new found glory

The first time I laid eyes on Fergus I was a little taken aback by the funny little face on this funny little horse coming up to me in the wash rack. This little bay thing had the flattest face I’d ever seen on a horse, but without the refinement that lends elegance to other horses. With his eyes slightly bugged out sideways and a little whale-eye showing, he had a vaguely Anuran look to him. Which is absolutely not to say I didn’t think he was cute — I thought he was adorable! But not, perhaps, handsome.

Fergus is a 13-year-old 15.2 (or 3? or 1?)-ish appendix (TB x paint technically, but all of those paint horses have QH parents). He was picked up by TrJ in Kentucky some years ago when she was there for Rolex. She has a knack for picking up very neat horses — though in reality I think that knack is knowing a lot of people and knowing exactly what she will and won’t compromise on in a horse. When he came home he was slated for one rider, but that didn’t quite work out, and then got passed around like the town barn bicycle for a while: teaching a lesson here, pitching in at a show there, generally being a good guy.


both my boys together – Samwell and Fergus

In late 2018, Fergus sold to someone within the barn who was looking to transition from fun, non-serious riding to still fun, slightly more serious competing in lower level eventing. And that’s when I started to get really familiar with Fergus, because he showed up in the BN jump group with his owner, A, from week to week to week. He was always a good boy; I don’t think I saw him quit on a fence once. But he was prone to getting a little bunchy and zippy, and ducking behind the contact instead of pushing into it.

um that’s an interesting view….

When TrJ first suggested I give Fergus a try I was intrigued, but cautious. I wasn’t sure I wanted to take on such a “project” in the contact, and I was still butthurt that I wouldn’t be getting in some 3′ miles with Harry. I’m so glad I was wrong.

I had a little tester lesson on Ferg before we made the lease official, and in that one ride I was totally smitten. He is a bit of a project in the contact, but TrJ was totally up front about it. We focused on getting Fergus to stretch down and lean into the bridle for much of our lesson. It’s not that he won’t go there, it’s just not his first choice.


I just really love this pole it tastes soooo gooooood

And his canter? It got me like woah. He stepped into it and I was all :heart_eyes_emoji: It’s such a smooth, easy stride. It feels so niiiiiiiice.

Ferg’s been happily cruising around BN for the last few years, stepping in when people needed a catch ride, but I don’t think there’s anything stopping him from running around a novice or two. In the last year A has become a good barn friend (another vet, surprise surprise — I have a type!), and she’s been so kind and accommodating about my desire to show. We’re working on a show schedule together so that she and I both get to go to the shows we want and Fergwyn doesn’t get tired out. (I mean there’s really not much of a risk of that since we’re both so busy.)


he’s the perfect size for me – and also, look! we can do trot poles!

Also, he’s so easy going. Sure, he has opinions. When we go into the arena he immediately knocks over TrJ’s “secret” cookie jar and insists on being rewarded for his cleverness. And yes, one day he riled up every single horse in his pasture in an attempt to avoid being caught. Okay, he also gets a bit tense under saddle — that’s something we can work on. But for the most part he takes a joke well, ground ties, and is a quiet, sensible creature. It’s lovely.

also, we canter! and i, apparently, look at the ground?

So that’s the Fergus. And yes, I’m already low-key planning to steal him and if A suddenly goes mysteriously missing you know it wasn’t me, even though I’d totally take home her two incredibly adorable little dogs as well as her horse. Oh and did I mention that he’s the PERFECT size for me? Oh and that he has a GREAT registered name? New Found Glory. It’s cute AF.

Yeah so for my future horse I need Fergus a small, well-schooled, fun, gelding who will take me on All The Adventures.


also I was wrong, he’s not a butterface at all he’s so fucking cute and he loves food

leasing: the struggle is… medium

The last year of leasing has been an interesting one. And, to be totally honest, when I first started thinking about this post two weeks ago, my outlook was much less positive. So far, things have pretty much worked out for me — but things could absolutely not have swung my way, and I’d almost certainly be a bit more mopey right now.

When I first started leasing, I was just looking for something to sit on. Hence, #reboundpony. I’m not the sort to just kinda plod along, plus I was getting a lot of encouragement about the weißwurst from the sidelines, so of course I immediately started working on transforming the pony into something a little more sport-pony-y. But I also thought I would probably only be leasing in the short-term, and so I wasn’t looking for anything in my lease. If that makes sense. I wasn’t trying to find a horse I could progress with, necessarily, just one to help keep me in shape. Samwell was perfect.


I am very cute, now give me cookies

Then Timer literally fell into my lap. Big, fancy, a ton of fun to ride, and opinionated as shit. After working one another out through many lessons and lots of long, romantic walks where I thought deeply about what I was doing, we really started making progress. For sure, I had to do thing on Timer’s terms, but since he was pretty knowledgeable, it wasn’t always a bad thing. I started to think about showing T  at Novice in 2020, and tentatively leveraging his athletic ability and confidence to move up to Training when we were ready. Then in October, T’s owner told me that she would be taking him back at the end of the year. He’d been going so well that she wanted to think about moving him up to Prelim in 2020, and wanted to have more personal control over his jumping schedule.

I was both devastated and completely understood her decision process and needs. If he were my horse, I wouldn’t be sharing him! After taking a minute to wallow and think about impulsively buying something for myself, I put my head to thinking about a solution to my problem. I truly became a schooled-horse convert while riding T. It was the classically simple opportunity to work on myself. And I realized that I’d do a lot more for myself and my riding and my goals to keep riding horses with a higher baseline than I have so I can more easily and effectively level up my skills.

And this is not to minimize or reduce all the lessons that my green horse, and many green horses, have taught me. But I’m not going to get better at coursing 3′-3’3″ by teaching another OTTB how to jump cross rails and trot around the ring with a bit of connection.


this is totally fun, and I want to keep doing it. but I need to develop my own skills, too!

The problem with this plan? I don’t have the money to buy something going, and I don’t have the money to pay for a lease. I was pretty much looking for a care lease of some kind. Even more specifically, a super-flexible-and-or-half-time one — because my schedule is crazy and dumb at times.

Luckily for me, there was another horse at my barn who was almost exactly what I was looking for. Harry: a former Training level horse who didn’t really like jumping Big. So I checked in with the owner and TrJ and we all thought it might work. Harry’s current leaser was backing down to a half lease, so it was a great opportunity for me to slot right in there and pick up the other days in his work week. I took a lesson on him and he was fun! Not super easy on the flat and a bit of a tricker in an oh-I’m-really-quite-poky kind of way, but enthusiastic and happy about jumping. A weird additional perk was that I would be the more knowledgeable of his two leasers, so I felt like I’d be able to really make some progress with his dressage without feeling like I was messing up what his owner had carefully tuned to herself.

speaking of carefully tuned
(now I’m just going back through all my favourite pictures)

When I got back to the barn in January though, things with Harry had changed. His other leaser wanted to up her days on him again, and a teenager moving up from a pony had been taking lessons on him on his other days. And so Harry’s work week was accounted for, and suddenly I found myself up in the air about what I would ride again.

How could I complain? I’m not going to demand that people bend their leases or lessons around my riding desires, especially when I’m not in a position to pay for what I really right now. I’m in the position of begging and being unable to choose, and I’m not the type of person to complain about how unfair that is. I mean, not endlessly anyway. I reserve the right to complain about it once or twice when feeling sorry for myself.

A tiny part of me felt butthurt that TrJ hadn’t prioritized my riding development as much as the teen’s or Harry’s leaser. But I knew logically that TrJ was absolutely not trying to leave me out with her decision. And that’s the rub with leasing, isn’t it? So much of it isn’t your decision as the leaser. You aren’t just negotiating with the horse, you’re negotiating with the owner and any other riders hopping in on the horse. Which, I’ve learned, can totally suck — like if the horse is used to being ridden *just so* by his very talented owner, it’s going to be hard for you to get the same results from him as she does because you aren’t her. Or if the kid wants to take the pony to a show on your lease day and it happens to be the only day that week you can ride and you can’t change your schedule to change that…. what you gonna do? Be a dick and smash the kid’s opportunity to take the pony out? I guess maybe. I’m just not that big of a dick though. *shrug*

remember when I could kinda ride? (wow this fence looks small. how? I’m not jumping bigger than this right now.)

Oh, and the time period before you’ve figured out how to balance and ride the new horse after coming off something you could ride pretty well and you feel like the most incompetent rider in the world? Duuuude I’ve felt it hard this year. On a pony who I totally thought was going to be a breeze to ride. On a horse whose owner makes him look so straightforward. On a horse who has packed his leaser around from her first show to being the 4th placing adult rider in her division for 2019. I couldn’t ride any of those horses satisfactorily when I first got on them.

In short, leasing kinda sucks.

But it’s also amazing! Because as much as I couldn’t ride those horses in the beginning of my lease (or the middle, at times), I gained a ton of skills from them. Both specific skills for that horse, and more generalizable skills that I could bring to other horses. I stopped being so entrained in just one way of going or balancing or weight in the reins, and learned even more about problem solving.

And luckily for me, TrJ pulled through with a fantastic new lease plan for me. So I don’t need to wallow in the frustrating things about leasing and maybe not getting my riding needs-desires met this year. It doesn’t change the fact that leasing can still absolutely be a struggle, it just skews my outlook to the positive.

Enter: Fergus. I already totally adore him.

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Made a sweet new friend this week 😍

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slow and steady wins 2020

I’m still adjusting to making goals without having my own horse. Making goals with horses always has a — sometimes pretty big — element of uncertainty around it. Leasing and catch riding adds a whole ‘nother layer of shifty, unstable, precarious sand to my skills-castle-building. So it took me a while to figure out how I could make concrete and actionable goals that still point me in the trajectory of my big picture goals.

Long term I’m still working toward making the step up to Training, hopefully eventually Prelim, and beyond that — we will see. This isn’t something that will happen this year, and probably not even by the end of next year. But there are absolutely skills I can chip away at to achieve this goal: developing my seat, leg, and feel; becoming a more tactful rider overall; improving my jumping position; breaking down old bad habits (pulling, shutting down gaits); getting more comfortable in more forward gaits; etc. I refuse to let my horselessness hold me back from these things. I’m considering 2020 a development year, and I’m going to try to take a really whole-istic view on improving myself as a rider.

With that in mind, my biggest goal is to journal every ride. I started blogging as an extension of my riding journal. And when I stopped blogging much last year, and had long stopped keeping a physical ride journal, I lost a lot of my deep-thinking-about-riding space. Even just a couple of bullets about a ride is valuable, and keeps me thinking about how I’m going to move forward.

I’m also planning to shut up and just do what my trainer tells me to. Yes, I am that dumbass who needs to remind herself to do what her trainer — to whom she pays good money for quality instruction — tells her to do, because she overthinks everything and is being a dummy.

let me distract you from my foolishness with my first stab at a black-background portrait

I’m also going to do another 12 month of position fixes. I liked it so much last year, it’s back.

  • January – seatbones vertical & close back of armpits
  • February – seatbones vertical & close back of armpits (a twofer since it’s a short two months)
  • March –
  • April –
  • May –
  • June –
  • July –
  • August –
  • September –
  • October –
  • November –
  • December –

The horse plan is to keep leasing. There are changes afoot in that realm that I’ll probably dive more into later. Riding not-my-horse has made me feel like an utterly incompetent rider in a way I haven’t felt in years. But it’s also taught me skills I would never have learned if I  just kept riding my-horse. Leasing experienced horses? It’s good for growth. I’m going to keep doing it. The second half of the horse plan is to not buy a horse. This is absolutely a cheater goal. If I don’t buy a horse, I succeeded in my goal. If I do buy a horse, this is not a goal I’m sad to fail at. Cheaters always prosper.

I’d also like to just ride more horses. I want to keep expanding my skills by riding more horses, which is something I had the opportunity to do in the past but hasn’t been as available to me lately. But as I become more of a fixture at my barn, I’ve had a couple of offers to ride other ponies, and I’d like to make sure I say “yes” to this more often! Take some of those lessons I learn in my, you know, lessons, and see how I can make them work on other horses.

oh man this was such an awesome doggo. i feel like if i just keep snuggling up to strange doggos eventually one will follow me home and then the dinglehopper i married will be forced to let me keep it.

I’m still thinking about my next horse though, and I’d like to get a better idea of what I’m looking for in a partner so I can narrow down the search parameters. I have some long thoughts on this, too. And since what I’m going to be looking for is outside of my current budget, saving for new horse is back on the table. With steadier income and a better life-schedule, though, this should actually be possible this year.

On the blog front, I’m committing to make time and space in my life to blog at least once a week (on average). There will be weeks this doesn’t happen, but that’s what averages are for!

Personally, I’m working toward no zero days. I’d like to make some tangible progress on my very long, very complicated, very eclectic to-do list every day. Even if this means taking just 15 minutes and sweeping the floor of the workshop so that the next time I head in there it’s safer to work, or lengthing a pile of logs so that we can split and stack more efficiently the next time husband and I get some free time together on the weekend.

love my little space hog

I’m also going to work on 12 months of personal improvement as well. But uhhh, January is off to a slow start so we’ll have to put a pin in those details for now.

My garden goal this year is to grow all the produce I need for Thanksgiving. I’m so excited for this! I don’t garden because I’m obsessed with organic food or because it saves money (actually it kinda does, which is neato) or because I fetishize living off-the-grid and independently of the massive agricultural waste machine that exists in this country (it is very wasteful). I garden because it brings me an absurd amount of joy to spend time watching things grow and then to cook and eat something and be like “I grew that!” However, except for a few notable exceptions (tomatoes and cucumbers), I’ve always gardened without much structure. Want to grow more tomatoes? Plant more tomatoes! Not sure what kind of green beans to grow? Grow them all! Don’t know how many peas to plant? Who cares! This year I’m trying to calculate how much of each item to plant so that I’ll have enough of them at Thanksgiving to fill out all of the produce needs for the meal. Also this goal involves more planning and probably color-coding and seed selection AND I LOVE PLANNING AND COLOR-CODING AND SEED SELECTING!!!!!!

I also rediscovered my crazy love of reading this year. Some nights I just sat down with a book instead of the TV and suddenly I caught myself staying up way too late trying to finish things, ignoring my husband, and generally reverting to my amazing teenage habits about reading. This year I’d like read 40 books (I’m already one down!).

And finally a big one, which is going to be a massive multi-part-er-multi-year-er in my life. This winter our show team faced some hard decisions about how we want to continue with our shows. We’ve been plugging along at a subsistence level, running an okay show and barely covering our costs. We’ve made some really big improvements, but none of us was satisfied with the effort-to-payoff ratio that was going into the shows. So we decided that we need to either majorly step up our game and push our shows to the next level or call it quits. We decided to push. We’re doubling down on improvements, adding fences, cutting new tracks, hiring new officials, increasing our staff team, improving our social media presence, and making a huge effort to turn the horse trials and dressage shows at WSS into something that people love to come to. This year I’d like to focus on three things:

  • delegate more tasks to trusted team members
  • develop a weekly social media presence for the shows
  • come in under-budget

With any luck, we’ll get more entries than previous years and run an even more amazing show than ever before!

whoop, there goes gravity

I want to say “how the fork did so much time pass since I last wrote something?!” but that would be disingenuous. I know how that happens. You get home from work or riding or errands and it’s dark at 4:30 PM (because, it turns out, Portland is north of Toronto, and basically on the same latitude as Montreal and Ottawa) and because it’s already dark you light a fire to make it nice and cozy inside and once you’ve lit the fire you’d better sit by the fireplace and watch tv to appreciate the warmth of the fire and your dinglehopper husband has this thing about not tiptaptyping away on your laptop when you’re watching tv “together” so your laptop goes ignored from 4:30 PM until next week even though you totally have things to write about.

So there you have it. One day turns into two days turns into November turns into 2020. And you’ve watched all of Dark and The Crown and Rick and Morty and read a big old pile of books on top of that and somehow haven’t written anything on the blog. Even though you totally have thought-vomit to share!

But it’s all priorities, right? And I can’t — and don’t — expect my priorities to be the same as they were in grad school. It’s still taking me a bit to adjust to the idea that my life doesn’t leave as much time for blogging as I had in the past, even though I’m obviously living the reality of it.  I have a little bit of inner turmoil about it, but since there’s not much I can do to change my schedule, I don’t dwell on it too much.


i met this dog at Rebecca. his name is Dwight.

One of the repercussions of not blogging as much is not having a good record of my thoughts and learnings after rides and lessons. And when I sat down to think about goals for this  year, I was like “well, I’ll just skip the 2019 goals recap, no big deal.” But then I looked back and saw that I skipped my 2018 goals recap and the last one I did was in January of 18! I was slightly horrified, that is forever ago. THAT WAS LAST DECADE! I’m willing to give myself a pass on the 2018 goals recap since I was still wallowing in the misery of retiring Murray at that point.

Things keep changing in my life, and this year is no exception. So here’s what we got through last year, and we’ll just have to wait and see what 2020 brings us.

 

12 months of position fixes – I’m giving myself a 6/10 for this. I know I only have 6/12 months of position fixes on there, but May, June, and December were basically a wash for me in terms of riding — I was out of town more than I was in. These weren’t perfect fixes, but having something to think about and tie my rides together each month was good for me.

  • January – twist right! specifically, right hand to the right of the neck always
  • February – heel-hip-shoulder alignment, check with a whip periodically during
  • March – internal thigh rotation
  • April – tone up left leg
  • May –
  • June – firm up left oblique
  • July –
  • August –
  • September –
  • October – turn on backline
  • November –
  • December –

Lease for 4 months (before buying)10/10! I’m still leasing and will be doing so for a while yet, I think.

Lessons 3x a month (as the schedule allows) Giving myself a 7/10 on this one. There were a lot of months (see above) when I didn’t lesson at all, but if I was around and T was feeling good, we lessoned on the weekends for sure! And I even got a few private lessons in there.

and look how good at riding i am after all those lessons!

Take the pony to one show 0/10 here — womp womp. The timing just never worked out.

Start looking for a new horse Um. Does window shopping count? More realistically, I cancelled this goal when I saw that it wasn’t in the (mostly financial, but also time-constraint) cards for me this year.

Save for a new horseI didn’t get to this, thus no shopping. My income has been super spotty and variable since I moved to Oregon, which makes saving hard. 0/10. Got an awesome rooster though.

12 months of good habits This did not go as well as the position fixes. Once again, I was gone a lot, but many of these habits just didn’t stick (bummer). I’m halfway there on a few of them, they just need more time and reinforcement history to become real habits. 1/10

Complete twelve house projects I did not get as many big house projects done as I wanted, but I got a lot of important stuff finished up. We put in a massive garden (um, that we may need to re-chip this winter, ah well), cleaned out the dining room, removed the obsolete technology shelf, finished a chicken coop, finished the incubator (and used it with great success!), installed the solar coop door, made gravity-fed chicken feed and water tubs that supply a month’s worth of food…. I’m seeing now that most of these goals had to do with chickens but WHATEVER. 10/10. Chickens rule.

Run once a week (on average) LOL Oh man. Not sure when I will just give up on running goals? The thing is, the more you run, the easier it is to run. I just… don’t like running and don’t make time for it. But it is winter, and I do need to stay fit so… I guess this one will go back on the table this year. 0/10.

Work on the SO regarding a second dog After extensive discussions this goal was really scrapped. I mean, I worked on him for sure. That part was successful. But my need for a second dog diminished as the year went on. When an awesome dog falls into my lap, I’ll be ready for them. For now, I have Queen Jellinore (and future foster dogs I hope!).

Do more goodDoes running horse trials and getting more dressage shows in my region count as doing more good? 2/10

Write more science-based blogs Didn’t happen. Time is hard to come by in my life. I keep playing with chickens instead of doing other stuff.

Meet more bloggers! I did this! It was awesome! 8/10 ’cause I could have worked harder and met a few more. However, in addition to meeting some new bloggers, I met some awesome new people and made some amazing new friends. Mostly through running the horse trials. It really warms my heart when amazing people show up to help you and love working on your project and just keep coming back and supporting you and being useful. Those people are the best people. I love you, awesome people.

Murray still gets his own category here! Just ’cause he’s retired doesn’t mean he can’t better himself. But, really, he has only one goal:

Do not get kicked out of his cushy retirement situation. This year Murray was the KING of achieving his goals and got 100%! He did get kicked off of Wonder Farrier’s list for trying to kick her, but her assistant is happy to trim him every 12 weeks (he’s on an every-other cycle trim plan) with the help of some WonderDrugz(TM). The damn smackie threatens to kick as soon as the farrier gets to his hind feet, and we’ve tried working through it but he just gets rude. He will, however, stand perfectly still for a little IV injection and then happily submits to hind trims. The bastard. HOWEVER, he’s good with his pasture buddy, he keeps weight on well, doesn’t even wear a blanket, and he’s not expensive. He can have all the drugs he wants.

(PS: The post title references from from this Eminem song. It always springs into my head when people say “Back to reality,” which happens a lot at this time of year.)