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

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Let's Talk About Prejudice

In which Saiph writes another controversial blog post and curses a lot. 

Because I'm going to be 36 in two weeks and I'm beyond the point in my life of shutting up about stuff. 

In light of all of the Confederate flag drama, I have been shocked by some of the people who have stepped up to defend it. One of them is my sister in law, who married my Puerto Rican brother. 

Prejudice and racism are alive and well throughout this entire country, hence why I see no problem whatsoever with the banning of the display of one infamous flag from state government offices. 

Let's talk about that flag, shall we?

The main reason why the Confederacy wanted to secede was because they wanted to keep their African slaves. The original Confederate flag was actually not the one that we see today in front of some people's homes and on the backs of some people's trucks. There were three flags flown during the Confederacy, the last of which was this one: 

THIS was actually the official battle flag. It was dubbed the "Blood-Stained Banner."
The Confederate flag that we know today was flown by a few Confederate Army units, especially in Virginia. It was known as the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia. One of the units that flew it was General Lee's. General Lee chose to not display the flag anymore after his side lost. He wrote in a letter declining an invitation by the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, "I think it wiser moreover to not keep open the sores of war." (Source)

So the flag disappeared, except for when it popped up at events to honor fallen Confederacy soldiers of the Civil War. And that's okay! 

The problem is that this flag started to really crop up during the 1950s during the fight for the rights of African Americans, when the South declared that they were for the segregation of races. In 1948, Strom Thurmond, a South Carolina governor who was running for president, created the States' Rights Democratic Party and adopted the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia as a symbol of defiance against the federal government's power to enforce civil rights laws in the South. (Source) His followers flew the flag in support of his platform which revolved around being pro-segregation.

The more rights African Americans earned, the more pervasive this flag became among the people that didn't support the equal rights movement. And so, the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia, aka the Confederate Flag, officially became a symbol of hate, of racism, of prejudice, and of white supremacy. 

You know the Natzi swastika? "Swastika" comes from the Sanskrit word "svastika" which means "good fortune." Before Hitler turned it into a symbol of his beliefs, the swastika was actually a good thing, a symbol of auspiciosness in the Hindu and Buddhist religions, among others. 

You don't see anyone nowadays flaunting the swastika because it used to be a symbol of good fortune. No. And you don't see anyone, especially in Germany, flaunting the swastika in the name of the fallen German soldiers of World War II. In fact, if you display the swastika in Germany, you will earn yourself 3 years in prison. 

I agree with the views of the person that said, 
"[The Confederacy] fought for the right to oppress a people and for the economic benefits they gained from doing so. They were traitors to their country as well. In modern times, flying the Confederate Battle Flag represents support for segregation, suppression and racism, period. Flying any iteration of the Confederate flag to honor the Confederate war dead is the same as flying the Natzi swastika in support of the Third Reich's dead. Both flags stand for the enslavement and extermination of a people."

I personally think it is okay to show the Confederate flag in museums, as part of Civil War history, and also to honor those that died during said war during commemorative events. That said, I actually don't have a problem with individuals displaying it because it makes it easy to avoid them. It is still freedom of expression and if you forbid one person from displaying one flag, it's just a matter of time before other flags are banned because they might offend someone. That's just stupid.

But don't tell me that the vast majority of individuals that fly the Confederate flag in front of their homes and on the back windows of their pickup trucks are honoring their relatives that died during said war, because if you really believe that, you are simply trying to block the light of the sun with a finger, my friend. 

"It should not be controversial to say that people should not spend their days mourning relatives they never knew from a war that ended 150 years ago, especially if that feeling is so paramount that it outweighs the sense of brotherhood they might feel toward fellow humans who are alive, and for whom the flag's presence and endorsement by the government is the personification of the evil of white supremacy."
- Adam Ambinder

Prejudice in this country is not limited to African Americans exclusively. Anyone belonging to an ethnic group that is not white is, at some point or another, going to experience prejudice during their lifetime depending on where they live in the US. This prejudice also applies to people whose first language is not English.

You read my blog. I'm assuming that if you do, it's because you care and/or are interested in my story. In case you're wondering, prejudice DOES affect me and the people that I love.
  • Ever since PR became a US territory in 1898, Puerto Ricans have been first in line to be cannon fodder every time there is a war. Our young Puerto Rican men were drafted for the first time for WWI. My Puerto Rican grandfather, like so many of my older relatives, was drafted. He fought in the Korean War and lived to tell the tale. More Puerto Ricans have been drafted into US wars than men living on the mainland. Why? Because we're those dark-skinned Spanish-speaking people from that little third world country in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and thus are less important. When they started talking about a draft for the Afghanistan War, I was terrified: my brother, myself and my boyfriend at the time were within the age limit. I don't know if it was talked about here on the mainland, but they were talking about drafting men AND women on the island. You don't know what it's like to experience that level of fear firsthand. The draft did not happen but I got to watch the husbands and boyfriends of dear friends who were in the Army and the National Guard get sent over there before they sent anyone from the mainland. Some of them returned, some of them did not.
  • My dad is Cuban but is a US citizen. He joined the Army through the ROTC while still in college in PR and has stayed in the Army throughout his entire life; he is now in the Army Reserves and has been a colonel for a couple of decades. When he has been sent to war, he has gone as a medic. He served in the Gulf War. The reason why I was born on the mainland in Oklahoma is because that's where we were stationed at the time. He has an easy time pretending to be something he is not because he is fair skinned, has green eyes, speaks perfect English, and wears a mustache like Tom Selleck. He actually looked a lot like Tom Selleck when he was younger. When he speaks in Spanish all the Cuban comes out.

That's my dad. What do you think?
Does he look like your stereotypical Hispanic?
He is actually a typical Cuban. Most Cubans are this fair.
  • My brother lives in OH. He married a very white, very blonde US girl. My brother is as fair-skinned as Charles, with light brown hair. All of his friends in OH call him "The Mexican" because our first language is Spanish. It is a joke now because his friends actually do know that he's not really Mexican, but in the beginning it wasn't. When he first arrived in the state, people really did assume that he was Mexican. He would explain that he is Puerto Rican and it is not the same thing. Everyone insisted that it IS the same thing. This is 21st century Ohio and I'm including the city of Columbus in this because that's where my brother lived for his first year over there. So my brother was not accepted by the US people (because I refuse to call them "Americans" because we are ALL American: it includes Canada, Central and South America. The US is not the only America) because he spoke Spanish and he was not accepted by the Hispanics because he was too white. In fact, black people would spit at his feet as he walked by because that's how fair his skin is. He worked at a call center for a while and he simply told people on the phone that his name was Carl. (His real name is Carlos.) Because he speaks perfect English, no one could tell on the phone that he was Hispanic. 

That's my brother.
The lighter streaks in his hair are natural highlights.
And this is him when he cut off all his hair.
Does he look like a stereotypical Puerto Rican to you?
Didn't think so.
  • Speaking of Columbus OH, a good family friend who also happens to be a fair-skinned Puerto Rican did her Master's degree at the University of Columbus. She has a name that doubles well as an English name, speaks perfect English with barely an accent, has white skin and dark curly hair. And STILL, the level of prejudice and racism she experienced there was beyond compare. She hated living there and hightailed it out of there as soon as she was finished with her degree. 
  • When I applied for my first job in Tampa, FL, at a GYM, I had to check that little box on the job application that said "Hispanic" under "Ethnic Group." Because of that, I was asked for my work visa. I explained that I am Puerto Rican. I had a US passport, a US driver's license, and a US social security number that I showed them. They still wanted my work visa. I brought them a copy of my US Oklahoma birth certificate because I wanted to prove a point and get them to shut the fuck up. My blood still boils remembering that. 
Every single person in this photo is Puerto Rican.
See if you can find Charles and me.
  • While living in Tampa FL, Charles and I were walking around Walmart one day buying groceries and chattering away in Spanish like we always do. A tall white middle-aged guy with a cowboy hat and Western boots walked up to us to ask us what language we were speaking. I told him Spanish. He said, "You're Mexican? That doesn't sound Mexican." I told him, "Because we are not Mexican. We are Puerto Rican. We speak Spanish but our accent and our slang are different." It is, in fact, so different that if a Mexican and a Puerto Rican speak in slang to one another, they will never understand each other. Just like a US person trying to talk to a native of the UK in slang. Both English, both very different versions of it.

  • My Puerto Rican grandmother was once asked by a friend from the US if she could make her a Hawaiian grass skirt because she had always wanted one. We don't wear freaking Hawaiian skirts in PR, have NEVER worn them, and we don't know how to make them. Hawaiian skirts are worn in HAWAII.
The grass skirts are a tradition of the hula dance.
This photo is of a Hawaiian girl posing before her hula class in 1916.

We wore white cotton skirts and danced bomba and plena to the African drum.
The clothes were a mix of both African and Spanish influence.
And you know who invented twerking??? It was PUERTO RICANS, not effing Miley Cyrus!
We've been shaking our asses with tons more style and class for CENTURIES.  It's called culeo, people.
  • In Aguadilla, near one of our local beaches, there is this beautiful treehouse that is a sort of tourist and local's attraction. I visited it one time and sent pictures to Charles while we were still dating long-distance. He showed the pics to his US friends in FL and told them that we all lived in tree huts on the island. His friends believed him. 
Parque de Colon in Aguadilla, PR.
And no, we do not live in tree houses. Nor grass huts.
Our houses are made of concrete to withstand the yearly hurricanes.
  • While living in Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio TX, we were always treated well. No racism or prejudice to be encountered...mainly because there is such a huge Mexican community there. Everyone welcomed us, but they assumed we were Mexican. My mom and dad were invited to dinner one time by a friend of my dad's and they served this huge Mexican spread. The friend's wife said, "I'm sure this is not like what you cook at home, but we wanted you to feel welcome." My parents appreciated the gesture as it was very well-intended but my mom mentioned, "I'm sure it is wonderful; I don't cook Mexican either." It became a joke among them. The food was wonderful indeed and they all stayed good friends of course. But the assumption that Puerto Rico = Mexico was there, even among these people that were doctors working for the military. For the record, Puerto Rican food is as far from Mexican food as British food is from US comfort food!
Mexican food.
Puerto Rican food.

Very different flavor profile...
If you get this joke you know what I'm talking about. ^_^
  • The assumption that all Latinos and that people from other Spanish-speaking countries are Mexican never ceases to sting because it is a tremendous hallmark of ignorance. I personally am not offended, I just feel sorry for you because you don't know any better. There are Latinos out there that will take offense, though. So please, don't assume that a person is Mexican just because they speak Spanish!
My mom and me.
My mom is 100% Puerto Rican and 100% fluent in English. She took English from kindergarten through college just like every other Puerto Rican that receives an island education. She then lived in the continental US for 14 years while married to my dad. Her English is now rusty and she has a more prominent accent from not using it, but that doesn't mean she can't speak it or understand it. The time she visited us while living in Tampa, she came out to the barn with me. One of the boarders assumed that she knew no English and started speaking to her very loudly and very slowly in the broken English that is associated with Tonto in the Lone Ranger. I came thisclose to smacking said boarder.
  • When Donald Trump called all Mexicans rapists during his speech I wanted to smash the TV. Because that's the kind of ignorance that also believes all Spanish speakers are foreigners. That believes we are all illegal immigrants. Specifically from Mexico. You know what? Even if a Puerto Rican is born on the island (like my brother and Charles), we are still US citizens! Why? Because it is a US territory! You can't deport us anywhere!
My brother and my husband: two Puerto Rican Carloses that are US citizens.
  • I have a coworker who would ask me questions about our culture and the island. She was very honest about how she had been brought up (she grew up in the outskirts of Pittsburgh) and her questions would have been considered offensive by someone else. She honestly wanted to know so she could put all of the false notions she had been taught to rest, and thus I was never offended. She ultimately told her husband that she wanted to visit PR and he was incredibly surprised; he told her that she had already been to Nepal and this had to be a similar experience.

She spent a couple of months in the parts of Nepal that look like this, volunteering at a spay/neuter clinic.
  • I burst out laughing and told her, "Oh, he thinks PR looks like this." And I pulled up photos of PR in the 1930s, when roads were dirt, horses were used to pull carts, and people wore straw hats to work in the sugarcane fields. She said, "Yes, that's what he's picturing." 

What 70% of the US population thinks Puerto Rico is like in the 21st Century.
This photo is from a collection picturing the island from 1898, when we became a US colony, until 1946.
So I pulled up pictures of PR now and her jaw dropped. 

This is someone's house.
You can stay at this hotel.
Hotel El Conquistador in Fajardo, PR.
If you can afford it, because it is a Waldorf Astoria hotel.
Even the old historical parts are beautiful, like this random street in Old San Juan...
...and the gorgeous Gallery Inn.
  • Even with me educating her, it was still hard to let go of all of those false assumptions that had been drilled into her. For the record, this tech is a wonderful human being whom I had tremendous fun working with when we were on weekends together. She is a tech but she has a Physics degree and her husband literally is a rocket scientist. He currently works helping develop prosthetics for the human medical field. He just came up with one that allows the user to move the appendages with their mind, just like they would fingers of flesh and blood. They are not ignorant country bumpkins, yet the assumptions are still there. It is because of her that I like to periodically do posts about the island on the blog because I know it blows some people's minds. It is my way of educating. 

OH look at that! We have MALLS.
And yes, that's a Macy's behind the escalator.
I have yet to encounter a mall in the continental US as beautiful as our Plaza Las Americas.
Oh look at that! We can also shop at the Gap! Who knew.
  • Speaking of blowing people's minds, I get a huge kick out of telling people I am Puerto Rican. It's why I have it on the sidebar there on the right of the blog. The assumptions and racism and prejudice are alive and well, and it is incredibly fun to watch some people's expressions change when they realize that I am literally the opposite of what they imagined: I have fair skin (in winter...), I have straight hair, I have a minimal accent and I can write English better than they do. (Let's not talk about my issues with seeing "isle" used to describe a barn aisle by people who only know one language...) Preconceived notions = crumbled. I have had people accuse me of being a liar. It's easy to prove though: all I have to do is barrage them with my lightning-fast Spanish. But even the Latin Americans at work are surprised when they learn I am one of them. It is the double-edged sword of being a lighter-skinned Hispanic. You get the best of both worlds but also prejudice from both sides when you are a fair-skinned Latino outside of your native country. 
In my darker "summer coat" hanging out with the family dogs back in PR.
You don't get to see me naked, but my barn tan tells the story: my base skin color is pretty damn fair.
You see that white doofus playing in the water fountain?
That's Charles. His base skin color matches that single white cloud in the sky.
A close-up of Charles's eyes: dark gold around his pupils, blue towards the edges of his irises.
You see these two here? That's Vaquerito and Mio, our best man and maid of honor at our wedding.
Both of them are Puerto Rican.
  • A lot of Latinos are mulatto in color from the mix of Spanish and African blood. And a lot of us have very strong Spanish blood. There are some Spanish people (Spanish as in from Spain), that have a lot of Arabian and African blood in them from the heavy Moorish and Moroccan influence in some regions of Spain, especially Southern Spain. I had a close friend growing up whose family originated from Northern Spain. She was white as a ghost with pale gold eyes and blonde hair. They called her "the albino" in school. She wasn't albino; her family simply originated from a particularly white Spanish area. My family on my mother's side is directly from Spain. We tan. We are fair-skinned but we can tan pretty dark. And we have dark hair; I am the one with the straightest hair in the family but most of my family has wavy hair. So when we tan, we kind of look Arabian/Muslim/what-have-you. Especially those in my family that have curlier hair. What does this mean? That right after 9/11 I had family members that were detained at US airports and accused of being Afghan. Why? Because of the color of their skin.
Adam Rodriguez, a Puerto Rican actor. (Not a relative)
Kayvan Novak, an *Iranian actor.
*Not saying Iranians are bad nor anything of the sort. They are not! My point is to show the similarities in skin, features and hair between the average Puerto Rican and people from the same general part of the world as the UAE, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, etc. Prejudice against them affects us directly simply because we look like them even though our cultures, languages and religions are completely different! 
  • Speaking of 9/11, Charles used to love wearing berets. He moved to Orlando from the island shortly after the Afghanistan war started. An idiot in Orlando saw him wearing his beret and tried to beat him up. Why? He thought Charles was French. Because of a beret!
Yes, he does look like a French boy when he wears it...

...because people in this country assume that all French men look like this!
Guess what? THEY DON'T!
  • We are very, very lucky to now live in a region where people are educated, politically correct, and familiar with people from a huge variety of other countries. We LOVE where we live because of this. This is the first time since moving to the US where I can consistently say where I come from and people actually KNOW what I'm talking about! They know PR is a US territory, they know we are citizens, and they often have even visited the island. It is incredibly refreshing. 

My point with all of this is this: because of the color of our skin, myself and my husband, my brother and my dad, all get by with a little less prejudice than your average Latino that fits the stereotype. But there is still prejudice and when I see my darker-skinned brethren and African Americans being threatened by white supremacy idiocy, it both frightens and enrages me. 

If prejudice doesn't affect you, lucky you. Just because it doesn't affect you doesn't mean it doesn't affect a whole bunch of us that choose to live in this country. And for the record, just because your skin is white and your only language is English doesn't mean you are a native. Your family came from somewhere else too: Norway, Finland, Scotland, England, Germany, Ireland, Hungary. People of white skin in this country are also mutts. Just like us Spanish-speakers. 

The only true natives in this land are these guys: 

It is sad that I have to use this photo that plays to their stereotype...

...because if I had just used this one, the average person would assume that they are Mexican!
This is a photo of Captain Pratt with Native American captives.
My point: Native Americans are not white and their first language was not English.

So it gives me the warm fuzzies to see this happen:

Because it means that love wins. Love for our fellow human, regardless of color, race, sex, language spoken, and sexual preference, wins

And that, my friends, is one hell of a happily forever after.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Straight Shot Metal Smashing

Okay guys.

If you are thinking of getting one of Beka's lovely bridle charms/tags/bracelets, you need to just do it.

Because her work is beautiful. Photos just don't do it justice!

Since I am an indecisive person and I could not make up my mind about what I wanted (because I basically wanted one of everything!) I asked Beka about a Gambler's Choice: I would give her ideas on colors and such, and let her come up with something. Because Beka is an artist and I knew I would love anything she came up with. This was precisely why I couldn't decide what to choose: because I loved ALL THE THINGS!

When the package arrived, I was FLOORED.

I squeed when I saw the box.

I mean, LOOK at the box!

Arrows! Arrows everywhere!
And then I opened it and it was like Christmas.

Everything individually wrapped.
In paper with colored arrows.
I may have saved the wrappers because I thought they were so pretty and unique. And handmade.
The ones with Lily's and Gracie's names with the arrows are on display on one of my bookshelves.
There were bridle charms for Lily and for Gracie:

Lily's. All in blue of course. :)
The Good Juju charm at the bottom says "fearless"
Gracie's. In green! Her Good Juju charm at the top says "brave".
And a keychain with their names!

And bracelets!! Beka had asked me if I liked her bracelets on the shop website and I told her of course! (Because like I said, I loved everything.) 


They fit my skinny tiny 6" wrists!
"One more mile"
She came up with that all by herself. It is absolutely perfect.

Seriously. It was like Christmas. I love the little printed cards that Beka attaches the charms to. It gave them a professional touch. 

All of the bridle charms except the Good Juju charms went on the girls' bridles. The Good Juju charms I want to attach to the breastplates: I finally ordered split key rings from Amazon  for this purpose, because the O rings and buckles on my breastplates are too large for the charm lobster clasps. Problem solved!

Lily's browband is also by Karen.


On an unrelated note, I think everyone in the equestrian blogosphere knows by know about Lauren. Please keep her in your thoughts. I was so shocked when I saw her post go up that I sat dumbstruck in front of the computer for several hours, not really able to do anything because suddenly everything else in the world seemed so immensely trivial. Lauren is an incredibly strong woman and she will get through this, but that doesn't make the process any easier. Tracy over at Fly On Over has started a GoFundMe account so friends can help show their love and support. Please consider donating. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Zoom Zoom Zoom

On Friday I arrived at the barn in the afternoon despite having woken up way too early to start the day after a 12 hour shift that resulted in me going to bed at 5:00 am...but it's been cooler in the afternoons than the mornings so I figured it would be easier on the horses to wait until later in the day to ride. Charles was working so I was on my own.

I'm really enjoying the layout of the barn building in relation to the mare field at this farm. The horses see cars arrive, as the parking lot is between the mare and gelding fields. I walk straight into the feed storage area, from where I can see the mare field, fill the girls' pans with their grain, grab their halters, and then walk outside with everything in tow to the hitching post by the mare field fence and call their names. They can see all of this from the field.

Lily and Gracie now always look up when they hear me call them and will often start walking over of their own accord before I've opened the gate. I've been getting nickers of greeting too. :) Sure it's all food motivated but I don't care. It's the first time where I've received consistent vocal hellos from either of them!

Lytha, now they do come up to meet me. :)
Sometimes. Because mares are like cats: it's what they want when they want it.
I think geldings are much more likely to give us the exuberant greetings, whereas with a mare you kind of have to work much, much, MUCH harder to get that same sort of hello...and even then it's going to depend on their mood on a given day. I could be over-generalizing, but this is what I've noticed so far observing my horses and other people's interactions with theirs.
I fed and groomed both of them and started tacking up Gracie while Lily finished her grain. I finished tapering her omeprazole last week and she is eating SO much better. She even scarfed a full alfalfa flake while I tacked up.

I turned Lily back out and mounted up on Gracie. This was her last 30 minute ride before I could start slowly bumping up either ride time or intensity and I initially wanted to make it an arena ride so I did not ace her.

Gracie offered up her gait the second I asked her to move out. She was happy and willing so I allowed it. We gaited up to the arena, where we did about 5 minutes of work. It's been raining pretty much every night lately (Florida summer, anyone? Seriously) and the previous night had been no exception. The awesome wonderful fluffy textile footing was deep and soggy when wet and ultimately G-Mare was sort of struggling with it: she would gait a circle and then slow to a walk, "This SUCKS," she said. I didn't want her to strain anything so after said 5 minutes I called it quits. I dismounted and took her over to the round pen since I honestly haven't watched her move from the side faster than a walk since her injections.

The footing in the round pen wasn't better than in the arena. Gracie put her head down and snorted loudly at it, finding herself in a completely unfamiliar environment (this was her first time in this round pen), but she trotted out when asked and stopped when asked. I had her do only 2 laps in each direction just to watch her move and she did a lovely swinging trot despite the awful footing. I led her back out and re-mounted. She immediately wanted to take off before I had settled in the saddle so I made her wait: no bad habits! She's always been the better one about waiting however long the rider wants after said rider is in the saddle.

We gaited around the cross country course. G-Mare was very forward and very excited about being out in the wide open spaces. She was never out of control, but she was gaiting at her fastest rack and even going sideways when I wouldn't allow her to surge forwards. She was still going in the desired direction, just sideways in said direction in a beautiful lateral leg yield of her own accord that I never fathomed she could do. I never felt frightened nor unsafe; she is still a green horse that was feeling good after basically two weeks in light work and 3 days of rest. There was one instant, however, where she became just a little too bargy for my liking, coming just one notch from realizing that she could run through the hackamore if she really wanted to. And since we don't EVER want her to learn that, I did a half-halt with my seat and one rein and then asked her to stop. And she did. And then stood quietly for several seconds with the reins draped on her neck until I asked her to move out again.

For the next 10 minutes of our session, I had her work at the gait but focused on letting her move out with slack in the reins: if she was at my desired speed, I would push my hands forward as a reward to disengage the hackamore pressure on her nose. I like my horses to be in self-carriage on the trail. Not in the dressage sense necessarily but in the sense that I like to be able to point them where I want them to go and just have them go at whatever speed I want for however long I want without having to repeat myself or nag or fight with them constantly. (Unless the footing is iffy: I train them to also slow down of their own accord and let me know when they are not sure about the footing! They're the ones actually moving through it, not me, so I trust them to do their job safely as well.) The reason for this: I'm already doing my fair share of the work to stay out of their way and ride efficiently so as to make their job easier. Adding having to ride every single stride is exhausting when you're trying to go for long distances.

Gracie was a locomotive, surging upwards and forwards in front of my leg, but she was very responsive to half-halts if she exceeded the desired speed: I sat deeper and squeezed the reins if she speeded up too much. Each time she responded. Each time there was an instant release of pressure in reward. The first few times, though, she would only respond for a couple of strides before accelerating again. So then I asked her to stop and wait for a few seconds before resuming the gait. After doing that 2 or 3 times, she understood what the goal was and basically stayed where I put her in terms of gait and speed.

I tend to get more horse when I ride her vs Charles both because I ride her alone and because I ask for more precision in terms of pace and gait. She is a tremendously fun horse to ride, being the perfect combination of mind of her own + sensitivity, especially now as her brain has continued to mature and she has realized that she is ours.

I rode her back towards the mare field and partway around the mowed hay field next to the mare pasture. She had never been out that way by herself and wanted to turn her head to stare at the treeline (there are so many deer on property and they are pretty bold too) but she continued. She was excellent. A rock star.

We walked back to the barn to cool off. Despite the short session at mostly gait with a little walking, she was covered in sweat: it's continued to be relentlessly hot and muggy around these parts. Gracie is a great sweater, which is a huge advantage in the cooling department. By the time I dismounted at the barn 5 minutes later, she was breathing normally.

She was hosed off, given an electrolyte mash, and set free. Lily saw her come out and whinnied and whinnied at her in greeting, then came over to me so I could catch her.

The first thing Gracie does after being released is roll...:)

...and shake!

Walking up towards me.

There is something immensely flattering about a horse that still wants to hang out with you after being ridden.
Walking next to me as I went over to meet Lily halfway. :)
Lily had another flake of alfalfa while I tacked up (we are continuing with the ulcer preventive measures now). I put the Woolback and Alta on her, as it is honestly so much more comfortable than the Wintec for me and this combination fits her so well anyway. The Wintec fits her well too, except without the Woolback.

I swung up and we headed out. Lily picked up a trot of her own accord as we followed the bridle path up the top part of the mare field, which surprised me: this is something she'll do when riding with Gracie but not on her own. She was even doing her "happy trot" where she sort of relaxes the base of her neck as she propels herself along, which adds this extra sideways swing to her shoulders. You can't really see it unless you're on her, but it gives the impression that she's moving along to music. She only does that trot when she is super happy and having fun. I laughed at her and stroked her neck.

Since the hay field over by the mare field was mowed, I had Lily make a sharp right as we came to the end of the fence line and we trotted up the hay field rise.

This hay field. This was right after the hay had been cut, before being baled. The rise continues up to the far right of this photo, where there is a partial treeline + fence paralleling the bridle path. We are allowed to ride on the hay fields if we want to, but there can be gopher holes, which is why I prefer to just stick to their perimeters after the hay has been cut and baled: much easier to see any issues in the ground.
Lily trotted on up the hill while I scanned the footing in front of her for any gopher holes. Ever since our sinkhole episode last summer, she is actually really good about pointing out possible holes, though most often she is pointing out changes in terrain that are ultimately not holes. I realized on this particular ride that the one with the advantage for spotting holes is myself because I'm looking from a point higher up in the air than Lily herself. I always appreciate her caution, though, because she might feel give in the terrain that I'm unaware of, since she is the one actually stepping on it.

No gopher holes on this track, though! We made it all the way to the top of the rise and proceeded to climb down the other side of the hill. It was quite steep going down and I made a mental note for the future to do this hill in the opposite direction, as it would be quite the hill workout going up. As it was, Lily proceeded slowly forwards at a walk so she could sit on her haunches on the downward climb.

We picked up a trot at the bottom and came back up the path around the other side of the hay field, then veered off into the tree tunnel.

You can see the treeline at the far right that I mentioned in the previous photo. We went down that way, away from the camera, to start. We came back up this path, coming towards the camera, as we finished our turn around this field. It is a full mile in length.

The tunnel. Photo obviously taken on a different ride with Charles. The horses often hesitate over the light-dark-light combo going through here. The section of earth between the trees is actually a bridge: a tiny creek flows underneath it.

Going through the tunnel.
The tree tunnel leads to the bridle path that goes around the draft horse field and from there into the woods.

Bridle path around draft horse field.
Going down towards the woods.
You have to make a left to follow the trail into the woods. Once in the woods, you can turn right to head towards the river or continue straight through the forest in the general direction of the airstrip.

After turning left into the woods.
The trail towards the river is on Charles's and Gracie's right in this photo.

I let Lily choose and to my surprise she chose to take the path towards the river! I keep saying this but it never ceases to amaze me: this horse was SO TERRIFIED of water at one point in her life.

Trail towards the river.
She went down the little bank into the water and trudged confidently through it. We took the small path up the other side of the river that Charles and I discovered recently onto the new-to-us trails over by the train tracks.

That trail leading up the bank on the far side.
These are all photos that I've already shown you in past posts, but this was our first ride putting together all the loops we've discovered with Charles, and it's a good way of illustrating what we did on this day. :)

We then turned left onto this section of trail:

Lily trotted on down through here.
And then at the end, we turned right to go up this hill that I had told you guys about:

Lily galloped up, ears pricked, grunting happily with every stride (yes, she grunts when she gallops. It cracks me up.) Neither of the two other options leading back down this hill would take us back to the river but I knew another alternate route that took us through the trees down a much easier incline, and back down towards the water.

See that trail through the trees straight ahead? We came out through there.
We splashed through the water and up a tiny deer trail on the opposite bank, spooking a young stag that had been dozing in the shadows. Lily startled but headed straight through the chest-high grass back towards the river trail. We turned right, in the direction of the airstrip.

We galloped up the next incline and came out onto the path next to the airstrip. Lily and I continued straight on, through the hayfields and back into the woods, galloping up every hill and incline, moving out at her race-pace trot on the flats.

As I unleashed up yet another hill and watched the earth disappear under her thundering hooves, I couldn't help getting goosebumps: there is something amazing about galloping a confident horse over a familiar trail. Lily was having an absolute BLAST on this outing and I was grinning from ear to ear.

We went back through the woods, past the mare field and around the big hay field across the driveway from our barn building. It's another mile around. This leads onto the airstrip and the landfill site.

I yearn to gallop over the flat hardpack around the landfill area but Lily HATES this site.

Landfill site. Up close it looks like you've landed in the desert. Or Mars.
Note Mareface's question mark ears. 
Let me explain why I'm drawn to it:

Back on the island, in our little neck of the woods, at the boarding barn near our house where I kept my horses, I had access to a small arena. A very small arena. And a very small pasture that doubled as a turnout. I can't tell you how incredibly BORING it is to go around and around in circles in a tiny arena that likes to flood at one end every time it rains (which was EVERY. SINGLE. DAY because this was the tropics.) Which is how I started riding on the streets. On weekends only because there was far less traffic (I stuck to the arena on weekdays). Especially on Sundays, because on Sundays the drivers of the huge construction Mack trucks that liked to fly around our winding 1.5 lane back country roads at 65 mph were off.

And what did that mean? It meant that all of the construction sites were closed. Empty. Devoid of people working in them.

What did that mean? That if you could find a way to sneak in, they were the only places where it was safe (as in no cars, no pavement) to do fun stuff. Like pace all over creation at 30 mph. And gallop. And just have an absolute ball with your horse because you had all of this LAND to run around on that had been previously flattened and packed down by trucks and cranes and stuff.

Hence why every time we ride past the landfill site, I find myself studying all of the lanes created by the trucks bringing in earth to fill the site. And checking out that long strip straight ahead that you can see in the photo above, where you could pretty much gallop flat-out for a good half mile if you really, really wanted to.

If you could convince your horse, that is. ;) Lily thinks the landfill site, with its changing earth colors and textures, is full of landmines and deathtraps. I don't blame her: for a horse who has never seen anything like that before, it really is like landing on Mars.

So I've been making a point of taking her through there every time we head out and trying to convince her, "Lily this is AWESOME! Check it out!"
And Lily is all, "But-but...there's a rock SHADOW! It could be a HOLE! And what is that blackness? Another hole? It's an ocean of blackness! Why are you making me trot towards it? AAAHH..."
Me: "It's just asphalt that has been ground into the dirt! See? It's basically black-colored dirt! You can CANTER on it!" [There is a section of dirt that is currently black from asphalt residue or something. It really is just black earth]
Lily: "I CANNOT."
Me: "Yes you can! You can at least trot on it!"
Lily: "I can walk on it. Very carefully. Because this could turn into lava at any moment."
Me: *Rolls eyes*

I was actually able to get her to trot most of the way down the earth straightaway, with TONS of praise and neck pats and "Good girl"s.

Once we reached the end of the black dirt, I cued a canter and, in a fit of sudden bravery, pointed her at a tiny 2' bank of earth on our right. There was grass and good footing at the top of it, plus the trail was beyond.

This bank.
Lily pricked her ears and went, "I go up 10' banks. This ain't nothing!" And owned that little bank.

We trotted on, back down through the woods, and we walked the rest of the way home from there.

Lily was sweaty and lathery but happy and she actually wanted to continue trotting. I was beyond thrilled with her. We had completed 7 miles in an hour.

This is what negative splits looks like. :)
Not a huge elevation gain, but you can see how hilly these trails are.

Happy Mareface after 7 fast miles!
Lily had a well-deserved bath, an electrolyte mash, and the next day off to rest. :)