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!
Does spring where you live bring you an abundance of color like this?
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!)
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
Admittedly, I am an Instagram addict. I find all kinds of worthwhile things via Instagram. Some of what’s caught my eye this week …
An all navy Palo Alto long sleeve top? Um. Yes. This post even makes me want to wear white breeches just for fun. Weird.
I avidly follow Scott Brash. He even posts endearingly cute barn videos of his horses playing with muck rakes and such. But I have a conundrum … I like Scott Brash but I dislike clowns and he just used the clown emoji so now I’m conflicted.
I haven’t googled the hashtag and I have no idea why this picture exists but I think my life is markedly better for it. And I know I have said this before, but Leonardo DiCaprio is literally trying to save the world. His foundation’s Instagram is pretty badass, too.
It’s weird to me, how much I enjoy Elon Musk’s Instagram posts. He comes off as a regular guy who is just really into his job. His job being the future.
The weekend kicked off with Italian food at a local chain, Mandola’s. I hadn’t realized it was a similar set up to La Madeleine, where you wait in line to order and get a number. The restaurant was very family-oriented, too. I can recommend the food, but not the atmosphere if you prefer a more adult-friendly environment. The gelato was worth the effort, though.
I also had a good lesson on Saturday morning (dare I say I am finally getting the hang of the hunter ride?). And I rode another horse for a working student who is out of town. He has quite the personality under saddle, and I think he should totally donate some of his forelock to Eli.
But on to the focus of the weekend: cleaning out the storage unit. De-stuffing. I have more kitchen stuff than I know what to do with in storage, although a lot of it will replace some older kitchen stuff and that stuff will be given to another family member or Goodwill. I also have a ton of office stuff and horse stuff that I will have to go through. My plan with the horse stuff is to take it to the barn and let the trainers and boarders pick through it, sell whatever’s left over, and keep a few items tucked away at my house somewhere. I also might try to sell my old Bruno Delgrange saddle in AS-IS condition for next to nothing, as I doubt I will ever get around to replacing the seat and panels. The tree is sound, at least.
I know I have a ton of strap goods in storage, some saddle pads … petal bell boots, a few blankets … halters with nameplates I might keep, lead ropes, tack hooks, stretchy cross-ties … I also found some 1″ POW spurs that I can’t imagine I’d ever need for Eli. I won some Millbrook spur covers in an IG contest though! Had to call in reinforcements (I.e., Amanda) trying to figure out how to get them on …
In storage, I have an actual stereo with actual speakers, too, and I have no idea what to do with that, other than give it away. Do people even have stereo systems any more?
I had plans to ride Eli last night … until a dump truck spilled its load across I-35 … right at the exit I take to get to the barn …
While this is beyond my control, it does not alleviate the guilt I feel when I can’t get out to see Eli, whether to ride or not. I get sucked into the rabbit hole of anthropomorphism, literally worrying that Eli will worry that I won’t come back. He nickers loudly at me every time I walk in the barn in the evenings, fully expecting me to pull him out of his stall as soon as he sees me. Which I usually do. And so I think he must feel disappointed if I don’t show up … which is actually really vain and idiotic, but I am human and humans are vain and idiotic.
I also have this same experience with Conrad, as I leave for work every day.
All I can do is reassure them both I am going to keep showing up! Perhaps they understand.