Second Place

Posted September 27, 2019 by heccateisis
Categories: #besthorseintheworld, besthorseintheworld, horses, Living in the moment, Responsible horse ownership, trail riding, Uncategorized

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I think the best feature of my phone is the ability to put Jig’s photo on the home page. I glance at it throughout the day and smile. It doesn’t get changed often, but a few weeks ago I uploaded a photo of him with his second place ribbon at the Marshfield Fair.

I know second place is not winning, but it is the best placing we have ever had at Marshfield. Two of our three runs where clean and the last one was fluid. It felt right. I met my goal of cantering between obstacles and stopping correctly. Although the course was simple and there were not as many participants as past years, I accepted the placing proudly.

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Second Place Marshfield Fair 2019

My riding and confidence has improved thanks to lessons. After a few weeks of decent practices and solid lessons, I felt ready to compete in the skilled division at last week’s versatility.

I was wrong.

The courses had jumps that the skilled division was required to canter over. Jumping is one of my fears. When I first got Jigs, I told him, “no jumping.” He seems okay with that arrangement.

Frankly, the jumps on the course were low enough for us to pop over at a trot. We’ve never cantered over one before. Our jumping to that point has been limited to trotting over logs on the trail or a small cavaletti or two in the ring.

My first instinct was to drop down a division, but that didn’t feel right. The year before we won at the lower level. It felt like cheating. And it was likely too late.

I decided to try.

The thing about me is my brain gets in the way of my body. We did the first obstacle, a garrocha pole, fine. After putting the pole back, I hesitantly asked for a canter. Jigs sensed my ambivalence and launched into an awkward pop over the jump. He landed at the canter and overshot the next obstacle, a side pass. We knocked the first and all the subsequent poles loose.

It got worse as the course went on. At some point, I managed to get my hands tangled in the reins.

While I didn’t get us DQ’d, the judge didn’t award many points.

I deleted the video my friend made from the sideline before looking at it.

Resting After Our Loss

Resting After Our Loss

I rode a little better in the next class, but not enough to beat anyone in my division. I was hesitant and did not receive points for jumping the balance beam because I did it at the trot, not the canter.

I sulked for a couple days, feebly riding in the ring not accomplishing anything.

You know how thoughts goes round and round like a marble dropped in a bowl? Noisy, and wobbly?

If I wanted to jump, wouldn’t I be at a different show? Why did the judged class have two jumps? One of the reasons I like local versatility is the lack of jumps.

What right did I have trying to compete at my age, at my riding skill level? Why bother?

The Marshfield buzz was gone.

I signed up for a trail ride. That was something we could do. Maybe it is all Jigs and I should do. Maybe we should skip the next competitions. After all we are both getting older.

Wednesday was lesson night. I had no intention of telling my instructor what happened, but she found out anyway.

Immediately she set up a cross rail for us. It was about the same height of the first jump on the course. We trotted over it hesitantly. Again, again, and again. She had me stop after each jump.

And then she commanded, “canter. I asked Jigs weakly. Nope. He trotted faster.

“Again” she said. This time he cantered over the cross rails without actually jumping, his back hooves hitting them.

“Again.”

This went on for a bit and then it happened, Jigs jumped and stopped.

“See, you can do it,” my instructor said.

It was the right place to end the lesson.

While I’m looking forward to the trail ride this weekend, I’m also looking forward to the competitions the following weekend. I know we won’t win our classes, but with patience and a calm mind, we just might do okay. That red ribbon on my phone’s home page is a good reminder of what we can do.

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Summer Blahs

Posted August 15, 2019 by heccateisis
Categories: #besthorseintheworld, besthorseintheworld, Family, horses, Living in the moment, Responsible horse ownership, trail riding, Uncategorized

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Summer is burning to a slow end. It is mid-August.

Jigs and I have not done much other than lessons. It’s been a season of canceled events, the most recent due to the heat and humidity July threw at us. Too hot to move. Not safe for the horses.

Lessons have continued. Slight progress has been made, but it seems the more I learn, the more I am aware of my shortcomings. I’m not an athlete. I mix up left and right. My cues are awkward. I am not quiet and talk to much to Jigs with hands, legs, and voice. A hot mess.  I’ve given up on ever showing or competing seriously in versatility.

On the plus side, Jigs looks fantastic. He is lean and muscled as never before. Consistency is good for him. This summer I commissioned a painting of him that now hangs in my living room.

jig painting

I am looking forward to fall and the cooler weather when we can trailer out to a few organized rides. Perhaps then my usual optimism will return.

My Mother’s Birthday

Posted July 3, 2019 by heccateisis
Categories: #besthorseintheworld, aging parents, besthorseintheworld, Family, horses, Living in the moment, Responsible horse ownership, Uncategorized

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Jigs on a trail ride

I’ve always been that bizarre little girl who obsesses about horses. I am convinced it is genetic.

It’s weird because the horse stories in my family are not positive. My mother used to tell me about my grandmother, Concepcion Morales Martin. She grew up in the Cuban mountains near the city of Cienfuegos. When she was a young girl, her father would bring produce to the local city. One time, the colt of the horse that pulled the cart kicked her. She was in a coma for days. When my great grandfather returned from his trip, he made a pledge to the virgin in the local church- his daughter’s life for a gold hat.

My grandmother woke from her coma. The hat was presented to the Virgin.

My grandmother once told me she was upset because while she was “sleeping,” her sisters got first pick of the parasols that her father brought back from the city. She said she was left with the “ugly one.”

My mother heard the story and was terrified of horses.

And then there was me.

It was an obsession. I remember riding the spring horse aggressively in the spare bedroom. I just knew, even at the age of 3, I belonged on a horse.

I grew up pretending I was one. Summers were spent at my grandmother’s. I would run in the woods- a wild horse. When I found The Black Stallion books, I was hooked. Margarite Henry was another favorite. My first ride was on a pony owned by a friend of my parents. I stayed on as we crossed the lawn. Past the driveway, I fell off. I wanted to get back on but was told “no”.

My mother was afraid. My father was afraid. Eventually I got to play with a neighbor’s pony. I fell off Princess more than I stayed on; I hid my falls from my parents. I got a lesson at a local stable, but when the barn sour horse ran home with me, my father said no more.

One Summer the plan was to send me to horse camp. My parents decided to install an inground pool instead. They said they could not afford both. I never recovered from the disappointment.

After a detour down the wrong path, my parent finally allowed me to get my own horse at 15- a yearling. I know, green rider, green horse, bad idea, but for Freedom and me, it worked.

I never should have agree to sell him to attend college. Selling Freedom is my one regret in life.

In my 60’s, I am still that obsessed child. This time I have Jigs. He is all I could have wanted. He keeps me sane.

For years. I blamed my mother for not sending me to horse camp. I never learned proper riding techniques. Shortly before her death, she admitted to me that the pool was a ruse. My father was afraid I would be hurt at horse camp. She wanted me to go.

The death of my mother this April has been hard. I am a loner, but for Jigs. He grounds me. He keeps me connected to my barn friends. He is my life saver.

Funny thing is, not once did my mother touch him.

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Joe and Helen Paul 25th Wedding Anniversary

Photo Shoot

Posted April 14, 2019 by heccateisis
Categories: #besthorseintheworld, aging parents, besthorseintheworld, horses, Living in the moment, Responsible horse ownership, trail riding, Uncategorized

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I have never been comfortable with having my photo taken but when a friend, who is a talented photographer and fellow barn rat, offered to take some photos of Jigs, I thought, it might be fun, so why not?

The pictures are stunning. Bethani captured quiet moments between Jigs and me.

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And as you can see, Jig’s is a bit of a ham!

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I highly recommend Pictorial Tales By Bethani.

Helen Marina Paul July 4, 1933 – April 3, 2019

Posted April 13, 2019 by heccateisis
Categories: #besthorseintheworld, aging parents, Family, horses, Living in the moment, Medical Hoo Haa, Responsible horse ownership, Uncategorized

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helen paul at cape seal tour

The past two weeks have been incredibly difficult. My mother passed away on April 3. The death certificate lists the time at 1:34 AM, but it was earlier because it took the nurse 45 minutes to come.  It’s funny how details like that stick in your mind.

My mother’s congestive heart failure had worsened; she refused treatment. At 85, she was tired. Her world had shrunken. She missed my father and all who passed before.  She wanted to stay home and was terrified she would end up in a nursing home. I could not allow that.

Hospice was invoked on Monday; she was gone barely into Wednesday. She was not alone. We were all there.

Since then I have been consumed by the things that have to happen when someone dies- Wake, funeral, finances, taxes. There is still more to do.

My girls and Jigs have kept me sane. Everyone has been so kind.

My eldest did the remembrance at the funeral. I just couldn’t do it. It was beautiful and she captured our best memories.

The house feels empty.  I have been staying here almost 15 years- since my father got sick.

Taking care of my mother was the core focus the past few years. I’m not sure what will happen next. It is all changed now. I guess my life will settle into a new pattern. I will adjust, but I will always miss her.

Mud Season

Posted March 17, 2019 by heccateisis
Categories: #besthorseintheworld, besthorseintheworld, horses, Responsible horse ownership, trail riding, Uncategorized

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Overnight, snow morphed into mud.  Got to love New England!

Two weeks ago, I had to cancel my lesson because my trailer was frozen to the driveway.  (Lesson learned, don’t forget the wooden block).

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This week, it is too muddy to trailer out. (I once managed to get my trailer stuck in the mud, learned that lesson too.)

Some of the barn gals and I tried to get out on the trails, but it was too muddy; we returned back to the barn disappointed. It is sad to have a 50 degree day and not be able to ride.

Out of respect for the trails, it is best to stay off them until the mud dries up.

It’s tricky keeping horses in suburbia. Unless we trailer out to a State or National Park, we ride shorter local trails heavily used by mountain bikers, runners, hikers, dog walkers, and families. Some of them are not thrilled about horses sharing their trails. In some towns, horses already have been prohibited access.

Manure is a concern that continues to surface as a complaint. One argument I have heard is that if dog waste must be carried out of the woods, so should horse waste.  Unlike dog feces, horse manure does not contain significant pathogens that pose risk to humans or the environment. Horses are herbivores and their droppings break down quickly.

However, I understand the “ick” factor. Horse poo is large and other trail users do not want to step in it. If Jigs goes on a high traffic trail, I do get off and kick it out of the way as a courtesy. Of course, he is only 14.3 hands, so getting back on is not as much a challenge as a 16 plus hand horse would be.

I also try to be courteous to fellow trail users- many of whom have no livestock experience. I consider myself an ambassador for my sport. Friendly conversational education goes a long way to promote good will.

Will it be enough? Maybe. Maybe not. The equestrian community must take an active role in maintaining our access to trails. Some ways to do this include attending local meetings, trail work days, and joining trail organizations.

I belong to the Bay State Trail Riders Association. BSTRA has spent years supporting multi-use trails in Massachusetts. Through their advocacy, trail riders have a strong voice and a mechanism to give back to the trails.  Visit http://www.bstra.org to view the list of projects they have completed. It is impressive.

There are clubs like this all over the country. If maintaining access for trail riding is important to you, I recommend you seek out organizations in your area and add your voice and hands to the fight.

Birthday

Posted January 13, 2019 by heccateisis
Categories: #besthorseintheworld, Family, horses, Living in the moment, Responsible horse ownership, trail riding, Uncategorized

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My family doesn’t celebrate adult birthdays. I can’t tell you the last time I had a cake. Not that I care.

Today is my birthday. I am officially over 60.

I chose today to scan my fading photos of Freedom. The old Kodak and Polaroid snapshots don’t age as well as me. Going through them has made me a little sad and a lot grateful for the life I was given.

I try not to regret anything. It’s wasted time. That doesn’t mean we cannot learn from our failures, our mistakes. In some ways, they can be a gift if we don’t rip them open carelessly.

But there is one regret I have been unable to leave behind. It is Freedom. The hurt of having to sell him to go to college is as fresh at 61 as it was at 18. My regret is that I did not fight hard enough to convince my parents to let me keep him.

Saying Goodbye August 1976

Saying Goodbye 1976

I do believe if I had not sold him, my life would be different.

Freedom was purchased by a woman who promised she would give us first right of refusal. I did visit him once, about a year after he left me.  I tried to contact her again, but the number was disconnected.

last visit

Last Visit with an Old Friend

I found out years later that she had gone through a nasty divorce. Freedom and her other horse, went to auction.

He was a good-looking appaloosa, well bred, so there is a chance he landed safely. I did reach out to the Appaloosa Horse Club to try to find his new owner, but I was still listed. The paperwork was never transferred.

I don’t know what that means. I hope he found a family to cherish him the way I did.  I think about him every day. He lives in my heart.