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Friday, October 28, 2011

Pony Day Success!

Yesterday was pony day!!!! And the day before that!

It feels GREAT to be back in the saddle. 

Of course....there's a problem.  There's ALWAYS a problem that comes up ANYTIME you finally get around summoning up the motivation and time to do something you want to do. 

Planning on running a marathon?  Plan on getting the flu in week 1 of your training.

Planning on training for an LD?  Plan on a lame horse before you even start.

OK - I'm extraggerating.  She's not lame.  Both her fronts are equally filled. 

"Has she been lame?" I asked.  "Oh no!", my family members rushed to reassure me.  They then regaled me the tale of Farley dashing around the pasture like a CRAZY horse the night before.  My Dad actually walked out of the house with a (unspecified weapon...) and a spot light ready to defend the honor (and hide) of his daughter's precious Tevis horse.  But there was nothing.  The family decided that the CCCRRRRAAAAZZZZYYYYY arab brain had finally emerged. 

She trots out sound, isn't ouchy on palpation and it's equally filled on both fronts.  The ground in the pasture is VERY hard right now and it's plausible she over did it on her nighttime gallop.  It happens.  I've decided that it's HIGHLY unlikely that my ass on her back, asking her to walk/trot on good footing is going to matter one way or another since she insists on being a moron, and as long as the filling goes away nicely in a couple of days, she stays sound I'm not going to worry about it. 

Day 1 I rode....dressage.

Farley has evidently is tiring of being called fat and Hallejuiah!, the dressage girth fits.

Once I got over the initial shock of "Farley is a chia pet" (where did that winter coat come from?), we saddled up and mounted up.  I didn't spend a lot of time on mounting games - but she evidently gets the concept and it didn't take long to explain my expectations and enforce the criteria before we could get started.

I'm a much better rider than the last time I formally (meaning, tacked up and actually DOING something) rode Farley.  That fat little bay mare is going to have to come up with a whole 'nother list of evasion tactics because I got her number!  Ha!!!! Get in front of my leg, go to the connection, and stop curling behind the bit.

Day 2 I did a REAL trail ride.

A whole 20 minutes of real trail riding!  With TROTTING.  I marveled at my stable lower leg.  My independent seat.  My flexible, elastic elbows. 

And of course there were mounting games - both in the beginning and on the trail. WHOOOHOOO!!!!!

I'm really bummed I didn't keep better notes during my dressage lessons.  I guess I never considered I might be starting from the beginning again and I might need them to help me restart Farley or another horse.  The training records I do have deal mostly with time and effort - not outlining specific exercises and goals and progression.  I'm setting up and organizing a better training journal for Farley now, based on what I'm seeing in the agility world.  It might be too late to take advantage of my improved "system" for what I learned in my lessons - but at least I won't make the same mistake twice! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

The truth, without guilt

Honesty is the policy right?

This is me being totally honest. 

I haven't done any riding

I haven't done any mounting exercises

I haven't done any pony cuddling

I paid my sister to pick up manure for me last week.

I pay someone else to feed.

I paid someone else to come up with a solution to keep Farley from killing a tree that's in her pasture.

It's been a week since I saw my horse from a distance of closer than 50 feet.

It's been a week since I touched my horse. 

The truth is that I have been having a hard time taking care of myself.  The problem isn't time, or ability, or motivation. 

I thought that I had handled the transition from being single-my-time-and-money-is-my-own to most-definitely-committed rather well.  From a salaried part of the work force to a full time graduate student.  From no commute to a 1 hour 10 minute commute.  From a full time endurance rider, to an endurance rider of uncertain status. 

But the truth is that I have a lot of mental housekeeping and clean up to do. 

It's nothing new, but it's been exacerbated by the major changes.......

So, I wiped the slate clean.  Obviously my mental and physical health comes first, and while ponies and blogging are important to that mental health....there are some more basic needs that need to be cemented first.

You could call them my "foundations".  (remember how much I love foundation work?).

My foundation work is based in running.  Recently I was formally diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder.  Medication, which I tried, is not an option.  Running is the ONLY activity, besides sleeping, that my brain turns off.  Thus, when I realized I having a lot of trouble focusing in school and following through, as well as a very low frusteration threshold with Tess, I asked the question - how good is my foundation?  Where did my running go?  Why can't I manage this disorder as successfully now as I have in the past? 

The answer was it had somehow the most important foundation in my life, running and physical exercise, had disappeared in my life transitions. 

For the last 2 weeks I have focused on my physical well-being - specifically running.  With regular exercise, other parts of my foundation have clicked into place - nutrition, sleep, other physical activities and there has been a dramatic difference in my tolerance towards puppy behavior and significant others, and my focus in school.

With running now consistently a habit (the 'ole 14 day rule), I'm ready to add back the pony piece to my little "Mel's sanity pyramid".

Just like when I added the running piece - it doesn't matter WHAT I do as long as I do it and reestablish the habit of ponies.  Here's my plan.  Pony days (defined as any day I get out of school before 3pm) will include a ride.  A ride is defined as getting on Farley's back and actually exiting the gate on my parent's property.  Riding in any form seems to be the foundation piece of my pony time - so I fully expect that my mounting exercises and hoof care will fall into place when my riding does.  Just like my other "physical care" activities fell into place once I was regularly running. 

As usual, I will continue to blog the journey and continue to relate with honesty my endurance journey.  Blogging is important - feeling guilty because I've put ponies on hold for a relatively short time is unnecessary and not helpful.  So, I'm resisting the urge to fill the blog with contorted tales of woe and guilt.  I know what the issue is.  I know how to "fix" it.  I'm doing my best to do so.  I write of these struggles not to garner sympathy - but to share a very real part of my endurance journey -  Balancing my endurance riding with the other needs in my life, including the need to keep myself healthy and sane. 

I know that the stages of my endurance "journey" are not unique and it is my hope that by "keepin' it real" here at Boots and Saddles, inspires and comforts those readers and friends that are going through similar "valley". 

I'll see you at the top!  :)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Crawling out from underneath my rock....

I am almost officially done with my first block of vet school!

Almost, because even though I had the final for the block on Friday, there is a week of population health, and then a population health exam this Friday that is still technically part of the VET 401 block.

Being a pass/fail block that didn't affect my class standings I *may* not have put my best foot forward in studying. I went into the final with a mid to high B, and just didn't get around to studying for the final, with rather predictable results - I think I probably passed, but not with any great fan fare or a score I'll be particularly proud of.

So there you have it - I didn't post for a week, supposedly "studying" for this exam, only to confess my readers know that I somehow got distracted with puppies, birdwatching, and sleeping in...... :).

A much more entertaining (and hopefully horse-related) update soon. It's time for a bit of Tess play-time. We are working on backing up today - one of the last foundation behaviors I haven't started yet.

It's a perfect fall day, perfect for riding, napping, puppy play, or anything else I could possible wish to do! Ah the possibilities, considering that for the first time since school started I don't have anything officially I *should* be studying for!

Monday, October 17, 2011


With a big final coming up Friday, I have a feeling I probably won't get to write as many blog posts here as I would like.  Wish me luck on my final (our "foundations" block ends this week) and if you need entertainment, check out these posts:

Merri posts about an endurance horse that is a legend. 

A new blog - a local central valley rider is going barefoot

A well written post by Go Pony on the great debate that comes up EVERY year when people are stuck in front of their computers instead of riding because of the weather.  

And of course - more entertainment from Mrs Mom (and of course the entertainment value goes up, because what she writes is TRUE). 

Only 205 posts in Google reader to go.  And a bazillion things to study for Friday's exam.  And a puppy to play with.  And a pony to ride.  And naps.  *sigh*.  It's going to be a very long week.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stand - lesson 1

Wednesday was Pony Day!

In the new spirit of taking care of myself, I have declared any day that I get out of school before 3pm to be a pony day.

This week, that meant that there was a singular pony day, and I looked forward to it all week.

Isn't it's amazing how a little anticipation can add drive and excitement?  I felt a little thrill in the pit of my stomach as I drove over to the parents (checking out Chicken Man's place curiously as I drove by).

Of course, I had limited time and a whole lot of things I wanted to get done - which meant that Farley was invited to my sister's "rustic tea party".  Loreleigh paced around our upturned wicker basket and teapot, and waved her hands as she related her latest job hunting drama (somebody please hire her OK?  She's sweet, cute, and has a degree and managed to survive as a Walmart checker putting herself through school) as I trimmed feet.

We've had some wet weather and I was reminded how FUN trimming feet is in the spring and fall.  CHUNKS of sole were crumbling out of Farley's feet, exposing nice walls and sole and bars that my hoof knife sliced off and I was able to get a good roll of them without power tools for the first time since the spring.  WHOO HOO!  I ruthlessly took down the heels, backed up the toe, and held a conversation without a drop of sweat and zero swearing.  Amazing. 

Good thing because the next thing on my agenda was a workout.

Normally one doesn't consider mounting a horse the workout of the day.

Normally, one doesn't mount 50 times from each side, bareback, from a 2 step mounting block.

As I walked away from our session, legs trembling and more than a little sore, I was glad I had skipped my morning swim in favor of sleeping in.   (I know - what a bum!)

I approached session 1 as a test of Farley's understanding that she should stand while mounting.  We worked just outside the pasture gate, in a halter, bareback.  I asked her to stand and stood on the mounting block.  I ran my hands over her, swung my leg over, and flopped around.  Then I started vaulting on.  I switched sides often, completing approximately 50 bareback mounts from each side.

She attempted to move off 3 times - once before I started mounting, and then twice after I had vaulted on.  All the "failures" were early in the session. 

Each time I corrected her by moving her back into position, and then repeated the exercise.

Thoughts on session 1

Based on Farley's performance, I think I can assume that she understands the concept of standing while being mounted.  The next step will be to expose her to more and more distracting situations, while asking for the same behavior.

I'm learning in dog training that it's important to maintain a high success rate during the entire session - not just near the end.  In its entirety, this session had a 94% success rate - a rate high enough I'm comfortable moving to the next stage.  Once I reach a situation where the success rate in a session drops below 80%, even if I get many successful attempts near the end of the session, I will stay at that "distraction level" until I'm getting a compliance rate above 90% for the entire session. 

I'm first working the "stand" as an exercise in mounting because I think it's the situation that Farley understands the best in conjunction with stand, and it's the one that's the clearest for me to enforce. 

The plan

At the next session I will start adding tack.  If everything goes well, the next session after that will be new locations - the road (private, dirt) in front of my parents property, on the trail etc.  I'll continue using the mounting block for now, since in the beginning I want to do lots of repetitions and mounting from the ground puts a greater strain on her back.  So far, I don't feel the need for additional "tools" to teach the concept like clickers or treats etc. - she seems to know the concept (after all - this isn't the first time I've tried working on this concept with her) so I'll focus on being consistent and progressive for now.  I foresee using other reinforcements, such as the clicker, when I start working on our pulse check stand. 

As always - feedback is welcomed! [and if you want to head over to Tess's blog and give advice there - it would be greatly appreciated too!  What little I know about horses, I know even less about dogs.... :)]

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Clicker training the stand?

I was sitting in class today, day dreaming (as usual) about endurance, blogs, puppies.

I've been toying with the idea of doing some clicker training with Farley.  Specifically, the stand. 

The one issue that continues to frusterate the hell out of me is that she won't consistently stand.  MOST of the time she does, but when it counts - likely she'll keep moving her feet.  Getting frusterated doesn't help.  Jerking on the halter doesn't help. Me yelling, whispering, pleading, doesn't help.  Being consistent kinda helps.....but she ignores the cue as often as she obeys it, and from my dog training lessons I know I am diluted the cue by using it when she doesn't obey I need to get the behavior first.

I'm learning from Tess that if something is hitting my (unfortunately too low) frustration threshold, it's because I'm missing a foundation piece.

Which brings me back to my Bingo moment.


The Stand I'm trying to teach Farley is identical in principle to the Recall I'm trying to install in Tess.

Today, I started playing a very structured "recall" game which includes a very structured progression from less distractions (rated as a 1), up to distractions that are HIGHLY fixating for Tess.  It's all about repetition, enforcing the command, and moving through more and more distracting situations in a very progressive way.  The post on Tess's blog was initially suppose to publish on Thursday, but I've moved it to Wednesday (today) so that you can take a look at the method I'm using for the recall. 

At the end of my "program" I want Tess to come to me no matter what. 

I want Farley to "stand" whenever I ask, no matter what.

Currently, I'm asking Farley to stand before I have really solidified that behavior in a variety of situations.  I have to first teach the behavior in a comprehensive way and "bank" lots and lots of successes.

So - could teaching the stand with the clicker and a progressive, structured program be beneficial for Farley?   I'm not interested in doing "full blown" clicker training with Farley - it's great with Tess, but it's just not what I want to do with my horse - but I'd be wiling to try it for the "stand" just so I can train it in a different way (and perhaps get a different result - remember the definition of insanity?  doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result?). 

Farley is very food motivated, but doesn't have any pushy dominant behaviors that I'm worried about making worse.  The personal space boundaries would remain the same and I won't tolerate "mugging" so I'm not worried about that "side effect".  I don't think trying this would make it worse, and it might make it better.

Here's the plan so far:

For the first "trick", teach her to look away from the treat with her head down, or something similar - a trick I don't mind being repeated over and over and every possible situation.  Similar to what AareneX has done with her Standardbred mare. 

After Farley gets the concept, start asking for a stand, and rewarding it in low distraction situations for longer and longer duration (probably going up to 2 or 3 minutes - enough time to get through a line in a pulse check or replace a boot).  Eventually ask for the same behavior in more and more distracting situations.  A rating system of distractions might look like (less distracting to more):

in pasture
pulse check
mounting at home
mounting from an object NOT a mounting block (like a truck or fence)
on trail turned away from home
on trail turned towards home
tying or removing ribbons
mounting on trail
mounting during gunfire
horses leaving or passing
food on the ground
water tank (when thirsty)
During a race start with horses milling around

A key to this approach is to recognize situations that are above your ability to ask for a stand and NOT ASK, or don't put your horse in that situation where you are forced to ask until you are ready for that level, but working through "lesser" distractions first.  By working through these levels and layering success upon success in a variety of situations, I'm hoping that at the end of 2 months, I have a horse that will stand, even in the most distracting of circumstances!

Using this approach gives me a "path" to a horse that has a proven ability to stand during a variety of situations and help me recognize situations I haven't sought out, and forces me to seek them out!

If anyone has any online resources that would point me in the right direction, feel free to comment (or write a post on your blog!)

I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Article recommendation

Remember this post here?   During my foundation post, I talked about not being a victim and accepting my failures as a training and becoming better. 

If you are interested on where I got the concept of "playing the victim", read this article here.

It also inspired an article over on Tess's blog. 

Dear Mel

Dear human who buys my hay,

Did you know that it is raining? Right now.  And you seem to have forgotten something.  Like a blanket, or a shelter, or a nice covered barn.  Do you really expect me to use my copious amounts of fat and a few pitiful trees to shelter me from the ferocious California winter?  Effective immediately you will feed me alfalfa when it is raining.  I have plans for this fat and it does NOT involve shivering it off because you don't care.  I'll need it when you drag me out in the middle of nowhere in something you call "an endurance ride" where I will have to live off the land and avoid hungry predators. 

Also.  I have another complaint.  Location location location.  I no longer feel safe and demand an immediate relocation back to my barn that came with blanket services and friends.  First was that grassfire, complete with fire trucks and sirens.  I forgot to put on my arab act and just stood there because I was in shock - I had done MY job of created a firebreak in my pasture but obviously the horses in THAT pasture are second rate citizens and didn't bother to PROPERLY prepare for disaster. 

I'm pretty sure the mucous membranes of my lungs are permanently damaged *cough* and should (effectively immediately) be put on permanent retirement with an increase in hay ration. 

This morning was the last straw.  My morning routine consists of naps, galloping before dawn, and then sunning myself in the early morning rays.  Needless to say these self care activities are INTEGRAL for my mental (and physical) well being of a recovering endurance horse (unless you decide to retire me with extra hay? *hint* *hint* *hint*). 

Shortly before dawn, I heard rifle shots.  As you foolishly attempted to do silly cavarly stunts including pistols, I DO KNOW what gunfire sounds like.  So don't tell me I am overacting. 

I immediately sent my minions to access the situation and as near as I can figure, this is what happened.

My neighbor that I shall call "the chicken man", grows weed.  (you didn't think that all those fences and shelters were just for his fighting cock population did you?).  Someone came to steal the weed in big bags they attempted to throw over the fence.  "The chicken man", not content with illegal acts of fighting cocks and growing weed, has decided to add "discharging a fire arm" and "shooting the thief" to the long list of infractions.

Needless to say, the cops, K-9 units, and helicopter hovering around the area are extremely distracting. 

I do believe that I'm feeling ulcers - or anxiety - or PTSD - or Arab-Brain - coming on.  Quick!  You must DO SOMETHING.  I do believe extra hay would head off inevitable diasaster.



PS - We can stop focusing on my weight anytime - have you even LOOKED at yourself in the mirror lately?  Don't think I haven't noticed that you aren't wearing your riding tights to come see me.  Teeee hehehehehe. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tevis 2011 - Seizing Life's opportunities

Did you hear!!!!!??????

From the Tevis website:  

NEW START TIME AND LOCATION:  Due to snow in the high country the 2011 Tevis Cup start has been moved to 6:30am at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn on Saturday 10/8. Rider Check-In begins at 10am at the Fairgrounds on Friday 10/7. More details coming soon.

For those of you that aren't familiar with the ride or the trail, the fairgrounds is 100 miles away from the start.  The fairgrounds in the traditional finish.  Nothing is official on the website, but from the riders I know that are riding this year, it is rumored that in addition to vetting and starting at the fairgrounds (Not Robie):

  • No Robie
  • No Squaw Valley
  • No Cougar Rock
  • No Bogs (not that they have been there substantially since we started getting heavier snowfall over the years.
  • No Pucker Point
  • No Elephants Trunk
  • No Devils Thumb
  • No Volcano Canyon
  • No rivers at the bottom of the canyon
  • No Swinging bridge
  • No counting the 33 switchbacks out of the canyon
  • No Michigan Bluffs
  • Possibly crossing the American river 2x. 
Honestly, it sounds like a different ride.  The month is different, the temps will be different (mud, snow, cold, cramping issues).  No full moon, completely different route.

I'm sure that it will still be the ride of the lifetime for many of the riders.  Some for whom it IS the ride of the lifetime - traveling across country, saving up vacation and money, carefully preparing their horse and having the stars align.

It's easy for me to take the ride for granted because I live so close, but this is a BIG DEAL for endurance riders in other parts of the country who have a dream to ride Tevis.

Even though I think ride management is doing their best to put on a ride that is safe and lives up to the Tevis name amid circumstances no one has control over, all I can think as I sit here is I am SO GLAD I took the opportunity to ride in 2009 and 2010.

In life, there is rarely a perfect time to do anything - there is only the "best time".  You long-time readers know I harp on this constantly.  If you have a dream and you can possibly make it work RIGHT now, then do it.  You don't know what life will look like next year or next week.  I see many many people around me that have dreams, and after years of talking, dreaming, and hoping they are discouraged, unmotivated, and sad because the time was never right. 

In hindsight, 2009 was probably too soon to attempt Tevis.  I had that inkling as I signed up and I rode it.  But the lessons learned that year is what made it possible for me to finish in 2010.  *Ideally* I probably would have spent another year in preparation and may have tried for 2011, assuming that the injury that did happen, didn't happen in this alternative universe.  Can you imagine if I had counted on 2011 as "the" year?  Instead of a summer ride, I would have been faced trying to do it in the middle of my school term.  Not to mention that as great as I think this ride will end up being, I wanted to ride THE Tevis and have the experience of Robie, Squaw Valley etc.

Please keep the Tevis 2011 riders in your thoughts tomorrow and tomorrow night.  Although the trail will be different, it will not be any less difficult.  The soil here has a very high clay content and gets EXTREMELY slick after rain.  The trails are not well drained and while the granite helps with the drainage, in mud it can make things worse.  I rode American River 2010 after a similar weather pattern and it was awful.

I will be tweeting as I hear news about Tevis and posting under the hash of #tevis11.

Recommended Reading

Ashley reflected on her Go Pony journey and makes some EXCELLENT points about riding and training endurance. 

Endurance Granny reminds us what progress really looks like.

New blog introduction!!!!!!  Check out Princess WitchFace.  Not your average backyard horse owner has some delightful, entertaining articles and I've been enjoying looking through her posts.  She's a new blogger and is off to a great start. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The first rain

On Monday we had the first rain of the season.

This does not bode well for my conditioning this fall.  As I've probably mentioned a hundred times, where I live in California, the jet stream changes approximately every 3 months.  The weather we have in the first 2 weeks of the "new" jet stream at the beginning of that time period is indicative of the weather you will have for the rest of the quarter.

So putting on our thinking caps.....a major storm, resulting in special weather warnings in the first two weeks of October means what for my hopes for a nice mild fall and early winter, with plenty of good riding weather?

That's right.  It means I need to stop planning for my spring LD and start worrying about either building a shelter, or committing to blanketing for the winter. 

Whatever.  It's not like I've ridden in weeks and taken advantage of good weather.

Wait a minute...."good weather"?  That's right - I didn't get any good riding weather!!!!!  It has been 100 degrees, or close to that for a couple of weeks.  And now it's raining.  I was cheated out of my fall. 

Of course, I'm fooling myself - yes I used weather as an excuse not to ride the last few weeks, BUT we all know that weather is not a barrier if I REALLY wanted to ride. 

Yesterday, under the threat of an afternoon rain I went to see Farley after 2 weeks of abandonment.  I covered the hay, took off her fly mask and then checked her feet for rocks.  I found a small in the heel of her right front.  Then I just stood there and put my arms around her neck near the wither and buried my nose in her shoulder and just breathed in the scent of HORSE.  As I drove away, she took a couple of laps around the pasture at a trot and canter and whinnied for her dinner. 

I'm so glad I have a horse in vet school.  I may not be riding or making steady progress towards a goal, but it is enough to be able to smear horse scent on me, and know that she has a good pasture life in the interludes.  Do I wish I was riding more?  Of course.  Am I feeling guilty or anxious about it?  Suprisingly, no.  She still makes me happy, and giving her time off to run around the pasture isn't a bad thing - and may be what allows us many more years on the endurance trail together. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Blogging - just do it

This is a shameless post to encourage you to start blogging.

Blogging is incredibly rewarding.  It will develop skills such as writing, communication, planning, layout, visual design.  You will learn far more than your readers, even if your intent is to educate.  It will make you a better thinker, analyst, communicator, and planner.   It will develop skills such as layout and visual design.  It will force you to consider opinions and views that are contrary to your own world view and might lead to some very interesting revelations about yourself and how you view your world.

I've barely even scratched the surface and haven't even gotten to the best part.

It's free.

Oh sure - you can buy a domain name, build your own blog design from the ground up, but it doesn't have to be that complicated.  There are many platforms out there that are free and only take moments to set up - later you might decide to spend a little money and get a domain name and apply it to one of those platforms (to take "blogger" out of the URL, for example), or you might be more ambitious and do domain hosting for a bit more money.

But all that's really beside the point - because the majority of the blogs I read either are free through Blogger or Wordpress, or started that way.

"I journal, I don't need a blog".  This is the most common thing I hear from others, when I talk about blogging.

I think the most common misconception is that blogging = journaling.  I journal on a regular basis too.  One is not like the other.  The most successful and interesting blogs I read are those where someone has picked a certain aspect of their life and explores it - and while sometimes things come up that are painful and intensively emotional, the point of the blog isn't to discuss Mel's life, it's to discuss her horse life.  While someone may not be able to relate to me in all aspects - fiddler, student, vet, runner, puppy owner, anxiety disorder (yep - got in formally diagnosised) - that doesn't matter because all they have to share is their love (or interest) in horses and BANG! - there's a connection.

A connection, I will point out, that would not have been made without the blog.  Oh, the people you will meet, the friends you will make, and the opportunities you will have.

Unless you ARE blogging with the intention of making it like your journal (and perhaps have the privacy settings set so only you, or select readers can see it), likely you are writing for an audience.

I will admit that it's awfully lonely and feels very "fake" in the beginning.  After starting 2 more blogs recently (one of which is public right now) I got re-introduced to that feeling.  No one is reading and you are desperately pretending that you aren't talking to yourself.....But the concept of an audience is an important distinction between blogging and journaling.  An audience makes me look more critically at my ideas.  I develop my ideas more fully and evaluate more critically than if I was writing strictly for myself.  The assumption is that you are blogging about something that you are passionate about, and perhaps are trying to do well - as such it matters that you critically think about concepts related to that passion.  In journaling, when talking about great-aunt Agatha and her annoying habit of blowing her nose at the dinner table, there's no need to critically evaluate (except perhaps, as an exercise in empathy and personal relations) and you are free to complain away to your little heart's content.  In blogging, what's the point about great aunt Agatha's rather disgusting habit (not to mention it involves using a cloth hanky that is put back into her pocket)?  Did it inspire your new 100 mile strategy? Give you a novel idea?

I have exactly 5 minutes to publish this and then get ready for school, so don't have time to fully explore why you should start your blog today but I think you get the point!  I'll end with a few bullet points of how blogging has impacted my life.
  • I am a much better, and more confident writer.  Blogging has allowed me practice using different "devices" and play with formatting while watching it's impact on my audience in "real time".  
  • I credit blogging for the quality of my personal statement for vet school.  Blogging about events in real time preserves the emotions of an event much better - even better than journaling, since you are forced to write in a way that is coherent to others, not just put some blubbering on a piece of paper (oh yes, sometimes I journal in lines and pictures and incoherent sentences...).  Thus, when I had to explain why I wanted to be a vet and make some sort of interesting narrative story about it, it was relatively easy to both recall events, and then WRITE the essay using techniques I had learned in bullet point 1.
  • I've made friends.  This is HUGE.  I've always been a loner and rather anti-social for most of my life, even though, paradoxially I crave companionship and personal connections.  I have very few friends (more, now that I'm in vet school, but that's a different post) and the friends I've made blogging are very dear to me.  
  • It was instrumental in helping me to achieve my goals.  I'm a 100 mile rider with 1,000 competition miles.  I'm very proud of this fact - I consider this one of my most prized accomplishments of my life - even considering getting into the UC Davis vetmed program.  I could not have done this without blogging - both for the support I received, the connections I made with other blogs and groups, and how it FORCED me to critically evaluate my program and plans.  
  • It keeps me motivated to continue to pursue my passions.  It's normal to have periods of time when you are more and less motivated - but blogging is a way of both sharing those high points, and keeping me going during the low points.  Blogging keeps me accountable - without the guilt.  If I'm not doing the activity, it's difficult to blog about it!  It's a positive reinforcement to continue. 
  • Blogging is my part time job - it's a lot like being self employed.  It's almost impossible to hold a job in vet school, not because of the time commitment, but because my schedule is so variable from day to day.  I've ALWAYS had a job and I'm better for it - so I've decided that for the next 3 1/2 years my part time job is blogging, which is why I'm starting some additional blogs.  
  • It gives you business practice.  Branding, design, publicity, how to get readers, how can I use social media.  It's not for "real" for most of us - but it's a learning experience unto itself and important.  Who knows what I will do in the future? - and I might be very happy I took the time now to learn the ins and outs of all that "other stuff" besides the mechanics of writing posts. 
  • It forces you to learn "other" stuff that you would never never never pursued on purpose - but you should have.  things like HTML coding, and twitter and social media, compressing photos, the ins and outs of website design, domain hosting, and how to hyperlink stuff. I was literate with the computer before blogging, but my eyes glazed over once you got into any jargon whatsoever.  Now I can actually write some basic HTML, and edit existing HTML.  Amazing!
  • You can take it as far as you want, and invest as much or as little time as you want. As your life changes, your blogging can change - but I firmly believe that it can always be a positive influence. 
If you are starting a blog, have a blog, or are thinking of starting a blog - please comment.  Feel free to include links.  Why did you start blogging?  Has it impacted your life in a positive or negative way?  Any personal significant growth because you blog?  How many blogs do you have?