Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Before the Veggies Go Bad

Someone needs to come over here to smack me upside the head and teach me how to make a decision. I had a truly awesome ride on Mae last night. Plus, she was extra adorable and loving. I think the girl has caught on that the Bringer of Carrots is on her way out the door. Poor thing. But our ride went so well -- balanced, collected canter, a nice extended trot, and even a spook-free walk on the little trail. It was so much fun. Once again I find myself wondering how we'd do if we could ride in a real ring, like the ones at Other Barn. Then I started daydreaming about Mae's owner letting me do a free lease, but I quickly killed those fantasies because board at Other Barn costs a million dollars a month and there is no grass turnout. Darn it.

So in case you can't tell, I still haven't made a decision regarding when exactly to stop this lease. Before my ride yesterday I was tempted to stop at the end of July, but now I'm thinking, what's another few weeks of driving out there if they are my last weeks? So maybe I'll pay for half of August. Then, if on the off chance the Marve thing doesn't work out, I can pay for the second half of August, too.

Of course, I lucked out last night because the outdoor ring was available while the indoor one was "out of service." If the outdoor ring is unavailable the next time I ride, I might rethink my exit date.

Daun's recent post about priorities has me thinking. Should I ride tonight, or should I spend that time writing and cooking before my veggies go bad? Hmmm, that sounds like a metaphor to me! Anyway, I'm kind of leaning toward riding.

Speaking of writing, I haven't talked about it much on this blog. I am a fiction writer. I've had some short stories published and have won a fairly major award and other less-major awards. I say this not to puff myself up but as a way to validate myself as a writer because it is freaking hard for me to do that at this time in my life, when I focus more on my day job than my own writing. A lot of people, including some in the publishing industry, had high hopes for me a few years ago and I feel I haven't delivered. To add to all that, I've been in kind of a Dark Period writing-wise lately; totally stuck and unable to get into anything. Until this weekend! Suddenly the gates have opened and all is well. I've been in a much, much better mood because that is what happens when I actually write fiction.

During the last year it's been difficult to me to find out where horses fit into this. It's hard enough working full time and then also trying to find the energy and creativity to write a novel, but throwing horses into the mix makes it worse. I definitely try to do too much at once. But I firmly believe I can find a way to make it work. Hey, I rode last night, then wrote, then woke up early this morning and wrote a little more. And I might ride tonight. So I can do it. I am Writer/Corporate Employee/Equestrian, hear me roar! Or sob. One of the two.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


You know how some people believe Hell is different for every person, namely that whatever you fear most will happen over and over? Well, my personal horse hell would be a super fast horse who will NOT slow down and who takes off, running me around in terrifying circles until I finally launch into the air and ram my body against the arena wall on the way down. I had several nasty falls that way as a kid, first with the pony I started taking lessons on and later on a huge TB. And I once again experienced Hell this weekend (albeit briefly, and thank god without the fall) when I rode the TB I want to lease at Other Barn.

Our ride started out great. We were working on trotting 20 meter circles and then spiraling in to 10 meters and leg yielding back out. He and I were doing so well! He was on the aids and stretched down to meet my hands and it was awesome. I was thrilled and knew I just had to lease him because we would work well together and I'd improve as a rider.

But then we cantered, and he got super excited and strong. Once I couldn't pull him back and we cantered around the circle like twice before I could get him to trot. That's not acceptable. (Not saying it's all his fault, I'm just saying it's not acceptable to be unable to pull a horse back!) Then, while cantering in the other direction, we were better, but the cantering still got him riled up and after that he trotted suuuuper fast around the ring. I couldn't get him to relax and slow down. I tried posting lower and slower, squeezing my outside rein, and, I'm ashamed to admit, flat-out hauling back on the reins, and no dice. It was very frustrating.

I've seen some of the stable's best teenage girl riders on him and they don't seem to have this problem. It makes me feel very inferior and like I'm not good enough of a rider for him. I was also a little scared (well, especially during the time he wouldn't stop cantering) and wondered whether I could handle him.

The barn manager told me I did well overall and that he and I are an okay match for each other if I still want to lease him. I was glad to hear that. I know I'd have a lot of work to do but I'm willing to give it a shot. Mae and I have improved so much over the last three months, and so I imagine I'd get better with him, too, because I plan on working hard. At the least, the first few times I ride him on my own I can just walk and trot to build my confidence with him before we canter.

So nothing's official yet, but I told the BM I was definitely interested. I might get to ride him once or twice more before we start a lease. But I'm excited. And I guess this means I should finally introduce him, huh? Um, here goes.

His name is Marve.

I know, right? Marve. What a weird name. I asked someone if it was short for Marvin and they didn't know...he is only known as Marve. Even says it on his halter.

I also just realized that "Marve" is only two letters more than "Mae," ha ha. If I lease him and not Mae, should I call this blog Maybe Marve?

Maybe not!

As far as Mae is concerned, my options are:

1)Keep going with Mae until the end of August as planned. Unfortunately, I think I've already ruled this out. I want to start the lease at Other Barn sometime in August, if possible. Waiting until September might be too late. And I think I'm done with the inconvenience of Mae's stable and the riding facilities.
2) Pay for half of August's lease and ride her through August 15. The problem with this plan is I will be on vacation for 5 of those days.
3) Not do August at all -- which means Thursday would be my last day riding her. Yikes!

I hate to say it, but when I first realized I didn't have to commit to doing August at all, I felt a little relieved. It would free up so much time and I wouldn't have to deal with any more long drives. Plus, I could take a short break before diving into another lease. On the other hand, I love Mae and this thing with Marve (still can't get over his weird name, btw) isn't set in stone yet. I guess I'm worried someone else will swoop him up in a lease before I sign on the dotted line.

In any case, please join me in hoping that Mr. Marve will not help me face my own personal Hell by, you know, running off at a mad gallop and ditching my ass in the dirt. Thanks!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Half-Drunk Posting About Earlobe Infections, TBs and Pathetic Ironing Attempts

I am going to take up littlekeebler's recent meme:

Six Things You Don't Know About Me

1. I can apparently get drunk off 3 beers in just under 3 hours.
My big partying days are long behind me, but I was a girl who could hold her liquor and I guess I still think of myself that way. But I just got back from a night out with some girlfriends and am feeling it, so good luck reading the rest of this thing.

2. I enjoy making totally half-assed domestic inventions.
Case in point: Today I am wearing a necklace I "made" by purchasing a pair of purple and pink plastic Target earrings, ripping them off their earring post thingies and putting them on a wire choker thing I bought at WalMart (totally had to remove the original necklace piece with needle nose pliers, btw). The result is a very cheap but fun necklace. (Sidenote: I think my earring holes might have permanently closed up by now, but I test this every 2 years or so by violently jabbing a pair of earrings into my lobes. I then feel proud of myself for about 4 hours before I start to suffer raging infections for the next week). In addition to homemade crap necklaces, another good example is when I got my first professional job and first apartment after college and decided it was ridiculous to have to spend money on an iron when surely I could improvise. I would spread my wrinkly clothes on the coffee table and boil a pot of water. Then I'd take the hot pot over to my clothes and press down to iron them. I don't think it really worked but I sure tried. Also, all my side tables were made from upside-down plastic storage tubs covered in tapestries.

3. I grew up thinking all TBs were nutso.
I said I'd write about this last time so dammit here you go. I grew up riding Arabs and was convinced TBs were satan spawn. And OTTBs? OMG! In my defense, my mom and I knew of clueless non-horsey people who would get OTTBs for free and then not understand why they were having problems. Also, the first time I rode a TB was during a lesson when I was a teenager. The poor guy went crazy (not sure how else to describe it in my state?) and let's just say he was not a safe lesson horse and I, um, had the worst fall ever. My Arab mare, by the way, was a saint. She sometimes did that crazy Arab spook but had a heart of gold and was a great beginner horse. If a kid rode her and started to lose his balance, she'd actually scoot her body over and help get him centered. So sweet. So yeah, I still carry around some TB stigma but have been riding a few of those big guys in lessons at Other Barn. That and reading Fugly's blog makes me a little more open-minded. Since I'd prefer to get a rescue when I do get a horse, maybe I'll even be an OTTB owner one day. Who knows.

4. You know how in my last post I said I'd ride my bike to work today (Friday)? I did, and it was AWESOME.

5. Today I unofficially decided to give up the lease on Mae and lease out the TB at Other Barn.
This is assuming the barn manager is cool with it and my next test ride is fine. And yes, I feel bad about this. And yes, I had to get semi-drunk to come on here and admit it on the blog, which is freaking named Maybe Mae. But I showed up to ride today and both riding rings were out of service. Yes, OUT OF SERVICE. This is the second time in one week it's happened and while I know shit happens and sometimes your riding schedule gets messed up, it felt like the last straw. And driving an hour round-trip each way both times didn't help. I put in an official request at Other Barn to test ride that horse again, so we'll see. I feel horrible writing this and am picturing beautiful, sweet Mae and don't know how I can do this. But I think I might. Don't hate me.

6. I recently decided I was going to stop being chicken and try to contact some of my mom's best friends to chat. My mom died when I was 18. I live across the country from where I grew up and don't keep in touch with her friends. I want to track them down and see if they'll share stories about her. All of them save one were "horsey" friends so I'm sure that will be a big part of the conversation. I think I have always wanted to catch up with them, but it seemed too painful or too weird. Recently, though, I realized it's silly to be shy in these matters.

So there you go. Sorry to get all sappy at the end. It's the Miller Lite, I tell you.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Falafel + Dr Pepper = Match Made in Heaven EVIL

I've been sick and tired about being out of shape for quite a while now. I want to lose the extra pounds I gained in the last year and feel better. I was so much happier before I got lazy -- and not just because I was down a pants size. It's especially frustrating that I keep failing to get back in shape since I KNOW I'll be happier. As my SO says, once you fall off the wagon, it's so hard to get back on. (No, he's not an alcoholic. He's also put on a few, ha.)

Here are some improvements I vow to make (and have already started):

1. Ride my bike more. I used to bike all the time and now I barely do. I've started riding to the store again, and for other shopping errands, etc. I can even ride to Other Barn for my lessons. (This is also an incentive to start leasing the horse at this barn, since it's close enough to bike to!) I think I might ride to work tomorrow, too. I used to commute by bike to my old job, but my current job is a few more miles away and the route isn't the most bike-friendly in the world. But I'll give it a shot.

2. Less computer time! Uh, so I guess I should stop posting now, huh? I've only recently realized how addicted I've become to the Internet. Damn that convenient wireless service. Makes me almost miss the days in my old place when I had dial-up and only one phone jack in the whole place, so I'd have to move my laptop another room anytime I wanted to go online. Now I sit down to write or work and end up reading inane Web pages until I'm exhausted and fall asleep. This snuck up on me -- I thought I was safe because I just about never watch tv. But the Internet is just as bad.

3. Back to the salad regime. In my "old" life (before this job) I always had a huge, leafy green salad every day for lunch. No processed food, no snacks. I have definitely fallen off the wagon in that respect, but in the last few weeks I've really made an effort to keep buying and washing the tons of organic greens necessary to keep me in fresh salad every day at lunchtime.

4. More yoga. Will make time to go to class more often and try to practice at home every other day. Yoga makes me feel so much better for riding, too.

5. No soda/pop! Seriously. This also wasn't a big problem for me until last year when I switched jobs. Damn vending machine at work and that lunch place that gives out free Dr Pepper with the falafel roll. DAMN YOU!!!

6. More cooking. I've come a long way from the girl who thought the "brown flour" instruction on her grandmother's recipe meant buying flour that was brown. I barely knew how to make spaghetti and once I set the kitchen on fire. But now, believe it or not, I'm an awesome cook. Must use those skills more often and cook from scratch (I love whole grains, tofu, veggie dishes...) instead of freaking out with hunger at 7:30pm and eating three bowls of cereal. Okay. Four.

7. More looking at the photos of me riding Mae where you can see the jiggle of fat in my thighs. 'Nuff said.

Writing this list has made me realize that the simple life is the way to go and makes it easier to stay in shape. I worked a crappy job and made no money but I was emotionally and physically happy/healthy and it was easy to make good choices. Fancy schmancy jobs might bring prestige, more money for horsey stuff and an engaging work environment, but they also = stress, less time, and bastard falafel guys throwing free Dr Pepper at you every chance they get. And don't give me that line about how Diet Dr Pepper is just as good. It's NOT. Also, it tastes best in a nice cold can, not a plastic bottle. But that doesn't matter anymore because I'm apparently off the stuff.

Okay, time for me to follow rule #2 and get off the computer now. I'll post an update tomorrow about my recent lesson at Other Barn and my thoughts on Thoroughbreds (how those thoughts may or may not have changed from my childhood when I thought all TBs were "crazy" even though I rode spooky Arabs). Have a good night and for goodness sakes, go eat some lettuce!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Leasing Frustrations

I've been trying to contact Mae's owner and so far, no dice. I realize she is traveling out of the country and is busy, but you know what? She's not on a desert island. She has access to email and a phone, and she hasn't contacted me to check up on Mae even once. Not that I'm shocked, but I'm kind of upset for Mae. I would never leave my horse for an entire summer, in the hands of a leaser, and not check in from time to time. I know she trusts the barn manager, but you know what? Mae is still her horse and her responsibility. (The barn manager hasn't heard from the owner, either, btw. She also doesn't seem surprised.)

I want to talk to the owner to find out when exactly she's coming back and what her plans may be after her return. Will I continue leasing Mae into the fall? Will she up and sell Mae? Will she maybe decide she's going to actually ride herself? Frankly, I think she was relieved that I came along to give her mare some attention and exercise so she didn't have to feel guilty about not doing it herself. [/end rant]

The only reason I'm frustrated about this at the moment is because I need to determine what I'm doing: if I'm going to keep leasing Mae, switch to that Thoroughbred at Other Barn, find another horse altogether or take a break from leasing and just take lessons. I'm still very conflicted. If I want to lease the horse at Other Barn, I might need to commit to start by mid-August. I think I'll ask if I can try him one more time. Otherwise, I'm tempted to find another lease project at a stable that is closer than Mae's but not as expensive at Other Barn. There must be tons of horses out there who need more exercise and attention...the challenge is finding them!

All of this almost makes me want to go out and buy a horse. I scan the DreamHorse and local rescue site listings now and then, but I know the timing is not right for me to buy a horse. Must. Resist. !

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Inner Child Whines About Horse Shows Past

While I was one of those kids who just loved to be around horses, ride on the trail, and develop a relationship with my own horse, I was also just a teensey bit obsessed with horse shows. I used to daydream about them all the time, wore out a copy of Cherry Hill's From the Center of the Ring and looked forward to the summers when my mom would take me around to watch Arabian horse shows. I wanted to show SO BAD -- just schooling-type shows, nothing big and fancy -- and honestly, I still do. Yet for someone so into showing, I have only been in a grand total of three shows my entire life.

The first show was when I was 11. Every June, our boarding stable put on a two-day schooling dressage show. In my opinion, this was a HUGE event because lots of people trailered in, there was an official show results board in the barn, and of course all those fancy ribbons. I had watched the schooling show once or twice as a young child before we moved to a different boarding stable. Then, when I was 11, we moved back to this stable and I was THRILLED because it meant I could ride in the show.

While my mother was happy to watch shows, she was definitely not into showing herself and I knew there was no way she'd let me embark on a full show schedule. But I figured I might have a shot at the barn's schooling show. I actually spent months in advance planning a strategy of asking her permission to be in the show. When I finally put my well-prepared plan into place and asked her, I almost couldn't believe that all my obsessive plotting and worries were unfounded when she simply said, "Sure, why not?" Score. Hurdle number one was down. Now I just have to get ready for my showing debut.

But then, just when I was excitedly looking forward to a few months of preparation and getting those tests down pat, the stable abruptly canceled the show. I guess it was just too much work hosting the event or something; in any case, it was done and I was sorely disappointed. So I went about riding casually in the ring and taking trail rides and tried not to pout too much.

Then, about three days before the originally scheduled show date, I learned that the stable had decided to put on a last-minute show for just a handful of lesson kids. I frantically asked the stable owner if I could ride in the show, too. Even though I wasn't in the official lesson program at the time, I was a kid and rode at the barn, so they were cool with it. I was over the moon and almost didn't mind that I had almost no time to prepare before show day. Who cared? I was finally going to show. Plus, I already had both those tests memorized...never mind that I also practiced at home on my bicycle, ha ha.

This teeny-tiny show consisted of a total of 5 girls in the lesson program. They all took turns riding one of two push button lesson ponies, and I rode my Arab mare. So okay, maybe I went into the show with just a little bit of an attitude because I was riding a "real" horse, not a push button pony who could do the test in his sleep. Not to mention that I was a "real" rider and horse owner who came out and cared for my horse, led her around late at night if she had colic, made her hot bran mash with molasses in the winter, and learned to deal with her spooks and surprises on the trail. Surely I was a better rider and horsewoman than these girls who showed up once a week for a lesson on the half-dead schoolie.

Can you see where this is going? In the first class, which was a walk-trot test, every rider competed. I thought I did pretty well, with no major mistakes that I can remember, but my mare and I placed 6th out of 6. Yikes, what happened?

The next and final class was Training Level Test 1 and only one other girl entered besides me. Again, I thought I did well -- except we picked up the incorrect lead going to the left. I immediately brought her back to a trot and then got her to pick up the correct lead, but it was still a glitch. I ended up in 2nd place to one of the lesson girls who didn't have such a glaring error. Everyone told me that it was wonderful that I recognized the mistake and corrected it right away, but I was upset. What kind of show was this if less-than-great riders place highest because they happen to be on push button ponies? Maybe, I thought, there was a conspiracy since I wasn't included in the show from the beginning and they wanted their paying lesson riders to win.

Even though I came in last in both classes, I was still excited to be in a show. The sight of my red and green ribbons made me feel both exhilarated and ashamed, but in the end I was glad I had them. The whole experience humbled and embarrassed and angered me, but I'm glad it happened and I think I learned from it.

My second show also occurred at this stable about 5 years later. I was 16 years old and, like the first show, found out about it at the last minute, about a week or so before the show took place. It was another last-minute schooling show just for the stable, but this time more riders would be competing, including boarders. I decided to compete with my Arab again but frankly didn't have very high expectations. I decided it was likely the lesson program girls would wipe the floor with me yet again, and that was okay.

This was a very relaxed "fun" show. The only semi-serious class was the trail class, and after that it was a bunch of games like egg and spoon, etc. I was 16 years old, a little cynical, and also big into my bareback stage. So I decided, screw it, I'm riding bareback. I think I wore jeans, sneakers, and a green t-shirt (in contrast to my first show, when I wore high boots, breeches, and a jacket my mom and I bought second-hand from another girl). I showed up not really caring about what happened as long as I had fun.

The result? I won my first blue ribbon in the trail class. This actually felt like a pretty big deal because there were many competitors, including several adult boarders (and two trainers). My mare and I worked very well together, I guess the result of all our years of riding together and trusting one another. And the crowd lined up to watch us since I was the only rider going bareback. All in all, a good experience.

Then, to my surprise, I also won first place in the egg and spoon race. While bareback. I still don't really know how that happened. Then I went on to win first place in the next two classes, as well. (I can't even remember what they are now; similarly silly classes like the egg and spoon.) I was due to enter another class later in the afternoon, but I decided I'd already had so much fun and my mare had done so well that I didn't feel the need to keep competing. I took her outside and hand grazed her for a while, so proud of how well we'd worked together. What a complete turnaround from my first show.

So now I'm all old and stuff and still totally into showing even though I don't do it. My third show, as you may have already read about, was the schooling show for the lesson program at Other Barn. That was also a humbling but fun experience.

At the beginning of the summer I had secretly hoped to show Mae at a nearby schooling show, but that is not going to happen. She and I have made a lot of improvement, but I really don't think I'm ready to show her. Oh well. Right now it looks like I am stuck with Other Barn schooling shows until I am able to get my own horse. Even then, I can't see myself trailering out to tons of shows, even despite my obsession. Just maybe one or two summer schooling shows. That would be enough for me.

Is it totally embarrassing that, even though years have passed and I've moved something like 1,000 times, I still have every ribbon I won in those shows? Some things never change, I guess.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Money Issues, and Have You Ever Been to a Barn Wedding?

I haven't been to the barn in more than a week because I went on a short vacation (yay!) and then promptly got bogged down with work, errands, and one serious cold. I might not make it there tomorrow, either, considering that I spent most of today spacing out at work and not doing the million things that need to get done. So I'll probably make up for that by being extra productive tomorrow.

Since it's been 10 days or whatever since I saw Mae, it's starting to feel almost unreal that I'm leasing her or that I was riding so regularly. The time off has reminded me of a few things: One, it's now mid-July and the summer will be over before I know it. I will have to make a choice very soon about starting a lease on that horse at Other Barn (a few girls are interested, the last I heard, and while I'm uncertain about the lease I feel this intense jealousy when I see someone else riding him!). I also don't know what's going on with Mae. I haven't talked to her owner, who is out of the country and probably won't be in touch for at least a month or more. For all I know she will want me to carry on with Mae into the fall. Or she'll want to sell Mae.

The other thing is money. The horse at Other Barn will cost more than twice the amount of Mae's lease (yet it will mean WAY less driving and gas). So aghg I don't know what to do. Decision making is not my strength. Can you tell?

As far as money goes, and don't hate me when I say this, but I'm in a pretty fortunate situation. I'm not rich by a long shot, but I'm really not hurting in the financial department. My SO and I live way below our means. We live in a teeny tiny place, share a car (with no car payment) but don't drive very often (minus, ahem, me driving to Mae's stable) because we can both take public transportation to work, we don't have kids or credit card debt or a mortgage or any other big, pressing expenses. Right now, I'm doing fine and can afford a lease. I could technically afford a horse of my own, but part of the reason I'm reluctant to do that is because I'm pretty careful about money and don't know for sure I'll always be this fortunate. The economy is kicking the crap out of my industry, and no matter how often I am assured my job is safe, I know there is a possibility that if things get even worse, in a year or so my job might disappear. Or my old car might break down and I'll need to buy a new one. And so on.

Most terrifying of all, my SO and I have been toying with the idea of the big M (marriage -- eek!) which honestly is not something I ever thought I'd go in for, but there is a chance it might actually happen. We are kind of low-key, almost bohemian folk (again, living below our means) so if we did get hitched it wouldn't be a fancy, black tie affair in a reception hall. We'd either elope or throw a casual party, but that would still cost money. I have recently decided that getting married at a stable would be pretty cool. I can just imagine guests in party dresses walking around piles of horse turds in the indoor arena, ha ha. But seriously. Ever been to a barn wedding? I'd love to hear stories.

Anyway, I guess recently I've been uncertain about the future. Job, SO, even whether we might move somewhere far away. So that makes it a no-brainer for me to not get my own horse, and now I wonder whether I should even put up the money for another lease.

Aw, hell. I know I will. Until I become really strapped for cash I'm sure I'll lease some horse. I just don't know whether it will remain Mae or a different one.

In the meantime, I'm off to google barn weddings and see how guests react to being forced to sit on bales of hay. Good times.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How I came to be a re-rider

I was fortunate enough to be born to a mother who was absolutely horse crazy. She didn’t start riding until after she had all her kids, but she jumped right in by taking lessons, making friends with horsey people, etc. She bought first one horse and then another. Some of my earliest memories are hanging around the stable with her and getting pony rides on this adorable, shaggy white pony.

When I was about 6, I started taking private lessons. After a few years of that, we moved our two horses to a different boarding stable that didn’t offer a lesson program, so I set about riding the older mare, who eventually became my horse. I rode her into my teens, just pleasure riding, trails, bareback, etc, nothing fancy. We moved around to various boarding stables and I occasionally took a lesson on a different horse for some more experience. I still rode and loved horses during my high school years, but my degree of horse craziness waned slightly.

Then, as I got ready for college, two things happened: my horse became lame and we retired her from riding, and then my mother died. I was 18, about to start college halfway across the country, I had lost my mother, and now I had full responsibility of two horses.

I left the retired mare at the current stable, where she received excellent care and spent her last days grazing happily in a pasture. “Getting rid” of her was never an option. I knew even then that as an older, unrideable horse, there weren’t many options for me to provide for her. I did look into retirement boarding places, but the board I was currently paying was low enough for me to leave her there under care I already trusted.

But that left me with my mom’s horse, a 12-year-old mare in good condition. I was off to college and couldn’t ride her, so I thought the best thing to do would be to sell her to someone who could use her. I remember thinking I could put her up for sale for about $1,000 – she was a great horse but had some kinks in her training, so I wasn’t expecting to get a ton of money for her. What mattered most was that she got a good home, but my brain was so addled by grief and life changes that I was totally lost. If, for example, a random woman gave me a sob story about how she loved my horse and wanted to use her for 4-H, I might have given her away for free, thinking she’d get a good home. It would never have occurred to me that someone would try to get a healthy, usable horse to sell it for meat.

All I can say is thank God that a relative asked if she could take the mare. This person could give my mom’s horse all the love, attention, riding, and even training she needed. This relative still has the horse today. I’ve visited her several times and I’m so relieved the horse went to someone I trust.

So I was off to college. One of the reasons I chose the school was because it had an equestrian club, but you know what? I never joined. I never even went to the stable during my 4 years of college. I write this now with a sense of disbelief – why didn’t I ride?? – but I suppose part of my grieving process meant distancing myself from the biggest thing my mother and I shared. And I guess that I’ve only recently been ready to go back to that.

In the dozen years or so that I stopped riding, I know I never stopped loving it, or loving horses. On a grand total of 3 occasions during this time, while on vacation, I went on guided trail rides. That wasn’t really riding, of course, but I guess it’s telling I managed to squeeze something horse-related into my life somehow.

And then, last year, I suddenly decided I needed to take riding lessons again. (Enter the young kids who ride circles around me and my realization I’m not as good as I thought I was.) And now I’m leasing Mae. It seems like I’m on the path to being fully immersed in horses again, and I’m glad. It feels right. So here I am.

I’m going out of town, so I won’t be posting for the next few days. Have a lovely week and some lovely rides!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hop, Skip and a Jump (well, not really)

Yesterday Mae and I were having a really good ride (outdoors -- finally!) and I decided to go ahead and try something new. I put a pole on the ground and we walked and trotted over that a few times. She didn't seem phased. So next I turned it into a "jump" that couldn't have been more than 12" high. I mounted again and turned and looked at what suddenly appeared to be a monster jump, lol. I know you jumpers out there are probably laughing, but I was nervous because I know absolutely nothing about Mae's jumping history. Plus, she's not my horse and the thought of her getting injured while I tried to yahoo over a jump made me cringe. Plus, I was alone out there. Suddenly this little experiment didn't sound like such a great idea.

I compromised by walking her over it a few times. It sounds silly now, but I really was afraid to point her at it at a trot. And maybe that was smart, because she wasn't entirely happy about walking over it. She tried to refuse a few times but I urged her on. Maybe it was too high to comfortably walk over (I have no idea...whenever I'm going over jumps that are 1-2' I'm always trotting or cantering like a normal person) or maybe her owner lied and Mae doesn't really know how to jump. I'd bet money her owner never jumped her, but when I asked if Mae jumped, she just said, "Oh, sure!" And then she gave me permission to jump. Ummm. The owner has never even seen me jump. I'm just saying. It's not something I'd allow if I were leasing out a horse.

So anyway, after about our fourth awkward walk over the teeny tiny "jump," it started to rain and my ride was over. At that point I wished I had just stuck with ground work since the ride was cut short. Ah, well. At least I learned my first instinct was right and that I probably shouldn't mess with jumping Mae. I'm not experienced enough at jumping to haul her around untested. Mostly, I worry about injuring her. Eating dirt? That I can handle. Maybe. But I couldn't bear to have a hand in her getting injured.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Little Frustrations Plus Some Gratitude

I have determined that my difficulty in riding without stirrups on Mae truly is limited to Mae. Last week in my lesson at Other Barn, I rode this gelding notorious for his horribly uncomfortable, bouncy trot without stirrups and I was fine. I try not to blame my problems on outside sources (the horse, the tack, the temperature, the humidity, the state of the moon, etc.) but in this case I think something really is up with the Mae's saddle. I've never been fully comfortable in it and I feel like I'm going to rocket off when I start trotting her without stirrups. Riding that bouncy-trotting gelding without stirrups at Other Barn, though, was no problem. So maybe it's not that I'm a totally crappy rider.

In other complainy news, I'm getting really tired of Mae's barn's riding facilities. I've had to ride in the teeny tiny indoor for about two weeks straight now, due both to weather conditions and other circumstances. Even the outdoor is small and kind of uneven and not the best. I would love to see how Mae and I would do in a nice, large, level arena. But since that is not a possibility right now, I guess I shouldn't dwell on it.

On a positive note, my friend came out to the stable with me last week and brought her 7-year-old daughter. This girl was so excited to meet Mae that she was literally shaking. I remember getting that excited to be around horses when I was a kid -- heck, sometimes I still feel that way -- but it was nice to see her so happy. If Mae were my own horse I'd be happy to put my friend's daughter up there and lead her around for a bit, but since she's not we settled for a grooming lesson. Which seemed to thrill this little girl to no end and reminded me how lucky I am to have found a way to bring horses back into my life.