Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in Review

January


I was super gung-ho with my 2015 goals (separate post on that later), but in reality we got off to a slower start than I had wanted. Maggie had a wicked case of the shits that came on seemingly out of nowhere (actually during late 2014). I still don't have a clue what sets it off and we had problems with it off and on until I finally found the one thing that has cured it: a daily double-dose of SmartDigest. I played around with the dosing all year long - including the other Smartpak digestive supplements and none of the other ones seems to do the trick. I have no idea why.

This picture sums up the whole experience very well. 
Later on in January we had a colic episode which may or may not have been related to whatever was causing the shits. We'll never know. It was a small impaction colic and after being tubed and staying on poop alert, she recovered well. 

Not feeling so hot.
Also during January: the snow began.



February


It snowed more. Like, a lot more. There was no riding because I did not rent the indoor because I could not get to the indoor. 



I think I legitimately have PTSD from this winter.


March


I rode my horse! I had some lessons! And snow melted enough that we actually started to see the ground towards the end of the month!



April


The snow kept melting and I discovered how rough the outdoor ring at our barn was looking. We squeezed in a ride at the beach. I was still renting the rings next door and got some rides outside there and Maggie figured out how to stretchy trot and I really felt like I might actually have a dressage pony on my hands!



May


We made our first show outing of the season as we pretended to be hunters at a local open show.

Convincing, aren't we?

And we jumped around a 2'6" course!
Photo by Nature of Light Photography. Used with permission.

I also gave Maggie a new 'do, took our first jumping lesson with a local upper-level eventer, and had a grand time at our first hunter pace.   




At the very end of the month (though I didn't blog about it until June) we did a combined test, putting in a somewhat tense but respectable dressage test and a clear stadium round to clinch a yellow ribbon. 

Photo by FlatlandsFoto. Used with Permission.


June


June was the month that I really fell of the blogging train and unfortunately I never really recovered. Part of this was due to some personal things and part of it was taking on some other writing projects that kept me busy. Towards the end of the month (and on a very rainy day) Maggie and I did our first 3-Phase of the year (but blogged about it TWO months later and in two parts). It didn't go amazingly, but I was super proud to have completed!


Unfortunately, the frame of my truck broke the day before the event . I borrowed a friend's truck to get to the show the next day, but it pretty much sidelined us for the rest of the season and slowed down jumping lessons too.  

The husband and I also started house shopping and within two weeks had an offer accepted on a cute little ranch in my hometown!


July


July was a real lull. Still in my blogging funk, I hit an all time low and only posted twice all month: once with an excuse as to why I hadn't been blogging and another recapping a jump lesson from June. I have absolutely no recollection of how much I rode (since I didn't blog about it), but I think we took it fairly easy, since we weren't going anywhere in a hurry with my busted truck. Also, we closed on our house.



August


There was a dramatic abscess popping and that was basically it aside from writing about the 3-Phase in June. We also definitely took some dressage lessons here and there, but I must have skipped writing about some of them?

Baby's first hoof wrap.


September

I got a new truck which meant as soon as I had a hitch put on we were back in business! I did a little better at blogging again and wrote about a dressage lesson wherein we really started to focus on outside aids and straightness, which (along with LEG) essentially became our theme for the rest of the year. 

We had another dressage lesson later in the month, plus our first ever actual XC lesson in preparation for our second 3-Phase of the season (which, sadly, was also our last of the season). This event went much better than the last one (plus it was a lovely sunny day and not a monsoon) - we jumped clear and took home second!

So much fun. Photo by Sophiea Bitel.


October

I helped tack-walk a barnmate's horse and worried that I Maggie and I were a mismatch, but eventually allayed my fears. Since I had a truck with the ability to trailer again, we also continued trucking out for jump lessons and I learned that I need to work on keeping my upper body relaxed and quiet while keeping my leg on.

Oh, and we moved to the barn next door so now we have full access to their rings and indoor arena.

"Where am I?"


November


We did another hunter pace and once again had a great time. Later in the month Maggie was introduced to canter poles during a jumping lesson, which is a great way to get me to focus on keeping leg on. 

Photo by Nature of Light Photography. Used with permission.


December


We've taken another jumping lesson (which I still have yet to write about), gone on some trail rides, and done some dressaging on our own. Up until about the middle of the month it was still relatively warm and if it weren't pitch black we would have still been able to ride in the ring. We're officially stuck in the indoor now though. 

A couple weeks ago I also recapped all my adjunct writing projects and told you to stay tuned as I expanded this blog into a different domain! (I'm still working on it though...so you'll still have to stay tuned...)


Overall...

In retrospect, I feel like I can call this a "transition year" - though maybe I'm just trying to give it a label to justify feeling like I didn't actually accomplish much. But despite not having many accomplishments be evident by way of show results, I think we made progress.

Overall I think everything that has happened this year has put us in a better place in life, in my riding, and in this blog, which will hopefully set us up to be more successful next year. Despite only making it to two events (far fewer than I would have liked), the addition of having jumping lessons has made such a huge difference. Even though we're sort of starting over down at the basic, basic level it's giving me the confidence that we'll have the correct building blocks in place to come out stronger next year.

I can't be too hard on myself either for our middle of the summer lull - sometimes crap happens (like my truck kicking the bucket) that makes you just have to stop what you're doing and focus on adulting for a little while. Sometimes good things happen (like buying a house) that make you have to stop and focus on adulting for a little while too. Again, thanks to these things happening I'm in a better position to come out stronger next year (although having car payments again really sucks).

Here's to 2016!









Tuesday, December 29, 2015

FOO Equestrian Blogger Gift Exchange 2015


Sometimes I think part of the excitement of Christmas is just getting mail. Cards, packages, what have you. Email is awesome, but there's some definite charm in receiving something tangible - whether it's a written kind word or a gift. The equestrian blogger gift exchange adds to the excitement because it means something horsey is coming! 

The lovely Karley of All In was my Secret Santa this year and she hit the nail on the head with this monogrammed tumbler from Personally Preppy

All the pink.
Karley, how ever did you know how much I love coffee and how much I need to have it AT ALL TIMES - including on my horse between classes? ;)

This picture definitely didn't give it away. Nor the fact that it was my Facebook profile picture for a while. 
I didn't actually know it was Karley though, until she commented on my latest post yesterday. Digging through the pink tissue paper I couldn't find a note about who the sender was so I'm glad she revealed herself! :)


Nor was there a note inside the tumbler, but there was an additional monogram!


I haven't decided what to put this on yet, so I'm open to suggestions... maybe my helmet bag? I have a Charles Owen, so I'm not sure how it will look above the CO logo on the back of the helmet itself.

It looks wonderful on my little hipster coffee table in the kitchen.
Now I really can't wait for ice coffee season to roll around again! I'm super impressed by the quality of the tumbler and the monogram too. The monogram seems like it's seriously stuck on there, so it's not going anywhere anytime soon. The tumbler itself seems really durable as well. Like, if I dropped it while I was on my horse it wouldn't break or even spill much (screw on lid!) It might even hold up if Maggie decides she wants a sip...


So thank you Karley for the awesome gift! And of course thanks once again to Tracy of Fly On Over for hosting the equestrian blogger gift exchange again - it's such a blast!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How 2015 Has Changed My Blog...and What's to Come in 2016


If someone were to tell 11th grade me that one day I would actually enjoy writing and have a few pieces published in various outlets as well as running my own blog for fun, I would have given you a real funny look and called you completely delusional.

Fun fact: I somehow found my way into Honors English classes in 10th and 11th grade (despite being a pretty mediocre writer and really loathing classic literature) which meant I was then eligible for AP English my Senior year. I wasn't required to take the AP exam, but my mom made me do it anyway despite me insistently telling her that she would be wasting her money on the exam fee. I was right.

Anyway...

It all started with this blog post about the potential Boston Olympics (which is no longer a thing now, by the way), when Amanda suggested I send it in to Eventing Nation.

So I did.

And they published it.


I think that's when the writing bug really bit me. Not gonna lie, it was really cool to see my name up in EN as an author. 

A few days later, EN asked me to write something for them about the horribleness that was our epic and record-breaking late winter since I was in the thick of it.


Later that summer, I got in touch with EN again and offered to cover my neighborhood USEA event, Groton House Farm, for them if they didn't already have someone reporting on it. They didn't, and welcomed me to write a show recap for them.

With a severe rain storm scheduled to hit on the third day of competition, the GHF show management made an on-the-fly decision to turn the traditional 3-day event into a 2-day event. I watched (and helped! I fence judged that day too) as show management and the volunteers hustled to compress the event in a matter of hours. I knew then that my report for EN would be more than a run-of-the-mill show recap, so in the week after the event I worked to interview people from each perspective - show management, competitor, and volunteer - about the extraordinary efforts that they went through to make the event work. 

The result was an article that I was really proud of and I think did everyone involved with GHF justice. I learned that reaching out to people - some I had never actually met before - wasn't actually scary in the end (though admittedly a tiny bit nerve wracking at first for this introvert) and it makes for a much stronger piece of writing. 


At this point, I was truly hooked on writing. However, some personal conflicts manifested around this same time and my writing on this blog took a hit. I seriously considered scrapping this blog...and I might have it it wasn't for a message I received in this blog's Facebook page inbox.

The publisher of Massachusetts Horse messaged me and wanted to run my story about GHF in her magazine. She also wanted to talk to me about writing for her on a regular basis. My answer, of course, was that I would love to!

I've since been assigned a couple different feature articles for the magazine, both involving interviewing some local horsepeople. I've discovered that I really enjoy tell people's stories. 

From the Oct/Nov issue of Massachusetts Horse

From the Dec/Jan issue of Massachusetts Horse

Additionally, over the summer a neat new event in my area was organized: the Area 1 Schooling Horse Trials Championship. I thought this was such a neat idea, so I got in touch with some of the people involved in running it, pitched the story to EN, and they took it.


After this post went live, I really got a kick out of the positive comments it garnered. A few people even commented that they had similar programs in their areas. This gave me an idea...why not feature these other programs too and spread the love? Fortunately EN was onboard and thus the Schooling Horse Trials Series was born. (So if you want your local organization featured, just shoot me an email!)


All this to say, I've had an interesting 2015 in terms of where my writing has lead me.

I started blogging for two reasons: to hold myself accountable in tracking Maggie's progress and to give myself something productive to do during my daily commute on the train.

I've stuck with blogging because I discovered I really liked it. I like the process of writing - I like that it makes me slow down and think. I like interacting with all the other equestrian bloggers I've come to know - you all are some of the coolest, friendliest, supportive people.

I plan to continue blogging, well, because I still like it and I like you, but I'm also branching out. I am so incredibly grateful to the folks of Eventing Nation and to the publisher of Massachusetts Horse for giving me these opportunities to write for them. They've shown me that I'm capable of something that I never really thought I was. And if they hadn't shown me I was capable, I may never have discovered that this whole writing thing is something that I actually love doing and I may have given up.

So in 2016 I'm expanding. I've already set up hosting and a domain and this blog will be incorporated into a website that will serves as a hub to share not only my Maggie Memoirs blog posts, but also articles from these other avenues.

I'm excited to have more to share with you in 2016! Stay tuned for another post about what exactly I'm setting up, because I need your help with it! (and there will be a contest involved!)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

One Crossed-Over Step at a Time

Maggie has been so good lately, that that's what our recent rides have been very short, sweet, and focused.

Dressage is hard. Tired pony.
I fear we're officially stuck in the indoor now - at least during the week. It hasn't been consistently cold enough yet for the ground to freeze, so riding outside on the weekends (in the daylight) is still an option. For that reason, the jumps haven't been moved inside yet so flatwork is really the best and only option at the moment. And that's fine with me - we've got plenty to work on in that department!

After I zeroed in on Maggie's reluctance to step under herself with her right hind I decided to go right to work on it. The other week I started out working with her in-hand. I worked on getting her to yield to pressure from my hand and the dressage whip for about 15 minutes before I got on, asking her to step her right hind away from me and cross it in front of her left. Essentially, what I wanted achieve by doing this was simply showing her that she can use that leg in the way I'm asking her to.

Can't say it isn't still beautiful outside though, even if it is dark and cold.

I've gotten the sense from Maggie before (and from other horses too at times) that sometimes there's a mental block in the way. She doesn't think she can do it. Sometimes showing her it's possible helps. I know for a fact that the left side of her back is a little tighter and weaker than the right also, so I'm sure that has quite a bit to do with it too! 

The next step was getting on and trying to get the same response from the saddle. We did just a little leg yielding in and out on the circle and from the quarter line, but I didn't ride for too long that night so as not to fluster her. Best to quit while we're ahead instead of pushing for more that day. 


The next time I rode I only worked her in hand for a few minutes before I got on, just as a reminder of what we were doing. Then after getting on and doing some low key warmup, I started asking for the leg yield, fist at a walk and later at a trot. I focused on trying to use very correct, clear, and insistent aids...and for maybe the first time I got some actual crossover of her hind legs.

Worst quality photo ever - but you can see it!

We most certainly still have a long way to go with this whole dressage thing, but sometimes I feel like we're actually making some progress. Little by little, one crossed-over step at a time.