Friday, June 28, 2013


I'm having one of those days where everything seems fraught with issues, and those Really Good Ideas I thought really were good ones are starting to look less and less so.

Sometimes I listen to my analytical mind too much -- you know, the mind that says "It's too expensive, it's a waste of time, it's pointless, you'll wish you hadn't done that, it's going to put you in a bad spot later..."

Yeah, that one. If only I had listened to that mind back in, oh, 1994-95.

But I digress.

I've been kicking around the idea of going back to school for a long time, now. Several years, in fact. I thought, back when I was doing more clinical speech pathology, I would go get my Ph.D. in Health Related Sciences, and I wanted to study dementia and end of life choices related to tube-feeding (and the ethics thereof). I was not admitted to the program, unfortunately. Then, when I started my work at the museum, I thought I would go back and study art history and focus on the history of glasswork and glassmaking, something I have always loved and been interested in.

But an ugly problem reared it's head. The potential for having to write a thesis. Dun-dun-dunnnnn.

I have this problem occasionally, when faced with Really Interesting Stuff:

As you can imagine, that's difficult to deal with when faced with having to focus for a LONG TIME on a particular teeny-tiny aspect of a larger subject. I don't know if I can do it. My favorite thing about doing a research project and writing a paper, though, is....doing the research! I love to look for stuff and find new sources and read them, and have that lead to more new stuff, over and over....
Plus, I work in management of information for my day job, which also includes research and writing in the health care field.

So, I thought, maybe I should give some consideration to something my mom said I should do, years ago.

Go to library school and get an MLS.

I've been kicking this idea around for a year or more, doing some research into available online grad programs, and figuring out where I could get the biggest bang for the buck, and trying to figure out what I want to specialize in. I don't exactly know where I'd like to end up...ideally, I think working in archives would be the most interesting, or in a university library or medical library, but it's all up in the air, since I don't even feel like I have a complete grasp on all the possibilities contained within having a degree in library science.

So I am considering three particular programs, and figuring out how to afford it, and which specialization(s) to take...and then I see this, online. The Best and Worst Master's Degrees for Jobs in Forbes magazine. And guess what is listed at the top worst Master's degree? You got it. Library Science.

I also found this infographic. Although I can't put much faith in an infographic that can't get basic grammar usage correct, it was both heartening and disheartening to read:

A Librarian's Worth

So, nothing like making things more indecisive for me. I guess I'll kick this idea around a little longer, while I try to decide 1.) if it's worth it, and 2.) what I really want to do.

In the meantime, I will keep at the day job, and ride horses. The other Really Good Idea that maybe isn't is for another blog post. This one's already too long!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Getting Schooled

Tuesday was an epic level of horseness. I had thought we both had lessons in the morning, but it was just me. Wren was getting ready for a local schooling show that was being held in the evening, and we had to clean that WHITE pony up.

And it was hotter than Hades, and insanely humid. Ugh.

Out to the barn early in the day, ride, ride, ride, groom that pony, bathe, apply fly spray and hope she doesn't roll in the next few hours. Pack the trailer, then go home and pack the people stuff. I was exhausted by 3pm, and the show was at 6.

Arrived back to the barn at 5, on time, expecting to load the horses and get down the road to the show by 5:20 or so, realistically....except...time turned into a fluid concept all of a sudden, and we didn't leave the farm until a quarter to six.

Now. Let me tell you about my obsessive compulsion for being early to things like this -- horse shows, events in which I have to play a role, or do some specific thing. I cannot stand to be late, and I DO NOT like to rush. Not at all. Not even a little. Show starts at 6? Need to be onsite by 5:30 at the VERY latest.

In this case, Wren was riding in the leadline and the walk/2 point classes. She is not especially confident riding in groups, and this was to be something she could handle and even step up to a little, as her previous off-farm show experience was only a leadline class. As with most shows, the most basic classes go first. Her classes were first and second, and the show was scheduled to start at 6.

Warming up before going in the ring

We arrived at 6, and had to park way on the other side of the ring. You see the problem already, don't you? Consequently, Wren did not get to ride in either of her scheduled classes, as one had already started when we arrived, and had only one child in it. The next class we missed because we were late and didn't get tacked up in time. We barely made it into the third class, which was Pre-Short Stirrup Walk/Trot, which we hadn't intended on having them do, but it was the only choice left. I thought Wren was going to cry, it was insanely hot and humid, but I sent her into the ring anyway.

 Little horse, big horse

Looking good, Wild Wings (Gabby) and Wren!

They did great! Although it was walk/trot, she didn't trot at all because she was very anxious about Gabby taking off (she wouldn't -- Gabby is a Show Pony -- but Wren doesn't trust that yet). One person was eliminated for getting off her horse to slap a horsefly off (who does that in the middle of a class??), and so Wren and Gabby ended up with a ribbon anyway. Fifth place out of six, even with no trotting. She did do a great job of staying relaxed, keeping her position, and steering, and following the directions to reverse and line up and all of that.
Lining up for the judge

Fifth place!!

Overall, it was not bad for Wren -- she went in a class, and got a ribbon, and got show experience, all good things. However, the issue of being late will not happen again. Next time, *I* will be wearing a watch, and *I* will be hustling the getting-off-the-farm machinations so that we can get to a show that is ten minutes away with thirty minutes to spare before the first class. I can't deal with lateness like this even a little bit.

I would point out that I should have known better, seeing as how my dressage test for the March horse trials was at 9:00am (absolutely canNOT be late for a scheduled test!) and we didn't get to the event (FIFTEEN minutes away) until twenty minutes before my test was to begin. No stress there (NOT!)!

It is soooooo hot, Mom.

So, aside from that, I am currently ordering a pair of breeches for Noah, who cried yesterday morning because he wasn't going to be able to ride in the horse show like Wren. Good thing there is a big tent sale coming up at one of the local tack shops. He needs his own helmet, too.

 Wren and Cassidy walk their mounts. Yep, that's Champ. He was pretty good, even when he tried to leave the ring while the class was in progress. "Meh," says Champ.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Helmets, please

Just quickly this morning before I rush off with the and EVERY day, wear your helmet when you ride, even if you are just sitting there on your horse.Even if you're just doing flatwork. Even if your horse is bombproof. Even if it's a hundred degrees outside. 

It only takes one fall to change your life forever.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bring it on, Summer!

Summer has officially started here at the Brandel Circus. All three of the kids are out of school now, and we have shifted to what will be the schedule for the next two and a half months.

(I still can't believe Noah is starting kindergarten in the fall.)

We've been getting ready for summer for a while, finding all the fun outdoor toys, stocking up on bubbles and water balloons and getting a new lawn sprinkler. Soon, we'll join the pool, and then the fun really begins!

(I have got to get Wren a better-fitting bike helmet...)

Noah is attending a Kindergarten Readiness camp at the elementary school starting July 1, so in two weeks, my big boy will already be getting on the bus and riding away from here to start his own adventures. Kira will be off to her dad's house for the summer next Friday (boo! We miss her when she's gone!), and Wren and I will probably be at the barn most mornings while Noah is at school. We don't really have any travel plans this summer, what with the horses this summer, and the big trip to Miami last year, and the potential for a Disney vacation next year.

I'm hoping for a July schedule that involves getting to the barn by 8:30 at least three days a week, helping Wren with Gabby (groom, round pen, tack, ride), and then getting in a ride on Champ before heading home to get Noah off the bus at noon. After that, pool time! We'll have to fit in other barn time on the weekends or in the evenings, because Travis has already bemoaned the lack of built-in Turkey time for him. I anticipate much library time, and computer and Wii time, too. Summers are very HOT in Virginia, and I can't say I love being out in the heat of the day.

My kids are predisposed to love books and learning, so I am not too worried about "summer slide", or whatever they are calling it these days, but I am considering making some sight word flashcards for practice with Noah, and getting some math facts cards for Wren. Noah started reading a couple of months ago, and while he is not proficient, he is definitely ahead of his level already, and I'd like to build on that a little.

Somewhere in our schedule, I need to find time to work.

Maybe some day trips will be part of the weekend agenda, maybe we will go camping at the state park near our house. I definitely want to hit the state park's water playground.

I think it's going to be a fun summer.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Promises, Promises

I had my weekly riding lesson today. Since one of my lesson buddies didn't come out to the barn, it was just going to be me and Champ in the ring with my trainer. Knowing that Champ is *spectacularly* difficult when he is alone in the ring, I got the option to ride Promise, a Thoroughbred mare owned by one of the boarders at the barn.

Promise is pretty green, in that she has not had a lot of experience doing things like jumping, or working on the carriage and impulsion for dressage. She flips her head around quite a lot, and is occasionally spooky. But she is willing, and has a good work ethic, although she demonstrated today that she does, in fact, know where the ring gate is. At least she isn't SO pushy about going out the gate when she isn't supposed to.

She's beautiful, too.

She's also a skinnyish horse -- not as broad-backed as some warmbloods I have ridden -- and she is sensitive to leg and seat and hands. The sensitivity is a good thing; I realized that I only have to think about bending, shift my weight in my seat, turn my upper body, look to the next spot, and she is turning in the direction I want her to go. I have to ride with very light hands. My trainer took away my gloves because she thinks it makes me ride heavier in my hands. I hate riding without gloves, and *I* couldn't tell the difference in the weight on the reins, but she said it was better. So I will ride without gloves, then, I guess.

We didn't canter or jump. I spent most of the lesson working her at the walk, bending, bending, bending on the serpentine and 20m circle and figure-8. I feel like I did more work on my riding, and on Promise's way of going than I have in many weeks. We put a standing martingale on her to reinforce the idea that she can't go around with her nose stuck in the air or with the constant flippy-flippy-flippy of the head, and it helped. No real arguing or freaking out or pulling against the martingale, just a 'normal' head carriage, relaxation, and brief moments of being on the aids. I got round circles and bendy bends, and she pointed out to me all the ways in which my seat and hands can be unstable, and how I don't anticipate my ride enough sometimes -- like closing the outside aids to prevent her from falling out of the circle or going toward the ring gate in that particular spot between H and C.

I wasn't scared of her.

And then there's Champ, who I hoped would be my buddy, but I am not sure we still want to do the same things anymore. He's so much fun to jump -- he's the first horse I actually feel like I could practice jumping on without supervision from my trainer, and he loves to do it. I can gallop him and not feel like I am being run away with. He can do 2'6" to 3' and not work too hard, and more importantly, not throw me out of the tack. He doesn't really refuse unless I hold him back and make him refuse. He's not spooky, doesn't buck, and isn't skittish when being worked with on the ground.

We rode briefly on Tuesday evening. He was being a pain about going up to the ring, and so I walked him a bit, then cantered (he didn't even bother with a gallop), jumped an 18" gate fence a few times, and then he made a beeline for the ring gate. Done.

We had had a great lesson last week, and I was hoping maybe that represented a turn of the corner toward a better partnership, but I just don't know.

The offer to half lease Promise is still on the table, but I hesitate. First, because she represents much more horse than Champ. Second, because the lease would be more expensive than what we pay for Champ, and that is problematic. And third, well, what if it doesn't go well? The last time I rode a horse that was considered green, I was terrified. And also 23, and while in better physical shape, most likely, definitely less experienced, so there's that. I wouldn't be riding her at all if I didn't have the skills to do it, and I certainly would not have been offered the lease if my trainer thought I couldn't handle her on my own.

It's frustrating, but I think I am going to hang on to Champ, at least through the summer, and ask if I could ride Promise in lessons periodically. I want to keep the option to ride on days other than lesson days, and if I let go of Champ, I wouldn't have that ability.

It's hard being patient, knowing somewhere out there, the horse situation for me is just waiting for good timing.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Trust Issues and The Path

I barely have time to be writing this post, and I don't have any fabulous pictures to put in it, but I want to capture my morning at the barn, and my lesson on Champ, before I forget it all. If you aren't a horse person, and you aren't following with interest my trials on the road to horsemanship, I won't blame you if you skip this. But as for my ride today...




I went to my lesson this morning with absolutely NO expectations at all. I didn't expect a fight, but I also didn't expect him to do anything easily, either. I was tired and I was thinking that maybe just an easy time of sitting and walking and maybe some trotting would be fine. Whatever he was going to do, I was fine with that.

Compared to the past month and a half of struggle, today was a ridiculous delight. The weather was calm with a bit of a breeze, and darkly overcast, and slightly cool (low 70's) in advance of the oncoming tropical storm remnants. Champ was quiet and pleasant in the cross-ties while I groomed him. I took extra care for fly spray and ointment on some small wounds, and I gave him treats. We tacked up and although he did his usual "horse statue" maneuver in the driveway up to the ring, we did get there after our lesson buddies walked past him.

In the ring, I could tell he was not best pleased, but he wasn't annoying and he did go ahead and walk and trot. There were two other horses and riders in the ring, after all, so he wasn't alone. We worked on shoulder-in and trotted around the ring and did circles in all the corners. He dirt-biked a lot of the circles, but in keeping with my lack of expectations, I didn't get too upset about it, and only corrected him when it was really crummy.

We galloped. A lot. Multiple turns around my trainer's huge ring. It was exciting and thrilling and FAST. That pony can get up and go when he really wants to.

After that, surprisingly, he was a LOT more attentive and slightly more responsive to my leg.We practiced the weenie World's Most Boring Dressage test (Intro test B), and actually did ok with it. No, the 20m circles weren't as round as I would have liked, no, his bend was not as bendy as it should have been, but his free walk was better, and the last tight turn up the centerline was actually kind of nice, maybe a 6. He halted square, too, but slightly short of X. I'll take it, though.

Then we galloped some more. Around and around the ring, and I even let go of the reins briefly, and then galloped him with my fingers just on the buckle of the reins. He was FAST. I imagined galloping cross-country and letting him jump all those jumps in Intro Novice. There were a couple of moments where I started getting nervous because he was just blasting around the ring, dirt-biking the corners, but he was clearly enjoying himself. My trainer was yelling at me to let go, let go, let him go, and so I was awesome! I galloped with my fingers barely holding onto the reins and with him whipping around the ring like his ass was on fire. I had a few split seconds where I was starting to freak out and get anxious "OMG what if he trips and falls? I'll die at this speed!"....but then I imagined riding cross-country like that, just whipping along and jumping all the fences...and I think just at that moment, I started to trust him.

I have horse trust issues.

I worry that he won't jump, that he'll trip and fall over, that he'll run away with me. He won't. I can handle his speed, whereas one of the little girls who also rides him needs the slow-twist snaffle because with *her*, he will go blasting off, and she can't stay with him.

But I can.

We jumped, five fences on the outside line of the ring, hunter-style. Easy turns and lines, but still something to give me some confidence and some practice, and some focus on my position, letting him get to the fences and jump them himself. It was great. He took a long spot in the two, three-stride fences because I wasn't sitting in the saddle when I should have been, to get him closer to the base of the fence, but I kept my balance, stayed with him, and did not smack him in the mouth or flop on his neck or whatever, as he went over and landed. I found myself thinking I could have my fences a little higher and I'd be ok. Shocking!

Could I really be making progress? Is it possible that I am actually getting better, even though I haven't done what I would consider "sufficient practice" to really improve?

I wish it were easier for me to trust my horse, but maybe I am on the path.


Sunday, June 2, 2013


So, things with Champ haven't been going well, and I have given him a vacation from our partnership. It's been two weeks, and I rode Landie and Promise in my lessons during the time off. I think this week, though, is when I am going to get back together with Champ and see what we can do. I'm planning to do some bareback riding, maybe round-pen or lunge him, and take him out to graze where the good grass is. We'll see how things go. I am adjusting my expectations downward for both Champ and for advancing my riding skills this summer. I think I'll work on my horsemanship, stable management, and helping Wren with Gabby instead, because I want to, and because...well...I don't really have a choice. We haven't won the lottery yet, so no farm of our own, and so I can only do so much in terms of horse-having.

My trainer gave me an option to lease Promise instead, but that would be more money than we are paying for Champ right now, and Promise is so very green. She really needs the work I am sure I could put into her, but I can't afford half the board and farrier PLUS Wren's pony.

I would love to figure out a way to own this place, which just happens to be right next door to our trainer's barn. It's about twice our budget, though, so no chance of that happening, unless we won the lottery or had some wealthy benefactor. My trainer says it would be fantastic to make a cross country course through the woods there, linking with her property's course. I agree.


Today's barn trip was so much fun!
Turkey got a bath and a haircut, and so much love. I think he was happy. I know Travis was happy, and I can't tell you how full my heart is for the man I adore who, just one year ago, was afraid of horses and would have nothing hands-on to do with them. Now, he brings in horses from the field, can tack and groom, bathe, pick feet, and hand-graze them. I am so proud!

Poor Turkey is SO HOT with all that mane and forelock. It's awful. He lives outside 24/7, so making him as comfortable as possible is a good idea. I shaved his face a little, and then started working on roaching his mane, which has nothing to do with nasty insects and everything to do with a good haircut. He has so much hair, I couldn't get it all done in the time we had today, so I will finish up this week and post a picture of the results. After his bath, he just gleamed! He seemed so happy and comfortable! I sprayed him all over with some fly spray, put some fly repellent cream in his ears, and we took him back out to his pasture. He is beautiful.

It really makes me sad that his owners don't come to visit him, or ride him, anymore. I wish we could have him. If we had a farm and didn't have to pay board, we'd take him in a hot minute. Still, it makes me happy that we care for him as we can.


I haven't run for 18 days. I couldn't stand reading the posts from my friends who are all out there exercising and running....the competitive me couldn't take it anymore, and since resting my going-numb-when-I-run feet wasn't doing anything, I took off for two miles this morning. I always know when I haven't been exercising regularly -- I get a little out of breath climbing stairs, I can't hang on to the canter as long on my horse -- but when I haven't been running, WELL...I can tell. I can tell because when I get out there, the fat on my middle-aged ass jiggles and bounces along behind me like ill-fitting saddlebags.

THAT is NOT acceptable. Nor is it attractive. I'm only willing to give in to being middle-aged but so much at this point.

So, I'm back at it, at least until I am told otherwise. Going to keep the daily mileage low -- 2 to 3 miles, max -- until my orthopedist appointment in a few weeks. Then we'll see what I have to work with.


Work is eating my soul, and also all the extra time and energy I have to be creative. It sucks, but it's enabling the horse stuff, so it's a catch-22. I haven't been able to make anything of substance in a very long time, and I believe my Muse is about to throw one epic tantrum. I also don't think it's possible to work fewer hours and get the work done on time, so I am stuck. The summer is going to be very, very tricky in terms of getting the volume of work done in the time that I have, given the kids will be home with me most of the time. I see quite a lot of evenings spent in my cubicle at the office, with the cleaning folks. Ugh.

I can't really complain, though. I have a good job, and I think I work for someone who values my work, although it's hard to tell at times.

At any rate, there's a thunderstorm tonight, which means I am putting Wren back to bed over and over until she finally decides to fall asleep. I think I've convinced her to stay in her room, though, so I'm going to grab myself some porch time before it gets too late.