Thursday, November 26, 2020

corona-alona, thanksgiving style

It's kinda surreal looking back on the year. Remember those interminable days of March? The sweet innocence of April where we mused that "some say it could go through July!".... Then the sudden rush of denialist freedom as things opened up for the summer. 

Only for it to now be... Well, the start of holiday season, and, somehow, December already next week. 

My typical thanksgiving tradition includes two big dinners in one day -- one with each of the main branches of my absolutely enormous family. 

Obviously tho, this is not a typical year. And, just like for many of you out there, we're not having any big family feasts this time around. Frankly, probably not for Christmas either. 

We're choosing to stay apart now, so that we may all be present later. Or ya know, that's the idea at least!

Naturally, tho, there will still be some good food involved haha. I know I'm not the only one who has had to up her home cooking game this past year haha. 

And there's a lot of things I'm willing to sacrifice for the greater good. But, dammit, pumpkin pie is not one of them

We have to draw a line somewhere, for chrissakes!!!

Lol... Just kidding. Sorta...

For real, tho, it's still gratitude season. And if anything, this current environment and past year have put a pretty sharp focus on appreciating the stuff that's really important to us. 

Like wine.

Ahem, cough cough, I mean family. And friends. And obviously our beloved four legged critters, large and small.

So ya know. I'm grateful haha. And maybe secretly enjoying the excuse to take a year off from all those other contrived superficial commercialized forced-fun holiday related obligations too haha.  

Anyway, hope you all the US readers out there have a wonderful thanksgiving in whatever form it comes. And especially, I hope that -- if nothing else -- it at least includes some pumpkin pie!! 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

brown but not forgotten

I don't know about you guys, but I'm really a very visual creature. Like, I love to read and write.... but there's something about the act of taking pictures or video and knitting them into their own little self-contained stories and narratives that really gets my creative juices flowing.

you know the pic sitch is dire when i'm reusing a weeks-old pic that was only kinda meh the first time around lol.... 
Which.... Makes things slightly creatively challenging in winter time, when the entire visual landscape feels monotonous, dull and brown

also an old pic, but at least this version is new-to-you?? it's charles in a stream!
We're super lucky to have multiple well-lit arenas, tho, and you better believe I'm making use of them most weeknight evenings. Naturally, with the help of our Illumiseen breast collar that was a secret santa gift from Susan at Saddle Seeks Horse way back in 2017!

I gotta say, this thing is friggin great, and I use it every evening ride -- esp as y'all already saw how long our driveway is between Charlie's barn and the riding arenas. Add in that it's pitch black and twisty, and... yea, can be super sketchy. And I say that as a driver -- trying to see horses around a 90* turn when they're outside of my headlights is damn near impossible. 

bc... yea, basically every new picture is some variation of this shot. sooooo much brown!
The lights make a big difference, tho. And actually, since Charlie started sporting them back in 2017, gradually just about every single other evening rider at the farm has picked up some of their own. In allllll different colors too! Purples, pinks, whites, blues, oranges, reds.... 

Each strand of LEDs has its own micro USB charging port, and the thing is crazy adjustable. I don't even snap it to the D-rings, honestly -- I just snap the two clips together to make it a neck strap with girth attachment. Tho I've also worn it draped over my own body. 

with added bonus disco party!!
i generally just leave them on solid vs blinking, but this gif is more fun ;)
My particular breast collar is from Illumiseen, as mentioned before, and they're sold through various retailers (including Chewy and Amazon), along with various other LED pet products like dog collars and leashes etc. 

A simple google tho showed that there are wayyyyyy more companies offering a similar product now, presumably bc it's so practical and popular. For anybody doing any real amount of night riding, it's a nice thing to have. Esp bc the way the lights are positioned -- they create a fairly ambient glow around you, without shining directly in your or the horse's eyes. So it's not like a wall of darkness beyond where the light reaches. 

stand still charlie, lol
Anyway tho. Lol that was a tangent haha.... But also maybe a nice xmas gift idea for the equestrian who already has it all? Anyway. Moving on haha....

Our rides lately are never particularly long bc for some reason Charlie's barn / gate sourness is massively amplified in the dark. 

Which.... Is kinda a real challenge. He puts in good work, puts his nose to the grindstone. Does everything I ask him to do, when I ask him to do it. And then like... Ya know, he expects that that's good enough and aren't we done yet??

aw ponies are always cute even if they're brown too!
So last week I figured we'd switch it up and go to the jump ring for our evening ride instead. I typically opt for the dressage ring mostly bc it's easiest. I drive past the lights on my way in and can set them on a timer if they're not already on and in use. Alternatively, I can also reach the light switches from horseback. 

The jump ring, tho, the light panel is outside the ring so I have to dismount and climb over a fence. Not really a big deal.... But just sorta one of those lazy things. 

Damn, tho, idk if it's just bc I don't ride Charlie up there as often but he really seems happier. It's also so much more spacious, plus, ya know, is fenced in haha. 

remember when it was green out??? also, picture chosen as it includes the little rollercoaster line top left corner
We're still just doing a very little bit of work anyway, as part of our combined "couch to 5k" plan (lol). So it also felt like a good opportunity to torture my own self instead of Charlie. A few laps of two point at trot here, some laps of posting the canter there.... Ya know, the usual. 

But then... towards the end of the ride, the one lone crossrail, made of white poles and positioned right in front of the lights, kept beckoning. You know how they do. It's been ages since Charlie's been aimed at anything, but eh, what the hell, right? So we popped over it off both leads and... 

Gosh this horse <3 <3 Even little jompies are fun jompies with Charlie!

same line! but like... wow a million years ago!
So fast forward to the weekend when obviously we have to do whatever we can to escape the brown confines of our weeknight prison.... And, obviously we'd get out into the cross country fields!!

I figured we'd do the same exact interval sets as in the arena (using a run of the mill interval app). But also expected that the terrain (and baalmy high 60s temps!) would be plenty added intensity. Which.... It was, haha, Charlie was sweating like a pig omg. 

jumpin it with izzy!! (helmet cam video here for those interested)
lol who woulda thunk this pixelated potato-y gif would be resurrected for re-publishing?? desperate times, y'all
But again.... Being out there, being on my favorite brown horse and cantering around all those fields... Even down all the hills, which I hate... Idk, he was just being so good and felt so good and happy, that I couldn't resist popping over a little log next to the water. 

We did that off both leads, and then I more or less forced myself to push onward up the little roller coaster line too. It's kinda stupid, to be honest with you, but I'm not sure I've ever jumped this line with Charlie. Mostly bc I'm kinda a crazy person when it comes to expectations re: striding. 

From what I've observed, and from my experiences back in the day with Izzy, this line tends to school in a 5, but go in a 4 during competition. So I never really knew what to expect with Charlie or felt like it was worth a potentially awkward jump. 

But eh, what the hell. This past weekend, we went for it anyway lol. And, bless him, Charlie did a perfectly sedate five <3 <3. Ooh, and since obvi those two efforts kinda messed up our symmetry in terms of equal numbers of efforts off both leads, we went ahead and popped over the faux and then real schooling ditches nearby off the other lead. 

that's ok tho, old pics are still cute <3 bc let's be real, there's a whole season of brown ahead of us...
Obvi not exactly a "real" cross country schooling to write home about.... But, ya know, who the hell cares at this point??? Running and jumping is the absolute best sometimes <3

And maybe I'm kidding myself, but I like to think Charlie has a little more pep in his step now in our evening darkness, after remember that, "Oh Yea! We get to do fun stuff too!"

Whatever it takes to make the winter monotony a little more bearable, amirite? At least now that he's getting fitter and staying sound, we can start introducing cavaletti again. Anyone set up any exciting exercises lately?

Friday, November 20, 2020

Viva Carlos Unofficial Hop: A Proper Barn Tour

Happy Friday!! It's been, hm, a long week. Let's wrap it up with a Friday Foto Finish, featuring a photo-heavy, word-lite unofficial blog hop from L Williams at Viva Carlos:: a complete tour of Charlie's farm!

The story begins with the driveway into the property -- lengthy and beautiful! Charlie lives near its bottom while the riding arenas are near the top. So we spend lots of time on it. 

just charlie's turnout is highlighted here, but basically all grassy areas are used as pasture
The property is enormous. Facilities include: 3 riding arenas, full cross country courses through Modified, plus boundless pastures and woods for roaming and turnout. 

Naturally, tho, all rides begin in the charmingly rustic barnyard. 

 rip Cos <3 <3
This area features an al fresco wash stall (just above Charlie's left ear tip in the previous picture). The water pumps through a cistern and is cold. Hot water can be carried out from the tack room taps but... Yea, bathing is generally reserved for the warm months. 

The barn is an L-shaped bank barn, with Charlie's stall in the elbow joint. There's a heated tack room with faucet and fridge, and a wall of lockers on the short end of the "L." My locker is to the left Charlie's butt in the above shot. 

It's very open, with multiple dedicated cross tie bays, plus cross ties across both aisles. 

Charlie lucked out with the largest stall in the building -- originally designed for a mare and foal. His giant window is at ground level, and he mows a neat little path in the grass lol. Windows are sealed during winter.

star = charlie's stall
There are multiple options upon leaving the barnyard. The bottom-most arrows on either side go to Charlie's turnouts (yellow for summer, gray for winter). Tho the yellow arrow also takes you to the back woodsy route up to the jump ring, or out around the big summer pastures following the red lines in the very first map.

looking down the aqua arrow back to the barn yard
All other lines lead to potential riding areas -- either back up the driveway (orange), out to the xc fields (dark blue), or through the back paths behind the big house (aqua).

Charlie loves going up the paths behind the big house. It's nicer (and safer) than the driveway, and is a more pleasant way to stroll up to the arenas. Plus, there are ponies!!

And sheep!!! Always gotta go check on the sheep <3

No matter which way you go, tho, you can arrive at the riding arenas. 

We do the vast majority of our schooling in the dressage ring. It doesn't get used much for lessons, generally isn't too cluttered tho sometimes there are poles and cavalleti, and has excellent lights.

This ring is used most frequently for the various competitions on farm -- from schooling shows to USEA recognized horse trials. There's a second orchard paddock that moonlights as a grass court, too.

We are very very fortunate to have an indoor. In the harshest winters and weather conditions, it's often the only place to ride. But.... I still kinda hate it haha. They replaced the footing last year and it's wayyyyy to deep for clumsy bronto Charlie.

Before that, tho, we managed to do some pretty cool stuff in the confinement of 20x40m walls!

The jump ring is also lovely, tho kinda more of a hike than the rest of the rings, so we don't go there as often unless I know we want to pop over some stuff. It's got new lights tho, so perhaps I'll spend more time there this winter?

And who knows. Maybe eventually we'll start taking riding lessons again haha... Remember when we used to do stuff like this?!? Gosh it feels like forever ago....

Then there's the cross country fields!! This is an interconnected network of pastures, filled with various fence lines and gates (mostly where all the trees and stuff are) in which our xc jumps and features are spread. 

The orange circles represent ditches (the largest of which also has trakehners), the green circles are various bank complexes, and the small blue circle is the water feature. The larger light blue circle is where stadium is set up for horse trials, and the blue lines are the pathways from Charlie's barn to the fields. The white box is where we typically start the xc course.

And gosh, we love these fields! Whether for just hacking, conditioning work, or serious schooling, we get out there a lot! There are also various access points from the fields into the woods.

So overall, the facilities have a little something for everyone -- from the upper level event riders (of which there are a couple on farm), to the dedicated trail riding contingent... And basically everything in between. 

Tho let's be real, the xc fields are my favorite haha... For the guided tour, check out this super fun flashback to our 2018 novice cross country round!!

What about you guys - what are the highlights at your farm? Anything you prioritize above all else? The facilities, or quality of care? Available training or closeness to home? Or something else entirely? Anybody else want to jump on the bandwagon with an updated barn tour post?

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

how to not zap my horse with static....

There are two main ways I know winter is arriving. Well, ok, there are other ways too.... but really, these are my biggies:

1) The skin on the back of my hands transitions nearly overnight into the texture of crepe paper. Dry chapped knuckles, and an overall appearance more befitting an octogenarian, vs yours truly (still only in my 30s despite how it might seem!).

And, more to today's point:

2) Suddenly, I'm accidentally zapping the ever loving fuck out of Charlie's poor sweet smooshy nose with static constantly. Which, he naturally finds extremely distressing....

Seriously, tho. Charlie reeeeally hates getting zapped. And I'm not even talking big shocks, either. Even just the littlest *snap!* will send him through the roof, eyes all astonishment at my apparent betrayal.... 

what even is life without petting pony noses anyway?!?
I think it's because he doesn't really understand what just happened, but is extremely uncomfortable and distrusting of the surprise factor -- the unpredictability of the zaps. And naturally, Charlie holds me directly responsible for this abuse. 

After an accidental static discharge on his fuzzy muzzle, he'll snort accusingly at me, with the whites of his eyes showing and head cocked in anguished confusion... And will stay that way -- skeptical of any hand I extend (even if it's literally filled with cookies) -- for the rest of our grooming session. 

Notably, his suspicion does not extend to any other humans. I could hand over those cookies to literally anybody else in the barn and he'll gobble them up. But me?? No no, my hands are clearly instruments of the static underlords and he wants nothing to do with them. 

Which is obviously very very sad for me, since petting my pony's nose is one of the primary pursuits of my lengthy barn commute in the first place... So obviously I feel very heartbroken and guilty, and yet still manage to continue zapping the poor creature. 

Did I ever tell you about the first time it happened? I just patted his nose in passing, which discharged a shock that about sent him through the roof... I obviously immediately went to apologize by fussing and cooing over him, and planted a big ol' kiss on his nose as amends. At which point.... I zapped him again... UGH. There's really no coming back from that....

resistance is futile
And now, after having been victimized by micro-electrocution one too many times during a grooming session, Charlie will sometimes spook and startle even when there isn't a shock

Obviously, something has to be done about this. The abuse must end!! 

So, naturally, I asked the google to please advise on Charlie's plight. 

Most of the results had to do with the static introduced into homes through heating systems -- that can thus be alleviated by using humidifiers. That's.... obviously not really applicable in an open-air barn setting. 

Other results were maybe more helpful, in discussing how different fabrics and textiles tend to hold higher levels of static charges. Woolens, fleeces, etc. Definitely good to keep in mind to be more careful whenever I might be wearing a fleece jacket -- or when Charlie's wearing his fleece cooler.*

(*Notably: he suffers much less sadness when shocked elsewhere on his body. It's the Nose Zaps he finds most agonizing!!) 

Still, tho, none of that really gets to the core issue of wanting to pet my pony's nose mindlessly and without fear of undermining his trust in me. So what else did the google say I could do? 

Here were a couple good ideas that I'm running with for now: 

leather and leather-like materials are low-conductors, so these sorts of riding or work gloves are a good bet
1. Gloves. The idea here is to create a non-conductive barrier between my hand and Charlie's skin. Basically a static shock is the passage of an electrical charge through conductive material to the ground. The soles of most of my shoes are not conductive, so any charge stored up in my clothing or on me will always be looking somewhere to go -- like to Charlie, who is grounded via steel fucking shoes haha. 

But if I wear non-conductive gloves -- which could be like your typical riding gloves, leather or leather-like (but nothing fuzzy, fleecey or wool etc) -- they'll block the passage of the shock. 

So it may be that I just need to wear gloves through our grooming sessions. Something that... Honestly sounds pretty good for when things get really cold!

srsly tho, just look at that ridiculously smooshy nose
2. Hand Lotion. The google tells me that it's the very dry conditions that exacerbate this static problem. Water conducts electric charges, and when there's a lot of moisture in the air (like during our very humid summers), the charges dissipate more freely via the atmosphere. 

In the dry, tho, the static is stuck literally clinging to us until it can find passage to ground -- like directly through a very unwilling and nonconsenting Charlie. 

Apparently, tho, according to my (very unscientific) research, frequent use of hand lotion helps keep the skin more moist and less likely to accumulate enough of a static charge to share that special zap unwittingly. 

Assuming you read my earlier observation about crepe paper skin and chapped knuckles, you can see why this type of solution seems attractive. Jury's still out on how effective it is, but it seems reasonable to add a little container of hand lotion in the tack locker, right next to the other recent denizen: hand sanitizer.

he loves making ridiculous faces
3. Moisture, generally speaking. The final finding from the internet (which would never, ever lie to me) was that any sort of moisture will help. One article about static in dogs' coats suggested using some sort of spray on them. Which... Reminded me that, oh yea, I have all sorts of grooming sprays for Charlie too. 

Apparently a lot of the static charges come from the act of grooming -- all that friction in running hands and fibrous brushes across the animal's fur coat in dry conditions create basically the perfect recipe for maximum zappage. 

Applying grooming sprays (like shine sprays or the like) reduces the build up of a static charge. Presumably, going over your horse's coat with a damp rag likewise does the same. Helpfully, this same damp rag technique is absolutely perfect for getting rid of that gross dusty sheen that also likes to accumulate in winter (bc of the exact same static forces...). 

Obviously, there's a limit to how much moisture we might realistically want to handle during freezing temperatures.... And my locker is not in a heated section of the barn so some of my supplies actually freeze in the winter too. But.... I guess if/when that happens, I'll just go with the gloves approach haha. 

needs more of this in my life haha <3 <3 <3
So ya know. That's my plan of attack for solving this very weirdly specific problem. And who knows, maybe you don't think static electricity is really that big of a deal anyway... Tho.... if you could see Charlie's pained expression every time I zap him, maybe you'd come to understand lol. 

Or... maybe alternatively, you also have a horse who is deeply deeply offended whenever you accidentally shock them -- and have already figured out tips and tricks for avoiding it? If so, please do tell.... And in the meantime, #Pray4Charlie lol....

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

charlie thee stallion

Oooooh my goodness, the fall friskies roared in this past weekend. In a big way. And guys, Spooky Charlie is a sight to behold, lemme tell ya. 

there's something about late fall / early winter's austere landscape that i just love <3
Add in the #FreshClip plus a wind gusting directly up Charlie's butt.... And, yea haha. Excitement abounded!

grateful that charlie's clip distinguishes him from twinsy iggy. esp since iggy's ears are too small to see from a distance LOL
First of all -- the construction happening on one of the farm's oldest buildings (right outside Charlie's barn!) is definitely not helping. Homeboy is straight up convinced that they must certainly be building some manner of equine crematorium up in there. 

always together <3 <3 missed literally every single nose to nose shot tho... sorry!
Which.... Is challenging, because poor long-suffering Charlie has to walk past that very same construction site every time he goes to and from his field.... or up to the rings.... or, ya know, like... anywhere haha. 

oh. my. gawd. sir, rly? also.... how is it still SO GREEN?!?
And not coincidentally, on the weekends when we can actually be at the farm during daylight, **everywhere** is exactly where I want to go lol. 

how the fuck does a CLIPPED horse get this filthy?!?
But ya know, it's ok haha. Spooky Charlie is still like.... Charlie, ya know? His patented go-to spook move is to just stop and stare and become very very tall, periscope-up style. Naturally, with his heart pounding straight through the saddle flaps. 

And when he's very very sad about the spook, he'll ask --- pretty please with a cherry on top --- if we could please just turn right the fuck around and leave.

hoof update! november is when we transition from full leather pads to rim pads, before ditching the pads altogether come (wet) winter. that sole doesn't look half bad for having been covered up for six months! fwiw.... i'd personally prefer to always do rim pads, but charlie's farrier feels like they squish out the sides too badly so he doesn't like doing them. tho, he amuses me during what i call "this transition period." and, go figure, the pads really don't squish out much. the farrier does such a nice job on every other aspect of charlie's feet that i'm fine with taking his advice on this part... but maybe one day he'll be like, "yea ok, let's give rim pads a real shot for a while!"
Back in my earliest uninitiated days with Charlie, this moment of frozen-in-ice heart pounding rigidity.... scared the ever loving shit out of me, I'm not gonna lie. 

That's an enormous volume of flight animal sitting under you. You can really just feel the energy coursing through his body, amplified in some massively alarming way by his stillness. 

gosh the colors are pretty, even without a filter <3
But.... Charlie's a very good boy, and so far, has never really opted for a full blown explosion haha. So far. 

Tho, he definitely kinda pushed it this weekend haha. Many random scoots and skitters, much snorting and farting. And one little synchronized spin-bolt move (and I mean that in the absolute gentlest way possible) that I'm positive he and Punky planned in advance lol.... 

Which also naturally left me and Amy giggling at our ridiculous hot blooded goons...

sharing a birthday cupcake -- where charlie's like, "what in the ever loving fresh fuck is this fluffy sweet goodness?!?"
easily my new favorite picture with chuck <3 <3 <3
So ya know. It's been exciting haha <3 

Charlie and I are still plugging away at our hybrid equine/human couch-to-5K fitness schedule --- we're up to like a whopping 8min of full work at this point. And esp in the darkness of weekday evenings.... It's not exactly the most scintillating material haha.

such a good dude, wearing our typical weekday outfit
(illumiseen breast collar - literally EVERYBODY at my farm has one now...)
That's winter for ya! Tho I'm excited that Charlie's feeling so fresh and feisty haha --- he feels like a horse who wants to go running and jumping. Which, not coincidentally, is exactly how I like my horses to feel!

Anyone else dealing with bi-polar, ridiculous animals during this absurd season of change??