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Riding and Writing Reconciliations

A totally superfluous and unrelated photo of Itxa

HorseNation informed me this morning that they'd like to pay me for the stories I write for them. I have little dreams, but getting paid to write about the thing I love most has always been one of them. 

When I was teeny tiny, I would make "newspapers" about the horse shows my model horses were having on the braided rug of my bedroom; envisioning myself covering the equestrian events at the Olympic Games someday. HorseNation is far from the Olympics, but it's sure a long way from the braided rug. 

As a little kid, you have so many dreams about what you're going to do. I think reading Great Expectations in high school was the first time I ever confronted the inevitable lesson of adulthood that all those dreams will probably be losses you will have to reconcile with your therapist someday. I have reconciled some of those losses, maybe never more than I did after working for Congress in Washington and then going to work as a glorified receptionist for some pretty difficult and jaded people. The glass ceiling was a heartbreaking discovery, and the politics of politics were too much for me. I knew I could fight for better, but it wasn't worth the fight to me.

But horses have always been worth the fight. Whether it's draining "mud" puddles up to my shins in February, taking a washed up racehorse from a field and turning her into a promising eventer, or begging a quirky upstart website to publish my stories on mustangs or crazy horse stuff on youtube, it has always, always been worth it. 

What "the fight" looks like currently.

That being said, I have to make some hard decisions. (That certainly comes with the territory of horses).  I can't do it all. I have to follow the trails that make sense. The Utah Trotter, despite how much I love it, and how much good it's brought to my life since I started it, has never really truly made sense. I haven't really found my voice or my audience there, and I don't know that it's ever going to contribute to the Utah horse industry the way that I envisioned it. So, I'm going to publish the last couple of stories that I've been working on, and then shutter the digital doors. It's done some great good- it shared Robyn's wonderful story as a mustang trainer (and turned us from strangers to wonderful friends),  it helped raise awareness and find homes for the starving horse herd in Spanish Fork, and maybe it's done some other good for groups here and there over the years as well.  But you can't always continue to throw good hours after bad. 

I'm a little under the weather, and today is a mixed day of emotions for me, but I'm content and confident and eager for tomorrow. There are many more stories to tell, and I'm humbled to be finding my place in it. most of all, I'm grateful that this dream didn't stop at the edge of that braided rug. 



January Jingle Bells

While I really did this because I wanted the novelty of hearing my horse trot and jingle, I think I may just start riding her in these bells all the time. 

It blocks out all those fake sounds she pretends are terrifying, AND people will know when the crazy mustang is coming up behind them! Million dollar idea. Right there. 


A List

1. I'm sitting at a techniglass waiting for a new windshield and glowering at myself that I forgot to charge my phone last night. 

2. Must stop breaking windshields. 

3. I work from 8-2 now, and it's life altering. Sunshine and all that. 

4. As a memory hoarder supreme, I am struggling with the entire idea of snapchat. Fleeting photos? Sounds like a great way of getting Facebook to buy your product for $3 billion without ever having to pay for a server. 

5. Itxa has had a couple weeks off except for grooming and groundwork. I did not get a couple weeks off from paying her rent or scooping her poo. Horses are funny like that. 

6. I have a hard time believing the Olympics is really that much cooler than Utah's Wild Horse and Burro Show. Therefore, we are in training for the coolest thing since the Olympics. 

7. There's a musical freestyle, guys. A musical freestyle. 

8. Wouldn't it be hilarious if one of DoTerra Oil's products was Snake Oil? The answer is yes, yes it would be hilarious. 

9. My friend Lauren has a baby that looks just like Mowgli. Obviously, he is adorable. She is unwilling to sell him, if you're wondering. Said she wouldn't even consider a trade. Some friend. psh. 

10. Apparently 5 days off of work was what I needed to clear the necessary headspace to finally watch Lawrence of Arabia. Glad I could turn off Hoarders long enough to have that breakthrough. 

11. I'm trying a new thing where I only eat meat twice a week. This is in response to getting sick to the point of pukage after eating too much sugar. Don't ask why this makes sense to me, it just does. 

12. My goal in the new year is to be less flaky and better about responding to people in real time, but with that, being more honest that my life is now, and will probably always be, a hectic place. I have been blessed with a plethora of amazing humans and amazing animals throughout my life, and I refuse to let the best ones drift too far. But the downside is, I never get to dedicate as much time as I want to each of those people and creatures. 

I'm glad I live with Dan so we both get the time we need together. If I could live with Itxa, I would. Since I can't, my time with her has to be my absolute priority. She's not just a hobby-she's a living being, an athlete, a business partner, a friend. Sometimes a very obnoxious, belligerent and dangerous friend, but a friend, nonetheless. Also, she poops about 30 lbs a day, at least. You can't ignore that. (well, some people do, but I hate those people.) 

So, here's to looking forward with balance. With honesty. With integrity. With eagerness to see the beautiful mugs of all you lovely folks out there and spending a glorious 2014 with the lot of you. 

And sometimes having to buck up with the truth and say, "I can't. I have to ride my horse."


Seeing Both Sides of One True Statement

"The horse is a mirror to your soul. And sometimes you may not like what you see in the mirror. Sometimes you will."
-Buck Brannaman


Death by Pure Soul

Believe it or not, from 6:50 a.m. to about 7:10 a.m. every morning is one of the best parts of my day. My car may be cold and frosty, the traffic may be horrible, and my breakfast corn dog may not have heated evenly in the microwave that morning, but this is all secondary to the 20 minutes I spend listening to Pleasant Grove High School's morning radio DJ.  This kid is my hero.

First of all, he has surprisingly good taste in music. His self proclaimed favorite music is Arcade Fire, The Black Keys, and Fleet Foxes, and he regularly introduces me to bands that he likes for the same reasons he likes said bands, and I glean my small shred of music coolness almost entirely from him.

Second, his oldies palette is dead-on. Motown, Beatles, Beach Boys, the Byrds, and the occasional Pink Floyd. He also references these sounds in the new music he plays, which again, I love.

Third, he clearly has the worlds dirtiest teenage boy crush on Lana Del Ray, and I find that charming.

Fourth, this kid is the most enthusiastic half asleep kid I've ever heard. He talks slower than a snail spits, but he means what he says, and often uses phrases like, "freaking awesome", "killer tunes", and "so excited I couldn't sleep", even as you are wondering if he is in fact asleep at that very second. I love a good walking contradiction.

Fifth, he has been known to play full albums in their entirety, stopping between each song to talk about how awesome the last song was and the next song is.

Sixth, he has said the following things on the air:
"So about halfway through this next song, Al Green is going to hit a note that isn't humanly possible. But anything is possible when you have the reincarnated soul of Marvin Gay inside of you. And Al Green does." 
"I apologize to anyone who had a heart attack during that song due to pure soul."  
"Lana Del Ray could sing about sad people living in trash cans and, like, how McDonalds gives her indigestion, and it would still be freakin' hot."

The only thing worse than the fact that I stop being able to pick up KPGR at around 114th South every morning is that someday this kid is going to graduate. Then it will be back to NPR, I suppose. Ugh.

Maybe he has a half asleep younger brother....



Some Words About Itxa

You know how like 200 years ago, people were so flippant about the spelling of their names that they would just change them intermittently, and even spell names wrong on headstones and such? That is Itxa's life. Sometimes I will spell it with an x like it should be, sometimes I will spell it with a -ch, like it sounds. Sometimes I will call her Homer Simpson, because it eliminates the mystique. Also, because she loves donuts.

Curse you, Daniel, for introducing her to donuts.

The past several weeks have been difficult.  When Itxara arrived to Keystone from Robyn's training program, she was PERFECT.  We walked, trotted, cantered, took trail rides, crossed rivers and bridges, danced over poles, and I left every single day in total euphoria.

Then we went to Maryland for work, and she took two weeks off at my parent's ranch just getting to be a horse for the first time in several months, I'm sure. I was happy she got that time off. But for any number of reasons (my mother and I have theorized on literally hundreds of possibilities) she came back to Keystone a completely different horse.

Gone were the trail rides, the easy hacks, the respect. Every ride became a fight, and in fact, a fight not to get one or both of us hurt. Where trails had once been our happy place to unwind and where she could thrive with a clear mind, she suddenly decided the third day back that she was done with that, and about 20 yards down the road she violently wheeled around, reared, crow hopped, and wheeled again to head home. My confidence was shot, and my fear had paralyzed my ability to demonstrate authority. Without some help, I was cooked.

So, I invested in the equine equivalent of a drug intervention.  I brought in every resource I had at Keystone to give input, got into 2x weekly le$$ons, and started reading, watching, and taking notes on every piece of training material I could get my hands on. Slowly but surely, my confidence is returning, and with confidence comes the ability to be the authority Itxa desperately needs. That being said, the horse from the first month has yet to return. I call that horse Itxa the First, and this is Itxa the Second. Or, Homer Simpson.

I have questioned my choices and my future with Itxa a lot in the past month. Because, frankly, that's the right thing to do. Any horseman not stopping to evaluate their partnership, their safety, and the best interest of the horse is no horseman at all. Horses are not children; you can in fact make new arrangements for them if you need to. And for that matter, if your child tries to kill you, you should probably consider new arrangements for them, too.

Recently as I watched her hand graze in the setting sun after another difficult but growing ride, I acknowledged that Itxa the First was a painful gift: a hint of where we could be someday and then some, but with a foundation of real respect and trust below the obedience.  I acknowledged that while we are nowhere near there again, we are also no longer near where we bottomed out a month ago. Things ARE getting better. And thanks to patient trainers who understand that I don't just want to have someone else fix it for me, I am learning even more than she is.

And that was in fact the point of all this. If I wanted another "perfect" horse, I could have bought one of the "perfect" horses I was already falling in love with at Keystone. But I wanted the challenge, the learning experience, and the credit. I wanted the relationship that can only be earned, not the one given by default. And man, if I'm not a better rider for it.

Last night I was one of the only people at the barn, because my friends are up at the State Fair showing their guts out this week. I thought that the Fair would be the finale of my horse year. Instead, there will be no finale. Only quiet, consistent patience day in and day out as I follow the trail of hope I dreamed for the two of us from the first day I saw her.

Though I'm quite certain Itxa considers the finale a maple bar.



Dan and I went to a conference.
We visited some towns and battlefields.
We ate some excellent food.
We visited DC.
We got in fights at interchanges.
We swore we would not forget the GPS next time.

Rayburn Building, Washington, D.C.

Annapolis, MD

Annapolis Cemetery

Gettysburg, PA

Gettysburg, PA

Hagerstown, MD

Just off the C&O Canal, Maryland


Baltimore, MD