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

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Haiku Farm Photo-Heavy Blog Hop

I saw Aarene's blog hop while at work...two weeks ago? And have been meaning to participate ever since! Gail's post reminded me. :) The goal is to participate by answering the questions on your blog, use LOTS of photos, and include your link here and on Aarene's original post. :)

1. Introduce yourself

My life: working out, driving long distances for work, a job that revolves around animals, spending time in the OR and in veterinary hospital cages with my patients, lots of coffee, and horses. :)
I'm a 37-year old Puerto Rican that was born in the US but then grew up on the island before returning to the mainland when I was 25. I learned to ride on gaited horses, dabbled in the jumper arena for 17 years, enjoy dressage, and currently own two horses with whom I pursue endurance, a sport that I yearned for since I a kid...and a sport that did not exist in PR. The island is only 110 miles long x 40 miles wide after all, which makes it hard to organize competitive distance riding! I have been a veterinary technician for 9 years now, with the brunt of my career being in emergency and critical care, and now experimenting with work as an anesthesia and surgery vet tech. If you want to know how that is going, you can go read this post, which I made public again. :) I still feel the same way as I did back then, even though I work at a different hospital now.

Rare photo of me at work. My patient's face is cropped out because we are not allowed to post pics of their faces on the internet without the owner's written consent. This particular patient had been a HANDFUL to recover quietly; he had had orthopedic surgery and was more than a little delirious from the pain meds post-op. Here I was both holding him still and icing his surgery leg (his other hind leg) while my coworker (in black scrubs) was checking his temperature to make sure he wasn't cold (these guys tend to get cold during recovery if they are as whoozy as this fellow was.) The pain medications were changed and we were able to get him sleeping peacefully before we left for the day. We were exhausted!
I love animals in general (it's kind of a job requirement...haha), but I especially, especially love cats. Even more so than horses, to most people's surprise!

With Aengus, my heart. This is a pretty accurate representation of our relationship.
I was kissing his chest and he was hugging my head when Carlos surprised him by taking a picture!
"Kiss me, I'm adorable!" - Aengus
He pushes his forehead against my face for kisses.
I also do tons of cross-training myself: I am a part-time runner and avidly work out at the gym (strength training circuits, Spinning) 4-6 times/week in addition to riding both horses 3 times a week.

A year and a half of solid training right here. Photo taken yesterday 12/10/16. I hate selfies with a passion, but I forced myself to document this journey photographically. And I'm glad I did. Still want to go farther, but I don't mind taking my time.

2. Introduce your horses
a) Tiger Lily, the original star of this blog. She is a 9-year old Thoroughbred cross of some sort...she could be full Thoroughbred for all we know, but she unregistered and not tattooed. I have had her since she was between 3-4 years old, when I bought her for $1 because her previous trainer had declared her too dangerous to ride. She was not dangerous: she was just incredibly green and incredibly insecure, but at the heart of it there has always been an unwavering desire to please her rider. She is shy, introverted, emotional, monumentally sweet, and thrives on positive reinforcement. She gets very frustrated with herself if she thinks she is doing things wrong. If ever there was a type-A horse, it is this one! It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that she is pretty much an exact mirror image of me in equine form, which is what has basically allowed us to become the invincible team that we now are.

At the No Frills 55 this past spring. We are both smiling. ;)
Photo by Becky Pearman, used with purchase.
I have done all of her training and conditioning myself. It is only this year that I have finally consistently allowed other people to ride her, which is a huge deal: this mare only used to trust me. Now she trusts me enough to be confident in the choice of people that I put on her back.

b) Gracie, a 10-year old KY Mountain Saddle Horse/Rocky Mountain Saddle Horse that I have now owned for almost three years. She came into my life right when I decided that I both wanted a second horse and I wanted that horse to be gaited. The Universe said, "Here is this one for you!" Gracie reminds me A LOT of my first horse, Lucero, the Paso Fino that I raised from a weanling.

Lucero and me back in PR.
She has the same extroverted, gregarious personality; the same self-confidence and love of people. She is curious, brave, and has a wonderful sense of humor. She is the ying to Lily's yang. If I'm feeling down or want to just have a ride where I don't have to think, I can always count on Gracie to give me exactly what I'm looking for. I have yet to meet a horse that knowingly made me laugh as much as this one. She is supposed to be the back-up endurance horse, though her main job is being Carlos's riding horse. Gracie's Real Job, however, is to do whatever Gracie tells us she enjoys, which just so happens to involve being out on trail exploring.

Bareback and in a rope halter? No problem.
She is the horse with whom I can do anything.

3. What is your favorite horse sport? Do you cross train in other activities?
Endurance. ;) We cross train in dressage, but both horses also do a variety of conditioning work during competition season involving HIIT, hill sprints, gallop sets, tempo trots/gait (where we push to maintain a pace that is faster than their average competitive pace and more uncomfortable to maintain than their fastest average conditioning pace. This is how Lily has ended up with an 11 mph trot, btw, and how Gracie can now maintain a speed rack of 18 mph for up to a mile at a time). On some days we hit the trail at a walk and no more because I like to have the option of just enjoying the trail as well. I'd say the least we do is actually compete; the most we do is cross-train or just have fun.

Photos from a spectacular fall day hill sprints session. Carlos on Lily here.
Carlos takes Lily up the steeper part of the slope at a gallop.
Gracie and I flying up an easier part of the hill.
Fields of gold. These got shared everywhere except here!

4. Who else in your family rides?
Most of my mother's side of the family rode at some point or another. Carlos now rides consistently with me, and he is hooked on endurance too!

My favorite endurance photo this year, by Dom's Mike. :)
Carlos and Gracie at RBTR this past summer.
Photo by Becky Pearman, used with purchase.
The fact that he can calmly and quietly ride the Mare That Used to be Terrified of Men says something about his skill and about how far Lily herself has come!
Interestingly, Carlos carries riding in his blood as well: I've been talking about my family in the Bloodline series, but his dad's family also owned huge expanses of land back in Cuba. They had cattle and spent their days on horseback. I got to witness this with my own eyes this past summer when the in-laws came for a brief visit and Carlos's dad asked to hop on Gracie bareback!

I wish I had a picture of them in motion. Carlos's dad had insisted we didn't need to bother with a bridle, and I watched as he picked up the rope reins like men do in the competitive Paso arena and Gracie went around with her loveliest gait. The man hadn't ridden in close to 20 years, and he still had it.

Carlos's dad held the reins like this: right hand on both reins, with left hand over the top of them to give finer cues with.
(The horse in this photo is Capuccino, one of the greatest Colombian Paso Fino sires of all time. Photo from here.)
6. What's your proudest equestrian accomplishment?
Completing the Old Dominion 50 in 2014 on Lily, hands down. It was our first endurance ride at any distance, both of us new to the sport, new to the region, and having no idea whatsoever how the sport worked (other than crewing for Liz the previous fall), nor what it felt like to do 50 miles on any type of terrain, much less some of the rockiest terrain the East Coast has to offer. I thought it was a good idea because I kept seeing posts on message boards about how the OD LD was a great ride for first-time horses, so I figured the 50 couldn't be that bad even though it was twice the distance. 

No one on those message boards at the time mentioned the fact that about 50% of the 50 and LD of the Old Dominion are rocks.
Well. It just so happens that it's only the toughest 50-miler in the entire country. And we completed it on the first try. We were both very, very, VERY lucky. I don't care to repeat that ride again at that distance, but it taught me the world about my horse, myself, and what we can achieve when we work together and listen to one another. Endurance does that. 

Photo by Becky Pearman, used with purchase.
Right after we got our completion. :)
Photo by Dom.

7. What was your lowest moment as a horse owner/rider?
The day Cloud was taken away from me, way before I started this blog. And then again the day that Rhythm fell and had a seizure while I was riding him...but if it hadn't been for that, I would not have ended up with Lily. Everything happens for a reason.

Cloud and me

Cloud and me

With Rhythm during one of our visits to Wolf Lake in Davie, FL

One of many times we took him swimming. He loved it.
8. What's the most important small thing you learned in a lesson?
That every little thing you do with your body, from tightening one shoulder to engaging your abs to the way you breathe, will have an effect on your horse's ability to move underneath you.

On Lily back in South Florida, when we only did dressage with the occasional trail ride!
9. Do you have any riding rituals or superstitions?
a) I must dress from top down (shirt before pants), and my RIGHT sock and shoe go on before my left. I am right-handed: this is counter-intuitive. Same thing applies to half chaps.
b) I must always boot my horse's right legs before the left, if I'm using leg protection.
c) I absolutely cannot clean my biothane tack before an endurance ride. (Every time I have, I have not been able to compete)
d) Lily's mane cannot get trimmed within the two-week time period before an endurance ride. (Every time I have, Lily has had some issue that prevented her from competing)
e) We plan endurance rides and tell no one we're going until the night before we leave for the ride. (Every time I have, we have not been able to compete)
f) I can only pack the night before an endurance ride (Every time I have started packing prior to this, we have not been able to compete)
g) I used to have to touch a well-worn horseshoe that I kept hung in my bedroom from the time I started taking jumping lessons at age 13 until we were living in Tampa and I was 26, every time I was going to be jumping. I thankfully have eliminated that one though I still have the horseshoe in a box.
h) After loading the girls, I check the trailer doors twice before getting in the truck.

10. What are your short term goals for you and your horse?
I want to do a 75-miler on Lily, with the hopes of one day doing a 100 if she does well. I also aim to complete a 50 on Gracie. 

SO close this year at Fort Valley...
Photo by Becky Pearman, used with purchase.
11. What are your long term goals?
To have fun. Always to have fun. If the horses decide they don't want to do this anymore, we'll do something else. They get a say in what we do with them. They always have and they always will. 

From our trip to Wye Island on the Chesapeake almost three years ago.
12. If time and money were no object, what is your dream equestrian vacation?
a) To ride on the beach in Ireland
b) A guided tour of Iceland on Icelandic horses.

Beach trek on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. Photo from here.
Yes, please!

13. What kind of horse-related activities were you doing 10 years ago?
We were still living in Tampa. Horses were my full-time everything: I worked at the tack shop and rode with the store owner's daughter, B. B had a gorgeous facility with 5-figure horses. I was exercise rider and guinea pig: whenever a new horse arrived at the barn as a lesson prospect or re-sale project, I was usually the one that got to ride it first. I conditioned horses in exchange for lessons, and had the opportunity of competing B's business partner's incredible jumper, Grasshopper, in the show ring. 

At a Pinellas County H&J Association show in 2006 on Grassy in the 2'9" jumper division.
Schooling ride at home. Note the HUGE grin on my face! Grasshopper was a 15 hh Appendix that would jump a house if you put it in front of him. His owner was the only other person that could safely ride him over fences because he was such a strong, bold horse. His show name was Determined to Be, which suited him perfectly. He was not a lovey, in-your-pocket kind of horse but he had the heart of five horses put together. I adored him. He was for sale, also for 5 figures, and if we had had that type of money, I would have bought him myself without a second thought. And we would have shown in the rated jumpers at 1.5 meters (this was my Real Goal so very long ago) and this would be a completely different story...lol
My favorite thing to do back then was to wake up at 4:30 am, drive out to the barn (it was a 40 minute drive), walk down the aisle and pick any of 12 horses to ride. I'd watch the sun rise from a horse's back, and then shower at the barn and drive back into town to go open the store for a full day of work, also involving horses. We were so poor money-wise but it was a truly glorious time in my life. 

On Divot, B's personal semi-retired jumper, out for a conditioning hack in the jump field.

What kind of horse-related activities do you think you'll be doing 10 years from now?
Hopefully still competing in endurance, unless we get burned out with the trailering and camping aspect of it. I was so done with camping and riding in the cold and rain by the end of the season this year. Fort Valley reminded me how wonderful it is to compete in nice weather! I still want to try my hand at Working Equitation one day, since that was where I was aiming Lily at before we moved to MD. It was starting to pick up in Florida when we moved and my trainer back then had just gotten her certification for WE! It is just starting to organize itself here in Virginia, so we shall see... :)

At the Foxcatcher LD in 2015. I love this photo because it is one of the first of her in Beast Mode!
Pic by Hoof Print Images, used with purchase.
What is the quirk about your horse that you like the most?
a) Lily: She is so shy and yet so very sweet. She will ask for things in the most subtle ways and I always get a special kind of joy when I both notice what she wants and am able to give it to her when she requests it.

b) Gracie: She is so extroverted yet also so very sweet. It is Gracie's "loud" ways of communicating that made me start paying attention to the little things Lily says! Mareface used to be quite rude in her demands, but over time she has learned that she doesn't have to be pushy to let us know what she wants.

Both of them are quite the mares. <3 As you all know already. ;)


  1. Great stories, and I LOVE the photos! Thanks for hopping along!

    1. Thanks for the awesome questions, Aarene! :)

  2. I love all the pictures, but I think my favorite is the one of Carlos on Lily in the field with the fall trees:) Your story with horses is so amazing - so many different horses and opportunities!

    1. My story with horses has changed direction so many times! Definitely keeps you on your toes though! ;) And I love that photo too.

  3. You are a Bad Ass (and I mean that in the nicest way- you are fit and brave and talented!). I too want to try working equitation. I'm wondering if we could get a clinic in it here.....

    1. Teresa, you and L. Williams made me grin! Thank you. :D

      And I wouldn't be surprised if you can find a WE chapter up in Canada!

  4. Such good questions for a blog hop!! I might have to do this!! Really enjoyed reading this and reading more about you and your horses!! Ive always been interested in endurance riding.

    1. Thanks Ruth! Endurance is the best sport, in my opinion. ;)

  5. Really enjoyed reading this and getting to know you and the herd more (:

  6. J and I both double check the back door, the dressing room door, the chains and hitch before getting in the truck. J has actually found mistakes I have made and corrected them before we left (she stores the chains differently from me and I have hooked them up without crossing them under the hitch.

    I am hoping that if we can qualify for the National Championship in Eugene Oregon, I will be able to take a day and ride on the beach along the Oregon coast.