6 Days in the 9th Circle

Remember how it already snowed 6 inches in my corner of central Texas back in January? Texas got wrung through the iciest wringer in the state’s recent history (meaning since weather has been recorded here back in the late 19th century) starting with Valentine’s Day. And then President’s Day. And this extended through an entire week — 6 days below freezing, 6 days of ice and snow, and wouldn’t you know it, our federal regulation-free, independent little power grid almost collapsed catastrophically! 

Along with many, many trees. So yes, as I am sure you have now read in the news, Texas went through days of “rolling blackouts” which were just straight up blackouts for some, no rolling about it. I stayed up all night without power the night it was 5 degrees at the lowest, snuggling Conrad under 5 blankets and drinking hot beverages periodically because the gas stove could at least be lit with a match to heat water. I have rediscovered the deliciousness that is percolator coffee. I was lucky, as my house stayed just above 50 degrees and we got power back before many people. And I never had a water issue, but I am sure you have also seen the news — Texas is in a water crisis as a result of the “rolling” blackouts. Water treatment facilities lost power and left 14 million Texans without potable drinking water. FOR DAYS. Some had no water at all. 

No, snow is not fucking pretty. No, we do not have snow plows in central Texas (Dallas has a few). No, we do not have snow tires, crampons, pipes buried eight feet deep, or taboggans. (We can’t bury pipes 8 feet deep in central Texas anyway because just below a thin layer of crappy topsoil you get into our limestone karst systems — our ground is a mix of solid sedimentary, fossil-flecked rock and hollow caves that live and grow and store water for some of us.) Why I bought snow boots years ago I have no idea, but it made me the designated backyard guardian so I cleared small areas for Conrad to relieve himself and for birds to eat birdseed. I regularly tromped through icy, crunchy, deep (for Texas) snow and I NEVER want to do it again. And compared to many, I had it easy.

People died here because of this weather. It started with a heinously nightmarish pile up in Fort Worth caused by black ice and ended with children and the elderly freezing to death in their homes, or dying due to lack of access to medically necessary life-saving treatments like insulin and dialysis. And but for Texas’ obstinate independence from federal regulation of electric utilities, these deaths were preventable. 

Like I said, I am one of the lucky ones. Conrad is totally ok. Eli is totally ok and was in the best care for the worst of the weather and it’s already spring-like here again, the kind of Texas winter Texans know and love. I may have gone 6 days without seeing my horse because of hazardous road conditions (and a car that did not want to start so that was a’ whole n’other thing), but I knew he was safe where he was.

Eli’s opinion of snow seemed pretty low, after he licked some while grazing – it produced the flehmen response so I’d say he is still indeed a summer horse. He finds the white stuff bewildering and of course there was too much ice along with the snow for safe turnout. The turnouts dried out enough fairly quickly and he’s had sunny outside time again. I am keeping tabs on him closely though, since stuck-in-a-stall time for 6 days other than hand-walking is not his favorite and I hope he is not getting ulcery again from it. 

So …. yeah. 6 days of the 9th circle here in Texas. I much prefer it in the 1st circle … or even the 6th is probably ok for me personally. Anything but entombment in this much ice and snow ever again. 

That’s a Lot of Snow

For here, anyway, in Central Texas. I got like 6 inches of snow at my house! It snowed ALL DAY. That just … doesn’t really happen here.

I really don’t like snow at all. Snow is pretty and magical for about an hour, then it’s just cold, wet, and hazardous to tree branches. Some of which snapped loudly as though someone fired a rifle just on the other side of the fence. 

Cardinals do look really good in snow, though. I am sure the ones here were surprised AF. Conrad was also surprised.

I did not think I would ever need snow boots for my dog, but he could have used them on Sunday.

I am pretty sure I am satisfied with the amount of snow that has fallen at my house in 2021 for the next 30 years or so. 

The snow was nicer than the usual ice storm we get around this time of year, at least, so perhaps we’ve dodged that bullet? Ha, yeah right. 2021 seems to be continuing in the tradition of 2020 but on steroids so I am sure we will get an ice day before the end of February. 

I am ready for warmer weather now for sure!

Scaling Back but Feeling Full

Nothing like a pandemic to make me thankful for what I have, and to show me just how much of my life falls into the privileged sphere. I am one of the lucky few whose routine has barely changed, and what has changed so far has been mostly for the better.

I still get to work! This alone is immense, as many millions of people will end up unemployed as a result of the pandemic, if they are not already. Just like some people may not survive COVID-19, I fear that many people may never recover economically from this crazy situation. But addressing the pandemic is much more important than addressing the economy in the immediate future, as difficult as that may be for many, many people.

Conrad gets a few more walks. I don’t think he minds. He’s not too happy at me about working from home and not paying more attention to him because I am at home. But my home office area has a couch he can nap on. He’ll figure it out eventually.

I am still able to go to the barn to see Eli. I know barn access varies from state to state right now and many people are relying on barn employees for all of their horses’ care. Lesson programs in my area have been suspended at many barns, but some barns are still allowing access to boarders.

So what am I scaling back? Driving — my commute either involves a drive in to work three days a week with little traffic, or a really short walk over to my desk at home. Running everyday errands — I am avoiding this if possible. I have a bracelet that needs fixing at a jeweler and a snap on a tall boot that needs replacing, for instance, that I’d take to a shoe repair place. But this kind of thing is on hold indefinitely. Riding Eli — Eli can be a bit spooky, as we all know. I am limiting his under saddle time to just a few rides a week when the weather permits it and keeping the rides at a walk or trot. I am going for low impact and minimizing risk. I do consider his exercise as essential pet care and it’s also my outdoor, socially-distanced exercise anyway, so I do not really feel like I am skirting any stay-at-home orders in my area with this. I understand that MANY people may disagree with my interpretation of the local stay-at-home orders. However, I am at the barn at times when few other boarders are there, and I am only touching Eli’s stuff, so I am minimizing risk in that way, too. Eating out — oh how I miss Mexican restaurants. I am not on a budget that allows constant take-out, as much as I would like to do that to support the restaurants around here that I like to go to. This does seem to have the benefit of cleaning up my waistline a bit, at least. Visiting friends — I don’t visit very many people, and now I am hardly seeing friends in person at all. I am not going to rule it out completely because when I do visit friends, it’s usually one person in a private residence and it’s to watch streaming stuff, drink wine, and catch up.

I find myself asking daily the question, “Is this really necessary?” A lot of the time, whatever it may be, it is not really necessary.

And here’s my last little editorial thought for the day: Even if inadvertently, COVID-19 is showing us a path to mitigating climate change. We are quite obviously capable of making many of these changes for the long-term, if there is even much of a long-term to look forward to.

That being said, I CANNOT WAIT for all the restaurants and bars to reopen! When that happens, maybe we could all consider tipping at 30%-50% for a month or so if we can swing it. I also want to go to ALL THE MUSEUMS and donate $$$ to their programs and collections. I miss having a Manhattan at Lamberts. I miss the Austin Opera. I miss meeting up with somebody for lunch downtown on a weekday. I MISS QUESO. But we could all stand to drive or fly a little less after all this craziness subsides, right?

Stocking Stuffers

Not every equestrian-themed stocking stuffer has to be strictly for equestrians, right? If you’re ready to do some shopping (even if only to avoid interacting with family), either pre- or post-turkey, these tiny little treasures fit in equestrian stockings of all sizes:

 

Do I need to explain why the Lip Smacker Lippy Pal is on this list?

So for a slightly more luxurious lip option (and my favorite lip treatment ever) the Fresh Sugar Honey Tinted Lip Treatment has SPF, which makes it a requirement for an equestrian, considering all the time we are out in the sun.

One of my favorite things of 2019 (other than Baby Yoda, obviously) is the Coola Rosilliance goop. Another SPF necessity! This stuff is so smooth and leaves a bit of a dewy look, but doesn’t melt off or dry out. I have the weirdest, most sensitive skin that reacts to seemingly benign things, and I was so glad to figure out that this stuff is compatible with my skin and worth every penny!

Tall boot socks are basically all I wear. They work for the barn and for work, and for barn work. And you can get a 3-pack of Sox Trot boot socks for under $30. And you can never have too many.

Sometimes an equestrian does expect an exclusively horse-related gift in their stocking, so let me suggest the Ultimate Hoof Pick Jr. If you don’t have one yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. This is one of the sturdiest tools in my groom box.

Another tiny treasure is for the horse girls that insist on “hunter hair.” Rider’s Hair Nets, especially the heavyweight ones, keep all of my hair up in my helmet. No flyaways, and no hair sticking to the back of my neck and creeping me out. I can’t live without these things. Well, maybe I could but I don’t want to.

So you know my little Polaroid Cube? And you’ve seen the videos I get with it, night or day? I paid considerably more than the current price Amazon lists right now. You can’t pass this up! It has come in so handy for me. It’s super easy to use and takes pretty good HD video.

So while back, I discovered simple boot trees in the form of plastic sheets that you and roll up and stuff in your boots, and they conform to the shape of the boots. These are less expensive than actual boot trees and don’t deflate like the popular inflatable boot trees. Amazon has a pack of Household Essentials Boot Shaper Form Inserts for a good value. I kind of need these for all of my boots, not just my tall riding boots.

Last, can you exist in the horse world without coffee? I just tried some hazelnut flavor. It’s delicious.

Anything you are asking for that you hope to see in your holiday stocking?

 

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.