January 6, 2017

Scratch that...Try Again

Ok...I got annoyed with the free site and the basic plan is only like $3 a month, so I went ahead and got some retail therapy in and just bought the thing.


Check it out and join along!!

January 1, 2017

A Blogging Shift

Two years ago I started this blog to detail my life with Gem.  I had just moved to SC and knew nobody. Wyatt was only 7 months old and it was super easy to take him to the barn to nap in the stroller with Dusty while I rode in the arena.

I wrote about our early days, current happenings and future dreams. This blog has always focused primarily on my riding life, being a horse blog and all, and I have had decent fodder to fill the pages and my own urges to write things down. 

Now that Wyatt has grown into an adorable, funny and energetic four year old, I find myself riding less and less and therefor having less and less meaningful content to share. This should change once the horses move home with us, but the fact remains that my riding life has become rather dull. There are only so many posts to be made about riding on your own in a hay field or traveling along the same trail system without being completely redundant or, even worse, boring. 

I thought about just stopping altogether and bidding this ado. 

But then I thought about the connections I have made through this blog. The people I have met and the places I have gone because of it. Reading other blogs and keeping myself in check on here have made me be more aware of my own riding and goals that I want to reach. 

Instead of stopping, I decided to make a big shift in how and what I blog.

You see, riding isn't the only or really even the largest part of who I am. I have better stories to tell about being a mom (like when I decided to hide my cell phone playing scary monster sounds in the sink at the doctor's office and now Wyatt is scared to death to go there), being a business owner, working in the health care field and just about my life in general. Gem is a part of the bigger picture, but not really enough to fill up an entire blog with.

So.....I've made a new blog over at word press. It's still a free site and all, but the look is much more to my liking and I plan to write about anything in my life I feel is worthy of retelling and remembering. There will be a lot of Gemmie stuff on there and it will still focus on my riding and life with Gem, but it will also be sprinkled with all the other parts of my life that make me who I am. Wordpress is also much friendlier on my phone, so I can ost without needing my computer.

You can find it at:


  • starting January 1st you can find all new content over there. I hope you join me!!!

December 29, 2016

2017 Goals

2016 was a big failure in regards to planned goals, but it was a complete success in unplanned things...so I'm not really sure what to take from that.

The overriding theme for 2017 is: FOCUS.

Focus on bringing Gem back into my life in a way that is sustainable for family life and self preservation, focus on improving my own skill set, focus on better work/life balance, focus on health, focus on Wyatt (as always this one isn't new), focus on getting ever closer to owning our own farm.

GEMMIE - Life Goals

FOCUS - With Gem it is going to be all about finding the right balance of being with her and not being away from the family too much. Wyatt is at an amazing age and I don't want to miss a single minute with him. He is funny, adventurous and just a blast to be around.

This is likely going to mean less time on the trails and more time riding in circles at home which I am 100% okay with as long as those circles bring new knowledge and new skills for the both of us.

More of this style tack and less endurance tack, I believe. 

1.) Bring her and Pete home.  Move in date for us is 1/15 and we are hoping to bring them home the following weekend. Fencing needs installed and we need to build a shelter for them as there is no barn or tree cover. I have the DIY plans already selected and the materials bought, just need to find time.

2.) Start riding consistently 2 days a week. There is a hay field I can ride in during non cutting times and I plan to use this regularly. Dusty has built me jumps in the past and will be working on some new ones once life settles back down again.

3.) 1-2 long trail rides a month, preferably with friends. I've ridden solo enough to know we can do it and that it is no where near as fun as riding with someone else. It is hard to ride with others though when you need to be on the horse by 7 am to make it home in time for lunch with the kiddo, so we will see.

4.) Make it to 1 lesson a month. If I can find someone who can come to me and deal with not having a true arena then I'd like to do 2 a month, if I have to trailer out it will likely only be once a month.

GEMMIE - Competition goals

1.) Complete a 50 mile endurance ride towards our decade team award.  I'd really like this to be a multi day ride so that I get as much as I can into a single weekend away.

2.) Complete a Ride and Tie of any length

3.) Make a decision on what to do about her 100 mile bronze medal.  She only needs two more 100s and I know she has it in her. The question is do I? If not, could I let someone else ride her even though I'd still have been the one to put all the conditioning miles on, spent all the money for the ride (the entry is the cheapest part of it all: hay, alfalfa, elytes, extra grain, gas to get there, time off work...), and likely need to be present to crew? Seems silly to plop someone else in the saddle to ride it. But....I really hated riding in the dark and I don't know if I want to do it again. Lots of soul searching to do.

 4.) Make it to a dressage show and not make a complete fool out of ourselves.

ME - Life Goals

FOCUS - For me it is going to be all about striking a better balance in life. Currently, I feel guilty when I don't ride and guilty when I do. I haven't taken an actual vacation longer than a long weekend since 2007. I haven't seen a doctor in 4 years.

1.) Stop feeling guilty about self care time. Riding and running not only make me feel better equipped to deal with life's stresses but it also will help me live a longer and better life. I need to stop beating myself up when I take time to do it.

2.) Run 2 days a week minimum. Treadmill or outside, both work as long as I am getting my butt moving.

3.) Ride 2 days a week.

4.) Establish with a primary care doctor and get a physical. 

5.) Figure out just what I want with my relationship with Gem. Is it okay to back off and just putz around? Do I need to have some set competition/training plans to feel satisfied? 

6.) Continue with my pen pals. Add two new ones from new countries. 

7.) Create a smashbook for Wyatt.

8.) Find a trainer that I can work well with in regards to approach, personality and scheduling. 

ME - Competition goals

1.) Complete a half marathon.

2.) Complete a full marathon. 

3)  Host a Ride and Tie. I have one in the works that I am really excited about. 


December 28, 2016

7 Years...Already???

She was ugly. Really, really ugly. No muscle, shaggy fur, bloated belly, bald spots on her rump. She had no personality. She was just dead inside.

The day we went to see her: December 2009
I didn't ride her. Why bother? Dusty had taken one look at the ugly little bay horse in the small, muddy paddock and knew he would be writing the check out. $800. Sort of a rip off at the time, but one heck of a steal now.

The day we brought her home. January 1, 2010.

I write a lot about the issues we have, but I really should give us both a lot more credit. Seven years ago I brought home a closed off rag doll and now I have a very opinionated, athletic machine. She went from not moving one single inch under saddle to bolting madly to spinning and kicking to moving out on the trail in a side pull solo.

I never imagined that we would complete a 100 mile ride, finish Ride and Tie Championships or begin dressage lessons.

And what about me?

Seven years ago I was afraid to ride her out of the indoor. I had never hooked up a trailer on my own. Never self loaded a horse. Never driven a trailer. I had never rode out on a trail solo, let alone at anything more than a walk. I hadn't made any big horse related dreams beyond not dying in the saddle.

And now -

Well, now I barely recognize myself. I canter and gallop on trail alone. I head to the barn at the butt crack of dawn to pull my horse out of her dark pasture, load her up and drive 6 hours away to camp alone without knowing a single sole and complete a 50 mile ride. I back my trailer into the tiniest spot without fear of breaking everything.

I'd say lets bring on the next 7 years!

December 22, 2016

2016 Goal Check

2016 was the first year I set goals. I tend to not be a very goal oriented person, preferring to just play things by ear and tackle tasks as they come up. It is better though to at least have some focus and a general idea of where you want to go. Time to turn in the report card and see how I did....

1.) Finish up the 2015-2016 hunter pace series and earn the Supporter Award. All rides do not have to be on Gem, but I do have to personally attend them all. 

I missed the last 3 rides due to timing after the 100. Gem was in her rest period and Pete wasn't really prepared enough to go. I still managed to place 6th out of nearly 300, so maybe it still counts?

2.) Multi Day Endurance ride in the Spring. Can be either two 50s or a 50 and 25. Currently aiming for a ride early April in Jasper, FL.

0/2 so far :( I opted to do a one day 100 instead given the timing and her condition, but still no mutli day.

3.) Help manage an ultramarathon alongside Dusty to coincide with the Ride Between the Rivers Endurance Ride. Dusty was approached about this idea when we were there this summer and we are both super excited. Gem will likely stay home unless someone wants me to bring her along to ride her in the endurance ride.

This didn't happen and I still wish it had, but Dusty couldn't secure any insurance for the run without being a member of a running group or paying an unseemly amount of money.

4.) Get Haley to her first endurance ride. I'm already making excuses for this one, but she can only attend in the summer and summer rides just don't happen down here. The only viable option would be the Moonlight Sandhills ride, but I think it may conflict with the RBTR ultra/endurance ride. 

Nope. After I moved barns, Haley and I fell out of touch. She is now killing it at western events.

5.) Attend the Run for the Horses 50 at Biltmore in September. Not necessarily as a rider, but to either crew for Dusty again or to volunteer. It is my favorite ride of the entire year. 

Seriously, this is getting pathetic. I don't think this should count against me though. The ride/run was cancelled due to some rich person renting out the entire estate for a fancy wedding.

6.) Complete the Broxton Bridge 50 in November. This is a big deal for me. It is the same ride where I plan to do our first 100 the following Jan. Getting Gem exposed to the trails, learning the camp, figuring out crewing situation etc... will all help ease my stress levels a bit for the January ride when I won't have a crew and will have to figure it all out myself. 

Can I begin laughing now?

Since I did the 100 in May, I didn't really need to do Broxton and instead did the R&T Championships.

7.) Figure out her hoof protection situation once and for all. The April ride and the November Broxton ride will help me test things out. I won't ask her to do a 100 barefoot, but I know the trails are friendly in case something were to fail.

Ha!! Finally! Gem is currently back to being barefoot for the winter, but I've settled on steel shoes for competitions for economy, ease and functionality.

8.) Get the trailer organized. This has been a work in progress for over a year now and just needs to be completed before I rip my hair out. Trying to ease all stress that I can before next January. 

Yup! It was done last spring and I love it.

9.) Complete an Equathon. This is kind of a sorta goal in that if it works in the schedule and helps Gem's conditioning then great, but if not it isn't a big deal. 

I'm counting the R&T for this since it is the same event.

10.) Continue to improve my fitness. I've started to run again and will be adding in some weights and spin classes as able throughout the year. 

I'm still running 2-3 days a week and have found some enjoyment in it.

11.) Dressage lessons. I would love to start taking some dressage to help Gem improve in her movement and make things more efficient for her. I can't afford both lessons and the paces, so this will have to wait until the summer. 

I sneaked in about 3 or so lessons this summer before the wheels fell off on my life.  I even purchased a dressage saddle. 

So...that is what...5/11...for a 45% completion rate? That is abysmal, but my focus shifted early on and I snuck that 100 in a year earlier than planned which basically changed everything. Hopefully 2017 can be a bit more focused.

December 20, 2016

The Worst Clinic Ever

Reading Emma's latest blog about her first clinic on her new guy (read it here) got me thinking about that one time I was talked into going to a clinic on Gem about 3 or 4 months into our relationship together. It was a complete shit show and so much the opposite of her clinic that I thought I would write it up for the enjoyment of all.

Let's hop into my blogger time machine and travel back to the spring of 2010.

 Ah...the naivete is so thick you could choke on it. A training facility that creates gems of knowledge such as:

- She will never be able to canter straight, so just always go in a circle. 
- Pete is unable to be lunged, ever, so just don't do ground work with him.
- Gem trots at 9 million miles an hour and is completely hollow/inverted - she is prime and ready to jump 2'6" gymnastic lines...with oxers!

A woman who purchased a horse she really had no right to own and then decided it was the best time to learn how to ride english. 

A horse who was so mentally and physically shut down that she really ought to have just been loved on as a pasture pet for 6 months to a year but now found herself in a full training program being worked 5 days a week. 

Perfect situation...huh?

After two months of throwing my money down the drain for "full training" (the full story is too long to interject here but the short version is that the trainer never actually rode my horse and would just plop unsuspecting lesson kids on her when able and lunge her when not), I was finally at a spot with Gem that I could get her to walk around the indoor without trying to kill us both. Trotting was a possibility, if I wanted to careen around at mach 10 and cantering was a no go unless I wanted to ride a bucking bronco. Riding outside was a near death experience for all involved including any hapless bystanders who got in our way. 

This was the expression Gem wore for the first 4 months I had her

For some reason, trainer lady felt it was a great idea to introduce us to jumping. She did this in the most classically trained way  - set up a 2' vertical along our path in a way that it was entirely unavoidable to either go over or through it. Then with each lap of the arena that we made, regardless if our previous approach was successful or not, jack up the height and hey lets add some width to it as well. Might as well scar these two for life! 

And that was where we were when a clinician, who is nameless only because I can't recall her name, came to town. Trainer lady signed both Dusty, who had Pete for all of a month and was working hard at getting him to stand still without rearing and spinning, and myself up. Lest you think this was maybe in the same universe as "appropriate" let me tell you what was on the docket for said clinic. 

First, it was a group. The first 30 minutes would be working on flat work in the indoor and then we would saunter outside for 30 minutes of work over solid obstacles on the small cross country course.  

Hmmm...group lesson on one horse who only goes 100 miles an hour or nothing at all and a second horse who rears and spins whenever asked to stand still for more than a micro second. Then add solid obstacles in a wide open field! 

Exhausted mare napping in her sand paddock at the training facility

So we showed up and got ready. My heart was already in my throat and I do believe that my muscles were as tense as a marble statue. gem was therefore also tense and worked up before we even started. We all began by walking around the rail of the arena while the clinician shouted angrily in the most incessantly shrill voice at everyone pointing out mistakes and generally putting every horse and person within a 5 mile radius on edge. This was the beginner clinic too, by the way.

She would randomly call someone over to berate them and started yapping on about contact and grabbing the reins to yank on the horse's mouth to make the rider get a feel for what level of contact they should have. Gem and Pete could barely hold their shit together long enough to walk off with a rider on their back. Contact was not something any of the 4 of us had ever been introduced to. You can imagine how well they enjoyed their faces being ripped off by the screeching clinician. 

Off to the rail again, this time at a trot. I happened to be the first in the line and immediately got yelled at for going too fast. I tried to explain to her that this was what I was currently working on with Gem. A way to get her to slow down without losing all impulsion and dropping to a walk. She ignored me and demanded that I slow her down. I asked how. I'll never forget this - she laughed at me. 

Things progressed from there. We had long periods of waiting in the center of the arena while one member of the group did their thing. Dusty and Pete spent this time spinning and rearing and scaring the rest of the riders. It was fun for all!

The only other thing from the first 30 minutes that I recall is cantering. I had told her that we weren't cantering yet, but I was willing to give it my best effort. She had us all start by trotting. slowly, around the rail at the...wait for it...sitting trot. None in the group had ever done this skill...remember it was a basic, beginner level intro type class. But here we were being yelled at to sit that trot! One we made it around the arena at the sitting trot we were to pick up the canter at the start of the long end. To make this even worse, we had to stick together in a line such that when the first person hit the long side, they would canter and then the next person would begin a few seconds behind them. 

The person behind me was so far up Gem's ass that she got kicked while we flailed through the transition. 

After that we all went outside to jump solid objects. You'd think the clinician would have long ago figured out that this was not a good idea given the skill level of the 6 people in the group. But no...she had a pre determined schedule of tasks to go over and she would be damned if she went off track now. 

One by one we attempted to make it over various logs and tire jumps set up. Pete adores jumping all the things and made easy work of it, wining Dusty the "most improved during the clinic" award. That was just pure ridiculous since neither actually improved anything. They just finally found something they both could do. 
Making it look easy

Or not

For our part, Gem and I flailed horrendously over things neither should have even attempted and pretty much ruined any bit of trust I had built up with her. I think it only took 3 attempts before we got banished. Literally. The clinician looked at us and told us to "go walk around somewhere else for the rest of the time" Pleasant. 

Who is more tense here?

Not a happy horse...or rider

Returning from our banishment


I 100% agree that we had no place in this clinic. I followed my trainer's recommendation to join, believed her when she said we would be able to do what was asked of us, and went into it expecting that the clinician would be working with everyone to their level even though it was a group. I was wrong. 

So was my "trainer" for putting me in that position. 

So was the clinician who set up a series of tasks for a beginner class and never once actually paid attention to anyone attempting to follow along with her. Nobody learned anything during that hour. It made me swear off clinicians, full training and a lot of other things. 

Thankfully we were off to WI a few short weeks later. 

December 19, 2016

Blogger Secret Santa

Friday after work I picked up the kiddo from school and headed home to find a large and unexpectedly heavy package at my front door. I figured it was for Wyatt since most things this time of the year are, but no! It had my name on it!

On closer inspection it also had a very familiar return label on it from Liz over at In Omnia Paratus.  I somehow managed to keep grabby 4 year old fingers away from it long enough to open it myself - the struggle with that is real - and gleefully tore it open wondering what on earth she stuffed into the bag that was heavy.

The first thing I encountered was this:

Himalayan salt granules. I can't wait to use these for both conditioning and competition. 
Not having used them before, I jumped online and did some research. It turns out they are jam packed with trace minerals. I'm really excited to add them to our electrolyte regimen.

Next up I pulled out the heavy object. Wyatt declared that it was a brick, but I told him there was no way Liz would mail a brick out. Turned out I was only partially right:

Carrot flavored because Gem is a Princess and won't settle for anything less
It was a brick - of sorts! I had to concede to my 4 year old that he was right. Once Gemmie comes home to live, she will be getting this to munch away on.

But there was still more in the bag. Last, but not least was:


A set of glorious, fuzzy and RED polos. I actually do not own a set of polos, a fact that I figured out only a couple weeks ago when a friend asked to borrow a set of red polos for a parade figuring that if anyone had something horsey and red, it would be me. I thought I had a set, but all I had were red standing wraps. So not only are these pretty, but they fill a gear void!

THANK YOU SO MUCH LIZ!! This was the best package and she hit the nail on the head with everything.