Saturday, August 8, 2015

Back to business

The wedding is over. The marriage is happy. I have a new job.

Now time to get back to foxhunting!!!

Today was my second hunt clinic with Potomac, but in contrast to last year when I was so worried about impressing the owner of the horse I borrowed and not falling off and breaking every bone in my body, this year I actually helped other new people. It was a great feeling.

I'm leasing a new horse, Lefty, who so far has shown himself to be completely trustworthy and fun. He doesn't care if he's with the group or not; he doesn't care if we're going faster or slower than the group; AND he is super careful and balanced going downhill and into ditches. All of this makes him the perfect hunt horse in my mind because I'm 100% in control, not relying on the person in front of me to babysit!
 
Instead, I can actually be the babysitter, which I've been doing all summer with a friend and her young horse, and today at the foxhunting clinic. Of course it's fun to be on your own and go as fast or slow as you please, but I remember last year when I was so appreciative of friends who would give me a lead over jumps or help me walk through a stream rather than leap over it.
Lefty on the hilltop
So on Thursday I gave a copy of "Riding to Hounds in America" to a hunting newbie,  and today I babysat two horses and riders who had barely ridden outside an arena. I even struck up a conversation with a complete stranger my age (something that ordinarily terrifies me). As it turned out, she was in a very similar situation to me last year--borrowing horses, a little more than slightly obsessed with the charm of hunting.

My secondhand boots


It's amazing how much more confident I feel not being the new kid on the block anymore. After borrowing so many different people's horses last year, the hunt members feel like extended family. And not the stressful kind of family that make you freak out over whether they'll all behave themselves at your wedding (which, if you're wondering, they did). More like the kind of family that will wash your horse for you just to be nice, or recognize when you need a little liquid courage. And who won't judge you for sipping from their flask before noon.

I still can't really believe I get to do this regularly.




Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Story Behind the Story

So recently I had the pleasure of interviewing The Anonymous Foxhunter as part of my plot to get innocent, impressionable riders hooked on my drug of choice for a Horse Junkies United article. But as often happens when you are working from home, life continues on with little regard for who you may be interviewing at the time.

Byron quite helpfully volunteered to get some spaghetti and meatballs started while I was on the phone.

"It's about time he did something without me telling him to!" I thought, and went upstairs to conduct my interview in peace.

Twenty minutes in, a Byron-shaped flash darts in front of me, clutching his hand on his way to the bathroom. I raise an eyebrow, but Byron doing strange things is actually pretty normal so I don't think anything of it until he thrusts his finger in front of my face, which is super bloody and looks like he tried to chop it off, because that is nearly what he did.

My eyes widen, but The Anonymous Foxhunter is on an anonymous roll talking about anonymous things so all I can really do is sneak into the bathroom, "Uh-huh"-ing my way through about 30 seconds of conversation, grab a towel, wrap it around Byron's hand, and shoo him out the door.

When the interview was over I went to the kitchen to figure out what the hell happened and whether dinner is even feasible at this point. I find a hunk of ground meat which somehow our cats have ignored, and an onion cut in two halves.

That's all it took. One attempt at slicing an onion. The skin was still on it and everything.

Sometimes I really don't know how he has managed to survive this long.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Becoming the Stereotype

Against my intention (what with the whole two-year engagement and all) I have totally become the stereotypical stressed-out-at-the-last-minute bride. Any uninvited suggestion from friends, family, or wedding vendors that would require me to reevaluate or deviate from MY PLAN is enough to make me completely lose it.  Today I had to sic my mother on the caterer because due to errors on my part and theirs, major changes were required and I simply could not handle making any more decisions. All I want to do is make my little crafty things and stamp my little stampy things and do things I have already planned on doing. That is what I have the brainpower to do at this point.
Crafty things

Crafty things
Stampy things make me haaaapppyyy
Paradoxically, because I hate planning parties, I got all the planning done way ahead of time and now I have declared myself DONE, despite any suggestions to the contrary. I decided everything months ago, so now I want nothing else to do with wedding organization other than me showing up. Why do people not understand that?
Yeah, this reception is going to be baller
Also we went to the hunt ball...it was kind of anticlimactic because we had to leave before the dancing, and we only got photos of us being blinded by the sun...but trust me, we looked sexy.


I just have to remind myself that it's all good stuff happening! The details are annoying but everything in my life is pretty awesome!

And I am also enjoying plenty of ride time. I've got buddies to trail ride with and plenty of horses that I am welcome to ride...plus a few prospects to lease for hunt season once I begin my new job after the wedding, pending trainer approval...
Not either of these horses, but it's a cute photo
Isn't it comforting how no matter how crazy things are in your personal life, horses just keep on keepin' on? Winter coats leave their wake in all fleece clothing and car interiors, we all suffer through pollen and mud season, and for foxhunters at least, spring is the time to get back out there and start preparing for next season.

I can't wait!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mayhem


May is creeping up, and with it, insanity...

This weekend I volunteered at the Potomac Hunter Pace and a horse management clinic for Pony Club kids, and in between attended my bachelorette party in DC. All fun, but I was so exhausted I practically had an out-of-body experience driving home from the farm on Sunday.

One of the larger hunter pace teams

I left a trail of bachelorette party dick straws in my wake Saturday night. Here's one at Board Room.
As the wedding approaches though, I find myself caught between excitement and dread. It's fun to complete all the final details like spray-painting candle votives and designing the programs, and I felt so much happiness welling up when I went to get our marriage license from the Baltimore Circuit Court. My hand was shaking as I was filling out the form just thinking about beginning my new life with Byron and all of the things we have planned, from riding and ballroom dancing to the less glamorous (but still exciting) things like how we will manage our money together. It felt so momentous and official, and that was just paperwork!


But I have so much anxiety about how the day itself will go. Both of our parents are divorced, and between us, we have a total of eight parents with their new significant others, not all of whom play together nicely. I know it is just one day, and that it's just a party, and that the important part is our new life together, but ever since I was little, having both sets of parents in the same space just freaks me out. I've seen how fast it can turn from completely fine to you'll-be-reading-about-this-in-my-memoirs levels of crazy.

I've already informed family that they need to be on their best behavior, and alerted a few key people that if any drama goes down, I want to remain in blissful ignorance. But what with people insisting on inviting new people last-minute, and parents wanting to change around details that have already been decided...it's not helping my stress level in a time that should be full of happy anticipation. I just can't stop thinking that I know something is going to happen because obviously, it's life and things go wrong. I'm just not sure how to keep it from bringing me down on my special day...
If anyone has advice I'm all ears!

So is Salsa.
I found a pretty TB mare under all that winter hair!


Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Anonymous Foxhunter

I have good news but that will have to wait for a later post...in the meantime, I've been writing a lot and riding consistently(ish). Gotta prep for my D rating in Horsemasters Pony Club! In short, all of my rides could be described as: 1) transitions and 2) STOP PINCHING AT THE KNEE GODDAMMIT! Not terribly interesting to write about.

But what IS interesting (and hilarious) is my new favorite Youtuber, the Anonymous Foxhunter. And as spring begins, it's the perfect time to take her advice to heart and start that long, slow distance work on the trails...


In other news, I am super pumped for our hunt ball this spring. I will be wearing this black dress because I already own it, and thus it is already paid for. Byron, on the other hand, will be testing out his brand-new wedding tux.
Not Byron in the photo, to avoid confusion—that's my little brother and me

My hair is about twice as long as in this picture now though, so I will be doing my own updo and reliving my Homecoming and Prom days when I would have a bunch of my friends over and do their hair for them!




Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Wedding Schmedding

After a year and a half of being engaged, the big day is approaching in May and I feel much less curmudgeonly about it than I did at this time last year. I was so overwhelmed by all the ridiculous nonsense you have to decide as a bride-to-be. Here are a few examples of actual exchanges I have had with various people involved.

Florist: So what are your colors for the wedding, hon?
Me: Um...I don't know, like...wedding colors?
(I found a different florist who understood what I meant by that)
The one I went with has a really cool shop

Me (to invitation printer on Etsy): ...simple, clean and elegant would be best--not too many curlicues or flourishes, and not too much mixing of different fonts to "look" vintage. It would also be great to throw in a little quirkiness without going over-the-top. For example, I LOVE the RSVP card you have listed at the link below with the choice of titles from Mrs. to Marchioness. Even a nod to the fact that it's a library wedding could be fun (like a due date RSVP card or call card) but I'm not set on that idea 100% since I can see where it could get a little cheesy.
(So--elegant, but not too elegant. Quirky, but not cheesy. Please, read my mind.)
Byron ended up designing it and I filled in the text


DJ: So...hypothetically, let's say the moment for the Electric Slide presents itself.
(I just find that funny to think about)

Me: So between all the pattern and colors for the tablecloths, I have literally a million options?
Caterer: Yes, you can customize it to your colors exactly!
Me: Ok. Mom, pick a color.
(she chose slate gray--thumbs up from me)

Byron: Can we put a new washer/dryer on the wedding registry?
Me: No.
Byron: How about a TV stand?
Me: No.
Byron: How about adding to your horse fund?
Me: It's NOT POLITE Byron!

After much grumbling I agreed to a "bridle" shower/steeplechase tailgate party--though I stipulated no gifts and NO PENIS HATS

I suppose this is why wedding planning exists as a career--it's maddening if you're not the Barbie Dream Wedding type! I am glad that I gave myself a lot of time to sort it all out...

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A sneak peek of spring

Today was one of those freak pleasant days in the middle of winter that make you remember spring isn't all that far away, so I seized the chance to ride. The ring was slushy, and I  nearly lost a boot in the mud trying to catch a lesson horse who did NOT want to be caught, but who cares? Beats work any day.

Per my instructor's hint that a stronger core would lead to easier downward transitions, I've been doing some daily 'homework' with a crazy gymnastics video I found online (as well as my usual nightly Yogamazing). It's been kicking my butt! Good thing is it did pay off with the transitions.



Lesson rundown:
  • Warmup: Lots of changes of direction and transitions between walk-trot
  • 5 steps sitting trot, 5 steps rising while adding some 20m circles
  • 20 strides trot to 20 strides canter a few times
  • 5 steps sitting trot, 5 steps rising, 5 steps in two-point while doing serpentines and figure 8s
  • Cooldown: transitions from walk-halt-walk, then long rein walk
Prior to riding with this instructor I didn't really do exercises like the 5 steps sitting, 5 steps posting, etc. but it REALLY has helped a lot with the downward transitions, which have always been challenging for me when riding sensitive horses. On the Shire I leased briefly, downward transitions were pretty darn easy...not so much with the Thoroughbred, who would run through my hand and plod around on the forehand if I didn't ask just right. With the TB, I usually just let the reins run through my hand a little bit so he had nothing to lean on, which did stop him, but didn't really help with the leaning on the forehand.

Now I know how to keep my hands "in a box" in front of the saddle, sit tall, stretch down in the heel, and close my leg (thigh, knee and calf) briefly to get a nice, balanced transition. Before I didn't get that it was OK to use the whole leg.

We also worked on proper bend, which is another one of those seemingly basic things that has eluded me for years. Amazing how sitting on the OUTSIDE seat bone allows the horse's INSIDE hind leg to come under. It makes total sense and it works like a charm. My dear instructor earned her lesson fee today.

Once all the Pony Club kids, moms and siblings rolled in after my lesson, I also had to coax a small child down from trying to scale the 8-foot fence into the round pen. He was just about over the edge when I saw him. It's a miracle these things always seem to sort themselves out just in time with a barn full of horse-crazy kids...never a dull moment.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

PONY CLUB PONY CLUB

No hunting updates for a while, unfortunately, since I used up all 6 of my caps (though I did go car following). My latest riding adventure actually didn't involve riding at all--I attended my first Pony Club Quiz (horse knowledge) meeting and potluck dinner.

I've been super excited to join Horsemasters, which is Pony Club's adult education/volunteer recruitment arm, since my instructor told me about it a few months ago. I feel like I say this every couple months on my blog, but I know there are holes in my riding and horse management knowledge. In the past I've tried dressage to get at the riding issues, and though I enjoy learning dressage, focusing on it exclusively makes my type-A, overachiever, obsessive head explode with all the ways I'm terrible at it. Hence this year's approach--going back to basics and getting the riding education I wished I knew about as a kid through Pony Club.


Flickr: Five Furlongs/CC
I brought juice for kids and wine (Mommy's juice) for parents because I figured that would be a fast way to make friends. Wined and dined for a little bit with the parents, and then I took my place in a circle with the D (lowest level) Pony Clubbers. Yep, criss-cross apple sauce with three kids and an older Pony Clubber about my age to teach us (okay, yes, she was slightly younger than me too, age 20).

At first I felt a little ridiculous. I had brought my wine glass over because I thought there would be other adults but as it turned out, the other Horsemasters adults were not at this particular meeting. I slid my glass over on the side table, and got on with the day's topics of discussion: tack, turnout and horse sports.

If there is one thing I really enjoyed about school it was being a total teacher's pet. I was always the first one with my hand up, a regular at professors' office hours, and the only one who refused to speak English in foreign language classes. (Teacher's pet, total suck up...you say tomAYto, I say tomAHto). I soon found myself in my element as we went round-robin around the circle, naming obscure bits of tack and aspects of horse and rider turnout. Once we moved on to horse sports (foxhunting in particular) I totally schooled those eight-year-olds.

I mean, I shared my knowledge with the next generation. And I learned some new things from them too--for example, did you know that Pony Club is adding hunter/jumper and Western as disciplines to specialize in? One of the young girls in the circle scoffed at this development, saying that "Reining puts wear and tear on horses' legs" and that she "hates hunter/jumpers." The instructor gently set her on a less sassy track but I really had to keep myself from laughing...I agree with you, girl! (Not that all hunter/jumpers are awful, but if I had done Pony Club instead of hunter/jumpers as a kid I would be a way better rider!)
This will be me at a rally one day!
Flickr: Dominion Valley Pony Club/CC


Anyway, I ended up having fun. It felt like being at summer camp. I just have to remind myself--A) I look younger than 24, so I don't LOOK totally out of place even though I may feel that way, and B) there's nothing wrong with sitting criss-cross apple sauce with a bunch of elementary and middle school kids, especially if we all end up becoming Prelim-level event riders!

Friday, January 16, 2015

5 things I don't get about equestrian blogland

So, confession: I started this blog when I was feeling kind of stuck with my old blog and disenchanted with the equestrian blogosphere in general. I was tired of the contests and blog hops and the endless pontificating about saddles fitting or not fitting (I get it; it's frustrating, but also terribly uninteresting to anyone but you and your horse). I decided I was going to leave all the nonsense parts of blogging behind and just blog FOR ME. No blog hops, no "X Things That ____" type articles, no validation needed from anyone. I am a blogger, hear me roar kind of thing.

But I miss the pageviews, okay??

 I know that in the grand scheme of things, my old blog's pageviews and comment count were pretty insignificant. But once you've experienced the "They like me, they really like me!" high of comments, or randomly woken up to one of your articles on the front page of Reddit, all you want is another hit (or 1000) to make you feel like all the hours of trivia and navel-gazing are worthwhile.

Click to enbiggen

So today I'm going to revert back to my comfortable old "X Things That ____" style. And in the spirit of cantankerousness, my theme is various things that drive me nuts about the equestrian blogosphere.

And before you jump down my throat (all one of you out there) I completely recognize I am part of the problem. But it's my blog so I'm allowed to complain. So there!

Trends du jour

Have you ever noticed how one person buys XYZ...and then suddenly EVERYONE is buying XYZ? (coughOGILVYcough) Oh the commercialism! Stop! You do not need one more saddle pad!
Following trends does not a rider make
Flickr: carterse/ CC

Mango Bay belts

And while I'm on the subject of trends, there is one that I find infuriating enough to merit its own section.
Mango Bay Design
They're just belts, for crying out loud. Sure, they have horsey patterns, but otherwise they look like what came free with the khakis from Kohl's my mother bought me in middle school.  Why is seemingly every equestrian blogger obsessed with them? I have no idea.

How in the world can you afford ____?!

Custom saddles, custom boots, training rides, show after show after show--first of all, why? And second of all, how? I know that there are reasonable answers to these questions but my initial reaction when I hear of extravagant expenses like these is always WTF?!

That's not to say I am immune from boot envy.
NY Social Diary

The pressure to comment just to comment all the freaking time.

A few times I have seen bloggers mention something like, "Oh, so sorry I haven't been keeping up with commenting but I have been reading everyone's blogs." Seriously? Do people have a list of blogs they read and feel like they must comment on every single post? I guess it's fair if you want people to comment in return, but doesn't it make life so boring if all the comments are nonsense placeholders like, "Your horse is so cute" or "Loved this"?

It also peeves me (a lot of things peeve me, you've probably intuited) when I see bloggers who respond individually to every single comment. Ain't nobody got time for that. Stop making the rest of us (me) look bad.

Trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result

I'm totally guilty of this (though I didn't really write about my struggles because I'm a big old weenie), but it's so obvious when you're looking in from the outside, and you read about a rider being unbearably nervous every single ride, or a horse being consistently mediocre (or sometimes, spectacularly terrible) at shows or other outings.  


Why are you torturing yourself with this horse/this discipline/etc.? I just want to comment. But I don't. Instead I just grab the popcorn and await the trainwreck. And I bet most blog readers/writers would be lying if they said they haven't ever enjoyed a little schadenfreude themselves!

Well, now that I've insulted and alienated anyone who is reading...what bugs you the most about the equestrian blogosphere?

EDIT: One more pet peeve, after a friend reminded me of it. Moving up from 2'6" to 2'9", or 3'3" from 3' is not as big a deal as people think it is!! If your horse can stand over the jump, he can probably jump it from a trot. It's generally the person who makes a big deal about moving up in height, not the horse.

Ahhh. It feels so good to let it all out there. Especially when I have so few readers to blow up at me.

Sunday, January 11, 2015