April 6, 2020

The Way Things Are Right Now

We're starting week 4 since the day I realized the shit was going to hit the fan (March 11th, the day I renewed my Sam's Club membership, placed a large and prescient order from Rogue Fitness, and told my mom I didn't think she could go to the White Sox home opener safely (which was later cancelled anyway)).

My feelings on quarantine, visually depicted by Hank
I kept riding for another week or so after that so it's been...two weeks...since I saw my horse last?  I gotta be honest, it's insanely, insanely hard, and every time I see someone in a fellow lockdown state that's still riding I'm hit with this massive pang of jealousy and self-doubt, like "Am I really doing the right thing here?" 

And then I see new studies about how droplets containing coronavirus can travel 26 feet away from a person and hang in the air for minutes at a time after an infected person passes that spot, and how it can live up to seven days on smooth surfaces and I know I'm doing the right thing.  Public boarding barns can't be made coronavirus-proof no matter how many restrictions you put in place, so my contribution to flattening the curve will continue to mean staying away and staying home.

Pony is happy, healthy and well-cared for.  I don't get many pictures and am trying not to pester my trainer for updates, but I also am so grateful that I CAN just leave him and feel good about it.

That has left me with a lot of free time, which I've spent learning how to make fancy cocktails (because if I call my drinking a 'hobby' that makes it better, right?  Guys?)

I also have done a LOT of cleaning - this is an embarrassing first world problem confession, but since we hired our housekeeper mid-renovation five years ago, I've never actually had to clean my entire 3,700sqft house by myself before.  It takes HOURS!  Just gives me more incentive to keep paying her even though she's not cleaning for us right now.

I cleaned out the living room fireplace for the first time in the five years we've owned this house, and uncovered how freaking COOL the original (1890) grate and ashbox is:


The front bottom part of it is designed to perfectly snug in against the tile, and then to be flipped down easily to reveal the ash box, which has a ring for easy removal:

I can just picture a maid pulling this out and dumping it, can't you?

My house has never been cleaner, and life is just slower in general - which I'm a huge fan of.  This experience is going to change our behavior going forward in voluntary and involuntary ways - one of the things I hope to voluntarily keep is the idea that slowing down is a good thing.

Takeout Mexican and margaritas on the porch with the whole family on a gorgeous spring night - including the bird
Keep talking and keep sharing!  Has there been any silver lining for you in this whole thing?

March 30, 2020

What's a Horse Blog Without Horses?

I don't know, but I'm going to find out.  It's been nearly a week since I saw Connor last, and it's hard, but the data is increasingly showing it's the right decision.  No matter how careful you are, any place where people congregate, even with social distancing, is a hotspot. 

CrossFit continues to be my source of mental stability

My trainer continues to send photos and video of the horses (plural, which means I assume I'm not the only person staying away even though the barn hasn't issued a statement saying it's closed), which I am so grateful for.  In one particularly funny one, she videoed herself walked down the outside of the barn petting the horses over the Dutch doors, but Connor came only close enough that he could sniff her and not close enough that she could pet him.  My anxious pony, the original social distancer.

He let her get this close but she was still never able to touch him, lol
It's not really horse related, but I've started keeping a private quarantine diary, and I'd encourage you guys to do the same, especially since, as bloggers, we're used to collating our thoughts and writing them down.  I realized I'm already starting to forget some of the details when every week seems like a month, and I have a feeling this is going to be something that our grandchildren ask us about someday.  "Hey Grandma, I have to write a report on what life was like during the COVID-19 pandemic, can I interview you?"

How's everyone holding up?

March 26, 2020

The Difficult Decision to Stay Home

Unlike other states, Indiana no longer has a statewide horse council to phone the governor's office and clarify whether horseback riding counts as an outdoor activity now that our statewide stay-at-home edict went into effect yesterday, or what, exactly, about caring for sporthorses is "essential".  We've had a state horse council for the past 30 years, but it got formally disbanded on Monday of this week (yes, really.  Long, drama-filled story).

My obnoxiously loud co-worker

That said, even though my barn is still open, I've made the decision to voluntarily stop going.  Yes, it's hard, but nothing that I do for Connor is essential, and I can't trick my brain into thinking that it is.  Riding is not essential.  Even keeping him legged up isn't essential, he can have a letdown period and will be fine.

It's true that no one will arrest me or stop me from going to the barn, especially since my barn is still open to boarders.  But it's also true that as much as I want everyone around me to be a f****** adult and obey the lockdown rules so this thing ends as soon as possible, I need to also do the same.

Cannot say being away from this snoot is going to be easy

I am lucky.  I have a barn staff that I trust wholeheartedly.  I have a horse that gets a full day of turnout, every day.  I have a hardy pony who is the same regardless of if he gets ridden 7 days a week or no days a week.  My farrier is completely self-sufficient and does Connor in the crossties.  We just got shots, coggins, chiro, and teeth done in the last two months.  And CrossFit provides me just as much of a mental reset as riding does, so I can't even say I'll be psychologically hurting, even if emotionally being away from him is hard.

My garage has been preparing for the coronavirus for YEARS

I'm not posting this to guilt trip any of you for visiting the barn.  If your barn staff isn't as attentive as mine, or your horse doesn't have a turnout option unless you visit him, that's a lot more essential than my "show up to feed him a peppermint, ride him, feed him another peppermint and go home" routine.

My trainer sent me this photo of Connor happy, healthy and appropriately unblanketed for the weather today, and it made me so happy.

We are all in different situations.  In my barn, there are people that come to my barn who support elderly relatives, who have relatives that have recently had cancer, who have other types of immuno-compromised relatives.  And not to mention, we'd really be up a creek if my trainer or her assistant came down with it.  One less person coming to the barn is one less opportunity to pass this bullshit virus onto those people.  And frankly, if I did get it and they asked me where I had been as part of contact tracing, I would be embarrassed as hell to say I continued my very non-essential barn trips during the lockdown.  So, I stop.

I don't anticipate I'll stay away entirely - maybe once every couple weeks or a month, depending on how long this goes on.  And it's not easy.  But it's the right thing to do.

How's everyone else holding up with this?

March 25, 2020

Lesson Recap: Position is Easier in the CWD Dressage Hmmmmmm

It's really a shame we didn't get video of my lesson last night (I'm not using the Pixio until this blows over because I don't want to have to disinfect a million pieces of plastic), because we had such a fantastic lesson!  In the trial saddle, too.

Tacking up at my trailer bc social distancing #2020things

My trainer really focused in on keeping me firm in my torso, keeping my shoulder blades slid down my back and making my arms move separately from my torso.  That's on top of last week, in which we had a great lesson focusing on bend and really getting my knee snugged into him, which the CWD Dressage makes a lot easier than the CWD jump does.

Not knocking my jump saddle at all, it's just not a Dressage saddle

In fact, the CWD Dressage makes EVERYTHING about riding easier.  I am really starting to like this saddle.  The blocks keep me in place without being annoying, I don't notice them except it's like "Huh, I am really not moving around up here and it's not even hard!". 

The short flap gives me just enough skin-boot contact to feel close to him.  I can move my pelvis around without feeling like the cantle is all up in my business.  The monoflap and the complete lack of knee pad behind the block make it easy to snug my leg into him.  The wide twist takes up the space between my legs completely.  I just feel STABLE in the thing.

"This is highly irregular" - Connor

I don't have to make a decision for basically as long as the state shutdown lasts, however long that is, so it's another extended trial, although I'm keeping a close eye on Connor's back to make sure we don't have back soreness round 2, since this one isn't flocked right for him.  So far he's going amazing in it though.

Truly not horrible even though it's not right
So after starting this saddle search nearly a year ago "knowing" I wanted a CWD Dressage saddle just like my jump saddle, waiting four months for a custom one that didn't work (on my birthday!), being heartbroken and deciding to see what else was out there, having a budget for custom, trying over 50 saddles from many manufacturers, and paying let'snottalkaboutit in fitting fees, I may be ending up exactly where I started, with a CWD Dressage saddle.

Life is weird.

March 24, 2020

Quarantine Saddle Shopping

Last week, my local tack shop (which is run by a college classmate of mine) put up a picture of a consignment Dressage saddle on their Facebook page that looked like it might work for me and Connor.  What else am I going to do with my quarantine time?  May as well try a saddle!

This little fella is a 17" 2008 CWD SE05 with a short/forward flap, listed for 25% of what they go for new.  Before I went to pick it up, I sent a picture of the stamp to Connor's Aunt Mary to see if she thought it might work for us.  She thought it would, but she didn't recognize the third panel number at all, even after referencing her former CWD saddle fitter books.  Turns out that may be because...

Yeah I know worst picture in the world

It's wool flocked!  I was shocked, but also happy, since that opens up fitting options immensely if I do like it.  Mary thinks there's a chance it came from the factory this way, given the weird panel number and the fact that CWD has been known to do a one-off in wool from time to time.

No bridging

What do we think so far?  I find myself liking it more and more with each ride.  Any smaller in the seat or any bigger in the blocks and it would be too small, but as it is, I find it supportive without being in my way, especially in the canter.  It doesn't have a knee pad, and I love the way my leg nestles into Connor without effort in it.

I don't notice it beyond the fact that riding seems easier in it.  I'm forcing myself to think about that logically though: is riding really easier in it, or am I just excited to be doing Dressage in a Dressage saddle again, because that is DEFINITELY easier in general.

Would Mary raise my stirrups a hole here?  Probably, and that would be a dealbreaker for this saddle.

As for fit on Connor, it's definitely too narrow in front, but I've had two saddle fitters look at it and tell me it appears that the tree shape is right, it's just the flocking that needs adjusted.  Tara in particular told me this saddle was likely flocked for something more uphill than Connor. 

The net result is that it pops up in the back as soon as it's girthed, but there are no pressure points anywhere.

My big question is, if we do fix this with a flocking change, am I still going to like the balance?  I'm inclined to say yes, because the change we'd make would be similar to what we did with my Adam Ellis a couple of years ago in which we lowered the front of the saddle, which had the net effect of giving me the sensation of more space in the seat, which I think would be a good thing here.  I know it would be worse for him fit-wise, but I might do one ride in it with the back shimmed to see if I still like the balance when it's level.

 I was supposed to have it for a week, buuuuuuuuuuuut then the governor shut down our state four days into my trial.  I texted my college classmate to ask what she wanted me to do and she said "Just keep it, if the seller wants it back sooner we'll figure something out."  So, it's now with me for an extended trial.

At least it's something exciting!