Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Having it all; Kids Edition

This one is the toughest part of it all.  If you ever want to feel like you are being ripped in 15 different directions both physically, mentally and emotionally to the point that you might just come apart.  Then I recommend have a bunch of kids.  And bonus points if you have them really close together in age.  It feels like a game of Operation where your soul is picked apart slowly with some shaky hands and a pair of tweezers.

Sitting in your back yard watching this it just makes the heart burst.

OMG did I just make having kids sound awful?  Haha every parent knows what I am talking about but maybe not brave enough to admit it.  But the secret that every parent also knows is that the unconditional, indescribable love that you immediately have for these little life sucking aliens makes every bit of it beyond worth it.

Kids and Horses they just go together.
Then try to have a hobby or your own interest or even want a moment of your own so you can pee in peace!  It's a laughable attempt at retaining your own identity.  The good news and the sad news is that they don't stay little and helpless forever.  For as exhausting as they are we really just never want them to grow up.  God they are precious!  It's a double edge sword, two sides of the same coin, painful and beautiful, exhausting and exhilarating.  There is no experience like it and you wouldn't trade it for the world.

Really they just do.

When they were little it was a lost cause.  I didn't even attempt to do the horse thing.  Kudos to those of you who babies and still find a way to get out and ride.  It was not in the cards for me.  I had a husband that worked 70 miles away at a very stressful job.  NO family and no real support system.  So if my babies were gonna stay alive it was up to me.  So that is what I did for about 6 years.  Then when my youngest was 3 and could feed herself, go to the bathroom herself and could sit in front of the tv for an hour with her sisters I did not hesitate and that is when I got back into horses.

I've been blazing trails with this kid...

Since before she was this kid.

It then became my peace and restoration.  It made for a happy Momma.  Since then we've gone through countless changes but each year I still continue to get out on my horse and do something.  Now I have all 3 kids that ride and still the name of the game is continuous change.  You must be adaptable to survive at all.  We've cycled through a few horses over the years as the kids riding ability grows and interest increases. 

You get to watch as they get brave and good...

and be there when they start to get really good!

What I have always made abundantly clear and is the key to  making it all work is, that I am not your caretaker, your groom, your maid, your cook.  I am not one of those self sacrificing Moms who will go through 2 decades of her life not pursing or having any personal ambition.  I won't.  My husband knows this and my children get that.  I'm not sure what that makes me appear to be to the outside world.  Selfish?  Neglectful?  Mean?  Who knows but actually I really don't care.  It is working from the inside. 
Having your very own pony is really really hard. 

My kids must and do carry their own weight around here.  It's like a time warp to 150 years ago where on a farm everyone was expected to chip in.  I have made it quite clear to them that they do not have to do so much work.  But that would mean they wouldn't have so much privilege.  With great privilege comes great responsibility and that my friends is pretty much the gospel of this family.  If you want it then you have to work for it. 

And if you don't go through all the trouble of having all those kids and your horses at home then you will never get the opportunity to have your child and pony knocking at your front door.

That means on top of your obvious priority of school you must, get up early to feed your animals, after school clean stalls and ride a reasonable number of times a week to keep your horse working, healthy and happy.  You will help clean the house, cook food and maintain the farm.  You will not get a monetary award for doing any of these things because they are your responsibilities.  Now if you go above and  beyond and help with extra things it will not go unnoticed.  They understand that the privilege of owning horses, taking lessons, Pony Club and showing are not things that other kids get to do and that is their payment.  As my daughters will tell you, "we are paid in Pony".

They even make cold, wet shows fun.

You won't hear them whine or complain.  They understand that it is just the way it is.  They know that most of their friends spend most of their time watching tv or on an Ipad or cell phone  with parents that cater to them.  But they are ok with the way it works for them. I do get pressure from my peers that I am too strict, make them work too hard or am boarder line mean for the requirements I put on my kids.  But they will openly admit that my kids are light-years more capable then their own.  And you know what? I'm Ok with that trade off.  Will my kids need therapy as adults?  Probably, it's an on going joke around here.  But even now my kids say that they have it really good and are the most grateful and respectful kids I know.

Having a part in this's just worth it.

I kind of look at it as if they are working students.  It is kind of similar.  Some manual labor for the opportunity to ride, train and compete.  Hey they get free room, board, food, tack, horses, clothes, transportation, lessons, entry fees and any other physical need met.  I'd take that working student position any day.  My parenting style is not for everyone I know that but there is no way I could have a job, 4 horses, 3 kids, 3 cats, a dog and a farm without them pitching in.  NO WAY!  So that is how having it all is even possible. The kids have to carry their weight, period.

Few in this world will ever get to experience what is in this photo.  Not just the kids and the horses but the unique privilege to experience a shared passion with all of their children.  I know it is special I acknowledge that amazing fact.  Tough, expensive and exhausting, yes.  But there is nothing like it in this world and I will cherish it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Having it all : Farm Life Edition

We've all heard and most likely believed at some point that the grass is greener on the other side but is it really?  This is the first installment of a many part series discussing whether the idea of "having it all" is really all it's cracked up to be. Owning your own farm as a competitive horse rider is a multi dimensional topic.  So many Pros but also many cons.  And it is mostly only for certain lifestyles. 

Seeing this as you sip your morning coffee from your dining room table is obviously a big pro.
1. If you don't have the ability to only have a part time job or even not work at all then I would not recommend it.  I know many people who have their horses at home and it is working for them.  The one thing they all have in common is, they have very flexible work hours.  If you work 40+ hours in a week and have your horses at home the only interaction you will be having with horses is cleaning up after them, fixing fences, finding hay, picking up shavings and feeding.  There are just too many tasks on a farm and it takes up far too much time to fit it all in.  I can't imagine working more than I do(which is 15-20 hours a week) and be able to keep up at all.  It was pretty much stress free and doable for the many years I didn't work at all.  Now even with as little as I work it can be a struggle to juggle it all.  And I can't say that the kids are a reason it's hard to keep up because they honestly are one of the only reasons that it works at all.  They are far more help than they aren't.  It all sounds quite entitled, privileged or spoiled but even my husband knows that me working a fulltime job is off the table.  I'm not giving up enjoying my life and if I worked any more than I do it would be all work and no play.  But I do know that that is not a realistic option and in those cases boarding is the way to go.

2. If you enjoy a social life it is not for you.  If you love riding with friends and half of the reason you look forward to going to the barn is because you know you'll see, Suzy or your trainer or the BM.  Riding is fun, we love spending time with our horses.  But if you also enjoy talking to a living being that can also talk back on a frequent basis then you most likely won't be happy with your horses at home.  Yes you can haul out for lessons or trail ride with friends.  But the every day grind of conditioning, schooling will be solo and for many that can just suck the joy and motivation out of it all. 

3. You think you enjoy barn chores, cleaning stalls sweeping the barn aisle, feeding.  Well then I would take a test before you make the plunge.  Volunteer at your current boarding facility to 2-3 times a day do all the barn chores.  Not the occasional, OH I have nothing else to do with my time I'm going to help out at the barn.  No, more like the, I have a million and 1 things to do for work, my family, my house, my friends, myself but instead I am going to go out to the barn and spend a few hours cleaning, organizing, feeding in the freezing cold for FREE!  You should try it.  Your BM will love you.  Actually I am happy to let you come do all of mine to see if you are cut out for it!  Cleaning a stall does not a good farm owner make.

4. Do you like traveling?  Or even the idea that some day you will be able to travel?  Whelp, don't buy a farm.  Does it make traveling impossible?  Maybe.  But no matter what it will definitely limit it.  I know people who haven't gone on a trip in over a decade because they can't leave their horses.  I am lucky enough to have the amazing Monica in my life that I am able to get away at times but there have been many years that wasn't the case.  And even though my vote is that Monica never moves or gets to a place that she can't just pick up and care for my babies I know that will not be the case forever.  Finding a person that is available and that you can trust not to kill your animals while you are gone is far harder than one might think.  And take the word spontaneous out of your vocabulary.  It takes days if not weeks of planning to go anywhere ever for the rest of your life.

5. If you think you'll save yourself money and time by eliminating a board payment and a drive to the barn I will try my best not to chuckle in your face.  After you factor in the expense of a  farm, a tractor, a truck, a trailer (you can get away with ride sharing at a boarding barn but not at home), hay, feed, shavings, fuel costs to pick up all of those things, fence repair, electrical bill etc..  The time it takes to shovel manure for hours, fix fences, manage pasture and the hundred other things that come up you are far better off driving to the barn, showing up riding your horse, writing a check and leaving and driving home.  So that can't be the reason you decide it's right for you. I can assure you that the board payment you make every month is worth every penny.  And barn owners aren't getting rich off of board.

6.  If you are eternally obsessed with perfection PLEASE don't have you horses at home.  You will be miserable. If you can't handle mud on your horse or walk into your boarding barn and huff because the aisle way was left a mess.  Or gasp what would you do if your horses stall didn't get cleaned for a day?  Or two?  OMG the neglect!  Well the ugly truth is it will happen if you are the sole caretaker of your horses.  Perfection is not realistic anywhere but one person and a barn of horses will be a far cry from perfection.  What if your buckets didn't get washed regularly enough?  Or your horses blanket didn't get put on at the right time?  Or your horse didn't get fed on their clock work schedule?  Would you flip?  Would you immediately text your BM and explain how your fluffy prince/princess will surely die because of their shortcomings?  If any of those things are something you cannot fathom your fuzzy Foofoo having to suffer then your horses at home is NOT for you.  It just isn't humanly possible to make all of these things happen when you cannot employ someone to be there do handle it all the time.  You might be surprised but horses are not as fragile as one might think and while inconvenient for us they do survive such travesties.

Those are the realities of having your horses at home.  It truly becomes a way of life.  You plan every thing you do around your barn responsibilities.  Going out for  a fun evening has to be thought out and planned for.  Your plans can change because of weather, water problems, mechanical problems, electrical problems.  Something always comes up.  You will undoubtedly have to choose between, a show and paying the electrician to fix your barn lights.  Or fence repair instead of XC day at Rolex with your friends.  Or you clinic fund be spent on a tractor repair.  Or miss out on a fun day shopping at the tack store because you have too much crap to deal with, literally.  Or forego blogging for months on end because you just can't keep up....ahem...  You will likely not show as much or advance as quickly as your peers in your discipline because of all of the time and money that go into having your own farm and that can be a hard pill to swallow over and over again.  And you will have many days you have to forego a ride because you just have too many things around the property to accomplish.

If I make it sound all bad it really isn't but I will say it is not for most.  It is for me for now.  I imagine when my kids are grown and moved on that I will most likely board.  For many reasons but freedom and flexibility at that phase will be a nice change.  Right now I do enjoy the brunt labor and will look for any reason to get out of a social event even if it is for shoveling shit.  I love the ability to just walk out to the barn and get a little therapy.  Or look out the window and soak in the beauty of my beloved creatures. The freedom to just run out for quick ride when time is limited.  To get a daily dose of equine interaction and not have to sometimes go days in-between seeing my horses.  These reasons, for me, outweigh the hassle and trouble of the previous 6 points.  But I know for many that is not the case.  It is just not the lifestyle that many want to lead. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016


It's all glitz and glamor over here.  Yep, feeding horses and cleaning out the horse trailer after last nights excursion, in my pink heart pajama pants an oversized T-shirt, muck boots and no bra. Now try to get that image out if your head.  That is exactly what my husband is trying to do after he came out to the barn to say goodbye this morning in his suit and tie.  He's one lucky guy he is.  Last nights excursion that got us home much later than planned because SOMEONE apparently, though close, is NOT perfect.  He does not agree that getting on a trailer in the dark is something he should have to do.  I'll let you in on a secret.  That someone is Lego.  Thanks to my savior Monica! Because it appears that in my frustration all sense had left me on how to get a horse on a trailer.  After years of struggles with Steady over this you'd think I'd have it figured out.  How quickly one forgets.  Or maybe block it out of your memory.  Oh and Monica is now an official contributor to the, "why Amy's kids need therapy as adults" YAY!  See it is  not just me that shouts expletives and horses that are being expletives.  Thanks Mon, I really didn't want to be alone in this.  ;)  Kidding, you know I love you!  It has been a good long while, like years since I've had any issues with a horse loading.  All mine self load at this point.  But last night I got a refresher on what it is like to have a horse refuse to load.  Guess what we'll be working on for an undetermined amount of time.  Oh and if you were wondering what Lego's go to evasion tactic is.  It is exit stage right and drag any human along behind him if they don't agree.  Draft horse who decides to pull, well humans are on the losing end of that battle.  Unless a trusty lunge line and leverage is involved.  Whomp, whomp..Lego's plan was eventually foiled.  It was a good run though Dude while it lasted.  He did get free approximately 4 times in the process though.  I am SO glad that running is not his forte and stopping and eating every chance he gets is.  Makes it much easier to catch a loose horse in the pitch dark.

But aside from the trailer experience we had a great time.  We took all 4 kids, Steady, Lego and Penny to ride at M's barn.  Lily stayed home. We don't have enough saddles or trailer spots for everyone.  So the two youngest took turns on Penny.  Everyone got to jump and did great.  Elaina is figuring out what it is like to ride a horse that knows his job and all you have to do is sit up, ride straight, know where you're going and stay out of his way.  This is a whole new world to her.  An awesome one which she will come to learn but it is new to her.  She is so used to having to work really hard for everything.  It can be hard when it is so easy.  That seems like an oxymoron but it is true. Kelcie and Penny there are just no words.  They are the cutest things to watch jump around.  Even when the approach isn't perfect an Kelcie catches some good air. The K has some strange agreement with gravity and her laws. It only applies when she wants it too.  Because even in those 2 feet of air between her and the saddle moments she always seems to meet it again like nothing ever happened. Sorry riding, Momming and instructing does not a videographer make.  No media of the adorableness's.

All the things in this photo does a happy Mom make.  K is cooling out Lego after Elaina's ride.

 Macy even got to jump a few jumps.  She is still very green rider and new to jumping and Penny isn't the easiest to learn to jump on because she is a 'Hoppy' jumper.  And Macy is quite big for Penny so they only jumped a few X's.  But that was enough.  Next time we'll take Lily and they can have more fun.  Macy and Lily are really a matched pair.  They have the same personality and even built the same.  So I'll need to get some media of those two together.  One thing that was over looked on social media, not at home, is that through all of the new horse excitement we have another really excited little girl around here because now that Elaina has Lego.  Macy now has her very own Lily.

That's one excited M!
Even though we've had Lily for years it makes such a huge difference in an 11 year old's world when that pony finally become HERS! 

And last but not super exciting I did get to pop over a few jumps on Steady too!  I couldn't do too much because I was instructing kids and wanted Monica to have her time to jump too.  It's all fine though.  I got to jump a little and I am my horse is really out of shape anyways and we need to take it slow.  I mean this is our second ride in 4  months we didn't need to do a bunch.  I have much more time on my hands then the kids or Monica do so I was content letting them all get their ride time in.  He was actually really really good about everything I asked of him.  He is far too attached to the other horses and it doesn't help when he gets to be feral for so long but that is Steady.  Like or not it's his deal.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Mapping a Show Season 1

It's becoming an art of sorts trying to sort out what a show season will look like around here now.  The horse activity level just keeps growing the more and more kids and horses that get involved.  There are schooling shows, recognized shows, Pony club activities and Rally's.  I'm actually up for suggestions on how one navigates this.  Where do I start?  I would usually start with prioritizing then go from there.  After that goals. Then availability.  It sounds strange to prioritize your children though.  But in reality with them all being at different levels it isn't that bad.  Elaina is the oldest and most advanced.  She is at the point where recognized events are on her horizon.  While the other two really have no business doing USEA events.  So schooling shows are just fine for them.  I guess the whole gist of it all would be to break this all down into smaller bite size pieces.

We will start with Me.  Reality is there is there is no physically possible way to make the entire season all about what I want so all of my goals will be weighted first with the how realistic will it be for it to happen filter.  Example: if kids have a pony club camp or Rally etc. then anything that may be going on at that time that I want to do will be trumped.  That may seem like a tough sacrifice to give up your own plans for someone else but if you ever have kids this involved in horses that are advancing and competing you will understand that it is no sacrifice at all to watch your flesh and blood out there doing what they love.

Elaina and I- One lesson a week  $50 a wk x 4 wk= $200 a month
Me- Event camp  $800
Me- possible clinics that come up but none specific in mind right now. $ 300-500 x?
3 Kids- Pony club camp $200 x 3 = $600
3 Kids- monthly  pony club clinics and lessons $30 x 3 = $90 a month

Me: 2 recognized events at Novice  $750 x 2 = $1500
Elaina: Complete her first recognized event at Beginner Novice $750
All 4 of us: As many schooling shows I can get to. Whether they be H/J, CT's, Dressage or HT.  Estimated cost of a show for all 4 of us that is local (I.e. no hotel and little fuel expense) $400 x 3 = $1200

Trail ride to our hearts content.  This is my most favorite and easily achieved.  All the training and showing goals pale in comparison when it comes to spending endless hours out riding our horses through trails and fields and hills and water with my kids.  Get my husband out on the trails at least a few times.  Now that we have Lego I have a horse to put the Hubby on!  And the best part?  It's free!  $0

Possible goals floating around in my brain
Be competitive at first level by the end of the season.
This is an idea at the moment.  I must first start by putting some effort into seeing if advancing in Dressage is something I could enjoy.  My horse could and would make an stunning dressage horse.  And if I could find the desire to put focused attention into that area I am confident he cold go far.  Thoughts of first level are floating around.

So to add it up the total of just lessons/clinics/camps and competitions are almost $7000.
Maybe adding it up was not my best decision because that is painful to think about.  But I'll break that down over about a 7 month show season it's $1000 a month, $250 a week.  Ok this isn't helping...

I'm curious what are your budgets?  I don't know of anyone who reads this blog that is in our situation with 4 riders in one house but what is your budget as an individual if you don't mind sharing.  One up side is after years of having this as the budget for all 4 of us.  That one day even if it is several years down the road that budget can be all mine!  I mean we will already have it budgeted for so it just makes sense!

Next will be breaking down of the calendar.  Yikes!  That is the scary part.  Family stuff, vacations, Pony club activities, USEA calendar, Oh yeah and get the picture.  So I will leave that to another day because you know what I really have to do to make any goals happen?  Actually ride my horse!  And this amazing unseasonable weather is screaming my name.  So hours of dissecting our mess of a calendar is not first on my list of things I'm going to do today.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Shopping List!

Their first ride together.  He is such a good,  honest fella.

One of the other really fun parts of getting a new animal is all the fun new things you need to buy for them!!!  Some of you are far more versed in this subject than I.  I am not inherently a shopper.  But I do love all things tack store.  I'm also not a great bargain shopper because I like to touch and feel all the things before my money disappears.  And usually you can get the best deals on the interwebs which lacks all the touches and feels.  I don't like my money disappearing but I am also one to spend more money on something I know will last and is exactly what I need then on a bunch of things that cost less that I may or may  not actually use.  One reason I love to shop at Rolex is ALL the touches and feels!  They have 10 of everything, all brands, sizes and styles.  So I get to spend hours upon hours getting completely lost in all the things.  Another reason I go on Thursday.  It's like having the biggest most amazing tack store all to yourself for an entire day.  Friday and Saturday are far too busy and I get distracted so those are the days you spend pretending to buy Dubarry's and getting drunk on champagne in the Dubarry tent.  It helps if you have rich friends that will drink enough champagne they will actually by something.  Then the champagne just flows!

Anyways I got lost in a day dream about Rolex for a minute there.  BTW the annual Mecca trip is in T-8 weeks!  Right now we have some things that will hold us over until we can get everything we need.  An old bridle of Steady's, the saddle we use on Lilly.  We may have to run out and buy a bit and girth at the most.  But we are likely to have enough things lying around we can piece together enough tack to get our ride on.  But ultimately we will need all the things.


Most of these are fun things to look at and purchase and it's nice to be in a place that money really is not an issue and we could go out to Dover and get it all.  But who doesn't like a good deal?  And then there is figuring out sizes, hello draft horse size legs.  Research on what is the best.  And let's not even get into saddle fitting. Yuck, that is the only thing I find dreadful when it comes to shopping for new things.

Anyone out there got any tips on the best sites to check out?

I don't think I will buy a bridle until I find a saddle.  Much easier to find a bridle the fits and matches then the other way around.  Same with a girth.  So it looks like we have to start with the worst part first and find a saddle.  I will check out how Elaina's current saddle fits him and go from there.  That saddle will ultimately be passed on to Macy and Lilly.  Elaina is growing out of it.

Blankets I am pretty much sold on Schneider's.  Steady has had his Medium weight blanket from them for 5 years now and it is still in near perfect condition besides dirty.  We will just need to measure for a blanket.

The other fun thing is boots.  We need to decide what kind we need.  Chances are he will end up with a pair of Majik Equipe XC boots. 

Fun Fun Fun!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Home coming!

Lego is home!  Yesterday I took the day to spend with my oldest daughter.  I surprised her in the morning after she got ready for school that in fact she was skipping school today to go pick up her horse!  Best mom ever status achieved!  She said that skipping school to go pick up her horse was pretty much heaven for her.  We about 24 hours in and everyone is already pretty much settled. Besides the occasional game of "ring around the round bale" that they seem to enjoy playing.
One Happy Kid.

We got stall number 4 all ready.  Hooked up the trailer and off we went to Cincinnati.  The trainer brought him up from the field and it was a fairly quick process of getting vet paperwork and loading up.
Loaded up and ready to head home.

 We pulled up and opened up his window so he could pop his head out and all three horses were out in the field simultaneously looked at him, looked at each other then ran to the fence to stare and snort at the new guy.  He walks off the trailer.  Looks around for about 1 second then proceeds to put his head down to eat.  I walked him the fence so they could say hi.  He doesn't even bother lifting his head while he is sniffed by Steady and the randomly jump and run. 

Oh Hai.  You guys have good grass here.
That was completely uneventful.  So we put him in our small dry lot so they could all look at each other across the driveway.  Initially I thought he would hang out there for a couple days until everyone became ho hum about each other.  I didn't foresee him being completely ho hum from the get go.  He just was.

Oh look hays too.

Hello Beautiful

 I gave them a couple hours like that then decided to introduce him into the pasture.  I pulled out Lily because I figured of everyone she would be the most drama.  Turns out Penny found this as her opportunity to finally boss someone around.  Steady is just insistent that he must be in between him and his ladies at all times.  Again Lego?  Completely unfazed by any of them or their attempts to draw him into pointless prancing and running.  He pretty much ignores all of them and looks for food.  I am falling in love with this guy more and more by the second.  Such a chill guy.

I have to say I like the look of him in the field.  We now have a chestnut/flaxen, Liver chestnut, gray and a bay.  It's like a rainbow of colors when you look out the window.  We stuck him the cross ties in the evening and groomed him.  I did a bit of ground work to see how he would be and you guessed it.  He was completely chill about it.  Then Elaina did some ground work with him.  This will be a daily occurrence with him until he understands that ground manners are A #1 around here.  If I can't lead my horses with only a lead rope around their neck and have complete control.  Standing, stopping, backing, trotting, stopping with no physical pressure then they hit the round pen.  It is just how it is around here.  I have too many kids handling them and I do not need my 9 year old dragged across the yard to get to a patch of grass.  And right now I think being leased and used at a lesson barn his ground work was never consistent enough. It is clear he knows what manners are he just tries to figure out whether or not they are optional. 

Meeee drag small children for fooodz????

He is such a gorgeous creature.  I am still in disbelief we got lucky enough to get such an incredible horse for next to nothing.  I've looked longingly at draft crosses for years and daydreamed of getting one.  But didn't think it was in the cards unless I got a young one and started from square one.  Which was not something I was particularly fond of doing.  I just feel so blessed to add this guy to our family.  He is going to be so fancy!  You should see his trot.  It's gorgeous. Ground covering, impulsion, just beautiful movement.

Why are they trying to smell my butt do they not see there is grass?
And now the shopping!  He needs all the things!  I am going to post next about all the things we need to buy for him.  Rolex is coming up soon too!  But it would be nice to find some stuff we need used at a good discount.  One thing we already had waiting for him when he came home a nice triple stitched leather halter and a name plate. 

Welcome home Legacy!  There will be no more bouncing around from barn to barn, lesson kid to lesson kids or leaser to leaser.  You are home now!