The vet came out for spring shots. In addition to the usual coggins and shots, Nakai also received a body examination, mouth exam, and eye exam. There’s a fecal in there somewhere as well, but I do those every year regardless. I’m just waiting for the next person over my house to ask why I have noted to “gather poop balls for Jess” written on the calendar.

I felt the need for a baseline mostly because I don’t know what to expect in old horse aging. Nakai compounds this mystery as up until now he hasn’t had any of the issues that normally plague older horses. He’s very healthy for his age (27), and the vet still can’t believe he’s cushings free.

Shrinky eye is shrinky.

He hasn’t had an ERU flare up for over 2 1/2 years now, and while his eyeball is continually shrinking (and looking more pointy) it’s not causing any issues. He has two ancient splints on the inside of his fronts, but otherwise his legs are clean.

Amazingly, he still has all of his teeth, although some of them are nearly worn down completely. He’s beginning to have a minor issue chewing all of his hay (my BO noticed him dropping some), so I’m now supplementing with soaked alfalfa/timothy cubes.

Body condition as of 3/18/18

The most interesting discovery was that Nakai has a heart murmur! Over the course of our endurance training I thought I heard something odd when listening to his heart, but nobody had confirmed one way or another what it was. It’s never bothered him, and the vet confirmed that it’s not hindering him in any way. Sometimes murmurs show up in older horses and I have no way of knowing if this is something he’s had his entire life or is a later onset.

In summary: Nakai’s old but not broken, and despite wanting to see a little more weight gain the vet told me he looks good for his age.

While I know he’s old, I don’t think of him as “old”, and it’s a bit of a system shock each time someone says it. I automatically get defensive, the Mama-Bear in me wanting to hulk smash the person next person who flippantly comments on his roaning facial hair.

In the same breath, my gallows humor and morbid “what happens after my horse dies” questions are somehow inappropriate. I deal with sucky subjects by way of humor, but I also have to be realistic. Hopefully I won’t have to cross this bridge for years, but knowledge helps me feel more secure. I can plan. Kinda. We all know the Universe is rather whimsical.

And I’d rather a minute too early than a second too late.



Compared to 2016’s equestrian endeavors this past year has been extremely quiet. After completing 50 miles with all A’s at Mustang Memorial, I retired Nakai from endurance riding. He absolutely loves it, but at 26 years old I think it’s too much to ask him to keep doing fifties. Aside from Nakai’s ERU, I’ve been incredibly fortunate not to have any lameness or “old horse” issues. I want to keep him going as long as possible, and I decided that meant no longer competing.

I miss endurance riding.

I still bounce down the trails with friends and Nakai still needs at least 15 miles to really settle. What I really want, though, is to load up my horse and travel the east coast attending rides. Nakai will always have a home with me, and I love him more than life. Life, however, has its limitations and this particular dream isn’t going to manifest itself for a number of years.

The last bit of 2017 came with all kinds of annoyances that, while minor in the long run, left Ben and I stressed and cranky. My family was kind enough to gift us with the plague at Christmas. Three weeks have gone by and we’re finally feeling better. I’ll remember this the next time I come down with a stomach bug.

Then, I messed up my back and somehow managed to lock up the muscles in my lower left side. From doing what, you ask? CLEANING. Well, I told Ben, that’s the last time I’m doing that.

From all of this, Nakai’s basically had the first part of January off. I was able to squeeze in a ride here and there, but this past weekend was the first time I felt decent enough and the footing was safe enough to get some miles in on the trails.  I’m on a completely different schedule than everyone at the barn it seems, so I took the opportunity to tinker with my new vivitar camera. Unfortunately, the battery life is nauseatingly short (30 mins) and I have to practically point it at the ground to see Nakai. I’m hoping to replace it with one of the newer GoPro Hero’s in the near future.

Winter is usually when I pull out my work saddle and go back to basics. We work on softness, flexibility, and patience. I’d like to think one of the reasons I don’t have any body issues or lameness with him is because of the time I spend bending and suppling his body. It improves his responses, flexibility, and balance. This little horse can do lead changes on circles smaller than 20 meters, but that doesn’t mean anything if I don’t keep up with it.

Our ride last night can be summarized by “I should have lunged my horse”. Nakai was great but absolutely on fire. He wanted to do everything at Mach 5. I said “come on, easy, easy, YES soft, that’s right” so many times it might as well be our mantra. It was more frequently followed by “nope, you know that, nope” as I half halted every other stride and asked him to please remember he is an appaloosa and most certainly not a dynamite stick. He tries so hard though, and I feel blessed to have a coming 27 with the motor of a 4 year old.

I can’t wait to see him tomorrow.






083. Pennhurst Asylum [Part 2]

Composing myself in the stairwell with Sarah, we walked out of the Mayflower building to catch up with Ben and the rest of the group as they entered the Philadelphia building to access the tunnel. In reality, the tunnel didn’t look much like a tunnel and instead resembled a concrete hallway that you might see in a parking garage or hospital basement. It was dimly lit by an exit sign, and the end was blocked off by wood pallets signaling the beginning of the Halloween attraction.

You could walk two abreast and there were narrow curbs running along either side. The investigator had the Ovilus out and our group stood on either side of the tunnel facing each other. The investigator told us that their boss, Tyler, spent two weeks down here. He was able to cross some children over and mentioned that the inhuman thing down in the basement also liked to frequent this portion of the tunnel.

The Ovilus captured multiple voices at once and was incredibly hard to understand. The energy in the tunnel was very odd, too. It felt hard to focus and there were a few times I zoned out completely. It looked like other people did the same thing. Many people in our group said they thought they saw a shadow moving back and forth by the entrance. I didn’t see anything. The two Dave’s approached the area to ask questions, and both of them said they felt something touch them gently.

Here is some audio/video from the tunnel:


Our last stop was the third floor in the Mayflower building. Small dorm rooms lined both sides of the hallway and opened up into a larger room (similar to how the basement was set up). The investigator here said this floor had been mostly dead all night. No activity on the Ovilus, no EMF readings, and nothing interacted with the trigger item (a small plush dog with little LED lights).

A voice recorder was brought out and a couple different people selected various dorm rooms away from the group to ask questions. During one of these, we heard a loud thump that we all thought was from the individual and the investigator. They replied that it hadn’t been them. A flashlight when on and off shortly thereafter, but we didn’t have any other activity otherwise. The investigator allowed us to explore the rest of the floor which branched out into two hallways like an ‘L’ shape. Some of the dorm rooms had holes in the wall that were big enough for me to fit through. Neither Ben nor Sarah were enthused with the idea of exploring, and the investigator said she wasn’t sure where the holes came from.

With the group session complete, it was now a little after 4am and we were given the opportunity to wander on our own. Sarah wanted to explore the basement further so we went down and branched out. The investigators asked everyone to be quiet and respectful – there were many amateur paranormal investigators who had brought their own devices and technology to Pennhurst. They asked us to keep flashlights at a minimum and to speak softly so as to not disturb the more intimate seances. We did, but it apparently not everyone understood these requests. It completely killed the energy. Suddenly everything felt too restrictive and static-y. There was just too much going on, too much movement, and it made it incredibly difficult to focus.

At one point I lost Ben and nearly 15 minutes later stumbled upon him and an intimate seance. The man conducting it had a myriad of instruments, one of which was on the floor with red, green, orange, and yellow LED lights on it. Their EMF readers were going off, and both the gentleman and Ben took turns asking questions and waiting for responses. It made me giggle – Ben wasn’t thrilled about coming to Pennhurst, but for a nonbeliever he sure got into it.

We left a little after 5am. I was emotionally exhausted and sleepiness hit like a freight train. My dreams were incredibly stressful, although I couldn’t tell you exactly what they were about. The emotions in them were strong and worrisome. I woke up with a nagging feeling the plagued the rest of the day.

I’d absolutely do it again.

082. Pennhurst Asylum [Part 1]

This year I received an awesome birthday gift – an overnight paranormal investigation at Pennhurst Asylum.

Pennhurst was originally known as the Eastern State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic, but it quickly became a dumping ground for society’s invisibles. Individuals with mental and physical handicaps were not the only patients of Pennhurst. Immigrants, orphans, and even criminals were housed here. They labeled patients into categories: Imbecile, Insane, Healthy, or Epileptic are just a few.  Pennhurst was quickly overwhelmed and far past it’s original capacity. Patients were often left chained to beds and cribs, clothed only in thin, wispy hospital gowns, and were at the mercy of other patient bullies and overworked nurses and doctors. Physical, mental, and sexual abuse ran rampant.

In the 1960’s, reporter Bill Baldini aired a 5 part series on Pennhurst called “Suffer the Little Children”. It exposed the terrible conditions inside the state hospital. By the late 1980’s, Pennhurst finally closed. [Note: you can find this series on youtube.]

It stood empty for years until it was bought privately and partially turned into a Haunted Attraction. There is, however, a Pennhurst Paranormal Society and it has been featured on shows such as Ghost Adventures. We had full access to the Mayflower building and part of the Philadelphia building to access a section of the tunnels.

We arrived at 9:30pm and were quickly checked in and split into groups. The small groups would have intimate vigils on the different levels of the buildings. We started on the second floor of Mayflower. Here, our team leader set up two small mag flashlights set on opposite side of the room (away from everyone else).  Our EMF readers lit up to inquiries about ‘Emily’. Another woman’s name, Hazel, also came through, although no one was sure if this was a previous patient or a nurse. The flashlights turned on and off, seeming to answer intelligently to questions. We also used an item called and Ovilus which uses radio waves to capture what is believed to be spirit communication.

The temperature in the area shifted from mild to freezing in seconds. We sat in a semi circle facing the flashlights with the doorway and hallway to my back. I could hear movement behind me the entire time we were on the second floor; it was if something light was being dragged across the floor. It was no more than a whisper with an occasional crunch, like stones under a boot tread. I also felt terribly sad and teared up a few times. No one else in my group seemed to have the same emotional response. We played duck-duck-goose, and the ovilus faintly picked up ‘duck’ and ‘goose’. The overall impression was that these were children.

Below is a video I took during the beginning of the vigil:

From here, we moved downstairs to the first floor and had a different leader (I believe her name was Vicky or Victoria). Sarah, still holding the EMF reader, was asked to pick which area to hold the next vigil. The large room was sectioned off into smaller rooms with painted over brick that only went up 6-7 feet high. Sarah chose the last room on the right.

Instead of leaving the Ovilus available for everyone to hear, the team leader put headphones in and gave it to a gentleman named Dave (there were 2 Daves in our group – this will be important later). She asked him to say any words that clearly came through the device. We asked questions: “Is anyone here with us?” “Would you like to talk to us?” “Do you like it here?” and Dave immediately said multiple voices came through that were hard to understand. One voice, a deeper man’s, overpowered the rest and remained prominent throughout the vigil. Dave said he sounded nasty. At one point, Dave quietly muttered “What the fuck“, jerking his head up and saying “It just told me to kill myself”. When asked if it could touch anyone in the group, the voice replied “Try me” and “Can hurt too”. A creeping, swirling chill only touched certain areas of my body; my thighs, a cheek… the back of my neck. Ironically, the room Sarah picked was the only room with complete windows. The temperature outside was actually much warmer (50+ degrees) and the brick and concrete blocked wind.

After a bit, we moved into another small room. Dousing rods were brought out and Dave squared held them. They also seemed to move and cross over intelligently, and at one point we asked if the rods could spin.  One of the rods spun rather quickly. I’m not sure how I feel about dousing rods as I feel in this instance they could easily be influenced, but it was neat to witness nonetheless.

Our third location was the basement. Part of the tunnel is accessible from here; make a sharp left after descending the stairs and it leads right into it. The basement itself is expansive. One long hallway runs the length and empties into a large room. The large room was originally one of the areas for physical therapy. The rest of the basement was sectioned off into  narrower rooms the ran parallel to each other on either side of the hallway.

The energy down here felt off – oppressive and thick. Sarah immediately mentioned that she didn’t like the vibe and the rest of our group felt spooked. I had a prickly feeling of something lingering just inside the darkened doorways of the smaller rooms.  Our leader this time was a woman who claimed she was a Medium (more on this later). We stood in a circle, a menagerie of children’s toys placed haphazardly on the floor. She mentioned that these were toys people had found in Pennhurst with the exception of a couple visitors brought. The Medium told us that there is a dark energy and spirit that resides down here and dislikes women. She also said that there is something inhuman that likes to lurk in the basement as well. It slinks on all fours and has long fingers. The previous night she worked with a women who mentored under Lorraine Warren. She said the thing ran from the woman all night long.

The ovilus was brought out and the same deep voice we heard upstairs on the first floor came through almost immediately. The majority sounded garbled to me, and we heard someone walking around us. I felt tingly and I had an awful lower backache. Ben and I stood across from the Medium in the circle with our back toward the hallway and the doorway to a smaller room. I kept twisting to look back; the hair on my neck stood up and I felt extremely anxious. It’s hard to describe, but even though I couldn’t see anything it felt like something was there. A moment later, Ben says “Something just touched me” and made a movement to show someone had brushed up against his right shoulder.

In this next audio, you’ll hear what was supposedly behind us:

The energy of our group spiked with anxiety and we moved into the smaller room. More easily understood words came through the ovilus along with moaning and what sounded like a painful “oowwww”. The EMF readers were bonkers. At the end of the room there are two doorways adjacent to each other. I swear I saw feet walk past both. The shoes were black and heavy, similar to thick men’s business shoes.

A small closet was set in the back of the room and we watched the door sway without anyone touching it. The Medium asked a few in our group to go in and check it out with the EMF readers and ask a few questions. As soon as they did, there was a loud bang behind us and a skittering noise. The only thing behind us was the brick wall and an old bicycle.

As we made our way upstairs to rotate again, Sarah and I lingered to see if the Medium needed help with her items. I briefly told her that my mom died at home on hospice and that I used to see shadow things in the periphery of my vision. Were they shadow people?

She shook her head strongly, cutting me off: “no, no they’re not. I’m not sure who they are but they’re not shadow people. And you know what-” she stopped, looking up at me. “Your mom’s not mad at you, you know that? She’s okay. She’s not mad at anyone in the family. She’s angry she went so young and she’s missing out, but she’s not. mad. at. you. Ok? Does she like music? I head music, like whistling. She brings the music wherever she goes. She’s with you quite a lot. Does the name Janet/Jane ring a bell? Are her sister’s named that? It’s coming through with her. She’s waiting for them.” She paused, smiling. “She’s cute; your mom’s really cute.”

A few things here: Sarah organized everything for this event, so there is absolutely no way anyone could have gotten information about me and my mother. At no point did I share any personal information, not even my name. There’s also no way this woman could have known my mother was a band geek, specifically playing the flute for many years. She tried to get both myself and my brother into it, but alas we are severely lacking in the musical gene. Furthermore, I have no idea how this woman could have known my mom has sisters. The Janet/Jane name doesn’t ring a bell. Both my grandmother’s have names that begin with J, but they are not those.

In the stairwell leading from the basement to the first floor, I bawled my eyes out.

081. No Really, Leash Your Fecking Dog

Ben and I hiked Musconetcong Gorge over the weekend. The late start on Saturday left us with only an hour before dark, so we finished the entire loop Sunday morning. It’s a lovely hike with a moderate section of switchback trails to the summit.

Twice on Sunday we ran into unleashed dogs – rather, they ran into us. There are a few larger boulders down at the creek crossing, and I was taking advantage of the photo op with Mulder. I heard Ben mumble something and grab Honey, and when I turned around we were face to face with an unknown black dog of mixed breeding. He/She had locked eyes with Mulder, hackles up, growling and creeping closer. Mulder, still up on the boulder at this time, started reacting – also growing and growing anxious.

With no owner in sight and no idea of the strange dog’s reactivity, I blocked Mulder behind me and bellowed up the gorge: “YO, GET YOUR FUCKING DOG ON A LEASH! I’VE GOT A REACTIVE PIT BULL!” Way up on the top trail a  young golden retriever crest the hill followed a moment later by an old man, maybe late 50’s or early 60’s, trailing behind. I yelled “Leash your fucking dog!” one more time before the owner started down the hill and called off his (still growing) dog. He leashed them and made a mad dash up the trail past us. No apology, no words – not even eye contact.

We encountered him later on the trail and he scampered down to the train tracks, dragging the grumbling black dog and young retriever with him.

Two minutes before the unknown dog ruined my photo shoot.

Two hours later, as we approached the trail head, I noticed a mess of vehicles, people, and dogs. A loose dog, looking like an unshaven poodle or labradoodle of sorts, spotted us and bounded over. I yelled “Leash your dog! We have dogs!” Ahead of me, Ben had Honey and the dog thankfully went to them first.

The lady walks over, casually saying “Oh he’s friendy”.

I snap “I don’t care, your dog is supposed to be leashed – especially at the trail head!”

She stares and says “It’s fine”.

Me: “No, it isn’t. I have a reactive dog and I have no idea if yours is friendly.”

Her: “He is.”

Me: “But you have no idea if mine is or not. He has leash reactivity, he’s a rescue and he’s in training.”

Her: *blankly staring* “So. . . ?”


Her: “Oh. . . so you want me to move?”

Me: “That’d be great, yeah.”

Mulder this whole time is sitting at my feet, albeit whimpering anxiously. Managing to get by her and the rest of her party without incident, I praised the holy fuck out of him and turned in time to see the entire group head out on the trail without leashed dogs.

To be honest, I fibbed a little. Mulder doesn’t have fear aggression toward people or other dogs. He does, however, have leash reactivity and expresses a mild level of frustration when greeting other dogs on a leash. For this reason, I am training him to ignore other dogs and do not want him to greet other dogs while leashed. Meeting new dogs on leashes is stressful, and the straight on approach can be aggressive to some dogs. Energy levels do not always match, and there are very few people who are able to successfully read dog body language.

Now, let me making this clear: I don’t have a single issue with incredibly well trained dogs off leash. I used to run my family’s GSD’s off leash constantly. Willow and Grissom are exceptionally well trained, responding to verbal and nonverbal cues despite any amount of distraction. And yet, I still leash them when we encounter other dogs.

It’s what you do as a responsible, knowledgeable dog owner.

Other dog owners do not know my dog. They do not know I’m training a rescue with a sketchy background. They don’t know if he’s neutered, has a bite history, or has reactivity. And yet, even when I tell people to back off, they reply “Oh, it’s fine.” and continue to approach with their straining, whining mess of a dog.

No, it’s not.

My dog does not have to meet everyone to socialize. This includes people, dogs, children, etc.  It is my number one priority to keep my dog safe. To keep him safe, I need to control his experiences. Why do other dog owners so willing to put their dogs at risk by greeting  someone who does not want to interact with them?

This is why dog fights occur.

Furthermore, this is how bites happen. I place myself in between Mulder and strange dogs to keep him safe. What happens when your “friendly” dog tries to go after mine and bites me instead?

Well Lindsay, you might say, how ’boutcha don’t walk your dog where you’ll encounter other people?

Well you ignorant bag of dicks, I’ll say, why should I have to change my behavior when I’m the one following the rules? My dog is always leashed, always under control, and is not a danger to society. I am actively training him and use my hikes to further our training. I should be able to walk down the street (or trail…) with Mulder without harassment or molestation.  I do not hike to be social with other dogs – I hike for physical activity, training, and to strengthen the relationship I have with my dog. I should not have to ask for common courtesy or basic boundaries.

If you’re a dog owner with a dog that “just wants to say hi” – You. Are. An. Inconsiderate. Asshole.

We just wanna hike and be left alone.

080. No-Stirrup November: Bareback Edition

As Halloween decorations are replaced with Thanksgiving decor and the last leaf falls silently from the old oak, there’s a voice of dread whispering on the tail of the cool autumn wind: No-Stirrup November.

It creeps slowly, tentatively feeling its way through. You remember last year’s debacle through a nostalgic filter. It’s not that bad, you reason. Remember all the late nights with friends, playing tag and giggling at each other while trying to master an extended trot bareback? Wasn’t that fun? Wasn’t it??

Nakai says “Well, shit.”

Admittedly, I’m late to the party. The rainy weather combined with adulting made the first week of November barely ride-able, and when Wednesday rolled around I gritted my teeth and ditched the saddle. Nakai felt great and I impressed myself with my stickiness and hip work. We tackled 2 1/2 miles in a half hour with a good portion of that working on trotting. Cantering bareback with Nakai is a dream, but his pony jackhammer trot leaves much to be desired. M grabbed Rose toward the end and we went for a little walk through the fields. I could not resist one last canter up the hill.

Encouraged and energized with how well Wednesday’s bareback ride went, I went for round 2 last night. It started off a bit rocky – Nakai was adamant that he eats before riding, not after, and I witnessed a dazzling display of irritation on the crossties. The poor lad still doesn’t seem to realize that the only thing more stubborn than himself is me. Off we went, working through some initial balkiness. He slipped behind my leg, trying his best to plead his case that it’s dinnertime (not at 3:30pm…). Fortunately said temper tantrum lasted a whopping five minutes and then we were off to the races.

Once we warmed up, Nakai felt wonderfully forward and engaging. My thighs, however, screamed and it was more difficult this ride to half-halt and ask for roundness and softness. I rode another 2 1/2 miles, and now this morning I’m walking like Yosemite Sam. I’m making it a goal to ride bareback at least once a week anyway, but I’m hoping I can do this 2 or 3 times a week over the winter months. Now, if I can convince some of the other barn ladies to do the same…


Finally, dinner. “I’m dying from starvation” – Nakai, dramatically.



Exercising Mulder is a full body work out.

Case in point: we hiked Glen Onoko on Friday. It’s an almost 2 mile loop that goes straight up and straight down. We opted to take the exterior trail first and come back down via the falls trails. In total, we climbed over 800 feet in elevation and finished the loop in under 2 1/2 hours.

The falls trail is notoriously dangerous; people are injured (and some killed) each year. The trail’s technical footing and tendency to washout made this not only a physical workout but also a mental one.

The trail is straight down

As for Mulder, you ask?

He handled it perfectly. He’s learning “wait” and was still bouncing off the wall when we finished… so much that when we returned home I took him for another 3 mile walk. I’m not going to trust him off leash until recall is 100% and he gets better at ignoring distraction. Even with the 25 and 50 foot leashes, running on them is not a viable option due to the dense undergrowth and pricker bushes that is Southeastern Pennsylvania. I don’t know if Mulder has ever gotten the chance to really run (puppy play dates don’t count, IMO). I need to increase his physical exercise and brainstormed the best way to do it.

With the rail trail nearby, I loaded up Mulder and Ben’s mountain bike to see how he would handle it. He shows no interest in bicyclists while we walk, but trotting and loping next to one is a whole ‘nother adventure.

As seems to be the usual, I unnecessarily worried. Mulder gobbled up the high value treats as we walked with the bike. I couldn’t resist and popped on. Immediately he settled into a trot as if he’s biked a thousand times before. I pushed a bit and he offered a quick sprint with me. No pulling and no desire to cut out in front or lag behind.

We only did 3/4 of a mile before calling it quits. Mulder’s covered hundreds of miles hiking, but we haven’t worked on wind and I wanted to keep this a positive experience.

For the first time after exercising, he slept.

I guess biking is our newest exercise routine.