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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Should be a Professional Bronc Rider...

On Monday, it was wet and slushy-we'd had freezing rain in the early morning that had quickly turned to just rain. The power went out in our apartment, so I decided to go to the barn a little earlier than planned, since I had nothing to do at home. Charles came with me.

It was only sprinkling a bit by the time we got to the barn. All of the horses were in, warm in their stalls. BQ had e-mailed all of us boarders because one of the senior horses had been euthanized Saturday night due to a really bad colic (they think he had an intestinal lipoma that flipped and created a torsion) and had been placed in the indoor for easy accessibility-John usually buries the horses that pass away on property, but he needs to rent a backhoe to do so. He couldn't rent the machine on Sunday, and it doesn't have a covered cabin, so on Monday morning he still hadn't been able to do it due to the freezing rain. Thankfully it was cold... It's a gruesome thing if you don't deal with this kind of situation day in and day out, but working in veterinary medicine, you get desensitized to this kind of thing. So the old boy was still in the indoor when we arrived late Monday morning, covered with a horse blanket.

Thus, I took Lily to the outdoor arena with her waterproof sheet on, and walked her around, then set her loose and let her walk around on her own. I then put the lunge line on her and worked on getting her to disengage front and hind ends in turn, which we had not practiced in a long time. She has become re-sensitized to whips so it took us awhile to get it right...*sigh* Once I had her reasonably disengaging, I walked her around again, then set her free again for a little bit. My plan was to bring her indoors in a few minutes.

Uncertain about the whip

Disengaging the hindquarters

Taking a break

Pretty girl

Following me without a lead

Trotting next to me without the lunge line

Well, that didn't happen. My silly mare decided she didn't want to come in just yet (we'd been out for 40 minutes by that time), so she was going to trot and gallop around the arena as much as possible. She would stop and stare at me occassionally, but would not come, and every time I walked towards her, she'd start to walk away. So I would chase her off and MAKE her run some more.

And she's off...

So AN HOUR LATER she finally decided she had had enough and kinda sorta came to me, and by then the wind had picked up and both Charles and I were freezing, so I accepted her half-hearted approach and called it a day.

Walking her around the arena afterwards to cool off
I NEED to do more groundwork with her, as the following day she was VERY NAUGHTY, and I think it is related to what happened in the arena on Monday.
I was covering for my supervisor at work, so I worked Tuesday, but it was so slow that I left an hour early and headed for the barn. The weather was much better and it was warmer, so I had packed a change of clothes that morning. The horse in the indoor had been buried late Monday afternoon, and the arena sprinkled and dragged. However, everyone was riding outside-the weather was too nice not to! Lily had just been fed her grain when I went to get her in her stall, and she wasn't exactly happy about being taken away from her dinner. She was COVERED in mud, from head to toe. Every inch of her. There was a pile of dry clay powder on the floor underneath her by the time I was done currying her! I tacked up and took her to the outdoor, where Bunny's owner was riding. Bunny's mom had just started cooling down when we walked into the arena, so Lily and I did a short walk warm-up around the arena, then started trotting. Bunny and her mom left as we were finishing our trot warm-up. Lily was very "up" - she felt wired, but wasn't being skittish, so shortly after Bunny had left and I saw them go into the barn, I asked Lily to canter. She gave me a perfect canter depart and we did one full turn around the arena. The funny thing is that it actually crossed my mind, "She hasn't done anything at the canter in a long time. What a relief!" Famous last words. On perfect cue, just when I had completed that thought, Lily brought her shoulders up, cracked her back, and bucked. And bucked and bucked. And since I was staying on, she bucked some more.  My stirrups came off and I was still sticking to her back, but she was getting so much air with each leap that I was having a hard time yanking her head up from its place between her knees AND keeping my seat. You don't understand-this mare gets AIR when she bucks. I've seen her shadow, and her bucks are as high off the ground as they feel. She gets at least 4' between the ground and her front legs. All I have in front of me when she does this are her withers and empty space-when her nose is jammed between her front legs like that, it's very hard for little 125 lb me to yank her face back up, when my own center of gravity has been thrown back towards her loins!

THIS is how Lily BUCKS!!! Photo from this website.

I finally managed to pull hard on the reins with my left hand (mind you, I was staying on without grabbing onto anything AND stirrup-less-this was a pure balancing act) in an attempt to stop her, but my pulling her head caused her to TWIST in midair and make the bucks all the angrier, which was my undoing. 

I came off, she tore away across the arena to the gate while I hopped back up to my feet, and I ran over to her, pulled her away from the gate and immediately got back on and sent her into a fierce trot. BRAT!!!!

We trotted and trotted and trotted. I had the reins tight- there was no way in hell she was getting her head back during this workout- she had her neck arched and nose vertical, but so I had all of her up and in front of me. It was as if for the first time I had full access to and control of her hind legs. We did some spectacular work, simply because we were so mad at each other. She was furious that I had gotten back on and she had to work more (for the first time, she wasn't fearful of me after being naughty), and I was furious at her for succeeding in viciously getting me off. I had her doing full circles in shoulder in and leg yield, first one way and then the other, zig-zag leg-yields, tiny concentric circles, spiraling in and spiraling out. All at sitting trot. She was changing direction at a split seconds' notice-as soon as I cued, she was there. My seat was where it was supposed to be, and I was sitting up straight as a pole in the saddle, weight centered. I could see her legs crossing correctly in our shadow, no matter what we did or which direction we went, as we rode in the pool of light from the arena lamps. We cantered half circles (to prove a point), then trotted more. Extend the trot, collect, extend, collect, then circle some more.

I had to laugh at the end, because Lily's true moments of absolute brilliance always seem to be after she has been bad. You know how when you get mad at your partner and fight, the sex is always the best right after? Yup, that's exactly how it is riding my silly mare after she's been bad-she gives me the BEST rides. Jeez, really? Lily, can't you just be that awesome WITHOUT the naughtiness?

I asked her to back up, and she backed up all the way across the arena, just off of a shift in my seat, and kept on going until I sat up straight. At this point, I got off, but we did some groundwork to cool down. I picked up the lunge whip that sits by the arena gate, and we did some more work on disengaging front and hind end. Lily initially really thought I was going to beat her and rolled her eyes at me and tried to back up away from me. *sigh* So I rubbed the whip all over her neck and shoulders, stepped back, and she stepped forwards, then disengaged her hind end both directions, and each time she did it correctly, I had her rest, whip pointed down. She would respond by sighing, dropping her head, and licking and chewing. Textbook response. The front end is always a challenge with her, but after 10 minutes more, she really understood to the point where I could point the whip at her neck and she would step away. At this point, I could also get her to turn in a circle around me, facing me head-on while crossing her back legs as she moved. This was fantastic progress, so we stopped, and she asked to come to me. I let her, and we called it quits for the day.

She had cooled down, but was still drenched in sweat. She got scrubbed with a wet brush, then rubbed down, then I placed her cooler on her while I picked up and cleaned all of our stuff. By then she was about 75% dry, and her stall was warm, so I let her go in with her dinner.

Why did she buck? I think it had to do with Bunny's leaving the arena and it being dinner time. She probably would not have bucked if I had waited longer to ask her to canter. Lily has gotten used to her routine, so I have to start breaking it for her. I hate horses that get so stuck in a routine that they won't work. I also probably should have lunged her a bit prior to working her to let her get the bucks out then-I knew she was "up" from the moment I got on her. I had actually been expecting her to have a bucking fit when mounting up-that's how "up" she was. So yes-maybe I should have waited longer to canter, maybe I should have lunged her. But it is still unacceptable behavior, especially given the maliciousness of it-she WANTED me to come off- so we're going to be doing a lot more groundwork from now on.

I ordered a bucking strap on eBay.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Has anyone else noticed that lately most of my post titles are full of exclamation points? Oh well-it's exciting stuff!

It was a BEAUTIFUL DAY!!! We had about 1"-2" of snow overnight. I had seen the forecast last night, but when I went to bed at midnight, no snow was falling yet. This morning I woke up, checked my e-mail and looked on Facebook. Charles and I have friends that live in Woodbridge, VA (about 30 min south of DC) and they had posted pics of their big chocolate Lab in their backyard...playing in the snow. I ran to the windows when I saw that, and this is what was waiting for me outside:

Oh my gosh!

I waited until 1:00 pm to head for the barn, as Sally would be there around that time and it meant there would be someone to talk to. I dressed in exactly the same clothes as yesterday, and this proved to be enough warmth-wise, and for the first time ever got to work warming up the truck and the accumulated snow off.

All of the horses were in the bottom part of the field again. The view was stunning as I pulled up to the barn:

The snow was like powder. Soft and fluffy, more like sand in consistency, and was blowing off of the roof tops like ocean spray in the light breeze. I was grinning like an idiot as I got out of the car and stomped around in the snow like a little kid.

Lily trotted away as soon as she saw me come into the turnout! She tried hiding behind her friends, but I cornered her by the fence, and here she gave up and came to me. Silly girl. That answered my question about whether she'd like the snow or not!

"Really, Mom? I want to stay out here!"
Me too, Lily!

Bottom part of the field

She was super-relaxed on the cross ties. Looking at the arena from the barn, I was dying to go ride out there-no one had ventured into the outdoor yet, and the snow was like the most inviting smooth white carpet. I asked BQ how insane would it be to attempt, since obviously no one else had tried it, and she said it shouldn't be a problem-I already knew where the few ice patches were under the snow, as they had already been frozen the last 2 days, and the snow hadn't melted and refrozen yet.

So we rode in the snow!

She really didn't  care, and stayed focused throughout, even when one of the horses in the paddock next to the arena charged the fence while we were walking by on a loose rein!

We did a similar warm-up to what we did yesterday and moved on to the same exercises, except we worked longer on the 10-10-10. I added the canter today, and Lily was ON IT! She nailed those transitions spot-on! Initially she was freight-training through the trot to canter transitions, so I brought her back to 10-10 only at trot and walk until she settled, then gave it another try. Her canter was so uphill and collected - it was the definition of having her "in front of my leg"- that I turned the exercise into 20-20-20. By the end of the exercise (we did 15 minutes total), she was picking up the canter in response to me gathering my outside rein and shifting my weight slightly-nothing else. After that we did spirals in the corners again, and for these she was very soft-reaching down into the contact and staying there. It was a nice, nice workout.

The one drawback of the Eponas? She does get ice balls in them, especially in the right front. Now I'm really looking forward to her being completely barefoot again. I picked the ice balls out after the ride, groomed her well (she's really enjoying getting curried right now!), and let her go outside again for another hour before going back to bring her in to her warm stall and giant pile of hay.

I hung around the barn, yakking to Sally and BQ, until my feet started to get really, really cold in my snow boots (those Blizzard boots are truly awesome-everyone else was slipping and sliding in their paddock boots, but mine have mad grip even on the ice!) Sally, who is from Southern California, was also getting cold, so her and I left at the same time, fleeing to our respective homes.

It was a gorgeous, productive day!

Developing Lightness in Arctic Weather

Yesterday we tackled the cold again. It was a balmy 24 degrees. (HA!) I changed what I wore, however.

- a thin, "modern" thermal shirt with extra long sleeves (they reach my knuckles.) Courtesy of Target.
- a Cuddl Duds Fleecewear thermal long sleeve layer
- a boucle wool blend turtleneck (scored at Victoria's Secret a long time ago. It is fuzzy, soft and warm!)
- my ELT fleece jacket
- Cuddl Duds Flex Wear thermal pants
- silk thermal pants over them (also courtesy of Target)
- Power Stretch Kerrits again
- similar sock combo, and same boots
(Yes, I do wash the stuff I repeat in between wearing them again. I'm OCD that way.)
- for gloves, I found my "good" pair hiding at the bottom of a suitcase. They are made with angora wool, and I got them for just $3 at this super cheapo store over here named Gallo (how and where we found that store is a whole other story...it started with us needing scrubs for work at the time and turned into quite the adventure). They fit well on my tiny skinny-fingered hands, and I put them to the true test, which they passed with flying colors! Hurray $3 gloves! To think I almost didn't get them at the time...the little things even wash well. I've been throwing them in the washer and they come out like new.
- I took my quilted black jacket that is supposed to be good down to 9 degrees.

I could move for sure this time! 
As it turns out, I never needed to wear the black jacket. Nice! I guess I made better choices clothing-wise. It probably helped that there was no wind...

Lily was calmer on the cross ties, so we did no prior lunging and I just got on in the outdoor. I had made it to the barn earlier than the day before, so we were actually catching the warmest part of the day, and with adequate layers, it actually felt nice in the sun (I never in my life thought I'd be talking about it feeling "nice" in the sun in 20 degree weather...) We walked and walked and walked, straight lines, circles of different sizes, backed up, did turns on the haunches, shoulder in, counter shoulder in, baby leg yields. Everything to get every little muscle on Lily warmed up. We trotted a bit in both directions, then repeated everything at the walk again. Trot on a loose rein a couple of times around the arena at her own pace, then a big 20m circle at the canter in both directions to get her blood really pumping. She was really uphill at the canter yesterday, and wanting to be collected-I wanted to keep going, but didn't think it would be a good idea to canter a lot in this weather on a horse that has never experienced a real winter before. I read this article recently-I think Equus must have published a similar article about that OSU study at one point, too. BQ has also referred to it.

After that, it was all mostly trot work. We did small figure 8's across the arena, in no particular pattern, looping one through another, at a collected sitting trot. Lily was really happy to be collected.

Our "needlepoint" tracings in the arena after our intertwining figure 8's exercises

I tried doing giant X's with her at a more forward trot afterwards, but she wasn't really feeling the forwardness, so I didn't insist and continued our little exercises. We did spirals in every corner of the arena in one direction, sitting the trot as we spiraled in, then going back to posting as we spiraled out; change direction across the diagonal, and repeat in the opposite direction. Around this time we'd already been riding a good 40 minutes since the initial walk warm-up was so long. So I decided to try a new exercise I just found in the 101 Dressage Exercises book. It's called the 10-10-10. It is Exercise 84 in the Developing Lightness section; page 184. You canter 10 strides, trot 10 strides, canter 10 strides, walk 10 strides. Mix and match. We only did walk-trot 10 strides. This was FUN! Lily did get impatient with it, but it had the desired effect once she understood that I really did want her to do all of these transitions. We went through phases: she tried anticipating the trot command at the walk, then she got a feel for the count and started trying to offer the transitions on her own, so we started doing 12-12-12 instead. At this point she stopped anticipating, came UP in her entire frame and lightened on the forehand, arching her neck on loose reins. I looked down at our shadow and she looked almost like a Paso Fino, her nose straight down in a vertical line, neck up and arched but with her poll at the highest point, ears flicked back towards me, listening.

Lily's head and neck looked like this little Paso's, on reins that were that loose!
I fell in love with this exercise, and it is going in the toolbox. It will be interesting to see what she does when we add the cantering...I have a feeling we'll have to do more like 20-20-20...

After that, Sally joined me on Jezebel. I have liked Sally since the first time I met her, and now that Charles and I are living closer to the barn, I'm hoping to be able to be riding buddies with her. Lily was finally wanting to extend after the 10-10-10 exercise, so we did giant Xs while Sally warmed up Jezebel at walk and trot. On Tuesday she had tried to ride as well, but Jezebel had also been a freak show-she hadn't even been able to get on her! The little TB was a good girl this day, however, and gave Sally a nice ride. Afterwards we just walked and walked and walked around the arena, side by side, talking. Hadn't done that in a long time-not since my last ride with Diana.

And today, we shall brave the SNOW! It snowed last night! I will actually get to see how Lily reacts to her first time in the white stuff. :)

18 degrees

My Facebook post on Tuesday:

2 pairs of long johns, 1 pair of polar fleece pants, 3 pairs of socks, 1 thermal shirt, 1 turtleneck, 1 fleece shirt, 1 wool shirt, 1 fleece jacket, 1 quilted jacket, 1 windproof quilted jacket, 1 wool scarf, 2 pairs of gloves = what a Puertorrican wears to go see her horse in 18 degree weather.

It was 18 degrees...EIGHTEEN degrees...with a wind chill that made it feel like one...1...single...degree. Now yes, we had 2 weeks of snow when I was a kid in Texas. But it never got THAT cold when I was outside. So this was another entirely new experience for me.

So the getup was the warmest clothes I could find between what we'd emptied in the closet and what I could find in 3 suitcases. They weren't random clothes, however. It took me 20 minutes to pick them out and decide:

- a pair of Flex Fit Cuddl Duds (first pair of "long johns")
- regular long johns (as in Joe Boxer brand)
-Kerrits Power Stretch full seat breeches (the fleece pants I mentioned-these are lined in polar fleece. I think Smartpak is out of the full seats already-I couldn't find them to link to, but you can check out their knee patch!)
- 2 pairs of socks were thin boot liner type socks, just to hold down each pair of long johns so I could get the next pair of pants on without them rolling up! The 3rd pair was my thickest pair of Smart Wool socks.
- first thermal shirt was vintage-it's the real deal from the '70s and one my mom used to own before I was born, when my dad was in the Army and was being relocated to places with winters. It is much warmer than the average thermal shirt sold nowadays. I have new ones, but that one is warmer.
- the turtleneck was a cotton long sleeve one, just to get some neck coverage. I'd switch that one out the next day-not warm enough.
- a Grand Prix Extreme Performance Apparel polyester fleece sweater. Not super-thick but warm. Scored at the tack shop in Tampa for a nice double discount, since I was assistant manager. :)
- the wool shirt was another vintage inherited from my mom. I wore that one during the November weekend I spent in Kentucky a long time ago, riding my trainer's stud over 5' fences in 20 degree weather. With the right combo of clothes over and under, it really did keep me warm. It was a favorite during my Tampa 30-degree early morning winter rides.
- the fleece jacket is the ELT Doreen Fleece Jacket. Smartpak has a huge discount on them (which is how I got it in the first place, but they've dropped the price even more), and I'm getting another one! They are AWESOME-I keep washing and wearing this one to go out, to the barn, to work! It is not super thick, but it is WARM. I love that when you zip the collar all the way up, it will cover your mouth and nose, and it has toggles to adjust the fit of the collar.
- the 2 jackets are actually a full 3-in-1 Radiance ski jacket by Free Country. It is a last year model, so it is bulkier than the ones on the link-I found it at TJ Maxx when we first moved here. Plus it's a large-I should have gotten a medium, but it was the very last one left, and the extra room has been good for when I have this much clothes on underneath. It's funny that initially I was wearing the full thing in 40-degree weather at the barn, then got used to the temperature and was only wearing the inside jacket (if it was just cold) or the outside by itself (if it was windy and cold). This was the first time since I got it where I put the full jacket on and KEPT it on, without shedding one or the other!
- the scarf I took off at the barn because it was limiting the mobility of my neck.
- the gloves were both a huge fail. I couldn't find my pair of warm gloves, so I wore a pair of pebble grip winter gloves that I had gotten 2 years ago at the tack shop in our home town, and I swear those make my hands colder...on top I wore a pair of Isotomer gloves my mom sent me, but the fingers are a little long and this makes them uncomfortable for riding with the double reins. I ended up just keeping the pebble grip gloves during the ride, which meant my fingers burned from the cold during most of our ride.
- I forgot to mention the boots-I have a pair of Dafna Blizzard Winter Boots that Charles got me for Christmas, and they have been a big success! I have to write reviews on the Smartpak site...

So how could I move? Since none of these layers was ridiculously thick, I was fine...until I started playing with adjusting Lily's new quarter sheet under her saddle. Holy crap, my deltoids got a workout pushing up against all of those layers!

Lily came in quite willingly-again she had been standing at the bottom field with the other horses. Apparently if it's under 40 degrees, the horses stay in the bottom field-I've been noticing the trend. The upper part of the field is more exposed to the wind, and I think BQ's parent's house, which serves to split upper and bottom fields, also works partially as a wind shield. In addition, it gets very muddy on the path that runs behind the house that connects the 2 fields, so the mud has been frozen these last 4 days-I'm guessing that is probably another reason why the horses are staying in the bottom field.

I tacked her up, and it took me 15 minutes to get the quarter sheet right. I ended up having to leave it completely under the saddle, but over her saddle pad, since I couldn't Velcro it shut in front if I placed it between the saddle flaps-my saddle is too long for that. She seemed fine with the quarter sheet, which I had figured she would, since it's no different from the other clothes she has been wearing. She was fidgety and "up" on the cross ties, so I put her rope halter on over her bridle and decided to lunge her with it first.

The horses had been brought in while I'd been tacking her up, so there was no one out, and in my indecision over what to wear, I'd gotten to the barn later than intended. It was 4:30 pm, and the light was fading. I took her outside because the indoor was super dusty, which was not going to be a good thing for my cough. Lily was very looky on the lunge, and something caught her eye in the corner of the big field and she kept staring over that way and doing her biggest floaty extended trot.  (Never a Totillas extended trot because of her conformation, but gorgeous nonetheless).

Some pics for you of Her Goofiness, sporting her new PJ quarter sheet (it has blue skies, white clouds and little yellow stars. Yes, it clashes, but it is unique and I love it!)

All worked up, ears flicked towards whatever it is was bothering her over by the pasture. I never saw anything-no movement. No one was out and about at this point. I was later told that a fox has been around the barn, so maybe that's what she was hearing/seeing?
SUSPENSION! All 4 feet off the ground! See? She can do it!

She was moving very much like an Andalusian here...

Almost with all 4 feet off the ground again

She never really settled. Since it was so cold, I let her choose what she wanted to do on the lunge, and she mostly trotted in both directions. She was sooooo out of sorts. I even lunged her over a ground pole in an attempt to get her focused on something we were doing. She jumped it the first few times, then continued to trot over it, but still I couldn't get her attention back to me.

At that point she'd warmed up on the lunge for almost 20 minutes, so I decided to hop on and see what she'd do. I wasn't expecting it to be a productive workout, and it certainly was not. We only walked, and her ears never once flicked back at me. I asked for shoulder ins and circles, but she was cheating on the lateral work and giving me hexagons. Exactly when I decided I'd get off because if felt my ears were going to crumble from the cold (I need ear muffs! And how come all of the online tack shops have stopped selling those awesome headbands that you could wear with a helmet to protect your ears?!), Lily suddenly gave a great leap in the air forwards, then skittered sideways, swinging to look over at something that had caught her eye in the woods. I asked her to walk on, and she did. We circled in the far corner of the arena by the gate, where she could still see whatever it was that had frightened her, and am very happy to report that while she would still flick her ears towards the woods, this was the first time in 20 minutes of walking that she actually mostly paid attention to me. At this point, I got off before tempting the Fates further. Plus, with the 1 degree breeze, I had stopped feeling my fingers and toes about 15 minutes prior...

Knowing when to stop is always a good thing.

Exercise Intolerance

To continue:

I worked over the weekend, but didn't make it to the barn until Monday. I was getting home early, but since Charles was working I was trying to get the house organized. We have NO furniture since leaving FL, other than the futon, the TV console thingamabob, the bedroom mattress, the file cabinet, a large chest for sheets and blankets (a Pier 1 Imports sale score...love that thing) and my papasan (also from Pier 1, not on sale.) So the vast majority of our stuff has just stayed in boxes, and we're currently living out of suitcases, literally. We have a walk-in closet in the bedroom, but it is rather small, so I'm trying to be creative with how it will be  organized to use the maximum amount of room while maintaining maximum functionality. A trip to Ikea is in our near future, and the first thing on the list are a 6-drawer cabinet for our clothes, and a desk for the computer.

On Monday I was still hacking, and extremely pissed. I had moved my recheck appointment for my eye up from Wednesday to Monday because I had been really fatigued at work and had been wheezing going up the stairs myself at home. I wanted to get the cough checked out ASAP. It has been a month, give or take a few days, since this started. I was done. The doctor cleared me for my eye, and then I brought up the cough issue. I saw him recoil in horror, like I had Ebola or something... The flu fear is nearing epic proportions, indeed. I knew this was not the flu, as other than a sore throat from coughing so much, I felt fine. I got tested for flu anyway, and also for strep and for mono, and they took a throat culture, too... I tested negative for all of these; the culture is still pending but I'm not expecting anything exciting on that. The doctor said it was either bronchitis or severe allergies (to what??) or a combination. He threw everything in the arsenal at me: prednisone, antibiotics, and another albuterol inhaler.

We ran errands, doing some minor exploring, picked up my meds, got home, popped my meds with lunch, and I threw on some layers to go to the barn. It was in the very low 40s-high 30s. I was NOT staying away from the barn anymore, cough be damned.

The horses were in the lower part of the field, as it was quite cold with the windchill. Some of them were clustered around the gate; Lily was towards the back.

That's Lily in the background with the purple blanket. It's supposed to be  royal blue, but it really looks purple...
I brought her in, tacked her up, and decided to lunge her first in the outdoor. She was very up, wanting to canter, and canter and canter. I had to almost force her to slow down so she could do a proper warm-up. Once she had settled down and was trotting around at a reasonable pace around me, I got on.

We had a spectacular workout. Lily was very forward and responsive, to the point where around the beginning of the session, I had her lengthen across the diagonal and, looking down at our shadow, realized that she was going in her own version of an extended trot. That trot that she does on the lunge, where she snaps her feet up and out? She finally did it under saddle! Without me even trying to get her there-it just happened! We also did a lot of canter work under saddle. I had to laugh out loud halfway through, because I had been having a hard time going up the stairs at the apartment, but here we were cantering, outside in the cold fresh air, and I was having no problem at all. Towards the end, I sat up and collected her, bringing her back into a more organized canter down one side of the arena, then letting her stretch out down the other side. It was not a very obvious change in her, as she really wanted to GO, but I could feel it.

We ended the session with a long cool down-she had broken a little bit of a sweat with all the cantering- and some backing up. I'm trying to practice this with her-I SUCK at backing up (I basically have to train horses to understand the way I ask for it), and she gets frustrated with me.  With Lily I shift my weight backwards but keep my body tilted slightly forward, squeeze gently with my legs, and put pressure on the reins, being careful to release every time she gives me a few steps. If she stops, I ask again. I know I'm missing something, because most horses don't get it on the first few tries. Lily will often try to do a turn on the haunches. lol You'd think backing up would be easier...but this is why I think I'm doing something wrong. We did 6 steps backwards, then I got off as the ultimate reward for her understanding my cues.

It took a long time for Lily to dry out. I brushed her hair backwards to get it to stand up, in the hopes that it would dry faster, and threw her cooler on. I backed her hinds more, and took my time this time, stopping, letting her put her hooves down so I could look at them in between rasping. In the end, I was happy with the results, and she seemed comfortable. By then, she was dry, so I switched out the cooler for her blanket, and let her go into her stall for her dinner hay.

I was breathing just fine on the way home.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hello Maryland!

We moved! The weathermen were wrong after all last Thursday-no snow, not even rain, until 4:00 pm when we were leaving Virginia-we had a few sprinkles at that time, but by then we were all packed up and sitting in traffic on our way to Maryland. It was cold-low 40's, but it felt like it was in the 20's from the windchill and thick, gloomy cloud cover.

Astarte curled up in the front seat on the way up to MD. She gets carsick if I leave her in the carrier while driving. She was a good girl, staying either on the seat or on the floor on the passenger side.
All went well basically, but it was a mission: we drove the 25 miles to Maryland to sign the paperwork for the apartment at 8:30 am and leave Astarte and Charles's truck at the apartment. From there we had to run over to the closest bank to get a money order-we'd had a brain fart about that the day before, and completely forgot we could only pay the first month of rent and pet deposit with a money order, but the banks don't open until 9:00 am. At this point, my right eye, which had been red since the day before, was really bothering me. I haven't had pinkeye since I was a kid, but the itching, pain and swelling are unforgettable, and I was pretty certain that this is what I had. The next day I had to go in to work, and knew my coworkers would flip out if I went in with untreated pinkeye...plus I didn't need the entire ER department to catch it! As luck would have it, there was a walk-in clinic right next to the bank, and they took our health insurance, so I sat down to wait while Charles took the money order and Astarte (who was still in the car in her carrier being a good, patient girl) back to the apartment (we wouldn't get our keys until we brought the money order, so of course we couldn't leave our little old lady until we had the keys) and unloaded the stuff we'd been able to cram into my car.

It worked out timing wise-the clinic was full, but the U-Haul in DC wouldn't have our U-Box down until 11:00 am. I was seen and diagnosed with conjunctivitis, and by 11:30 am Charles had picked me up at the clinic and we were on our way back to DC to rent a U-Haul truck and get our stuff out. 

It took them forever to set up the truck rental. There was no one else there-we were the only customers.The employees at this place are really nice, and they remember Charles by name, but man, they are SO. SLOW. We were in a hurry because we wanted to start our drive back by 3:00 pm before traffic really got bad.

We finally had our truck, and so we quickly transferred all of our stuff (most of our heavy stuff, mind you-all of our boxes of books, my filing cabinet, boxes with paintings, our futon, etc) into the truck. My cough was almost resolved, but I felt my airway constrict as we were moving everything, and that's when I realized there was a very fine layer of dust covering all of our belongings. 

We couldn't park close to our apartment, which meant we had to lug all of our stuff down the loooooong windy hallway to the U-Haul. Walking to the apartment, we were facing the wind, so we were freezing, then walking back to the U-Haul we would be roasting in our jackets. I ended up taking off my thermal first layer at this point and was much more comfortable.

The looooooooong hallway from the U-Haul to our apartment.  Ours was the 2nd door from the end. I was halfway there when I took this pic!
It took us almost 2 hours to get that done, even with the dolly we had rented to save us trips. By then it was 3:30ish and I knew we'd be hitting traffic on the way to MD. We had ordered a futon mattress for our futon (our old mattresses simply didn't fit in the U-Box, plus they were old, so we had chucked them in FL with plans of getting new ones) and there had been a glitch with the delivery. It had arrived in Alexandria on time, but it was at a UPS holding facility about 15 minutes from our old apartment. We decided to drive over and pick it up, as we only had 5 days to get it-both Charles and I were working that weekend, and Monday was Inauguration, which meant getting to Alexandria was going to be impossible no matter what. So we went to UPS and got the mattress...that took another 15 minutes, as the lady at the desk couldn't find it. She assumed that because I was a small person, it was going to be a small package, I guess. I told her it was a rolled  up mattress, the size of a large duffel bag, and she eventually found it. I was fidgeting and watching the minutes tick by. As we finally loaded the thing into the truck, it started to rain, but the car thermometer was still reading 42, so I knew it wasn't going to freeze.

Now, which route to take? We could drive all the way back through Alexandria and take the GW, which is what Charles wanted to do. Or simply take the dreaded Beltway all the way around to 270. 80% of the time, there is traffic on the Beltway. 100% chance of there being traffic during rush hour. Charles let me choose, as I had the GPS. We were right next to the Beltway exit, and we had driven past it on our way to UPS and there had been barely any cars at all on it. Despite my love of the GW, I had a really, really strong feeling that we should take the Beltway today, so that's what we did.

There were no cars. Almost no cars at all as we drove up. We found traffic when we were 5 miles from the exit to 270. As it turned out, my gut feeling had been right: there had been a massive accident on the GW, and it was backed up almost all the way to DC. We would have been stuck there forever. 

I had Aengus in the carrier on the front seat with me, and he was such a good kitten. He's gotten big-he's almost the size of Astarte now, but he still has his little kitten face and giant paws. I suspect he's going to be a solid 15 lb cat when he's done growing. He was a bottle baby-his foster mom had rescued him and his 4 brothers and sisters when they were only 3 days old. He is used to being in carriers, as she would have to take him and his siblings to work with her so she could feed them every 2 hours. Now, he made himself a nest with the towel and pee pad in the carrier, and curled up in the back for a long nap. He was a welcome distraction while sitting in traffic-I HATE traffic jams. PR is one of the most densely populated countries on the planet, and traffic is really bad there, but the police are really lax, so you could get away with cutting through the emergency lane over there. In South FL, traffic was even worse, except you couldn't cheat your way out of it. For my first job, I was driving 40 miles one way, and one time I got stuck in the Turnpike. An oil rig had crashed and spilled its contents across all the lanes, and the Turnpike had come to an absolute standstill. I sat in that for 3 hours, inmobile. And I had to pee really bad! Even after we were allowed to move, it still took me almost another hour to get to work. It was an experience that would leave a mark-I now always, always use the restroom before leaving the house for anything, and I get claustrophobic in traffic. It is a battle of will to keep myself calm when the cars are not moving. (Plus it's not like freaking out is going to change anything.) While going to tech school 4 days a week in downtown Miami, I was driving 35 miles each way. I could get to Miami in less than 40 minutes when there was no traffic, but when we got out of class at 5:00 pm, it was a solid 2 hours or more to get home. Yes, this is horrible, but I would study in the car. I would put it in Park when no one was moving, and read to distract myself.

So when we couldn't move now, Aengus would get up, come to the carrier door, and stick his paws out, chirping and purring, asking for attention. I haven't been that relaxed in a traffic jam in a long time. 

In MD, I swung by CVS to pick up the antibiotic drops for my eye while Charles drove straight to the apartment in the U-Haul to start unloading. I stopped by a Burger King to get us food, as we had not eaten anything since 6:00 am! It was now 6:00 pm. By the time I got to the apartment, Charles was cranky, which is very unusual for him, and I was exhausted, and we still had more than 2/3rds of a U-Haul truck to unload. Up 6 flights of stairs to our new 3rd floor apartment. 

Charles is still having nightmares with those stairs. Between the cold air and his lack of fitness, he was really out of breath carrying stuff up. I have to start dragging him to the gym-he was wheezing like a man in his 60's. He's 35! My airway still felt constricted, but I was recovering within 30 seconds of going up the stairs. If I took the boxes into the apartment instead of leaving them at the top of the stairs and immediately going back down, it gave me time to recover. At this point, I really started peeling layers off. By 8:00 pm, I was down to a microfiber short sleeve shirt under a fleece jacket, nothing else. 

We stopped by 10:00 pm-I had to wake up at 5:00 am the next morning, and still had to shower and set up the bed. We still had to unload the filing cabinet. It is only 2 drawers, but it must weigh close to 300 lbs, and being a rectangular box shape, there is no good way to grab it. We had to return the truck the next morning, so it absolutely had to come out...we ended up putting it in the trunk of my car, just so we wouldn't have to carry it up the stairs that day! It's still there today. We'll get to it eventually...

After I went to bed, Charles kept bringing stuff up, but the heaviest and largest boxes had already been brought up. 

We are not moving again until we can afford to pay movers to do it for us!

Between the dust, the sweating, the cold, and the effort, I ended up with full-blown bronchitis. *sigh* I'm currently on albuterol, prednisone and azithromycin, plus Nasonex and Claritin for good measure (I'm pretty sure there is an allergic component to this b**ch of a cough, and the doctor said the same thing). The eye is better, though!

Aengus enjoying the warmth from the electric fireplace after a  very long day!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

No Reins


I went to the barn on Monday despite it being a rather gloomy, overcast day (no mist, thank God), fetched Lily from the field and brought her in just in time before the farrier/trimmer arrived. As it turned out, Lily did not need her entire shoes replaced-the trimmer simply removed the casting, trimmed her front feet back a bit with the rasp, then re-casted them. It only cost me $30. This will make the Eponas stay on for another 3 weeks, at which point she feels Lily will be good to go barefoot! Yay!

The rain held, so I tacked up and I took her to the outdoor. The footing was moist, but the arena had been dragged, so there were no puddles. We did an easy workout-almost an hour, but we spent a lot of time walking at the beginning to warm up and at the end to cool down. Just walk-trot-canter sets, with a couple of walk-canter transitions, which I ended giving up on because I wasn't getting the timing of the cue right, and she was putting in a trot step or two to pull off the transition into canter. We'll try it again another day. We did no lateral work at all. I've been in need of inspiration lately when it comes to the dressagey stuff.

Happy after our ride

It was in the high 40's and she did break a sweat, so I put her cooler on her afterwards so she wouldn't get chilled while I cleaned her legs and tail, and worked on her feet. The trimmer didn't do her hinds, so I went ahead and did them myself. I ended up not backing them much at all, as her angles are perfect right now and she's been moving really well. I'll take a little bit more off next week.

Since my cough hasn't resolved 100% yet, I did take yesterday off, as the weather was awful. And also because we had to pack-we are moving again, this time to Maryland, to a little apartment we found only 10 minutes from the barn, and 7 minutes from work! It is a longer drive for Charles now, but his contract in Georgetown will be up the first week of March, and our new apartment will place us right in the middle of all of the available work options for him. I have loved living in Alexandria the last 3 months, but it will be really, REALLY nice to be so close to the barn again!

I returned today to put in another ride before having to move tomorrow. The weather was even worse today-in the upper 30's, overcast, and constantly drizzling. The horses had been left indoors due to the weather, so it was a good thing I went out so Lily could get some time outside of her stall.

She was super sweet and cuddly when I arrived, nuzzling me and practically begging for head hugs. She was wearing her midweight blanket and was comfortable in it, which goes to show just how cold it felt-she tends to get warm in it when she is in her stall.

I tacked her up, wishing I had my quarter sheet already (I scored a really cute one for an awesome price on eBay. It should arrive Friday). I left her blanket on while I did her feet and put on her dressage boots. She doesn't really need them, but I see them as leg warmers. If I feel warmer in my half chaps or winter boots, I'm assuming she feels warmer in polo wraps or her dressage boots. It also helps warm up her tendons. Does anyone else out there boot or wrap their horse's legs for additional warmth, too?

"Leg warmers"

I left her blanket folded over her rump while I put her saddle on and girthed it up, only removing it after I'd put her bridle on.

Warm butt while tacking up

The new bit-it's a soft rubber mouth Pelham with 4" shanks. She's been working really well in it!

We then went into the indoor.

Lily was somewhat tense warming up at the walk. The doors to the outside were open, and she saw something out there that scared her, because she spooked and took 3 giant leaps sideways, but stopped immediately when I said, "Eeeaaasy..." (Love my new winter breeches! Charles got me the Kerrits Power Stretch Full Seat breeches, and they are super warm AND make you stick like glue in the saddle!) I let her walk over to the doorway and look outside, and then we worked on lots of circles on the bit at the walk at that end of the arena, until she was calm and focused again. We did some short loopy serpentines from the wall to the center line, then some leg yield zig-zags from the wall to the quarter line in both directions, all at the walk. We then picked up the trot and worked on circles-big 20 meter circles at both ends of the arena in both directions, then little 10m circles in the corners, then spirals, in and out, in both directions and across the length of the arena. Lily was relaxed and concentrating, and even the spirals (which I used to hate with a vengeance!) were easy. I then let her stretch on a loose rein at the walk, then we picked up the trot again and worked on lengthening across the diagonal. Effortless. She was stepping forward eagerly, pushing from behind, to the point where I was getting that little extra half a second of air while posting, not because I was forcing it, but because she was creating it.

I then sat and we did some loops at a collected trot across the center of the arena, with lots and lots of changes of direction, and then I pushed my hands forward and rose to post, and Lily automatically extended into a medium trot without any other encouragement from me. We zoomed around the arena like this a few more times, and then we called it a day. We walked for a long time, and then I just dropped the reins on her neck and practiced doing circles and changes of direction with no hands. She did it PERFECTLY!! This is the first time ever where I've been able to do this, ride with no reins and get her to change direction only with my legs and seat. That's how focused she was today. I've tried it before, but she would get distracted and sooner or later I would need to pick up a rein to remind her she was supposed to be turning.

I asked her to stop, with the reins still on her neck. She didn't stop with my seat cue, but she did stop when I said, "Whoa." Since we only did walk and trot, she didn't break a sweat at all, except under her girth, despite having worked for nearly an hour. I put her cooler on while I put all of my stuff away, and the little bit of sweat dried off quickly. The cooler came off, her midweight blanket went on, and she was ready to go back to her hay in her stall.

It was a really great ride.

Before leaving the barn, I heard BQ announce she had just heard on the radio that we have a storm warning for tomorrow and we might be getting 6" of snow. We are MOVING tomorrow! Last time we moved we were driving in front of a hurricane, now we'll be moving in the middle of a snow storm. I mean, seriously. WTF??!!

I hope the weathermen are ALL wrong.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Mist

I FINALLY made it to the barn last night.

I drove through fog on the way up to Maryland to work, and we all figured it would burn out during the day, but at 2:00 pm the view outside the hospital lobby was still this:

I didn't care. There was nothing stopping me from seeing Lily last night. My cough was finally under control-I wasn't waking up coughing in the morning anymore. You have NO idea how bad it is to get bronchitis with an allergic asthma component-any allergen exposure will immediately set you back. I've been there before in my stubborness to get back to the barn ASAP. I've never mentioned it here, but I'm severely allergic to horses. A long time ago, just grooming Lucero could put me in a state of anaphylaxis. Sheer will and finding the right combination of prescription allergy meds with the help of a doctor who understood my love of horses, helped make it manageable. It's better when I'm exposed to them daily-I can eventually wean myself from the meds and be fine. But whenever I get a chest cold, the allergies resurface with a vengeance-if I'm sick with anything involving coughing, no meds will control the additional coughing and wheezing that ensues when exposed to horse dander and barn dust until I'm at least 90% cured. Otherwise, it is a surefire major setback in the healing process that often involves rounds of antibiotics. I'd already been coughing 2 weeks-it was worth it to wait it out a few more days, just so I could get back on a consistent barn routine.

So yeah-I was feeling better, plus it wasn't pouring, snowing or sleeting, and I didn't have to wake up at 4:00 am the next morning to work. What's a little fog?

It was a weird day at work. It was the warmest it's been since we moved up here - in the 70's, I heard, though I didn't get to step outside to confirm - so this meant a lot of people were out with their dogs, it being the weekend. We had a lot of dog vs dog cases. More than half of our cases were dog vs dog. It was bizarre and unusual. Someone even brought a mouse (our hospital used to see pocket pets, but not anymore) and guess what was wrong...it had been bitten by another mouse! One of the dogs even bit one of our doctors. Halfway through the day, we started wondering if it was a full moon.

Of course, dog vs dog cases almost always seem to involve some pitbull-like dog. We don't always get to see the culprits-it's always the owners saying, "My dog was attacked by a pitbull." As a side note, did you know that a veterinary study was done on this subject about 6 years ago? Dog vs dog accounts almost always involve accusations against a pitbull. Yet according to this study, only 10% of the population (including veterinary professionals!) can truly recognize a real pitbull!! Most of us working in the veterinary field adore this breed-we get to work with them on a daily basis since so many people have them. In 5 years of working in veterinary emergency and ICU (very sick and often cranky animals), I have met only 1 pitbull that was aggressive towards us. ONE. (I could tell you some pretty amazing stories involving pitbull patients, including some with improper guard dog training-even those were awesome patients. I LOVE this breed, and if we owned our own house, I would have a couple of them. It's just a nightmare trying to rent while owning one-so many apartment owners will refuse to allow them...) Meanwhile, I would say that about 75% of daschunds, which is another VERY popular breed, will try to bite us. Same goes for min pins and chihuahuas. I've heard of Jack Russells maliciously killing other larger dogs. But you never hear stories of "A chihuahua mauled my shi-tzu." That story would go, "A small dog bit my dog."

With Amaretto, one of the family dogs in PR. He is a true boxer-lab cross, but looks very much like a pitbull mix. He has the same sweet nature and incredible intelligence as well. :)
My point? We had a client bring in 2 shih-tzus that had been attacked by their neighbor's 2 pitbulls. One of the shih-tzus was fine, the other had a puncture wound on his head that was easily fixed. We were annoyed when we heard the news initially, because this is the kind of thing that gives pitbulls a bad rep-we assumed that the pitbull owner had been irresponsable. The 2 shih-tzus proved to be a handful-both of them were confident, dominant little things, trying to bite us and being generally unruly. The one that was fine had to be muzzled and held down firmly on the table just so the doctor could perform her physical exam.

Well, the story changed A LOT when the neighbor showed up with one of his pitties. The poor dog looked terrified and like she was having a really bad day-ears down, eyes wide, tail between her legs. She had bruises on her nose, and there were bite wounds somewhere on her, but I didn't get to see because I was triaging other patients. I just saw her briefly when she was brought back into the ER by one of my coworkers.

The pitbull, despite being afraid, especially with the commotion we had going on (including a full blown code, where half the hospital came in to perform CPR on a dying poodle), was quiet in her run and gave the doctor kisses during her physical exam. A physical exam she was able to do by herself, with no one restraining the dog for her. Not the case with the shih-tzus...

As it turns out, the fight was started by one of the shih-tzus...who was off-leash.

I wish the general public could hear more stories like this one. A lot more stories like this one.

6:00 pm arrived, and I ran out as soon as I could to go see Lily. The fog was no better, but it was driveable and mine was the only car in the parking lot when I got to the barn. The horses were already in for the night and Lily was eating her hay. I poked my head in over the stall door. "Lily" I whispered. She looked up. "Lily, ven." "Ven" is "come" in Spanish. Hey-cops get to train their dogs in German so only they will know the commands. I get to train my horse in Spanish just so she'll only come for me!

She swung over to me. She is a very sweet horse and she always checks people out, but I've always seen a little bit of tension in her during initial greetings with someone new. There was that little bit of tension in her now as she took a step closer, and then she stuck her head out to sniff at me (I was wearing a scarf, and this is what she chose to sniff), and I saw when her expression changed-her eyes relaxed and softened, "Oh, it's you!" She loves her home and is very happy there, but it's nice to know that she misses me, despite the fact that she's living the dream.

Growing up, my family was always into metaphysics. There is a belief that when someone pops into your head out of the blue, it's because, wherever they are, that person is thinking about you. Have you felt that before? It's like all of a sudden you fall into this warm mental current with that other person. Maybe a few days after that you'll get a call, an e-mail or a text from said person. Sometimes you'll call them first, and they'll say it, "Oh, I was thinking about you the other day!" I don't know about you, but this happens to me a lot. And it happens to me with my animals. Of course I can't get verbal confirmation from them that they were thinking about me at a given time, but some of them will just be really present psychically when I'm away from them. I had a really strong bond with Cloud like this, and it was one of the things that was so emotionally wrenching when he was taken away from me-I knew, I felt, that he thought I'd abandoned him. I think Lily thinks about me when I'm not there, but not like Cloud. He was just one of those once-in-a-lifetime horses-he had an incredible work ethic and he loved our time together. My relationship with Lily has come a long way from a year and a half ago, but it is still maturing. So yes, I had felt very distanced from Lily this last week while I was sick, so I figured she was really happy enjoying being a horse, but it's nice to know that she did miss me.

She was covered in dry mud. Since it had been warmer, she had been turned out without her sheet and blanket, and she was filthy. Laughing, I took her to the cross ties by the indoor, and worked on cleaning her up. While grooming her, I noticed the casting on her right Epona is starting to peel off behind the heel and texted my trimmer/farrier to let her know. She's coming today to check Lily out.

The indoor had been watered and dragged, so I clipped Lily's lunge line on and took her into the arena to stretch her legs. I like to check how she's moving after all of the drama with that left hind frog. I warmed her up at the walk in both directions.

Shiny! I should've taken "before" pictures prior to grooming...she was FILTHY!

I then had her trot and canter a bit-she was "up" but not crazy-hyper. After she had trotted for about 10 minutes in both directions and done a couple of circles at the canter, I then set her free in the arena. She flagged her tail and galloped around, blowing loudly at the corners of the arena, then settled into her floaty, snappy trot (God, I wish she'd do that under saddle!!) I had her work in both directions, and then at one point she just stopped in the middle of the arena and looked at me, asking for permission to come.

"Can I come now, Mom?"

She just stood there waiting, while I took that photo -so stinking cute!- so of course I gave her permission. I loved on her, scratching her withers and the top of her tail. There was a little stretch I used to do with her that involved running my thumbs down both sides of her spine on her croup, from the point of her hips to the base of her tail. This always made her tuck her butt in, and it's supposed to work the abs. I did it, and she did not react. Surprised, I palpated her entire back and discovered one very happy horse without a single sore hair on her. She's always had a sore lower back, and after consulting with different professionals (her saddle fits perfectly, her hips are aligned, she didn't have problems with her stifles or hocks that were reflecting in her lower back), we arrived at the conclusion that it was from years of incorrect trimming. I had noticed an improvement back when Marianne started trimming her in FL, but nothing like this. This is one true pain-free horse. She used to have a slightly weak connection between her croup and loins-there was a slight dip there-that has been progressively muscling up over time. I'm proud to announce that the slight dip is completely and 100% gone. This is a sign of a solid, strong back. Correct trimming and proper turnout are da bomb. :)

I then started walking, and she walked next to me, no lead attached, while we circled and did serpentines around the arena, and she stayed right by my side. She was especially lovey, nuzzling me, sniffing at me, letting me hug her head and give her kisses.

By then it was 8:00 pm, and I started to worry about the fog, so I led her back to the cross ties, washed her legs, getting all of the mud off from her hooves, and brushed her out again. She kept reaching around to nuzzle me-so sweet! :) I then picked her stall, and let her settle in for the night. I think she almost looked bummed when I put her away.

Outside, there was a thin veil of cloud over everything-the fog had certainly thickened, and the lights in the parking lot were haloed and appeared to float in the darkness as I walked over to my car.

The drive home was interesting.

One disembodied street light floating in the gloom
The fog changed the way everything looked. I was glad this was happening now and not when we first moved up here, as I now know this route like the palm of my hand and can find my way home even without being able to see the road signs. I was fascinated with how the lights and trees looked in the fog (no, I have never driven through fog like this-another one for the lists of "firsts" in our new home)-everything looked eerily unattached. The inspiration for Stephen King's "The Mist" was obvious.

I drove within the speed limit (some people were driving retardedly and unnecessarily slow), avoided changing lanes if I could, and kept a good distance between myself and the car lights in front of me (I could see the lights, not the cars...) It could have been a lot worse, which was a source of constant tension as I made my way down the GW, half expecting to find visibility reduced to a few feet with every turn of the road (the GW runs right next to the Potomac, with only a nice cliff separating the road from the river as you get closer to DC). I was surprised to discover even more fog in Alexandria. This was the view in the parking lot when I stopped at the grocery store by our apartment:

It was beautiful. And wet-the entire world was dripping with the moisture from the mist. I've always had a fascination with fog since I read "Season of Ponies" by Zilpha Keatley Snyder as a kid. (If you love horses and you've never read this book, you're missing out. Go read it. It's a children's book, but even as an adult, you'll still get caught in its spell.)

After reading it, you will understand why there was a very special kind of magic in going to find my own pony in the mist.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013