Tuesday, December 30, 2014


On Sunday, I was riding. The horse I was riding, not unfamiliar to me, spooked at a dog in the trees next to the ring, and I fell off. We had been cantering, and so falling at that speed resulted in some injury. I hit my head, and my back and hip very hard. There is one small section of the sequence of events that I cannot account for, and it all happened so fast that I am not sure I can't remember it because I hit my head, or because it was all so quick. I remember the feeling of Flicka spooking and shooting off to the side, and then I remember seeing the sand of the ring rushing to meet me, and the split-second "OH SHIT" moment that always accompanies realizing you are falling.

After that, it was all pain, and the awful moment of thinking I just wanted to take a nap.

I know I rolled around in the sand for a few seconds, calling to my friend that I couldn't breathe, trying to find a position that didn't hurt, knowing I could not get up. I thought I was bleeding from my back, I tried to sit up, but almost passed out. I laid in the cold and wet sand of the arena for a while, covered with horse blankets and a saddle pad under my head. My friends came to sit with me, three of them nurses, and one a doctor, plus others who were there and came to help. I cried. It was scary, and I knew I had hit my head, but I remembered my husband's phone numbers so someone could call him. I remembered I wasn't wearing my ID bracelet, because I had taken it off to go to a fancy party at the museum. The ambulance came and took me to the hospital. I had a CT scan and tests, an IV, X-rays, multiple neuro checks. I was admitted for overnight observation.

I'll probably say this again...and again....but this is my page and I can say it as many times as I want to. You don't have to listen.

Yes, I'm a Helmet Evangelist.
Me, riding Flicka  (Something Victorious)
November 2014
No, I would not even consider *sitting* on a horse without a helmet on my head.

I cannot, I mean, really CANNOT, fathom how *anyone*, English discipline, Western, Saddleseat, whatever, would ever consider riding without a helmet. I simply cannot grasp it at all. In fact, the helmet use issue is one of the things that utterly turns me off of SCA riding, although I know some folks do wear, and advocate for wearing, helmets at all times. The ones that don't are usually the worst riders with a very inflated sense of their own competence.

I've heard the arguments -- "I'm very experienced... this horse is SO QUIET... I am an adult and I can handle the risk...this horse is bombproof... we're only walking... I don't jump/we're not going to jump... this horse isn't very tall", or my personal favorite chunk of BS, "Helmets can make your injury worse/give you whiplash/some other stupid argument about helmets making it worse".

I'm here to tell you that you can say whatever you want, but those arguments are crap when technology today produces lightweight, decent-looking protection that absolutely protects your brain. Absolutely. I know for a fact that had I not been wearing my helmet, I would have sustained a significant injury that would have had me in the ICU, very likely post-surgical, instead of home on my couch with my family. It would have given the neurosurgeon something to do instead of standing in the hallway,outside my space in the ER, being annoyed that some radiologist saw a speck of blood on my head CT films, and protocol dictates I be admitted for observation. Now, I love some neurology, and the guy was really nice, but I prefer he practice neurosurgery on someone else.

If you don't want to wear a helmet when you ride, that's fine, I guess. It ultimately *is* your decision. None of your arguments will sway me from my point of view on safety, and I reserve the right to think you are an idiot. When you are riding a bike, fine, go helmetless and take your risks. When you are riding a 1200 pound being with its own separate nervous system, goals, and ideas, put on a fucking helmet.

Or don't. I work in rehabilitation, so it just ensures my job security.

Believe me, I want to wear that top hat in the ring at the FEI levels, someday when I finally get to that level. It looks so damn spiff with the tailcoat and the shiny, braided, super-fit horse. But I'll be wearing a top of the line spiffy safety helmet instead (like world champion dressage rider, Charlotte Dujardin), because it only takes one fall, one horse tripping over its own feet, one mistake, one accident to change your life forever. I have too much to live for, and I wouldn't put my family through the horror of the ICU, then inpatient rehab, and the myriad of life alterations that would be necessary to accommodate my changed abilities.

I'm thankful that when I had my injury this past Sunday afternoon, I was riding with someone, that I was in the ring and not on the trail, that I could be attended to immediately. I'm also grateful that I happened to pick the barn with the trainer and other riders who are medical professionals.When I fell, I had two critical-care RN's, another RN, and an anesthesiologist right there to provide first aid, call the ambulance, provide specific and accurate information to the EMT's, and handle calling my husband without freaking him out.

I can't thank them enough. Really.

I'm not able to ride for a couple of weeks, and I definitely feel crummy. I might have to miss a favorite New Year's party, and I absolutely will not be able to participate in my tradition of riding on New Year's Day. All of that matters so little, though, in comparison to what might have happened had I not worn a helmet.
Above my finger, the crack in the foam where it absorbed the impact

To the right and left of the crack, the imprint of the straps that held the helmet on my head at impact

This retention harness is supposed to be attached at the sides of the helmet.
That it isn't means the impact was significant.

The color is abraded off the helmet where it skidded in the sand.
I'm so lucky.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


I think I was maybe 12? Maybe younger, when I first realized I was not going to live forever, that people did not just live forever. That seems old to be discovering that fact, but it's when I had my first experience with a family funeral -- the death of my maternal grandfather. I saw the ritual, the mourning, the disbelief and devastation that the loss of him wrought on my family, and it was odd to think he would no longer be around.

I think I was 30 when the *actual* realization of my mortality hit me. It was then that I made some significant changes in my life -- painful, difficult, with long-term ramifications -- but necessary, as I realized then that I did not want to live the rest of the time I had left in the manner I was living it.

When I was forty, well, that's when I got scared. Not by any particular thing, except the realization that this life, this very life that I was living, would end someday. By forty, I had had all my children, my career was stable, my marriage solid and joyful, and I was living the best life I could ever have imagined for myself. It was in that year, and in subsequent years, that 'things' started to happen around me. Not TO me, but near enough that I felt twitchy. Accidents, unexpected deaths, CANCER, irreversible changes in economic status, career, relationships...all to people I knew, people I loved, people in my sphere of acquaintance. It was, and still is, periodically, enough to make me want to hide. Or to do something reckless, because I'm going to die anyway, right??

Except I have come to the separate conclusion that there really aren't as many opportunities to be truly bad-ass anymore, once you've passed your thirties or so. Definitely by 40, the *chances* of badassery are much less, sadly. Not saying it can't, or doesn't, happen, it's just...less. Badassery in your forties is typically some level of insanity, and is described by others as such. Not that I much care for others' opinions at this point in my life. Although I do, sometimes.

But I digress.

I've come to make a level of peace with the fact that I will be gone from this earth one of these days. Hopefully not soon, and hopefully after my children are well-established in this world. I think the biggest fear of leaving is that I would hurt the ones I love, so I am trying to have as wonderful and fulfilled a life as possible, so that when I am gone, my loved ones can say that I lived my life to the fullest. It's a personal goal. I'm under no illusion that I will leave this world having done all that I really want to do -- that list is long, and monumental, and my personality is such that I am constantly finding new experiences that I want to be a part of. See my previous post about creating, for some of that.

It's pretty likely that I will live a long time more, at least another 40 or so years, given my family history, and my general good health. But I think the drive to create, to make things, make experiences, make memories, photographs, costumes, saddle pads, jewelry, dessert, essays....I think fundamentally all of that comes from a place of a desire for longevity, permanence, a legacy. On some level, I hope I am leaving enough of a mark. On another level, I know I am. Life is an adventure to be lived.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


It's been forever since I wrote here, and I again feel the spaces in my soul that contain my language-based experiences filling to overflowing. I've found that there are some things I "write" about in my head that never make it to the page. I want to write about them, and in my mind, I work out the text, the construct of the phrases, maybe even the accompanying images, but then....I never open the blog editor and fill the blank space with words and pictures. Sometimes I don't want to share. Sometimes I am being far too esoteric for my own good. Sometimes I just think people don't need to know that much about me.

Instead of trying to make up for the four months of adventures that have happened since last I documented them, I'm going with a writing prompt for this post. The short version of the last four months is thus, however, for those who are interested:

* I have stopped running regularly.
* I have lost fifteen pounds
* Wren and I have been riding in dressage schooling shows. I have won two classes, scoring higher than several actual other people.
* My mother has moved to Florida and is enjoying herself. I miss her, but I am thrilled for her!
* Kira adores her program at the technical high school she is attending.
* Noah reads chapter books in first grade.
* Wren is truly blossoming in confidence, skill, and maturity.
* Travis will graduate from the University of Richmond in May.

But that's not what I'm here to write about today.

To create.

If I had to pick a verb in the English language that captured my essence, I think 'to create' would be it. I have always closely identified with the meaning of the word -- "to bring something into existence". Whether it was mud pies and imaginary banquets, the stories and [embarrassing] poetry of my adolescence, or the concert dances of my early adulthood and the forays into making my own clothing, I see, with the clarity of an older adult, that I have always been compelled by an inner desire to bring something into existence.

Now, as a middle-aged adult, my time is limited by the demands of the family I created, and so my more typical acts of creation don't get practiced very often. My definition of 'create' is broader, and I think increasing the breadth of that definition has satisfied the soul-deep need for it. Now, I create gifts, and Halloween costumes, and small projects, but I also create whole holiday celebrations for my family, as well as possibilities and opportunities for them to do and be and make their own things. That is equally significant, even though I struggle sometimes to remember that creating isn't always about having something to hold in your hand at the end of the day.

Sure, as all my friends know, I like to do and make and practice many art forms. I lose count sometimes of all the crafts I know about and can do with reasonable competence. I think the act of creating is based in a desire for longevity, or replication, in some way. I worry a lot about time, and how much of it there is, and so creating something, especially a tangible something, leaves a small piece of me behind. I also think the creation impulse is fed by my rich inner life. Not exactly Walter Mitty-style, but I do spend a good bit of time in my head, imagining, working out problems, thinking things over. Making something real is a way to physically address what goes on in my head, in my inner experience of my life. I don't know if it's the same for all artists, but it is essentially this for me.

 Sometimes my life gets so busy I don't touch my fabric, or glass, or clay or paper, paint, ink, metals for weeks. But fall is always one of my most creative times of the year, and while I wrestle with scheduling and fitting everything in, some of the happiest moments involve planning a project, escaping to the sewing (painting, metalworking, drawing) room, and making something special for myself or my kids. Stay tuned for Halloween costumes, Christmas presents, and new stuff for myself and the ponies!

Right now, though, I need to create some breakfast.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A loss of light and clarity

Maya Angelou passed into the next life this morning after battling health issues recently. I find myself unexpectedly moved by the loss of her spirit and her determination. We shall not see her like again, I am sure, and I am grateful she was possessed of both her voice and her cognition until the last.

I followed her Facebook page, and loved to read her insights, quotations of her work, and perspective on the human condition. More often than not, I found something to think about over the course of my day. That, to me, is the best kind of writing, that which makes you think, or inspires you to more.

Years and years ago, I read the poem below, and my perspective on myself was altered. I'm not arrogant enough to believe that all of it applies to the way I carry myself through this life, but I'd like to think most of it does, or at least, that is what I am striving for.

Phenomenal Woman
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.

I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.

I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.

I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.

I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I think it's time to go back and re-read her writings at this stage of my life. She will be so very missed.

Monday, May 26, 2014

SO Much Awesome

Last weekend, Wren participated in the county's club archery tournament at the end f the indoor archery season. She's been struggling with even hitting the target at her distance (I think 18m), not to mention handling the bow and getting the correct shooting posture and sequence. It doesn't help that she is literally the smallest kid in her club, either. She started the season trying to shoot the recurve bow like her big sister, but was convinced by the archery coaches that going with a Genesis Mini compound bow would be a better choice at this point. There were lots of tears and some stomping around about that, but once she hit the target a couple of times, I think she was convinced.

 So when she entered the warmup phase of the tournament, and failed to hit the target with any of the eight arrows she shot....well, the disappointment was evident on her face. However, she has never once thrown a fit or gotten overwhelmingly upset about her difficulty, not the entire season. It's odd to me, since I know she is very aware of what the other kids are doing, and she is definitely the type of kid to want what others have. My job, though, was to stay supportive, tell her I knew she was doing her best, and....just tell her how much I loved watching her shoot. The more I thought about it, and watched her, the more I realized just how amazing she was....not getting upset, just hanging in there and getting back up to the shooting line, time after time after time. Being happy for her small successes ("hey! It bounced off the ground and hit the target!"), and just enjoying the activity. I didn't teach her that, I don't think. She just came to it, enjoying an activity she has wanted to do since she saw the movie, 'Brave'.

It was impressive to watch that afternoon, her 'try'. And she was handsomely rewarded for it, with this:

A bullseye. Amazing. 

Her reaction was priceless (STUNNED!!), and even the parents around us cheered for her. Just a wonderful end to the archery season for her.
 Wren's coach, Melody, takes her picture with the bullseye shot!

And Wren happily tells her scoring partner that, yes, she DID shoot that arrow!

She also managed to earn her 'archer' rank patch, and that really motivated her to keep going. I'm so proud of her, not for the bullseye, although that was great, but for the quiet persistence she showed even in the face of failure. For repeatedly getting her bow and arrows and stepping up to take another shot, for assimilating as much coaching help as she was able to (which wasn't always much, she's 8 after all), and for trying to apply it to the next shot. For not getting frustrated, or wanting to quit. I'm so proud of her for all of that. I admit I didn't expect it, and I am thrilled to see that this orientation exists in her.

It's an understatement that sometimes your kids surprise you.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Yesterday, I rode Silver's Destiny in a schooling dressage show. It was held at the barn where I am riding and boarding Cinnamon, Saddlebrook Stables, which was wonderful, since I had all my stuff there and didn't have to trailer anywhere, and I already knew most of the people.

Starting the show day off with mimosas and a toast to friends, horses, and our instructor is pretty cool, too.

I rode the Introductory Level tests A and B, and while I was not totally thrilled with my performance, it wasn't bad. I did better earlier in the week in my lessons and practices. I was slightly nervous, but not horribly so, and it was nice to ride in my "home" ring. Easier still, my instructor called the tests for me, so I really didn't have to remember them myself. I had hoped for better than low 60's scores, mostly because I know I am riding a pony with really good skills, and I felt a bit of pressure to at least ride her as well as her owner does, but I just didn't get there this time. One of my very favorite things about dressage, though, is that you actually get a score for your efforts, and while the judge may change at each show you ride in, you can gauge your progress by your test scores. I love me some data. And I always like getting a ribbon or two.

Travis took pictures, which makes me happy, and also makes me sad. I never, ever look in photographs like what I think look like in my own head. Somehow, my own image surprises me every time. "Really?? Do I really look like that??" Of course, event and dressage riders can all agree that the requisite white breeches for showing never do anyone any favors, and especially not the much-bigger-than-a-stick people. And I've had three kids, and I'm well over forty, and that belly pooch is just. not. going. away. But in the pictures, I look too chunky for that pony, even though everyone assures me I am not.

 "Does this pony make my ass look big??" 

I can't focus on the lovely straight line from the bit to my elbow, or my upright, balanced position, I only see all the pudge below my ribcage, and my dancer's turned-out toes, and the boots whose tops are way too wide for my muscular, but hefty, calves.

I can ride her well, I know I do, I trust my instructor and Destiny's owner not to lie to me -- they have no reason to. And there has been an unexpected benefit to the shorter, smaller equine -- my left hip (that has been killing me off and on since last summer) has bothered me hardly at all since I started riding her only eight weeks ago, and even though I have worked hard at lessons and on my position, I have been sore, but not crippled, afterward. A benefit and a relief.

A couple of days ago, I was saying to myself that even though I weigh more than I'd like, I felt strong and capable while riding this horse, I felt like I was getting the job done most of the time, and definitely had improved my balance and my position in the past two months. I can tell -- she's more responsive and smoother to ride, and I'm beginning to have control over aspects of the ride that I didn't before. I tried to convince myself that I preferred strong and slightly bigger,but gets the job done, to thin and incapable, but really I just wish I could still look like this:

The annoying part is I remember how much I hated myself then for not being thin enough. At seventeen years old, 5' 2" and 115 pounds, I thought I was grotesquely fat for a dancer. It was a constant battle, and I don't remember ever thinking I was good enough or thin enough. Ugh, SO much wasted emotional energy over something that was so ridiculous!! I hate that there are still remnants of that thought process left in my brain, almost thirty years later, and I know it's still ridiculous. I'll get over myself, eventually. I love to ride, so I'm certainly not going to stop doing that just because I think I'm a mess. My family thinks I'm beautiful, and that matters quite a lot.

I wish I could go and ride today, but Wren is shooting in an archery tournament this afternoon, and that takes precedence. If I focus at work, I might be able to sneak four rides in this week, which would be fantastic. I know from my test comments yesterday that I have a good bit to work on, and so I will. Bend, rhythm, straightness...the basics.

And I'm shopping for better-fitting white breeches and a black show coat.

Friday, May 9, 2014


Friday, the end of a busy week, and the start of a busy weekend.

I haven't run at all this week, partially because I rode twice, partially because I had a hard time finding time to get it done, and partially because I have been thinking about a well-regarded therapist and department head in our company who ran a half marathon on Sunday, and passed away Monday evening after suffering a major heart attack at the end of the race.

She left her husband and two small children behind. I did not know her well, as she worked in a building a couple of hours from here, and we mostly interacted (when we did) by email. I've read lots of her therapy documentation, though, and she was a good physical therapist. I'm so sorry for her family; I have heard she was an avid runner, trained for this event, and had run track in high school. So it wasn't like she just up and decided to "go the distance", so to speak; she knew what she was doing, as well as any of us who take on a project like that and train on our own. She was younger than me, not even forty. I can't stop thinking about her and the end of her race, which finished, more than likely, with a cluster of emergency personnel frantically trying to restart her heart and get the blood moving to her brain again.

I know all the platitudes that apply here...."you never know when it's your time"....."at least she died doing something she enjoyed"....."there was nothing that could have been done differently"....."sometimes these things just happen"....

None of that is particularly comforting. I don't love to run. I don't want to die doing that. I don't want to die in some horse-related accident, either, even though I do LOVE riding. So I am reconsidering the running these days, particularly in light of the fact that I have been struggling with running in general lately -- pain, fatigue, difficulty getting into a comfortable pace. I have not ever had real trouble breathing, or felt bad in a cardiopulmonary way, while running, but it's the unknown that gets me. What if? What if there is something about me that could be a factor, and I don't know it? I'm sure I'd be fine, but I'm not sure enough to risk it.

And yes, I do know, and realize, that risk is a part of a life well-lived. I voluntarily sit on the backs of 1000+ pound animals and ask them to do things that *I* say they need to do.

And there is another thing....what kind of god loves his people so much that he would deprive some of them of one of them THEY love so much? Come on, my fervent believers, explain this one. And do it without giving me the "God needed her in Heaven more", or "Her time on this earth was done". That's crap. Her time was not done, she had a family to raise and a husband to love, and who loved her, for years to come. Her friends, her colleagues, her extended family....they were not done with her life. Why was she? Is it simply that her biological life was over, as short as it was? Or do we explain this by saying there was a higher purpose of some kind? I'm not buying it. How can that be? Going 'home' to her "reward"? I cannot imagine a greater reward than being able to stay with her family, see her kids grow up, play sports, take Prom pictures, go to graduations, weddings, maybe have grandchildren someday.

The whole thing just sucks. And I have to review some of her therapy documentation today, so I can write an appeal letter for a case she worked on, and I don't want to. But I'm going to, it's my job. Wish she was still working at hers.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Random running thoughts

On a good run, my brain goes on autopilot.

...in my mind's eye, I can see it, the photograph of myself and the big dark horse that has no name. The photo captures the image of us sailing over a fence on a cross-country course -- a fence of decent substance, too, not my usual 18" hop -- outfitted in our XC battle gear. We both have the eagle-eyed expression of individuals intent on their job as we look toward the next fence, focused, concentrating, getting the job done. Making the time. I wonder if I'll ever have a real photograph of that...

I've realized that aging means so few opportunities left for true bad-assery in any sort of real, athletic way. Or at least it seems that way at the moment.

...at the Introductory level there's not a lot of exciting movements to ride.Walk, trot, 20m circle, halt. Across the diagonal at the trot and the walk. Not even a rein back or canter. Lots of good foundation for later levels, but what kind of freestyle ride can I choreograph that will be at least slightly more exciting than watching grass grow?

...so should I think about the competitive running season this year again since it doesn't look like horse shows or trials will be part of my plans? Probably. I know I can get to the 10k distance, and definitely the 8k...probably not the half marathon. I wonder why that distance puts me off so much? I think it's the time I know it takes to run ten or twelve miles at a stretch. Hm. I think I need new sneakers.

...hopefully I don't look too chubby and middle-aged here on the side of the road. I wonder if I'm breathing really hard to the people I pass. I don't think so, but these headphones kind of mute that...

...crinoline and shoes, purse, jewelry. I hope I can find a crinoline for that prom dress before next weekend....

...I wonder if I should start buying some nice tack for my "someday" horse? A nice black bridle and maybe a halter? What if I find my horse and then have no tack to ride with? Or worse, have no budget for tack? I could get a horse bridle...that would be cool....a saddle, probably better wait til I have the horse.... I should find a decently-fitting black dressage show coat, too....navy blue is not my favorite, but it's all I've got for now......and Wren needs a new helmet for sure....and I would like a new one for myself....

...I have to have to have to lose some weight....have to. Twenty five pounds would be awesome, but ten would satisfy me for a little while...I still can't believe I'm not too heavy for this pony....

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A month of losses and new beginnings

Yesterday was my 44th birthday, and as I remind everyone, it's also the 44th anniversary of the very first Earth Day, back in 1970. It's just a cool fact that I love about my birthday date, and it usually means nice weather, spring greenery, and time to be spent outside enjoying it all. Worship in the Church of the Natural Environment. I definitely did some of that, it was a gorgeous day!

Our family, as a whole, and each of us individually, has suffered a few losses this month, but we've also found ourselves at the start of some new beginnings, too.

Of course, we lost Quinn, early this month. Travis lost his foster mother to cancer on Good Friday. Several friends have also experienced the loss of loved ones. Our relationship with the owner of the barn we had been riding and boarding Cinnamon at really began to deteriorate, and because we felt the best option for us was to move Cinnamon to a new barn, we have lost Turkey, even though he wasn't really ours in the first place.

We're in the middle of some nice, new beginnings, though, too. I have found a dressage instructor I like, and a barn where there are lots of adults and some kids, and everyone seems really friendly and welcoming. Wren seems to have found a place at a large hunter barn with TONS of kids and ponies.

It became evident weeks ago that Wren was not receiving the type of instruction that she needed in order to progress as a rider, and I was not able to really study the riding discipline I wanted to study. So a change was necessary. It has really paid off; Wren even wanted to, and tried to initiate, the canter on her lesson horse last night! Amazing transformation in just about a month! What a difference from the terrified, tearful child who didn't even want to trot! Now she's talking about jumping, and wanting to take some dressage lessons from my instructor, too!

I'm really enjoying my lessons with my new trainer, even though I have not yet cantered and I'm still working on the Introductory level work. I *feel* like I am getting my basics under control, but in photographs Travis took today, I was astonished to find myself looking kind of crummy...fat...round...lower legs not as close to the horse's side as they should be...body angle too far forward....ugh. I have so much to work on. It's depressing. Not at all what I had hoped I looked like. Good grief, I hope I don't stay a damned flappy, chunky, sack-of-potatoes beginner forever.

...and these are the best pictures. I'm not posting the really fat and ugly ones....

Cinnamon joined some like-sized friends at the barn where I am taking lessons. She is settled in, and after an altercation (not serious) with a small pony gelding who was looking for love in all the wrong places, she is happily munching hay and has a new friend, Holly, the miniature mare. She's a part of things there, and seems happy and content. I am thrilled she is in a smaller-sized pasture that is close to the "action" so people will see her and be able to keep an eye on her.

Wren hopes to go "trail riding" on her this summer at the new barn. I hope we can do that, too. I've decided to lease the pony mare I've been riding in lessons, even though she is not even 14 hands tall. She's a cutie, and her name is Destiny. Interestingly, a blazon from my registered coat of arms is one of her markings -- a horse head. It's right on her hindquarters. My arms are effectively a horse head on a white diamond.

See? It's facing the opposite direction, but there it is.

So, things are looking up, even though there is still some residual drama and entanglements to untangle. Hopefully that stuff will be done soon. I hope the cycle of loss and pain is done for a while. It's exhausting.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Finding my place

I love dressage.

I know most non-horse people think of it in terms of Stephen Colbert's funny sketches and interviews with Jan Ebeling about his Olympic mount, Rafalca, partially owned by Ann Romney....horses and riders "dancing" with and without music. That's part of it, but it's really so much more, and it's based in military training for field maneuvers.


What I love about dressage is the training. I love the end result, of course, the beauty and harmony of horse and rider, but it's much like learning dance in the process of training. Very physical and cerebral, requiring focus and patience and daily work. I can get lost in my own head and attend to the details of the ride, even at the low level I am at, and think about all the moving parts -- mine and the horse's -- and where to put them with each stride. I remember being that focused when I was training as a dancer, too. The muscular and biomechanical control I gained allowed me to place my limbs wherever I wanted, to balance, and move through space efficiently and seemingly effortlessly.

To do that with a horse is an incredible experience. I've felt the harmony of horse and rider before, briefly in separate rides, usually only for a few minutes at a time. I've been searching for that feeling since I started back to riding two years ago. Today, I found it again, briefly, only for a few moments at a time, but it was there, and it was wonderful.

I've been riding with a dressage trainer and judge for the last few weeks, and it has been a great experience. Fun, productive, challenging, and very positive so far. My lessons have been basic, but straightforward, progressing in small increments to more and more challenging geometry, learning to resolve issues and refine my basic position, and regain my confidence and control. I've found I am not the things I was told I was, and I DO correctly know the details I was taught years before. That, in and of itself, has been a relief.

I'm enjoying riding again. I'm practicing the skills I know, and learning the new ones I need to know. Right now, it's all USDF Introductory Level, walk-trot, haven't even cantered yet, but that's fine. I want the solid foundation of a good position, correct riding, and firm knowledge of the very basics before I get into other stuff. Yes, this means I have to spend time with the World's Most Boring Dressage Test, but it doesn't feel as boring anymore since I actually am focusing on the components of riding that make up the test instead of just riding the test over and over.

And I'm riding a pony. A real pony, a 13.3h Welsh/TB cross mare who has schooled up to a bit of Second Level. It's been interesting; I've never ridden such a short equine before, ever. But her owner and my instructor both say I am doing a great job with her, so that makes me feel good. I still can't get over her being so short, though. For my birthday next week, my instructor says I can ride one of the big draft crosses or other big guys she has, if I want to. That should be interesting after a few weeks of pony-riding!

At any rate, I had a great lesson today, and I finally feel like I am making progress and finding my place. Now if only I could find my *horse*.

Monday, April 7, 2014


Running my hands over her furry body, I repeated the only thing I could think of to tell her....I'm so sorry, I'm sorry, I love you, I'm so sorry....I'm so sorry....I love you.....one hand after the other, down the length of her compact form, forehead to tail, forehead to tail, sobbing, tears falling on her black and tan coat.

I tried to gather her in my arms, but she was limp and I was afraid to hurt her, or cause her to expend energy she did not have. The anemia that began so suddenly a night and a day ago robbed her of even the ability to thump her considerable tail against the table as it consumed her red blood cells faster than they could be replaced. There was no fixing this, no transfusion fast enough, no drug, no treatment that she'd survive....it was likely the underlying disease was a cancer somewhere.

....I'm so sorry....I'm so sorry....I love you....I love you.....I'm sorry Kira is not here....I wish you could stay...I love you....thank you....we will miss you.....I'm so sorry....

It was her sixteenth birthday when we finally let her go.

Rest well, my dear companion, Quinn. You were so loved, and you will be forever missed.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Finding the Holy Grail

Yesterday, I drove out to the Calais Horse Trials, a local schooling event held at Level Green Riding School in order to watch two of my Pony Club members ride in the Introductory Novice division. This is the event I did last year, on Champ. I had the opportunity to ride it again, but due to Life Circumstances, opted not to. Instead, one of the Pony Club girls rode Champ this year. She has been doing a much better job with him than I was, so I was interested to see how he'd do in the same situation.

It was raining. The trailer parking field was a squishy mess, and getting into the farm, I kicked myself for not just parking the car out on the road and hoofing it (ha!) into the event, but I knew there would be tractors available in case I was stuck.

I missed the dressage tests, having spent too much time shopping online for the Horse I Cannot Find, but arrived in time to snap some pictures of them getting ready for stadium and cross-country.

I also spent some time watching the dressage tests done by other competitors, because it's a good exercise for my eye to see the differences between people who practice dressage training principles when riding on the flat, and those who ride hunters most of the time. Because of my love for dressage (and so many day-of scratches that the event no longer ran on the time schedule), I caught the tail end of the kids' stadium rounds, finding that Champ and his rider came through with possibly some time faults and one refusal. The other horse and rider combination was eliminated in their first event in stadium due to refusals. Unfortunately, even though it was a schooling event, they did not get to continue on the cross-country.

Watching Champ and his rider get through the cross country phase was exciting, and they came home with a minimum of faults on course to finish the event without the dreaded 'Big E', unlike myself last year. So very happy for them! I don't know what their end placing was yet, because I had to leave before they tallied the scores -- I was completely soaked through, and concerned the additional two hours of rain would make it even harder to get my car off the site.

But all I could think, while I was there, was just how much I wish I had been riding. Oh, I probably could have done it, on the big Belgian/TB I've been riding, but I really do not enjoy half-assing my way through the practice only to try to pull a good performance out of thin air. Too nerve-wracking. I just did not have enough time in the preceding months to put in the focused practice I feel is necessary. Still. Still.....

The conditions were horrible, and the footing was greasy and crummy even in the (grass) dressage rings, so I can't imagine what the (grass) stadium ring was like, not to mention the footing out on the XC course. I watched people go, and I thought, "I can totally do this", and I sort of kicked myself for getting nervous last year and screwing it all up. No, I didn't beat myself up too much -- I did place in dressage last year -- but this year, I just thought that had I the horse, I could have handled it. Familiarity with the course and site? Probably that's a portion of it -- the XC course for the Intro division was pretty much exactly the same as last year. Improvement in my riding? Nah. I haven't improved much, if at all, in the last year, really. I'm going to be doing something about that this year, though. I'm not sure what it was, except a feeling that getting through the three phases seemed like less of an insurmountable obstacle this time, even from the rain-soaked ground.

I hope against hope that the Year of the Horse will reveal one for me (...still...again....I know, how many times do I have to say it?). I'm saving my pennies, and trying to do everything I know how to get myself in whatever serendipitous position I need to be in to make this happen. I'm not sure how totally on board Travis is with my idea, but he loves me, and I think he knows just how deep this particular fire burns, and for how long it's been banked. The practical side of me says I have to wait til we have our own farm so boarding a horse isn't necessary, but the little-girl part says it's not fair that Wren gets a pony and I don't. And part of me feels like I'm forever racing the clock, running out of time to do the things I want to do before I get too old, too broken, to physically incapable to handle the demands of the sport. Never mind the assumption that I have upwards of 40 years of life left, and that there are plenty of seventy year old people out there still riding and jumping and handling horses, a level of anxiety always says "But what if I don't?"

Hopefully, I do. It's raining again this morning, and while my riding is uncertain, I can take responsibility for some things, and so I will go out and get back on the running routine. It keeps my arthritis at bay, and makes me feel like I am doing something on this journey.

My particular Holy Grail is still waiting.

(photo courtesy of Kevin Maxson)

Saturday, March 8, 2014


"Right now, there is so much possibility and so much potential swirling around, it's almost painful. I love this, and hate it, too, because it could all lead to everything I want, or nothing. Walking that thin line between patience and persistence takes skill and an educated eye. The beginning of this new month, at the near start of spring, feels like a swiftly-shifting whirlwind, bringing me closer and closer to what I'm looking for. On the other hand, I know from experience (that "educated eye") that power is working in the background, and pushing my luck here, getting cocky, getting my hands in before it's time, may leave me with an unsatisfying result. I need to stand back a bit, and let the scene unfold before me. I've seen glimpses of what can be, and I like it. Now, to wait, and wait, and keep a watchful eye. Patience is key."

I wrote that around March 1st, and at the time, it was truly the way I felt. But another snowstorm, continued cold and grey weather, general crumminess, and a feeling like the road has suddenly got very, very long has contributed to feeling a little less so. Still, patience is key. I wish I had more of it.

Travis had shoulder surgery this past Wednesday, and we were prepared for a significant reconstruction and a long, difficult recovery. Thankfully, we got much less than that, and compared to his previous six knee surgeries, he's doing remarkably well. I'm amazed by how easily he has adapted, even though now I am overly worried he will over-do things and hurt himself again.

I also had typed out a long post about cost comparisons between having horses and doing other expensive hobbies, but I got so far into the data, it was becoming pedantic. Suffice it to say, there are people in this world who honestly believe that someone who owns one or more horses is obviously very wealthy. My observation is that I have spent ten years in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), and I have never heard of anyone checking out someone's new Pennsic-size Panther tent, or their elaborate silk and linen and wool Twelfth Night (or Coronation, or Investiture...) clothing, or their new custom helmet or armor bits and saying, "Wow, they must be really loaded". A new tent costs as much as a horse, a full set of basic, decent armor is equivalent to a saddle, totally spiff clothing equals various horse things (blankets, bridles, other small bits of equipment -- one of my linen cotes = $65 = the recent cost of a new winter blanket for the pony)....and a weekend event with camping and feast can equal a local schooling show or small horse trials. The reality is, if you are spending a year being fairly active in the SCA to include at least five overnight trips, a War event, and keeping up your fighting/clothing/camp equipment kits, then you are spending about as much as a 'regular' person with a horse or two who doesn't go to rated horse shows, takes a lesson every other week, and buys secondhand tack and equipment as much as possible.

It's just about what you choose to spend money on to enjoy your life. I tend toward the "expensive" hobbies, of which the SCA is one....I'm still a glassworker with an expensive kiln and torch, and I do have a significant fabric addiction (and three sewing machines). Travis is getting into digital photography, with all the cameras, lenses, and computer programs it comes with. We don't play in the SCA that much anymore, and we have definite life goals to move out to a rural area to keep our horses and other animals at home. Nobody's won the lottery, we just save, and choose the less-expensive options as much as possible. I know plenty of other people who do the same, or similar. Just wanted to dispel that particular myth, not only for us, but for the other 'regular' horse-owning people out there.

Now, if we WERE to win the lottery,a big one, all bets are off. A big farm, a new truck and trailer, the perfect horse for me, instead of a 'project', all of it. I already have the plan all figured out! Just need the cash!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


This past weekend, we officially became horse owners.

Thanks to the generosity and expertise of a friend, Wren and I took a weekend trip to South Carolina in search of her first pony. We have been leasing Gabby, a grey Welsh pony, for Wren for the past year, but the relationship has not been working out well. Wren's riding skills have been regressing and she fought some serious anxiety about riding after suffering several falls over the course of the last year. Honestly, I'm surprised she still even wants to ride at all, really, but her love for the equine species transcends the numerous falls off off the way-too-speedy Gabby, and the way-too-tall Champ.

I was tired of my own stress each riding lesson day, and I hated to see my kid in tears of fear and frustration.

My friend, an accomplished horsewoman and a lover of ponies for little kids, spotted a "diamond in the rough" pony on a Facebook pony sales forum. A few weeks of back and forth communication with the owner, some pictures and video, and the opinion of my friend's mom, and we decided to make the trip down there to see if this really was the pony we had hoped for for Wren.

Turns out, the little thing was pretty darn perfect after all. Fuzzy, in need of nutrition and a good farrier, but sound, healthy, and pretty agreeable to riding.

We loaded her up and made our way on the loooong route back home on Sunday, where we made her comfortable in a stall for the night with plenty of hay and water.

Travis and I visited her Monday, and got her acquainted with her surroundings in the daylight, and I took the kids back to the barn to groom and play and ride her a little bit. It went well, and they had a lot of fun. I think Cinnamon will be a great pony for Wren,and for Noah, too, who has now decided he needs to ride the pony as well.

I'll have the vet out to do shots in a week or so, and the farrier is coming next week. Then I will start the hunt for teeny, tiny, pony-sized tack, and teach this pony to work the way we ride, and it should all be good.

I always thought the first equine to join this family would be a horse for me. I may have to wait a little longer for my own horse now, but being a pony mom is pretty cool.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


I try not to do too much with New Year goal-setting. One, because I have enough to do without putting unrealistic expectations on myself (and most of my expectations for myself can probably be considered unrealistic), and two, because there's always so much I want to do that the beginning of the year always feels like I'm standing at the world's biggest buffet line. SO much to see and try and do! It can get overwhelming.

But there are some things, here at the beginning of the Year of the Horse, that I would like to tackle before the champagne flows on December 31.

I'd like to improve my horsemanship skills. There are things about caring for and owning horses that I just don't know enough about. On my list for 2014:

  • I'd like to learn how to wrap and bandage legs. I've never used a polo wrap, ever. And I'd like to know which kind of bandaging/wrapping/boots are appropriate and when.
  • Equine first aid....what are the over-the-counter treatments that I need to know how to do, and when? When is ichthammol used, or Betadine scrub, or nitrofurazone? I want to better recognize common conditions, too, like thrush, scratches, rain rot, and other ailments. And I'd like to have a handle on when to call the vet, and when something is a real crisis versus when not to panic.
  • Oh, yeah, and I want to learn to take a horse's vital signs, and know the parameters of normal.
  • And I want to get out into the local horse community more and meet fellow adult amateur riders. So my goal here is to attend lectures, audit clinics and lessons, and join either the Virginia Dressage Association or the Central Virginia Dressage and Combined Training Association.

I think that's a pretty decent amount of stuff to learn this year. I don't think I really have any riding goals, except to keep riding at least once a week. I can't really commit to competitions this year, I feel a little too busy to devote that amount of mental focus and preparation to competition right now. It's one thing to take a lesson and work on skills and try to improve with each ride, but it's another issue to work toward being prepared for something specific, like a course of 12 stadium jumps at speed, or galloping a cross-country course, or a dressage test.

Actually,I'm kind of hoping the planets align and Wren and I both own our own mounts by the end of this year. I just turned in an application to adopt a Thoroughbred from Re-Run Thoroughbred Adoption in Suffolk, VA. Honestly, I'm excited and a little freaked out. I won't be able to trial-ride any horse that I adopt from a Thoroughbred rescue (because of insurance limitations), so that feels a little nerve-wracking, but I will choose a horse with recommendations from knowledgeable people I know, so it shouldn't be really bad. The prospect of having my own horse to do things with and to be a partner with is thrilling, and something I have wanted for a long, long time. It's slightly terrifying, but I have high hopes.

My horsemanship, my riding, my attitude and my nerve, will all just have to rise to the occasion.

Also I may have to revive A Hot Piece of Glass or something, so that I can generate some "horse care" money. Board, farrier, and vet bills all add up quick.

Still.....very exciting.....

Sunday, February 2, 2014


It was an absolutely glorious day today. Sixty-eight sunny,warm, degrees, and I got to spend the morning on a horse.

I think the weather today was our gift for tolerating the weeks of freezing cold, snow, and general crap we've been having. Or maybe Mother Nature finally got her Zoloft, or something. Either way, it was wonderful, and I feel refreshed and ready to take on the six more weeks of winter that Punxatawney Phil has declared will now happen.

I wasn't feeling well this morning, and it's never fun to ride with a stomach ache, but once I got to the barn, and basked in the sun, I was better. The sky was a brilliant blue, the breeze was warm, and the horses were ready to go, which is always welcome. I even got to wear my new-to-me full leather seat riding tights! They are SO comfy, and I was excited that they actually fit over my ample backside. Bonus! I've discovered that everything fun, or awesome, or comfortable is usually for the skinnier riders, so finding these was a Big Deal.

But I digress.... I knocked about a ton of dirt off of Beau the Belgian, and picked several sticks out of his tail, tacked him up, and we were off. Man, those tights were fantastic to ride in! I sat his trot like I was glued to him!

And we jumped.Not big, and not a lot, but it was smooth, and effortless, and I felt so confident. Picked up the canter and did a sweet five-fence course..."hands up, eyes up, sit and wait, wait wait...look, turn, sit, wait, wait, wait...count the strides and steer..." Even though I didn't get that last broken line from four to five, I still felt really good about it. I haven't jumped in weeks!

I could have easily spent ALL day in the saddle.

The rest of the day was good, too. Wren had her lesson on Gabby while I cleaned tack and slathered my saddle with conditioner. I also took some photos of the barn and pastures to send with my application for the Thoroughbred adoption group. Who knows? This may yet be MY year of the horse.

Today was a distinct contrast to recent days, that's for sure. I'm not *quite*ready for spring yet, but at least now I know it's really coming.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Snow day. Starting with teleworking for Travis and myself. And coffee, of course.

 The kids are already absorbed in various Minecraft-related endeavors on the iPads. I swear,sometimes I think we should skip over buying them their own handheld gaming systems and go straight to iPads for both of them. It's a thought. An expensive thought, but a decent one, nonetheless.

No snowfall in Virginia escapes my morning-after snow photography. It's been a long time since I had proper snow boots. Maybe fifteen years or so. I think it might be time to invest in a pair of good, insulated snow boots, like the L.L. Bean boots I wore in college. My rain boots do not cut it when the temps are low.

It's really cold, maybe 15* at the most, which for this part of the south, is pretty chilly. It's four inches of "sweeping snow", the kind you can get off the cars with a broom. For those of us who are transplants from harsher winter climates, it's not that big a deal, but around here, it's cause for school closure, stay-off-the-roads warnings, and the opportunity for teleworking.

It will likely all be melted, or rained, away by the weekend, but it's nice while it lasts, and makes me feel like I have at least a little bit of winter each year.

I love the way our house looks in the winter with a coat of snow.

Even the backyard, fairly utilitarian-looking in the winter, is pretty with a frosting of snow. The dogs love it,but the kids, astonishingly, have not been outside yet.

But I have been outside already; the sunshine is bright, but cold, and everything sparkles.