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

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Catching Up

I have had a post in the works for the last couple of weeks now, about crewing for Liz's first 100 mile ride at the Old Dominion in Virginia. If you haven't read her story, I suggest you do so: it is not often that I cry reading a blog post and despite having been there to witness all of it, I still cried reading her story! It is beautiful and magical, and that's exactly what it was like in real life. It was a truly special thing to be there for her and I have had a hard time putting it into words...hence my delay in posting.

In the meantime, life over on this side of the computer monitor has been quite busy. Summer didn't really arrive to our region until the first week of June, when temps suddenly skyrocketed from upper 60s to the 90s, but is now in full swing. I have been riding every spare minute I get after work, and sometimes before work too (the perks of having two horses...) The weekends get split between the gym, riding time, Carlos time and being on call for work. Work itself has been quite busy and every week my schedule is modified to accommodate it: on some days I'm going in at 8:00 am because a coworker is on vacation and we are slammed for the day, or I'm needed later in the day so I don't go in until 9:00 am. My lunch breaks are rarely more than 10 minutes in length and I often end up working a 12-hour shift instead of 10. This is to say: my time for writing on the computer, whether blogging, commenting, reading or otherwise, is very minimal.I have kept up with a lot of my usual blogs but it is very, very hard to keep up on commenting. So if I used to comment on your blog and I haven't in a while, don't be offended please: I'm still reading!

We've been managing to put in a long ride (10+ miles in length) about every other week when we are both simultaneously off of work and can haul out with the girls. I've been posting a LOT of pics on my Instagram, which you can click to on the upper right-hand corner of the blog (if viewing from a computer). That's another place to keep up with our adventures at the moment, if you want to know what we're up to. :)

Barn Trails
Have some pics from some of our more recent rides:

Taken after a post-work ride. She looked so gorgeous in this light!
Hot days = playing in the river.
I love that both Carlos and Gracie are grinning in this photo, in their own way. :)
Water! Always water.

Solo ride on Gracie.

Hill sprints.

From a post-work ride on Gracie.

 Gracie tackles a steep section of the river bank.

Lily gives me annoyed mare ears about having to follow G-Mare.

This seemed like a good idea at the time: since the beach is not in our plans for the near future and it has been as hot as blue blazes, I rode on the trails in my tights and sports bra one afternoon. It was a buggy day and we weren't really moving out because it was hot and I ended up with this very, very itchy rash on my back. I'm still not sure what caused it. But I have no intention of repeating this anytime soon! I do love this photo though. Taken by Carlos, of course. :)
This is a favorite section of trail that I wish went on for miles and miles.
Sun dapples are beautiful.

I FINALLY had the billets on the Ortho Flex repaired (this has been pending since last year!

...so the Ortho Flex, when paired with Gracie's TSF girth, now allows full elbow clearance aka no galling. The Alta Escuela fits her well, but due her conformation and the saddle's billet position, all girths would ride up behind her elbows and chafe no matter what we did.
These two rocking out a pretty fast rack.
In case you're wondering: that train was moving. This is not Photoshopped. They are stills from a video.
Another still from the same video. See below.
Train chasing video! Remember that this was filmed from a galloping Gracie's back!
Note: the barn trails criss-cross over these train tracks; the horses can both see and hear the train from their field so they are very familiar with it. Over the course of the last year, we have been progressively riding closer and closer to the train whenever we encounter it while out on trail, in an attempt to completely desensitize the girls to it. I'd say we can officially declare it a huge success!

Sunset from Gracie's back.
Gallop up Suicide Hill, one of my faves for hill sprints.
Gallop around one of the hay fields.
The photo above is a still from this video. Again, filmed from a galloping Gracie's back!

And another gallop up the opposite side of Suicide Hill...

From another post-work ride on Gracie. Since we're still building up her baseline fitness, if I want to ride during the week I'm usually choosing her over Lily.
Inspired by Andrea and Karen, we did a one-handed dressage session the other day. I like to play around with this periodically: Lily is almost more willing to go into the contact when riding one-handed and it keeps her sensitive in the bridle. She neck reins, but I also use my fingers on the reins for more direct reining when asking for more refined stuff like bend and lateral work. As you can see, we were both quite rusty. Not sure what I was doing that I was so hunched over. We were spiraling in and out at the canter, hence my staring down at the spot on the ground that was the "center" of our spiral.
Nice forward trot in the field.

Hauling Out
We've headed to Little Bennett for rides and recently visited Black Hills Regional Park for the first time. Black Hills supposedly has 10 miles of horse trails but we never could find the other half (we should probably be more diligent about actually looking at maps...) so we basically did one 5-mile loop backwards and forwards to get our 10 miles in. We were all really lazy on this day: the horses and us. The 10 miles took us nearly 3 hours because we were just focusing on taking it easy and enjoying ourselves. There are days when I'm tired of going out with a set pace and distance that we have to complete.

Gravel trail at Little Bennett.
We actually found a new trail section at this park, after regularly going there for so long!
That looked like a giant sea urchin. Lily didn't even glance at it.
This and the following photos are from Black Hills.
"Bridge? What bridge?' They had never seen it before. NBD.
"I don't like those logs there. I just know they eat horses!"
Sure Lily. Trains are fine but motionless inanimate objects are not. Horses!
We took a turn leading. The change in ear expression from following to leading in both mares always cracks me up.
There are no photos of them, but we came across a really cool group of mountain bikers. It must've been a clinic of some sort because the leaders called back to the group, "HORSES!" while bringing their bikes to a stop, and each consecutive rider called to the one behind them. Except the leaders said, "No, really: there are HORSES on trail!" They were very courteous, moving their bikes to the side to give us right of way, and we walked the girls past them nonchalantly, thanking all of them. They all looked at the horses admiringly.  Lily and Gracie are more than used to bikes on trail by this point, so we don't care about stopping for cyclists to go past us, which they are always so thankful for (horses always, always have the right of way on multi-use trails but we like to be the best ambassadors possible for trail riders, and so we let others have the right of way if we can because our horses don't mind). And so we always return the favor when we encounter cyclists that let us pass first: we thank them profusely, because they usually are trying to get down the trail at x pace just like we are!
The trails were gorgeous. Hotter in the shade than outside of it because the winds blocked the breeze but everyone was tolerating the heat well.
Horses couldn't go beyond this point so we let the girls take a break in the creek.
...and took a bunch of pictures.

The perfect bike path here. It was a remote section of the park though: we didn't come across anyone.
The trail took us through deep little crevice in the earth and down into another creek. Normally both horses would have freaked out over the narrowness and depth of the path, but not this time!
This section among the ferns was beautiful.
Bridge again!
Back towards the trailer parking lot.
Gracie always pouts when she's following!

Other Adventures
Pics of some of the other stuff we've been up to. I think this year we've had a pretty good barn: life balance so far: we try to go out every weekend we're off work together in addition to riding.

I haven't posted about this little dude in forever. He is a spoiled little brat and of course we adore him. For newer readers: yup, he's missing a leg. His name is Zombie, because he died during the amputation of his rotten left hind leg and then came back to life. You can read his story here. It's a good one!

I really shouldn't call him "little"...he's 11 solid lbs of brick-like muscle!
Aengus is adorable.
This guy is adorable too.

And Astarte likes using his butt as a pillow.

This town. Oh my GOD. I love it so much.
I've never met a cat that loved to be loved as much as this one. I guess I shouldn't be surprised..."Aengus" is the name of the Celtic god of love, after whom he is named.
I almost would tattoo this on my arm...
Summer in the Northeast is my favorite season. Who am I kidding? Every season is my favorite season! But for the first time in my life, I truly appreciate summer: the absence of heat and green makes you appreciate them that much more. 
Two Puerto Ricans walk into an Irish bar...
...and lo and behold, the TV switches from hockey to a surf competition! Now we're talking. ;)
"HI GUYS!" - Zombie
"This guy is mine, mmkay?" - Zombie
He loves Carlos. LOVES. Also not surprising because Carlos loves all things zombie: it was the winning argument for adopting the tuxedo kitty. I'm pretty sure Zombie knows.
Dancing at a work party. I love his expression here. <3
Work hard...
...so we can eat and drink whatever we want on our days off. We were hanging out on the deck of a new favorite restaurant in town that specializes in local Maryland fare and craft beers.
Do you see the rainbow? :)
Epic thunderstorm clouds rolling in across the barn's hay fields.
There was lightning flashing but I was not able to get a photo of it!
Aengus could be a kitty male supermodel.
These cloud formations were beautiful too.
Late afternoon in downtown Frederick.

More dancing.
Two ducks sleeping on lily pads, over sky-reflecting waters.
Damsel, not in distress. Carlos's idea when he saw the chalk writing on the floor!
Blazing sunset on the way home.
I love this town. I swear every time we're out and about, I discover something new. Like these leaf tiles.
"You cleaned all this laundry just so I could cover it in fur, yes?" - Aengus
Carlos in the grass. Also taken in downtown.
I wish this led into forever.
A secret garden.
See the speck in front of the bench? Not the big light, but the small speck of light directly in front of that bench?
That was a lightning bug. They're back! My favorite part of summer in this region! :)
I caught a star! ;)
Carlos's idea.
Early morning downtown Frederick. The city was just starting to wake up.
So there's a pictorial summary for y'all. :) I feel like I do this every summer, now that I'm thinking about it...



    Thanks for the reprieve to my work chaos this afternoon!! <3

  2. What a wonderful way to get caught up with your life. The pics are amazing!!!

    1. All the pics I hadn't posted on FB! ;)

  3. Love the pictures.
    It's a good life, isn't it?!

  4. Beautiful! All of the greenery and the water looks so refreshing and peaceful. Some great pics!

    1. Carlos is a fantastic photographer! I love our crazy ultra green summers too. :)

  5. The train chasing is awesome. I love all you creek shots. I wish we had more water to ride in here. Life is good.

    1. It is! Carlos declared a while ago that every barn we ever board at from now on needs to have a creek/river/stream accessible from the property...hahaha...