I’ve finally reached 20 weeks pregnant, wooot!!! Halfway there! We had the mid way ultrasound yesterday to check all the measurements and growth and baby is moving along normally, always good to hear that from doctors!
This also means that I’ve reached the point in which I’m voluntarily grounding myself from riding; the risk of a fall from Flash is fairly low but not zero, and as this isn’t my baby my comfort level is lower. So, we’re back to hiking and today the sun shone so out we went!
An awesome local group is gathering and bringing some old trails back to life that just so happen to be a 10 minute haul from my barn! I was able to load Flash, unload, shove his boots on, make him carry my stuff (some adjustments still needed there), go for a two mile hike and make it home as the kid got off the bus.
Flash was super well behaved except for the occasional reminder to not trip over me (personal spaaaaace!) and even when we saw other horses he didn’t scream for them. He did get a bit fast heading back to the trailer, so we took an out and back detour on a single track trail and he settled back down.
A beautiful hike and some exploring in a new place on a sunny day with a good dog and a starving blonde pony…it helps a great deal! Now to pack the truck for our camping shakedown trip to Battle Ground Lake tomorrow!
During my pursuit to become a surrogate, my BMI went too high, even though everything else was golden (I blame the husband’s meat smoking hobby, soooo delicious!) So, to loose the weight in a healthy and sustainable way (no weird fads or crash diets for this mildly lazy lady), and also in pursuit of some actual strength for horseback riding, I got a gym membership.
When I took the above photo, at the beginning of 2019, I was working out at the gym two to three times a week (mostly rowing and the stair master), jogging with the dog twice a week, riding my bike when the weather was decent, and horse riding once a week. I finally hit the BMI number I needed and decided the gym was not for me, so I ordered some kettle bells and a short group training session from a personal trainer in the UK, Aadam of Physiqonomics (definitely check him out when you’ve time, he’s got an awesome voice and utterly practical style I appreciate).
Immediately following the embryo transfer, you are considered “PUPO”, or “pregnant until proven otherwise”. During the two week wait for the official pregnancy test, you are daily injecting yourself with various hormones, emotions are all over the place and you’re instructed to really take it easy physically; no heavy lifting, keep your heart rate from spiking, and generally embrace a slower speed to life to ensure everything settles in smoothly. For me this meant no lifting at home, no riding and no running. It was November and I fully embraced the couch life, aside from dog walks and futzing about with Flash in the arena.
About 10-12 weeks pregnant you shift over from the reproductive endocrinologist’s care to a regular OB/GYN, and your exercise restrictions are more or less lifted, with the caveat of curtailing really heavy duty things. Instead of picking up the kettle bells and the running, I started flirting with yoga and hiking with the dog and horse. I’ve realized throughout this process of get fitter/loose weight/do almost nothing/do a little that other than horse riding, there’s no one exercise I’ve stuck with long term. I like variety and things I can do with the kid and or dog, as they are great motivators since both are cheerful and faster than me at everything.
Fast forward to last night, when I finally purchased a three month pass to our local pool and used it…and guys, I may have finally found the exercise I’ll stick with. Our local pool is just hands down awesome, cheap, and comfortable (warm water!!!). I can do my lap swims (I remember how to swim! Almost better than ride a bike!) while Kade plays under the watchful eyes of the lifeguard. Kade was so thrilled to be going swimming! He’s taken lessons for years but those are structured, not just free time. The pool is between the barn and the house with a generous open swim schedule, and it’s just…fun. 10 laps last night was a perfect starter; enough to push but not exhaust me. The biggest bonus for swimming: nothing is out there jiggling between the swimsuit and being underwater, and I can keep this up later into pregnancy when all my muscles and joints start to relax (and running would be far less fun anyway).
It only took me, what, almost 4 years of living in this town to get into the pool? I’m very much a “better eventually than never” kinda girl! For now the goal is three times a week, since including the drive, shower and changing takes less than an hour and I’m going to be back to non-riding status here shortly.
I’ve been friends with Flash’s owners for years. But when I say ‘friend’, I really mean ‘sister’ cause that’s closer to what we are now. I rode Flash off and on, had a few adventures and generally clicked with him fairly well over the years. However, he was said friend’s eldest daughter’s horse and I was working on a state salary so had no extra for a horse of my own. Borrowing and catch riding was how I got my fix.
Fast forward a few years and the daughter was now a teenager with eight million different, non horse related hobbies, my husband and I had seen several raises and job changes and purchased a house. My friend had been hinting, with less and less subtlety, that I was the only one they trusted to take Flash should the teenager be willing to part ways with him.
Then one day she finally just came out and asked me if I was ready to take him, meaning bring him to a barn closer to me and be his person. Rather cleverly, she had asked my husband first for the financial impact and having been given the go ahead, brought it to me. The stars aligned a month later a sweaty, gleaming Flash stepped off my friend’s astoundingly awesome custom built trailer and my bank account hasn’t been the same since!
Naturally, now I’m pregnant and rapidly approaching the “too unbalanced to ride” section. This is a surrogate pregnancy and something I’ve been working towards since before I met Tom, let alone brought Flash home. All my eventual goals and plans with Flash are a bit paused, which is both a good and slightly frustrating thing.
As this is a surrogate pregnancy, it means the child isn’t ours (and not related to us at all), it also means that safety and making solid, well informed decisions is paramount. I’m entrusted with growing and protecting someone else’s child (in this case, a gay couples first), and that requires totally different thinking from when I was 20 and working draft horses while cooking my own kid.
The biggest safety compromise I’ve made, between my OB (love her and her approach!) and the baby’s IF’s (intended father’s) is agreeing not to trail ride. I can arena ride, and hike trails with him, with adults around, until my regular pants don’t fit (which is coming up faster now that I’m at 19 weeks along). As my main objective with Flash is trail riding and camping, and it’s winter anyway, I’ve been focusing on ensuring we’re a team and getting my (first for me!) truck and trailer ready for August.
Once the babe is safely home and I’m at least through the immediate recovery phase (which I’ve heard is much faster without feeding and caring for a newborn!), my goal is to squeeze as many adventures into the summer and fall as I can.
I know that truly regaining full strength and all takes more time, but doing so with Flash and friends will definitely be the most enjoyable way through. In the meantime I have a more or less tolerant and helpful husband and a big golden treat hogger to ask crazy things of, like play soccer and load into a trailer without drama and let me fuss with his tail and kiss his nose as much as I want. Barn time, caring for and futzing with Flash is definitely helping through all the work stress and interrupted riding, helps curb my impatience for a cool lake and a warm campfire!
I received hard news from my boss on Friday: a coworker, a senior manager I supported and was mentoring me a bit, was found dead in her home.
For this and various other reasons, I desperately needed a good day, a smooth day when I didn’t have to worry about a million things and everything just moved…easily.
Today delivered and I seriously lucked out in every way. Truck and trailer are both roadworthy, sealed, organized and basically as good as they get. Flash loaded more or less willingly (I’ve mostly accepted that he’ll load cause he’s a good guy and not because trailering is fun or neutral for him), and I got zero traffic up to Washington.
I had managed to snag a mid Monday lesson with a new trainer, Rebekah L., And boy both she and the facility she trains out of were definitely worth the drive! The sun was shining and it was warm enough for Kade and I to have a picnic lunch in the grass while we relaxed from the drive.
Rebekah is the first new trainer I’ve introduced myself to in years, and this time with my own horse! My main goal for the spring is to get Flash and I to a solid, well matched place, so we can pick up from there when I come back from pregnancy recovery in August. Might as well make the most of our arena time while we’re stuck there, and today’s outdoor arena was just… breathtaking. I don’t go for hyperbole much, but the sun was shining, the views of the hills were beautiful, and the footing was fantastic. I just wish it were a tad bit closer and we’d be there all the time!
Flash trailered well, relaxed while we waited and I tacked fuzzbutt up, and only called once to the horses all around him. He had a few opinions under saddle, but nothing to budge even my out of fitness butt. Rebekah gave me one main pointer that I was desperately needing-carry your hands! Huh, so that’s why I lurch forward at the posting trot, my hands were way too low!
Flash and I have tons of work to do, but there’s a well trained, happy partner under his blonde, cookie hogging exterior and I’m more excited than ever to bring it out. Good boy Flash, very good boy 🙂
Today when I arrived at the barn, someone had left a grid of poles laid out that I was immediately excited to try. Due to various reasons (being pregnant, super busy at work, and the occasional winter doldrums) I haven’t been riding Flash consistently. I brought him home in August and before that he was pretty much a trail horse, but under that cookie seeking exterior is a well trained horse.
We’re back to basics while we’re stuck in the arena, mostly while we really learn each other and build fitness (I won’t really get to keep it but hopefully he will!) Since part of my “be safer while pregnant” agreement is nixing trail rides, the arena is what I get so I’m trying to make the most of it. I’m also half contemplating previously unfathomable ideas like a low key local w/t/maybe canter schooling show. Me, show???? I haven’t bothered to do that since Pony Club!
So here’s our attempt at this serpentine grid, and side passing down a pole, serenaded by frogs, coyotes and restless children 🤣
Here’s a fun post idea from Centered in the Saddle. So much has happened this year, and this is a photo based way to wrap it all up.
Favorite Horse Show Picture
I don’t show and didn’t make it to a single endurance ride, but here’s Kade’s first mounted lesson (and many more to come!)
Favorite Non-Show Picture
At the start of this weekend trip to Sisters, I was afraid to canter Ray on an open Forest Service Road. Two days later we rode bareback up to a viewpoint!
Favorite Thing You Bought
We bought a house, and it’s been the hardest, most time consuming, stressful, and hands down the best thing we’ve done for our little family.
Favorite Moment on Horseback
This isn’t my favorite photo, but I love the circumstances. Even with all the adventures and places I got to ride this year, this was taken by my husband on his first ever trip to the barn! It bored him silly watching me work on going around in circles in the indoor, but he made the effort and that means the world to me!
Favorite Moment Out of the Saddle
This one is fully a toss up between our courthouse wedding (man, we totally rocked that purple!) and the sailboat we were able to rent for day in Victoria BC with some of our best friends. Being a wife is cool, but sailing into the middle of the start of the big annual yacht race down the straight of Juan de Fuca while the Canadian Navy ship shoots their cannons off was a whole other level of crazy!
Favorite “Between the Ears” Picture
I know I keep using this image over and over, but it was taken while riding bareback with an awesome group of ladies, Cyrus at our heels, looking west to the Sisters mountains, through Raymond the Redheaded Quarter Horse’s ears. This was the trip in which I embraced how much I still needed to work on myself, and that horse camping with friends might be less stressful and more enjoyable than endurance for awhile.
Of course, my other favorite is when my two best friends hauled down to my neck of the woods and we spent the day ambling around together and trying to keep the dogs cool on one of the hottest days of the year.
Favorite Horse Ridden (or Groomed/Cared For) Aside from Your Own
This one is a very close toss up between Delhi the War Mare to the Deschutes River (seriously, OMG that trot!) and riding Phin the Gorgeous in the Columbia River Gorge. Both horses I drool over and would jump at the chance to ride again!
Favorite Funny Picture of Your Horse
This perfectly captures the relationship Ray and I have built this year: I ride, he pretty much does as I asks and more or less manages not to dump me, and he gets to eat. So. Many. Carrots.
Favorite Fence or Movement You Conquered
I definitely wouldn’t say I’ve “conquered”: riding bareback, but I’m more comfortable with it and Ray’s super smooth jog trot. My goal is to be strong enough and centered enough to canter bareback!
Favorite Horse Meme
Want to participate? The only rule is that each answer has to have a photo!
I’m a terrible blogger, but here’s something that’s been floating around many of the horse blogs I read. Actually stolen from Haiku Farm! 1. Why horses? Why not a sane sport, like soccer or softball or curling?
There are so many facets to this answer, starting with “it’s in the blood” and constant early exposure thanks to my mom, and the enduring love of dirt encrusted fingernails, hay in the bra, slobbered covered shirt and miles in the saddle.
No stirrup November!
2. What was your riding “career” like as a kid?
A bit scattershot, I did some horse camps, 4-H, but couldn’t keep my grades up or focused enough in the noise of high school sports. I’m making more of an effort with my kid though!
Be still my heart!
3. If you could go back to your past and buy ONE horse, which would it be?
I don’t think I actually would. There was one spookily smart, shark fin withered Arab I worked with at the summer camp I taught at during college, but I wasn’t and still am not ready for the huge responsibility and financial burden of a whole horse. A kid, house, dog and husband is enough!
4. What disciplines have you participated in?
Key word there is “participate” not “competed.” That list is thankfully wide and varied, though it could always be wider! I’ve driven every type of horse and hitch from a single Belgian to four in hand Fjords, driven carriages on Mackinaw Island, trotted a giant Appy down an endurance trail, dabbled in jumping, taught basic English and Western, and worked horses from ponies to drafts in the woods and the fields.
Bobby and Tucker, the best team ever (not biased of course!)
5. What disciplines do you want to participate in some day?
This next year will be about trying different things with Raymond, trail obstacles, some cow work, mounted archery…I want to dabble and try new things!
6. Have you ever bought a horse at auction or from a rescue?
Nope! That’s a project I don’t see myself well set up for for years, if at all.
7. What was your FIRST favorite horse breed – the one you loved most as a kid?
The kind that talks to you in your head and convinces you to be a better version of yourself just by virtue of being super magical and blue eyed.
8. If you could live and ride in any country in the world, where would it be?
Money not being on object, both Australia and New Zealand. Gorgeous mountains, bays, deep back country, different wilderness and wildlife (brumbies!), and overall a lot less people!
9. Do you have any horse-related regrets?
Mostly I wish I’d had more time with them as a kid. My parents did tell me if my grades were high enough, they’d keep driving me out the barn for 4H, and I might have if I’d been involved with OHSET or something a little more exciting than plodding around a ring on a wet Oregon winter’s day, but as a kid I couldn’t see that!
10. If you could ride with any trainer in the world, ASIDE from your current trainer, who would it be?
I’d take a bit from everybody, but I’d love to go back and take a lot more lessons from the old farm owner I worked with in college at Briar Hill Farm; she’s doing mounted archery with her Fjords and Dales now and she’s an amazing lady all around!
Fjord mare named Dasha (if I remember right), the first horse I was allowed to train to drive at Marcy’s farm
11. What is one item on your horse-related bucket list?
Riding in every state and Canadian province.
Much more of this!
12. If you were never able to ride again, would you still have horses?
Yes! My time in college exposed me to a lot of different things you can do with horses. I once met a 75 year old Mainer from the backwoods with Parkinson’s still working Percherons in the sugar bush. I may be a lot slower but I’d still have them!
14. What horse do you feel like has taught you the most?
They’ve all taught me so much (what horse person can’t say that?
I would say Pete the Belgian logging horse overall; he really taught me to take a deep breath and really listen to what they say, especially when they know the job better than you!
Tucker on the left, Pete on the right at my alma mater, Sterling College in Vermont
15. If you could change one thing about your current horse/riding situation, what would it be?
I wish the barn I lease Raymond at was just a little closer! If I go out now, I’m going to ride, not just “hang out” and I do miss that critical part.
Kade set up these obstacles for me all by himself!
16. If you could compete at any horse show/venue in your home country, where would it be? I wouldn’t. Competitor at this point I’m not! But my overall goal is to ride in every state, and I’ve only ticked off….9 so far!
17. If you could attend any competition in the world as a spectator, what would be your top choice? Again, not huge into competitions, but probably the Vermont 100, how did I miss that ride when I lived in Vermont for five years???
18. Have you ever thought about quitting horses? Nope. My life is an ongoing, never ending scheme to spend as much time with them as possible.
Jokker the giantest and goofiest Appy ever! No horse makes me laugh like he does, though Raymond comes closer every ride!
19. If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the horse industry, what would it be?
Take away money prizes for all events.There, I fixed it. (That was Aarene’s answer and it cannot be improved upon).
20. What’s the dumbest horse-related thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well? Watching a winter woolly, slightly bug eyed, shark fin withered Arab hop and spin off the trailer with 20 other camp horses just off their winter range in Nevada a week before campers showed up and picking him to be my partner for the summer. He turned out to be the smartest horse of the bunch, and when we rode drag for the trail rides no one could keep the fat, hungry ponies going like he could!
21. As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?
Gravity sucks but it’s not the worst thing yet. As someone who catch rides and leases, I’m most afraid of loosing someone else’s horse in the wild or broad lands where I ride most of the time.
Funny story, it did almost happen on the PCT this summer. I was riding Raymond bareback at the trot and slid off in slow mo (more core strength needed damnit!) and he started heading back to camp without me (there’s a nightmare vision right there!)
Luckily, I had a carrot in my pocket and Raymond never turns up a treat. I snapped it in half when he was about 50 yards from me, he heard it and did the fastest U-turn ever!
About half a mile before Carrot gate!
22. What horse-related book impacted you the most?
23. What personality trait do you value most in a horse and which do you dislike the most?
Uncontrolled speed is my least favorite right now; I don’t mind speed (Raymond has the huge Quarter horse acceleration that makes me whoop like a cowgirl every time!) but it’s nice to be able to direct it at will.
I love a horse that knows his job (whatever it happens to be) and doesn’t get ruffled easily.
More core strength+shorter stirrups=enjoyable rides versus scary ones!
24. What do you love most about your discipline?
Miles in the saddle! Seeing beautiful scenery you otherwise might not, and building that critical, awesome relationship over long hours moving down the trail.
25. What are you focused on improving the most, at the moment? Myself, always myself. The depths of winter are sprinting closer, so it’s a good time for No Stirrup November (my goal is to be able to canter without them!) and more strength workouts, since that’s what’s really holding me back currently.
Okay, everybody else, it’s your turn!
Copy the questions, paste in your own answers, and ping me so I know where to look. Wheee!
In the sports I’ve chosen to dabble in (endurance riding, bike riding and running), most people speak of reaching a zen moment, or a blank mind, or just a moment when everything quiets and it’s just them and the road, or the trail ahead. It’s usually that indefinite stretch of time between the warm up and when you can see the end, when life and outside thoughts fade away, and for many that’s why they do such sports, plenty of time to seek that space.
That’s not why I run, or why I ride endurance. Maybe I’ll hit that space when I reach 50+ miles or actual marathons, but at my beginner distances there’s never a moment when my brain shuts off and I’m just doing my thing, trudging along in a meditative state.
I’m always busy, whether I be on my own feet or borrowing four. When I run there’s futzing with headphones, checking my pacing, considering my route, rolling up my sleeves, pushing my glasses back on my sweaty face, or adjusting my waist pack or running pack. If I’m not adjusting things I’m worrying about how loud my footfalls are, working on my (unfortunate mouth) breathing or fighting general life thoughts and worries from crowding my run.
While asaddle, I’m either chatting with the folks I’m riding with or calculating my route, negotiating how often we’re gonna stop to eat (*cough Raymond cough*), taking pictures or making sure my posting is even and controlled, switching my rein hand and reminding myself to keep drinking water or grab a bite to eat. The only thing that’s different when I’m riding is I’m fully in the moment-outside worries can’t follow me as soon as I mount up.
I have to find other reasons to motivate myself to lace up or heft the bike out of the garage. It’s one thing to keep your eyes on the ultimate goal (ride as a middle weight, finish a 50 mile ride, general weight loss and fitness), but that’s not always enough umph. The activity itself doesn’t have to be super fun, but something about it has to be worth more than just the long term benefits.
So I signed up for a fun 5K this Sunday with the kid. I’m a goal driven gal, so there’s gotta be something concrete to reach. I’m good at setting the long term ones, not the short term check points. The kid’s my best cheerleader, so we’ll lace up, pack plenty of water, smear each other with sunscreen and hit the Oregon Trail. We’ll embrace endurance riding’s motto, ‘To Finish is To Win!”, no speed records or anything being set by us. If this one goes well I’ll look for some races later in the fall to run alone, when it’s slightly less stinky sweaty smoky out.
But who am I kidding? This view will always be my first love and main motivation!
745am: I get up just long enough to let the dog outside to do his morning biz, see the kid is still conked out and crawl back into bed.
9am: I head to the local grocery store with the kid to forage for breakfast and food for a BBQ with our two best couple friends later that day. I return home with donuts, breakfast sandwiches, ice cream and apple pie. $24.89 I forgo my normal weekend activity (riding my leased horse out on private timber lands for endurance training) and instead tackle the overgrown garden the previous homeowners left behind.
145pm: I can already tell I’m going to hurt tomorrow! It’s been hours with the scattered “help” of kid & dog, but I can finally tell what’s growing in the garden, and the compost bin is full of weeds. I’ve discovered kale, corn, tomatoes, snap peas, and some super happy summer squash. I post on a gardening FB page to “treat me like a newbie” and get tons of solid beginner advice to keep nurturing the garden now that I’ve unearthed it.
2:30pm: We pack up and head north for an early dinner with friends. We’re exhausted but the ribs and company more than make up for the long drive through summer construction traffic. We polish off three racks of homemade ribs between the seven of us (and the dog!) plus apple pie and hard cider I left in their fridge a few months ago.
630pm: A quick trip at Home Depot to secure gardening supplies; the first being a ton of mulch to protect the plants, as we’re looking into another, even hotter heat wave this week! We invest in watering timers for the front and back yards as well, plus a few other things we never had to worry about before. $147.55.
730pm: I can’t believe we’re all in the backyard (our backyard!) working in the cool of the evening after the week and busy weekend we’ve had, but here we are! The kid runs around barefoot playing with the dog while the husband sets up a sprinkler just for the garden and we both mulch and compost the plants. We seriously underestimated how much we’d need, so I have to find some more, hopefully more along the lines of “free” mulch, but it’s a start! I get the timers for the water set up, so I don’t have to remember to turn the sprinklers on every morning, and we’re all asleep super early. Kid complains that he needs another weekend day; I hear ya man!
7am: Busy & jam packed day! We’re loaded up and out the door by 7, with a quick stop at Starbucks (now a rare treat for us!) The adults get coffee and sandwiches, the kid gets hot chocolate, and the dog gets a Puppachino, something he clearly anticipates as soon as we hit the drive thru! $22.50 Caffeine in hand, we fill up my comfortable SUV (nicknamed the “Emerald Queen” for her smooth ride) ($52.99 in Oregon). Gas & coffee loaded, we begin the first leg of our trip by heading north to our friend’s house, staying just long enough to drop the dog and help her with a few things around the farm before we’re back on the road.
1130am: Made it to the Seattle Space Museum! (Tickets for 3: $58) We spend the next few hours wandering the museum, nerd husband geeking out on everything and nerd in training kid loving the new touch pad screens. My favorite part is the Apollo engines pulled from the ocean floor by Blue Origins; husband loves the Concord; we both keep a watchful eye on the kid, who spends the most time with the space stuff (who knows, maybe his affinity for math & eyesight will be good enough to reach the stars one day!) We hit up the gift store on the way out due to the kid’s good behavior; he gets a Blue Angels model, his own copy of The Martian that we’re halfway through reading together, and a magnet (everywhere we play tourist, we buy magnets as our collectible thing). I snag a snazzy pair of knee high rocket socks and a colorful infinity scarf, which I wear despite the 90+ degree day outside. $57.50
130pm: A late lunch but soooo utterly worth it! We hit up Din Tai Fung for dumplings; we clear our plates and the kid loves them too! The strawberry mango smoothie and black tea are the perfect accompaniment to this beyond delicious meal. ($70.15) The kid has outgrown his one “really nice pair” of clothes, so we stop at Nordstrom to pick up a nice shirt and pants since we’re at the mall anyway. I’m disappointed with their kids selection, even if the rest of the store is newly snazzy. We get the only nice shirt and pants in his size, but at least he looks adorable! ($50.38, reminds me of why I don’t usually shop there!) By 245 we’re back on the road, heading to the wedding south of the city.
730pm: Wedding done, dinner eaten, we congratulate the happy couple, issue a standing invitation to BBQ at our new house when they have time, and settle in the for the long drive home. We take the scenic route and discuss stopping for Diary Queen since we left before the cake, but when the kid and I conk out the husband keeps driving.
10pm: A brief stop to pick up our dog from our friend’s house (luckily they are night owls!), and to fill the gas tank again ($63.99 in Washington) We get home just before midnight and fall face first into bed. I may or may not dream of dumplings that night!