in particular, in accessing his hind end and working on relaxing instead of bracing through transitions. I’d also like to solve his assholery in the outdoor. I’ll have to get it on video at some point so you all really understand what I mean, but I’d like it to stop. I don’t mind spicey, I mind idiocy.

2. Do you have any tips or tricks for fly control?


Sigh. No. I want to try that new EcoVet stuff that people are raving about, just to see how it goes. Tristan wears a fly mask & fly sheet all summer but less to actually keep out flies than to keep him from other irritants. His eyes blow up if you look at them sideways and he has some kind of allergy that triggers hives. The fly gear helps with that, but actual flies are probably here to stay.
He does need a new fly sheet, though, since his old one (admittedly picked up for $15 on clearance 10 years ago) is giving him rubs. So that’s on the list for this summer.

3. How often do you bathe your horse?


I’m really not sure. That’s actually a good question. Once a month, maybe? He gets rinsed off whenever he sweats, so I don’t know if that counts. I do hope to give him more regular baths this summer.
he hates baths so much.

4. Do you have any upcoming travel plans? Equine or otherwise?


It’s a summer of family weddings, so we have three trips planned for that. It’s also a travel summer for work, both to research a new exhibit and to do outreach work and speak on some of our past research topics. It’s rare that work takes me out of state, though. Safe to say I’ll be on the road at least once a week until it starts snowing.

5. What is your favorite way to beat the heat?

I am a thin-blooded lizard person and I rarely feel the need to beat the heat. (Also, it’s Vermont; we’ll have a week or two where it hits the 90s and that’s as hot as it gets.) If I am really desperate there are rooms in our house that get better ventilation, and I read or do something to take my mind off it.

6. Do you do anything to prevent your horse from sunbleaching?

Nope. My horse is a funny color no matter what I do, I just try to sit back and enjoy whatever color he turns up as next. (His roaning has changed with every summer/winter coat shift for as long as I’ve known him.)
current state of funny horse color, spring 2017

7. How hot is too hot for you to ride?


Those weeks where it hits the 90s I’ll ease off. Having the indoor helps – it’s markedly cooler in there due to shade and cross-ventilation. It’s really rare for me to choose not to ride because of the heat. I have more nuanced limits for cold.

8. How important is sun protection for you riding or just in general?

Less than it should be, for sure. There have been times in my life when I’ve been neurotic about sunscreen, but I’ve slacked on that in the last few years. I rarely burn (my skin has more olive tones) so I’ve gotten lazy.

9. Have you ever gone swimming with your horse?


Hahahahahaha. I once tried to get Tristan to the edge of a small pond and it resulted in a 45 minute bucking & rearing fit. Desert mustangs Do Not Do Water. We’ve ridden through water jumps after much coaxing and weeks of firm cross-country schooling. That’s as close as it gets.

10. And because shopping is always on my mind, what’s on your summer wish list?


New tall boots! Finally. Probably also some new sunshirts, I have a bunch of house-related wish list items as well, and some personal ones, like a new computer.
meme

10 Questions for July

Hi! I’m still alive. Tristan is still alive. I’ve just been reading, riding, working in the garden, baking in what passes for a heat wave in Vermont (mid-80s, you guys!), and like the rest of the known world, playing Pokemon Go. But it’s time for me to pick up the blogging reins again, and how better to do that than to meme?

1. Do you actually always pick the horse’s feet? Always? Really?

No, I don’t. Most of the time I do. When I ride in the indoor, I pick his feet on the way out. But if I am having the kind of day where simply putting one foot in front of the other is a major achievement, I give myself permission to skip things. Picking feet and grooming is on that list. I grab a bridle and saddle, I throw them on, I’m out the door in less than 5 minutes.

Caveat: the barn staff picks feet when horses come in from the field, so his feet are getting picked regularly. But sometimes it’s the compromise I make, to get saddle time.

2. What is the biggest obstacle/reason preventing you from becoming a professional or competing full time with ease?


Desire. I have never for a moment had the desire to do horses full time. I am happiest when they are a very involved hobby. I get anxious, exhausted, cranky, and then miserable when I approach anything like a full time horse schedule – when working at the barn or riding more than a few horses. I am ambitious and competitive about many, MANY things in my life, but horses are not really one of them.

3. Do you think it will ever not be about the money?


It’s not really about the money right now. I hope that doesn’t make me sound like an asshole. If I wanted to, I could divert portions of my income and train and compete quite heavily. If I could talk my husband into it, we could swing a second horse. I could’ve pushed harder to find land and have a farm when we were house shopping. 
I’m simply choosing other priorities – once Tristan gets what he needs (and let’s be clear, his board + expenses are substantially more than my mortgage payment, so it’s not like he’s not eating up large chunks of money) I have chosen financial stability instead of chasing horse goals.
Honestly, it’s more about the time than anything. 

4. Was there ever a horse that you loved and really wanted to have a connection with, but it just never panned out? Details.


Not really. I’ve admired some horses from afar but I tend to have a pretty clear-eyed view of their flaws and problems. I adored my first lease horse, and we did have a great connection, but I guess you could say it didn’t pan out because he went irreversibly lame. I can’t say that I’ve ever failed to develop a connection on at least some level with horses that I’ve liked, whether I’m riding them or simply handling them.

5. What is one weakness in your riding that even your trainer doesn’t pick up on, only you?


I have nothing like a natural feel for the horse. No trainer I’ve ridden with has called that out. I guess I fake it pretty well, or have worked hard enough over the years to try to develop one that I’ve effectively compensated.

6. What is the biggest doubt/insecurity you ask or tell yourself in your head?


Laziness and lack of commitment. On paper, I work ridiculously hard, but learning the importance of taking time off, and committing to self-care instead of running myself into the ground – that’s really, really difficult for me. I am pretty much constantly comparing myself to others and berating myself for not getting more done.

7. There is a barn fire. You are the first person to discover it and see that the roof is collapsing in slowly, and you can tell that it’s going to come down any time. Do you call people first, or head in straight to save the horses?


I…have actually been in a somewhat similar situation. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life. By the time I got there help had already been called, the horse was gone, and the best I could do was take the kids away and watch them for a few hours to try and help them.
Anyway: I am pretty good at keeping a level head in emergencies. I’d call 911, and I’d assess before running in. I err toward foolhardy with my own physical safety, so there’s a very good chance I would try to go in at some point, but I’d also make sure help was on the way and that I had scoped out a realistic way in and out.

8. What is one event in your riding career/horse/anything that you’re still not over, even though you might tell others you are?


Tristan’s first colic. My first and only complete nervous breakdown. Though I don’t know that I’ve ever pretended to be over that.

9. If you could tell off one person you just don’t like, what would you say?


I honestly don’t think there’s anyone at the barn I dislike? Previous barns I guess there are people that I liked but thought made very, very bad choices. So I’d be clear about those shitty choices and their own flaily reasoning for why the haaaaaad to do x, y, or z.

10. Have you ever seen questionable riding or training practices, but let it go/ignored it? How do you feel about it in hindsight?


Oh, sure. Who hasn’t? I can’t think of anything truly dangerous or awful that I didn’t speak up about in the moment, but there were times in my life when I wish I would’ve at least tried to show the person another way. The worst examples of that were all at one barn, and frankly I feel mostly relieved to have escaped. Somewhat regretful that there are a lot of kids who got some really bad exposure.
gifs · meme

Tristan is Ron Swanson

So there was a blog hop thingy going around a little while ago and I skipped it because I had zero inspiration and also, lately, zero time to write. (I am in a funk where I get home and I collapse onto the couch and stare zombie-like at the TV while eating dinner, then read in bed. None of this is conducive to blogging, though lots of riding is getting done. More than you needed to know. ANYWAY.)

Then Amanda at The $900 Facebook Pony posted that her Henry is April Ludgate and I figured it out!
Tristan is Ron Swanson.
He is the most stoic horse in the barn.
He has a really extraordinary capability for completely zoning out and ignoring everything around him.

Food is his reason for living.

Everything, literally everything, has to be his idea first.

This is his first reaction to literally every question I ever ask him.

He is really independent to the point of almost actively antisocial in the field.

//giphy.com/embed/SJO5YJhSqVbZS

But when he settles in and decides on something, he is ON.

So, yeah. I own the equine version of Ron Swanson.

meme

Ten Questions

From Viva Carlos, of course.

1. How many pairs of breeches/jods do you own?


4 schooling, 2 show (grey & white), 2 winter. One of those schooling pairs is on its way out (I did throw away the black ones I featured here a week or so ago, sigh), and the other three don’t fit me – they’re a size too small and make me look sausage-y. Ah well. I like my show breeches and looooooove my winter breeches, so that’s something.

2. How many horses have you ridden?


I’m going to guess just over 100, if you truly count all of them – early lessons, summer camps, nose-to-tail trail rides, etc. Since owning Tristan, fewer than 10.

3. How many trainers have you had?


Oof. Trainers, as in I was in their program for a while and I came away substantially improved – four. Three for 2+ years, one for just two short winters but she was fabulous. “People who taught me riding things,” probably closer to 20.

4. How many barns have you ridden at?


Hm. Let’s see: childhood lesson barn, camp barn, barn in France, college barn, three post-college barns in MA, new barn in VT. Not that many, actually! 8 total.

5. What is the name of the horse you consider yourself to have the greatest bond with?


Tristan. No question.

6. What is your favorite show name you’ve ever encountered?


I don’t know about show name, but my favorite show name + barn name combo was a Morgan I knew years ago. Show name: Heza Little Devil. Barn name: Taz.

7. What do you consider your greatest weakness or flaw in riding?


I’m not committed enough, both in the sense that I’m always finding excuses not to really ride (I’ll longe, I’ll groom, I’ll just hack out…) and not to push myself or Tristan hard enough (I’m tired, he’ll break, I don’t have time…)

8. What do you consider to be your greatest strength?


Ground work. I can handle just about any horse doing just about anything on the ground and come out of it positively. I’m not saying I like to do that, but I have handled my fair share of assholes.

9. Have you ever leased a horse?


Yes. During and just after college: Sly

10. What is the name of the first horse you rode?

Not counting, say, pony rides at the state fair: Thistle. Isn’t that a great name? He was a lesson pony extraordinaire.
blog hop · meme

Blog Hop: A Dressage Barn in Vermont

(please note, if you think you saw this yesterday – you are not losing your mind, I apologize! I accidentally published the draft before I was finished adding photos)

SprinklerBandit is hosting a blog hop encouraging everyone to show photos of their barn. I’ve had a couple of photos up here before, but this is a good comprehensive overview. For the record, the barn in question is a dressage barn in semi-rural Vermont. (As in, outside of the capital city, so clearly not the middle of nowhere; but all of Vermont is classified as rural according to broader standards.)

1) A View of the Barn

There are actually two barns on the property. Here’s the main all-season barn, attached to the indoor (which is on the left, and shares the roofline). It has 20 stalls. Not a lot of frills but quality through and through. Everything is lived-in and there are tons of little tweaks that make life easier.

Here’s the summer barn, in winter. It sits just behind the main barn and has an additional 10 stalls. It houses the trainer’s horses in summer, but she’s in Florida November-May. It is quite a bit fancier than the winter barn, and is newer.

One of my favorite pictures, looking back out the door – basically up to where the first two photos were taken. When the visibility is good, you can see a perfect frame of Camel’s Hump through this door. I have watched many sunsets leaning against the wall and just staring.
2) Your Horse’s Living Space

Drunk pony after a vet visit.

Home soon after his surgery.

3) In the Tack Room

Downstairs, looking left. It is actually a bit messy right now, barn manager would probably kill me if she knew there were photos on the internet…

Downstairs, looking right. You can’t quite see it, but the wire racks in the back are the best saddle pad & wrap storage system I have ever seen. Hose in the foreground = a necessity in winter. It freezes in less than an hour if left in the aisle.

Upstairs, where my tack is kept! You can’t see my tack; my trunk is just behind the saddle covered with the towel.
4) Where You Ride

There is basically no way to get good photos of an indoor, especially if you’re almost always there after dark. Regardless: small court dressage size indoor, our primary home right now. Lovely springy mixed rubber & washed sand footing that is dragged every 2-3 days and, believe it or not, doesn’t kick up ANY dust clouds.
Outdoor #1, jumping / schooling arena. Not quite sure of the size, but it’s not huge – a bit wider than a full dressage arena. We are often here in the summer for schooling.
Outdoor #2, fancy-pants dressage arena, all-weather mixed rubber footing. This was taken sitting in the permanent judge’s booth. I have actually never ridden here! This summer, maybe. There are so many other good options and this arena is about 50 ft from the barn owner’s back door, so it often feels invasive to ride there when I’m riding at night.
And, of course, the fields! This is the big hayfield – no idea on acreage, somewhere around 10, maybe? Believe it or not, the dressage arena above is at the very top of this hill.
Oh, and the roads. So may dirt roads. I could go for miles and miles and miles. Did you know that 70% of Vermont’s roads are dirt? Now you do!
5) My Favorite Feature

I have been in some beautiful places, but this one has them beat all hollow. It never comes out well in photos, but the fire of that sunset is touching the tips of the Monroe Skyline; in the winter you can see the ski trails of Mad River Glen and Sugarbush. You can see weather coming before it gets to the barn, in the clouds on the mountains and through the valley. The property itself is sprawling and lush and achingly pretty even on gross days. It’s in one of my favorite spots in my favorite place in the whole world (I will argue to the death that Vermont is, objectively, the best state). I feel lucky every single day that I can live and ride here.
(this is not to say that the barn has many, many other wonderful features! but this is the one that gives me an almost physical pang of happiness in my heart when I think about it.)



meme

The $100,000 Question

I was folding laundry at the laundromat a few nights ago and feeling slightly grumpy at the state of finances in my world and so I made up a little game and have enjoyed refining it since.

Imagine someone gave you $100,000 free and clear. Assume taxes are already taken care of and you can spend the whole amount. The catch: you have to spend the whole amount on horse-related things. What do you buy?

Here’s my list.


1.) Down Payment for Farm: $55,000

I’m not saying buy the farm right away. I would set the money aside in something slightly more lucrative than a savings account, but not as risky as a stock portfolio. There it would sit until one of two things happened: the right property/opportunity came up, or Tristan was ready to retire.

What’s the right property? 20-30 acres of good land: relatively flat, well-drained, somewhat improved. A 3+ bedroom house on the property. Some setup that could be turned to horses easily; it doesn’t have to have a barn already (though that would be nice), but it should have the house situated in such a way that adding more outbuildings would be easy, and it shouldn’t be entirely forested. It would also be relatively close to my job.

2) 2 Horse Gooseneck Trailer: $18,000

Leftover money would go into a general trailer maintenance + gas fund. For specifics, I don’t need an XL or XXL; just standard size. No mangers! A reasonably sized tack room area, and the ability to put a mattress up in the gooseneck. Lots of ventilation from the roof and the sides. Doors on both sides. Possibly a roof rack on top for hay & shavings.

3) 3/4 Ton Pickup Truck (Used): $25,000

I don’t need brand-new, but I want a late-model GMC or Chevy truck, less than 50k miles. Never plowed. King cab, but not necessarily a full back seat with extra doors. I would love the extended bed but it’s not an absolute necessity. Rigged for hauling. Four wheel drive. Snow tires!

4) Custom Dehner Tall Boots: $1,000

I have coveted these for years. I keep changing my mind about precisely what I want. Something black, but do I want dressage or field boots? Spanish top? Toe cap? I don’t know! So many possibilities.


5) Shopping Spree: $1,000

Let’s call this the miscellaneous category. I need an assortment of small things that could easily fill up $1,000. A stable blanket for Tristan; a breastplate; a few new saddle pads; a couple of training books; new gloves; new breeches; a new winter riding coat. I could gladly go on a bit of a shopping spree and replace some things in my equipment that have seen better days.

Well – what about you? If someone handed you $100,000 that you had to spend on horses, what would you buy?