Thursday, May 9, 2019

Fashion Thursday: Girl's Talk

Something new that I'm trying to do is make my love of fashion more sustainable. I made a resolution this year to thrift all of my clothing with the exception of items that I need for a specific occasion. So far, it's worked out. I've bought one dress, and that's it. Not bad.

For this set, I used a shirt from CHNGE, a brand that takes pride in its stance on sustainability and philanthropy. They donate 50% of their net profits to many vetted NGOs and stand behind providing ethical working conditions for employees. Plus, the stuff is cute, so I'm down.


1. CHNGE Girl's Globe Tee

2. Kerrits Ladie's GripTek Breeches

3. Harry's Horse Duo Riding Boots

4. Chetaime Half Pad

Monday, May 6, 2019

Vlog #20: April 2019


Ye Olde Towne Road Song: Old Town Road Remix by Lil Nas X (feat. Billy Ray Cyrus) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ysFg...

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Horses & My Mental Health

A Yaknee In Paris did a similar post a while back, so I felt like now would be as good a time as any to chat. This post is about three years in the making and may contain some uncomfortable material. Bear with me.


I started riding when I was 13. The above photo is me with Lady from my first summer of riding. At some point during that first summer, I was sitting on a fence waiting for my dad to pick me up from the barn. One of the other students approached me and, point blank, said I looked sad. I can’t remember how I responded, but odds are I just said I was tired. Anyways, it was enough to put her at bay, and she left me alone.

I have this bad habit of shrinking myself. It is so easy to minimize my feelings, needs, and desires and put others before myself in almost any situation. This isn't humility, it's degradation. As a child who didn't understand depression (or the concept of mental health), a lack of education didn't combine well with an instinct to internalize my emotions. By the time I was in high school, I never said if I was sad or upset, I just said I was tired. And if I couldn't hide my emotions, then it was better to literally isolate myself. When I got to college, I preferred to feel nothing. If I was sad or upset, it sucked because I was sad and upset. But if I was happy, I didn't want to be because happiness was fleeting. It was easier and safer to feel nothing.


For a while, riding was the only activity that made me feel something, and it made me feel good. I've had a number of artistic hobbies since I was a kid, but staying in my room to draw or write wasn't nearly as satisfying as leaving my house and doing something more stimulating. I liked sitting and watching lessons all day. I liked helping out my trainer in any way possible. I loved spending three hours on a Saturday morning picking up shit in an acre large pasture with nothing to entertain me but the same 100 songs on an old iPod. That made me happy. Riding made me more creative and more driven than anything else. It gave me a future to look forward to.

I'm always terrified of coming off as the "weird horse girl," but the fact is I love what I do, and it gives me a reason to get up in the morning. I can't say with confidence that I would be alive today had I not made riding my outlet.


That's not to say that this isn't a double edged sword. There are definitely times where riding became stressful and unhealthy. Just reading through older posts obviously shows the times where my emotions got the better of me and where I should have backed away from situations. Bad things  happen sometimes, but I can always stop showing or change trainers or start saying no to certain things. I can make this work for me because my health is essential to my success, and I will succeed.

By the end of high school, I started to understand that my psychological health is just as important as my physical health. I promised myself that I would see a therapist once I got to college then immediately did the exact opposite. I had a bad breakdown at the end of my freshman year and got to a point where I genuinely did not care if I lived or died. It wasn't my first or last time feeling suicidal, but it was probably the worst I've ever been. I saw a therapist for the first time after another breakdown two months into my sophomore year. After that, I thought I was fine and that I could handle things on my own. I have no shame in admitting that I couldn't. 2018 was a rough year for me. I sobbed almost every day in September, hence my many emotional lessons. In October, I was down to every other day. Now, it's every few weeks, but that's better than refusing to let myself cry for most of high school and college.


I'm in a much better place at the moment. I did group therapy last semester and have continued with that this semester in addition to individual counseling. I'm learning that it's okay to feel things and let other people know that I'm feeling things, and it's okay to eat more than 1,000 calories per day, and no I don't have to settle for the bare minimum in my relationships with people. I also don't have to settle for the bare minimum in my relationship with myself.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I implore you all to take care of yourselves, and please encourage those you love to do the same.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Texas Touch

I was visiting Houston recently. You don't need to know why. As I was flying into the Hobby Airport, we passed over some interesting looking farms.



Despite my experience, I've never come across set ups quite like this. I'm *thinking* these arenas are set up for roping, and I did see a few others that obviously had cow pens attached. It's fascinating to see how a specific arena set up is integrated into the farm layout and with the rest of the riding space. I was immediately inspired to create a design based on what I saw.


This barn has seven stalls total with the main barn facing a 96' x 180' arena. It's the type of set up where another lean to could be easily added onto the other side of the arena, ideally a copy of the existing barn. Currently, I've allotted space for a 24' x 60' feed room/storage shed. The area extending halfway around the curve is a set of bleachers. The underside of those bleachers could also be used for additional storage.


I did also design the stall front on this one. I'm always back and forth on using wood because I favor barns that are "fire proof". In this case, the bottom half of the stall front uses brick while the door itself has a wooden detail. The grills would all be metal, of course.


Material wise, I didn't think too deeply about this one. I've been looking at alternatives to wood and different types of wood. I've heard of charred wood before for wooden beams and columns. It's said that burning makes the material stronger, which is great for structural elements, but I recently found out that you can also use charred wood as a type of siding. I would do this barn with a charred wood siding and metal structure. Those two tend to go well aesthetically, and both help with additional fire proofing.

Charred Wood Siding from Siding Authority
This definitely isn't my most innovative design, but I enjoyed seeing the different style of Houston. As a designer in many regards, it's important for me to find inspiration wherever possible. I'm going to do some more research on materials moving forward as it seems progressive thoughts on barn and farm design has been stunted. Might even highlight some facilities that embody the ideals that I have regarding facility design.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

"She's big, and she's long, and she's just a lot of horse"

I always get excited for spring. Winter is ew, and summer is meh, and fall is just Winter Lite. Spring is fresh and new and smells nice.

For some reason, Gabby really wants to be on the blog, so here she is, y'all
Except when we have intermittent thunder storms and whipping wind. Yeah, that's not fresh or new, it's just loud. Really loud. By chance, the poor weather overlapped with my first real ride on Summer, one of our hotter school horses. I use hot kind of loosely here because she's not necessarily forward, but things fall apart very easily, and she requires some micromanaging. I rode her once prior to this when we were doing a bunch of swapping in a lesson a few months ago. It wasn't bad or good, just very nerve racking.

My skill set is there to be successful on her. It's my mind that needs to catch up and stay focused without making me stiff or inducing a panic attack. Fun times.

Summah Summah!
Sometimes, when I have some knowledge of a horse and its history prior to riding it, I will mentally set a clear limit of what I'm comfortable doing. This is mainly to keep myself safe. I am fully willing to go beyond those limits, but if I just need to do a walk/trot only ride on a horse before attempting to canter on another day, then that's what I'm going to do. Beorn was like that. For a while, Baby was like that. Initially, I wanted to tell Coach S that I just wasn't feeling like going beyond a trot despite having flatted that horse at all gaits in our last encounter. Long story short, I chickened out and made a plan with a teammate to swap horses if it got to be too much.

And honestly? Kinda glad I chickened out. It wasn't a perfect ride. Our canter was a tad inconsistent; Summer is the type of horse that can tell if you're nervous and will "take care of you" as the kids say, but at my level, "taking care" of me turns into breaking to the trot when we're supposed to be cantering. Coach S wasn't too bothered and could tell I was a bit overwhelmed but reassured me that Summer is just big and long and a lot of horse. She takes an effort, and I was doing my best.


We did two grids of equal complexity. Our coach is a fan of equitation tests and integrated some good questions. We did some angles, simple changes, and a bit of counter canter. Our second test was a bending line, then a canter in, trot out line. Summer is very much not a canter in, trot out type of horse, which is why that line looks so ugly. Trainer decided it wasn't worth putting her through it again, so we ended on that.

As nervous as Summer makes me, it wasn't impossible to ride her. She's a generally calm, sweet, and reliable horse, just a mess if you don't remind her where all four feet should go. I like her. I like her so much that I'm considering showing her if the opportunity arises over the . . . summer. Plus, who doesn't love a good mare?

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Fashion Thursday: Am I really still doing this?

Yeah. I am. Honestly, I was feeling pretty "eh" about my riding habit when I first got back into it. Granted, I did only bring two pairs of breeches to school with me this year. That's a tragedy considering who I am as a person. Anyways, my $5 Pikeurs rekindled that fashion flame (this statement is why people have editors), so here I am digging this tag out of its grave.

The death of Polyvore hit me hard. It's especially insulting to see all my embedded sets completely gone from their posts. Can you tell that I'm bitter? I found a replacement, but while that's still being set up, I thought I'd share some of my favorite finds over the past few months.

The Nina Lookbook, image from GEM Equitation
GEM Equitation
I've known about GEM for a while and wanted to do a post highlighting them. Might still do that, but in any case, here's your introduction to the brand. GEM is a French company that produces a variety of equestrian products. My focus is mainly on their half pads because LOOK. I became interested in GEM because of their mesh saddle pads; Maryland is notoriously humid year round, so breathable fabrics are an absolute necessity. There are two types of half pads: the Classic for more curvy backed horses and the 3D Mesh for more flat backed horses. While I can't verify the science behind the designs, it's always cool to see brands making the right adjustments for different customers. Plus, all their pads can be made in custom colors!

image from Greys & Bays
Greys & Bays Breeches
Greys & Bays is a British company founded by a mother, Rowan, and her twin daughters. Rowan wanted her girls to have breeches that not only fit and stood up to the wear and tear of the barn, but she also wanted breeches that could be worn anywhere, from the barn to the store. The result is some of the nicest denim breeches I have ever seen. The shipping is a bit pricey, but once I have the cash, I'm absolutely getting a pair. I kind of miss my old "denim" breeches because the look is timeless. These seem like they'll be a good upgrade.

image from The Reductress
The Reductress Horse Woman Sweatshirt
Don't have to explain myself on this one.

The Elite Helmet in action, image from International Riding Helmets
IRH Helmets
Confession: I never replaced my Ovation after falling headfirst off of Pixel. This is long overdue. I already have an IRH that I reserve for shows, but some of their newer models have more personality and would work perfectly for schooling. I'm trying to convince myself not to get the rose gold XLT. We'll see how well that goes.

image from HKM Facebook
HKM Tallboots
Yeah, me & everyone else has been looking for tall boots. These are the Valencia boots in brandy, but they also come in brown, blue, black, and gray. I really want the Dublin boots and have been eyeing them for a really long time. I kind of can't justify boots since I have two pairs of very usable half chaps. My Ariat paddock boots are also still kicking after nearly six years. I dunno, maybe if someone is looking to get me a gift, this would be a great place to start.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A little bit of Daredevil

Guess who's sound again!!

Carlos spent most of the fall and all of the winter unclipped, in the field, abscessing on the same foot non-stop. He has just now remained sound for the last few weeks, and fingers crossed it keeps up. I missed my boy!


My actual last time riding him was during last semester. I was supposed to ride Mark, but then Mark was lame. So I grabbed Carlos to see if he was lame still and . . . yeah, very lame. My last time riding him seriously was when he finally managed to actually bite me. That was two years ago. I still have a scar. Contrary to my bitter sophomore ramblings, I do love this asshole of a horse, and I'm glad he's finally back in work. He's taking it like a champ, weird head twisting and all.

Now that Regionals has passed, things have mostly settled down. It seems like Coach is keen on my lesson group jumping again; the last two lessons have included a grid of some kind. When I was allowed to pick Carlos this week, I genuinely thought we wouldn't jump at all considering that he's already bold to fences and coming back into work. Ha, I was wrong.

Whee! Look at Donkey Ears go!
He hacked around very nicely, more consistent even than Lionel from a few weeks ago. We trot over some poles, did some circles, yadda yadda. He gave me his usual lovely transitions, and we had no complications what so ever. That changed drastically when we started doing the test, but whatever, gotta give my boy some credit. I'll talk about that in a separate post though because it was a thought provoking experience.

Our test was a little bit complex and took some maneuvering to get through. He was almost perfect both times through with the only major hiccup being the final fence. Carlos is odd in that he will definitely take you to the fence (whether you like it or not), but you have to keep a steady leg on the backside. His hunter/jumper lead change is coming together as he's mostly figuring it out by himself.


I'll probably geek out more in this month's vlog, but I really adore this horse, and I'm happy to see him in lessons again. After losing Mark, it's nice to have a bit of a positive moment at the barn.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Vlog #19: March 2019


Edited out the part where I stopped and stared at a bee outside my window for 30 seconds straight. Thanks for supporting me.

Song: Swoop by The Mini Vandals

Friday, April 5, 2019

The first horse you rode

I feel like I've never actually spoken on here about how I got into riding in the first place.

I've loved horses since I was born. Like, I genuinely can't remember a time when I wasn't asking my parents to buy me a horse. I was hooked on probably the world's dumbest animal. I didn't actually start taking lessons until the summer after 8th grade when my dad finally caved to my incessant begging. Be annoying, kids, it works.

But before all that happened . . . I went to horse camp.


Not only did I go to horse camp, but I was the oldest, tallest, Blackest kid at horse camp. I was 12, which is already a rough age, and to be quite honest, I did feel pretty out of place for that week. Despite the discomfort, it only made me more passionate to keep riding. Horse Camp Summer was also the same summer that I was going crazy designing horse barns. My interest in horses and my interest in architecture kind of took off at the same time. Hasn't really changed since.

GAP brand polo, hand me down jeans, Sportio "riding" boots, ASPCA gloves . . . I peaked at horse camp
But even before horse camp, before reading "Horses For Dummies" cover to cover, and before taking a wild ride on some OTTBs at my friend Jessica's house (will I elaborate on that? probably not), I rode my first horse.

The hat was an impulse buy, but I still have it, so worth it
I don't know his name, but I call him Enrique. This was in Los Cabos, age 11 I believe. We went horseback riding on the beach. This wasn't your typical walk your horse behind a guide for an hour. Oh no. The horses were more or less content to follow our "guide". Probably towards the less side, if I'm being honest. If you can't tell, Enrique is in a curb, and it did come in handy during that ride.

I did another one of those guided trail rides during another vacation in Costa Rica. That one was significantly better executed. At some point though, riding a horse maybe twice a year wasn't going to work out. Glad I'm doing that a little bit more these days.

Monday, April 1, 2019

The outside

The combination of rain and the Polar Vortex really put a damper on being able to ride outside over the winter. Usually, we get a couple of nice, sunny days to get out of the indoor, but the ground being saturated turned out outdoor ring into one, big liverpool.

That is, until this week (ok, technically last week, but that wasn't a real lesson).

Yes, friends, we made it. We rode outside. The lesson started outside and almost ended outside but my trainer was getting cold but technically it was still fine to ride outside. I'm honestly just grateful that the precipitation has finally cut back. Maybe now we'll stop having to deal with abscesses and rain rot.

And I got to use my new saddle pad!
I was on Lionel, who I haven't ridden since the theatrics of the fall. If I'm being honest, he isn't my favorite to ride because he's particular, he's huge, and takes a lot to put together. As a result, I always feel like I don't look great on him, which makes me less excited to ride him. Domino affect, as they call it. Still, I figured it'd been a while and was optimistic enough about the lesson.

Lionel, for reference
I'm writing this day after that ride, and physically? Everything hurts. Arms, back, shoulders, legs, neck for goodness sake. Only good thing about this is that I can still very clearly tell that my right arm is doing way too much work. My trainer actually had nothing but good things to say about our ride. She straight up said I looked "perfect" on him, which is wild. He was a spicy bean since it was on the windy/chilly side, but I'll take that over slow, lumbering Lionel.

Our ride consisted of all the transitions that I need to be working on. We had a younger girl riding with us who is on her way to IEA zones. Brought back memories.

This is both a memory and Lionel

Thursday, March 28, 2019

(Still) Learning To Let Go

What do you do when your trainer is sick with a 102* fever and lessons are cancelled for the week?

Take an obscene number of pictures of course.

This is his "I gave you one clean lead change today, now leave me alone" face.
Yeah, Coach S was bed ridden all of last week. Usually when lessons are cancelled, we just get to do a make-up lesson before the end of the semester, but we had an upcoming show, so she gave us the option to do a practice ride. One of the girls in my lesson has been on edge about Regionals and wanted to ride, so three of our usual seven person lesson ended up going.

Gonna be honest, I did two practice rides last semester, but both were cut short. During the first one, my horse was at the back of a big ass field and proceeded to charge me when I went to get her. During the second one, we spent approximately 30 minutes reminiscing with Coach S about her wild life story. Needless to say, it's been a while since I've had to get on a horse sans trainer and just figure out what to do. I'm not used to making a plan anymore.

Peep Lilly's booty in the background
I decided while tacking up to just go back to what I used to do in high school. Start every ride with two point, spend a lot of time trotting and make sure I'm doing each side evenly, switch directions a lot, then break and make something up for the rest of the ride. That plan lasted for only the two point part, and I cannot two point nearly as long as I used to. The rest of the ride was spent doing lots of serpentines and transitions, especially canter departs. I personally need to work more on transitioning from trot to canter and back, which is shocking considering the amount of time I spent on Dressage.

Maybe she's still bitter about having to wear this saddle pad . . .
We also swapped horses, and I took the chance to get back on Lilly despite the fact that she - oh, how do I say this - scares the living shit out of me. I don't know her exact height, but I'm pretty sure she's a medium pony. The little bugger is fast, and that's an accepted fact at my barn. I got on, we started going, she started going fast, she started going very fast. The accepted method with her is to hold when that happens, but I decided to see what would happen if I had 0 contact instead. My arena companions were fairly warned. I gave it a shot, and while she wasn't perfectly settled, it was a much nicer canter than before. Truthfully, she actually cantered instead of galloping. Did another circle of canter with no stirrups and moderate contact, which was successful.

Quit on that note cause it was a great one.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Gotcha! with Marie Kondo

Just to be clear, I had my spur of the moment room de-clutter two summers ago in 2017 when I was experiencing my first quarter life crisis. Since then, I've accumulated . . . . more things. I write this as I'm one day into my second quarter life crisis; one entire dresser is already cleared out.
It would be two dressers except I have one drawer that's entirely riding clothing. Nevermind the bridle that’s sat dormant in my closet for four years. Let’s not even talk about my basket of mostly unused saddle pads. In my defense, I collect breeches as a form of self care.

Remember when I rode in jeans? Y'all wanna go back to this?
Truthfully, I haven’t accumulated that much stuff, it’s just that I don’t use these things as much as I used to. What I like about the method is the part where you give thanks to items that you plan to get rid of. It does feel weird to part with things that I genuinely bought with good intentions, like my 2 for $22 baby pads that I purchased specifically for Music. It’s even harder to part with things that are attached to good memories. I won a saddle pad for my first Medal Final. Never felt right about using it, but it’s something that makes me feel a sense of pride.

Inadvertently compared this to the last photo and . . . wow.
Some things are completely useful. My bridle is in fine shape, and my brushing boots are pretty well taken care of. But both of these carry some baggage. I bought the boots to protect Baby when I wanted to move up to showing 3’. The sidepull was to protect her mouth since I was struggling with heavy hands.

I mean, she looked cute in them.
I guess it comes down to Marie’s key question of asking if an item sparks joy. I haven’t looked through everything, but off the top of my head, yeah, a lot of these things do spark joy. Which is great when you’re trying to consolidate . . .

I’ll eventually get through it all and probably make a post on here to let some items move on. Until then, maybe I’ll put some of these barely used items back into work.

My obnoxious baroque saddle pad sparks joy. Maybe not for Lilly, but it does for me.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Favorites of 2018

Favorite show picture


Misfits
Favorite non-show picture


A very tolerant Murry
Favorite thing you bought
Y'all already saw me gush over my new pants.

Favorite moment on horseback

Being on horseback, tbh
Favorite moment out of the saddle


Favorite “between the ears” picture

Genuinely loved my lesson group from this semester
Favorite horse book or article
2018: The Year of Confusion from A Yankee In Paris. As I've just decided to pursue my PhD and went through some rough health things this year, it was refreshing to not feel alone.

Favorite horse ridden (or groomed/cared for) aside from your own


Favorite funny picture of your horse

Not my horse but you get the idea
Favorite fence that you successfully jumped or movement that you conquered

Every fence felt like an accomplishment
Favorite horse meme or funny picture










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