Spring is finally in full swing here, and I’ve been putting miles on Nakai to avoid the Empty House. Ben surprised me with a GoPro Hero 5 Black, so I’ve been playing around with it while riding the home trails.
Setting it up was easy (No tears of frustration!) and transferring files over is also pretty quick. I’m still figuring out the app itself, but otherwise I’m totally pleased. I cannot wait to take it out on a ride with friends!
Foxcatcher was the kick off to my endurance season and the main reason for beginning this blog. I’m reminded of the nauseating anxiety, relief flooding my veins as we settled onto trail, and the exhilarating realization that we crossed a LD off the bucket list.
Of course, there was also the rain, wind, ice, and snow. I shiver involuntarily; I think my bones remember the chill.
Between Mechele and I, we changed no less than half a dozen times. We had trouble keeping the horses warm. Nakai turned cranky afterward and took it out on Rose. For all her boss mare tendencies, Rose simply let Nakai throw his tantrum. We separated the horses and proceeded to drown our irritation in cheese and breadsticks at the Olive Garden.
Two years later I find myself back in my western work tack, schooling roll backs and catching up with Maria in the pen. We fuss over our old men, laughing as Nakai excitedly flags his tail (this is the first time in weeks he’s ridden with anyone else) and catching Beamer as he tries a half-hearted run off on Maria down the middle of the pen as she works on square stops.
Endurance riding seems a lifetime ago.
I also feel a bit like an outsider.
I struggle with finding a balance between his head telling him that he can, that he will – and the body that needs a longer warm up and cool down. A body that needs to be monitored so he doesn’t do something stupid and hurt himself from over enthusiasm. When fit, he can keep up with everyone. But we are not fit, and fitness takes time.
I watch friends load up and trailer out as I school in the ring. Such is life without a trailer. I’m getting the truck set up to haul, but until then I’m stuck liking facebook posts about their trail rides and toodling around on the farm.
For the most part, I ride alone.
Maria’s in the same position. We want to do something, but we aren’t sure what.
I only managed to read 18 books in 2017. There were a few months where I wanted to read and couldn’t. I’d pick up a novel and zone out.
Anyway, here’s the short list of novels consumed in 2017. I’ve also plunged into the world that is Good Reads and am logging my conquests there. The goal this year is at least 20 books, and Good Reads tells me I’m currently 2 books ahead of schedule (7 down, working on the 8th). If you have an account, follow me there!
The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins [ Side note here, but hooooleeeeey, this was the worst. Does Paula Hawkins dislike women? She wrote them all as hysterical, unstable, and defined only by the men in their lives. The ending was anticipated 200 pages before I even got there. Seriously, ignore the hullabaloo on social media and don’t waste your time. ]
The Bell House Witch – Brent Monahan
Promise Not to Tell – Jennifer McMahon
Snowblind – Christopher Golden
Secret Place – Tana French
The Vanishing – Wendy Webb
Harbor – John Ajvide Lindqvist
Within These Walls – Ania Ahlborn
Things Half in Shadow – Alan Finn
Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence – Bill James
Under the Harrow – Flynn Berry
The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
Nothing to Envy (Ordinary Lives in North Korea) – Barbara Demick
The White House Boys: An American Tragedy – Roger Dean Kiser
Spring’s been a rough adjustment. We’ve had four back-to-back Nor’Easters coupled with some rainy days in between. We’ll have a few days of lovely weather, the ground begins drying out, and temperatures reach into the fifties. Then…
Hello, April! I guess you couldn’t let March have all the fun.
Nakai’s had a reduced workload as I wanted to see how supplementing his diet with hay cubes would go. I needlessly worry; he loves them, he’s picking up weight, and the theme for our last ride could be filed under #halfhaltandpray. He felt wonderful and is full of energy.
I’m also under an incredible amount of work-related stress right now. I know better than to ride if I’ve have a rough day; Nakai handles my anxiety about as well as I do. He soaks up my emotion and we end up with a frustrating rides. Instead, I groom thoroughly, work on stretching, or do some various other ground work.
Currently, it’s raining (again). After 5 inches of snow melted yesterday, today greeted us with rain. All. Day. Long. They’re even talking about another potential snow maker this weekend.
I signed up for a virtual marathon for the duration of April to help jump start my motivation. I guess we’ll be slogging through a foot of mud on the trails.
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.
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 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. . . ?”
Me: “HE. HAS. FEAR. AGGRESSION.”
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.
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??
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…