Friday, May 12, 2017

Without Runkle

I believe in making wishes. At first I think it was born of superstition, but as I got older I realized I strongly believed in putting my intent out into the world with my heart. Wishing is an acknowledgement of your dreams.


As long as I can remember I always wished for a horse. Every dried out wishbone carefully saved from Thanksgiving, fields that I combed for that elusive four leaf clover, and most of all stars. I wished on every shooting star I ever saw for a horse, from when I was about eight until... well, I never really stopped.

I remember the day I brought Runkle home after buying him. It's not too often you see any stars at all in New Jersey, but as I was leaving the barn with him tucked snug into his new stall I saw a shooting star and I stared at it because I had my wish. Runkle was my dream come true.


Last Wednesday morning was beautiful and sunny. I could live the rest of my life in that morning; in fact sometimes it's hard not to. In that moment I still had Runkle, and I had all our dreams for our future. I had my hopes for the weekend, and I was still riding the high of navigating my baby horse through his first beginner novice a few days before. I was warm, happy, safe. In love and loved. I had everything. Someone threw a rock through my beautiful stained glass day and on the other side of the broken shards was the real world.

Last week Runkle suffered a catastrophic injury to his stifle. I'll never know how he did it but despite all my best efforts (and those of his vets) there was no way he would ever recover comfortably. I made the right decision and let him go.


My whole life changed in the span of a few days. He was my world; everything I did revolved around him. Runkle is gone, irretrievably, and now I have to grapple with what 'moving on' means. It feels terrible. I feel terrible I want to move on to feeling better as quickly as possible but the only way out is through. Every day is sometimes a little better, sometimes a little worse, but I keep reminding myself that the way out is through.

I'm not sure what exactly is next. The future will most certainly involve blogging but for now this chapter of my life needs to be closed so I can move on. I'll see you soon. Remember everything (both good and bad) is only temporary, so hug your ponies close. Cherish them. They make the world and our lives more beautiful.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Horse Hangover


I didn't even go to Rolex this weekend and I still have a massive horse hangover today. I think my feet are swollen. Why are my feet swollen??

Sad feet aside, this weekend was full of horses and it was awesome.

Friday I caught up on the dressage tests I only had the privalege of listening to. Luckily the commentary is pretty good and I would surreptitiously flip to the stream every once in awhile, but I still wanted to watch some of the best (and worst) tests.


Chinese food and Rolex. #rk3de #eventing by @kieshorse


Saturday I slept in. I don't remember the last time I slept in. Why do horses have to do everything at ass o'clock? But I got up and watched the entire live stream and ate Chinese food. I followed up the stream with a trip to the barn to prep Runkle for his ~*first*~ beginner novice the next day. That included teaching him to wear shipping boots.



#letsgetreadytorunkle #bnorbust #ohboy #thoroughbred #ottb #eventing #eventer #exhurdler by @kieshorse

I've never been to St. Augustine before. It used to be home to the Millbrook horse trials, which my trainer and her friend were very nostalgic for. The event was very low key, with great footing. It was in the middle of some kind of breeding farm so there were foals absolutely everywhere. There was plenty of trailer parking and porta potties, you know, all the important things.

Also at packet pickup they gave out little baggies of mints (THE GOOD KIND) with notes that said "Have a good dressage test and clear courses! Good Luck - St. Augustine Pony Club" which I thought was adorable.
You know what I'm talking about.
Runkle was fantastic. There were 0 sideways moments. 0. I couldn't even believe it. NO impromptu sidepasses. He was actually so good I spent way too much time warming up for dressage and he got a little tired and stuck behind the bridle. We still netted a 33.3 for 2nd, because even on his bad days he's very cute.

Either that or it was my stock tie, which came in from Chubby Cov the day before the show and looks so good with my coat I want to wear it all the time.

ALL THE TIME.
Stadium went flawlessly. He was again, very very good in the warmup. I had way too much time to warm up because the course change took longer than expected so I just walked for ages. It was crowded and people were cantering very close to him but Runkle was shockingly okay with all of it. My little boy, growing up! *wipes tear*



Then came XC. I've only had him out of the startbox once, so my goals for this were to get him over all the jumps and give him a happy, positive ride. The course was really cute. The gallop through the woods to the water was really fun (and by gallop I mean trot, for us). There was a little down bank and the fences were all very well decorated. It was really a great course for green horses and riders, while at the same time not being insultingly and ridiculously soft.

Unfortunately we did have two stops that were both totally my fault. The first was early on, and I could've mitigated it by giving Runkle a little tap after our first (very sticky) jump. The second was because I totally missed a jump and instead of circling and getting straight to it I tried to just turn and jump it and he did not appreciate the surprise (sorry buddy!!).


But he didn't know or care. He had a lot of fun (maybe... way too much fun...). He positively strutted back to the trailers, little snot.

We still ended up 4th. To top off a really sweet little venue, St. Augustine has baller ribbons.


It was such a solid first BN experience for him. I'm so proud. He acted like a grown up little man, he listened to me and had fun. AND I got to wear my purple coat. What more could you want?!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Runkle's April Field Trips

Runkle has been a busy little bee in April. He's been out on little field trips every week (except this weekend, where I get to go on a field trip and he stays home).


These have been great for him. Did you know he could tie to the trailer?? Because I didn't! And he was a total champ for our first foray to Assunpink. I had never been there before myself but it's a popular spot for riders in the NJ area. The trails are well maintained and there's plenty of open space. Runkle got to hang out with his best buddy Klein.



He also somehow managed to fall off the trailer ramp because he was trying to back up and look at the same time. This is why we ship in boots, Runkle.


I was kind of surprised how well behaved he was. A few days before I had done a lap of the perimeter at home and he was a wild animal - doing little baby rears and galloping sideways. Of course we go off the property to a strange place with 30mph winds and he was a perfect angel.



The next week I took him back to Flora Lea for cross country schooling. Unfortunately (fortunately?) he's starting to figure out his job and enjoy it. I actually started asking him some little baby questions. He was honest as hell but got a little gallopy towards the end.









He also got hind shoes and all four tapped for studs. My little baby, growing up.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Half Marathon Redux

April 9th marked my second half marathon, and most likely my last for awhile.

o baby, o baby
I would actually say I enjoyed my first half. I felt a huge sense of satisfaction during training and excitement in the build up leading to the race. I didn't have much else going on; Runkle was battling Splintzilla and I had nothing else to ride so my physical activity outside running was limited to 20 minutes of circling the indoor at a walk.

I was happy I finished my last half, and was content to leave it at that.

This time I had time goals for my half marathon and I'll be honest, that kind of strict goal just doesn't work when you work full time and are a full time horse mom. My legs were constantly tired and I was so fed up with running, winter and cold, dark mornings that I didn't really care anymore when the race started coming up. I didn't have that bubbly excitement I did for the first race.

Splits. Not the gymnastics kind.
Taper is where I made my largest mistake. I did not rest enough. That's the kind of mistake you don't realize you've made until it's way too late; I'm talking first three quarters of a mile of my race. My legs were screaming more than they had for any other run in my life.

I got blisters when I never get blisters, and let's just say the chafing made riding a little more uncomfortable for a while. It just sucked.

Mile 8.5: Don't let the smile fool you - I was in PAIN
So moral of the story: don't try and train and compete a baby horse and run a half marathon at the same time. Because in doing one well, you'll probably fuck the other one up.

The plus side is while I didn't achieve my official goal PR I did run 3 minutes faster than my first race so I'm going to call it a win. I'm the most fit I've ever been in my life which is no weak consolation prize. I need to try and remind my self that's why I was doing this in the first place. And they still had soft pretzels at the end!!!! I love soft pretzels.  A lot. I apparently will run over thirteen miles for them.

Soft pretzel, u my favorite.
I don't know when my next race will be but I think this little nine month experiment was more than a success and I'm very proud of myself!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

#pinkygate, one year (and one week, and one day) later

I fell off Runkle on April 10th, and it changed my life.


I've gotten to do a lot of amazing things. I worked in London for six months, I've gotten to compete all over the East coast, I went to a really nice college and studied whatever my heart desired. I've had all the opportunities. But the most influential thing that's happened to me in recent memory is that fall.

I was in a different place this time last year, and it wasn't a great place. It was made worse by breaking the most useless digit that required surgery, and rehab, and and and...

And I couldn't ride.
My first ride back.
But in the time I was grounded, and I was so miserable I could barely bring myself to go to the barn to see my horse, I learned a lot about my life as it was and realized that I hated it. I realized I needed to make a huge change, and I grappled with what that would be. I clearly couldn't balance riding and work (and the amount of studying that came with work) so in loyalty to my job and knowing I couldn't afford a horse without it I considered selling Runkle.

But I was so miserable. I hated my job and the life it created for me, so why the hell was I considering getting rid of the only thing that makes me happy to try and make it work? That idea went into the circular file (garbage) and I worked on fixing the part that didn't make me happy.

After a few months of strategic planning and help from people who believed in me I got a new job that is a significantly better fit. Since then I've made several deliberate changes that have landed me here, where I am now, which is genuine happiness and optimism in the future.


Besides the changes in my own non-horse life, the time off also helped Runkle. I took things very slowly with him but I still had to constantly balance the risk of rushing him. It's hard when horses are good and try hard, it's an easy thing to take advantage of as a rider or trainer. But between #pinkygate and Splintzilla we were forced to take the better part of five months off last year and in that time Runkle got to develop.

I personally think he's gotten taller, he's sorting out his bitchy teenager phase, and he's handling himself better in tense situations. Basically he's maturing. That's not time he would've gotten without our little incidents.


The moral of the story is, sometimes life is gonna be a piece of shit to you. But it's okay, because it might have a good reason. That's not the time to give up, it's the time to take advantage.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Valentine's Day

What? It's April and you're talking about Valentine's Day?

Whatever, I felt like it merited a post.

I entered Olivia's Valentine's Day Contest and WON which is amazing because I never win contests.  Ever.

I got this amazing drawing of Runkle which is now hanging on my fridge, although I kind of wanted to scan it and put it everywhere and color it a million different ways. She was all 'oh no I'm a bad artist' etc, etc but in reality, I think she's great and I think this drawing is adorable and fun. So thank you Olivia for the gift of your art!!


The other part of the gift was a $14 giftcard to Riding Warehouse. I used it to procure new stirrup leathers for my dressage saddle, because it has really gone through the ringer leather-wise.

Initially I had a pair of Pessoa leathers that came with my jump saddle. Those literally fell apart (not my fault, they were on their way out when I got them).

Then I got a pair of Bates webbers which were a) too long and b) somehow managed to DESTROY my saddle. What happened. I used to love webbers and these seriously screwed me, how dare you.

Stupid webbers destroying my saddle in this picture.
I had to quickly replace the Bates at my total crap local tack shop that I hate. The only ones they had that weren't ridiculously overpriced were beta ones that are too short for dressage length, so the extra bit doesn't fit in the keeper it just flops around under my leg giving me rubs.

I'm a professional.

So I'm pretty excited for these, and it's way overdue. I was less fussed before because I wasn't riding in my dressage saddle all that much. Lately I've been using it a lot more; I need to be able to sit on Runkle and get my leg around him. So the stirrup leather situation has been more at the forefront.

Now I'm the proud owner of these bad boys:

Bates pretties
They sit really comfortably under my leg and don't squeak against my saddle. And they hold my stirrups. What else do you need from leathers?

On a somewhat unrelated note: I rode in jointed stirrups for the first time the other day and have had terrible knee soreness ever since. Has anyone else had this issue?? I'm a boring traditionalist - I only ever use plain fillis irons although I do adore the comfort pads. Especially after that video of a guy's Freejump stirrups snapping in half. Terrifying.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Saddlebrook Ridge Combined Test

Runkle left the property for his second 'outing' (in quotes because I'm not sure an in-house show counts as an outing?) of the season.

"Who, me?"
I left a LOT of time for warm up this go around. Runkle dropped his brain and did some sideways fancy prancing but after ten or fifteen or a hundred minutes of repeatedly asking him to pay attention to me and get to work he actually listened!

They did use a loudspeaker. I think he's only heard it twice in his life post track and he looked around at the sky like horse Jesus was speaking to him, informing him of the official show time. But he did keep his head on.

Runkle QUIETLY?? GRAZING??
Our dressage test itself was good, not great. The judges were sitting at a table at the end of the indoor which meant (to Runkle) that it would be easier for them to attack him with knives than when they are sitting in a car. So uh, I had a little bit of trouble getting him to go to that end of the arena. But we did the test, executing the moves as written in the order they were given and you know what? Sometimes with a baby horse that's all we can ask for. And I did get compliments on my PURPLE SHOW JACKET which I have no pictures of.

SOON.
Stadium was about forty miles away in the woods. The course was simple but had interesting fillers to look at which Runkle gave zero cow pies about. He started our warm up going mostly sideways (again) but eventually settled and was rideable.

This isn't recent. Note the nice weather.
We did the starter (2") round before the beginner novice and he was downright rude. I had little/no steering, he was staring at the jumps, lolloping around on the wrong lead. He really couldn't be arsed to listen to me or take notice of the jumps. This is why I haven't been farting around with anything below beginner novice. It's beneath his notice. Note how on the way to jump two he exits stage left... into the woods.



Our beginner novice round went MUCH better. I had power steering, he was rateable and he actually jumped the jumps. He wasn't even phased by the almost constant gunfire (watch with the sound up for full effect).


So what did we learn?

First of all, Runkle's learning how to get his brain back when he loses it. Secondly, I should not jump him away from home in his plain eggbutt, especially if it's in a field. I need my full cheek to prevent the 'exit stage left' situation. I'm also going to do dressage in my jump saddle for awhile because it'll make my life easier when he's an orangutan.

Hopefully our next outing will be more spring-like. Although nothing says spring quite like torrential downpours and eight feet of mud!!!