"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo



Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Spicy

Yesterday I went to the barn to sneak in a ride before work. Lily was hanging out at the round bale and waited for me to come to her. The mare field is the most hideous muddy mess right now, and I'm honestly happy and grateful if all Miss Thang decides to do is just stand still eating 24/7.

I took her up to the barn, hosed the plastered mud off of her legs (yeah, good luck trying to brush THAT off...), and groomed and tacked her up. She was doing giraffe impressions on the cross ties, which she rarely ever does anymore, and nervously pooped repeatedly. I don't know why she was nervous, as there was no one else in the barn, all the horses were turned out, and no one was working on anything in the vicinity (no sounds of heavy machinery, nail guns, skilsaws, etc.)

It was overcast, cold, windy, and the temp was supposed to drop 10 degrees over the next two hours, so I'm guessing all of that was playing into Lily's very "up" state of mind.  I was wearing 2 jackets and seriously considered not wearing my safety vest because we were going to be riding in the arena. After seeing the unprovoked whites of Lily's eyes on the cross ties, I re-thought that choice, deciding that while it is a pain to get the bulky thing zipped up when you can't feel your fingers, I like my ribs, back and spleen too much.

The footing in the arena was perfect. It had rained enough to pack the sand down and all of the excess water had already drained out. I took Lily into the arena, tightened her girth, and set her free. She tore away from me the second I gave her permission.

Man am I glad I decided to do that.

She proceeded to canter around the arena for the next 15 minutes. I timed her. Guys, my mare is FIT!!! She even threw in some HIIT by galloping up the long sides of the arena every 3 turns or so. She changed direction by herself, and I witnessed her actually do a full flying lead change, which she's never done at liberty. She'll swap in the back first and then in the front one stride later, but never a full flying change while changing direction on a bend (yeah, she did it on a bend too! All of her own volition.)


Not taken yesterday, as my phone's camera was still not cooperating, 
but it's a recent video of Lily cantering nonetheless. :)
Taken in the arena the day before, right after it had finished raining.
Footing was wet but not slick. It had drained significantly in 24 hours.

She kept glancing at me in an invitation to play, but I just stood still and quiet in the center of the arena, waiting. She threw a couple of fierce bucks in the corner, and I started to tense up. As she kept going around and around and around, I fought back a small sense of trepidation. With her in such high spirits, I was expecting we'd have a fight.

Lily slowed to a trot. I asked for a couple of changes of direction and she continued trotting on, flicking her toes up happily, then asked to come in. I gave her permission and she came, but came to a stop 20 feet away.

She hadn't done that in a long time: stopping without closing the distance. Her expression was wary. I assessed myself and realized I was holding my breath. I let it go and her ears flicked forward. I smiled and the tension left me.

Instead of me closing the distance between us, I walked to the side, in a straight line towards the mounting block. Ears still forward, Lily walked towards me and joined me, walking right next to me, side by side. I rubbed her neck in thanks, and the whole dynamic between us changed.

She turned her head towards me as I mounted up, then waited for me to cue her to walk.

We walked and she was distracted, staring at the horses in the nearby fields, at the neighbor's herd the next hill over, at the trees whipping in the wind. She was definitely spicy.

I ignored this and instead asked for an inside bend, and we did a turn in each direction at the walk in shoulder fore. Then another turn in each direction alternating shoulder-in with haunches in, at the walk. As long as I was asking for something, her attention redirected to me. I then asked for a trot, and we did shoulder-in down the long sides of the arena in both directions. We had a couple of moments of conversation where I said to Lily, "No, the bend is in THIS direction." And Lily said to me, "Well then get your butt straight because that's not what your body is telling me to do!" I listened and corrected. She told me to post. (She'll bump me up into the post when she wants me to; it cracks me up. I've learned the session goes better if I let her move out when she tells me she's ready.) I posted. She flowed.

We did spiral in and spiral out at the trot, one of the exercises where in the past we have argued the most. She'll do a giraffe impression and resist the bend, and I'll become a crooked mess trying to get her to spiral in while maintaining the correct shape. I hate spirals but know that it's good for us to practice simply because it's so hard. This time? My hands stayed soft. I focused on inside leg to outside rein and set my inside hand where it needed to be so she could maintain the bend. She fussed a little, then gave. I softened my inside fingers in reward and she kept that bend. My fingers stayed soft. Result? PERFECT spirals. BEST SPIRALS EVER. We repeated twice in each direction and at opposite ends of the arena.

We then did 10 meter circles at each end of the arena, moving back to the rail with baby leg yields.  We worked in both directions maintaining the same rhythm in the trot. It was effortless.

Something like this, but leg yielding towards the rail.
Illustration from 101 Dressage Exercises book.
We then switched gears to a more collected trot so we could do fat figure 8's at each end of the arena, each circle of the figure eight about 10m in diameter, working on a fluid change of bend across the center of the figure 8. More success.

Fat figure 8.
Crappy Sharpie diagram by moi
We moved on to my favorite exercise: giant Xs using the entire arena, starting with a small 10m circle in the corner at a collected trot, then crossing the diagonal at a more extended trot, changing direction, then following with another 10m circle in the opposite corner. Repeat trot across the diagonal. I love this exercise because when done correctly, we flow into the more collected trot in the circles, to then unleash Lily's power across the diagonal. She'll collect and extend with the feel of a spring throughout. It feels pretty epic when we get it right. We hadn't tried it in a very long time. We got it right on this day. She trotted out down that diagonal flicking her toes, with pricked ears and arched neck on a soft contact. I'm so thrilled she's starting to do her little extended trot under saddle! It's taken two and a half years to get her to this point!

Another quick diagram by me.
I gave her walk break to stretch. She started paying attention to the horses in the fields galloping around, and I saw out of the corner of my eye when she flagged her tail! I picked her up, engaged my abs and she came back to me...and gave me a counted walk!


Lily's version of a counted walk. Video taken during her rehab this summer; we practiced this a lot when we weren't allowed to trot yet. It's never been perfect, but the point of the exercise is to slow the cadence of the walk until each foot fall is individual. It's very hard for a horse to do while remaining straight, and it is a great exercise for getting their whole body engaged in preparation for collection. 


I've posted this video before, but it continues to be the best video of the counted walk out there.

On to more trot work. I asked for a collected trot and we practiced circles in shoulder-in. The Dressage 101 calls it leg yielding on the circle; it looks similar to this:
Illustration from 101 Dressage Exercises book.
We also worked on serpentines at the trot. This is another notoriously difficult exercise for us, but Lily was nailing those bends almost before I asked for them. We moved on to doing a few more giant X's using the whole arena, sans circles in the corners, to really get her stretched out and moving. We halted in the center of the arena, asked her to back up, dismounted as the ultimate reward and gave her a huge hug. I walked her out on foot.

There was still a lot going on around us: there was a blue heron hunting in the pond next to the arena, the horses in the fields were running on and off with the blowing wind, the minnies on the other side were chasing each other and squealing. The peacocks in the coop by the corner of the ring were occasionally flapping their wings. Lily looked around at everything and scooted forward once when the peacocks flapped their feathers as we walked by on foot, but when I stayed calm she calmed down too. She had paid no attention to any of this while working. She was forward but engaged, both mentally and physically. I don't know if she was so tuned into me because I had been so tuned into her, but the fact is that I think I can officially say that I have finally gotten her trust under saddle. I'm glad I let go of everything I was thinking and feeling before getting on. I'm pretty sure the ride would not have been like this if I hadn't. It's funny how much can change by just altering your frame of mind.

It was one of our best arena dressage rides so far.







End of the Year Recap: 2013, the Year of Discomfort


If you want to know what I'm referencing in the title, go read this great article that Liz shared recently:


It's about always pushing your limits. And 2013 has certainly been a year of testing limits.

January
We moved from the temporary housing offered by the travel nursing agency in VA to an apartment of our choice in MD. Why? Because my job and my horse were both in MD and I was doing 70-mile round trips 6 days a week between work and visiting Lily. Charles knew he wouldn't be in a travel nursing position forever. Even if he'd ended up working at the D.C. hospital permanently, the MD apartment we chose is in a sweet location, right next to 3 of the main highways in this area, and it was only a 30-minute drive for Charles from home to the hospital. Time-wise, it took him just as long with traffic to get to the hospital from the VA apartment (7 miles from the hospital but driving with the flow of traffic + within the city), as it did from the MD apartment (18 miles from the hospital, driving against the flow of traffic)!

I worked with Lily in some of the coldest weather her and I had ever experienced yet. She was spazzy some days and others she gave me great rides. We had our first ever snow ride - I'd never ever ridden in the snow before, & Lily had never been ridden in snow before, as she was born and raised in FL. We did this within the confines of the outdoor arena.

SNOW PONY!!!

And this month also marked the day when I started corresponding with Liz outside of the blog realm via FB and e-mail. She became the first blogger to learn my real name.


February
With Tina and Houdon, we discovered the Bayou trail on which I would later finish Lily's rehab.

Following Tina and Houdon on the Bayou Trail.
We tried a solo ride on it, as the going was much easier than going through the opposite loop with the million ditches and river crossings (this was when Lily was still really iffy about crossing water) and did more groundwork on the trail to desensitize her to obstacles. Lily battled an abscess and was on brief stall rest, but it was not the first time that this would happen that winter. Frustrating. By the end of February, I wasn't so much tired of the cold, I was tired of struggling with layers of clothes and the mud in the fields and on the trails.

I wrote a post about blogging, wondering out loud to y'all about developing a larger following. I received some really great advice from all of you, which is what led to the creation of the FB Wait For The Jump page, and also to me just starting to comment a whole lot more on the blogs I follow. Wouldn't you know it...my followers more than tripled.


March
Lily was lame again, this time with a stone bruise. Her teeth were floated by the new vet at the barn vet's office, and I won my Wintec Pro Contourbloc on eBay.


Wintec Pro Contourbloc on Lily
I started riding Sally's OTTB, Jezebel twice a week to exercise her. I was officially tired of the cold. I'd been fine while a part of me thought it would always be cold (remember we had just moved from an area where it was the same temperature year-round), but when everyone started talking about spring, I started to really look forward to it. I'd never experienced a real spring.


April
The worst month of the entire year, and I know this was true for several other bloggers. The one highlight of the month was going to DC with Charles to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Gorgeous!!


But the rest of the month sucked balls. On April 1st, Jezebel bucked Sally off into the arena fence, breaking Sally's finger and the fence simultaneously. Jezebel had had some on again, off again lameness since the previous November. Sally asked me to work with her the day after she was thrown. I decided to try her on the lunge first and Jezebel was so lame she was trotting in front and cantering in back. The vet diagnosed her with a small suspensory tear. Since Sally couldn't handle her mare due to her hand, I started helping out with Jezebel's rehab. While trimming Lily, my farrier removed a little too much of her left hind frog, revealing the fact that the old puncture wound from the previous summer was still there. Lily was pretty sore on that leg after that and not improving. I thought she had something horrible like pedal osteitis from the old puncture wound and that I would have to put her down. I had the new vet, Dr. R, out to look at Lily. She blocked out at the fetlock, not the hoof, and that is how we discovered that the main source of her lameness was a mild annular ligament strain, not so much the puncture wound. We later radiographed the hoof anyway, injecting contrast dye into the hole of the old puncture wound, and discovered that the hole was maybe 1/2" deep. We decided that we weren't going to worry about it.

Lily's left hind, with contrast dye injected into the puncture wound.
May
A week later I was picking the hoof when Lily jerked and made the old puncture wound bleed. When I returned the next day, her entire leg was swollen past her hock: cellulitis. She had to go on injectable antibiotics for that that created an extreme aversion to injections that took a good 5 months to cure. I stopped riding Jezebel after we realized her back was too sore from being laid up (I actually never rode her again after that; Sally hired a trainer who is much braver than myself.) I posted a lot in May as we started Lily back under saddle (while heavily sedated to avoid injury to herself and/or me) for progressively longer walks. I failed at long lining with her, and have not revisited this, though I still think it's something every horse should be able to do. Lily's back was sore from standing in the stall, so we struggled with finding the right combo of medications to keep her comfortable. She started showing signs of ulcers while on Previcox. We finally settled on just Robaxin (methocarbamol), which kept her back pain-free during the remainder of her stall rest. Since she had bucked on two separate occasions despite sedation, Charles accompanied me to the barn for my rides on Lily for a long time, just so he could hold her bridle while I got on. I decided to let Lily's roached mane grow out after this. I have never felt so continually afraid of riding a horse, especially a horse of my own. I started to really, really hate stalls and the whole idea of keeping a horse locked up in one. I secretly promised Lily that if we made it through this rehab, I would set her free.

Lauren and L. Williams were super supportive during this time, for which I am eternally grateful, and I started to realize just how awesome blogging can be. Liz and I continued e-mailing in RL.

I started the Today's Run series. Since I wasn't riding all that much, I had all of this extra time and I wanted to work on being a fitter rider. So I started running again. How did I keep myself on track? By posting photos from each run every day I hit the pavement as the seasons changed.

Photos of pine tree candles (aka new growth), from the Today's Run series.
I thoroughly enjoyed writing this series and it really helped keep me in line. It's too bad I'm a huge wuss about running outdoors in the cold.


June
More of the same as May, except Lily and I started trotting under saddle for a whole two minutes. I never wrote about it, but at this point I was going through a phenomenon that is common in the medical field known as compassion fatigue. I was tired, I wasn't sleeping well. I was tired of work, I was tired of Lily's rehab, I was tired of drugging her for rides yet being terrified not to, I was tired of worrying, I was tired of wondering if she'd be okay and what she would be like once we could go back to normal work-wise. I was tired of wondering if she'd immediately re-injure herself the minute she started turnout again. Astarte, my calico kitty whom I adore, seemed NQR. I took her into work for her 6-month senior bloodwork (in cats older than 10, we recommend a CBC, chemistry, thyroid levels and urinalysis every 6 months to make sure everything is working right) and one of the vets heard what she thought was a gallop rhythm in her heart, so I scheduled an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) with the cardiologists at work. It was a week before we could be seen. A week of worrying. Heart disease in cats can be particularly awful: if not treated with medication, the cat can end up with a condition called a saddle thrombus, where a clot can lodge itself in the bifurcation of the aorta, the artery that supplies blood to the hind legs, cutting off all circulation. It is excruciatingly painful. It is a lot more common than you might think, and most of the time it is a death sentence. It is one of the most horrifying feline emergencies because the cats come into the hospital SCREAMING in pain. Even if you get the cat through it, once it happens there is like a high chance of reoccurrence within the first year after the event. I think you can understand my worry.

The cardiologist found a completely normal heart in Astarte, which was a huge relief. I started a post on all of that but I still have it in my Drafts folder. It was too much at the time to even finish.  I was thankful that I had a massive discount at work to be able to afford all of that, but at the time I was so tired, so burned out, that I was having a really hard time coping at work. My mom's cat became really sick back on the island, and I was helping her through that. Bastet ultimately died and my mom was ripped into tiny little pieces; I had no way of even adequately comforting her from a distance. She adored that cat; she was an extension of herself. My friend Mark's beagle, Timmy, also started to deteriorate and I was helping him with that as well. Everyone in the blogosphere seemed to also be having a hard time with the health/soundness of their horses. L. Williams lost her beloved Carlos at the end of May, and I can't even begin to explain how deep that hit home, especially because he'd been lame around the same time as Lily. I cried for them. Lauren recently wrote a great post honoring those we lost this year.

June was among the busiest months of the year in our ER and we were having a really horrible run of deaths. Not due to any wrongdoing; there were just A LOT of really sick animals being brought in through the door that we couldn't save, either because the animals were too far gone, too old, or the owners couldn't afford treatment. We were averaging over 25 emergencies during a 12 hour shift (that's a lot, people. We had 2 techs, 2 doctors, and 4 emergency rooms to work with. When you need a doctor and a tech to monitor and treat the dog that is trying to die on the table, while only 1 other tech and doctor are available to handle the other equally critical emergencies coming in through the door plus labwork and xrays, it can get pretty overwhelming pretty quickly.) Deaths per shift were averaging 6+.  Morale in general was low at work because of this both among doctors and techs, but given what was also going on with pets that were close to me, it started to become increasingly harder for me to deal with other people's worry, to work on other people's animals. I struggled every time an animal was euthanized and fought back an overwhelming urge to cry every time I had to process a deceased patient. I kept this to myself. I'd tell myself I'd cry in the car once I was driving home, but then I was terrified of allowing myself to let all of that emotion out. It was...too much. I started actively looking for non-veterinary jobs but, while there were plenty of jobs to be had that I was more than qualified for, the thought of doing something else didn't make me happy either. I really withdrew into myself for the rest of this month. Charles noticed big time; I couldn't put into spoken words the way I felt and didn't want to try; I felt that by voicing it out into the air it would make everything more real and somehow set in stone. He started consistently reading the blog at this time because, interestingly, it was the one month of the year when I posted the most, simply because just writing everything that was going on, even if I was omitting more than half of what was really happening, really helped me get through this rough patch. It also helped Charles understand the way I was feeling without me having to speak. I read articles on compassion fatigue and waited for things to get better. For awhile there, I really wanted a vacation from my life. June was a very dark month.


July
This month marked the big turnaround of the year for me. It started out crappy when Sally, my main barn buddy and the writer of the My Ex Racers blog was evicted from the barn. This caused a cascade of barn drama that resulted in my farrier/trimmer firing the entire barn. I was forced to start trimming Lily's feet myself. I'd already been doing maintenance trims on her, but for the first time I decided to really take matters into my own hands. It was Fear #1 that I had to get over this month: will I screw up my horse by trimming her? I think we're doing well so far.


I started 4 minutes of trotting with Lily, and she had her final ultrasound, where everything looked great!  The end of her rehab was suddenly in sight: we were scheduled to be able to start full work by August.

July is my birthday, and I wanted to celebrate it. I wanted to do something different, wild, go some place we hadn't been to before.

At this time, Liz invited us over to Elkins to visit. I wrote 4 posts about it, going over everything in detail because I wanted to be able to remember all the things in the future. It still fills me with joy to remember it because it was the trip where I decided to start overcoming ALL the fears.

Getting to meet Liz, Kenai, Q and Griffin in person was one of the big highlights of this year. I met a pretty amazing human being who has changed my perspective on so many things!

She's seriously one of my best friends now.


I wish we lived closer!
Second fear: diving into a natural body of water. I don't know why this was a big deal, to tell you the truth. Just one of many things I hadn't done in like 16 years.

Success! I didn't die!
Third Fear: standing on the edge of a cliff. I have a TERRIBLE fear of heights.

See that fin of rock?
That's where this photo was taken!

Fourth Fear: galloping on the trails. What if the horse stumbles/spooks/falls/trips/bucks, etc at speed? I used to love the idea of this while growing up and after several bad experiences in FL had developed a fear of it. This one in particular seems especially silly now when looking back on it. It was a new fear and one that I'm especially happy to have resolved. Not that Lily and I gallop on the trails, though - the only place she'll gallop is on the Hill of Doom in the back woods, but that's it. She has a good head: she won't go faster than a canter even on the few instances when I've asked for more, and she won't canter if the footing is at all questionable.

Some galloping occurs in this video. 
I was riding Little Bit, leading on the trail. Not only did we gallop, I trusted him enough to film it!

Fifth Fear: Riding bareback. Liz had picked up on how much I missed this from previous blog posts. I had not done it in such a long time, and the last time I had attempted on Lily, she had bucked me off! I didn't get back on that day, and that always screws with your head. So I got to ride bareback!

On Q
On Little Bit

It's like what Charles always says about dancing: you might not know the steps, but if you pretend that you know what you're doing, it will look like you do. So I pretended I was much braver than I really was and as a result, BECAME much braver! It was nice to have my 17-year-old self back after 4 days in the mountains with Liz.

The minute I returned to the barn, I aced Lily (she was still in rehab) and took her on the trails. By myself. I wanted to hold onto that freedom I had discovered with Little Bit, and I wanted to achieve that same feeling with my own mare. And thus I conquered the Fifth Fear this month: riding Lily alone on the trails consistently.

Among my fave "ears" photos of her, and the first taken when we took our rehab onto the trails.
I started taking her out every time I rode her, weather permitting. Every. single. time. While continue to taper down her ace dose as we started approaching the end of her rehab. And not only did we not die, we started to have FUN while riding alone out there. We started to trust one another. And my goals with her returned to a goal I had toyed with in the past but never seriously: endurance. I've always, always wanted to try it and in FL I thought she'd be great at it, but with her anhydrosis down there and the heat year-round, I knew it would have been insane to attempt with her. Now? She was sweating GREAT this past summer (there is a theory that anhydrotic horses are cured once you move them to an area where it's not hot 24/7 and I believe it now), and she started to tell me she was okay with this trail riding thing. I started thinking we can finally give this sport a whirl.

My mom came to visit for two weeks. It was her first time in the DC area so we gave her The Grand Tour! July was, simply put, the month I set myself free.


August
Lily's rehab ended. We started turnout in small doses, first in the square pen at the old barn, then in the hospital paddock with Ramsey, a buddy. I rode Ramsey while his leaser was out of town and remembered what it was like to ride geldings.

View of the big field between Ramsey's adorable black-tipped ears.
I struggled with Lily's irrational hormonal swings and she had a 1-week vacation from riding because I didn't want to deal with her hysterics while in heat.


September
I wanted to keep my Free Lily promise to her. And we just couldn't afford the board at my upscale barn anymore. While looking for field board options, a coworker offered me the opportunity of boarding at her small barn for free in exchange for helping out with chores. I could turn out Lily there as much or as little as I wanted - there were also stalls available. We moved but the coworker rapidly became unreasonable in her demands. I had gone to visit Sally at her new barn a couple of times and really liked it. It was closer to home, too, and they had openings available for both field board and stall board. We moved again. Lily started out there on 12/12 stall/turnout and was rapidly transferred to full field board when another boarder decided she wanted field board too: Lily would have a buddy with her 24/7 and the stall board mares would be out with the two girls 12 hours a day as well. At this point, I finally completely stopped acing Lily for rides.

She was supposed to be well back into full work by now, but I was afraid of doing a lot of w/t/c with her since she was quite unfit. She had been inside a stall for 23 hours a day for the past 4 months. We needed to re-condition her muscles, ligaments, and cardiac capacity. There was a vast array of trails at my new barn and plenty of people to go out with. We started trail riding. A LOT. Solo and in groups. And that's pretty much all I did and posted about for the rest of September! Trails, trails, trails! This is how I worked on getting a baseline fitness on Lily: by doing plenty of LSD (long slow distance), as it is called in endurance. Trail work was mostly at a walk, sometimes for up to 2 hours at a time, with mileage ranging anywhere from 6 to 8.5 miles per ride.

Gorgeous late summer trails
The river at the park across the street

Oh, and Charles and I did the Electric Run in DC!



October
Busy, busy, busy!! October was jam-packed full of fun. I celebrated Charles's birthday, our 4th wedding anniversary, 8th anniversary together, and 1st anniversary living in the DMV. Lily had a chiro adjustment. I started adding some very short sets of trot and canter to Lily's trail work when riding out alone. Our first longer ride alone (5.7 miles) was pretty awesome.

And Liz came to visit us! TWICE! Here 

One of my favorite photos of the ones Liz took that day.
And here.
Liz on McTavish, our barn's resident Haflinger
I fulfilled one of my goals for this year, which was to canter Lily on the trails, and Charles caught it on camera!

October was also the month in which the Fort Valley endurance race occurred, where Charles and I went to crew for Liz. It was my first time at an endurance ride and our first time camping in cold weather (23 degrees, to be exact!) We had SO. MUCH. FUN. If I was attracted to the endurance sport before, this experience officially made me fall in love with it. Charles still considers that trip one of his highlights of the year. (Yay crewing husband!)

Team Q
November
We started adding in some occasional faster work to our trail riding and finally averaged 5mph in a solo ride. I had our local saddle fitter come out and adjust both of Lily's saddles. She was able to do the Alta Escuela, and after some minor adjustments, it turns out that my Wintec Pro does fit Lily well after all! I did my Training Recap post on Lily, which went over the big lows and highs in her training for the past two years. (Still want to turn that into a tab at the top for future reference for readers.) Returned to South FL the last weekend of the month to visit Charles's family and go to his cousin's wedding. We had a lot of fun!


December
December started out with the adventure that ensued after losing one of Lily's front Renegades. I tried to re-tell it in as funny a fashion as I could; at the time everything was happening I was upset about the boot, yes, but I was laughing internally thinking that the whole thing would make a good story. We never found the boot, but I was pretty amazed by the persistence and support of my friends who insisted we continue looking and accompanied me on the search.

Lily showed some mild NQR signs that resolved after several days off work. The stocking up I now think was unrelated & just the first signs of her scratches infection brewing. I had the vet prescribe meds when it wasn't responding to over-the-counter products, and later on, after 2 weeks of being back to her new normal self (bright but calm) I had bloodwork run just to make sure that this is really the New Lily and not that she's been feeling crappy. Everything came back 100% normal.

The rest of the month has been kind of all over the place what with extra shifts at work for both myself and Charles, and bad weather and/or bad footing almost every time I've been off. By bad weather I'm referring to freezing rain or just rain. Blecch. Lily has averaged about a max of 3 working days a week this month instead of our usual 4, which is fine by me. Horses boarded in pasture can retain their fitness levels for up to 6 months, which is another perk of the outdoor life. Our work has been focusing more on cross training by practicing dressage in the arena (because when the rest of the world is a muddy mess, the footing in our arena is actually perfect!) and LSD rides with Kathy.

The big highlight of the month was our small barn Christmas parade on Kathy's birthday.


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There have been many wonderful moments this year, and one of them has been meeting you all. When I started this blog over 2 years ago, I was hoping to get to eventually experience this aspect of having a blog, but I was completely clueless as to how to get there. How to get here. I have met so many friends thanks to this blog, thanks to Lily! I quite literally have friends all over the country now, and it's all you guys that read, comment and provide your endless support. Thank you so much for reading!



AAAANDDDD...if you've made it this far reading extra-long post, you'll get to know: 
I will be doing a giveaway when I reach 100 followers. 

I think I now have close to 50 between here and the Wait For The Jump Facebook page.

The giveway will be this:
A portrait, drawn by moi, of your horse or any horse that you love.

Here are some samples of my work:









All of the portraits above, except for the 4th one (ink on white paper), are of friends' horses, using a photo or a variety of photos as reference. That 4th one from the top down is 100% from my imagination.


So, if you're interested and are not officially following by "liking" the Facebook page or signing up on the right through Google Friend Connect or Networked Blogs, go ahead and do so, and spread the word. :) I will explain the contest rules once I can tally 100 followers.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

No Rifles

After the parade yesterday, I removed Lily's fancy polo wraps, Kathy took off her cloak, and we went for a long trail ride in the park across the street.

Loving these saddle bags. I was finally able to bring a granola bar with me on a ride, which I munched on while riding.
First time eating while moving on a horse! :)
It was hilarious because Kathy left the reindeer ears and bows on Queenie and of course, it being a Saturday with temps in the 50's, there were hikers all over the park to watch us go by. Between Queenie's and Lily's jingle bells and rhythm beads, we sounded like two reindeer escaped from Santa's sleigh. We got a lot of smiles and laughs on the trail!

Queenie was still sporting this look on the trail. She looked adorable!
Every single bow stayed in place!
Endomondo crapped out on me yet again as we were only a mile from home. I am careful to NOT leave it open on the phone screen while riding, but it will still randomly pause. This is something that it has been doing more and more frequently, and it did it again yesterday, so I have no idea of our mileage or pace for the ride. I am officially done with this app. I have uploaded Map My Run and will be using that one from now on.

Last photo I was able to take with my phone.
Uggghhh Smartphones! You are so wonderful but why must you die so easily?!
We took one of the newer trails that we had discovered during our most recent rides in this park, and ended up discovering yet another trail that took us through the widest and deepest river crossing yet. It was gorgeous.

Photo taken by Kathy. Totally captured the moment.
Going in, the mud on the near shore was pretty deep, but Lily did not hesitate at all to go right into it. I encouraged her to stop and drink, and we made our way across the river one step at a time, Lily putting her head down to drink/lip at the water/play each time I made her pause.

The opposite bank was also quite muddy but Lily didn't care. She went right through like a total boss and we followed this new trail, eager to see where it would take us.

We ended up in someone's lawn. It was a huge, huge lawn and the trail wound around it, following the tree line, but we were still in plain sight of the house. The best part was that the house had a Confederate flag flying on a post above the house, a trailer home next to the house, and several clunker cars strewn about in varying stages of decomposition.


We rushed past, following the trail up a very steep hill. Both mares chose to gallop up this portion, going around a fallen tree that would have been a 3' jump if we'd decided to go over it. The trail completely disappeared after that tree. I let Lily try to find the way, as she is so good at finding the trail when I can't see it, but we realized we were truly bushwacking up the top of a ridge. I turned Lily around, meandering through the trees trying to find any sort of trail back down the other side of the hill, but none was to be found. We could see the river running through the valley on the other side of our ridge, but neither Kathy nor I recognized where we were. No matter what, we were on the wrong side of the river, so we decided to just head back.

As we reached the Confederate lawn (remember I'm Hispanic, a certifiable brown person), and joked about the residents aiming rifles at us, we discovered another trail and I let Lily follow it. It took us right back towards the river...but at a spot where the bank was actually a 5' cliff. No way we were going to attempt to cross it there. We had to turn around yet again. Ugghh...

Back we went through the Confederate lawn. It was the only way back to the main trail.

At this point, Kathy and I were giggling uncontrollably like two little kids. We figured the people in the house must think we were spying on them. The little house in the middle of the woods was the perfect scenario for all sorts of illegal activities...

We almost trotted back to the river crossing and rushed through the water to the other side. Mind you, there were hoofprints all over the trail that led past the lawn, so we were not the first ones to head this way. We'll have to find out later from Jane and Natalie if they know where the correct trail is.

We followed the trail to an empty field, then found the way back by following the path up a very steep hill. Both mares galloped up, and Kathy and I exclaimed that we must look like something out of a Montana cowboy scene with the light of the setting sun shining upon us through the trees.

In our heads we figured we looked like Bob, our barn's resident natural horsemanship trainer (he is a certified John Lyons trainer):

My favorite of Bob's photos. It really was taken in Montana. Whisper, the Arabian he is riding in this photo, now boards at our barn and belongs to Bob. Go to Bob's website here
Except Queenie was wearing her reindeer ears and Lily had jingle bells all over the place. :)

We followed the trail down the other side of the hill and retraced our steps.

The rest of the ride was nicely uneventful, and we made it back to the barn safe and sound without any one running after us with rifles...




The Three Wise Women

aka our barn's new Christmas parade!


Yesterday was Kathy's birthday. There is a town in Maryland called Lisbon that holds a Christmas parade every year, where local horse people are encouraged to bring their steeds. Kathy wanted to go last year but Queenie was not doing well health-wise. This year, Kathy and Phoebe had been excitedly preparing for it for weeks, and were majorly bummed when the entire parade was cancelled due to bad weather.

So they decided to host their own parade at our barn, and what better date to do it than on Kathy's birthday! Since starting this weekend I finally have weekends off at work (YAY!!) I was invited to participate too.

It was only us three. Since I was working on the date when the Lisbon parade was originally going to be held, I didn't have an awesome costume prepared like Phoebe and Kathy did; I simply got Lily dressed up in wintery blue and white gear (it would have been an Ice Queen theme if I'd had a cloak and more appropriate decorations) with lots of jingle bells (attached to her girth), and Phoebe let me borrow Deja's rhythm beads (I may need to get my own...the sound they make is lovely!) for the occasion.

Many thanks to Sally for taking such beautiful photos of us!





See? Told you she can ground tie. :p
I was helping Phoebe with a chap snafu and since Deja doesn't like other horses to get too close to her,
I just let Lily stand; I figured she wouldn't go anywhere.
Sally has a great eye; she caught the moment.


Yes, we did the no safety gear thing for this photo shoot. I think this is the first time I've been on Lily without a helmet...
Yup, Sally did have to tell me to relax! Haha...
I want to print and frame this one...
Phoebe was totally working her costume. <3
Kathy leading the parade on Queenie.
FYI: she made that saddle pad herself. She is a pro at DIY.



LOVE!
Riding up the driveway.
If I'd had the blue cloak, we really would have resembled the Three Wise Women.
You know, like the Three Wise Men that went to visit baby Jesus in the story.


Kathy BEAMING! <3


Love this one of Phoebe grinning away with Deja.


Our BO's husband along with Rolando and his nephew all stood and clapped as we walked by. The horses in the fields were our audience. 

A lovely photo of Kara, the baby Icelandic (she's 3 years old), watching as we walked by.
It was a lot of fun, but Kathy said that she still wants to go to a REAL parade with Queenie! 
Maybe for the 4th of July. We shall see!