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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hold your horses!

Sorry folks - I'm in the middle of a series of camping trips so posting is difficult to impossible. Hang in there - I have a ton of stuff going on that I will give full updates the beginning of next week. Here's short version.

I bought a commuter car (that's rife with some stressors that hopefully work themselves out...), and after doing that on Sunday, came home to a Tess that was bleeding with a hole in her lips...after I finished crying and passing out, we took her into the e-vet. She's fine except now I notice that she apparently has a broken back tooth. So now I'm trying to get her in tomorrow before our next camping trip and the weekend.

Farley is good - the Kensington sheet is awesome. Will be telling you oh so how awesome in an upcoming review.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Made in America project update

In the last year, since my "Made in America" post, I have been conscious of what I'm supporting with my dollars through my purchases. Each dollar I spend is a sort of vote. I must confess that I haven't gone terribly out of my way to insure that only US made products are being purchased, nor am I always shopping local and supporting community members - another thing I've become conscious of. If the product is good enough and cheap enough, I must admit that it will go into my cart regardless of where it comes from, or who it supports.

However, I can tell I do think differently about what and how I'm buying. Partially the change is due to the looming financial prison that is vet school. Ok - maybe that's a wee bit dramatic. But I accepted my financial aid package (or should I say "loan package") and I'm feeling a weird mixture of cynicism and optimism. In some ways the debt is absolutely crushing - in so many other ways, seeing the final numbers on paper and what my payment is going to be after school seems absolutely totally doable! ANYWAYS (back on topic...). Some of my observations in how I have changed as a consumer, since considering the "made in the US" question are as follows.

1. I buy less. I made the commitment this year to enjoy my horse and my other activities as a function of the experience and less the function of the new toys that come with it. With one exception, there have been no major equine product purchases and for once, there's nothing on the list that's pending purchase once I find a good deal, or a used one. I've stopped browsing my favorite used tack sites and stores and I'm remarkably content! Without that drive to buy Buy BUY I find that it's easier to consider each individual purchase, including the country of origin, price, quality, and degree of true necessity. When I do buy something, I find that my buying pattern has changed. For lesser value items, I'm more likely to buy new, but pay more than the strictly base model - especially if it gives me quality, or it's US made, or it has features such as parts that are replaceable that will give it a longer useful life. For higher priced items, (for example, a commuter car that I'm currently looking for) I'm more likely to buy used, and I'm pickier and insist on a good deal nowadays. I feel if you consume a large number of goods (like I have in previous years), it's difficult to think of the $$ as votes - you are simply spending too much too often to devote enough brain power to the cause.

2. My focus has shifted from price to considering Other Factors. Recently I purchased a Kensington fly sheet. I will posting a full review and some of my reasons for purchasing THAT fly sheet in an upcoming post but I thought it was a perfect example of how my purchasing rational has changed. For reasons I'll get into during the full review, I needed a flysheet. I heard a review on one of my favorite podcasts/organizations about the Kensington fly sheet (point 1 in its favor). The material used (but not the actual construction of the sheet) is made in an american factory on US soil (point 2). I have friends that use these blankets and like them (point 3). They have great reviews and the blankets are extremely durable and fall into my "buy it ONCE" principle (point 4). The warranty offered with the blanket is extremely reasonable and adds to the value (point 5). If the blanket worked as promised it would cut down tremendously on the amount of chemical fly spray I am having to use (point 6). Thus, even though the blanket was priced much higher than I would have considered in the past, I considered this a "key purchase" (and perhaps the only major equine product purchase this year) and made the decision to not look for a used sheet, or an alternative sheet and support Kensington directly as a show of support for where they are choosing to buy their materials, the warrenty they offer, and their support of the Horse Radio Network. I have made a conscious purchase and said "give me some more of that!"

3. Support of organizations I believe in, or whose services I enjoy which are provided for free. In addition to thinking of my purchases and using them as an opportunity to support what I value, I have also found myself more willing to "pay" for free services that appreciate and use. As a teen and in my early 20's, I was likely to take advantage of opportunities that provided free food, and could happily ignore the pleas to donate in support of shows or programs. Now, I'm more willing to help and support something for which I get absolutely nothing for doing so - if I didn't donate, I could still enjoy all the services that I currently give, and I won't gain anything "extra" for choosing to financially support them. I really really REALLY enjoy listening to podcasts. Podcasts accompany me through most of my day. Last night I decided to pick 3 of my favorite shows and donate $5 each to them (and yes - at least one of them was horse-related). In each case, the shows I picked had done a short blurb about donating, but didn't belabor the point or try and make me feel guilty or manipulated. In the big scheme of things of my life $5 isn't much. However, the $5 represents me supporting something I enjoy and believe in. I don't produce podcasts so I'm not sure what $5 represents to them - but by the commentators comments, I know that $5 represents SOMETHING and it isn't a slight to them. I would rather give that $5 to one of my favorite shows in order to vote with my $$ and say "yes! I support this! I am out here and listening and enjoying your work!", than buy an extra treat at the grocery store, or a gas station coffee because I forgot my thermos.

Needless to say not all my purchases are "conscious" ones where I'm making a decision to support or not to support. I still go to Walmart, I still buy stuff from Amazon, and yes, I'm still counting the pennies on most of my day-to-day purchases. However, my hope is that through consciously spending my money as I'm able, and as my circumstances and life changes, I will continue to be a better and better steward of what has been entrusted to me and support those principles and causes I believe in.

My challenge to my readers today is this:
According to point #3 above....Chose a service or program that you utilize free of charge. Give $5, or $1, or just a thank you card to encourage those people to continue, and let them know that there IS someone out there listening, enjoying, and who want to see that service continue. Sometimes it isn't the amount you give, but the fact you DID GIVE, or provided a word of encouragement. Supporting what you believe in isn't always about the big purchase or the donation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review - "Churched"

Churched - One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess
By: Matthew Paul Turner

***Book was provided free of charge through the Blogging for Books service and Water Brook Multnomah publishing group in exchange for posting this review. Although those of you that have followed me for sometime know that matters not a whit when it comes to forming, and INforming YOU of my opinion.

I was smart this time - instead of randomly choosing a title that caught my eye like a shiny object, I actually RESEARCHED the book I chose to review. I let go of any notion that it was going to be HORSE related (for the best book IMO in this genre I've read so far that IS horse related, check out the Amazing Grays, Amazing Grace review) and I chose a book that got good reviews from other people.

Cheating, I know.

But I don't care - you know why? Because I actually got a book that I ENJOYED reading, and I cannot WAIT to foist off unto an unsuspecting family member - in a good way.

Turner's "Churched" is simply a look at growing up in a church. That look that doesn't take itself too seriously, while still giving careful thought and consideration to the lasting effects of doing so.

Why am I so excited to pass this book on? Because Turner has completely nailed on the head the experience growing up in the church, the personalities and eccentrincies, the doubts and fears of the christian child (or at least a christian child named Melinda, and apparently - Matthew), and how in the end, it still seems to all come together. It's interesting that I could identify with Turner as both an adult and a child. In many ways our childhood churches were very different - he attended a fundamentalist baptist church, while I attended a multitude of denominations depending on where my family lived, and which ones believed in the "priesthood of the believers". My pastors growing up were very different from the charismatic pastor described in "Churched", and yet - our thoughts, beliefs, and childhood experience of "church" (at least how he describes in the book) of growing up in church is extraordinarily similar, and the way we function in the church as adults seems to be similar as well (at least as it is described in the book - which is always a good caveat to make).

In the last few pages of the book, Turner describes some of his journey through church as an adult, and once again I see my mirror image staring back at me through Tuner's words.

"Since college, I've bounced from church to church, trying to fit into whatever shape my Church of the Moment considered 'good Christianity'...The people at those churches were nice, even compassionate...I always wondered what would happen if they knew the real me - the weak and vulnerable me."

When he talks about his "pet peeve" of his new church I nod in understanding - nothing bugs me more than a worship section of the service not done "right". And by "right" I mean with hymns and songs read out of BOOK, with a musical STAFF, and nothing written past about 1978. Because everyone KNOWS, just like God-inspired holy books have come to an end, there are NO MORE HYMNS LEFT TO BE WRITTEN. We have plenty, thank you very much, and we'all just need to stick with......but of course Turner has come to an understanding - one that I probably should come to very soon.

"But I've stopped focusing on the light show and recognized it's not hurting anybody. It's not electing presidents, boycotting theme parks, or organizing an apocalypse. It's gaudy beyond repair, but it's harmless. Besides, many people at my church love the praise-and-worship time just the way it is."

Ah yes, the (very good) advice of my elders.

This wasn't a book that revealed secrets or even had me scribbling furious journal notes in self-contemplation - instead it was a validation that there are other people LIKE ME out there, that call themselves Christians, that do their best , and who are trying to reconcile an entire life spent in church and with God and find their place in church TODAY. One of my favorite exchanges in the book was when the adult-Turner sits down with his new Pastor, Pete. Turner has just confessed how he isn't enjoying church very much, and isn't good at "doing church".

"'I'm beginning to to feel enough freedom to be okay feeling that way. And it's not that I don't want to be a part of a church. Jessica (his wife) and I both want some of our spirituality to come from the experiences that happen with a church family. We want to serve people. But I don't fit into the so-called evangelical mold. And I don't want to."

Yep - that sounds a bit familiar.....although I've never had the guts to actually SAY that to my pastor, as I generally smile a lot, titter nervously and do avoidance tactics - much like the child-Turner does.

I feel like I do the book a dis-service by highlighting passages late into the book that are rather serious - most of the book is carefree, lighthearted, and guaranteed to make you laugh at the honesty and absurdity of it all. I don't even think you necessarily need to be a Christian, or a Christian that grew up in the church to enjoy Turner's book, "Churched". My feeling is that little kids all have the same fears and doubts and questions, and whether you ask those questions in the setting of a church, or in some other venue, some part of your inner child will relate to Turner's journey, despite the Holy mess that is life.

BTW - if you do like my review and feel like doing so, I would appreciate your support at "blogging for books" by reading and rating my review there. There are contest and prizes and such for reviews and ratings of the reviews. Or you can ignore my plea out of irritation of yet another off topic book review :). Don't worry - my feelings aren't hurt, I just can't resist a free book opportunity!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Camping - Multi days; general camp set up and kitchen

Over the last couple of months I have discussed various camping set ups for shorter endurance rides lasting a day or 2, that require minimal set up. Multi days and longer rides that are out of a single ride camp can justify a more elaborate set up and can increase comfort! Of course - you can always continue to use your bare bones set up if you are that type, however I think most of us appreciate a few creature comforts if we are camping for 3-5 nights.

The easiest way to show you my tips for a base camp is through pictures. The pics you are going to see for the next couple of posts in this series were NOT taken during an endurance ride, but the set up is very similar and although I am very devoted to you - my dear reader - I am not so devoted that I'm going to set up an elaborate campsite in my backyard just to demonstrate my camping set up.....

Here's the plan for the next posts in the series - I'm going to go through my multi day base camp set up a few elements at a time, then I'll cover what I do differently during 100's (because they deserve special consideration), and lastly a few horse camp tips (I've been focusing on the human).

Unless I'm going to stay more than 2-3 nights at a location, I tend to do a very basic camp, as described in my earlier posts on this series. However, a base camp lasting 3-4 nights lets me start addressing some basic "creature comforts", such as a kitchen, shower, and a larger "living" space.

Below is my 3 person tent. I like my 1 person tent for the ease of setting up and its small footprint, however a larger tent is nice if it's important to have a place to change clothing away from peekers (the event that is pictured was a VERY large bluegrass festival that does NOT have tons of people running around in spandex - and thus basically naked anyways - so it's an accepted practice to change somewhere NOT visible....), or if there are items that need to generally be stored not out in the open (instruments etc.), or if you need "alone" time in a large group camp. It's also nice to have a larger space if there's inclement weather. At an endurance ride where it snowed and rain much of the event, I spent a majority of my free time inside of this tent with a Mr. Buddy Heater, under a Walmart "easy up", reading.

I've started using a large container outside of my tent during camping for items that I want to access to throughout the day, or small items I want to lock up. The container isn't absolutely secure, but it's bulky and not easy to get into with a padlock on it. Mostly it prevents someone that sees an easy "opportunity", not a determined thief - however in most of the venues I'm camping at, most thefts, are probably "opportunity" thefts. I kept sweatshirts, my shower kit (more on this later), my backpack, knitting, the picnic blanket you see pictured here etc, in the tub. By not going in and out of my tent multiple times a day, it cut down on the dirt and debris that came into the tent.

Not pictured is my Walmart branded "easy up" (called a "first up"). These are approximately $100 and I've used mine for ~3 years. And I haven't exactly been nice to it. It's been used in all sorts of weather from snow, rain, wind, and sun. When it isn't camping or at endurance rides, it's used as a patio shade at the house. It's held up quite well and I highly recommend it. Now that replacement covers are available for ~$30, I think they are even a better deal, as after 3 years of use, my cover probably does need replacing. I often put my tent under the canopy, although sometimes I just put my kitchen under it and use the rest of the space for shade.

Below is my kitchen set up. Everything, except the enamaled hot pot and the table fits into the duffel bag below the table.

The foil pan on top of the stove is something I was trying out as a waste water catcher and wash pan - however I wasn't thrilled with it and won't be using it in the future - I have a better idea. so for now, ignore that element!

It's nice to have your entire kitchen in one bag that can be thrown into the bag of the truck. The components of my kitchen are as follows:

One inclusive bag - I use a duffel that have a large main compartment, 2 side pockets, and a smaller front pocket.

A butane stove (one burner), with at least 2 canisters of fuel. This isn't my favorite stove EVER, but it has done a good job for me over the years. I may do a product review on this, versus some of the other options at a later date.

Cleaning supplies -
1. foaming dish soap. I like this option because it rinses off very easily if you are washing dishes with limited amount of water.
2. a dish washing brush. A better option than a cloth or sponge because it will totally dry and not harbor bacteria like a sponge, but won't require washing or drying like a dish cloth.
3. Hand sanitizer. I use the type in a pump, that has a head that will "lock" during traveling.

Eating "stuff". I like having both plastic service and a few real pieces so I don't HAVE to do dishes, but I have the choice. It isn't necessary to have EVERYTHING - for example, if you have flat bowels, plates are probably redundant.
1. Plastic stuff: utensils, cups that will do hot and cold, bowels (more useful than plates)
2. "real" stuff: a plastic stemless wine glass, a seirra cup, a small wooden flat bowel, a metal spoon.

Clean up:
I no longer bring paper towels. They disinegrate too easily, especially when wet. Same for napkins. I now bring a cloth dish towel and dish rag. I use the rag to wipe off the surface of my table and the towel to wipe my hands during cooking.

Essential Spices and Oil in a tupperware:
I managed to narrow down a few spices that were non-perishable that I could use on most foods. I used extra containers I had laying around, and made sure to label the tops of the lids with what was actually IN the bottles. In addition to black pepper, salt, olive oil, sugar, cinnamon, and tabasico, I've also thrown in 2 types of "Mrs. Dash" seasoning. I believe I have the lemon pepper and the chipotle seasoning in this kit. I like them because they are well balanced spice blends without salt that can impart a distinctive flavor to veggies or meat with little effort.

Box of essentials -
1. rubber scraper that is rated for use over heat
2. knife
3. small plastic cutting board - not pictured. I like the ones I get from the dollar store that are basically disposable and are foldable.
4. matches
5. corkscrew
6. canopener/bottle opener - not pictured as I managed to lose it on the trip before this one and I need to get another!
7. ziplocks - sandwich sized ones are the most versatile for me. I like to put 7-8 inside of a single one.
8. trashbags
9. clear bigger bags - these are bags without any kind of fasterner. useful for all sorts of stuff - as gloves to handle raw meat, to put feet into in wet weather etc.
10. pot holder
11. BBQ lighter

Last but not least is the cooking wares. I carry 3: coffee pot, old backpacking pot, small non stick skillet. I hardly (have I ever???) use the backpacking pot, but it fits in the duffel, so until I need the space for something else, there it stays, "just in case".

I use the hot pot (the big enamaled pot in the first pic - it has a spigot at the bottom) for a variety of uses. It's used as a water dispenser for general use, drinking, and washing dishes. I can put it on the stove or over a fire to heat large quantities of water (for shower, for example). I usually place a pan or bucket underneath it if I'm using it for washing or other uses where I'm not dispensing water directly into a container so there isn't mud. If the water isn't potable or generally icky, I also bring a gallon or 2 of drinking water in gallon containers.

Next I'll cover my portable shower!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Celebrate Something

My endurance/horse training note book (that Steph Teeter at designed) has a cartoon this week that instructs me to find something to celebrate.

Farley is 4 MONTHS post injury. I moved her to the big pasture a couple of days ago. She has shown her appreciation by not touching the bale of hay I put out there for FOUR days and is subsisting entirely on some sort of grass and shrubbery out there. *shrugs*. She's wonderfully sound. How can I tell? She spent 10 minutes galloping away from me in evasive manuevers yesterday. When not galloping, she would do this awesome, knee snapping BIG trot. Seems rather silly to ride my horse at a walk after all that. BUT - I'm not keeping her on stall rest for a year, and the risk of a tye up is too great if I keep her in a small pen too long (although as she loses condition the risk becomes less and less I hope), and honestly - let's face it. The leg is wonderfully tight. A month ago the suspensory looked GREAT. The reinjury to the SDF is small. If she can't be an endurance horse because at 4 months post injury she decided to run around a medium sized (for California) pasture over good footing.....then it's not in our cards to continue an endurance partnership and we'll do something else. It's not a 100% I would have my endurance horse back if things went PERFECTLY, so I'll take my chances (while not being stupid) and let her be a horse as much as I can over this year of recovery.

So although I MAY have taken off my helmet in disgust at her antics and vainly tried to counter her movements in flip flops and shorts while avoiding the fox tails that were trying to lacerate my toes......I'm not having any heart attacks at this point.

Yes, I eventually got on my fat little mare, who instantly went behind my leg because she argued that dressage at a walk is so HARD, and she couldn't POSSIBLY be expected to go on the bit her in condition......No signs that she was going to throw a major temper tantrum - but I'll probably wait a few weeks until AFTER pebble beach dressage show, and then hop on her with saddle and dressage whip and discuss what it means to be in front of my leg.

Silly horse. I've been giving a lot of thought of how to go about making her an endurance horse again, and what my "rules" will be once I do so. With four months off of saddle and a year until any major work.....I have a chance at to restart Farley in endurance and dressage according to what I've learned in the last couple of years, and establish new goals!

Another celebration - my arm is 6 weeks post break, so I'm officially cleared to weight train (albeit slowly and gradually) again and have been doing all sorts of "normal" stuff! Like hop on fat slow ponies that resent my very presence in their pasture.

Yet another celebration - I have caught up on all my silly blog reading. Just in time to go out of town again. Please, for the sake of my sanity, PLEASE don't do anything this weekend so interesting it requires copious amounts of blogging. I JUST caught up. :(

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

In which I am very hot and I am learning patience

I have made a goal. By the end of this afternoon, I will only have 400 unread posts in my Google Reader queue. Currently I have 669 posts. 269 to go. My progress would be slightly more EFFICIENT if I didn't have this antiquated piece of JUNK that keeps giving me the spinning pinwheel of death approximately every 30 seconds and lags behind my typing by at least 3 words. AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! It's tiny available memory (600 MB left....) is struggling to have 3 browser windows open, and heaven forbid I accidentally pull up my dashboard expose and have IT take up memory.

I am truly reading to use this 2005 ibook as a shotgun target except.....I HAVE to buy the computer that the vet school gives me - which isn't available until JULY, so I am FORCED to practice COPIOUS amounts of patience.

All dogs are in their kennels, obstinately because Tess is a puppy (and thus kennel time is GOOD for her), Reed is an idiot (ate cat poop out of the litter box), and Harley is hairy (and I am sweaty) - but more likely because them being in their kennels is somehow part of my patience learning process?

Anyways - the POINT of this post was the share a mugwumps post for who knows how far back. Unread post #670 to be exact, in my Reader.

For all you aspiring college graduates - here's an example of a GOOD personal statement that incorporates horses. I've volunteered as a personal statement reader for aspiring vet students and let me tell you - there's a LOT of ways to get this wrong.

One reason I think I liked the statement so much is because I could identify with it, and I wonder how many college reviewers will too. I didn't have a traumatic event that caused my fear and insecurity issues - rather it was a long string of things I witnessed - a couple of thefts that I witness (and stood there like a dumb person) has caused me to become obsessive about locking doors and vehicles and very conscious of security. A theft can happen in a flash and I don't want to have regrets. I get jumpy about meeting people on a street - either coming up behind me or coming towards me. I can scare myself silly in no time in the dark - I can start running just because and in about 3 seconds it goes from me running for fun, to me running from something totally imaginary. I am very good at freaking myself out. One reason I don't watch TV much is because things I see visually stay with me and then come back to life at inopportune times in regular life. I'm easily startled. I'm an extremely cautious and consiousitious driver.

I could identify with her and her horse, breaking through those bounds of fear and insecurity and doing something crazy. I thought she did an excellent job and it sounds like she got into CSU Fort Collins! Way to go and best of luck.

Back to Google reader. And possibly to let Reed out of the kennel. His panting is driving me insane - apparently when one eats cat crap encased in silicone absorbent litter, one despretely needs a drink.


That's the problem with reading lots of blogs....or rather NOT reading the lots of blogs you are subscribed to. I currently have over 1,000 new posts that I'm frantically (yes, frantically) trying to get through. I was SURE it was Gundiva who asked us for our biggest fear/hang up that her readers had, that – if we did not force ourselves to get over it – could lead to insufficient care of our horses. But now I can't find the post. Anywhere. Not on her blog. Not on anyone elses blog. And since the deadline to post a comment about our biggest hangups on that mystery blog was something like Friday the 13th or something silly like that, I'm thinking it was an older post.

But I want to play anyways! So here's my comment...if i could find the freakin' post again!

Of course, she asked for a comment, not a post. It's a bit long for a comment I think.

And she asked for our hang ups, not an all out confession. And I believe the exact instructions were that it needed to be horse related.

I'm on a sabbatical. I don't have to follow instructions.

But, I had been working on this post for a while. During the last year I’ve done some really stupid, please put me out of my misery, dump, idiotic things. I would quietly note them down in evernote and told myself one day I would share those gems with you.

The day has come.

Here’s a confession of hang-ups, phobias, and general stupidity. Some big, some small. Hopefully I will still have some readers after all of this?

#1: I hate getting wet. Really really really hate it. If I don’t shower RIGHT AFTER running I won’t until the next time I run. Even more than getting wet, I hate cold water. Nothing makes my head twist off quite as fast as someone trying to spray me with a spray bottle during the summer (usually coupled with my other nemesis – the fan). I HATE IT. During the winter I can go more than a week without a shower (clean underwear, deodorant, careful choosing of outfits, and being anti-social). In a related phobia, I really abhor fans. I don’t like the feeling of the air blowing across my skin. I have really sensitive skin. Can we just blame this on my sensitive skin? So how does this affect my horses? I rarely give baths. I can do a lot with dry grooming. A true bath happens maybe once a year. During the summer I do rinse after a ride, but that falls into the category of getting wet incidentally right after physical activity, so it’s tolerable. In endurance, I probably don’t sponge as much as I should. I have all sorts of reasons I don’t sponge, and fortunately it looks like I may have a horse right now that doesn’t need a lot of sponging. Heaven forbid I might have to sponge copiously on my next horse. I can, of course, force myself to do what my horse needs. You bet I was dripping wet at Devil’s Thumb during Tevis last year cooling Farley. But unless the situation specifically calls for water, I look for alternatives, and unless it’s for the sake of he horse in front of me, I’m PROBABLY not recreating with water. Step away with the squirt bottle and battery fan, or someone is going to get hurt. I may be wet, but you will be bleeding by the time we’re through.

#2: At our last night ride from the boarding stable (not at an official ride), I actually disciplined Farley for spooking backwards when I told her to cross a road (I was on foot). I then realized….I….errr….was looking at her WITH my head lamp ON. The bright setting. And asking her to come towards me.

#3: While adjusting my stirrups for 20 MT 100 in February, I discovered I had miscounted the holes in my stirrups and have been riding with the left stirrup 1 hole shorter for at least the last 6 months. Ummm…..I have all sorts of ways to justify this, but the truth is that is wasn’t on purpose, so even if that’s where they needed to be, it was a really stupid error that could been putting a lot of strain on us both (I definitely had more cramping on that side etc.) and I’m almost POSITIVE that’s how the stirrups were at the Patriots 100….

#4: A year ago I paid $80 for a bit. When there was a perfectly good $35 one that was exactly the same thing. Egg butt oval mouth with a copper link. I don’t know how to describe it, but the $80 stubben just had a better curve and was a piece of ART compared to the $35 JP Korsteel or whatever it was. Technically it was the same bit. Visually there was just something…..I have no idea whether Farley likes the Stubben better than she would have like the cheaper bit. Part of me feels like I was a fool to spend $45 more than I had to – but the other part of me says that I’ll buy ONE of these kinds of bits, I trust Stubben, and if there’s “something” about the line and curve of the bars that just fits better somehow…..does this make me a bit snob? I’m probably choosing the wrong thing to pay for quality…….but I LIKE bits.

#5: I’m hard of hearing. I have a really hard time hearing certain tones. I have to constantly ask one of my sisters to repeat herself. Over and over and over. It’s infuriating. Not being able to hear well makes me a bit jumpy. That isn’t good when you are on a horse. I’ve learned to watch my horse for clues of something on the trail. On endurance rides it’s really difficult for me to hold a conversation if there’s noise in the background. It’s extremely frustrating to go to ride meetings. Just a few people murmuring back and forth and I can’t hear a darn thing. Any public event that is in a large outdoor setting (like graduations….) where there are likely to be rude people talking, and insufficient amplification of the people on stage is a real trial. Sometimes I have wondered whether some of my difficulties in playing the fiddle and being able to jam and pick up tunes is due to this. I like talk radio/talk podcasts a lot. I don’t listen to a lot of music. Music is hard for me to listen to. I have to concentrate. Otherwise it becomes noise that makes it hard for me think. I have always worn ear protection, never listened to loud music etc., so it’s probably mostly genetic. I have several close relatives that have the same problem and the family is only recently starting to look at those of us with the issue as less due to loud noises/lifestyle and more of a genetic basis. I admit that being hard of hearing is a bit embarrassing. And frustrating. BUT, it’s amazing what horses will do to help us overcome limitations with whatever tools are available. As a child I swore I would never wear a hearing aid – they were ugly, obnoxious, and frankly I found people who wore them a bit scary. BUT – I will GLADLY wear one when it’s time and I’m not even stressed about it, because I want to be there for my horses as close to 100% physically as I can be.

#6: I’ve always been a little freaked out by those harmonica contraptions that rest on a persons neck and cover their mouth, and let them play the harmonica hands-free. The uncomfortable-ness has stayed with me as an adult. I know –silly. But this is about confessions and freeing myself from secret obsessions right????? Fortunately I haven’t encountered many hands free harmonica contraptions in the horse world…..

#7: At the ripe old age of junior high, I declared I would never ride in an english saddle – those little “pancake” things. Growing up I was a HUGE fan of the Zane Grey books and the cowboys in those books were always sneering at those little flaps of leather on top of horses’ backs, and so I did too. Not sure what happened….but I’m sure my little preteen cowgirl self would be aghast at the saddle I rode 100 miles in – but on the other hand, she might be too distracted by that big shiny Tevis buckle…..

#8: Twice this year I have mounted Farley, realized I didn’t have my helmet on and consciously decided to ride without it. I know!!!!!! Stupid!!!!!! I ALWAYS ride with a helmet. Except when I forget apparently…..BTW – did you’all see this? Not likely enough to happen to me (and I could make the excuse that this is one reason among many my saddles don’t have horns) for me to declare myself done with helmets, but if it DID….boy, that would be a tough one!

#9: I have gone through a drive through with my horse trailer. I’m not sure if that’s a confession as much as a triumph? For those of you in the area…..there’s a wendy’s off of HWY 99 between Turlock and Fresno that’s horse trailer friendly! OK - not much of a confession. How's this - the major reason that I was scared to ride in an arena up until a few years ago, was because I was sure that the horse would ride too close to the side of the arena fence, my toe would catch, my entire foot and leg be wrenched to the side, and my foot and probably everything below the knee would be twisted off my body like a bottle cap. Yeah....definitely a hang up that I had to get over for the sake of my horse - the arena is a useful tool, not a death trap. I swear.

#10: Hornets and wasps bring me to full on panic attacks, complete with screaming and flailing. Honest. I become absolutely uncontrollable, incomprehensible and I’m pretty sure I will die if there ever comes a time when I have to actually deal with them in some manner other than screaming and running and crying.

Anyone else have anything they wish to confess? Anything you’ve gotten over for the sake of your horses?

Monday, June 13, 2011


This post was originally going to be one of those fire and brimstone, you better critically evaluate yourself blah blah blah blah posts. But this morning, I don’t feel like harping on a perfectly constructed inspirational theme. Sometimes having a draft list of a billion posts is useful, but for some reason this topic is clogging up the pipeline and I’m having difficulty posting anything until this gets out of the way. So, today I present the idea - draw your own conclusions.

Here was the inspiration in a nutshell – In my lesson on Tuesday morning, my trainer had to get a bit short with me. I couldn’t get Zach round. I felt like I was doing the same thing over and over (which inside my head matched what she was asking) and the results didn’t change, which is the very definition of insanity. I said something to that effect, and she said something like I was talking too much in the lesson and not allowing her to tell me what to do in our allotted time slot.

And you know what – she was right. It’s not fun to hear criticism. And sometimes because of circumstances, that feedback isn’t constructed in the most “constructive”, “polite” way possible, and sometimes you might even think “that’s not fair!”. And guess what. It probably wasn’t totally fair because of what ever cirucumstances you can drag up to justify why you did it THIS time. Doesn’t matter – it’s still true. Maybe the feedback could have been “phrased differently”. Oh well – because it doesn’t make their feedback any less true. And maybe, just maybe, because it stung a little, THIS time it will sink in. And finally, THAT might have been what you needed to get to the next level.

And of course, when I use that all-too-easy-avoidance word “you”, I really mean “me”.

Are you having trouble getting to the next level in your chosen discipline? Are you having trouble moving up to 50’s or 100’s? Or maybe even completing LD’s consistently?

OK, I may have lied. Now that I’m into the post, I’m perfectly willing to go on harping on the topic. Now I present, more use of the word “you”, where the word “me” and “I” probably should go!

Do you have anyone in your horsey life that is willing to be frank and honest with you? Sometimes it takes some frustration in order for a person to be honest – I know I don’t like hurting people’s feelings, and sometimes I give the most honest feedback when I’m a bit grumpy and tired. (I know, probably something I could work on….). But likely, if I do blurt something out, it’s likely to have been on my mind for a while and while the comment may be said on the whim of the moment, often the feedback itself was not pulled out of thin air of the moment.

If the feedback stung, take a minute to evaluate whether it was because it was particularly true. Swallow your pride, bite back your words, and force yourself to listen and reflect. You may have been given a gem in the rough, that with a bit of polishing could take you to the next level and beyond.

I had all this figured out a couple of days after my lesson, but never got around to posting it – or if the truth be told, writing any of it except a few lines in evernote to remind me of my main points. Then yesterday, I came across this:

If you are not disciplined – and everyone undergoes discipline – then you are not legitimate children at all….No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Most of you probably recognize where this came from. I’ve tried to remove most of the direct references to God in it, so the point I’m trying to make in reference to riding comes through clearer.

Although discipline (Let’s call it “honest feedback”) is mostly painful… thing that is proved is that the person CARES, and assuming that feeling isn’t hate that could motivate false hurtful feedback, considers you one of their own. Someone that smiles and nods as you bumble your way down the wrong path isn't necessarily your friend or a trainer that considers you part of their team.

My trainers motivation is to make me the best dressage rider she can in a very short amount of time. In a nutshell I’m skipping an entire year of training, we don’t have time for me to gently figure out what I’m doing wrong. I need to create new neuro pathways NOW to learn the material NOW and be able to execute it in the show ring in 3 weeks. There is no time for her to figure out the best and most “constructive” way to tell me something and have some heart-to-hearts. If this is going to get done, anything that is holding me back needs to be addressed with swiftness and honesty. And I don’t have the time to feel hurt or offended if I want to perform well at Pebble Beach.

There’s not a lot of trainer/coaches in endurance, at least in the formal sense like there is in dressage. It can be hard for the newbie. At a dressage show I can ask for advice after a warm up in the ring and get very specific comments about what needs improvement, without a lot of regard for my “feelings”. At an endurance ride, much of the advice is tempered and it can be very very hard to get the people who should be giving advice to give it! They don’t want to waste their time giving advice that won’t be followed. They don’t have the time/energy to coach their advice so it won’t offend, they don’t want to scare away newbies or appear “unsupportive”. I quickly learned that the people giving the most and “loudest” advice weren’t always the people I necessarily should be listening too... I think, on the whole, endurance is full of independent, intelligent people, whom the attraction of endurance is partly that we can march to our own drum. Unlike dressage where there seems more black and white and less grey, endurance is awash in a sea of grey that leaves much to the rider’s interpretation. However, I think much can be gained by critically examining how you react to honest, not-so-polite criticism, and whether it is holding you back.

I’m sure I’ve opened myself up to all sorts of honest, open feedback in the comments! LOL. As with most of my posts, I recognize I fall short of the ideal, and writing is a way of clarifying what I need to do. I've probably contradicted myself several times, but view these posts as an evolution of an idea, instead of a heavily edited essay, and perhaps we can all have a sense of humor about this eh? :)

Posts should come more regularly. I’ve figured out that anything that needs to be done for ME on my own time (like running, blogging, writing) needs to happen in the morning. So instead of frittering away the best part of my day (early morning) doing housework and then laying in a stupor the rest of the afternoon, blogging will now happen first thing after devotions, and before walking the dog and going for a run. Know thyself…..

Friday, June 10, 2011

Time off

I'm not doing so well with my time off.

My (non-horsey) sister said that Farley looks depressed.

I'm itching for a new project to get excited about and I can't tell whether I'm too tired or too rested to blame my inability to do anything.

Farley has had 3 1/2 months off, and I think she stopped enjoying her time off and started looking for a job about 1/2 a month ago. What to do? Technically I could start riding her again, at a walk, around my parents. But the familiar fears and doubt have started to sneak in - there are a ton of loose dogs. And rough, uneven footing. What if she spooks? Or bolts? Or?

Unfortunately, most of my mounts over the years have been more Minxes (spooky, bolty, baulky, toss-the Melinda), and less Farley-like (steady, calm, realible). Thus, give me some time off and my mind reverts. Never mind Farley has never given me a reason not to trust her. Never mind the only time she's difficult is while jumping. Never mind that most of our conditioning rides I have to spend most of my energy "motivating" her to go above a nice walk or jog and actually approach something endurance-like. A fire breathing dragon, she is not.

I feel like it's time to get back on. There's a point where waiting to wanting to do something again is only captured by actually doing it. Three months of pasture time for her and dressage lessons on a schoolmaster for me is enough. It's time to stop making excuses and fall in love with my horse and riding all over again.

Just like any relationship, the love is not gone - it's just gone stale from the lack of time and attention spent on it. Sometimes to recapture it, you have to go through the motions for a while, and then you turn around one day and there it is! The butterflies in the stomach as you pull up the drive to visit your horse. You can't see her yet, but you know any moment....and there she is! And you get to ride today! And that makes it the best afternoon EVER!

So what's the plan?

I take it one day at a time. I'll take a day for myself, and then I'll have a Farley day. Sometimes I think my biggest enemy is having all the time in the world to have everything exactly how I want it - to have every day to myself to get all my projects done and have everything organized exactly how I want it - I'm pretty sure that's going to be the death of me. If that WAS the answer to a happy Melinda, I sure think I would be a happier Melinda right now. Instead, I am a more grumpy Melinda. A more easily irritated Melinda. I need more of something and I think that something is "horse-time".

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The right tool

Over the years I've posted a few times on fear.

A recent conversation described some young children and their relationship to the horse and riding - in a nut shell, they love ridingbut are dealing with fear- of cantering, of going fast, of doing anything too "scary".

I want to scream at those kids and their parents - "THAT WAS ME!". To their parents: Don't push, let their love and ability to ride develop. The kids will push themselves when it's time. To the kids: It gets better. It may take you 10 years to feel comfortable cantering or going fast, and you may never want to run a barrel pattern (to date, that idea still makes me sick)- but you will find something that you love in the horse world that allows you to manage your fear and you WILL DO IT. Ten years from now, adults and people you respect will look at what you do and will compliment you on your accomplishments, not realizing that the only difference between the walk/trot kid and the ride-at-gaits-on-scary-trails adult is the tools learned to manage fear and to keep control.

I loved riding as a kid. Absolutely adored it. There was nothing else I wanted to do more. But I didn't want to ride fast. Every where around me, kids my age were doing gymkanas and speed games, and I just wanted to walk around, or do some very controlled lessons. I knew I could ride well eventually. I never looked at someone and said "I could never do that". Instead, as I watched I could FEEL myself on that horse, doing that. But when I actually got on the horse, there was a stark difference between that feel and the reality of my ability.

Gradually the gap closed. Gradually I learned tools and techniques and tricks from all sorts of people throughout my life, and I stretched and did more and more. Eventually I got to where I am today - my fear does not cripple or hold me back. I have enough tools in the tool chest to experience most of my dreams on horse back.

I think the root cause of fear can be of several causes, and perhaps which cause you as an individual person are dealing with matters when it comes to dealing with fear. For me, fear has always been an issue of control. I actually enjoy the feeling of adrenaline. It gives me focus and makes me feel alive. However, I will not deliberately place myself in situations where I have no control. This is probably why I was able to gradually do what I wanted on horse back - and my favorites are those that produce adrenaline - because more tools gave me more control. Galloping bareback through the field is absolutely fabulous and I will probably have a smile plastered across my face, however, when I do a half halt and the horse doesn't respond, we immediately stop (although nowadays, I have other tools to regain control besides stopping, so I wouldn't necessarily stop, but you get my point). I have a loss of control.

Other people in my family are made absolutely sick by that same adrenaline feeling. It is NOT pleasant and they avoid putting themselves in a situation that will produce high levels of adrenaline. I'm not sure if the same strategies (being as educated as possible and gaining as high a skill level in the chosen activity as possible) would work for a person managing fear that is based on a dislike of the adrenaline response. My guess is that an aspiring equestrian dealing with adrenaline issues will probably chose mounts and disciplines that limit that amount of adrenaline and will make an effort to identify specific situations that cause adreneline reactions, and then avoid or minimize those situations as much as possible.

I enjoy endurance because it's exciting and an adventure and there's adrenaline associated. I enjoy dressage because of the control and the tools it gives me for endurance. People often use eventing as the epiphany of riding and conquering fear (in the english riding world). Would I have ever made a good eventer? It's hard to say. I'm an adrenaline junkie, but I'm not sure it's possible to have the amount of control on a cross country course that I need to function. As it is, this scared kid has found enough adrenaline and fulfillment in endurance and 100's that it's hard for me to seriously consider whether I would have enjoyed eventing.

As I get older I find my horse activity choices less dictated by fear and more dictated by my vision of the future. It's important for me to do endurance as long as possible - into retirement and my 80's. Thus, I'm trying to chose activities that offer me the best chance of that. I will admit that there is some fear issues while jumping - I have yet to learn enough tools to allow me to feel in control and to manage a horse that isn't an "auto point and jump" - but that's not what keeps me from pursuing jumping right now. It's the knowledge that falls while jumping tend to be a bit more serious and the reward of learning that new skill doesn't outweigh the risk of injuring something that cannot be completely healed and might be an issue later on in endurance.

Of course my "chose my risk based on functionality in endurance" could be some internal justification based on fear (and control) and this is my way of not having to admit to that.....but I think even if that's the case I'm comfortable with it. I'm happy where I am. I am managing my fear and control issues well enough to do the sport I love and enjoy it while I'm doing it. For this scaredy-cat, it's hard to think I could ask for more.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Movie recommendation

Finally got around to see Disney's "tangled" last nght with Matt.
(whole 'nother story there that may be told later for maximum
entertainment purposes....). You'all have probably seen it already but
if you haven't - rent it for a dollar and have a movie night. Even if
you make a policy of not watching princess movies - watch it for the
horse, Maximus. You won't be dissapointed.

Is it sad that cartoon horses are more realistic to me than epic
action films?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Roach adventure

Remember that "It's raining, it's pouring post"? Yeah...not my best work. Just had a chance to read it in google reader (side note - I have 1,000 unread posts in Google Reader! That's rediculous people. Stop posting 'til I get caught up. I managed 200 today) and it was pretty awful. . That's the problem with the lack of sunshine and this whole SAD thing - I feel as if I OUGHT to post once in a while, even when the sun is yet a dim memory, but am seemingly incapable of doing ANYTHING. Even sleeping in - the sun is UP at 5am in the morning -just long enough to wake me up. And then it goes away while laughing its silly little, sunny head off. Even in the vitamin D and B in a bottle isn't enough to trick my body. It KNOWS it's summer and will be satisfied with nothing less than REAL sunshine.

So I am making yet another attempt to post. Remember that this is a supreme effort of a sunshine deficient, washed up 100 mile endurance rider who is currently unemployed and you expectations will probably be set low enough that this post will become readable.

OK. First off I need to make this horse-related.

You know how I can ride horses in the dark, along drop offs, gallop bareback in a halter, and think chuck wagon racing sounds like the COOLEST THING EVER?

So I do have a couple of fears that can only be described as phobias.

Such as jumping off an airplane to do something silly like skydive (which I recently got invited to do, and OBVIOUSLY turned the "opportunity" down).

And buzzing flying insects with stingers.

And insects that go "crunch" under foot.

Like roaches.

Though in my defense I was barefoot and still in my bathrobe at 5 am.

So when I saw the ugly outdoor roach INSIDE darting across the dining room (carpeted) floor, can you blame me when I went eek and used the only weapon I had available to me at the time? A porcelen coffee cup.

I turned the coffee cup over the top of the roach in the middle of the dining room floor.

Any pretense that I would have been able to step or otherwise smash the roach in the heat of the moment was gone as I contemplated the crunchy insect under the cup.

I did the only sensible thing.

I texted Matt, who was on his way to work.

"EEEKKKK!!!!! A roach in the dining room!"

"did you smash it"

"I put a coffee cup over the top of it"

"You have GOT to be kidding".

So, I did the next sensible thing. I put on real clothes. I had myself a cup of coffee (in a different cup). I put the dogs in their kennels because they kept barking at the cup.

I started spraying random chemicals under the cup.

Nope still alive.

I finally settled on the "kill on contact" wasp spray.


I decided to clean the kitchen.

Apparently 15-20 minutes in a noxious atmosphere was what was needed and the dead (I think?) roach was tossed outside on the lawn by virtue of a coffee filter.

When Matt came home he said he was suprised that little overturned coffee cups weren't all over the floor.

He stepped on a (different) cockroach in the drive way. The icky, crunchy body is still there even after a week of rain.


Cockroaches aren't animals and I don't have to like them as a vet right?

Picture Post

As promised, pictures of Tess!

The ones with Reed are from a week or two ago, but the others are current. The pics can be viewed here.

These are different from the pics in the facebook gallery :).

In case anyone cares (like AareneX for example, I know she has TONS of sympathy.....) it's still raining here. STILL!!!!!!! I don't pay exorberent standard of living costs to have weather like this!!!!

Real link:

Saturday, June 4, 2011

It's raining it's pouring...

If there was ever a year to miss a season of endurance riding, this was the year to miss.

Record rain fall this weekend (that would because it's June, folks. It doesn't rain in June....), Tevis moved to October due to enormous snow levels in the upper elevations (Ski areas will be open until July), and no end in sight to this highly unusual, unstable weather pattern hitting northern California.

Not watching the weather reports for an upcoming ride.

Not worrying about heat training and how much mud is "too much" mud and should I opt to pull.

Not worrying about tornado touch downs while I'm on the XP ride.

Instead, I'm staying home, and, well, not doing much of anything besides chasing after the puppy. Because I have this thing. You all know my "thing". The lack-of-sunshine induced stupor that causes me to be inordinately sulky. And non-productive.

The most productive thing I've done is to convince the boyfriend that he needed to weight train by tossing a bale over the fence to Farley, and then I refilled her water.

Yep. That's the 100 mile team you've all been following the past couple of years - a rider who is too lazy to feed her own horse and a mare that is perfectly content to stand in the middle of a round pen and much hay......

Technically I could write you all sorts of exciting posts about how me and Farley are braving the weather to get back on the trail once again! But let's face it folks - it's much more fun to ride in nice weather. And darn it - I DESERVE nice weather after a season of rather marginally insane wet 100's. So instead I'll spend these wet days under an easy up watching a brother graduate, going camping, and buying a 5th wheel RV (more pics and a full update next week if I end up buying it - sale is contingent on a couple of things). And training for Pebble Beach. And NOT getting hurt and incurring medical bills. Yep- all good things. And of course, visiting Farley every other day to throw her some hay and refill the water and perhaps rotate her through a different pasture or two. Maybe even scoop some poop. Yep - exciting indeed. And I plan to stay very dry while doing so.

Cute puppy pics tomorrow. I promise. It's tough because she's fast and moves at breakneck speed - a white blur-which is not so good for coo-over pics.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

One or Many?

Here's a draft post from a LONG time ago. I never posted it because I didn't really reach a conclusion. To help me try and clarify, I posted the question "One or horse or many?" on the yahoo group new100milers. For as many people who preferred one horse, there were those that couldn't imagine not having their backup, and each side had excellent points. Now, almost 6 months from when I wrote the draft, I STILL have one foot on either side of the fence. However, it's raining (in JUNE!), I obviously don't have enough vit D to function, and something from the draft archives must do for today!

The question is: One horse or many?


Yesterday I slept until noon (easy to do when it’s rainy, cold, dark and there was a xmas party the night before). My plans for the day had started off rather grand. I would trailer to Del Valle and do an easy and relaxed 20 miles. As I biked to the stable I revised my plan to: I would saddle up and go for a nice hack on the canal bank. It started to rain and be a bit windy. New plan! I would trim her feet and then go for a 2-3 mile hand walk.

After arriving at the stable, I saw the posting for the farrier to come out this Thursday. I decided I was feeling much too lazy to do her feet this week and added Farley’s name to the list.

So what did I actually end up doing? I groomed her. We went on a short walk outside of the boarding stable boundary and I let her graze while I laid across her back, bareback, and listened to my ipod. After 20 minutes I hopped off and led her back to the stable. Then I biked home.

At some point I think every horse owner contemplates getting another horse. Time and resources are definitely something to consider when making the decision, but so is something more intangible – your relationship with the existing horse.

If I had two horses right now, I would have never been able to spend yesterday like I did – essentially a wasted riding day.

Minx was my only horse for 1-1/2 years. I rode a lot, but I also spent a lot of time NOT riding. I would groom her just because, and spent afternoons reading in her paddock and watching her. It was a one horse-one girl relationship and it was everything the story books say. Then I got Farley and it changed. I didn’t want it to change, but it did out of the necessity of giving attention and time to two horses. I didn’t spend time with unnecessary grooming because there was another horse waiting for me. There was always a horse that needed riding – I couldn’t afford to just “hang out” any more. There was never a point where everything was “done” enough that I could put off tomorrow what should be done today.

After Minx died, my first instinct was to run out and get another horse. After all, I had the time and resources. Each of my horses got ridden and more attention than many “single horse families”. But then I thought back to my one-on-one relationship with Minx and decided to see if that sort of relationship would reemerge with Farley as a single horse.

With a backup mount, I can ride more miles and have a mount for family and friends to ride. I can give each horse time off without taking time off for myself. With multiple horse’s I can play to each horse’s strengths – 50 milers, 100’s, cavalry competitions, arena work. However, it also makes it easier for me to ignore issues. When I only have one horse, I am forced to work through issues as they arise, so that I can still do what I want to do on horse back.


As I reread through the post I still think I have a good argument for one horse. However, I have also come to realize that I love endurance and if I need to give up the one horse/one girl relationship to get another horse because Farley needs to do something different, I probably will. Assuming that Farley is competition sound in a year (and she should be) there's an argument that getting a younger horse as my "up and coming" mount BEFORE Farley needs to be retired makes sense too. When I did have 2 horses, I was trying to compete both of them, so perhaps having a second horse after retiring the first still fosters that deeper more intimate relationship like when it's a single horse?

As a horse person it's hard only having one horse - like having them around! But balancing the quality of the relationship and the quality of MY life (stress levels etc.) makes it a tricky balance.