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

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

In Which I Meet One of my Favorite Bloggers

Karen and I have been talking for two years now. We met thanks to our blogs, in my case specifically thanks to Liz! Karen comments on Liz's often and one day I clicked over to check out her blog. And realized she had mine on her blog list too. Her most recent post at the time (October 7, 2013) was about having a best friend who rides and how much that meant to her. And it struck a chord with me: I met my best FL friend Diana at the barn and we had just clicked from Day 1. She had been one of those people I met and immediately thought, "OMG I really, really want to be your friend!" That doesn't happen every day: friendship at first sight. And it was mutual. It was like Diana and I had always known one another. The barn became the setting for our friendship and though we didn't get to ride together very often (she had a very demanding infant and very little spare time), our endless chatter and laughter over life and work and horses while doing barn chores was one of the biggest highlights of my day for my remaining time in South FL. I missed that. I still do. And Karen's post touched on that, so I commented.

She then started commenting on my blog as well. And then we started e-mailing. And then texting. And for the longest time now, not a day goes by that we don't communicate. And you know what I said about Diana in the above paragraph? That's how it's been with Karen too: she is very familiar to me, as if I have always known her. Which is why I would constantly forget the fact that I had never met her in person! Not in this lifetime, at least.

That changed on Saturday, October 17, 2015, exactly two years and 10 days after "meeting" online. :)

Karen travelled out to Baltimore, MD for work-related reasons (which turned into quite the adventure. Read her story here!) and scheduled the trip so that she would have time to swing by Frederick to meet up before having to fly back home to Colorado on her last day in my state.

She had wanted to meet the horses and I had originally planned to take her out on a long trail ride on the barn's trails, me on Lily and her on Gracie so she could see the fall colors, which were very close to peak when Karen was here. They get the color changes in CO but due to the drier climate it's not quite as dramatic as it is here, and I'd really been looking forward to this ride. Except Lily decided to break her face that same week (I'm telling you, every time I have planned something with her this year, she has hurt herself. The only thing she let me do with her this year was Foxcatcher in April. Literally every week before I've been about to take her somewhere or do something especially significant, she has hurt herself. I don't understand, and the whole point of getting the trailer was so we could go out and do stuff!) so there went the plans for the trail ride. Technically Lily could be ridden but she had her mummy bandage on her face and I knew that if she were to sweat underneath it (which she inevitably would) it would make her that much more itchy. I had already caught her trying to rub her face on things as it was, and decided to not tempt Fate. I was so upset.

I mean, seriously horse, what the hell is wrong with you?!
We met at the barn at 9:00 am anyway. Karen was in her rental car right by the driveway and when I saw her there, in person, I found myself choking back the tears. It was akin to meeting a long-lost relative.

We gave one another a big, big hug and it was like we had been talking face-to-face for the last two years. Like we had always known one another. Whether it shows on the blog or not, IRL I have a shy streak a mile wide which did show itself when I initially met Liz three summers ago, but that shyness did not even take a peak when meeting Karen.

She helped me get the girls from the field and got to see Gracie's dog impersonation first hand: if you pet G-Mare's forehead and then stop, she'll nudge your hand for you to continue. They both had their mashes while we groomed them. Lily's bandage had what appeared to be strikethrough so I decided to remove it to take a look at the wound. The wound actually looked great: the Telfa pad over the sutures had slid down and the Furazone underneath it had soaked through the Elastikon. So I removed everything, wiped the medication off of the sutures with clean rolled cast padding, then applied a new Telfa with Furazone and the mummy figure-8 bandage. Karen helped me with it because, while the wound didn't seem to hurt Lily at all, she was being weirdly reactive about the roll of Elastikon going around her head. So Karen also got to see the side of Lily that I rarely blog about (because the blog would be one angry tirade if I did).

I was grinning over meeting Karen, NOT over having to re-do the bandage.
This was the 4th time in 5 days that I had had to replace it.
Gracie got tacked up and Lily went back out into her field. Karen and I walked G-Mare over to the arena: I wanted to show off some of the stuff Gracie and I have been doing and also give Karen the opportunity of riding a gaited horse. :) The best way to get to know the different gaits is by experiencing them!

I did some groundwork with Gracie but she was especially glued to my side on this day and was not really responding to my requests to go out to the rail and work. Adorable, yes, but she's still supposed to do as I say. My other bone to pick was that she was changing directions at close quarters by turning away from me: normally she'll turn facing me. (We have reviewed both of these issues and corrected them in later sessions.) She cracked me up by occasionally trotting or cantering right past Karen, who was sitting on the mounting block watching, to check her out.

Video by Karen

Still, what I like the most about this kind of session with Gracie is seeing what she brings to the table. She has been extra, extra lovey with me lately and it shone bright and clear during our show for Karen.

Pic from another evening where I was just hanging out next to her and she totally put her head on my shoulder for attention. Check out her expression over being kissed. <3 She's a total marshmallow, this one.
Gracie was bridled and I hopped on in the arena to show Karen her gaits and buttons. And then it was Karen's turn.

Gait. Specifically Gracie's slow rack.

Here you can see where Gracie changes from rack to trot: lateral to diagonal movement.
Karen did a great job with her and even cantered her a bit, commenting on how different she feels from Ashke, even at the trot and canter. Yup: Gracie has one of the smoothest canters I've ever ridden, which is the main reason why it's Charles's favorite gait on her. :) It's very uphill and it's a little lateral (a common thing in gaited horse canters though I've met some with beautiful distinctly 3-beat canters.) Even with her trot, you don't really need to post because there's no true suspension phase. With her gait, the movement changes from up-and-down (trot) to side-to-side, which Karen got the hang of quite quickly. Gracie took excellent care of Karen, just like I knew she would.

Afterwards I took the blonde bombshell out into the grassy area over by the jump field so Karen could see how different she is outside of the arena. G-Mare was on fire, snorting with every stride, but extending and collecting her gait at my slightest request. She was awesome.

We walked her back to the barn, where she was untacked and released in her field.

After that, we met up with Charles at Sabor de Cuba, our fave Cuban place in downtown Frederick. He was working that afternoon but had to leave at exactly the same time as Karen, so it worked out perfectly. Karen got to try vaca frita (shredded beef, fried), tostones and maduros. We later went for a walk through town so Karen could find gifts for the family.

We also took her to Carroll Creek, one of my favorite parts of downtown where everything takes place during the warm months, so Charles could get evidence of this visit! :D

The visit was over way too soon: Karen had to return to Baltimore to make her flight. We hugged good-bye in the parking lot, until we meet again!

Thank you so much for stopping by Karen! It was beyond wonderful to finally get to meet you! <3



    My turn has got to be coming soon...

    1. I really hope so too! Lily just needs to STOP throwing monkey wrenches in all of my plans! The only reason why we didn't make it to RBTR was because of her previous injury. :(

  2. I agree with Mare! While moving to SC was probably the best move we have made, it has also been the hardest place for us to make friends. Between having a toddler, both of us being the boss at work, and having to fit our hobbies in at the oddest times we really feel isolated down here at times. I am glad you two got to meet and having close connections is so important.

    1. I really wish so many of my blogger peeps were closer. I love our current barn but if it weren't for Charles, I'd be doing most of my riding alone too. It's a lovely group of boarders and we all get along, but everyone has radically different interests and schedules. It's the first time since living in the US that I haven't had friends at the barn and it feels really odd. So I totally know how you feel!

  3. It was so good to finally share a hug with you and I have felt since the very first that you were someone I have known before. It was great to meet your man, who is every bit as funny in real life as I had expected. The only downer was that it was over too soon.

    I think Gracie was hanging so close to you when you were trying to do ground work was because I was there. Her charging past where I was sitting, getting closer and closer each time, was also due to her being a little uncomfortable with the company. Not that she was scared of me; she was just letting me know whose horse she was.

    I didn't realize until reading this post that Gracie didn't have any suspension in her trot (or gait) and that was the biggest difference between how Ashke feels (he has a lot of suspension when he is UP) and how Gracie felt. I also think I adapted to the rack fairly quickly because I always sit the trot, even Ashke's huge, ground covering trot. The movement is a bit more side to side than what I was used to, but so completely comfortable to ride. And Gracie was a great girl letting a total stranger climb up on her that way.

    Next time, I'll bring my boy and J on Coyote, and we will tour your wonderful countryside. If we manage to get the truck trailer next year, it could happen as early as 2017.

    1. Can you tell me, because I've been curious for a long time, and you mentioned it, why you always sit the trot? I would think it would be difficult on long trail rides on an Arab (although I'll sit for short periods of trot on trail, I hated that I had to sit the trot for dressage with no option to post). I understand sitting the trot offers more precise control over movements, but I was taught that it's also harder on the horse over distances. I'm not criticizing - you look awesome on Gracie, with totally relaxed shoulders and core, allowing her to gait freely. I'm just curious.

    2. I grew up riding bareback. Didn't have a saddle until I was 16 and I started riding at about 2. That coupled with where I grew up (Western area) with no English riders no one I knew posted. I didn't realize it was a thing that people riding western could even do until I got Ashke and started watching other people riding.

      I've tried with Ashke and we both hate it. I am much more in balance and in rhythm with him when I don't try to post. I have no problem riding any kind of trot he might decide to pick up, including his huge mile eating trot where I feel like I am riding a surging wave of movement. I don't bounce. I move with him.

      The final reason is that WE requires you to sit the trot even at the Novice level. Only juniors are allowed to post.

  4. I love blogger meet ups! :-) Glad you two connected.

  5. So awesome you guys got to meet in IRL :)

  6. So over the moon thrilled for you two. This was long overdue. <3

  7. Your story reminds me how much I love the blogging world, particularly endurance-related bloggers:) I could never have imagined a more awesome group of people! So glad you two got to hang out and enjoy your friendship:)

  8. That is so exciting that you got to meet Karen!!!! So cool!! I wish I could meet all of you... I was so disappointed that I only managed to meet one blogger at Rolex. It really sounded like a lot of people were going and then no one met up. :( Anyway I'm so happy for you and Karen. It sounds like it was a fun visit, even if it was short!

    1. P.S. Gracie is gorgeous!! Also I love the picture in your header photo!

    2. P.P.S. I'm behind on blogs so I didn't realize Lily was injured again. I hope she heals up quickly and stops hurting herself!! Sheesh Lily! Quit stressing everyone out so much!