2019 Spring Bay Horse Trials – Show Jumping

While my background is completely hunter jumper (from ages 6 – 23), somehow, show jumping is the only phase that wants to give me pause. However, this time I was armed with some new rider psychology tips via the Brain Training for Riders. (Big thanks to Amanda for the recommendation)

I did have one advantage on Show Jump day though. We walked the course when it was set for Prelim. In case you are wondering, walking a course when it is set for Prelim makes Starter look REALLY small. Still though, it was a complicated course with 0 straight lines in it… I wish I was kidding.

However, I had a plan. I was going to ride May forward enough that I wanted to pull… and then not pull… Other than that, I was going to get her body straight and square to ever fence. I wasn’t going to worry about distances but concentrate on my pace, line, and balance.

Spring Bay Show Jump

I also got the whole thing on video! (Sorry for Youtube killing the quality.)

All photo credit goes to Vic’s Pics. They had an AMAZING deal at the show to get ALL your pics for $50 on a USB. And honestly, they got so many great pics, especially in SJ, that I put in my order before I even ran XC (and when I was questioning if XC was even going to happen). Oh and that cambox you see? I forgot to turn it on for SJ. >.<

Jump 1 was the best jump 1 I think I have ever ridden in my life, and May jumped it so well. (It’s the top pic of this post). Then, we bent around to get a great jump at 2…. and again to jump 3. It felt AWESOME. Usually, my first three jumps on course are me getting into a rhythm and don’t flow great. This time, I HAD the rhythm, balance, and line, and they jumped GREAT.

So here I am. So super excited about how things are going. I made a great turn to Jump 4… I got her square… and she suddenly decided to RUN at it. It’s really hard to see in the video, but she wanted to get flat on me. I halt halted, but it threw us off enough to tap 4 pretty hard (I am shocked it didn’t come down). That also meant that we didn’t land as balanced as we needed to in order to get a good turn to 5. I didn’t put my leg on as soon as I should have, and the distance came up ugly. She jumped that one awkwardly but kept it up.

The turn to 6 was seriously what jumping dreams are made of, and she jumped it out of stride. Then an easy bending line to 7. Despite our cross cantering, the rhythm and line were good, so she popped over it easily. Then… we made kind of an awkward turn to 8, so she jumped it kind of funky. Oh well, it was still easy for her.

Jump 9 just came up out of stride, and we made a sweeping turn to jump 10. I had to put my leg on for the big spot, and she jumped it great.

Obviously, I was super happy to have a double clear round. I think that it, honestly, would have rode BETTER if the jumps had been a little bigger. May was super unconcerned with distances to the point where it actually made things more difficult. She was also very unconcerned with what any of the jumps looked like. There was no peaking or over jumping. Just happily cantering around.

However, I am VERY VERY happy that I managed to execute my plan. I am also happy that, in the pics, when the distances got ugly, I kept my shoulder back and my body over her center of gravity… instead of throwing my whole body up her neck.

As a result, we maintained our 29.3 score and 2nd place standing going into cross country on Sunday!

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April 2019 – Cross Country Schooling

With our first event coming up this weekend, I began to doubt if we would be able to squeak in a XC schooling. I figured that, with us doing Starter, May and I would be totally ok. However, I got a text around 2PM asking if I would be open to going schooling instead of a lesson. All of NT’s lessons that afternoon were going to the show, so it was easy enough to organize a quick XC schooling. The joys of being in KY, this venue was only a 3 minute trailer ride from my barn!

We were able to throw everything on the trailer and get going by 6PM, which for us, is a huge accomplishment. We figured we had until at least 7:30PM before the light got too dim to get anything accomplished. This was my first time going XC schooling with NT, so I wasn’t totally sure what to expect.

I quickly learned that NT has a preference for putting together courses vs. schooling individual elements. Part of this is probably due to the fact that we had 3 fairly experienced horses with us. (May and one of the geldings have both gone BN, annnnnd the other gelding had done a 1* haha). However, the courses were built to be inviting at first and harder after you got your groove on.

The first course, NT started out really easy on me and May. We went over a little baby log, popped over a house in the shade, down the hill to a little roll top, over a bigger coup, and finished up over some stacked logs.

Feedback? I needed to ride a bit more forward. NT had us go out again, but told us to take the BN option at the end.

Other than getting left behind a bit at jump 2, where I totally didn’t trust the big spot in the shade, it rode great!

The next round, we started with the starter house, over a larger house, down the hill, through the brush, over the ditch, up the coop, over the BN open oxer, and finished through the 2 stride line. This was kind of a funny line because the height was BN, but the question was not a BN question.

Before starting this course, NT asked me if May had any problem with ditches. I gave her a quick “nope” and then immediately thought, “Please do not make me a liar horse.”

I was really happy with our execution of this course! (and the ditch was a complete non-issue.) I was really guarding against the right shoulder drift through the two stride and probably was a little too aggressive, and I ended up riding her a bit left through the combination. Either way though, she jumped FANTASTIC over the out brush.

At this point, I was kind of dying. I somehow developed a pretty nasty sinus infection that came to a head yesterday, so my ability to get breath into my lungs was severely comprised. I actually felt a bit dizzy and overall just not great. I decided at that point to forgo any long courses. We didn’t need a repeat of last week, and May felt great!

We moved on to the “water” complex… which hadn’t really been filled with water for the year. Oh well, we splashed through the puddles and then practiced the banks. Again, NT asked me if she cared about ditches. My response? “Nope, but she’s going to make me a liar if you keep asking.” Luckily, she didn’t!

First we came down the bank we did at last year’s starter event at this venue and then up the out bank of what should have been the water complex. We then looped around and came back through.

Not super surprising that May just popped right through it. The part of this exercise that was caught on video was better than the beginning. May wasn’t super thrilled to be trotting over the rocks of the water complex with no water in it. Oh well. Still adorable.

The last exercise we participated in was working on terrain in less than ideal footing. The footing was considerably deeper in this field than the other one, and there were some good patches of mud. We worked on coming up and down a steep hill and then over a little roll top. Issues? Nope.

Overall, it was a really fun outing. It feels great to be a part of a barn team again. In every video, you can hear people cheering and egging us on. It was a beautiful night, and I am super excited to show this weekend!

Worst Accident I’ve Witnessed

First of all, thank you for all the comments regarding yesterday’s post. Hope you all enjoyed some April Fool’s Day Fun. 🙂

In the nearly 25 years I have spent around horses and in barns, I have witnessed many people fall off. From green horses having green moments to finished horses having serious opinion issues to the stuff that falls under the category of “stuff happens.”

This weekend, I witnesses one of the scariest accidents I have seen in a long time, and it definitely fell under the “stuff happens” category. On a rainy Saturday afternoon, I was riding in the indoor with 2 other riders. One was on her upper level Dressage horse and the other was riding her green, but lovely hony (not sure if he actually measures under 15h, but he’s adorable).

Down the center of the arena was a line of trot poles. The sides of each trot poles were raised in those ikea potty training things:

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These dudes

So the poles were barely off the ground. They weren’t painted poles, but they were a light brown against the super dark brown/almost black footing of our indoor.

As May and I came down the long side of the arena, preparing to run through our Dressage test for this weekend, I heard the poles clatter, and May pretty much exploded. Now, my first thought was “you’ve heard poles scatter before, May. You actually occasionally do that yourself.”

However, when she spun around, I heard the screaming and saw both horse and rider on the ground. The horse seemed stunned and was laying on the rider’s left leg and the rider yelled and shoved at the massive horse on her.

I kicked my feet out of my stirrups and scrambled out of the saddle. I could see from the white in May’s eyes that she was completely freaked by this. I pulled the reins over May’s head just as the horse regained her feet and got up. The other rider in the ring with us was also off and closer to the rider.

I pulled May over to the stunned horse and grabbed her reins before she could think about taking off. Our indoor is open at both ends, and I know how dangerous it can be for a scared and stunned horse to just take off. The rider was trying to get up, on her hands and knees, and I couldn’t tell if she was genuinely hurt or just really shocked.

I walked both her horse and May around the arena for a while, noting the initial stiffness in the mare’s left stifle. Luckily, it seemed to abate a bit as she moved. Once she had calmed down a bit, her rider was back on her feet. I rolled up the stirrups of the saddle (May’s ground manners really have come a long way), and offered to untack the mare for her.

Overall, she seemed sore, but not seriously injured. The other woman in the arena is a magnawave tech, so she offered to come over and treat both horse and rider and to check in on her. While the accident could have been so much worse, it is always a bit unnerving to see such a big accident from a well schooled pair doing a fairly simple exercise.

At this point, I have to ask, was it a full moon last week?! Pat your ponies people and always wear your helmets!

Jump Dysmorphia

Is this a thing? I think it’s a thing. Hold on, let me explain.

During my lesson this week, I was convinced the jumps were HUGE. Ok, not huge, but “a good size”. That they required effort from my little horse, an accurate ride, and that they needed a healthy dose of respect.

Then, I saw these photos:

Do you know what I see? some pretty small jumps… Not that I shouldn’t aim to ride them properly but… less than ideal distances, lines, and pace wouldn’t cause us to crash or have any significant impact on May’s confidence. It would just make them ugly.

Somehow, my brain had convinced me that I had something to fear from these jumps, from this course. As I made my way to start each round, I felt my chest tighten and my legs go weak. Even know, I can feel that drowning feeling that I get before any show jumping round.

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Baby Jump – Major heart attack. 

Right now, I am coping by doing the following:

  1. Leg on. Always. Having pace bails me out of a lot of issues, so I ride forward… almost to a fault at this point, since a couple of distances on Tuesday would’ve been fine if I had just sat pretty. Luckily, my internal metronome hasn’t gotten slow on me.
  2. Riding with a neck strap. This lesson, I made the decision to ride with my neck strap. I promised myself that, if I started to feel the UNDYING need to pull, I would just hold onto it. I will say that I am a bit proud of not grabbing it.
  3. Getting media. I think this helps. It puts everything in perspective. And, honestly, it helps me remember. When I get this nervous, I go blank. My memory goes BLACK. I remember showing as a junior and not remembering ANYTHING about a course as soon as I finished it. I was never the brave kid hahaha. That being said, I should break the habit of going back and watching the whole thing in slow-mo, so that I can judge every millisecond of myself.
  4. Getting Regular Lessons. I will say that this was like my third jump lesson since the beginning of the year so… I am not doing great on this front, but I am doing better. Tuesday nights are officially my lesson night now, and I don’t see any reason for us to miss our next couple of weeks of lessons before our show. Both of them will be jump lessons. The Dressage stuff I can polish up a bit myself. (which is hilarious to me as my entire foundation is H/J)

But I really want to move past the management of these feelings and hopefully banish them away for good. Any recommendations of good sports psychology books or things that have helped you?

Jump Lesson Recap!

So yesterday our weekly lesson was a jumping one. One I was REALLY excited about. May has been feeling great since she got her hocks injected, and I was looking forward to trying the upgrade over some fences. I even threw on May’s breastplate and neck strap because I started a new rule for myself: I cannot ask my trainer to lower fences. She sets them – I ride them.

Buuuuuuut I took a new fitness class on Monday night. My spin class instructor had recommended that my friend and I try the new piloxing class. “It’s a mix of pilates and kick boxing. You’ll love it!” In my head, this meant that it would be cycles of kickboxing to get your heart rate up, followed by sets of Pilates exercises. Right? NOPE. It was 45 minutes of NON STOP, HIGH IMPACT CARDIO… my least favorite thing in the world. We got 10 second breaks every few minutes, but the goal was to never let our heart rate come down? No clue, but half the class left mid-way through.

The result? I was damn near crippled before my lesson even started. This feeling of overall stiffness and lack of strength definitely didn’t help my confidence, but I promised myself that if I got nervous and felt myself riding backwards, I would just grab my neck strap.

The lesson started out simple enough. We just did a figure 8 over a vertical with maybe 15M circles crossing over the jump. At first, the jump was set at maybe 2’3″, but after a few reps, my trainer raised it to around BN height. It was actually significantly harder to ride at the smaller height. May just didn’t respect it and wanted to add the extra stride whenever possible. Then, the first time the height was raised, I overcompensated and pushed her really ACROSS the jump… and blew past our turn. Once we had it figured out, it ended up being the perfect exercise to get us in the right rhythm and balance for our course!

This lesson was really about building a course, so our first course ended up being the first half of our second course.

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The course was over the single natural, left turn before 4A to get to the oxer (2), right turn to 3, seven strides to 4A and 4B. 4 was a one stride combination. Before my round, NT noted that since the jumps were small, I would likely get 8 strides from 3 to four. However, I was not allowed to get 2 strides in the combination. Cool.

Well – I never got straight to one, so we added an extra step there. Two rode great. My turn to 3 was a little funky, but I kept her with me and she jumped across it nicely. I kept that forward rhythm, and we got down to 4A in seven easy strides. As a result, the combination rode really well. Yay!

We caught our breath as NT raised some jumps. Our second course started with the first course. After 4B, It was a squared off left turn to 5, bending to 6, a fairly tight turn to the oxer at 7, and then a SLIGHTLY bending line to finish over 8.

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How’d it go? Well check out the video below!

 

Jump 1 rode better this time, despite me almost running over the dog. 2 was easy, but she felt a bit behind my leg. I moved her forward around the corner to 3 and she jumped that great. Then I kind of definitely overrode the line to 4A. After 4 strides… I realized I was in danger of doing 6 and taking a flyer into the combination. A quickly half halt and we got in on a short stride, but not a total ship or flyer. Obviously, the one stride rode great after that.

NT warned me that everyone had been messing up the corner to 5, so I made sure to square it off and ride her shoulder through the turn… Then instead of bending to 6, I rode STRAIGHT to it, resulting in an awkward chip. Oops. My turn to 7 was great, and the five strides to 8 was easy peasy.

After, we were both out of breath. May had a busy weekend going to the combined test with her half leaser (they finished on their Dressage score!), and whatever was left in my muscles had left around jump 6. So, I decided to call it a day on that.

While my body is even MORE sore today (anyone ever been woken up at 3AM by their own soreness?), I can’t help but bask in a successful jump lesson. This post is long enough, so more fun updates coming later this week!

Post Injection Dressage Lesson

This lesson was a bit funny because NT had just gotten back from Aiken on Monday morning (like 4am-ish), and I hadn’t really gotten to ride much lately. On top of that, I hadn’t had a serious school on May since her injections (thanks to the weather), and our part leaser (PL) has a combined test on Sunday….

Sooooo I decided to Dressage, since I figured PL was going to be jumping during her lesson that week and then again at the competition. I also really wanted to see if we could pinpoint any improvement in her comfort level with a solid Dressage school. I pulled out the Dressage saddle, and when NT (or ET haha) asked what I wanted to work on, I kept it pretty simple. I wanted to work on our connection through transitions and adjust-ability within gaits. Nothing like the basics to keep you honest.

We started with some flexion work on a 20M circle at the trot. We focused on straight, then overbend, then straight, then counter-bend, all without losing rhythm. May quickly keyed into work and seemed really comfortable bending in both directions, pretty clearly a difference from our last lesson, where she was good but tense in the right bend. Once we had some good bending, NT sent us around the ring for some leg yields.

The leg yields were… fairly mediocre. I haven’t touched them in a while in favor of getting more adjust-ability back to front. But, when we went to do an extended trot down the long side, she gave me a serious effort. She really started to engage her hind end and push through… but my timing in extended trot is REALLY off, so I didn’t half halt soon enough annnnnd she broke to the canter. I was really happy to see the improvement there post-injections, and it definitely gave us something to work off of.

We worked on the same flexibility exercises at the canter, and again, she seemed much happier to shift her bend and balance around as asked. By the end of the ride, I felt like I had a good amount of “weight” in both reins, and I had a lot of influence over her body with my seat and legs. Can’t wait to bring this level of connection and obedience into the show ring!

Side Note: pictures are being dumb in WordPress today, so enjoy the GIFs.

Side Note 2: Being out of the gym for a couple of weeks is definitely impacting my riding, so I finally got back into my regular spin class last night.

Forward Is The Answer

In last week’s Dressage lesson, we worked on adjust-ability. The vat majority of the lesson was spent on a 20M circle, pushing May forward and then bringing her back. Asking her to extend and collect, and in general, getting her more sensitive to my aids. It was a great lesson where NT and I were able to work through some issues I had been having and the result was a fairly elastic and on-the-aids horse. Good stuff! But I was decided, our next lesson (weather permitting, which is almost never does anymore) would be a jumping lesson.

Then… some pics popped up on my timehop. (anyone else still using that app?) These pics were the worst moment of my not-so-great SJ round at my first and only recognized BN horse trial. I would post them… but they are the photographer’s photos and not mine to share. However, I do have the video.

I looked at the pictures… and I watched the video. I laughed with some friends about the video… like, those fences don’t look SO big now (jump 3 is where the pics are from). Then I watched it again… and maybe a few more times.

I am sure there are more objective people who can point out a million issues to me. But the one that stands out is the fact that, up until the refusal, that horse is not in front of my leg. SURE we moved up to the first fence, but it was more that I was turning and gunning than riding a forward rhythm and balancing when necessary.

Then I thought about my last lesson, which was inconsistent and scrambly. You know, the one where May chipped in so bad that I almost fell off. She was forward at the end… but not consistently in front of my leg. So when I showed up for my lesson, I warmed up with one intent: to get this horse in front of my leg. Transitions were sharp, and I didn’t hesitate to use my bat when my leg didn’t prompt her to SPRING forward.

NT came out to get our lesson started, and we decided to start on the one stride exercise. It was set up across the middle of the arena, along the short side to allow for square turns towards it, and then a square turn after. The cross rail set you up for straightness, and then the ride had to maintain the straight and forward over the narrow jump at the end.

The first couple of times, we trotted in each direction and made it a two stride between each fence. Then, we picked up the canter, and cantered it. (Below is during a course, but it gives you an idea.)

Honestly? It felt pretty easy. We had no issue converting from the two stride to the one stride. Although, May thought that turning and going forward should be mutually exclusive activities.

Course1

Since that went well, we moved onto our first course. The gymnastic, right turn, diagonal, six bending strides to the vertical then seven strides to the oxer… I made NT make the oxer smaller, and then I informed her that THAT was the LAST time I would be allowed to ask her to make anything smaller.

The one strides went great, and I made sure to really square off the turn after the last element. The right turn was pretty tight to jump two. (May and I ended up in the tree a bit in that corner).

I felt like I lost my rhythm a little bit around the corner, so despite jumping well over 2, I still pushed down the line… and straightened the line… and got to the 3rd jump in 5.5 strides instead of 6… Oops. Despite the extra stride, we were still ROLLING to the oxer. I gave a strong half halt, steadies and FIT IN the seventh stride a bit shorter than the earlier six. I asked May to halt instead of blowing me off.

I walked back to my trainer. Who… I think was trying not to laugh. Not because it was bad, but because the hoof prints of my line from 2 – 3 was a solid 3 – 4′ INSIDE the track laid by the lesson before mine… OOPS. “Go forward or straighten if you need to make up distance… don’t panic and do both.” Right Right. I tried again, and nailed it. I even managed to halt a couple of strides after the oxer pretty easily. Win!

Course2So we put together another course. Gymnastic, LEFT TURN, to oxer, RIGHT TURN to vertical and six strides to diagonal.

So I started by doing a thing that I shouldn’t do. I made the turn to the gymnastic, and pushed May riiiiiiight past the distance. Oops.

The rest of the gymnastic went well. The turn from 1 to 2 was a bit rough because May was anticipating the right turn, but I kept my leg on and it was fine. The oxer rode GREAT…. Then I yanked on the right rein and almost went right over May’s left shoulder in my attempt to turn right. Whoops. Smoothed it out and May skipped over the last two fences.

 

So we made the oxer and the vertical a bit bigger. NT had me make the turn to the gymnastic inside of the puddle to try and get me to stop pushing past the distance (WHO AM I?) The turn was better to the oxer (which rode AMAZING). The right turn after the oxer was better too! Then…. I stopped riding to the vertical… and my merry mare skipped over it. The last fence worked out fine then. Enjoy that vertical fail below.

I tried it again… and basically did the same thing. THEN I TRIED IT AGAIN. Committed to the damn thing, and it was perfect.

We ended on that, and May got stuffed full of cookies. It feels GOOD to be back in a program.

 

Getting With The Program

Last night, I had my first lesson in… a while. Anyone else sick of hearing me say this? I AM sick of hearing ME say this.

I had originally wanted to take a jumping lesson, but the flooded status of KY in general, ridiculous winds, the threat of MORE rain, and a dropping temperature meant that I decided on a Dressage lesson instead.

The barn was oddly quiet last night with just me and NT around that evening, so our lesson was a bit more casual than usual with lots of chatting and catching up on the state of May. (Future injections, 2019 plans, etc). I’ll probably write about the lesson tomorrow, but suffice to say, we have both seen a lot of progress thanks to her help this past fall and the work my half leaser has been putting in.

As with most eventers at this time of year, I am looking at the 2019 competition season. My grand goals are, and have been, to get back to a recognized horse trial at Beginner Novice. Last year was a “I am hope we get back into the show ring.” This year is a “I want to do this.”

So I started looking back. What made May and I capable of moving form starter to BN in 2016? How did we get to the point where we were schooling Novice sized SJ course with relative ease that summer?

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I remember this being fun.

It wasn’t because I was younger (26 – 29 is not a huge jump… unlike 22 – 25 which seems MASSIVE). It wasn’t because I had access to a better trainer. (There are some serious similarities between NJ trainer and NT.) It wasn’t because May was more educated.

It was because I was in a regular program… and I haven’t been in one since.

Late 2016, we moved from NJ to KY just as show season was winding down and trainers in KY were looking towards Aiken and Ocala rather than their own backyards. Money was tight, and I let lessons fall into the category of “nice to have.”

^This feels like a lifetime ago…

Then in 2017, I had committed to lessons with my trainer at the time, but due to a job that had me traveling and her own schedule, we would average maybe 2 lessons a month… at best. Money was still tight, I got married in mid-summer, and the lack of competition goals meant that again, lessons fells to the back burner.

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Our First Lesson Together.

2018… I moved barns in mid competition season, but I still made it out to a couple of shows to get our feet wet again. (Literally and figuratively). Lessons started up again, and I was surprised at how much I felt like a fish out of water. My whole riding career had been focused on weekly lessons (and catch riding). Here I was, on my own horse, and feeling odd about lessons.

Then this year… I find myself really prioritizing lessons. So, for the first time since Spring of 2016, I have put myself into the weekly lesson rotation schedule. Fingers crossed that this has really been the missing link in my confidence lately!

So I really want to know – Are you a “weekly lessoner” or more of a “when I need them” or even a “don’t need no trainer” type of rider?

Quiet Week

Quiet week over here. The weather has gotten drunk with a 60-something degree day yesterday followed by some snow flurries this morning. May has been really good lately, and the warmth last week let her do some fun things (like a little fitness ride in the fields with our half leaser).

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This was all grass this weekend!

On Monday, I even threw one of my friends up on her to play around with the Dressage buttons. Note to self: my horse takes a lot of leg and core to really hold collection. No wonder my thighs and core/back muscles ache after a good dressage ride.

Other updates, May is (hopefully) going to get a trace clip tomorrow. We will see how she feels about it. Historically, I have drugged her for body clipping… but we have done a lot of work with clipped this past year getting her mane trimmed regularly. Fingers crossed that it’s not an issue.

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Partly nakey #may is all ready for winter! #horsesofinstagram

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Finally, May has her annual injections scheduled for the first weekend in March. My trainer is going down to Aiken, and May has started showing some stiffness behind. Part of it might be fatigue through her stifles due to ALL THE MUD. The lameness shows up as a slight hip drop when the top line and hind end isn’t engaged properly under saddle. It’s a pretty classic showing for her that she’s uncomfortable… even if she looks totally sound 90% of the time.

Given the increase in her workload going into Spring and Summer, I am committed to keeping her comfortable. Are you all making any steps to set yourselves and your horses up for great things come Spring?

A Lot To Do About Nothing

I don’t really have a whole lot to talk about this week, so enjoy some old media… Things at work got settled, so that is a big plus. But the weather has been pretty abysmal. Our indoor is open, so it does get quite cold. (shout out to Karen for sticking with it).

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On Saturday, lessons were being taught in the indoor and the outdoor was partially frozen, so we just hacked around the property for a while. (Half leaser had a GREAT ride on Sunday though.)

Originally, I was going to ride on Monday when the weather was still somewhat decent. Then adulting intervened, and it didn’t happen. Then yesterday it barely got out of the teens with the sun up… so my ride in the dark was a non-starter. Today? Well its 11AM and the windchill is down to -21F… so… no…

This weekend is going to be in the 50s…. so I think May will just get the middle of this week off. Oh well. Stay warm my friends!