Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Saturday, November 10, 2012

In the Arena #132 - Snapping out of it...


The longer between posts, the more stuff there is to post about. Not to mention the photo backlog... it gets overwhelming pretty quickly. Best efforts made to edit this down. :D

 An overdose of emotional turmoil (or please indulge me while I whine):

Let's see... there was putting my dog to sleep + kicking out the disrespectful boarders, both of which starred in previous posts. A few days later, a close relative drove all the way here for a last minute visit. We hadn't been in the same room for six years. I tried not to be suspicious. I thought it might be progress toward reconciliation...

...but it was an ambush. Endless ranting about how I was the worst close relative ever, and endless examples detailing why. In public at a restaurant where I know everyone. *bummer*

Not too long after that fun time, my body rebelled and I succumbed to a case of shingles. Stress induced I am sure. Takeaway message - in the future, if I have second thoughts about anything, I go with my gut. No more Ms. Nice Guy.

Aaaaand my arena was out of commission most of the summer due to extreme footing depth - no support for horse or human. I could barely push the wheelbarrow and Val's feet slid and sank to the fetlock. Just like last year. That coupled with the fact that we're navigating dressage on our own, with miniscule budget for instruction and no suitable instructor closer than a five hour drive, had me questioning why I was bothering with this dressage dream... it was a pretty discouraging time.

Let's just say I wallowed. (wallowed my way to the grocery store for Haagen Daz)

Getting a grip:

The third week of October brought my staycation. Finally!

A week away from business to relax. A week devoted to catching up on my responsibilities at the farmette. A week to play with my pony. And what a week it was. Epically beautiful. Cloudless skies, slight breeze, 80 degrees day after day, the ocean still warm enough to swim.

During the wallowfest I had taken an objective look at my dedication  / commitment to riding, and came to the conclusion that despite all the excuses I could come up with, the reality was I hadn't been putting in the hours needed to get the results I desired. I tried not to beat myself up too much, and instead came up with a plan.

Time with my horse - deep grooming / massage, groundwork and / or riding five days a week. Period. So far our schedule has only been interrupted by Sandy's visit.


Val has been treated to several thorough massages which he loves. He stays put without haltering or tying, and is sure to let me know when I find a good spot. Occasionally I'll groom him equine style, on the withers and neck using my hands like some big horsey teeth. He loves that!

Groundwork has been mostly trail walks off property - about a dozen so far - and twice we've even made it fifteen minutes down the trail to the beach. Val has let his natural curiosity gradually override his vigilance. He seems to enjoy the change of scenery, and his trust in me is growing.

The rides have mostly been out in the open, no ring or fences. (and all bareback - haven't used the saddle in months) The first time I promptly lost steering and brakes, crawling up Val's neck instead of staying on my seat when he started feeling too light in the front end. I hopped off and did focused groundwork until he started listening to me. Round two = 50% steering / brakes recovered. One more round on the ground and then we went to work in the virtual ring. I have been told many times that I should resolve situations like this mounted, but I did what felt right in that moment. I'm prouder of working through that issue than most anything that's happened since I got Val. I was by myself, scared and wanted to quit, but persevered. It paid off.

♬ ♪ You are, like a hurricane... ♫♪

Super Storm Sandy was only an anxiety filled inconvenience compared to what happened to those poor folks in the north east. Though once again, had she been a direct hit, we would likely have gotten wiped off the map.

Val handled it beautifully. I kept his regular routine as far as feeding and mucking, and switched out his sheets to keep him dry. His appetite never faltered, but he did sidle up to me and grab my sleeve most every visit. He found it as tiresome as the humans I suspect.

I'm very thankful. The Shimmy Shack is intact, we have power, and there is fuel to purchase without standing in line. What we don't have however, is a road off the island. Again. We may get it back by Thanksgiving. While I don't have an imminent need to leave, (unlike my friend who was due to deliver her (breech) baby this week), the prospect of a multi-hour wait for a two plus hour ferry ride does weigh.

Tying up the loose ends...

Everything happens for a reason. My time of too many objectionable feelings did provide valuable insight. Emotional equilibrium is indispensable in horsemanship. It doesn't come naturally to me, so I am on a mission to cultivate it. When I can achieve that state, Val rewards me beyond all expectations. (Like he did today! More on that in the next post...)

As of this week, I've gotten my arena back. (!) I've also inherited my old Kubota, minus the deck and other unnecessary parts, for full time harrowing duties, so the arena should be in good shape until next summer.

My goals for the winter are to regain the ground we lost over the summer - smooth, forward trot work and hopefully back to the canter, plus to reintroduce the saddle. Additionally to get out on the trails again. We've made great strides the last few months. I'm really proud of Val.

To that end, I had a fortuitous visit today from a woman I used to ride with at the trail barn, whose horsemanship I respect. She's recently returned to riding after dealing with back issues, and has offered to ride out with us for trail schooling. I'm cautiously optimistic, in an even keeled kind of way. ;D

For your viewing pleasure... 

big snoozle the morning after the (four day) storm - this is the only dry ground in the paddock

"What's up there?"

"You didn't tell me there was so much grass..."

trail sparkles


back in the arena

cookies coming soon



  1. I love his dapples in the photo of him lounging in the mud. I admire your perseverance. You've had a lot thrown at you!

  2. I see a lot of me & Aero in your story of riding Val out in the open, I know exactly what you mean by "getting light in the front end!"
    I'm convinced that consistent work is the key, and if I can't work/ride, then just spend time with the horse(s). Hope I'm right!

  3. Well it sure sounds like you have had a busy or hectic summer, glad that you still managed to get some riding in and i love the sound of your routine. i love the pictures you two look great together.

  4. Wonderful job catching up much to report - glad things are going well and looking forward to the next post!

  5. The last few months have been about the most challenging (and depressing) of my life as well. I feel your pain and am sorry you are having to get through one of this periods.

    So glad you survived Sandy relatively well (lack of a road seems like a pretty big inconvenience!).

  6. I'm glad to hear from you again!

    I've been through most of what you're describing at one time or other in my life. My body is always rebelling. I've spent far too much time navigating dressage on my own. My "close" relatives suck. I decided to make only those who lived with me my family, and that includes my horses.

    Horses have been the only constant in my life. They were there for me when my "family" wasn't. My horses never thought of me as a burden, and have always given to me just as much as I give to them. I place them much higher in my life than those people that I know by an accident of genetics.

    I'm glad to hear that you're finding yourself again. And I really love the second picture of that wonderful trail through the woods. It reminds me of my childhood in Louisiana. I wish I had trails like that here in NJ!

  7. You've really had a lot going on in your life. Some good and some not so good. I admire how you handle life and come out of your problems with such a great perspective. Of corse, Haagen Das always helps my go to in times of crisis is Vanilla Swiss Almond. It always puts things in a better light.

    Love all the pictures of Val and you of corse. Looking forward to your next post about your ride with Mr. handsome.

  8. Girl with a Dream -

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  9. Hi Story -

    Thanks for thinking of us. Val says, "Why yes, I am!"

  10. Shannon -

    You can pick your nose, but you can't pick your relatives as they say. I'm a firm believer that we can make our families rather than rely on genetics.

    Do you sound like you're from Lousiana still? My most favorite accent ever!!

  11. GHM -

    Dulce de Leche is my fave, creme brulee in a pinch!

  12. So love this post for obvious trail riding, beach visiting reasons. Sounds perfect! And BAREBACK - doubly perfect.
    You are such a good horsey mommy for giving the sweetest Val his massages. And, of course they help massage your own worries away. Terribly sorry to hear about the bridge (again, grrr) and the nasty relative. It will all go right - just keep loving the pony boy and eating the haagen daz and now...riding the trails with your Val and an old friend.
    Love the "cookies coming soon" picture - I know that slight-head-turn-to-check-that-said-cookies-are-indeed-on-their-way-into-starving-horse's-mouth pose well.

  13. juliette -

    I will treasure the day we ride down the trails again. For now we've been strolling side by side. Soon though!

  14. Glad to hear what you've been up to, but sorry you've had so much negativity to deal with. Close relatives can be a killer :(
    Your work and plans with Val sound great. I'm very impressed with you working through issues when you're out of a ring and bareback. Losing steering and brakes is scary at the best of times, but without a saddle...
    Loved the pictures.

  15. First, I am really glad you posted. I have been thinking about you.

    Being ambushed by a relative sucks. I guess on the plus side, they didn't ask for money and you don't have to see them again. :-)

    I love that you are investigating terrain off property. And, bareback?! Wow. Good for you for working through the lost steering and brakes first time out. Scary situation and you managed it well.

    Wallowing is OK. The trick is to recognize it as wallowing and not let it take over. You didn't. I admire your tenacity and your zest for life. :-) And yes, Haagen Daz and potato chips are cure-alls, in my opinion.

  16. I love the picture of him lying down! Good to read all the updates. :)

  17. Ahh...lovely, lovely Val eye candy! He looks great and I'm so glad you guys came through the storm unscathed. You have had a lot to deal with, but seems you are dealing with it with grace and perseverance and that's all that matters.

    Happy trails!

  18. Wolfie -

    Thanks for our kind words. (Love that sweet / salty snack combo!)

  19. Mona -

    The worst thing about the hurricane for Val was missing out on his beauty sleep - he's a dedicated napper!

  20. Wow, that's a lot to deal with! So glad you are getting to a better phase. Spending time with Val is great for the soul.

  21. Welcome back! It is good to hear from you again and that you are well, even if you had a rough time. We are go through it and the uncool family situations. Most of my family is spread all over the globe. I remember why whenever we happen to all get together. ;)

  22. Val -

    Lol - As time goes by, I can't justify the waste of energy trying to get along with someone I wouldn't associate with if they weren't related. ;D

  23. Glad that you're back. What you describe is all part of the ebb and flow, and it sounds like you're in the flow again. I think that walking the trails with Val is a great idea. That way he's familiar with the route once you get on-board again. Great photos! Dulce de Leche is my fav too. How big is the island? I think I might get a little claustrophobic without a bridge. Hope they fix it soon.

  24. You've been through the wringer all right--from the inside out, outside in and all the way around again! but still a very merry blog post. You have something really good deep inside of you. And many sympathies for the Shingles too. I had a friend with it one time, and he said the sensation was as though he'd been shot with a rifle! NOT A GOOD FEELING. I am glad to see you are posting and getting back into a routine--and OH! Those pictures! Keep 'em coming!


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