Close to home adventures

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!

I love my new spare tire cover!

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!

Happy dog, starving horse

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.

Trail building: downhill edition

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.

Awesome viewpoint

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!

Pony chooses food over views naturally
Nom nom

Bluebird Day

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 🙂

My Voice, Part One

Every attempt I’ve made to maintain steady blogging, especially post college, has slowly petered off and eventually abandoned. Unlike some friends and almost friends that also blog who manage to keep one single blog going, every time I return is more starting over, new name, new fonts, a fresh face that follows the same pattern. I’m not committing to anything this time around (even though I paid for WordPress again), but with everything going on in the world and my personal life I still feel that itch to get my voice down on paper or through the keyboard.

I have noticed that the blogs I enjoy reading the most have a more or less coherent theme, whether it be about books, long form essays, or horses. For myself, there’s two main things I want to write about; I have my own horse now (for the first time!), so there’s a ton to explore and keep track of and learn there. But, back to the whole “state of the world” thing, I want to toss my voice into the void about such fundamental things as the state of our democracy, the world I want my son to grow up and become an adult in, and where my life and choices fit into that larger (and undeniably privileged) framework. Plus random other things like book reviews, fumbling attempts at cooking, navigating home ownership, setting up my rig for horse camping…things I want to share without FB owning and playing corporate games with my stuff. Sounds like two totally separate blogs right?

Being only one busy lady and based on my past attempts, keeping up blogging is an uphill battle between my time, my desires and everyone in my life I jiggle around, so we’ll see how this one goes.

Pretty horse photo cause blogs without photos aren’t as fun usually

To start with the second topic (since I’m travelling for work and stuck in conference rooms 700 miles from my horse), my boss and I grabbed dinner after an 11 hour day for both of us. I support my company’s EHS team, which is heading our response to the corona-virus outbreak (we have customers and therefore employees supporting those customers in Wuhan), so that’s led to long days with no signs of slowing for my team. My boss tossed me into the daily meeting with folks whose titles are no less than two to three levels above mine for, quote, “Being the most reliable and up to date on this stuff.” His confidence helps mine, but man can it get rough!

Decompressing at Claim Jumpers over bourbon and a mock-tail, respectively, we touched on such light, work appropriate topics as our families genetic history, career plans and trajectories, and of course politics…but not about the current impeachment clusterfuck or specific policies.

My high school boyfriend had a karate teacher who was friends with an akido instructor who had a huge influence on how I deconstruct arguments and what points I dig for in such discussions. Even as a teenager I picked up not to go after the fluff of things or get overly sidetracked by tangents, but to dig until the root cause or point was found. Debating with him over email on such topics as religion and politics helped immensely, and I remain grateful for those conversations to this day.

Not to say I didn’t go through the typical teenage and young adult growing periods of false logic, grasping at straws and taking uninformed or ill-informed stands, but we all have to go through that so I try not to beat up myself too much for those much more idealistic days.

Last night with my boss, I wasn’t going after the fluff-my questions (in part informed by this recent series by ‘The New Yorker’), were along the lines of “Can a true, fundamentally fair democracy thrive with a capitalist economy?”, “How do we move on from a two party system?”, “How do we teach our kids to debate and disagree without hating the other person or group?” The point wasn’t to stump each other or argue for one side or the other, but to inch towards that last point; disagreeing without relegating the other side as a bad person.

I’m about to board my flight home (woot!) So more on this vein later!

Namesake

Lately it feels as if I’m paralleling my namesake, Jamethiel, more than ever, in terms of the level of crazy this year has held.

(For those who don’t know, I’m named for the main character in a beautiful, convoluted, complicated, epic fantasy series The Chronicles of the Kencyrath. The author makes George RR Martin seem a speed writer; my mother first picked up the series as a young girl, and now that I’m raising my son the series still isn’t finished).

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Life is unusually charmed; husband newly hitched, house pretty much ours (signing all the things next week!), a job that suits me pay and temperament wise, steady riding and weight creeping off, no broken bones on the kid yet this year. I’m not yet 30, and in the space of a season I’ve hit a ton of the major life milestones. Marriage, house, career job…I’ve already covered the kid part, though I need to rededicated myself to the raising v. keeping alive and in clean clothes mode we’ve been in as the school year draws to a close.

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But as my namesake does, I must test things, push and prod and question the limits. It’s not a wonder then, that I’ve embraced, made my internal peace and found a smart direction for that testing part of my nature. As I’ve settled ever more seriously into the domestic bliss or at least settled happiness life I’m carving out with my boys, I seek just a piece of release and fun and crazy, those questing things I gave up for Kade when most of my peers were out doing the weird, the stupid or the ill advised.

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That I’m juggling both at once-settled happiness and pushing the details-perhaps suits me more than it should. There are the inevitable doubts, fears, questions and cautions, but so long as I embrace the fun and not the rest of it, I should hope it provides the stress relief I seek, not the drama or complications.

I’m referring, of course, to endurance riding. (You thought I meant gambling or skydiving or something didn’t you?) This was supposed to be my year for my first 50 mile ride; I’ve paid dues to both PNER & AERC; I’ve ridden at least four times a month since January. I’ve got my camping and riding gear organized to the nines, and can toss stuff in the truck and be ready to take off in a half hour flat, kid and dog included!

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Between the new job being temp to hire (no paid vacation time) and buying the house, both my ability to take Friday’s off and the funds for rides has evaporated. My focus is shifting; from endurance as a “get it done now!” activity to horse riding as stress relief, at least until next season. Moving, painting, setting up a pantry,  epoxy for the garage floor, dog door, cleaning out the rental, all the other little projects to make this house into our house will take any spare cent and mental space for the immediate future.

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This is both a little disappointing and also freeing, as was my earlier revelation that horse camping without the endurance ride part is relaxing. Endurance is about miles, yes, but also the details, from tack fit to how many miles to training gaps. Now that my day job and personal life is jam packed and an actual endurance season is off the table, I have more time to use those detail oriented skills on setting myself up better for endurance, rather than “just” chugging through conditioning miles.

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I can focus on riding a good horse, relaxing either in a group of friends or just me, the horse and the dog. I’m building a solid relationship with Ray, who pushes me just enough to be a better rider, while leaving me happy when I’ve put him up with an extra treat for his efforts.  There will always be tack fit, gear and other things to futz with. There’s also other things I can try closer to home, like cattle sorting or Competitive Mounted Orienteering, wine or poker rides.

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“An hour spent in the saddle is never wasted.”

 

Riding Keeps Me Sane

So much has happened in the last month it’s crazy to even try to type it out.

A quick & dirty review:

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I went on the first camping trip of the season, over to Sisters and rode three times in two days, all on Ray. By the end of the trip, I was riding Ray bareback three miles while Cyrus chugged along behind.

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I left my state job, after a bare six months (fresh out of trial service in good standing meant I was permanent with the state, so leaving was a big jump!)

I got freakin’ married! Three weeks in and we still don’t have our rings due to ordering them so late; I haven’t changed my name on anything official yet due to our upcoming trip to Canada; and yet, things feel subtly different but we’re still…us.

I started a new job at which my name proceeded me. I left my state job to work for an old manager at a different company, and everyone here has mentioned how well my boss has spoken of me and how excited he is to have me on board. It’s temp to hire so not ideal, but the pay is so much higher, the career path so much easier to see, and I get to kick ass doing what I do best; assisting a safety group to be the best, most efficient and well organized team in the biz. That I can now carpool with my new husband since we work for the same company is just another added bonus.

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But, with change comes stress, and I’ve never been accused of managing change in the most mature way possible. For the month of April I lost almost 10 pounds due to basically not eating or sleeping overmuch. I’m not kidding! We went out with a big bunch of friends to Fuddrucker’s and I ate maybe a quarter of my meal.  I only ate one piece of pizza at a friend’s house, yo. When has anyone known me to eat less than two pieces, no matter how sucky the pizza? I mean, pizza, c’mon.

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The trip to Sisters and then my next ride on Ray, a solo jaunt to our normal stomping grounds that we can access straight from the barn has worked wonders for keeping my head screwed on straight. I went 7 miles with Cyrus trailing along, almost on a loose rein the entire way. Ray did try to pull a few wimpy “Can I go back to the barn” half turns, but sticking to him at Sisters gave me the calmer confidence I needed to deal with these without getting worked up over them, and we had a fantastic ride. I’d ask him to trot or canter at the speed I asked for, then we’d stop, eat and wait for Cyrus to catch up. I was once again alone in the woods with a very good horse, a very happy muddy dog and sunshine.

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My new job is ten times the amount of responsibility and people I effect, but I don’t have to listen for Code Greens or wonder if a friendly hello will tip off a patient. I can put my headphones on and chug through my day, hip deep in some of the things I nerd out over. My friends are coming down this weekend to pick up Ray & I so I can play tour guide at one of the best spots for conditioning and trail rides nearby, and I can’t wait for the heat wave and miles under sturdy hooves (please don’t lose any shoes between now & Sunday Raymond!)

IMG_6313.jpgAny of these automatically become the best view in the world!

Mr. 2Spooky

(Setting the scene: sitting in my beloved Emerald Queen, still at work, waiting for the World’s Best future husband to come rescue me and my non independent woman self from a super flat tire, and a spare tire I can’t get out from under the vehicle cause I’ve never practiced on this truck yet).

After looting the local 4H tack sale with two far fetched friends on Saturday, I put the new to me tack to use on Sunday.

My proudest score of Saturday was a almost brand new Equipedic pad for $100, which is totally worth boasting about and bonus, Ray had no issues with it!

A still relatively new to me riding partner and I headed out for a long slow ride, as we’re aiming to turtle Grizzly together. I have always ridden with others much more experienced than I, both with endurance and the local trails. Yesterday I got to be the ‘senior’ riding partner, and we never once got lost! She mentioned several suggestions I had that I’ve picked up from others (hopping off every 10 miles or so to pee and stretch and adjust tack, letting horses graze for a few minutes every so often, and walking the last bit I to camp/the barn) were super helpful, so thanks to all those who’ve instilled good habits in me!

While it was a good 12 mile ride (no rain!) I was reminded once again that Ray is a different horse than super laid back, goofy Jokker.

Mr. I’m actually a teenager spent a good chunk of the ride just super casually glancing around, going full giraffe at random moments, and not quite fully jumping sideways at Every. Single. Culvert. I rode every moment of the ride, working to not let my emotions rule because Mr. I’m not actually trying to dump you tried to pretend he was a super spooky four year old.

I kept the image of mile 18, trotting easily down trail halfway back to camp and a well earned completion award and roaring bonfire in mind as I again reminded Mr. I go so fast than no, you can’t bolt all the way home, and please don’t tailgate the peeing mare.

Rather than being terrified, I enjoyed the challenge of pushing myself to match the horse, and not get sucked into his attempts to weasel out of work. He did eventually accept the notion and we settled down and enjoyed ourselves (minus the redhead eating culverts).

Lessons learned: definitely going to try a Kimberwick or at least a running martingale next time; he has a habit of sticking his nose straight up when he disagrees with the riders chosen speed. “Neener neener, can’t tell me what to do now!” Shortening my stirrups was both good and bad; my seat was much better, but it tired my right ankle our faster and forced me to constantly reset my bad balance (something I’m hoping Celena can help me with at her clinic in two more weeks!)

My proudest moment was also the scariest; we were cantering back home and I could feel myself tipping forward over his neck, reins not short enough to do any good, and if he’s stumbled or shied I would have been dumped, just like I fell off Reno at Grizzly last year. Fortunately this year I heard some old trainer’s loud ass voice shout ‘Sit on your ASS!’ so I did and we came back to a more controlled canter that I cowgirl whooped my way through cause yeah, super badass enough to correct that mistake this time!

The only thing I really need to work with Mr. Fastest Possible Speed is rating, which I know will be worse the first five miles out of ride camp. My twin goals are dialing in his bit/martingale combo and working on my core strength so I can keep with him for those long miles.

We can do this and we can enjoy doing so, even more when the sun decides to shine! Hows everyone else’s conditioning coming?

Easy like Sunday morning

Say what you will about Facebook and their questionable business practices, today I’m thankful for the ability to connect with a wide range of people.

This weekend has been full of spending money and giggling like a little girl, but it’s not Jokker’s fault this time. In response to my last post, a friend suggested I contact a boxer breeder she knew of who had an older dog looking for a new home (a million thanks Ann!)

Based on the cat’s still roundly pissy yowling whenever Cyrus gets too close (he isn’t scared, just mad he’s not an only furry animal in the house now) it may be too early to declare total victory on the dog acquisition front, but in only a day we’ve made adorable headway.

Cyrus is the same age as Kade, coming six years old, already a distinguished gentleman with impeccable manners and a tendency for carrying stuffies around in his mouth. He’s a super cuddler with a soft mouth and needing a soft place to land (he prefers the couch to the super highly rated dog bed I found on Amazon). Kade is already smitten, Tom is being won over by Cyrus doing his best to ignore said pissy cat, and strangers stop and they comment on his handsomeness on our walks.

I know there are a lot of heavy, terrible things racketing around the world these past few weeks, and I’ve given what blood and help I can. In our little corner of the world, our hearts are quietly full, and I’ve made at least one little boy tremendously happy. Coupled with a heavy headed snoring dog, tasty coffee, Tom home from South Korea and a new job to start at tomorrow, life is pretty excellent!

Yesterday

The song I’m turning to most recently to keep my spirits up is “Yesterday”, from Imagine Dragons. It has just the right combo of upbeat musicals and slightly somber vocals that matches where I am about now.

Here’s to my future

Here’s to my yesterday

Here’s to change

Oh, here’s to my yesterday

No tomorrow without a yesterday

Here’s to my future

Goodbye to yesterday

I’ve had close to twenty interviews for various administrative positions in the last few months, and exactly zero offers. My cover letter and resume are impressive enough to get into the room, but not enough to reach the final offer. As one can imagine, it sucks large to know I can do a kick-ass job, but not be able to convince people of that.

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On the other hand, training is picking up. I spent a weekend in heaven, riding no less than four different horses, and working with riders and their horses in six different riding lessons. I spent two full days on horseback or in the barn, helping horses or their riders with various issues, strength building, saddle fit, and helping people be more comfortable with their horses. I found a better bit for a young mustang; reminded a beautiful palomino that standing is preferable to being bugged about moving; saw a smile bloom on a rider who finally found a comfortable trot out of his large Quarter Horse gelding.

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I made a joke to Tom that clearly, the universe is trying to tell me something…but we all know how unreliable the universe can be. Building a business is hard, let alone a horse based business, in these times when fewer and fewer have the money and time for such a money and time intensive animal. Pesky adult things like insurance, regular non-equine bills, and a child starting up with sports and swim lessons and whatever else he’ll grow to be interested in to find money for also need to be accounted for.

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I have a decent base to start from, however. A supportive partner with a solid, decent job; a happy go lucky kid; a lifetime of experience with varied horse pursuits and training philosophies, from Pony Club to working draft horses to kid’s camps. I have a good handle on my own strengths and holes as a rider and horse person (don’t ask me much about nutrition, ask a vet!) I have a much better sense of business, of organization, of customer relations than fresh faced college me ever could.

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The path forward isn’t clear, and rejections sting, but I’ll keep plugging along at it until something gives. A steady paycheck has something to be said for it, although being home to send Kade off to school and pick him up is a large draw for me right now, just being available when he needs us. I have the feeling first grade is going to be a bit tougher than kindergarten was for the short blonde dude, so I’m really hoping/planning for the time we can bring a dog home to give him a friend, a playmate, a warm shoulder to lean on when the parents just can’t understand. Wilson is a very good cat, but he’s still a cat, and I’m a firm believer in the right kid/dog combo. Plus, it’s hard to sleep in or give into laziness with a talkative dog that really needed a walk an hour ago singing in your ear at 5am…though it’ll be interesting to see if “dog needing to pee” or “cat DEMANDING to be fed NOW” wakes us up first!

 

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View from the ground

Life has tossed a few loops at me this summer, from Kade's second broken arm, job loss and Tom hopping back and forth to Phoenix, not to mention the unreasonable heat and wildfire smoke hanging over everything. I'm writing this on my friend's living room, PNER Green Bean mug full of coffee in one hand, kid playing on his iPad and stuffing his face full of bagels and remarking on the ducks once again taunting the dogs.

I picked up blogging (again!) as a way to remain somewhat publicly accountable for my new exercise plan. Since my last post I've only put in two solid bike rides, although I've been working out a different way; horse back riding, schooling horses in the ring, on my feet or in the saddle a good chunk of the day.

I have so many horse people I look up to, from the newly Tevis buckled Jala Neufeld to my old Fjord and Dales farm owner Marcy Baer, still going strong in Vermont. I have long held an educational view, accepting I will never know everything about horses, but by golly I'll spend a lifetime trying. Due to this I always look around the horse world from a learner's mindset, hoovering up everything and filing things away for later. I rarely toss anything out as complete hogwash, always mindful of the
occasionally huge leaps between disciplines.

There are a few basic things I hold to as someone whose goal is to be called 'horsewoman', mainly being mindful of the horse's point of view in what we ask them to do; letting predators on their backs, trailering to strange places, tolerating everything we toss at them, and always trying to keep their comfort levels in their terms in mind.
So for someone who still and always views themselves as a learner, it's taken some doing to gracefully accept that in a small way, I do have some wisdom and knowledge to share.
(I swear this isn't a humble brag post, stick with me!)

Since my day job was cut, I've been spending the bulk of my days helping a friend with her still relatively new boarding facility up in Washington. And by helping I mean giving lessons, evaluating horses, and giving horses some tune ups. Me, giving lessons! Helping other people not only be better riders, but figure out how to enjoy their horses more.
Despite the heat, long hours on my feet, a general weird feeling to be teaching people *cough* mildly older than myself, and a weird case of what was probably pink eye…. I've loved every moment of it, of watching concepts click in someone's mind or seat, of hearing owners gush over how much calmer their horse is. Even Tom has seen how much calmer and happier and flat out excited I am, and is fully supportive of trying to make this training concept work, however we can.

I've been in full on research mode the past few weeks, reading and plotting and mulling ideas about *gulp* setting up an actual horse business. I have already identified my niche- kids and reriders or older new riders, people who want to work on themselves and making their lives with their horses easier and more enjoyable. I know where my gaps are as a rider and horse person, which is why I'm as dedicated to learning as ever. I still have big goals for myself (Tevis 2020 anyone?) but this doesn't discount what I do know.

Part of this post was to finally process how I feel about the whole experience (weird! Excited! Happy!) but also toss my little shingle into the wide ring of horse people in the Pacific Northwest. If you find yourself looking for lessons or boarding near Olympia Washington, give T and A Ranch a look. It's the facility I would build given the time and inclination, and it's a fantastic place to learn to ride or keep working on things 🙂

See ya on the trail!

Back in the saddles!

Are we going to talk about how long it’s been since I last posted? 

Nope, except to say that life is busy as it is for everyone, and I have a new job that demands so much more brain power than my old one…Which, unfortunately, I am loosing after this week due to budget cuts. I am, of course, going through the stages of grieving over it, since this is the best team I’ve worked with since college.

No, the reasons I’ve decided to devote some time to writing here are many, mostly focused on self improvement through accountability. If I can consistently post here, doing so will help keep my goals and steps towards those goals front and center, where even people outside my immediate circle can help keep me accountable ttowards them. 


My primary goal for this endurance riding season, the real goal that pushes everything else, is to complete a 50 mile ride. It’s July and the PNW season ends, more or less, in October. I have completed one 25 mile ride and felt great, fully embeddeding the endurance bug once again. 


A large part of my success at that ride came down to two main factors; a wonderful mentor and an utterly forgiving horse with a build that carried a heavyweight rider without issue. Jokker is amazing horse and I’m privileged to be able to ride him, but as a catch rider I would like for a few more doors to be open to me. Expanding my options entails loosing weight (my eventual goal is to ride as a midweight, preferably by next season), gaining strength and riding ability. 

As I am facing uncertain employment, I can’t shell out for lessons right now, but I have all the tools available to work on the first two. Through extensive trial and error, I’ve found what works for me to keep moving towards those goals; primarily hiking and biking. I loath running; I just can’t stick with it, as sweaty and slow and jiggly as all the various bits of me right now. Swimming costs money to belong to a local pool, being stuck in the gym around strangers is boring and unmotivating, and even plain walking is just ugh. 


Thanks to a birthday gift from my parents, I’ve discovered I actually love biking, as it allows me to go a lot father and faster than my own two feet, carrying more gear, with a lot less jiggly and rubbing parts. The one issue is it’s not super cheap, between maintenance and new gear to make things a bit more comfortable. I weigh every purchase with a thought to my ultimate goal; will a new bike seat help me get more miles in to be fitter for a 50? 

I am also lucky in that Canby is a surprisingly good town to bike ride in. There are certainly some roads leading out of town I’m not up for trying yet, but most roads have bike lanes or wide  shoulders, plus their is a beautiful multi-use path without cars that cuts right through town. I can just hop on the bike and go, without having to drive somewhere and park (which I still do if only for variety). 

I am also keeping a private journal in Evernote, which I use everyday for tracking mental headspace, measurements, food and workouts, as well as various apps such as Map My Ride and My Fitness Pal. I’ve started and lost motivation on several workout plans over the years, but most of them were running based. I think having a clear and attainable endurance goal in mind and a biking based workout plan will help get me there, as well as more public accountability. 


My next possible endurance ride is Santiam Cascade in a month, with the incomparable Jokker once again on deck. I also want to be prepared to jump on any chance offered, without doing a disservice to any offered horse. 

For now, Santiam is in my sights and I can’t wait!