I have been so oddly exhausted since I came back from vacation.  I definitely had legit land sickness after getting off the cruise ship, which was odd because I’ve never had it before.  But there I was, with a cold and possible sinus infection, dizzy and spinning every time I sat still for more than a few moments at a time.  The first few days I was also super fatigued and couldn’t concentrate which was awful — school was starting, and I was trying to sort out documents and attendance and all the inquiries that came with it.  And any time I sat down to answer emails I felt like I was drunk.  For four days.

Weirdly, I felt fine as long as I was up and moving or driving.   But any other time I just wanted to go to sleep.  So I slept a lot.

A well deserved roll and booty shake for the newly-crowned novice pony!! . . . #notoriousottb

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I’m still feeling a little not-normal (tipsy as opposed to trashed), which has led to earlier-than-normal bedtimes and less writing/blogging/working in the evenings (kinda a staple for me).  I seem to be all caught up on my seep deficit though, because for the last few mornings I’ve been getting up slightly before my alarm feeling totally refreshed.  This is also weird.

Pony life trudges on despite my tiredness.  I was pretty boo-boo faced for a couple of weeks there, since Murray is the funnest horse I know right now, and not riding him means… a lot less fun.  There are plenty of other horses to ride, including some really kind offers from friends, but it’s different.  Unexpectedly, though, I’ve been having a ton of fun riding one of the ottbs in for training — she’s smart, and I know just enough to teach her a few things, so we’re making a lot of the progressive little steps that greenies make.

mom-bod bootcamp “before” pics

I also started hand walking Murray, which is half ridiculousness and half really boring lazy horse being dragged around by his tiny owner.  At first, Murray gets excited and thinks we are going for turnout — he loves turnout.  This elicits all kinds of jigging and antics from him as we approach the arena.  When he realizes that I’m not letting him free, the exuberance leaves him.  But still, he’s out of his stall, and that is a cause for joy when on stall rest.  Until he realizes I’m power walking him around for 30 minutes over poles and in figures.  Then the feet become really heavy.  Today he tripped over a set of walk poles, never really managed/bothered to get his feet back underneath him and stumbled through them, then angrily stomped the ground and kicked the air right after the poles.  Yes, Murray.  You tell those poles who is boss.

If you have good exercises for hand walking the pony, I’m all ears.  I’ve made a short list of things I want to train Murray to do, both riding/work associated and just for funs (e.g. take medicine from a syringe without murder, and other useful trix).  This little break is also a great opportunity for us to brush up on some behaviors that I know we’ll need in the coming months — clipper desensitization round 5, anyone?  And eventually I plan to tack walk and really get our walk improved under saddle.  I just… don’t want to deal with that quite yet.  Though perhaps it’s a better idea now, when it’s hot and he’s a woolly mammoth, than in a few weeks when it really starts to cool off.

pro tip: do not do this to your horse

The other thing I could use some ideas on is bandaging.  After the, uh, accidental leg-wax I gave him, Murray is not too keen on elastikon.  I need something that will help hold the bandage in place on the top and bottom without ripping out half of Murray’s hair on its way out — or a surefire solution to removing the elastikon without pulling out any hair.  Despite my best efforts, I just can’t seem to not rip his hair out.  And Murray is understandably a little tender about the whole leg hair situation right now.  It’s a long shot, since the value of elastikon is its stickiness and tension.  But I figured if anyone would know, it’s the collective blogoverse.

And that’s kinda the extent of it right now.  We’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other until this stupid leg is back to its glorious former self.


for the cleanest clean: hand wash your breeches

A few weeks ago Olivia posted a hilarious How Not To about her show clothes.  And I was like, dammit, Olivia, you stole my thunder!  But honestly, it’s essentially the same way I clean my show clothes, just minus the bleach and super hot washer cycles.  So here’s the How To on getting all those crazy stains you thought were stuck in there forever out of your show clothes.

I am the messiest human on earth,
yet through the miracle of careful washing,
this shirt is still white

TL;DR Wash them by hand.

Yep, it’s really that simple.  When I lived in Kenya I would pay a local woman to do my laundry*, and of course I had brought all my grungiest, most stained shirts to the field with me because I knew I would only stain and ruin them more.  I was absolutely floored when Catherine returned my first load of laundry to me with almost all of those neck sweat and pit sweat stains totally gone.  The secret ingredient to getting your clothes really, really clean is just liberal dosing with powder detergent, elbow grease, and cracked and skinned knuckles from rubbing so hard (be careful not to get the blood from your now-destroyed hands on your now-clean clothes, though).

* Yes, it felt very weird. I’m totally capable of washing my own clothes, even without a machine.  But Catherine insisted, and I was not about to take away a source of income that I could easily give her.  Totally unrelated to this, there was a rat that liked to climb into my laundry hamper and eat my dirty underwear.  It later made a nest and had babies in a box of bubble wrap.  Such a fucking weird rat.

You will need

  • OxiClean (fragrance free is fine)
  • Detergent of your choice
  • Bucket or large bowl (a vestibule large enough for your show clothes + water + splashing)

Step 1 – Collect your dirty show clothes.


These breeches had actually just come out of the washer. I was shocked at how bad of a job the washer did getting absolutely any stains out. And I simultaneously realized the problem with silicone grip patches on light colored breeches — you can see the clean breech color under the silicon while the dirt surrounds them. Unacceptable.

I tend to sort my clothes by color (ish).  I don’t want any color seeping on my whites, so always wash those alone.  I also don’t want any dirt from other clothes accidentally staining my whites, somehow.  Other than that, I am indiscriminate about what gets washed where.

Step 2 – Dissolve OxiClean in the bucket.

I don’t wash or soak my stained clothes in hot water, as hot water can set stains.  But OxiClean dissolves best in hot water, so I usually dissolve the powder in some hot water, then fill the rest of the way with cool water.  How much water is the rest of the way?  Usually about 1/4 to 1/3 of the bucket.  I need space to splash around in.  I now just splash some OxiClean down in the bucket before getting started, but when I was being careful I followed the concentrations on the back of the OxiClean box for this purpose.  It is something like 1-2 tablespoons OxiClean per gallon of water.

Step 3 – Soak.

This part is easy. Put in soiled clothes.  Make sure soiled clothes are in contact with detergent solution, and jostle them around to get some dirt loose.  Weigh down soiled clothes with a plate or something.  Wait.

I use 5 gallon Home Depot or Lowes buckets that I acquired for approximately $6.  I have like five lying around.  A standard size dinner plate seems to do the job for weighing them down.

Step 4  – Change the water and scrub.

Depending on the soilage of my clothing, I will sometimes drain the water and do a second soak before starting this step.  Regardless, unless your soaking water has very little dirt in it, I tend to get rid of the old soaking water and start fresh for the scrubbing step.  I dissolve another, smaller amount of OxiClean in the bucket this time, and add in a little of my detergent of choice.  (For saddle pads or other items that would benefit from a high-agitation spin, I put them in the machine after scrubbing, so don’t add detergent.)

Then we scrub.  This isn’t rocket science.  You just need to rub the soiled parts of the clothing on other clothes or parts of clothing to lift the stains out.  I’m not sure, but it seems like stretching and pulling the fibers gently also helps to free the stains.  I find that I can usually scrub on my own knuckles and lift out any stains there, but it can be helpful to have a spare rag in the water to really attack the clothing with.  If you feel like there’s not enough soap in there, splash in some more.  Don’t expect the water to actually get really sudsy (if it is, you’ve probably used too much), but there should be some bubbles.

You might want to wear gloves for this part.  Thanks to a lifetime of abuse in the kitchen and garden, my hands aren’t particularly sensitive or beautiful.  But if you’re a hand model or something, this will not do you any favors.  The OxiClean is very drying on your hands, and it will take forever to rinse the soap off of them.

Step 5 – Rinse in cold water/machine wash.

If I am planning to machine wash the clothing in question, I just wring them out gently over the bucket and throw them straight in the washer with more OxiClean and laundry detergent.

If I’m not planning on doing that, they get several rinses with fresh cold water before I wring them out and hang dry them.  When I rinse, I use plenty of water, and take the time to really agitate my clothes in the bucket to get out any remaining suds.  I usually rinse 2-4 times to make sure they are really, really free of soap.  By the time I get to the second rinse, I will start pouring the water on hardy plants or areas of my yard that I know get a lot of additional water runoff — the detergent is pretty dilute at this point.  But the first few rinses and drains should go into the sink or shower to avoid poisoning your lawn/flowers/vegetables etc.

Step 6 – Profit Revel in your clean new breeches.


This method also works for saddle pads, but I tend to soak only one saddle pad at a time, and never with show clothes.  They are a bit more cumbersome, so I will also just spot soak with OxiClean — I’ll make up a batch of OxiClean and pour a little on the stain, then scrub with a little brush.  Those vegetable scrubber brushes are perfect for this — not too harsh, and not too soft.  I’ll splash on more OxiClean and let it sit before throwing the pad in the washer.

Obviously, this is a good way to get neck sweat stains out of a stock tie, rat catcher, or show shirts (especially if you can’t just throw them in the machine for some reason).  And it’s the method I use on Murray’s brushing boots, after I’ve scraped the dirt clods off with a stiff brush.

Yes, it’s more work than just throwing clothes in the washer.  But it also gets them waaaay cleaner.  Which, if you’re like me, is weirdly important at the beginning of a show or clinic.  And after washing two weeks worth of laundry at a time, sitting in the shower on a hot Sunday and wishing I was out in the field with my friends, washing a few pairs of breeches or saddle pads feels like nothing!


island time

I went to Hawai’i for a week.  I intended to post but then I didn’t write anything in advance, and I thought I’d write while I was there, but that didn’t happen either.  Shocking.

the milky way, several shooting stars, and a little moon aurora from partway up mauna kea
the little red glow in the bottom is the lava pool at kilauea

We went to the actual island of Hawai’i.  It was beautiful, in an unfamiliar kind of way.  The whole island is lava flows from several rather large volcanoes (as are all the Hawaiian islands), and it’s very strange to see the jutting, rocking A’a lava flows across the island.  They look like someone did a terrible job of discing a field, but of course, you can’t really disc lava.

I wish we’d had time to go to the Hawai’i botanical gardens — I’m such a plant nerd.  The plant life in Hawai’i was already amazing, so it would have been extra neat to see it all collected in one spot.  Next time.

lava tube coming out of the kilauea eruption

What we did get, before we even left, was a rather alarming wake-up call.  We stayed overnight at my in laws’ place (it was a family vacation so we were all driving to the airport together), with luscious plans to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and drive to the airport for our 7:20 flight.  At 3:15 in the morning, MIL knocked on our door and I bolted upright in bed, afraid we’d missed the wakeup call.

“You don’t need to get up right now,” she said, “but the toilet’s been overflowing for hours and the hallway is full of water. Your carpet will probably be wet.”

there are thousands of feet of waterfalls in the more heavily-forested regions of Hawai’i
this one was in a valley over from the Waipio valley

I mean, there’s no response to that really.

The house is on septic, being out in the boondoggles, and the leachfield on the side of the house where our bedroom is situated has been struggling this winter. The heavy rain and waterlogged ground just don’t drain the water from the toilet and shower away the way it should.  It was actually two plumbing problems at once that caused the issue.  Someone used the bathroom late at night and didn’t notice that the bowl was filling.  Normally this would never crest the bowl of the toilet, but the tank also malfunctioned and kept running. And running. And running.

Boyfriend’s sister got up in the middle of the night to pee and thought, at first, that she’d stepped in puppy pee.  But when she put her second foot down on the carpet she knew it was no pee spot.  When she opened the door to the hallway, an inch of standing water greeted her.

We spent from 3:15 to 4:20 mopping the hallway and drying off anything that we needed for the trip.  We still made it to the airport, and fortunately there’s nothing left of the incident but a vaguely mildewy smell that should go away soon.

Nothing like country life, amirite?

#sunrise on the peak of Mauna Kea

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I didn’t talk about this terribly extensively last year, but I was essentially unemployed for half of the year.  My teaching assistantship ended in June, and I didn’t find a proper job after that until December, so I cobbled together my savings and tutoring income to make ends meet.  I’ve always lived a pretty skimpy lifestyle, maintaining this whole horse habit on a TA salary (it started around $1500/month after taxes).  But June-December epitomized “stretched thin” for me.

I put together an income by picking up a ton of tutoring clients, not turning down a single job that was offered to me (except that salaried one in Santa Cruz, but let’s ignore that), accepting some help from my parents and friends, and not spending money on absolutely anything that I didn’t need to.  If it wasn’t gas (to get to work), food for me or one of the animals, or rent (human or equine), it wasn’t being had.

I managed to make things work (I’m here, after all), but not without some heavy exercising of the credit card (that’s how those function though, right? use it or lose it?), an insane schedule, and — let’s face it — some serious help from my friends and family.  I regularly drove 100 miles a day, getting back and forth between all the students that wanted my attention. I lived essentially rent-free at a few peoples’ houses, put all my stuff in another friend’s barn, and nobody ever thought to kick me out or make my life difficult because things weren’t going according to plan.  I even had to let my barn owners know that I needed to pay board late a few times because paychecks were delayed for one reason or the other, and they didn’t blink.  Murray received the same excellent level of care he’d been getting all year long, and if his grain was down to one pound instead of two each day, I don’t think he noticed or cared.

considering that he spent those months almost entirely asleep…

I found out I’d be hired on for a 50% contract in early December, and this week my contract was increased to 100% while we take advantage of some grant money.  I’m earning what is considered a small salary for many, but is an absurdly lavish amount of money for me (2.1x my prior salary, but full time, if you want to know).  I have health insurance, my horse’s rent is paid, the credit card bills are almost gone, and I’ll be able to survive for a few months after the position ends while I look for a new job — even with a horse show or two in my life.  I keep up with a couple of my tutoring clients after hours and on weekends, even though it makes riding that much harder.  Every hour I struggle through with one of my students — which really is not that many, to be honest; they are mostly great kids — I think about the next bill that will get paid off, my new dressage saddle, an entry fee, or Ellie’s upcoming orthopedic surgery.  I don’t love not getting home until 8:30 to eat, but I also didn’t love not knowing if I’d have to move back in with my parentes in any given two week period.

And through all of this, I’ve been incredibly privileged. Nobody once questioned what I was doing with my life, why I didn’t just get a job or work harder, or threaten to throw me or my animals out because I wasn’t paying on time. At one point I lost my deodorant and smelled AWFUL despite upping my shower frequency, and still my friends tolerated me (as a result of this I now have sticks of deodorant squirreled away everywhere).  There are so many people who are unluckier than I am in similar circumstances.  I have parents to move back in with, who wouldn’t consider it a great burden to have me for a few extra weeks or months.

I am lucky.

I’m working three jobs right now, and I don’t regret it.  It’s not always easy, but I make it work, and I try to squeeze a private life in there on the weekends somehow.  The goal is one job — ideally a flexible one where I don’t have to sit in the office 9-5 so I can go ride in the daylight sometimes — that meets all my needs, but if I don’t have that for now, it’s fine.  I know I can make ends meet.

If you’re in that boat — keep hustling.  I will.

torrential downpour(s)

Northern California (plus much of Oregon, Western Nevada, and maybe even some of Washington?) is having some kinda record-breaking storm this week. I say “some kinda” because while it is rather abnormal for the time of year, it’s hardly the 15″ boldly and ridiculously predicted by a few news outlets.

Yes, a few places got 15″ over the last 7 days. A few exceptionally wet and rainy places.  Most of us got a bit less than was predicted — I think we were supposed to get 5-7″ in Sacramento and we got about 4. Maybe 5, if you include yesterday’s totals.

That’s nothing to sneeze at for us, though!  That’s January’s average rainfall in one week.  It’s left us feeling rather… damp, if you will.

This used to be a road.


This was a hay field.  I would say that at least 20 acres of the property/ies picture here are under at least 6″ of water.  I have no idea when it will dry out, since there is no accessible ditch nearby (on the other three sides it’s separated from roads/canals/ditches by at least 30 meters).  So… that will be an inland sea for the for-sea-able future (see what I did there?!)


On the upside, our barn drained incredibly well and we aren’t experiencing any adverse effects.  Our outdoor arena was already closed and sealed – coincidentally, since we got a new delivery of footing right before the rain started in December.  The paddocks off the stallsa re holding up, and the pastures are looking solid.  Across the street from us though…


Maybe they’ll grow rice again this year?

deep thoughts

On Tuesday and Wednesday I attended a seminar at the San Francisco Zoo addressing the care and welfare of elderly animals.  It was an incredibly thought provoking and enlightening seminar, though at times really, really sad.  The most difficult part was discussing hospice care for animals — which you would expect, at a conference about caring for elderly animals.  It really made me think about the way we make end of life decisions for our pets and horses, and how even in “hospice” our animals can still have valuable and meaningful lives.

There were cuter and happier things too – like a geriatric polar bear playing in artificial snow and digging dens in her enclosure on the reg. And a really old rhino who likes to sneak out of her night house in the dark, roll in a secret area of her enclosure, and then head back to bed.  And an ancient gray seal who has no teeth left and is blind and pretty deaf but still loves doing her training activities and doing ring fetch games with her group.  It’s so easy for us to marginalize older animals and diminish their lives because of our own perceptions of their experience.  But they can have meaningful and valuable individual and social lives well beyond our expectations.

IMG_3401Poco was pretty old, though definitely not the oldest chimp I’ve met

I turned Murray out on Thursday with some friends to see if he wanted to have a little play before I rode, but none of them wanted to play for more than a moment.  So after a little gallop we went back inside and tacked up.  I’ve been taking a hard line with tacking up lately because Murray has been so horrendously reactive and absurd about girthing.  So I now do his girth up very, very slowly while he’s tied to the safety ring. I don’t respond to him at all (positively or negatively), unless he’s standing still(ish).  It’s certainly easier than chasing him up and down the barn aisle with a girth, though the jury is still out on whether or not it’s working.  We’ll see in a few weeks.

When you're the second cutest hippo ever and you gotta #smize for your visitors. #sfzoo #hippolyfe #americasnexttophippo

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Tucker is absurdly cute and human-oriented. Not that old, just really cute.

After thinking a bit about Murray’s constant leaning/falling to the right, I decided that I would try to be extra accountable for my bend while riding him.  Because of both of our weaknesses I tend to hold my torso facing a little to the left even when we are tracking right.  So I exaggerated my own inside bend and found that it helped him keep his shoulders underneath him a bit more.  I can’t figure out how to employ that strategy tracking left, so it still requires a little more thought.  We’ll see how it holds up under trainer scrutiny next week.

We practiced JM’s straightness exercises at the trot and canter, which also needs some trainer scrutiny honestly.  I feel like we’re getting pretty straight, but now I can’t tell if I’m over-doing it with the haunches.  Murray got super connected cantering left though, and for a few strides on each of the long sides his canter felt so fucking good!! Like we were floating!  Not pulling or brace or rushing, just powerful and forward and balanced.  I’m terrified I will NEVER get it back.

feb dressage canter 3(from feb 2016) I wish I remembered how this felt and not just how it looks…  hrm

As always, Murray struggled with being through + forward at the walk.  I just can’t seem to get him to maintain impulsion and connection, it’s a one-or-the-other situation — and realistically, neither.  I’m kinda addressing it by doing a lot of walk work and trying to keep him forward and with some connection through it, but I’m a little worried it’s just teaching him to lean on the bit with his underneck…

I finished up with a some test movements (10m half circles at the trot, canter transitions and 20m circles) and some sitting trot circles, which were shockingly not the worst thing that have ever happened to us.  Maybe next year will be the year I actually learn to sit the trot?  Probably not.  Hasn’t happened yet.

happier things

I’m not very good at getting involved in politics, and I really suck at discussing it with strangers, so I’m going to leave things as they are and move on to happier things.

One of the amazing, wonderful boarders that I share a tack room with took it upon herself to do some renovations this week. I was supposed to help but cleverly poisoned myself with some slightly-past-good creme fraiche, so was out of the loop until I showed up to see the magnificent transformation.  It won’t seem like a transformation to you all, since you didn’t get to see the pit that was “before”, but here’s “after”.

tackroom tackroom2

My barn straight up does not have enough tack room space for all the boarders, but we’ve all agreed that building a new tack room shakes out a less important than improving footing or paddocks.  I keep my stuff in the tack room that was once restricted to our trainer, working students, and leasers of her horses only (so that all the tack belonging to/used for her horses would be kept in one place).  It has since expanded to include three other boarders, and when you have twelve saddle racks and twelve bridle hooks that 9 people who event are trying to share well

macaronsSo this is a huge improvement and I’m overjoyed and need to think of a good gift for our boarder and her handy friend.  (Any ideas on gifts for 50+ year old men who are willing to take a day off and rebuild things to help out a friend?!).

Murray has been a super star, despite a week off thanks to travel and work.  We have become even more consistent in developing the connection from ride to ride and I’ve started to work on transitions between the gaits now.  It’s something Murray can do beautifully on the lunge line and when he decides he’s prepared for it, but we struggle with maintaining an active walk so we can do them at the drop of a hat.  Add in rider struggle bus and things get exponentially harder.  But on Tuesday we got some solid work on transitions that didn’t involve anticipation OR me trying to yank his head down.  So that’s progress for both of us.

RBF Q’s baby horse blew a massive heel abscess which obviously brought me great joy.  And my boyfriend proved he is truly my soulmate by responding “Pics for me?” when I told him about it.  Between Q and I we had soaked the abscess for four straight days and only seen (unfortunately) increasing discomfort.  As we dried off the hoof to wrap it that day it started to seep and drain (and yes we poked and prodded it to see how productive it would be).  Four days after that the baby horse is happily galloping around in pasture again.

When you've been soaking and bute-ing for three days and you finally see progress. #eventerproblems

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I don’t like the pain they cause our horses, but I secretly love abscesses. I know there are those among you who do too.