Archive for the ‘Living in the moment’ category

Another Line off the Bucket List

September 10, 2022

Ranch horse class scratched off the bucket list. Okay, only walk trot, but the first real ring show I have been in since 4-H in my teens- almost 50 years ago!

We took 5th places in Ranch Equitation and Pattern at the Blandford Fair.  The latter because there were 5 entries. I am proud of Equitation. It was a larger class; we were not last. We ribboned despite Jigs picking up the canter twice. Not sure if the judge saw it.

Ranch Equitation – 5th Place

We were last in Halter (HATED IT) and Pleasure. Jigs does not have a slow jog and is too quick for quarter horse type classes.

There were 70 plus classes on the day. It was a long wait for 4 classes- less than 45 minutes in the ring.

Will I do another ring show? Not likely, although I did like the pattern class. At my age it is hard to remember required transitions, let alone get the red pony to slow down and extend his trot.

The ribbons were pretty. Our 360s in both directions were perfect! And I know what we must work on- speed control, halt, staying in gait.  Fixing these will improve our ability to be competitive in Mountain Trail Challenges.

We hit the trails yesterday for the first time in over a month. I had a relaxed pony and worked on trot/halt transitions. We did not canter. Still not 100% comfortable with speed on the trails- especially when I am alone, which is 100% of the time.

Our plan was cow sorting tonight, but the event was canceled. Really bummed. Jigs loves chasing cows. Trying to find things he likes so he doesn’t get sour. Next week is another Mountain Trail Challenge! He does seem to like them. Now if we can just get the 180 turn on an obstacle. That is our goal this year!

Putting in the Effort

August 20, 2022

Lesson do make a difference.

Downhill Trot
Trailhead
trailhead

Wish I had more time to practice.

Good pony

Sure love my pony!

Adult Level 2 Trail Mountain Challenge

Adult Lessons

May 12, 2022

I have not posted in a while. Lessons and clinics consume my weekends, work my weekdays, several contain a commute. 

Lessons are focused on breaking through the barrier of insecurity and fear. Trail riding is a rare event as I work to become a better rider for my 19-year-old pony. I know it’s silly to anthropomorphize horse behavior, but Jigs truly seems to enjoy the first half hour of our lessons- especially the cantering part. Beyond that, not so much.  

Working Equitation Clinic

Fun moments are strung between frustrating ones.  I’m relearning to balance both trot and canter. Proper riding is critical for elder fitness.

I struggle with turns on the forehand, turns on the haunches. Last lesson my instructor put a whip through my elbows and behind my back to retrain my hands – like a kid learning the basics. But I understand this is needed to get clean turns.  Years of structureless riding built up bad habits of hands, body, and mind. Retraining is hard but then there are the moments when it comes together, and we get a neat turn or canter to a clean stop between poles. There is a glimmer of what can be.

Days are longer, Summer, nearly here. There will be more lessons, clinics, and maybe even a few competitions. Balancing the canter is not unlike life, it’s about slowing down, sometimes even stopping to gather yourself and try again.

“Losing the Plot”

February 17, 2022

I am losing the plot

I am grieving the end of superwoman-ing

I have laid down my cape

As though I haven’t risen like a phoenix from a thousand deaths

As though I haven’t been reborn to notice that my mission is not dead yet

Alanis Morissette – Losing the Plot

My daughters love Alanis Morrisette. She was an inspiration to them in the 90s. I was young enough to appreciate Jagged Little Pill too. Raw and honest, she gave us permission to be angry, to rage, to be crazy, to love, to stand up for ourselves.

Over the years we have gone to Alanis concerts together. We saw the musical Jagged Little Pill at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA, and again the first month it opened on Broadway. What an amazing pre-covid New York memory that is.

I have come to love adult Alanis. Her last album, Such Pretty Forks in the Road, contains mature female angst. The struggle of balancing family, work, joy, depression, anger….  The wide swings from ordinary, to extraordinary, to sadness, to madness, it is all there.

Adulting is hard. Finding balance between bliss and drudgery is maddening. Some days there is no time. Fear trips the scale toward unbearable, leading to avoidance. Awareness of mortality is a buzz kill.

Cookies?

Not much riding since fall. Weather, time, obligations, and avoidance are barriers.  Most weekdays I do not visit Jigs. On a good day, I get to sneak to the barn at lunch and play treat dispenser. I rarely ride any longer. Some days we just walk.

For now, that must be enough.   

Walking with the pony

The snow is melting and the mud will dry. Lessons start next week. We are signed up for clinics.

I sing along with with Alanis, “the fire is not out yet.”

More Goddard Park Memories

November 12, 2021

I love riding at Goddard Memorial State Park in Warwick RI.  6-miles of woodsy trails run parallel to Greenwich Cove. The views are spectacular. Off seasons, horses are allowed on the beach. Over the years, Jigs and I have collected memories of sun, friends, and even spooky moments there.

During one of our first rides, Jigs spooked sideward at a squirrel, mid canter. Miraculously I stayed with him. My friends behind me commented we looked like Wile E Coyote getting jumped by the Roadrunner. I still chuckle thinking of it.

Another time Jigs kept creeping up on the mare in front, despite my best efforts. She got fed up with our rudeness. He took both back hooves in the center of his chest. I can still hear to hollow sound of the connection.

Even after years of visiting the park, Jigs refuses to canter in the water, but waves and boats no longer trouble him.

Last Sunday we made a few more memories. Thank you to my friends, Bethany of Pictorial Tales Photography and Kathy for the lovely photos!

The point
Along the Bay
The Bay

If you get a chance to ride there, I encourage you to make some memories of your own.

Comfort Zone

August 22, 2021

As I sit awaiting tropical storm Henri, I reflect on last weekend’s adventures. It’s easy to stay within your comfort zone, but growth comes from challenging yourself.

Saturday Jigs and I competed in the Mountain Trail Challenge at Mountain Lane Farm in Temple, New Hampshire. Their mountain trail course was designed by Mark Bolender. It is the only one in New England. We completed one of Mountain Lanes’ clinics in May with friends so that we could attend course play days, but we never made time to do that.

279

I decided to attend their August competition anyway. After all, I bought the new trailer so that we could try different things. This was the first time I trailered Jigs alone since acquiring the Featherlite. He’s been iffy backing off it, but it was not an issue for him Saturday!

Swinging Bridge – Photo Courtesy Mountain Lane Farm
Water – Photo Credit Mountain Lane Farm

My goal was to compete in four classes, Level I Rider which is walk over moving obstacles and Level II Rider, walk, trot, which includes 180 and 360-degree turns. In retrospect, I probably should have done Novice and Level I since 360-degree turns are a work in progress for us! We also could be crisper side-passing and backing up.  On the other hand, Level II was a stretch and I now know what to focus on.

Well Earned Snack

We placed in both Level I classes, Open and Adult taking 3rd and a 4th. There were some amazing horse and riders in our division, and I am proud of our placings.  After ribbons were handed out, the judge came by and paid us a compliment. She said she saw Jigs and I have a great partnership! I was glowing.

Try- 360 Top of the Cake – Photo Courtesy of Mountain Lane Farm
Balance Beam – Photo Courtesy of Mountain Lane Farm

I doubt we placed in Level II but I do not know. I ended up scratching our last Level II class because I needed to be home by 4. I would have stayed if it was not for the commitment. While we were not competitive, I am proud of Jig’s try.

Bridge on the Course – Photo Courtesy Mountain Lane Farm

There is another competition in October; I’m planning to go!

Sunday was the second adventure. We attended the Baystate Trail Riders Associations’ Galloping Gourmet Ride at Lake Dennison! The ride covered BSTRA’s permanently marked 10-mile route. Unlike trails closer to home, there are few rocks and miles to move out. I think it was the fastest 10 miles I ever rode!

Bridge on Galloping Gourmet Ride

This year I have been struggling with letting Jigs canter on trails due to his tendency to “spook” at things I cannot see. (I laughingly rolled off him trotting at Miles Standish when he swerved at an old car fender trailside.)  His trot is fast enough to keep up with our cantering friends, so it is not an issue. This time, I let go for a few stretches and allowed him canter. Yes, he had a tiny spook but nothing I couldn’t handle.

HI

I’ve been thinking about the line between fear and comfort zone. In my head it gets jumbled up. There is a difference though. Thursday, we had a rare tornado warning as the remnants of Fred passed through the area. When the government emergency alert hit my phone, a sharp quiver jolted my nerves. The hair on my arms stood up. My brain fell apart. I was on a conference call and literally could not understand the speaker’s words. This was primal, instinctual. It told me to MOVE. I’m sure there is a scientific term for this.

Then there is the fear that hovers like a dull headache, always present just below my consciousness, encroaching on my comfort zone. It is shadowy, nebulous, yet it nudges me toward conservative choices- less MOVE, more STAY.

Things such as flying through the woods have become harder. I’m too aware of mortality, of what if, of worst-case scenario. I cannot allow that to take away the joy of loping through the woods or completing up a level. Even in my 60s, I can learn, grow and feel the joy of loping through the woods.

2/21/21 – Or Aging Not So Gracefully

February 21, 2021

3 twos and 2 ones- patterns everywhere.

Into the Woods

February’s pattern is snow and more snow with a few warmish (in the upper 20s low 30s) days between. Footing on the trails is decent. We know where water pools into ice beneath it and are careful- maybe too careful.

Last weekend Jigs and I even managed some extended loping behind my friend and her wonderful mustang. Loping is rare for me on these trails. Without the snow they are rocky and uneven with tree roots.

At 3 plus 60, I have become a cautious rider, almost fearful. I do not canter unless sure of the footing. I no longer ride on the road when alone.

Today Jigs was full of exuberance. He wanted to run when I wanted to jog. My hesitation was a buzz kill. It nearly came to a rare argument.

I feel bad.

Feel bad that I did not give him a chance to stretch out.

Feel bad that I slowed my friend down.

Feel bad not to be that little girl who could fly without consequence.

There is no cure for aging. We shrink. Our bodies lose flexibility. Our bones get brittle. We no longer bounce, even with snow on the ground.

New Years 2021

December 31, 2020

No expectations going into 2021.

Clairvoyance is not my superpower. What will happen, will happen.

Remaining in reverse will not change anything other than digging a muddy rut you cannot escape, even with an 8-cylandar engine and 4-wheel drive.

Best to focus on each moment for what it is. Breathe it in then let it go.

Growing Old Together

July 12, 2020

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.

Hacking Out in the Pandemic

May 9, 2020

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!