Henry the Huge Draft Horse Versus the Pumpkin Spice Latte

It was a typical Saturday morning for Henry the Huge Draft Horse. His mom came out and fed breakfast, he jostled for a hay bucket, and batted his big, white eyelashes to make sure everyone knew just how cute he was. Same stuff, different day.

Then I showed up.

With the Coffee Cup.

I can haz?

It was the most fascinating thing on the planet to Henry. I wasn’t aware of his fascination until I had taken a swig of my latte (pumpkin flavored things are the only redeeming thing about fall…) in front of him and he eagerly reached out for it. I hastily snatched it away from his nearly prehensile lips.

“Ahem. This is mine. Amanda doesn’t share food. Or coffee.” I eyed him. He blinked back at me innocently. I figured that would be the end of it.

Hah. Hahahahaha. Not so much.

I went about grooming him. I picked out his full, lovely tail while wondering why my hair couldn’t look like that. I scrubbed his white legs and giggled at all the hair that shed off, making it look like it had snowed. I curried his favorite itchy spots and he twisted his lips happily.

Then I went to grab my coffee again. His ears pricked and he reached out towards me, top lip quivering.

“You aren’t going to like this.”

His eyes pleaded silently.

“You really aren’t going to like this!”

He stretched his neck out further, trying desperately to make contact with my coffee cup.

Cautiously, I reached out and put the cup within touching distance. If he were a dog, his tail would have been wagging furiously. He tapped it with his muzzle gleefully.

I CAN haz!!

Before anything else happened, I grabbed my phone. I figured documenting this was a good idea. Then, I held the cup out to him. He swelled with excitement when he realized I wasn’t about to snatch his new toy away again.

He nosed it for a moment, and then his big lips engulfed the lid. He seemed unhappy that he couldn’t yank the top off with just his lips, and was having a hard time figuring out how, exactly, to get purchase with his teeth. By this point, I was giggling. He was so determined to figure out why I wasn’t sharing this Magic Juice with him! Curiosity killed the cat (pony?), Henry!

Maybe if I just do this…

Seconds later, I noticed those bigs lips slide over a sizeable drop of coffee. Uh oh.

He yanked his head back in surprise. Displeasure flooded his face, and he flipped his top lip up comically. This was decidedly Not Good. Bad Magic Juice! He did this a few times, before bringing his head back down and eyeing my coffee cup suspiciously, as if the Magic Juice inside was going to come out and get him. It was no longer Magic Juice in Henry’s little pea brain, but Evil Elixir!

ABORT, ABORT!

I was too busy laughing my ass off to comfort him (or take a non-blurry picture of him protesting the taste of coffee) in his distress. Pumpkin Spice Latte, 1. Henry, 0.

You do make me laugh, you big yellow beastie!

He forgave me 🙂

Happy Weekend, ya’ll!

ETA: Proof that I do more with Henry than just humiliate him with evil coffee cups! 😉

I’d say it was just the angle of the photo, but his head IS really as long as my body…

Missing: Good Attitude and Outlook on Life. Reward if Found!

Ever have a day where you get up in the morning and leave the house, just to realize your motivation and positivity are still huddled in your bed back at home, hiding under the covers from the outside world? 
Today is one of those days.
I’m watching the leaves change and the days get shorter. Horses are starting to get fuzzy and spunky. Friends are posting gorgeous pictures framed by their horse’s pricked ears from the trail, from the ring, from in their paddocks where they’ve wiggled on bareback just to breathe their horse in. My heart aches, because I am jealous.

Okay. Jealous is probably an understatement. I am writhing with silent envy. It’s an ugly emotion that I usually keep to myself. No one should feel bad or guilty for what they have or what they’re getting to experience just because someone else doesn’t have these things. Jealousy incites this kind of guilt, so I swallow it and placate myself with a “some day soon that will be me again”.

Today? I’m incapable of that. The internal child is throwing a temper tantrum and I can’t seem to bribe it into sitting down and shutting up.

I want to be cantering through the falling leaves, laughing and yelling to the girls behind me.

I want to be riding in hunt paces and organized Halloween themed trail rides and MSPCA beach rides (and I want to gait down that beach, not trot!).

I want to be snuggling into a fuzzy shoulder, because it’s that perfect time of year where it’s just cool enough out to enjoy your horse’s warmth, but not so cold that being outside is a chore. I want that fuzzy shoulder to be special because that fuzzy shoulder is attached to a horse that means more to me than life itself.

I want to look at tack for sale and make a stupid impulse buy, just because that headstall would look absolutely perfect on my horse’s head, or that cooler is just the right shade of blue to match the rest of my tack.

I want to ride and do ground work and braid manes and worry about nutrition and do endless reading on supplements and read in the grass while my horse grazes and all the other stupid little things you take for granted when you get to do them all the time.

I want to feel like I have some sort of direction and purpose in my life again, because right now, it feels pretty damn empty.

I hate that I feel this way. It’s not like I don’t have horses to ride and love on. I am so very grateful to my kind friends who have all but thrown their horses’ reins at me, so I have a nose to kiss and a critter to ride. I am honored that they trust me with their equine better halves.

Keyword: their. I am tired of sharing. I have catch rode and leased and worked to ride my entire life. I’ve gotten a taste of what it’s like to really and truly call a horse my own…and I’m not one to go backwards instead of forwards.

What makes the knife in my heart twist a little more is the passing thought that I should have been riding Image this fall. We should have been doing some, if not all, of these things. I woke up this morning, and in that hazy fog between sleep and consciousness, I decided to go to the barn to see him. When I fully awoke, it was a kick in the gut to remember that I can’t go to the barn and have him stuff his head into my chest ever again.

I miss him. I’m well versed grieving, but I forget how sneaky heartache can be.

At the end of the day, I know that this will pass. I will find a way to come to peace with my current situation. Nothing will come of a childish hissy fit over what I can’t have right now, and I’ll remember that sooner rather than later.

Until then, I am crawling back in bed with my motivation and positivity, pulling the covers over my head, and hoping they decide to leave the house with me tomorrow for a better day.

Horses That Made Me

1. The Intro Horse.
We each came into horses in our own way, but it was always with a horse leading us. This might have been a friend’s first pony, or perhaps it was a draft horse on a farm you once visited It might have been a real-life meeting, or an imaginary one. 
I honestly can’t remember why or when I started wanting a horse. My mother used to blame my father (only half jokingly) for putting me on a pony at a pony ride when I was a wee little thing. However, I do know what put my obsession into overdrive as a eight year old child. My grandmother, who wasn’t much of an animal person, gave me a few books for my birthday that year. I was still at age where toys were trumping anything else, so I was a little disappointed…until I started reading The Thoroughbred series by Joanna Campbell was ill written and completely unrealistic, but I absolutely LOVED immersing myself in the world of horse racing through the pre-teen protaganist. From that day forward, I wanted nothing more than to breeze Thoroughbred racehorses on the track. Obviously, my dreams changed over the years, especially as I grew too tall and my ass became way too wide to ride racehorses…but the driving force was the same: I wanted a horse, and I wanted the connection that Ashleigh had with her special mare, Wonder. I realize it now how completely unrealistic it was, but this book was the first introduction to the idea that horses and people could truly bond. I desperately wanted my very own Wonder: a horse that loved me as much as I loved her. I had that connection with GP, and on a different level, Image. I’m hoping to find it again.

I read this book so many times both covers fell off.  I had the entire series, but I lost them all one year in a move.

2. The Experimental Horse
Once you had crossed the line between “Darn, they’re big!” and “Wow! Can I try that?” you found yourself face-to-face with the horse that would suffer through your early attempts at figuring out the whole horse experience … wherever this horse came from, he probably didn’t benefit from the encounter as much as you did…

There were a handful of these horses, but the one that I really started to learn to ride on, outside of your typical beginner stuff, was a big, black and white spotted draft named Angus (no, I’m not kidding). Angus was a “hurry up and get it over with” kind of horse when it came to his job. He did it dutifully, without much fanfare, but didn’t love it the way I did. He tolerated my inexperience stoically, allowing me to learn how to sit the trot and canter without breaking gait or wiggling. He gave me my first ever gallop (okay, it was probably a fast canter, but whatever!). I went on my first solo trail rides with him, exploring the woods in southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts. He put up with me braiding his mane, reading aloud to him in his stall, and spending hours in the paddock just leaning against him. He was the first horse I ever rode in something other than a pony ride or riding lesson. He wasn’t a demonstrative horse, but he was the first horse I felt any sort of connection with, even though it was one sided…unless I had a tasty snack, that is 😉 

Angus and all his adorableness!

3. The Connected Horse
The first horses we meet don’t really connect with us, nor do we with them. Those are experiences in survival and tests of endurance. The Connected Horse is the first horse you truly bond with. This is the horse that sounds a chord that lives so deep in you that you might never have heard it otherwise…

I could write about GP here, but I think he has a place further down this list. The first horse I ever truly felt a mutual connection with was a big, lanky, sweet as pie but opinionated mare named Snickers. Snickers was a loud colored Appaloosa with a trot that could send you into outer space, and an adorable bunny hop canter. She sucked her tongue after she ate horse cookies and had one hell of a buck to her when she was feeling good. I wasn’t much of an actual rider when I started lessoning on Snickers…I was a passenger who was mostly unable to be an active participant in a partnership with a horse. Snickers taught me very, very quickly that if you weren’t paying attention, you were probably going to hit the ground. Once she figured out that I wasn’t playing games and that doing what I asked was in her best interest, she melted into the absolute sweetest, most willing mare on the face of the planet. I would toodle around the ring to warm up, and then play in the field, cantering around gleefully. Snickers tolerated the ring (sometimes), but she and I were both more at home on the trails. It took us a few years, but when our partnership took hold, it was beautiful. I felt like we could hear each others thoughts — I would think “trot”, and off she’d go. She would even hug me after a ride: I’d hop down, and throw my arms around her neck as a thank you for a good ride…and she’d gently wrap her neck around me, . I don’t get to ride her much anymore, as my schedule and her owner’s schedule don’t mesh super well these days, but she earned herself a place on my “wall of fame” in my bedroom, right next to GP and Image. It wasn’t immediate magic with her the way it was with GP or even Image, but the partnership we created morphed into something truly awesome.

From 2007. I would do bad, evil things to be that weight again!

 4. The Challenger
Into each horseperson’s life, a little challenge must fall. You’ll have read that one final training book, bought yourself a clicker and heading rope, and there you’ll stand, arms crossed, assessing the situation as if you actually knew what the situation was. It might be difficult to believe, as you are flying down the aisleway on the losing end of a braided cotton line, but you actually need this horse in your life…

Image. ‘Nuff said. He taught me more in six months than I’ve learned in the past six years, and has been my biggest challenge as a horsewoman to date, both from a training and an emotional perspective. Image was my first foray into legal horse ownership, where every decision was mine to make. It was scary and empowering and exciting and overwhelming all at once. Of course, we all know how this chapter ended. I could whine and moan about how terrible the experience was, but the end of our story never overshadowed the precious time we spent together. I can still feel him wiggling his top lip in my hair and the warmth of his head pressed into my chest. I will always hate the fact that our time together ended so soon…but I will never regret one single second of his presence. He was one of the most special things to ever happen to me and I am grateful for the vibrant color he brought into my life.

You all know his story. I miss him every day.

5. Your Deepest Heart
There will come a time when you will look at yourself with a cold, appraising eye, and you’ll have to be honest about your continued ability to deal with The Challenger and other difficult horses. At that point, you’ll seek out the horse that will be your soul mate forever… You’ll have bought him the most comfortable, best fitting equipment… Maybe you’ll still go to shows and ride – brilliantly or barely – in the Alzheimer’s class. Maybe you’ll just stay home. Whatever you do, one day you’ll realize that after all the money you spent on animal communicators and trainers, you only had to stop and listen and you would have clearly heard your horse’s thoughts and desires…
 

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but sometimes my life sucks. There isn’t any real “nice” way to put that. If you laid all my shit out on paper, I’ve had some pretty terrible luck here and there. Thank God I don’t live my life on paper, right? That being said, some days are easier than others. I had a lot of days that weren’t easy when I was eighteen. A bad falling out with a very dear friend left me shattered in ways I wasn’t prepared to deal with. Shortly thereafter, my mother died. I was, in short, a wreck. Then, GP showed up. GP, an unassuming little Quarter Horse gelding with a twisted front leg and an arrow shaped snip, taught me to live again. People think I’m exaggerating when I say this, but I promise you, I am not: this horse saved my life. If it weren’t for him, I would have succumbed to my own demons that year. He nudged me up off my knees when I was sure I couldn’t take any more. He was the first horse I ever gave my heart away to without reservation, and may be the only horse. He was the first horse that I ever truly felt the sort of bond that you think exists only in fairytales. I trusted him with my life. I did things with him I would have never dreamed of doing with most other horses. Riding him felt like coming home. It was just right. He, too, wasn’t a cuddle bug but I knew that he and I had something special the first day he tapped my cheek with his muzzle. His own special brand of “hello, you’re mine and I’m yours”. Losing him broke me. I knew the day would come sooner rather than later, as he was 31 when I met him, but it still broke my heart into a million different pieces. I haven’t been the same since and probably never will be. There will be other horses, but there will never be another GP.

Rest easy, silly little red horse.
***
Upcoming this weekend: senior photo shoot with the cutest Pintaloosa mare ever, a trip to ME (again!) with my coworker L to see a spotty girlie mule (not for me, for her!) and CASTLE SEASON 6 PREMIERE EXCUSE ME WHILE I HAVE A FANGIRL FREAKOUT OF EPIC PROPORTIONS.
Ahem.
Happy trails — see ya’ll on Monday, hopefully with spotty girlie mule pictures to share!

Striking Out

So, I lied a little when I said I was done until spring…but when stuff falls into your lap, and it sounds good, it’s not like I’m just going to ignore it!

Friday, a coworker emailed me an ad for a black and white pinto (ooh!) Missouri Fox Trotter gelding (oooh!!) with two blue eyes (OOOOOH!!). I also received an ad from B (can I just tell you how sweet I think she is for sending me ponies?) about a cute little chestnut and white pinto MFT gelding. Lastly, surprisingly enough, an ad I had emailed on back in August (!) finally responded to me about an adorable bay Paso Fino mare.

Well. All righty then.

Unfortunately, the chestnut pinto MFT fell to the wayside relatively quickly. He sounded very sweet, but our schedules simply didn’t mesh. The horse returns to his owner’s property, where this is no place to ride, on Wednesday, so I’m just chalking that one up to fate telling me it ain’t gonna work. The Paso mare was in PA, and I was planning on seeing her next weekend, but she sold to someone this past weekend. So, that left the little black and white Missouri Fox Trotter gelding in Maine.

I had a great correspondence with N, the critter’s trainer. The gelding was a tall guy with a bit of a murky background: he was well started as a four year old, and then was turned out to pasture for a good few years. He was then purchased by N’s friend as a horse for her mother, and it simply wasn’t a good match. N took him on and in seven weeks, helped him become quite a nice horse. He was polite but inquisitive, easy going but attentive, sweet but not overly pushy. He was definitely a greenie stuck in an older horse’s body, but because he was a green 11 year old and not a green 4 year old, he had a much longer attention span and tended to think before reacting. He had an adorable little fox trot, and a gorgeous canter. I was thoroughly impressed with him, and equally as impressed with N and her barn girl/surrogate daughter, C.

I swear I didn’t plan the color coordination — I just always match my clothing and he happened to have a blue pad!

I wasn’t, however, in love.

With Dorada, I wanted to stuff her in the back of my car and take her home. I didn’t voice that, obviously, because I knew that I needed to come down off of my riding high to make sure I wasn’t just reacting off of emotion. I knew the second we met that I would have had a great, longterm relationship with her. Image and GP spoiled me for what it means to have a bond with a horse, and I won’t have anything less.

I just didn’t have that magic moment with Rennie, the sweet Fox Trotter gelding. He did everything right to woo me, but I left un-wooed, much to my (and N’s!) chagrin. I really wanted to be in love with him. I’ve dreamed of blue eyed horses with dark faces for a long, long time, so to get up there and not have any sort of spark was a little bit of a downer. I was honest with N, and left with a “probably not going to make the purchase, so don’t hold him, but I’ll be in touch by the end of the weekend.” I usually leave with that sort of clause just in case I wake up the next day and have a complete change of heart.

I got a text about an hour later saying Rennie had sold. Guess that made my decision for me.

I made the best of the day, however. I met a cute horse, some cool people, and spent the rest of the day on the beach in York, ME. I spent a lot of time in the little vacation town as a younging, playing in the waves and hunting down sand dollars with my sister and cousins while the adults in my family hung out on the shore. August 29th marked 12 years since my father passed, and this upcoming Saturday, the 21st, is 4 years since my mother passed.We haven’t been to York as a family for a couple of years now, but just being there brought all of the light and laughter flooding back.

I went with a beach chair, a book, a pair of sunglasses, and a sundress. I sat on the beach, toes dug into the sand and read my book. I hardly ever read these days, unless it’s about product for work or blog posts from friends. I used to devour a few books a week up until I stopped being a regular phone rep at Dover. It was comforting to be on the very quiet beach (end of the season, and it was a leeeettle bit chilly!). I miss my parents something fierce during the fall and winter months. I hope GP and Image are harassing them…neither Mom nor Dad were horse people, so the thought makes me laugh.

So, with fall approaching, I’m hoping to distract myself with Henry the Huge Draft Horse and some fall shoots…and hopefully, a lot more blogging!

Cavalia: Odysseo

WARNING: This post is going to contain spoilers for the Cavalia: Odysseo show. If you have even the tiniest inkling to go see it for yourself, quit reading here. It is a show that’s meant to be experienced in person, not read about! However, I felt the need to share about how awesome it was!

I made brief mention a week or so ago that a friend had gotten us tickets to Cavalia in Boston. I was beside myself with excitement, but kept it under wraps a bit because my life can be tricky and get in the way of my fun! However, Friday the 6th dawned and after work, I was Cavalia-bound!

For those unaware, Cavalia is a horse-centric play of sorts that showcases incredible horsemanship and riding. I wasn’t able to see the previous tour of Cavalia when it was at Suffolk Downs in Boston about eight years ago, but according to friends, this go-around had much more “circus” like attributes — dancing, acrobatics, music, ect. It is truly a show to experience with all of your senses and it appeals to horse lovers and theater lovers alike. It has been the topic of conversation at work since it opened late last month in Boston, and I could not believe I was going to get to see it!

I worked for most of the day like a squirrel on crack — an ill-timed coffee plus excitement made for a fidgety day. I was also braindead that morning, and left both my debit card (okay, whatever, I can get a check to myself cashed) and my LICENSE (dear Christ on a cracker do I own a brain!?) sitting on my counter at home. I changed into slightly dressier clothes at work and flew out of the office at around 3:30. I drove like a bat out of hell back to Framingham, and then down to the other end of the state to pick up my friend M. M and I met in a fairly odd way…we actually grew up about 5 minutes from each other in the same town. However, I didn’t actually meet her until late last year. We became friends on Facebook through a mutual high school acquaintance in 2010, quite a few years after we had both graduated high school. We are similar people, in a lot of ways, and when I realized that she was the one with the pretty buckskin gelding down the road, I about had a fit. If only I had been brave enough to knock on the door and introduce myself! The adventures and horsey fun we would have had together! Of course, we joke now that if we HAD been friends as kidlets, we would have wreaked all sorts of havoc on the little town of Blackstone, Massachusetts!

After I picked M up, I fought traffic all down the highway into Boston. Now, if we’re being technical here, the tent wasn’t really in Boston — it was in Somerville. However, from the direction I had to come from, I had to drive through Boston (dun dun duuunnnn!). I’m a Massachusetts girl, born and raised, but I have avoided driving in Boston like the plague. I swore up and down that I wouldn’t drive anywhere NEAR Boston, because it is terrifying and I would prefer to stay alive, thankyouverymuch.

Well. I drove in Boston. No one died and I didn’t hyperventilate. I may have white knuckled it the entire time, but I only made one wrong turn, and only almost got hit once. I would consider that a success!

Of course, all of the tension from Friday afternoon traffic and driving in Boston melted away when we pulled up!

*insert loud girlish squealing here*

M had managed to score us super fancy VIP tickets. Now, this meant that we got special parking, a special side building specifically for VIP ticket holders, dinner beforehand, free drinks (helllooo wine!), awesome seating, dessert at intermission, free GORGEOUS program, and a stable tour after the show. So, we were ushered into the VIP parking. Once the car stopped, M and I turned to each other and had a little squee fest. We got to pretend to be rich and classy for a whole night! It was exciting!

After a quick trip to the ladies room, we entered the VIP “lounge”. We ooh’d and aah’d appropriately, before grabbing something to eat. I’m not sure either of us were too focused on the food…once we had wine in our hands, we were exploring the boutique in the middle of the room. There were your staples: hats, shirts, sweatshirts, ect. I wanted one of each. There were also horse products: hoofpicks, brushes, coolers, saddle pads, and exercise sheets. I also wanted one of each of these. They also had DVDs and CDs (I broke down and bought a CD after the show!), and some VERY nice jackets. Not to mention the plethora of adorable Douglas stuffed animals and pretty jewelry! Of course, this being what it was, everything was insanely expensive. I managed to only walk away with a wind jacket and the soundtrack to the show, so I’ll consider myself lucky. I could have easily spent a paycheck or two in there without missing a beat!

It wasn’t long until the call came that the show was soon to start. Commence another squee session! M and I grabbed our complimentary popcorn and headed out to the arena.

Now, when I said we got awesome seating, I wasn’t kidding. M had managed to get us two front-freaking-row tickets. Like, front row, front row. NO one in front of us front row. I about died of excitement right there.

My feet are just out of the shot. RIGHT. THERE!! No, I wasn’t supposed to be taking pictures. Shh!

Then it started.

I could easily give everyone a blow-by-blow account of how this show went down. Honestly, though, the magic wasn’t in the pieces of the show: it was how the pieces came together, entangling with one another to create an absolutely enchanting experience. I think I hit upon every positive emotion in the book at least once. I left the show feeling completely awestruck, not only at how breathtaking the show was, but also at how HAPPY they all looked. Riders, acrobats, dancers, singers, and horses alike — everyone was clearly having a complete and total blast. I will touch on some of my favorite parts of the evening:

  • The very beginning act had me in tears. Honest to goodness, makeup down my face, needed a tissue tears. I left the “cry over everything” part of teenager-dom a long time ago, but the simplistic beauty of one woman, singing in a language I couldn’t quite identify (I think it was Italian?), with a herd of horses gallivanting around her made my heart burst with emotion only a horse person would understand. 
  • There were people on boingy-springy-stilt things. DO WANT. WILL PROBABLY KILL SELF BY ACCIDENT BUT DO. WANT.
  • I was not prepared for the very…um, very nice looking men bare chested men. Now, being in the front row means I got to see a LOT. Like every. single. muscle on these guys. They were doing back flips and making human pyramids and dancing like crazy. I wanted the horses, but I could have taken one of them home too.
  • I’m not one to be super impressed by acrobatics, but I REALLY enjoyed the stuff they did at Cavalia. It could be because it was so saturated with horses, but the way these people navigated rings, poles, and long silks like they were nothing had my jaw on the floor. A lots of acrobatics included a horse component, which gave it an entirely different feel.
  • The music was all live. The singing was also live. I am a sucker for a woman with a good voice and she did not disappoint!
  • Trick riders hanging off the sides of horses galloping at mach ten. ‘Nuff said.
  • The set was IN-FREAKING-CREDIBLE. The actual arena was dirt, and then along the back, they had built it up so it was a rather impressive hill. The back wall was a huge screen, where projectors showed scenes that ranged from the forest, to the African Serengeti, to the night sky with shooting stars…it really transported you into the moment and made the entire thing seem MUCH bigger.
You can see the screens through the “trees”.  More sneaky pictures!
  • I was REALLY happy to see horses that were concentrating but not cranky. Nothing had more than a snaffle in his mouth (all geldings and stallions), and some were ridden bitless, and a few even bridleless. All had protective boots on as well. All the horses looked awesome, in great shape, and like they were loving every second of what they were doing. In fact, I got a little nervous a few times that we were going to have horses bounding over the barrier into our laps! A couple of super feisty Arabs who were rough housing and not paying attention to where they were going nearly collided with the barrier, too. It was awesome to see them having so much fun!
  • The use of language was really cool. I wasn’t sure what language was being spoken most of the time, but I didn’t hear English used once during the show.
  • One of my other favorite acts was probably the end act. All of a sudden, as most people were watching a horse and rider duo up on the hill, back lit by the screens, I noticed that the arena in front of me was…glistening? They had started to fill the bottom of the hill with water. The screens turned into a beautiful waterfall setting, and a small, shallow pond filled the bottom of the arena. The horse and rider performed a beautiful series of dressage movements, before being joined by the entire cast of performers and horses. The trick riders galloping through the water misted us a bit…so freakin’ cool!
I’m leaving out SO much, but there really was just so much to experience that can’t be put into words. Needless to say, there was a standing ovation at the end. M and I really couldn’t say much outside of “did we really just get to see that?!”
The night ended with the stable tour, which was honestly uneventful. The Cavalia horses are so used to being stared at, that they were completely unenthused with our presence. Due to very practical reasons, we couldn’t touch the critters. The horse woman in me understood why — the potential to spread disease or something of the sort was far too great. The five year old in me threw a silent temper tantrum…and sneakily stroked the shoulder of a kind eyed Lusitano gelding. I suck at following rules, apparently.
Completely bored with the whole thing. Cuuuute critter, though!
We sashayed our way back out to my car, where M posed playfully with the pictures hanging on the walkways. We were both overtired and giggly at this point, as it was after midnight. It’s good to have the excuse of being 22, sometimes — I’m not one to be silly like that too often, but at least it’s still socially acceptable!
Of course, it wouldn’t be a story of mine if I didn’t nearly destroy something in the process. Now, to set this up, I have hood pins on my Chevy Prizm. The person I bought my car from (my best friend from high school) smushed the front end in a fender bender. It would have been stupidly expensive to replace the latch on the hood on an older car, so her father put in hood pins. They look ridiculous, but it’s a good conversation starter! Anyway, now that you know that…
I went to back out of the parking spot, and realized something was amiss. There was a bright yellow, plastic chain that was dividing two rows of parking spaces. It seemed to be following the hood of my car. I stepped on the brake. I concluded I was just seeing things. Slowly, I eased off the brake and gave the yellow chain the stink eye. It continued to follow the hood of my car. Damn. It.
Laughing, I clambered out of the car, followed closely by M. When I realized that, oh dear god, it really IS stuck on my frigging hood pin, I nearly had to sit down on the ground from laughter.
SERIOUSLY?!
M and I had to wrestle with it a bit to get it unstuck, but it eventually slid off of the pin. I left without damaging any Cavalia property, but only just barely. At least it wasn’t a horse!
I didn’t get in until after 1 AM Saturday morning. I didn’t fall asleep until after 2 AM. I woke up on Saturday, thinking it was 10 AM-ish. 
It wasn’t. It was nearly 3 PM. Thank God I didn’t have anything planned!
Cavalia was 100% worth it. I am so, so, so glad to have had the chance to see this for myself, and to have had a “first class” experience along the way. I am incredibly grateful for M — if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have gone. She tolerated me and my social ineptness with grace and kindness, and we even made each other laugh quite a few times. Hopefully, she and I will get to ride together someday in the very near future!
TL;DR version of everything I just said: GO SEE CAVALIA. 
NOW!
😉

Sunday Story Time: Henry the Huge Draft Horse

I rode today.

I should probably be more excited about it, but riding has made my heart hurt just a little since I lost Image. I’m sure it’ll fade, the same way it did when I lost GP, but after being so sure Dorada was coming home to me (she has been sold to someone else, which I only know because I stalked her advertisements online), it seemed fresh again.

Still, I forced myself to go to J’s. I knew it would be good for me, and good for the green bean draftie machine. I arrived at the barn, and J and I discussed our impressions of Cavalia (that is a separate post in the making!). She went up to the house, and I positioned Henry on the cross ties. I swear to you, there isn’t a sweeter draft on the planet. He really is the softest, squishiest teddy bear of a horse. It’s hard not to love him when he lips your nose, wiggles his lip in your hair, and asks (very politely) for ear rubs.

Since I had last played with him, J had gotten him a nice, custom-sized Australian saddle. I was actually quite excited to ride in it, despite it being a little small for my big fat ass. I had purchased an Aussie saddle for Image right before I lost him, and didn’t even get a chance to try it out before I sold it.

Once I had picked the tangles out of his tail, I eagerly went into the tack room to grab the saddle and the pad. The pad was easy to figure out, and I positioned that on his back with ease. The saddle, however, gave me a bit of a surprise when I swung it up and over my head (literally — I can’t see over Henry’s back!). Much like English saddles, Aussie saddles have stirrup leathers that can be removed. Well, one of them wasn’t set on the stirrup bar correctly, and it went careening over my head. I spooked, Henry spooked, and the horses watching to make sure Henry didn’t get any treats from their stalls spooked when it hit the ground. Oops!

Once the saddle was positioned on his back, I stared at the girth. It looked like your typical English girth, but…not. One side had a billet strap attached to it, and there wasn’t any elastic anywhere. I tentatively lifted up the saddle flap on one side, and noticed a ring that was conveniently placed where a second billet strap should have gone. I followed my gut and girthed the saddle up, looping the billet strap on the girth through the hole and back on itself through the buckle. The other side was more straightforward. I hoped I had gotten it right!

J entered the barn just as I was getting ready to bridle him, and gave my girthing attempts a thumbs up. I checked the girth, snapped the chinstrap on my helmet, and climbed (no, really, I had to climb a ladder!) into the saddle.

I was immediately reminded of how wide this horse is. Have you ever watched a little kid ride a horse and not a pony? Their legs barely reach down past the saddle, and any cues they’re giving are kind of lost on the horse because they literally cannot reach the horse’s side. I feel a bit like that whenever I ride Henry! I really can’t get my leg on him, and end up having to use my heel a lot more than I like. I toodled around the yard while J got herself situated on her bike, and reacquainted myself with Henry. Fortunately, he is a tolerant greenie, and allowed me to wiggle around up there until I felt comfy.

We just rode on the road, J riding her bike and me on Henry. He was a good boy all by his onesies out there, with only one spook that I didn’t blame him for (some kind of nail gun went off; scared the pants off of me too!).  I do love riding him out on the roads…people just kind of stare at the big, palomino beastie as he’s wandering down the road with a round but short person on his back! We even had one lady slow down and stop to talk. She was complimenting his looks, when all of a sudden, a little black and white head with BIG ears popped up in the window.

Oh my good lord, it was a baby French bulldog.

My immediate response.

I squee’d appropriately, wishing briefly that I was on the ground so I could go snuzzle the adorable ball of cute. It barked at Henry (and at J’s two dogs that had come along for the walk). Henry pricked his ears and shuffled closer. It barked again. Henry dropped his head and stuck his nose out. Then…then, this happened:

HOLY MOTHER OF ALL THINGS CUTE.

We all exploded from cute. Thankfully, the kind lady in the van was also a horsewoman, so she was thrilled with a big ole’ draft head in her passenger seat!

The rest of the ride was much less eventful, though there was a small rear in protest of being asked to stand still, and the discovery of a too-tight curb chain (which was 100% my fault; I didn’t check it before getting on!). The little spook at the nail gun caught us both off guard, but I didn’t hit the ground and ended the ride on a good note.
J’s horses: Henry, Einstein and Monte
I’m going to try and get out there every Sunday as much as possible this fall, just for my own mental health. I miss my barn, and I miss my barn atmosphere, but it’s hard to go back there right now. L doesn’t have much for me to play with at the moment, so I mostly feel out of place. 
I know things will settle back into a routine eventually, but right now, I’m feeling out of sorts and more than a little lost. Trying to keep positive and keep looking forward. Time (and giving Henry’s big soft nose some kisses) will hopefully help the process along.

The Saddle Saga

I am the very, very proud owner of this beautiful saddle:

This, dear readers, is a Bob Marshall Sports Saddle. Bob Marshalls are one of the nicest, western style treeless saddles out there. I have coveted one for a very long time — ever since I put my butt in one riding with friends who have Paso Finos down on the south shore of Massachusetts. It’s hard to explain the feeling of riding in one. There is no tree in this saddle, so the only rigid parts are the cantle and the pommel. The rest of the saddle is pliable and soft, which means you’re able to feel your horse’s back through the saddle and pad. Your horse tenses up their back, and you know the second it happens. I’ve been able to redirect spooks and bucks even before the horse truly thinks about spooking or bucking. They offer a nice, deep seat with a “riding bareback” feel. I LOVE them. They have their drawbacks, but they pros outweigh the cons in my book, provided the correct padding is used to avoid bridging over the spine and ensure correct weight disbursement.

Anyway, I had been idly surfing the Bob Marshall websites for months. I was slowly putting away money to purchase one, because my old Wintec stock saddle really did not fit GP. I spent a lot of time riding bareback when I could, and tried to keep rides shorter because of the saddle fit issues. Shortly before I reached my monetary goal, I lost GP. My entire world crashed down, and a saddle purchase was the last thing on my mind.

During all of this, I turned to my friends. I have really awesome friends that I spend time with in the “real world”, but I also have a group of friends that are scattered all over the country. We met on a large, public horse forum called HorseCity.com. For many years, we laughed and chatted together on this board, and not just about horses. Unfortunately, shortly after I became truly active on the boards (after five years of lurking!), the entire board went to hell in a hand basket. New management royally pissed off a lot of us, and we picked up our toys and moved to a new playground. The Banned Wagon was formed, and all of a sudden, I had a very large, very vocal new “family”. I went out to Oregon that year to meet a bunch of them. We probably confused people wherever we went, because for the most part, we referred to each other by our online names: “Hey, PacaPaca! Where’s Remy and MyDakota?”

These wonderful ladies (and a few very, very brave men) rallied around me when GP died, and they held me up when I felt like I wasn’t able to keep going. Slowly, things returned to normal.

A month or so later, one of the other members posted that she was looking to sell her very nice Bob Marshall saddle. I ooh’ed and ahh’ed and sighed with jealousy, but didn’t feel like it was wise to make such a purchase. I proceeded to forget about the saddle and went about my business.

Another few months passed. The owner of the saddle (a spicy, intelligent woman who lives in Malaysia) posted a sly thread titled “I have a secret!” I was not privy to this secret, and wasn’t allowed in on the fun after several attempts at pestering it out of the (many!) posters who seemed to know what was going on.  A small warning bell went off in the back of my head (“Pay attention! This is weird!”), but I sighed and figured I was too close to whomever was at the receiving end of the secret to be trusted with the info.

Soon enough, I had completely forgotten about said secret. It was a cold, gross day in early June. I had stayed home from work due to car troubles, and was holed up in my bedroom with my laptop and an endless supply of movies. I remember hearing the mail truck pull up in the background, but not paying any attention to it…until I watched our short, round postman struggling up the driveway with a box about as big as he was. I felt bad, so I shuffled out from under my covers and went outside to help.

I was pretty shocked when the postman gratefully unloaded the box into my arms. It was definitely heavy! My eyebrows rose further when I realize the name on the box was mine…and it had come from overseas. Malaysia, to be exact. I blinked a few times, and suddenly, everything made sense.

“She DIDN’T.”

And she hadn’t…but THEY had! I opened the box with the grace of a five year old opening Christmas presents, and burst into tears. There, nestled amongst lots of cushiony things, was that beautiful Bob Marshall saddle I had sighed over many months ago, a gorgeous headstall, a breastcollar, a girth, and an incredibly sweet card from all of the people who had been there for me when GP passed. It was a gift from all of them, sent from Malaysia, to bolster my spirits and give me something to smile about.

I sat on the floor in a crumpled mess of newspaper and foam, the saddle in my lap, as I went over every detail. I had a hard time believing that this had actually happened. It was the prettiest piece of tack I owned at that point (and is still the prettiest piece of tack I own…and may ever own!). I cried. A lot. I got up, ran upstairs, posted a flabbergasted and slightly incoherent post on the boards, ran back downstairs, and stared at the saddle some more. It took every bit of self control I had to not run out to the barn, throw it on the first horse I saw, and take it for a ride. Instead, I cleaned it and took some pictures, which I shared out on Facebook so I could gush some more.

Just a few months later, Image would become mine. This saddle had been on quite a few horses at that point, but it was a very special day when I put it on Image. I only rode him in it once, because it was just a smidge too long for his shorter back, but it was an incredible feeling: I was sitting on my pretty horse in my pretty saddle and life was good.  Image was worked in that saddle quite a few times after that, even if I never rode him in it again. Today, it’s sitting in my bedroom, where it gets cleaned a few times a month and is being used by quite a few of my stuffed animals.

I have many very special possessions, given to me by very special people. This, however, is one of the most precious. The combined effort of so many wonderful people did my heart so much good. Sometimes, I forget that I’m not as alone as I feel — there are many people out there who care. This saddle is an excellent reminder to reach out when I need to most.

I miss riding in it. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, I’ll be able to tack up my very own horse and ride down the trails in my beautiful saddle again!