Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Horses Save Me Again

I moved to a house on the same property as the barn in late October. It has been such a blessing to live here. This home is my happy place, my sanctuary, I love it here. The day I left my husband I loaded up the trailer and drove to the barn. I was in full blown panic attack when I hooked up the trailer and for the first time ever I dropped it when I missed the ball hooking up. I managed to get it jacked up and back on the truck, I was trying to run away before my husband came back home. I was a hot mess when I unloaded Grace and got her settled in. I stayed at the barn that day not wanting to leave – this was before I moved here. I noticed that there were some stalls that still needed to be cleaned so I grabbed wheelbarrow and pitchfork and jumped in. Halfway into that first stall my thoughts started to settle, my body took over as I begun the repetitive motion of shifting poop through shavings. I realized how much I missed working in the barn, the quiet mornings with the horses, the satisfaction of freshly stripped and bedded stalls. It wasn’t long before I was the Saturday stall cleaner. Once I moved to the property I took on night feedings and weekend mornings. Little did I know these simple chores would save me.

I’ve had my heart broken twice since my marriage ended. Yes – you are correct in your judgment it was most likely too soon for me to be involved with anyone. That didn’t stop me. I fell head over heels in love and gave a man every last ounce; he broke up with me the first time the day after Thanksgiving. That was a Friday – he came over that night, told me how much he loved me and then walked out the door. I was devastated, how could someone I gave everything to just walk away? The next morning I wanted to hide under the covers and never get out. I wanted to stay in the fetal position until the pain went away, but I had to get up and feed the horses. I had to put my clothes on and trudge down the hill. I then had to force myself to eat food so I would have enough calories in my body to clean stalls. Something happened halfway into cleaning stalls; I had a brief moment of clarity where the pain paused for a moment. It didn’t last long but it gave me a glimmer of hope that there may be a way through the pain. In the weeks that followed I fell into a scary black hole of depression. I came home after work and didn’t want to leave my bedroom. But I had to feed the horses each night. This meant changing my clothes and trudging down the hill. Joe was there with his sweet face always happy to see me. I would cover his nose in kisses and tell him that he is the only boy for me. Grace was there kicking the walls to her stall telling me to “hurry up and feed bitch, I don’t have time for your boy drama!” I rode less in December than I had in years, I just didn’t feel like I belonged in the saddle. In early January I started to ride Joe several times a week, about two rides in my smile came back. His lope was my new happy place. 

I started seeing a therapist and worked weekly with my life coach. I was finally starting to get over the man that broke my heart after the holidays when he showed back up to give it another try. This time I thought I had my blinders off, I was still crazy in love with this man but I wasn’t going to let him hurt me again. We were just “dating “this time I told myself, I could walk away at any time. In reality I was very much in love with him, again. Last Sunday he ended the relationship for the second time. Once again he told me how much he loved me and then walked out the door. For a smart girl I seem to be really stupid when it comes to relationships. How could I let this happened twice? Why in the hell did I trust him again? 

This time around I am much further along than I was in November. The pain is still fresh but I am more angry than sad. I’m also not sure that I trust myself to make relationship decisions. The horses still need to be fed every day and still need me to clean their stalls on Saturday. Stall cleaning has become my 5 hour physical meditation. I start out stuck in my head, thoughts of him are non-stop. By the time I am on the last stall I am looking forward to showing Joe this year and am planning out the rest of my weekend. Joe is still my favorite boy to kiss. He is there for me to wrap my arms around him and cry into his neck. He doesn’t judge me, he doesn’t tell me I wasn’t ready for a relationship, he just listens to me and softly blows his breath on my hair. I once said that if I could go back and talk to 14 year old me I would tell her to spend more time with horses and less time with boys. 39 year old me is just now starting to hear those words.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Grey Horse

I have officially found myself in the world of maintaining a grey horse. All those years I said out loud "I'm so glad I own a solid bay" are about to catch up with me. We are having a beautiful sunny Pacific Northwest Day today so I broke out the Quicksilver and got the grey horse grey again. I have a whole host of new products in my tack truck including, Blue Shampoo, Green Spot Remover, Baking Soda, Vinegar, and all kinds of products for sweet itch. Poor Joe has a horrible allergy to the gnats. He will tear up his belly in just one night trying to get relief. I've been using Avon Skin So Soft Gel which helps to calm the itchiness but doesn't prevent the bug bites. I had just picked up several products for a home remedy (Swat, Bag Balm, Campho-Phenique) when the lady at the tack store sold me on Belly Balm from Tail Tamers. Cost wise it was about the same a the ingredients for the homemade concoction and the ingredients are all natural. I get nervous using a home made remedy on Joe since he is super sensitive. Today was day 2 of the Belly Balm and so far I think it's working. I reapplied after his bath and noticed that he wasn't swishing at bugs while I hand grazed him. I'll give it another week before I know if it is going to work. 


Monday, March 24, 2014

I'm a Dodge Girl!

I lost my beloved 2000 7.3L F250 Crew Cab in the divorce. It was the paid for vehicle and he didn't want to wait for me to pay off the Jeep which I had left for him. When it came up in the settlement meeting I told my attorney that while I was emotionally attached to the truck, I would just trade the Jeep in for another one. I loved that truck and wanted something exactly like it or better. I figured if I was making a car payment it needed to be for something that I wanted to drive. There are a lot of 7.3L Fords for sale in my area but very few crew cabs and even less that the banks are comfortable offering good terms on. I fell in love with a 2002 Crew Cab that was burgundy with tan trim but ended up walking out of the dealer when they couldn't meet the cap I had for monthly payments. 

 I spent the next week scouring the Interwebs for my next truck. I felt like I was online dating. "This one is only 2WD, this one's bed is too long, this one's cab is too short, no I won't drive a 6.0!" I hadn't bothered to look at Dodges because I just assumed they were out of my price range. One of the dealers that had a 7.3L also had a 2003 Dodge 2500 in my price range. The only downside was that it had over 200,000 miles on it which the credit union balked at. I then found a 2006 Dodge Ram 2500 Crew Cab with 167,000 at an Infiniti dealership. I spoke to the salesman and let him know upfront that I had walked out of a dealership the week before when they would not meet my terms. He recommended that I go through the approval process before making the hour drive to their dealership. I was approved at the payment I wanted, the only thing left to do was to test drive the truck. Meet my new Dodge:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Show Ring Confidence – Where does it come from?

Yes – I owe you all an update on Grace, Joe and my life in general. Grace loves her new life teaching lessons and seems to appreciate not being asked to be a show horse. I am in love with Joe – I just took him to a schooling show this weekend and he was a superstar. We still need to figure each other out and have work to do at home but it was such a great experience to bring a show horse to the horse show. I was able to warm him up and lope him in the crowded indoor warm up pen – something I’ve never been able to do with Grace without her exploding from the tension. This got me thinking about show ring confidence – where does it come from? 

If you’ve read my blog in the past, especially when I posted consistently (I promise I’m close to getting back at it) you know that I have struggled with show ring confidence for years. I rode hunter/jumpers when I was younger and was continually overfaced at shows. My nemeses were wide 3’6” oxers. Why in the world did I think I could handle them at shows when I was not confident over them at home? It only took a few crashes for me to start to fear the show ring. I walked away from jumping, started riding Western and took the fear into my rail classes. My smart little mare tuned into my show ring tension and would take over doing her own thing, which only led to more tension on my part. I have sought out breathing techniques, calming supplements, phycology, and endless searches on the Interwebs. Last year I excelled at shows where I was the big fish in the small pond, but when we visited the big pond all the tension came back and the rides were downright embarrassing.  I’m not sure that I was ready to show at that level, but then again the only way to show at that level is to actually show at that level. 

I know where all the fear comes from but would like to know where show ring confidence comes from. This thought was bouncing around in my head last week when I gave my first customer facing webinar at work. I happen to love public speaking and this was a subject that I was incredibly comfortable with. I walked a group of new customers through the basic set up of their software. It is something I’ve done over 1,000 times and have said that I can do it in my sleep. The webinar went off exactly how I had anticipated, the customer response was very positive along with my co-workers who attended. It left me wanting do to more of the same work. I’ll be honest I got a downright rush from it. I will be holding that webinar weekly for some time and I have another coming up at the end of the month. I am not as well versed in the next webinar subject matter but I know I need to walk into it with the same level of confidence so I fully intend to spend the next two weeks prepping.

 But isn’t that what I do when I ride every day? At home I work my horse though a series of exercises to get them strong enough for the show pen. With Joe I work to keep him straight, get his shoulder up and put myself in the correct position for him to be successful. I did all of that with Grace, but when I let her go in the show pen if I had any tension at all the work at home was not there to fall back on. This weekend when I had Joe in the warm up pen I asked him to lope. The lope he gave me was slower, deeper and more in the ground that anything he’s given me at home. The grin on my face said it all – I was finally sitting on a big girl horse! I told Sarah that I had no clue how to ride this lope. She said “what, the no squealing and bucking?” Exactly! Joe and I were passed on the rail in our class at the lope by more than one horse. I had no idea that was possible for me. Joe and I still need to find the balance of me letting him go and helping him out.

 I find Western Pleasure to be an interesting discipline, we prep the horses by doing all kinds of exercises to get them strong enough to go slow on a loose rein, but at some point need to also let them get comfortable on that loose rein and still have control of the body. I supposed that is where my “leg” that Sarah is always talking about comes into play. That again for me will need to become second nature before I go to it in the show pen. The last thing my body wants to do when the horse feels like it is going too fast on a loose rein is adding leg. Makes sense to my brain, body just still isn’t onboard. When I can do it in my sleep then I will be ready.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

That Bitch Kicked Me!

I've always said that it seems to be the more experienced horse people that get injured around horses and last Friday I decided to prove it! We were in the midst of a week long cold snap in our area. Temperatures were in the teens and 20's the arena was frozen and I get home too late for a trail ride so both horses had been sitting. I decided to take Grace out for a  hand walk. All was well until we were on our way back down to the barn. Grace got sassy with me and stood up on her hind end. She then leaped forward and kicked out on the second jump. She caught me in the thigh. It took a second to register that she actually kicked me and then the pain hit. It was so bad it brought me to the ground. Grace ate grass around my head as I was laying there in agony. I was able to text Sarah who found me and nursed me back to health. I spent Friday night with my leg iced and elevated. I was really lucky that Grace didn't get me any higher or lower on the leg. 

Hindsight is of course 20/20 and I know that I should have taken control of her when she first acted up. I also haven't exactly been in the moment lately and I know that I need to be present around the horses especially when they have sat for a week! Lesson learned!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Something About A Nice Horse

We’ve heard Winston Churchill’s quote many times “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man” I’d like to add that “There is something about the outside of a WELL BRED BROKE HORSE that is good for Melissa!”  I walk away from every ride on Joe saying the same thing “Wow that is a really nice horse!” I spend the entire ride realizing that I don’t totally suck as a rider. Joe has a lope that I could sit for days. With Grace I was pretty well convinced that I wasn’t capable of properly loping a horse. Don’t get me wrong – I love Grace and everything she has taught me, but damn it is a real treat to ride a horse that is bred for the job I am asking him to do! I’ve been asking myself for the last 2 years what the other competitors in the show ring are doing differently. Why do their horses go so much nicer than mine? I am starting to understand – they are sitting on nicer horses to begin with. 

All of the lessons on Grace are coming into play on Joe. He is an easier ride and is super responsive. When I close my leg, he lifts his back and pushes up into the bridle. If I need more contact all I need to do is to close my fingers on the rein while adding more leg. If I tense my back I feel him change underneath me as if to say “where did you go” but he doesn’t hollow his back and throw his head like Grace. Joe has allowed me to find the stability in my body again under saddle. I’ve ridden Grace a few times when she didn’t have lessons scheduled and I will say our rides are much better – I give her the same ride I’ve been giving Joe – working on the same exercises. Grace is a Super Star in the lesson program – she now has more than one little girl that is in love with her. Grace loves the extra grooming time and treats that come her way from her little people.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Settling into Barn Life

Grace is doing really well in her new life at the barn. She quickly settled into the herd and has her two favorite boys that she nickers to and calls for when they are out of their stalls. I don’t think that I could move her out to be on her own again if I wanted to. Right now she is teaching one lesson a week but I anticipate that she will be taking on another little girl within the next week. If I take Grace into the arena and another horse is teaching a lunch line lesson she just stares at the other horse as if to say “hey that’s my job!” She still amazes me with just how good she is with the little people! Most days I work her on the lunge line with a trail ride and an arena ride or two per week. She has a stall with a nice sized paddock and occasionally gets pasture turnout. She isn’t complaining one bit about the less intense work schedule. 

I’ve been riding Joe as often as I can and have added one day a week of Peggy Cummings ground work. I may have said this before but Joe is an absolute joy to ride! I could sit his lope all day long. Once again I am finding out that I am actually a good rider but Grace wasn’t doing me any favors. It’s been a really nice experience to add leg to a horse and have him pick up his back, to ask him to move his hip and he just moves it, to ask him to pick up a shoulder and he just picks it up. I also find that when I get back on Grace I ride her with less emotion and put up with less of her attitude. I am no longer preparing for the show ring but working towards a goal of having her soft and quiet for the kids that will be riding her.

I have the opportunity to show Joe this winter at the indoor show series we attend and as much as I would love to I need to take a step back financially. I am getting ready to move into my own place and need add the grown up word of “budget” to my vocabulary. I also need to find out just how much the divorce is going to cost me. I had hoped to avoid involving an attorney but it is starting to look like I will need one. Last week my husband threatened to take Grace but then settled down and said he wasn’t going to do that. I pointed out to him that she is an older horse that won’t pass a vet check so whatever price tag he think he has on her is overinflated. This is the part of the process I wasn’t looking forward to.