Walk to Mordor

I don’t really have any 2019 goals at this point. I’ve learned with catch riding that it’s a difficult endeavor to try to set concrete (or even nebulous) goals when you’re at the whim and mercy of other people’s schedules, agendas, and plans. So to that end, I’ll basically take things as they came, and whatever happens, happens.

With that out of the way…I do like finding ways to make my daily routines more interesting. One thing I do on a daily basis is take the dogs out for a walk or run. While I try to hit 2-3 miles most days of the week, there are some days that not even the threat of a couple of hyperactive terriers is enough to motivate me to do more than a loop around our neighborhood.

I think that just might change this year, because I found a really, really fun distance tracker app.

Walk to Mordor

For a bit of backstory: I’m something of a fantasy and sci-fi geek. I didn’t necessarily “grow up” with those genres from a young age, but got introduced to them in middle school, and have been regularly getting lost in various fantasy worlds ever since. But from the middle of high school and onward, one thing that has stuck with me on the regular is the writings of JRR Tolkien — the world of Middle Earth, The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit. (And a ton of others, but that’s beside that point…)

The world of Middle Earth grabbed me from the get-go, and the older I get, the deeper into it I get. So when I found a distance tracking app designed to log your miles and show it as a representation of the journey from Hobbiton to Mordor, I had to get it.


The app is using the figure of 1932 miles…I haven’t pulled my Middle Earth atlas yet to figure out exactly how accurate that is or not, but I’m going with it. I’m pretty sure I can cover the distance just on my daily walks/runs with the girls within the year. If I get pretty ambitious on mileage covered, I may even figure out the distance the hobbits covered from Gondor back to Hobbiton and try to do the entire round-trip journey within the year.

Might be a bit silly, but it gives me something to do and internal incentive to crawl out of bed when it’s cold, dark, and early. As my alarm label says, “If Frodo can get the ring to Mordor, you can get out of bed.”

It was an impulse idea, made at 6AM this morning, to install the app and set my “trip to Mordor” mileage goal…but to that end, the girls and I logged 4.78 miles this morning.

So, I guess 2019 is going to be the year of “Mordor or Bust!”

Baby Steps

I’ve made mention here and there in some posts and touched on some of my own personal fear issues + riding, and how it’s something I’ve really battled since the very beginning of my riding days. I think it’s a cyclical thing, generally ushered in by “something bad” happening (usually a parting of the ways with the horse), and then fading away as “nothing bad” happens for a while.

As much as I would dearly love to just completely vanquish this fear and have it completely go away, I don’t know if that will ever happen…I don’t think it’s in my psychological makeup to be that ballsy and fearless about anything.

But at the same time, I’m also tired of being so careful and cautious that I’m letting that fear control me. This particular cycle seems particularly deep-seated and insidious, and I’ve had enough.

Apparently Mimi had enough, too, last weekend, when she mutinied on yet another session of nice “safe” arena work with some very clear and pointed body language that said “I’m over this.” Once we exited the arena, she took matters into her own hooves and marched us straight down the driveway to the property gate and stood there until I reached over and unlatched the gate, which she promptly shoved open, walked through, and then nudged closed again.

So riding out around the neighborhood at any place I’ve boarded at has never been my favorite thing to do in life. Some early on bad experiences such as parting ways with the pony and going skidding across the pavement left an impression (and ruined my favorite shirt) that’s been hard to shake, and I have a hard time relaxing in that setting. Give me real trail any day.

But around the neighborhood is the most feasible option right now…and what better way to start tackling the fear cycle currently set to “on” than something that historically makes me uncomfortable?


Overall, the roads are pretty quiet around the barn, and most of them have wide dirt shoulders with lots of room to move over, and 95% of the drivers are polite and courteous. (And for the other 5%? Well, the pony isn’t phased by traffic and vehicles, fortunately.)

Last Sunday was particularly quiet. It was still early, and the skies were overcast, with slightly-lower-than-normal temperatures. With traffic non-existent, it was the perfect opportunity to move out a little bit — Mimi is far less prone to “look” at stuff when we’re trotting along. Only at one point, she got it in her head that she needed to practice to be a Top Ten Tevis horse, a la “cantering through the streets of Foresthill,” and started cantering when I wouldn’t let her power trot.

Ummmm…okay, then. Guess there’s a reason I put boots on her.

We didn’t go far — all of a couple of miles — but as the post title suggests, baby steps. Even those couple of miles served as a confidence booster.


And today, I was willing to try it again. We didn’t even look at the arena…just went jogging in-hand straight down the driveway, mounted up outside the gate, and struck out down the street…where we made it all of 100 yards before she had to dramatically startle-and-spook-in-place because…horses in the pasture trotted over to the fence.


Actually, points to me because all I did was laugh. I did not turn into a clutching monkey, I did not get all control-freak rein-grabby, I did not get scared. I called her a couple of names, tapped her with my heels, and moved on down the street.

We did some nice, purposeful trotting down the street, explored a aside street we hadn’t been on in a while, chased a vulture and its precious roadkill prize, and worked on the pony power-walk.


vulture + roadkill in the distance


do we care about things like storm drains and flowing irrigation canals? nope. just other horses/animals.

Last weekend, I had also pulled out my old Big Horn saddle. It started life as our gymkhana/barrel saddle, then migrated over to be our initial trail saddle. After one too many “ribs meet saddle horn” incidents, I sawed off the horn, wrapped the pommel in leather, and led a much happier existence when it came to climbing hills.

Funny thing, though…I’ve never loved this saddle. I always felt like the twist was uncomfortably wide for me…never mind we managed around 200 competition miles, between NATRC and LD endurance rides, plus upteen training miles…and it’s never made Mimi sore. I was never brave enough to try a 50 in it, despite messing with things like swapping out the original fenders for more flexible biothane ones, and trying to make it as comfortable as possible for me.

But it’s also the saddle that lives down at the barn. Since the tack room is a large metal box, it gets ridiculously hot in there, and I don’t feel like storing my really nice leather saddles in that. I’m also out of room for any more saddle storage at the house, so it’s the Big Horn’s luck that it gets to live down at the barn as my “spare” saddle for when I don’t feel like toting one of the others back and forth.

But it’s also the saddle that has never done me wrong. In all the years I’ve owned it…my butt has stayed Velcro’d to it. And right now, I could use that little bit of mental confidence.

So last week, the Big Horn got pressed back into service…with my knees reminding me the whole time of how much I hate the regular Western fenders, and Mimi not loving the Western cinch set-up. A bit of garage rummaging, plus a quick blitz through Riding Warehouse, and this weekend, the Big Horn got another makeover:


Biothane English billets to replace the standard Western cinch set-up, which allows me to use one of her preferred mohair girths, and fenders replaced with thin, flexible Zilco English leathers covered in sheepskin fleeces were the two big changes I made. I need to remember to bring one of my fleece seat covers, though, since that seat is not particularly cushy.

Interesting to note: the twist no longer feels as wide as it used to. Theorizing that the last time I spent a significant amount of time in this saddle, I weighed about 50 pounds more than I do now. In dropping the weight, I also dropped inches…all around…so it’s entirely possible that losing a bit of the thigh spread has given me more room to more comfortably sit in the saddle.

Just changing the fenders out made for a much more comfortable ride today, and I found myself actually enjoying riding in that saddle. Yet I don’t feel too guilty leaving it down at the barn, so that’s one less thing I have to lug back and forth.


snoozy girl

And for another “go figure” moment: turns out Mimi loves the Myler pelham with the reins set on the lower curb setting. She’s super-soft, responsive, doesn’t fight against it at all, and didn’t protest in the slightest when I asked that she not jig home when vehicles were passing us. Okay, then. Didn’t think a pelham versus kimberwick would be that big of a difference, but apparently in Pony World…it is.


And finally, if there’s another equine on this planet that makes as much of a mess of their electrolytes as this one…I have yet to meet them. Pretty sure she got maybe 40% of the dose, and the rest ended up on her face, her legs, the ground, my hands, my hair (euw), the barn dog, the barn chickens…you get the idea.

So that’s two productive weekends. Maybe not productive in the traditional sense of “look at all the miles we rode”, etc…but productive for me, with where I’m at in life right now and some of the things I have to address. This isn’t going to happen with leaps and bounds or overnight progress…but proactively taking even baby steps in the right direction is still better than sitting around just hoping something changes on its own.

It’s funny…when I got her, Mimi was the pony I needed for me at the time…and 20 years later, she’s still being the pony I need for me right now. I am so, so fortunate to have gotten my Heart Horse right off the bat, and to have her be able to slide into whatever role I’ve needed at whatever time. She is truly my once in a lifetime horse, with a spot in my heart that is permanently hers.

Between the Pages

I’ve always been a reader. From the time I was an infant, my parents read me books, and for years, my mom and I had a nightly ritual of her reading to me. (And once I learned to read to myself, my insatiable curiosity for wanting to know “what happened next” would have me pulling the book out and reading ahead, and then putting it back for the next night. Not sure if you knew i did that, Mom. ;) And I never got in trouble for doing things like sneaking out to party or staying out too late. No, I got in trouble for sneaking into my closet and staying up late on a school night to read.)

And of course, most of my favorite books involved revolved around horses.

I grew up on Marguerite Henry’s “Misty” books…as well as all of the others she wrote. (Blame King of the Wind for why I love Arabians.) And yes, I also got to go to every little horse girl’s dream vacation destination: Chincoteague.

Despite being a voracious reader, I have a confession to make: I don’t love what is considered “classic” literature. (I fussed and grumbled all throughout high school about having to read things like Dickens, much to my classics-loving best friend’s horror.) My “intellectual guilty pleasure”? Teen/Young Adult fiction. (Not Twilight. It still has to be well-written for me to like it.)

I read just about every YA horse-themed series I could get my hands on, from elementary school all the way through high school, and the only reason I’m not still immersed in them is that I needed more shelf space, so they all sit in boxes in a storage unit, waiting for the day I have an entire room I can convert into a library.

I also re-read, so am loathe to ever get rid of a book unless I really didn’t like it.

At this point, I don’t even remember how many different books/series I read through. Trying to work as best I can off of memory (and Amazon searches) without having to go down to aforementioned storage unit and unearth all those boxes…

My main requisites in what I wanted to read were books that were horse-centric, and the challenges/obstacles/drama presented needed to revovle around the horses…not just “standard issue teenage girl drama that happens to take place in a barn.” (Had enough of that IRL, thank you. I was a pre-teen/teenage girl riding in a competitive show barn. Drama happened.)

I went through the entire Black Stallion series during my lunch hour time my sophomore year of high school (best friend and I didn’t share a lunch hour that year, so I hid out in the library and read).

The Saddle Club series was high up on my list of favorites, and I don’t even know how many of those books I have. (Safe to say, a good part of the series.) This is one series I would like to go back and re-read from an adult perspective…and likely get a good chuckle. Although it’s interesting to see what book memories stay with you — as the series went on, the author started having the girls branch out and dabble in other horse sports, one of which was endurance riding, and a whole book was devoted to their attempt at a 50-miler. I really should pull that particular book out and see how unrealistic it really was. (Although I would have read that book at a time when endurance riding wasn’t even on my radar as a potential sport, so maybe blame it for subconsciously influencing me?)

Author Lauraine Snelling wrote two series that I read: High Hurdles and The Golden Filly. More unusually, they were actually young adult Christian fiction…that revolved around horses. As someone with a Christian upbringing, even at that age, what I appreciated about her books was she was able to share the message without it being too preachy or sanctimonious. Golden Filly was my favorite of the two series, as I had a fascination with the Thoroughbred racing world, largely due to…

My hands-down favorite YA fiction series was the Thoroughbred series. They were one of the first YA fiction series I started reading, and they grabbed me right from the beginning. (Probably largely due to the fact the main character and I shared the same name, albeit a different spelling.) I was about the same age when I started reading these books as the main character (Ashleigh) at the start of the series, and it took no imagination at all for me to become her when I was reading.

This was the last series I eventually stopped buying new books from…I think somewhere around book 60 or so? The series went for 72 books, plus a handful of special editions and a couple of spin-off series. While they’re out of print now, there’s a part of me that wants to grab those last dozen or so books and give them a read-through, just so I can say I read/own the complete series.  However…that will necessitate going down to storage and actually pulling those book boxes, since I don’t remember exactly where I left off, and while some of the book descriptions sound familiar, it’s been long enough that I just can’t be sure if I actually read them or am imagining it.

(Actually, I might go retrieve those books after all…writing this has made me nostalgic, especially for the first dozen+ books of the series, which were written by the original author before she handed over the reins to other authors after book 15. The original ones are still the best.)

These days, I still have my nose buried in a book, and I still stay up too late, trying to finish one last chapter…

Days of Thanksgiving — Days Fifteen thru Twenty-One

(Like so many things, I managed to drop the ball on actually staying on top of this on a daily basis. Shocking, I know.)
Day Fifteen: Fuzzy, kissable pony faces! (Even though she says “Please don’t kiss me, Mom, you know I hate that.”) Seriously, though. Super cheerful and well-behaved for hoof trimming and arena schooling.



Day Sixteen: Sofie learning how to play with Artemis and toys.



Day Seventeen: Artemis’s spay surgery was a breeze! (Keeping her quiet for the next week+, however…)


Day Eighteen: Scheming and plotting future ride potential and plans with friends.
Day Nineteen: A quiet day to keep an eye on Artemis.


Day Twenty: *BINGO* day.


Day Twenty-One: Fun times at The Hoof & Hound Expo — I get to do expo and convention stuff for work.IMG_5071IMG_5078

Days of Thanksgiving — Days Eight thru Fourteen

Day Eight: One of the two dogs actually likes getting a bath.
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Day Nine: Work innovation and experimentation.
Day Ten: Mixed blessing? The street getting unnecessarily repaved again motivated me to finally get the dead truck hauled over to the mechanic. Been putting it off, knowing the answer is likely to be $$$, but better to finally know and go about coming up with a plan for how to deal with/solve it.
Day Eleven: Veterans Day. Those that served and continue to serve.
flag veterans day copy
Day Twelve: When you find out your truck needs $5k worth of repairs, it becomes one of those days where you’re pretty much just grateful you didn’t keel over/pass out from shock/heart attack/futility-and-hopelessness. Also, boozy-and-marshmallowy hot chocolate season.
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Day Thirteen: Parental units that are good sounding boards and advice givers…and to personally have the willingness to ask for/take advice.
Day Fourteen: Fuzzy socks and bed-warmer dogs.
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