Saturday, November 15, 2014

This is why I get nothing done . . .

I run a pretty tight ship around here, at least that's the way it exists in the mythical land of Jen's Brain. 

By my clock, it should take me 20 minutes to clean the stalls, 15 minutes to rinse and fill the water troughs, 45 minutes to drag the fields, and 5 minutes to sweep up. That equals 1 hour and 30 minutes. Tops.

Here's how it really goes down . . .

I've got a neighbor's pig in my garage:

The cats have claimed the Gator:

The chickens are "supervising":

The horses are "helping":

And the juvenile delinquent is obsessed with his stick:
"Mom, throw the stick"

"Mom, PLEASE throw the stick"

"Mom, mom, mom . . . um . . . what was I saying?"
Suddenly 5 hours have gone by and I'm left scratching my head wondering how it all got away from me. At least now I can get on.

Cotton says I should've stuck with the geldings

At least I have a good support system in place:
My Red Solo Cup family
Ah, life on a farm. You just never know what will happen from day to day.

Gotta run, I think I hear an armadillo.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hello, Insomnia.

 Meet my dear old friend, Mr I.N. Somnia:

Hello, old friend, what brings you to these parts?
Oh, you know, the usual.

I don’t recall sending you an invitation.
I know, I like to drop by unexpectedly.

Really. I hadn’t noticed.
You don’t sound thrilled to see me. I’m crushed.

Listen, I.N., there’s something we need to talk about.
Nothing good ever started with those words.

I know. Listen, we had some good times back in college. I needed you then. All those late night study sessions, my 21st birthday, the Senior spring fling, that time we put soap bubbles in the campus fountain. The frat parties, football parties, swim team parties, party team parties. You get the idea. I relied on you to make it through the night. We stuck together, you and I.  Remember my first night in the dorms? That was fun, right?
#@*! Yeah, that was fun!

Right. Well, old buddy, times have changed.
No they haven’t.

Yes . . . they have.
La, la, la. I can’t hear you.

You see, now I have someplace to be in the morning. I have obligations, responsibilities. People count on me.
Stop it. That’s just crazy talk.

No, it’s true.
What are you trying to say?

I’m saying I need my sleep. I can’t go all night staring up at the ceiling then checking the clock. Up at the ceiling, over to the clock. Ceiling. Clock. Ceiling. Clock. It’s horrible for me.
I’m hearing you say you want to sleep.

Yes! I do! The WHOLE night! Not this business of checking the clock and figuring out that if I fall asleep right now I can still get 4 hours . . . okay, now 3 hours . . . 2 ½ isn’t bad . . . AAARRGH! It’s no way to live.
We could watch T.V.

No, old friend, we can’t.

Ping Pong?
Balance the checkbook in our heads?
Definitely not.
Don’t hold back, what are you really trying to say?

I want you to leave.

Yes, I’m sorry, but this is how it has to be; clean and simple. No tears, no long goodbyes. Just go.
I . . . I . . . I’m sorry. I had no idea you felt this way. I’ll just gather my things and be out of your hair forever. No, no, I’ll show myself out. Obviously I’ve caused you enough pain already. I’ll be leaving now. Headed to the door. Here’s me leaving. Those aren't tears, there's just something in my eye.

Hey, I.N.?

See you for New Year’s?
Sure thing. See you then.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Proms and Horses

 I didn’t get asked to my junior prom in High School. Not really shocking when you evaluate my potential as a prom date: skinny, unruly hair, pants that ended about 2 inches shy of any socially acceptable length (“Hey Shattuck, where’s the flood??).

But I hoped.  Man, did I hope.

I scanned the boys in math class, trying my hardest to emit a faint “I’ll say yes if you ask” vibe.  Miserable attempts at furtive glances were met with “Do you need a pencil?” It was wildly unsuccessful.

Senior year I dated a boy that I fully expected to ask me to prom. We didn’t so much date, though. His best friend was my best friend’s boyfriend so he was sort of expected to be the double date guy. I think we went on a few solos and he was nice enough in a ridiculously boring sort of way. But being woefully inexperienced in the matters of romance was like a cocoon of ignorance, so I carried on like I had a real live boyfriend.

Until prom time.

He agreed to go.  I bought the tickets. I drove. I actually asked if he was going to give me one of those cutesy little wrist flower things. It was awful. About halfway through prom I realized what a colossal mistake I had made: the dance is only fun if you go with someone that WANTS to go with you.

I hastily dropped him off at his house  . . . awkward no-kiss moment . . . and then went to the after party with my friends and had a blast.

Fast forward, ahem, a number of years (it might be 30, I’m not saying) and I have this great horse: gobs of natural talent, suspension for miles, knees that spring to his chin when he jumps . . . and he doesn’t want to be at the dance.

He wants to be the no-commitment double date guy.

So, like the fateful prom in 1984, I’m freeing him from his obligation. He will be absolutely stunning as a double date guy – 1st level dressage, Hunters, basically anything besides jumping XC and the increasing demands of collected work.

It’s like being at the dance with the best looking guy in the room and all he wants to do is watch football. Sure, I could make him dance. I could get angry or sullen and slap his face until he agreed to dance, but then I would just be dancing with a resentful, bitter partner looking for a way out.

It doesn’t matter that I bought the tickets. It doesn’t matter that I spent a small fortune on the dress. It doesn’t even matter that I got my hair done special and washed the car so we’d look perfect pulling up together. It only matters whether or not we both want to be there.

Otie wants to stay home, cuddle on the couch, and watch TV. I want to go to the dance. Maybe someday cuddling on the couch will be enough, and maybe someday the dance will sound intriguing. But, today . . .no.

I love him enough to find him someone that has microwave popcorn and Netflix. Perhaps one day we’ll see each other at the grocery store. He’ll show me pictures of his perfect happy family, and I’ll show him pictures of my favorite dance - sailing over the big jumps XC.

He’ll smile. I’ll smile. And we’ll know it was right for both of us.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cotton's comeback - the rest of the story

Oh, what a road it has been. 

As some of you may remember, Cottonpickinwabbit got a little punch drunk after his return from NC State in February and tried (unsuccessfully) to jump the paddock fence. I attribute that moment of juvenile delinquency to the fact that he had just spent 4 days confined in a stall with a paralyzed esophagus; can't blame the guy for feeling a tad spunky. 

Seven weeks of rehabbing a punctured stifle and torn gaskin went by fairly smoothly. He was on copious antibiotics and daily cleansing of the wound. Of course he refused to be confined so his makeshift recovery stall was knocked to the ground by day 2.

Anyway, he went back to work (and when I say "work" I mean he was walk-trot-canter for a grand total of 15 minutes) at the end of April and things seemed to be going fine.

Then I went to Rolex . . . 

I knew when my darling husband picked me up at the airport that something was askew. I waited until we were in the car to ask about the horses and he said "well, there was an . . . incident . . . "


We'll never know exactly what happened, but we do know that Cotton was in his paddock at 10 pm and standing outside of it at 6 am. My only guess is that something ran through (we have boatloads of deer) and spooked him. He probably took off and didn't even see the fence. It would seem that he actually ran straight into an upright and split his chest cavity wide open. The upright was bent over almost to the ground.

The wound was so deep that my vet could put his entire arm up to the bicep inside of it. My family made a group decision not to call me because they knew it would change absolutely nothing and they wanted me to enjoy my yearly outing. I know it was tough for them and I applaud their strength.

Anyway, Cotton's wound was impressive to say the least. I left for Rolex on Thursday morning and this happened sometime Thursday night. That guy, what was he thinking??

He's such an amazing horse, and even though he has minimal time under saddle since leaving the track, something about him has me absolutely wrapped. So we spent the next 4 weeks doing daily irrigations of the wound, IM and PO antibiotics, and weekly visits from the vet with sedation and deep debridements. I would tell him "Cotton, you're lucky you're here; I think you would be fertilizer anywhere else" and he would just give me his puppy dog eyes that said "stay with me, mom, this is all going to get better".

Yet again he protested being enclosed and proceeded to body slam the fence until it was down, at which point he stood calmly inside the pen. Sometime around week 3 he puffed up like a blowfish with subcutaneous emphysema. His entire body from tail to cheekbones was inflated with crepitus. It was horrible and I though we would lose him, but every day he would give me a look said he was ready to keep fighting. 

So we did.

This was day 5. Trust me, the photos do NOT do the wound justice.

This is what he thought of his enclosure. He must have thrown his entire body against it until it submitted.

 This is what I would scrub off his leg almost every day.
This is what he did to his face knocking down the enclosure

This is week 3. You can see how puffed up he is looking. The swelling doubled after this was taken. If he weren't so sick the chipmunk cheeks would have been adorable.

Week 6

Week 8

My vet said he hasn't seen another horse with such a will to live. I don't know that he ever will.

I can't explain what happened or why. We have a nice, quiet, horse friendly farm. He is turned out 24/7 with his best buddy. He eats 3 square meals a day and all the hay he wants. Hell, this is horse nirvana.

It's been exactly 2 months. At week 6 when he was showing signs of boredom and restlessness  I started doing ground work with him. For the last 3 weeks he has walked all over this farm. He has renewed his lunge line etiquette and reinstalled his ground manners. 

Thursday I got on him:

Friday he came out like a horse on a mission. He walk-trot-cantered with a contented sigh:

Today he went for a hack around the property:
This is a horse that has a total of probably 15 hours under saddle since coming off the track, and he is the most sane, confident, well mannered horse I have EVER sat on. Best of all, he wants a job. He sees me coming and pushes his roommate out of the way.

I don't know what his future is, but I know that he has defied every odd, every barrier, every challenge, and come out stronger and sounder than any horse should. I love this guy and I'm pretty sure he thinks I'm okay too.

Can't wait for tomorrow . . .

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Painting walls

It has no doors, no windows, no left or right. Its height is irrelevant and its strength is assumed. It exists in carefully constructed layers of stone and brick and mortar.

And Paint.

Paint to make it appealing, paint to make it accepted. Paint to make it home.

It has no pride or ornaments. No posters or plants. Its only accessory is the faded outline of where a door ought to be, a door that became a window and a window that became the remnants of a changed mind.

It is a fortress and a confessional, a guard tower and a scar.

It protects within its domain the castaways: grief, anger, tears . . . memories. They gather together in their collective pain and wisdom until a day that they might be claimed. They wait as days pass into weeks and weeks into years, staying safe behind that wall, comforted by its magnitude and secure in its embrace. Not a prison, but a home. The barricade protects as much as it confines.

There are worn edges and crumbling stone. Old layers must bear the weight of new ones and yet somehow the strength to exist persists in a continuous loop. The only sign of strain - a single beam leaning into a weakened brick like an old friend lending an arm.  It supports the weight with the familiarity of an elderly couple slowly dancing to silent music, and in that moment decades of trust embrace in the wonder of their own accomplishment.

The wall is welcoming, it does not judge or persecute. Its borderless edges extend like a statue in an invitation of mercy. A softened face molded within the pattern of stone accepts each new guest with respect and discretion. They are not to be forgotten or minimized, merely moved to a safe and private place, for individually they are powerful but collectively they are enveloping.

The days come and the days go, and the wall’s casted shadow makes its daily trek. It glides like a gentle tide arriving on shore, making a game with feet that dance backwards just out of reach.  The defects in the wall’s fa├žade gradually hide behind the expanding dusk, as cracks and dust fade into a silhouette of strength. In those shadows a new arrival takes its place, ready for its escort. Sadness, fatigue and determination lock arms, a huddle to allow the arrival of new memories, new challenges, new joy and new pain.

When morning light arrives it supervises the receding shadow as it marches home, a dutiful soldier carrying a load. The only witness a lone pair of feet quietly standing while the light and dark exchange places. Goodbyes are briefly shared as sunlight pushes forward, routine unchanged, and years of footprints reveal themselves along the wall like a family reunion of memories: some old, some new, some barely visible from their spot in desolate alcoves.

When the shadow meets the wall it slips out of sight and sets its passenger on the other side. There is no pomp or backwards glance. No embrace or tears.

There is only paint.

A hand reaches out and fingers silently graze the cool stone, appreciating the irregularities in the brick, the chips in the cement. Some would see a defect, a weakness, a blemish; a sign that the wall is old and damaged.  But I see courage and strength. I see conviction. I see purpose.

Unrestrained vulnerability gazes at the time worn mark where a window should be and for just a brief moment considers the possibility.  But memories stay safe for another day, and the repair work begs its turn.

I dip my brush and begin to paint.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ermagerd . . . ROLEX!!!

Okay, probably the best Rolex trip to date.

I flew in on Thursday morning and met my (now 6 month preggers) friend Kelly at the airport and we immediately beat feet to the Kentucky Horse Park to partake in the Rolex tradition known as Shop Before the Crowds Arrive.

We will now observe a moment of silence for my dear friend VISA who is in a medically induced coma after exhausting himself at the trade fair. He gave his all, that little plastic guy: Dubarry's for the hubby, because he is constantly dropping farm equipment on his feet and trodding through mud in deck shoes; a 'smartpak-special' bridle for the wee OTTB Poppi; a girth for the "I don't want to be an eventer but I kick ass in dressage" warmblood Otie; and for the final blow to my credit line, a pair of sweet-ass dressage boots from Der-Dau.

In my defense, I work my patooky off well in advance of the trip to pay it forward, and it is the one and only weekend away all year.

Truth be told, where shopping is concerned, I am embarrassingly vulnerable to peer pressure and free champagne.

(There, I justified it all . . . )

Ahhhh, Kentucky Ale
The hotel we were at happened to be the same one that all of the Landrover vehicles were being kept at. It was so funny, every evening the fleet would arrive and an entire team of Landrover babysitters would count them and start fussing over them like they were newborn babies. That parking lot must've been worth a small fortune.

Friday we watched some beautiful dressage tests as I enjoyed my annual Kentucky Ale, and then thanks to the thoughtfulness of a friend that rubs elbows with the people that rub elbows, I was fortunate enough to go on the owners' course walk with David O'Connor. What a great experience. Much of what he said was geared to the owner's perspective - "thanks for the support... you guys make it all possible... keep thinking of our up and coming riders..." but since I will NEVER be in the club that feeds horses to our top riders, I listened from a different perspective and, wow, did I get some great tidbits.

Probably my absolute favorite thing he said was that the really successful event horses look at XC like a game. A really, really fun game. They gallop along looking for the next chance to play and always thinking "is it my turn???" A horse that doesn't devour XC like it's a great big fun exciting can't wait to play again game is not going to be an eventer. Hearing that was so cathartic as I had just struggled with the decision to stop trying to convince Otie that he wanted to go XC.

Friday night I drove to the Cincinatti airport and picked up . . . . wait for it . . . Lucinda! She is so much fun and such a great influential lady. She asked about Otie and when I told her my decision she said "Good! Not an eventer, that one. Sell him as an open jumper and make some real money". I told her I kind of liked the idea of just keeping him as a dressage horse and she looked at me like a tree was growing out of my forehead. I said "No, really. I actually like dressage".

I think the tree growing out of my forehead must have sprouted kiwi fruit, but she obliged with a gracious smile and said "as long as you're having fun . . . "

Saturday morning arrived sunny and bright and beautiful and the XC course looked uh-mazing! I walked the course again with Lucinda and watched a genius mind at work. She flashed her yellow, international "I get to go anywhere I want" ID at each jump and went under the ropes to analyze each obstacle as if she were riding it herself. The walk took us quite a while because Lucinda has never met a stranger, if you know what I mean.  The highlight for me was when we got to the Normandy Bank and, after showing her credentials and chit-chatting with the jump judge (who had been to one of her clinics), she reached under the rope and said "C'mon Jen" and TOOK ME UP TO THE BANK!

You have to realize, it was exactly 7 minutes before the first horse left the start box, and I'm STANDING ON THE NORMANDY BANK WITH LUCINDA GREEN. She walked, she looked, she plotted, she walked again. Then she strode over to me and in her signature accent said: "You've got to reeeeally attack the bank, don't take your eyes off the corner, get the 3,  and for goddsake hold your line or you'll lose your shoulder and spoil the whole day. Alright, then."

Of course, she wasn't actually telling me how to ride the bank, she was simply sharing her years of experience and letting me in to enjoy the ride. To the hundreds of people watching this play out, some no name in jeans was standing on the bank minutes before XC getting a pep talk from LG. Good stuff.

The EN tailgate party was fah-bu-lous, we had a great time with some awesome people. I finally got to meet Dom and Jimmie Schramm, who ride my neighbor's 3* horse, and Pat Dale of Three Plain Bays fame had a sweet little tailgate going and we got to imbibe there a little as well. That woman knows her horses and she has been stellar about chasing down a wayward trainer in order to get a closer look at a horse for me. Thanks to her perseverance I have Cottonpickinwabbit (who, apparently, has a death wish every time I leave town but that is an entirely different story for a different post).

Jimmie and Dom, super fun tailgate party

Chillin with the EN chinchilla . . . 

....who thinks he's Kelly's baby daddy

Saturday evening

Of course, Sunday was the jog and we were glued. LG went in to stabling to visit with her fellow Countrymen, then we watched the rest together.  I also met a really lovely couple from Georgia (Carolyn and Tom Cadier) who had hilarious stories to tell about their travels with Lucinda; everything from bull riding to safaris. I really enjoyed their company and we got to all hang out for a little while throughout the whole weekend.

Watching the live stadium feed on my iPad
Unfortunately we had to miss stadium to catch our flights, but Kelly and I watched it all live from the airport bar and enjoyed my *sniff sniff* last Kentucky Ale until next year. The trip home is its own saga, but the Reader's Digest condensed version is that there was a flight delay, a missed connection, a missing flight attendant, a bizarre starving artist type sitting next to me who kept chuckling at jokes that existed only in his mind, and an arrival home at an airport 90 minutes from my original departure where my car sat waiting for me in long-term parking.

Good times.

Till next year, Kentucky. Till next year.