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Vision vs. Resolutions

December 30, 2022

No resolutions for 2023. How can I know what my reality will be in three months, six, or eleven? What defines me today may not be relevant tomorrow.

The rational me counters, but without goals how do you get anywhere? Achieve anything? Fair point.

A local news commentator declared successful resolutions are “smart goals.” I’m left pondering if resolutions are goals?  Goals map out a journey toward a larger vision.  

Perhaps the relevant question is what is my vision for 2023 and beyond?

When I was “less old,” I used to play a game where I wrote a letter from my future self to my current self. In it, I described what I had done and was doing. It was an attempt to actualize success. At thirty-five, I thought I had time to meander along paths of distraction. So, I did. Nothing in those letters ever came true.

And now there is less time to “fulfill” a “vision.” But if each step, each moment in time, is a life lived, does it matter? My vision is to continue meandering along the paths of distraction and leave behind trails of joy.

The miracle is that there is still time.

Meandering

Progress

November 6, 2022

So far, November is abnormally warm. With winter coats well started, Jigs sweats even at a light trot. He’s out mostly 24/7 and is only blanketed on extremely cold days, so I do not clip him.

Yesterday was near 70!  Sweaty day for versatility and trail race.

The race goal was to photograph 10 check points in the fastest time.  There were two bonus hands hidden on the 2-mile route that took 5 minutes off your time.

My friend and I entered as a team. We photo’d all check points but moved too fast to find the hands. Although the last check point had a spooky Chucky doll with hands, just not “THE” hands.

The route crossed around and through fields. It has been years since I have been as comfortable at the canter in an open field. It felt wonderful.

Near the end of the race, my phone tangled in my pocket zipper, and we fell behind. Jigs got ‘jiggy” when he lost sight of his friend and I decided to get off and run up the hill to catch up rather than risk an unplanned dismount. Once his buddy was in sight I got back on, and we cantered off.

Unfortunately, my three minutes of nonsense cost us first place. We finished sweaty second.

The versatility was challenging. I stepped out of my ‘comfort zone” and entered the advanced division, knowing I probably would not place. My goal was to canter and we did, all the way through a U shaped pole pattern. I could hear my instructor, in my head, “look where you are going.” It worked. We even stopped as required at the last pole for the back up. Unfortunately I steered Jigs crooked and we timed-out at the second pole set. It didn’t matter, I accomplished my goal!

Another obstacle was an hourglass pattern with 5 small jumps. I hate jumping but we went for it.  Jigs touched the first rail. It stayed up, but we lost a point for the nick. He cleared the rest.

I am proud of our third place!

My friend was champion!

The versatility was the same day as the Mountain Lane Trail Challenge year end awards. I was pleasantly surprised when I got home and learned we were Reserve Champion in Open Level 1, even though the last two challenges, we only competed in level 2!

There is one more judged pleasure ride next weekend that will be for fun only. When I look back to January and where Jigs and I are today, I feel blessed.

Last Trail Challenge of 2022

October 17, 2022

Saturday was the final Mountain Trail Challenge of 2022.  We placed second in adult and first in open level 2, receiving our highest scores ever!

#Besthorseintheworld

What a year! Jigs advanced from Level 1 to Level 2 through lessons, clinics, and practice. I am grateful for everyone who supported us this year. Without them, we would not have met our goal – to compete successfully at level 2.

Tetter Totter

To say I am proud of my horse in an understatement.  I am blessed that we found each other. He’s a forgiving horse. My heart leaps when I hear his nicker.

Texas Two Step

Next year we start work on reaching level 3, which includes 360 degree turns on obstacles and cantering. It will be a stretch, but if we both stay healthy, we can get there with patience, time, practice, and a lot of lessons. 

Gate

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

Mountain Trail Clinic

May 28, 2022

Jigs and I attended a mountain trail clinic last weekend at Salmon River Horse Park in upstate New York. Cathy Drumm is a wonderful clinician. We attended a few western dressage/working equitation clinics with her already where she showed me about slowing down and being softer- something I need to do beyond horses. Funny how that works.

Normally I’m impatient doing groundwork but I surprised myself by gaining new techniques that filled holes in my knowledge and will translate to riding.

Texas Two Step

Over the years Jigs and I competed in versatility where fastest time through the obstacles wins. Horsemanship was not considered which led to bad habits. We completed courses but it was not pretty. In mountain trail challenges, you are judged on horsemanship and obstacles. Time may be a factor but only a small portion of the overall scores.

Swinging Bridge

Getting Jigs over the obstacles is not an issue, it is the how we go over and the maneuver. Halt, turn, backup and straightness trip us up and deny good scores. Slowing down, keeping my hands from pulling on the turns is difficult for me which makes it hard for him. I want to do better for us both.

Water Box

It was a fun weekend full of confidence building accomplishments. It is the first time we cantered in the water! We didn’t look pretty but we did it!  At the end of the clinic, there was a mock challenge with a judge who gave us scores and feedback. The first thing she told me was I was biting my lip coming into the course. I should relax and smile. Really good advice. Another was hip before hands! Brain knows but the body is still learning. We came away with new tools and a lot to work on!

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.”

Petty Aggravations

December 19, 2021

This has been a week of first world problems for me. Well, maybe not problems, but annoyances and inconveniences.

Randomly my phone had been shutting on and off for a month, it finally went comatose this week. Nothing I did, woke it up. My plan had been to upgrade in the new year, but the cell phone goddess had other ideas. I ended up with a model different from what I wanted, because of inventory shortages.

My old phone was cosmetically perfect, but I couldn’t “trade” it in because it was in a coma. I was told if was a broken screen or other damage, they would take it in for trade, but not if it didn’t turn on. A day later, the old phone spontaneously awoke- too late.

Most of my free hours in recent days have been consumed getting the new phone customized to my preferences.

Another “inconvenience” was spawned by weather. I had signed up for a western dressage clinic Saturday, but rain, sleet, and snow were predicted. I am not just a timid rider, but a timid driver as well. The clinic was an hour away and I wasn’t comfortable towing my horse in the snowy mix.

I was disappointed.

The clinician kindly allowed us to apply the deposit to a future clinic.

Shall we go?

And my cantering insecurities are back. My head is noisy. Foggy with fear, I grab the horn and lean forward. I really need lessons to push through it. Again.

Before solstice is gloomy. These are lonely days and nights. There is no light when I finish work. I do not see Jigs, let alone ride, weekdays. 

We become weekend warriors in this minimal light. He will be 19 next year. He’s in awesome shape for his age but without consistency, is it fair to ride him only on the weekends and expect him to do 7 – 8 miles or ringwork?

Old Man Napping in the Sun

But these are first world problems. I should be grateful for only having petty aggravations when others struggle to survive. My head knows that. But feelings are what they are. They can’t be wished away. They must be acknowledged.

Imperceptibly, the days will start to get longer next week. Light always pushes back the dark.

Prison Camp Ruins in Rutland State Park

November 23, 2021

The prison camp ruins in Rutland State Park are a remnant from the time when prisoners who committed minor offenses were put to work on farms. The Rutland camp operated from 1903 to 1934. There was a hospital to treat inmates with typhoid. They grew vegetables, had 60 dairy cows, and sold eggs, turning a profit before the prison was abandoned in 1934 due to water issues and newer facilities.

The Root Cellar
Ruins in Woods – maybe an animal shelter?

Recently the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation proposed a demolition plan for the ruins, stating they pose a public risk.

The ruins are covered with graffiti and attract local hate groups. Park rangers frequently remove the more offensive spray paintings. There are also subterranean caverns and there is concern for safety.

Prison Block – Solitary Confinement
Door to Cell

Locals object to the demolition and are fighting to preserve the camps as a historic site.

Cell Block

While the fate of the camps is not finalized, we decided to ride out to them to see them before they are gone. 

Parking Area

We met up with friends at the Coldbrook Springs parking area off Route 122. We appreciate their willingness to play host. We would not of found the site without them!

The ride to the ruins was lovely with decent footing that wove through various terrain.

Ruins

Hunting is allowed in Rutland State Park but not on Sunday. Apart from a few mountain bikers and hikers, it was a quiet ride.

More Ruins

We returned to the parking area to a hot lunch.  I plan to return there to ride again.