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Best-Laid Plans

It’s kind of like a summary of this whole fucked-up year, isn’t it?

Last weekend, I went to a neighboring state for 48 hours to visit family who had been quarantining for 2 weeks. Vermont has a somewhat complicated system by which they designate counties in the northeast green, yellow, or red. Green means you can travel freely; yellow or red mean you have to quarantine upon return. The county we were visiting was green, and had been so for weeks.

You know how this will go, right? I was too nervous to enjoy time with family. I feel like a ticking bomb or loaded gun constantly. At any given second, I might be carrying something inside me that will kill people. Though we’ve been strict, though family there had been strict, though we were using separate bathrooms and distancing from each other and spending tons of time outside…I still could not get over the idea that any of us at any second might murder everyone we love, simply by existing.

Then, halfway through, I was calling up the Vermont map to show my mother the system and noticed that the county we were in had been flipped to yellow. We left the next morning. Monday morning, I started a round of calls to clarify our situation.

On a technicality, the state says we don’t need to quarantine, since we went in good faith while it was green and stayed on the property etc. But I’m nothing if not neurotic. I’m doing something like a quarantine anyway. I have been working home since March, so that was all set, and I moved around the things that I had been on schedule for in the office. Canceled all my CrossFit classes for the week (my first week of full classes, with such limited time slots that I’d had those appointments for 2 weeks), placed a huge Instacart grocery order, and checked in with the barn.

There is only one improvement on this from the previous strict quarantine: I’ll still get evening barn time to give Tristan his meds and to ride. I’ll go when no-one else is there and follow my usual (already very strict) procedures for cleaning everything.

On Sunday, I can get a test, per Vermont’s quarantine rules (to test on day 7 of return) and hopefully get results soon enough to start to put my life back together on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

Since returning, I’ve been listless and frustrated. None of my usual things have gotten my brain back on track – baking, reading, walking the dog, playing dumb video games, working out. I just keep chasing my own brain around in circles and sulking and eating carbs.

I hate this. I know I’m not alone in that, but I really, really hate this.

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House Post: Surprise New Stove

Well, this was a depressing time and money sink, but I’ll grant you the new stove does look very sharp.

Back up to two weeks ago: out of the blue, our oven stopped working. The burners still worked fine, but the oven was not heating up. I assumed it was the control board, which I’d already replaced about 18 months ago, and ordered a new one.

When the control board arrived, I pulled out the stove to replace it, and…

It was not the control board. Or more accurately…it was not entirely the control board. The wire attaching to the oven part of the control board had shorted and melted the plastic wiring harness. Which explained the funky smell I’d noticed the last couple of times I’d used the oven. (I assumed there was something burned to the bottom, because that’s how I roll.)

After a few hours spent doing research, I decided I didn’t feel confident enough in my repair skills to replace both the control board AND the wiring – or more accurately, I didn’t feel confident that the same problem would not happen again…or that it would be the safe and smart decision.

I did a bit of research, talked to a few friends, and boom, one of them emailed me the highlight email from our local Restore, where this brand new “scratch & dent” beauty was featured. I got the email at 7am on a Saturday and was there at 10am when the store opened.

In the meantime, I made pizza in the toaster oven and broke out the camping stove for tea. (With the oven hood fully on every time we used it.)

Then, blessed day, the new stove arrived! The nice people delivered it to my front porch and took the old stove while they were at it, and I managed to wrestle it inside by myself…to find that it had a four prong plug and I had a three prong outlet. SIGH.

Thankfully that was fairly quickly remedied with one last trip to the local electric store and a wiring diagram right on the back of the stove, and now we have a new stove!

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Quick lesson notes

There are obviously a great many things I could or should write about right now, and I hope to do so with some planned time off, but for right now I wanted to capture something from my lesson this weekend.

Tristan and I are still learning how to communicate with each other without a bit, and it’s mostly going pretty darn well. One thing that stays the same is getting and keeping him forward.

On Saturday, we worked and talked a lot about how he feels when only one half of his body is responding well. By that I mean sometimes his hind end will speed up nicely, but his front end is still dragging, so he sort of buries himself on the forehand in a very sticky way. Sometimes his front end will be ticking along but his hind end drags, which means he falls out (literally, sometimes his whole hind end just collapses because he cannot even) or contorts himself to avoid working it.

We thought and talked a lot about it and I had a really good breakthrough that made sense to both of us and was an instantaneous improvement in the quality of his gait – how often does that happen?!

In short: as we’re going into the corner, he got a tap behind the girth with the dressage whip to remind him to keep up with his hind end and step under with his inside hind. This in addition to a bending aid to ask him to follow through the corner with his whole body.

Coming out of the corner, as I straightened him again, I tapped him on the shoulder with his dressage whip to remind him now that he’s straight and we have captured and translated the power from his hind end, to lift with his front end, too.

BOOM. Somehow that just worked for his brain. Deep bendy flexible corners with real energy straight through coming out of them. String a bunch of those together and he was really cooking along.

It’s not an every corner thing, but it was a brilliant short exercise to sharpen him up. I may try it in the future on a circle if I can get my timing down – behind the girth on the “points” and in front of the girth on the curves between.

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Naughty XC Pony Flashback

I logged into Facebook for about two seconds for something from work, and this was today’s memory, 8 years (!) ago.

Context: we were trying to school him to land and go forward, instead of land and quit because jumping was just SO EXHAUSTING. So my instructions were to rev him up as soon as he found his footing on the other side of the (BN sized) log pile.

(would going forward have been helped by me sitting back and loosening my elbows and generally not choking him? yes. yes it would have.)

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Talk to me about bitless solutions

As you saw on Monday, Tristan’s mouth is kind of a mess right now. Hopefully it will just be a small mess for a short time, but no matter how bad and how long it gets, I’m going to take this moment to explore bitless options for him.

Step 1 will be an English-style hackamore, for two reasons: the barn has one I can borrow immediately and on Friday I’m planning on heading down to a local tack store’s tent sale, and they have a cheap hackamore in stock.

I’ve never ridden in a hackamore. I’ve ridden in sidepulls and halters, and some bits with leverage, but never a true hackamore. I’m not looking for anything with a ton of leverage – just a mild communication device until we can see where we are with his teeth.

So: any advice from anyone on riding in one? I figure I will use soft hands and let him seek it out in our first experimental ride, and I do have a lesson on Sunday that I can use to get more experienced feedback.

Step 2 I’d like to be a true bitless system. In a perfect world, that would look something like this converter from Thinline. (If I could find it in stock anywhere, this would actually be step 1.

Or, even better, something with a bit of under-chin leverage like the Dr. Cook system.

I’m not ready for a whole new bridle, though, and at $100 it’s just expensive enough (especially with looming and potentially quite large vet bills) for me to not want to give it an immediate try.

Does anyone out there regularly ride with a bitless solution? What do you use, and how do you like it? Any special advice on hackamores?

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It has been 0 days since our last big vet bill

sigh.

I went to the barn this morning for what was supposed to be a quick vet visit. I actually hadn’t met our new vet yet, so I wanted to do that, plus barn time in the middle of the day sounded great.

On the docket: teeth and a lyme shot.

We got 95% of the way through the visit with no incident, I like the new vet very much, we even did a sheath cleaning while he was drugged up, and then the vet swiped his hand around in Tristan’s mouth one last time…and found a nasty little surprise on the left lower side of his mouth.

This is where I confess to an area of total ignorance around horses. You see, Tristan is the only horse whose mouth I’ve ever known so intimately. I do not have a ton of comparisons; I just have not looked deeply inside a lot of mouths.

So I did not realize that he did not have normal canine teeth. They just weren’t there…so I didn’t think about it. He’s had half a dozen vets in his mouth and no one has ever pointed out anything abnormal.

Well, Tristan does not have normal canine teeth. His lower canine teeth are what I now know as “blind” canines: they just never erupted. He has an abnormally wide space for his bit groove. I had absolutely no idea.

Except now one of them has erupted. Sort of. Or more accurately, it somehow got infected and the gum is open down to the tooth. Which is obviously NOT GREAT. And the cherry on top of NOT GREAT is that if we can’t halt the infection, it’s a difficult surgical process to extract it. (And expensive. Don’t forget expensive. Two days at a clinic expensive.)

I’ll get a better picture at some point, but for now: you can see the bad bit as the black spot in the center here. It was clean smooth gum before.

So for now, he gets antibiotics and flushing 2x a day, and the x-rays we took are off to a specialty radiologist. The vet thought, on first glance, that the root of the tooth looked okay and that if we can beat the infection then the gum will just re-granulate back over the tooth and he will go back to being a weirdo without a canine tooth. (Well, it’s there – they both showed up on x-ray – but they are both below the gum line.) Hopefully the radiologist will concur.

I mean, the silver lining here is that he has exhibited no signs of pain or sensitivity (I’ve been riding regularly and he had a very intense lesson yesterday), no signs of quidding his hay or otherwise having trouble eating. When we found the infected bit it’s not like we had an OMG PUS moment, just a “well shit, dig it out, okay, there’s clean blood” moment; it doesn’t look great but I’ve seen some nasty infections and I would not classify this in that category. Plus, if we do have to extract, that’s obviously expensive and difficult but barring a problem with the procedure itself it’s not like he needs the tooth.

HORSES.

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House Post: Upstairs Bathroom

Well, this one is embarrassing, but I’m posting about it to hopefully kick my ass in gear.

When last I posted about the upstairs bathroom, we had ripped out the old tile. That was February 20. You’d think with all this quarantine time on my hands I’d be on fire to finish this. All these other bloggers have crushed their home improvement projects during quarantine. (I’m thinking Jen’s amazing laundry room, swoon.)

Where are we?

Well, I removed the last of the wallpaper scrids and scrubbed the walls. That was something.

Then I realized three things in succession.

First, I was going to have to skimcoat 2/3 of the wall to get rid of the faint faux-brick outlines that were underneath the wallpaper. (If we’re being strictly accurate, it was originally a faux-brick plaster design, and then they did a half-assed coverup job to get it flat-ish for the wallpaper, so it was just uneven all around.)

Second, I wanted to remove the built-in medicine cabinet on the left wall. I actually liked it as a medicine cabinet, but it was in a genuinely terrible location, right in the middle of a wall. So, yanked that out and rebuilt the drywall at the same time as I finally filled in the huge hole left by the plumbing work.

Third, if I was going to all this trouble to make a nice new bathroom I needed to yank the existing wall lighting, and then I discovered that I did not like any of the sconce-style lighting I found in my budget (apart from like $$$ art deco style sconces, sigh) oh and also they were not centered over the vanity anyway. So: centered lighting it was, but that would require an electrician, which…quarantine.

So, where am I now?

The wall is about 85% skimcoated. I’ve probably done about 5 rounds of applying plaster and drying and now I’m in the agonizing final obsessive part of it, which can last as long as I want, because it’s not like anything else will move forward. So, corners, smoothing the patched bits, the agonizingly finicky bit underneath and around the toilet.

What’s left to be done?

  • finish the skimcoating
  • prime the walls
  • choose a paint color (going to be a sort of medium gray)
  • apply waterproofing membrane around the tub to prep it for tiling

Those are all things I can do; then we hit a big currently-immovable roadblock.

  • have electrician move box for lighting, then fix up plaster around those holes, touch up primer
  • paint walls
  • have area around tub tiled & waterproofed
  • choose showerhead (thinking something with a detachable wand so we can wash the dog in more ease
  • put curtain hanger back up (I have an existing one…but the crazy part of me wants to build my own from piping?)
  • paint wooden bottom of vanity, replace hardware
  • find corner cabinet for toiletries

…see, now I’m discouraged all over again.

On a brighter note, I decided on tile.

I really don’t like subway tile but this is the precise color I wanted, so I’m going to suck it up. We may see about laying it out in a herringbone pattern on the shower back part.

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Weekend Reading

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream: The Duty of the Black Writer during Times of Unrest from tor.com

extraordinary and gut-wrenching writing

The Ones Who Stay and Fight by N.K. Jemisin

short fantasy story that hammers very close to home right now, and if you are at all interested in reading fantasy and haven’t yet read N.K. Jemisin then RUN, don’t walk, to your nearest independent bookseller and treat yourself. (If you have read them and love them, this NYC bookseller is offering up the trilogy for $30, and they’ll donate them to the NYC Books Through Bars program.)

The Horse Women of Cincinnati by Nicky Drayden

another short fantasy story by a woman of color that…well, read it.

2020 Queer Adult SFF Books from K.A. Doore

SUPERB list and the descriptions of the books alone are worth the price of admission.

How can I be more aware and not a jerk at work? from Ask a Manager

These are all exceptionally helpful reader comments, and many of them apply to life as well.

What are you reading right now?

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2020 Goal Updates

I’ve slacked on these, but here we go.

Horses

  1. Ride a First Level test at one of the two barn schooling shows – okay clearly this is not going to happen BUT I have plans
  2. Take notes (however brief) on every ride – Still going strong!
  3. Clean tack at least 1x a month – hahahahaha. no.
  4. Volunteer at 3 events – sigh.
  5. Take 25 lessons – 14/25 on track nicely
  6. *Reach goal: Go to Crossfit 100 times (or roughly 2x a week) for additional fitness – This is proving hard to track but I am mostly happy with it. Last week I re-aggravated my SI but I’m hoping to get back again next week. I would say on average I’m on track for 2x a week.

Business

  1. Keep up with monthly expense/revenue tracking – really struggling with this
  2. Maintain 100 listings in the Etsy store – I keep getting up there and then sliding back
  3. Mustang gear goes live – honestly not sure if this is going to happen; I am more than busy with my current stuff
  4. Sponsor 5 riders – I need to get back on this
  5. Table at a horse show – FFS
  6. *Reach goal: Get to 1000 sales on Etsy – 754/1000, holy shit you guys, this is really happening

General

  1. Try 25 new recipes – okay I have definitely nailed this by now though I lost track
  2. Try making: croissants, eclairs, cinnamon rolls – cinnamon rolls check!
  3. Declutter in February – okay I got halfway through this so I need to find some way to carry out the back half of this
  4. Finish 5 craft projects – 2/5 done! do endless masks count as a craft project?
  5. Finish upstairs bathroom, front guest bedroom, and nook room – nope.
  6. *Reach goal: submit Morgan article for publication – well…no. but I did get pulled into another cool Morgan horse history project, so there’s that
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Highlighting black excellence in equestrian sport

Like many, I have been ill while watching the news lately. It is not a surprise or shock to me that I am part of a racist system. But I have not done enough. I also know that this is not about me, so here is my goal: to talk about equestrianism as a racist system, and to make space for voices of color.

Think about the last horse show you attended. Think about the fellow boarders at your barn. Think about the kids in your lesson program. Think about the Instagram accounts that you follow and the blogs that you read. Think about the models who show off new tack and clothing trends in catalogues. The overwhelming majority of them are white. Maybe they’re in fact exclusively white. Has that ever occurred to you? Maybe, if it has occurred to you, you thought it was just a coincidence.

It’s not a coincidence. No space that is exclusively or near-exclusively white is a coincidence. It is a deliberate, systematic erasure accomplished through a variety of ways: careful stacking of privilege, intimidation and bullying, and then careful removal. Black people, and more broadly people of color, have been closely associated with horses for as long as human beings have been.

3 in 30: The Trappings of Sporting Art - Calendar & Events
Richard Singleton with “Viley’s Harry, Charles and Lew”, 1834, Edward Troye (American, 1808–1874)
“Richard Singleton” is the horse’s name. Viley is the name of the man who owned both the horses and the men in this painting.

It’s important to know, understand, and sit with that. Equestrianism is not neutral. It is not an escape – or if it is those things for you, then that’s a sign of your own personal privilege. What are you going to do about it?

Below, I’ve tried to gather a collection of links that represent people of color in the horse world, both past and present. If you have something to add to this list, please leave a comment. I will continue to update this post. I will also continue to update as I do more of my own research. If you want to start to undermine the whiteness of equestrianism, start by listening to these voices.

First: an excellent roundup by L. Williams of Viva Carlos here: So You Want to Be an Ally… I will not duplicate any of her work in this post; you should read it in her own words and appreciate the work she did to pull it all together.

Instagram Accounts

@alexgreerdressage
@theblackequestrian
@dressagebyjayne
@worktoride1
@theconcrete.cowgirl
@cowgirl_chanel
@chetakhorses
@ctc_dressagequeen
@comptonjrequestrians
@urbansaddles
@theurbanequest
@urbancowgirlsllc
@ebonyhorseclubbrixton
@breexybby_
@stephkall
@thepersistentequestrian
@clipclopbook
@theericahills
@fitjumperrider
@itstheajway
@youngblackequestrians
@detroithorsepower
@equestriannoire
@comptoncowboys
@saddleupandread
@theblackcowgirl
@urbancowgirl510

Blogs

Viva Carlos
Ambitious

Podcasts

Young Black Equestrians

Books & Articles (~ denotes a children’s book)

No Room for Bigotry in Equestrian Sport from Horse Nation
Buffalo Soldier from Wikipedia (includes a list of Medal of Honor recipients)
The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys from Smithsonian Magazine
Cheryl White was first out of the gate from The Undefeated

Nonfiction

Race Horse Men: How Slavery and Freedom Were Made at the Racetrack by Katherine C. Money
Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost Story of the World’s Smartest Horse by Jim Eichler Rivas

Fiction

~The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby by Crystal Hubbard
Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman (YA)

Equestrian Organizations & Businesses (* donates that they accept donations as a nonprofit)

*Saddle Up and Read (and their GoFundMe) (I will post further about this excellent organization shortly.)
*Work to Ride
*Compton Jr. Equestrians
*Urban Saddles
*The Urban Equestrian Academy
Equestrian Noire