2017 Goals

It’s a requirement if you have a blog to write something about goals at the beginning of each year, right?

2017

Blog or not, I have been thinking a lot about my plans for 2017. The past 12 months have included a ton of change and while a lot of it has been rather painful and involved me sobbing on the couch (more on that in a later post… I’m looking at you, Marley!), I am consciously trying to focus on the opportunities that lie ahead.

Part of the reason I’ve struggled since moving back to NYC is that in some ways I feel as though I lost my horse-y identity. I of course enjoy taking lessons and spending any and all time at a barn – but I’ve come to get a tremendous amount of satisfaction and pride out of horse ownership. Obviously I knew this was a big part of my life, but I underestimated what a gaping hole it would leave. It’s been a challenge to find a new normal and start to navigate what my horse life can and should look like now.

All that said, I’m so happy to have found an incredible trainer and supportive, fun barn community. I have to drive a bit further than I would like to visit them, but it’s worth it! With that in mind, this year I’m hoping to:

  • Lesson 1x / Week
    • I would love to lesson more like twice per week but I’m starting a new job and am not sure what the realities of that schedule are going to be. For now, committing to getting to the barn for a lesson one day per week seems both reasonable and enough to ensure that I at least won’t slide too far backward in my riding.
  • Ride anything and everything
    • I’ve sort of been getting my sea legs at the new barn, but eventually I hope to be able to hack out in addition to taking official lessons.
    • While I’m bummed that I’m not currently a horse owner and am missing out on that long, slow burn of partnership building that is so incredible – I want to take advantage of this opportunity to ride a whole variety of horses.
  • Participate in at least one event or schooling show
    • Dressage show, combined training, actual event – I’m not going to be picky with this one because I don’t, um, currently have a horse. But that’s cool! I’ll find one somewhere along the way and hopefully get off property at least once.
  • Move them hips!
    • I have tight hips. Really tight hips. It’s a family curse and gets worse when I’m not riding regularly. New trainer has been great about giving me exercises to push me here, and I need to stay focused on maintaining that independent seat. I know I’m older than I once was, but I also know that I did at one time have a fantastic seat — so it’s possible!
  • Maximize out-of-saddle fitness
    • Given previous goals and comments about not getting as much riding time as I’d like… when I’m not riding I want to work on my fitness in a very focused way.
    • #1 – Cardiovascular fitness, aka running. Running is the second best thing for my brain after sticking my face in a horse’s neck. Need to do this 3x per week.
    • #2 – Core? What is core? My legs and arms are really strong, like freaky, not-totally-feminine strong. My core? Notsomuch. I’ve made progress here thanks to pilates and a horrifying torture class called BodyBurn – need to commit to 2 workout a week that really target my core and riding muscles.

Back on the, uh, horse.

Happy New Year! It’s been a busy and eventful couple of months. I’m hoping to update this space much more regularly now that we’re through the holidays and settling into a NYC-based routine.

I haven’t been able to ride quite as much as I’d like but I’ve made progress toward building a little bit of a life on the East Coast, which at this point is probably more important. I’m also feeling optimistic about the plan for 2017 in terms of maintaining involvement with the horse world in a way that is manageable.

Yesterday I had a lesson with my new trainer on a horse named Moo. He’s very appropriately named:

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I’ve ridden this guy maybe 4 or 5 times now and while he is really different from anything I’ve sat on in the past few years, I kind of love him. He’s getting up there in years, is a little creaky, tends to hang on the bit, and doesn’t let you get away with much – but he is sweet and honest and has a lot of spunk. And spots! How can you not love the spots?

More soon!

What is “Winter”?

Shit is getting real.

I’ve been basking in the glory of an East Coast fall, delighting in those crisp mornings while simultaneously enjoying the golden, sun-filled afternoons. I’ve also been conveniently ignoring the fact that (a) Winter is Coming and (b) I am woefully unprepared.

Fall is lovely and pumpkin spice etc. etc. but I have a lesson tomorrow morning quite early, and the forecast is a sobering 37 degrees.

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I AM NOT PREPARED

I have spent the evening cataloguing my Winter Riding Gear and it is, shall we say, somewhat lacking. Some serious work needs to be done in order to not freeze my tail off this winter.

Current wishlist items include:

A jacket! I literally do not even own a proper jacket.

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Down! Puffy! What more could you want?

Gloves

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Because it’s important to not lose your fingers to frostbite

Cozy Boots!

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LOL with my 45 pennies left over after shipping my horse across the country I will buy these lovelies.

What am I forgetting? Bring it, winter. THERE IS MORE SHOPPING TO BE DONE.

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This guy!

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I miss this stupid animal so much.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to find a barn near-ish to NYC that is full of wonderful, supportive people and very tolerant horses. I can’t say that I’m in top riding form, but I’ve had a handful of lessons and am confident that I can at least remain relatively balanced while on a horse. You could say I’m getting my horse fix, except… no Marley.

I know there are a zillion horses in the world, but I miss this guy. Maybe it’s time he experienced snow.

Not a Barn

img_7592 We’ve been residents of NYC again for just over two weeks. It’s been an adjustment, but at least our neighborhood is wonderful – a nice combination of the bustle and diversity that makes me love this city plus some quiet that can be difficult to find in New York.

In the midst of the move, I’ve been trying to figure out how to fit horses into this new and decidedly urban life. I can’t say I’ve nailed it yet, but I’ve at least managed to do a lot of research and planning about what I’ve come to think of as “barn logistics” – and even squeezed in a few lessons at a barn in New Jersey. Trying to focus on that as progress vs. feeling totally overwhelmed about how different this new life is going to be.

A New Chapter

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It’s been a beautiful week, but also a very difficult week.

Marley has settled into Davis remarkably well. I can’t adequately express how grateful I am to everybody who has helped make this possible. I was able to visit him a few times this week, and I had a really lovely ride with him on Sunday. As he gets a chance to stretch his legs and socialize with other horses a bit more, he’s turning back into the horse I know so well – forward, goofy, curious, and happy.

Most of all happy.

I don’t know exactly what the future will hold, but I do know that he’s happy and extremely well cared for. At the moment that is enough.

Wheels up to New York on Saturday. California, I miss you already.

Movin’ On Out

Part of the reason I’ve been so silent here is that I’ve been insanely busy… but the bigger reason is that I’ve been struggling to find the right words.

I’m moving back to the East Coast – NYC to be exact. My husband got an incredible job, and I’m so beyond excited for him. Our families are both East Coast-based, so I’m thrilled to be closer to my parents, in-laws, siblings, and their growing families. That said, the move is bittersweet in that it’s difficult to translate many of the things I love so much about California to New York.

Marley is, for the moment, at “camp” in Davis. I’m hoping to provide him with the opportunity to finish coming back into work and chill out a bit, while providing me with the opportunity to figure out horse-y life in NYC. I feel so lucky that I know people at this new barn who can help keep eyes on Marley and make sure he continues to progress.

Moving forward I’ll be changing the focus of this blog slightly, from Marley-centric to the slightly broader “how the hell do you reconcile horses with living and working in a major metropolitan area?” I hope Marley continues to play a starring role, but I also anticipate there will be many things to share and process while I navigate yet another extremely expensive, traffic-filled city.

I’ll leave you with this picture of Marley becoming best friends with Eli, one of the horses in the CANTER program.  By all accounts he’s settling into his new routine well and I’m fairly confident that he believes he’s gone to horse heaven.

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Obstacle “Course”

Two big wins during our lesson tonight:

Win #1 – Second ride in a row that Marley has picked up the left lead canter every time. Even before his vacation he could be sticky to the left, but this spring and summer it has been really… how do you say…. ugly. Progress, though!

Win #2 – We have graduated from single ground poles to a “course” of, well, still ground poles. It’ll be a while before we’re jumping anything, but ground poles are great because they give Marley something to think about and really encourage him to use his back.

Today my trainer set up a “course” that looked vaguely like this:

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Our task was to:

  • Track left, and then trot from C to A
  • Pick up the canter at A, proceed to working trot at C
  • Across the diagonal from H to F across two ground poles
  • Track right, and circle over ground poles at V, S, R, and P
  • Working canter at A
  • Working trot at A

I can’t say that every moment was a thing of beauty, but we had a few really nice sections, including the last lap at canter.

Post-ride we did Marley’s favorite thing and wandered around the trails on the property. Tonight the bunnies were out in force – we must have passed more than 10 hopping along around the trail and in the brush. The weather has been really warm and beautiful at the barn lately, and I’m trying to soak it up as much as possible. It’s still incredible to me sometimes that I live in this crazy beautiful state!

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My Red Monster.

 

Crises averted

Two traumatic things happened at the barn last Friday.

Crisis 1: In which Marley missed dinner

Usually when I get to the barn in the evening, Marley is eyeballs deep in his pile of hay, munching contentedly. When I arrived on Friday, he had his head over the stall door and was half snoozing, complete with droopy lower lip. As soon as I said hi, his eyes shot open, his head shot up, and he let out an ENORMOUS nicker and started throwing his head up and down. Marley throwing his head up and down is generally his way of communicating that he is dying of starvation, so I peeked in his stall. No hay.

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You guys I almost died.

Not sure how the Food Train missed him, but Marley had missed dinner and was PISSED. Barn manager was, as always, super responsive and we rectified the situation quickly, but our quiet Friday evening at the barn wasn’t off to a great start.

Crisis 2: In which there was (maybe imaginary) swelling

Usually the very first thing I do when I get to the barn is check Marley’s legs because, well, I am obsessive. I was distracted on Friday by the lack of hay, so didn’t get around to checking his legs immediately. Once Marley was inhaling his dinner, I started my traditional check and…. hmmm. Is it a little puffy? Is there filling  above the fetlock? Is it warm?

It’s possible I was stressed from the week and totally overreacting, but I swear his leg was a little puffy. He wasn’t reactive at all to palpation of his tendons, and he trotted out sound perfectly, but rather than press my luck we had an evening of hand walking and icing.

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The offending leg, which in retrospect looks, um. Totally fine. See previous comment about my overreactive imagination.

By the time I left I had convinced myself that I’d imagined the whole thing but I’d rather go a little too slow than push it and end up with a broken horse. Even if we’re just puttering around in large, loopy circles – it’s still the best part of my day and I’m thankful for every ride on this beast!