Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oh, also....

Thought you could use a break from my horse-related whining and let you know that my SO and I have decided to get married. We have been together for ages and live together, so for most people this seems like the typical step. But since we are non-traditional hippies who don't really like the institution of marriage and all that it represents (or that not everyone in this country even has the right to get married) we never thought we'd get officially hitched.

But then you get old and your perspective changes and we figure we love each other so much and we're in it for the duration, so why not throw a party? A small, casual party that will NOT involve a pouffy white dress, tuxedo-wearing butlers or little boxes of Jordan almonds that crack your teeth....but a party nonetheless! Also, this way when/if one of our jobs tanks because of the fabulous economy, the health insurance will be more of a sure thing. (SO briefly had to get on my insurance before he started a new job, and while we're lucky my job even allows domestic partner coverage, it costs nearly 3 times as much, blech.)

So anyway, it will probably be next year sometime. Someone has already suggested that I "ride into the ceremony on a horse." To this I just smiled blankly. Suuuure. Hey, here's an idea. Why don't I ride Marve in and let him bolt and knock everyone down? It's sure to keep the guest list down, at least.

Okay. Seriously. I have a sink full of dishes that I have been putting off all night long. Such is the life of marital bliss...

Isn't this supposed to be fun?

I know I kind of abandoned this blog for a while, and I'm sorry about that. I think a big part of why I wasn't writing is that I just haven't been having much fun riding lately.

I'm no longer terrified like I was during that last ride I wrote about. And Marve hasn't freaked out at all, which is good. I still feel a little uneasy before I ride, like I know it's going to happen again eventually, but for the most part I've been okay.

After yet another so-so ride today, I think there are two problems here (not including the fear issue).

First, it's the matter of time and time management. When I leased Mae, it was very free and I could just go to the stable whenever I wanted. With this lease, I have to be there on certain days of the week. If I miss a day, I can't really make it up and it's inconvenient for the stable to make sure Marve gets exercised. It's only three days a week, but I also get caught up doing things like mucking out his stall or cleaning tack and so on, and lately I've been feeling almost resentful of the time it takes out of my life. Riding definitely takes time away from my writing and other things that are important to me.

And part of the reason I might be having problems with the time issue is that riding hasn't been as fun lately. Recently, our rides have sucked. Meaning that I have sucked. I feel like I'm going backwards and getting worse instead of improving with Marve. The last few times I rode him, for example, he was trotting around with his head in the air and his ears pinned back. WTF? It didn't seem like anything was hurting him, and I tried everything I have been learning to get him on the aids, etc. But it was just bad. Today I got so frustrated I just looked down at my hands and thought, "I don't know what to do!" Like I've tried every combination of inside/outside rein pressure and leg aids and so on and am not getting results. It's frustrating. And it makes me feel like I'm not a good enough rider for him.

I am considering ending the lease in mid-December since hey, this is supposed to be fun, right? But then today I spoke to a boarder who pointed out it often takes months -- longer than I have been riding Marve -- to "figure out" a horse and really make it as a horse-rider pair.

Okay. Except I was doing so much better with him two months ago, and now we are crap. I don't think it's all because of my fear issue, because lately I've felt pretty comfortable while riding him. I don't know if it's all me or partially him, or just how we're working together, but something is not right.

I will go over my concerns with my instructor this week and see what she says. To be honest, I think the lease is going to end pretty soon. It's just a matter of deciding exactly when to end it, since I think the stable was expecting me to lease him for a while longer. But I'll make the decision that is best for me.

And I also promise to try to do better with this blog and keep you all updated!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Frozen in Fail

I had such a bad ride this week. Really, it was horrendous. The worst I've ridden Marve ever.

And it was all because I was afraid. For almost no reason.

Prior to this ride, I mistakenly thought I had a handle on my fear of him bolting with me. I had the mindset that there was no point in being nervous and afraid; if I was going to ride him, I might as well feel confident, because there was nothing I could do about him bolting until the actual moment it happened, and who knew if it would?

Then, a few days ago, I went to ride and it was freezing outside. Major temperature drop. Not only that, but it was super windy and there were all sorts of creaking noises making their way through the arena. It was also pretty crowded in there, with at least 6 other riders.

It got off to a bad start right away. Almost immediately after I was mounted, another horse spooked a little bit. Marve tensed up and it felt like he was going to try to take off, but then he didn't and nothing happened. Repeat: nothing happened. But I might as well have gotten off then, because my fear from the way he tensed wrecked our entire ride.

I don't know how to explain it. I felt I was gambling my healthy body and fully intact bones by riding him. Instead of feeling like a safe haven, the indoor arena felt like a little wooden box trapping me inside...the walls were there not to shield us from the weather, but to be obstacles I could fly into when Marve threw me. I felt insecure, scared, unwilling. But still, we rode.

Not that it was any fun. I kept looking at the clock, just trying to calculate how long I had to ride him to make sure he got enough exercise. I dreaded cantering him because I was afraid he'd run off. I was afraid to be near the other horses in the ring, for fear they'd spook or set him off, and I was also afraid to avoid them too much, which could make him nervous or eager to chase after them.

The result was some poor riding and a nervous horse. He didn't bolt or have any major spooks, but he was jumpy. Then he started giving these little bucks when I asked him to canter, something he never does. It was just a mess. I didn't have him on the aids at all, and even though my brain was telling me what to do to get things under control, my body was completely unwilling to do it. And, embarrassingly, the barn manager happened to drop by and watched us for a while. I was so ashamed she witnessed that.

So anyway. The ride finally ended, and I was relived to get off. But I'm not going to let this happen again. I need to psych myself up for my next ride and be determined not to let my stupid fear take over again.

I haven't forgotten that this is supposed to be fun. If I keep feeling like this regularly, I will stop the lease. But I'm hoping this was a one-time thing.

My SO is quite aware that I'm still nervous about Marve. (Hmm...I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that every time I leave for the stable, I say in a singsong voice, "Keep your fingers crossed that Marve doesn't kill me today!") So after I returned from this bad ride, he encouraged me to stop the lease. He said, "Whatever you felt you needed to prove to yourself after you fell off him and got scared, you did. You didn't quit right away. But if you're still scared now, maybe you should just stop."

But somehow, I don't feel the time is right to stop yet. Maybe in another month, maybe in three. Who knows. But despite the occasional fear and bolt and bad ride, I seem reluctant to cut off the lease. So I'm in it. Let's just hope my confidence comes back.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Following Through

Thanks to everyone who left a comment on yesterday's post. I am happy to report that I was true to my word and finally submitted! I actually submitted two different stories to five journals. (Only one story went to each journal...I chose different ones based on each journal's style and word count restrictions.)

Five might not sound like a lot, but it is when you consider that I had to re-read stories in each of those journals to get a refresher on what types of fiction they publish, plus double check their guidelines online, deal with all the envelopes and SASEs, etc. This may also be part of why I haven't been submitting lately -- it's a lot of work. But I am so pleased that those stories are on their way into the world right now. It's about time. And while five is just a teensy little start (who knows how many dozens of times I'll have to submit each story before I maybe get a bite) it is, at least, a start.

Thanks also for the interest in reading my stories. I appreciate that but feel really shy about it. I'm weird that way. I have absolutely no problem sending my stories out to editors, publications, writing groups, writing conferences, writing buddies, etc. But I almost never let other people in my life read my stuff -- that includes my SO, my family, my best friends. I might sometime waver on that soon, but in general I'd rather non-writing people don't read my stuff until it's published. I guess because I know those in the writing world understand how hard it is and what the revision process is like, and I worry my friends and family might read a draft and secretly think it's bad. Writers are an insecure bunch, and I have no doubts I'll be like that for the rest of my life, no matter what success I might have.

I am even embarrassed by stories of mine published years ago. I grow and change so much as a writer, which is also why I haven't submitted in so long. It became a pattern: I wrote a story, revised it, sat on it, revised it several more times, waited a bit and then sent it to like two dozen magazines. Then, three months later, I looked at the story again and saw all sorts of problems and things I wanted to change. Then the rejections started rolling in. So I figured I better wait longer and be really, really sure before submitting again.

For one of the stories I just mailed out, I wrote the first draft in like March of 2007. And who knows if that will be long enough, but if it has stood the test of time in my mind for this long, here's hoping...

Anyway, a brief update on riding and Marve. Things have been going okay, with no major freak outs on his side. On two separate occasions, a horse in the arena noticeably spooked right in front of us, and Marve didn't lose his shit. I am trying to remain calm and confident, and I'm happy to report I didn't even really tense up when those spooks happened. I still feel it will probably happen again, but I am more relaxed about it now, and am not convinced he's going to do it every time or anything.

We've been working on jumping in lessons. Previously, I really looked forward to the opportunity to jump because hey, it's just fun. But now this has gotten me a little afraid at times, too. My position, while improving, is not the most secure, and Marve needs to know his rider is secure and confident coming up to a jump, or he gets nervous. We're just jumping little things, like two feet, but there have been a few times when my lack of experience has caused him to sort of crash into the jump or have a bad take off. There have been no disasters or major problems, fortunately, but a few of those bad jumps made me realize how dangerous jumping could be and shook both my confidence and Marve's. But we always manage to finish the lesson on a good note, which is important, and I can feel my position improving, so I'm optimistic.

As of right now I intend to keep the lease for the time being. I had thought about cutting back or even ending it, what with my fear and time issues, but I'll keep going for now. I am glad I didn't give up after I was so freaked out from that fall, even though part of me never wanted to get on him again. And I've been having fun riding, and can't help looking ahead to the dressage schooling shows that I think will be held in the spring/summer. I don't know yet if my schedule will let me keep the lease up till then, but it is an option.

And now I'm going to force myself to work for several more hours before I leave for the blessed, blessed weekend. Cheers!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Balance: It's not just for those uncertain re-riders trying to stay on excitable TBs anymore.

As I have briefly mentioned on this blog, in addition to riding and working full time and exercising to avoid gaining 20 pounds in cookie weight (mmmm cookies) I also write fiction. This was always a huge part of my life and I enjoyed some small successes in the past, but for the last few years I haven't done much. Well, I've been writing -- and my short stories are getting better and better -- but I haven't submitted to any journals for a few years now. And I keep planning to begin work on a new novel, but have had several false starts. I'm intimidated, which is a foreign feeling for me -- in the past, I'd whip out a novel in a 3-4 months even though I knew it likely would never be good enough to get published. I wrote for the sake of practice and learning about the craft and prepping myself for the time when it's for real. Maybe I feel I have enough practice and it is for real now, so I freeze up. Who knows.

Anyway, I just got word that one of my fellow writers from college sold her first novel. And I'm jealous. I admit it.

This woman is an amazing writer and even though I haven't read this manuscript (or even know its title yet), I know without a doubt that she totally, totally deserves it. No question. But even so, I can't help being jealous, which I know is a perfectly normal human reaction. She and I were often neck and neck in college, winning similar writing contests, sending our stories out to the same magazines, and so on. I honestly never doubted that she would one day succeed. Of course, I hoped that I would, too.

After college, we completely lost touch and our lives took very different turns. She took on the life of an academic, getting her PhD and then teaching lit classes. I went into the terrifying "real world" right away and started working. At first I toyed with the idea of getting an MA or PhD in literature and then teaching at the college level, but thankfully I realized that wouldn't be right for me.

Even though I don't think the academic path was necessarily for me, I'm jealous for this other writer's choices because she has more time. She doesn't even know what a 9-5 office job is, or the pressures and crap that come along with the corporate work experience. She has had every summer off. She has had more time to write, and even when she's not writing fiction she's been absorbed in the academic world, which is a completely different place and much more conducive to writing. Sometimes I feel I let myself forget that I'm a writer in part because I'm constantly surrounded by people in the "real world" who don't understand what that means. Sometimes even I don't understand it.

So anyway, she has a book deal, and now I'm questioning how I spend my time. I work all week, of course. My job isn't really that horrendous when it come to time -- I can come in the office late if I want, or take a long lunch, or sometimes work from home, and if I really need to leave at 2:30pm on a Tuesday, I can make it happen. Of course, sometimes I find myself working at 2:30pm on a Sunday because I have a huge project I need to finish. And my position is sometimes stressful and high-pressure, so I find myself thinking about it outside of the office. And that is just not healthy, in my opinion.

Then there's riding, which has been taking up more and more of my time. Just looking back at some of my entries on here that detail my braiding practice and worrying over the show makes me exhausted. Is it possible to work full time, lease or own a horse, AND try to make a writing career for myself? Is there only room for one major activity outside of work? (And let's not even think about the people who work full time and have kids and manage to hold down a writing career or take care of their horses...that is beyond even my level of comprehension, which is why no kids are on the life menu at this time.)

And my writing has definitely dropped off within the last year -- I'm writing less and less, with some productive spurts mixed in. Thankfully, I have a writer friend who lives just down the street from me, and lately we've been getting together twice a week just to sit across each other in a place with no Internet access and write. Without those writing dates, I probably wouldn't be writing much at all. That's sad. I don't expect to ever be a best-selling novelist or a phenom or anything like that, but I do believe, based on my past experiences and work, that I could be publishing. Short stories, at a minimum, and a novel, if I really get my act together and give it the time it deserves.

What it comes down to is this other writer, the one with the book deal, didn't sell her book because she got her PhD and she has summers off or perhaps more time to write. She succeeded because she made it happen. She sat down at that desk for who knows how many hours and pounded out a book, and then revised it and made it shine. That is what I need to do. I feel like I know what it takes. So why aren't I doing it? And is riding what is interfering with this goal, or is it me...not managing my time correctly, being a little lazy, or just not being disciplined enough?

All I know is that right after posting this, I am going to print out one of my finished stories and submit it. It's been a long time since I submitted anything, and I'm realistic to know the first few (or first dozen, realistically) times out it will probably get rejected...but I need to get back in the game. So here I go. Wish me luck.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Important: Pumpkin Beer Update

I keep forgetting to give an update on my pumpkin beer experiences! Failure all around, with a shot of spicy, pumpkiny goodness.

Okay, I feel that I failed because I never got around to buying Saranac pumpkin ale, which was in my local beer shop, and now it's sold out. I think they had another kind, too, but it's also gone and I can't even remember the name! Not to mention that a local microbrewery apparently has an amazing pumpkin beer, and I still haven't stopped by to check it out. They better have it through Thanksgiving!

Anyway, so far, these are my favorites:

Dogfish Head Pumpkin Ale
-- not quite pumpkiny enough for my taste (but then, what is?) but my favorite overall.

Ichabod Ale Yegads! I meant Shipyard here. What is wrong with me? Too much pumpkin beer, clearly! -- Pretty pumpkiny!

Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale

Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale -- I'm not a huge fan of this one, but it's better than not drinking at all, right?

Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale -- I had this in a bottle at a party and it was crappy and did not taste like pumpkin at ALL. But I also had a pint of it in a bar when I was already sort of liquored up and seemed to like it more then. Hmmm. Also, I'll go out on a limb here and say this is probably the Miller High Life of pumpkin ales. And you should know that I have NOT had a High Life since my SO's friend decided to be hilarious and bring us a case.

And apparently there are soooo many more pumpkin beers I need to try. I think I'll make a few stops after work and see what I can find. They better not all be gone...November is still pumpkin season, people!

Thursday, November 6, 2008


So the first time I went back to the stable to ride Marve after his freak out, I was pretty nervous. I had spent the previous 24 hours alternating between the attitudes of, "It will be fine! That was just a freak occurrence. I can handle this!" and "OMG I'm going to die!!"

I started grooming Marve and was fairly optimistic...until I learned from the stable girls that he did his crazy bolting thing every other day the previous week with other riders. Another girl had fallen off; the others managed to stay on but apparently were freaked enough to say they didn't want to ride him again.

At that point, I stepped back and looked at Marve and thought it was a foregone conclusion that he would freak out again, as in that very day when I rode him. And I was scared. Super scared. Meanwhile, one of the teenage girls was going on abut how I'd have to get used to it because he was a TB, after all, and that was just what they did. I should suck it up and learn how to ride out a crazy freak-bolt and stop complaining and acting scared.

Wtf? Is being a TB an excuse to be a dangerous, bolting, bucking freak-out monster? Seriously. He was fine for months and now he's freaking out. Couldn't that indicate something was going on? Should I really just "suck it up"? I know TBs have a reputation for being hot, but come on. For him to freak out EVERY time he was ridden last week just didn't seem normal.

At this point, I had finished grooming him and was nearly in tears. Just then the barn manager walked by and asked me how I was. I may or may not have exclaimed something like, "No, I am NOT fine because I'm afraid he's going to dump me again."

Long story short, I ended up in the barn manager's office for nearly a half hour, talking about my fears and what could be going on with Marve. I kind of felt like a kid in an afterschool special, getting advice from the stern schoolmaster. But she was really nice and said I certainly did not have to "get used to it" because clearly something was going on with Marve. Likely, he needed more exercise and less time being cooped up in his stall. I feel a little indignant about this, because DUH. I don't know...I don't feel horses should be stalled all the time, but sometimes that concept seems like a novelty at this barn.

The story ends with me feeling the confident that the BM was looking out for my best interests. I did end up riding him that day. I was nervous and jumpy -- literally, every time I heard a noise a stiffened in the saddle because I was afraid he'd take off. But he was okay. I've ridden him several times since then and he has not freaked out, not even once. I'm having fun riding him again, and for the first time in a week I'm not dreading returning to the stable.

I'm still not fully recovered, though. Frankly, I think he will freak out again while I'm riding him. Whether he gets nervous or spooked or just has too much energy that day, it's probably going to happen. Hopefully, I will be able to use some of the tips people have been giving me and not get hurt or fall off.

But as long as I can get to a point where I'm not constantly afraid it's going to happen, I might be okay. And I might still have fun in the process.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

On Fear and Quitting

I fell off Marve this week. He freaked out and bolted several times during our ride, and on the last one I fell.

I'm fine, not hurt at all. And I got back on and rode him around for a little while before calling it a day. But to say I'm shaken up is an understatement. I don't even feel like recounting the whole thing because I don't want to relive it.

I'm scared. I admit it. I mentioned before that he has bolted a few other times this fall. Every time, though, was outside, and this time it happened in the indoor. I thought I was safe in there.

The people who were there when it happened said it was the cooler weather, the fact that he's a TB, that another horse in the ring was nervous and slightly acting up, etc. All true, but I can't help but wonder if part of it is me. He doesn't seem to do this with other riders. Can he tell that I'm a little insecure, that I'm afraid of him bolting, that I am not experienced or brave or good enough to bring him under control immediately? Does he know that if he keeps doing this, I'll give up riding him for good? Because I might.

The bottom line is, I don't think this was a once-and-done deal. I think he'll do this again. Who knows could be the next time I ride him, or in a few weeks, or in a few months. But it will probably happen again.

A girl at the barn told me that it shouldn't prevent me from riding him. That the TB she rides does this from time to time and if anything, it has taught her how to "ride out" a bolt and bring him under control. She gave me some pointers that I will try out the next time it happens, but ugh! The next time?

I know horses are unpredictable, that they can be dangerous, that any horse can spook and freak out or bolt. But it's a little different when that behavior is expected, the norm, instead of a freak occurrence.

Part of me is dreading the next time I have to ride him. But, being the way I am, I can't just quit the lease right now. I am not a quitter, and I want to see if I can handle this. On the other hand, I don't want to die.

My SO thinks I should just stop leasing him now and save myself the grief. I can still take weekly lessons, of course. But I don't feel right quitting just because Marve scared me. He was freaking out when another horse was spooking a bit; so there was a reason. But does that mean he will act like this any time another horse in the ring gets slightly upset? God, I don't know how we both survived in the show a few weeks ago!

If he keeps freaking out and bolting, I'm afraid I may have to stop the lease. I'm not 15 years old anymore. I am not fearless. I just want to ride without worrying that the horse will take off with me. Because that is seriously one of the scariest things for me. (Though, of course, who is in love with that feeling??)

If I end up stopping the lease after this, I will feel like a loser. Again, no one else seems to have this problem with him. Everyone goes on and on about how much they love Marve, in fact. And true, he is an awesome horse. Great at dressage and jumping and frankly I'm lucky to be leasing a horse like him at this stable. I don't want to be known as the one who couldn't handle Marve, got scared, and quit.

And stopping the lease would give me more time to write and do yoga, two things I am desperately trying to squeeze back into my life. Of course, I wasn't thinking about quitting the lease until Marve started to scare me. And what if I go back to only weekly lessons and miss the extra riding time? I thought -- and still do -- that riding Marve would make me a better rider. But I won't be a better rider if I'm always afraid my horse is going to take off with me at a wild, uncontrolled gallop.

How much of this is an internal competition for me? When I first started taking lessons at this barn, after being away from riding for years, I was pretty bad. Super rusty, couldn't remember how to do things, and was basically a mess. It was hard at first, and I was counting down the remaining sessions because I just wanted it to end and have the humiliation be over. But then I slowly started to get better. I signed up for another session, then another, and started looking for horses to lease. I leased Mae, and now Marve. I thought that horses were finally back in my life for good.

Now, my SO points out that I can take a break for a while and revisit my riding when I am ready. There is no rule that says I have to keep riding. And I can wait until I'm ready to buy my own horse -- preferably one I can trust to not freak out and run away with me.

He's right, I know. But it comes down to what I want, which I'm not too clear on. Do I want to quit the lease and give up? Do I want only weekly lessons? Do I wait for a better lease situation to come up? Do I want to keep giving it a go, maybe become like that other girl who became skilled in riding bolting, freaking TBs? I don't know. I really don't. All I know is that I'm putting in my check for the lease this month and will see what happens....while hoping I don't get seriously hurt in the process.