Posted tagged ‘horses’

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.”

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.

Partners

November 4, 2021

Rain drained most of the trees of their fall color, but some persist, flickering with flames of yellow, orange, and red.

My friend and I marked marked the annual pumpkin ride in the rain. It wasn’t too bad but by the time we finished 9 miles, we were drenched with both rain and laughter.

Autumn

I stress about trail marking and over mark so as not to lose anyone one in the forest. Getting lost in Upton State Forest is not likely. There are two main “roads” that circle it. Trails weave through and around them. Both go directly back to parking. 

We marked trails seldom used off Loop Road. They were a bit wet from this year’s constant rain, but passable with good stretches to move out.

October was not as busy as I hoped. Jigs and I competed again in a Mountain Trail Competition. The few lessons helped, we finished first in novice, but our scores were about the same in level one.  The mistakes were mine.

I’m surprised at how much I did learn in three lessons. We worked on hands and leg placement. Our turns are much better.

Unfortunately, lessons stopped due to the instructor’s schedule. Or maybe that was a polite excuse. Working with an older riding pair and a especially a “quarter horse” is not every dressage instructor’s dream. Best to have younger athletic riders and horses to work with, I suspect.  Too bad, I believe I could learn a lot from him.

Cross Buck

I signed up for a working equitation and western dressage clinic later this month. The clinician is popular in the area. Maybe she will give me a few more things to work on. I’m curious about both disciplines.

Next year I want to try different things. Jigs will be 19; our time together is flying by. He is the best horse I have owned and the most forgiving. I am so grateful for his friendship and all he has given me.

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.

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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.

Choices

March 4, 2021

I have not been purposeful in my life. My choices were not courageous, if there were choices at all. I am driven by a desperate need for security so deep, I am beyond risk adverse.

I despise the yuppie town I was born and still live in. My house is the house my parents built. I do not love it. I long to have a small farm and bring Jigs home, maybe get a donkey or a goat, or both. But I am stuck here. I really should sell because I can barely afford the real estate taxes that since the early 70s have grown so high, they drove out many longtime residents and all working farms. The result is neighborhood after neighborhood of McMansions with manicured lawns. Horses are not welcome.

Only those with ridiculously high salaries can afford to live here. I tell myself to sell, but fear kicks in.

My career is the same. I fell into the security of a boring job, allowing others to make choices for me. I should have found another path years ago.  Close to retirement, it is too late. I am a lame duck. I would retire now but I cannot afford health insurance or the taxes on my house without income.

Paralyzed by fear, I am stuck.

Fear has creeped into my riding. I stopped riding on the road alone. I do not canter much. Last weekend I wimped out for fear of ice on the trails and walked with Jigs nearly 5 miles on the road. I should have ridden in the woods. I let both of us down.

I have no right to lament. I have so much. I was given opportunities others were not. My failure is not capitalizing on them.

Long Walk

Camping at Myles Standish

September 18, 2020

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

September 12, 2020

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?

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!

Partners

April 18, 2020

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.