Odds & Ends I Could Live Without … But Why Would I?

If you live under a rock, you may not realize Amazon’s Prime Day is happening across two days and this is day one. I am not sure how many deals are going to appeal me, but I guess I’m going to find out while window shopping online. In the meantime, I have found a handful of things via Amazon that I didn’t realize I needed until I had them and now I’m like, whoa. Glad I bought that. Maybe some will be Prime Day deals?

Who needs easy-care, comfortable work pants? Since my breeches are not work pants (well, okay, maybe sometimes they are) I have been digging through the internet for affordable, work-appropriate pants with a tailored look and reasonable price tag. I searched “betabrand” on Amazon. Amazon showed me Rekucci instead. (I am not going to pay $80 for work pants that fit like yoga pants, betabrand.)

Rekucci offers a lot of styles of pants that are all pull-on type pants that sort of feel like yoga pants but look much, much more tailored. My favorites have been the boot cut pants. They work for work. Pay attention to the size chart, for sure! And the length. In the regular length pants, I have to wear heels or the pants drag on the ground. (I’m 5’6″.) The short ones are good for me for wearing flats or kitten heel shoes. And they actually look like work pants.

This is the Indigo color. And I cannot live without Worishofers.

If you are super curvy, I am not sure how these would work — they are pull on and while they do have some stretch, they are not super stretchy in the waist. I can get them over my hips easily, but I am not sure how they would work on someone with wider hips and a trimmer waist. I also wash them inside out in cold water and hang to dry. Some reviewers have noticed fabric wear after only a few washes, but I have not run into that problem yet.

Since the Amazon oracle (or search bar, whatever) showed me reasonably-priced work pants, I wondered what it would show me for boot trees. That are not actually boot trees. And also not inflatable boot trees. Would such a thing even exist? I have mentioned them once before, and yes they do indeed exist: boot shapers.

Not gonna lie … these things are genius

They are basically flat plastic inserts that conform to your boots’ shape. I liked the first set I bought so much that I bought more for all my tall riding boots. I am kind of thinking I should get some for my wear-to-work boots, too.

If you have not figured out by now that I am susceptible to online advertising, you must be a new reader. Scrolling through Instagram can be dangerous when it’s not actually kind of boring. I see all kinds of ads, one of which was for amazing hair towels that speed drying and minimize frizz! How can this beeeee! Okay, well, let me just see what Amazon has … and yep, they have the advertised towels. You don’t have to get them via Amazon, but I have found the Amazon price to be slightly lower than other vendors. The product is Aquis towels, and they do indeed speed drying and minimize frizz. Do I end up with completely dry hair and zero frizz? No, don’t be daft. My hair is fried from years of dyeing it. But I am in the midst of a hair renaissance and have stopped dyeing it. The 4-5 inches of growth that has not been traditionally dyed is actually pretty healthy looking, thanks to Olaplex, oVertone, and these towels.

The dyed hair is a lost cause, but the Aquis towels do seem to keep my frizz from getting out of control. They have towels for fine hair, towels for curly hair, towels for long hair, turbans … They are also WAY easier on my neck than big heavy bath towels. 10/10 recommend. (Also got hooked by Sand & Sky from Instagram ads …)

Don’t think my animals don’t benefit from my window shopping. First, Conrad: he is REALLY sensitive to fat content. For a while there, he was doing okay with treats under 10% crude fat and I was giving him the single ingredient duck liver treats, which he loved. And they are like 9% fat. His digestive system eventually rebelled, so I sought out lower-fat options. I found single ingredient chicken breast treats from the same brand.

They are freeze-dried, made in the USA, and are 3% crude fat. And luckily, Conrad loves these, too. I am now sticking with treats for him that are under 5% crude fat. You know what other treat — that Conrad loves — has just 5% crude fat and is made in the USA? Milkbones. Classic! He gets one after each of his meals to chomp on.

So Eli is no stranger to me stuffing his face with all kinds of treats. But I needed something that wouldn’t crumble in my pocket or get all sticky or melty when it’s hot because it is really hot here right now. Like … so, so hot. I found these Ginger Ridge Meadow Mints, and the brand also offers a Vanilla Flax flavor if you are looking to add a little more flax to your horse’s diet.

These stay in tact in my breeches’ pocket, they aren’t gooey, and they aren’t in a plastic wrapper. Eli may not go nuts over them quite like he does for Stud Muffins or German Horse Muffins or Gala apples, but he likes these and these keep his mouth occupied while I am doing up his girth.

He also might get one to chomp on during a ride as a reward for not killing me. What? Our bar is low right now.

I discovered a few other interesting things offered via Amazon that deserve a mention. The first is a newer version of the Polaroid Cube. I have a Polaroid Cube+ and it has been a handy little camera for filming rides. I ran across a Polaroid Cube Act II for an interesting price — much less than what I paid for the Cube+. Does anyone have experience with this one? Do I need it?

I was surprised to find that you can get a 23andMe DNA test kit through Amazon, too. Honestly, I was looking for a doggy DNA test kit and saw that 23andMe could be purchased via Amazon. This is something I have experience with — and the genetic reports keep coming. When you test with 23andMe, you get initial results, but the company keeps your DNA and keeps studying it. On one hand … creepy. But on the other, it’s a wealth of health knowledge. No, you can’t be diagnosed with anything through your DNA, but the company notes what genetic predispositions you might have. That information you can use over a lifetime. If you don’t mind strangers mapping your DNA. If you can’t get past the potential privacy issues, this probably isn’t for you. Because 23andMe will know if you are more or less likely to have wet or dry ear wax. Nope, I am serious. The latest Trait report I got was about Ice Cream Flavor Preference …

Ultimately, I think the best deals are going to be on Amazon devices. I am not in the market for any today, but that Ring doorbell/home security stuff is super tempting!

Customer Service

Last week, I experienced two drastically different consumer transactions. The tone of customer service played a large role in both. In one instance, I had been left cautiously … we’ll just say not pessimistic. The second instance won me over yet again as a customer for life.

The key thing here is that customer service isn’t just about being polite and friendly. Sometimes something goes wrong, and sometimes it’s up to a company to make it right. I don’t just want a friendly, “that’s just the way it is.” I am not going to throw a tantrum in public about it, but I might make you think I am about to after something like that.

I am naming companies in both cases. I might leave some details out due to privacy, but you will be left with a mostly clear picture of each experience.

The vehicle in question. And Eli.

The first is a decidedly non-equestrian situation. (If you came here for horses, too bad, suck it up.) I took my Toyota in for service at the Toyota dealership, where I have been a customer since like 2006. I went in for a regular maintenance package, as I have done every few months for years. I diligently keep up with vehicle maintenance because I expect my vehicles to last a long time. I left my car in the service drive after discussing what services were recommended. I thought it was a bit weird that there were two services we were 20k miles overdue for …. I really wish someone had mentioned them then …. but no matter, the car was running great and I’m not going to not do something my car needs, so I agreed.

After a few minutes in the waiting area, free cappuccino in hand, the service rep — who was extremely polite, forthright, and helpful and remained so the entire time — came back with a few additional things the car needed.

One was front brakes. Fair enough. And, Toyota had indeed mentioned this to me during the previous service visit, so I wasn’t too surprised and expected to replace them soon.

The next thing …. my exact reaction was “HAHAHA that shit ain’t happening.” Let me point out here the car is a 2017, just outside the mileage to be covered under warranty. Here’s an approximation of our conversation:

Rep: Do you know if you have an extended warranty?

Me: No, I don’t think so. I just bought out the lease.

Rep: Are you sure about the warranty? Did your husband buy the car?

Me: <glaring through narrowed eyes> I don’t have a husband. I bought the car.

Rep: Okay, sorry. Yes, of course. Forget I said that.

Me: So explain the problem … ?

The rep, polite as she ever was, did explain what was going on with the car, but I did note that the paperwork said that I had complained of a squeak or rattle, which was NOT the case. (I did ask why my car no longer beeped when I set the alarm and asked if it could be fixed. Misinterpretation?)

Anyway, I made it pretty clear that, that day, I would not be doing the brakes or the other service related to the squeak and rattle I hadn’t mentioned. The problem, as explained, meant taking the engine out of the car to fix it, and the estimate for labor was comparable to what, let’s say, a neurosurgeon or orthopaedic surgeon might charge for surgery:

The rep started walking back pretty quickly. Then the rep said since I was a valued, loyal Toyota customer, she would pull all of my service records, contact the appropriate people, and see if there would be any leeway on the warranty, considering the circumstances.

It was here I began to question whether this thing was even wrong with my car.

I also remembered the labor from a previous instance on a similar issue with my previous Toyota. This current labor quote was 4x the previous one, and the previous one wasn’t exactly pocket change. In both instances, the engine had to be taken out of the car to fix it. With my older Toyota, it was a 200kmiles+ 4runner from 2004. Why does the engine of a 2017 even need to come out? And maybe it does. And I get that it’s a big job. But it is not neurosurgery.

Ultimately, Toyota agreed to cover the entire cost, and offered a loaner car for the day at no charge. On its face, this is pretty much excellent customer service. The rep solved the problem at no cost to me. Toyota preserved our relationship.

Maybe. … I, uh, take issue with the labor quote. I am perplexed by the assumptions the rep made about me, polite and helpful and accommodating as she was — truly, she gave me excellent service… but … I am still not sure where someone got the idea I complained of a squeaky rattle (or that I was married lol). Yes, my car got taken care of. I got taken care of. But something about the whole situation was almost satirically off kilter. I am proceeding with caution in any future transactions with Toyota for now. 10/10 service but with an asterisk.

The second instance, thankfully, left me with a feeling that awesome people still exist in this world and shopping with a small business that cares about its customers is 100% the way to go. And this is an equestrian apparel business! So here’s your horsey moment!

You will not be surprised about how much I love my Botori riding pants. I have multiple pairs. I wear them a lot. I may or may not have slept in them. Or sneakily worn them to work. But, unfortunately, a specific production run of some styles didn’t meet the company’s standards, but that wasn’t apparent until after people had already been wearing them.

Still obsessed after many wears.

Botori’s response was swift and transparent — we sold you some pants we need to replace for you. Here’s how you do that.

I actually did have one of these pairs, but had not experienced the defect until last week. Botori honored the exchange, of course. But even better? Some new styles were released over Memorial Day weekend and a few days later I ordered one of the new styles. The genius behind Botori, PJ, refunded my shipping for the new pair and would send the new pair and replacement pair together. Yes! This! Honestly, my hope was that they would be sent together, because small though it may be, one shipment has a smaller carbon footprint and less packaging than two shipments. I did not expect to be refunded shipping, as I had ordered something new I fully expected to pay shipping on. So thank you, PJ! You have a customer for life! Which … I probably was already, but this is exactly the kind of transparent and generous customer service I greatly and genuinely appreciate.

White breeches + brown tall boots = ugh. love.

So customer service, to me, is not just about being courteous and trying to solve problems. It’s about honesty and transparency and preventing problems in the first place. I KNOW I get all this from Botori. I think I might get it from Toyota (?), but now I want to know what y’all think!

Also, work craziness is mostly over so I hope to get back to regular typing and dumping of pictures and video. Thanks for being patient with me, those of you who stuck around.

As an aside, I am slightly wondering about Toyota design and why the engine has to come out of the car for some maintenance and repairs. I drove Chevys prior to this and don’t remember that being a thing.

The Reading List

Fortunately, work granted time off to the staff over the Easter weekend, so I suddenly had an unplanned 4-day weekend. It gave me more time to spend with Eli, time that allowed me to get him out of his stall more to walk and graze. I also shortened his mane and bathed him.

But I also had time to actually get back to reading for fun, which I rarely do — I try, but I tend to fall asleep while reading in bed. But since I have been almost constantly thinking about animal cognition and animal emotion, I thought I’d organize a reading list here for anyone interested in the same thing. Beware; it’s haphazard.

The first is one I don’t think I would have ever purchased, except that Eli is injured in such a way that he can’t do much under saddle for a while. I don’t have an ETA for saddle time yet. He actually gets some treatments today, but I can’t be there because of work. Maybe I’ll get some hopeful news from the vet? Anyway. I bought 101 Ground Training Exercises for Every Horse & Handler to get ideas for things Eli could do on the ground at the walk, in hopes of keeping his brain engaged at least a little bit every day. There’s this whole section on poll pressure I am interested in trying, mainly because I have never even thought about this from the perspective of working a horse from the ground. I probably should have.

The next is a book I highly recommend if you are at all interested in how domestication works. How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) chronicles a long-running experiment in Russia (started when it was the Soviet Union) aimed at domesticating foxes. The experiment wasn’t really about domesticating foxes: it was about understanding how dogs got domesticated from wolves in the first place. The experiment is still running today and of course now has technologies that didn’t exist when the experiment started. Domestication seems to rely more on gene expression instead of gene mutation, with the endocrine system playing a significant role. The book also provides little vignettes of familiar stories from animal science, such as the study of primates, the New Caledonian crows, and Clever Hans. It’s an easy, short read. Plus “domesticated” foxes are cute AF.

I haven’t even started Mama’s Last Hug yet, but I read about it in one of the periodicals I review for work and immediately knew I needed to read it. I think it seems obvious that at least some animals have complex emotional lives. But finding the underlying science to support this assertion interests me, and I think this book aims for that kind of thing. Maybe I’ll hit up page one this evening?

And of course finding one book leads to those Amazon recommendations that are pretty spot on for me at this point, and this is why I picked up The Genius of Birds. Is there something about being able to regulate one’s body temperature that allows one to develop intelligence and sentience? I have noticed that animal cognition and emotion are studied through mammals and birds mostly. Not exclusively, of course, but an adaptation such as warm-bloodedness seems to go along with deliberative thinking.

This next one is something I encountered shortly after getting my MFA and began undertaking library school, and it’s definitely on the academic side of things so it may not be a super accessible read for those with merely a passing interest. I never read When Species Meet cover to cover, but parsed out excerpts to contemplate whenever I had time. I am in the midst of reading it cover to cover now. If you are academically-oriented and interested in the interaction of human and dog, this will be a great book for you to read.

The next two books are by Gerd Heuschmann: Tug of War and Collection or Contortion? I have read the first, and hope to read the second soon. Tug of War explores how bad training negatively impacts a horse’s health. Is it directly about horse cognition or emotion? No, but training affects both directly, so considering the concepts within are worthwhile. Collection or Contortion? apparently builds on how training affects a horse’s health, focusing on flexion and bend. Yeah, I’m going to have to read this soon, too!

As what I see as a follow up to When Species Meet, the same author published Staying with the Trouble not too long ago, and I am interested in reading it. It seems WAY more way out there, but I generally enjoy such challenges. It dwells in of-the-moment-ness to a certain degree, trying to reconcile human existence with nonhuman existence and maybe it explores how we have messed up our shared home and the nonhuman are stuck with our folly. Sorry, animals and other things. But notice the subtitle? This gets me on a tangent related to the poles of our shared home. And H.P. Lovecraft fans out there? I don’t think the author is necessarily directly relying on Lovecraft, but it’s hard to see “Chthulucene” without going there. And since she brings up tentacles, maybe that’s exactly what she’s doing.

There is one Lovecraft book that stands independently of that whole tentacled thing: At the Mountains of Madness is a weird, quick read about an expedition to Antarctica, and if you are into weird sci-fi/fantasy/horror/Gothic stuff, you’ll love it. Really. It does get freaking weird. But it brings me to two other books grounded much more in reality, relating to polar expeditions. Not sure if Frankenstein got me hooked on polar adventures, but here I am.

Earnest Shackleton is my jam. His descriptions are so detailed! The problem with this book is that I know what happens so I keep starting it, then putting it down before it gets gruesome. South starts off magically, with glittering sea ice and charming penguins. I don’t really want to read the rest, but I suppose I will finish it eventually. It compels me to consider the idea of pushing the human constitution to the extreme and what that does to the human psyche. The Third Man Factor is no doubt about one of the craziest possible adaptations humans have developed. People get close to death and experience a rather fascinating phenomenon. And where do people get near death a lot? The polar regions. Also on mountains and in deserts.

This tangent brings me to a melancholy question. Do animals hallucinate when near death? Humans foolishly push themselves to these novel limits, but animals certainly don’t seem to seek out such limits. Is this the thing that separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom? Not emotions, not cognition, not sentience … but our utter stubbornness about doing stupid things? Oh, wait, horses are kind of like that, too. Just maybe less purposefully so.

Yeah, I got to this question in a rather circuitous way, wondering how different are we really from our animal companions. My first thought is that we are really not that much different at all. We are, after all, also animals. My second, darker idea is that the difference is we are destroying our home, while other animals are just trying to live here. Some animals have cast their lots with us inextricably. Maybe we should try harder to keep our shared home livable? Maybe it’s too late.

 

My Eye Care Tools

It’s been a little over a year since I last talked extensively here about my vision situation. I think for the most part this update is good. While my left eye is not entirely stable, the medication is slowing the progression of bad things. Which is what it’s supposed to do. I recently had an appointment confirming all of this, thankfully!

If you have ever been to an ophthalmologist, you’ll be familiar with all of the testing that can go on at an ophthalmologist’s office. The visual filed test (not my favorite), the retina scans, the eye pressure test that involves those weird yellow eye drops to numb the surface of your eye so the doctor or assistant can put the blue glowy thing on the surface of your eye (super technical jargon there haha), the vision testing … my eye doctor appointments are not short, and I go twice a year. I have some eye conditions that mean I’ll be on prescription eye drops (at the very least) for my whole life, and I use OTC eye drops, too. I have very mild astigmatism, and do have prescription eyeglasses. And on top of this, I have what have been hands down the best pair of (non-prescription) sunglasses I have ever owned. (Although prescription ones are an option.)

The prescription eye drops are affordable, and the OTC eye drops are actually more expensive but effective — I use the Refresh Optive Lubricant Eye Drops. They keep my ocular rosacea from getting too crazy. I can’t really use steroid eye drops because of a different eye condition (that I am noticeably not mentioning in this post because denial).

I used to blanch of the sticker shock from getting prescription eyeglasses. Even with insurance covering some of it, those visionwear places in the malls always felt like a rip off, mostly because I think they were. And maybe still are. I don’t know, because I found a better way to get eyeglasses.

I don’t remember how I even found Warby Parker, but they had a cute little school bus converted into a eyeglass shop here in Austin for a little while. I read about the company online and I was impressed both at the price of prescription eyeglasses they offered, and because the company gives back in a big way — for every pair sold, Warby Parker gives back a pair of glasses to someone in need, all over the world.

Ordering is easy — I just sent in my prescription from the ophthalmologist and picked out frames. When I say “sent” I mean I took a picture of it and uploaded it directly which was beyond easy. You can try up to 5 frames at home with free shipping both ways, but I didn’t even bother because I am decisive like that (plus I was trying them on in the little school bus the first time I got a pair!). I had my glasses within a week, for $95. That is MUCH LOWER than what I paid for prescription eye glasses through another route by a few hundred dollars. I didn’t even need to update my prescription after my last appointment, but when I do I’ll be using Warby Parker again. And now I just realized maybe they still have my prescription and I could pick out a new style of frames …

And then the sunglasses … Oakleys. It’s funny, because for 15 years I rode with a trainer who INSISTED on Oakleys for himself. I never understood it, and it always seemed like a bit of an unnecessary splurge, paying that for sunglasses. And considering I have a tendency to break or lose them, I never really understood what he meant. But then a few years ago I was at the end of my rope with how sun-sensitive my eyes have gotten, and how sunlight was definitely worming its way in to my list of migraine triggers. I don’t want a vampire lifestyle, so I started googling madly, as you can imagine. What came up the most frequently for best sunglasses for migraineurs? Oakleys. And not just generally. The Oakley Black Iridium lenses came up, url after url leading to something recommending these lenses, claiming they were the gold standard for blocking painfully bright sunlight. Now, I don’t wear polarized lenses ever, because something about them makes me sick to my stomach and I start to feel intense sharp pain behind my eyes. (The same thing happens with the newer 3D glasses.) Luckily, you can custom order just about any pair of Oakleys, so I got the Holbrooks with Black Iridium lenses, not polarized.

Toss your $15 Target frames, y’all. You need these. They don’t move around on my face when I ride. Even better, they don’t distort my vision, and they don’t turn the world weird colors. Everything looks the same, only I don’t have to squint. No oppressive light! No glare! Yay! I might need a second pair, like a car pair and a barn pair, right?

I know this isn’t exactly a post about Eli, or about Conrad. But my eyes are pretty important. Without them, the way I enjoy time with Eli and Conrad would change drastically, so getting my strategies documented is important to me. And maybe it’ll help someone else?

Fields of Wildflowers

The fields at the barn, like fields everywhere in Texas right now, burgeon with colors. I tried taking pictures of all the different wildflowers while grazing Eli on Sunday evening. I can identify some, but not all. If you are looking for a deeper dig into wildflowers here, may I suggest the plant lists of The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center? Highway medians and shoulders won’t be mowed in Texas for a while — we cast our love of wildflowers into our codes and rules of this state. I am hoping the barn adopts the same strategy (as has happened in the past).

Now, for pictures!

not sure what these are, but if neon purple is a thing, these are it
I think the white ones might be evening primroses? Or buttercups?
some kind of verbeena?
Equus ferus caballus
my all time fave wildflower, Indian paintbrush
gonna go out on a limb here and say this is a dandelion
I cannot convey to you with this photograph just how neon coral these things are
of the genus Lupinus (the petals under the blue petals are claw- or fang-shaped, hence the Latin)
one last one of my favorite

Does spring where you live bring you an abundance of color like this?

Minor Setbacks

Ahhh … context. Because analyzing situations in a vacuum may lead to misconceptions. I’ve got three minor setbacks to go over today that would actually look a lot more than minor if it weren’t for the circumstances surrounding them. I had to remind myself of such circumstances to keep from questioning my decisions.

The first is a minor setback for Conrad. He did get his stitches out on Thursday, but the larger incision, while mostly healed, is not totally healed. He will keep resting at least another week and stay on antibiotics. Luckily teeshirts seem to do the trick of keeping him from messing with his surgery sites. He’s wearing a really cute hoodie from Long Dog Clothing today. (It’s The Sailor and it’s 40% off!)

Can you possibly cute more than this?

It’s a bit thicker than a tee shirt — it was cold enough for me to end up driving through sleet on the way to work so I figured he could use something a little more substantial today.

And it’s reversible

So is this a setback? Yes. But is it a big deal? No — he’s still healing and he gobbled his breakfast this morning, so I know he’s feeling well. I can’t say I mind skipping the park another weekend because it’s freaking cold.

The second minor setback seemed like a major one at first and I was starting to drive myself crazy about it. This winter, Eli has been Winter Eli on steroids, I think in part due to less work because of wet weather and that three weeks he had off while he had stitches also left him a little feral. Ride after ride, Eli acted bonkers and I even resorted to longeing him. Thankfully our prior ground work stuck in his mind a little better than I thought it would, and longeing wasn’t a disaster. But still, he has been cuckoo bananas under saddle lately.

Do not reset to factory default in temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Attempting to reset in low temperatures will result in explosions.

Until this week. He had his teeth done on Monday, which I will not discount as a factor. It had been about six months since his last dental so this made sense to me. More importantly, it was downright warm. Also foggy and muggy, which was gross, but it wasn’t cold. And Eli was PERFECT on Tuesday and Wednesday. P E R F E C T. His trot even got a “ooo fanceh” out of the barn owner/head trainer which at that moment could not have made me any more proud of Eli.

I think a big part of Winter Eli’s behavior when it’s really cold is that he gets body sore/back sore in that kind of weather. Which doesn’t exactly surprise me — he is 15. Cold hurts. I think the soreness is primarily muscular, especially since it disappears when the weather warms up. It’s also not uncommon for him to get a little ouchy in his lumbar area when he’s not in regular work. So could I just look at his recent back soreness as a new scary call-the-vet and take x-rays issue? Yes. But am I going to do that? No. The soreness subsided and I couldn’t really find evidence of it on Tuesday and Wednesday. I even dropped his saddle on his back without pads to see if there was anything glaring going on with the fit that I hadn’t noticed before, but it looked good — no signs of bridging or being too narrow, good spine clearance. I am sure the tightness in his back is back today, though, because it’s freezing and sleeting. And we know if Eli is hurting, he’s a bit psycho about being sat on. So I’ll pass on riding today. But he’s getting a new sheet and blanket; some candidates I’ll be trying on him Saturday. Hopefully they will fit better and be a little warmer than the old rag of a turnout blanket he’s got now. And more importantly, this February shit will give way to March and maybe we won’t have to face this issue again for a while. I will say — the Back on Track saddle pad does seem to be helping!

What’s the third minor setback? I’ll be candid. My weight. While I have zero incentive to throw numbers out here, the important aspect of this is that I do not feel comfortable in the current weight I am carrying, and I think I have even mentioned this before. Age + increased dosage on a prescription + absolutely not paying attention to what I eat have caused me to gain some pounds I plan to shed. But without a way to really track this (other than like hey why are my clothes a little tight right now), I wondered how I could possibly succeed.

Oh, wait. Duh. Buy a scale. Yeah … I have never in my life ever owned or regularly used a bathroom scale. But I do now! Like, whoa, scales have really gotten really fancy. My scale even goes with an app. If you’re interested in adopting a healthier lifestyle or new fitness regimen and you don’t have a scale with an app, are you even serious?

Okay maybe a few numbers … not sure how accurate these actually are and of course I had to Google basal metabolic rate.

Okay, just kidding, I don’t care how you go about achieving your healthy lifestyle goals. Suffice it to say, I am eating fewer doughnuts.

So yeah … this winter has been a little bit of a struggle. But in the grand scheme of things? Not really all that bad. Except my job. That is actually extremely annoying right now and I would like my life back any day now … which won’t happen until after Memorial Day so I won’t be holding my breath.

Winter Eli and Work Pants

When I have been able to ride Eli, he has been tense and reactive. Although to be honest, it’s mostly from not being able to ride him very much due to, you guessed it, weather and work. This is typical Winter Eli.

Yesterday evening, Winter Eli was in full force. The drizzle wasn’t helping. Started off very fresh but okay. I even said “rideable.” Spoke too soon. Another horse came up the hill into the arena. Which he spooked at. He kept spooking. When I asked for a canter again, I am not sure how to describe the reaction I got, other than hopping and flailing. It wasn’t a canter, either way. Then, from a halt, he did a rear-y, leap-y move. I gave up. He had to still work, but I couldn’t even be a human longe line this time. At least not safely, I don’t think.

I went back down to the barn to get a longe line from my tack trunk, knowing full well Eli is not the best horse to put on a longe line, but he clearly need to let off some of this radioactive steam. As we were walking back up the hill to the arena, he spooked again, almost jumping on top of me. What spooked him? A horse landing off of a jump. He’s not always very bright.

not slow-witted, just … prone to panic attacks?

But by some miracle, Eli seems to have absorbed our brief and sporadic ground work in the round pen and was actually listening to my voice, instead of taking off on the line whilst kicking out and squealing. Huge trot, but he was not ignoring me. I was happily shocked. Then I asked for canter — there were many bucks and bursts of energy, but he did come back down to a walk after that. We did some walking and trotting on the line the other direction, and he was extremely polite about it.

Poor guy just had too much extra energy, and no small amount of stiffness, especially in his lumbar region. I got back on and finished with a mostly civilized right lead canter. Eli felt much less tense.

Even though it was, on its face, not the best ride we’ve had, I felt so proud of Eli last night. I thought for sure he’d take off and flatten out so fast that he’d slip and fall, as he has done at least twice before on the longe line. But he was listening to me. Bucking, yes, but he needed to. He wasn’t just panicking. I gave him an apple and many treats after that. He liked the Stud Muffins so much I bought the 90oz bag and have since subscribed to it on Amazon. Is it weird to be proud of a horse not freaking out on a longe line? Yes. I have used that as a tool with many other horses without incident. It’s nice to know maybe Eli can be counted in that group now.

We’ll be much happier in warmer weather, though.

As a completely non sequitur aside, I think I may have found the most comfortable work pants ever. Any of you with desk jobs, I am telling you, it’s like I am wearing pajama pants but they look like work pants. And they have pockets!

Being an Amazon addict, that is where I found them.

The Bamans yoga work pants, under $25, still look professional, and POCKETS. I could sleep in these. For reference, I wear a women’s US size 6 in pants, and based on the brand’s size chart, I got the large for a good fit — not too tight but still fitted. They are very stretchy, so there is definitely room to go down a size, but then I thought they’d look too much like yoga pants to wear to work. They hit right at my ankle bone, and I am 5’6″. I am going to need a grey pair next, I think.

 

Holiday Reading List

Not so strangely enough, I am an avid reader. However, I do SO MUCH reading at work that pleasure reading has been winnowed down to reading half a page in bed before passing out and losing my place.

But then I had SEVEN days off in a row! Don’t worry, I still haven’t finished anything I am reading right now and this list is only a small selection of what’s sitting in stacks on end tables that I pick through whenever I get a chance.

Tik Maynard, In the Middle are the Horsemen

If you ride horses and you haven’t started reading this one yet, you are missing out. The engaging narrative starts with how this guy’s journey into exploring all aspects of horsemanship got started and goes from there. I am still reading, so I can’t possibly provide you with spoilers, but so far it’s my top horse book of 2018.

James Comey, A Higher Loyalty

In some part due to my employment, I rarely if ever seek out politically-motivated nonfiction. I mean … I am surrounded by it. But this particular title piques my interest. I think the Comey firing that could have been scandal enough for a year, let alone a week, turned out to be merely a prelude to bigger and weirder and more confounding … actions … of the current White House. Comey’s writing is clear and it’s not so much about the current leader of the free world as it is about approaches to leadership and civic duty that work, versus those that don’t.

Clermont

On to my favorite type of fiction ever! Gothic. There are SO MANY titles I could recommend if you are at all interested in Gothic literature, particularly from the late eighteenth century through the Victorian Era. I have been wending my way through the “horrid” novels mentioned in a conversation between Isabella Thorpe and Catherine Morland in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Which is also good. I am not much of a Jane Austen fan (team Brontë over here) but she satirizes Gothic fiction extremely well. Anyway, back to Clermont … it has all the classic elements of a Gothic tale: abandoned castle ruins, innocent young lady, curiously handsome, dark stranger …. yes, I know, it BEGS satirization. And I LOVE it. The writing is overwrought, as is often the case in Gothic fiction. I can’t get enough of it.

The New Annotated Frankenstein

Here’s one I got for Christmas. Could not be a more spot-on gift. Frankenstein IS my favorite book. It provides endless literary facets to explore. I’ve read it, both the 1818 (which is the currently in-vogue version with scholars and my preference) and the 1831 revision, many times. I have read all kinds of derivative works on it. I have studied with glee Byron’s “ghost story challenge” that spawned the novel. As epistolary novels go, it is one of the topmost influential examples in the English language. I cannot wait to pore over this book during my four-day weekend!

Did you get to do any reading over the holidays? Horse books? Great fiction? Anything for political or news junkies?

Thankful for …

Food. And a lot of it! Not going to lie, I over-ate for the entire long weekend. I have no regrets.

But mostly I am thankful that this turkey did not seem to do additional damage after his unplanned escape from the round pen. I am sure he will find more creative ways to ding himself, but maybe not for a few weeks? Maybe?

 

Lock Out

On Friday, it was barn vaccination day, so the horses were not ridden. I took Eli on a hand walk. I don’t think he minded just grooming and grazing. On Saturday, all of the horses had a bit of that post-vaccination malaise. I walked Eli under saddle and trotted a few steps to see how he felt after his chiropractic adjustment that morning. Maybe right after vaccination wasn’t an ideal time to test that out, but he felt good to me.

On Sunday, I joined the Sunday group lesson for the first part of it, before I had to duck out and get somewhere else on time. (I asked the trainer in advance that this would be okay. I do not recommend attending a lesson and then just quitting in the middle unannounced!). It’s a fun group to ride in. The horses all seemed recovered from the vaccinations and Eli had plenty of extra energy. My right hamstring seems to be a bit sore, I suspect from holding a prolonged 2-point. So I guess I better practice in the 2-point a bit more on the flat …

After I left the barn, I stopped to get gas with plenty of time to get to my next destination on time. One of the things I automatically do while pumping gas (without getting into the feminist optics of this right now) is to open my driver side door and then relock the car, with my driver side door open — my gas cap is also on the driver side. However, a trash can by the gas pump had some bees flying around it and without thinking I partially shut my driver side door so that a bee wouldn’t fly in my car. I shut it a little too far and it locked. EVERYTHING was in my car — keys, phone, etc …

My first brain went to, Oh I’ll just make a collect call on a pay phone … obviously my second brain overruled that idiocy. That was a great idea in 1998, but not today. I have roadside assistance through my auto insurance that offers no out-of-pocket lock out service, so I knew I could do that … as soon as I could get to a smartphone that I could hang on to for a while to request assistance. I went into the gas station store and asked if I could borrow a phone. Luckily, the guy was understaning and I called in reinforcements (hi, Mom!) to bring me a smartphone so I could look up what number to call and then receive texts confirming my location and that someone was coming.

Which was interesting. I got a confirmation text at 12:30pm saying that help would get to me by 1:00pm. Annoying, but probably the best service I could get on a Sunday. I could check the status of the claim on the phone via a link in the text message …

Please note the times …

Again, I wasn’t stuck in a wormhole, so I thought this was pretty effed up.

FINALLY, after the insurance contacted me after I replied “N”, no one has come to help me, a Pop-A-Lock guy from a nearby neighborhood was able to get to me in like 15 minutes. Why they didn’t send that guy initally, I don’t know. I forgot to screenshot the map of the first service request, and they were trying to send a guy who was 30 miles away – basically almost 2 counties over. WTF. The entire experience was a little too automated for me: my insurance contracts with a roadside assistance service provider, who then contracts with local businesses. I would have just called Pop-A-Lock myself, but as I said before, if I go through my insurance’s roadside assistance there is no out-of-pocket. (Incidentally, something very similar happened with this same roadside assitance when I had a flat tire a while ago. I may draft an angry letter soon …)

Ultimately I was late to where I was supposed to be, but the day wasn’t a total wash from the delay, and I still got to see kiddos dressing up ponies for Halloween.

I promise to return to more horsey content tomorrow.