May 13, 2021

Supergroom Going the Extra Mile

Mary kept telling me she needed to come down to the barn this week to help me get ready for the show, but our schedules just didn't line up. I told her she didn't need to, but she insisted.

So while I took Nick to a sushi making class for his birthday on Monday evening, Mary drove 45 minutes to the barn just to supergroom the heck out of my horse by herself in advance of the rated show on Saturday.

My amateur hobbyist chef husband's sushi was so perfect the instructor took photos of it. Mine (not pictured) was uh, not, lol. It was fun though!

I showed up a couple hours after she got there to find both my home and show brushes cleaned:

 My okay-but-not-great feather clipping job fixed:

A whole lot of unshedded leg hair removed:

That's allll from his legs!

And his mane pulled to appropriate braiding length, which of course also meant that she had to throw a bareback pad on him and get him a little warm so the hair came out easier. Naturally.

After I got there, we tag teamed cleaning and conditioning my tack. I cleaned it and then Mary brought out her paint can-sized CWD Conditioner left over from her days as a CWD rep. As someone who pays effectively (sigh) $45/container shipped for the normal sized CWD conditioner, the size of her conditioner bucket is eye-popping, lol. It has to be worth a thousand dollars.

"This is my life now"

I don't even know what to say almost, to her coming out by herself to do all that for me! But I did pay her in our first hug in almost two years, since I'm fully vaccinated and she's almost to her second shot. Mary was high-risk for COVID, so we really played it safe, and she thankfully never got it. We hugged for like a straight minute, and I had tears in my eyes. It felt so good to hug my best friend again!

May 12, 2021

Baby Pony Decisions

I realize it probably seems like it came out of left field, me buying a baby pony like this, but in fact it's been a very carefully calculated plan for a while now. 

I told Lisa I would consider any colt born starting with the class of 2021, with special preference given to a Dyma Hi colt. We've extensively discussed what I want in my next one over the years, so when something hit the ground that met my general criteria, she knew I might want him and let me know. 

Slowly starting to look less like a pile of angles and more like a horse!

Having Aeres last winter really gave me the confidence that I could afford two horses, even if I learned that I don't like riding two in full work every day. This little fella will be in full work when Connor turns 20 or 21 at which time Connor will likely be ready to at least step back in intensity or perhaps get on-site leased as a lower level schoolmaster, which I've had people ask me about and am open to.

So what were my general criteria?

Baby's first side eye

It had to be a colt. I'm grateful for the opportunity to lease Aeres, because while I enjoyed it, coming back to my happy-go-lucky comes-out-of-the-stall-the-same-every-day gelding felt like slipping into my favorite pair of jeans. 

I'm a gelding person and that's okay.

I wanted full Welsh. I REALLY waffled on this, because Lisa has some spectacular Cob X WBs that have done incredibly well in sport, and the cross would probably be a better Dressage mount for me. But there are things that are more important to me than scores, like size. Plus (Cobweb Jockey? Cannot unsee that, lol) doesn't have the same ring to it.

Don't think I'm not tempted by this Welsh Cob x Belgian Warmblood filly, she is REALLY nice (Castleberrys Ffafr ap Cuhlwch x Reminice (Belgian WB mare by Simsalabim), but ultimately, I just love ponies too much.

I wanted a particular personality. I want a weirdo, I want something bold, I want something reactive. I've seen enough Welsh Cobs over the years to know they're all generally sane and care about their people, so selecting for something a little more sensitive isn't terrifying the way it might be in some breeds.

When it comes down to it, personality is more important to me than conformational perfection (and I'm not saying that because there's anything wrong with him! Just that I have the maturity to recognize that this computer engineer needs sane and fun above all else.)

I wanted Connor, but better: Connor's same hindquarter and ability to sit that GP trainer loves so much, but more uphill and with more suspension in the trot. It remains to be seen whether Disco will be both of those things, but his mom is Connor's full sister, and his dad is (IMO) Lisa's best trotting stallion, so baby Disco has genetics in his favor. Plus GP trainer likes this stallion best out of Lisa's two primary herdsires, not that I consulted her in this decision.

It is a lovely butt. (Tail has been shortened several inches since this photo was taken. I've taken a foot total off of it since December 31!)


We had discussed me requesting a custom breeding, but I didn't like that idea. First, I don't think for a second that I know breeding better than Lisa does. She's 20 years into her program and is a master at identifying good crosses and iteratively improving her stock. And second, personality and gender are important to me, so I wanted to have the chance to say no after meeting baby, something I couldn't do if I did a custom breeding.


Well, he's comfortable in an uphill balance, check, lol

Finally, the last piece that gave me the confidence to pull the trigger is that there will be no hard feelings if he doesn't turn out to be what I want. I sincerely hope to be able to show off her program and the breed with this little guy and I wouldn't have said yes if I didn't think he could be that, but if he tells me he'd be happier doing Western Pleasure or something, I'm not going to try to fit a square peg in a round hole, and I'm grateful that I'm not obligated to. For both of our sakes.

Big hopes and dreams for this little guy, but mostly, I want him to be happy and loved <3

May 11, 2021

How to Make Blogging Easier

I have been blogging at since December of 2009, which seems crazy to me, but it's true, this blog is almost 12 years old! Over the years I've developed a lot of tricks to make blogging easier on myself, and I want to share them with you all to hopefully make your own blogs easier to manage.

Blogging is hard. Blogging takes time, effort and mental energy, but it's worth it. For me, I've met some of my very best friends through blogging. It gives me the mental space to process things - it's one thing to ride in a lesson and react to what my trainer says in the moment, but it's a whole other thing to understand the lesson deeply enough to explain it to you all. And it gives me a chance to see what others' journeys are like. Through blogging, I've come to realize we're all working toward something and we're all bound by our own particular set of circumstances that make comparing yourself to others totally meaningless.

Babies! From 2012, when this blog was 3 years old

So hopefully these tips help some of you re-start old blogs, or get back into the habit with current blogs. And please throw your own tips in the comments if you have some!

Stay in the habit, even if it means doing quickie posts

Blogging is a self-perpetuating habit, and the longer I go without posting, the more insurmountable drafting and publishing a post feels. Some of my posts take hours and weeks to draft, but some of them I throw together in 5 minutes just to stay in the habit. Sometimes going through the motions of blogging is more important than the content I share.

August of 2011, showing Connor for his breeder before I owned him

Draft a pile of posts on the weekend

Sunday is my blogging day. I sit down with a cup of coffee and bang out a bunch of posts at once that I then schedule to auto-post for the rest of the week, so that I'm not trying to blog during my hectic workweek schedule.


Goofing off in college, probably 2009?

Draft post ideas even if you won't publish them anytime soon

Sometimes I'll have an idea for a post knowing it will be a while before I have the media for it or the time to do it justice, and I'll hit the new post button in Blogger and write just a title, a few ideas, or a few sentences before saving it as draft and closing it. Then when I have time, or when I'm struggling to think of things to blog about, I can go into my drafts folder for some ready made writing prompts.

The best picture I've ever taken of Connor, August 2012


Learn what topics take the most mental energy and don't write about them every day

My biomechanics-oriented riding/training deep dive posts take the most mental energy out of anything I write. If this blog was entirely riding/training posts, I think I'd lose half of my readers (not everyone likes them and that's okay!) and I would also blog half as often. Fluff posts, product reviews, Wordless Wednesdays, Foal Fridays, all of those topics take less mental energy and serve to round out my deeper, more time-intensive content.

October 2011, again before I owned him

Make adding media easy

I have a system for adding pictures and GIFs to the blog that is almost completely automated, and that's important, because media REALLY matters to readers. Subconsciously, it gives your brain a place to rest in what would otherwise be a wall of text, and consciously, it helps your readers connect to you more. I also use my easy media system as a writing prompt reminder - I'll go through Google Photos and see those GIFs I took of the Smartcarts six months ago and realize I meant to write a post on that and never did (true story!).

Both of our first Dressage show ever, June 2012. Austen probably took this picture.

Split up big topics

Not everyone will agree with me on this, but I think it's better to split up big topics into multiple posts. For one, readers tend to check out in long posts unless they're REALLY juicy, and two, it gives you more content, which, to the point of this post, makes blogging easier. 

The day Lisa delivered him, November of 2011

Do not beat yourself up for skipping

You may notice that sometimes I blog five days a week and sometimes I blog one day a week, but I almost never go an entire week without blogging at all. I try to get at least one post out every week because it helps me stay in the habit, but I don't beat myself up about missing days. It's a personal blog, not a monetized side hustle, the world will not end if I skip a day.

How about the rest of you? What tips do you have to make blogging easier on yourselves? Are you going to give any of these a try?

May 10, 2021

IDS May: Sigh

Last Saturday I competed at the IDS May Schooling Show. My intention was to ride two tests in one day before I try that at the rated show next weekend, and of course, when ride times came out my rides were 5 hours apart and I couldn't make the second one. We were hosting a graduation party/prom for our friends at the IU School of Architecture on Saturday night, and I had to get home to help prep.

All of these folks had to have two negative tests in the previous 5 days in order to attend graduation and almost all are fully vaccinated, in case you're freaking out about the large number of unmasked people in my house.

On Friday afternoon, I went out to catch my horse to load up for the show and...


I mean, I knew better than to go out to catch him in a raincoat like that. But he lulls me into this false sense of security these days, because he only does this about once every six months now. And we were overdue, since his last episode was in October at GP trainer's.

It was raining on one side of the farm and sunny on the other

He cantered for THIRTY. STRAIGHT. MINUTES. I gave him opportunities to stop only if he kept his attention on me and either stood still or took a step toward me. If he took one step away from me, I clucked him on, not that he needed much encouragement. Even after he was clearly tiring, he still didn't stop cantering.

The next morning, he was pleasantly polite in the bridle but also behind my leg, probably thanks to his endurance workout the night before. I rode the shit out of the test, and it was much better than our last attempt in April. No errors, no mistakes, and our first true canter-walk EVER in the show ring, in his tough direction no less. The only bobble was a buck going into the first canter lengthening, see previous comment about him being behind my leg. It felt like a solid test overall.

First pic with my new coat! This is ABSOLUTELY the most front end elevation I've ever seen in a canter photo of this horse. PC: AK Photography

Unfortunately the judge just straight up didn't like my ride, and scored us a 59.404%. It was like she gave us a baseline of 6.0 for everything, and then if she didn't like something, it was straight to a 5.0, with hardly any 6.5s and only one 7.0. I got the lowest scores of my life on things he always scores really well on, like halts and reinbacks, and just could not understand how that test deserved to score that poorly, especially at a schooling show. 

I need a half halt in this moment, but look at me not pulling on my horse's face! PC: AK Photography

The mystery was solved when I ran into Karen afterwards, and she asked, "Did you have [judge name]?" And I said yeah, and she said, "Been there, that's just how she is, don't let it get to you." I did win my class with that 59% so...yeah. That checks out.

He looks as tired as he felt. PC: AK Photography

That said, I'm not upset. We rode 2-3 error-free. We got a canter-walk in the ring for the first time. I learned how to show him well even when he's tired. All of those things are good things to learn at a schooling show, so I came away feeling like I accomplished something.

Next weekend, less of this!

May 7, 2021

Foal Friday: Anna Rose

Castleberrys Anna Rose was the first foal to be born this year, and she happens to be a half-sister of Aeres (out of the same dam, Athanasia). Athanasia has had a couple of issues with her pregnancies in the past, so this year they pulled out the veterinary Hail Mary to make sure baby Anna Rose arrived safe and sound, and she did.

Hence the name. This filly feels like a miracle.

First up, mom, Castleberrys Athanasia (Gwnfaes Culhwch x Bannockburn Belle)

And dad, Castleberrys Debonair (Castleberrys ReFflection x Castleberrys Dyma Hi), who is a half-brother to Disco and now resides in Canada:

Shown here age 4 last summer

Anna Rose is the sweetest, daintiest little thing. I don't mean to say she's not stout, she'll turn into a big bodied Cobby girl like her momma, but everything about her is just sweet and delicate right now.

From a Welsh Cob perspective, she is hard to fault, IMO
"Hello puppy!"

Aeres' mom, Athanasia, the Queen


Anna Rose is spoken for, and I can't wait to see her grow up!