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.

garden, food, thesis, life

Now that the pressure of the PPE is gone, I seem to be able to focus on my thesis again, so I’ve been deep in thesis-mode. ¬†Oddly, writing/coding/analysing/graphics forming for my thesis does not lend itself to lots of blogging time, as somehow when I give myself a break from thesis all I want to do is play solitaire on my phone. ¬†With any luck the chapter will be done in two days and I’ll get a tiny respite in time for Derby Day this weekend!!

Murray and I had a lovely ride Sunday, wherein I popped him over a few tiny jumps and two-pointed around and generally felt unbalanced and floppy. ¬†I haven’t ridden in my jump saddle in close to two weeks, so that was definitely not helpful. ¬†I will need to spend some time reacquainting myself with my correct two point position and strengthening my legs again. ¬†Then, my friend and I switched ponies and I jumped her 25 year old paint mare (yes, a 25 year old paint pony who is KICKING ASS AND TAKING NAMES, she is amazing) and she jumped Murray. ¬†Apache, said paint mare, was hysterical and very sleepy, but perked up quite a bit as we headed to the fences. ¬†I have mad respect for this friend since Apache, despite her many years of training, is a super tough ride. ¬†Give me my skinny little thoroughbred any day!

IMG_069125 year old mare cannot be stopped!! Beast mode engage!

Murray was angelic for my friend. ¬†She was a little worried about antics, but he too was pretty sleepy/mellow, and I told her just to keep her leg on to the fences and be soft with her hands and he’d go over anything. ¬†Which he did. ¬†It was awesome. ¬†I’ve been wanting to see someone else jump Murray for quite a while, and this definitely fulfilled my hopes and dreams — he is just as quiet and perfect with others as with me!

I spent rather more time than I should have this weekend planting my garden at the barn. ¬†Isn’t it magnificent?



What do you mean you can’t see barely any of my 6″ seedlings that I put into ground carefully and lovingly fertilized with shavings and horse manure?!! ¬†It’s true it’s a little disappointing now, but I’m hoping things will pick up fast now that they’re in the ground for real. ¬†I’ve been plotting this garden (see what I did there?) for months, painstakingly started and lost¬†many seedlings, and now that they’re in the ground I’m filled with happy!! ¬†It’s a bit more spread out than it should be, but I’ll fill in the gaps with greens (chard and kale, I think) and herbs (basil everywhere, also dill and cilantro, and probs some parsley), and carrots, beets, and even probably some pepper plants. ¬†None of my pepper starts worked — they all just failed to thrive. ¬†Peppers are bitches.


I also made this epic lasagna. ¬†It was stuffed with meatballs. ¬†It’s kindof a process, but it was one hundred percent worth it. ¬†You can find the recipe here. ¬†The pictures alone are worth looking at on that article.

wpid-wp-1430239269664.jpgWorth every cheesy, meaty, saucy bite.

Food comforts me when I’m deep in thesis. Don’t judge me.

Monday a friend and I went over to our trainer’s house to play with some ottb projects and pick one for her to bring over to our main barn to work with for a few weeks. ¬†Very upsettingly, when her gorgeous chestnut had his ultrasound at our joint-PPE (we scheduled them for the same time to give moral support to one another), we found out that the “suspensory strain” that had been reported was actually a giant, whopping, devastatingly huge and unhealed suspensory¬†tear. ¬†So Ronin is¬†not jumping or even in work any longer, and is going to rehab at trainer’s place for a while (thus us bringing over a different¬†project to take his place.) ¬†We are all really upset by this, as it means we were lied to by his track trainer (they either never imaged, which they claimed they did, or didn’t disclose to us what they did find) and Ronin had really become part of our lives in his short time in training. ¬†Very upsetting.

wpid-wp-1430240287913.jpgComforted by adorable baby thoroughbred faces. ¬†This guy, Cory, is my fave, and I can’t wait to spend some more time playing with¬†him this summer!

So that’s life right now. ¬†This week, we’re back to real work with Mr. Horse and have both a jump¬†and dressage lesson scheduled. ¬†I knew as soon as I had those awesome dressage rides on Murray that I had to get into a lesson to capture/check in on it, so we will see if that lifted-back-pushing-from-behind pony shows up again. ¬†Jump lesson also scheduled, and I’m hoping I keep it together a bit better than my last jump lesson.

the unsung plight of the show photographer

Saturday I did my first stint as a show photographer at a local event, trying to see if this is something I’d be interested in trying to make some money doing. ¬†It was¬†enlightening, let me tell you. ¬†We all know that show photographers are facing all kinds of challenges these days — ammies shooting their friends with nice DSLRs, guilty! — but I feel like the public perception of those challenges has to do with photo sales, not the actual difficulty of the job. ¬†And boy, is that job difficult.

Making cranky horses look good

As a photographer, I want you to look good. I want you to see your pictures and be inspired to pay me for one or more of them because you are your horse look fantastic. ¬†I painstakingly select the best angle for the light, to make sure the background is pleasing and free of clutter, and time my shutter bursts so you and your horse look elegant and athletic. ¬†You know what can ruin this every time? ¬†A cranky horse. ¬†Some horses don’t like dressage. ¬†Some horses have a wicked game face. ¬†Some horses pin their ears when they see the camera. ¬†Some horses put karate kicks into the middle of their canter. ¬†All of these things ruin a picture, and make me want to cry because I can’t control it. ¬†And it’s nobody’s fault, except your horse who wants nothing to do with my photography. ¬†He’s probably trying to save your money for use on him!

IMG_3747Excuse me, but no.

The dark horse/pale skin conundrum

Exposing correctly for dark horses is really hard in almost all lighting. ¬†I love me some black or dark bay, but the details of a dark horse’s body get lost in the shadows very easily. ¬†They also get these super bright shiny spots and highlights that sometimes look lovely and sometimes make them look¬†terrible. ¬†Without specialized editing, to get the details in a dark horse’s body exposed right, I usually have to blow out the background, which really sucks. ¬†You know what sucks more? ¬†Pale peoples’ faces get blown out even¬†more than the background. ¬†I can either see your gorgeous, smiling face or your horse’s — you pick. ¬†I almost always pick the horse. ¬†(Coincidentally, this is the exact same problem that people have shooting Jane Goodall with chimps!) ¬†On the upside, your dark horse will make your whites look strikingly white, so you can get away with dirtier breeches!!

SAS_5323This picture can¬†be edited to fix it, but I’m guessing this rider isn’t actually the colour of a porcelain doll.

High quality cameras are heavy

My DSLR setup weighs close to eight¬†pounds with my heaviest lens on it, but even with my smaller lenses on it it’s close to five pounds. ¬†And you know what humans are not evolved to do? ¬†Stand in the same place all day long holding eight pounds up to their face. ¬†The pain started in my lower back and throughout the day moved down to my upper butt and my feet. ¬†At one point, my back cramped up¬†—¬†like when your calf cramps but¬†in my entire back. ¬†You know what you can do when your back cramps? ¬†NOTHING. THERE IS NO POSITION THE HUMAN BODY CAN TAKE THAT DOESN’T USE THE BACK. ¬†And honestly, no¬†wonder I collapse my right side when I’m riding, I’m always holding the damn camera with that hand and resting my elbow on my hip for postural support!

SAS_7051A nice one because not all went poorly.

Squeezing one eye shut all day makes your vision go blurry

I don’t know if you’ve ever done it before, probably not, but you should try spending eight hours with your left eye squeezed shut. ¬†You can open it intermittently, but you need to keep it shut for at least a minute at a time out of every two minutes. ¬†After a while, your left eye will probably kinda forget how to function. ¬†When you open it, you’ll have that weird, blurry, schmutz caused possibly by tears or dryness — it could go either way. ¬†And then your right eye might start objecting too. ¬†You can trade eyes looking through the viewfinder, of course, but somehow I’m way worse at everything with my left eye.

IMG_8346This is kinda what you see when you open that squinty eye…

Other riders, spectators, the show venue, garbage, dogs, people, horses, the sun, and even plants are all conspiring against you

A well timed photo is a beautiful thing, that is so, so often ruined by a random rider coming out of your horse’s back like some kind of two-bodied centaurian creature. ¬†Fo rillz. ¬†Somehow all the jumps and angles that are best to shoot are always ruined by random piles of poles, a trailer full of jump standards, or a weirdly overflowing garbage can. ¬†Your best pictures of every competitor will be plagued by dogs running through, people picking their noses in the background, some rider falling off in the warm up, or a flashy paint horse taking a pee facing your camera. ¬†Murphy’s law, man.

SAS_7429Get out of my picture random paint horse!!

attempt number two

Teaching yesterday was an…. adventure. ¬†Partway into my second lab section I started to get aphasia, which is always such a wonderful symptom, so I apologized to my students re: jet lag and they forgave me. Fortunately the big coffee I had at lunch kicked in and I was back to normal shortly.

I headed to the barn immediately after, and Murray heard me say “hey baby horse!” and came to the front of his stall to greet me which was just about enough to ¬†bring me to tears. ¬†Just about. ¬†Had a kiss and a hug and Murray promptly followed me all over looking for treats.

Last night was moonrise pictures attempt number two. The moonrise chart I used wasn’t quite as accurate as I had hoped, and the sun didn’t set quite as fast as I wanted, but I did get some shots of the gorgeous, California ombre sky that we get.


IMG_4490 IMG_4532 IMG_4626



Trying again tonight. I really want that big fat moon low in the horizon!!


Since XC on Sunday, Murray’s been a bit pooped.


As have his friends.


So we had no work yesterday, just liniment, and a light ride today. ¬†Unfortunately, he also seems a bit sore and a touch lame (could be anything — stone bruise, abscess, whatever, don’t panic Nicole), so I called off the ride in favor of a bit of a massage instead. ¬†Murray did lots of licking and chewing and yawning while I was gently massaging his back and hind quarters, which makes me hopeful that it did, in fact, help.

Tomorrow I leave for Italy for a few days, so he’ll get some light rides with one of the teenagers he adores.

This week I rode¬†another¬†baby noodle, this time a big six year old who was a stallion as of January 27th! ¬†Ronin is my friend M’s project horse and he’s a big hunk of gorgeous.



7 26 12 new babies


This particular big hunk of gorgeous is also quite wide around, and appears to be just a tad downhill. ¬†I don’t have a conformation shot of him, but trust me when I say his withers are below his croup. ¬†However, he doesn’t ride like it¬†at all. ¬†He is stealth uphill, much like Murray is stealth downhill (he has big ol’ withers but his neck has a very downhill attachment). ¬†Because Ronin is so wide, I can’t manhandle him around with my legs like I could with Murray as a baby, or more recently baby Eclipse, so steering him was an adventure. ¬†However, he’s really game,¬†really smart (already started to learn about half halts and regulating his own pace), and Alana has trained big horses like him before, so she will know what to do.

I also had another ride on Eclipse this week, though it was mostly a desensitization/lunging session. ¬†I pulled him out right before feeding, and he absolutely lost it when he realized that everyone was being fed without him. ¬†I persevered through his cries, let him lunge himself a bit, then tacked him up and walked around the arena once, got off, and stuffed him with carrots and turned him back out. ¬†Such a hard lesson for baby horses, but an important one. ¬†When I return, I’ll play with him some more.


Leaving you with my new absolute most favourite picture of Murray and me ever.  Taken by the amazing Sheila Stenger (THANK YOU), of us jumping out of the water at Camelot this weekend.  HE IS REALLY TURNING INTO AN EVENTER!

16019201964_b78d562d0c_kWater splashes. Good knees. Not ugly form. Bright background! SO MUCH LOVE. Many thanks Sheila!!

Edited to add: I know most of you are Ogilvys but I am an EcoGold!! Enjoy 25% off EcoGold until March first for their 25 year anniversary. I love (LOVE) their pads and will definitely be taking advantage of this!!


Braymere Winter Photo Challenge

Braymere Custom Saddlery blog is hosting an adorable scavenger hunt right now, and given that I have so many photos and love showing them off, I figured I’d have a stab at it! ¬†I noticed that the instructions said nothing about them being HORSEY pictures, so I’ve gone hog wild with¬†all my pictures!

1. Vintage

1990_nic41Me, circa 1990.

2. Nekkid

IMG_8018Fresh outta mom and as nekkid as it gets!

3. Scale issues

11One of Australia’s many tourist attractions — a giant rocking horse!

4. I see spots

IMG_4417Quincy, a seven year old thoroughbred, shows off his many Birdcatcher spots! Sadly, they are fading now.

5. Unbridled passion

IMG_8515Murray and Connor, best friends foreverrrrrrrrrrr!

6. Rare breed

IMG_7141This Grevy’s zebra stallion was one of my constant companions in Kenya

7. Portrait

IMG_3084Nature at her best

8. Conga

stitch 2

9. The Great Outdoors

congo hdr2This was the view off my back patio in Congo

10. Best In Show

IMG_20150203_205110He avoided killing a six year old in his path so gets big time points for that one.

moonrise kingdom


When we moved to my barn four years ago (five years ago?! gosh this is the fifth year!) I started riding four days a week, and fairly often in the evenings. ¬†Davis gets these absolutely magnificent harvest moons in the Fall, that are just monstrous and orange and amazing, and that Hallowe’en I caught one while driving home with a car full of teenagers. ¬†It was badass.

Since then, I’ve had this photography project in mind. ¬†A couple of times a year, right as the moon is full, it rises right when the sun is setting. ¬†Our arena is situated perfectly to capture both of these moments — just enough light from the setting sun to take pictures, with a full moon rising in the background. ¬†However, this happens literally six to nine days a year, because otherwise there’s too much light from the sun to properly see the moon, or the moon rises after it’s too dark.


So you can imagine that when I was driving home two nights ago and saw the full moon rising in the just-barely-dark I had to give it a go.  I had one of the dressage lessons moved to the outdoor to try to get these moments.

Only, the moon rises a lot slower than I thought. ¬†And when it’s hazy and cloudy like it often is in the central valley, you don’t get to see the moon until it’s about 9 degrees into the sky. ¬†So it was a bit too dark to get exactly the effect I wanted, but at least I tried.

IMG_1070We’ll try again next month, this time with more time before the sun goes down!


TOABH: Shining Star

Week three of The Owls Approve Blog Hop!

Shining Star
Let’s talk about the biggest achievements your horse has accomplished. ¬†I’m not talking about you as a rider – I want to know what your ponykins has done to make you proud. ¬†Is there a glorious satin collection, did he/she figure out some dressage movement that¬†took months to learn, or are is it just a great day when your butt stays in the saddle? ¬†

The one thing Murray has done to make me proud this year is¬†prove them all wrong. ¬†(I’m not exactly sure who “they” are in this scenario — just hear me out.) ¬†Murray has turned into a good horse. ¬†I mean wtf — from this little monster on the track to a little monster at our barn to this — a good horse.

I did not ever think I would own a good horse.  I guess I do.

This was de rigeur for Murray in the past: “you want me to turn? What turn? Nope, not turning. I completely disagree with you. We shall not turn. ¬†Also, if anyone in this warm up so much as passes me at a speed higher than a walk I am going to back my ass all the way back to my trailer.”

14627101506_4b0c8518f2_oReal talk. Did a lot of backing at this show.

These days it’s more like “turn? Sure thing! Oh and you want to crookedly point me at that jump and bury me to it and yank on my mouth at the same time? ¬†No big, I’ve got this, you puny humanoid.”

IMG_8371Blurry and not my best, but pretty good of the kid.

This horse, who failed so hard at racing, has a wicked gallop. ¬†He attacks obstacles on cross country. He jumps 3’3″. ¬†He overjumps 2’3″! ¬†He can dressage, passably. ¬†He can have his girth put on with minor complaint and minimal bribery. ¬†He walk, trot, canters without bucking. ¬†He does trot poles — trot poles! poles on the ground that once he would have cast himself upon the floor in a fit of desperation and ridiculousness about — like six of them, at a time! Sometimes even raised ones! ¬†He does lateral work, is bendy as a noodle in all the good ways, and has even started to lift through his withers. ¬†This horse, who I seriously did not think would make it through five, is staring six in the face and daring it to come at him, bro.

What did Murray do to make me so proud of him this year? ¬†He proved me wrong. ¬†Whatever niggling, whispering part of my mind¬†thought maybe he couldn’t do it, that he wouldn’t do it, that I would ride¬†Bad Horse Thoroughbred of Sin forever was completely, utterly, and entirely wrong. ¬†And you know what? ¬†I love it.

IMG_8560Also, he has Tina Turner hair.

Wordless Wednesday: Pony Play Date

Wednesday is normally my jump lesson day, so I often call it Hump Day Jump Day. Alas, lessons were cancelled today for inclement weather — the rain was coming in sideways in the indoor! ¬†Because of this, of course, the sun was shining as soon as I got to the barn and stayed that way for a few hours. ¬†So T and I had ourselves a little pony playdate with Murray (mine) and Connor (hers).

Murray catching the big air.


IMG_7802 IMG_7803Connor doing the same.

IMG_7901 IMG_7869 IMG_7864


Please ignore that my horse is a filth monster.

IMG_7843Since I only ever ride the guy and never see him work, I’m fairly terrified that Murray is a hideous mover. Fortunately, he seems pretty cute here!

IMG_7931 IMG_7955

Our barn has become beautiful lakefront property thanks to some much-needed California storms!!

IMG_7949My Ellie Swamp Monster in action in the drainage ditch.