May 18, 2023

Cob Jockey: Barn Owner

About a year ago this month, I was sitting with my therapist. Still married. Not sure which way my world was spinning.

"You haven't been allowing yourself to feel your own feelings," she said. "Probably for a long time."

I considered this. 

(And I'm paraphrasing at least a couple of sessions here for the sake of the blog. Don't think I came to terms with this all at once.)

"While I think you're right," I said, "I also think it's made me very successful. In fact, it feels like society wants me to be this way. When there is work to be done, it doesn't matter how I feel about it, I just shut my brain off and get it done. And I've been rewarded for that in so many parts of my life."

"You have to allow yourself to feel though, and to process those feelings. Otherwise, if you don't master your emotions, they will master you, and you won't get any say in when and how they master you."

Slowly, I did start allowing myself to feel. I did start allowing myself to think...what do I want? Obviously the big one was that I didn't want to be married to him anymore. I hadn't, for a while, but when you skate through life not allowing your feelings to exist even inside your own head, that's the type of thing you can neatly store in the attic of your brain for years, in a dusty box that you don't even see anymore when you look at the shelf.

There were other things on that shelf. What do I want my life with horses to look like? Do I really not want kids, or did I not want kids with him? More relevant to this blog, am I really a "lifelong boarder," as I've always joked, or was it just that I couldn't imagine owning a farm with him?

Turns out, when push came to shove, I am not, in fact, a lifelong boarder. I was raised on a farm, and marrying a city kid the first time didn't take that out of me. 

Sometime in the next three years, my house will be at the top of this hill:


I love my historic home, but my barn owners made an offer I'd be foolish to turn down, even though it's still a dizzying amount of money for me. And with boarding getting harder and harder to find around here, if I want to stay in this city, there is no better option. Plus, it has slowly started to feel more like mine the more I managed it, loved it and cared for it the last couple years. It just felt right.

Including weeding this overgrown garden bed and subsequently getting poison ivy allllllll over. Love you too, barn.

They're in no hurry to sell, which is good, because my 133-year-old house will be, I'm sure, in no hurry to get sold, but we are in agreement that the farm will be mine as soon as I want it to be. And it feels good. I want that. There are so many things I'm still processing and learning about myself, but CobJockey: Barn Owner already feels like a comfortable hoodie on a cool spring night.

Hello, home.

Here's to new beginnings, in space, in time, and in my own head.

April 13, 2023

In Which Disco Goes to...Canada

There I was, sitting across from my therapist (a delightful woman who says "fuck" just enough to make me feel like I can tell her anything), trying to explain what riding usually does for my mental health and why I hadn't ridden in who knows how long.

"It sounds like horses have become a job for you. Is there any way you could reduce that workload and rediscover the joy you had in them?"

Joy - 2021

I ran through the flip book in my head. There really weren't any options. It's not like full care board just exists around here these days, with boarding barns folding in droves and the nearest "English barn" a commute that I don't have time for away.

"I don't think so," I said. "I think I'm kind of stuck."

Two days later, I got a message from Lisa. "Hey, do you remember Maude? I introduced you to her at the Canadian Royal in 2019. She messaged me to ask if she could lease one of my stallions for a couple years for her breeding program, and I said I couldn't split my two up and leave them without a buddy, but I immediately thought of Disco. What do you think about that? Take your time."

I didn't - take my time, that is. I replied so fast I think Lisa was shocked. It immediately felt right. Maude is a young breeder about my age with an incredible eye for movement and mind for bloodlines. She's an experienced stallion owner that regularly rides, drives (she has a sleigh!) and shows her stock, and she keeps her horses at home in a brand new, gorgeous little barn she and her husband built last year. And to top it all off, she was actually second in line for Disco had I not spoken for him two years ago this month.

Disco's stall ready and waiting for him across the border

So to recap - Maude gets to enhance her breeding program with the best Welsh Cob bloodlines in North America, I get my horse workload and financial expenditures reduced substantially, Disco will get excellent handling, care and training, and she will show him all over Canada. Everybody wins. Even the co-op wins, since we will save about 10 minutes per shift not having to walk two horses up and down the driveway to the far pasture every shift, or mess with the one field that doesn't have an auto-waterer anymore.

The six weeks since we made that decision have been a blur of contract writing, vet appointments, finding a shipper willing to go from Indiana to Ontario (not many, it turns out) and USDA paperwork. But we finally did it, and later today I'm driving Disco to Lexington for an overnight at a gorgeous stud farm before he'll get on the bus to Canada early tomorrow morning.

It was, of course, bittersweet. But now I get to start planning a trip to Canada to visit him. And now I get to ride my horse.

January 20, 2023

Baby's First Colic

I came to the barn Wednesday night to find Disco standing quietly in his stall at feeding time like an old, broke horse.

He is, um, not an old broke horse.

When he just nosed his dinner, I went in there to check his gut sounds and capillary refill, but before I could do that, his knees buckled and he leaned into the wall.

THAT freaked me out.

"I don't feeeeel good"

Got him out of his stall and took him into the indoor, and he kept trying to roll every few steps. Got a 750lb dose of banamine on board, and within about 15 minutes he had passed some poop, but was still trying to roll for another 10 minutes after that.

When he was willing to stand still without trying to go down and was reacting to stimuli around him again, I put him back in his stall, put a BoT sheet on him, gave him a half tube of electrolytes, took his temp (no fever, 99.8F) and just watched him.

For about 45 minutes he just stood there quietly staring straight ahead. Far, far too quietly for a 20 month old. But slowly he started to perk up again, and by the time I left the barn, he was looking for hay and drinking.

I was texting Mary throughout, and she was cracking me up around the time he started to perk up. #stallionlife


So what are my takeaways from this?

Disco is MUCH less stoic about colic than Connor is. He was telling me the world was ending when it was really very minor.

He's such a good boy. Even when he desperately wanted to roll, he kept on walking with me.

I'm getting a lot better at handling minor colics without the vet. I didn't even send him a heads up text this time. Just handled it.

What caused it? Who knows, but he was out in a cold rain for a half hour before one of us was able to get free from work and bring them in at 2pm, and he was normal (and apparently running around and playing) then, but was colicking a few hours later. So maybe he caught a chill? 

Either way, he was back to his normal annoying baby self the next morning, thankfully.

My BoT JUST fits right now. And won't in probably six months. I'm going to have to re-buy everything I own, ugh

January 18, 2023

Product Review: Black Diamond Soloist Finger Cold Weather Gloves

It's been a while since one of my product review posts! The number of folks that reach out to me publicly and privately to tell me how valuable they find these posts means a lot, and I have a couple of great additions to my winter wardrobe this year that will make for good reviews.

First up. My new lobster claw "Alpine climbing" gloves.

I let the other co-op members go out of town with their families at Christmas this year, which meant I had a LOT of chores. I had hoped my own family would come visit, but that didn't end up happening, so I was alone on Christmas, AND we had some of the most brutal winter weather I've ever experienced, with wind chills pushing -40F and the horses staying inside for multiple days since we don't have shelters outside.

Christmas morning was the first time they could safely go out in three days, and Disco was a perfect gentleman for turnout despite that. Good baby.

I'm not typically one to complain, but man it sucked. I bought myself a consolation present in advance: the best ultra cold weather barn gloves I've found so far, the Black Diamond Soloist Finger Cold Weather Gloves, which are designed for "technical Alpine climbing", which I hoped meant they would be more durable than ski gloves.


These gloves have a 100% waterproof outer shell, a removable/washable liner with 340g of insulation, and a Kevlar-reinforced goat leather palm. They also feature a split finger design, with the thumb and index finger being separate and the middle, ring and pinkie fingers together in a mitten space.

The removable liner. It's basically a sleeping bag for your hands.

I hoped that design would split (lol) the difference between the dexterity of gloves and the warmth of a mitten, and that's exactly what it does. They were more certainly more cumbersome than gloves, but I was able to do and undo blankets (slowly), throw hay bales, and open tab-top Ziploc supplement bags without taking the gloves off. Turns out I really don't use my middle, ring and pinkie fingers for much at the barn, unless I'm riding, which clearly these gloves are not suitable for.


In terms of warmth: WOW. Without a doubt the warmest gloves I've ever worn. For reference, my SSG 10 Belows have 100g of insulation, and these have 340g. Truly, they're so warm most of you will not need them, because you'll never experience temps cold enough to need them, they are that warm.

My index finger does tend to get a little cold when it's in its little pocket, but unless I actually need my index finger for something, I tend to tuck it into the mitten area where there's more than enough room for it, and then it stays warm.

(And for reference: it was so brutally cold that when I did take the gloves off for less than two minutes, my hands froze so quickly and thoroughly I had to spend 10 minutes in the heated office to avoid frostbite. They definitely got put to the warmth test.)

Some of the fuzzy liner visible on the inside. It's fleece against the skin and then 340g of Primaloft Gold insulation between the fleece and the waterproof shell.

Features I love: I love that the liner is removable. All of my gloves are washable of course, but these are going to dry faster and stay waterproof longer if I'm only regularly washing the liner. And in theory you could buy a second liner to alternate with, although I haven't found them for sale anywhere.

I also love the long cuffs. The SSG cuffs are elastic and designed to fit against the skin, which is annoying when you wear a smartwatch and have other sleeves in the way. The Black Diamond cuffs go comfortably over your coat sleeve and have a toggle to seal against snow getting into them, although I didn't feel the need to use it.

What are the negatives? First, I wish they had straps to keep them attached to my wrist when I take them off like the SSG 10 Belows do, although I can fix that with aftermarket glove straps. Second, they won't go small enough for everyone. I wear a medium in SSGs and a 6.5 in Roeckl, and I'm wearing the X-small here. Third, they are not cheap, at $129/pair (I paid $99). 

(I recommend buying them in a fit of rage when you JUST CAN'T EVEN with f****** winter anymore. It makes the price easier to swallow.)

Bottom line: If you have actual barn chores to do in climates where it's regularly below 15F, I can wholeheartedly recommend these. If you live where you just think it's cold (lol) or you only go to the barn to ride, you'd be better served by buying something cheaper that will give you more dexterity.

What: Black Diamond Soloist Finger Cold Weather Gloves

Where: Amazon or the Black Diamond website

Price: $129 (I paid $99 on sale)

Colors: Black, Dark Curry (brown)

Sizes: Men's XS to Men's XL

January 16, 2023

In Which the Gang Goes Ponying

It's been a while since Mary could make it out to the barn, but two weekends ago we made the most of it by ponying Disco for the first time!

But first, Annie learned how to move the good shavings out of the way to get to the pee spot <3

And don't worry, she got some riding time too. Look at how well she sits in the saddle already!

I don't know when the "right" age to starting ponying is, but I'm sure I waited til the right time to start it with Disco. It wasn't until recently that I felt like he understood work enough, respected human bubbles enough, and was capable of NOT playing with Connor for long enough that ponying would be a success if we tried it. I still expected some shenanigans even still though.

...and I could not have been more wrong.

He was...perfect. 

We set him up for success in a couple of ways. One, he understands now that the surcingle and pad mean "work time", so I put them on him as a signal that this was going to be work and not play. Two, I decided to put Mary in the saddle and me on the ground. Mary has better reaction time in the saddle than I do, and she hasn't had as much experience handling him on the ground as I have, so it was a logical choice.

And of course, Mary was also the right choice to run this show because of what a good horsewoman she is. She broke it down into a dozen tiny steps, each done on both sides of the horse so each eye/half of the brain had a chance to see and understand the process.

First we walked them alongside each other, gradually getting closer.

Let's be honest, this was as much or more about getting Connor comfortable with it as it was about Disco learning it. Connor was more uneasy about all this than Disco ever was!

Then we stopped and she slowly worked Connor closer and closer to him, around and around while Disco was standing still, stopping occasionally.

Connor, for his part, thought this was all very suspicious but he played ball. He was very offended when I had to swing the whip at Disco, though!

Next she introduced him to the stimuli he might feel while being ponied, rubbing a Dressage whip over his body before graduating to touching him from above.

Disco: Curious. Connor: Tolerating this shit.

And finally after a good long while, we were ponying. As the ground person, I was only there in case things really went sideways, Mary had full control of him the whole time. 

You could see him concentrating, trying to figure out this new game, trying to figure out how and when to move, coming to understand that when he hit the end of the line he needed to move forward, and when Connor moved, he moved.

Connor had his Suspicious Spooky Ear on Disco the entire time, lol.

Basically the only disobedience the entire time that Mary had to correct was Disco putting his nose in her bubble, being curious about what she was doing up there. She'd push him away, and if he didn't get the memo, he got a swat with the blue sparkle star crop (that Mary bought me as a joke in college like a decade and a half ago, lol. Who knew she'd be starting my own baby with it all these years later?) 

You can clearly see him testing boundaries, finding one, going "Oh, okay," and then going back to being compliant in the below GIF.

Since the first time ponying went flawlessly, I fully expected him to start testing boundaries the second time, when we revisited it a week later with Leah. Connor was always like that with new things: sort of overwhelmed and ultra-compliant the first time, then the second time he'd spend the entire session scheming and testing ways to get out of the work.

Who, me?

But once again, and this time with me in the saddle for the first time, he was...perfect. And this time moving as much or more off of my voice commands than simply following Connor.

In some ways, Disco is lazier than Connor. I think he's going to be physically lazier and not as reactive to stimuli. But in others - mentally, mostly - he's got so much more of a work ethic than Connor ever has. It keeps surprising me, but at this point, I guess it shouldn't.

Good ponies.