camelot bonus reel: blogger meetup

One of the funnest things about Camelot has always been showing there with my friends. ¬†We’ve been going to Camelot for years and years and years — seriously, I think my trainer first took students to a one day schooling HT there back in 2011. ¬†My first show there was 2013 — from which I was summarily eliminated, but I had a ton of fun riding Quincy around bareback at night with my friends despite that.

This year, I knew pretty early on that Kate was bringing students, and Olivia would be coming, so it was for sure going to be a mini blogger meetup.  I tried to rustle up a few other locals, but alas none more were to be had.  No fear, both Kate and Olivia brought many incredibly adorable horses, which more than made up for it.

Sorry, Olivia. I suck at selfies.

But the highlight of meeting other bloggers was meeting Keith W. Matapouri of Post the Trot. ¬†(Also sorry Olivia and Kate that meeting up with you guys wasn’t the best part of the weekend. I mean blogger meetup.) ¬†In the time-honored tradition of the close blogging community, though, I’m going to refer to Keith by a made-up blogger name. ¬†Let’s go with Kathy. ¬†Kathy seems like a good, strong, blogger name.

I actually knew I was in the presence of Kathy even before we had been properly introduced. ¬†It was just one of those things. ¬†I don’t want to imply that I’m a stalker or anything. ¬†But you know when you see something you’ve never actually seen before in person, you’ve only heard/read about it, but the second you lay eyes on it you know that this is that¬†thing you’ve read about? It was like the first time I ever saw a gerenuk. ¬†I’d never seen a picture of a gerenuk, I’d just heard of them, and then there was a gerenuk standing there in the scrub and I shouted KATHY GERENUK!!

Image result for gerenukthis is what it was like to spy Kathy

Alternately, you know when your dog jumps off the couch and makes that kinda subtle smile at you, and you know that you need to rush her outside right away because she’s about to start puking on the carpet (even though she hasn’t started heaving or gurgling yet)?

It was kinda like that.

Anyway, Kathyand I spent a little bit of time chatting after I introduced myself. ¬†We had a fascinating and in-depth conversation about the appearance, function, role, and genetics of dapples. ¬†Interestingly, did you know that nobody really understands dapples? ¬†I mean the dapples that show up seasonally, not dapples that stick year-round on gray horses. ¬†We think it’s genetic, it seems to be associated with nutrition in some cases, and some horses get to have dapples even when their nutrition is total shit. ¬†So what regulates whether a horse gets the ability to get dapples (like, what gene even controls dapples REALLY?), if a horse gets dapples within its lifetime, and how big/bright/patterned/obvious those dapples are?

NOBODY KNOWS. It’s interminably frustrating. ¬†Kathy understood.

Kathy also promised to take me horse boating sometime, so that’s pretty cool.

Image result for gerenuk(I did, actually, see gerenuk a few times living in Kenya. This picture is from MF Kinnard at Mpala, which was essentially right nextdoor to where I lived in Kenya. Like, as nextdoor as you get when you live on a 200 square kilometer conservancy.)


monday media (dump)

Thanks to all the fun rides I’ve been having lately there’s some media dumping that needs to happen.

Here’s the entirety of my dressage test.¬† I’ve been waiting A YEAR to do the clever Emma scores-on-the-movements-in-the-video thing and I FINALLY GOT A CHANCE TO DO IT!!!!¬† Ha!¬† I feel like my scores were somewhere between “fair” and “generous” — I have certainly never ridden a 33.15% test before so have no idea what it feels like, but that sure as shit didn’t feel like a 44% (what I’m used to feeling during shows).¬† I know the judge was generous with some timing/geometry mistakes (i.e. she didn’t mark me down that much for late/early transitions, partially because she also had the transitions in the wrong place in her mind), but there are also some really nice moments in there.¬† So you know.

And now for a great many dorky and some cute pictures of little Murrmalade doing what he (kinda) does best.
IMG_7368sIf you’re going to make me canter past the scary thing I refuse to look at it.

camp4I still need to shorten my reins a bit, since these are loopy and I’m hardly releasing, but I’m otherwise quite happy with this picture.¬† At what point do Murray’s knees qualify as hunter knees?¬† I’m pretty sure he’d love hunterland — loping around, jumping casually.¬† Hunters don’t mind getting buried to the base, right?


Jumping the novice aqueduct with room to spare.¬† Pictures like this always make me think Murray really could go training with ease — and then I remember the spreads.¬† We will see, little brown horse.¬† We will see.


Celebratory synchronized ululation after a good novice fence.

I suck at riding drops.  Must practice more.

DSC_0135This is not that big, Nicole. You are not Andrew Nicholson.  Stop it, or get better at it.

Slightly less suckage, even though Murray took this one from a standstill.


Immediately prior to this shot I told Murray “careful, there’s a ditch!!”


IMG_20160401_205550His neck looks weirdly enormous up there.¬† Like a little bit on the side of disproportional and horrific but I’m not going to complain after 3 years of pencil neck.

This chicken and broccoli pot pie by Olive Garden has pasta inside a pie crust.¬† It’s worth putting it in your mouth.¬† Also it was like 3x the size of my hand.¬† 10/10 would put in my mouth again.




Misty sunrise pee, because why not.


Plus – jumping the arrow with room to spare!¬† This is really only a Novice sized fence, though perhaps its airy-ness and placement on course (last fence) qualified it as a Training question.¬† Regardless, he didn’t exactly struggle to make it over.


XC schooling peanut gallery.

This is the jump from when Murray practically stopped and then went over the arrow.¬† Magnificent, isn’t it?


Let’s get a closer look at my face.

Ah yes.¬† That’s the expression.


The bugged-out eyes, filled with sclera.¬† Flared nostrils.¬† Eleven chins.¬† I’m not even sure what my mouth is doing — is that a frown?¬† (I historically have had too tiny a mouth to frown.)

The picture of zen right there.

battle hymn of the tiger rider

As some of you may know, I am half Chinese.¬† This is a big part of the reason I never got to ride as a kid — far too expensive, you know.¬† Plus, I was not supposed to be busy with athletic exploits.¬† I was supposed to be busy getting As in everything and staring at books, and I was actually busy going to weekend math clubs, entering optional science competitions, studying for standardized tests, and writing essays at the whim of my mother.¬† Yeah, it’s absolutely as wonderful as it sounds.¬† Interestingly, I’ve managed to gather quite the coterie of Asian riders — in fact, we make up at least 50% of the Asian representation of any show I’ve gone to.¬† Some might even call us a gang.

We make a lot of jokes about how our Asian upbringing has affected our riding, and we all agree that the perfectionism insisted upon by our Asian (and sometimes also by the non-Asian) parent gives us a warped perception of what our horses should be capable of.¬† I mean, come on, Murray — do you think Valegro ever threw tantrums about CANTERING?¬† And he didn’t even grow up on the track!

So when my RBF was looking at pictures of herself at a dressage schooling show last year and realised she had EPIC ASIAN MOMMY FACE going on, she just had to do something about it.  Something funny, that is.

azn horse mom 1

azn horse mom 2

azn horse mom 3

azn horse mom 4

azn horse mom 6

While they might be horse-centric, these are legitimately things that our Asian mommies could have said.  And probably would have said, if they supported our horse riding.  Of course, Peony and I had to try our hand at this.



Absolutely all credit for this has to go to my RBF, so you should thank her for your Friday Funny.

azn horse mom 5

potions class

A few more rides and lunging sessions later, Murray’s NQR is invisible and I’m quite happy about it. ¬†Sure, it could come back, but¬†if it’s intermittent or related to being stiff from being stuck inside, then that worries me a bit less. ¬†I plan to keep an especially close eye on him, and we will play it by ear and continue to evaluate as Winter progresses.

jan-play3Unfortunately, while Murray’s body seems fine, his brain seems to have gone awol. ¬†I had a jump lesson Friday that was just an exercise in Murray antics and opinions — he was generally uninterested in going anywhere near the chairs in the corner of the arena, which have been there for a solid two years, or near the gate which we had just come in through, or over any part of the footing that had been smoothed or looked in any way out of the ordinary. ¬†My insistence that he actually¬†do these things resulted in some mild body flailing, a tiny bit of screaming and, of course, many tail swishes. ¬†He took a really hard look at one of the fences, tried to stop, decided he was going to go, LAUNCHED himself over it, bucked upon landing, and somehow I managed to stay in the saddle. ¬†After convincing him to just go¬†forward¬†over a few more fences¬†I called it quits as clearly¬†something was up.

I have a few theories.

It is vaguely possible that whatever magnesium product I am using right now is not really working or I need to feed more. ¬†But given that I’ve had problems on this batch of magnesium before, I think it’s time to give another brand a try. ¬†I’m going with Performance Equine’s MagRestore and — just for shits and giggles — I’m going throw in some Focus too. ¬†Focus promises to “Promotes a willingness to please and a winning, confident, cooperative mood. Use prior to and during competitions, workouts or rehab. Useful in any stressful situation. Decreases excitability while maintaining energy for work.” (straight from the manufacturer’s website) ¬†It sounds¬†like witchcraft to me, but with a money back guarantee on a 7-day trial… why not! ¬†(If that doesn’t work, I’ll try Quiessence, a fan favourite at our barn. ¬†If¬†that doesn’t work, we’ll move on to SmartCalm, or even SmartCalmUltra. ¬†If¬†that doesn’t work… we go digging for a hidden testicle.)

Murray could also be intensely sore from our dressage work, and letting me know the jan-play1work load is a bit intense in the only way he knows how. ¬†An insane amount of spooking¬†doesn’t seem to be the most straightforward method of presenting this fact to me, but it certainly is one way of expressing feelings.

And then there’s the turnout situation… We’re going on three weeks of no turnout at this point, and with a flooded outdoor arena we can only rotate horse through the indoor for as long as we have before someone wants to use the indoor to ride in. ¬†I had turned Murray out alone in the indoor a couple of times to absolutely no positive effect — ¬†he just wandered around, rolled, and then chatted with his friends stabled near the arena. ¬†But on Friday I turned him out with one of his besties, Connor, and it was a¬†completely different story. ¬†He and Connor have, as Connor’s owner puts it, “a deep understanding of one another” and played pretty constantly for half an hour. ¬†The next day they played for an hour. ¬†And then I had a couple of really nice rides.


I’ve always know that Murray isn’t exactly a good-on-no-turnout kinda guy…. but for some reason this year he has¬†really managed to keep it together in the barn. ¬†In the past, when he’s been locked inside he has struggled to mind his manners inside the barn, so I would lunge him or turn him out before even attempting to tack up. ¬†But this year I have a strangely reasonable horse inside the barn, and then this super unreasonable horse under saddle. ¬†Maybe Murray just¬†really, really, really needed to get out and get some playtime and excess energy done away with?

We will see. ¬†I’m basically throwing everything I have at him —¬†such a good scientific method — to see if that improves anything. ¬†Then I’ll start to eliminate things and see where it leaves us.

secret santa awesomeness

Participating in the Blogger Secret Santa last year was one of the best ideas I’d basically ever had, and to be fully truthful I should give credit to Kristen at If the Saddle Fits and Tracy at Fly on Over, because they are the ones who made it known that we should all join!¬† So when Blogger Secret Santa rolled around this year I was like “um, yeah, that is definitely happening again.”

I was delighted when I got Tracy’s email, and even more delighted when I saw that I’d drawn our Gracious Leader herself for my gift recipient!¬† I hemmed, hawed, and procrastinated, and finally went on to Etsy to find her a gift.¬† I’m trying to take a leaf out of Amanda’s book and support more small businesses, and so I browsed until I saw something that caught my eye: monograms and coffee mugs.¬† It took me a little while to find just what I wanted — I wanted something to be useful as well as pretty, and while I enjoy sitting at home with a pretty mug, I am pretty sure that Tracy doesn’t have the work-from-home-luxurious-grad-student lifestyle I do, so I went with a travel mug.¬† Then it was a simple matter of deciding on colors (helped out by Tracy describing Miles’ colors for me and having excellent taste to begin with!) and placing my order.¬† Oh boy do I ever love the internet.

I spent Christmas away from the house, but when I got back my own secret santa gift was waiting for me at the house.  Though it was packed into a single flat rate box that box was heavy so I got really, really excited.  I LOVE PRESENTS.

The gift I received put me slightly to shame* as it was absolutely full of goodies.¬† The wonderful Terise at Breeches and Boat Shoes sent me a delicious cake scented soap, Herbal Horse lip balm, a Mrs. Conn’s soap filled sponge (incidentally I received another one of these for Christmas, and it was also the calming and soothing chaparral and sage flavor… are Murray and I REALLY THAT OBVIOUS?!), several Equine Journals for reading (how did she know all I want to do is sit in front of the fireplace and read? yes, we do light fires in California.¬† On clear days.) oh and… a magnificent print of Murray and I.


The print/painting/sketch is made by Jessie Pagenkopf at JRyann studios, and is based on one of my favourite pictures of Murray from schooling at Camelot (I believe it is the one Lainey Ashker complimented my equitation on!) and I love! the colour!  This year I managed to collect enough Murray accouterments that I can now start putting things together on the wall.  I have a neat-o idea for that, so stay tuned!


Thank you so much Terise!¬† This is an absolutely wonderful gift, and I can’t wait to look at Murray on my wall every day!

* There is a little care package coming Tracy’s way if I ever get to the post office… I just hate that place already and holidays and blah blah blah.¬† But I’ll get there!¬† As an extra special thanks for organizing!

weekend (and then some) recap

I did an absolutely terrible job of prepping last week for my planned absence. ¬†I knew I was going to a conference from Tuesday through Friday and just… ran out of time to write blogs in my epic lack of preparation. ¬†So what I did do was go to a primate people conference in Bend, Oregon which was an amazing choice because it’s delicious and full of good beer and beautiful.


Our road trip there was made a teeeennnsy weensy bit (approximately 20%) longer due to Google Maps/navigator error (depending on if you ask the navigator) and I ended up driving through some absolutely beautiful alpine meadows and high Sierra and national forests and it was gorgeous.

IMG_20150619_173741-2It must be so unpleasant to live near Mt Shasta….

Bend itself was also gorgeous — green and lush and riverine and full of promising beer menus. ¬†I got to hang out with my friends from grad school who have since departed, and attend a bunch of talks related to my research interests. ¬†I’m super pumped to work on my thesis again now! ¬†Hanging out around scientists and going to talks always gets me stoked on science again. ¬†So that is awesome.



I left the conference early to head to one of my best friends’ weddings in Monterey which was amazing and beautiful in and of itself. ¬†This is one of my first friends to get married and it’s so awesome to see your friends so happy. ¬†And seriously, the bride was gorgeous. ¬†And the groom was super handsome. ¬†The ceremony was perfect — light and cheerful and full of love. ¬†And the party. ¬†Oh my god. ¬†I danced so much my calves are killing me today. ¬†I’ve never had sore calves from riding but yet jumping up and down for hours on end will, apparently, make them sore.



I’m a little freaked out that Murray had such a big vacation right before the show, but he did get a couple of rides from friends. ¬†This week is my last week to do any prep, so that will be, uh… interesting. ¬†Well, what I really hope is that it’s not interesting and just goes really smoothly.

best riding friend

When I started riding with Alana, it was in lessons with a friend of mine from graduate school.  I ended up being an adult among many juniors, like, for real young juniors, kids who rode for fun and did a great job but were kids.

Thug Pony Lyfe

I started taking semi-private lessons with the aforementioned friend and after two lessons Alana said “look, you don’t necessarily need more weekly lessons, you need more saddle time.” ¬†So I started leasing Mighty, a twelve-ish year old ottb who was well-known for taking care of students and generally being a really solid guy.

I met my to-be Riding Best Friend (we will call her RBF from now on for ease of typing for tipsy Nicole), when she started¬†taking a semi-private lesson with me. ¬†I wasn’t super confident about riding at the time, but when I met her I apparently said “I’m¬†sooooooooooo glad there’s another adult here I can talk to!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

(Writer disclaimer: I have had a lot of gin and I don’t remember this moment at all, regardless of the gin I just had!!! ¬†However, I do recall being very excited to have a new riding friend.)

It didn’t take many lessons for RBF and I to start riding together outside of lessons to. ¬†We would coordinate our lease rides so that we could sit the trot or canter without stirrups together, and then bitch about the pain and the glory of it. ¬†You know how some¬†people are just totally easy to ride with? ¬†You just stay out of each others’ way and don’t have to worry about what the other person is doing, and can even work together? ¬†That’s what riding with RBF is like!

might bigger“Mighty Adonis” an ottb better known as “Mighty Mouse”, when we jumped 3’3″ for the first time

So then I went to live in Kenya for the summer and do some pilot research, and RBF stayed home and honed her dressage skyllz. ¬†I did¬†not hone any riding skills in this time, and when I came home I started¬†leasing a new horse. ¬†Quincy was going to teach me a¬†lot about riding, I just didn’t know it yet.

Quincy is like “No, Nicole, dressage is NOT for you right now.”

RBF and I could¬†no longer¬†take lessons together, which was sad, because we were at totally different levels. ¬†I was back to jumping 2’3″-2’6″ and learning how to get stronger and straighter and avoid runouts on a horse that wasn’t going to do it all for me, and RBF was training for Novice level with her horse. ¬†But we still drove out to the barn together all the time, and I somehow ended up watching a lot of her lessons. ¬†I had way more free time then.

derb hugeRBF’s horse in his first day back in “work” after six weeks off for sarcoid removal.

After two more years apart — I went and did research for a year and came back, RBF moved away for a year and came back — we¬†still ride together all the time. ¬†We would send one another dressage articles¬†constantly, and were always chatting about our ponies’ progress.

Why do I love riding with RBF so much? ¬†It’s always fun, even when it’s a hard ride or a bad ride. ¬†We put things in perspective for one another, and can reflect on our rides together. ¬†We can be helpful¬†during our rides, or before or after them, and I think we’ve both learned a lot from one another. ¬†We have the same philosophy, make fun of ourselves for the same things, and of other people, and we’re always there in a pinch. ¬†Last month when Murray squashed me in the wash rack and then bolted when I was trying to poultice him, RBF was on the other side of the stables when she saw Murray loose and¬†immediately ran over to the wash racks because she knew it was nothing good. ¬†Then she poulticed and wrapped my renegade demon horse, after wrapping me with an ice pack!

Everyone should be so lucky as to have an RBF as good as mine!