When a Blue Ribbon is an Epic Fail

Posted November 24, 2020 by heccateisis
Categories: #besthorseintheworld, #smartesthorseintheworld, besthorseintheworld, Medical Hoo Haa, Responsible horse ownership, trail riding, Uncategorized

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Blue

A few weeks ago, Jigs placed first at a versatility. It was totally unexpected and not our best performance…ahem… well, not MY best performance. I took him off course and totally skipped an obstacle.  Not sure how we won our division….

What is worse is I rode the course and 4 trail miles without my helmet. When someone asked where it was at mile 2, I froze. My brain was foggy.  I went back and retrieved it from my truck to finish the second loop.

Riding without a helmet is a huge NO for me. I have fallen enough times to know its value. When I flew off Pepper onto the pavement, my Troxel was cracked front to back.  That would have been my head.

And there was the time I got bucked off hard and ended up in the ER with a bruised hip. That night I had also forgotten my helmet but remembered as I started to mount. I ran back to the barn to get it. Who knows what would have happened if I had not?

Riding with a helmet is my rule.

I have been struggling with Vertigo over the last month. One episode was so bad my daughter took me to the ER. A saline drip and a few meds got me through that frightening morning.

A follow up visit to my doctor resulted in removal of wax and another appointment to check on my blood pressure. I have been doing exercises to help reposition the crystals in my ears, but the dizziness is recurring.

My daughter who is an ER medic has been taking my blood pressure almost daily. Seems like I may suffer from white coat syndrome as it is still high but not dangerously high as it was in the ER and the Doctor’s office.

I suspect my physical issues reflect the world around me. 2020 has been stressful for EVERYONE. I must keep reminding myself how lucky I am. Maybe that is why I do not feel like I earned a blue ribbon for a less than perfect performance- even though Jigs was joyful on the course.

Joyful

My problems are first world. I have food, a place to live, and a horse to ride, while others wait in line for hours to get a box of food so their families can eat.

Thanksgiving is approaching. I will focus on being thankful. The undeserved blue ribbon is a reminder of how lucky I have been in this long, stressful year.

Of Bunnies and Dragons

Posted October 6, 2020 by heccateisis
Categories: Uncategorized

This blog was started to capture my journey with horses. Returning to this passion later in life has given me moments of joy and, at times, although thankfully few, of despair.

That is how it is with animals who are not as long lived as humans. I am getting older. So is Jigs. The plan is for us to have another 10 years of adventure.

My tendency is to obsess over every little thing. My brain fixates on the worst possible scenario. A small bump becomes life-threatening.

I cannot relax.

Jigs lives in each moment. Startled by a bunny, he spooks, forgets it a moment later, and resumes grazing. Acceptance.

Comfortable in his own skin; I am not. Consumed by what ifs, the small bunnies become huge dragons.

Jigs

Everything I have read is that horses mirror our state of mind, yet Jigs appears immune to my neuroses. This puzzles me.

Unfocused, my passion can be erratic, uncontrollable and damning.  Has he become so impervious to my waves of unrelenting energy that he has tuned me out?

I want to be better a better partner. One who celebrates the baby steps and silences the roaring in my head.  I want to stop wanting and just be. 

Camping at Myles Standish

Posted September 18, 2020 by heccateisis
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Jigs and I had a fabulous time horse camping at Myles Standish State Forest (MSSF). Unlike Otter Creek where we stayed in a luxury “cabin” and turnout, I slept in a tent near Jigs. All night, I could hear quiet munching through my sleep.

And I slept well. Better than on my new mattress at home. I broke down and bought a low-end air mattress for this trip. What a difference from sleeping on the ground or even a cot. The mattress supported my hip; I did not wake sore or stiff.

The trails off the horse camps at MSSF are soft and sandy. Footing allows for miles of canter and gallop, if so inclined- and this old lady was not. Campsites are minimal with water spigots between them. There is no electricity other than in the camp bathrooms.  Cell service was spotty at best.  True camping.

Swimming

Disengaged from reality, I relaxed.

It was great to spend four days with Jigs. As a boarder, I do not normally feed. It was fun to be the “food lady” for a change. There is a special bond between horse and the person who feeds. For a few days, I got to feel that again.

Feeding Time

Do I wish I could keep my horse home? Yes and no.  Yes, because I miss the joy of early morning feeding and the bond formed by more one on one interaction.  But boarding has widened my circle and there is usually someone to ride with. Jigs gets to be in a herd. These factors make boarding a good option for us.  I suspect if Jigs were home with me, I would not ride as much. He would not be happy without his herd.  

The Herd

The Waste Land

Posted September 12, 2020 by heccateisis
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2020 has become a cliché. In January, the year was full of potential and then, Covid.

It feels wrong for me to complain. I have a home, work, family, friends….my pony. Massachusetts has remained low risk for months. I got to go camping twice. What does it matter that events were canceled?  My frustration is a first world problem of privilege for which I feel guilt.

Culture is constant catharsis. The pandemic exposed inequalities that must be addressed, that must be resolved. As I reflect on my life, I am aware of the advantages I was born to- advantages I did not recognize before 2020 and the virus.  

Then spoke the thunder

DA

Datta: what have we given?

My friend, blood shaking my heart

The awful daring of a moment’s surrender

Which an age of prudence can never retract

-T.S. Elliot, The Waste Land.

I wonder, what have I given?

Growing Old Together

Posted July 12, 2020 by heccateisis
Categories: Uncategorized, Living in the moment, trail riding, Responsible horse ownership, #besthorseintheworld, #smartesthorseintheworld

Jigs has been with me for over 11 years. He is 17. What a gift his companionship has been. Always steady, always ready for our next adventure.

Neither of us are getting younger. I am vigilant for the signs of aging. I stress about whether I should add supplements to his diet. Yesterday it was hot and humid, but he was still game to go.  Today he was game but tired. We rode out early to beat the heat and the flies, so maybe he was just wanting to finish his breakfast.

Honestly, at the beginning, I was not convinced Jigs was the right horse for me.  I agreed to take him home on trial that Sunday in February. It had not been a week since I put Pepper down. It was too soon. Jigs was too small, the wrong color. I had a list of excuses.

My heart was heavy.

I went to look at him because a fellow boarder was kind to me. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. She insisted he was right for me. I went with no intention of taking him. Then I walked around the corner and saw the diminutive but larger than life red pony waiting. His look said, here I am, what took you so long?

Board was paid for the month.  He could go back before the trial ended. I had an empty trailer. What did I have to lose?

My heart.

Was it easy? No.

Photo by Pictorial Tales By Bethani

Jigs exudes confidence. He most definitely is NOT low in herd order. While not a bully, I have seen him move horses twice his size with a flick of an ear. He did it today when another horse approached his favorite roll spot. I think his leadership is due to his quiet confidence. The herd trusts him.

I am timid and lack confidence- always second guessing myself, my abilities.

Despite our differences, we fit together well.

I do not push him too hard when we are learning new things, so it takes us longer. We get there but it is give and take.

A few times when I’ve been absolutely stuck, I’ve let experienced trainers get on him and watch my sweet gelding transform into a different horse- resistant and unwilling.   

My vet, who has taken care of Jigs longer than I have owned him, commented that once Jigs decides not to do something, you cannot make him. He is stubborn. She is right.

I have heard through the equine grapevine that Jigs’ last owner was afraid of him.

Afraid of Jigs?

That is incomprehensible to me.

Jigs has his quirks, but he is funny and engaging. While you cannot FORCE him to do anything he does not want to do, you can usually get him to want to do it. It must make sense to him.

And once he learns something, he does not forget it.

I love my little red pony. We are growing old together but there are still many adventures ahead of us.

Horse Camping at Otter Creek

Posted July 5, 2020 by heccateisis
Categories: Uncategorized, horses, trail riding, Responsible horse ownership, #besthorseintheworld, #smartesthorseintheworld

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Jigs and I just got back from a wonderful vacation at Otter Creek Horse Trails in upstate New York. Travel between Massachusetts and New York is allowed due to declining Covid cases in both states. It was just my friend, a fellow boarder, and me staying with our horses.

Living Room
Stall with Turnout

Not camping like we usually do!

The private camp cabin where we stayed had strict, but sensible guidelines for safety. As for social distancing, we only encountered a few other riders in 5 days of riding. Our private cabin was away from the main New York State camping area which is currently closed for overnight camping. We did trailer down to ride there midweek and only ran into one other group of riders.

The trails at Otter Creek are amazing with sandy footing in most places. Trails were marked by names and the map provided by the facility was well done. We may have “missed” a few turns, but mostly because we were flying along having fun!

Picnic areas with water sources and a place to tie out were also marked on the map. Each day we planned a route with lunch in mind and a place to rest up the horses.

Lunch Break

Time flew by too fast and alas, we are back.

I highly recommend Horse Camps at Otter Creek and the horse trails and hope to return someday soon.

Hacking Out in the Pandemic

Posted May 9, 2020 by heccateisis
Categories: #besthorseintheworld, #smartesthorseintheworld, besthorseintheworld, horses, Living in the moment, Responsible horse ownership, Uncategorized

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Weeks into lock down.

The only places, other than the grocery store, I go is to the barn and the local trails. My horse is boarded close to an awesome conservation area. I am blessed to be able to ride. Other owners are not as lucky and are unable to visit their horses, let alone ride. I cannot imagine how heartbreaking that is.

I would be a mess without this respite. Uncertainty can be crippling.

This Spring was supposed to be crowded with organized rides and maybe a show or two. Weekends are empty of events.  So, we hack out.

Small Brook

In the fifteen plus years I have been riding these trails, I have never seen them so crowded with families and bikers. It is wonderful, but I worry it could negatively impact equine access. While many are thrilled to encounter a “real horse,” others complain horses are “ruining” the trails and pose a safety risk.

Last weekend we encountered a woman with a large dog she was struggling to control. She screamed at us to go another way because the trail was “too muddy” for horses. As we do in these situations, we thanked her for the information and complied with her request.

We checked the trail later; it was not muddy. My suspicion is she was afraid she could not handle her aggressive dog.

I wish I could say encounters like this are rare, but they are not. As an ambassador for my sport. I must remain calm and avoid being confrontational. Especially now when everyone is frustrated and, many, afraid.

This pandemic will not last forever.  When the world returns to what will be the “new normal”, I do hope that those who have turned to the trails to escape boredom will continue to use them. Even more, I hope they decide to become active in preserving them.

As for horses sharing trails? There is room enough for all users to enjoy the natural world around us.  Perhaps others will come to understand what we trail riders have always known- trails are a gateway into nature and a bit of heaven on Earth.

Be safe!

Partners

Posted April 18, 2020 by heccateisis
Categories: #besthorseintheworld, #smartesthorseintheworld, besthorseintheworld, horses, Living in the moment, poetry of apaul, Responsible horse ownership, trail riding, Uncategorized

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Horses saved my life twice, once when I was a rebellious teen and again in middle age. I don’t speak much about the recurring depression that rises out of my insecurities, of my anxiety. The presence of my horse lifts this shadow. My eyes dilate when I gaze on him and I see the world as a more perfect place.  My breath slows to match his. My heart beats with his. Together, we remain in a moment where the past is gone and the future, immaterial.

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The human/equine symbiotic relationship is hard for non-horse lovers to understand. Some humans are born to bond with these magnificent beings. Our souls long for their presence. On their backs, we fly. We walk more confident beside them.

I am grateful for the grace my horse shares with me in these strange times. Perhaps, I am saved again.

Leap Day or Smartest Pony in the World

Posted February 29, 2020 by heccateisis
Categories: #besthorseintheworld, #smartesthorseintheworld, besthorseintheworld, horses, poetry of apaul, Responsible horse ownership, trail riding, Uncategorized

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An extra day.  February has always been fickle.  Too windy for me to ride due to memories of a fall from Pepper that ended in a broken ankle, I decided it best to keep my feet on the ground.

Jigs I and took a walk through the woods. We do that occasionally. He seems to enjoy it and I believe it is good for relationship building.

We walked down to the old “pine grove” where we used to ride when boarding at the other barn. The local land trust recently purchased the property, but not before loggers made a mess of the trails. We had to bushwhack through their debris.

I encountered burdock. Placing my mittens on ground, I struggled to remove the annoying stickies from my leggings. Somehow Jigs had avoided them. I let out an exasperated breath.  Jigs lowered his head, grabbed one of my mittens and handed it to me.

Oh, of course, he was expecting a treat. His nose was already at my pocket.

“What about that one?” I asked Jigs pointing to the remaining mitten. He picked up and handed it to me.  Another treat.

I have been working for years on teaching Jigs to ‘fetch’ hats and gloves with the hope that one day, it could be a useful trick if I dropped something from his back.  

In all that time, he has never handed me something without being asked. Today, he just did it- no cue. It was like he anticipated I was going to get the mittens and decided to help out.

“Smart pony,” I said scratching behind his ear. “Maybe you can lead yourself sometime like Olive.”

Olive is the lab who lives with me. When I put her on the leash, she will pick up the end and lead herself to the door.

I was only kidding when I said that to Jigs.

Pleased with my pony’s intelligence, we came out of the woods and walked up the road. It had gotten warmer. I stopped to take off my mittens, inadvertently dropping the lead rope.

Jigs looked at it and then at me. Slowly, he dropped his head, picked up the lead rope and handed it to me.

His look was clear, “where is my cookie?”

#besthorseintheworld  #smartesthorseintheworld

Smartest Pony in the World

2020

Posted February 15, 2020 by heccateisis
Categories: #besthorseintheworld, aging parents, Family, horses, Living in the moment, poetry of apaul, Responsible horse ownership, trail riding, Uncategorized

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My January 1st ritual every year is to remove Jigs’ ribbons above his stall. It is how I refocus on new goals, new challenges.   It is mid-February and they are still up. 2019 was a tough year. I lost my mother. The ribbons are a reminder there were positive moments.  I really need to take them down.

Last Sunday was The Bay State Trail Riders Association’s annual meeting and banquet. I’d almost forgotten Jigs and I had won the Judged Pleasure Ride and qualified for a year end award.  To my delight, the award was a beautiful riding skirt that matches my saddle! 

I was so excited; I drove from the banquet right to the barn to try it out!

Rding Skirt

Riding Skirt

It is perfect.

I don’t know what 2020 will bring, maybe a few more ribbons, maybe myriad meandering trail rides. And when the weather is wet and cold, I will be wearing a lovely turquoise riding skirt!