Party Pony Eventing

I’ve been thinking for a while about the blog’s name: the only mare left in my life is Lucy, who is retired and lives 1500 miles from me. The name gave no indication of what was happening around here. But I didn’t have a better idea so it stayed.

Then I got into Archie’s Instagram account. And his reputation as the partypony became known (I’d say far and wide, but that’s mostly because Emily lives in California and that’s far away so). And I realized – duh. The name was right in front of me. We’re Party Pony Eventing. It represents more than just Archie himself though.

The party isn’t I’m some wild, ‘up until wee hours’ kinda person. It’s the sitting around with your barn mates watching lessons after yours. Having drinks after a trail ride. Sitting around at a show in the evening, catching up with friends you haven’t seen in months and laughing about the day’s events. The party is the celebration when you cross the finish flags – or maybe when you successfully jump that damn slatted table that’s been haunting your dreams for months. Sometimes the party is just celebrating the joy of having a horse and marveling at how lucky you are or spending a few extra moments to get the really itchy spot.

We may not always (ever?) win, but we’re not going to lose the party – because as long as we’re having fun, we’re winners. So cheers to good friends, good horses and good drinks.

(Please update your RSS feeds if needed, I unfortunately don’t know how to redirect those!)

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The mental and physical game

Full recap of our weekend with Sharon White to come (once I shake off the clinic hangover, omg I am exhausted), but I’ve walked away from the last two weekends with so much information. Namely, much of Archie and my challenges come from a place of fear. In stadium, he knows the drill so even when I get a little bug eyed at a fence, he’s not concerned. But take us out onto the XC course and he feels that hesitation or fear and he thinks, “Well shit, if she’s hesitating, I shouldn’t jump that.” Except, it escalates when he stops: I get more nervous, he starts throwing himself around (after all, why is his crazy owner trying to make him jump something she’s nervous about?), which feeds right back into the cycle. Now some of this is Archie taking advantage and being a dick. Lots of this is my own riding. It’s the combination that puts us into an unfortunate place. Once I get confident, he’s fine – I’ve seen this as I’ve gotten comfortable with the smaller XC fences.

Confident enough to hack bareback in a halter

It boils down to two things: physical and mental strength.

The physical is straightforward: when I’m stronger, I’m less nervous. I don’t worry that every big jump or minor disobedience will land me on my ass. I’m more confident to try new things. I also die a little less in my lessons which is always a positive. This is the easy one to solve. I’m back on my spin bike, back into yoga, adding pilates and some weights. I don’t love working out, but if I remember I’m doing it for riding (literally my Peloton name is @thepartypony) it makes it easier to do. And spin is fun at least.

Spin area backdrop

Mental on the other hand… that’s the harder one. Repetition helps. The more I jump something, the easier it gets. But that’s not always possible, particularly when it comes to showing. And it’s totally lizard brain taking over, because if I think through it logically, I’m fine. BN black rolltop at home: I’ve jumped it 100 times between Doc and Iggy. Never had a problem with it. It always jumps well. We were jumping it coming towards home, which is always easier. What was I afraid of? That he’d jump it giant and unseat me? He’s never done that before. That he’d take off? Never done that. Worrying about a stop? Well, if I worry about the stop and think he’s going to stop, the horse is going to stop! No kidding. A quick tap on the shouder or behind the leg to remind him I mean business is usually all it takes. But that tap? Takes the mental willpower of an elephant. Despite that my horse has never lost it over a quick tap.

Ditches: perfect example of mental stuff. Not even any height but our brains go 🤯

I struggled for years with fear after my riding accident. Like, went from a happy hunter kiddo to being afraid to have a lunge line lesson. Then afraid to canter. Afraid to ride outside an arena. It’s hard to accurately represent the terror I had as a kid. I distinctly remember sitting on my trainer’s older than dirt gelding for an entire “lesson” – and when he shifted his weight to cock a back foot, being in sobbing tears of fear. The fact that I ride, much less event, twenty years later is remarkable. The fact that I’m able to work through my fear 99% of the time is amazing and a testament to a lot of hard mental work as a kid. This fear is not that fear. That fear was paralyzing. This is just self-doubt.

And some major side eye

So, I’ve bought the books. Signed up for the classes. Brought it up to work on in therapy.

I’m not afraid to do the work. I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t do the work.

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Not bored in the house, in the house not bored

(If you don’t understand the title, I made the mistake of downloading Tik Tok and now this is a thing in my life)

Also THIS is a real diagnosis that showed up in one of my EDs and I have SO MANY QUESTIONS

If quarantine has taught me anything about myself, it’s that I’m really bad at being bored. Once work settled into a manageable routine and flow, my days suddenly opened up and because I wasn’t riding or leaving the house… things happened.

Bathroom when I moved in

It started innocently enough: I thought, oh I’ll try some color samples to paint my bathroom. At 5pm on a Friday night.

It started out innocently

Fast forward to 9:30pm and it was painted. Oops.

Fast forward a few weeks and I had redone the entire thing.

Not to say I’m not happy about it. I’m obsessed and in love with it. I did all the work myself and did the entire thing for about $350. I have plans to do the shower next, but some other projects took priority so that’s hopefully a late summer to-do.

I’ve been wanting to add trim to my windows for a year, but hadn’t gotten around to it either. So, while waiting for paint to dry in the bathroom or something, I just… went to town.

Fast forward a few weeks (are you seeing a trend?) and all the windows in the house are trimmed out. Only three are primed so far because I effing hate primer, and none are painted, but the actual construction of them is complete and I love them. I can’t believe how much character they give to my little builder basic house. Plus, any time I get to bust out my trim nailer makes me a very happy camper.

In the middle of these projects, I decided my workbench area in the garage was a mess (it was) and needed help (it did). One pegboard later, things were improved, if not perfect.

But then I remembered the cabinet I’d bought for the laundry room that has been living in my kitchen for a few months. If I put it up and took down the shelf, the shelf could go into the garage…

So Sunday while waiting for the lawn mower to charge (I have a battery powered mower and it’s amazing and awesome), I took down the shelf and nearly had the cabinet up before realizing trying to hang a cabinet solo while standing on top of the dryer was… not one of my brighter moments. And remembered that time I promised my father I’d stop doing stupid things like moving cabinets as big as I am by myself. So, assistance was requested and by afternoon, the laundry room had a lovely cabinet and the garage had a new shelf.

But if you thought that’s all… well… I decided after doing my bathroom, I wanted to do the second bath too. So an afternoon of paint and a quick fixture change later, it was halfway improved (mirror, faucet and vanity TBD).

Yet, I can’t seem to stop myself. My garage has two walls drywalled, the rest are just studs and insulation. I’ve been wanting to finish the drywall, but… well, that pesky promise to my dad extends to drywall panels apparently. I found someone who was up for doing it next week since it’s a no-human-contact job, so assuming I get the garage cleared out this weekend… next week it will be drywalled and I can finally put up shelves and organize it!

Don’t worry, this is what my bedroom wall looks like…

My Excel sheet of house projects was at 48 pre-quarantine and I’m down 13 projects since SIP started so I’m feeling pretty accomplished, all things considered.

But, just in case I get too high and mighty, there also may be eight sample colors of paint on my bedroom wall and I might hate all of them, plus the cabinets for my kitchen island in the garage that can’t move forward until I pick a color for them. Oops.

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Quarantine

Remember that time I rode my horse and blogged and had a life outside of work? Yeah, it was also in the pre-global pandemic times.

Those who have followed along with my brain melting down over on Instagram are probably a little more in tune with what’s been happening, but I’ll summarize because we’re all a little brain melt-y right now.

Someone is enjoying this

Essentially, I work in emergency medicine for a large medical school/health system that staffs 10 hospitals with 250ish physicians and 75 NP/PAs. In a “regular” year, we see about 350,000 patient visits. This is not a normal year. I’m in analytics and business intelligence which in short regular speak means if there’s a metric/data piece, I handle it. I track… everything. And during this time? I track all the things, all the time.

It’s meant some long days, but nothing compared to my clinicians who are on the frontlines, putting themselves at risk. All I can do is sit at home and try to support as much as I can. It’s meant that riding my horse has slowed way down and fallen down on my priority list.

I did discover this diagnosis someone had, which was entertainment for a few days at least

Last week I managed to make it out three times to ride – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We had an awesome jump lesson Saturday I’m excited to write about sometime (maybe) and played with our new bit on Sunday. I probably drive everyone around me crazy, but I just freaking love this pony. He’s so game, so much fun and each ride we figure each other out a little more. I hope we have a chance to get out this summer – I already know he’s going to be a total blast XC.

Unfortunately, Sunday was also my last day at the barn for a while. My (awesome, fantastic) roommate is an inpatient pharmacist who has now been assigned to an ICU floor full of COVID suspected/positive patients. She stays out of patient rooms and does her best, but I have to operate under the assumption that she, and therefore I, have been exposed.

My barn is a fantastic place full of amateurs – many over the age of 45-50. My barn owner/trainer is the primary caretaker for her 87 year old father. Other riders are nurses, scientists, mothers – people who can’t afford to get sick or take it home to their loved ones.

I realized last night there was no way for me to justify going to the barn right now. A shitty decision? Uh, yeah. The right decision? Absolutely, 100%. I would not be able to live with myself if something happened due to my need to ride my horse. It’s a privilege and a luxury, it is not a right. I would feel like the world’s worst hypocrite working in EM with a public health background, scolding people for not respecting quarantine, only to turn around and decide I’m better so I can go see my pony.

Someone had some epic bed head on Sunday

I don’t have a single sign or symptom, nor does my roommate, but in these times… I don’t think you can be too careful.

So, for the next few weeks, I’ll be here, at my computer, working, trying to keep our hospitals open and running as efficiently as possible, staring at photos of Iggy on my phone and waiting for the day that we can all emerge on the other side of this.

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Work’s out forever

School is not out forever. Well, it is for me because I’m not going back, but mostly that’s just the song stuck in my head right now. Reason being, work feels like it’s out forever. That’s right, we are also on the ‘work from home indefinitely’ train. Which means I still have to, like, work, but I also gained an hour and a half of my day back from commuting and I don’t have to wear pants.

It also means since I live 16 minutes from the barn (8.6 miles exactly, thank you very much) I can squeeze in trips between calls and work and that’s just awesome. Today I went out to give him his Adequan shot, smear goo on his feet (scientifically accurate), give him lots of snoot kisses and insert cookies into mouth. I wanted to ride, but then I came home and COVID-19 proceeded to (continue) to take over my life and I didn’t come up for air until 8:30pm. Have I mentioned how much I love working in emergency medicine?

When they tell me they need daily analytics for testing and screening that don’t exist

Right now, we’ve got daily “COVID-19 Incident Command” calls and I’m on the “Action Task Force”, which makes me feel like a Power Ranger or an Avenger or something, but also means phone calls 7 days a week at 8am. That’s cool M-F, but like, couldn’t COVID just operate during business hours and let everyone have a break on the weekends?

APPARENTLY that’s not how viruses work which is really just rude. So, despite day 1 of home office and making to the barn, no actual riding took place. Luckily I’m still riding the high of two great rides this weekend and tomorrow… well, I have no idea. As much as I’d like to schedule rides and make plans, the truth is this is emergency medicine and things are day-to-day right now.

But they will NOT take my CT (which will be entered as soon as I decide on a show name… tick tock…) and Sharon White clinic from me! (UNIVERSE THIS IS NOT A CHALLENGE BY THE WAY)

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Busting at the seams

It’s no secret to anyone who met me that I might be a little bit of an overachiever. I have a ‘no’ problem – as in, I am bad at saying it. And this flaw leads to weeks like this one.

I love my job – I love publishing research, I love working with clinicians, I love presenting our data and using it to improve outcomes and quality. I have ongoing projects, I have one-off project requests that pop up weekly (daily?), I have large scale executive level projects and I have pet projects and ideas I want to dive into. I could also spend 80 hours a week doing my job and never get everything I want to done.

Like this!

This leads into education – I’d love a second masters degree or a doctoral level degree, but I’ve reluctantly filed those away. Doesn’t stop me from wanting to get a graduate certificate though – and I would be dumb to not take advantage of the free tuition I get working for a university.

Then comes life outside of the office. Horses, house, hobbies, friends, dating. I bought the house last year and I have an Excel sheet 56 items long of things I want to do. Some of that is limited by financial resources, but a lot is just limited by the time to do it all. Then along with the house, one of my favorite hobbies is refinishing furniture for the interior. I have three pieces sitting in my garage/living room right now waiting for me to have time (ok, and some warm and dry weather OMG) to finish them. Or uh, start them.

This is living in my living room while it awaits its makeover

The horse demands an obviously large part of my attention and time, and rightfully so. I love riding, I love competing, I love the push to get better and constantly improve, be the best I can. Even going BN, it also requires a base level of fitness from your horse to safely get around – meaning, I have to be more than just a weekend amateur to get the necessary conditioning in on an older horse.

As soon as I have a dressage lesson (last night, omg my abs) or a jump lesson, I’m reminded how much I need to be in the gym. My back sobs at me to get my core stronger, my legs scream that they need more, my cardio could stand to be better. My hip flexors are tight as hell and need yoga classes. My body condition overall loves seeing my chiropractor consistently.

Also snuggles

I try to be a person who does more too, because I have other interests. I’m in Junior League, because I wanted to be more involved in my community and it’s a great group of women – but it takes up time too. I have friends I try to stay in contact with (most live out of state so at least I don’t feel guilty not seeing them in person?) and I’d like to not die alone with my unfinished furniture, Jack Russell and yoga mat. Meaning, finding the time to date. Which means finding the time to shower (I mean, in addition to normal duh, I shower), do my hair, put makeup on. I love makeup and cute clothes, sue me. That means finding time for drinks or dinner or coffee or whatever.

Then there’s the ‘others’. I like reading, both books and articles. I try to stay informed on current events, science, world news. I have a list of podcasts, Netflix series and movies on my listen/watch list. I want to learn how to sew, I want to make my own browbands, I’d love to be a better cook. Or uh, cook at all. Other than like, grilled cheese and chicken fingers. And sleep. Of course I can’t be one of those people who happily functions on 5-6 hours of sleep. I need 8 to function and my body is really happier with 9.

And swimming with manatees and kayaking

The truth is there just aren’t enough hours in the day for it all. While I know this as a factual matter, it doesn’t make it any easier. I hate having to prioritize things even though I know it’s a necessity.

This isn’t a typical post, but it’s the frustrations I’m feeling right now. I’m figuratively busting at the seams and at least getting it all out on paper makes me feel better. Anyone else feel like they’re in this boat?

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It’s I-GG-Y

You might have seen on Instagram the little (ok, or not so little) secret I’ve been keeping for weeks – a chestnut secret to be specific.

After stepping Doc down (who is loving life as his owner’s kiddo’s horse) I started looking for another lease. Buying just wasn’t right for me right now for about 1000 different reasons, but in part because I really wanted something older, been-there-done-that, to keep learning and growing. It took four months, but thanks to a few people – ahem, Emily – I came across Iggy! He’s a total packer 18 year old Quarter Horse who has gone N/T with his owner, but needed a job now that she has a young one to bring up.

“Hai I Iggy”

I went down to Kentucky before Christmas and meet up with Emily and we went out to try him where he was a perfect angel. The footing was miserable, it was cold and wet and he hasn’t had a real job in a few months, but he happily came out and showed me all his fancy buttons and carted my out of shape butt over a handful of jumps. Jumps where I was unable to see a single distance, where I jumped so far up his neck I was between his ears and where my my entire timing was so hilariously off it was like I’d never jumped a horse in my life before. And what did he do? Took every joke in stride without much more than a, “I do the thing and then I get the cookies so it’s ok hooman.”

Needless to say I was smitten. It took a month and some to get arrangements worked out between transportation, the holidays and a stall at the barn, but he arrived Friday night! He’s the happiest of campers, totally chill and settled right in.

“Do u like my outfit?”

I’ve been on him three times at home now and each time he just comes out better than the last. We rode outside on Sunday and it was incredibly windy with things flapping around, horses leaping and galloping around their pasture next door and he didn’t bat an eye.

Iggs has this amazing personality I’m loving getting to know – he wants to be intimately involved in everything happening at the barn. Must say hi to everyone, must make sweet faces, must stick nose into everything. Must sniff and lick all dogs, must examine all walls, must investigate everyone’s stall. We quickly found out he likes facing other horses in the crossties, as facing him away will result in his bending himself into a U-shape to watch them, making tacking up slightly more difficult.

He’s a little guy compared to all the big warmbloods and Irish horses at the barn, only 15.0-15.1ish and cob sized everything (and i just had to buy a 20” dressage girth OMG), but cute as a button. And damn does he have a speedwalk in him! Plus new size horse means shopping for new size tack and every good tack ho loves an excuse to shop. (Even if Michele tried to sell me her XC boots while I still own her previous pair…) And having a jump saddle that doesn’t fit him (someone please buy it PLEASE I WANT TO JUMP MY HORSE)

Because of said jump that saddle doesn’t fit him I’m spending some quality time in my dressage saddle which isn’t a bad thing for anyone. (Um, except me. I want to jump my pony, ok?!) We’re getting to know each other and having the best time and I couldn’t wait to finally publicly introduce him!

Selfie game needs work but we’ve got time

So bloggers, meet Iggy! (And don’t mind me quoting every Iggy Azalea lyric until forever)

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Feeling a lot like Christmas

I can’t say I have any overwhelmingly fun news to share… yet. But at the risk of jinxing anything, things are happening and 2020 is looking bright and shiny and… chestnut?

And that’s all I’m saying about that

I did get to go down to Louisville last weekend though and in between trying not to be sucked into a mud bog and getting distracted at ALL The Pretty Farms (can we agree heaven has rolling green pastures and four rail fences? K) I got to see Emily and May!

OMG she is so much fun.

And it even gets better than that because I got to ride May. Emily was trying out my jump saddle (which fits them beautifully) and so when she offered me the chance to pop on the World’s Best Thelwell Pony, the answer was obvious.

On the ground she’s a snuggly little bug with the best manners. I wanted to pack her up and take her home to live in my living room. Under saddle, she’s so sensitive (in the best way) off the leg and smooth to ride. I love her. Emily popped her over a few fences to try the saddle and May is even cuter over fences than pictures show. I was being a chicken about the footing along with not being able to feel my hands (genius, gloves are a thing for a reason) so I just flatted her around for a few minutes. She’s so safe and comfy feeling – like a very sensitive athletic couch.

In non-pony news, my office moved to the children’s hospital which means we get All the Fun Things like full blown ballets in the lobby and therapy dogs in Christmas attire.

I shipped off my blogger Secret Santa gift today (sorry for the delay!), my Christmas vacation starts at 5pm tomorrow and I will soon be on a beach soaking up every last bit of warmth before Indiana beckons me home to its cold tundra of January.

Luce still being the best retired girl, shiny and happy at 22!

I may (or may not…) write more about 2019 in summary, but I can say while it wasn’t the year I planned on (like, at all), it ended up being a great year. I’m so grateful to have a wonderful family and friends, the greatest ponies in my life, my health, a job I adore and more blessings than I can count. Signing off for the year to say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and have a wonderful New Year!

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Retired.

This… just sucks to write. And live. And just general suckage.

Doc’s retired from jumping as of Saturday morning.

Yup, still hurts to say.

What started as an appointment for, “Oh, I think he needs Adequan,” ended with “this horse will never jump again.” Well shit.

In the matter of an hour vet appointment, I managed to cancel two HT entries, a hotel room, an online order, a clinic entry, my team challenge team… nothing but ruthlessly efficient, I guess. And you know, cancel my optimism and dream of galloping through the finish flags at the KHP next month. Told you it sucks.

I went home and ate donuts and pizza and drank and watched TV and slept and tried to avoid looking at all the things all over my kitchen I’d purchased and was organizing to take to Kentucky. After 30 hours of wallowing, I pulled myself together, left the house and tried to be a normal person.

A hot shower, a good night’s sleep thanks to a hefty dose of melatonin, and a yoga class later, I feel a little better. Enough to think about what’s next without wanting to cry.

So next? Finding another horse that’s financially workable (horse shopping with a budget of… nothing is great fun), spending the winter getting to know a new horse, trying not to lose my mind in the meantime… Sounds like a party. A Halloween horror party maybe.

I’m not all doom and gloom. I’m so grateful for everything Doc gave me. I’m 100x the rider I was two and a half years ago. He’s the horse who took me through my first HT, who I jumped 3′ on for the first time, who taught me more nuances and feel than I’d ever imagined. I’m so grateful that we didn’t have the potential catastrophic injury happen on course. I’m thankful for the times he taught me how to let go and go for a gallop and just experience the joy of watching the world thunder by, wind in your ears.

Even if we did have the worst left drift of all time

But I’m also heartbroken I won’t get to have the feeling of taking a horse I trust so intrinsically around a Novice XC course. Of galloping down to a line that scares the hell out of me, only to feel entirely weightless and unable to contain the cheer of excitement on the other side. That I won’t be showing off how damn smart and athletic and funny my big red Saddlebred is at any more events. He may have “just” been a lease, but I love him as much as if he was my own.

And now, we see what’s next.

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Chaos and Oxygen

We have been doing a lot of cheering for Auburn!

Long time gone around here, still alive though, promises. Turns out things like uh, buying a house and moving into said house, trying to keep breathing and working insane hours put blogging into the back seat.

Long story short, riding has been iffy. My allergies decided to actually attempt to kill me this year and two inhalers later and a few doctor appointments, I think I’m finally at a point where maintaining O2 sats isn’t questionable. I took a week off of everything – work, riding, all of it, to move into the new house. Helpful, but it’s still 75% chaos and I need another 3 days in the week to get it all done. It’s getting there though! Mostly unpacked (minus my office hahahhahah don’t open that door), fence for Finn the Dog goes in this weekend, and things are locateable for the most part.

Inspired by a handful of other bloggers, I joined a local CrossFit gym that I love. I’ve been going consistently and having a blast right up until my lungs revolted. Per doctor’s orders I’m not allowed back until we get my breathing situation figured out, which I would protest, but like… air. I like it.

We did a CT/Derby two weeks (I think?) ago at a local farm to get out for the first time this season. We had our best dressage test we’ve had, by far (although the score was about where we averaged last season), but the wheels fell off on the jumping. I couldn’t stop riding backwards to ev-er-ey-thing. Pull, pull, pull, pull, pull. Everything felt like I was being run off with (I wasn’t), I never found a good rhythm, I couldn’t see a distance to save my life. Doc about had it with me and we had three stops on course, all my fault. It was… ugly.

We had a lesson two days later and I got on ready to just quit riding. There was more than a little bit of self-hate going on and in the span of 48 hours I’d basically convinced myself I was horrible at this, my horse didn’t deserve this and I should just quit now.

Because I’m never dramatic at all.

My trainer saw my face and said, “nope, no lesson” and took me out on the track where we just hacked out for an hour. Which ended up being pretty much exactly what I needed… along with a drink or two, a crying session and some motivational sports psychology reading.

We had our best dressage lesson last Monday and we’re entered to go to our first full HT of the season this weekend. Things seem to be finally settling down and getting back into a semi-groove. Here’s to hoping I can catch my breath (figuratively and literally) soon.

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