ruthlessly exclude & willingly compromise

I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I want in my next horse. Much more time than I’ve spent without a horse… Definitely didn’t spend way too much time thinking about this loooooong before Murray was ever plotting his retirement. (Don’t worry, I don’t actually think that retirement was a nefarious plot by my horse…. most days.)


not really the nefarious plot type

While I’m not in a financial position to be too exclusive in my search, I do have time on my side. I don’t need a new horse now, or in six months, or even in a year (realistically). I’ll likely keep having fun with this pony for a while. If I do truly outgrow him, there are a few other options at the barn. My trainer commented the other day that I’m a better rider than she thought, which was nice to hear. Turns out, when you’re not riding a lame Murray, you can actually, you know, ride. (Also, when you get in shape. That helps too.)

So with a fair bit of thinking, I’ve made a list of a few very important things, a few negotiable things, and no tangible automatic disqualifiers (but, obviously, there will be some).

Here’s what I’m absolutely not negotiable on in my next horse.

Great brains – This is literally the most important thing on my list. I don’t need the next #babygenius or Einstein horse. But I do need something that is easier to work with than Murray was. I don’t mind if they’re a little goofy or have some personality, but I need those things to not come at the expensive of their ability to learn and work with me. This quality is nebulous and hard to define, but I get the feeling it’s a bit like pornography. You know it when you see it.

not these brains

A yes-man (or mare) – I want my next horse to really be a partner. I want to feel like I’m working with them and we’re working together, instead of constantly convincing them that maybe just trying things my way is a better way to do them. Perhaps this is a subheading of “great brains”, but it is really important to me. (I’m also not denying my role in training Murray to think the way he does. But he never came from a place of working with humans to problem solve — he spent half his time on the track trying to escape or lie down on the hot walker — so it was definitely an uphill battle.) My future yes-man is going to get a solid foundation in groundwork to reinforce this.

Good feet – One of two conformation requirements. I’m not starting with fucked up feet again.

A strong back – Particularly their lower back/lumbar/loin area. Dressage is great. Dressage makes horses stronger. But there’s no reason for me to start off in the hole here. I have a pet theory that this is key to long-term soundness for horses.

Going under saddle – I’m not starting anything from the ground up. I guess I’m negotiable on a horse who was previously going, but has sat in a field for some time. Regardless, I need to be able to slap a saddle on that baby, get on him, and walk and trot within a couple of days of getting him home. (Even if I don’t actually intend to do that — I want the option to be there.)


i’ve had some really cool rides with this guy lately

I feel like that’s a pretty reasonable list. It’s enough to knock a lot of individuals out of contention pretty easily (thus narrowing the field that I end up staring at online), but not so narrow that I’m searching for a needle in a haystack.

I also have a list of things that are somewhat negotiable — some more than others.

Breed – I love thoroughbreds, and ottbs are what is going to be most common in my price range, but I’m not too fussy here. It’s more about the individual than the generalized breed stereotype.

Image may contain: 1 person, horse, sky and outdoor
are you my new pony?

Talent – Realistically, I’m not going to be going any higher than Novice any time soon, especially not on a horse fresh off the track. Maybe Training, if I suddenly get a lot better at riding and training horses. If, in five years, I find myself ready to go Prelim and my partner can’t make the jump, then I’m more than willing to start looking again. I plan to be Very Wealthy by then, so owning 2+ horses should be NO PROB.

Oh right. The point of this being: this horse doesn’t have to be wildly talented. We just need average horse talented, and a great brain.

Age: 4-12 – I’m not negotiable on the low end of this list, but I am negotiable on the upper end. I’d like five or more years of happy partnership before I need to start thinking about slowing down. I know that horses can absolutely compete successfully into their twenties, but I feel like once you pass 16 or 17, every year is a bigger gamble. (Maybe it’s just that every year one owns a horse is a big gamble?)

Color – Let’s not judge a book by its color, but let’s also try very hard not to get any grays, palominos, or paints, mkay? I’m not opposed to color philosophically. A dappled gray is stunning. I’m just not into extensive cleaning or melanomas. Is it a deal breaker? No. Am I looking to increase the amount of work I need to do to look presentable at every show? Absolutely not. Is this somewhat petty and ridiculous? Certainly, but it’s my horse shopping list and I get to want what I want. Also, I’m definitely not about the higher price tag that comes with color or “chrome”. Plain bay is just fine with me, thanks. (It was kinda hard not putting this in the dealbreaker column.)


you are SO beautiful but you are not my new pony

Soundness – It seems silly to say that this is negotiable, but there’s some method to this madness. If I’m looking at a prime-aged, going horse, I expect there to be some maintenance involved in keeping him sound. That’s fine with me, I just need to know about it up front. Obviously, this is really dependent on age and the type of maintenance we are talking about. But it’s not going to be an automatic disqualifier, necessarily.

And then there are the things that are really negotiable — like size, jump training, show experience, pedigree, and whether newhorse is a mare or gelding. Some of my criteria tip the scales in one direction or the other (so much more likely that I end up with a gelding), but none of these things are going to rule a horse out in general. I think.

Rereading this list, it doesn’t really sound all that ruthless. But, to ensure I don’t do anything stupid, I’ve employed a hand slapper who gets veto power. Also, TrJ is crazy judgmental so that will definitely help.

What’s on your must have / negotiable / dealbreaker list when you’re horse shopping (either in reality, or mentally)? I know it’s highly individualized and personal, but I’m interested to see what you guys include on your lists, so I can think about putting it on mine.

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long weekends are for projects + 2019 goals

I got so much done this weekend! I work from home, so I can (and do) chip away at projects pretty much whenever I want. But there’s something about three unadulterated weekend days (with husband help) to get. shit. done.

First, we spread 10 cubic yards of compost and 40 cubic yards of wood chips on the main spring vegetable bed.


it’s so big i’m so excited that’s what she said

When we were sick and tired of spreading and mulching (or, you know, when it was raining) we hammered away at the chicken coop. Literally. I mean, mostly it was a lot of cutting and measuring and cutting again because lumber is not actually the dimensions it professes to be, nor is it a dimension that actually makes sense. I mean, please. 2 x 4 would be SO MUCH MORE CONVENIENT than 1.875 x 3.625.


the near wall folds down for easy cleaning, so we’ll add it after i paint.
also, chicks coming your way in march 2019, get ready for the #peepshow

But it is what it is. And it’s done. I mean, minus the roof and the paint job and putting the door and the last wall on.

In short, we smanged this long weekend thing.

A good thing too, because 2019 is going to be the year of the horse house.


actually 2019 is the year of the pig, which means it’s the year of the jellinore

This is the first January since I got back from Congo that I’ve been horseless. And it’s odd. I poured a good deal of thought and energy into Murray, even when he was quite green. It’s strange not to have that mental space filled. So it’s good that I’ve got a big project horse house to fill my time with. I mean, I also have the little gray pony. But it’s not the same — and we all know it. Sammy is a campsite: I’m staying temporarily and will leave it in better condition than I found it, but I’m not living there forever. I mean, even if it is the cutest, most adorable, sausage-shaped campsite you ever did see. (Campsite rule stolen from Dan Savage, you may know it from elsewhere though. Also, that particular search query is nsfw.)

bodacious now please LET ME OUTSIDE

So, how to make pony goals this year without a pony of my own? Lots of people are opting for process goals or non-goal-y-goals. I figured I’d just…. set some goals, and see where we get! There are also a few things that are definitely going to happen/are already happening, but I’m going to go ahead and put them in the goals column anyway so I can give myself the joy of checking them off anyway. (That’s how checklists work, duh!) We’re a little heavy on the personal goals this year, but that’s alright.

12 months of position fixes – L did this last year, and I thought it was such a fantastic idea! It’s already in process.

  • January – twist right! specifically, right hand to the right of the neck always
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

Lease for 4 months (before buying) – It’s time to get my learn on with another horse (or pony). Leasing is going to help me avoid impulsively buying something inappropriate.

Lessons 3x a month (as the schedule allows) – There are group jump lessons on Sundays, and obviously private flat lessons can be scheduled as needed. TrJ is a great trainer, and I’m very happy to put her stamp on me as a rider.

Take the pony to one show – This little beast should be fun to get out! Schooling, rated, it doesn’t matter.

Start looking for a new horse – This will most likely be an OTTB (because I like them, and the price is right). Window shopping doesn’t count.


sammy: stop taking pictures of Blue and gimme more cookiez

Save for a new horse – This is, of course, the big ticket item of 2019. A conservative estimate, even taking into account the generally-lower price tag of OTTBs, is that I’ll need at least 8k for this journey. This includes PPE (in the $1000 range), extensive saddle refitting or purchase (in the $2000 range — potentially laughable), and a bunch of bodywork and additional training needed for baby OTTBs. But I do so love them.

12 months of good habits – I’m not the tidiest person around and, look I’ll fess up, I don’t brush my teeth every morning. It takes 3 months to change habits (or so I’ve been told). So I’m going to tackle a new habit every month and hopefully come January of next year, at least 9 of those will have stuck. The goal here is for these to be little changes to my life that won’t be hard to enact. “Clean the living room every day” is not going to be a habit I actually stick with. (Though now that I think of it, “fold the throw blankets every night” could be.)

  • January – morning teeth brushing!
  • February –
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

Complete twelve house projects – This goes along with the other “12 months of” type projects. There’s a lot of month-by-month type goal-setting around here. It’s actually a neat way to break the year down. This includes: waxing the floors in the whole house, painting the office, building myself a desk, finishing the coop (ha! one down), setting up the garden, building the incubator, refinishing the bathroom (x2, one is soooo pink), painting the kitchen, empty the tool shed, etc.

Run once a week (on average) – It’s just once a week! Just 52 runs! You can do this! (I’m actually already 4 runs down, so not going too poorly.)

Work on the SO regarding a second dog – I want a second dog like I want to keep breathing. Okay that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But Jelly and I are ready for a second doggo in my life, and SO is the one who will need convincing.


a barn dog, but come on! who doesn’t want more of this in their life?

Do more good – I currently volunteer with a primate nonprofit, but I want to increase the good I do in the world. Right now I have time (see above re: not spending nearly as much time thinking and riding* as in the past), and feel like I can do more. Fostering (dogs) is at the top of my list. But I’ll see if other volunteering-type activities might work well for me too.

Write more science-based blogs – This is something I’ve always enjoyed doing, but the research aspect of it is an incredible amount of effort. I will need to collect some interesting topics to review, that always motivates me.

Meet more bloggers! – I’ve moved to a new place, which means I have a whole new group of bloggers to target with my bad jokes and biomechanics cult!

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. There is no soft landing after this one, boy. You cannot leave, and you cannot wear out your welcome. To help with this, I’ll be doing ground work with him whenever I visit. All he needs to do is stand for a trim every 6 weeks, get his blanket taken on and off as needed, accept vaccination, and not hurt his pasture mate. FOUR TINY THINGS, MURRAY.

window shopping++

Somehow I managed to go on not one but TWO pony shopping outings in December, though only the (aforementioned) one was for me. I’ve never been on the shopping end of the horse shopping equation. I’ve been t see horses with a friend. I’ve visited the track probably a dozen times, both to visit a trainer friend and watch her horses race and to look at or pick up horses. I’ve even shown a couple of horses for my trainer. But never have I actually shopped for myself.

Let’s start with Pete (not his real name), who I got a hot tip on, right before Christmas. Basically, a bodyworker I know from California heard that I was now-horseless. A trainer friend of hers has a sales barn about fifteen minutes from me. This trainer really needed to get Pete sold, as his owner was “done paying bills” (whatever that means). I gave the trainer a call, and it sounded great — he was well schooled, but had intimidated his past owner, and needed a good place to land. With my beer budget, a horse who has a good bit of training and has gone XC and shown in hunters and jumpers is probably not going to cross my search path very often. So we went to try him.

for example: i kinda helped RBF shop for this girl

In the intervening days I stalked the crap out of Pete online. I found his old sale videos, looked up his race record, and thought about getting in touch with his previous owner. If he looked anything like his old videos, and his personality was as good as reported, this was going to be a tough choice for me.

When we met Pete, he was cute, but was not for me — even in my budget. TrJ and I had the quiet, huddled conversation in the middle of the arena that I’ve seen in many buyers and their trainers. Pete’s trainer had described his behavior accurately and been totally honest. But what she didn’t manage to explain (either because she doesn’t quite see it any longer, or because I didn’t ask) was how tense he was through his back. The horse looked uncomfortable, and unfortunately not in a “this should be a quick fix” kind of way. His trainer said that several lameness vets had seen him, and couldn’t block or specifically diagnose anything, but she’d keep trying.

I didn’t expect to be able to make a decision so quickly, or to be able to see the same things that TrJ was concerned about. I felt badly, for sure. But, all things considered, it is probably best for everyone that the decision was a quick and easy one. I didn’t have to be traumatized by the idea that I might be passing over Mr. Right, Pete’s trainer didn’t need to worry about the potential sale, and Pete could move on to finding someone who is actually right for him.

A bit more than a week after passing on Pete, I visited Portland Meadows to look at a horse for a friend! I had seen this guy on a local Facebook group (Retiring Racehorses PNW). I’ve been window shopping there for months; since well before Murray every thought about retiring. Why? Because the PNW has cute thoroughbreds.

So off to Portland Meadows I went, on a very cold and totally PNW-drizzly day.


let’s just imagine Murray in this situation for a second. pretty sure it would involve lying down.

Fortunately, the vet’s office had a pretty efficient space heater, and they kindly let me stand right in front of it while they got organized with all of their appointments for the day. Once they were ready, the assistant vet drove us over to Rick’s shedrow (also not his real name). On the way, he gave me a run down of what he and the other vet would be doing for the PPE, why, and what kinds of things might come up. This was cool, because the last PPE I attended seriously was Murray’s, back in 2015. That was a while ago, and I definitely appreciated the refresher.

Rick was amazing. I’d seen pictures of this guy online, and I’ve seen all advice of making sure to see horses (particularly ottbs) in person because they are so much more than their confo pics. But damn. I did not expect quite such a hunk of horseflesh to step out of the stall when I met him. He was on the smaller side, but well muscled, sleek, and absolutely looked like an athlete. And his brain! OMG. This horse let the vets flex the crap out of him and the most obnoxious thing he did was throw his head up. Maybe I have fucked up expectations because of Murray, but he was easy to handle, inquisitive, and quiet. He had a touch of that aloof attitude you sometimes see in track horses, but he appreciated a scratch on the withers and let me touch him all over without so much as picking up a foot. The brains!!! I really can’t wait to buy myself a set of those. Like, the good ones.


I found this guy sleeping in one of the stalls! soooo cute

Other than seeing a really amazing horse, there were a BUNCH of cool things that I learned about Portland Meadows and the vets there. In California, track vets get a tough rep. Because they work mostly for the trainers, they are viewed as biased and not necessarily trustworthy when it comes to PPEs on the track. As a result, lots of people I know who buy (or bought) from the track do so without a veterinarian examining the horse.

Not so with the Portland Meadows vets. Both the assistant and head veterinarian made a point to disclose to me that they do work for this trainer, but they would be as unbiased as possible in their exam. During the PPE, they explained what they were seeing to me, talked about what might be concerning, and asked the owner/trainer lots of questions. At no point did I feel like they were seeing something that they maybe didn’t want me to see or hear. So +100 for the Portland Meadows vets.

Next, the horses at Portland Meadows. I didn’t see every barn there, obviously. But the horses I saw were a great weight, looked happy, and were very well taken care of. This isn’t actually in contrast to the California tracks I’ve been to — for the most part, horses there looked pretty good too. But I’ve seen my fair share of OTTBs looking a little shitty or thin in their pics. Portland Meadows might not be a rich or a popular track, but they do as much as they can with what they have. (Also, the horses on that FB group seem to be really well put together, for the most part!)

I know horse shopping often becomes a drag after a while, and I’m sure I’ll get to that point too. But for now, window shopping++ has been pretty fun! And very, very interesting.


hello I am very cute and have a super excellent JC name

Let’s talk for a second about what “done paying bills” means. I mean logically, sure. It means the trainer takes a lien out on your horse and gets to keep or sell it as they see fit. But what person picks up a horse, intends to keep it and/or pay board on it, and then is just “done” after six or nine or twenty months? It doesn’t work that way! The bills keep on coming! The horse still needs feed and shoes and supplements! Sure, you can be done, and give your horse away to a good home — but that doesn’t happen instantly. And it’s not like telling your trainer or seller that you’re not going to pay any more board makes the sale happen any faster.

So yeah, I think that’s super weird.

rebound pony

If you spend any amount of time at my barn when the horses are in, it’s utterly impossible to miss the world’s cutest pony poking his nose out at you from his stall.

Sammy believes — rightly so — that he’s entitled to ALL THE TREATS

So when TrJ mentioned that I might do all right on this pony in Murray’s absence I immediately jumped at the offer. I love ponies. I love that I’m the right size to ride ponies. I love all their sassy, awful, hilarious, naughty behaviors (for a little while, at least). I love that it’s weirdly acceptable for ponies to be like that, and I especially love that it’s really not my responsibility to change that!

After a quick tune-up lesson on Sammy before trying out that horse before Christmas (a very interesting experience on its own), TrJ invited me to join a group jump lesson on him before deciding if I wanted to lease him. And after that jump lesson I was hooked — this pony is one cool mofo.

too cool for you

I was a little nervous when we were warming up for the jump lesson. I hadn’t jumped since August, after all, and hadn’t really ridden at all since September. Also, the last time I jumped a horse who isn’t Murray was basically this time last year, or much earlier than that if you don’t count Sookie.

But when we trotted down to that first X, Sammy was like “oh sweet, I got this.”

just let him at those fences

I’ve never ridden a pony with a solid flatwork foundation; most of the time it’s a bit like “okay well do your best at steering and get him pointed to the fences, he’ll take over from there”. But Sammy is cute and fancy and actually knows how to go on the bit, and has a shockingly big, forward stride for a little guy.

In our flat lesson, TrJ coached me through getting Sammy even and pushing into both of the reins. He’s got a tendency to fall over his right shoulder in both directions, and doesn’t want to connect to that right rein. TrJ really had me focus on resisting the urge to pull on one or the other rein and bend him with my leg, which is obviously just super basic dressage stuff but is SO HARD when you’re used to riding your own horse your own way.

apparently not yet a fan of selfies

We’ve jumped twice now, and I can tell he’s going to be excellent at helping me break some bad habits. He sometimes starts drifting off to the left of a fence, and of course when you pull on that right rein he’s like “super duper, I’m going to keep going way from that”. But when you just ride him between your legs and keep him straight to the fence? No problem.

A couple of people have suggested I take him out and show him this Spring, which would be a ton of fun. I’m not yet sure how that fits into the bigger picture of savings + horse buying, but we’ll see. TrJ really wants me to get him out, as his other rider (an actual child) isn’t quite ready to show Sammy, and he’s quite the favourite around the barn. Also, he’s fast and used to win jumper classes I guess, and it would probably be fun to see him getting out and doing that again.

also he makes the cutest begging faces

There’s an absolute bucket of reasons this pony is perfect for me right now. He’s much more trained than I am, so I can really work on myself and apply all of my biomechanics cult lessons. He’s a confident guy on the flat and over fences, but doesn’t give everything away for free, so I’ll still have to work for it. And he’s the cutest thing ever, whose greatest flaw is his hard-held belief that every time we pass the gate he deserves a cookie (there’s a jar “hidden” there for after lessons).

The other huge benefit to leasing Sammy is that I’ll be much, much less likely to impulse buy something stupid. I’m not usually that impulsive of a person, but I’ve got terrible taste in horses. At least, that’s what the record suggests. But if I’m working on myself and having fun with Samuel over here, then the horse-shaped void will be at least partially filled. And maybe I’ll only need like two or five dogs to fill in the rest.

Sammy is my rebound pony, and I’m totally cool with that. He’s cute and fun and we are going to have a great time together.

such a different view!

2018, in summary

It is tempting to just brush away 2018 and fill the horse-shaped hole in my life with seven new dogs. But when I had a look back at my goals list for last year, I was not as disappointed as I thought I would be. Goal setting and review is an important part of the learning process for me. I was not so blindingly optimistic at the beginning of 2018 as I have been in past years. Apparently a little bit of the realities of pony life had sunk in, and I was thinking in a more holistic way about my own goals. Let’s do more of that this year!


fave show picture by far

Five year goal (Murray) — have the horse competing at training and being a real solid horsey citizen, know if the horse can go prelim or not

Obviously, that’s a wash. Though I do have an answer about whether Murray can go prelim.

Five year goal (Nicole) — savings habits (shooting for a rig by 2023), career position, being less of an idiot with money

Moving to Oregon and changing jobs made my actual savings take a huge hit this year, but my savings habits are way better in spite of that. I’m definitely in a new career position, one that seems like it could be pretty incredible. It’s to be seen if the truck and trailer will happen any time soon, but we’re definitely on track here.

 

“this horrifying transformer sometimes dispenses cookies!”

We started the year barefoot, barely in work, and not toootally sound. But things were looking up, because taking a new training approach to Murray’s fear of girthing and new things was actually going really well. The Good (equine) Citizen With No Shortcuts program was on track. We developed a lot of patience while tied, and I was actually able to tack my horse up at a straight tie ring like a normal human. LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN. Or equestrian, whatever. The leg hole healed up, and after deciding that Murray’s feet were doing well but just not well enough to hold up to being barefoot, we threw the shoes back on and got back to work.

favourite funny horse pic this year — yeeeaaah, that was easy
(also, future horse requirement: does not lie down on XC)

We got back to work in March, and went XC schooling in April. This knocked off part one of my goal to go two new places (my MIL’s house was the second). Murray was full of all the piss and vinegar that he is known for while schooling. Retrospectively, I wonder if that was an early sign of his foot pain. Hard to say. I’m not trying to be an asshole and rule it out, but we can’t pretend that Murray was ever an un-opinionated horse even when he was feeling super duper A+. So.

oh man, was that really my horse?

In April we also had our first of 2 clinics, both biomechanics focused with Alexis Martin-Vegue. These were nothing short of life-changing, and I’m so, so, so glad that Megan and Kate mentioned Alexis as a possible clinician.

In May we did nothing — I ran the WSS HT again, of course — and in June we had our aborted attempt at a rated Novice at Camelot. I had an amazing time there even though I didn’t finish, and Murray looked on point with his tail  braided.

ok you can’t see his tail here, but it was magnificent.
and this coat is still my favourite thing that I bought.

July and August were spent cramming in as many lessons with Megan and Kate as I could before we moved. I also definitely took 4+ dressage lessons — I had four alone with Megan, two with Kate, and of course the aforementioned two biomechanics + dressage lessons. And we made amazing progress — Murray’s trot was so fun before we moved. There were rides where we were in such sync biomechanically that all I had to do was put my leg on a bit and keep my post slow and Murray’s trot was shooting off over the ground.  If I could have kept him sound for just dressage, I totally would have.

In mid-August I moved to Oregon, and Murray hung out in California for a while longer. In mid September, he took the long haul up here to our new barn, and his slide into retirement began. First with a pigeon fever scare, then with what appeared to be the sorest hocks on the planet, and finally some really fucked up feet.

Through it all, I can definitely say that I kept Murray’s health and soundness the priority, and we didn’t just play with the idea of pasture board in evaluating his living situation. He’s now retired full-time in pasture.

favourite non-mine horse that I got to ride: Levi! also, Murray’s favourite boyfriend.

This year we did not get to 3 Novice HTs — we didn’t even finish the one we did enter — or a single dressage show. And the sitting trot got thrown away again. I did work on my sitting trot on Murray more than I ever have, with lessons from Alexis and Megan to help me develop the seat and trot I needed to actually sit. But when your horse goes lame, working on skills like that take a back seat (duh). I also didn’t work without stirrups once a week or put out cavaletti once a week. Oops. Finally: we didn’t tackle those cross ties. I don’t even think we tried them once.

However, I can successfully say that I absolutely did not burn the skin off my horse’s leg(s) this year!! Yeah, you thought it was a gimme goal, but who knew I’d even do it the first time? Also, as a massive bonus goal, I got really comfortable hauling after I borrowed my MIL’s rig and hauled Murray ~400 miles in about five days. (I then hauled the same rig to Oregon full of all our shit, and now I’m really, really, really comfortable hauling. Holy shit the Siskiyou and Klamath mountains are no fucking joke.)


favourite moment on horseback was definitely tackling this huge mf’ing down bank where I sprained my knee in 2017 on our first go like it was nbd

Okay, so how did I do on my personal goals? Well, I did not save the aforementioned pile of money or go to Kenya. While I would never have chosen for Murray to need retirement if I had the choice, I cannot pretend that this wasn’t a great time for it to happen if it had to. Moving and changing careers and jumping into functional-home-ownership (oh and having a wedding) is freaking expensive. And getting to take a break from paying full board + shoes + supplements + lessons is letting me recover a bit.

while I wouldn’t say this moment specifically was my favourite out of the saddle moment, the whole day was a huge party and a ton of fun (once I got done stress weeping)

I slept a ton more this year — especially at that Camelot show where I got to hoard the whole gooseneck to myself and it was so glorious. I need to work on my sleep/wake cycle a bit better, because I am quite productive in the mornings but I also like to stay up late watching netflix, and those two things just don’t really go together. I prioritized my personal life, and worked hard at not letting my desire to have a fullfullfull schedule get in the way of spending time with my partner or my friends or my Jellinore.

I was also really ruthless last year. In good ways and bad. I decided it was time for a change and packed up and moved to Oregon. I decided pretty instantly that Murray would be getting retired and no special treatment when his feet looked bad. I’m getting the feeling there will been a need for ruthlessness next year as well.

I did not learn a new computer skill (except extending my talent for breaking them, of course), or run 52 times (I probably went on close to 30 runs), or conquer 3 pull ups. But I’m not feeling too lost without those things. I can try again this year, if I want.

I did travel thousands of miles, see a natural wonder of the world, and squeeze my MIL’s humongous rig into a really narrow spot at a gas station without having to back up a single time (it’s a full bed + extra long cab + long WB-sized sundowner straight load) and I didn’t even scratch it this time.

There is so much to get done this year — the house needs a ton of work, there are so many bad riding habits for me to roll back and new skills to learn, so many new paths to pursue.

2019 is going to be wild, even if I don’t end up getting seven new dogs.

I mean, I could get one more. That would be cool, as long as Jellinore doesn’t mind.

she’s definitely going t mind for at least 0.07 seconds

 

shopping for a horseless horse blogger

I love gifting. I love getting gifts, and I love giving them. Most of the time. There are a few people who are absurdly hard to shop for (like my husband — though I am comforted in the fact that he finds me even harder to shop for), but for the most part I really enjoy the process of learning about people through their blogs and finding a gift that will be both useful and lovely in their lives. Or maybe just one or the other, if that’s what they would prefer.

Basically, I like to give joy.

So obviously, I love the blogger gift exchange.

So say we all!

But I’ll absolutely admit that I’m awful to shop for in general. I often can’t think of anything I want that’s any kind of reasonable gift, and correspondingly, I don’t really have any small trinket-y type things that I lust after (I don’t even remember what I put down as “hints” this year). I’m probably really repressed.

And this year, to top it all off, I don’t even have a fracking horse.

Oh, to really top it all off, I have a stupid PO box that I have to remember to go and check so I couldn’t even get my gift on the day it actually arrived.

Fortunately, there are people in this world who know what it’s like to be temporarily horseless, and have a pretty good idea of what one wants in that situation: booze accessories.

Britt cleverly got me a unicorn wine stopper, a pair of fuzzy socks, and a lovely print of a chimp! Fuzzy socks not pictured because I already wore them and now they’re in the wash. This fabulous gift has already gotten some mileage, because NYE and Friendsgiving meant that wine was in ample supply at my house (which actually, it always is).

To top it all off, Britt checked in to make sure my gift hadn’t been lost in the mail, and commiserated with me about retiring ponies and horse shopping. This part is actually the first best thing about blogging: making new friends.

The chimp print will be framed and hung in the office after I have repainted, and the socks will obviously enter regular winter rotation.

Thanks a thousand times to Tracy, for hosting!

what comes next?

One of the reasons I pushed things along this fall when we were diagnosing Murray was my impending vacation. I spent three weeks in Australia in November/December. Once it became clear to me that there was something more serious going on with the horse, I knew I wanted it sorted before I left. I did not need to spend my vacation trying to negotiate appointments and diagnostics with vets, or making big decisions about the future. I wanted things done and dusted — as much as possible — before I left.

For better or worse, that turned out to be a pretty simple request.

As of right now Murray is safely ensconced in his new pasture, making friends with all the geldings around him. He’s definitely gotten the memo that he’s retired, and has tested us several times with his semi-feral antics. Fortunately, my MIL is no fool. She knows the value of a good mannering halter and a carroty bribe.

So. What comes next?

disorganized aubrey plaza GIF

I can’t deny that retiring Murray has made my life simpler financially. Moving took a bigger hit on my finances than I expected, especially with the added expense of vet bills and hauling to get Murray to and fro. From that perspective, I’m very okay with hitting pause on horse ownership for a minute.

I’m not interested in hitting pause forever (I guess that’s called “stop”), or indefinitely. My ideal situation would be a six-ish month break — long enough to allow me to recoup my finances, ride a bunch of different horses, unlearn some bad habits, and think deeply about what I want in a pony partner. Then I’d start shopping in early summer (lesbehonest — I’ll be window shopping the whole time), but without a firm timeline so I could really wait until the right horse comes along. (My budget isn’t going to be huge even if I do manage to save save save for the first half of the year).

But real life rarely fits into our plans, so I’m going to go look at a horse today.

The Good Place GIF

I KNOW, I know. That isn’t the plan at all, Nicole! But I got a hot tip from someone I really trust that this guy is pretty cool and needs a home like yesterday, which his price reflects. I talked to the trainer and didn’t get any red flags. He’s close. His history is pretty good. TrJ knows the trainer who is selling him, and she thinks he’s promising.

If he’s perfect and he vets, I’ll think about making an offer. (Quite legitimately not sure I’m ready to pony up for all the accessories that a new horse needs RIGHT AWAY — two blankets, saddle fitting, potential new saddle, shoes, chiro, supplements, massage, etc. etc. so and and so forth in perpetuity.)

So we only move forward there if he’s PERFECT.

Otherwise, I told TrJ that I’d like to get into lessons and possibly lease, if she has someone available. She hemmed a bit on that, since all of her horses are leased out. She mentioned that I might do alright with one of her lesson ponies, and when I was like “I love ponies” she said, “Well, he’s actually a very cool pony.”


cutest little mofo around

For the forseeable future, there will be pony rides. And I am SO excited.