Thursday, January 26, 2017

On the Road Again - Half Marathon Redux

Half marathon training has picked up again. Unbelievably, I really am torturing myself with this a second time. I think it's like childbirth; the agony of the race is so far behind me that I don't remember how badly my knees/feet/body hurt or that I laid in a tub of ice several times over the months leading up to the race.

Hm... why did I just remind myself...

The point is, I'm back at it. I have new goals too! At the Philly Half my goal was to finish, with a secret goal of breaking 2:30. Going into this one I'm gunning to race it and actually finish in 2:30 this time.
If you look closely you can see feral cats eating a piece of pizza.
Training is in the 'so far so good' phase, which is where I can look back on the week and say "Look at that, I did all my runs at the required mileage." It's bizarre how much three miles feels like nothing now. I remember struggling so hard to get through three miles in the beginning of training last summer. I'm not setting any land speed records, but I finish my runs with tired legs and I'm usually barely winded.

You see normal things on early morning runs.
My running goddess friend is 'helping' by advising on other more speed related workouts to help me get to my own suicide goal time. I did my first sprint work last week and it was actually pretty fun doing a couple intervals as fast as I could go. Until I got home, flopped on the bed all sweaty and contemplated throwing up.

Since then I've had another excellent sprint work, followed by one of my fastest two miles I've ever clocked and OH GOD I AM A RUNNER.

I call this "find the cat".
How did this happen.

And also why.

Send help.

And a leg rub.

Or butt rub.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Back Outside

Guys, something amazing happened this weekend.

I rode my horse outside.


Under the sky. It drizzled on us. It was windy. We saw more than the four walls of the indoor.

It was so magical.

In case you need a refresher, in September Runkle popped a splint and everything went to hell in a hand basket almost immediately. Since then, he's been on very (very) strict house arrest. With absolutely no fun having or horseplay of any kind allowed.

He's been heavily sedated for round pen turnout which he's actually been doing well at, but things have been a little too... let's say brisk for me to feel comfortable venturing outside. So we stayed in the indoor. For months.

That's something I'm pretty against. My hands are tied during the week as it's long dark by the time I get out of work. As long as the ground isn't frozen, I try and take Runkle out at least on the weekends. If the ground is frozen we just walk, or a little bit of trotting. I ride in the half-light if I have to, not realizing how dark it is until I come inside and have to turn the lights on in the barn because it's pitch black.

He looks pretty damn good for 3 months of stall rest.
I don't think Runkle's gone longer than a week or two without being ridden outside in some form.

I'm not sure if I was feeling suicidal or what, but I decided to take my chances on the great outdoors this weekend. I started with lunging, expecting it to be like tryng to tame a wild dragon with a piece of dental floss, but he was actually very sensible. Maybe the most sensible he's ever been on the lunge line.
I buckled up my vest and hopped on. He was great. Better than great, really. He was actually in front of my leg and happy about it, not doing any cranky bucking.

omg, so handsomes with his Celtic love knot.
He even picked up both leads on the first try with ZERO tantrums.

It was so nice to have my horse back, you guys.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Cost of Beauty

I had an epiphany this week about horse beauty.

I started off in hunter/jumper land before converting to Eventerism so appearances were paramount. The horses had to be braided with about forty thousand perfect identical braids and nary a whisker or hair could be out of place.

Shiny and beautiful O.O
I was okay with it, because I really, really, really love grooming. I could (and do) spend hours grooming Runkle. There's something really soothing about the sound of the curry, and I know I'm not supposed to brush tails but I love brushing his tail. He's like a real life My Little Pony and his tail hair is so soft you can run your fingers through it.

However, I've noticed very slowly that my grooming methods and standards have changed.

Are those... whiskers?
I still love braiding, but I'm going to have to rethink it. I braided Runkle for our combined test at Flora Lea but the braids fell apart pretty good before we got to the dressage arena. You know what's apparently paramount for braiding? Your freakin' right pinky. It was so hard to keep the braid tight because I kept losing a third of the braid since my finger couldn't grip it.

Somewhere around last April my philosophy on clipping totally changed. Actually it may have changed as soon as I brought Runkle home. His ear fluffs are so cute I want to die. I could never cut them, it would break my heart.

Exhibit F. For Fluff.
But in April I saw Michael Jung jog his horses up with full whiskers. Usually I like my horses clean shaven but you know what? I wouldn't cut my cat's whiskers off. They have them for a reason. And the longer I let them grow the cuter they looked. So he gets to keep those now as well.

They're way longer than this now.
The real holdout though was bigger, and it crumbled this week: mane pulling. I like a short mohawk mane. Last winter I roached Runkle's mane, which I really loved. This year I decided not to because I wasn't body clipping him (I just took off the mane with his neck hair). So the other night I was engaging in our monthly torture mane pulling session and Runkle was vigorously shaking his head, standing all the way at the edge of the cross ties and bumping into the wall while flailing around and I was like "... why am I doing this?"

Tools of the trade.
I was always told pulling their mane didn't hurt. But this horse let's me clip him with no issues and crawl around under his legs painting stuff on his splints and ground ties while I set up a course of fifteen trot poles. I have a hard time believing that the mane pulling was purely misbehavior on his part. I also have a hard time believing that pulling mane out at the root doesn't hurt either.

So I decided, no more mane pulling.

Me pulling Lexy's mane
I do have a solocomb, and I do like the results I get with it. Sometimes it makes the mane too thick but I think I can work around that. But I don't need to torture him by ripping his hair out.

I'm starting to think this horse will convince me to do anything. I'll let you know when he convinces me to try Parelli, because that'll really be the day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Runkle Trains Me

Has anyone ever noticed that sometimes, your horse is the one doing the training? And I don't mean the 'riding a schoolmaster' kind of way.

Runkle's pretty much back in full work. We had one little baby jump lesson, so that's still a work in progress. But I haven't been counting my laps at the trot for awhile and we've been cantering. So far so good, as far as his leg is concerned.

Where things haven't been 'so good' is the left lead canter.
This is not the left lead canter.
It started off with him just swapping the lead behind. Then he'd pick up the wrong lead the first time I asked him. Then twice. Then he'd have a little mini fit. It devolved until I could not for the life of me get the left lead canter. I'd spend twenty minutes picking up the wrong one over and over and over, and then he'd finally pick up the left one and I'd be like "... I have no idea what I just did differently that caused this result".

It looked like this. But with more bucking.
Naturally, being me, I assumed it was rider error. He's green and I am very far from perfect. I continued struggling with it and made a mental note to ask what the hell I was doing wrong that caused my horse to forget how to do the racehorse lead.

Well yesterday I had a flat lesson and I mentioned to my trainer my current shortcomings as a horse mother and trainer and person (okay, melodramatic...) and she said "okay, try picking it up and we'll see what we've got".

My horse is a petulant pony, and he trained me how to ask for it so incorrectly that I wasn't even really asking for it anymore. He somehow convinced me to really pull on the right rein until he picked up the wrong lead and cantered around kind of diagonally until I got frustrated and gave up. He also was a really slow little shit that lagged so hard when I asked for the canter I'd throw my upper body forward to try and nag him into it.

Basically he turned me into a flaily jackass.

I threaten to send him back about 3x a week.
My trainer set about to putting us to rights. Runkle DID NOT like this very much. She cut off all his grumpy little turd pony evasions so he had to listen to me. He did not want to do that. He tried everything to get out of it. And as I waited him out and combated his normally very effective resistance methods he got more and more annoyed until he finally gave up.

And then I got the left lead about five times in a row without any chasing or swapping (but with some angry bucking).

This is not dressage.
This horse is such a fractious little monster sometimes. He makes me second guess myself and frustrates me to no end. He's not the kind of gelding I can just bully around. I just have to wait him out. He's like a goddamn mare. And a pony. He's a pony mare.

But, you know, I got it through to him and now I have his number. I know what I was doing wrong so he's SOL now. Until he comes up with something else to convince me I can't do, ruins me for a week and forces my trainer to spend forty minutes fixing me. Boy is he lucky he's cute.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

I'm Bored

Real talk time.

I follow a lot of bloggers. When I started I think my blogroll had three people on it. And one of them wasn't posting anymore.

Now I've gotta have upwards of twenty and some of you are just ridiculous. You know who you are. The ones who post every day. You have tons of pictures every day. You review stuff every day. Who the heck are you? How do you have time for that??

Bumping up to twice a week was huge for me, because I could barely get just the one post out on time. Now I'd like to say my 'regular' days are are Tuesday and Thursday but as you may have noticed, Thursday came and went this week with no blog post from me.

It's hard to take pictures of him.
He follows me.
Because what the hell do I write about right now, honestly?

I tried taking a video of myself riding by propping my phone up. I did get some passable clips, but most of the video is the empty indoor wall with me yelling at Runkle out of frame or giggling and talking to someone else miles way from my camera.

One of the things that sold me on Runkle the very first time I sat on him was how loose he was through his back. He has the most beautiful, swinging walk I've ever sat. My trainer and I joke that he walks like he's got a dump in his pants.

The downside of him being that soft in the back is holy cow can he buck. I've never seen anything like it. I've never sat anything like it. I can't take pictures of our lunging progress because I need both hands as Runkle goes fully fledged bronco. It used to be a party trick of mine; I rode the shit out of mechanical bulls and impressed my friends by never falling off. One time at Johnny Utah's in NYC the guy controlling the bull actually told me I had to dismount because I was taking too long to get unseated 'naturally'.

Those bulls have nothing on Runkle. I could probably stand on their back and not fall off now.

So props to everyone who finds stuff to write about every day. I love reading your content and admiring your dedication to blogland even as I struggle like hell to come up with two measly posts a week.
It snowed last weekend. This is my hood.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Christmas 2016 Haul

I won't lie, Christmas kind of blew this year. I haven't been sick all year until the day before Christmas Eve where I contracted some kind of plague and I was sick for exactly the amount of time I was off for Christmas. But I still had fun with my family even though I couldn't taste any of my mom's delicious cooking :( She made lobster lasagna and I couldn't taste it, it was a crime.

PS of Sweden High Jump
Since the prince loves ergonomic nonsense I asked for one of these for Christmas. I wanted it to jump in; I like doing my flatwork in the Micklem but when he gets a little keen and excited about life (say, on cross country) I can't really tighten the nose band enough for my taste. Plus I love bridles and I only have two. Wait, that's not even remotely true, I have four now.

The PS Bridle isn't him, obvi.
Cause I suck at taking pictures why do I even blog send help.
Dammit. Oh well.

In true princely fashion he loves this thing. He's about the same in it as the Micklem, I actually might like him a bit better because he's a little more through his right shoulder in it. I've only used it a couple times so I'm still figuring out how he feels in it as he settles down. Last night I jumped him in it (WE JUMPED! IN A LESSON! 2ft max BUT STILL) and I really liked how he felt in it. He was really nice and up in front with his nose poked out.

Provent 3.0 Racesafe Vest
I had an Aeroware Outlyne that I bought for my very first cross country vest. I got it in early 2012 and it has served me well, but I have lost quite a bit of weight over the past year so it's gotten more and more difficult to wear. I have it tightened farther than it really should be, and it's still not quite tight enough.

When I was at the Best. Event. Ever. I stopped at the Soteria Safety booth and tried on the Racesafe vests and fell in love. They're so light and comfortable, and still BETA 3 certified. They also come in so many sizes you can get a custom fit. I love the bungees on the side to tighten it. I got an adult small long (jeez, I can't believe I fit in a small...) and it fits perfectly.

Looks especially dashing in work clothes.
In my messy room.
I actually used it this weekend. I couldn't get out to the barn for two days because the weather ruined my weekend and then the horses were in for a day because the weather ruined my weekend. By the time I got to Runkle on Sunday he was wound up like only a baby rehabbing Thoroughbred can be. I put my new vest on to give me a little extra bravery before I swung a leg over.

It's awesome.

Back On Track Splint Boots
I have purple hidey boots that I flat Runkle in but I'd like another pair because they do hold some heat. It's fine for the winter but I'm assuming come spring/summer I won't want to use them anymore. Since Godzilla exists he needs to wear splint boots forever.

They're really super cute though.
Last week I was perusing the Back On Track website. I love my BOT polos, and I saw they have splint boots. I was bugging out to my barn buddy about how I needed them in my life, and lamented the fact that I'm on a spending freeze for the foreseeable future except in case of emergencies (like purple dressage coats).

But since she is my barn buddy and is thereby inherently awesome, she listened to me freak out knowing she was my Secret Santa for the barn polyanna and had already bought them.

Her horse is injured right now too, so I dabble in more hand walkies.
He's way better than Runkle.
People know me too well.

My sister got me buckets for my ~*new trailer*~ that I still need to post about and they are purple. She also got me a portable bridle rack. Then she filled the buckets with about forty bajillion mints for Runkle, it really made me laugh when I opened it.

My sister's dog wearing a Christmas crown.
She does not exactly have the Christmas joie de vivre.
You know you're a horse person when: you get excited about buckets.

The best tree we've ever had!

So I hope all of you had a lovely holiday, and Santa was good to you, or at the very least good to your ponies :)

Friday, January 6, 2017

10 December Questions that You're Getting Even Though It's Not December

Things have been slow. Kinda. I really need to do an update on Runkle's rehab progress but I have absolutely 0 media and I'd really like to get at least some pictures of him back under saddle. I also would like to show off some of the goods from Christmas but again, I have no pictures.

Do you know how hard it is to take nice pictures in a barn at night? It's impossible. I don't have that kind of equipment. I don't think anyone does.

So you get this instead.

Do you see that? That's MUD. ON MY HORSE'S NECK.

Does your horse need shoes? No, not really. He has fronts on because we were jumping more but he was barefoot all last winter and he was fine. He actually has great feet. I thought about pulling them again this fall but with all of his shenanigans with his leg I decided I didn't really want to screw with anything while I was dealing with Godzilla and whatever else the piss his leg was doing.

What do you think of the barefoot vs shoes debate? Some horses have really shitty feet, and need shoes. Some don't. I think if your horse is okay barefoot you should leave it barefoot. They'll tell you when they need shoes. As for the debate, I think people get really ridiculously one sided and refuse to consider the other side and I think that's a dumb idea.

Favorite season for riding? Gotta go with L on this one, absolutely fall. It's not as muddy as spring, and the weather is still warm and the horses can still go out at night, but it's not so hot that everyone's lolloping along like slugs. Also the trees are so pretty and it smells nice out :)

One of my favorite rides of last year <3
How many shows do you think you’ve gone to? I have no idea. Probably 50? 60? And I'm assuming you mean as a rider, because if you're including as a spectator/volunteer it's probably a hundred.

Do you consider yourself a good rider? Hah, this has kind of been a topic of discussion with me lately. I hate saying I am, because I really feel like I have so much more to learn, but I think I know what I'm doing. So sure, I'm good.

hahahah, yeah. good.
How experienced do you think someone needs to be to own a horse? I think you can be a total n00b as long as you have someone experienced helping you. I owned a horse briefly (I'm talking months) and I definitely did not know enough. I feel bad because I don't think I exactly did right by him but I didn't always know any better.

For posterity: me knowing nothing.
Have you ever gotten into a fight with your trainer? I have gotten in at least one fight with anyone I've ever ridden with, and it's always over something stupid and ends in tears and then we move on.

Describe your dream horse.

Does anyone in your family ride? My sister used to ride, and she knows how, but I became a grumpy teenager when I was thirteen or fourteen and got mad that she was doing my thing. In retrospect that's so dumb, because we could've ridden together and it would've been amazing.

My parents are also really sweet in that they try and ride at every opportunity because they want so desperately to understand what the hell my problem is and why I'm so obsessed with it. But to be honest my mom is terrified of horses (probably rightly so) and my dad has really tight hips so it's very uncomfortable for him. But it means a lot to me that they try!

My sister is the mascot, LOL
If you could ride any horse in the world, which one would it be? why?

Welcome Shadow <3333
Of course. Because YOU KNOW WHY.

But I'd also love to ride a steeplechase horse over hurdles and in all honesty I'd love to ride a pure dressage horse. I don't really care who, but I'd love to learn to do some high level dressage work on a master. Tempi changes anyone???

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Muck Bucket List - Ride an Icelandic Horse

There are a couple breed specific items on my Muck Bucket List, one of which was ride an Icelandic Horse. A real one. Another of my dreams (though not MBL worthy, as it's not related to horses) was to see the northern lights. So I did what most normal people do, booked tickets and took myself to Iceland.
The first geyser, from which all others are named.

Iceland itself is a wonderful place. It's pretty pricey but the food is amazing, the natural beauty of it is breathtaking and it's completely relaxing.

obligatory shitty northern lights picture.

The northern lights were brilliant, and absolutely made me cry. For maximum magic I booked my trip during the spring Equinox, as the equinoxes are the best time to go. Since I'm as lucky as a wolf (as the Mongolians would say) there was also a solar flair that week which cause a really spectacular show right in downtown Reikjavik. Plus in true freak-of-nature manner there was a solar eclipse which was completely viewable from Iceland.

I also went to the Blue Lagoon and spent a small fortune on an in-water massage, which I would easily spend twice as much on (don't tell them I said that though).

A happy massaged Megan :)
But of course, it's all about the horses. I was booked to do an Icelandic ride over the lava fields that I was pretty amped about. The day started off with the solar eclipse darkening the entire country which in itself is pretty incredible. But then I got to take a bus out into the countryside and there were miles of open space with adorable shaggy ponies on it looking at you for snacks.

Just don't actually call them ponies in front of anyone.

Icelandic horses are definitely a breed apart from what I'm used to. They're small but very sturdy, and extremely doglike. One of the bus tours I went on stopped at the edge of a huge field of them so we could take pictures, and it took about three minutes for all fifty or so horses to come to the fence to say hi. They come in a rainbow of colors and have the fluffiest manes and forelocks. They're like real life My Little Ponies.

My mount's name for the day was Hrollgar, which is probably a butchered abomination of Icelandic spelling but, eh. He had to have been no taller than 13.2 and he was fluffy, palomino, and had to die for surfer dude hair. He was so, so cute I wanted to pack him in my suitcase and take him home with me and snuggle him in my bed.

The riding company had very specific rules; no imported horsie germs so all your stuff had to be non horsed when you came to the farm. They provided jumpsuits, boots and helmets. It was brutally cold and really windy out on the lava fields so I appreciated all the warm weather gear I could pile on.

Note the sign :)
As cute and cuddly as they are on the ground, Icelandic horses are freaking amazing to ride. Yeah, my horse was tiny, but he didn't feel tiny at all. Despite easily being the smallest horse I had ridden in a decade or more, he felt much larger. He was strong, surefooted, and energetic. I was totally in love with him even before we got to tölt.

The tölt is one of the Icelandic horse's two special gaits. It's actually pretty easy to get them to do, in my opinion, considering I've never ridden a gaited horse before. You have to hold your core strong and sit deeply into the saddle but after a few very bouncy strides I could feel Hrollgar click into a different gear. And god damn does it feel like you're floating. I was giggling the whole time going "I need to get me one of these".

I wanted to tölt the entire ride but we interspersed it with walking and a few gallops. Hrollgar really loved to gallop and it was hard to pull him up when we'd get to a particularly rocky patch that required walking.

The other special gait is the flying pace, and we only got to see that accidentally. Despite being an advanced and difficult ride the other two people in my group were not experienced or strong riders at all. Typical. As we neared the end of the ride the horses knew we were getting close to home and the younger girl lost control of her mount and he started cantering back to the barn.

There were two guides with us, and one stayed with the girl's mother and me and the other took off in pursuit of the runaway. As soon as he was clear of us he immediately started doing a flying pace. The situation wasn't ideal but whatever, it was cool. His legs were moving in a way that I'd never seen a horse's legs move, so fast and with so much reach and he was really rocketing after the errant pair without looking like he was trying.

They eventually caught up and the rest of the walk back was uneventful. I so wish I could go back and enjoy them again, but hey maybe one day when I have my horse farm I can import my own little herd of shaggy dog-horses to cuddle and feed bread to.