Ice Days

While I did not see as much ice at my house as some other areas of town, driving to the barn was out of the question on Tuesday because the main road I take there had iced-over bridges. Work texted to say the library would be closed. This meant spending all day with Conrad.

And actually, I didn’t go to work on Monday or Wednesday, either. Monday was a holiday and I had dental work on Wednesday (which meant I couldn’t drive for a while). I had some time to kill.


I rarely sit down to watch an entire movie, and I solidly avoid movie theaters at this point due to agoraphobia. I don’t watch too much TV, but I am a diehard fan of a few shows. I still haven’t caught up all the way with the X-Files, and I’m already behind in S2 of Victoria, but I finally finished Twin Peaks S3Es18&19. Before I finished Twin Peaks, I watched Blade Runner 2049. I should point out here that my favorite movie all time ever is Blade Runner. (Either the 1992 release or the 2007 release–I have ambivalent feelings about the “happy ending” but Edward James Olmos arguably has the best line in the film in this ending.) (I also have a whole take on why Rutger Hauer’s last few words before the character dies are so illuminating.) So the bar was high for a second installment.

we are the goon squad and we’re coming to town beep beep

If you enjoy sci-fi, psychological thrillers, and stunning cinematography, watch this movie. It’s immaculate. It’s also heavy-handed, but so was the first one. I think most fans of the first one will love this sequel. Robin Wright’s performance especially stands out to me as phenomenal. And Hans Zimmer’s score truly sets a chilling atmosphere for a dystopia that doesn’t seem so unrealistic or that far off, and somehow the sets play much earthier than those in the first Blade Runner, perhaps due to an almost overwhelmingly chic palette of slate and gold, hinting that perhaps in every scene these characters are wandering a labrynthine mausoleum. The origami unicorn concedes to a wooden horse.

I will most likely re-watch Blade Runner 2049 very, very soon. As for any more TV, I have Black Mirror and Dark at the top of my list of things to watch ASAP.

Card Games

care to zoom in on my dental bill? ugh.

On Wednesday, Jump Off Deck 2 from Equestrians Against Normalcy arrived and I immediately set to playing with the cards, easily coming up with snarky yet truthful combinations. I cannot wait for the H/J deck to be released!

Online Quizzes

A friend has got me hooked on taking quizzes online. We talk about and take quizzes daily. I have expanded my knowledge of the geography of Africa by … um, a lot. I have striven to learn a little more geometry and endeavored to add more nuggets of science trivia to my brain’s RAM. If you want to take fun, silly, or genuinely educational quizzes online, try Sporcle. I am super hooked on any quiz that asks me to name the animals of certain continents and quizzes dealing with language, for instance, name all the words in Poe’s The Raven that rhyme with “evermore.” I am lucky in that various forms of dementia don’t seem to run in my family, but I would like to keep my brain working well for as long as possible. Of course all these online quizzes are meant to be taken from memory, on the honor system. It’s no fun besting competitors if you’re cheating (unless you’re Kelley Farmer, I guess.)

The only radio station I listen to anymore …

The few times I left my house and drove somewhere, I drove to the barn. It’s a good 20-30 minute drive from my house (depends on traffic and whether I hit the lights timed well) and I discovered that 1st Wave on satellite radio is literally the mix tape I’d be making all my friends (Minus the Elvis Costello–can’t stand that guy. Leave Alison alone, dude.). It’s 80s classic alternative with some late 70s and early 90s tossed in. Where else can I hear Cat People and Bring on the Dancing Horses? I recommend singing both of these songs as loudly as possible.

So, when I can’t play with my pony very much because of ice, the above things suffice to keep me entertained. I really hope I can ride tonight! It’ll be a good time to try a quarter sheet on Eli again.

More, Better Rides

I was able to ride Eli Friday, Saturday, and Monday. The weather was nice on Sunday, too, but I took a day trip to visit with family.

On Friday, I rode under the lights, but Eli actually relaxed pretty well after a couple laps of his best alpaca impersonation. Saturday, he came out of the stall in a great mood. Still a grump, but definitely benefiting from more turnout while the weather allows. I also think his attitude toward blanketing has really changed for the better. He doesn’t even protest when I put his blanket on when it’s cold. I have noticed some hair at his lower left shoulder is getting rubbed a little, so I may be buying him a liner for his shoulder. I have needed so many horse clothes for Eli this winter and it’s annoying.

I did jump some with my trainer on Saturday. Just the very simple trotting in and cantering out of the lines and halting straight or doing a simple change before the corner. Eli knows this drill and didn’t put a foot wrong.

Monday, I rode with my trainer again and we continued in the same program.

lesson edit from patentlybay on Vimeo.

Eli did spook/leap/step oddly after a course, and we have no idea what agitated him. Looking at the video, maybe a horse being jogged in hand was enough to set him off? Or maybe he stung/stepped on himself and threw a tantrum about it? The clip is on my Instagram if you haven’t seen it yet. I walked him around for 5 minutes, trotted him both directions and he felt sound, so who knows. I really thought he could have injured something, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. We took the outside line a few more times to my trainer’s satisfaction and ended on that.

And today, no riding or barn time at all. No work, either. Texas is closed. I did check the local news, and the main road I take to the barn from my house had some iced-over bridges, so I get to hang out more with Conrad. I know Eli is okay–the barn was hanging buckets, wrapping pipes, closing windows, and in general preparing for another spate of more than 24 hours of sub-freezing temperatures. It’ll be 70 again by Saturday — blanketing is a challenge here. I know a lot of people have it much worse than here, but that won’t stop me from wishing for summer!

Rides This Week

All of 2 so far … After Eli jumped pretty well on Sunday, he got a bit of a break on Monday and I rode him pretty much just to let him stretch out and get some exercise. And he got a day off on Tuesday.

Wednesday would be the most notable ride of the week thus far, ha. I was able to get the ride in before sunset, which was a nice change from the regular weekday routine. Eli is a little easier to deal with in daylight. He is plenty fine to ride at night, but it does take longer to get his attention at the outset. On Wednesday, we worked on transitions within the canter for a little bit but mostly focused on developing a strong forward trot. I always start Eli on a loose rein and just ask him to move out first. This makes it easier to keep him coming from his hind end when I do ask for contact on the bit. I am using my seat more and more with him and he seems to get it. Posting deep and sitting longer while posting helps to moderate his trot and still allows him to go forward, but not faster. And that’s pretty much what he does — bigger steps in the same rhythm. I think I am much better with my shoulders in the trot than in the canter, so Eli’s trot comes along much faster as far as developing it goes, than his canter does. I am trying to work more in the canter, but not much more. Just enough more to get done what I am asking. Eli seems to understand the seat at the canter now, too. Not that any of this is automatic — as if.

a bridle fairy came to my house

After riding on Wednesday, I just happened to have a brand new figure 8 and a bit I have meaning to try on Eli (for a very specific reason, not an everyday bit) so I thought I had better try on the bit and the figure 8 at the same time. Both fit. I am very reluctant to use the figure 8 on Eli, even though it’s padded. Even adjusting it slightly lower than I normally would, it hits just across the dent in his face from the sinus surgeries. That seems like a bad idea to me. But I have some work-arounds that might keep him comfortable. I am not in a hurry to use either the bit or the new bridle, but I’m glad to see they both fit Eli. And ideally the bit would be used in conjunction with either a flash or a figure 8. You couldn’t pay me to put a flash on my horse (I’m not a fan) so figure 8 it is.

I didn’t ride Thursday because of high winds. It was cold and I don’t even want to know what the wind chills were, but jumps were blowing over.

I am determined to ride this evening. We’ll see if that determination endures beyond sunset.

Weenie Wednesday: New Bedding

I am not a terribly domestic person. While I can appreciate good design and tactfully edited stagings, I am very much an odd combination of utilitarian and hoarder when it comes to my own furnishings and belongings. 

Which is to say, I kinda needed some new bed linens. As I picked things out on Amazon and at Target, my driving inspiration was this: would Conrad like this? 

I think I did good. Conrad typically hangs out downstairs for at least part of the day … after one night on the new bedding, Conrad pretty much didn’t leave his (also mine, but really) bed other than to eat and go outside for five minutes. 

I think he likes it. 

Getting Back to Work

One way is the arena. The other way is the hay.

Winter gripped Central Texas in an icy vise and I completely wussed out on riding much in that crap for over two weeks (first it was too wet, then it was too cold). I maybe rode once or twice in the space of about 3 weeks and getting Eli back into a groove is not without challenges.

But over the last 5 days I have ridden Eli 5 times! The first 3 days back, I didn’t demand much of Eli other than please don’t do anything too edgy. Day 1 we just worked at the walk and trot mostly. Day 2, Eli apparently had a hankering to canter so we worked at the walk and canter. “Canter.” With embellishments.

Saturday rolled around and a lesson might have been a bit much to expect — Eli flatted reasonably well and we trotted over 8,000 cross-rails.

By Sunday Eli had a brain back in his head and I lightly jumped him. He did not disappoint. He played on the backsides but who cares? Not me.

Actually sitting in an actual saddle on my actual horse

Monday we got back to more meaningful flat work and we worked on simple changes of direction through the walk at the canter (does that read right?) I.e., we cantered a short side and then up through the diagonal, walking a few steps in the corner before cantering again and doing the same thing. Like 12 times or something, I don’t know. We did it until I was satisfied with both Eli’s transitions and his rideability through the diagonal. We then worked on cantering on a generously-sized circle.

Today, Eli gets a day off — just lots of grooming and cleaning up a small cut he suffered in turnout a few days ago. I’d graze him if I think I could manage him and a flashlight at the same time but he gets a little testy in the dark so we might not do that. He’ll get cookies and peppermints either way.

I also want to give a huge shout out of thanks to everyone at the barn who worked their asses off to keep the horses well-cared-for during the subfreezing temperatures. I have been a client there for a long time for a few reasons — and one of those reasons is the consistent and excellent care my horses have had over the years.

Revisiting the Longe Line

Eli took a spill while on a longe line quite some time ago — maybe a few years ago? After that experience, it was clear to me that Eli did not have good enough training on the longe line to make it very safe for him to longe, nor did he have the mental capacity to keep his shit together in a new environment without a ton of reassurance from me. I stopped longeing him almost completely, and did not longe him at all if we were off property. Not to stop longeing would have been extremely irresponsible on my part. We had to work from square one to get him to a better understanding of what it means to be on a longe line.

I got inspired to revisit this in writing for a handful of reasons. One, to consider how well my reasoning (and ranting) from a previous post is holding up. Two, getting Eli some exercise in the past few weeks has been a challenge because of weather conditions. Three, I ran across an excellent article about longeing safely that hits so many points I totally agree with.

I have never taken ground work out of Eli’s exercise regimen. I have spent time on the ground with him in the round pen (unattached), asking for different gaits, or just letting him hang out, not ever getting after him for anything, but rewarding the behavior I like to see. I keep these sessions to 15 minutes or less. I have also, like all of 3 times probably since he fell, put him on a longe line if he has been in daily turnout and constant work–so I know he’s not “fresh,” “wild,” or “high.” He still struggles with cantering normally on a line, but we can trot and walk very obediently now. At least, the very few times we’ve tried.

So then this stupid cold weather hits, and cedar season starts. Daily turnout and a regular work schedule dwindled to hand walking or grazing and limited turn out in a smaller space. In the past few weeks, I have only ridden a few times. But something I did try? When the footing was adequate in the small arena, and nothing else was going on, I took Eli for a short longe. Just 10-15 minutes, mostly asking him to stay at the walk or trot. Were we 100% successful? To the left, not really (it is his weak side). He was trotting along okay and then something set him off (anybody’s guess as to what) so we were back to Eli trying to full on gallop like a fleeing rabbit but on a circle. This is how he fell before, and what I am trying to avoid. I got him back to a walk eventually, after maybe 4 or 5 circles (it seemed like forever!) and I kept him walking for a little while before changing directions. To the right, however, he actually stayed quiet and listened! Okay, now we are getting somewhere.

Starting this week, we have gotten back to more regular turn out schedules, and the footing in both arenas has been good. Good conditions for exercise, right? Sure, if my head cooperates. Cedar fever is making that a little more iffy. My hope is to actually ride this evening, and whether or not I put Eli on the line before hand is yet to be determined. Longeing will never be a regular part of our routine, but I’d like to get Eli to a point that he understands that it’s work time and not a reason to panic and stop listening to me.  Although I wouldn’t mind if he threw a buck or two, just as long as he comes back instead of taking off. We have gotten much closer to that goal.