Crap! New Year’s Eve Again!!

Darn…do I suck at this or what? So 2016 went by in an exhausting blur – some good and some epic bad. If I was the type to get tattoos then Mr. Beer Budget Dressage and I totally should have some very impressive and hard earned ink.

In terms of the good – Whitman and I busted the Third Level barrier!! I already crowed about that, so I can keep that short. Fourth level was fun and it was so good to get there at all – let alone with some very exciting scores.

As always, we did not get to the lake or go camping enough. There was a great trip to Montana which included some beautiful camping in Idaho. It was probably the furthest from civilization I have ever gotten to be in my life. Delta Airlines (or Delayta as our son calls it) robbed us of a trip to Glacier, so Idaho was the back up plan. It was gorgeous and 14 miles from a paved road.

I certainly didn’t get to a single event and made only a token attempt at “real” trail riding.

The barn fire seems to have defined the year, or at the least makes it hard to focus on other parts of the year. It sounds like the next week should be pretty productive – both concrete and stall delivery is supposed to be early this week. I have been hoping to be “in” the new barn by the end of the month for the last three months, but maybe, this time, it will really be move in time before Groundhog’s Day.

So goals for 2017 –

Bad pun – but I may be at my wit’s end with Whitman. Trying to deal with a full blown diva that is not in work has me ready to star in a reality show about dysfunctional inter-species relationships. While he is great at shows, I am not certain I still have the energy to keep a diva on par with Mariah Carey happy and focused. So a big goal will be on figuring out what is best for Whitman and myself. He will be returning to work this month and we will see where it goes from there. He is a tremendous talent, but as a mom with a “life-sucking” full time job plus a boarding barn – I am not certain the “fun to frustration” ratio is where I would like it. We were here last winter when I was coming off of “stall rest” and I was back in love with him/us this summer, so I wouldn’t believe me until change actually takes place. I did put him up for sale at the end of last year to promote marital harmony but put the price higher than was realistic.

So as far as horse goals – “damned if I know” seems to be the theme. I think it will just be that I will work really hard at trying to achieve something. I really miss eventing but can’t find the resources to own a third horse. At the same time, I would very much like to get involved in driving horses more. In my mind, it would make it much easier to combine family and horses if I could toss us all in a cart (marathon buggy in my dreams) and hit the proverbial road.

I think 2017 will be yet another rebuilding year (when do I get the “built” year???). I am making no specific horse related resolutions other than to work like hell, try and get my mojo back, and see what lies ahead.

In the mean time, there is family, sweat pants, wine, Labradors, and netflix! Happy New Years and

-Beer Budget Dressage to all y’all!

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You’ve got a friend in me

This whole saga with the fire would have been much worse if it had not been for some phenomenal friends, family and boarders. From my husband’s best friend from childhood getting here before the fireman, to all of the community member and fire fighters, to friends I have only seen a handful of times since our 4H years to what were complete strangers, the people have been amazing through this.

The day of the fire, friends took off from work to load up and deliver and set up their own round pen panels so that we could have stalls. The horses had to live out for a few days until the smoke cleared up. I was only willing to bring them in to be grained while I could be with them. We had stalls set up that very day (in my beautiful indoor footing).

 

Calling boarders to let them know that the barn is on fire but there horses are okay is not a fun phone call to make. Rosie’s owner lives right around the corner as do Fern’s, so I called them shortly after to let them know that the horses were okay and not to come. One boarder I thought was out of town, so I did not call her and she found out from other people that our barn had burned – I feel terrible about that as she came running up in tears. Lazlo’s owner had not even had him here 24 hours before I let her know that her horse was okay but everything else was a complete loss.

People showed up with piles of halters (I only had gotten two out with the horses) and lead ropes, buckets – all sorts of “little basics” that are completely essential. Two people I had not met before drove out mid-morning to let me know they had some extra stalls and could take some horses for us. I ended up sending Whitman for two weeks since one does need a stall for stall rest. They wouldn’t take any money for board either (need to get a proper gift card for that one). Current and former employees came to help pull anything out that could be saved. Some of my high school students drove out to let us know they had a “work force” all ready and on call to help shovel up debris. It was two weeks before the fire was out and there was no way I would have taken them up on the offer – but was so incredibly touched that they did. A good friend and co-worker fielded all sorts of offers of help and acted as a clearing house so that I could focus on what needed to be done here. The fellow that had hauled Lazlo down for his owner was retiring and closing his barn – he sent down all sorts of buckets, trunks, and even saddles for us. We have met twice. People I have never met sent all sorts of stuff that Lazlo’s owner ferried back and forth in her station wagon for us. I tried keeping lists and taking pictures to help organize who did what and I have no way to list and keep track of everything. Sometimes a muck tub would randomly appear in the front yard. Considering my cynical nature – this has actually greatly increased my faith in humanity.

My poor husband was in the middle of the grape harvest and had loads to pick the day of the fire. Another farmer who has a similar harvester (these new harvesters are like space ships) came and ran our harvester and crew so that Mr. Beer Budget could stay on track with the farm and literally and figuratively put out fires at home. I didn’t make any mistakes marrying that man. He is incredibly stalwart and has a ridiculously impressive skill set.

I haven’t even gotten to all of the food and bottles of water that showed up. We could feed all sorts of masses of helpful people and ourselves. It is also amazing how much water you need when dealing with smoke inhalation. For the people on the front lines, I think our kidneys were all well flushed out.

We told the boarders that their horses could either stay and “camp”, or we would move them to a new facility temporarily or permanently with nothing but the best wishes, but everyone chose to stay. Lazlo’s owner (who again had not had him here for 24 hours) decided that even if it was going to be “rough conditions” for a bit that if we would go into a burning barn to get him out then his best option was to stay with us.

Speaking of the old campaigner – Lazlo decided that his day was best dealt with by taking a nap. This may be why at 23, Laz barely looks a minute older than when he left seven years ago. img_3146

Worst Nightmares Come True

Every horseman fears fire. I inherited a healthy paranoia of fire and the need for preventative measures from my father (who grew up and spent his life working in the petroleum business/its-not-paranoia-if-its-true). Our barn was built with a concrete first floor and metal conduit for the wires to reduce fire hazard and extinguishers by the door. It was a bank barn, so we had dutch doors into the stalls for extra egress points. Even with the addition, most of the dutch doors were left accessible. Boarders had all had it explained to them why the halters and lead ropes always had to be left just so and probably found me rather pedantic for it. Nothing however, prepares you for the moment you realize that your barn is on fire.

Fortunately, I had a terrible time sleeping that night. I was annoyed at Mr. Beer Budget Dressage for “breathing wrong” and keeping me awake and at Tug due to his snoring. I spent the night tossing and turning and was not looking forward to going to work on barely a few hours of sleep. Now I am so grateful for that sleepless night. A little after four am, I heard a weird popping noise and opened my eyes. I could see the reflection on the opposite bedroom wall of the strange flickering light. My stomach dropped to my toes and I was screaming “fire” and running out of the bedroom. I got to the door and added “call 911” to my yelling. It was a warm autumn and I was still leaving my barn boots on the back deck. I had those on in an nanosecond and was sprinting to the barn.

We had left three horses in that night. I had put the rest back out since it was such a mild night. Another fortuitous decision. Whitman had strained his suspensory and we had just gotten the diagnosis the day before, so he was on 30 days of stall rest. Lazlo had returned that morning to begin his retirement with us. His owner had brought him and all of his tack and equipment down. I had left Lazlo in since I didn’t want him to have to deal with new turnout in the dark. I left Ries in since he was Whitman’s turnout buddy and I wanted someone calm and sensible in to be a good influence on the other two. My three bay boys.

I came sliding to a stop outside the barn door and decided I could run in. Its funny because I can clearly remember all of the 911 training videos at work that always begin with “stop and assess the situation for safety”. Screw that. The smoke was billowing out but I was pretty sure I could get the horses and was sure as hell going to try. The smoke was billowing down from the loft but there didn’t seem to be much fire. I slid open Whitman’s door and he took off like a shot down the aisle. I got Lazlo’s door open, but he wouldn’t go. I ran down to Ries’ stall since fire was starting to come down into his stall. I got his door open and he didn’t want to go past the fire. A fear I had with the sliding doors when we installed them was that the plastic rollers might melt and I wouldn’t be able to slid the doors, but they all slid open. I got behind Ries and hollered for him to get up. He was his usual self and decided that mom was scarier than fire and ran. I got a halter on Lazlo and once I got him out of his stall, I was able to chase him down the aisle. The barn aisle was about 80′ feet long and there wasn’t more than a few feet of visibility at that point. I ran out of the barn and Whitman and Ries were both outside waiting for me. They couldn’t quite figure out why I had sent them out the main door rather than the door to the right that is their usual way to the pasture. I grabbed them and threw them into the indoor. I ran back for Lazlo who had run to the left and was waiting in my back yard. I grabbed him and threw him into the indoor as well. The power had quite by that time, so I had to led him through the man door. I was worried about the fact that Whitman was to be on stall rest and Lazlo was new to the group, but figured that was low on the problem list at the time.

I ran back down to the barn and contemplated trying to get in the tackroom to see what could be saved. I decided that was stupid and just watched. I was afraid that if I did that, then my husband would come in looking for me and we might miss each other in the noise and the smoke and disaster would ensue. I had no idea how loud fire is. My husband was up above trying to see if there was anyway to contain the fire after calling 911. I knew the barn was a lost cause and decided to go in and get dressed while waiting for the fire department.

We live in a little rural community so even though 911 toned the fire out right away, you still have to wait for fireman to wake up, get to the firestation, get turnout gear on and get the trucks to the fire. It was about 40 minutes between the call to 911 and water starting to hit the barn. I had hoped that maybe the fire could be stopped before the tack room was a complete loss, but when 120 tons of hay are burning, just containing the fire is a challenge.

Two friends with excavators came and helped use the machines to pull off parts of the roof and pull down the addition walls which allowed for my husband and a friend to save tools and equipment that could not have been saved otherwise. Family and friend turned out as quickly as they could to do as much as they could. I will be writing thank you notes for a very long time. The smoke was noticeable over a ten mile radius. The fire made the regional television news and was front page (with a fairly inaccurate story) news for the local paper. I do have to make a plug for Nationwide insurance – we had only recently switched and they completely came through for us.

At the end of the day, the adage of its only stuff has to be repeated over and over. We didn’t lose any horses and other than some minor irritation from smoke – the humans are all okay as well. Sleep comes a little bit harder. My husband says he’s had the fire nightmare many times over the years and it always goes the way in his dreams that it went in reality.

PS  – I could write for pages and pages more on this, but it took me a couple months to work up to doing this much (I am going to push the publication date back to the date of the fire).

Broke the Third Level ceiling – hallelujah!

It has been one heck of year on all sorts of levels. I have not had the time or clarity of thought to get a decent (in my opinion – some of you are still waiting for me to achieve “decent”) blog post together. I took a quick glance at the last post and realized that at least one of the 2015 shortcomings was addressed. Whitman and I managed to get past Third level.

I dropped him off with Jordan LaPlaca for two months at the beginning of the year for some serious retraining/attitude adjustment, etc. I did get on Whitman once I was cleared to ride and worked on getting him fit. However, due to the lingering swelling and scar tissue on my BUTT, I could only ride in my bare bones, shallow/flat/hard as iron seat cross country saddle. My left leg swung like a pendulum with a mind of its own, so I was fairly limited on how much I could do with the evil twin.

I do recall sitting in Jordan’s living room bemoaning (whining about) my inability to ever get past Third Level. I got my bronze on Lazlo nearly a decade ago (OMG – wish I had not looked that date up – did it really take me ten years to move on) and have largely stalled out since. I sold Lazlo, but we weren’t going to move any higher together, and other horses had come and gone as sales horses and I was waiting on Whitman (being born and then growing up since he is only eight now). Anyway, I was whining about the seemingly cosmic block on getting past Third and a few sour grapes over others that had. I was thinking it wasn’t going to happen with Whitman either at the time.

So fast forward a half year – Whitman remains complicated but has really shown tremendous improvement. It also helps when you move like he does and can pull off Third and Fourth level moves without trying very hard. I took him to a schooling show in May and he was naughty (to say the least) in warm-up but I stayed on the bugger. One woman in the schooling ring was uber– annoyed with us over our rather dramatic warm-up. I wished I had stuffed some coal up her derriere prior because she would have produced a diamond – but I charitably kept that thought to myself at the time. In nitWhit’s defense – the schooling ring was insane. The tall bay one went into the competition ring and other than being tense in the back and behind the leg, laid down a respectable test. The schooling show was a good idea though because he seemed to have left all the naughtiness and tension at that show.

We went to a USDF show in June for our Third Level debut and chalked up some lovely scores. I didn’t need more scores at Third Level, but I felt immensely better about myself as a rider and my current horse. Whitman was great in the barn, the schooling ring, and very honest in the show ring. We did have a very awkward jump over a shadow on our courtesy circle, but that was about the end of the excitement. We placed second or third to horses that cost more than several times my annual income and had to get on a plane to get to this country, so I was feeling pretty pleased with us for that.

My regular instructor felt we could handle Fourth 1 & 2, so that was what we aimed for the next month at a recognized show. I have to admit the week before, I was almost looking for reasons to scratch and was imagining all sorts of situations where we fell short or greatly embarrassed ourselves and those associated with us. We made it to the show, waited around until late afternoon for our first ride and of course it was nearly 90 degrees. Whoever came up with the idea of riding in dark wool coats was a sadist.

The test went well but I was picking it apart and just praying that we at least broke 60%. When my trainer brought me the test, she intentionally had the blue ribbon over the score. When I saw the 69% (darn good for a dressage score), my eyes about blew out of my head. This was despite a last minute ring change to a ring that Whitman had not been in before since I was scheduled to ride in another ring. The comments from the judge were “elastic, expressive and impressive” (I will be having that put on a T-shirt!).

Four-2 was pretty darn good as well – not awe inspiring, but it looked like a nicely broke horse doing a test in the heat. I have always had a bit of a mental block with flying changes for some reason and that has turned into a self-fulling prophecy. Fourth level, test two is the first time you have to start counting strides between flying changes. I cannot figure out why this is so tricky – I can count strides between fences and adjust between fences no problem. Our changes were about a stride late the week before the show when practicing (part of my anxiety about the weekend), so I overrode them a bit in the test. Whitman is turning into one of those unusual horses that is actually better in the show ring than at home (a rare and surprising treat), so he changed immediately when I cued. I did what I thought were our “three flying changes every fourth stride” and was wondering why I had so much more room on the diagonal than I had at home?? Watching the video later – we had a lovely line of three tempis. So we took a “4” for that, but that is (hopefully) an easily  fixed pilot error. That test scored a 62% – so not fabulous but respectable.

The next day was even hotter and I had only entered for one ride at Four-1 anyway. I had nothing in warm up but a melted puddle of exhausted warmblood.  My trainer and I both accepted that it wasn’t going to get any better and went into the show ring. Whitman actually stepped up and really put forth a lovely effort with much more zip than we had in warmup – the ham does love an audience. I had an error of course (tried for a “giving of both reins” in canter instead of showing steps of “very collected canter”) but we still got a 64% from the judge that was considered to be “stingy” with scores.

I pretty much spend the rest of the afternoon packing up and doing my own happy dance. I even hung around a little extra since we were most likely going to be getting the Fourth Level overall for the weekend. Had I known it was going to be a pack of economy sized (meaning too small for a warmblood) purple polos, I would have headed home. Beer Budget Dressage does not do purple (we are classy that way 🙂 )

The lovely little bald spots on Whitman’s head are from him literally “putting his nose where it does not belong”. There was a hole in the stall mesh to pour grain in and he kept trying to stick his nose out to encourage people to pet him.

So …about 2015…

I went back and looked at my blog post for the beginning of 2015. If I was grading myself – I may have a D or even an F on last year. It sounds worse that it is. Mr. BeerBudgetDressage hurt his back and spent most of the first half of the year bed ridden and even with surgery it was a long road back to the land of the walking upright. That really put a damper on the year. I decided to close out the last two months with my own injuries, but am largely well again and closing in on being fully functional – so no real complaints. Despite it not being our best year, I am profoundly grateful for my human and animal family members and friends, my day job that allows for health insurance and all sorts of mediocre sounding things that are so necessary to modern life, and all sorts of other wonderful dull things. Life is pretty darn good.

So, my goals in review (annotated with updates).

Be fitter/lose weight (have to put that on the list or I am not a Generation X [or am I Y??] female – pretty sure we signed that contract with the first breathe drawn, having been teaching for over a decade I am pretty certain that the millennial generation females got to skip the bad body image judging by what they are willing to wear – Victoria has very few secrets left and her clothes don’t automatically make you look like the airbrushed models in the catalog and there was a reason leggings went out of fashion. Ok – claws sheathed.) 2015 Updateumm…so so. I am about the same. I was doing pretty well with a new exercise program until I was lawn-darted into the ground. Running is not going so well, despite a lot of doctors visits/PT/sucking it up and pushing through – my hip does not want to allow for me to be a “real runner”. I will continue to try but am not setting running as a 2016 goal. Bummer, but I am going back to the online program I was doing -with some modifications for my buggered knee and hematoma riddled hiney. Grade of C-

2. Spend more quality time with my son – self-explanatory. 2015 update – Did better with this one. Shut down most of my lesson business and that helped – we never seem to have enough time but there is less guilt and I do like spending more time with “shortpants” and I know he appreciated the extra nagging. Grade of B

2. Get organizedI made this one last year, but am really going to try this year to keep all of my business records on Quickbooks. I want to be able to discuss my financial records with my mother without one of us reaching for wine, and for the accountant not to reach for antacids when I come in. 2015 update – yeah..lasted about a month … mom will need wine and the accountant (a new one this year) is already doing the extended blink at me with some of my organizational issues. The idea that I don’t use quickbooks seems inconceivable to her. Grade of F.

3. Read more/surf less. I love the internet but the relationship has become mundane and I keep perusing the same sites over and over. I have a gigantic pile of books on my nightstand and want to work my way through some – horse books and non-horse books. Hmmm…maybe a C on this. I am reading more but did join the Dark Side with Facebook. Not a lost cause, but got a phablet so I can’t lie on the “less internet” goal.

4. If Ries can stay sound, I really want to do a training level event again. So that means I need to suck it up and get my butt to a clinic or schooling sessions in the early spring and see what my horse actually thinks of banks and ditches outside of a competition setting. So far he has always gone but he doesn’t care for it and doesn’t understand the technique of jumping such obstacles either. I’d like to be able to ride to them with confidence and not have to ride hell-bent-for-leather to make certain Reis goes. If Ries can’t get to the point where he can enjoy the flat work (or at least not hate it), then I need to get a third horse again. I think if I promise not to bring home a warmblood, my dear husband will not have a conniption fit. December 2015 Update: Can’t provide this with a grade – Ries was sound, jumping like a champ, muddling through his flatwork, dealing with what little cross country we could (does not like ditches but did seem to figure out down banks – however discovered that he hates trakaners), but due to torrential rain we did not make it to a single real event. We did win another jacket at the combined test this year so that curse seems to be broken but did not get to training level eventing. No grade due to factors beyond our control so I am recycling this goal for next year.

5. Get Whitman out and about at Third Level, if he is ready. Between Fred and Laz, Third Level makes me angry so I’d like to change that and then get well past it. December update: This failure will get a blog post of its own. Didn’t get to a show – Whitman wasn’t ready until the end of the season for Third (rocking third not just getting through), the local shows were moved to not local locations, arggghh! If Jordan can solve our problems and Kathleen will still coach me, I may just skip third. 

6. Camp more this summer – maybe real camping but at least spending more time in the RV. Whether horse shows, state parks, the lake, whatever. Grade of B+ – did some (very little) camping just at the lake, but did go to Yellowstone so that gets us some extra credit. Sticking with this one for 2016 as well since I like it so much.

So for 2016 – rinse and repeat. Beer Budget Dressage is trying to sustain a horse in training with someone else so we will also be exploring some new and fun financial challenges in addition to life and fate challenges – stay tuned!

Strike up the banjos a/k/a my day is starting to sound like a country song!

Its been nearly a month since Whitman and I parted company and I toured the local ER’s. I have heard from friends and medical professionals ‘how lucky I am’ and the one specialist said “wow-you really dodged a bullet’ four separate times during the same fifteen minute appointment. I won’t need any surgery and by the new year I should be all healed up with no limitations or long-term damage. Which of course is fantastic. No banjos needed yet.

I believe I previously mentioned that the decision had been pretty quickly made to get Whitman in training with someone as soon as possible. I was all set to head out tomorrow with Whitman to Maverick Hill Dressage in Vermont. I had taken the day off from work (I hate to do that), my husband had the trailer all checked, tires checked and inflated (see previous posts for bad luck with tires) and he sent the truck into be serviced so that it was all ready to go on an eight-hour trip tomorrow. Now strike up the banjo’s and get your beer to cry into – I already poured my glass of wine. 

My husband took the truck tonight to run our son to Cub Scouts (bless his heart). He got to the first stop sign and the brake pedal sunk to the floor. He called me to let me know and that he would fix it as soon as he could tomorrow, but that I would not be hitting the road as planned at 6 am. Ugh, fine. Then I shoot a message to the trainer that I will not be able to get there by 3pm and to express my sincere apologies. I was feeling pretty guilty because Jordan (the trainer) was also planning on putting my mother and I up for the night at his place and now I was screwing up his schedule. Music should now be getting sad and twangy.

I had Whitman in the cross ties for a final mane pull and touch up. I looked at his left front a couple of times because how he was holding it seemed slightly off. Hmm – looked, felt the lower leg, shrugged it off and went back to fussing with him. He was looking pretty elegant and spiffy and was thoroughly enjoying all the attention. I was having a very good time futzing around with him and was feeling more benevolent towards him that I had been over the last month. After admiring my horse that despite his ugly geeky pink stable blanket was looking pretty darn fancy and elegant, I went to put him back in his stall and he was moving in a weird way. Weird is not good! I took him to the arena and had him trot and weird went to bad. I got him back to the barn and started feeling around. My first hope was that the farrier had driven a nail wrong and this could be fixed before the truck was ready to go and I would still be on my way tomorrow. Further inspection revealed a very sore tender spot on the upper inside of his left front. Not going anywhere tomorrow. Moving to full on Tammy Wynette music at this point.

So I called the trainer – since a text seemed cowardly – and ended up leaving a message that I would not be coming at all tomorrow due to the fact that my life is becoming a comedy of errors and traveling to Vermont tomorrow will not be happening. It is one of those cases where you cannot apologize enough since you are really screwing someone else over but there is nothing you can do about it. Sadly at this point, the trainer is probably viewing me in the light of some Taylor Swift song about women being completely crazy.

I then text work to let them know I am going to cancel my day off, text a friend to get a ride to work since we dropped my SUV off to be serviced when we picked the now non drive-able truck up, text a mutual friend of the trainers and mine to whine about the comedy of errors that is now my life, text my mother to let her know we are not leaving at 6 am and then head to the house for a glass of wine. I am not even certain what sort of music you insert here, but personally I have gone on to humming Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant. Now I just need to perform some Weird Al version set to Beer Budget Dressage.

Good night y’all – I am heading off to find something to beat my head against. Maybe in a month I will look into tennis lessons.

Hmmm…may not snap back as quick as planned

Now five days out from my date with my arena footing, I am still very swollen through my back/derriere/left leg. It’s hard to know much about anything else until the swelling goes down. While I really was impressed with emergency staff, I will be switching primary care physicians. I have been less than pleased for a long time but yesterday’s antics left me no better off and two hours short of time that could have been better spent beating my head against a wall.

None of that is remarkable – I know this will be a long slow recovery. The trauma doctors told me I had a very rough two weeks ahead of me.

What did set me back though was yesterday I was watching the movie “Justin” with my son. We got to the scene where the main character is rocketing up on an alligator/dragon and the wings fall off and they start plummeting back to earth (this is a cartoon mind you) and as the kid/dragon peaked and started back down …. my stomach flip-flopped on me. I just looked down at said stomach and was sort of aghast with myself. Parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems may have to have a bit of a chat.