Imagine yourself sitting in a chair, right here, gazing out into the distance. Notice the vibrant green of the clover. The soft, subtle ripples of the water. Do you feel the breeze on your skin?
See the twinkling reflection of the sunlight over the top of the pond as it blends into those ripples. The dancing, magical light of the setting sun. Stare, just for a fleeting minuscule moment, at the sun, and how it fades into an the deepening sky above you. Can you see the setting of the sun?
I hope each and every one of you and yours had a very merry and happy Christmas and New Year.
I hope your bubbly was cold, feelings warm, and family and friends present (including all the animals!).
May the many blessings of our Lord shower upon you. Peace, love, and joy. Keep the Christmas spirit alive all year long.
Here we are. 2020 (well, a few days in, but who is counting). A new year and a new decade. Apparently that is a big deal to a bunch of people, bringing a whole new perspective and pressure to New Year resolutions.
New year, new you. New decade, new…what? NEW new you? Bestest you? That is a whole log of a lot if you ask me when just regular new year resolutions are hard enough for most.
I feel like for many people, myself over here included, 2019 what a doozy of a year. It felt like a decade in itself with everything that happened and interestingly enough, did not happen, as it…uh…happens. I do not think I have ever been more happy or relieved to see one year go and another come into view.
Then, just as I thought the corner was turning on this new year and new decade, it all balled up, really skidded out, and crashed and burned right as the celebratory, welcoming fireworks were starting. And there was nothing I could do about it.
I have never been a fan of celebrating on NYE because there are just too many expectations and pressures that lead to let down. However, this really was not the way I intended on it going or spending it.
Indeed I could probably be more vague. Frustrating I know. It is just not for right now. The what and the how and the why are not for right now. And that is OK. One day I might tell more. Will probably tell more. I just need more time to sit with it, you know?
Luckily for me, I can. I have that time. I can pull my own car over and shift it into park. Take a breath as I take my foot off the brake. Look into that rear view mirror. Then. Not look back at the mess. The wreckage. Lay my eyes out the windshield on today. And tomorrow. Learn what I need to learn. Take the good and leave the bad.
Here is the thing and the point for today. The AHAmoment. Sure January 1 is a new year. BUT. It is also a new day. Every day is a new day.
A NEW day.
Do you hear me?!
A new day to be your best self. Be better than you were the day before. To do the right thing. To follow through. Anything, you name it. We are not promised it. Take that right there to heart.
I am not making New Year’s resolutions this year (which really will not come as much of a surprise as I typically do not). I am however making a resolution to wake each day grateful to be here. To allow myself time to breathe and do what is right for me. To take care of me and my animals. To step forward, one step at a time each day, with “grit anchored in grace.” That is me, leather and lace.
“I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but I’m stepping forward with grit anchored in grace.” ~Julie Graham
Nobody but the Lord knows what the future holds. I am more than OK with that. I am here! I am focusing on today. He has me. Has my back. He is the light and the path. He knows the way for me. I will stay focused on Him and pray for His comfort, grace, peace, strength, and guidance. To have the eyes to see.
Enough about that for today.
Let us talk about Christmas and food since we completely skipped over that!
For one of our Christmas gatherings, I made an exorbitant amount of these cinnamon rolls…so we could enjoy them all week. I did not roll the dough out thin enough, rolled them up sloppily, could not get them to look like the picture, and I OVER BAKED them. Sigh. However, I think they still had very good flavor and will be better the next time. Breads like this can be tricky. I think it was a win for a first time bread attempt. It will happen again and they will be even better.
I also had fun with cream cheese fruit tarts because I am crazy and wanted to make all the things. ALL. THE. THINGS.
This punkin’ pumpkin pie was another first time for me and it was totally worth it! Also…so very easy. The saying ‘easy as pie’ is pretty funny to me because pies are pretty dang easy…way easier than cakes!
Merle and I had a festive patio lunch after playing with friends. You can see evidence of such in the mud spot on his back leg. I think he looks smashing…even if is collar does not really go with the bow tie and his coat is, well, let us just say needed a bath and a good brushing. The bow tie is now dead post Christmas fun. That just means he will need a new one for next year!
For Christmas day I made a savory herb cheesecake with sage, thyme, and rosemary as the main part of a cheese board. Y’all. Do this. So worth it. So very good.
It is also very pretty in my opinion.
Merle was very worn out with all the preparations! …and so was I!
I made my favorite Pomegranate cake for Christmas day as well and it is always a winner. It is a great cake base and you can substitute the pomegranate flavor for any other that you wish. I used ice cream cones to create a snowy forest for the decoration. A bit abstract, but those are my favorite types of cakes.
After all of the Christmas festivities, it was time to lay low to rest, relax, recoup, and rejoice through the bringing in of the new year. Through it all. Even still, there is much to celebrate. I reflected on the old and looked forward to the new. I tried to focus on rooting myself in the present as I waded stepped into the New Year.
Then of course, I enjoyed some quality time with the horses and my Merle. They are my blessings. How I get through.
We took every day to try and celebrate life in whatever way we could. This is one way I like to do it with my people. I like to go to the trouble and make it nice for everyone.Candle lit alfresco is my favorite way to dine and I have a thing for setting tables. Even if we were having a seemingly simple meal of chili and cornbread. It is the little things.
We had a couple of really foggy mornings. It makes for nice exercising weather. Well, any weather is nice for to be on the back of a horse. I have a theory about fog. God likes Sunday mornings to be foggy so we remember to slow down and enjoy Sunday. More often than not, Sunday mornings at the farm are foggy. I think those two foggy days after Christmas were a reminder to do just that. Slow down and remember the reason. To be quiet and still just like the weather.
So. That is what I did.
My ever happy Mighty Merle Man while doing the farm run around.
We savored sunsets.
Enjoyed endless velvet muzzles.
Soaked in sunrises.
Even if they were a bit cold and frosty. After all that fog, we had a couple of chilly mornings.
Today is a two cup of coffee kind of day. What about y’all? It seems every day this week has been a two cup day.
It appears as though I have been surprisingly void of any real, seemingly conscious thought to share. The truth is actually, probably the opposite, but we shall worry about that another day. I have not even taken very many photos. Weird.
But. We did do a thing last weekend. More than write home worthy. It has taken me a few days to digest the experience. And well, life keeps happening and has left me with not as much time for this space. Anyway.
See what I did there? You will soon find I have only four photos of my own to share with you from the whole weekend. I did get a few from one of the other participants of me riding on Sunday, so that is something. I also took zero notes. I intended to take notes, but when you are actually riding in a clinic, it is a lot going on. I did not get to watch as much as I wanted to either, but that is OK because hey, I got to ride!
We arrived on Friday around 4:30 PM. A little bit later than I had planed for, but all is well that ends well, right? Right. We unloaded and got settled in a stall while the last rider of the day finished his lesson. When the arena cleared out, I took Lito for a little stroll to have a looksee at the surroundings.
He was unimpressed by the pretty painted sticks.
After our stroll, I gave him his evening feed and tucked him in for the night to go check into my hotel and rustle up some dinner for myself.
Saturday morning I arrived at the barn at 7 to feed, take another walk around, and get some grooming in before the clinic started at 9. My ride time was at 11 so I watched the first lesson and part of the second before going to tack up.
I did a good job of keeping my anxiety in check once I got mounted in the area. It has been a long time, and a long time over due, since I have ridden in a clinic or taken lessons.
First order of business, bitting and conact. Lito has never really liked any bit I have put in his mouth and has always been fussy and worried about it every time we attempt contact. I have never really had or ridden horses that had bitting issues. They all just seemed to go happily in whatever you put in their mouth. Not the case with Lito and his fat tongue. I have tried different bits with no luck. It is one of the main reasons we have not really done much work towards getting collected and ‘on the bit’ and learning what all that means.
After going through a few transitions from the walk to the halt, back to walk and some turns, he suggested I try, if I wanted, a different bit with some tongue relief that he had for his horse that has a similar mouth. I replied in the affirmative. We gave him a minute to get used to the feel and then it was like a night and day difference. One minute he was shaking his head with his mouth gaped open and tongue flailing about and the next he was light as a feather and just there in the contact when he figured it out. Like floating on a cloud. Now we can start to build from there. Granted he still has a way to go and still has moments of confusion and worry, but nothing like before and I believe most of that will iron out with time.
By the way, I ordered that bit. I hesitated to do it a little because I did not want to be sold by a salesman trying to sell his own product. However, that really was not the case. He never once said, “buy this and it will fix all your problems.” He said, “hey, if you want to try this you can. Or I have a Myler you can try. Whatever you want. If you like it, that’s great, if you don’t, no worries.”
The rest of the lesson we focused on getting a soft and solid contact (mainly me being consistent and keeping my reins shorter and being there for him, closing the gap. My reins seem to always be too long.) and soft and solid transitions. Halt to walk to halt to back to halt to walk to trot to walk to halt. Maintaining that contact for a few strides and then letting him stretch and relax. Building that strength. Feeling that softness and openness of the transition from inside me and allowing them to happen. This is something that Mark is so great at. Getting everyone to be soft and open, mainly by being so himself. Searching for the feeling of what we want so the horse can meet us there. To achieve the same feeling in everything we do. He did not speak down to anyone or make anyone feel small. He wanted everyone, no matter the level, to achieve that inner softness and openness and to get better.
After a break for lunch, which I couldn’t really eat because I was just still a little high, I worked with Mark’s student to reestablish the level we got to during my lesson and take it a little further.
By the end of Saturday, Lito and I were a bit exhausted and hungry and ready for a shower and bed. I brought a pizza and a bottle of wine back to the hotel and crashed.
On Sunday I did the same morning routine as Saturday and settled in to watch the first lesson.
Then at 10, Lito got a Masterson Method body work session! Y’all. That was amazing to watch and Lito was very responsive and gave big releases. Mark’s wife, Crissi is certified in the Masterson Method. It was fun to watch her work because she is so quiet, soft, and confident like Mark.
I do not have any photos or videos of his session, but this is an introduction on the method. There are many videos out there to watch. I wish I had videoed his session!
It was about this time that the wind picked up and changed the energy of the day.
My lesson was at 2, so I watched what I could and then got tacked up. While I was waiting outside of the arena, a gust of wind made one of the standing tents take flight and every horse thought it was going to eat them. Unfortunately, that set the tone for the rest of the afternoon, but it gave us a chance to work through that tension and get his attention back on the task at hand by changing direction and going to do something else. Redirecting the energy. Not reacting to his responses.
I used a Myler bit that was similar to the bit I used on Saturday to see if Lito responded differently. I think he liked the bit from Saturday more than the Myler as he was a bit mouthy the whole lesson, but we got to a good soft place faster than we did on Saturday. It is all still new for him and with the tension/reactiveness caused by the wind, there was a lot going on. It will take a little time I think for him to break the habit of worry and tension created from the previous bits.
We did more transition work and building on what we did the day before. Being better about my consistency and defining the expectations. Teaching him where the boundaries are. Towards the end we got some really nice downward transitions keeping the energy, momentum, and push all the way through.
Afterwards we worked again with Mark’s student, G, but I probably should have opted out of that because he was just fried at this point. And I guess so was I.
All in all, I was quite proud of him. He handled himself very well. And. I will say. So did I. I am proud of the both of us. It was a great clinic and I am glad I did it. We have more to build on and a next level to reach now. We both received compliments and I am over the moon.
The afternoon was wearing on, Monday was fast approaching, and we had a ways to go to get home. I packed and loaded everything and lead Lito to the trailer…
Quiet woman, screaming mare. Exciting sounding, right?
Well, it is not as exciting as this, which is where we eventually ended up, thankfully…
Many life lessons can be learned from the horse. I was reminded of one on Saturday:
Sometimes it pays to walk away from something for a little, go do something else, and come back later. It is not giving up or quitting. AHAmoment.
I woke up early as per usual to get going before the heat. All was serene and quiet on the farm, including Cheetah. A very pretty morning, honestly. Well, that is what I get for thinking.
It became very clear shortly after mounting we were going to be spending almost the entirety of the ride convincing her to walk. Just walk. And not lose her mind. Would not have been able to even think about stopping enjoying the scenery. Or smell roses. If there had been roses. Clearly just her running thoroughbred side is the only side that showed up to play.
She was literally SCREAMING the whole time. Lito, of course, innocent little man he is, answered in kind every time. Thanks, buddy. Let us not do that next time. Scratch that out of your book of life.
Anyway, after about an hour of consciously not reacting to her antics and a pool full of sweat (hey at least I have a horse that sweats, right?), we were walking without trying to run and scream. I decided to hop off, loosen her girth, and tie her up for a while. I went to take care of a few other things. Give us both a little time to cool off and relax.
I came back a little while later and mounted back up for a quick walk loop around the farm to see if she would be any better.
And? She was a completely different horse. Back to being my best mare.
It is amazing how quick the switch can flip. Now, do not you say any quick witted comments about women. We know how we can be, OK?
The point is, sometimes things can just be off, for any one reason or another. If a change in approach in the moment doesn’t help, take a break. Let it sit for a while. Take a breath. Get centered. Then come back and try again. Sometimes powering through is the answer, but on Saturday it just didn’t feel that way. And, we didn’t have to. We had the option to take a break and try again. Which paid off handsomely.
No worries, if you were. Still chugging along over here!
Just trying to catch up on life, day by day. An odd thought if you ask me, when you really think about it. Catching up on life. Sometimes, stuff just adds up in life and there is not much time left to do anything but get what rest you can and wake up in the morning and do it again. AHAmoment. Tackle the day you have when you get it, and get done what needs to get done. No more, no less. Just like riding the horse you have that day. Sometimes, the basic needs are all that gets accomplished, and that is more than OK! One step at a time. Just let go and let Him because He is our strength. With Him and trough Him, all will get done, in His time! And it will be beautiful.
Working, injured horse, equine health scare, hours and miles in the car, moving, mom’s knee surgery, broken cars, change, and a whole lot of other every day life stuff has kinda added up over the last month and my conversations with y’all have suffered. For that, I am sorry. But, we are no worse for wear and hopefully slowing down a little! It is easier to remember to breathe when there are not so many things going on, but just like H said, slow down and take a breath and then take a step. If I would have remembered that, maybe I would not have had that diesel incident!…or lack there of, as it were.
I do not have much to report and that is OK. This too shall change, of that I am sure.
We finished Lito’s rehab/physical therapy exercise regimen yesterday with complete soundness and the vet came out to check him. He was cleared to be on full turnout again and to slowly return to full work! Relieved is what I think I feel, but it is a slow release. One day, one step, one breath at a time! I will ride the horse I have that day and we will get back to where we were! I am celebrating this!
Also, I am finally and officially moved into my townhouse. Let us not discuss how long that took me. Way too long, but that does not matter. What matters is that Darcy and I are there and we love it. It feels good and we have already met a neighbor! I have a few things left I need to tend to, but we are 90% there.
Anyway, that is where we are.
I will leave you with this, my final thought. Brought to you by Owen Temple. Make it a beautiful life. You do only get one. We are surrounded by beauty and light if we allow ourselves to see it!
“Not gonna give up, not gonna give in
Making a life, not just a living”
Like seeing my horses basically every day for the past several weeks. Darcy. The green grass and trees. The blue sky and clouds. The breeze that kept us cooler. The sound of hoof beats on our dirt road. Lito’s attitude and heart, golden rod coat, Beatles-like mane, and cute pricked ears. Like finally having my own place again. Like my cousin marrying the woman of his dreams and being with my family. Celebrating Father’s Day with my dad!
Walk in love, dear readers! Until next time. Very soon.