It's here! Right on time, my King Series Classic Distance Rider arrived in just enough time for me to try on, adjust, and prep for tomorrow's three day ride! (Note, I would use a more broken in saddle if we were going to do anything super challenging, but the group I'm going with will walk the entire three days.)
Though not a long trial, tonight I believe third time is the charm! Yes, that's right, I sent saddles back and this is the third one since my tedious decision over a month ago. Trying various saddles, and experiences out did help me decide on this model, though.
As as I told Liz, when I fist looked at this saddle I thought it was kind of ugly, that is, until my 6-hour ride with Dolly. Then, King Series Distance Rider became my jam! I knew, for all the things I am wanting to do, this saddle is what would get the job done in my price range.
Fun fact, I ordered the saddle online from Statelinetack.com and they could not have been more helpful when it came to all the returns, etc. I highly recommend their patient and attentive customer service! After all the discounts were said and done I only paid $344.42 for this beauty. Oh, and when I told the company I needed it for a ride in less than 10 days, they did everything within their power to make that happen. Thank you!
I want to wait until after the ride to give a full review, but what do you think? Jean-Luc and me are ready to conquer some "Man From Snowy River" terrain! (Absolutely not!)
Weekend Goals Recap
Taking a week off to teach at a local 4-H Camp did wonders for my soul, but really took a toll on the progress Jean-Luc and I had made. However, thanks to a few positive suggestions from friends, I was able to make a few minor goals and refocus our work:
Saturday: My Dad met me at the barn and we went to get Jean-Luc. He was in the pasture across the creek. Though he didn’t really want to come to me, he was still a pretty easy catch.
Walking away from the herd he began neighing and screaming out to his friends. It was loud, really loud! I could tell he was energetic and I wanted to lunge him some right there—so I did. This proved ineffective.
I knew I needed to get him to round pen. That would work this energy out. The round pen did something, that was for sure. Once in the pen and moving he actually galloped. I can’t lie, this was a little embarrassing since I really wanted to show my dad how well we were doing. This didn’t look good, it looked like I just stepped into a round pen with a mustang!
[Only afterwards did I notice Jean-Luc had a shoe that had come lose. This was pretty bad on multiple levels and I never would have worked him I known the shoe was lose. Luckily, a farrier made it out almost immediately to fix his feet.]
Dad watched from the outside and didn’t say much. He let me work and explain catching Jean-Luc’s eye, and why I made his feet move when he started craning his neck over the pen to look for his friends.
I worked on turning Jean-Luc for no less than forty-five minutes. Though things started pretty rough, he finally became level headed and calm. Once he would sync up and follow me no matter which direction I went, I brought him over to the barn for a bath.
Dad and I had fun washing Jean-Luc and watching him play with the hose. He really likes to stick his nostrils in it. I don’t really get it. I kind of think it seems like he’s water boarding himself, but hey, what do I know?
Overall, I wasn’t the happiest with how Saturday went, but it did end well – so I’ll chalk that up to a win. This was also the day that Dolly called me to see if I wanted to join her on a trail ride for the 4th of July. I was on cloud nine!
Sunday: Sunday went much better. For starters, the herd was closer to the gate that the day before. I did not have to walk across the creek, and I was thankful. Also, my husband decided to come out with me. His knowledge of horses is very limited, however, he’s incredibly supportive.
This day I took a lunge line with me into the field. If things got hairy, I wanted to be ready to work it out right there.
I had decided to take my time today. Again, though I counted the previous day as a win, I I knew it could go more smoothly. Jean-Luc made me walk up until I was about 5 feet away from him, then he slowly, step by step, came over to us. He stood with my husband and me quietly while I tied his rope halter. I tried breathing in his nose, because some people say that’s one way horses communicate. He didn’t seem to mind it, and though I am on the fence as to wether or not breathing in horses noses actually has any true affect, Jean-Luc did remain calm the rest of time together.
We took a few steps towards the barn, but on this day, anytime he started to breathe heavily as if he were nervous, I would stop and pet him until he calmed down. It was extremely slow going, but we eventually made it to the top of the hill.
At the top of the hill, before I took Jean-Luc out of the field, I lunged him in a small circle. My husband enjoyed telling us when to change directions and it kept me on my feet. I could tell he was somewhat impressed by the progress we had made since he last saw us.
After about ten minutes we took Jean-Luc outside of the fence and to the barn. He stood quite calm while we brushed and loved on him. I could not believe the difference in the day. Yesterday, Jean-Luc would have given the wildest of mustangs a run for their money, and now – a perfect gentleman.
I took him inside the barn to do some more groundwork while my husband cleaned up the place (clearly, he was bore). It meant a lot that the husband came, though. Horses aren’t really his thing, so to see him be supportive and impressed was nice for me.
The rest of the day was relatively uneventful. Eventually, my husband had enough cleaning and wanted to try his hand at lunging. I handed over the line telling him that if he started to confuse my horse, I was taking him back.
There’s strange sense of pride that occurs when someone watching you do something, thinks it’s easy, tries, and realizes you are just making it look easy. This was exactly what happened with the husband. He tried to get Jean-Luc to walk out but it was a mess and I shortly took back over for fear of leaving my horse with a confused lesson.
That was Sunday – positive, easy, and moving back in the direction of progress.
Tuesday: I visited with Jean-Luc after work on Monday, but we really didn’t do enough to talk about. However, Tuesday finally arrived and I was so excited to go on a three-hour trail ride with Dolly! She wanted to meet around noon, so naturally I was up at about 6 AM getting ready, only it was raining.
All morning long my stomach was in knots waiting to hear if Dolly would call off the ride. At about 10:30 AM she finally called and asked if I still wanted to go?
“Absolutely!” I shouted into my phone with the excitement of a first-grader. “I mean, yes. If you would still like to, I don’t mind getting a little wet…”
“I am in,” Dolly replied.
We discussed how we were both excited to be going on a ride and how neither of us were made of sugar, so we would not melt if the rain continued. I like Dolly a lot. She is oozes southern charm, class, and is equally one tough woman – a combination sometimes hard to find. She absolutely is not some old, helpless woman.
It was time for me to kiss the husband goodbye and get out to the barn. I had prepacked homemade stir-fry toccatas for us for the trail and several other snacks. Sadly, in all my excitement I forgot to look where I was going while backing up my car. Apparently, the husband’s friend had left his vehicle in our driveway from an adventure the night before. I had not seen it when I swung my usual wide turn, and took out the back passenger door and fender on his tiny little Ford Escape.
“No!” I screamed in my car. It is no secret that I’m not the best driver. I wreck something at least once every few years. Sadly, this does not help women drivers, and to all of you, my apologies for perpetuating the stereotype.
I got out of the car, made a rather dramatic deal about things, and went inside to tell my husband. He was very understanding. Together we called the insurance company, and after calming me down, he sent me on my way to enjoy my ride.
[Also, the new Jeep Cherokees are tanks. Nothing, I repeat, nothing, was wrong with my car.]
On the way to the barn I called Dolly to ask if I could have an extra fifteen minutes to get ready. She didn’t mind at all and said she would see me soon.
Jean-Luc was an easy catch again, and I brought him in to clean him up and load his tack loosely on him. I had to meet Dolly at the top of my BM’s road which is about 100 feet or so from the barn. The saddle I am currently riding weighs no less than 40 pounds. Add to that Jean-Luc’s breast collar, bridle, and small cantle bag and, well he was going to have to help carry some things.
Thankfully, carrying a few things and unloading them in the middle of a back road onto Dolly’s trailer was no big deal for him. It was all new to me, and I had no idea how he would react, but like the true gentleman I know him to be, he just stood there. I was amazed. (To be clear, we were in no real danger of being hit, because there was a large pull off area and we could be seen easily. Dolly’s rig is also electric yellow. It’s kind of genius.)
After unloading Jean-Luc, the next task was to load him in a slant trailer. I have not trailered him since he came to the barn. I had no clue if he would even get on. Dolly took the lead rope from my hands and walked Jean-Luc onto the trail like it was old hat. I stood there amazed. She didn’t have to load my horse, but it seemed instinctual for her to just “do it herself.”
“Okay, you ready,” she asked.
I stood there in shock. I had to take all this in. I mean, lady, do you know how easy that just was? Seriously, if there were a video on what loading a trailer in record time should look like, we just exemplified it!
“See you up front,” she said.
I snapped back to reality, and quickly ran up to the passenger side door. After hopeng in, we drove a short ten minutes to park at a local dirt race track. Parking there was a great idea. There’s plenty of room and the lot connected directly with the rail-trail we intended to ride that day.
Unloading was just as easy as loading, and we quickly tacked up. She brought her beautiful quarter horse, Red, out and we made idle chit chat about saddles, and tack. This was my first time with Dolly, and I can actually be a little awkward (talk too much) in situations like this. Luckily conversation with Dolly flowed easily.
Before I knew it, we were ready to go. Jean-Luc and me, and Dolly and Red, took off at the most leisurely pace. Jean-Luc was a little excited, however, he’d never been to this place or seen anything he was seeing. At some points, he really wanted to turn around and head back to the trailer, but never fought too hard.
Most amazing of all though, my big Tennessee Walker kept a great pace with a slow Quarter Horse. Dolly and I were able to talk side-by-side as our horses just plodded along. This may sound boring for some, but chatting in the mountains while taking in some of the most gorgeous scenery in the continental United States from horseback is my heaven. It is what I want to do with my horse. The fact that I was actually do it was amazing!
We rode for hours, and hours that way. Sure, there were little hiccups, but nothing too terrible. After 3 hours Dolly finally started hinting at turning around. She said she had be waiting for me to say when I wanted to turn, and I admitted to doing the same because I didn’t want to look like a wimp turning around too early.
We laughed, and I was getting sore. Sadly, turning around meant we had at least two and half hours back. The ride home went well for everyone but my tushie, as you might remember from an earlier post this week.
Jean-Luc only spooked at two things the entire ride. First, a turkey flew out of a tree from ten feet away and terrified all four of us. We just didn’t see it, until it was too late. Second, we passed several seemingly feral German Shepherds tied to chains near the trail. This one is likely on me. I’m scared of these beasts even thinking of them now. You see, on a hillside near the trail, an owner had chained up no less than three full size GSD’s that would bark and bite at anything strolling by. I psyched myself out thinking of what would happen if they slipped their collar. Jean-Luc walked by them fine on the way down, but my nerves nearly left me on the floor when I jumped in the saddle upon seeing the whites of their snarling teeth. God bless Dolly and the bomb proof Red, though. She got between Jean-Luc and the dogs and we walked right through.
In the end, our ride lasted from about 1 PM – 6:30 PM. It was a long day. When we returned to the trailer, Dolly’s husband met us. He had started to wonder where we even were considering we said we’d only be gone three hours. We quickly untacked, and headed for home. I could not stop smiling. As rough as I felt, I had just completed a six-hour ride on my horse. Word’s will never describe what that accomplishment feels like.
I am so thankful to Dolly and to be able to get that ride in before our three-day trail ride next week. Admittedly, I’m worried my body might not hold up on the ride, but at least I have a better idea of what I can expect from Jean-Luc. It won’t be perfect, but it is not outside of the of scope of things we can handle. This weekend I am going to continue preparing for our ride in small ways, but choosing to focus on bonding with Jean-Luc has made all the difference.
Do you have any suggestions for a three-day camp trip? What are your “must have” comforts on the trail? What are some things you wish you’d know prior to your ride?
30% chance of rain? Try 100% chance you should have built an Ark. Needless to say this is not how I saw my Friday going ...
Frodo: How far to the nearest crossing?!
Merry: The Brandywine Bridge, 20 miles!
Allow me start by saying, this weekend was AMAZING! Jean-Luc may not be a unicorn, but after our 15ish mile ride along a local rail trail today, I believe he is MY unicorn. Later, I'll share more details about our goals, what we overcame, and what all new fun we get to work on.
Because of the amazing community that has grown around Jean-Luc and me, I just had to share this thought. Though a fantastic ride, if I had to do it while being chase by Tolkien's Black Riders - well, JLP and me may endure a fast tracked fatal ending in the fires of Mt. Doom, maybe.
Our new friend (for the sake of this post, let's call her "Dolly") picked us up from the Barn around Noon. I was running a little late thanks to a fender bender. (Again, more on the fact that I can't drive later.)
Jean-Luc loaded and unloaded like a total pro. Any anxiety he showed had to largely be from the fact that I was in total Hover Mom Mode and struggling to be the Chill Ski Patroler.
I'll save the details of our ride to simply say that, after a six-and-a-half hour ride at a gentle gait - my everything hurts. And, though I kept my freak flag lower... okay half mast, all I could think about with Ms. Dolly was the scene above from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship Of the Ring.
I'm not kidding when I say my everything hurts. I'm writing this post via my warm bubbly bubble bath, post a few ibuprofen and vitamins. There may also be a strawberry daiquiri involved delivered special from my all-too-understanding husband... maybe.
Primarily, certain areas found on the front side of the female anatomy feel as if they met the wrong side of a hammer. Thankfully, Liz shared some very logical, helpful body movement that should correct that.
Other hurts involve my chest and deltoids. I believe this to be a combination tight sports bra and slowing down a TWH to a QH pace all day. That said, Jean-Luc didn't fight it much, he really just hated the bugs. Another blogger, Emma, recently shared a few affordable fly mask ideas. Though not the biggest fan of riding in a mask, this tube shaped mask from Roma might actually provide my poor guy some relief while out.
Finally, though feeling okay now, after about 3 hours into this gentle ride, my knees and ankles were shot. Specifically, the tendon on the outside. Again, Liz has some solid advice about changing up stirrup leather, lengths, widths, and fenders. I conclude I'm doing something wrong. I'm half Dolly's age, a foot taller, and maybe 15 less pounds. (It is worth noting Dolly is a BA. I learned on the ride, in a former life, Dolly was an eventer - mind blown!)
So, help me make it to the nearest crossing! How do I make it to the Brandywine Bridge? I have a 3 day ride where we will do no less than 5 hours a day coming up in less than 10 days. Jean-Luc is gonna nail this, how can I?
Some days it’s worth it to just hold up in a field with a good book, and watch the herd. Yesterday was one of those days. I usually have more of an agenda with Jean Luc, but yesterday, work had been long, my breathing was is still pathetically labored from this head cold, and motivation was lacking.
I wasn’t in love with the idea of being at the barn. In all honesty, I wasn’t in love with the idea of being anywhere but at home, in bed. Fighting off the last bit of this ridiculous summer cold has been a bear. However, the need to see my horse won out.
Like usual, I pulled in to the barn around 5:30 PM and saw the fly mask near one of the haystacks in the field. Thanks to a quick lift from my BM and her 4-wheeler, the fact that Jean Luc had tossed his new mask like yesterday’s news was really no big deal. It wasn’t even covered in mud. (What a polite young gelding.) BM then asked me where I’d like to be dropped off at.
“The herd,” I told her.
“Really? Like, in the middle of the herd,” she questioned. Clearly, I’m nuts.
“Yes. It’s been a long day. I just want to sit in the field and read a book today. I don’t have it in me to continue working.”
I could feel the judgement ooze off her. But then, after further explanation, I think I won her over. I explained I just wanted to be there. I wanted to observe the dynamics of the herd more. I simply wanted to watch and listen. As odd as the image of someone just chilling in your yard reading a book on the grass while they watch your horses may seem, BM appreciated it. After all, she does it every day from her kitchen window.
We chatted for a few more minutes before she revved the engine to see if it spooked any of the horses. They didn’t budge. Good herd.
“Have fun,” she yelled, and sped off.
I sat in that field for over an hour just watching the herd be horses. They enjoyed sniffing me, trying to figure out what I was doing there. Eventually, I decided I shouldn’t be the only one to relish in a good book, so read to them. In no time at all I was boring to everyone but a brown horse known as Oliver. He stuck around just to make sure I was not a threat (and for the apple treats. If anyone was getting an apple treat, he made sure I knew he wanted one first…sadly his patience was all for naught.)
People believe Jean Luc and I have already created some sort of “magical connection.” People are idiots. The truth is, after yesterday and a few helpful conversations today from others who have clearly gone through these struggles already, I realize just how long and winding the road truly is.
Jean Luc and I have had our moments but we still haven’t had that moment. Reality check. He is pretty, but he’s definitely still not a unicorn. Jean Luc sees me the way a fifteen-year-old views their parents – ATM machine! Only in our case – yummy food machine!
Truth is, I’ve been taking a few shortcuts with Jean Luc. Things I thought we didn’t need to do I skipped. I figured, he's over 10 years old, he knows this stuff already. I would be wrong. But that’s okay, in fact, I’m already feeling better about tonight because I was able to come will a lesson plan for us.
Positive Reinforcement Training Goals for Tonight Include:
Missy also talks about the “comfort” of the horse and uses phrases like, “They’re having a worry.” Though a little soft handed, I think these techniques may work best for Jean Luc and me. Looking at Jean Luc’s behavior as “he’s having a worry,” makes more sense to me. Instead of understanding his issues to be a result of a wimpy horse, he’s just a little scared. It’s my responsibility to show him there are no monsters in the closet or under the bed.
All in all, I’m a planner. Having a plan makes me secure. Hopefully that translates in our work time together tonight. Here’s another great video with Missy and honestly, I hope to somewhat mirror this lesson tonight. Fingers crossed. Time to #BoldlyGo.
(2:30 - in. My point. "You gotta have that Johnny Cash demeanor no matter the situation.")
I have mentioned before that I suffer from ridiculous, in explicable anxiety attacks. They often come out of nowhere and only recently have I been able to successfully identify triggers. Which is why it is only fitting that my horse seems to suffer from a similar issue. Karma? Twisted yes, but perhaps that’s just how the world works.
Last night, I made it to the barn around 5:30 PM. Like most nights after work, just pulling into the driveway was a freeing experience. I felt less sick than previous days and took that as a small win.
Sadly, I was feeling rushed because I’d once again double booked my evening. I think this may have contributed the fact that my threshold of understanding was exceptionally thin. I didn’t have a long time to spend with Jean Luc, but I told myself I would just go out and take this thousand-pound fur baby on a brief walk. Come hay or high horses, we were going on a walk!
When I got to the barn my ever-supportive dad showed up. I must confess, he’s really nailing the supportive dad role lately. He’s been working on a project and just wanted to catch up.
“Perfect, walk with me,” I suggested in an all too familiar business voice.
As always, catching Jean Luc was easy. Though, this was the first time he really tried hard to not be caught once the lead rope was around his neck. (First sign of the “Little Feral Beasty” within.)
After catching him, I didn’t give him his usual grain stop at the barn before just walking down the road casually chatting dad. In retrospect, I messed with a routine there, and plan on correcting that in the future. Regardless, Jean Luc walked fine while Dad and caught up, until we made it to the turn in the road that starts down a hill into the big field.
Jean Luc began to get a little fidgety. I ignored it. His way of coping with being away from the herd is stress eating. I was having none of it. I was actually a little proud of myself for paying enough attention to stop him from grazing.
By the time we made it to the creek crossing he wanted to call out in a very loud, and in my opinion, obnoxious whinny back to the herd. I had little patience for this either yesterday and after allowing a few quick gulps of creek water, pressed on into the big field.
Once in the big field, Jean Luc really began to lose his composure. Enter “Little Feral Beasty” stage right! Looking back, he was having a complete and utter breakdown. Similar to the way I felt in an Argentine airport after sitting on a small prison-like seat for hours, only to be patted down and prodded in all the offensive places, and sprayed with pesticides, before being allowed to fly home to America (a story for another time), Jean Luc could not get a grip.
He pranced in a circle with eyes the size of dinner plates. I stood there looking pissed and apologizing to my dad for his behavior. He whinnied loudly to his herd. I stood there called him a few words my grandmother would not be proud of.
The fact is, Jean Luc is herd sour. Until this point I have been looking at it all wrong, though. In my mind, like many who judge those with anxiety, I understood him as a wimp – it’s deeper than that.
Last week I was shoved into a basement with nearly three hundred campers between the ages of 14 and 21 because of a very serious tornado threat. I was responsible for these children, and did not have the tools to feel like I knew we would all be okay. Cue massive panic attack.
(Note: when you live in West Virginia and someone tells you a tornado is coming, it’s never a drill. West Virginians don’t joke about such things because they literally almost never happen. When they do happen . . . well, google Cheat Mountain Lake, June 24, 2017).
Clearly, the people “in charge” were, no offense, not good executing any sort of natural disaster safety drill. I yelled at like a child, and given no tools (procedures, skills, etc.) for how to handle the situation. I can say this. I have spent many cold, desperate, yet not scary hours trapped on an isolated mountain with no heat and been responsible for thousands, yes thousands of humans! (Another life.) Also, never once did those situation trigger any sort of panic attacks. My heart stayed in my chest, not my throat.
I credit it all to the following theory: Nagging Mother vs. Chill Ski Patroller.
The powers at be last week were far more nagging mother, far less chill ski patroller. You know, when your leg has basically exploded from the skin surrounding it? You know? Your bone is sticking out. You could die. You won’t, but then again, you might.
Your mother screams, “What happened!? How on earth did you do this!? You’re at death’s door!!! I care about you and want to fix you but have no clue how!” Meanwhile, the chill ski patroller will look at you, and simply say, “Man. Looks kind of gnarly, but we got you. Hold tight while I do things. I can't fix your leg here, but I am confident enough to get you out of this really bad situation alive and to people who can actually help.”
Give me the chill ski patroller! Why? Because unlike the nagging mother, I trust the ski patroller. I believe the ski patroller. I may not know him/her, but the ski patroller is able to BS their way into my head’s desperate need to be “okay”. Please God, always give me the chill ski patroller.
All this to say: new approach. Like it or not, right now, I’m the nagging mother. Jean Luc and I have only been together a little over two months and we are still building trust. I just assumed we’d overcome his “whimpyness.” It doesn’t work that way. Humans don’t work that way. Logically, I can’t see why horses would either. Their need to be in a herd is powerful. I need to work on being the trusted herd leader, and for both of us, that means creating believably secure situations.
We did walk successfully back to the barn after approximately fifteen minutes of standing in the big field. We even came upon BM’s scary blue tractor working the fields next to the road. Jean Luc had a little spook, but contained that terror with impressive restraint.
I sent him back to the heard with a new fly mask on, in hopes that it would provide him some relief from the little black sky raisins. All in all, the photo below does a pretty good job of describing how the evening went.
Perhaps you disagree with my anxiety theory? That’s more than encouraged. What or how would you suggest tackling it? What successful ways have you resolved a buddy sour situation? No matter what, I’m interested to see where I find that fly mask tonight. Smart money is on, covered crap in a ditch somewhere. But, as we like to say, #BoldlyGo!
So, today I am feeling like the worst horse mommy ever. I have barely spent time with Jean Luc in the past week and a half due to one of my favorite volunteering activities (Staffing at the WVU 4-H Older Members Conference held at Jackson's Mill), that in turn led me to catching a pretty legit cold.
Yesterday was the first time I made it out to see Jean Luc in several days. His new saddle came while I was working camp and I was extatic to try it on him! It did not fit exactly how it should, so I'm sending it back for a better fitting one. (As an aside, go Stateline Tack for making that process STRESS FREE!)
But today is about how guilty I feel. I can't shake it. I'm sure it happens to the best of us, sadly, thanks to a few scheduling conflicts and I wasn't even free tonight until after 6 PM. Thing is, I miss my fella. I know sniffling, hacking and fighting off cold sweats is good for no one, though. I just keep telling myself, "Life happens." I just keep telling myself it will be better for both of us IF I actually take the time to not feel like donkey turds?!
I wonder, other horse mommas and papas, do you ever wish you could talk horse. I often wish I could text with Jean Luc. Send a quick, "Hey, thinking of you. Don't lose another shoe. Is the herd playing nice today?" - that sort of thing.
While completely irrational, I know I'm not the only one that thinks about these things. I mean look at what SmartPack created. . .
Tomorrow is another day. Tonight I committed to getting better, so no sense is wallowing in regret about that decision - roll with it. Tonight, sleep, because tomorrow WE RIDE!
I will never forget walking down the street in Dublin, Ireland. I found myself in The Oliver St. John’s Gogarty Pub, in the Temple Bar District. The pub was packed and rough looking man in his 60s immediately recognized that my friends and I were no locals. He paused his tune and asked where we were from.
“West Virginia,” we said sheepishly.
The seafaring looking singer smiled and immediately began to mumble the words, “Almost heaven, West Virginia…”
Together we belted out the rest of the lyrics to John Denver’s anthem like we were singing them for the first time. That was it. A bond had been eternally created with little more than a song.
Today the state of West Virginia turns 154 years old. Yes, 154 years ago the state of West Virginia chose to separate from Virginia. I happen to call this Virginia home and I am more than thankful Jean-Luc does as well. Though the mountains of the Midwest are vast, beautiful, and challenging, there is just no place quite like West Virginia, especially to own a horse it. Take a look at the incredible terrain from my friend Liz’s most recent ride at place known as Dolly Sods. It’s hard to believe a horse can tackle such terrain, but they can.
I said it often when searching for a horse. "I just want something I can sit back on and enjoy the view as it passes by." I'm so thankful that Jean-Luc helps bring me closer to that view. As the years go by, I find my home among the hills more and more unique. Words fail me every time I try to describe what makes West Virginia so, but I believe it has to do with the resilient brother/sisterhood that comes with being a West Virginian. And trust me, this is not an exclusive club. Born, or transplanted, once you’re in, you are in for life.
West Virginian’s are funny people. If you are a West Virginian (or say you are) and you happen upon another one anywhere outside of West Virginia, they’re immediately your family. Period. Any barriers of discomfort are immediately removed. The experience I had in Dublin, though amazing, was not unique. I have repeated nearly that exact same scenario in Manila, Buenos Ares, Lima, Delphi, and several other countries throughout the world.
I have thought about this phenomenon for years, and I believe it has to do with a few shared experiences nearly every West Virginian has in common. The first - at some point someone has inevitably asked you, “Western Virginia? How far do you live from Richmond? Are you near Blacksburg?” (If that doesn’t make sense to you please review any map of the United States newer than 1863).
The second shared experience is a bit deeper, though likely all the same. As a West Virginian, at some point, you have both been looked down upon for being from West Virginia. Sad as it may sound, this experience is a shared one for many from the Mountain State. At some point, someone that is unlikely to know your name has considered you “less-than,” thanks to stereotypes, accents, or some other identifying moniker. Please don’t misunderstand though, this isn’t something people from our state see as a reason to be pitied – it is just a fact of life that comes with living in a state that ranks pretty low on most things people give rank to.
Regardless, I’ve personally had the opportunity to leave this place many times, never to return. I passed them all up. Not because I am scared or afraid of what the world may hold out there. I do not consider myself a martyr for staying. I love visiting other places. However, I passed up the opportunities because of something that may make me sound insane but I truly have no other way to describe it. There is magic in these hills. I live here for the unexplained, breathtaking beauty. I believe people long for West Virginia because it offers an experience that is not found elsewhere.
I live here because it is almost heaven.
COMING THIS FRIDAY:
Fictional Fridays occur on the Horseback Writing Blog every fourth Friday of the month. The idea is to fill your feed with a horse-related short-story or chapter of a larger novel. These stories are entirely made up, and the direction of next month’s tale is often determined by YOU – the reader. So, share your comments, plot twist, and character suggestions and more below.
JUNE, 23 | Sneak Peak
“The records speak of a vast power that your city once brought to a halt in its insolent march against the whole of Europe and Asia at once - a power that sprang forth from beyond, from the Atlantic Ocean. For at that time this ocean was passable, since it had an island in it in the front of the strait that you people say you call the ‘Pillars of Hercules.’ This island was larger than Libya and Asia combined, and it provided passage to the other islands for people who travelled in those days. From those islands, one could then travel to the entire continent on the other side, which surrounds that real sea beyond. Everything here inside the strait we’re talking about seems nothing but a harbor with a narrow entrance, whereas that really is an ocean out there and the land that embraces it all the way around truly deserves to be called a continent. Now on this Isle of Atlantis a great and marvelous royal power established itself, and ruled not the whole island, but many of the other islands and parts of the continent as well.
What’s more, their rule extended even inside the strait, over Libya as far as Egypt, and over Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. Now, one day this power gathered all of itself together, and set out to enslave all of the territory inside the strait, including your region and ours, in one fell swoop. Then it was, Solon, that your city’s might shone bright with excellence and strength, for all humankind to see. Preeminent among all others in the nobility of her spirit and in her use of all the arts of war she first rose to the leadership of the Greek cause. Later, forced to stand alone, deserted by her allies, she reached a point of extreme peril. Nevertheless, she overcame the invaders and erected her monument of victory. She prevented the enslavement of those not yet enslaved, and generously freed all the rest of us who lived within the boundaries of Hercules. Sometime later excessively violent earthquakes and floods occurred, and after the onset of an unbearable day and a night, your entire warrior force sank below the earth all at once, and the Isle of Atlantis likewise sank below the sea and disappeared. That is how the ocean in that region has come to be even now unnavigable and unexplorable, obstructed as it is by a layer of mud at a shallow depth.” (Plato’s Timaeus, 24e-25e, Translated by D.J.Zeyl)
CHAPTER I –
My name, is Solon. Theories of the city of Atlantis have graced the lips of those intrigued for centuries. Few were ever made privy to the truth of her vast secrets. I hesitate to share that I am one of those few. I bore witness to those truths. I know of what happened within the glorious structures on the eighth continent between the seas. I have seen the civilization unlike any before nor ever after. And I know why she fell.
Long have held these secrets. Long have I crossed the plans of existence, listing to the few who do little more than guess at her tragedy. However, the time has come. A shadow may no longer be allowed to besmirch her legacy. The task now falls to me to unlock the door and share with you the tale of her demise, for the city was real. The city did exist. And her name was Atlantis.
I would say one of the most terrifying, yet simultaneously fun aspects of purchasing a horse is shopping for all the accessories that go with buying the horse. One thing I never realized, was just how much emphasis riders place on the overall look of their tack. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about quality. I am a firm subscriber to, “you get what you pay for.”
I am referring to the overall look that riders strive for. Shortly after bringing Jean-Luc home, people started to ask me a question I found strange.
“What’s your horse’s color?”
“Ah, he’s a palomino paint?” I cautiously would respond. Clearly, I mean those asking the question had eyes.
However, like usual, I was the one confused. What they really wanted to know, is what color scheme would I be using for my tack? Clearly. Since Jean-Luc is white and gold, our options were numerous.
Choosing his particular color scheme is a story for another day, but it suffices to say that we went with burgundy (wine color!)
Now, together Jean-Luc and I have several fun new tack items, but I’ve been purposefully slow to pick up one crucial item – the saddle.
Saddle shopping is intense! This singular item could very easily surpass the price a person pays for the horse. Taking the purchase seriously is a must, because the saddle will largely contribute to the success of the horse and ride as a team. So, where does one even begin?
I started by asking myself what type of riding I primarily wanted to do with Jean-Luc. The answer – trails. Long, obstacle filled, slow going, trails.
Because most of my riding will be on trails I began to look at endurance, western style saddles. I went back and forth with this though as I am currently rolling around in a pretty large 40-pound western saddle that belongs to BM’s man. It’s a beast to haul around, but it reminds me of a Cadillac – too big, too heavy, protective, and something you can roll in for days. It’s basically everything I’m looking for, minus the too heavy part.
From there I asked myself if I wanted leather, or synthetic. Synthetic is often easier to keep, clean and cheaper, but I do love the smell of a good leather saddle. In the end, I find the comfort in a leather saddle a little higher as well. So, leather then.
All these answers pointed me towards a saddle introduced to America the early seventies and made popular thanks to, The Man from Snowy River. Honestly though, people have used this style of saddle for generations all over the world.
Traditionally, Australian stock saddles were created to hold a rider in securely and comfortably through some of the most intense terrain on the planet. The earliest versions borrowed heavily from traditional English saddles as the premise for their design. Since everything is out to kill you down under, they added a much deeper seat, higher cantle, and front knee pads to really suck a person in when their equine counterpart comes into contact with one of many outback terrors.
By adding these design features, the Australian saddle also became one of the most comfortable to spend days, upon days in. So, light weight – check. Conformable – check. Sticky, and holds me in when Jean-Luc doesn’t agree with what’s on the ground – Check. Check, check and check!
Everything seemed to fall into place. I knew what type of saddle I wanted, but now what brand? This decision came after reading as many reviews as I could find, and settled on the best reviewed saddle brand I could comfortably afford without making my you know what pucker.
Finally, there was really only one conundrum:
Horn, or no horn - that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer being skewered
Like a pig on a modern western horn
for the fortune of looks and copious amounts of bags hanging
Or to take arms against the horn,
And by opposing modernity end a fine riding utensil without such ornament?
Seriously, being on the trail all the time might mean wanting the option to ride with a saddle horn bag, so that makes sense. Plus they're often more affordable than many English front bags. The Australian horns aren’t made for roping, but neither were Jean-Luc and me. Truthfully, we’re about as coordinated as a synchronized swim team made entirely of kittens. Horns are great, right? They look cool, they can serve a purpose, and they can stab your sides out if you ever end up in the wrong place at the wrong time!
The man from Snowy River didn’t need a horn. He tamed the wilds with no such thing.
Oh, the options? Whatever shall we choose?
Suggestions, comments, and rants are welcome, but I must confess, whatever I ordered is on its way! Stay tuned and see what Jean-LucPonycard and I #boldlygo forth in.
My name is Chelsey.
Generator's Cuevo Gold, or as he's known around this barn, "Jean-Luc Ponycard", was foaled in 2004 from Generator's Hurricane & Cheyenne's Little Bit.