Monday, November 30, 2015

Finding Me

It might be easiest to pick up this blog where I left off (forever and a day ago) with Derbies!

And Pretty Ribbons!

OK that's a poop brown ribbon but it's pretty to me in a national derby out of 40+ horses!

And a classic where I was 13th out of a zillion and missed the cut by half a point because I am an idiot and forgot to ask for a lead change not that I’m still bitter or anything.

However, I have been encouraged by a few to write my story of finding me, so I will. Besides, it would be reticent of me to just ignore this part, and pretend like it never happened

DH and I worked very hard to get pregnant. There were a series of heartbreaks, trials, issues, surgeries and other fun things. So I will start this blog by stating I understand how lucky I am. I understand that the LO (Little One) is a blessing beyond belief, and that I should be grateful for every minute I was pregnant, and every minute I have with my son.

That said, I can say with all of my heart I have not struggled as much as I did when I (finally) got pregnant, and honestly still continue to find hard at times.

I have defined myself as a “horse girl” for as long as I can remember. You know the kind (if you’re a reader of this blog and don’t know the kind, clearly you’ve lost your way). The barn rat who lives and breathes horses. Growing up I spent all free time, summers, vacations, mornings, afternoons, and nights with horses. Since then I have found a way to keep horses in my life at all costs. In college I worked three jobs, Nanny, Shot Girl, and Technology analyst at the same time (true story). When entering the work world, I would skip out on team lunches to get to the barn early, used my vacation time to go to shows, and have since done anything and everything to make it work.

Then I got pregnant, and felt my world crashing in on me. Even through all of my other roles in life, I was defined as a horse girl first (just ask my coworkers how boring I am speaking nothing of horses horses horses all the time, good thing my friends understand). Now suddenly it became clear to me that I would be mommy first. Call it a 1/3 life crisis, call it an unexpected side effect, but my panic about my self-identity was all encompassing. I felt both terrified and sad, then guilty in a cyclical succession. How could I possibly change me?

My path through was thankfully filled with support from my unbelievable DH, some amazing friends, and in the end the world’s cutest baby (if I do say so myself). I hacked TJ up until 33 weeks, and still got on at week 37 to walk around. I was so swollen I could barely get my paddock boots on, much less zipped, and my half chaps were more like sausage casings (I was fun a parties, that much is for sure). But, I was on, and was that all that mattered.

From the other side of pregnancy, having a beautiful, healthy baby boy, I’d love to say that it’s all rainbows and sunshine. But there are days (all of them…) that all I really want to do is go to the barn and all I really can do is fold more onsies. I might be mom first but the horse girl isn’t far behind. 

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that I juuuuust might have bought a little something to keep me entertained for a few years. Meet Wesson

Maybe, just maybe I will set aside time to blog more often, and be more connected to this world instead of baby world. Here’s to hoping.       

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Working (Pregnant) Rider + WEF Day 2 - Really, officially Day 1, in my head.

“Previously on The Working Rider” –  Goals were made, dreams were broken, confidence shattered, and the Working Rider was completely ill prepared for what became the most trying horse show experience of her life. Stay tuned for more!

It was suggested on the Chronicle of the Horse Bulletin Boards that my blog is like following a soap opera. Although I’m not sure how to digest this allegory, I can’t deny what might be an accurate description.

So first, for the big announcement of the day, yes I am pregnant! I found out in mid-January. Being the reasonable person I am, the only logical thing I could think to do was to add two weeks of showing in Gulfport onto the already planned four in Wellington. I mean, why not? If everything worked out it would be my last showing (horses) of the season and what could possibly go wrong with this plan? Not even one thing. Hahahahahahhahhaaha

Really, considering it was my first trimester, I wasn’t affected that much. But between 12-16 hour work days (work was crazy crazy), 6 am hacks, stressful showing, and often hanging up on my last conference call after midnight, I flat out did not have any energy to do anything. Including write this blog. I took notes, dreamed of the days when my fingers would fly across the keyboard chronicling my days, and hoped that I would return to writing when things settled down a bit.  

That day is today, and thus I continue with….

Day 2

I think we can all agree that Day 1 should really just be forgotten about. I retired from the eq ring eons ago, and maybe I should have just stuck to my hand dropping, shoulder hunching guns. DC was just showing me the light that I didn’t want to equitate anyway and Medals are for those just graduating into the younger adult section, not those about to graduate from it. By the way, freaked out about my last younger year? Nooooo not me!

I began Day 2 with much excitement of getting back into the show ring with my ever trusty TJ. If there ever was a confidence builder, he is it. Having owned him for exactly 7 years now, we’ve built a relationship of just knowing that the other side will be there for better (International Derbies! Championships! 3’6 hunters) and for worse (Crashes! Lameness! Choke!). TJ is currently leased to a lovely adult rider who lets me borrow him on occasion for my own enjoyment and some assurance that I am more than just a monkey with two feet in the stirrups.

The plan was to hack DC in the morning, while Kelley (a lovely young pro) did TJ, and then I would lightly jump TJ to start my confidence back up after the previous day. In even better news, my division was scheduled for the aforementioned Rost arena where I had had great experiences the previous year, AND felt very ready for. I thought about having confidence, but then realized that was a terrible idea.

DC hacked great for me, light in the bridle, forward off my leg, and in a generally pleasant mood (as we know mood means a lot for DC). I hopped on TJ and honestly had some dead good riding going on. I was straight, had good rhythm, and was really finding the jumps nicely. Matt, being incredibly impressed that I could actually ride a horse and not just pretend like I used to know how, sent me away after only a few jumps to save him for later. 

I’d love to say I spent the morning wandering the show grounds, doing some shopping, finding the best food, and having a generally good time. But, in light of my work demands, all of my days were spent looking something like this:

The working rider: Laptop, MiFi, and lunch in my cooler. I really know how to glam it up in WEF.

In the official order of go, I was 8th on DC and 17th on TJ. A little pleading and I was allowed to switch their places. I REALLY needed my TJ crutch to get me in the ring with a bit less “kick, pull, lean, miss” and a bit more “hand and leg together, rhythm, collection, straightness.” Riding is so easy; the horse does all of the work after all.

I wandered by TJ’s stall, and he definitely seemed ready to conquer the world.

If TJ were to pick a hobby, sleep would be #1 on the list.

Warming up on TJ, I felt exactly as I needed to feel. I saw the jumps well, knew he would take care of any BS I were to throw his way in the ring, and ready. Since it was a Saturday, I as lucky enough to have a cheering squad/videographer in the sometimes roommate. 

Looking back watching the video, you can almost see my nerves being expressed through his canter as I jittered my way around the course.

We were close, we were long, we had a hard rub, but we also survived, and were less than embarrassing.

For the Handy, I took a deep breath and actually did less jittering and more riding

I missed my inside turn after the trot jump, but my transition was beautiful, and it really was quite decent.

To be completely honest, TJ is not the winner at that level of competition, but he IS worth his weight in gold as he hauls my butt around the 3’3 A/Os and on the same weekend successfully navigates a Low Adult division. Not to mention the confidence he gave me getting on my gray beast.

Who basically was amazing. Given the fact that the previous day was a true torture session in the ring, I halfway expected the opinionated DC to come out with the opinion that horse showing wasn’t for him. Thankfully, though opinionated he’s also forgiving, and truly stepped it up in a BIG way.

We walked into the ring with a good calm, a confident stride and laid down a very nice course:

In the handy we were a bit sticky in the rollback, and our trot was a bit rough in the transition, but overall it was good as well. I even remembered my inside turn!

The line -> trot jump sequence was a tough one for many riders. I’ll tell you that although mine was not the best, it certainly wasn’t the worst, and I actually trotted!

In the end I jogged second and second on DC

Aren’t they pretty!?

And even jogged 10th on TJ in the handy!

Considering we are going to pretend Day 1 didn’t exist, the "real" Day 1 could not have gone better. Two pretty red ribbons and a black horse that is the kindest animal in the world. 

What more could I want??

Thursday, February 12, 2015

WEF Day 1 (2015)

A quick synopses of the day after our arrival in Wellington:

  1. Go to barn, check on horses
  2. TJ isn’t eating, generally seems unwell, and is dehydrated. Panic panic panic, make a million phone calls, panic panic some more, rush around to find the meds that I (accidentally left at home), panic panic.
  3. DC is pacing and pawing. Panic panic, he’s not going to settle, panic panic
  4. Realize I’m about to miss my plane, panic panic, oh God, my flight leaves in a half hour panic panic

Right, so that went well….

On to day 1!

Honestly? I’d prefer if I didn’t have to call this day one given how well day 2 went (foreshadowing), but nevertheless….

You can imagine my excitement as I arrived to the show grounds bright and early, with such confidence as I

  • Knew my way around and
  • Had nothing but glowing reports about DC all week

We were starting in the unassuming Rost arena, where we had had much success in the previous year.

With this confidence, I walked to my stalls only to get a (ping!) text from Matt. “You’ve been moved to Grand, make sure you hack there.”

I can promise you, at this moment a few choice words were muttered by yours truly. Grand was where the epic melt down happened in the previous year. And although horses might not have memories like Elephants, I do.

With trepidation, I walked to the Grand to do my morning hack, and joined about 5,000 of my closest friends

Immediately I was reminded that although a “fancy” horse, DC has NOTHING on the quality you see of the average competitor at WEF. Cresty necked beauties that were 10 movers (if you think you’ve seen a 10 mover, think again) sauntered merrily around the ring looking all perfect.

Meanwhile me and a DC tried to manage a reasonable hack without

  • Biting anyone around us
  • Squealing with joy at the sight of the pretty bay horses (him, not me)
  •   Making a general fool of ourselves.

I had obtained success and was feeling generally good about my hack. I should learn to be less confident.

As we walked around sniffing the jumps and thinking about how amazing we were going to be later in the day, we walked up to a particular jump that had a nice astroturf ground line. Great, fine, all good, and then as I turned him to walk to the next jump, he thought maybe the ground line was actually meant to be stepped on. Except it wasn’t. His knee buckled he fell over himself taking a walking step, and we ended up on our knees blinking stupidly as he couldn’t quite figure out how he went from standing perfectly nicely to on his knees on the ground.

Please note that my #1 goal for this year was to not make a fool of myself at WEF.

This is why I do not make goals.

For our plan for the first show day was to do the Ariat adult  medal as a nice warm up for the A/O. Fantastic plan. Until it wasn’t. Honestly, I’ve not had a worse moment of absentee-riding in my entire life. I walked into the ring and froze. Call it PTSD, call it nerves, call it the horrific. Whatever it is, it was bad. I will save you the recount of the horribleness fence by fence, but know that we had one stop, one run chip, one pull pull pull and nothing, and a horse that was grinding his teeth in anger by the time I walked out of the ring.

Please note that my #1 goal for this year was to not make a fool of myself at WEF.

This is why I do not make goals.

I came away feeling like I should either quit riding, drive myself and my horses back to Texas with my tail between my legs, or at very least, drop down a division. Matt loves when my confidence plummets. It’s his favorite part of having me as a customer, I promise.

A series of pep talks and a little ride on my favorite TJ, and we decided to stick with the plan of the 3’3 A/Os on both horses. For that, I am thankful, as we will all find out about in DAY 2!!!!!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Countdown to WEF!

In trying to prepare for Epic Winter Tour (EWT) 2015, I decided I needed a strict program, lots of lessons, and a strong exercise program so we could be as ready as possible. This pretty much worked just about as well as weather, horses, and work would allow it.

Stage 1 – A week at Woodhill

After ending on a sub-par note at the Thanksgiving and Christmas shows in December in Texas, Matt and I agreed that spending a week at Woodhill in January couldn’t be the worst thing in the world for either of us. The plan was to take the horses on Friday, lesson over the weekend, and leave them there until the next weekend for Matt to ride and then more lessons before heading home. Unfortunately due to my work schedule, I absolutely had to be in Austin Friday afternoon and Sunday morning (remember Woodhill is 3.5 hours away north of Ft. Worth in Northlake). As a result I coerced DH into going on a one day turn around trip up to the Farm, ride 5 horses, and back to Austin. Leaving at 5 am, some excellent lessons, a truck stuck in the mud, and a shutdown highway later, and we were back in Austin just shy of 2 am. Seriously, my husband is the best.

Over the next week I got excellent reports on DC with texts such as “considering the weather, he wasn’t bad” and “well he’s straighter now, I hope.” Raving reports I tell you.
The second weekend I was actually able to do consecutive days of riding and got to school both TJ and DC in the big field. We prepared for WEF by jumping this:

And this:

And this:


Just kidding, that we tried to walk by, spooked 5 feet and I almost came off. How great of a story would that have been? “How’d you come off?” “Oh I was walking by the water jump.” “Jumping the water jump?” “No, just walking.”

Both horses were great all weekend, and I felt like I had some good homework for the next two weeks.

Stage 2a – Two weeks at home with lots of work

Stage 2b – Pray it stops raining

Stage 2c – Realize it’s not going to stop raining and pick my way through some grass like areas trying to just keep the horses in shape.

Stage 2d – 30 degrees and freezing rain -- Just give up and start dreaming of Florida and 85 degrees. Who needs prep anyways?


Fantastically, the drive to Wellington was mostly uneventful. No polar vortex related traffic, no colicky horses, just the awesome BFFs DC and TJ hanging in the trailer being their angelic selves.

However, I can tell you that if you need a friend at an Ag station, Howard at the Escambia County office is the man to know. Howard and I became close as the coggins I printed wasn’t signed, my Health Certs didn’t match the other paperwork, and the State Veterinarian wanted to quarantine me for 24 hours. I placed a panicked phone call to my vet, had new paperwork emailed to me, and then sent to my new BFF Howard. Bless his heart, he printed it for me, sent an online copy to the State Vet, and got me out of the quarantine restrictions. Thank God for small favors by Howard who clearly went above and beyond to help get me to my destination.

Stage 4 – Arrive!!!!

We arrived to the PBEC at a decent time of 5pm, which seemed decent until I realized the daunting task of everything that needed to be done to settle the horses. We are stabled this year on the show grounds instead of one of the farmettes offsite. Our long term stalls were full, so we had some layover stalls on grounds. After finally heading to my winter home (I’m the sometimes roommate) at 11pm, I crashed with dreams of those blue ribbons that I was sure to win, or something.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Chronicle of the Horse, they actually published me!

Honestly, until I got my first comment on facebook, I thought perhaps COTH was going to call me up and say "just kidding, we're going to profile someone who matters, let's say someone with a name like Margie or Beezie."

The chances were high really.

But, as it turns out they really were serious about publishing my article

AND adding me to their blog roll

Ok that's pretty much all I've got.

But really. What else can be said?

Monday, January 12, 2015

News! News! News!

As alluded to in my last blog of 2014, there are some new and exciting things happening in the world of mis caballos and my little blog in 2015.

1. New barn! In a fortunate turn of events, two stalls opened up at a barn that is four, count them FOUR minutes from my house. Sometimes when traffic isn’t bad I can make it in three and a half. Please try to hold back your jealousy of my new commute. Granted, I am paying a premium for the location, but given the time I am getting back during my day, and that it’s directly on the way home, well worth it. Both horses seemed to settle right in to their new digs, and this is DC’s new view.

The first day there I might have gone out three times just to check on them. Obsessive?  Maybe, but it’s FOUR MINUTES AWAY. Try not to be green with envy.

2. Chronicle of the Horse (part a)! In November, COTH reached out to me regarding writing an article about WEF from a working amateur perspective. After much consternation over each word written, I turned in my article at the end of December. I really think they It’s due to be included in the January 19th printed issue, and will also be online. They’re even including pictures of me and DC competing. He’ll be like, famous and stuff. Just don’t tell him, he already thinks he’s hot enough stuff.

3. Chronicle of the Horse (part b)! In addition to the article, COTH has asked me to be featured as a regular blogger for their “voices” section of the website. It’s an incredible honor that they asked me to participate. I believe that anything I write will be posted both here and there, but let’s just guess what will get more reads??! Ha.

4. WEF 2015! Hold your breath, knock on wood, cross your fingers, and any other superstition you can add in for no soundness, colic, suicidal horse issues, and we are headed back to WEF for four weeks in 2015. Not only that, but DC will have some company in the form of a big black horse named TJ. The Adventures of Yin and Yang will be the title of my best-selling book, sounds like a winner right?

5. Time Warps! I’ve decided the best way to finish out my 2014 show year is via time warps. If one shows up, know that it is likely something that I did ages ago. Perhaps the 6 month perspective on THE WORST TRIP HOME FROM COLORADO EVER KNOWN TO MAN will be beneficial. No, actually maybe not.

So, 2015, heeeere we go!