Basics are good

Here he has his thinking cap on…

I had to admit to a friend today that despite all my experience in the horse world, I’ve never studied or really learned how to build a horse’s strength and carriage up from the basics. Oh I’ve picked up some tricks here and there, but no consistency.

V says he’s actually pretty good at shoulder in!

My main goal for the next two months, my last of this surrogate pregnancy and first of pregnancy recovery, is to build Flash up to the point that when I’m ready to ride again, he has the strength to carry me (who will definitely be a wobbly mess for awhile). Right now he’s definitely in pasture puff status and while he’s happy to be so, I dream of adventures together so to work we go!

We are so lucky V is working with us both! So much to learn!

Today V showed us a good amount of in hand work, which revealed that Flash is stronger on his right side than his left. I have been asking him to stretch and step under himself every night, which is helping a bit.

Bending and picking up his shoulder

While lunging him Flash got super speedy and started to canter around and give little bucks, telling us he’s anxious and trying to figure out the right answer…and that building up his fitness will be a long process but we have time. Once he figured out the right answer (stretching down and stepping under himself) he calmed down, though breaking into a canter was still easier for him than stretching. But he’s an awesome horse and he’ll get there…with his opinions firmly intact!

The post workout roll is always entertaining!

Every time I see or work with this great golden dude I fall for him a tiny bit more. I’m so excited to finish baking this beautiful baby for his parents and climb back in Flash’s saddle!

Work is hard but pasture life is easy!

Sun and adventures to come

Three awesome lads

Thanks to the later sunset, I was able to fit in a quick, two mile hike after I picked the kid up from school. My second best hope has been realized and Flash is loading now with zero fuss (he’s not yet self loading but maybe someday). I’m hoping he actually likes going hiking (or, as I’m sure he calls it, “sampling the wilderness”.)

Must eat every five strides

If it’s not cancelled due to coronavirus concerns, I’ve signed up for a Mountain Trail Schooling Course at Bolender Horse Park this weekend. I’ll be doing Novice, Level 1 and Level 2 in hand if Flash agrees with that. For all it’ll be our first event like this together, I’m hoping we’ll do okay…at least not embarress each other! The hardest move for Flash is a side pass; I just don’t have my signals down for nice, smooth ones so we’ll try to eek through that.

Kade is a great videographer in training!

Wish us luck and hope we don’t freeze up in the hills Saturday night! At least Flash will have a nice cozy stall on site.

After school fun

A new exercise

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!

Blondie thought he was done when I dismounted…🤣

So here’s our attempt at this serpentine grid, and side passing down a pole, serenaded by frogs, coyotes and restless children 🤣

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?

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!

Shifting skies

Scene set: I’m typing this up on my ‘new’ phone, which in reality is Tom’s old phone, but it’s an iPhone 6 so its one of the newest pieces I’ve had since…my parents were buying my technology probably. I’m at the MAX (Portland’s light rail) station accross from whete my mom now works, under looming grey skies waiting for the train to take me home. 

Plan: Finish this post on the train; finish the drive home in the Emerald Queen (who is in desperate need of a quality detailing), change into workout clothes and put in my second run in months, in my pursuit of my new goal: to ride (to hopefully complete!) a 50 mile endurance ride in 2017. I haven’t even picked a ride yet, but I know it’s the most motivation I have to trick me towards my ultimate goal: regaining the strength & weight of my college days. Or at least much closer than the rounded, easily winded, cubicle dwelling not fit for much beyond a nice Netflix binge version of Jame I currently am. 

Obstacles: The hot water heater is broken (or the breaker is broken) but I have no hot water at home. The piled up dirty dishes will have to be handled the old fashioned way: via boiling water on the stove. How pioneer! It also means hot showers are available at Tom’s sisters house, who thankfully lived three blocks away, but who has a shower which eats Jame’s and makes her fall down and jam her finger. As one does.

Also, all those other things like being a working mother (which carries with it the stress load of work and commute and budgets and mommy guilt), plus I am fatter and slower and the couch is comfy and the boyfriend makes hella good food and I haaaaaate running…but it’s the cheapest way to get fit quickly that I’ve seen, self paced wise.

All I need is a few sets of comfy workout clothes, some decent shoes, my Iphone and an armband and headphones (all of which I have, minus the armband which those nice folks at Amazon are sending me now).

The obstacles which have (mostly) been removed are my prior goals of new house and new job. The house we are mostly settled into (minus minor things like consistant access to hot water) and the job is fantastic, where both my coworkers and my boss are super psyched about me and what I’ve accomplished in my first month. 

Oh, and if I haven’t shouted it across social media enough: TOM IS HOME! 

Bring on the 50, I’ll be ready!….

Now to find a horse…

Horse Dirt

While I can’t really ride right now (see ‘a laughable lack of core strength’, scheduling & access to a trained equine) I have found something almost as awesome: volunteering for Sound Equine Options, a local equine rescue which is tied to the Oregon Humane Society (which means their reputation is solid, they aren’t backyard rescuers, & their volunteer program is excellent). Their horses in training are boarded at a Mustang Millions trainer’s barn in Eagle Creek, & we get out there once or twice a week to muck stalls, groom horses & join a ground training class taught by Stacey Riggs.

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Carlos! He’s green (should be grey) but such a personality!

And I say “we” as in the kiddo & I-yes, finally a barn I feel (mostly) okay bringing him too! Stacey, the trainer who owns the barn, has kids of her own not much older than Kade, & actually has a room set up full of toys & a TV! So between that, the iPad, the gravel piles & puddles, Kade has a blast & stays out from underfoot for hours. But I did finally have to break down & buy him his own pair of Muck Boots (just like the ones I’ve had since my first year of college & still going strong 10 years later…only purple because that’s the last one Cabella’s had on sale!). Kade has never met a puddle, especially the deep ones, that he didn’t feel compelled to become one with. So Muck boots will help keep his feet a tiny bit drier & warmer & hopefully avoid changing his pants three times in one barn session.

So while I’m not riding (yet) I’m getting the rest of the package, once again working with horses & building core strength mucking out stalls! I spent over a half hour detangling a mare’s wretched mane yesterday, which wouldn’t have been possible without Cowboy Magic Detangler (stuff is magic, trust me!) This wonderful mare stood & sighed & didn’t even flinch as I teased out snarled braids & brushed out half her mane, even with the rain pouring down in buckets on the giant metal roof & horses playing & bucking & farting in the indoor arena.

Fitness Tracker-read on only if interested!

My workouts & ability to actually do them each week are improving. I run three times a week, hit the barn once or twice, & fit in random other exercises as needed-such as Wii Fit or Youtube videos of Biggest Looser workouts. We also go on a hike about once a month, & once the weather gets better we’ll be camping as well. I’m aiming for at least one marathon this summer, & possibly a ride & tie if I can find someone with a horse who’s interested & not overly impatient, as I still have a 16-17 minute mile overall. I ran three times this week & managed three & a half miles in just under an hour without crying or falling on my face-watch out Flash, I’m catching up!

I track everything I put in my face with MyFitnessPal, & so far almost every day I’ve managed a calorie deficit (helps that I’ve cut out soda completely, & try to drink only tea & water & my morning coffee).  One of my best purchases so far as been a FitBit Charge HR (I had a basic Fitbit but it just didn’t go far enough). The Charge is just what I need in a tracker for now-it keeps track of distance, pace & heart rate throughout the day so I can figure out where my base is. It can also track my actual exercise, & lets me know my recovery is actually pretty good. A minute of walking & drinking in the middle of a workout sets me up for a 10 minute jog-which is better than when I started over a month ago, I had to walk for 2 to jog for 5, so progress!

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Tryon Creek crazy selfie

My next step is going to a store to get fitted for running shoes- I have two pairs now, a lighter ‘street’ pair of Nikes & a trail pair of Saucony’s which I love but are too heavy for the treadmill. In both pairs I can feel myself landing on the outside of my foot & pushing in, & that starts hurting the outside of my legs at about mile 4, so I hope to find something to help support that until I loose some weight.

Now time to burn calories by cleaning the apartment top to bottom, clearing old toys & clothes out of the kids room, & heading to the mall to run the crazy out of said kid!

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He built it all by himself! *sobs* He’s growing up!

It’s mostly a rhythmic thump

I was trying to come up with a clever, almost witty first post, but since this is my third attempt at semi-regular blogging, who am I kidding? My sarcasm exists mostly in my head these days, as it’s “not office appropriate”, it flies right over the kid’s head, and World’s Best Boyfriend (aka Tom) is too involved in a new video game to engage in witty repartee.

Besides, intros are boring, & if they are super necessary, that’s why there’s an about me page! Plus, while I was chugging along the love/hated treadmill in my apartment complex’s gym tonight (mercifully alone, for reasons we’ll get to) a post popped fully into my head (finally…I only decided to start blogging again two weeks ago!)

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Right now, I’m engaged in my first ever attempt to loose weight/get fit. I kinda sorta trained for the Beat the Blerch marathon…last year? The year before last? Calendar dates are not my thing. I finished the half marathon, barely upright and with a wicked rub burn in places where a newly not-single girl does not wants such things. But the medal still hangs in my cubicle & the Red Jeep of Sexiness bears the magnet proving that I was once capable of such things, so I must be able to again.

My fitness coach put in beautifully, after hearing me ramble for all of ten minutes; I want to be me again. Before child, I was an outdoor leader, a summer camp counselor, a horse logger, an all around stable rat. Even while pregnant, I was sliding 60 pound bales of hay across the snow to feed the horses (much to my midwives dismay). The thought that, post child, I’d have to make a long haul, concentrated effort to regain things like strength and muscle didn’t even cross my fluffy, post college, hormonal mind.


Fast forward four years later, and now I’m an office peon who would like to be paid more, but who also likes not shopping in the “plus size” aisle everywhere, who gets mildly winded climbing the stairs every morning, and really likes the boyfriends Midwest style of cooking way too much. But the thing that really spurred me to get a fitness coach, to find a good pair of running shoes, and figure out how to start tracking my food and exercise, was the thought that I can’t ask a horse-especially a borrowed horse, the only kind I have access to right now-to carry me around. Not only am I simply heavy, but I can feel all my marvelous core strength that could hold back four 2,000 pound horses and cut down trees with is simply melting away. Which means that while riding, my body remembers how to ride in a light, balanced way-but the strength needed to not be a giant sack of potatoes is lacking, and that isn’t fair to any horse.


Paired with this thought is an echo from way back in high school, when I had several long, mind opening conversations with a mentor of a friend of mine. The conversations themselves were hugely important to me, even more so now in the overly politicized, sound bite world we live in; covering such topics as the Bible, geopolitics, and the importance of a scientific frame of thought. Not that I’ve always faithfully applied such thinking, especially when confronted with my deadly trifecta of horses, chainsaws & boys, but nevertheless handy to lean back on when confronted with pretty much every issue, but I digress.

This mentor is now a motivational writer, among other things, but back then, looooong ago when high school bored me and sports kept me sane, he mentioned something along the lines of “You’ll go far, young Padawan.” I’m phrasing with a faulty memory, obviously, and since Kade’s dad and I split up and I accepted a job with an actual cubicle, I’ve started to think I haven’t gone far at all. But looking to loose a good 60 pounds and run a few more marathons this year (or however long it takes to get back in the saddle) I’m starting to remember there’s more than one direction to go in. Am I changing the world? Of course I am-but on a much smaller scale than college perhaps prepared me for. It’s just taking me a lot longer than most to realize it’s equally valid, and hugely important for that fart loving, lego building, mud puddle finding blonde child of mine that I’ll go as far as needed for him, and that includes keeping myself sane and healthy and happy.

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