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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Charles's Holiday

October is the month in which I celebrate Charles. His birthday is on the 21st and our anniversary is on the 31st, on Halloween.

Back when I was still flying back and forth from the island to visit him in Tampa, he asked me to be his girlfriend at a Halloween party. He knew that if he didn't pick some sort of holiday, he'd always forget our anniversary. So Halloween became our holiday and when we finally got married, we decided to keep it. And no, it wasn't a Halloween wedding (I don't think his parents would have been too thrilled with that...haha):

If you don't like mush-fests, stop reading now: this is going to be a mush-fest.

When I moved in with Charles, I left behind my horses, my family and a pretty solid career working in exhibit design at one of the best art museums in PR. He knew what I was giving up for him, and during every minute of our relationship, he has been supportive beyond measure of everything I do.

When I left my first job in Tampa as a gym sales associate and applied at a tack store in the same plaza, he was supportive, even though I'd be making half of the money. I would end up getting that job, one of my favorite jobs ever,  indirectly thanks to Charles. At the time, Charles was working in film. The producer of the last film Charles worked on had a daughter. The producer's daughter worked at the tack shop I applied to.

When I got the job training crazy horses at the horse rental facility, Charles was 100% supportive. Even though I was driving an hour and a half one way to go work. Even when one of the horses flipped over on me and nearly crushed my hip. He helped me up the stairs at home and drove me around while I healed, and has massaged my back whenever I have flare-ups of pain from that old injury. He was as bummed as I was when I had to quit that job because I physically wasn't going to be able to ride for awhile.

When I finally had the guts to start riding again, he backed me up. He came to watch me ride. He learned the names of the horses and hung out with my barn friends. We went to a steeplechase with the barn and had our own little photography competition. He won:

He took this photo with my non-digital SLR.
He was depressed the day he missed my first big show with that same barn because he had not been allowed to switch days so he could have it off.

He let me go visit Lucero every day on our first vacation together in Puerto Rico.

He even rode Lucero. Bareback. Because he knew Lucero was the one being other than Charles himself that I loved most in the world.
He took the last photo that I'd ever have taken of Lucero and me together.

Our last good-bye
He drove me around Coconut Creek when we first moved there and I realized that not only was there an equine clinic there, there were 2 streets full of barns hidden in the middle of the suburbs. He was as excited as I was to discover this little secret world.

He was thrilled for me when I discovered the equine rescue and started volunteering. He came to every fundraiser the rescue held while I was volunteering and helped me with my chores. He came to watch me ride the rescues. And he backed me up when I decided I wanted to adopt Cloud.

He mucked Cloud's stall on days that I was stuck at work and couldn't make it out before the barn closed. He learned how much hay went into his haynets. He soaked beet pulp. He drove to the barn one time first thing in the morning after work to check on my horse because I was worried that Cloud had not pooped in 12 hours.

He took this photo...
...and this one. Forever capturing the love I had for that horse.
He waited for the cops with me the day the rescue owner terminated the adoption and accused us of trespassing. He talked to the cops to show them our adoption agreement and tell them that this horse was ours and we had proof. (Kids, don't ever do a free adoption. It doesn't hold up in court when the owner of the rescue decides to go apeshit and not let you move your horse to a better facility. And no, we were not arrested. The police were on our side, but we would have had to go through claims court.)

He encouraged me to not give up on horses forever after that, because he could not imagine me without horses in my life.

He knew they made me happy.

The day Rhythm had a seizure during a ride and fell with me on him, breaking my foot, Charles came out to the barn immediately to check on me and help me with the neuro exam I did on the horse. Lily wasn't mine yet, but she was my training project and I was supposed to work with her that afternoon. My foot hurt, but we didn't know it was broken yet. I was fairly hysterical and didn't want to go home. Charles was the one who suggested maybe I should take Lily for a ride anyway; he knew it would make me feel better. It was a holiday and the vet couldn't come out anyway. Other than having something neurologically wrong with him, Rhythm was fine.

So I tacked up Lily and took her down to the field at the end of the street for her first time off property ever, and she proved herself to be an absolutely sane, brave little mare. That ride wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been for Charles's encouragement, and if I hadn't had that ride, I'm not sure I would have said yes when Lily was offered to me.

The day Lily was offered to me, he scrambled to produce the dollar with which I would buy her, just so he could say that he'd bought me a horse for my birthday.

He only ever missed the one show. He has been there for every other. He's been there every time we've trailered for an adventure off property. He's helped with every barn move. He's driven the truck towing the trailer when no one else was available. Twice. Not only that, he can get that hitch lined up on the first try. He's been there for all of the big moments, and the not so big ones, usually playing the role of the person behind the camera, capturing those moments.

He's never complained when the horses have taken time away from him, so I always make a point of making time for him when our days off coincide. He's never complained when the stuff I want for special occasions (birthdays, Christmas, etc) are expensive because it's horse-related stuff.

He happily offered to go with me across DC and MD our first day after arriving in the Northeast so I could go see Lily, since I hadn't seen her in a week. Despite the fact that Hurricane Sandy would be arriving that night and we still had to shop for groceries!

He's been there at every moment, and he's in 99% of the photos of me in this blog: it's him on the other side of the camera.
Hanging out with my barn friends. All of them adored him!
Holding Q so I could wrap her legs.

Trail ride at one of the South FL parks.
He helped me the first time I rode Rhythm in the water.
I'd always wanted to take a horse swimming!
He rode Rhythm bareback in the lake himself!

And babysat him after.

He's not against sharing lunch with a horse.

Nor is he above showing my silly mare that cows don't eat horses.
(He was riding Beau, Mark's QH gelding)

He insisted on being the one to do the hand walking when he'd come out to the barn with me while Lily was on stall rest.
And he'll even freeze his butt off to go camping with me, my friends, and their horses. 

And that's just the horsey part of our lives. He's there through thick and thin, this man. He's not just my partner, he's my best friend, the one whom I know can always make me laugh when I've had a bad day, the one whom I look forward to talking to at the end of the day. He's the best road trip companion, the best grocery store companion. The one who can turn the most dull chore into an adventure. The one who makes life itself an adventure.

I'm the luckiest girl alive to call him mine. I have loved him for 16 years. Today marks 8 years together, 4 of those married.

I love you with all my heart and soul Charles! Happy anniversary!

Happy Halloween!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

WW: We Fly

Charles came out to the barn yesterday with me, for the first time since moving to the new barn. He normally comes out quite often but we've just had completely opposite schedules for several months now.

We took him on a tour of the trails. He was happy to hike behind Mary on Willa and myself on Lily; it was his first time going for a hike in the fall! He earned some serious points with everyone at the barn.

Mary and Willa. That's Lily and me on the other side of the driveway, behind Mary.

Walking down the driveway...

...and out the gates.

I put a knot in Lily's tail so I could wrap her hinds and forgot to take it off...
Riding up the slope. The horses in the background are retired broodmares belonging to a neighbor.
This couple owns the field adjoining the bridle path. They have two brown Newfoundlands that look like baby grizzly bears. They dogs are super well-behaved and when in doubt, the owners are awesome about grabbing their dogs when we're riding by.

Riding up the bridle path where I do hill sets...
...and down the path past one of the neighboring horse farms.

I've been wanting to get a photo of that sign for awhile now.
This is how in sync Charles and I are: I never even mentioned it, and he got the shot!

Following the fence line through the yard we're allowed to use to access the trails.
This is the spot where Lily likes to spazz out when riding solo.

The big orange tree is more orange now.

Entering the back woods.

Following the trail.
I LOVE this photo.

Up the first, smaller hill that leads towards Four Corners.

Lily hesitated at this giant log initially. She's jumped over it before. Willa, a former eventer, had no problem going over it.

Following the street that runs through the woods. It's actually a neighborhood driveway. It leads to a main road - when you cross that road, you're on the trail that leads to Four Corners. The hunt was out on this day, so we turned around at the main road.

Another great shot of Mary and I, riding on opposite sides of the street.

I had not noticed before how much this trunk looks like a sea serpent!

Mary and I paused to wait for Charles to catch up. He was thoroughly enjoying his hike and had lagged behind. :)

Headed home on the bridle path. I walked Mary to the gates. She went to the driveway to do trot sets, and I returned to the slope with Charles to do canter sets.

Practice run on the lower portion of the bridle path.
Trotting away from Charles.

...and cantering back.

We trotted up the slope once, then trotted back. I wanted to make sure Lily could see Charles and realize it was him, but it didn't really work. She was fine when we were going up the hill facing him, but when we were returning back down facing his back, she kept trying to spook. Goofy in-heat mare!

And then we turned around at the bottom of the slope, and cantered up the hill.

Trotting past Charles. Note that she was looking at him.

The one moment where we truly galloped.

Trotting past Charles. :)

Walking back down the hill. Finally thought to remove the obnoxious orange safety vest...

Nice controlled canter. She was tired by then. We did 6 reps.

Walking back to Charles.

This photo shoot was a big deal. Ever since seeing Dom's profile pic (go to her blog and look at her profile pic at the bottom. LOVE that photo!!!) a year ago when I first started to read her blog, I'd wanted a photo of Lily and I cantering, if not galloping, out in the open. Outside of an arena. I wanted to be able to trust her enough to canter outside of any enclosed spaces. It was one of my biggest goals for this year.

It took 2 years, but we made it. We would have made it sooner if she had not been injured, but I don't know if we would have made it this well. Not only that, I now excitedly look forward to this kind of work with Lily. Yes, I look intense in the photos and video, but that's how I look when I'm focused. I had that same grim look when flying over fences. It certainly did not mean I wasn't having fun. I was. :)

What can I say? I have a pretty freaking awesome mare. 

I love you, Lilybird.