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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hustle

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.

downpour02

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?!)

downpour03

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…

downpour01

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.

treat yo’ self: custom leather work

I spend a fair amount of time on Etsy around the holidays, mostly window shopping.  I don’t do a ton of Christmas-gift exchange with my friends (we all know how poor we are), and my family doesn’t mind that the gift giving goes in mostly one direction.  But I do find a lot of neat things on the Etsy (because it is a veritable font of neat things), and this year a whole pile of custom leatherwork has caught my eye.

First up: this magnificent, chevron monogrammed belt.  I would adopt this into my show outfit in approximately one second.

I mean yes, yes please. PLEASE.

From the same craftsman, look at these incredibly apropos coasters.

6 Personalized Leather Coasters, Custom Leather Coaster set, Hexagonal Geometric, Handmade housewarming wedding anniversary gift. Honey Bee

Sometimes beautiful things motivate me to get things done.  Like this sweet leather journal from Brika.  If this were daily-planner style, I would buy it in one second, but since it’s just journal style I’m still on the fence.

I Can Leather Journal

I have made my own tote bag with pleather accents before, but it was a lot of work and definitely more than $38 in time.  And I’m into leather totes, but I can in no universe justify buying a Tucker Tweed.  But a leather tote with a subtle monogram that’s just the right size for putting a planner, wallet, and notebook in? Yes please!

Monogram Purse, Monogram Handbag, Monogram Shoulder Bag, Monogram Tote, Fall Purse, Personalized Purse, Bridesmaids Gifts, Tassel Purse

And finally the one company I am for sure ordering from this year, Bija Collars!  It’s not secret that I’m completely obsessed with Ellie, and one of the first things I got her was this amazing leather collar from Apryl at Bija Collars.  She does custom work to match color, width, and length of collar to your pup.  The leather has held up through Ellie’s disgusting, hippo ways, many baths, and just a couple of cleanings when I do my saddles.  10/10 will buy again.

wp-1478279887058.jpgwp-1478279606161.jpg
Ellie is a bad collar model. Really, it’s an amazing collar and gets a billion compliments.

 

 

end of the year goals

The good rides continue for me and Murray!  I’m reveling in the glory of how great it feels to develop a connection into which you can actually ride your horse.  Even after 4 nights of no turnout (hello, tiny fall rains!) and a rather sassy start to our ride where we both struggled to just trot, Murray was like “oh right, this game again. super!” And off we went, working on better gaits and pushing into the contact and even doing so with a fairly straight body for the most part.  IT JUST FEELS SO GOOD.

Yesterday we launched the zoo research challenge projects that I have been working on for the last month with Experiment.com.  You should head on over and have a look, if for no other reason than to watch adorable animal videos and have a look at some of the really super projects that are being done in zoos.  Like studying thermal images of tortoises and their environments to understand how different heat source influence their body temperature.  Or looking at circulating markers of fibrosis in gorillas (heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in captive great apes!).  Or a project that addresses how hooves of wild giraffe differ from those in captivity — something all of us ungulate-lovers should be able to get behind.  (PS That group has their very own GIRAFFE FARRIER I mean SHUT THE FRONT DOOR.)

lemurbootcamplemur boot camp features an adorable animated video that is 100% worth your time

I love all the projects that the researchers put together, but for the sake of brevity I won’t link them all here.  But they are all definitely worthy of contribution!

But let’s get on to some end of the year goals, shall we?  I’ve missed all the major quarters this year for goal setting, but as the year calms down a bit it seems like I could get some shit done in the next 60 days.

Riding

  • Continue/resume work on lengthenings so I can more easily incorporate them into trot improvement work
  • Put significant effort into sitting the trot (i.e. at least 5min per ride, 2x per week). I somehow avoided no stirrups November AGAIN this year, because it seems rather stupid to sit (very poorly) on Murray for much of a month while I’m having such success encouraging him to lift his back and move his whole body more.  I will make up for it with a no stirrups month early next year if trainers think we can handle it.
  • If trainers approve, re-incorporate some lateral work
  • Really nail our straightness/squares so we get good marks on our straightness homework when JM comes back in December
  • Have the fitter out to evaluate dressage saddle and price replacing foam with wool

Murray

  • Eat ALL the grass and roll in ALL the mud
  • Clip again towards the end of December
  • Avoid being mounted by friends in playtime turnout

jan-play2

Personal

  • File the thesis (still not done… sigh)
  • Get all my Experiement projects funded
  • Finish MAF grant application
  • Finish UFAW grant application
  • Increase tutoring hours – if I can get up to 20/week (a rather heavy schedule with all the driving included) I will be in really good shape, even including breaks for holidays
  • Get Macaron skills back!
  • Run once a week – work up to 5k
  • Apply for jobs?