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Monday, December 30, 2013

On Riding With My Friend

A few months ago my friend, Alia, and I had planned to ride together.  She would often trailer her horses down to the place I boarded mine, and we’d spend the afternoons laughing and gossiping and doing what we love (horses/sticks/fun).  Anyway, on this particular day her gelding threw a shoe, and she called her farrier and begged him to please, PLEASE come put the shoe back on her horse.  He showed up a couple of hours later, nailed the shoe back on her horse’s foot, and then said, “There.  Now you can go...ride...with your friend,” as if it was the most preposterous reason to need emergency farrier services.  

In all actuality, I believe we were going to a horse show that day, or some critical riding lesson.  Something more important than our usual ride/laugh/gossip/laugh/ride sessions.  We love riding together, but even for us, a thrown shoe doesn’t rank very high on the equine disaster scale.  

Fast forward to today.  I have a new barn.  Of my VERY OWN.  Its got a big arena and a full course of jumps.  BUT (there’s always a but), construction on the barn was finished roughly on the same day that the weather turned and the ground froze.  Usually once the ground freezes it stays that way until spring arrives, so I have yet to be able to actually use my new arena to any meaningful extent.  However, the last few days were slightly warmer, and last night the temperature only dipped below freezing for a couple of hours.  Alia and I watched the weather and my arena footing like hawks, and finally, this morning dawned the day of which Alia and I have dreamt for a whole year!

She was going to bring her horses to my house for ride/laugh/gossip/laugh/ride!  This time was particularly important because we haven’t seen each other for three weeks, but we also haven’t ridden together since mid-November!  And we’ve NEVER ridden together at either of our houses!  It was a huge day.  EPIC.  

At the end of the day both of us struggled to say goodbye.  The ground will freeze tonight and we probably won’t be able to ride together again until March.  Of course we have fun doing lots of other things together, but there’s just something priceless about getting together with a good friend and riding.  

My horse situation has been a bit of a struggle since I moved the boys to my barn.  The fences aren’t finished so turnout space is limited, and the ground alternates between slick ice and lumpy frozen mud (aka horseshoe remover).  I haven’t been able to ride because of the frozen arena, so my horses - used to getting exercise 4 days a week - are quite rambunctious.  Today, although warm enough to ride, brought with it thawed mud, slippery turnouts and filthy blankets.  I cursed all the horses as I brought them in one by one, hosing the caked mud off their blankets and legs, splattering it all over myself and my clean barn.   At noon, when Alia pulled in with all the same complaints of her place, I hadn’t even had a moment to eat a thing all day.  

We whined and moaned about the weather, winter, our fat horses, our wild horses, our lack of lunch....and then we saddled up and had SO MUCH FUN!!  I love horses.  I love horse shows.  I love winning, and I love losing and working hard and getting better.  But NOTHING is as fun as just riding around in a nice big arena with a good friend, laughing and cracking inappropriate jokes.  Nothing.  

When you’re a kid, you get to have fun all the time.  Adulthood brings bills and responsibility and horrible things like cleaning, muddy horse blankets, and cooking. dinner. every. night.  I’m lucky enough to have happened upon something that makes me giggle like a giddy school girl, and how awesome is that!?  

So yeah, you know what?  It’s an emergency if I can’t go riding with my friend.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

On Hauling Horses

Ask and you shall receive!

Not 14 hours after my prediction that 2014 would be another stellar year full of conundrums and quandaries (I know, it’s still 2013, but you see where this is headed...), I found myself sliding backward down an icy hill in my truck, trailer attached, horse inside.  Yes.  That was my morning.  

It’s not because I do stupid things.  I am actually very careful; an over-preparer to the Nth degree.  However, even I was not prepared to drive my truck up a luge first thing this morning.  I had a meeting scheduled with the local CWD Saddles representative to fit me for a new saddle so that I can be better at - you guessed it - jumping horses over sticks for fun!  My ring is under 4” of snow and ice, so I stuck Johnny in the trailer and headed over to an indoor arena down the road.  My driveway was in good shape, as were the roads, so I foresaw no issues.  When I turned off the road to head up the hill to the indoor, I started to recognize the potential problem and threw my trusty truck into 4-Lo.  That oughtta do it.  

When I got halfway up the hill and my tires started slipping, I realized I might not make it up.  When I touched my brakes and felt myself start sliding backwards, I became fairly certain.  I tried to angle my truck to slide straight, but apparently backing skills only come into play when one has traction.  No traction means the trailer does whatever the hell it wants, and my trailer wanted to jackknife and skid into a paddock fence.  Not to worry though, because inside that paddock was none other than the stallion that my husband is currently leasing.  Loose stallion?  No big deal.

Thankfully my trailer tire hit a large rock before it contacted the fence, and the whole show was momentarily halted.  It gave me enough time to take Johnny off the trailer, run through the barn screaming for help, and formulate a plan...which worked...thank god.  It would be a shame to break my trailer and my relationship with the friendly folks down the road when they’re both brand new!

Still, this morning’s snafu got me to reminiscing about some of the other trailer debacles I’ve experienced this year.  I’m going to gloss over the malfunctioning electric jack that always seems to get my trailer halfway off of/on to my truck before breaking, and that time that I blew a bunch of fuses at a horse show and had no light or heat, and the time my truck overheated itself and broke down in the middle of a main road by spastically downshifting for no reason, and skip right to the good stuff.  

There was the 4th of July, when I went to hook up my 36’ gooseneck trailer with living quarters to my truck to head to a Greg Best clinic and realized the coupler had rusted and was broken.  My husband and I spent the entire day in the July sun running around trying to replace it.  The following day, shiny new coupler in tow, I pulled into a campground with “pull-through” spaces, which turned out out to mean, “pull your tent out of your tiny car and put it up somewhere between all these trees that you’re going to have to cut down to get your trailer in (or out of) here.  And HURRY!  You’ll want to be done before the pot-luck pig roast!!”  It took me 3 hours to park that time, but we only had to dismantle a few signs and fire-pits.  

Then there was the second time my friend, Alia, and I decided to camp in our trailers in order to attend a clinic.  Insert same story here, only add an audience of men that don’t believe it’s physically possible for a woman to back a horse trailer into AT&T Stadium, let alone a small camper spot.  We brought our A-game that time and it only took us one try each.  I may have demolished some garden gnomes along the way, but no one minded because the show was worth it.  The lesson of the day is this: when someone on the phone at a campground tells you the camper space is big enough for your trailer, know that it is not, and when the grounds-keeper on the golf cart takes one look at you and your rig and says, “You’re never going to get that trailer in there.  I don’t even know how you’re going to get it out of where it is now,” accept it as a personal challenge and know that, yes, you will get it in there, and if you can’t get it out you won’t care because you hate it and you just want it to disappear.

And then I bought a new trailer.  All my problems were solved.  Small trailer, giant hotel room, unprecedented bliss.  

Off Alia and I went to yet another clinic!  This time I wasn’t worried about low bridges or tight turns, because I had my handy little bumper-pull trailer that I love more than life!  I zipped around the back roads of Pennsylvania with Alia in tow, until I came to a stop light at the base of a bridge.  The bridge was under repair, and was closed off except for one lane that was open to traffic, and the stop light was supposed (SUPPOSED) to dictate which direction was crossing and which was stopped.  I started to cross the bridge on green, got halfway up, and saw a line of 20 cars coming right at me.  Alia and I (and our 2 trailers and 4 horses) soon found ourselves backing off the bridge to the soundtrack of honking horns and cops yelling on their loudspeakers (which the horses LOVED!).  I maintain that it wasn’t my fault.  That damn light was green, and the people who were standing around taking pictures of us as we backed off the bridge vouched for us.  THE LIGHT WAS GREEN!!

The point is this: I am not meant to haul stuff.  My very presence can turn traffic lights haywire and make full-grown trees appear in spots that were previously barren.  The mere idea that I might take my horses somewhere can change the weather on the entire eastern seaboard.  

Maybe the universe is telling me that I shouldn’t travel around the country pretending to be Beezie Madden.  Maybe I should get a bike.  Or start Pinteresting.  Is that a thing, Pinteresting?  What do other girls do?  Most of my friends are busy having babies.  

On second thought, I think I’ll take my chances on the open road.  I can only imagine the trouble I could get into with a carseat.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On 2013

Well, winter reared her bitchy head yesterday leaving me incapable of doing anything productive, and I read a horribly boring blog about horse showing today, so I figured it was time to jump back into the blogosphere.  Again.  

Although I’ve been talking about starting a blog again, I have spent the last year of my life cruising on Empty, running in circles, driving myself nuts, all in the name of...yes...jumping horses over colorful sticks for fun.  

I pulled all of the family horses out of training last winter with the brilliant idea of saving money via rough board.  I also thought we were building a barn, and it would only be a few months until I brought them home anyway.  That was a year obviously I was wrong.  My horses lived at the barn next door (thank god for good neighbors!) while my barn was being erected, and I hovered over them like I’d had several doses of ritalin.  Every day.  When you turn your half-injured gelding out next to your don’t-you-dare-get-injured gelding out next to your retired haha-I’m-going-to-cause-your-other-geldings-to-kill-themselves gelding, what you’ve got is trouble.  Add a few giant excavators, a bulldozer or two, and 5 Amish dudes hammering stuff together, and what you've got is an ulcer.

Still, the limbo year, although chaotic, was actually an awesome one.  Not awesome in a “This is AWESOME!” kind of way.  More like, “I’m in awe that many of those things happened and not only am I alive to tell about them, but I also still like horses and jumping them over sticks for fun.”  Maybe.  I mean, I think I like it.  But I also think I like wine.  Do I REALLY like wine, or am I a drunk?  Do I REALLY like horses, or am I just addicted to giving all my husband’s money away in exchange for phrases such as “Less inside bend,” or “Start with more and finish with less,” or “Come on, SETTLE DOWN!!  WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”  

In any case, that’s where I’ve been; somewhere between my house and the neighbors’ house, with several buckets of feed and a bunch of dirty saddle pads in the back of my truck, smelling faintly of horse and strongly of exhaustion (which smells a lot like horse).  And I don’t have writer’s block, I have writer’s having wine and sitting in front of the TV because one more step could be her last.  But alas, my barn is finished, my boys are moved in, and I’m back!!  And although I always preferred to write with my coffee in the mornings, things change, and if anyone is adaptable it’s me.  Since I now shovel shit in the mornings, I will probably write with my wine in the evenings.  And that’s lucky, because if there is one thing that makes me more entertaining, it’s wine.  Ask anyone that didn’t know me very well and then learned far more than they wanted to at a cocktail party and never spoke to me again.  Ask them.  Do it.

It’s such an incredible shame that I didn’t chronicle the journey that was 2013, but something tells me that my Irish Luck will keep the good times rolling into the new year.  Hell, just last week a bum laid on the hood of my car at a stop light.  If that’s not a sign that next year will bring as much blogging ammunition as this year, I just don’t know what is.