I have really funny friends, and sometimes we have amusing conversations. And sometimes the culmination of such conversations result in:
You know how it is. We are all trying really hard not to suck. Some may try harder than others, and some are in different places in their journey of trying not to suck. And not all journeys are in straight lines. (And there might have been a slightly different expression used during the development of this metric.)
Just imagine one side is the good/happy side, the other is the bad/sad side, and the middle is like Kent Farrington-level competence at not sucking. (Or any admirable rider/horse person of any discipline.)
Most of the time I feel pretty orangey-yellow or yellowy-orange when I am working with or around horses. Can I wrap a hoof? Definitely. Is that wrap going to stay on overnight? Mostly. But I ain’t no FEI groom.
Honestly, at some point I think any horse person has experienced almost every level of sucking or not sucking. But where do you think you’d put yourself on this spectrum the majority of the time? Questions and answers here are just for fun. Don’t nobody take ’emselves too serious now.
In other news, I did not ride last night. I had riding clothes for 50f, not 30f. I am sure I can think of the exact place where I’d put meteorologists on this spectrum.
There is some math in the back of my mind, and I considered discussing it in this post … but I hate math. So we’ll skip BMIs and what percentage a rider’s weight should be of a horse’s weight for a safe and comfortable ride for both. I am within the acceptable range in both cases, so those are not very good rubrics for how I want to approach this.
At a recent doctor’s appointment, I saw a number I had never seen before, associated with me. It was … a new experience. A variety of factors contribute to this number — desk job, the holidays, total lack of paying attention or giving a crap, prescription medications, erratic weather, my age, want of discipline …
Realistically, which of these factors can I control? Let’s start with discipline. I don’t have it, not consistently, not for everything. Not for much, at all. However, I think this will be the first place I start, the first place I can change. Discipline is totally up to me.
You see, I have been pretty active most of my life and have eaten and drank whatever, whenever most of my life. I haven’t had to think much about fitting into my clothes. Where I am right now, I still don’t. Yet. But I need to cut out some behaviors that are detrimental to my health, such as eating lunch out of a snack machine. Or I’m going to need a whole new closet and ain’t nobody got money for that.
I also owe it to my horse to be a little less slovenly and a little more athleticly-minded in my habits. I owe it to myself to develop new habits that on balance will be really, really easy to do. I am not talking about following whatever diet people follow, or trying meal services, or joining any kind of gym-like facility. I have tried such things and they are not to my taste. Convenience and simplicity are to my taste, at least when it comes to day-to-day nutrition.
I am going to stop eating cookies every damn day. I am going to stop going for the all-you-can-eat peanut M&Ms telling myself they are a great source of protein. I am ditching mayonnaise and creamy salad dressings (already had to give up most ranch dressings on the market because of msg anyway). But can I be bothered to pack a lunch for work? Eh, nah. I can still get a salad at work, but instead of augmenting that with cookies, candy, pop tarts, and sodas I am trying stuff I have never tried before: Soylent and RXBARs. Less sugar, right away. I can subscribe to both, either through the brand websites or Amazon — I am going with Amazon because I have other subscriptions via Amazon, too, and you get discounts for subscribing to many things. Soylent’s “Let us take a few things off your plate” speaks to me.
RXBARs, I just ran across on social media and thought they sounded good, and once I compared their nutrition labels to other “healthy” or “protein” bars, I knew I wanted RXBARs. No added sugars, unlike almost everything else.
But that is not to say I want “whole” foods or I am going to go on some crazy ass Candida cleanse that would probably leave me starving to death wondering why I can’t have some buttered rye toast with my coffee. Did I mention I am NOT giving up bread or cheese? I am not a masochist. GMO? Fine with me. Meat? I am eating less and less of it but I have no plans to give it up entirely. (Yet. The way America does factory farm feedlot meat is pretty much unsustainable but that’s outside the scope of this post.)
Soylent piqued my interest some time ago when I somehow caught one of the founders interviewed, and he was his very own tech bro guinea pig, even wondering why he had the formula totally right and still came up anemic and realized, oh yeah … iron … I thought he was absolutely adorable and because of my love of classic sci-fi I couldn’t help but snork at the name. I held off, though, because initially the product was one flavor in powder form and that was just not convenient enough for me. But I liked the idea. This could be like lembas bread in a bottle.
I am still going to cook myself food, to the extent that I cook — if salads, sandwiches, and pastas even count. I eat nuts and berries anyway, too. (Cue Talking Heads (Nothing But) Flowers.) I need a desk-job-doable solution to my abhorrent eating habits. I’m trying these two things first.
As far as palatability, I can recommend both Soylent Cacao and the chocolate sea salt RXBARs. I also get that satiated feeling after consuming either, a feeling I do not get at all ever when snacking on the sugary stuff. I am just trying to evolve some of my worse habits into less bad ones. Maybe my breeches won’t feel quite so tight in the waist in a few months. Hopefully I can keep myself in the kind of shape I try to keep Eli in. Conrad can stay smooshy, though. Except in reality he is probably in the best shape out of the three of us creatures right now.
I am not getting anything from Amazon, RXBARs, or Soylent for writing this. This is just my brain hatching its weird little plans. But I’d happily take free stuff from any of those companies. Has anyone tried the Soylent Chai?
While I did not see as much ice at my house as some other areas of town, driving to the barn was out of the question on Tuesday because the main road I take there had iced-over bridges. Work texted to say the library would be closed. This meant spending all day with Conrad.
And actually, I didn’t go to work on Monday or Wednesday, either. Monday was a holiday and I had dental work on Wednesday (which meant I couldn’t drive for a while). I had some time to kill.
I rarely sit down to watch an entire movie, and I solidly avoid movie theaters at this point due to agoraphobia. I don’t watch too much TV, but I am a diehard fan of a few shows. I still haven’t caught up all the way with the X-Files, and I’m already behind in S2 of Victoria, but I finally finished Twin Peaks S3Es18&19. Before I finished Twin Peaks, I watched Blade Runner 2049. I should point out here that my favorite movie all time ever is Blade Runner. (Either the 1992 release or the 2007 release–I have ambivalent feelings about the “happy ending” but Edward James Olmos arguably has the best line in the film in this ending.) (I also have a whole take on why Rutger Hauer’s last few words before the character dies are so illuminating.) So the bar was high for a second installment.
If you enjoy sci-fi, psychological thrillers, and stunning cinematography, watch this movie. It’s immaculate. It’s also heavy-handed, but so was the first one. I think most fans of the first one will love this sequel. Robin Wright’s performance especially stands out to me as phenomenal. And Hans Zimmer’s score truly sets a chilling atmosphere for a dystopia that doesn’t seem so unrealistic or that far off, and somehow the sets play much earthier than those in the first Blade Runner, perhaps due to an almost overwhelmingly chic palette of slate and gold, hinting that perhaps in every scene these characters are wandering a labrynthine mausoleum. The origami unicorn concedes to a wooden horse.
I will most likely re-watch Blade Runner 2049 very, very soon. As for any more TV, I have Black Mirror and Dark at the top of my list of things to watch ASAP.
On Wednesday, Jump Off Deck 2 from Equestrians Against Normalcy arrived and I immediately set to playing with the cards, easily coming up with snarky yet truthful combinations. I cannot wait for the H/J deck to be released!
A friend has got me hooked on taking quizzes online. We talk about and take quizzes daily. I have expanded my knowledge of the geography of Africa by … um, a lot. I have striven to learn a little more geometry and endeavored to add more nuggets of science trivia to my brain’s RAM. If you want to take fun, silly, or genuinely educational quizzes online, try Sporcle. I am super hooked on any quiz that asks me to name the animals of certain continents and quizzes dealing with language, for instance, name all the words in Poe’s The Raven that rhyme with “evermore.” I am lucky in that various forms of dementia don’t seem to run in my family, but I would like to keep my brain working well for as long as possible. Of course all these online quizzes are meant to be taken from memory, on the honor system. It’s no fun besting competitors if you’re cheating (unless you’re Kelley Farmer, I guess.)
The only radio station I listen to anymore …
The few times I left my house and drove somewhere, I drove to the barn. It’s a good 20-30 minute drive from my house (depends on traffic and whether I hit the lights timed well) and I discovered that 1st Wave on satellite radio is literally the mix tape I’d be making all my friends (Minus the Elvis Costello–can’t stand that guy. Leave Alison alone, dude.). It’s 80s classic alternative with some late 70s and early 90s tossed in. Where else can I hear Cat People and Bring on the Dancing Horses? I recommend singing both of these songs as loudly as possible.
So, when I can’t play with my pony very much because of ice, the above things suffice to keep me entertained. I really hope I can ride tonight! It’ll be a good time to try a quarter sheet on Eli again.
Earlier this week, we had some fog. It rolled in Sunday night and by Monday night it was actually the thickest fog I have ever driven in. On rural county roads. With no shoulders. Or striping. Visibility was about 10 yards unless there was an oncoming car then it was like just swerve away from the headlights and hope I don’t hit a tree. At least the trees are small.
Conrad did not find the dreary, drippy, cold wet days enjoyable.
He stays bundled up in multiple blankets on the furniture. It is sunny today, but more icky weather is on the way. To keep the festive spirit in tact, I thought grabbing a little film of my street in the fog might be kind of neat — it’s a short street and every house has lights up. The fog wasn’t as bad in my neighborhood as it was near the barn, so the lights just look all twinkly and the refraction isn’t too bad.
You really can’t live in the Western world today and not suffer in some way from anxiety. What American is not anxious about something, if not multiple somethings? (For example … the opioid crisis, gun violence, international terrorism, domestic terrorism, failing transportation infrastructure, racism, lead in the water of not just Flint but many American towns, tropical diseases migrating north as the climate gradually warms, rising sea levels, and oh yeah rent/the mortgage, to speak nothing of hurricanes.) There are many manifestations of anxiety, and if you’re interested in scratching that surface, you can find statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
But within anxiety, there swells a strong current of existential dread, notably at the forefront of American culture and politics today, explicated to a certain extent in a New York Times Magazine piece, “The Golden Age of ‘Existential’ Dread.” If you interact with media at all, you can’t escape the venomous tendrils of existential dread weaving together everything from climate change deniers and creationists, to universal health care proponents, feminists, and the Standing Rock protesters.
However, there is another type of existential dread and it’s personal. My own experience with anxiety has a few facets and I did not discover until recently that a big part of why things make me anxious, why I have racing thoughts, why I regularly entertain graphic fears of losing things important to me … a big part of this is existential dread. It has shadowed everything I do every day. For many years, it controlled me (and given my taste in literature and film I have no idea why this never occurred to me while I was younger). For many years, I fought it without knowing it or knowing how to fight it effectively. I found some succor in two books — My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind by Scott Stossel and Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks. After reading I realized that what I suffered I did not suffer alone. And I knew I could change things myself (which included actively seeking professional help). I coveted and currently enjoy relief in some of the daily tasks I perform in relation to my dog and my horse. Horses, especially, can be a pleasurable, purposeful, and constructive outlet for anxious or obsessive-compulsive energy. Horses don’t sink into murky anxiousness never to be heard from again, they just are, and they live in the moment. Clear your head and bask in their immediacy of existence and try to learn that ever-presence from them.
The burden of existential dread, however, is not assuaged wholly by fussing over my animals. The animals help A LOT and drive my motivations for doing basically anything. But there are still at times nagging feelings of “why” and “what if” that darken the ether around me. And this shade forever skirts total demise. Perhaps without it, I am not me.
Yet it no longer rules me.
Partly because of cognitive behavioral therapy and partly because I have embraced gratitude, I no longer spend hours ruminating on all the bad things ever. If I dwell on a thing, it must be a thing of beauty and must improve my life, or it doesn’t get an iota of my time or energy. This is a conscious choice. Anyone can make it. Every dumb article you read on click-bait websites about pop psychology probably says that happiness is a choice. And they’re right. Even when locked in struggle–with people, or work, or finances, or family–happiness is there to be had because your mind is that agile. My mind is that agile. I control what energy I put toward that which would otherwise dim me in shadow. I keep that energy for myself now. There is now no shade capable of consuming me.
If you think you can’t do this, know that you are wrong and you can do this. Maybe not easily, but you can do this.
I have an equestrian question for anyone willing to ‘fess up. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve repurposed as a direct result of riding or working with horses?
I am not talking about the Target cashier’s glare inspired by your basket of Desitin, Preparation H, Duct tape, zip ties, and a case of Apricot Lacroix … you’d think the cashier thinks you’re buying ingredients to cook meth in your garage, but whatever. We have all found horse-related uses for things not specifically intended for some horse-related use.
I am talking about the really random stuff. Like washing your lower legs with dog shampoo that has lidocaine in it for itch relief … or stirrup leather rub relief. Either way.
Many thanks, everyone who commented on the French Link post — I am generally and genuinely interested in equestrian terminology and always find answers to a question about term usage illuminating.
Along these same lines, I could again ask questions about what you call certain types of bits, so I will. I will leave these questions very open-ended. (Keep in mind I am not asking what each bit is for, just what you’d call it. I am not trying to open the leverage can of worms.)
Fulmer or full cheek?
Elevator or gag?
See how open-ended that is?
I have pretty specific pictures in my mind of the difference between a fulmer and a full cheek, but I have seen either called both.
Elevator or gag … that’s more complicated! The bit that first comes to mind when I hear “gag” is a Cheltenham gag, but that is not the only type of gag bit out there–many bits have a gag action and aren’t what I or anyone else would call a Cheltenham gag.
When I hear “elevator” I picture those 3- or 4-ring bits that people call elevator, Dutch gag, bubble bit, or Pessoa bit. I know y’all know what I’m talking about–what do you call them? (Let’s skip talking about how and how many reins you use with these bits.)
One final question– is it possible to use fulmer/bit loops on a Nelson gag? Like, how would that work? I can’t picture it because of how gag cheeks work, so I am thinking emphatically no.
This post is pretty slanted toward the English disciplines (especially the over fences ones) as I am not at all familiar with bit names for Western, Gaited/Park, or Driving. I welcome any answers along those lines, too!
Thankfully, I had a lovely hack on Eli on Tuesday evening. It kind of made my whole week, right there. Like, hey, we’re not that out of sync and I need just to remember how to ride him–no cruise control on horses, duh. Somehow the weather provided just enough rain at the barn to make the footing perfect, and the light was low enough that I didn’t need my sunglasses, but not so low as to make Eli think, “LIONS.” And a gorgeous sunset capped off the day!
Wednesday evening, I didn’t get away from work until 7:15, so that meant riding under the lights. Again, Eli, although a bit pokey, rode quite well and we even took a few canter poles. Miffed them the first time through but the following passes from both leads worked out well–I think he understood that he had to pay attention to where his feet were going. It was a later night than usual for me, and I am a bit more tired that I would like today, and work is just as hectic as ever (do we not already have all the laws ironed out?).
The following video is just Eli practicing standing still — but his tail cracks me up. Otherwise yawn.
Now, on to a non-horsey topic, and not one I would typically give too many details on, but this was so novel to me and I think sharing a little could help some people. My eyes are still a problem, but I also now have treatments that seem to be working. I have a few things going on with my left eye, and one of the symptoms was a persistent dull ache; another symptom was photosensitivity. I went to the eye doctor on Monday (something tells me I’ll be visiting much more frequently than once a year from now on) and we discussed my symptoms again. He checked a few different things about both of my eyes and examined my left eye more thoroughly. He then said, “You have rosacea. Have you heard of that?” My response was, “Yeah, thanks, I know. What about my eye?” Doctor: “You have rosacea in your eye.”
WHA … ??? Huh … ??? Whhffphh?
PSA, readers. You can get rosacea in your eye, and it can mess with your vision if left untreated. If you have ANY bothersome symptoms in your eyes, go to an ophthalmologist ASAP. You might be thinking it’s just allergies but it might not be. I am treating the rosacea now, and I think the treatment is helping at least some. But mostly, how freaking weird is that?!?! I can’t recommend googling images of ocular rosacea–mine must be a mild case that we’ve caught early. Maybe just stick with reading the Mayo Clinic pages about it, if you’re curious.
A more accurate title of this post would be “riding whilst uncertain about something outside of riding that could affect my riding.” But that’s too long. I’m going for a little practicality here.
Anyone getting on a horse is probably comfortable with a moderate amount of uncertainty (or just stupid, either way) because of the nature of horses. Is he going to spook at that pile of poles the ninth time we trot past, after trotting past eight other times without incident? Is he going to step on a rock and come up lame from a stone bruise that later abscesses? Am I going to see a stupid distance and fail to make a decision so that my horse stops and I end up picking splinters out of my teeth?
We of course also ride with uncertainty about our own skills and abilities. Is my horse not getting his leads because I suck at it? Or is it because he hurts? Or maybe he doesn’t care even if I am asking correctly? Or maybe it’s Tuesday?
We even all experience a little bit of daily uncertainty about whether we will be able to afford this sport for much longer or at all. We sometimes question whether the time we put in is worth the stress these animals can cause us. We spend too much on vet bills, we try to fit square pegs into round holes, we try to get better every day even in the face of setbacks in communication, health, finances, the wrong tack, daylight savings, or footing.
Personally, I have already worked through a lot of this uncertainty — I am comfortable with my shortcomings as a rider, knowing that I try to improve every time I get on my horse (plus he keeps improving, too, so that helps). I am comfortable with horses being unpredictable. I accept that my wallet is not a good match for equine pursuits but I will pursue regardless. The uncertainty I am not comfortable with, that I am facing now, has to do with my health. Specifically, my vision. I’m losing it, apparently. And not in an “I just need a stronger prescription for eyeglasses” way. Totally annoying.
The first thing that comes to mind is always the worst case scenario and I don’t think that’s me. Not yet. I can still see, I just have a blind spot that will probably never go away. I don’t know how much or if this will change over time. The vision loss I have experienced thus far was not even obvious to me until I went in for my regular annual eye exam and once the eye patch was over my right eye during the visual field exam I noticed that there was something very, very wrong with my left eye. “Like, whoa, that is fucked up” was my first thought. I didn’t think much about it after that and just let my eye doctor tell me about the possibilities and request more diagnostic exams for me and prescribe me some eye drops.
And then I got to the barn. It kind of hit me then. What will the barn be like if I can’t see? What will riding be like? No, I will not give up riding no matter how much my vision dwindles over time. It may not even get all that much worse with treatment. But if I ever lose so much vision that I have to change how I ride or which horses I ride–what will that be like? How much vision loss is enough to say “no more jumping”? I even think that if I could, I’d trade my hearing to get my vision back. Which is a selfish and childish thing to think, but really, I don’t need to hear anything else ever again. However, I need to see.
This isn’t even that much of an issue yet, but the uncertainty about how long my vision will last makes me consider the future in a much different light. There are plenty of people with far worse conditions who ride in the face of disabilities and adversity no matter what. Seeing them do it — I know I can, too. Not riding is not on the table.
What uncertainties related to riding have you grappled with?
Have you seen the movie? The one where a husband gradually wears down his wife’s sanity by telling her small lies and convincing her she’s just hearing and seeing things that aren’t there? If not, watch it. If so, then perhaps you can appreciate this: You can’t gaslight me on fence height. Hillary’s post on developing an eye for fence height got me thinking–there are definitely people with no eye for judging fence height, and perhaps they assume that people will just go along with their assessment of how high they think they are jumping their horses.
Perhaps when I was younger a little lying worked on me, because I wanted it to. I wanted to think I was just jumping 3′ even if I jumped higher. It kept me focused on the ride rather then the fence height, this at a time when social media didn’t exist. Flash forward to today, and I see a whole lot of Internet wishful-thinkers posting about how high they are jumping, accompanied with pictures that most certainly are not of a fence that is the height they say it is.
Why? I don’t get it. What does anyone gain from lying in such a way that is so demonstrably and immediately false? Why do people think they can convince others of falsehoods simply by saying them? Do they subscribe to the notion that if they repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it? They will believe it themselves? (What does that remind you of?)
Fence height is a fact that can be either confirmed or proven false easily. So what is the obsession with it? Other than to know you are schooling at or above the height you compete, why is it so important to people to broadcast it repeatedly on social media? I am all for setting goals and sharing accomplishments online–we all do it and quite frankly we all get a lot of support for doing so. But tacking a number on something that isn’t true is not an accomplishment I’d be sharing with the world. I am so confused by this phenomenon. Help me understand.