going to california

Thank you everyone for your kind words and thoughts regarding Murray last week. It’s really so wonderful to know that such a big group of people are in his corner, fingers crossed for the best.

I am not feeling quite as broken or morose as my rather melodramatic post from last week suggests. I always think that Murray is the high-drama element in this relationship, and lo, here I am, proving once more that the two of us are more alike than I would admit. In many ways, the decision to retire Murray was an easy one. It was an awful one, but it was also clearly the best one.

I realised a long time ago that Murray would never be my 2*, 1*, or even Prelim horse. I knew a while back that Training would be a challenge for us, mentally more than physically. I didn’t think until this year that we would have significant problems at Novice. But there they were. I was prepared to put in the work to get past them; they didn’t seem insurmountable.

Riding Murray has always required a certain amount of optimism. Optimism that he wants to come out and play; that he’s as sound and comfortable as can be, given his conformational flaws; that the bad days will come good tomorrow, the next day, or eventually. Over time, those rose colored glasses can give you some pretty big blind spots.

Trainer J’s view of Murray was like a cold wind blowing through my soul. Where my barn family at home saw a horse who has made immeasurable strides in ground manners in the last five years, she saw a horse who was missing massive chunks of his basic education. Where we saw a horse who was goofy and quirky, she saw a horse who bordered on dangerous. Where we saw a horse who moved a little oddly, but it mostly seemed mechanical, she saw a horse who was uncomfortable and unhappy in work, with some physical flaws that were significant limitations.

With that optimism stripped away, I could look at things analytically. The words of the vet who did Murray’s hocks in 2017, along the lines of “there’s a lot going on here, but we could start with his hocks”. What I’ve always known about a club foot: they’re a risk, if not a timer counting down.¬† What I’ve learned about this horse’s personality in the last five years: victories are hard won, and easily lost. Some part of me always knew this decision would come. The question was, when?

I determined a long time ago that Murray would not be getting extreme measures. I’ve always known that he’s not the type of horse that would recover well from surgery. I’m also not the type of person who is willing to chase more and more invasive and extensive treatments in search of soundness. Maybe I’ve seen too many journeys like that end in sadness anyway. Maybe I’ve seen how crazy some of these shoe-ing set ups get, with no significant or lasting effect. Bluntly, I don’t have the money.

It could easily be different. If Murray was my solid, staid, Training packer. If we could rest him up and get right back to chasing that bronze medal. If it was a suspensory or a fractured splint or a bow, and not a cursed foot thing. Feet are just so damn complicated.

In the end, though, the question was just about Murray’s happiness. Would he be happy if I really went for it with remedial farriery and tried to keep pushing him through? Would he be happy rehabbing in a stall for yet more weeks? Would he be happy retired in a big pasture with an even bigger mare to groom and be bossed around by?

The answer was pretty easy.

I love this kiddo, and I love riding him. But I’m not going to ride him into the ground.

The wonderful thing about having horsey in-laws is that they understand the risks, and they’ve already got plans in place for just this situation. I’ll get to see him every visit and every holiday. I wish he could stay at home with me, but we don’t have horse facilities, and aren’t in the position to put any in.

Maybe one day he’ll come home. For now, he’s going to California with an aching in my heart.

not looking great

We had the vet out yesterday to look at Murray’s front feet. He was still lame, and TrJ had a feeling that something in that clubby RF was not right. Historically, he’s been much more sensitive on the LF than the RF, so I was surprised that the club foot was the one constantly catching her attention.


We took rads, and surprise! Neither one looks great good normal. In the vet’s (paraphrased) words “to just look at his feet you’d never guess that it looks so bad on x-ray.”


He has rotation in opposite directions in his left and right front feet. It’s changed from the rads we took during his PPE in 2015. There are other things too —¬†The Horse says it well: Usually, a foot lameness results from a little bit of a lot of things all added up together (Dr. Alexia McKnight).


So. Here we are. Staring down retirement at 9.


It’s not great.

photo-dump wednesday: the house

We moved to Oregon about two and a half months ago. Moving is always a pain in the ass, but this move has been a bit more of a pain than usual. You see, we moved into a house that has been continuously lived-in by family members since 1972. In fact, my partner’s great grandfather bought the property nearly a century ago. As you might imagine on a hundred year old property that nobody ever properly moved out of, we inherited a lot of¬†stuff.

some very amusing stuff, to be sure

Like, an entire basement (the same size as the house), full¬†to the brim of stuff. I’m not even bothering with a picture of the basement because a) you can’t capture the whole thing in one frame, b) a picture doesn’t come close to showing the magnitude of shit in there, and c) it’s horrifying.

A lot of the time, I look at all the stuff and think “traysure!!”

like all of these old horse shoes and bits — accompanied by a modern mud scraper?

holy mother of god that’s a big mullen mouth — ooh! a stud chain!

Sometimes, I’m annoyed at the previous tenants for kicking the putting-stuff-in-the-trash can down the road for four generations.

But those old timers put in place some awesome thinking-ahead-for-my-grand-kids plans as well. Like five apple trees and a cherry tree that are well pruned, climbable, and bear a ton of fruit. A mixed bed of summer- and fall-bearing raspberries that are doing pretty well despite a couple of summers of (clearly benign) neglect. Blueberry bushes. An asparagus bed!

Along with gorgeous shade trees and a passive solar orientation to the house that means it was never above 80* here in the late summer, and hasn’t dipped below 60* yet this fall.

not used to these colours

There’s this amazing little garden path that was magical this summer, and got even more magical once the leaves started to fall. The picture doesn’t do it justice.

many of those weeds are gone now, and we’re replacing them with kitchen herbs and native flowers

Suffice to say, there’s been plenty to do to keep my mind off of a lame pony.

crazy old walnut tree

There’s still an absurd amount to do. I guess this is adulting?

Someone is still lame and has his third vet appointment since moving to Oregon tomorrow. So updates on that soon.

cheap thrills (c/o Viva Carlos)

When L posted about the cheap products she’s upgraded for better quality ones, I identified quiiite a bit with a lot of those items. Polo shirts that doubled as work/school shirts and riding shirts? Check (though I went with Old Navy ones). Pull on breeches with no zipper and questionable seaming? Check.

There are a couple of other items I’m adding to the list though, and a few that I hope to add in the future.

yeah so neither of these is a great look on me

The biggest cheap item I replaced with a better version? My show coat(s). I’ve owned three in the past: a free, woolen hunter coat with fox-head buttons. A Horze show coat (no longer available, but looked a bit like this one) that cost around $90. And the Equine Couture Raleigh Show Coat, $70.

The first coat was given to me by a friend at my barn who no longer wanted it, and it was a warm, boxy, uncomfortable mistake. I think I wore it once, then it sat in my closet for the rest of eternity months. The Horze coat was my replacement when I was shopping for my first rated event, and while the price point was pretty good, it fit me terribly. I probably should have sized down, but it was always too long for my torso and bunched horribly about the waist. I replaced that with the Equine Couture coat, thinking that a shorter (yet still cheap) coat would fix that problem. It didn’t.

how much do I love it?! let me count the ways

Replaced with: Winston Exclusive Equestrian Coat

I tried on one of these coats at the Sacramento International with Peony and Megan and I adored it right off the bat. It fit perfectly, even off the horse — which none of my previous coats did. The rep offered to give me 10% off if I ordered through him by the end of the week, but I absolutely couldn’t justify pulling the trigger on a near-$750 show coat. L found a tack store that was closing down, though, and on their site I found a heavily-discounted, $450 version of the coat in my size, navy and gray. I had originally wanted back and purple, but I was willing to compromise for $300 off. I bought it, and have no regrets. It’s averaging around $75 per use these days! #worthit

tbt to my horse looking miserable in polos

Replaced: Polo wraps. Ranged in price from $10-$40

I used to be all about those polos. I had 4 or 5 sets at one point (nothing compared to many others, I know), and was planning to add in a few other colours because they were soooo purdy.

Replaced with: Dover brushing boots($25 per pair on sale), Majyk Equipe Dressage Boots(a gift, but $90 per pair, that was a way bigger gift than I realised)

In a wet arena, polos get disgusting really fast. And you can never wrap them the exact same way each time. And eventually, they just kinda look like shit. And I don’t buy¬†anything about their ability to “support tendons and ligaments”, they’re literally just there to stop my horse from hurting himself quite so much when he knocks his limbs together.¬†You know what looks clean even when you’ve washed them seven times and have a dedicated shell to prevent impact trauma? Boots. My polos never exactly wore out, but I’m much happier with 2 pairs of dressage boots than I was with 5 pairs of polos.

matching bling on point

Replaced: Ovation Schooler helmet ($65)

I used to think it was absurd to pay more than $100 for a helmet. Also, this helmet was light and breezy and I didn’t think there was anything else you needed in a helmet.

Replaced with: a variety of Charles Owen helmets (J3 skull cap, Jr8, $180-$300).

Then I realized the value of safety. But also, that the higher quality helmets can fit better, be incredible comfortable,¬†and look good. I don’t regret spending >$500 on helmets in the last five years. Would I spent >$500 on a single helmet? You’d have to give me some really amazing safety features for that to happen.

Replaced: off-brand/Amazon/Target tall socks ($2-$10)

I’m all about tall socks under boots. Or all the time. I just like tall socks. But I thought paying real money for tall socks was stupid — minus the $20 I paid for my SmartWool socks while skiing. They’re just¬†socks. They wear through, and they shouldn’t cost all that much money.

Replaced with: Kerrits wool socks ($18)

One morning my feet were already cold and wet, and I had a long day ahead of me. I stopped in at the tack store as I went by and grabbed two new pairs of socks — thick, good ones. And they made my day. And kinda changed my life. I’m willing to invest a little in socks now.

Replaced with: Noble Outfitters Peddies ($14), Noble Outfitters technical socks ($12 for the perfect fit ones)

To be honest, every piece of the Noble Outfitters gear I have was a gift (I have a family friend who was a rep and had a lot of leftover demo stuff). And the first time I put on a pair of peddies I thought they were stupid. Now? I reach for them preferentially. I wear through the heels of my socks like crazy, and the thicker foot bed but thin calf on these is juuust right for Goldilocks over here.

Replacing: clearance sale tall boots (usually Ariat Heritage boots, bought on sale for $150-$200)

I used to always keep an eye out for tall boot sales in my size. I’m lucky that I have an odd-shaped leg that isn’t too uncommon — a 6-6.5 footbed with a long, thin calf — and usually there are a few pairs of these floating around at the end of the season. I currently have two sets that I use, one for schooling and one for showing.

Replacing with: better, higher quality, more comfortable boots

I haven’t actually pulled this trigger yet, but I imagine I will sometime in the not-too-distant future. A couple of weeks ago I forgot my boots when I went to the barn, and one of the ladies there loaned me her Ariat Volants. They were SO COMFY. And they did not have any of the weird heel issues that tall boots so often plague me with. I just assumed I had a particularly poorly-conformed heel, because I wear through the heels of all of my shoes. But it turns out that you can get things that fit you¬†better, and they will be more comfortable, and probably last¬†longer.

On the other hand, there are some cheap things I keep around and won’t replace.¬† For example, gloves. I stick with the cheap SSG goves, because I lose one or the other often enough that it would make me really sad to replace them. I still have all of my cheap Dover-esque saddle pads and won’t be replacing those any time soon either — saddle pads just don’t wear out that quickly, in my experience, so why would I spend the money on more?